Saturday, September 20, 2008

God's Universe

I finally finished one of the books on my reading list! It's remarkable how little reading I've been able to get to year...

I'd love to give you a full review of God's Universe, but it's hardly worth reviewing. The author (Owen Gingerich) supposes himself balanced on the subject of science and creation. But he consistently uses little phrases here or there that make it clear he's not. Not that I am either, mind you - it's just that I make no pretense of so being!

In the end, this author basically continues to argue for the same old tired (and thoroughly Modern) "category error": Science and Creation/Design are not in the same category, so it's unfair to compare them or allow one to slip into the realm of the other. Ironic that he points out the common understanding during Copernicus' time - it was held that something could be mathematically true but not really true (in this case, the heliocentric view of the universe) - without realizing he's committing the same error. Either God created the universe of it evolved. Either the text of Genesis is true or it isn't. I certainly understand there are ambiguities here; issues that need addressing. I'm not arguing that this is an easy subject! But Gingerich seems to want it both ways: something can be "scientifically" true (for him, macro evolution) but perhaps not "really" true (he still wants to believe in an omniscient Creator).

If this is the "balanced" view of the Science/Creation debate, I guess I'll have to remain off-kilter!


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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good news!

This will be too cool for words when/if completed!


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Dude, this is just ridiculous!

Okay. Deep breath. I rarely rant on this blog. But I feel compelled. Here goes.

The local metro newspaper in my area is horrible. Just horrible. This is nowhere more evident than in their "Faith" section. I scan the section most weeks - the stories are often trite and more or less without significance. Apparently that's the kind of stuff they think a reader of the "Faith" section desires. But I digress...

You simply must read this ridiculous article. Read the article first, then continue on with my post (if you like)...

Let's start with Mr. Abernathy's initial statement: "Many just don't use the word 'god'. It's been a word that, no matter how you use it in a sentence, it means a thousand different things, and you can't tie it to anything."

Wow. So the time-honoured argument about who/what determines the meaning of a given word has been reduced to this?! Try this one, Mr. Abernathy: God sent His Son to earth as the baby Jesus. Am I to believe that there are "a thousand different" ways that "God" might be meant in that sentence? Really? A thousand?! Obviously Mr. Abernathy is as fond of hyperbole as I am, so I'll cut him a bit of slack. But he clearly believes that the meaning of the term 'god' is so nebulous and individually-determined that we shouldn't even bother trying to agree on any aspect of him/her/it.

His example of saying "God loves you" to a homeless dude and then claiming that such a sentence is "meaningless" is absurd. That very simple sentence can be understood by virtually anyone. Failure to grasp it's meaning would lead to an obvious response - questions. Questions such as "Who is God?", or "what is love". There aren't many additional questions that need answering to understand "God loves you", eh? But apparently homeless folk are simply and only seeking material goods, not religious and/or metaphysical hope. How silly of me to forget that the material always takes precedence!

How about this beauty: "Religion is about morality"? Seriously?! So first we can't settle on even the most basic definition of 'god', but no we're to believe that the very essence of 'religion' is to be defined as merely 'morality'? If we can't settle on a meaning for 'god', why should I have any confidence in Mr. Abernathy's definition of 'religion'? In short, I shouldn't.

The article gets better... The reporter than makes a statement that begs for explanation, but receives none. She claims that Unitarian Universalism has "roots" that are "Judeo-Christian". So do the Jehovah's Witnesses. So do the Mormons. But that doesn't excuse the author from explaining that sentence at least a bit. "Roots" seems to indicate a still-existing connection. This is, of course, no longer true of the UU "church". Apparently that little tid-bit of information was too much to include in the article. Or, more likely, the author believes that UU actually is still connected to Christianity. That's either ignorance (which indicates a lack of research) or lack of intelligence.

But wait; there's more! Next we read that Matt Casper (a self-avowed atheist) is agitated with churches. In fact, he has some advice for them - "a church should be about action". Well said; as a follower of Jesus I couldn't agree more. But then this: "If all who claimed to be Christian actually did what Jesus asked, there'd be no poverty or war or disparity of income".

More deep breathing. Okay...

So I'm to believe the central meaning of Christ's church is embodied in equal distribution of income?!? The ol' "Jesus as Communist" bit again? Wow. How about the fact that Jesus told us (in Matt. 26:11, for example) that we would always have the poor? What about John's regular references throughout Revelation to "war"? Sorry, Mr. Casper - your vision of Jesus is clearly faulty. It would be nice if pastors like Mr. Abernathy would attempt to introduce, or even to model, Jesus to you. But alas, religion is about morality...

