Monday, February 27, 2017

Science Deniers Have Some Bases

For most of my adult life, I have been a scientist doing science.  I worked at U of AL for 32 years as a professor, and unbeknownst to many, they paid me CHIEFLY not to teach, but to do and publish research.

I not only did research, but endeavored to teach others to do it as well.  Part of being a scientist involves "peer review".  Peer review is the process wherein scientific reports are reviewed by other scientists prior to publication.

Well, seeing the sausage made changes your view.  I am much MORE skeptical of scientific "findings" than I was in my pre-scientist life.

Why am I so skeptical?  Here are some reasons:
  1. The proliferation of science "publications", now means that even very bad science can be published.  Somone discovered that University profs are willing to pay to get their papers published (thereby earning tenure) so entrepreneurs quickly founded dozens of bogus journals so all the profs could get tenure.  I have had some personal NEGATIVE experiences with these.  Because the journal only gets paid if the paper gets published, they will publish some very bad science.
  2. I review scientific papers for a number of journals.  Most of these can be corrected to result in pretty good science, but some cannot be salvaged.  Those unsalvageable papers will likely wind up being published somewhere.  It's jsut the nature of the business.
  3. I occasionally run across a paper in a good journal with legitimate reviews that is fatally flawed anyway.  E.g. the most prestigious journal in my field published a paper from Johns Hopkins will a slew of authors, including a statistician, that failed to account for differences in measurement resulting in a WRONG conclusion.
  4. Funded research often only gets on-going funding if an anticipated result is found.  Consequently there is ENORMOUS pressure to "fudge" the outcome to "find" what the research team wants to find.  This is "science fraud" and it is being discovered with increasing frequency.

Well, I could go on, but hopefully you get the point.  There is a LOT of wrong science out there.  Even if NONE of the above occurs, there are disparate outcomes for the same research question by legitimate, good researchers.  We HOPE that wrong science eventually gets corrected, but the catch is, we don't always recognize wrong science for many years.

So, here's my conclusion.   Generally OLD science is pretty trustworthy, but NEW science- keep your skepticism in place.  It is well placed.  So, whereas I don't believe the world is flat, I am skeptical of a lot of modern science.

How about you?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Haters Gonna Hate

At the time of this writing, it is mid-January, before the inauguration of President-elect, Donald Trump.  For those around the world, the bitter divide between Clinton-supporters and Trump-toleraters, is deep and clear.

One of the charges leveled against Mr. Trump is that he is sexist, and some say racist.  Some of his opponents express their profound intolerance of Mr. Trump's alleged intolerance.

This presents an interesting conundrum.  If I HATE people who appear biased against certain groups, am I not committing the same sin as they?  Perhaps I should say it again.  If, as a Hispanic (in Spanish countries, my name would be "Bishop de Diaz"), I am deeply angered by those with prejudice against Hispanics, am I not equally guilty of the same thing they are doing?

This presents a mental challenge.  Isn't it just WRONG to be racist, or sexist, or anti-gay?  It seems that way, but how I deal with this issue is important.  In combating it, I can commit it.

The title of this post is an example.  A slogan arising in the last 8-10 years is, "Haters Gonna Hate".  Don't you just hate that?  But, if I hate Haters, doesn't that make me a Hater too?

Yes, but being on my side of the hating makes it okay- at least to me.  Ah, so I get to decide who is worthy of being hated and who is not.  Pretty biased and arbitrary isn't it?


Another old slogan from the past, "What would Jesus do?"

Jesus was hated to the point of crucifixion.  How did He respond?

I suggest we think about that.  Hard to go wrong, trying to imitate Jesus.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Elvis and Jesus

Yesterday, Brenda and I and some friends enjoyed a 90-min concert by an Elvis impersonator.  The young 19-year-old, Taylor Rodriguez favored Elvis Presley quite a bit.  His voice was also pretty good. When Taylor sang Gospel songs, he sounded quite like Elvis.

So, this young fellow, with terrific stage presence and confidence, wore Elvis-like clothes, sang Elvis songs, walked into the crowd and passed out sweat-dampened scarves like the original. He was a pretty convincing imitator.

Which got me thinking. Who do I want to emulate?

Well, the answer is either: a squirrel or Jesus (if you don't know that joke, I can share it privately- it's pretty good).

So just HOW do I go about imitating Jesus. There's no real point in dressing like him, or growing out my beard- which would also mean I need a dye job.  I am not interested in looking like Him physically, I AM interested in looking like him in my actions.

What did Jesus do? He loved people- enough to sacrifice his own life.  I can do that. Will I?

He spoke the truth. I can do that. Will I?

He taught so much he was called "rabbi" (teacher). I can do that. Will I?

He performed miracles. I can do that. Will I?  Wait, you say, You can't really do miracles!

Wait, I say, I can and so can you.  Whereas we might not can turn water into wine, we can indeed influence hearts and heads to relate personally to the True and Living G^d- a miracle!  We can feed the poor and heal the sick- perhaps not in a miraculous manner, but the outcome is the SAME! We can live totally committed to The Christ, and we do that, even for a few steps out on the water, we are living miracles!

So, I say forget Elvis!  Lets you and I start imitating Jesus.

So, how's my imitation so far?  I'm still practicing!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Short-timer’s Attitude

I am much impacted by my 12 years in the US Navy.  I recall clearly some of the experiences, lessons, and, indeed, miseries of those days.  I spent time at sea in the Middle East.  I spent 3 of those years flying back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, supporting US submarines in their mission.

