On Humility

Humility – a 14th century word from the Latin humilitas

Humility – a state of being humble

Humility – a modest opinion of one’s self-importance

Humility – demureness, down-to-earthness, humbleness, lowliness, meekness, modesty, submissiveness

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. (C. S. Lewis, novelist)

I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps. (Mahatma Gandhi, leader)

Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire. (William Penn, statesman)

I don’t have a set of tenets, but I live an ethical life. I practice a humility that presupposes there’s a power greater than myself. And I always believe, don’t inflict harm where it’s not necessary. (Michael J. Fox, actor)

If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results. (Emily Brontë, author)

Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility. (Richard Dawkins, scientist)

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men. (Lao Tzu, philosopher)

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. (Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President)

Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights. (John R. Wooden, college basketball coach)

Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? (Carl Sagan, scientist)

Enjoy this video with more wisdom from Carl Sagan about humility.

On a Coin Analogy

Image from Microsoft Office

Image from Microsoft Office

A coin is an interesting analogy. On one side is a group of Christians who say one cannot believe in evolution and God. In their own mind, this group believes they speak for all Christians.

On the coin’s other side are some agnostics and atheists who profess that all Christians obviously believe in the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation. Others even proclaim science and Christianity as incompatible, thus Christians must reject science.

Interestingly, these two sides of the coin are the polar opposites who publicly launch diatribes at the other while dominating the news on this topic. However, both sides also fail to realize or accept that there is much more to the coin than opposing surfaces – therefore, more to this story.

As the conservative Christians embrace a literal Genesis, I continuously wonder why they give God so little credit. Besides, they are in the minority of Christian thought and don’t realize it. On the other hand, the agnostics and atheists who pigeon-hole all Christians as disciples of a literal Genesis are failing to realize how many (and yes, the majority) Christians appreciate and embrace the role of science in our world, including evolution – therefore missing the connection to our common opponent.

I have encountered literal Christian and the agnostics and atheists who pigeon-hole all Christians. My personal and independent journey of studying the science-theology interchange not only deepened my Christian believes, I also developed a greater understanding and appreciation of the thoughts from agnostics and atheists. For the sake of this post, I categorize this group into three subgroups: the atheists, the worshipping agnostics, and the uninvolved agnostics.

The atheists can be a difficult bunch. Two prominent science writers, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, use scientific reasoning to justify their anti-Christian crusade. While both these passionate scientists are strong voices for evolution, their rational regarding the non-existence of God lies outside of the boundaries of science. (Past post about boundaries) Besides, religion is about faith – a love relationship that involves trust – thus not a belief system grounded in the scientific method. (Past post about faith)

I admit having a difficult time giving these anti-religion crusaders any credence on this issue, which is partially due to their tone of choice. However, I realize not all atheists are as dogmatic as these two scientists are because not all nonbelievers are antagonist to Christians – thus, I find it easier to accept and respect the nonantagonistic atheists and agnostics.

The agnostics are a broad group. Some have never been exposed to theology, thus do not know. Others do not care to know. Others encountered events involving human behaviors as acts of evil and injustice causing them to move away from their prior belief system. Yet, in many cases (if not most) these agnostics are not antagonist to those who are religious.

Carl Sagan is a wonderful example. Although there were times in his life when he challenged religion, he gave religion space during most of his life. There is no question that Sagan marveled the universe. However created, Sagan proudly stood in awe of the universe. Although he did not worship it, he understood the majestic nature of the universe and the role of our Pale Blue Dot. Simply put, his words are an inspiration to anyone with wonder!

Agnostics as Ursula Goodenough and Paul Davies have a different belief system from Sagan. Although not believing in a heavenly god, they see the glories in nature as indicators of the presence of a god in nature – thus the term religious naturalism. Their awe and inspiration are similar to Sagan’s, but they differ from Sagan in their application of god – not a god as a creator, not the God of Abraham, but a god who is present within the complexity, patterns, and mysteries of nature. Like Sagan, their words also inspire.

