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DC reporting in, #5: The Blumberg Dialogues, pt. 1


Friday, March 20th, 2015

DC reporting in, #5: The Blumberg Dialogues, pt. 1

The last couple of days have been quite busy (as you could see from the last photo I posted, I made it out to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum) (for that’s where the Discovery is these days – H&R were here for a long weekend and we made it out there last Sunday), but as I don’t talk about other people on my blog without their permission, nor post non-public photos of people without those people being A-OK with it, let me now, rather than showing you photos of people eating dinner, talk a little bit about an event that took place yesterday, namely:

The Blumberg DialoguesThe first installment of the Blumberg Dialogues on Astrobiology – “Astrobiology and the Religious Imagination: Notions of Creation, Humanity, Selfhood, and the Cosmos.” The Blumberg Dialogues brought together astrobiologists and religious scholars, who spent two days discussing various notions, ideas, concepts, and questions (apparently, that part was unfortunately :-( not open to the public) with it each other, and then culminated in a podium discussion of what they had gained from their dialogues. I really like this idea, but the format defeated the idea a little, as it was not really a discussion but rather a collection of statements, and unfortunaltely the four astrobiologists went first and were then followed by the five religious scholars, so rather than alternating sides and thus being able to build on one another you got this big chunk of where-astrobiology-is-at-right-now and then scholars of the five different religions responded/made statements of how life on other planets might or might not be problematic for the belief systems they study. And then there were some questions from the public, and that was … it. No proper discussion amongst the people on the podium. The astrobiologists said nothing about how religious notions might be problematic for them or influence them or play any part in astrobiology at all … it rather was a “science states was is, religion must deal” kind of vibe, so all you leared is that, depending on which religion you look at, integrating life elsewhere into that belief system might be more or less problematic. (Which … d’uh?)

I thinkLuminaries why I was a bit disenchanted might also simply be because there wasn’t anything really new for me in there (ok, yes, the giant jade mountain, which is apparently a thing in Buddhism). I keep up with astrobiology research publications for the lay person, and what was mentioned never went beyond that (Mars, Europa, Titan, Enceladus, Webb Telescope, … ), and likewise the religious aspects were mostly yep, okay, check, true … I think it’s because I never really stopped reading and thinking about science/religion after writing one of my Master’s theses about just that relationship (in novels). And I AM NOT mentioning these things here to brag, but only to say that I think a lot of the audience liked it far better than I did, and I think that’s true because for them more of it was things they didn’t know (IE: life on Enceladus? What? What and where is Enceladus in the first place?!) or hadn’t yet worked on and with so much, whereas for me the overlap was a little too great for anything to be new or mindboggling or … you know? I wanted to learn more than I already know, but because it was for the public, they covered the basics and that was that. So, uh, wrong format for me? (Also I suspect all the ‘let down your hair’ interesting discussions went on in the non-public part of the event!!!)

At any rate, there will be more of these, and I am going to go again, hopefully to learn new things and if not to sit there attentively regardless and go … ‘okay, gotcha’ … :-).

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But what I gotta say is: Dear religious scholar #3, No, people in Columbus’ time Did Not Think The Earth Was Flat! Even if you don’t know this (which I think you kinda should), then at least logically infer that going one way (west) to end up in the place where people have been going to the other way (east) would make No Sense if you feared falling off the side of the Earth in between. Like, how would that even work? Unexpected continent in the middle of the ocean? Yes. Flat earth? No. (Sorry! Not sorry.)

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One Response to “DC reporting in, #5: The Blumberg Dialogues, pt. 1”

  1. CC Says:

    Jeepers that sounds like such a wind up! Information especially tailored to not cater for exactly the kind of informed person who would be attracted to such an event.. :-/

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