Our March 2017 service featured an extended Moment of Science on the discovery this year of a total of seven earth-sized planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star Trappist-1. John Gauthier explained how this star was only just discovered in 1999, which lies about 39 light-years from us in the constellation of Aquarius. It is thought that there are many more of these small dim stars in the universe, probably a lot more than stars like our own Sun. Such stars also burn their fuel a lot more slowly so that these stars evolve slowly and can last for trillions of years instead of the billions of years that stars like our own Sun can last. Because they are smaller their planets also tend to orbit closer and the periods of revolution are shorter – days and weeks instead of months and years. Inhabitants of such planets would often see the other planets in the system at an apparent size of the moon as seen from the earth. John showed us how a surprising amount of information about the system’s planets could be extracted from the timing and shape of the small reductions in light from Trappist-1 as the planets passed in front of their star. We also talked about how these findings from the sciences ought to make us think about how we can understand and appreciate our daily lives better by discovering the less apparent things and wringing more out of what we too often overlook.
Our presentation on heresy began by looking at how the early diversity in Christianity was massively reduced after the Council of Nicaea. And how trivial were the disagreements that seemed so threatening and worthy of violent conflict to Christian leaders of the time. Not all the Crusades had to do with reclaiming lands held by Muslims, either. Some were waged against heretics in Europe. Meanwhile, Mohammed’s religion incorporated some of the early Christian heresies with respect to Jesus that Christians tried to stamp out among themselves during the two centuries before the birth of Islam.
We then spent some time considering the ideas of sociologist Peter L. Berger’s 1979 book, The Heretical Imperative. That work draws attention to the “specific crisis” that religion is faced with given religious pluralism. After all, even if one decides to take a “leap of faith,” into which religious tradition should one choose to leap? And, it turns out, the etymology of the word heresy comes from the Greek hairesis, which means “to choose” or the “thing chosen.” In the modern world, everyone is a heretic in this sense. Meanwhile, humanity still has to struggle with and get through the collapse of traditional societies, notably in Muslim countries that are not dealing well with modernity.
Postings about each monthly service includes topics discussed and an open forum to further discuss those topics.
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