Mark Swint

Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

MH 370 – A Few Educated Thoughts

In airline_crash, current events, global warming, government, media, media manipulation, news media, social engineering, Uncategorized on March 30, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Oculus book cover

 Check it out on Amazon Kindle

by Mark Swint

It has been just over a year now since the disappearance of Malaysia flight MH-370 somewhere in Southeast Asia or over the Indian Ocean. Like the rest of you I have watched with avid curiosity waiting for one of commercial aviation’s greatest mysteries to unfold. Alas, it hasn’t and now it seems destined to go down in history as one of aviation’s greatest UNSOLVED mysteries. So, as a Boeing 777 Captain and as a commercial pilot who regularly flies over that portion of the world I think it is time for me to throw my thoughts into the ring.

As with all other media reporting of aviation events and disasters, the reporting and the conjecture on the fate of MH-370 was like chalk on a fingernail board – wait! – nevermind. You know what I mean. That sounds silly but no sillier than some of the things I heard ‘experts’ say on TV. In fairness to them I must admit or at least allow that maybe they were under some sort of constraints as to what they might say publically. I say this because some elements of this event were not nearly so mysterious as the reporting made it sound. Now, as I go through these points please remember that I currently fly 777s  and I know well how they work. I know what they are capable of and what they cannot do by themselves. One thing they cannot do is ‘go walkabout’ for six and a half hours wandering around the Indian Ocean, though that is what the media would have you believe. Let me explain how this works.

Airspace around the world is highly regulated and controlled. As the air traffic has increased over the years the need to reduce separation between airplanes became more and more necessary. To that end, the performance of airplane systems was tightened up and the requirement that the plane always be on autopilot at and above 29,000 was put in place. Now the autopilot (Actually there are three on the 777) is very good, even able to make remarkably good landings in very bad weather. Coupled with the autopilot is an extremely accurate GPS based navigation system that can keep the plane on a track no wider than a few feet all the way across the Pacific. Before the plane ever leaves the gate the pilots have entered the entire route for the trip into the navigation units and have verified the waypoints, distances, headings etc. Once airborne and on their way, and during the climb, the pilot flying engages the autopilot and from that point until the top of the descent the pilot’s s job is to monitor aircraft performance and navigation and to modify as required or directed by air traffic control and as weather might dictate. Otherwise, the plane flies blissfully along as the preprogrammed computers were tasked to do.

One of the things that pilots do get to do is regularly communicate with the controllers of the various sectors along the route. Kuala Lumpur airspace is controlled by Subang ATC (often erroneously called Kuala Lumpur center). As MH-370 departed K.L. the pilots first talked to K.L.departure control and at some point were handed off to Subang Center. They would have checked in with a report of their altitude and, if climbing, the altitude they were climbing to. It was late on the night of the disappearance and so the communications were probably minimal but at the boundary of Subang Control and Ho Chi Minh Control (Viet Nam), Also called the FIR boundary, Subang called  and Handed MH-370 off to HO Chi Minh saying something very much like “Malaysia 370, contact Ho Chi Minh now on XXX.XX Good night. MH-370 responded with something not quite SOP but good enough. They said something like  “OK good night”. Now, here’s what should be happening in the cockpit at this time. As Subang calls the plane the pilot monitoring the radios moves his hand to the radio, knowing a frequency change is coming, and as Subang gives him the frequency he is dialing that in on the ‘scratchpad’ half of the radio. As soon as he says ‘goodnight; he pushes a little button in the middle of the radio and the ‘scratchpad frequency becomes the active frequency. In almost the same moment the pilot would (Unless someone else was already talking on the frequency) say “HO Chi Minh Malaysia 370 level 350, indicating that the airplane was flying level at 35,000. This did not happen.

Of course this is where all the conjecture began for the news organizations. Let’s consider a few.

1. The plane blew up… Nope, we know from publically released records that the plane continued flying for approximately six and one half hours more. Additionally, the odds that a perfectly good 777 would blow up at exactly the instant between talking to Subang and trying to talk to Ho Chi minh are astronomically small.

2. The pilots became incapacitated…   Nope. A pilot capable of saying goodnight to Subang would certainly be able to say good evening to Ho Chi Minh one second later. I am unaware of any medical malady that could incapacitate both pilots that quickly.

Now, information trickled out rather slowly at first about those first few minutes of this event but regardless, conjecture on either of these two points was foolish from the beginning and the so called experts should have know this.

We now know that at the very same moment that the pilots supposedly became incapacitated, the airplane also suffered failure of the transponder and the ADS-B and the CPDLC. You don’t need to know what those are but just know that they are various ways the airplane communicates autonomously with various ground facilities for various reasons. Now ask yourself, what are the odds that the aircraft would lose communications at the exact same instant that the pilots would presumably became non-responsive. This fact alone was the flag that shouted “This was no accident!” Virtually all international pilots knew this from the very beginning. Yet the experts kept on talking nonsense on the 24 hour news cycles. Over and Over and Over.

EVEN IF these things had happened magically without pilot intervention what happened next is impossible. The airplane turned! And not just to any random heading! It turned to follow the FIR boundary exactly. The plane split the line between Subang and Ho Chi Minh perfectly, supposedly so that each agency would think the other was talking to the aircraft. Also, being virtually invisible electronically it is possible that both ATC centers might not even have seen the plane. Nothing could have been more deliberate. What you, dear reader, need to know is that there is no way the airplane would automatically turn like this.  If everybody on board suddenly died and the plane was left to itself it would continue on the pre-programmed course that was set back on the ground in Kuala Lumpur. The plane would have continued on to Beijing and then probably kept the same course until it ran out of gas. This is what happened to the Lear Jet that Paine Stewart died on.

So, make no mistake, one way or the other this plane was intentionally diverted and the transponder was intentionally turned off. Turning off the ADS and the CPDLC was more difficult and not many pilots would know how to do that – but it is not hard and can be done with a little bit of study. The one thing the pilots or the responsible parties did not do and probably did not know about was the automatic reporting the engines tried repeatedly to do to the home factories for the next six and a half hours. This was the element that let the world know that the airplane did not crash right away.

Now the real question: “What happen to flight MH-370?”

These questions are harder to answer; but not impossible. First of all there is absolutely NO precedent to suggest that a pilot bent on suicide or mayhem would steal a plane and then fly it around for six and a half more hours. Even the cowardly act of committing suicide takes a level of courage that doesn’t last long. Germanwings 9525 and EgyptAir 990 both went down quickly and before anyone else had a chance to intervene. Why would MH-370 fly around till sunrise? Maybe that is the answer! Sunrise! The only difference between when the plane disappeared and when it supposedly went down was that the Sun came up and the person at the controls could see. Why would that make a difference? Because maybe, just maybe the person at the controls needed to see in order to land the plane on some un-improved strip in Bangladesh, or Myanmar, or, pick your place. Somewhere. But, you say, they told us it went down in the middle of the ocean. Interestingly, we have not found a single life preserver, set cushion, piece of insulation or other buoyant object. You should know that if the plane went down under control A’la Captain Sully it would have remained intact. It would have floated for a considerable time; however, there are five emergency locator transmitters on board, anyone of which would have automatically triggered and begun sending out signals that would have been picked up by any number of satellites. If it crashed and broke up there would be debris, no matter where it hit the water. “But” you say, “All the news organizations say it went down in the middle of the ocean”. That doesn’t make it so.

Let me share with you a few things that are absolutely true, I swear.

1. The bad guys still want a big airplane. It is their number one goal. I was told this in recurrent training just before MH-370 disappeared and it has remained true every year before and since.

2. For life to continue and for economies to keep growing the public has to feel safe and secure. This means not letting the public know about every attempt by bad guys to hurt us. Let me tell you about a experience I had. I swear this is absolutely true. I had the opportunity to sit, on an airplane, next to one of the most powerful politicians in the U.S. One of the very most powerful. We were talking about all of the security measures, ie Homeland Security, the TSA and all of the security related restrictions we as Americans face daily because of 9/11. I asked him if this was really necessary? Was the threat really as great as it seemed? He looked me straight in the eye and with a seriousness that caught me off guard he said, “Oh yes. They try every day! Our security is just that good.” He then went on to share some additional insight with me. I realized that it was in the American public’s best interest to not know everything that goes on. Rather we just want to know that what ever is going on, we are being protected by people whose job it is to know.

3.Do we know where the plane is/was? Probably. A few years after 9/11 there was a raid conducted jointly by the Americans and the French in which some very high ranking Al Qaieda leaders were captured. A tremendous amount of intelligence was gathered at the same time but a French commander made a terrible blunder. In front of the cameras he held up a notebook that contained all of the phone numbers, computer passwords and contact information about all of the other Al Qaieda bad guys. The Americans were incensed because the release of the fact that we had the book immediately rendered it useless. It was tantamount to telling the Germans that we had decrypted the Enigma machine during World War II. I find it highly improbable that we don’t know where the plane was during the entire event. The U.S. has a number of spy satellites positioned all around the world. these are the ones that can read a license plane from 400 miles up. They are not really that secret. The first really good ones were called the KH-11 Keyhole satellites. I believe we re now up to KH-11 series 14. These are just part of the reconnaissance assets that the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) has at their command. I believe we can see anything on Earth that we want to. More on this in a moment.

4. It has long been rumored that a number of nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union ‘disappeared’ from inventory with the break up of the USSR. Probably true. Lots of things go missing in government hands…sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. Now, let’s just suppose for a minute that the bad guys have one or two of these, I mean they had to go somewhere and that somewhere would certainly be into the hands of bad guys…right? They would probably be pretty easy to hide. I mean, look how long it took us to find Bin Laden. But even if bad guys had a nuke they would have no way to throw it at us, hence the desire to get a long range plane. So, back to the previous point; If we know that bad guys want a plane to deliver a nuke and we don’t know where the nuke is, BUT, we do know where the plane is, then the smartest thing we could do is keep our mouths shut, pretend we are looking for the plane in the middle of the Indian Ocean like everyone else, and wait until the bomb shows up. Then, just like any good James Bond movie, we send in the best we have and they take out to whole mess, plane, bomb and bad guys. And, just like any good James Bond movie, the world never knows how close they came to disaster! This is the formula for every good spy movie and novel, but it is not without merit. As my politician friend indicated, things happen everyday and we never know about them.

I could go on but you get the point. My belief is that the plane is no longer a plane. It was destroyed on the ground days or weeks later; not in the ocean that night. There is so much more I could write and in fact I am thinking about writing a fictional novel giving the whole plot but I’ll spare you that today. Thanks for reading and sticking with me through this whole thing. Now, go think about it for a while. It just might give you chills.

Germanwings Flight 9525

In airline_crash, current events, media manipulation, Uncategorized on March 25, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Oculus book cover

 By Mark Swint     Author of “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

I must step away from the normal issues of this blog to speak about the crash of Germanwings flight 9525 in France yesterday. As many of might know, I am a senior captain for a major U.S. Airline and I fly Boeing 777s. In fact, I am in Hong Kong on a trip right now.

I have listened, as have many of you, to the endless analysis on the 24 hour news media. I am appalled by the things I hear and I suppose those of you who are not pilots might be even more confused than I. Let me clear a few things up for you.

Anytime an aircraft is above 29,000 feet it must be on autopilot. the autopilot will maintain the aircraft on its planned course and keep it at its last assigned altitude until given fresh commands by the flight crew. Secondly, while the door on today’s airliners are very secure there is a code that will give a pilot on the outside access to the cockpit UNLESS the pilots in the cockpit actively deny that code. Denying the code will lock the door for 30 minutes from any further attempt to enter via code entry. So, the fact that the pilot who left the cockpit could not regain entry to the flight deck indicates that the pilot inside was actively keeping him out. Now, Richard Quest on CNN was adamant that the highest probability was that the pilot at the controls most probably had a medical event of some kind. I respectfully disagree. If the pilot on the flight deck had, for example, passed out, the pilot on the outside would have been able to enter the cockpit 30 seconds after entering the proper code. Also, the autopilot would have continued to fly the plane on its planned course and at its assigned altitude. The fact that a pilot made a normal radio contact with the controllers and then went radio silent at about the same time that the plane began an unusually steep descent indicates that this was an intentional act of hijack, piracy, terrorism…call it what you may. the aircraft descended for eight minutes until impact at a rate of descent greater than that possible with the autopilot  in control. In fact, the aircraft would have had to either deploy the speed brakes on the wings (Which is done manually) or the plane would have had to exceed its maximum airspeed limitations in order to get a 4,000 foot per minute rate of descent.

I find it odd that the news agencies have all the details on the flight hours of the pilots and their years of experience and yet will not give us their names. Why is this? I fear political correctness is interfering or ele political pressure is being exerted to quash that information. Either way this whole thing stinks. But make no mistake…this was not an accident.

TIME

In aging, Albert Einstein, current events, news media, Philosophy, Relativity, science on August 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Mark Swint, author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

 Oculus book cover

     What a strange and undefinable commodity time is. If ever anything can truly be everything to everyone then time is that thing. It acts both as a force and as a substance. It is a medication and a salve. We say that time heals all wounds.  Time often seems like a partner to our endeavors. We start a business for instance and are then urged to “give it time” to let the business grow. Time acts as a soothsayer, a fortune teller. We say “time will tell” and mean it. We look forward to the day when time will reveal all to us and we know it is only a “matter of time” before we divine the answer.  Time urges us on. We constantly remind each other that “we are on the clock” or we say “come on people, the clock is ticking”. Each of us has all the time there is yet all of us complain that there is never enough time.

All aspects of life are controlled by time. We pay our mortgages after the passage of so many days. So too our car payments and our utilities and every other bill. We measure our longevity at our jobs by our hire date. We measure our existence on Earth by the amount of time that has passed since our birth and we count down the days to retirement by the number of years months weeks or days until the calendar says it is time to go.

The philosopher will tell us that time is the only thing that is real and that without it there would be no existence. Some wag once reminded us that God made time so that everything didn’t happen all at once. Of course Einstein told us that time was relative and in almost every way I can think of that proves to be true. He was, of course talking about time dilation relative to speed as a percentage of the speed of light, but the basic concept of time is both intensely personal and variable. When I was a child my mother made me study the piano. I only had to practice one half hour a day but that half hour was interminably long. That is, of course, because I didn’t particularly want to practice or play the piano. I was certain that I could hear every tick of the clock running at quarter speed or less. Conversely, when I was out playing ball with my buddies and mom said dinner would be ready in half an hour and I could stay out till then, it seemed that she was immediately back on the porch calling me in.

Another strange aspect of time is that it  looks both forward and backward. Not that we can reverse the hands of time but time is always working on the past while leading us to the future. While it is beckoning us ever forward with promises of advancement, growth and progress, it is, at the same time, falling like the snows of winter on our past, covering up all the events that define us. Both the joys and the pains of times past seem to dull as time goes by. On a grander scale history – the collective history of all of us – is constantly being shaped by the dust of time, the sands of the hour glass so to speak. What is presently fact will quickly become history and then legend and then myth and finally fantasy. We tend to forget very quickly the realities and the lessons of time. So distressing is this that we are constantly admonished that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Why do you suppose that is? It seems a fairly simple thing to record the daily events of the world and have them available for all to see, but that is not so. You see, history is the privilege of the victor. If indeed every story has two sides then we are at the mercy of the side that won, that got to write the history as they perceived it or even as they desired it to be perceived. A case in point; when I was a kid my history teachers always made a point of saying that the founding fathers of America are only venerated because they won. Had they lost the revolutionary war they would have been branded as traitors, rounded up and sent back to England to be hung as an example to others who would dare to challenge the king. But they did win so we live in an independent land and enjoy the freedoms we do because of their sacrifice. Yet across the pond, in England, I was walking through London recently and noticed a plaque on the side of a building that proudly announce that this was the home of Benedict Arnold, a hero of the revolution.

It is a particularly disturbing fact of life that we tend to dismiss time that has passed because we are so busy planning for and budgeting the time that is here or that is coming. As we stress about the challenges ahead we often miss the opportunity to gain strength and support from the times that have passed so that we are constantly ‘reinventing the wheel’. It is not uncommon for someone to make the same mistakes over and over again because they fail to remember the events of times past. We  fellow observers are prompted to say, “When will he ever learn?” or “this guy just never learns!” learns what? Learns the lessons that times past could have taught him if he would only have listened, looked and pondered. Thus we are destined to repeat our history. The great British comedian Eddie Izzard likes to point out that Hitler failed to learn from Napoleon the futility of attacking Russia in the winter when he opened his war on the eastern front, a mistake which cost the lives of nearly 25 million people. Of course Eddie has the amazing ability to somehow make that seem funny but the principle is true. (An interesting side note. The Overture of 1812, that most favorite piece of every Fourth of July celebration and also the theme for Quaker Oats was written not about the war of 1812 but rather the victory of Russia over Napoleon’s troops at the battle of the Borodines. The piece was written by Peter Tchaikovsky and premiered at the grand opening of Carnegie Hall in new York in 1899).

