Monday, December 3, 2012

New Hope

All of the things I have learned to be true about this world recently have cast an impression of doubt upon my  belief in God. I have found neuroscience revealing natural personality traits to be completely genetic, evolutionary theory explaining life in a very consistent and plausible manner, a loss of belief in immaterial souls (though not a belief in the contrary), my beliefs about the origin of the natural world contradicting scripture's account of origins, and the subsequent questioning whether scripture is a reliable and authoritative source on Christianity,  and various other inconvenient truths such as the amount of evil in the world.

But the major realization that has forced itself upon me in the past five months is that if God is, he is responsible for all of this. I have grown up in such a simplistic evangelical faith, where some of the deepest and most tearing questions are neglected by trite phrases, which are passed down as "the rule of faith" for Christians who are struggling to deal with the pressure of every-day life, raising kids, and staying alive and faithful, and do not have time to question whether the foundations of their worldview are true or not.

But God is so much bigger than this culture, this stage of history, this framework of thought we call evangelicalism, than our own human minds, and than any proposition that can be thought about him. (even this) I'm finished imposing unjustified conceptual frameworks on his character and existence.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Truth and Understanding


Truth is only upheld in the human mind by Understanding. Truth is understanding (understanding being meaning, or, logical content in the mind). But not all Understanding is a direct relation to reality itself. Sometimes it is hypothetical and idea oriented.

But at the same time, the reason we must honor understanding at all times is that if we fail to honor understanding in our minds, we therefore fail to honor truth, which makes us false and sinners.

That is why we can gain wisdom and knowledge of God from a technically false story.  It contains meaning, which honors God, and by meaning we honor God and truth. Truth is meaning, but not all meaning is truth-- (truth being literal correspondence to reality).  C.S. Lewis' Narnia series contains many states of affairs and events which, fully understood, help us to understand reality. But the events in the story themselves are not reality. They are only ideas.

By meaning, or, Understanding, we honor God. When we engage in mental events that have no meaning, such as pride, self love, lust, sloth, shame, passions etc., we dishonor meaning in our minds, and consequently dishonor God. For our only connection with God is through our Understanding of Him, and Understanding is drowned out by meaningless mindsets.

The battle of soul is not a fight between truth and falsehood, it is a battle between sense and non-sense-- and this eventually implies a fight between truth and falsehood. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Goals and Guidelines

I haven't written on my blog in a while-- the reason for this is that I'm trying to actually say and do things with substance rather than self-seeking passion. When you realize that you wouldn't care about the things you write unless people were listening, and that you also do not think about much of what you say, you tend to get a bit quiet.

Nevertheless, just to keep any interested people updated (and I do really appreciate it that you follow my blog if you do), I'm going to briefly describe my current situation and my goals.)


First, the whole worldview decision before the summer ends thing didn't work out. I honestly felt like I didn't get very far even though I did do a lot of reading and thinking. Despite that, I find myself leaning more and more towards belief in God, simply because the spiritual disciplines I practice to keep myself acting consistently with the truth push me in that direction and I have no reason not to. This combined with the fact that there is not really any amazing evidence either way concerning the topic (though it does lean slightly towards theism in my situation) makes me more comfortable with simply believing in God and, if that belief gets corrected, so be it. So I wouldn't consider what I've done an official position so much as a pragmatic, down to earth recognition of the futility of "truly" official positions. Blaise Pascal once stated, "We have an inability to prove anything which is insurmountable by all dogmatism."

Second, this summer I experienced a revolution of spirituality. Kierkegaard's writings on the appropriation of truth turned my world around. I realized that words have meanings that relate to real things-- not abstract, intangible things. Even the most abstract, philosophical theory has real, tangible, and practical meaning to the one who formulated it. If words do not have a real, down to earth meaning, then they have no meaning at all.

This turns my life around because I had never learned to think about the things I talk about, do, or even think about. When everything I read or say or do has a real and tangible meaning, life becomes rich and full of meaning. This caused me to look back on all the things I learned in philosophy and think a lot harder about them, and it truly has spiritual ramifications.

Now, I live my life by a code which involves deep thought about things around me, people around me, and etc. It's incredibly meaningful despite the intensely hard work of reflection.

Lastly, this puts me in my current situation. I am about to start my senior year of college. These are my goals and guidelines I will hold by:

Goals:
1. To be consistent with the code I have created for myself being true to my friends, truth itself, and God.
2. To learn as much as I can through the academic disciplines at this college.
3. To maintain a high enough GPA to be accepted into profitable graduate school programs.
4. To push myself as much as I can in Cross country.

Guidelines I need to hold to:
1. Soberness. I must stay soberly reflective of all that is required of me rather than off in my baseless and meaningless emotional daydreams.
2. No dating. Still I cannot afford to be dating anyone right now. Luckily, I don't even have the desire this year, though last year I struggled a lot.
3. Resilience. Much will occur to cause me to wish to fall on my face and give up. But as I learned during the summer, and as Alfred says in Batman Begins, "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again."
4. Spiritual and Intellectual Independence. I can't afford to be influenced by other people around me unless it is profitable-- but this means I have to critically filter everything people tell me, expect of me, or make me feel so that I can decide what is profitable and true. This is incredibly hard and I know I will fail a lot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spiritual Warfare

Here are some random thoughts I want to share with whoever while I ought to be doing devotions and getting ready for sleep. I hesitate, at times, at being overly personal here (and everywhere else on my blog), but this is my life and what I deal with, so that's what I'm going to write about. 

Today, after having a great conversation yesterday with my friend in which I told him that sexual struggles and lust have been dormant in my life for the past month or so, I woke up struggling with lustful thoughts in my mind. (why... Why?!?! was it because I lied or something? Or because I was getting prideful? I dunno) But anyways, I did what a smart person does and forced them out of my mind all day. But towards the end of the day as I got home and was getting exhausted I just gave in and indulged in the thoughts. 

As I was sitting and indulging in my idolatrous fancies, I attempted to bring some scripture into my mind. Something I read earlier today: "How much better it is to have wisdom than gold! and to get understanding is to be chosen over silver." I thought about it and tried to apply it to my life, to which my mind replied something to the effect of "psh. screw that! naked women are a heck of a lot more fun to think about than boring truth!". I saw my mind's point, and then unreluctantly gave up trying to dissuade myself from my sin, concluding I was already sinning anyways. Ok, I'm probably portraying myself rather more shadily than it really was. It was more like I genuinely did not want to think about this crap and and was feeling sorrow inside, but the sorrow wasn't enough to change my attitude. 

It's funny (I'm not laughing). These moments are when we are most convinced that we're too far gone for any kind of repentance and we may as well continue on with whatever sexual sin we're committing, be it sexual fantasy, pornography, masturbation,... uh, well, I'm sure there's other stuff, and then repent later.
But as I've been realizing recently, these are the moments that spiritual warfare intensifies and really begins-- the reason we don't want to see it that way is because we're sold on the pleasure and don't want to contemplate the idea of giving it up. The band "Oh, Sleeper" has really been teaching me a lot about spiritual warfare. I used to think that spiritual warfare was, well, actually I don't know what I thought it was. I just thought it was dumb because it had something to do with demons scaring you and you trying not to be scared, which seemed totally dumb to me, because if demons exist, then God probably exists, and if God exists, then we have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. (I'm not that rational, I promise. I just think I am) 

The other night I went running and listened to metal music the whole time. The band I just mentioned uses a lot of imagery of heroic sacrifice and constant devotion to what one is bound to. Whenever I run, it makes me get that feeling like, "Ah man look at me runnin' and all, I look so disciplined and hard core. I'm really fighting hard (I say this after like half a mile of running, which isn't anything really). It gives you this feeling of pride and honor exuding from yourself, but in reality it is baseless. Running at that point in my run isn't real spiritual warfare anymore than praying in the bed with the lights off and the door closed with your girlfriend is, and to pretend so is just as sinful as pretending you're really being godly by doing such a thing with someone you're not married or engaged to. 

What is real spiritual warfare then? I like to say that spiritual warfare begins when you shut up with your emotions and talking and you're truly confronted with a challenge that is going to consume your whole soul, and as you fight you gain spiritual muscle deep down. See, it's nice when I run and listen to music and feel all awesome and disciplined like that during my first mile, but when I'm more than 3/4 of the way through a 5 mile race or even a 7 mile run ; I feel my gut clenched up, my muscles aching, my throat closing up, my whole body ready to collapse on the ground, my spirit and my hope failing, literally everything I could possibly imagine working against me, that including my mischievous deceptive mind, THAT is where spiritual warfare and discipline begins. That is when it truly takes everything you've got in your soul, and that is where heroes come from. Even as I write this I find it hard to believe, because I've so trained myself that life doesn't have to include such moments. But it does. 

