A new excerpt from ‘OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative The

•June 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A new excerpt from ‘OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative available on Kindle from Amazon.com

Long Ago

Abijon looked out over the vast frozen expanse that was their world.  In every direction there was white.  Of course this was not new to his small band.  All they had ever known was white; ice and snow and wind, and more ice.  They had traveled in the northern countries all of their lives, moving ever northward and ever farther away from established civilization.  This had been the pattern of his people for the last 300 years.  What once was a mighty nation of nomadic wanderers had dwindled down to the very few – less than seventy – who had stayed true to their current leader.

Their first prophet, Ahijah, had taken his people from their home almost four centuries ago.  Of course they had never really had much of a home.  Oh, for a while they had lived a glorious life with a mighty king and the hand of their God to protect them.  But selfishness, greed, avarice and plain old lust had done to them what those traits always do to people.  They had lost their king.  They had lost their protection, and their lands, and the ones who stayed behind would be under the rule and subjugation of other nations and other kings for several thousand years to come; so they left.  They went north, they went south, they went east…but mostly they went north.  Everywhere they went some stayed and tried to carve out a life in a strange and often hostile new land.

At each new stop along the way more people decided to stay behind.  Each new valley, each verdant plain offered hope for a new start, a new beginning.  Those who stayed quickly shed their former identities and assimilated into the existing population.  For their leaders, the prophets who urged them onward, this was OK.  They saw the hand of God in all of this.  There was a practical aspect to spreading your seed throughout the world.  It guaranteed survival of the genetic lines, and the irony was not lost on the prophets: for a hated people with no land of their own, they would instead end up in almost all the lands and spread their influence among almost all the people.  Even if they lost their own identity, they would still exist and the prophets knew that one day they would hear the clarion call to reunite, to return home, and to take their place among the mightiest of nations.  All this was according to plan, and all this was in God’s hands.  So Abijon and those who remained with him moved forward in the whiteness of their frozen world.  He wasn’t really sure why they were compelled to move northward but that was where God had told him to go and he wasn’t about to argue with God.

He had a feeling that their journey was almost through, it had to be.  There was precious little left to go to.  Their world was a frozen waste.  Fish and seal meat was their only food and the complaining and questioning from the people was increasing with each step forward. Not unlike our forefathers during the ‘First Provocation’.  He thought to himself, though he did have compassion in his heart for the sufferings they were all going through.

Faith was what propelled Abijon and his small band forward.  He and they knew that God had some plan for them, and they doubted it was to die a cold and miserable death in a frozen wasteland.  Even so, many began to doubt as the food sources got harder and harder to find.  And what of all the extra materials and stuff the prophet had commanded them to bring?  It was one thing to have plenty of fabric for clothing and tents but there was only so much a person could wear and they had all that and much more with them.   The sleds were heavy laden and the effort to drag them across the ice seemed to grow greater as each day passed.  Murmuring began to pass through the ranks, quietly at first but then more and more boldly.  Soon, talk of turning back could be heard, and some openly questioned the wisdom of continuing on.  By the time they got to the portal the only thing that kept most of the people with Abijon was their fear of turning back and wandering alone on the ice.

The portal wasn’t so much a doorway, at least not literally.  In fact no one was really sure what it was.  They had come to a stop at the end of the ice, an edge beyond which there was nothing.  For the last few days they had traveled in a thick fog and the air had seemed to get a little warmer – it was still cold to be sure – but a little less cold than before.  Now they were at some sort of ledge, or cliff, or hole.  The ice seemed to drop off into the fog and no one was really sure where it went.  It seemed a pretty steep precipice and none felt any compulsion to drop down into the unseen chasm below.  They had already passed enough crevasses, (and lost a few people to them) to know that they were inhospitable and uninviting.

This one though seemed different.  For one thing the fog seemed to come up and out from it.  Also, they couldn’t see the other side and no one really knew how big the thing was.  Scouting parties were sent out but no one could find a way around it.  For that matter no one could find the end of it.  This one was different.

Camp was set up and a small tabernacle was erected.  Abijon and the two priests who were still with him began prayers and offered sacrifices according to their practices.  The people could sense that the journey was almost over though they could not figure out how that could be so.  This looked like the end of the world.  There was nowhere else to go.  But this was not a place to call home; this was death.  Is this what it was all about?  They wondered.  Has God led us to this place to perish?  Was this their punishment for all those years of disobedience and faithlessness that had seemed so unimportant then? They knew they worshiped a jealous God, a harsh and unbending God, who had asked many difficult things from them.  But they had also believed in a God that would deliver them and lead them to a better place.  If this was the better place then the scriptures were true that said, “For God’s ways are not man’s ways.”  This was proof that that was so.

They made camp and pondered their future. After three days of purification rites and sacrifices Abijon called the people together.

“My dear brothers and sisters,” he began, “We have come a great distance and have endured many hardships.  We have wandered through many lands and lost many of our brethren in each of them.  We have suffered greatly for our faith.  Today I look out upon the few, the faithful who have stayed with our God for lo, these many years.  We, like Yehoshua’s soldiers, have been sorted and culled out from the rest.  You are the faithful and true, the ones who will continue to serve God.  You are the ones who will form a new nation that will one day restore our people to their proper place among nations.  If not for your faithfulness our people would be lost forever.  Now we have come to the last step.  We have our own River Yarden to cross.  Our promised land lies before us.”

The crowd rustled and some fidgeted nervously. “How can this be?”  Someone shouted.

“We cannot see our promised land.  Where is it?”  Another shouted.  The crowd began to take up the cry and the energy level rose perceptibly.

“Brothers and sisters, please,” Abijon pleaded, “we have come this far.  Do not let your faith fail you now.  Go; gather the cloths and ropes you have brought with you, for now we will see the miracle God has in store for us.”

The crowd murmured as they went to retrieve the materials.  When they had all returned, the men sorted out the fabrics which were then sewn and cut according to Abijon’s directions.  After this, the ropes were unwound to the smaller strands that made them, each rope providing three smaller strands.  These smaller strands were then tied to the huge squares of fabric previously laid out.

The people were confused.  They had never seen tents built like this before; these were far too flimsy.  Everything about what Abijon was asking the people to do was new and confusing; but it was about to get even more confusing… and challenging.

When all the fabrics had been sewn and tied with ropes, Abijon had the individual assemblies distributed to each person.  They were then instructed in the proper manner to attach them to themselves.  No one was really sure what was happening.

Abijon called and assembled them all at the edge of the hole and quoted one last passage out of their holy writings;

“Verily, verily I say unto you, that he who would save his life shall lose it; but he who would lose his life shall save it.”

He said nothing more but looked at each one of them.  They seemed confused.  Nevertheless, they could feel the love he held for them and some felt ashamed for the thoughts and feelings they had been carrying these last few weeks.  He stepped to the edge of the precipice, turned, looked at them one more time, and said, “Come… follow me!”

And with that he jumped, disappearing into the fog.

 

Berlin, the Reichstag, – February 1943

The crisp clicking of boots on the polished tile could be heard at least four doors down the hall as the young aide made his way quickly to the office of the OKW Directorate of Resources – a fancy term for the high command’s accounting department.  Marshall Fiedler, the director of the DOR heard the boots as well and, like everyone else in the office, made a quick check of his uniform coat and tie.  Such urgency always meant a summons to the office of General Wilhelm Keitel, supreme head of the Wehrmacht High Command.  You always made sure you were presentable to a man who reported directly to Hitler himself.  You also made sure the sweat did not gather too prominently on your upper lip.

