Mark Swint

Archive for the ‘news media’ 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

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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.

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What Are You Afraid Of? part 1

In fear, media manipulation, news media, social engineering on September 4, 2014 at 6:08 pm

By: Mark Swint

                                                               Oculus book cover

Part 1

(I was just a few paragraphs into this essay when I realized that this was a MUCH bigger subject than I had at first supposed, Hence, the subject will be covered in three separate postings. I hope you enjoy this first one.)

What are you afraid of? Oh, you’re not afraid of anything? I beg to differ. You see advertisers, news outlets, big business and big government are all united in trying to scare you so that they can sell you something or get you to give them something that they want. This is how the world works. It is how the world has always worked. Fear has always been the great equalizer. It has brought disparate families and individuals together to form communities for the common protection of the whole. It has given rise to armies and navies throughout time to provide for the common defense of the people. On a much more benign level it is a subtle fear of being left out or left behind that creates in all of us that need to ‘keep up with the Jones’. Perhaps fear is too strong a word but the idea is valid that we are often driven to action because of a deep seated need to be a part of something; to not be an outcast; to not be cool, or…to not be left behind.

In the beginning fear of predators both animal and human caused societies to band together and to form cities and build walls. All ancient cities were – and many still are – protected by high walls that kept enemies at bay. One of the still extant Wonders of the World is the Great Wall of China, an accomplishment so great that it is visible from space. Walls and safety in numbers was the rule of the day and for many centuries that was sufficient for most people to live and go about some semblance of normal life. Thankfully, people became somewhat more civilized as time went on – well that and the fact that weapons were devised for which walls were no defense – and the walls came down. Still, armies were mustered and navies were built to project power and invincibility to all who would molest or make afraid. It worked a little bit – but warfare has been the common pattern of the world ever since. I cannot think, as I sit here right now, of a time ever in my life when there has not been a war going on somewhere in the world (Or multiple wars for that matter). And so, like everyone else, I look to my government, an organization I have ceded much of my personal power to, for the common good of me, and my family, and those around me. I have essentially told the government to do whatever is necessary to protect me from invaders both foreign and domestic. As a result I pay a significant portion of my income to them each year because I know they will wisely and efficiently employ that money to protect me, (at least that is the theory right?).

Threats come in many forms. Invaders from other countries is but one. How about the threat posed by polluting the environment? Or maintaining proper water standards? Or common educational goals, or dangerous workplaces? I am afraid of all of these things but I know I am safe because my government has established – with our tax dollars – the EPA, the FDA, OSHA and a host of other agencies, some of whose functions I cannot explain.

And then there are the diseases! The one in the news cycle right now is Ebola, a horrifying disease that has afflicted many unfortunate people in Africa. But have you noticed? There is always a disease to be afraid of. Did you or anyone you know of contract SARS? Or H1n1? Or Bird Flu? Or Swine Flu? Or Asian Flu” Or or or. The list goes on. These are and were maladies that when compared with other much more common but much less sexy diseases had virtually NO impact on our daily lives and yet somehow dominated news channels far out of proportion to what they merited. For each of these diseases the big pharmaceutical companies were able, nay impressed upon, to sell millions of doses of vaccines (at incredible profit) to the government for our common good. Those doses lie dormant somewhere in some undisclosed warehouse where they will stay for who knows how long. I am willing to bet that they will never be used. You see, they were never intended for public consumption. They just needed to be bought. The pharmaceutical companies understand that old adage of business ‘find a need and fill it” and have bumped it up a notch to “create a need and fill it.” It’s not about saving lives, lives that were never in danger in the first place, but about selling product…creating a need.

September 11, 2001 was a horrible day in the lives of all Americans. I have personally flown the United Airlines planes used in that attack and I have flown those routes. I lost personal friends who were at the controls that day. Nothing will diminish the impact of that day. Nevertheless, after the passage of a decade plus, I sit back and wonder at the changes that have occurred since then. As a pilot I am subjected to the indignities of the TSA almost every day. The body scans and the pat downs (NO, they don’t cut pilots any slack) not just here but in other countries as well. It seems England and Australia are particularly zeroed in on American pilots (I recently had Australian authorities take a pair of scissors from me because they were a threat even though they were ‘giving me the keys’ to a Boeing 777 with 290 souls on board. I guess taking the scissors from me took away all the opportunity I might have to do something bad with the plane. The bottom line is that it was our fear of terrorists that caused us to turn to our governments and say ‘DO SOMETHING”. The patriot act came into being for good reason but look how much freedom we voluntarily gave up for an enhanced sense of safety and protection from the thing we collectively feared. And it is not just terrorism or the patriot act that takes our freedoms. It is a general need to feel safe from whatever we fear that drives governments to encroach ever deeper into our lives. The recent disclosures of NSA spying on Americans would have, just a few years ago, sparked outrage, but not now. “Eh” we say, “that is just the cost of doing business” and we go on with our lives.

It is not just big government either. Did you ever imagine that you would one day pay much more for water that your do for gasoline? Why is that? “Pesticides you say! Someone has convinced you that our municipal water systems are incapable of cleaning pesticides and fertilizers from our water sufficiently for human consumption. Oh really? But Coca Cola (Bottler of Desani) and other American corporations are…for a profit of course? And for those unfortunate individuals who are still foolish enough to drink from a tap or a water hose or, gasp, even from a mountain spring…are they falling over dead in droves? Are they growing extra limbs or third eyes? Are they experiencing stunted growth or renal failure or liver diseases? I think not. Every generation before us must be rolling over in their graves!

It seems now days all one has to do is merely raise an issue, buy some time on TV for an infomercial and suddenly we have a new threat to our health and happiness. Take for example sunlight. Now keep in mind that this is the same sunlight under which ALL life on earth has evolved and thrived since time immemorial. It is sunlight that gives us the very best source of vitamin D, essential to ward off several maladies including rickets. First we were educated about the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays (true) and then we were told that the Ozone layer, that 3 inch thick layer of O3 Oxygen molecules that blanket the earth way up on top of the stratosphere was disappearing and that we were all going to die of terminal sunburn and skin cancer and then corporate America miraculously gave us salvation by providing an artificial concoction of chemicals that we are to slather upon our skin to block the Sun’s harmful rays. You see, dermatologists always knew about skin cancer but every bit of research ever conducted on the subject clearly stated that skin cancers were most commonly caused by severe sun burns IN EARLY CHILDHOOD. Pretty soon corporations convinced the public discussion to drop the ‘severe sun burns’ thing and the ‘in early childhood’ thing and redirect the conversation to “The sun causes skin cancer! Here buy our stuff and put it on you every day for the rest of your life.” No discussion was every made about the body’s built in defense of tanning for protection. Our ancestors never had the rate of skin cancers we have today. Why? Because unlike us, they weren’t afraid to go out into the sun. In fact they had to go out into the sun to work the fields and the crops and the herds. They were tanned and while tanning does indeed age the skin prematurely to be sure, they did not get skin cancers like we shadow dwellers do today. The body knows how to protect itself. “But wait!” You say. “We are destroying our ozone layer with our Freon and other chemicals. Just look at the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica!” with just a little digging you will find out that scientists have known about the hole in the ozone layer for over a hundred years.  You will also learn that the hole is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens every year during the Antarctic winter, and while it may fluctuate from year to year, there is absolutely no evidence that the hole is continually getting bigger or that the total amount of Ozone present is irretrievably diminishing. Ozone is not, in fact, a finite quantity. It is continually being made, or at least when sunlight is present. The Ozone molecule has a life of just about three weeks and then it returns to the much more stable O2 molecule. The media would have you believe that once the ozone is gone there will be no more ozone. This is simply not true. Do a little research for yourselves and check UV levels year over year for the last twenty or so years. You will see very minor fluctuations but no negative trends. You see, the same lack of sunlight in the winter that causes ozone levels to drop also means that UV levels for sunlight drop commensurately. How cool is that? If you don’t want to do the research then just watch the evening weather girl tell you what the UV index is for tomorrow and watch that every night. Right now the indexes are about 5 or 6. They are 9 or 10 in the summer and 2 or 3 in the winter, every winter and every summer!  They haven’t changed and they will not change, but this doesn’t change the fact that the sunblock manufacturers will make several billions of dollars this and every year selling you goop to put on your skin.   Companies survive by selling stuff, and to sell stuff you must create a need. It doesn’t matter if that need is real or perceived as long as it spurs people to buy buy buy. Governments cannot grow without creating a need to grow so they present us with threats and promise to protect us…for a fee. Churches remind us constantly of our sinful state and promise to be the palliative that will cleanse our souls and allow us to enter heaven. They really believe this. In fact they believe this so much that throughout the ages churches have killed and oppressed non-believers and waged war against other churches that preach the very same thing but under the banner of a different denomination. Ironically, they call them Holy Wars.

So, how long do you want to stay afraid? Me? I live each day realizing that life goes on and that I am doing just fine.

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.

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.