Category Archives: Science

Covid – The Numbers Don’t Add Up

I’ve avoided writing about Covid-19 for quite awhile.  Part of the reason is that I disagree with much of the reporting on this disease in the media, but who am I compared to all the “experts” pontificating almost daily?

The fact is, I spent several years of my professional life working in human subjects scientific reasearch. I’ve read hundreds of medical and epidemiological studies. I’ve gone head to head with the CDC in Congressional hearings. I’ve testified and sat on a committee at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. So yeah, I do know a little bit.

I’m going to talk mainly about numbers here. These are numbers taken from official sources such as the CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Links to these sites are at the bottom of this piece, if you want to “fact check” my numbers.

First of all, lets cut right to the bottom line. Every day we read “news” articles about the new “spread” of Covid, moving from place to place like a tidal wave. Are the numbers we read accurate? Sometimes, sometimes not. Among all the numbers, however, there is really only one number that counts.

The number of deaths.

Having Covid-19 and dying from Covid-19 are two entirely different things, no different than any other disease. Having the flu and dying from it is not the same thing.  It may be bad to be sick, but if you recover (as most do) life goes on. If you’ve ever had the flu, or pneumonia, or the measles, and you’re reading this, you understand what I mean.

So what we really want to know is not how many people contract the illness, but how many do not recover – they die from it — and those numbers are low.

The numbers that follow are from  June 21,2020:

The United States: Currently there have been 120,106 deaths attributed to Covid. The population of the United States is 332,639,102.  If we divide the numbers of deaths by the population, we get the figure 0.0361%, which is about 4/100 of a percent. For undstanding, this is FAR LESS than ONE TENTH OF ONE PERCENT. In other words, your chances of NOT DYING from Covid are 99.964% ! Another way of looking at this is to break the death rate down to cases per one hundred thousand of the population. The US average is currently 35 deaths per one hundred thousand people in the population. This 35 figure is important to what follows.

The States: When it comes to Covid,
all states are not alike, not even close.

The Northeast: The states in the Northeast have by far, the worst records of deaths in the country.  My state, New Jersey, has the unenviable record of having the highest number of deaths per 100,000 at 145!  Over 4 times the national average! New York State is right behind at 127 deaths per 100,000, followed by Connecticut at 122,  and Massachusetts at 114.

The reason for this high number is pretty easy to explain. At the beginning of the “pandemic” the governors in these states panicked. In order to clear out hospitals for potential Covid cases, they shipped huge numbers of people to nursing homes and long term care facitilies — facitilies that were in no way prepared to handle contagious disease. Infected patients spread the disease like wildfire in these facilities, infecting thousands of old and often already sick people. Thousands died. In fact, more than half of all Covid deaths in these states are a result of this debacle, which artifically increased the death rate.

Other states with similar policies also are above the national average for deaths per 100,000. These states include Michigan (62), Illinois (54), Maryland (51) and Pennsylvania (50) It also needs to be noted that these states are the most prominant in driving up the national average. Take them out of the equation, and the national average drops considerably.

The Rest of the Country

Things are vastly different in many other states. The media has (falsely) been trying to “pump up the volume” about the spread of Covid, but let’s look at the numbers:

Florida: Florida has been criticized for opening beaches too early, Spring Break, etc etc. But the fact is deaths per 100,000 in Florida are 15, ten times less than New Jersey, and about half the national average.

Georgia: This state is running higher than Florida, with a death rate of 25 per 100,000, still less than the national average, and six times less than the Northeast states.

North and South Carolina: 12 and 13 deaths per 100,000 repectively.

Texas: Lots of news about “upswings” in Texas, but the Lone Star State has the astonishing rate of just 8 deaths per 100.000.

And finally Arizona: I mention this state especially because it is making headlines as I write this with the ‘surge” of new cases. The death rate in Arizona? 2 per 100,000.

So what’s going on here? I don’t claim to have the answers, but something is wrong, very wrong.  Are we being lied to? Yeah, I think so, but as mch by omission as commission. We are simply not being given all the facts. We are given selected numbers which do not show the true picture.

