Word of the Day #1

When things happen, you act.

When things don’t happen, you want to act.

When things happen and you don’t act, you fail.

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The Absurdity Principle

The moon is made of cheese.

The cow jumped over the moon.

Penguins taste just like chickens.

Most of us have heard the above before sometime in our lives (maybe not the last one, but it’s a novelty anyway). What is it that causes us to dismiss them as utterly ridiculous and unfound before we’ve even heard any evidence? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the absurdity principle. While most would call it the absurdity rule, I call it a principle. The reason I call it a principle is because it differs slightly from philosophy to science.

In philosophy, it’s a bit more loose. Mostly revolving around grammar and how things are said. A statement can still be technically logical, but at the same time not be completely contradictory. I’ll site some examples used in wikipedia. (I know, but bear with me. The examples they use are standard to demonstrate this)

“I went to the pictures last Tuesday but I don’t believe it” can be true, are (logically) consistent, and are not (obviously) contradictions.

Whether anyone in their right mind would actually speak like that is anyone’s guess -not that I wouldn’t like to see it of course. However it’s about the principle of the thing.

Now I was reading an article earlier today in the Popular Science magazine. One of the scientist featured in it was talking about how the moon ~could~ be made of cheese. He was asking questions to himself about how it could be, and answering them with as much seriousness as one might come to expect from someone who is a master of the scientific method… When he began to talk about how the dense nature of the moon simply could mean that below the meters of dust there was dense “lunar cheese”… but his point was to demonstrate how our minds so quickly react to things that seem obvious, but are they? Of course when he did mention that he highly doubted a cow could obtain escape velocity without multiphase rockets and escape the atmosphere to fly over the moon. In that respect, I think we can all agree.

So the next time you hear something and your mind screams that it’s ridiculous, try to prove it. You might find it harder then you had thought.

The Pen is Mightier… isn’t it?

Times have been changing faster then society can learn to accept. Ever said “I knew I should have written that down”? Well, welcome to the age of “I should have emailed it to myself”.

Internet

Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Society has become dependent on the internet, and this has lead to a mistaken perception that Americans are devolving intellectually due to ease of information access. The reason this idea has taken shape is due to the stigma associated with this age of easy information. The idea behind easy information is that you don’t have to walk ALL the way to your front door for the newspaper. Instead of searching through the shelves of a library, we just type in keywords in Google (Ever been told to “google it”?).Instead of driving to bookstores, we just buy a digital copy of the book online.

The time saved is said to be detrimental because it makes the thoughtfulness needed to obtain information obsolete in the face of the world wide web -Except when math is involved. This is a concern that has blinded some people to the fact that the internet is a tool. It isn’t something that causes action unless someone actually uses it. It’s like me telling you “D’oh! My lawnmower causes me to be tired man.” In that way, it isn’t fair to say that the internet is to blame for an apparent lack of critical thought in society. We’ve been brought into modern times thanks to the internet. How could it be the cause of critical thinking problems? We are in this age where the utility of cyberspace is only limited by what we haven’t thought of yet.

Some would argue that the internet is crippling us. They claim that slowly but surely we are coming to rely on the internet for all of our thinking. This is said to be the case because of the very blessing of fast information that it provides. Instead of memorizing things, people look it up on the internet. Instead of using a dictionary to find a word one doesn’t know, they just go to dictionary.com (Shameless endorsement, but when was the last time you picked up a dictionary to look something up, honestly?).

These conveniences are popularly, because people love to be conspiratorial,  thought to damage the critical thinking skills of people. Is this a sustainable arrangement? In order to be sustainable, it has to allow us to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances. The internet is an excellent example of a tool that allows people to continuously evolve by interacting with one another and sharing ideas –though trolls ruin the experience a bit. It gives us the convenience of direct communication to complete tasks more quickly to accommodate the rapid pace of an industrialized society. This speed, in turn, helps our society evolve technologically and socially.

Now the internet isn’t all pretty rainbows, unicorns, and other disturbing images of the like (Maybe not rainbows, but if I saw a unicorn in real life? That’s just creepy.). It can be a nasty place. Worse then the halls of any highschool, more terrible then being told you’re fired, and it might even trump the IRS (I get a cold shiver if I get a letter from them, because they are never mailing me to ask me how I’m doing.). It’s made people more bold, but… maybe things were better when people were afraid of retribution?

