Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alcore Life Extension

Today I did a bit of research on the Alcore Life Extension Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Scottsdale, AZ (an upscale community near Phoenix) that for 20 some odd years has been freezing bodies in ten foot tall steel tanks. Well, technically "freezing" is not what is done.

First a person must be declared legally dead. At that point the Alcore team moves in, artificially maintaining circulation and respiration to ensure "brain viability" until the "patient" can be cooled safely. Medical personnel (doctors?) attach the patient's large blood vessels to a perfusion machine which slowly replaces the blood with a chemical that will protect the cells and tissues from rupturing as they are cooled over the next four days. At that point they will be submerged in a tank of liquid nitrogen. Technically this is called "vitrification" which is solidification without freezing. Even though the... um... patient will be held at at a temperature of 320 degrees below freezing, they are not considered to be "frozen."

There are two options for those who hope to cheat death at Alcore: whole body patients, which are placed head first into the tanks (in case there is loss of liquid nitrogen from spillage or evaporation -- the head will be the last to be uncovered) and "neuro" patients. These are the, um, heads only.

Yes, in some cases the head is removed from the body and submerged in the liquid nitrogen by itself, on the assumption, I guess, that in time technology will figure out how to grow the rest of the body onto the head. The funny thing is that there is no clear reference to the fact that there are just heads in the tanks on the Alcore page, just this euphemistic "neuro patient".

Going the head only route costs about half as much as the whole body preservation, but at $50,000+ it's still a lot. There are now about 79 patients at the facility in Scottsdale and about 700 others who are signed up as members. Beyond the generally bizarre nature of it all (and my need for technical details for a scene I was writing), what I found interesting was the exercise in faith here. Faith in technology. Hope that this will give the people a second chance at life. In fact, one couple took out memberships not only for themselves but for their three young children. The oldest girl when asked if she wanted to be "frozen" said yes. It was better to "have a chance" than to have no chance at all.

I would guess these folks do not know Jesus as their savior. It's a bit astonishing to contemplate how vastly different my viewpoint is from someone who would go to Alcore. And I feel bad for them. No one has ever been defrosted. Alcore's chief administrative executive admitted they wouldn't be pulling anyone out of the tanks until they could cure the diseases that had killed them (to say nothing of the problem of regenerating the lost bodies on those "neuro patients").

Many in the medical field think there is no chance whatsoever of bringing people out of the deep freeze and back from the dead. It's purely a speculative technology, which is technobabble for "faith" -- faith in man's technology instead of God's omniscience and omnipotence and love and grace and mercy and provision... Faith that somehow someone is going to figure out how to fix everything still wrong with this whole system, and when they do, that the person's soul is going to still be there, having hung around for in some cases, 20 years. Or maybe they don't believe in a soul. But whatever --even if it all works, they'd still be in the same old fallen bodies, riddled with the sin nature. But they probably don't believe in any of that either.

Personally, I am looking forward to the new vastly upgraded model of human body to be distributed at the Resurrection. So upgraded it's not even the same species. I'm especially looking forward to it as I begin to age. :-)

Anyway, that research gave me a lot of stuff for my scene and I'm calling Ch 23 done. I have three scenes I'm considering next. What order should they be done in, and should they all even be done? One in particular I'm thinking of scrapping. Another is very vague -- I have no idea what is going to happen in it, which makes it hard to decide what order it should come in.

But that's for tomorrow.


Monday, April 28, 2008

A Picture of Me Working

A really cool thing happened today. It was Monday. The Monday after one of my husband's three day weekends, and those Mondays are always low production days for me. So I was doing my usual dinking around, going from thing to thing, unable to focus or concentrate on anything much, even as the voices of doom murmured at the back of my mind that the deadline was drawing nearer and I should be working, certainly much harder and for more hours than I was. In fact, I hadn't worked all morning, when I had ample opportunity.

Finally sometime around noon I persuaded myself it was time to really put my mind to the task of working on the book... and of course, there was the Blankness again. My familiar friend. So the first thing I did (the only thing I could think to do) was write a nonstop that ended up being a combination whine and prayer. Was I out of line for my lack of dedication and devotion to writing? As my calling and service to God, shouldn't I be treating it all more seriously? Shouldn't I just exercise self-discipline and plod on from A to B to C... The self-condemnation started in.

Then I asked myself I was thinking. I was thinking that I wanted some progress, that I was bad because there wasn't any. That if I’d just buckle down and pay attention, put my mind to there problem, there would be progress. But how did that mesh with the concept of resting that I've spent the last three weeks learning about? With waiting for the Lord to provide?

I ended up all confused and frustrated again. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. I realized I had a form of how a writer's day should look, but that was someone else's form. Was that consistent with whatever God's form of it would be for me? What does me working on the book look like from God’s point of view? I had no idea. So I asked Him.

About half an hour later I decided to check blogs, and went to Robin McKinley's wondering if she had put up more pictures of her "hellhounds". She hadn't so I went to her website to see if there were some there, and instead I stumbled upon her FAQ's and the question of how many hours a day she spent writing. Her answer? "Two to twelve." Then she elaborated.

And described how I work almost exactly. It's two hours in the beginning when it's so darned hard. When you are "spinning substance out of nothing." When on a good day you know not just the next word but maybe the next sentence or even paragraph. Which is, as I've said before and she reiterated, "an incredibly exhausting process." But once "the book gathers momentum -- and pages and drafts -- I can work on it for longer , because there's more there to work with." Exactly.

Once you have some idea where you're going and how things fit together, those things breed more ideas and more connections and it just takes off. That's when you start putting in the 12 to 14 hour days. I'm just not there yet. So doing 5 pages of virgin draft, which is what I did today, is extremely draining for me and it's okay. It's how it's supposed to be for me. I just need to remember that.

Her discussion, which you can read here if you want (you'll have to scroll down to the second question, although her answer to the first question was very descriptive of my experiences as well), was so exactly what I go through that reading it set me free. I wasn't just being a lazy sloth. This really is a pattern and a way of working. And it occurred to me as I came to the end of it that God had just given me a "picture" of what me working on the book looked like.

And that, too, is very freeing. As for how I'm going to make my deadline if I only write six pages a day... I'm not going there. We're to live one day at a time, and I already know there's a point in the writing of the book when things begin to go faster. But even if not, the end can be rough. This IS a first draft... so, that's for Him to work out. I'm not going to try to decide what the number of tomorrow's pages is today. I'm just going to be thankful for the number that I wrote.

And also for how the scene that was little more than a few lines of dialog transformed itself without warning into something I'm finding very interesting. So. That's cool, too.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Plugging Along

Where has this last week gone?

Well, I thought I had ch 22 in the bag, but turns out I didn't. So last week I spent a good deal of time figuring it all out. I also wrote a lot of ch 23, and reworked a bit of 21. And more or less decided what would happen after ch 23.

Only now those plans are sort of mushy. I had thought I would write a scene where Cam is brought to a security level, but beyond what I just wrote, I seem to have no more ideas on it than that. So I guess I have to sit around and wait to see if there will be any (ideas) or if I should skip this bit and take things up the next night. I'm too tired right now to do any more.

I should probably just go to bed and hope to get good enough sleep I'll have a brain and some ideas to put to work tomorrow.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chaos to Order

Well, ever since Quigley was released from the cone, able to be put into the back yard, and life has somewhat found its way round to normal, I've actually been able to get some work done on my WIP. Imagine that!

On Thursday I got a late start on account of working in my journal a bit regarding the message we'd heard Wednesday night (still on rest and quite fantastic). I returned to ch 22 and the second main scene of the chapter, for which I'd just laid in a few notes the day before. At that point I had no idea what the purpose of the scene was. The parts I did have were side issues. So I started working and thinking and sorting...

Suddenly an image came into my head that had nothing to do with the scene I was trying to develop in 22, but involved some pods and told me where the black boxes came from. Oooh. Creepy. Cool... I LIKE it.

Now, which of my characters would be the one viewing the image I'd just seen?

One thing led to another and eventually I'd gone back to ch 16 and inserted the scene in Storyline 2, refined an existing scene in the same sequence and in the process added 4 more pages.

Friday I addressed the beginning of ch 21, another part of Storyline 2 that I'd only made notes on but hadn't written. I was overwhelmed by all the ideas that were floating about, and the way that trying to follow any one of them would lead me on very long thought trips that always ended up with me totally lost and confused. So I sat down and decided to try to come up with a very simple sequence of cause and effect using the central idea and/or material I already have, even if it seemed trivial.

I worked all day and ended up with a chapter. Only 7 pages, but I'm trying to keep Storyline 2 shorter, and 7 pages is about right.

Saturday I went back to chapter 22 where, once again, I was trying to figure out what the point of the second scene was. I have a sequence though and tomorrow I plan to pursue it. Who knows where that will lead.

This all fits right in with the lessons on resting. I might have to just put in some quotes from them, because they were so good. In summary it involves staying out of the future, not thinking about the problem, but thinking instead about God, the one who is in control, who knows all the details, who is FOR me, who is the one who will accomplish my work for me, who has promised me rest if only I'll believe Him...

This message is finally beginning to get through to me. I'm not sweating the writing and the blankness and the chaos, just moving along. And if I'm not working at a frenetic desperate pace, but taking a break to, oh, eat a cookie, stare out the window, play with my dog... I think it's okay.

Quigley has been ... wonderful. I'm loving him! I love his red coat. I love the way he moves. He's so sweet and loving now. He will stand there and let you hug him for a long time and no biting. Just licks.

He's still puppy, of course, and right now into swiping things, but it's cuter and funnier than it is disturbing. And we just go to him and ask him, "What are you doing? That (shoe/paper/bottle) is not yours. Give." We might have to repeat "give" a number of times but eventually he complies.

Okay, sometimes he tries to escape by fleeing under the coffee table, but we get him and then he has to "give." I like the way he does respond. I like that we tell him to "give" and he does, rather than forcing us to pry his mouth open and take it. He now knows how to sit, down, stay, shake, come, crawl, "take it," "get in your bed" and walk on a leash. None of those are perfect, and distractions do distract, but things are definitely getting better.

He's also lost all his puppy canines, and his biting is much more under control.

Time for bed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All Done

We went to the vet Tuesday for our final, prepaid check up and stitch removal. And that was exactly what happened. The second stitch was removed, the eye was pronounced healed, and though there is a bit of a scar, Dr. Merideth was confident that with time it would thin out and be no problem at all.

Quigley had destroyed his cone Tuesday morning before we left and I had to put the other, smaller one on. I knew there was a reason God gave us two of them. But after the final check, no more cone. Hooray! Hallelujah! Wonderful.

Here's a picture of him without his cone, playing with a stick. I should try to do a video, because he is so funny with the stick. He throws it around and prances about the yard with it in his mouth. If I use it to make the wind chimes sound, then he's REALLY happy to get it.

Since I can now put him in the backyard again, that's what I did. I managed to get about 8 pages written of ch 22. And I got my deadline extended again, to June 1, though I'm hoping to be done before them. But then, I've said that before.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring in the Desert

It's spring in the desert. The paper flowers, brittlebush and desert marigolds are blooming. The bees are buzzing. The snakes are out. The birds are nesting and singing. The wind is blowing with temps in the 70s and 80s... and clear blue skies with a bit of cloud for the sunset.

It's been beautiful.

Last Tuesday I took Quigley to the vet with high hopes the stitches would come out of his eye and the cone collar would come off. Alas, though the doctor looked in his eye and pronounced his healing to be much further along than expected -- "It looks GREAT!" -- and did take the cone off, he only took out one of the two stitches that were holding his eyelids together as a bandage. If Quig started to scratch it, then we had to put the cone back on. We could bring him out into the yard, but only if the wind wasn't blowing. (Several people have noted that our windy days started about when this whole thing with Quigley started -- and haven't stopped yet). And if we had him in the yard, someone had to stay with him to be sure that he "didn't get into any trouble." Whatever that means.

But at least he didn't have to wear the cone any more! I took him to a nearby park after our appointment and we walked around. Then I brought him home, put his sleeping crate back together, put the furniture back the way it was before the cone arrived, and called my husband. Two minutes into the conversation I had to hang up because Quigley started to scratch his eye. So I put the cone back on, disassembled the crate, put the furniture back into its cone configuration and sighed a deep sigh. It's 85% healed the doctor said on Tuesday and we don't want to lose that...

So we have continued as before, though with a few modifications. We don't have so many medications to give, and those we do are much reduced. I've stopped being so paranoid about taking him outside. We don't stay a long time but windy or not, he needs to be outside a little. I stopped using the leash when I took him outside into the back yard. I started barricading him in the dining room and removing myself from his presence when I felt the need for separation. I realized that I cannot keep a speck out of his eye, nor do what the doctor said whe should do. It's impossible with the dog that we have. I still can't really leave him alone, so that means I can't go anywhere during the week. And we've had to take lots and lots of walks. To the point that yesterday I got a cramp in my thigh and so have to cut back on the walks!

I also put the dog, his recovery, my actions, and the book into the Lord's hands and with varying degrees of success, left them there. And this last week, somehow through it all I managed to get chapters 19 and 20 written, and today I worked through ch 18. I have two separate storylines going and tomorrow I will continue the one from 18 into chapter 21. I've been asking the Lord if I should email my editor and ask for more time, but He's not given me a definitive answer on that, and since I'm not sure how many more chapters I have... it could be ten, which might actually get done in the time I have left. Or it could be more, which might not, I'll give it a few more days and see how things develop.

Of course, if some new crisis arises then that would change everything but for now... we'll see. We have only one more day of the cone and see the vet again on Tuesday. Maybe this time my hopes will be realized!


Monday, April 07, 2008

Sunday's Class...

Was on Resting! The Faith-Rest Technique, we call it: where you combine faith with the promises of God and you rest.

I have learned so much from this Quigley affair. The failure to put in the ointment on Friday was really a shock, because I'd been afraid I would fail, had no instructions or idea how to do it and was actively trusting the Lord to help me. When at the end of the fiasco it seemed He'd not helped at all, I was very upset. But then, once I calmed down and started thinking again, I realized I didn't really know if the ointment had gotten into the eye or not. It seemed as if it didn't, but for all I knew maybe some had...

More than that though, was the notion that God is not my personal genie, who hangs around waiting to make everything go smoothly for me when I ask. He gives us whatever we ask according to His will, not according to ours. And maybe it was His will for me to fail in ointment administration.
Well, I know it was, because after the failure I started asking myself why it was SOOO important that I get that ointment in. Did I think that God needed me to do that, because He can't heal the dog's eye without ointment? That's ridiculous. Besides, we're putting the stuff in 4x's a day so it wasn't like there would be no ointment. But that's not the point. The point is that I get caught up in thinking that I HAVE to do something or disaster will ensue.

We just had this really expensive eye surgery on the dog and now the Doctor has prescribed a certain regimen of treatment. I guess I'm just very rule oriented and very authority/obedience oriented, to the point that anyone who comes along claiming to be an "expert" gets my attention and obedience. (Which is why that business with the scientists admitting they were forcing everything to fit their belief in materialism was so important for me)

The doctor said ointment 4xs a day and it has to be that. But the doctor is a man, and God's ways are not man's ways, and God doesn't need us. I know that. But I wasn't applying it. So I failed with the ointment. Big deal. It's Monday, the dog is still alive and his eye looks fine. There was no need at all for me to throw a big fit of self-condemnation and weeping over that failure. IT DIDN'T MATTER.

