Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Money, Science and Atheism, the FCC

Posted by Arjendu on January 15, 2008

Separately those are the things on my mind.

Money: Today the CISMI advisory board had the pleasure of sitting down together to figure out the process for spending some money. This is for student research/internships and comes to us thanks to the generosity of a Carleton Physics alum, David Ignat. He has endowed a fund that students can use on or off-campus during summers and winter breaks. The formal announcement of procedures etc should be going out soon, but it’s always nice to be able to make it easier for those interested in science to find out if they want to pursue it further. And what better way to find out, beyond classes, than to be plunged into the ‘doing’ of science. I so wish I could’ve spent my summers in college doing science instead of futzing around in the doldrums of an Orissa summer. Ah the pleasures of being at a liberal arts college with a decent endowment.

Religion: Bob Russell’s going to talk to my class tomorrow, and here’s the abstract of the paper that I sent around to the students for their edification, which is what he’s going to talk about.

This paper explores the thesis that science, philosophy and theology can, do, and should interact in positive, constructive and fruitful ways. The paper consists of two parts: I first offer an historical case study of scientific cosmology in the 20th century. We will see explicitly that philosophy and theology have played a constructive role within actual scientific debates, thus demonstrating that one cannot neatly cleave apart science from philosophy and theology. In the second part I explore current constructive interactions between science, philosophy and Christian theology regarding such issues as the creation of the universe at “t=0″ and the “fine-tuning” of the universe by God. I will suggest that both of these issues are important in the interaction but ultimately of only transitory value, given the changing character of scientific cosmology and Christian theology. I then close by looking briefly at a new set of questions surrounding cosmology and theology. I want to acknowledge at the outset, however, that many intellectuals take for granted that science unilaterally supports atheism and discredits religion, or at least theism. Accordingly, before developing the constructive arguments I will list several (well known) reasons why the ‘equation’ between science and atheism is not necessarily valid. Without first attending to these claims even if briefly, the constructive portion of this paper would be, or could seem to be, seriously undercut.

In the evening, a nice dinner, and then his ‘Barbour lecture’ on Barbour’s contribution to the dialog between science and religion.

Given how much I like to get the students thinking about these ‘big-idea’ issues, I’m glad to have this visitor.

The FCC: A student asked me if I’d like to DJ a music show on the Carleton radio station this weekend, and I agreed. So she sent me back the FCC guidelines, including the 7 swear words that I can’t use on the air. That email made me burst out into laughter, given those words right in the middle of a very casual email, and with an ‘excuse, please’ appended. Damn, now I feel really constrained :-). But I do have to figure out what to play: so many songs, so little time, how do I choose only an hour’s worth? I need an organizing theme of some sort …



One Response to “Money, Science and Atheism, the FCC”

  1. Samuel Skinner said

    The reason there is an equation between science and atheism is because the universe doesn’t care what we think. The reason you are getting any mileage out of theology is that the beginning of the universe used to be considered outside of science. The reason religion and science are incompatible is one uses evidence and one requires faith (believing things because you want to).

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