Sunday, July 30, 2017

Freedom will make ALL health care better for EVERYONE!



      In the exchange below I respond to the statements and positions of a person who thinks that mandatory government coerced insurance is the answer to the need for better health care.  My conclusion is that more freedom and less government will lead to more choices.  The more choices we have the better the chances of finding a policy right for each individual.  I propose, in the end, that explicitly providing charity will actually serve our society and individual better.   Government coerced health care is certain to reduce health care quality, increase price and result in less charity because that is always the result of coercive government policies.

=============================================
Pro-Mandatory Insurance Person: 
       "I hate the word "entitlement." It assumes a lot of judgmental things about the people who use assistance in this country. The problem is that the "healthy" 25 year olds that have to take a gamble are more likely to be poor. As a 25 year old I opted out because I was in grad school and couldn't afford it. In the meantime I knew healthy 20 somethings who suddenly got very sick. At that time if I had gotten sick with cancer or such it would have been a preexisting condition and I would have been stuck. Making you pay extra for the big things is a way that the insurance company avoided having to pay for the big things while making more money off the fear/caution of those that had the means. Insurance is unaffordable for many in this country, but not because it has to be. It could be cheaper if insurance companies didn't need to make record profits each year. There are plenty of hard working people in this country who are one diagnosis away from financial disaster and neither the ACA or the ACHA will fix it.  Also, as a married 20 something I would have had to pay extra in case of pregnancy if I hadn't had the unusually good UMass insurance. Is that pro-life? I have since had all natural, insured births and still had a healthy balance afterwards."

Truth and Freedom Response:
    Entitlement is an attitude that some institution or individual should provide a service to another not by choice but out of a requirement dictated by social norms or government edict.  It merely names something that exists.  Right, wrong, judgmental the meaning of entitlement is what it is.  Why is it an emotional trigger for so many?  People do, in fact, feel entitled and that is merely a fact. 
    There are many things that contribute to the "unaffordable" insurance you speak of.  There are evil corporations seeking profit (got to have that one!)  There are politicians who are corrupted and supported by insurance companies and professional organizations who supply regulations and laws that favor the biggest donors.  There are doctors seeking to maximize income through fraud, deceit, anxiety and fear.  There are hospital and medical equipment owners seeking to fetch the maximum price for use of equipment and facilities sometimes with multiple charges in a single day or visit.  There are patients seeking to use insurance for elective surgeries such as sex changes, abortion, tubal ligation, vasectomies and plastic surgeries.  No matter how the government dictates people find some way to exact wealth and advantage at the expense of the person who needs the insurance.  No amount of Government coercion will change this fact.  The result is that government coercion only increases the pay off and makes insurance cost MUCH worse.
    Freedom is the answer.  When a policy becomes to expensive or corrupt people move to policies that are more reasonable and provide the services desired for the price they are willing to pay.  If the insured  are not personally paying then you can be assured that corruption in inefficiency will become the norm.  People are capable of making good choices when there are as many choices available as possible.  People are unable to make choices if the insurance policy is one they must select because it is mandated by rule of law.
    I just want my high deductible back that we had and then the government terminated arbitrarily.  That awesome plan was taken away from my family (HSA's are no longer allowed). We can no longer contribute and that contribution instead now goes to insurance executives. Why not give people freedom? Why force a particular "health care" view on everyone? Why tell others that they MUST pay in to a health care plan that they find objectionable? Why not let UMass offer the insurance nationwide and let others stay on the policy they WANT to have? 
     Our policy was terminated by rule of law. We had no choice. Despite the "promise" I did not get to "keep my policy". Meanwhile donor insurance companies laugh all the way to the bank (based on stock prices and splits since the boondoggle was delivered in 2008). A purchase is now REQUIRED by law, forced on everyone by fine and legal threat. Helps sell the product when the law requires the purchase! Insurance companies are so delighted! Take away the coercive force of law and and 20 million people flee the government yoke called "health care" by the press. Why? Maybe they know that "government care" is truly an oxymoron?
     We had 4 children via natural child birth and for 3 of them we paid cash to state approved midwives (in SC, TX) and did not use "insurance" at all (all in our 20's). It was far CHEAPER to do it that way than pay insurance premiums for that benefit (we were home the entire time-the midwife came and left our home). In that time we thought our insurance was for sickness, illness and disease and did not consider pregnancy a sickness, illness or disease. We liked it that way and is seemed pro life to us. So maybe the idea that policies WITHOUT pregnancy coverage are seen by some (like us) as pro-life because they are more affordable and free up more resources for our family. Just want you to know that there is another perspective.

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Pro-Mandatory Insurance Person:
        "I was curious, and I looked up the cost of a home birth. It is about the same as what we had to pay out of pocket for a natural hospital birth (not counting premiums of course). We were able to do an interest free payment plan with the hospital, it would have been difficult for us to pay cash. And we have always been able to pay our bills, if not much more. And we have supportive families who we can rely on. Many people in this country cannot say as much, even working full time. Paying cash for a home birth (even without preemies, or NICU, or preeclampsia, or c-sections) is not affordable for every family. But then neither is the alternative. That's why I will restate my belief that our system should be much better for families than it is."

