Notes from a volcanic eruption in Iceland

Guest post by Bob White on the Holuhraun Eruption, Iceland, September 2014.  Cross-posted from the Science and Belief blog.

Robert (Bob) White, FRS is Professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University and Director of The Faraday Institute. He has recently published a book on Natural Disasters called Who is to Blame?
Nature, Disasters and Acts of God, (Oxford: Lion Hudson), 207 pp. ISBN 978-0-85721-4737

Picture: Einar Rafnsson/RUV. Click for source.

We arrived at the eruption site around midnight on 1st September 2014. We were fortunate to be there because it is in a 10,000 square kilometre exclusion zone in the interior of Iceland due to the danger of volcanic gases, floods and ash plumes. As scientists monitoring earthquakes caused by the eruption my team and I were part of just a handful of people allowed in. We stood in the middle of a black volcanic desert 3,000 feet high. The darkness of the night was uninterrupted by any human lights. And we knew there was no-one else within at least 100 kilometres of us in any direction. Continue reading

When Science and Faith Shook Hands

(Originally published March 31, 2009.  This is still an important meeting grounds for those of us involved in caring for creation–science helps us know how to best take care of God’s world.  There was a recent article on Today’s Christian Woman entitled, “Embracing Science” that gets into the nitty gritty of why faith and science go hand-in-hand, not in combat but in worship.)

It was a brief and on the surface completely unremarkable conversation. Two conference speakers complimenting each other on their talks, discussing points each one appreciated in the other’s presentation. Continue reading

What Moves Us To Action?

PHOTO: REUTERS /PETER MORGAN. Click for source.

Thirteen years ago, the events of September 11th, 2001, now simply known as 9/11, took us by surprise.  Over 3,000 people lost their lives, including more than 400 firefighters and police officers.  Estimates of damage in New York City topped $10 billion.  Out of tragedy, we united as a nation and came together as never before.  If you’re old enough, I’m sure you remember the surge of patriotism.  We took swift action, doing our very best to ensure that terrorists would never again attack us.  We taught our children and worked hard to ensure that the next generation would not be doomed to see history repeat itself for lack of wisdom. Continue reading

Martha and the Monarch: Must we do it again?

“Martha,” the last known passenger pigeon. Photo by Carl Hansen, Smithsonian Institution, 1985 (click picture for source)

One hundred years ago last Monday, on September 1, 1914, with the Russian revolution in full swing, World War I raging in France, and in the midst of a thousand other events of note, a single, nondescript bird in a cage in a zoo in Cincinnati Ohio died. A century later, we remember the death of that bird. Why? Martha (Marta in some documents) was the last passenger pigeon still alive, and her passing marks one of the most dismal failures of humanity’s exercise of dominion over God’s creation in all of modern history.

The story of the passenger pigeon is well documented. In the mid-19th century, flocks of birds numbering in the billions streamed across the skies of North America. Huffpost provides one description of many:

At the time of the Civil War, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird in all of North America, probably even the world. There were as many as 5 billion birds flying the skies. They ranged throughout the eastern United States, parts of Montana and Texas and north well into Canada. Imagine looking up into the sky today and not being able to see the sun because a flock of birds was so numerous it blocked the light for hours and hours.

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Ebola and Global Warming: When Fear of a Hoax becomes a Hex

Lowell Bliss’ monthly post.

Piltdown "gang"
Orangutan jaw and human cranial bone was combined and posited as an early human, the Piltdown Man .  It took 40 years for scientists to discover he was a hoax.

I suspect it was the word “hoax” which first caught my attention. Assuming that the Piltdown Man scandal died as a headline in 1953, we are still left with Senator James Inhofe’s now famous declaration that global climate change is “”the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” this said from the Senate floor.

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A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation