Posts from May 2017

Star Wars' 40th Anniversary

May 25th, 2017

Star Wars is 40 years old today. The special edition came out in January 1997, just over 20 years ago. So the special edition is now older than the original was when the special edition was released. Greedo shooting first and Han stepping on Jabba’s tail have been with us for the majority of Star Wars’ history.

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford in _Star Wars_

Appallingly, there is still no convenient, accessible way for modern audiences to watch the original version of the film. As nerds and fantasy fans around the world celebrate the anniversary of one of cinema’s most important franchises, most of them won’t even be able to do so by watching the movie that came out on that day.

Mayim Bialik on science and religion

May 9th, 2017

Actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik recently recorded a video in which she defends her religious beliefs and their apparent inconsistency with her work as a scientist:

It sounds like Ms. Bialik thinks atheists don’t “have a tremendious sense of gratitude and humility for our place in the natural and scientific world.” She asks, “Do you ever get that feeling like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we exist’?” I do, and it instills in me a profoundly humbling sense of awe. But of course it would be wrong to think that’s evidence for the divine. In fact that’s such a common error that there is a specific name for it.

She goes on to name all of the ways she benefits from her religious beliefs (among others, she’s “inspired by the notion of a responsibility to a universe that is governed by something bigger than me”), and of course that’s a personal value judgment that is completely valid and which no one can discount. But that has nothing to do with the scientific question of whether those beliefs are true, so in that sense, I think she fails to reconcile her belief in religion with her practice as a scientist. Yes, religion and science are compatible “in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind.” That’s a testament to the power of compartmentalization, and has little to do with the ability of religion’s emprical claims to withstand scientific scrutiny.

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