Science

“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.

2-28-2014
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.

Christian Piatt 2-05-2014
Courtesy Answers in Genesis

Courtesy Answers in Genesis

Whenever I hear about someone else making a case for Young Earth Creationism in the name of Christianity, I’m embarrassed, once again, to associate myself with them. And people wonder why many of us prefer to identify as “Jesus followers” or “Spiritual but not Religious” rather than be lumped in with the Ken Hams of the world.

Duh.

The thing is, a healthy number of us who consider ourselves to be Christian embrace science. We think critically. We accept the likelihood that much we think we understand about the world, the universe, and about our faith can (and should) change as we learn new things. We understand that faith is more about questions than answers, and that the prime mover in our faith practice is to be more like Jesus in our own daily walk, rather than focusing so much on making others more like us.

The desire of a vocal minority (yes, that’s what I said, and I meant it) of Christians to cling to a notion that the entire universe is a few thousand years old, despite the clear physical evidence to the contrary, points less to a reasonable alternate view of the observable world. Rather, it points to a desperate attempt to maintain a dying voice in the cultural conversation.

Liz Schmitt 1-31-2014

What works, what doesn’t, and how best to frame the conversation.

Promotion photo for the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Photo courtesy of http://www.answersingenesis.org/ Via RNS.

Bill Nye may be “The Science Guy,” but Ken Ham is the “Answers in Genesis” man, and a debate between the two over the origins of life has nonbelievers and Christians wringing their hands.

Nye, host of a beloved television science series, and Ham, president of a creationist apologetics ministry, will meet at the Creation Museum, where Ham is also the president, on Feb. 4. In what some wags are calling “the Ham-on-Nye debate,” they will weigh this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

In truth, both sides answered that question long ago — Nye with Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. Yet many observers — both religious and nonreligious — say the debate is a very bad idea.

Ed Spivey Jr. 1-05-2014

Illustration by Ken Davis

No animals were tested in the study. Just me.

Processes of Human Evolution, by Religion graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

As evolution remains a contentious issue for many public schools, a new survey suggests that views on the question are driven by Americans’ religious affiliation more than their level of education.

Overall, six in 10 Americans say that humans have evolved over time, while one-third reject the idea of human evolution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The one-third of Americans who reject human evolution has remained mostly unchanged since a 2009 Pew survey.

About one in four American adults say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

While education matters, the new analysis suggests that religion appears to have more influence than level of education on evolution. The 21-point difference between college graduates and high school graduates who believe in evolution, for example, is less stark than the 49-point difference between mainline Protestants and evangelicals.

Stephen Mattson 10-29-2013
SNEHIT & hxdbzxy / Shutterstock

Academic on the outside looking in. SNEHIT & hxdbzxy / Shutterstock

In a world where people are craving inspiration, growth, and information, many churches maintain a cyclical pattern based on redundancy, safety, and closed-mindedness. Unfortunately, many pastors and Christian leaders continue to recycle old spiritual clichés — and sermons — communicating scripture as if it were propaganda instead of life-changing news, and driving away a growing segment of people who find churches ignorant, intolerant, absurd, and irrelevant.

As technology continues to make news and data more accessible, pastors are often failing to realize that they're no longer portrayed as the respected platforms of spiritual authority that they once were.

Instead of embracing dialogue and discussion, many Christian leaders react to this power shift by creating defensive and authoritarian pedestals, where they self-rule and inflict punishment on anyone who disagrees, especially intellectuals.

Liz Schmitt 10-22-2013
Monica Byrne's blog

Monica Byrne's blog

Last week I found out about the unfolding cases of sexual harassment by a respected science blogger and the head of Scientific American’s blog, Bora Zivkovic. It shocked me because I’ve met the man, though I don’t know him well. And so I read the accounts of the three women science bloggers who exposed him. Thefirst one shocked me and made me angry. And the second one shocked me further, because she wrote of the harassment continuing at a conference I attended. It happened right under my nose.

Women are an important part of the science community, but there’s a group of powerful men who are gatekeepers, and some of them use this power as a tool to be overtly sexual with female bloggers looking to advance their writing careers in the science community. The allegations regarding Bora Zivkovic seem to be hard for many in the science community to swallow because he has been a vocal supporter of women’s importance in the field and has actively nurtured the careers of many bloggers.

An interview with "Rev. Riverkeeper" Dottie Yunger

Rick Hammer 10-02-2013
Pile of textbooks, Skylines / Shutterstock.com

Pile of textbooks, Skylines / Shutterstock.com

Texas high school biology textbooks battles are once again in progress in Austin, with lines drawn between those who want textbook material based only on established mainstream science and those who are anti-science. As an evangelical Christian and a botany professor at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, I am all too familiar with the battle for scientific authenticity in our state’s textbooks.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) wields an enormous influence over which textbooks are adopted by school districts in Texas. And because the Texas market for public school textbooks is one of the country’s largest, publishers use the curriculum and content from Texas books in those they print for the rest of the nation. For this reason, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. This is why it is so important that we ensure that publishers produce books based on mainstream science.

Ryan Ahlgrim 9-30-2013

A pastor's journey of trust in the face of doubt.

Christian Piatt 9-25-2013
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

First things first: with all due respect to interim host John Oliver, I for one am thrilled to have Jon Stewart back on The Daily Show. I know it is sad to say, but I actually missed him while he was on summer hiatus. Welcome back, little buddy!

Last night, Stewart interviewed Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who was promoting his newest title, An Appetite for Wonder. The most interesting moments in the interview revolved around Stewart’s question to Dawkins about whether science or religion ultimately would be responsible for hastening our journey down this path of apparent self-annihilation. What followed was a fascinating, if not entirely satisfying, dialogue about the “downsides” of both disciplines.

Mallory McDuff 4-04-2013

Fiction with a climate change theme.

Julie Polter 4-03-2013

Those who study together can also change together. Here are our recommendations for good books, videos, and online resources for stepping forward to reverse climate change.

Jim Wallis 2-11-2013

It's more human to deny the evidence, attack the messengers, and try to delay any response.

Mike McHargue 12-07-2012
Photo: Universe,  © Alan Uster / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Universe, © Alan Uster / Shutterstock.com

I'm a member of an organization called the Planetary Society. If you haven't heard of us, we are a group of nerds who are deeply passionate about space exploration. We believe so deeply in the exploration of other worlds that we pay annual dues and organize fundraisers to pick up the slack left by governmental and commercial space programs. In addition to expansive efforts toward public education, we fund experimental approaches to space exploration and engineering. Spacecraft propelled by solar wind, or little robots that can move asteroids with laser beams are a couple of examples. Our CEO is Bill Nye. You may know him as "The Science Guy" from children's television.

Lately, Bill has been in the news cycle because of a video he made about creationism. In this video, Bill argues that the religions that teach stories of creation that oppose a contemporary scientific understanding are dangerous to public education. ... This puts me in an awkward position.

Trevor Barton 11-20-2012
Photo: Georgios Kollidas / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Georgios Kollidas / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: Trevor Scott Barton wrote this poem after reading Subtle Is The Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais.

Einstein

experiencing a miracle

trembling with excitement

a compass

sparking genius

creating a world of thought

Euclidian Geometry in a small book

flying certainly away from the miraculous

finding the miraculous in clarity and certainty

gravity

Rydberg's Constant = 2π2em/h3c

landing uneasily in chaos

wandering and wondering in the quantum universe

God playing symphonies on strings

Christian Piatt 11-02-2012

Quantum Theory is still in its relative infancy within the entire discipline of science, although it finds its roots as far back as Plato and Descartes. But if some of the notions being pursued by contemporary scientists prove true, it may result in a convergence of science, art, philosophy, and even religion that the world never imagined possible.

I’ll admit from the start that investigating the literature for this particular article literally made my head hurt. To fully conceive of all that is discussed and examined in Quantum Theory takes a scientific sophistication that I lack. But fortunately there are some out there who are trying to make these complex ideas more digestible, without a string of letters after our names.

One such scientist is Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. To distill a very complex idea down into a few words, the general consensus in science is that consciousness can be attributed to computations conducted within the neurological networks in the brain. Basically, all consciousness can be explained by algorithms, which makes our brains essentially like big, highly sophisticated computers. There are some limitations thus far to this perspective, such as how such algorithms account for things like aesthetic experience, love, and even our sense of smell. Researchers in the area of Artificial Intelligence believe that discovering the algorithmic bases for such phenomena can lead to the construction (given the necessary technology) of an artificial human brain.

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