Truth & Freedom Response:
     The midwife was MUCH MUCH less for us at home than in the hospital combined with the very high premiums for the full policy.  I do count the premiums because the exact so much money over time (for us the high deductible was $500 less a month for the family per month!)  We looked into it and realized that in addition to the cost of the premiums, the room, the nursing care and the typical "hidden expenses and charges" at the hospital all meant multiple times more than just the midwife in our home. In Texas we had to have an ambulance on call but that was a standby deal (notification provided but not a call). Hospitals love complications and profit from c-sections as well. Guess what? They have much much more in the way of complications and c-sections than home births. Disability from hurried deliveries, brain damage from excess oxygen and complications from numerous other intrusive procedures appear to make hospital births very risky using available data. Yet no one discusses how dangerous hospital births can be. Why not look at the data? Is it possible that there is a lot of money to be made in "health care" using fear and anxiety as motivators? Is it possible that the insurance companies, hospitals and associated services have a vested financial interest in maintaining fear and anxiety about something that happens naturally and is not an illness? 
     Our sixth child was in the hospital due to projected possible complications (that did not happen) and it was 5 times the price as our latest home delivery (but ONLY double the out of pocket costs).
      It appears that your research (home vs. hospital) did not match our experience. I am not surprised. The data out there often does not match reality. I wonder why? Is there a vested interest in making sure the supplied data supports the present system income model (fear/anxiety provided to increase demand and price)? Why must the government force ALL to accept some "wonderful pro-life system" with laws, mandates, taxes, fines, penalties and jail. Does a "mandate" make anyone wonder besides me?
     Why FORCE us to accept federally mandated "health care" that we do not want? Why not let us choose a path we can emotionally and financially manage? What is wrong with freedom?  My point is that freedom allows people to choose their poison as well. By restricting my freedom I am definitely hurt.  It is so sad for me to see a country that once had people yearning for freedom now scramble to find ways and reasons to exchange it for medical care.
    Freedom will make ALL health care better than it is.  Less freedom will ALWAYS make it worse (as it has done).

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Pro-Mandatory Insurance Person: 
       "It doesn't seem right that riches can buy you better cures, unless you buy into the idea that rich people are all rich because of their many virtues (and therefore are more deserving), and poor people are all poor because of their many personal failings and therefore do not deserve it (never mind if they are children or the elderly, those entitled types, you know). I can never buy that."

Truth & Freedom Response:
     The incredibly wealthy Steve Jobs (multi-billionaire founder of Apple) found out that it doesn't matter how rich you are (he died of liver cancer in his 50's).  We all meet the same end no matter our wealth.  All the king horses and all the kings men could not put  Mr. Jobs back together again (there are lessons in those stories of old). Things happen to rich people and poor people alike.
     It is true that those who eat healthy foods, exercise, avoid unhealthy activities and have both parents as good examples tend to live better and longer. Those things (according to the raw data) combine to be the MOST unfair advantage of all (even more so than wealth). It is totally unfair that some understand that they are personally responsible for their health have better health than those who do not take responsibility. 
      How about the data? How about the fact that for the first time in a century mortality in the US increased as universally mandated insurance was implemented? Then Life expectancy declined! That is the exact opposite of what we were told "health care" would do.  The fact that this unexpected result happened is not discussed except in vary narrow terms.    
     Could the reason for opiate and medication deaths may be ease of access to narcotics and "health care"?  Do we have a system that benefits and profits from addiction.  Then our generous and corrupt government, with good public intentions, funds those enticing addiction and then those seeking to end addiction.  So many are then making a profit using the vulnerable to obtain government mandated funding. 
     Some people want out. Why not let them out? Why punish them with mandates, fines and threat of prison? We just love this discussion. Thank you for helping me understand better.

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Pro-Mandatory Insurance Person: 
      "The idea that everyone has control of their own health is problematic and puts an unfair value judgement on sick people. We can try to be healthy but we don't always have control. Preemies are born to healthy mothers. Environmentmental issues affect people's water without their knowledge. Others are born with genetic predisposition to cancer. We need to be careful not to blame people for getting sick."

Truth & Freedom Response:
It may be "problematic" and seem "judgmental" but reality requires that insurance and society recognize what reality tells us in the data and statistics. Generalizations ALWAYS have exceptions but that does not stop what generally happens. Yes there are obese, sedentary, heavy smokers that who drink heavily and abuse narcotics living long lives. That is not fair. Insurance will never make life fair any more than finding the pot at the end of a rainbow will make one rich.
I happen to think it is impossible for insurance to "make things fair". Insurance can only mitigate the suffering that befalls you. Insurance deals with generalizations. It happens that as a general rule people who live with less risk, who take PERSONAL responsibility for health, who eat wisely, live active lives, are engaged in service will in fact live longer AND better quality lives whether they are rich or poor, black, white, gay or straight. It has nothing to do with value judgement of those people.
Those unfairly burdened with genetic dispositions that take compensatory behavior will almost always do better than those who do nothing and then expect a government program to foot the bill after a disease becomes chronic. Then the same "victims" have the audacity to claim the treatment is not better because the taxpayer is not generous enough to cure the disease! To think that we can stop the rain from falling (on the just and unjust alike) and attempt to "make all life fair" is certain to end in BOTH a bankrupt and declining culture. Coming soon to a culture near us?
I happen to think freedom is the only way out. Genuine charity (not government coercion) is the only real solution (example: St Jude's which treats thousands of victims without charge). Government edict and coercion will ALWAYS end with politicians enriching cronies and donors. That is the sad fact (more government means more corruption). Freedom and charity, in contrast to more government and coercion, are (in my view) the only way out of the mess. I am also confident that genuine charity will flower whenever there is freedom. A system that relies on coercion in the form of fines, mandates and seizure of assets from those unable to protect them will never work to make things fair. Those like me who are too poor to hire lawyers and accountants to hide assets are stuck and bullied and accused of being "judgmental".

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tired of Click Bait Yet?