It was never a good thing when the General wanted to talk to the Director of Accounting.  Money was always an issue to the German High Command and the issue was always that there was never enough of it.

The aide entered the office with the bearing and arrogance of one who knew he was protected by one higher than any of the people he was now standing before.  Marshall Fiedler stood without invitation and prepared to go with the young officer.  A raised hand, however, conveyed the unspoken message that he was not here for the director.

“Major Jürgen Steiner.”  The aide called out.

A secretary silently pointed to a small office off the main salon.  Without acknowledgment the officer proceeded to the entrance of the office of the young accountant.  As soon as he entered the room Major Steiner jumped to his feet.

“Major Steiner?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

The officer reached into the folder tucked under his arm and pulled out a sealed envelope.  It bore the seal of the Führer himself.  He handed it to the stunned accountant and without another word turned smartly and exited the directorate’s offices.  The clicking of his boots as he headed back down the hallway was the only sound heard until it faded away.

Steiner sat back down slowly.  He was in shock.  This was completely outside of protocol and he wasn’t sure what to.  In seconds the doorway to his office was filled with the imposing visage of his boss, Marshall Fiedler.

“Well?” He demanded.

Steiner looked down at the letter and back at his boss.

“It bears the seal of the Führer!”

The director’s first reaction was shock but he quickly regained his composure and snidely remarked, “And what does the Führer want with a sub-level accountant?”

“I, I don’t know sir.”

“Well open it and let’s find out!”

Slowly he broke the seal of the envelope and retrieved the note inside.  His eyes widened as he silently read the message.  He looked at his watch.  Fiedler waited silently.  He was not going to move until he heard what the message was.  This was understood and needed no explanation.

He looked up at his boss.  “It says I am to meet with the Führer in 15 minutes.  What do you think it means?”

The director gave a slight chuckle as he said, “It can’t be anything good.” He turned and laughed as he returned to his own ridiculously spacious and ornately decorated office.

He was right of course.  Hitler was famous for deflecting the blame for his numerous recent missteps to any number of junior officers – those who could be held accountable and who could be quietly made to disappear without too much notice.  Like all truly powerful men, weakness was the one thing Hitler could not display, and accepting responsibility for any of his wrong decisions was anathema.

Jürgen sat there for a minute contemplating his immediate future.  He had lost his wife, Elke, to tuberculosis two years earlier and he was now the sole support for his four year old son, his precious little Andreas, ‘Reios’ he liked to call him.  What would happen to him if Papa suddenly didn’t come home tonight?  And Jürgen knew that was a distinct possibility.  He said a silent prayer, gathered his things and prepared to meet Adolf Hitler face to face.

The long walk down the halls and up the stairs to the offices of the High Command seemed much shorter than he remembered, much like, he assumed, the steps to the gallows traveled by a condemned man on his way to the hangman’s noose. The imagery didn’t seem out of place in this circumstance.  He was a good man; he had always tried to live his life with honor.  His work with the Reichsbank was not by design or desire.  Military service had not been optional in 1938 and he figured if he absolutely had to serve he would at least never have to pull a trigger.  His training as an accountant could – should – keep him out of a foxhole.

Jürgen hated war and thought this was an ambitious but ultimately foolish way to solve Germany’s problems.  It was true that Europe, following France’s lead, had been unwilling to forgive Germany’s World War I debt and had held it over the country’s head for the last twenty years, effectively destroying their economy.  Jürgen, like other Germans, saw no way out from under that burden, but, Germany did not have the resources to take on the world and what had started as a popular movement of the people – the ‘Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,’ commonly called the ‘Nazi Party’ – led by a young and charismatic house painter, had metamorphosed into a vehicle to fulfill the megalomaniacal obsession of a madman, a madman he was now about to face.

He had only been up in these rarefied chambers once before and that was simply to deliver a handful of folders, the contents of which he had not been privy to.  As he entered the executive offices he was once again struck by their opulence and excess.  Suddenly it seemed the war was a million miles away.  Here there was plenty of paper, and typewriters, and all of the myriad things needed to run an efficient office.  Freshly brewed coffee was always available to any of the staff who desired it.  It was rumored that the elegant dining room just down the hall served fresh venison and other delicacies every day.  Indeed, none of the secretaries or other staff he passed looked as if the war had touched them at all.  Things were perfect in this tiny part of Germany.

He walked up to the first secretary of the outermost office that led to the Führer’s office.  Of course a man like the Führer didn’t just have a secretary.  His executive secretary had her own offices and a staff of lesser secretaries at her beck and call.  Past the first set of doors he walked into a larger and more ornate room occupied by three hard working, and very lovely secretaries.  Good to see that Hitler had an eye for pretty ladies – there had been rumors.  From here he was passed to the next room where Hitler’s personal secretary, Traudl Humps, ruled.  At 22 she was pretty and the youngest of Hitler’s secretaries, but nevertheless a formidable presence. Some in the office suspected her of enjoying a ‘special relationship’ with the Führer but years later in an interview she revealed that she always regarded him as a father figure (Indeed, just months later she married a Waffen SS Officer, Hans-Hermann Junge).  She greeted the young Major politely, checked his letter and bade him stay while she checked with her boss.  She returned a moment later.

“Right this way Major Steiner.  When you enter do not speak until spoken to and do not sit until invited to do so.”

“Yes ma’am.”  He took a deep breath, unconsciously brushed his hair back, straightened his uniform coat, and entered the lair of the most notorious and evil man in the world.

 

The Present

It had been a grueling and unbelievable four weeks; Jordan Ballard’s entire life had been turned upside down.  Besides nearly being shot, blown up, drowned and kidnapped (twice), everything he thought he understood about the world had been challenged.  His life would never again be the same, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing…just different.

He had survived; his mission completed.  Now he had a little down time and he was going to take advantage of that.  He understood that in times of great change comfort is often found in doing something normal, even mundane, and he really needed to feel normal for just a little bit longer, so this weekend was it.  He was flying down to Atlanta to take in a Hawks game with his best friend Peter Nolan.

The Cessna 185 he was flying was one of his most prized possessions.  It had been his father’s since new and Jordan had grown up flying with his dad to all sorts of interesting places, mostly grass and dirt strips in the mountains or to other out of the way destinations.  He loved getting away from it all and was as comfortable landing on narrow dirt roads as he was landing on nice paved runways.

Today’s trip was going to last about 3½ hours, which was fine with Jordan.  He valued the journey as much as the destination. He had been airborne for about an hour and was checking out some unexplored areas of North Carolina’s western mountains when he caught a glint of sunlight off of another aircraft in the distance.  He couldn’t quite make out what kind of aircraft it was but it seemed to be moving pretty quickly and it appeared to be converging with his flight path. Apparently the other pilot hadn’t seen him yet so it would be up to him to avoid a possible collision.

Jordan turned the Cessna 20 degrees to the left.  That should have been enough to get out of the way, but the other craft turned in response so that a collision was still imminent.  Jordan pulled back on the control wheel and climbed 500 feet but the other craft again followed his actions.  He squinted against the bright sunlight to get a better glimpse of this guy.  He still couldn’t make out the type of aircraft but it was definitely getting closer.  He decided to dive out of the way and pushed hard on the wheel.  The airplane nosed down and Jordan lost a 1,000 feet in a matter of seconds, but again, the craft mimicked his actions.  This was getting serious now.  It appeared to Jordan that this guy was intentionally coming after him.  He waited till the craft got closer before trying to evade it any further.  Jordan finally got a good look at the other craft and his jaw dropped; this was no airplane coming after him.  It had no wings and no propeller or visible engine.  It was oblate and smooth, similar to the ones he had just seen over the last few weeks.  It was slightly different, but definitely what most people would call a UFO; a “Flying Saucer”.  Jordan knew better, now, what these were but that didn’t give him any comfort.  This guy was after him and he realized instantly that his little Cessna was no match for the threatening craft.  He would do the best he could but it was clear to him that he was probably going to lose this fight.

The craft came rushing at him from the 2:00 o’clock position and pulled up just slightly so as to miss him –barely – as it sped overhead.  The Cessna bounced in the churning air left in its wake and Jordan fought to regain control.  He lifted a wing and looked out the left window to follow the craft as it made an impossibly sharp turn to the left and back around to come at him from the rear.  He didn’t know what to do so he just held on.  The craft came roaring by just overhead again.  Jordan banked hard to the right to pull away but he knew his efforts were futile.  There was no way the 185 could possibly out maneuver this thing.  Once more the craft spun around and came right at him head on.  He dove down and to the right, but again, the craft was able to copy his moves precisely.  They continued the battle like this for a few minutes but it wasn’t really a dog fight; Jordan had no weapons and he knew the other craft could knock him out of the air at any moment. This was ‘Cat and Mouse’ and it was just a matter of time before the pilot of the UFO grew tired of playing with him and went in for the kill.

A moment later it moved around, more slowly this time, and came up behind him.  Jordan jinked left, then right, then left again, but it was no use; the craft was on his tail now and it was not going to leave.

This is it, he thought.  He was about to be shot down, or whatever the thing was going to do to bring down his airplane, and all he could do was hang on.  He didn’t have to wait long.  After just a few seconds he felt a strange pulse run through the airplane, and through him.  Suddenly all was quiet except for the rushing wind; all his instruments and, more importantly, the engine went dead.  Nothing he could do would bring the Continental IO-520 motor back to life.  He was now a glider, and the terrain below was solid forest.

Scanning the ground below, he suddenly realized that the other craft had cleverly maneuvered him away from any roads and open clearings where he might have been able to make a safe emergency landing.  Instead, he was going to have to put his plane into the trees.

How cunning of that Bastard, he thought.  He is going to make this look like a simple engine failure and crash.  He realized that, if he didn’t survive this, no one would ever know, or suspect, that he had been forced down by a flying saucer.

Jordan did have one advantage that the enemy hadn’t taken into consideration – he was a very good and very experienced pilot. He had trained himself to stay very calm under extreme circumstances.  His dad had taught him well and he knew that most aircraft accident deaths occurred because the pilot simply gave up at the last moment, being unable to purposely guide a plane into whatever it was going to hit.  This always led to worse crashes.  If Jordan could just maintain control of the plane all the way to the ground, even if that ground was covered in trees, he had a chance.  He needed to find a stand of the youngest, and therefore smallest, trees – trees that would bend and break- and guide the plane into them, being sure to keep the nose of the plane between the trunks so that he could rip off the wings, and gear, and tail, first.  This would serve to decelerate the plane in increments instead of all at once, thus allowing for his possible survival.  He was aware that the other craft was flying in tight formation with him, watching as he descended, but he concentrated on the emergency at hand and prepared for the crash.

Just like WWII fighter jocks following their prey into the ground to verify the kill, he thought to himself.  You sick bastard.

Even though he had slowed the plane down to about 60 mph, the initial impact was harder than he had anticipated.  The wings ripped off with the first impact and the rest of the plane continued on; it was now at the mercy of the trees.  There was nothing more Jordan could do; he was just a passenger.  The fuselage rolled on to its side.  The left gear ripped off followed by the horizontal stabilizer, but by now all Jordan was aware of was the steady and continuous smashing of tree branches against what was left of the plane.  It rolled upside down and smashed headlong into the trunk of a larger tree, coming to a jarring stop.  It was over.  The dust hanging in the air was the only sign now that anything was amiss.  Jordan was hanging upside down in his seat belt harness, unconscious and bleeding.

The other craft came in low and hovered over the fallen plane for a moment before lifting straight up and then suddenly darting off at impossible speed.

The forest was quiet now except for the excited chirped alarms of the chipmunks and squirrels that had just had their space invaded by the torn and mangled Cessna.

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OCULUS excerpt

•May 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

‘OCULUS’ Excerpt 

The Present

It had been a grueling and unbelievable four weeks.  Besides nearly being shot, blown up, drowned and kidnapped…twice, Jordan Ballard’s entire life had been turned upside down; everything he thought he understood about the world had been challenged.  His life would never again be the same, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing…just different.

He had survived, his mission completed; now he had a little down time and he was going to take advantage of that.  He understood that in times of great change comfort is often found in doing something normal, even mundane, and he really needed to feel normal for just a little bit longer, so this weekend was it.  He was flying down to Atlanta to take in a Hawks game with his best friend Peter Nolan.

The Cessna 185 he was flying was one of his most prized possessions.  It had been his father’s since new and Jordan had grown up flying with his dad to all sorts of interesting places, mostly grass and dirt strips in the mountains or to other out of the way places.  The tail wheel configuration of the landing gear and the powerful 300 hp engine made the 185 a favorite with bush pilots because of its load carrying ability and its ruggedness on rough strips.  Jordan loved getting away from it all and was as comfortable landing on narrow dirt roads as he was landing on nice paved runways.

Today’s trip was going to last about 3½ hours, which was fine with Jordan.  He valued the journey as much as the destination; he loved flying low over ridges and forests, seeing what was over the next hill and exploring areas not normally seen from the interstate or from an airliner.

He had been airborne for about an hour and was checking out some unexplored areas of North Carolina’s western mountains when he caught a glint of sunlight off of another aircraft in the distance.  He couldn’t quite make out what kind of aircraft it was but it seemed to be moving pretty quickly and it appeared to be converging with his flight path.  He watched for a minute more before deciding that he needed to turn a bit to avoid coming too close to it.  Apparently the other pilot hadn’t seen him yet so it would be up to him to avoid a possible collision.  Mid-air collisions are one of the things that pilots dread most, for the obvious reason that they are generally not survivable, but also because an aircraft on a collision course is extremely hard to see.  An aircraft not on a collision course will move across the field of vision and against the background, making it easy to spot, whereas a plane on a collision course will appear as nothing more than a stationary – and tiny – spot that slowly grows bigger.  It was pretty clear that this guy was coming right at Jordan.