With that, I leave you with a question. In South Korea (yes that’s right. South Korea.) they have a rather glorious… okay maybe more crazy then glorious, but the bottom line is that they use this censorship against the citizens. So the question is: Does the internet make the South Koreans stupid, or is this purely an American way of thinking?

Maybe it would have been easier if we had continued writing things down.

Prometheus II

As I stated in my last post about Prometheus, I am a Christian who believes in evolution.  I wanted to continue with my theme of Prometheus, not necessarily in a theological view of creationism, but a more literal view.  Basically, now I want to discuss the movie Prometheus, rather than the myth.  Before I go farther, I am clearly stating right now that my post WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for those who have not seen the movie.  I considered writing a post that did was fairly vague, vague enough for those who have not seen the movie to read through, but the topics that I really want to cover are not necessarily superficial enough to allow that.  So, again, this post will contain some spoilers about the movie Prometheus, and if you have already seen it, or do not intend to see it, or do intend to see it but do not care that I will spoil the plot for you a little, read on.

First: Aliens.  Obviously, they discover aliens in the movie, specifically aliens who are believed to be responsible for the creation of mankind.  They are referred to as the “Engineers” assumably because they “engineered” us.  The movie is not particularly clear on the actual intentions of the First Engineer who drinks that voodoo stuff that makes him shrivel up and wrenches his DNA apart as it writhes like some green earth worm frying on the concrete in a Southern summer, therefore creating our red human DNA.  That is part of the mystery of the movie.  Why did those aliens travel from wherever they are from to make us?  Why did they bother?  Were we an experiment?  A mistake, like in the legend of Prometheus (read my last post 🙂 ).  David 8, the (attractive) android, when one of the other characters tells him that humans made androids “because we could” replies with a question, asking the man if he would not be disappointed to hear that from his creator(s)?  Would we be disappointed to hear that from the race that made our race? That we were only created in a sort of play, because they “could?”  As humans, as anything with feelings (as David clearly had some sort of feeling, simulated or not, though that is a topic for another post, maybe one about the definition of sentience) would possibly state, we have a tendency to want to hear that we were made for a purpose, that we, even before we were physically made, were designed with some sort of care and a desire from our Creator to be something of importance to them.  What child wants to hear that they are a mistake?

Second: Faith.  Elizabeth Shaw is the actual main character of the film, and is a very interesting, deep person.  She has spent a good part of her life searching for proof that aliens were the “engineers” of mankind.  When she finally does discover that aliens exist, that their theories were correct (not just because they exist but because they have matching DNA which proves that we sort of evolved from them) she does not lose her faith in God.  She asks “but who made them?”  What if the story of Genesis is only the story of the creation of the Earth specifically, and does not cover the story of millions of other inhabited planets that have other populations of sentient beings?  Surely, if God made them He loves them infinitely too.  Is there room in the story in Chapter One of the book of Genesis to allow for an alien race’s DNA to be added to the gene pool to create our race?  Yes, I believe so, and that was the point Elizabeth Shaw was making.  Just because aliens donated their DNA to create our race, does not make them our gods, nor does is discount the existence of God.  I have watched enough Star Trek to believe that there could be something or someone out there.

Third:  Tying it together.  In Prometheus the film, the alien race that created us is, in no way, shape, or form, friendly.  Yes, we go throughout the movie thinking that they were preyed upon by some other race that attacked them, that they created us, possibly sent one of their own to die creating us (assuming he knew he was going to die and was not some sort of prisoner being put to death or something), but it is clear from the moment they rip Michael Fassbender’s lovely head off, that they were not overly fond of our race.  Does that mean that we were indeed and accident?  I do not think so.  As I have had more than a week since I saw the movie to consider possible courses, and I could very well be wrong (we will find out (maybe) when the next one comes out) that we were spawned to run around Earth, to grow and reproduce to make a nice big population for the kindly Engineers to test their face-suckers on.  This, however, is not (completely) a movie review, so I shall continue with my thoughts on what this means to us, in real life.  What if we were created from an alien race, which was also created by another alien race, which was created by an alien race before than, which was started, from “dust” which actually means single-celled organisms of some kind, by God?  Well, that means that we have a lot more to learn about where (and who) we come from.  Ultimately, the most important point to remember is that no matter the origin of our race, we were, I believe, designed by God, as children of God, who was the true Engineer of our race, forming us with love and intention.

