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Kepler, Newton, Galileo, and God

"God wrote the universe in the language of mathematics"....Galileo

That about sums up [HA! pun intended] how early scientists felt about mathematics. They cherished it, they advanced it, they found in it an essential tool in revealing just how God worked. And that was their motive: to uncover the design of God and thereby give him praise. We've all seen those math formulas in which gravity, force, acceleration and everything else can be expressed with just a few variables. Why should that be? Why should things not be a hopeless mishmash, like our sock drawer? The answer is what Galileo said...God wrote the universe, and he used mathematics as a language.

Scientists commonly thought that way back then, much to the exasperation of today's atheists. When Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motions [they move in ellipses, not circles] and published the results, he suddenly let loose with a paean to God, smack dab in the middle of his treatise. If you didn't know better, you'd think it was one of the Bible psalms. Would any scientist be caught dead doing such a thing today?

"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."

It's not bad. I'd put it with the Psalms, if it were my call. But nobody asked me.

Does it not dovetail with this one, which is in the Bible?

"You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created."   Rev 4:11

Contrary to popular belief, those early scientists really didn't experiment much. Instead, they worked out the math, since they were convinced that was how God designed things. When they made experiments it was mostly to confirm results, or as Newton once said, to convince the "vulgar," [He also told how he made up the story of the falling apple to dispose of "stupid" people who asked him how he discovered laws of gravitation.] And Galileo, when describing an experiment of dropping two different masses from the top of a ship's mast, has his fictional creation, a fellow named Simplicio, [!] ask whether he actually made such an experiment. "No, and I do not need it, as without any experience I can confirm that it is so because it cannot be otherwise," was his reply. He worked mostly with mathematics.

Accordingly, Isaac Newton played with the notion of firing a giant cannonball from a mountaintop with just enough velocity, not too much and not too little, that it's ordinary straight line path would be continually offset by the earth's pull so that it would orbit the planet indefinitely. Of course, he didn't actually perform such an experiment, it was all in his head. Working from a few known quantities (radius of the earth, distance a body falls in the first second) he deduced laws of universal gravitation, and, like Kepler, gave God all the glory:

"This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being...This Being governs all things, not as the soul of world, but Lord over all."   Mathematical Principles, 2nd edition

Oddly, though mathematics has proven so astoundingly successful at describing the universe we live in, it's success lies in giving up on a greater goal. Long before Galileo, Aristotle and his contemporaries wanted to know what things were. They didn't bother much with description, since that seemed of secondary importance. Only when scientists reversed priorities did they discover mathematics served as an amazing tool of description, though not explanation. This lack of explanation was a sore point for some of Newton's contemporaries, steeped in the tradition of Aristotle. Leibniz, who independently of Newton, discovered calculus, groused that Newton's gravitational laws were merely rules of computation, not worthy of being called a law of nature. Huygens labeled the idea of gravitation "absurd" for the same reason: it described effects but did not explain how gravity worked.

Newton agreed. In a letter to a Richard Bentley he wrote: "That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed form one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that, I believe, no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking could ever fall into it."

Describing how things work through mathematics has led to scientific triumphs that knock the socks off all of us, and contemporary scientists have gone far beyond Newton. Yet impressive as they are, are they anything more than cheap card tricks when compared to the goal of explaining why things work? Is the latter reserved for the mind of God?

O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments [are] and past tracing out his ways [are]! For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?” Or, “Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?” Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen        Rom 11:33-36

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Many of the particulars here are found in the book Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge, by Morris Kline.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Death and Rebirth of the Placebo

For just a brief moment, there was no placebo; there was no such thing. Just for a day. Placebo had its 15 minutes of antifame. And then the day passed, placebos resurfaced, and they've ruled ever since, just as before.

That day was May 24, 2001, and the front page read Survey Finds Placebo Effect Imaginary. From the Associated Press:

"One of the most strongly held beliefs in medicine, that dummy pills or other sham treatments greatly help many patients, has been called into question by Danish researchers who found little or no "placebo effect" in dozens of studies."

Those Danes had looked at study after study after study in which the experimental new drug was compared to the look-alike dummy pill, the placebo. If the new drug was any good, test results beat that of the placebo. But where researchers bothered to include a third group receiving neither drug nor placebo, the Danes found that that group fared about the same as the placebo group. In other words, people sometimes get better all by themselves! They sometimes do, in fact, just about as often as those who received the placebo.

I spoke to a few people involved in pharmaceuticals. They hadn't read the paper and hadn't heard of the survey and didn't believe me. A few days later, I googled "placebo." Conventional wisdom ruled once again. My article was buried many pages back. It took forever to find it. (But you can find it here.) Nobody ever touched the subject again.

