Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free Will?

So I have listened to a couple of podcasts recently that got me thinking about free will. Do we really have free will? Or is it something we imagine that we have? The first was a debate between an atheist and a Christian on Reasonable Doubts. The interview/debate appeared on the Don Johnson Radio show, but a fuller, unedited version is available here. The second was an excellent interview on Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot with Tom Clark. I used to strongly defend a notion of free will, but lately I have begun to have doubts about the whole concept.

I especially appreciate the Tom Clark interview. In the interview they mentioned that when we really say that we have free will, we have some "unmoved-mover" power. This is typically an attribute in theism that is reserved for God. Now maybe a theist could say that this is one of those "we were made in God's image" things. God has given some of his attributes to humanity. Additionally I think Tom separates out the concepts of determinism and being fully caused (no free will.) This makes sense to me. Randomness is one of the fundamental attributes of the universe (pick up a book on quantum mechanics if you don’t believe me.) This randomness does not mean that we have free will, but I think it might help to muddy the waters in the debate.

There has been quite a bit of evidence in neurological studies that support the notion that we don’t have free will. For example we know that brain trauma (either due to injury or stroke) can dramatically change a person and how they make their decisions. Probably the most interesting evidence is related to neurological studies of how humans do moral reasoning. Check out this write up on Neurologica for more information.

Now the question I have is how does free will and dualism relate. Much of the evidence against free will is also evidence against some sort of immortal soul. So I could see how free will and dualism can be a coherent belief, but what about holism and freewill? Typically Adventists have held onto both concepts, but I am not sure if it is a coherent set of assumptions. I may or may not try to more fully flesh out why, but I was curious what others thought.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So are Adventists Anti-Creedal or Creedal?

Once, a long time ago, Seventh Day Adventists were very suspicious of creeds. They believed in present truth and progressive revelation. This allowed for some movement and discussion about what it is we actually believed. It allowed for diversity of opinion among members.

In 1980 the General Conference decided to publish a list of "fundamental" beliefs. It is my understanding that it was originally conceived as documentation of the concensus views among members what were the beliefs of the church. Lately there seems to be more and more people attempting to marginalize voices in the church who dissent from the fundamental beliefs. It could be called small tent adventism. This has been combined with attempts to more precisely define the beliefs to allow for less room for interpretation and to shut down internal debate.

The latest evidence for this is the latest General Conference session (meets every five years to approve officers and changes to church operations, but mostly it is a huge cheerleading and networking type of event.) I've been concerned by the tone of some of Ted Wilson's (the new President) comments. Additionally they have decided to affirm the traditional understanding of origins that has been held by the church and request a committee to look at strengthening the wording of the 6th fundamental belief that is concerned with creation and origins. Spectrum Magazine has some good articles about this if you are interested in more details. I particularly liked this segment that discusses statemetns from Ben Clausen of the Geo Science Research Institute.

Quoting from the statement, Dr. Clausen said that "it is impossible," to teach students "scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation."

He added: "There are no available models."

"There are no available models." This is a striking admission from somebody who works in an Adventist Apologetics Organization. As a church, we can decide that the earth was created 6000 years ago. But not only is there no evidence for it, but that viewpoint is contradicted by the evidence. "There are no available models." There is no explanation that can adequately deal with the evidence while maintaining a young earth view.

This is a position that basically shuts down any outreach efforts to educated professionals. I once tried to explain the whole La Sierra controversy and young earth creationism to a coworker. Her immediate response was, "who would be stupid enough to believe that!!" I've had several lunch conversations with coworkers. Whenever the topic of creationism versus science is brought up, creationism is thouroughly ridiculed. I am told at church that I should invite my coworkers to church. But why would I invite them to a place that wants them to discard 15 to 20+ years of education in order to fit in?

Of course the people I feel the most sorry for are the professors who work for the church. These are the people who are trying to have this discussion while also maintain their jobs. But as Adventists move more toward making the foundamental beliefs a creed, discussion is becoming more difficult. Talk about a tight rope!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The New Atheists

I find it interesting that when people discuss the “New Atheists,” they seem to be of the opinion that this is some sort of new phenomenon. Usually the term is applied to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and others that have similar views. Some have even maintained that this is just a passing fad that will lose steam (example: David Bentley Hart.) Every time I heard such discussions, I have always wondered “but what about Bertrand Russell?” At that point I had only read one of his essays, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, otherwise known as college.

During my last trip to Powell’s, I found a compilation of essays by Russell, including “Why I am Not a Christian.” I will have a fuller review later, but I did want to say that the ideas expressed in his essays are very similar to the “New Atheists.” Religion hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years and many of those arguments are still valid today. Most of those articles could have just as easily been written by a Dawkins and I think the main difference between them is not tone or anything that they are actually saying. There are minor differences because Russell was a man of his time and didn’t have access to the latest scientific advancements and some of his predictions on societal directions have been proven inaccurate. However publishers are more willing to distribute such books and it is very easy to find numerous copies of Dawkin’s, Harris’s, or Dennett’s latest works and they have reached a wider audience.

So the New Atheists are not new by my definition and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. In fact every indication is that they are a growing movement.

Book Review: Atheist Delusions

I must admit that I had high hopes for this book by David Bentley Hart; however I found his argument to be mostly emotional. He was writing as a man who was offended and was lashing out. This aspect of his book can be found in an essay that we wrote for First Things. This essay has been thoroughly discussed on Pharyngula, Kevin Drum’s blog, and by Grad Student.

The other aspect of his book, mostly in the body of the work, is an overview of Christian history. He attempts to counter several narratives that are common today: The War Between Science and Religion, Christianity has a violent history, etc. However he seems to set up a straw man argument based on views of historians over a hundred years ago. He undercuts his own argument by stating up front that he is not a historian and what he is presenting is biased. But worse than that, even if everything was factual, I don’t think it supports his argument against atheists.

He attempts to minimize the involvement of the church in various atrocities. For example he tries to argue that Hypatia was not brutally murdered because Christians were intolerant of science, but because she caught up in the political undercurrents of a decaying society. Of course that doesn’t change that she was murdered by Christian monks. This episode is dramatized in a movie called Agora with Rachel Weisz, which may be less historically accurate then David Hart, however the trailers are quite chilling. The logical pretzels were quite contorted when he tried to minimize the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were completely glossed over. His argument is that the church actually had a tempering role on the Inquisition and that it is the fault of secular powers.

