Tuesday, January 31, 2006

i was impressed with the state of the union speech tonight. for the most part, bush has just been an idiot during his presidency. but there have been a few moments where i think he could make a great president. if he keeps up with what he started tonight, the history books might actual tell a story that isn't so focused on iraq. here are some highlights:

  • forming a commission to assess baby-boomer impact on social security, medicaid and medicare.

  • medical liability reform

  • "move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make dependence on middle eastern oil a thing of the past"

  • increasing funds for science and technology. research and development tax credit.

it seems like this is the first time he's acted like a compassionate conservative. i think the country could really use more.

Monday, January 30, 2006

hatred in the name of homosexuality

rick brought to my attention another recent online skirmish over the homosexuality issue. you can follow his blog for the details, but the basics are that brian mclaren DIDN'T condemn homosexuality, and therefore invited loads of bible-beating in the name of "truth".

i've been perusing the blogosphere over the past few years, and have come across some truly aweful forms of attack that are all cast in a christian skin. from anonymous comments on blogs, to other embodiments of poison such as emergentno. all of this behavior, to which i have not abstained at times, is very hard to reconcile with Jesus telling us to love one another. it saddens me, and further comfirms my own tendency to not look to the christian church for spiritual leadership. it really breaks my heart to see people treating each other like this, all in the name of Jesus. and this vitriolic attitude exists on both sides of the issues. until we learn to respond in love, we will not only get nowhere, but will continue making the situation worse.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

towards reconciliation on all fronts

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

i've been known to react quite loudly to acts by others that i find ridiculous, especially when they are committed in the name of Jesus and are made to speak for the Church. however, i've lately felt a consistent, gentle strain within me to find reconciliation with those that i differ so much with, who also share the identity of "follower of Jesus".

a lot of us have been burned by either fundamentalist or very sectarian ways of thinking in the churches we grew up in. and for many, the process of deconstructing and discarding those harmful ways of life is still continuing. however, as much as i've grown tired of churches in general, the fact is that the only way back towards following Jesus together is for us to start finding common ground with all those on the road. initially, this seems like a difficult, if not impossible proposition. as we've been discussing in an earlier post, the way in which we treat Scripture seems to drastically affect our faith, and so how can we begin to find common ground when there's so much disagreement on those fundamental issues? the solution, as least as far as i can see in my limited view, is to do as best we can, and not give in to legalities.

behind every theological argument we have with another person, there still exists a very human, emotional connection. the quality of this connection is largely lost in the blogosphere, so i'm really talking about personal interactions here. this connection we share with other humans is very real, and exists despite whatever intellectual differences you hold with someone else. when we find ourselves in these situations, or even in "milder" situations where the talk isn't so heated, but the tension still exists (even if it's just in your own mind), we have to make concerted efforts to overcome the emotional control that these things hold on us, and always remember to treat our brothers and sisters with the utmost love, compassion and humility. this can be very, very hard, especially if this means they get the last word, or you look bad. but i am convinced that, given Jesus' ultimate example in the giving of his life, it is the only option if we are to really follow Jesus and walk as he did.

now, the simple fact is that when i say something like that, it's quickly going to come to mind an instance where this might not be right. but i can't account for those, and neither does any theology. following is a way of life, not a set of rules; it's more important to foster a way of being, rather than an intellectual toolkit. when we give ourselves over to disputes, i think we're giving part of ourselves away that we don't need to. it becomes a distraction, while not being relevant to our relationship with God. this happens on all sides of the spectrum (the right & abortion, the left and social justice, the middle and their gripes about the right and left not getting it right). the fact is, as gentry alluded to, it seems much better to talk about what's right with us, rather than what's wrong. not that there's not a place for working through our issues. it's just that our issues usually get worked out, and it's the working out that sticks with us forever (kinda like darwin). the things we learn to do right are the things that make the biggest difference in the world.

so, as we continue to deal with others of the same name, but different cultures, may the peace of Christ rest on our hearts, that we may stop yelling at each other...

one for the calvinists

here's an interesting article on how our perception of "free will" is really just an illusion of our minds that we experience as we live. i haven't finished the whole article yet, but so far it's made for an interesting read. they don't give any data to back up their claims, so if you don't agree, don't worry...it's just a "theory".

link to PDF

Monday, January 16, 2006

things that annoy me

1. restuarant personnel singing their company's "outrageous" birthday song for patrons. i always feel guilty when i don't chime in.

2. "pre-game" shows for any type of arts award show (acamedy, grammy, emmy, etc.). case-in-point: the golden globe awards pre-show is on right now. what does it matter, and how is it beneficial, that we know what these other human beings are wearing?!? really, this is a waste of human life and resource. i'll read the standings in the morning and use my free time to do something useful.

please, please feel free to add your own.


i don't know if my questions will be as good of a discussion starter as fletch's, but i'll try it any way.

why is it that both Jews and Christians, who have the same creation story, have such different takes on the literal-ness of Genesis? why is it that the whole debate over intelligent design is waged by conservative evangelical Christians, but not Jews? the Jews still have the same creation story, so why don't they care? do Jews' faith not rest on the creation story? why is it that Christians are so caught up in defeating evolution? does faith in God and in Jesus as the Messiah rest largely on the creation story? can one believe in evolution, and still believe that Jesus is the Messiah?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

artificial intelligence

for those who are interested, here is a little model that i coded up this week. it's a very simple example of primitive (one neuron) aritificial intelligence in an extremely simple world. you'll need flash to view it:


the basic premise of the model is as follows:

the yellow object in the middle is a sun, and the white objects are artificial
organisms. each organism is modeled as a two-cell system, one cell for a light-receptive neuron (sensor), and the other cell for a muscle (actuator). the neuron only fires a signal to the muscle when the sunlight-dependent voltage inside the neuron reaches a value above threshold. at this point, the neuron takes a random step to one of the 8 surrounding squares, and the value of the voltage is decremented (to account for the firing). then the voltage has to charge up again before it will fire. the light from the sun decreases relative to the square of the distance of each organism from the sun. therefore, organisms closer to the sun accumulate more voltage quickly, and thus fire more often, resulting in more movement, than those further away. if you watch for a while, you might even see one of the organisms get too close to the sun, go berserk for a few seconds, and then settle down when it gets further away.

there's nothing really remarkable about this model so far, except that all the movement, and any pattern that emerges (like the frequency of movement as related to distance from the sun) is completely derived from the physics of this little pseudo-world. the organisms aren't really doing any independent thinking; they're just reacting probabilistically. given that, i think it's pretty interesting how closely this resembles gnats flying around a light bulb.

Friday, January 13, 2006

as i've been thinking about the nature of human cognition and consciousness lately, one of my prevailing threads of thinking has concerned the relationship between the human brain and our interpretations of reality. unexpectedly, however, i've come to the conclusion that joyce meyer might be right, in the sense that the mind really is a battefield. however, i think that her perspective on the issue is so encased in western patriarchal dominator culture that the actions she takes to interpret her main theory tend to take on a characteristic that is antithetical to some of the main characteristics of Jesus' life (at least from my reading of the gospels).

jumping off from there, this also makes me think of the value in finding the truth in the messages of those you disagree with. it seems that all people are driven by their own perception of the "truth" of reality, and that this perception is what drives them to various actions, whether it be fundamentalist evangelism, or terrorist attacks. if we are to really live like Jesus in this world, then one of the fundamental actions we must take in dealing with people who are different from us is to find and understand (learn) how they see the truth, and realize that they perceive reality in a much different way from you. maybe then some positive constructive work can come. however, as long as we only attack each other, nothing positive will come. energy is only created when two separate entities enter into resonance with one another.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

you can always count on...

my crazy aunt-in-law, "auntie ann" (i kid you not), to forward me the hottest christianese emails. the latest i received today. somewhere between Deep Thoughts by jack handy and the sphinx from Mystery Men, lies the interview with God (go ahead, click on "view presentation"). the pictures are quite nice, but i feel like each statement is a riddle of some sorts.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

complex systems

i'm pretty excited about a week-long intensive course i'll be taking next week. the course will cover the topic of complex systems, and will be taught by the New England Complex Systems Institute. here's a link to the syllabus(PDF) for the course.
i started a fairly interesting forum discussion about penal substitution here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

given the fact that none of my friends took me off their blogroll, i figured maybe it meant they actually enjoyed reading my blog and were anticipating my return. OR. they're just too lazy to remove me from their blogroll. whatever.

anyway, i think things in my life are finally starting to turn around. this is primarily due to me slightly shifting my research topic to something more cognitive, as well as finally deciding that we won't be moving to minneapolis. this whole chain of events brings more uncertainty into our life, but what does it matter? the fact is that faith is something that works against uncertainty, all the while staring it in the face. and i believe that this is the right thing to do. you could call it "God's will", but that might be pushing it a little too far.

things that haven't changed? it's 1:18am. i wonder if this is ever going to change. probably not. unless i ever graduate and get a real job. and the chances of that happening?

i realized over this christmas break, when we were home visiting family and friends, that a lot of life boils down to how you react. shit is always going to happen; it's inevitable. however, the manner in which we react to life, in all its forms, largely determines the atmosphere, and thus attitude and character, of who we develop into. if we see life as a cynic, then we will become hard. if we see life as a pessimist, then we will become defeated. but if we choose to see life as opportunistic, and we realize our choices determine the outcome of those opportunities, then the sky will begin to open up, and we will begin to see heaven.