He turned the Cessna 20° to the left.  That should have been enough to get out of the way, but the other craft seemed to turn also so that the collision was still imminent.  Jordan pulled back on the control wheel and climbed 500’ but the other craft again followed his actions.  He squinted against the bright sunlight to get a better glimpse of this guy.  He still couldn’t make out the type of aircraft but it was definitely getting closer.  He decided to dive out of the way and pushed hard on the wheel.  The airplane nosed down and Jordan lost a 1,000’ in a matter of seconds, but again, the craft mimicked his actions.  This was no longer fun and games; this was serious.  It appeared to Jordan that this guy was intentionally coming after him.  He waited till the craft got closer before trying to evade it any further.  Then his jaw dropped; this was no airplane coming after him.  It had no wings, and no propeller or jet engine.  It was oblate and smooth, similar to the ones he seen over the last few weeks.  It was slightly different, but definitely what most people would call a UFO; a “Flying Saucer”.  Jordan knew better, now, what these were but that didn’t give him any comfort.  This guy was after him and he realized instantly that his little Cessna was no match for the threatening craft.  He would do the best he could but it was clear to him that he was probably going to lose this fight.

The craft came rushing at him from the 2:00 o’clock position and pulled up just slightly so as to miss him –barely – as it sped overhead.  The Cessna bounced in the churning air left in its wake and Jordan fought to regain control.  He lifted a wing and looked out the left window to follow the craft as it made an impossibly sharp turn to the left and back around to come at him from the rear.  He didn’t know what to do so he just held on.  The craft came roaring just overhead again.  Jordan banked hard to the right to pull away but he knew his efforts were futile.  There was no way the 185 could possibly out maneuver this thing.  Once more the craft spun around and came right at him head on.  He dove down and to the right, but again, the craft was able to copy his moves precisely.  They continued the battle like this for a few minutes but it wasn’t really a dog fight; Jordan had no weapons and he knew the other craft could knock him out of the air at any moment.

This was ‘Cat and Mouse’ and it was just a matter of time before the pilot of the UFO grew tired of playing with him and went in for the kill.  It moved around, more slowly this time, and came up behind him.  Jordan jinked left, then right, then left again, but it was no use; the craft was on his tail now and it was not going to leave.  This is it! He thought; he was about to be shot down, or whatever the thing was going to do to bring down his airplane, and all he could do was hang on.  He didn’t have to wait long.  After just a few seconds he felt a strange pulse run through the airplane, and trough him.  Suddenly all was quiet except for the rushing wind; all his instruments, and more importantly, the engine went dead.  Nothing he could do would bring the Continental IO-520 motor back to life.  He was now a glider, and the terrain below was solid forest.  Scanning the ground below, he suddenly realized that the other craft had cleverly maneuvered him away from any roads and open clearings where he might have been able to make a safe emergency landing.  Instead, he was going to have to put his plane into the trees.

How cunning of that Bastard.  He though.  He is going to make this look like a simple engine failure and crash.  He realized that, if he didn’t survive this, no one would ever know, or suspect, that he had been forced down by a flying saucer.

Jordan did have one advantage that the enemy hadn’t taken into consideration – he was a very good and experienced pilot, and very calm under extreme circumstances.  His dad had taught him well and he knew that most aircraft accident deaths occurred because the pilot simply gave up at the last moment, being unable to purposely guide a plane into whatever it was going to hit.  This always led to worse crashes.  If Jordan could just maintain control of the plane all the way down to the ground, even if that ground was covered in trees, he had a chance.  He needed to find a stand of the youngest, and therefore smallest, trees – trees that would bend and break- and guide the plane into them, being sure to keep the nose of the plane between the trunks so that he could rip off the wings, and gear, and tail, first.  This would serve to decelerate the plane in increments instead of all at once, thus allowing for his possible survival.  He was aware that the other craft was flying in tight formation with him, watching as he descended, but he concentrated on the emergency at hand and prepared for the crash.

Just like WWII fighter jocks following their prey into the ground to verify the kill.  He thought to himself.  You sick bastard.

Even though he had slowed the plane down to about 60mph, the initial impact was harder that he had anticipated.  The wings ripped off with the first impact and the rest of the plane continued on; it was now at the mercy of the trees.  There was nothing more Jordan could do; he was just a passenger.  The fuselage rolled on to its side.  The left gear ripped off followed by the horizontal stabilizer, but by now all Jordan was aware of was the steady and continuous smashing of tree branches against what was left of the plane.  It rolled upside down and smashed headlong into the trunk of a larger tree, coming to a jarring stop; it was over.  The dust hanging in the air was the only sign now that anything was amiss.  Jordan was hanging upside down in his seat belt harness, unconscious and bleeding.

The other craft came in low and hovered over the fallen plane for a moment before lifting straight up and then suddenly darting off at impossible speed.

The forest was quiet now except for the excited chirping alarms of the chipmunks and squirrels that had just had their space invaded by the torn and mangled Cessna.

Long Ago

Abijon looked out over the vast frozen expanse that was their world.  In every direction there was white.  Of course this was not new to his small band.  All they had ever known was white; ice and snow and wind, and more ice.  They had traveled in the northern countries all of their lives, moving ever northward and ever farther away from established civilization.  This had been the pattern of his people for the last 300 years.  What once was a mighty nation of nomadic wanderers had dwindled down to the very few – less than seventy – who had stayed true to their current leader.

Their first prophet, Ahijah, had taken them from their home so many years ago.  Of course they had never really had much of a home.  Oh, for a while they had lived a glorious life with a mighty king and the hand of their God to protect them.  But selfishness, greed, avarice and plain old lust had done to them what those traits always do to people.  They had lost their king.  They had lost their protection, and their lands, and the ones who stayed behind would be under the rule and subjugation of other nations and other kings for several thousand years to come; so they left.  They went north, they went south, they went east, but mostly they went north.  Everywhere they went some stayed and tried to carve out a life in a strange and often hostile new land.

At each new stop along the way more people decided to stay behind.  Each new valley, each verdant plain offered hope for a new start, a new beginning.  Those who stayed quickly shed their former identities and assimilated into the existing population.  For their leaders, the prophets who urged them onward, this was OK.  They saw the hand of God in all of this.  There was a practical aspect to spreading your seed throughout the world.  It guaranteed survival of the genetic lines, and the irony was not lost on the prophets: for a hated people with no land of their own, they would instead end up in almost all the lands and spread their influence among almost all the people.  Even if they lost their own identity, they would still exist and the prophets knew that one day they would hear the clarion call to reunite, to return home, and to take their place among the mightiest of nations.  All this was according to plan, and all this was in God’s hands.  So Abijon and those who remained with him moved forward in the whiteness of their frozen world.  He wasn’t really sure why they were compelled to move northward but that was where God had told him to go and he wasn’t about to argue with God.

He had a feeling that their journey was almost through, it had to be.  There was precious little left to go to.  Their world was a frozen waste.  Fish and seal meat was their only food and the complaining and questioning from the people was increasing with each step forward. Not unlike our forefathers during the ‘First Provocation’.  He thought to himself, though he did have compassion in his heart for the sufferings they were all going through.

As the climate turned more hostile, and the conditions more and more severe, the clamor from some to seek out and return to the warmer, and greener, lands their parents had spoken of grew louder and louder.  Abijon understood that this was just human nature.  People, he knew, almost universally suffered from situational myopia; the inability to project or see beyond the immediate circumstance.  It pained him that many did not have the faith he had because he knew that often the greatest struggle a man could have was the struggle between desire and faith.  This was the eternal battle, the struggle between the natural man who wanted what his urges, instincts and genetically programmed desires wanted, and the spiritual man who longed for loftier goals on a higher plane.  But the things of God were not things that could be easily seen.  They required faith, the belief in the unseen but hoped for ‘better place’.

