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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

40

Any adult birthday, I think, tends to send one into a reflective mood, but crossing decade thresholds are often particularly potent at doing so. This particular birthday was complicated by a farm tragedy in that we lost our matriarchal goat Firefly.

We found her down as we went to milk last night and then, despite all our efforts, she passed at 6am this morning. We think she may have had hypocalcemia and so we flooded her system with calcium to no avail...it was perhaps already too late. But we'll never know for sure and we are having now to deal with questions, regrets, and worries if we did enough or did something wrong to begin with. Experienced dairy goat farmers, however, tell us that these things happen and indeed we recognize that if you are going to work a farm you are going to have to deal with both intentional and unintentional death. We've obviously had the former, but never the latter until now.

When we found her in the morning it was obvious she was in her death throes and within a few moments her labored breathing had ceased. I considered at length how exactly (and where) to lay her remains to rest and at last decided that out north behind the garden would be the easiest place to dig such a large hole. Spending my birthday morning watching a goat die and then digging a massive hole to bury her in was not my idea of ideal, but we do what we must.

We are going to miss Firefly, not only as a major producing member of our humble farm economy (odds are our soap production has just been pushed back a year at least, and I don't want even want to think about all the cheese we were JUST getting used to having), but also as a pet who we could be sure would be found waiting and asking for a maple leaf treat out in front of the barn as you'd pass by. And of course...she was our first goat.

Susan has a little tribute over at the Farm Blog.

Oh yeah...and I'm 40 today. Great. And no, those older than 40 may not deny me the right to feel a little old today, but I willingly offer that I feel no wiser.

I don't know if animals will in some participate in the resurrection...but I know that Christ's Resurrection does indeed restore all things and so even the death of a goat is somehow made right. Death is Death...it's not normal. So, even singing "Christ is Risen" over the grave of a beloved goat makes all the sense in the world.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:36 AM [+]
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2 comments

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cuddly Polar Bears

Came across this nice little news article from a local Seattle station. I'm reminded, of course, of Timothy Treadwell but I also find it intriguing that we are now being told more about Global Warming via the subjective experience of a Seattle Photographer...Hmmmm. Anyone see this interesting tidbit?

Anyway, I am sure it will be an interesting photo exhibit. But, I'm guessing that for some reason we won't see photos like this, this, this or this. (Warning...images and video of cuddly heat-stroked polar bears gone mad and ripping apart almost dead from heat exhaustion seal pups)

Conflict of Interest.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:57 AM [+]
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0 comments

Realizing Marx and Lenin's Dream?
Part 2

Yesterday in writing the previous post I did not have physical access to the book in question and in reviewing it last night I realized that I did not also give credit to Friedrich Engels who played a huge role in the development of Soviet “scientific” atheism. Engels was an avid proponent of “freeing” philosophy from the idealism of theism and melding it with his materialistic worldview. He further believed and taught that ultimately the natural sciences combined with social progress would lead necessarily to the death of religion.

Engels, Marx, and Lenin all felt that religion arose from ignorance and need. Ignorance about the natural world (and our inability to have much control over it) and need of basic necessities. In their thinking it was easy to imagine unenlightened people (of the past) suffering greatly from need (imagine lack of food, natural disasters, poverty, infant mortality etc) looking to an unseen deity and an associated spiritual explanation for it all. If you educate and provide for the people - or more aptly phrased “the masses” – then you will drive the final nail in the coffin of religious faith.

In today’s modern western world we have unimaginable health and wealth. We have education to a degree never before seen and as we all know we live in the “Information Age” (even if it is often disinformation). You have heard me lament the powerful sociological role we have given over to science these days, in which one need only start a press release with the words “Studies show…” and you can expect to make front page news. The early Soviets worked VERY hard to create a sort of scientific religion (complete with ceremonies), but they never really succeeded. I rather wonder if we have not done a better job here and now. And so, that is my question: Have we proved Marx, Engels, and Lenin right in their proposition that by educating and providing for people we can end religious faith?

Well clearly religious faith still exists, particularly here in the USA, but no one can deny the extent to which it’s importance, authority, and potency is waning. This, I believe is happening via methods that are generally unintentional (though make no mistake in assuming there are not some who wish to drive this seemingly blind and deaf movement). First, as I mentioned before, we have little to worry about these days. We have an unbelievable quantity of leisure time which we readily fill with things that typically make us forget precisely how much leisure time we actually have. Our entertainment options are innumerable and I think much could be said about the strange success of “Reality TV”…seemingly showing that our lives are so mundane that we require invented and yet “real” drama and excitement while sitting in easy chairs while inflating our lipid cells via food of such caloric values as has never been seen in the natural world. The point being that we really have very little in life by which we need to take it seriously serious. You’ve no doubt heard talk about having “come to Jesus” moments, but those moments are becoming more and more rare I suspect and if you give it some thought I think you’ll see how we tend to work very hard (and effectively) at shielding ourselves from them.

On top of this, we have largely bought into the intellectual scheme that brought us the misnomer of “separation of Church and state.” On this point I would again appeal to Fr. Stephen and his two story universe analogy in that we really have compartmentalized our lives to a huge degree and no greater example of this exists in how we order a secular and a sacred world into separate entities. Our culture largely supports this by increasingly relegating religious belief into a special realm of “personal” and “private” life. I believe that the now “common sense” habit of checking one’s religion at the door of their employer or school or whatever is a new concept and almost certainly ascribing a virtue to this on again off again faith is new.

Yes, I realize that I do not abandon my faith when I walk into my lab, rather I turn it WAY down. You might have read about my surreal experiences in Uganda where religious faith is freely worn on one’s sleeve at their place of employment. Now, I realize we live in a pluralistic society here (but then again, so is Uganda!) and so I am not advocating for anything such as having a work sponsored prayer time or something to that effect, but by the same token I KNOW that I am not imagining the pressure that is put on us to be secular in certain circumstances...circumstances that often take up a large portion of our lives.

While there is no doubt in my mind that some aspects of our educational systems is erroneously indoctrinating a form of scientism and thus a default atheism-materialism, it does not of course compare with the deliberate and intensive work done by soviet sponsored groups and organizations. More of what drives us toward our brand of secularism can be found in things like Diversity Training. The Soviets had re-education camps and we have Diversity Training at schools and TV at night.

Now you may laugh at this, but I truly believe we are swiftly indoctrinating our children and ourselves through schools and the media to believe in essentially nothing. For we learn that to be sensitive to others and their beliefs and cultures we must come to understand that there are no absolute truths in regard to these issues. No culture is better than any other and no religion more true than any other. At nights, American families with “nothing better” to do, gather around the “campfire” (TV) not to hear tales and stories that lay out the landmarks their fathers have set, but rather the unanchored and invented fantasies of a generation gone mad that further supports a compartmentalized and purely subjective reality in terms of religion and morals. In the end, when we are told to “Celebrate Diversity” what we are really being told to do is to recognize that the ONLY thing we have in common in a pluralistic society is materialism.

I think Lenin, Marx, and Engels would be proud...even if they perceived far more work to be done and it will certainly hinge on the common materialism we’ve come to recognize as foundational in our secularized culture. More to come...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:29 AM [+]
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2 comments

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Love and Forgiveness

Two of the most powerful and difficult things. I was looking for a reference from the movie Moulin Rouge and actually surfed my way into my own blog with THIS post from 2003. I still get choked up thinking about that scene from the movie: that very well acted moment of profound relief Satine expresses when she knows she is being forgiven.

Sigh. Every moment is an opportunity to love and develop a genuine interest in the "others" of our life. Escaping ourselves. Breaking that barrier of self. Becoming FREE to love.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:07 PM [+]
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0 comments

Realizing Marx and Lenin's Dream?
Part One

I've been reading the book I mentioned earlier "A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policy" which is a detailed exploration of Soviet attempts at engineering Russian society toward secularization. The first chapter deals with, in fantastic detail, the philosophical development and lineage of Marxist thought and I must confess a fair degree of ignorance in that I always thought - in my nuanced liberal enlightenment - that the derogatory term "godless communist" was simply a biased and deliberately misleading invention of right-wing Christians.

On the contrary, Atheism is inherent to Marxism at least to the degree that Marx saw it and since the political-socio-philosophy bears his name I suppose he gets say in the matter. Marx founded much of his thought on the materialist philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach. Thus Marx was also an atheist and a materialist and he saw religion (as we all know) as the opiate of the masses. He believed religion was at once a delusion that prevented people from rightfully pursuing material happiness as well as a tool utilized by the wealthy and powerful to retain the status quo. More than this, there is also a paramount belief in humanism and that mankind's fullest potential was being thwarted by archaic belief in the supernatural and the afterlife. Marx and his protege Lenin would look to the blossoming field of natural sciences as a tool by which they might in turn thwart religious belief and bolster society’s belief in materialism.

More concerning is that while Feuerbach and Marx’s humanism seemed to uphold a good deal of faith in the goodness and worthiness of humankind, they were quick to admit and note that individuals themselves were often undeserving of humanistic efforts and thus their emphasis for humanism was on humans as a collective whole. One can see in this notion of serving the “greater good” the future under Lenin and Stalin wherein millions would perish in the quest for the atheistic, humanist utopia.

Lenin, following Feuerbach and Marx believed and taught that a socialist government had an obligation to actively wipe out religion through education (teaching the natural sciences), the manifestation of economic equality and sufficiency, and if necessary, force.

