iSoul In the beginning is reality

Category Archives: Stories

Short and very short stories

Million-dollar parable

You’re broke. You don’t have enough the pay the rent at the end of the month. If your car breaks down, you can’t afford to have it fixed. Your bank account is almost empty. You’re at the end of your rope.

Then an old friend stops by, someone you knew in school who happens to be very wealthy. He says he heard you’ve been having a hard time so he went to your bank and deposited a million dollars in your name. You can hardly believe it. You thank him and he leaves.

Then you start wondering, Is this for real? So you go down to the bank and ask for your balance. The clerk gives you a slip of paper with the balance and, sure enough, it says there’s a million dollars there. You take that slip of paper home and keep it with you. Sometimes you take it out and read it to remind you this is for real.

It starts to sink in and you tell others what happened. You think of all the things you can do with the money now. You can take your family on a vacation. You can pay for your kids to go to college. You can even give some money away.

You keep in touch with this old friend — after all, friends like this are good to have. You thank him every time you meet. You tell others about this friend’s generosity and how you didn’t earn a penny of it. You’re very thankful that your life has turned around.

This changes your life but it didn’t have to. You could have told your old friend, I appreciate your concern but I believe in earning my own way in this world — I don’t want to be dependent on anyone else. Thanks but no thanks.

Or you could have gone down to the bank and told them, There’s been a mistake — take that million dollars off the account. You don’t want it, you don’t need it, you’re not going to keep it.

Either way, the gift is for you. The million dollars is put on your account. Your finances are secure — unless you reject this gift. And if you keep it, your life will be changed.

Dialogue on induction

Greek Coffee

Philario was sitting in the coffee shop, typing into his computer when he saw his friend Hector and greeted him.

Philario:  Hi, Hector.  What’s up?

Hector:  Well said, Philario.  What is up.  Who is down.

Philario:  Are you trying to Costello me?

Hector:  I wasn’t Abbott to do that.

Philario:  Very funny.  I’m searching on induction.  Can you tell me what it is?

Hector:  It depends on what kind of induction you want.

Philario:  I want the kind of induction used in natural science.

Hector:  OK, say we’ve got this large urn. You put your arm in and as far as you can tell it’s full of pieces of pottery.  Then you pull out one piece, and it’s painted blue.  What do you conclude about how the other pieces are painted?

Philario:  I don’t know; they could be painted anything.  Perhaps they’re from a beautiful urn that broke in pieces.

Hector:  Now think like a natural scientist.  What do natural scientists say about nature?

Philario:  They say nature is uniform.

Hector:  So if nature is uniform, how are all the balls painted?

Philario:  They must be painted the same way.

Hector:  That’s right!  So the natural scientist says they’re all painted blue.

Philario:  But they could easily be wrong!

Hector:  Did you ever notice how often natural scientists change their opinions?  They don’t seem to worry about being wrong.

Philario:  Well, I would worry about being wrong.

Hector:  Then you’re not a natural scientist!  Now suppose you pull out another piece, and it’s also painted blue.  What do you conclude?

Philario:  There’s beginning to be a pattern.  So it’s possible they could all be painted blue.

Hector:  You need more confidence if you want to be a natural scientist.

Philario:  I didn’t say I wanted to be a natural scientist.  I just want to know how they think.

Hector:  So try thinking like one.  What do you say?

Philario:  I suppose I should say they’re all painted blue.

Hector:  Now do you have any evidence to back that up?

Philario:  I don’t have much evidence; only two pieces.

Hector:  But is there any contrary evidence?

Philario:  No, not yet.

Hector:  There’s no contrary evidence so no-one can say you’re wrong yet.

Philario:  That’s not much consolation.

Hector:  You need more confidence, my man!  You can prove your case by appealing to all the available evidence.

Philario:  But someone else might take out other pieces and find they are painted differently.

Hector:  Has that happened yet?

Philario:  No.

Hector:  So you’ve made your case for now.  No-one can prove you wrong.

Philario:  Now suppose you put your hand in and pull out another piece, and it’s painted red.  What do you say?

Hector:  I would say I was wrong about all of them being blue because some of them are red.

Philario:  That’s weak, much too weak.

Hector:  I could say based on the evidence two-thirds are probably blue and one-third are probably red.

Philario:  That’s what statisticians say!  You’re trying to think like a natural scientist.

Hector:  So what should I say?

Philario:  You should say there are two kinds of pieces in the urn.  One kind are all painted blue and the other kind are all painted red.  You might say that the blue kind are from a piece of blue pottery and the red kind are from a piece of red pottery.

Hector:  That sounds like a hypothesis.

Philario:  Yes, it is a hypothesis!

Hector:  So natural scientists make bold statements based on flimsy evidence and call them hypotheses.