     "Click Bait" is a way to make money using the emotional reactions of people who post on social media.  The fish runs into the bait or title (containing a link) stating some claim which shocks, horrifies, disgusts, angers or arouses some other emotional response.  Clicking on the "bait" sends the user to "find out" what that title (or link) is about.   Naive, fervent and the emotionally vulnerable are used in this way to make a lot of money for those using the bait..
      Real examples? Sure!  How about "Obama Running Shadow Government" (actual title)? Is it also possible that the former president is remaining proximate to the government to help maintain what he thinks are the good policies he had when he was in office?  Is it true that "Trump Making Money Off Children with Cancer" (actual title)?  Could it also be possible Trump is providing facilities or resources for a fee like hospitals, doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical companies do?    Is "Bill Belichek Fired In Shocking Shakeup" (actual title) actually true or is my interest in the New England Patriots being used to get my click? (I am from New England and a huge fan of the coach Bill Belichek).
     In fact there are websites on the internet that I call "click bait farms" with a huge collection of articles designed for the purpose of having visitors exposed to advertisements on the screen.  The advertisers are also aware of the likely emotional state who view these resources and tailor the advertisements for maximum persuasive effect.   These stories may be complete fabrications, somewhat false, out of context, not in temporal sequence, fabricated, slanted, twisted or distorted even if there is something true about them.  While the bias and facts may vary there is ALWAYS something that ignites fear, anger, horror, disgust or some similar motivating emotion.  After the social media users are "baited" they flood the social media screens with links to the bait (called "shares" on facebook).  This "traffic" generates huge amounts of income for those who know how to skillfully push "emotional buttons".  Some people make a living generating "click bait" and they become VERY good at it.     
     Anything to get that click (and the money!)
     Generally good advice:
If you feel strong emotions regarding a purchase or an action 
then you may want to pause and ask yourself: 
Why do I need so badly to click on this link, do some action or buy some gizmo?
Why can't I wait?  Why can't I stop clicking?  Can I live without this gizmo?

     "Clicks" happen when one places a cursor over an advertisement on the screen.  Each click earns money for the web page that is displaying the advertisement.  The most important factor in garnering the clicks (or money) is TRAFFIC.  The goal of "click bait" is to get as many people to the web page where the advertisements are as possible.  In order to get the maximum traffic all manner of claims, promises, lies, slanted interpretations, miracle cures, fabricated stories, twisted facts and fake news are utilized just as "bait" is used on rainbow trout (see image above).
     The most fertile ground for highly sought traffic is social media are the hordes of people who are fervent, emotionally challenged or naive (or any combination of these traits) often unknowingly provide links to the bait.   These social media users may genuinely want help persuade others of strongly held personal beliefs.  The bait (article, video or image) is totally created to inspire disgust, fear, horror, anger, grief, frustration, indignation, offense or any strong emotion that will yield user response, more links and more traffic to the site of the article (and or video, music or image).  The more fervent, emotional or naive the user then the more posts that user will generate and the more traffic that person will provide to the bait.  The content of the bait is designed to maximize emotion and generate multiple posts pointing to the bait if at all possible.  Why?  Because it works!
    An army of people inspired with emotion "point" friends, acquaintances and others who see the posts to the bait site.  That means more traffic and more clicks and more money for the creators of the bait content.
    Once at the "bait site" information is exchanged in the form of cookies that detail interests and information about online activities.  Targeted adds will appear but also other "bait" will be presented as well.  Stories, videos and media  designed and targeted will also be provided.  Truth matters some but not nearly as much as emotion.  The newly targeted information is now be used generate more emotion, more disgust, more horror, more frustration or some other new strong emotion.  Advertisers hit the jackpot when the user continues to post links to the bait on the social media sites.


     Tired of Click Bait Yet?

     I am but I may need to develop my thinking on this more.  The blog will get longer with more detail, insight and facts.  Who is ever going to click on that?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: THOMISTIC EVOLUTION


THOMISTIC EVOLUTION
A CATHOLIC APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING
EVOLUTION IN THE LIGHT OF FAITH

Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P.
James Brent, O.P.
Thomas Davenport, O.P.
John Baptist Ku, O.P.

This collection of 30 short essays by Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph guide reflection on the topic of  the biological phenomenon known as evolution  in the light the Christian concept of creation.  Unlike the claims of atheists and fundamentalists the thesis of this treatment is that there is no contradiction between evolution and the Judaeo-Christian concept of creation.  The writings frequently reference how Thomas Aquinas foreshadowed the understanding the underlies evolution as he struggled with the issues of good and evil he saw in the natural world. 

While accepting the idea of evolution completely the authors are fully invested in debunking "Intelligent Design".  The authors take exception to biological assertions of the "Intelligent Design" argument that there are irreducible complex components in biological systems AND the develop the idea that God would not need to "shortcut" his way to the present (or future) day.  New to me was the assertion that God is allowing his creatures to create. 

======================

Quotes of Interest:

  "...at face value, faith and reason can appear to be opposed to each other. Thus, human beings had to actually learn how these two ways of contemplating truth could work together.  The integration of the two does not happen by nature but by nurture."
                                                                                                                                   pg 2
  "A (second) reason faith and reason are widely perceived to be in conflict today is sin... Sin tears apart things that would otherwise go together peacefully in our lives..."
                                                                                                                                   pg 4
  "A third reason (faith and reason are widely perceived to be in conflict) is historical...The sixteenth century was a time that placed an unusual number of perplexing social and intellectual challenges before the Church.  The invention of the printing press, the Protestant reformation, the discovery of "the New World", the rise of modern science, the growing awareness of the great diversity of world religions and the development of new philosophies"
                                                                                                                                   pg 5
  "A fourth reason is found in our contemporary culture.  Our contemporary culture has an extremely impoverished understanding of what faith is and of what reason is.  On one hand faith is equated to religion.  It is commonly thought to be nothing but feelings on certain matters....At other times, faith is understood to be a set of private convictions based on evidence.  A person's faith can not be said to be true or false....
     Reason, on the other hand, is equated with science.  It is understood to be thinking based on experiment, critical analysis, and evidence. The results of science, it is widely thought, are verified facts and widely accepted truths. "
                                                                                                                                   pg 6
  
