Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Seven Deadly Sins

I don’t think many people think about sin very much, especially the Seven Deadly Sins and the concept of virtue seems to have virtually disappeared from our society.  Perhaps it is time for us to revisit these so we can determine individually if we are performing in accordance with God’s desires, not the desires imposed upon us by others or by our society.  This means that we need to reflect on our conduct to determine what is in our heart and where we should improve.   Of course when you examine the Seven Deadly Sins I think virtually everyone is guilty of committing these but to what degree?  God’s standard is very high but aren’t there some mitigating circumstances?  These are my comments on these sins and what I feel are the mitigating circumstances.

  1. Pride == it is not wrong to take pride in your work, your children, or even in your success as long as it isn’t done to achieve superiority over some one else or used to brag or demean others.

  1. Covetousness == This is a hard one isn’t it?  Is it wrong to strive for something better?  I think not but if I want what you have without having to work for it or simply steal it then that would be wrong.  If I desire something and earn it then I don’t think that is coveting, but if  I want it and gain it through some nefarious means then that is wrong.

  1. Lust == Well this is another tough one and one I think most people fail at it.  After all we all have thoughts that are lustful – you see pictures of people clad deliberately to arouse impure thoughts – that’s lust pure and simple.  So this is certainly an area where we all could stand some improvement, but God created sex so sex in and of itself is not wrong or sinful.  Rape and seduction or wrong but consensual sex is not – no matter what the preacher says.  

  1. Anger== Perhaps there are some people who never anger but I think they would be a very small minority.  So when does anger become more than a small sin?  I thnk when a person’s anger impacts or dangers another person that is a sin.  Getting mad and slamming doors is probably common and not much of a sin but striking another person or harming them in a fit of anger is a major sin and should not be condoned..

  1. Gluttony== Another tough one because how do you distinguish eating your fill from sinful over eating?  I don’t think many people are gluttons but taking the largest piece or the last piece might be considered gluttony.  Eating without sharing with others would be gluttony.
  1. Envy== I guess some people are envious – mostly I think they are jealous – and I guess all of us at one time or another are envious of other’s success or wealth or fortune – but I think this only rises to sin when it becomes all consuming.

  1. Sloth==My favorite.  If you think you are working hard enough then you are but if others say you aren’t that is their opinion and not yours – thus you are not necessarily slothful.  You only become lazy when you know in your heart you aren’t working hard.

Living without violating the Seven Deadly Sins is difficult because they are really not clearly defined.  Obviously there are mitigating circumstances which doesn’t excuse the sin but does reduce the magnitude of the sin.  So what about the Seven Cardinal Virtues?  Is it any easier to be good?  These are the Seven Cardinal Virtues but are they clearly defined?  When and how do you display these virtues?

  1. Faith==  If you have faith in God that is all that is necessary and that faith is not measured in terms of tithing or attendance or chest pounding.  But who has never doubted or questioned? 

  1. Hope== All of us have hope and hope we do better – but is that ego?  Who or what should we hope for?  How do we show Hope?  I suspect to display this virtue you must hope for things beyond yourself.

  1. Charity == Some would construe this to mean giving money and certainly that is one way but I think a more meaningful way is to give of yourself.  Time spent helping others falls into this category.

  1. Prudence== This is a tough one –I equate this to caution and circumspection but is this accurate.  Does this mean that you think before you speak? 

  1. Justice== Be fair in your treatment of others and do not show favoritism and NEVER use your position or power for selfish purposes.   Justice normally means enforcing the law but is man’s law fair?  Is it morally right?  Does it mean that you receive what you sow?

  1. Temperance== Extremes in anything is bad and drunkenness falls into this category.  Drinking is not sinful but drunkenness is.  This also applies to actions and speech. 

  1. Fortitude-== Courage both physical and moral and of course moral is the harder one because this is where you must stand up for what you think is right even when everyone else is telling you that you are wrong.

I have no idea if anything here is accurate or even close to being accurate.  These are simply my views and clearly are subject to argument by others more knowledgeable than me.  My only point is that avoiding sin is probably not possible and leading a virtuous life may be equally challenging.  Evil is real, sin is real, and goodness does exist.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Ask Mr Manager #3

With the economy is disarray and unemployment rampant Mr Manager has once again been called upon for advice in not to just retain your job but even to improve your chance of promotion.  Of course many people see Machiavelli as amoral and evil, even though he was really just pointing out how to achieve and maintain power.  This is also true of Mr. Manager – business is business and in these troubled times success depends as much on perception as reality.  So the first step in your plan to succeed without breaking a sweat should start with visibility.

To achieve visibility requires speaking out, but not in praise of anything because any success no matter how modest will have dozens of people claiming the glory.  No – what you must do is speak out against any project or activity that is doomed from the outset.  Every organization has these and they are easy to spot.  Here is a list of candidates which you can predict will fail.  Opposing these or predicting failure is sure to mark you as a person of vision.

