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Dave Pruett
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Dave Pruett, a former NASA researcher, is an acclaimed computational scientist and emeritus professor of mathematics at James Madison University (JMU). "Reason & Wonder," his “love letter to the cosmos,” emerged from an award-winning science-religion honors course taught at JMU between 1999 and 2011.

Entries by Dave Pruett

When Faith and Facts Collide

(338) Comments | Posted August 24, 2014 | 9:41 PM

"... if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming ... You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe than man controls something he can't create." -- Rush Limbaugh

2014-08-23-nasa_sandy_satellite.jpg
NASA satellite image of Superstorm Sandy

Conflict...

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Watergate: American Democracy's Finest Hour

(0) Comments | Posted August 8, 2014 | 4:05 PM

"Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." -- Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert

When was NASA's finest hour? Most would say, "The Apollo moon landing."

As a bit of an insider, I have a different take. NASA's finest hour, hands down, was the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.

Two and one-third...

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Occupy the Tea Party

(1) Comments | Posted August 1, 2014 | 12:41 PM

At first blush, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street appear as bookends: opposing grass-roots movements on the political right and left, respectively. At second blush, the Tea Party seems the more successful. In the 2010 mid-term elections, one-third of Tea Party-backed candidates won, reclaiming the House for Republicans. And...

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Soft Landing or Crash and Burn? The Choice Is Ours

(0) Comments | Posted June 24, 2014 | 6:22 PM

Not until 1804 did the Earth's human population first exceed one billion. Between 1804 and 2014, a 210-year period spanning just three consecutive human lifetimes, population skyrocketed: to 2 billion in 1927, 4 billion in 1974, and 7 billion at the end of 2011. What spurred such explosive growth?

It's...

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When Is the Science Settled?

(20) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 3:22 PM

"Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy...." (Internal 1969 document of Brown & Williamson, a tobacco company, outlining...
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Tenure: Education's Friend or Foe?

(4) Comments | Posted June 14, 2014 | 5:35 PM

Having just completed a three-part series titled "An Educator's Lament" on the symptoms, causes and stakes of the demise of American education, I was planning to retire the keyboard for a few days. Then the news broke on Vergara v. California. Alas, I feel...

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An Educator's Lament: Part III -- Stakes of Our Educational Demise

(1) Comments | Posted June 13, 2014 | 10:06 AM

"You have to be confused before you can reach a new level of understanding anything." -- D. Herschbach (Harvard University chemist and Nobel laureate)

In the summer of 2007, I attended "Boot Camp for Profs" in Leadville, Colorado. For an entire week, a maverick team of educators from multiple disciplines...

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An Educator's Lament: Part II -- Causes of Our Educational Demise

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 12:27 PM

"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." -- Wm. Butler Yeats

In the previous two posts -- In Defense of Light and Magic and An Educator's Lament: Part I -- I argued that education is 1) the guardian of...

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An Educator's Lament: Part I -- Symptoms of Our Educational Demise

(3) Comments | Posted June 3, 2014 | 9:36 AM

"A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives." --...

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In Defense of Light and Magic

(0) Comments | Posted May 23, 2014 | 8:52 PM

Following an engineering degree and a stint in the Air Force, I taught high-school mathematics for three years, before eventually becoming a university mathematics professor. Why the change of direction, and why math? Nearly four decades after that sudden tack, a young woman came to my office requesting a letter...

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America by the Numbers: Part II

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2014 | 2:41 PM

"Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches." -- James Madison

In a previous post, we revisited Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic "Beyond Vietnam" speech of April 4, 1967. King, confronting head-on America's "triple evils" of racism, economic injustice and militarism, challenged America...

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America by the Numbers: Part I

(0) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 10:58 AM

"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -- Matthew 6:21

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. made public his opposition to the Vietnam War, articulated in his iconic "Beyond Vietnam" speech.

Presented at Riverside Church...

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A Constant Bullying

(1) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 10:40 AM

"Forfeit your sense of awe and the world becomes a market place." -- Rabbi Abraham Heschel

"A culture is a people enacting a story," wrote Daniel Quinn in Ishmael. So Americans, what's our collective story? Pose this question to virtually anyone and you're likely to get a blank stare in...

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Keystone XL: An Environmental Triple Whammy

(7) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 2:12 PM

"This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." -- Chief Seattle, 1854

On January 31, the Department of...

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When Empire Turns on Itself

(4) Comments | Posted January 24, 2014 | 8:35 PM

The tipping point of the 2012 presidential election may have been the unauthorized release of Mitt Romney's "47 percent" speech. Preaching to a closed and select group of the well-heeled, Romney complained that 47 percent of Americans "are dependent upon government," "believe that they are victims," "believe that government has...

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Human Beings or Human Doings?

(0) Comments | Posted December 20, 2013 | 1:11 PM

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
--from Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day"

Years ago, I ran across a cartoon with the caption "The Mayfly Graduation." Mayflies, if you aren't an entomologist (and I'm not), belong to the insect order...

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Is the Pope an Occupier?

(40) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 12:01 PM

Pope Francis' recent encyclical is sending shock waves around the world. In addition to exhortations to the faithful, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel") packs a scathing critique of "unbridled" capitalism and consumerism.

Here's the flavor of the Pope's message:

Just as the commandment 'Thou...
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Sticks, Stones and Histones

(2) Comments | Posted December 4, 2013 | 5:46 PM

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

There is considerable cultural wisdom embedded within idioms, fables and nursery rhymes. Consider "The early bird gets the worm," "The Tortoise and the Hare," and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Which makes the "sticks and stones" adage...

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The Beginning of Wisdom

(17) Comments | Posted November 14, 2013 | 4:40 PM

"Awe is the beginning of wisdom." -- Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Years ago, a friend confessed that she was not at all religious. Then, in the next moment, she described her reaction upon first beholding Monument Valley, whose stark, unearthly beauty provoked her spontaneous tears. My friend, although not conventionally "religious,"...

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Cosmogenesis and Consciousness

(31) Comments | Posted October 15, 2013 | 3:23 PM

"The labor of seaweed as it concentrates in its tissues the substances scattered ... throughout the vast layers of the ocean; the industry of the bees as they make honey from the juices broadcast in so many flowers -- these are but pale images of the ceaseless working-over that all...
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