Century Marks

Century Marks

Self-understanding

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll says he will never accept funds from the Templeton Foun­da­tion because the organization blurs the line between science and religion and suggests that they are two different paths to the same ultimate truth. In a rebuttal, Connor Wood calls Sean Carroll’s view “a very nice textbook example of science chauvinism” that overlooks the variety of science projects Templeton funds, from the roots of human compassion to the fundamental nature of time. Templeton also funds research that helps us better understand religion itself. “Religion is the structure upon which culture rests,” says Wood. “If we fail to understand religion, we fail to understand ourselves” (Patheos, May 17).

Sufi comeback

Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is having a major comeback in war-torn Somalia since al-Shabab, an armed militant Islamic group, was pushed out of Somalia’s capital in August 2011. The Sunni insurgents had banned Sufis from gathering and worshiping. Sufis are known for spreading Islam across Somalia through peaceful teaching and for practicing tolerance toward other faiths. Al-Shabab, a group of al-Qaeda-linked militants that seeks to instill an ultraconservative brand of Islam across Somalia, controlled Moga­dishu from roughly 2007 to 2011. The group still dom­inates most of south central Somalia (AP).

Free at last

Erskine Johnson, an African American who changed his name to Ndume Olatushani, spent 28 years in maximum-security prisons for a murder he didn’t commit. He never even set foot in Tennessee, where the murder took place. His life in prison hit rock bottom after learning that his mother and a niece were killed in an automobile accident. He then taught himself to paint and he painted images and scenes he imagined outside his prison walls—mostly of women and children, often with gentle faces. Asked if he’s bitter about the years spent in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, he says: “I let go of anger a long time ago. In letting go of anger, I freed myself” (Nashville Arts Magazine, May).

Christian science?

A group of paleontologists capped off a conference by visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky. The museum’s mission is to “bring the pages of the Bible to life.” Some of the paleontologists present were Christians who were more saddened by what they saw than humored. “I think it’s very bad science and even worse theology—and the theology is far more offensive to me,” said Lisa Park, a Presbyterian who teaches at the University of Akron. She was particularly saddened by one exhibit that blamed wars, famine and natural disasters on belief in evolution. Daryl Domning, professor at Howard University said: “This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it’s just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science” (AFP).

Fuel up

Leaders at the Pentagon are not among those who deny the reality of global warming. They’re working on strategies to respond the effects of climate change. They are also trying to reduce depen­dence on fossil fuels through the use of alternative energy. The Defense Depart­ment consumes 90 percent of fuel used by the federal government, at a cost of $16 billion in 2008. No wonder the Pen­ta­gon is ex­perimenting with fighter jets fueled by a combination of jet fuel, cooking grease and algae (Orion, May/June).