"Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance." ~ T.S. Eliot in "Burnt Norton"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In light of our recent discussions on ecology and theology, we wanted to further explore the example of the Keystone Pipeline. Please watch the follow news clip, and consider the following discussion questions.

1. How do you feel about the Keystone Pipeline?
2. Do you believe its implementation is for the common good?
3. Do you think the Pipeline should be allowed to be built?
4. Which do you think is the more significant outcome, the potential environment ramifications, or the ability to provide cheaper oil for citizens, and lessening our dependence on the Middle East?
5. Do you think the construction of the Pipeline falls in line with Catholic Doctrine?

Please read the following article concerning Pope Francis and the environment and consider the following discussion question.

6. Moving forward, how do you think Pope Francis will play a role in environment issues such as this?

Monday, April 8, 2013

In our class discussion on the New Atheist movement, we have seen polarized views spanning from the  "delusions of grandeur" put forth by Richard Dawkins to the Karen Armstrong's opinion that the New Atheist movement is based on "poor Theology," or the lack of religious education.


In this video, we see the opinion of another New Atheist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, who primarily focuses on questions of cosmology, evolution and galactic astronomy. (You might recognize his face from the video a few weeks ago- "Reflecting on Battlestar Galactica!")  However, in this particular video, we see him commenting on the relationship between religion and science.
How does DeGrasse Tyson's argument correlate with the arguments of New Atheist thinkers?  How does it depart?
Do you think his idea is idea is correct that "we would've never left the cave" without scientists questioning religion?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Religious and Spiritual Experiences Affect our Brains

The link below is from a radio interview from TALK OF THE NATION npr News about religious and spiritual experiences affect our brains.
Dr. Andrew Newberg is the author of "Principles of Neurotheology," and he is the director of research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College. He studies the relationship between the brain and religious experience. In his research, he scanned people’s brains while they are meditating or praying and then he compared what was going on in their brains at that point to what is happening in their brain when they're at rest.  He approached that by using SPECT imaging technique that requires putting in a small intravenous catheter in a mediator’s arm. During meditation, he infuses a small amount of radioactive material in order to process images of the brain while meditating. Dr.Newberg found that people who engage in religious and spiritual practices have more active areas in their brains. He also found that during meditation “blood flow increase in the frontal cortex, the place where we are focusing on problems, and decrease in other areas of the brain”. These changes “help to lower the level of anxiety and depression and make us feel better”. They also help us to stay calm even after the meditation.
What do you think of his finding? For people who meditate or engage in religious practices have you experience the same outcome (feeling calm, positive or energetic after mediating) ?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

We spent last class watching Creation, a film depicting the life of Charles Darwin. One very important aspect of the film was Darwin’s struggle to reconcile science with religion. He faced push-back from the church, his friends, and his devout wife. These conflicts are minor when compared to his own internal struggle as a man of faith. The following scene between Darwin (Paul Bettany) and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) illuminates that very struggle.

The readings that were assigned to us before break discuss the idea that evolution does not contradict the biblical idea of creationism, but rather enforces it in many ways. Paley and Mivart go to great lengths to argue that evolution can be viewed as a mechanism of divine creation.

Which of these teachings (creationism or evolution) has been reinforced most in your schooling, home life, and social life? Have the readings persuaded you to believe that evolution and creationism can be reconciled? Why or why not?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"I don't want to be human!" - Reflecting on Battlestar Galactica

About one year after being assigned to watch the pilot movie of Battlestar Galactica, I’ve finally finished the entire series. That, my friends, was a fun ride.
            I’m a tough critic – I always have been. It takes a lot to impress me, but even less for me to deride a series or movie’s writers and their scripts as inept or, frankly, stupid. Season One is remarkable in so many ways. But the second season of BSG heralds a rapid decline in quality writing. By the third season, the scripts have become abysmal; the plot is convoluted, directionless, and confusing. Characters lose their … well, character … and the cylons stop being terrifying/awe-inspiring and became too human (not in a positive, constructive, way that develops depth - but in a way that indicats the writers were desperately trying to add melodrama where none belongs).
            Despite it all, I powered through the weaker episodes and emerged in the fourth and final season with renewed vigor. The writing improves - characters solidify again, the plot begins to move in a single direction, and the desperate need to know and understand the cylons reemerged in my stomach.
            When the credits finally rolled on the last episode, I was heartbroken. I really wished it wasn’t over.
            What makes the fourth season so extraordinary is the script’s return to what makes the first season extraordinary. Questions like, “Are you alive?” become a driving theme again. Theological debates rage (and not superficially, as they do in seasons 2 and 3). Gaius Baltar asks a question that pierces to the heart of the discussions on faith – “What if God doesn’t create good or evil? What if He just creates?” And always the idea of immortality… and what it means to be human.
            I won’t talk too much more – I know that readers of this blog are still being exposed to BSG, and I don’t want to spoil anything. But below are two videos - similar in content but starkly different in tone – that help describe the (eventual) main antagonist’s motivations. And why he simply refuses to believe in God. One is, obviously, from the fourth season, and the other is a lecture being given by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“I don’t want to be human!”

I don't want to provide any spoilers here, so I'm avoiding discussion on some of the things I'd love to talk about ("Are the cylons human," anyone?) - but based on the two videos above, I pose two questions - how intelligent is intelligent design? What can we extrapolate from our deeply flawed physical design?

And... do you want to be human?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Galileo, Angels & Demons, Science and the Church

In his book "Religion and Science", Ian Barbour states four possible relationships between "Religion" and "Science" -which we have identified and defined extensively in our coursework and online discussions.  In his brief accounts of the life, discoveries, and struggles of Galileo Galilee, Barbour touches on these four possibilities again, outside his primary order of definitions, by referencing original discourses between the 16th century "father of modern science", the scientific community of his time, and religious leadership, namely of the Catholic Church.  Of the four relationships between science and religion, Barbour offers evidence which narrows "The Galileo Affair" to a case of "Independence" and/or "Potential Conflict" (14).  Intent is the reason for the case of the former - the nature and right method of Science aims at answering the mechanical questions of "How?" while the nature and right theological interpretation of Religion i.e. Scripture aims at discovering a Divine purpose or "Why?"  Literalism is the source for the later case - Scripture uses empirical language and symbols which do not translate as accurate according to modern Scientific standards.  While Barbour categorizes Galileo's "Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems" as an example of conflict due to its negative reception Catholic leadership in 1632, the content of the piece suggests that Galileo's intention was not conflict as it is commonly characterized.  Rather, Galileo's allegorical work suggests what Barbour defines as the conveniently-named relationship "Dialogue" with science and religion acknowledging truth as a product of their distinct methods and common goals.  Rather than seeking conflict as popular accounts depict, perhaps Galileo was searching for a mutually agreeable compromise. While his lack of study in theological practice of science does not lend itself to Barbour's definition of harmony between Science and Religion i.e. integration, Galileo's work and actions seem to accommodate a separate and supplementary relationship between Science and Religion.

Given what else we've read in class, take a minute to check out this clip from the movie "Angels and Demons" where the Camerlengo Patrick addresses the Cardinals in conclave about the actions of the Illuminati.  

Was Galileo and the Illuminati seeking a 'new God' or did Galileo understand what the clip describes as an adolescence of science?
Based on the Barbour reading and the clip from "Angels and Demons" how do you feel about this view of Religion and Science?
Has your view changed from the beginning of the year to now based on the readings and discussion we've had?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"God is not a White Man" by Gungor

A friend posted this to my Facebook page the other day. It made me think about our conversation about the anthropomorphism of God, which was such a great conversation in class the other day. So, I thought I would post this for you guys. Several of you asked if we could take that conversation up again. There will be space for it throughout the semester, but we can begin class on Tuesday talking about this video in order to have another place to discuss it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Causes of Being

Aristotle in his day presented the causes of being in part due to an effort to address the reasons for which existence has come about. Aristotle's suggestions entailed four causes: the material cause, the formal cause, the efficient cause, and the final cause. The material cause represents that from which a thing is created. The formal cause refers to the pattern by which a thing is created. An example of the formal cause could be the stencil used to create a work of art or the stitching pattern used to knit an article of clothing. The efficient cause is the source or creator of a thing. Lastly is the final cause, which refers to the final cause, considered the purpose of the created thing or the reason for which it was created. 

During our discussion of John Henry Newman's "The Philosophical Temper First Enjoined by the Gospel," we approached a text which was written during a transitional period for the Catholic Church. Newman was one of many Catholic philosophers who accepted the task of studying this concept of evolution in order to better address it and the Catholic approach to it. Newman simultaneously criticized the literalism of some theologians as well as the lack of humility on the part of scientists. Does science fulfill any of the aforementioned causes of being? Does religion?

Monday, January 21, 2013


Last class we learned about the 4 ways you can divide the argument between religion and science. They are grouped into conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. In the video clip below all four are easily seen. Lisa clearly views the two in conflict, and that neither can be accepted. She even says that "two different ideas cannot coexist'. Lisa's mom Marge disputes this by saying "two incompatible things are both true" which takes the view of integration. This is because they both work together as one. The school starts teaching the children that "God did it". In class we learned is also called "God of the gaps" which is categorized under dialogue. Lastly when the Reverend is confronted by Ned he replies saying, "Ned you have to take these things with a grain of salt" by saying this he is inferring that the bible should be taken seriously but not literally. This falls into the group called independence. 

Video: Simpsons Evolution vs. Creationism 


1) Should creationism be taught in our schools?
2) Do we need to be more open to the possibility that both creationism and evolution are true?
3) Is it possible for creationists to accept evolution and vice versa? Should they?

Lauren M, Stephanie P, Tiba T

Friday, January 18, 2013

NPR: Losing Our Religion

Each morning this week, NPR has discussed various aspects of the fact that many young Americans (1 in 3) are abandoning organized religion in a series called "Losing our Religion." As we have been discussing the definitions of words like ”religious” and “spiritual” and “devout” in class, I wanted to link you to this serial radio discussion in order to further enhance that conversation. It is not a class requirement that you listen to this, but I thought you might all find it interesting, so perhaps you’ll listen to it while you fold your laundry or some such thing. As a scholar of religious studies, particularly in the American context, this is incredibly interesting especially in what it might mean for the future of American religion. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether here, where you are welcome to post in the comments section, or in class. You'll have an official blog assignment this weekend as well and that discussion will be lead by your classmates. This is just something that I found interesting and relevant and hope that you will as well.