  1. Product with specifications greater than 1000 pages
  2. Projects requiring more than a couple of years to reach fruition
  3. Any team or morale building effort
  4. Any reengineering effort that requires multiple managers and processes
  5. Any new or innovative process

Of course there is always the remote possibility that one of these projects might actually limp to some sort of conclusion.  However, no project is ever clear of weak areas and things that didn’t turn out so well.  In that case you point these out with a shake of your head and say ”Well – that’s just what I expected”  This will reinforce your growing reputation as a visionary and brilliant leader.

Now no manager works alone or without competitors so at some point one of your competitors will have managed to have you put in charge of a doomed project staffed by zombies and cretins. Obviously your first task is to find a way to switch jobs but this is not always possible so you have two options.  First you can quickly isolate and fire the zombies and cretins but then a bloody massacre no matter how justified will not enhance your reputation unless you aspire to being seen as Ivan the Terrible.  So the most viable course of action is to identify the worst of the worst and begin building their reputation, by making them employee of the month, bragging about their immense value to your project.  Your purpose here is to make them seem so useful and valuable that some unsuspecting fellow manager will “steal them away from you”.  This is especially rewarding if the manager who steals this “valuable” asset is a competitor because once he steals your best player he will have just infected his own project with this failure virus.

But many times your fellow managers will fail to fall for this ploy so you must resort to a tried and true strategy commonly known as “kick them upstairs”.  That is you do everything possible to have these losers promoted off of your team and into a position where they can drive your competing managers into gibbering idiots.  This is a highly effective strategy and widely used which tends to explain the disappointing performance of many large corporations and the federal government.

But don’t make the mistake of ever giving any of these zombies and cretins a bad performance review – NO – they must be given the highest praise because otherwise they will be chained to you forever.  If you cannot find a way to remove these cretins from your staff then place them in key support positions for projects belonging to competing managers.  This offers the potential of making your project look better than your competitors because you aren’t any worse than anyone else.  As a last resort bundle these losers up and put them in charge of the United Way Campaign.

The normal corporation is composed of managers who are constantly searching for ways to make themselves appear to be highly productive hard driving team players.   So naturally your objective is to make yourself appear to be a brilliant and a major contributor to the success of the team.  This is best accomplished by remembering that in the large corporation form always is more important than substance.  Or to put it another way volume always trumps brevity, because as everyone knows any document longer than a few pages will not be read by any manager or executive.  This means that all of your reports should be jammed with irrelevant facts and graphs and if you can include some very complicated equations even better.  Then your report should be packaged in a binder with a cover letter that describes in subtle detail why everything in this report is self evident to any manager as capable as the addressee.  This will ensure no one ever reads it while demonstrating your penetrating intellect and incisive analytical abilities.

As you climb the corporate ladder it is important that you give the impression that you are not only a hard worker and key player but that you are also a strategic thinker.  This is more easily accomplished than you might think.  It is important that you associate yourself with important sounding jobs that have no possibility of a measured result while avoiding those that include names like Operations, Budget, Accounting, or Quality.  Instead volunteer for assignments that have Strategic, Worldwide, Market, or Planning in their title.  Projects with these in their title have little chance of accomplishing anything while drawing the attention of upper management.  Your value to these projects can be increased if you carry a full briefcase home every night giving the impression that you are slaving over this project.  Of course your reports should be lengthy and filled with confusing statistics. 

If you have ever wondered how some upper level manager, who can’t even order a Starbucks Coffee without assistance, got his job – well now you know – it is all about how things look rather than what they are.  Mr Manager is pleased to provide you another lesson in how to achieve success without actually having produced anything.  

Saturday, October 05, 2013


Entropy is a very interesting concept, explained by science with some complicated mathematics.  But in its simplest terms entropy can be summarized as “nature tends from order to disorder”  This can be observed all around us as we see things deteriorate, iron rusts, leaves decay, even our bodies gradually decline eventually leading to death.  But the reverse isn’t true – disordered things do not organize themselves without some external force.  The typical teenagers bedroom does not reorganize itself without some external force.  So how did the universe organize itself without some direction?

Scientists – comfortable in their knowledge of all things – have explained the big Bang and the origin of the universe.  It seems at the beginning there was this primordial speck that contained all of the energy in the universe.  They are a little vague on exactly how this speck came to be or exactly where it was located since space did not yet exist, but that’s what they believe.  At that instant of the Big Bang all energy was released but in what form?  Apparently the energy was released in the form of protons, neutrons, and electrons. So the Big Bang was entropy in action since it went from order in the form of this primordial speck to disorder. 

But almost immediately the Law of Entropy was reversed because these energetic particles began to coalesce into atoms and then into molecules gaining mass in the process.  But with mass comes gravity so perhaps it was gravity – assuming of course that gravity is not a particle and that was the external force that reversed entropy.  Given that the Big Bang created the universe and everything it in and that no energy or particle was created after that, then gravity could logically be the external force.  But then what about everything else that came later?  What about life?  What about Dark Matter and Dark Energy?  These are theorized but unknown.