In my favorite song by Oh Sleeper, (it's a metal scream band by the way), the lead singer named Micah begins screaming in the middle of the song (that begins with the words "We were born to fight") something that really does punch me deep in my gut when I think about it. These are the words: "I'm sweating red; I'm sweating red, I'm sweating red. I'm red, I'm sweating red, I'm sweating red, red, red. [and so on...].  This is no light-hearted scenario. This isn't something you raise your hands and sing about. This is, of course, the scenario of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane-- a spiritual battle with no legitimate rival. With these words, he illustrates the absolute lengths to which we ought to be willing to go to in order to uphold truth, God's law, and devotion in our life. That battle isn't over when all the fun and games and singing have stopped and the true pain and work begins; it's just beginning. 

This is actually funny: it's quite ironic how listening to this music during the first mile of my run makes me feel awesome and disciplined, while listening to it near the end of my run, I genuinely don't care about feeling awesome or any of the feelings of pride I had the first mile-- I am wholly focused on completing the challenge before me. This is the mindset I want to have. Forget the pride, forget the baseless passion. Enter into spiritual warfare as a daily battle, and see what happens. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Random...

Something about listening to the song, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", combined with thoughts of my experience of my brother's college campus (Berry College)-- Greco-Roman Divine architecture, so tall, so beautiful, reaching so mightily towards God and Truth.. a symbol of noble souls, including saints, sacrificing everything they had for the good, the true, the beautiful... thinking of true friendship, deep love and the "infinite mystery of it all" (at least as Captain Jack Sparrow put it at the end of the fourth Pirates movie) absolutely wrecks my soul with pain and bitter-sweet desires for... something big and Other. It's like nostalgia, but it's not the remembrance of anything. At least I think. According to my theories about the mind, sin, and moral goodness, it is sinful to entertain these fancies.. but by God, I'll have a bit more of this.


Ok, time's up. The same brother of mine I spoke of second ago posted a quote on facebook which I find very illustrative of my life:


"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." --Rabindranath Tagore


I find that I am usually "sleeping". Thinking about how joyful life would be if this and that. But I have a hard time actually getting up and acting. Welp. Back to the grindstone. Joy, I bid you meet me there! 



Monday, June 11, 2012

My Current Struggle

Now that I've realized that I don't really put much deep thought into anything I do, say, or think, I've begun to see so many areas of my life where I am missing in fundamental understanding of reality. But since I've begun to see that, I've become a lot more reluctant to read things, knowing that the typical way I read them is shallow and almost not worth it.

I can sit in a room and hear people talking, feeling like I understand them, but in reality I only understand a misinterpretation of their emotions and slight sensations of the concepts they hint on. So now I sit in rooms where people are talking, saying nothing, and attempting to think through what they actually say and feel. Unfortunately, I catch only 30 percent or so of it. I've recently become lazy and unwilling to even engage in this hard work of understanding people and reality. I lapse back into living in feelings and emotions, not caring about true understanding. But then I realize I am creating a horrifying gap between not only myself and reality, but also between myself and my understanding of reality. It is one thing to be conscious. It is another thing to actually live a convicted thought life-- one where you are constantly tapped into your logical intuition in order to understand what is outside you. And it is even another thing to have true beliefs. If I understood how much my conscious experience differed from reality as it truly is, I would probably be horrified.

So now I'm calling myself to wake up again and be mature.. a call to arms, so to speak. This life is short and I have a lot to accomplish!

Also.... I'm reading Narnia.. heh, it's awesome.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Realization so Horrifying, You Treat it Like a Dream

I seem to have some sort of psychological disease.  And I'm not kidding.  I'm only over the past week or so realizing that in reality, when I speak, I have no idea what the words coming out mean. When I say things to people, I generally have no idea what they actually mean or the realities expressed by the words I am saying. Words, to me on a daily basis, are just vehicles of feeling, not substance. I know that is false for many other people, but for me, it is true.

It takes an extremely painful amount of thought to actually find out how other people are actually feeling and what they actually mean, and to make decisions with any degree of reasonableness. How can I respond to this?    I'm trying to form theories to explain it-- maybe it's a mental disease that few people have, but I happen to be one of those who was unfortunate enough to inherit it.  I know some reading this will think, "oh, no he's just realizing he's a sinful person".  Well, yes, and no. I already know I am a sinful person, and that everything I do is horribly sinful by any reasonable account. But this is genuinely something unique to me, and I must find some way to fix it. Others actually understand what they are saying, and the reason I know this is because they act consistently with it. I do not act consistently with what I say.   Perhaps this will make a man of few words of me.   Maybe it's an extreme case of Narcissism. All I know is that I would really appreciate it if nobody replied to this telling me it will be alright and that it's not a unique problem. I've been told all my life by people that I'm somehow special and have unique skills, and that's probably the reason I've developed this narcissistic lack of empathy or reasonability-- because I've never dealt with my own problems. If anyone can shed some actual light on this and help me find out what I really need to do, I would appreciate it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Now to Figure Out the Hard Stuff

Here's the question I want answered today.  Is it possible for me to truly selflessly love someone? I don't mean perfectly-- that will never happen on this side of life. I mean this: is it truly possible to possess a lasting, powerful, deep seated longing for another person's good will that is not driven by exterior motives or instinct and which is actually powerful enough to displace personal desires for other things?

I'll go ahead and say that I've never had this before. I sometimes feel such deep concern for my own mother that I've wanted to call it selfless love. But then I yet again found out it was idolatry. I don't selflessly love my mother's soul, I earnestly desire the intactness of her mental presence in my mind, since it has been something I've grown accustomed to all my life. It's called emotional attachment, not love.

After I became a devoted Christian three years ago, I began to feel pangs of such desires. (and when I say pangs, I do mean to communicate the painful feeling that seems to accompany that word. Love freaking hurts.)

Now that I've begun to crush these sinful desires to please other people, I've developed the capacity to be such a callous jerk that I am genuinely scared by it. I really don't want to do that. I know that desire stems from people-pleasing desires-- I can't wholly get rid of them. So until I learn to actually genuinely care for other's well being, I'm either going to have to act like a jerk or entertain sinful people-pleasing desires. Crap. I suddenly have a lot more respect for jerks who are jaded from dealing with the non-genuine relationships that accompany people pleasers like me.

I want to find out what it's really like to act out of a genuine desire for other's well being, not an emotional attachment to their approval which disappears as soon as the threat of their disapproval does. How the heck does this happen?  Whenever I do genuinely care about people, it's awesome. I want that so bad.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fasting Time!

Wow, this just illustrates for me how the things that cause us to sin are completely contingent, and dependent totally on inner states of affairs rather than outer. I can't listen to soft music right now. It causes me to sin, because I start getting sentimental, worshiping my emotions, and completely ignoring truth and reality. Augustine struggled with this, as is evident from what he wrote about his sinful passions that arose while reading Greek Classics. When I first read this, (what Augustine wrote), I was flabbergasted. How can something so awesome as Greek tragedy and mythology be sinful? But that's not what he was saying (I think). It was the fact that he became emotional and ignored truth when he did so. I completely ignore all conviction when I get emotional like this. It's not that soft music is wrong. It's not that the Switchfoot that I've had to stop listening to (for the most part) is wrong. :( It's just that I've got to go through a phase of my life where I learn to integrate truth with emotions, rather than emotions completely leaving out truth. As for right now... it's all metal, for me. (and maybe some Gungor).

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Internal Dialogue Recorded

Ever have one of those days/ series of days where all of your spiritual strength takes a vacation, leaving you like a zombie focused on nothing but selfish desires?  I think these, mostly, are the moments when people make decisions that they regret later. It's easy to do the right thing when you genuinely want to do it, but when doing the right thing causes you to "die" to so much of yourself that it leaves you feeling sick and nausea-laden, as if you just ripped out part of your mid-section and were forced to eat it, that's when the testing happens.

Today/the past couple days have been days like that. I have so many things to do, so many people to keep in my heart, so much reading to do that, and so much maturity to constantly force on myself that doing so has caused me nausea, ridiculous headaches, and even a tear or two. Today I have been tempted to indulge in viewing pornography and engaging in masturbation again, to give up my bonds to my friends and resume my own selfish shallow interaction with people, and to give up sincerely looking for and submitting to whatever is true. So far I've been able to destroy myself not to, but it's getting harder and harder as I get more tired.

The main struggle in my head is always "is it time to give up yet? You've been playing a nice little game with yourself the past half a year, but isn't it time to come back home to indulging in sin again? Quit fooling yourself. This isn't going to last." I know I shouldn't give up, but another voice in my head is telling me that I'm putting myself through far more than I can handle, and I should just rest. But the resting is equivocated with indulging in our culture, and there is no more room for that in my life. Also, the other meaning of the word isn't helpful either, I slept like 10 hours last night... The ancients and past cultures have been based on hard work and constant devotion, thus there's nothing in my human frame that isn't capable of it.

So when continuing to do what is right and submitting to my obligations becomes taking up my cross, am I to stop? According to my country's widespread culture, yes. But according to what I know, no.

So today I'm making a decision to go against everything I've done for all of my life. I'm going to press on even though it sucks. Maybe this is the stuff good people are made from.



EDIT---- This song has helped a lot:

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Evidence for Evolution (Part 3): Written in the Rocks

In this chapter, Coyne lays out the evidence for evolution in the fossil record.

To start, he makes a few important points:

The Nature of Fossilization
One of the frustrations that scientists have experienced is a very spotty fossil record. Of course, its almost everyone's (or at least everyone like me, who would like it if evolution were false) immediate impulse to look at this fact and jump to the conclusion that since the fossil record is spotty, evolution lacks evidence, but we have to be careful here. Here's why:

For fossils to form and survive for investigation by scientists (usually millions- billions of years later), Coyne writes, "First, the remains of an animal or plant must find their way into water, sink to the bottom, and get quickly covered by sediment so they don't decay or get scattered by scavengers." He then describes the rest of the process. I'll sum it up. Once buried, the hard parts of the creature are replaced (in some way) by dissolved minerals. Once this has happened, there is a hardened "cast" of the living creature that, as Coyne puts it, gets "compressed into rock by the pressure of sediments piling up on top." He also, and importantly, notes that since only the hard parts of the plants and animals that are fossilized participate in the process, there is a "severe bias" in our knowledge of ancient species. After this, the fossil still has to be discovered. This is an unlikely process, since as the earth's crust (where most of the fossils are stored, out of human reach) is constantly shifting and folding it is, according to Coyne, undergoing processes "which completely obliterate most fossils".

Coyne concludes based on this that that fossil record must necessarily be incomplete. (according to him we should only have fossil evidence for .1-1 percent of all living species that have ever lived.)

(Check out this website. It's a very basic introduction to the nature of fossil formation! http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/education/explorations/tours/fossil/index.html)

Constructing Coherent Rock Layers

Fossils exist in sedimentary rocks, which are formed by the consolidation of sedimentary materials (stuff that falls to the bottom of water). Thus, as one would expect, the deeper the sedimentary rock layer, the older the fossils are. There are some other complications with matching rock layers on one side of the world with layers on the other side. But that's not necessary for this post.

Dating

Scientists use radioactivity to date layers of rock. Using the "half-life" of isotopes existent in igneous rocks (rocks formed by volcanic activity), knowledge about how much of the isotope was present at the time of formation, and how much of the isotope that exists now, they can determine the age of the rock. This process is usually known by those familiar to the creation-evolution debate as "Carbon Dating". But not just carbon is used. Uranium -238 is another useful isotope, with a half-life of 700 million years. When these methods are used, there are usually several different types of isotopes present and they are cross-checked for accuracy.

Young Earth Creationists object to this method of dating by saying that the rates of radioactive decay have changed over time. But this claim has been shown to be untrue in the laboratory by scientists who subject isotopes to extreme pressure. Also, given that several different isotopes are generally present in any rock layer (all of which have different decay rates), if decay rates changed by outside pressures, it is unlikely that they would all still give a consistent date.

Also, one more important fact. Sedimentary rocks are unable to be dated, but igneous rocks adjacent to them can be, and thus the dates of sedimentary layers can be dated via inference.

Evolutionary Predictions in the Rocks

In science, the best way to see if a theory is true is via predictions. What should we expect to be true of what is found in the fossil record if evolution is true?   Coyne makes a simple prediction. We should find that life dated to be early is very simple, and as the dating gets closer and closer to the current time, life gets more complex. We should find that the species that are most recently deceased in the fossil record are most similar to those that exist today. Coyne also makes the risky prediction that we should expect to find transitions between species. If species truly did branch off from one another, we should find transitional species between these groups.

The Findings

Amazingly (to me, at least!), the findings do confirm the first prediction! (That life gets progressively more complex) Coyne writes: "The first organisms, simply photosynthetic bacteria, appear in sediments about 3.5 billion years old, only about a billion years after the planet was formed. These single cells were all that occupied the earth for the next 2 billion years, after which we see the first simply "eukaryotes": organisms having true cells with nuclei and chromosomes. Then, around 600 million years ago, a whole gamut of relatively simple but multicelled organisms arise, including worms, jellyfish, and sponges. These groups diversify over the next several million years, with terrestrial plants and tetrapods (four-legged animals, the earliest of which were lobe-finned fish) appearing about 400 million years ago[....] Fifty million years later we find the first true amphibians, and after another 50 million years reptiles come along. The first mammals show up around 250 million years ago (arising as predicted, from reptilian ancestors), and the first birds, also descended from reptiles, show up to 50 million years later." The he talks about how as we investigate the most shallow rock layers, we find species most similar to those existent today, another fulfilled prediction. He then talks about how humans branched off from primates seven million years ago, (a very small amount of evolutionary time).

What's written above is kind of a summary to illustrate the increasingly complexity of life as appears throughout time in the fossil record (Coyne reads the facts through evolutionary assumptions, of course, but facts are facts).


Transitional Creatures

Some of the main evolutionary predictions are these: That birds evolved from reptiles, that land animals evolved from fish, and that whales evolved from land animals. But if this is true, we should expect to find some sort of evidence that these transitional forms existed via the fossil record. Coyne makes an important point however. When we think of transitional forms, say, between a bird and a dinosaur, we imagine a creature who is a perfect cross between a bird and a dinosaur. But that's not what we should always expect. If indeed there is a common ancestor between birds and dinosaurs, it split off from dinosaurs and thus began with mostly dinosaur characteristics (but slight variations) which caused it to then adapt to its environment via natural selection in different ways than dinosaurs. Thus it's not like a Dinosaur "had a bird" or something like that. Birds gradually developed in accordance with adaptation and environment over millions of years.

So when we look for transitional species, we should look for creatures with characteristics common to both species that they are transitioning "from" and "to".

These features have been found, and here are several examples:

From fish to Amphibians

Between a thirty million year period in the past, the class of existent vertebrae species expanded to add vertebrae land animals. If evolution is true, then, we'd expect to find species (in these fossil layers) that are somewhere or another "in between" fish and mammals. Just as expected, on an island in the Canadian Arctic, "Ellesmere Island" a creature called the "tiktaalik roseae" was discovered. It had gills, scales, and fins, like all creatures that live in the water. But it also had amphibian like characteristics: a flattened head, eyes and nostrils on top of the skull, and robust fins for peering up out of the water (and supporting itself to do so). Also, it had a neck-- which fish do not have. Another important characteristic: sturdy ribs for breathing through lungs and gills. Along with this, the creature had fewer, but more sturdy limbs. This creature was clearly adapted for living in the water and moving about in shallow water where it could lift up its head and see.

The Origin of Birds

I remember one of the ways I used to make fun of evolution. How did birds evolve? It seemed like any answer to this question had to be hopelessly speculative. And a lot of the answers to evolutionary questions are speculative by nature. How else do you create theories? But the answer isn't that ridiculous.

The first thing to note is that, according to Coyne, Gliding has developed independently multiple times: flying squirrels, flying lemurs, lizards, and marsupials. It's not hard to see how a creature which developed flaps for elongated "air" time started finding ways to adapt by manipulating the interface between their flaps and the air to produce flight effects, and then natural selection did its job to produce more and more creatures like that.

But the main evidence that there actually was a transitory species between birds and dinosaurs comes in here: 200 million years ago, there were no birds. 70 million years ago there were birds. That gives us grounds to predict that if evolution is true, then there will be transitional species between dinosaurs and birds in the fossil record between 200 million years ago and 70 million years ago. Sure enough, there is. The most famous transitional form (at least to my knowledge) in all of evolutionary history is the Archaeopteryx. This creature, found in a limestone quarry (which preserved feather marks!) from 145 million years ago, has a jaw, teeth, a long bony tail, claws, separate fingers on the wing, and a neck attached to its skull from behind. It also has birdlike features: feathers and an opposable big toe.  (they still don't know if it could fly or not)  In the 1990's more of these types of species were found in China: a number of bizarre looking creatures with feathers in odd places, and many dinosaur like qualities. The fossil record is not complete for the transition from dinosaurs to birds, but there is pretty good evidence that there were transitional species.


The Evolution of Whales

Sixty million years ago, there were no such things as whales (according to Coyne). Thirty million years ago, things resembling whales show up in the fossil record. Again, if evolution is true, we should expect creatures which show a transition between land animals (since whales are mammals) and whales. And these do show up. A series of species show up exactly within this time-span which, according to Coyne, perfectly show the transition from a certain type of land creature to whales. See Indohyus, Pakicetus, Rodhocetus, and Dorudon. You should be able to look them up on Google.  (I don't have time to describe all of their features here)

An important point that Coyne makes is that evolution to life at sea (with whales) did not add any new features, it just modified old ones (and it took a remarkably short time).


Conclusion 

I've illustrated a few of the things in Coyne's book. His main conclusion is this: if evolution were not true, we would not expect the fossil record to look like it does. Evolutionary predictions have been verified over and over again, and this is not at all what we would expect if God specially created animals.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

People

The past six months I've spent a large amount of time railing against allowing people to influence me. But now I've come to see that I was only railing against people influencing me in a certain way.

