Posts Tagged ‘science’

Church is Our Classroom Part VIII: Abundant Life Church

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Abundant Life Church
Pentecostal
May 31, 2009
http://alccambridge.org/

It was a perfect Sunday morning. I had gotten there first and was definitely nervous opening the door. Based on the website, out of all the churches we’d been so far, I knew that our outsider status would be most obvious here. The second I stepped inside, a man greeted me with a firm handshake and a “Good morning, brother.” And then another past the vestibule. As I went to sit somewhere near the back, a woman gently ushered me up the aisle, inviting me to get closer. (more…)

A Center-Centric—Centered Blogpost about Centerness

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

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Several weeks ago, we paid the Central Square Theater a visit to see The Life of Galileo, a readaptation of Berthold Brecht’s play. For the most part, this particular piece of theater fell short of emotionally penetrating me. In the second half, though, it’s ordered turbulence did trigger a series of bifurcations in my musings. Amid all this talk of heliocentrism and geocentricism, the question hit me, What’s so great about being in the center? People were burned at the stake for saying that man was not at the center of the solar system. It feels like a great place to be, but why? We feel important there, but why? (more…)

Science is My Life Coach

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Conversations about science and religion often begin with the statement that science doesn’t provide us with ways of and codes for living. That is the role of religion. The falsity of this statement grows by the day for me. Science can - and does - provide us with ways of living. Science provides us with the seeds of cultural elaboration and the shared myths by which we live our lives. We can and do grow the tissues of experiential existence on the reductionist ribs of science.

The scientific and technological models of the era always have a way of shaping the societies’ collective models for the world. This is demonstrated by our changing models of human anatomy through the stages of industrialization and modernization. From the mechanical to the hydraulic to the electric to the digital \ computational, etc. It is what Ken Wilber gets at in his four quadrant model as the evolution of worldviews. From physical to protoplasmic to vegetative to locomotive to uroboric to typhonic to archaic to magic to mythic to rational to centauric and so on…
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Bias Blind Spots

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

A list is a powerful thing. Wikipedia is full of them. I am working on a poster version of this one. These are cognitive biases, some crucial characteristics of what we might call human nature. Imagine how self-aware we could become if we internalized this list?

In these modern times of political correctness, peace, and unity, the word bias has gotten a bad rap. As you read this list though, keep in mind that at some point in our evolution each of these biases was most likely an adaptation of some kind that conferred survival advantages to those who displayed it. Inhabiting organismic time and space, we had (and have) to make quick decisions. These tendencies allow us to make such on-the-spot decisions. We are heuristic beasts.
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Plebian Book Club: An Ecopoetics of Beauty and Meaning

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Turner, Frederick. “An Ecopoetics of Beauty and Meaning” Excerpted from Brette Cooke & Frederick Turner, ed., Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explanations in the Arts (Lexington, Kentucky: ICUS, 1999), 119-138.

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What follows is a relatively unedited stream of direct quotations and paraphrases most salient to me while reading this essay.
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The word God

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Main Entry: God
Pronunciation: \ˈgäd also ˈgȯd\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German got god
Date: before 12th century

1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe bChristian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind 2: a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship ; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality3: a person or thing of supreme value 4: a powerful ruler

This NPR “This I Believe” entry is one of the first things I posted to my facebook page, an essay from Penn Gillette on being an atheist. I really enjoy this piece a lot, it struck me.
I posted it and several other atheist writings to my facebook page and got some interesting discussions with religious friends. It was the first time I really felt like facebook delivered something valuable to me. A truly different opinion than I was used to getting from people in cambridge or nyc…

But lately I would say I do believe in God. It’s not a statement I would have imagined myself making but it’s true, I do believe in a supreme or ultimate reality. A being or a principle seem to be the same thing to me in this area.

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Frights and Flights of the Imagination

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

We all have fears. Some are raw and strike us as obvious—heights, lions, tigers, bears, dark places. Others are strange and entangled with threads upon threads of culture. We can all literally scare the shit out of ourselves, with a little help from our imaginations. I would like to share two fear inducing flights of the imagination that, to this day, make my whole body tense up. In fact they do so on a regular basis. Let’s call the first one the pool shark, and the second one, the dark-basement grandpa.
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There’s a Zoo in Us

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I recently came across this old Sesame Street cartoon. I wonder if the writers knew the real depth of what they were saying with this.

What better way to get kids pumped on evolution? There’s a zoo in us! We are full of animals. Through the cumulative processes of evolution, we became who were are. There were many steps along the way, which we can see, somewhat frozen in time, at the zoo. It is hard for some to admit, but if we allow ourselves to look in the mirror that is the zoo, so many of the behaviors we see are ours. In most cases they have been elaborated upon by our imaginative minds and through the cumulative feedback loops of culture. So many of these emotions and behaviors continue to operate in us, animating and guiding the acquisition of this culture.
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Church is Our Classroom: Part V Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church
http://www.gbgm-umc.org/harepumc/
May 10, 2009 (Mother’s Day)

Looking at the small cavern above the altar for the organ player, it occurred to me that organists were some of the original DJs. Up there in their little chamber, fingers jamming on the keys, looking out over the crowd, putting the pedals to the metal, dropping bass lines.

Jeff couldn’t make it this week, so initially I thought I’d skip Church. But I actually wanted to go. I’m noticing that it is becoming less of burden to wake up on Sunday for church. I was looking forward to this structured time set aside to think about things. What new connections would I make? What previously recorded material would be accessed, unhinged, and layed down anew in my brain?
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Church is Our Classroom: Part IV Christ the King

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

May 3, 2009
11AM Mass
Christ the King
Presbyterian Church

This is a roughly chronological transcription of my thoughts during mass. Some are more fleshed out than others. Where not marked as otherwise, words in quotes are from the sermon. I’ve done my best to accurately transcribe the sermon. My hand was a drunk fish at that hour.
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Reductionism: Breaking it Down in the Name of Beauty

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Over the last few months, we at Plebian have been (as DP would say) drinking the Kool-Aid of science. In the process of discovering what science has to say about religious experience, we’ve found ourselves awash in the beauty of the physical universe as seen through science. You might say we are born-again scientists. It continues to be a trip.

Thinking explicitly about exactly where in the process this sense of beauty arises from, we realized that it is often in the aftermath of reduction; the piecing back together of parts to arrive back at the current complexity of things. It is the sheer magnitude of this scientific synthesis—in time, space, and multiplicity—that induces religious feelings. In our minds, we play out these kind of Yoko Ono like scientific instruction paintings and bask in their invisible canvases.

Reductionism has a bad rap and is in need of a public relations makeover. (more…)

Church is Our Classroom

Friday, April 17th, 2009

If we ever want to turn our classrooms into churches, we must first make church our classroom. Before you vehemently counter that our classrooms should not be turned into anything like a church, allow me to explain. We are at a point in history not only where the scientific method can shed light on the origins of religion, its adaptive value in our species’ evolution, the efficacy of its rituals, its neurological bases, and so on, but where religious fruits can grow in scientific soil.

Religion is often called upon by scientists to adjust its theology to new scientific discoveries. This bending process happens at a snail’s pace, so slow that most of the time it doesn’t even look like it’s happening. It is time for science to step into the classroom of religion; not just to empirically take note of its place in cultural life, its modes of teaching and dissemination, its leveraging of emotion, and it’s long journey from evolutionary origins to culture, but to apply the knowledge gleaned to itself.

The pursuit of turning science and evolution into a new religion is easy to misconstrue. Jerry Coyne writes, “Scientists fear that if evolution became anything like a religion, it would be abandonment of its main tool for understanding nature: the resolution of empirical claims with empirical data.” There are strategies, however, for attaching emotion to scientific empiricism and for making it special by leveraging our innate aesthetic response, without compromising its core principles.

Efforts are underway. The science museum. The integration of art into the classroom. Sesame Street. 321 Contact. Seed Magazine. Carl Sagan. Discovery Channel. Time Warp. PBS. Unweaving the Rainbow. (Stay tuned for links.)

It is not the monotheistic conception of God that we must find in evolution and science, but the spiritual realities that our hominid ancestors discovered. Perhaps it is better phrased as finding spiritual realities in science or imbuing science with a mystic glow. Einstein felt it. Carl Sagan felt it. Francis Bacon, too. E.O Wilson sees it.

In ethological terms we realize that science is a baby, born only 500 years ago. On top of that, it is one of the most unintuitive modes of thought. The first stirrings of religion can be seen as long as 100,000+ years ago. It was in this early period that the myth was born as an effective compressor of emotional information.

The new myths must tell the awe-inspiring stories of science. The new hymns must breathe the true depth of our history into our bones. Religious rituals incorporated artistic activities into a highly effective positive feedback loop. The new rituals can use art in the same way to create emotional involvement in science; not to incorporate emotional involvement into the scientific method, but to link emotion -  to quote E.O. Wilson, the modication of neural activity that animates and focuses mental activity - with the mental activities of science.

In our personal efforts to understand religion, we recently embarked on a church tour. Each Sunday, we will visit a different church in the Boston / Cambridge area. Part anthropologist / part student, we enter with open minds, observe, and participate in holy rituals. It is a vital piece of our conversation with religion, art, and science.

Can science assuage the existential anxieties that religion has so adeptly adapted to deal with? If it is to ever come close, science and evolution must be made to inspire the deep sense of mystery and wonder that the world’s religions have articulated for thousands of years. The way to find these spiritual realities in science is the same way religion found them, through art and ritual.