Thursday, July 30, 2015

St. Basil the Great on the Intelligent Cause of Creation

By St. Basil the Great

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Genesis 1:1

I stop struck with admiration at this thought. What shall I first say? Where shall I begin my story? Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles? Shall I exalt the truth of our faith?

The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor. It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another. Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of a God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences. Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion: a true spider's web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that all was given up to chance.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On Legitimate and Bogus Scientific Consensus

John Horgan is one of the most colorful and thought-provoking science writers of the last several decades. He defies pigeonholing and enjoys challenging conventional wisdom. In the best Socratic tradition, he has been a gadfly to the scientific community, constantly urging it to be more self-reflective and to strive for sober understanding of the scientific enterprise—its prospects, possibilities, and pitfalls.

Erik Larson of interviewed him on various scientific topics, among which was the top of scientific consensus and the proper role of dissent.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It is Good to be Able to Go to the Moon, but Better to Attain God (St. Paisios the Athonite)

On the topic of the sanctification of knowledge, St. Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) said the following:

Education and knowledge are good things, but if they are not sanctified, they are a waste and lead to disaster. Some university students arrived at my hut one day, loaded with books. They said, "Elder, we are here to discuss the Old Testament with you. God permits knowledge, doesn't He?"

"What kind of knowledge do you mean?" I asked them. "Knowledge acquired with the mind?"

"Yes," they answered.

"This kind of knowledge," I replied, "will take you up to the moon, but will not lead you to God."

Monday, July 13, 2015

"Will the World Return To Religion?": Clarence Darrow debates G.K. Chesterton (video)

This is a dramatic recreation of a debate between the Catholic thinker and writer G.K. Chesterton and Clarence Darrow, who was the defense attorney at the Scopes Trial, which took place in New York City on January 18, 1931 on the topic "Will the World Return To Religion?".

Monday, July 6, 2015

A First Sighting of the Earliest Stars of Creation

An artist’s impression of CR7, a very distant galaxy three times brighter than any other known galaxy from this period.

From Cosmos Magazine (July 6, 2015):

The Universe began with a brilliant flash but soon descended into darkness – until finally, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the first stars flickered into life.

Astronomers believe they have now glimpsed some survivors from this pioneering generation of stars. These ancient ancestors of modern stars were monsters, hundreds of times more massive than our Sun and millions of times as luminous. Their short, intense lives ended in giant supernova explosions that enriched the cosmos with the first elements that were heavier than helium such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen – the stuff of planets and ultimately of life.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Science Not A Collection of Truths, But An Exploration of Mysteries

What does science mean? In the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson discussed information theory and the history of science under the headline, “How We Know.” In the body of his book review of The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick, Dyson, while trying to clear up some misinformation, exposed some embarrassments in science that call into question not only how we know, but what we know:

"The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.
Even physics, the most exact and most firmly established branch of science, is still full of mysteries... Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices."