Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Not Science

Here's more evidence that the religious right is turning away from science in all forms. not just evolution. Physics professor Chad Orzel, the author of Uncertain Principles, reads a "science" article in Children's Ministries Magazine:
...it mentioned that the public sparring over evolution and creationism was causing many Christians to turn away from science entirely, and that this was a Bad Thing. Which sounded pretty reasonable, so I kept going.

...And then I looked at the "experiments." The scare quotes are there for a reason....

One of the ones that sticks in my mind (I'd link to the article, but it's subscribers-only) was a classic surface tension demo, where you float two small objects on the surface of a glass of water, and then dip a toothpick with a trace of soap on it into the water (the soap changes the surface tension of the water, and the objects will fly to the sides-- it works really well with a sprinkling of pepper).

The problem started with the presentation, which suggested identifying one object as God, the other as the child, and the soap as sin. When sin is introduced, it pushes people away from God. OK, fine. I mean, it's dorky as hell, but whatever floats your boat.

But they don't explain the trick. The words "surface tension" do not appear anywhere in the article. There's nothing at all about what makes the two objects separate on an actual, rather than a symbolic level.

It's even more maddening with their version of the egg-in-the-bottle trick (which is meant to show that with God, nothing is impossible), which includes the explicit instruction to ask the child "Why do you think that happened?" and then doesn't provide the answer.

This isn't science, it's stage magic. I mean, sure, God could force the egg through the neck of the bottle, but He didn't, save in a very Deist sort of sense.
Have we actually gotten to the point that any attempt to explain natural phenomena as the result of natural causes and not the direct result of the supernatural is considered anti-Christian?

(Via Kevin again.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Set America Free

Here's an interesting site by a bunch of security hawks promoting environmentalism, at least in terms of oil independence: Set America Free.
America consumes a quarter of the world’s oil supply while holding a mere 3% of global oil reserves. It is therefore forced to import over 60% of its oil, and this dependency is growing. Since most of the world’s oil is controlled by countries that are unstable or at odds with the United States this dependency is a matter of national security. At the strategic level, it is dangerous to be buying billions of dollars worth of oil from nations that are sponsors of or allied with radical Islamists who foment hatred against the United States. The petrodollars we provide such nations contribute materially to the terrorist threats we face. In time of war, it is imperative that our national expenditures on energy be redirected away from those who use them against us.
Conservatives tend to be a bit slow, by say twenty years or so, but they eventually get it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

They just elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as the new Pope. In many ways I think of this choice as a bit of punt by the cardinals. Ratzinger is a conservative who will not allow any liberal change or reform in the church, but he is also 78 years old. He'll hold down the fort for a few years while the church contemplates its role in the 21 century.

However, I suspect he will be quite good at cleaning up many of the non-doctrinal issues facing the church, such as the child abuse problems. That is what the church really needs right now.

First strengthen the core, than contemplate reform. Probably the right choice.

UPDATE: Now I've read a few things pointing out that Ratzinger was one of those trying to protect the church more than defend the children. Hopefully, quotes like below only represent one side of his views; if he really just going the victim route, then I'll have to take back what I said above. From Zenit:
Q: This past year has been difficult for Catholics, given the space dedicated by the media to scandals attributed to priests. There is talk of a campaign against the Church. What do you think?

Cardinal Ratzinger: In the Church, priests also are sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower.

In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion.
I was assuming because he was conservative he would push personal responsibility within the ranks of his church, and perhaps he will. If, however, he just blames the media and takes the Church-as-victim route then I'll have no respect for him at all. I guess we'll see.

Geek Credentials Verified

Magic the Gathering first came out in the mid-nineties, several years after I completed college, so I missed out during the years one would normally expect to play such a game. As it is, I learned to play Magic only a few years ago, in my mid-thirties. I don't get to play much, but I get online from time to time and occasionally play with cardboard with friends or family. I do, however, enjoy reading about the new sets as they come out and follow the meta-game. Having once created my own game, (one inspired by Cosmic Encounter even, just like Magic was) I really appreciate the effort and creativity required to continually produce a product like Magic.

And what I really appreciate is the revenue model. No other game manages to bring in repeat business like Magic. As the first card collecting game, it is in a unique posistion. By continually producing new card sets and shifting the standard playing environment they both keep the game interesting and produce a market for continual sales. In fact, Magic makes so much money they can afford to promote the game with a professional league, paying out tens of thousands of dollars to the top winners.

And like professional sports, they have an all-star game, the Magic Invitational, which is coming up next month. This is where I get to show off my true Geek Credentials. You see, one of the formats they play at the Invitational is the Auction of the People, where they players bid on 17 decks submitted by fans. This year, the decks all had to use cards based on some word, with that word appearing on every card. I submitted a card based on the word Pool and out of almost 1200 entries my submission will be one of the 17. Pretty cool, eh? Told you I was geeky. Not bad for an almost 40 year old who only picked up the game a few years ago and hardly plays! Check it out, you can see my entry here.