The good news, is I was able to sell this book back to Powell’s and I was able to reinvest the money into a better book.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Review: Living with Darwin

It has taken awhile for me to write this review, mostly due to lack of time. Philip Kitcher’s book, contrary to the title, is mostly about the intersection between Creationism and science. His main thesis is that it is incorrect to call Creationism in its various forms pseudo science or non-science, because so many historical scientists were Creationists of one sort or another. He would prefer to classify it as dead science, because it has been widely recognized as being incorrect and has been discarded because it was contradicted by the evidence.

He divides Creationism into three basic groups and then devotes an entire chapter going back over the reasons that scientists decided that the particular theory was incorrect. Young earth creationism was discarded in the 1830s due to advances in the field of geology. This was later confirmed by the discovery of radiometric dating, so that we now know that the earth is over 4 billion years old. Next the view of special creation (typical view point of most old earth creationists) was discarded in the 1870s with the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species.” The last form of creationist is the non-adaptionist. An example of this would be most of the more “technical” writings of the Discovery Institute. Their belief is that natural selection is not a strong enough force to explain the diversity of life or complexity of certain structures. This view was discarded by scientists in the 1930s with the advent of the modern synthesis. To be quite honest, I see the last two viewpoints as being shades of the same.

In total he only devoted one chapter to the implications of “Living with Darwin” and I wish he would have spent more space discussing this. This is the discussion that those who are religious should be having. God, if he exists, created using an evolutionary process. Now what does that mean for us today. I think Philip is correct that most traditional notions of God are incompatible with the evidence we have. However he seems to be open to the existence of a god.

Overall the book is quite readable and I think that the most effective evidence-for-evolution book retraces the course of science and could be thought of a history of science book. In this type of book the arguments and counter arguments of scientists are presented and it is clear that the side that one had the most evidence on their side.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How would you respond to Sam Harris

In this video (embed wasn't working in preview mode, so you may need to follow the link) Sam Harris takes on three arguments for religion: religion is true, religion is useful, atheism is just another religion (h/t to Lukeprog). How would you respond to his arguments? Do you think he is way off base? Why? I will summarize his counter arguments for each of the three sections below.

Argument 1: Religion is True

Sam Harris responds by pointing out that different religions make conflicting claims so they can't all be true. Now if you want to make a claim in support of one particular religion over any other, you run into problems. For example miracles are not an indication of truth of religion. Jesus is recorded as having performed many miracles. On the other hand Sathya Sai Baba has performed "miracles" and millions believe that he is a god. Records of his miracles can be found on youtube and have happene fairly recently. Most Christians would find this evidence, less than convincing. Some would claim some sort of basis on the texts of the religion. However Sam Harris maintains that there are large failings of most of the ancient holy texts (scientific, ethical, etc.)

Argument 2: Religion is Useful

Even though we like the implications or usefulness of an idea; it doesn't make it true. Religion may give comfort, but it is a false comfort. Sam Harris is quite adament that religion is a poor source of morality. It isn't necessary to have religion to know what is good. We don't need religion to tell us that it is important to love your children. He also points out thtat societies that are less religious tend to have less crime and do more to help the poor and outcast than highly religious countries. Most of all we don't learn that cruelty is wrong from reading the Bible (genocide, sexual slavery, kidnapping, subjugation of women.)
Finally even chimpanzees and other social primates exhibit moral reasoning without any religion.

Argument 3: Atheism is just another religion

Atheism is just saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is not necessarily dogmatic. He is quick to point out that nothing prevents atheists from having transcendent experiences. However those experiences don't mean that God exists. Some claim that atheism is source of evil like Stalin, Nazis, and Pol Pot. Problem with those examples is that they were ideologies that are too much like religion.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review – The Future of Faith

Harvey Cox’s most recent book, “The Future of Faith” was an excellent summary of the history of Christianity with a look to where he thinks the movement is going. In many ways he covers the same ground as Karen Armstrong did her in book, “The Case for God.” I enjoyed Dr. Cox’s work much more than Karen Armstrong. I found that his different perspective was refreshing and I find that Karen Armstrong tends to gloss over and minimize the differences in different religions and I think she may be missing important elements.

Harvey Cox divides Christianity into three main periods. There was a freewheeling, dynamic Christianity during the first few hundred years. He calls this period the age of Faith. We have only recently discovered just how dynamic this early period was. This was before many of the “traditional” Christian ideas had been fully developed. There was a wide variety of view points on the trinity, nature of Christ, and the reasons for his death and resurrection as well as what happened after death. This age ended during the reign of Constantine.

In his book he is quite clearly not in favor of what Constantine accomplished as well as his successors. It was during this time that the Christian church started to teach that there were certain beliefs that were critical for Christian faith. During this period heresies were identified and quashed as much as possible. This period he calls the age of belief and it lasted clear into the twentieth century (and even today.) If you want an example, you can google Brian McLaren and check out all the critical reviewers online. Many of these people are eager to define Brian as a heretic because of his thoughts on Substitutionary Atonement and the afterlife.

The last period is the Age of the Spirit. His claim is that we are currently entering this age of the spirit. As examples he lists off some of the trends in Liberation theology, Pentecostalism (now the largest subset of Christianity), and the emergent church. He is of the opinion that the non-Western world will now be the leaders and innovators in the coming years. He is also of the opinion that believers in Africa, Asia, and South America have not been as tainted by Constantinian thought (or Hellenistic/Western Thought) and so they are practicing a Christianity that is much closer to the original form. It will be interesting to see if he is right. I am skeptical about his claim that Fundamentalism is in decline, but much of what he says sounds about right.

My favorite part about the book is he seems to take a position that thoroughly rejects fundamentalism (especially the literal reading of scripture) but he is also skeptical of the atheist position. He presents a compelling third way, which I have found almost impossible to maintain. Anyway, this is a book that I would recommend. He documents the changes in Christianity and religion but without the triumphalism that was present in Phyllis Tickles book, “The Great Emergence” and without the generalizing that is in Karen Armstrong’s works.

