Thursday, May 05, 2016

Master's courses for the Fall!

The Holy Spirit, Karl Barth, and the Minor Prophets walk into a semester...

These are all courses you can take onsite at IWU in the new master's degree offered by the School of Theology and Ministry.

Here's the Fall schedule for our new Master of Practical Theology degree, a two year degree that spends the first year on campus and the second in an internship in a local church. It is designed especially for the person just graduating from college who wants a smooth transition into ministry. At the end of the degree, you'll have a degree that you can then use later as a stepping stone into a PhD or DMin program.

Fall Courses (2016)
  • Minor Prophets (Brian Bernius)
  • Hermeneutics for Ministry (Abson Joseph)
  • Pneumatology (John Drury)
  • Karl Barth (John Drury)
  • Formation in Ministry Practice (Dave Ward)
  • Practical Theology of Ministry (Amanda Drury)
Spring Courses (2017)
  • Corinthians and Thessalonians 
  • Biblical Theology 
  • Theology of John Wesley
  • Ecclesiology
  • Strategic Pastoral Counseling
  • Christian Education of Children's Families
  • Formation in Ministry Practice
This week, the first class of students in the program are doing a crash course with Constance Cherry on worship. Then Eddy Shigley will launch them out of Marion and into local churches for their internship year. Everyone in the program is significantly scholarshiped!

Again, this is a GREAT way to transition from college to ministry, with some of our students headed off this summer to everywhere from 12Stone Church to Australia. Come join us!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Wednesday Gen Eds

I want to start a series on Wednesdays something like my series I do on Saturdays. My Saturday series is "Seminary in a Nutshell," and I am going through a seminary curriculum over the course of perhaps several years. Today I want to start a series called, "Gen Eds in a Nutshell."

1. Most colleges and universities, indeed, pretty much all high school curricula, cover what we might call "general education" topics. Colleges often consider most of these topics to be something called the "liberal arts." The term is an old one and one that does not always communicate well, not least because of the connotation that the word liberal has.

The "liberal arts" are the liberating arts. [1] That is to say, education presents possible options on various topics that might not have occurred to a person previously. In that sense, a people becomes "freer" to make their minds up because they have more information and know more of the previous discussion experts have had on those topics.

When we only know one option, we are a slave to that option. We cannot possibly pick another one because we do not know any other options. A good education opens up new possibilities and brings a critical eye on existing ones. Ideally, this process creates greater freedom for our thinking. We become liberated from past blind spots.

Of course there is a very important caveat here. You may know the saying, "The more you know the less you know." Socrates (470-399BC) is reported to have said at his trial that true wisdom is to know that you really know nothing. [2] In some respects, education is as much about "unlearning" as it is learning. That is to say, education tends to reveal that there are rarely easy answers. If you think the answer is always obvious, you are probably missing something.

2. Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, told a story that has come to be known as the "Myth of the Cave." [3] In the story, some people are chained in a cave in such a way that they can only see shadows of people walking in front of the cave entrance. Because all they can see are the shadows, they assume the shadows are the reality.

Then one of them gets free and comes to realize that the reality is not the shadows but the figures in the light outside the cave. Having reached this Enlightenment, he returns to those who are still chained and shares with them. In response, they kill him.

While this story relates strongly to Plato's philosophy of what is real and how we can best apprehend it, the story has also come to symbolize the quest for knowledge. [4] There is an enlightenment that can take place with education. Indeed, Socrates' statement that "The unexamined life is not worth living" is often quoted. [5] Whether the statement is too extreme is a topic for another time, but he suggests that knowledge is virtuous for its own sake. A reflective life is arguably a more meaningful life than one in which we only eat and drink our way through life until we finally die.

A group known as existentialists in the twentieth century suggested that we do not really have a life until we make some choices about who we want to be. Our bodies may exist, but we have no identity until we decide who we are. [6] Albert Camus put it another way. The only serious philosophical question is "Why not suicide?" [7] This is perhaps another way to look at Socrates' statement on the unexamined life. If we have never reflected on the meaning of our lives, are we really living? What reason do we have to live?

Of course these questions take on added significance in a Christian context. There is a sense in which a Christian might say that a person does not fully existence until he or she has found their ultimate identity in God. As Augustine said in the late 300s, "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you." [8]

3. In the series that follows, I propose to summarize in a nutshell some of the most important insights that one should receive from a "gen ed" education, whether in high school or at a university. Indiana has helpfully created an agreement between most of its colleges that 30 credit hours of such general education will be a package that can be exchanged from one to another. So if you do these 30 hours at IWU, you have potentially fulfilled all your gen eds for IU, Purdue, or Ball State.

What will follow is thus ten "courses," a series of posts on each subject. The intention is to capture, in a nutshell, the main learning that a roundly educated person would have after a solid liberal arts education. The courses are:
  • Philosophy
  • World History
  • World Culture and Language
  • World Literature
  • World Art and Music
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Written and Spoken Communication
  • Basic Mathematical Skills
  • Basic Scientific Knowledge
Let the liberal arts begin!

Next Week: Philosophy 1: Philosophy Overview

[1] The original sense was that the liberal arts were the kind of education worthy of a free citizen in Athens. My redefinition is more appropriate for our modern context. In the history of education, the liberal arts are classically discussed in terms of the "trivium" and "quadrivium" of the Middle Ages. The trivium laid the foundation of education for a free person in grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Then the quadrivium formed a second story build upon it that was more mathematical: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

[2] Plato's Apology.

[3] In Plato's Republic.

[4] Since Socrates was put to death by the Athenians, there is also the allusion to Socrates' death as a martyr for philosophy.

[5] Also in Plato's Apology.

[6] Jean Paul Sartre, "Existence precedes essence."

[7] The Myth of Sysiphus.

[8] Augustine's Confessions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

11. The Truth behind Politics

It's deeply ironic that I finish my review of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion on the day we here in Indiana go to the primary polls. My bet is that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump will win. I plan to vote for a loser, but that doesn't really tell you anything. :-)

The review of the book so far is:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage
8. Morality an Evolutionary Advantage
9. The "Chimp to Bee" Switch
10. Religion is like Football

1. He begins the book by talking about how contentiously divided America had become when he was writing in 2012. Little could he have imagined what the situation would look like for the 2016 election. The Republican field of candidates this year was a mud wrestling match, and the leading Republican candidate at one point endorsed violence against protesters at his rallies.

When Haidt was writing, it was things like the inability of Congress to conduct a routine vote to expand the debt ceiling to cover a budget it had already approved. He talked about how, since the 90s, partisans on both sides were discouraged from being friends with each other. Now members walk into the chamber full of hatred.

One key example of this shift, he argues, is when Newt Gingrich urged house members not to move their families to Washington. Without the social interaction of families (e.g., spouses socializing with spouses), an individualistic, isolated climate was advanced.

2. Where does political ideology come from? First, he defines ideology as "A set of beliefs about the proper order of society and how it can be achieved" (322).

A major cause, surprisingly, is genetic. Studies show that identical twins, even if they are separated at birth, will tend to have the same political affinities in later life. Meanwhile, "self-interest does a remarkably poor job of predicting political attitudes" (323).

How do our genes work there way into our later politics? He gives three key factors:

a. First, genes make our brains. "The genes (collectively) give some people brains that are more (or less) reactive to threats, and that produce less (or more) pleasure when exposed to novelty, change, and new experiences" (325). The more reactive mind tends toward the conservative. The more exploration-oriented mind tends toward the liberal.

b. But secondly, our traits interact with our environment to steer us in various directions. Dan McAdams speaks of three levels of our personality:
  • dispositional traits, such as our basic reactivity to threats or our delight in exploration.
  • characteristic adaptations, how our environment interacts with our default dispositions
  • lastly, we construct life narratives. "The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor" (328).
c. So we simplify and selectively reconstruct our pasts into stories, with idealized visions for the future. He gives a great hypothetical about a sister and brother, their default dispositions, and how they interact with a specific story to end up politically conservative or liberal. He also tells a little of Keith Richards' story. :-)

3. Both the left and the right have grand narratives. The terms come from which side of the assembly French delegates sat in 1789, depending on whether they wanted to preserve the past (right - conservatism) or wanted change (left - liberalism). The grand narrative of the left is one of progress. The past is full of inequality and exploitation, but we are throwing off the chains of social oppression and the future is bright because times they are a changin.

The narrative of the right is that America used to be great. Our country used to be strong and we were free to do what we wanted. But the liberals made government too big and they have undermined faith. Instead of punishing criminals and free-loaders, now we reward them. We need to take our country back from the liberals and make America great again like it used to be.

4. He then reminds us of his earlier thesis of the book. If there are something like six different moral areas in our brains (harm, freedom, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity), conservatism tends to hit most of them. Liberalism only hits two or three. For this reason, studies show that liberals find it hard to anticipate what conservatives will think on issues, while conservatives are better at the opposite. That is to say, conservatives tend to understand liberals better than liberals tend to understand conservatives.

He says that the blind spot of liberals is what he calls "moral capital." Moral capital refers to "the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that... enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible" (341).

"If you are trying to change and organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you're asking for trouble" (342).

This "explains why liberal reforms so often backfire, and why communist revolutions usually end up in despotism... Liberalism tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change" (343).

5. He suggests a yin and yang relationship between these two forces in a society--innovation versus preservation. He gives the following as positive examples of these impulses:
  • Liberal values care for victims of oppression. For example, liberals recognize that corporations can become superorganisms that are so powerful that only the government can control them. "When corporations operate in full view of the public, with a free press that is willing and able to report... they are likely to behave well, as most corporations do" (347).
  • "Some problems really can be solved by regulation" (348). Haidt uses lead as an example. In what is very well documented, big corporations in collusion with government perpetuated a situation throughout the mid-twentieth century that retarded the IQ of American children and doubled the crime rate. Crime dropped in half in the 1990s once lead gasoline was completely worked out of the system.
  • Markets are miraculous. When people are allowed to make their own choices on purchases, the law of supply and demand really does lower costs. A kind of "spontaneous order" emerges. When everything is provided for a person, there is little incentive to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of things or increase its quality.
  • "You can't help the bees by destroying the hive" (358). If John Lennon had his way and there were no countries, no religion, no borders or boundaries, the world would quickly descend into hell because human selfishness would reign supreme. We thrive as humans because we have the capacity to hive and congeal together. A world without groups is a world of self-destructive anarchy.
Studies show that if the blending of diverse groups is done in the wrong way, the result is not hiving but "turtling." Individuals simply withdraw into their own shell. "Emphasizing differences makes many people more racist, not less" (361). Bonding comes from commonality.

6. What to do? Haidt seems to suggest that the first steps are social, not intellectual. Facebook is very painful these days, but this is just a sign of how far we have withdrawn into "lifestyle enclaves." Perhaps that social interaction--rough as it has been of late--is a kind of first step back toward civility.

If we truly want to understand the other, he suggests we "follow the sacredness." What are the moral foundations on which the other side is operating?

I'll plan to do a final post of take-aways on this book, political and religious.

Monday, May 02, 2016

2.1 Electromotive Force (EMF)

This week starts Module 2 of the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series. Last week I finished summarizing:

Module 1: Electrical Current

The second module begins with Electromotive Force (EMF) produced by chemical action. This book was written in the early 1970s so it's fun to see how out of date the batteries it has in mind are. Of course the way chemistry works hasn't changed. Here are the bullet points from the first section of this Module:
  • Electromotive force (EMF) is the force that moves electrons through a circuit, created by some source like a battery.
  • Voltage is related but slightly different. EMF is a force. Voltage is the difference of potential between the positive and negative poles of the battery or source of EMF.
  • The module references "dry cell" batteries. The figures are funny because they go back to when both the positive and negative posts of a battery were on the top, the positive in the center and a negative terminal on the outer rim of the top.
  • In that scheme, there was a center rod in a battery that was made out of something like carbon. 
  • Then the outer "electrode" on the inside of the container might be made out of something like zinc. 
  • Then a chemical paste in the middle was an "electrolyte" that facilitated an accumulation of electrons on the zinc electrode, leaving a positive charge on the carbon rod.
  • Today, of course, the most common batteries are lithium batteries.
  • So within the battery, there is the potential for an electron flow from the positive to the negative terminals of the battery.
  • Outside the battery, there is the potential for an electron flow from the negative terminal around a circuit and back to the positive terminal.
  • A "volt" is the unit of measurement for potential difference. The same metric prefix applies for volts as for amps (milli-, micro-, kilo-, mega-)
  • Batteries can be connected together in series to add up the total amount of voltage (negative to positive, negative to positive, etc).
  • When not connected properly (in series opposition as opposed to series aiding), they cancel each other out.
  • When connected in parallel, the life of the battery is increased (often done in subs, at least in days gone by).
Next Week: 2.2 Magnetism

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Governor Mike Pence gives IWU commencement address

Governor Mike Pence at IWU
It is an honor to have a sitting governor speak at a university graduation, whether you agree with his or her politics. Today, IWU was honored to have Governor Mike Pence speak at our commencement. It was a very worshipful and enthusiastic service, truly memorable in a number of respects.

