Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A flying visit

The last time I got on an airplane was February 2019, when I caught the last flight ahead of an impending ice storm in North Carolina. The airport was eerily empty, most of the flights had been cancelled the night before. The COVID-19 virus was already here, which I’d thought about on the flight from Philly, which included several scientists returning from a trip to China. 

Last Tuesday, I drove to PHL at 5 am to catch a flight to San Jose, then drove 150-ish miles south to my brother’s house. Surprise! I hadn’t told anyone I was coming. My sister was retiring after 21 years at her second career as a high school teacher and I hadn’t seen my sibs in more than 2 years. I thought it would be fun to just show up unannounced at her retirement party. I did and it was. 

My sister-in-law found a bed for me to sleep in (shout out to their amazing AirBnB), one brother flew (himself - he's a pilot) up from SoCal. It was grace and joy from one end to the other.

Over the course of forty-eight hours I shared five meals with (variously) four of my five sibs, three sisters-in-law, one brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew. I ate In-N-Out burger, sushi, Joe's diner (twice), but the real feast was the time with family. 

Now I'm back, settling into the summer writing rhythm. 

I fly home, settling back into myself — Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

But what about Galileo?

The Vatican Observatory foundation has a newly redesigned website. There is an ever growing set of resources on the intersection of science and faith (including a ton on the whole Galileo affair), and NPR did an interview did an interview with Guy Consolmagno SJ about it, which included a description of a drive through the gardens at Castelgandolfo and a shout out to the papal cows. I have enjoyed yogurt from those cows’ milk! I caught the last lines of the interview in the car, fun to unexpectedly hear a friend’s voice coming out of the speakers.

Predictably, NPR’s tweet about the piece attracted a number of people saying, “But what about Galileo?”  Which led me to have an exchange of the following sort:

Troll: Galileo. Therefore the Church has always ignored and denigrated scientists.

Me: Aquinas. No.

Troll: One counterexample is not enough.

Me: (List of five Catholic scientists and mathematicians, mostly women.)

Troll: That’s not enough either.

Me: I recorded a 12 part audio series covering a 1000 years of Catholic science. Mostly the Church is an enthusiastic supporter of science and scientists, Galileo notwithstanding.  

Troll: “A completely unverifiable claim based on conjecture and blind faith in the righteousness of your own position…’


I did wonder what claim he thought was unverifiable. That I’d recorded the series? That you can’t take an inventory of Catholic scientists and see how many have had their science suppressed by the Catholic Church? I don’t merely have a conjecture, I have a spreadsheet of data. Also, an audio series

Want to know more about the Galileo affair? The Observatory has a two part series here.

The Thomas Aquinas quote: “The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule…if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”