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Idols

They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.

~Isaiah 2:8

The ancients fashioned graven images of stone or precious metal and made offerings to them.  They sought in vain blessings from dumb rock.  When we apply this to modern times we typically say our idols are any earthly things which we love more than God, be it cars, clothes, sports, work, video games, the internet.  This misses the point.  What if what the ancients prized to the point of worship was not the physical lump of rock, but rather the fact that they created it?  They exercised power over the elements in an act of raw creation subduing, in essence, the earth itself.  They glory in their own ability to use available tools to create something of perceived beauty and value.  This interpretation is much more broadly applicable to our day because we are ever engaged in creative acts.

Today we have far fancier tools than did our ancient ancestors, and the things we create vary infinitely more.  We can make jewelry, 100 row combines and planters, cars, trucks, cell phones, apps, search engines, artificial neural networks, nanotechnology, and thanks to an explosion in prosperity an endless supply of entertainments like novels, plays, movies, YouTube, X-Box, etc.  The simplistic and anti-materialistic approach to idol worship would be to say that these things are idols.  But there were plenty of things made of stone and gold that were not worshipped anciently.

Idol worship is when we become inordinately pleased with our own work, whether it’s that elegant program we just engineered or constructing an artificial black hole.  We compare our meager acts of creation with those of the Creator.  If, as I believe, all of us have access to an eternal wellspring of creativity and are capable of greatness, then idol worship is when we forget to honor God.  That is idolatry, loving the work of our own hands, “that which our own fingers have made.”  And it is at its core self worship.

We should never forget that great things are created through us more so than by us.  A mother literally brings a new and exquisite creation into this world through her.  She is the conduit through which the ultimate earthly creation is delivered.  If we always remember the source of our meager creations and that they came through us, then we might find ourselves worthy to be the means of true greatness.

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Rational Degree of Belief

I am a statistician by training and profession. I enjoy wrestling with the philosophical underpinnings of probability, logic, epistemology, etc. particularly what it means to know something.  A statistician’s main objective is to quantify uncertainty about a given proposition using models that reflect a belief consistent with all available data. Physics is also based on useful models that are consistent with observed/observable data. The laws of nature may not be changing, but the mathematical formulas we use to describe them can and do change; ask Newton (and possibly Einstein.)

So when can we ever be thought to KNOW something given that new data always seem to throw a monkey wrench into our neat little models? I Like Lord Keynes’ perspective:

If a man believes something for a reason which is preposterous or for no reason at all, and what he believes turns out to be true for some reason not known to him, he cannot be said to believe it rationally, although he believes it and it is in fact true.  On the other hand, a man may rationally believe a proposition to be probable when it is in fact false.  The distinction between rational belief and mere belief, therefore, is not the same as the distinction between true beliefs and false beliefs.  The highest degree of rational belief, which is termed certain rational belief, corresponds to knowledge.  We may be said to know a thing when we have a certain rational belief in it.

– A Treatise on Probability, John Maynard Keynes, 1921

Through my own experiences I have come to know, or attained a certain rational belief, that there is a God in Heaven who is mindful of his children.  Nothing is more certain.  In the coming posts I will show how I came to this knowledge.

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Beginnings

I have recently heard a great deal from pastors and pundits on radio, in print, and even on broadway about what I supposedly believe.  It would be waste of time and space to try to address two hundred years of accumulated misinformation.  But I can begin to document what I really believe, not what you heard I believe.

You see, I’m a Mormon, and about as Mormon as you can get.  With all my heart and mind I believe in Mormon scripture, attend weekly Mormon services (all three hours), and participate in the Church’s lay ministry to the best of my abilities in whatever capacity I’m asked.  I served a full-time mission in Switzerland and France.  And most of my ancestors walked across the plains and settled in the Utah territory.  So what I write here is the perspective of a believer but in no way official Church doctrine

I write according to the dictates of my own conscience, my own philosophy, and my own understanding.  Of course I believe it’s the right point of view; I wouldn’t believe it otherwise!  But I reserve the right to and even expect to change my beliefs, and will gladly admit mistakes in the presence of new information.

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