  "This choice is often called rationalism or scientism.  Its motto could be "Forget Faith.  Reason alone is the guide to life....
   ...(an) alternative is often called religious fundamentalism.  Its motto could be "Don't think.  Just believe."
                                                                                                                                   pg 7 
  "In sum it takes time, teaching and effort to learn how to integrate faith and reason.  Our sins and our weaknesses make it difficult to learn to fly with both wings of the human spirit.  
...Our contemporary culture does not teach people how to fly with both wings, and it is populated by vocal minorities who confuse people about even the possibility of synthesizing faith and reason.  Is it any surprise that for nearly all people today it seems that faith and reason are opposed to each other?"
                                                                                                                                    pg 8

"We want to illustrate our claim that one does not have to choose between two stories of the world, the world according to the Bible and the world according to science.  Rather there is one world.  It is God's World.  And it is a good world.  Created in love and wisdom, fallen and redeemed, God and the world are knowable by faith and reason together."
                                                                                                                                   pg 9 

  "Many are convinced that there is no universal, true, rational, accessible, verifiable answer to what life is all about.  The reduction of reason to science has left multitudes of people without a moral or spiritual compass.  Their lies become subjective journeys where they alone determine where they are going. "
                                                                                                                                   pg 14
  "Science is a good way to know facts, but science is only one way of knowing among many. "
                                                                                                                                   pg 15
  "Birds, we observe, learn to fly gradually and by practice.  So too, human beings learn how to fly with faith and reason gradually and by practice."
                                                                                                                                   pg 28
  "Whatever happens in the world, whether radioactive decay, biological mutation, a decision to sin, or a decision to praise Him, does not catch God by surprise."
                                                                                                                                   pg 96 
   "It can be a surprising and happy discovery to find that we, as a society, are not so isolated and alone in our struggles, and that many of these difficulties are but appearances of age old questions."
                                                                                                                                   pg 96 
  "God's goodness ultimately triumphs over any particular evil, whether physical or moral, that we face....Many of these, like the evil of extinction may be understood when considered from proper perspective.  Ultimately though, the Church's final answer to these problems, whether understandable or incomprehensible, is that Christ has won the victory over sin and death and that God wills to invites His whole creation to participate in that victory."
                                                                                                                                   pg 108 
  "Thomas (Aquinas) clarifies, all the senses of scripture must be based on the literal sense, and all theological arguments can only be drawn from the literal sense.  Aquinas identitifes four possible divisions of literal sense as: the historical, the etiological, the analogical and the parabolical (also known as metaphorical)"
  "In the historical sense, something is simply reported as having happened...."
  "The etiological sense 'assigns the cause said' in the Bible such as when Jesus gave the reason why Moses allowed wives to be divorced..."
  "In the analogical sense, "the truth of the one Scripture is shown not to contradict the truth of another..."
  "The parabolical sense refers to the authors use of symbols.  That is the literal sense includes the symbolic and metaphorical usage of words...."
                                                                                                                                  pg 123-5 

  "Conflicting assertions between the first and second creation stories in Genesis with respect to the order of events manifests that the literal sense of those details cannot be scientific reportage-if the Scriptures are the inerrant word of God."
                                                                                                                                  pg 137 
  "Augustine presciently adds that we only damage Scriptures credibility-especially in the minds of unbelievers who are educated in science-if we draw wrong conclusions about science from the Bible"
                                                                                                                                  pg 146 
  "Since divine revelation and scientific discovery are both gifts that come from God and that can guide us back to God, they can not contradict each other."
                                                                                                                                   pg 168 
  "...the theory of evolution is justified by a web of evidence that together support the claim that all lif on our planet has evolved from a common ancestor."
                                                                                                                                   pg 175 
  "The theory of evolution is the best explanation we have for the characteristics and the timing of the fossils found in the rocks of our planet."
                                                                                                                                  pg 177
  "God not only causes, but also creates creatures who are in themselves true causes."
                                                                                                                                  pg 191 
  "I [Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austrico, O.P. is a priest scientist that supervises NIH funded research investigating molecular regulation of cell death] propose that it was fitting for God to have created via evolution rather than via special creation because in doing so, he was able to give his creation-the material universe and individual creatures within it- a share in his causality to create."
                                                                                                                                  pg 192 
  "To sum up, why did God choose to create via an evolutionary process rather than via special creation?  Because it better reveals his glory and his power.  Because it reveals better that he is God."
                                                                                                                                  pg 197 
  "'Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, published in 2004 [by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI], the commission acknowledges that the scientific evidence points to a polygenic origin for our species...This suggests that both monogenism and polygenism remain viable theological opinions for Catholic Theologians seeking to be faithful to the doctrinal tradition."
                                                                                                                                  pg 217-8 
  "...human beings by their very nature are prone to interior disarray because what we are inclined to know, what we are inclined to choose, and what we are inclined to desire often do not coincide."
                                                                                                                                  pg 223 
  "...human beings by our very nature are inherently limited in knowledge because we know things through contingent realities and we learn about them in gradual fashion"
                                                                                                                                  pg 223 
  "Finally why is this transformation from anatomically modern to behaviorally modern humans so important for our discussion of the historicity of Adam and Eve?  It is critically important because, philosophically, this transformation can be understood to be archaeological evidence for the appearance of the rational soul in human evolution.  Theologically, this transformation would be a sign of the arrival on the stage of world history of the imago Dei, the creature made in the image and likeness of God with intellect and will."
                                                                                                                                  pg 235
  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: PARTICLES OF FAITH


by Stacy A. Trasancos


A scientist is drawn to the Catholic faith as a result of the deepening of scientific insight? This book details the faith journey of a modern scientist involved in the latest nano technology research. Her deepening scientific insights derived during research lead her to a deeper faith. Such a story, similar to Augustine of Hippo 17 centuries ago, is happening even among scientists today. It is a story not often told in our popular modern media. This books tells the story of a scientist seeking truth being led to a deep and genuine faith. Then she adds to that story to persuade us that faith and science are culturally linked, mutually beneficial and interconnected approaches to truth that together raise the dignity and value of human life.

