Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I've been tagged by DarwinCatholic for my additions to the AFI's less than comprehensive list of the 100 Best Movies of the last century.

Here goes:

1) Your favorite five movies that are on the list.
All About Eve
It Happened One Night
Silence of the Lambs
French Connection
The Wild Bunch

2) Five movies on the list you didn't like at all.
West Side Story
The Sound of Music
The Apartment

3) Five movies on the list you haven't seen but want to.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Bringing Up Baby
From Here to Eternity

4) Five movies on the list you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing.
Singing in the Rain
The Grapes of Wrath
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Birth of a Nation
Rebel Without a Cause

5) Your favoritve five movies that aren't on the list.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
A New Leaf
The Horror of Dracula
The Cowboys

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Should we be surprised that the New York Times 2007 100 Notable Books list contains NOT ONE science book? Not really. Patrick Nielsen Hayden sums it up nicely:
You can probably write your own viewing-with-alarm essay about this, complete with obligatory reference to C. P. Snow. All I can say is, what an impoverished mental landscape the people who drew up this list must live in.
Impoverished is the word.
The continuing implosion of William Dembski. This is beyond the kind of thing that makes you wince or shake your head. Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving. It's been a good news/bad news holiday. Bad news is a prominent publisher that was seriously interested in my latest book proposal decided ...after several months to pass. Good news is that I'm having my best month in terms of sales for my movies at CustomFlix (now CreateSpace).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Did the Church evolve? You might be surprised to find the answer is yes, as explicated by Mike Liccione.
Christopher Hitchens takes a muched need break from ranting about God to pass on the increasingly good news about Iraq:
The surge is only a part of this story. Quite obviously, if the Sunnis of Anbar Province had not of their own volition turned on the hideous forces of al-Qaida, then no amount of extra troops could have made the difference. But some combination of the two things appears to have altered the chemistry, and not just in that province, and all the reporters and soldiers I can get hold of (who include some direly skeptical people in both categories) seem agreed on one thing: The forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi stink in the nostrils of the Arab world, and have been—here I borrow some words of Thomas Paine—"in point of generalship … outwitted, and in point of fortitude outdone." Bin Ladenism in Iraq has been dealt a stinging defeat. Surely this is something to celebrate.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I was saddened to hear from Sean Carroll that Harvard physicist Sydney Coleman passed away. He was kind enough some years back to let me interview him for a piece on quantum physics for the American Spectator (Chris Caldwell was an editor there at the time) that, alas, was never published.

Coleman was a realist in the best sense of the word, and he had a great sense of humor. One of my favorite quotes from him occurred during the 1989 World Science Fiction convention in Boston. On a panel about quantum physics, he said,
"If you mentioned quantum physics at a cocktail party ten years ago, everyone would leave the room. More recently a woman approached me and said, 'Isn't quantum physics just what Eastern mystics have been saying for the last two thousand years?' I had to summon every ounce of dignity and told her, 'No.!'

"Reality is still blue, and clouds fly through it."
God rest his soul.
Lowell is staying.
Free-agent third baseman Mike Lowell has agreed in principle to the framework of a three-year deal to return to the Red Sox, major league baseball sources close to the negotiations have confirmed.
("...and there was much rejoicing...")

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Congratulations are in order. Author Gene Wolfe, of whom I wrote in the April issue of First Things, has won the World Fantasy Award for 2007 for Soldier of Sidon. The last time he won was in 1981 for Shadow of the Torturer, the first volume in his Book of the New Sun. Sidon is a masterpiece, in my opinion, in a cycle that I believe is destined to become his defining work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Could this be the start of a new trend (please, God!)? Another Christian biologist breaks his silence on Intelligent Design.
So in light of the issue’s new prominence and with a desire to improve the mental hygiene of others, I would just like to say that Intelligent Design is a really, really bad idea --scientifically, politically, and theologically. I say this as a dedicated conservative, who has on many occasions defended and espoused religion and religious conservatism. I also say it as a professional molecular biologist, who has worked daily (or at least week-daily) for years with biological problems to which the theory of evolution has contributed significant understanding -- and to which Intelligent Design is incapable of contributing any understanding at all.
More of this, please.

(Hat tip: Ed Brayton.)
Martin Scorcese has a beautiful tribute to Christopher Lee right here, on the occasion of a concert Lee performed recently at Estepona.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

George Vecsey on A-Rod:

This is a good sign. It shows that even baseball owners can learn. Back in the mid-1980s, the owners openly committed collusion by not pursuing free agents, a mistake that eventually cost them money and embarrassment. This time, most of the richer clubs just shrugged — but separately — when Boras peddled his newly liberated client.

“We know there are other opportunities for us,” Rodriguez said yesterday. “But Cynthia and I have a foundation with the club that has brought us comfort, stability and happiness.”

In other words, Boras tossed and lost — with A-Rod’s image. Rodriguez has never justified himself to Yankees fans, having driven in nine runs in 24 postseason games since joining the Yankees with that huge contract in 2004. Even in the highly individualistic sport of baseball, there is a foxhole mentality. The players know Rodriguez works hard, but they also know he has not come through in the postseason.

Alex Rodriguez let his agent opt out for him, right during the World Series. Now the Yankees should opt out on him.

The fallout of the clergy abuse crisis continues to spread. Patricia Snow has a sobering piece today:

Everyone has a story. A priest friend of mine was assigned to a parish in New York City only to discover that his predecessor, in a panic, had eliminated every program involving children. There were no altar servers; there was no religious education. Everything was gone. A woman in another Connecticut parish was forbidden by her pastor to drive her students to a soup kitchen. Another woman, in another parish, couldn’t take a group of teenagers to see The Passion.

In parish after parish, programs have been curtailed or eliminated. When the bishops in Dallas went too far, essentially stripping priests of due process with their policy of zero tolerance, Rome eventually stepped in, restoring balance and justice. Who will step in on behalf of the laity, whose innocence in so many cases is being impugned? Who, in effect, will speak for our girls? “You can’t have community without trust,” I murmured at the workshop, but by that point the momentum was all the other way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I can confirm from personal experience, that Curt Schilling is exactly right:

On coming into next season in good shape ...
"It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," said Schilling, who said he woke up around 4:30 a.m. for a short run yesterday, and ran again this morning. "You can't diet. There's just no chance of that happening."

Schilling, who turns 41 years old today, will receive a bonus of up to $2 million if he meets goals at six different weigh-ins. He said he wasn't sure when the first Red Sox weigh-in was, but he said the goals were doable
Diets are for suckers. You're whole lifestyle has to change. My own favorite guide in this area is Walter Willett's Eat, Drink and Be Healthy.
I watched Nova's Judgment Day documentary on the Dover case last night. Larry Arnhart is surely correct that the Discovery Institute and Michael Behe made a disastrous mistake in refusing to be interviewed for the production. I really think this is the end for Behe as a credible scientist.

The PBS documentary accurately conveyed the drama, which is clear in the transcripts of the case, of three turning points: the humiliation of Michael Behe through cross-examination, the evidence from the early drafts of the book OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE, and the perjury of the Dover school board members.

Behe was not able to respond effectively when confronted with a stack of articles and books on the evolution of the immune system. He claimed that there were no evolutionary explanations of the immune system. But he could not explain why this research was not worth studying. Behe should have agreed to be interviewed for this documentary to refute this conclusion.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Is the Church Indifferent to Science?

UPDATE: 7.15.08: This post has been removed. A revised version is now available online in the July '08 issue of Faith.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's a working Saturday night for me. Just finished the book trailer for Doctor Janeway's Plague. And it was fun.

Wow. I'm humbled. Thanks to Steve Matheson via Larry Moran for spreading this one. Apparently my blog is at the post-graduate level!

cash advance

Friday, November 09, 2007

Want to see the first HD video of the moon? Check it out.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My bloglines subscriptions are getting so stacked I have a hard time keeping up with all the good (and often great) material that appears, even over the course of a few days.

For example, here are two excellent posts by Bill Vallicella. Does the Atheist Deny What the Theist Affirms? and A. C. Grayling and a Stock Move of Militant Atheists. The comments at Bill's blog are always excellent.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jason Rosenhouse, PZ Myers, et al, meet Scott Carson:
It doesn't help that many modern day Christians have abandoned their Neoplatonic roots and think that physical suffering is a Bad Thing that trumps just about everything else, including the fact that our souls are supposedly immortal. If you really have an immortal soul, and if you really believe that everyone else has one too, then you will not worry as much about physical suffering as a person who thinks that the present material existence is the only one there is. But of course, we are called by the Gospel to care for others and to alleviate suffering where we find it, but the call here is not so much to prevent suffering as to cherish life. Although these two things are functionally very similar (indeed, in many cases they are the same), they are not by any means identical, and the failure to see this is often behind the inability to see that the "problem of evil" is not really a problem at all.

As long as we are the byproducts of evolutionary forces--and of course we are--we will have the capacity to feel pain. It is a mistake of a rather elementary kind to try to equate a natural property of a material entity with a moral category like "evil". Sure, we don't like pain and suffering, but it is a mechanism, nothing more. Only a moral relativist of the most distasteful variety would associate moral goodness and badness with what we like and don't like. We feel pain in the way that certain kinds of plants wilt when they don't get enough water--it is just an artifact of the way we are put together, it is not something that an omnibenevolent God "ought" to have prevented if he had cared enough about us to have put us together in a different way. Again, you'd have to be some sort of bizarre fundamentalist committed to intelligent design and young-earth creationism to fall for the kind of crap that equates mere physical suffering with evil in the world.

People sometimes act as though God's justice is at stake in all this. Young babies dying of starvation in Ethiopia are supposed to show us that God is himself somehow evil (or, more benignly, simply non-existent), just as we would accuse a human parent of "depraved indifference" if he calmly watched as his young child wandered out into a busy highway and did nothing to prevent the inevitable. It really does take a village, doesn't it? Why anyone would be attracted to a theology in which God is just one more citizen in the universe, who can be expected to throw himself in front of oncoming traffic or pull careless swimmers out of riptides, is beyond me, but there you have it: if God is just one of us, then we can criticize the rationality of his decisions regarding particular human fates out there in the world. If my theology was as banal as that I would lose my faith, too, because that really is a stupid way to look at things.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Excellent post today by Massimo Pigliucci over at Rationally Speaking:
So we observe the pathetic attempts to undermine science by practitioners of so-called “science studies,” who usually know very little about the science they criticize; on the other hand, high-caliber scientists of the like of physicist Steven Weinberg and biologist E.O. Wilson dismiss philosophy as “armchair speculation,” when they know little about either how philosophy is done or what its goals are (e.g., Weinberg complains that philosophy hasn't solved any scientific problem, apparently without understanding the elementary fact that philosophy is not about solving scientific problems – that's what science is for!).
Weinberg can be surprisingly vacuous, considering he has a Nobel Laureate in physics. His vaunted statement at the close of The First Three Minutes, 'the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless', gives you an idea of what just one semester introductory course on Philosophy might have spared him back when he was a freshman in college. (And spared his readers.)

For all I know, he did take a course, and slept through it.