In the this Information Age of the Internet, 24-hour television news coverage, and ten second sound bites, books are still the best way to sample the world. Books are tops when it comes to instilling knowledge, building the intellect, and touching the past.
I have begun collecting some of my favorite quotes. Updated January 19, 2008
My Poetry New section added January 19, 2008
I've started this new section off with a poem I wrote back in high school English class.
Sep 1, 2006 | AntiWar.com | The Faux Liberal Foreign Policy Debate | Doug Bandow Here's a very interesting opinion about America's foreign policy - it describes various schools of American foreign policy thought, and offers a perspective on an alternative.
June 8, 2006 I've written a short essay on this subject in the Geopolitics section of my blog
Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a struggle that goes far beyond just local land issues. Their battle has geopolitical implications. For most of my life, I believed the generally accepted American view that Israel's goal is the simple right to exist and security. Given that Israel is surrounded by hostile states which would like to eliminate Israel, this seems like a reasonable and worthy goal. But the conflict is about much more than that. Both sides believe that they are the rightful owners of Palestine, thanks to plentiful meddling by Europe and the U.S. over the last hundred years. Neither side will be happy unless they control most or all of the areas important to their culture or religion. So the conflict plays out in many dimensions. In one sense, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a true clash of civilizations, cultures, and religions. But on another plane, it takes place against the backdrop of America's need for a stable Middle East (so as to ensure stable energy supplies). Thus, America finds itself supporting interesting regimes (like the House of Saud) and maintaining a delicate balance of power. Throw other regional players like Egypt, Syria, and Iran into the mix, and it is hard to see how this region will ever truly be peaceful. And that was all before the 2003 Iraq war . . .
The events of September 11 have weighed heavily on my mind in the months since the tragedy. There are many aspects to consider, ranging from the motivation of the terrorists to the tremendous loss of life and upheaval that occurred. These terrorist attacks have challenged our American ideals of freedom and pluralism to the very core. Here's my memorial to the victims of September 11.
Please see the section on global climate change in my blog for more on this topic.
I am quite interested in all aspects of the creation vs. evolution debate and how history, science, and revelation enter to inform this question. I am particularly interested in the question: "What are the limits of science?" Protagonists from both sides accuse the other side of paradigm-fitting (only allowing evidence which fits their particular model of origins) and misusing science. Certain views of origins (e.g. naturalistic evolution) rule out supernatural causes by assumption - thus these views are not 'equipped' to detect or acknowledge a supernatural cause for life, even if it turns out to be true. Ultimately, I think science does have a role in this debate - theories or hypotheses of origins should be refined to make testable predictions, so experiments can be conducted to verify or disprove these theories.
Incidentally, it is often argued that creation is not scientific, but evolution is. This is a misuse of terminology. Both creation and evolution are theories about the processes of the origin of life. Creationism and evolutionism, on the other hand are the corresponding worldviews which incorporate the theories of creation and evolution, respectively. Both creationism and evolutionism rest on presuppositions which are taken as true. For instance, creationism includes the presupposition that a Divine entity created all life. Evolutionism rests on the presupposition that all life arose due to purely naturalistic processes. So it is not correct to say that creation is religion, while evolution is science. It is entirely possible to formulate a scientific model of creation, just as one may have a scientific theory of evolution. On the flip side, the dogmatic exclusion of any potential supernatural influence by evolutionists argues in favor of the world view of evolutionism being an actual religion, regardless of the virtues of evolution as a scientific theory.
Special Creation vs. General Creation (future topic?)
Here are some various resources on origins:
Most if not all Creationists also believe in a worldwide cataclysm called "The Great Deluge" or "Noah's Flood." This event was not just a massive flood, but a cataclysmic upheaval which rearranged entire continents. Those believing in the theory of Special Creation postulate that The Deluge is responsible for much of the fossil and geologic strata that are observed in the present. A corollary of the Deluge is that an ice age occurred shortly thereafter, leading to today's ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
Besides Noah's Flood, there are many other catastrophe theories out there. Some, such as massive asteroid impacts have attained a degree of orthodoxy in modern science. Others, such as the idea that the earth experiences massive extinction events when it passes through the ecliptic of the Milky Way, are a bit more unconventional. Some of these theories are linked in with the idea that ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians or the Mayans were actually trying to warn future generations of coming cataclysm. Anyway, I don't wish to cover everything, but if I find an interesting link or two on the subject, I may add it below.
Minds in Ablation by Sean Mewhinney This seven-part series summarizes the physical evidence provided by paleoclimatic data, especially ice cores, with a goal of demonstrating that global catastrophes of the type envisioned by Immanuel Velikovsky and others "could not have happened within the past many thousands of years."
