Friday, December 19, 2008

Brass tacks: I like 'em

Everybody's got a worldview.  What's yours?  What's mine?  The next time you're talking to somebody, think about how they might answer these questions:
What is the proper role of government?
What is man's basic nature?
What is good?
Are there absolutes?
Is there a God?  If so, what is His basic nature?

This year my aunt sent a Christmas card that showed a diagram from Ken Ham's ministry.  It shows two groups of people in castles blasting at each other.  Castle A's foundation is Creation.  Castle B's foundation is Evolution, and there are quite a few balloons hovering over Castle B.  These balloon are emblazoned with words like "euthanasia," "abortion," and "homosexuality."  The folks in Castle A are taking shots at these Castle B balloons, and some of them are popping.  Of course there's no audio, but Castle A folks are probably cheering as each balloon pops.  The folks in Castle B have a very different approach from that of Castle A.  They're going for the foundation of Castle A, and each Castle B cannonball is taking out a sizeable chunk from it.

I've seen this picture approximately 1,249 times in my life.  But I didn't understand it until today.  I was talking to some friends from school about the economic crisis that we're in.  They were glad that part of the billions of Bush's bailout were going to the auto industry, while I was trying to explain how little comfort it is that a debtor government has taken on a new passle of debt and handed it over to us. 

I wasn't getting through.

Somehow, they thought the government taking on debt is making the situation more stable.  I was trying to explain why this wasn't the case, and why it was wrong for our federal government to even try to step in like this.  I mentioned that the Constitution did not give the federal government the authority to step in and interfere with private industries like this.  Their statement was that the government's trying to make things more stable, and we'll worry about paying it off later.  In other words, it didn't matter what the Constitution did or not outline.

They seemed to have a sense of awe about the government, as if, now that the federal government has "taken on" the debt, everything's going to be okay.  I tried to explain my concerns about our progression toward a fascist state, but they looked at me calmly and said nothing.  I would have been happier if they had yelled at me and violently disagreed. 

They take comfort in the fact that the Feds are telling the auto industries that, because they're giving them a handout, they've got to shape up and submit a plan for restructuring themselves in a more efficient manner.  I see this as government nannyism, and they evidently see it as government being a good ol' watchdog.

Which brings me back to my original questions at the beginning of this blog.  Sometimes what a discussion like this one needs is a zoom out/zoom in approach.  My friends and I discussed a lot of details, but I wish I had zoomed out and asked them some big-picture questions, such as "What would you say is the proper role of government?"  Of course, to answer this, one has to have some idea about the smallest component of government: the individual.  And to keep proper perspective, a person must have made up their mind (or at least be functioning as if they had) whether or not there is a God.

So, you can spend an eternity of time on details.  But if you can zoom out to the universals every once in a while, you can help the person recognize and evalute the universals they've consciously or unconsciously accepted.  Then the big questions can begin rolling: do I believe there is a God?  Do I believe He's a personal God who is involved in day-to-day workings, or an aloof, impersonal God who wound up the universe is now passively listening to it tick?  If I don't believe there's a God, do I believe that man is at the top of nature, or that he simply has an overglorified view of mankind's position?  Do I believe that man is basically good or evil?  What is good and evil?  What defines them?  Are there absolutes?  How should man organize groups of people?  Is government man-made or God-given?  What role should government play in a person's life?

Once all of us have established which universals we want to operate with, the particulars flow out from it.  So often I forget this, and I only get into discussions with people on the particulars, and forget about the universals.  Then I wonder why we can't agree on something I see as "simple."  The thing I see as "simple" just means that it's closer to my foundation that other issues.  But while it might be a building block of my castle, there is absolutely no guarantee that it's a building block in theirs!  If I fail to recognize the universals that we've built our castles on, I may never understand why we disagree on a given particular.  In Ken Ham's diagram, the foundation of evolution could more generally be labeled "universals" or "first assumptions" or "presuppositions."  The castle: foundation + walls + roof + balloons = worldview.  Most of my discussions with people have been about the balloons: what do you think about abortion, government bail-outs, etc.  But if I can get them to peer down at the foundation of their castle, evaluate that foundation, and decide for themselves whether or not this is the castle they want to be in, I will be doing what God wants me to do.

Also, the image of one castle attacking another castle is disturbing on a number of levels.  One of the most disturbing is that while the folks in Castle A (the creation castle) are excited that they're taking out balloons, most of them never notice that their foundation is being obliberated.  I see this so often when I talk to Christians who accept evolution.  They do not see evolution and God as being mutually exclusive, and they wonder why I believe in 6-day creation.  The simplest way I can express my reason for believing in 6-day creation is because I've answered this question: Can I take God at His word?  Since I answer this with an avid YES, it takes away the doubt about the period of time involved in the creation week.  Thus, I do not see the question of creation vs. evolution as a question of religion vs. science; I see it as a question of believing God as the ultimate authority vs. believing man as the ultimate authority.

The next time I have a discussion with folks about the economy (or anything!), I want to help them identify and articulate their worldview and their underlying assumptions.  Of course, I've also got to peer down at my own foundation, and see what I've accepted as presuppositional! 

Monday, December 08, 2008

When Chesterton and YouTube Agree

It's always interesting when several threads from completely different spools end up coming together.  I watched part of the 1938 version of Robin Hood tonight and found this post:

"...Wonder why Costner's robin wasnt [sic] more like Errol's, movie might have done better(like john unable to swim). I'll admit it was hard at first to swallow watching/reading a/b robin being defeated, but this movie showed it was his character."

Then I read some of Chesterton's book Heretics and came across this:

"When men were tough and raw, when they lived amid hard knocks and hard laws, when they knew what fighting really was, they had only two kinds of songs.  The first was a rejoicing that the weak had conquered the strong, the second a lamentation that the strong had, for once in a way, conquered the week.  For this defiance of the status quo, this constant effort to alter the existing balance, this premature challenge to the powerful, is the whole nature and inmost secret of the psychological adventure which is called man.  It is his strength to disdain strength.  The forlorn hope is not only a real hope, it is the only real hope of mankind.  In the coarsest ballads of the Greenwood men are admired most when they defy, not only the king, but what is more to the point, the hero.  The moment Robin Hood becomes a sort of Superman, that moment the chivalrous chronicler shows us Robin thrashed by a poor tinker whom he thought to thrust aside.  And the chivalrous chronicler makes Robin Hood receive the thrashing in a glow of admiration...
" (pp. 43-44).

Coincidence?  I think not.

Literal poetry taken literally

(Here's my response to the claim that "The Genesis account is written as poetry, and should not be taken literally.")

Just thought of this, and thought I'd share...

Just because something is written as a poem doesn't mean it's not literally true.  When something is written in verse (as poetry), it can be literal or metaphorical.  When Psalm 139:23 says "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts," I don't have to wonder whether this is simply a beautiful, poetical but only metaphorical phrase.  When David wrote it, he literally wanted God to test him and his thoughts.  If I wrote a poem to my mom on Mother's Day and worked the phrase "I love you" into it, she would be right if she understood it literally.  She wouldn't need me to write out my meaning in prose to be sure that I really meant what I'd said.

It's amazing how much of Scripture is written in verse, and how much of that verse describes historical events.  For example, Miriam and Moses composed a song about the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.  What they wrote was historically accurate, but it lends rhythm,  expression, and dramatic emphasis into what they are singing about.  Even the Book of Numbers, which I associate with bookkeepers (not poets), in the midst of a straightforward accounting of facts and figures, indulges in poetry about historical events now and then (e.g. Numbers 21:27-30).  In the books of prophecy, God's spokesmen often denounce a country through verse.  When Isaiah delivers the message (in verse) that "...the Lord's anger burns against His people; His hand is raised and He strikes them down..." (Isaiah 5:25) the Israelites might have preferred to interpret the words metaphorically, but God meant them literally and carried them out literally.

Similes and metaphors can be used in prose or in verse.  (For example, when Jesus talks about being a gate (John 10:9) or being bread (John 6:51), He's speaking in prose, not verse).  When we're reading the Bible, we've got to keep our wits about us and pray to the Holy Spirit for insight into whether the meaning of a given passage is literal or metaphorical.  And if there's a debate about whether or not a particular passage should be understood metaphorically, it's important to understand the presuppositions, motivation, and reasoning of the differing parties.

When it comes to Genesis, the fact that the creation account was written in verse does not automatically mean that everything in it is metaphorical.  That might be an attractive possibility, but it's not a foregone conclusion.  Two Christians going through the Genesis account might not end up agreeing on which portions are literal and which are metaphorical.  But they jolly well should know WHY they're marking each passage as one or the other! 

Here's one question that helped me put this issue in perspective: Was there pressure to interpret the creation account metaphorically before the theory of evolution became popular?  If the answer is no, then I am led to believe that men are bringing a presupposition ("evolution happened") to Scripture, and attempting to force-fit Scripture's account into the evolutionary model.

