Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Reasonableness of Faith

One thing I seem to come across more and more as I go about my daily business is the number of times people say that faith in God is crazy or senseless. I am very much a geek. I also loved the philosophy class that I took in college. Couple with that the fact that I fall under the Myers-Briggs INTJ personality classification, and you definitely get the idea that I'm both an intellectual and not one to just blindly put my trust in anything, let alone something I can't see. The Christian faith is something that is reasonable, not the realm of blithering idiots.

God loves us all more than is imaginable, but He wants us to choose Him. I don't know about you, but if everyone somehow knew for certain that He exists, there would be a huge number of people who'd follow Christ just for "fire insurance." Faith could be put into the realm of playing make-believe without some form of evidence. If I were in His position, I'd sure put in enough signs to point to me but still make it impossible to definitively prove my existence.

If you look at Wikipedia's entry for Intelligent Design, you'll find, unsurprisingly, information which does not try to present information impartially. Study some of the topics important to ID scientists, such as the parts of a flagellum in single-celled organisms, and while you won't find proof, you will find something to ponder.

Understanding a bit about philosophy and logic helps understand a little more about science. I wish that more scientists chose to remember more about logical reasoning. Many times they are not aware of premises that they bring with them when constructing hypotheses or devising experiments. A premise, for those unfamiliar, is an idea which you take as fact without question. Each premise a person chooses force constraints that lead to a conclusion. What if a premise is somehow colored or biased? It will likely lead to a biased conclusion. If , for example, I assume that the evolution is true, then I take certain concepts as fact. However, if I assume that neither ID nor evolution is true and just go where the evidence leads, then I may find that it takes me to an uncomfortable conclusion. When proponents of evolution call to time and chance to put together amino acids or something else, they should also keep in mind the minute chances that they are referring to. It takes a great amount of faith to trust in probabilities like that. Perhaps greater than what it takes to believe in God. It's something to think about.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How Big is God?

It's been quite a while since I last gave a peek into my life more than just a quick sentence or two on a certain well-known social networking site (which shall remain nameless here). At school, I have two bulletin boards in my classroom which I have to update each month. One of the two that I put together for November is entitled "How BIG is God?"

Of course, any time that someone mentions God out in the general public the radar of those within hearing goes on alert. Religion, as most would call it, is a controversial subject and, like politics, everyone has some sort opinion on it. If you ask many people of their opinion on God, you typically get answers ranging from "I don't think he exists" to the Deists' Clockmaker God and all sorts of other things, but it's not often that you come across someone who has an answer that really conveys who He really is.

The CCM artist Chris Tomlin popularized the song, "Indescribable." The God of the Bible, taking the book as it's written, is a great many things, but most of all, He is holy, as in different in a good sort of way -- set apart. In fact, He is so different and so far beyond us that there isn't any way for us to completely wrap our minds around Him.

How hard is God to imagine? Let's take a look at His power. Without getting into philosophical debates about whether or not He is all-powerful, imagine what it took to create the universe. A very rough guess puts it at 1022 to 1024. That's a lot of stars --way more than 1000 times the estimated number of grains of sand in the world (7.5 quintillion). That's enough thinking to give me a headache. Then there's the topic of the largest star, which is what my bulletin board was about.

The largest star known is VY Canis Majoris, a red hypergiant star. It's about 1000 times bigger than the sun. To put it into perspective, that's like comparing a dot a little less than an eighth of an inch (2mm) to a circle 6.5 feet in diameter (2m). At that scale, the Earth is about 20 microns, which just happens to be half of the width of a human hair. If the Earth were the size of a golf ball, Canis Majoris would be around the size of Mt. Everest. Ponder that for a moment. That's mind-bogglingly large such that there is no word in the English language to describe that kind of size. It leaves you speechless. What's more? God made it and all of the rest of them. When you talk about power on that kind of scale, it debating the specifics of a term like 'all-powerful' seem more than a little pointless.

I gave all of this a lot of thought after putting up my bulletin board and something even more marvelous dawned on me: someone this powerful loves me. To say that God loves each of us a lot is like saying Canis Majoris is kinda big. Something like that should leave you dumbfounded. It sure did me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lego Indiana Jones for PC: Total Crap

Early this summer I bought my almost 5-year-old son the game Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the PC. Aside from a bug, which prevented me from completing one puzzle in the game, it's a great game. Expecting the same experience, when my mom asked for recommendations for gifts for him, one of those that I mentioned was Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. She got it for him and since then, I've been playing it, off and on, for a little while. I now refuse to play it because of multiple infuratingly bad experiences. The cause? Bugs in the game. Two years later, there are NO patches for any of them or the one well-known bug in Lego Star Wars. In playing through five levels of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I have found three different bugs which put the game in a state where the only option is to bail out of the level, losing all progress. One of those bugs is 75% of the way through the level. It's both pathetic, indicative of bad QA, and totally, utterly inexcusable. I doubt I'll ever buy another one of the Lego-related games ever again. Sad, too, because the gameplay is great.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church...sigh

Apparently the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church have had another incident, this time at Comic-Con. I vaguely remembered seeing its protesting in the news some time ago and was intrigued when I saw the post about this on Slashdot. When I read the article about Comic-Con, I was both amused and saddened.

