Science Archives

Considering the TSA and the Anti-Martyr Problem

Well, the TSA objective of making transportation safe is back on the front-burner. Now the TSA screening is a poor seive. It is a largely static target and is very costly, the largest cost of course is in the lost time that travellers endure in negotiating long security lines. Furthermore, it is likely that much of their efforts are counter-productive. For example, making box-cutters freely available and common on flights would make it harder, not easier, for a terrorist or terrorists to hijack a flight. The “rules” of engagement with those who would interfere with the operation and direction of airplane do not get time to negotiate or to “make demands” known like they might do in the 20th century. Once a person is identified as hostile (a prospective anti-martyr) that person is quickly neutralized by his fellow passengers. The age of passive passengers has past once the 9/11 event occurred.

However TSA has a purpose. It is visible and reactive. It can take the appearance of being the primary and front line defence in a strategy to identify and interdict prospective anti-martyrs. War and espionage (to which this anti-martyr interdiction campaign is related) is in part one of misdirection. To that end, the TSA screeners take a very public and obvious role. They (might) be the public and obvious strategy which is a counterfeit. If indeed the TSA plays such a role, we as the voting public will not know that for as soon as it is common and public knowledge that the TSA is a large noisy feint … then their will be an outcry to remove it and an alternate deception will be harder to enact. Read the rest of this entry

Climategate vs. E-mail-theft-gate

It’s been interesting to see the diversionary approach, used by some, with regards to the recent news of pilfered e-mails regarding global warming of the doomsday variety research. Regardless of whether or not the e-mail theft was wrong (and, I think theft is wrong), these really are two separate issues. Rather than approach it as an either / or situation, we should address it in a both / and manner.

If there was theft, then those guilty should be prosecuted. If the data reveals inherent falsification of reported values, then it’s probably in our best interest not to spend countless amounts of money on addressing a problem that isn’t there.

Here’s an interesting read on the news at American Thinker (HT: Ron’s Bloviating).

Of the CRU Kerfuffle and Science

The CRU mini-scandal has gotten an lot of press, at least in the slice of the blogs regularly read by myself, two examples here and here are not unrepresentative. There are two facets of this little kerfuffle that might be noted. Read the rest of this entry

"ClimateGate" Distilled

I’ve saved a boatload of links about the whole Climate Research Unit e-mail and document leak, but today I came across an article by the aptly-named author Christopher Booker that distills the issue down to 3 salient points.

There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world. Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre’s blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt’s blog Watts Up With That ), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

Read the rest of this entry

Of Elijah and Darwin

This summer I had a class in theology which I sometimes discussed. This class was part of the “late vocations” program offered by in our area by the OCA. Currently, I’m taking the second of these classes, and true to form the reading/work load has been somewhat larger than expected. We’re taking a “great books” approach to the Old Testament, and in our 8 week class … reading and discussing the entire Old Testament …. and for the technically minded, using the Codex Alexandrinus for our canon … which means that the books we read are somewhat extended from the standard Protestant even Catholic set of books. In the below, I’m going to explore a question/point raised in class which I would like to explore in more detail.

Throughout the Old Testament, but certainly notable in Judges through Kings IV (the Orthodox church uses the Septuagint as its basis for the Old Testament, Samuel I and II and Kings I & II become Kings I-IV) there is constant influence from external polytheistic religions. There is not just military conquest and battle back and forth between nations being portrayed, but we find priests contending and confronting those following other gods and abandoning those of other religions. There is a marked contrast between how, for example, Elijah deals with the priests of Baal (Kings III 18) and how today we confront those who believe differently in this modern age. Read the rest of this entry

"Adult Stem Cells Saved My Life"

That’s the title of a new campaign by the Family Research Council, trying to get the word out on how so many diseases and conditions (>70) are already being treated successfully with adult stem cells.

Currently the most common and effective treatments using stem cells are various forms of cancers and anemias, he said, though adult stem cells have also repaired heart attack damage, treated leukemias, lymphomas, spinal cord injuries and helped patients with multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes. 

When asked about the embryonic stem cell research debate, [David] Prentice [Ph.D., former professor at Indiana State University] noted, “No human beings have even been injected yet” in embryonic stem cell research. Published science, however, has verified the successful treatments of thousands of patients using adult stem cells.

“Lets focus on helping the patients, and helping them now,” Prentice said. “We’re not even talking about embryonic stem cell research. It’s not helping anybody. It’s not even helping the lab rats.”

No human has been injected because of all the complications with embryonic stem cells, including cancer.  In the meantime, adult stem cells, without carrying the ethical and moral baggage, continue to work successfully.  And with new methods being discovered that make adult stem cells as flexible as embryonic, there is absolutely no need to even go down the embryonic path.

You can visit the campaign’s website here.

(non) Archimedean Dreams

In the past, I’ve ventured to consider the hypothesis (ansatze) that a noetic realm, a rough analogue of the Platonic realm of Ideals, has a real existence, in a parallel universe of sorts to our own. Part of this ansatze is that these two universes are not completely disconnected, and that the human intellectual machinery glimpses this realm and it is through this mechanism that our brain’s machinery accomplishes the semiotic scaffold and bridges gap between pattern and synapse to thought, meaning and intention.

What sorts of features might we imagine a noetic realm to have? Read the rest of this entry

Dawkins, Creationists, and books

I don’t think they [creationists] read books anyway, except for one book. It’s aimed at the intelligent layperson who does read books and who vaguely knows a little bit about evolution…

So says Richard Dawkins, author of The Greatest Show on Earth, in a Salon interview.

Hmmm. Let’s see.

I’m a creationist (of the Old Earth variety) and, while I don’t consider myself well read, I have read The Origin of Species, Finding Darwin’s God, Tower of Babel, Night Comes to the Cretaceous, Rare Earth, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and A Brief History of Time, just to name a few books from the non-creationist book bin.

It can’t be this easy.

Not Enough Stem Cell Lines? Blame Bush!

Former President George W. Bush walked a fine line between science and morality/ethics when he decided that existing embryonic stem cell lines, at the time, would be the only ones available for Federal grants.  Federal money would not be available to any new lines.

Contrary to some misinformed, partisan critics, he did not ban embryonic stem cell research.  Companies using private money were not restricted in any way.   Bush simply said that Federal money would be given out in what he believed was as moral and ethical a way as could be done at the time. 

The LA Times reported this week that a Stanford University study was done to determine the extent of this restriction.  The results show that the loudly-complaining scientists have put even tighter restrictions on themselves, making their protests disingenuous.

Read the rest of this entry

Science and Religion: A Typological Exercise

A few weeks ago I posted several versions of an essay on Faith and Science, this is the start of another (which unlike the first has no “target” for publication). I may return and extend and refine it, but I have no definite plans to do so. In part that depends on whether this attempt engenders any response. In the spirituality class I am taking we read a number of St. Ephrem’s hymns “On Virginity” from the CWS collection. A few of these in the series concentrate not on virginity but St. Ephrem uses oil (olive) to indicate a “type” of Christ. In Syriac apparently oil, Messiah, and Anointing all come from the same root word, which is not the case with English (or Greek apparently). St. Ephrem also then lists a number of properties of oil, used in cooking, healing, for light and so on and illustrates how, because Christ does the same, that oil is a “type” reflecting and illuminating our understanding of Christ. This hymn thereby becomes a way in which common practice (contact with oil) in daily life can be uses to remind oneself, a trigger for reflections, and in general a way of connecting one’s daily life with one’s theological practice and belief. It can be noted that the common features and uses of oil come from the science and practices of the day.

So it might be an interesting project to do the same with modern science. Light was a common type of Christ in the days of St. Ephrem and the theological writers of late antiquity. Today, in late modernity, we can add to thse typological constructions. Today we might add things like the following:

  1. Light is simultaneously without confusing both particle and wave. Likewise, Christ was man and God.
  2. Light illuminating an atom can stimulates it to a higher state. Again Christ’s actions in a man’s heart can stimulate it to seek (and attain) for higher things.
  3. This same light, further illuminating a population of exited (previously stimulated) atoms can cause the creation of more light, i.e., lasers. Atoms acting in concert, a type of “communion” through Christ (the light) and by Christ in communion a type of Christ and the Eucharist.
  4. Light exists in a sort of timeless fashion, particles travelling on null or light cones in Minkowski spacetimes interact with things “in time” yet for the massless particle no time passes.
  5. Light through photosynthesis is the source from which oxygen and sugars comes into our world, that which we derive our very life depends. We similarly depend on Christ to “trample death by death” unlocking the gates of Hades.

That was the product of a just a few minutes reflection on light and modern scientific discoveries in a typological exercise. One could likely do similar exercises with our understanding of astrophysics, matter, the standard model and so on. So, here’s the question: Is science education so poor these days that these sorts of typological reflections are useless to the lay Christian? That is, in St. Ephrem’s day oil (of the olive) was in many ways akin to petroleum today, it was a linchpin of their economy. Olive oil then was used for light, food, health, lubrication and a myriad of other applications. It took no real specialized knowledge to understand this. People today have likely all heard of quantum mechanics (things have a wave/particle duality), that light excites atoms to higher states, that lasers exist, and even have heard via special relativity that time slows for fast moving objects and that via extrapolation coupled with remembering that nothing travels faster than light that perhaps time might essentially stop for objects travelling at the speed of light. So, there are two questions here. Is this sort of reflection (a) useful in helping people connect theological abstractions with things with which they are familiar and (b) perhaps have the further use of reducing what friction now exists between religion and science.

We choose the moon

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, mankind’s first trip to the moon.

At, you can follow a virtual recreation of the entire mission, beginning at approximately 6 a.m. Eastern, 16 July.

Also, check NASA’s web page dedicated to the anniversary.

Religion and Science: A historical review

This is the version of an article for our parish newsletter on faith and science. The longer version is posted here.  It is my hope that this version is accessible to a general audience (the longer version I’ve been told is not so easy to read, but I still think with some effort can be read by any interested reader).

Science and religion

Because the terms science and religion are enormously broad topics they need to be restricted. Science will refer to physics. Religion will mean Christian interaction with that science.

Natural science (physics) has gone through three major stages. These stages will be discussed in turn and the relationship with religion examined below.

Stage 1: Geometry

From the time of the Greek golden age through the 16th century the understanding of nature was based on pure geometry. Study of Euclid was crucial because geometry was seen as the key principle for understanding nature. Aristotelian cosmology and the Pythagorean movement are examples of this view of nature.

In the second through fifth centuries orthodox Christian theology arrived at a basic understanding of the relationships between God, man, and the world which remain dominant with minor variations to this day. Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa both often explicitly tied theology with philosophy (and natural philosophy or physics). One important 2nd century philosopher and contemporary of Origen was Plotinus. That Origen and Plotinus each attended the others talks and interacted frequently is exemplary of the relationship between science and religion at that time.

Stage 2: An Analytic View

Between the time of Galileo and Newton the conception of nature shifted. The understanding of natural laws changed to a description of motions and interactions of objects given by formula, e.g., Newton’s three laws of motion. Descartes laid essential foundations of algebra to describe and prove geometrical concepts. Ways of thinking moved from the constructive geometric view to an analytic one. Later mathematical developments made the analytical approach immensely successful.

In this time period Christian theology (in the West) also underwent a revolution. The theological turmoil of Reformation and counter-Reformation occurred. This changed what Christianity meant for the West. Too, the relationship between natural philosophy and theological thought changed. Science and religion parted ways. The Origen/Plotinus relationship disappeared. While a few priests (e.g., Mendeleev and Priestly) contributed to science, religion’s interactions with science became rare. Some theology would come into direct conflict with modern scientific views, e.g., evolution vs literal creation accounts.

Stage 3: Symmetry.

In the early 20th century mathematical developments began another shift in our understanding of how the universe is constructed. The mathematical inventive work of Emmy Noether, Hamilton, and Riemann made this shift possible. Einstein, Kaluza, and Klein first used this new math, specifically a geometrical property known as symmetry, to provide the conceptual framework of physics. In 1954, Yang and Mills defined the Standard Model based on these ideas. The Standard Model is the current best model of the particles and forces found in nature. Geometry (as symmetry) has returned and again today drives our understanding of nature.

The separation between science and religion which developed since the 20th century has not been resolved. With a few exceptions, like Father John Polkinghorne, who was an important theoretical physicist and is presently an Anglican theologian, little theological thought is being put into trying to reunite and reconcile science and religion.

Natural science over the past 3000 years has gone the distance, from a geometrically motivated view of the universe it traversed through an analytic approach and subsequently returned to a geometrically motivated view. In the first period there was no tension between theology and science. During the second, a separation occurred which continues today.

The complexity and scope of what physics does understand regarding the large and small scale structure of space-time and the natural world is far greater than in the 3rd century. Yet, a theology asserting where God stands in relationship to man and His universe should be developed which is in accord with modern physics. This should be an active and viable task for theology today.

Stem Cell Research "Unexplored"?

The Obama administration has finalized its rules regarding embryonic stem cell research.

The new rules, which go into effect on Tuesday, follow President Barack Obama’s March 9 executive order lifting a ban on embryonic stem cell research, an order that went into effect under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

They allow funding for research using human embryonic stem cells created by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and no longer needed, in a departure from the Bush administration’s policy.

Not surprising.  We’ve known this was coming.  What I do find unbelievable is that the administration is still misrepresenting the debate, making it sound like Bush kept all this scientific knowledge away from us.

Bush barred federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of embryonic stem cell lines that existed at the time.

Using human embryos for scientific research, which often involves their destruction, crossed a moral barrier and urged scientists to consider alternatives, the former president argued.

In reversing the ban, the Obama administration argued that the promise of medical breakthroughs through stem cell research could not go unexplored.

Unexplored?  Adult stem cells have been bringing us these breakthroughs for years, whaddya’ mean "unexplored"?  Adult stem cells have been coaxed into what amount to embryonic cells.  Unexplored? 

Obama wanted to restore science to its "rightful place".  I’d suggest he restore truth to it first.

Faith and Religion: First Draft

Well, Sunday afternoon I worked for a while on this essay, tonight I’m returning to it to flesh out the missing paragraphs. The first draft is now complete … editing will now commence. It’s a little long soooo … below the fold Read the rest of this entry

Science and Religion: a (very) preliminary draft

This is the first draft of an essay for our parish newsletter. The topic is on “science and religion.” Given my short “dread bullet list” of ideas on the essay of last week, Brandon (of Siris) suggested helpfully that I try to make clear in the essay what specifically of “religion” and “science” I’ll be trying to identify and discuss, as both topics are huge and more than a little slippery. There was another suggestion that the “three stages” seen so far in our understanding of nature (the second bullet list item) was the most interesting. So without more ado, here is a preliminary draft, i.e., it is a little incomplete … however I offer it at this point for additional comments. It’s a little long so find it below the fold. Read the rest of this entry

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