The Next Big Chemistry Challenge

In the process of doing some file cleaning, I came across a question that I had set aside.  In light of the recent Supreme Court announcement concerning pollution and issues related to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), I thought it might be a good time to post it again.

In your opinion, what is the biggest chemical challenge facing this society in the coming ten years? Why?

Children Learn What They Live

I thought that, in light of what happened at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last evening, this was appropriate .  There was a time when I thought we were making progress but now I am not so sure.  But I do know that whatever is wrong with country that allows hatred, anger, and violence to be dominant will not be changed overnight.  It will take time and the learning process must begin today.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

“Notes On Academic Freedom”

As I will discuss in a post that I am presently working no (“Science Issues For The 2016 Political Season”), I think one of the major issues that need to be discussed during the 2016 political season is academic freedom.

It strikes me that there are those in this country who are not comfortable with other individuals learning. Power seems to come much easier when you can control what others know and you find ways to limit creative thought. And it does not matter whether we are talking about

Let me first start by noting that academic freedom does not give you the right to teach whatever you feel like teaching. In the case of science, this means that you cannot teach creationism or its updated counterpart, intelligent design, as an alternative to evolution. It is not that scientists are trying to censor thought or limit the debate but those who advocate creationism tend to ignore the established rules of scientific inquiry when arguing their side of the issue. They have the right to do so but not in the classroom. I will say this though, if proponents of creationism can provide a rationale way for individuals to work the details by themselves, they are free to do that.

With that in mind, here is a summary of my posts dealing with academic freedom:

In The Beginning” – posted on 16 May 2008; this included a list of academic professionals who were threatened because they refused to accept “intelligent design” as an alternative to the theory of evolution. One of the individuals on the list taught at an institution where I had been a faculty member; I mentioned another of the listed individuals (Richard Colling) in the next post (“The Dilemma of Science and Faith”).

“The Dilemma Of Science and Faith” – posted on 21 January 2009

To Teach Or Not To Teach” – posted on 3 September 2009

How Ironic” – posted on 21 October 2009; this was followed by “Very Interesting” – posted on 29 October 2009. It dealt with issues of academic freedom at Ball State University.

The Nature of Academic Freedom” – posted on 17 March 2010 (there was a report in this morning’s “Inside Higher Education – Jury Backs Professor Fired By Erskine College” that the college I mentioned in this posted (Erskine College) violated the rights of an English professor and awarded him $600,000. The issue appears that the professor encouraged critical thinking by his students and the need to study science in a way that did not conform literally to the Bible, which would have been in conflict with the college’s philosophy.

The Clash of Science, Culture, and Politics” – posted on 29 May 2012

Continuing Thoughts On Academic Freedom” – posted on 10 August 2013 (part of this post discussed the hiring of an advocated for intelligent design by a department of physics and astronomy).

Further Thoughts On Academic Freedom” – posted 12 March 2015

The Two Important Issues For 2015 And 2016

I was thinking about this the other day but ran into problems with my computer and lost most of the work. So I am going to try and doing it again.

First, I prompted to post this today because I had another chance to review the life of Robert F. Kennedy. This piece will echo some of the thoughts that I posted back in March when I posted “So You Want To Be President?”

The one thing that amazes me are the differences in the 1968 campaign and today’s Presidential campaigns. Maybe it is just me but the campaigns back seem to actually focus on the issues and, while there was negative campaigning back then, it wasn’t to the extent we have today.

And how many of today’s candidates can quote Greek writers, such as Aeschylus, from memory as did Robert Kennedy? How many of today’s politicians, let alone Presidential candidates, would challenge the political system as Robert Kennedy did when he posed the question to white South Africans, “Suppose God Is Black”, or when he spoke to white medical students about serving the poor and needy (see “To Build a New Community” for a link to references of that speech).

Which, of any, of today’s candidates, could do as Robert Kennedy did on the night that Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed and go into the poorer part of Indianapolis and speak of the tragedy on personal terms. Let’s remember that night, when violence erupted in almost every city in this country, it was calm in Indianapolis. I do not think that many of today’s candidates would be able to do anything similar, so used to blaming someone when there is a problem.

Both President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy spoke in terms of paragraphs, not sound bites, and they expected those who listened to them to know the references that they made. Today’s politicians merely reflect the current state of learning in this country, which is to say, limited.

That is why I think one of the major political issues in the coming months has to be the state of education in this country today. Instead of moving forward, creating thinkers and people capable of analyzing complex and multiple issues, we are creating a population of followers who have surrendered their thought process to a group of individuals who feel their duty is to do our thinking for us. Instead of providing the information for us to use, this group has taken it upon themselves to tell us what to think and what to do.

Our schools transformed from institutions of thinking and creativity into mere assembly lines, churning out numerous copies of the same product day after day. We argue about what is being taught, more so because I think we can’t do the work ourselves. If we were more involved in the process of learning and understanding what we need to learn, we might be better prepared to deal with those who would say that “they know what is best and we should just shut up and follow orders.”

For me, it would seem that first, we need to be more involved in what is happening in our schools today and we need to push our schools to do more that prepares students for tomorrow. And yes, I know this will cost money.

But we need to stop and look at where our money is going these days and wonder if we can’t stop funding wars and start funding education. We might find that tomorrow will be a lot better that way.

The second issue that we need to face is a moral one. Part of the moral dilemma that we are faced with is that we find it very easy to condemn others while not accepting blame for our sins. We have ignored what Christ said one day, “Listen, you phony, first pull the plank from your eye and then you’ll be able to see better to get the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 5 – The Cotton Patch Gospels).

There are as many in the sectarian world as there are in the secular world who have made it their providence to tell us how to live our lives will telling us to ignore how they live theirs.

We cannot begin to build a world of peace when we live in a constant state of war and where individuals who claim to be speaking for God proclaim a message of hatred and exclusion. We cannot begin to build God’s Kingdom here on earth, in what form it may take, if there are those among us who would proclaim that they and only they know the true word of God.

They will tell you, in no uncertain terms that there is only way to achieve true salvation and that if you do not chose that path, you will have chosen a path to total and final condemnation. I have heard that call countless times before in my life and, each time that I have heard it, I have walked away. It is not that I don’t believe in what they are saying but because I don’t think they have the right or authority to tell me what I have to do.

But I know what path I have chosen to walk and I also know that it may not be the path that others will choose. If a person believes in God and what that means, does it matter whether they believe as I do or that I believe as they do?

What I know is that I do not have the power, the right, or authority to tell others that they must walk the same path as I. But if I feel that the path that I walk is the better path, then what I have to do is show them, through my words, my deeds and my actions, what is gaining by walking with me.

What is needed at this time and on this planet is the beginning of a revival to understand why we are here and why we must work with each other instead of against each other.

We must understand what it means to do good and how that is achieved. And let’s face it, if you are doing good because you think it will somehow save you, you need to understand that it doesn’t work that way, no matter what else you may believe. One does good for what others receive, not what one receives.

The first of this issues will be decided at the ballot box but the second one can only be decided individually in one’s heart and soul. And it will take action on both issues if we are to truly make this a better world.

“The Status Quo Means Change”

Yes, yes, I know that the meaning of “status quo” is to essentially keep things as they are but I think there is a problem with that particular idea. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”

There is a feeling in this country today that we need to maintain the status quo. It is clearly an unstated feeling but it seems to permeate almost everything we do, whether what we do is good or bad. It is almost as if we fear change and are unwilling to seek change. In a world and a society in which we willing and boldly went over the horizon and peeked around the corner, we are now reluctant to do so. We now longer wish to venture into the unknown, preferring to stay where we are, thinking that in doing so, we will be safe and secure.

And yet, people came to this country, not knowing what was here because they wanted (and still want) to start a new life. The American Revolution was begun because our ancestors were unwilling to live in society that denied them freedom and they were willing to try a form of government that expressed ideas never before considered.

