Category cosmology

The Star of Bethlehem in the News

It’s been a while since I have posted, but I have been super-busy with getting my PhD and other research-related activities. But there has been some great news when it comes to my work on The Star of Bethlehem. Over on Amazon, the reviews have been very positive, with one exception–though that person has proven to not be a charitable reader to put it nicely.

Two Splendid Christmas Gift Ideas!

So, the celebrations are upon us to commemorate good ole Jesus and his rather miraculous (and dare I say imaginary) birth. Well, he may have been born, but not like that. But enough of that. Or maybe not. I have two rather decent suggestions with which to fill your stockings (Christmas, not underwear).

Heaven and the Fine-Tuning Argument

I came across this quote in response to someone posting my notes on fine-tuning on the Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees forum. I like it a lot:

The biggest problem I find with the fine-tuned argument is that it is incompatible with dualism, and therefore Christianity.

That SOB sure is worth reading about

[Just to remind readers that the book I have recently edited, written by contributor Aaron Adair, called The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. is out now in all formats from a variety of sellers. It is a great book, and one which Richard Carrier has said is “awesome”. Please support our work by buying it! It’ll make an awesome Christmas present! Over to Aaron’s launch piece for those who missed it – JP]

The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View — My Upcoming Book

Nearly two millennia ago, a story was told of a wondrous star in the heavens, beaming forth to proclaim the birth of an infant, destined to rule. Coaxing priests from an eastern kingdom to travel in search of this infant, the object led them to their destination and allow for the worship of the savior of the world.

Or so the story goes. But did it really happen, and if so, what was this magnificent star? A comet? An exploding star? An astrological portent? Something more bizarre?

Is Comet ISON the Star of Bethlehem?

It’s been a good, long time since I have seen a bright, naked-eye comet in the sky. The last I remember was Hale-Bopp back in 1996, and that was a remarkable sight. But there is a lot of hope now for Comet ISON (aka C/2012 S1), which was discovered only a matter of months ago. Not only it is slated to be a very bright object, but what is more interesting to me is its orbit.

Problems with the Fine-Tuning Argument

Here are some notes I made some time ago, based on various sources, some of which are linked below. Richard Carrier’s book “Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism” provided an excellent backbone to the first set of points.

The methodological and other problems:

The Star of Bethlehem Documentary – Textual Criticism and Josephus

This is Part 2 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.

In Part 1 of this critical overview of the Star of Bethlehem film and its version of history (which I have called the MMEL hypothesis), I looked at the reasons scholars can say we know Herod died no later than 4 BCE given the information we have from Josephus as well as what we can connect with other accounts. The information from Josephus seemed to be overwhelmingly in favor of a 5/4 BCE date for Herod’s death, which would then contradict the time frame needed for the conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus as the MMEL hypothesis requires. However, there is another argument that is focused on, though not detailed, in the documentary, and it concerns the text that we have of Josephus.

The cyclical universe debate re-ignited

The BBC have produced the following fascinating article. What do you good people think?

Scientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe the properties of the Higgs boson.

A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it.

The Star of Bethlehem in the Blogosphere

In my last post I looked at what I could find in the news or related to articles and books on the subject of the Star of Bethlehem. There wasn’t too much going on there, so now I want to explore what is going on in the world of blogs. I think this is showing where the conversations are really moving to rather than in newspapers and journal articles, at least for things not done in a strictly academic fashion.

Big Bang: Is there room for God?

On 15 October, a group of theologians, philosophers and physicists came together for two days in Geneva to talk about the Big Bang.

So what happened when people of such different – very different – views of the Universe came together to discuss how it all began?

“I realised there was a need to discuss this,” says Rolf Heuer, Cern’s director general.

“There’s a need for us, as naive scientists, to discuss with philosophers and theologians the time before or around the Big Bang.”

On Seeing Lawrence Krauss Last Night – A Universe From Nothing?

So I went to see theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss last night in Portsmouth. This was great for two reasons. Firstly, Krauss is a great public speaker and a seemingly top bloke. Secondly, it shows that, occasionally, Portsmouth (UK) is not the cultural wasteland many think it is. Occasionally. Very occasionally.

The night started off well as a few of us Tippling Philosophers met in a pub and got talking to a playwright who had a vast and interesting array of knowledge in some areas close to our hearts – the making of Messiahs, philosophy and such like (so much so that he bought one of my books, The Nativity: A Critical Examination, there and then). After some fascinating discussions ranging from cognitive dissonance to Sabbatai Zavi and Appolonius of Tyana, we moved to the venue for the talk.

Krauss started off superbly by talking about the for of the question “why is there something rather than nothing” being problematic and question-begging. Funnily enough, we had just been talking about purpose in the pub, and this very problem. Krauss rightly pointed out that you cannot ask why questions without presupposing the notion of a purposer. ‘Why’ is seeking a purpose – ‘for what purpose did this happen?’. And an objective purpose requires there to be an ultimate being to give purpose. Intrinsic purposes are incoherent. For more on this, see my essay on the meaning of life.