That’s So Second Millennium
Episode 058 – Let’s Act Like We’re on the Winning Side (Since We Are)

Episode 058 – Let’s Act Like We’re on the Winning Side (Since We Are)

May 6, 2019

This ended up being an emergency episode Paul recorded solo, since Zencastr ate all but a few minutes at the beginning of each recording. There seem to be serious problems with Zencastr since Paul’s MacBook died and he had to resurrect his Windows laptop.

 

The Big Bang; cosmology seems to require a beginning, uncaused cause

Problems of mind; intellect / qualia, possibility of free will.

There is no materialist explanation of human intellect, only assertions of dogma and crude shufflings of the feet.

 

Ongoing occurrence of miracles, Lourdes medical board, Fatima, Shroud of Turin; Bob Schuchts

There are far too many miracles and supernatural phenomena that defy materialist explanation: Eucharistic miracles, healings at Lourdes and elsewhere, Fatima, demonic possession…

The testimony of the first Christian disciples requires absolutely crazy explanations that themselves defy our best science even if we reject the idea that Jesus rose from the dead.

The continuing existence and expansion of the Church in the face of persecution is likewise historically unparalleled, save only for the continued existence of Judaism.

 

Second of all, it provides perspective and healing for human problems that nothing else does.

John Warner Wallace from Breakpoint podcast; LAPD homicide officer

What has God done in my life... we GET to that, we don't start there like Mormons

Christianity provides a shockingly direct answer to the question of evil: the transcendent, all-good God is Himself willing to experience it.

The Christian faith continues to spread in Africa and Asia in the face of continued persecution, whether of the violent or of the brainwashing variety. Why is that?

The attempts of Western society to escape Christianity have made us amazingly miserable amid all our material possessions and security. Why do we so halfheartedly turn away from these distractions?

The most characteristic failing of our age, I would argue, is addiction, and addiction has evoked a powerful response in the form of the Twelve Steps. Although these Steps are deliberately offered to everyone with no attempt made to proselytize them to any specific religion—indeed many recovering addicts refuse to identify themselves as religious—nevertheless, the principles of the Steps are completely and suspiciously consistent with Catholic Christianity.

The Catholic intellectual tradition has a tremendously formidable intellectual structure, the most robust philosophical realism, an enormous storehouse of moral philosophy and psychological insight, and a wealth of stories of human drama in the lives of both saints and sinners.

 

Why do we slave along as intellectual second or third-class citizens in the modern world? I was just looking at the want ads of literary agents and realized that they are all blithely “progressive” members of the stumbling, bumbling cultural vanguard. Our culture is shaped by stories forged out of this nihilistic experience of forgetting an entire civilization’s worth of wisdom.

 

We are looking to help out at the Society of Catholic Scientists Conference this year, and are in talks about how we can do that. We’re really excited about working to create a greater sense of community among Catholic scientists!

Episode 057 – The Best Thing Out There

Episode 057 – The Best Thing Out There

April 29, 2019

  Apologies for the sound quality today; Zencastr wasn’t working, so we recorded on Zoom, and even then there were problems with the audio especially in the latter half of the podcast.

  The question we take up at the beginning of the Easter season is this: Why has Western society gone to such pains to throw away the best thing going, intellectually and otherwise?

  In his ongoing podcast research, Paul has come across the Pat Flynn Show, and listened to some really good interviews with Fr. Robert Spitzer (a TSSM interviewee) and Ed Feser (whose talk at the 2018 Society of Catholic Scientists conference was the topic of one of our most popular episodes). Bob Spitzer’s interviews in particular were some of the most inspiring things I’ve encountered recently and really led me to propose this series of conversations with Bill about how Catholic Christianity is the best way of looking at the world.

  Of course, Western society has drifted hard away from its roots in classical Greek and Jewish/Christian heritage. Ireland is the most recent example of a society, one of the last to retain a semi-traditional cozy relationship between the Church and the state, now deciding to punish the Church for the crimes of the hypocritical members of its clergy by trying to erase its very history. Progressivism in general replaces traditional dogmas with dogmas-of-the-day, and the record up to this point has been pretty dismal.

  We spend some time discussing the roots of what the contemporary West seems to consider its greatest achievement, modern science, in the critical tradition of Scholasticism (knowledge of which was practically the first thing to go after the Reformation began the process of intellectually punishing the Church). We would do better to have a broader memory of the Scholastic tradition even among us Catholics...to recall that it was a movement in which Thomas Aquinas was embedded, rather than remembering only him. In our time as well we don’t need single hero figures, we need a community. The scientific community knows this very well.

