Can we encourage students to be more enthusiastic about learning history? I think so, and so does Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. Gates has sponsored The Big History Project. -A free on line course for high school students, where Mr. Gates appears in the opening syllabus video, endorsing the course's unique way of blending science and history to give students the big picture.
Here is a link to Harvard University Psychology Professor Steven Pinker's now "infamous" essay in the New Republic titled "Science Is Not Your Enemy." "Geeze, who in their right mind would think that science is their enemy?" Memo to self, "Write an essay some day called "The Christian faith is not your enemy."
That Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins are disappointed that religion hasn't gone the way of the dinosaur perhaps speaks to the fact that religion provides something of great importance to human beings, an importance that is beyond their grasp. Science provides the cold hard facts of life. Religion provides meaning. Even Dr. Krauss agreed that we make the meaning in our lives. Why can't that meaning come from religion?
This week we celebrate Darwin's birthday and the publishing of the "Great Book" as it is known in biology, On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. But in the United States, there continue to be assaults on the ability of education to keep out erroneous questioning of evolution at the middle and high school levels.
An article published in Scientific American this week demystified a commonly held colloquialism -- Rachel and Ross knew it, Monica and Chandler certainly knew it: men and women can't be "just Friends." Nomenclature aside, men carry certain chromosomal differences from women. It's why our balls drop and our voices get deeper. It's not why we get to be douchebags and blame Darwin for our douchebaggery.
A friend's kid said to me the other day: "I'm a Darwinist...I don't believe in God." Okay, I thought, hold on there kid. Darwin wasn't a prophet who started an "-ism," and Science isn't a faith. We need to get rid of some of the category confusion that has crept into current debates and percolated down to secular kids. It can be tempting to respond to the sheer idiocy of American Creationists like Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA,) who recently described evolution and the Big Bang as "lies straight from the pit of Hell" by broadly rejecting religion. But these are not either-or categories and it is startling that they should have become so.
It's easier, more effective, and cheaper to let healthy bodies fight off disease and infections than to weaken those defence mechanisms and then compensate for them medically. If we want a stable health system, we must put more resources into reducing pollution and environmental degradation and creating a way of life that keeps bodies and minds happy and in good health.
While the world celebrates the discovery of the Higgs boson, these scientists are hard at work on one of the most profound mysteries left: Why, and how, did humans become conscious? Until we can figure out what consciousness physically is, there won't be any consensus on what function it serves, or indeed whether it serves any function at all.