Monday, April 28, 2008

Another weekend in paradise.

I was leisurely walking to class last Friday, able to enjoy the morning since I'd attended the requisite number of chapels for the semester, when I ran into the news editor. Apparently, every single writer who had picked up an assignment that week had bailed on her, so I told her I'd take whatever she needed covered. And that's how I found myself at the Special Olympics Saturday.

I have to say, I felt pretty legit trolling for interviews on the track field, notebook in hand, then running back and dashing out a story within the hour, before the library closed. There is an embarassing amount of typos on these pages (and my headline would have made a lot more sense if there had been a comma after "Greek"), but that is what happens when the poor editors have to scramble for content at the last minute.

As for the rest of my weekend, I did my usual endorphiny bike thing. Saturday morning I rode downtown to Little Italy, where the ArtWalk was happening. Local artists set up blocks and blocks of stands to sell their work.

Sunday afternoon I coasted down to Sunset Cliffs and hung out on the beach for a while. The Santa Anas made for record-breaking warmth, and on the sand it was like a poor man's Hawaii; I almost thought for a second that I was back at Haunauma Bay.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Seeking atmosphere on a Saturday afternoon.

There is a weekly magazine called The San Diego Reader that sits in piles at the door of most restaurants and stores around here, free to anyone who is willing to take a copy. Its copious advertising surely covers its printing costs. Inside one issue, I found a coupon for a free cup of coffee at a place called Cafe Bassam, and I decided to take them up on the offer.

The cafe turned out to be part antique shop, with lots of delightfully old things, jewelry and furniture with coffee rings and whatnot.

The obliging proprietor, an older man with an inscrutable foreign accent, refilled my complimentary cup twice while I waited for the "always fresh" pastries to come out of the oven. Some sort of walnut filling in the middle–so good.

It was a great place, perfect for reading for a class I'm not so motivated to read for. Whew. I am so close to finishing; I'm officially starting my countdown: school's over in eighteen days.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Even more on Francis Collins.

The mp3 of Francis Collins' lecture from last week is now available online: find it here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Riding and rewriting.

So Saturday was by far the most beautiful day of the year thus far. I woke up and opened my window, and the air outside was the same temperature as my room's. The water was bluer and more sparkling than it has been since October. I got some homework out of the way and jumped on my bike, intending to meet some hallmates at South Mission.

The girls ended up deciding they didn't want to brave the traffic and I couldn't blame them–coastal access was bumper to bumper. I just smiled as I coasted past the rows of cars.

So my afternoon turned into a personal cycling tour of Mission and PB. I stopped by my uncle's old street first.

It's almost unrecognizable now. The new condos look like they've been there forever. I walked down Mission Blvd. for a bit, picking up a pair of boardshorts marked down to five dollars on a rack outside a surf shop.

I wanted to lay out a map of the area in my mind, so I rode down to Grand and then cut over to Fanuel Park. I ate my lunch overlooking the bay.

Across the water is the bridge to Point Loma.

I circled the bay, then rode back to South Mission and read some world lit on the sand.

When I returned to campus, I still had enough time before the library closed to start my Sunday adventure–copyediting the entire Point Weekly solo. The regular copy editor took off with the news editor for a conference in Arizona this weekend, so I got my chance to try my hand at the job. I felt tentatively confident doing it, and my assurance was not unprecedented; aside from a few minor errors, it was a fairly clean paper. I did have to stay at the office until one, but the espresso brownies the editor in chief had brought helped somewhat.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More on Collins.

So I saw Francis Collins last night, and I think it was a defining moment in my life. Seeing an incredibly intelligent man delineate the reasonableness of his belief gratified me to no end. His premise ran along the lines of, "So you're a scientist and a believer. Shouldn't your head explode?" He said that trying to discover God solely through scientific means involves committing a "category error." Because God is not contained with the natural world and science by definition is, science must remain silent on the issue of God's existence.

That there is something instead of nothing, that the universe is mathematically designed and had a beginning, that the origin of life is unexplainable, that the infinite parallel universes required to explain away the anthropic principle require as much if not more faith, all point to God, Collins contended. I'm going to say it right now: he's a theistic evolutionist, and when he explains it, it makes sense. I've always considered such a position a pathetic cop-out, but looking at the evidence rationally, and seeing how beautifully Collins incorporates science and faith, I will say that such a worldview looks completely tenable. Evolution is the how, he said, but not the who or why. Why would God use such a method? Here Collins admitted his theological limitations, but mentioned that he has considered the opinions of others, who posit that God may have given free will to the universe as well as us, though he was quick to qualify this theory with his uncertainty.

Colllins directly addressed both the skeptics and the literal biblical interpreters, and his conclusion was not a weak compromise, but an affirmative upholding of science and Christianity. The language contained within DNA, he said, the 3.1 billion letters that are reproduced exactly within every single cell within every single human body, is the way God spoke us into existence.

Here is my review of his book:

Author Finds Evidence of Things Not Seen

By Kaitlin Barr

A pioneering geneticist with a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, Francis Collins headed the Human Genome Project from 1993 through its completion in 2003. His attempt to reconcile the spiritual with the scientific is chronicled in his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Collins contends that belief in God and belief in evolutionary theory can “coexist happily.”

Collins did not think seriously about God until he was in medical school. Why so many of his patients maintained faith in a “supernatural power” despite their suffering intrigued him. So he began to explore the arguments of thinkers like C.S. Lewis, and eventually he became an evangelical Christian.

But he did not cease to be a scientist. Collins is emphatically convinced of the viability of the theory of evolution, but he is just as sure of the historical fact of the Gospel accounts. He combines these positions into a theory he calls BioLogos, a form of theistic evolution that “proposes God as the answer to questions science was never intended to address,” questions to pertaining to the meaning and purpose of life.

Collins builds a compassionate and accessible argument. He acknowledges atheism, agnosticism, creationism and Intelligent Design, outlining the objections he has found to each. His presentation of scientific evidence is simple and lucid, relatively easy to comprehend. He remains hopeful and sympathetic throughout, eager that more might share the intellectual satisfaction he has found by combining these two worldviews that so frequently clash in the public arena.

The book is by no means comprehensive. Collins does not stray far from the scientific realm, touching only lightly on the historicity of the Bible and why he chose Christianity out of all the world’s religions. While he emphatically upholds the Christian faith, he encourages readers to seek the truth themselves.

Those who hold to literal biblical interpretation may balk at Collins’ approach, and those looking for syllogistic proof of God’s existence will not find it. But Collins’ account of his own journey and his earnest desire to see science and spirituality united illustrate the potential for that happy coexistence.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Okay, so I'm not front page news . . . but I did write about it.

My first Point Weekly cover story! Super exciting, I know. Francis Collins headed up the Human Genome Project through its completion in 2003. The project gives scientists a blueprint of what a healthy genome looks like, so they can find the discrepancies that cause diseases and ideally, in the future, circumvent them. Collins is a major figure in the field of genetics, and he's also an evangelical Christian. He'll be at my school tomorrow night to speak on science and faith and how the two can peacefully coexist. No cognitive dissonance, if you know what I mean.

I also read his book, The Language of God, and wrote a review of it, but unfortunately the editor-in-chief considered it a conflict of interest to run both. I can't wait to see him; there's nothing like a science/faith forum on a Friday night . . .

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Finding out what I'm capable of, and other things.

Awkward story time: A few weeks ago, I was sitting at the front desk of the library, doing some reading homework, when a guy who had said hi to me a few times before came up, and as I checked out his books for him, he started talking. I don't smile very much, he told me with a knowing, self-satisfied smile of his own. If I smiled more, he said, I could come with him to Balboa Park the next day. It was only after I declined as politely as I could that he thought to introduce himself or even ask me my name. Why a complete stranger would think I'd trust him enough to randomly go off with him is beyond me. I felt infinitely better about my own trip to Balboa yesterday.

I was lucky enough to find Scottish Heritage Day at the International Houses. I grabbed some shortbread and wandered around the booths.

I was wishing I could record the ensemble that was playing, and then I realized I could, even if it was just a little snippet.

I coasted through the park and eagerly took in the gorgeous day. Everywhere I looked seemed to ask to be photographed.

I could have spent all day in this garden.

I loved the visual pun here: underneath "The Beauty of Use," a beautiful statue doubled as a playground.

Riding over the Prado Bridge, I saw downtown San Diego rising out of the eucalyptus. The contrast between nature and city pleased me to no end, though I'm sure the cycling endorphins added something to that.

Continuing down my list of things I've always wanted to do, I looped downtown to Little Italy. I sat outside Filippi's and tasted the pastries that I've longed for so many times while waiting for a table there. The pine nut cookie and jam roll were good, but the best by far was this allspice cake coated in chocolate.

Altogether, I biked at least eighteen miles, definitely a personal record. I picked some wildflowers by the side of the road on the way home for my roommate, since her birthday is today. I thought I'd just chill out the rest of the night and do homework like the exemplary student that I am, but instead I got myself invited to a bonfire down on Shelter Island that some girls on my hall were giving for the birthday of one's boyfriend.

The best part of it was the view of the city across the water. The lights floated hazy through the blazing fire while we roasted marshmallows and made smores.

The night devolved into a game of Truth or Dare and "Never Have I Ever," then a post-midnight trip to Denny's. It was nice of my hallmates to let me tag along with them. I got to bed at two and still made it to church this morning. I had coffee, tea, and muffins, talked for a while with my biologist friend, and didn't find the trip back too strenuous. My quads were only aching a little by the end, but I'm sure it will all hit me tomorrow, especially after working at the newspaper tonight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Returning to my roots, and maybe even growing a little.

A few weeks ago at the newspaper meeting, we were brainstorming opinion piece topics, trying to tie national events to our editorial page, so when the recent homeschooling case came up, I jumped at the chance to get a story credit without having to talk to anyone. I glorified my pet educational mode and had a good time doing it.

And then something that I have always wanted to happen to me happened: my lit prof approached me before class and took issue with my semantics. "It's a beautifully written piece, but I want you to know whether you think the ruling is flawed, or the law is flawed," he said. Somehow, when I was writing the column, I knew I'd get a response from him; I'd expect nothing less from a criminal defense lawyer. He handed me a printout of the court proceedings.

I sat down that evening when I got off work and pored over it, then visited his office the next day. We hashed out the precedent, or lack thereof, for homeschooling that exists in California, and he boiled down the case in question to the child abuse that was the real matter at hand. "I've learned that there's always more behind the story," he said, and I agreed. My stint at the school paper has taught me that.

He also gave me the best compliments I think I've received this year. He told me again how well I write and that he's already bragging about me, floored as he was to find out I am a freshman. Hearing him call me "bright" was comforting and sustaining. It's nice to know a year of frantic study hasn't dimmed me too much.