There are a wealth of things I could say at this point, but nothing would put it as succinctly as saying that this is a great example of people -- I'm not sure they can be called Christians -- acting in a very un-Christian way. If even half of the information on the Wikipedia article about WBC is to be believed, I have to question their motives, let alone their theology. Their actions give proper Christians a bad name, no, a very bad name. As if Christians needed to do more to be disliked / hated.

Most American Christians have no idea how good they have it. Read through some of the entries over at Christian Persecution India. These are real events happening around the world, and CPI is only one blog and only covers one country. I'm sure there are a plethora of other atrocities being committed against Christians because of their beliefs in India that aren't mentioned there. These are people who being maimed and/or killed merely for the fact that they say that Jesus is the only way to be saved. They do not run around with signs saying "God hates Mohammed" or anything, but the way they are treated, you'd think they were. Sadly, there are far too many Christians living in the United States which act like spoiled brats, nitpicking over little things. The people over at WBC are just one example. Legalism like this is exactly the kind of thing for which Jesus railed against the religious leaders of the day.

While most of the message preached by Westboro Baptist Church is bunk, there is some truth in it... somewhere. The Bible makes a clear stand against homosexuality as a sin. By no means does this mean that "God hates fags" as their signs have read. To God, sin is sin -- it's all different ways of breaking God's laws. God hates sin, but He also loves sinners. Intensely. I won't say that I understand Him or His methods, but that much I know. Christians are called to treat others with the same love that they treat themselves, and WBC is certainly not doing that.

To their credit, conference goers at Comic-Con responded with the largely tongue-in-cheek humor that doesn't surprise me one bit. Making a mockery of the hatred spewed by WBC protesters was an excellent way to defuse an otherwise potentially nasty situation. How do you fight kittens, Bender, and a guy wielding a sign that reads "Is this thing on?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance has Jumped the Shark

Until this season I've been a Johnny-come-lately fan of the show. The last couple of seasons of SYTYCD have been really good. I'm a big fan of fine arts, and the show isn't really any different. It seems, though, that this one has been pretty unexciting. In fact, it's been downright predictable or otherwise disappointing for the most part. A "tribal" routine almost every other week. The token weird Sonya routine. Two competitors have been injured. The whole "all-stars" concept -- 10 competitors instead of 20, dancing with top-10 dancers from previous seasons -- it seems like such a lame attempt at a ratings grab. I hope this is the last season. It would be a shame for such a great series to grow sickly and die because it had been overdone time and again.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ubuntu is SO much better than XP

As if I needed further confirmation. Right. I just got a new toy: a Dell Latitude D620, used for eBay for $250. Definitely a great deal for the price. Once I got it last night, I proceeded to wipe it and install XP Pro and Ubuntu Karmic. The Karmic install took about an hour with updates and extra programs that I use. It still needs a few tweaks, but it's basically done. 3 hours later, the XP install is now downloading updates for Office 2007. I really don't like Office, but seeing how this laptop is for my use at school and I teach a class on Office, I kinda have to have it. Personally speaking, I'd rather not bother with Windows at all. 1 hour vs 3+. Hmmm. Once again, Micro$oft can't seem to get it right.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aww Yeahhh! Zimbra's Got It Goin' On!

My search for a good, usable, free groupware package has been a tough quest. There are a lot out there. Some of them, like OpenGroupWare, are ugly. Others, like phpGroupWare and eGroupWare, are easy to install, but buggy. Scalable OpenGroupWare seems almost designed to be near-impossible to install. While I haven't tried OpenChange, I've heard that its webmail is clunky. Zimbra, at first, didn't seem much better than them. Actually, it's quite good, but if you don't have much background in the components that make up Zimbra, it's not at all easy to install. The learning curve is steep, but I nailed it and set up a mail server on a Linux partition I have on my development box. I'm *so* excited and relieved at the same time.

I'm a little concerned, too, because the box hung itself completely, and I couldn't even do an Alt-PrintScreen reboot. It doesn't want to boot now. I hope the thing hasn't died. Even if it has, I can get the data back, but I don't need extra work now. I guess only time will tell on that one.