February 16, 2021
Winston Churchill once quipped, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Wyoming Catholic College senior, Miss Amanda Johnson enthusiastically agrees.
Last week was senior oration week at Wyoming Catholic. As I explained last week, our seniors write a thesis in the fall and after Christmas break present some portion of their work in a half hour lecture followed by a half hour of questions from a faculty panel and from their peers.
Topics ranged from the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins to nostalgia in Willa Cather’s novels, from the chiastic structure of St. Augustine’s Confessions to cryptography, from hunting to horsemanship—the topic of this podcast. Our guest is Miss Amanda Johnson, one of our star horsewomen.
January 5, 2021
If you come to Lander, Wyoming, it’s hard not to notice the landscape: cliffs, rises, canyons, and the high peaks of the Wind River Mountain Range.
College for Wyoming Catholic College freshmen begins by studying God’s first book: The Creation. During their three-week freshman expedition they drink in the beauty, majesty, and power..
When they return from the expedition, in theology they study God’s second book: the Holy Scriptures. But in field science, it’s back to the first book as they carefully examine the flora and fauna of our region along with the rocks.
Our guest this week, Prof. Lauren Heerschap has worked for the Colorado Geological Survey, and has taught geology in Zermatt, Switzerland, Durango, Colorado. Her enthusiasm about our rocks is contagious.
September 8, 2020
The tendency of science to reduce all of the world and life in it to predictable laws of physics is not new. And poets since William Wordsworth two hundred years ago have insisted that life ought not to be reduced.
Since the theme of this year’s Wyoming School was “Beauty is Truth: Science and the Catholic Imagination,” we looked to poets to help us inform our imaginations as we look at world around us, the heavens, and our own human nature.
The poetry we read and discussed is all available online for free.
- Henry Vaughn, “Water-fall”
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” “Pied Beauty,” “The Windhover”
- William Wordsworth, “The World is Too Much With Us,” “The Tables Turned”
- Robert Frost, “Never Again Would Bird’s Song Be the Same”
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare”
September 1, 2020
“Saint Thomas, who was as simple as he was wise,” wrote Jacques Maritain, “defined the beautiful as that which, being seen, pleases: id quod visum placet. These four words say all that is necessary: a vision, that is to say, an intuitive knowledge, and a delight.”
At this summer’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, we began by looking at the Medieval cosmos. It is a beautiful vision that, alas, turns out not to be true. Then we looked at the modern vision—the vision of scientism—in which the universe is nothing but a randomly constituted result of elementary particles bumping into each other. It is a universe without goodness, beauty, or truth—save the truth (maybe) of mathematics and physics.
Yet the topic of our week together was, “Beauty is Truth: Science and the Catholic Imagination.”
After we reduced the Medieval cosmos to “fermions and bosons,” Dr. Jeremy Holmes began putting the world back together arguing that beauty is a necessary part of the scientific endeavor. His lecture was over an hour long, but will, I think, be well worth your time and concentration. Hearing it again brought great delight so, using Thomas' definition, it can be called a beautiful lecture.
July 21, 2020
“The heavens call to you and wheel about you,
revealing their eternal splendors,” Virgil told Dante at the end of Purgatorio 14 (148-151),
“but your eyes are fixed upon the earth.
For that, He, seeing all, does smite you.”
While we could blame light pollution or television or lack of interest or any number of other modern maladies, but it’s clear that, just as in Dante’s time, the heavens call and wheel about and us most of us never notice. If, for example, you know the phase of the moon today, you’re part of a tiny, tiny minority of modern people. Virgil accuses us as well, “your eyes are fixed upon the earth.”
Dante lived at the turn of the 14th century and in his writing used a model of the universe conceived in the second century by astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy. Born in AD 100 in Alexandria, Egypt, Ptolemy argued from observation of the heavens that the earth (a sphere) was at the center and around it the moon, sun, planets, and stars rotated.
