Monday, February 28, 2011

What the Monk Said to the Scientist

I read a lot of fiction.  I know many people who think it is a waste of time, but every now and then I find gems that make it completely worth it.  Case in point: A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter Miller Jr.  This has become one of my top ten favourite works of fiction.  I just finished reading it the other day, and it blew me away, more so considering that it was first published in instalments in a Science Fiction pulp magazine.  It is the only work from such a source to be considered literature, and despite being first published fifty years ago, has never gone out of print. 

The story is divided into three sections, spanning 1800 years of future history after a nuclear war destroys our own culture.  The events occur within a monastery established by a long-deceased martyr named Liebowitz, who founded the monastery to protect the written records of the past civilization from those who would seek to destroy it.  The monks studiously preserved charred remains of books and blueprints, but with little idea of the knowledge they contained.  The three sections of the book roughly follow our own history (hitting a theme of Miller’s: the circularity of history), from the protection of knowledge after the fall of Rome, to the Renaissance, and finally to the rise of a technological civilization.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hume's Arguments in 10 Points

I understand that my last two posts summarizing David Hume's arguments from the 1748 book An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding have not been of considerable interest to most.  I trust it is because my chapter summaries were rather long, as I summarized each page rather than each chapter (Part 1, Part 2).  This was more for my benefit that for your own.  So here I present a one-page, 10-point summary of his theories regarding human knowledge, and hopefully you will find it more rewarding.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking About Thought (Part 2)

Here I continue to read through An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume.  You can read Part 1 here.  This will likely be a five-parter.  I have been finding this book to be quite interesting, and I hope you will agree.

Chapter IV – Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding

Part I

So far Hume has focussed on the different perceptions of the mind: impressions, which include things like hearing, seeing, feeling, willing, loving, etc, and ideas, which are copies (recollections) of impressions.  Then he dwelt on associations of ideas, and defined them as resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect.  In this chapter, he turns to those objects that we actually think about.  He divides the chapter into a series of questions:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thinking About Thought (Part 1)

Several years ago I was at an amazing used bookstore in downtown Halifax when I stumbled on a small work of philosophy written by David Hume.  About the only thing I knew about Hume was that everybody quoted him all of the time, both Christians and non-Christian scientists, sometimes positively and sometimes not.  Whoever he was, he seemed to be pretty important.  A character on Lost was even named after him, so I knew it had to be pretty serious.  It was somewhat of a shock, then, to discover that he wrote what he did in the mid-1700s.

It took me two or so years, but I finally sat down to read his book, and I more devoured it than read it.  He wrote, not like a philosopher, but like a kindly grandfather showing the way.  His English was surprisingly modern, and his thoughts were even more so.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Tale of Four Scholars

In February of 1829 the Earl of Bridgewater died, and left as his legacy 8000 pounds sterling for the express purpose of publishing 1000 copies of a writing ‘On the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation’.  This publication was to be directed by the Royal Society of London, a society which still exists today and is best known for its prestigious scientific journals, Proceedings of the Royal Society and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.  Given today’s inherent assumption that science and religion are in conflict, one would expect the Royal Society to have turned down the Earl of Bridgewater’s final request.  But, shockingly to us, but not to the scientists of the 19th century, the President of the Royal Society agreed.  Seeking counsel from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the President of the Royal Society chose eight of the leading intelligentsia of England and Scotland to publish eight volumes on natural theology.  These eight volumes became the Bridgewater Treatises, and were as follows:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Darwin's Deathbed Confession?

In 1915, an interesting article appeared in the Baptist Boston-based journal Watchman-Examiner.  It was written by one Lady Hope, and read as follows:

‘It was one of those glorious summer afternoons, that we sometimes enjoy in England, when I was asked to go in and sit with the well known professor, Charles Darwin.  He was almost bedridden for some months before he died.  I used to feel when I saw him that his fine presence would make a grand picture for our Royal Academy; but never did I think so more strongly than on this particular occasion. 

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Great Invisible Pale Blue Dot, and Slug Sex

This weekend I am extracting RNA (it is 8:30 pm on a Friday night and just now have a 15 minute break as my RNA precipitates in isopropanol) and simply could not write a lengthy article, which I am sure upsets you all.  But never fear!  I wouldn't leave you with nothing.  So below are two fascinating videos.  It is your homework to watch them and reflect on their theological significance.

For the first video, the first Youtube comment was '266 evangelical christians were scared off by this video.'  Why would someone immediately think negatively about evangelical Christianity when seeing this video?  Is there anything in it for evangelicals to fear?

What is the theological significance of this video?  I promise you, one exists.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Did Jesus Have Only 24 Chromosomes?

I heard a curious story a while back by someone giving a communion thought at church, and since then I have heard the same story by a few other Christians in a few different provinces.  This is by no means a story influencing the majority of evangelicals, but it is quietly making its way into peoples’ minds.  And since we've been talking about fringe Creationist tales, I thought this would be appropriate.  The full story can be read here, but it goes as such:

In 1978 an avid archaeological enthusiast (with no academic training in archaeology) was walking in Jerusalem when he received word from God that the infamous ark of the covenant, the holy container for the 10 commandments, the symbol of the presence of God and the destruction of Nazis everywhere (Indiana Jones reference, in case you didn't get it), was hidden in a nearby hill.