See, until recently I've been overly sensitive and insecure about the idea that I should blindly accept whatever other people say, as well as accept their criticisms of me and their plans for my life as things I am actually bound to. I've been insecure about the fact that I feel I need to please people all the time and thus anything I do that doesn't please another is wrong. But now that I've started to get over all of that, I'm starting to realize that I need people.

First I began to see people as a useful tool. People are frustrating. They get on your nerves. They insult you without thinking about what they're saying, act hypocritical, throw monkey-wrenches in perfectly planned days, and they prevent you from ever having any solitude. But that's OK, I thought. I can use other people as a tool to build patience.

Second, I began to see other people as helpful for keeping me in check. Just because I shouldn't let other people influence me doesn't mean I can't be forcefully reminded of truths that are true regardless of whether people are criticizing me with them or not. As long as I recognize that truth is not in people and people do not have any control over me, I'm happy to be criticized, critiqued, and judged by people, because it helps me to get back in check with reality. Especially when I have smart friends, who will criticize me for not operating on their level. I don't mind that at all. I get frustrated at the time, but then remind myself that I'm being brought to a level of performance and spirituality I would never reach on my own.

Third, I've begun to see other people as beings  with whom I enter into meaningful relationships. I've never been able to develop this. I've never even really been able to develop the first step, but this third step of my development has really blown everything out of the water. I can actually enjoy being around people? I can actually mean it when I say, "I love you", and "I miss you?". Because all of my life I have never even been able to mean these words, because relationships between myself and others were shallow at best.

This is good. And it all started from making myself realize that people are just people, not gods, monsters, or my personal judges. I don't have to listen to people at all. But now that I don't have to, I want to.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dealing with Depression

There are several important things I've learned in the past couple days. But in order to better illustrate them, I have to include their context.

The past month I've been experiencing even more spiritual strength to continue to do what is right and look to what is true. I have been learning to experience a kind of mental awareness of reality that I hadn't reached before-- one that filled me with the power to conquer my base passions and desires for the sake of higher order things. But I hadn't thought about what I should do in the face of physical pain.

A couple days ago (Tuesday) I went into a surgery that I would have been unable to withstand the thought of a few months ago due to humiliation. But ever since I've been more able to conquer my lower passions and desires, this became easier. So, as I went into the surgery I was ready and brave. I came out, of course, nauseous, in pain, and half-awake. No big deal. But as the days went by, I found myself unable to stay energetic and mentally focused because of the pain I had in my kidneys and ureters. (It was a kidney stone surgery). I kept on telling myself that I ought to be able to withstand this, and, in my irrational idealistic fashion, I compared myself to heroes of history who withstood great pain and kept going, and forced myself to keep going. But my strength drained more and more every day, until it got to the point where I didn't even want to get out of bed in the mornings. Then yesterday I had a painful existential crisis. I was reading more about evolution and I persuaded for a small amount of time that one of the possible arguments for Christianity that I was hoping would work had been refuted. (It was about God guiding mutations in evolution-- I thought for a second that that was impossible because mutations had been shown to happen totally randomly)  I don't know what happened but I felt all of reality drain out of the universe and was left, mentally, of course, staring and being stared down by, as Nietzsche put it, "the breath of empty space". Some of the videos I had watched the night before about the human tendency to entertain illusion rather than truth in order to deny undesirable truths started to haunt me and I began to feel the horror of the futility of humanity's search for truth. I felt a horrible pity for all of humanity (except myself for some reason. This is not a positive trait. I have an enormous capacity for feeling infinite amounts of pity for everyone but myself. I causes me to make bad decisions) and the futility of their believing that they actually understood the world. I began to feel nausea overtaking me and horror seized my body. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and hide from it all. Why couldn't I wake up in a happy world where we all knew what was true, where we all could worship Jesus and know that he really is there, and that we would really see him coming on the clouds of heaven? I felt my heart being ripped out as I told my family I had become a non-believer, specifically seeing the tears on my mother's face, and I couldn't bear it anymore. I went and tried to find some book on the internet to distract myself. I found a kindle download by Dostoevsky, and decided to read it. Unfortunately, it was about a guy about to commit suicide. Bad choice....  anyways, I finished it (short story) and it was a lot more encouraging than I thought it would be (the guy had a dream about pre-fall humanity and it changed his life).

Long story short, the past couple days I slipped into a painful depression. I didn't want to get out of bed, I didn't want to do anything. I lost all my energy. I was doubly depressed. Maybe there was no chance of Christianity being true at all, and maybe there was no chance I would ever be able to find out what was true.  I began to ignore my convictions. I began to ignore what I ought to be doing. Instead I just slept.  Eventually I started pulling myself back up and forcing myself to act consistently again. I gained energy today, and finally after drinking some coffee I've been able to gain energy to keep living consistently again. Back to loving people, reading books, and actually meaning what I say.

Lessons learned:
1) Don't overdo it. Just because heroes of the past have done it, doesn't mean I automatically ought to be able to.  That's called arrogance. I tried to take on too much. It is true that my job is to look for the truth, but I simply can't handle it all at once.

2) Don't give up.  One important thing for me to remember is that during these periods of depression, I am under no less obligation to do what I ought. Thus sleeping all the time is equal to sin. Unless sleeping is for the purpose of rejuvenating myself, which is permitted of course. Continuing to be devoted to the truth will build a passion in me, a constant will, a spirit of iron that has been tried by pain.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Direction?

What do you do when you realize that everything you've ever done has been half-hearted and thoughtless? When you've never had a genuine friendship with anybody, and you realize you act consistently with a shockingly low percentile of your beliefs? I'm beginning to find all of these things about myself, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it. The only time I have ever really been able to act consistently with my beliefs was when I was in love with Christ, and I earnestly look forward to and hope for a time when I can experience the fullness of that again.

I have found that all of my interactions with people (except for the year after a became a Christian) have all been largely aimed at stroking my own ego, gaining the pleasure of spending time with woman (which is largely a mental/sexual pleasure, I think), or some other very low order desire. All of my decisions were based on fulfilling my desire for comfort and pleasure. At times I feel so inferior to the people around me. Is everyone around me as much morally superior to me as I think they are? Everyone else appears to think clearly about what they do, have meaningful friendships, a good heart, and good intentions. I'm not saying they're sinless, but I am saying that it looks like everyone around me is a exceptionally superior to me in the realm of morality. This isn't a pity party or something. I just genuinely want to know if this is my mind's off balance idealism blinding me to what's really there or if it's the real deal.

The question is, as usual, not how I feel about these truths, but what I am going to do about them? Am I willing to grow up, suck it up, and keep trying? For it doesn't matter how immoral am, the obligation for me to be moral and honor what is true still remains, simply by virtue of my being a human. Giving up is worthless.

I feel crushed by my weaknesses and by the fear that I actually will give up in the future. I long for the days that I would ignorantly sing at the top of my lungs about how I would follow God forever with all of my heart. How did I know that? Even Paul knew that just because his beliefs were true didn't mean that he would never fall: But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

 On a side note: I've read half of two books now: one on the evidence for evolution and one on the evidence for intelligent design. Funnily I'm so far impressed with the evidence for both sides. Theistic evolution, maybe?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Evidence for Evolution (P2): What is Evolution?


This is the first chapter of Coyne's book. It's just a statement of what exactly evolution is. Here is his short definition of evolution:
In essence, the modern theory of evolution is easy to grasp. It can be summarized in a single (albeit slightly long) sentence: Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species-- perhaps a self-replicating molecule-- that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection. 
The main aspects of evolution to be illustrated here are: 1) evolution, 2) gradualism, 3) speciation, 4) common ancestry, 5) natural selection, and 6) non-selective mechanisms of evolutionary change. Now I'll go through and provide summarized versions of his definitions of these words:

1) Evolution: Evolution means that species undergo genetic change through generations. I don't know of anyone who rejects this. Animals adapt to their environment through genetic traits expressing themselves or not. Humans' skin becomes dark after hundreds of generations of being repeatedly being exposed to penetrating heat, because changes in genes occur. Birds beaks become longer on islands where it is adaptive for beaks to become longer because genes change or become silenced and allow for different expressions of traits. Note: the Theory of Evolution (hereafter ToE) does not predict that species will always be changing. Changes happen and remain because of environmental pressure to change. When pressure stops, change stops or at least is mostly stopped.

2) Gradualism: New traits in evolutionary history gradually appear, or, they take a very long time. Coyne writes, "The evolution of new features, like the teeth and jaws that distinguish mammals from reptiles, does not occur in just one or a few generations, but usually over hundreds or thousands--even millions-- of generations." The ToE does not postulate that creatures evolved in just a small amount of time. These genetic changes would take millions of years. This doesn't mean that evolution always takes place at the same pace. As noted earlier, the speed evolution is heavily dependent upon environmental pressure.

