Science

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mike Segar

Science and education professionals are increasingly alarmed about the impact Donald Trump’s cabinet picks — many of them evangelical Christians — could have on science standards in public schools.

Candidate Trump repeatedly pledged to end the existing Common Core curricula standards for math and English. Critics worry that could open the door to rethinking science standards, and lead to the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design, pseudo-scientific notions about Earth’s origins with little or no support from scientists.

Jenna Freudenburg 11-22-2016

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There’s nothing wrong with celebrating human ingenuity and determination, but the approach here is simplistic. It may well be true that settlements on Mars are the only hope for our species to continue, and should humanity pursue this course, acts of heroism may well be required. But going about this endeavor the right way must involve a healthy dose of self-reflection, and in this regard Mars has missed an opportunity. For one thing, despite the message that expansion to Mars is imperative for the survival of the human race, there is no discussion of the human contribution to our planet’s eventual uninhabitability. It’s possible that Earth could be hit by a sizable asteroid, or that a super volcano could erupt, but anthropogenic climate change and nuclear warfare pose far greater threats to our flourishing over the next few centuries. If we are going to switch planets in order to save ourselves, we can’t ignore the fact that we bring our destructive power with us.

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Thank God for the internet.

If you believe in God, that is. For a time, Mike McHargue did, and then he didn’t, and now he does again.

But it’s on the internet where McHargue — better known as “Science Mike” to listeners of “The Liturgists” and “ Ask Science Mike” podcasts — found community when he was questioning his Southern Baptist upbringing and then the atheism he had adopted. And it’s on the internet where he’s forged a community with others like him who can’t comfortably wear either label: Christian or atheist.

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Long said that in her own experience, transgender scientists are sometimes called by incorrect gender pronouns and or not allowed to formally change their names in scientific publications.

To Dr. Ramon Barthelemy, a science policy fellow at AAAS, LGBTQ physicist, and co-author of the study, not being able to change a professional publication record is especially problematic in the sciences.

Creationist Christian tourists may soon flock to the Ark Encounter, a literal vision of Noah’s story in Genesis come to life in July as a theology-packed tourist attraction in Williamstown, Ky.

But this month, another group of evangelicals is making a very different case – minus any animatronic critters — in a new book, How I Changed My Mind About Evolution.

 

Paul Wallace 05-04-2016
Seth Ryan

Seth Ryan / Shutterstock

[Editor's note: This article is excerpted from Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos by Paul Wallace copyright (c) 2016 Fortress Press. Reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress. No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of Augsburg Fortress.] 

WHAT ARE WE to do with an obsolete God?

We have options. We could, as I did for a while, put God aside. ... We can try, but I’m pretty sure that God is the question that won’t go away. Silence it here and it will pop up over there. It may show up as worship of science, or the economy, or a political cause, or ego, or an addiction, or sex, or a fellow human being—or whatever, but show up it will. Some humanists and atheists have expressed contempt for religious believers’ worship of God. They ask, Why worship anything at all? One online interlocutor once asked me, “How can you put the word ‘worship’ on your signs? Isn’t that demeaning?” I replied, “No, it is truth in advertising. We all worship something.” I am convinced that not all worship is true worship, but I am equally convinced that religious believers at least acknowledge that worship is simply what all people, religious and otherwise, do. There’s nothing for it but to accept it and make the best of it.

We could also try to build a new God out of the raw materials of science itself. It’s hard to disagree with Ralph Waldo Emerson when he writes, “Nothing is great but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only some surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep.” Isn’t the cosmos astounding, and isn’t the wonder it stirs in us something akin to a religious feeling? Yes and yes. Without such feelings there would be no religion at all. But are such feelings enough? Is the mind-blowing order and complexity and diversity and beauty of the cosmos sufficient to slake our religious thirst? For some it may be and I can nearly, but not quite, imagine how it could be enough for me.

Tree lighting ceremony in Bethlehem. Image via REUTERS / Ammar Awad / RNS

The Star of Bethlehem is the name given to an event in the night sky that the Gospel of Matthew says heralded the birth of Jesus. Three wisemen — or magi, or kings — come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Image via Pew Research Center / RNS

Most Americans see a conflict between the findings of science and the teachings of religion.

