The Exact Place We Need to Be

In a recent response to a David Brooks column, Rod Dreher wrote that “People today feel liberated from any obligation to place, and all that entails (family networks, especially). Rising to the potential of one’s merits is not only one thing they think about when deciding on a place to live; it’s the only thing.”We’re all well aware of the positives that come from this sort of social arrangement. It turns out that when you put millions of highly-talented people into one small urban area, they … [Read more...]

A Higher View of Evil

In trying to explain how God is worthy of praise in the midst of suffering and evil, one does not usually bring up genetic diseases. But somehow Jimmy Lin, founder of the Rare Genomics Institute and medical professor at Washington University at St. Louis, managed to open and close a recent talk about science, faith, and genetic diseases with Psalm 8, declaring, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”Lin likes to call himself a “scientific doxologist,” someone who sees … [Read more...]

A Puritan and a Biologist on the Appeal of Beauty

Lance Hosey’s opinion piece from last week’s New York Times carries the promising headline “Why We Love Beautiful Things,” but the article fails to fulfill the title’s promise. Hosey considers a number of aesthetically pleasing objects and explains them all in purely naturalistic terms. On his account, the color green arouses creativity and motivation because it hearkens back a fertile oasis that meant sustained life for our Saharan ancestors; the Golden Rectangle is beautiful because it is the s … [Read more...]

Argo: The Year’s Best “Good Movie”

 If a big theme with this year’s Best Picture nominees was a lack of tension and challenge, Argo is the clear outlier. Like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, Argo was saddled with a story where the ending was never in doubt. Yet Ben Affleck managed to take that story and develop an engrossing, all-purpose thriller with some meaningful commentaries on the stress of human existence. It would be poetic justice, and just plain just, for Argo to win Best Picture in a year when so many movies f … [Read more...]

Zero Dark Thirty: A Movie Without a Message

My thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty resemble my thoughts on Lincoln in many respects. Both are movies where the end is never in doubt. Both attempt, without success, to tell their story in a more or less historically accurate way. Both fail to conjure up the tension and interest that their stories could have had. Zero Dark Thirty, however, does have at least one saving grace: the last forty minutes are fantastic, showing that Kathryn Bigelow is an accomplished director of action sequences (See: Hurt … [Read more...]

Reading Recommendation: The Secular Revolution

 For decades, accounts of secularization went something like this. As societies modernize, they become better off and thus less reliant on religion; they become smarter and thus less likely to believe in religion; and they become more differentiated, thus relegating religion to its own, circumscribed sphere of influence, far away from important things like politics and science. And this was all happened naturally – it would unfold inevitably and uniformly.Empirical anomalies and t … [Read more...]

Lincoln’s Sentimental Slip-Ups

Over the next three days, I’ll be blogging about a few of the Best Picture nominees leading up to this Sunday's Academy Awards. Here's the first of the series, on Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. I like writing positive reviews. They are much more challenging and rewarding than simply pointing out a film’s flaws. But I don’t think I can do that with the Best Picture nominees this year, save for one (which I’ll cover last in this series of posts). The rest of the Best Picture nominees suff … [Read more...]