Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guest Post: David Mckay Barker, author of Science and Religion: Reconciling the Conflicts

Today author David Mckay Barker is on the blog talking about a topic discussed in his newest book, Science and Religion: Reconciling the Conflicts

In an age of severe contrast between the Bible and science, how are Christians to view the subject of science? How can we remain open-minded without letting unbiblical scientific theories influence our beliefs?

The severe contrast between the Bible and science has been a subject of intense interest to me for over 40 years. While a young guy it dawned on me that things I’d been taught in Sunday School as truth (like Noah’s flood) were not supported by popular geologic theory, or history as taught in public schools. Even though I’d had several history classes in high school and college, not one mention was made of the Flood. This and other concerns led me to a passionate and long-lived spare-time study of Bible chronology, Egyptian chronology, and science. This, in turn, has led me to some intriguing and promising possibilities for reconciling the conflicts between science and religion.

Let me share with you some of my favorite quotes (sung to the tune of “these are a few of my favorite things”). This one is from John A. Widtsoe, a scientist and religious leader (now deceased): “The Church holds that the methods used by science to discover truth are legitimate.” But he also cautioned: “In this wholehearted acceptance of science, the Church makes, as must every sane thinker, two reservations: [1] The facts which are the building blocks of science must be honestly and accurately observed. . . . [2] There must be a distinct segregation of facts and inferences in the utterances of scientific men. Readers of science should always keep this difference in mind. Even well-established inferences should not lose their inferential label.” Clear back in 1954 he wrote: “The failure to differentiate between facts and inferences is the most grievous and the most common sin of scientists.” One would think that the problem had improved since the, but it seems to have gotten worse.

In my opinion, far too many people attribute their loss of faith to “scientific enlightenment.” They seem to think that anything labeled “scientific” means tested and proven, not realizing that science not only includes facts, but also highly speculative guesswork (although scientists prefer other descriptions). After all, what is a hypothesis? And, what constitutes “proof”? “People in general have no notion of the sort and amount of evidence often needed to prove the simplest matter of fact.” (Peter Mere Latham). “When, indeed, is a thing proven? Only when an individual has accumulated in his own consciousness enough observations, impressions, reasonings and feelings to satisfy him personally that it is so. The same evidence which convinces one expert may leave another completely unsatisfied.” (Professor Nibley).

Another favorite quote: “What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer)

As I’ve studied the subject over the years, I’ve found that far too much science is presented as though totally unbiased fact. Yes, facts and observations are involved, and theories are postulated to try to explain or make sense of those facts and observations, but science includes untestable suppositions—many of which have nearly achieved a “consensus” status among main-stream scientists. Furthermore, an atheistic view of science seems to have gained such a stronghold as to exclude science recognizing God’s hand in it from most of the collegiate and peer-reviewed papers.

One of the really big conflicts between popular science and Bible belief is the timing of events in Earth's history. I’ve found some works of scientists who have posed some important challenges to scientific dating techniques. These suggest that much of the contradictory information is based on assumption and surmise, not factual data only.

So, in short, my answer to the questions you posed “How are Christians to view the subject of science?” and “How can we remain open-minded without letting unbiblical scientific theories influence our beliefs?” can be summed up with: I don’t think we can, or should be, totally open-minded or unbiased—we, as converted Christians have received some knowledge from a source which science not only doesn’t generally recognize, but which its adherents often ridicule. We can learn from science though, and often find beautiful truths. We can enjoy those truths and strive to discern what parts of science really are truths and what parts are merely inferences or theories.

We can take comfort in the understanding that the revelations God has shared with us on any given subject are much more likely to stand the test of time—although we don’t always adequately understand those revelations. We should strive to maintain humility in our quest for truth and be open-minded enough to recognize that we don’t have all of the answers to all of the questions on all of the subjects. For instance, how much has He given us about the Creation? (There are only 55 versus in the Bible describing the Creation). It has been said that: “In that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.”

Thanks, David! Be sure to check out Science and Religion: Reconciling the Conflicts on Goodreads and Amazon. Find out more about David on his website.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Published: July 8th, 2013 (Flux)
Pages: 331
Rating: 4/5
Source: NetGalley

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them in human form. Longing hovers around the shy, adoring boy at school. Courage materializes beside her dying friend. Fury and Resentment visit her abusive home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, except beautiful Fear, who sometimes torments her and other times plays her compassionate savior. He’s obsessed with finding the answer to one question: What happened to Elizabeth to make her this way?

They both sense that the key to Elizabeth’s condition is somehow connected to the paintings of her dreams, which show visions of death and grief that raise more questions than answers. But as a shadowy menace begins to stalk her, Elizabeth’s very survival depends on discovering the truth about herself. When it matters most, she may not be able to rely on Fear to save her. (Description from Goodreads)

I heard about this book through the lovely Gabrielle Carolina of Mod Podge Bookshelf, and promoted it a couple times this past year. If you know me at all, you know I don’t really go for the paranormal/supernatural stuff these days, but I decided to take a chance with Some Quiet Place. And I really liked the cover. Ok, that was probably the main reason I wanted to read the book. But have you read the summary (above)?! Hellooo! I fell in love with the idea of the MC having the ability to physically interact with abstract emotions (gosh, I sound like such an art major…I’m totally not an art major). This book seemed dark and intriguing and vague all at the same time, and I had to find out what it was all about.

Just a heads up, I read this several months ago, when it was first released, so correct me if I get any plot details mixed up. My first impression of this book was that the plot was somewhat slow. I felt like it was taking a while for it to get anywhere. This may have been a result of something else: it was difficult (at times) to connect with Elizabeth, as she’s void of emotions. I mean…all I have to say is kudos to Kelsey for taking on the task of developing a character who can’t feel emotions. Bravo! You are brave stuff, Ms. Sutton. Connecting with Elizabeth wasn’t such a huge problem that I had to stop reading or anything like that, but it was a little irksome in the beginning.

Let me just stop right now and say that this book, this book right here, would make a FANTASTIC movie. I would go see it on opening night, which is saying a lot, because I’m not really an opening night-type girl. Hollywood has a tendency to either ace or botch paranormal movies, but as long as they did it right, Some Quiet Place could be incredible on screen. It’s beautifully written and hauntingly dark, and I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized that this is Kelsey’s debut novel. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, debut. As in, first. As in, she’s never published before. Let me have your writing talent, please and thank you.

So if you’re like me and aren’t normally drawn to this genre, please please please give Some Quiet Place a chance. I think that any book that deals skillfully in the topics of human emotions will hold many parallels to how we naturally react, and the same is true for Some Quiet Place. There’s also a bit of beautiful symbolism written in, which is something I always enjoy.  It’s an unforgettable debut, one that will intrigue you yet trouble you in the eerie little corners of your mind.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Post + Review: Beauty's Daughter by Carolyn Meyer

*I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because cool kids don't steal things.*
Today the lovely Carolyn Meyer is with us, talking about her newest book, Beauty's Daughter. I'm excited to hear what she has to say about it!

Writing the story of Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy, was a huge intellectual challenge. All of my earlier historical novels are based on actual people, and I had learned that the further back I went in history, the scarcer the material I had to draw on. Cleopatra, for example, was really tough to research. Whatever possessed me to tackle characters who existed only in myths going back thousands of years?
Well, I thought it was a good story--actually many stories, not just Hermione’s--and I believed I could make the lives and characters exciting and involving to young readers of today. But first I had to learn as much as possible about Bronze Age Greece.
I started with Homer's Iliad, composed around 800 BC, where I found most of the main characters of the story I wanted to tell—except Hermione. She doesn’t even appear in the Iliad. In fact, there isn't much about Hermione anywhere, just occasional mentions in other myths. I had to track down those occasional mentions from a number of sources. For that I relied on The Greek Myths, a scholarly work that brings together all the elements of every myth—800 pages! For the realistic details that bring a story to life--the palaces Hermione would have lived in, the clothes she might have worn, the food she'd have eaten--I drew on several books and many internet sites. The search for the little details (what kind of sails were on the ships? what kind of sandals did the messenger wear?) continued as I worked on characters and plot, right down to the final draft.
Most of the characters appear in other myths and plays, but some are my invention, created to deepen the story and to move it along. Zethus, Paris’s servant, is the first to appear. Later, Ardeste, Hermione’s maid, comes into the story, and several others.
 The plot is my own, woven from threads drawn from several myths. In the first part of BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER Helen tells her daughter, Hermione, about her own mother’s encounter with a swan--actually Zeus in disguise--that resulted in Helen’s “birth” from an egg. She describes the circumstances of her marriage to Menelaus, Hermione’s father. Helen’s sister Clytemnestra comes to visit, along with her three daughters, her son Orestes, and her husband, Menelaus’s brother Agamemnon. Then Prince Paris arrives in Greece from Troy, and the stage is set for the beginning of the Trojan War. Achilles and Hector appear, the gods swoop down from Mount Olympus to interfere.
Meanwhile, I try to figure out how to keep them all straight—particularly when the names are unfamiliar, hard to pronounce, and vary from myth to myth—make the reader believe in what’s happening and care how it all turns out, and bring all the mayhem to a satisfying conclusion. 

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review*
Published: October 8th, 2013 (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Pages: 352
Rating: 2/5 (DNF- did not finish)
Source: From the author
Hermione knows her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim their enchanting queen, the Greek army sails for Troy. Hermione stows away in one of the thousand ships in the fleet and witnesses the start of the legendary Trojan War.
In the rough Greek encampment outside the walls of Troy, Hermione’s life is far from that of a pampered princess. Meanwhile, her mother basks in luxury in the royal palace inside the city. Hermione desperately wishes for the gods and goddesses to intervene and end the brutal war—and to bring her love. Will she end up with the handsome archer Orestes, or the formidable Pyrrhus, leader of a tribe of fierce warriors? And will she ever forgive her mother for bringing such chaos to her life and the lives of so many others? (Description from Goodreads)
I’ve read many of Carolyn’s books in the past, and enjoyed her historical fiction when I was younger. She writes brilliant, entertaining books that can also be very educational. However, Beauty’s Daughter just didn’t do it for me. As much as I wanted to like it, I couldn’t seem to get through it. I felt like there was a lot of backstory information at the beginning, which was, and normally is, necessary. Especially in historical novels. However, it seemed to weigh the story down and get in the way of character/plot development. Also, I felt like Hermione’s character was a bit dry. Not overwhelmingly so, but enough to bother me a little.
 Another thing is that the subtitle of the book tells us that it’s “The story of Hermione and Helen of Troy,” but at times it seems to be solely about Hermione. I was hoping for a bit more about Helen, but as the book is titled “Beauty’s Daughter,” I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to be focused on anyone but Hermione.
I honestly wanted to enjoy this book so much, yet it just fell short for me. It failed to grab my attention at the beginning, and though I kept reading, I still had to force myself to continue even after 50+ pages. However, I enjoy Carolyn’s writing on other time frames in history, especially on the princesses and queens of Europe. Despite my disappointment in this book, I hope to see more of her work on these time periods in the future.