  We go on to consider what this fraught term “dogma” really means. The Christian dogmas are really testimony, and they can’t change without repudiating the unrepeatable testimony of the events of salvation history. This is the context of the warnings at the end of the Apocalypse of John, “cursed be he who adds or takes away from the words of this book.” As Chesterton and many others have pointed out, these dogmas are not a straightjacket but a foundation and structural members that allow us to build both intellectual structures and actual human lives that don’t sink into the morass of changing human inventions. Admittedly there are many Christians, Catholics included, who seem to take comfort in the false idea that the Bible, or Tradition, provides us all the answers we could possibly want to know and there is no need or use in further growth. That is not the teaching of Jesus when he commented that the Spirit would [future] lead us to all truth.

  The high Middle Ages confronted the question of harmonizing Aristotle with Jesus Christ. This was both a creative and a logical process that led to great works of criticism and synthesis… excellent practice for the scientific process as we now know it.

  A reminder that the Society of Catholic Scientists Conference is approaching June 7-9. Registration is open through May 15.

Episode 053 - Chris Baglow & Jay Martin: beyond faith & science… faith & everything

Episode 053 - Chris Baglow & Jay Martin: beyond faith & science… faith & everything

March 31, 2019

0:00 - The question of relativism vs. hyperrationalism

1:00 - God's love is not a "fact" but, say, hominid ancestry is

1:30 - Tapping into the belief in the rationality of science to bring back belief in reality in faith

2:30 - "Kicking in the back door of relativism"

4:00 - Linkages between theology, philosophy, and science: e.g. logical consistency

5:30 - Effects on the rest of schools that participate in the Science & Religion Initiative

6:30 - Encouragment to integrate, say, history, economics with faith as well

7:00 - Congregation for Sacred Doctrine 1977 "The Catholic School"

8:00 - Faith & literature, arts

9:30 - The true limits of dogma; need to understand how limited Catholic dogma really is, and how non-restrictive

13:00 - Teachers woefully overworked and underpaid, not given the ability to succeed

14:30 - Blessed to have excellent but also humble panelists & experts intending to listen to one another

19:00 - Story of the second & first editions of Baglow's textbook

Episode 052 - Chris Baglow & Jay Martin: the mission to (re)integrate science & faith

Episode 052 - Chris Baglow & Jay Martin: the mission to (re)integrate science & faith

March 25, 2019

0:30 - McGrath Institute for Church Life: Science & Religion Initiative outreach to high school teachers to integrate science & faith

2:00 - Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference (a good time to be away from Notre Dame)

3:00 - Summer seminars: Foundations Notre Dame, Foundations New Orleans, Capstone

4:00 - Foundations ND: lecture based, top scholars in specific disciplines, with workshops

6:00 - Foundations NO: experimental work and discussions

7:00 - Dialogue between science & theology teachers about their own specialties

8:00 - Capstone: topic-based theme & lecturers; special track for administrators; teaching practices

11:00 - Templeton Foundation study showing schools already trying to do this on their own

12:00 - The need to do this well and not engage in pseudoscience or gloss over tough questions

14:00 - ICL team making "housecalls" to individual schools

14:30 - Baglow textbook on science & faith

18:00 - Vast multiplication of interest from schools just since 2011

19:00 - Real motivations for believing faith is inconsistent with science: the need for hope [and, not made explicit, the appropriateness of hope]

20:00 - "I thought I was the only one"

21:00 - The historical and emotional impulse: rebellion against Christian hypocrisy

22:30 - Baglow makes the Fulton Sheen point: "I also hope THAT God doesn't exist!"

23:00 - The questions he wishes people would ask about God, meaning, science, etc.

24:00 - "What do you mean by 'God creates everything'"

25:00 - The nature of the discourse we encourage

26:30 - "I don't know"

27:00 - "When did science and religion enter into conflict?" - because they have not always been

28:20 - The true role of the university in integrating human wisdom

30:30 - Newman on evolution in the context of Development of Christian Doctrine

Episode 033 - Stephen Barr on Lemaitre-Hubble Law and the Society of Catholic Scientists

Episode 033 - Stephen Barr on Lemaitre-Hubble Law and the Society of Catholic Scientists

November 12, 2018

Minute Comment

0:00 Paul introduces

1:00 Bill: Lemaitre announcement

2:00 Lemaitre: faith & science not opposed

3:00 Barr: Lemaitre announcement

4:00 Ignorance of Lemaitre

5:00 Ignorance of the Christian, Catholic origin of science & famous Catholic scientists

6:00 Barr: late 19th century critical period for the forging of the myth of Church as anti-science

7:00 Science only professionalized in the late 19th century, looking for influence

8:00 More famous Catholic scientists

9:00 Mission of the Society of Catholic Scientists; religious people looking askance at scientists, 10:00 Scientists timid about showing their faith in the presence of a few loud atheists

11:00 Catholic scientists joining SCS & finding others like themselves

12:00 Witness to the world

13:00 Conferences, past and future: next June at Notre Dame

14:00 2017: origin of universe, life; 2018: mind and matter

15:00 2019 conference: what is it (and has it been) to be human; speakers from outside the faith

16:00 Past non-Catholic conference speakers

17:00 Peter Koellner's talk at 2018 conference

18:00 Koellner and Godel's theorem

19:00 Neaderthals, language, reason

20:00 Godel's beliefs about mind and mathematical truths

21:00 Mathematical truth and religious truth

22:00 Depth & sophistication of the law that governs the universe

 

Episode 032 - Science and Saints

Episode 032 - Science and Saints

November 5, 2018

Intro: Nobel Prize announcements

Donna Strickland

Nadia Murad

Segue: Lemaitre press release

Transition: the early 20th century golden age from Chesterton to Fulton Sheen

Theme: All Saints Day

Augustine

Isidore

Albert the Great

Roger Bacon

Nicolaus Steno

Gregor Mendel

Georges Lemaitre

Please leave us feedback here by hitting the "Email Paul" link or using the "Facebook" link and commenting or messaging us there.

Image: Braulio of Saragossa and Isidore of Seville, writing his Origins (Etymologies)

Society of Catholic Scientists Press Release on Georges Lemaitre and the Hubble-Lemaitre Law
Episode 029 - Geological Awe

Episode 029 - Geological Awe

October 15, 2018

For a change of pace, we discuss emotions and aesthetics and the sense of awe at the scale of the universe and the planet that we inhabit. Paul discusses the "billion year contacts" at his old stomping grounds in the St Francois Mountains of southeast Missouri and the lost world of the earliest visible life in the Burgess Shale. Paul and Bill close with a reflection on how the awe that we feel at comtemplating the enormous scale of space and time of the created world ought to make us better appreciate the audacity of the Christian claim that the Being who set all of this in motion...emptied Itself and became man.

Episode 020 - Bill and Father Spitzer Talk Intellectual Culture and Education

Episode 020 - Bill and Father Spitzer Talk Intellectual Culture and Education

August 13, 2018

Today was just one of those days where I needed a script to get through a three minute intro. I summarize the interview afterward.

Paul: "Welcome to Episode 20 of That's So Second Millennium.

"I'm Paul Giesting, a geologist, researcher, consultant, writer, and your co-host on this journey through the beautiful frontier country between science, philosophy, and religion as they stand here at the beginning of the third millennium. My opposite number is Bill Schmitt, a journalist, radio personality, and dab hand with the accordion.

"This week Bill managed to snag an interview with Father Robert Spitzer, who runs the Magis Center out on the West Coast and is the host of Father Spitzer's Universe on EWTN. He's published a number of books, which tend to have provocative titles; the one that I've read is called New Proofs for the Existence of God. That's an exciting read for anyone interested in the subject matter of this podcast, and travels through scientific and philsophical and mathematical arguments like the debate over fine tuning--whether Someone had to deliberately create the universe as it is, given how tightly constrained many physical constants seem to have had to be in order for any of the complex structures of atoms, planets, and stars to form and allow the appearance of life--and the question of whether it really makes any sense to speak of a "reverse infinity" and a universe that has always existed. Indian thinkers, Plato and Aristotle, and even Thomas Aquinas either thought that the universe has always existed or at the very least that there is no logical contradiction in saying that it could have always existed in time, even while Aristotle and Thomas asserted that the universe could not have an infinite chain of causes and needed a Prime Mover. Spitzer, in New Proofs, brings forward arguments from the philosophy of mathematics that perhaps this idea of a reverse infinity is not really logically coherent at all...a topic for one or more future podcasts.

"For today, Bill talked to Father Spitzer about the state of culture and the demographics of young people leaving the practice and even the identification of faith and citing as one reason the perceived contradiction between science and faith, initiatives to fight that, and the real absurdity of this perceived contradiction. With that I'll let Bill take it away."

Bill: Introduces our podcast and the motivations: value to filling holes in the culture, addressing the young.

Spitzer: Most recent Pew survey in 2016 comments on the high fraction of young people not just leaving the Church for a while, not just leaving a Church, but leaving faith altogether and becoming agnostic or atheistic. 49% of those leaving cite the perceived contradiction between science and religion as a key reason.

Bill: Proposes two reasons why that might be: was this gap "percolating" for a long time and just not being addressed, or is there a recent development pushing this.

Spitzer: It's both. The gap has been there for a long time [below the surface]. There are a lot of internet resources, social media outlets devoted to pushing an atheistic worldview. This feeds back into schools. Science teachers and professors that publicly espouse atheism meet audiences that are already primed that direction and certainly have no answers to contradict what they're being told.

One of his initiatives is crediblecatholic.com, where there is a bundle of resource modules presenting core arguments for the consistency of the Catholic faith and science and even arguments that discoveries in science point toward faith, not unbelief, in a Creator as the more sensible interpretation of reality. Pushing to get this curriculum into every diocese and every confirmation class and Catholic school curriculum.

Example topics: the Shroud of Turin, evidence for an intelligent Creator, near death experiences, evidence for a transphysical soul, 20th and 21st century accounts of miracles that have been thoroughly investigated with scientific methods.

Bill: The New Atheism is almost built on being shallow, on an attitude of mockery rather than on a serious analysis of evidence. This approach is the opposite: really multi-faceted.

Spitzer: Cardinal Newman talked about the "informal inference" to faith. It's not one argument; it's about twenty lines of reasoning. In our day we have if anything more of these, all the way from philosophical to scientific arguments to faith on the large scale to countless examples of miracles that have withstood thorough scrutiny by skeptical researchers. This is what the Credible Catholic approach is trying to convey.

We've tested the curriculum on beta groups of students in Austin, New York, Los Angeles and gotten remarkably high marks from these groups (97% positive / very positive, rated anonymously).

Bill: Pope Benedict foundation awards for "expanded reason" and the problems with positivism, scientism.

Spitzer: The logical contradiction at the very foundation of Vienna Circle positivism: it makes the self-contradictory claim that "the only valid knowledge is scientifically verifiable knowledge"...good luck checking that statement by scientific methods. That's a school of thought from the turn of the 20th century; we in the Church have been wrestling with it for a long time.

Reminiscence about a debate on Larry King Live with Stephen Hawking (et al.) and the claim that science had replaced philosophy...this is likewise straightforwardly impossible; science and philosophy do fundamentally different things. For that matter, so do science and mathematics.

Bill: A contradiction that I see more than ever: our culture and educational system is arguing for atheism and at the same time dumbing down our understanding of basically everything, while there is a growing s(S)ociety of Catholic Scientists...[a quick back and forth]

Spitzer: Artificial intelligence's potential is overrated when it is claimed that it can become creative in anything like a human fashion. It can't find new truths; they don't love [or will] or have any of the transcendentals. Computers are marvellous tools that, *in tandem with us*, can take us to new places we could not get without this kind of effort multiplier...

Studies on religious and non-religious affiliated groups, with the latter having much higher rates of maladaptions: suicide, substance abuse, impulsivity, depression, etc. Augustine's comment about our hearts being restless until we rest in God seems to be empirically corroborated.

Closing: CredibleCatholic.com, Notre Dame initiatives to educate high school science teachers on the interrelations between faith and science.

"So there we have it. I also want to thank Father Spitzer for taking the time to give this interview. We hope to present many more interviews as That's So Second Millennium matures and gets going. The point of the podcast has always been to get conversations started about these core issues, whether and how to be a logically coherent believer in the modern age. It's started with these conversations between Bill and I, but the point is to move outward and engage with more of you. The time is rapidly coming to expand this outreach another step or two, through social media and ordinary human interactions. Right now you can check out the Facebook page for That's So Second Millennium, and you can leave ratings and reviews on one or more of our podcast servers, Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, or Podbean."