Faith was, oddly enough, the one trait that had propelled all of their kind forward.  It had taken them out of the caves and into the cities.  It had turned tribes into communities, then countries, and then into civilizations, and it was propelling knowledge of the world forward.  It was faith that made people pursue knowledge and seek understanding of things they saw and observed.  The ‘what’ that they saw needed an explanation, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, for them to feel complete.  This is what built civilizations.

Abijon thought of how for centuries people had observed that the moon had phases, though no one knew why.  They could measure the changes and build calendars and months from those changes.  They counted years based on lunar calendars but then noticed that their Sun didn’t quite follow the moon’s cycles so the years had to be adjusted.  People continued to observe and adjust their lives accordingly as their knowledge grew.  And so it was for everything observable in their world, ‘Tebel’ they called it.  The people demanded answers about the things they observed and they had faith that the Gods, or the Fates, or the Stars, or something, controlled all those things and the answers could be found.

Faith was what propelled Abijon and his small band forward.  He and they knew that God had some plan for them, and they doubted it was to die a cold and miserable death in a frozen wasteland.  Even so, many began to doubt as the food sources got harder and harder to find.  And what of all the extra materials and stuff the prophet had commanded them to bring.  It was one thing to have plenty of fabric for clothing and tents but there was only so much a person could wear and they had all that and much more with them.   The sleds were heavy laden and the effort to drag them across the ice seemed to grow greater as each day passed.  Murmuring began to pass through the ranks, quietly at first but then more and more boldly.  Soon, talk of turning back could be heard, and some openly questioned the wisdom of continuing on.  By the time they got to the portal the only thing that kept most of the people with Abijon was their fear of turning back and wandering alone on the ice.

The portal wasn’t so much a doorway, at least not literally.  In fact no one was really sure what it was.  They had come to a stop at the end of the ice, an edge beyond which there was nothing.  For the last few days they had traveled in a thick fog and the air had seemed to get a little warmer – it was still cold to be sure – but a little less cold than before.  Now they were at some sort of boundary, or cliff, or ledge, or hole.  The ice seemed to drop off into the fog and no one was really sure where it went.  It seemed a pretty steep precipice and no one felt any compulsion to drop down into the unseen chasm below.  They had already passed enough crevasses, (and lost a few people to them) to know that they were inhospitable and uninviting.

This one though seemed different.  For one thing the fog seemed to come up and out from it.  Also, they couldn’t see the other side and no one really knew how big the thing was.  Scouting parties were sent out but no one could find a way around it.  For that matter no one could find the end of it.  This one was different.

Camp was set up and a small tabernacle was erected.  Abijon and the two priests who were still with him began prayers and offered sacrifices according to their practices.  The people could sense that the journey was almost over though they could not figure out how that could be so.  This looked like the end of the world.  There was nowhere else to go.  But this was not a place to call home; this was death. Is this what it was all about?  They wondered? Has God led us to this place to perish?  Was this their punishment for all those years of disobedience and faithlessness that had seemed so unimportant then? They knew they worshiped a jealous God, a harsh and unbending God, who had asked many difficult things from them.  But they had also believed in a God that would deliver them and lead them to a better place.  If this was the better place, then, the scriptures were true that said, “For God’s ways are not man’s ways.”  This was proof that that was so.

They made camp and pondered their future.  After three days of purification rites and sacrifices Abijon called the people together.

“My dear brothers and sisters,” he began, “we have come a great distance and have endured many hardships.  We have wandered through many lands and lost many of our brethren in each of them.  We have suffered greatly for our faith.  Today I look out upon the few, the faithful who have stayed with our God for lo, these many years.  We, like Yehoshua’s soldiers, have been sorted and culled out from the rest.  You are the faithful and true, the ones who will continue to serve God.  You are the ones who will form a new nation that will one day restore our people to their proper place among nations.  If not for your faithfulness our people would be lost forever.  Now we have come to the last step.  We have our own River Yarden to cross.  Our promised land lies before us.”

The crowd rustled and some fidgeted nervously. “How can this be?”  Someone shouted.

“We cannot see our promised land.  Where is it?”  Another shouted.  The crowd began to take up the cry and the energy level rose perceptibly.

“Brothers and sisters, please;” Abijon pleaded, “we have come this far.  Do not let your faith fail you now.  Go; gather the cloths and ropes you have brought with you, for now we will see the miracle God has in store for us.”

The crowd murmured as they went to retrieve the materials.  When they had all returned, the men sorted out the fabrics which were then sewn and cut according to Abijon’s directions.  After this, the ropes were unwound to the smaller strands that made them, each rope providing three smaller strands.  These smaller strands were then tied to the huge squares of fabric previously laid out.

The people were confused.  They had never seen tents built like this before; these were far too flimsy.  Everything about what Abijon was asking the people to do was new and confusing; but it was about to get even more confusing… and challenging.

When all the fabrics had been sewn and tied with ropes, Abijon had the individual assemblies distributed to each person.  They were then instructed in the proper manner to attach them to themselves.  No one was really sure what was happening.

Abijon called and assembled them all at the edge of the hole and quoted one last passage out of their holy writings;

“Verily, verily I say unto you, that he who would save his life shall lose it; but he who would lose his life shall save it.”

He said nothing more but looked at each one of them.  They seemed confused.  Nevertheless, they could feel the love he held for them and some felt ashamed for the thoughts and feelings they had been carrying these last few weeks.  He stepped to the edge of the precipice, turned, looked at them one more time, and said, “Come… follow me!”

And with that, he jumped, disappearing into the fog.

Berlin, the Reichstag, – February 1943

The crisp clicking of boots on the polished tile could be heard at least four doors down the hall as the young aide made his way quickly to the office of the OKW Directorate of Resources – a fancy term for the high command accounting department.  Marshall Fiedler, the director of the DOR heard the boots as well and, like everyone else in the office, made a quick check of his uniform coat and tie.  Such urgency always meant a summons to the office of General Wilhelm Keitel, supreme head of the Wehrmacht High Command.  You always made sure you were presentable to a man who reported directly to Hitler himself.  You also made sure the sweat did not gather too prominently on your upper lip.

It was never a good thing when the General wanted to talk to the Director of Accounting.  Money was always an issue to the German High Command and the issue was always that there was never enough of it.

The Politics of Science

•February 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Science is a wonderful pursuit, or so it would seem. In theory, science is the discipline of observation and measurement, of inquiry and hypothesis, of experimentation and interpretation. It is the vehicle that propels human understanding and awareness beyond the confines of everyday experience. Our eyes let us see things as they appear. We gain an exoteric knowledge of the things of the world. For instance, we all know that birds fly. We did not need to be told that they fly. We observed it from a very early age. As children we would pretend that we were birds and that we could escape the backyard with outstretched arms that flapped wildly as we ran. We also saw and understood that the sun goes round and around the earth each day. We saw the phases of the moon every 28 days and we know that if we miss seeing a full moon this month there will be another next month, and the month after that, and so on and so on. Our brains are filled with all sorts of exoteric knowledge – that is, knowledge that defines the ‘what’ of the world. The ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are different matters altogether. To learn how a bird flies or why the moon has phases requires inquiry and study. We are tasked with seeking understanding of the things we see. We see a rainbow. We must study light and refraction and geometry to understand how the rainbow appears so effortlessly after a rain storm. Luckily, we have people who do the inquiring for us. They are called scientists. They study such things most diligently and write books about the things they study. Our only task is to pick up the books and read what they have written and then we are as smart as they.

