I suppose that, from one perspective, the best answer to that question would be that what happens will be what had to happen.  There’s no way out of it; it was all set at the Big Bang, if not before.   Still, as they were fated to do billions of years ago, Azim Shariff (University of Oregon) and Kathleen Vohs (University of Minnesota) published an article in the June 2014 issue of Scientific American that considers “The world… Read more

    Yesterday afternoon, we attended a performance in Cedar City, Utah, of the musical Big River, with book by William Hauptman and music and lyrics by Roger Miller.  It’s based upon Mark Twain’s 1884 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.     That’s a good novel to base a play on.  “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” said Ernest Hemingway, who wasn’t a bad writer himself, sometimes.  “American writing comes from that. There was… Read more

    I conceived, founded, and, until 2012 or 2013 (depending upon how you read the history), served as editor-in-chief of Brigham Young University’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, which — until it was very recently handed over to Brill Publishing in the Netherlands — produced bilingual editions of books (mostly Islamic, but also sometimes Eastern Christian and Jewish) from the classical Islamic world.  The books were printed at Brigham Young University Press and distributed by the University of Chicago Press…. Read more

    On Sunday, the discussion topic in our quorum of elders was “tender mercies.”  Members of the quorum were invited to share the tender mercies in their lives, and some did.  We also briefly considered the question of how to distinguish such tender mercies from simple coincidences.   I think that such a distinction is easy in a few cases, but rather difficult in many others.   I thought of several such tender mercies, one of which I’ve told… Read more

    I share just a bit more from James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Washington DC: Henry Regnery, 2011).   Hannam is a graduate of Oxford University in physics who holds a doctorate from Cambridge University in the history of science.  He’s discussing Gerbert of Aurillac (ca. AD 940-1003), a scholar and natural philosopher who eventually became Pope Sylvester II and who, among other things, introduced Arabic numerals to Christian Europe:   Gerbert… Read more

    I’ve just read a short but interesting article in the latest issue — 4 August 2018 — of the Economist, titled “Hosannahs in the sand?”   It seems that Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, who has broken with tradition by allowing cinemas to open, open-air pop concerts to be held, and, most amazing of all, women to drive, is thinking about permitting the opening of churches within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia.  In October 2017, he… Read more

    Back in 2009 and 2010, I served as an expert witness for the prosecution — and testified for several hours each in the respective legal proceedings, his competency hearing and his formal trial — against Brian David Mitchell (aka “Immanuel David Isaiah,” the kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart).   Needless to say, it was a remarkable and quite interesting experience.   One subsidiary thing that it brought home to me in a very forceful way was the importance of… Read more

    A fascinating article in the 18 October 2014 issue of The Economist (“Astrobiology: Bolts from the Blue”) reported on a then-recent article by Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Raul Jimenez of the University of Barcelona.   Studying the frequency of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) in the universe, they suggested that life could not have developed anywhere in the cosmos much before it arose on earth.  The universe simply wasn’t yet ready for it.  And they… Read more

    We published another book by Averroës or Ibn Rushd — Averroës is a Latin corruption of a Hebrew corruption of his original Arabic name — when we issued the Middle Commentary on Aristotle’s De anima.  It appeared in a dual-language edition, with the original Arabic facing a translation by Alfred L. Ivry, who was, at the time, a professor in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University…. Read more

    I love choirs and choral music.  And choral music, both historically and still today, is predominantly based upon religious themes.   A personal favorite — one among many — is “O Lord, I would hear thy word,” from the 1974 oratorio The Restoration, by the late Latter-day Saint composer (and BYU faculty member) Merrill Bradshaw.  I myself sang this piece once, in a double quartet in Jerusalem.  Here are the lyrics:   O Lord, I would hear thy… Read more

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