Obviously, I don't believe that the creation account should only be thought of as a nicely written allegory.  I like to think about possible reasons why God might have written the creation account in verse instead of prose.  For one thing, the parallelism of the account heightens my awareness of the symmetry of God's actions during the creation week.  Each day has the contrast of sameness and variety.  While each day begins and ends with the same phrases ("And God said, "Let..." to "And there was evening, and there was morning -- the ____ day."), each day brought its own new and glorious innovation.  The crescendo of each day of creation is beautifully communicated through the medium of verse, and I begin to see God as the model of craftsmanship and intricate design.  Not only does he craft a universe from nothing, but He creates it and describes it to us in a symmetrical, rhythmic, purposeful way.

Another reason I'm interested in this is because of a conversation I had with a United? Methodist pastor in town.  We weren't talking about creation vs. evolution.  We were talking about homosexuality, and God's view of it.  I asked her what she thought of God's choice to create a man and a woman as the first people.  And she calmly stated that the account in Genesis is a story (she might have used the word "allegory" or "myth," but I don't remember).  It didn't really happen, but God can use that account to teach us some things.  It's definitely not a referendum on God's preference for people's pairing up.

I was amazed by her dismissive attitude, and today it makes me think how much "easier" my life would be if I could simply dismiss the passages that I disagree with or don't yet understand.  If I dismiss a certain interpretation of a passage (for example, if I dismiss one Mormon's view that the "other sheep" mentioned in John 10:16 refers to Mormons and not Gentiles generally), I've got to know WHY I'm dismissing it.  Am I trying to justify an assumption that I had before I even looked into the Scriptures?  Or am I letting the Holy Spirit guide me into all truth?

.Tension between possible interpretations of Scripture and the latest experimental theory can be a rich source of inquiry and discovery.  It's selling God short to artifically limit the areas we allow Him to speak to through Scripture. 

Have an awesome Monday!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Ethics: Where's your focus?

At lunch today a group of us were talking about ethics.  One guy has taught an ethics course to students, and he was struck by how little they understand about basic ethics.  I mentioned that as I have sat through ethics courses at the university, I've been amazed at the lack of force in the arguments to be ethical.  Without a solid foundation for morality, all this ethics talk comes down to utilitarianism.  But that dissolves as soon as unethical behaviour becomes beneficial to me.  (And what's the defintion of beneficial, anyway?  What is "good"?  If everything is relative, then who are you to define what my ethical behavior looks like?!) 
   Later today, I came across the following passage.  I think it continues some of the thoughts we were talking about at lunch today, on ethics.  Of course, Chesterton's not talking about teaching students' ethics courses -- he's talking about ethics in literature -- but he makes a point that applies to a lot of different situations.  (It's from chapter two, "On the Negative Spirit," of G.K. Chesterton's book Heretics.  It was written in 1905!)  Compare it to Philippians 4:7-9 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.")
"Much has been said, and said truly, of the monkish morbidity, of the hysteria which has often gone with the visions of hermits or nuns.  But let us never forget that this visionary religion is, in one sense, necessarily more wholesome than our modern and reasonable morality.  It is more wholesome for this reason, that it can contemplate the idea of success or triumph in the hopeless fight toward the ethical ideal, in what Stevenson called, with his usual startling felicity, 'the lost fight of virtue.'  A modern morality, on the other hand, can only point with absolute conviction to the horrors that follow breaches of law; its only certainty is a certainty of ill.  It can only point to imperfection.  It has no perfection to point to.  But the monk meditating upon Christ or Buddha has in his mind an image of perfect health, a thing of clear colours and clean air.  He may contemplate this ideal wholeness and happiness far more than he ought; he may contemplate it to the neglect or exclusion of essential THINGS; he may contemplate it until he has become a dreamer or a driveller; but still it is wholeness and happiness that he is contemplating.  He may even go mad; but he is going mad for the love of sanity.  But the modern student of ethics, even if he remains sane, remains sane from an insane dread of insanity..."
(He mentions an article written by a Mr. Foote, who explains how he thinks alcohol should be dealt with).
"...Mr. Foote dismissed very contemptously any attempts to deal with the problem of strong drink by religious offices or intercessions, and said that a picture of a drunkard's liver would be more efficacious in the matter of temperance than any prayer or praise.  In that picturesque expression, it seems to me, is perfectly emobodied the inscrutable morbidity of modern ethics.  In that temple the lights are low, the crowds kneel, the solemn anthems are uplifted.  But that upon the altar to which all men kneel is no longer the perfect flesh, the body and substance of the perfect man; it is still flesh, but it is diseased.  It is the drunkard's liver of the New Testament that is marred for us, which we take in remembrance of him.
     "Now, it is this great gap in modern ethics, the absence of vivid pictures of purity and spiritual triumph, which lies at the back of the real objection felt by so many sane men to the realistic literature of the nineteenth century...  The thing which is resented, and, as I think, rightly resented, in that great modern literature of which Ibsen is typical, is that while the eye that can perceive what are the wrong things increases in an uncanny and devouring clarity, the eye which sees what things are right is growing mistier and mistier every moment, till it goes almost blind with doubt..."
    "...My meaning is that Ibsen has throughout, and does not disguise, a certain vagueness and a changing attitutde as well as a doubting attitutde towards what is really wisdom and virtue in this life -- a vaguness which contrasts very remarkably with the decisiveness with which he pounces on something which he perceives to be a root of evil, some convention, some deception, some ignorance...  There are no cardinal virtues in Ibsenism.  There is no ideal man in Ibsen... Mr. Shaw sums up Ibsen's teaching in the phrase 'The golden rule is that there is no golden rule.'  In his eyes this absence of an enduring and positive ideal, this absence of a permanent key to virtue, is the one great Ibsen merit.  I am not discussing now with any fullness whether this is so or not.  All I venture to point out, with an increased firmness, is that this omission, good or bad, does leave us face to face with the problem of a human consciousness filled with very definite images of evil, and with no definite image of good.  To us light must be henceforward the dark thing -- the thing of which we cannot speak.  To us, as to Milton's devils in Pandemonium, it is darkness that is visible.  The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained knowledge of good and evil.  Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us.
     "A great silent collapse, an enormous unspoken disappointment, has in our time fallen on our Northern civilization.  All previous ages have sweated and been crucified in an attempt to realize what is really the right life, what was really the good man.  A definite part of the modern world has come beyond question to the conclusion that the most we can do is to set up a few notice-boards at places of obvious danger, to warn men, for instance, against drinking themselves to death, or ignoring the mere existence of their neighbours.  Ibsen is the first to return from the baffled hunt to bring us the tidings of great failure.
    "Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good.  We are fond of talking about 'liberty'; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.  We are fond of talking about 'progress'; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.  We are fond of talking about 'education'; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.  The modern man says, 'Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.'  This is, logically rendered, 'Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.'  He says, 'Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.'  This, logically stated, means, 'Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.'  He says, 'Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.'  This, clearly expressed, means, 'We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.'" 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The quickest path

The quickest path to self-realization is to take on a job as counselor to 10 middle school campers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So they say

Darwin's lovers are alive and well.  Here are two samplings:

"[T]he way in which Darwin put together evidence and argument in On the Origin of Species marked a definitive break, and an undeniable beginning. The book, 149 years old this week, provided for the first time a way of reconciling life's past and present — a way to explain both the staggering diversity of life and its fundamental unity.
That view of life has been enriched and strengthened in the intervening century and a half, and will continue to be so. But the coming decades could also see Darwin's purview expanded in fundamental ways. The discovery of the universality of the genetic code in the 1960s — the same in elephants and E. coli, as the French molecular biologist Jacques Monod famously put it — magnificently bore out Darwin's view that life is united in a common descent. But that need not remain the case.
"An even more likely development is that life will be created de novo here on Earth. The first experiments in whole-organism synthetic biology, such as the synthetic mycoplasma being worked on at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, will cleave quite closely to the designs already developed by natural selection. But there are already schemes for going further — for using different genetic codes, for example. Although the synthesis of complex organisms might remain the stuff of fantasy for some time (see page 310), new ways of building self-replicating, one-genome, one-cell organisms seem quite plausible. The development of creatures born from an idea, not an ancestor, will undoubtedly provide new insights into evolution, not least because the proclivities of such creatures to evolve will need to be kept in check."

Author not listed.  From "Beyond the Origin."  Nature 2008, 456, 281.

That article quotes from Theodosius Dobzhansky's essay "Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution."

"Shiek bin Baz and his like refuse to accept the radiometric evidence, because it is a 'mere theory.' What is the alternative? One can suppose that the Creator saw fit to play deceitful tricks on geologists and biologists. He carefully arranged to have various rocks provided with isotope ratios just right to mislead us into thinking that certain rocks are 2 billion years old, others 2 million, which in fact they are only some 6,000 years old. This kind of pseudo-explanation is not very new. One of the early antievolutionists, P. H. Gosse, published a book entitled Omphalos ("the Navel"). The gist of this amazing book is that Adam, though he had no mother, was created with a navel, and that fossils were placed by the Creator where we find them now – a deliberate act on His part, to give the appearance of great antiquity and geologic upheaveals. It is easy to see the fatal flaw in all such notions. They are blasphemies, accusing God of absurd deceitfulness. This is as revolting as it is uncalled for..."

"Is there an explanation, to make intelligible to reason this colossal diversity of living beings? Whence came these extraordinary, seemingly whimsical and superfluous creatures, like the fungus Laboulbenia, the beetle Aphenops cronei, the flies Psilopa petrolei and Drosophila carciniphila, and many, many more apparent biologic curiosities? The only explanation that makes sense is that the organic diversity has evolved in response to the diversity of environment on the planet earth."

It is crucial to note each author's "point of departure," the point where they stop collecting information, and begin voicing their worldview.  For example, Dobzhansky notes the incredible complexity of living beings.  He poses, then answers, his own question: "Why the diversity?"  He attempts to pass his worldview off as the only reasonable option.  But is he right in making this assumption?  Merely ridiculing others' positions is not enough to discredit them.  While Dobzhansky rejects the explanation that P.H. Gosse puts forward, he does so with a mere wave of the hand, and no rigorous explanations.  Has he become the spokesperson of God?  Or is he projecting his own preferences, assumptions, and prejudices onto God?  After all, God did create a mature man and woman, not a defenseless pair of babies.  Is God biased against the thought of a mature creation, or is Dobzhansky?
    Similarly, note the point of departure in the article from Nature.  All known organisms' genetic information is encoded in DNA.  This means... there!  The point of departure!  The evolutionist writing the article will now interpret the facts for his readers, and his interpretation will be consistent with his worldview.  I wonder if the author recognized the point of departure as he wrote it.  Did he recognize his transition from observation to interpretation?  While the author believes that the discovery and characterization of DNA "magnificently bore out Darwin's view that life is united in a common descent," I know that this is simply the author's opinion.  And yet, all too often, evolutionists lump fact and opinion, observation and interpretation.  Because of this, many people view DNA as evidence for evolution.  But does the universality of the genetic code necessarily point to common descent, or is it possible that it points to a common Designer?
   I am convinced that the latter case is true.  But I understand that not everyone will interpret the facts as I do.  Whether or not you agree with my assessment, critically analyzing the writings of authors writing about evolution (or any other topic) will be instructive.  The more you clearly demarcate observation and interpretation, the better you will understand the characterization and motivation of the authors you read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fear not that, but this

Fear not the nameless terrors of the night:
the muted "bump" heard only out of fright,
the purple, lurking monsters who abide
in magazines and minds.
Fear not these vaporous fancies that dissolve,
but those who live their lives without resolve,
whose tears, and jabs and labs become thy life:
thy undergrads, thy strife.

(inspired by a friend's gchat status)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Calvinball, but twisted

Tuesday's result was hugely disappointing to me. Even though one liberal woman I was watching the election with said "I think this election is a referendum on intelligence and education," I beg to disagree. My desire is that the Republican party would take this as a referendum on their choice of candidates. And I don't mean Palin, bless her heart. I mean McCain. Granted, I did call voters and urge them to vote for McCain/Palin. But I said the name "Palin" much more energetically than I said "McCain." If Republicans want a victory, they need to nominate a candidate that can lead us to victory. We've got four years to find a man or woman who knows the issues (abortion, homosexuality, radical Islam, slavery-through-welfare, edemic government abdomens, indoctrination-masquerading-as-education, etc.), and who knows how to answer them. Four years. Let's start now.

What got me as I watched the news "analysis" was the myopic view of history that the talking heads in the mainstream media demonstrated. If I didn't know better, I'd think that the first president of the U.S. was George W. Bush, not George Washington. I'd also be led to believe that W.'s only race was the one held four years ago. CNN had a tricked out computer screen that allowed gleeful acolytes to compare the current election returns to Bush and Kerry's returns in 2004. The announcer would (for about 1.5 seconds) try to assume a solemn air as he announced that McCain wasn't doing nearly as well as Bush had done four years ago against Kerry. But his act never worked. It was just too obvious that his mirth and joy was uncontainable, even as he tried to maintain his serious face. (The amusing result, for me at least, was that this announcer unintentionally showed the people watching that Bush had done a notable job of garnering votes four years ago. Mercy me! How did that information leak out! Bottle up the information ports! That stuff's dangerous! Maybe four years from now, we won't even be expected to remember the opposition candidate's name. We'll just be told how The Magnificent One swept the polls, as we all went out and voted our hearts out for Our Victorious Leader. Will anyone recall just how close this race was? From a certain point of the campaign on, Obama, his aides, and many in the mainstream media were taking it for granted that Obama was going to win. And by a wide margin. A guy I work with who's from China commented the next day that he was suprised at close it was. From what he had heard, he had no idea that McCain had anywhere near the votes that Obama had. Let me just say that as far as Obama's returns go, for someone who is supposedly so adept at "bringing us together," he's done a pretty poor job of it so far!

The good news is that it showed me undeniably that all the Marxist-Leninists' viciousness about the electoral college is out the window when they're getting what they want. Somehow when their own candidate is winning by a pathetic number of the popular votes, they're out there clinging to the electoral college tighter than we cling to our guns and religion.

My mom mentioned that she's happy that we don't have to go through any riots. As she said, can you imagine what would have happened if Obama hadn't won? There would have been rioting in the streets.

I don't doubt that. But I see a consistent picture of spoiled-brat Marxist-Leninists who change the rules or lash out in violence when they don't get their way. Sure, the baby looks happy now that he's got his candy and his fist to suck on. But you should see him when he doesn't get what he wants!

Let's look at what Marxist-Leninists were saying before the latest election. There wasn't a lullaby playing, let me tell you. The words in their tune went like this:

"The Gallup Poll reported in 2001, 'There is little question that the American public would prefer to dismantle the Electoral College system, and go to a direct popular vote for the presidency. In Gallup polls that stretch back more than fifty years, a majority of Americans have continually expressed support for the notion of an official amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would allow for direct election of the president.'"

George C. Edwards III, leading scholar of the U.S. Presidency
Edwards, George C. III (2004). Why the Electoral College is Bad for America. p. xvi. Yale University Press.

"Every citizen's vote should count in America, not just the votes of partisan insiders in the Electoral College. The Electoral College was necessary when communications were poor, literacy was low and voters lacked information about out-of-state figures, which is clearly no longer the case."

Rep. Gene Green, (D-TX)
Raasch, Chuck (24 Sept 2004). "Electoral College debate intensifies." USA Today.

"All-or-nothing systems disenfranchise millions of voters and prompt campaigns to focus solely on closely contested states. This year, the candidates are ignoring two-thirds of the states because all of the electoral votes in each appear safely in one or the other's camp. So certain an outcome discourages turnout in those states as well. Though the system dates back to the 19th century under laws adopted by each state, it doesn't have to be that way. Certainly, the U.S. Constitution doesn't require it."

USA Today
USA Today. (19 Sept 2004). Editorial/Opinion. "States can make Electoral College more democratic."

You can read more of these quotes. I'm not faulting Marxist-Leninists for being disappointed in the past two elections when their candidates didn't win. That's natural. I'm faulting Marxist-Leninists for their "if I can't-win-by-the-rules-we-gotta-change-the-rules" mentality. This mentality is abundantly clear this year. If I was still hearing some questioning of the electoral college this year, I'd actually give some Marxist-Lenininsts some credit. It would show that they are objecting to the electoral college on principle. But that's a joke.
Now I realize that Obama won both the electoral college vote and the popular vote. So there's not the contrast as there was in 2000 when Bush won the one that mattered -- the electoral college vote -- and not the one that didn't matter -- the popular vote. But Obama barely squeaked by with the popular vote win. And no Marxist-Leninist cared enough to say "every vote counts!" and actually wait for a majority of the votes to be counted before calling a state or calling the race, or even waiting for less influential states to have their returns tallied. Why? Because Obama was ahead in the electoral college. Where's the outrage from George Edwards III and Gene Green?

I realize that Obama is the president-elect of this country and I am not challenging that. I am standing against manipulation, misrepresentation, and myopathy. I am standing for a detailed understanding of history and human nature. I want to know where God stands on this, and stand with Him. As for me and my house, we're going to serve the Lord.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An all-fired hurry

We're so often reminded that "every vote counts." If this is the case, then why were Andersen and friends at CNN so all-fired hurried to call states for Obama before a good percentage of that state's votes were counted?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stupid ideas

    At one point, I really thought that I could be perfectly happy being holed up in my apartment with just my books.  Fortunately, I didn't have to try that as an experiment to realize how stupid that thought was.
    Which brings me to my point.  Some thoughts are stupid.  Some thoughts are not.   Reasoning is the process of rejecting the stupid thoughts and searching out the wise ones.  Stupid thoughts are the ones that are more likely to ring the doorbell of your life.  Worse yet, they're in the habit of walking in the front door unwanted and starting stupid conversations that unfortunately interest you.  All the while, it's those wise thoughts that often stand bashfully on the sidewalk, wanting to knock timidly on your door, but unsure of your reception of them.  By all means, lock out the stupid thoughts, and welcome in the wise ones!
     Given today's philosophy of "anything goes," and the daily emphasis of "inclusiveness," I thought it was time for a little clarification.

