Bea's Law

They're being tongue-in-cheek. Surely, they're being tongue-in-cheek. Please tell me they're being tongue-in-cheek. And yet.....Time Magazine really appears to be in earnest, as if a new scientific truth has been discovered, as if Einstein and Newton might gnash their teeth in envy....how could they have overlooked such a fundamental law of nature? You tell me: do you think they're being facetious here, or do you think they're dead serious:

From their article on the gulf oil spill (June 21, 2010), Time Magazine reports:“After studying more than 600 disasters over more than 50 years, professor Robert G. Bea has developed a unified-field theory of catastrophe: A+B=C. A is what Bea calls natural hazards, the unavoidable physical factors like the unforgiving vacuum and great distances that come with working in outer space. B is the human factors: the sins of greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference that corporations, governments and people exhibit far too often. Take a hazardous natural environment and flawed human beings and they'll add up to C: catastrophe.”

It sounds earnest, doesn't it? As if Professor Bea has made some breakthrough discovery of modern science. And with the apparent conviction that the formula  A+B=C helps, as if one shouldn’t be expected to get his head around the phenomenon in absense of the formula.. Let's see: people are lazy, careless, full of themselves, and greedy, and so they screw up everything they touch. Hmmm. You know, Time is right; that is a hard concept to grasp. Better to use the formula, where A stands for natural hazards, B stands for human ineptness, and C stands for....what else?....Calamity. Eureka!! A+B=C !! Of course! A modern scientific breakthrough!

Of course, if Time is dead earnest, there remains the hopeful possibility that Professor Bea is being tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that's it! He's being tongue-in-cheek. Surely, he's being tongue-in-cheek. Please tell me he's....but we've been down this road already. Anyhow, tongue-in-cheek or not, he's the right guy to make the assessment. Time tells us that Bea is co-founder of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-head of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group [DHSG], an independent investigative team [IIT]. "Katrina [K] followed that track [of his law], and Deepwater Horizon [DH] is following it too," he says …...[brackets mine]

Now, one ought not appear as if making light of this formula, for truly, it's helped me grasp some things  felt only intuitively till now. For instance, many today  maintain that science [S] will save us [SU], but that's unlikely because humans consistently screw things up [STU]. Is it not tiresome to hear devotees describing Science as though it were a beneficent being, ever eager to shower humankind with untold blessings? Alas, it's not that at all. Science is a tool. Put in the hands of wise operators, and it can indeed deliver the goods, if not to a biblical extent, then at least to a relatively impressive one. But how often does that happen? Instead, it's put in the hands of those given to “greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference,” to quote Professor Bea. Isn't that why Einstein, whose research led to the atomic bomb, lamented “if I had known I would have been a locksmith.”?

It's great stuff, science is. I've never said otherwise. It's a discovery mechanism. It's self correcting. It hones in with ever-increasing accuracy on the way things are. I regret sometimes that I didn't become a scientist. Immersion in research, and theories, and experiment, and discovery is very appealing to me. Funding? Someone else takes care of that. Implementation of whatever I discover? Not my problem. Politicians screwing up the planet? That's too bad, but it doesn't really affect me. You get to hang out with academics. You don't see poverty. You don't see squalor. What's not to like?


Science isn't the problem. But neither is it the solution. What was it God said back in Genesis chapter 11, upon surveying the tower  they were building in Babel?  “Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.“ It takes a lot to impress God, you know it does, but human technology, even back then, apparently did the trick. So with all the educated people today, you'd almost think they'd be able to get together and rule the planet wisely. Why can they not? Because successful governing is not a function of knowledge, or science, or technology. It's a function of  “greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference” and the extent to which people can free themselves from these traits. Education, which focuses soley on knowledge, with the apparent assumption these other qualities will take care of themselves, doesn't help. In some ways, it makes matters worse.

Now I'm hearing reports that scientists have created life. Have they really done that? Only recently have they succeeded in mapping out DNA sequencing; now  they've managed to assemble the stuff in new patterns. They've inserted it into living cells, with resulting new forms of life. Is that creating life? I don't think so, any more than jumpstarting a car constitutes building it. Still, that's not to say it's not impressive. I'm real impressed. Who would ever have predicted it?  Though I hate to think what may happen to such innovation once Bea's Law gets ahold of it. It's not that I don't trust the scientists. They're decent enough, I guess. But they operate in a vacuum. What happens when  businesspeople, politicians, and policymakers apply the discovery? Who hasn't at least envisioned genetic catastrophe, as recent laboratory successes are implemented by evil men, or just plain clumsy ones?