Sadly, much of history is deleted for political expediency. The founding principles that a nation is built on work until the current tenants of that country wish to go a different direction. At that point it is expedient to erase, ignore or simply forget the words of wisdom and the lessons learned with spilt blood because they don’t work with the new plan. It is sad for me to witness the political assassination of the reputations of the founding fathers I grew up respecting who, when unfairly measured against the prevailing philosophies of men today, suddenly don’t fit any more. Of course I understand and agree that the history I was taught was itself subject to ‘spin’. I know George Washington didn’t really have that episode with the cherry tree and probably was as able to tell a lie as any other mere mortal. But, the wisdom and the sacrifice displayed by the founding fathers and the words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence are as valid today as they were 238 years ago.

I also find it interesting that the passage of time somehow invalidates the events that transpired and the words that were uttered so long ago. We (for reasons I know not) have somehow decided that if something happened long ago it is of no practical use to us today. This in spite of the fact that human nature is constant and unchangeable. Greed, avarice, ambition, lust, envy and hatred have always been the driving forces that inspired most men and I suppose that will continue unabated until the end of times, whenever that may be.  But the lessons learned in Hamlet are as applicable today as they were long ago in Denmark. The love and anguish of Romeo and Juliet in Verona can still be found everywhere on earth today. The intrigue of Macbeth still works in the hearts of evil and conspiring men today as well. Time does not erase the value of the lessons learned by previous generations.

So, what are we to do with the time we are allotted? How can we best put it to use? What lessons can we learn from time that has already passed? Well, that is a fair question. What do you want to do with the time that is apportioned to you? You are free to do with it as you will. You can pass the majority of it watching and worrying about the Kardashians, or getting involved with the phony intrigue of the Real Housewives series. You can eschew all the worldly entrapments and go sit on a mountain top contemplating your existence. Similarly you can employ time to invest and build a nest egg for retirement, or use the time to enhance or learn a new skill. You can while away your time reading and learning out of the best books words of wisdom gleaned from the ages. You can let the curious side of you study and research and find out all those little things no one ever explained to you, like why September, October, November and December have the Latin roots of 7,8,9 and 10 but in fact are the 9rth 10th 11th and 12th months of our calendar. You can ponder why we use the word ‘Noon’ to denote mid-day. Where did it come from and why do we use it.  You can even pursue more trivial tidbits of knowledge such as where the rock band ‘The Foo Fighters’ got their name? What is the origin of the name ‘Wandering Jew’ given to common houseplants in every girl’s dormitory. Where did that come from?

All these things and many many more are there for your discovery and nowadays research is so easy with the advent of the internet, Google and Wikipedia, Bing and a host of other search engines and resources. You just may find that there is a fascinating world of knowledge and understanding out there that will fill your heart with wonderment and joy.

 

Ask questions. Learn to question everything. Realize that just because someone tells you that something is so doesn’t necessarily mean it is so. Think of how many times you have been scared by the media because they made you afraid of things that never came to pass. Do you remember ‘Global Cooling’ or Y2K, or SARS, or H1N1, or Bird flu, Swine flu, Asian flu, Pig flu, etcetera etcetera. How about the cold war and the billions sent to fend off the Great Russian Bear (for those of us from the sixties). I’m not saying these things weren’t worthy of our attention but on the other hand, how many of them actually, really, honestly, affected you? Did the Ozone Layer disappear? Have the ocean levels risen so as to cover one whole story of Manhattan as was predicted, nay, asserted by Michael Mann and Steven Jones before congress in 1988. They said it would take twenty years. I still go to New York and I don’t see water anywhere. I’m not saying people don’t raise legitimate concerns. I’m just pointing out that all of these dire predictions have done nothing except create fear and thus, break loose billions of dollars for ‘research and remediation’. With just a bit of searching, asking and pondering you may be able to shield yourself from those who would manipulate you and scare you through fear and threats of imminent bodily harm.

You can become the master of your own fate. You can learn to spend time productively and thereby enhance your life experience on this orb to a greater degree than you may have previously thought possible. You can take the time to learn for yourself the facts that newsreaders so cavalierly and authoritatively throw at you every night.  They may be right, they may be wrong. Wouldn’t you like to know for yourself? Go ahead…ponder this….take all the time you need. After all, you have all the time in the world.

Prophecy and Science Fiction

In Albert Einstein, Bible, current events, Genesis, prophecy, Relativity, science, Science and Religion, science fiction on August 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm

By

Mark Swint

Author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

Oculus book cover

 

I have always enjoyed ferreting out and discovering the connections between seemingly unconnected subjects – Science and Religion being two of those – hence the existence of this blog. In this I am not alone. The scientific community has spent years and untold millions of research dollars trying to find a solution to the conundrum that is the apparent incompatibility between General Relativity and Quantum Physics. Both are experimentally provable yet according to the best minds in the fields they are apparently mutually exclusive of each other. The attempt to reconcile the two is what gave rise to String theory which has given rise to M theory which still has bugs to be worked out. It is the immutable faith of theoretical physicists that there must be a common theory to satisfy and unify the two disciplines that moves this research forward.

I have found it challenging but ultimately rewarding to see if there were any common ground to be found between contemporary scientific thought and the body of scripture contained in the Bible, the Koran and other scriptural writings as they are brought forth. On a much less clear but perhaps more interesting subject I would invite you to consider – on this occasion  – any possible connection between Prophecy and Science fiction. I know this sounds like a stretch but upon further examination I think you will find that the two are much more closely aligned than is first apparent.