Philario:  You might put it that way.  But remember they are careful not to contradict evidence, unless they want to say the evidence is erroneous.

Hector:  Why would they say evidence is erroneous?

Philario:  Because it gets in the way of a good hypothesis!

Hector:  So it’s all about making up hypotheses that sound good.

Philario:  You’re catching on!

Hector:  I think I’m too cautious to be much good at that.

Philario:  Have you considered becoming a statistician?

Hector:  No, do they like to be cautious?

Philario:  Boy, do they like to be cautious!  That’s probably all they do.

Hector:  They must eat sometimes.

Philario:  Probably.  But you can’t be 100% certain.

Hector:  I think I can be 100% certain about some things.

Philario:  Like what?

Hector:  I can be 100% certain that the sun will rise tomorrow.

Philario:  OK, let’s consider that.  What do you base that assertion on?

Hector:  I base it on the fact that it’s risen every time in the past.

Philario:  I didn’t know you were as old as time!

Hector:  Well, I haven’t personally witnessed the sun rising every day, but someone has.

Philario:  Who has?

Hector:  Other people.  There are records that go back to Babylon.

Philario:  What about before Babylon?

Hector:  Well, I suppose it must have risen before that, too.  We’ve got thousands of years’ worth of evidence that the sun rises every day.

Philario:  So there’s a high probably the sun will rise tomorrow.

Hector:  That’s what I said!

Philario:  No, you said you were 100% certain the sun will rise tomorrow.

Hector:  That’s virtually the same thing.  You’re not going to split hairs, are you?

Philario:  Of course I am!  We’re thinking like statisticians now.

Hector:  Oh no.  You mean statisticians are super cautious?

Philario:  Professionally, yes.  They’re paid to be hedge their bets.

Hector:  I don’t think I’m cut out to be a statistician either.

Philario:  You could always be a philosopher.

Hector:  Why is that?

Philario:  They can take any side of an argument!

Hector:  I think you’re better at that than I am.

Philario:  Study philosophy and you’ll get better at it.

Hector:  I’d rather have a latte.

 

It Could Happen

NEW YORK, 2024 JUL 14. President of the Nations Jack Lever gave his State of the World speech to the United Nations today. President Lever began by listing his accomplishments in the past year. These included making the United Nations’ currency, the Uno, the sovereign currency of every country. Switzerland, the last hold-out, turned over it’s franc in May. He also stated that world unemployment was at the same level it was before the World Depression of 2010-2018. While he acknowledged that the world economy still needed redistribution of wealth, he said that much progress had been made.

President Lever then outlined the challenges he sees ahead. First was ending the epidemics that spread during the World Depression. Next was having the World Curriculum that was completed last year instituted in the schools of every nation. Third was bringing unity to the religions of the world.

He stressed the importance of the third goal even though the first two might seem more pressing. “The goal of world unity will not be achieved without religions reconciliation,” he said to the delegates who gave him a standing ovation. He went on to say “Each of the great religions of the world must become unified before world religions can unite.” President Lever said that as a Christian he was particularly interested in the unity of the Christian Church. “In the spirit of Constantine the Great, I am calling all church leaders to an ecumenical council of reconciliation.” he said.

After the speech, church leaders reacted with cautious optimism. Some extremists of the Fundamentalist and Traditionalist groups made negative remarks but acknowledged that recent scandals have left them in a weak position. Commentators pointed out that this was an opportune moment since many new leaders have arisen during the last ten years who support unity, including the new Pope, John-Paul III. The decision by China earlier this year to adopt Christianity (which they call “the Three Self Patriotic Movement”) as their official religion added to the momentum world for unity.

BRUSSELS, 2025 MAR 6. The Ecumenical Council of Christian Unity convened today with an elaborate procession through the Capital of Europe. In his opening remarks, President of the Nations Jack Lever noted that every Christian body was in attendance: Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Patriots (Chinese). Even obscure denominations sent delegates. Many said this was a testimony to President Lever’s political skills. Commentators pointed out that last year’s purges of leaders among Catholics and Orthodox removed most of the remaining resistance to the Council. A significant holdout, Metropolitan Boris of the Russian Orthodox Church, charged that these purges were worse than Stalin’s. After he died suddenly he was replaced by Metropolitan Joseph who accepts unity as inevitable.

The charge of the Council is threefold: to produce a common creed, a common liturgy, and a common clergy. This is no small task particularly since President Lever wants it done by the end of the year. Pope John-Paul III expressed optimism, saying “The time has come to bring unity to all the world.” The 6000 delegates gave him a standing ovation.

BRUSSELS, 2025 JUN 9. The Ecumenical Council of Christian Unity announced today that agreement had been reached on a Common Creed. Many observers were surprised at how quickly agreement was produced. Commentators pointed out that after the initial round of discussions produced deadlock, the delegates started dropping phrases that were unacceptable to any group. President of the Nations Jack Lever, who is himself a Christian and has prodded the Council, praised the creed. “The Common Creed is simple, yet elegant, and could easily be translated into any language of the world,” he said. The Council still must produce a common liturgy and a common clergy.

BRUSSELS, 2025 NOV 11. The Ecumenical Council of Christian Unity announced agreement had been reached on a Common Clergy. The announcement came after weeks of high-level pressure from President of the Nations Jack Lever. The final agreement places headquarters offices in Beijing but the leadership will rotate every 5 years between the three so-called Regions: Asia-Oceania (Beijing), Europe-Africa (Rome), and the Americas (Orlando). The new structure reflects the “flat organization” that has transformed businesses worldwide. There are four levels: Regional Shepherd, National Shepherd, Urban Shepherd, and Local Shepherd.

Since President of the Nations Jack Lever began calling Beijing “the new Constantople” in July, his allies have been pressuring the Orthodox. Metropolitan Joseph of the Russian Orthodox Church acknowledged that some Orthodox were unhappy but said the new leaders generally supported unity. Catholics of course wanted the headquarters in Rome but Pope John-Paul III graciously accepted the result saying, “The time has come to set the past aside for the sake of world unity.” A few demonstrators outside the building where the council was held denounced the agreement but were taken into custody for psychiatric counseling.

BRUSSELS, 2026 MAY 1. The Ecumenical Council of Christian Unity concluded today with a celebration led by World Shepherd Chin which was conducted according to the Common Liturgy that was agreed on last week. The celebration began with the 6000 delegates reciting the Common Creed that they agreed on last year. After some discussion, it was decided that each delegate should recite the creed in their own language although the rest of the liturgy was in English which was the official language of the Council.

Many were surprised that it took so long to agree on a Common Liturgy after the heady days last year when the Council agreed on the Common Creed and the Common Clergy. In the end differing views of the meaning of the Sacraments weren’t mentioned. Shepherd of the Americas Roberto said “These issues were left to the conscience of the individual.” Others indicated this means that Local Shepherds would set their own policies.

Other controversial issues of the past such as the status of the Virgin Mary were treated the same way. Instead, the last argument was over the date of Easter (known in some places as Pascha and in China as the Great Morning). Surprisingly, this controversy delayed the Council for eight weeks. The final result is a complex combination of ancient, modern, and Chinese methods.

2008

Genuine Dialogue between Science and Theology

Nowadays there is increasing concern for a dialogue between science and “religion” – which usually means Christian religion. The implications of science for religion are discussed in serious tones and tomes. But if there is genuine dialogue, then the implications of religion for science should also be considered. However, there is a problem at this point: science has no way of incorporating religion – unless it operates by the methods of science, that is, unless it becomes scientific. We can see why by a dialogue like this:

Theologian Tom:  Sam, we really should talk. I’ve been reading about the theological implications of science. The boundaries between science and theology are breaking down. There should be some way that scientists and theologians can dialogue together.

Scientist Sam:  Tom, you’re right. Science has much to offer religion and scientists are often religious, too.

Tom:  One thing I don’t understand is what are the scientific implications of theology?

Sam:  Theology is about “why” and science is about “what”.  Scientific knowledge can help theology in many ways.

Tom:  But Tom, I said the implications of theology for science.  How can science best react to the conclusions of theology?

Sam:  You don’t mean that science should consider theological explanations? That would be impossible. Scientists can’t do that.

Tom:  Why not, Sam?  Theologians consider scientific explanations. Why not the other way around?

Sam:  You don’t understand, Tom. Science considers the evidence and develops explanations that are, well, scientific. There’s no place for religion in there.

Tom:  But I thought we agreed to have a dialogue about science and theology. What’s up?

Sam:  We, we just can’t do that. Scientists have rigorous scientific methods. We demand empirical proof. Theology is so, so different. We could never invoke God to explain anything.

Tom:  Then it’s up to others to take scientific theories and compare them with other explanations and decide what to do?

Sam:  Yes, take scientific theories and apply them anywhere you want.

Tom:  But I’m talking about modifying the theories to take into consideration events like miracles that science ignores or explanations like divine agency that science doesn’t consider.

Sam:  Don’t modify the theories, just apply them.

Tom:  You seem to think that science has the final word.

Sam:  Only about the natural world, Tom. We wouldn’t step on theologians feet when they talk about the spiritual world.

Tom:  But you’re supposing that reality is neatly partitioned into two worlds, and that science covers one world and theology the other. We live in a uni-verse, Tom.

Sam:  I don’t know about that. I just know that science doesn’t consider theology.

Tom:  Then you’re not able to have a two-way conversation.

Sam:  Well, I guess not.