And the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead

The other day, I watched Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World for perhaps the fifth time. The movie is very intriguing for a history buff like me because of its semi-realistic portrayal (it is, after all, still Hollywood) of life aboard these ancient warships. What audacity those early explorers had to sail their ships over the horizon into the unknown. Continue reading

Galileo and the Church

Everyone knows the church sent Galileo to the Inquisition for contradicting scripture by suggesting the Earth revolved around the Sun. The story is so well known that it is used as an abbreviation for the idea that religion is the enemy of science. “Yeah, well what about Galileo?” is often the unanswerable retort. What I love about any sentence beginning with “everyone knows” is that what everyone knows is usually far from accurate.

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The Remarkable 20th Century

Something unexpected happened in the twentieth century, something all the more remarkable because it seems to have escaped everyone’s notice. At the opening of the twentieth century, the rise of Darwinism was pushing hard against religious thought and advances in geology had indicated an age for our planet far beyond traditional biblical interpretations. There was every reason to expect that the progress of science would continue to erode the central role of religious belief in people’s lives. Who could have expected that by the close of the twentieth century science would offer an explanation of how everything in the Bible could still be true?

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Victor Stenger and His Trained Straw Dog Show

Victor Stenger is a physics professor who wrote a book in 2007 titled God – the Failed Hypothesis. Simply put, from page one this book is little more than an elaborate straw dog argument. First Stenger constructs his own model of a god and then proceeds to knock it down. That he is able to do so is hardly surprising given the mishmash of religious ideas he strings together. In the end he decides there is no evidence to support his model. This less than shocking conclusion is quite predictable.  Stenger is what Dawkins wishes he could be – a strong atheist, expressing no doubt that God does not exist. Where Dawkins always leaves a little wiggle-room in his certainty, Stenger is all-in.

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Carl Sagan and Recognizing Truth

After Carl Sagan’s death, his wife published his Gifford Lectures on religion and science under the title The Varieties of Scientific Experience. The book presents his lectures as well as excerpts from the Q&A sessions that followed. It’s interesting and helpful because it reveals so much of Sagan’s reasoning about his self-described agnosticism.