Any person, trained in science or untrained in science, can read this book and be brought to the realization that the often repeated mantra (in popular media) that science is in opposition to faith is patently untrue.   There are real scientists (like the author of this book) who come to see that Christian faith and science as truly complimentary pursuits of the truth.  The often assumed popular media assumption that scientists are always led away from religious faith as their expertise in science increases is debunked.

Dr. Trasancos begins with a chronicle of her personal experience.  First she moves away from the Christianity as she was raised with as she reaches young adulthood, then her abandonment of her faith by the start of her doctoral studies and then her religious awakening as a research chemist.   She comes to recognize Catholicism is fully compatible with science.  Her awe and logic reminds one of similar arguments posed by Augustine of Hippo 18 centuries earlier.  She comes to recognize that her God is pleased with the scientist's pursuit of truth.  She also shares at the end of the book how science can be wrongly used (in the absence of faith) to demean human life.Following the personal experience the book goes on to describe a variety of science principles along the way.  She reviews the basics of chemistry.  Dr. Trasancos reconciles the scientific origin of man with the Judaeo-Christian biblical account of Adam and Eve.  She addresses the always difficult issue (for some) of human evolution.  She ponders quantum mechanics and free will.  She reasons about Big Bang as proof of a God.  Finally she also addresses the controversial question of when does human life begin and how science is needs a fuller understanding to answer that question.

This is a fabulous reference with chapters that neatly segmented, details in an organized way how scientific pursuits can lead to genuine faith and how faith can deepen the understanding of our purpose and why both faith and science lead us to a fuller understanding of truth.

======================

Quotes of Interest:

"What I have to say i snot profound, it is rather simple.  It is a plea to fellow Catholics to return to the child like awe and wonder with an unwavering confidence in Christ and his Church when we approach the subject of modern science."
                                                                                                                                   pg 3
     Einstein wrote "in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people."
                                                                                                                                   pg 12
     "...what so much of the discourse about faith and science omits is that conducting scientific research does not instill in a person the broad knowledge traditionally associated with intellectuals.  The work is more like grunt work at times.  The intellectual aspect is brief and takes a budding scientist from broadly absorbing scientific literature in a specific area of research into narrower and narrower, exceedingly specialized scientific method cycles to hypothesize and test exceedingly specialized scientific method cycles. "
                                                                                                                                   pg 23
      "Scientism  is the belief that only knowledge obtained from scientific  research is valid, and beliefs deriving from religion should be discounted.  It is an extreme or escessive faith in science or scientists."
                                                                                                                                   pg 36
     "The idea hat faith is separated from, or subject to, reason has arisen relatively recently, due mostly to the fast advance of science and to the exaggerated rationalism of certain thinkers."
                                                                                                                                   pg 41
     "But for Christians science is a way of knowing God better through the study of his handiwork.  Our faith can light the entire discussion.  I have seen both sides, and this is may main message in this book.  We have to tell people what science is in the bigger system of reality."
                                                                                                                                   pg 42
     "We need faith and reason equally, but when it comes to science, we must view the universe through a confident lens of faith in the Creator."
                                                                                                                                   pg 43
     "A believer views creation as the handiwork of God, all of it in consistently interacting, as an act of faith."
                                                                                                                                   pg 73
 "Models are used in science to probe the unknown, and mental pictures fill in the rest of the realms we cannot see directly.  The models and mental pictures continually need to be updated with the acquisition of new data.  Models are like scaffolding that go up before walls, rooms and decor are built around them, necessary frameworks for gaining new knowledge. "
                                                                                                                                   pg 93
 "Catholics are both-and people.  We can hold that God created an ordered universe down to the smallest particle, and we can also hold that He created rational creatures with free will."
                                                                                                                                   pg 100
 "if students are not prepared to understand science in the light of faith, they will be left in confusion.....if we leave the question of our existence at materialism's door, we shut out any deeper meaning or purpose."
                                                                                                                                    pg 1o7
  "In the light of faith, I can look into the chasm and not fear it.  I can see that it is too vast fro me or for any other human to ever discover all its mysteries, but I can appreciate that discovering a little more truth is better than not even trying."
                                                                                                                                   pg 118
  "We place ourselves, as any good scientist ought to, as observers seeking to understand (literally 'to stand under') the truth that life exists one it exists.  We are observers, not dictators commanding fantasies.  The proclamation that life begins at conception is a tautological statement.  That truth belongs to anyone who will accept it.  As Mother Mary taught us, life is a fiat."
                                                                                                                                   pg 162
  "When we say life begins at conception, we uphold the simplest unity of faith and science."
                                                                                                                                   pg 166