It is a fact that through the more recent centuries up through the 19th century the Bible was often the first and primary source of written word available to most common folks. The Koran and the Torah could also be included in this generalization for people of those faiths. The simple fact is that most people of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had few, if any, books. However, almost everybody had a family bible and it was to these pages that mothers and fathers turned to teach their children to read – or to practice the reading they were learning in schools. Between the Bible and Shakespeare (for the more erudite) our lexicon grew with rich abundance in sayings, expressions and colloquialisms (Jumping Jehoshaphat, Heaven help us, holy Moses, Saints be praised, to name a few of the Biblically inspired ones). Similarly, Tales of the Apocalypse and the four horsemen, the seven seals of heaven and the specter of Armageddon etched indelible images in our brains such that early Sci/Fi writers drew upon these common threats for inspiration. Of course the scriptures weren’t the only source of inspiration. The rapid advancement of scientific understanding after the renaissance also contributed. Mary Shelly, a young poet, was enraptured by the speculation and after dinner conversations of her husband and others about the most recent discoveries of Luigi Galvani and his experiments with electricity on frog legs and the potential this held for re-vivification of dead bodies. She went straight away to work and gave us the enduring classic tales of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

Armageddon and the apocalypse have inspired countless tales of life in the future. Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” tells the tale of a headless horseman who terrorized poor hapless Ichabod Craine. In the current TV hit “Sleepy Hollow” the direct connection is made of this horseman and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. So, it is with this in mind that I would like to take a few minutes of your time and discuss this subject in more detail.

Prophecy and science fiction are not that far apart from the get go. Both are forward looking – that is, both have a way of turning from future to current conditions. Science fiction becomes rather quickly science fact and prophecy is fulfilled to become part of the historical record. Just for clarification, we are not talking about the monsters and space aliens here (although they could certainly be out there). I wish to look more to the likes of Jules Verne, H.G. Welles, George Orwell and others who most often were simply trying to look forward and predict (sometimes with remarkable accuracy) the future. In more recent times it was a science fiction writer – Arthur C. Clarke who first postulated and wrote about the concept of geo-synchronous orbit, an idea which has most successfully jumped from science fiction to science fact. He also was the author of the wonderful movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Even more recently we all have enjoyed our favorite episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” in all its various iterations both on television and in movies (with more yet to come). It is remarkable how many of the futuristic ideas expressed on those early episodes have already come to pass, one example being CDs, DVDs, and flash drives – all presented years before the internet existed and before personal computers became ubiquitous.

Many years ago I wrote a screen play for MGM which sadly never made it to the screen but which is now a much better novel called “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” (available on Kindle and Nook). In it I had to tell the tale of a civilization that was separated from our own more than 2300 years ago. Because of their separation they avoided the disaster that we call the ‘Dark Ages” a period of a thousand years in which NO meaningful progress of any sort was made. The people of Zebulon, however, continued to progress at a normal rate thus arriving at the state we are at now many centuries before us. For the screenplay, then called “My Brother’s Keeper” (not very original I know but it was a working title) I had to think up and present a number of futuristic things. Eventually the story was shelved for a number of years and only in the last four or five years revived once again. This time, however, when I revisited the story I found that most of the ‘futuristic’ things I had presented were no longer fiction but rather reality. It was satisfying and gratifying on one level but frustrating on another because I had to now come up with a whole new set of forward looking predictions and technologies.

Interestingly, “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” is a science fiction story inspired by biblical prophecy and history. It is predicated on a supposed account of a people presented to us in the Bible as the ‘Lost Ten Tribes” (The old Lorne Greene TV series “Battlestar Galactica” was similarly so inspired). As a kid I was intrigued by the subject of the lost ten tribes and I spent many hours in speculation as to what their current condition might be. As I read other associated prophecies about them and the prophesied destiny of them and their brethren who remained behind I began to develop the story that is contained in the novel today. This was for me a fascinating union of science fiction (which I love) and prophecy which has always captivated me.

I began to think of other prophetic utterances and it soon dawned on me that since prophecy was usually an observation of future events, it might be reasonable to expect that the prophets who uttered them might not have the lexicon to adequately describe them. Hence Ezekiel’s “Wheel within a wheel” (Ezekiel chapter 1  and chapter 10:10) might have been the only way he had to describe whatever it was that he saw (I leave that to your imagination). In much the same way that the Native Americans described the first railroad trains as ‘Iron Horses’ so too many of the things we read in prophecy might not be nearly so “out there” as they first seem.

When thinking about the book of the Revelations of John (known in most other languages as the ‘Apocalypse’ of John) we should grant him significant leeway in his narrative. How else would someone in John’s position describe the sound of a jet engine or the rumble of a locomotive but as the ‘roaring of a lion’? When scriptures say something to the effect that “he shall utter his voice and the whole world shall hear it” we are at first skeptical, knowing that no one can speak so loudly as to be heard all around the world. On the other hand, if the events in the Middle East begin to unfold in any way like the biblical accounts suggest, who would deny that the events will not be covered 24/7 by CNN, BBC, Reuters, Fox, Al Jazeerah and RT to name just a few. Today the technology is all around us to not only stay informed to events around the world but to watch them live as they unfold. Indeed, it is not only possible for someone to speak and have the whole world hear it but it happens day after day, every day.

Consider this prophecy of John as found in the 9th chapter of Revelations, verse 9-10: “…And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle… and they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men…”  Now the imagery might seem fantastical and I can’t say with certainty just exactly what John saw but the first thing I thought of was an Apache or a Cobra helicopter. If you were John and you saw one of these machines in the sky and saw what it could do how would you describe it without using any of the words created today to describe it? Regardless, the imagery he provided certainly conveys the terror and mayhem one of these machines can impose. Verse 14 of the same chapter even mentions the great river Euphrates and then in verse 16 says that the number of soldiers was “…two hundred thousand thousand…”. Now, for the record, the Euphrates is the main river of Iraq and two hundred thousand thousand is two hundred million. That’s much larger than any army so far assembled but the Iraqi Army was touted to be three million strong. We might allow for a little literary license or even some translational errors before we dismiss the account out of hand.

