Bags of Bran

Apologia 20
April 29, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Apologioi

From: Curt Ames []
Sent: Sunday, April 29, 2012 2:37 AM
To: Christopher Ames
Subject: Re: MD20

He didn’t claim that they didn’t work… he claimed that we had NO EXPLANATION for how they work in a continuous cycle without errors. (err…. gravity?)

I think his discipline is somewhere along the lines of rodeo clown, but that is a personal opinion.  I guess my main problem with the guy is that he continues to boldly speak in areas where he has no knowledge, and maintains his position after being proven wrong. That and he shouts over everyone that he disagrees with. I know that his personality has little to do with the veracity of that which spews forth from his face hole, but I feel that the demonstrably low degree of veracity of said continual spewage tends to speak poorly for his character. Still, I did enjoy his viewpoint on the whole $4 shrimp thing.

Yeah, Dr. Tyson is a pretty neat guy from what I’ve seen and heard, but he seems much too busy being a world-renowned astrophysicist and the voice of the scientific community (many of whom are also too busy, innovating and discovering cool new things) to bother with debating. I think that’s for the best though- I wouldn’t want him to waste his time.

On a related note, he’s going to be narrating new episodes of The Cosmos, picking up where the late, great Carl Sagan left off. (Did you know Sagan was Bill Nye’s astrophysics professor?) I am, to use a 90’s colloquialism, stoked. That’s one of my very favorite TV series that ever existed. I always seem to come away with a fresh sense of wonder about this crazy awesome universe thingy we’ve got, and a desire to somehow add more knowledge to the human equation. Trouble is, I dunno how! I’m a little late in the game for the easy discoveries, that’s for sure.

Did they really tell you that i comes before e in neighbor? That’s really backwards! That’s like when (I forget which grade this happened in) a substitute teacher told the class that there were the same number of water molecules on Earth as there had always been. He got annoyed with me pretty quickly… “What about the astronauts? When they go up in space they dump their pee. That’s got water in it.”  He tried to tell me that there wasn’t! I’m sorry, but DERRRR!!!!  Maybe that’s for the best, though… it taught me to question things that were handed down from authoritative sources. Or maybe it was proof that I already had that value as a child. Who knows…

Boy, as far as hypotheses go, your rubber band one is a doozy. They would have to be invisible and intangible… and they would explain something that already has a pretty reasonable explanation… so in the end their existence would by definition be unfalsifiable and highly dubious. Best option at that point would be to try and convince people that unquestioning belief in invisible, intangible rubber bands that explain things we already understand was some kind of personal virtue.

Oh yeah, and the rubber bands have to have some sort of time altering properties. Tachyons?

That’s the cool thing about the scientific method though: You don’t need to disprove every goofy idea that comes along! I guess a good parallel there would be starting with (3-X) = 0 and cycling through the infinite number of possible solutions and proving that every number but 3 was wrong. Much faster, easier, and infinitely (literally) more productive, to focus on figuring out what the right answer is than disproving all the wrong ones. Of course, if someone comes up with 2 and starts convincing others of it, then the right thing to do is to step in and refute the positive claim that is being made. Otherwise you’d be doing a disservice to those who were being fooled… don’t you think?

I guess a faster, easier way to get to an ‘answer’ would be to throw up one’s hands and declare it a thing we weren’t meant to know, a la many of the ‘mystery’ belief systems. Boy would we be in a dire place as a species if we were content with that! Don’t get me wrong, mysteries are cool- but only because they invite thought and discovery.

You are right- no one has disproven the existence of mermaids- mostly because it is impossible to prove a negative. Does that then mean that the default position should be belief? I mean, the main thing that makes a conspiracy theory work is its utter lack of falsifiability- that’s why they thrive in what I will call an ‘evidence vacuum’ and often in areas where people tend to substitute their own emotions for rational thought.  Stick a “Well that’s what ‘THEY’ want you to believe” (or maybe ‘HE/SHE’) in there and whammo! It’s the meme version of a perpetual motion machine, freed of any messy connections to reality that might cause some of the needed energy to bleed off in some mental equivalent of friction, thus bringing the mechanism to a halt.

This is why I think it is so important to require proof, and for the default position in absence of evidence to be absence of belief. I refuse to allow ‘what I believe’ to be equated with ‘what I want to believe’ because I understand the capacity for self-delusion that comes along with brain ownership.

Unfortunately there has been a pretty reliable study done that provides a high degree of statistical certainty that people who can fool themselves are happier… I guess that’s one score for all the Tom Cruise-like celebrities who can convince themselves that they actually have some kind of grand importance in the world. But should we want to have that kind of happiness? Should we envy the  retarded guy being led, grinning, through the park? Is the bliss of ignorance a greater end than uncomfortable knowledge? This is actually kind of a big issue for a lot of people.

I know where I stand on the issue. I am all for knowledge- even the kind that makes me feel utterly insignificant, like knowing that I am one of 6 billion conscious motes of star dust, sitting on another chunk of exploded star guts that, while many orders of magnitude more massive than myself, is still just a speck within our nearly incomprehensibly huge solar system, which in turn is completely overshadowed and rendered without significance by the spiral arm of the galaxy in which we reside, which is only one small part of the ridiculously-greater whole that is the Milky Way galaxy, which of course seems pretty impressive until you pull back and look at the ‘small’ cluster of galaxies which it occupies, which is less than a drop in the bucket of the galaxy supercluster which doesn’t even begin to begin to fill the universe as we understand it. It’s like that machine that Zaphod Beeblebrox looked into- actually exactly like it as that was indeed the very perspective that utterly shattered the ego of so many fictional souls that were forced, as a kind of punishment, to look at the crushing reality of what their existence actually meant to the rest of the universe.

This is not to say that we are without significance in the universe. Rather, it is we ourselves, as the only beings (that we know of) that have the ability to even form a CONCEPT of what significance is, that assign it to ourselves and others, and that in no way decreases the value of that importance. There’s a certain beauty to it if you ask me.

Anyway, it has been, as always, a pleasure engaging with you on the intellectual level. It would seem though that some of my neurons have decided to form a strike to protest the long working hours, and doubtless these few malcontents will soon convince others to join their cause. Time to shut off the ol’ inhibitors and let the naturally occurring DMT in my brain do its thing. Crazy things, brains!

Oh, by the way, I found a ‘backing track’ version of Hendrix’s Little Wing that has everything but the lead guitar. It’s a little up-tempo but Audacity can slow it down without changing the pitch. So of course my string bending finger (well, I guess that’s most of ’em these days) is pretty much wrecked, as is any image I held of myself as a guitarist worthy of note. I need to build my calluses, then my chops- it’s going to be a lot of work and a lot harder than learning to play in the first place!

I’m looking at it from a perspective I borrowed from martial arts. See, all these people are striving for their black belt, thinking that that’s the ultimate goal- but when you get there, you find out that the whole journey was just to prepare you, and now that you’ve got there you’re finally ready to start learning.

With yawns and blisters,



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