Michael Battalio


Thursday, December 11, 2008

This I Believe (part 5)

This is part five of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I hope to figure some of it out here.
This short entry is a comment on the lack of respect in the argument over religion.

Theists and atheists do a really good job of insulting each other, but many fail at actually proving or even really arguing anything. Many people of faith find Richard Dawkins offensive. I, however, find that people who prescribe to his beliefs more offensive than he. (Before I get a bunch of atheists mad at me, I also find many religious people offensive. [Pat Robertson comes to mind.]) They have a self righteous, childish, indignation for people of faith because they have found a leader, someone to champion their cause, and they are willing to bash whoever it takes to make sure Dawkins’s message is heard.
The fact of the matter though is that both sides of this argument are pretentious. Both believe they are absolutely correct and don’t care if insulting the opposition makes them or anyone else appear foolish. I am very turned off by both sides of the atheist/theist debate when they resort to name calling, which unfortunately they both do frequently. I don’t want to read a book or critique when a person resorts to calling people naïve or stupid. They spend so much time insulting the other side that one never actually gets to the point. If you can’t intelligently defend your argument or retort another’s, do not fill your essay with mindless blather. It helps no one and hurts your cause. Isn’t the point of argument to find a resolution? What many of these people do is make matters worse.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This I Believe (part 4)

This is part four of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I hope to figure some of it out here.

This entry into the series will focus on “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, specifically a critique of some the more ambiguous points. A kind of editor’s note: these are undeveloped ideas and just about each paragraph is a separate thought. If I have more time, I will explore these ideas more thoroughly later.

Dawkins argues that a free, omnipotent God controlling every atom and answering every prayer usurps the role of science. He feels that science must be able to explain everything, and that a supernatural power that is not ruled by science lessens the meaning of science. In effect, the argument defines science as something that can have no holes, that must be omniscient, that must explain everything without any supernatural causes (GD 147-8). That argument is no better than making Science a kind of God. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the wording he uses is what bothers me. It is almost as if he is making science a religion, which is a bit worrisome in itself.

Dawkins argues that a grand designer would be so complicated that he would need an even more grand designer to design Him. He has something there, but he’s trying to constrain religion, which is difficult to do. Religion has God conveniently boxed up as an omni-present, omnipotent, omniscient being. By definition, there is nothing greater than He. If he's everywhere, he's always existed. He doesn't need a creator. If he is all powerful, it doesn't matter how complicated He needs to be. He's all powerful. If he's all knowing, it doesn't matter how much knowledge it took to create the universe. But his argument does reveal that argument by design can be a circular argument, i.e. if the world is so complex that there is no way it cannot be designed, then there must be some complex being that designed it, but if there is a being more complex than the universe, who designed Him. Et cetera. (See the paragraph on the Kalam Cosmological Argument in part 3 of this series.)

Dawkins is also unnecessarily hostile towards religion. Several times throughout the book I found myself feeling insulted by his derogatory comments on religion, and here I am reading the book because I might agree with him. He is correct in saying that I only am so easily insulted because I have been raised religiously, and I should try to remove the chains of thought that a religious mindset had lock me to. But that does not change that the feelings I have toward religion are there now. There's nothing I can do about those preconceived notions, much less the preconceived notions of others who are merely reading his book out of curiosity. If his goal is to make atheism more accepted and make theism seem less ominous, he is being self-defeating. He would do better trying to cater to those individuals who are being introspective instead of being belligerent.
However, his hostility might serve a purpose. By attacking God, Dawkins is attempting to cut down the barriers that many, including me, have against crossing God's infallible commands. Although I felt resentful occasionally, every once in a while I did have to step back and say, "Wait, he does have a point." The God of the Old Testament is, to quote Dawkins: "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Turning one into a pillar of salt just for turning one's head around out of curiosity seems a bit harsh of a punishment. I do have a hard time combining the God of the Old Testament to that of the New.