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: EINSTEIN'S DREAMS


Dr. Alan Lightman

    The author Alan Lightman is a professor at MIT and has taught both Physics and Writing.  This book provides a window into the possible thoughts and ruminations of Einstein in just prior to his first publication on relativity.  The work examines the intellectual ground that may have prepared the intellect for a revolutionary change in the way scientists (and all of us) now view time.  It is a brief book with short chapters and highly packed with images and brief events that reveal thoughts relating to how our awareness of time  and time itself impacts the life we lead.
      The book presents Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity. Each of the thirty chapters imagines a dream Einstein may have has during this period.  Einstein's fellow Physicist and close friend, Michele Besso, appears and reflects the types of conversations that Einstein himself thought were important to his development of relativity and the time dilation that is proposed in that theory.  Depictions of scenarios involve exaggerations of events, imagined phenomenon  and fantasies related to how we think about time and how time impacts our lives.  The book demonstrates the relationship each human being has to time, and thus spiritually affirms Einstein's theory of relativity.
      This short book is packed with plenty of thoughts and images that are sure to raise an awareness of the greatest gift all of us share with everyone:  Time.  
=======================

Interesting Quotes of Interest:

      "A world in which time is absolute is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable.  While people can be doubted, time can not be doubted.  While people brood, time skips ahead without looking back."
                                                                                                                                   pg 37
     "If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly.  If a person holds ambitions he suffers knowingly, but very slowly."
                                                                                                                                   pg 47
     "Indeed, what sense is there in continuing the present when one has seen the future?"
                                                                                                                                   pg 87
     "Those who have seen the future do not need to take risks, and those who have not yet seen the future wait for their vision without taking risks."
                                                                                                                                   pg 88
     "Why the fixation on speed?  Because in this world time passes more slowly for people in motion.  Thus everyone travels at high velocity, to gain time."
                                                                                                                                   pg 91
     "Frustrated and despondent, some people have stopped looking out windows.  With the shades drawn, they never know how fast they are moving.  how fast their neighbors are moving,  They rise in the morning, take baths, eat plaited bread and ham, work at their desks, listen to music, talk to their children, lead lives of satisfaction.
      Some argue that only the giant clock tower in the Kramgases keeps true time, that it alone is at rest.  Others point out that the giant clock is in motion when viewed from the river Aare, or from a cloud."
                                                                                                                                   pg 94
     "...one woman sitting on the banks of the Aare sees the boats pass by at great speed, as if moving on skates across ice.  To another, the baots appear sluggish, barely rounding the bend in the whole afternoon.  A man standing on the Aarstese looks at the river to discover that the boats travel first forwards, then backwards."
                                                                                                                                   pg 114
     "Such is the cost of immortality.  No person is whole.  No person is free.  Over time some have determined that the only way to live is to die.  In death, a man or a woman is free of the weight of the past,  These few souls, with their dear relatives looking on, dive into Lake Constance or hurl themselves from Monte Lema, ending their infinite lives.  In this way the finite has conquered the infinite."
                                                                                                                                   pg 122
     "Some people fear traveling far from a comfortable moment.  They remain close to one temporal location, barely crawling past a familiar occasion.  Others gallop recklessly into the future, without preparation for the rapid sequence of passing events."
                                                                                                                                   pg 134
     "Forty years ago in school, one afternoon in March, he urinated in class.  He could not hold it in.  Afterwards, he tried to stay in his chair, but other boys saw his puddle and made him walk around the room, round and round.  They pointed at the wet spot on his pants and howled...They hooted and called him 'bladder baby, bladder baby, bladder baby'.
      That memory has become his life.  When he wakes up in the morning he is the boy who urinated in his pants.  When he passes people on the street, he knows they see the wet spot on his pants.  He glances at his pants and looks away.  When his children visit, he stays within his room and talks to them through the door. He is the boy who could not hold it in.
       But what is the past?  Could it be, the firmness of the past is just an illusion?  Could the past be a kaleidoscope, a pattern of images that shift with each disturbance of a sudden breeze, a laugh, a thought?  And if the shift is everywhere what would we know?"
                                                                                                                                   pg 168-170
     "In a world of shifting past, these memories are wheat in wind, fleeting dreams, shapes in clouds.  Events, once happened lose reality, alter with a glance, a storm, a night.  In time, the past never happened.  But who could know?  Who could know that the past is not as solid as this instant."
                                                                                                                                   pg 171

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: MODERN PHYSICS AND ANCIENT FAITH

