Brother Astronomer: A book interweaving science and religion

How can someone be a scientist and a Jesuit Brother?  Brother (and Dr.) Guy Consolmagno explains how is Brother Astronomer:  Adventures of a Vatican Scientist.  My co-worker lent this to me before I went to Rome for the 2010 European Planetary Science Conference.  Both he and several of my co-workers know Consolmagno, and going to the home of the Vatican while listening to amazing science all week was a great gift!  I started reading the book on the way there, and it provided the perfect travel/ book combination.

 

"Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist"

 

While I have never understand the conflict between having a strong faith and believing in science, it certainly is a hot topic.  I work in the science field and live in the Silicon Valley, and many in particularly intellectual crowds dismiss huge portions of religious folks, with all religious folks being cast as “fundamentalists”.

Consolmagno delves into the subtleties of these issues, instead of broad generalizations about religious zealots OR the atheist scientist.  If one is very fundamentalist in their belief of religion or science, that person may not be swayed by this book (but who knows?!)  I do think this is a great book that articulates a few key points:

  • Science is often like faith in God:  it can be misconstrued and made a zealot religion, but it can also be a gateway to service
  • Science is a way to uncover the mysteries of God’s creations
  • Brother Guy is a person like anyone else!  He has some comical tales of field science, and is human in his frustrations and (comical) interpersonal relations

Overall, the book reads very well and I would recommend it to those who have a foot in both science and religion, but have never stood in them with unified belief.  The book really integrates the two, and reveals both how science is done and a bit of the religious lifestyle as well.  It does include some fun science gathered from meteorites, which lovers of science will enjoy.  The ending is slightly abrupt… but it leaves the reader wanting to hear what of “adventures” this Vatican astronomer has had.

Atlas Shrugged (and a bit of Office Space)

I finally finished reading Ayn Rand‘s beloved (or loathed) masterpiece Atlas Shrugged. I began reading the book with a bit of skepticism (for some it is the Bible, and I tend to be on the cynical side for novels with so grandiose a significance placed on them), and it took me more than a while to get into it; the first 300 pages took many months because I just was not engaged with the story, nor more importantly, the characters. But I stuck it out, and in the end found the book to be very conversation worthy. I do not agree with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism philosophy in whole, but her work did get me asking many good questions about my life, my work, and my choices and their related motivations.

In a wide world of conversation topics centered around Atlas Shrugged, I focus this entry on a particular thought:

To whom do you relate to in the novel, Atlas Shrugged?

Before I read the end, I related to Eddie Willers…. The hard working, honest, behind-the-shadows guy who definitely wanted more (his desire) and was not necessarily content with things but was satisfied with how he carried out his life–with integrity. The book begins and ends with Eddie Willers prominently featured, and his is perhaps one of the most heart wrenching (even if unclear) endings in the book. It’s been said he is the “common man”, but not in a derogatory way. Rather, he is both too able and too moral to be a hero, a villian, or simply a tool.

While a more noble self-relation might be to Dagny Taggart, I realized there is Eddie Willers-esque pop culture icon: The lead character in Office Space.

Of course I’m talking about pre-gangsta Peter Gibbons. The company could be seen as the type of society that America evolves into in Atlas Shrugged, and Peter has no good way to evolve… so he gets creative. He does evolve into some kind of Ragnar Danneskjold, but starts off very much the Eddie Willers.

So who knows… maybe there are more exciting things in store for Eddie Willers 🙂

Book Review: “A Whole New Mind” gives a Whole New Outlook

Daniel H. Pinks A Whole New Mind

Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind is like a how-to manual for living a new life using parts of your brain probably not entirely valued right now.  The subtitle, Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, not so subtly gets to his point about why we, as highly capable thinking human beings, need to stop living in the Knowledge Worker Age and prepare ourselves for the Conceptual Age.

The main highlight for me in this book is that it is chock-full of specific ways to put to practice the concepts shared in this book.  It’s almost like learning to use your right brain is a hobby and here are the fun steps for how to improve at it.  Pink gives suggestions like go to a laughing club (you’ll be amazed when you read about these), walk a labyrinth, learn design, eavesdrop without looking at the conversers and guess what they look like, and more.

Pink provides very thorough references for you fact checkers, including many academic references along the lines of economics and psychology.  To top it all off, Pink is just plain… funny.  I actually found myself LOL-ing as I read it.  It’s also the first time in a long while where I can’t stop talking about the book I’m reading to everyone, and want all my friends to read it.  However, I must keep my current copy because it’s like a new reference book for life.  It got me thinking on so many fronts, from career paths, spirituality, the singularity, and art

I highly recommend Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind and would love to discuss it with anyone.