Think of it this way. With a population of over 322 million people, the United States would have to have over 320,000 deaths to equal one tenth of one percent of the population. We are not close to that number, and there is clear evidence everywhere that the death toll is going down.

People have been driven to near panic is some cases, and frankly without  good reason.  The “experts” have been wrong again and again in this mess. We’ve been locked down, our economy has been trashed. How long will it take to recover, I don’t know, but it won’t be pretty.

Do I believe the experts? Do I believe the media? Hell no, and I won’t again for a long time if ever.




Johns Hopkins Covid Tracking

The Covid Tracking Project

CDC Covid Tracking

WHO Coronavirus








Asteroid Day

asteroid day

While you were enjoying (or not) the exceptionally warm weekend of June 30 — July 1, you likely did not know  that  Saturday, June 30th  was International Asteroid Day.  It’s a commemorative date of sorts, marking the day of June 30, 1908, when the “Tunguska event” took place in Siberia.

On that day, 110 years ago, an extra-terrestial object flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian forest. No one knows exactly what caused it. It is largely thought to be an air-burst of a meteorite, perhaps exploding around five miles up in the air. This is considered an impact event, even though it left no impact crater, just scortched earth. Estimates of the object’s size suggest it was about the size of one or two football fields.

It may have been a comet, it may have been an asteroid, no one really knows, but early estimates of the size of the explosion (since disputed), put the force at about 15 megatons of TNT, about 1000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast flattened some 80 million trees. Due to the remote location, there were no human casualities, but it would have easily destroyed a large city.

So is this interesting or relevant? Maybe or maybe not, but it is a fact that we recently had a visit from our first inter-stellar (not from our solar system) flying object, called ʻOumuamua.  It passed by us a few months ago, and buzzed on out , back in to deep space. It was a bit smaller than the object in 1908, about the size of a football field. It may have been a comet, but it was so small and moved so fast, scientists are not sure. The interesting part is that it originated from somewhere out in space, and we don’t know where.  It did not come close to earth in our terms, about 124 million miles away, about the distance between Mars and Jupiter. In space distances, however, it was pretty damn close. Here’s an artist conception, click on the image for a larger view:


So here’s what got me started on this piece:  Many years ago, way back in 1977, I read a book called Lucifer’s Hammer.  It was a sci-fi novel, the first apocalyptic novel I recall reading. By coincidence, I stumbled on a copy of the book as I was packing up some old books to donate to the library. All the other books went, but Lucifer fell out, and hid under the driver seat of my car. I just found it, so I thought I should write about it, and here we are.

The book was dramatic to say the least. Lucifer, which turns out to be a comet, breaks up upon entering the earth’s atmosphere, and creates havoc around the world. Chaos ensues, and the rest of the story follows the survivors in the post-apolcalypic world.

There have been countless end-of-the-world scenarios; they are one of the mainstays of Hollywood. With out an apocalypse of some sort, countless movies from Mad Max to Independence Day to the World War Z zombie apocalypse would never have been made. All this doesn’t even include TV series like The Walking Dead.

Most of the movies and TV shows do quite well, at the box office and in TV ratings. We seem to enjoy the notion of the world ending in some sort of dramatic and spectacular fashion.  Perhaps we imagine ourselves as one who survives, or hope we would be one of the ones who doesn’t.

lucifers hammer

It seems from what I’ve read, that people, especially Christians have been having notions of the Apocalypse for centuries. Generation after generation, some folks think they are living in the end of times; that it’s going to be all over during their lifetime. Early thoughts of an apocalypse were often Bible-related, God ending mankind in some catastrophic way, perhaps an asteroid.

Modern society (and Hollywood) has of course expanded on the theme. We (society) can meet our demise in an endless variety of permutations, from space invaders, to viruses, to zombies, not to mention prehistoric dinosauers if we visit the wrong theme park.

So, why? What is the fascination with mega-disaster? Why do we fill movie theaters, almost gleefully watch people die by the thousands while we chomp on popcorn and candy?