How nice of scientists to do this for us. As long as scientists keep being curious about things we are interested in, or as long as scientists can interest us in the things they are interested in we will get smarter and smarter until we all know everything there is to know about the world we live in and the universe that it floats in.

We put a lot of faith in scientists. We trust their instinct and their pronouncements as fact primarily because we, ourselves, were never motivated enough in school to study what they had to study to become scientists. We did not do the work, learn the math, or memorize the laws and theorems that they did. We played basketball and football instead. So, in the end we put ourselves in the only slightly uncomfortable position of having to trust the scientific community to tell us the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the ‘whats’ we already knew. This is OK as long as the scientists are right and smart enough to have figured it all out correctly. But, what’s to worry? Right? I mean, after all, they’re scientists, and science is a pure art; not like philosophy or any other social science where anyone with an opinion and a loud enough voice can make himself or herself heard. No, science is pure – see it, weigh it, measure it, explain it. What could go wrong?

Well, the answer is plenty. The history of science is full of missteps and erroneous assumptions. Take the Flu for instance; the word flu comes from the Italian word ‘influenza’. In the 15th and 16th centuries scientists were certain that the pandemics caused by the flu were really caused by the particular alignment of the stars. Stars and their alignment were blamed or credited with controlling almost everything in those days and expressions of that idea still linger with us today in the form of expressions like “you can’t change your stars’ or ‘it is written in the stars’. We commonly use the word ‘lunacy to describe the crazy behavior of certain individuals. The word ’lunacy comes from ‘luna’ or ‘the moon’. It was believed for many many years that a full moon caused aberrant behavior in certain people. Back to the flu – the word ‘influenza’ is Italian and means ‘influence’ and refers to being under the ‘influence of the stars.

When a young and very timid Isaac Newton went before the Royal Academy in London with his theories on motion and gravity – theories which were correct, mind you, – his was run off and threatened with severe personal and professional harm for daring to take on the venerated and revered Aristotelian Physics that had prevailed for over 2,000 years. Robert Hook, a respected and accomplished scientist in his own right swore that he would destroy Newton for daring to be so bold. But Hook was wrong. So were all of his colleagues. Newton was right. His mistake was in not recognizing the entrenchment of any established concept, idea or cabal of ideas upon which other men and women base their own credibility. His clear and lucid exposition of the basic laws of physics, right  though they were, were viewed as threats and destabilizing forces against the accepted and well acclimated rule of the day. In other words, he was upsetting the apple cart.

Newton was not the only one to be so bold. In fact, almost every ground breaking scientist had to refute the existing theory to gain exposure for his own. Einstein had to modify Newton, although he did it most gently. Neils Bohr had to take on Einstein, much to Einstein’s chagrin, to put forth Quantum Mechanics, a theory just as provable and verifiable as Relativity but completely at odds with it. Irony let us observe that although Einstein had significant issues with many of the provisions of Quantum theory, it was his own work that helped prove its validity.

And so it goes that almost all progress has to first tear down the walls of convention and accepted theory to gain its own foothold in the public mind. You see, science isn’t so pure after all. It is as much a political animal as is almost any other philosophy. Oh, at the root of it is the sincere desire to find the truth, but the acceptance of that truth comes at the expense of reputations and positions of prestige and esteem. Almost invariably, each time a career is made, another is diminished. Egos are hurt and livelihoods are damaged.

Science has another strange quirk to it. It needs to be funded. You and I aren’t usually willing to go to the store and pay for science. Oh, we love the inventions and devices that come from great science. We all have computers and IPods and Xboxes and such. Many of us use GPS technology to help us find uncle Bill’s new house or the nearest Wendy’s, but to go out and buy the latest research into Quantum Transfer or spin preservation, we’re just not interested. So, how do scientists make money? Well, in the old days they received patronage from wealthy families like the Medici’s of Florence, or they were members of aristocracy in their own right. De Broglie was a French prince (sadly he lost his head in the French Revolution). Many of the great English scientists were lords of titled peerage. Today however, there aren’t so many Lords or patronized researchers as in days past so a new structure had to be created. Enter the National Science Foundation or NSF and its equivalent in other parts of the world. Private institutions like the National Geographic Society or the Royal Geographic Society in London also fund major research projects.

So now days the major task of a scientist is to first get funding. This is no easy task  but it is doable. It requires getting noticed and that requires getting published. Today, the mantra is “Publish or Perish”. It’s just that simple! Scientists look for issues of general or public interest and they write papers on them. If a scientists can raise a question or propose a path of research that might answer that question he has a chance at getting funding to study it. If they are creative enough or good enough writers, they get published and the issues get noticed. Notice also means funding and publishing is the fastest path to public funding. It is no wonder then that very public awareness of scientific arguments means great amounts of funding for research. One very good example of this is the hole in the Ozone Layer.

The Ozone Layer is vitally crucial to our very survival. It is also remarkably self-preserving and self-regulating. One of the unique characteristics of the Ozone Layer is that, for a variety of factors, a hole forms over the South Pole (not the North Pole) each Antarctic winter. The existence of this hole was known for over a hundred years before it became an issue of serious scientific concern. But, it wasn’t until we developed the ability to accurately and precisely measure its characteristics each year that alarmists were able to raise public fears over its eminent demise. Yearly fluctuations in its size were seen as trends and portended eventual disappearance.We were told and convinced that man induced excesses of chlorine gas in the upper atmosphere were the cause of the hole and , if left unchecked, would lead inexorably to the total destruction of the Ozone Layer and our death by terminal sunburn. Such foolishness and bad scientific reasoning found purchase in the public mind because reporters and opinion makers smelled a good story. Anything to scare the public was good for ratings and what better scary threat than death by sunburn. Never mind that the physics of the argument didn’t hold up or that knowledgeable scientists in that field already knew the truth, the fact was that if the public wanted research into this matter the scientific community was all too happy to provide that research. After all, it would certainly be good for 5 – 10 years of funding. In fact, the funding machine was able to run a little bit longer and many scientists found good steady work for a good number of years studying something that secretly they already knew wasn’t an issue.

Today, in 2009, we seldom hear anything about the Ozone layer except for the well meaning but radical activists who need a good cause more than they need the truth. The Ozone layer is still here and it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  (if you strongly disagree with my position please comment and I will be happy to provide a more technical exposition of the facts –for now though, I’m just trying to make the bigger point). None of this is as cynical or conspiratorial as it may sound. We are a people who expect due diligence and if enough people express a concern about any subject then due diligence requires that the matter be looked into. The people wanted answers so the scientific community gave them answers.

Today, the new religion is “Global Warming”. We know it is a serious matter because Al Gore, an ex-Vice President for heaven’s sake, scared us all with his silly and inaccurate “An Inconvenient Truth”. We know his warning is real because movie stars said it was important and he won an Academy award for the movie. He even won a Nobel Prize for his work (not a physics prize or any other scientifically rooted Nobel Prize – no he won a Peace Prize). There were many inconvenient truths associated with the whole global warming alarm but the media and the movie stars didn’t want to address them so they got little airtime – truths about the increased solar flux and the fact that the Martian ice caps were also melting. No, we needed to know that once again evil human beings were destroying the earth by driving cars and flying jets – of course if you buy carbon credits like Al Gore you can fly around in a private Boeing 757 to talk about the deleterious effects of our carbon footprint on the earth’s atmosphere. It’s OK. You have carbon credits – no hypocracy there!