And after that and Sunday's lesson I think that most of what we fail at in life doesn't matter. Because Sunday's lesson was on grace, and how everything we have is by grace, not works. As we have received eternal life, so we should walk in the Christian life. By grace. Resting. Knowing that everything we need has already been provided. I think we're given things to do so we can learn this.

How many times have you done nothing and God still blesses you? How many people have you seen who work way less than you, yet get paid more? He makes his sun to shine on the good and the bad, his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The thing is, it really doesn't matter what we do, in the sense of all these activities we pursue. We can't earn one more iota of God's approval than we already have through Christ, and even if we do fail to do something, God's plan would not be thwarted, and no one would lose out. The activities are privileges.

But the idea that what we do doesn't really "matter" is not something the natural mind can readily receive. The idea that God is going to bless us when we do nothing, when we fail, even, doesn't mesh with human viewpoint. It makes no sense. It doesn't seem right. It seems unjust in some way. (yeah, because grace is about the justice of God satisfied by the righteous work of Christ, so He can give that same righteousness to whosoever believes in Him).

Which is why we have to do it by faith. I've been amazed over the last few days how many worldly "shoulds" I get caught up in. How many things HAVE to be done just so. Like today, when Quigley was bouncing off the walls and trying to tear off his collar for the third time since morning, and I had to do something with him to burn off the energy. The only option was a walk. But it was windy. Really windy. I didn't realize it until I was out there and suddenly -- oh, no, this is the very thing we're not to do. Now he's going to get something in his eye... I got all caught up in hurrying through the walk, trying to stay out of the wind, turning away from it ever time it got really fierce... and other silly things. When I should have just rested. Really, we're being asked to do impossible things with this dog, and it all has to be left in God's hands.

Oddly, in spite of everything, the block on ch 19 started breaking up. I wrote 4 pages of new stuff, which, given the fact I was on dog duty, was pretty amazing.


Friday, April 04, 2008

SUPER High Maintenance Quigley

Here is a picture of the speck that was in Quigley's eye. See that tiny black dot at the end of the white arrowhead on the right? That's it. The ballpoint pen (on the left) is there for scale.

Today, Friday, I did about half an hour of very lame editing on some of the material I had in ch 19, Bible class, and almost nothing else. I was pretty much a dog nurse for the entire day. Or maybe the dog nanny.

He's not supposed to get all exercised and rambunctious, but all his chews that we use to calm him down, he can't chew without help because of the Elizabethan collar. So I have to sit with him and hold the chew. Then he can't go outside except to "eliminate". Since we are still working on communication about that issue, I have to take him out a lot, on the leash (which he keeps trying to bite now). Can't just put him out in the yard because we don't want to get anything into the healing eye. Dust, bits of grass, leaves, weeds. Our yard is very interesting for a dog, but not a very good hospital ward.

He's also supposed to have ointment put in his eye every 4 hours. Stu did the 6am one, but my attempt at 11am was a complete disaster. I tried three times, wrestling and fighting to restrain him til I was panting with the effort. And since I couldn't restrain him with one hand and put the ointment in with the other, especially with the collar in the way... it was a disaster, as I said. I know I got the outside of the eye well-covered; unfortunately the ointment was to go in the eye, not outside. Worse, after that, now he's all weird with me.

Well, everything is weird. Our entire routine, all his usual things, are gone. He can't sleep in his crate because of the collar, which is too big. So last night Stu sort of stayed up/slept with him in the living room. He kept trying to take the collar off, insisted on sleeping with Stu on the sofa... and I don't know what else.

It's like all our efforts at training him are also going down the drain.

