…. the enterprise of knowledge is consistent surely with science; it should be with religion, and it is essential for the welfare of the human species.”
– Carl Sagan
In “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search For God” Sagan covers his thoughts on the relationship between religion and science and describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos.
“Many Americans doubt the morality of atheists. According to a 2007 Gallup poll,1a majority of Americans say that they would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist as president, meaning a nonbeliever would have a harder time getting elected than a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew. Many would go further and agree with conservative commentator Laura Schlessinger that morality requires a belief in God—otherwise, all we have is our selfish desires. In The Ten Commandments,2 she approvingly quotes Dostoyevsky: “Where there is no God, all is permitted.” The opposing view, held by a small minority of secularists, such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, is that belief in God makes us worse. As Hitchens puts it, “Religion poisons everything.”3
When Hellish Nell claimed to have channeled spirits of the dead (who gave away wartime secrets), she was charged under Witchcraft Act of 1735 (and was in 1944 the last person so convicted) for being the agency through which spirits of deceased persons communicated with living persons.The book “The Strange Case of Hellish Nell: the story of Helen Duncan and the witch trial of World War II” by Nina Shandler traces the story from start to finish, including why the Public Prosecutor tried her as a witch and not a spy, Churchill’s demand to know what was behind the obsolete tom foolery of the Witchcraft Act of 1735 being used in a modern court of justice, through the appeal to the Supreme Court where the Lord Chief Justice delivered the punch line (9 months in prison was in no way excessive).You can’t make stuff like this up! This book is a fascinating read – one that gives pause and brings to mind why old laws of “no possible use” should be taken off the books least they be used in unreasonable ways by minions of the state.
I worked in a specialty bookstore once… while escaping reality and as a prelude to switching careers…. Siliconnections in Vancouver, an interesting experience to say the least. Now I’m reading this; I know, I know, irrational at best, but oh what a dream…
But then with my personal library at 4,000+ titles (and rising) I probably would rip the good stuff out of potential customers hands and not let them go…. <sigh>
I’m slowly getting my library posted to GoodReads – You can follow the links and get access to many others that have written more extensively than me (most of them have ranked the book much higher than I)
I probably have about 40% of my library posted to GoodReads. When I get the bulk of it up, I will be adding reviews – but in the meantime you can find a few entries here: View all my reviews.
from the cover: “…. Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us — with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets — that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom.Wolf shows that there are ten classic steps dictators or would-be dictators always take when they wish to close down an open society. Each of those ten steps is now underway in the United States Today.”
From the cover: “Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has relentlessly invoked the word “freedom.” Al-Qaeda attacted us because “they hate our freedoms.” The United States can strike preemptively because “freedom is on the march.” Social Security should be privatized in order to protect individual freedoms.In Whose Freedom?, Lakoff surveys the political landscape and offers an essential map of the Republican battle that seeks to capture the hearts and minds of Americans — and shows how progressives can fight to reinvigorate this most beloved of American political ideas.”
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows an edge-on view of the spiral galaxy NGC 5023. Due to its orientation we cannot appreciate its spiral arms, but we can admire the elegant profile of its disk. The galaxy lies over 30 million light-years away from us.
NGC 5023 is part of the M51 group of galaxies. The brightest galaxy in this group is Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, which has been captured by Hubble many times. NGC 5023 is less fond of the limelight and seems rather unsociable in comparison — it is relatively isolated from the other galaxies in the group.
Astronomers are particularly interested in the vertical structure of disks like these. By analyzing the structure above and below the central plane of the galaxy they can make progress in understanding galaxy evolution. Astronomers are able to analyze the distribution of different types of stars within the galaxy and their properties, in particular how well evolved they are on the Hertzsprung–Russell Diagram — a scatter graph of stars that shows their evolution.
NGC 5023 is one of six edge-on spiral galaxies observed as part of a study using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. They study this vertical distribution and find a trend which suggests that heating of the disc plays an important role in producing the stars seen away from the plane of the galaxy.
In fact, NGC 5023 is pretty popular when it comes to astronomers, despite its unsociable behavior. The galaxy is also one of 14 disk galaxies that are part of the GHOSTS survey — a survey which uses Hubble data to study galaxy halos, outer disks and star clusters. It is the largest study to date of star populations in the outskirts of disk galaxies.
The incredible sharp sight of Hubble has allowed scientist to count more than 30,000 individual bright stars in this image. This is only a small fraction of the several billion stars that this galaxy contains, but the others are too faint to detect individually even with Hubble.
European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/NASA Read More