Putting God In Charge of All Intellectual Pursuits

Our individual lives are a tiny fragment of all time.  Yet God gave us a mind to learn, reason, analyze, and create.  We must therefore come to terms with certain areas of our transient lifetime, and let our intellect follow suit.

1.  Unlike God, knowledge always changes.

Consider great minds like Newton, Descartes, Franklin, Jefferson, Pasteur, Einstein, and sundry others.  Some were Christians, some were not, the important thing to remember is that we have moved far beyond the potential of their time.  Yet they never got to see this later activity and development.  Not to get too morbid, but all people should consider what they have achieved and leave the achievement of future generations to God.  In the case of Christians, we could care less what happens on earth once we enter and eternally enjoy the overwhelming and magnificent heavenly fellowship with God and his people.  That’s at least how I see it.

For practical consideration on this earth today, we must accept the fact that we will never know everything.  As a budding scientist (and most likely a biologist of some sort), I understand that people in my bunch may make discoveries (or at least participate in such activity), but those discoveries always change.  A college textbook used when one is say, age 20, will be a dinosaur (no pun intended) when one is 50.  Yet people aren’t chasing after newer editions.  Instead, they keep up to date with scholarly periodicals focused on their field.  While some people love holding onto their textbooks, others would rather limit it to those books that are relevant as a reference, especially in the courses most pertinent to your current job.  The rest might as well be rubbish.

2.  Only God is omniscient and only He knows the “exact truth”

Earthly information is not only subject to change, it is also really only a shadow of the exact truth.  Whether antiquated or cutting-edge, all human knowledge is fallible.  Even the Bible, God’s Word, is subject to interpretation.  (This causes splits in churches, but that’s for another post.)  In any case, what is quite commonsense today was highly arcane at one time.  Newton was quite intrigued by the falling apple, which we now know as the law of gravity, which is now a mere staple (unless you wanted to study it in detail).  Same thing with living cells (the name came from the resemblance to a prison “cell”).  And let’s not forget Franklin’s kite, which could have put his life in jeopardy.  Copernicus and Galileo were the first heliocentric proponents, yet they got some pretty nasty treatment from the Inquisition, etc.

Whatever it is, science is an interpretation.  Hypotheses and theories change over time, and they are the backbone of science.  Another type of scientific statement, the law, is a more stable, observational principle, e.g., Newton’s three laws.  Even they could occasionally be modified.

Conclusion

All human endeavors (including science and many others) are imperfect.  Thanks to Jesus, we now enjoy the freedom of exploring our world, sometimes to a scientific extent.  And that includes people like me.  As Thomas Aquinas put it, if faith or reason need to be chosen, pick faith.  There is nothing wrong with reason, but it is always secondary to faith.  God created our minds, not vice versa.

Because knowledge is a creation of the Creator, it should never be worshiped.  It may very well be fruitful to detach from books that it would be time to move on from, as you have learned many of the main principles, though perhaps not all the details, and certainly not verbatim (hardly anyone can do that!)  I think God is in action when “pruning” the knowledge that is not needed.

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Western Geology and Eastern Meteorology

Don’t get me wrong, both earth sciences are important on both coasts.  Weather is everywhere, and earth is our planet.  But the effects of these areas of knowledge are more profound on their respective sides of the United States.

My point is the majority of geological disasters (as well as benefits, whether practical or aesthetic) happen on the west side of the country.  And because of the 1959 ratification of Alaska and Hawaii as states, that adds to the picture.

A prime example is the state of California.  Pros of living out there (concerning geology) are its beautiful structures, from mountains (i.e., Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada), to the coast itself.  A notorious con is, of course, earthquakes, due to the San Andreas Fault.

The Pacific Northwest (i.e., the states of Washington and Oregon), extreme northern California, and the Canadian province of British Columbia also hold a grand mountain range, the Cascades.  This is where things get nasty, however, namely, concerning volcanoes.  If you are old enough to remember 1980’s Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington state, you will understand what I mean.  There are other Cascade volcanoes as well.  I hope to discuss in a later post in more detail about how volcanoes work, as well as other geological phenomena.  For now, as a sneak peek, I will at least mention that Hawaiian volcanoes are a little safer.

And further inland, we all know about all the major spectacles, like the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, and many others.  Ditto for Alaska and much of Canada, which are not only sublime sights, but Canada may provide oil and natural gas, to help our economy divert from imports from Middle Eastern lands.  But that’s politics, so let’s not go there)

Now on to the east.  As an east coast dweller (Pennsylvania) myself, we worry more about hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods.  (And maybe the very occasional tornado).  While many of these ills are of an issue on the southeastern portion of the east coast (as well as the states by the Gulf of Mexico), in rare instances, like 2012’s “Superstorm Sandy,” a strange type of hurricane, portions of the northeastern end (mostly the states of New York and New Jersey) was quite severely traumatized.

But the east is not devoid of geologic structures!  The Appalachians (another splendid region) are probably the best example.  Pennsylvania (and probably other states) has some iffiness on “fracking” (namely, shale fracturing).  The dilemma in this case is either clean water, or more and/or better energy.  Again, though let’s stay away from politics!

Perhaps the heartland gives the best of both worlds.  The Great Plains in the Midwestern Untied States, often known as Tornado Alley, was intended as the path for the Keystone XL pipeline designed to capitalize on American and Canadian fossil fuels.  And obviously, it is a tornado risk area.  The Gulf of Mexico, also an oil source, is also hurricane prone.  (Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005?  Most locals would rather repress it.)

So while both sides of our great country involve both branches of earth science, geology seems more dominant out west and meteorology in the east.  I’ll be sure to update you as I read things on the subject!

Hey, this stuff may make a good hobby later on.

My Ultimate Collegiate Evangelistic Effort

Today in history class, as it comes to a close, we discussed one of my (and my professor’s) favorite topics:  the Protestant Reformation.

We started our discussion with the late medieval economy in Europe, which prohibited usury (interest on loans) and demanded a “just” (fair) price on goods sold.  While it may seem thrifty, it may have not been good for society and the economy at large.

Thanks to the 15th-century printing press invention by the German Johann Gutenberg, Martin Luther, another German who would soon come to present the “95 Theses” against Catholic leaders concerning indulgences, which were monies (a bribe of sorts) intended to reduce time in purgatory, the temporal destiny for the majority of people before admission into heaven.  In order for that to be possible, a repentant sinner had to be absolved by the priest (or more technically, by God through the priest).  But the work wasn’t complete.  While they would not fear hell, they would not have direct access to heaven either.

Luther read the Bible for himself, and translated it into German, so the general public could read it.  He believed that you were justified (saved) by faith alone, not by faith and works.  “Works” did not only include mundane obedience but also participation in the church (which was an imperative “middleman” in order to receive grace through the sacraments), and other practices.  For the Catholic, without the sacraments, there was no salvation.  This new wave of Christians, the Protestants, however, believed that believers had a direct connection to God; this is known as the “priesthood of all believers.”

These first Protestants, the “Lutherans,” soon faced competition.  John Calvin, born in France (a chiefly Catholic country), was persecuted for his beliefs and moved to Geneva, Switzerland.  According to Calvin, becoming saved was not the issue (since it was already predestined), it was a matter of continuing to honor God through faith (that yields good works, see James 2 in Scripture for details).  Part of this was one’s career, which was a divine “calling” and some people (like the early 20th-century German sociologist Max Weber) claimed Calvinists (as they are called) were assured of this calling by their income.  This issue is disputed, but Calvinism was a very popular branch of Protestantism, reflected in the Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian (an originally Scottish branch, btw), and the Pilgrims and Puritans of England that emigrated to the New World.  And yes, Calvinists were often viewed as one tough bunch.

There are tons of other subdivisions of Protestantism, but my point is that this gave me one of the best opportunities to witness in class.  Salvation is the Lord’s work, remember, so we cannot actually “save” people.  However, when you leave your mark, in God’s timing, I personally believe that God will save whom he wills.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a Calvinist myself (Presbyterian).  Like history itself, history class is obviously repeating itself.

My Rant Against Summer

Well, readers, we’ve made it to the summer solstice of 2016.

In my opinion, summer is overrated.  Most people love summer and for many it is their favorite season.  It poses like a time not only separated from the rest of the year (as in schools and television), but the most celebrated of the four seasons.  But summer zips by, since as we all know, as right after you enter, September is knocking on your door.  Yep, the hype sure isn’t worth it.

Summer 3D Text on Sand HD Wallpaper

And alas, many students have to spend the latter end of summer (i.e., late August) in class.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy school, and that’s the whole concept of this post.  But they shouldn’t be subjected to oppressive heat before their time.

Have people lost the aesthetic sense for spring and fall?  In the spring flowers are king; in autumn, leaves rule.  And while winter may be a brutal cousin to summer, there is still beauty therein, especially in the snowfall and the deep vistas that are somewhat hindered by the obstruction appropriate to spring, summer, or autumn.

Many senior citizens move to Florida after retirement.  While their winter is mild, summer is scorching.  I feel sorry for them and how unbearable the heat is in summer.  Thus, I don’t see how that is wise.  But hey, they’re the ones who make that choice.  It is what it is.

So summer, like the other three seasons, is here to stay.  The only major thing I like about summer is the potential for various enjoyable activities appropriate for the season.  So as we pass through the rest of June, July, and August, given the fact it doesn’t last, get the most out of it.

Again, summer is what it is, one among the four seasons, not above them.

Ramadan, VCR Connection, and Vision

Many of my Muslim readers, now in the throes of Ramadan, their holiest month when eating is prohibited daily from dawn to dusk, are probably really bent out of shape.  Their main test of when to cease eating each morning is by distinguishing a white thread from a black one.

As for me, one evening, had a similar battle when hooking up a digital-to-analog converter (using red-yellow-white A/V cable) to a VHS VCR, in turn to a analog TV.  The portion with the yellow plug is for video, that with the white plug is for audio.  The red plug, also for audio, was here irrelevant due to the monaural nature of this VCR (it would typically be used for stereo purposes).  So anyway, due to the A/V inputs (and outputs) being in a deep nook in the rear face of the VCR, without enough illumination, the yellow and white jacks were hardly distinguishable.

For this situation and the Ramadan test above, the same phenomenon is at play here.  Colors cannot be distinguished until light is bright enough.  Until that threshold is reached, the retinal rod cells all act the same way (though differently with different colors, I assume these are different shades of gray).  But with enough light, yellow and white are distinguishable, and ditto for the daily Ramadan thread test.

Hmm…maybe I should use a flashlight next time.  As for the early-morning “thread test” and the all-day fast throughout Ramadan, that makes me glad (personally at least) that I’m not a Muslim!

Totally 90s (of Life)

The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty” – Ps. 90:10

What do Bob Barker,  Queen Elizabeth II, former “People’s Court” Judge Joseph Wapner, Betty White, Zsa Zsa Gabor, “Jeopardy!” announcer Johnny Gilbert, original “Let’s Make a Deal” host Monty Hall, Billy Graham, former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, and a host of others, both celebrities and “average Joes,” have in common?

They’re all in their 90s!

Of course, some recent deaths were of nonagenarians (fancy word for “90-something”), one of which was Andy Rooney, the humorous commentator at the end of “60 Minutes.”  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who just turned 90, is the longest British monarch ever on the throne, recently beating the (in)famous Queen Victoria of the 1800s.

While the Scripture above is a generalization (especially being a Psalm verse), in its context, it still holds true today, at least for most people.  Most senior citizen deaths tend to be in the 70s or 80s, but thanks to medical advances, many people are crossing their 90th birthday.  (Comedian George Burns turned 100 in 1996, but soon died.)  Zsa Zsa Gabor may likewise have the same triple-digit experience if she reaches 100 next year.  Many 10-year-olds are uneasy about double digits, but triple digits?  Now that’s quite a feat! (Of sorts)

A lot of Scriptures promise long life to those who believe in and obey God, but even atheists like the late Andy Rooney, enjoyed a long life.  So that’s a matter, perhaps to be discussed another time, that is very strange.  I’ll have to investigate that.  But again, God alone is the sovereign judge, so we have no business questioning Him.  (At least in that case; science is a form of that in some ways, but that’s beside the point)

Of course, very old age like that can be both a blessing and/or a curse (depending on your opinion).  While God might be blessing us with years with our fellow people we know and love, He is also delaying the glory a Christian will have with God and His people in heaven.  And as we continue as earthlings, life only gets harder, due to the sundry troubles of aging and our responsibility to take care of ourselves to keep us healthy and able for as long as possible.  But in the end (at least optimally), only God should take a life.  And apparently, many senior citizens still enjoy their lives, despite all the aches and pains.

At 28, I should appreciate and enjoy these latter days of my 20s (which, as the first and most youthful decade of adulthood, is often viewed by the public as the best, and indeed is physically.)  But again subsequent decades, like the thirties, forties, and even fifties, can be viewed just as “prime” as the twenties, in their own ways.

And I’m already on my way!  For example, I feel quite convinced of a receding hairline.  So my whole aging process is dawning, but again, you’re only as young as you feel!

My great-grandmother (anonymous) died at 97. She had great-great grandchildren as well.  And as the quote says by “reason of strength,” good bodily upkeep is paramount in living a long life.  But no matter its “actual” length, life is still short, and the biological clock keeps ticking.  Make the most of everyday, because you’re not promised tomorrow.

And yes, Monty Hall, a living nonagenarian mentioned above, also hosted a short-lived incarnation of the US game show “Beat the Clock” in the 1979-80 season.  The biological clock though, is beyond our control to “beat!”

Seeing God’s Wonders in Scientific Details

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction
— Prov 1:7, ESV

Right now I am reading an article (obtained from the online Britannica subscription service accessed through Community College of Philadelphia, where I currently attend) about the invertebrate phylum known as annelids, or segmented worms.  I have learned tons of neat facts about these critters, but for the sake of space (and relevance to the real point of this post), I will only mention a few very striking ones.

-Leeches, a class of annelids, known for their “medicinal” species used in centuries past by sucking blood, actually can be a source of a “real” (i.e., chemical) medicine!  Known as hirudin, it is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that might be a better natural alternative to popular prescription blood thinners like Xarelto and Pradaxa (claimed to cause serious risk, including that of death).  Maybe this natural remedy could be better, but since I’m not a medical doctor, who am I to compare?  But hey, it sure is practical and thought-provoking!

-Some “sedentary” members of a class of annelids known as polychaetes actually make tubes into the ocean floor.  Their skin secretes a substance, which may include components such as mucus and calcium carbonate (known in various common forms such as limestone, marble, and chalk), which binds to marine sediment.  Wow, this is a marriage of the inanimate with the animate!  (I now pronounce it tube and worm.)

-Wait!  You may think a “defecation dilemma” may result from this since the anus is trapped in the tube.  Guess what, no problem, a side groove is the way for the feces to be expelled into the waters.

-Finally, earthworms have minute, perhaps microscopic, eyes all over their body.  Yikes!

So much for the annelids.  Now, reflecting on the Scriptural heading, you really don’t know anything unless you know God.  If you fear God (i.e., worship and have awe for him, out of love, not terror), you will gradually increase in your intimacy with Him.  After all, God created nature, and science is simply its interpretation.  Science is to nature as theology is to Scripture.

Many readers think many substantial detail in scientific discussions can be overwhelming, trivial, technical, unnecessary, whatever.  Or as the old cliché goes, they could be “gory.”  (Quite a strong word, isn’t it?)  While I am by no means pushing memorization of the entire material (very few people have truly photographic memories, and I doubt, IMHO, I would even qualify).  But they shape a piece of writing (fact or fiction), and give substance to it.  And when detailed to a substantial (though often not excessive) degree, instead of dismissing the ins-and-outs, an interested reader should appreciate God’s creative power therein, to the best of his ability.  One’s awe and recognition for God will increase, regardless of the information’s practicality, or lack thereof.

Yes, atheist Stephen Hawking can go on and on about his knowledge and insights on astrophysics, but he (most likely) may just be hoarding knowledge to impress.  Or some other motive.  But as a fellow human, it’s not my prerogative to judge him.  Only God knows his motives.  Ditto for secular scientists dead and alive, like Darwin, Haeckel, Svante Arrhenius, Linus Pauling, Ernst Mayr, Richard Dawkins, the list goes on and on.

Incidentally, as for the second part of my verse, atheists, according to the Bible, are cited as “fools” (Ps 14:1).  Fools would rather act as “know-it-alls.”  Whether instructed directly by another person, or indirectly from written material (which can often be posthumous!), a believer will appreciate it more than an unbeliever.

So, no matter what your brain capacity or “tolerance” for details in a written work, make the most out of those that you can.  Always jump “in and out” of whatever you read!