Marilynne Robinson Wades Into the S&R “Wars”

“I happen to be deeply interested in science and religion, so well disposed toward them both that the idea that they are natural adversaries has always bothered me. And I am fascinated by the idea that civilizations generate a hum of insight, invention, disputation, affirmation, and controversy, each one like a great mind engaged with its own preoccupations,” Marilynne Robinson, who wrote the new science-and-religion book Absence of Mind (as well as the award-winning novels Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home), tells The Globe and Mail.
“So for me, attentiveness to these ‘wars’ is attentiveness to the unfolding of human history. That said, the issues that emerge in any culture can be profound or vacuous, brilliantly articulated or dealt with crudely. Science and religion are both profoundly important to our culture, so the integrity of the conversation around them is important as well.”

Craig Venter on the First Synthetic Bacterial Cell

“For nearly 15 years Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchison, and the rest of our team have been working toward this publication today—the successful completion of our work to construct a bacterial cell that is fully controlled by a synthetic genome,” Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute and one of the paper‘s authors, said in a statement released yesterday.
“We have been consumed by this research, but we have also been equally focused on addressing the societal implications of what we believe will be one of the most powerful technologies and industrial drivers for societal good. We look forward to continued review and dialogue about the important applications of this work to ensure that it is used for the benefit of all.”

Did Religion Help Our Ancestors Survive?

“If a parent says, ‘My child, don’t pick up snakes,’ that would clearly be wise advice, and children don’t have the freedom to experiment with such pieces of wisdom; they better believe their parents when their parents say don’t pick up snakes or don’t pick up spiders. So the rule of thumb that would be built in by natural selection into a child brain, ‘Believe whatever your parents tell you,’ quite clearly could have survival value,” Richard Dawkins told an audience at Adelaide Writers’ Week back in March.
“Now once that rule of thumb has been built into the nervous system, once the brain has been hardwired to be as a child credulous and believe what your parents tell you, then that is automatically open to any sort of statement that the parent might make, which could be a religious statement. … The survival value lies in the psychological predisposition to believe your parents, and the consequence of that psychological predisposition might very well be religion.”

The White House Will Host Its First Science Fair

“This year we’re going to host the first-ever White House science fair for students from all across the country. As the President has said—(applause)—he says this all the time. He says, when you win the NCAA championship, the winners come to the White House. And we think that budding inventors, scientists and mathematicians should be at the White House, too. So we’re going to be excited to host you there,” First Lady Michelle Obama announced at the National Science Bowl.

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