What I’ve Been Reading Online



Electromagnetic spectrum: image from Wikipedia

Electromagnetic spectrum: image from Wikipedia – I found it great to learn more about it in the course I’ve been taking on Astronomy.

  • This month I’m taking a course in Astronomy through Open Universities Australia’s free Open2Study short courses. The course is a four-week introductory overview of the science of astronomy, major breakthroughs (including, refreshingly, frequent acknowledgement of women’s contributions to science) and some mind-blowing, awe-inspiring discussions about our wonderful universe. The course is presented by a radio astronomy researcher and lecturer from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

As I’ve mentioned previously, though I have a lifelong love of science, for many years my particular social circumstances meant that my only exposure to scientific progress was heavily mediated by the selected reporting and interpreting of the creationist community. There were lots of reasons for this and as I’m completely disinterested in engaging in any debate (it’s just too dualistic and feels unnecessarily divisive and other people are far better at it than I), taking courses like this one has helped bring me up-to-date with current scientific understandings of the origin, expansion and development of the universe. One thing I’ve found particularly helpful in the Astronomy course is the clear explanation of what, exactly, are scientific theories (they’re not just vague hypotheses) and I have formed a far more accurate understanding of the process of the scientific method as it pertains to astronomy.

The course makes me think of Franciscan priest Fr Richard Rohr’s comment (which from memory I think was in this particular lecture) that scientists are far better than most religious folks at being humble before their incomplete understanding of the universe – where fundamentalism wants the black-and-white truth and wants it right now, science is able to take its time and explore the possibilities.


Scenes from this year’s reading pile: Evolution versus Creation


On the evolution side: Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism edited by Petto and Godfrey.

On the Young Earth Creationist side: In Six Days edited by Ashton.

Not pictured: Intelligent Design by Dembski (I owned a copy that I read years ago, but it was the victim of a recent possession decluttering rampage).

Not represented: the myriad religious interpretations of the origin and development of life, including a whole lot of very diverse Christian approaches.


I will definitely and clearly state upfront that I am being an intentional fence sitter and won’t be proposing any personal beliefs on the One True And Correct Narrative On The Way The Universe Came Into Being. I have my own views, but I just can’t be bothered going down that fruitless and negative route attempting to explain it in a calm and reasonable fashion, offending just about everyone I know in the process. Some days I wish I could just say, well, maybe the Poetic Edda of the Ancient Norse peoples and their modern counterparts is the only true explanation of the universe, so in light of Ymir and his cow Auðumbla, who formed Búri while licking the ice, let’s stop all our bickering.

But as a bit of a challenge to myself I decided I would have some geeky fun and read some diametrically opposed books. Both are collections of essays written by highly educated scientists. Both are heavily referenced and ask some very interesting questions about life, the universe and everything. Both point the finger at the other to show how wrong the other side it. It really is fascinating. The Petto & Godfrey book is an excellent text, very thorough and accurate in its understanding of Creationist perspectives. The Ashton book is an interesting text that explores how scientists try to make sense of their field of research while rejecting materialist philosophy.

Because I know and care about people with strong feelings about the topic on both sides of this fence (not to mention a whole lot of in-between perspectives) I will avoid (for now) making any discussion of where my understanding lies. It’s a discussion I find is best had face-to-face. I long ago learned that social media doesn’t always provide the kindest environment in which to explore these concerns.


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