What's more important to you: diversity/inclusiveness or discernment?  Compare the following quotes.

[Quote 1]  "Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate."  -- Chuang Tzu

[Quote 2]  "So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" -- Solomon

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Widows and Orphans

Typesetting that the Editor our employer accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being scooped by the competition.

(Based on James 1:27)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cicero for President

A friend just sent me the following quote:

"The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. 
People must learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
----Cicero, 55 B.C.

Monday, October 27, 2008

O Learned One

It's not often that I'm approached with the words "O learned One, please share your knowledge."  So, I'm understandably a little taken aback when it does happen.
   An undergrad here is doing a report on life in grad school, and I just got done with an interview with him.  One of the questions he asked was what were the biggest stresses in my life as a graduate student.  This was like handing a compulsive gambler a blank check. 
   First off, I did give him a positive.  This is my first semester without TAing, and I have been incredibly relieved to be able to focus on research without the distractions of TAing or working through my own courses. 
   Then I hit on the rest.  I told him that this experience is full of uncertainty.  Your work causes you to question the fundamental idea that "if I do the same thing twice, I should get the same result."  You begin to view success and failure with uncertainty.  If you don't exactly know why experiment A failed, do you exactly know why experiment B worked?  Sometimes you feel like you'd be at the same point if you try 10 experiments that fail, or if you don't try any experiments at all, but you sit and stare at your lab book.  But then you rethink it, and realize that's all wrong. 
    The beauty of the process is also the ugliness of it: that there is no prescribed path.  You're constantly trying paths, hoping that one will bring you to success, but there are no guarantees.  Time spent does not by any stretch translate into good results on a regular basis.  You're always asking yourself "am I compotent or incompotent?"  There is no such thing as "working late."  What is "late"?  7PM?  12PM?  2AM?  Even though you're living and working in the midst of uncertainty, you're often feel like others expect you to be constantly at peak performance.  There's always the constant pressure to succeed.  But succeed by whose standards?  Ah!  That's the question.  Your own?  Your advisor's?  Your parents'?  Your committee's?  God's?
   You find that even if one unit of success is the number of papers you've published, another (smaller but important) unit is the day-to-day, unglorious learning that nobody but you cares about that carries you to where you want to go.  Success is when you find out how to run ImageQuant on your Mac so you can actually process your data.  Success is counting the number of mistakes you've made in a week, because those are the true signs of effort.  Success is finding a fixed width font that allows you to rapidly compare DNA sequences and determine their hybridization.  Yeah, that's success.  Those units keep on adding up, and can be translated into other units of success.  But it's like grams and kilograms: how sensitive is your and your evaluator's balance?  If someone else can only measure kilograms, it's going to take a lot of your grams of learning to register on their scale of success.
   Your life is an ocean of failure with a few seahorses of success.  If you only look at the ocean, you feel like throwing yourself in.  But if you can find the seahorses, you rack up points, your advisor can talk about you results, and *ding, ding, ding* you graduate -- and move on to the next level of purgatory.
   Of course I didn't go into all that during that interview.  I didn't want to scare the poor guy.  But in the midst of my opining, I did stop and say that I wasn't sure how the process could be improved.  After all, even though I was describing this place as purgatory and "an ongoing hazing process," how else are you supposed to learn all this stuff?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clone Ann Coulter

(That was the sign my mom recently spotted on a van...!)

Reagan on Socialized Medicine

    I just came across an audio file of Reagan (while he was a private citizen, before the presidency) speaking against socialized medicine.  In just ten minutes he shows the true question behind socialized medicine.  It's not "do you have compassion on those less fortunate than yourself?" but "do you value freedom?"  Reagan asks you to look at what would happen if your own job became socialized.  You would no longer have the freedom to choose where you would want to live.  This and other details of your life would be dictated by your employer: the state.
    He makes the point that our own American Revolution is distinct from any other revolution in history.  In our revolution, we were not exchanging one set of oppressors for another.  We affirmed the freedom God gave to each and every person.
    What's amazing to me is that this recording is from 1961.  The more I hear about the 60's, the more parallels I see between that time and my own time.  After reading Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative and hearing Reagan's clip, I strongly believe that Biblical Christians need to gather these types of materials, study them, understand how they relate to today's issues, and pass on their wisdom!  We speak to our own times, but we can learn from those who successfully combated the false ideas of their time.  This is even simpler when we're speaking to the same issue! 
     It cracks me up that socialized medicine is supposedly a grand and brand-spanking new idea.  Hold it: it's neither grand nor new!
     But it's not just enough for you and me to realize that truth.  We've got to communicate that idea to others.
     As the president of Wheaton college has said, the goal of education is eloquent wisdom.  Our country has a rich heritage of wise men, and we can learn from their eloquent wisdom. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cytoskeletons and spreadsheets

Cytoskeletons are like spreadsheets.  Both can be used to arrange objects according to a highly controlled framework.  If the lines are hidden, however, it can be very difficult to discern the framework.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome to Irrationality.

The propaganda about socialized medicine is hitting the med school hard and fast.  The last two times I was in the med school building (last week and today), I was assualted by socialized medicine propaganda.  Last week it was signs plastered everywhere announcing the showing "Salud" (Spanish for "health"), which celebrates the socialized medical system of -- brace yourself -- Cuba.  Today it was a free health magazine that shows a blue pill and a red pill: Obama and McCain's health plans characterized as "universal healthcare" versus "free market." 
     I've got a problem with social engineers highlighting "crises" that "only they" know how to fix.  And their fix inevitably involves increased government control, i.e. less freedom for citizens.  Cases in point: global warming/climate change and the supposed "healthcare crisis."  If Al Gore or Obama don't cast their respective issues as crises, then no citizen in his right mind would consider the "solution" being presented.  But what happens if anyone tries to challenge the claim that either of these issues is a crisis?  Let's see, I've heard more about the results of challenging the climate change dogma.  In that case, a person's called a "denier," and reminded that "the debate is over."  The healthcare debate is being framed in terms of compassion, and since this is becoming so ingrained, anyone denying universal health coverage is likely to be seen as a heartless person keeping people's rights (especially children's rights) from them.
    (And to be fair, the economic upheaval we're seeing isn't made up by social engineers.  It really is a crisis.  But so many times the social engineers rush to bring forward "solutions" without accurately addressing the cause of a crisis.  And how can a realistic solution be develped unless the cause of a problem is known?  Can the (actual or imagined) crises of climate change, healthcare, and the economy all stem from evil, big business (industrial factories, insurance companies, Wall Street)?  Is that what we're actually supposed to believe?  C'mon, only Marxists-Leninists believe that every problem results from the clash between the upper and lower classes.  Americans need to critically evalute these acutal or imagined crises and understand the actual causes.  (And ask themselves why many actual crises -- the holocaust of abortion, the rampage of STDs, the epidemic of school shootings, the assualts on free speech, the flagrance and aggressiveness of homosexuality, the kowtowing to Islam -- are worsening under the radar while so many Americans are so concerned about the real issues: obesity, smoking, diversity-training, and tolerance.)  Are Americans only to care about those issues highlighted by the mainstream media?  Are they to gain their understanding of an issue through the media's presentation of a fuzzy "cause" and the absolutely necessary "solution"?   Who wants to be a mindless minion that can be mobilized at will by a manipulative media?)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If that's so, we're pretty stupid

As the Femi-Marxist history goes, once upon a time, there were women.  These women did not have basic rights, such as voting, shopping on demand, cooking the food they liked instead of the food their male-captors liked, keeping their own last name, or (and most importantly) abortion.  They were owned by men, who sometimes took multiple women as wives, and usually carried a club to keep their women in check. 
    Things continued like this well into the 20th century, when liberated women took charge of their own bodies and left the chauvantistic cage in which they had been confined.  Women like Margaret Sanger, Margaret Mead, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen, Rosie O'Donnell, and Barbara Boxer broke out, and have been leading the rest of us out.  By their example, we can see what we as women were truly meant to be.
    I hope you get the gist of this, because I can't bear to write like that anymore!!!  Suffice it to say that if that truly was the history of womankind, then we are a poor lot indeed, and deserve to be subjugated!  C'mon, 50% of the people in the world are women.  If (and that's an if) our history up until this century has been one of consistent slavery to men, well then, who's to blame but we ourselves?
    Fortunately, no one believes this kind of crackpottery except for Femi-Marxists and their converts.  It wasn't until one day that I was trying to sum up their view to myself that I was struck by its ludicrousness.  Just thought I'd share it with you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cookery and chemistry

It's really funny to me how cooking is so much like working in lab: assemble ingredients, mix in a certain order and ratio according to a protocol, heat treat, and you're done (well, actually, then comes storage of leftovers, and the concern about keeping whatever you've made intact for the next time you need it!).  Still, there's definitely things that cooks have figured out that chemists haven't, and vice versa.  For example, there's no chemistry equivalent of Pampered Chef, and boy, is that a shame!  That's why countless organic chemistry drones are stuck scraping product out of round bottoms with a teeny weeny spatula (that for some mystifying reason is never called a spatula, but a "rubber policeman").  On the flip side, chemists have better methods of dealing with moisture-sensitive materials.  I mean, which cook can put their brown sugar in a Drierite-filled container, then pull a vacuum on it?  And only chemists get to play in gloveboxes! 