Schools would become bases for teaching children scientific materialism and not subtly (as is sadly done today in the United States), but overtly and with impunity. Generations of Russian children would leave grade schools "knowing" that science had rendered all religious belief obsolete. Both Lenin and Marx felt that if people had their basic needs met, that religion would die a natural death, but until such a time there would be a "natrual" tendency amidst the poor and working classes to cling to hope for change via supernatural means. Lenin believed the coming workers utopia would bring that hope and change and would negate such primal and unenlightened senses such as religion. And, of course, most of us know that the worker's utopia - struggling to create itself - would utilize extensive force in wiping the Church out.

I've not even begun to get into the specifics of what the Marxist government in Russia did in this triple front war on faith, but the philosophical underpinnings of atheism in Marxism as described in the first chapter has had me thinking a great deal.

I think Marx is right to the degree that by providing for people's needs you can seriously undermine faith. Unfortunately, as history has clearly demonstrated, socialism is terribly ineffective at generating widespread wealth, satisfaction, or even in meeting people's authentic needs. Capitalism, as demonstrated in the United States here, has been fantastically effective in creating a society whose affluence has never been known in all of history. So how is Marx right, then? Well, I would argue that while people in the United States will on paper demonstrate that a significant majority of us hold to some form of theism, I think we also see a great deal of what I like to call "practical atheism." Another post will have to detail what I mean by this term, but I think you all understand the point...checking yes to "theism" on a census and sitting home watching reruns of "Sex in the City" on Sunday mornings are two entirely different things.

In other affluent cultures like Western Europe, they play no such games. Theism is a dying philosophical breed. It would seem that not having much in the way of needs and also having an unbelievable quantity of alluring daily distractions has indeed deprived people of the need to ponder much about God. Combine this with increasingly secularized education and I think you have a society that is moving toward fulfilling Feuerbach, Marx, and Lenin’s dream of an atheist society – if not literally, then surely practically. We all know what things typically must happen in our lives to drive us to our knees and I’ve seen first hand the greater public display of everyday faith in the third world where there is much need and suffering.

Of course Marx and Lenin would never have approved of the method by which so much wealth and affluence has been “distributed”, for after all, it has been done rather unevenly even if extensively. But none-the-less, I think we are seeing voluntary secularization growing in leaps and bounds as the average westerner has far more time for “American Idol”atry than prayer.

Are we accomplishing with democratic capitalism what the communists could not accomplish with socialism? I wonder. And there's more to my thinking in this as well...but this is already too long.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:57 AM [+]
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9 comments

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Golden Rule...one upped

Things have been very busy both at the Farm and around work. After 11 years with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center I am now receiving my paychecks from the University of Washington. Nothing about my job has changed except that I am now officially employed by "the man"; the government; the state.

The last two days I have suffered through their intensive orientation program which included the infamous "Diversity Training"...and on more than one occasion did I feel as if I was in an episode of "The Office." Remember, now, we are talking about Washington State here! So you can imagine.

Anyway, at one point during the "Diversity and Cultural Sensitivity" training I learned that the "Golden Rule" was no longer applicable. No, our enlightened culture had apparently one-upped God and has come up with what they call "The Platinum Rule" which is similar to the Golden Rule ("Treat others as you would want to be treated"), but differs thusly:

Treat others as THEY would want to be treated

Ahhh! Thus a sado-masochist should be....ahem.

In reality, of course, our Lord actually did trump such fluffy nonsense by telling us: "Love your neighbor as yourself." In THAT context there is a world of difference...but not so much diversity.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:43 AM [+]
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2 comments

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Be Careful, Angels are Watching

You've probably heard the quaint phrase that "Orthodoxy is found in all the verses you didn't underline", and there is certainly some truth to that. Case and point is the notion of "Guardian Angels."

As a Protestant I always thought that Guardian Angels (by which I means ones that are specifically "assigned" to us) were some modern nonsense invented by psuedo-Christians who in their spare time racked up huge phone bills calling "The Psychic Friends network." I never had any idea that the belief in a Guardian Angel was actually a very ancient practice and I certainly never believed there was evidence for this belief in Scripture itself.

Susan recently showed me this particular verse from Matthew chapter 18 where our Lord had been telling the Disciples to be as "little children" and in verse 10 He says this:

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

Wow...a couple of things here really struck me. One (as my emphasis notes) is the possessive adjective with regard to "angels." I find that very interesting. But secondly, our Lord does not elaborate, but the implication is that we had better be careful in how we treat children and those who are humble like children because their angels are watching. I mean surely God has no need for angels to tattle, but beyond that simplistic implication I cannot see what else it could mean. We do indeed beseech our Guardian Angels to pray for us and we look to them as earning their title...but we also ask them to guide us as well in numerous prayers.