For example, Wilbur Williams was given the (not often given) World Changing Faculty award, as he begins his 50th year of teaching in the fall. Chris Bounds was voted Professor of the Year. He was sadly out of town because of the passing of his father last Friday. We are sad that he is going to do mission work down at Asbury College next year (I give him three years before he comes back ;-).

The music was exceptionally worshipful today. I am also convinced that Gov. Pence's faith is genuine, even if there are some areas where we would live out our faith differently. As is often the case, it is harder to vilify a person you know than someone who merely represents ideas or decisions you don't like.

Those who have been listening to hecklers should know that IWU, like any university worth its mettle, is a place where some think Gov. Pence is an angel and others think he is a devil. The standing ovation he received suggests that most respect him (you can see the ceremony on CSPAN). Even those who don't like some of his politics honored him by standing.

It should be clear from today that IWU is a conservative-leaning school that nevertheless has a broad constituency and indeed everyone is welcome. In the end, it's about the pursuit of truth in the context of faith, not about indoctrination in a particular ideology.

Seminary PL6: Casting Vision

This is the sixth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first five were:
1. In theory, the mission statement of a church or organization leads naturally to a vision statement. In our next installment, we will look at vision statements in more detail. However, in this post we want to strategize about how a leader can move a church or organization toward establishing these sorts of statements.

What we are talking about here is the broader matter of "leading change." Far more important than having mere statements about a church's mission/vision is a church embracing that mission/vision. And far more important than "buy-in" to a mission or vision is movement toward reaching that vision. "A leader without followers is just going for a walk." [1] Statements are meaningless if they don't actually result in change.

2. Here we have to face a fundamental reality. Having a position does not make you a leader, at least not a significant one. There is "formal power" and there is "informal power." Formal power is the power that comes from having a position or office. To the extent that an organization takes a position seriously, having a position can give a person a great deal of power and influence.

The duties and responsibilities of "formal polity" should be clearly defined to avoid unnecessary conflict. The boundaries and powers of an office are best set before conflicts ensue. It is difficult to set such parameters in the middle of a conflict. In such cases, a superior may have to intervene and make a power-based decision. At the same time, job descriptions can be modified to fit the individual strengths of a person playing that role.

But "informal polity" is sometimes even more significant than formal power. There are often individuals who have more influence than those who formally hold positions of power. The impulse to squash such influence often comes at great price. Indeed, it often leads to defeat and ministry failure. A leader needs to pick her battles.

Notorious here is the so called "church boss." There are often individuals in small churches who more or less run the show no matter who the pastor is. A pastor--especially a new pastor--should not think that he or she is really the boss just because they have the office of leader. It usually takes some time for a new pastor to gain the much more important informal authority. This dynamic can apply to many organizations.

3. So when it comes to formulating mission and vision statements, who should formulate them? Sometimes a pastor or leader has a strong sense of what they want such statements to be. Sometimes a leader is excited to see such statements emerge from the congregation or from a smaller group of leaders. Each situation will have its own unique dynamics and challenges.

For a mission and vision to go far, it will need buy-in from those who are going to live it. This fact immediately raises questions about the personality of the group. Is the congregation happy to go with whatever vision the leader casts? Are there informal leaders whom you will need to get on your side? Are there formal leaders you will need on your side?

Negotiating potential opposition is an art rather than a science. Timing is important. Contrarians are more likely to oppose something they hear about indirectly than if a leader has already secured their support before they hear of ideas, especially before some public unveiling. But they can also undermine movement if they are brought in too soon and do not join your side.

4. A colleague of mine used to say that "If there are more than six people in the room, then the decision has been made somewhere else." Big meetings rarely make significant progress on anything. Decisions are more often made at the water cooler or around the coffee pot or in the restrooms.

A leader is wise to have a strategic team, a go-to group that he or she strategizes with before moving forward. Formal polity usually involves a board that makes official decisions. It would be ideal if the official board were a leader's strategic team. But often those who hold official positions are not those who have the most insight.

Again, the path to generating a strategic vision can be more an art than a science. If your church or organization has a strategic planning committee, then the path to an official mission or vision will have to flow through it at some point. However, leaders often have a special "go-to" set of people who help them formulate their best ideas. This group can be as simple as two or three people you regularly email when you are contemplating a decision or strategy.

One way to work toward buy-in is to have a brainstorming session with a large group at the beginning of a process of strategic planning. Such a group is ill-suited to formulate a specific mission or vision statement, but they can generate a host of possibilities from which a smaller group can then select the best ideas. In this way, the larger group has a sense that they are involved in the process long before any final presentation is made to them for adoption.

5. Getting buy-in usually requires that key influencers put their fingerprints on the process and the final product. It's usually prudent to leave some aspects of a mission or vision or plan open to change. It's unwise to think you have a finished product when a statement or plan will have to go through several hoops. Each step of a planning process will almost certainly involve change.

So a leader should identify the key aspects of the mission, vision, or plan that he or she wants left alone and which parts can provide key constituencies the chance to put their fingerprints on the process.

6. As a process unfolds, a leader should informally build support among key influencers. Ideally, everyone should feel included. However, there are often difficult personalities who need to be negotiated carefully. Of course a leader should always listen to those difficult personalities. Sometimes they are right! There are some people whose personalities make you want to say no to anything they say, but a good leader will take the time to consider if they may actually be right. Always remember the old adage, "Don't ask a question if you don't really want an answer."

When it is important, a leader may need to marginalize difficult personalities. Often, these personalities have already marginalized themselves from others. But at times, difficult people have significant informal power. Although it is not ideal, a leader may have to keep plans carefully guarded, securing as much official and informal support before a final showdown at the right time. Hopefully, assuming it is important for the plan to succeed, by that time the plans will be far enough along or there will be enough support that the contrarian will not be able to kibosh movement forward.

7. There are costs for pushing forward in the face of opposition. A leader has a certain amount of capital that comes with the office and with the authority he or she has earned informally. There is not an infinite amount of capital to spend. Try to impose too much against the will of the church and you face the possibility of a coup. Win one battle today, you may be assassinated later in a weak moment.

It is unwise to try to push through a plan in the face of overwhelming opposition, even if you are sure it is the right plan. There is the leader that sacrifices him or herself for the good of the organization's future. They take down a bad leader or push through organizational change, but are "killed" in the process.

But, in the vast majority of cases, a vision for a church cannot go anywhere unless the church embraces that vision. There is a time to give up on a plan. There is a time to move on. There is a time to back off. Part of being a good leader is being able to read the times.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 7: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

[1] John Maxwell

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Science: Does Time Flow?

Another Friday, another chapter in Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

My first four summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets
c. Relativity and the Absolute
d. Particles Separated at Birth

This chapter was a dud to me. As usual, there are two possibilities: 1) I didn't understand what he was saying or 2) what he was saying just didn't make sense. He tried to make an argument that time was basically frozen. We might experience change from one moment to the next but really it was all one big spacetime loaf.

I may not have understood what he was saying about an observer in a galaxy far far away but it seemed to me he was only making an argument about when light arrived at a certain place, not a true difference in the speed at which time itself moves relative to the earth. It seemed like more subtle positivist nonsense, but I could be wrong (the mention of Carnap makes me think I'm not).

More thought provoking were the following statements:
  • "A particular moment can no more change in time than a particular location can move in space" (141).
  • "Each moment in spacetime--each time slice--is like one of the still frames in a film. It exists whether or not some light illuminates it" (140).
  • All points of time eternally exist. "They eternally occupy their particular point in spacetime" (139).
The idea here is that all of spacetime is something like a loaf. You can slice it up differently but it all already exists.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, so I'll keep reading...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Biblical Theology: Eschatology

Here is my 300 word entry for my biblical theology notebook:

The goal of New Testament eschatology is no doubt new creation. This new creation presupposes that the current creation is not as God wants it to be. The current creation, not least humanity, is alienated from God. Humanity was created to have glory and honor in the creation (Ps. 8:5), but because of sin humanity does not currently experience this glory (Rom. 3:23; Heb. 2:8). So the telos of the creation, including that of humanity, is glorification and restoration. The image of God in humanity, currently marred, will finally be restored. Indeed it will be more than restored. It will be consummated, along with the creation.

If those in Christ will be glorified along with the creation, the enemies of God face judgment (e.g., Heb. 10:27). The sermon called Hebrews suggests that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31), and it has former believers in view. So we can hardly imagine what it would be like to face the Judgment outside the house of God. 1 Peter 4:17 says that the suffering Christians were then experiencing was the beginning of judgment, and it pondered how awful it will be for those who are not followers of Christ, given how bad it is for those who are God's people.

Most of the New Testament gives a unified sense of how the judgment will begin. Christ will first return from heaven with those in Christ who have been raised from the dead (1 Thess. 4:16). The resurrection of the righteous thus precedes the return of Christ. 1 Thessalonians suggests that those in Christ who are alive when Jesus returns will then be caught up to join him and the resurrected in the skies. Because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 that believers will participate in the judgment (cf. also Matt. 19:28), we can infer that we meet Christ in the air only to return to the earth, not to go off to heaven.

There will also be a final judgment for all the living and the dead (e.g., Rev. 20:11-15). Most of the New Testament then pictures eternal life on a renewed and glorified earth. Since so much of the imagery of Revelation appears only in that book (e.g., the millennium), since Revelation is so highly symbolic, since it is so difficult to relate a literal interpretation of Revelation to the rest of the New Testament, it seems very likely that we should take most of its imagery as highly symbolic rather than literal.

Nowhere in the New Testament is a seven-year Tribulation explicitly mentioned. Much of the imagery of a man of lawlessness and a beast is rooted in the Roman Empire. Thus while it is possible that there will be a final persecution with major opposition to Christ by a key figure before his return, we will have to wait and see.

10. Religion is like Football

Almost done with Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage
8. Morality an Evolutionary Advantage
9. The "Chimp to Bee" Switch

The second to last chapter, chapter 11 is titled, "Religion is a Team Sport."

1. Haidt's basic claim in this chapter is that religion has played and continues to play a positive role in human society. He connects it to the "hive switch" that helps us to "suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible" (314). Particularly enjoyable in the chapter was his roasting of the New Atheists (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens).

2. A good bit of the chapter, as many of the chapters, is evolutionary debate. So Dawkins and others basically see religion as an evolutionary accident and misfire. They see it as a parasite of evolution, a "time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking" waste of human energy. To him it's "anti-factual, counterproductive" and full of fantasies. So Dawkins, tell us what you really think.

The problem with the four horseman of new atheism is that their analysis focuses on lone believers and it does so from an almost purely cognitive perspective. Unlike Durkheim, these thinkers have failed to see the reality of "social facts." Here are some of Haidt's responses:
  • "Trying to understand the persistence and passion of religion by studying beliefs about God is like trying to understand the persistence and passion of college football by studying the movements of the ball. You've got to broaden the inquiry" (290).
  • "The function of those beliefs and practices is ultimately to create a community. Often our beliefs are post hoc constructions designed to justify what we've just done, or to support the groups we belong to."
Let me just say how completely obvious this is and has long been to me. Christians who think it's all about getting our ideas straight so our lives can follow suit are so far off it's embarrassing, and the atheists who have tried to dismiss religion on this basis look just as stupid.

In Haidt's language, it is not believing that leads to doing, but belonging that leads to both believing and doing. This is sometimes just as true of scholarship, unfortunately, as it is of other thinking. Much of the stuff in New Testament studies right now is little more than intelligent, sentimental self-justification.

3.  In the middle of this chapter, Haidt presents three evolutionary models. The first is that of Dawkins and the new atheists. They see morality as having evolved in a two step process: a) hypersensitive agency detective devices helped animals detect the presence of potentially dangerous "agents" in their midst, like predators wanting to eat them. So we see faces in clouds but we don't see clouds in faces. Accordingly, we see gods in the thunder.

The second step for Dawkins is then b) cultural evolution. The most interesting god stories win. Dawkins and others see these stories as parasitic. Religions for him are like viruses.

A second evolutionary perspective recognizes that religion helped homo sapiens survive but denies any genetic component to it. Atran and Henrich found that communities with a religious component survived better than "secular" communes in the nineteenth century, and irrational requirements only helped them survive longer (like prohibitions on dancing and drinking). This is because religion makes groups more cohesive and cooperative.

"Sacredness binds people together, and then blinds them to the arbitrariness of the practice" (299). "Gods really do help groups cohere, succeed, and outcompete other groups."

Haidt goes one step further. He suggests that our genes may actually contribute to our religiousness as a species, even with genetic developments that have taken place in the last 10,000 years. Accordingly, "we cannot expect people to abandon religion so easily" as the new atheists may think (307).

4. He goes on to make other claims on the basis of research as the chapter ends. "Putnam and Campbell found that the more frequently people attend religious services, the more generous and charitable they become across the board" (310). "Religiously observant Americans are better neighbors and better citizens than secular Americans." How about this quote: "The highest levels of wealth, therefore, would be created when religious people get to play a trust game with other religious people" (309).

"It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing" (311).

Haidt suggests that it remains to be seen whether a secular world will economically prosper. Atheistic societies "are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources... into offspring" (313). "Gods were helpful in creating moral matrices within which Glauconian creatures have strong incentives to conform." He has an aside on terrorism, arguing that religion is only a handmaiden to nationalism as a cause in such cases. Group fervor is the primary force, which religion only reinforcing it. In this claim, again, he seems to be stating the bloody obvious.

5. He finally gets to a definition of a moral system: "interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible" (314). He is being descriptive here. Virtue ethics, he argues, fits human nature best as an ethical approach in terms of how we are hard wired (versus utilitarianism or deontology).

However, if this is a descriptive definition, he suggests Durkheimian utilitarianism as the best system for a society, a sort of "rule" utilitarianism that seeks the greatest benefit for a society as a whole, including its minorities. Meanwhile, any effort to define morality only by isolating a few (Western) issues like "justice, rights, and welfare" is bound to go parochial (315).

Monday, April 25, 2016

1.4-5 Measurement of Current and the Ammeter

Today we finish the first module of the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. The module has been on Electrical Current. Previous review posts have included:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron
1.2 Electron Movement
1.3 Current Flow

We finish today with sections 4 and 5.

Here are the bullet points to remember from section 4:
  • When you add more battery cells in a series, a light bulb burns with greater intensity. More "current" is flowing through the bulb.
  • When we measure current, we are in effect measuring the (net) amount of electrons going past a given point at any given time.
  • A "coulomb" of electrons is 6,250,000,000,000,000,000 electrons (6.25 x 1018). Discussing electrons in groups this large makes it easier for us to talk about them.
  • The measure of current is called an amp (for ampere). 1 amp of current is one coulomb passing any point in a circuit per second. 1 amp = 1 coulomb per second.
  • I is the abbreviation for current or number of amps. a is the abbreviation for amps. The symbol for charge or coulombs is Q. So I = Q/T.
  • This section also introduces scientific notation. Especially important are micro (10-6) and milli (10-3).
Section 5 is then relatively brief by comparison. It deals with the tool used to measure current.
  • An ammeter is used to measure current.
  • An ammeter needs to be connected in "series," which means that all the current has to run through it.
  • the positive lead of the ammeter should connect to the positive side of the circuit and the negative lead to the negative side. In other words, "observe polarity."
  • De-energize the circuit before connecting the ammeter. Then re-energize. Also de-energize before disconnecting.
Next week: 2.1 Electromotive Force

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Seminary PL5: Identifying Mission

This is the fifth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first two were:
1. It's good for a church or organization to have a strong sense of why it exists. Most have some intuitive sense of what they're there for. Probably most people at a hospital think they are there to help sick people. Probably a number of people at a college think they are there to teach students. A pastor may think she is there to minister to people.

But there are often competing senses of what an institution is about. Many professors may think they are there primarily to push the bounds of knowledge, not to teach students. At some universities, that may actually be the case. Many ministers think the primary goal of the church is to reconcile the world, not to minister to those who are already coming.

Often, there are not absolute answers to these questions. There is room in the universe for churches with slightly different senses of their identity and mission. Like the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians 12, some churches may focus more on one part of the mission and others on other parts.

2. We should neither over- or underestimate the significance of a mission statement. For the intuitive, a mission statement gives power to what you already feel by naming it. In that sense, a mission statement doesn't have to be something new. It can simply put words to what everyone already feels. But once your already assumed mission is named, it can serve as a rallying point, a tool to synergize a vision to move forward.

For churches or leaders with a planning personality, it is absolutely essential to generalize one's overall sense of identity and purpose before you can move forward. This personality should be careful not to dismiss the intuitive personality. The intuitive can sometimes view the planner as pedantic and as wasting everyone's time by spelling out what they think everyone already knows. Meanwhile, the planner can view the intuitive as chaotic and directionless.

Both characterizations are false. Intuitives do often see things that the planner cannot see until it is spelled out. But planners often save an organization from wasting its resources by clarifying and prioritizing the values and purpose that lead to direction. An institution that only empowers one group diminishes itself.

3. A mission statement can either make explicit the general identity an organization already has or it can serve as a launching point for an attempt to change identity and purpose. A mission statement should not be changed very often, perhaps no more than once every ten years. They can last for much longer.

Mission statements are usually so general that many different visions can be set out within the framework of the same mission statement. My former colleague Keith Drury used to say that mission statements usually say much more about what an institution is or has been at the time the statement is drafted than about what the organization will actually be going forward.

For these reasons, an organization should not belabor its mission statement too much, nor should they use them to prevent organic developments that may take place after they are made. There may come a time when the identity of an organization has changed so dramatically that everyone senses that the mission statement is out of date. At that point, a change is in order.

4. The mission statement of my local church, College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, is "CWC partners with God to restore people and redeem the world by reflecting the image of Jesus Christ." You can see how general it is. Probably any church in the world could use it. Nevertheless, it captures some of the key categories of those who drafted it. They looked at people through the lens of the "image of God." It fits within the missional movement in its language of partnering with God (rather than the mission being that of the church itself). It says nothing of worship and presumably sees discipleship as part of restoration, assuming that all people are less than whole.

The mission of Indiana Wesleyan University states that IWU is "a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership." As of 2016, the university is under the third president since this mission statement was drafted and there has been no need to change it. In itself, the statement is general enough that three presidents have now been able to implement their specific visions for the university under the same overall sense of mission.

When would it be appropriate to change it? If a future stage of the IWU community ceased to think of itself as "world changing," then it might want to change it. Or if new leadership ever arose that had a distinct enough sense of the future that it wanted to initiate a new direction, it might create a new one. It has been long enough since the first statement that it could be changed.

However, the current president, David Wright, wisely did not reformulate the university's mission statement when he became president. For one thing, he was present at the university when the mission statement was drafted. He therefore already had some ownership of the mission.

But it would have wasted valuable institutional time. The university's sense of identity has not changed enough in the last 15 years that a new mission statement was necessary. Keeping it both gave a sense of stability/continuity and allowed his leadership team to move on to the specifics of his vision and goals. These are the real mechanisms of institutional change because they are more specific and targeted.

A new leader who wants to implement a new mission statement should not do so too quickly. If the organization does not have a mission statement or if the old statement is generally perceived to be out of date, it can be done in the first year. In other cases, a leader may want to settle in a little before implementing such change.

5. In Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubrey Malphurs suggests that a good mission statement for a church is broad, brief, biblical, is a statement, and is what the ministry is supposed to be doing. We can assume the mission of any Christian institution will fit with sound biblical understanding and orthodoxy Christian belief and practice. If a church wants to be explicit about that connection, it certainly can, but it can just as well be assumed.

We have already given some sense of why a mission statement should be broad--it should have some staying power. That it should be a statement also makes sense in that a question or command does not capture identity and purpose as well. Brevity means it will be more memorable and inspiring. When IWU first set its mission statement, then President James Barnes would give any employee 5 dollars if, when he randomly approached you, you could state the new mission statement from memory.

The previous post attempted to present some generalities about the Church's mission in general, what the Church is supposed to be doing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, a church trying to formulate a mission statement has plenty of examples to choose from. Most churches have their mission statements on their websites. The team that proposes a mission statement should look at a variety of precedents and find those elements that best capture the identity and sense of mission in their particular context.

The mission statement will often have both a "being" and "doing" element.  Church X is something that aims at something by doing something.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 6: Casting Vision

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Science: Particles Separated at Birth

Another chapter down in Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

My first two summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets
c. Relativity and the Absolute

1. This chapter seemed a lot longer than it needed to be to me. Hopefully I can give the gist fairly quickly. When you run a water wave through two openings, you will get an "interference pattern" on the other side of the openings. The same happens with light. When you shine laser light through two slits, you get the same interference pattern.

What is very, very strange is that if you take an electron beam and shoot electrons one by one, slowly at those same two slits. If you shoot them, each one separately so they do not interact with each other, over time the very same interference pattern will emerge. So electrons, photons, all matter may be made up of particles, but those particles behave like waves.

The kind of wave it is, Greene helpfully points out, is a probabilistic wave. That is to say, it is because particles have a greater or lesser probability of being at a particular place when interacted with, over time their interaction with the slits plays out as a distribution of lines that fits those probabilities.

2. Werner Heisenberg showed in the late 20s that you cannot measure both the position and velocity of a particle accurately at the same time. If you measure the position with precision you can't measure the velocity and vice versa. This also applies to a number of other atomic features, such as spin.

Einstein engaged in a longstanding debate with the quantum mafia led by Bohr. Einstein couldn't bring himself to believe what has more or less turned out to be true. Particles don't actually have a definite position or velocity until you measure them. The nature of the quantum world is probabilistic. There is a greater or lesser probability that an electron is somewhere. It's not that it is somewhere and we just don't know exactly where. It's that it isn't exactly somewhere.

3. Einstein and a couple colleagues unintentionally advanced this discussion with a thought experiment that was later carried out. He suggested that if two twin particles parted with a correlated identity, as is often the case, then by measuring the position or the velocity of the one you could indirectly infer the position or velocity of the other.

This seems like common sense. What you do to the one doesn't affect what you do to the other, so you can measure the one and not disturb the other. David Bohm extended the Einstein thought experiment to the spin of a particle. In theory, if you measure the spin of a pair of correlated particles, you should be implicitly identifying the spin of the other. [1] In other words, the other one would have a definite position and velocity even without measuring it, contrary to what the Copenhagen mafia insisted.

4. In the 1960s, Jon Bell came up with a way to see if Einstein was correct and in the 70s and 80s, it became possible to test it. He determined that if you randomly measured the spin of two correlated particles in relation to more than two possible states, you could determine whether both particles had a definite spin to begin with. If you randomly measured the spin at three different angles for both particles, those measurements would agree more than 50% of the time if both of them had a definite spin to begin with.

Some of the best tests took place in the early 80s by the French scientist Alain Aspect. He showed that the detectors did not show that the spins agreed more than 50% of the time. What they showed was rather astounding.
  • If Einstein had been correct, they would have agreed more than 50% of the time. The implication would be that the particles had a definite state before measurement, as Einstein thought must surely be the case.
  • If the quantum mafia had been completely right, the measurements would have agreed less than 50% of the time. [2] The implication would be that the particles had an indefinite state before measurement and randomly took a state when measured.
  • What happened is that they agreed exactly 50% of the time. The implication was that they had an indefinite state before measurement but both particles took on the same state when one of them was measured.
The unexpected result, which is one of the most striking findings in all of the history of science is that what you do to a particle in one place, if that particle correlates to a particle somewhere else, you do to both particles. Many aspects of particles are actually indefinite in the first place, but if you interact with one and make it definite in some respect, you make any companion particle definite as well, no matter where it is in the universe.

5. This is called quantum entanglement. What you do to a particle here can affect a particle there, no matter where "there" is. In a sense, there is no such thing as "locality" in space. There is no "here" that is distinct from "there."

It's not that one particle sends a message somehow to the other, correlated particle. They rather have a unity that transcends locality. Special relativity is not violated. Nothing moves faster than the speed of light. It's just that there is a synchrony that transcends space.

[1] BTW, Bohm fled the US in the middle of the McCarthy nonsense and ended up in England at the end of his life. I hope America will never have a witch hunt like that again. Just think of how many brilliant minds Hitler lost in the middle of his ideological nonsense. No country can afford to lose its scientists for whatever stupid reason the public or politicians come up with.

[2] The Copenhagen circle with people like Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli were positivists in philosophy. They didn't consider anything to be real if you couldn't measure it. Their way of explaining the uncertainty principle is deeply unsatisfying to me. Although Einstein proved to be wrong, his objection to them was perfectly valid. Just because you can't measure something doesn't necessarily prove it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

9. The Human "Chimp to Bee" Switch

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continues. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics
7. The Conservative Advantage
8. Morality an Evolutionary Advantage

Today it's chapter 10: "The Hive Switch."

1. Haidt's basic hypothesis in this chapter is that while we are mostly chimps who look out for our own individual interests, we have a switch of sorts that puts us into bee mode, where we fight for our group. "Human beings are conditional hive creatures" (258). Under the right conditions, we can enter the mindset of "one for all, all for one."

Haidt links this switch to the religious dimension of human existence. He mentions what happens when a group is involved in an ecstatic group dance. Later he will mention the raves that took place in Britain in the 80s. He has mentioned earlier in the book when soldiers are marching together. Following Emile Durkheim, humans are homo duplex, who exist not only as individuals but as members of larger society. The second dimension of human existence is not reducible to the first.

2. He gives three examples of how to "flip the switch" on a human being to this euphoric sense of oneness with something bigger, the flip to a sense of the sacred. Nature, he suggested, can switch us to a sense of awe and of oneness with creation. Drugs are a second. Raves are the third.

3. The next part of the chapter dives into the biological basis for the switch. He suggests two possible contributors. One suggestion is the chemical oxytocin. In experiments with an oxytocin spray, groups becomes more unified, especially in the face of other groups.

A second candidate is the mirror neurons we have. These neurons imitate in our brains what we see. They help us empathize. [As an aside this is an argument against watching certain things or playing certain video games. Our brains do what we see, which is part of the thrill we get at certain movies. Jesus' statements about already doing in our heart things we fantasize about also seems to fit here.]

4. It was the last part of the chapter that was more interesting to me. He talked about the difference between transactional and transformational leadership. The previous treats people as self-interested individuals who are all homo economicus and motivates with personal consequences. Transformational leadership plays into people's propensity to unite with something bigger than themselves. People want to give for the good of the hive, not just themselves.

Fun to see intersections with leadership theory and the church growth movement in this sections. He mentions Dunbar groups, for example (434 n.46), groups of 150. We only seem to be able to know everyone within a group of this size or smaller, which is why this is a typical church size. A single pastor cannot handle a church bigger than this size without additional staff of some kind. Some churches plant another congregation when they hit this size and megachurches might think about facilitating sub-groups of this size or lower.

5. He mentions the homogeneous principle (although he doesn't name it). You won't have the switch (or perhaps slide, he suggests) to a higher group unity unless there is some strong sense of similarity. Of course he is not arguing for racial segregation. But he is suggesting that our differences need to be drowned in a sea of similarities if we want to experience this higher level of group cohesion. [My old colleague Bob Whitesel once cleverly suggested that multiculturalism in itself can be a basis for this sort of group bonding, if everyone in the group loves multiculturalism as a value!]

Another component of human bee hives is "team spirit," synchrony, group rituals that the group does together, chants, slogans, etc. Finally, healthy competition between smaller teams. Soldiers die more for their squad, not for their country. Basic training unites the soldiers, not the drill sergeant. So fraternities and sororities bond university students even more than university spirit in general.

So a thriving organization will not only make people feel part of a whole greater than themselves, it may also have smaller sub-units in healthy rivalries with each other.

6. Some people create these dynamics as a second nature. They are the cheerleaders. Where they need to be careful is in intergroup rivalry. "In group" enthusiasm can go too far in its attitudes and treatment of "out group" individuals.

Monday, April 18, 2016

1.3 Current Flow

I've been reviewing the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. Previous review posts have included:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron
1.2 Electron Movement

Today's module is on "Current Flow."

Here are the bullet points to remember from the second module:
  • Random drift (previous module) of electrons doesn't do any work. What we want to do work is a "directed drift" of electrons, an "electron flow," also known as "current."
  • To have electron flow, we need a complete circuit, a "closed circuit," a complete path for the electrons to follow all the way from the source, through a path, and back to the source. Electricity can't flow in an "open circuit," where there is a break in the path.
  • This path needs to be made out of a "conductor," that is, a type of material in which electrons flow relatively easily (a path made up of an "insulator" material won't be much help at all).
  • The content of the rest of this module largely has to do with the symbols for some basic items you might find in a "circuit diagram" or a "schematic." A circuit diagram is a way of drawing an electrical system using symbols for things like batteries, light bulbs, and switches. 
  • The diagram at the bottom is an example of such a diagram. I have labeled the items.
  • For the battery symbol, the negative side is the shorter line. Electricity flows from the negative, around, and back to the positive terminal of the battery.

Next Week: 1.4-5 Measurement of Current and the Ammeter

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seminary PL4: The Mission, Great and Small

This is the fourth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first three were:
1. One task to which a pastor may give oversight is strategic planning. Strategic planning is the process by which an organization determines what its goals are for the future and how it plans to meet them. Strategic planning is rooted in the organization's mission, which in turn leads to a vision for the future, which ideally results eventually in strategic goals and implementation plans.

Without goals, a person or organization just tends to wander aimlessly through its existence. Without a sense of mission or vision, an organization is unclear about its identity or purpose. We can of course have such things without them being fully conscious or thought through, but the more intentional and conscious we are about them, the more likely we are to meet them.

