Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose credentials include U.C. Berkeley, Caltech and Cambridge, has written quite the clarion call for us to return to sound science in Undeniable. As the subtitle How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed indicates, a central focus is the debate on the successes, or failures, of Darwinian biology to explain life as we know it. Indeed, Axe brings some detailed and technical science to bear on this topic, but he is using that discussion to explain how science is not unreachable or unknowable by the masses. We need not blindly follow experts or celebrity scientists unquestionably. To do this, we first must rid ourselves of flawed views of science.
The past few weeks has seen the endless parade of deviants being outed in Hollywood and government. This nuking of the swamp is long overdue and hopefully marks permanent change, but in-depth discussion of all that has occurred is lacking. I know this is a bit off-topic for me, but for those who are interested, what follows are some reflections on some of what has been debated in the media.
Hundreds of moons, planets and other bodies in the Solar System, and only ours — Earth and the Moon — have perfect solar eclipses. Astronomers have long noted this strange phenomenon, and the unlikely parameters that cause it. Not only that, but they happen to occur in a time in Earth’s history where they can be observed. Astronomer John Gribben writes:
Just now the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is 400 times farther away than the Moon, so that they look the same size on the sky. At the present moment of cosmic time, during an eclipse, the disc of the Moon almost exactly covers the disc of the Sun. In the past the Moon would have looked much bigger and would have completely obscured the Sun during eclipses; in the future, the Moon will look much smaller from Earth and a ring of sunlight will be visible even during an eclipse. Nobody has been able to think of a reason why intelligent beings capable of noticing this oddity should have evolved on Earth just at the time that the coincidence was there to be noticed. It worries me, but most people seem to accept it as just one of those things.
Even if we brush this off as coincidence, as some have tried to do, there is another layer to this. Many of the interconnected factors that allow the eclipse to occur, also allow life to exist on Earth. Continue reading
Think not forever of yourselves, O chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground. – Peacemaker, Founder of the Iroquois Confederacy
In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion…Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation. – The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law
There are a variety of quotes like these, often rewritten as some variation of, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…” These quotes are often used in discussion of environmental issues, but they are a fundamental concept of foresight that should be applied to much of our thinking. This is something our politicians rarely do — they’re only concerned in what they can say or do (or appear to do) to get them through the next election cycle.
Brennan Manning will be long remembered for his book A Ragamuffin Gospel. On some of those pages, he wrote on our sad loss of notice of the planet we inhabit:
By and large, our world has lost its sense of wonder. We have grown up. We no longer catch our breath at the sight of a rainbow or the scent of a rose. We have grown bigger and everything else smaller, less impressive…We no longer run our fingers through the water, no longer shout at the stars or make faces at the Moon…We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive that we become immune to the glory of creation. We barely notice the cloud passing over the Moon or the dewdrops clinging to the rose leaves. The ice on the pond comes and goes. The wild blackberries ripen and wither…We avoid the cold and the heat. We refrigerate ourselves in summer and entomb ourselves in plastic in the winter. We rake up every leaf as fast as it falls…We grow complacent and lead practical lives. We miss the experience of awe, reverence and wonder…Rabbi [Abraham Joshua] Heschel concluded, “As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines.”
Perhaps lives less practical, and less busy, are what we all need.
A few posts ago, I mentioned some of the activities you should be engaging in before summer vanishes and you start complaining about the cold. They revolved around activities outside. That’s right, outside, as in not in a buiilding.
Even in the great outdoors, we can’t seem to leave our electronics home. It wasn’t that long ago where if you said you were going camping for the week, that’s the last anyone heard from you for a couple days. Now you’re expected to blog, text, tweet, call and face time every step of the way. There is hope for us.
Richard Louv expertly argued in his books Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle the importance of nature in our lives. While technology has often improved our lives, it can be an impediment, especially through the “entertainment” it brings with it. So it’s with certain irony that geocaching has brought tech to the woods and let millions become explorers again.
In the old days, you would use a compass and map to engage in the sport of orienteering. Find hidden caches or capture the opponent’s flag, it could be quite the weekend adventure. Then came GPS and someone said, “Let’s hide stuff in the woods and others can try to find it with their GPS.” Years – and millions of hides and finds later – geocaching continues to grow. In spite of that, it lives a strange existence of many still not knowing about it, to being almost a secret society to others.
Paul and Dana Gillin chronicle the sport in their book The Joy of Geocaching. They write how it dovetails with many other outdoor hobbies, is an inexpensive way to spend time with friends and family, brings enthusiasts together from all walks of life, among other points. Perhaps most importantly, geocaching appeals to the “restless and inquisitive” and as one geocacher wrote that he found, “most caches were placed in these out-of-the-way places. It’s not what the tourism office thinks you should see; it’s what people in the community think you should see.”
Indeed, many parks and communities have embraced geocaching, while some government entities (no surprise here) have seen it has something to ban or regulate. I once had a cache in a very scenic, but oft forgotten, corner of a state park. Over the years, many of the cache finders commented on how they didn’t know about the place so close to home or had forgotten it. But apparently increased business on tax-payer funded lands didn’t sit well with the parks and they made it harder for caches to be put in place. Most were pulled out.
Regardless of such irrationality, geocaching still a perfect way to ignite the explorer in all of us. You can armchair it all you want in front of the tube, but that will never be the same as putting on your Indy hat, lacing up your boots and heading out the door. Even if it’s just discovering what you have been missing in your own community, it’s like discovering a lost world.
The Space Age has put the power to explore in your hands. What are you waiting for?
Last year I wrote how Dandelion Wine is a classic book setting the tone of summer. This year, let me suggest five goals for your summer:
1. Catch fireflies (or lightning bugs, as we call them). If nature didn’t have enough lifeforms whose complexity defies chance, here’s one that no kid, or adult, should go the summer months without catching.
2. Look at the stars. Why spend a cool, summer night in front of the television? It doesn’t take an expensive telescope or pair of binoculars to explore the night sky or the Moon. Be connected to our ancestors who studied the heavens for many millennia. Rediscover Earth’s paradox: A speck among the vast cosmos — a cosmos that conspired to allow it to exist against all odds.
3. Visit an old-fashioned amusement park. One that has been around for decades and in some ways has retained some of the original atmosphere. Sure, we have enough amusement, but the rides, sounds, lights and people from all walks makes for an experience all too rare. Hopefully, they are not a dying breed.
4. Build a campfire. Forget the stove or the grill. Build it from scratch and cook over hardwoods like mankind has done since the dawn. Maybe it’s the dancing flames or the aromatic smoke that brings us back to simpler times. Or perhaps the bringing of people together is a reminder of what we have lost.
Summer is a time to stop the busyness and replace it with life. The good life.
We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks – anywhere that we may be placed – with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.
His words apply today just as they did over hundred years ago. We like to think we are better off than our ancestors in all ways, but clearly we are not. We still immerse ourselves in busyness and then complain we are exhausted and have no time. Nessmuk’s book was directed to such average folks – not the “man of millions” – in hopes they would find “at least once a year…a season of rest and relaxation” that they “well deserve.” He mentions those who succumbed to the “temptation to buy this or that bit of indispensable camp-kit.” If only he could see the outdoor industry now. He recommended we “go light; the lighter the better, so that the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment.” That’s something, I suppose, we can all consider in all parts of our lives.
The wild still calls to people as it has for generations. We’re almost aliens on this world, yet are uniquely designed to enjoy what John Eldredge calls the “extravagant beauty” that is all around us. We can’t raise nature to be a god and put it over the lives of humankind, but it is certainly there for those who wish to find it. Nessmuk ends his book with these words:
Wherefore, let us be thankful that there are still thousands of cool, green nooks besides crystal springs, where the weary soul may hide for a time, away from debts, duns and deviltries…
Free yourself from being busy. Eden awaits.
Unfortunately, they weren’t reading this website. They were, however, just as capable of us of finding something to do. Kids weren’t wondering aimlessly without their tablets and phones. In fact, we aren’t all that far removed from the days when kids played outside all day and had to practically be forced back home for meals and bedtime. Nor did folks pull up the internet every time they needed to learn how to make, fix or craft something. Someone at sometime taught them in person.
The books below embody some of that old time knowledge and know-how for outdoor projects, skills and survival. Many of these books have been in print, in one form another, for decades. They are for collectors of nostalgia, those who would like to get their hands dirty or people who want to learn their way through the woods without a GPS and survive without a grocery store.
Someday we may all wish we had taken the time to preserve the wisdom of those who came before us.
I am a bit baffled and disturbed, that months after the Ebola epidemic started raging across Africa, we are still letting people from those areas into the U.S. If you are not baffled or disturbed, I’m thinking you don’t understand what Ebola is.
What it is not is the flu or measles. You have the flu and cough in a room full of people, most won’t even get sick, let alone die. You have Ebola and cough in a room, many may get it (no immunities) and, well, the fatality rate puts this disease somewhere above anthrax (which doesn’t spread very easily without sophisticated help).
While I’m sure there are plenty of dedicated people working around the clock to fight this disease, the laze-fair doctrine of non-existent control of our borders and who enters the country is ripe for a deadly scourge. The open borders, by some studies, is at fault for the recent re-emergence of other disease outbreaks — though none of the killing caliber of Ebola.
Many will say, “It’s only two or three, we can handle it.” Perhaps. But two or three can infect hundreds. This isn’t the chicken pox. You don’t give your kids some lotion, wash your hands a little more often, and go about your life. No, you and everyone you have been in contact goes into isolation lock-down and those who contact the disease fight for their lives.
The only way to stop a disease like this is to take it seriously.
Books like Germs and The Dead Hand detail the insidious nature of diseases like Ebola and, while many were worried about nukes, governments tinkered with weapons some argue are worse. Lab 257 reveals that even the knowledge of what bio agents can do, we didn’t always take them seriously. These books, while focused on biowarfare, hinge on what many viruses and bacteria are capable of doing in nature and among populations (the history of biowarfare research will be eye-opening to many in a troubling sort of way). Then take a look at the movie Contagion for a realistic depiction of what a widespread outbreak could look like.
We can discount, dismiss or explain away what the politicians do or don’t do because of our political preferences. Or we can hold them all accountable to their fundamental purpose: Defending borders, whether from disease or man. Or both.
So technically, if you prepare and take precautions, you no longer have to worry (if you had been to begin with). This is a winnable battle, but decisions now will decide how costly it will be.
P.S. Many people have taken the either-or approach: Either “The media is just hyping Ebola” or “They’re under-reporting it and you need to be in a bubble.” People like to gravitate to extremes, often in emotional response to another extreme. What I am promoting here is simple: Don’t pretend Ebola is just the bad flu or some African disease, and taking simple precautions is common sense. Also, don’t be one of these people who say, “Oh, thousands die from the flu every year, so why worry about Ebola?” Other than that the “thousands” claim is a spurious stat, look at the mortality rates. Mortality rate of flu viruses: Less than 1% (effectively zero), Ebola: 70%.