Archive for the ‘Science and Religion’ Category

I’m so proud to be a Floridian.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

The Florida board of education just passed new standards that for the first time require teaching of EVIL-lution. However, only over this guy‘s objections.

Ganked from Think Progress, which has more details.

Oh, and here’s an editorial by Carl Hiaasen about the issue.

And I cannot tell a lie, I found out about this, as I do most of my news, by reading Wonkette.

Getting ready for Evolution weekend

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

February 8-10, 2008 is Evolution Weekend — it’s the weekend closest to Charles Darwin‘s birthday (2/12), and for several years has been celebrated at numerous liberal churches as an opportunity to talk about the compatibility of religion and science. I’m going to lead the program at Cape Girardeau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, although it’s kind of easy to talk about the compatibility of UUism and science.

Anyway, I was out for a ride today, and on the way back I passed Oak Ridge High School, where their sign announced the upcoming science fair. I was thinking about science fairs that I’ve judged when next I passed the Oak Ridge First Baptist Church:

NOW you tell me, says Darwin

So many things wrong with that sign that I hardly know where to start.

Meanwhile, here’s me in my cold weather gear, outside Oak Ridge.

At B and E

Ah, Texas

Friday, February 16th, 2007

It would be easy to laugh at idiocy in the Texas state legislature, except when you remember that Texas, as one of the largest markets for textbooks in the US, exerts significant influence on the content of school science texts used throughout the country. Here’s the latest (ganked mostly from Daily Kos):

Republican representative Warren Chisum is chair of the Texas House Appropriations Committee. He recently circulated a memo opposing teaching evolution in Texas schools. That in itself is no big surprise. This memo, though, which was written by Georgia legislator Ben Bridges, includes a link to the web site You have to check out the site to believe it. I’m pretty sure it’s not a parody, although the line would be hard to draw.

To summarize briefly, the Copernican “fiction” that the Earth moves is the cornerstone of a Jewish plot to destroy the Bible, promote evil-lution, legitimize perverted sex acts, and generally impurify the precious bodily fluids of our nation’s youth. Act now! Stamp out this vile, moving-Earth anti-Biblical lie!

Nota Bene:

Just in case, I don’t want anyone to think that I think all Christians, Conservative Christians, or even Biblical Literalist Christians are like the evil wack-job who wrote the fixed Earth site. I know plenty of Christians who have no problem at all with the findings of modern science.

I know some other, fairly literalist Christians who are intelligent and highly ethical people, even if I disagree with them on some fundamental points of world view. My major problem is with people who want to teach religion as science in schools that my tax dollars support, and I have an even worse problem with people who want to flavor that religion with anti-semitism.

The Limits of Omnipotence

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Me in Genetics class today:

“Here’s how you can tell if an abnormality in DNA is a mutation or a lesion.  First, imagine that you’re God.  Now, can you make a protein that would fix the problem?  If you can, it’s a lesion.  If not, it’s a mutation.”

My student Hannah:

“But if I were God, I could do anything I wanted!”


“Could you make a cheeseburger so big you couldn’t eat it?”

A theologian tried to steal my coat.

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

When the meeting ended today, I went to get my coat off the rack, and first I started to grab this black Land’s End coat, but when I put my hand in the pocket to get my gloves, they weren’t there.  Then I realized that it wasn’t my coat, although it was similar, and I put it back.  Then I looked all through the rack several times.  No coat.

A few minutes later, while I was still trying to decide what to do, a white-haired guy came up peering at the coat rack.  I peered at the coat that he was holding.  He peered back at me.  “Is this your coat? It’s just like mine, but when I found these gloves in the pocket I realized I’d taken the wrong one.”
Okay, maybe he wasn’t really trying to steal my coat.  Makes a good title, though.  Can you really trust these theologians?  Maybe they just go into it because then people don’t suspect them of being international coat thieves.

Yes, I’ve met lots of famous science and religion people.

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

I spent all day at the Peacocke Memorial Symposium, at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Chicago. The talks varied, but were mostly good. I particularly liked Philip Clayton’s talk, which was on emergent phenomena at multiple levels of complexity, and how systems biology fits in with this model. I had a few minutes to talk to him later in the seminary bookstore. I asked him something about his talk, and we had an interesting brief discussion. He was quite gracious, really, saying that I’d stated it more clearly than he had, and that he hadn’t thought of the point I was making. As we were about to go back to the meetings, he looked at my name tag and said “Very intelligent questions. I’m impressed.”

I kind of wanted to feel patronized, but I just couldn’t quite manage it. I’ve read things he’s written, and yes, he is that much smarter than I am. He meant it kindly.

I also had a chance at breakfast to talk to Ian Barbour briefly. He wrote the text I’ve used for the last 15 years in my Science and Religion class, and is now apparently older than God.

At lunch, I was talking with a graduate student who is doing her thesis on the consequences of the mistranslation of “El-Shaddai” as “pantocrator” in the Septuagint, rendered as “almighty” in English bible translations. I asked her if she knew Anna Case-Winters, whose doctoral dissertation was published as “God’s Power”. She didn’t, which surprised me because Case-Winters is a professor at McCormick Theological Seminar – it’s the Presbyterian seminary right next door to the Lutheran one. Anyway, at break time later I saw Case-Winters and was able to find the grad student and introduce them. The 10-minute conversation that ensued was pretty incomprehensible to me, but it was clear that they had some interests in common.

Let’s see, what other names can I drop here? I talked to Nancey Murphy in the bookstore; we had a nice chat, but she didn’t actually remember meeting some years before when she came to Chicago to give a talk. John and Carol Albright were very nice to me as always – I’ve visited them several times for Science and Religion stuff in Chicago. Most of the time I sat next to a divinity student from a seminary in Indiana; we had several interesting conversations about the talks.

All in all, I had a nice time. I should come up here more often; it always re-energizes me for science and religion issues, and gets me more excited about teaching my class.

* I thought he had confounded ontological and epistemological reductionism at one point, if you must know.


Friday, February 9th, 2007

Well, I got here.  They were a bit late getting my rental car in at Enterprise, and as a result I didn’t arrive at the hotel until after the evening speaker would have begun.  There would still have been a couple of miles across town to drive and find parking, etc.  So, I decided to skip the evening talk and show up for the meetings in the morning.

Of course, then I checked into my hotel room and found that it was a SAUNA.  I’m serious, it has to have been well over 120 in this room when I came in.  The heat was turned on as high as it could go.  So, I shut it off and opened windows to let in some of the 15-degree evening air.  On the plus side, the wireless signal is strong and there’s no bullshit sign-on stuff.   So I’m watching Monk.

Off to Chicago

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

So tomorrow I’m driving to that most coveted of all February vacation spots, Chicago.  It’s for a science and religion meeting, honoring Arthur Peacocke, who died last year.  I met Peacocke in 1996, when Andy Pratt and I went to a week-long workshop at Oxford for people teaching science and religion courses.  This is me (on the left) at that workshop with Chris Southgate, who has a science and religion post at Cambridge now:

Peacocke was the main speaker.  On Sunday we went to mass at the Christ Church College Cathedral, and Peacocke gave us communion.  He was a biochemist and an Anglican priest.

Anyway, the S&R community in Chicago is pretty extensive, and they’re putting on a symposium in his memory.  I could hardly skip it.  Nancey Murphy will be there.  Phil Hefner will be there.  Philip Clayton will be there. Karl Peters.  Who knows.  Lots of big guns in the  S&R field.

I’ll take my laptop and blog from there.