Monday, May 28, 2007

Sad fact of the day

Before five minutes ago, the last time I checked my email was Thursday evening.

Here's the sad part: that's the longest I can ever remember going without checking my email.

The reason is that I have just moved and do not yet have internet at my new apartment.

Hopefully I will be connected soon! Though, it was sort of freeing. Perhaps I need to set aside a certain time of day to check email, maybe twice a day, and otherwise leave it alone, not be a slave to it. I could stop using Outlook, or at least leave it closed, so I don't get a little message every time I have an email.

Either way, whatever I decide to do, after I finish getting work done today, I won't be able to check my email until tomorrow. Isn't it great?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Today's lesson

You can accumulate a lot of crap in one year. This is particularly problematic for a pack rat who can never bring herself to throw anything out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My senators.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm registered to vote at the moment, Arizona or Texas. Thus, I will claim Senators from both states as my own until I figure it out. That makes this exchange between AZ Sen. John McCain and TX Sen. John Cornyn all the more delightful:

"[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room," shouted McCain at Cornyn. McCain helped craft a bill in 2006 that passed the Senate but couldn't be compromised with a House bill that was much tougher on illegal immigrants.

This is, apparently, a favorite saying of Republicans, at least while they are on the senate floor. Remember Dick Cheney's lovely "Go f*** yourself!" to Sen. Patrick Leahy a while back?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

my lovely lovely lovely horse*

Thanks to a lovely YouTube member, I have now watched every episode of Father Ted in existence. Granted, there are only 25 of them. But I still feel somewhat pathetic. I've probably seen them all before (after all, I have liked it for quite a while), but now I have watched them all in order. This may make me doubly pathetic.

* haha. I love My Lovely Horse, performed by Father Ted Crilly and Father Dougal McGuire.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

on debates, faith, science, and astronomy (aka a super long post)

If you haven't seen the debate on ABC about the existence of God, you should. Well, maybe you shouldn't, because it's not a very good debate. But it's certainly interesting to watch. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron decided to "prove" the existence of God scientifically, without reference to The Bible or to faith. They failed spectacularly. Not only was their logic lacking, but most of what they talked about was faith or the Bible. The atheists were right when they noted, in their first rebuttal, that the audience might as well go home because the debate was won, then and there.

Now, I am sympathetic. I believe in God. But throughout this debate I found myself rooting for the atheists. You cannot "prove" the existence of God. It is completely a matter of faith. It is simply not a scientific phenomena. To win this debate against Comfort and Cameron, I do not think you have to say that God doesn't exist. You just have to say that you cannot prove it. C&C's three main pieces of "evidence" were: 1) creation requires a creator, 2) the existence of conscience, and 3) personal conversion experiences.

First, the existence of a creation may require, logically, a creator of some sort (though, certainly, evolutionary processes can explain our and the earth's existence), but that goes nowhere in scientifically proving the existence of God. I hate hate hate when people use arguments like, "if the world were tilted a few inches to the left on its axis we'd all die, thus God perfectly positioned the world." That's idiotic. The very reason we exist in the form we do today is because we, as life forms, adapted to the environment in which we live. If the earth were differently tilted on its axis, a different form of life would exist today.

Second, C&C argue that because we have an "inborn" sense of right and wrong, that proves God's existence. In contrast to his stated objectives, they use the 10 Commandments as a source of these inborn morals. Well, they're taking this inborn sense for granted. I think the atheist debaters attacked this line of reasoning relatively well. How do we explain the fact that many people do not inculcate these morals, they don't take them up? People murder and commit adultery all the time. Much of our morality can be explained through socialization processes. We aren't born with the idea that we should obey our parents (commandment number 5). We learn. We get punished if we don't. One counterpoint that the atheist debaters didn't mention is the fact that morals are culturally variable; how do we explain that? Also, and the atheists did touch on this, note that the first 3 commandments have to do with worshiping Yaweh, the Jewish God. If these are our inborn senses of morality, how do we explain other religions?

The third plank in C&C's argument is that the ultimate proof of the existence of God can only come when you submit yourself to His* will and feel His change in your life. Well, for starters, this is not remotely scientific. However, the bigger argument against this is: most people in most faith traditions have significant conversion experiences and subsequent life transformations. Thus, this says nothing about the existence of a Christian God.**

Okay, so, here's the thing: I'm obviously a fan of faith. I think faith is important to our lives and to society. I'm not an idiot. I know bad, horrific things have been done in its name. But bad and horrific things have been done in the name of science as well. Neither faith nor science, I believe, is "better" than the other. Both serve vital purposes. Everyone has faith, atheist or not. Their faith may not be in a God, it may be in humanity, or something different. But it is impossible to compare the two, much less debate them.

