Two Kinds of Explanations

2021 Dec 16

There are two kinds of explanations of things: by the how of things and by the why of things. That is, there are explanations by the mechanisms of how things work, and explanations by agency.

boiled water being poured into tea mug
  • A cup of tea brewing could be explained in terms of what was happening with the physics of boiling water. Or, it could be explained in terms of my intent to make a hot beverage.
  • The Falcon 9 rockets of SpaceX can be explained in terms of rocket drives or by means of the drive of Elon Musk.

These two kinds of explanations do not conflict. In fact, they are complementary, and we need both kinds of explanations.

A scientific explanation is about mechanisms. Sometimes these are not actually explanatory although they are descriptive. The science describes causal chains, how one thing leads to another; however, it does not explain the initial cause (the ultimate cause). Science does not provide the purpose for why something happened.

On the other hand, the agency approach generally is the only source of explanations about ultimate causes. Only the agency explanation supplies the teleology (the purpose) for things. Therefore, without both kinds of explanations, we have serious explanatory holes.

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Great Books and Great Authors

2021 Dec 7

Many of us have experienced the sublime pleasure of finding a book and realizing that it is completely engaging and immersive. While we are reading, it is hard to put down. After it is done we are both satisfied and disappointed that we came to the end.

What do we learn about the author by having read it? We do know that the author existed because we read their book, however, most of the time we don’t know much more. We also know they have skill in their craft and that they are creative for having constructed a world of ideas that was so compelling.

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Darwinian Evolution and the Gaps

2021 Dec 5

The story of evolution as told by Darwin was an epic tale about natural capabilities. In the story, these natural mechanisms caused new, increasingly complex creatures to come into existence. Always in the narrative, slight changes accumulated and resulted in complex new descendent plants or animals.

However, this story is based on an extrapolation far beyond the things observed in science. It is a story with significant gaps. Only rather modest changes are observed in nature (like wolf ancestor to dogs). What the evidence actually shows is minor changes to animal features. Recently we have found that this is either due to losses of genetic information (broken genes) or due to repeatable changes in non-genetic control parameters (epigenetic controls). Neither of these are a mechanism for creation of new features or new body plans.

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Except When It Doesn't

2021 Dec 1

According to Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” This means evidence from biology always backs (Darwinian) evolution - except when it doesn’t...

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Kayak Camping: Deception Pass & James Island

2021 Nov 3

Last weekend I went on a three day kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands with some friends.

I consider kayaking to be water hiking. The exercise itself is a reward, but going through beautiful places adds so much more. The San Juans offer exceptional sights, and often your camping locations are stellar too.

We found a cave that we could enter. Water going in and out of a small hole made it sound like an angry huffing dragon lived there. The entrance was small, but it got bigger inside and the sunlight angle was just right to make the water be lit underneath you. Very cool!

waiting our turn to boat into the cave

Reason and the Greatest Commandment

2021 Sep 30

In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God. He also taught that the next greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself. There are several aspects of this that are fascinating.

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End of the long hot summer

2021 Sep 26

This summer was the hottest I can remember in this area.

Our neighbors have grapes growing along their back fence. The vine has grown all the way over atop our fence and climbs up our flowering plum tree. I trim it to manage it, but it produces decent grapes so I keep it around. Yesterday we picked the grapes and made juice, and my! it is tasty. All that sun counted towards sugar and flavor. I got four quarts and a pint. Maybe I'll make jelly.

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2021 Family Vacation

2021 Sep 6

For a few years I have been making a tradition for our family of renting a large house and bringing everybody together there for a few days. Last year we stayed at a place on an arm of Hammersley Inlet (Puget Sound salt water). In most years we have changed locations, but this particular place was ideal for many of the things we all enjoy. So, we went back there again.

I brought my kayaks and went out every day. A paddleboard, paddleboat and canoe were available for us to use. Elias explored the tidelands and collected crabs to look at. The kitchen was large and convenient for group meals. The hot tub was enjoyable for soaking. The large living room sectional was comfy for everybody to hang around on.

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Kayak Adventures, High and Low

2021 Jul 20

On the holiday weekend I went on a kayaking trip that had more adventure than I’ve had in a long time. We were a group of 2 guys and 5 gals. The good news was that everybody survived although we lost two people.

The float plan was to kayak from Washington Park in Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We would have ebb current down Rosario Strait. The tide would change while we were south of Lopez. Then by the time we got to Cattle Pass between Lopez and San Juan Islands, we would have flood current up to Friday Harbor. It was a long trip and the currents would help a lot.

The complication was that there were winds up to about 15 mi/hr out of the west. This meant that there was a lot of fetch up the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the rollers out of the Strait had become quite big. Also initially the current was against the wind - which made the rollers even bigger.

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Kayak loop I-90 and 520

2021 Jun 14

Yesterday it was a nice rainy day so I went out kayaking on Lake Washington. I put in at Enatai Beach Park underneath I-90. The water seemed surprisingly warm already for the year.

