Friday, June 29, 2012

The God Reality: Part Three

The Moral Zeitgeist: Don’t Believe in the Almighty God, His Followers Are Bullies.
Why Richard Dawkins' Moral Relativism Just Doesn't Work

Oh, hey. I wasn’t expecting you so soon. What’s that? No, don’t be silly. Come on in. Make yourself at home. I was just about to get started on the third part of “The God Reality.” I have to say, I was a little worried I’d scared you off last month. I’m glad I didn’t come across too harsh when I refuted Richard Dawkins’ claims on the origin of “life, the universe and everything.”

Still, I feel kind of bad and, if you’ll allow me, I’d like an opportunity to explain myself. I want to show you why I’m a little defensive when it comes to Dawkins—why I’m so skeptical when he says things like, “I find it genuinely puzzling that a mere difference of theological opinion can generate such venom.”

So, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air…no, wait, that’s not it. I mean, I’ll tell you why Dawkins (even though he’s a remarkable biologist) may be less than qualified to lecture on the subjects of morality and ethics.

From the outset, I want you to recognize what a paradox it is when Dawkins says things like, “Similarly, we can all agree that science’s entitlement to advise us on moral values is problematic, to say the least,” (after asserting that theologians should not be consulted for anything requiring intelligence, since they are utterly useless on all educated topics), and then goes on to supply 4 chapters focused solely on Christianity’s lack of moral values. In essence, he spends the first part of his book explaining the big bang and evolution, and then uses the rest of his ink to preach on the evils of religion, specifically Christianity.

Don’t get me wrong. I take valid arguments against Christianity just as seriously as the next guy. Too bad the arguments in “The God Delusion” aren’t valid, and the source isn’t even remotely credible. I know, I know, that’s a mighty bold statement to make. But, in the spirit of the scientific method, I intend to back my claims up with evidence.

Let’s start by examining the quote I used a second ago from page 212. Dawkins takes such an innocent stance, pondering why Christians are always so mean and venomous when it comes to differences “of theological opinion.” It sounds great on the surface until you stop to examine the implications.

First, does Dawkins really want us to reduce the subjects of his celebrated book to “theological opinion,” instead of pursuing the science and facts that he so loves? Second (and more importantly, since it’s the focus of this whole discussion), does he really claim that Christians are the only party guilty of defending their beliefs with harsh words and biased judgments? Apparently so, since he reiterates this idea two pages later with: “…but his letter, by this point, had reached that level of frenzied malevolence which I repeatedly recognize among my Christian correspondents.”
In that case, bear with me a moment while I present a few examples of Dawkins’ venom:

1) “The God Delusion.” Did you catch that? Right there on the cover.

2) On page 204, he explains how the small island of Vanuatu/Tanna fell victim to Christian missionaries, who ultimately destroyed the indigenous peoples’ religious innocence. He even goes so far as to say, “These islands had long been infected with missionaries.” INFECTED. I sense a hint of biased opinion…

3) On page 321, in reaction to a letter depicting a woman’s “irrational” fear of hell instilled at a young age by ruthless nuns, Dawkins proclaims, “I was moved by her letter, and (suppressing a momentary and ignoble regret that there is no hell for those nuns to go to) replied that…” True, he uses “ignoble” to downplay his condemnation of the nuns, but how are these harsh words any better than any “go to hell” shouted by his opponents?

With these inconsistencies in mind, I hope you’ll bear with me a while longer, so I can fully convey my concern with Dawkins’ skewed moral compass, and how it affects his judgment.

As I said before, in his 6th-9th chapters, Dawkins assaults the morality of Christianity, so instead of making unfounded blanket statements about his character, and his basic understanding of Christianity, I’ll give a series of specific examples in these chapters that support my claims.

*HEY YOU, READ THIS: What follows is, well, lengthy. But it’s good stuff. And I promise, once it starts rolling, it just keeps getting better. With the first example, you might say, “Big Whoop. So what?” but by the end, you’re going to be yelling at your screen, “C’mon, mon. You serious, mon? How dis mon think dis crazy things?” Yes, by the end of this blog, you will be Jamaican.

