Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Prague's Grand Old Astronomical Clock

In Prague this week. The ‘old city’ section is a treat for history of science buffs. We managed to get a perch in front of the medieval astronomical clock in the Square. This is the oldest operating clock in the world, and the third oldest overall, surviving from the fifteenth century. The clock strikes on the hour, but was more ambitiously designed to follow the phases of the moon and the passage of the sun through the Zodiac year around. Note in my video (about forty seconds in), the chimes begin with Death, personified by the skeleton, ringing the bell, while the apostles pass by the opening windows above.

(continued at Forbes....)

The Pope, The Encyclical...and Darwin.

Because you knew I would find evolution in there somewhere....

Christopher Lee (1922--2015)

My tribute to Christopher Lee at Forbes. To say he led a full life is an understatement. It was an honor to meet him, to write about him--and to write for him. But that's another story....

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Can Science Provide A Big History?

Over at The Edge, John Brockman features British historian David Christian on the need to come up with a new origin story that can serve the global community.

Christian, the author of This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity, started his career as a professor of Russian history, and over the years as he refined his lectures on the Cold War, he realized…

(continued at Forbes)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gregor Mendel, Call Your Office

Some thoughts on the recent, excellent Houses of Worship article by Steve Barr and Dermott Mullan in the Wall Street Journal.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Vatican and Evolution: Help Wanted

Today, popular attitudes toward evolution and religion take three forms, and the Vatican sits uneasily between two of them. The first, and most widely touted in recent years by prominent atheists, is that science in general and evolution in particular have completely debunked the claims of the major monotheistic religions.

The second, what might be called the deist alternative, acknowledges that Darwinian evolution undermines key beliefs of Christianity but is completely compatible with a generally theistic view of the cosmos, one that owes its creation to a God who is content to wind up the clock, as it were, launch the Big Bang, and let the Universe run by itself. This view does not embrace the traditional understanding of a benevolent deity who takes a personal interest in human history and answers people’s prayers. But it’s a middle ground between atheism and theism – and it tends to annoy atheists as much as it does religious traditionalists.

The third position, one embraced by many fundamentalist Christians and more conservative adherents of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, is the frank rejection of science where and when it directly contradicts Christian doctrine or scripture, such as the belief that God created the world in six days, the story of Noah and the flood, or that Adam and Eve were the first parents of the entire human race.

For ample reasons, the Vatican is unwilling to embrace this third option. It has long had a proud tradition of balancing faith with reason, as in the classic works of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. It is clear, however, that when it comes to evolution, Rome is not sure how to find a way to balance a continued support for the Catholic tradition and the consensus of science.

But such a way must be found….

(Full text at Aeon)

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Curse of the System….

There is an enormous distinction which must be drawn between the insights of Thomas Aquinas and the system which has come to be known as Thomism. The insights of St. Thomas are magnificent realistic flashes of  illumination which lay open a tremendous range of experience, cosmic, human and divine.  Like the authentic insights of every other great thinker, man will never allow these gifts to be lost. But the system, the pedagogical blueprint, that St. Thomas drew up for the purposes of an age of scholasticism, has needed constant revamping from the first day of publication. The manual tradition of Thomism has not done its homework. The invaluable insights have often been obscured by uncritical and useless accretions. It is the system, the demands of the cosmic order and the order of knowledge, into which all things known and all things knowable must fit, which I find so unrealistic and illusory.
 ~Raymond J. Nogar, OP 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quotes of Note

“Grosseteste most often features in accounts of medieval thought because of his contribution to the scientific method, and for what has been called his ‘metaphysics of light’. Although Grosseteste spoke, in his commentary on the Posterior Analytics, on how to reach a universal principle based on experience (principium universale experimentale), the claim sometime made that he, first in the Middle Ages, devised an experimental method is borne out neither by his theoretical nor his more practical scientific works. The main achievement of Grosseteste’s widely-read commentary was, rather, to help put into circulation the ideas of the Aristotelian treatise which did not guide scientific investigation in the modern sense, but helped rather in thinking about the organization of knowledge.”

John Marenbon, Medieval Philosophy: An Historical and Philosophical Introduction
(London: Routledge, 2007. p. 228)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

An Unreasonable Discontinuity

The difficulty arises when concern for the truth of creation, expressed in symbolic language begins to dictate the physical events through which humanity originated. The scientist reasonably asks why it was necessary that humanity suddenly had to be unlike the biological nature which gave him form? The state of original innocence does precisely that. The scientist does not deny the possibility of ensoulment, that is God's associating the individual human person with His own divine existence, making the individual immortal in preparation for a life with God after physical death. Science has no interest in that and no way to deal with it. But since the human biological nature at present is constituted genetically and metabolically the same as all other animal life and when the only reasonable explanation for this is the process of biological evolution, then any interruption of this process seems unreasonable and unnecessary. This is the objection scientists have to creationism and our theology would be well advised to agree.

Joseph, William (2012-02-10). In Search of Adam and Eve (p. 210). Kindle Edition.