3) Speciation: Speciation is the splitting of one species into another. Coyne notes that according to the ToE if there were no such thing as speciation, there would only be one species, because there only be continual genetic change within one species and never divergence into other species. Mammal X produces an immediate descendant (Mammal Y) which has mutations in genes that cause it to be slightly than X. Mammal Y continues producing descendants with Y-like traits that become continually more defined, and eventually Mammal Y becomes a different Species than Mammal X. Note that this doesn't mean Mammal X no longer exists. It just means that Mammal X gave rise to a mutated species which began to evolve different characteristics and therefore became a different species. To better explain what happens when speciation occurs, Coyne says that two types of life are different species when they can no longer interbreed.

4) Common Ancestry: Common Ancestry is the idea that, despite all of the unique characteristics of and differences between all the life that exists today and the life that has existed in the past, there is a common ancestor of all life, from which all life descended. This means that just like two types of human (say a Chinese man with black hair, and a Scottish man with red hair) are descended from one common ancestor (Which Christians believe is Adam and Eve) so also this can be extended to all life.

5) Natural Selection: This is the simple idea that given the way reproduction and survival works, nature always selects the most fit creatures to survive. If there are four types of birds, two of which have functional wings to escape predators and two of which have mutated and dysfunctional wings, then the birds that will survive are those with functional wings. Nature will always preserve the descendants of the most adaptive species because the most adaptive species reproduce more, while mal-adaptive species produce less.

6) Non-selective mechanisms of evolutionary change: Factors other than natural selection can cause evolutionary change. Genetic drift, random changes in the proportion of genes, and etc. This simply means that changes in species caused by things other than natural selection can occur.


Coyne later lists some predictions one can make given the truth of evolutionary theory. Predictions, on scientific theories, are a hugely important. They are deductions one can make from the truth of a certain theory. If the Earth is round, we should expect that when astronauts go into space, they see a round earth as they gain enough distance. If Newton's laws of motions are true, we should expect certain features of motion to be exemplified. If the predictions of any scientific theory are falsified, then that theory must either be considered false or modified.

Here are some predictions Coyne lists for Evolutionary theory:

- We should be able to find evidence for evolutionary change in the fossil record
- We should be able to find evidence of speciation in the fossil record (new species forming)
- We should be able to find at least some (due to the scarcity of fossils) "Missing Links", and their place in the fossil record should be consistent with where the ToE predicts they should be.
- We should expect that species show genetic variations in their traits.
- We should expect to see imperfections in the design of species.


The Evidence for Evolution (P1)

I'm working through a book by Jerry Coyne called, Why Evolution is True. In it he presents the evidence for evolution in a very simple way for a lay audience. It's a pretty easy read! I'm reading this because even though I've become moderately convinced of the truth of common ancestry, I want to do some more research on it. At the same time I'll be going through a book arguing not against common ancestry but against Darwinism's ability to explain all features of life. (The Edge of Evolution by Behe).


A couple stipulations: I'm not putting this on here to weaken the faith of any Christians. If you're a Christian and you haven't come to the belief that Christianity and evolution are compatible (and think they are incompatible), then reading this article would be like reading why Christianity is false-- which is not my intention. I don't think evolution disproves or is inconsistent with Christianity (at least right now). So if you hold that Christianity and evolution are incompatible, either don't read this or realize what you're getting into!

I'm just going to summarize the main points of his chapters so I can remember them and quantify them towards the end of the summer as I draw up all the relevant evidence for making a major worldview decision.

So, here goes...

Monday, May 7, 2012

This Summer be like...

This isn't the post where I sum up my semester yet. That comes after exams (and the Switchfoot concert :) Right now I'm thinking about what needs to happen this summer.

This summer I have promised myself that I am going to make a major worldview decision. The whole past semester I have been praying, spiritually disciplining myself, thinking hard about life, and instilling a hope within myself that I will actually encounter God this summer-- whether it will be through a religious experience (doubtful, I feel-- but who am I to make plans for the Divine?) or through philosophy. I want to believe firmly and fully in God. I really, really do. I don't want to believe in Hell. But I can also trust that if God exists, he has his reasons for hell (if indeed the Bible, in context, actually teaches that there is a hell) and to not accept them would be to play the fool.

This whole semester I've been more of a religious seeker than a thick full-blown Christian. I call myself a Christian before anything else because I don't think I could ever stop following Christ in the sense of always looking for what is true, admiral, perfect, and worth practicing (and because I pray, read the Bible, go to church, and hang out with only Christians). That can never and comparably replace belief in him as the Son of God, though, and I know that.

The question arises, then, in the mind of whoever's mind that reads this-- what am I? I am either a Christian, a Deist, an Agnostic (someone who doesn't know what is true), or an Atheist (supposedly). Which one is it? Well, when I pray I feel like a committed Christian. I'm most definitely not an atheist. I don't think you could at all call me a Christian in the sense that Evangelicals call Christians. I fit into the Liberal Christian category-- but that's because the Liberal Christian category includes a whole lot. Maybe I can create my own? Can I say I am a Christian agnostic? Or an Agnostic Christian? Someone wants to be intellectually honest, who really hopes Christianity is true, and yet doesn't quite have the evidence to support belief yet?

This summer I'm planning on deciding: I will either affirm specific and well-defined Christian convictions and fight for them in my soul and believe them, or I'll continue on in the state I'm in-- a state of hoping Christianity is true, but being willing to accept atheism if necessary.Woe unto me if I do not hope Christianity is true, even if I were partially convinced it were false. I know I can't learn everything, so I can only choose what's most likely. For that reason, I'm going to try to settle my views on the actual arguments for against God's existence, the whole issue of evolution and Christianity-- whether they truly comport, the logic of the person of God, and my view of Scripture. Who knows how much reading that entails. Its worth it though.

Here are a couple aspects of the decision I want to make this summer:

1) The decision I come to simply must be open to change, lest I make myself not open to truth.
2) The decision can only be based on what is most likely. There are billions and billions of truths to learn-- and if I'm not incorrect, an infinite amount. I'll never know everything, and I've got to choose based on what is most likely to be true.


This is what my summer must consist of if I am to be acting in a mature and disciplined manner. No time for dating, wasting time, or spending an inordinately large amount of time on anything but this end.


It's also important to note that this attitude of seeking truth I've been working on can never end, in my life. I don't just give up seeking truth when I begin to affirm Christianity-- if I will. If anything, I redouble it. Christianity is not the emotionalistic, falsehood based, Bible worshiping, comfortable religion that Westerners have made it into. It is one in which the love of God-- the logos and embodiment of truth-- enters your soul and crushes the sinful nature of the worship of idols (or falsehoods) and releases you to worship of God in truth. Wow. As my friend Tiffany would say.. "I can dig it..."

Shed Your Soul



Great song. From the atheistic perspective the horrifying question is asked, "What if we're wrong? What if we're not all alone? What if we're lost? And we missed the whole point of it all?"*  Good question to ask from any perspective. I love this song! 



* Lyrics from "lyricsmode.com."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What Speaketh the Sunrise?



I have long been learning that there are sources of truth outside of just propositions concerning scientific facts and facts of logic. There's other kinds of truth. It's not just subjective-- it's literally and objectively true-- the truth simply takes on an interesting role in finite minds (as subjectively perceived). I just don't know what it is. I can't understand it. I think it has something to do with finite minds and their interaction with something insurmountably huge, something completely and totally other than the mind. Objectively, its simply a matter of fact that the Grand Canyon is unfathomably huge, or that the ocean's depths contain mysteries untouchable to the human mind. But when perceived by humans, it has a humbling effect that destroys pride and kindles a sense of awe and otherness-- or, the sense that there is something huge and un-graspable, un-masterable, and in-determinable outside of oneself.

I wish I understood it better. But until then, I'll just soak it all in. Then again, maybe it isn't supposed to be understood.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Yay.

After the epic stress of today, I have left only one thing to say...



fffffffffffffRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




(picture courtesy : http://supratiksarthak.blogspot.com/2011/06/my-top-ten-best-movie-scenes-of-all.html)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Burn Out Bright


This may sound out of the ordinary, but it is a blessing to actually have a picture of this for me to look at and reflect upon every once and a while. I haven't fully dealt with my immanent death. It is scary to think about, but this will be me in only a number of years (not saying I'm planning on dying any time soon)-- with different dates, of course. I'm not looking forward to dying. I love being human. But now that I know I am going to die, to ignore it would be sinful. All the more, then, as Jon Foreman sings, "Before I die, I want to burn out bright"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Love

If only I could realize the immensity, the soul-binding, the commitment.. that it entails when I say, "I love you."  I should perhaps never tell someone I love them again. Love is no play toy, entertainment, feeling, or past-time. It is a binding of the soul to a course of action: the harboring of another's soul within oneself.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

birth, truth, and bob dylan

Upon the moment of birth, all that a baby consists of comes from the mother. When the baby is born, there is confusion, change, uncomfortability, and fear. The baby must then learn to operate him or herself; it is no longer floating around in a world of ease and comfort-- the womb of the mother. The baby is still dependant upon the mother for milk and care, but eventually the baby must grow into a man or a woman who does not depend on his or her mother.

