That’s So Second Millennium
Episode 094 - Maureen Condic (rerun, full interview)

Episode 094 - Maureen Condic (rerun, full interview)

February 10, 2020

This week, events have forced another "greatest hits" episode, and so we bring you for your convenience the entire Maureen Condic interview from the June 2019 Society of Catholic Scientists meeting in a one hour and forty-five minute extravaganza. The following are Bill's liner notes from the first run episodes.

  1. University of Utah’s information page for Dr. Maureen Condic. She is an Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, with an adjunct appointment in Pediatrics. Her research focuses on the role of stem cells in development and regeneration. She has taught human embryology in the University’s Medical School for 20 years.
  2. See Dr. Condic’s biographical summary in the list of speakers at the Society of Catholic Scientists 2019 conference titled, “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” At the conference, this embryologist and specialist in developmental neurobiology delivered the St. Albert Award Lecture: “Human Beings are Defined by Organization.”
  3. Dr. Condic is the 2019 recipient of the St. Albert Award, named for Saint Albert the Great, the Catholic Church’s patron saint of natural scientists. The award is given annually to a Catholic scientist whose life and work give witness to the harmony that exists between the vocation of scientist and the life of faith. See more details about the award, including its previous recipients.
  4. Dr. Condic’s previous awards include the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award, created in 1973 and presented by the March of Dimes to support a young scientist’s promising new research. The March of Dimes was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, initially to fight polio. Today, the foundation focuses on health problems in babies, especially premature birth, birth defects, and low birth weight. Find context for the program of research support here.
  5. Dr. Condic also has been the recipient of a Scholar Award for research from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience.
  6. In 2018, she was appointed to the National Science Board. The NSB establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation and serves as advisor to Congress and the President.
  7. She is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is dedicated to promoting the Catholic Church’s consistent life ethic and supporting research in bioethics and moral theology.
  8. When confronted with alternative views and occasionally accused of being “brainwashed” with a pro-life stance, Dr. Condic says one must ask, what view actually makes more sense of the world? A quote from the episode: “What vision of the world actually accounts for most of the data? In my experience, it’s a Christian vision of the world, and particularly a Catholic vision of the world, that very much endorses precisely the kind of questioning mind that promotes scientific investigation….”
  9. Another key thought from the episode: The information generated in scientific disciplines is so huge, it forces many scientists to make their own fields of specialized inquiry “narrower and narrower.” Also, “they have no time” to give deep consideration to many big questions about life, the world, and the origin of the universe. “Particularly in biology, there’s such an intoxication with success.” Individuals who are indeed brilliant and making remarkable progress for people may become confident that they can answer all the important questions.
  10. Starting at about the 22-minute mark in this episode, Dr. Condic tells the story of an event that changed her life and produced her commitment to public advocacy and public education.“ She saw a need to combat ignorance or oversimplification about scientific advancements and to be “an advocate for patients and knowledge and factual information.”
  11. Dr. Condic also provides a valuable, clear update on parts of the debate about disease treatments using embryonic stem cells as opposed to adult stem cells, with research on the latter having resulted in a huge number of clinical trials and prospects for various treatments. A major new phase of the research has moved on to the use of induced pluripotent stem cells, which do not raise the same ethical issues as embryonic cells.
  12. In presenting the St. Albert Award during the Society of Catholic Scientists conference, president Stephen Barr, Ph.D., pointed out Dr. Condic’s “courageous public defense, on scientific and philosophical grounds, on the human status of human embryos.”
  13. Our discussion of totipotent, pluripotent, and plenipotent stem cells helped to clarify a complex subject of great importance to many people, such as those who suffer from diseases awaiting therapies capturing the power of these cells. Dr. Maureen Condic, as a pioneer in this field, contributed insights in 2013 by developing the concept of plenipotent cells. See her journal article.
  14. Our discussion also led to a sense of wonderment about the ability of cells to follow such complex paths of development, starting with the organism created when sperm and egg combine. The product and the process can easily be dismissed as a simple mass of cells, or one can recall Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In this episode, we discussed how it seems viscerally sad that the amazement, which is itself so full of potential, can be lost in everyday discussions of human life.
  15. Related to this, Dr. Condic pointed out that there is an unfortunate lack of philosophical education among many scientists. Here is a blog post from Scientific American discussing synergies between science and philosophy—synergies which are at the core of this podcast’s mission.
  16. We discussed the relevance of the philosophical concepts of form and substance. Here’s a web page explaining those concepts.
  17. This book, written by Dr. Condic and her brother sounds like it is a rare and valuable synthesis of philosophical and biological insights about life: Human Embryos, Human Beings. She noted in our episode that such an extended, on-point synthesis is rare for various reasons, including the need to clarify vocabulary used on both sides of the dialogue, avoiding the risk that we will talk past each other.
  18. She has written another book, this one examining the biological and philosophical issues around human twinning, Untangling Twinning. It is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2019. For now, a computer search using this title yielded, as one of the first finds, a copy of a news release written by TSSM podcast co-host Bill Schmitt and posted at classicaltheism.com.
  19. The conversation involving Dr. Condic, Dr. Giesting and Schmitt turned to the complexities of the nation’s debate about abortion. That debate engages a mix of biological facts (which may or may not be probed in the full context of updated knowledge), personal experiences, and deeply held principles, positions, and emotions including authentic sympathy for the circumstances in which pregnant women find themselves. Although providing scientific insights is a crucial advancement of the debate because people deserve to have comprehensive information, the laying out of certain biological facts alone will not necessarily change minds, Condic said.
  20. In many cases, much of the public presentation of the abortion controversy dividing people is manufactured, but there is room for honest discussion on particular grounds. We each can play a part in adding to human understandings in this controversy. People evolve their judgments on the wide scope of the debate incrementally over time.
  21. But the search for a full overview is complicated; indeed, Dr. Condic referred to difficulties she and her brother Samuel Condic encountered (different vocabularies, etc.) in compiling their book Human Embryos, Human Beings. The book aims to bring together philosophical and biological insights about human life at its beginning. In short, the abortion debate requires us to spend more time in listening to each other, asking questions, probing the basis of people’s stances, and less time in simply lecturing, she said.
  22. Paul talked about his experience with identical twins in his family. Twinning is a complex arena for understanding “who you are,” raising core questions with biological and philosophical implications. Our discussion around the microphone extended to research on the topics of compaction and chimeras. Condic has written a book that delves into the complexities. Untangling Twinning is scheduled for publication this summer.
  23. There are also biological phenomena complicating an understanding of our human nature in sexual terms. There can be complex factors differentiating between one’s genetic sex and one’s hormonal sex, Condic said. A very small segment of the population has genetically compound sexual identities. Intersex disorders can occur in a variety of ways, although in the vast majority of cases questions of a person’s gender identity are not grounded in physical causes, Condic said. Studies in some areas raise questions within the LGBTQ community itself. Among many, endeavors focusing on a “gay gene” that would undergird a statement that “I was born this way” have been diminished by a view that gender identity is fluid or is driven by non-genetic factors.
Episode 093 - The Great Divorce between Philosophy and Science

Episode 093 - The Great Divorce between Philosophy and Science

January 27, 2020

Bill and Paul are both losing their minds with stress this week, so we're glad to just get the episode out. It takes in a bit of philosophy and Paul manages to use some illustrative points from the history of geometry and geology if that's your thing.

I didn't get her credited in the outro, but Morgan Burkart produced the audio for this episode. Like her style? Let us know in a review and look her up at Ball State University.

Episode 087 - Fr. Robert Spitzer and Intellectual Culture (rerun)

Episode 087 - Fr. Robert Spitzer and Intellectual Culture (rerun)

November 25, 2019

Unfortunately, this week Paul got deathly ill and that prevented us from recording the promised "end of the world" episode. Here instead is a re-edited version of Bill's interview with Fr. Robert Spitzer from August 2018 (originally run as Episode 20). One of our earliest interviews and still, amid all the great guests who have given time to this little podcast, one of the best.

Episode 066 - Maureen Condic, part II

Episode 066 - Maureen Condic, part II

July 1, 2019
  1. Our discussion of totipotent, pluripotent, and plenipotent stem cells helped to clarify a complex subject of great importance to many people, such as those who suffer from diseases awaiting therapies capturing the power of these cells. Dr. Maureen Condic, as a pioneer in this field, contributed insights in 2013 by developing the concept of plenipotent cells. See her journal article.
  2. Our discussion also led to a sense of wonderment about the ability of cells to follow such complex paths of development, starting with the organism created when sperm and egg combine. The product and the process can easily be dismissed as a simple mass of cells, or one can recall Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In this episode, we discussed how it seems viscerally sad that the amazement, which is itself so full of potential, can be lost in everyday discussions of human life.
  3. Related to this, Dr. Condic pointed out that there is an unfortunate lack of philosophical education among many scientists. Here is a blog post from Scientific American discussing synergies between science and philosophy—synergies which are at the core of this podcast’s mission.
  4. We discussed the relevance of the philosophical concepts of form and substance. Here’s a web page explaining those concepts.
  5. This book, written by Dr. Condic and her brother sounds like it is a rare and valuable synthesis of philosophical and biological insights about life: Human Embryos, Human Beings. She noted in our episode that such an extended, on-point synthesis is rare for various reasons, including the need to clarify vocabulary used on both sides of the dialogue, avoiding the risk that we will talk past each other.
  6. She has written another book, this one examining the biological and philosophical issues around human twinning, Untangling Twinning. It is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2019. For now, a computer search using this title yielded, as one of the first finds, a copy of a news release written by TSSM podcast co-host Bill Schmitt and posted at classicaltheism.com.
Episode 054 - TSSM Season 2

