Southern Religion

Condomonium: Pope Benedict XVI moves toward agreement with the Centers for Disease Control

Regarding the use of latex condoms to prevent Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Pope Benedict XVI now says, yes. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi “told reporters Tuesday” that it wasn’t just a matter of HIV-infected male prostitutes seeking to prevent infection of their partners:

“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”

“This is if you’re a man, a woman, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point. The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another,” Lombardi said.

The clarification is significant.

The Catholic right has lost the battle to define Pope Benedict’s remarks in his book-length interview Light of the World as changing little or nothing.

Pope Benedict XVI has rethought his March 17, 2009 remarks to journalists aboard his flight to Cameroon. On that occasion, he put himself at odds with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and ruled out use of condoms to prevent AIDS:

One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.

The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress.

The change is startling and, Lombardi made clear, it is not something the pope somehow stumbled into:

“He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today,” Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for a greater humanized, responsible sexuality.

The formulation is new and a “game changer,” observed the Rev. James Martin, S.J., culture editor of the Catholic magazine America. A “Papal Biggie after all,” as Mark Silk put it.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Medical Care, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Science | , , , , , | Comments Off on Condomonium: Pope Benedict XVI moves toward agreement with the Centers for Disease Control

Hurry to baptise Gliese 581g inhabitants?

The synchronicity was remarkable, as The Reverend Mommy suggested:

This last week, astronomers found a planet that could be seen as within the habitable zone. Close enough for liquid water and plenty of energy from it’s sun. Also within the last couple of weeks was an announcement from the Pope’s astronomer about the baptism of alien souls.

Subject of speculation, that planet is Gliese 581g. About which principal investigator Steven Vogt (leader of the team which discovered the planet) said:

I’m not a biologist, nor do I want to play one on TV. Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100%. I have almost no doubt about it.

Comes Lee Billings, who is a staff editor for Seed magazine, with a bucketful of cold water:

Imagine, for a moment, standing on the surface of Gliese 581g, and you’ll quickly appreciate just how unearthly it is. Its sun, though much smaller than our own, would loom far larger in the massive planet’s sky due to its close proximity, and light would filter down through a thick atmosphere to fall upon a landscape flattened by the world’s stronger gravitational field. But half the globe would never see the sun at all; tidal forces raised by the nearby star would quite likely have sapped the planet’s rotational energy until it spun once for every orbit, so that it perennially showed the same face to its star. One hemisphere would be bathed in light, sputtered by solar flares and harsh ionizing radiation, while the other would be forever shrouded in darkness. Perhaps only the thin ribbon of twilight encircling the planet from pole to pole would be hospitable.

Narrow the road, indeed.

The Gliese 581 planetary system

The orbits of the Gliese 581 planetary system, with circular orbits, excluding outermost planet f.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Science | , , , | Comments Off on Hurry to baptise Gliese 581g inhabitants?

Who’s smarter than an atheist?

Despite their claims to the contrary, neither Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register nor the staff of the Christian Science Monitor will help anyone answer that question.

No. Neither makes the mistake of relying on a shorter Pew Forum quiz to arrive at the wrong answer.

Yet both use headlines which mislead readers toward believing that by comparing their scores on the full, 32-question quiz to the aggregate scores for atheists and agnostics who were surveyed, they can determine whether they’re smarter than an atheist.

Not going to happen. No opportunity to disaggregate the Pew data to find you an atheist with whom to compare yourself is offered.

Nor is the full survey an intelligence test.

The measurement tool reveals and was designed to reveal social trends.

The data can be useful to those who analyze and apply it. As opposed to the recreation of applying the measurement tool to yourself.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Education, Politics, Religion, Science | , , , , | Comments Off on Who’s smarter than an atheist?

The evolution of candy [not a ‘sweet science’]

Gummi Worms

Gummi Worms

Norman Jameson, editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder, apparently while at Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President/Chief Executive Morris Chapman’s retirement dinner tweeted:

Bob Rodgers tells candy battle story that affirms evolution. Squeezing candies together, weaker of species cracks and is eaten.

