John Lennox imagines humble Christians

dr barringerThere is a scene from The Exorcist which reminds me of how I used to think of Christians who interpret the Book of Genesis literally. When exorcism was first suggested as shock therapy to Chris MacNeil by the Clinic Director, Dr. Barringer, he noted that “it’s pretty much discarded these days, except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of embarrassment.”

My Christian closet had more Creationists than an audition for the tent revival episode of  True Detective [season 1]. No more. John Lennox has given me a new perspective based on his talk at the Socrates in the City forum. The talk was a fluid combination of a detailed and logical reading of the Book of Genesis along with an appeal for empathy based on how certain positions in the Christian faith, which today are considered orthodoxy, were in some cases in dispute for hundreds of years. “How we speak to and of each other is important,” Lennox implored. “We are being watched.”

Are you a fixed earther?

Lennox makes the case that if he were addressing a similar crowd in the 16th century, the topic of his talk could have been to argue whether the earth moved. He then highlighted how that controversy mirrored current disputes, in that a scientific theory seemed to contradict scripture. Lennox then asks his audience to reflect on why the issue is no longer controversial and how Christians moved past the quandary.

Did the Christians who adopted the position that the earth moved do so because they stopped viewing Scripture as the inspired and authoritative word of God? No argues Lennox. What happened was that Christians recognized that although parts of Scripture touch on the physical sciences, the Bible is not a scientific tract. In short, Christians accepted that the Bible was [and is] more about why than how.

The rest of Lennox’s explanation touched on C.S. Lewis’s idea that Scripture deals in metaphors about real things. So when the Bible speaks of ‘foundations’ and ‘pillars,’ Christianity came to realize that we didn’t have to interpret those terms in such a way that contradicted science.

A hard [look at] days & nights

Lennox then addressed the subject of his book, Seven Days That Divide the World. I got goose bumps. Posing a deceptively simple question, Lennox asks why do we assume the six days of creation refer to 24 hours days? His close reading of the Book of Genesis makes the case that those who infer six 24 hour days are choosing to do so. He wants to let them know they have alternatives, including the powerful “we don’t know” option.

Lennox is on a mission to help Christians avoid being dogmatic about things not central to our faith. He asks that we proceed with humility regarding our brethren who may be in the midst [millennium-ly speaking] of adopting alternative interpretations. The seriousness with which they take their Scripture should bind us more than any disagreements fringe to our faith should separate us.

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John Lennox imagines humble Atheists

It is common for pop culture favorites, e.g., Bill Maher [59] and Jon Stewart [52], to ridicule religion and argue that it is a natural enemy to science. It helps that their audiences are probably as disinterested in science as they are in religion. Whenever people of faith can be portrayed as opposing a position taken by any atheist professor at any university, the bat signal is beamed to crank up the late-night joke factory, which feeds the next day’s video clips.

john-heroHowever, the premise underlying many of those type jokes rarely get a second or longer look. Enter John Lennox, a mathematician and Christian, who provides a great example in how to defend the faith in the video of his talk at the Socrates in the City forum. It was based on one of his books, Seven Days That Divide the World. In it he reminds us why science should be about always asking questions, not taking dogmatic positions. Mr Lennox is all about big subjects, fitting for someone who actually had C.S. Lewis as a lecturer.

For example, how surprised do you think a typical Maher or Stewart viewer would be to learn that the science community had completely flipped its position regarding the origins of the universe in their lifetimes? Georges Lemaître, a Belgian astronomer and professor of physics is credited with first proposing the theory of an expanding universe in 1927. However, the accidental discovery of background radiation in the 1960’s is when a significant shift began taking hold and by the late 1990’s, the latest science orthodoxy was established, the big bang theory.

Prior to listening to Mr. Lennox’s lecture, I was aware that the big bang theory gained credence due to the radiation discovery in the 1960’s. But Lennox made me focus on where the debate was prior to that discovery. There were two competing world views, the science community predominantly on one side and people of faith on the other:

  • Naturalism – universe is as it always was – no point of origin – steady state theory
  • Theism – universe did have a point of origin and God created it

Lennox recalls that a prominent editor of a science magazine reacted at the time of the radiation discovery to the idea that the universe might have had an origin, saying “we cannot go down this road believing there was a beginning, because it will give too much leverage to people who believe the Bible.”

If you think Mr Maddox an outlier, James Rochford in his book Evidence Unseen, details the reaction of other scientists:

… in 1931 Arthur Eddington wrote, “I have no axe to grind in this discussion [but] the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me… I simply do not believe that the present order of things started off with a bang… the expanding Universe is preposterous… incredible… it leaves me cold.”