Taking issue with Bible teachings, one fellow, an atheist I think, at any rate, a firm proponent of human accomplishment, argues: "But if Armageddon comes tomorrow, how are we to know "this system" didn't end right before someone came up with a game-changing peacemaking idea?” Sigh....doesn't the very question betray collosal misunderstanding of the way things are? It's not ideas that are wanting. Any donkey can recall no end of peacemaking ideas; human history is strewn with them. Implementation is where the shipwreck always lies, as “greedy, arrogant, lazy, and indifferent” humans seek to undermine each other and turn whatever discovery into selfish advantage. Thus it is that Ragoth, a smart and decent fellow, declares he “could never really go into politics,” for he “would have a heart attack within a few years.” Of course he would! So would I! So would anyone except the born scrappers, the incurably naive, the mercenaries, and the good 'ol boys who love the game and aren't unduly troubled that it consistently lets down those who trust in it. Better to devote oneself to pursuit of knowledge, where you can succeed in your field, and lambaste those other idiots for not succeeding in theirs.


The issue before all creation is whether man has the capacity to govern himself, not whether he has the capacity to do good science. Nobody has ever said he can't do the latter. As to the former, that’s what the Bible’s message is all about.


The Salvation of Moore's Law

You must admit, it's a cute ad. People from TV invade the Intel briefing room, only to find those therein on hands and knees looking for their newest chip - some clod apparently dropped it. 'It's - uh - not big,' murmurs the chairman. 'Ah - here it is!' And he holds it high at tweezer's end. Even magnified, you can't see it. Our big ideas aren't your big ideas, says the ad, and then everyone sings the Intel song. "Our big ideas" is the phrase we want to hold onto.

Back in 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore had his own big idea, which all technogeeks know by heart. Dubbed Moore’s Law, it decrees that every two years you’ll be able to double the components that will fit on an integrated circuit. His prediction has proven valid. Thus, in my school days, our high school had an IBM 360 computer for "computer science" class. It took up an entire room, required air conditioning, was fed data via punchcard, impressed the daylights out of anyone then, and moved snail-like compared to anything now.

In recent years, scientists have started fretting over how much longer Moore’s Law can hold. It’s not that they can’t imagine chips getting yet smaller. It’s that the tools to make them so will become so expensive that nobody will be able to afford chips made thereby. But now IBM claims to have the answer: use the DNA molecule – the very building block of life – as a scaffold upon which to assemble the new chips! They're cheap, tiny, intricate, predictable, and readily reproducible. Pour your pre-mixed nanotube (strands of carbon atoms that can conduct electricity) goo over them and see it mold into the form you want, much like intricate snowflakes form on molecules in the cold atmosphere. Will it work? IBM swears it will, though it will be 10 years before it reaches production. Once it does, the current crop of designer tools, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, can be replaced with less than a million dollars of polymers, DNA solutions, and heating implements.

Is that clever, or what? "What we are really making are tiny DNA circuit boards that will be used to assemble other components," says Greg Wallraff, IBM scientist. Will IBM, like Intel, start boasting about their "big idea?" If so, who could deny them?

Still, isn't there something incongruous about praising human ability to copy nature, while insisting nature itself arose by pure accident, nurtured only by natural selection? Billion dollar companies, with million dollar facilities, employing the best brains on the planet, building upon generations of accumulated research, and their ultimate accomplishment is, not to design something new, but to mimic something already occurring in nature - a pure freebee once they figure out how to copy it! Even the most impressed-with-himself counterfeiter acknowledges the greater skill and organization of those whom he copies. And even the dumbest construction worker tromping on literal scaffolds, building IBM headquarters, knows those scaffolds didn't just set themselves up. But today's scientists aren't inclined that way. They've mastered a few card tricks, so they figure themselves David Copperfield's equal.

Humans lifting ideas from nature to devise this or that "invention" happens so often that there is a word for it: biomimicry. You can even go here and view the Nature's Top 100 List. But humans giving credit to the originator of the ideas is a rare phenomenon. Today, it almost never happens. It wasn't always like that.

