Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Science and Religion

Not Science vs. Religion.

I read a resent post on FB that sparked a debate between atheists and theists. There was a lot of fantastic and respectful debate. I was genuinely impressed that it didn’t turn into a flame war, though there were a few digs on both sides. It was pointed out that people of faith could come across and smug and condescending. I have noticed that some of the atheists came across as arrogant and condescending. Both attitudes are disrespectful, so let's take the question of people's intelligence and mental state out of the debate. Too often, when people hold opposing views, I see both sides attempt to degrade or dehumanize each other, as if someone that disagrees with them must be faulty in some way. This is a fallacy and cheapens the accuser. One issue we face today is the complete lack of respect between people that possess opposing views. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics or religion, too often people classify their opponents as being stupid or backward or extreme.

One position that was discussed was that debate over the issue is useless. I agree that if a person that believes, either in a specific dogma, or just believes in the existence of a soul, debates with someone that doesn't there won't likely be any resolution. That doesn't mean the exchange shouldn’t occur. I don’t agree with blind faith in anything. I think people should examine their beliefs and dis beliefs and justify, at least to themselves the reasons for them. Even the act of asking the question means that we are open to other possibilities. Being open to a possibility is not a weakness of character. Only a fool assumes they know everything or has all the right answers. Each person need only look to their past to find example of when they were proven wrong and learned from the process. Why do some adults assume that at some point being wrong is no longer possible? For that matter, that a conflicting opinion must be wrong.

I love science. I understand some of it, but even if I had the abilities to understand all disciplines, I would never have the time to verify or test all hypotheses. I trust in the scientific process and the community as a whole to verify and validate findings, but I am also skeptical, because occasionally, this trust is betrayed. Because of the scientific process, hoaxes and bad science are uncovered eventually, but blind trust of science as the answer without even a basic understanding of the scientific process, is simply replacing the faith of one deity with the faith another, by deifying extremely intelligent scientists. It is certainly dangerous to assume that even a group of scientists are right when they insist on the validity of a given theory, yet there is a lot of pressure to create legislation based on theories that have not been given the time to be challenged and validated using the very scientific process they claim supports their position.

I do believe that there is more going on that a simple cycle of life and death. I believe that there is some purpose and some part of us that continues to exist after our meat suite dies. I don’t go to church because I have never found a dogma I can believe in. Religion is humanities attempt to explain what they can't understand. There are and have been a large number of religions and variations of religious systems created by mankind. They can't all be right. There can't be hundreds of true creation stories. I think what some people mean when they say "I'm spiritual, but not religious" is that they don't follow a specific dogma. I don’t feel a need for ritual. I don’t feel the need to find others that share my beliefs, but I also don't begrudge or demean those that do.

I don’t understand why people from both sides of this argument feel that the views must be apposing. I'm not talking about faith in a religious system, I'm talking about the possibility that there is something more that the death of the body. That there may be a purpose for our sentience, and that beyond sentience, we are more than the sum of our organic parts.

I am not a believer in or supporter of the new efforts around "Intelligent Design", because it feels like a cheat or a way to try to prove what can't be proved with pseudo science and half truths. Having members of a particular religion attempt to use science to prove the literal truth of their scripture (e.g. the earth is only 7,000 years old), is just as absurd as scientists trying to use the scientific method to disprove the existence of a soul (a non dogma specific constant among most religions).

In the 1600's, the scientific community was split into two camps with regards to the nature of light. One camp believed that light was a wave. The other camp believed that light was a particle. Both groups had evidence to support their claim and both believed the opposing camp was wrong. I wasn't there, but I'm guessing some unkind things were said by both sides. The problem with both positions was that the evidence each of them was using was proof only for their position, but did nothing to disprove the opposing view. Each side assumed the two theories were mutually exclusive. Because Newton was the one that proposed the particle theory and he had some horsepower, most scientists jumped on his bandwagon. For almost two hundred years, only idiots thought that light was a wave. Then in the early 1800's, some smarty pants created a test that proved light did in fact have the properties of a wave. Take that you stinking Newtonians! They must have been stupid to think light was a particle. That is until 1905, when a real smarty pants name Einstein, discovered what most of you reading this now know, that light is in fact both a wave and a particle. Three hundred years from when the first theories were put forth as scientific fact, we finally had the answer that it was both.

I'm only 44 and don’t think that if I devoted the rest of my life to the study of this issue that I would be any closer to understanding it if I live to be a hundred. I'm also not sure where we are on the time-line from the origin of scientific process to the point where we will have all the answers. Certainly, there is a finite point sometime in the future where we will run out of scientific questions, assuming a sustainable technological society with no expiration date. If we were at that point we could look back at the primitives living at the beginning of the twenty first century with sympathy bordering on contempt. It's possible that the universal duality of wave and particle that exists in matter as it does in light may be as blueprint for the seeming duality we now perceive between science and spirit. I don't have the answer, I have my answer and currently I'm content with it. I'm also open to hearing new views so I can consider them. Until the question is answered definitely one way or the other, I hope both sides can strive for acceptance of each others beliefs without resorting to smug or arrogant condescension.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

News and updates on the writing front.