I could go on but I think the point is made that just as science fiction has a way of becoming science fact, so too prophecy has a way of being fulfilled, the difference being only that prophecy, at least the prophecies we are most familiar with, were uttered many more centuries ago than the much more recent prophetic suppositions of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. Consider that the next time you are tempted to scoff at either. Oh, and check out “OCULUS: the Zebulon Initiative”. You can read an excerpt at mswint.wordpress.com and you can buy your very own copy on Kindle or Nook.

Is Science the Enemy of Religion?

In Bible, creation, current events, Genesis, Geology, God, Moses, news media, Plate Techtonics, science, Science and Religion, technology, Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm

By: Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

 

I know I have declared this blog to be dedicated to exploring biblical claims with a scientific eye but I think a brief diversion from that goal is warranted this week.
I was watching a discussion on climate change and global warming issues on FOX News (which I actually DO think is fairly fair and balanced). To my great surprise however, the issue somehow got turned around to a discussion of how religion and climate skeptics went hand in hand and scientists (read, anti religionists) and AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) were similarly connected.
I did not know that the increasingly controversial AGW claims were merely another face of the Science/Religion disconnect. In fact, I do not think they are and I have still to find out how the participants in the aforementioned discussion got to that point.
What really got me though was a statement, issued matter-of-factly, by the moderator who said, without the slightest degree of hesitation, “Of course, science is the enemy of religion”. Those of you who have read my posts can well imagine how I feel about this proposition. To say that I categorically disagree with this position goes without saying but I feel that I must respond a few thoughts and I beg your indulgence and patience. I promise to be short and will try to be interesting.
A calm and dispassionate look at scriptural claims, edicts and prophecies, free from individual dogmas and biases – or from impassioned preachings of sincere and fervent ministers and priests, can be quite revealing.
Specifically, let’s look at Moses, since he alone is responsible for the first five books (or Pentateuch) of the Bible including Genesis, which gives us the most complete biblical account of the creation and early days of the Earth and it’s early inhabitants. Moses, while certainly well educated in Egypt, was nevertheless basically a desert dwelling Bedouin! Oh don’t be confused by the term; Bedouin is a perfectly good description of the desert roaming lifestyle of those who chose to remove themselves from the cities and wander throughout the land herding sheep and goats, living in tents and using camels – regardless of their ethnic or genetic heritage.
Anyway, back to the point. Moses, while certainly well educated, was not well educated in things about which there was no knowledge in those days. No one,(at least from the records we have, had any full accounting of the creation, or at least how or why it was created (We do now have various versions of the ‘book of Enoch’ and a few other ancient manuscripts that have come to light in the last century that do wander into similar territory previously occupied only by Moses). But, we must be careful not to place too much burden of proof on Moses for the things he wrote. You see, Moses NEVER claimed to know or say HOW or WHY the elements of the creation he wrote about came to pass nor did he ever say that the seven creative periods he called days were the only periods of the creation, (in fact in the Haggadah we find that early Jews used over twenty creative periods to recount the creation story). You see, Moses was only an observer; He was a reporter, simply stating facts that were revealed to him or shown to him. The method or means is really immaterial. According to his writings he was shown the creation in a vision and the record he left in Genesis is an account of what he saw. Nowhere in that record does he say how or why the events he recorded came to pass – only that they did occur. He gave us the WHAT (the exoteric) of the creation without giving us the WHY (the esoteric – see my previous post “Exoteric and Esoteric knowledge).
When Moses said that the waters were gathered together and the dry land appeared he apparently had no idea HOW that happened, only that it did. He did not know that 4,000 years later scientists would figure out the theory of Plate Tectonics which would, in fact, tell us how the event that Moses observed came to pass.
This is how science has worked for as long as there have been scientists, and before them, natural philosophers. The world was full of people who made observations of things that incontrovertibly were, but about which nobody could explain. This is how it always has been. The very first inhabitants on this planet saw and realized that birds could fly. This was a truth and nobody denied it. Neither could anybody explain how birds flew, they only knew that they did. It was millennia before people figured out the science of aerodynamics and at last could explain how birds flew. Their discoveries did not change anything about the truth that birds fly but did at last provide the explanation about how they fly so that we could no more wonder about something we knew to be true.
This is and always has been the purpose and place of science in our life. Everything about this earth was, at first, a mystery. Early people watched in awe and horror as normally solid and still mountains suddenly erupted and spewed fire and death with the lava that flowed out of their great gaping maws. Lightning flashed from the sky and started fires and killed people and animals – nobody knew how or why but it surely did! The sun came up each day and set each night. So too the moon, except that it changed through the month being sometimes full, crescent, waxing and waning. It even disappeared for a day or two each month. The stars also traveled across the sky each night and then there were a few that wandered against the otherwise fixed and steady star field. All these things and more caused wonder and fell to the scientists to explain. The function of science is to give us the esoteric knowledge and understanding of the things that we can observe on our own.
Why was I so incensed over the statement that science is the enemy of religion? Because in my world the scriptures exists to tell me, and all of us, what is what. The bible is a collection of statements of things as they are and as they were. It tells me who I am and who created me (or my spirit if you like). But, nowhere in the Bible can I find the declaration that it’s purpose or intent is to tell me how and why these things are. It, in essence, says to me, “look I will tell you what happened and what is what and leave it to you to decide, first, do you need to know how it is so and, second, if you do then leave you free to explore, experiment, seek and search unto you find out how it is so.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that among us believers there are those who adopt a very strict and very narrow interpretation of the things that Moses and others said. This is certainly the privilege of any and all who choose to exercise a degree of faith. But, any reasonable person must admit that two or more very sincere and equally studious scriptorians can disagree and argue interpretations on the same scriptural passages – so why can’t we acknowledge that there can be incorrect theology, just as in disciplined science there are equally rancorous disagreements and debates and scientists can be wrong? Indeed, the very foundation of the scientific method is that one researcher or theoretician issues an hypothesis and then stands back while every other scientist tries to disprove it. Only when the best minds in the scientific discipline have exhausted their best efforts to disprove a theory without success is a theory then deemed valid and true.
Certainly there exists bad theology just as there has always existed incorrect science. I submit that science is only an enemy to bad religion just as correctly interpreted revealed truth is an enemy to bad science. I believe absolutely that good science is the partner of good theology and will, in time, prove to be a good and close friend of the believer.
Of course faith, in both science and religion is the first and most important element in our continuing journey on our quest for understanding and truth but let us not make science or theology mutually exclusive of each other, for if we do we stand to miss out
on the richest parts of both.

The Politics of Science

In Albert Einstein, Bible, creation, current events, Geology, God, Isaac Newton, National Geographic, news media, Philosophy, Relativity, science, Science and Religion, weather on February 3, 2009 at 6:40 am

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

Science is a wonderful pursuit, or so it would seem. In theory, science is the discipline of observation and measurement, of inquiry and hypothesis, of experimentation and interpretation. It is the vehicle that propels human understanding and awareness beyond the confines of everyday experience. Our eyes let us see things as they appear. We gain an exoteric knowledge of the things of the world. For instance, we all know that birds fly. We did not need to be told that they fly. We observed it from a very early age. As children we would pretend that we were birds and that we could escape the backyard with outstretched arms that flapped wildly as we ran. We also saw and understood that the sun goes round and around the earth each day. We saw the phases of the moon every 28 days and we know that if we miss seeing a full moon this month there will be another next month, and the month after that, and so on and so on. Our brains are filled with all sorts of exoteric knowledge – that is, knowledge that defines the ‘what’ of the world. The ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are different matters altogether. To learn how a bird flies or why the moon has phases requires inquiry and study. We are tasked with seeking understanding of the things we see. We see a rainbow. We must study light and refraction and geometry to understand how the rainbow appears so effortlessly after a rain storm. Luckily, we have people who do the inquiring for us. They are called scientists. They study such things most diligently and write books about the things they study. Our only task is to pick up the books and read what they have written and then we are as smart as they.

How nice of scientists to do this for us. As long as scientists keep being curious about things we are interested in, or as long as scientists can interest us in the things they are interested in we will get smarter and smarter until we all know everything there is to know about the world we live in and the universe that it floats in.

We put a lot of faith in scientists. We trust their instinct and their pronouncements as fact primarily because we, ourselves, were never motivated enough in school to study what they had to study to become scientists. We did not do the work, learn the math, or memorize the laws and theorems that they did. We played basketball and football instead. So, in the end we put ourselves in the only slightly uncomfortable position of having to trust the scientific community to tell us the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the ‘whats’ we already knew. This is OK as long as the scientists are right and smart enough to have figured it all out correctly. But, what’s to worry? Right? I mean, after all, they’re scientists, and science is a pure art; not like philosophy or any other social science where anyone with an opinion and a loud enough voice can make himself or herself heard. No, science is pure – see it, weigh it, measure it, explain it. What could go wrong?

Well, the answer is plenty. The history of science is full of missteps and erroneous assumptions. Take the Flu for instance; the word flu comes from the Italian word ‘influenza’. In the 15th and 16th centuries scientists were certain that the pandemics caused by the flu were really caused by the particular alignment of the stars. Stars and their alignment were blamed or credited with controlling almost everything in those days and expressions of that idea still linger with us today in the form of expressions like “you can’t change your stars’ or ‘it is written in the stars’. We commonly use the word ‘lunacy to describe the crazy behavior of certain individuals. The word ’lunacy comes from ‘luna’ or ‘the moon’. It was believed for many many years that a full moon caused aberrant behavior in certain people. Back to the flu – the word ‘influenza’ is Italian and means ‘influence’ and refers to being under the ‘influence of the stars.

When a young and very timid Isaac Newton went before the Royal Academy in London with his theories on motion and gravity – theories which were correct, mind you, – his was run off and threatened with severe personal and professional harm for daring to take on the venerated and revered Aristotelian Physics that had prevailed for over 2,000 years. Robert Hook, a respected and accomplished scientist in his own right swore that he would destroy Newton for daring to be so bold. But Hook was wrong. So were all of his colleagues. Newton was right. His mistake was in not recognizing the entrenchment of any established concept, idea or cabal of ideas upon which other men and women base their own credibility. His clear and lucid exposition of the basic laws of physics, right  though they were, were viewed as threats and destabilizing forces against the accepted and well acclimated rule of the day. In other words, he was upsetting the apple cart.

Newton was not the only one to be so bold. In fact, almost every ground breaking scientist had to refute the existing theory to gain exposure for his own. Einstein had to modify Newton, although he did it most gently. Neils Bohr had to take on Einstein, much to Einstein’s chagrin, to put forth Quantum Mechanics, a theory just as provable and verifiable as Relativity but completely at odds with it. Irony let us observe that although Einstein had significant issues with many of the provisions of Quantum theory, it was his own work that helped prove its validity.

