Saturday, September 8, 2012

The 17th-century Jesuit Leonard "Lessius argued as if Christianity had not significantly affected the grammar of 'God.'"

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Denying and disclosing God: the ambiguous progress of modern atheism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 30.

Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy on the enduring value of his pre-Conciliar Irish-Catholic upbringing

Faculty of History, Cambridge University
"But if we believe in the reality of revelation, and if we believe that the Church is entrusted with it, then we have to give a concrete meaning and form to that confidence. We cannot infinitely postpone our obedience and response to the truth, as it seems to me many forms of liberal Protestantism tend to do. If the Church has the gospel of truth, someone, somewhere, has to be trusted to say what it is, and to call on us to receive it. That process seems to me now more complex and less simplistically hierarchical than we imagined in 1950, but the essence of what we believed in 1950 seems to me both true, and precious. A Church without real authority is not the Church at all. We receive and proclaim the Catholic faith which come to us from the apostles, we do not invent it: the Brothers, and my grandmother, knew that too."

     Eamon Duffy, "Confessions of a cradle Catholic," The pastoral review (January 2000).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flowers for Algernon

"[von Neumann] spent the last year of his life in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he surprised and dismayed friends and family by seeking out a priest for counsel.  His brother explains this away as merely an effort to find intellectual companionship; his daughter Marina affirms, to the contrary, that von Neumann was taking up Pascal's Wagerbetting on the existence of God, since he couldn't lose by being wrong:  'My father told me, in so many words, once, that Catholicism was a very tough religion to live in but it was the only one to die in.'
     "Whatever his spiritual state may have been, we know that he was distressed by the disease's effect on his mind.  An old joke among mathematicians says, 'Other mathematicians prove what they can; von Neumann proves what he wants,' but in the last weeks of his life he felt his mind rapidly deteriorating.  What had always come so easily to himalmost supernaturally easybecame difficult and then impossible.  Marina von Neumann told George Dyson that near the end her father asked her 'to test him on really simple arithmetic problems, like seven plus four, and I did this for a few minutes, and then I couldn't take it anymore.'  Even as von Neumann stumbled over the most elementary sums, he never lost his awareness that mathematics was important and that he had been marked from childhood by the astonishing fluency with which he could do it.  Marina von Neumann fled the hospital room:  in George Dyson's words, she could not bear to watch her father, one of the greatest minds of the 20th or any other century, 'recognizing that that by which he defined himself had slipped away.'"

     Alan Jacobs, "The man who delivered the computer," Books and culture (September/October 2012):  38.

Van Leeuwen's "Brief Sermon on Method"

"All this to say that when studying human gender traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation, essential conditions for inferring cause and effectthe manipulation of one factor (sex) and the control of others (social as well as biological)cannot be met.  It means that 'all data on sex differences, no matter what research method is used, are correlational data,' and as every introductory social science student learns, you cannot draw firm conclusions about causality from merely correlational data."

     Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, "Neurohormonal wars:  old questions and dubious debates in the psychology of gender," Books and culture (September/October 2012):  12, small caps mine.  This cuts, of course, both ways.  But still. . . .