So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre à la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Tuesday. 10.28.08 9:25 pm
So the combination of reading Flatland, talking to middaymoon, and going to our church group's night on the intersection of religion and science meant that I had a lot of pondering to do.
I will start at the end, since that seems to make the most sense. Our church group is made up of grad students and med students from every different discipline. Since a lot of us are scientists, we wanted to talk about how science and religion do (or do not) conflict. While they likely won't admit it, most quasi-religious scientists tend to do a little something called "Doublethink" to use the words of George Orwell in 1984. Here is how it is explained in 1984:
Doublethink: The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary.
The religious scientist has two hats. He wears the religious hat while at religious functions, and the scientist hat while in his lab, and outside of either he exists in a realm of doublethink, where he appears to hold two contradictory ideas of reality, one where man evolved from one-celled organisms, life arose by clay, carbon chains, and chance, and the Universe is 13.5 billion years old. In this reality, all of our thoughts and emotions are simply colorful byproducts of millions of years of evolution. Reaction to outside stimuli and competitive advantage lie behind every variation of biodiversity or nuance in the human psyche. We don't understand it simply because we have not studied it long enough. When we die our neurons cease to fire and the illusion we call "existence" is extinguished. We rot underground.
In the other reality, Man was created by God in His own image. Man exists in two parts: a body and a spirit, the body which is mortal, and the spirit which is immortal. We are attended by a watchful and ever-present God, and part of this God lives inside each of us and affects the way we make decisions, if we listen to Him. When we die, if we fulfill the requirements, we ascend to Heaven where we live eternally.
You can see right away the Doublethink of these statements. Most Christian groups won't let you talk about them because they're afraid that thinking about the Doublethink might cause doubt. After all,
Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
Once we were finally able to get to talk about these elephants in the room, my fellow christian scientists had quite a few problems right away with the above simulanteously held world views. We begin as any logical thinker must, with an examination of our assumptions.
First, in the scientific mindset we have made the assumption that nothing in the natural world may be caused by supernatural powers. This is an important assumption, because it carries with it the requirement that natural happenings must have natural explanations (no miracles), that experiments must be repeatable, and that the laws of the Universe cannot be broken. I would say that this is a fundamental tenet of science which makes all scientific inquiry possible and anything that does not make this assumption is not science (i.e. Intelligent Design). Science is a game, and one of the rules is that nothing can be a result of the supernatural. If you break the rule, you're no longer playing Science.
In the religious mindset, you are operating in a reality in which science is a small subset of existing space. For those linear algebra fans among you, it's as if you had a vector space consisting of all of the Real Numbers, and you specified that within this space there was another space that consisted of all integer numbers. What we call natural processes (integer numbers) are certainly a subset of the real numbers, but by no means all of them.
Here's where we get into the relevance of Flatland. Flatland is a book which tells about the adventures of a square who lives in two dimensions. The square knows nothing of the third dimension, indeed, the thought that there might be a third dimension has never crossed his mind. The author deals with the many difficulties of life in two dimensions, including the fact that no matter what two dimensional shape you are, people only see you as a line, or, if you are a line looking at them end on, a point. The people of Flatland have devised all sorts of ingenious methods to determine each other's shape, including feeling each others verticies as a kind of handshake, or, in misty regions, recognizing that a line sloping away from you with greater steepness would fade more quickly into the mist.
One day the square is visited by a sphere from the third dimension. The sphere seems to call out to the square with a disembodied voice, because he is not in the plane that defines the square’s limited world. When the sphere enters the square’s plane, he appears as a point, and then a tiny circle, and grows larger and larger until a great circle, his radial plane, sits in the plane of the square. The square is astonished and believes it to be sorcery, witchcraft, a miracle, or a trick of the eye. He is further amazed to hear that from where the sphere floats above the square’s plane, he can see what everyone is doing, what shape everyone is, and indeed, what is inside of every shape. He can even pass right into what the square feels to be his guts. The sphere tries to tell the square in which direction is the third dimension, but the square cannot comprehend it. The third dimension is up, but not north. It is a dimension that is infinitesimally close at every point in the square’s world, but yet it is unmeasurable. One cannot even point in its direction. It isn’t until the sphere takes the square forcibly out of the plane that he can see like the sphere and he realizes that his view of the world has been extremely limited… he lived in one plane of the infinitely many planes that exist in three dimensions.
So, to return to our church group in the third dimension, they had some major problems which I think many Christians and non-Christians do. First: How can Man be made in the image of God if Man evolved from one-celled organisms? [An aside: I accept the theory of evolution as I do the theory of gravitation (with some caveats; and with the knowledge that the fundamentals of gravity are probably even less well understood than evolution). Evolution is a powerful and accurate way to understand the natural world within the framework of science.]
For my part, I asked the church group what they thought that God looked like. Does he really look like an old man with a white flowing beard and white robes full of lightning bolts? Every human being looks different; which one of us does God look like? I think most people would agree that God has no real current physical manifestation: he is a purely spiritual being. If he is a spiritual being then the outer shell that houses the image of God is of an arbitrary shape, and there is no requirement for what it looks like or even that it remains unchanging. The vessel of the image of God could look like anything, from a single-celled organism on up. The key is that the image of God, the spiritual being, would most likely be itself a spiritual being, that is, the soul. God filled the vessel of his choosing with a god-like soul, and thus Mankind lives as the image of God regardless of how Man achieved his current body shape (though there is no reason God couldn’t have had some hand in that, as well, or that other living things can’t also have some manifestation of a soul). This directly relates to the sort of dual existence of man, as a corporeal being and a spiritual being. I’ve talked before about how I think these two essences of man relate; that is, the body and mind exist here in this three dimensional space, and the soul communicates with the mind kind of like a two-way radio.
Secondly, the church group had a problem with God’s ever-presence. Already we have seen how the sphere could seem to be God-like. Merely by having the perspective of the third dimension, the sphere could see the shapes and locations of all of the people in the square’s plane; he could even see the inside of the square itself. It is natural for the scientific mind to scoff at the idea that God could be simultaneously everywhere and “invisible”, or that the soul could be at once inside you and yet located nowhere. But after all, the third dimension is infinitesimally removed from any plane, and yet completely unmeasurable by the people who live in that plane. Heaven, the realm of God, the plane of the divine, whatever you want to call it, could be almost tangent at every point to our world and yet completely unmeasurable. No one would even be able to point his finger in the direction to be measured. One could ask of my former ponderings, “How do the soul and mind communicate, and over what distance?” The manner by which they communicate is of course unknown (though middaymoon has some good ideas), but the distance across which they communicate could be practically nothing, with no logical gaps in our understanding of space.
So the question then is perhaps, “what is special about God?” To a square, any being of three dimensions might seem like a God. Is Heaven really just a fourth spatial dimension, along with many more (perhaps the 26 or so required for string theory?) I don’t think so. One must consider time, since time is another dimension, but one which is experienced completely differently than any of the other dimensions. Why is time different from the spatial dimensions? After all, a point which is translated through space is a line. A line, translated through space, could be a square. A square, translated through space could be a cube. A cube translated through space is perhaps a hypercube, but a person translated through time is a life, isn’t it? Why?
I would guess that the dimension of God would be a dimension like time in that it is experienced in a completely different way from the other known dimensions. Just as the sphere could create miracles by sliding in and out of the square’s plane, so God might create miracles by sliding in and out of the known Universe, disturbing the fabric of space-time.
Thus I end by saying that while many people interested in science tend to employ a type of “practical atheism” while in engaging the incredibly rewarding pursuit of the Game, this practical atheism does not have to amount to Doublethink or outright hypocrisy. The mere fact that such Doublethink exists in the mind of the Christian scientist undermines both his desire to be a good scientist and his desire to be a good Christian. One shouldn’t be afraid to think and reason and talk about the seemingly contradictory facts of religion and science. One shouldn’t shun scientific reasoning on the basis that it will undermine the faith. One shouldn’t shun religion on the basis that it will undermine the Game. Instead, we should see the Game as a vector subspace of reality, and see that all natural processes belong as elements of both the Game and of reality, but that all of reality doesn’t belong in the subspace of the Game. True faith would allow a person to explore every corner of the universe with the knowledge that the proof of the non-existence of God will not be forthcoming.
Monday. 10.27.08 3:30 pm
As usual today was a toss up. Some of my bffs moved to Antarctica, my advisor wants me to do a lot of work, I forgot to eat breakfast, the entire building reeks of rotting fish, my landlord called me to say he was unexpectedly turning up to show the apartment, and I've spent the entire day doing the "easy" two problem fluid mechanics homework, even though I already spent all day yesterday doing it. On the other hand, I ate lunch with a remaining bff, my advisor actually likes the work I've been doing, the proposal I submitted for funding hasn't been funded, but it hasn't not been funded, so...
Ok, this day sucked. But I'm supposed to play soccer and have people over to carve pumpkins, so it may end up being a toss-up all things considered, or even a good day, since the good part of it will be weighted towards the back end.
Friday. 10.17.08 11:58 pm
I am going there. We are touring a Russian rocket factory.
I will return next Thursday.
Until then, do svidaniya [Anya your grace, FAREWELLLLLLL!]
Instruments I will Eventually Play
Tuesday. 10.14.08 10:23 pm
I think I should make a list of instruments I want to know how to play, and the order in which I desire to learn them, so that I can actually start learning to play them instead of just thinking about it:
This being the trouble... I already have a harmonica and a guitar, and there is a tin whistle in the family if I troubled to get it back... so that fact has to weigh in somehow. I have a bagpipe practice chanter but the actual bagpipes are at the moment prohibitively expensive. A cello is also large and expensive, but so beautiful, and not sooo expensive on e-bay. I'm imagining that an accordion is also expensive... but how awesome would it be to be able to play it from behind the hedge when your friends wish to stage a romantic dinner for themselves? Then there is the fact that I can play the tin whistle a little bit already, so the need for lessons or concentrated practice isn't quite as high there. Then I bet you could play the harmonica and guitar together, or maybe the harmonica and the accordion, or accordion/kazoo....? Harmonica and cello?
Looks like I have a lot of pondering to do...
My Ideal Man
Monday. 10.13.08 6:35 pm
I met my ideal man yesterday at the Renaissance Festival. His name was Jacques ze Whipper, and he was a performer. His show involved him running around with a huge french moustache drawn on his face, speaking in an outRAGeous french accENT, and doing totally sweet tricks with a bullwhip, like whipping a little match-thing in half as it was clutched by his volunteer's shaking hands. If only KEVIN hadn't ripped my bullwhip in half, maybe today I would be as good.
Just when I thought he couldn't get any more awesome, he said in his outrageous french accent, "There is only one thing more terrifying than a man with a whip... do you want to know what it is?"
We did, and we counted to "trois" and he disappeared into the little house behind the stage. He emerged wearing... A VELOCIRAPTOR costume! He had the velociraptor mask and velociraptor claws and everything and he attacked his volunteer! How could I help myself? I was head over heels in love.
A while later I saw him walking around and I told him that I liked his show. "Merci!" he said, doffing his cap.
Why this penchant for men who like acting like velociraptors? Is it a subconscious proxy for some evolutionary advantage?
Perhaps we will never know.
Saturday. 10.11.08 11:29 am
I've decided on a secret plan.
It involves taking these classes:
Design of Engines and Turbines
Renewable Energy Technologies
Mathematical Methods in Engineering and Physics I
Mathematical Methods in Engineering and Physics II
Unfortunately, in order to be able to convince my advisor that this is a good plan, I must finish writing this endless paper about Mercury. Today.
drama drama drama and how I am never involved or aware of it
Saturday. 10.11.08 8:02 am
Apparently the drama level in my workplace is a bit higher than I had realized. Seems like I periodically have this realization, continuing most of the time "outside of the loop" and then being caught up all at once by someone who is more "in the loop". This is in stark contrast to college and high school, when I always knew everything about everyone. Maybe it's because I don't use AIM anymore and I eschew gchat.
In some ways I find the distance liberating, as I get to pretend that all my friends are happy and their relationships are sturdy and satisfying, and I get to spend more of my time thinking about the purpose of government, the evolutionary destiny of mankind, and the metaphysical location of God in the Universe. Not to mention sand dunes on Mars... I love thinking about sand dunes on Mars.
But it is troubling to think that my friends are troubled. Especially when spending less time with them might help them out more than spending more.
The Third Unseen Hemisphere of Mercury
Wednesday. 10.8.08 7:26 am
You didn't know that Mercury could have three hemispheres, did you?
Well the second flyby of the planet Mercury in the course of the MESSENGER mission has been successful- some people stayed up til all hours of the night to be the first to see this awesome image, never before seen except in crappy radar:
I wasn't one of those people, but my advanced age has given me patience.
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