In between the bathroom trips, holding the chews, and the war over the ointment I tried to figure out other things to distract him from getting all excited about pulling his e-collar off, or fighting with the sleeping bag in his disassembled crate... Like filling the kong toy with treats so he could work them out of it. And take him on short walks in the street, which they said we could do, as long as it wasn't windy.

The eye doctor did say we might have to use sedatives for him, if he's too rambunctious. In his defense, he did sleep for three and a half hours straight this afternoon. And then another half hour a little while after that. And I think he's lying quietly out in the living room right now, but earlier there was nothing quiet about him.

And at the end of the day, we're trying to decide: is his eye more swollen than it was or isn't it?


PS. We see the doctor on Tuesday morning when hopefully he will take out the stitches and say we can quit with the e-collar.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Post Surgery

We're done. The surgery went well and here is Quigley in his e-collar, with his left eye sewn shut to serve as bandage. It's even harder for him to deal with than it was for Bear, because Quig can only see out of one eye right now. We see the doctor again next Tuesday

Quigley's Splinter in the Eye

Well, today I had planned on reporting my progress with The Enclave : I spent an hour and half working on the last scene in ch 19 (or the first in ch 20 -- I haven't decided yet.) Around and after that I spent the day dealing with the latest Quigley crisis, and so that's what I'll report on.

When I took him out of the crate this morning, his left eye was squinting . So I called the vet and she said he wouldn't be doing that if it didn't hurt and there was probably something in it. So I went and put the crate into the car, and at 1:45 left to travel 20 minutes across town to the vet.

Turns out he did have something stuck in his eye, poking into the cornea.

They had to sedate him (which hadn't had any effect they said, but I could see it when they brought him back) to stain the eye and flush it out and see if she could brush off the object (hey, it's another foreign body somewhere it shouldn't be! And this time there really is one). The problem was, she didn't have the equipment to see it well enough to determine what it was and if it went all the way through the cornea, in which case surgery would be needed. So she referred us to an ophthalmic specialist across town.

After something like a 40 minute drive, we arrived, and Quigley was really feeling that sedation by then. Slept in the crate, drooled all over the place, didn't want to get out of the crate -- I had to pull him and his bedding out to get a hold of him and lift him out of the crate and then the car...

The specialist looked at his eye with his instruments and immediately determined that the foreign body had probably been in his eye a few days, that it was a strange bit of plant matter that he'd seen a few times in other dogs around this time of year, but he still doesn't know what it is. It had worked its way halfway through the cornea, which meant it would not be easily removed, and he'd have to fill in the hole. With Quigley under anesthesia, he would remove the object and then either fill the hole with medical superglue, or have to do a graft of tissue from the conjunctiva, which is what covers the white of the eye. He was hoping for the superglue, but if the cornea beneath the foreign body was mushy, he'd had to use the graft. Which would be a lot more expensive.

Regardless of which, it's still wildly expensive. Also, there are only two docs in town who do this. Our doctor was leaving for LA on a 6am flight to do surgeries over there, and the other one had a full schedule tomorrow, so our doc is doing it as I write this. I left Quigley there about 5 as they were taking him to surgery, and came home. When he's out they'll call us and we'll go back and pick him up. Probably around 7. Thankfully, it won't be as long a drive as it was from the vet's office.

Then there will be the recuperative care. I'm guessing there'll be a cone involved, but beyond that... who knows?

The workers at the vet's office kept talking about how weird this is, and how could this happen and... I'm almost laughing. Wearily, but laughing, none the less. Of COURSE it would be weird. And now that I have a dog back in the picture, he can take the book-deadline hits instead of me. Even though I take them, too, when he gets hit.

But it was so weird today, so familiar, to be trying to concentrate on the book and yet my mind distracted by the whole health issue. At least we know what it is, now and have begun to treat it.

Oh well. God's gonna have to deal with it, like He's been dealing with everything else. And I have to remind myself that He is for me, that He has a plan and it doesn't necessarily line up with mine. In fact, more and more, I KNOW that it doesn't line up with mine at all, and I am almost at the point of saying, "Plan? You want me to plan? Why in the world would I do that?"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Priori Bias

One last quote from Richard Lewontin in his review of Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World. (see last two blog posts) This section comes at the end his discussion on the problems science has when it comes up against the common sense of the general public, who cannot on their own "retrace the intellectual paths that lead to scientific conclusions about nature," (such as the fact that cheese is made of mostly space, and everything living evolved from ancient slime molds in a muddy soup) and must therefore take what the "experts" say on faith. This part just reached out and smacked me between the eyes, for he openly admits to scientific bias against God.

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

And if you cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door, you have just shot yourself in your own foot when it comes to ever perceiving real truth. Particularly when it comes to truth that is outside the bounds of materialism. Like say, the nature of the one who created it all, who is outside of time and space. Who is spirit and who cannot be seen.

And yet, whose "invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made..."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A No-Brainer

Today, more from Richard Lewontin, reviewing Carl Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark in The New York Review of Books.

Sagan's intent in his book is to present science as the only accurate source of "truth", not through analysis, but exhortation. And, "if the exhortation is to succeed," says Lewontin, "then the argument for the superiority of science and its method must be convincing, and not merely convincing, but must accord with its own demands...Unfortunately, the argument may not look as good to the unconvinced as it does to the believer."

"First, we are told [by Sagan] that science 'delivers the goods.' It certainly has, sometimes, but it has often failed when we need it most. Scientists and their professional institutions, partly intoxicated with examples of past successes, partly in order to assure public financial support, make grandiose promises that cannot be kept."

He cites the War on Cancer as an example of one such grandiose promise "which is as yet without a victorious battle." Despite all the money spent, and all the new and great discoveries touted as the long-sought after cure, we still, years later, can do no more than treat the disease.

"Second, it is repeatedly said that science is intolerant of theories without data and assertions without adequate evidence. But no serious student of epistemology [the study of the nature of knowledge, in particular its foundations, scope, and validity] any longer takes the naive view of science as a process of Baconian induction from theoretically unorganized observations. There can be no observations without an immense apparatus of preexisting theory. Before sense experiences become "observations" we need a theoretical question, and what counts as a relevant observation depends upon a theoretical frame into which it is to be placed."

In other words, they are biased. They have a pre-concieved framework that guides their conclusions. The scientist on the panel who sought to "make the data fit" the conclusion she "knew" was right, was not unusual at all.

Lewontin continues: "Repeatable observations that do not fit into an existing frame have a way of disappearing from view, and the experiments that produced them are not revisited..."

So basically then, he's saying that they throw out the stuff that doesn't fit the notions they are trying to put forth. Rather like the news media, and polititians. Probably other disciplines as well. So much for the noble search for truth.

The standard form for scientific papers is to first state a theoretical question, followed by the description of a proposed experiment to answer it. After that comes a description of the actual observations the experiment produced and finally, a section that discusses those observations and the conclusions they lead to. It is here, says Lewontin, Harvard professor of Zoology and Biology, that "a great deal of energy is often expended rationalizing the failure of the observations to accord entirely with a theory we really like, and in which proposals are made for other experiments that might give more satisfactory results...

"Nor is this a problem unique to biology. The attempts of physicists to explain why their measurements of the effects of relativity did not agree with Einstein's quantitative prediction is a case no doubt well known to Sagan."

Finally, Lewontin addresses the claim that "that there is no place for an argument from authority in science," which is, as I mentioned yesterday, a joke. Though there may be much self-criticism within a particular discipline, "when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty," admits Lewontin, "they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan?"

So, in the end, for all the claims that science is the "correct material" and "the only begetter of truth," "the unique pathway to a correct understanding of the natural world," it really boils down to faith for most of us. And who will we put our faith in? The word of fallible men, demonstrated far too often to be unreliable, or the infallible, unchanging, eternal word of God?

To me, it's a no-brainer.