MODERN PHYSICS AND ANCIENT FAITH
Dr. Stephen M. Barr
    
       This gem of a book does an incredible job at making comprehensible the story  of how Einstein came to change his view on his insertion of the cosmological constant into what is now called the "Einstein Tensor" equation (to describe the curvature and flexing of space and time).  The arbitrary insertion of this constant allowed for the constant to universe to be stable and in a "steady state".  Einstein later recognized that if he had not inserted this constant then his equations would have predicted the expansion of the Universe and the "Big Bang".  Einstein called this the greatest blunder of his life.   Fr. Lemaitre and Alexander Friedman independently discovered the solutions to Einsteins equations that described and expanding universe.  Dr. Barr's short summary (pg 39-45) is a fabulous condensed version of a key science event that changed how we view the Universe.  In fact the readable history of modern physics (for the non-scientist) depicted  in this book is one of the biggest reasons a person may want to read this book.
       The author's personal knowledge and well referenced assertions make "Part II", in my opinion, the best part of the book.  Dr. Barr details and supports how the "steady state model" of the universe actually worked to hold back scientists and science (especially astrophysicists) from recognizing the reasons for the observed expansion of the universe.  Despite the theoretical support of Einsteins equations, the observations of red shift by Edwin Hubble and the assertions of Alexander Friedman and Fr. Georges Lemaitre the majority of scientists clung to the steady state model past 1959 (based on surveys cited by Dr. Barr).  Dr. Barr asserts that the prejudice of scientists, who adhered to materialism, was the primary reason for delayed dismissal of "steady state" as a viable theory.
       Dr. Barr points to quotes and statements by renowned scientists that accepting the "Big Bang" was seen as tantamount to accepting that God could exist.  This philosophical prejudice was a clear obstacle to acceptance of scientific truth.  So it is interesting that in the case of Galileo scientific progress can be thwarted for a time due to philosophical bias that insisted that the new ideas were a threat to God.  In this case the materialist philosophical bias insisted there must be no God thwarted the acceptance of a far reaching scientific conclusion like the hot Big Bang.  How often do we hear that bias against religion slowed scientific progress?  I would guess not often if you read the same common popular publications I do.  I think this assertion and awareness of the author that prejudice and bias against religion slowing a scientific revolution is rare because it requires a deep knowledge of science content, confidence, integrity and courage.
      Aware of the bias the author then sets out into newer territory.  Part III of the book deals with anthropic coincidences and they are many (including many he does not list).  He lays out the coincidences at the atomic and sub atomic level because he is familiar with them and can explain those coincidences and the implications of any variations.   This section is full of details with mini-lessons on a variety of topics a particle physicist thinks everyone should know.  He examines the strength of the strong nuclear force, the Three-Alpha Process,  the stability of the proton, the strength of the electromagnetic force, Higgs Field strength, Cosmological Constant,  Flatness of space, number of dimensions of space, Quantum Nature, Why is there electromagnetism? Why matter at all?  Each atomic and sub atomic process is needed in precise quantities. Is it possible that prejudice isolates the materialist scientist from where these coincidences point?  Just as that same prejudice held acceptance of the hot big bang?
      Another set of coincidences is the size of features in the universe relative to one another.  It appears that the universe is almost precisely the right size AND age to have fostered life on some planet somewhere in the universe.  This is supported with information that relates the life cycles of stars, the sizes of planets and the minimum size the universe would need to be in order to nurture life by chance.  It happens that the universe and the smallest atom are precisely sized relative to each other to make life possible.  Is this another hard to accept coincidence?
      In the final section quantum indeterminacy is seen as the pathway to human freedom.  Dr. Barr briefly explores speculations about with structures that could allow for quantum indeterminacy to influence output signals in neural networks.  The rise of quantum indeterminacy has provided a vehicle that allows for human freedom because indeterminacy provides for probabilities but not outcomes predetermined from within the system.  The book now comes full circle back to materialism but by now, after reading what the author has reasoned, one sees readily that the materialist is not a scientist at all.  The materialist might use skepticism and circular logic but neither of these approaches are scientific.  In fact it materialism is not, in the end, not compatible with science because it fails to focus on the truth which is what science and our ancient faith do focus on.


=======================

Interesting Quotes of General Interest:
 Part I   The Conflict between Religion and Materialism
     "The fact of the matter is there is a bitter intellectual battle going on, and it is about real issues.  However the conflict is not about religion and science, it is between religion and materialism. Materialism is a philosophical opinion that is closely connected with science.  It grew up alongside of science, and many people have a hard time distinguishing it from science.  But it is not science.  It is merely a philosophical opinion.  And not all scientists share it by any means."
                                                                                                                                   pg 1
      "It is true that some believers, finding it difficult to give a satisfactory account of why they believe, have fallen back on the idea that belief is simply something one chooses to do, that it is its own justification, that it is a blind "leap".  This is the view called "fidesim." However it is not the view of the traditional faiths.
      If we take what is perhaps the most dogmatic faith of all, Catholicism, we find that it utterly rejects "fideism", condemning it as a serious religious error.  The First Vatican Council, in 1870, made the following declaration:
      In order that our submission of faith be nevertheless in harmony with reason, God willed the exterior proofs of his revelation....should be joined to the interior helps of the Holy Spirit...the assent of faith is by no means a blind impulse of the mind"
                                                                                                                                   pg 12  
      "The scientist knows that there is some insight, some act of understanding, which he currently lacks, that would satisfy the rational mind on the particular point he is investigating.  The religious believers faith is an extension of this attitude: he knows that there is some insight, some act of understanding, that would constitute complete intellectual satiety, because it would be a state of complete understanding of reality.  However, he realizes being sane, that such a perfect understanding is not achievable by a finite mind such as his own....God is the "unrestricted act of understanding"
                                                                                                                                 pg 14
     "The reason that there are mysteries is that God is infinite and our intellects are finite."
                                                                                                                                   pg 15
     "If the human mind is indeed a machine, and no more than that, it is clear that there can be no free will as that is normally understood.  That is why most materialists simply deny that free will exists....
      Quantum theory was the greatest and most profound revolution in the history of physics.  The whole structure of theoretical physics was radically transformed.  And in that revolution physical determinism was swept away....
       Quantum Theory certainly did not prove there is free will.  It simply showed that the most powerful argument against free will was obsolete.  In the words of the great mathematician and physicist Herman Weyl, 'the old classical determinism...need not oppress us any longer.' "
                                                                                                                                   pg 27
       "Many have been misled by the strangeness of modern physical ideas, such as quantum theory, into thinking that the lesson again was simply that all traditional notions should be jettisoned.  However a closer look at the scientific revolutions of the twentieth century reveals a very different picture.  We find the the human mind is perhaps, after all, is not just a machine.  We find that the universe did perhaps, after all, have a beginning.  We find there is reason to believe after all, that the world is the product of design, and that life is perhaps part of that design."
                                                                                                                                   pg 29

