February 28, 2006

Evolution Vs. Creation

Posted in Reflections, Theology at 1:30 pm by egalitaria

evolutionThe modernday Christian leaps out at arms whenever someone speaks remotely of the validity of the Theory of Evolution. Apparently, this goes in direct contradiction to the Creation as outlined in the book of Genesis. Scott Hume’s book “Collapse of Evolution” is such an example of Christians who vehemently cry out that evolution can never be accepted as an alternative theory. Facts and figures are produced to show for supposed inconsistencies in methodologies reached by scientists the world over.

I do admit that I do not know enough about the theory of Evolution in itself, to be able to argue a convincing case for or against it. But there has been such a wide spectrum of debate within the Christian circle as well. Can it be included into Christian theology? Or are they in direct opposition with the other? Are they mutually exclusive or can they be synergized?

The Case for a Creator” by Lee Strobel argues his case as journalist and lawyer, for intelligent design. He uses science as a tool, an aid, to explain the possibility of micro-evolution. Interviewing experts from the worlds of physics, chemistry, microbiology, astronomy and archaeology, he builds a case for the simple fact that there must have been a designer behind it all. The world in its perfection and absolute accuracy could not have come about by chance.

Richard Dawkins, professor at Oxford University and evolutionary biologist, wrote a series of books, all in support of Darwinism and natural selection. He explains that “God is a delusion and religion is a virus.” In a nutshell, he says two things: 1) Evolution cannot be denied, and that 2) This means that religion is redundant.

Now, all this leaves me scratching my head. Because although I am a strong believer in God and His creation, I do not at the same time want to blindly follow something when evidence might show me otherwise. I do not want to exclude alternative possibilities, especially when Science might show me otherwise. 

However, and this is crucial: I also realise that “Scientism” has become a religion of its own. Sometimes scientists may also cross the line to prove that the evidence points towards a this and a that. This is equally an unobjective endeavour, which we want to avoid as far as possible.

This is why a series of essays from Berea College was so refreshing.

Robert Scheider argues that it is absolutely ridiculous for anyone, Christians included, to exclude the validity of Evolution. Too much evidence has been given, and the theory of evolution is at the very heart of all scientific research today, including medical and biochemical. His essay here in particular is very convincing. He differentiates Evolution as a materialistic philosophy (science + evidence) versus an evolutionary materialism (bringing science forward to explain something). Basically, that evolution is true.

More interestingly, that this is not in opposition with his personal belief in a Creator God. Essays here and here talk fully about the significance of evolution on the theology of God. Interestingly, he highlights the fact that many a theologian in the early years were very enthusiastic about the discovery of evolution, and that they never saw it as a contradiction in terms.

I personally have not come to any conclusion myself. But it is encouraging to know that there is more than one possibility. This has been my stand: that the Bible never sought to give a historical account of what happened, especially with regards to the HOW the world was formed, but it is an account of the state of humanity, with regards to the WHY the world is what it is. This begs another philosophical entry on God and humanity, but let’s leave that till later.

For now, can I watch National Geographic programmes on intelligent babboons that eat maize with their opposable thumbs and appreciate their humanlike movement? Yes.

Can I look at the nuisance of a monkey dancing around on my cartop at work and say there’s a possibility we might share similar genetic makeup? Perhaps.

This is a whole new world.

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Memoria

Posted in Personal at 11:04 am by egalitaria

The girls play the piano and dance to kids’ party music. They laugh and giggle in childish fashion. They fade away as rapidly as time descends.

I recently met a cousin whom I’ve not seen since I was 10 years old. Fourteen years have passed by quickly. It was by sheer coincidence that I bumped into her in a new church that I’ve been attending recently. Mei-Hsien leads the young adults’ cell group every Friday night, together with her husband Terry.

Her face is easily recognizable, and I would have been able to tell it was her even if we weren’t introduced. Over the weekend, it was strangely comforting to be able to see such a familiar face amidst the sea of strangers. I can’t quite explain it, but when perchance my eyes happened to breeze past her, something inside clicked – as if some distant memory from my childhood had awakened once again.

There must be something within us that constantly collects, collates, and computes everything we see and experience and observe… all the way from the very beginnings of childhood. Some we might not readily recognize as having seen before, but upon its reminder things fall in place. It is a mental image of our entire lifelong collection.

Then again, there have been extreme cases of memories being implanted into the human mind. Psychologists have conducted experiments whereby memories are falsely introduced to the person. When experimented in two different means, the memory induction of a written sort is more pronounced than of an imagery. This is because when you read a supposed personal diary extract, your mind immediately conjures up images of what really had taken place, inserting personal details like colours and clothes; as opposed to being shown a plain photograph with no room for imagination.

But this is no false memory, and I know it. It’s so good to have caught up with my long-lost cousin after so many years.

February 27, 2006

Operation World

Posted in Reflections at 1:20 pm by egalitaria

It is very easy to get sidetracked from global news when the political soup is so hot in Malaysia. But this doesn’t mean equal attention should not be given outside my homeground.

The landslide in Philippines was yet another reminder of the fragility of life.

The controversial bombing of a Shia shrine spoke loud and clear of the troubles Iraq is still going through.

The talk of a bird flu pandemic sends economic shock waves throughout the world.

All good and well to be aware of all these things happening, but it is equally imperative to understand the response one should have. As a friend ed just pointed out below, what does it mean to “judge fairly”? What is the Christian response to many of these tragedies? What is the correct way in which we are expected to react? Is there a standard viewpoint to be adopted? Or is it a fluid, vague and debateable issue?

Speaking from both a Christian and personal stand, I believe it is only right to continue to look outwards. To see beyond the insular thinking that most (Malaysians or Christians, you can insert here) practise. To use our eyes and ears and attach them onto what lies outside our very circles of conversation. To investigate beyond the circumference of our opinions, our lives, our country, our beliefs.

Operation: World.

February 24, 2006

Sunlight Hill

Posted in Personal at 5:38 pm by egalitaria

In two days I will know some people very well, those whom I currently do not know even exist. This is strange about retreats. Will be off in the Sunlight Hill – Bukit Cahaya, for two and a half days with absolute strangers. Trees, hills, music, here I come!

February 23, 2006

Plato’s Cave

Posted in Philosophy at 2:01 pm by egalitaria

Plato's CaveThe allegory of Plato’s Cave is probably the closest to what all who strongly believe in the truth of their claims are doing. The basic premise is this: That all are living in a dark cave, illuminated only by the slightest light from the opening of the cave far away behind them. People have grown up their entire lives trapped within the cave, backs towards the light, chained and strapped down. It is only by the volition of one person who claims to have experienced the blinding light that news of what’s out there comes back. But the light is strong, too blinding and unacceptable to most. As a result, all continue their lives in the cave of darkness.

See the following of what Plato says to his pretend-disciple, Glaucon in The Republic.

And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, — will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?

What is the light? Truth.

What is the darkness? Ignorance.

What is truth to some is ignorance to others.

As a Christian, I believe that truth is what has been revealed to me from God. But others would gladly take that on and say I am practising ignorance. Who is right? The Bible is big on ignorance… “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance… be holy in all you do..”

The same endeavour is carried out by Philosophers, Scientists, Economists, Psychologists, Historians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Sociologists (all except Politicians – because they don’t even claim to know the truth). Each claims to speak the truth and the whole truth.

Plato says: In the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right. This is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

Reshuffling the Old

Posted in Malaysia at 1:08 pm by egalitaria

My take on the cabinet reshuffle last week. Not the best but read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

What is Religion anyway?

Posted in Religion at 1:01 pm by egalitaria

It’s always a refreshing challenge to discuss religion openly, no barriers. Have been contemplating issues (again) of science, evolution, predestination vs. freewill, creation, life cycles, time, universes and the like.

According to my Blue Bible (chunky peacock blue Sociology textbook that I carried faithfully around during A Level-days, by Haralambos & Holborn), religion is defined in its simplest terms as the belief or subscription to the supernatural. Given that this is a British text, it’s no wonder that its focus, and hence my entire studies on Religion back then, was upon Western Judeo-Christian religions. Any ‘new’ form of religion undertaken by the authors was new age spiritual mysticism and so on.

If religion really is the belief in the supernatural, are systems which do not in fact subscribe to any higher life form considered a religion? By its very definition, the answer is no. What can you term it as, if not a ‘religion’ then? A set of beliefs and values?

Many people attribute Buddhism, for example, to a ‘way of life’. True that its primary focus is upon the way in which daily living is carried out. A set of moral guidelines from which suffering can decrease and happiness increase.

However, it does include teachings of a supernatural. Supernatural meaning anything that deviates from the natural order of the university and humanity. Supernatural in that rebirth is still a teaching. Supernatural in that there is something beyond the human brain, transcending the physical. Supernatural in labels of karmic energy, mental energy, the life flame that carries forth into separate realms. This is to me out of the ‘natural’ sphere.

If it does then carry teachings of the supernatural, is it considered a religion, even if the focus is not upon this? Even if it is of secondary importance, the fact that it still does carry teachings of the supernatural points towards the induction that it is a religion.

What then of its followers? Buddhism differs from other religions in the sense that it teaches one not to accept any of the teachings if one has not personally experienced it. Simply put, it is a “accept what you can accept. reject the rest” religion. Can a person who doesn’t fully believe in the whole of a religion’s teachings be considered an adherent to that religion?

In Christianity, I would say that one has to accept the very basic truths of Jesus’ existence and His life which led to death on the cross for all.

In Buddhism, it is trickier. One practices as far as possible the Five Precepts. Whether or not any other beliefs are subscribed to is immaterial.

My conclusion is that a set of beliefs which include the supernatural is by definition a religion, whether or not it is the primary concern. Secondly, the adherent to the religion who does not necessarily accept the supernatural aspect of it is still considered a follower of that religion.

This may sound foolishly simple and understood but I just had to reason it out, you see… Buddhism is a religion. A follower of Buddhism is a Buddhist.

February 20, 2006

ZAMan Informasi

Posted in Malaysia at 6:18 pm by egalitaria

Our new Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, or ‘Zam’, has been getting a lot of flak recently. Is this grounded? Perhaps. 

Zainuddin told journalists that he is a “friend” of all reporters, when questioned today.

“I am meeting you (for the) first time.

Oh how exciting indeed it is that he is a ‘friend’ of all reporters. I’m truly touched.

Never mind that this is the same person who, in 2003, flared out against Free Media group Reporters without Borders.

Zainuddin Maidin reacted sharply to Malaysia’s being assigned 110th place in the Reporters Without Borders worldwide ranking of countries according to respect for press freedom. The organisation was a “political tool used by certain countries with the aim of discrediting Malaysia,” he said. The pro-government daily Malaysian Star a few days later accused Reporters Without Borders of not “respecting national culture.”

What is the future of Malaysian Freedom of Information? In an age where information and technology are increasingly being made available to all, can any singular person block out what naturally flows forth?

Are we living in an Information Age, or a Zaman Informasi?

The Touch of Life

Posted in Reflections at 12:59 pm by egalitaria

Admit it. We’re all humans in need of the physical touch. Studies have found that children with constant affection and touch develop better in emotional and interpersonal relations. Some researchers have even found that there may be health benefits in touch. But in this day and age where modern technology takes over, physical interaction with colleagues and friends is reduced to the occasional meeting or bumping into the other in the kitchen. Communication is more efficiently and effectively done on the computer, sms, phone, web messaging and the like.

Take the average person’s physical interaction, divide that by ten and you get what the typical Asian man experiences in his daily life. The norm rather than the exception is the manner in which Asian men relate to even their loved ones.

Japan, ever the country spilling over with ideas, has come up with a new solution. In the past, they already indulged their invention juices by creating stuffed toys that hug back, promoted specially for the elderly in Japan who live alone in isolated areas.

The new solution is creation of a lap pillow, shaped like the bottom half of a kneeling woman, complete with sexy legs and torso. Men can now rest their tired heads on the lap of an imaginary woman to experience some semblance, minimal though it is, of physical intimacy. They are also developing a male version of it, although this emphasises the man’s muscular arm and torso instead. What sexiness is to man, security is to woman.

Innovative though new entrepreneurs are, I can’t help but feel rather sorry at the state of humanity. Are we really reduced to relying upon synthetic material to provide the equivalent warmth and care of the physical touch? Can this really honestly help people even despite knowing how it can never unequivocally match that of a real human?

I’d rather prefer the real thing. Do you?

Caught in the Web

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:46 pm by egalitaria

I admit it. I’m hooked on the Internet. It’s impossible to get anything done without connection to that World Wide Web that offers communication and information, both necessary for work and pleasure. Computers and servers down at the workplace and home have made me frustrated. More importantly, how crucial it has been to facilitating efficient work.

How many of you are caught in the web? If you are, there’s a way out! Check out the Center for Online and Internet Addiction. But while I jest, I understand how this is becoming a real disease of the 21st Century.

Internet addiction is a type of compulsive disorder that can impact individuals, couples, and families.  Based upon clinical research, the disorder can impact those who also suffer from depression, anxiety-related disorders, relationships problems, and other addictive behaviors. To provide assistance for individuals, partners, and parents in crisis, I offer telephone and online counseling so that you can find help no matter where you live. Sessions provide education and intervention for Internet-related issues such as coping with cyberaffairs, pornography addiction, online gaming, eBay addiction, and parenting advice for children caught in the web. Sessions address underlying issues such as relationship problems, anxiety, depression, social phobia, problem drinking, and related health issues leading to addictive online use.

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