The After Dinner Scholar
Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity with Dr. Scott Olsson and Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity with Dr. Scott Olsson and Dr. Jeremy Holmes

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.

The Simplicity of the Universe with Dr. Scott Olsson

The Simplicity of the Universe with Dr. Scott Olsson

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.

Field Science in the Wide Wyoming Wilderness with Dr. Sam Shepherd

Field Science in the Wide Wyoming Wilderness with Dr. Sam Shepherd

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.

Medieval Manuscripts and the Movement of the Heavens with Dr. Henry Zapeda

Medieval Manuscripts and the Movement of the Heavens with Dr. Henry Zapeda

September 24, 2019

“Everybody knows,” said the US senator at a Senate hearing I attended, “that before Columbus everybody was sure that the world was flat.” 

Regardless of what the senator believes, you’d have to go back a long, long, long time before Columbus to find people who believed the world was flat. In fact, back in about 240 BC not only was it well known that the earth was a ball, but they had managed to calculate its circumference.

And by AD 150, Claudius Ptolemy created his geocentric model of the universe, a model that held sway for 1,500 years until Nicolaus Copernicus and others placed the sun rather than the earth at the center of things.

In that 1,200 years Ptolemy’s treatise, Almagest, was copied over and over. In addition, scholars wrote numerous commentaries on the work.

All of which fascinates Wyoming Catholic College’s Dr. Henry Zepeda who has a particular interested in the way medieval scholars understood the mathematical sciences that they inherited from the Greeks and Arabs. He has spent much of his adult life reading medieval manuscripts in libraries across the United States and Europe and spent this past summer in Kansas City immersed in medieval manuscripts.

How High the Moon, How Far the Stars? with Dr. Scott Olsson

How High the Moon, How Far the Stars? with Dr. Scott Olsson

March 26, 2019

A recent news article announced the discovery of 300,000 new galaxies bringing the number to somewhere around 100 billion some 12 to 18 billion light years away. Such numbers boggle the mind as does the notion that we can actually calculate such distances. Yet starting back in about 240 BC in Alexandria, Egypt Eratosthenes managed to calculate with amazing accuracy the circumference of the earth. Once that was done, it was only a matter of time before people calculated the distance to the Moon, to the Sun, and finally to the stars.

How did they do it? Dr. Scott Olsson  has been discussing these matters with our Wyoming Catholic College sophomores. Dr. Olsson is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.

Science in a Cup of Tea with Dr. Scott Olsson

Science in a Cup of Tea with Dr. Scott Olsson

November 6, 2018

“This cup of tea,” the lady claimed, “was made wrong. You put the tea in first and then the milk rather than putting the milk in before the tea. I could taste the difference immediately.”

Could she really and, if so, how would we know? How do we use experimentation to test her claim that she tastes the difference between a cup where milk was added to tea and one where tea was added to milk? The story is all about the scientific method.

While the answer may seem straightforward enough, it turns out that any scientific experiment is fraught with complications and difficulties. Dr. Scott Olsson’s students have been struggling with some of those complications and difficulties in this the first semester of their junior year. This week on the After Dinner Scholar, Dr. Olsson gives us a glimpse in the questions.

“Back in the Saddle Again”: Horsemanship and the Liberal Arts with Lorine Sheehan

“Back in the Saddle Again”: Horsemanship and the Liberal Arts with Lorine Sheehan

June 12, 2018

Winston Churchill once remarked, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle."

Occasionally we find people who think of Wyoming Catholic College “that school with the backpacks and horses.” And we are very careful to remind such people that we are also the school where students speak Latin, read Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and work through the mathematics of Euclid, Isaac Newton, and Einstein. Our academic program is challenging and our standards are high.

That being said, we do, in fact, have horses and every student learns to care for and ride a horse.

At the center of our equestrian program is Lorine Sheehan, a member of the Wyoming Catholic College class of 2014 and an accomplished horsewoman. Mrs. Sheehan is our guest on The After Dinner Scholar.

Hunting, Humanity, and the Liberal Arts with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Hunting, Humanity, and the Liberal Arts with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

April 24, 2018

Wyoming, in addition to being a destination for skiing, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing, has some of the best hunting and fishing in the country. Unlike skiing, backpacking and the like, hunting and fishing involve taking an animal’s life. The trout, salmon, pheasant, deer, elk, or pronghorn we hunt dies. 

How exactly does that fit into Catholic theology and faith? Some might answer, “Not at all.” And yet, with the exception of dairy, regardless of what we eat—be it venison chops or pork chops—something always dies so that we can live. It’s a fact of life from which we typically buffer ourselves, purchasing meat on Styrofoam trays sealed with plastic wrap with little hint of the animal from which it came. But could it be the direct encounter with animals and death and life is good and right? 

To discuss that and other matters related to life, God, creation, and human dominion over creation, we’re joined by Dr. Jeremy Holmes, theologian and hunter.

I Lift My Eyes to the Hills: COR Expeditions with Dr. Tom Zimmer

I Lift My Eyes to the Hills: COR Expeditions with Dr. Tom Zimmer

April 17, 2018

Throughout the Scriptures men and women encounter God in the wilderness and the mountains. Think of Abraham traveling through the wilderness to that land God would show him. Think of the people of Israel in the desert with Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai. People swarmed out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness. Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. St. Paul after his conversion “went away into Arabia.”

This week at Wyoming Catholic College is Outdoor Week. Our students are in the wilderness encountering God (we trust) as they rock climb, go canyoneering, mountain bike, canoe, raft, and backpack.

Dr. Tom Zimmer runs the outdoor program at the college and, beyond the college, directs COR—Catholic Outdoor Renewal. COR’s mission is: “To provide transformative wilderness experiences which renew the hearts (cor being Latin for heart) of those who participate.”

Dr. Zimmer is out guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

Faith v. Science: The False Dichotomy with Dr. Michael Bolin

Faith v. Science: The False Dichotomy with Dr. Michael Bolin

March 20, 2018

Faith and science, we've been told, are at war so choose your side. Will you be a modern man or woman or will you hang onto outdated and disproved dogmas?

And too often Christian young people believe in the war and choose to side with science.

But the faith versus science dichotomy, however, is as false as it is overblown and pernicious.

Wyoming Catholic College Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Michael Bolin works through the arguments each year with our students as they consider the question of evolution. Dr. Bolin is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.