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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

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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God and Not God

(22) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 5:58 PM

"All that can be said of God is not God." -- St. Catherine of Siena

I once skated perilously close to the edge of religious fundamentalism. It almost killed me. Literally, not figuratively. The year I turned 30, the thought of taking my life never left me. Fundamentalism, I've realized...

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The Myth of Exponential Growth

(76) Comments | Posted October 3, 2013 | 4:54 PM

In the last post, I came out of the closet. I'm an Occupier. For most of the past two years of my affiliation with Occupy Harrisonburg (#OHB), I've participated in its small but vibrant Economics Working Group (EWG). I've never before had any interest in economics, nor have...

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Why I Occupy

(61) Comments | Posted September 18, 2013 | 2:01 PM

A confession. This retired academic mathematician and author has been hanging out with the unwashed hippies, anarchists, and "economic terrorists" of Occupy Harrisonburg (VA).

In truth, the sandals-on-the-ground experience is a lot different than you'd gather from the mainstream's jaundiced portrayal of Occupy. In our semi-rural...

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Darwin's Greatest Gift

(61) Comments | Posted July 12, 2013 | 5:51 PM

"I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable." -- Charles Darwin in a letter to Robert Hooker, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

I recently received from the Discovery Institute the pre-print...

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Science vs. Pseudoscience

(295) Comments | Posted June 10, 2013 | 3:16 PM

"Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but [humans need] both." -- Fritjof Capra

A conflict between "science" and "pseudoscience" is now playing out on the national stage, including in the Huffington Post. The conversation is long overdue. I speak of the recent flap surrounding two...

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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 9): Conclusion

(111) Comments | Posted April 4, 2013 | 11:59 AM

"There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the stuff of the universe is spirit-matter. No other substance but this could produce the human molecule." -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Before Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) earned renown as a titan of philosophy, he was an amateur astronomer, and a damn...

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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 8): Materialism

(101) Comments | Posted March 29, 2013 | 7:39 PM

"If 'dead' matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering [humans], it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he [or she] speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful, powers." -- Loren Eiseley in The Immense Journey

In...

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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 7): Reductionism

(20) Comments | Posted March 19, 2013 | 7:27 PM

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

When Descartes partitioned the world into the res extensa (material objects) and the res cogitans (mind), he treated the two domains quite differently. In chapter VI of Meditations...

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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 6): Realism

(15) Comments | Posted March 12, 2013 | 4:35 PM

"The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose." -- J.B.S. Haldane

In the previous post, we discussed a fiendishly clever gedanken experiment posed in 1935 by Einstein and co-workers and designed to expose presumed flaws in quantum mechanics (QM). When...

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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 5): Locality

(26) Comments | Posted February 22, 2013 | 4:00 PM

In three previous posts we've discussed assumptions that science once embraced, later to discard as invalid or unnecessary. Thus far we've dispatched with absolute time and space (Part 2), determinism (Part 3), and dualism (Part 4). Today we examine the principle of local causes.

...
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Science's Sacred Cows (Part 4): Dualism

(61) Comments | Posted February 6, 2013 | 1:18 PM

"The very act of observing alters the thing being observed."
--Werner Heisenberg

Since Jan. 2's post, we've been discussing assumptions that science initially embraced either explicitly or tacitly, later to abandon them as invalid or unnecessary. In the last post we rang the death knell...

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