Christian Atheists

Recently my local pastor had a section in his sermon where he discussed Christian Atheists. Now his definition of a Christian Atheist is very different from mine, however both definitions would make a certain level of sense. On the one hand, the pastor had defined a Christian Atheist as somebody who claims to believe in God, but they don’t live their lives as a follower of Christ (whatever that means.)

My definition would be somebody who doesn’t believe in God, but is a follower of Christ. Probably the most famous example would be Robert Price (aka the Bible Geek.) Robert Price is an extreme skeptic and atheist, but he loves liturgy and regularly (could I say religiously) attends his local Episcopalian church. Some would prefer the term Christian Humanist. Now in this case I am talking about people who are consciously trying to follow the example of Jesus even without a belief in God. There are many people, especially in small communities, that attend church and go through the motions just so that they won’t be ostracized by their local community.

Now I am sure some are questioning how this could be? First of all, the teachings of Jesus have inspired many movements, some of them not necessarily Christian. There are examples where the teachings worked (think civil rights movement in America or Indian independence led by Gandhi.) The Christian Atheist would of course reject the claim that Jesus was a savior or God. Only John has explicit language that could be interpreted to be a claim to Godhood. However John is widely considered to have been the last Gospel that was written. So it is very likely much further removed from the actual events and sayings of Jesus. Also, as documented by Bart Ehrman, there are several examples where the earliest documents are much more ambiguous on this issue. It turns out that later scribes may have altered the original text to support the doctrine of the Trinity. This means that you can still think of Jesus as a good teacher, but not necessarily God (contrary to the logic of CS Lewis.)

Along those same lines I read something in Harvey Cox’s book, “The Future of Faith.” He was telling a story to illustrate the difference between faith and belief. In his view faith is largely the impetus of action as opposed to belief, which is just accepting certain assumptions as true. A son was trying to comfort his mother in her illness. She asked her son to pray for her and he told the local priest that he was uncomfortable with this whole idea of praying and he went on to say that he didn’t believe that God existed. The priest responded, “What does belief have to do with prayer? You can still pray even though you think that there is no God.” The act of prayer would be an act of faith even though there is no belief.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review - The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkin's is a prolific science writer and I have always enjoyed his prose. The extensive vocabulary and creative word play are simply enjoyable. This book had plenty of that, however I found the scientific content a little shallow. I have read several books that discuss evidence for evolution recently and I am sad to say that Dawkin's latest effort falls disappointingly flat. His book, "The Ancestors Tale" is miles better (of course it is also miles longer.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interesting Podcasts

One interesting aspect of the internet, is the ability to record and distribute audio programs about a wide variety of topics. I enjoy reading, but most of the books I enjoy are not featured in more traditional media outlets. Some of the more popular books will be featured on NPR or on the Daily Show (ironically enough.) However with podcasts there is an ability for authors to directly connect with a very targeted audience. If you ever wondered how books were placed on my reading list, many of them were put there because I heard a podcast with an author interview. So here is a list of some of my favorite podcasts.

Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot This is a recently discovered podcast for me and actually it is becoming one of my personal favorites. It tends to delve into fairly deep philosophical discussions. Luke, the host, is very much an atheist but he frequently has Christians and other theists. The tone is overall very friendly and I really enjoy the format.

Freethought Radio This podcast is sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and hosted by Dan Barker. It is actually a radio program that is available on a few AM or FM radio stations. There last guest was Daniel Dennett, who was discussing his study on preachers who don't believe.

Homebrewed Christianity
Tripp Fuller and Chad Crawford are the co-hosts for this intriguing podcast. They usually have great guests and it is usual a good source for the latest and greatest in theology.

The Nick and Josh Podcast is another podcast that primarily is Christian focused. They do tend to have more atheist guests than Homebrewed Christianity and one of the hosts is basically an agnostic.

Point of Inquiry
is a podcast sponsored by the center of Inquiry. I would say that they have gotten some of the most interesting guests. They recently lost their host, DJ Grothe, because he has accepted a position at another organization. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the same level of quality.

Reasonable DoubtsandThe Skeptics Guide to the Universe both have a fairly similar format. They have a variety of segments and usually discuss news and events. The will also have guests on occasion.

RadioLab This is another of my favorites. They tend to be science themed. My absolute favorite so far is one episode that they did on statistics. Once you listen you will understand.

Nasty Computer Virus

So our home computer has been out of comission for the last two weeks. It started when we discovered that it had been infected with one of those fake antivirus programs. Basically it pops up a helpful window telling you that your computer is unprotected and then simulates an attack in progress. The goal is to convince you to give them your credit card number so that you can "purchase" an updated anti-virus program. I was able to get the point, with a combination of registry edits, manual file deletion and 4 anti virus programs, where the computer was mostly functional. All scans came up clear, but every once in awhile the virus would reappear. After a week of this, I finally installed Windows to a new harddrive and I have started over from scratch. All data has been backed up so none of the Disney World pictures have been lost or my 2009 tax return and financial documents. (This is extremely important for some reason.) Anyway, I hope to get back to posting blog updates more frequently.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did Scientists discover a new hominid species

Carl Zimmer has been writing about the latest discovery in human evolution. You can read about the details here. Scientists have sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of a 40,000 year old finger that was found in Siberia. Basically what they discovered was that the genetic differences were to great for the finger to belong to our species. But it was also significantly different from Neanderthal DNA as well. Some researchers were quick to point out that there haven't been many genetic studies on Neanderthals so we don't know just how diverse there mitochondrial DNA is. We will have to wait for more testing before this can be settled.

In the mean time, this story reminded me of one of the Creationist arguments about Neanderthals. The typical claim is that the Neanderthals are Homo Sapiens but have some sort of disease like Rickets. Unfortunately in the face of genetic evidence, that argument no longer works. The differences between Neanderthal and Human are too great.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review: The Case for God

Karen Armstrong is a prolific writer and I have read several of her books. The latest book is "The Case for God". I found it an enjoyable read, but it hit on very similar themes as many of her other books. In fact I joked on my facebook page that a more accurate title would be "A History of God" But she already wrote that book about 15 years ago.