Minds in Denial by Ginenthal - this was a rebuttal, but the link is dead
Catastrophism, Renegade Science (old site link here)
There are some surprising enigmas from the ancient world. Some of these include the thousands of megalithic structures including the Egyptian Pyramids, Stonehenge, Nan Madol (Pohnpei), the stone heads of Easter Island, Incan and Pre-Incan structures, etc. Some of these structures would be very difficult if not impossible to build using the machinery of our modern age, yet there they stand. In many cases, the purpose and method of construction are shrouded in mystery. Occasionally, out-of-place-artifacts (aka, "ooparts") are discovered, such as a 2100 year-old Greek astronomical computer (the Antikythera Mechanism), batteries from ancient Babylon which were apparently used for electroplating, stainless steel tweezers from a ore refinery 4500 years ago, medical tools for brain surgery, and the list goes on. Ancient texts and oral legends contain tantalizing tales of these ancient civilizations, often speaking of flight, everburning lights, and even nuclear war! Such evidence strikes against the idea that man has been gradually evolving and advancing to the current state. Rather, discoveries of ancient technology suggest that ancient civilizations may have attained a high degree of technological development and knowledge. Then through catastrophe or wars, these civilizations collapsed leaving little behind except ruins of their cities and tantalizing out-of-place artifacts. The survivors of these ancient civilizations then went on to found the earliest civilizations recognized by orthodox history, such as the Sumerians. Memories of the advanced ancient civilizations then survived through legend and oral history.
The traditional view of history that man has been on a gradual upward development path is well entrenched in the traditional fields of anthropology, archaeology, and history. It is surprising that this alternative view does not engender more controversy - for the most part it is pushed to the margins or completely ignored by science and history. Some other alternative views exist, such as the idea that aliens visited the earth and are responsible for many of the puzzles that arise - but these theories are even less testable and it seems that such lines of thinking devolve into conspiracy theories.
To sum up, I do not think that orthodox science or history has adequately explained some of the mysteries in the ancient world. Yet, I feel that the idea that aliens being responsible is a cop out as well. It seems much more reasonable to posit that some ancient human civilizations were more advanced than they are given credit for and left behind these interesting structures, ooparts, and legends. Clearly, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence - when such evidence appears in mainstream journals or news media, I'll try to highlight them below:
Nov 29, 2006 | New research published on the Antikythera Mechanism | BBC News The Antikythera Mechanism was found in 1902 by sponge divers in a 2000-y old ship wreck. Several researchers have demonstrated that this device may have been able to predict solar eclipses, the motions of the moon, or even the motions of the planets. This device appears to be more complex than anything discovered from the following millenium!
Conspiracy theories are just plain fun sometimes. Why? Because they represent alternative views on often controversial or little-known topics, usually differing in some radical and interesting way from the generally accepted view. Sometimes the real truth is obscured by a lack of easily-verifiable facts. More often, a conspiracy theory uses a similar collection of facts as the generally accepted view, but constructs a different framework from these facts. Determining which theories are valid and which are pure bunk can an interesting intellectual exercise (or a complete waste of time). It can even be difficult to disprove conspiracy theories which are obviously wrong.
Conspiracy theories (and those who promote them) thrive on the idea of 'hidden' knowledge. Those who are aware of a particular theory often view themselves as heroes, out to save mankind from some terrible diabolical disaster or some level of control by a secret organization or entity. Oftentimes, conspiracy theories are historical in nature, pertaining to some past event, such as the J.F.K assassination. Other conspiracy theories are more contemporary and deal with current issues such as climate change, geopolitics, or an alternative understanding of science.
Below I provide a subsample of some of the notable or interesting conspiracy theories out there. PLEASE note that by providing these links, I do not endorse these viewpoints or make any statement concerning their validity unless otherwise commented. I wouldn't want anyone to go away thinking that I subscribe to these!
This is the conspiracy theory that a shadowy group of elitists is trying to form a one world government. Given the history of mankind, I find this hypothesis to be entirely plausible. History is littered with examples of leaders who attempted to unite the world using military force. It would not be at all surprising if some groups have tried to further this cause using more subtle methods of power and influence. Thus, I'm quite sure there are some groups who would like a 'New World Order' - the real question is how successful have they been? I would argue that it is entirely possible that they have no a need for a 'new' world order - the current world order is probably suiting them just fine.
Ahhh, yes -- the conspiracy theory that all the world's leading scientists are way off base and have missed some crucial understanding of physics. If we could just recover some 'lost' interpretations from Heaviside or Tesla, we would have access to free energy and machines which heal cancer. We would also be able to predict earthquakes in advance, etc. At least that's what some people think. Some of these theories are just hokey, while others are way out there.
The Enterprise Mission The premise of this site is that science made a bad turn in ignoring certain terms in Physics, strange things are going on in our solar system, and a massive coverup is underway!
See especially their section on Hyperdimensional Hurricanes. If you want to know the REAL physics behind the hub wheel, see some papers on this subject by the Schubert Research Group (of which I am a member). I guess this theory is debunked! Score: Traditional science 1, Pseudoscience 0.
Some people say that a global conspiracy is underway to lace the skies with chemicals. The reasons why anyone (or government) would go to the effort to do this are unclear to me, but some theorize that it is to control global weather, possibly to avert an extrasolar climate disaster, or to engage in the euphemistic 'population control'. Elements of these conspiracy theories build on the hyperdimensional physics conspiracy (they use the terminology of 'scalar' instead of hyperdimensional).
Chemtrails and Weather Control? General background on the idea that chemtrails are actually an effort to stave off an extrasolar climate disaster
Weather Wars A TV meteorologist in Idaho claims that weather just about everywhere is being controlled and modified every day. Lots of pictures (some very nice) of aircraft contrails and supposed 'scalar' clouds.
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