I suspect placebo is a notion too good and too lucrative to let die. After all, when you're testing your new drug for efficacy and you can't wait to urge people to ask their doctors if it's right for them, you want it to seem like it has teeth. If it's so much better than the placebo and the placebo is so much better than nothing.....well, you've got some powerful stuff. But if the gap between nothing and placebo collapses, then your drug is not so effective as you thought. Better to keep that gap intact: broad shoulders for all new meds to stand on!

The fact is big pharma pushes a lot of drugs on us. We (in the USA) spent $2.7 billion on prescription drugs in 1960. By 2002 it was $162 billion. There were 600 prescription drugs to choose from in 1960. By 2002 it was 9000. Plus 4000 over-the-counter. Are we that much sicker that we need all those meds? Or conversely, are we that much healthier now that we have them?

And where did this term "meds" come from anyway? They're medicines, dammit! Isn't "meds" a sneaky con attempt to make them seem warm and fuzzy, friendly-like?...every day you take your meds just like you take your tea, or chocolate.

 

That's why when Pop goes to the doctor and the doctor "puts him on" this or that drug, Pop tells him to forget it. Either that or because he's a stubborn cuss. But it's hard to tell someone 85 who's in perfect health that he'd be so much better if he'd just be gobble down more pills. It's a standing joke with us. I meet him in the doctors office, after his yearly physical. (it took forever to get him to agree to those, and he only did so for insurance reasons) "What do ya think, Pop?" I ask, "Want me to get a wheelbarrow for all your pills?" "HA!" he says, "that'll be the day! No pills!"

Most people, overawed by our age's slobbering idolization of science and the doctor's high-priest membership of that discipline, obediently swallow anything they're told to. Not Pop. "Your blood pressures too high," the doctor says, reading his machine. "I want you to take these beta-blockers." "What I'll do," Pop says, "is buy one of those machines myself and see if I can get the blood pressure down with diet and exercise. If I can't, then I'll think about your beta-blockers." He's been able to do exactly that, aided with an immediate drop in blood pressure that comes just from not being in the doctor's office, where we're all at our hypochondriac worst.

Yeah, the old boy thinks that if you steer clear of drugs then one day you'll die in your sleep or drop in your tracks. And isn't that what we all want? A graceful exit when we go. But if you gobble down every pill someone pushes at you, you'll waste away slowly sans dignity in a nursing home. Who's to say he's wrong?

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

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

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Tom Barfendogs was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Tom Sheepandgoats Rated R!

In the time-honored bloggers' way of wasting time, I discovered a colleague bloggerwho's blog is rated G. He crows about it. And he gives the website where you can rate your own blog.

Of course, this is irresistible, so I entered my own url. Surely, if this fellow gets a G, then my blog....pure and clean and beautiful....will also score a....

I'm rated R!  R!!!! Me! Righteous, pious, loveable Tom Sheepandgoats!!! Surely this is a ruse of the devil, and I only wish that nonsense about him having horns and pointy tail was really true and that I could trade places for a moment because then I would hunt down those internet clowns and jab them in the tush with my pitchfork!

The rating is based on key words and how often those words appear. I had some shockers:

death  (8x)
hell (2x)
murder (1x)

Look, this is a blog that deals with religious notions. Sure, "death" and "hell" have been mentioned. I don't quite recall where "murder" was used, though. Before logging on to a certain web rating service, the notion of murder had never occurred to me.

Now, in this politically correct age, before anyone take that last remark seriously, allow me to point out that it should not be taken seriously. It's a joke. Ha ha.

Which, incidentally, reminds me of the time in my youth (late 50's, early 60's) when it was routine for someone to say "I'll kill you," or "I'll kill you for that," as a means of expressing disapproval, or even in jest. Reacting to some childhood shenanigans, I vividly recall my mother saying "I'll kill you." It was said almost approvingly, with affection, as if acknowledging that "boys will be boys." She never did kill me, because if she had, then I wouldn't be here wri....well, she just never did.

Take, for example, that 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men, which I highly recommend. The twelve jurors are ready to quickly convict a kid for murder. ("Murder" again! Rats! There goes any hope of cleaning up my blog rating!) It seems an open-shut case, with eyewitnesses! But in deliberations, one juror votes "innocent," not because he thinks the kid is innocent, but only because he thinks anyone on trial for his life (yes, these were the days of the electric chair) deserves to have testimony patiently reviewed. Discussions uncover some things not given due weight during the trial. By degrees, the jurors all come over to the acquittal side. The 2nd last juror is tough to sway, and the last is next to impossible. Emotions are high, overshadowing (as the frequently do) reason. In frustration, the last guy shrieks "I'll kill you!" "You didn't mean that literally, did you?" comes the retort, and the stubborn fellow crumbles. There goes the last piece of substantial evidence, for the kid had been heard to say "I'll kill you!"

How far we've come through the years. Now, no one would ever say such a thing as "I'll kill you"....you'd have the hate-speech police all over you. But people have fewer qualms about doing it, something infrequent in the old days.

Rated R, my rear end! This system is almost as hokey as the movie ratingsystem.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)