Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The recent attention to Dr Ben Carson's speech at the National Day of Prayer breakfast has reinforced something I hadn't thought about in some time.  Carson, while a brilliant neurosurgeon, is also a devout conservative Christian.  I've run across similar religious inclination among others in engineering.

On the surface, to me it's odd that people so skilled in fields involving math and science can adhere to a literalist Bible belief.  Hell, it's surprising to me that anyone in a field of scientific endeavor adheres to any religious belief, but at least one that's not reliant on attempts at literalism in a book composed of disparate parts compiled over many centuries from numerous authors with contradictory motivations, cobbled together by editors more than 1500 years ago, can at least try to reason out some religious belief while maintaining a dedication to the scientific method.  Strictly following books written by people with no concept of the scientific method is a bad idea for anyone, let alone a scientist.

But then it occurs to me that engineers and neurosurgeons don't have to understand the larger scientific world to be good at their professions.  As Carson has said, he recognized that his spatial perception and eye/hand coordination made him ripe for surgery.  He is not a scientific theorist of any kind.  He's a technician, working his way through the miniscule parts of the human brain to try to make the malfunctioning, or conjoined, work properly.  I don't expect an auto mechanic to have a profound grasp of biology or physics, though he may if he's so inclined.  It's simply not necessary for him to be good at what he does.  There's no reason to expect Dr Carson to be any firmer in his grasp of physics and biology.

And, boy, is he not.  He thinks the world is complex and well ordered.  It's the former due to millenia of simple events, each stacked one upon the other.  It's certainly not the latter.  There's no order at all to the universe or life here on our little sphere.  If there were order to life we wouldn't have the birth defects, or even silly useless things like an appendix or male nipples.  What designer would make child-birth such a challenge to human women when a better, easier method exists in our close relatives, the chimps?  We have a pelvis tilted in such a way that child birth is difficult because we evolved to stand upright, which gave those first with that mutation advantages in survival over others, advantages that outweighed the child birth detriment.  A good designer, though, would have figured out a way to have both the upright posture and a method of birth considerably more survivable for the female. 

Carson, like many other people I've met, takes an apparently complicated circumstance and concludes that it has to have arrived at such a place due to a designer.  The mere fact of the complexity means there has to be a designer.  That's not valid logic.  Complexity is not evidence of a designer any more than simplicity is evidence of a lack of designer.  Many of the best things designed by humans are simple.  The wheel comes to mind.  And yet, the wheel was designed.  It wasn't designed by a deity, just some nameless progenitor of us all.

I salute Carson for his accomplishments in life and in neurosurgery.  I don't believe that automatically makes him qualified to understand philosophy, biology, or politics, or to be adept at any of those even if he does understand them.  So far, he's showing that he's lacking in a lot of understanding outside of his field of expertise.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vengance Murder

It started with a police presence.  The police station is only a mile and a half from the Neighborhood, but suddenly, in the early morning hours, there was a marked patrol car parked in front of a house with a spotlight shining.  Two unfamiliar civilian cars were parked a short distance in front of the police cruiser.

The day went on as most others do.  The Girl was dropped off at the local HS for her ride to her magnet school.  The Boy got himself out to the bus stop.  Mother's workday started shortly after the Boy was off to school.  Father's work had been going along since 6:30. 

Mother called Father during the morning.  More police were on the Street.  At times a car was parked on either side of the Street, narrowing the space to drive through to little more than the width of one car.  A call to the local precinct confirmed there was an investigation but nothing more.

Father came home for lunch around noon.  Four police vehicles were parked on the shoulder about a half mile from the Street.  The vehicles were gone by the return to work.  By the evening an unmarked police vehicle and several civilian cars were parked on the Street.

A Facebook message to a neighbor inquiring about Neighbor brought a startling response.  Neighbor's 33 year old daughter had been murdered at her home a few miles away, her young daughter and another child left unharmed in the house.  A troubled life that had recently turned around had been ended by a vengeful Accomplice. 

Accomplice was arrested as he approached the Street about a half hour before Father was going home for lunch, making it to about a half mile away from the Street, most likely in the area where the four police vehicles were seen at noon.

Court records show Neighbor's Daughter and Accomplice pleaded guilty to robbery charges from 2007.  Older records show they had been charged with possession and distribution that had been nolle prosequi.  Accomplice received a 5 year sentence for the robbery but was out on probation for a time until he violated probation and had to serve out the sentence.  Neighbor's Daughter received probation, likely due to a willingness to testify against Accomplice. 

Released from prison December 21, 2012, Accomplice promptly began threatening Neighbor's Daughter.  A Peace Order was issued against him January 31, 2013.  Previous Peace Orders against him by Neighbor's Daughter or others had been obeyed, or at least not violated.  This time vengence overrode restraint, logic, or any semblance of empathy.

Neighbor's Daughter was stabbed repeatedly in her home, in the presence of her toddler daughter and another child.  Accomplice's vengance didn't drive him to physically harm either child but did drive him to pursue Neighbor, where the police were waiting for him.

Accomplice will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison.  Baltimore County judges and juries are not forgiving of lesser crimes, let alone a targeted vengance killing.  But for the fact that the death penalty is on its way out in Maryland, Accomplice would be a likely recipient of the death penalty.

Neighbor's Daughter was 14 when Mother and Father moved into the Neighborhood.  With no children of their own at that time, Mother and Father didn't know Neighbor's Daughter other than to see her around occasionally.  

No one wants to out live their children.  Disease and accidents may mean that it happens all the same, but neither are the result of malice.  It's a particularly sad state that someone intends to take your child from you forever.  Sadder still when that child has made some bad choices but made significant progress in making good choices when killed by a former associate who hasn't learned to make good choices and instead has made even worse choices.  Neighbor's Daughter and Accomplice had run similarly bad courses for years.  Their paths diverged when Neighbor's Daughter learned a better, healthier way and Accomplice learned only to hate.

Now there's much hate for Accomplice among Neighbor's Daughter's family and friends.  That's to be expected.  Hopefully they will eventually remember the lesson that Neighbor's Daughter learned, that choices that lead to bad consequences, such as a desire to harm someone else, only harm both parties.  Hopefully the good choices Neighbor's Daughter made in her life will be the guiding force for her friends and family, especially the love she had for her daughter and husband, who fortunately survives her and will be there for their daughter.  Forgiveness of Accomplice is not necessary.  Forgetting Accomplice and leaving him to wither in prison is enough.  Celebrating Neighbor's Daughter is the best way to remember her.