That’s So Second Millennium
Ep 141 - Louis Albarran and the Faith of Real People

Ep 141 - Louis Albarran and the Faith of Real People

June 30, 2022
  1. Paul and Bill spoke with Louis Albarran, associate professor of theology at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, IN. Albarran holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Dayton, and he specializes in the connection of religion, culture, and the physicality of devotional practices, with a focus on the Latino Catholic culture.
  2. Albarran spoke of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as told by the Aztec people in their own language. The name of this narrative is Nican Mopohua.
  3. Albarran spoke of the Dayton school of thought regarding the meaning of Catholic devotions for culture. He referred to Thank You, St. Jude, written by Robert Orsi. [Paul cannot help adding a reference to St. Jude by Brian Setzer.]
  4. Currently reading: Making Culture by Andy Crouch.
  5. The annual “Saints and Scholars” summer program for high school students on the Holy Cross College campus is directed by Albarran.
  6. Peter Kreeft and Christopher Baglow offer notable perspectives on the compatibility of science and religion.
  7. Holy Cross College’s Moreau College Initiative grants degrees to prisoners.
  8. William Cavanaugh wrote about the wars of religion and the rise of the nation-state. Peter Kreeft wrote a condensed Catholic catechism. Kenneth Miller wrote Finding Darwin’s God. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World.
Ep 139 - Pondering Big Issues Powered by Uranium

Ep 139 - Pondering Big Issues Powered by Uranium

April 30, 2022
  1. In this episode, Paul and Bill situate themselves geographically, updating each other on their latest activities and changes in locale. Paul is on a medical mission to Billings, Montana, at the moment. Bill has moved from South Bend, where he was an adjunct professor at Holy Cross College, to Troy, NY, the hometown of his wife.

  2. Uranium mining is on Paul’s mind during his brief departure from Wyoming Catholic College in the small town of Lander. As a PhD geologist, Paul will make a presentation on the modern-day considerations of uranium mining and nuclear power at the 2022 conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists. The conference will be held on the first weekend of June at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. (Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, a consecrated brother in the Jesuits and a distinguished astronomer, will be honored by the SCS this year with its St. Albert the Great Award.)

  3. The inconveniences of uranium, says Paul, who has studied it since his graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, stem from its undeniable value for power generation—and some characteristics he described as compellingly “weird.” He takes us on a professor’s tour of the periodic table and the uranium mining regions near his campus.

  4. Kazakhstan and Russia are key sources of uranium. In-situ leaching is a growing source for uranium elsewhere in the world, including in the US.

  5. Every state regulates uranium and any mining activities. For example, Texas has a Commission on Environmental Quality. There is a complex history of regulation of uranium and nuclear energy at both the state and federal levels.

  6. Paul referred to Bill’s membership in the international Secular Franciscan Order.

  7. Paul offers a survey of opinions and alternatives in energy policy for the Earth. For a very recent and well-informed video treatment of sustainable energy choices for the future, see “Can We Cool the Planet?” at PBS’s NOVA series website.

  8. India is probing possibilities for thorium as a source of nuclear energy. China is staking much of its energy future on nuclear power. In the US and elsewhere, politicians must get more serious about addressing crucial, conflict-ridden challenges, such as the storage and reprocessing of uranium.

  9. A note: Paul recommends the episodes on Nietzsche and Epicurean philosophy from the “Food 4 Thought” podcast, presented by Jonathan Kutz, which covers philosophy and science from Christian perspective. It’s a natural for fans of “That’s So Second Millennium.” You can access “Food 4 Thought” on several platforms, including Anchor and Audible.

  10. Cover photo: Yellow needle-like crystals of studtite ([(UO2)(O2)(H2O)2] · H2O) on flat orange crystals of becquerelite (Ca(UO2)6O4(OH)6 · 8H2O). Ex Gilbert Gauthier, via Adriana & Renato Pagano. Collection and photo by Gianfranco Ciccolini, as seen at mindat.org.

