Nov 30, 2009

“A Tidy Desk is a Sign of a Tidy Mind”

I guess it’s a common enough aphorism. It turned up yesterday in John Grisham’s “King of Torts” and it made me feel a bit queasy about my mental condition.

However, I have since realised that even if it were an absolute truth that wherever one finds a tidy desk, there is a Tidy Mind lurking behind its design, this doesn’t necessarily entail that a lack of desk tidiness (e.g. w.r.t. my desk) can be said, in even a single case, to be a result of mental chaos. As tempting as it might be to draw the conclusion, we simply wouldn’t know. Non-tidiness could in fact be another sign of a Tidy Mind, a sign of a Genius Mind, no sign whatsoever, or various other possibilities. I even checked it and can now assure you that denying the antecedent is a logical fallacy. So; boys and girls; don’t do it!

Nov 28, 2009

“Joy is more choice for less investment”


I don’t think so, BMW. Normally the Bayerische Motoren-Werke are pretty cool IMHO but they’ve followed the once trusty Toyota and gone and tarnished themselves in advertising. Joy is a lot of things, but not many of them are associated with German cars.
This reminds me of a time in Germany, in a French class to be exact (long story, but unfortunately, my French is not any better as a result) when it was asked “what is joy for you?” So, without too much more self-promotion (ok I’ll take that back – this whole post is pretty much all about ME), I’ll answer the question again:

Joy is an awesome conversation with whoever [Word tells me it should be “whomever”, but if we were going to be fancy, I’d say “whomsoever wills it”]
Joy is friends in the right proportions – the right mix – preferably with dessert
Joy is a hopefully awesome book like Nicholas Wolterstorff’s “Justice”
Joy, for that matter, is a tastefully filled bookshelf or CD-rack or blogsite
Joy is a splendid sermon lovely lecture terrific talk or an in-depth debate
Joy is a small group that works or a massive gathering of Jesus Freaks
Joy is worth having

Nov 26, 2009

with the exception of pride


"Once upon a time, there were seven deadly sins. … The seven sins were (and are): lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride. Now, all of them, with the exception of pride, have become medical conditions. Pride has become a virtue."
-Frank Furedi, Humanist, Sociology Professor

Being edited, but here you go anyway

Disorientation

Welcome to an unhygienic, truth-anaemic student hole
Dedicated to the egos of the tenured
And the hopes of those who are not!

Where over-opinionated undergraduates
Fail to recognise their role as parrots
Sleep deprived student labourers
Deserve love or pity yet get blank faces & beer
In dark shadows preternatural postgraduates play pool

Oh, if only Orientation included such wise sureties
As the joys of un-fellowship in science class
Snobbery assumed supposedly for safety
And retained for sheer convenience

“Learn, damn-it! Or we shall remove you!”
“There you go; regurgitation isn’t that hard now, is it?”
“You’re moving up the non-existent ranks!”
“Relatively speaking, you are a veritable success!”
“You want to think critically? Child, what is wrong with you?”

Cheers, big ears! Another semester has passed us by
Soon we shall be middle class malcontents
And then, perhaps, we shall die
Once our money has all been carefully misspent

Arts students know how to have fun!
Yet have not quite decided why it even matters
Commerce is in people; for we are beautiful objects!
Maximise occasions for sex! At all costs minimise depth
Law is a sure categorisation of the whims of the strong

[ Something has gone badly wrong
The commercialisation and objectification
Of tertiary education
Or the human condition?

An answer lies in charity, faith and humility
Rather than growth in educational faculties
Yet do not distract us; for we; it is sure
Are the ones having fun! ]

In the E. coli of the beholder


This paper from Lenski et al (Lenski is famous for his long term study on evolution in the lab of populations of the bacteria Escherichia Coli) in the PNAS has been claimed, in one of those rather annoying internet discussions which I stumbled across, to show a “beneficial mutation”. The paper is a report on what the authors believe is the most significant event of the mega-tastic (my phrase) E. Coli study; i.e. a mutant able to use the compound citrate -pictured- in addition to glucose in respiration. I have no beef with the concept of a beneficial mutation as such; I do though, suspect this paper wasn’t the best example, as it only makes the ‘beneficial mutation’ point rather incidentally and (see point 3 below) a bit ambiguously. I also find it intriguing how people with different backgrounds can draw rather different conclusions from research such as this.
I’ve just flicked through it, but I’m inclined to see support for Michael Behe’s claim’s concerning the statistical difficulty of obtaining traits requiring multiple mutations, while another person brandishes the paper as a near-decisive H-bomb in their personal war against creationists.
Other interesting things:1) The “rapid improvements in fitness” witnessed decelerated over time – of course, we should not be surprised, but some people might be.
2) Simon Conway-Morris was cited favourably – always nice to see
3) The actual mutations involved aren’t yet known at the genetic level – hence it is not known whether the initial point mutation (it appears there were two of these) was selectively advantageous or not.
-There’s probably more stuff, but I’ve got over it for now.

