On Origin: A Book Review

I’m not an avid reader of fiction, but after watching two interviews on his book promotion tour, I was interested. Knowing my interest in the interchange between science and religion, my wife (who also saw the interviews) returned from Costco with a copy of Origin by Dan Brown.

For the record, I’ve have not read any of Dan Brown’s other books, so I am not going down the rabbit hole of comparing Origin to any of the others.

Origin is a tale involving science and religion revolving around two fundamental questions that humans have thought about for many years: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Professor Robert Langdon, a character in other Brown novels returns, As an invited guest, he is attending an event where a former student, well-known futurist and anti-religion atheist, Edmund Kirsch is to announce a major finding that (according to him) will disrupt the foundation of world religions.

Most of the story takes place in three different Spanish cities: Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona – with a small portion in Budapest, Hungary. Having been to Barcelona, I greatly enjoyed Brown’s use of La Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera (Casa Mila). These both unique structures from famed architect Antoni Gaudi are local treasures. We also visited the Abbey at Montserrat outside of Barcelona.

The fast-paced story held my attention. Given the different locations and the story’s short time frame, Brown dedicates each chapter (which are short) to a specific setting with different characters. This format indicates of simultaneous events.

Brown combines adventure, history, present-day thoughts, religion, a royal family, Artificial Intelligence, and real-life settings to engage readers in the storyline. Being curious, I researched some of the organizations and places in Origin – and yes – they are legit.

There is enough science within Origin to engage readers – but not enough to require a science background. The religion side is small, while the science-religion interrelationship is (at best) shallow. As with any topic, generalizations provide the broad thought, but that can also lead to misconceptions. One incident caused me to cringe, but (at the time of this writing) I can’t find it.

Whereas Origin creates an atmosphere for discussions on the creation topic for readers, some consider Origin to be another God vs Science situation where one must make a choice. The actual wider range of thoughts is not part of this novel – which also reinforces the choice notion. I also note that the religious conservatives in this story do not seem to promote the same type of creationism as the Young Earth Creationists and organizations as Answers in Genesis and their Creation Museum.

Whereas some may take Brown is publicizing an anti-religion view – and possibly his – I did not take his text that way. Professor Langdon’s final conversation with a priest shines light on those who see how religion and science do coexist.

Origin centers around Edmund Kirsch’s big announcement. I’m not going to give it away, but I will state that it’s not what I expected – and it is worth pondering.

In closing, I enjoyed Origin and recommend it. I found it to be easy and engaging reading. Although it is based on many truths, the story is still fiction – but the two key questions are worth thinking about: Where do we came from? Where are we going?

Enjoy a few pictures of La Segrada Familia, La Pedrera, and Montserrat.

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Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 345

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Because this is a holiday week, this edition of Opinion in the Shorts is a bit earlier than normal.

I’m overdue for a new header – so welcome another image from the Hubble Telescope – the Horsehead Nebula within the Orion constellation about 1500 light years from Earth. You can see my past headers on the Past Headers tab or by clicking here.

The latest Star Wars film: A quick review – Good vs. evil, a group of eclectic characters from across the universe, numerous special effects battle scenes, and advanced weapon technology that isn’t efficient at hitting a target.

2,000th post is the next statistical milestone for my little corner of the world. I imagine it happening sometime in early 2018 (January or February). 300,000th visit should happen sometime late December or January – but I don’t foresee them happening together

The next post will be a Christmas post (posted either on the 23rd or 24th).

I drafted the beach walks while at the beach. Cincinnati is a long way from the beach, so I only have one more – which I may publish next week.

The Creation Museum (from Answers in Genesis) is located in the Cincinnati area. Although I have more than a passing interest in the interrelationship between religion and science, I’ve never had the urge to visit the museum – and probably never will. After all, it does not represent my view of religion or my view of science. Therefore, I appreciated this closing statement Ted Davis gives his recent post at Biologos. … in engaging culture with Christian truth is a holy duty, but it goes awry when Christians approach culture in an aggressive and combative manner, oversimplify complex issues, and delegitimize any approach that starts with an open question instead of an assumed answer.

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With all the talk about the new tax plan, I wonder what happened to President Trump’s idea of (I paraphrase) “a tax cut not for rich guys like me.”

The new tax bill eliminates the wrong mandate regarding health care insurance – the individual mandate, whereas I say it should eliminate the insurance mandate on businesses – but that would involve guts and creative problem solving.

Other than saying No, Democrats missed the opportunity of providing an alternative tax-cut proposal to the public.

Remember Simpson-Bowles; the 2012 bipartisan effort examining deficit reduction and reform? Five years have passed and Congress and both parties continue to ignore it while kicking the can down the road.

It’s been a long time since I thought about the brilliant George Carlin’s 7 words you can’t say on TV, but it immediately came to my mind when hearing the report about the Trump Administration directive to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Reports say that the CDC cannot use 7 words in the budget preparation documents: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. Although just another odd Trumpian effect, Chuck Todd’s closing segment on Meet the Press was perfect.

I smiled when I heard conservative columnist George Will say he believes the country would be better off with a divided Congress. I also enjoyed this recent column of his about washing machines.

Columnist Kathleen Parker recently offered timely reminder: … effectively convinced voters that what is true is false and what is false is true.

 

To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion provides a guide for interpreting dreams.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Unidentified wooden pole leaning against wall in garage
God gets Celtic Cross tattoo on back
Unpatriotic man does not maintain erection during National Anthem
92% of area woman’s recipes involving pulverizing bag of Oreos
Overworked pajama bottoms pray owner gets job soon
Study finds chickens would have no qualms about caging, eating humans

Interesting Reads
Has the high school diploma lost meaning?
Public trust and science
A guide for pessimists for the days ahead
History of Star Wars
What if Greenland had no ice?
(Pictures) The most beautiful pictures of 2017
(Video) A relaxing two minutes of sights from the Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico

To lead you toward the holiday, here’s a 1963 clip of The Beatles. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On a Senseless Situation

Daubert vTwo Rules
In Daubert v. Merrill Dow (1993), the US Supreme court established a standard on whether an expert’s testimony is based on valid science and methodology,

  • Whether the theory or technique in question can be or has been tested
  • Whether it has been subject to peer review and publication
  • It’s known or potential error rate
  • The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation
  • Whether it has attract widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

In Lemon v. Kuntzman (1971), the US Supreme Court established the following (known as the Lemon Test) about legislation regarding religion;

  • The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose
  • The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion
  • The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion

The Situation
Springboro, Ohio is about an hour north of downtown Cincinnati, thus actually a southern suburb of Dayton. The Springboro Board of Education recently decided to throw itself into the evolution-in-science-class debate.

The Complete Ignoral
The Springboro Board proclaims the findings of the Discovery Institute, a leading center of Intelligent Design (ID). In so doing, the Board either ignores or embraces what the Discovery Institute says of itself.

Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West. ….. Our Center for Science and Culture works to defend free inquiry. It also seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that the Discovery Institute (assumingly staffed by scientifically trained personnel) does not meet the criteria of science experts established in the Daubert Standard.

In so doing, the Springboro Board, as a governing organization, ignores the Lemon Test established by the high court.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the results of Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) where Dover (PA) Board of Education adopted a science curriculum placing Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in biology classes. In the court challenge, Judge Jones, a conservative Bush appointee and Christian, stated

Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. …. Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and merely secondary to the religious objective. … To briefly reiterate, we first note that since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion. …. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) where the US Supreme Court stated,

The law’s effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read. Plainly, the law is contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981) served as a challenge to the state’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act that mandated teaching creation science along evolution. In the ruling, District Judge Overton defined both science and creation science, as well as providing numerous reasons by is simply not science.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) were the US Supreme Court states that Creation Science embraces religious teaching. In addition, the purpose of the Louisiana law of requiring teaching both views (or none) was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores its potential high cost of legal fees, which exceeded over $1 million for the Dover Board.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the fact that science has boundaries confined to explain the natural world – and fudging data for conforming to a pre-conceived theology box is not science – but rather a component of religion.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that this religious stance is contrary to doctrine from Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant denominations, countless Christian scholars, and Jewish scholars – let alone against the belief system of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others within their community.

In so doing, the Springboro Board has received support from the Creation Museum run by Answers in Genesis – another organization that does not meet the Daubert standards, yet proclaims using science to state that humans and dinosaurs roamed together on our less-than-10,000-year-old Earth – let alone claiming a 5,000 years old T-Rex skeleton.

Suggestions
To the Springboro Board and its supporters, I say this: You can disagree with well-established case-law, but that does not make the law wrong. You can disagree with science, but that does not make science wrong.

To Springboro residents opposing the Board’s action, learn and become proactive – which includes following the Dover voter’s lead that voted the school board members out of office.

To the Springboro churches opposing the Board, good for you – but you are partially responsible for the Board’s action. After all, odds are you perpetuated the problem by ignoring the topic for many years.

On A to Z

a-z-2013Someone declared April as A-to-Z Challenge Month. Sure, the challenge’s intent is to have a separate post for each letter, but hey – I have a streak of independence.

With 1,167 posts before this one, why not use my archives to meet the challenge? After all, even frequent readers aren’t aware of some of the posts.

Therefore, I present A Frank Angle’s A-to-Z. Visit as many as you like, because as in my tradition, there is something for all …. so hopefully you’ll visit at least one.

AFAa2zBadgeA is for Acquaintance – People that were not in my graduation class: set 1 and set 2

B is for Ballroom – … and ballroom dance delivers benefits

C is for Cruising – We like cruising, so start your trip with a click

D is for Dinner Group – … We hosted a night of Chopped

E is for Education Reform – Although the need is obvious, here are the obstacles

F is for Frank – Yep, that’s my name, but these are the All-Time Franks in baseball

G is for God and Government – I must say that this post about the separation of church and state is pretty darn good

H is for Handbells – It takes many bells to make one instrument

I is for Italian – I’m 100% Italian heritage, and Ellis Island is an important place

J is for Joys – To whatever give you joy, but for some of us, it’s reliving the cartoons of our youth, and here is where the series started, which led to the first honoree

K is for Knowledge – What do you know about supersonic kangaroos?

L is for LearnerLearning should never stop

M is for Moderate – This early post defines an independent moderate, thus shows why neither party wants me … well, except for my vote

N is for News – Staying informed is important, but there is something more biased than the media

O is for Ohio River – A story from my hometown on a river during my youth.

P is for Politics – I wrote this shortly after the 2008 election, but before the Tea Party’s emergence (which is what makes this post interesting)

Q is for Quantum – Actually, this past post was On a Quantum Thought

R is for Recipes – I’m sort of a Foodie, so try Cranberry Sausage Spaghetti or my own spaghetti sauce that offers a little crunch

S is for Science – Like sports, science has players, plays, rules, and boundaries

T is for Trieste – A beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea that is the place of my birth

U is for Universe – The universe is vast and inspiring, and this post includes one of my absolute favorite videos

V is for Victory – The raised arm created an unexpected moment in college

W is for Wonders – There are many wonders in our world, and let’s not forget Fibonacci, Pi, and Tau

X is for X-Factor – and one X-factor in life is forgiveness

Y is for Why because I can – This is the first main post about the religion-science interchange; now there are 44, plus here is the very first post

Z is for Zinfandel – I enjoy a wide spectrum of wines, especially reds, but zins were the first to capture my fancy – and cheers to the wine group at church

AAA+++ Bonus for the bloggers on my sidebar and on the More Bloggers page, for as without them and you, I wouldn’t be here, so try to visiting someone soon that you don’t know, and tell them I sent you.

Addendum: To learn more about the A Frank Angle A-to-Z Challenge, click here.

On the Blind Side

Regular readers know my interest regarding the theology-science interchange. One of the reasons I write about it is that there are some people out there who are truly interested in learning that they don’t have to make a choice, thus they want to know how these two fields can influence us in today’s world.

I know I don’t expect all Christians to agree with me, and realize that viewpoints from non-Christians will vary. However, a slice of Christianity unquestionably does NOT speak for me.

I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and enjoy reading its periodical – The Lutheran. The recent issue had a short article about evolution. The article was purposefully board, but the online comments were a must-read for me because I continue to proclaim that organizations like the ELCA and its member churches do a lousy job at educating their flock.

Comments as these below were the minority viewpoint, but they drive Christian, agnostic, and atheistic evolutionists up a wall, misrepresent the majority of Christians, drive the wedge between evolutionary Christians and non-believing evolutionists, prey on the unknowing, demonstrate a need for education, and reinforce my notion that this issue is a conflict between religions – not between religion and science.

Comments as these also demonstrate this important point: Disagreeing with science does not make science wrong.

Darwinian evolution never happened.

Science is showing that life rapidly evolved by design indicating a creator God.

More and more fossil finds, DNA evidence, Intelligent Design studies, the Institute for Creation Research RATE research, etc. are challenging Darwinism, the old earth and the local Noah’s flood.

Shouldn’t there be massive amounts of fossil evidence of dinosaur evolution and everything else that has evolved since the destruction? Horse and whale evolution stories have been discredited by recent fossil finds.

Evolution has not been observed scientifically.

Bacteria resistance to antibiotics is not “evolution.”

There is no experimental evidence for evolution.

Darwinism is the religion of the secular humanist atheist.

Evolution is not a fact. It is not even a scientific theory, but our education system treats evolution as fact.

Unlike true science, the claims of Darwinian evolution cannot be tested or replicated.

Evolution is an idea that leads to bad consequences.

Evolution pre-supposes the absence or non-existence of a Creator, thus leading to false conclusions.

Evolution explains with the origins of life.

There is no consensus on the subject of evolution. There remains a mystery about how life was established.

Neither Creationism nor Darwinism seems to be supported by natural evidence.

Evolutionism is a stumbling block for biblical belief because it not only conflicts with the book of Genesis it conflicts with the Bible.

Even geologists do not actually find evidence for evolution in the fossil records.

Darwin could not define “species” and even today, there is no consensus on a definition.

Darwin had little proof in the fossil record to support his claim.

