Sunday, May 27, 2001

Does God work in Mysterious ways? I hear this alot, most recently in the film 'Red Planet'. A main charachter is trying to make sense of why most of his crew has perished in this mission, and assures himself that it was because 'God works in mysterious ways' I find this funny and odd. God is given credit for eveything good, and is said to work in mysterious ways when something bad happens. Someone is trapped in a well and drowning, they pray and pary and pray and are finally rescued. Meanwhile in another country, thousands of people are killed by a flash tsunami, childrens bodies are found in trees. The stench of rotting flesh is nasuating to survivors. God works in mysterious ways. A bomb is detonated in a government center, dozens of people, men women and children, are killed. Peoples bodies are incinerated. God works in mysterious ways. A baby is born with a tumor in its brain, the families pray for it and take it to a doctor, the baby gets better, and God is given the credit. Why did they baby get cancer in the first place? This is what gets me. In our world horrible things happen, they happen all the time. People get sick and die horrible painfull deaths. People are victims of horrific crimes and tortures all over the world. Tens of thousands of children starve to death every year. God works in mysterious ways? He sure does, and his ways are indistinguishable from him not existing at all. Say
my cousin is sick and gets admitted to the hospital, my family prays for him to get better and to be healthy again. He eventually does, and the credit is given to god (not the Doctors and wonderfull human beings who have given up half of thier life to gain the knowledge to help save lives, and the millions and millions of people throughout history who have made contributions to that knowledge) Imagine that in the hypothetical situation, my cousin did not get better, he proceeded to get worse and worse, eventually succumbing to that flesh eating bacteria. My family members would hug and console each other chanting 'God has a plan' 'God works in mysterious ways' They say this presumably under the simplistic notion that what we all learn from my cousins suffering and agonizing end to his existence is a greater good then the horror of my death. That overall, we, as a family I guess, are better from the knowledge we have gained of this experience, we are better people. Because our cousin is dead? Now heres the thing, imagine for a second we live in a universe in which god exists. The first scenerio is my cousin gets sick, we pray, he gets better, we thank god for his help (Although could have just NOT allowed him to get sick or injured in the first place). The second scenerio is that he gets sick, we pray, he dies, god works in mysterious ways or it was meant to be. Now, in universe b, god does not exist. My cousin
gets sick, he gets better and lives because of the time and energy that people have put into developing the medical and scientific knowledge required to fight bacteria, infection, and injury, and because we keep my cousin happy and he WANTS to live. In the second scenerio of the sans god universe is that my cousin gets sick, but despite the best efforts of medical professionals, dies. He got sick because he got a bacteria that is programmed to copy itself at the expense of his system. The bacteria is not evil, it is not thinking, it is not concious, its bits and pieces, its machinery, are cogs in a small increibly intricate machine made of atoms and molecules. My cousins immune system fails to ward off this invasion, and he dies. Universe A and Universe B both had plausible scenerios in which my cousin got sick, and either got better or died. Universe A has a god, Universe B does not. The two universe are indistinguishable from one another. A universe where god 'works in mysterious ways' is functionally no different from one in which god either does not exist, or just does not do anything. Those mysterious ways are indistinguishable from the absence of any ways. God does not work in mysterious ways, he just apparently doesnt work at all.