First, I had my short story "Garbage Man" accepted in the reprint anthology, Northern Lights: 20 MinnSpec Tales by Sam Dot Publishing. It's a collection of stories from the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers group. It is currently available now from Genre Mall.

A new story of mine, "Field Test", is part of the anthology Unspeakable: A New Breed of Terror from Blood Bound Books. It's currently available on Amazon.

Liquid Imagination is also doing a reprint anthology in conjunction with Choate Road that is scheduled to be out by the end of the year. I will post an update when I have the title and the TOC, but my story "Jihad" will be a part of it.

I was invited to participate in the Fell Beasts anthology from Dark Quest Books, due out sometime late this year. My twisted tale is called "Spelunking". Here are the names of authors involved and I couldn't be happier to share some pages with these folks. I've been lucky enough to meet many of them and to call at least some of them friends.

Thomas A. Erb
Adam P. Lewis
Jason Sizemore
Kelli Dunlap
Dean Harrison
Michael West
R. Scott McCoy
John Everson
Tim Moore
James A. Moore
Bob Ford
Brady Allen
Scott Christian Carr

Last, but definitely not least, is the impending release of my 2nd novel, White Faced Bear on October 31st from Belfire Press. The bulk of the edits are complete and I want to send out a huge public thank you to Louise Bohmer, my editor. She has been a joy to work with and has made my book better, period. The next steps are a full technical edit, cover art creation etc. It is a very exciting time and I can't wait to see the final product.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Minute Weird Tales - Best Dressed

It took a while, but my One-Minute Weird Tales video is up on their website! Very cool feeling to see a 100-word story turned into a multi media video. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is a Jackpine Savage?

The Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) is a North American pine with its native range in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains from Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia, and the northeast of the United States from Minnesota to Maine.

Savage: n.
1. A person regarded as primitive or uncivilized.
2. A person regarded as brutal, fierce, or vicious.

Put them together and you get the picture. Do not confuse this species with the southern "Redneck", there is a vast difference. The only similarity I am aware of is a love of firearms. Redneck is a derogatory term that may indicate poverty and ignorance, while Jackpine Savage or JPS is term of honor.

In the interest of full disclosure, I would no longer be considered by many to be a JPS. After all, I don’t live up north in God's country any more. I live and work in the "Cities", the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota. It was common knowledge among my people that anyone that lived in a city was an idjit. Since I left to join the Army and never came back, if I tried to re enter that society, I would be shunned for the rest of my life, though possibly tolerated if I resumed my savage ways. If my children married and had grand children that married and lived in the same northern town, they would still be known as "that new family".

Living "down south" in the cities with all the other idjits, I am at times likewise shunned because of my savage temperament. I am a man trapped between two worlds, belonging in neither. Though I have worked hard to blend in with the natives here in the land of asphalt, there are times when my tolerance for idjits slips and my desire to choke the shit out of one of them is almost more than I can bear.

Sometimes I sit in my man cave and stare outside and remember a time when I ran wild though the woods, hunting, fishing and communing with nature (it was too far to run back evertime I had to take a dump). Then I think about how humid it is out there and I think about all the mosquitoes and Lyme disease carrying ticks and turn back to my computer.

So am I a still a Jackpine Savage? Like most of life's big questions, the answer is that it depends. Mostly, it depends on where I am and how many idjits I'm surrounded by.

Idjit: n.
1. A person that regardless of being a college boy, ain't got no sense.
2. A person that lacks common sense and is a danger to themselves and others while in the wild (aka a"Cidiot").

While there may be debate on my status depending on geography, my father was a JPS to the end of his days. Here are some common utterances from a master JPS (this is a radically abbreviated list):
I will beat your ass til it barks like a fox!
I'm off like a herd of turtles.
If brains were gas, you couldn’t start a piss ant's motor scooter.
I'm hungry enough to eat the ass end out of a skunk.
You better paint your legs with turpentine to keep the ants off your candy ass.
You call that a fucking chainsaw?
That ain't a truck, this is a fuckin truck.
If my dog was as ugly as you, I'd shave its ass and teach it to walk backwards.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guest Blog 8: R. Scott McCoy With "Going To Print"

Louise Bohmer is a highly talented writer and editor. I was honored to be her guest blogger for April. Please check out the post.

