Archive for the Faith & Science Category

Lack of Miracles

Posted in Faith & Science on November 16, 2016 by daviddiel

The Bible contains extraordinary claims for which the only evidence is testimony. The lack of miracles in modern times is devastating to its credibility.

For one example, which is simply the first one that comes to mind, consider Exodus 7:8-13:

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Here we have a claim that humans were able to turn their wooden staffs into living serpents. Aaron, who follows the God of Abraham, and the magicians of Egypt, who follow Pharaoh as God, both did something miraculous in this story that we have no evidence of today besides written testimony.

If miracles of this concrete and visible sort were happening today, then they would surely be caught on cameras and posted online. People would loudly exclaim that their video evidence was genuine, and skeptics would search for evidence of video editing to try to prove them wrong.

If you say that the God of Abraham is withholding miracles from our generation because of something we have done, then why do we not see miracles from other sources, perhaps of Egyptian or Satanic origin?

We do not see them for precisely the same reason that Poseidon does not emerge from the sea during hurricanes and Zeus does not emerge from the clouds during lightning storms. These are all fictional stories.

The spectrum of subjectivity and objectivity

Posted in Faith & Science, Psychology on April 21, 2013 by daviddiel

I recently listened to this talk on world views and the spectrum of subjectivity and objectivity by Deepak Chopra. This is my response:

There is a parking garage that I can see from my window. I see that there are vehicles inside the garage, but I have not explored the interior of the garage. I believe that I could walk through the garage and count the exact number of vehicles inside. I also believe that you could walk through the garage and count the number of vehicles, and that your count would be the same as mine, assuming that we have a shared language that describes our past experiences of vehicles and numbers. It is critically important that we have enough shared experience for the answer to be identical. Otherwise, if we instead try to count blue vehicles, then our experience and perception of the color blue might differ enough to yield different results.

In my opinion, subjectivity arises because your experiences and language associations are unique to you. Other people may have had similar experiences, and may use similar language to describe their experiences. However, each person starts from a different reference point naturally. It takes effort for groups of people to create shared experiences and language.

When a group of people verify that they agree about something through communication, then they will take the mental shortcut called objectivity. Unlike Deepak Chopra, I claim that we all must believe in objectivity to communicate with others.

Using the example of counting vehicles, I cannot continuously question whether trees are vehicles, or whether the number 3 means 5 to other people. At some point in life, I accepted that other people’s experiences of 3 and 5 are pretty much the same as my own. However, through my experiences, I have observed that other people have slightly different concepts of the color blue. Therefore, I would say that there is room for subjectivity in the definition of blue.

Deepak Chopra might say that you create all of the colors of the rainbow in your imagination. However, I disagree with his completely subjective stance. That is because we probably have had a shared experience of a meter stick, and the wavelength of light can be measured in terms of meters. Even if I were color blind, I could use a tool to measure a beam of light. And, if the tool were to read about 700 nanometers, then I would be objectively incorrect to call it blue because that is clearly outside of the range that people have agreed to label as blue.

In summary, even though I agree with Deepak Chopra that science begins with subjectivity, I do believe in an objective reality that exists outside of any individual person.

What the 2012 DA14 asteroid teaches us about ourselves

Posted in Faith & Science, Psychology, War on February 22, 2013 by daviddiel

For many people, the 2012 DA14 asteroid brought up visions of an apocalypse, like something out of the movie Deep Impact. For ages, humans have looked to the stars to interpret events and predict the future. Although I agree with Carl Sagan that astrology is nonsense, I think this event can teach us a lesson about ourselves.

In the days leading up to the 2012 DA14 asteroid event, scientists around the world employed advanced technology to track the threat with great accuracy. Numerous articles were written in advance. We watched closely as a 40,000-ton asteroid predictably flew by the Earth, meanwhile failing to predict an unnamed 10,000-ton asteroid that did hit the Earth on the same day. According to CNN, the explosion of the unnamed asteroid measured 300 kilotons and injured 1000 people in Siberia.

The lesson here is that improbable and unpredicted events can be more important than those that we expect and understand. While it is prudent to watch out for known threats and to try to mitigate them, vigilance does not define importance. In fact, the most important events in human history usually come as a surprise, like a Black Swan. It takes humility to admit, but this is the nature of the universe.

DNA data storage or rise of genetically modified humans?

Posted in Faith & Science, Law, Money, Music-Movies-Media, Software, War on January 27, 2013 by daviddiel

I’ve noticed several news stories and advertisements lately regarding the future of data storage. Apparently, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute have stored and retrieved a few digital files in DNA. That’s interesting on many levels, yet the sales pitch seems to be focused on the hard drive market. Here are some example articles:

Why DNA Will Someday Replace the Hard Drive

Storing Shakespeare and “I Have a Dream” in DNA

New technique stores terabytes of data on DNA with 100% accuracy

Depending on your background, and your level of trust in scientists, you might interpret this news as a another step in the advancement of technology. It could enable lighter cell phones, thinner notebook computers, and smaller data storage centers. All of those things could be true, but the discussion is missing a very important and serious application: People will be able to store and print all forms of life, which will inevitably include genetically modified humans. Once a DNA sequence is printed or cloned, it has already been shown using sheep, that it can be inserted into an egg, and a surrogate mother can grow and bear the child.

From what I have read, a person’s DNA represents about 6 GB of data. Therefore, your genetic code, which is a large part of what makes up who you are, would probably fit on your cell phone using today’s technology. It would not be surprising if most people reading this blog have their DNA sequenced within the next 20 years. It is not a stretch to think that some of you will request to store your sequence on a reliable form of digital media, like a Blu-Ray disc, for example.

Then what? What if you could send your DNA out for a little touch-up, deleting a few flaws and disease markers here and there? What if your DNA could be virtually mated with anyone who you choose? Would you want to have a child made from a modified version of yourself and your favorite movie star? What if you could add or select features, such as better metabolism, greater intelligence, or a particular eye or hair color? Could all of this be used to make super humans or warriors?

My moral compass says that we should not go down this path. But, somebody’s going to do it anyway. Let’s just be honest and recognize that the target market for this technology is biological elitists who want to make super-babies, not those who are overburdened by the size and weight of their personal electronics.

Reliability

Posted in Education, Faith & Science, War on May 4, 2012 by daviddiel

“I see God in the instruments and the mechanisms that work reliably, more reliably than the limited sensory departments of the human mechanism.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

A place to tear down

Posted in Education, Energy & Waste, Faith & Science, Money on January 2, 2012 by daviddiel

This post is about themes of human culture passed down over generations, and how these themes could be taught to students in learning spaces that might not be available to them currently. The inspiration comes from two sources:

1. “Why Walking through a Doorway Makes You Forget” from Scientific American based on this technical paper.

2. Ecclesiastes 3 (NASB), a biblical passage attributed to King Solomon.

Imagine a school appointed with many rooms:

A place to give birth and a place to die;
A place to plant and a place to uproot what is planted.

A place to kill and a place to heal;
A place to tear down and a place to build up.

A place to weep and a place to laugh;
A place to mourn and a place to dance.

A place to throw stones and a place to gather stones;
A place to embrace and a place to shun embracing.

A place to search and a place to give up as lost;
A place to keep and a place to throw away.

A place to tear apart and a place to sew together;
A place to be silent and a place to speak.

A place to love and a place to hate;
A place for war and a place for peace.

One might call this the school of life, or the school of hard knocks. Some of the more intense themes may not be appropriate for all ages, so imagine that care has been taken to present them gradually. For example, birth and death could be experienced through the natural life cycles of small pets, and themes of destruction could be experienced through sand sculptures or blocks. Neither is it an exhaustive list of rooms. The idea easily expands to include rooms for modern art, science, mathematics, and other forms of education.

Do our schools currently provide distinct rooms for these kinds of lessons? Is place-based learning compatible with general assessment tests?

Agnosticism

Posted in Faith & Science on September 27, 2009 by daviddiel

“Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle.”

“Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.”

-Thomas Henry Huxley