Saturday, May 26, 2001

I saw the film Pearl Harbor yesterday, and I have a lot to say about it. First of all, as a movie, I enjoyed
it. It received some pretty bad reviews, but I usually try to enjoy two different fundamental aspects of a
film, the story it tells, and the way it shows the story. In film studies I am told these things are reffered
to as the narrative of the film and stylistic aspect of the film. So, Pearl Harbor I thought the narrative was
enjoyable, average, not oscar caliber, but non the less enjoyable. I am a sap, and I am more than happy to
admit it, shielding ourselves from emotional displays is an abstract social construct that has no evolutionary
influenced history. I fall for sappy love stores and cry when loved ones say good bye. True, some aspects of
the film as a narrative were a bit far fetched, but not too much, not so much that it obfuscated the enjoyement
of the narrative. Stylistically however, I loved the film. I love Bruckheimer and Bay's production and
direction styles. Visually, this was just a beautiful film. The scenes with the boys playing in the wheat
field as the camera pans under and past them just as the dust cropper flies over the point of the barn was a
great scene. Likewise the first appearance of the Japanese bombers and fighters over Hawaii was quite stunning.
The dog fights, while probably unrealistic, were visually stunning. Overall, I love seeing Bruckheimer/Bay
productions, like this, Armageddon, the Rock, Bad Boys... As narratives, however, they sometimes lack. Making
a film like this opens up a third area of critique, historical accuracy. I applaud Bay and Bruckheiemer for
taking on such a tremendous project, when they probably knew there was no way they were going to make more than
half the populace happy about this film. Some people will think that as a narrative, it was terrible, some will
think that stylistically it had too many effects, some will just say 'Thats not what happened' and get up and
walk out, some will say 'Those planes didnt look like that and couldnt do that' Hollywood has a bad track
record for accurately representing historical events. One of the most memorable scenes in Titanic was when the
crew locked the 3rd class passengers down below. This never happened, and James Cameron (The Director) admitted
as much. I must admit that I was dissapointed to find out that Cameron fabricated that. Many movies portraying
both historical events and peoples lives have been made over the years, but too often Hollywood seems to want to
create a clear cut good guy and a clear cut bad guy. War is usually never that simple. I was glad that
Bay/Bruckheimer did not villify the Japenese, and actually made an attempt (rather half harted I think) to
display the motivations behind the Japenese Attack. I also doubt that a Military Intelligence officer predicted
the attack to be ignored by a brash arrogant hollywood stereotyped military general, and I doubt that fighter
pilots would have been chosen to pilot a bomber into the heart of Japan, but I can not be sure. And how Reif
(sp?) and Danny got from a Japanese force attacking them to being rescued minutes later by the chinese is is
beyond me, I will have to do some more research into the Doolittle raid. Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed
the film, and I am glad that films are getting closer to showing the actual horrors of war. Taking even a
moment to imagine what it must have been like to be there during that attack really gets to me. Just the fact
that this actually happened, or that something very close actually happened to these people, people with
families and hopes and dreams and fears and loved ones. To be woken up early Sunday with a blistering hot piece
of metal impaling your best friend, incerating that guy you had a drink with the other night, or drowning your
poker buddies. I think Highly of this country, or more so the principle of democracy. But there is a lot that
I dont like or think very highly about, and would be reluctant to die for this country. I dont think I would go
to war in an event like this until the government of my country was directly at stake by another government
which granted even fewer freedoms.

Monday, April 30, 2001

I am doing pretty good lately. My new roomate Nichole is a great roomate, and I have another friend moving in soon. I applied to do some freelance lightwave work, the deadline for closing is 5/1, so I am hoping to hear something back. I sent my Star Destroyer and my Tie Fighter as example models. This would be great, I would love to actually get paid to do something I enjoy doing, especially if it is lightwave work =) Other than that, I am not up to much. Things have been slow lately at work, and my group may be dissapearing all together with some recent restructuring. But we are told well all have jobs, that might just be a 'dont panic, everything will be fine' as the airplane is going down in flames kind of thing. But I did take on some new tasks recently, expanding my horizons a bit.

So I went to a technology conference on Saturday at SCSU. I knew more about Nanotechnology then the physics professor who lectured on it, but the first and last lectures were awesome. I am sure the physics professor was far more knowledgable in his field then I could ever dream to be, but he seriously lacked knowledge about nanotech, its implications, and its uses. He also was not very good at relaying complex ideas simply and clearly. Most people are not, and it is a difficult art that I have practiced on my poor friends. I think that I was the only person there who was not a student at the school though. There was a neo post modern femina- all science is sexist and evil- nazi there asking questions. It was kind of amusing, although I cant figure out what these post-modernists are actually saying half the time.

