Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Religion Related Science News for January 2015

Folks, I have decided to make this a regular post in the blog. Every month I will present a digest of news which show harmony between science and religion as well as news in which religion and science intersect. If you go to this page on the blog  you will see a list of all the news reported so far. I invite you to link at this page and use its information to dispel the erroneous notion that science and religion are somehow at odds with each other. Enjoy.

More evidence for the Anthropic Nature of creation.
The Anthropic Principle is an idea belonging to Astrophysics and Cosmology. Simply stated, it makes the claim that because some physical properties and constants which make intelligent life possible seem to be "fine tuned", it appears that the physical universe is "compatible" with the necessary constants to accommodate conscious life. The article reports a new study from the University of Bonn which provides new evidence in favor of this principle of Nature. Can someone say "Designer's Universe"?

New study Shows strong correlation exists between religiosity and personal happiness.
New study from Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture has shown that higher levels of church attendance “predict higher life satisfaction,” even after accounting for how important religious faith is in people’s lives. There is one more reason to attend Mass every Sunday!

Scientists Seek Religious Experience -- in the Brain.
Neuroscientists at the University of Utah are seeking to examine how the human brain behaves during a religious experience. Personally I feel this sort of research is well overdue. I would love to see in an MRI which parts in the cerebral cortex light up when some one is experiencing a vision of the St. Bernadette at Lourdes type.

Papal astronomers promote harmony of science, faith. 
To commemorate this year's International Year of Light, which celebrates the importance of light and its role in new technologies, Jesuit astronomers at the Vatican Observatory have launched a number of new initiatives aimed at increasing dialogue with Muslims, nonbelievers and Catholics, who may not know that their faith and science are not at odds. In Jan 13-15 the Holy See  sponsored a workshop studying "The Role of Astronomy in Christianity and Islam." The workshop, which brought Muslim, Catholic and other scholars together, looked at some of the ways Christianity and Islam studied the heavens in the fields of science and faith.

Earliest copy of Gospel of Mark found in a first century Egyptian mask. 
One of the main arguments deniers of the Historical Jesus love to throw around is that the gospels were written "hundreds of years after the fact". This argument will no longer be valid as scientists have announced the finding of a papyrus containing a fragment of the Gospel of Mark from the the first century. We are talking a mere 60 years after the fact! A time period in which some of the eyewitnesses to the events recorded in the gospel were still alive!!. Here is a video with some more information.

To be fair this is not exactly what I would call a  "science news". However since it touches on a topic which I suspect will be used to underline the "animosity  between science and religion", I decided to include it in this month's digest. Read the article and tell me what you think. (COMING SOON  more extensive blog-analysis)

Using stem cells to grow new hair.
Last year scientists in the University of Pennsylvania reported the making of hair follicles from Adult Stem Cells, a very promising therapy for those experiencing hair loss. This year, sadly, this technology has taken a more sinister turn as scientists are reporting in PLOS ONE their morally objectionable use of embryonic stem cell for their own version of this research. This is one more example of scientists ignoring the humanity of embryos for the sake of their research. In this case the use of human embryos is more troubling as they are been used to research non-life-saving technologies.

Scientific method: Defend the integrity of physics
One of the favorite arguments secularists and atheists use when underlining the animosity between science and religion is the fact that in religion one can never appeal to empirical evidence, unlike science which is not based solely on faith. Apparently some scientists are starting to realize that some of their theories although capable of explaining the way the universe came to be theoretically, can not be tested experimentally, so they are advocating for taking these theories on faith only, without any empirical data to prove them. This is a big argument currently among physicists which is threatening the old canard that lack of evidence is a defect belonging exclusively to religion.

Does time pass? New book says it does—but not in the way you may think. 
We finish this month with a recently published book presenting a new way to consider the passage of time. I have not read the book (and at $47.00 on the Kindle store I might wait for the movie) however this article gives enough information to tempt me into investing this kind of money. The book presents what philosophers call the "block universe" theory of time. I don't want to go into details here (after all this just a digest) but after reading the article and doing some research on this theory, it sounds very similar to what believers think off when they explain that God lives in the eternal present. Quite and intriguing proposition.

See you all next month!

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"