Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rational Religious

I'm going to have to make this post into two different parts, I was planning on writing a post on rational religion and the far reaches of ancient sophists' relativism. However, since that would lead to a very long post I'll break up the two topics. Again, stuck on philosophy... I had more time in my car than usual today so I listened to two episodes of the History of Philosophy and I have even more time later (it's lunch time), though I might switch to listening to Korean for the remainder of my car time today.

Today's topic of rational religion actually comes from the episode on Hippocrates' corpus. That may seem like a stretch to go from the father of modern (western) medicine to religion but if you listen to the episode you'll see from where I draw my topic.

Here's a question for you: Why do people naturally assume all religious people are irrational? Why can't a religious person be logical/rational/scientific? Why can't religion be rational or logical (I can understand why not technically scientific in some cases)? That's one of the points professor Adamson makes with the Hippocratic corpus. Sometimes it may seem like they (the corpus was probably written by a number of people but all attributed to Hippocrates because he was famous) are trying to wrest medical study from the religious and place it into rational philosophy's (capable) hands, but not necessarily. Because, the way they seemed to view the gods made the study and treatment of aliments or medical study in general was actually a higher form of piety.

The same should be true in Christianity! It seems like atheists/agnostics (especially antagonistic ones) like to use the extreme examples. Often times such antagonists set up straw man arguments pointing out extremists and claiming those extremists are an equal/fair representation of that particular religion or of all religions as a whole. I'm religious, and I have no problem with taking a critical view of the world. LOTS of people in religion are not open-minded, but atheists, despite their claims to the contrary, can also be close-minded. AND, just being dogmatic on one particular issue doesn't mean one cannot be rational. The book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist uses pretty clear arguments that atheism is (just as) dogmatic on the idea that there isn't a god as deists are that there is.

Makes me think of the whole "grass is always greener on the other side" cliche; though oftentimes it's the opposite! People raised in the country stereotype the city (and it's inhabitants) as being full of crime and poverty, while city folk often stereotype the country dwellers as backwards and uneducated etc. People on one side of an issue, often times without realizing it (but sometimes intentionally), vilify those on the opposite side of the issue. A clear example is in the debate (which saddens me because there shouldn't be a debate) about abortion: those for abortion call themselves "pro-choice" and vice versa "anti-abortion," those against abortion call themselves "pro-life" and "pro-abortion." Honestly, the point broke down a little bit there because pro-lifers don't really have a negative term for pro-abortionists. But, in the case of "pro-choice" advocates it's clear that just the term "anti-abortion" clearly has a negative connotation to vilify the enemy.

Is it unreasonable to assume a deity? As I pointed out yesterday the concept of infinity points to the idea that there's a deity... That's not the only argument either. The evident design of the observable universe indicates a deity, a universal/common moral compunction points towards a deity, as well as many other apologetic arguments. Interestingly enough on this topic of apologetics, in my search for the link to that book I found an interesting book: Apologetics Never Saved Anyone I just might have to read it.

Okinawan glass blowing

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


So, I've totally failed at my plan of studying a different subject every day (already). I'm doomed, the philosophy podcast is too interesting and easy to listen to; each podcast is about 15 minutes which fits well into my commute time. Anyways, one of the podcasts was about pre-socratic philosophers and their ideas of atomism. Which, as you may know atom comes from the Greek meaning, (essentially) uncuttable. Amazingly enough, with just logic and some shrewd thinking they, more or less, came up with a correct understanding of how the physical world is ordered. Though I take issue with one of their concepts.

They stated that there must be an infinite amount of atoms in the universe. This cannot be possible. Do atoms take up space, i.e. have mass? If the answer is yes, which it must be, then there cannot be an infinite amount of atoms, because if there's an infinite amount then there cannot be any space between atoms. Think about it, infinite is a really tough concept to grasp, but if there's an infinite amount of anything then there cannot be any space. If it's infinite then there can be no room between because that space must be taken up by more of whatever, because there's an infinite amount of whatever. One response could be; then the only thing that's infinite is space. That's not possible either because there's stuff in the space bouncing around, which means there must be a lack of space where things exist. A thing cannot move from one space to another if there's infinite space because there would always be more space.

Nothing, in the material universe can be infinite. We can try to conceptualize infinity in the material universe (e.g. cut the stick in half, now in half again, and again, on to infinity; conceptually we would never achieve "nothing" because you could always cut it in half again), but as humans we cannot ever hope to achieve an infinitely small part. Same with the size of the universe, it must be finite at least in our hope to understand it. Think about it... Even if you had a spaceship that could travel a billion lightyears an hour and lived thousands of years, and you wanted to go an infinite distance, it would take an infinite amount of time to get there, which you could never do. Because, it would take infinite amount of time, no matter how fast you go.

Only God is infinite, in any way; only God could exist before the concept of existence. Only God could be outside of time able to make something out of nothing, and know all future and all past. Only God can conceive infinite, because only the infinite can understand infinity.
The light at the end of the tunnel (if the tunnel was infinitely long you'd never see the light)

Monday, July 16, 2012


Do you have any hobbies?  I think I have too many!  It seems like I never have time to do them all!  One of the other problems is hardly any of my hobbies go well together.  Pretty much the only hobbies I have that go together are the ways I like to workout (e.g. biking running and swimming all go together well, in triathlon'ing).  Other than that, it's hard to mix my other interests, like photography and chess.  Then there's all the studying I want to do, like philosophy, language, Bible, Korean, Japanese, music, etc.  But, there's no way I can make time for all that and my family and the rest of my life (like work, that's kinda important).  How can I juggle all these different things?  How do you?

There is such beautiful flora and fauna here

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Study Plans and Fireworks

I've been listening to podcasts about learning languages, and learning philosophy but I really haven't done anything about applying what I've been learning (e.g. learning a new language myself). Since there's really not a direct way I can apply my learning in philosophy, I really feel I should learn Japanese! I think I'm going to try starting a study plan, wherein I study philosophy one day, Korean the next, Japanese the next, and Bible the next. So, I'm going to have a four-day study cycle for Korean, Japanese, Philosophy, and Bible. I'm hoping that I can quickly advance in Japanese and someday have it at the same level as my Korean. Hopefully, I have plenty of time this deployment to keep up this study plan. I really can't let my Korean slip like the last two times I deployed.

On a totally different note... We went to see the fireworks tonight at the Ocean Expo Park/Aquarium. They, were, awesome! I don't think I've ever seen such an awesome display. We can't understand the Japanese announcements so after about the first 15 minutes or so the fireworks stopped and we thought they were over, but not very many people started leaving. We were tired and ready to go so we packed up our stuff and started to leave. It took us about 45 minutes or so walking up to our car and getting ready to go/situated and whatnot. That whole time they continued shooting off fireworks. Even just the first 15 minutes were better than pretty much any fireworks show I've ever seen. Great fireworks, great timing shooting the fireworks, great colored fireworks and a great sunset (just before the show). Hopefully we can go back next year; though we plan on timing it differently. Because we left home around 1pm we hit way too much traffic on the way there and it tured what is normally an hour-long drive into a two hour drive! Apparently the Japanese really know their fireworks!
Not where the fireworks were, but the view from the front steps of the aquarium

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Work and formatting again...

It was brought to my attention that blogger wasn't working for comments...  I don't know if it was just a temporary problem or what, but it appears fixed now.  I tried to comment on my own post yesterday and it didn't work but this morning I tested it again and it worked and there's a new comment from someone else.  So, I don't think I'm going to change the format (again).  If for whatever reason, you can't comment and would like to, feel free to email me or look me up on Facebook as far as I know there are only two Sam Ronickers on Facebook and one is my dad.  I do also have a Twitter account but I hardly ever use it.

On to the topic of work...  I recently got the news that I have to trade in this beach for a much dustier, dryer and hotter "beach" somewhere in southwest Asia.  In all honesty I'm not terribly surprised, because of my situation.  I've had two deployments' experience in this other program (that I'm going back to).  Even so that program was supposed to be built up on its own and not need to "borrow" people from my job to do that job anymore.  But, since I'm experienced on that plane and still in training for this new (to me) plane, I am the most logical choice to send.  Sucks though, because the first time I deployed with the program (Project Liberty) I had a bad time.  I didn't like the deployment AT ALL!  I never wanted to go back.  Of course as soon as I got back from that first trip out I tried to get a different assignment or anything else that would keep me from having to go back.  Well, obviously that didn't work as I said I've done two deployments with the program.  Fortunately though the second time wasn't nearly as bad as the first and I didn't hate every minute of my time there.  Also, as far as deployments go this one shouldn't be too bad because the plan is for me to only do half the standard time.  I'm sure it will be easier to handle the shorter time, though my family situation will be tougher.  The last two times I deployed my wife took the kids back to Ohio to be with family for some of the time.  However, because we're now in Japan that's probably not going to be an option.  The only way that would work out is if they can get on a military flight back to the U.S., but those are difficult (read: impossible) to plan and not convenient or comfortable at all.

I don't know how much I'll get to blog while I'm gone, or it might be that I have way too much time on my hands and I'll be writing all the time.  I don't really know.  The last two times I went out I had different experiences both times.  The first time I was incredibly bored all the time but I didn't have internet service readily available.  The second time I kept myself busy with working out and calling/texting home every night because the internet was easily accessible.  We'll just have to wait and see.

I'm going to miss them!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Sub-tropical Paradise Jungle

So I love living in this beautiful subtropical paradise, but today I had an interesting day. As many of you know I'm in the military (US Air Force) and that I work a job on an aircraft. Well, today I went into work at about 8am for a briefing that was supposed to last all morning but because there were only two of us in the class it was cut short. Then around 12 noon the other person (an aeromedical evacuation medic) and I went out into the jungle. We went with the survival instructor to an abandoned (mostly anyways) old base and practiced evasion. At first the instructor walked with us and talked about plans of how to evade and navigate through the jungle.

I've only been here a little over 3 months and I've never ventured into the jungle before, so today was new! After a short instructional bit we were sent on a short (about 200 yard) land-nav trek without the instructor. Since I've done this before I let the medic lead (plus if I went too fast I would just have to keep stopping to wait for her) and I counted steps. It was cool. Then the instructor took us to another point on base, showed us where the pick-up point was on the map and sent us on our way. This time though there was a small group of people chasing us (at least 4 counting the instructor). The goal was to walk through the trackless jungle quietly without getting caught. The "bad guys" had some distinct advantages: they had cars, more comfortable clothes, no backpack, a virtually unlimited amount of food and most importantly, they knew where we started and where we were headed.

Right away, we went down a hill and had to cross a small "stream" the reason I put that in quotes... it was more like a narrow bog. Since the medic was leading, she made it across first (nearly) unscathed, she stepped in up to her thigh just as she was about to get across. Well, my fat old self, with a backpack on tried to cross also, yeah, first two steps, up to my thighs in mud/muck. Oh well, gotta keep going, crawled the rest of the way across without much sinking; great way to start off let me tell you! After that we went on quietly and slowly till we came up to a road. If you learn anything about evading bad guys from this, learn this: crossing roads, paths, rivers, streams etc. is the hardest part of running away from bad guys because that's where they'll be patrolling.

So, being the more experienced, (the medic girl had been through only minimal evasion training and never been in the field running from bad guys before) I went first. I crawled up slowly and looked out. Of course what do I see but one of the bad guy's head and his black ball-cap. I thought he saw me so, as quickly as I could, I hurried back down the hill to the waiting medic and we take off down the ravine. Unfortunately, because we went too fast, we were making more noise than usual and they heard us and tracked us (this we found out later).

After hurrying (as much as one can hurry through jungle mess) on down away from the bad guys, we finally figure we've lost them and it's safe to try to cross the road again. We make it across with no problems, but in our haste again we leave a mark where we crossed the road because we had to slide down the hill on our butts off the road. We make it to about 50 yards from our pick-up point with about an hour and a half to spare and we're chilling in a little thicket when the bad guys walk up and find us! Aaah! Of course they pretend to be capturing us for a minute or so, then they tell us where we went wrong and how they tracked us, then they walk off. We still have about an hour before we're going to be picked up so we just sit around for a while. After some time we're told to go to the pick-up point 15 min earlier than previously planned so we leave our not-so-hidden-spot and head for the pick-up point. As it turns out, we're literally only about 50 yards away, though we though it was about 150 yards, and we put out a little rescue marker and again sit and wait.

The rest of the story is pretty anticlimactic since we just get picked up by the good guy and we go back to base and talk over what was good and what was bad about how we evaded. All in all a fun yet exhausting day! I painted my face with camo paint and got to hike around the jungle for "work" today. It was fun, but when I got home I had to take a really long shower to wash off all the jungle muck. I don't think I'd want to do that for real, but I'm sure I could if my life depended on it.
Black & White of the boys at sunset at our favorite sunset beach

Monday, July 9, 2012


So I was considering writing a blog about what I learned about ancient philosophers today when I changed my mind and decided to write about something more positive.

I have a brother, I don't know if he reads this blog but brothers always have a unique bond, though to be honest I envy my boys' relationship.  Honestly, I don't very well recall my relationship with my brother when we were young, but I certainly don't remember having the kind of friendship with my brother that my boys have.  I remember going fishing with my brother and we spent a lot of time together (obviously, by virtue of living in the same house for several years), but I don't remember having fun with my brother the way my boys have fun together.

Today (like every day) they ran around pretending to be in some fanciful world as dragons, ninjas, jedi or some other character of fantasy.  They run around the house "shooting" imaginary guns at each other, and making up all sorts of weapons (Wes usually runs around with a little hammer like Thor's and Alex makes some sort of staff like Loki's).  They laugh incessantly and run around chasing each other.  I hope that their childhood friendship lasts their whole lives.

Yes, those are Michelle's feet

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Response to Facebook Discussion about Higgs Boson

A friend of mine Steven Specht posted an interesting news link (must login to Facebook to view) about the Higgs Boson on Facebook which sparked a discussion on the existence of god and the power of prayer. I won't copy/paste the whole discussion here but this is one of my replies:

"I personally don't know much about physics, so I can't really speak to their methods. But from what I have seen is that modern science seems more about assumptions based on presuppositions than actual testable theories. Trying to "see" things as small as what the collider makes and "understand" what they're "seeing" sounds more like guesswork than actually tried and true testable experiments. Don't get me wrong the geniuses working on this kind of stuff probably know what they're doing and it's too complicated to explain to a layman like me, but even if they could it doesn't PROVE anything. It's just a new, smaller form of matter that we didn't know about before and don't know the characteristic of before. When the atom was discovered it didn't shake the foundations of faith, or PROVE that there is or isn't a God."

First I would like to clarify a distinction in what I meant by, and how I can say "I personally don't know much about physics..." then go on to say that it's "assumptions based on presuppositions..." I know it may seem like splitting hairs, but if you read carefully I'm referring to physics specifically when I say I can't speak to their methods, and then I refer to "modern science" in general when I say that it's becoming more and more about assumptions and untestable theories. What I do know about the collider is that it's a place to study sub-atomic physics by causing various particles to travel at high speeds and collide and break into smaller particles which are collected and studied.

I don't know how much you know about the show "The Big Bang Theory" but I'd like to draw a humorous, albeit interesting point from an episode of that show. For those of you that don't know, it's a show about these nerd physicists that live next to a pretty blonde girl. It most often pokes fun at nerds, intellectuals, dweebs, dorks, etc. Since I fit some of the stereotypes they make fun of I see it as a sort of self-deprecating humor. Well, one of the episodes the group of four nerds get to take a trip to the north pole to try to find magnetic monopole particles. Well, in the course of their experiments the lead character is driving his friends crazy with his idiosyncrasies and they are trying to devise a way to cut the trip short. Then they discover that whenever they run the coffee grinder it gives positive results on their experiment so they give their friend the impression that he's discovered what he's looking for and becomes the laughingstock of their university. My point in this reference is that particle physics, while surely a crucial field in science, is sometimes thrown off by some of the most mundane circumstances. I say this because particle physics is about studying stuff that is so small it can't directly be observed, all we know about these substances is conjecture from the effects these types of particles have on other substances.

My real beef with modern science is that it seems like all modern scientists start out with the presupposition that there isn't a god and therefore all that is observed that can't currently be explained must be explained with some new inovation or science. All that exists cannot be explained by science. I'm not saying we should give up scientific inquiry, on the contrary it is a great form of worship. But, when such and such scientist gets up and tries to explain such and such as taking place millions of years ago, or taking place over millions of years or something to that effect; that scientist has lost all claim on truth in my eyes because no one, without making wild leaps of faith, can make grand statements like that because there is no verifiable proof of anything beyond a couple thousand years into the past.
Cool building near the aquarium at ocean expo park

Yay 1,000 pageviews!