Here is an example of what they sound like

""In the second half of the twentieth century professional philosophers and
historians took over the profession and, swept up in a paroxysm of
postmodern deconstruction, proffered a view of science as a relativistic
game played by European white males in a reductionistic frenzy of
hermeneutical hegemony, hell bent on suppressing the masses beneath the
thumb of dialectical scientism and technocracy. (Yes, some of them actually
talk like that, and one really did call Newton's _Principia_ a "rape

This is from the E-Skeptic Mailing list sent out by Michael Shermer. This is what this girl sounded like, I was dumbfounded and had no Idea what she was talking about. I suspect she wasnt actually saying anything, but who knows. The rest of the people at the lecture were students and were pretty much just getting introduced to the ideas of nanotechnology and intelligent machines, and asking euqal level questions. Overall it was quite enjoyable. I talked to the person who organized it later and he is thinking about setting up a Connecticut extroian group, and hoped to get Drexel, Kurzwell, Max Moore or Minsky to speak sometime there. I wished him luck on that, but hope he gets one of them.

Until next time..


Saturday, April 07, 2001

"Stars are the sources of Life. Enormous engines of nuclear fusion, they pour light out into the cosmos, warming the dead cold of space, and provide the antientropic power needed for the self-organization of matter. Starry nights have a mystic beauty, but when consndered from a scientific standpoint they are even more beautiful then they look. For the million specks of light that adorn the black velvet of a dark night sky are, in fact, nothing less that a million fountains of life." - Robert Zubrin

Monday, April 02, 2001

"The genetic code does not, and can not specify the position of every capilary in the body and every nueron in the brain, what it can do is describe the underlying fractal pattern that creates them"

It is interesting when you start learning about fractals and you realize just how pervasive these underlying repeating mathematical formulas are in nature. The same patter that appear in a tree will occur in the branching pattern of the air passages in your lung and the structure of your nerves and viens and arteries. That same pattern is found in massive river deltas and lightning photographs. It is absolutely amazing that these identical patterns occur in so many places. Your genes suggest the branching patterns of your arteries and veins, a trees genes dictate its branching pattern, but no specifically, it only influences it, as environmental come into place encouraging branches to form in specefic places. A delicate balance is reached of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. But the patterns have a mechanism available to predispose them to some arrangement, thier genes. What of lightning strikes and river deltas and canyons, there are formed by the blind forces of nature. They are formed as a consequence of the way that atoms and molecules interact as defined by the four fundamental forces in the universe.

Sunday, April 01, 2001

One of my favorite types of music is the motion picture score. Movie scores are wonderful art form of thier own. Composers try to tell stories through their music, sometimes they are stories that enhance the films stories, and some are stories all by themselves. The music will always inspire the emotion the composer intended at that time. They will bring joy to you, sadness, elation, fascination, supsense, depression, deep sorrow, amazement, shock, and fascination. All of this just in the music. Motion picture scores also seem to be much more dependant on the level the music is at more than any other type of music I listen to. I can only truly enjoy scores if they immerse my sensory input. Scores can make me glad in a few minutes or bring me to tears, all from the mood and the story that comes from the music. Some of my favorite scores are 'Last of the Mohicans', 'Legends of the fall', 'Jurassic park', 'Dances with wolves' and the recently purchased 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' If anyone reading this is really into music but never gave movies scores much thought, I would suggest trying an expirement and picking one up, see what you think. You might be surprised at what you were missing.
As a skeptic, I am an atheist and I do not believe in life after death, magic, spirits or 'souls' in the christian sense. I do however believe in People, and the amazing and beautiful and wonderfull and fascinating things that people can and are able to do and accomplish. Skeptics do not discount emotions, a skeptic will never tell you that 'beauty' does not exist. They may tell you that your concept of beauty is no more valid than any one elses, but that makes it no less important to them. Carrying this philosophy to the extreme, I find myself intruiged by absolutely everything that people do that they find joy in doing. I try to immerse myself in everything that makes it wonderfull to be human and be alive. I can not rationally fool myself into believe in an intangable thing that likely does not exist just to make me feel better. I remember a story about Carl Sagan when a listener at a lecture approached him and said 'without god, what is special about life' or something to that effect. Carl Replied 'Life is what you make of it' As a skeptic I find that life is the most wonderfull and amazing thing, and being aware of that life is even more precious. And then being able to do things that one finds joy in is immensily more profound and fascinating. Not believing that we exist after we die makes me realize how lucky I am to have this life, and that since this is the ONLY one I will get, I better make of it what I can. With my knowledge of science, and especially chaos, I must say that realizing that each and every thing I do and decision I make may have profound and drastic consequences on the entire rest of my life is quite humbling. This gives one pause when making decisions, importnat and even not so important ones.