But “see” is the operative word in a new Pew Research Center report issued Oct. 22.

Examining perceptions leads to some unexpected findings.

While 59 percent of U.S. adults say they saw science and religion in conflict, that drops to 30 percent when people are asked about their own religious beliefs.

It turns out that the most highly religious were least likely to see conflict.

Ariana DeNardo 07-27-2015
Image via zimmytws/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

The universe is made up of 96 percent dark matter and energy, swirling with complexity — black holes, empty spaces, bad dreams, failed marriages, unknown territory, broken bowls and bruised shins and loneliness. And yet — look! — everything is still churning along. And in a way that can only be explained in the gut, these alarming dark things are perhaps the only things that have the tendency of bringing people together into community.

As Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche writes, “In community life we discover our own deepest wound and learn to accept it. So our rebirth can begin. It is from this very wound that we are born.”

Catherine Woodiwiss 07-22-2015

Image courtesy Rob Bell

Rob Bell is on the move. In his “Everything is Spiritual” tour, which makes its way through the Washington, D.C., metro this evening, he is focusing on the connections between science and spirituality and how we can sit within the reality of our ever-expanding universe. Sojourners’ Catherine Woodiwiss spoke with the author and speaker to talk spirituality, the “nones,” Oprah, science, and surfing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Photo courtesy of Templeton Foundation / RNS

John Templeton Jr. Photo courtesy of Templeton Foundation / RNS

John M. Templeton, Jr., a pediatric surgeon who left medicine behind to carry on his father’s passion for pursuing “new spiritual information” through the sciences as president and chairman of the Templeton Foundation, has died. He was 75.

Known as “Jack,” the younger Templeton retired as director of the trauma program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1995 to take the foundation reins and became chairman after his father’s death in 2008.

Tyler Francke 02-09-2015
Noah's Ark illustration, photostockam / Shutterstock.com

Noah's Ark illustration, photostockam / Shutterstock.com

America is a nation established on certain inalienable rights. The right to life. The right to liberty. The right to pursue happiness as one sees fit. The right, as a religious organization, to sue a government and its officials whenever you don’t get what you want.

You may not remember that last one from social studies class — and to be honest, I don’t recall Jefferson expounding upon it, either — but it is nevertheless a right the fundamentalist group Answers in Genesis and its president, Ken Ham, availed themselves of last week with the announcement of their forthcoming lawsuit against the state of Kentucky, its governor, and its tourism secretary.

The kerfuffle is over AiG’s Ark Encounter — the “creationist theme park” complete with a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s floating barn (except this one won’t float, plus it costs 70 million bucks) — and specifically, the $18 million in special tax incentives the Commonwealth’s tourism department had initially approved in 2011 before retracting them last year.

The goal of the incentives is to promote the construction of job-creating tourist attractions in Kentucky, and AiG’s project initially held water. What caused it to fall out of favor with the Bluegrass State was the group’s increasingly vocal insistence that it intended to: 1) require its employees to sign a statement of faith affirming, among other things, their devotion to the idea that the universe was created sometime more recently than the invention of beer by the Mesopotamians, and 2) operate the park pretty much like its Creation Museum — i.e., as evangelistic outreach.

Graphic courtesy of Tiffany McCallen / RNS

Graphic courtesy of Tiffany McCallen / RNS

Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who no one seems to have noticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion.

They’re more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans) and more scientifically knowledgeable than “Moderns” (36 percent) who stand on science alone, according to two sociologists’ findings in a new study.

“We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories,” said Timothy O’Brien, co-author of the research study, released Jan. 29 in the American Sociological Review.

Put another way, there’s a sizable chunk of Americans out there who are both religious and scientifically minded but who break with both packs when faith and science collide.

Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. Photo via Deryck Chan, Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Responding to a real or perceived gap between science and faith, 10 U.S. seminaries will receive a combined $1.5 million in grants to include science in their curricula, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced Oct. 8.

A diverse set of Christian seminaries will be awarded grants ranging from $90,000 to $200,000 provided by the John Templeton Foundation, which has funded various efforts to bridge science and faith, including $3.75 million to AAAS for the project.

“Many (religious leaders) don’t get a lot of science in their training and yet they become the authority figures that many people in society look up to for advice for all kinds of things, including issues related to science and technology,” said Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion.

Indeed, evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely as other Americans to say they would turn to a religious text, a religious leader or people at their congregation if they had a question about science, a study released by AAAS earlier this year suggested.

Mary Herndon 07-22-2014

Colloquially known as the “Monkey Trial,” the Tennessee v. John Scopes trial ended on July 21, 1925, but 89 years later, the American public is still debating on where it stands with religion and science education.

John Scopes, a public school teacher, was charged by the state for teaching evolution because one of its laws prohibited any public school curricula that contradicted creationism. The trial began on July 10, 1925, and Scopes pled not guilty. Along with other members of the community, Scopes had planned the curriculum as a publicity stunt.

Eighty-nine years ago today, Scopes was found guilty and sentenced to pay a $100 fine — an estimated $1,300, when adjusted for inflation.

 
Danny Duncan Collum 05-09-2014

The problem is not with the ark, but with the ark mentality it represents.

Suzanne Ross 04-16-2014
Easter Sunday image by Adam Howie / CreationSwap.com

Easter Sunday image by Adam Howie / CreationSwap.com

The end of the Gospel of Mark is, shall we say, indecisive. Mark’s account of the resurrection begins with the women going to anoint Jesus’ body and discovering the stone rolled away, Jesus’ body gone missing, and “a young man, dressed in a white robe” sitting in the tomb. This man tells them not to be alarmed, as if that’s possible under the circumstances, and announces that Jesus “has been raised.” The young man instructs them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Really? Our dead friend is arranging a meet-up via an angel-gram? I think I’d react the same way the women do in verse 8: “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Here is the note that appears in my NRSV Bible at the end of verse 8, which is followed by one more verse, the so-called “shorter ending of Mark:”

Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.

I’m doubtful, too, but not because no one seems to know how the Gospel writer wanted to end his Gospel. But because doubt seems to be the reaction du jour. In the longer ending, we find out that the women break their silence, but those who are “mourning and weeping” for Jesus “would not believe it.” Mark tells us Jesus appeared to “two of them, as they were walking in the country.” But when they “told the rest,” again “they did not believe them.” This is completely understandable because resurrection cannot be considered part of normal experience, no matter what century you are living in. And yet the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection want us to believe in the reality of it, that Jesus appeared to them and they could experience his dead-yet-aliveness, normal human beings though they were.

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” airs March 23 on Fox. Photo courtesy of Fox Broadcasting. Via RNS

Many viewers may be hoping that Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey lives up to the original series created by astronomer Carl Sagan 35 years ago.

But no one will watch the program, airing Sunday on Fox, with greater anticipation than nonbelievers — atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other “nones.”

Among this group, many credit Sagan and the original Cosmos with instilling in them skepticism of the supernatural and a sense of wonder about the universe. Both, they say, encouraged their rejection of institutional religion.

Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the Cosmos series — a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.

02-28-2014
Osborn is an adjunct professor in the Department of International Relations at the University of Southern California. His articles have appeared in a variety of popular as well as scholarly publications including Commonweal, First Things, Sojourners, Review of International Studies, and Politics and Religion. Osborn’s writing has been shaped in important ways by his experiences growing up in Thailand, Taiwan, and Zimbabwe to missionary parents. His first book, Anarchy and Apocalypse: Essays on Faith, Violence, and Theodicy (2010), defends a distinctive form of nonviolent nonconformity with power or Christian anarchism.

More scientists are religious than the general public realizes, a new study finds. Photo Courtesy of NASA via Shutterstock

Scientists and Christian evangelicals can collaborate for the good of society but it will take some serious effort, experts said as they launched a new campaign to change perceptions between the two groups.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday, at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists, and many who are both.

The massive survey of views on God, religion, science included 10,241 respondents and took a particularly close look at the views of evangelicals and people in science-related occupations.

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