Well, things are already settling down atmospherically so now the proper term is ‘climate change’ rather than the less supportable ‘global warming’. But it is still a funding machine and millions and millions of dollars are still being doled out to scientists to show us the error of our ways. We even have a new president who is going to make us all buy hybrid cars and impose other environmental restraints in order to save the earth for future generations. And we’re buying it! Serious discussion is even being given to the idea of covering glaciers with aluminum blankets to slow their melting. And why are we doing this? Because there is lots and lots of money out there for doing it! And, it’s politically expedient. We as a people love causes. We all need to feel like we belong to something larger than ourselves and what better endeavor than to save the world? And the scientific community? Well, many of them will gladly continue to accept our research dollars as long as they can milk this non issue. More and more scientists, however, just cannot keep up the ruse. In droves they are leaving the global warming religion behind, including 11 of the 13 scientists featured in “An Inconvenient Truth”. This year’s U.N convention of global warming was met with much louder dissent from an ever growing number of scientists. The tide is turning and like the Ozone Layer, this too will pass as we finally admit that the earth will be just fine.

Too bad we don’t have time to discuss the regrowth of new rain forests that is far outpacing the cutting down of older rain forest. That would be a fun discussion. Maybe next week. In the mean time please consider for a moment that science is just as vulnerable to politics and opinion as is any other religion or philosophy.

 

The Sun’ll come out, Tomorrow

•December 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I had decided to let this Blog fade away while I concentrated on my other blog, ‘ReligionIsScience’, and spend my time writing on issues implied by the title. However, as I sit each day and watch the melt down of the world economies – and believe me, it is worldwide – I feel compelled to chime in and make a few observations.
The population of the U.S. is currently about 300 million people, give or take a few million. The population of the world is about 6 billion, give or take a few 100 million. These are numbers that don’t change greatly. They do increase, generally, but in no way do they move up or down as explosively as the world economies would indicate.
Now, I realize that economies are complex creatures and simple answers only serve simple minds. However, there are a few basics that we should consider as we wonder how all the smart people got us into this mess.
Everybody on Earth shares a few basics – we all need to eat, drink, sleep, poop and pee every day. This is unavoidable – basic biology. We each have basic need that must be satisfied or we die, no ifs ands or buts. Oh, we can go a day or two without eating or pooping. We can miss a night’s sleep once in a while, but, on average, these are pretty regular activities.
Meeting these needs is the foundation of any economic system. We need somewhere to sleep, out of the wind and out of the rain, so clever people figure out how to build structures where we can go about our daily duties and, abracadabra, the housing industry is born. We need to eat so refrigerators and ovens and microwaves are invented, and there you have the appliance industry. Pooping and peeing can work in the woods but in gentle society it should stay out of sight and sound so we design bathrooms into our houses and install toilets, which require plumbing which requires a water and sewer system – bingo, now we have municipalities and utilities companies to provide those services.
Pretty soon everybody gets into the act and figures out that we can all stay occupied by providing goods and services to each other and economies are born. As we all collectively prosper from working for each other we try to send our goods and services overseas to other countries. In some cases we buy stuff from other countries. This establishes trade and our people can increase in wealth if we can sell more to people overseas than we buy from them.
Here’s the conundrum that constantly puzzles me. If we all have these same basic daily needs, and if we all find ways to serve others and profit in the process, then why do we have such mercurial swings in boom and recession? Think about it for a minute. Why did you decide not to buy that big screen plasma TV this fall? Or, that car? Was it because you didn’t have any money? Or was it because someone TOLD you things were going to get bad and you shouldn’t buy one? If you did not watch TV, read the internet or newspaper, and just went about your way living each day with your family and friends – if no one had told you you should not buy a TV would you have gone out and bought one? How about that new car (I bought a new one)? Even though Mark Haines and Erin Burnett were telling me on CNBC that things were bad way back before things got bad! But how many cars were not sold because people who wanted them were told they should not buy right now. How many Plasma screens were not sold because people were told they should not spend their money.
Then the question becomes – how many not sold Cars and not sold TVs does it take to cause watchers to say, “hey, we’re not selling as many cars and TVs! Things are getting bad!” I guess my puzzlement is whether or not recession and boom are normal cycles (yes, of course they are on smaller levels) or are they creations of manipulations and the ‘spinning’ of news and commentary that cause us to rethink or actions. For example, have you ever stated boldly to a friend that you were going to do something only to have them say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!’ and suddenly you rethink your planned action? Like it or not we are creatures who are highly susceptible to the power of suggestion and influence. Our basic needs and wants do not change and our daily requirements stay fixed. However, the mere suggestion of coming doom can cause us to not do something we were going to do thereby adding to the self-fulfilling nature of the forecast that caused us not to do that thing in the first place. We have the amazing ability to tell ourselves that a recession is coming and just by that act actually create the very thing we just forecast. How weird is that?
This works especially well in political years where the party out of power would like to be the party in power so they or their confederates begin convincing us how bad things are. We didn’t know things were bad before they told us they were. We thought the sun was coming up each day just as it had every day. What made this day different? Someone told us we shouldn’t do something so we didn’t and then those same people said, “See we told you people weren’t doing those things we told you not to do. Bingo, we vote for change and the other party gets in power. The crazy thing is it happens over and over. Yes, I know that there are real economic principles that drive recession and boom economies but any economist will tell you that economies really run on the collective sentiment of the populace. Control that and you can accurately predict coming economic activity.
I shouldn’t waste your time telling you the obvious without providing some solutions but the fact is, I don’t have any solution. We are the victims of Group Dynamics and Group Think. We are part of a greater whole and though we live our lives individually, as part of a society, we are subject to the collective mentality of that group.
So, how do we dig ourselves out of this current mess? Well, at some point someone is going to say, screw it! I need a new TV and I still get a paycheck so I’m going to buy myself a new TV. Ultimately, pent up demand and the realization that the world did not stop will overcome the doom and gloom and we will start living again. Slowly at first, we will poke our heads out of the bunkers to which we have all retreated, take a look and see that the sun is still shining. We will take our first few tentative steps outside and realize that the air is fresh and the warmth of the sun comforting. We will start to live again, a little wiser and a little smarter. Here’s the amazing thing! As we begin to think that life will get better it magically will! Suddenly people will go out and buy a new car. Then Mark Haines will tell us that car sales actually went up (actually he will say “Even though things are still awful, stupid people went out and started buying cars”).
This recession is not the first nor will it be the last. But it will not last forever. The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.

Science and Religion

•September 18, 2008 • 5 Comments

I am intrigued by the element of human nature that makes us prone to the idea that most issues are ” either – or” propositions. We seem all too willing to accept the notion that there are only two sides to everything. Often, two sides are just the extremes of any position and a third “middle ground” may exist. I guess you could say there could be three (or more) sides to everything.

I take for example the argument, nay, the battle, between Science and Religion. The basic assumption is that one either accepts science and the scientific method, ORreligion, and the almost mythological accounts it posits, ut not both, for the existence and purpose of everything. In this I think we err.

First, those most arrogantly supportive of the cleverness of men over anything thing else greater than ourselves, make very erroneous assumptions about the claims of ‘religion’ on the subjects of creation and existence. I put the word religion in brackets because to categorize religion as one single entity is wrong. There are myriad viewpoints that support a religious world view, just as there are myriad viewpoints about different aspects of science.

