From the archives: To know what scientists think of belief, there is no better witness than Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan has been described as America’s “most effective salesman of science.” A colleague at Cornell University, where Sagan is professor of astronomy and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies, has compared him with academic scientists: “He is very often right and always interesting. That is in contrast to most academics, who are always right and not very interesting.”
Despite having a bad rap, social media can create a rich faith community and deeper spiritual life.
One bright morning in December, I broke my usual Sunday fast from technology to scroll through Instagram. My kids were dressed and the diaper bag was packed, so I had a few minutes before Mass to slump down on the couch overlooking our bay window and watch the snow on our lawn begin to melt due to the balmy 43-degree temperature in Fort Wayne.
It's time for Christians to consider how technology impacts our relationships with one another and with God, says ethicist Kate Ott.
Professor and Christian ethicist Kate Ott had never taken a course on technology or digital ethics when she began to teach a class on the subject. Instead, most of her research and teaching involved issues of gender, healthy relationships, and violence prevention, specifically for teens. But diving into these issues, she found, led to questions about the role of technology in people’s lives.
As science changes us, the faith community can remind scientists of the ethics at stake.
“Any major new technology will create a lacuna in social and ethical thought in direct proportion to its novelty,” writes philosopher Bernard Rollin in his book Science and Ethics.
Any new technology raises ethical questions about how to use it.
Law professor Fran Quigley explains why medicine in the United States is so expensive.
Fran Quigley grew up in Indianapolis, the eighth of nine children. Raised Roman Catholic and steeped in the church’s social tradition, he says he grew up knowing medicine as a social good, one that everyone should have access to.
He traveled to Kenya for work before antiretrovirals were widely available for people with HIV and AIDS and met mothers and fathers dying of the disease despite that it is treatable. “Because the medicine was priced too high, the parents simply passed away. Their children were orphaned, and their parents were raising their grandchildren,” he says.
With 10,000 billion billion heavenly bodies in the cosmic ballroom, God has created a grand universe of possibilities.
As a priest and an astronomer, Jesuit Father George Coyne bridges the worlds of faith and science, but he’s quick to acknowledge that they serve two different purposes. “I can’t know if there is a God or if there is not a God by science,” he says.
Eight centuries ago Albert the Great showed how theology and science can walk hand in hand.
I teach graduate students how to teach math and science. On the first day of each semester, I ask, “Who can tell me something about Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great?” Students usually avoid making eye contact.
Though they expect an explanation, instead of answering the original question, I go on to ask them, “Who can tell me something about Galileo Galilei?” Inevitably, the reply relates to Galileo’s controversy with the church. The students seem surprised when I tell them that Galileo’s notebooks mention Albert the Great 23 times.
Theologian Heidi Russell says that science doesn’t always have to shake up our core concept of God as creator.
Heidi Russell has a dream. “I would love to see parishes get a subscription to Scientific American,” she says. “And then have a group that discusses what’s in each issue, reads about what’s happening in science, and then asks, ‘What might science tell us about our faith?’ ”
Russell, who teaches theology at Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, has a special interest in the relationship between science and faith. She speaks as passionately about neuroscience and quantum physics as she does about theology and God.
People look at me funny when I say that the periodic table ought to make one weep for joy. But how can you not be stricken by the precision of God's creation?
I like the word wayfarer. It fits us humans. We are all travelers on the road of life. Me? I take wayfaring seriously. I walk daily for a couple of hours, and this time outside has become as essential as food to me. Last winter I walked a total of 166 miles while listening to Robert Inglis narrate The Lord of the Rings trilogy on my phone. Treebeard came to life while I wandered, not too hastily, among giant pines.
All-girls schools’ obsession with STEM education hurts what they do best.
When I was a junior in high school—a Catholic, all-girls school—I advanced to the regional round of the state science exposition. My parents drove me to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry where I set up my meticulously decorated trifold project board and sat beside it for five hours. The judges came and went, and I gave my spiel. Occasionally a judge would notice I attended an all-girls school, say something like “girl power!” and comment on how my status as female and my apparent science aptitude was encouraging for women everywhere.