Episode 019 - Conclusion: SCS Conference

Episode 019 - Conclusion: SCS Conference

August 6, 2018

We pick up from last week's episode with the next speaker. Kara Lamb followed Andrew Sicree; her research is about the atmosphere and climate. She mostly talked about climate, and got a ways into specifics about her research on black carbon soot in the atmosphere. She did stop to draw a parallel between Laudato Si and Pacem in Terris, that in both cases the Popes stopped to address humanity at large and not just the Church.

Juan Martin Maldacena was after her, and was presented the St. Albert Award. You don't schedule Juan Maldacena and not have him talk about his own physics research; he is famous for research on workable forms of string theory in anti-de Sitter space and some results on the shape and nature of black holes. His talk was very technical and rather hard to summarize, but an intriguing aspect of it was the recurring notion that black hole singularities and the original singularity of the Big Bang might have a lot in common.

Sunday morning after Mass Michael Dennin led off with a talk structured around a book called "The Big Picture" by somebody I think I've heard of but don't know why named Sean Carroll. In this book Carroll apparently divides reality into "poetic naturalism", where "poetic" means "stories we tell ourselves about large complicated objects" and "naturalism" means "quantum physics, which is actually reality". Dennin made four points:

  1. Emergence. Reality does not appear to be just quantum physics (or, I would elaborate, not even just a unified theory that somehow gets gravity and relativity united with quantum physics). There are really new laws that emerge as you go to larger, composite, varied objects...the laws of thermodynamics, entropy in particular, are an example.
  2. Physical reality. It's a little much to talk about "reality" so cavlierly; it ignores basically metric tons of philosophical questions people have spent centuries debating. Is physical reality basically sense data? Is it the particles we theorize to be out there to explain, ultimately, our sense data in the context of the experiments we do and the natural objects we observe? Isn't there nonphysical reality: mathematics, wavefunctions (they can't be completely physical), conscious reality / qualia? How can we be sure there aren't nonphysical "forces" acting on physical objects? In some way, don't they have to? (mathematics and logic in some way constrain reality, that's a rumination of mine while writing this)
  3. Free will...the Comptonesque observation that quantum physics leave room for this nonphysical soul or mind to affect the physical body
  4. MIracles. Dennin actually led off the talk with an exercise, asking us to define miracles, and then he went on a fairly vigorous campaign against the idea that miracles ever incorporate the violation of physical law, or at least that they require it, that that should be in the definition. I noted "Contrasting focus on God's will/purpose..." but I cannot really reconstruct what he seemed to be driving at.

Craig Lent, a professor at Notre Dame, went next and gave an interesting talk that interfaced with others. He actually seemed to conflict with Barr in that he commented early on that the "state vector," which had be be the wavefunction since it had the same Greek letter psi for its symbol, contained all the information possible to have about a system and not just one observer's (the concept Barr used). He also addresses the measurement problem, but my note broke off mid-sentence. He went on to summarize the content of Scarani's talk, that Bell inequality experiments all show that the universe is not deterministic. He then addresses the claim that while atom-scale particles show quantum indeterminism, larger stuff does not, and nerves are enough larger that the human brain must be deterministic. That's probably not true; even 10,000 atomic mass unit molecules like neural transmitters show quantum behavior in experiments. We are left again with the Arthur Compton point that while obviously physics constrains us, our brains are not deterministic machines; if our souls are not affecting them, then at the very least some of their functionality is random.

The final talk was by (Padre) Javier Sanchez-Canizares on "Mind, Decoherence, and the Copenhagen Interpretation." This again comments on many of the topics in previous talks. Unfortunately the talk seemed to paw about problems already discussed without coming to any new realizations. I cannot tell from my notes whether I learned anything about decoherence, which I was really hoping to do; I think I had to look it up afterward, and even then the answers I've found so far are not satisfying. He asked the "Wigner's friend" question that Barr mentioned about the "cut" between the observer and the system in a quantum physics observation. He also made some intriguing comments on the nature of classical physics: if quantum physics is reality, why is it so hard to get rid of classical physics terminology? We still describe things that way. A recent physicist, Zurek, comments that classical physics entities somehow embody a "survival of the fittest" (the sort of comment I start questioning for influence of the divine name of evolution). Heisenberg apparently said that classical physics terms are just unavoidably part of how humans interact with the world.