Sep 27 2013

Article: Islamic Astronomy in Medieval China

This online article on research conducted by Dr. Benno van Dalen of the Institute for the History of Science at LMU Munich is a few years old, but too fascinating to gloss over.



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Sep 14 2013

Book announcement: Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature

New Book Announcement:

Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature
Edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov, Seth L. Sanders

This new book (August, 2013), emerged from the 2011 conference held at NYU, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Among the contributors to this volume are Jonathan Ben-Dov, Seth L. Sanders, and Annette Yoshiko Reed.  Of special note with respect to astronomy and early Judaism is the article “Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews”, by Mladen Popović.

I’ve ordered my copy, and greatly look forward to reading the book. I’ll be sure to review it here. (N.B. As of October, 2013,  Amazon lists the book as being available on December 15th.)

Sep 12 2013

Event: Vatican Astronomer to speak in Edinburgh

Wish I could be at this lecture by Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ of the Vatican Observatory. If any of my readers attend and feel inspired to describe the event, please feel free to do so here. The lecture takes place at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre, Lauriston Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DJ at 7.30pm on Saturday 14 September.


Sep 12 2013

Astronomy and Belief

Category: Christianity,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 7:39 pm
Vatican Observatory Telescope on the roof of the Ponticial Palace in Castel Gandolfo (Wikimedia Commons)

Vatican Observatory Telescope on the roof of the Ponticial Palace in Castel Gandolfo (Wikimedia Commons)

This online article, an edited version of a talk by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ, is well worth reading. Here, he addresses his encounters with God while observing the heavens.

Sep 10 2013

Tibetan Cosmological Models

Category: Buddhism,Cosmology,Science and Religionalobel @ 6:37 pm


This brief but well-sourced web site may be of some interest to students of astronomy and cosmology in Tibetan Buddhism. The graphics are visually compelling.

Mar 10 2009

News item — Is there anybody out there? (BBC)

Category: Life beyond Earth,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 12:15 pm


Camilla Kesterton, ‘Census Hopeful’, Oil and metal leaf on MDF and wood, 40 x 30cm, 2007
See more at:

On a note related to my posting of March 3rd, here is a recent article on the BBC News site related to one of the Big Questions that touches upon the realms of theology, cosmogony, and astronomy. Among the respondents is Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican observatory.

Mar 03 2009

Cardinal Lajolo Visits University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory

Category: Christianity,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 1:29 pm


Both scientific conceptions of the universe and the views of the Roman Catholic church have, of course, changed immensely since the time of Copernicus. The Church has, in fact, come to take special interest in happenings astronomical. In this article, published by the University of Arizona News, we read of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo’s recent visit to the Steward Observatory to meet with Vatican and UA astronomers. As the article reveals, “the cardinal reports about the Vatican Observatory directly to Pope Benedict XVI.”

On a related note, my thanks to reader Rebecca Kelley for sending along a link to a recent posting to the Uncertain Believer blog. The posting is entitled How Will the Church Respond to Discoveries About the Universe?

[Edited to add: I thought I’d read some rather enlightened comments from the Chief Vatican astronomer Reverend José Gabriel Funes on the question of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and indeed, here is one article in which he discusses the matter, as well as a quote within it exemplifying his views:

“Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom,” he said. [. . .] “Why can’t we speak of a ‘brother extraterrestrial’? It would still be part of creation.”]

Feb 26 2009

News item — Ramadan In Space


Fourteenth century Islamic astrolabe, Whipple Museum

This video item from ABC (Australia), complete with transcript, features Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the first Muslim astronaut to travel into space during Ramadan. This led to the need for Muslim scholars to carefully determine the rules that would apply to prayer in outer space, not to mention the ubiquitous question “Which way is Mecca?”

I was especially interested in the reference to Islam’s “golden age” (circa 8th-16th centuries CE) during which Muslim scientists made various vital contributions to the world in the areas of mathematics and astronomy. This, of course, includes the invention of such devices as the astrolabe, pictured above.

For more information on Dr. Shukor, Wired published an earlier story about his career as an astronaut.

Feb 20 2009

Fantastic Fridays: The Faith of Scientists

Category: Fantastic Fridays,Science and Religionalobel @ 3:50 pm


I’ve always been fascinated about the roles that faith plays — or, as the case may be, does not play — in the lives of great scientists. And now there’s a book out that delves into this very topic. Entitled The Faith of Scientists: In Their Own Words (Ed. Nancy K. Frankenberry), this recent work spans the stated beliefs of luminaries past and present, including Galileo Galilei, J. Kepler, Isaac Newton, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Hawking. You can find more information on the Princeton University Press web site.

Sharing the same title, this series of videos on the interplay between science and religion is definitely worth looking at. In truth, the title should read ‘The Faith of Scientists and Other Thinkers’, but ah, I quibble.

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