Saturday, October 22, 2005

Evolution: Monkey See, Monkey Doo-doo

Rainy afternoon. No golf today. So, I may as well vent my spleen electronically. And, why not on the Intelligent Design - Evolution controversy that is currently all the rage. I'll leave the former topic until later and restrict myself to discussing things simian. I have to say at the outset that, as with most subjects I expound upon, I have virtually no qualifications to offer a learned opinion on evolution. The highlight of my biology career came in 10th grade when I dissected a worm. In a way, though, this as an advantage as it allows me to approach the subject from the aspect of blissful ignorance (also one of my dominant traits).

In my humble opinion, the theory of evolution is nothing more than intellectual fool's tackle; that is, it appears to hold great weight, but when tested, fails. The theory seems valid because of the manner in which its proponents build into the term an inference that isn't so. As examples, the evolutionist tells us that the modern horse "evolved" from eophippus or that birds "evolved" from dinosaurs, implying that the horse and the bird are higher forms of life than eohippus and dinosaurs, that they are somehow upwardly transcendant from their ancestors. Is that so? I think not. Rather, those two are among the species (forgive me if I don't use the correct scientific terms) that have successfully adapted to changing environmental conditions throughout the ages.

In order to ascertain whether some earthly life form has actually made the transcendant leap that evolutionists imply, we must take stock of what characteristics are common to all animals and whether one, or more, possesses a trait or traits that the others do not. All animals, from humans through buffalo, snails and amoebas, ingest, digest and egest. All reproduce, are mobile, and respire. You get my meaning. In order to prove the transcendance that evolutionists imply, we would have to find an animial that exhibits a characteristic that none of the others possess. Is there one? Why, yes -us! And, what is that characteristic?

For about 14 years we had a Bichon Frise, named Daisy. As time wore on, Daisy became diabetic, went blind and acquired dementia. It was clear to us that Daisy's days were numbered. But, Daisy didn't know she was going to die because Daisy didn't know she was alive. Unlike us, she could not conceive of her own mortality. She was intelligent, as are other animals. We know that chimps, sea otters, etc., exhibit their intelligence through tool making. But, intelligence is not perception. The ability to conceive of something externally, abstractly, larger than oneself, and to act accordingly with free will, is reserved to us alone. Many chimps have flown in space, but I doubt that any of them conceived of the idea. So there you have this single characteristic that separates us from the remainder of animals on earth. Aha!, say the evolutionists - you have just proven our point. The human ability to intellectually conceive is that evolutionary transcendant step of which we speak. Not so, sez I.

Some time ago Nova, the PBS series, ran an episode about a moth that lives in a certain English forest. The moth survived through its ability to blend in with the bark of forest trees, thus rendering it invisible to predators. A factory was built in the area, and soon began belching out smoke that darkened the trees and left the moth exposed. It was only through selection (adaptation) that darker moths survived and through inbreeding gradually became dark enough to again remain invisible (the narrator described it as the moth "evolving"). But, that was the only change that occurred in local mothdom. The moth was not altered beyond the point at which it was able to survive. The moral of the story is that Nature (or whatever term you wish to use) does not change anything more than is absolutely necessary. No other species of which I am aware is endowed with traits in excess of those required to survive in its environment.

And, that in turn raises the big enchilada question - why us? If evolution is the sole force at work, why is it necessary for us to exist? What in this world requires a being that can intellectually conceive and act with free will? Every other animal lives in harmony with its surroundings. The birds don't pollute the air, the fish don't despoil the waters and the animals don't foul the land. Why would Nature allow the development of a species that willfully destroys its own environment as well as its fellow members. Why is it necessary to have a species that blogs?

So, in the end it boils down to the questions of what and why. What was the First Cause and why are we here? And, those are questions that the theory of evolution cannot answer. So, I leave it to you, dear reader. What is the alternative?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Does ET Pay Roaming Charges?

