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  • Lost and found: a 1964 interview with Georges Lemaitre, the Father of the Big Bang theory — Science meets Faith

    The Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie (VRT), the national public-service broadcaster for the Flemish Community of Belgium, has found in its archives an interview with Georges Lemaître that was thought to be lost. The cosmologist from Leuven was the founder of the big bang theory in the 1920s and 1930s. He was interviewed about it in […]

    Lost and found: a 1964 interview with Georges Lemaitre, the Father of the Big Bang theory — Science meets Faith
  • On Specialisation and Mathematics

    From R.G. Manley’s Waveform Analysis, this observation, at the start:

    At a not very remote period in the past, a university education in Natural Philosophy, together with a small amount of private reading, enabled a man to claim fairly the he knew the whole of science, so far as it was at that time revealed. In contrast, the present-day study of science is so extensive and intensive that no one can hope to acquire a thorough knowledge of more than a small portion of one of the sciences. Specialisation is forced upon the scientific worker who desires to contribute useful original work, for the successful and economical achievement of which it is essential to be well-informed of contemporary progress by other investigators in the same field of study. This unavoidable trend towards learning “more and more about less and less” necessarily involves some considerable dependence upon the results of research and development in other subjects; and perhaps the greatest disadvantage of the situation is that one has to accept without question those results, as time along prevents a thorough ab initio investigation of principles and methods from being made.

    While the foregoing remarks are broadly true of science in general there is a conspicuous exception to the rule in the case of mathematics. Mathematics is, in its utilitarian aspect, the hand maid of all the sciences, in that it provides a set of processes for solving problems posed in their most general terms. Everyday life is permeated with the use of figures, and a mathematical undercurrent is observable in any study of physical phenomena. It is not surprising, therefore, that workers in very different fields make use of identical or similar mathematical processes, the the solution of problems which have a common mathematical nature, although they made differ widely in physical significance.

    It’s interesting to note that he starts by referring to the sciences as “Natural Philosophy.” That was common practice for a long time; Manley wrote this in 1945. The separation of science from any kind of philosophy was, in part, a result of the specialisation that he describes in the first paragraph.

    But his case that mathematics is what ties the sciences together–and ultimately what makes them work–is one that has been lost in our “believe the science” rhetoric. He is correct that mathematics allows bridging the gaps created by the expansion of knowledge, which allows scientific analysis, especially for general discussion, to not be reserved strictly to the specialists. The virtue of that is on display in what passes for public discussion on just about any scientific or engineering topic.

  • Someone Else Figures Out When Church is Pointless

    In this interesting article by the Rev. Ben Crosby, he asks two questions as the starting point of why churches are in decline and if it really matters:

    Specifically, I believe that our conversations about church decline would be much more clarifying if we began by answering the following questions:

    1. 1. Do we think that a relationship with Jesus is necessary to achieve certain goods (traditionally, salvation)? If the ‘relationship’ language concerns you, feel free to substitute ‘connected with’, ‘joined to’, or what have you.
    2. 2. Do we think that the church is the normative means by which that necessary relationship with Jesus is established, nurtured, and maintained?

    If we answer these questions “no,” Rev. Crosby comes to this conclusion:

    In either of these cases, church decline might be something to be mourned but it is hardly a disaster. This is perhaps most obvious in the first case discussed above: if Christianity is no truer than anything else, if it is simply a particular human expression of certain eternal universal truths equally expressed elsewhere, what does it matter if people be Christians? What’s important is finding – or making – meaning somewhere. Maybe it’s another religion, maybe it’s tarot or crystals, maybe it’s politics, maybe it’s Harry Potter, but it certainly needn’t be the church. Decline might be difficult for those experiencing it, for those who are accustomed to find in the Christian religion their source of comfort or meaning, and certainly it would be important to provide pastoral care for these people. But decline, while sad, is no disaster – after all, the decline of organized religion just seems to be a consequence of modernity, in which people are freed to find meaning in increasingly informal, mix-and-match ways.

    Nothing like being a quarter century late…decline from these conclusions was what I predicted in my 1997 piece When Church Becomes Pointless. Unfortunately that’s the message that’s come from the Episcopal Church and churches like it, and people have been connecting the dots and acting accordingly. For the church to reverse this downward slide will require a completely different idea from the one they’ve been propagating for years, more like those churches which Episcopalians have turned their noses up at for generations. Perhaps something like this, at the end of Crosby’s article:

    After all, we have found in the ACC that those Anglican churches which actually grow are those which believe – truly believe, in a lived-out way — that evangelism is important.


  • The Dreyfus Affair is not finished — UnHerd

    On January 13, 1898, Parisians awoke to the chorus of hundreds of news criers who, striding along the grand boulevards and brandishing copies of the newspaper… 2,028 more words

    The Dreyfus Affair is not finished — UnHerd
  • Histories by Tacitus — Books & Boots

    Biography Publius Cornelius Tacitus, generally referred to simply as Tacitus, was a Roman statesman and historian. He lived from 56 to 120 AD. Like many Roman writers he had an eminent career in politics and public service. He started his career under the emperor Vespasian (ruled 69 to 79) and entered political life as a […]

    Histories by Tacitus — Books & Boots

    Tacitus was a old favourite of mine amongst the Roman authors. His viewpoint–well described in this review of the Histories and some of his other works–contrasts with the pap that dominates American thinking about history, both in the past and certainly now. Our Founding Fathers were well informed by Greek and Roman writers, something that sadly has been lost in our thinking.

  • The feebleness of white nationalists

    Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the putative rise of “white supremacy” or “white nationalism” has been a perennial worry among mainstream …

    The feebleness of white nationalists
  • Will conservatism survive 2023?

    For the Right, 2022 was a year to forget. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it is out of power. In the States, the Republicans hold just one …

    Will conservatism survive 2023?
  • The torment of Pope Benedict — UnHerd

    It might seem perverse to describe the death of a painfully frail 95-year-old man as a uniquely sad event. But in the case of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI we have to consider the poignant and unsettling circumstances in which he died. I was in St Peter’s Square on 10 April, 2005, when the words “Josephum…

    The torment of Pope Benedict — UnHerd
  • The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part IV: High Schools Take it Literally

    Well, at least one did:

    Last fall, along with about 1.5 million U.S. high school juniors, the Yashar teen took the PSAT, which determines whether a student qualifies as a prestigious National Merit scholar. When it came time to submit his college applications this fall, he didn’t have a National Merit honor to report—but it wasn’t because he hadn’t earned the award. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a nonprofit based in Evanston, Illinois, had recognized him as a Commended Student in the top 3 percent nationwide—one of about 50,000 students earning that distinction. Principals usually celebrate National Merit scholars with special breakfastsaward ceremoniesYouTube videospress releases, and social media announcements.

    But not at TJ (Thomas Jefferson.) School officials had decided to withhold announcement of the award. Indeed, it turns out that the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years. Recognition by National Merit opens the door to millions of dollars in college scholarships and 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors.

    It’s been seven years since I ran this series, which include the pieces The Country Where Merit is Run Down, The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part II: The STEM Curriculum Dilemma and The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part III: The Asians Strike Back. This incident, however, made it convenient to add another installment to the series. The justification for this information suppression was thus:

    “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” he told her, claiming that he and the principal didn’t want to “hurt” the feelings of students who didn’t get the award.

    It’s interesting to note that many of the students in this school–which has an admissions process, at one time mirabile dictu for public schools–are Asians, the same group featured in the last installment of the series and whose case against Harvard is now before SCOTUS. One of these days we’re going to revise our racial paradigm, but that will probably come with external force.

    In the meanwhile, there are those who would consider our system a “meritocracy” as racist. For me, it’s just a lie, certainly now, to a lesser extent in the past. We need to wake up on this, otherwise we, as Herodotus ended the Histories, will find ourselves left “…to cultivate rich plains and be subject to others.”

    Full disclosure: back in the day I was a National Merit Scholar. I tended to downplay the award–much to the consternation of my parents–because a) we didn’t need the money, that especially as b) I had opted to turn away from the American gateways to “meritocracy.”

  • Humanism is a heresy

    “There is nothing particular about man. He is but a part of this world.” This observation on the pretensions of humanity — cool, disillusioned, …

    Humanism is a heresy
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