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Friday, October 29, 2010

Trying to compare and relate science and religion

Science is great. It's simply observation, prediction, investigation and explanation. Then you do it over and over until you are satisfied. It's one of the few sets of beliefs I know that openly thrives on the fact that it can be wrong. It embraces this as part of its general belief.

For fun lets compare science with religion. It's not a tough comparison as they are a lot alike.

A scientist studies publications of other scientists to learn about how they practiced their beliefs. A religious leader studies similar publications such as scripture or testimony of other religious leaders. They both become well versed in their area of study and great experts. Both science and religion attempt to take what is known by the leaders of the communities and explain the world around them. This is great!

Here is where they differ. The basic belief of science is that you can observe the natural world and attempt to explain why what you observe happens. Then you test your observations to see if your predictions stand up to your tests. If they don't, that's cool. You don't have to question your entire belief system, you simply accept that you were wrong, learn from your mistake and try again.

Now religion on the other hand approaches the world from a completely different perspective. Religion will make a claim based on the testimony of a respected religious leader or what is written in a book. This claim is then fact without being subject to any test, questioning or interpretation by others. This of course assuming we are talking about one religion, I know there are about a million religions who have interpreted the bible (or other religious texts) differently, but let's simply choose one for now - pick your favorite.

Let's say the scientific community sets a belief. Let's use continental drift for instance. If another scientist comes along 40 years later and says "hey, this old belief we had about continents plowing across the ocean doesn't seem to make sense since continents are weaker than the bottom of the ocean." the community will go "hmm.. yes.. maybe you are right, what could they be doing instead? Oh, maybe the continents are shattered into pieces that slide around a ductile layer underneath them and the continents are less dense causing isostasy and this is why they are higher in elevation" Then people are allowed to agree or disagree based on their observations and interpretations of them.

Religion says, "Noah stated that around 5,000 years ago there was a great flood which covered the whole Earth, all animals went extinct except for those Noah saved, so this is true." and then over time people start observing things that don't seem to fit with this such as lack of an index flood deposit covering the Earth and the fact that land animals which Noah would have had absolutely no way of accessing, from the middle-east, still exist such as Kangaroos or Alpacas. Religion then reconsiders their beliefs and states, "Noah stated that around 5,000 years ago there was a great flood which covered the whole Earth, all animals went extinct except for those Noah saved, so this is true and your observations are invalid."

Yet hundreds of millions of people still believe that Noah and his ark contained the sole survivors of a catastrophic flood that wiped the planet clean. Why? Because they have faith in what the top religious figures say.

What is faith? One of my favorite scriptures was written by an ancient North American prophet named Alma. He says that faith isn't knowledge, faith is simply hope. I like that. It's a great and wise statement. He almost seems like he's smarter than most of these religious folk. He's not saying "have faith for it is true" he's saying "have faith because you want it to be true." Well yeah, I want to die and meet God and have him say "Wow Brandon, you really did some good stuff with your life. You became well versed in the knowledge of the world I gave you to study, you treated your fellow man with compassion and you even tried to please me in situations where it was very hard for you." Though I have absolutely no empirical reason to believe this whatsoever. All I have is faith... or hope.

Unfortunately I also faith that Utah State will win the WAC in basketball. I have no empirical reason to think they will, but I sure hope they do. Is my hope of the Aggies winning the WAC the same as my hope that a creator who understands me is waiting for me after my bodies biological functions become unable to sustain what I know as life? Yes, actually it is. Neither faiths are backed by empirical evidence. Both are based on hope and testimony. One has people who make religion their life telling me God created me and is waiting for me in an after-life while the other has people who make sports their life telling me that the Aggies will win the WAC.

One could say that I can observe the past and predict that it is likely Utah State will win their division, but that doesn't mean at all that they will. They COULD finish dead last. Likewise one can come up with all sorts of arguments for me to believe in the LDS church (my personal specific faith) and it's quite possible that it is true, but it's also possible that it is not. A good Mormon is not allowed to believe that it is possible that it is not true. A scientist is completely allowed to reject a well accepted theory if they have reason and data to back it up with.

Is it so hard to see why so many people have become atheist or agnostic over the last few decades? The way we view religion is becoming obsolete.

Why can't religion be more accepting of the observed natural world? Why can't a religion be strong enough to say, "Hey we understand that a catastrophic world-wide flood has absolutely no observable evidence other than a written story, so maybe it was just a parable." or "Yeah, using many different dating techniques we can observe that the earth has been around for far longer than is written in the bible, likely even billions of years."? Religion can't do this because for so long religion has based their legitimacy on the fact that God is omniscient and therefore men of God are omniscient.

Bullshit.

God may be omniscient but men of God are nothing but flawed mortals trying to relay his messages in the best way they know how. Guess what, the Pope can be wrong. Your Pasteur or Bishop or Prophet can be wrong. They are imperfect humans, it is in their nature to be wrong. If a religion were to admit that religious texts and interpretations of religious text are subject to fallacy, they would become far more honest and correct, but they would lose followers. Religion doesn't want to lose followers. They want to save (or collect money from - depending on the religion) as many people as they can. Accepting fault is unacceptable in religion. That is too bad. I wish religion was able to simply observe their set beliefs could be wrong and modify them like science can.

God is right, God is always right. It's his job to always be right. Religion is humans trying to imitate and please God. Humans aren't very good at being perfect and we never will be, hell we're not even that good at being right. Science is a set of beliefs that embraces our incompetence as humans and teaches us to learn from it and modify our beliefs to try and get as close to right as we can while knowing that we can never be fully right. This is why I love science. I also love God who I know exists because of the aforementioned faith I have in him. To quote a man far more brilliant than I will ever be,

"Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?... Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?"

Well Professor Hawking, the answer to this question is simple. God :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mormons vs. Gays v.2010

So everyone seems to bandwagoning either the gays or the Mormons again. A president in the church made a remark about how homosexuality is unnatural, but God still loves you and will accept your repentance and the gay community took offense and decided to demand an apology out of the man.

Here's what I don't get. Why do they care? He didn't say anything mean to the gays. He simply stated his religions viewpoint on homosexuality. Is that not one of the rights of the country? To be allowed to have a religion that has points of view which may be different from another person's? I mean c'mon. I'm not even conservative and I support gays being allowed to be with other gays. I still think they're stupid for getting mad at this. It's almost like they're trying to find reasons to take offense, thinking that if they act like a pathetic little victim they will garner respect. Wrong, you lost my respect. I understand you were pissed when the LDS church gave money to a campaign against prop 8. Understandable. This is a tax free organization and as so should not be allowed to influence campaign funds with their money. If they want to tell their homosexual members that there is hope for them I see no problem with this though. I read that 1/11 people are either homosexual or bisexual. Of the 12 or 13 or... I lost track... ex girlfriends I have, three were admittedly bisexual (though usually in the closet about it.) All 3 of them were Mormon and went to church. Considering there are 13 million Mormons in the world I think this talk was probably nice to quite a few people who have this concern. Dear super-sensitive gays, Quit being so sensitive, no one is going to take you seriously until you quit acting like fags. Yes, there is a difference between bi/homosexuals and fags.

On the flip side of this, I don't like that President Packer compared heterosexuality to gravity. This is a stupid analogy. Gravity is defined as [6.67*10^-11(m1)(m2)]/r^2 . Now please, tell me, what is the mathematical equation for heterosexuality, because I have some friends that I would greatly enjoy testing this on. Fail. This is a terrible analogy whether you're scientific minded or not. Gravity simply exists, you can not deny it. Can you fly against it? Sure, but gravity is still acting on you. Orbit? Gravity is still acting on you, without gravity you could not orbit. Homosexuality is not something which is definable like this. Some people simply feel gay. That's cool. They're allowed to and they're allowed to choose whether to act on their gay tendencies or not. I know for certain that one of my best friends from high school is bi, he's married to a woman and has never done anything homosexual. He made this choice, some people don't. No one has a choice whether or not they accept their gravitational attraction or not. Heterosexuality is not a "natural law," it just happens to be what is the most functional and makes the most sense.

So I guess in conclusion, while the church official made a poor comparison, he's right. The LDS church does not accept homosexuality as right, but accepts homosexuals and even allows them church positions if they overcome their gay tendencies. He should have worded things differently and not gone into the whole "it's unnatural" thing. My Molly Mormon friends will have a hard time agreeing with me on that point because they don't understand that church officials are mortal and sometimes don't word things correctly, but really? If this is going to set off the gay community, then they need to not ever repent and go to hell.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Binary

This made me laugh and I wanted to share:

Katie XXXXX ‎101010 = 42. Yet I still don't feel like I really know the answer to life, the universe and everything...
Nicole XXXXX wtf does that mean? how is 101010= 42
18 minutes ago · Like
Brandon Alger There are 10 types of people in this world. Those who understand binary and those who do not.
15 minutes ago · Like · 1 person
Nicole XXXXX k thats 2 types not 10.
10 minutes ago · Like
Brandon Alger and you are clearly the latter type :-D
9 minutes ago · Like
Nicole XXXXX yeah i have a life
9 minutes ago · Like
Brandon Alger I fail to see the high correlation coefficient between life and knowledge of binary, but that's awesome! Congratulations :)

I love stupid people. They make me feel so much better about myself. Though she did make a valid implication. I have little social life this weekend. (Though to be perfectly honest I probably have more friends than this person despite my knowledge of binary.) You see, this isn't a normal circumstance for me, but this weekend has blown ass. Saturday was all right, but I've spent Friday and Sunday nights home alone... well James is here, but I'm in my room alone at 9:30. I feel kind of unwanted or something. Not unwanted, because that's not true. People like being around me, just like everyone has people they'd rather be around. The girl I was into the last month for example said she'd come play or watch a movie after she went to ward prayer, she then sort of bailed without notice on me. My other roommates are all with people that apparently more exciting to be around than I am. My other old crush started dating her ex-boyfriend. Good choice there, take my advice - it's stupid. Don't ever date the ex. You're ex's for a reason, the same reason will break you up again. Speaking of ex's. I hung out with my ex's ex best friend last night. Cool girl. She was telling me that when my ex made out with my old friend like a day after we broke up she only acted regretful to appease me since I was pissed at her. Kind of hurt me a little, even though it shouldn't being that it really doesn't matter anymore. She's a person of crap character though. I could go on, but since she may or may not read this (likely not by this point, but just in case) I won't. I'm only a person of sometimes crap character. I play nice usually. Okay sorry, huge tangent. The point is I'm feeling down. It's annoying. Especially since it's not even winter yet. Winter is depressing season. Fall is supposed to be happy! Even though everything is dying... but I don't mean like that... I'm not one of them morbid kids that's like yes, death = happiness. Death is sad, I miss Snowball.

Snowball was awesome. She'd be 16 now if she were still alive. She could do various tricks such as sit, shake, walk on two toes, dance, play amazing catch with a frisbee, eat flies and sing along with a harmonica. She was so playful but even more than playful - she was hungry. You could not leave food out with any conceivable way for Snowball to get to it, because she'd get it. Sometimes I'd just be confused as to where something went and then I'd find a sleeping Snowball along with some crumbs. You're not obvious now are you? End.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Geomorphology..

..is boring. Seriously, it's the worst geology class I've taken yet. The professor isn't bad, not great either, but certainly not bad. She's a grad student in the watershed science department, so she teaches it like a Watershed Science class rather than a Geology class which involves more sleeping from Brandon than it probably should, but whatever.

This weekend Utah State pummeled the Cougars of Breedem Young University by doubling their score for their first football victory over them since 1993. Unfortunately I was in the Tetons with my geomorphology class and had to enjoy the game on the radio. The trip was all right. The geology was kind of boring save for just the pure majesty of the Tetons overlooking a beautiful valley with glacial features having scoured every peak and corner of the mountains leaving them rugged and used. We saw a landslide and some glacial moraines,where the glacier ends and drops off a bunch of crap that was inside of it. Contrary to popular belief glaciers aren't just ice, they're full of rocks and debris and all sorts of crap, so when they melt the stuff just drops out of it. Most of the geology part of the trip just involved driving, taking some notes and being bored. There were a couple times where we got to go look through rock float or outcrop and find stuff. I found a few fossils and some really cool calcite geode things. Fun souvenirs of a less than fun trip.

A large part of the trip involved just hanging out around the campfire and partying, Playing guitar, singing, making friends, eating, drinking.. you know the drill. I am proud of myself though. Despite being offered beer on multiple occasions, probably due to the 10+ beers I drank on a trip last year, I didn't have a single drop of alcohol. I don't really know why I'm proud of that as I don't consider alcohol to be a cardinal sin or anything, but God tells me it is, so whatever. I think I'm just proud of the self-control and the fact that I could say no. Also the fact that I was just as loud, obnoxious and had just as much fun as anyone who had BAC levels of 0.1 or higher :) One of the guys did throw a whole bottle of hand sanitizer in the fire which made for an adventure. One drunk girl kept biting my arm (and I'm pretty sure kissed it at one point) which I found quite annoying, but hey, drunk people do silly things. I will admit that being sober made sleeping harder though. Falling asleep with people yelling and sub-freezing temperatures engulfing your tent isn't too hard when you're buzzed. When you're sober it requires headphones which creates a new problem since you need your cell phone battery to last 60 hours. It made it though.

I got a new cell phone! It is a Samsung Gravity T. The T stands for touchscreen ;) I feel so high tech. Really it's no different from my old Samsung besides the touch screen, addition of a GPS and an interface upgrade, but it sure does look cooler! I'm always trying to find excuses to use the GPS on it and love plugging it into my car to listen to music from it since I actually bought a memory stick for this one. My old one had expandable memory, but I was too cheap to spend $10-$20 on a memory stick.

College is getting old. I want to be done, I want to move so badly. I have been talking with a grad adviser about going to the University of Minnesota, but I don't know if that's the best choice for me. I'd love the program, but it just doesn't "feel" right for lack of a better way to put it. I have terrible senioritis. The last geophysics assignment I did, I pretty much just said, "eff it," made some stuff up and turned it in. I'll probably get about 10/25 on it and honestly, I don't care. I'll have plenty of other opportunities to do better on stuff that makes sense and when I'm in a better mood.

You know, there are some things I just can't type in this blog because of its public access. Sometimes I like that my friends can read how I feel if they care to, but other times I do not. I guess I'll just accept it and go to bed. By the way, if you actually care enough to stalk my blog, thanks. You're a good friend :) I hope we see each other often and I express how awesome I think you are.