Monday, November 30, 2015

ASA Adds 3 Women Fellows

The American Scientific Affiliation added three new women to the ASA Fellow ranks in 2015: Gladys Kober, Kathryn Applegate, and Robin Pals-Rylaarsdam. This raised the number of women Fellows to 22 (out of 172 total Fellows, putting females at 13%).

Gladys Kober
Gladys Kober is an astronomy data analyst with NASA and recently led an effort to develop a new high school textbook on astronomy for a Christian audience. Gladys is an adjunct professor of astronomy at Towson University. She was raised in a Christian home in Brazil and has a M. A. in Astrophysics from Brazil. She worked for 2 years in Rio's planetarium.

Kathryn Applegate

Kathryn Applegate is a biologist. She earned bachelor’s degrees in biophysics and mathematics at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she co-wrote an undergraduate biophysics textbook still used in Centenary’s biophysics program. Kathryn received her Ph.D. in computational cell biology from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, in 2010. There she developed computer vision algorithms to measure the remodeling activity of the cell’s internal scaffold, the cytoskeleton. In addition, she developed mathematical models of cytoskeleton dynamics to investigate how its activity at the molecular level contributes to higher-order processes such as cell migration. Kathryn leads the Evolution and Christian Faith grants program for BioLogos.
Robin Pals-Rylaarsdam
Robin Pals-Rylaarsdam is a biology professor and Department Chair at Benedictine University, and formerly a book review editor for the ASA Journal PSCF. Robin was a Research Associate at Northwestern University/Children's Memorial Hospital (1999-2000).

Other CWIS news: As of November 21, 2015, Christian Women in Science, an affiliate of the ASA, has 275 members.  Of those, 166 are Student Basic or Student members, and 90 are Regular members. If you are a women working in any branch of science or scientific discipline, please consider joining ASA and CWIS.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Digging deeper into the Bible

If you wonder how best to understand the Bible, you will want to know more about Biblical Anthropology.

Here is an excerpt from an article about that scientific approach to the Bible. There are links that will take you deeper into the subject at the end of the article.

Alice C. Linsley

Biblical anthropology seeks to understand antecedents and explores the beliefs of Abraham's cattle-herding Nilo-Saharan ancestors. Until we better understand their beliefs and religious practices we will continue to impose incorrect or inadequate interpretations on the Bible.
David Noel Freedman has said: “The Hebrew Bible is the one artifact from antiquity that not only maintained its integrity but continues to have a vital, powerful effect thousands of years later.” Both anthropologists and archaeologists turn to the Bible for clues and data. Very often this has led to wonderful discoveries!

The material in the Bible clearly has been divinely superintended through thousands of years. It contains material older than the first civilizations of the ancient Near East. The king lists of Genesis 4 and 5 are an example. Anthropological analysis of the kinship pattern of these ruler-priest lines has shown them to be authentic. The kinship pattern is unique and does not appear to change throughout the Bible. The evidence of this distinctive marriage and ascendancy could not have been written back into the texts at a later date. It is the thread that weaves through the Bible, like a scarlet cord, from beginning to end. 

Further, understanding this marriage and ascendancy pattern is essential for a biblical understanding of Jesus, the Son of God, as the fulfillment of Messianic expectation. He is a descendant of the earliest named rulers to whom the Creator made a promise concerned the divine Seed (Gen. 3:15). Jesus referred to Himself as the promised "Seed" when He foretold his death in Jerusalem. He said, "Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot give life." (John 12:24)

Jesus' ancestors were the "mighty men of old" and great kingdom builders who dispersed widely in the archaic world. They were a ruler caste (clans that practiced endogamy) who spread along the mountain chains (high places) of Southern Europe and the Hindu Kush. They likely controlled commerce through the Pamir Junction. These were aggressive kingdom builders who regarded themselves as divinely appointed to disperse and subdue the earth. Later rulers, such as Alexander the Great and Constantine I, held this idea as well.

Read it all at Just Genesis.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Are Women More Sensitive to Bias?

Alice C. Linsley

It is popularly assumed that women are sensitive to social cues and nuance. People speak of "women's intuition" and indeed there is evidence that the female brain is hardwired to pick up on seemingly inconsequential data that men often miss.

This study of same-sex and heterosexual couples revealed that women and men were equally sensitive to interpersonal relations, but "mixed-sex dyads were more sensitive than same-sex dyads." This suggests that the natural gender relationship of male-female partners does involve greater sensitivity on the part of the female partner.

Feminists would have us believe that this is due to "the subordinate status of women in Western society."  Feminist scholarship, writes Jane D. Schaberg in her Biblical Views column for the November/December issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, aims to turn the old, male-dominated understanding of the Bible on its head and thereby reveal new insights into the lives of often-marginalized women in the ancient world.