And so it goes that almost all progress has to first tear down the walls of convention and accepted theory to gain its own foothold in the public mind. You see, science isn’t so pure after all. It is as much a political animal as is almost any other philosophy. Oh, at the root of it is the sincere desire to find the truth, but the acceptance of that truth comes at the expense of reputations and positions of prestige and esteem. Almost invariably, each time a career is made, another is diminished. Egos are hurt and livelihoods are damaged.

Science has another strange quirk to it. It needs to be funded. You and I aren’t usually willing to go to the store and pay for science. Oh, we love the inventions and devices that come from great science. We all have computers and IPods and Xboxes and such. Many of us use GPS technology to help us find uncle Bill’s new house or the nearest Wendy’s, but to go out and buy the latest research into Quantum Transfer or spin preservation, we’re just not interested. So, how do scientists make money? Well, in the old days they received patronage from wealthy families like the Medici’s of Florence, or they were members of aristocracy in their own right. De Broglie was a French prince (sadly he lost his head in the French Revolution). Many of the great English scientists were lords of titled peerage. Today however, there aren’t so many Lords or patronized researchers as in days past so a new structure had to be created. Enter the National Science Foundation or NSF and its equivalent in other parts of the world. Private institutions like the National Geographic Society or the Royal Geographic Society in London also fund major research projects.

So now days the major task of a scientist is to first get funding. This is no easy task  but it is doable. It requires getting noticed and that requires getting published. Today, the mantra is “Publish or Perish”. It’s just that simple! Scientists look for issues of general or public interest and they write papers on them. If a scientists can raise a question or propose a path of research that might answer that question he has a chance at getting funding to study it. If they are creative enough or good enough writers, they get published and the issues get noticed. Notice also means funding and publishing is the fastest path to public funding. It is no wonder then that very public awareness of scientific arguments means great amounts of funding for research. One very good example of this is the hole in the Ozone Layer.

The Ozone Layer is vitally crucial to our very survival. It is also remarkably self-preserving and self-regulating. One of the unique characteristics of the Ozone Layer is that, for a variety of factors, a hole forms over the South Pole (not the North Pole) each Antarctic winter. The existence of this hole was known for over a hundred years before it became an issue of serious scientific concern. But, it wasn’t until we developed the ability to accurately and precisely measure its characteristics each year that alarmists were able to raise public fears over its eminent demise. Yearly fluctuations in its size were seen as trends and portended eventual disappearance.We were told and convinced that man induced excesses of chlorine gas in the upper atmosphere were the cause of the hole and , if left unchecked, would lead inexorably to the total destruction of the Ozone Layer and our death by terminal sunburn. Such foolishness and bad scientific reasoning found purchase in the public mind because reporters and opinion makers smelled a good story. Anything to scare the public was good for ratings and what better scary threat than death by sunburn. Never mind that the physics of the argument didn’t hold up or that knowledgeable scientists in that field already knew the truth, the fact was that if the public wanted research into this matter the scientific community was all too happy to provide that research. After all, it would certainly be good for 5 – 10 years of funding. In fact, the funding machine was able to run a little bit longer and many scientists found good steady work for a good number of years studying something that secretly they already knew wasn’t an issue.

Today, in 2009, we seldom hear anything about the Ozone layer except for the well meaning but radical activists who need a good cause more than they need the truth. The Ozone layer is still here and it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  (if you strongly disagree with my position please comment and I will be happy to provide a more technical exposition of the facts –for now though, I’m just trying to make the bigger point). None of this is as cynical or conspiratorial as it may sound. We are a people who expect due diligence and if enough people express a concern about any subject then due diligence requires that the matter be looked into. The people wanted answers so the scientific community gave them answers.

Today, the new religion is “Global Warming”. We know it is a serious matter because Al Gore, an ex-Vice President for heaven’s sake, scared us all with his silly and inaccurate “An Inconvenient Truth”. We know his warning is real because movie stars said it was important and he won an Academy award for the movie. He even won a Nobel Prize for his work (not a physics prize or any other scientifically rooted Nobel Prize – no he won a Peace Prize). There were many inconvenient truths associated with the whole global warming alarm but the media and the movie stars didn’t want to address them so they got little airtime – truths about the increased solar flux and the fact that the Martian ice caps were also melting. No, we needed to know that once again evil human beings were destroying the earth by driving cars and flying jets – of course if you buy carbon credits like Al Gore you can fly around in a private Boeing 757 to talk about the deleterious effects of our carbon footprint on the earth’s atmosphere. It’s OK. You have carbon credits – no hypocracy there!

Well, things are already settling down atmospherically so now the proper term is ‘climate change’ rather than the less supportable ‘global warming’. But it is still a funding machine and millions and millions of dollars are still being doled out to scientists to show us the error of our ways. We even have a new president who is going to make us all buy hybrid cars and impose other environmental restraints in order to save the earth for future generations. And we’re buying it! Serious discussion is even being given to the idea of covering glaciers with aluminum blankets to slow their melting. And why are we doing this? Because there is lots and lots of money out there for doing it! And, it’s politically expedient. We as a people love causes. We all need to feel like we belong to something larger than ourselves and what better endeavor than to save the world? And the scientific community? Well, many of them will gladly continue to accept our research dollars as long as they can milk this non issue. More and more scientists, however, just cannot keep up the ruse. In droves they are leaving the global warming religion behind, including 11 of the 13 scientists featured in “An Inconvenient Truth”. This year’s U.N convention of global warming was met with much louder dissent from an ever growing number of scientists. The tide is turning and like the Ozone Layer, this too will pass as we finally admit that the earth will be just fine.

Too bad we don’t have time to discuss the regrowth of new rain forests that is far outpacing the cutting down of older rain forest. That would be a fun discussion. Maybe next week. In the mean time please consider for a moment that science is just as vulnerable to politics and opinion as is any other religion or philosophy.