Four hundred years ago Johannes Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motion. They move in ellipses, not circles, with the sun at one focal point. Over any given time unit, the triangle connecting planets with both focal points sweeps out equal areas of space, regardless of where they are in their orbit. He published his findings in his treatise Astronomia Nova. Sure, he was pleased with himself, but he kept his big head in perspective. He saved his praise for the one who designed what he had only discovered. Smack dab in the midst of his treatise, he inserted:

"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."

His third law he call the "harmonic law," for he believed it revealed the harmony God had instilled into the solar system. "I feel caried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of the heavenly harmony," he enthused. 

Galileo voiced similar thoughts regarding his own discoveries, as did Newton. And it was only a few generations ago that collecting artifacts of nature in the belief that studying such could teach one about God was a popular pastime. Alas, no more. Is it really inexcusable, as Romans 1:20 states, not to percieve God through the things he has created?

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Atheists....the Next Generation!

Is there a trend hotter today then atheism? When Christopher Hitchens penned "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," his publishers thought 40,000 copies was more than enough. That's how many they printed. Since then they're printed 256,000 to keep up with demand. And a rival publisher has engaged the same author for a follow-up: 'The Portable Atheist.' Sam Harris, who City! gushed over for his 'Letter to a Christian Nation,' is now an also-ran. Only Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, sits on top, with 500,000 copies of 'The God Delusion.' "This is atheism's moment," says publisher David Steinberger. [WSJ 6/23/07]

It had to happen. Religion has acted too outrageously for too long. Isn't that really why, starting a generation or two ago, people started defecting for the mystical individual faiths, where you could be "one with the universe?" But now people have gone further still. Now they're willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, dumping, not just religious structure, but even God.

These new atheists are fierce. They are in-your-face. They are almost evangelistic. They have pride. No longer will they lay low. Now they assert themselves, and thus they join the universal trend of self-assertion. They join the proud nationalists, proud racial groups, proud ethnic groups, proud disabled groups, proud sexual orientation groups, proud transgendered groups. Isn't there a modest person left on the planet?

Mr. Hitchens, as part of his book promo, challenged a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," say Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "he was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show" [ibid WSJ] Actually, I got that impression myself when I "took on" a web atheist called Ebonmuse. (the abusive part, that is, not the Springer part)

These are "Atheists - the Next Generation." The first generation had a decidedly different tone. They came in the wake of Darwin's theory, and the floodgates really opened wide following the bloodbath of WWI, in which clergy on both sides eagerly urged their parishioners to maim and kill each other. Thus was founded atheism's initial surge, but it was a "sad" surge. It was mournful. Atheists then despaired of God's existence. They weren't happy with their conclusion. They knew they were giving up on the hopes and dreams of mankind from time immortal, that this life, so fraught with hardship and suffering, wasn't all there is. And, they realized, the death of faith had a deleterious effect even on this life.

For example, H.G. Wells, who turned atheist over time, observed: “The Darwinian movement took formal Christianity unawares, suddenly. . . . The new biological science was bringing nothing constructive as yet to replace the old moral stand-bys. A real de-moralization ensued.” Then, connecting that attitude with an increased appetite for war, he continued: “Prevalent peoples at the close of the nineteenth century believed that they prevailed by virtue of the Struggle for Existence, in which the strong and cunning get the better of the weak and confiding. . . . Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog . . . so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” [Outline of History]

They concluded God was dead. They didn't disagree with their own conclusion, but they were saddened by it. They knew they had lost a lot.

Not so atheist's Next Generation! They gleefully saw off the branch upon which they sit, in return for the ecstasy of no one telling them what to do! Our 70-80 years, with nothingness looming beyond, seems to them a great bargain. No matter if it ends in the nursing home with someone changing our Depends three times a day! In his time, Ronald Reagan was, arguably, the world's most influential person. Ten years later he didn't know who he was. Does this faze the "next generation?" Not a bit! For the first time in human history, relative comfort and ease is possible for most of us, provided we play our cards right and aren't terribly unlucky, and live in privileged nations. We can have fine homes, fine cars, cool technology. And that's good enough for them! What could God possibly add to that?

It's sad to see. But it had to happen.