Nov 24, 2009

New Product In: The Papyrus Scroll


"Traditional supernaturalistic Christian belief, [Bultmann] said, is "impossible in this age of electric light and the wireless." (One can perhaps imagine an earlier village skeptic taking a similar view of, say, the tallow candle and printing press, or perhaps the pine torch and the papyrus scroll.)”
-Alvin Plantinga

"Since Darwin, we know that we do not exist for any purpose."

Peter Singer.
Seems awfully certain about it all.

Nov 23, 2009

Suppose we don’t like mathematicians…

Suppose we don’t like mathematicians, assume there is something wrong with them, and demonstrate what’s going on in their brain when they do math[s].
Would that show that mathematics was false?
Would it show mathematics had no connection to objective reality?
We have independent reasons to think mathematics contains substantial truth.
Likewise, religious believers can provide independent reason to believe in God.
Neuroscience is being co-opted by materialists as a diversion from the truth issue.
- Angus Menuge

This had such a brilliant start I had to post it; thanks Angus. The brain is actually that of a chimp, but who's to know the dif?

Eulogia

I almost called this blog “Eulogia”, meaning “good words” or a “blessing”, but that was a bit too religious; can’t have the name scaring away the secular kiddies and in any case, I meant more “deep talk”, or maybe even “big talk” – here is an explanation of sorts. You don't have to read it if you don't want to!

Big Talk

at small talk I substantially fail
indeed I seldom try
at big talk perhaps
why, yes we shall succeed

so let us or me here span the gamut
run the gauntlet of God and man
and the cavern nay chasm between them
woman and politics and death

poverty and apparent wealth we can pursue
happiness near complete lack of health
sunsets and rises and cycles of life
alienation or alien nations fall and re-creation

life & wisdom and its love or lack of
evil, loathing and the burning of books
suffering, pain and other games demons play
angels and archangels break-dancing thru needle’s eye

design and two-by-fours in organs of sight
white robes harps chords of delight
pharisees and sadducees and you and me
who knows? It could even be fun

Nov 21, 2009

so, whaddaya know?

Philosophy is thinking things over.
-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

mercy, grace and other mysteries

I was impressed with this, a genuine hymn, from a guy called William Cowper and written in 1774, when it turned up earlier in the week and had intended to copy it down; while I had, predictably, forgotten, someone posted a memo yesterday in the form of my finding of it elsewhere. Only a snippet was at first intended but I shall treat you, gentle and likely non-existent reader, to the thing in its entirety.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.


Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Nov 20, 2009

Oh, fatuosity! My nostrils flare in admiration

Anyone who can write for both VeggieTales and the New York Times, as well as enticing top Christian academics to share their thoughts is someone worth investigating. As far as I am aware, the sole honour goes to Eric Metaxas, of whom I am now even more of a fan than I was at a time prior to this one. Woody Allen has even called some of his pieces in the New York Times “quite funny.” The item that elicited (and was the actual source of) the admiration and other quotation was a slimmed-down version of an essay of his from awhile ago on the Da Vinci Code, from the perspective of C.S. Lewis’ character “Screwtape” – the less slim version is on the site along with other good stuff.

While Eric is also technically a competitor in the blogosphere,
this is good-in-a-relaxingly-real-way enough that I hardly care.

Be:

"Be egalitarian regarding persons
Be elitist regarding ideas"
-attributed to philosopher Peter Kreeft

Why not? Widget

To prove to all the sceptics out there that this, aside from me making no money from it, is a real blog...

Nov 19, 2009

A Leap in the Twilight


This was too good to miss. According to Keith DeRose (of Yale) in a critique of the ‘stringent direct realism’ of Plantinga (if you don’t know, there’s always Wikipedia), there is a kind of warranted faith which may appear more a leap in the dark than Plantinga’s ‘properly basic’ beliefs but is perhaps more “a leap in the twilight”. Broody sparkly members of the undead are presumably not included.