I can’t say I had any real ideas about this, but looking around online, I found a few interesting pieces.

One suggested than an apocalypse must have two parts. The first is that real life always seem on the brink;  poor leaders, broken economy, global warming, you name it; disaster is right around the corner. The second part, and the most interesting is it never actually happens. Millions may die, the world may be in shambles, but there are always survivors. Someone is left to start over, to re-boot the human race, better than before. So the essence of the apocalypse becomes hope.

To be sure, some films break this tradition. On the Beach, and These Final Hours, both nuclear disaster movies, come to mind. But they are generally the exception to the rule. Most often, there are survivors, embattled, desheveled, and barely holding on sometimes, but by golly, the human race will survive!

There are a couple of other theories out there which merit some discussion. The first one is that we just love to watch destruction. Sound lame? Then why do people rubber-neck at auto accidents, or why does a fire draw a crowd? Is there something in our nature that likes watching things destroyed? Another is that we have a fascination with death, and that death on a large scale lets us watch from the comfort of our movie seat.

Another theory is that the apocalypse lets mankind start over. We screwed up, but we won’t the next time.   It also lets indivduals theorize how they would fit in in a new world. Would they be a leader? A follower? A taker? A giver? Mankind gets another chance.

Another thing  — apocalyptic movies often open in the summer. The summer “blockbuster” is often about mayhem or one kind or another.

Sooooo…. We’ve come a long way from Asteroid Day,  but that sometimes happens when I just shoot off in a direction. Going back to original topic, just remember there are millions of asteroids out there — maybe one of them has our name on it.  :-)

Tunguska Event


Why do we Love Apocalyptic Movies?

Why do we Love the Apocalypse?





Well Hello Mary Lee!


shark 01

Okay, I’ll admit it, sharks fascinate me. Of course the thought of being in the water with one scares the hell out of me, but as long as they’re in the water and I’m not, we’re just fine.

I’m also a major fan of the movie Jaws. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1975 and at least once a year since. Yeah, that’s 42 times, but really it’s more than that. We watch it aleast once every summer, and inevitably watch it again sometime later in the year. I’m guessing with no exageration, I’ve seen Jaws seventy-five times. I guess I’m sort of a Jaws Junkie:

“It’s a Carcharodon carcharias, it’s a Great White…” 

And like the movie, we have a Great White shark hanging around New Jersey these days, and her name is Mary Lee.

Ocearch is a scientific organization that tracks sharks. They have been in business since 2011. Mary Lee is a mature female Great White they caught and tagged off Cape Cod on September 17, 2012. At that time she was sixteen feet long and weighed  3456 pounds. She is named by the way, after the mother of the Ocearch expedition leader.

Ocearch captures live sharks and attaches a tag to their dorsal fin, which “pings” a satellite whenever the shark comes close to the surface, allowing the shark to be tracked in real time.

In the almost five years Mary Lee has been wearing a tag, she has been tracked for almost 40,000 miles. She has traveled up and down the East Coast, from Cape Cod to Florida. She has gone east as far as Bermuda, and quite recently been as close as one mile off the Ocean City, NJ beaches.

The thing that’s interesting about Mary Lee, is that while she is tracked almost daily, she has not actually been seen in years, giving rise to speculation that she may be considerably larger these days.  Tracking provides  location data, but there are still gaps.

Why, for instance, does Mary Lee go up and down the coast, back and forth on a regular basis? There have been suggestions that she has a boyfriend who hangs out in Cape Cod, and she goes to visit, gets pregnant, then heads out to sea to deliver her pups. No one really knows.

We do know she’s become very popular. She even has a Twitter account, @MaryLeeShark, with over 115, 000 followers, and a Facebook page with 70,000 likes. Local newscasts up and down the coast follow her progress, and report it an on-going basis.

As with many things, Jaws has a basis in reality. In 1916, five people were killed by a shark in New Jersey; in Beach Haven, Spring Lake, and sixteen miles up the Matawan Creek. Author Peter Benchley denied that this was inspriration for his novel, but read the link at the bottom of the page and see what you think.