Okay, okay, they're not identical: I have yet to see a chemist wearing the equivalent of a chef's hat.  And chemists do need to much more particular about stochiometry, and they tend to care a bit more about characterization than even gourmet chefs (the chef's analysis: does it taste good?).  But the times when it really hits me how similar these things are is when the tools and thought patterns both fields use are eerily similar.  I mean, both cooks and chemists use timers and microwaves to do stuff, both are based on individual innovation, and give ample arenas to share discoveries!  Still, it catches me off-guard when I'm doing chemistry and I think like a cook, or vice versa.  The other day I was waiting for my food to heat up in the microwave.  I must have been really absent-minded, because I thought, all of the sudden, oh no!  I forgot to put the stir bar in there!  For materials, both cooks and chemists have incredible variety in the outlets they buy from.  For bulk ingredients (flour, potatoes, milk, and the like) there's always the general place to go.  But for specialty items needed in tiny amounts, there's Rohm and Haas and gourmet food sources.

There's enough similarities that skill at one can help you with the other.  I can't put it any better than a gal from undergrad.  She was used to preparing huge stockpiles of bacteria for her microbiology course, and she knew how to multitask.  When she was getting ready to cook Thanksgiving dinner one year, she shrugged and said, "It's one big lab prep."  There's also the whole interplay of precedent and art.  The first time you're trying something, you better hunt hard to find somebody who's done something similar to what your trying.  Replicating what they've done, whether it's double chocolate mocha cake or supramolecular assemblies, can be a crucial first step to finding your way in your own work.  And you've got to master the basics before you can go improvising.  Those first hundred times, you're probably going to need that sheet of paper showing the exact steps to follow.  But later you can shake things up, and add your own twists.  This improvising can be the most fun part.  That's when you take a boring cornbread recipe and add salsa or sour cream or corn or chives, and come up with something new.  Or that's when you look at all the DNAzymes that have been isolated so far, and you apply the same selection method to an entirely new ion.  Then, of course, comes the process of screening your results.  That cake that was baked on "preheat" and got burned on top and was still runny in the middle?  Trash it.  That experiment where the first three timepoints were taken faithfully but you fell asleep on that fourth point?  Trash it.  But those great results?  Showcase 'em.  Take it to a potluck or enter it in a flour competition; make a slide and show it in subgroup or make a poster and take it to a conference.

After all, if everything was guaranteed to work in cooking or chemistry, success would be boring.  Not that I like failed curry chicken (c'mon, how was I supposed to realize how different vanilla and plain yogurt would make that recipe?!) or PCR trials that just don't amplify, but there's nothing like a series of bad results to make the good results that much sweeter!

So, whenever possible, keep a couple burners on at the same time.  (Pots and projects can be kept on a back burner!).  The more you try, the more you're going to fail, but the more you're going to find those couple of sweet successes that make the people at the table happy: either the ones eating the dinner you're fixing, or the ones staring at your prelim powerpoint presentation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When do human rights kick in?

Watch the interviews for yourself.
Which man articulates the answer closest to what you believe?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Who am I?

Who am I?  It's a different question than "What am I?"
    In freshman biology, Dr. Goff wheeled a cart of chemicals into the room.  He then lectured on the most common elements found in the human body, along with a catchy little way to remember them: C. HOPKINS CaFe.  (Carbon, hydrogen, phosphorous, potassium, iodine, nitrogen, sulfur, calcium, and iron).
    I'd love to know my elemental composition.  How many grams of carbon am I made of?  Hey, that's not enough: how many different compounds am I made of, and how much of each one?  (How many spoonfuls of sugar are in me?)
     The reason this blog started is because I came across the word "polymorph" in a paper I'm supposed to be reading.  I looked it up in Wikipedia, and found that polymorphs are basically crystalline isomers: structures with the same empirical formula (ratio of atoms), but vastly different structure.  
     Here's the conclusion from that paper: "As polymorphs of each other, PCN-12 and PCN-12' have not only the same formula after solvate removal but also the same atom-to-atom connectivity.  However, the gravimetric hydrogen uptake of PCN-12 is 27% higher than that of PCN12' [sic] at 77K and 1 bar.  The reason behind these remarkable improvements can mainly be attributed to the 'close-packing' strategy, namely, the formation of cuboctahedral cages and the unique arrangement of open metal sites in each cuboctahedral cage in PCN-12.  This strategy may have general implications in the search for a practical absorptive hydrogen-storage material for fuel-cell-driven cars."  (Wang, X.; Ma, S.; Forster, P.; Yuan, D.; Eckert, J.; Lopez, J.; Murphy, B.; Parise, J.; Zhou, H. "Enhancing H2 Uptake by 'Close-Packing' Alignment of Open Copper Sites in Metal--Organic Frameworks."  Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 7263-7266.
     Whew!  So two crystals have the same ratio of atoms, the same connectivities, and vastly different hydrogen storage potentials.  It truly seems that "it's what you do with what you have that makes the difference."
      I could take that in a whole different direction, but my point is this: knowing the composition of something is great, but it's not the whole picture.
     Examples abound: C6H12O6 may sound pretty specific, but this formula describes quite a number of sugars, from glucose to galactose to fructose, and beyond!  And speaking of sugars, a single glycosidic bond distinguishes cellulose from starch, determining your ability to digest the carbohydrate in which it's found.  And speaking of picyuny, enantiomers (molecules with identical atoms and connectivities, but different arrangement about another atom) can have vastly different biological activities.  To picture this, try to imagine putting a leather left-handed glove onto your right hand.  As similar as your two hands are, there's somethings that are specific to one or the other!
     So composition isn't everything: do I make my point?  Of course, it is something.  That's why atomic absorption spectroscopy is alive and kicking!
    But as a wiser head than mine has said: the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.  Say I could determine not only my own elemental composition, but the exact mass of every compound I am composed of.  What's  the number of kilograms I am in total (not telling), the grams of water vapor in my lungs, the milligrams of vitamin C being absorbed in my small intestine, the attograms of iron complexed to cytochrome P450 in my mitochrondria, or the zeptograms of synapsin flitting between the synapses of two of my axons?  But of course, this level of detail isn't enough to really know what I am.  I'm not just interested in what the mass of DNA in my body is.  How is it and every other molecule distributed in three-dimensional space?  What's its sequence?  What random mutations are occurring in it?  Based on my genome, what are the diseases I am most prone to?
     If I knew all of these things, would I know myself?  If you knew all these things, would you know me?  No, you might say.  I know your eyes are blue without knowing what pigment is present in them, which stretch of your DNA encoded the protein or proteins responsible, or which parent you inherited that stretch from.  I don't know which antigens you are sensitized to, which you have a passive immunity to, and which you've developed an active immunity to.  I don't know the localization of antibodies or B cells in your lymph nodes, but I do know that when you use Crest toothpaste, bad things happen.
    But even a knowledge of someone's physical attributes or sensitivities isn't the same as knowing that person.  That just means you've read their file: not that you can predict what card to put down if you're playing Apples to Apples with them.
    Is it possible that the essence of a person is something beyond their physical body, either on the micro or the macro scale?
    Think for a minute about identical twins.  Have you ever known twins?  Where there ones you could tell apart, or some that you couldn't?  They've been involved in quite a few different research projects.  After all, if someone has the same DNA as another person, shouldn't they have quite a few other things in common? But wait: why isn't everything in common?  Oh yes: random expression of proteins can produce variations in fingerprints, and variance in freckles, along with other things.  And anyway, how could you expect two people -- even with the same genome -- to have the same volume of organs, number of cells, synchronized secretion of identical volumes and concentrations of hormones?  
    Well, other factors can cause differences as well.  Environment plays a huge role.  If two twins are separated from birth, and one is adopted by a Korean couple while the other is adopted by an Estonian couple, the twins are going to have very different mores.
    All right, cut to the bottom line: what makes a person a person?
Is it the mass of elements, or the mass and distribution of compounds in their body?
Is it the complexity and order of their body, and their ability to form thoughts?
Is a person the sum total of their genetics and environment?

Hold it, hold it!  What about a third, and vital component -- the will!  

How can elements or compounds explain the will?  How can environment explain the will?  What can explain the will, besides the presence of a soul and spirit?

Matter and environment alone cannot explain what it is that makes a person a person.  I am what I am, partly through the DNA my parents gave me, and partly through the influence they have in my life.  But I am also who I am because of the choices I have made.