Geoffrey Burbidge was the late atheistic professor of astronomy at the University of California, San Diego. He despised the theological implications of the Big Bang so much that he said anyone adhering to it was joining “the first church of Christ of the big bang.” John Maddox wrote, “Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead… It will be a surprise if it somehow survives the Hubble telescope.” In a similar vein, German chemist and physicist, Walter Nernst wrote, “To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundations of science.”

Several of these quotes come from Robert Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers. Jastrow was the founding director of the Goddard Institute at NASA. He is agnostic, not Christian. And yet he makes an observation about these men that is stunning. Jastrow writes, “There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions. They come from the heart, whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain.” It seems clear that these atheistic scientists were uncomfortable with the Big Bang, not because of the scientific facts, but because of the theological implications.

51ClaB3TyvLHow different are today’s atheistic scientists from those? Parallel universes anyone? Eric Metaxas is amazed at the unbelief.

By the way, that pioneering Belgian physicist in the 1920’s, Georges Lemaître, had a day job. He was a Roman Catholic priest. I’m glad Fr. Lemaître didn’t have our extensive media in his day.

He would have been such a joke.

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Pity the fool

The events of June 11, 1982 have weighed on me since.

The weight is not due to it having been the 473rd anniversary of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. More due to the union of Mr. T to Slyvester of Stallone. Although E.T. was released that day, I had made plans with a friend and co-worker at Southeast Bank to watch Rocky III at the nearby Omni 6 theater in the Omni International Mall.

The Omni 6 [Omni 10 came later] was Miami’s first movie multiplex. The Mall also had the first major bookstores I had been to, a B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. But I only browsed at mall prices, my book dollars were spent at Raquel Roque’s independent bookstore, the Downtown Book Center.

OMNI 6 smallWe planned on catching the twi-lite show [a pattern had already emerged] and my friend was bringing his wife. A price-discounted Friday night movie was this then 23 year-old’s idea of a good way to start the weekend.

The Metromover was still 5 years away, the Brickell/Omni loop 12 years away, so I drove over to the Omni early enough to make my usual browsing rounds of their bookstores. I then walked over to the theater to get my ticket and wait for my friend, Manny, and his wife. They missed our appointed time. First moral decision, wait and forgo the previews? I passed with flying colors.

Mobile phones being 1 million years away, I could only wait. I checked with the theater staff on how long the previews lasted, they had no idea, but mustered up enough energy to agree with my 10 minute estimate. My internal deadline approached. Justifications raced through the mind. They had forgotten. They changed their minds, they instead went into see E.T. and I had just missed them. In the last minutes of waiting, I scoured the escalator like an inept spy in a B movie. Women began staring back clutching their purses.

Whatever my final justification was I don’t recall, but I must have really taken it to heart. When the time came, I went in and enjoyed the movie with a clear conscious. The next day we spoke:

Manny: Hey what happened?
Me: I waited and you guys never showed.
Manny: No, no. We ran late, but got there just as the movie started. We figured you were running late and decided to wait for you. After about 15 minutes of standing around her legs really started bothering her so we had to leave, but we were worried about you.

Did I mention Manny’s wife was pregnant? How pregnant? David would be born 40 days later.

On the 33rd anniversary, I still wander those lands [now the Miami International University School of Art & Design] seeking forgiveness. Mr T, ora pro nobis.

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About that transgender conversation

As with most topics in the culture wars, the trojan horse of starting the conversation¹ has been trotted out to mask the desire to change belief systems [if there were a scrabble point system in blogging, this sentence would be highlighted as ‘triple’]. I give our opponents in the culture wars credit for being effective, but I believe their effectiveness is partly due to a public uninformed due to a lack of interest in topics fringe to their lives.

Perception: Sex change means a man becomes a woman
Conversation begun revealed:

Sex change surgery is only a cosmetic procedure to make it look like a change was made, when in fact no female “parts” are used…. No amount of surgery, hormone injection or anything else can, or will, change the birth gender DNA. It is absolute. The only thing the surgeon can change is the medical record, birth records and the perception that a change took place on the operating table. A DNA test would prove no sex change took place.