The most important thing I feel I have learned from studying skepticism though is that I must always remember to doubt myself, and that I may very well be wrong, and that no matter how much I believe something, reality may disagree with me. This is not a fundanmental aspect of ANY religion, which is why I would say it would be far less likely for a skeptic to be close minded then a religious person. Also, there is no reason why logic and skepticism can not be applied to every question one comes across. It may not provide a better answer then a random guess or a 'gut feeling' but at least you know it is more likely to be grounded in reality.

That being said, I would make the assertation that becoming a skeptic has greatly increased my appreciation for life, and everything that makes life worth living.

Saturday, March 31, 2001

When I tell people that I am a skeptic, the immediate reaction is usually negative. People automatically associate skepticism with cynicism, close mindedness, or arrogance. It certainly doesnt help that skeptics are always potrayed that way any time they are represented in media. Usually comments like 'So are you a skeptic or do you have an open mind' are found in popular shows investigating 'paranormal' phenomena. This obviously implies that skepticism is the opposite of open mindedness. This is absolutely not the case. Modern day skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, and people who consider themselves skeptics, who voluntary label themselves as such, will always define themselves as merely people who apply the same rational aspects of scientific investigation to all aspects of life. What is really out there, and not just what I think is out there. What really works? Not just what I think works? If I think something works a particular way, let me test my idea against reality and see if nature agrees, if it does not, them I must abandon my belief. Skeptics are usually portrayed as cynics, pessimests, or just ill tempered grouchy old men. I take offense at such misrepresentations, and find trendy tendancy to criticize any kind of intellectual behavior in this country as quite dis heartening.

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Well, I had my taxes done today. Surprisingly, I got money back, I didnt expect to. I am not sure why I didnt, just the general principle of annoying government I guess. Its funny and sad when you think about how much we actually pay in taxes. 28% from income to the federal government. Your employer pays taxes and that is reflected in your income before your income taxes are taken out. Everything you buy has a sales tax, everything you own you paid a sales tax on, and manythings you own you have to continue to pay taxes just to CONTINUE to own them. I call my property taxes on my house and my car the 'you will be allowed to continue to own this' tax. Its not that I disagree with taxes in principle, I just feel that we pay way too much, and the government sticks its nose in way too many things that it shouldnt be and shouldnt be funded by tax payers dollars.

Thursday, March 22, 2001

It is quite an interesting thing, peering ever so slightly into the minds of so many people. There are a lot of people out there, on the web, wondering the streets, craving to make a mark, to externally advertise an aspect of thier personality or two. Blogger seems to be a perfect medium for such things, especially in our western post-industrialized craze for being nosy. All the 'reality based' tv shows, the incredibly unreal 'Real World' and such feed this craving. Now blogger and similiar endevours allow us to read the intricate and most personal thoughts of complete and total strangers. What more could we want?