Humor for the week

I was in need of some humor this week. Here are a few things that have made me laugh:

1. Church Reduces Carbon Footprint; Worships in the Dark (from The Sacred Sandwich). Here are a few quotes:

In an effort to stem the tide of global warming, Raintree Christian Fellowship began worshipping in the dark this month by turning off the earth-destroying electricity to their building. Though temporarily blinded by the decision, the congregation has seen a sharp increase in spirituality and stubbed toes.

“Turning off the lights has really forced us to find God and each other by using our other four senses,” said Pastor Mike Gruber. “Thankfully, since most of us also reject the use of cancer-causing deodorants, it wasn’t really hard to find each other in the dark. At first I wondered who brought the dead possum in here, but then I realized it was just Bob.”

In recognition of their sacrifice to save the planet, former Vice President and noted global warming expert Al Gore made a surprise visit to Raintree last Sunday to support them in their efforts. “He did?” remarked a dumbfounded Pastor Mike. “Well, crud, I didn’t even see him. Come to think of it, I can’t see anyone in here.”

2. Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife (I got this from my friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle)

3. Onion News: Kim Jong Il Announces Plan To Bring Moon To North Korea

4. Onion News: Are Violent Video Games Preparing Kids For The Apocalypse?

Grace and Peace

Required reading for science majors

The geoblogosphere (as well as the broader world of science blogs) has a meme going around:

Imagine: YOU are asked to assign a half-dozen-or-so books as required reading for ALL science majors at a college as part of their 4-year degree; NOT technical or text books, but other works, old or new, touching upon the nature of science, philosophy, thought, or methodology in a way that a practicing scientist might gain from. [This is the wording from Highly Allochthonous, but there are many other blogs which are doing the same]

Here’s my list of a book collection that would be beneficial for an undergraduate in any science major. I have included a couple books by Christian authors, as these would help both Christian and non-Christian students to have a fuller understanding of the relationship between science and faith than they would get from reading Dawkins or Sagan.

  • Geology: The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. This is not only a polemic against young-Earth creationism, but an excellent introduction to the science of geology, with sections on the historical development, philosophy, and major subdivisions of the science.
  • Environment: Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. Christianity is not the enemy of the environment, but Christians sometimes are. Schaeffer saw clearly that we are in a massive ecological crisis, and pointed to a Christian world view as the solution rather than the source of the problem.
  • Biology: The Creation by E.O. Wilson. The author is a skeptic, but recognizes the need to have religious people involved in the fight to preserve biodiversity, which is the theme of the book. This book opened my eyes to the wonder of Genesis 1:20-25, where the waters, skies, and land swarmed with swarms of living creatures, and it was good. We now live in an impoverished world.
  • Physics: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. This physics professor was able to explain foundational physics topics like no other.
  • Chemistry: Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs by Joe Schwarcz (or another book by him; this is the one I’ve read). This book is proof that even chemists can have fun and a sense of humor.
  • Philosophy of Science: What is This Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. Every science undergraduate should read a philosophy of science book, and this one is a good overview of the various philosophies of science, such as those of Popper, Kuhn, and others. My one critique: like most other philosophers of science, Chalmers focuses on the experimental sciences. Geology doesn’t operate by all of the same rules as do chemistry and physics.
  • Plus anything by Stephen Jay Gould, just to read some really good science writing.

Grace and Peace

Reading — February 2009

Here are a couple books I finished in February:

  • The Bible, Rocks, and Time, by Young and Stearley. This is the best book I’ve read on the relationship between geology and Christian faith. It is much more than a Biblical and scientific polemic against young-Earth creationism, though that is certainly a big part of the book.
  • Living the Cross Centered Life, by C. J. Mahaney. I had a post with a few quotes from this book a couple weeks ago.

Here are some additional books I’ve been working on this month:

  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. The first sentence of this indictment of Evangelical thinking reads, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Ouch.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. What would happen to Earth if we humans suddenly all disappeared?
  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson.

Grace and Peace

Wasteful spending on volcano monitoring?

I did not watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address, but the geoblogosphere is abuzz about something Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal had in his Republican Party response:

But Democratic leaders in Congress — they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. [This includes] $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.” Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

That was a rather clueless statement. Has he never heard of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, or other major Cascade Range volcanoes, each of which is capable of killing hundreds or thousands of people, and causing hundreds of millions or multiple billions of dollars of damage? Or the threat of volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to aviation? Or the even greater, though more remote, threat of giant calderas such as Long Valley in California, or Yellowstone? We can debate about the budget for “volcano monitoring” but to put it in the category of “wasteful spending” as Jindal did is just plain ignorance.

Perhaps we should axe the National Weather Service’s budget for tracking tropical storms. After all, who would ever need to know that a hurricane was about to hit, ummm… Louisiana.

HT: This is in many places in the geoblogosphere. The Volcanism Blog has a list of geobloggers who have commented on this.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Here are two useful articles:

Scientific American: Bobby Jindal and volcano monitoring: What was he talking about?

Fox News: Geologist Erupts at Jindal’s Volcano Question

Volcano monitoring likely saved many lives — and significant money — in the case of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (where the United States had military bases at the time), according to the USGS. The cataclysmic eruption lasted more than 10 hours and sent a cloud of ash as high as 22 miles into the air that grew to more than 300 miles across. The USGS spent less than $1.5 million monitoring the volcano and was able to warn of the impending eruption, which allowed authorities to evacuate residents, as well as aircraft and other equipment from U.S. bases there. The USGS estimates that the efforts saved thousands of lives and prevented property losses of at least $250 million (considered a conservative figure). [emphasis added]