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Posted inUncategorized

The Star of Bethlehem in Alternative “Scholarship”

Reading Time: 9 minutes In my work in looking into the various theories about the Star of Bethlehem, I have primarily focused on efforts to explain the Star that are in the scientific or biblical studies literature. That will provide something of an orthodoxy, either with scientific ideas that have to be less than outlandish or with religious notions that do not drift far from conservative or evangelical thinking.

Posted inScience

The Star of Bethlehem: Lecture by Aaron Adair at Merrimack College

Reading Time: < 1 minute I was lucky enough to edit Aaron Adair’s superb book The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View which looks at the claims within the Gospel of Matthew concerning the Star of Bethlehem. Over the many hundreds of years, various people have advanced theories to explain the apparent phenomenon, to triple conjunctions of planets and stars to comets, from hypernovae to UFOs. Yes, UFOs. Aaron has started getting on the speaking circuit to talk about his favoured subject, and may even be compiling a book looking into the Bible and astronomy

Posted inGeneral

The Strangely Twinkling Star Offering Us Dreams of Vast Galactic Civilizations

Reading Time: 4 minutes I used to buy a single lottery ticket occasionally. My rule was never more than one, because one was all I needed to let me dream. My rational brain required at least some small tangible evidence of the possibilities, however remote, in order to take off for Wonderland.

And now, a group of citizen astronomers has just handed us a lottery ticket to a galactic Wonderland.

Several headlines have alluded to a possible alien “megastructure” orbiting a star in our galaxy.

Tabetha Boyajian is a Yale postdoc who coordinates a group of citizen science volunteers at They search for planets around thousands of stars by looking for interruptions in light patterns captured by the Kepler Space Telescope.  In 2011, between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, the star KIC 8462852 was flagged as having potential for Earth-like planets. But there was something uniquely “bizarre” about KIC 8462852, The Atlantic reports:

Posted inReligion

The Handbook: Learning to Move Past Religious Narcissism

Reading Time: 9 minutes We recently added another line to that cosmic address–did you notice? After “Virgo supercluster,” we now have Laniakea, a galactic supercluster that comprises Virgo and some other local superclusters. Scientists have figured out how to tell what galaxies and groups are part of our galactic supercluster, and in addition and almost as importantly, they finally have a model of it that fits predictions and equations both. And that discovery has spoken to me on a very fundamental level.

Posted inReligion

What’s Your Sign?

Reading Time: 9 minutes I was reading today about some horoscope writer who is sick and about how her fans are very upset that she can’t write their horoscopes on time, and it made me remember some woo I briefly got into in the 90s that I wanted to talk about here. Susan Miller writes horoscopes for a website […]

Posted inUncategorized

Ancient Aliens and Modern UFOs

Reading Time: < 1 minute Good news, everyone! My talk for the Illini Secular Student Alliance at UIUC back in April is now up for everyone to see. In my presentation, I talk about the 20th century origins of the ancient astronaut hypothesis (now in its modern TV form, Ancient Aliens), the sorts of claims about the past and why they don’t hold up, and into the sorts of claims related to modern UFOs and alien visitations–that is, close encounters. I also get to bring up my research and book on the Star of Bethlehem.

Posted inScience

Review of #TheUniverse: Ancient Mysteries Solved(?) — The Star of Bethlehem

Reading Time: 10 minutes A few weeks ago on the History Channel’s sister station, H2, the astronomy-based series The Universe went on a quest to solve an ancient mystery. Previous episodes in the previous few weeks had covered the construction and purpose of the pyramids (which was pretty good), Stonehenge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first two certainly have an astronomical connection, such as the solstice alignment of Stonehenge, but explaining Sodom’s ruin via astronomical body begs the very serious question: was this simply a theological story or etiological myth? Apparently that skepticism couldn’t find its way to the heart of the show.

Posted inUncategorized

Does Matthew’s Gospel Pre-Suppose a Supernatural Star of Bethlehem?

Reading Time: 11 minutes A few days ago at the National Catholic Register, a blog post was put up about the Yuletide star that I have been so interested in. The author of the piece, Jimmy Akin, wrote up about how the text of the Gospel of Matthew does not necessarily talk about a Star that moves around in such a way that it can only be supernatural. Akin, who besides having a cool red beard, is a Catholic apologist, and he categorizes his efforts here about the Star under apologetics (as seen on the blogs tag). I read the blog entry after I saw it come up in a search on Twitter, and the first thing I noted was that he said that the text does not support the supernatural reading, but he never actually cited the Greek text!

Posted inBooks

The Exposing Pseudoastronomy Podcast takes on the Star of Bethlehem … with Me, Aaron Adair!

Reading Time: < 1 minute As part of the continuing efforts to get the message out about the Star of Bethlehem and the failure to explain it with astronomy, I was interviewed on the Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast, run by Stuart Robbins, an young planetary scientist and skeptic. In the past, the podcast has tackled lots of material from Coast to Coast AM and some of their top guests, such asRichard Hoagland, in great but comfortable detail. That should be enough reason to subscribe to this skeptical outlet.

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