2. A local church at some point might develop a mission statement. This is a statement of the church's basic identity. For example, the mission statement of the local church I attend states that it "partners with God to restore people and redeem the world by reflecting the image of Jesus Christ." This is a very general statement that could refer to just about any church in the world.

In most respects, the mission of the Church is more or less the same no matter where you are in space and time. A church should not spend too much time developing a mission statement because in themselves they say very little that might not be said of any other church at any other time. Nevertheless, in some cases, developing a mission statement for a church--or for you as an individual--can capture a sense of identity, which can be very significant indeed.

3. So what is the mission of the Church? The Church is the body of Christ. We are God's hands and feet in the world, and the communion of saints which extends to heaven. The mission is actually God's mission rather than ours, and we only participate in it.

There is both a being and a doing dimension to God's church. We are the kingdom community of the Spirit, the collection of all those throughout history in whom the Spirit of Christ has dwelt, the people of God for all eternity. We fellowship. We meet together for worship. Although the Church universal is one, holy, universal, and missional community, the church local is where the word of God is rightly preached, the means of grace are rightly administered, and a community of individuals is rightly ordered.

The mission of the Church is to participate in the mission of God, and the mission of God is nothing less than the reconciliation, restoration, and glorification of the world. The world is alienated from its creator. The image of God is marred in humanity. All have sinned and are lacking the glory that God intended us to have in the creation.

The "Great Commission" of the Church is of course found in Matthew 28:19-20. At its heart, this commission is to "make disciples" by a process of baptizing and teaching. Churches have often reduced their sense of this commission to a shallow form of evangelism, but the grammar of the sentence focuses on making disciples and the bulk of what that means is "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."

So the mission of the Church involves going. It involves seeing the world reconciled to God, of which baptism signifies entrance into the people of God. It involves discipleship of that people once they have crossed from death to life. It involves service to its surrounding community and world, since social justice is one of the central teachings of Jesus.

4. All these are part of the mission of the Church: to worship our God, to go and participate in the reconciliation of the world, to disciple the people of God, to serve the needs of others, and to live together in unity and community. Individual churches may focus more on one of these than the others. Individual churches may use language that fits closely with its time, culture, or tradition.

But this is the overall mission of the Church, and the mission statement of a local church will likely present some element or elements of the Church's overall mission in its sense of its local identity and purpose.

Next week: Pastor as Leader 5: Identifying Mission

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Science: Relativity and the Absolute

1. I finished the next chapter of Brian Greene's, The Fabric of the Cosmos, a few days ago. I was excited because he filled in some things about relativity I had never really read about.

My first two summaries were:

a. Overview
b. Spinning Space Buckets

2. Greene begins with a little flashback to James Clerk Maxwell, whose beautiful equations conquered electromagnetism in the 1800s.

Maxwell's Equations
Maxwell, following Faraday, suggested that electric fields and magnetic fields (which are deeply related) spread out through space. Maxwell was the one who suggested that light itself was an electromagnetic wave that acted in space. In the late 1800s, the theory was that there was an "ether" that light moved through, like the water that ocean waves move through or the air that sound waves move through.

The problem was that there was no evidence of such an ether. More importantly, the speed of light seemed to be the same no matter where it was found--coming from something stationary, coming from something moving. Normally, speeds add up. A person walking 3 mph on a train moving 50 mph is moving 53 mph in relation to the ground. But light on the ground is 3 x 108 and light on the train is 3 x 108 and light from a plane is 3 x 108.

3. This is of course where Einstein comes in in 1905. Light can be the universal speed limit if space and time contract relative to speed. So the train is just a wee bit smaller from the perspective of the ground as it moves, to compensate for the speed of a flashlight shined by someone riding on it. You're not contracted on it, but it contracts relative to the person observing on the ground. A plane contracts relative the person on the ground a smidge more, so that the light shining from its wings also comes out exactly at 3 x 108 mps, no matter who is looking from whatever frame of reference, moving or not.

"The combined speed of any object's motion through space and its motion through time is always precisely equal to the speed of light" (49).

4. There were some new insights for me into some of the more precise contours of Einstein's theory in this chapter. So not everything is relative in Einstein's theory. "Spacetime" as a whole is an absolute reference point. It can be sliced up differently, but it is the same loaf. Time is sliced up differently in some cases. Space is sliced up differently in some cases. But it is the same loaf of spacetime, which he concludes by the end of the chapter is a thing. (I didn't fully understand this last part of the chapter, but I feel like I'm making progress)

At one point of the chapter, Greene talks about how there is a totality to motion through spacetime. If something is more or less not moving in space, then all of its motion is through time. But if it has a velocity, then some of its motion through time is diverted to its motion through space and time moves more slowly. It's a fascinating idea (48).

5. The last part of the chapter turns to the question of acceleration. Einstein's special theory of relativity only applied to objects moving with a constant velocity. His general theory in 1915 turned to the question of gravity and acceleration.

The fundamental insight here was that gravity is really only a body following the contours of spacetime, which is warped by mass. So a planet bends spacetime, and gravity is basically our bodies wanting to follow the path of the warp. The ground stops us. Free fall is thus nothing different from weightlessness.

His field equations were the result:

Monday, April 11, 2016

1.2 Electron movement

Last week I started reviewing the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics course from the early 70s. Last week was:

1.1 Electricity and the Electron

Today's module is on "Electron Movement."

Here are the bullet points to remember from the second module:
  • Protons are said to have a positive charge and electrons a negative charge.
  • Like charges repel; opposite charges attract.
  • So the negative electrons are attracted to the nucleus by the positive protons. [1]
  • The neutron has a neutral charge.
  • In an atom like copper (which in its neutral state has 29 electrons), some electrons are closer to the nucleus than others. 
  • The outermost electrons are sometimes knocked out of an atom. What's left of the atom then becomes a charged "ion" (because it has lost some negative).
  • The process of becoming an ion is called "ionization" and the amount of energy necessary to cause ionization is called the "ionization potential."
  • The random drift of "free electrons" in a wire doesn't do anything. They need to be pushed.
Next week: 1.3 Current Flow

[1] The electromagnetic force between these charges helps keep the atom together. Another force, the "strong nuclear force" keeps the protons together, even though their charges should repel them. The strong nuclear force only works over a very short distance, but it is stronger than the electromagnetic force that would otherwise push the protons apart.