The book discusses several different view points of God through out history, starting with shamanism and polytheism, to monotheism, rationalism, and the death of God. I already knew that our modern obsession with rationality and literal interpretation of texts was not shared throughout history. And I even had some inkling of the importance of ritual in human belief. However the one thing I learned was some of the history of the word "belief." Today it usually means some passive acceptance of a set of facts. It actually has similar roots to the word "love" and it used to imply action. This is one aspect that emergent type churches are focusing on. Believing (in the modern sense) in God is much less important than acting out love and compassion on earth.

She finally gets around to making her case for god in the epilogue. Her God is not the traditional God of Christianity, but is more mystery and compassion. I think she is correct that much of how we talk about God both inside and outside the church is idolatrous. She seems to view God as being a corrective for certainty. There is so much in this world that we do not understand and sometimes we can get carried away by our successes. She hypothesizes that the "new atheists" are so loud and certain, because they are mostly biologists and biology really hasn't hit the limits of what is knowable yet, unlike physics. It is an interesting idea and I know there are studies that say that physicists tend to be more religious than biologists.

If you haven't read any Karen Armstrong, this would be as good a book as any to start with and I think everybody should read at least one of her books. If you have already read any of her books, there probably won't be much to surprise you in this one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Does your Pastor believe in God?

Don't be too surprised if he or she doesn't. I originally saw this on Pharyngula. The Washington Post has a paper and commentary by Daniel Dennett from Tufts University about pastors who are atheists. He wanted to concentrate on pastors who were currently working as pastors. The paper is a study of the responses of five people so no broader conclusions can be made (except that it was fairly easy for him to find five volunteers.)

I found the paper interesting because many of the responses aligned with how I justified my work as a Sabbath School teacher (it is just like Sunday School only on Saturday.) Also their survival strategies mirrored mine. People already assume that I am conservative. So anything I say is interpreted in a much more conservative fashion. In addition to that, I am able to speak in a metaphorical fashion, so that if you take me literally it sounds like more traditional Christian belief. While I have not been to seminary, I have an understanding of Biblical Scholarship that has happened in the last couple of hundred years. Once you understand how the Bible came to be, it is hard to take it literally or authoritatively.

Anyway, I highly recommend reading the paper.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nothing in biology makes sense ...

except in the light of evolution. This was the title of article that was published by Theodosius Dobzhansky in the 1970s. Dr. Dobzhansky is one of the leading American Biologists of the early 20th century. He was also a Christian of the Russian Orthodox variety. I have been aware of the quote for awhile, but I was prompted by this post on learning about the joys of science after leaving fundamentalist Adventism to look up the actual quote. The paper is considered a classic so it is fairly easy to find. I have included a link to a copy on the NOVA evolution site.

It is an interesting essay. He starts the article with a story about a sheik who was trying to ban the teaching of the Copernican theory in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s. He used this episode as an example of the scientific meaning of a theory (hint: it isn't some wild speculation without evidence.) He then goes on to give descriptions of several compelling lines of evidence.

My favorite quote from the article is:
Seen in the light of evolution, biology is, perhaps, intellectually the most satisfying and inspiring science. Without that light it becomes a pile of sundry facts some of them interesting or curious but making no meaningful picture as a whole.

This matches my experience in biology. When I took biology in high school, my feeling was that it was just a bunch of facts that had to memorized. I learn best when I can see how the bits of knowledge are connected. I found the whole excerise to be quite boring. Once I understood evolution, the pieces started to fall together. If you want specific examples, I would highly recommend "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin. He talks about the gill structures that are present in human embryos as well as why human males frequently suffer from hernias. (Have you ever wondered why you had to do the "cough test" at the doctor?) Now I find biology to be one of the most fascinating sciences and the majority of science book wish list is books about biology.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Accreditation and Academic Freedom

So I periodically check to see what is going on at the educatetruth site. I noticed something interesting today. According to their twitter feed on the right they had posted an article about WASC threatening to pull La Sierra's accreditation. The post itself was gone, but they did have a retraction notice. They decided to remove the post because they did not want to create problems for Larry Blackmer, the VP of Education for the North American Division. He had said some stuff and I guess he got some blowback once educate truth had posted his remarks. It was not removed because they had gotten some fundamental fact wrong (like what happened with Carlos Cerna's Biology paper awhile back.)

So, me, being the curious sort, decided to find out exactly what they had posted. Thank goodness for Google Cache. The quotes were from a Q&A session at an education summit for teachers in the Lake Union Conference in Michigan. In it, Larry Blackmer is quoted as saying, "Now WASC at La Sierra has contacted La Sierra and said, “”We believe in academic freedom as an accreditation agency. And if the church is going to meddle in what goes on in the classroom, then we will pull your accreditation.”" Later on, he discusses the results of a loss of accreditation. "No federal financial aid to any of the students. None of the credits from La Sierra would transfer to any other university. They would not be accepted into the University of California system for graduate programs. Just minor things like that."

This is why educatetruth will ultimately lose. Either evolution will be taught on campus or La Sierra as a university will be destroyed financially. This is actually something that I expected. The same issue came up when I was at Walla Walla College. The school board had started to meddle and micromanage the professors in the Theology department. I suspect the church administration will say some soothing words. Some meaningless action will be proposed to appear like there is action and the whole thing will blow over.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An example of why religion needs atheism

Today, I read an excellent article by Samir Selmanovic on Huffington Post. In it, he recapitulates an idea from his recent book.
Rabbi Or Rose tells me that rabbis of old have long taught that the highest form of human discourse is Makhloket, or disagreement. First we recognize our own limits, and then we proceed to clarify our positions as best we can. When we sustain the tension between us, each pulling our own way, we create emptiness between us. In this emptiness, Rabbis say, God creates. As it was in the beginning, so it is today. In the presence of one another, in the moment when our positions of clarity are matched with humility, the possibility of a truly new idea emerges, a solution, a way forward. Creation continues, and we all gain.

