Posts for Aug, 2005.

8/29/2005 8:09:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Ten

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing

Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Chapter Ten, of The Privileged Planet is entitled, “A Universe Fine-Tuned for Life and Discovery.” 

I suppose one need not be addicted to the SciFi channel to wonder what it would be like to do the “time travel” thing.  We have probably all said, “I’d have liked to be a bug on the wall when . . . ”  or something similar.  We would like to go back and see how things happened because, well, all history is somewhat “revisionist”: selective observation, selective interpretation, selective evaluation, selective synthesis. . . .  We would like to see it for ourselves.  Following on the character Q from Star Trek, Gonzalez and Richards follow an allegory of beings on the Q continuum as they go back “to the beginning” and observe how things were put in motion that allowed, if not dictated, how things would appear as we observe them today (pp. 195-6).  Q takes us back and shows us a machine that set everything in motion in the Universe.  It has calibrations for such things as: Mass Density, Age of the Universe, expansion Rate of the Universe, Speed of Light, Weak Nuclear Force, strong Nuclear Force, Proton to Electron Mass ratio, Gravitation Force, Cosmological Constant, and Electromagnetic Force.  The question arises then, how precisely do these items on the machine have to be set?  Q and his compadres have not found any setting but the one presently on the machine – that will not exterminate life in the Universe!

If true, this could be a rather startling discovery.  Far from accidental bizarre randomness, the authors will maintain: “the universe, as described by its physical laws and constants seems to be fine-tuned for the existence of life.”  Remember, though, this will contrast rather shrilly with the notion promulgated by the authors that our set of illustrations for the existence of complex life is rapidly reducing to a group of one – us, here, now.
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8/26/2005 11:28:00 AM

Am I unworthy at the Lord's Supper?

Paul and unworthiness in 1 Corinthians 11

Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 by Charlie Trimm
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When I was growing up, I understood the Lord’s Supper as a very private and individual event. The preacher would say a few words from the front, give some directions, and then command each of us to examine ourselves, based on 1 Corinthians 11:27-28. We needed to examine ourselves to see if there was any sin in our life in the past week that was unconfessed, because if there was  we would be eating “in an unworthy manner” or “unworthily”, which was punishable by a strong penalty, as seen in verse 30. The unworthiness was not so much the way we took the Lord’s Supper, it was whether we ourselves were unworthy to partake. As least, this is what I thought until recently when I preached on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

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8/25/2005 11:23:00 AM

“My Truth Have I Hid in My Word”

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2005 by Brian Beers
Comments: 9
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For nearly a month now I have been mulling over this post on the idea of truth being hidden in Scripture (Yes. That is why posts are so few and far between), and just this morning yesterday morning I came across this Deep(ish) Post on those Magic Eye posters that…um–insightful folks such as myself enjoy. It is an illustration of how people can approach Scripture.

There is an idea that I have heard in Bible college and seminary. For lack of a better term, I will call it "the superficiality of Scripture." The basic purpose of this idea is to reassure Christians that they should continue to read Scripture. Bible school and seminary professors have observed that some folks are intimidated by references to the original languages. "The Greek means this...The Hebrew means that...and aren't you lucky I went to seminary so I could tell you..." And we certainly don't want to become like the 16th century Catholic Church with an elite clergy and ignorant peasants being told what to believe. We're Protestants. We agree with Luther that everyone should be able to read the Bible and this means in their own language.

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8/22/2005 8:39:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Nine

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing

Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Chapter Nine, of The Privileged Planet is entitled “Our Place in Cosmic Time.”  Regrettably, I think this chapter will prove to be the weakest link in the chain.  It will, most probably, not be regarded as being “wrong” as much as being weak.  In a book wherein I have groused repeatedly about the copious and somewhat tedious end-noting, this chapter is rather annotatively Spartan.  Several things are taken for granted that might otherwise be necessary in a discussion at this level.  Primarily, the lack of documentation and/or explanation regarding Cepheid variables is glaring.  I want to know why these are considered “standard candles” against which to measure distance and redshift.

