AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2014 Prize Winners | Division for Planetary Sciences

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Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Left at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.

via AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2014 Prize Winners | Division for Planetary Sciences.

Science versus Religion. Yeah, right.

Evidence is in the Eye of the Beholder

(Version 1.1)

Been having a lively discussion (when actual discussion is able to be had) with some atheist Tweeples and I realized I made a pretty significant error: I didn’t clearly define “evidence” or rather how I see it. (This is why it is always sage advice to define terms clearly before debating with people. You can easily end up talking past each other.) I believe (know?) that when we humans apprehend reality, we ultimately perceive only a limited sliver of it in our waking conscious state. First, our sensory organs detect only so much. Next, our evolved brains organize that raw input into an intelligible perception of the world. Finally, our conscious thinking minds take those perceptions and makes decisions upon them.

The last part is key because that is where philosophy comes in. Materialism and empiricism, for example, make important truth claims on our perceptions of the world and the world itself. So someone with a different worldview, e.g. myself who adheres to the Jesuit worldview, will necessarily have some points of departure when perceiving the same “evidence.” A worldview is just that: a view of the world not some unmediated apprehension of the world or specifically, “evidence.” What’s worrisome for me is when people fail to see this distinction for whatever reason. If a person feels strongly their worldview is True, capital ‘t’, then they can even be hostile to this relativizing fact. And that’s sad because it opens one up to self-delusion and error needlessly. Truth is hard enough to find in this world.

St. Augustine 1500 1600 years ago had choice words Christians, esp. those anti-science Christians of today, who make this error.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these [scientific] topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

And just in case you atheists out there think you’re off the hook, check this out from atheist cosmologist Chris Impey.

Rebutting the third proposition [that we are all living within a simulation] is surprisingly difficult. Any simulation constructed by a far superior race wouldn’t be glitchy, as it was in the movie The Matrix. There’s no reason we’d know we’re simulated unless the creators wanted us to. Your conviction that you’re made of flesh and blood and free will is part of the simulation. Since it’s easier and cheaper to create computational life-forms than biological organisms, by the Copernican Principle there are many more simulated than real creatures. OK, this argument is more of a provocation than a serious suggestion, but it’s no more unfounded or illogical than the multiverse or hidden space-time dimensions.

Impey, Chris (2012-03-19). How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (Kindle Locations 5601-5606). Norton. Kindle Edition.

So folks, slow down when crying “Evidence!” A little humility goes a long way to understanding.

We are by nature related to God.

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Because God created us and continues to create in and through us, we are by nature related to God. In other words, we are created in the image of God, and that image is indelible. The challenge for us is to be more aware of that ever-present relationship…

Father Kevin O’Brien SJ. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life (Kindle Locations 463-465). Kindle Edition.

The Genius of the Exercises

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The genius and beauty of the Exercises is that we learn to weave our own life narrative into the life story of Jesus Christ in such a way that both become more vivid and interconnected.

Father Kevin O’Brien SJ. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life (Kindle Locations 84-85). Kindle Edition.

It’s About What You Ask For

 

Vending MachinesOne of the idols I no longer believe in is Vending Machine God. You know Him well. Pray hard enough. Behave righteously enough. Rebuke the sinners enough. Deposit the right amount, hit the button, and you get your candy bar. You deserve it!

It’s not that we shouldn’t ask for the things we want. It’s the things I wanted that changed as I let go of that immature image. I ask for a grace every time I pray but as I go deeper into God, I stopped asking for me and started asking for God. I don’t ask for more money. I ask to provide for my family. I don’t ask for power. I ask to be able to do God’s will. If I ask for an outcome, I qualify if it’s God’s will. I do ask for the graces of peace, wisdom, charity and love.

I ask for those a lot!

The Sound of Silence

 

A couple's joy: their daughter is named into the Covenant.

A couple’s joy: their daughter is named into the Covenant.

Went to two Shabbat services this weekend, one included a beautiful baby naming ceremony, and was thoroughly impressed. I’ve done my share of reading about ritual, meaning and myth and their power in our lives. And it enabled me to appreciate what I witnessed and participated in not only with heart and soul but with my mind. 

But for all the beauty and joy, my mind was troubled. I was saddened by the fact that fewer and fewer of us have those resources in our lives. In our pursuit to master the world around us, we’ve reduced myth to fables and fantasy. We’ve made ritual mere clashing cymbal and empty motion. We’ve made a God shaped hole in our lives and have since tried mightily to fill it.

We’ve tried fundamentalisms of every sort, from a worship of science to a worship of sacred books. We’ve tried amorphous “spirituality” and superstition as well. We’ve tried mindless distractions and “serious” politics. I’m wondering when we will try humble, contrite hearts that can listen to that soft whisper that only our deepest selves know.