Rowing Upstream: On Being Catholic in the Modern World

Many years ago I was attending my first faculty reception at my first formal faculty appointment, at Stanford, and was met at the receiving line by the sponsoring dean with a warm handshake and the baffling words, "I want to tell you that I have the greatest admiration for your Church." The two of us [...]

The Scientist Pope of the “Dark Ages”

Professional historians have long known that the "Dark Ages" -- roughly, the period between 500 to 1000 -- was not a time of ignorance or superstition, but involved a range of scientific, economic, and cultural advances. For that reason, it's always nice to see a work of popular history set the record straight, as Nancy [...]

Christmas nonsense from a funny man

I'm a Ricky Gervais fan… a big Ricky Gervais fan. The original BBC version of The Office was the funniest thing I've ever seen, and there were moments in his follow up series, Extras, that were equally hilarious. I've also enjoyed his stand-up comedy -- rare for me -- as well as his frenetic and [...]

Humans are made to be social

Scientists have studied the movement on five pairs of twins in utero and determined that by the 14th week of gestation, the fetuses aim movements at each other. Science magazine reports on the research: By the 14 th week of gestation, the fetuses began reaching toward their partners, and just 4 weeks later, they spent [...]

Was Plato a secret Pythagorean?

How did I miss this? Jay Kennedy, an historian and philosopher of science at the University of Manchester, claims to have made an unusual discovery in the works of Plato. In short, he argues that the philosopher was a closet Pythagorean, and that he left numerous textual clues to that effect. [Kennedy] used a computer [...]

The Memory of Faces

I've always been a sucker for those online IQ tests that ask you a bunch of fun, mostly visual/spacial questions, and then proclaim you a genius. (I've never enjoyed real IQ tests, though; they're much more grudging in their endorsements.) This "Face Memory Test" from the "Science and Nature" portion of the BBC's website has [...]

Kagan and the Politics of Science

There's been a lot of talk in the last week about Elena Kagan's role in influencing partial-birth abortion legislation during the Clinton administration by rewriting a crucial passage of a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on the necessity of such a procedure. (Shannen Coffin has an excellent summary of the [...]

How acupuncture relieves pain

Science reports that a new study on mice shows that acupuncture activates pain-suppressing receptors. This is no surprise to the millions of people around the world who use acupuncture, but it's always interesting when science discovers how things actually work. Researchers have developed two hypotheses for how acupuncture relieves pain. One holds that the needle [...]

Fooling you for your own good.

One of the great black boxes in medicine is the placebo effect -- we know that it works, but we don't know why. The fact is, if you give a large enough set of people a phony medical treatment for some disease they share, a percentage will experience some degree of genuine recovery.  And that [...]

Shroud Skeptics Bump against Science

On Good Friday, I received this e-mail from a reader in France: Your article about the shroud of Turin makes me almost hysteric, I was almost dying of laughter. Thank you for this high piece of burlesque.Nowadays, everyone and his dog knows that the shroud was created in 1347, simply in applying the shroud about [...]

Why Catholics Like Einstein

Science is mankind's great success story since the Renaissance. Only the most obdurate Luddite can regret the computer chip, the Hubble telescope, and the heart bypass. But these material triumphs have come at a philosophical cost. The scientific method has been so successful in its own sphere that many intelligent people think it the only [...]

How to Talk to Democrats About Abortion: Five Strategies for Making the Pro-Life Case

In the 1970s, when about 40 percent of Democratic congressmen were pro-life, the party had a seemingly insurmountable hold on the House of Representatives. Now, less than 15 percent are pro-life, and they're in an ever-shrinking House minority. Meanwhile, the big Democratic success stories from 2004 were the new representatives in Iowa, Missouri, and Michigan, [...]

The Pope and the Prophet

Finally, a leader has spoken about the real, essential differences in the struggle between the West and Islam, as it emanates from a contest within Islam itself over the most important things. With startling -- indeed alarming -- clarity, Pope Benedict XVI told his audience in Regensburg, Germany, in a 2006 lecture, that not only [...]

The Failure of Darwinism to Explain Morality

"As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman’s arguments; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out." G.K. Chesterton In the struggle to survive, the fit win, and so it is also [...]

Stanley L. Jaki

The first impression really was the lasting one in my instance with the Rev. Stanley L. Jaki (1924-2009). More than 20 years later, I vividly see him sitting me down on the porch of a house in Princeton and telling me that religious freedom was the most important teaching of Vatican II and that, in [...]

Reflections on a Year of Science

  Science is a wonderful hobby, but a dangerous god. This year -- the occasion of commemorative scientific events, hoped-for scientific breakthroughs, and major changes in political scientific policy -- is a good year to remember this truth.   To label science a mere "hobby," though, may require some defense. There are those who find [...]

The Biblical Basis of Western Science

Science may be a refined form of common sense, but at times all-too refined. Some basic laws of science can, of course, be fully rendered in commonsense terms. One gives the full truth of the three laws of thermodynamics by saying that, first, you cannot win; second, you cannot break even; third, you cannot even [...]

Galileo, Science, and the Smirking Chimp

Not long ago, someone at a Web site called "The Smirking Chimp" saw an episode of my EWTN series "The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization" (based on my book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization) and took me to task for my comments about Galileo. According to the Chimpster, my argument was: "Galileo had [...]

Truth and Apologetics

Subjectivism, deconstructionism, postmodernism, multiculturalism—there is a blight on scholarly research today, cast by the epistemic “isms.” No field is safe. Even in physics, the “isms” are attempting to spin every idea as nothing more than one person's opinion or the accidental product of historical evolution. Physicist Alan Sobel exposed this effort when he sent a [...]

Why Condoms Will Never Stop AIDS In Africa

Every ten seconds, a man, woman, or child in Africa dies from an AIDS-related disease. According to the USAIDS/World Health Organization (WHO), 40.3 million people now live with HIV infections, two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In Swaziland, 42.6 percent of pregnant women test positive for HIV. There's no cure for this killer, and no [...]