One of the memorable traditions was the short-timer’s customs.  In those days, the most common tour of duty was a 4-year hitch.  This means that about half the force would leave over the course of about 6 years, or about 8% of the force left per year, or 1% was leaving about every 6 weeks, so it was a pretty steady event.

It was interesting to observe the different attitudes of “short-timers”.  They didn’t need to plan ahead for their next promotion, or even their next performance evaluation.  They were generally excited about the coming conclusion of their service.  Some kept up their work quality, others didn’t.

I think about short timers a lot these days.  One of these days soon, I too will be a short timer.  MORE importantly, we are ALL short timers.  As I remind myself, and those of you who read this, we don’t have long on this earth.

In the case of Navy Short timers, many of them eagerly anticipated what came next.  Likewise, with us earthly short timers, we have cause to look forward, eagerly, to what comes next.  For many Americans, the here-and-now can be pretty sweet.  Likewise, the career-Navy folks, seemed to enjoy their jobs well enough to stick it out 20 or more years.

But, eventually ALL Navy personnel will leave the USN, and all of us will depart this mortal life.  We are all, and already, short timers.  We will leave this life very soon. 

I am excited about being a short-timer.  I want to work as a career- guy, but need to ALWAYS remember, in everything, I am a short timer.

And so are you.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What’s That?

I learned as a young naval officer that communications is a KEY to leadership.  That was about 47 years ago, and over the years I have seen the truth of that dictum. 

I have been in several leadership positions.  I have probably seen that principle of good communications illustrated most clearly in POOR communications.  Poor communications, assumptions, misunderstandings, cause lots of problems.

A second, related, principle of leadership also came from my time with the military, when I worked with the Marines.  They had a saying, “When we assume something, it makes an ‘ass’ out of “u” & “me”.  And oft times assumptions arise from bad communications.

I was just, in the past few minutes, involved in a personnel issue that seems to have arisen from poor communications and assumptions.  I suspect that my student lost some sleep, and worried needlessly due to the communications glitch.
One simple phone call, that involved clear communications, seems to have resolved the issue.  We shall see.

So, if you want to make things go simpler and better. Practice good, clear, honest communications, and, don’t make assumptions.

Is my communication clear?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

You Can’t Go Home Again

I am pretty sure that “You Can’t Go Home Again” is the title of a famous work of fiction by Thomas Wolfe.  And this is an intriguing topic to Brenda and me right now.

This is intriguing to us, because we have been endeavoring to go home again.  As most readers realize, our home-home is in Northport, AL, near our two daughters and 4 of our grands, and not too far from another son and two more grands.  But our work-home is in Lynchburgh, VA.  For Thanksgiving week, we high-tailed down to AL and had Thanksgiving lunch with our children and grandchildren.  As I write this, we are driving back about 10 hours to VA, having spent 3 weeks in AL.

We greatly enjoyed the visit to home-home, but it did strike us both a bit strangely.  We were in our own house, but we were really not home, we were really VISITING AL.  It was nice to have our own bed and kitchen and garage, and t.v., but we were still visiting.  We kind of expected that this time would  be like previous Christmases, but it wasn’t the same.

Why is this?  I am not altogether sure.  Maybe we are a “couple without a country”.  Maybe the time is too short.  Maybe our minds won’t let us forget that we are “visiting home”, not living there.  But, as I have blogged before, being a visitor is the correct view for Christians.  This earth is Not our home, we are just visiting.

So, G^d is using our strange status to remind us, we are headed for a heavenly home- a home not made with human hands.  We are headed for the ultimate family time- but in heaven, it won’t be for a week or three, it will be for all eternity.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Creation vs. the Super Bowl

One of my friends, Alina, posted on FaceBook that she would NOT be watching the Super Bowl, but instead would take her children out into nature.  I was thinking about the wisdom she shared and had some thoughts I wanted to share. 

I hope all of you with children under 15, will teach your children the names of the trees, the wild things that are safe and good to eat (smilax is my favorite and it is abundant), the Latin names for the animals, and the wonder of the eagle and the sparrow, the deer, the cottontail, and the squirrel. I have such happy memories of these wild things (though I think my own kids occasionally got tired of hearing about all this), and I hope your children do too!

Psalm 19 says, “1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
            And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
      2Day to day pours forth speech,
            And night to night reveals knowledge.”

I missed a lot of the enjoyment of nature this past deer season, as I lost access to my old hunting haunts.  It was a huge loss, a huge loss. I never realized the impact of nature on me, on my thinking, on my personal peace, on my soul.

I hope that doesn’t happen again.

So take a walk in the wild- if you possibly can!  Enjoy what G^d hath done!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Insecurity of Groundhog Day

In the USA today is an auspicious day- Groundhog Day.  According to folklore, today a groundhog will emerge from his underground burrow to predict the weather.  If he sees his shadow, we will have 6 more weeks of Winter, if not, then an early Spring.

Odd, eh?

We all want to know what the future holds, and often what is coming matters more than an early spring.  We fret about all the things that could happen in the future.  We also fret a bit about that may NOT happen.  In the end, either direction, we fret.

Of course, on some level we contribute to (not control) some future events.  Our future savings account balance is partially influenced about how we act, and have acted.  BUT, we don't control interest rates or inflation, so our control of the future balance is limited.

So, today is 2 Jan, as I write this for 2 Feb.  A lot of people have very high hopes that 2017 will be better than 2016,  Hmm, I hope that works out for you.

I don't put much hope in the future, or in my ability to influence it.  The only thing worthy of our hope, the only thing that controls the present or the future is the Sovereign G^d of the Universe. When we are in right relationship with Him, the future holds ONLY promise, without a scintilla of dread.

L^rd, I believe, help Thou my unbelief!