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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Science & Religion

I heard a radio program that disclosed the shocking fact that Darwin was religious. I read Harper's that 44% of Americans still believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old. I'd like to make a few observations.

Cosmology & Evolution Don't Matter

I just feel the need to point out that cosmology & evolution are really very esoteric studies that don't effect our lives. Did you know that based on the background radiation (which is equivalent to 4 degrees Rankine) the universe is 4.2 billion years old, while geologists using carbon dating put our planet at 4.5 billion years? No? Well, that's because it is just silly nonsense and isn't true. But, note that it wouldn't change your life or conflict your personal observation one bit if it was true.

These studies are not like denying global warming, or claiming vaccines cause autism, or thinking it will improve your son's behavior if you apply a shock to his head. They are also relatively speculative studies, particularly big bang beginning of the universe, multiple dimensions expanding out from a singularity stuff. So, I wish we would remember that in shaking our heads about how stupid the 44% of Americans are that have failed to memorize a particular set of facts about which most of us know nothing either.

Literalists Can Be Evolutionists

Look, you can believe in an infallible God who wrote every word in the Bible and that the intended meaning of every word written there is absolutely infallibly true and still accept evolution as the best explanation of the origin of species. How? Well, you would believe that the intention of the creation stories was not to provide a scientific explanation of how the world was created, but why the world was created. You would believe that God intended what I believe the ancient story tellers intended. I think whether these words were written by God or ancient Hebrews it is plain on the face of the stories that they are not scientific or historic. For one thing, it would be peculiar for God to write a story and give it to people to answer a question they would not ask for almost two-thousand years.

The only thing you can't believe, and still accept evolution is that the story that God (or the ancient Hebrews for that matter) wrote in the Bible is intended to explain how the universe was constructed. Here's the thing with that, though, regardless of evolution, if that was the intention of the author, the author failed! Remember this part:
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
This reflected the cosmology at the time of the ancient Hebrews, but it is wrong. There is no water above the expanse. There is space above the expanse. Also, there is not water under the dry land, there is rock and molten rock, and an iron core and so on.

So, the only way to find a conflict between the relatively speculative and esoteric modern scientific pursuits of cosmology & evolution and the creation stories in the Bible is to interpret the stories in the Bible in such a way that the stories are indisputably false. Forget about denying evolution. You have to believe that the expanse is holding back water. 44% of Americans do not believe that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm not an economist either . . .

A couple of starting points for me, in the interest of full disclosure.

First, I believe that our world is generally set up to favor those who make more money, and I believe that the amount of money we make is not based on things that I think are morally valuable, but on whether or not we are profitable.

Second, over the last thirty years, we have maintained our top tax bracket at historically low levels. Our decaying infrastructure is clearly a product of that, as is our soaring national debt.

So, for these reasons, I believe we should raise the top tax bracket. I don't know if we have to raise to European/pre-Reaganomics levels. But it should be higher. I also believe the negative effect lower marginal tax rates have on job creation provides a third reason. Lower marginal tax rates concentrates wealth at the point of lowest potential energy. The "top" of our economic structure is the point where money is least likely to move. As I've demonstrated before, this theory is born out over job creation numbers for almost the last 100 years.



See, how the guys who championed lower taxes, Reagan & Bush had worse job creation that Clinton and Carter. But lets also look at the two most recent recession. In 1990 Bush I then Clinton raised taxes, pissing a lot of people off. In 2001 Bush II lowered taxes while waging war, pissing a long of different people off. But look at the recession recovery.


Pretty impressive difference, right? BTW, this graph is the most mitigated way to show our current situation. Notice how our joblessness seems to be picking up steam. This is serious business, and those who want to play games with holding on to broken ideology really need to ask why they are so sure tax cuts without infrastructure spending is the way to go. [That would be Rush Limbaugh and 36 of 41 Republican Senators.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hinduism

Having recently finished the chapter in Huston Smith’s World Religions on Hinduism, I thought I’d share some observations. Hinduism seems like a great place start a book on world religion because Hinduism may be able to house all other religions. For example, there is a pursuit of liberation within Hinduism that focuses on loving and admiring God and therefore loving others. This love gives rise to acts of goodness. Sound familiar? Likewise, there are raja yogas that seem to pursue liberation in the fashion that I typically associate with Buddhism.

The most striking thing about Hinduism for me is that one is instructed to fulfill ones desires. Those desires have a definite order: pleasure, success, service, liberation. But the pursuit is the end not the means. Even though liberation (connecting to the infinite life, truth, and beauty thus being liberated from the finite world) sounds a lot like salvation or enlightenment, I think the purpose is different. Buddha was telling folks how to avoid suffering (I think) and Jesus was telling people how to avoid sinfulness (don’t cringe, sinfulness just means missing the mark).

Monday, February 09, 2009

Politics, Society and Happiness

So, here are the conclusions of three studies. Conservatives are more happy than liberals because conservatives can rationalize inequality better. Conservatives are more charitable than liberals. Children today are less happy because they are more selfish. From the last one:
Asked what had caused this selfish culture to develop in Britain, Lord Layard, the Labour peer who wrote the final report, replied: "You have a decline in religious belief and a decline in what you may call socialism, that kind of social solidarity which was quite strong in the first half of the 20th century."
So, here is what I think. It is really unfortunate that the church is failing to reach left-leaning people. Faith aids in developing one's spiritual character such that one can be charitable and empathetic without losing oneself in despair. I think it is unfortunate that some many conservative Christians have chosen to ignore Christ's message of justice. Even suggesting that Christians should not work to end poverty. I think greed based politics is not good for any segment of society, including our kids.

I guess I'm saying everyone would be happier if they were religious people who practiced personal charity and supported economic justice. You know, if they were progressive Christians who had not lost their prophetic voice.