Re: Burgeson's Bomb (was Re: [asa] Radioactive decay of U-238 is imminent (just wait a few billion years))

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 19:54:14 EST

I love being ANNOYINGLY right - that's what words like "schadenfreude" are for!

He, he, he... :P

Merv Bitikofer wrote:
> I give a hearty Amen to everything you said here -- in fact I think the
> parable of the Lord making a surprise return and the unenviable
> consequence for the servant who was not about his Lord's business, but
> had rationalized in his mind that his Lord was tarrying... I've taken
> this parable to be expressing precisely what you say below.
> As to your pedantic quibble --the math teacher in me smarts at your
> quite correct chastisement, so I'll put up the defense that the odds of
> a 90 second half-life atom remaining undecayed for even 900 seconds
> would be (1/2)^10 or less than a tenth of 1%. Let alone remaining
> undecayed for years, decades, centuries. But in the end you are still
> annoyingly right. But wait a minute! There is only a finite number
> of atoms in a little puddle of stuff. So the mathematically pure
> asymptote must fail into a disappearing smattering of statistical
> popcorn sooner or later. Much more fun to work out convoluted
> self-justification like this than to get down to the business of living
> as a faithful servant. Pray for me.
> --Merv
> .........................BOOM!.............
> Murray Hogg wrote:
>> Hi Merv,
>> Actually, as a somewhat pedantic quibble, one couldn't actually
>> eliminate even the shortest half-life elements as there's no
>> statistical impossibility to the idea that an atom of an isotope with
>> a half-life in seconds might remain undecayed for thousands, if not
>> millions, of years.
>> But such observations merely highlight why I thought this a reasonable
>> illustration: it's the sense of chronological uncertainty that I'm
>> trying to emphasize and this example certainly illustrates
>> chronological uncertainty.
>> Now, I quite appreciate the point about enthusiasm - and my perception
>> is that this is a significant issue for many. That is, they feel that
>> UNLESS that one has a sense that the return of Jesus is likely to be
>> very soon then one looses motivation for action. My problem with this
>> is my entire position is PRECISELY that the 2000 year lapse between
>> the resurrection and today has NO bearing on the question. I
>> acknowledge that other people think that "the Lord is slack concerning
>> his promise" but one really ought to take that up with them, not with
>> me. In my view (and how often to I have to repeat it?) the return of
>> Jesus is ALWAYS imminent - it could be in the next second, it could be
>> in a million years. THIS is how I (and Christian theology
>> traditionally) uses the term "imminent" in relation to Christ's
>> return. Christians, accordingly, ought ALWAYS to be about the master's
>> business. Such obedience, to me, demonstrates a quite acceptable level
>> of fervency.
>> Further to this, I'm strongly of the view that the degree of ones'
>> sense of eschatological urgency should have no bearing upon the
>> content of one's ethic. One can live out the Christian life quite
>> adequately without giving the timing of Christ's return any
>> consideration. Equally, one can be motivated, on the basis of one's
>> eschatological expectation, to act in a manner which I would consider
>> to be quite inconsistent with a Christian ethic.
>> Indeed, I would suggest that one of the observations made earlier in
>> the discussion - i.e. that for many heightened eschatological
>> expectation mitigates against environmental concern - merely serves to
>> demonstrate that eschatological urgency can potentially lead us AWAY
>> from Godly behavior. As I see it, either environmental concern is a
>> valid Christian concern or it is not. Assuming that it is (and note
>> the assumption!), then we ought to be about it BECAUSE we expect the
>> master of the house to come at any moment rather than abandoning it on
>> that exact basis! But by a rather bizarre logic there are those who
>> seem to think that a purported immediate return of the master actually
>> absolves them from responsibility to obey his commands.
>> Other examples could be multiplied but the basic point is that if
>> ones' ethic is primarily of a pragmatic, consequentialist sort where
>> outcomes are the primary consideration, then one will hold the view
>> that what matters are the outcomes of actions and that, if there isn't
>> TIME for actions to have consequences, then this determines whether
>> one should engage in those actions or not. I am personally of a
>> different view: that one ought to live in obedience to the master's
>> commands REGARDLESS of how one understands the time-frame.
>> So, yes, being all very motivated on the basis of eschatological
>> expectancy is well and good - but unfortunately such motivation often
>> seems to lead people to do very bizarre things, even (it seems to me!)
>> to the extent of acting inconsistently with the teaching of the very
>> Lord whose return is supposedly the grounds of such motivation.
>> Blessings,
>> Murray.
>> Merv Bitikofer wrote:
>>> Of course, Burgy's bomb has been armed & we're going on 2000 yrs now,
>>> so the "victims" can now eliminate all the shorter half-life
>>> possibilities in the table. Since that only leaves the longer
>>> half-life options with considerably bigger gaps between them, the
>>> victims are now less edgy and more inclined to even forget the
>>> original suspense.
>>> More seriously, though -- unlike totally unpredictable individual
>>> atomic decays, the events in the world don't happen in a vacuum but
>>> may be accompanied by signs or prophecy. As a teacher colleague of
>>> mine (and my own mother as well) would point out, God is visibly at
>>> work in the world today. And I am enthusiastically informed by them
>>> of how many in Israel are turning to the Lord. And they see in all
>>> these things signs of imminence (in the ordinary time-focused sense
>>> of that word) of Jesus' return. I have no problem (I don't think)
>>> with such enthusiasm even if I am skeptical about
>>> my/theirs/&everybody's claimed knowledge over the specifics. But
>>> meanwhile, if they wish to rejoice and hope & pray fervently, I am
>>> left wondering what it means to hope in Christ if it doesn't include
>>> this very kind of activity. I generally admire their fervency and am
>>> left to contemplate my own fervency which is found wanting in
>>> comparison.
>>> --Merv

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Received on Sun Jan 25 19:54:28 2009

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