Fri, 5 September 2014
I posed one of the traditional questions. If God had created all that he had created 6000 years ago, how would we explain fossils that were dated millions of years old. How about light from stars billions of light years away?
He had an answer. God had created his creation with the appearance of age. That was my introduction to what is known as the Omphalos hypothesis, named for a novel written in the mid-1800s. It has a certain chicken-and-egg logic to it. If God created the egg, it would appear to have come from a chicken. If God created a chicken, it would appear to have come from an egg. Both would have the Appearance of Age.
I suggested that, if God had gone through that much trouble to give his universe the Appearance of Age, it seemed to me a bit unsporting for us not to surrender to his will and believe in all those contrived eons.
My new friend's unbending faith was strong enough for him to find my observation completely nonthreatening. In fact, he laughed appreciatively. It was hard not to like him.
Not all creationists accept the Omphalos hypothesis. I don't much blame them. The big gaping hole in it is that it can support pretty much any theory of limited existence. God created the universe last Tuesday. He did it with the Appearance of Age, including memories, pseudo-history, relationships, and a fictitious past. Why not?
Tue, 2 September 2014
One notable result of the slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, comes from the deeply troubling ambiguity of the circumstances of that death.
The plain truth is we don't know what the plain truth is. Not for sure. The context of police mistreatment of the community does not tell us. The context of Michael Brown's character does not tell us.
The frustration that comes with a lack of knowledge has provided some momentum to an already existing movement to provide police officers with body cameras and to insist on their use.
Mon, 1 September 2014
They are scattered around St. Louis County, seeming at random. The reason these small police departments exist at all has very little to do with protecting the lives and property of citizens.
The open secret, the one never explored by media pundits, provides an explanation for the growing divide between police and the communities they patrol.
The reason they exist raises an important policy question.
Mon, 25 August 2014
Fast decisions with little information, without thinking for more than a fraction of a moment, may have kept our most vulnerable ancestors alive. Our modern term for the process is "common sense."
The ability to think things through took us beyond immediate survival to a greater measure of security. Every major advance in human development, from technology to military defense to law, came from analysis. So did much of spirituality. Our relationship to each other could finally transcend personal survival.
Analysis when things don't yet matter is what prevents paralysis when they do. It allows for rapid response that is thought out. It often allows for intelligent, realistic, compassion.
When "common sense" leads to suspicion, fear, and unfounded accusation, it can bring us to the invasion of wrong countries with loss of life and tragic unanticipated danger. When it diminishes compassion, even for frightened children, it endangers the national soul.
Thu, 21 August 2014
Long before he became President, Senator Richard Nixon went after Democrats. Each was a quisling, "holding a Ph.D. from Dean Acheson's Cowardly College of Communist Containment."
The cowardly containment rhetoric was more than bluster. It was the clarion call of true believers. We were at war, and there ought to be no limits. Conservatives were angry beyond words at the rejection of emotional impulse. The substitution of thoughtful strategy was infuriating.
Turning away from intellect during crisis is a predictable emotional response. But acting on rage can have unintended results.
Similarities of conservatives back then to conservatives today are striking. Containment, and the reactions to containment, are back.
Tue, 19 August 2014
The disconnect with those he ostensibly represents, the disconnect unintentionally expressed Representative Representative Lee Terry, is actually part of a broader picture.
When we picture ordinary people. We usually think of those we see every week, friends, co-workers, neighbors, worshipers at Sunday service, shoppers we meet in line at the pharmacy. Ordinary people.
As a young student studying government several decades ago, I participated for a few months in a special program that put me in Washington, DC.
I was impressed by one detail that I do not recall ever being reported. It is a detail that explains much of why those we elect so easily forget about us.
Sun, 17 August 2014
Three decades ago, a young man in Baltimore did not deserve to be shot. He did not deserve a life of partial paralysis. The officer who did not deserve the public censure that became a permanent part of his life.
That case provides lessons we may want to apply to a shooting death, and subsequent police overreaction in Ferguson, Missouri. Justice is needed.
We need to think through what is needed for justice.
Sun, 10 August 2014
Racism is often unexamined except superficially. We skim along the surface of a single assumption. Racists are unspeakably evil. We, and those we include in our circles of friends, are not evil. What could be more clear? They, and we, are not touched by racism, except in our rejection of it.
Most bigotry is not binary, turned off and on as you would a light switch. A line drawn between racism and good will can be fuzzy. Sometimes it is so blurred it is not a line at all. It can be more like a rheostat. The light shines and dims in degrees as the dial is slowly turned.
Few of those who hate the President because he simply does not belong in his position would consider their motivations to be racist. Racism is the province of monsters, on a level with child molesters. In the polite company of Fox News viewers, even those who wear tricornered hats at public gatherings, motives are pure. They must be.
Fri, 8 August 2014
Mo Brooks and his assertion that white people are suffering as a result of minority advancement, not as a result of a playing field tilted toward the wealthy, comes from a zero-sum view of the world. That view is as common in history as influenza. It is especially identified with conservative reactions to every surge of progress since slavery days.
It isn't hard to exploit that view, especially when it is reinforced by an economy that has been slowed by a Congress dominated by the enemies of equality. A war against white people is a powerful lie to those who feel the effects of economic hardship.
Most analysts seem to think Democrats will win electorally just by waiting for outraged minorities, and those white people whose sensibilities are offended, to reach a combined majority.
A more immediate remedy may be a full throated expression of the truth. We ought to point out the truth because it is the right thing to do. In this case, it is also the smart thing to do.
A responsible populism on behalf of those working hard and still hurting would be justly aimed against those who dominate the halls of power and influence. A powerful falsehood can sometimes be met by a powerful truth.
Sun, 3 August 2014
I know there is humor to be had in Republicans needing approval from extremists for extremist legislation, and it can seem funny that conservatives demand that President Obama issue Executive Orders exactly one day after filing suit against him for issuing Executive Orders.
Obama vs the Republican Lawsuit becomes Obama vs the Empty Suit.
But, as I think of a high school girl I met just once last year, it's hard for me to dwell on the humor.