 Part II   In the Beginning
       "There can be no question that the aversion that some scientists felt for the Big Bang Theory stemmed largely from the philosophical prejudices, and in particular to the fact that the reality of a beginning seemed to sit much better with religious views than with there own materialism."
                                                                                                                                   pg 43
     "It now appears that the the biblical chronology was quite right in this respect.  Light indeed existed from the beginning, while stars took many millions of years to appear."
                                                                                                                                   pg 45
     "The facts that science has taught us give strong reason to doubt that the universe is eternal....the fact of the hot Big Bang is no longer disputed."
                                                                                                                                   pg 46
Part III  Is the Universe Designed?
     "It is becoming more generally realized that is was not an accident that the Scientific Revolution occurred in Europe rather than in other great centers of civilization."
     "This idea of God as cosmic lawgiver was from very early times central to Jewish and Christian thinking.."
                                                                                                                                   pg 67
     "It is the beauty, and order, and law that we see in the world which points to its creator."
                                                                                                                                   pg 68
      "Rather the laws of nature are simply patterns which we discover empirically in the world around us, but which could have been otherwise."
                                                                                                                                   pg 77
      "Order has to be built in for order to come out.....The universe looks far more orderly to us now than it did to the ancients who appealed to that order as proof of God's existence."
                                                                                                                                   pg 79
     "But we can be sure that whatever new and deeper theory comes along, it will reveal to us more profound principles of order and greater more inclusive pattern s.  What science has shown us is that most of the beauty and order in nature is hidden from our eyes."
                                                                                                                                   pg 87
      "Unfortunately, when it comes to the questions surrounding how evolution happened, many scientists seem to be quite uncritical, not to say dogmatic, in their attitude."
                                                                                                                                  pg 111
      "...our universe's openess to biological evolution appears to be a consequence of the fact that its laws are indeed very special.  A slightly different set of laws would....have led to a completely lifeless, sterile universe.
       If this is so, then Darwinian evolution, far from disproving the necessity of a cosmic designer, may actually point to it.  We now have a problem of not just explaining a butterfly's wing, but a universe that can produce a butterfly's wing."
                                                                                                                                   pg 112
Part IV  Man's Place in the Cosmos
     "Many including former agnostics and atheists, have seen in these anthropic coincidences a powerful argument for the existence of God...It is no longer a question of whether one can find any evidence in nature that we were built in.  Such evidence abounds.  It is now a question of whether that evidence should be taken at face value, whether it really means what it seems to mean."
                                                                                                                                   pg 117
The anthropic coincidences include:
         1) Strength of the Strong Nuclear Force: If too weak (-10%) it would be unable to hold heavy hydrogen together and larger elements could not be built.  If too strong (+4%) then two particle nuclei could be produced negating larger atoms.
         2) The Three-Alpha Process: Favored through resonance the formation of carbon using the alpha particles in collision.
         3) Stability of the proton allows for sustaining chemical and atomic structures long enough for higher organizations of atoms and molecules to impact the reactions needed to sustain life.
         4) Strength of the electromagnetic force: If too strong then atoms would bond together and never reconfigure.  If too week then atoms would fail to combine to make the elegant molecules needed for life.
         5) Higgs Field strength if to weak would cut off formation of larger atoms and if too strong then deuterium would be come unstable (it is needed for the formation of larger atoms)
         6) Cosmological Constant:  IF too small then all particles would be unstable.  IF negative then the universe would have lasted for an incredibly short time.
         7) Flatness of space would also shorten the universe lifetime if slightly different than known to be.
         8) Number of dimensions of space:  Less than three then access and transport to support the myriad of activities supporting life would be impossible.  More than three then the distances over which fields spread would cause rapid decline in energy transport.
          9) Quantum Nature
         10) Why electromagnetism?
         11) Why matter?

       "The basic point of the anthropic coincidences, for the theist, is that they highlight the fact that the universe might have been a different sort of place, and that it had to be a very special sort of place if it were to be able to give rise to life."
                                                                                                                                   pg 154
    "If you look at the whole forest, or just a single leaf, you will miss the most interesting things that are going on, which happen in between. "In between" is where human life is lived out."


Part V  What is Man
     "Completely against the expectations of the scientific world, determinism was overthrown in the 1920's by quantum theory....the laws of physics would only allow one to calculate the probablities of various future outcomes.
      To say that this was unanticipated would be a tremendous understatement.  It was a shock, and a very unwelcome one to many physicists."
                                                                                                                                   pg 176
     "Not surprisingly, a number of physicists, biologists, and philosophers have made the suggestion that quantum indeterminacy has something to do with human freedom."
                                                                                                                                   pg 178
     "The key point is that quantum indeterminacy, allows for free will, it does not produce it.
                                                                                                                                   pg 179
     "If free will, as it is traditionally understood, is real, then scientific materialism is certainly wrong."
                                                                                                                                   pg 184
      "Time and time again, revolutionary scientific discoveries have overthrown our common sense assumptions:   It was obvious that the Earth was at rest and the sun moved. It was obvious that a thing can not be both a wave and a particle.  It was obvious that once can say in an absolute sense that two events happen simultaneously." These all seemed obvious and all of them turned out to be wrong."
                                                                                                                                    pg 186
      "There was a time when religious skeptics proudly called themselves free thinkers.  It is ironic that modern materialist skeptic disbelieves even in the reality of his own freedom, both moral and intellectual."
                                                                                                                                    pg 189
      "The intellect has not only the power of abstract understanding but also the power of judging the truth and falsehood of propositions."
                                                                                                                                    pg 197
      "Science begins with phenomenon and tries to understand them.  But it appears that many materialists, in thinking about the mind, do quite the reverse.  They start with a theory and dismiss certain facts."
                                                                                                                                    pg 225
      "the idea that man can be nothing other than a machine is really nothing other than pure deduction from atheism.  There is not a shred of evidence that a material system can reproduce the human abilities to understand abstractly and will freely."
                                                                                                                                   pg 226
     
     "The idea that quantum theories of the Big Bang are competing against God as a creator is based on some crude misunderstandings.  The real question that monotheism is attempting to deal with is a much more basic question than whether the Big Bang can be described by a mathematically consistent set of laws."

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