Tag Archives: science

Interesting read: The Radium Girls

Sat in a bookstore over the weekend and read a large portion of the book Radium Girls. These factory women went from being some of the highest paid workers in the 1910-20s to ravaged by radium poisoning from their work. Though the companies fought hard to deny it, a few remaining (dying) “radium girls” sued the companies and won – these were landmark cases in establishing workers’ rights to sue for occupational diseases.  The book is a rapid read and leans more toward entertainment-style writing rather than hard science, but Moore unpacks the women’s story well. Check it out next time you’re in a bookstore.

The Radium Girls were so contaminated that if you stood over their graves today with a Geiger counter, the radiation levels would still cause the needles to jump more than 80 years later. They were small-town girls from New Jersey who had been hired by a local factory to paint the clock faces of luminous dials.

Source: The Radium Girls and the Generation that brushed its Teeth with Radioactive Toothpaste

Article: Teaching Human Evolution at UKy: Some students I’ll never reach

This is a fascinating read for many reasons, and I commend it to you on this rainy Monday:

Teaching human evolution at the University of Kentucky: There are some students I’ll never reach.

The author, James Krupa, details his experience teaching non-major biology at University of Kentucky, a state where the tussle over teaching evolution as part of biology has been roiling since 1921. (Beat that, Tennessee!)

The article interests me epistemically – both his accounts of angry Christian students shouting at him from the back of the room, and his own epistemic certainty as a scientist.

I also think it’s interesting how creationists tend to separate evolution into “micro” and “macro” (to acknowledge the incontrovertible evidence of microevolution within species like fruit flies or moths but reject evolution as the origin of humanity) while evolutionary biologists use micro as a proof for macro.

Anyway, interesting read.

Regardless of anyone’s position on the topic, I’m stunned that we’re producing a generation of kids who’ve been taught that a theory is, itself, satanic. And how this exemplifies the problem in all civil discourse these days – a lot of shouting of positions, not much listening, and definitely no allowance for differing opinions.

Joffre The Giant: Dogmatic Science & Arrival of Native Americans: “Science By Press Release” & Career Advancement

“There is nothing as deceptive as an obvious fact.” ~Sherlock Holmes.

Something I chewed on this afternoon:

Joffre The Giant: Dogmatic Science & Arrival of Native Americans: “Science By Press Release” & Career Advancement.

A difficult question: religious thought, academic freedom, and dinosaur DNA

I am terrible about starting a new blog series before finishing the last one.   Or the other one.

(My “how you work at work” profile says I’m better during the early parts of a project but fade away during implementation. Can I use that as an excuse?  “I’m a Clarifier! And a Developer!  I’m not responsible for failed promises to finish my thoughts about vocation and calling and higher ed and food and sin and school rules and the meaning of life!”  BOOM.  Excuse acquired.  -1 to Guilt, +1 to Justification)

I gotta be honest though, I’m just gonna lob this question out there and then run away.  It’s a hot potato for everyone.  If you’re worried about my soul, stop worrying. I’m firmly a theist and a Christian and have no intent to change. If that disappoints you, then let’s keep thinking together.

Is it possible for critical, honest academic freedom to co-exist alongside fervent religious belief?

Or did Sid Meyer get it right when he set up his Civilization games so that you can’t follow a religious pathway with your civilization if you also choose rationality?

See? This poor lackey chose the Piety tree for his civ, so he's out of luck when it comes to Rationality.
See? This poor lackey chose the Piety tree for his civ, so he’s out of luck when it comes to Rationality.

I’ve pondered this question for years. Probably since college.

Most recently, Ken Ham’s really ridiculous blog post about why there can’t be alien life anywhere else in the galaxy sparked my thinking.

See, it’s hard to actually THINK ABOUT this question because people on both sides are writing dumb-ass crap in the name of their belief system.  In Ham’s case, it’s putting words in God’s mouth and then calling them holy:

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.  God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word).  To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

Many secularists want to discover alien life hoping that aliens can answer the deepest questions of life: “Where did we come from?” and “What is the purpose and meaning of life?” But such people are ignoring the revelation from the infinite God behind the whole universe. The Creator has told us where we came from: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:6. And He told us what life’s purpose is: “Fear God and keep His commandments” Ecclesiastes 12:13.

The answers to life’s questions will not be found in imaginary aliens but in the revelation of the Creator through the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to die on a Cross to redeem mankind from sin and death that our ancestor, Adam, introduced.

We need to start proclaiming the authority of God’s Word from the very first verse—even on the subject of alien life! For more information on the supposed existence of ETs and other common questions about a biblical worldview, I encourage you to order The New Answers Book series from our bookstore. Or for witnessing purposes, we have a booklet that can be ordered in bulk with special pricing to help teach people the truth about aliens and UFOs and promote the gospel for your local church or youth programs.

Ken Ham, I’m calling bullshit on your decision to 1) link your interpretation of Genesis 1-3 to what God Himself actually thinks (because truth is, you cannot KNOW that you’ve gotten it absolutely 100% correct); 2) linking that leap of assumptions and induction to what the Gospel says; and 3) using both to peddle your books. That kinda burns me, actually, but we’ll focus on problems #1 and #2.

This passage I quoted is such a mixture of orthodox theology and Ham’s personal (biased) viewpoint that it’s hard to unwind the two.  Absolutely I agree that Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners. However, that does NOT demand the corollary concept that God can’t do any other work in this vast universe except what we deduce He’s been up to.

When we put our words in God’s mouth and call them His, usually something or someone (hello, Gallileo?) shows up to prove us idiots. And then the good of Christianity gets laughed out of the room because we weren’t careful with what we said, how we said it, and how much certainty we claimed for what is – at the core – an interpretation of a complex text.

Truth is, I have no idea if there’s alien life in outer space. Neither do you, and neither does Ken Ham if he’d stop taking his own assumptions so seriously.  And thoughtful people read this stuff and decide Christians must be a special kind of stupid.

Christianity has been linked to Modernity for a long time, and Modernity craved certainty in its epistemology.  The scientist is driven by the desire to KNOW.

Here’s where I depart from the secularist, the rationalist, the empiricist:  I think relying on human observation or reason to provide reliable and unbiased “truth” or even certain data is just as crazy as they think I am for believing in a literal Adam & Eve. (I do think they existed. I’m not willing to stab you over this point, however.)   Our perceptions are crafted by our own viewpoints, our experiences, our very humanity.

"Nature will find a way."  Yup.  Plus, I do wonder if we can make that mosquito thing work on the cloning front.....  and if so, will things just play out like a weird reworking of the film? Maybe that's true of all sci-fi? Maybe fiction writers are actually writing our future??  AAAAAAH
“Nature will find a way.” Yup. Plus, I do wonder if we can make that mosquito thing work on the cloning front….. and if so, will things just play out like a weird reworking of the film? Maybe that’s true of all sci-fi? Maybe fiction writers are actually writing our future?? AAAAAAH

Science shouldn’t get all smug up in here about what it knows or the idea they’ve identified all their biases. They haven’t.   Cue Jurassic Park as one of my favorite novels on the limitations of science to recognize what it does and does not know.

Here’s where I’d like to stop circling the drain of rationalism vs belief and restate the question:

Is it possible for someone to “question everything” and “have faith like a little child”?  I’d really like to know.

The Internet is changing how we think and write

Two relatively short pieces that are worth your attention.  The Internet is changing how we think, interact, read, write, and learn. It’s not a bad thing; it’s probably mostly just a thing

The first is an interesting interview with an author who can both tear the Internet a new one for being stupid and annoying at times, but also recognizes the incredible potential of human beings reading and thinking and learning together: 

writing becomes significant through labor. The cherished things online, whether they be profitable or not, clearly spring from a place of great effort, even if in the end that effort is, as it usually should be, invisible.

via TL;DR: Choire Sicha | Full Stop. (Language disclaimer.) 

Along these lines, I recommend an article in Wired Magazine from October 2013 about the amazing potential for innovation that comes on the heels of connected human networks.

Historically, we can find times when innovation is more common than at others, and those times are marked by humans being aware of what other humans are doing. Conversely, interruptions in networking slow down the progress of knowledge.  

A good read; not rocket science or life-changing, but certainly relevant to current discussions about our changing world, and to adapting education to meet new challenges and foster creativity.

Thinking Out Loud (Wired Oct 2013)