If people refuse to listen to those outside of their group, a statis is reached where no new ideas are generated. My life has been richer because of listening to others and taking seriously their ideas. I am not so sure about the involvement of God, but that is neither here nor there. Later in the article he gives some specific examples of how atheism is important.
Atheism at its best participates. It refuses to stay isolated until billions of people cease to be religious. Instead of simply dismissing religion, it engages with it constructively so that the world is better for it. Atheism at its best is an expression of faith in humanity, even faith in religious humanity, for however misguided we religious people might be, we are human, too. Atheism at its best asks us to enjoy our faith life, but with the understanding that our religions are "God-management systems," an attempt -- however honorable and perhaps necessary -- to manage a reality that is larger and more complex than our own religions. Atheism at its best is a guardian of secularization, a process of creating a common and safe space where our worldviews -- including religious ones -- can share their treasures and expose themselves to the entire world as their ethical community. Atheism at its best insists that religious people learn to live on Earth. Religion that does not work on Earth, they argue, does not work at all. Good point. To us religious people, atheists are not only precious neighbors but also strangers who see what we cannot see and ask questions that we don't know how to ask -- all the while acknowledging the good that religion brings. Atheists are God's whistleblowers.

I am currently reading Karen Armstrong's latest book, "The Case for God." In one chapter she writes about a religious tradition, where practioners reinforce the inadequacy of human language to describe god. Basically the practioner would start by listing off attributes of God. They would then list off the negative of the attribute. For example. God is love; God is omnipotent; God exists. This is followed by God is not love; He is not all powerful; He does not exist. The basic point is that if our God can be described by language he is not God but an idol.

Not everyone has the ability to do this sort of mental gymnastics. I know I couldn't. The God that I rejected would have been considered an idol. However all of us know somebody who has vastly different beliefs and conceptions of God and discussing them with that person can remind us that we don't have all the answers. We don't know very much about God at all (even his existence).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Origin of the Trinity

I found an interesting tidbit, while reading Karen Armstrong's book, "The Case for God". It almost sounds like she is saying that the doctrine of the trinity was actually something that originally came from the stoics. I know that incarnation of God's and the death and resurrection of a God are important elements in mythology. So much so that early Christian apologists accused Satan of planting these stories into pagan religions because he knew what was coming next and he wanted to discredit God and Christianity. But was the Trinity also an existing concept before Christ? Karen Armstrong writes:
Stoics also discovered that meditating on the immensity of the cosmos revealed the utter insignificance of human affairs, and that this gave them a saner perspective. They saw the whole of reality as animated by a fiery vaporous breath that Zeno called Logos ("Reason"), Pneuma ("Spirit") and God. Instead of railing against his fate, the philosopher must align his life to this Spirit and surrender his entire being to the inexorable world process. Thus he himself would become an embodiment of Logos.

Now when I read this, the first thing I thought was Gospel of John. After all John is obsessed with Logos ("In the beginning was the word (Logos) ..") and he also probably spends the most time of any Gospel discussing the Spirit. Most of the texts that support the Trinity come from John and there is evidence that some scribes added language to make the case stronger (See Bart Ehrman's book for more details.) Was the writer of John influenced by stoicism so that he used metaphors from the Greeks to describe Jesus? Are we correctly understanding what the author of John intended? Or has our interpretation been corrupted by our Western tradition, which has incorporated much from Greek thought? Or is Karen Armstrong overstating the similarity? Afterall she has put a huge amount of effort into finding the similarities between religions. Anyway it looks like it might be worth my while to find out exactly what the Stoics believed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Good Without God

When I first heard about this book, my first thought was about the author, Greg Epstein. What in the world is a humanist chaplain? Greg Epstein is a humanist chaplain at Harvard University. That means he is a counselor. He performs weddings and leads out in other celebrations of life events. He does many of the things that a Christian pastor or Jewish Rabbi would do. But he does not believe in God.

Growing up, I remember hearing plenty of sermons about the complete depravity of man and how we couldn't be good without God. I've read articles in church publications that demonized the atheist with charges of nihilism. If morality comes from God, how could anybody be good without God?

I have gone to school with atheists and I work with atheists. They are moral people. They worry about the effects that humans have on the environment. They are honest and hard working. They worry about how to best raise their children. I know atheists who are good people. In fact statistics and data show that areas with a large number of non-religious people tend to have lower rates of murder, teen pregnancy, and divorce.

So if we can all agree that athiests are just as moral as believers, the next question is what is the basis of their morality. Greg Epstein places the basis of morality on human dignity. We are to treat each other with dignity. Life is too short to cause needless suffering. It is not based on the pursuit of pleasure, because atheists have seen the conclusion of that path and the conclusion is not one of dignity.

The last portion of the book discusses atheist alternatives for religious practices. He talks about celebration of life events. He talks about holidays. He talks about community and culture. He even talks about forms of prayer (think more along the lines of meditation.) He also talks about how humanists and atheists can make the world a better place. This portion confirmed my suspicion that the church, with all of its flaws, is really the organization that is best situated to solve earth's pressing problems. However humanists are working to organize together and solve problems in the community. He mentioned a couple of examples of organizations in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

There wasn't much in the book that I hadn't heard before and it was a fairly easy read. Overall, I highly recommend the book for believers and unbelievers, but especially for Christians. It provides a more accurate view of the beliefs of non christians than most sermons or religious publications.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photo City

I found this article in the New York Times about the extension of Photosynth to a larger scale. Photosynth was started by a grad student at the University of Washington and then picked up and productized by Microsoft. It takes multiple photos of an object taken from many different directions and then merges them together to make a 3D image. There are limitations on the number of photos that can be used with Photosynth. Now Noah Snavely is trying to extend it so that it can handle thousands of pictures to recreate cities. So far they only have examples up for the University of Washington, downtown Seattle, and Cornell. But you can check it out here, on their photo city website.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Disc Golf

I got to play a round of disc golf for the first time this year. I didn't do so hot but I had a good time. It was nice to play another course beside Orchard Park. This afternoon I went out to Leveritch park in Vancouver to play with my brother. It was a nice enough course, but it was quite crowded. I ended up with a score well above par (Alejandro claims he was only +4. Of course it is a little easier when you are three and have no problem with just grabbing a disc, running to the basket, and dropping it in.)

I almost lost my second disc today. I lost the first one several months ago. Hole nine runs right beside a creek. My disc went sailing right in. I didn't feel like playing out the rest of the course with a missing disc (it was my driver.) So I took off my shoes and socks and jumped into the water. It was quite cold, but Alejandro had a good time watching and my feet were only slightly numb after the experience. Quite a few other people were losing discs in the creek as well so I guess that made me feel better.