The origin of life has always been a problem for science and as science extends our knowledge of life and the universe the problem has gotten more complicated.  The idea that life began spontaneously through some cosmic particle impacting some random molecule in the sea has been abandoned.  Instead scientists have postulated “Pan Spermia” which postulates that life originated outside of our solar system and was introduced via a comet or meteor or some similar interstellar particle.  Of course this doesn’t really address the origin of life, it merely sidesteps the issue.  So the question remains – how did life begin?  The evolutionists believe that life began in the sea and all life evolved from that first self-replicating molecule, but what about the Law of Entropy?  Order can only come from disorder due to some external force but what external force created DNA?

The mathematicians have determined that DNA is so complicated that it is virtually impossible for this molecular structure to have been created randomly.  Yet life rests on DNA – even that first little paramecium and Pre-Cambrian pond scum which became human requires DNA.  Nevertheless the world of science presses on and essentially now we have seven theories describing how life began.

Theory 1 – The Electric Spark

This Theory rests on the Urey-Miller Experiment which demonstrated that an electric spark in an atmosphere rich in water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen could have produced the “building blocks” of life.  Unfortunately the early atmosphere was hydrogen poor, so the fall back position was – maybe hydrogen from volcanoes.

Theory 2 – Community Clay

This idea comes from Alexander Cairns-Smith who suggests that organic molecules might organize themselves via the mineral crystals in clay.  These mineral crystals would have helped to organize these organic molecules into organized patterns that eventually led to organize themselves.

Theory 3 – Deep Sea Vents

This theory suggests that life may have begun through hydrothermal vents spewing key hydrogen rich molecules that were concentrated into nooks where mineral catalysts provided for critical reactions leading to the building blocks of life.

Theory 4 – Icy Start

This theory assumes that the oceans 3 billion years ago where frozen to great depths protecting the fragile organic compounds in the water from damaging ultraviolet light and cosmic particles.  This cold might have helped these organic molecules survive long enough for key reactions to happen.

Theory 5 – RNA World

Life requires Proteins and Proteins require DNA but mathematically it is virtually impossible for DNA to have formed randomly.  The answer might be – according to some scientists – RNA which can help create both proteins and DNA.  Of course how RNA came into being is unknown and some scientists say a spontaneous creation of RNA is unlikely to have happened.

Theory 6 – Simple Beginning

This theory suggest that instead of developing from complex molecules like RNA, life might have begun with smaller molecules interacting with each other in cycles or reactions leading to more complex molecules   These might have been contained in simple capsules similar to cell membranes evolving over time into more complex molecules that became the building blocks of life.

Theory 7 Pan Spermia

This theory simply side steps the question and suggests that life was introduced on the Earth via a meteor or comet impacts.  So even if this theory were true it doesn’t address how life originated elsewhere.

Yes these are very short summaries of very complicated theories but reading the complete theories doesn’t really add any meaningful data because they all assume order from disorder and are laced with qualifiers.  None of these theories really address the problem of DNA and how it could have been created through random processes.  The law of Entropy requires some external force for order to emerge from disorder and none of these theories actually explain even how these organic molecules came into existence. The assumption underlying all of these theories is that molecules have randomly combined to create these organic molecules.  These organic molecules have become more and more complex through random process until they became self-replicating.  These self-replicating molecules grew more complicated until they did the mathematically impossible and formed DNA and the pattern for life.  All that is missing is the admission that magic was involved. So the question regarding the origin of life remains open while the Atheists and Scientists reject anything resembling intelligent design.




Monday, September 16, 2013

Decline of Rome Parallels America

Rome did not fall in a day or a month or even a year but over decades. The decline of America has been underway for decades as well.  Rome reached its zenith under Augustus and it seems America reached its zenith under Eisenhower.  In fact most Romans were unaware that their society was in decline because one of the major problems they faced was so many outsiders clamoring to join the empire.  Today in America this is generally referred to as the “immigration problem” due to our porous borders.  Thousands of people are pouring across our borders seeking a better life, safety, work, and better conditions for their families.  For the most part these “illegal immigrants” are not well educated and have few skills.  This was true of the Roman Empire as well.  From the time of Caesar there had always been a problem with “Germans” crossing into Imperial territory.  This was never considered more than a small problem and as long as these immigrants worked hard and minded the laws no one cared.  But by the third century the Franks, the Saxons, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, and the Visigoths where crossing into the Empire.  These people had few skills outside of their skills in battle and found it hard to assimilate into the structured Roman world.  The people illegally crossing into America today have become a flood and come from countries across South America and other parts of the world.  These illegal immigrants come with little education, few skills, and little knowledge of English, which makes assimilation into American life difficult and places a strain on the government programs.

But the Germanic tribesmen only became a problem for Rome long after the decline of Rome had begun.  With few skills the German warriors flooded into the Army and slowly began to transform the Roman Legions from a highly disciplined fighting force fighting in ranks to one using the German formations more suitable for their long swords and individual heroics.  The formidable American Army is not being weakened by an influx of foreign immigrants but it is being weakened by politicians establishing unrealistic rules of engagement.  The reality is armies are killing machines whose purpose is to crush the enemies of the state through all means possible.  But beginning with Viet Nam the politicians began to constrain the military for political reasons.  The Americans could not attack known Viet Cong supply routes or targets that would impact the civilian population.  The result was a humiliating defeat.  This same process is currently being applied in Afghanistan where the military is limited to military targets which are virtually impossible to distinguish form civilian ones. This politically correct control of the military impacts morale but reduces the effectiveness of the military in its operations.  Eventually the Roman Legions could no longer protect the empire and today the American military can not point to any victory since WW II.

Nevertheless the Roman Legions remained a formidable fighting force until the very end and the American Army remains a formidable fighting force even when being managed by poorly trained politicians.  But the decline of Rome was a combination of things just as the decline of America is the result of many things, religion being one of them.  Ironically the Romans like the Americas were very tolerant of religious beliefs.  While at various times the Romans did persecute the Christians that had many causes and was temporary.  While the Romans were tolerant of all religions the Christians were not which caused problems for the Roman government.  As Christian influence grew so did their intolerance.  Something similar is happing in America today except it is the Atheists who are waging war on Christianity with similar levels of intolerance.  This conflict between Christians and Atheists is also causing problems for the Government as the courts are increasingly being forced to decide on the rights of each group.  Frequently the courts are deciding in favor of the minority which causes unrest and reduces the credibility of the courts.

Once again the parallels with Rome can be seen.  The Roman courts were corrupt and for sale.  The Court system in America isn’t corrupt – at least not to the extent that the Roman courts were, but the American Court system is becoming increasingly politicized.  The courts are interpreting laws and the constitution in line with political polls or Supreme Court decisions.  However, the Supreme Court Justices are increasingly political appointees who “interpret” the constitution according to popular political positions.  Whether these decisions and interpretations are right or wrong is irrelevant because too often they are unpopular and do not represent the people.  The result has been the creation of the "right to not be offended" so the community as a whole must modify it's practices to accommodate the individual.  Once the law and the courts lose credibility with the majority the whole society becomes unstable.  This unrest is already visible in America today.

Perhaps one of the similarities between Rome and America lies in government and taxes.  Rome had a huge empire with all of the associated costs.  They had a large bureaucracy and a standing army of over a million men.  Like all governments Rome had to maintain (and pay) all of the troops, the administrators, maintain the roads, buildings, plus fund public works.  Like all governments these things were paid for out of tax revenues but as the Empire expanded the tax revenues were inadequate.  Of course the solution was to raise taxes on the wealthy.  This worked for a while but very soon they discovered that as the taxes increased the revenues went down.  Ironically later efforts to reduce the taxes did not translate to greater tax revenues because the wealthy were no longer wealthy and many had simply disappeared. 

The American tax system is more sophisticated than the Roman but the objective has always been to shift as much of the tax burden as possible to the wealthy.  This has worked for decades but the reality is it has worked because the government operates on borrowed money and a fiat currency and has not relied completely on tax revenues.  As the total number of taxpayers declines and the demand on the tax revenues increases the reliance on borrowed money and the printing press cannot be sustained,   Just like Rome the American government must maintain the infrastructure plus a military that is larger, more expensive, and more complicated than Rome’s.  These things cost money and the long term solution cannot be the printing press, but greater productivity and a good trade balance.

So is America in decline?  Is America following the pattern of decline suffered by Rome? Did America reach it’s zenith in the 1950’s?    America certainly has more technology and wealth than any other country but are we happier as a people?  Are you happy?  Obviously this is a matter of opinion but no one really knows that they are living in a golden age until it has passed and all that remains is the glow as it recedes into the past.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

God -- The Bible -- Science


What follows are my opinions.  They are not intended to prove anything and certainly not intended to offend anyone.  I view myself as a Christian but many of my Christian friends would disagree due to various doctrinal conflicts.  I don’t think God is exclusive to any specific religion and  is present in all religions.  It is not my intent to prove that God exists but rather to ask the Atheist to prove that He doesn’t.

What follows is my simple comparison of the Bible’s description of the creation to what science currently believes.  The important thing here is that while the Bible requires faith it is the same for science because neither can prove their positions.

God--the Bible – and Science

The atheist doesn’t believe in God but he believes in science and challenges those who believe in God to prove He doesn’t exist.  But when challenged to prove that God doesn’t exist the atheist cannot offer any scientific proof.  In fact Richard Dawkins – the High Priest of Darwinism – when challenged to explain how the complex DNA and RNA molecules came into existence as a random event he admitted he could not explain it.  Instead he said “it must have happened because we are here.”  The idiocy of this statement is lost on the atheist whose faith is in science.  But to believe that some random combination of chemicals could produce these complex molecules would lead to the logical conclusion that they could have just as easily combined into a birthday cake.  So it seems that science requires the same level of faith as faith in God requires.

Allowing for some poetic license it seems that the Bible describes the Big Bang or “First Cause” pretty well.  The Bible says that God created the heavens and the Earth and the Earth was without form and void..  Science tells us that all energy was created with the Big Bang and was a swirling incredibly hot cloud of particles that eventually coalesced into the stars and the earth.  Then God separated the waters from the waters and divided the waters from under the firmament from those above the firmament.   According to what science believes the energies released began to coalesce into mass laden molecules and ultimately into the stars and planets.  Given some latitude for poetic license the Biblical description of the second day seems to track science.

