Today, being Sunday, is supposed to be a day of reflection; and I, wanting to begin this new chapter of my life being as candid as possible and finding my recent expanded biography still lacking the essential ingredients of my personality, have decided to dedicate these last few days of 2003 to laying it all on the line. In order to tell you who I am, I've come up with three topics that should give you an idea of the foundations of my character, if not the full scope. The topics are Religion, Politics, and Personal Interests; however, if any of you can think of things I've missed that you would like to know, please tell me. Don't expect miracles, though; I know myself pretty well, but I'm no psychologist and my self-analysis can only go so far in one sitting.
Also because this is Sunday, I'm going to start with my views on religion, but I don't mean this journal to be an ongoing forum for discussion on the subject and I'm sure my friends, if they remain my friends after this, would agree; so if you want to start a debate, please click on the button marked, "Kiss my ass." This is my journal, not yours, and today it's meant only as reference.
I don't believe in God; or, I should say, I don't believe in any definition of God that I've yet heard, read, or seen. Never have. If any of you read my info. page, you should have surmised that; but not everyone is nosey like me. My father was a Baptist, though nonpracticing until late in life, and my mom is a Southern Methodist; so they never forced my sibs or me to go to church and, for the most part, we haven't. I went to various services with an aunt, neighborhood youth groups (who always bribed us with pizza), and friends; but it never stuck. As far as I could tell, this Jesus guy they talked about was alright and I still believe that much; but the son of God? Where's the proof? Don't tell me it's all in there, written down for everyone to see; for me proof must come from more than a single book.
Have I felt the desire for a helping hand from someone or something more powerful than myself? Sure, but I have desired many things-that doesn't make them appear and doesn't come from the fact that they exist or don't exist.
Have I been through experiences I can't explain? Often, but that doesn't mean that they should be lumped together as miracles. If I do have a faith, it is that everything that happens can be explained according to physical laws; whether I or anyone else can understand those laws well enough to find that explanation is a matter of time and patient experimentation, not epiphany. Newton and Einstein may have come up with their greatest ideas during the length of an afternoon, but they were not sure until those ideas were put to the test; and both of them knew that they would never know the whole truth.
Have I ever felt the presence of someone or something else inside? No, I believe in many kinds of mental states and problems (and probably have had a few of the latter); but I don't believe in a soul that is separate from the body. When preachers suggest you ask Jesus to come into your heart, they're not really referring to the part of your body that is just there to pump blood; yet, thousands of years ago that's exactly what they meant, for they thought that was the seat of the soul. It was logical for them to believe that, because your heart speeds up when you become excited; but there's a better explanation for it than a spiritual one. Today, any doctor worth his diplomas will tell you that it is a reflexive response to stimulae your brain interprets as potentially dangerous or, ironically, very pleasurable. How do they know this? Hundreds of years of research with untold thousands of subjects. Yet the Bible says Jesus, the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead says Ka, the Buddha says Nibbana, and the Native Americans of the Great Plains say Tatonka: all without proof except for their word or the words of their ancestors. Who am I to believe? I have often felt my heart race followed by a rush of warmth and happiness, even in church, but I don't need the resurrected human son of an all-powerful God to do it for me; I only need my own brain's endorphins and a working adrenal gland.
I could go on about what I don't believe for days, but I think saying that I don't believe in any supernatural forces or planes of existence covers a lot of ground. If something is supposed to be separate from the physical universe, then how does it interact with the universe? Using the concept of divine intervention to explain anything is not a true explanation because it is not demonstrable; unless God does the same thing over and over again, using processes that can be seen or felt, then you can never be sure that it is God doing it. And that is not enough for me.
It's much harder to say what I do believe in; because, while you can break down a concept or alleged event into smaller parts and say that some or all of it doesn't make logical sense, it's a different thing entirely to break your own thoughts down to find their basis.
I can say quickly that I believe human beings are animals, because we are built almost entirely the same way and out of the same things as most other animals; and this is something that, given the right equipment, specimens, and circumstances, I could prove to myself as often as I wished.