The second to the last hole was challenging. It was only 150 feet to the basket, but you had to go up a fairly steep hill. Anyway, after the whole experience, I can tell that I really need to work on my drives some more, but at least I had a good time.

How do you judge theology

This is one segment from The Divine Conspiracy that I found to be food for thought. You can read my full review here. Although I didn't much care for the book, I thought this was one of the high points. Dallas Willard writes:
The acid test for any theology is this: Is the God presented one that can be loved, heart, soul, mind, and strength? If the thoughtful, honest answer is: "Not really," then we need to look elsewhere or deeper. It does not really matter how sophisticated intellectually or doctrinally our approach is. If it fails to set a lovable God -- a radiant, happy, friendly, accessible, and totally competent being before ordinary people, we have gone wrong. We should not keep going in the same direction, but turn around and take another road.

This of course assumes that God is love, which is a common Christian assumption. I am willing to make that assumption. Now so far, I haven't found a compelling or satisfying theology. I could come up with a concept of God that would fit all those requirements. However in addition, the concept of God should fit the evidence that we have and this is where things start to break down for me. I am intrigued by panentheism because it fits with my observations of this world. Also there are several books on my wish list that discuss the suffering of God, but I don't find the concept of a God who sits around and suffers with his creation to be very compelling. He would be a toothless God, but at least he would be a nice enough fellow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A taxonomy of disbelief

In any group there is typically a wide range of belief. For example you can find Seventh Day Adventists who deny that Christ was God (actually that was the original historical position) to those who believe in the Inerrancy of scripture along with most of the other fundamentals. Same is true for Episcopalians, Methodists, etc. But it is even true for atheists. In one blog that I found recently, the author has a post on the different types of atheist belief. Atheism is more than the bombastic writings of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins or PZ Myer. I would say that many of the categories that he has listed are not mutually exclusive and it is definitely possible to be closely aligned to several. My main point is that very little in life is black and white including the boundary between belief and disbelief.

Book Review: The Divine Conspiracy

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard is one of those books that has been on my reading list for awhile, but I had never gotten around to reading. Dr. Willard is a professor of philosophy at USC and also a conservative Christian. The book had been referenced by several other books that I had read recently so I finally decided that I couldn't put off reading it any longer.

The book was fairly inconsistent. There were portions that were beautifully written especially his second chapter on "Gospels of Sin Management." Then there were portions that sounded like the grumpy old man who is complaining about "kids these days." I tend to dislike arguments centered around the decay of society. Typically they rely on a romanticized, inaccurate view of the past.

The book can basically be divided into three sections. The first section is basically a diagnosis of the current situation of our society on earth. The second section is his remedy, which is basically a detailed look at the sermon of the mount in Matthew. Finally the last section goes into his own interpretation of the discipleship process and how to become a disciple of Christ and then how Christ will complete his divine conspiracy.

Although he is not a dynamic author, I think there is enough of value in this book that most Christians would feel that they had gained some valuable insight by reading this book. For those who are wanting to be convinced about the central tenets of Christianity this book is probably not for you.

Barriers to finding that important fossil

Carl Zimmer has an interesting post about the discovery of a large filter feeding fish. Filter feeding today is used by several species of shark and also more famously, whales. In the search for fossils there are many barriers to finding those important fossils that illustrate some aspect of evolution. It is very rare that fossils are formed and only a small area has actually been seached are two that we could name. Here is another barrier. The fossil was actually found, but its significance wasn't understood at the time and it was put into storage. Well Matt Friedman has been scouring museum collections and has plugged a 80 million year hole in the evolution of filter feeding fish with several specimans that had been gathering dust.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hypothesis: An idea you can test

Recently Nova ran a special biographical film on Charles Darwin, called Darwin's Darkest Hour. One of my favorite parts was how it showed him and his children exploring and learning together. Basically he made a game out of learning and he taught his children how to do scientific experiments.

Last night Alejandro wanted to put his leftover pear slice into the refrigerator. At first I was reluctant, because I know about oxidation and pears. I told him that the pear would get yucky. He was sure I was wrong. So I decided to emulate Charles Darwin. We came up with a hypothesis. Alejandro actually knows what it means from one of his favorite shows, Dinosaur Train. Buddy, the T-Rex, really likes the word "hypothesis." According to his adopted sister, "it means an idea you can test." So we came up with a hypothesis, Alejandro decided that it would turn into a yummy apple slice.

The next morning, we opened the fridge to find a slightly browned pear slice. He decided that it was an apple slice. I cut up an apple slice so that way he could taste if they were the same. When he actually tasted it, he turns to me and says. "Daddy, the apple slice turned back into a pear." So much for science.

It's about time

I found in my e-mail inbox an update from Adventist Today. The faculty senate at La Sierra University have voted to affirm the concept of academic freedom and the biology faculty. It is a strong statement of support for education and science. Much better than the vaguely worded press releases and articles in the Pacific Union Recorder. I suspect that the denizens of educate truth are not happy. Or maybe they are since they now have clear evidence that supports their position. But here is the problem. If they were actually successful, La Sierra's accreditation would be in jeopardy. If La Sierra loses that, it would close its doors shortly afterward.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

E-reader field getting crowded

A couple of new companies have announced that they will be manufacturing e-readers. Acer announced that they will be releasing a reader in the summer and Apple rolled out their new tablet computer that will also double as a reader with the unfortunate name of iPad. Click here for a funny take on the name and here for an upcoming trademark dispute. This is added to the Sony Reader, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble's "The Nook."

Personally, I own a Sony Reader. Mine is several years old, so it doesn't have all the nice wireless options that the newer model's have. However it has excellent battery life. Usually I can go about three weeks between charges. The Reader has a really clean design. I have always thought the Amazon Kindle looks clunky. I currently have about 150 books in memory. When I purchased the book, they made 100 classic books available for free (with a little work, I could have gotten these books from Project Gutenberg.) It is fun to think that I am carrying in one little device a bookshelf full of books.

I am finding more and more publishers are making electronic versions of their books available. I was able to find many books on my list that weren't there before. I think it is finally getting to the point where electronic readers are as compelling as paper books. For those of you, who haven't seen the e-ink displays that are typically used by these readers, you owe yourself a trip to try one out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: Genesis - The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins

Some science books are good because of the quality and quantity of the information. But in order for science book to be a compelling read for the lay person, it needs more to be a great book. Robert Hazen is not only a scientist; he is a story teller and he told a great story in his book Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins. When he talks about his colleagues, it is with enough detail that you can visualize them as you read. The science is described in a logical building fashion, but the book also includes biographical elements of the researchers that draws in the reader. It includes conflict, rejection, and successes.

The current state of origins research has many good theories about how the raw building blocks of life can be created chemically, including cell membranes. Once RNA is created they know fairly well how these simple organisms evolved to what we see today. However there is a large gap between the building blocks and a microbe with RNA that is not well understood. There are several ideas, but so far they haven't been supported by experimental evidence.

One of the most compelling stories in the book relates how a grad student that worked in his lab came up with an idea on how RNA could be created. This particular student had been working on a PhD for almost five years. He was easily distracted by new concepts, so he hadn't made any progress. His visa was running out and he had no degree and no job lined up. Just a few short weeks before his scheduled defense, he came up with an intriguing proposal. After some late nights, he had fleshed the idea out, defended his dissertation, gotten his idea rejected for publication, and had a job lined up so that he could run the required experiments to prove or disprove his idea. The book was written a couple of years ago, so it might be worth doing a literature search to find out if there was any success or not.

It isn't often that science authors will use a cliff hanger as a literary device. Dr. Hazen was telling a story about his first foray into origins research. He described the hypothesis, the experimental setup, and then just before he got to the review of the results, he ended the chapter. I had to wait for several chapters before I learned the chemical make up of his brown goop.

Because the book discusses an interesting and not well known field of science and because of the compelling writing, I would rate this book as one of my five favorite science books. Of course I may have more than five books in my list of five favorite science book, but I would prefer not to quibble with such details.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sponges of Knowledge

I've long had an interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Before you can implement a program that is capable of learning, you have to have a model of learning. These are typically based on simplified versions of how the process of learning is observed in real life. Even knowing some of the theories and models, it never prepares you for some of the surprises that happen on a frequent basis as a father of a 3 year old boy. Almost every day provides some surprise.

Last week I ran some errands with Alejandro in the back seat. As he was getting ready to go to bed, he replayed our conversation almost word for word to Angie. Yet another reminder that I need to be careful what I say in front of him. Fortunately I was careful, but it was fun hearing him say to Angie "and that would be tragic."

Just yesterday, we were originally going to go to the bookstore. I was almost finished with the book that I was reading, so I wanted to purchase the next book on my list. Since I found that many of the books that I wanted were now available on the Sony Reader, I no longer needed to go. Unfortunately, Alejandro already had his evening planned. We were going to go to the bookstore and daddy was going to buy him a book on trains. I wasn't planning on buying him anything, but he some how had figured out, that when it comes to books, I have a hard time saying no to him. So I started to explain that we weren't going to Powell's after all, but we were going to Best Buy instead. At the mention of Best Buy, books were forgotten and he launched into a lengthy discussion of how he was going to play "Lego Rock Band" at Best Buy. We ended up playing "Beattle's Rock Band" and when we got home he even tried to sing "We are living in a yellow submarine" to Angie (after hearing it only three times.)

On Saturday we were discussing friends of his. I mentioned one friend in particular. He hasn't been to her house in about six months. However the moment I mentioned her name, he started going on and on about her jeep. She owns one of those electric ride on toys, in this case a Barbie Jeep. After going through several colors he finally settled on pink, which is the correct color.

We are getting to a stage were not only is he remembering individual facts, but he is able to make connections between facts. That is what is most fun about it, because I can tell he truely understands the concept by the connections he makes and it is more than a simple repeat of information.

Friday, January 22, 2010


When I was growing up, I hated testimonies. Church services tended to be long and I would be staring at the clock watching as the minutes and hours inched passed 12 o clock, 1 o clock, and sometimes as late as 2 pm. All the adults seemed to be excited about some theological concept (righteousness by faith) that they as a church community had recently discovered. It mostly went over my head since I had not grown up during the more oppressive time periods of Adventism when the church as a whole was very legalistic (meaning that God only saved you if you were good enough.)

As I have grown older, I have learned to enjoy testimonies. I enjoy hearing testimonies in church and I have enjoyed reading them on the internet. I guess the appeal is usually the person is brutally honest about some aspect of themselves. In the Christian context it seems like that brutal honesty always concerns the past (the life of sin.) But it gives a glimpse into that person that isn't normally seen in the normal "How's it going", "so nice to see you", and "Welcome to church" conversations.

What I have found, is that it isn't only the Christians that enjoy testimonies. It seems popular among a certain subset of atheists. Usually it seems like those atheists who once were conservative Christians. Here is one example that I found this week. In fact there is a site that has archived a large number of these testimonies. Basically people are sharing their stories of how they transitioned from a Christian to an atheist, their de-conversion story.

Sometimes I wonder if I am on the same path. Many times I wished that testimonies in church would contain more of the present day struggles. Life is never as simple as "I was once a sinner, but Jesus saved me." I suspect that many of the people that I go to church with are also on that de-conversion path. What would a church look like, if somebody could stand up and honestly express their struggles? I think that sharing our current doubts and struggles would make the church a stronger community.

There is another testimony blog that I have started following. The author has struggled with some of the same issues that I have, but somehow he was able to not only stay a Christian, but still work as a Pastor up in Washington. I highly recommend his "memoir" blog and also his opinion blog. I don't know what the future will hold, but I am at peace with myself and I am enjoying the journey.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review: Evolution - What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

This book ended up having a slightly different focus than I expected. Dr. Prothero is a well respected expert paleontologist, specializing in fossils of large mammals. In his book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, Prothero goes beyond the well known fossils to showcase the fossil evidence for Evolution. When most people think of fossils they think of dinosaurs. However there are many, many other fossils, in fact over 100,000 different species and more being discovered every day.

Early in the book, he has an interesting section on cladistics. I remember in school we learned about different types of creatures and how to organize them into logical groups(for example reptiles, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals.) All of this is now obsolete. In fact it was obsolete when I was learning it in school. For example, we now know that crocodiles are more closely related to birds than they are to other reptiles like lizards and snakes. (Just in the last week, an interesting study has come out that shows that alligators and crocodiles breathe like birds.) The desire is to include the species and all descendant species in a single group (mono-phyletic). So fish no longer makes sense as a group since all land vertebrates are descended from them. Same for amphibians. The coolest part about the whole thing is that not all the dinosaurs disappeared. That sparrow outside your window is part of the dinosauria group.