*As a bonus to my post, I would like to offer you a link to the most hilarious summary of Prometheus that I have read.  Click hither and laugh 🙂

Prometheus I

Prometheus, in Greek Mythology, is the Titan who both forms mankind from clay, and gives his creation fire (after Zeus took it from them in his fury at Prometheus) so that they can survive in the harsh, dark world they had been born into.  As punishment for his crimes, including bringing fire to mankind, Prometheus is chained to a rock and for all eternity has his liver eaten out by an eagle, each day.  The organ grows back after each feast in preparation for a new, fresh torture the next day.

This image of the creation of mankind is not beautiful or peaceful, and it does not glorify our Creator.  The myth paints a picture of a Titan, a lower being in comparison to the gods who rule Olympus, who chooses to create mankind from clay, basically solidified dirt, and is punished for both their creation and for bringing them the means to survival.  Prometheus is not a character who is mighty or particularly praised, but is made out to be a sort of “trickster,” a low-class immortal who broke the rules and paid the price for his discretion.  He forms mankind, us, from basic nothingness, and to be more specific, only forms men (women come in a little later as another punishment to men for Prometheus’ perceived tricks – think Pandora and her “box”).  The genesis of our race was not blessed or remarkable, but a sort of mistake, a painful birth to make the beginning of painful births.  Zeus later further punished the new mortals by informing them that their lives would have been easy if Prometheus had not upset him, that they would suffer and starve and have to work their whole lives for a shattered image of what happiness would have been.  Prometheus, therefore, is the bringer of both life and death to humans.

The Judeo-Christian story of creation is a little more kind to us lowly humans.  As is fairly commonly known, God began by creating the Heavens and the Earth, then made day, night, land, sea, stars, animals, plants, etc. and ended by creating Adam, the first man, out of dust (granted, fairly similar to clay).  Eventually, when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve, and they sin, and are thrown from the Garden of Eden, forever causing the suffering of future generations with the knowledge of the difference between wrong and right.  In this story of creation, the God that creates man is glorious and good, and most importantly loving.  He directly and purposefully creates mankind with the intention of them living in ultimate joy, praising Him.  It was not the error of the Creator that cast the humans into a less ideal existence, as it is the Prometheus myth, but the error of the people.  That is the important difference between the Greek mythological tale of Creationism, and the Judeo-Christian version – personal choice, the right to decide one’s own fate with the guidance of God who is ultimately in charge and can step in when asked for (a miracle), and love, a loving God who is a father, not merely a Creator.

Both the myth of Prometheus and the Judeo-Christian Genesis reflect on humankind.  I, personally, am a Christian, therefore I believe in the Christian story of creationism.  However, I also believe that a day to God is not necessarily 24 hours.  I DO believe in evolution, that those beginning days where God created the animals could have been billions of years, allowing animals to develop from single-celled organisms into the animals we know, including ourselves.  That being said, if the Judeo-Christian story if what really happened, the story of Prometheus is reflective of mankind’s image of ourselves.  Mythology is, and this is not of my own making but a widely accepted idea, how ancient humans explained what they did not understand.  The gods of not only Greek and Roman mythology, but Anglo-Saxon and Viking and Native American mythology, among many, many others, were not perfect, but flawed.  They were immortal people who were vengeful and kind, vindictive and forgiving, who toyed and punished the mortals for entertainment, and who blessed them beyond their wildest imaginings.   It makes sense that people would explain a dangerous, beautiful, ever-changing world by saying that it was ruled by dangerous, beautiful, ever-changing people.  The story of Prometheus then, in that vein, is how people thought they had been made.  It made sense that if birth was so painful and took nearly as many lives as it gave, that a Titan, the lower-class of the immortals, would make an even lower-class mortal and experience eternal pain for the birth of an entire race.  If even from the beginning of our race, we have thought rather little of ourselves, explaining our creation as a mistake, then how is it that pride is our greatest downfall?

Imagination in Motion: English Majors

In college, what is the one major that is given the most grief for supposedly being the least “helpful” in terms of obtaining a career? I’ve heard of several, but none of them compare to the one on so many people’s lips. Then let me tell you now that most people will tell you it’s English. Why major or minor in it? People don’t seem to understand it very well. They come to me and say “You won’t make money with English”. It’s when they tell me this that I wonder if that’s what society has become.