Prominent writers Michael Ruse and the late Stephen J Gould are examples of another group of agnostics – nonbelievers acknowledging space for theological thought as long as theology does not conflict with the way science works. In his NOMA model, Gould (a self-proclaimed no believer and agnostic) explains religion and science as non-interfering subjects – a similar approach proclaimed by Christians as Augustine, Galileo, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, and many more.

In the end, because of writers as Sagan, Gould, Goodenough, Davies, and others, I have a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for agnostics and atheists, along with their view of the natural world. Yet, in the end, I hope those on the opposite side of the fence as I not only become more tolerant to the theological who embrace science, but also understand we share a common view against Biblical literalists. After all, the science-theology conflict is between religions – not one between science and theology.

On the Universe

Subatomic particle > Atoms > Molecules > Cells > Tissues > Organs > Organism > Population > Community > Ecosystem > Biome > Earth > Solar System > Milky Way Galaxy > Universe

I wish I still had the diagram of this I used during my teaching days. I look back at this organization chart as being quite profound, yet I know that I did not fully use its power in my teaching. Although I could explain it, maybe I didn’t grasp its magnitude. These days, it is that magnitude that grabs me when I watch one of my favorite videos – one that I have used here several times – this version of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. (Watch or continue below)

Many adjectives can describe the universe. For me, a few descriptors includes vast, mysterious, and glorious. As I watched the recent video to the words of physicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, those three descriptors still fit for me. Dr. Tyson’s words beautifully weave with Sagan’s (although to me, he tries too hard to be Saganesque with his speech).

Whereas Sagan sees each of us as speck on a planet that is “a small stage in a vast cosmic arena – a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” Tyson states, “We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.” Put them together … powerful.

Since the time of Aristotle, through the turmoil of Copernicus and Galileo, to the current insight provided by the Hubble Telescope, I realize how far we’ve come regarding the universe. Today, I stand in awe while feeling blessed – yet shake my head at those who fail to see the grandeur creation offers.

On a Header to Saturn by Cassini

Usually headers feature images from the Hubble Telescope, but when I saw this one, I knew it was a must-use image. Not sure for how long, but it is a user.

This is an image from the Cassini orbiter from the dark side of Saturn looking back at the sun, whose rays illustrate the main particles in the Saturn system. Similar to Hubble images, scientists use filtering techniques to determine the digitally created colors. Here is more information about this image.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The Cassini orbiter, sending a steady stream of images of the Saturn system since 2004 arrival, is just another example of the awesome nature of creation.

This image happened to capture a small, bright speck of light on the left side, which happens to be the pale blue dot we call home. With that in mind, I can never get enough of this awesome video accompanying the words of Carl Sagan. Besides, he would be proud of the images from this mission.

On Humanity and Humility

Each day of human life is filled with many things, both good and bad; mountains and mole hills, triumphs and tragedies; joys and sorrows.

Blogs are an interesting place not only to learn about topics, events, views, and opinions, it’s also a place to see how all of us get caught up in our own micro-world of life perspectives. After all, we know so little while there is so much to learn.

Humanity offers many different characters, some are good while others bad; some with who we agree while disagreement reigns with others; some who we respect, yet we despise others; some to who we go the extra mile to approach, yet others we intentionally ignore; let alone the haves and the have nots.

On the other hand, humility recognizes both our own faults and encourages us to accept others. A call to accept those who are different, the ones with whom we disagree, despise, and see as different.

So there we have it – two human fundamentals, humanity and humility, in both cooperation and conflict with each other – every day in each of us – but at different degrees within each of us.

To me, this 3-minute Carl Sagan perspective is both timeless and powerful. In this I hear so much about humanity, yet I feel humility as it humbles and overwhelms me. Numerous versions of this video exist, but this one allows each of us to form our own applicable images to accompany our thoughts.

Enjoy and blessings to all.