Archive for October, 2007

h1

Save the Darwinian Cheerleader, Save the World

October 31, 2007

I’m convinced that Darwinians (those who hold to Darwin’s version of the Origin of Man and Natural Selection) are trying to find an altar to worship at. Or, failing that, at least a mythology to call their own.

Two recent pieces of entertainment convince me that even the Darwinians feel that people will leave their fold if they don’t have a good story to tell. Hence the appearance of: “Heroes” (the television series) and “Darwin’s Radio” (the book series).

Both of these series try and do something not attempted before. If Natural Selection is correct, then mankind should still be evolving into a higher and more adaptive life form. Both Heroes and Darwin’s Radio theorize on what that higher life form will look like. “Darwin’s Radio” is more scientific (wow, is it ever) in approach, while “Heroes” paints a better myth. If you haven’t taken in either, let me summarize very quickly.

“Heroes” is a show about a group of seemingly ordinary people (a nurse, painter, japanese businessman, cheerleader, politician, watchmaker, porn actress, policeman, waitress) who each possess one quality that goes beyond human abilities (flying, seeing the future, traveling through time and space, ability to heal themselves etc). The story winds among them as they try and stop events that may end the human race. It is explained that they are the next stage in evolution.

“Darwin’s Radio” and its sequel “Darwin’s Children” are about babies born after a worldwide epidemic of pregnancies gone wrong. These new children are thought to have a virus that can wipe out humanity and new government agencies (similar to Homeland Security…yes, there are tons of politics in these books) are formed to wipe all these children out. But somehow a few of the children survive. They are also the next stage in evolution. The children can communicate in extraordinary ways with each other, can think better than most and have other almost unexplained abilities.

So why are Darwinians doing this? It is because their theory cannot be proved and it cannot be validated. All we can do is take the world as it is and suppose that natural selection is how it worked. We can’t prove it because we can’t observe a process that is supposed to take thousands of years at even minor evolutionary adaptations. Since the Scientific method has only existed for a small portion of that time, no one will ever live long enough to observe the evolutionary process. People who believe in it have to take the current situation and on faith believe in the process. Much the same way as Christians have to believe in the origin of man from God’s power.

So, in order to help people see the possibilities of evolutionary selection, “Heroes” and “Darwin’s Radio” have sped up the process so we can see it. The fact that it could never speed up this quickly if Natural Selection is completely random (meaning there is no Designer behind it) is not explained by either genre. The fact that all current evidence suggests that man’s genetic code is deteriorating through its mutations, instead of evolving, is almost ignored. There is some evidence in the books and the television show that some early mutations were flawed. But it is amazing how the writers of both series wants evolution to work so badly they ignore the basic tenet of their belief system: It must take millions of years for each stage of Natural Selection to occur. It cannot happen any other way in their system.

In “Heroes”, the super-evolved beings are told that if they save the Cheerleader (an archetype I suppose) they will save the world. I think it is Darwin’s Cheerleaders that need saving. They are obviously losing their way in their own mythology.

h1

Advantages of Sleep (Again)

October 23, 2007

I have posted many articles on this blog about sleep. It is my favorite diversionary topic and hence I return to it once again.

I (and many others) have theorized that during many stages of sleep, the soul goes into times of rest and the spirit of man takes over and leads the show. The spirit of man is that part of us that exists in the spirit realm and has direct communication with the Spirit of God (if we are a believer). This probably is true during that stage of sleep called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep because it is during that part of sleep that we dream. It is during dreams that God often spoke to people in the Bible. He also does so today. It is also during dreams that we are made aware of our own fears, insecurities, anger, lust, envy and feelings of being attacked. Since we are not cognitively initiating this, it must be our spirit man doing it.

The soul is a collection of functions and those functions can be so tiresome that the soul more than any other part of us needs a long period of dormancy every day. One of those functions is memory. Here is an interesting article from the NY Times on memory and sleep. During the article, the author says this :

Now, a small group of neuroscientists is arguing that at least one vital function of sleep is bound up with learning and memory. A cascade of new findings, in animals and humans, suggest that sleep plays a critical role in flagging and storing important memories, both intellectual and physical, and perhaps in seeing subtle connections that were invisible during waking — a new way to solve a math or Easter egg problem, even an unseen pattern causing stress in a marriage.

The theory is controversial, and some scientists insist that it’s still far from clear whether the sleeping brain can do anything with memories that the waking brain doesn’t also do, in moments of quiet contemplation.

Yet the new research underscores a vast transformation in the way scientists have come to understand the sleeping brain. Once seen as a blank screen, a metaphor for death, it has emerged as an active, purposeful machine, a secretive intelligence that comes out at night to play — and to work — during periods of dreaming and during the netherworld chasms known as deep sleep.

The article goes on to show that memory improves but is also augmented with deeper understanding as we sleep. To me, this simply underscores that there is much more to us than just our souls. And when we sleep, that other part of our unseen being, the spirit man, is brought to life and shows its colors.

h1

Failure?!

October 13, 2007

I was driving to the airport this afternoon, and a old dear friend of mine in the car was sharing his latest thoughts on the human condition. He has been noticing how many people of our age group (let’s just say somewhere between 40 and 60…yeah, the dreaded baby boomer) are constantly struggling with the fear of failure. Our generation can’t seem to get enough of the cocktail combination of fear, failure and a sense of uselessness. Though we have sought to accomplish more than any other generation in history, the sense of accomplishment seems to have been robbed from us. How did this happen?

At the same time, I just concluded a week teaching a group of twenty-something-age Christians (a group I would love to adopt and bring home with me btw), and I noticed this element missing among them: Though they probably haven’t achieved any more of their life goals than their parents, they really don’t have as much fear of failure as mom and dad. How did this happen?

As Andy and I talked, it occurred to me that the answer might be found a generation further back. The “Builder” generation refers to those people who survived the Great Depression and World War 2. At the conclusion of that time period, the Builders finally felt they had weathered all the disasters and started to have children at a record pace. In fact, 1957 marked the very heart of this Breeding Frenzy, a milestone marked by the veritable explosion of 50th birthday parties this year. More people were born in ’57 than any other year in the history of the human race. The Baby Boom experience was a much different feel than the depressing and murderous years that preceeded it. So with the increased optimism of the Boom, why do the Boomers fear failing?

I believe it is a combination of two elements. First, the Builders themselves did not emerge from the Depression unscathed. Many of them adopted a mindset that centers on fear. As I have talked with many Builders, I hear a repetitive attitude that shows they fear the return of the poverty and violence that epitomized the 30s and 40s. This fear caused the Builders to work extra hard and to fear anything which might usher in disaster. This made the “Cold War” especially difficult for them. As a result, they are a careful, cautious and paranoid generation. But hard work often tempers those things and so they remain unphased by their bondage to this fear of poverty.

Not so with their kids. The Boomers grew up with a veritable song of fear playing in their ears. The Builder parents did not want their kids to slack off or to be victims of the atrocities they had to face. So to help them, they constantly spoke of the consequences of not working hard, of not achieving, of not doing more than their parents did. If the parents did not graduate from High School, that was a must for their kids. If the Builders had no college, the kids had to go. If the Builders were Blue Collar, the kids had to strive to achieve whitecollardom. How many of us were driven forward with the warning, “Do you want to dig ditches for a living?”

Try using that as a threat today. I think it would be fun to operate a backhoe.

It’s strange. My wife and I are both professionals whereas none of our four parents were (though my dad did finally finish his engineering degree later in life before he died). But as I look at our kids, I see a strange metamorphosis. One wants to go into business; one wants to be a policeman; one is content to be a housewife; the last is currently hanging drywall and loving it. These are mostly jobs that our parents wanted us to avoid.

The Builder generation left fear as a legacy to their children. The Boomers took up that fear like a baton in a relay race and unfortunately did not temper it with hard work. Fear of disaster and poverty, without the modifying factor of hard work, is a breeding ground for the constant fear of failure.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, it says that God will visit the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. It is an inaccurate translation to say that he “punishes” to the third and fourth generation. What the Hebrew words are saying is that it takes God three or four generations to get rid of certain sins from a family or a culture. If you have seen alcoholism, child abuse, rage or any other familial problems running through your family, you know it takes awhile for the work of God to touch a new generation. Many times it takes several generations to rid a family of a sin.

In terms of our culture, God is working through the emerging generations to get rid of this constant focus on failure. The reason for this is simple. Failure really doesn’t exist. It is an illusion, a shadow of the reality. Guilt exists. Pain exists. Broken dreams and sin exist. But failure is a hopelessness that settles in after these things. Failure is a lie that says no good thing can emerge after our goals are not accomplished. The opposite is actually true. God can turn any mistake into a positive thing. We can learn from mistakes and grow. But the fear of failure is that we will be stuck at that place forever.

I observe the generation from age 15-30 seem more willing to learn from mistakes without the misguided belief that they are now doomed to disaster and poverty when they don’t immediately meet their goals. May your tribe increase.

h1

Fly in the Urinal – A Life Lesson

October 4, 2007

Some parables are more graphic than others. This may be one of them.

Janitors cleaning restrooms in Amsterdam were complaining with each other in a bar one night, griping about the notoriously bad aim of Dutch men when using urinals. (Personally, I think it has something to do with legalized Pot in Amsterdam, but I digress). A researcher, overhearing this fascinating conversation, decided to do some research into the subject. He called several manufacturers of urinals and asked them why they designed their receptacles in their current shape. Supposedly, they answered that this shape is supposed to reduce the amount of spray that leaks over the side. The bowl shape is supposed to make it easier for men to aim and hit the mark.

Obviously that theory doesn’t hold as much water as the experts thought it would.

So this researcher asked them if there was a “sweet spot” in the urinal that would make spray a thing of the past. Indeed, there was and they identified it for him. He went to a manufacturer of urinals and asked if they would do an experiment. Would they put a target in the urinal for men to fire at. The company agreed, and the researcher also got a hold of the janitors from the pub to see if they could arrange for these special urinals to be used in their buildings.

After making the necessary changes, they measured the degree of spray compared to the same buildings before the change. There was a noticeable difference. But the improvement was not enough to warrant the massive expense of replacing urinals city-wide. Something had to be done to improve men’s aim further. No one knows who suggested it, but someone put forward the idea of painting a fly on the “sweet spot” of the urinal and then see if men aimed at it.

The “fly urinals” were tried out in the same buildings. Several more companies were now interested in the results. The testing on the surrounding area was done every day for over a month. The results shocked everyone. The floor and walls around these urinals were as clean as the floor in a hospital. They had achieved urinal perfection.

So what can we learn from this? Most of the goals we set in life are too unfocused, too vague and too unchallenging. Someone getting a college degree only thinks vaguely about their future job. Someone raising a baby hopes that child will grow up healthy. A husband only thinks in general terms about how his wife feels about him, and does very little to affect that.

In order to make the kind of changes we all want to see, we have to focus as clearly as we can on the target and then give ourselves incentive for achieving them. First, it helps to have an admirable goal. As a believer in God, I think that God helps me set the goals I need to obtain. His Spirit within me helps to refine those goals to my peculiar life.

For instance: I want to see the people I live with on my block come to my church. But that goal is too vague. How can I achieve that? I can preach to them, but I doubt that works very well any more. I can pay them to come, but I know that sends the wrong message. So my goal these days is to spend more time walking around the neighborhood. When I spot a neighbor, I ask God what he wants me to achieve with them that day. Recently, one of my neighbors was out cleaning his new Harley Davidson motorcycle. I was going out to get the mail, so when I spotted him, I asked God what I should talk about. “Ask him about the bike and keep asking until he gets tired of talking about it”.

That was not a short conversation.

We went everywhere from the origins of the company (this was a 100th Anniversary bike) to all the bikes he has every owned, to the glories of Sturgis, South Dakota. After a half hour, he half apologized: “Look at me go on and on” he said. “you must be bored to tears.” “Not at all” I said. And I wasn’t. I was fascinated about what obviously had caused this man joy for years. In just a few minutes, he has asked me what I did for a living. I went down the list of my roles and he didn’t flinch at all when I said “Pastor”. We then talked about his church background. Then we found out our daughters had attended the same school (We later learned they knew each other).
I have a new friend and we have decided to do some things together. If I hadn’t aimed at this mark, I might still be wandering the neighborhood aimlessly.

Nowadays, only my dog gets to spray indiscriminately.

h1

Is There Anything to Learn from "The Secret"?

October 2, 2007

The old adage says, “Nothing is all bad. Even a clock that stops is correct twice a day”. I agree; nothing is all bad. We can learn from just about anything, even disasters that make us wince and wretch can show us patterns that teach. This is also true of this book, “The Secret”. I have laid out how I feel this book is both logically and theologically full of nonsense. I have also made clear that this is not a new teaching, nor is it helpful.

But it has sold millions of copies. And there has to be a reason for that beyond the snake-oil-buying-natural-gullibility of the general public. In fact, there are four reasons this book tops many best-seller lists.

1. We all want to believe that we have a hand in our destiny. What the Secret really appeals to is a yearning in all of us to manipulate the seemingly out-of-control forces arrayed against us. All people want to believe that on some level they can tell the future to fall in line with our desires and expectations. And even though The Secret’s methods of controlling fate seem slippery and almost impossible (for instance, who can hold onto a positive thought indefinitely without wavering), the idea that there is a way to be in charge of your own life is comforting to most people.

2. We all want more power and authority than we really have. This is the grand appeal of such things as American Idol voting, ordering a car from the factory and Starbucks: They all offer a chance at being in charge of something. The Secret lays out a scheme to take charge of a lot of things, least of which is our finances and health. In the larger picture, The Secret hints that all of life could change because of something one person might believe. No one wants to go through life believing they are insignificant or irrelevant. If Christianity did a better job at calling people to Intercessory Prayer, Mercy Ministries and Community Involvement opportunities, The Secret would fall well behind what God could offer. God wants us to make our Maximum Impact for God (MIFG), but we often relegate each other to a passive observer role. The Secret lets everyone be in charge of how much or how little we want to change this world.

3. We are all selfish and it is much easier to place that selfishness in a more positive light than to feel bad about it. This is why people like Susan Block and her Ethical Hedonism are also so popular. If you redefine sin as something positive, people won’t feel so guilty trying it. Of course The Secret is popular: It legitimizes self-absorption and calls it blessed.

4. We want to believe again. Believing means we don’t have everything figured out and are willing to suspend disbelief for a season. Faith is not irrational as it is hyperrational. We see that this complex world is beyond understanding (for more on this, see the teachings of Complexity Theory), and therefore no one can map out the future with any clarity. When Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock in the 7os, everyone thought he was a genius for the short-term vision he had. But his next book, “The Third Wave” completely counts computers as irrelevant for the future. People are tired of figuring everything out. They want to believe in something, even if that something is as nebulous as “The Universe”. When asked what he was looking for in his journeys around the galaxy, Arthur Dent (hero of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) says “You know. What we all want. The answer”. The answer to what? “You know, the answer to Life, the Universe, Everything”. The Secret lays that out for us. It’s weakness is that it does such a poor job.

%d bloggers like this: