Meet and Eat

My son and I have been watching when we can the Discovery Life series. It is beautifully photographed, so beautiful that I wonder if James Cameron has gotten involved. Somehow, though, this series is not as captivating as the previous Planet Earth series.

Perhaps others have formed a different opinion, but the series seems to predominantly explore who eats whom (which we watch in graphic detail) and how various creatures copulate. I guess there’s not much else going on out there in nature.

Admittedly, I’ve seen but two of the ten. To early to form a solid opinion.

The Good, the Bad, and the Tall and Skinny

Even one preoccupied has to make room for his obsessions. (Further obsessive tendencies revealed here.)

For quite a while I have been persuaded by experience that my Nigel Rudolph mug retained heat better than any other mug in our cabinet. I asked Nigel and his wife Cheyenne about that recently and they could offer no reason why that should be. These are not, you should know, ceramic hacks. Nigel and Cheyenne know much about the science of clays, and as far as they knew, there was nothing in the mug itself to bring about my perceived result.

So, making tea for a guest the other night, I decided to put my perceptions to the test.

I selected three mugs, a tall skinny Hope Presbyterian Church mug, a wide mouth Nigel Rudolph mug, and a medium girth Krispy Kreme mug. I put 7 ounces (by weight) of hot water in each, and took measurements every minute for ten minutes, then every five minutes, and then at 60 minutes.

This was a very efficient use of time, as our guest, Barb, and I sipped our tea and talked while the measurements were being recorded.

Our guest, though, laughed at me. We love her anyway. I have been accused by friends in Los Alamos, NM (having, in my estimations, more PhDs per square inch than anywhere else on the planet) of suffering from LAPD, (Los Alamos Personality Disorder). Diagnosis is, no doubt, hereby confirmed.

What we discovered was that my perceptions were wrong. The wide-mouthed, Nigel Rudolph mug lost heat at a greater rate than the tall and skinny-mouthed Hope mug. Our conclusion was that the surface area of liquid exposed to the air is the variable which determines rate of cooling.

I also concluded that I simply need to drink my coffee faster. All science aside, I’m not giving up the aesthetic and personal pleasure of using Nigel’s mug!

Honey, Why Is that Man Standing in His Driveway in His Pajamas?

As our 18 year old daughter was leaving Sunday evening to go watch a movie with friends, she said, “Did you know there is a shower tonight?” Since our middle daughter was at that time attending a baby shower, we were a bit puzzled by what daughter number three was saying, but finally she clarified. She said that after the movie, she and her friends were going to go outside to watch the meteor shower.

That was Sunday evening.

Early Monday morning, about 2:00 AM (November 16) I awoke restlessly and could not go back to sleep. When this happens, I see no sense in staying in bed. I get up and do stuff, and eventually I fall back asleep.

As I lay there, I remembered what my daughter had said about the meteor shower, and so I got up and stumbled out to the driveway and looked skyward. And looked. And looked.

There I was, in my pajamas, looking at a clear, beautiful, starlit night, at 3:00 in the morning.

Nothing. No shooting stars. No falling stars. No movie stars. No nothing.

“That meteor shower was over-hyped,” I thought, and I went back inside.

Tonight at dinner, we were talking and my daughter piped up, “Ha! We had the wrong night on the meteor shower! It’s not until tonight!”


I’ll probably get up tonight, too. I’m on a mission now.

How Many Oceans?

In the ‘What does my third grader know that I don’t know department’ is this tidbit of information. Apparently, between when I was in third grade and now, they’ve added an ocean.

I don’t know who the ‘they’ is that has that power, but I am informed by my resident expert in all things oceanic that somewhere around 2000, the perennial lineup of four oceans – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic – was deemed inadequate for all the duties required of oceans.

This necessitated the addition of the Southern Ocean, a result of the generosity of the three bordering oceans who each agreed to donate all their water south of the 60th parallel (in exchange, it is rumored, for a sea to be named later).

So now the rest of us who went to third grade a long time ago know.

Science and the Bible

Don’t get excited. I’m not really very far going down this path.

But it is clear that both science (an aspect of general revelation) and the Bible (the product of special revelation) must, as they illumine the works of God, be in agreement. Where there is disagreement, the issue is one of interpretation, not essence. Our biases impact our interpretation of scripture, and so we might get it wrong. As well, our biases impact our interpretation of scientific data, and we might get it wrong. The fundamentalist Bible believer runs the risk of assuming that his interpretation of the Bible is infallible. It is not. And the equally fundamentalist devotee of science runs the risk of assuming that the interpretation given to natural phenomena is infallible. It is not.

So, the two forms of revelation, though in essence infallible, are as observed and interpreted open to error and therefore must inform one another.

I was reminded of this while researching commentary on Psalm 93 which says that under the reign of God, “…the world is established; it shall not be moved.”

About this, John Calvin, writing in the middle of the 16th century, about the same time that Copernicus published his work removing the earth from its position at the center of the universe, says this:

“The Psalmist proves that God will not neglect or abandon the world, from the fact that he created it. A simple survey of the world should of itself suffice to attest a Divine Providence. The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion — no disturbance in the harmony of their motion.”

Charles Spurgeon, writing 300 years after Calvin and Copernicus, comments on the same passage saying this:

“Society would be the football of the basest of mankind if God did not establish it, and even the globe itself would fly through space, like thistle-down across the common, if the Lord did not hold it in its appointed orbit.”

Neither man was interpreting scripture improperly. They were, however, seeing it through a different conceptual grid which had been effected by scientific inquiry and discovery. I simply find the contrast here interesting, and it serves as a reminder to me that fundamentalists of both the biblical and scientific types ought always be aware of the glasses they wear.

Religion vs. Reason

Sam Harris thinks that Francis Collins is a bad choice for the head of the National Institutes of Health. Why? Because Francis Collins claims to be a Christian. You can read his article here and decide for yourself the merits of his argument.

I would only point out the epistemological quandary his argument creates. He contends that Collins cannot be trusted in a scientific position because he believes that there is a God in the universe, when there is not. The equal and opposite argument could be made. Harris cannot be trusted to speak intelligently on matters of science because he excludes from the universe a God that is really there.

There are all kinds of serious implications of Harris’ line of reasoning.

But what struck me in the article was his claim that modern science possesses esoteric knowledge that mere mortals – especially mere Christian mortals – cannot be expected to understand. He says:

“…very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist. But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.”

Sociologist Rodney Stark in a book published by that bastion of religious ideology (dripping irony intentional), Princeton University Press, notes that the vast majority of practitioners in the hard sciences, both living and dead, are religious. Extraordinary, isn’t it, how so many are able to overcome their natural biases and do good science and believe in God at the same time.

Harris’ contention hides an arrogance of ‘expertise’ which makes debate nearly impossible. How easily an argument is squashed when someone transcends ‘you don’t understand’ and plays the trump card ‘you CAN’T understand’.

He is not alone. In the thread I referenced here regarding the book Physics for Future Presidents, by Berkley professor Richard Muller, a colleague of the author makes this observation:

“Although I generally agree with Prof. Muller, and I have enjoyed the parts of his book that I have read, I would take him with a grain of salt. He is by no means the most authoritative research on climate change available, even on the Berkeley campus. Like Al Gore, he has now become a popularizer, and that task has inherent risks, as Muller himself is aware.”

The merits or demerits of the book aside, the implication is that any attempt to popularize, that is, to explain these difficult matters to the masses, will be deficient. Sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applied to public knowledge. The more we try to bring this knowledge close to people, the less clear it becomes. What we of the masses must do, I suppose, then, is to trust the experts, the experts who support and do not question whatever happens to be the current party line. “Trust me. I have a PhD. You need to reduce your carbon footprint. Just trust me.”

This all reminds me of a discussion I once had with an older woman about abortion. The argument was successfully ended when she said that I could not possibly understand because I am a man and, at the time, young. Different argument, same tactic. Argument over. Not settled; just over.

Sam Harris is rightfully troubled with some arguments for God’s existence, and some natural and observable phenomena which seems to cast doubt upon God’s reported goodness or power. These questions are troubling and need to be discussed.

A Christian explanation needs to be pondered. We might be tempted to suggest that he cannot understand the Christian explanation because he is an atheist.

He should take offense if we do so. Rather, we need to see that he will not understand. His is a moral, not an intellectual, problem.



The answers given to the request for favorite Nicolas Cage movies generated no consensus. Mentioned were

Gone in Sixty Seconds

Family Man

National Treasure

The Rock

Trapped in Paradise

With honorable mention going to


Matchstick Men

Bringing Out the Dead

I’m surprised no one mentioned Moonstruck, a movie in which he plays a non-Cage type character.

My favorite has to be Raising Arizona, both because I love the premise and the characters, but also because it bears that Coen Brother’s quirkiness.


In this post, I posed a riddle: two 2008 films in which the male lead early in the film is expected to die. One was correctly guessed and the other was not. No surprise here. Seven Pounds with Will Smith in the lead drew much more attention than the other one I had in mind. Henry Poole Is Here stars Luke Wilson as a man who moves back to his old neighborhood to die, being diagnosed with a rare and terminal disease.

With death in the air, Henry Poole is much more hopeful than Seven Pounds, but each raises intriguing questions in their own way. It was purely coincidental that Barb and I watched both films on the same night.


Our new friend Greg has enabled me to sleep at night now that he has solved, with some sense of authority, my puzzlement over the flight path of an M & M. Thanks, Greg.