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

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?