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Archive for the ‘Science Challenges’ Category

Children are filled with wonder, especially when they visit zoos, museums, or light displays. They also wonder about many things and preface many questions with the word why.

But adults seem intent on erasing, rationalizing, and closing the case on any sense of wonder about life and nature, especially in the scientific realm. Of course we will wonder at the birth of a baby, the success story of Steve Jobs, or a sensational interception in a Super Bowl game, but what happened to the sense of wonder we all had as children. Has science, the evening news, and the internet killed wonder. And are we the ones who want it dead?

What is wonder? There are three aspects to the word wonder. It’s a thing, an emotion, and an event.

First of all, wonder is a thing. Some thing which arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration. The Coliseum of Rome, for example, is a wonder.

Secondly it’s an emotion. Feelings aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous. It’s what we feel when we see the Northern Lights. It can also be feelings or thoughts of puzzlement or doubt, like I wonder what she meant by that?

Thirdly, it’s an event. A happening explained by the laws of nature; a miracle. In the movie The Ten Commandments, the parting of the Red Sea was a wonder to behold.

As a teacher, I observe many teachers interacting with others and with the material they teach. I expect teachers to have a love for learning and to convey and even transmit that passion to their students. Wrong. It saddens me to see teachers bored with their jobs. How do I know that? Because they see that I am a substitute and they question why I am back in the classroom–a sure sign that they themselves are unhappy being there.

I see dead people in my gym too. Physically they are robust, but inwardly they are dead. They cannot look into another person’s eyes and marvel at the depths of an immortal soul. They’re inept at contemplating the grandeur of the starry hosts. They are loath to explore a complex abstract philosophical idea, and refuse to entertain a seemingly intransigent moral paradox.

When did Americans close their minds? Well, when they had to. I see shops and  warehouses closed down. They are closed because they are empty. It would be ludicrous to keep a store open if there is no merchandise inside. Not to be harsh, but it’s the same with us. We have nothing to think about, so we close our minds.

Sure, we can talk business and the economy. We can discuss prices and diet. We can safely brag on our sports teams and rattle off statistics. We can speak volumes about our entertainers and even casually wade into politics. But we have all the answers, the info, the tidbits of knowledge. When it comes to exhausting a topic we depend on so-called experts.

But we have nothing to wonder about. The Hubble telescope has the stars, academia has the scope on our origin and forensics the final word on our demise. Hawking and Hitchens have taken the breath of life out of our humanity, and organized religion has the vestigial symbols of our primordial faith. So, why do we need to wonder, and what is there to wonder about? We have all the answers, so there are no queries for meaning, only for information.

When wonder is dead, life loses its meaning. And if human life is meaningless, then it is only a matter of time before lives are devalued.

The irony is this: if we have nothing to wonder about, then there is no reason to die either, for nothing unknown lies beyond. To cease to wonder is essentially an insult to the process of life, and to its consummation.

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IF GOD EXISTS, WHAT WAS HE DOING BEFORE HE CREATED THE UNIVERSE?

St. Augustine is the first person who answered this question. The question assumes that time existed before the universe was created. Physics has proven that time is a property of our universe and that the universe and time came into existence together. People say that God is “eternal,” which they think means “goes one forever,” but “eternal” really means “outside of time.” (85, D’Souza).  So we cannot really limit God to the constraints of time or even the physical universe. So, God wasn’t doing anything (like twiddling his thumbs), he was being God.

IF GOD EXISTS, WHAT CREATED GOD?

If you think of God as the source of everything else, you may have asked or heard this question. Here is the problem with the question “What created God”? If everything that exists has a cause, then there must have been a first or uncaused cause. Atheists like Dawkins argue that we cannot account for unexplained things – all that exists – by attributing them to another unexplained thing -God (The God Delusion,143).  But he is missing something in his logic. The question is what caused everything that exists in the universe, but it is not what caused everything that exists period. God is outside the universe so he does not fit into the question. I look at it, simplistically, like the electric light bulb. We use and enjoy and depend on the light it produces without ever questioning its creator, Thomas Edison. It would be laughable to say something like “Thomas Edison created the light bulb, but someone had to create Thomas Edison.” Or, “Who had Thomas Edison’s idea before he had the idea”? Someone did create Edison—his parents—but in the context of the light bulb, the charge would be ludicrous. And, no one had the idea before Thomas Edison had it. Dinesh D’Souza said think of it like a novel. I changed his illustration in Crime and Punishment to the following: In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s actions caused the death of President Alma Coin of District 13. But the author, Susan Collins, is the cause of the story on another level entirely. Someone may ask while reading the story, “Where did that character come from?” but they would never ask “Where did this Susan Collins come from?” The author, like God, is outside the narrative, as its creator. (86, D’Sousa)

WHAT CAN BE GREATER THAN GOD?

The argument goes this way: we can all conceive of a being above whom no higher being could be thought—i.e., God. If that which exists is greater in reality than it is in imagination, then logically God must exist. Think of it in terms of a musical composition. The musical composition existed in the mind of the composer before it was written down and played in reality. So, which is greater – that which can be imagined, or that which is real? That which is real, of course.

I see it like this: has anyone ever observed an animal imagining a being above whom no higher being existed? No animal has ever been observed building an altar, offering sacrifices, praying, mourning over guilt, or shaking a hoof (or primal fist) at heaven. But people do all these things. Is it because there actually is a God that we have the ability to conceive of God, and that that ability and intuition makes us unique in the animal kingdom? Just because animals cannot imagine “God” wouldn’t mean that he didn’t exist, but because we can imagine God means that he must exist. 

So, the question about God’s origin is in itself either a contradiction in terms, or a disingenuous attitude of the mind and heart . . .  or else plain dumb.

I relied heavily on a chapter in Dinesh D’Sousa’s book WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY? in summarizing and illustrating this material.

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He saved the world

And no one on the planet knew what happened

They still fail to recognize him today

Even though his action saved their very lives

and make possible their posterity

 

The whole world was in his hands

its destiny at the tip of his fingers

For that brief moment

he held the scales that balance the nations

War and peace was his to determine

Life and death, his to command

Ten thousand martial messengers

were waiting on wing-tip in the shadows

 

He chose life and peace

esteeming the human race

believing the world deserved

the benefit of a doubt

For that we should be grateful,

indebted that he remained calm

as scores panicked around him

 

Tell your children and grandchildren

of that fateful, sleepy Sunday afternoon

When an unlikely savior bought them time –

a  lifetime – and lifetimes to come,

with one decision

 

It bothers me that so few know his name

What is more troubling is how those who do know

seem not to care what he did.

 

We know about the sports idols,

the perfect goddesses of the flat screen

But what have they done for us, really?

None have saved us

Nor made the world a better place.

 

Sadly, It is always the same:

We worship those who gratify us

while we scorn our Saviors

 

My dream is to go to Moscow

Take a cab to the small apartment of a pensioner

And there meet – and even embrace –

Stanislav Petrov,

the man who scratched his head,

stroked his chin

and in reflecting so, saved the world.

 

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (Russian: Станислав Евграфович Петров) (born c. 1939) is a retired Russian Strategic Rocket Forces lieutenant colonel who, on September 26, 1983, deviated from standard Soviet doctrine by positively identifying a missile attack warning as a false alarm.[1] 

To read about Stanislav Petrov’s heroic decision go to the following link: http://www.brightstarsound.com/world_hero/article.html

 

writer’s note: It is ironic that Petrov made this decision shortly after midnight, which was September 26th for him. It was still September 25th for Americans. Thankfully he allowed us all to see what he was seeing: September 26th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LORD OF THE BEES

J Lamar Howell

“Out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet” Judges 14:14

Anyone who has a love for poetry will appreciate the use of imagery in the two-line riddle from the Book of Judges. Samson was teasing the men invited to his wedding. He told them they would be rewarded with a new wardrobe if they could answer the above riddle.”

            He was referring to something he experienced earlier. He had killed an attacking lion and left it to dry up in the desert. When he returned to that place, he discovered that bees had built a hive in the carcass. He scooped up some of the honey and ate it. Thus the source of his difficult riddle.

            The story of Samson getting honey from the carcass of a lion may seem implausible to some people. A surprising fact is that in the 18th century scientists classified a new genus of honeybee called Trigona, which includes three species. Then in 1982, it was discovered that these are the only known bees which do not rely on plant products for food.  They feed on rotten meat rather than pollen or nectar. [Roubik, D.W. 1982. Obligate necrophagy in a social bee. Science 217: 1059-1060.] (more…)

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Lazy Mosquito

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“Lazy mosquito” is an oxymoron. The critter is anything but lazy. Mosquitos are tiny, almost weightless,  extremely busy creatures.  Airborne pests who make stealth landings. The only way you know they are there is when they circumnavigate your head. Their wings beat 250 times a second, creating a buzz which may well correspond in ratio to the deafening noise made by an Apache helicopter. (more…)

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THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

“Stand here in the cleft of the rock and I will show you . . . my back.”

I once heard a chilling quote made but cannot remember the author. The proposition was this: “What if the God we think we know is not the God who is?” I wonder if that is what Moses thought when he saw God’s back? This is not the face of God, so God must be somewhat different from what I am seeing.

This causes me to question my own revelation of God as well as that presented by the church Sunday after Sunday. We may be seeing God from a perspective which He has – or some reason – limited us to. If this is true, then we need to ask ourselves why. (more…)

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God Prefers Metric

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            We have France to thank for the meter. The French were not too keen on using England’s standard yard – the distance from King Henry’s nose to his outstretched middle finger. (Wonder why?) So French scientists spent ten years measuring the distance from the equator to the North Pole to find (more…)

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