Oddly, for me, this warning is at once intellectually fascinating and practically concerning. Why the latter should be the case given that I believe in an omnipresent and omniscient God is a mystery to me, but there you have it...I'm being honest here. There are many many people whom I would say that my sentiment toward is akin to despite...and I realize that I am hardly in a position to judge whether such people are as "little children" or not. Some, actually ARE little children and so...well....ah there you go!

I've always been the type to have little patience for children. It's sad really and I think this is partly why I've been blessed with so many...as we all know, they are saving me...well if I'd let them they would. But I also know some people - and hopefully I am not judging - who have even less tolerance for children than I do. They seem to be very bitter people for whom even laughter and play is an annoyance...they need to remember that the Guardian Angels are watching. Ahhhh...but I am allowing myself to be sidetracked by a degree of my own hypocrisy, for in my own life, when I am grumpy and tired...when I am busy, wrongfully "too busy", when I am so often not gentle or loving to my children as I should be...I do so always in the presence of their FOUR Guardian Angels! My...oh my...my house is crowded!

And what of adults whom I hold in secret (or not so secret) corners of my heart and mind to be less than me. Perhaps not as smart, perhaps not a politically or religiously astute as me, perhaps those I see as being simple and less nuanced...not worth too much time. Those who I do in fact judge and will perhaps someday be shocked to learn how wrong my perception had been? Those I thought sure to be pharisees are in fact publicans and all along I was the one thanking God for not being like them? Imagine that: thanking God for not being like a little child! Oh how easily we are self-deceived!

The vast majority of people you come into contact with, will probably never know the real you. But, the people you live with no doubt know you much more clearly. So, proximity and frequency are critical here. Somehow though, God, as we keep Him at a distance (on the second floor Fr. Stephen would say) is not quite as "everywhere present" in our perception as He truly is....but there is something particularly piercing about realizing that Angels are watching and they also always see God. Yes, the house is crowded...the streets are crowded...the Church is crowded...my workplace is crowded. Suddenly the title of Amy Grant's old song takes a more...dare I say...uncomfortable feel to it? An dyes, go ahead and have a good laugh at that classic 80's style.

We have a common everyday prayer to our Guardian Angels...it makes me wonder if we might pause to consider praying to the Guardian Angels of others...and of our Children similarly?

O Angel of Christ, holy guardian and protector of my child's soul and body, forgive me of everything I have done to offend you and my child every day, and protect my child from all influence and temptation of the evil one. May I never offend God by my sin. Pray for me to the Lord, that He may make me and my child worthy of the grace of the All-holy Trinity, and of the Most Blessed Theotokos, and of all the Saints. Amen.

Just a thought.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:27 AM [+]
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2 comments

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mercury: in the landfill or your kid's bedroom?

Last night my boys broke a CFL bulb in their room via an ill thrown lego. Now I knew these bulbs had some mercury in them, but I reckoned (stupidly): "Hey, the government would protect us from bringing something too terribly toxic into our homes, right?"

This morning someone posted THIS article to the LOG. This struck me: The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter.

Now, you will notice that in the example above this poor family went through a cleanup nightmare. And while the article suggests WalMart and environmentalists are "bad guys" in pushing these...it's the GOVERNMENT that we really need to worry about. Take a peek at this EPA propaganda trying to explain why we should use CFL's despite their mercury content. It's a "fact sheet" that fails to offer something I like to call down home common friggin' sense. Think about it, first, who had to deal with the effects and costs of the Bridges' home-based hazardous waste spill? The government? Nope, the Bridges' all by themselves. Do you suppose the EPA and the government might have a vested interest in their encouraging our use of these bulbs? Naw...couldn't be.

But if the news article claims there are 5mg of Hg in each CFL bulb (some further research verified this), how is it the EPA can claim that their disposal ("landfilling") only adds 0.4mg of Hg to their equation? Am I missing something here? Of course, they recommend that these bulbs be recycled and apparently for good reason. A brief perusal around the web to determine just how safe or unsafe these bulbs are in our homes yields - not surprisingly - conflicting information. Some say it's no big deal and others say essentially to run for the hills. My guess is, the truth is somewhere in between. But how would I know?

Given the extensive clean up recommendations by the EPA - amidst the same document intended to convince us to use them anyway, I'm a little concerned. Especially since the word on such recycling and clean up procedures isn't really making it out to the "masses"...at least that I know of. Admittedly, we haven't had regular TV in our house for a year now and so I am rather out of the "loop"...a "loop" made up primarily of "reality" shows and other associated fecal matter likely far worse than mercury poisoning, so maybe I missed the PSA's warning me about the signs of mercury poisoning. Hmmm...thinking about signs...maybe this is why I found about 14lbs of cat vomit on my bedroom floor yesterday?

Honey, do the cats seem unusually stupid today?

