Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gonzalez Denied Tenure, But Why?

Guillermo Gonzalez's being denied tenure at Iowa State left many speculating, with good reason, that it was due to his support of Intelligent Design (ID) theory. You can read more about it here.

In a well-written article in the prestigious scientific journal Nature*, Geoff Brumfiel offers a balanced account of the story. On behalf of Gonzalez's critics, Brumfiel quotes University of Maryland physicist Robert Park, who makes the following laughable statement:
“I would have voted to deny him tenure. He has established that he does not understand the scientific process.”
Unbelievable. I cannot help but conclude that Park is mentally unhinged. Gonzalez, according to Nature, has published "dozens of articles in top journals," and "has made an important discovery in the field of extrasolar planets." This important discovery "linked a star’s metal content to the presence of extrasolar planets around it. The papers are still highly cited, and they have encouraged other researchers to search for planets around metal-rich stars."
So, Gonzalez doesn't understand the scientific process. Uh-huh. Ok. Perhaps we could borrow Gonzalez's telescope to try and figure out what planet Dr. Park is living on.

*The article appears in the May 2007 issue of Nature.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Empty-Glass Atheism

A thought-provoking post by J.P. Moreland at Scriptorium Daily.

What do you think? Are atheists far more likely to be neurologically dysfunctional?
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Death of Cosmology?

This interesting piece by Dave Mosher explains that because the expansion of the universe is accelerating, galaxies will eventually be running away from each other faster than the speed of light, rendering them invisible to us. Astronomers will no longer be able to observe anything beyond the tiny cluster of galaxies our solar system inhabits.
What can we conclude from this? Two things:
(1) As Mosher points out, there won't be much of a market for cosmologists in the distant future.
(2) We are even luckier than we thought.
In their book, The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards march out fact after cosmological fact about the earth and it's location in the universe, assembling a forcible argument for some kind of divine design. This new discovery should be added to the muster sheet.
Suppose for a moment that there is no God. The emergence of life on earth, in such a universe, is not only mind-poppingly unlikely, but the timing of it is fantastically contingent. There isn't any reason I'm aware of that would have prevented life from emerging much earlier (at least sometime after planetary formation), or much, much later. It seems quite plausible that intelligent life could have arisen here (or somewhere else in our galaxy) several million years later than it did. And if it had, those hapless future-earthlings would have observed a seriously abridged version of the cosmos, severely limiting the possibilities for scientific discovery. Aren't you glad we arrived in time for the whole cosmic show?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How to get a soccer partner

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Classical Virtue of HEROES

Eros. Romance. It is the near-universal ingredient in the most popular films, books or television of the last century, and its prominence has been snowballing. Why is this? Is it the greatest among its sisters, agape, phileo and storge? For several millennia, eros had occupied a rather low rank on the totem pole of love. Now, eros takes center stage, while the others play a supporting role. At the very least, no modern story-teller would dare to stand before us and spin a yarn without including, in some capacity, romance. We would mock him as prudish or boring. You cannot capture and inspire an audience without Jack and Rose, Romeo and Juliet, Peter Parker and Mary Jane.

Then comes Heroes. Did you notice that there is no significant, on-going romantic thread to the story, what-so-ever? Peter and Simone have a brief fling, but it is down-played and tangential to their character development. So how can Heroes make it on prime-time? It has gritty marital love, sans lusty sex-scenes, between Nikki & DL, Nathan & Hiedi, Matt & Janice (Parkman) and Mr. & Mrs. Bennett. It has parent-child love between Mr. Bennett & Claire, Mrs. Petrelli & Peter, Simone & Mr. Deveaux, and most powerfully between Nikki, DL and Micah. It displays the brotherly love of Nathan and Peter.

But most importantly of all, in my book, is the beautiful friendship between Hiro and Ando. In the classics, friendship was always considered one of the highest forms of love. Today, we can't even comprehend two people being intimate without sexual attraction. Everything is eroticized. I'm sure there are web-sites out there dedicated to theories about Hiro and Ando as gay lovers. How pathetic. Like David and Jonathan in the Bible, Hiro and Ando are soul-mates who express love and support through the most frightening of scenarios. We need more examples like them to hold up before the watching eyes of our young people.

Heroes is a great show, not because of the writing, acting or amazing visual effects. It is not great because it amazes us with tales of supernatural beings. It is great because it teaches us what it means to be human.
Monday, May 21, 2007

Swimming the Tiber

As you may or may not have heard, withint the past few weeks, two prominent evangelical philosophers have announced their reception into the Roman Catholic Church: Frank Beckwith, of Baylor, and Rob Koons, of U. Texas-Austin. You can read their personal statments on the matter here (Frank) and here (Rob).

What is going on here? While I personally do not begrudge them their decision, and do not consider their mortal souls in certain peril, the trend is alarming. For one thing, Beckwith was the current president of the Evangelical Theological Society! Of course he resigned upon his announcement, but there are few more visible positions in the evangelical world. Dr. Koons is also of special interest to me, since he recently came to my campus as part of an outreach effort. He even presented to the philosophy department -- on an argument for the existence of God, none the less! And just like Daniel, he emerged uneaten from the lion's den. I had officially dubbed him one of my "heroes."

So why the trend? There have been many who have crossed the Tiber, or even gone over to Eastern Orthodoxy. My theory is that there is something in us that longs for a continuity with the historical past. I certainly feel this. I sometimes daydream about moving to Charleston, SC, where my family history stretches back a few centuries. In the same way, we want to feel that our faith is the same as that of the church fathers and medieval saints. We want to write the names Augustine, Thomas and Francis into our ecclesiatical family tree, along with Luther, Calvin and Edwards.
The question is, does one have to travel the road to Rome in order to claim that heritage?

Literary Meme

I don't usually do "memes," but I like this one:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth full sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Here's mine:
And when any person eats an animal which dies, or is torn by beasts, whether it he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean.

Yes, the closest book was the Bible. Aren't I just Mr. Spiritual? The loser by about two inches was this one:
"And I, " said Caspian, "am Caspian, King of Narnia, and I sail to find you and your companions who were my father's friends."

Feel free to share your own in the comments. It will be fun to see what everyone is reading.
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mary Moments in My Martha Life

The story has lost its punch. Over-read, over-preached.

Read it afresh. And I don't care if you are a type-A or type-B personality, anal-retentive or anal-expulsive, busy-body or lazy-bones -- you're a Martha. We are born Marthas. To be Martha is just to live as if there is no God. You don't even have to try. I'll bet you're doing it right now.

We miss the real truth about Mary & Martha. Here it is: you don't have to stop working to enjoy Jesus. He is in you. "Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you!" Do you recognize this? Not as a doctrine, but by experience?

The truth is, you and I can have Mary moments any hour of our tornado-like, American lives.
Sunday, May 06, 2007

Do Farmers Have Existential Crises?

I've never even tended a garden. So, what do I know? But I have felt the alienation and depersonalization of modern "careers." Maybe something like the following is true: The less we need our body for our work, the less fulfilling it will be. What do you think?
Friday, May 04, 2007

A Rag Man!

Bill Vallicella, a.k.a., Maverick Philosopher posted some ingenious anagrams of famous chess players:

- Vladimir Akopian: I nail a dim Karpov
- Alexander Grischuk: Crush a relaxed king
- Artyom Timofeev: Move forty — I mate!
- Susan Polgar: A gal on spurs

And then one on his own moniker:
- Bill Vallicella: All vice! Ill ball.

So here's mine:
- "Cad, she grinds!"
- "Shred, scan, dig."

So, to make this relevant to my blog, here are a few others. Leave a comment if you can guess who they are: (punctuation can be added in)

- "i.e., lost art"
- "Lovin' Jach!"
- "A gun? Use it."
- "Secret Red Sean"

How about an anagram of your own name?