Then there's the sad case of Mrs. Powers. She "grew up in a liberal Presbyterian church, but her father was always a skeptic". Further evidence of the utter failure of mainline liberal churches - Mrs. Powers has been with the UU for years now.

Here's perhaps the biggest reason UU works in America: "Don't let other people define religion for you". Apparently, "other people" even includes Jesus, Paul, Peter, Luke, etc... Sad.

She's also convinced that "the concept of God is an attempt to describe [the need for something other to be in charge]". It's the tired old 'God as a crutch' thinking. If He's merely for the relief of our own self-inflicted angst, I for one want no part in Him.

And my favourite line from the article: "I really enjoy life and try to be thankful...". But, Mrs. Powers, to whom are you thankful? This is one verb that requires an object. Apparently the object of one's thanks does not matter in the UU "church".

Rant completed. I'll now return to my regularly scheduled blogging. Sorry to have bothered ya'll.


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Stuck on Ooze

I pretty much can't stand the theology of guys like Spencer Burke. Yet I find myself routinely reading posts on The Ooze. Why? Part of the answer, I suppose, is that I enjoy a good laugh now and then - some of the arguments made on that site are so ludicrous as to be laughable!

But I find some gems now and then, too. Seriously. I hate to admit it, but once in a while the Ooze really does post something challenging. Usually not; once in a while.

Today's reading of The Ooze is a case study in this truth. This article is utterly ridiculous; this one is actually good.

If you don't read the Ooze, I would encourage you to do so now and again. But keep in mind that you'll need the ability to sift through a lot of garbage to get to the good.


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Monday, September 1, 2008

The fusion of two passions

Those of you that know me very well know that I'm passionate about a number of things. High on that list (and in no particular order) would be 'environmental stewardship' and 'outdoor power equipment'. Sound contradictory to you? Read on...

For whatever silly reason, the radical fringe of the environmental movement has labelled outdoor power equipment (OPE) as "evil", sometimes literally! From lawn mowers to leaf blowers, groups like the Sierra Club and others characterize the OPE industry as a part of the problem, not the solution.

I have attempted to moderate my passion for environmental stewardship with an equal passion for the plight of the human race. Let's be honest, OPE makes people's lives much easier. Don't get me wrong - it can be overdone. There's no sense firing up a chainsaw, for example, just to cut off a single 2" branch. There's also no sense mowing your lawn every 3 or 4 days. But that doesn't change the fact that most OPE is a help to humanity.

The OPE industry is doing its part in working toward environmental stewardship, too. This happens in two primary ways; one obvious, the other not so.

First, and most obviously, the OPE industry has been subjected to more and more stringent emissions standards. OPE of today is vastly less polluting than machines of only 10 years ago. Two-cycle lawnmowers, arguably the single greatest polluter in the OPE industry, have been outlawed. Small two-cycle engine (think string trimmers and leaf blowers) are constantly being improved for emissions efficiency. [The interested reader will consider Stihl's four-mix engines.] Carburetors are now being manufactured that are difficult (at best!) for the average consumer to bugger with - making it much less likely that they'll accidentally run their equipment too rich and therefore too polluting. Catalytic mufflers? Got 'em. Fuel injection? Showing up more and more. Clean two-strokes? Check. Add all of this to the simple fact that the entire OPE industry makes up perhaps 5% of total emissions in this country and I think you'll agree that OPE is doing its part to be more green.

But there's a second way that OPE contributes to environmental stewardship. Taking better care of your green spaces is not only aesthetically pleasing, it actually helps care for the environment.

For example, one fairly well known example is forests. Whether it's the massive timber stands we have out West or the small plot of woods in the back of your property, stands of trees do better when cared for (as opposed to leaving them "natural"). Maintained stands of trees are less susceptible to forest fires, less susceptible to the rapid spread of disease, less desirable for vermin, etc... Property owners that keep their woods "natural" are generally missing out on plenty of benefits.

Another example: harvesting timber or firewood from tree stands helps reduce emissions. By felling and using the larger trees in a stand, the tree canopy is opened up to allow more small trees a chance at rapid growth (and therefore absorption of tons of carbon).

I recently read of one more example; one that just about all of us can contribute to: mowing your lawn. The radical environmentalists regularly moan about the evils of gasoline powered lawnmowers. Scan the recent marketing trends in mowers - electric and/or reel-type mowers are all the rage because they're "green"! But recent research reveals a very compelling case for proper lawn care, even when that requires a gas-powered mower. OPE Magazine recently reported a study that shows well-managed turf grass sequesters four times more carbon than the engine powering the mower emits. That's because well-managed turf grass is in constant growth mode, and when it's growing it's absorbing carbon.

So there you have it: some of the basics behind how I can maintain these two passions simultaneously. Like so much else in life, it's really all about balance, eh?


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