Er, but how do the surviving (uneaten) pieces reproduce?

By hatching Gummi worms from Easter eggs in the candy bowl?

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Satire, Science | | Comments Off on The evolution of candy [not a ‘sweet science’]

The world’s smallest stop-motion animation

Filmed using life-saving technology, it stars “Dot, a girl who just 9 millimeters tall.” And was created using life-saving technology.

Tracy Staedter of Discovery News explains:

The animation was filmed using a Nokia N8 smart phone equipped with a CellScope, a diagnostic-quality microscope that was invented by Daniel Fletcher at the University of California, Berkeley. The CellScope allows a doctor working anywhere there is a phone service to capture and transmit images of blood samples anywhere in the world. The technology could help diagnose disease in developing countries where medical doctors and labs are few and far between.


Read the rest of Staedter’s account here.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Science, The Arts | Comments Off on The world’s smallest stop-motion animation

Baptise a space alien [extraterresterial]?


Only if asked, said Guy Consolmagno, one of the pope’s astronomers. He made it clear that in his view, “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.”

He was, however, very practical about it, as the Guardian reported:

Guy Consolmagno, who is one of the pope’s astronomers, said he would be “delighted” if intelligent life was found among the stars. “But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it – when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question.”

As for intelligent design, so close to the hearts of some Southern Baptists, well that’s “bad theology” that had been “hijacked” by American creationist fundamentalists.

All very scientific, thank you.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Science | | Comments Off on Baptise a space alien [extraterresterial]?

When is ‘Creation Science’ most clearly not science?

When someone is attempting to award a degree in it, a Texas federal district court would seem to have ruled. Howard M. Friedman at Religion Clause writes:

In Institute for Creation Research Graduate School v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, (WD TX, June 18, 2010), a Texas federal district court upheld the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s refusal to grant the Institute of Creation Research Graduate School a certificate of authority to offer a Master of Science degree with a major in Science Education. The Texas Education Code (Sec. 61.301) authorizes the Board to regulate the use of “academic terminology” in order “to prevent deception of the public resulting from the conferring and use of fraudulent or substandard college and university degrees.” The Board denied ICRGS’s application because its curriculum which was designed to promote “scientific creationism” and “Biblical creationism” does not adequately cover the breadth of knowledge of the discipline taught. The Board’s decision was based on the conclusion by the Commissioner of Higher Education that the school’s program “inadequately covers key areas of science and their methodologies and rejects one of the foundational theories of modern science,” and thus “cannot be properly designated as either ‘science’ or ‘science education.'”

Indeed, Melissa Ludwig of the San Antonio Express-News writes:

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin found no merit in the institute’s claims and criticized its legal documents as “overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering and full of irrelevant information.”

Hard times, Southern Baptists? Or does a Creationism MS one way or the other matter to Al Mohler and his allies?

June 23, 2010 Posted by | SBC, Science | | Comments Off on When is ‘Creation Science’ most clearly not science?

USDA forecasts our current plagues may be followed by hopping insects

Alex Wild writes at his blog, Myrmecos

With plumes of crude oil destroying the Gulf of Mexico, tensions rising in the middle east, a severe hurricane season reving up in the Atlantic, and the earth opening up and just plain swallowing parts of Guatemala City whole, what else could possibly go wrong?

Yes, a plague, of grasshoppers (locusts are short-horned grasshoppers). Next?

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Science | , , , | Comments Off on USDA forecasts our current plagues may be followed by hopping insects

‘Will the Gulf ever heal?’

For the First Time in My Environmental Career, I’m Using the Word ‘Hopeless’,” says the narrator of a riveting amateur video of the Gulf oil spill.

[H/T: A Blog Around the Clock]

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Science | | Comments Off on ‘Will the Gulf ever heal?’

Friday afternoon video: Underwater footage of the Gulf oil leak

Ugly and “considerable pressure” was required to persuade BP to release even this brief video:

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Science | | Comments Off on Friday afternoon video: Underwater footage of the Gulf oil leak