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Sunday, February 06, 2011

You have an audience. Who is your audience? Do you know?

Kevin is a student who was in my youth group and a brilliant young man who had a big future and a small wallet.   He wanted to get into one of the most prestigious technical/engineering colleges in the world:  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.    We prayed often for him to receive scholarships and grant money and win contests and somehow overcome his family's financial challenges (when your dad has brain cancer, great gobs of money are not flowing in) and also that his dad would continue to win the battle with cancer.  These prayers began before he entered his senior year of high school and now he is one year away from his BA.

There has been at least one of my godkids/students going to Rose for the last 8 years and there are three attending at the moment including a senior and a junior and a freshman.   One of the guys who graduated is already a captain in the Army Reserve and a city planner in his spare time.   Anyway, Kevin had a chance to come home for the weekend and I got to talk with him at church today.   He was excited to tell me that he has a job with Microsoft for the summer and apparently has a bright future with them if he chooses to remain with them.  Between academic achievements and scholarships and the grace of God he is managing to make it through when the money problem could have stopped him.  But he had a dream and a trust in God and put it in God's hands.   Would God work to allow him to go?  Awesome.  Otherwise he could still go to an ordinary college and knock down A's like a pro bowler knocks down pins.   Kevin has a "3.8 something" GPA at Rose taking high level courses.   

Two other Rose students are brothers, one who is already a campus leader (the senior) and a freshman who has all the ability to follow suit.  Anytime I get a chance to have a conversation with one of these guys it is so fun, because they can "speak geek" and most folks I know find it boring.  



Genetic Algorithm flowchart

Kevin and I had a nice long discussion of Genetic Algorithms, as he has designed them and is quite familiar with them.   He pointed out that, while GA's do mimic natural selection they are a program running on a system with preselected starting points and "DNA" built in to guide the process towards a goal.   In other words, when you look carefully at GA, it is a lot like a exceedingly dumbed-down version of an organism.  His last GA project involved designing an optimal automobile design beginning with a eight plotted points (and I believe a square or a triangle) as a starting situation and he was to cause the program to design automobile shapes with wheels and test their ability to roll optimally.   That is a very non-specific description of the complex explanation he gave me.   He did agree that a GA has a design and a designer, has specific goals and has a kind of a DNA code to guide that process to the desired end.   Programmers and design and code?   None of that supports macroevolution, so pay no attention when some commenter tries to present GA as an example of a Darwinist process.   It is more like a creation model as it is all about design and planning and coding.  An actual GA designer who is sharp enough to be an honors student at Rose and be sought out by Microsoft has confirmed this.  I mean, this is a guy who can discuss astrophysics and he isn't even taking any classes in that discipline but he understands all about the white-hole event horizon hypothesis and the problem of the singularity at the beginning of a so-called Big Bang.  You can discuss red-shifts and shifting constants and, well, they had to start shutting off the lights to chase us out of church and his family was calling him on his cell phone because we didn't want to stop talking.   Smart, funny, interesting, wonderful guy is Kevin!

Kevin also promised me to review the famed Hartnett equation and give me a definitive answer as to whether the equation is simply a matter of a "notational error" or if it is just plain wrong.   Once he speaks to this I now have a way to contact Hartnett and present him with the opinion and ask him to respond.   So hopefully within about a month the Hartnett fuss will be settled.   Unlike my other egghead friend who is too busy to deal with it at the moment, Kevin can find time to check it out and he is an occasional reader of this blog.  I was kind of surprised he reads it very often as he has studies and classes and projects and friends and other concerns, so hey Kevin, if you read this one?   We are all proud of you, you are the bomb!!!   So thanks to Kevin in advance for speaking to the situation.   

