Sunday, 31 August 2008

Another Update--I Do Too Many Of These

1) I have no more poetry at the moment. I am sorry, skatej. I will have more in the future, however. Once I get back to school, that is. Or when I write some new stuff. Maybe I should do that. Hmmm....

2) Having just seen four theatrical performances (Romeo and Juliet, Caesar and Cleopatra, Cabaret, and Taming of the Shrew) in the city of Stratford, Ontario, I believe I have some theatre reviews to write. These fall under the "coming soon" category.

3) I'm reading a novel called The Serpent and The Rainbow by Wade Davis. The subtitle is, "A Harvard Scientist Uncovers the Startling Truth about the Secret World of Haititan Voodoo and Zombis." It's a true story, by the way, and has all sorts of interesting interludes on pharmacology, religion, Haitian culture, ideas about death, the limits of Western scientific thought, history of slavery in Haiti and the world, mind-altering drugs, and wacky inventions by European noblemen. I'll tell you a little about it when I'm done.

4) Having gone to the Pinery today, I have pictures to post. Also, I should get on that whole Jasper trip, too, eh?

5) I suppose I'll do more Dawkins stuff eventually...

And that's all. Please blog responsibly.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

the advertisements

there is something serial about assembling limbs
accumulating fleshy prosthetics
scissoring legs off of bodies
peeling navels from stomachs
stretching anonymous skin across a book cover
serving up this woman's thigh or that girl's breast

it's like a reverse amputation
paring off the ankles in basement surgeries
knifing the hamstrings and unshut eyes
carving out unwanted identities
taking a scalpel to the neck and head
prepared like puffer-fish sushi to be free of any deadly person

they leave no stomach unturned or untucked
and the parts lay bloodless like a puzzle
so the king's men can keep a piece each
add to their skin-tone collector sets
cross-referenced by anatomy

the magazine racks are delis
the shutter a mortar
the page a snare
and the models are drawn and quartered

The prof's comments were, "This is clever, but it reads far too staccato for my taste, like machine gun fire, so that it accumulate as too much of a list and not enough of a flow." Staccato was my aim, however; any guesses why?

Friday, 29 August 2008

Fresh Water makes me feel small

Watching Planet Earth
Fresh Water makes me feel small


under Lake Baikal's shield
fish sneak in ice
while freshwater seals glide
over fingers of alien-green sponge
and arthropods yellow like mangos
eat the dead where even bacteria cannot survive
in the oldest deepest lake


in the mountain streams
larvae hook to the rocks
and spin safety lines in case they slip
like aquatic mountaineers
while shrimp catch passing detritus
and giant salamander prowl at night
for eighty years


on the bed of Lake Malawi
cichlid make craters in the sand
and dolphin-fish hunt
sensing electric currents
while mayfly grubs age in the abyss
to buoy during rainy season
and explode in clouds of flies
on the surface
since colonial times

The prof wrote of this, "and I want to say... so? There should be something further here, a reflection that goes beyond the title, something that moves the reader to understand your response to this. It's like a description without illumination." I think she's right, so I'll work on maybe a section IV. that provides that illumination.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

I found you on Google

I'm not sure whether I want to post this one or not. I've set the deadline ahead, so I have time to think about it.

I found you on Google

I found you on Google, like any good romance;
from the Midwest you fascinate with your joint selves,
attract attention with votre limbs, life, everything,
twin infatuations and more than pretty book-ends.
The ribald mass speculates whether your seperate hearts
require seperate lovers, whether you'd both moan for one,
whether adultery comes with second heads. I'll serve
you as two mistresses, for I'd have you both uniquely.
I cannot know you so I imagine I share myself
with a doppelganger, make-believe the diplomacy
of one pair of legs and two directions; I fail.
Between your collarbones is the symbol of sibling rivalry
resolved, and I send you my anonymous love
and hope that you can find it in yourselves to share.

This has generally garnered praise from those who've read it--including the professor mentioned in the previous sonnet post. I, however, am slightly uncomfortable publishing it because it's a love sonnet (and something of an erotic sonnet) written to real people who I don't know. If I put it on the Internet, I 1) might look like a creep/loser and 2) might embarass said real people, who would recognise themselves, I'm sure.

There is a story behind this. It's a companion to "Everyone deserves fourteen lines." I had thought about that poem, and decided an interesting next poem would be written to two people instead of to no one. I had also been thinking about writing a poem about the subjects, and these two ideas merged into one. Since it's a sonnet, I just automatically wrote it as infatuatous (I don't think that's a word). So I don't actually want a relationship with them; it's the form. Lots of people do think/speak the sentiments I'm expressing, though, based on the sort of on-line discussions I've seen. Despite all that, I would like to meet them. (And, yes, they are kind of cute, though a little young for me.)

And they are conjoined twins, if you haven't gathered that yet.

So that's the story behind this. Yikes, it's long, and I've said that I hate disclaimers.


The other night I saw Domino with my brother at a friend's place. I'd never seen it before, but had been interested, largely because the very idea of it seemed bizarrely intriguing. The premise seemed really silly: the story of a model-turned-bounty-hunter by the name of Domino. That being said, it is based on a true story--"sort of." And it stars Keira Knightley, but instead of playing in an action-movie/period piece, dressed in clothes that reveal enough of her form to mahe use of her attractiveness but don't really show as much off as many of her adolescent admirers would like, instead takes the role of the eponymous model-turned-bounty-hunter, a dirty, short-haired slut. This movie promised to twist our expectations--an ironic sort of promise, I realize--and so I was happy enough to see it.

I'm not sure what to think.

I enjoyed watching it, for sure. The movie has ample witty lines and outrageous situations (in a gritty sort of way) to make it enjoyable on a moment-by-moment basis; this and the rambling, twisting, coincidental plot make it reminiscent of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Less enjoyable was the staccato, broken editing that comes clearly from the caffeinated Generation ADHD. What was most riveting, though, was the character of Domino herself, the product of the wasteful and boring lifestyles of the rich and famous. The child-woman's "journey to maturity" was just as gripping as the plot events, largely because most of the audience is bored with the mundanity of modern Western life. We watch the movies Keira Knightley regularly makes as a way of escaping it, but here Keira's character actually escapes that life, delving into a world of excitement, danger, and sexuality that barely stays within the confines of the law. The movie acted both as a form of escapism and a commentary on it--especially since her chosen coping mechanism explodes, introducing her to the blood and guilt of the life she chose. During the interview that frames her narrative, we can see Domino has grown a little for the tragedy.

But even as a child, Domino was engaging in the same way the hero of Juno is--tough and capable despite her naivety. I'm not usually a fan of violence as a solution, but when Domino punched the bullying sorority girl in the face, I cheered. Domino is a heroine of a particular squadron of the feminist movement, a squadron that will succeed in a brutal landscape using any weapon at its disposal--both despite and fully embracing the attractiveness of its members.

Parts of this movie aggravated me, though. The biggest is that I'll never be able to watch Keira Knightley in a movie the same way again. I suppose this is a symptom of my wanting attractive actresses to maintain some sort of on-screen chastity, which Knightley fails to do in Domino. She shows off a lot more skin than usual, with tank-tops, belly shirts, and low-cut jeans, in public places; she also performs a lapdance, and this movie is somewhat reknowned as Keira's "full-frontal flick." In her other films, Keira is somewhat of a tease. In this, she's more of a flaunt. I don't like it. Of course, I realize the character demands this sort of presentation, and whoever played the role would have been required to do the things she did; I suppose my upset then comes from Knightley's decision to accept the role. Maybe she didn't like the idea of on-screen nudity any more than I do, but decided the movie was good enough that she ought to make it regardless. Maube she didn't think that at the time, but does now. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and imagine that one of these is true. But it will still irk me the next time I watch her on screen.

And that's not to say that I wasn't secretly hoping that the Keira Knightley-Lucy Lu interview would end with a lesbian make-out session, because that would possibly be the sexiest cinematic moment of the century. But if it had, my response would be the same--disappointment. Gratification of the baser instincts may be immediately enjoyable, but I still think it can be morally reprehensible, and I will always prefer the moral choice.

Then again, maybe I'm just a prude.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008



Looking back:
I've changed the layout again. Previously I'd liked the library-and-parchment feel of the "Scribe" layout, but I've just switched to this one--Minima, I think--and I like how clean it feels. I'll keep it for a while. That's not to say I wasn't happy with Scribe, but I'll stick to this for now.
I've also started posting more poetry again, and may or may keep this up a bit. On the one hand, I do like showing off a little; on the other hand, it isn't cool for guys to write poetry; if I had a third hand, on it I'd say that worrying about looking cool is the first sign that you aren't, but, then, if I had a third hand looking cool would be a whole new ballgame (and so would ballgames).

Looking forward:
I'm seeing some plays in the near future (four of them), and may review them. Also, I'm itching to write a review of Domino, which I just saw and want to talk about. Finally, I may start throwing down some of my Religious Studies academia, but maybe not. Time will be an issue, and I need to go to bed right now. Headache, and all.
I'm going to school in a week, so there'll be some content shift then.
And I have news I'm bursting to write on here, but I'll have to wait, because it will involve sacrificing my anonymity and I have these Internet-paranoia fears which tell me not to. Oh, well.

Until then,

-The English Clergyman

Everyone deserves fourteen lines

Same as the previous two poems; for a class, open poetry assignment. I'll write the backstory afterwards.

Everyone deserves fourteen lines

Everyone deserves fourtheen lines at least once,
but I reserve iambs for people I know.
I'd blazon you; luxuriate your lips' sheen,
your straight or curling hair, as if I knew.
Maybe we'll soon meet; maybe we already have
on the bus somewhere or across a counter,
as our hands brush with the movement of coins,
a clumsy oracle to a future consummation.
My fingers wander across the keys, looking
for your eyes in the aisle seat, your scent at the till
where you might wait for me and I for you,
but if we keep waiting our hands won't brush again.
I write you bottled sonnets and set them free
and maybe one day you'll send a map to our couplet.

As evident here and here, I sometimes take it upon myself to write sonnets for people I know, for kicks. Largely, the idea is to try writing a sonnet and see how well it goes. I like practicing word play. Anyway, I had to events approaching fairly simultaneously at the end of January/beginning of February this past year: an open poetry assignment and a blind date. So this sonnet started out as a sonnet to the date, who I wouldn't have known. However, the date fell through, so I addressed it instead to not just a complete stranger, but to someone I'd never met at all (or, maybe had).

The last three lines are not right. The professor for the course pointed that out for me (I hadn't noticed before): "These last three lines don't maintain the strength of the previous lines. The language is less complex, more conversational, and it breaks the tone." She is absolutely correct, and I will endeavour to fix that in time.

Finally, if you know anything about sonnets--esp. those by major Renaissance poets--I encourage you to look for references and allusions. But, then, if you know anything about sonnets--esp. those by major Renaissance poets--you already have.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


And more poetry.



We are born from oceans
from uterine seas
with webbed toes and gills we swim before birth
drowning might make sense as a way to go
but my young living arms are not ready to die
my body tried to find the fetal instinct
that dried up when I learned to walk


and I floated in the air
learned the queer pitch of gravity as one moves through it
as though one will rise forever

and then


I hung
in the middle
of the pool
everything in stasus
for millennial minutes I smell-taste chlorine
confused limbs tangle the water
my legs grasp and my arms kick out
but the wet is still
the bubbles are calm

Monday, 25 August 2008

fort mcmurray weather report

the air glowed orange and thick light
            leaked from overcast the colour of grease.
            coworkers' faces were slick with jaundice-twilight
            in the early afternoon.
ash from forest fires sixty miles northwest of town
            littered the streets like snow.
hail tore strips of siding off bungalows in Waterways
            shredded the greenhouse
            and punched holes the size of tennis-balls in trailers.
smoke filled the river basin and the Lower Townsite
            so that the far end of the bridge was just a ghost.
            the asthmatic stayed behind their window blinds
            and the rest of us hitched and sneezed.
downhill the rain pulled tents from our hands
            while uphill the asphalt baked the dust.
when the wind blew south the smell of oil from the sands
            and the sulphur tinge from the mines
            killed the bison and brought our paycheques.

the long vesper

It's been some time since I published any poetry, so I'll type one out now. Give you a taste. I wrote this for a class, but it was an 'open' sort of assignment.

the long vesper

O Morpheus
the darkness ebbs from my fingers
my tongue catches the dream's edge
twisting thoughts might presage sleep
but the poppies surround your bed, not mine

O VanWinkle
your snores changed the world
while the darkness fluxes, changeless
before my closed eyes and failing nocturnes
and I shall toss the duration of your rest

O Simon Peter
three times you and the disciples slept among the olives
and you had a watch to keep and a prayer to cry
I have no vigil to maintain
but still the pillow kisses my waking temple


I am home, now.

The drive home from the airport was beautiful. I've forgotten how great Southern Ontario is this time of year. And the warm, wet early morning air was an excellent addition after the dryness of Fort McMurray.

My Mom's been doing wonders with the backyard, again. It's full and green and busy.

And there are the dogs, of course, who are aging but still silly and attention-hogging puppies at heart.

And I scrounged up some essays and poetry and stuff that I'd brought home from school. I don't know whether to put them here or not; it isn't so much a case of whether I will ever publish them or not--I only will if I become so famous that anything I write will sell as an insight into my legendary mind, and this isn't likely--but whether my hardly existent readership will be interested. I suppose I could ask for feedback (and do use the comments feature, any returning readers), but given the "hardly existent" nature of my readership, I won't go looking for answers.

Well, I'll tell you what I have and, if you exist, you can tell me if you're interested.

I have "Caribou Vestments and Dreaming Prophets: Inuit, Dene, and Missionary Christianities." This is about syncretism.

I have assorted journals from my readings of Chidester's Christianity: A Global History, which I could skim through and try to find interesting passages.

And I have my portfolio for my Creative Writing: Poetry Edition class.

Later I'll check this again and see if anyone's expressed interest. In the meantime, I'll go update a previous post.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Homeward Bound


I am soon headed homeward. I am happy about this.

1) I get to play with my dogs again. This is probably the most exciting prospect of going home.
2) I get two weeks during which the amount of work I do will be shockingly minimal. Given the heavy-lifting I've had to do today, an easy few weeks will be most appreciated.
3) I will eventually going back to school, which means reunions with friends, tantalizing forays into academia, and a city that is very pretty in autumn.
4) I will be able to access a bunch of my poetry, essays, etc., which I can post on my blog.

There are things I am less excited about.

1) I have an appointment at the dentist's. I have not been flossing. They will notice, and lecture me.
2) I might actually miss Fort McMurray and wonderful weekend trips (I suppose I haven't blogged about Jasper yet). If nothing else, the amazing Albertan sky will be missed for the winter.
3) Schoolwork will come. This means stress. Also, my extra-curriculars may finally start to amount to something this year.
4) The red-eye plane-ride, given my longish legs and inability to sleep while airborne, may not be so fun.

But, in general, I am very, very happy to be homeward bound!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Here's a video I took of Robson River while we were there. These are quite the rapids!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Dawkins' Misrepresentation of Religion I

Every so often, Dawkins shows that he doesn't know very much about religion. This doesn't mean his arguments are wrong, though it weakens his credibility. Occasionally, though, it renders his point irrelevant, since whatever he said only holds together in the cases where his idea of religion is true. One obvious case (which is relevant to my last Dawkins post, Disputing Dawkins III) is


Here is Dawkins on miracles:

"The God Hypothesis suggests that the reality we inhabit also contains a supernatural agent who designed the universe and--at least in many versions of the hypothesis--maintains it and even intervenes in it with miracles, which are temporary violations of his own otherwise grandly immutable laws." (pg. 58)

First off, the relationship between God and the universe that he portrays seems a little mistaken to me (this talk of "also contain[ing]" is misleading). However, I don't know much about this, so I won't get into.

To say that I am an expert on the theology of miracles is a stretch. I haven't read Lewis' book Miracles, nor read the official theology, nor have any idea how it works in other religions. I can tell you, however, what the standard understanding of miracles is, at least as it is preached from the pulpits I've heard and in the Sunday schools I've attended. And Dawkins does not capture that standard understanding.

Here, again, is his definition of miracles: "temporary violations of his [sic] own otherwise grandly immutable laws."

What's wrong here? Maybe you'll consider it a fine point; maybe you won't. That's up to you. Whether the point is fine or not isn't quite relevant, since even fine points can make a world of difference in certain contexts. The point, anyway, is this: miracles are not violations of natural laws, but are instead a natural part of the universe.

This claim--that miracles are a natural and intrinsic part of the universe--bears explaining. Think of it this way: God made the universe in such a way that he could sustain it and that he could intervene through revelation, miracle, and eventually incarnation. God did not set down a bunch of rules and then go and break them. God set down a system, and then he went and operated within that system. Those inside the system, of course, see the mechanics of the system as laws of nature, and, since they exist within the system, experience these 'laws' as immutable. But the fact is that they are not really laws, and therefore cannot be broken.

Imagine that you are a computer programmer. You create a program that operates self-sufficiently for a while. Perhaps it has assorted parts that interact with eachother, such as in a simulator. Perhaps it has some end or goal (a telos, if you will) that it is supposed to acheive. It is possible that you could create such a program without having programmed in any way for you, as a user of the program, to influence the course of the activity. This would be silly. This would mean, for instance, that you could never turn it off, or stop it, without unplugging the computer. In fact, most programming platforms have a 'stop' function built in. This is the very least of user/creator intervention. Most programs, in fact, allow for considerable data imput or user influence. After all, if the program is messing up and isn't reaching the goal (telos) you desired, you'd want to be able to get in there and fix it.

Now, if you interfered with the program, are you breaking grandly immutable laws? No. Of course, the pieces of code in the program can't operate outside the parameters you set. That doesn't mean that you can, or there's any sense that those parameters are violated by your influence.

Does this help? I realize this is an analogy; it proves nothing. But perhaps it will help readers see how Christians imagine miracles. They are not violations of the natural order; they are rare phenomenon that are fully allowable by and encompassed by the natural order--or the natural order as Christians think of it. This natural order does include "supernatural" agents, as Dawkins defines them, and so phenomenon isn't always explainable by natural laws from the natural sciences. This does not mean that they are violations of any laws.

This is the other side of a problem I came upon in the previously hyperlinked post (see top). That problem was revelation. Why, Dawkins asks, have we never succeeded in measuring or observing a revelation? Other than the obvious--most religions don't suppose there has been a 'large-scale' revelation since the Enlightenment, which is the earliest time someone might be supposed to try measuring one--I could say that the universe is programmed to allow channels of information to enter into it, and yet those pieces of code (humans) within the universe can't apprehend quite where that information comes from, limited as those codes are by their parameters.

As far as I can see, this belief system is entirely self-consistent. If I am wrong, please tell me. Whether it is or not, though, isn't the point of this post. The point is that Dawkins misrepresents religion. Either he doesn't understand it, or he is deliberately misrepresenting it. Neither is particularly laudable, especially since you'd hardly have to go out of your way to find this sort of thing out. My guess is that Dawkins simply isn't willing to try.

Go to the Dawkins Directory

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Beauty in Close-Up

There's something wonderful, I think, about close-ups of assorted natural objects. Here are some examples of supermacro photos I've taken over the last two summers.

Dawkins Moment I

On page 155, Dawkins writes: "I am not advocating some sort of narrowly scientistic way of thinking."

But, Dawkins, you are. You really, really are.

Go to Dawkins Directory

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Disputing Dawkins III

I have previously argued that there is no reason to believe that we can measure the probability of God's existence. Let's ignore that for the time being; let's pretend that we can.

Dawkins suggests that, if we measure God's probability of existence on a spectrum, entering assorted data into the equation, then we will find that God's existence is extremely improbable.

I disagree entirely, and will in this post argue, even positing that measuring God's existence is possible, against Dawkins'

Argument for the Improbability of God's Existence.

Again, I feel manacled by the fact that I don't have a copy of the book to use. Maybe I'll download one. So I'm going by memory and by the (poorish) notes I took while reading. Apologies.

By page 14o of the chapter "Why There Almost Certainly Is No God," I'm quite willing to concede that biodiversity and life's existence do not logically require God's existence, granted a universe for them to exist in. I wasn't ever an ardent creationist anyway. Yet explanations for the origin of the world's phenomenon does not demonstrate that God's existence is improbable; it only demonstrates that creationism isn't necessarily true. This is a hugely important distinction.

After this, Dawkins seems to ask for an explanation for God's existence; this is usually known as the 'who made God?' question. Now, my natural inclination is to write this off as nonsense--no one made God. Sure, I don't understand how this could be. I don't expect to understand everything. I realize that this will not fly for the voraciously curious Dawkins, who insists that all questions he cares to ask are answerable (and, oddly, all questions that he doesn't care to ask are nonsensical). However, I want to point out that we don't know how the universe came about, either. I don't mean to play God of the Gaps, here; it's my guess that there will always be an infinite regress on determining the origins of the universe, but that's not the point. My point is that just as we may figure out how the universe could come into existence, someone may eventually come up with a brilliant and convincing account of how God has always existed. In other words, if I can't say, "Well, science doesn't have an answer for it," then Dawkins can't say, "Well, theology doesn't have an answer for it." I suppose we'll just have to wait for what the future comes up with (or doesn't). (And on another aside, I doubt Dawkins would be convinced with the answer, and not just because he's biased against it; the answer would likely be rationalist and not empiricist, and so he'd never be willing to accept.)

Then Dawkins addresses "other ways of knowing besides the scientific" (p 154). His answer seems to be that personal experience could be illusory, and that revelation would be measurable, and since we've never measured a revelation before, it can't have happened. Now, that personal experience could be illusory is certainly true; the major problem with Dawkins using this line of argument is that he offers no way of determining which experiences are illusory. Why are religious experiences hallucinations--or products of human bias and expectation--while scientific observations are accurate? The answer is pretty simple--that wouldn't help his argument at all. (And if you're of the scientific bent, you'll likely try to tell me otherwise. Go read Haraway. Go talk to some native elders. At the very least, read this story.) Further, I'm not sure why he insists that revelation ought to be measurable. Well, I think I know why; it's just wrong.

Think of it this way. Say God exists, a God who can communicate with humans. This God, as we believe it, operates beyond the known laws of the universe. If God is capable of this, surely God is capable of hiding the means of communication from our observation until it arrives in the human's minds. Why would God do this? Well, I'm not altogether worried about such a question--why anybody does anything isn't something I can know--but, for the sake of argument, I'd guess it might be so that we have the ability to choose whether to believe or not. That's a fairly common line of reasoning, so I don't think I need to outline it here. The point is that if God exists, and beyond humanly-knowable physics, there's no reason that God's communication with us need be measurable.

Dawkins also posits that a God that can communicate with all humans simultaneously, and answer all of their prayers, that God must be extraordinarily complicated. Well, perhaps. But perhaps not. C. S. Lewis anticipates this in Mere Christianity, and as Dawkins has indicated that he's read Lewis' book, it's a bit disappointing that Dawkins bothers to mention this. He does, however, and so I will say what C. S. Lewis said. That is, God is eternal, meaning not that he exists for all time, but that he exists outside of time. It's a bit of a brain-breaker if you're not familiar with this sort of thinking, but bear with me. Imagine the timeline as a line on a piece of paper, and along this line all things from the beginning to the end occur. You can jot down samples along the line if you care to. Now, you can draw on it the portion when you have existed and you can pinpoint the present along the line. As time progresses, the present slides along that line. It goes on inexorably, and doesn't go backwards. Theory of relativity does some interesting things with this sort of demonstration. I don't know much about this, but you could research it if you cared to. Theology also does some interesting things, and that's what I'm talking about here. See, God does not move along the line in some order, as the present does. God doesn't even hop along from one point to another like a time-traveler would. Instead, God exists out of the line. From this point, He can gaze upon any part of the timeline at will, in any order He wills. To say that God must communicate with all praying people simultaneously is silly. He only has to communicate with one at a 'time'. God experiences time differently.

But even if this were not the case, something which produces complicated things does not necessitate that that thing is itself complicated. Dawkins, in fact, provides an excellent example. The process of Darwinian evolution is, in its fundamentals, very simple, and yet it has produced very complicated things.

And then Dawkins claims to have proved that God is monstrously improbable. On pages 157-158, he generates a list that summarizes his 'arguments' and comes to the 'conclusion' he wants. I'll paraphrase the items here:

1) Humanity's greatest intellectual challenge is to exlpain complexity in the world.
2) Natural temptation is to posit 'design' as the answer.
3) The natural temptation is fallacious, as we get to the "Who designed the designer" question; therefore, "design is not a sufficient answer to the question is #1; we need what Dawkins calls a crane, which builds gradually from simplicity to complexity.
4) Most ingenious and powerful crane created so far is Darwinian evolution; design is an illusion; evolution is cummulative.
5) There is not yet an equivalent crane for physics; could be mulitverses, a Darwin-like theory; heavier demands, but anthropic principle allows for more luck then our intuition is comfortable with.
6) We should not give up hope for a crane in physics; current weak cranes are self-evidently better than the "self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer."

And then he says, "If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion--the God Hypothesis--is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist. This is the main conclusion of the book so far."

Which is utterly preposterous.

He does not provide ANY ANSWER WHATSOEVER to the following question: Why must the first cause be simple? Phrased differently, why must a complex God be the result of a cummulative process?

Now, it doesn't take a person trained in logic to see that his list of premises isn't an argument, because each step does not build off of the previous one. Namely, #4 goes against his conclusion, and then #5 flatly denies #4. There's no proof or argument, but simple assertion. And then all he does is demonstrate that God's existence is not necessary to explain the existence of the world. The closest he comes to demonstrating that God is unlikely is to ask the "Who made God?" question, which fundamentally presupposes a rational materialist framework, and if you're willing to believe in God, you might as well go whole-hog and say God exists outside of that framework. The problem is, Dawkins is unwilling to give up his rational materialism even in limited contexts, or to acknowledge that a rational person could.

Now, there are other big problems with his argument that sit in his fundamental presuppositions: that humans can grasp the universe using logic alone; that humans can grasp the universe at all; that humans can use logic effectively; that the universe follows logical laws; that rationality is the best measure. These problems are laced into the one above, as you can see, so it's harder for me to tease this argument out of these. However, let's just simplify for a second and see where I've come so far.

If we can measure God's existence along a spectrum of probability, I'm willing to concede that the complexity of the universe is not going to push the probability any closer to 100%. That being said, the "Who made God?" question isn't going to push it any closer to 0%, either. And that's where Dawkins leaves us--right where we started. He most certainly doesn't get us within sight of "almost certainly does not exist."
As he argues that a rational person ought not believe in God because of this improbability, and that we therefore must only deal with religion in its this-world effects, and that, since religion's real-world effects are (according to him), negative, we must do away with religion. If God's existence is not improbable, however, then the rest of the argument falls apart.

Of course, I disagree even further back; I don't think we can even measure God's probability. But I will always try to argue this way, and attack each part as individually as possible. That is always the best way to argue.

As a note, I'd like to say I'm less satisfied with the arguments on the post here. While I'm sure all of it's true, some of it feels like a cop-out to me. Specifically, my refutation of the "Who made God?" question feels a little weak. This being said, I'm absolutely certain that that question is nonsensical. I just don't feel I argued it well. My apologies for that.

Go to the Dawkins Directory

Monday, 11 August 2008

On the Rest of Saturday

When I got home from InterPLAY on Saturday I started supper; however, the power went out half-way through, and supper didn't get cooked. The power-outage also knocked out all of the restaurants in walking distance. My Dad, brother, and I finally managed to get wheels (the van having died in one of my brother's recent adventures) from my cousin, and we went down to the Lower Townsite/Downtown to see about the van and then to eat.

We ate at MacRay's in Gregoire, and I had a Meat Scrambler, which is awesome. We're looking at hashbrowns in the bottom, covered in eggs scrambled with sausage, ham, and beef, coated in turn with melted cheese. Incredible.

Anyway, we then dropped my brother off at work (he was on the night shift this past weekend), and went home. My cousin was watching the Olympics--Mexico v. Brazil, women's beach volleyball. This is an event in the Olympics? I had thought beach volleyball was just an excuse to watch young people frolicking in swimsuits/to frolic with young people in swimsuits. Who knew it was a real sport? (And I'll grant that probably quite a few people watch the Summer Olympics--particularly synchronized diving--to see young people frolicking in swimsuits.)

Then my brother called us and told us to look outside, because the Aurora Borealis was out. I'd never seen it before. It's something of a shame that it wasn't more spectacular, but what do you expect in the late summer, in the city, at 10:30 at night?

And then when I was writing the last blog about Saturday, a little green leaf hopper was hopping around the computer, including on my arms, hands, and glasses. He was quite the little fella.

Real Life vs. the Movies

Watch these two clips...


(feel free to start at 0:58 and stop at 1:20)

and see if you notice any similarities.

Obviously, this is not a case of life imitating art (and how cliche a phrase is that?). An exploding propane facility in Toronto has very little to do with the fictitious Cloverfield attack.

Instead, I want to point out two things.

1) How quickly fiction--in this case, a movie--leaps into my mind when I see news; I assume it's not only me. Whenever anything at all out of the ordinary happens, I immediately think of all of the movie situations which seem to apply, regardless of how silly they are (zombies, aliens, combines, etc).

2) How YouTube was so crucial to the success of Cloverfield, in that the sort of footage that movie provided makes such instinctive sense to those of us who witnessed the 9/11 massacres from hand-held cameras, and to those of us who get much of our news from similar sources on YouTube.
I was speaking with a friend--a History major--once, who went on for some time about how interesting Cloverfield was to a history major, in that it displayed the relevance of primary documents, and highlighted the excitement a historian may have in finding a particularly good document.

There's a fair amount I could say as an English major, as well, but I don't really feel in the mood. Sorry.

I hope the links work.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

On InterPLAY, Oil Sands Discovery Centre, and more

This is the first day off after my exhausting twelve. Because of the interesting things involved, I thought I would tell you about my day.

I woke at about 10:00, had breakfast, did the dishes, and caught the 12:00 bus downtown. There I visited InterPLAY.

InterPLAY is an annual street festival in Fort McMurray. The block along Franklin between Main St. and Hardin St. is blocked off and covered with tents and booths. These tents and booths contain assorted vendors, psychics, plays, musicians, information booths, and events. Further, a large stage is erected for various musical competitions, the circular outdoor theatre at the library is used for various acts--last year I saw acrobats and firejugglers, and areas are designated for street performers. During my first visit to InterPLAY today, I bought an immense elephant ear--similar to the beaver tails available in Quebec--and I watched a particular performer whose act I will eventually relate.

After the magician's act, I went to Peter Pond Shopping Centre to shop for birthday presents, but realized I had no idea what to buy yet and just went to Pita Pit instead. I was served by a very friendly guy there and had an excellent BLT pita with cucumbers, green peppers, pineapple, and mayonnaise.

I then caught a bus out to the Oil Sands Discovery Centre to do some research on the 'sands. The bus ride up to Gregoire is not one I have made before, and it is long. Once there (in the glorious air conditioning), I took in a movie and jotted down info. This was my third visit, so I already knew the gist--it was the specifics I was after.

I then caught another long bus ride back downtown, where I discovered that the bus to Thickwood didn't arrive for another half hour. I bought a Coke at a gas station, and then watched a street performer until I my bus arrived.

And I had other amazing adventures today (seriously), but I need to go to bed now, so I will. I'll tell you tomorrow.

Friday, 8 August 2008

End of the 12th Day

Though Blogger will show this post as having been created on Saturday, I will announce to you now that it is in fact being written on Friday night.

I have finished at 5:00 the 12th day in a row on which I have worked a complete shift. Now, these are not really complete Fort McMurray shifts (10-12 hours), but I'd say they average 8.5 hours, never going below 8 hours and once reaching 10 hours. Before this stretch of 12, I had a single day off, preceded by 6 working days. Needless to say, I am very tired. These days were not my regular fairly easy job, either, but more than usually filled with heavy lifting or heavy pushing or repeated strenuous labour, as well as tighter dead-lines and longer lists and, therefore, more stress. That, combined with more stressed coleagues, made the experience less than desirable.

These past few days have been hard, especially since my attempts to get a day off have been repeatedly frustrated by the fact that co-workers have gone home sick or went off on vacation or signed days off or generally left in large numbers, requiring those of us without a 'legitimate' excuse to stay and cover for them. What had made me particularly bitter is that I know I have been working harder and longer than most of those others who got to get days off before I did. One of the hardest parts of these past few days has been to continue working without revealing how miserable, frustrated, bitter, and angry I was. Not giving up entirely and just going home anyway was exceedingly difficult. I know I was really starting to slip in not showing how hard I was taking it when staff members began to ask if I was mad at them, or talk about "the look" I just gave them (I looked very disappointed, apparently), or mention that they were saying I might have been in a bad mood the day before (and, let me tell you, the day before's mood was no comparison to how furious I was at the moment we were discussing it). I generally pride myself on being able to hide when I'm angry. I figure other people oughtn't have to deal with me when I'm being childish and unfair, and I figure that, most of the time, anger is an expression of childishness and unfairness.

And then I got home and noticed in what an absolute rage I had gotten myself into and in what an injured sulk I sat and thought, "Back up." Why was I so angry? Well, it was true that I was asked to work far longer than I ought to have been asked, and that the boss who offered me a day off had gone away on holidays without informing the person covering for her of that offer, and the person covering for me didn't think to extend that offer herself. However, it was also true that I was the most obvious, and usually the only, candidate for whatever job needed doing, and that I didn't ask for a day off, and that when asked to stay late I always said it was OK. Really, if I insist on being self-sacrificing, I suppose I ought to expect to be sacrificed. It makes a certain amount of sense.

Furthermore, I know the reasons why I was asked--I generally display endurance, patience, and flexibility. In other words, I could handle it. I also know that I'm being unfair to my boss, and realize that, though I feel used and unappreciated now[1], I will be rewarded later.

Finally, I realize that if I intend to be self-sacrificing, I shouldn't really care if I'm being used or rewarded. That's not the point of self-sacrifice. If I am martyring myself (apparently a bad thing, according to most people; but then, most people don't seem to have their thumbs quite on the pulse of morality), I'm doing a bloody awful job of it.

What I need is a good dose of serenity and gratitude. Consider: I'm being paid to do work. I'm being paid better than I would be in Ontario. I could quit at any time. I get days off. I can afford to take days off. People at work trust me to be able to do my job, even if I'm exhausted. My job is actually pretty decent. The people I work with are pretty decent. I get free food at work.

