Creationism ~ A Child’s Understanding of the Reason for Seasons

The creation by accident idea is so utterly unsatisfying to me, so beyond my ability to comprehend, that I need justification. Including God, putting Him at the forefront of creation, provides me with this justification – it answers the why.

HappyGirlMay 23, 2013 — I’m hard of hearing. So when I am driving and my little darling speaks to me from the back where she is properly restrained in her car seat, I’m not always able to understand her. Even though I have made this clear to her over and over again, she continues to ask questions while the world glides by. At just four years-old, she is more than just precocious. She’s very bright and very curious. She really wants to understand things. But then, I could be just a little bit biased in my assessment. I’m never surprised by the things she asks, but I’m not always prepared with an appropriate answer.

Sometimes I have to tell her that I just can’t understand her while I’m driving. When I can’t understand her, I tell her to remember her question and ask it again after we get where we are going. I said this to her recently following a question even though I clearly understood her. I used my poor hearing as an excuse to buy time for deciding how to answer. Her question had been: “Opa, why do we have seasons?”

Hmmmmm… I reasoned that she didn’t really want to know what causes us to experience the changing seasons in most places on earth. She was probably only wanting to know why she was having to wait so long for the outdoor pool to reopen at the apartment complex where she lives with her mother — why it couldn’t be warm year round. She really loves to play in the water. So I decided to help her understand why seasons are important rather than what causes them.

Sometimes my little darling forgets to ask her question again after we arrive at our destination, her little mind having moved on to other, more immediate matters. But not this time. “Opa, why do we have seasons?”

I unbuckled her seat belt and invited her to join me upfront. Holding her little hand in mine then, I began to explain, and she listened attentively.

“Honey,” I said, “when God created the world, He knew that his people would have to feed themselves. They would have to grow food — grains, fruits and vegetables. The plants these things come from all need soil, sunshine and water to grow. But it doesn’t always rain everywhere on earth enough or as often as plants need. So farmers have to use the water from rivers and streams which flow down from the melting snow and ice up in the mountains. This snow and ice piles up during the winter. Also during the winter, when the plants aren’t growing or producing fruit, the soil rests and regains the richness that plants will need for the next growing season. So, farmers prepare the soil and plant seeds in the springtime. Farmers tend the growing plants during the summer to make sure that weeds and certain insects don’t hurt the plants too much. Then, in the fall, when the plants are fully grown and the fruit is ripe, farmers harvest the food so that there will be plenty for everyone to eat through the winter and until it’s time for the next harvest.”

Clearly satisfied with my answer, my little darling said, “God sure is smart, isn’t He Opa?”

“Yes, honey,” I said, “God is smart — and good. He loves us.”

I didn’t tell my little darling that some people don’t believe that God had anything to do with the creation of the earth, life or with the intelligent design of the cycle of seasons for that matter. I didn’t tell her that some people think the fact that our earth, a rocky planet with a magnetic core that protects us from deadly solar radiation, is just a fortunate accident. These same people think the fact our planet orbits a sun that’s just the right size and just the right distance away so that water can exist in liquid form is just more good luck. They think that the earth’s twenty-three and a half degree tilt, which allows the sun’s direct energy to be received in varying amounts north and south of the equator throughout the year, just happened. They reason that the universe is so vast that these perfect conditions had to exist someplace.

Neither did I tell my little darling that, as a student and former teacher of earth sciences, I believe in evolution and the explanations that science provides for the  formation of the earth, the oceans, the continents, landforms, and the geography of soils and climates. I did not tell my little darling that I do not literally accept the Bible’s simplistic version of the creation story. But neither did I lie to her when I answered her question about seasons. This is because, though I have no reason to believe in God other than my desire to believe, I do believe. The creation by accident idea is so utterly unsatisfying to me, so beyond my ability to comprehend, that I need justification. Including God, putting Him at the forefront of creation, provides me with this justification — it answers the why.

Some people are not be able to let go of any part of Scripture, fearing that in doing so they will loose their faith entirely. This is an application of the Camel’s Nose falacy. That is fine for some people, but I can’t be so fundamental. I can’t ignore scientific truths. Neither can I have things two different ways at the same time.

My smart little darling will eventually learn all about the various scientific theories explaining the how of creation. By the time she is in high school, science will have undoubtedly discovered more about it . I very much doubt, however, that science will ever discover a testable hypothesis to answer the why question. So, until she is mature enough to grapple with the relative merits of creationist and scientific arguments, mature enough to reconcile in her own way the earth’s physical record with the Word of God, I want her to have the comfort of believing, as I do, in a loving creator. Better to believe in this than in an uncaring, statistical probability. Perhaps she will accept the existance of dinosaurs in the earth’s distant past and our relationship to other, now extinct, human species, as I have, without having to reject what is true in Scripture. The world, afterall, is a scary enough place in which to grow up. Not having an answer to the why makes it even more scary. And on what better foundation can one have to grow, both emotionally and spiritually, than on the why — God’s love?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Published in: on May 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm  Comments (3)  
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Prejudice in the United States Today ~ A Problem That We May Never Resolve

I believe that we fail to resolve issues involving race and other forms of prejudice in this country because we don’t want them resolved.

March 11, 2011 — It’s been almost five decades since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act outlawed major forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Notwithstanding, there is still hate and bigotry in the United States. Of this there can be no doubt. No law can make people think or behave civilly, as the recent wave of anti-Islamic sentiment and protests against gays and lesbians at military funerals attest. But, from my experience and years of observation, most claims of racial prejudice in this country today have little to nothing to do with race. They have more to do with socio-economic disparities and ethnic differences. Except among racial supremacy groups, most of us believe that the biological differences of race, in a general sense, neither significantly advantage nor disadvantage one race over another.

Race — what an unfortunate term. It implies winners and losers.

I once made the statement during a church administrative board meeting that embracing diversity is not the same thing as promoting diversity. For that, some in the church labeled me racially prejudiced. Balderdash! I was simply attempting to discourage celebrating or elevating one ethnic group in what was then an ethnically diverse congregation at the expense of others.

In another venue at about the same time, I was attempting to teach the differences between nationality, ethnicity, culture, and race to my World Geography students. For my effort, I learned a few things myself.  One thing I learned is that, in the United States today, many people, or so it seems, don’t want to know the difference. Blurring the distinctions between nationality, ethnicity, culture and race is comforting for some. For others, ignoring the distinctions sustains and confirms their already-held biases.

Case in point, speaking of the different races, I used the example of Mestizo versus Mexican, explaining that Mestizo is a term traditionally used to identify people of mixed European and Native American ancestry. It is a racial term, one of which many Latinos are proud, distinguishing themselves from Indians who they consider to be lower-classed members of Mexican society. Whereas the term, Mexican, refers to a national origin. It’s what most Americans call other Americans who emigrated themselves or whose ancestors emigrated from Mexico or other Spanish-speaking countries. Some, those whose ancestors have always lived in what is today the southwestern part of the United States, are also called Mexicans. The term, Latino, is a broad cultural term, used to identify ethnicities that have the Spanish language in-common. Which is correct to use when referring to people of Spanish-American descendency? Generally, one is always safest sticking to the broader cultural term, Latino, that is, if one wants to avoid causing offense.

At that point, a question came up. One of my young men asked, “What are ethnicities, Mr. Garry?”

I explained to my class that an ethnic group is a population of human beings whose members naturally identify with each other on the basis of a real or a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. The term, culture, refers to the language, attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions, arts and preferences that are shared by members of different ethnic groups. Culture can also refer to these kinds of things that are more broadly shared by multiple groups within a collective society. For example: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday that most, if not all, ethnic groups within the United States traditionally celebrate. Another example might be American-style football, a sport that appeals to Americans of all ethnic groups. The differences between ethnic groups tend to be divisive because we are most comfortable among others who are most like ourselves.

Things got a bit dicey in class when we moved on to a discussion of race, how we often confuse it with ethnicity or national origin and how the subject often elicits emotional responses. The term, race, refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of genetically inherited, physical characteristics, which are usually quite easy for us to distinguish. Because we have a history of exploitation and competition between different groups in the United States, the white man against the black, the red, the yellow and the brown, different ethnic groups have been left with stigmas of guilt, shame and/or inferiority. However, hard we try to put the past behind us and move on, it seems that we may forever remain socially haunted and challenged to live up to our creed of “liberty and justice for all”.

When I was still in grammar school, and that was many years ago, a teacher once taught me that there were only five basic races or “subspecies” of human beings: Caucasian (White), Negro (Black), Mongoloid (Yellow), Malayan (Brown), and American Indian (Red). According to him, all other so-called races are just variations on these five races or mixed-race peoples. His view was based on a religious belief that the races were separately created by God. Notwithstanding, science had long before identified many more distinct races based on physical attributes.

Sir Thomas Huxley, in 1870, identified nine distinct races and he associated them with different geographic regions of origin.  The following year, Charles Darwin published his second great book, The Decent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Darwin believed that all mankind had originated from a common ancestor and argued that the various races were the result of different environmental conditions that have prevailed over time in the various regions of earth where the different races evolved. He also argued that the people of all races are essentially equal in both physical and intellectual potentials. Modern science, based on comparisons of DNA markers for people all over the earth seems to validate Darwin’s conclusions.

The Census Bureau of the United States has confounded the definition of race dramatically by listing multiple racial identities for the surveyed from which to self select, identities that include ethnicity and national origin. And to avoid offending people, they list, for example, the following as a distinct race: Black, African-American or Negro. They do not list Mulatto, Mestizo or mixed-race options. But they do provide space for people to enter their own terms.

“Well, we prefer the term, African-American, Mr. Garry,” one of my young ladies said politely.

“Yes, I know you do, and I understand,” I said, “just as the Census Bureau understands. They are being what’s called, politically correct. They’re being sensitive to others’ sensitivities. And that’s a good thing, but it ignores the difference between race and ethnicity and it creates a whole new set of problems.”

There are physical and biological differences between the Whites of Western Europe and Mediterranean Whites, peoples of the Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. There are physical and biological differences between the Blacks that have descended from peoples of Western Africa and the Blacks of East Africa, or the Aboriginal Blacks of Australia. There are physical and biological differences between Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese peoples too. Referring to them simply as Asian people ignores these differences. So, shifting attention away from biological differences that are more than just skin deep to ethnic distinctions or national origins ignores the differences between races. Race and ethnicity are not the same thing.”

There was a noticeable hush in the classroom as students’ eyes were seeking to assess others’ reactions to this.

“Okay,” I said, “some of you are thinking that Mr. Garry is racially prejudiced, right.” Nobody answered, confirming my suspicion.

“Let’s talk about what you all want to talk about: prejudice. Can anybody tell me what prejudice means?”

I waited several moments. Finally, one of my young ladies bravely raised her hand and said, “People are prejudice when they say hateful things about people they don’t like.”

“Give me an example,” I said.

“Hmmmm… something like black people are stupid, or Mexicans are lazy.”

“Good, those are certainly stereotypes, good examples of prejudicial attitudes that some people have. But let me correct one thing that you said. The term, Mexican, refers to a nationality, citizens of Mexico. Most Mexicans today are Mestizo, people of mixed European and American Indian ancestry. Some Mexicans are Caucasian, some are American Indian, and some are Black. So it is inaccurate racially to refer to all Latinos as Mexican. Note that both of your examples are generalizations. We all know that neither is true. It is probably true, wouldn’t you agree, that some blacks are stupid and some Mestizos are lazy, just as some whites are stupid and some are lazy. But most Blacks are of normal intelligence just as most whites are of normal intelligence, and most Mestizos are every bit as hardworking and industrious as anyone else.

I gave my students textbook definitions.

Bias is a prejudice in a general sense, usually for having a preference to one particular point of view or ideological perspective. However, one is generally only said to be biased if one’s powers of judgment are influenced by the biases one holds. In other words, a biased person’s views are neither neutral nor objective, they are subjective. A bias could, for example, lead one to accept or deny the truth of a claim, not on the basis of the strength of the arguments in support of the claim themselves, but because of the extent to which the claim is compatible with one’s own preconceived ideas. We are all biased; it’s a human condition.

Prejudice is the process of “pre-judging” something or somebody. It implies coming to judgment on an issue before learning where the preponderance of evidence actually lies, or forming a judgment without direct experience. Holding a politically unpopular view is not in itself prejudice, and politically popular views are not necessarily free of prejudice. When applied in a social sense, prejudice generally refers to existing biases toward entire groups, often based on social stereotypes. At its extreme, prejudice results in groups being denied benefits and rights unjustly or, conversely, unfairly showing unwarranted favor towards others.

“Now,” I said, “if I say that I do not like hip-hop music and that I am pretty much disgusted with the current fashion trend many young African-American men are following, namely, wearing their pants down below their buttocks, have I communicated prejudice?”

Many of my students just stared at me, communicating either confusion or their disbelief that I would even talk about this in the classroom. Others, at least some, including a few African-Americans, shook their heads indicating that they understood.

“No, I am communicating a bias, a preference for other forms of music and a desire to see young people dress with what I consider to be – decorum (good taste). Likewise, when I say that I like enchiladas and fajitas but I do not care for soul food recipes that include offal, which are normally discarded cuts of meat such as pigs’ feet, chitterlings and tripe, I am also not guilty of prejudice. However, if I were to say that I believe the explosive growth of “Black Pride” in the United States following passage of the Civil Rights Act has benefitted people of color neither socially nor economically, I would not be speaking out of prejudice. I would simply be stating an opinion based on observation, an opinion about which many African-Americans would take offense.”

After a long hesitation, during which I wanted students to reflect on what I had just said, I opined, “I believe that we fail to resolve issues involving race and other forms of prejudice in this country because we don’t want them resolved. Like all people pretty much everywhere in the world, we are too concerned with exhibiting our ethnic distinctiveness and hanging onto to our preconceived notions about others. It’s almost as if who we think we are matters more to us than who we really are, and even more than getting along with our neighbors.

After class, I expected many calls from irate parents that evening. I was pleased when none were received.

I invite your comments whether you agree with me or not.
 

 

 
 
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm  Comments (17)  

Jumbo Calamari ~ More Evidence of Climate Change?

Could their sudden reappearance after decades in the Pacific Ocean off our west coast be more evidence of climate change and a harbinger of strange things yet to come as the earth adapts to humans’ activities?

opaPerhaps you saw the report on Good Morning America (GMA) this morning, July 17th 2009, about the Humbolt squid coming to the surface in great numbers off the west coast of North America. Fascinating! They’re offering fishermen a bonanza in a marketable game fish (not fish at all but rather an edible mollusca) but they are also depleting the catch of other, more traditional seafood and scaring people out of the surf and off the beaches in California. Could their sudden reappearance after decades be more evidence of climate change and a harbinger of strange things yet to come as the earth adapts to humans’ activities?

Watch the following video produced by KQED, a public television station for Northern California, then you decide. Bon appatit!

According to an article on TreeHugger.com, Rui Rosa at the University of Lisbon (calamari is a favorite dish/appetizer in Portugal) said that more acidic waters will also constrict the habitat of the Humboldt squid by making them less able to hunt for food at depth, or in surface waters, which could have serious knock-on effects for the wider marine ecosystem.

“These squid,” she said, “will probably have to migrate to find more suitable waters, and since they are the main prey for sperm whales. This could significantly alter the marine foodweb.”

Shish! What next, jaguars in British Colombia?

There are larger squid species, the Giant and the Colossal squids which are among the largest living animals today, some say measuring as much as 60 feet long. Let’s hope they stay where they belong, thousands of feet below sea level.

Please feel free to post a comment.

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Red States & Blue States vs. The United States

All states are diverse in political persuasion, at least to some degree. However, because of our winner-take-all electoral system, pundits like to talk about states being either red or blue.

With the election less than two weeks away now and the polls all indicating that many of the states that went for Bush over Kerry in 2004 are likely to go for Obama over McCain this time around, I think it’s well worth keeping in-mind that the populations of all states are diverse in political persuasion, at least to some degree. However, because of our winner-take-all electoral system, pundits like to talk about states being either red or blue. The truth, however, is that all states turn various shades of purple when one squints a little bit and looks at voting by district.

 

It is my most sincere hope that, when this election is over and the GOP, a consortium of right-wing, angry fringe groups, is left in shambles having to redefine itself before the next election, the politics of division will be set aside in favor of national unity born out of reason, common goals, and diplomacy. Now, I don’t know who originally authored the following — somebody from California no doubt. I hope whoever it is won’t mind that I have included it in this posting. It came to me by e-mail from a dear friend who leans in the same directions I do, politically, morally and spiritually. So, whether it serves to justify your beliefs or challenge them, what follows will hopefully make you laugh — per chance to think as well.

Dear Red States:
If you manage to steal this election too we’ve decided we’re leaving.  We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the entire Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.
To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole’ Miss. We get 85% of America’s venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share. Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian Coalition’s, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.
Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we’re going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they’re apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don’t care if you don’t show pictures of their children’s caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up some day, but we’re not willing to spend more of our resources in Bush’s Quagmire.
With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the country’s fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation’s fresh fruit, 95% of America’s quality wines, 90% of all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and soybeans (thanks Iowa!), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.
With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92% of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.  We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.
Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we’re discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61% believe they are people with higher morals than we lefties.
Peace out,
–Blue States

I invite your comments, whether pro or con

PS ~ If things turn-out as current polling suggests, we’ll not only have the best surfing, but most of the good skiing too!