Please do not call C. Jenner a woman around Matt Walsh, he seems to have lost his sense of humor about the inexact use of language. Alan Finch, an Australian who began transitioning at 19, underwent gential surgery in his 20’s and described the process in his 30’s:

…. You fundamentally can’t change sex … the surgery doesn’t alter you genetically. It’s genital mutilation. My ‘vagina’ was just the bag of my scrotum. It’s like a pouch, like a kangaroo. What’s scary is you still feel like you have a penis when you’re sexually aroused. It’s like phantom limb syndrome. It’s all been a terrible misadventure. I’ve never been a woman, just Alan . . . the analogy I use about giving surgery to someone desperate to change sex is it’s a bit like offering liposuction to an anorexic.

Perception: Person happier after procedure, can now be themselves
Conversation begun revealed:

Suicide is a major concern. Even a cursory search revealed attempted suicide rates of 18%, 31% and 41%. Check out the ultimate politically incorrect web site for sex change regret. Devastated families are about the only consistent outcome.

Mike Penner lived out that regret. An LA Times sportswriter became Christine Daniels in 2007 and a hero to the transgender community. But he went back to being a man and eventually committed suicide in 2009.

Rene Richards described in 1999 how she discourages people from seeking surgery:

If there was a drug that I could have taken that would have reduced the pressure, I would have been better off staying the way I was—a totally intact person. I know deep down that I’m a second-class woman. I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow. Today there are better choices, including medication, for dealing with the compulsion to cross dress and the depression that comes from gender confusion. As far as being fulfilled as a woman, I’m not as fulfilled as I dreamed of being. I get a lot of letters from people who are considering having this operation … and I discourage them all.

I could go on, but what for? The sad landscape is about what I would have expected.

Dear culture warriors, glad we could talk. Lets do it again soon. Polygamy? Bestiality? Aw heck, just surprise me.

¹ Starting the conversation outlines beliefs traditionalists [people whose morality began forming prior to the advent of smartphones] must adopt or be ostracized as insensitive and judgmental.

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Bacterial [fandom] vs viral [Loria] infections

MRSAMy MLB fandom bacteria are waging a valiant battle vs the viral infection which is Jeffrey Loria, it’s not a petri dish for the feint of heart.

Typical fandom bacteria are unmarried [single-celled] creatures with a rubbery membrane surrounding the fluid inside the cell. They can reproduce on their own given enough alcohol. Most fandom bacteria are harmless, and some actually help by digesting food, destroying disease-causing microbes, fighting cancer cells, and providing essential nutrients. Fewer than 1% of them cause diseases in other people or ever marry.

Loria’s viral infections are unique microorganisms because they cannot reproduce without a MLB franchise [host cell]. After contacting a host cell, a virus will insert genetic material [Samson] into the host and take over that host’s functions. The cell, now infected, continues to reproduce, but it reproduces more viral protein and genetic material instead of its usual products [enjoyment of a sport]. It is this process that earns viruses the classification of ‘parasite.’ In most cases, they reprogram the cells to make new viruses until the cells burst and die [see Montreal Expos].

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Loria’s most recent parasitic attack on its host was the firing of a manager who he had given a contract extension at the end of last season and then hiring a replacement, Dan Jennings, who has never managed or played at the MLB level.

Given his lack of qualifications, the obvious reason for the hire is assuring the owner of having a manager who will comply with his every dictate with no resistance. From the players point of view, there is another obvious conclusion, when you speak with Jennings you will be speaking with Loria. Any agent of a Marlins player who is not driving home that point today is incompetent. Scott Boras is not incompetent.

So, you might ask [were you to be still reading], why would this latest viral fungui affect Marlins fans? How is it that they even exist? Loria is not MLB fandom bacteria’s first rodeo. Like Capt. McCluskey, bacteria have warded off hundreds of punk viral infections over the history of the game.

So Marlins fans, over the next few weeks, maybe even months, we will follow our team observing the law of reduced undulations. Defeats won’t sting as much and victories won’t be as much fun. But then something will happen which we can’t quite identify, something at the sub-molecular level. Maybe we’ll be at a party and checking the phone for updates, ‘hey, isn’t Fernandez pitching today?’ Or the next Stanton blast which goes viral, so to speak.

That’s when we’ll know. Deep down in a place we won’t talk about at that party. The return of our fandom bacteria will have played out yet again. Even the unworthiness of a Jeffrey Loria can’t keep a great game down. Eventually, fungoes always trump fungui.

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Wrights and infectious stuff

The brothers who ultimately stand atop the Right Stuff pyramid, knew all about infectious stuff, like bacteria and dreams.

A pair of separate events occurred in 1896 in which the human spirit triumphed in confronting the deadly age-old bacterial infection, typhoid fever. Most importantly, a vaccine was developed by the British bacteriologist Almroth Wright at the Army Medical School in Hampshire, England. The vaccine was successfully applied during the Boer War that year.