To be totally honest I don't really care about how many people read my blog, I'm not so vain to think I have something so important that everyone needs to listen to what I have to say. Honestly, like my friend wrote in his blog, this blog is all for my own personal benefit. I use this as my journal. I write down my thoughts and interests. That's probably why it seems like my topics range all over the place. I hope someday I'll look back and read what I wrote and see how what I think now still makes sense and is still applicable years in the future.

Speaking of the future, what do you want to be when you grow up? Michelle (my wife) is always picking on me because whenever we watch an inspirational movie, I always say something about how I'd like to do that some day. For example when we watch a movie about inspirational firefighters, it makes me want to be a firefighter. She always jokes, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" I'm 30, I am grown up! But you know what? I'm still not done with life. I plan to do 14 more years in the Air Force, then, the sky's the limit.

I really want to be a teacher/volunteer firefighter/paramedic. I've often contemplated trying to change the job I do with the Air Force to aeromedical evacuation. It seems like people who work in the medical field (should) have the highest job satisfaction. How satisfying must it be to have a job where your work is to make people healthy/save lives. Or in the case of teachers how rewarding teaching should be, your whole job is to fill young people's minds with knowledge. How satisfying that must be. I like what I do, I'm glad I learned Korean it's an interesting job, but really I have little to no satisfaction in what I do. I've done some research into changing jobs in the past but I don't think it'll work now that I've reenlisted. I might be stuck. Whatever the case, can old dogs learn new tricks? I think they can, plus, I'm not an old dog... yet.
How can I make this into a job?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Philosophy vs Religion

Well, I've started more earnest study of philosophy, including the History of Philosophy podcast, an iTunesU program on philosophy, along with one other podcast on philosophy. The most recent podcast I listened to was about Plato's Republic. Now, I haven't read the work (though we did have to read parts of it in my college ethics class), but based on that podcast I don't really like what I'm hearing. Plato's supposed Utopia sounds like a robot society with no freedom or love or self-expression. Now, sad as it may be that a society lacking freedom would probably be the safest, that doesn't mean that we should seek to create such a society. I would rather live in a slightly dangerous slightly controlled society than a perfectly safe society without freedom. Again I come back to my standard answer, balance, there has to be a balance between lack of freedom and provision of safety.

One of my other thoughts on philosophy, is my struggle to balance my love of philosophy with my love of Jesus. I don't like to think of myself as religious because I dislike the word and its implications and general negative connotations. But, I do love the Bible and I believe every part of it and am a Christian, in that, I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. As such I believe that God's Word, namely the Bible, is the complete guide on how we ought to live. So studying ethics and philosophy seems sort of silly, because if you want to know how one ought to live, just read the instruction manual. That's not to say I don't like the general thoughtfulness and rationale in philosophy. To quote Wikipedia: "Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument" (emphasis mine). So, I love systematic theology and rational argumentation, however, God's instructions don't have to be rational (as we understand rationality).

So many "rational thinking atheists" often use philosophical arguments to try to poke holes in biblical teachings. However, if you really believe the Bible is the sole source of God's intention for life and creation, then there can be no argument against God's precepts. God said it, therefore it is true and right for our lives. That being said there's a whole world of biblical discussion on systematically analyzing the Bible to understand how and when to apply certain principals. But, the question never comes up as to why we should do this or that. God said it therefore we must do it. That world of biblical discussion also includes the ideas that God intended somethings for some time periods/peoples and other things for other people/time periods. It's often called dispensationalism. The idea that though God is immutable; the way He interacts with creation has changed over time. Many prime examples are found in much of the Old Testament law; all the forbidden foods and other ways God set down to separate His people. Critics will say, if you believe the Bible is true and the rules for your life why do you eat pork or wear mixed fabric clothes? (Which is easily refutable with a careful study of the freedom taught in the New Testament.) Most biblical scholars aren't thrown off by these simple arguments, but some newer, less studied believers can be. All this to be summed up with: I'm going to continue to study philosophy but with a critical Christian point of view.
We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place