I have been reading for at least the second time, maybe the third, Richard Dawkins’ magisterial book about evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth (hereafter Show). Like the other one or two times I have read Dawkins’ book, it was an exhilarating ride. Until I read the appendix, which pertains to how the theory of evolution is, to this day, received in the US and non-Scandinavian Europe. That appendix to Show is a real downer. (I reacted similarly when I first read the book.) It turns out that, even in the supposedly enlightened First World – again, the Scandinavian countries are the blessed exception -- around 80% of respondents accept a theory of evolution that accommodates some kind of supernatural explanation, e.g., God did it all according to a literal reading of Genesis, chapter 1; o
My thanks to Rev. John Heagle for pointing out to me a New York Times link to cosmology, superstring theory, and "relative state" cosmology that led to this column. Fr. Heagle is a one-man instantiation of what the Catholic Church should be, in terms of integrity, spirituality, justice, inquisitiveness ... and just plain indomitable good humor. Being friends with him is like being friends with the late Thomas Merton.
I have been thinking a lot lately about landscapes. Now, by “landscapes” in this context, I do not mean physical landscapes like the ones painted by, e.g., Albert Bierstadt, members of the Hudson River School, or Monet’s haystacks, etc. I mean landscapes that result from the possibility that other Universes, other Kosmoi, may exist other than the one we see around us.
I had been reading about Rudolf Otto’s concept of the numinous and studying his classic The Idea of the Holy for a few decades, and it all made perfect conceptual sense. But on our recent trip to Hawaii in April of this year (2018), Diane and I actually experienced the Holy, the numinous, on a very raw and visceral level. In The Idea of the Holy, Otto, who coined the term “numinous”, describes it with the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Literally translated, that phrase means “the tremble-inducing [tremendum, the same Latin root as “tremor”] and attractive [fascinans, the same Latin root as "fascinating"] mystery [mysterium]”. Despite the title of his book, Otto makes it clear that the Holy is not only, or even primarily, something about which one entertains ideas. Rath