Fragile Trappings

I stepped out of my house today on a chilly fall afternoon. After an unseasonably late warm spell, as if summer had lingered this year past its appointed time, autumn had arrived at last. The feel of the season was in the air: the misty cool, the forests defiantly ablaze with fiery color, the smell of fallen leaves, wet black and rusty gold, in the grass. There was a sense of hunkering down, of quiet activity in the stillness, as nature prepares for the coming winter foreshadowed in the bare … [Read more...]

An Exercise in Perspective

If you're not familiar with the HubbleSite, you should be. The official website of the Hubble Space Telescope is rich with scientific background, news releases and announcements of new discoveries, and of course, jaw-dropping imagery of the cosmos, taken by one of humanity's most justifiably famous scientific instruments.One of Hubble's newest images has left me feeling inspired, and I'd like to say a few words about it. But first, the picture itself:This stunningly gorgeous image is a … [Read more...]

Other Shores

When we were young, we looked up at the twinkling lights in the night sky and wondered. Most of them were immovable, fixed stars rising and setting in the same place every night as if pinned to the dome of the firmament. However, a very few of those lights were not so steady. Instead, they seemed to meander, moving perceptibly across the sky from night to night - sometimes even changing course and moving backwards for a time, as if in a spirit of play. We named these vagabond stars planets, … [Read more...]

All Days Are Holy

The word "holiday" comes directly from the phrase "holy day". This designation, in turn, is based on the curious notion that a particular event happening on a certain date forever afterward gives that date some special sacredness or magical quality. The day of Halloween, for example, was once believed to be a time when barriers between our world and the other world grew thin and restless spirits could return to haunt the land of the living, and other supernatural events are often tied to the … [Read more...]

A Tribute to Carl Sagan

Between the excitement of the midterm elections and the flood of atheism-related news that has occurred this month, there was one very important date that passed almost unnoticed, but that I would be remiss if I failed to mention. Namely, November 9 was the birthday of the famous astronomer and skeptic Carl Sagan. If he were still alive, he would have been 72 this month.Sagan's scientific achievements were groundbreaking and hardly need me to recount them. During a time when the human species … [Read more...]

Cathedral of Suns: A Humanist Sermon

In my encounters with religious proselytizers, I have occasionally been told that atheism robs the world of the sense of awe and wonder, that my lack of belief in a god who miraculously created us all must mean that my life is lacking in the intangible qualities that makes it worth living. I have been told, as well, that I reject the possibility of a god too great for me to understand. This is my reply to those claims.There is a famous photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of a region … [Read more...]

Know Everything

Richard Feynman's blackboard at Caltech at the time of his death in 1988. The text in the lower left reads, "Know how to solve every problem that has been solved." From Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, p. 83.Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by the findings of science. It really is true that the world is a more intricate and wonderful place than we can imagine, and even the limited glimpses we have obtained into its underlying workings are more than enough to provoke … [Read more...]


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