Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creation or Evolution?

Today I would like to expand just a bit on my thoughts surrounding creation versus evolution. Keep in mind I am a hog farmer by trade and not at all well versed in the great debate of this topic. I simply see the choice as this: I can believe that I exist for a reason with a purpose as part of an organized plan (creation), or I can believe that I just got excruciatingly lucky and through some cosmic good humour here I am (evolution and the "big bang").

I have stated in other blogs that I choose "Creation". The reason really isn't very complicated. There is a big piece of me, my internal self, that wants to have a purpose in life. I think it is patently depressing to think I exist for no reason what so ever. Why excercise any discretion or self discipline at all if I am here just as random chance? I just can't accept in my heart of hearts that life is that pointless.

This choice has some profound impacts on how I live my life. If what we are, and what we see around us, is all the result of the same cosmic event "the big bang" and the resulting evolutionary process, then the concept of "rights" would not exist. The only "rights" would belong to the most powerful. That thing that could wipe out everything/something else. We/everthing would have been created equal, finding our roots in the same cosmic event (the big bang) but somethings would have asserted themselves above others by their ability to wipe them out (evolution). Under this view it would appear to me that as a human at the top of the evolutionary chain I can do what I want to whatever I want, the only constraint being my self interest of not doing something that would wipe me out in the mean time (ie, nuclear war or global warming).

In terms of how I would care for animals the implication becomes somewhat clear. I could treat animals in anyway I wanted to get the response from them I desired for my own self interest. That is exactly what I am accused of by my critics. On the extreme end of these critics are those who would argue that animals should have rights equal to humans. In Switzerland animals have public defenders in the court system as a result of this idea. Do you see the connection back to worldview? If everything came from the same cosmic event everything should be equal in terms of rights. If things aren't equal then it is because someone has asserted their superior position in the evolutionary chain of events and pushed someone/thing else down.

I choose to believe that I am created by the same God that created all this "stuff" around us and that in that process humans were given a special place in Creation. I don't see where believing that everything was created is any bigger step of faith than believing that it all came about by a cosmic event. The only way the cosmic event idea is even worth considering is if you have some small idea that given enough time and enough events anything is possible. You will note these are the main ingredients of the big bang theory and evolution, huge amounts of stuff/events, spread across unfathomable amounts of time. It all becomes too much to comprehend and then accept as an "accident". I choose the creation account. It is much easier to get your arms around.

As a result I see myself as a steward of God's creation. I have a responsibility to care for the world in a way that brings glory to Him. It is through fulfilling this responsibility that I find a purpose for my existence and life becomes meaningful. This purpose and meaning then drive me to self discipline and to act against some of my more destructive inclinations. I will discuss these in a latter post.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How I view it (part 2)

How do I view the world and my relationship to the animals that are in it? Thru what lense do I filter all the ideas coming at me to determine what is "true"?

Some times the direct answer is the easy answer. This is especially true since the direct answer and the indirect answer will both need a lot of explaining. The direct answer would be, "I use the Bible as my authoritative source to filter all the information that is coming to me and to guide my steps when I must move without complete information."

Now let the explaining begin:

I believe that the world and all that is in it were created by God for his pleasure and to bring Him Glory. I would, of course, include man (humans) and the animals in that creation.

I believe that in this creation man has a special position that affords him special priviledges and responsibilities. Among these responsibilities/priviledges is to use animals for food and to provide for their proper care.

I believe that man's relationship to this creation has been dynamically changed once already in response to man rebelling against God's clear instructions and gracious provision. I also believe this relationship will dynamically change again in response to God's final resolution of the problems caused by this rebellion against Him and the extension of God's great mercy.

You can find the narrative that drives almost all these statements in the first 9 chapters of the Bible. That would be the book of Genesis, chapters 1-9. I would provide a "link" but there is something sentimentally sacred about the printed word that just doesn't lend itself to the electronic age. If you have no such sentiments a quick search will get you there.

This all relates back to the three possible views discussed in "how do I see the world" (part 1). I am saying that I view the world through a classical lense accepting the Bible as my authoritative guide. I choose this view because it has fit best with what I have observed (the modernist in me) and that it feels most reasonable to me (the post-modernist) part of me.

What have I observed that confirms my reliance on scripture (the bible)? Well, first off, would have to be that man is unable to resist simple temptations. That certainly fits with the people I know. How about you. This is illustratred by Adam and Eve seeing that the fruit, "was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom..." in the bible story. I struggle to resist a second helping of anything that is good for food. That is before we get to the pleasing to the eye and making me smarter questions.

Another observation comes from working with birthing animals everyday for years. Why is it that the normal birthing process in a pig appears to be relatively painless? At the duely appointed time a sow will lay down, appear to relax and sleep, and have a litter of piglets in an hour or two. That certainly is not how my wife experienced this event! I find the answer in our story when God says to Eve, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children." You have seen this too if the family pet has had offspring at your house. I would expect it to happen on a rug, or under a bed, or in the garage, or some other inconvenient spot. Where is the pain and the screaming for drugs?

Man's special position is seen when, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." Why did man's first garments come from animals? Was there a shortage of fig leaves? Was skinning the poor beast easier than getting some cotton or silk? What does God care about easy or hard anyway? He is God. It is all a snap away.Why is it that man sins and some animal gets skinned? I would propose that it is because man has a special position in creation and God knew it.

Later in the story Noah gets off the Ark and God says, "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." And so as societies advance in wealth and prosperity I observe people demand more protien from meat. It seems to be a desire of the humane condition. People measure their wealth with the size of their herds, and flocks, among other things. How many pets do you have? Is two more prosperous than one? Have you realised you were counting?

There are more examples that I can go into but this is enough for today. The idea of evolution needs to be addressed in this discussion at some point. Until then I appreciate you thoughts and attention.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My View of the World (part 1)

Wayne Pacelle (the head of the Humane Society of the United States, aka HSUS) recently told the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board something to the affect, "we come from two radically different world views". I have to agree with him on this point. I have spent hours trying to understand his view with only limited success but I have come to better understand my own views through the process. I will share mine in layman's terms and some speculation of  Wayne's in the coming posts. Hopefully, you will start to understand Mr. Pacelle's statement and the challenges it presents.

First, let's try to understand the term "Worldview" in layman's terms. "Worldview" refers to what system do we personally use to decide what is "true" in the world. There are three basic alternatives 1) an authority figure/source 2) science and 3) personal experience/feelings (ourselves). Some examples may be helpful.

An authority figure/source might be a parent, a teacher, a sacred text (bible, koran, etc), the church, the government. It is anyone/thing we personally rely on to decide "Yes that is true". I call this "Classical" worldview and it is built on faith and trust in others. It is here that we worry about our reputation. Are we "trustworthy"? Is the person, teacher, text, government, reliable? Reputation becomes all important to this classical worldview.

Science, of course, refers to using replicated trials to determine what is "true". If an experiment ends the same way everytime then there is a truth that can be defined. That "truth" is referred to as a scientific "law". Thus you get the laws of physics, chemistry, motion, etc. Science developed in modern times to substantiate the "classic" truths. The classic view said the world had order, created by God, therefore there must be "laws" that govern our universe. Science looked to define these and thereby strengthen the reputation of  the classic views. There were problems when the classic view didn't fit the science, like when someone, was it Capernicus, decided the sun was the center of the universe and not the earth. But that is another tail. Science I refer to as the "modern view" and it is dependent on the replicated trial.

Personal experience/feelings, as we all know, comes in many different varieties and leads us to many different conclusions. Ecomonics struggles so much with this issue. If two people are given the same financial information they will act differently from each other and may act differently themselves at two different times. Defining what is true based on personal experience/feelings gets very dicey indeed since everyone becomes a "law" unto themselves. One person's humane treatment of animals may be another person's torture of animals. This I refer to as the "Post-modern view". It is dependent only on an individual opinion.

With these three alternatives I begin to see that I decide on what is true using a different method at different times. I take peices of each and try to work it all out together in my head to decide on what to believe. If I am going to drop a rock, for example, I combine science and experience and conclude clearly it is going to fall. If I am ordering dinner I will take personal exerience combined with science and my classical views of food and decide what to eat. And so we move through life combining and recombining these three elements to create our unique self.

Is your head spinning yet?

I think I will stop and regroup my thoughts before I venture into explaining my "world view". That will give you the reader a little while to consider what I have presented. Please don't hesitate to post any questions so I can gauge how to move forward.

Consider these phrases from modern culture:

I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.
Hope and Change
Don't hurt my feelings/self esteem
Science disproves the bible
I feel it is not right to .......
What you are doing makes me feel uncomfortable.

Thanks and more later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I can't vote in Ohio!

"I can't vote in Ohio!" is a typical response I get when discussing Ohio's Livestock Care Standards Board http://ohiolivestockcarestandardsboard.gov/ with non-Buckeyes. My response, "Neither can Wayne!".

The conversation usually starts out with pleasant sociable remarks in the way that is common when strangers meet. When I mention that I am from Ohio and sit on the board of directors of the Ohio Pork Producers Council and the swine sub-committee of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board I have just painted a target on myself and the conversation becomes serious real quick. If my wife or kids are with me they start looking for a chair and some way to distract themselves because they know where this is going.

My question for you is this,"If so many in agriculture have an opinion on Wayne Pacelle, HSUS, ballot initiatives, and animal care why aren't they flooding the Care Board with comments?" I have been to the meetings and particularly the "public comment" periods and watched as almost no farmer's get up to speak. When Wayne spoke recently, he was one of four people to make "public comment". I was another, and the only farmer to speak. Yes, I spoke into the very same microphone that Wayne used. I bet it was still warm from the touch of his hand. Should of been, he spoke for twenty minutes. Where was everyone else that talks about all the things they would say to Wayne?

If you can't make it to the microphone send an e-mail to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. They read every one. They aren't getting that many that I have heard, but you need to speak your opinion for it to be heard. I would suggest you forget the data downloads and the economic arguements, though they are needed, what really counters an animal right's statement is your personal story of caring for livestock. What you have sacrificed? What injuries you have endured? What heartache you experience as a hardship of raising livestock. Your personal story is what resonates with the consumer and takes away the power of Wayne's words.

The opportunity of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is that all comments are welcome. You do not have to vote in Ohio to make a comment and impact the discussion. This discussion is not in a private room at the governors mansion by invitation only, you are welcome to speak. I have heard it said, "There are two ways to attend the party. You can be seated at the table or you can be on the menu". The question is, "Will you tell your story?"

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Beginning

After several years of hesitation, I have decided to open a personal blog. It is my desire to have a place to express myself more fully than is allowed by Facebook and Twitter. My hope is to present facts, thoughts, and ideas to the reader so that they may better form opinions about topics that interest me. I appreciate your attention, input, and consideration.