That’s So Second Millennium
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.
Episode 122 - Original Sin and Mental Unhealth

Episode 122 - Original Sin and Mental Unhealth

March 22, 2021

Paul and Bill discuss some of the ways in which human minds go wrong. Paul wonders aloud whether the state of spiritual disconnection called "original sin" is specifically manifested in the ways parents relate, or don't relate, to children and the problems that follow from that for the rest of our lives. We discuss Henri Nouwen (a little) and Eckhart Tolle (a little more) and his ideas on how enlightenment has cropped up here and there throughout history but gets suffocated by social conformism.

  1. Paul and Bill discussed a number of resources for pondering the nature of sin and how it affects our lives—as well as how people act based on their perceptions of sin in themselves and others. Without the Church’s wisdom and reliance on Christ’s grace, behaviors based on a misunderstanding or dismissal of sinfulness can distort our lives as individuals, in our minds and hearts, as well as our lives in society.
  2. The co-hosts concluded that we need to invest time throughout our lives to discern how sin—and a need for forgiveness and grace which is poorly grasped in secular society—in integrated in our mental and spiritual health. We cannot just set aside the matter of original sin and our ongoing inclination toward evil. We tapped into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially the paragraphs around #400 and beyond, for guidance to sort this out.
  3. Such guidance is important in countless cases, such as reflection on Jesus’ teaching on separating the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.
  4. We discussed The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker.
  5. Paul spoke of being pointed toward books by Henry Nouwen and commentary by Eckhart Tolle, a popular proponent of new-age syncretism with echoes of Christianity and Buddhism. He also spoke of exploring life-solutions propounded in EMDR therapy.
  6. He mentioned having found useful insights when exploring that therapy through Francine Shapiro’s Getting Past Your Past.
Episode 120 - Wyoming Catholic College

Episode 120 - Wyoming Catholic College

February 22, 2021

This episode had to be rushed in due to Paul's travel schedule. He got to visit a location peculiarly dear to his heart, Lander, Wyoming, and give a talk at Wyoming Catholic College. It's just Paul's cut of the raw audio, bonus-episode style, since we had to record it Sunday afternoon. Paul and Bill discuss the visit and the substance of his field exercise, including how the ideas of our friend Nicolaus Steno and the 18th century James Hutton play out in a live outdoor setting: Derby Dome in the Wind River Basin, or as it is most often called these days, Johnny behind the Rocks.

Episode 119 - Evolution in Christianity and Geology (rerun)

Episode 119 - Evolution in Christianity and Geology (rerun)

February 8, 2021

A rerun of Episode 6.

Do not blame Morgan for the sound quality of this episode! All complaints should be directed to Paul at the email link at https://www.thatssosecondmillennium.net.

Bill and I hope to be back in action soon.

Episode 117 - Aida Ramos on Debt and Spending

Episode 117 - Aida Ramos on Debt and Spending

January 11, 2021
  1. Aida Ramos, Ph.D., is an associate professor of economics at the University of Dallas. She returns to TSSM, in this episode recorded early in the week of January 4, 2021, to discuss Catholic perspectives on United States policy efforts to stimulate the economy.
  2. During the discussion, Bill recalled a class he took at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs that outlined a rigorous process of federal budget management. It included multiple annual authorization and appropriations bills covering various agencies and governmental functions. He could not remember immediately the name or previous budget-leadership role of his professor from those years as a student, but he commented in general that, over time, the discipline planned for maintaining quality control over program specifics via this legislative routine gave way to habits of less regular and detailed Congressional oversight on specifics of spending.
  3. Ramos noted that the Citizens United case decided by the US Supreme Court in 2010 had a major effect on campaign finance which in turn greatly increased the influence of corporate lobbyists over Congressional decision-making and thereby contributed to changes in legislative practices regarding federal budget management. The multi-trillion-dollar spending bill passed by Congress in late 2020 offers examples of how management rigors, at least as they maintain a focus on common-good and fiscal-responsibility duties, changed in ways that lessened Congressional and White House priorities integrating social justice into year-end spending plans; concerns about the primacy of addressing broad, basic needs of the population, as described by goals of solidarity and subsidiarity in Catholic social thought, have not been served by enactment of policies like tax deductions for the so-called “three-martini lunch.” That policy, which economists judged to be primarily a benefit for the wealthy, favors spending practices seen in corporate and lobbying circles, Ramos said.
  4. The need for responsible approaches to economic management within government is an area of profound moral concern that has arisen consistently present and past policy-making. Different policy actions, including the Covid-19 relief legislation, which is separate from the aforementioned multi-agency spending bill, represent differing approaches to deficit spending in the federal budget. Deficit spending can be justified during an economic crisis if it is limited and focused fairly on necessary remedies and investments. But the US has run up deficits in various years when they were not necessary, and the national debt has exploded. The need to pay interest on the national debt to investors squeezes out spending that could go toward meeting urgent needs such as food and poverty relief in the general population. This again raises concerns through the lens of Catholic values about human dignity and the preferential option for the poor.
  5. The major tax cut passed during the Trump administration had components that added hugely, unnecessarily, and unfairly to the deficit, Prof. Ramos said. A morally informed discussion about taxation has to be conducted among Americans to help influence government decision-making in legislation like this.
  6. An absence of responsive and responsible fiscal policy, legislated by Congress, has required more action by the Federal Reserve in recent years, taking the form of quantitative easing. This is monetary policy, whose technicalities can stir misguided fears among people. One bottom line in the different forms of policy-making is the need to serve the common good and human dignity; actions which support the economic stability and participation of families and households at the local level are an example of the Catholic call to respect subsidiarity as a means toward solidarity, Prof. Ramos said.
  7. Pope Francis has been outspoken about the need for populations to respect Catholic social values like these in policies and relationships widely and consistently. Certain budgetary responses to Covid-19 relief for people  are in keeping with the Pope’s call. The application of a moral lens to budget management that meets public needs is nothing new; indeed, the field of political economy arose out of moral philosophy, a connection personified by Adam Smith, according to Prof. Ramos.
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