Ch. 6- The Roots of Morality: Why are we good?

p. 227- “I suspect that quite a lot of religious people do think religion is what motivates them to be good, especially if they belong to one of those faiths that systematically exploits personal guilt.” What he doesn’t understand is that humanity desires to be “good” because God instilled it in us through His image, not because we fear Him. It is a part of us because it is ALL of Him.

p. 228- Because of his hatred of Christianity, Dawkins blatantly twists the truth. He describes a situation in 1969 when the Montreal police went on strike and the city fell into chaos. He asserts an “If-Then” statement. IF: Montreal was made up mostly of Christians, AND some of Montreal’s citizens looted and vandalized the city, THEN: those responsible for the looting and vandalizing must have necessarily been Christians. He doesn’t even try to prove that any of the criminals during the strike were Christians. He just assumes it and considers it a valid argument.

Ch. 7- The Good Book and the Moral Zeitgeist

p. 246- “It is yet another example of the disconnect between scriptural and modern (one is tempted to say civilized) morals.” Dawkins consistently claims his generation/peers to be the peak of rationality, intelligence, morality, and civility, but he still has the self-righteousness to call Christians arrogant. Again, on page 265, he says, “Religious or not, we have all changed massively in our attitude to what is right and what is wrong.” The crazy thing is, he must not own a TV, because he actually thinks humanity is doing BETTER now that we’re “civilized.”

p. 254- “Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews.” Someone should get this guy a Bible. What about “…all children of God through Faith” (Galatians 3: 26-29), baptizing All nations (Matt. 28: 19), and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8)?

262-272- The section entitled “The Moral Zeitgeist” only proves that when morality has no absolute, it will be defined by the zeitgeist (“the spirit of the times”). It is always changing like a child stumbling in the dark. Maybe it’s time we start searching for a source of moral light to lead us through the darkness...

p. 263- Along with such timeless rules as “don’t kill”, Dawkins throws in relativistic morals such as “…pay our taxes…[and] don’t commit incest…” Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to cheat the IRS or to marry your sister, but not all societies pay a government for their protection, and Roman emperors used to protect the royal bloodline by having kids with close relatives. Dawkins doesn’t seem to grasp the difference between moral and societal issues.

p. 271- Dawkins says, “Although Martin Luther King was a Christian, he derived his philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience directly from Gandhi, who was not.” Ha! Yes, Gandhi. That’s where Christianity derives its morals. It all makes sense now…Oh wait, too bad Gandhi actually admired Christ. Don’t believe me? Then why did Gandhi say, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”? With that said, the latter half of Gandhi’s quote brings up an important issue. Christianity is made up of broken, sinful people who fail to fully reflect God’s message. Maybe that’s why Dawkins always attacks Christians, but never ventures to take on the morality of the Big Man, himself. More on this later…

p. 272- The section entitled “What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t They Atheists?” would be laughable if it wasn’t so disturbing. Dawkins actually tries to say Hitler did the things he did BECAUSE, at times, he claimed to be a Christian, BUT, even though Stalin was an adamant atheist, he wasn’t quite as twisted as Hitler, so, in the moral game of attrition, atheism beats Christianity. On page 276, he even tries to downplay Hitler’s anti-Christian statements by saying, “… he was an opportunistic liar whose words cannot be trusted, in either direction.” Oh, sure, Stalin was an atheist, but we can’t blame his lack of morals on that, so let’s gloss over his atrocities. Instead, let’s take Hitler, who only claimed to be a Christian so he could gain power, and let’s spend six pages blaming Christianity for his acts.

p. 278- Here, Dawkins claims unyielding religious beliefs are the source of all violence. “By contrast,” he says, “why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief?” Unfortunately, humanity is incapable of believing in nothing. We will always fill the void with an absolute. Thus, if atheism usurps religion, it must bear the responsibility of Man’s sins, taking the blame for our newfound desire to fight for our right to party.

Ch 8- What’s Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?

p. 297- “Early embryos that have no nervous system most certainly do not suffer. And if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer- though all suffering is deplorable- it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage.” So, the amount of nerve endings a being has should determine if it lives? Furthermore, since lethal injection is painless, would it be moral to kill an innocent human by such means?

p. 301- “…there are no natural borderlines in evolution. The illusion of a borderline is created by the fact that the evolutionary intermediates happen to be extinct. Of course, it could be argued that humans are more capable of, for example, suffering than other species…But evolutionary continuity shows that there is no absolute distinction. Absolute moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution.” I know this quote is a little hard to follow, but here’s what it boils down to: Either Dawkins believes testing on animals is immoral and he is out of a job (as a biologist), or he believes testing on humans is moral and he is as bad as Hitler, who he has already adamantly condemned as a Christian.