I recently read a study that was posted last week in the Houston Chronicle about the passing scores of different subjects in Texas schoolsl. Would it surprise you that the math and sciences are on the rise? Both of these being over 85% each surprised me a little, but my real shock was yet to come. Reading and writing passing rate was just above 35%. My mouth dropped, and indeed I almost dropped the paper. That few? That means out of 10 students only 3-4 pass reading and writing. I’m not even talking about getting good grades in it, this is just passing the class period. That my friends, is a disturbing thing.

So I pose a thought to you all. Perhaps American society as a whole, disrespects English majors/minors because the career fields are becoming more focused on a science and mathematics  based society rather then one based on… imagination and creativity.

There are few who acknowledge dreamers. Who dreams the greatest dreams? A writer, or a scientist? Both can have imagination, but who’s is more inspiring. Does anyone look into history and remember many scientist that impacted their childhood with their works? Personally, I’ve never done that. The authors that gave me a childhood filled with adventure was Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Brooks, T.A. Barron, Brian Jacques, Charles Sheffield, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Howard Pyle, Issac Asimov, and oh so many more.

I love reading and writing dearly. I couldn’t live if I couldn’t do them both. For that reason, I feel saddened to see those scores from the Texas youth. I would ask parents why. “Oh parent of children. Why does your child fiddle with numbers? I see them as they do their homework. They complete the work and write the bare minimum, read only what they must, and then watch T.V. Why do you not take them to the library? Why are they always playing video games? Why have they never heard of Sherlock Holmes? Why do I have to explain to them in college why Issac Asimov was a genius? It makes my heart weep for that inspiration they never received but for time lost to frivolity.”

If one would say “Oh by the time they get into college it’s to late to be inspired by writings”, then I’d tell them they were wrong. In both of my English classes, there were, indeed, only 5-6 people in a class of over 20, that actually cared deeply about what they wrote. I count myself among them. To all English majors or minors I would tell you to be headstrong and know that you aren’t *in* your major to obtain capital at obscene rates… no, your real career is to inspire people with your work. To bring a smile to the face of someone who had never seen such a well thought perspective or piece of literature. THAT… my friends, sounds like a respectable career in my mind.

Abortion

Anything that takes in oxygen, which feeds off something, is alive. No one in this world has the right to take a life. The world destroys something precious without a care in the world. The precious life of a child is something everyone should respect, not disregard. Abortion destroys life, is the easy way out of pregnancy and pain. According to Sallie Tisdale’s short story “We Do Abortion Here: A Nurse’s Story,” the author “cannot bear another basin of bloody remains” (1). Tisdale could no longer bear the continuous in and out patients and the endless death surrounding the ghastly procedure.

The moment the egg is fertilized there is a life born. There are laws that protect the life of animals, but why is it that people are able to kill the life of a human? A person should not be able to terminate a life just because it is small. Another word for abortion is murder. Having an abortion is the same as killing a person. There is no way around that fact. “[Abortion] exists because we are able to ask such questions, able to assign a value to the fetus which can shift with changing circumstances” (30). A fetus may not look like a person, but it is a life that is developing to become a part of our society.

So many young teenage women have sex without a second thought. These young ladies might not even use protection. The problem is these girls will not use the protection correctly. Many young women do not think about the consequences that go along with having sex. Once a teenager learns that she is pregnant, the first thing they wish to do is get an abortion. “Every day I take calls from women who are annoyed that we cannot see them, cannot do their abortion today, this morning, now,” they only think about themselves and how the pregnancy will affect their lives (22). They do not think about the life that is growing inside them. In the U.S, there are about 1.3 million abortions per year. Most of the abortions happen in the first trimester, which is about 88 percent. The other 12 percent of the abortions happen in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Once a woman has an abortion, there is no turning back. Many women regret their hastily made decision. They do not realize how much they will miss the life that was growing inside of them. After they realize their mistake, they will fall into depression because they know that they will not be able to change what they did. ‘’The distance between the two, the length I pace and try to measure, is the size of an abortion’’ (5) They should not be able to make the decision to have an abortion while they are riding an emotional rollercoaster.

Murder equals abortion. Abortion equals destruction of life; an easy way out of a consequence, and the regret that follows. This is why abortion should be illegal. No one should be allowed to take away the life of a child no matter what the circumstances. Life is to be treasured and not discarded like trash, “imagine a world where this won’t be necessary, and then return to the world where it is” (39). How would you feel if your own mother had made the wrong choice?