And If you truly know me, you know me not because of what I look like or you know how I grew up, but because you recognize my spirit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

True Humility

My mom recently wrote to me about humility.  It was so good!!!
Humility.  Humble ourselves before the LORD and He will lift us up and put us before Kings and Leaders and College Presidents.  It is interesting to me that Christlike humility included proclaiming Truth and walking on water and taking a whip to the evil He saw in the Temple.  Not at all the effeminate, weakling that it seems to me some Christians want Him to be.   Did He turn the other cheek.  Sure.  He expects us to do the same.  We are not to be offended at people who disagree with us.  We are not to step all over others on the attempt to get ahead in life.  We are not to look with contempt on anyone.  That is turning the other cheek.  Not this crazy idea of not wanting to discuss "controversial" issues or think we do know something more than others if they are not willing to use the Bible for their source book.  Jesus got in trouble for speaking with authority.  We will, too.  We have the authority to speak against evil because God gave us His written word.  We can know right from wrong and proclaim it.

My two cents.  Love,  mom

Friday, August 29, 2008

I wanted you to see this

I am convinced that God wanted us to see the world we live in.

That's why He designed our eyes the way he did, giving us a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum to explore to our heart's content.

Medically and forensically, He gave us a "leg up."  Can you imagine if blood wasn't red, if myeloperoxidase didn't produce a green color in pus, if bilirubin (and thus a bruise, a jaundiced baby, or a hepatitis patient) was colorless?

And then, for those regions of the spectrum that we couldn't sense directly, He gave us the curiosity and ingenuity to probe them with instruments and careful analysis.

What an incredible God!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Organ Transplantation Stops... A Beating Heart?

A friend just sent this article to me:
Here's my thoughts:

This is logical.
Man is an animal. Each man defines his own reality: there is no God to answer to. The strong prey upon the weak. Only the strongest survive.

As secular humanists and Marxist-Leninsts begin to shed their inconsistent shreds of morality, we're going to see a lot more of this.

This isn't the first case. At least these children were born, at least someone saw them, and at least only their hearts were taken -- but not sold! The children who are the victims of abortion or embryonic stem cell research don't have the chance to be born, their families never see them, and their bodies are either discarded like trash, or sold for profit.

"Because the procedures reopened so many contentious fault lines, two other ethicists proposed scrapping the fundamental ethical tenet that has guided organ transplantation for decades: the 'dead donor rule,' which states that organs should never be removed from a patient who is not dead." (stance of Robert D. Truog of Harvard Medical School and Franklin G. Miller of the National Institutes of Health)


"You shall not murder." -- God, 6th Commandment
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." -- Declaration of Independence
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
" -- Isaiah 5:20

The article doesn't even address the reason why, to this point, a person had to be dead before their organs could be removed. This was logical to a society that acknowledged the existence and authority of the God of the Bible, and the special role of man, who was made in God's image.

To a society that has rejected God's revealed truth, it is illogical to protect vulnerable lives. You'll notice the prestigious groups that Truog and Miller represent. These are not people on the fringe: these are successful, influential men consistently living out their worldviews.

God deal with our society before it becomes entirely consistent with the lies it has accepted.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What do you say?

Strawmen are easy to beat up.  Problem is, a blackbelt in strawman fighting don't mean beans on the street.

Realizing this, I decided to see what some real arguments for abortion are, and if I could make heads or tails of them.  I did a search of Facebook groups for abortion.

One group had the following posted as their group description:

Pro: Being for; approving something.
Choice: The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
Pro Choice: The right for all women to decide for themselves. The choice to parent, to give up for adoption, or to terminate. The power for a woman to decide what to do within her own body.

The 12-week fetus experiences pain.
At this stage of the pregnancy, the brain and nervous system are still in a very early stage of development. The beginnings of the brain stem, which includes a rudimentary thalamus and spinal cord, is being formed. Most brain cells are not developed. Without a cerebral cortex (gray matter covering the brain), pain impulses cannot be received or perceived.

A fetus is indistinguishable from any of the rest of us.
A fetus of 12 weeks cannot in any way be compared to a fully formed functioning person. At this stage only rudiments of the organ systems are present. The fetus is unable to sustain life outside the woman's womb; it is incapable of conscious thought; it is incapable of essential breathing. It is instead an in utero fetus with the potential of becoming a child.
Is it appropriate to refer to a fetus as unborn child, with the same right as other human beings?
No. Constitutionally, a fetus has no rights of personhood. Most legal precedent in English law attributes personhood to the live born.

A fetus has brain activity at 40 days/6 weeks.
The absolute earliest brain activity has ever been recorded is at three months; this was evidenced in an experiment conducted by Okamoto and Kirikae, in which very basic brainstem activity was recorded. Axons, dendrites, and synapses, all of which are necessary for higher brain function, are not present until approximately the 24th week. The factoid of brain activity at 40 days comes from a misquotation by Dr. Hamlin in one of his lectures, in which he references the Okamoto and Kirikae experiment and describes the fetuses as being at "some 40 days" of development. This statement is false, as the fetuses were over 90 days old.

I emailed one of the group administrators the following...

Hi, ________!
I was browsing some Facebook groups today and saw this one.  As I read through your group's description, and I had a couple of thoughts.  Please let me know what you think!

You write about a 12-week fetus and whether s/he feels pain.  Is there a reason why you talk about the fetus only at this age?   I think we can both agree that a fetus develops the ability to sense pain at some point in their development, and that abortions are not only carried out on 12-week old fetuses.  Do you think that an abortion should be carried out on a fetus who is able to feel pain?

Also, on the point about a fetus and whether they can be distinguished from their mother, this is what I wondered:

1) In answering this question, you have ignored the fact that every child is genetically distinct from either of the parents, since half of his/her DNA comes from each parent.  Once the nuclei of the sperm and egg have fused (the process called "conception," a genetically distinct cell is formed.  This cell is a unique person.  Based on DNA alone, yes, a fetus is distinguishable from his/her mother.

2) You mention that "The fetus is unable to sustain life outside the woman's womb... it  is incapable of essential breathing."  By this reasoning, an organism cannot be considered to be a real person unless they are functioning autonomously.  Thus, any person who is currently breathing through a respirator is not a person.  And anyone who suffers from severe asthma has episodes where their essential breathing is impaired.  During those episodes, do they somehow become less than a person?

3) To make the claim that a fetus "is incapable of conscious thought," you must show evidence.  Are you arguing that their brain is not developed enough?  How developed does a person's brain have to be before they can think?  Do you have any evidence to back up this claim?

4) Your description states, "It is instead an in utero fetus with the potential of becoming a child."  That's great that you used some medical terms in this sentence, but "fetus" is simply Latin for "offspring."  "Fetus" and "child" are not mutually exclusive, any more than "toddler" and "child" are mutually exclusive.  The term "toddler" simply provides more information on the age of the child.  The same is true for the term fetus.  A fetus does not at some magical point become a child; a fetus is already a child.

After examining the description for your group, I think that you have missed an important question.

Have you ever asked yourself, "What makes a person a person?"

Does it really have anything to do with their ability to breathe with/without assistance?  Does it really have anything to do with their age, or their physical position (in or ex utero?)? 

What makes a person a person?

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
Thanks, and have a great weekend,

Monday, August 04, 2008

Power, yes. But clean power?

I know of a power source that does not increase carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations.  And, unlike "wind power," switching to this source is actually feasible.  It's called (you ready for this?) nuclear power.

No wonder environmentalists don't like this idea.  It actually works.

Hmm.... maybe we should get a clue.  Environmentalists say they're looking for a clean power source.  Then, when you show 'em a clean power source, they bitterly reject it, and begin lobbying against it.

Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, they're not actually looking for a clean power source.  Maybe they're just looking for power: political power in the form of increased central government, with the reins in their hands.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Meet My Friend, Amber Guity

Have you ever used an ambiguous word?  Yeah?  So have I. 
Why'd you use it?

Usually when I resort to ambiguous words, I don't know what I mean, but I'm hoping that you do.  It's a verbal "Make Your Own Adventure."

And sometimes it works!  The person I'm talking to adds meaning to my non-meaning, and if all goes well, they like the meaning they've constructed.  If I'm talking to a group of people, there's the chance that most everyone will construct a meaning that they like, and run with it.  It spares me the trouble of figuring out what would best suit them, and it allows everyone to tailor their own version of meaning.  It's called "Happiness on the cheap."

It's those off-times that burn, though.  When the person either doesn't like the meaning they've construct from the too-little information I provided, or they ask the cards-on-the-table question, "What do ya mean?" the game's up.

As comfortable as I have sometimes been in my haze of ambiguity, I really think it's better when someone forces me to be forthright.  If I actually know what I mean, but I chose poor words, I get a second chance to explain.  If my head really was stuffed with giant white cotton balls like it sounded, at least the truth's out.

So from one convalescent to another, I think somebody needs to ask Obama "What do ya mean by 'Change'?"

Thursday, July 31, 2008


The product of mental labor - science - always stands far below its value, because the labor-time necessary to reproduce it has no relation at all to the labor-time required for its original production.
Karl Marx

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mrs. Lot's Lotion

"Ultimate Spa
Face Cleanser with Dead Sea Minerals
The Wonders of the Dead Sea, created by nature during the course of 25 million years. Since the dawn of civilization, the legendary Dead Sea has been known as a bountiful source of minerals for beauty and health. These highly effective minerals are now available to you, through Spa Cosmetics' Ultimate Spa range of unique cosmetic products that combine the finest ingredients with the remarkable riches of the Dead Sea.