Feminist readings of the Bible do not necessarily aim for complete objectivity, which Schaberg calls an "impossible ideal," but they show that women largely focus on issues that have been sidelined in biblical studies, like slavery, gender inequality, and sexual abuse. In other words, it appears that women are more sensitive to issues that pertain to injustice.

That said, Feminisim offers an unsatisfying explanation for the subordination of women. The Bible offers a more interesting and satisfying answer. It tells us the the equal dignity of men and women, which was the Creators' intention from the beginning, was lost when humans first experience fear, sin and death. Feminists argue that patriarchy is the result of universal oppression of women, but the Bible says that the woman chose to subordinate herself to the man when she became fearful. The effects of fear on men and women are different, as Harvard psychology professor Carol Gilligan showed in her seminal work In a Different Voice.

Feminists argue that patriarchy is the result of universal and systemic oppression of women. They want to make men the oppressors and ignore the effects of fear on males and females. In the biblical worldview patriarchy is the result of fear (Gen. 3:10) entering the male-female relationship. Because of fear, the woman's desire is for her husband and he "rules" over her. (Gen. 3:16)

As an anthropologist and a Christian, I have pioneered for more than 30 years a new field of science - Biblical Anthropology. Having lived abroad in different cultures and having traveled extensively since I was a young child, I am extremely sensitive to cultural differences and I naturally compare and contrast features of the different cultures I have experienced and studied. I am sensitive to cultural nuances and I explore these in my research. Many of the features I have identified in my work are distinctively African or have an origin in Africa.

It should be noted that both men and women respond positively to my research. The only opposition I have encountered has been from men in the American Scientific Affiliation who ignore anthropologically significant data or filter out the African cultural context of some biblical material. Alan Dicken told me at the ASA conference in Nashville that my research into Abraham's Nilotic ancestors was wrong and without substance. Asked if he had read any of 1800 articles on Biblical Anthropology, he admitted that he had not. Another ASA member Dick Fischer wrote to me: "Every one I know recognizes a Mesopotamian flood. Nobody puts the flood in Africa. Alice, you at least have to recognize the basics before you venture into speculative territory."

All of the men in the American Scientific Affiliation who have written on Genesis place Noah and Abraham in a Mesopotamian context, so the picture of Noah as a Proto-Saharan ruler and Abraham as a Kushite Habiru/Hebrew is bound to trouble them. They have criticized my research, but have not been able to refute it. I am not being overly sensitive to their criticism, but I acknowledge their bias as a fact.

Related Reading: Are Feminists Correct About the Church?; The Paradox of Feminism; Blood and Gender Distinctions; The Question of Patriarchy; The Bible as the Woman's Story; Re-thinking Biblical Equality; Adam According to Mesopotamian Tradition; Adam was a Red ManThe Age of the Earth and Evidence of Human Occupation; Gender Bias in Academic Philosophy

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell in 2009

A Quaker, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-) discussed her religious history and beliefs in an interview with Baroness Joan Bakewell in 2006. Dame Jocelyn has been an active Quaker since her school days at the Mount School in York, a Quaker girls' boarding school.

Bell Burnell was a doctoral student at Cambridge University when she discovered the first pulsars. The rapidly spinning neutron stars are formed in supernova explosions.

Jocelyn’s discovery of radio pulsars was described by Iosif Shklovsky as “the greatest astronomical discovery of the 20th century” and for this discovery, her thesis supervisor  Antony Hewish, and his colleague Martin Ryle were awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. Burnell was completely omitted as a co-recipient, to the outrage of many prominent astronomers at the time. However, Burnell has since received many awards and honors. 

She served as President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the first women president of the Institute of Physics. Bell Burnell was elected as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in October 2014, succeeding Sir John Arbuthnott who said he was "delighted to welcome Dame Jocelyn as my successor" and he added, "Her scientific standing, her public profile and her great breadth of experience will greatly benefit the Royal Society of Edinburgh." 

In March 2013 Dame Jocelyn was elected Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Life-Work Balance

Kristin Zietlow | Kristin is a product development engineer at Disher Dish

My work backpack has a mix of 3D printed parts, baby toys, post-it notes and sketches. It does a good job of summing up my life, which is a gratifying mix of engineering and motherhood. Since becoming a mom, I’ve been faced with a mountain of decisions, all centered on keeping life balanced.Kristin's BackpackMy dad was a surfer. When I was younger, he would take me out on a board in the ocean to that perfect place where the waves rolled in but hadn’t broken yet. He taught me that, although timing a wave was important, having the patience to choose the right wave was the most important choice. It had to be the perfect combination of elements to be right.

That’s what I found through a part-time engineering role at Disher Design. I could tell you about the long journey I took to get here, but would rather focus on the why. The culture allows me to realize my passion of helping others through engineering, and the part-time work hours allows me to focus on motherhood. My manager understands my mission. While I work, my two daughters are taken care of just down the road by my mother-in-law. It is my formula for a perfect wave.

Now, that sounds all dreamy and picture perfect, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

First, finding that perfect wave doesn’t mean you’re a great surfer. It takes work to keep yourself balanced, and I’ve had my share of face plants. See the tips section below; many of these lessons were learned the hard way because I did the opposite.

Secondly, define your own wave. One of my sisters is a full-fledged mother of 5 (not sure if she sleeps, ever), and my other sister started a successful Etsy business (here’s my shameless marketing for her – GREEN DOT DESIGNS) with two little guys at home. My mom worked full-time until her third child was born (she was overcome by my baby cuteness), then switched to part-time. The point is, we all do it differently, but because we all chose a balance that made sense for us, and fits our goals in life, we are happy. Happy wife, happy life. And as my mom says, “If mom’s unhappy, the whole family is unhappy.” Get the picture?

Questions to define your wave formula:

Why do I want to work?

What is my mission in life?

How do I want to spend my time?

What are my financial goals?

How do I want my children to view me?

What outlook do I want my children to have?

How do I want my children taken care of while I’m at work?

Is my manager on board with my goals in life?

What kind of community do I want to be a part of?

20 tips to stay balanced:

1. Set a consistent schedule, and communicate it well, or chaos ensues. Belieeeeve me.
2. Create inspiring goals. “Pay for my children’s education” sounds a lot better than “cover some of our bills.”
3. Be extraordinarily organized. I use One Note obsessively.
4. Prioritize your commitments.
5. Meet your deadlines. This may mean being flexible and working at night when needed.
6. Be exceptional at what you do.
7. Be passionate about what you do, and don’t be a whiner. Even if it isn’t, make it look easy.
8. Keep your manager and husband in the loop. Your workload decisions will affect them both.
9. Mentally scale back from full-time. You can’t fit 40 hours into a 20 hour work week.
10. Wait a day before committing to something new. ‘Yes Man’ is not an inspirational movie for you.
11. Be intentional with your time for work and family. The best show of love is attention.
12. Savor your time with your children and husband. What do you do when you savor food? You focus on the food and eat slowly. Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
13. Be decisive. This goes for the nursery paint color as well as setting the customer meeting time. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” – The Nesting Place.\
14. Schedule downtime for yourself each day. For me, this is reading books like Game of Thrones (dragons are real).
15. Be efficient with your time. Amazon Prime = amazing. Take work calls on the drive to/from work.
16. Avoid the “supermom” mentality. You cannot be the CEO, the full-time incredibly involved mom, the witty house wife that loves to clean, and the super in-shape health queen. Follow your priorities, and let things fall into place.
17. Don’t feel guilty to ask for help at work or at home. My husband does a lot of the grocery runs.
18. Don’t feel guilty about working. Remind yourself of your goals and why you are working.
19. Don’t worry about what others think of you, but instead what your children think of you.
20. Sing Frozen’s “Let it Go” as many times as needed per day to let the little things go.
Although it sometimes feels like I’m on the ragged edge of sanity, I can’t pass up a perfect wave. A big part of my drive to work is to be a role model for my children. Many pivotal decisions I’ve made were greatly influenced by the way I view my mom. I want my kids to grow up thinking they can do anything they want, pave their own paths, and be brave.

Flowing through these questions and tips is an active, constant part of who I am now. It’s a lot of work to stay balanced, but it’s worth it. And I think the company benefits from this, too. I am motivated to work hard for a company that has worked hard to make a part-time position a reality for me.

Good articles and books to peruse:

MAKE TODAY COUNT” by John C. Maxwell
GO WITH THE SLOW It’s true, I read Costco articles. And this one is great.
LIVING WITH INTENT Looking at the difference between intent and purpose.
THE NESTING PLACE “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” An inspiring book to make you decisive.
ROWE INITIATIVE Results-Oriented Work Environment.
PIONEER WOMAN. Just because she’s awesome.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The densest star cluster in our galaxy

Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way

This Hubble Telescope image shows the Arches Cluster, the densest star cluster in the Milky Way. It is located about 25,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is a relatively young star cluster between two and four million years old. The Arches cluster is so dense that in a region with a radius equal to the distance between the Sun and its nearest star there would be over 100,000 stars. At least 150 stars within the cluster are among the brightest ever discovered in the Milky Way.

These stars burn their fuel within a few million years, expiring in supernova explosions. Due to their short lifetime the gas between the stars contains a high amount of heavier elements, the residue of earlier generations of stars.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Geek Mommies of Princeton

Alice C. Linsley

I recently visited my daughter to meet my new grandson, Sebastian (shown below). My daughter lives near Princeton, New Jersey, and is a member of an unusual group.

The Geek Mommies of Princeton has about 40 members and the only criteria for membership is that you be a mother and curious about the world. The young mothers get together monthly to inquire, question, explore, and share their thoughts about child care and how to encourage their children in STEM.

Monthly activities include potlucks, children's book exchanges, afternoon tea at the Buck's County Children's Museum, and science experiments. The children have learned about propulsion, making a volcano, and painting with spices and teas.

There is also a weekly play date with about 5 regular participants.

Mothers also read and discuss science fiction, fantasy, biographies and articles on sustainable living.

This group can serve as a model for other similar groups in which children are nurtured in an environment of inquisitive exploration and play.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Arguing False Choices on Human Origins

Alice C. Linsley

In the following Facebook thread some friends asked excellent questions and I asked their permission to post this at JUST GENESIS. This is the sort of conversation that can help people sort through the issues.

The conversation arose in response to this article about the discovery of trillions of stone artifacts in Africa. The article was posted by a Christian geologist. If humans have been on the earth only 5000-6000 years, they could not have produced the volume of work found at the stone working sites in Africa. At 40 million artifacts per year, it would take a population of 100,000 individuals 100,000 years to produce just 4 trillion artifacts.

  • Can there be a a conversation or a dialectic between the facts that make for one's faith and the narrative of "Genesis" that makes for the faith of "creationists" regarding the age of the earth and the origin of man. Can such a dialogue be possible?  - Sidney Davis

  • Alice Linsley Everything is possible, Sidney, but some conversations are less possible than others. Defining the term "creationist" is where we have to begin. There are different groups: young earth creationism, which is neither scientific nor Biblical; theistic creationism which is very popular with Evangelicals who accept evolutionary theories, some of which have no material support; old earth creationists who believe the Creator initiated creative or generative processes that resulted in humans, and old earth creationists who believe that humans represent a special creation, a sort of crown on the creation pyramid. Some of these are mutually exclusive positions and a dialectic between them is virtually impossible. I find it a waste of time to discuss Genesis with people who believe that the earth is only 6000 years old.

Read it all here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ruth Bancewicz on Her Book: God in the Lab

What is it like to be a person of faith and a scientist? In a video interview the theologian and former biophysicist Alister McGrath commented that we need Christian scientists who are “prepared to enter into the public arena in debate, in comment, and in the writing of books showing how faith enriches their science.”

This blog has been one such attempt to show the positive effect of science on faith, and judging by the comments over the years, it has encouraged a number of people in that direction. On the 15th of this month, Monarch will publish my book God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith, which draws together these themes into a more coherent whole.

God in the Lab comes out of my enjoyment of science, my interest in hearing other scientists’ stories, and my desire to share the experience of working in a lab. It shows how creativity and imagination are vital to the practice of both science and Christianity. It looks at the ways in which beauty, wonder and awe can raise deeper questions about the world, and it gives six working scientists a voice in the science-faith arena.

When I interviewed Harvey McMahon, Ruth Hogg, Jennifer Siggers, Jeff Hardin, Rhoda Hawkins and Bob Sluka, I asked them about their work and beliefs, how the two fit together, and how science enhances their faith. Alongside these conversations, I explored the literature on each topic, in both science and theology. Thankfully, when I married the two sets of material together and showed it to the scientists, they were happy with my portrayal of their life and the way in which I had woven together their comments with my gleanings from the library.

My aim in this project – the blog and book, my talks and other activities over the last three and a half years – was to start some new discussions. I wanted to bring to the fore some areas of human experience that we can all identify with, whatever our religious or educational background. I wanted to show that Christianity is not just complementary to science, but it can also be enhanced by our exploration of the world.

When I started working for Christians in Science back in 2004, I was encouraged by something that Oliver Barclay, former General Secretary of the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, wrote to one of our committee members after a request for help in dealing with certain science-faith issues. He suggested that one of the things we focus on is the wonder of the world that science reveals.

Regardless of our views on Genesis, or even the existence of a God, we can all identify with the sense of awe that hits us when we see something vast, beautiful or complex. The night sky, an ancient forest, microscopic organisms, or an equation – these all affect different people in different ways, but most of us will find something in nature or our exploration of it that is arresting and inspiring.

I deliberately finished God in the Lab with a chapter on awe because it leads most directly to questions of God for some, and worship for others. This is the part of the discussion on science and faith that often affects people most deeply. Some find a bleak world that we must find our way in, enjoying awe and wonder when we can. Others experience spirituality, and many encounter a personal God. My hope is that this book will start discussions that help us to hear each other, find points of common interest, and learn to appreciate the life of a scientist-believer.

Dr Ruth M. Bancewicz
Senior Research Associate
The Faraday Institute
St Edmund's College