My theory, without researching it is as follows: using the parallax method (trigonometry using our position at opposite sides of the year, therefore knowing a side and two angles) we have arrived at a reasonably certain distance for some Cepheid variable or other.  We have determined that their periodicity (the “variable” part) is related to how bright they appear to us at that distance (a.k.a. magnitude) and then we establish what an absolute value would be to their brightness (luminosity).  Because we have studied redshifting, we are pretty sure of how much light shifts to the red side of the spectrum at whatever increasing distance.  Hence, when we deduce luminosity from periodicity (the constant) and calibrate the amount of redshift, we can slingshot out into deep space and arrive at some rather remarkable approximations at great astronomical distance.

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8/15/2005 8:10:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Eight

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing.

Posted Monday, August 15, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Chapter 8 of The Privileged Planet is entitled "Our Galactic Habitat."  As you might guess this is at once one of the most fascinating chapters (well, it is to me, anyway) and at the same time one of the most challenging in terms of the science, theory and mathematics.  It seemed necessary for me to read each section four times just to make certain I knew what the authors were trying to tell me.  Part of it, again, had to do with the incredible number of and depth of end notes.  


Several of these will be brought forward for comment in the paragraphs to follow.  Be warned, there are two things you will feel from reading this chapter (or its review): you will begin to feel infinitesimally small but at the same time, you may begin to feel incredibly fortunate.

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8/8/2005 9:11:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Seven

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing.

Posted Monday, August 08, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Chapter 7 of The Privileged Planet is entitled “Star Probes.”  Much of it has to do with how spectrographic research revolutionized astronomy and astrophysics.  We might recall of the place in the Lion King when Timon and Pumba are discussing the stars in the heavens and Pumba comes up with the notion that they are just fiery balls of gas.  Timon dismisses that as absurd.  Of course, in this instance Pumba (“weak minded” in Swahili) was right . . . but there is much more that can be said and spectrography is what has said it.


We are reminded that the ancients viewed them as something of a pictorial representation of the gods and mythological heroes.  Then the authors contrast that with the stark description of God’s creation of the heavens as recorded in the Bible (p. 119).  We are told by such Positivists as August Comte that “. . . the temperatures and compositions of stars would lie forever beyond the ken of science”  After all, “Why would the universe be constructed so that we could acquire such knowledge just as reliably as we do with objects we can hold in our hands?” (p. 120).  Positivism: wrong again. . . . 

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8/5/2005 5:15:00 PM

Is God Getting Older?

Toward a Biblical View of the Omnitemporality of God

Posted Friday, August 05, 2005 by Sam Yeiter
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For a long time, I've been intrigued by the questions surrounding time.  I even went to the length of checking out a lecture series by some BostonCollege physicist from the library.  I ended up more confused than when I started (of course), but it did raise a lot of interesting questions.  Well, in the theological world, the question that interests me is, "How does God relate to time?"  I'm still a newbie to this topic, so I welcome your thoughts along the way...

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8/1/2005 8:17:00 AM

Gonzolez and Richards Chapter Six

Posted Monday, August 01, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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I hope you get up every morning and ask yourself: “Why do I do what I do?” Without taking yourself too seriously, do you take what you do very seriously? Hopefully, you are one of those who does all that he or she does for God’s glory . . . under His watchful eye, as it were . . . to be noticed by Him. Once upon a time, my pastor boasted that his was the best job in the world. My first thought? Not by half: I’ve got hundreds of my students and former students out there thinking live and very relevant thoughts in front of tens of thousands of people several times a week. It is a privilege, an honor and an awesome responsibility simply to teach something as common as biblical literature. That is my job; that is what I do; that is what I am. But, there is a humility that comes with it: some students can completely derail a lecture, a text, a tradition, with a well articulated question or comment. Any of us with any integrity and intellectual acumen will retreat to our offices and regroup and rethink our positions. Unlike many of my instructors that would never give a student credit for sentience much less an idea, I always try to footnote my ideas with the brilliant – or lucky! – student that happened upon “the right answer.” None of us thinks in vacuum. Every now and again, we all have to come out and make a public pronouncement after which there may be public or private comments or questions. Thinking is a process and nobody has a corner on the market.

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