Ch 9- Childhood, Abuse and the Escape From Religion

p. 316- “All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety…I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).” How is this not a red flag for his claim of “moral objectivity?” This whole section downplays pedophilia as a minor offense when compared with the religious education of children.

p. 325- “If you were to compare the abuse of bringing up a child really to believe in hell…how do you think that would compare in trauma terms with sexual abuse?” He actually sees this as a valid question. Apparently, it’s hard for him to see that belief in hell is a necessary component of belief in heaven, which gives a sense of hope and purpose, while sexual abuse violently strips away all hope and purpose.

p. 327- In response to a TV special about a sacrificed Incan girl found in a frozen tomb: “How dare they invite us – in our sitting rooms, watching television – to feel uplifted by contemplating an act of ritual murder: the murder of a dependent child by a group of stupid, puffed up, superstitious, ignorant old men.” Huh, so it’s not okay to kill an innocent child if it’s convenient to the beliefs of grown-ups? What about abortion?

p. 330- In response to a Wisconsin court case ruled in favor of Amish families pulling their kids out of public schools at age 16: “…the children themselves should have been consulted. Did they really want to cut short their education? Did they, indeed, really want to stay in the Amish religion?” I don’t get it. Don’t we “force” kids to go to school in the first place? At what point are they allowed to be actual people? Is it when they have enough nerve endings to feel more pain than a cow—or do they have to be frozen in an Incan tomb for 500 years?

So you see my confusion and frustration. Dawkins’ moral relativism, while adamant, has no basis. He claims to be a scientist, but then he fills his book with constant contradictions on the value of human life and relationships. Modern Christians have their share of faults, but the Bible’s morality has been relevant and unchanging for over 2,000 years. That’s more than I can say for Richard Dawkins, who seems to have changed his moral views several times over the span of 300 pages.

With all this said, I want to make one thing clear. No one forms opinions without some measure of truth. On page 211, Dawkins says, “Such unchristian abuse is commonly experienced by those who are perceived as enemies of Christianity.” Here, it is clear that Dawkins does have at least some grasp of what Christ originally taught. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but Christianity is literally made up of broken, flawed human beings. If anyone thinks for a second that slapping a “Jesus Fish” bumper sticker on their ride makes them any better than the rest of the world, they are doing nothing but cheapening God’s Word. Critics of modern Christianity cannot be downplayed or ignored.

*For more on modern society’s views of Christianity, and why they matter, read UnChristian by David Kinnaman.

Do you get it now? Do you understand why I find it hard to fully accept the words of a man who seems so morally disoriented? Sure, we’re all screwed up on some level, so I really shouldn’t fully accept what anyone says, right? Well, there was this one Guy from Nazareth, and if my memory serves me right, He had a lot to say on the subject of morality.

Then again, he did live over 2,000 years ago. How can we be sure the stuff we have in the Bible today is the same stuff He said way back then? Seems like a pretty big deal to me. Such a big deal, in fact, that it would make a great finale for this series. So, if you’re interested in what history has to say about Jesus of Nazareth, come back and see me next month when I finally stop rambling and wrap up this whole blasted series.

Thanks for coming. And as they say on MTV Cribs: Get out.

Hey, Richard, you can interpret the signs however you want, but that cliff's been there a LONG time,
and it's not going anywhere.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The God Reality: Part Two

What Came First, the Divine Knob-Twiddler or the Egg? 

Disclaimer: the following sample of Dawkins’ arguments is littered with cynicism and bias. But rest assured, I’ve done it only to retain the overall style of “The God Delusion.”

So, you’re back for more, huh? Well, last time we met, I introduced Richard Dawkins and his book, “The God Delusion.” I presented a mission statement for my series and a little proof that I don’t completely disregard everything Dawkins says. I left you with that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with politically correct articles that politely present both sides and declare the debate a “tie.” But what’s the fun in that? I have a hunch that “The God Delusion” wouldn’t have sold nearly as well if it had been titled “God May or May Not Exist, But We’re All Still Friends, Right?”