So WalMart wants to sell them to make a profit (no one else mind you...just WalMart and they apparently have some nefarious super powers over us that other retailers -less interested in profits - don't), the environmentalists want us to use them to save the environment outside our homes, and the government assures us the dangers are no big deal especially since they won't be responsible for the clean up expense or danger. In other words, no one really cares if the Hg ends up in your kids' bedroom. Well, get used to it folks...in the grand scheme you are on your own to figure this out. But, IMHO, it's not WalMart's pursuit of profits that you need to worry about, it's when environmentalists become pantheistic prophets to our secular government, and they respond with repentance like THIS. Please note the article makes no mention of Hg in the home. So, goodbye choice...I wonder, besides fire...how safe are candles?

Sooo...if the government BANS me from buying incandescent bulbs will they also take responsibility for ridding my kids' bedroom of Hg at fives time the safety level set by them? And will they also cover my kids' medical expense? Will they come clean up my cat's vomit?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:55 AM [+]
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4 comments

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Save the Frogs! And a bit 'bout our other wild critters

I had noticed earlier in Spring that the volume and depth of our frog song seemed a tad (pole) underwhelming. I kept waiting for it to get louder (and maybe it yet will?) But when I heard THIS news I began to worry a little. We are surrounded by wetlands and the last thing we need is to lose a primary insect predator. (I did see the bats out last night...glory to God for the bats!) You'll note how they initially blamed global warming - of course (I'm certain there is a global warming SOP out there that demands as much) - and now that seems less likely, but I'm sure the initial reports will remain in the public conscience. If history has shown us anything its that "plague happens."

Anyway, my kids had long ago collected tadpoles in order to watch them develop. We used to have tons of them, but I made the kids release most of them back into the pond/swamp. Now I am wondering if I shouldn't have kept them and tried to raise them...it almost seems that the tadpoles we have left might be the only ones around, and I'm rather certain they are all from the same egg cluster so I'm not sure they are going to effectively reseed our area if indeed we've been hit by the fungus. So...we wait to see.

I'm rather sure I have talked about our friend the Douglas Squirrel before. The girls have named one of the locals "Chippy-jumpy-almost-fall" and he apparently lives in the cedar right outside our front door, in close proximity to the bird feeders where we keep him supplied with peanuts and sunflower seeds. In actuality there are at least two of these guys running about, so I'm not sure we are ever able to tell them one from another. Their little chirping has on more than one occasion woke me up, but aside from such times they are quite adorable. (You can hear a soundbyte of them on this page HERE.) City folk here in the Northwest are hard pressed to see a Douglas Squirrel because the non-native Eastern Gray Squirrels have driven them almost entirely into the mountains and rural regions. Thankfully the Eastern Grays have not made it over to our peninsula.

John Muir's account of his meeting Douglas Squirrels can be read HERE (thanks to previously mentioned Wikipedia article) and having myself gotten to know "Chippy-jumpy-almost-fall" I cannot help but smile while reading about Mr. Muir's experiences. May Chippy's tribe increase, indeed!

No bears yet this year. Coyotes seemed to have quieted down. Birds aplenty. Deer all around, but never on our property - I think the dogs keep them at bay. Skeeters aplenty...but as I said, like Gandalf riding over the hill and down toward Helm's Deep, so have our bats arrived, albeit with the setting of the sun.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:48 PM [+]
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - Quantum Chaotic Biology

Recently I was having another traditional discussion/debate with my beloved Atheist. As is often the case, the debate hinged upon the issue of Darwinism. In short, my point was that Darwinism was more and more living up to being an "-ism" rather than science in that far too many people and scientists are taking their reductionist scope on life and applying it universally. I was also noting how a fair number of biologists are beginning to realize that the simplicity of Neo-Darwinism (genetic mutation and natural selection) is not sufficient to explain it all...more than that, that there are definitive examples that other things explain it as well. Essentially, the idea is Biology is on the cusp of a quantum revolution and that Darwinism is akin to Newtonian Physcis in the Quantum world...not unnecessarily wrong, but necessarily short-sighted in scope and complexity. In other words, there is far more at play and that amidst a sweeping complexity that there will perhaps be order even if it cannot yet be wholly discerned...and may never. Regardless, order clearly comes into being...somehow. Like predicting weather or climate, the variables are too vast for us to be accurate. There is always a surprise factor, that while logical, is no less fearful and wonderful (IMHO) and sometimes a real mystery to us in our far more finite contexts.

You will often hear this said: "Within the cell's DNA resides all the necessary information for the creation of a complex organism like you or I." Having heard this during my specific conversation, I stopped and asked simply: "Are you sure?" And more to the point are the scientists making this claim sure? Just like the response I got, you will typically receive: "Of course...what else is there?"

Alas, "of course" is the wrong answer, because in reality we ASSUME that all this "information" is found in the DNA, but we really have no idea if this is the case. In the old days, scientists would be scolded for such assumptions without proof...and in fact many scientists are suggesting that it is patently and mathematically impossible for such vast "information" to fully exist in our DNA. As it is, how DNA codes for an organism's morphology is a complete unknown. Sure, we can tinker with genes and create "monsters" like multi-winged fruit flies and such, but no scientists can point to a definitive region of the genome and explain in detail how exactly those coded proteins work together to make a finger - how does DNA orchestrate such thing?! It's akin to little kids poking a jelly-like blob they found on the ground to see what it will do. Okay, that's a stretch, but not much.

Our understanding of DNA has evolved a great deal just in the last decade. It is, by now, surrounded by a vastly more complex series of mechanisms than when I learned about it in college. Regions thought to be useless have been found to be critical, methods of how it is "read" and "translated" have been expanded and renewed, and even what a gene is is constantly being redefined and debated. The list of questions amidst complexity continue to expand to the extent that I think it should give us pause when scientists speak with such certainty about things related to our geno-centric evolution.

And so when you hear things like this idea that "DNA contains all the information necessary to make you", we ought to challenge this point and ask for scientific proof. What we end up finding is that a good deal of evolutionary science currently handed to us is based more on assumption than real hard scientific facts. Evolutionary psychology and sociology are - in my opinion - huge offenders in this regard. Operating on their reductionist assumptions they can suddenly offer Darwinian reasoning for why we do the things we do and why we have tendencies toward a cornucopia of behaviors and even beliefs (yes, a Darwinian explanation for religious belief is posited so eat your heart out Barak Obama for it isn't the lack of government assistance that drives men to cling to religion, it's their naturally selected genes....somehow.)

And "somehow" is the key word that they often neglect to use. They posit some notions as to how religious belief might be "selected" for, but they can offer no explanation as to how genes or mutations might give me a propensity for belief in God. What single nucleotide polymorphism do I have which my beloved atheist lacks?

So why so much assumption? How can they say our DNA is the library of all the necessary information needed to make us and yet have no definitive proof? May I suggest it is derived from the basic assumption of a materialist universe...and not just that alone, but further from a need for evidence to suggest this reality and truth as a means of explaining away what seems so improbable otherwise. (e.g. you and I...the materials of the universe become self-aware and communicating by means of this blog).

But you see, one needn't just fill the Darwinian gaps with God and call it good. And yes, there are gaps in Darwinism; problems and inconsistencies and poor explanations that have had attention called to by the dreaded Intelligent Design community. Scientists, some of whom I know, who are raising legitimate questions about the reductionists' theories of evolution (some of whom would eschew the title of being proponents of ID) are often simply labeled "creationists" and dismissed and their questions waved away without really being addressed. But, alas, some of those raising these questions are NOT theists and they are doing more than simply punching holes in evolutionary theory, they are actually working at filling those holes. But the neo-Darwinist mantra is a square peg and the holes are decidedly round.

No, these scientists are not appealing to the overly simplistic explanation that "God did it!", but with the sort of complexity that we are finding more and more to be a regularly occurring component of the reality around us. Part of why I support the ID movement is because they ask legitimate questions and point to serious conundrums...unfortunately the institution of science is largely dismissing scientists who are attempting some answers because they are stepping out into the world of what I like to call Quantum Chaotic Biology. By which I mean the immense complexity on a molecular level as combined with huge and almost equally complex macro environmental systems that all play a role somehow in biological organization. Sometimes their verbiage is reminiscient of the unusual dialect of quantum physicists. "Quarks" for the Physicist and "Attractors" for the biologist.

This last March, there was a sort of evolutionary summit held in Altenberg Austria in which some prominent "out of the box" evolutionary thinkers came together to try and do something revolutionary: They came to try and answer that question posed by my Beloved Atheist: "What else is there?" The answer is: potentially a lot!

I find their work fascinating. And, if I may nail my metaphysical colors to the mast: I have never been satisfied with the reductionist theory of evolution. It's primary mechanism of selfishness, war-competition, bloodshed, power, authority, advantage, ruthlessness, death, mindlessness, truly random, and frequent sexual conquests as a means of creating us never seemed to be appropriate to the creative . I'm not ashamed of this bias I have...I simply cannot be conceived that the driving force of God's creative work could be fueled by such brutality and selfishness as described in the geno-centirc Darwinian model.

I expect in the end we will all have to endure a sort of Job's whirlwind experience. It is one of my favorite passages and though we love to put others into the role of the one being quizzed, I think we ought to work hard to put ourselves there. As it is, I love notions of science that proceed with a heart and mind that infers that it is most likely that the REAL picture is far bigger than I am seeing right now.

Oh how many times should I answer: "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth."

Anyway, go and read the account again...it is wonderful. It speaks of God's glory and power and beauty and wonder in creation...and further it confronts our inability to sit in judgment of its (ultimately HIS) workings. This is why (in part), I think that we are wonderfully AND fearfully made.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:19 AM [+]
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Books
Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics
I stumbled upon this book in the local library. Being an "Introduction to Protestants..." I was not expecting much (shallow and geared to appeal to the Protestant nervousness about images), but I was surprised. This is a great little book and I highly recommend it...I find it is really doing a great job (thus far) of explaining icons, iconography, and the details of particular works. As I never claimed to be an expert on Iconography...I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the details I am learning here.

And, my library also came through for me on another level. Last week I requested they order a copy of Pospielovsky's A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Antireligious Policies (History of Soviet and Atheism in Theory and Practice, and the Believer) and surprisingly enough it showed up yesterday. I cannot wait to dig into this. Besides being of interest to me because I truly believe where the soviets failed in their deliberate attempts, we in western culture are better succeeding with softer and less deliberate efforts to secularize the world (and that parallels exist even if secularization is different than establishing a church of Atheism - I'll flush this out later perhaps), but also because we have untold numbers of martyrs and passion bearers from this time period and I should think we would wish to know more (something) about their experiences.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:51 AM [+]
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ancient Church

Much ado is rightly being made about the new discovery beneath St. George's Church in Jordan. St. George's was itself one of the oldest known Christian churches in the world and the rooms underneath would naturally predate it. Some news images are coming across the wire, but I've noticed the captions aren't accurate in that they seem to confuse the church above and below with one another - the exterior pics of people working amidst what is obviously a church is taken from St. George's. You'll also note in the news pics that Jordan has wasted no time in putting up an official tourists sign. (keep checking as it seems more pics are coming up all the time).

The Jordan Times has the story and pics as well.

Some even better pics can be found HERE.


I believe that this image is actually the mosaic mentioned in many of the articles translated in part as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine." So what on earth does that mean "by God and Divine"? (You can see it's context HERE.) Anyway, it certainly looks Greek to me and I've spent a solid 4 or 5 minutes trying to put my rusty one year of Koine Greek to use in translating or recognizing any of it to no avail. I wonder if perhaps the translation may better be read as "the 70 beloved by God and the Saints"? Just a thought.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:27 AM [+]
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First new Russian Orthodox church built on the West Coast in more than 70 years?


First, I must say...I've always loved Archbishop Kyrill's mustache. There, I said it. Here's the article from a local paper. There are a few things in the article (as is often the case when the media tries to report on the Orthodox Church) that I would question. But, this one in particular:

Russian Orthodoxy in the U.S. claims about 10 million members
Ummm....Russian Orthodoxy? I'm not sure that ALL the Orthodox Churches in America can claim 10 million souls - I think the largest estimate I've ever heard was 5 million.

In general the article tends to give the impression - very much our own Orthodox fault - that we are dealing here with another ethnic church intended for Russian immigrants. We have to get past this folks...even ROCOR does, I think we all know this, right? It would have been nice to make mention of converts for while retaining its Russian roots, this tree none-the-less is growing (hopefully) in American soil now.

Anyway...you have got to love this line from Father Seraphim Cardoza: "It will be very beautiful, very traditional...We don't want it to look like a gymnasium or a classroom — forgive me — like most churches look like. This won't be a place to come and play basketball. It's a place to worship God."

Anyway, it is my hope that we can generate news articles in local papers like this for our Mission...hopefully for our future building plans when (God willing) they come to fruition), but also for feasts like Theophany that tend to bring us out more visibly into the public.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:45 AM [+]
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19 comments

Monday, June 09, 2008

I'm a Pentecostal

Most breeds of protestants do not like our "canned" prayers; indeed the term offers their contempt wholesale and infers a sort of cheapness or fakeness to the pre-written prayer...somewhat like THIS. Of course we would prefer to see things differently in that the pre-written prayer is a recipe for which we take responsibility, making it genuine or authentic or organically certified with our dedication to being watchful. This of course doesn't even begin to speak to the inherent beauty, wisdom, and tried/true qualities of the prayer!) Besides, I've had plenty of extemporaneous prayers babble away into meaninglessness...so I'm not sure what inherent worth they have - especially originating with me who does little to inspire change or insight.

In your private Orthodox prayers and in Parish services, you may (should) notice something missing...it's actually been gone since Pascha, but until recently was replaced by "Christ is Risen!" Of course I am talking about the well known prayer "O Heavenly King." Right now, as if to emphasize its being missing, we are in the void of neither having it sung nor having anything replace it. I don't know about you, but it's absence (or replacement thereof) is particularly striking to me this year and I'm looking forward to its return with Pentecost.

It's a powerful prayer and has been on my mind much as I've been listening the Fr. Stephen Freeman's podcasts about the "One Story Universe", especially this rather paradoxical notion of calling upon the Holy Spirit to come and abide in us while having only just noted a second before that He is everywhere present and fillest all things. The first perhaps representing our need and the other our lack of healed perception?

I used to be a pentecostal...even though I never really got terribly proficient at "tongue speaking" and now I feel like I'm learning to really see the third person of the Holy Trinity as a real person and not just a force to be wielded by baptized in fire Jedi Knights.

God is with us. If you pay attention you will see this constantly being hammered into us via the services and prayers and practices of our Tradition: from greeting one another with "Christ is in our Midst" to that great invocation of the Holy Spirit we are reminded that we are not going to manifest God's Kingdom, we just need to have our eyes opened and our hearts changed to see that it is already here.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:05 AM [+]
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Friday, June 06, 2008

Missionary Zeal

Mormons Rush into Orthodox Church in Bulgaria's Burgas, Interrupt Service

Once nice thing about living where we live is that not only do we not see "Trick O' Treaters", but we also do not see Mormon's or JW's. I'm guessing for the same reason: no enough potential return on the investment (too far to walk/ride for too few people/candy).

Maybe we Orthodox should consider rushing our local Mormon Temple and shouting out the Nicene Creed while handing out copies of St. Athanasios' "On the Incarnation."

I wonder if this Father Zahari had thoughts of opening up a big o' can of St. Nicholas on them?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:01 PM [+]
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No it's not.

It's November here in Washington and I'm stinking ready to dry out.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:20 AM [+]
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Another Kid Today?

Over at the Farm blog, Susan is fairly sure Butter will kid today/tonight. Hopefully I'll be home in time. If you have a moment...as this is likely going to be a single birth...say a prayer for a doe. NO MORE BUCKS, please. It's never too late to ask.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:08 AM [+]
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Monday, June 02, 2008

Not sure how long this will last

Perusing through the FREE section of Craigslist, you'll never know what you'll find.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:07 PM [+]
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3 comments

Soviet Atheism: the failed monopoly

Quite accidentally I stumbled upon this article found in the "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion" entitled Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed. Unfortunately it requires a subscription to Blackwell Synergy (which I'm lucky to have as a work benefit), but the abstract is available and I wanted to share some thoughts about it anyway.

First, it has created in me a real interest in further investigation of the work of the "Society of Militant Atheists" and their efforts to convert the Russian people to what they called "scientific atheism." While the author of this article is obviously approaching the matter as a sociologist, he none-the-less hits on a very important point, which is that despite all of their efforts and support from the government the atheists could not wholly capture the hearts of the people. In other words, what they were selling didn't fit the people's needs.

The Communist party believed that the work of their atheist evangelists should have been easy. They had everything in their favor: government support (readily available even with the gun), the government education system actively indoctrinating the youth, persecution and subjugation of the Church, and even use of church property and materials. Philosophically they felt that with the advent of ever expanding scientific knowledge, economic equality, and the establishment of the socialist utopia (everyone's needs met by the government) that religion would die out by simple Darwinian natural selection...let alone the extensive efforts of what was essentially the church of atheism.

They even tried establishing atheist/socialist "holy-days" in place of the 12 great feasts, they established rituals for birth, marriage, and death. They preserved the body of Lenin to show that science could overcome corruption far better than God could for his Saints, they "assaulted heaven" with their rockets in order to announce they could not find God. They mocked the church and religion with all the vehemence and often unguided fury of a Dawkins or a Hitchens or a Carlin. They examined Holy Water with scientific instruments to show it had no special properties. But in all of this and more, they simply showed their own ignorance of what religious faith is really all about. They thought if they could provide for our needs and educate us and our children then we would see the light. In time of the old order of economic suffering and ignorance they would say "it is not surprising that they cling...to religion."

Some might say that they failed only in as much as they failed to create the utopia they sought; that perhaps if they had had economic success then they might have seen a larger percentage of people embracing their secular religion. But one might point to the west where scientific enlightenment is king and arguably the people experience the greatest widespread distribution of wealth in the world...and yet at least belief in God remains a majority endeavor, but to what productive end? Other issues of greater depth are at play in the west that I would like to and will contemplate later.

The fact remains, the socialists of Russia believed that they could not only get the Czar to give up his throne, but also God Himself...and replace Him with the State which would then provide all the people's needs. But, man shall not live by bread alone...or so I am told. The communists apparently didn't get this, and even in the midst of capitalism's ridiculous wealth generation, people are still starving...though obese.

Sometimes I worry about where our secularized world (and country) is headed today, with its better science and its apparently more and more convincing materialist world view arguments, its far better and extensive entertainment based indoctrination system - however mindless, the extent to which our desires are so confused with our needs, a government that wants to care for our every need, and a government that feels the establishment clause necessarily implies secularism. I worry, sometimes, if where the socialists failed with their far more deliberate efforts, we might succeed through a Darwinian sort of dumb luck?

Naw....man shall not live by bread alone.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:59 PM [+]
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