Wright Cycle ExchangeMeanwhile, in the city of Dayton, Ohio, during the summer of 1896, 28-year-old Wilbur and 22-year-old Katharine Wright were nursing their 25-year-old brother Orville through a roughly two-month-long ordeal with typhoid fever. This in a home which did not yet have running water or indoor plumbing. Their Mom having died of tuberculosis seven years earlier and their Dad away from home in his role as Bishop of a Protestant Church, the siblings relying upon each other was not a sacrifice as much as it was just their way of life. Business at their 3-year-old bicycle store, the Wright Cycle Exchange, suffered as well.

Lilienthal 2Orville survived the near-death experience of course. But appreciate what indirectly came of such turbulence in their lives. To pass the time, Wilbur began reading to Orville about the German glider enthusiast Otto Lilienthal who had recently died as a result of a glider crash.

Here’s how Wilbur Wright describes what came of those readings in their book, “The Early History of the Airplane.”

The brief notice of his [Lilienthal] death which appeared in the telegraphic news at that time aroused a passive interest which had existed from my childhood, and led me to take down from the shelves of our home library a book on “Animal Mechanism,” by Prof. Marey, which I had already read several times. From this I was led to read more modern works, and as my brother soon became equally interested with myself, we soon passed from the reading to the thinking, and finally to the working stage. It seemed to us that the main reason why the problem had remained so long unsolved was that no one had been able to obtain any adequate practice. We figured that Lilienthal in five years of time had spent only about five hours in actual gliding through the air. The wonder was not that he had done so little, but that he had accomplished so much. It would not be considered at all safe for a bicycle rider to attempt to ride through a crowded city street after only five hours’ practice, spread out in bits of ten seconds each over a period of five years; yet Lilienthal with this brief practice was remarkably successful in meeting the fluctuations and eddies of wind gusts. We thought that if some method could be found by which it would be possible to practice by the hour instead of by the second there would be hope of advancing the solution of a very difficult problem….

I am very consciously slow-reading David McCullough’s new book, The Wright Brothers. A fitting subject for one of my favorite writers, given his ability to transport me.

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Floyd a wife beater?

floydNow I have officially heard it all.

On various radio outlets, I’ve heard allegations that Floyd from Mayberry is alleged to have committed various acts of spousal abuse. Absolutely ridiculous allegations.

First of all, the actor who played Floyd Lawson the barber on The Andy Griffith Show, Howard McNear, died in 1969. Further, at the time of his death he was survived by his wife of 43 years, Helen McNear, and their marriage was never associated with any type of controversy. On the contrary, beginning with Mr. McNear’s enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and his subsequent long radio, television [his credits also include Gunsmoke], and movie [Blue Hawaii] career, he always carried himself with a soft-spoken integrity which was seen as a testament to a life well led.

Howard McNear, RIP.

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Whispering sweet McDoubles

IMG_0075Thanks to Cesar Millan and the most bountiful food product that has ever existed in human history, I was able to build a relationship with my wife’s Maltese over the years. It did not start well.

After various failed attempts to play with the dog, my wife Nory patiently explained that it wasn’t that kind of dog. My reaction resembled that of Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when informed that the groom was a vegetarian. “What do you mean not that kind of dog? What kind of a dog doesn’t play?”

As the newcomer to the household, I expected some resistance, but the dog? ‘I got his one,’ I figured. I figured wrong. A stalemate of sorts ensued. Over those first few years we circled each other with respect, but little trust. Then I came across an interesting character in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, What the Dog Saw, which led my wife and I to watch The Dog Whisperer program.

As with most recent converts, my enthusiasm may have had made to make up for my technique, but the results were real. I was on a mission to earn that dog’s trust. I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice to say that our ‘sessions’ typically began with me kneeling prostrate before the suddenly empowered dog, not unlike Spurs fans after game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Laying there face down, I often wondered if he felt embarrassed for me given my obvious lack of pride, not unlike how Iranian negotiators might currently view the Obama White House. But I soldiered on, thinking, ‘what would Cesar do.’

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Ichiro facts and Western legends

liberty valanceA 1962 movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, was made by a trio of Hollywood legends, John Ford, John Wayne and James Stewart. The film is most often referenced because at its dramatic conclusion, came one of the greatest lines in movie history:

Ransom Stoddard [Stewart]: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

At some point, the facts about Ichiro Suzuki may be zig-zaging into legend territory, but its hard to tell from my vantage point here in the deep South, aka Miami. I get to say that since I grew up around folks who pronounced it ‘My-Ama’ and had a neighbor who played a mean banjo.

A sampling of recent articles about Ichiro and the facts, or legends-to-be, they report:

Joe Trezza – Miami Herald – Unique training and preparation:

Like all players, Ichiro will stretch. But he starts earlier than most players and won’t really ever stop … one of the few major-leaguers who doesn’t lift weights. Instead he prefers a rigorous flexibility routine that requires specialized machines, targets often-overlooked joints and promotes improved blood circulation….

Ichiro has been placed on the disabled list just once in 14 seasons. He does the routine up to four times per day — when he wakes up, before team stretches at the ballpark, before the game and again at home after the game.

What separates Ichiro from other players isn’t his work ethic. Instead it’s a meticulousness that touches every aspect of his preparation.

“He’s the most interesting man in the world,” Marlins hitting coach Frank Menechino said.

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The at bats Ichiro needs for 4,257

IchiroSuzuki-620x400Two major milestones are on the horizon for Ichiro Suzuki. An additional 134 hits would tie him with Pete Rose at 4,256 professional base hits. If he gets 22 hits beyond that, he would then reach the 3,000 hit threshold in MLB. An incredible accomplishment given that he spent his first 9 seasons in Japan before coming to the Major Leagues in 2001.

As fans, when we think of hitting, we are used to thinking about at bats [AB’s], but plate appearances [PA’s] is the more precise way to measure, since it includes walks and sacrifices which don’t count as AB’s. Barry Jackson has reported that while Ichiro’s base contract with the Marlins is for $2 million, it could increase up to $4.8 million based on additional PA’s. The bonuses start kicking in at 300 PA’s in increments of 50 up to 600.

So barring a major injury, which Ichiro has avoided throughout his 23-year professional career, getting enough PA’s is all that stands between him and international professional baseball history happening in Little Havana. In my informal review of how local bloggers have weighed-in on the subject, Joe Frisaro and Michael Jong’s article as of March 2015, both estimated 340 PA’s. Interestingly, in a Jan 2015 article before the Ichiro signing, Jong was much more pessimistic about Ichiro’s expected PA’s.

Here is a rundown on my starting point to estimate Ichiro’s 2015 PA’s:

  • 385 – Ichiro’s 2014 PA’s with Yankees
  • 340 – Estimated PA’s for Ichiro by Joe Frisaro & Michael Jong [March]
  • 300 – PA’s at which contract bonus begins to kick in
  • 201 – Reed Johnson 2014 PA’s with Marlins / Jong [January]

But how did they get to 340 PA’s? While Jong is very detailed in his use of analytics, he did not not specify his assumptions on getting to 340. Frisaro added up the PA’s by the 6 Marlins bench players used as pinch-hitters or reserved outfielders last year. As such, Frisaro’s 340 strikes me as too generous, whereas January Jong too stingy in allowing that Ichiro might only match Reed Johnson.

There is a consensus that Ichiro will not be platooned and will not play first base. So his role will be as the first pinch-hitter off the bench and a typical 4th outfielder, playing in case of injury or spotting starters a day off.  Further, given that Yelich is a Gold Glove winner and Ozuna and Stanton are considered above-average defensively, it is unlikely that Ichiro will be used extensively as a defensive replacement.

Based on those factors, my search criteria for determining which MLB outfielders during 2014 best approximated Ichiro’s role in 2015, are as follows:

  • National League player – due to reprehensible DH
  • Started ≤50% games played – to avoid platoon players
  • Min 250 PA’s – below that level there is no chance for reaching records

Here are the 2014 National League outfielders who met that criteria:

  • Travis Snider [L] –       PIT — 140 GP — 70 GS — 359 PA’s
  • Chris Heisey [R]  –       CIN — 119 GP — 55 GS — 299 PA’s
  • Brandon Barnes [R] – COL — 132 GP — 55 GS — 313 PA’s

That’s it. Even Snider’s 359 PA’s are a bit of an outlier, since he began the year as a starting outfielder.

Ichiro is on a 2-year plan to get 156 hits, or 78 hits per year. Unless the Marlins outfielders have a major injury, Mike Redmond will be hard pressed to get Ichiro more than 300 PA’s. Here are the number of hits 300 PA’s would translate to:

  • 74 – based on .264 batting average [Ichiro’s average last year]
  • 78 – based on .280 batting average
  • 84 – based on .300 batting average

It will be that close. While Ichiro is a famously classy guy, I wouldn’t blame Christian, Marcell & Giancarlo for always walking behind him. As a sign of respect of course.

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