Clearly we no longer believe that, but Ptolemy still has a great deal to teach us about observing the sky and marking it’s beauty and regularity. Dr. Henry Zepeda taught Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Galileo with high school students who have been here at Wyoming Catholic College for our PEAK Program.
July 14, 2020
“The canyon of Lodore is twenty and three-quarter miles in length,” wrote Major John Wesley Powell who was the first to descended the Green River through the canyon in June 1869. “It starts abruptly at what we have called the Gate of Lodore, with walls nearly two thousand feet high, and they are never lower than this until we reach Alcove Brook, about three miles above the foot. They are very irregular, standing in vertical or overhanging cliffs in places, terraced in others, or receding in steep slopes, and are broken by many side gulches and canyons.”
Powell and his men found the river from the Gate of Lodore very tough going with multiple long portages around rapids and the loss of one of four boats along with a great deal of supplies and scientific instruments in what he named “Disaster Falls.”
Of course those were the days before nylon, gor tex, polyester fleece, and good strong river rafts, the kind used by the recent COR Expeditions rafting trip down the Green River. Bob Milligan, a 2018 graduate of Wyoming Catholic College now on COR staff led the trip.
For more information about COR Expeditions visit the COR website.
June 30, 2020
The well-laid plan was to fly to Maine for vacation, but it became clear that the travel restrictions there would make for a terrible vacation. So instead, Jim and Dottie Tonkowich drove north.
Their vacation trip of about 1,675 miles went from Lander to Cody, Yellowstone National Park, Three Rivers, Montana, Whitefish Lake, Montana, Glacier National Park, and back home via Butte, Montana, Yellowstone and the Tetons. If you’re thinking to yourself, “That must have been beautiful,” you’re on track with the topic of this podcast.
Beauty just may be the way to save our troubled world.
March 31, 2020
“The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself—not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs,” writes biochemist Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box. “Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. It comes simply from the hard work that biochemistry has done over the past forty years, combined with consideration of the way in which we reach conclusions of design every day.”
The science curriculum at Wyoming Catholic College pays close attention to the interaction between science, philosophy, and theology with the ultimate goal of achieving a coherent synthesis of faith and reason.
That includes looking long and hard at evolution and the various alternatives to time-plus-chance.
In Science 402, our seniors have just read Darwin’s Black Box and while they’ve been studying at home, they listened to this conversation between their professors, Dr. Scott Olsson and Dr. Jeremy Holmes about Behe’s argument.
January 28, 2020
TV producer Stephen Moffatt who among other things produced the sci-fi hit “Dr. Who” commented, “The universe is big, it’s vast and complicated, and ridiculous.” Well, the universe certainly is big and vast, but it is most certainly not ridiculous. As to complicated? It turns out that in a certain sense, the universe is not complicated. It is simple.
Scientists have put forth all kinds of complex ideas about the universe. Chaos theory, string theory are two examples. They are very complicated and, in the end, not terribly helpful. Instead scientists are looking the other direction: away from complexity to simplicity.
Dr. Scott Olsson is this weeks guest telling us what scientists mean by simplicity.
October 15, 2019
While walking our dog, Maggie, near the Popo Agie River on a frigid day last winter, I noticed a tiny, slate-grey bird standing on the ice next to open water. As I watched, the bird, an American dipper, dove into the water and disappeared. A little while later, it popped out of the river and back to its spot on the ice. I was transfixed with wonder.
Maggie and I have also seen kingfishers, American kestrels, lots of mule deer, various kinds of snakes, ruffed grouse, and, to my shock, a badger in our backyard. Add to the animals, all the plants and flowers, the geology, the weather, the night sky and we can’t help say with Psalm 104, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
Wyoming Catholic College students study God’s Creation as part of our math and science curriculum under the watchful eye of Dr. Sam Shepherd. Dr. Shepherd and his family moved from Ireland this summer to join our faculty. He is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.