I have to state flat out that, with rare exceptions, if there's nothing on PBS or the History Channel, television in our house goes unwatched. Nevertheless, from what I read and hear of, it appears that alien invasion programs are the big thing this year. That raises the question, are there really Little Green Men floating around in UFOs abducting guys named Bubba for their own scientific research? And if so, why? But, I'm ahead of myself.

We know that the earth is a small rock orbiting one of countless billions of obscure stars in one of countless billions of galaxies in a seemingly infinite universe. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that somewhere "out there" exists one or more intelligent civilizations. Assuming that such a civilization does exist, and that it possesses the socialogical and technical organization and capability to travel a gadzillion light years across the universe in a virtual instant, what possible interest would it have in us? By the standards of that civilization we would be little more than Uncle Miltie's ant farm.

Sci-Fi movies of the early '50s, at the dawn of the atomic age, repeatedly dealt with the theme of we earthlings annihilating ourselves by nuclear warfare, thus somehow upsetting the galactic applecart. But, would they really care? Would it really matter to them if some primitive society blew itself up? Would it even register on their radar (or whatever) screens? I doubt it. This whole concept of "big grays" and "little grays" and technology swaps and so forth seems to be no more than an ego trip on our part to prove to ourselves that we really do count.

I don't know if we've been visited or not. Personally, I put LGMs and UFOs in the same category that I do Sasquatch, Nessie and the Abominable Snowman - that is, I haven't seen enough evidence one way or the other to prove or disprove their existence. But, if aliens do exist and have visited the earth, I would suspect that we're all part of Mrs. Zfgehsoiedns's third grade biology experiment.

Nanu! Nanu!

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's The Stupid Economy

In an earlier piece (Beating Around the Bush) I made reference to Mr. Bush's attempt to siphon money from Social Security into the private sector for the benefit of his rich buddies. I was called on that remark, asked to provide documentation, and hereby admit that I have none. My statement was a sort of conclusion based upon my observations of where I believe the economy to be heading. I can attest to the description of economics as "the dismal science". The courses I took were some of the most dismal I had to endure. So, my apologies if I don't use the right terms. I was probably asleep when they were explained.

Our consumer based economy is really a giant Ponzi scheme, one in which fewer and fewer dollars are chasing more and more goods. I believe I am correct in stating that consumer debt is astronomical (a trillion dollars, or so?), and that the average American (however that's defined) now carries a credit card debt of about $10,000. Considering that I have less than $100 on my Visa, somebody is carrying a hell of a load. That debt, plus mortgage, car payments, education, utilities, health insurance, etc., is leaving the average person with less and less disposable cash. And, recent legislation now prevents a person from running up the old card, declaring bankruptcy and walking away from it all. So what's to be done?

The answer is to make it easier for a person to dispose of what little disposable income remains in his/her account and thus sustain consumerism. How? Well, for one thing you can lease a car instead of buying it. Why? Fewer people can now actually afford to buy a car and turning one in every two or four years keeps the automobile industry in business. How about buying furniture with no payments until 2008 and no interest until 2010? Buy with nothing and we'll get you later. And the latest gimmick - buy a house on an "interest only' loan! So, it is from these observations that I conclude that Mr. Bush's refusal to raise taxes and his Social Security initiative are attempts to breath life into, if not a dead horse, a seriously ill one. And, all this is not to mention the very serious problem of mortgaging ourselves to the Chinese, Japanese, etc., through heavy borrowing (is it 600 billion to the Chinese alone?) in order to sustain our lifestyle.

It can't continue. Unless some drastic and painful changes are made soon the system will implode. We can't sustain a consumer economy when the wages of those who are supposed to buy the goods are being eaten up by the expenses of surviving and/or being eliminated by shipping jobs overseas. It might help to eliminate the huge perks, bonus, stock options, etc. that permeate corporate upper management. I mean, instead of paying some CEO a $150 million bonus, why not pay him/her $10 million (most of us could struggle by on that) and put the remaining $140M back into the company to pay the wages of workers whose jobs are going to Calcutta? I guess I just don't understand.

At any rate, that's my response to the "Bush and his buddies" comment. Maybe right, maybe wrong. But in my view, things are looking pretty dismal.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Are We Wired AC/DC?

Sorry to have been gone for so long. Life gets in the way. I've been offering some thoughts on a few of the Constitutional amendments that Mr. Bush is advocating. The last of which I am aware is what I believe is called the Family Marriage(?) Act - whatever, it proposes that marriage between male and female be institutionalized by the Constitution as the sole such type of union. But, before I begin, I must say that I will not use the term "gay" or any other such euphemistic term in lieu of what it is - homosexuality. That would be much like calling genocide "ethnic cleansing".

The issue of homosexuality is one that I have personally struggled with for some time. And, no!, that's not the reason. Homosexuality epitomizes to me the conflict between the teachings of the Kingdom of God and the realities of the Kingdom of Caesar. Let's begin with the former by addressing the subject question, "Are We Wired, AC/DC?", or, is homosexuality an inherent or learned behavior?

I can only answer in terms of my faith. First, the Bible more than once deplores homosexuality, referring to it as "abomination." Secondly, the book of John I states that everything ever created came to be through Christ (God). It seems to me uncharacteristic (right word?) of God that He would create anything that He considers to be abomination. Therefore, my faith leads me to conclude that homosexuality is a learned/acquired behavior. Now, two caveats. First, I may be wrong. Whle I rely upon my understanding of the Word of God, I do not pretend to read His mind. So, there may something that I'm missing. Secondly, even if I am right, as my faith tells me, I cannot separate that conclusion from the rest of the Bible's teachings, primarily Christ's repeated admonition that I don't have the authority, wisdom or knowledge to judge others. So, while I am free to hold my belief, I am not free to pass judgement on those who are homosexual. That may seem to be splitting hairs, but so be it. And as an aside, even were I an atheist I would regard homosexuality as an aberration, given that the purpose of sex is the attraction between male and female to reproduce the species. So any sexual activitiy that violates that would seem to be unnatural.

So, how does that translate into life in the Kingdom of Caesar. I have known, worked with and socialized with many persons whom I knew to be homosexual. It has never bothered me. We get along (or not) based upon many factors, but sexual orientation has not been one of them. What they are is between themselves and whatever belief system they adhere to. It's not my right to judge regardless of my own beliefs. And this approach, I believe, is in keeping with that of Christ, who embraced, rather than rejected those considered "unacceptable" by society. And here I digress.

I have not attended church for many years because, in part, of what I believe to be the hypocrisy of the institution. As an example on this subject, I have a good friend who has within the past couple of years accepted Christ. He attends a small church that he assures me harbors none of the hypocrisy of which I speak - a strictly "Bible-based" church, what ever that is. A few weeks ago he informed me that a homosexual couple has been attending their services. Good news is that they were permitted to attend. Bad news is that they were given by the church a year to "reform" or go elsewhere. Who is this pious group of Christians(?) to dictate to God how and by what timetable, if at all, He will act in the hearts of this couple? What if, when my friend was born, God looked at His heavenly calendar and said to Himself, "If this guy doesn't accept Me by the time he's 35, hello eternal flames!"? Christ's love is unconditional. We don't have the right to modify according to our own standards. In the end (no pun intended) homosexuals should have the same rights and privilieges as anyone else, with some exceptions that follow.

While the love of the Kingdom of God is unconditional, the toleration of the Kingdom of Caesar is not. Hypothetical example. Say I decide to go to law school. Brilliant student, straight A's, editor of the law review, graduate magna cum laude and sought after by all the high-powered law firms. But, as an aging hippie, I've worn the same jeans for 20 years, bathe regularly (every February 29th), have hair and beard down to my knees. It seems that as a condition of employment I would be required to change my ways - clean up, dress "properly", etc. I choose not to and am therefore rejected by that portion of society, but accepted by others (store front lawyers, etc.). The point is that a person who chooses to lead a lifestyle (like Hell's Angels as well) that is outside of that considered the "mainstream" of society, must expect some instances of rejection and/or exclusion. It's human nature.