Guest Blog 8: R. Scott McCoy With "Going To Print"

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time and Energy

I just put up my most recent post for Stygian Publications about the upcoming Necrotic Tissue, issue #10 and noticed that I haven’t put out a personal post since November. I check and rechecked that date because I didn't believe so much time has passed. I started the personal blog to talk about my writing. Even if no one ever read it, I've always found that writing about an issue has helped me think about it and work through it. Sometimes I will have the edge of a thought about a topic and won’t be able to get a full handle on it until I start to type. So why haven't I posted since last November? Good question. Part of the reason is of course the holidays, immediately followed by the January submission window for Necrotic Tissue. That stretched into late February and transitioned into putting together April's issue #10. When these two timelines overlap, there is very little "free" time.

I do have a day job. Actually it's a career, which takes more time and energy than the jobs I used to have. It's harder to stop thinking about the issues when I walk out the door and sometimes, it intrudes into my home life. It takes time and energy, so even when I have time, I may not have the energy.

I have used the term "making time" in the past, but there is only so much of it in a given week. I "make" time by not doing things I see as wasteful. I used to love video games, still do, but I know they take too much time and give me nothing back but pleasure while I'm playing them. I'm not against fun or pleasure, but when I started writing seriously, part of the reason was the time I spent playing the games took too much and gave me little in return. Sure, I had enjoyed the game and sure I was able to escape the pressures of daily life while playing, but when it was over, I had nothing to show for it. When I was younger, that was okay. Now that I'm past 40, it feels less so. I can feel the clock ticking, and I don't want to waste what I have remaining. That doesn’t mean I will never play a game again or have fun, it just means that I won’t let it consume all of my free time as I once did. The same goes with TV and Movies. I need these things and I'm not willing to give them up, but I need to do them in moderation, and only focus on a few shows that I truly enjoy instead of vegetating and watching whatever was on, like I used to do.
Time and energy. How I use what I have and how to keep a balance can be a challenge. Habits can be good and bad. Writing is a habit for me. There are times when I do it frequently enough that I don’t need to remind myself. I enjoy the process, but it takes time. Novels take more time than short stories. I'm not sure of other writers feel this way, but I can’t just walk up to the computer and type out a couple of pages of a novel. I need to crawl into my character for awhile, sometimes reading the past 10,000 words or so to get into the grove. Interruptions complicate this process, so for the best effect, the time has to be in sections lasting at least three hours in order to be productive. It's a bit frustrating since before, I was able to utilize even half hour blocks to great effect to work on short stories. Perhaps it's my lack of experience with the novel form. I've only written two short novels and I am working on two others, so perhaps the more I do it, the easier it will be to jump in and out of the process. For now though, time is what I need, time and energy.

Some of that time I gave up to teaching. I wanted to see if teaching were something I enjoyed as much as I thought I would. I taught a masters level class on Decision Making last fall at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, where I got my masters. I am teaching the same class again this semester. I do enjoy it, though I need to get better at it. I also taught a security management course at the bachelor's level earlier in the semester and that was too much. I tend to overextend myself, and while I didn't seek the additional class, I didn't say no when asked either. So that brings me to now. Five months since my last post and no significant progress on my latest novel. I have only about a month left teaching the decision making course and won’t teach again until fall, but I need to decide if I have even that much time.

From now until July, I want to finish my third novel and make progress on my fourth. These need to be done and I have the concept firmly in my mind, but I want to skip to my fifth. The fifth is different. An old idea that has new life breathed into it and I want to see how it develops. For some reason though, my mind is trapped in sequence, and I need to finish these first. Something has to give and I need to admit that I can only do so many things at one time. My career is important to me, and not just because it pays the bills, so I need to give it the energy it deserves. Stygian Publications, and especially Necrotic Tissue, gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. I'm not willing to give that up and I've made committments to people. Writing gives me a different type of satisfaction and pleasure, and I'm not willing to give it up either. It may be that at this point in my life, I'm not ready to teach. As I stated above, writing helps me sort out issues. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that when I started looking for places to teach, I wanted to teach writing. That was the goal, but a writing class wasn't available and I had never taught a college class. Now I have and I know I can do it, but I'm teaching something that, while it interests me, it is not directly related to what I love. Work can take energy from me, but writing gives me energy. Teaching about decision making as it relates to business, takes energy because I associate it with my day job. What I need to do is find a place where I can teach creative writing. Specifically short stories, since that is what I know best. I am self aware enough to know that I have written some good short stories. Not great, or award winning, but solid. As editor for Necrotic Tissue, I have learned to identify the problems in other people's short stories and am able to suggest improvements. That sounds a lot like real teaching to me. Not covering a subject and discussing readings and thoughts on a topic, but rolling up the sleeves and actually teaching someone how to do something they either don't know how to do or helping someone that does know how, get better.

Time and energy. I don’t have as much of either as I used to, so I need to spend both wisely. My family comes first, then the career, then publishing because I've made commitments to people and because I enjoy it, and then my writing. If I do anything else, it must benefit one of these four things.