I think the process of becoming a mature adult is similar, except different. How can I help the fact that at the point that I begin to be born into the world of truth, everything my mind is made of comes from my culture and genetics? All of my assumptions about life, my practices, my preferences, my sense of reality, my gender, and my passions are constructed by my culture. It's not like this is a bad thing though. If I didn't have a culture to teach me things to believe and want, I would not ever be able to grow up-- I would never be able to form my own views at an age earlier than around 18-20, so society fills that gap and does it for me. I absorb my society's views. But it is profitable to remember that society is only a convenient womb that we must grow and nurture in until the time comes to be born and learn to grow on our own. I owe much to my mother for giving me existence, but I cannot depend on her. I owe much to my culture for raising me on its views, but I can no longer depend on it for my beliefs and practice.

To extend this even more, every moment we should experience birth. We should be born out of our state of complacency, enter into a new world of confusion and insecurity, make peace, and then be born again.

As Bob Dylan said, "...a man not busy being born is busy dying."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Come alive

I'm thankful for the beautiful night sky, for challenging experiences, for logic, for truth, for friends and their encouragement in time of need, for friends who critique me and challenge me, for the college I go to, and for music that keeps my heart alive.

Several realizations I've had this week:

1. I should follow my convictions and never hold back in fear. Ever.

2. I should not follow false convictions (shame in disguise).

3. Realism is found in thankfulness.

4. Every time I wake up, I should consider it putting the lid over the coffin of my dead body. I am dead, that I might come alive in righteousness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dilemmas


Ok, so I'm running into a bit of a problem. I really want anyone who reads this to comment and tell me your opinions concerning what I should do. I'm genuinely confused.

Over the past, say, five months, a philosophy of life has been brewing deep in my intuition. I don't mean any kind of philosophy that postulates new entities or assumes a new theoretical view of the world, I just mean a practical philosophy of life and truth. It all started when I began studying shame in my Crises counseling class. After I realized that I could peer deep into my soul and change my beliefs in order to foster spiritual health and growth. I started an exercise of thinking through the psychological motifs of shame in my life and I came to realize that my shame had a lot to do with underlying beliefs (which could also be changed). My findings about my psychological interactions with other people lead me to postulate theories about relationships and friendships (the place where shame comes from-- when I say relationships I don't always mean healthy relationships). After that, I started getting more complex in my thought and analyzing philosophy of mind and phenomenology (the study of the conscious experience). Then I encountered Buddhist thought and realized that all of the assumptions and experiences in my life were contingent upon my beliefs and desires. As the INFJ personality type (or, at least mine anyway) is so apt to disbelieve, my experience of reality was not actual reality. I was learning to adjust myself to the truth.

After that, and in the midst of all of this, I realized that my belief in Christianity was, even though I had thought through it and questioned it already, was completely biased. (Even though I had thought I did, I had never actually sought truth. I was just looking to philosophically justify my faith contra atheism). But it hit me over the head that this is not the way to pursue truth. The way to pursue truth is to open oneself up to whatever is true, and seek it from that perspective. So because of that I created a type of philosophy which was oriented towards simply pursuing truth. It is compatible with atheism, agnosticism, and Christianity-- whichever one is convicted is true. I have been using this philosophy (it's "perfected" form was polished off about two weeks before I headed to college) in some general form for about four months.

To be completely honest, I have never experienced something so powerful in my life. This philosophy was simply an attempt of my own to conform my whole self to the truth, through whatever means possible. I created repeating cycles of three day groups of four day systems-- "root" is what I called the period of four days-- in which I practiced intentional consciousness of a certain truth. It has been incredibly effective. It's taken a whole lot of work, sweat, and tears; it's not like there wasn't sacrifice. It's hard to emphasize how adaptive to my life and my personality this philosophy is.

Here's my problem though. I was reading Acts of the Apostles last night and I was very convicted about my mindset. I was reading Stephen's speech before he was stoned to death, and he spoke of the Jews disobeying God, saying "And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands."

The part about "rejoicing in the works of their hands" knocked me over the head with conviction. I know that several times I have become prideful about how "smart I am, that I created such an effective philosophy". Of course, to refute such thoughts, I may be smart but surely I've been given it, and technically smartness has nothing to do with it; I've just had the privilege/horror of suffering through the intense realization that all of life is philosophy and one must struggle to have the correct one. Anyone can do that. In fact, many already have before me. But it suits my pride to believe falsehoods, and so my mind whores with them periodically.

But how can I ever rid myself of the philosophy now? What do I do, substitute it for a different method and then get prideful over that one? Given that this philosophy consists of a lot of established practices and beliefs that have become part of my life now, to get rid of it would be positively irrational. Also, given that I am so subject to following the whims of my emotions and superficial desires, if I did not have some sort of teleology/plan to keep me in check, I would never get anywhere in life. (I'm not driven unless an idea drives me) It's like a man who realizes that he is idolizing his wife. He can't get rid of her-- that would be immoral. But he also can't continue living the way he has been.

I also liken this dilemma to what the naturalists have done these days. Empirical science is a recent human phenomena which has vastly increased our knowledge of the world. In fact, through the centuries that it has existed, it has invoked much excitement, passion, and wonder in those who follow it. It has shaped the mind-set of at least the Western world and is essentially necessary for knowledge about the world. But some have idolized science, claiming that it is the source of all truth, or the domain of all truth, or that we cannot know anything unless science justifies it. This is the sign of a good philosophy gone bad. You can't get rid of science. Medicine, physics, biology, theoretical frameworks, etc. are all incredibly important aspects of our body of knowledge about the world. But you can take it too far. I think this is what I've done with my philosophy.

What I've done is this: Because of my judging function in my personality, my mind feels in utter chaos and discomfort when there is not some underlying instruction or plan which I should follow. I like things to be organized or else I am subject to following and believing my emotions, which are far from accurate. Because of this, I have used the effectiveness of this philosophy as a way to deal with life-- in that I get my comfort from the fact that I have an underlying plan in my life, rather than my comfort from God, and being thankful for what I have. It's like my emotional security lies in it. This shouldn't be the case.

So I have a couple options.

1) I could completely drop the philosophy and just live on conviction. The consequences of this would be to lose the checks I've made on myself for epistemic faithfulness. I would probably end up believing a lot of false things and be spiritually matured in an off-balance way, and I would be influenced by my soul's tendency to follow shame rather than conviction.

2) I could diminish the philosophy to exclude the system of days and "roots" so that I simply live on conviction but still hold onto the foundational beliefs and systems which I have created, which would have the benefit of keeping my beliefs in check, but the consequences of developing my personality in a way which would exclude some of the hard work that could be done during the day/root systems.

3) I could simply recognize that my mind, my brain, and even the philosophy are not my own. They were given to me. The only way the philosophy works is because it has methods that make use of truth, and the truth certainly does not belong to me; I just discovered some of it. This benefits of this would be full control and checks on my believing what is true and developing my personality in a way which is truth oriented, the consequences would be that I am prone to idolize the philosophy because it is so helpful, and I am prone to become prideful because, well, I'm me.  But notice here-- the intention of the actual philosophy was not pride. So if I take the truth-seeking prescribed in the plan, I will not. Other consequences of this may be that I become unwilling to relinquish the philosophy when I must, because God has called me to do a certain thing or so. Again, however, this is not a mandate of the philosophy, just a result of my sinful soul.


Although I want everyone's and anyone's advice, now that I've thought through this, I think I'm going to stick with the third option. My pride and possessiveness of this philosophy are not the intentions of the philosophy, and so I will work to not use it as a source of comfort, but rather a directive for my actions.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Emperor has No Clothes

The more I take time to really think through things in life, the more I realize that the "authorities" I was submitting to are nothing more than falsehoods in disguise. One of the recent things I've been discovering, although it's painful to think about it because it has a nature that is very "thought about thought"-ish, or, meta-cognitive, is blowing my mind.

Have you ever noticed how as humans we tend to have several pressures in our minds which cause us to do or believe certain things? The first is conviction-- this is good. Conviction brings new life, doesn't shame, and funnily can easily be ignored. It is a pressure because when we believe we should do something, there is a type of pressure in our minds towards doing it. The next pressure is something which, though I'm still not certain what it is, I'm going to call "sub-conscious pressure". Let me explain.