On the third day God gathered together the waters into one place and let the dry land appear and the seas.  This seems to track the scientific belief that the Earth was formed out of the swirling mass of particles into our planet which was  incredibly hot and surrounded by gas.  As the Earth cooled the gases cooled and formed the seas and atmosphere.  The Bible and science seem to agree up to this point but then the sequence of events begins to diverge.  The Bible claims the next step was the creation of grass and trees  but the fossil record shows no plant life of any kind in the Cambrian or Pre-Cambrian beyond something akin to pond scum.  The Cambrian fossil record shows an abundance of sea life but grasses and plant life first appear in the Ordovician period.   In fact the sequence of events between the Bible and the fossil record greatly differ from this point on, but it is the sequence not the actual events.  The Sun and the Moon are created after the Earth but science claims that the Sun was created first and the Moon after the Earth.  The first life appears in the Cambrian Seas and the Bible and science agree on this point but the Bible claims that flying fowl were created at the same time but once again the fossil record doesn’t show any flying animal until much later. 

This brings us to the sixth day which roughly equates to the Devonian period when land animals first appear.  The Bible lumps the rest of creation into this sixth day ranging from the creation of the first land animals to the creation of man.   The fossil record shows the evolutionary history of the Earth in much more detail than the Bible but roughly they parallel the development of life on Earth.    The huge difference comes with the creation of man.  The Bible is very clear that God created man in His image while the scientists point to the fossil record that shows a path from primitive apes to modern man.  This fossil record for mankind has some questionable entries and assumptions but even so the record is very clear that man did not appear fully formed as we know him today.  To accept the Biblical explanation would require God to look somewhat like Michelangelo’s version of God which would mean that God is tangible, Heaven is tangible or at least a physical place, and that Hell exists.  Furthermore, once God is accepted as real then Satan must be real as well.  

Since the Bible was written people have believed that if God created man in his image that when they look into the mirror they see an image similar to God.  But science tells us that everything in the universe is energy and that the Big Bang created all of that energy.  That would lead to the conclusion that God is energy and that when He created man he created man as an energetic image – which we know as our soul.  Our physical bodies are mere shells – containers for our souls while we serve our time on Earth.  Certainly it would be asking too much for science to accept this explanation because it would require accepting God, but viewing man ‘s soul as the image of God then the creation story in Genesis seems to closely parallel the scientific view of the creation.

As I said at the outset these are just my opinions and I have no proof of anything.  I simply looked at the Bible and compared it to various scientific articles and descriptions and found what I saw as parallels.  You may or may not agree.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Democracy And The Modern World

The modern world really began with the end of the Victorian Age and WW I.  This signaled the end to the power of the nobility and the rise of the common man.  The aristocrats survived but they are nothing more than quaint anachronisms and are irrelevant today.  The end of WW I brought great social change across the Western world but it also signaled the rise of the Bolsheviks, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nazi’s, and even what became Communist China.  These all represent populist movements intended to right the wrongs of the past socially, politically, and economically.  The history of the twentieth century is littered with the enormous cost in human lives brought about by the failures of these movements.  But the echoes of these movements continue into the twenty first century and the social and economic problems which these movements meant to solve remain and are growing with the growth in population.

The globalization of markets made possible by technology and the speed of communications has spread global capitalism or at least the concept of individual worth  which has highlighted the unequal distribution of benefits and wealth that characterize capitalism.  In effect there are more rich people it the world today but there is also a larger and growing underclass of the working poor.  This isn’t as obvious in the developed western countries but it is very visible in the large cities in South America, Asia, and Africa.  This population of underpaid and frequently unemployed is a destabilizing influence and forms a ready source for radical terrorists, which is readily visible throughout the Middle East and Africa.  Throughout the twentieth century the poor were largely isolated geographically and technologically but that has changed in the twenty first century.

It is estimated that by 2010 thirty percent of the world’s population will have communication access through the internet and cell phones and that number will continue to grow.  This spread of technology will not and historically has not led to stability, but instead has been a destabilizing influence most recently demonstrated by the Islamic based violence around the world.  History shows that the invention of the printing press led to the religious reformation but also to the wars, controversies, and religious schisms that followed.  The current spread of information access is repeating this historical pattern.  We are witnessing the rise in violence triggered not by oppression but by the freedom of speech via communications not easily controlled by governments but readily available to the general population.

Policy makers – especially in the industrialized countries, are focused on bringing democracy to many of these countries currently under the thrall of dictators and religious zealots.  This policy of “democratization” is based on the assumption that this is a solution, but historically political freedom has unleashed the violence we are witnessing in Egypt and across the Middle East and North Africa.  These large populations of uneducated underpaid, and unemployed are unstable and as can be seen from the violence in these areas, easily manipulated by ethnic, religious, and power driven leaders.  The historic reality is that dictatorships can actually serve the people better than representative governments.  Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordon are examples how a dictator who truly acts in the interest of the people can be more effective than an unstable and unworkable representative government.  Sadat and Hussein could not have made peace with Israel without the dictatorial power they possessed.  The current policy of democratization of countries is unlikely to yield stable governments but more likely to contribute to rising violence.

