Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Man Who Saved the World

September 26, 1983. I am of the firm conviction that God intervened in the affairs of human history on this date. This day is not well known, certainly not mentioned in our history books. What happened is not marked, noticed or celebrated. On this date however, more lives were saved than all those lost, cumulatively, on all sides, in all wars since and including World War II.

Stanislav Petrov was an engineer in the Soviet Union, with a commissioned post in the Red Army at that time. He was not much of a military man and more concerned with machines than infantry tactics. He stood at his post in Serpukhov-15, a nuclear ballistic missile command and control bunker that monitored possible nuclear missile launches from the United States. It was his job to push the button that would clear a launch for a complete retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States. He disobeyed orders.

This was during the time when our president, Ronald Reagan, was calling the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire." It was also around this time that Reagan had joked during a radio interview that he would begin bombing Moscow in 5 minutes. This raised the nuclear alert level in the Soviet Union to its highest alert level. Korean Air Lines jet 007, a civilian plane, was shot down by a MiG and all 269 persons aboard perished, including a congressman and many American citizens.

As these events were occurring, an intersection of incidents took place that put the United States in great peril. The Soviets were expecting reprisal. They were thinking that our leaders would think as they would- payback x 10.

Lt. Col. Petrov was taking a shift as the duty officer in the monitoring station late in the evening. In fact, he had taken part in writing the protocols should a missile launch and attack occur. The procedure was highly computerized to remove the factor of human error from the equation.

A blaring alarm sounded and red lights began flashing from the terminal. The entire crew jumped from their seats. The United States had launched an attack on the Soviet Union from one of their missile bases! They checked the operation of the computers on the different levels of the complex and all came back affirmative, that this information was correct, with a probability factor of two, the highest probability.

A new alert signal appeared on the monitors, and the alarm pitch went higher. Another missile had just been launched from the same base. Then a third. Then a fourth. Petrov had a phone in one hand talking to superiors and an intercom in the other to issue orders to subordinates. According to the protocol, he was to press the button, which would give Andropov, the General Secretary with his nuclear briefcase, 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a complete retaliatory strike.

Lt. Col. Petrov was struggling between two choices. Fulfill his duty or err on the side of the possibility of a computer mistake. Why would the US launch an attack from just one base? The infra red data from the satellite showed the launches, but nothing could be observed in the optical band.

Petrov decided to hold off on pushing the button. It did indeed turn out to be a computer error, the refraction of light off the lens of the satellite, at a certain angle with respect to the sun and the position of the silos.

It is only within the last 12 years that this information has been made public. Petrov was dressed down for his actions over the next few weeks (as any commendation would mean that *someone* in the higher levels of the military had made a mistake,) and today lives on a pension of less than $200 a month, for 35 years of military service.

Thank you, Mr. Petrov, for making the decision that saved countless lives. You are a true hero. Thank you Lord, for saving us, by having the right man in the right place at the right time. Your love and long suffering towards us truly endures forever.

armchair coach
amateur historian

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do You Have an Answer? Part III

John 11:25-26

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Living Bible

25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" New International Version

25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? King James

[The following conversation took place Easter morning, 2008. Commentary by me is in brackets.]

[6:24] You: Good morning and happy easter !
[6:24] You: Hi Mark, hi Phil
[6:24] Mark: Howdy Glenn
[6:25] Phil: Good morning Glenn
[6:25] You: I hope this morning finds you both well
[6:25] Mark: Elstupendo
[6:25] Phil: As grace would be in Jesus ;-)

[Mark was studying one of the signs in a virtual recreation of Noah's Ark. He had an "atheist" tag over his head as I recall, and I addressed this by mentioning Richard Dawkins]

[6:25] You: I wrote an answer to one of Dawkins essays, if you would be interested in reading it
[6:25] You: It can be found at my blogsite, by clicking on my web tab in my profile =)
[6:26] Phil: That would be cool Glenn
[6:26] You: Its called "In Defense of Faith"
[6:26] Phil: Why does faith need defending?
[6:26] Mark: That's what I was wondering
[6:27] You: Well, one of the foremost humanists and atheists, Richard Dawkins, basically attacked faith in one of his articles- I cited him, then defensed my own positions
[6:28] Mark: That doesn't actually answer the question of why faith would need defense
[6:28] Mark: You may choose to defend. Are you defending all faith or just a subset?
[6:28] You: My response is to Dawkins attack on Christian beliefs... I merely mention it should you like to see it.
[6:29] Phil: Now there is a rabbit trail Mark tossed out he he
[6:29] You: All, in some respects
[6:29] You: But his supposition was against Christianity in particular
[6:29] Mark: So it is the act of faith not the conclusions of faith you defend?
[6:29] You: Both
[6:29] Phil: Did you build this sim?

[A sim is an area of land in 2nd Life, much like a 1 square acre]

[6:30] You: No, I am just visiting this morning
[6:30] Phil: Cool
[6:30] Mark: This sign is incorrect.
[6:30] You: I wrote another article called In Defense of Faith II, which I believe is better stated than my original
[6:31] You: I do not defend creationism too much

[the sign is not about creationism per se, but about bias in research]

[6:31] You: It is possible however
[6:31] Mark: Regardless, this sign is flat out wrong.
[6:31] You: Just as some aspects of evolution are possible.
[6:31] You: Really?
[6:32] Mark: They have them in the incorrect order
[6:32] Mark: And the "assumption " bit
[6:32] You: Mark, can you prove how life on Earth was created by randomly combining elements until you have DNA, and then reproducing that experiment in the lab, with the same results, repeatedly?
[6:32] You: You have FAR more faith than I do!
[6:33] Phil: Excellent logic, Glenn
[6:33] Mark: What does that have to do with this sign?
[6:33] You: You said it is basically unequivocally wrong
[6:34] Mark: Yes, not with its interpretation of facts but with its description of the scientific method
[6:34] You: I am familiar with this, having been a science teacher for 20 years
[6:34] Mark: That's fine, but the sign is still wrong
[6:35] You: As you wish =)
[6:36] Mark: If the preponderance of evidence from converging lines of independant disciplines supported, say, a worldwide flood then would be fine. It would not required an "assumption of creationism"
[6:36] Phil: Valid thought
[6:36] Mark: In other words, creationism would be a conclusion, not an assumption. Ditto for evolution. It is a theory, not an assumption
[6:36] You: I do not argue creationism, as I said before- it could be possible, perhaps it is not- we shall find out, one day, shant we?
[6:37] Mark: I was only explaining why the sign is incorrect
[6:37] You: My premise is that we really know very little
[6:37] Phil: Things are created without creationism being the base value
[6:38] Phil: There is nothing that is made that wasn't made (by God) is a delightful contemplation in Colossions
[6:38] Mark: You are correct, which causes me to be somewhat confused by your earlier statement about "can you prove how life on Earth was created by randomly combining elements until you have DNA, and then reproducing that experiment in the lab, with the same results, repeatedly?"
[6:38] Phil: Even fables and myths have alluded to truth value
[6:38] Mark: I'm not sure what that means exactly
[6:39] You: Here is part of my basic premise...
[6:39] Mark: The statement is non sequitor.
[6:40] Mark: We do not know how life on Earth was created, which is ok. As you say, we know very little.
[6:40] You: Science alone falls short of a valid mark of searching for truth, because it does not apply well to aspects of spiritual matters (or spiritual truth), and thus, makes a poor standard for basing ones philosophy on.
[6:41] You: That sort of sums up my thoughts
[6:41] Mark: I'm still trying to work through your abiogenesis argument and why it requires me to have a lot of faith
[6:41] You: Ah, I see Mark
[6:41] Mark: I have not heard the hypothesis that we should in fact be able to combine random elements and end up with DNA.
[6:41] Phil: Everyone has a form of faith whether they believe it or not.
[6:42] Mark: Um..... no. I don't follow that. Faith and justified belief are not quite the same
[6:42] You: Because in essence, your thoughts require that all things here on Earth are a matter of random chance, and that we as people, do not really matter, nor does any ethics
[6:42] Phil: Concur
[6:42] You: None of it matters
[6:42] Mark: Who says my thoughts require the random chance bit?
[6:42] Mark: I don't understand what you mean
[6:43] You: Is that not a tenet on which secular humanism and atheism is based?
[6:43] Mark: Actually, I don't understand each of your three command statements
[6:43] You: I apologize for not being more concise
[6:43] Phil: Mark has thought through many things and does not reject easily he merely seeks intellectual honesty - would that be true Mark?
[6:43] Mark: Huh? That people don't matter, nor ethics? You need to study up
[6:44] Mark: I'm just looking at a sign I know is wrong and wondering why they would put it up
[6:44] Phil: People do (and believe) as they choose
[6:44] Mark: and next thing I know someone is telling me I believe ethics doesn't matter
[6:44] You: Basically what they are saying (in the sign) is that there is a bias in some matters of thought
[6:45] You: although they use this argument to support creationism
[6:45] Mark: That's a given. But the sign is wrong. Evolution isn't an assumption
[6:45] Mark: And if creationism is an assumption then creationism isn't valid science.
[6:45] You: There are some matters of the theory of evolution that I accept, others, I question
[6:46] Mark: I say question everything, but have the humility to not dismiss things just because I don't like them
[6:47] You: Well said !!!!!!
[6:47] Phil: You are a decisive person as you are made up
[6:47] You: It is acceptable to question God
[6:47] Phil: I believe he desires our inquires
[6:47] You: May I recommend to you the writings of Francis Schaeffer, apologist to intellectuals
[6:48] Mark: So back to DNA. Why would a proof of an historical event be reproduction in the lab?
[6:49] You: Well, basically, in order to prove that life has a random origin, scientifically, one would have to reproduce the origins of life in a laboratory setting, and to conduct this experiment over and over with the same results
[6:49] You: This is the scientific method, no?

[At this point Mark disappears, crashing evidently. Phil and I exchange some small talk, then Mark reappears]

[6:52] You: Oh hi !!!!! Crash?
[6:52] Mark: Brutal
[6:52] Phil: wb Mark
[6:53] You: Ouch- hate when that happens
[6:53] You: Did you get my last statement?
[6:53] Mark: Not sure if I got my chat through before crash or not.
[6:53] You: Ok, copying and pasting
[6:53] Mark: please resend
[6:53] You: [6:49] You: well, basically, in order to prove that life has a random origin, scientifically, one would have to reproduce the origins of life in a laboratory setting, and to conduct this experiment over and over with the same results [6:49] You: this is the scientific method, no?
[6:54] Mark: Whoa, that is not correct
[6:54] You: Does that partially answer what you were asking of me?
[6:54] Mark: Well, your statement is incorrect. Actually, its wrong right from the premise.
[6:54] Mark: I believe scientists are trying to figure out the origins of life on earth. (I am) not sure that "random" is a requirement. you would need to define random
[6:55] Mark: But secondly, reproduction in a lab is not a requirement for trying to test the validity of a hypothesis in explaining a historical event
[6:55] You: We disagree here in this matter- science MUST be PROVEN objectively, anything less (such as to prove a philosophy or a theory) does not meet the standards
[6:55] Phil: Random to me is the analogy of parts of a watch put in a shoe box and when shaken together out pops an assembled watch
[6:56] You: So then, you accept that life is not random, that there is a cause?
[6:56] Mark: Science cannot "prove" something. It can only attempt to disprove and when a hypothesis survives rigorous attempts to disprove it from divergent lines of study then it rises to a theory. It is not "proven"
[6:57] You: You are speaking to a veteran science teacher =)
[6:57] Mark: I'm sorry, but that doesn't change my answer
[6:58] You: Thats quite allright
[6:58] Phil: Cool that is your base
[6:58] You: I would encourage you to continue questioning
[6:58] Mark: Anyway, regardless. let us say that we do not know where life comes from
[6:58] Mark: Right? It is a difficult topic from long in the past with little to go on. Let us stipulate that for sake of discussion
[6:59] You: for there is, in my own opinion, a spiritual aspect to life, an unseen component that is imperative in understanding our own existence
[6:59] Mark: I'm afraid you have wandered from my question.
[6:59] Mark: Let us stipulate the above
[7:00] Mark: Can we accept my stipulation as a starting point to frame the question?
[7:00] You:
[7:01] Mark: The stipulation is that "we don't know how life started on earth" from a scientific standpoint.
[7:01] You: Okay
[7:01] Phil: Ok
[7:02] Mark: Let me also state that this also is the consensus of the scientific community which studies such matters.
[7:02] Mark: The statement isn't "we know how it arose and it was totally random and we can therefore put random stuff in a lab and watch DNA emerge"
[7:03] Mark: The current state of abiogenesis study is "we don't know " but there are interesting hypothesis
[7:03] Mark: So, again.... we don't know.
[7:03] You: Correct
[7:03] Mark: My question is
[7:03] Mark: what do we conclude from the statement "we don't know"?
[7:03] You: Although there are some in the scientific community that preach they do know with great fervor
[7:04] You: Just as there are pastors who preach creationism
[7:04] Mark: This is not relevant.
[7:04] Phil: That is an awesome question Martin
[7:04] You: Yes, it is very good
[7:04] Mark: Give me an example of what some in the scientific community preach" just so I understand
[7:05] You: That they DO know the origins of life- that the origin is random- Richard Dawkins is my primary example of this
[7:06] Mark: No, Dawkins does not have a hypothesis on abiogenesis
[7:06] Mark: He does not claim to know how life started
[7:06] Phil: Hawkins has very firm convictions of atheism does he not?
[7:06] Mark: No, I am familiar with his work. He does not claim to know how life started. He claims it is not necessary to premise a god to study it. These are two different things.
[7:07] Mark: Beats me. Not relevant to the discussion
[7:07] Phil: Ah
[7:07] Phil: That statement would agree ;-)

[We go back and forth on Dawkins a little bit, here. Then the conversation continues.]

[7:08] You: Dawkins is quite full of himself, in my own opinion, not modest at all in what he does not know
[7:08] Phil: But he has an incredible brain
[7:08] You: Yes, he does
[7:08] Mark: Are you saying that in this book he claims to say "I know how life started?"
[7:09] Mark: because that isn't his line of work
[7:09] You: Yes, he states basically, that life has a random origin, although it has been a while since I have read his stuff
[7:09] Mark: Whoa, that is not the same as saying he knows how life started
[7:10] You: Ah, I see our miscommunication
[7:10] You: No, he does not say he knows exactly how life started, but supports the random idea as it is the most likely of least probable choices of ideas
[7:10] Mark: I trust in this case we mean by "random" we mean "no reason to believe it is supernaturally guided"
[7:11] Mark: So that is in fact very different. Ok, we'll move forward
[7:11] You: Random means "without cause" and therefore implying "without purpose"
[7:12] Mark: Random things have cause. They are caused by the thing before them
[7:12] You: We disagree here as well [If it is caused by the thing before it, it is not random]
[7:12] Mark: Purpose is a different thing altogether. If it had a 'purpose how would we know or discern that?
[7:13] You: Please allow me to answer that...
[7:13] Mark: How can we ascertain purpose?

[THIS, dear reader, is where I was hoping to head all along]

[7:13] Phil: I like that question
[7:13] You: An OUTSTANDING question
[7:13] You: Here is your answer
[7:13] You: and I pose it to you, Mark, to consider:
[7:14] Mark: Standing by.
[7:14] Mark: this must be really long.
[7:14] You: Which of the following questions is more important- to find the origin of the beginnings of life, or to discover the MEANING of our lives, which science cannot address?
[7:15] Mark: I'm not sure I am qualified to make statements of such magnitude. I'm not sure how that gets us to demonstrating purpose in the universe?
[7:16] Mark: What if working to find the origin of life gives someone purpose?
[7:16] Phil: That is well beyond me but I see space and the wonders of the cosmos and I am filled with awe and gratitude
[7:17] Mark: Actually, you seem to be premising "MEANING" to our lives outside of what we give it? If that is supposed to demonstrate purpose in the universe, then that would be circular reasoning
[7:17] Mark: I agree with Phil
[7:18] You: Here is the deal, Mark =) God exists, He loves us, He loves you; His love is incomprehendable by us here in this existance... Our lives here pass fleetingly, like whispering shadows- God is spirit and in a search for Him, one must search for Him in spirit and in truth
[7:18] You: That is what I mean by "meaning"
[7:18] Mark: Ok. This has been fun. Nice talking with you fellows! Thanks for your time.
[7:18] You: Hey Mark
[7:18] Phil: wow
[7:18] You: Before you go
[7:18] Phil: Mark, thank you
[7:18] You: I wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion
[7:18] Mark: Me too.
[7:18] You: You are VERY bright!
[7:19] Mark: Oh go on with you.
[7:19] Phil: You are contributing much Mark
[7:19] You: You keep thinking !
[7:20] Mark: asta luego
[7:20] Phil: peace

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Have a Dream, part II

This is just a sort of random musing, something that has been in my mind for the past week or two. Perhaps it speaks of the state of my own mind, or maybe the men with the white butterfly nets are coming to get me. Either way, like my previous I Have a Dream article, I record this for posterity.

The question that arises in this dream is "what is reality?" No, it's not the matrix, but the question remains as I drive on my way to work each morning talking to God, sometimes addressing it, sometimes not. I am no philosophy major, no big thinker. I leave the high brow intellectual questions to those better suited than I to ponder.

However, I am firmly convinced of the love of God, which I so dimly perceive. I am steadfastly adherent to the acceptance of the idea of the presence of a spiritual realm, which we understand so little of. Only the most hardened of skeptics would deny that there is a special relationship between a beloved pet and its human family. We are not just cells and matter, placed here randomly as a matter of chance.

It seems to me that we exist here for so brief a whisper, compared to the events in time that have preceded us in history. Since our visit here is fleeting and temporary, and since there is an invisible spiritual realm that exists outside our concept of time, it has occurred to me to ask this question: What if, compared with eternity, this life, this existence, is the dream, in a manner of speaking? Not that I doubt the reality of my senses, but with this in mind it seems as if the important things in life are those which we do not see. Amongst these things are our hearts, which are plainly evident before God.

But in this "dream" of sorts, we can interact with our environment. We can have effectual impact and change in our lives and the lives of others. The Apostle Paul said that we run a race (speaking of our lives) before a crowd of multitudes.

How much do we think of those things which we see, we sense, we perceive? In comparison with eternity these temporary problems seem to fade in importance, somewhat. How much of that which we do not see is just as important, and more so, than our very lives? Jesus knew, and I am so very thankful for his willing sacrifice on my, on our behalf.

Thank you, Jesus. I am yours. Make me into what you would have me be. Change me. Let me love. Let me do that which is pleasing to you. I love you.

armchair coach
amateur historian

City Beyond the Hill

On my way to work last week, as I was talking with God, it was relatively dark as I made an early morning run to get things set up for the day. I take a little side road with bends, dips and turns in the road. There is a place where road crews are doing some construction, changing an awkward, chair-shaped intersection into a more standard 4 way intersection where the traffic light is. I have been traveling this route for maybe 18 years, each day I go to work. It's nice because there are forested trees and woods that one drives past. The horrific expansion that plagued Gwinnett County and now threatens Cherokee has not touched this pristine area, for the most part.

As I came out of dip in the road and around the corner, I saw something that I was not expecting, that took my breath away. Lights, many of them, shining through the woods. It looked like a city, just over the hill in the darkness, peeking over the surrounding dark terrain! "What?" I said to myself, as I slowed down to see these beautiful beams winking and cascading through the woods.

It soon became apparent that these lights came from the small businesses and lampposts around the intersection under construction. The clearing of some small homes and the terraforming of the land had made these previously unseen lights shine through the forest. As I thought about this, I considered my situation. Like the road, our lives are filled with valleys and heights. Death and life. Good times and bad. Turns and curves come unexpectedly out of the darkness of the future. It is indeed helpful to have a light, to keep us on the road of God's will, His Holy Word, Illuminated to our minds by the Holy Spirit. And at the end of our lives, the city just over the hill is there. The place He has built, that we may be with Him, our creator and redeemer, the One we love. It is often that we do not see the big picture, being occupied with just trying to make it through our daily challenges.

Dear God,
I pray that you would illuminate our lives, that we may see the larger picture. Shine on us, light of Heaven. Make us Yours. Heal us, and let your love be made known. May your will be done. Amen.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Labyrinth: the Journey Within

I am back after another hiatus. There was once a place, within Second Life, that I loved very much. It was called Labyrinth, the Journey Within, built by a group named Ordinary Radicals. It featured a winding pathway through a beautiful, lush forest. Along the pathway were signs and little tv screens. As one proceeded along the path, one was prompted to examine ones self. To look at the world around you. To seek God, in a modern world. The tv screens had little mini "movies" that one would activate. These short movies had the imprints of little bare feet treading a path, which is symbolic of our path of life. The theme of these movies was to attempt to see ourselves as God sees us. To forgive ourselves as He has forgiven us, to see His great love, and to move Godwards. The Labyrinth was filled with secluded, peaceful areas, inviting self introspection. I visited there many times, and cried and cried as I walked this journey.

The Labyrinth is now gone. The forest, cleared, and the land sold to make use for apartment buildings and shops. All that is left of that beautiful place are the few screenshots I took while I visited there. Yesterday I was seeking the possibility that it may have been set up somewhere else. To my great regret, it has not. However, I did find the source from which the Labyrinth: the Journey Within, was based. It can be found at . Go to "home," then click on the little feet that says "do it." One may need to disable the pop up blocker to allow the source to play the movies. There are sections that are interactive, where you manipulate objects with your mouse, which is a nice touch.

Although it does not include the forest and the birds, the stepping stones or the lush flora that were present in Second Life, one may see the little movies that moved me so. I cried again when I found it. It is my sincere desire that everyone I know should be able to experience this wonderful, beautiful journey.

armchair coach
amateur historian