“But wait!” you say. Science is pure, refined and perfectly unified in its theory. Not so my good friends, not so. I point you to the tale of Sir Issac Newton, argueably one of the most brilliant men in history. When he presented his ideas about motion and introduced the concepts of ‘Newtonian Physics’ to the Royal Academy he was nearly run out of England. He incurred such wrath that the august scientist Robert Hook – himself a brilliant researcher ‘ swore in his indignation that he would destroy Isaac Newton. All this because Isaac dared to contradict the 2000 year old assumptions of Aristotle. Newton was so distressed by his rebuff that he retreated to his country home and hid out for several years. Today we have researchers at great odds with one another over the truth or error of String Theory. And in case you have missed it in the mainstream media, the whole “Global warming is human caused” thing is very far from being universally accepted by scientists. If you think I am stretching the truth hear just Google “Solar Flux” and learn how Mars has been warming concurrently with Earth. (I wonder how we did that?)

The point is, “Religion” and Religious theory” cannot be categorized into one single viewpoint. The fact that certain vocal fundamentalists decide to interpret one element of creation in the most literal sense i.e. that God create the world in 6 days , does not mean that every good Christian, Muslim or Jew must believe the same thing or lose the faith.

I point to the creation story as found in Genesis as an example. Scientists (rightly, I think) laugh at the notion that the Earth was created in just 6 Solar periods or just 144 hours. But I ask, is this really what the Bible says? Oh yes, the word ‘day’ is used but does that mean 24 hours. The term ‘day’ is used throughout the Bible in various ways. In fact, in the story of Adam and Eve the Lord says ‘In the day that ye eat thereof you shall surely die!” Yet we read that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and, rather than die that very day, as the literalist would insist, they were expelled from the garden and thrust into the dark and dreary world. In this case the word day was used to mean ‘event that’ or ‘once this is done’. Actually, it is consistent that once they ate of the forbidden fruit, their lives changed and they were expelled from the Garden. According to the account, they changed from immortal to mortal and they did eventually die. So it could correctly be said that on the day they ate of the fruit circumstances were changed and it became sure that they would eventually die.

When we say that the earth was made in 6 days we can all think back to the countless times when our parents and grandparents  related to us accounts of their youth and said “in my day” or as Archie and Edith Bunker said in the opening song of the T.V. series ‘All in the Family’ “Those were the days.” Using the word Day to refer to a creative period in the Bible is the same as the use of the term Age to refer to an anthropological period such as the Bronze Age, the Stone Age, the Neolithic Age. We must remember that Moses, the writer of Genesis was not a scientist, He was a goat herder. He claims to have seem a vision of the creation of the world and he was then left with the task of describing what he saw in words he had at his command.

I believe Science and Religion can peacefully co-exist. They may disagree on the fine points but the idea that you must choose between science or religion to live your life is just silly. Let me show you how easy this can really be. PLATE TECHTONICS is the accepted theory of land mass formation and the creation of Seas and Continents. It states (simply) that chunks of the Earth’s Crust float on the mantle and move about. As one chunk crashes into another one is driven downward and the other is lifted up and over, this creates high places and low places. Any GEOLOGY 101 class will teach you that at the beginning the surface of the Earth was smooth and featureless. They go on by saying that as the plates began to move, the water, which covered the Earth completely and evenly, began to gather to the deep spots leaving dry earth to appear, slowly at first, and then as islands and continents.

Now let’s look at Genesis and the words of a simple goat herder trying to describe what he saw in a vision.

Genesis 1:2 And the Earth was  without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Water?) And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

So far there is no disagreement with Techtonic theory.

Genesis 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

Again, no disagreement! If we allow that Moses did not know the term Plate Techtonics (A Greek term) and simply used words at his disposal to describe a process that he did not understand we can then say that the BIble and Geological Science have common ground. It should be pointed out here that Techtonic theory did not come abobut until 1965, thus it can be rightly argued that the Bible had it right well before Science figured it out. What the scientists did was give process and explanation to an account that was just a simple observation.

My point is, where there are two diametrically opposed positions at work there can be, and usually is, a third position that might include both.

It is my firm belief that I and many other scientifically minded people can  hold to a religious belief while using science to explain the things  that are observed and recorded in books of scripture.

Super Colliders, Black Holes and You

•September 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It is with admiration and a bit of jealousy that I salute the thousands of engineers and scientists who have put together the largest particle collider ever built. The 17 mile device in Switzerland is a technological marvel built by people that understand that many of our greatest advances have come from peering into the unknown and looking for what we know not. So much of our technology today is based on things we looked at without any particular expectation. We just knew that something would fall out the bottom and whatever it was it would be put to use by some clever person to change our lives.

Perhaps two of the most dramatic examples of this are Nylon which was discovered accidentally, and Lasers which, when first produced in the lab, were considered an oddity with no particular application. Now Lasers are everywhere. our lives are touched by lasers probably 20 times a day on average.

We should not overlook the significance of this collider. The U.S. could have been up and running years ago with the 54 mile (yes, that’s right – 54 mile) Superconducting Super Collider that was being built in Waxahatchie Texas until Bill Clinton took over and canceled the project. He spent over a billion dollars to fill in the hole.

The potential for discovery from devices like these is huge – and not just for scientists! Do you like those 300 channels you get on your T.V? How about all the capabilities on your cell phones? those and many other technological advances we enjoy are the end result of science derived from advances we make in understanding the basic nature of particle physics.

What about the research the collider at CERN (this one we are talking about) will be engaged in? The search for dark matter, if successful, will uncover the secrets and the potentials from a constituent of the universe that, up to now, is completely undetectable but which makes up 90% of EVERYTHING. I am sure there is something good to come out of understanding that. Imagine a world where we understand and can manipulate Gravity – for instance.

The beauty of this kind of research is that Serendipity – the unanticipated outcome – is the leading actor in this drama. We don’t know what we will find but I know that whatever we find, it will change the world. Or, at least it will give us something cool like a better IPOD or Wii.

Unpublished authors, talk to me!

•September 10, 2008 • 2 Comments

Are there any  authors out there? I always here about the great American novel that is sitting in someone’s desk drawer. Does it really exist. Did you write it? I would really like to know!

It is said that J.K.Rowling could not get Harry Potter published at first. It took a grass roots effort by friends and acquaintance’s who read her work to generate enough interest to get a publishing house to publish it.  I’ve also heard that John Grisham’s first book was rejected numerous times before going on to sell several million copies.

How do we get past the acquisitions editors to get works looked at with an unbiased eye? Is it really a matter of who you know, not what you write? I would love to hear from some of you that have either had manuscripts rejected  or have never submitted because it seemed so hopeless or difficult. I am going on the belief that there are a great many good works out there that just need an unbiased eye.

I am sure that there are a great many manuscripts that are very good. And not just novels either. There must be thousands of childrens books, probably almost as many self help books, and then there are histories, biographies, philosophy books and poetry. Let me know what you have. I am just curious and I would love to hear your stories. I think it would be fun to find something really great, get a grass roots effort going to promote it, and see if we couldn’t break through the good ole boy network and get it published. This is for fun. No money for me. Maybe some for a really really lucky aspiring author!

Give it some thought!