Archive for the ‘Modern Life’ Category

Interesting article in the New York Times on the GOP’s war on evolution.  Apparently a new Pew poll has found an 11 percent decline since 2009 in Republicans who believe our species evolved over time.  That’s interesting, but not as interesting as this concluding remark to the article:  “So climate change, the Big Bang and evolution must be categorically rejected as threats to religious faith (which they’re not).”

So much I could say about that, in no particular order:

1.  “Threat” is the wrong word to use here because it’s so generic.  If someone is frightened by something, even something that isn’t dangerous, it is very much a “threat”.  But that’s irrelevant to this evolution business.  The real question is whether or not evolution, the Big Bang and climate change advance a world-view that is logically incompatible with a religious world-view.

2.  The author needs to distinguish between simple evolution (which teaches that things change over time as existing genetic variety gets favored in response to environmental pressure) and naturalistic evolution (which teaches that all life is an accident both in terms of its origins and its present state).  The former is NOT incompatible with a theistic world-view  (in fact, it can be used to argue for the existence of a God with foresight) but the latter most certainly is logically incompatible with a theistic world-view.

3.  Why is climate change listed with evolution?  Evolution (at least in the naturalistic expression described above) is a “threat” to religious faith because it advances a world-view that is fundamentally incompatible with a religious/theistic world-view.  But there is nothing inherently anti-God in the idea of climate change.  Climate change could be a God-intended part of the created order, or human sin and subsequent abuse of the environment could be responsible for unhealthy changes in the earth’s climate.  Neither idea is anti-religious.  So why is climate change listed with a more obviously anti-religious concept like evolution (again, assuming naturalistic evolution which is the only one religious people actually have a problem with)?  I’m afraid the answer is that too many religious people (mostly evangelical Christians) have lumped climate change into the same category with naturalistic evolution.  I guess it works like this:  left-wing politicians believe in evolution & left wing politicians believe in human-caused climate change.  I reject left-wing politics and I reject evolution so I must also reject human-caused climate change.  That’s a stupid way to decide what we believe about issues, but it happens all the time.  I can’t believe how many Christians I have met who are ardently anti-climate change simply because they perceive it as a left-wing political tool…which it might be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that climate change isn’t happening or that humans aren’t at least partially responsible.

I’m actually less disappointed with the author of this NYT article than I am with Christians who give that author reason to believe this is the kind of simplistic thinking that predominates among the Christian community.

For the record, I’m not sure what I think about climate change.  I’ve reviewed the raw data from the NOAA sensors going back almost 100 years and the data is conflicted…it all depends on which parts of the data you compare to which other parts.  So I’m not sure if the planet is heating up or not and I’m not sure if humans are at least partially responsible.  I’m still trying to decide based on the scientific evidence.  But I do know that what most Christians think about climate change has nothing to do with the data and everything to do with who says its happening.  And that’s a terrible way to find the truth.

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technology_confusion

There’s no getting away from it, even if you wanted to…which you probably don’t, not really.

Technology pervades nearly every area of our lives.  It’s amazing stuff.  It’s awesome…but it’s also annoying sometimes, isn’t it?  It’s made a lot of great new things possible…but it’s also made a lot of great old things disappear.  So is it a blessing or a curse?

It’s…complicated.

Your voice can be heard around the world! A video or a blog can instantly touch the lives of people in parts of the world that we’ll probably never set foot. Everyone’s voice can be heard around the world, so the world doesn’t know who to listen to anymore.  Everyone is an expert, so no one is an authority.
We can stay connected to people no matter where they are.  Skype, Facetime, Facebook chat…proximity no longer dictates communication. It inhibits face to face communication.  People are texting someone on the other side of the world rather than looking at someone on the other side of the table.
We can find support and community with other people who are interested in or struggling with the same things we are.  My little town doesn’t have many Tolkien fans, but there are hundreds of Tolkien fan groups on the internet. No one else in my town has leukemia, but there are all kinds of leukemia support groups I can connect with on the web. We’re cutting ourselves off from other perspectives that would challenge us and make us grow.    By being able to tune in to really narrow interests, we’re tuning out everything else.  We don’t have to deal with alternate views.  We just spend all our time reinforcing our own preferences.
We can find out anything we need to know!  We don’t know what to do with all the information.  Knowledge has replaced wisdom.
It makes us so much more productive!  We can research a topic, write a proposal, video-conference with co-workers and keep track of the stock market without ever leaving the house. We’re paralyzed by all the options and easily distracted by all the info-streams vying for our attention.  Wait, is that a puppy?  That’s too small to be a puppy, isn’t it?  I’m gonna Google the average size of a puppy…
We can re-create ourselves online.  Can’t get rid of a mean nickname that got attached to you in third grade?  No one in SecondLife knows that nickname.  People look at you funny because you’ve got psoriasis?  Not in WoW you don’t.  I mean, you’ve got a horn in your forehead, but that’s ok…I mean, no-one judges you for having a horn in WoW. It’s hard to know who people really are online because it’s so easy to create a false persona.  All those people we think we’re really connecting with, building a real community with?  Are they really who they pretend to be?
We have instant access to loved ones who live far away.  We can share pictures, videos, and updates throughout the day.  It doesn’t even have to be about important stuff. It can just be the little stuff that makes up our lives We’re expected be available to everyone 24/7. (bing) Oh, my aunt’s cat coughed up a furball, good to know. (bing) Did I get the text about the furball? (bing) Why didn’t I respond? (bing) Don’t I care about her cat? (bing) Don’t I care about her?   
We’re more honest and transparent with each other online. It’s easier to say difficult things to each other when we’re not in an uncomfortable face-to-face situation. We’re meaner and ruder to each other online.  It’s impersonal and we often don’t have to see how our words affect anyone else.
Because it takes less effort to communicate in a quick text or IM or Facebook post, we communicate more. Increased communication means fewer misunderstandings.  The implications of tone and humor are often lost in digital communications, leading to misunderstanding.
It makes us more active.  Reviews of family hiking trails, geocaching locations, flash mob invitations… it all helps us find new things to get out and do.  It makes us sedentary.  We can go days without ever getting outside.  Maybe I can use Google earth to check out that geo-cache location I was reading about…
It’s great for the environment!  Do you know how many trees we’re saving every year now that so much stuff is paperless? It’s terrible for the environment!  Do you know how much electrical energy we have to generate to keep all our devices charged?  And what about all the toxic metals and plastic going into our landfills when we throw our old tech away?
It creates jobs! It eliminates jobs!
It simplifies our lives!  We have databases and calendars and automatic reminders with us all the time.  We’re free to focus on the important things. It complicates our lives!  We have so many devices and info streams to keep track of that our lives are discombobulated.  With so many things clamoring for my attention, we don’t know what to focus on anymore.

Thanks to my team at Shepherd Project Ministries for this brainstorm from yesterday’s staff meeting!