Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin.

Why Darwin?

Pterocnemia pennata (Original description: Rhe...
Pterocnemia pennata (Original description: Rhea darwinii) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stephen Jay Gould

April 4, 1996 Issue

Charles Darwin: Voyaging

by Janet Browne

Knopf, 605 pp., $35.00


Most young men of the time could only fantasize, but Charles Darwin experienced the overt drama of his century’s archetypal episode in the personal story we now call “coming of age”: a five-year voyage of pure adventure (and much science) circumnavigating the globe on H.M.S. Beagle. Returning to England at age twenty-seven, Darwin became a homebody and never again left his native land, not even to cross the English Channel. Nonetheless, his subsequent life included two internal dramas for more intense, far more portentous, and (for anyone who can move beyond the equation of swashbuckling with excitement) far more interesting than anything he had experienced as a world traveler: first, the intellectual drama of discovering both the factuality and mechanism of evolution; and second, the emotional drama of recognizing (and relishing) the revolutionary implications of evolution, while fearing the pain that revelation would impose upon both his immediate family and the surrounding society.

Read the review

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) at age 7. The paint...
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) at age 7. The painting is the earliest picture known, of Charles Darwin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sunday’s Sermon

Bible Book


  Listen to a CBC Interview with the author.

Comments on the book.

Featured on The Brights’ List


Click on cover to purchase.

Brief Reviews of RTB

from Dr. John A. Black:
“Lucid and provocative…Reading the Bible will appeal to both the religious and the secular: the first will be challenged, the second enlightened, by this erudite presentation of a fresh view of ancient tradition.”

READING THE BIBLE: Intention, Text, Interpretation was exactly the text I wanted to bridge the ever-widening gap between the ancient stories and contemporary students. I used the book in a second-year university course which studied the influence of the King James Bible on two 20th-century fiction writers: Howard O’Hagan (Western Canada) and Flannery O’Connor (Southern U.S.). Robert Lane has a unique gift for both interpreting key passages/motifs, and putting them into 21st-century perspective. Virtually every student in the class at some point remarked that this book made it possible to finally understand where much of our modern literature comes from. Lane’s style—a combination of meticulous scholarship and humourous personal anecdote—makes it accessible to all students and does much to correct the woeful ignorance in our society about this critical topic.  I highly recommend this text for any university course, including graduate level, which is concerned with the literary, cultural, and mythological aspects of the Bible.

Reviewed by Richard Arnold, Ph.D., Professor of English, Vancouver Island University

On purpose

Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tim Mulgan

Purpose in the Universe: The moral and metaphysical case for Ananthropocentric Purposivism

Tim Mulgan, Purpose in the Universe: The Moral and Metaphysical Case for Ananthropocentric Purposivism, Oxford University Press, 2015, 435pp., $85.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199646142.

Reviewed by Joshua W. Seachris, University of Notre Dame

In this ground-breaking, far-reaching, and carefully-argued book, Tim Mulgan puts a previously underdeveloped view on a conceptual-dialectical map largely dominated by theism and naturalism. This view he calls “ananthropocentric purposivism” (AP). AP is the view that, contra atheism, the universe has a purpose, but, contra benevolent theism (BT), that purpose is non-human-centered. Put simply, there is a cosmic purpose, but humans are irrelevant to that purpose. Mulgan contends that we live in a religiously ambiguous universe where the available evidence reasonably can be understood in profoundly different ways by humans (hence, the presence of both theistic and atheistic interpretations of the world). He claims that a more careful look at that evidence should prompt us to take AP seriously, and may even tip the scales in favor of AP over both BT and atheism. In Purpose in the Universe he takes this more careful look.

Read the review here!

Sunday’s Sermon

Rescuing Memory: the Humanist Interview with Noam Chomsky

Noam C

the brights



I am not a fan of the name (“the brights”) but I am a fan of the work they do. The material they create for classrooms is excellent and the bulletins they produce are informative and excellent. The most recent bulletin is available online here. Take a look; check them out; contribute if you can! And you can find books (including Bob’s book on the bible) there too! Click on the images below.



Sunday’s Sermon

Typological groups according to the Pew Resear...
Typological groups according to the Pew Research Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Pew Research Center’s steadfast examination of key issues of American politics and science, a rather handy road map to a range of topics is available. In case you missed Pew’s mid-year summary of relevant findings, now might be a good time to ponder the general public’s views on science-related topics, along with the extent to which people’s knowledge about science connects to their views.

While examining patterns underlying perspectives of science itself, the Pew study explores the degree to which political views, educational attainment, religion and demographic factors are connected to science-associated views. Chapters focus on these arenas: 1) climate change and energy; 2) support for government funding; 3) evolution and perceptions of scientific consensus; 4) opinions in the biomedical arena; 5) food and food safety; 6) use of animals in research; and 7) space program issues.

Results show increased alignment between ideological orientation and political party leanings.

English: Conflict Resolution in Human Evolution
English: Conflict Resolution in Human Evolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a handful of science topics, religion comes to the fore. For example, religious differences play a role in beliefs about whether human evolution occurred through natural processes, and perceptions of scientific consensus related to evolution or the creation of the universe), but its role is not central in people’s beliefs about a range of other science topics (e.g., excepting some in the realm of biomedical issues).