The message at church today was really fascinating and a presentation before the message was also inspirational.   One aspect of it probably deserves a blog post all by itself so I'll wait on that one, but the message by Pastor Ric was so dead on and I wish Christians could understand it in their minds AND hearts.   The simple truth is that we were made to glorify God and God is not here to make us rich or give us an easy life.   But on the other hand, God's grace is absolute.   Like Ric said, if God has a refrigerator then your picture is on it.   To be a Christian isn't a free ticket to heaven or a guarantee of riches.   Most people are willing to settle for success in a temporal field that will not in the long run mean anything at all.   Consider this portion of the Bible - Matthew 6.  Now if you read it all you see that Jesus was teaching a LOT about living the Christian life but here is how He summarizes:

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

God is not a money tree.   But if you know the Bible and live according to the teachings of the Bible, you will work and be diligent and use your talents and you will make enough money to meet your needs.   That is not the important part of life.   Relationships are more important than riches and no relationship is more important than the relationship with God.   If you have a relationship with God then you will want to do what you can to follow His plan for your life and do things that have eternal consequences.

Which brings me at last to the point of this post.   I've sung and/or spoken before big crowds and small groups and I have a God-given ability to speak extemporaneously and confidently and I have a God-given ability to sing lead or pretty much any backing vocal part.   Some people have "flop sweat" aka performance anxiety and I don't.  I know I can do it.  But I still care about it whenever I do find myself in front of people and I still have to remember that it really isn't about me.   It is about the song or it is about the message.   These days when I sing or speak it relates to Christianity 99% of the time so I remind myself that it is is about what God wants to share with the audience...and I remember that this ability is a gift from God and not something I made from whole cloth.  




So I suppose I am a performer, but it is a hobby rather than an obsession.   People obsessed with performance often wind up being professional actors.   Acting is fun (but on stage you sure have to memorize a LOT of lines) but it is just fun, nothing more.   There are apparently actors and actresses that do not feel "alive" unless they are performing and they spend much of their life playing a part, even when the camera isn't rolling.   That sounds like hell on Earth to me, frankly. 

I have learned that just being who you are 24x7 is the most satisfying and peaceful and joyful state in which to be.   So I am only a performer when it is my job to perform, otherwise I am just me.   Same guy at home, at church, at work, hanging out with friends, whatever.   Playing to an audience of people instead of just living your life is stressful.   If you make up stories you have to remember them.   If you play a part when with certain groups of people then you always have to be "on" around them.   Yet so many people do just that, they are one way at work and another at home.   Lots of Christians have a "church face" that gets put in a drawer and left there until the next Sunday service comes along.

So that means that they are playing to an audience when they are at work, or at school, or at any place they are being something other than real.  Ouch.  For me it is simple.  I am just who I am and if someone watches me they will see an ordinary Christian guy doing ordinary things in ways that honor God.   If they see me screw up (not being perfect) then so be it.  I will do my best and keep on keeping on.

I thought on it all, and then thought about this blog and then of course I realized that I have an audience of sorts on the internet.   Sometimes the crowd is pretty big, some days I get more than 700 visitors.  Not anywhere near the huge numbers of people who read famous blogs like Michelle Malkin's blog, or Glenn Reynold's blog or that horrible Kos guy's blog.  But I don't care, I don't do trackbacks and all that stuff and my blog is kind of a niche blog.   I tend to write for an imaginary reader who is a reasonably intelligent Christian or a seeker who had not settled what he will believe.   I hope to help people find Christ and to help Christians understand why a Young Earth and a historical Adam and Eve are historical facts rather than myth and thereby strengthen faith.  So it is kind of cool that so many people come in and take a look and that some of them come back at least from time to time.  Thanks, regular readers!

But then I rethought as Ric was speaking.   It occurred to me that in fact the only audience that I really have that matters is God.   My family and friends are living life along with me and we aren't acting.   We are busy doing what we do not giving much thought to anyone who is watching us.   We figure if we do what God wants us to do then if there is anyone watching we'll make God look good.   But God is watching me all the time.   Yep.  God is my audience.   I need to remember that God isn't just watching me, He knows my thoughts and motivations.   Every second of every day I have top billing with God.  He doesn't just have my picture in his wallet, he has direct access to my thoughts and feelings.   I can tell you that in times of trouble that thought is far more comforting than disconcerting!

So do you.   I am not unique.  God is watching everybody and He knows the thoughts and intents of your hearts.  Even if you don't believe in Him,  he absolutely KNOWS about you.

Hebrews 4:11-13 - 1 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
eye in the sky

You have an audience named God.   He never sleeps.  He doesn't just watch what you do, He knows why you did it and what went through your mind as you planned it or reacted to it or whether you just acted on a whim.   God could tell YOU why you did it if you aren't sure.   You doubt it?   Well, sports fans, one of these days you will realize that God really did create the Universe from nothing and not only sustains it purposely and continually but understands everything that happens and why it is happening.  You will realize that the Bible isn't just an old black book that looks good on a bookshelf, it is God's message to you and you are making a big mistake if you don't give Him a chance to tell you stuff.   God wants to dialogue with you.   Are you going to tell Him to "talk to the hand" or are you going to open up to Him and learn from Him and become His child or are you going to deny your heritage and renounce your rights as a member of His family and take your chances with the likes of Richard Dawkins and P.Z Myers?  Rots of ruck!

25 comments:

scohen said...

This is good news radar. I have a better idea though. Instead of you filtering what we say, how about giving me kevin's email or vice versa? We'll have a chat, and then I'll post the entire thread for all to read.
Sound fair?

radar said...

I would never give out the personal information of a student. He is not yet 21 anyway, so that is not happening. But whatever he has to say about Hartnett I will be happy to post verbatim. He'll probably read my email on Monday after classes.

creeper said...

"I would never give out the personal information of a student. He is not yet 21 anyway, so that is not happening. But whatever he has to say about Hartnett I will be happy to post verbatim. He'll probably read my email on Monday after classes."

Easily solved. Give scohen's e-mail address to Kevin, as scohen already suggested.

And what's this about 21? scohen proposed they have a chat, not a drinking session.

-- creeper

creeper said...

"Kevin and I had a nice long discussion of Genetic Algorithms, as he has designed them and is quite familiar with them. He pointed out that, while GA's do mimic natural selection they are a program running on a system with preselected starting points and "DNA" built in to guide the process towards a goal."

As scohen also hinted, I would like to have been a fly on the wall for this actual conversation, and the impact that your filter/bias may have had. When you say something like "He did agree that a GA has a design and a designer", it sounds like you may have been steering him towards your particular existing biases and perhaps misconceptions.

"In other words, when you look carefully at GA, it is a lot like a exceedingly dumbed-down version of an organism."

That's right. It models a process that also occurs in nature: mutation and natural selection.

"His last GA project involved designing an optimal automobile design beginning with a eight plotted points (and I believe a square or a triangle) as a starting situation and he was to cause the program to design automobile shapes with wheels and test their ability to roll optimally. That is a very non-specific description of the complex explanation he gave me."

Sounds like a pretty standard application for a GA. Question for you: did Kevin himself generate a series of options and then individually have the computer test them? Did Kevin have any experience of automobile design and characteristics that he applied in coming up with an optimal design?

-- creeper

creeper said...

(cont'd)

Think about the actual design that is the result of Kevin's project. Presumably an optimal arrangement of wheels and frame that is quite different from the original input. Note that the arrangement is now "fitter" - it is more suited for the task at hand. It can be said to be better. There is now information present (re. how to handle the task at hand better) that was not there before. This is not information that Kevin "knew" in advance. Kevin may not have had any knowledge of automobile design to begin with, only how to translate parameters into code. I'm making presumptions about Kevin here that may or may not be true, but do note that the NASA engineers who used GAs to design antennae did not know in advance what outcome they were going to get, and were actually quite surprised by the optimal result, which they said they would not have conceived of.

From an abstract on Evolving Wire Antennas Using Genetic Algorithms: A Review (http://www.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/EH.1999.785457) (emphasis mine):

"Communication, radar and remote sensing systems employ thousands of different types of wire antennas, and there is an increasing need for high-performance, customized antennas. Current methods of designing and optimizing them by hand using simulation or analysis are time- and labor-intensive, limit complexity, increase the cost and time expended, and require that antenna engineers have significant knowledge of the universe of antenna designs. Local optimization methods are not much better, since an initial guess that is close to the final design must be provided. Using a genetic algorithm (GA), it is possible to prescribe the desired performance of an antenna and allow the computer to find the parameters for the design. The GA does not require an initial guess, and the amount of design information the engineer must supply can be very minimal. This paper will present a review of a few wire antennas from previous publications [1-5] designed by GA for unconventional purposes. This approach has the potential to revolutionize antenna design."

This new information clearly did not originate with the engineer(s) who provided the parameters. Nor did the programmer who created the algorithm itself consciously design the antenna/automobile, whatever.

-- creeper

creeper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
creeper said...

(cont'd)

Think about the actual design that is the result of Kevin's project. Presumably an optimal arrangement of wheels and frame that is quite different from the original input. Note that the arrangement is now "fitter" - it is more suited for the task at hand. It can be said to be better. There is now information present (re. how to handle the task at hand better) that was not there before. This is not information that Kevin "knew" in advance. Kevin may not have had any knowledge of automobile design to begin with, only how to translate parameters into code. I'm making presumptions about Kevin here that may or may not be true, but do note that the NASA engineers who used GAs to design antennae did not know in advance what outcome they were going to get, and were actually quite surprised by the optimal result, which they said they would not have conceived of.

-- creeper

creeper said...

(cont'd)

From an abstract on "Evolving Wire Antennas Using Genetic Algorithms: A Review" (emphasis mine):

"Communication, radar and remote sensing systems employ thousands of different types of wire antennas, and there is an increasing need for high-performance, customized antennas. Current methods of designing and optimizing them by hand using simulation or analysis are time- and labor-intensive, limit complexity, increase the cost and time expended, and require that antenna engineers have significant knowledge of the universe of antenna designs. Local optimization methods are not much better, since an initial guess that is close to the final design must be provided. Using a genetic algorithm (GA), it is possible to prescribe the desired performance of an antenna and allow the computer to find the parameters for the design. The GA does not require an initial guess, and the amount of design information the engineer must supply can be very minimal. This paper will present a review of a few wire antennas from previous publications [1-5] designed by GA for unconventional purposes. This approach has the potential to revolutionize antenna design."

This new information clearly did not originate with the engineer(s) who provided the parameters. Nor did the programmer who created the algorithm itself consciously design the antenna/automobile, whatever.

How was this new information generated then? As the diagram in your post makes clear, through mutation and a mimicking of natural selection, i.e. a test of whether the "organism" is "fit". In the GA, this is a test of the "organism" using the provided parameters. This is analogous to the test of survivability and reproducibility in nature.

-- creeper

creeper said...

(cont'd)

"He did agree that a GA has a design and a designer,"

Which, if you'll read previous discussions on this subject on your blog, was uncontested and was not the issue. You're missing the distinction between the algorithm and the output. Nobody claimed the algorithm itself (or the computer it ran on) was a direct result of evolution.

"has specific goals"

The wording "specific goals" may be slightly misleading as it may cause some to conclude that a specific design is already "in mind". What the algorithm has instead is specific parameters. The outcome is unknown to the programmer.

"and has a kind of a DNA code to guide that process to the desired end."

By DNA code in this case, do you mean the executable code of the program itself? Because that would not be analogous. The DNA would be more like the data representing the subject, in the example above the automobile shape with wheels. This "DNA" itself does not "guide that process to the desired end". Whatever "guiding" there is is done by the continuing adjustment to provided fitness parameters.

-- creeper

creeper said...

(cont'd)

"Programmers and design and code? None of that supports macroevolution,"

The strawman continues. Nobody claimed the program/algorithm itself was the product of natural selection.

"so pay no attention when some commenter tries to present GA as an example of a Darwinist process."

Aside from the clear logic fail here (neither "Darwinism" nor the theory of evolution are limited to just a description of macroevolution), you already agreed, and Kevin confirmed, that GAs mimic natural selection. In that regard they provide an example of what can be achieved by the combination of mutation plus natural selection.

-- creeper

creeper said...

(cont'd)

"It is more like a creation model as it is all about design and planning and coding."

Only if in that creation model God, after building the world, abandoned it to the process of evolution instead of continuing to consciously design it.

"An actual GA designer who is sharp enough to be an honors student at Rose and be sought out by Microsoft has confirmed this."

I think scohen's idea is very good - a direct exchange between scohen and Kevin would be very interesting indeed. Hope you don't find such an open exchange too scary. After all, Kevin sounds like he's intelligent and can handle an open and logical conversation with someone with a similar professional background.

-- creeper

Anonymous said...

Found this, thought it might be relevant.

http://www.boxcar2d.com/index.html

Per the page itself, this is a "Genetic Algorithm Car Evolution Using Box2D Physics (v2.1)".

- Canucklehead.

Anonymous said...

Oh and, as far as whether or not Radar will let anyone other than him actually communicate with this "Kevin", I'm going to peg the odds of that happening at somewhere between slim and none.

That said, maybe Mr. Binder will surprise me on this one.

- Canucklehead.

scohen said...

Radar,
Though I don't understand what arm could possibly befall Kevin by allowing me to have his email, let me propose the following.
Have Kevin sign up for gmail (or hotmail if he really likes terrible ui) and then send me *that* address. After we're done talking he can delete the account.

Sounds fair to me.

radar said...

Funny that. Me give out private contact information of one of my students to you guys? Never happen. I already stated that emphatically. Why would I want to do that? I think his teachers and friends at Rose-Hulman can suffice to keep him busy for the moment.

No offense, but most of you represent to me a faction of people who are a danger to my nation and the future of my children and grandchildren. Those who reject God and worship Chance or Matter instead have also rejected absolutes of morality that were crucial to the founding of the USA.

I am upfront about what I believe and I am determined to post truth no matter what others think. When there are massive resources being spent to shut up dissension instead of facing it on the field of evidence you know it is a war of worldviews rather than science. There would be no NCSE if science was what it claims to be. A free dialogue of ideas is frightening to the majority of the commenters here (ironically) but I think the public feels that students should be allowed to think rather than be propagandized.

radar said...

"Oh and, as far as whether or not Radar will let anyone other than him actually communicate with this "Kevin", I'm going to peg the odds of that happening at somewhere between slim and none.

That said, maybe Mr. Binder will surprise me on this one.

- Canucklehead."

Yeah, like you I should trust with some young person's personal information? Really?

scohen said...

Radar,
My last suggestion wouldn't give out any personal information. It would be a disposable account created exactly for this purpose. This account would be deleted by Kevin whenever he chooses, and I'd be unable to contact him. It's totally safe.

"Why would I want to do that?"

You would do that because it would foster an open and honest dialogue between two people who speak the same language. I'm sure Kevin can spare the time. If he can't, let him tell me that.

"Those who reject God"

You know very well I don't reject God. I'm Jewish.

Your excuses about 'giving out personal information' aren't founded in any reality. Please reconsider.

Anonymous whatsit said...

Black is white and up is down.

scohen proposes a perfectly safe and anonymous way in which Kevin can communicate with scohen, and Radar complains that scohen is asking for private information about one of his students.

scohen tries to have an open discussion with Kevin, and Radar complains about resources being spent to shut up dissension while shutting up dissension, and just a few weeks after deleting comments on a subject he apparently could not win in open debate.

Radar blatantly stands in the way of a free dialogue of ideas between Kevin, a Christian (presumably of legal age), and scohen, a Jew, and then claims that a "free dialogue of ideas is frightening to the majority of the commenters here".


Radar, why are you so afraid of a free dialogue of ideas between Kevin and scohen? scohen has offered to post the full exchange, and Kevin can do likewise. It's on a technical subject. If what scohen has been saying about GAs is true, it won't alter your worldview one bit.

Anonymous whatsit said...

Those who reject God and worship Chance or Matter instead have also rejected absolutes of morality that were crucial to the founding of the USA.

For reference: those who "reject God" - which by the way does not include scohen or Jon Woolf - do not automatically "worship Chance or Matter".

Out of curiosity, which absolutes of morality that were crucial to the founding of the USA do you think are being rejected by, say, secular humanists? Anything other than "worship God"?

radar said...

scohen can send me a guest post about GA that I will not edit or he can say what he wants in the comments thread. Nothing is "filtering" scohen from telling us what he wants about GA. Go for it.

scohen said...

"scohen can send me a guest post"

Radar,
I don't want to do a guest post. I want to speak to Kevin about the things you highlighted in this post. You made certain claims, and from those claims, I can see that you didn't represent my argument well.

I actually just want to ask Kevin two questions. One about calculus and one about GAs. That's it. I will be polite and not try to convert him into lapsed Judaism.

As an aside, can't you see that you're actually doing him a disservice? I'm in his industry, am well connected and if he's a sharp dude (and from the MS internship, it appears he is) could make some really meaningful connections for him.

I have offered a private and safe way for us to communicate. What's the problem?

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, like you I should trust with some young person's personal information? Really?", says Radar.

What the hell does that even mean? Nobody has asked for any "personal information" whatsoever. And, more to the point, I have not asked for anything, in fact, the only person we all want Kevin to communicate with is Scohen (and in the most responsible way possible). I'm sure all of us would be very much against posting anyone's personal info on the web, regardless of their age
(I trust that "Kevin" isn't even his real name). Tell us though, what are your arguments against the points in Scohen's latest comment? As it appears clear that Kevin can only gain from making contact with him. And you are going to stand in the way of this interaction, why? You are the one that brought "Kevin" into this discussion, after all. And really, why do you even feel qualified to present an opposing side of an argument that you clearly don't understand in the first place?

We all know that the major obstacle to this "connection" is your pride Radar, pure and simple. The same pride that you identified as being a problem for you a few posts ago. You are clearly trying to protect yourself here, not this "Kevin". I mean, you could easily just ask him to visit the comments section of this post and have him interact anonymously with Scohen right here, if you don't want to provide any email addresses, couldn't you? But that's not going to happen is it. I'm willing to bet that you don't even share the fact that you run this little blog with your "students", or any of your friends IRL. It's clear to me that you desperately want to be an authority figure to those kids and this Blog, unfortunately for you, has a few too many educated commenters for that to happen. And I have to assume that if you are currently holding down a job as you say, that your online demeanor is nothing like your normal everyday behavior. And exposing those people to the pompous and offensive "Radaractive" is the last thing you're going to do. So, in the end, get over yourself already and have Kevin contact Scohen! If you don't, you'll be placing your own pride above "Kevin"'s best interests. AND, Scohen isn't even a dirty demonized atheist like some of us on here.

- Canucklehead.

Anonymous said...

Now would be a good time to save this blog post along with its comments to your hard drives...

WomanHonorThyself said...

God bless you my friend.:)

Anonymous whatsit said...

It's perfectly obvious that Radar put words in Kevin's mouth, cloaking himself in the credibility of Kevin's achievements while sidestepping an actual, rational debate on the subject.

Yet another low point in the increasing unraveling of Radar's YEC apologetics.