There are more than 480 species of sharks, but the Great White is the best know (possibly because of the movie), one of the largest, and certainly the most feared. A full grown Great White can easily exceed twenty feet in length, and weight 4300 pounds.  Between 1958 – 2014, there were 2899 reported shark attacks on humans,  548 fatal, around the world.  About seventy attacks are reported every year.

The Great White shark is ancient, and fossils going back sixteen million years have been found. They are found around the world, but prefer water temperatures between 54-75 degrees (F), which is why they are so prominant off the US East Coast. Click the links below for all the information about the Great White you might ever want.

Me — I just checked on Mary Lee. As I finish writing this, she’s cruising back and forth between Ocean City and Sea Isle City New Jersey. She’s just a few miles off shore, swimming back and forth, and back and forth.

So if you’re down the Jersey shore this summer, take a look out toward the horizon — not that far out, actually. She’s out there, all two tons of her, and I’m sure she’d love to meet you.  :-)

Live Link to Mary Lee

Mary Lee Facebook Page

The Shark Attacks that were the Inspiration for Jaws –Smithsonian Magazine

Shark Attacks

Great White Shark — Wikipedia

Size Matters (Or Does It?) A Discussion of Hubris

All things are relative. When we say something is large, for instance, the obvious question is “compared to what”? Indeed this is going to be a discussion of scale.
Man has created gigantic buildings:



Huge ships:

allureoftheseaVast cities:


So these things and many others are quite large, compared to other building or ships or cities. But how large are they really, when compared to other things? Indeed, how large is everything on earth when compared to everything in space?

earth1Earth. The only planet we really know, or will ever know. It is quite literally the center of our universe. We know of course that is metaphorical, and we really aren’t the center of anything, don’t we? Not always. How “large”are we in the universal scheme of things?


Next to our moon, we’re pretty substantial, but we know that. How do we stack up against everything else in the cosmos?

earthplanetsLooks a little different, doesn’t it? Just lining us up against the other planets in our solar system gives us some relative size. Since we don’t count Pluto any longer, this is earth in the group of four smaller planets versus four quite large ones. Click on any image for a better look.

As far as even our own solar system, we’re a pretty puny planet. Not much to speak of.  But take a look at all the planets compared to our sun:


Notice how we’ve shrunken to a little dot? Take a good look. We’re about to disappear altogether as the scale increases.


Click to expand this photo. Take a look at the tiny little dot on the bottom right. That’s our sun. Think the big star in the photo(Betelgeuse) is big? You ain’t seen nothing yet.



And finally:


Compared to the star Canis Majoris, our sun and our entire solar system just disapear.

We could go on and on, with increasingly larger and further entities, but here’s my point: In the scheme of things, in the larger universe, we are nothing.  As a practical matter on the metaphysical scale, we don’t even exist. We are far smaller than the smallest grain of sand in the cosmic universe. This is but a small part of the universe in a photo from the Hubble telescope:

hubble deep field

Man is the only creature on earth possessing arrogance. Fill with hubris, the self pride of his own invention. No other creatures walks the planet believing they are the most important. No other creature believes it can control not only it’s own environment, but other environments as well.

Some believe we can control the climate when we cannot even predict the weather accurately more than a few days in the future – hubris. We are blessed with intelligence and abilities, but we  let arrogance and conceit turn these gifts into a sense of super power; that we can change and control the forces of nature. We cannot. We are man, only man, and we live on this planet at the whim of forces far beyond our limited imaginiations.

We might do well to understand that we are only passengers on this great ship we call earth. We control nothing, we can change nothing. To put it in the venacular, we really need to get over ourselves.

Tom Wolfe coined the phrase “masters of the universe” referring to the lions of Wall Street, but perhaps Shakespeare describes the hubris of man better in Hamlet:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension,
how like a god!


The first case of the Ebola virus just turned up September 30th in Dallas. A passenger from Liberia got on a plane, flew directly to Dallas, and brought this incurable disease with him.

For the record, there are besides Dallas, daily flights from Liberia to Houston, Detroit, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington DC. This is just Liberia, not all the other West African countries with the disease. Many, many more flights coming in every day.

Apparently there is no airport screening either in Liberia or the US of people in the early stages of the disease who do not yet present with flu-like symptoms. This is exactly what happened when a man flew to Dallas on September 20,  and presented himself at a Dallas hospital on September 28 with full-blown Ebola. As of this writing he is reported as “critically ill”.

The Ebola Virus (EBOV) causes “a severe and often fatal  hemorrhagic fever in humans and other mammals”. Hmorrhagic fever (VHF) is desribed like this: “All types of VHF are characterized by fever and bleeding disorders and all can progress to high fever, shock and death in many cases”.

The virus, first discovered in 1976, comes from the Ebola River area, located on the Democratic  Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in Africa. It was once also known as Zaire Virus and Marburg Virus.


The virus is a nasty looking little critter, but some of the effects on humans are far more ghastly, so much so I won’t post any pictures. Look them up if you want. Suffice it to be said, contracting Ebola and dying from it is a real nasty way to go.

There is no cure.

To date, there is no proven cure for this disease, only prevention.

But wait, there’s more:

Yahoo News 9/30/14:

Rare respiratory virus, paralysis spreads among US kids: Washington (AFP) – An unusual respiratory virus has sickened more than 400 children across the United States, and the emergence of sudden paralysis in some Colorado youths is sparking concern among doctors.The nationwide outbreak of enterovirus D68 — which can cause wheezing and coughing — coincided with the hospitalization of nine children due to limb weakness in Colorado since early August, and officials are investigating if there is any link between the two.

Enterovirus EV-D68 cases confirmed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut :   A rare, potentially severe respiratory virus that has sickened children in more than a dozen states has surfaced in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, health officials said late on Wednesday.

Now connect the dots…

Associated Press 9/30/14:

SCHOOLS SCRAMBLE TO HELP TEENS WHO CROSSED BORDER FRANKFORD, Del. (AP) — American schools are scrambling to provide services to the large number of children and teenagers who crossed the border alone in recent months.Unaccompanied minors who made up the summer spike at the border have moved to communities of all sizes, in nearly every state

 REFUGEE PLAN SET UP FOR CENTRAL AMERICAN MINORS : WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is initiating a program to give refugee status to some young people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Do we see a pattern here? For the last several months, illegal aliens have been pouring across our Southern border with a wink and a nod and a look the other way from the Administration. More than a wink, the federal government has actually relocated thousands of childen from Central America into virtually every US state. Now a mystery virus is breaking out all over the country. Several non-major-media websites have written stories about Border Patrol and other front line government officials trying to blow the whistle that these aliens are coming in with virtually no concern about what diseases they may be bringing with them. In the rush to “settle” them throughout the country, only cursory attention has been paid to the health issues these people may have.

Update (10/3/14)

The status of these two viruses is very fluid and changing rapidly. News item today indicates that the Polio-like symptoms (limb weakness and paralysis) could possibly be associated with EV-D68. The plot thickens. It’s disturbing to even hear the word Polio today. There hasn’t been a case of Polio in the United States since 1979, thanks to the Salk/Sabin vaccines.  However, Polio still exists (and is spreading) in the Middle East and….wait for it….Africa.

We are a “welcoming” and “inclusive” country today. We invite “refugees” and “dreamers” from all parts of the world. We take them in and they fan out through all fifty states.

But do we health screen all these newcomers? —- Ahh, no we don’t. So they are coming in from all directions, and they just might be bringing more than their suitcases with them.


The Fermi Paradox


I’ve always been interested in space,  and I’ve written about it here on these pages. I get a sense of wonder just looking up to the night sky. I once owned a dinky 3 inch refractor telescope and my son and I would look at the stars. Unfortunately, light polution being what it is in my neck of the woods, there’s not much to see. But it’s out there….it’s really out there.

I read a few articles recently on something called the Fermi Paradox. It goes something like this:

When we look up into a sky filled with stars, all we’re really seeing is our closest neighboring stars. That’s all that are visible to the naked eye. We can see less than one percent of the stars in our own galaxy (the Milky Way)!

Now, lets try some numbers: In our galaxy alone, there are 100-400 billion stars! In the observable universe, there are over 100-400 billion galaxies! That means there are  500 quintillion( 500,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars in our observable universe.  Observable meaning those we can see with our best deep-space telescopes. There’s more beyond that, we just can’t see it.

Now it gets a little tricky, so bear with me.  If only one percent of these stars had earth-like planets, there would be over 100 billion-billion earth like planets.

As one article I read suggested, try it this way: There are 100 earth-like planets in the universe for every grain of sand on earth! Yeah that’s right. Every grain of sand (think of all the beaches), every grain=100 earth like planets!


Go ahead, wrap your brain around that one. It’s really impossible to do. I can’t even imagine counting the grains of sand in one bucket.

So here’s where it gets interesting. If only one percent of those earth-like planets developed life, and if only one percent of that life ever evolved to what we would call intelligent life, there would be ten million intelligent civilizations in the universe!

If there are that many intelligent civilizations, where the hell are they? Why aren’t they visiting us? Or have they?  Here’s more of the paradox:


If there are other intelligent beings out there, and if they could come to visit us, they would be far more advanced then we are. Not just a little more but vastly more. Any beings capable of interstellar travel are not just thousands of years ahead of us, but maybe millions of years. There are a number of different scenarios about them:

1. They may have been here and gone: Advanced civilizations could be millions of years ahead of us and may have stopped by earth thousands of years ago, found nothing interesting, and went on their way. There’s lots of universe to explore.

2. There are galactic colonies, but they are so far away we have no idea that they exist.

3. Advanced civilizations are aware of us, but we are of no more interest to them than insects.

4. There’s lots of activity out there, but our technology is too primative to understand it.

5. There is no one out there more advanced than us.

6. They are there, but the government is covering it up.

The notions and theories go on and on, but you get the idea. We’re not going to get into flying saucers and so forth here (maybe some other time). My real reason for writing this was that I’m pretty flabergasted at the size of the universe and can’t help but wonder what it’s all about. We are soooo miniscule, so nothing by comparison. And yet we often think we know it all.

If you want to learn more about this, there’s plenty online. By the way, Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist, came up with this originally, around 1950.

Maybe when we’re feeling smug and superior, we might be well served to take a look out there, and get some perspective.

I was going to skip the flying saucer part, but here’s a good one:





My wife and I recently saw the movie Gravity  in 3D. It was good, not great, but good. The 3D effects were also good, although I think they have been overhyped. Then again any movie starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is likely to be Hollywood overhyped.

By coincidence, I happened across a video on Youtube:

The video shows that our old notions of the planets in our solar system lazily rotating around the sun is actually not correct. This is how we’ve been taught  to see it: solarsystem1

The thing is, that’s not how it really looks. This is how it looks:

solarsysystem2 In this version, the sun is charging through space like a comet at 70,000 miles per hour, dragging all the planets twirling behind it by the force of gravity. The result is we actually move in a helix-like motion, not unlike a strand of DNA.


I thought this was pretty interesting, but I’m a bit of a space geek. But that’s not what I’m really writing about here. It seems we’ve lost interest in things. Space just happens to be one of them, but I’m trying to use it to make my point.

When I was a kid, outer space was pretty much a mystery to the layman. Aside from the obligatory science lessons in school about the solar system (see first picture above), and the really cheesy science fiction movie, the stars were just something to gaze at from time to time. Oh sure, we learned to identify the North Star and the Big Dipper in Boy Scouts, but they were just connect-the-dots points of light. Then came Sputnik.

In 1957, the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik. For the first time ever there was an object flying over us in space orbit that had been created by man. The game was on. In 1958 President Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) The same legislation created the Advance Projects Research Agency (ARPA) which started the notion of the Internet, but that’s another story.

Generally speaking, Americans didn’t cotton to the idea of the “Ruskies” flying a space vehicle over our heads every ninety minutes or so. It could be seen with the naked eye, and after the novelty wore off, people began clamoring that the Soviets were ahead of us in space, and we were still locked on the ground with their little bright light flying over giving us the proverbial finger about sixteen times a day.

Thus began the “space race” between us and the Soviets, and a decade of growing public interest in all things space. We went from satellites to manned missions, reaching a finale when the US became the first country to put a man on the moon in 1969.

It was an interesting and exciting time. We learned about rockets and propulsion, gravity and re-entry vehicles. We learned about the “sling-shot” method to launch a vehicle into space. We, the collective “we” learned a lot. Kids took a new interest in science, parents bought model rockets for their children. We learned new vocabulary words.  Most importantly, we discovered a national unity, a purpose. Man could do great things; we could even leave this planet if we chose.

We landed on the moon, six times to be precise. Technology advanced by leaps and bounds. Everything from high-tech plastics to lasers to the first major uses of the computer came about as a result of the space program. We talked about going farther; Mars, colonies in space. There seemed to be no limits.

And then it fizzled. I think it started with a “been there, done that” attitude that began creeping in. Further space exploration began to look too expensive. There were other priorities. Sure, we had the Space Shuttle, unmanned space probes, and we landed robots on Mars, but it wasn’t the same. The public interest drifted away from space, replaced with only a series of space monster movies like Alien which suggested space was an evil place where we did not want to travel. Even current movies like Gravity  suggest disaster and chaos in space.


All this brings me to my point: When we lost interest in space, we lost something else. It seems that desire to reach for the stars is gone in our society. We have turned inward, focus on trivia, and stopped dreaming. My freshmen college students can’t even name the planets, much less exhibit any knowledge of space. Things we knew when we were fifteen are Greek to the current generation.

How do we lose things we once knew? How do we drift off course, more interested in self-esteem and self-enjoyment than seeking challenges and reaching for the stars?

I don’t have an answer, but it is troubling. The space program brought us technology advancments beyond imagination, including the Internet, which offers endless possibilities for knowledge and growth. But it seems we’d rather use social media, more interested in Facebook  and Twitter  than exploring the Internet like the greatest library of all time.

The age of space exploration was a good time, for all of us. We thought outside of our own little worlds. We thought of possibilities. We dreamed dreams. Now it seems those days are over, and we are the worse off for it.



I recently got into a mini-debate on Facebook regarding evolution. The debate was Darwin versus the various Christian or Biblical versions of creation. I’m not a particularly religious person, and I’m not even sure this is a post for this website, but I thought the exercise might be good for my old brain.

Today the notion of “God” creating the universe and everything in it is often considered passe. More than that, it seems popular to infer that those who subscribe to the Biblical concepts of man’s origins are at best ignorant, and at worst…well at worst maybe too stupid to live.

“Science” seems to rule this discussion.  “The Origin of the Species” written by Charles Darwin and published in 1959 is the “bible” of the science believers. I am not smart enough nor educated well enough to completely understand Darwin’s work, but as a practical measure, it seems to make sense. Certainly it seems easier to buy into Darwin’s theory than the notion that God made the earth and everything on it in seven days. But is it really easier? Is it really “different” than the Biblical version?

First, let’s despense with the idea that the “days” in the Bible were actually days.  Time frames that were possibly millions of years long are difficult enough for anyone in the modern world to comprehend. During Biblical times, it was probably incomprehensibe. Could we not however simply entertain the idea that one “day” in the Bible actually could have been thousands of years? Or even millions for that matter? Current thinking places the age of the earth at around 4.5 billion years. Dividing this by six (on the seventh day God rested),  we get each “day” being about 750 million years long.  That many million is almost impossible to grasp as it is, much less billions of years. Why not just call each of these time periods “days” and make it easier to understand. It’s a metaphor folks, a rhetorical figure of speech that makes the blindingly complex a bit easier to comprehend.

So if the only difference between Bible believers and science believers is a time frame, what is the big hang-up? A time frame metaphor hardly seems worthy of any sort of serious debate. You say tomatoe I say tomato.

But there’s more to it, isn’t there? Much more. The real issue isn’t about how long the planet took to cool and evolve, or even the specifics of how that may have happened. The real argument is why it happened. that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Did we just evolve as a random group of molecules from a firey “big bang” to the structured planet we are today? Or, was there something or Someone behind it? Are we a result of “intelligent design”?

I find it interesting that today all but the strongest religionists shy away form saying things like “God created man”. Today, in keeping with polictical correctness, we can only  enter the discussion by meekly referring to intelligent design, whatever that is. Even suggesting that however, seems to raise eyebrows among the enlightened. Surely anyone who even suggests we evolved by design rather than happerstance must be a little foggy brained at best.

So then, if we were not created deliberately by a supreme being, how did we get here? The most common alternative to creationism theory I’ve heard is that we just “sort of happened”.  In other words, some random collection of neutrons, protons and other tons all just came together somehow and created life. All life on earth is nothing more than a freak occurance, an accident for lack of a better word.

Here’s my problem with that:  First, if we are an accidental happening, it seems unlikely that this randomness happened elsewhere. Our species — our evolved species is unique in the universe. If there are any other “accidents” out there, they probably are nothing like us. So we may be alone, but that’s not the big point to me.

If we have evolved from this cosmic accident, life has no meaning. There was no plan making us, so we are no different than anything else in that life cycle. We are no different than a snake or a bird or an insect. We are a lifeform that simply “happened” If we’re “different” than the others, that’s only because we see ourselves as different, not that we really are.

Beyond that, if we are an accidental occurance on an accidental planet, life and death have no meaning. Before we were born we did not exist, and after we die we do not exist. Gone. Nothing, zero, zilch. Any meaning we give to life is nothing more than something we have simply rationalized. There is no Supreme Being, there is no Heaven, there is no Hell, there is only nothing. Human beings are just like a bug that gets stepped on — gone and not only forgotten, but never even noticed.

If we are simply accidental, then moral structures should be optional. To be sure, they seem to be so with some people, but the notion of laws and rules based on moral codes does not apply. After all, where did most of our laws and codes come from? “Thou shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not steal”, etc and so forth. These all came from religions, all of which believe in some Higher Authority. If could be argued that without these laws and rules there would be chaos, and probably so. But the question is not whether or not these are good things, but rather where these concepts came from. Did they just happen accidently as well? Or were they given to man from someone else; someone who is not man?


Check out this picture. Beautiful, isn’t it? Of all the planets known to man, earth is surely the most beautiful. All alone in our visible space, we sit, blue and green and gorgeous.


Mars? Not so much. A pretty bleak and desolate rock.


 Venus too. Wouldn’t want to live there.


And Jupiter’s moon Io –  forget about it.

The point is this. The planet that is beautiful, even from deep in space, is earth — the accident? All that randomness created this beautiful planet, which just happens to be the only one with life on it. Wow – what a miracle. No wait, can’t be a miracle, as that implies outside forces. Must be just a super cool accident.

Attempting to sum this up before it meanders any further, I think this: When we get old, we start to think more directly about topics such as life and death. I think younger people avoid these thoughts and rightly so. Life has too much living in it to think about it ending. But when we realize we have a far shorter future than a past, such things come to mind.

Dying and just being “gone” does not appeal to me.  I think the idea that we just “end” and go no place else is too shallow a thought. Not believing in an afterlife requires nothing. We don’t have to worry if we have been just or unjust, fair or unfair, good or evil. None of that matters, because there is nothing after this. Believing in an afterlife, Heaven or Hell, or anything else requires an accounting. It requires us to reflect on the good and bad we have done. It requires some sort of reconcilliation to set things right.

So in the end, I’m pretty satisfied that we are no accident. I can’t say I know anything about the Creator, other than the fact I believe He exists. In that respect, I’m trying to do my own sort of reconciling these days.