Some believe that if Egypt and Syria made peace with Israel the violence in the Middle East would cease or at the very least decline to a manageable level.  This is a false hope that rests on the premise that Israel itself is the casus belli but if Israel were to vanish the problems and carnage would remain.  The root cause of the problems in the Middle East is not Israel but the power struggle between Islamic factions and Israel is merely an excuse.  None of the Islamic states cares about Palestine or the Palestinians because they have never been willing to accept them as immigrants.  Instead they use the conflict with Israel for their own political ends, which are religious, ethnic, and struggles for power.  Therefore, democratization of Islamic states is unlikely to stabilize them and the reality of this can already be seen in Egypt.  The Mubarak dictatorship was overthrown and a democratic government elected which immediately failed because the newly elected leaders moved immediately to install a religious dictatorship.  It is unlikely that a democracy is the solution in the Middle East and in Egypt a military backed dictatorship may be the best solution.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Faith Based Science

The debate regarding God’s existence has been raging for centuries but recently the Atheists seem to have seized the initiative as their numbers increase.  Of course the challenge the Atheists present to the Theist is to prove that God exists.  That proof must stand the test of the scientific process in order to be proof.  What has been missing is the challenge to the Atheist to prove God doesn’t exist using the scientific method.  Naturally neither side has been able to show convincing proof so the debate rages on.  But recently this debate has become more strident as the Atheists present scientific findings on Evolution, First Cause, and the Origin of Life.  All of these theories – which is what they are – presented as facts even though the “facts” are actually presumptions, assumptions, opinions, and guesses. .  The era of Faith Based Science is upon us.

 The foundation of the debate on God is the Origin of Life.  Exactly how did life begin?  For the Theist the answer is God – in fact for the Theist God created the Heavens and the Earth and the question is answered.  For the Atheist that is no answer at all because it cannot be demonstrated (or duplicated) by science and to accept God as the answer is to avoid answering the question and represents intellectual laziness if not outright stupidity.  But the scientists are faced with this fundamental problem which fails the scientific test of being demonstrable and repeatable.  The challenge is for the scientist is to demonstrate how life evolved from inorganic matter. 

Essentially the scientific position is that life on Earth began as a random event triggered by some unknown process or combination of events resulting in self replicating molecule.  To date experiments using inorganic components have succeeded in creating organic molecules from inorganic materials but have failed to yield a living organism.  Complicating the matter is the materials used in creating the organic molecules are toxic to life or the resultant molecules are toxic to life.  But there is an even more difficult scientific hurdle to overcome and that is the fact that the probability of DNA being randomly generated is so great as to be impossible.  Recognizing that life being created as a random event or even a series of random events is so improbable the “scientists” have postulated a new theory called “Panspermia”.  Essentially this theory states that life on Earth was introduced via a meteorite that carried life to Earth.  Of course this really doesn’t answer the question because we still don’t know how life began.  The obvious conclusion is that scientists really don’t know how life began but they know God wasn’t involved.

If science can’t really offer any scientific proof about the Origin of Life what about the origin of the universe – the “First Cause” or Big Bang.  Science can trace the universe and everything in it back to the first nanosecond.—the instant of creation.  Of course the problem is what was there before the moment of creation?  For those who believe in God, the answer is God but that isn’t acceptable to the scientist because it cannot be proved via science.  The problem lies with space itself since it was the Big Bang that created space meaning there was not place for that bundle of energy to exist prior to the creation of the space in which it could exist. 

To solve this problem scientifically scientists have postulated various possibilities, none involving God.  Several theories have been postulated but none have been accepted as the probable one. Essentially the scientists agree that none of their theories can be tested or proved but they argue that that’s the best they can do.  The best answer they have come up with so far is that the universe emerged spontaneously from a random quantum fluctuation in some sort of primordial quantum vacuum.  Once you have absorbed this description and examine it critically it does raise some questions.  It assumes that this quantum vacuum that the entire world of quantum particles and interactions already exists.  Please not that the particles have mass and thus must have some space in which to exist.  All of these particles are composed of energy and a zero energy quantum state is impossible.  Scientists like Hawkings and other scientists claim that the universe emerged out of quantum nothingness. They are making a claim that does not meet the scientific test much less a logical one.  But those who deny God but believe in science accept this because they have faith in science.  And brings us to the third problem faced by science – Evolution.

Evolution is a much thornier problem because there is so much fossil evidence supporting it.  Scientists can trace life back millions of years and show the march from sea to land to the air.  They have created charts and diagrams showing how one animal or group of animals has descended from a common ancestor.  Unfortunately many of the examples used are actually simply examples of environmental adaptation and not speciation.  Commonly there are gaps of millions of years and the fossil record does not preserve these speciation events so these connections are assumed.  The major assumption is that these ‘assumed” lineages are that these intermediate fossils exist at the proper point and thus the transitions are plausible. 

The speciation events are virtually impossible to document and even within the Cenozoic these are hard to document.  In fact if the specimens are separated by more than 100,000 years the fossil record cannot show anything about how a species arose.  In effect all of the claims and charts showing the relationships between species during the Precambrian, Paleozoic, and Mesozoic eras are assumptions and not demonstrable facts.  The Cenozoic is more recent but even here where the fossil record is more complete the evolutionary changes are incomplete and the transitions between species are estimated but not fully documented in the fossil record.

This almost total lack of evidence regarding speciation leads to the problem of evolution over long periods versus the problem that some species just suddenly appear in the fossil record with no precursors.  This has led to the theory of “Punctuated Equilibrium” which claims that some speciation events occur over very short periods of 20,000 years but no more than 80,000.  The problem is that there is really very little evidence to separate the adaptation of a species to its environment and the separation of one species into a totally new one.

While the scientists claim they have the answers to the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and evolution, the reality is these are just claims largely unsupported by facts.  In fact the scientific answers to these questions are filled with words like, believed to be, estimated, and probably.  The logical conclusion is that science and scientists rely on faith in science but that faith is really no different than religious faith.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The first thing to understand about fracking is that it is the latest cause of the silly people in Hollywood most of whom know nothing about fracking.  Hollywood gave an Oscar to “Gasland” a movie starring Matt Damon that purports to show how fracking destroys our drinking water while rewarding the oil companies.  Another documentary “Fracknation” offered a rebuttal and less emotional response to “Gasland” but was generally ignored.  The Director of “Gasland” Josh Fox refused to discuss “Fracknation” or the fact that environmental officials concluded that the pollution shown in “Gasland” had nothing to do with fracking.  Nevertheless the hue and cry against fracking continues but it doesn’t seem to rest on facts as much as a belief that it destructive to the surface environment. 
Fracking is a short term used for “hydraulic fracturing”.  This is a process where water mixed with sand and various chemicals are injected into a gas or oil producing geological formation under high pressure to fracture the rock to release the gas / oil trapped there.  This process has rejuvenated old oil wells and is helping to release America from its dependence on foreign oil.  However, most of the fracking is used to release natural gas, a resource the US has in abundance so it really has little impact of oil imports.  On close inspection it seems the opponents of fracking are mostly focused on the environmental issues not caused by fracking but caused by ancillary issues. 
The fracking process does bring additional industrial activity into communities.  In some cases this requires clearing land, building roads, preparing new well sites, casing the well, etc.  The process itself requires water and materials to be trucked into the site and the toxic waste to be trucked away.  These are the things the opponents to fracking focus on but it should be noted that these well sites are not in the middle of urban areas, they are not located on some pristine beachfront or a local neighborhood, but generally are located in remote locations.  Many times the well sites are pre-existing and are being rejuvenated through fracking.  The position of the environmentalists that fracking is turning our communities into “sacrifice zones” is overstated and even misleading, especially the claims that fracking is polluting our drinking water.   The irony is that the anti-fracking lobby doesn’t seem to have any real scientific basis but rests entirely on anecdotal data.  The oil and gas producing strata lie thousands of feet below the water table and fracking has no impact.
Actually the Department of Energy released a federal study on fracking in 2013.  This report states they found no evidence that chemicals from the drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers  This test lasted a year and the researchers found that the chemical laced fluids used in fracking stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas  that supply drinking water.. This study lasted a year and the study is ongoing, but these preliminary results are the first independent look at whether the toxic chemicals used in fracking pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations.  The DOE does not view these early results as a final answer but they do bear out claims made by the companies using this process.
This test used drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected into the strata more than 8000 feet below the surface.  A common depth for oil and gas wells.  These tagged fluids were not detected in the monitoring zone which was at 5000 feet below the surface and well below the aquifer used for drinking water.  The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the fractures made from the process and these were at least 6000 feet below the surface.  This means the potentially hazardous fluids stayed a mile or more away from drinking water supply which usually are no deeper than 500 feet.
The debate over fracking has received a great deal of attention from state and federal authorities mostly driven by environmentalists who have focused on the chemicals used in the process.  But the experts have concluded that if there is any danger from fracking it is more likely to be from poor well construction or other human failures.  Nevertheless there are other issues which still must be explored such as; chemical spills, waste water disposal, or escaping gas.  Still the independent researchers at Duke University concluded that most of the problems associated with fracking have been related to well construction not the chemicals used in the process.
It is important to note that these results are preliminary and the tests were conducted in one area in Pennsylvania but geological structures vary widely across the country.  More tests must be conducted but these early results tend to show that the process itself does not pollute the drinking water.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sin or No Sin

Do you think about sin?  Probably not – I think very few people do.  In fact many people might be hard pressed to even define sin even in a biblical context.  Essentially within the Judeo-Christian context sin is simply the act of violating God’s will or anything that violates the relationship between an individual and God.  But what is God’s will and what – precisely is the relationship between a person and God?  These are rather vague terms when you examine them, yet the Bible is very specific in what constitutes a sin. 613 commandments.  But all of these sins are in reference to God and those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God.  What about Atheists and those who don’t believe in God – can they sin?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?  Are they sins of the soul or of the body?  What about the Ten Commandments, these were given to Moses directly from God and are honored by the world’s three great religions do these apply to atheists?  Is the denial of God a sin in itself?

The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” seems clear enough but does that apply to humankind or just to Jews, Christians, and Muslims?  A great many people in the world don’t fall into those categories and do not recognize this as God’s commandment.  Are they all sinners and condemned by a God they do not recognize?  This first of God’s commandments seems to assume that everyone believes in some god, but that they must honor the God described in the Bible and Koran first and above all other gods.  So perhaps it can be concluded that atheism is itself a sin and a violation of God’s commandment.  So the answer must be yes – Atheists can sin.

The second commandment is more interesting because it is rarely expressed in its entirety.  According the King James Bible the second amendment states”
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thos shalt not  bow down thyself to them, nor serve them for I the Lord they God am  jealous God, visiting the inequity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments
Normally what you see is just the first phrase and not the entire commandment.  Both Islam and Judaism follow this commandment scrupulously but do Christians?  Is the ubiquitous Cross a graven image?  What of the icons, statues, and various images that abound in Christian Churches?  What about the Catholic Saints – are they gods and graven images?  Of course the claim is that these are not graven images or gods to be prayed to but simply symbols celebrating God and their faith in God – a fine line. But these commandments are from God and violating them would be a sin – if you believe in God and His commandments.  But what if you don’t?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?
These may have their roots in the Bible and have evolved from that but they were first articulated in the fourth century by John Cassian.(  How these are defined has evolved over the years so they may be rooted in religion but today they are more sins of the body than sins against God.   But the question remains – what is sin and can sin be defined outside of a religious reference?  Can a person sin if he does not believe in the existence of God?
Of course there is probably no real answer to any of these questions, but it is my opinion that all sins are sins against God’s mandate and those who do not believe in God can not only sin but their disbelief is their first sin and that sin is pride. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Spanish Economy

The Euro-zone is in disarray and the Euro is struggling to survive.  Greece has already collapsed into chaos because their generous socialist programs can no longer be sustained and now Spain is sinking into chaos as well.   Although the root causes of these problems should be an object lesson in the failures of socialism no one in the Obama administration seems concerned.  Socialism as a form of government has failed and it should be apparent to anyone watching because it is financially unsustainable over the long haul.

When Zapatero and his Socialist Workers Party took power their goal was to improve the already generous social programs already in place.  Indeed the objective was to perfect or even surpass the lavish social programs that have long been the hallmark of Western Europe.  To achieve this objective Zapatero raised the minimum wage and greatly expanded health insurance to cover everything from minor issues up to and including sex changes.  He made government scholarships available to everyone and young adults were given rent subsidies that allowed them to leave the parental home.  Because of the declining birth rate he gave mothers $3500 for the birth of a child and free nurseries for toddlers.  Then he gave stipends to the elderly for nursing care.  All of these benefits were government provided but like all socialists they were predicated on the present without regard for the future.  The declining birth rate alone should have been a red flag because it signaled that the tax revenues would eventually not cover the financial obligations.

Well the piper must be paid and as Margaret Thatcher once observed “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money” and that is where the Euro-Zone countries now find themselves.  They are faced with growing financial obligations with declining tax revenues and a population accustomed to low retirement ages, great retirement benefits, and many government benefits.  Greece allows retirement at 50 with 95% of your last wage as your retirement.  France has a 35 hour work week and attempts to raise that to 37 hours was met with great resistance.  Spain isn’t quite as bad but when now that reality has set in Zapatero and his socialist government must now find a way to pay for all of those great benefits.  To that end Zapatero had negotiated a deal with unions to freeze pensions and raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 and the deal includes reducing union bargaining rights.  Additionally Zapatero has suspended the childbirth bonus and reduced civil servants pay by 5%.

Of course these actions have not gone over well with the people accustomed to generous government programs and thousands have taken to the street in protest.  But the government of Spain isn’t alone in being forced to cut back on these social welfare programs.  Greece led the way and they are still reeling from the impact as protests and strikes continue but Western Europe must make these cutbacks because their debts and deficits have risen to dangerously high levels.

The governments of France, England, and Germany have accepted the necessity to cut back on their spending and have made fiscal discipline their objective, but even so there is resistance.  For example France tried to raise the retirement age to 63 and met with such stiff resistance they had to back down.  The cherished social welfare programs that characterize European governments can no longer be sustained because they cost more than the revenues allow and to continue would mean bankruptcy.  But in Spain these reductions have been particularly painful because they are being carried out by a Socialist government.  Socialism is based on unbridled welfare spending, employment, an generous government programs paid for through high taxes on the wealthy.  Businessmen and bankers are viewed in the Socialist ideology as wicked capitalists who exploit the workers.  Not unexpectedly the wealthy simply leave taking their capital with them leaving unemployment behind them.  The government can no longer afford all of these programs because the capitalists are no longer willing to see their wealth taken to be redistributed to those who did not earn it.

These welfare programs, tax the rich schemes and wealth redistribution programs favored by the Obama administration are inexorably leading the US into the same problems being face throughout Europe.