No one has evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, so to offer only the deception of evolutionary thought clinging to the belief that life formed by chance random processes continues to be difficult to accept.

Darwin did not have the benefit of DNA. (AFA: This one cracks me up because Darwin was 100+ years before the discovery of DNA. I’ve seen the same rationale used regarding Darwin and Gregor Mendel/genetics, who was also after Darwin. )

The (DNA) evidence is moving in the wrong direction for confirming evolution.

Earth is young.

Overwhelming evidence, much of it recent, from geology, anthropology, DNA studies, computer simulations of weather, etc. confirm the event of Noah’s flood covering the whole planet actually happened.

Creation WAS perfect. Creation WAS all that it was to be. WE, US, HUMANS, ADAM sinned and destroyed creation. Now it is decay, dying, dark, and sad.

On a Blog Reflection: 2012

In lieu of Friday’s typical Opinions in the Shorts, here’s a look back at 2012. Besides, I still feel a bit overwhelmed from the hectic nature of the past few days.

From the blogging perspective, 2012 was a successful year.

  • Except when on vacation, I maintained my 5-6 posts per week
  • December was already on pace to be the best month ever, but with Freshly Pressed, this month may stand a while
  • Visits for the year improved over 40% from 2011
  • Reached the 100,000 mark for visits
  • 20,000th comment will be soon – and who will get the fireworks display
  • Freshly Pressed on December 24
  • Being added to Le Clown’s blogroll
  • My 1000th post party was very special
  • I continue to enjoy posting and interacting with my visitors

By reviewing my 2012 posts, I selected one post from each month to feature the variety of topics that I embrace. From politics to religion to science to travel to ballroom dance and more, here is my look back at 2012. This collection also gives new readers a chance to learn about me and this blog – which could either encourage them to return or drive them away!

For your comments, which did you read? To my long-time visitors, do you have any memorable posts that I didn’t include?

January: My story of living with a night of blame for 40+ years

February: A tribute to Pi – yep, 3.141592653, including a link of Pi to a million digits

March: On a spectacular place – the universe

April: Looking at the difficult topic of free will

May: Political gridlock remains valid today … and probably tomorrow

June: Faith and science are compatible

July: A mistaken view about global warming

August: I enjoy college football, so look at some of my favorite college football traditions

September: Time for a cruise – Start in Amsterdam, and then follow the link at the bottom of the post to the next port

October: Learn about and enjoy tango

November: I enjoy classic cartoons, so it’s all about Taz

December: How many people can play one instrument at the same time

To send you into the weekend, enjoy Disco Santa, which makes me laugh … and yep, sure sounds like the Village People. Have a safe weekend, and hopefully I can get a play-toy post together for your Saturday.

On The Faith of Scientists

One day, I happened to go into a Half-Priced Books location to kill some time. Later, I walked out with an interesting book for $8 that sells for $25 on Amazon.

Written by Nancy Frankenberry, Professor of Religion at Dartmouth University, The Faith of Scientists is an anthology of twenty-one scientists through the ages. From early scientists as Galileo, Kepler, and Newton to later scientists as Darwin and Einstein, and eventually to modern-day scientists as Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, and Stephen Hawking, this book offered a peak into the personal views about the interchange between science and religion.

With each scientist isolated into their own chapter, Dr. Frankenberry consistently follows a pattern introducing the scientist in her own words over 3-5 pages followed by selected writing from the scientist.

From Pascal’s Catholicism to Ursula Goodenough’s religious naturalism to the atheism of Richard Dawkins, this book broadened my understanding of the spectrum of thoughts regarding the interchange between science and theology – especially because we live in a society where various factions pit science and faith against one another.

The Faith of Scientists is not a theology book for as the majority of the text is the words from scientists. Nor is it a book about all scientists and all perspectives. Nor is it a book with answers because a consistent vision about the interchange between science and theology does not exist.

However, The Faith of Scientists is a book that stimulates thinking, even though readers will disagree with someone. For me, it helped me understand the range of thought with atheists and agnostics – which I find to be an important aspect of my personal journey. Interestingly, reading this helped broaden my understanding, and at times, appreciation for some views with different views than mine, which allows me to find some common ground with others.

The anthology begins with Galileo and an inauguration of the apparent conflict with his empirically established views regarding the solar system, and the dogma of the Church. From a historical view, it is interesting to watch the shifting patterns of questions and concerns that the writers grapple with.

I suggest reading Nancy Frankenberry’s anthology of writings by 21 notable scientists from the 16th century to the present, as it is both surprising and illuminating. The selections center on faith, their views about God and the place religion holds–or does not hold–in their lives in light of their commitment to science.

The Faith of Scientists is a good read – an enjoyable read – and one that can increase understanding and stimulate discussions. Also, it can be easily read in segments from time to time.