Episode 054 - TSSM Season 2

April 8, 2019

In this episode we roll out a new format for Season 2.

We recap Season 1 (April 2018 - March 2019) and the three focus areas of the podcast so far:

  • Discussion of the fundamentals of the question whether it's reasonable to believe in both science and the Catholic Christian faith, and some exploration of particular topics, like the role of geology in the interpretation of the book of Genesis.
  • Review and comments on the speakers at the Society of Catholic Scientists Conference 2018.
  • Interviews with scientists and scholars living out their Christian faith, many of whom are actively trying to spread the truth that the presumed conflict between science and religion is false, born from shoddy understandings, strawman arguments, and reactions against hypocrisy. Three of these people (Patricia Bellm, Chris Baglow, and Jay Martin) do this work at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

We then go on to discuss our plans for coming episodes, turning to topics of religion, spirituality, and psychology (including topics like child development and addiction) where the intersection of faith and science allows us to build new solutions or give tremendous new life to old solutions to the problems of human life.

Episode 050 - Craig Lent: decoherence, entropy, and faith

Episode 050 - Craig Lent: decoherence, entropy, and faith

March 11, 2019

0:00 - Three issues: entropy, decoherence, Schrodinger vs. Dirac equations

2:30 - Schrodinger uses a non-relativistic Hamiltonian, with a p^2/2m kinetic energy

3:00 - Dirac equation absorbs special relativity by shifting from scalar to spinor field

4:00 - Quantum field theory as a further extension, accommodating fields that include many particles

5:00 - Field Lagrangian and all the particles and interactions in the Standard Model

6:00 - Even "everyday" gravity is in some sense accommodatable in the theory, just not extreme gravity capable of "separating out the vacuum"

8:00 - Decoherence, not to be confused with the measurement problem

9:00 - Decoherence arising from the interaction of a simple system with other systems

10:00 - Reduced density matrix begins to look classical

11:00 - Zurek and the work on decoherence: states that are "chosen" to survive interaction with the environment

11:30 - Measurement problem not solved by this work

12:30 - Entropy: the proposal that entropy is most fundamentally lack of information

progress from the special case of thermodynamic entropy, to statistical mechanics,

to von Neumann's quantum definition, to Shannon's information theory

21:00 - Craig's career: why is an engineer so interested in the fundamentals of physics?

24:00 - Journey of faith

30:30 - People of Praise in Indianapolis

31:20 - Final thoughts

Episode 049 - Craig Lent: physics and humanity

Episode 049 - Craig Lent: physics and humanity

March 4, 2019

0:00 - Introduction

1:00 - The power of physicalism/reductionism: a tremendously powerful method

2:00 - Course on physicalism and Catholicism; Sean Carroll's least hysterical "poetic naturalism"

3:00 - The lack of evidence for "emergence" in the sense of "downward causation"

3:30 - Soft and hard emergence

10:15 - Materialism vs. physicalism and reductionism: philosophical materialism

13:00 - Are human beings exhausted by this account of reality?

14:00 - The break with the mechanical universe of 19th century physics underappreciated

15:00 - Laplace's demon

16:30 - Thermodynamics

17:30 - Future not contained in the present

19:00 - Einstein & hidden variables

20:00 - Bell inequality experiments

24:00 - Entanglement

26:00 - Human experience: both, as physical, but also as having choices

27:00 - Quantum physics on many body systems

28:00 - The hard problem of consciousness

29:00 - The explanatory gap

31:00 - The tendency to explain the brain as "just like" some recent piece of technology

33:00 - Complexity of neurons, the continuing relevance of physical laws amid the complexity

35:00 - Continuing relevance of quantum effects at the level of neurotransmitter molecules, etc.

36:00 - Quantum effects in weather and rock mechanics

Episode 041 - TSSM in 2019

Episode 041 - TSSM in 2019

January 7, 2019

Themes we'd like to grapple with in the Year of Our Lord, 2019, and beyond:

 

Last year was largely about the intellectual challenge leveled by many against religion, and we will continue talking about that as the podcast moves forward.

Paul's mission this year to work through Road to Reality

This year we also want to broaden the scope to include places where religion and faith converge, which means we're going to discuss psychology.

Looking forward to the SCS conference topic for this coming year: what it is, and has been, to be human. Neuroscience and what it implies for anthropology, and where it meets Catholic Christian anthropology coming the other way.

What is consciousness, anyway? What parts of the brain seem to be involved, and what do they do?

What is free will, anyway? Where are those breakpoints where the soul would have to affect the body in order for that to even work?

Crisis points in the way people in the post-Christian West approach the world.

Center for Ethics & Culture annual conference in 2018: Wilfred McClay & John Waters

"we care about everything, but without God... we have responsibility for everything, but we know that we are flawed and unable to provide solutions"

Post-Christian in this context includes both people who have explicitly renounced the Christian faith of the West and those who have a Christian identity in their back pocket somewhere but in reality are not relying on Jesus Christ or his teachings to guide their lives in any conscious way.

Christianity is a demanding religion. If you suck away all the grace and help it promises, but leave some of its demands for social justice or purity of intention, you have a recipe for constant internal condemnation.

 

Link:

CEC video

Wilfred McClay (University of Oklahoma) on “Guilt in the Immanent Frame”, and John Waters on “The Importance of Not Being God: A Higher Power Is Indispensable for Human Beings and Human Societies”

 

No, not THAT John Waters.

Episode 034 - Stephen Barr on Why to Be a Religious (and Catholic) Scientist

Episode 034 - Stephen Barr on Why to Be a Religious (and Catholic) Scientist

November 19, 2018

~0:00 Question: advice for students
1:00 Don't be afraid to be a religious scientist
2:00 Particular issues
3:00 Keep awake to the wonder of the world
4:00 Bill: ignorance of the common man about both science and religion
5:00 Modern Physics and Ancient Faith
6:00 Christopher Baglow: science and faith textbook
7:00 Church beginning (at long last?) to address the need to catechize & educate about this
Phone ringing can't be excised without gutting Bill's question!
8:00 Media's portrayal of religion as boring and science as exciting
9:00 Science explores the world as it is, but there must be issues beyond: "why" issues
10:00 Intellectual freedom necessary for science to make any sense
11:00 No reason for Catholics to fear science uncovering fatal problems for faith
12:00 20th century overturn of 19th century mechanistic, unfree universe
13:00 Advent of the big bang theory, verification through microwave radiation
14:00 Bill: "free will on steroids" in uneasy coexistence with materialism
15:00 Barr: inherent conflict there
16:00 Pernicious recurring feature of intellectual history: excuses not to be free
17:00 Bill: does faith make one a better scientist?
18:00 Wonder: "ears to hear and eyes to see"
19:00 Summation: join Society of Catholic Scientists!
20:00 Sign off

Episode 033 - Stephen Barr on Lemaitre-Hubble Law and the Society of Catholic Scientists

Episode 033 - Stephen Barr on Lemaitre-Hubble Law and the Society of Catholic Scientists

November 12, 2018

Minute Comment

0:00 Paul introduces

1:00 Bill: Lemaitre announcement

2:00 Lemaitre: faith & science not opposed

3:00 Barr: Lemaitre announcement

4:00 Ignorance of Lemaitre

5:00 Ignorance of the Christian, Catholic origin of science & famous Catholic scientists

6:00 Barr: late 19th century critical period for the forging of the myth of Church as anti-science

7:00 Science only professionalized in the late 19th century, looking for influence

8:00 More famous Catholic scientists

9:00 Mission of the Society of Catholic Scientists; religious people looking askance at scientists, 10:00 Scientists timid about showing their faith in the presence of a few loud atheists

11:00 Catholic scientists joining SCS & finding others like themselves

12:00 Witness to the world

13:00 Conferences, past and future: next June at Notre Dame

14:00 2017: origin of universe, life; 2018: mind and matter

15:00 2019 conference: what is it (and has it been) to be human; speakers from outside the faith

16:00 Past non-Catholic conference speakers

17:00 Peter Koellner's talk at 2018 conference

18:00 Koellner and Godel's theorem

19:00 Neaderthals, language, reason

20:00 Godel's beliefs about mind and mathematical truths

21:00 Mathematical truth and religious truth

22:00 Depth & sophistication of the law that governs the universe

 

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