Flogging a Dead Horse

If there are two things that are outdated, outlandish and oversold, not to mention at a rip-off price, they are Religion and religious people. And as Xmas appears once again, we’ll get an extra dose of these unfortunates; clearly undaunted by spectacularly failing their sell-a-lemon course; at it once more giving away spiritualised drivel about a Palestinian baby who has been raised from the dead or some-such nonsense. But this horse has not only bolted, it is long-deceased, rotting and buried, only to be dug up again and flogged once more, as a kind of annual pre-medieval exercise in wish-fulfilment; discredited fundamentalism ├╝ber-unworthy of our enlightened ear-time. The mind virus of ‘faith’, an inherently incoherent concept and unfortunate side-step on the road to progress, has been eradicated in all but the stupidest enclaves.

Can I hear an AMEN from the lecture theatre?

WHAAAT? Did I hear a quiet nay-sayer? Just some arrogant little jerk with glasses. But, what - the – hell; is that A.N. Wilson standing over there with those dumbasses; wasn’t he meant to be one of us? And Anthony Flew cheering them on and calling us names that we thought we’d reserved for them? These freaks have gone and stolen some of our rock bands, our stunt-people, our writers, our actors, our philosophers – but surely, not our, our… not our scientists?

Nov 18, 2009

L’Homme du Canard

[In honour of Terry Pratchett, a hymn]:
Intelligent individual, that is for sure
Well everyone is excluding him

Have we our very own avian friend
In our heads are we caught
In assumed failures and more
Of alternatives we cannot stand

How much can we really see
Of what in fact we believe
We are so intellectual and yet
Growing deep we want nothing of

Inside us or outside us this canard
Asserts unrecognised existence
Maybe it is time to look up

"Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

A reasonably frequent claim in discussion over whether the creator, redeemer and friend that Christians believe in actually exists, is that unlike those from religious backgrounds or defending religious claims, atheists and their ilk, brethren and ‘cuzzy-bros’ are able to come to the table with “no theological axe to grind”. Now, with a background in Scouts I know something about grinding axes, so I’ll give a short reply. First, I apologise for the violent imagery in the trio of axe, baseball bat and crowbar - they have been borrowed from others.

The entertaining ‘quotet’ above came to my attention in checking out such a claim, made by one of those atheists who like to visit and comment over-abundantly on Christian apologetics sites. [NB: If you’re studying critical thinking and want a source of dodgy logic to wade through, visit such an internet discussion – I warn you 1) that it may well bore you to tears and 2) to carefully check any claims made by both sides, as they’re frequently, if not generally, false.]

Predictably, the one whose theological axes were supposedly in complete absentia was an avowed public promoter of atheism, who has spoken at a conference described by fellow non-theist Melvin Konner with the above phrase. I can see the sparks from here; *grind, grind*. I don’t think it could be claimed with a straight face that e.g. Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins could come to a debate on religion from a stance of neutrality – yet somehow, less prominent atheistic scientists get away with it, while Christians are written-off as irreparably compromised by their faith no matter their arguments or personal background.

You see, atheistic materialism is not a “neutral” viewpoint; like other worldviews, it makes grand truth claims. Perhaps later I shall elaborate on exactly what popular scientism entails – for now I shall let you consider the domains of: the creation of matter, the complexity of life, the phenomena of consciousness, the moral law, the personage of Jesus Christ, the changed lives of his followers and our very integrity and dignity as persons, in the absence of God. I grant atheism this, though: it, along with agnosticism, is eminently falsifiable. This is precisely why I can have confidence in rejecting it.

Nov 17, 2009

On the Random Side (of the moon)


You may be pleased to know that I have dimples again. I think I’d thought they’d gone for a little while; but in recent times like a long-lost $20 note or a random person from the past, they have reappeared. I was tempted to link their resurfacing with the end of exam season – it would, after all, seem to make sense; but a more careful statistical appraisal revealed they were back BEFORE exams had finished. Consequently it is clear these so-called dimples are in fact simply pock marks cratered out of my face through severe stress. How depressing.

How many angels can break dance through the eye of a needle?

Not many, if any. (The wings tend to get in the way.)

Nov 14, 2009

Big Universe = No God


This widely-held vague concept is, I would suggest, bung.* While it is a little late for in-depth philosophical analysis, let us try and see why.
Some points in no particular order: the bigger the universe, the bigger the big man behind it; God, we might reasonably expect, has an infinity of resources – note that he did, it appears, make the universe from nothing; the size of the universe humbles many; the galaxies reveal order and beauty even beyond the comprehension of the (usually Christian) scientists who first pointed them out; the specifics of life’s complexity kill hopes for aliens evolving elsewhere; the nature of the God revealed in nature is ambiguous beyond certain traits which may be inferred, but the Christian claim is that God is in fact revealed in Christ, while the other stuff exists for God’s glory; the type of universe revealed by modern physics suggests a set-up and by implication one who pulled it off; the earth is protected, well-placed and has interdependent regulated cycles to maintain a bio-friendly-equilibrium, but, of course it’s all atoms jostling.
Naughty me, I admit I’ve been attacking a straw man. The real claim is “the universe is massive and massively old – therefore God doesn’t exist”. Yet it seems my points remain and ultimately, it is not my claim that the analysis of clams or classes of star shall lead one inextricably to ‘hang time’ with the creator of the universe. For the bridging of the obvious gap between the one who made the galaxies and the ones who try and work out what’s in them, we have a self-expression delivered in a manger. If this is a bit rural for you, I can only say that I do think I appreciate the night sky better from out here.

*You’re going to love these acronyms – the next theory I’m working on turns out to be “dodge.”

Open the Floodgates, Batman!

“Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day, like a football, and it will be round and full at evening”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

“No faith can be the ultimate arbiter between itself and other faiths: all must submit to the tribunal of reason and experience.”
Ray Bradley

These non-theists nicely capture my thoughts.
And it has been suggested I ought
To open this blog up for critique.
And here you go. I hope it is what you seek.


A note: in your copious commenting please refer to the author of this blog as "Grim" or some other such pseudonymous namey thing as seems to suit. I also accept "the King of Blogdom" Ta.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.'

Save the Whales – save the Trees!
but what about the human beings?

Nov 13, 2009

The Duck Man


The Narnian Police are interested in talking to the following person, who they believe will be of assistance in their inquiries:

-Dubious logic purveyed frequently by this figure, accompanied by ad hominem attacks
-An obsession with religion is a dominant trait; specifically the Judaeo-Christian God
-With links to a number of prominent academics, this man is highly intelligent
-Known for regularly speaking far outside his area of expertise in exchange for money
-Indoctrination of children in his views through special small camps strongly promoted
-Funded billboard campaign suspected of libel against important international figure
-Sympathetic to cults believing that aliens are the source of life on earth

If you or anyone you know has any information on this person, please call 0800 God Squad. Up to $1000000 reward if caller is particularly successful*

(The Narnian Police had intended to make this an acrostic that made sense, but ran out of government funding and couldn’t really be bothered. The title is in reference to a similar figure, to be found in Ankh-Morepork on the Discworld. This may be explained at a future date if the prize remains unclaimed after 3 days.)
*The Templeton Prize

5 random reasons I study economics

1) Solving world poverty sounds pretty sweet.
2) Making lots of money sounded nice (once.)
3) It uses maths, but not really.
4) Lots of opportunities to spot circular reasoning.
5) Everyone’s got to do something with their time.

Nov 11, 2009

Believe (in a Japanese Car-Maker)

So, advertising companies have caught onto the power of spirituality to sell people crap they wouldn’t buy if they were to act as rational agents?

[Note, please, that I have not recently been on an adventure camp for children run by atheists and suddenly discovered the irresistability of the distortions of the Enlightenment which some deluded chumps call “rational” – no, for in fact it isn’t “spirituality” that the ad companies have hooked into but cheap rip-offs. (For the keen philosophy beans amongst you, some other day I’ll critique the strange assumption by atheists (note that assumption has a slightly different meaning to usual in this context) of the term “rationality”.)]

What is this self-contradictory freak spouting about, perhaps I hear you say? Yet, briefly consider with me two examples from a longer list which I have inconveniently forgotten, perhaps as a result of actually watching rather little TV in recent times: [1] the Toyota ad campaign focusing on the word “Believe” and [2] the Telecom or something-like-that ad using “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” as a jingle; obviously without mentioning that divisive Jesus fella. Wake up and smell the daylight robbery, people! The many vague references to “values”, “trust”, “faith” &c and the use of once-blatantly-Christian music to advertise large predominantly secular corporations are simply sad – simply sad :(

Beyond Passivity !?!

*"Decrease Apathy Slowly and Approximately In Concert With the Decrease in the Rate of Inflation as that Seems the Sensible Option to 75% of the Working Population!"
*"Death to Death!"
*"Sleeping is for Boring People!"

These are only a few of the slogans that I have just invented. The thing they have in common besides inane-ness and relative irrelevance to the topic at hand is that they bear a slight relation to the title of this blog. Meta Equilibrium has a number of connotations, most of which appeared in my mind long after the blog had been created. The most important is arguably that the initials are M and E (the difficult step follows; but concentrate as the results shall be worth your attention), when put together, spell “me” – this is purely coincidental, but the blog is largely about me, so I think that’s a pretty choice coincidance. Yes, in this context it has an ‘A’. So; Equilibrium and Meta both have a number of uses in at least one of the fields of economics, philosophy, biology, chemistry, physics and a bunch of other stuff which geeks call “knowledge”. So the potential for interpretation is large; perhaps the audience will follow suit (in being large); not that I recommend the eating of junk food.

“Equilibrium” is about stuff that doesn’t change (or more specifically, that doesn’t change in overall composition anyway) and “Meta” is one of those things, in Ancient Greek, which grammar-geeks call a preposition and which according to my dodgy limited knowledge means a bunch of stuff including “with” and “beyond”. The point I’ve finally got to is that the name is ambiguous and can mean “with” equilibrium or “beyond” it – which is appropriate I’d say, as sometimes equilibrium is where it’s at and sometimes “it” isn’t actually “at” equilibrium. This blog is thus both proudly Anti-Apathy and Pro-Peace; it’s radical and it’s conservative; it’s young and spiffy and old and sedate – basically all depending on how my day went.

Part Onesies (of a previously created poem)

I look at the world; imagine seeing it all
Including a butterfly’s flight from its shell
Wonder at the fragility of the human soul

I want to pull a Saul and horse-fall into Paul
But peering inside I see this: metamorphosis
Is not inherently inside us at all


So where may one go to be made into ‘me’?
Where can I flee to be understandably ‘free’?

It’s been cried “go to Jesus!”, yet what could that mean
To me; either glorified monkey or broken machine?
Or maybe some world-view is in fact where it is at
But why the hell do you think I should believe that?


NB: the conclusion of this poem shall follow later. Unfortunately, it is too "Christian" for certain fine readers of this fine blog at this fine time.

What's it all About?

While I cherish my privacy too much to reveal specific details, over the last almost-24-hours I have possibly received hundreds of emails along the lines of this one: (It's arranged into segments, as 1/2-way thru reading I realised it worked that way.)

Yo, Grim
Wassup with this new blog of yours?
What's it all about
and who do you expect to read it
apart from friends, stalkers - and christians?
Man, it's all too religious and creepy;
stop tryin to convert me
with your attempt at modernity.
Why can't you be normal and less paranormal
And what the H-town does that name even mean?
-Anon.

Well, Anon, here's the answers: I started out with a Jesus foundation as I have found that that is a sound one on which to build, unlike building upon sand, which has a high correlation with eventual building collapse. As such, I am proud of this foundation - if it disturbs you, there are a few options; here are two: 1) consider why this may be and feel free to talk to moi; or 2) go straight to my boss and give him the complaint. I could only be too pleased if with just one blog I managed to attract a following simultaneously composed of friends, stalkers and Christians.
The meaning of the name "Meta Equilibrium" should appear in a later post.
Blessings.

Nov 10, 2009

Presuppositions and Pixies

I'll just infringe a little copyright here; RD in conversation with Francis Collins - I'll pull the philosophies apart some time, but it's interesting as is.

"My mind is not closed, as you have occasionally suggested, Francis. My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up. When we started out and we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed." Richard Dawkins

I think Rich has effectively mistaken humility for weakness - common mistake.

poetic polemic of a parochial parodist

You may believe the “I am” is outdated
For sure, the first to state his case appears right
Yet, the legitimacy of chronological snobbery is over-stated
Hast thou time to hear another paradigm or to take second sight?

For sure; “Science” may be considered a walloping success
However, why ought it to go to our head?
Secular humanism: a conceptual mess
God is alive* and Friedrich Nietzsche is stone dead.

Science relies on reliable design
Though in our confused times
Careful distinctions and those of distinction are separated
Which is a bit of a pity, really

Facile it is, to dish out supercilious looks
Attempt setting your A into G; visit a library
And go read some more books
(CS Lewis would do nicely.)

If you consider it time for re-assessment
For you I have something; just a small suggestion:
Open this; it would be a “new testament”
Start asking some questions

*(and doing quite well, thank you very much)

Genesis

This blog intends to be primarily a sphere or square for the posting of random musings, but also has a 'telos' or 'goal' or two-score should someone actually read it: to analyse the thought systems of the world; to critique the universe and generally be sceptical, cynical and engagingly positive; to promote the reading and writing of good books; to explore the depths of the aspects of 'the love of wisdom' (philosophy) that appear almost understandable; to gently mock secularism; to defend Christian orthodoxy; to try and find some use for organic chemistry; to promote both change and equilibration and ultimately to be a celebration. I hope it appeals.