October 22, 2009

noquestionOur Certainty Habit
Perhaps it is because decisiveness is so adaptive that our brains reinforce it. In any case, feeling sure of something is gratifying. We experience certainty as a high, a lever we want to keep pushing. Even after we undergo the shock therapy of contradictory data and get clean for awhile, we’ll tend to wander back to our old haunts and habit. (Lynn Phillips, Dream On, Psychology Today)

Responding to Christopher Hitchens
Josh Schrei: Christopher Hitchens’ hack scholarship on the subject of religion is utterly inexcusable, and his latest absurdity on Huffington Post firmly cements him as having no place in serious theological debate. (The SchreiWire)

Nothing Scientific About Montana’s Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum
The new facility is the second-largest dinosaur museum in the state, dwarfed only by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. “We are totally different from the Museum of the Rockies in that we present fossils and all the exhibits in the context of biblical creation,” said Otis Kline Jr., the museum’s founder and director. (Donna Healy, Billings Gazette)

“Are You Good Without God?” Billboard Goes Up in Chicago
Hemant Mehta, coordinator of the Chicago Coalition of Reason, a group of nine separate but similarly secular organizations in the city and suburbs, said the billboard aims to hearten humanists, atheists, and agnostics who might feel isolated or misunderstood in their quest for alternatives to religious worldviews. (Manya Brachear, Chicago Tribune)

Inequality Helps All?
“We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” Brian Griffiths, who was a special adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said at a panel discussion at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The panel’s discussion topic was, “What is the place of morality in the marketplace?” (Caroline Binham, Bloomberg)

BOOKS
When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish

In general, When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish might be called a Martin Gardner sampler, bringing together both new pieces and golden oldies. It includes the personal essays “Why I Am Not a Paranormalist” and “Why I Am Not an Atheist,” as well as several mathematical articles (one on Fibonacci sequences), an explanation for why remarkable coincidences aren’t so remarkable (“Was the Sinking of the Titanic Foretold?”), and several scathing critiques of religious fundamentalism (see, in particular, the pieces on Ann Coulter, Frank Tipler, and Oral Roberts’ son, Richard). (Michael Dirda, The Washington Post)

Q&A
Dava Sobel

On the occasion of the International Year of Astronomy, convened to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first telescopic observations of 1609, we spoke to author Dava Sobel about Galileo’s complex and overlapping relationships with his family and with the Catholic Church, the latter of which would ultimately lead to his condemnation by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. (John Matson, Scientific American)

Category: Field Notes

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