As a retired army officer, the most obvious example to me is that of the military. I suppose that the "don't ask, don't tell" approach is the best we can do, but I do have to endorse banning known homosexuals from military service for reasons that those who have not served (and, I'm not trying to patronize here) cannot understand. I was an infantry battalion staff officer with the 101st Airborne Division back in the days of company mess halls ("dining facilities" had yet to make their appearance). A company commander friend told me the story that when a certain cook was serving at his mess hall, few of his troops would go through the line. Turns out they knew he was homosexual and didn't want anything to do with the food he handled. He was soon gone. A young troop survives in combat through physical fitness and mental attitude. As we were taught, "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil, for I am the meanest Son of a Bitch in the Valley." Overwhelmingly, young males, esecially those for whom "macho" is essential to survival (I can't speak for females) consider homosexuality to be repulsive, the act of "sissies" and "fags". It is unwise to contaminate that attitude by condoning homosexuality within that element of society.

A couple final points. There is no more appropriate application of the adage, "Familiarity breeds contempt", than to the field of theology. Among other examples, maybe someone can explain to me the rationale behind the Methodist(?) church appointing a homosexual bishop in defiance of the Bible's position on the subject. Another reason why I don't attend, and maybe another thing I don't understand. Similarly, I am at a loss to understand the legalization of homosexual marriage by the state. I have no objection to civil unions or anything else short of official recognition, but when a nation that claims to be Judeo-Christian based, says in effect, "We know, God, that Your Word condemns this practice, but we're going to recognize it anyway.", that to me is a dangerous sign.

In the beginning (again no pun) I cited the difficulty in dealing with this subject. I believe that has been evident throughout the piece. Maybe greater minds than mine can be of help.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Interim Random Thoughts

Random Thought One: I'm fully retired. I should be rocking on my front porch, cat in lap, shawl around shoulders, waiting for my check and bitching about the government. So why is it that I don't have enough hours in the day? I want to get to my next subject, but when will that be? In a few days, I hope.

Random Thought Two. Did anyone see former president Bill Clinton on last Sunday's TV talk shows? Some of my friends will call him draft dodger, sex fiend, etc., but how refreshing is it to listen to a president who comprehends the questions, thinks about his answers, and expresses them in words of more than one syllable? What's happened to the country?

Friday, September 16, 2005

To Let Be Or Not To Let Be

There is probably no issue on the American plate today that polarizes more than that of abortion. Moreover, it is the prime example of what I referred to earlier as "bumper sticker logic", in which an entire argument is encapsulated into three or four virtually meaningless words. The assertion that one is either "pro-life" or "pro-choice" immediately causes jaws to clench, fists to tighten and knees to jerk, with neither side ever taking the time to really contemplate the meaning of the terms. The bumper sticker, "It's a child not a choice" (or is it "It's a choice not a child", I forget) apparently intends to convey that there is nothing more to be said on the issue. And, so again, critical thinking takes in in the shorts. But, let's look at the middle ground.

I believe that if the mainstream of those who oppose abortion would sit down with the mainstream of those who condone it, both would find that there are few differences between them (I use the term "mainstream" to differentiate from the kookamongas on both sides of the issue who are blinded beyond reason). For instance, those who oppose abortion would probably agree that in certain circumstances the procedure is justified - in general terms, when the mental or physical health of the mother is in jeopardy. By the same token, I believe (maybe hope) that, if they really search their hearts, those who condone abortion would agree that to abort for what I would call arbitrary and capricious reasons ("I/we wanted to travel to Europe next summer." "It would hinder my/your chances for job promotion.") are committing murder in that they are willfully taking a life for their own selfish reasons. It is not my intent to advocate either position, but merely to provoke thought.

At any rate, I believe that the government has absolutely no role in this matter. I am not a woman and therefore cannot really relate to this issue as a potential mother would. But I can imagine that the decision to terminate the life of an unborn is the most personal and probably the most heart-rending decision any human being can make. And no amendment, resolution, law, or executive order should or can interfere with that decision.

I mentioned in one of my earlier tirades that I approach things from a Christian perspective. And so in the end it is a article of faith for me - one that I merely express and do not intend to impose upon others. I believe that at the end of this life each of us will stand before the Creator to explain and justify the life that He (I think of God as father - you may as you wish) gave us. We - mother and father - may well be asked, "Why did you destroy the life I entrusted to you?" I would suspect that those who answer, "It was just inconvenient", will not fare so well.

In the end, however, I don't know, and so would invite the thoughts of those who happen to stumble upon this discourse.

Next we deal with homosexuality - a tough one, even for a Christian.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Grand Old Flag

I hope you'll read the comment on my last entry from Uncle Ben, because it leads directly into this discussion. One of the current amendments pending before Congress is (what I call) the Flag Amendment (I forget the proper name). But, as I recall, it would enable Congress to pass legislation that would prevent desecration of the U. S. flag. Now, as a retired military officer, there is no question as to my feelings toward those who dishonor or desecrate our pre-eminent national symbol. But, we need to go beyond that to really examine the issue. So, I begin with a story.

In 1968, at the height of the youth revolution, one of the more prominent personalities was Abbie Hoffman, head of the Yippie Party (I have no idea what it ever stood for). The House Un-American Activities Committee - HUAC- (since defunct), called Abbie to testify before it. He appeared wearing a shirt made out of an American flag. The good legislators of HUAC experienced group apoplexy! How could someone so dishonor the that sacred national symbol!? The same year there appeared a movie entitled Myra Breckinridge, one of the all time turkeys, right up there with Ishtar and Gigli. The female star of Myra Breckinridge was the then-reigning (as the Germans would call her) Sexe Bombe, Raquel Welch. She spent most of the movie prancing around in what then was considered a bikini swimsuit in the design of - guess what? You got it! I don't recall that any of our esteemed Congressmen expressed outrage over that "desecration". Today, I own an American flag golf shirt. On the beach we see American flag swimwear everywhere (some of it is definitely desecration!Maybe it's more the bodies.). Our son at one time had (probably still does) a pair of American flag boxer shorts. What can be more disrespectul than rubbing your bare butt against the flag? So, that begs the question, how does one define desecration?

Burning the flag does! Really? When I was a Boy Scout I was taught that burning is the proper way to dispose of an old flag. And, every Memorial Day our local American Legion conducts just such a ceremony, i.e., disposing of old, donated flags by burning. Yes, but that's disposing of the flag in a respectful manner. What about these protestors who dishonor the flag by burning it at World Trade Organization (WTO) rallies? I have never built a rocket (actually, I did with our son, but it blew up), but if I wanted to burn a flag at a WTO rally, I would do so by paying it all due honor and respect before incineration. After all, there's no law that dictates where or when one can properly dispose of a flag.

Lastly, there's that damned First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Should it be amended to read, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of specch, except where we don't like it"? If so, I'd like to silence hatemongers on the radio who pass themselves off as political commentators and smut peddlers who claim to be disc jockeys. I believe, like it or not, that Justice Holmes (was it?) was correct in stating that short of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, our system must permit virtually unlimited free speech. Once we begin to say, "We can all speak freely - except you!", we start down that slippery slope.

When I first entered the Army as a young Private, justice was administered by the company First Seargent. If a young trooper got feisty, the Topkick would take him out behind the orderly room and explain very clearly to him the benefits of respect for custom and tradition. Today I can't (overtly) advocate that approach. But if you consider that the proposed Flag Amendment would more than likely bog down the courts in issues of definitions, enforcement and freedom of speech, the Topkick approach may be better than tacking on another addition to our Constitution.

Next up - abortion.