Tuesday, July 21, 2015

America's Heroes -- Not Just Soldiers

It's not the soldier who puts out house fires, it's the firemen. 

It's not the soldier who arrests the rapist, it's the cop. 

It's not the soldier who saves the accident victim's life, it's the first responders.

It's not the soldier who discovers ways to cure millions, it's the doctors and scientists.

It's not the soldier who instills character and knowledge into our youth, it's parents and teachers.

Finally, it's not the solder who funds himself and all the other heroes in America, it's all the common folks like you and me who abide by the laws and pay our taxes.

Soldiers deserve recognition and honor, but so do many other Americans -- just as much -- and who get far less. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We've heard stories about young people who have to be “de-programmed” from some cult's conditioning. We've heard about the Stockholm Syndrome, where a captive becomes brainwashed into supporting her captives. We've seen how humans can be conditioned to the point that reason no longer determines their thoughts or behavior.
I believe that Americans are slowly being de-programmed from centuries of wrong and hurtful conditioning. In my 6+ decades of life, hurtful things like racism, bigotry, animal cruelty, religious tribalism, scientific ignorance, and social injustices have decreased, and I believe the momentum has been increasing.
There is still a lot of resistance from those who see change as threatening, and in some cases, evil, but as education and communication increases, that resistance is weakening. As someone who has tried to swim against the current in the Cimarron River, I know that the current eventually wins, and I believe the current is going in the right direction. In short, I'm cautiously optimistic about our nation's and the world's future – cautiously, because I realize how easily one match can cause an explosion.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Knowledge vs. Belief vs. Faith

The requirements for knowledge / belief in science are far different than those required in religion. Scientists are very careful with their use of the terms "to know" and "to believe" -- and the word "faith" is anathema. Religion has no such strict interpretations and often use the three terms interchangeably.

It only took me a semester of biology to have a problem with my preacher saying things like, "Know this, when you die, you'll either go to Heaven or Hell". Well alrighty, then! OK, you might scare me into one or tempt me into the other, but you can't make me "know" that I'll land in either one. Then he would ask me if I "believed" this. Of course I said yes, rationalizing my surrender by letting the word "believe" dilute "know" down enough to be palatable.

But that didn't fix the dissonance in my mind. It only grew worse the farther I got into science. Common origin, natural selection, speciation, genetics, geology -- on and on -- contradicted almost every thing I had been conditioned to believe. I finally came to the conclusion that I had to make a choice. I had to dump either science or religion. I dumped religion. At least I tried damn hard to. But the dissonance remained -- until a few years ago. So what cleared things up? My definitions of the words "knowledge", "belief" and "faith". Here they are.

- Knowledge requires empirical, non-disputable evidence. Example: Neil Armstrong knew he walked on the moon on July 20, 1969. I can't know this, but he did.
- Belief requires objective evidence that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Example: Objective evidence supports Armstrong's walk on the moon. I have no choice but to go where the evidence takes me.
- Faith is based upon hope and does not require a minimum amount of evidence. Of course, to have hope usually requires some amount of evidence, but it can be entirely subjective. Example: Having faith that on August 25, 2012, Neil Armstrong became an astronaut in God's space program, regardless of the lack of objective evidence. (I can have faith in this if I so choose, but I cannot know or believe it.)

Thus, I'm at peace. As long as there is the unknown, I can choose to hope for anything I want, even if the only evidence I have is almost 100% subjective. I call it “faith”. It's my choice. I can have “faith” in Heaven even if I don't have enough evidence to know or believe in it. However, I don't need faith to accept evolution. I have sufficient objective evidence. See? No more dissonance.

So, if any of my religious friends out there ever hear me say, “I don't believe in xyz”, you'll know that I still might have faith in it. Or if my atheist friends out there hear me say, “I have faith in xyz”, you'll know I still may not believe in it. Hope that clears things up.