In general Dr Prothero has organized the book to cover fossils that are more distant from us in time and genetics first. His discussions of invertebrate fossils precede those of early vertebrates and he ends his discussion with a look at hominid fossils. This book was written before this year, so his knowledge of "Ardi" is out of date, but he does have an interesting section on "Tiktaalik".

At times it was difficult reading, since there is so much detail. However when covering a field as broad as this, I am not sure how he could have done it differently. My main annoyance was the constant harping on creationist authors. Yes, they are frequently quoting out of date sources. Yes, they are usually speaking without having even looked at the fossils. I get it. I don't think it needed to be mentioned every single section of every single chapter. I am guessing he is tired of creationists distorting his field of research. I sense a concern with the deterioration of science education in America. However it did interrupt the flow of the book.

One key item that sticks out is how much attention to detail is required to separate out differences and identify which group a fossil belongs to. Usually only the conclusions make it to the popular press. However there are detailed observations that support those conclusions. This leaves the impression that scientists are just guessing. For this reason, I would recommend reading this book.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Speaking of Viruses and Carl Zimmer

Just after I posted my last note. I noticed this from Carl Zimmer's blog. He is discussing research into how some of the key genes in placental development are actually co-opted from a virus.

By the way if you are interested in science, Carl's blog is probably one of the best to follow. By training he is a journalist, but he is very careful to get the science correct. But since he is a writer, he is able to present these complicated topics very clearly.

DNA and form

I remember when I was a YEC (young earth creationist), whenever presented with the similarity of DNA between species, the common counter-argument to a common ancestor was that similar organisms would have a similar DNA structure because they were similar in shape. God was basically reusing a good design. So humans and chimps would have similar DNA because they had a similar body shape (because God created them that way) and not because they shared a recent common ancestor. At a high level it makes sense, but I have a hard time answering several questions.

Why would a cow have more genetic similarity to a whale than a horse? Or what about the Hippo? The hippo has more genetic similarity to a whale than it does to pigs or cows. Clearly, the similarity in DNA does not dictate a similarity in form. I am trying to find an article that is easier to read, but here is the original scientific paper. Through fossil evidence scientists had figured out that whales had descended from hooves animals, specifically ungulates. Cows are ungulates, but horses are not. A good resource to learn more is Carl Zimmer's book, At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back To The Sea.

Why do we have a disabled gene in our DNA that is used by birds and reptiles to make egg yolks? Not only do we have that gene, but when we look at the DNA for a chicken, that same gene is in a fairly similar region. Again the paper is hard to read if you aren't used to reading scientific papers.

Why do we share fragments of viral dna with other apes? Certain types of viruses use their host's DNA to replicate. Occasionally the DNA strands get mixed up and the virus's dna is incorporated as our own. There was a recent article that was discussed by two bloggers, Ed Yoong and ERV. Basically new research is out estimating that 8% of our DNA are viral leftovers. Now the freaky part is that there are numerous sequences that we share with apes and not only do we have the same viral leftovers, but they are in the exact same positions in our DNA. I first learned about this on Talk Origins.

Now I see all of these as strong evidence for common descent. If at any point evolution would be proven wrong it would have to be with the discovery of genetics. But it seems to me that the case for evolution is only stronger.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So what happened

I was thinking about this the other day. What happened to my faith? Then I realized that from the time I was 12, I went to fairly liberal churches or at least churches that were accepting of liberal view points. During that time my beliefs had changed significantly. It wasn't until the last year or two that I realized that not only had the church at large not changed with me, but they don't really want people like me to be a part of the Seventh Day Adventist church.

So first off, I guess I should explain where I am at today when I am in a good mood. First off, I believe that the Bible is not "The Word of God." It is a history of God's interaction with certain people. But it is written from the person's perspective (this is how I get past all the genocide.) Secondly the evidence that all life descended from a common ancestor through the process of evolution is overwhelming and inescapable. Thirdly my conception of God is probably best described as panentheism. When I am in a bad mood, I am a straight up atheist. But even in my atheist moments, I believe that religion currently has the best answer to the problems in this world. Also, I love the Seventh Day Adventist church and consider it my family. I love our emphasis on health, I love the concept of sabbath, I love our humanitarian work and work on religious liberty for all, and I love our holistic thinking (body and soul are one.)

More and more, I started to realize that my family no longer wanted me. It started with Clifford Goldstein, the editor of the Adult Sabbath School Lesson. In the Adventist Review a few years back he wrote an article, which said
If you honestly reject a literal six-day creation in favor of theistic macroevolution, fine; now turn that honesty into integrity and go somewhere where you won't have to cloak your views under the anfractuosities of language.

This year there have been countless articles in the official Adventist publications about how evolution is not compatible with Adventism. It was partly due to this year being the 150 year anniversary of the Origin of the Species and partly due to the effort to expel biology professors from La Sierra.

Recently I saw a disturbing video of a Q&A Session (found the link here at the Educate Truth site.) A fairly large group of Vice Presidents of the church were answering questions on several topics at a GYC conference. I wasn't able to watch all of it, but I found the sections on evolution and homosexuality to be full of narrow mindedness, arrogance, and ignorance. They definitely made it clear that people who are not Young Earth Creationists are not wanted. People who believe that we shouldn't oppose gay marriage because of religious liberty concerns are not wanted (even the ones who believe it is a sin.)

A new blog for a new phase

Much has changed in my thinking, which makes my previous blog somewhat obsolete. When I first started blogging, I was interested in posting notes about religious topics because of my role as a Sabbath School teacher in my local Seventh Day Adventist church. Because of areas of significant disagreement with the church, I doubt I will be allowed to return to that role. This blog will discuss my thoughts about interesting events, books, and ideas. I am interested in science, religion, philosophy, and technology and I may include auto biographical material as well.

For reference on my past thoughts, visit my other blog. The views presented were my views at one point in time but may not reflect my current thinking. Additionally, the words you read on this blog will reflect my views at the point in time they were written. I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in the future.