As I watched this debate, I though of a post I wrote a while back, during the summer of 2005, during my slight fling with the sociology of knowledge of astronomy. I was reading a lot of books about the history of thought about the nature of the cosmos and it made me think a lot about the relationship between science and faith. Here is part of it:

I've been thinking alot about science and religion, faith and fact, and how they (ought to? should? do?) interact. We often try to make them fit together in a nice theory-of-everything. That's a western obsession of ours, trying to make all of our different knowledges and ways of knowing the world compatible.

The Bible tells us that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Science, on the other hand, is a weaving together of logic and empirical fact. Faith-based and fact-based views of the world are necessarily different, yet often in our society we try to make them fit together. They dont NEED to agree with each other in order to individually be valid and useful in their different purposes. The primary difference between faith-based views of the world and science is that science relies on empirical, or experiential and observable, evidence to support its claims while faith relies upon that which is inherently unknowable or observable. These two views of the world are mutually exclusive; you would not want science to answer questions about the meaning of life any more than you would expect religion to provide a satisfactory explanation for the phenomenon of gravity.

Empirical evidence requires facts. Facts are mutually agreed upon experiences that can be simultaneously observed or experienced in any place at any time by any number of people. The appearance of an angel to a person or group of persons cannot be described as a fact: the event cannot be experienced again by anyone at any time. To believe this requires an act of faith. Science, on the other hand, is completely shareable. If I say that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, this could be proven by anyone, anywhere.

Science also must be able to be disproved. Just as I cannot scientifically say that an angel appeared, neither can I say that an angel did not. The existence and appearance of angels, therefore, is not a matter in which science can concern itself. I can, however, prove that the Earth is not 10,000 years old by using carbon dating, or by counting rock layers. Because faith requires no evidence, it cannot be disproved. This is why science cannot answer the question of the existence of a God: it is ultimately and completely a question of faith, not one of fact.

Faith deals in absolute truths; the very nature of science does not allow it to deal with such issues. Science is about probabilities, the probability that a certain event will occur in the future given conditions and variables x, y, and z. Faith-based ways of knowing the world search for absolute truth and make absolute statements of Right and Wrong. Science cannot answer these questions, and we would not want it to.

Through history, people have always tried to make science and faith agree with one another, but often both suffer in the attempt. Pythagoras and others, when describing the universe, tried to make it conform to their faith-based views of the world. Their faith was tied up in the perfection of the universe, and thus the universe and everything in it was seen to be spherical or circular, the most perfect geometric form. When ideas about Beauty and Truth overshadowed ideas about science, the result was statements such as this by Plato: “This was the method I adopted: I first assumed some principle which I judged to be the strongest and then I affirmed as true whatever seemed to agree with this, whether relating to the cause or to anything else; and that which disagreed, I regarded as untrue."

To make his science fit his faith-based views of how the world ought to be, Plato and his students introduced the concept of retrograde, explaining away apparent irregularities in planets’ paths while retaining perfectly circular orbits. Claudius Ptolemy, in his observations of the universe, was also determined to make his ideas about perfect harmony and order in the universe conform to his observed data. As we can see, when empirical observations are interpreted through the lens of a faith-based view of the world, science cannot accurately describe the present or predict the future.

A major breakthrough was made in rescuing science from faith-based ways of knowing when German mathematician Johannes Kepler, after working with Tycho Brahe’s meticulous data and attempting to fit it into both the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the universe, decided to let the data simply speak for itself, finding that empirical facts simply did not fit with a faith-based view of the world that insisted on perfection and sphericity. Empirical facts were able to describe the shape of the universe more accurately than ever before; no longer was a certain view of the world and how it worked necessary to understand and accept the science: it became more universally shareable. No longer relying on faith-based ideals, theories could be disproved by empirical facts.

Yet we still try to make faith- and science-based views of the world agree with each other. Creationists try to find scientific evidence to support a 10,000 year-old Earth. The Archbishop of Canterbury sought out Einstein to ask how his theory of relatively would affect religion (his response: “None. Relativity is a purely scientific matter and has nothing to do with religion.”). We can see not only that these two different views of the world are designed for different tasks, but that when we try to make them agree we get perfectly circular orbits and impossibly young planets, both bad science and bad faith. Faith does not need evidence. Science can be shared and universally applied precisely because it can only be based on empirical facts.

*their language, not mine
**note that Ray and Kirk were not trying to prove the existence of a/any God, they were specifically trying to establish scientific proof for a Christian God, as evidenced by their use of personal testimony and the Bible.

To the toppermost of the poppermost!

I love The Beatles.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I hate Lord Voldemort.

In this case, I do not mean the Dark Lord. I mean my computer (no, not my computer Percy), whose name also happens to be Lord Voldemort. Turns out the name was well-earned.

Right now I am sitting in a computer lab finishing a paper that is due tomorrow because LV's power supply decided to break. It is covered under warranty, but I can't get a new one for seven days, so it's useless to take it in today. Perhaps I will tomorrow. Either way, I'm annoyed.

I had hoped that perhaps sitting in a lab would cut down on the procrastination and make me work and get this paper finished so I can get out of here.

I was wrong, as you can see by the very existance of this post.

Comet pride

I again find myself up at a ridiculous hour of the morning. And tomorrow I need to finish writing a paper. Ahh! Anyway, I was just watching CNN's American Morning, and they had a story about the Miami Dade College chess team, a team that has no coach and cannot afford the traditional blazers worn by collegiate chess players. Apparently, they recently placed in the Collegiate Chess Final Four and this is very special because they were able to hold their own with "the Harvards and Yales."

Now, I don't mean to diminish their accomplishment. Certainly, it's something for a team with little institutional resources to go as far as they did. And, from what I can tell from the CNN story, the players are all extraordinarily talented and determined.

What slightly annoyed me, though, is that it wasn't just Miami Dade community college who emerged as the scrappy underdog.* No, do you know who won the Collegiate Chess final four? That's right... UT-Dallas. They may not be a community college, and they may be able to get blazers for their team, but they certainly don't have the institutional prestige of "the Harvards and Yales."

We may not have a football team. People may look at me weird when I say I went to UTD and majored in sociology ("Isn't that a math and science school?"). Our mascot may be a comet named Temoc. Our colors may be a hideous green and orange. But, goshdarn it, we rock at chess.**

*Not that UTD is really an underdog. They've been brilliant at chess for quite a while now.
**I, myself, suck at chess, but am claiming UTD's assets as my own.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

On sucking at life: the lost day.

It is now a little after 5 in the morning. I need to go to bed. I have accomplished nothing today. I mean nothing. Not only have I done no work, but I have not done the cleaning I'd planned on. Nor did I do desperately needed laundry. I couldn't even shake my laziness enough to take a shower.

What exactly have I done today? It's sad that I can't remember. Well, I emailed some stuff that I needed to email. So that was productive. I went to the library to get some books. I also checked out a video of the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier. When I brought it home I remembered that I didn't have a working VCR. So much for that procrastination tool.

I sat down to do some work, but then I started watching this thing about dinosaurs on the Discovery Channel. The afternoon was pretty much lost. Then I tried to convince Travis that he needs to read, or at the very least, watch, Harry Potter. We decided that I would kidnap him this summer and take him to see the movie. Well, I decided this, and he insists that it is impossible and that it is highly unlikely that I will convince him. That remains to be seen.

Anyway, after a really long conversation about the proposed kidnapping and the relative merits of Harry Potter and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, I sat down to get to work, only to get distracted by Jason. It was a good distraction, don't get me wrong. I haven't talked to Jason in a while. But then I got incredibly sad about not going home this summer.

So, the only solution then was to watch hours of The Beatles music videos and videos about The Beatles on youtube. Obviously. Oh, and to make lists of books about The Beatles that I want to buy on Clearly.

This is where I find myself. I am about to go to sleep, and I'm telling myself that I'm waking up at 10:30. But I know that my alarms will go off and I will promptly disable them and sleep 'till 2 in the afternoon. I hope this isn't the case, but part of sucking at life is that you're pretty aware of your bad habits but are generally powerless to stop them.

Edit, 5:50am: So, I'm still watching interviews and videos on youtube. Apparently George never made up with John. Sad. I really am going to bed soon.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Procrastination, Part 24

Tonight I think I'm going to read some Edgar Allen Poe stories. I'm not in a particularly macabre mood. It's just that after reading that Mark Twain didn't like him, I feel that I probably will.

To wit: "To me his prose is unreadable—like Jane Austen's," he wrote in a January 18, 1909 letter to William Dean Howells.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

78 days left!

The Swan Princess.

This was totally one of my favorite movies. I haven't seen it in years. This was my favorite song.

It's called "This Is My Idea." In it, the King and Queen of two countries are trying to set up their children to get married and join the countries. You should watch it.

Speaking of royalty, the Queen is coming to the U.S.!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This is an ad for breast implants.

It's true. Via Stay Free magazine. I just realized that this is my 500th post on this blog. And it's about breast implants making you look smarter.