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 10:29 am  Comments (1)  

What’s the Difference Between a Town and a City — An Urban Area and a Rural Area?

Do you think you think you know the answer?

A friend recently challenged me with this question. He chose to ask it of me because he knew that I had taught geography for several years. Even so, I felt that I had to check my facts before responding and, in so doing, I broadened my own understanding on the subject a bit. He, like many Americans, thought that the official difference between a town and a city had to have something to do either with population size or with geographical area. Well, it doesn’t.

Strange as it may seem, geographers don’t classify more-densely populated areas as cities or towns. They are all called urban areas as opposed to rural areas. That’s because there is no universally accepted criteria based on either population size or square miles/ kilometers. Rural areas are less densely populated, offer fewer services, and are generally devoted to economic activities such as farming and ranching. In the U.S., according to About.com – geography, an urban area is one that has a population providing services that numbers at least 2,500. Smaller populations pro- viding services are called villages. This differs from country to country, of course. In Japan, an urban area must have a population of at least 30,000.

In England, from which we Americans originally adopted our sense of such things, a city was a town with a cathedral. All other densely populated areas were simply called towns. But they are all towns in today’s “United Kingdom,” including (in all Britishers’ eyes) the mother town of them all, London Town.

I think what most people in the U.S. understand to be a city today is a larger urbanized area that has government buildings like county seats do here in Texas. Cities in the U.S. usually have a university or two in lieu of community colleges. They very often have museums and other cultural centers too like zoos and the like. In the vernacular of a place, however, it is quite acceptable for people to refer to their urban area as either a town or a city. It’s all perception.

Metropolitan areas like Dallas, Texas are agglomerated urban areas with peripheral zones not themselves necessarily urban in character, but closely bound to the urban center by employment or commerce. A metroplex is when metropolitan areas grow large enough to merge, as in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. A megolopolis is when many metropolitan areas merge, as on the east coast of the U.S. with BosWash, a huge urban area incorp- orating the cities of Boston, New York and New Jersey, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

My wife and I lived for several years in Springfield, VA — Virginia still calling itself a “Common Wealth” in the old English tradition.  Springfield had a population then of over 30,000, yet it was classified by Fairfax County not as a city or a town, but simply as a “populated place.” It had homes, churches, a post office, a county health department office, buildings housing police and fire depart- ments, and even a huge shopping mall containing a drivers’ licensing office for the county, but it had no government separate from Fairfax County. Vienna, also in Fairfax County, was char- tered and had an elected school board making decisions for a separate school district servicing its population. Therefore, it was considered a city.

DeSoto, Texas, with an estimated population in 2005 of 38,580, calls itself a city and even won national distinction in 2006 as an All-American City. Yet it is not a county seat. It has no zoo or museum that I know of, unless one considers my wife’s office in our home with all her nursing memorabilia a museum. Neither does DeSoto have a cathedral. But I won’t argue against its right to call itself a city. Round Top, Texas, with an estimated population of 25, considers itself to be the smallest city in Texas, being an incorporated township, but the “city fathers” of Impact, Texas disagree. They claim to be the smallest. Neither, however, even qualifies by official numbers to be an urban area. So, go figure — the answer you get pretty much seems to depend on where you are when you ask the question.

I invite your comments pro or con.

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm  Comments (31)  

That’s One Big Hole

Here’s a little trivia that my geography students might find interesting, the serious ones anyway.  While visiting one of my favorite weblogs this morning, Ten Daily Things, I ran across a reference to another weblog, Speedhara.com, and a posting about the world’s biggest hole.  According to the article, the hole is a diamond mine found near the Eastern Siberian town of Mirna.

mirnahole.jpgNow, having grown up in the Great Salt Lake Valley, I know that Russia doesn’t have the world’s’ biggest man-man hole.  This honor belongs to the United States.  It’s the Kennecott Copper mine in Bingham Canyon.  But, I have to admit, the Kennecott mine looks more like an huge canyon than it does a hole, as compared to the nearly-symmetrical pit in Siberia.

kennecott.jpgHere’s a picture of the Kennecott mine.  It is the world’s largest man-made excavation (a better term than “hole” I think).  Started over a hundred years ago, it pioneered open-pit mining operations.  It is located 28 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.  It’s 2.5 miles across and 3 quarters of a mile deep.  The mine is so big that it can be easily seen from space shuttles in outer space with the naked eye.  By comparison, the Mirna diamond mine is only about one-third of a mile deep and less than a mile across.

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Published in: on July 31, 2006 at 4:28 pm  Comments (8)