Nov 16 2008

November 2008 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Sea of Faith    Newsletter


Dunedin        November 2008

What gives you a buzz  ?
What gives you a sense of awe, wonder or excitement ?

Once again, we invited everyone present to speak for 2 -3 minutes  –  this time, to share one thing that they responded to with wonder or excitement or awe.   Below,  there’s an example of this, where a world-ranking cosmologist talks of how he is moved by what he knows of all there is beyond planet Earth.  What does it for you may be out there in the cosmos, it may be on this planet, or within yourself, or among or between us humans.  You’ll be quite free to say “Pass”, but we hope you’ll come prepared to share this much of yourself with the rest of us.
Looking ahead:
Your Committee had a meeting recently, and has four things to report:

1. Cup of Tea:
Starting in February, instead of a tea meal at 5.30, there will be a more modest cup of tea/coffee and bought biscuits.   Our finances are good enough at present that we reckon we can provide this within the $3.00 charge for the evening.  That is, everyone is asked for $3.00  and the cup of tea is free!   We will invite people to volunteer to take a turn at serving and washing up.  These arrangements will be reviewed in a few months.
[For anyone who wants more, there is a take-away just across the road.]
2.  Our website:
Ian Fleming has upgraded our website and moved it to a new location:

Have a look for yourself and see how attractive it is. Ian would like to have someone to assist him with this, and to act as backup.
3.  Our Library:
A number of people have made use of these excellent books, but we really need to have a better system, and someone each night who takes responsibility for the books, and the borrowing and returning. In other words, we want someone to volunteer to be our Librarian.
4.  Programme 2009:
We made a start on thinking about next year’s programme, but will not be finalising things until late January.  So if you have an idea for something you would like us to tackle in 2009,  now is the time to tell Geoff, or any other member of the Committee.


I recently came across a column in the “New Scientist” magazine, which I found moving and exciting. It was written by Lawrence Krauss, a leading scientist whose interests and expertise range from particle physics to cosmology.

He was reacting to a comment he had read – what someone had said about the mediaeval concept of the universe:
“ … while we moderns see space as black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place.  The heavens, to them, were a ceiling of moving spheres, rippling with signs and symbols, and moved by the love of God.  ..…  The modern view disenchants the universe …..  and tends to make it all fact and no meaning.”

Krauss disagreed.  He commented that this reflects a popular view that science, by explaining the inner workings of the universe, robs it of the wonder that religion provides – “a viewpoint” he says, “that, frankly, I find offensive.  How anyone can suggest that mediaeval hallucinations might spark the imagination more than the actual universe that we have been so fortunate to uncover, is beyond me”.

He went on to say that the “heavenly actors” populating the spiritual universe were, like many religious myths, the intellectually lazy creations of fundamentally ignorant minds.  We need a far grander kind of imagination to fathom the real universe.
“The night sky isn’t populated with mythical beasts, but with a small slice of the 100 billion or so stars in our small island galaxy, the Milky Way, one of 400 billion galaxies in the observable universe.   Each of the stars, while not alive in an anthropomorphic sense, houses an exotic world of action at a searing 10 million degrees, releasing the energy equivalent to a thousand billion hydrogen bombs going off every second  –  a wonder work of nature’s creation.

“The light from the stars of other galaxies takes billions of years to reach us.  A Hubble Space Telescope photograph, in which every speck of light represents not a star, but an entire galaxy, with each galaxy containing billions of stars, surely spurs the imagination more than any fable.  Around some of these stars there may be planets that once housed life.  I say once, because the stars that produced the light in Hubble’s images are probably long gone.  We are literally watching the history of the universe unfold before our eyes.
In our own galaxy, a star explodes in a brilliant supernova once every hundred years or so, and is briefly as bright as 10 billion suns.  Yet most such explosions are invisible, obscured by dust, so in fact the last exploding star observed from Earth in our galaxy was seen by Kepler in 1604. Yet the universe is so big and old that these events are happening all the time. With a powerful enough telescope, a region of the sky at night the size of a dime held at arms length will reveal more than 100,000 galaxies  –  so many that one may see up to 10 stars explode on a given night.  Over time, 200 million stars have exploded in our galaxy, producing almost all the elements that make up our bodies.  The atoms in our left hand may have come from a different star than those in your right:  we are all star children.”

“If this poetry of nature” he said,  “does not change the way we view our place in the universe, providing not mere facts but new meaning, then we are truly spiritually bereft”.


I don’t often put any old-fashioned theistic theology into this Newsletter but I did enjoy this bit I found recently:   “Sudden prayers make God jump”


Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email:   Don

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