"This gentle Face Cleanser contain an unusually high percentage of Dead Sea minerals, known for their cosmetic properties, and is suitable for all skin types. Apply a generous quantitiy to a cotten pad and gently cleanse the facial skin, avoiding delicate eye area. Use daily to leave the skin deeply cleansed, refreshed and revitalized.

"Store in a cool, dry place, below 30˚C.

"Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Mineral Oil, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Dead Sea Salt, Cetyl Alcohol, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance, Allantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Lactic Acid.

12 Hamelacha St.
Northern Industrial Zone
Lod 71520, ISRAEL"
I found this bottle sitting in the break room. The bottle's filled with lovely lavender lotion. But I find their advertising extremely ironic. First off, the Dead Sea was not gradually formed over the course of "25 million years." Oh baby: just the opposite! You really can't find a more catastrophic event! This was a condemned place!!!
I think they should call this "Mrs. Lot's Lotion." Most people will think they're getting "a lot of lotion." The 3% that are familiar with Abraham's extended family will get the reference, and be able to make a more informed decision.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ben Had it Right

Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.
Benjamin Franklin

(What would Dr. Franklin say of our newborn "Dept. of Homeland Security," or the obese, bedridden U.S. government which we continue to feed?)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hopeful Evidence

I heard about through an email from my mom.  Since then, I've signed up for their daily scans.  Boy, are they neat!  It's a digest of some neato scientific developments that I probably wouldn't hear about any other way!

For example, they featured a young investigator: Dr. Pardis Sabeti.  In an interview ( she confides that her beginnings as a scientist weren't all that spectacular: she always put off her science fair projects.
    Y'know, that just made my day.  I have always been ashamed of my science fair record.  Ever since those days (where I honestly cared about my color scheme than the hypothesis that I wrote at the END of the experiment), I wondered if I was the only one to do badly at them, but still stick with science.  I mean: should this have been a sign?  Have I been driving 146 miles down the wrong road after missing that first "Do Not Enter" sign?
     These days, I see some of the pitfalls I fell into.
      First off, from the get-go, I assumed that my project would be terrible.  So, it always was!  And that wasn't just the case during when my most recent fad became a less than imposing project -- the year that I tried finding an "Optimal Cake Decorating Icing."  (That year the judge quickly refused my offer to give him a demonstration because "he always saw his wife doing that sort of thing.")  Even when I had cool (parent-thought-of) projects (measuring the viscosity of oils, or measuring the visual fields of actual people with actual ophthalmologist equipment at an actual Eye Center), I always found a way to undermine it.
      Usually this meant groaning whenever the phrase "science fair project" came up, and being about 0.05% intellectually involved in the project.  This often took the form of saying "Do I have to?" and pre-condeming all tasks related to the project as menial, boring, and a waste of time.  (Granted, some of the tasks were menial and boring, but most were not a waste of time.  For instance, on the viscosity of oil project, the data analysis came in the form of sitting on the couch and watching footage.  What was the footage of?   Oil.  I watched the oil dripping out of a buret frame-by-frame and counted the frames to measure the amount of time a given volume of oil took to drip out!  Since I had absolutely no interest in finding the viscosity of the oils, I had absolutely no interest in counting frames.  I considered the process to be a burden cast upon me by my usually-caring-but-in-this-case-deluded parents.  I grit my teeth, and in the long run, I made sure that neither my parents nor I would find any joy in the process or the final result.
      You'd have thought I'd have learned my lesson by the time my final project rolled around, but no.   When my parents arranged for me to measure talk to our family ophthalmologist, borrow his medical books, and use his equipment, my reaction was not excitement or thankfulness: it was abject terror.  I have to talk to him!!!!  Later on, I put off copying pages from the books he lent me until the only available copier was the junky one at the gas station that cost a dime a copy and were so low quality that all the pictures looked like a psychologist's ink-blot test.  I remember sitting at the dining room table, bemoaning the fact that I *had* to sit there reading about the eye's anatomy.  Boy, was I a blessing as a student!!!
       The night before the science fair saw the peak of activity.  This was when everything had to come together.  This was usually when the actual hypothesis was decided upon, rolls of tapes were divided and conquered, and the printer spat out paper all night.
       It was pretty much like the night before the 4H fair, except you weren't guaranteed the 50 cents.
       Finally, the last sheet of paper had found a resting place, and all the projects, accessories, and well-dressed children were parceled into the car.
       Then we got to meet "The Competition."
       One of the local public school teachers dominated the high school division.  I can't remember her real name, but she should have been called "Madame Z."  Her students not only had impressive sounding projects, but their duds were even color-coordinated with their project boards!  This, to me, the was the epitome of science-fair professionalism.  How could I hope to pit my puny talent (and un-coordinated apparel) with such genious?
       Still, it couldn't hurt to at least look at the other projects.  This could be done by browsing the outlandishly-sized title boards atop the cardboard or wooden project boards.  While most of the other kids included the scientific name of whatever bug they were studying ("Daphnia longispina" instead of "the water flea"), mine displayed the single aspect of my project which was mine and mine alone: the cutesy title.   (Why, why did I name it "Muffin Gas" instead of "A Quantitative Investigation of the Fluctuations in Gaseous Content of a Common Carbohydrate-Containing Product during Thermal Cure"?)  Now, ten years too late, I see my error.  Let the judge figure out what the project really is!  Don't spell out your mediocrity in the title!
      The other projects ranged from comparing battery brands to swimsuit materials to the merits of the "10 second rule" to torturing Daphnia longispina.  I usually ended up comparing the type of shadowing or 3D effects different people used on their bar graphs.  Every once in a while, though, a scientific thought tiptoed softly into my head, unbidden.  Once I even looked past the teal business dress suit the girl on my right was wearing to evaluate her project on the 10-second rule.  Doesn't it really just depend on where you drop the food?  But my arrogance in questioning a student of Madame Z shocked even myself.  I timidly put the thought from my mind and tried with all my might to concentrate on my own project.
      All at once, I realized that my parents had only been trying to prepare me for this day, and that what I had thought was all baseless cruelty was actually them teaching me.  But it was all too late.  My realization had not come in time for me to do this project as it should have been done.   Of course, I convinced myself, to really do my job right, I should have become an an expert on whatever I was talking about.  Since I never felt like an expert, I was pretentious to have a project there at all.  (Who did I think I was using the word "optimal"?  I hadn't even known what it meant 'til Mom told me!)  When a judge came up I didn't speak forcefully or excitedly.  Oh no!  I basically apologized for taking up so much of their valuable time with a project that I didn't know much about.   What little I did know about my project often evaporated from my brain as the judge stared at me with mind-reading eyes.
(One year I studied gyroscopes as a project.  I remember reading and re-reading a section on gyroscopes in the book "The Way Things Work," in a rare attempt to actually understand what was happening.  Basically, all I gathered was that whoever drew the pictures was really good at doing angels.  Dad had also given me a diagram of the forces involved in a gyroscope's rotation, and he also explained the right hand rule.  As I waited for judges to come up and talk to me, I remember staring at that diagram, trying to place my thumb, pointer and middle finger face the way his had, and willing the words he'd explained to return to my mind.  When the judge came, he told me that his company used gyroscopes in planes (or something like that).  I looked at him and blankly said, I think it'd be better if you told me about gyroscopes instead of the other way around).
    But Sabeti's honesty gives me hope: maybe I can face the world.

