Two cemeteries, glacial and modern

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A view of the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits at Hancock Park near 5900 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

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We went to Hancock Park today to meet some friends we have known from living in Egypt. They now live in the Los Angeles area, and the ones we knew as kids now have (very lively) kids of their own. We were gawked at the La Brea Tar Pits, of course, but spent most of our time at the adjacent George C. Page Museum (and then a leisurely lunch with good conversation afterwards). I used to come to the Tar Pits on school outings as a kid, and have visited them more times than I could ever begin to count. (Which you must understand must have been an extremely painful experience for me, because as I have learned over the years from several online reviewers who do not know me, I am a young earth creationist who believes the world is only six or seven thousand years old.) But the museum is a vast improvement over what it was when I was a schoolboy, and the exhibits in the museum are much better even compared to what we saw when we lived in West Los Angeles and brought our own kids to the Tar Pits. (And I loved the t-shirt for sale in the museum’s gift shop that says “What happens in the La Brea tar pits stays in the La Brea tar pits.”)

After saying goodbye to our friends, needing only a short time to occupy, my wife and I decided to visit the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, which is tucked away just off Wilshire Boulevard in such a way that only those who deliberately seek it out will ever know it’s there. Anyway, I’m a history buff, and there are few things that interest me more than people and their biographies. Historical cemeteries also fascinate me. (I always want to spend more time at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.) And this particular little cemetery, Westwood Village Memorial Park, is absolutely rich in history of a certain type – a very different history, of course, from Arlington National Cemetery, where we spent several hours walking last month – as you can easily see from the list of people buried there.

It is also an excellent place for reflection. For what has long been called memento mori. After all the fame and glory enjoyed by many cemetery residents during their lifetime, did it all really come down to this? What about the idea that Hugh Hefner is buried right next to Marilyn Monroe? (He spent a lot of money on the spot.) Sounds incredibly cheesy to me. Facing death, in a graveyard, Hefner’s “Playboy philosophy” of adolescent male fantasy seems out of place and, well, more than a little out of place.

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I’m still going through old blog entries, scraping notes for future writing. Tonight I pulled the following quotes, all of which are basically on the subject of science and religion. I hope you find them interesting:

Science and religion. . . are friends, not foes, in the common quest for knowledge. Some people may find this surprising, as there is a feeling throughout our society that religious belief is outdated, or downright impossible, in a scientific age. I do not agree. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if people in this so-called “scientific age” knew a little more about science than many of them actually know, they would find it easier to share my opinions. (Sir John Polkinghorne, theoretical physicist, Anglican priest and theologian)

Two quotes from Modern Physics and Ancient Faithby Stephen M. Barr, cosmologist and theoretical particle physicist at the University of Delaware:

“Science has given us new eyes that allow us to see to the deep roots of the structure of the world, and there all we see is the order and symmetry of immaculate mathematical purity.”

“The universe seems much more orderly to us now than it did to the ancients who appealed to this order as proof of the existence of God.”

The first sip from the glass of natural science will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass, God is waiting for you. (Werner Heisenberg, winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics)

Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., Princeton University astrophysicist and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for his work on binary pulsars

“A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God expands with every discovery we make about the world. (Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., Princeton University astrophysicist and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for his work on binary pulsars)

“This sense of wonder leads most scientists to a Higher Being – der Alte, the Elder, as Einstein affectionately called the Deity – a Higher Intelligence, the Lord of all Creation and Natural Law.” (Abdus Salam, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics)

Two passages from British-American theoretical physicist Paul Davies, winner of the 2001 Kelvin Medal from the Institute of Physics and the 2002 Faraday Prize from the Royal Society:

People take it for granted that the physical world is both orderly and intelligible. The underlying order in nature – the laws of physics – are simply accepted as given, as raw facts. No one asks where they come from; at least they don’t do it in good company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as a leap of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis for physical existence manifested as a law-like order in nature that is within us. at least partially understandable. Science can therefore only advance if the scientist adopts an essentially theological view of the world.

It may sound weird, but in my opinion, science offers a surer path to God than religion.

The proof is applicable only to very rarefied areas of philosophy and mathematics. . . . For the most part, we are driven to act on good evidence, without the luxury of evidence. There is good evidence for the link between cause and effect. There is good evidence that the sun will rise tomorrow. There’s good reason to believe my mom loves me and isn’t just fattening me up for when she puts arsenic in my tea. And there are good reasons to believe in God. Very good reason. No conclusive proof, but a very good reason all the same. . . . I believe that it is much more difficult to reject the existence of a supreme being than to accept it. (The Reverend Canon Dr. Michael Green, of Oxford, in Faith for non-religious)

Sent from Los Angeles, California


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