"God's Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion" is the new book from Brother Guy Consolmagno, who is, in no particular order, a scientist, a Jesuit, a science fiction geek, an MIT alum and a Vatican Astronomer. Obviously, religion is a central part of Brother Guy's life, but so is technology, rationalism and science.
God's Mechanics is a relgionist's explanation of his faith, in terms aimed at showing techies how one of their own can simultaneously believe in supernatural phenomena and practice rigorous, materialistic science. The most interesting part of the book is an amateur ethnography of geek faithful, in which Brother Guy schleps up and down Rte 101 between San Francisco and San Jose, interviewing engineers, scientists and programmers about their practice of faith. Their answers surprise Guy (and they surprised me, too) with their variety and distinctiveness. There doesn't seem to be a single way, or even a small cluster of ways that technologists square up their religion with their science.
For my part, I'm a second-generation atheist. I think that our experience of the numinous is both undeniable and entirely biological: the state of spiritual peace is the result of tickling some evolved center of our brain, a bit of neurology that conferred a survival advantage on our ancestors whose numinous hallucinations of a higher order in the universe drove them to catch more antelopes, eat better, and have more babies. I have no need of, nor interest in a supernatural god or a supernatural universe.
But I'm not so blinkered that I believe all religionists to be deluded fools. There's clearly some serious value that smart, ethical people derive from participation in spiritualism and even organized religion. Brother Guy's exegesis on faith as a systematic way of organizing and exploring the human experience of the numinous was fascinating to me. It is is a thoroughgoing, charming, quick-paced trip through a wide variety of personal experiences of spirituality and religion.
The only place where this book lacks is in its exploration of atheism as an alternative to religion. Brother Guy delves deeply into the reason for faith, but skims lightly over the reason for its absence. At times, it seems like he's addressing straw men from my side, not our strongest argument. This is the beginning of a discussion, but it's not the whole discussion.
Vatican astronomer on ETs
Update: Some great comments in this thread, especially Tom's note on Bayesian stats and faith: "We live at the beginning of the Age of Bayes, in the sense that the Bayesian understanding of probability and explanation is gaining ground on other views, and will probably supplant them at the end of the day. This is important because Bayesian reasoning makes it clear that 'faith' is synonymous with 'incoherent' in a precise sense."
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own! Benjamin Wallace’s first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America […]
This beautiful collection of all twenty paintings, and eight drawings, assigned to Hieronymus Bosch, may be replacing the Codex Seraphinianus on my coffee table for a bit. These surreal masterpieces by Netherlandish artist Jheronimus van Aken, better known as Hieronymus Bosch, are reproduced beautifully, on lovely paper, and are thoughtfully arranged. Some pieces, such as […]
Is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” actually about psychedelic drugs, British colonialism, or penis envy? Depends who you ask. At the BBC, Hephzibah Anderson surveys 150 years of weird readings of Lewis Carroll’s classic book. From Anderson’s essay: Re-examining the text, critics found plenty of gynaecological imagery, from the rabbit hole itself to the curtain that […]
The realm of web development is constantly evolving. New platforms, languages, and processes materialize all the time, so staying on top of all that innovation is a tall order.Whether you’re brushing up on new tricks, starting from scratch, or just looking to make your own website a little jazzier, Rob Percival’s new Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 (now […]
Folks used to rely on alarms to protect their home – and before that, the family dog. Now, anyone looking to guard their homes can choose from some high-tech options, including the Amaryllo iCamPRO FHD Home Security Camera (now just $219 in the Boing Boing Store).In fact, this 2015 CES “Best of Innovation” award-winner boasts so many features, it’s […]
If you want a quality vaping experience, it’s usually going to cost you. Vaporizers that deliver a fast, controlled burn will set you back up to $300, which is why the FEZ Vaporizer (now just $99) is an absolute steal.The FEZ dry herb pen does everything that more expensive models handle at a reduced price. It heats up […]