Personal & Family
I grew up in Lincoln Nebraska, a pastor’s kid. When I was 13 I fell in love with acoustics and started building stereo equipment. At 17 I was selling my brand of speakers in a local stereo shop alongside top brands like B&W, Denon and Grado. I got a degree in Electrical Engineering. While propellerhead stuff seems like an odd prelude to what I do today, it equipped me with a ‘liberal arts tech education for the 21st century.’ It’s the backbone of my present work.
After college I designed speakers for Honda, Mazda, Chrysler and Acura. I still keep a hand in audio, and one of my designs graces the cover of AudioXpress magazine.
When I was 21 I began a six year stint drinking the pink kool aid of multi-level marketing. I’ve written extensively about it. Entry level sales opportunities from Girl Scout Cookies and Cutco Knives to Amway and affiliate marketing are a rite of passage for many entrepreneurs.
My mom was a southern belle from Virginia; dad a farmer’s son from North Carolina. Mom struggled with mental illness. A particularly dark period was when dad got demoted from his job for taking her to a psychiatrist, after he had correctly diagnosed her as having bipolar with mild schizophrenia. Our family was publicly humiliated.
It turned out her odd behavior was not “sin” or “rebellion,” but a common medical condition. Dad held his ground and vindicated himself, won an apology nine months later, and got his job back. A month later he was diagnosed with cancer. We endured the dreadful oncology roller coaster so many are familiar with. Three years later he was gone. Much later it became apparent that this had been my first front row seat in the long-standing war between science and religion - an unnecessary war I seek to end.
When I was 17 I met a Nebraska farm girl named Laura on a music tour. She was the singer, I was the sound man. She fell in love with my reverb. We married at age 20. Now we are parenting our 6 kids (4 bio, 2 adopted from China) and get to be involved in the lives of their friends and partners, as well as our foster daughter who became our God daughter along with her brothers.
It was a practice run for adopting two kids from China: first, a 19 month old girl; later a 9 year old boy. Our kids are homeschooled; two opted for private high schools.
When my younger brother Bryan, a missionary in China, abandoned faith and moved back to the US, this triggered a fierce argument about “creation vs. evolution.” We had been raised “six day creationists” but now his views had completely flipped. By then I was well aware that the earth is not 6,000 years old; but had never given the rest of it much consideration.
This plunged me into an existential crisis. I vowed: “I’m going to let science make this decision for me.” Engineering had given me a solid science background. My training suggested that if evolution were true, there must be principles of engineering nobody had bothered to mention in engineering school; after all, software programs and machines need engineers.
I decided if science really points to a world with no divine spark, I would likewise abandon faith - so I leapt into the void. I was terrified - but resolved to follow the truth wherever it led.
This quickly grew far more fascinating than I’d ever anticipated. My questions led me to create websites that explore the “big questions.” Coffeehouse Theology and Evolution 2.0. These spurred literally tens of thousands of conversations and debates which significantly altered my views.
My motivation was a conviction that in your search for the truth, you must put your ideas on the anvil. Then you invite others to pound on them with the biggest, baddest sledgehammers they can find. When something breaks, you discard it. The only stuff that's true is whatever remains after the smoke has cleared.
I was deadly serious about this. Many of my sacred cows became steak dinners. But... this cut both directions. After a year of intense investigation, this quest landed me right in the center of the world’s largest skeptic discussion board, where I defended myself successfully for seven years.
I came to a robust conclusion that both ‘sides’ had butchered the “where did it all come from” topic beyond all recognition. Charles Darwin himself would be aghast if he knew how those after him misrepresented his work. The real science and the true majesty of nature had been buried.
Probing deeper still, this war between science and religion was murdering cancer and virus research. Mediocre science was dehumanizing all of us. The average rank-and-file scientist has relatively little freedom of speech. Only “rock stars” enjoy a degree of freedom to explore as they wish and reach unconventional conclusions.
As I began seeking judges for the Evolution 2.0 Prize, this topic proved too politically charged for ‘average’ researchers to touch. But in time, some of the most celebrated scientists in the world thought it was fantastic and revolutionary. Nobel Prize winners referred me to their colleagues. Today a major revolution is underway in evolutionary biology, as a century of previous assumptions are being overturned. The baseball broke through the bulletproof glass at a 2016 conference at the Royal Society in London. We are in a new era.
In order to hold transparent conversations in which voices are not silenced and discoveries are not buried, we need a De-Militarized Zone, similar to the no-fire zone between North and South Korea. The rules of the DMZ are:
1) Put down your weapons
2) No hiding behind screen names
3) Assume positive intention
4) Get to the truth, not the sale
Not only do we need this in scientific, philosophical and religious conversations, we urgently need a DMZ for all discussions in our increasingly polarized world.