I have a lot for which to be grateful. Maybe I should start.

And to anyone at work who reads this--though, as usual, I doubt any of you read my blog--I say now that I was likely never mad at you specifically, and, if I was, I am truly sorry. I had no right to be. I hope I wasn't too much of a boar to work with.
[1] That's not say that I felt no one at work thought I was a good, hard worker. What I mean to say is that I felt that no one was converting that mental appreciation into any sort of action to reward me for being a hard worker or to publically recognize my efforts. That was not a fair feeling. I am sorry.

On Knowing Someone

Considering I'm on a 'let's-link-to-other-blogs-and-talk-about-them' kick, I'll refer to the blog of a friend of mine from school. Given the set-up of the blog, I won't be able to focus on the particular post I want, but I can tell you it should be the bottom one of this page. It's about knowing someone.

This friend of mine--I'm not sure how he wants to keep his anonymity, so I'll refer to him as JW--has spoken to me on many occasions about trust. He describes himself as awful at small talk; instead, he tends to leap right into a sort of intellectual intimacy, in which he assumes that he's known you for some time. It's the same sort of deal for me, at times--I'll tell very personal things to complete strangers, but I'll only do that if I don't imagine I'll ever encounter that stranger again. For JW, it's different. He says we ought to trust first, and then let people earn our doubt.

This is a theme I want to get at later, broadening it to other things and applying it to a world-view that is more embracing and more open, but I'll stick to the topic for now. I just want to hammer in how hard this life philosophy is for me, and yet how better the world would be if everyone operated on this assumption.

Now, you can get into game theory for this. I'll bring up Tic-for-Tat because, if I don't, someone else will. It operates on that principle and is excellent in the competitions in which it is designed. Something tells me that variations on it are the solution to all problems that result in miscommunication and not conflict of interest. And this clearly and obviously follows loosely to the principle of "Trust first, doubt after evidence," with the additional rule of "Forgive immediately." And it does very well, as I said.

But more importantly, I figure that the best judge of a course of action is it's difficulty. The harder the course is (and that's harder to make yourself perform, not harder to understand), then the more likely it is that it's the right thing to do. Since this is very hard for me, yet I feel a deep yearning to follow it, I'd have to say it's likely the right one. And yet I've not really attempted to put it into practice.

Anyway, I have posted on JW's blog that he ought to write a book on the subject and, if we are truly lucky, he will.

Pressure's on.

A Religious-Media Blog

I was going to write a post on a different topic, but a blog title on the "Updated at such-and-such-a-time" caught my eye, and I'm going to re-post it here. Among other things, I notice the author has 11 profile views (13 as of the two times I viewed it), and if I can help boost that, I will. (Legitimately, that is. I'm not about the click "View Profile" a hundred times just to get it up there.)

So the blog is called "God Online," and if you have a sense of my interests, you've already figured out why it caught my attention. Religionwriter, the author of the blog, has only posted 6 times since the creation of the blog at the beginning of the month. The trend seems to be a link to a site and a brief discription of what that site is. These sites, of course, are all religion-based. For example, his post Your pastor's cheat sheet? references Sermon Central, a place where you can search sermons written by assorted pastors and read them for free--or, for the more valuable ones, at a fee.

This is a blog I'm going to check up on. I want to see where and how it develops.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


I should go to bed, but I'm writing this instead.

I just figured out that I've worked 15 of the last 16 days. Where days straight is concerned, it's 10. And it hasn't been just cleaning or papercrunching or screwing around, but lots of hauling tables and wooden boards and logs and burnted out shopping carts and easles/sandwich boards. By which I mean, it's been harder work than usual, and more of it. Which means I'm exhausted

I wish I had awesome pictures of the event (maybe I will later?); this event, of course, being Heritage Day. It was enjoyable, except that I was on my feet for most of the day. I was on garbage duty. There was a giant crane with flags dangling from it; a petting zoo with a llama and a wallaby, among other things; vendor booths for various ethnic or service groups; a BBQ; entertainment, including children doing Hindu dances and the Rezz Dawgs, a rap group from (I think) Fort McKay; lots of children's games and contests.
Tomorrow, though, we have Communities in Bloom judges coming to the park, and I'm stressed about the work we have to do before that...and the tour I have to give them afterwards. The fact that I just want a day off doesn't help, but I know I'm needed at work at least for one more day. That helps. But I know it'll be hard.
So I'm off to bed as soon as I'm done this post. Oh, I've added a Blog List, and changed a photo around. And at the moment I'm looking out the window, seeing the clouds dark against the twilit sky. The view from our deck isn't bad.
Here's a picture of one of my dogs, just to break things up:

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Very busy--Update


This will be exceedingly quick.
I'm terribly busy at work because of all the effort put into making our event tomorrow, Heritage Day, go off without a hitch or too much insanity. Sometime within the next week I'll finally get a day off (it's been over a week by now), and then maybe I'll post something worth reading. I'm working on more Dawkins stuff.

I hope you are all doing well.
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