Ep 137 - Francis Bacon and the New Organon

Ep 137 - Francis Bacon and the New Organon

February 28, 2022

As the emcee noted at a concert here in Lander, a Musical History Tour, the Renaissance--the period when Europe revived its intellectual life by re-evaluating the writings of the Hellenistic past--ends around the year 1600, give or take. By that time, the focus had shifted toward going beyond the ancients instead of merely revisiting their achievements. This shift in focus happened on a different schedule in different fields, to be certain. Music may have been well ahead of the ancients already in the high medieval period. The Scholastics, and indeed their Arabian predecessors, while firmly rooted in Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, were already progressing beyond those foundations in the thirteenth century. On the other hand, painting and sculpture may not have outstripped the Greeks and Romans until the nineteenth century.

In any case, the seventeenth century would be the one in which Greek mathematics and Aristotelian natural philosophy gave way precipitously to new approaches. Algebra, lurking in the background of Greek thought and poking its head above the canopy in Arabian and Italian mathematics, would finally spawn analytic geometry and calculus. The focus and methods of natural philosophy would shift in many ways, including the use of mathematics and a great increase in the number of people collecting observations and conducting experiments and discussing their results with others. The existing sciences of astronomy, mechanics, botany, and zoology would be transformed, and chemistry and geology would be born outright. Inventions like the telescope and microscope would begin to reveal unsuspected layers of richness in the universe.

-Bacon: bio and politics
-The Reformation had to attack Scholastic *theology* but the universities continued to be heavily Aristotelian
-Aristotle and the distinction between philosophy and science that would be inverted by the 19th century
-Aristotle's focus on deduction and Bacon's polemical critique of the syllogism: "The New Organon"
-The role of induction and statistical reasoning; Bacon's blind spot for mathematics and his tables

Image: Francis Bacon by Paul van Somer, courtesy Wikimedia (By Paul van Somer I - pl.pinterest.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19958108)

Ep 134 - Bill on Journalism and Truth with Franciscan Dave

Ep 134 - Bill on Journalism and Truth with Franciscan Dave

November 22, 2021

David Seitz, OFS, is a long-time professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order who holds an M.A. in theology from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He has written a book, available on line, called Come Let Us Worship: Reflections on the Words and Prayers of the Mass. He produces podcasts, videos, blogs, and speaks publicly, offering reflection for spiritual growth based on the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. Find him at tauministries.com and, on YouTube, look for his nickname, Franciscan Dave.

Bill, also a Secular Franciscan, recently appeared on Dave's podcast, and I spoke with Bill about that conversation regarding journalism and virtuous communication. We discuss whether missionaries and scientists are also journalists and the spiritual value of seeking and spreading truth. Be sure to find their original conversation at Dave's site.

Ep 132 – The Long Road to Mathematical Physics

Ep 132 – The Long Road to Mathematical Physics

September 13, 2021

A solo episode from Paul today inspired by the content of Wyoming Catholic College’s Deductive Reasoning in Science course (SCI 301).

  1. Greek arithmetic and the Pythagoreans
  2. The crisis of incommensurables (irrational numbers)
  3. The triumph of geometry over arithmetic
  4. Emphasis on axiomatic systems and proofs: Euclid
  5. Archimedes: physics within the Euclidean paradigm
  6. Aristotle and the medieval: qualitative and categorical accounts of motion
  7. The long reach of ancient methods and paradigms
  8. Galileo and his big ideas, shaky proofs, and tedious Euclidean methodology
  9. 16th century algebra and the need for negative numbers to simplify the cubic equation
  10. Galileo’s multiple cases of proportions of times, spaces, speeds in the Euclidean paradigm
  11. Overturns in algebraic notation and the advent of analytical geometry in the 17th century
  12. The looming role of calculus in Galileo’s attempts to argue by means of infinite parallels
  13. Imaginary and complex numbers in the solution of cubic equations with real roots, real physical problems
Bonus Episode - WOFI Faith & Science Summit

Bonus Episode - WOFI Faith & Science Summit

August 8, 2021

Word on Fire will be holding a Faith and Science Summit August 9-12 (starting tomorrow!). It will feature at least nine speakers, including the SCS' own Jonathan Lunine and Karin Oberg.
Among the topics discussed will be
- The history of the Church and science, including a wealth of details that get glossed over by the "conflict hypothesis"
- Specific coverage of what went wrong between the Pope, cardinals, and Galileo, and why that's far from a typical example of how the Church treats scientists
- The counterexample of George LeMaitre
- Theological motivations *for* doing science from the perspective of the Christian faith
- Insights from science that have enriched our appreciation of creation, the physical universe, and our own human origins
- Catholic theology and speculation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life

Find out more at:

https://wordonfire.institute/faith-and-science-summit

If you're a Word on Fire Institute member:

https://wordonfire.institute/faith-and-science-summit-wofimembers

Episode 129 - Economics of Higher Purpose with Anjan Thakor

Episode 129 - Economics of Higher Purpose with Anjan Thakor

July 12, 2021

An intriguing interview with a business school professor from Paul's alma mater, Anjan Thakor of the Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School. The point of departure for this episode is Prof. Thakor's book of the same title written with Dr. Bob Quinn, and the book was launched as an analysis of why Dr. Quinn left a prestigious faculty position at the University of Michigan to go start a church in Australia.

The book and our interview discuss what seems as if it should be common sense: people perform better when they believe what they're doing has a higher purpose than extracting paychecks and profit. Yet this common sense observation is now counter to decades of economic orthodoxy, both in the "practical" world and in academia, which focus on evaluating ways for employers to control and coerce employees using the tools of the market system. And it's not entirely surprising, since in many ways human nature is always poised to devolve into this style of interaction. Listen in and, if you're anywhere near as intrigued by this work as I was, read their book for more.

  • Thakor co-authored The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization with Robert Quinn, business professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.
  • Thakor referred to a University of Michigan study of call-center workers. They came away with a higher sense of purpose—and effectiveness—after talking with students who had received scholarships based on fund-raising efforts in which the workers were participating. If you change a worker’s mental map for seeing their job, this affects their performance.
  • Authenticity requires a business leader’s believable commitment to—and passion about—the organization’s higher purpose, Prof. Thakor said. He also referred to insights from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the importance of societal and organizational motivation stemming from a sense of covenant, not merely contract. Covenant entails a sense of shared purpose.
  • Noted business executive Bob Chapman says 88 percent of American workers say they want a sense of higher purpose but don’t feel it is integrated in their work life. Thakor said his own research shows that employees whose companies have a sense of purpose are more likely to describe a sense of purpose in their lives—a spillover effect.
  • The commitment to purpose must be top-down. Then, it cascades through the organization if you help employees learn and absorb what it means for them and their job, Thakor said.
  • Harvard Business Review had a special issue on the importance of a sense of purpose.
Episode 126 - Society of Catholic Sciences Preview with Stephen Barr

Episode 126 - Society of Catholic Sciences Preview with Stephen Barr

May 31, 2021
  1. Paul and Bill welcomed Stephen Barr, Ph.D., president of the Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS), for a return visit to TSSM. Dr. Barr, a theoretical particle physicist, is emeritus professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware. We talked with him about the Society of Catholic Scientists and the organization’s fourth annual conference, scheduled June 4-6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
  2. The growing membership of SCS now totals about 1,500 in multiple countries. The organization was founded in 2016 by Dr. Barr and five other scientists. Barr, author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, described the upcoming conference, which is titled “Extraterrestrials, AI, and Minds Beyond the Human.” See details of the conference The SCS has posted an announcement about live-streaming of conference talks for those who have not registered to attend in-person.
  3. The talks will be livestreamed at https://catholicscientists.org/conference2021. The schedule of talks can be found HERE. During the talks, questions for the speakers can be emailed in to questionsSCS2021@gmail.com. As time permits, some questions will be selected from those emailed in and posed to the speakers during the Q&A sessions.
  4. Barr gave an overview of the event and the speakers.
  5. One of the speakers, Prof. Lawrence Principe, Ph.D., will also be the recipient of the Society’s Saint Albert Award. The award, bestowed annually, is named for St. Albert the Great, patron saint of the natural sciences. Dr. Principe, a historian of science at Johns Hopkins University, has been a leading voice in dispelling the myth of a historical conflict between science and religion, Dr. Barr pointed out. A course titled “Science and Religion” is offered by Principe through the “Great Courses” organization and is available online.
  6. The conference’s keynote speaker is Christopher Baglow, Ph.D., director of the Science & Religion Initiative in the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Baglow, whose unique high school textbook Faith, Science, and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge has now been published in a second edition, was a guest on a previous episode of the TSSM podcast.
  7. Barr pointed out that, although the Society did not hold a conference in 2020, it greatly expanded its website, which now includes instructional materials about science and religion. One feature is a curated historical collection of concise bibliographies about important scientists who were practicing Catholics. Barr thanked his collaborator Andrew Kassebaum for that content, which is more authoritative than other online lists of “Catholic scientists.”
  8. The SCS continues to work to expand its services to teachers and students. The SCS website, at org, already contains numerous videos of talks from past conferences. Dr. Barr said the Society’s goals include facilitating wide-ranging intellectual and spiritual fellowship for Catholic scientists and helping to evangelize a secular culture that is infused with thoughts and messages prioritizing science and technology. The work of spreading the faith through science will increasingly use new media.
  9. Another form of evangelization is the Society’s support for Church celebrations of “Gold Masses” in numerous localities in the United States and elsewhere. Gold Masses, often planned as Votive Masses in honor of St. Albert the Great, are celebrated for members of the science professions. The Masses are part of the effort to increase the Society’s grass-roots activities through local and campus chapters.
Episode 124 - Geology of the Holy Land

Episode 124 - Geology of the Holy Land

April 26, 2021

Paul and Bill discuss the basic geological features of the Holy Land, like its geomorphology and tectonics, or translated into lay terms, the reasons why its landscape takes the form that it does and why it suffers a lot of earthquakes. Paul discusses the need for a book bringing together the best geologists and the best textual experts to collaborate and discuss the possible relationships between the texts of the Old Testament and other ancient Near Eastern writings and the geologic record of the Holocene. If that book already exists, let us know in the comments!

Episode 123 - Jean-Pierre Isbouts Brings Us Down to Earth with Jesus of Nazareth

Episode 123 - Jean-Pierre Isbouts Brings Us Down to Earth with Jesus of Nazareth

April 12, 2021

Bill and I are excited to bring you an episode about the archeology and secular history of the time when Jesus was born, grew up, and preached. Fuller notes to come on our episode with Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, author of In the Footsteps of Jesus.

  1. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, historian, and filmmaker who has invested decades of work in to understand and explain the Biblical foundations of Christian faith from an interdisciplinary perspective. His career as a humanities scholar began with his doctoral degree from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He is a professor of human development at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA.
  2. Isbouts’s latest book, published in 2017 by National Geographic, is In the Footsteps of Jesus: A Chronicle of His Life and the Origins of Christianity. In addition to reading his books, you can take his course, “The History and Archaeology of the Bible” through the Great Courses library of products. He has made several notable films, and he recently has posted a series of videos embodying his new book, available by searching his name on Vimeo.
  3. Isbouts talked with Paul and Bill about key findings that help to increase public understanding of the historical context of Jesus’ life and how he loves to deepen that understanding through visual images of lands where Jesus taught, plus explorations in maps, art, archaeology, and more. His book features a beautiful collection of images.
  4. The discussion with TSSM looks into Jesus’ background, which is much more extensive than the typical label of “carpenter.” He notes that Jesus’ role in rebuilding the city of Sepphoris presaged his message of action and solidarity aimed to build the Kingdom of God.  The times during which he taught on earth were filled with social and economic chaos, when the rule of Herod and his son decimated the economy of Galilee and displaced thousands of peasants in severe poverty.
  5. These historic times, Dr. Isbouts points out, resonate with readers today during a period of pandemic and polarization. We need to hear again Jesus’ call to come together as citizens of the Kingdom to practice basic principles of the Torah—compassion, social justice, and total faith in God as Father. Dr. Isbouts himself says his studies have drawn him closer to the figure of Jesus and “what fired his ministry.” The application of various fields of scholarship helps to tear down walls that many people today see dividing the worlds of science and faith.
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