There was a family on the beach with a dog in the water and a tennis ball. They also had a very happy little girl (about 1st grade age) swimming near the dog. She was wearing all her clothes, her rain jacket and her boots!

I paddled over to talk with them. When I asked the girl if she was having fun, the answer was an enthusiastic “Yes”. The mom then asked (with good humor), did I want to take her? (Take the girl on a boat ride or off her hands? Not sure. Obviously the girl was a real character and sometimes a challenge! :-)

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Following God, Across Time

2021 Jun 12

In broad strokes, the first part of the Bible (the OT, Old Testament) is the story of God bringing a single people, a nation, to himself. And the second half of the Bible (the NT, New Testament) is the story of God bringing the rest of all peoples to himself.

Did that mean before the NT, that God did not bring people other than this one nation of Israel to himself? Certainly not.

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God and Personal Pronouns

2021 Jun 6

The personal pronoun we use to designate God is a bit of a hot issue. In general, personal pronouns have controversy in our culture, and so this issue has become related to how we speak of God. I will explain my approach.

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Book: Return of the God Hypothesis

2021 May 19

Steven Meyer’s book Return of the God Hypothesis is about naturalistic vs theistic ultimate origins with arguments from cosmology and biology. It is very well written, well-reasoned and thorough. It ably counters the best competing ideas.

The question posed by this book is “What actually caused life, the universe, and its fine tuning to arise?” The book argues that the best explanation is a transcendent purposive creative intelligence.

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Avoid Spiritual Complexity

2021 May 9

I have been in a class reviewing the early Christian book Against Heresies by a guy named Irenaeus. He wrote about a lot of ideas at that time that were going astray of what Jesus had taught.

One of these is what is called Gnostisism (from gnosis in Greek meaning knowledge). The idea was that once you learned hidden knowledge, you were no longer spiritually powerless.

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Kayaking through the Ballard Locks

2021 Apr 24

I did a kayak trip today from Ballard through the locks to the Puget Sound. The locks are always an interesting experience. Normally there are a lot of people walking through the park that are watching us from above, but with COVID, the lock gardens have been closed to the public. This has been the only way to go into that space at this time.

Going out, I shared the lock with a single sailboat.

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A Story of Larry

2021 Apr 1

My mom has been writing stories about our personal family history for a while. It is an unusual history and I agree with her that the younger ones in the family should know about it.

A stack of printed books

Her latest stories were about her own children, about me and my two younger sisters. About how and where we grew up.

She asked that we print them up for our grandchildren. At first I was reluctant to dive in because (of course) I had my own things going on. But after getting into the story, I realized it was good. I also have done my own writing about these things, so the idea became easy to run with.

After editing, I added it to the website: The Story of Larry

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Science is Limited

2021 Mar 28

Science is a fantastic human endeavor. It has enabled us to know our world better and make a better life for many, many people. However, I don't think that science can solve everything because science is limited.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, “The statements of science must invoke only natural things and processes.”

I see this as a statement that confirms science is limited. And I will show several of these limitations:

  • Science depends on non-science for its existence.
  • Science tells us constrained truth.
  • Science is unable to give us answers about many things.
  • Science seems disallowed from using certain sources of truth.

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Replacement Plumbing

2021 Mar 14

Last weekend Andrew and I replaced the water plumbing in his house. The supply lines were galvanized steel and internal rust was restricting the water flow.

His house was built almost a hundred years ago. I could see that some additional plumbing work had been done since that time. However, we tore out and completely replaced all the supply and most of the drain water lines. (Day 1)

All the removed old metal plumbing

Austin helped Andrew and I on this first day, so it was very enjoyable to work together as a team on this project.

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Unexpected Roof Consequences

2021 Feb 14

We got our snow this weekend. A foot deep in some places.

However, there is a consequence I had not expected when we had our roof re-done last year. Our new roof is slippery metal and the snow slides off.

A big pile of snow outside the window on to the back yard

Snow in California

2021 Feb 6

My sister is in a mountainous area of California where they recently had snow.

Looking at the moon through the trees

Reasonable Beliefs

2021 Jan 21

We all believe many things:

  • I believe that science does a good job of leading to true explanations of what happens in the material world (the natural world). This is especially true for science that can be repeatably verified by experiment.
  • I believe there are true things that are immaterial but real. These things are not part of the physical world because they are not based in matter or energy. These can include mathematics, philosophy, and spiritual things.

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Adventures of Grampi, Cami and Eli

2021 Jan 3

There had been snow but then recent rains, so the rivers were full and running hard. Cami and Eli had not seen a big waterfall, so I took them to see Snoqualmie Falls.

In the summer you can see much of the lip of the falls, but not now! The volume of water was huge. It thundered, and blew a dampening mist everywhere.

two kids looking down at a waterfall and mist