What I'm calling "sub-conscious" pressure is a pressure which probably results from the overflow of the subconscious nature of our souls. We have levels of consciousness. The first level is the immediate cognitive awareness. That's what we live in. It's the thought-world which is immediately accessible to us. The next level is a little deeper. Have you ever had a thought-- a happy thought, say--and gotten in a good mood of anticipation because of it, and then when something else later occurred to you, you forgot about the thought, but the good mood of anticipation remained? "What was it I was so excited about" you will say. After thinking about it a little bit more, you remember what it was and your good mood is continued and renewed. But it's not like the thought disappeared from your mind. It just slipped into a lower level of consciousness. That's how we can be in bad moods and have no idea why. You're a lot more complex than you think. Some have organized consciousness into categories, which are the categories I'll use to explain this (the Physical, the Consciousness, the pre-conscious, the sub-conscious, and the unconscious.) Think about this. Imagine that deep in your sub-consciousness, you believe that all cats go to heaven. You don't know why you believe it and you have no reasons for it (the real explanation is that when you were a kid your aunt continually told you that little jimmy-cat was going to see you in heaven with all the other cats some day, and you believed it). If this is the case, then when some people claim that cats don't go to heaven, you'll feel an ideological pressure against this idea. "Of course cats go to heaven! Who would think otherwise?" You'll find it hard to take seriously the idea that cats don't go to heaven because it is so real to you that they do. The sub-conscious has effects all the way into the immediate consciousness-- we just don't realize it most of the time.

Now if we as humans have sinful souls, then we would expect our unconscious/sub-consciousness to be of such a nature that it consists of the lack of desire for godliness and very irrational false beliefs. That's exactly what we've got. But if this is the case, when in our sub-consciousness we lack a desire for godliness, but in our immediate consciousness, we want to be godly, we will have a war to fight-- not with other people; not against other false ideologies, but against the falsehoods in our subconsciousness.

But think about this some more. That means that all the times that we get in horribly bad moods, or when we feel we have to submit to false things because they seem so true (like the idea that we are a certain thing because a certain intimidating person says so), we're not fighting against actually true things, we're fighting against contrary beliefs in our subconsciousness. When we suddenly begin to feel like the peace offered by God isn't really peace-- "there's got to be some catch to this", or "right, peace-- but not really", it is not reality we're submitting to, it's the falsehoods of our subconscious. I was listening to "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis yesterday, and I heard a woman in the story say something along the lines of, "As a Christian.. I certainly I forgive him. But there are some things that one can never let go of." This seems a very human tendency-- to treat beliefs as if they are half-way true. She acts as if, yes, rationally, she knows Christianity is true, but she couldn't really act as if it were true. But it's not as if Christianity actually is half true-- if it's true, it's totally true, and it's our job to conform not only our immediate consciousness to it but our whole self to it. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." This is a command to conform one's whole self to truth, not just the immediate thoughts. It's a hard battle but more than worth it.

This sheds a lot of light for me: I remember having so many mental battles with this lingering belief that if Christianity were true I would have to be a young earth creationist, which would be incredibly hard for me because of how much evidence there is against such a view. Or the idea that if Christianity is true evolution simply can't be true. I thought I was fighting against some divinely given reality. Nope. It was my subconscious beliefs hanging in there stubbornly. Or the idea that because I am sort of "bracketing" Christianity right now in order to, as objectively as possible, judge what it really is, and whether I really think it is true immediately means I must be going to hell. The fear and irrationality deep in my subconsciousness took hold of the pure possibilities in my immediate consciousness and turned them into a miserable anxiety.

What we must recognize is that our subconsciousness is not Truth, nor is it God. Just because our subconsciousness is "whispering" something to us doesn't mean that God is telling us something. I say this coming from a bit of a jaded and insensitive attitude, because I am very susceptible to thinking this "whispering" is a source of real divine revelation. Well, God has whispered me into a lot of sin and bad decisions if that is the case!  We must judge what is true via our intellect and then apply it all through our levels of consciousness.

So what is Sub-Conscious pressure? It is the pressure we feel as our sub-conscious attempts to contradict our immediate consciousness with painful fear, overwhelming feelings, or logical force. Our job is to submit to rationality, truth, and logic, because if we submit to the overwhelming feelings or beliefs which seem to come out of nowhere and have no logical basis, we only end up submitting to ourselves.


Lastly, this gives us the permission to hold onto truths even when they don't feel true. You know how it doesn't feel true that what that intimidating person said about you doesn't make you who you are? Hold onto the truth-- it's truer than you think. It really doesn't feel true to me a lot of the time that reality is not determined by people. But when I feel like this, it's not like reality is changing, it's that my subconscious is opposing my belief with contrary beliefs and irrationality. My job is to hold on to the truth even when my subconscious contradicts it, in full confidence that my continuing to do so will result in the conforming of my subconsciousness to truth.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm thankful for Mental Strength

I feel like a little kid playing with a new toy! Ever since I've really been challenging myself to think extrovertedly, a whole new world of information and awareness has opened up to me. I never understood how people could keep track of so many things outside of themselves in their head-- for instance, pilots. I used to want to be a pilot. But when I realized how many things there are the keep track of, I realized there was no way I would be able to do it. But now that I've forced myself to think in such a way, I feel my mind has become more powerful. I don't want to worship the human mind at all, for surely everything we have we have received, but I'm very thankful for my mind today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Perspective

There are many different ways to look at the same thing. Life as a whole, for example, can be seen in many ways. It seems there are three main ways to look at it: The victim way, the privileged way, and the oblivious way.

The "victim way" seems to be the one a lot of Americans hold to. The mindset consists of strains of ideas like "Life will always fail you", or "You never get a free lunch". Or, more specifically, it's this type of skepticism towards life which consists of the expectation that everything will fail a person. When something bad happens, these kinds of people are those who say, "I knew it." These are the people who focus on all the suffering in life, all of the imperfection, all of the failure, and say, "see, this is life. Optimistic people are just plain ignorant." Even more specifically, it is a mindset which actively seeks out the lack in situations or the privation in things, and dwells on it. This kind of person is almost always dissatisfied; always looking for the perfect situation but they never find it, because as soon as they do find something, they look for a lack in it so that it will fit their preconception of life. These types of people are usually very good at critical thinking, noticing errors, fixing problems, and improving systems.

The "oblivious" person is a good nature-d person who doesn't think very critically about things and is ignorant about much of the suffering in life and even the bald-faced problems of his or her friends. But even when the oblivious person does encounter a small amount of suffering, he or she still finds a reason to be thankful. This person is very good at encouraging other people, but others of a different mindset find that his or her reason for being happy don't seem good at all, and thus the oblivious person is made to look like a fool with his head in the sand. From what I know, the oblivious nature, upon encountering face to face much of the suffering in life, tends to become a victim type because of being overwhelmed by the power of pain.

The "privileged" view is a medium between the two above. Let's face it. Almost no person is naturally this view. The privileged person is an incisively critical thinker but has a joy lying deep beneath her countenance which gives her the ability to be thankful for many things. The privileged view takes the truth from the "victim" view and the attitude from the "oblivious" view, and brings them together. To the oblivious person, this type would say, "I love your attitude, but you really need to consider that reality is a lot more complicated and broken than you think." To the "victim" person, this type would say, "I see the truth in what you say makes this life negative. But have you considered that bad is only a corruption of good? And for bad to exist, there must be good? Have you looked at your wife, despite her faults, and seen the glory beneath them all? Have you been thankful for the fact that you have arm and leg, breath and beating heart? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a baby? Have you ever seen the sunrise; actually perceived it?"  The privileged view has a lot going for it. I think we should all seek to be it.


I've been thinking about the main truths of this privileged view. Suffering and evil only exists because good exists. Necessarily, so, given that the definition of evil and bad is the privation of a due good. Given that this is the case, I want to shift my thinking. There are so many good things in this life that the bad things don't compare. Dissatisfaction isn't due to external circumstances, it is a mindset. I have taken the path from oblivious to victim, and I feel myself slowly coming towards "privileged". I just need truth to back it up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Update

Recently I've realized that one of my character flaws has been brought about: Pride. In my conversations with my parents, old friends, and etc., I see this emotional irritability come out when I am made into something less desirable in the ego sphere of human desire-- or, in other words, when I get insulted, shown wrong, slighted, or made a fool of. I can't bear it. It's been easy up at college because all of my friends that aren't my roommates, suite mates, or older friends, are polite to me (I say I want to see their bad sides, for the sake of having deep friendships, but maybe I've asked for too much, or, maybe not), but when I get back home and see people who aren't afraid of losing their friendship with me (or know it's just not going to happen), or just genuinely don't care what I think, I get insulted and made fun of-- whether it's in a good nature or not, it still hurts for some reason.

Now I've talked over and over again about the fact that what people think about me doesn't determine who I am. Of course it doesn't. The idea that who I am is determined by people is ridiculous. But since there are so many dimensions to our souls and selves, often we have a tendency to take one dimension of our existence and think that it says everything about who we are, just because one person brought our attention to it: A track runner says to a mathematician with a low self esteem, "You're really bad at running." The Mathematician feels painful emotions inside consequently, as a result of the fact that he allowed one person's interpretation of his existence to determine all that he thought about himself. That's dumb. He's also really good at math, eats lunch at subway on Sundays, and has hairy feet. So what? No. We shouldn't do that. We shouldn't let what other people interpret us as be our interpretation of ourselves.