I can say, moreover, that I believe in evolution, because the processes by which it occurs are logically consistent with what I have seen in nature. Plants and animals strive to eek out a living and even compete or cooperate with each other to do it. That plants, animals, and other living things change from generation to generation is blatently obvious; roses, irises, dogs, cats, horses, and the whole host of farming crops and livestock have been bred for thousands of years into forms that, in some cases, barely resemble the originals. The proof is in archeological evidence, ancient writings and paintings, and in the remnants of the species that remained in the wild. Probably the the most obvious proof of evolution is in bacteria and viruses, which change over a matter of years or months. The influenza virus, which might be rampaging through your body as you read this, has evolved from a form that, last year, was susceptible to a certain vaccine but must be treated with a different one now. Otherwise, after we become immune to it (that is what it really means when we recover from its symptoms) we would never get it again. The same with the various cold viruses. Scientific Creationists say that the variety of fossils in the geological record must be attributed to the Biblical ages and are explained using the aforementioned concept of an all-powerful God, but I don't need to reach that far into the unknown; if things evolve now, then it is almost certain that they always have and that is why the deeper down you dig, in general, the more different the fossils become from what is living today.
Not only do living things evolve; but, in a way, so does the universe as a whole. Gravity makes objects tend to move toward one another and cling together. This is why I accelerate when going down a hill in my wheelchair, and it is also why galaxies collide and merge. It's why stars form from dust clouds and planets hold onto atmospheres. It's why some of those stars, when they have run out of fuel to burn in the nuclear furnaces in their centers, collapse and/or explode (exactly how is almost entirely determined by how massive the original gas cloud that formed it was). How do we know this? First, we can see them plainly with telescopes that are constantly being made more powerful. Second, light moves in a vacuum at a finite constant, a fact that has been demonstrated innumerable times; so that the farther from the earth we look, the farther back in time we see. Third, light coming from objects moving away from us, like other waves, has what scientists call a Doppler Shift. Using all of this, we can run the universe backwards, like a movie, to see what it must have been like here in the past.
When a certain astronomer, Edwin Hubble, did this kind of thought experiment, he found that the farther away from earth he looked, and therefore the farther back in time from now, the closer the galaxies were to each other (the farther the galaxies are, the faster they are moving away). Furthermore, there is a distance, beyond which, there are no more galaxies to be seen; more recent astronomers have found this to be some twelve billion times the distance that light travels in a year. In other words, there are no galaxies older than about twelve billion years. That, coupled with recent observations of so-called protogalaxies and the Background Radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum confirms what Hubble surmised; that there was a point in time, long ago, when the entire universe was concentrated into a single mass. And because it has been expanding ever since, the astronomers call it the Big Bang.
I believe in the Big Bang Theory because I own a telescope; and when I look at the Milky Way, I don't see spilled milk. I see stars.
I can't personally gauge the speed of light, like scientists say they can, or look into the heart of a star and see the nuclear reactions there; but I can work out some of the equations that they use to show that, because I've studied math all my life. A math problem, properly posed and worked out, will always give the same answer, unlike most other kinds of problems. If you took the time and effort to learn the rules of mathematics, you could do even the most excruciatingly difficult problems, incessantly, for every available moment of your life and never get them wrong; but we don't need to do that sort of thing any longer, because we have computers that have the rules built into them. Sometimes they do make mistakes, but not often; and it's never because the rules are wrong, but because they are only machines that can break down. Scientists invented computers and have used them to work out answers to some of the Big Questions. Perhaps not the ones you are asking, but a lot of the ones I have asked. I trust them, because, in order to keep their jobs, they are in competition, and tend to catch each other's mistakes. I don't need a priest to tell me I'm living on a water-filled planet revolving around a medium-sized star in an outer spiral arm of a typical galaxy in a universe comprising at least one hundred billion other galaxies; that priest gets his information from a book that says the universe was created in six days by an all- powerful God some six thousand years ago with all its plants, animals, and people intact. Who am I supposed to believe?
I choose the ones who are still asking the questions.