The exploration of this globe, though driven at times by more ulterior motives, required that we go over the horizon and look around the corner, even when the maps said “Terra Incognita” (or “unknown land”). In when President John Kennedy spoke about going to the moon at Rice University in May of 1962, he noted that it would a difficult task and that it would require metal alloys that had not been invented yet and without knowing what benefits we would receive from the effort.

And he acknowledged that it would not be easy and it would not be cheap. But new hopes for peace and knowledge were to be found by going to not just to the moon but to the planets and stars beyond. So we began the great exploration.

But today, we remain literally earth-bound. No one has stepped on the surface of the moon since Gene Cernan stepped back into the LEM on December 14, 1972, and we are seemingly content to let other countries send individuals into outer space. And our plans for future exploration keep getting pushed back as we consider other activities more important.

But I am afraid that those other activities are the same activities that began to take away the resources of the Apollo program. It was first the war in Viet Nam and now it is the wars and military excursions in the Middle East. And it is not just the military operations but also the mind-set that says we build weapons of war but we forget the people.

How long can we continue to focus on destruction and death rather that construction and life? How long can we continue to send our young off to die or come home injured and then forgotten?

What benefits do we reap today from sending individuals off to war? Perhaps it is the enjoyment that General Robert E. Lee so feared when he wrote to his wife, “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow fond of it.” And what parent does not want to bury their child, remember the Herodotus’ quote, “In peace, children bury their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to bury their children.”

If maintaining the status quo means keeping things the same, then we must face the fact that we are doomed. Because what we are doing today takes away our life and our future.

But if the status quo means to seek change, then we have a future. IT is future not only for ourselves but for our children and this planet.

Should we not be sending our young and all the able people to find new worlds or seek new things? It is quite easy to see the benefits that we gained from going to the moon in the 1960s. Our smart phones, our computers, and most of the technology of our lives were developed from the efforts to send people into space and return them safely. What benefits shall we reap tomorrow from what we do today?

We have a choice today. We can hold onto what we have right now, which isn’t much, and see our future disappear, much like water evaporating. It won’t be obvious but then one moment we see there is no water in the container. We try valiantly to hold onto to what we have and then we find that it is all gone.

Or we can seek change, not sure if it will work or not but knowing that if we do not seek change, if we do not see what is around the corner or over the horizon, we will fail.

Yes, there might be a cliff over the horizon but how will we know if we don’t go and look; at least we will know that is not the way to go. Yes, it will cost something to do this but consider what we are spending today and what we are spending it on and tell me that we have better ways to spend our funds.

To seek change is the only way to maintain who we are and what we are to be.

“What Are We Supposed To Remember?”

This is one of those unique weekends where Memorial Day and Pentecost Sunday are celebrated on the same weekend. On Pentecost Sunday, we remember the birth of the church and on Memorial Day we remember, though honor is perhaps a better term, those who have served this country in the past.

And yet while one of these occurrences is supposed to celebrate life and the other celebrate death, I am not entirely sure today which one is doing which. On this Pentecost Sunday, we hear not of the birth of the church but rather its death and on a day when we are suppose to honor and remember those who have died in service for this country, we seem to be more concern about having another war or continuing the wars in place.

If anything, this weekend should celebrate life. We need to remember those who have died so that others may live and, then, we need to work on ways to make sure that we do not use wars as a way to ensure peace and freedom. I do not think that those who have died believed they died in vain but I also believe that they felt the world would be safer because of what they did.

We need to remember what those gathered together in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost were doing then and find ways to keep doing it today. It is noted in the Book of Acts that they shared all they had, without exception, and they made sure those who had no resources, including those who might be called non-believers, were included. They gathered together in love and their numbers grew because of that.

But today, the money that society spends on destruction and death is far more than what is spent on construction and life. And when I think back to the way life was 100 years ago and 50 years ago and see that not much has changed – we worship war and inequality, the rich seem to get richer and the poor remained oppressed, I have what it is we are supposed to remember this weekend.

I hope that what we remember this weekend pushes us to ensure a better world and not one where war and inequality are the way. What I fear is that unless we resolve to make Pentecost an ongoing expression of our faith, of people living together and sharing all their resources, then we will have more burials of young people who died to ensure that peace and freedom continue will continue.