Global Explorer II
by David McLeod
April 5, 2018
We were sailing toward New Zealand, where the weather was positively balmy: it was autumn in the southern hemisphere, and halcyon days ruled.
We had offered to set up a videoconference with schools in New Zealand, but there seemed to be little interest. The first New Zealand videoconference was with only one school, in Wellington. I started with the standard welcome and briefing. Nicky showed video of the Antarctica ice shelves and Azisa showed video of the creatures and hydrothermal vents of the Lost World.
Then, I added a "local touch," something I did whenever possible. "New Zealand's glaciers have been important in studying climate changes in the past. It was exploration, especially around Mt. Cook, that showed that ice ages followed the same cycles in the southern hemisphere as the northern, and that the last ice age terminated, abruptly—meaning in less than ten centuries—about 17,600 years ago."
Then, I opened it to questions.
The first question essentially killed the rest of the conference. "The Earth is only 6,000 years old. How can you say that something happened more than 17,000 years ago?"
"That's a tough question," I said, "because the answer to how old the Earth is comes from two difference places. Yours, I think, comes from the Bible, and from Bishop Usher's estimate based on the lives of the patriarchs and the begats. My answer comes from the sciences of geology and physics.
"Science deals with one thing; religion, with another. It's too simple to say fact and faith, but that's a start. I work with the numbers that come from science. Those numbers say the universe is about 14 billion years old, and that Earth is 4.5 billion years old."
There were no more questions.
The lack of interest from the kids of New Zealand didn't dampen our kids' interest in that country. A lot if the ship's internet time had been spent exploring the sites on New Zealand where LOTR had been filmed, and the high school teachers asked if we might arrange some visits.
I was happy to see that at least an equal amount of time had been dedicated to understanding the New Zealand glaciers and their movements that were a hallmark of global climate change.
@sciencetruthnolies: faith and fact need not be in conflict see gould's rock of ages
April 5, 2018 @ 1900
Macon sent a message asking if we could talk. He was a smart kid, and I needed to talk to a smart person after the school conference, so I invited him to the conference room after supper.
"I think I know that guy's agenda," he said, referring to Jerry Coyne's book. "He's clearly opposed to intelligent design, and most of what he says seems to be an attempt to disprove it. I have to really look hard, sometimes, to get through this. But, he's right. I think."
Before I could say anything, he added, "You told that kid in Wellington that Earth was 4.5 billion years old, and you told me that it takes as much as 5 million years for a new species to evolve. How do you know Earth is that old?"
That took a while to answer. I started with radiometric dating, and then had to explain radioactivity. Macon seemed to understand, and agreed to meet with Tommy for a deeper explanation than I was able to give.
I was careful not to challenge some of the things he had been taught: that the universe was created with light from distant galaxies already on its way here, with radioactive elements already partly decayed into daughter elements, and with fossils of creatures which never lived buried in rocks that were formed by magic and not by sedimentation and natural processes. And all this done by a magical creature in order to fool geologists, biologists, and astronomers, to lure them into apostasy, and to send them to hell. Right.
April 5, 2018 @ 2100
"Damn it," I said to Nicky. "I want these kids to know how important they are—or at least how important they can be! We will stop at Wellington, and we will take aboard a bunch of them, and we will show them how they can make a difference! What was wrong, anyway? They didn't seem to want us and when we did the show, they didn't seem to care!"
"Maybe this will help you understand," Nicky said. He handed me his iPad. The screen showed a newspaper. I touched the "reader view" icon, and understood.
The UFC had established a presence in New Zealand, and had slithered its way into the schools' curriculum. Global climate change—as well as evolution and all modern science—was anathema and disavowed.
"That's such crap!" I said. "I want to stop at New Zealand even more, but we need to lay some groundwork. And we're going to need some help."
I looked at the map of our route and realized there wouldn't be enough time to do what I wanted. I called the bridge. Captain Izzard was on duty. I asked him to slow the ship to 10 knots. He acknowledged, and gave the orders. But then, he asked why. I explained. He nodded.
"Alex, you have a talented reporter on board. And, I've seen what Francesca can do. Maybe, it's time for the two of them to get together?"
Although he said it as a suggestion and a question, I realized that he was teaching me, and immediately agreed.
April 5, 2018
"Ms. Munford? I've never suggested a topic for one of your reports. "I'm about to do that. But first, I want it to be clear that I'm not going to tell you what to say. I only ask that you work with Francesca. I want a series of articles at the middle-to-high-school level dealing with things like the age of the earth, artificial and natural selection, Mendelian genetics as updated by our understanding of DNA, climate science—"
I stopped talking. I wasn't sure how to continue.
"I saw the conference with the school in New Zealand. I understand," she said. "There's no conflict between my beliefs and science."
She chuckled, and then continued, "Even though I'm what they call a lapsed Catholic, I remember the last papal encyclical on evolution: as long as it didn't try to explain the human soul, it was okay to believe in evolution and to study it. I think that applies to all science."
Although Ms. Munford and Francesca worked very hard, they only got four tutorials on-line before we reached Wellington. And there were only a few score hits on Francesca's web site that could be traced to New Zealand. Still, it was a start.
Wellington, New Zealand
April 7, 2018
The NZ government agreed to let us dock at Wellington, and allowed us to invite kids from one of the local high schools to board the ship and look around. It was pretty clear that they wouldn't offer any other support or encouragement.
We were met by perhaps 50 seemingly eager kids, and more than a hundred adult picketers with signs reading "Ban the Explorer," "Tools of Satan," "Antichrist," and similar things—none actually threatening, but, I think, inciting. It wasn't the welcome I was hoping for.
The kids were escorted through the picket lines by policemen in riot gear. This was most definitely not what we were hoping for. Nicky and I stood by the boarding ladder, and carefully screened each of the kids and their chaperones. They all checked out.
I had asked Macon if he wanted to escort a group of kids on their tour of the ship and, when he agreed, asked Commander Griggs to assign him that duty. Macon and I stood at the head of the brow waiting, and watching the demonstrators.
"Sir? Why are they . . . why do they think those things?"
"Why do you think they do?" I replied.
The boy was silent for a while, and then said. "I know, I guess. They don't believe in evolution, either."
"More than that, I think," I said.
"They . . . they hate people who don't believe what they believe," Macon said. "But that's wrong! Love the sinner; hate the sin."
"Macon! I thought you were smarter than that," I said. "Tell me three things wrong with that last sentence. Not now . . . the kids are arriving. Tonight, after supper, my quarters."
"Mr. . . . I mean, Commander Anconia?" I knew who the speaker was, John Marshall, parent of two of the kids and the head of the Anconia office in Wellington.
"John, please, call me Alex," I said. "You're worried about something."
"My boys are getting in trouble in school. The other students and the teachers know I work for Anconia, and the UFC has made Anconia the poster child for . . . I don't quite know what, but for everything the church is against. And they seem to be against nearly everything. I'm afraid for my sons' safety."
"What about your own safety? Your wife? The other employees?"
"I hate to say this, Alex, because it will probably mean I'll lose my job. There's been no violence—yet. But, we're not doing enough business to pay our overhead, and it's going to get worse."
"John, it's nearly midnight in Virginia. Let's go wake up my dad. And I guarantee, no one will lose their job over this."
"Cadet Randolph reporting as ordered, sir." Macon had put on a clean uniform and actually looked pretty sharp. And scared to death. I nodded, and gestured the boy into the sitting room.
"Please, sit down and relax," I said. Have you thought about my question?"
"It was an order, sir, to tell you three things wrong with something I've been taught to believe."
Gutsy—and smart, and right. I thought long and hard before I answered. "You are correct, Macon. I was wrong and I am sorry. I should not have attacked a belief and I should have not ordered you to do something that was not a part of your duties. Will you give me another chance?"
The boy was so startled. I felt that he understood; but he could only nod.
"Macon, I think that there are several things wrong with the apothegm, Love the sinner; hate the sin. One thing is that sin exists only in the context of a particular religion and its rules. If someone isn't a member of that religion, then I don't believe they can be called a sinner. What do you think of that idea?"
At 0200, I walked Macon to the door and held out my hand, offering to shake his. He surprised me when he grabbed me, hugged me, and whispered, "Thank you, sir. Thank you for treating me like a real person."
Then, he opened the door and vanished. It had happened so quickly, I was not sure it had happened.
Our kids were disappointed: the field trips to the LOTR sites didn't happen. The risk was too great. I tried to make up for it with an LOTR marathon in the main theater, with plenty of popcorn, hotdogs, candy, and sugary soft drinks. I think that worked, although I'm not sure Captain Izzard appreciated all the hyper-sugar-buzzed kids running around afterwards.
We left New Zealand with 35 more high-school age kids and six sets of parents. The rest of the staff of the Anconia office with their younger children had left earlier that day on one of Uncle Ragnar's ships.
I looked at last year's numbers: Anconia Industries shipping had carried over a billion dollars (US) in exports from New Zealand, and more than half of that in imports. The reason we had so many people in the NZ office was that each shipment was contracted individually. Without Anconia Industries, there would be no more contracts. The economy of NZ wouldn't collapse, but they would certainly feel our absence. Uncle Ragnar would lose a little business in the short term, but I knew he could make it up easily elsewhere in the Pacific.
He knew it, too, and had supported my decision to close Anconia-New Zealand.
Now, to make sure the people of NZ knew that the cause of it all was the UFC. That would require some help from Francesca.
April 7, 2018
I knew my way around the internet, and there was enough free porn that I didn't even have to hack the pay sites for more. I had seen everything imaginable—and stuff I couldn't have imagined. Most of it was pretty disgusting, but there were a couple of sites that showed boys who really seemed to be friends and lovers, and not just actors paid to pretend they liked what they were doing. Even at 14 years old I knew what excited me, and what didn't. And I was so happy to replace all that with the reality of my boyfriend, Leonid.
Leonid had to spend time in his tree, even though he assured me that he drew power from me when we had sex. He couldn't tell me what it was like to be in his tree . . . he just didn't have the words, but I knew what it was like when we exchanged power in my bedroom.
Tonight, I felt as if he came for both power and comfort. The discovery of the children's bodies, frozen and stacked like cordwood, had been profoundly disturbing to him and the other dryads.
At first, we just cuddled. Even though Leonid was a year older than I was, I was the one giving comfort. I spooned behind him, pressed myself against him, and wrapped my arms around him. I heard his sobs, and in my mind I felt what he was feeling.
In spite of the sadness, I got hard, and knew my hardness was pressing into Leonid in a way that he couldn't ignore.
"I'm sorry, Leonid," I said. I turned loose of him, and rolled away.
"Do not be sorry," he said. He turned, raised himself on his elbow, and looked at me. "Please do not be sorry. We know those children have gone to a better place . . . "
"Why would god let them be born only to die like that?" I demanded. "Why would a god of love—"
Leonid put his finger on my lips. Then he bent down and kissed me. That pretty effectively shut me up.
"It is not some god who does these things," he said. "It is simply people, evil people. And it is up to us to fight them."
What he said seemed to make sense at the time, but I was quickly distracted when he began to stroke my tummy. And I remembered something I'd seen on the internet.
"Leonid? Would you . . . " I couldn't say it, but he seemed to know exactly what I meant.
When he penetrated me, slowly and carefully, I was not only filled, but I was fulfilled. I knew that Leonid and I were bound, one to the other, forever, even though I didn't know, then, what forever meant.
CHAPTER END NOTES: "Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life," by Stephen J. Gould, addresses the notion that science and religion ("fact and faith") are separate and non-overlapping magisteria. It should be read critically: while Gould's books about science are spot on, here he ventures into territory in which he is not an expert, and seems to attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. I recommend reading this book "hypercritically." David
Information on New Zealand's glaciers and the global warming that followed the last ice age are documented in Chapter 4 of "Fixing Climate" by Broecker and Kunzig, and elsewhere.