Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas gift swap ruby program

A guy I work with named Brad has told me several stories about how he's gotten his kids (I think in particular one daughter) to geek out with him a little by sitting down and writing some code with him. Simple stuff like penny flippers, dice rollers, math homework, etc. This motivated me to sit down with my 13 year old sister and write a short little ruby script with her in order to generate the Christmas gift swap list. Our family will be able to use this next year instead of having to manually draw names out of a hat.

require 'pp'

def print_swap_list(names_hat)
#puts "The names (out of order):"
#pp names_hat

buyers = + names_hat.sort!
buyers_copy = + buyers
#puts "The names (ordered alphabetically):"
#pp buyers

#buyers.each_with_index do |buyer, number|
# puts "#{number} - #{buyer}"

receivers =

while(buyers_copy.size != 0)
random_name = buyers_copy[rand(buyers_copy.size)]
if (buyers_copy[receivers.size] != random_name) then
receivers << random_name
buyers_copy.delete_if { |the_buyer_in_the_buyers_copy_list| the_buyer_in_the_buyers_copy_list == random_name }

0.upto(names_hat.size - 1) do |number|
puts "#{number + 1} - #{buyers[number]} | #{number + 1} - #{receivers[number]}"

puts "================================================="
puts "Creating the gift swap list."
puts "================================================="
names_hat = %w'Name1 Name2 Name3 Name4 Name5 Name6 etc'
puts "================================================="

Friday, December 21, 2007

Global Warming - We Must Act Now - Maybe

So, I have my own opinion about the whole global warming thing, but I'd like to intentionally withhold it. I'd like to approach the global warming thing on this blog from the point of view of an average guy (or gal) who doesn't have any presuppositions about it and hasn't made their mind up... someone who likes to try to keep up on and browse the latest major news stories regarding current events, but doesn't have the time and is not interested in making the time to explore every possible scientific study about the subject... as if I the layperson would be able to grasp the minutia of the science anyway. This will be the first in what I'm sure will be several global warming posts.

We must acknowledge global warming, and act tells me that:
  • "The evidence for human-driven climate change is overwhelming..." and
  • "Those who continue to deny climate change muddy the waters of action and delay the urgent measures we so desperately need."
Oh crap, I don't want to muddy the waters of action and be so irresponsible as to contribute to delaying urgent measures that are so desperately needed. One thing I'm curious about though, what resources are we (and what exactly does 'we' mean - my state, my country, my earth?) planning on using to act? Like who is going to do it, and more importantly, who is going to pay for it? Ergh... this article makes me feel like crap.

But wait, I'm hearing something completely different from the folks responsible for this U.S. Senate Report. They tell me stuff like:

  • I find the Doomsday picture Al Gore is painting - a six-meter sea level rise, fifteen times the IPCC number - entirely without merit," Tennekes wrote. "I protest vigorously the idea that the climate reacts like a home heating system to a changed setting of the thermostat: just turn the dial, and the desired temperature will soon be reached."
  • Many of the scientists featured in this report consistently stated that numerous colleagues shared their views, but they will not speak out publicly for fear of retribution.

Holy crap, what's going on here? It's possible the idea of global warming could be without merit? And what's this business about the scientists fearing retribution for speaking out publicly about their opinions? I don't understand that at all. Why would that possibly be happening?

Hmm... it sounds like maybe this second group is just 'muddying the waters'... and the first group warned me about that. But, then, the first group is pretty much being called out by the second as a bunch of 'sky is falling' weenies.

Well, I haven't solved the global warming problem (in my mind that is) yet. I guess I'll just have to leave this attempt and trying to understand whether I should be concerned or not undecided. Hopefully more info that can help me make my decision will come to the forefront soon.

Magazine in the Breakroom

I'm pasting in the back and forth between me and an atheist buddy of mine at work. I thought it was too funny not to blog. If you're an SNL fan you should get the Trebek/Connery reference.

(09:28:37 AM) me: did you accidentally leave that copy of 'Skeptic' in the break room?
(09:28:45 AM) him: ha no
(09:28:47 AM) him: that's mine
(09:29:04 AM) him: i have a subscription. i figured i could throw it away or bring it in so someone else could have it
(09:29:13 AM) him: i do the same thing with wired, and someone steals those within an hour
(09:29:16 AM) me: ah
(09:29:31 AM) me: you realize your gonna push me into bringing in old copies of Answers in Genesis
(09:29:37 AM) him: haha
(09:29:46 AM) him: skeptic only comes out four times a month, so it won't happen often ;)
(09:29:51 AM) me: same with AIG
(09:29:54 AM) him: er 4 times a year
(09:29:57 AM) him: haha
(09:30:00 AM) me: yeah, quarterly
(09:30:04 AM) me: i knew what you meant
(09:30:13 AM) him: your mom knew what i meant. last night.
(09:30:28 AM) me: nice, i guess i'm alex trebek and you're sean connery
(09:30:50 AM) him: think it was inappropriate? i kept debating if it was inappropriate or not, it sat on my kitchen table for weeks while i tried to decide every morning if i wanted to bring it in
(09:30:58 AM) him: but then my fiance said she was going to throw it away if i didnt do something with it today
(09:31:00 AM) him: so i brought it in
(09:31:26 AM) me: now, the only real question is... how long before your Skeptic vs. my AIG in the breakroom situation forces someone in this company to deal with us at an HR level

Wisely (from the HR point of view), 'him' removed the copy of 'Skeptic' from the breakroom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Open to the Evidence - I Don't Believe It

I've heard atheists say things like "I'm open to the evidence, I'd believe in God if only there was evidence to actually show that he existed." or "If God came down from the sky and showed himself to me, I'd believe in him." In fact, it seems to me that many atheists particularly pride themselves on how 'open' they are to any position, so long as the evidence leads them to that position.

After pondering this subject for a bit, my conclusion is that I just don't think it's true. By that I mean, if a person automatically and presuppositionally excludes a whole class of evidence, they're not really being honest about 'being open to the evidence'. So, I've tried to put myself in the position of an atheist, and asked myself the question, 'What would I have to see in the way of evidence in order to have no choice but to believe that God exists?' The only thing I could come up with is some sort of very, very unusual – one could call it supernatural – event. For instance, the aforementioned “God coming down from the sky and showing himself to me” example is something I think would qualify.

Now, as I was thinking of all this, one of the arguments Christian apologists use to defend the faith kept popping into my head, the Moral Argument. I'm guessing this argument kept popping into my head because it is one of the more convincing ones for me personally. Don't get me wrong, I think the other more technical arguments such as the Cosmological, Anthropic Principle, ID, etc. have legs... but in all honesty, when the subject matter becomes that technically weighty, I soon reach a point where I begin to realize how much of an expert I am not in those areas. The Moral Argument, on the other hand, is one that is particularly appealing to me I think because it's one that I feel that I (along with every other human being) can be an 'expert' of sorts in. The reason I say this is because all human beings have a conscience, and all reasonable human beings recognize that there are absolute moral truths.

I won't take the time to exhaustively lay out every detail of this argument, as my intent is not to make it, or argue against its counter-arguments (such as that the whole thing is simply a byproduct of our species' evolution – herd instinct vs. self preservation, etc.). If you're interested in exploring the argument in more depth, feel free to examine some of the resources I'll mention.

Simply said though, it goes like this: If we can accurately identify just one moral absolute (eg... rape is wrong, it is wrong to murder babies) then we can safely say that there are absolute moral truths.

A few resources I've had my nose in lately that I think do a good job of laying it out in their own different ways are C.S. Lewis' “Mere Christianity” (specifically Book 1: RIGHT AND WRONG AS A CLUE TO THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE) and Chapter 7: Mother Teresa vs. Hitler of “I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Geisler and Turek.

To quickly summarize Lewis' thoughts, allow me to quote from the last paragraph of the first chapter of Book 1.

“These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”

So now, let me make the connection between my thoughts about the Moral Argument (as it is particularly compelling evidence to me) and my belief that atheists aren't really open to evidence. The connection happened for me when I was reading an article on the web, Morality as a Clue to God. I'll quote the author in order to show you the point he made that established the connection for me.

“If relativism is not tenable, then some form of absolutism is true. If absolute rules exist, this argues powerfully for the existence of an absolute Creator Who made those rules which apply to us and to Whom we are accountable. It's that simple.

It would be no clearer if God Himself appeared in front of you right now and tapped you on the shoulder. Because if that did happen you'd still have to ask yourself some questions. Is this really God? Am I hallucinating? Is it something I ate?"

So, this helped me answer the question I asked myself when I attempted to put myself in the atheists shoes. The question again... 'What would I have to see in the way of evidence in order to have no choice but to believe that God exists?' The only answer I could come up with was 'Nothing'. Here's why I say 'Nothing' is my answer to that question. Because of the nature of God (or as the atheist would have to say, the nature of what the Christian God claims to be), the only kind of evidence compelling enough to justify the existence of such a grandiose and infinite being would be evidence that is supernatural. If the evidence wasn't supernatural, it doesn't seem to me that it would be compelling enough to justify the existence of God.

But here's the problem. If the evidence is supernatural (God coming down from the sky and showing himself to you), then I'm pretty sure that if I was an atheist, and I was emotionally and intellectually invested in my position, I'd probably just come up with some excuse not to believe it... something akin to the 'hallucination' mentioned above.

The other thing to note in this arena is that this exact type of evidence, the supernatural kind, existed in abundance when Christ lived here on earth as a man. Resurrection from the dead, turning water into wine, healing a man who had been blind for life, etc are all examples of it. The interesting thing though is that none of this class of evidence, the supernatural kind, the only kind that is really capable of 'proving' God's existence (when I'm attempting to wear the atheist hat that is) was enough to convince all those who personally encountered Christ of much. Here I'm thinking of those who rejected him, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees.

This all of course is based on my assumption that when I'm trying to wear the atheist hat I have to reject supernatural evidence presuppositionally, because I don't believe in it. Which, the more I think about it, seems to be an untenable position. Untenable because, as an atheist, I think I'd have to say something like the following to make my case for why I have to reject supernatural evidence presuppositionally.

  • The only absolute truths are those that are demonstrable in the following ways:
    • Naturally observable
    • Mathematically provable
    • Provable by the laws of basic logic

The problem with the previous statement is that it makes an absolute truth claim, but it is not provable as true with any of the ways it prescribes as requirements, so it's self defeating. (I realize I'm setting up a straw man here, but I invite any errors I'm making with it to be pointed out.) Since the claim is self defeating, I'm not really sure what to do as a self respecting atheist at this point.

I grant that being open to the existence of an infinite, all-powerful God is far from embracing the Christian God and receiving salvation... but no one could do the latter without doing the former first.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

This blog

I've avoided the blogosphere (from a personal standpoint at least) for quite some time now, probably even longer than I avoided getting a cell phone. Why am I joining now?

Because this guy told me I should.

That, and I'm also tired of not being able to initiate some conversations with this guy, as opposed to only responding to the ones he initiates.

Don't expect anything particularly groundbreaking, probably just some decent conversation.