Monday, October 22, 2012

Please tell me there's more to this story

Italian scientists have been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for ..... failing to predict an earthquake.

There has to be more to this, right? Some exculpatory detail that makes this story not crazy?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Talk tomorrow in Oxford and Minneapolis in November

Sorry this is rather late notice.  I am speaking tomorrow 18 October at 8.30 in the Sutro Room, Trinity College, Oxford on ancient Greek and medieval science.  The talk is a seminar for the Ian Ramsey Centre but everyone is welcome.  Do drop by if interested.

I am also giving a Faith and Life lecture at St Philip the Deacon Church in Minneapolis at 7pm on 15 November.  Again, this is a free public event.

Update: you can watch a video of the Oxford talk here.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Dennett contra Weinberg

There's a relatively famous quote by physicist Steven Weinberg : "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion." I think this is an incredibly naive claim. I would replace "religion" in that quote with "ideology." After all, good people do evil in the service of political ideologies all the time. But that's a post for another day. Right now I want to point to an interesting passage from Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea that contradicts Weinberg's claim. It's from page 264 of my copy, the third page in chapter 10; the emphases are mine.

Anybody as prolific and energetic as [Stephen Jay] Gould would surely have an agenda beyond that of simply educating and delighting his fellow human beings about the Darwinian view of life. In fact, he has had numerous agendas. He has fought hard against prejudice, and particularly against the abuse of scientific research (and scientific prestige) by those who would clothe their political ideologies in the potent mantle of scientific respectability. It is important to recognize that Darwinism has always had an unfortunate power to attract the most unwelcome enthusiasts -- demagogues and psychopaths and misanthropes and other abusers of Darwin's dangerous idea. Gould has laid this sad story bare in dozens of tales, about the Social Darwinists, about unspeakable racists, and most poignantly about basically good people who got confused -- seduced and abandoned, you might say -- by one Darwinian siren or another. It is all too easy to run off half cocked with some poorly understood version of Darwinian thinking, and Gould has made it a major part of his life's work to protect his hero from this sort of abuse.

So Dennett not only affirms that science can lead good people to do evil, but evolution in particular can do so. Of course, Dennett and Weinberg and I would respond to this charge that such people are obviously misunderstanding science and evolution in such cases. But then I don't see why this defense isn't available for religion as well.

(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fakes: Jesus' wife, boyfriend and brother's coffin

I have a post at On the Square, the blog for First Things magazine, looking at the Jesus' wife papyrus and some other notorious forgeries.

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