Now that the gloves are off, we can get our hands dirty. And who doesn’t like rolling their sleeves up and digging around in primordial ooze once in a while? So take a deep breath, clear your mind, and get ready to experience why Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in God…

As an evolutionary biologist, Dawkins’ primary weapon against God is Darwinian natural selection. With it, he applies evolution to God, then slices-and-dices through “irreducible complexity” and “intelligent design” without so much as breaking a sweat because, if God created everything, where did God come from? Darwin (thus, Dawkins) says every complex organism came from a “simpler antecedent”, eventually reducing back into nothingness, so things could not have began with a being as complex as God. Here’s an example:

On page 73, Dawkins says, “Science-fiction authors, such as Daniel F. Galouye in Counterfeit World, have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization.” I bet he could disprove it if the “superior civilization” was named God.
But, of course, his point is that:
“…the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution…”
So, even if we are all trapped in a computer program created by unseen aliens known as God, those aliens (God) would have had to evolve like everything else, because life has to start from nothing.

But wait, what happened between the nothingness and the simplest living thing, or better yet, into the first physical thing at all? Unfortunately, Dawkins doesn’t help us much on that subject in “The God Delusion,” but he does spend ample time giving examples of how improbable the initiation of life is. In this way, he disproves God. Yep, that’s actually what he says.

Planetary Anthropic Principle: “We exist here on Earth. Therefore Earth must be the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting us, however unusual, even unique, that kind of planet might be.” (p. 135)

Dawkins uses this Anthropic Principle to emphasize the improbability of our existence by introducing (p. 143) Martin Rees’ 6 finely tuned values required to make the universe suitable for life. The section is very thorough and gives numerous examples of specific factors that have to be just right, but for the sake of time, I’ll refrain from copy/pasting. As I said, the point is to show how improbable it is to have life in the universe, but in the end, Dawkins says, “A God capable of calculating the [perfect, life sustaining] Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself, and that’s very improbable indeed…” Thus, he sees “no alternative but to dismiss [the ‘Divine Knob-Twiddler’ argument].” So, because the existence of an almighty God is as improbable as the existence of our perfectly tuned universe, God has been disproved?

Does that mean we don’t exist, either? Hmm…

So, with such high improbability playing against us, how did everything work out in our favor? Dawkins’ only logical solution is to extrapolate natural selection to physics in a “multiverse” theory. He presents the possibility of multiple, perhaps infinite, different universes and says that only those with potential for life would have life capable of observing its existence. Therefore, the universes without life cannot be observed, or proved. If enough universes exist (even if they can’t be proved), surely at least one of them would be perfect for sustaining life. Yes, even Richard Dawkins uses philosophical arguments without scientific proof when they serve his purpose.

On page 144, he comes to the conclusion that, “When we finally reach the long-hoped-for Theory of Everything, we shall see that the six key numbers depend upon each other, or on something else as yet unknown, in ways that we today cannot imagine.

So lets recap: Those ways “we today cannot imagine” could possibly be complete dumb luck (of which the odds, and Dawkins, say is utterly impossible), aliens that trapped us in a computer program, or vast universes than cannot be seen or proved.

And this is what we’ve learned:
1) Everything has to start from a simpler antecedent, but the simplest antecedent could only begin in an environment that baffles the scientific community.
2) Therefore, God cannot exist because his complexity is too improbable, but the make-up of our universe is so specific and improbable that “we today cannot imagine” how it could fit together.

These are Dawkins’ arguments for not believing in God. Seriously.

Here’s a quote from biologist J.B.S. Haldane used by Dawkins on page 364: Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose…I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy.”

But remember, even though we may not understand multiverses, computer-loving aliens, and the perfect alignment of probability-defying factors, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. All you need is a little faith.

Next month: The Moral Zeitgeist: Don’t Believe in the Almighty God, His Followers Are Bullies.

Followed by the epic conclusion: From Genesis to Jesus: What History Really Tells Us.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The God Reality: A Brief Rebuttal to “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins

In 2006, Houghton Mifflin Company published “The God Delusion,” the 9th book by British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. Since then, it has sold over 2 million copies and spurred far-reaching debates on various topics surrounding theism and mainstream religion.

For atheists, it serves as a rallying beacon, for Christians, a war cry. This may be a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. For everyone in between, it forces serious thought and research on the most important topic in human history: Does God exist? From this, other questions arise as well. Is God good? Is religion healthy for society? Did Jesus ever really exist? If so, was he truly the living God?

You’ll notice that most of these questions revolve around the specific religion of Christianity. That’s because, even though he opposes all Theism, Dawkins chooses to zero in on Christianity in his book. Thus, Christians have taken notice. Some have responded intellectually by writing books and articles but, unfortunately, most have lumped “The God Delusion” in with other books they absolutely won’t read, such as “The Satanic Bible” and “Harry Potter.”

So, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I read it. Rather, I dissected it, not with a scalpel and forceps, but with a pen and a broad spectrum of research materials. I won’t pretend it was an easy read. Anyone who endures a formidable attack on that which they hold most dear will encounter a certain amount of frustration and pain. Dawkins raised points that made me think, made me doubt, and made me concede. But when I turned that last page, I realized one important fact: I was still a Christian. In some ways, it tempered my faith, sharpened it.

I don’t claim to be ahead of the curve in any aspect of my beliefs. I know Christians who are smarter, braver, and more discerning. But I also know several believers who refuse to read literature that will make them doubt their faith. That’s where this blog series comes in.

Time for a purpose statement: To present valid arguments against Richard Dawkins’ claims against Theism and offer counterpoints for the validity and necessity of Christianity. As my readers are a mix of Christians, agnostics, atheists, and several other overly exalted labels, I will attempt to avoid Dawkins’ characteristically hostile voice (which I will address later in this series) when presenting my points.

*Disclaimer: This is not going to be a light topic. I’m sure I’ll step on toes on both sides of the fence (that’s a joke about me being tall, in case you missed it). But don’t worry. I can pretty much guarantee my humor will, as always, come through at the least appropriate times.

As for this first installment (of what I plan to be a three-part series), I’ll attempt to convince you, my dear readers, that I don’t hate Richard Dawkins or his book. This may seem silly, but if you believe I approached his work with an open, well-meaning heart, you will be more likely to do the same with mine. So here are three reasons why I don’t, in fact, hate “The God Delusion.”

First on my list is the section titled, “The Worship of Gaps.” It would be silly to quote this entire section, but if you have the opportunity to read it yourself, please don’t hesitate. The general idea is that, when an over-zealous Christian finds an unexplainable gap in one of the sciences, he or she tends to ascribe the mystery as a miracle of God. Sure, it sounds like a good idea. After all, we’ve all heard of the unexplainable mysteries of the Lord. However, not all mysteries are unexplainable. In fact, I would go so far as to say that ALL mysteries can be explained, and most even have the potential to be explained by mankind. Thus, many well meaning Christ-followers set their savior up for failure when a scientific process explains that “miracle” away. I’m definitely not doing this section justice, but try to remember, even though we don’t yet have all the answers, that doesn’t give us the right to reduce the complex inter-workings of God’s creation to mislabeled, simplistic explanations. There is no honor to God in that.

On to another positive contribution of “The God Delusion.” In his section titled “The ‘Good’ Book and the Moral Zeitgeist”, on page 260-1, Dawkins hits on three eye-opening aspects of modern Christianity that should not be ignored.
1) “Labeling of children. Children are described as ‘Catholic children’ or Protestant children’ etc. from an early age, and certainly far too early for them to have made up their own minds on what they think about religion.” Obviously, I don’t think we should refrain from bringing our children up in a Christian household, but I believe it’s essential for us to educate them on other thoughts and beliefs if we want them to fully embrace Christianity while still respecting others as human beings. Bigotry is founded on ignorance and brainwashing our children does not honor God.
2) “Segregated schools. Children are educated, again often from a very early age, with members of a religious in-group and separately from children whose families adhere to other religions. It is not an exaggeration to say that the troubles in Northern Ireland would disappear in a generation if segregated schooling were abolished.” This final claim may be a stretch, but I do believe moral superiority stems from unawareness of the humanity of other ethnic groups.
3) “Taboos against ‘marrying out’. This perpetuates hereditary feuds and vendettas by preventing the mingling of feuding groups. Intermarriage, if it were permitted, would naturally tend to mollify enmities.” I know this is easier to say than to do. However, one can’t deny the truth in the statement.

This last contribution (found in the section titled, “The Mother of All Burkas”) is actually attributed to Steve Grand in his book, “Life and How to Make It,” but Dawkins gets the points because he brought it to my attention: “…of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, and maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place…Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.”
It certainly is. In lieu of this information, what can we be, other than something beyond physical matter, molecules, and atoms?

Next month, I’ll address Dawkins’ views on the origins of the universe, and why those views fail to disprove God.

Until next time, noble readers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Coolest Inventions of the 21st Century

Technology! Am I right? It’s a crazy thing and nobody can deny its ability to both surprise us and leave us wanting more. It seems like even the most amazing iphone apps lose their novelty in a week or two. Anybody remember laser discs?

I think this constant drive is at least partly what spurs humanity on in its quest for bigger and better inventions, and the past twelve years have been no exception. The 21st century, despite its reported recessions and hardships, has borne some of the most amazing technologies mankind has ever seen. If news anchors weren’t so busy talking about stocks, presidential candidates, and murderous teen moms, we might see more of the awesome things mankind can create. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to share with you some of the most whoa-inspiring inventions of the 21st century. Ten inventions, to be exact. I mean, what self-respecting list ever leaves the house wearing anything other than multiples of ten?

*disclaimer: I’ve purposely left out the big ones, such as facebook, youtube, and ipods. If you don’t know about them yet, it may be too late for you.

+IMPORTANT: This post is filled with hyperlinks. If you don't click on these little Easter eggs, you'll be missing out on most of the awesomeness of these awesomely awesome tools and gadgets. So do it. Click on some Easter eggs. 

10) I, Robot? More like I, Skywalker.
First on the list are a few examples of robotic prosthetics. Things have come a long way since wooden legs. In fact, here’s a fully robotic hand controlled by the residual muscles of an amputee. And if that’s not enough, let’s go ahead and put in a robotic heart while we’re at it.
The Million-Dollar Man may have to register for a name change thanks to inflation, but the idea doesn’t seem so silly now, does it?

9) Eat your heart out, Aron Ralston (not literally, of course).
So, you got your arm stuck between a rock and a hard place and you had to cut it off, but you’re really not down with setting off metal detectors for the rest of your life? No problem. We’ll just grow you a new arm. Don’t believe me? Well, here are your options: Sir Magni Yacoub can grow you a new one using harvested stem cells, Dr. Fiona Wood can spray one on using your own stem cells, or you can find a pig, cut out its bladder, and use the lining (specifically the extracellular proteins and connective tissue) to create “pixie dust,” a miracle powder that grows back even those tough to reach body parts.

8) Forget Harry Potter’s Quick-Quotes Quill.
You’re going to have to see this one for yourself. It’s a pen. It’s a recorder. It’s a computer. Imagine doing an interview, scribbling away on normal paper with your LiveScribe pen. Later, you pull out your pen and tap one of the words on the paper and BOOM, your pen starts playing the audio recording of your interviewee at the exact moment you wrote that word. Not only that, you can plug the pen in and it’ll upload everything you wrote. Check it out. It’s the closest thing to magic I’ve seen.

7) One word. Skynet.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the stuff of Sci-fi horror, but it gets more real every day. Want proof? Check out this relatively low-budget, public domain website that learns and evolves with every human encounter. Freaky deaky Dutch.

6) What are we supposed to do with all these empty bookshelves?
This is one everybody knows about, but few actually appreciate. It’s the digitization of information. Let’s run down the list shall we? Wikipedia killed the multi-volume, multi-million dollar industry of encyclopedias. People can carry hundreds of books in their backpacks or purses thanks to ebooks. The same goes for music and iTunes. When’s the last time you bought a CD? DVDs are only barely hanging on. Mark my words. Even blu-ray is going to fizzle out in the near future when Netflix perfects its hi-definition digital downloads. It doesn’t seem weird now, but wait until movies are projected directly into our brains. Then we’ll see who’s laughing, digitally, of course.

5) Simple, but when you think about it, ridiculously sci-fi.
Not a lot to this one, but still very reminiscent of “Minority Report.” What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of the blockbuster psycho-adventure staring Matt Damon (yes, I realize it's not really MD)? Well, never mind. Here’s a Virtual keyboard that allows you to type away at a picture of a keyboard on a table. The same technology works for pianos, drawing boards, and pretty much any other fine motor task you can think of. Take a second and think about how cool this is. Do it.

4) And speaking of getting sucked into our electronics (TRON, anyone?).
Atari came out about 35 years ago. Now our game systems project our EXACT movements into elaborate fantasy worlds, allowing us to manipulate detailed environments as if we were really there. The Wii and the xbox Kinect push the envelope of movement recognition technology, but before long, we’ll play video games using only our brainwaves. Oh wait, they already have that.

3) Seriously, how are people not more excited about life-sized RC cars?
This one needs very little introduction, but I still don’t see how people fail to appreciate the implications of a mass-produced, all-electric car. I know they’re not perfect yet, but the very idea of ANY vehicle on the road not using a drop of fossil fuel is huge. Here’s are the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster for examples. Hydrogen cars are right around the corner, as soon as researchers stop getting assassinated…

2) Flubber. No, seriously.
Imagine a material as soft as putty that you can squeeze, roll, and mold, but the second you try to slam your hand down on it, it become rock hard. What would you do with such a material? Protective sports equipment? Body armor? Yeah, d3o thought of it first. Dow Corning isn’t doing too bad of a job at it, either.
1) Help, my battery ate my breakfast!
Last, but not…well, you know. A battery created by Sony that runs on, wait for it, sugar. That’s right. A hypoglycemic energy storage cell. I’m telling you, the Bio Cell is the first step toward Back to the Future's Mr. Fusion.

Oh, and one more thing. Underground Antarctic lakes. No, no one invented an underground lake. But someone discovered it, so it deserves a spot, too. Get over it. Recently, the Russians (go figure) drilled through 2.5 miles of ice and reached the pristine waters of Lake Vostok, a 160-mile-long lake that was, until February 5, 2012, completely sealed off from the outside world for somewhere around 25 million years. Anybody who doesn’t think this is amazing can go eat a sno-cone. I mean, think about what could be down there! By the way, I WILL be writing a short-story about what IS down there, so if I see a similar story written by YOU, I will hunt you down and bury you 2.5 miles below Lake Vostok.

That's it. Well, not really. That's only the tip of the Lake Vostok iceberg. But it's all I'm going to give you for free. Now get out there and find the rest of the Easter eggs without my help. Better yet, lay an egg yourself. Er, invent something. Yeah, that's what I meant.

Minority Report. Remember now?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doggy Debt

How much is your pet worth to you?

As a closet country boy (I grew up 13 miles from town and my closest neighbor was about a mile away), I’ve been instilled with a practical mindset when it comes to animals. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely cried when I watched “Marley and Me,” but I can’t help laughing at those owners who treat their pets like spoiled children. In fact, until this year, I’ve never actually paid money for a pet (Let me rephrase that. I’ve never paid for a dog or a cat. I’ve paid minor fees for a ferret, a parakeet, a short-tailed opossum, a ball python, and many fish). Maybe that’s where I went wrong…

Six months ago, my wife and I traveled to the bustling metropolis of Hopewell, MO to adopt our first child. Within twenty minutes, we made a $250 contribution to Hopewell’s micro-economy and walked away with a boxer puppy named Luna. Since then, we’ve enjoyed all the adventures a puppy affords. She’s relieved herself on the kitchen floor, pulled over my gas grill to use the grill cover as a blanket, chewed up every wire and cable unlucky enough to fall into her jaws, and destroyed her dog bed within 5 minutes of having it. We love our little ball of destruction.

And therein lies the trouble.

What amount of money is too much to spend on a pet? If your dog needs a $10,000 surgery, would you pay it without feeling some guilt? What about the hopeless victims of America’s recession? Wouldn’t they appreciate a cut of that ten grand? So where do we draw the line? How do we put a price on a loved one’s life?

For me, apparently the line isn’t at a $225 vet bill. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but let me explain. My wife was running with Luna on a recent Saturday and a bigger dog attacked Luna. Of course, the owner tried justifying the actions of his hellhound (and the fact that he didn’t have it on a leash), but the end result was a half-dollar-sized hole in Luna’s chest and not a scratch on the other dog. And now for the decisions.

As an outpatient physical therapist, I have about as much first aid experience as a seasoned SAHM (stay at home mom). So, naturally, I considered shaving the area and suturing or steri-stripping the wound myself. I also thought about calling in a favor from one of my physician acquaintances. Both options had merit, but I shot down the first because I knew she needed antibiotics anyway and the second because they would still have to anesthetize Luna to sew her up. The last option was to wait until Monday to take her, which would have still cost money, but significantly less.

In the end, I decided to feverishly rush her to the vet on call and pay out the wazoo for a few square knots. Why? Because I love her.

“It seems my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

So what would you have done? How much have you spent on your pet? How much would you be willing to spend?

Don't let the old picture fool you. She's 50 pounds now.

Chicks dig scars...Too bad she's a girl.