    After all, didn't I learn from all those days and nights of (as I saw it then) torture?  You betcha.  I learned something that has applied to every other experimental trial I've ever tried since then.  When I was trying to compare icings to find which one had the best taste, the best ability to keep the shape of a star while not producing droopy "chocolate chip tips," and the ability to hold its shape even when piped into shapes four inches high, I went about it arbitrarily.  I didn't always do every test with each icing, and I was not at all methodical in my testing.  Mom told me that if I was really going to compare the different icings, I had to do the same thing for each icing.  If I changed my criteria or method for one icing, I'd have to do that for all the others, too.
   Simple, you say?  Why'd you have to be told that, you ask?  I don't know why, exactly, but hearing that concept from Mom the way she said it and in the context of struggling with a bag of icing in my hand, clicked.  (It was like the time that Dad explained to our chemistry class what chemical "stability" meant.  He said that a molecule could exist in many different states, but the one that it spent the most time in, and was most likely to be found in, was its most stable state.  He took a marker and placed it vertically.  This might be more stable than a 45 degree orientation, but it isn't nearly as stable as this one -- and he placed the marker horizontal).
    Those concepts clicked in those moments, and I've thought about them many times since then.  When I've been tempted to cut the corners when running samples or controls while functionalizing silanized slides, I remembered what Mom told me.  When I heard about the chemical states in later, more advanced (but often not as well-demonstrated) classes, I always pictured Dad's marker in its different states.
    I truly lacked confidence.  I remember one judge disagreeing with me on which area of the retina had the most acute vision.  I had studied that, but I felt super uncomfortable asserting anything he disagreed with.  That general sense of embarrassment was a constant companion as I stood in front on my project.  But it didn't have to be that way!  I could have broken out of that, especially if I had listened to my parents!  (And if I hadn't had an allergic reaction to the word "rehearse," things would have been better, too!).
   Mom and Dad never gave up on me.  They never sat me down and tried to break the news to me: "Hannah, I'm sorry to have to put it this way, but, well, you're an imbecile."  They just let me find out the gentle way, and then helped me work through it.
    Their confidence that "you'll do better once you find a project you're interested in" gave me hope that there was such a project.  Now I realize that the problem was never in the project: it was in my attitude.  If I had decided early on that I would be interested in the project, be involved in the selection, keep my eyes focused on the goal, and really try to get the individual steps done, those days spent on the projects would have been completely different.
    There were glimmerings of this truth even in the midst of those projects, but I refused to learn the lesson then.  Since I didn't have the discipline to be tell myself "you will be interested, " the glimmerings came when I let my guard down, and let myself be interested.  When I wanted to test the ability of my family to read words in dim lighting, I had a ball coming up with the messages they were supposed to read.  I decided to put in subliminal messages, and tailored the signs according to who would be reading them (not realizing that this was warping my results).  I designed a poster for Dad that talked about sharing his turtles, and I can't remember what I did for everyone else!  When I started wondering "how dim is dim," I actually looked up the units for light intensity, and discovered a unit (the candela) I'd never even heard before!  Every once in a while, when I let myself get interested, I'd go down a rabbit trail (like looking at light intensity units), and sometimes, in the end find that it actually related to what I was doing!
     If I had only made myself learn that menial tasks are often completely necessary in order to reach a goal, I would not have been so sullen and stupid.  Sure, no one laps up an offer to count hundreds of squares inside a visual field chart, but it that gives you an approximate area of that person's visual field, and a quantitative value or rating to compare to other subjects, isn't it worth doing?  (And now, if I've really learned my lesson, I'll dig in and scrub my gel rack with No-Count again and again, if need be: it really is moving me closer to my goal!)
     If I had let myself see the dedication of my parents and been thankful for their help and persistence, it would have been totally different.  How many hours of work did they spend buying materials and helping/making me do stuff?  How much money did they spend on film for pictures of icing sculptures, project boards, and construction paper?  How much energy did they spend on coming up with projects I unrationally rejected, or telling me for the upteenth time, "No, you can't skip doing a project this year?"
    The biggest lesson I learned was that the bigger the thing you have to do, the better the sense of relief is once you're done with it.  That's why the time after all the judges had finished, all the ribbons had been handed out, and you were breaking down your display were the best moments of your life to that point. 
    Plus, if you can laugh, then laugh.   I think I'll always remember that day as we left the science fair building, with Dad singing a ditty about "Muffin Gas..." to the tune of a Christmas carol...  My stupid title was actually worth something: it could make someone laugh!

    Oh, ho!  Here's another article ( to look at.  A geneticist, in his "spare time," teaches judges the fundamentals of DNA evidence.  This is exactly the kind of thing that judges need.  The more first-hand knowledge they have of what DNA is, how it's acquired, and what kind of uncertainty is involved in evaluating it, the better decisions they can make in the courtroom.
(Now if we can just start having a Christian giving tutorials on Biblical Christianity, I'll REALLY be happy :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Secret Agent Man

If you've not seen it, you really should. It's a 60's spy show with the following theme song by P.F. Sloan and S. Barri:

There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name

Beware of pretty faces that you find
A pretty face can hide an evil mind
Ah, be careful what you say
Or you'll give yourself away
Odds are you won't live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name

------ lead guitar ------

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name

Swingin' on the Riviera one day
And then layin' in the Bombay alley next day
Oh no, you let the wrong word slip
While kissing persuasive lips
The odds are you won't live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name

Secret agent man

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Response to "Darwinian Doubts: A Rebuttal"

The following is my response to a blog by my brother. I'd recommend reading his blog, then coming back to read this response.

I'm intrigued by your assessment that many of the people publicly speaking against evolution come from "deterministic and predictive practices such as mathematics and engineering." As I see it, this is more than just a matter of physicists, mathematicians, and chemists being unfamiliar or overwhelmed with biological systems, and trying to recreate life sciences in the image of quantitative science. Maybe as designers themselves, more accustomed to named reactions than a constant deference to evolution, they are in a unique position to see the limits of evolutionary explanations and the signs of a designed, optimized system.
I sincerely believe that more physicists and material scientists should be involved in MD/PhD programs. Why? Because a background in fluid dynamics, material properties, shear forces, or one of many other topics would uniquely enable them to appreciate the principles behind the design of human structures, and innovate new preventions and treatments based on this understanding. (To put it bluntly, if I only ever took anatomy classes and never used a can of WD-40, I wouldn't appreciate synovial fluid!)
Sometimes a person's background in a non-biological field provides them with incredible insight into a biological structure, process, or system. For example, last year Dr. Gerard Wong here at UIUC discovered one cause of deafness. He realized that in deaf patients, epsin protein was incorrectly organizing F-actin filaments into a liquid-crystalline form instead of a hexagonal array. This discovery didn't require an intimate knowledge of evolution, or even a degree in biology. His understanding of materials science allowed him to recognize new aspects of a disease process.
If a non-traditional vantage point can benefit a newcomer to medical research, might a similar vantage point offer new insights into biology? Maybe the basic assumption of biology in its current form makes the field myopic at best, and blinded at worst.
Currently, evolution is the shibboleth of biology. If you're not willing to talk-the-talk, or you feel uneasy with the idea, you just might switch to another field of study. As new discoveries are catalogued, the default setting in this field is to attribute them to evolution.
I'm with you: if we don't know how a system works, we shouldn't automatically say, "Welp, God did it" and walk off to find a new system to discover. But I think we disagree with this approach for different reasons. I don't know that you believe a God exists, and if no God exists, then it's irrational to attribute anything to Him. But for me, I disagree with this approach because it completely ignores the details. Simply attributing a process to God isn't the same as fleshing out the specifics of what, when, and *maybe* even how or why He did something.
I believe that God invented coagulation. But that wouldn't make me tune out a hematologist's description of the factors involved in the coagulation process. Instead, because I am convinced that this universe was created by a rational, reasoning, God (Jesus Christ to be specific), I love understanding the details of what He has created, and I believe a rational explanation is behind many of the physical phenomena that I see. Without the presupposition of God, I might despair that meaning was an illusion, and that reason and free will were only a simplistic and misguided interpretation.
So using the fact that God created something to stop studying it can be a tempting cop-out. But an equally tempting cop-out is to attribute all processes to evolution. The word "evolution" is not any more instrinsically scientific than the word "God." You take exception to Debrinski's suggestion that God was the instigator of the Cambrian explosion. Yet what if he had said, "The individual mechanisms of the Cambrian explosion are not yet known, but it is clear that each organism arrived by an evolutionary process"?
If a scientist doesn't know how the organisms sprung into existence, how is it any more scientific to attribute the appearance of the life forms to evolution, than to God?
Why do so many people cling to the idea of evolution, and hate the idea of a personal, creative God? Because evolution allows them to worship and absolutize something other than God. Humans, as one professor told me once, would be better described as "Homo adorens" -- "man the worshipper" -- than "Homo sapiens." We long to worship, and if we're not worshipping God, we'll find someone or something else to worship. One of the presuppositions of several evolutionary-based worldviews is that the supernatural -- therefore God -- does not exist. With Him out of the picture, we've regained our "freedom." I have heard a biophysics professor speak referentially of "evolutionary design." He went out of his way to use this phrase, and applied it to many of the systems that we studied. Whenever he said "evolutionary design," I realized how he utterly marveled at and reveled in design -- the design of evolution. He spoke of it will all the tenderness and awe that I might discuss the virgin birth. Why? Because each is key to our belief systems.
Why do I attribute the origin of this universe, and the design of each detail to God instead of to evolution? Here's my reasoning, with the setting on "panoramic." There are certain differences between a jerry-rigged system, and one carefully planned from blue-print to prototype to final product. (One invariably contains a higher percentage of ductape.) Evolution cannot explain the origin of matter, let alone information, let alone life, let alone finesse.
At the beginning of this, I mentioned named reactions. While organic chemistry offers this kudos to innovators, biologists have their own form of paying homage to Firsts in the field. That's why we learn about the islets of the inestimable Langerhans, and honor Broca and Wernicke whenever we study how the brain handles language. Of course, it wasn't that they made these structures, just that they discovered them. But it's time to get back to giving credit where credit is due. In addition to getting the right author's names on papers, and figuring out just who should be getting which Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, let's follow this tradition of recognizing innovators back, beyond the time when biological processes were first attributed to Darwin's god. Currently, we can only see what his presuppositions allow us to see. Before we accept someone else's pair of glasses, let's readjust our eyes to have an infinite focal length: What are the implications of our worldview? What or Who deserves ultimate homage, as the enabler of rational thought, and the source of all scientific inquiry? Death-loving evolution, or life-giving God? "Give to God what is God's, and to Caesar what is Caesar's." If my purpose here is to glorify God, I can start by rightly attributing the work of this Divine Craftsman.