The reason I get into all this is because I'm wondering if my anger at these slights is based on a low self esteem or just anger at injustice. At times I feel that I get angry people who ignorantly say something crass about me not because I think it makes me that, but because they have no idea what they are talking about and don't deserve to be saying such things. Or perhaps I get angry because I haven't truly thought about who I really am, and I've been allowing other people to tell me who I am all my life, when it's time for me to decide. I notice that I tend to live often in what the philosopher Heidegger would call the "they" or the world of public interpretedness of reality, rather than living in my own authentic state of being and truth, but that being that case, of course I will become upset when other people say something negative about me. I have to defend my desirability in the ego-space, or, the theyness. But why is it important that I defend my reputation in other people's minds? Is it because I think who I am is dependent upon others' minds? If that is the case, my thinking is horribly flawed. Maybe it's because I don't know what to think about myself. All I know of me is a group of good qualities mixed with a bunch of bad qualities and tendencies. Surely I can come to some opinion of myself without others telling me what to think? Or can I?


Regardless, this has been good practice with relationships. If I can handle this kind of stuff and be calm, surely that's a step towards handling marriage.


I've been practicing my extroverted thinking. It's amazing to me what a flaw I've had. I have such a hard time setting meetings with people and making future plans because my mind has a hard time thinking about these things in relation to other people (which explains the fact that I have an  incredibly hard time coming up with fun dates with girls, as experience has borne out). But as I've forced myself more and more, my mind has opened up into new realms. Also, I have more to write about problems I've discovered in my psyche as a direct result of weak extroverted thinking, including shame, anxiety, lack of thought, and shyness. I can't wait to grow out of this.

I just read a book called, "You're Not as Crazy as I Think" by Randal Rauser. It's really good, and it works to debunk the way humans alienate others of different opinions, how Evangelical Christianity tends to indoctrinate its members, and how we can learn to pursue truth together no matter what worldview we hold. I'm planning on writing a review of it.

Lastly, I feel like I've been growing out of a mindset which has prohibited me from growing spiritually by dealing with certain temptations. All my life I thought that my abstinence from sex outside of marriage, alcohol, and offending other people was just because I was a good person. Well, that's false. It's because I was scared of people and I was a slave to their approval. Now that I beginning to not give a crap about what people think, these things are becoming a temptation. Not that I really want alcohol; the stuff's disgusting, except, of course, a good glass of wine. But I say abstinence for my life, until further notice. The thing is, though, that this is actually a temptation now. I never wanted alcohol before, or let's say I never even entertained the possibility, because then people would disapprove of me. But now I don't care what they think. Every guy naturally wants sex, of course. The problem has become that I am no longer afraid of disapproval of people, so sex outside of marriage is only as bad as the thing itself is, rather than the heap of disapproval that would come from our society being added to it. I would love to say that I trust myself to always feel the infinite importance of faithfulness to one's wife before marriage, but I've really just got to be honest and admit that I'm not always going to be living in that sphere of reality before I get married, and so precautions need to be taken. I need to be very careful around the women I spend time with, not provoking any kind of attraction or unnecessarily flirtatious behavior unless I am planning on pursuing her. With regards to dating and how I'll handle that, well, I don't even know. Cross that bridge when it comes. Drugs have never been a temptation for me; I have no idea why I would ever rationally choose to take them. Also I feel a lot more anger. I don't know where it came from. Perhaps it's that I don't care if people disapprove of my anger anymore.

Yes, I consider this a good thing. If the only thing keeping me from doing all these things was fear of people, that was not goodness, it was fear. I would rather do these things without fear than have fear prevent me from ever doing anything in life. But now that I do experience the temptations, life is going to get tough. I feel like part of me is developing that should have developed three or four years ago, but heck, I'm glad for it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

INFJ and Introverted Thinking

I've recently realized something that I think is incredibly important to my development as a person. The past week or so I have been distraught about how ignorant I am and how incapable of proper thinking my personality type seems to be. I spend most of my time with my friend Jordan who is a literal genius, and I often feel quite inferior to him with regards to the power his mind has and how quickly he thinks of things that take me a much longer time to think about. I'm ok with it, of course (I think?), I mean, just because you're not the smartest person on earth doesn't mean you can't be a philosophy seeker. But now that I think about it more, I'm starting to think that I have over-simplified the problem.

I am an INFJ/(P on a good day) personality type. I am thankful to be this, because apparently it is least common, and hey, everyone loves to be unique, eh? But like my favorite band Switchfoot says, "Every blessing comes with a set of curses".  The most powerful and unique parts of the INFJ personality type are also the biggest curses for the INFJ in every day life.

These are some of the problems I tend to struggle with in everyday life:

1) I am often so caught up with the theorizing process going on in my head that I am completely oblivious to the external world outside me.

2) Not only do I ignore the external world, but I also ignore all people external to me in my thinking. Oh, I listen to you-- I'll cry with you, I'll care for you. But as soon as you try to start putting ideas in my head or acting as if your ideas are superior to mine, I will reject you and your beliefs. I don't want to hear it-- I've got my own theories and I've thought about them and they work for me. I honestly have a hard time listening to anyone but myself. I don't trust anybody else.

3) I have a very hard time applying what I've cooked up in my head to reality outside me. The extrapolation doesn't seem to catch. I spend so much time in my head thinking about things, gathering information, and making sure it fits inside my theories that I honestly am at a loss for usefulness when it comes to thinking about my ideas like they actually correspond to reality (it's almost as if there is a distinction between the reality in my head and the reality I project outside). Here's a practical example: I'm in a gas station with some friends trying to decide what to get as a snack. I start thinking: "Ok, what do I want? If I can figure this out, I can have a better chance at finding out what I should get. Ok, I only have a few hours till dinner, so I don't want to get anything that would fill me up too... too.. wait, what? ahhh lost the train of thought. Ok, what was I thinking about again?" Repeat two times, and eventually decide to just get what friends get. My mind is just not very good at directing its critical thinking skills towards interaction with the external world-- I want to keep my intellect inside, not expose pearls before the "swine" of the "outside".

I have found an explanation of this. The INFJ personality type has not only Introverted Intuition but also Introverted Thinking. This means that the things mentioned above are exactly what you would expect if one's thinking and intuition are directed towards the inner self, not the outer world. My friend Jordan, who is an INTJ, has an extroverted thinking function, which is apparently the most powerful part of his personality type. His mind is geared for directing his thinking towards the outer world, and so he is one of those people who will automatically come up with practical and penetrating insights about things outside of him without much effort at all. I can come up to him after having thought very carefully about a certain theory of human nature/sin/desire, etc., and when I tell him about it, he asks me, "did you look in any peer reviewed journals, encyclopedias, or read any books about it?" When I say "No", he looks at me like I just claimed I figured out what it was like to walk around on the moon by thinking about it carefully. He is very oriented towards checking his theories with the external concrete facts. I have to say that his personality comes built in with a lot more intellectual humility, and the INFJ personality type can tend to be slightly arrogant.

The INFJ personality type, from what I have observed about myself at least, is typically the one seen as the "dumb blonde", or the one who has no idea what is going on around him or her, or in other words is so preoccupied with his or her head that they're flippant with regards to anything else. At least that's how I've always been my whole life. The reason for this is the lack of the ability to direct the pure genius of the INFJ introverted thinking towards the immediate outer world.

This explains why I have so much trouble with probabilities. Ask me why I know at any given moment there are other people picking their nose on the earth, or and as I look inside my mind to find why I know this, I can't find any reason for it and I really struggle with it.  I have a very hard time grasping concepts as the relate to the immediate external world. Ask me to explain why I hold a certain belief and I have no idea what to say-- it makes sense in my head!

Another interesting fact is this: this seems to explain my tendency towards "faithlessness"-- at least that's what my suite-mates call it. It's my tendency to question everything I encounter. I have a hard time projecting my beliefs onto reality. I think my mind often wants to just allow other people's projections onto reality to take my mind's place, so I can just ride on other people's confidence. It is easy for me to continually resort to examining the nature of an idea because it doesn't seem to be easy to project it onto reality for me, whereas if it were easy for me to project it onto reality, I wouldn't question it so much. But as it is, I have an idea-world in my mind and it is much more comfortable for me to continue analyzing my ideas inside rather than taking them and actively applying them to reality. This means it's time for me to ask myself whether my continual doubts about God's existence are truly rational or whether they come from a flaw in my personality type, or even if they come from sin (I should always be asking myself that).

But here's the part where one has to change. I can't live all of my life like this. Nor do I have to. I know that the human mind is incredibly powerful and adaptive. So this is my solution. If the problem is that I have a very hard time applying my introverted philosophical conclusions to concrete reality, then it means that I need to practice extroverted thinking more. It means that for every 10 minutes of introverted theorizing I do, I need to do at least two minutes of extroverted practical concrete application.

I practiced this today while I went on a hike with my suite-mates from college. It was incredibly hard, and now I realizing how disabling this weakness really is. But I know what I need to do, and I'm resolved to do it.