A British court has ruled that belief in climate change qualifies for protection under laws safeguarding freedom of religion in that country. (The ruling stems from a case where a man was fired from his job as head of sustainability at a real estate firm because of his strongly held ecological beliefs.) According to the ruling, “A belief in man-made climate change and the alleged moral imperatives is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religious and Beliefs Regulation.”
This is wrong. Whatever your position on climate change, it is a scientific issue, one based on observable evidence and interpretation of said evidence. Calling it “a philosophical belief” removes it from debate, and means you can accept it or deny it, regardless of evidence. That’s not science, and that’s not right.
Courtesy Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsThe first of two international conferences marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is taking place this week at the Vatican. Scientists, theologians, and philosophers from around the globe are gathering at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to discuss the compatibility of the Church's teaching with Darwin's theory of evolution.
This is a far cry from the Church's reaction to Galileo Galilei’s scientific writings when the scientist was put under house arrest for heresy in 1633 (Pope John Paul II vindicated Galileo in 1992 and eight years later included the scientist’s trial in a blanket apology for all the Church’s past errors).
The International Conference on "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories" runs from March 3-7.
Courtesy Julia Margaret CameronI believe I have mentioned this film before - but have you ever seen the documentary "Flock of Dodo's"? It is a well made (imho) film that creatively and sometimes humorously, discusses the evolution vs. intelligent design debate. The thing that I find most interesting about this film is that it shows something that I think is important. While I may think people who support intelligent design or creationism are wrong, many scientists who argue with them act like uppity jerks. Its not likely a debate one side is going to "win" but we can all at least accept that and be civil.
Now, if you want to be ready to argue for evolution, Scientific American has put together a nice little web feature that covers the topics of creationism in the classroom, a state by state breakdown of the creationism in schools controversy, 15 answers to creationist nonsense (again, could be a bit less harsh in the language here) and a discussion about how scientists ought to approach religion and its followers.
Courtesy Library of CongressProtect your grills, everybody, because the future is looking to get all up in them again!
Well, not all the world. Just the parts with computers and access to the Internet, and just those people who know and care that the Dead Sea Scrolls are available for public study. So not all the world at all.
The first of the scrolls were discovered accidentally in a cave in the West Bank by a goatherd in 1947. Over the next thirty years, more scrolls—about 1000 documents in total—were found in 11 caves in the area. The documents include texts from the Hebrew Bible, dating to before 100 AD. The scrolls are also reported to contain an astonishing number of recipes and very dirty jokes.
The thousands of fragments of the scrolls were photographed in their entirety (up to that point) only once, in the 1950s. Many of those photographs are now crumbling, and so, despite the arguments of some Luddites who are no doubt on the way out themselves, scholars are taking advantage of this amazing time we live in (the future), and are subjecting the whole of the scroll collection to some fancy pants scanning.
The images of the texts will be taken in very high resolution and with varying wavelengths of light, highlighting details not readily visible to the naked eye.
The physical scrolls will be beginning a tour of the United States next month at the Jewish Museum of New York.
If you think the Da Vinci Code was controversial, wait until you learn about "The Lost Tomb of Jesus". Combining the popularity of CSI and NUMB3RS, Academy Award winner James Cameron has put together a documentary about a family crypt possibly containing the bones of Jesus. Ten ossuaries (stone boxes) were labeled with the names of Jesus and those believed to refer to his mother, father, brothers, wife, and son. Amos Kloner estimated that the tomb contained 35 bodies. (Antiquot,Jerusalem, Vol. 29, pp. 22)
Faith does not require evidence. If you wish to review the evidence, though, you can start by going to http://www.discovery.com/tomb. Discovery also has a web site with flash navigation to maps, family trees, videos, etc. Be sure to click on "Download Documents" found by choosing "explore tomb" then "enter the tomb". The link is the middle one at the bottom (pdf). There is a discussion forum, too.
Please use our comments box to discuss this event as it unfolds. I find I can learn about critical thinking and scientific methods by listening in.
March 28, 1980
Talpiot, Jerusalem Construction work uncovers untouched tomb.
March 28- April 14
Israeli Antiquities Authority excavate tomb. Site survey and mapmade by Shimon Gibson
"A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in the East Talpiot" published by Amos Kloner
Simcha Jacobovici researches "James son of Joseph, broher of Jesus" ossuary
Jacobovici meets Kloner and learns of "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary
June 18, 2003
"James" ossuary declared a forgery by Israel Antiquities Authority
Jacobovici discovers futher information about other ossuaries related to New Testament
March 21, 2005
James Cameron discusses financing a film
September 15-16, 2006
Robotic cameras lowered down "breathing pipes" capture images of a different tomb - one that has not been excavated and still holds numerous ossuaries.
Brother Guy Consolmagno, is strongly criticizing the idea that creationism should be taught in schools alongside the scientific evolutionary theory. He dismissed the ideas of creationism saying,
"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god."
Does this bring up questions for you about Catholicism and science? Ask Paul Wojda, our expert on the spot this month.