There is an element of the straw man in the book as well. Dawkins tries to take the best elements of science to dispute the worst elements of theology. To quote Marilynne Robinson, "If religion is to be blamed for the fraud done in its name, then what of science? Is it to be blamed for the Piltdown hoax, for the long-credited deceptions having to do with cloning in South Korea? If by 'science' is meant authentic science, then 'religion' must mean authentic religion, granting the difficulties in arriving at these definitions." One cannot defeat the egregious errors of religion and ignore the errors of science. While true that science did eventually uncover the Piltdown hoax and the fraud of cloning in South Korea. Religion is also attempting to flesh out the inconsistencies in its own beliefs.

One of Dawkins most interesting propositions is that of the "meme." A meme is a gene of culture essentially. It's a bundle of cultural beliefs that are passed on, so to speak, from generation to generation. A key distinction between genes and memes is that memes don't necessarily help the holder of that meme survive; it is just the meme itself that is surviving. Dawkins supposes that memes are why religions have remained so strong despite the lack of proof. For example, a religion is aided in it own survival if one of its beliefs is that God or some other higher power punishes disbelief. The religion will survive if punishment is sufficiently awful. Hence why Christianity and Islam have become so prevalent. Who would want to be thrown to the eternal fire? Or who wouldn’t want 72 virgins when they die?

I believe Dawkins’s largest fault is his bias. Dawkins does not speak with a single theist; just as Strobel did not speak with a single atheist. Many of his critics, both agnostic and religious alike, point out that Dawkins does not take on some of the greatest writings of religion, instead focusing on dismantling it from the edges, as opposed to facing some of its best literature head on.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next, a comment on the lack of respect in the argument over religion.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This I Believe (part 3)

This is part three of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I intend on defining what is faith, considering non-overlapping magisteria, and many other topics.

This entry into the series will focus on “The Case for a Creator” by Lee Strobel, specifically a critique of some the more ambiguous points. I will go through a list of some of the illogical points he makes, plus comment on a couple of items to his credit.

Strobel and his interviewees use apples to oranges analogies to try to affirm God's existence. For example, in Chapter 6 Robin McGrath asks you to picture this: Suppose when we first send a human to Mars we discover a biosphere constructed with an atmosphere supportive of life. Would we not immediate believe that an intelligence beyond our own created it? The answer is yes obviously, but when you change "biosphere" to "universe" and "intelligence" to "God" in that argument you create an awful logical fallacy. On Mars, it is "obvious" that nature did not create the biosphere. To call it obvious that the universe is not created via natural processes is petitio principii (begging the question). It's what we are trying to answer in the first place. If it were obvious that the universe was created artificially, as the biodome was, then the argument would be valid, but it is not obvious-that is the whole point.
I could come up with many other examples of that, but you get the point. Just be careful if you read this book. Despite Ocham's razor, question the simplest sounding of arguments; they are usually too good to be true.

Here is a more compelling argument: Strobel focuses a chapter, Chapter 5, on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. To summarize: 1.) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2.) The Universe began to exist. 3.) The Universe has a cause. That cause is God.
Saying that another physical process caused the Universe simply pushes the argument back a level. What caused the cause? This is an intriguing argument. I find it difficult to easily find a hole in it. (Warning: Physics mumbo jumbo) Saying that quantum fluctuations caused the Universe implies that an energy field had to exist (and something for it to exist in) before hand. What caused that? We're talking about the Universe being created from nothing, absolute nothing. Virtual particles are caused from an energy field, not exactly nothing. There are also p-branes (physicists love their whimsy) in string theory and the aforementioned multiverse. [I’ve already talked about the multiverse (see Part One of this series). P-branes and just about everything dealing with string theory are improvable, just like the multiverse, so it’s a moot point to bother with them in this discussion, but p-branes are a mathematical construct composed of multiple dimensions, any integer from zero up. The thought is that the universe is inside one of these p-branes (the p is just a variable, so that a three dimensional brane would be a 3-brane.), and these p-branes are floating around in something, and every time they collide with one another, they form a new universe. That’s really simplified, mostly because I have a hard time understanding it. If you’re interested, there’s a lot of literature on the internet.] Anyway, the point being, what caused the universe? And granted, just because we don’t have a reason now, doesn’t mean we won’t have a reason eventually.

Next, in Ch. 7, Strobel discusses with Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards evidence of God from Astronomy. The main rebuff I’d like to give is on the rare Earth hypothesis. The theory being that the Earth is so fine tuned, so perfect, so one in a quadrillion that it has to be designed. Here’s my case against that argument: just recently earth sized planets have been discovered around stars. I believe the percentage of planets with stars is about 1 in 10, or at least that is the best estimate so far. With the discovery of earth sized planets orbiting even some of the stars we can see, I can say without a bit of reservation (although there is a chance I’m wrong) that there must be another earth sized planet in the Goldilocks zone. The Goldilocks zone is just a clever way of saying that a planet is in an orbit where is temperature is just right for liquid water to continuously exist.) I also must dismiss the arguments about the rarity of having a molten iron core (the iron core creates the magnetic field around the Earth that protects us from all kinds of high energy particles that could kill life), and a moon of the right size and distance because even with a one in a trillion chance, there are billions or more chances for the exact conditions to exist more than once. I’m afraid astronomy doesn’t support the rare earth hypothesis anymore.
I must say that I don’t know enough about most of the biological evidence presented to make a determination on it one way or the other. It has convinced me I need to spend some time reading up on biology because that’s a subject in which I’m deficient. (But look at Part Two of this series for a discussion of irreducible complexity.)

The biggest problem with the book though is that despite Strobel’s claims to being unbiased, there are no religious skeptics interviewed, and almost all of those interviewed have doctorates in philosophy or theology, not science. This really needs no explanation. It’s difficult to call oneself unbiased when you have no arguments that differ from your own presented.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next, a dissection of some of the dubious points made by each of the authors, continuing with Dawkins’s “The God Delusion”.

Friday, July 11, 2008

This I Believe (part 2)

This is part two of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I intend on defining what is faith, considering non-overlapping magisteria, and many other topics.

Next, I’m going to present a summary of evidence for and against God concerning evolution and irreducible complexity from Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” and from Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion”.

Strobel interviewed several scientists, most notably biologist Michael Behe. He argues that evolution cannot explain certain systems because they are too complex to evolve naturally, and thusly must have been designed.
Having done a bit of research into Behe I have discovered his claims while though intriguing are disputed my the majority of biologists. In fact there is a considerable amount of work debunking all of Behe claims. There is even a case decided where Behe was a witness in which the court dismisses Behe’s claims. (See Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) Still though, I believe an explanation of this is in order.
Behe provides several examples of irreducible complexity; the eye, blood clotting, and flagellum. To begin his discussion he provides the example of a mousetrap. The mousetrap is irreducibly complex. Remove even just one component-the spring, wooden base, the closing bar-and it no longer works. Behe argues the same for each of his examples. I’ll describe just one. Consider a blood clot, if the clot doesn’t form over a cut, no matter how small, you’ll die. If a clot forms in the wrong place, your brain for instance, you’ll die. If a clot doesn’t completely cover a cut, you’ll die. The system is highly choreographed. According to Behe, blood clots have to follow a sequence of ten steps using 20 different components (C. for a C. pg.209). Remove just one of the components and the system falls apart. The system is useless if step six of ten fails. How did these 20 components come together to create this system?
Behe also argues against gene duplication (the accidental creation of an extra copy of a piece of DNA where the original copy performs its intended function and the extra copy can perform a new function). To revisit the mouse trap: say you have the spring but not the base. Now via duplication you have two springs, so you have two springs and no base. That’s still useless. How does the extra spring become a base?
Again, however, there is scientific evidence disproving this claim. (see http://www.pnas.org/content/100/13/7527.full) The puffer fish cited in the article has three less of the genes Behe contends are need for blood clotting. And the question follows what is the fewest amount of genes needed for the supposedly irreducibly complex system to continue to work. That’s unknown, but even if one of the ten steps is removed then the system still finds a way to work debunks this example. Behe has many other examples which you may want to research on your own.
Conversely, Dawkins contends that irreducible complexity is a myth thanks to natural selection, gene duplication and genetic redundancy. Dawkins claims that components of irreducibly complex systems can have served other functions before becoming a link in an irreducibly complex system. For example, a gene in blood clotting might have been used to code information for the storage of oxygen in red blood cells before it was used to trigger solidification in the presence of open air.
Dawkins has a separate title, “Climbing Mount Improbable” (which I hope to read in the future), that goes at length into explaining seemingly insurmountable leaps in evolution by a sequence of small steps. Each step is slightly advantageous to life so these steps are added one on top of the other until you have a creature that, for example, doesn’t die if it receives a cut. Dawkins likens it to getting to the top of a shear cliff by walking to the other side of the mountain and ascending the gentle slope on the opposite side.
One last topic of interest Strobel includes is the mind-bogglingly large amount of information stored in DNA, which is likened to the cliché of monkeys on a typewriter producing not just Shakespeare but the entire volume of knowledge of mankind. All that information, except the origin of the very first piece of data, can be explained by natural selection. The problem is where did that very first piece of data come from that directed replication. Strobel refuses chance based on the improbability of proteins randomly forming a chain of replicating DNA. However, I would argue that our friend the anthropic principle might have something to say about that. The logic being that we wouldn’t be here to consider the first piece of data if that first piece of data didn’t replicate. Still though, that’s a bit of stretch. Where did that first piece of information come from? I don’t know.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next, a dissection of some of the dubious points made by each of the authors, beginning with Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator”.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

This I Believe (part 1)

Now that I'm in full summer mode, eight hour workdays, five days a week with nothing much else to do, I can continue my serious blog posts. This is a long one.
We are well into my series of “Serious discussion…” posts (I’m working on part six currently.), and I’d like to begin a new series that I'm calling "This I Believe." I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science (always), but I also consider myself a man of faith (mostly). So, where am I exactly? I intend on defining faith, considering non-overlapping magisteria, and many other topics.

First, a discussion of two books I have read recently.
I think of myself as an equal opportunity offender-someone who can offend not only the religious but the nonreligious as well. So, with that in mind I'd like to comment on some of my reading as of late. Within the last few months, I have read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Both have their moments, but it's interesting that both use the same scientific facts to create a thought process that proves their arguments. They are arguing for a dichotomy; there is a God or there isn't. One of them must be wrong. Figuring out who is wrong is a problem. Despite philosophy being logical it's hard to prove wrong. (Which I suppose is the point, if it were easy I certainly wouldn't be worrying about it now.)

The first stepping stone they use is the anthropic principle. I've touched on the anthropic principle before, but I think it bears a second look. Both books spend a chapter or two each touting anthropic reasoning as proof of their argument. How is that possible? What does this have to do with God? What is the anthropic principle?
The universe has some very precise constants, fine-tuned is the clichéd phrase for it. So precisely tuned these constants are that the chances for just one of the constants (there are a lot of constants) being supportive of the universe we see today (galaxies, stars, planets made of stable atoms and molecules) are, according to some studies, along the order of one in ten billion raised to the 123 power (Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, New York: Oxford 1989, pg 344). Our universe, being more than 1/10,000,000,000123 against us being here, seems rather difficult to be scientifically explained. But wait…
The anthropic principle dates back a few decades, although allusions to it go back as far as 1900ish. A man named Brandon Carter first formally proposed the anthropic principle to defeat an argument for the Steady State Theory of cosmology which contended that not only are all places identical, but all times are also identical. This helped defend the now (mostly) accepted Big Bang theory. The argument comes in two forms, a weak argument and a generalized strong argument (kind of like how special relativity is generalized by general relativity). The weak argument refers to the selection of specific times and spaces in the universe for the development of intelligent life. In summary the weak anthropic principle says our existence coincides perfectly with conditions for intelligent life because life would not be around to measure the perfect conditions for its existence if those conditions did meet the needs of intelligent life. I imagine some of you just went, “What?...” To restate, we would not be here to measure stuff if the stuff we were measuring precluded our existence. The strong argument generalizes the weak argument to include fundamental constants and forces of physics. The conclusion to this is we are in a universe where the forces and constants are such that we can exist. (Which, I know, is rather obvious.) An implication of this is that there are universes where forces and constants do not include our existence. So, we are left with a theory of the multiverse, that we are in one of an infinite number of possible universes. Dawkins proclaims the multiverse as an alternative to the Teleological argument for the existence of God. (To sum up the Teleological argument in a sentence: God exists because the universe is too perfectly designed for there not to be a God. That’s a vast simplification. I suggest a bit of research on the subject - perhaps a topic for a future blog post.)
By introducing this idea of the multiverse, the strong anthropic principle selects our universe as one in which life can exist. This is analogous to the weak version of the anthropic principle selecting our planet at our time for intelligent life, which is also somewhat analogous to the Darwinian theory of Evolution selecting our genes for life. So instead now of exemplifying his atheistic view, Dawkins inadvertently advances an agnostic view of the uni/multiverse. A bit of explanation: Dawkins affirms that the multiverse is an alternative possibility to God having a hand in explaining the implications of anthropic reasoning (i.e. That despite the chances of humanity existing being infinitesimally small, there are an infinite number of universes in the multiverse, so the chances don’t matter. We are in this universe as opposed to the infinite other universes because if our universe didn’t support life we wouldn’t be here to consider it.). The problem with this is there is no way to prove a multiverse exists, just as we have no way to prove the existence of a diving maker. So, instead deifying a multiverse, we have to relegate Dawkins’s argument to an agnostic argument.
Strobel takes a different approach. Strobel asserts that the chances are so small for the conditions to be met for life that there must be some sort of overall intelligence or purpose in creating the universe. To dismiss the multiverse, he sites several scientists (specifically, John Polkinghorne) as discrediting the multiverse theory as “pseudo-science” and “a metaphysical guess” (pg. 140). But again where does this leave us; agnosticism. There is no way to prove God; there is no way to prove the theory of the multiverse. On this Strobel and Dawkins merely redefine the argument.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next a short discussion on evolution and irreducible complexity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Serious conversations... (part 5)

I apparently forgot to post the last serious conversation. Here it is:

A bit of a disclaimer, this is the fifth in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
 These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. 
 Before every single religious person starts chomping at the bit, let me say this is not an argument about whether there is a God. This is more philosophical in nature. Also let me say that my unnamed friend is one of the most moral, responsible and decent people I have ever met, so no one take the high ground until you’ve read the entire series, and still don’t take it then either. This fifth entry is about my individual purpose to life.

Some time ago I started to read (and still haven’t finished, you know me) The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. He set out his purpose of life as being for Eudaimonia. (Eudaimonia is usually translated as happiness, but a better translation is that of human flourishing.) Aristotle says Eudaimonia is the pursuit of virtue through rational activity. (Aristotle then goes on to explain the virtues he refers to: rationality, relationships, scientific knowledge, character, etc.) I am using this philosophy as the opposing crutch to my purpose relating to there being a God. Eudaimonia makes up for what I find purpose-lacking religiously. It's an interesting concept. All humans strive knowledge (most of us at least) and happiness. (I am realizing already that I'm not going to do as good a job as Aristotle at explaining this.) Those things aren't good enough; that's why most people feel unfulfilled. You need all the other virtues to get anything out of life. It's the combination of character, intellect and knowledge that makes life worth-while.
It's curious that we are the only creatures that have to have a purpose to life. We are a very goal oriented species, and we are very good at inventing reasons for life. I think a lot of this as to do with the fact we are one of a few species that has free time. We can provide more than our needs, so we have to find things to occupy our time. Animals don't care they might not have a purpose if there are too busy fending off the latest predator to think about it. If we can't find things to fill that time we wonder why we are here if we can't do things we want instead of need.
If you can have a purpose to life without religion, then that is very commendable and independent of you. I can't. I wouldn't say I envy you though because I do like and genuinely believe in my religious convictions, but I will say I don't see how people can subscribe to an existence where the only reason they wake up is to be one day closer to death and therefore heaven. I need more than just religion as a reason to wake up in the morning. If I were you, I wouldn't be embarrassed of it though. There's no reason to be, in almost the same way I'm not embarrassed because I'm Roman Catholic and not Greek Orthodox or Baptist or Muslim or Hindu. Subscribing to a faith is all concept is just as commendable as being able to live with no religion at all.
For me the fact remains that I need both faith and reason to survive. I find that at some point along the way my convictions fail with just one and without the other.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Change of Persuasion

After a lot of thought and deliberation, reading a lot of books, I have decided to amend my philosophic persuasion. Don't freak out on me; it isn't as drastic as you might be thinking. I will continue to be a Roman Catholic. While I am Catholic mostly because my grandparents were Catholic, I have come to independently believe in Catholicism as well, but as I get older I no longer have to live exactly by the tradition of the Battalio family. (Interestingly, I have an uncle who used to be a Dominican [I think] brother but left because he thought that the changes made by Vatican II were too extreme. He's still Catholic, just not a brother.) I have a more developed sense of self. And I think that I have become a more thoughtful person. As a consequence, I must include an extra identifier to my system of believes besides Catholic. But, do I still have faith? Yes. (Most of the time.) Am I still Catholic? Most certainly yes. However, I also must face what reason suggests.
For a theory to be scientific, it must have repeatable, testable outcomes (hence why string theory is very controversial). Scientifically, there is no way to prove God. God is not a scientific theory. (Although some may argue otherwise.) In this way I must also now face that I am an agnostic as well as a Catholic. I have faith that He exists, but I believe there is no way to scientifically verify this. Thus the term "agnostic Catholic" encapsulates both my religious affiliation and my scientific affiliation. I feel that any person of science or reason should, if they claim religious affiliation, also claim a scientific persuasion. Obviously you cannot claim a religious affiliation and also be an atheist, but you can differentiate yourself between Agnosticism, arguing that God cannot be proven, arguing that there is a way to prove God or believing that science and religion are two separate entities that have no business even considering one another.
Given my definition of Agnosticism, many of you are probably agnostic. In fact, I bet many of you consider all of this a statement of the obvious. Obvious or not, one needs to have a firm stance on where they are philosophically, even if it is just an expression of ignorance, as my philosophy usually is.
I have ideas for about seven or eight more blog posts, so I will hopefully get out at least that many before the semester begins.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

summer work

A quick update on what's been going on. I know it's been a while. I'm done with my eighth semester, and instead of graduating and doing something with my life, I'm staying a MSU for another year. I'm busy trying to get my fifth year paid for. You see you only get MTAG, MESG, and the ACT Academic scholarship for four years. Those paid for a sizable chunk of my expenses, so I'm working to get private scholarships to cover the deficit. Otherwise, I'm trying to find a job over the summer. The story is moderately long, so here goes...
Two months ago I called my boss at the Corps of Engineers, with whom I have worked for four years. He was no longer the boss; he was the "acting branch chief." He did tell me that most people had money to pay me and projects to work on, so I wasn't worried about a job for the summer. He said he would let the new chief know I wanted to come back. Well, I waited a few weeks with no response. I wasn't surprised, messages are rarely delivered in the government. I began calling the new boss about six weeks ago. I left her a voicemail and an e-mail. No response. After getting home I begin calling her office everyday, calling the secretary, calling people I know that work in my branch. The people I got a hold of told me she was out. So, I patiently waited. I apparently missed her several times, but despite my e-mails and voicemails, she didn't respond. I finally got tired of being ignored, so I asked the secretary for her home phone. I finally spoke with her and she told me that no one had any money or work currently. She also told me she meant to let me know a month earlier that I would not have a job, but she forgot. And that was that.
Had I found out several weeks ago, as I should have, I could have procured another job at the Corps before all the high school students got out of school. But now, there are very few spots open. I am frantically asking all the people I know that work for the Corps if they know of any jobs. I have a glimmer of hope, but it's very small. I hope I don't have to work some sort of retail or service job. But we'll see.
As an aside, I am proud of myself for not getting very angry with my new, ex-boss. I was furious with her when she told me, but I calmly accepted it. The fact remains though that at best she is rude and inconsiderate and at worst incompetent. It's like I'm living a Dilbert cartoon. I do not enjoy it.
 
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