Smart people saying smart things

Uwe E. Reinhardt: "America's Mid-20th-Century Infrastructure" Instead of setting about to bring our infrastructure up to 21st-century standards – which might, alas, involve more of the much detested public-sector investment — we angrily and yet meekly suffer for days or weeks without light, heat and transportation, verbally shaking our fists at the power companies but leaving it at that.We are, at most, prepared to stock our households with flashlights and candles and, if we have the money, … [Read more...]

Bulgarian town survived Noah’s flood


"Archaeologists in eastern Bulgaria say they have unearthed the oldest prehistoric town ever found in Europe," Agence France-Presse reports: Excavations at the site near the modern-day town of Provadia have so far uncovered the remains of a settlement of two-storey houses, a series of pits used for rituals as well as parts of a gate, bastion structures and three later fortification walls -- all carbon dated between the middle and late Chalcolithic age from 4,700 to 4,200 BC.… “The huge wal … [Read more...]

A belated happy Carl Sagan Day


I'd forgotten that Friday was Carl Sagan Day.I had the privilege of working on part of his legacy in the 1990s during the launch of the Evangelical Environmental Network. EEN was one branch of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment -- an effort sparked by Sagan's "Open Letter to the Religious Community" in 1990.That letter included some delightfully Sagan-esque language: The Earth is the birthplace of our species and, as far as we know, our only home.… As scientists, … [Read more...]

Not all sins are stupid and not all stupidity is sinful, but young-earth creationism is both


Here's a paraphrase of a recent comment from Bill Nye, the science guy:"The atomic number of oxygen is not 43. It's not. And if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs."This is not a controversial statement. This is not an anti-religion statement.It is simply an undeniable fact that the atomic number of oxygen is not 43.When undeniable facts "conflict with your beliefs," then you have only two options. You can, as Nye said, "question … [Read more...]

Giving names to the animals


Here's a delightfully odd Bob Dylan song:I've been thinking about that one lately as I've tried to give names to all the animals who dwell in or visit my little patch of Chester County -- such as the pickerel frogs like the one pictured here. That photo is by Wayne Fidler, from the Pennsylvania Herp identification site -- a terrific resource.(I found my way there while failing in a long-shot attempt to identify a tiny snake who also visited our yard. Unfortunately I can't describe it … [Read more...]

Look at those cavemen go

A week ago, I obsessively followed NASA's successful landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, but failed to write anything about it here because I couldn't think of anything to say that was any more insightful or articulate than "whoa" and "wow" and "cool."After thinking about this for the past week, I'd like to say this: Whoa. Wow. Cool.Ed Yong has an excellent collection of Curiosity links.I particularly like Ross Andersen's collection of tweets and Alexis Madrigal's … [Read more...]

‘Stuff that you long ago forgot isn’t general public knowledge’

"What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?" asks Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing.She goes on to answer why -- basically for the same reason that Christian fundamentalists do everything: Us-vs.-Them tribalism. But don't let me spoil the ending, go read the whole thing (the kicker is terrific).What I want to highlight here, though, is her introduction, which I may plagiarize if I ever decide to write my own memoirs because it so closely parallels my own experience: I've … [Read more...]

Two more thoughts on ‘Miracles’

A couple more stray thoughts in response to reading Tim Stafford's Miracles for the Patheos Book Club.1. The miraculous selection of MatthiasSince interest in the miraculous seems bound up with concern for evidence of direct divine intervention, I wonder why Acts 1:12-26 is usually not included as part of the discussion of biblical miracles. This is the story of Matthias' selection as a disciple following the unpleasant departure of Judas.Here's the key part: So they proposed two, … [Read more...]