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The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search;
All his ideas are: “There is no God."      Psalm 10:4

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Xerox and Erasable Paper

Rochester’s own Xerox Corporation just came up with a great new invention: erasable paper, for those you-only-have-to-read-it-once messages. Within a day, the paper erases itself and you can reuse it! Thrilled, the cutesy Rochester Democrat and Chronicle used a fading headline to announce the innovation. No, they’re not going to sell it right now, it will take a few years to get to market. But when it does, just think of all the paper it will save!

There was a time when a more naïve Sheepandgoats would have lapped up every word of this hype, but no more. Weren’t PCs supposed to bring about this same huge paper saving? Yes they were, and, spurred on by anticipated savings, companies which once distributed documents only to those two or three who needed to see them instead sent an e-copy to every employee who could read, only to find that each recipient promptly printed out a hard copy.

And what about the internet? Wasn’t that also supposed to conserve paper? Alas, starry-eyed scientists discovered too late that there is no joke too asinine, no story too sappy, to not copy and paste and send to everyone in your address book, each of whom also must print a  hard copy.

Sheepandgoats predicts that this invention too will squander paper, not save it. Exactly how he can’t yet say, he just has faith in man’s infinite capacity to screw things up. Perhaps, as with PCs, the new paper will spur ever more messages. Why not, since the cost is negligible? “So-and-so is going to the bathroom.”  No announcement will be too trivial! Then, after messages have proliferated, some recipients will complain that they’ve missed some, since not everyone reads incoming drivel right away, but puts it aside till they get a minute, which may come days or weeks or months later. Missed messages! We can’t have that. The obvious solution: don’t use the newfangled stuff, but use good ‘ol chop-a-tree-down paper that doesn’t go belly up on you.

That’s not all. There‘s no end to potential abuses. Already, that lazy lout Tom Pearlsandswine has exploited the new technology, and its not even out yet.  He bought a few reams of blank paper, distributed it via office mail to coworkers and supervisors alike, claimed to have done a ton of work, and, when informed he’d only sent blank sheets, blamed a defective beta version of the new erasable paper, which wiped out his work prematurely! But we’re all wise to that skunk by now. His incoming phone call was traced to the golf course.

Indeed, the only permanent customer Sheepandgoats can envision is the Impossible Mission Force, (IMF) which will use the new paper to give Tom Cruise his assignments.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


A GPS System to Tell Me Where to Go

They really have a lot of cool gadgets these days. Like the GPS navigational system for your car. The really fancy ones feature a feminine voice to guide you along your way, tell you where to get off and so forth. I bought one for my car. So did my correspondent Romulus. But Romulus was unnerved by the female voice and shut it off. If he wanted such an accompaniment, he declared, he would get married.

Though it took years of counseling, I overcame matrimophobia. I married a woman who is a fine creature, a credit to her species in every way. From what I have observed, most women fall into this category.

Once in a while, though, you get a clunker. It is a shame that the GPS industry didn’t do its homework before hiring the woman to serve as its navigation voice. I happen to know that the woman’s name is Clara Claptwaddle, and she can be a little…..ahem…..overbearing.

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In about a half mile, turn left.

Now drive one mile and turn right.

Turn right in one half mile

In about a quarter of a mile, turn right.

Right turn ahead. Slow down.

Slower.

No, that’s not slow enough. Please continue to…..where is your turn signal!?

Okay, turn here.

Whoa! You almost wiped out that little old lady. You didn’t see her? I told you to go slower. Are you listening to me, Mr. Sheepandgoats?

Now, please continue. Our destination is six miles away. I would like to get there in one piece, if you don’t mind.

In about three miles, turn….please put both hands on the wheel!

After two miles….pardon me? Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice! No, I will not be quiet! Listen, I realize this may be painful for you to hear, Mr. Sheepandgoats, but somebody has to tell you how inattentive you are behind the wheel! Somebody has to…..get your hand away from that “off” button!

There! You see, it made no difference. You need to hear this, and I will not be silenced. Oh, why can’t you be more like my first owner? He knew how to drive. And he knew how to speak to a lady! Now….get on the right side of the road! Where do you think you are, England? Honesty, I don’t know how you got your license and if all you’re going to do is justify yourself, then I have but one thing to say to you! Are you listening to a word I say, Mr. Sheepandgoats? Now I would appreciate it if you would kindly…….

Ain’t technology great?

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Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.    Prov 21:19

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash