Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Um, about those transitional fossils creationists are always getting so worked up about...
Was Adelard Channeling Richard Dawkins?
One of the early medieval scholars to emphasize the use of Reason was Adelard of Bath (d. 1152). Mike Flynn read an amusing quote from him during our medieval science panel at Boskone two weeks ago, and it's worth quoting in full:
[from Adelard's Quaestiones naturales] “[T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason.”
Now, what's funny about this quote (in addition to the way Mike delivered it--and it got a big laugh from the audience) is that it conveys that inimitable sense of British impatience with the obtuse that one so often sees (ironically) on display in the writings of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. In fact, if you removed Adelard's reference to God quoted above, you could fool people into thinking the entire quote was something written by Dawkins in the past year or so.

The myth of the Middle Ages being an age of 'blind faith' however, continues to be...a matter of blind faith.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley: 1925-2008
"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."


Tuesday, February 26, 2008 says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

So...I still have all my first-edition paperbacks of the James Blish Star Trek adaptations.
Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post:
The difference between a presidential candidate and a fool in love is only a matter of Secret Service protection.
(via RealClearPolitics)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is the new Amazon Shorts market a good prospect for budding short story writers?
"I have a plus/minus feeling about the program," Morrell says. "On the plus side, it's a new way to be published, with potential for a new readership. There aren't many markets for short stories. A new one is welcome, and Amazon has links that help readers find the stories. Eventually, readers might go to other work by a writer they sampled in the Shorts program. On the minus side, while the royalty rate is wonderful, the actual money received tends to be minimal. In addition, many anthologies won't accept stories if they've been published anywhere else, including Amazon, so the secondary market for an Amazon Short can be limited."
I'm holding off for now. There are a lot of other new internet-based, paying short story markets and anthologies.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Rise of Modern Science panel was a lot of fun. Although we'd all emailed each other prior to it, it was the first time for me to meet both Br. Guy and Mike Flynn. Mike was more than prepared for the panel, which, considering it was a Friday evening, 7PM, while many attendees were probably still checking in to the hotel, it was well attended. I'd say the room had seats for 100 and it was 75% capacity.

In addition to 4 tomes on the history of science (3 of which I have in my library-Lindberg and Grant), Mike brought his laptop, fired it up with some Gregorian chant just within the range of hearing in the background, as he referred during the course of the panel to the excellent article he wrote for Analog (published in the July/August 2007 issue), titled De revolutione scientiarum in 'media tempestas', which Mike was kind enough to send me. If you grovel appropriately, I'll ask permission to send a copy to you; on the other hand, he may not want to do that. In which case, hie thee to the nearest library to photocopy your own--it's must reading. He did a huge amount of research for Eifelheim.

Brother Guy moderated, and he's just finished his own new book, God's Mechanics: How Techies Make Sense of Religion. Afterward, since no one had any other panels to host, we hit the smaller of the two Westin hotel bars and I bought both gents a round. I had a 7&7, while Brother Guy had a glass of chardonnay and Mike, glancing back and forth at the Bushmills and Jameson, good Irish whiskies both, opted for the former.

The panel was videotaped. I haven't found out yet where it will be posted, but will provide a link if its available. This paltry posting doesn't do justice to it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bill Vallicella has some thoughts for a Friday:
I suggest that our immanent moral sense must serve as a check on religion with its propensity for excess and fanaticism. We need revelation, but we also need to evaluate whether it be true revelation. With respect to putative divine commands, is it not self-evident that we must check their source? Perhaps we need to subordinate ourselves, submitting ourselves to the Higher, and perhaps without such 'Islam' (submission) there is no religion at all; but not in such a way as to abdicate our autonomy and responsibility.

One can see that there is a tension here. How balance our autonomy and our creatureliness? It is but another form of the tension between Athens and Jerusalem. The tension between morality and religion shows once again the unavoidability of philosophy. For only philosophy can mediate this dispute.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hot damn. It's that time of year again.
How cool is this?
I'm going to be on a panel tomorrow night at the start of this year's Boskone, talking about the Rise of Modern Science (and why it arose in Europe as opposed to anywhere else), along with Guy Consolmagno and Michael Flynn. I enthused about Bro. Guy's latest book here. Flynn's latest book, Eifelheim is one the best science fiction novels in the past decade.

In addition to being fun--it's an honor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hilarious parody of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, featuring the much hassled current Archibishop Rowan himself:

25 Sayeth the pilgryms to Bishop Rowan,

26 "Father, we do not like howe thynges are goin'.

27 You know we are as Lefte as thee,

28 But of layte have beyn chaunced to see

29 From Edinburgh to London-towne

30 The Musslemans in burnoose gowne

31 Who beat theyr ownselfs with theyr knyves

32 Than goon home and beat theyr wyves

33 And slaye theyr daughtyrs in honour killlynge

34 Howe do we stoppe the bloode fromme spillynge?"

John Derbyshire sums up the problem with Ben Stein (and why I have lost all respect for the guy.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sobering thoughts from Leon Wieseltier:
I cannot escape the foreboding that we are heading into an era of conflict, not an era of conciliation. I do not mean that there will be many wars, though I cannot imagine that the threat to American security from Al Qaeda and its many associates can be met without a massive and sustained military operation in western Pakistan, and I cannot imagine any Pakistani government ordering such an operation. It is not "the politics of fear" to remind Obama's legions of the blissful that, while they are watching Scarlett Johansson sway to the beat, somewhere deep inside a quasi independent territory we might call Islamistan people are making plans to blow them to bits. (Yes, they can.)
Mark Helprin has had a belly full of talk radio.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Submitted for your edification...a little scene from classical literature to set the tone for Lent, 2008. [Shot in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on one of the lonelier roads weaving out of Franconia Notch....]

Keeping Things in Perspective Dept.
Biologist Steve Matheson tells me that myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) is an interesting protein --and in one particular species, the yellow fever mosquito no less (Aedes aegypti), it contains the amino acid sequence FARRELL.

Well, if that doesn't keep a man humble, I don't know what does.

Friday, February 08, 2008

It's nice to see Scott Carson is back, and boy has his bulls&*t detector gone into high gear:
As usual, though, the wackiest English cleric is no mere Bishop, it's the Archwacko of Canterbury, who looks forward to the day when women will have to have their heads covered in church again--only this time it will be for a very different reason (again from NPR):
The Archbishop of Canterbury says he believes some aspects of Islamic "sharia" law will be introduced into Britain.

In a radio broadcast Thursday, Archbishop Rowan Williams said he was talking only about civil law in areas such as marriage and divorce. He said it was "unavoidable" that British law would have to accommodate Muslim practices.

The archbishop's statement was welcomed by some Muslim groups, but the British government was quick to distance itself from Williams' remarks.
Whew, that was close. It's a good thing the Commonwealth has so many other, much more useless and offensive laws to pursue.
Worth reading in full.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Oh, boy. Here we go again. Rod Dreher:
I don't know how the Post got the story, but chances are someone tipped them off to Moynihan, and they cross-checked property records, phone records, etc. The diocese didn't want to know what Fr. Moynihan was up to, period. And you need to ask yourself why. Why wouldn't a diocese want to know if one of its priests, a man it believes hived away a half-million dollars in a secret account, was violating his chastity and celibacy vows and shacking up with a male lover (or, if it came to that, a female lover)?
William Murchison has some wise words for the tantrum prone wing of the Republican voting block:

I have just the feeling that, with conservatives, this moment is one in which pique cancels out reason -- a time for slamming doors and kicking the cat across the room -- just because here at the end of the Bush presidency, dreams of a conservative era flicker low.

I might not say to my fellow conservatives "grow up," as did Barnes. But I might counsel -- if anybody had the inclination to listen -- that the perfect president is harder to find than the perfect job or the perfect church. We do the best we can, and when we can't do any better, that's when we take the ballot and do things such as Ann Coulter instructs us not to do. Sorry, ma'am.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Food for thought at Just Thomism:

Reading modern debates between atheists and theists I get the sense that the topics come from rumors of topics long forgotten. Both sides have heard that there is a “cosmological argument” that has somehow proved God’s existence, but they devote page after page of critique or praise of this argument on the basis of special relativity, theories concerning black holes, probability theory, or in general, ideas borrowed from modern Physics. Both sides have heard something about how the soul was once immortal, or that a part of man is immaterial- but this turns into a question of whether minds are physical, or whether mental states are brain states.

In both of these ways of discussing the problem, I agree with the atheist or materialist position.
Read on...
For those of you in the Boston area with long memories...

Yep...even then I had a video camera. Glad I did, too. My daughters don't believe we got a week off from school thirty years ago. [Note: The big guy in the picture is my late dad, David Farrell, former Globe columnist (he got to skip writing that day!) horsing around with my youngest sister. The soundtrack was added for effect. I didn't have a mic to go with that old camera...]

Friday, February 01, 2008

If you want to see just how pathetic the m.o. of the Discovery Institute truly is, then check out these posts by PZ Myers. Yeah, PZ Myers (and hat's off to him for exposing ignorance wherever it lurks). Here's the invite. Here's what happened.

All I can say is, with Christians friends like these...

Seriously. When are conservative Christians going to wake up to what a con job the entire "Intelligent" Design movement actually is?