How Students Use Theologica

How Students Use Theologica

Last July, I submitted to Apple the culmination of 3 years of work on an app, designed for high school, college, and seminary students, that would serve as a curated Catholic theological resource for the iPhone. Within two weeks, Theologica was published in the App Store. Since its release, students have been using it to compose theological essays, and the quality of their work has greatly improved. In this post, I’d like to highlight some of the ways students are using the app.  Continue reading

Exploring Theologica: Overview

Over the next few months, I will be exploring various aspects of Theologica in a series of posts dedicated to the app. Some will examine its general features, while others will analyze specific content (terms, map points, reference sites, etc). Hopefully, this will not only help explain some of the content choices I made in development, but also serve as point of departure for an extended online discussion of the given topic. To begin, I’d like to examine the Overview tab. Continue reading

Introducing Theologica

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 8.37.54 AM

3 years ago, I had an idea for an iPhone app that would serve as a theological resource for students and teachers of Theology. So, as I learned the basic elements of Objective-C programming in Xcode, I started building a simple dictionary app that slowly evolved into something much larger than what I originally envisioned. On Monday, July 27, Theologica was finally approved for sale in the App Store. Thanks to all the beta testers who offered helpful feedback that improved the user experience.

In coming months, I’ll be exploring various areas of content in the app (terms, locations, references, historical events, etc.) to illustrate how the app can be used as a learning and teaching tool for anyone who is called to “think faith.”




Putting Apple’s 194b Into Perspective

Putting Apple’s 194b Into Perspective

As of its last financial quarter, Apple announced it had $194,000,000,000.00 in the bank.
194 billion dollars.
Sometimes, it can be hard to grasp the significance of extremely high numbers.
Here’s one breakdown that puts Apple’s bank account into perspective:
$1000 = price of a 13′ MacBook Air
$1000 x 365 = $365,000 – the amount you have to spend to buy a new 13′ MacBook Air every day for a year
$194,000,000,000 = Apple’s cash in the bank
$194,000,000,000 / $365,000 = 531,506 – the number of years needed, buying a MacBook Air every. single. day. of each year, needed to equal Apple’s amount of cash in the bank.
That is a lot* of money.

Religious Naturalism: Science as Mythos

In a recent post on the NPR science/philosophy blog “13.7”, Ursula Goodenough provided a brief introduction to what has been termed “Religious Naturalism.” Taking a cue from the idea of all religions having a foundational mythos, she offers an account of naturalism that takes the scientific narrative of our cosmological history as its mythos and that seeks to explore the various dimensions of the human response to it; hence, it is “religious”.

According to the Religious Naturalism Association (RNA) website, Religious Naturalism revolves around cosmological history on three axes: interpretative, spiritual, and moral. From the site description:

The interpretive axis entails asking the Big Questions along philosophical/existential axes. How do our science-based understandings inform our experience of being a Self? What do they tell us about free will? Death? Love? The search for The Meaning of Life? Why there is anything at all rather than nothing?

The spiritual axis entails exploring inward religious responses to the Epic, including awe and wonder, gratitude, assent, commitment, humility, reverence, joy, and the astonishment of being alive at all.

The moral axis entails outward communal responses to the Epic, where our deepening understandings of the animal/primate antecedents of social sensibilities offer important resources for developing social justice and human cooperation.

It also entails an orientation that can be called ecomorality, seeking right relations between the earth and its creatures, absorbing our interrelatedness, interdependence, and responsibilities.

What makes Religious Naturalism appealing to many is that the core theologized history of traditional religion (e.g. Creation/Fall/Redemption in Christianity) has been replaced by a scientific (*real*) account of history; what actually happened. To be fair, in the pre-scientific age, many Christian thinkers considered the theologized history to be necessarily synonymous with actual history. But most contemporary open-minded people of faith understand the relative context of the biblical texts and the philosophical difference between theology and science. As a result, they do not conflate the core mythos of their religion with a scientific account of the world, but rather understand it as an interpretation (a “Big Idea”) that exceeds the limits of science. The only trouble is that the mythos has traditionally understood itself to be synonymous with the *real* story. And many religions are currently in the growing pains of a process of de-literalization, in which the mythos is being seen as itself an interpretation of history and not history/science itself. The best example of this is an excerpt from Joseph Ratzinger’s Credo For Today in his chapter entitled “Creation”:

The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought “God”. The first “thou” that—however stammeringly—was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.

This is not an understanding of the world (or of Scripture) that existed 100 years ago at the Vatican, much less in the mind of the authors of Genesis. This is the result of one theologian taking science seriously and reinterpreting a foundational mythos in its light. For all catechetical purposes, the quote above has yet to seriously influence the day-to-day education of Catholics. As a result, there is often dissonance between what is taught about science and the degree to which Catholicism actually allows science to inform belief, even at the risk of trumping a well-established hermeneutical tradition.

I suspect that Religious Naturalism will continue to gain adherents in the West from 1) the “nones” – those who do not identify with a formal religious institution, value science, and struggle to find a community of the like-minded/hearted and 2) a more scientifically-minded population within monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that leave the institutions, in part, because they are perceived as being more concerned with maintaining their characteristics which are not popular with a human rights/science-based understanding of the world (e.g. segregated worship based on sex) rather than with the full integration of science. Religious Naturalism will also gain sympathizers from members of major religions, who are not willing to abandon their traditions, but who adhere to the idea that a scientific account of the world has intrinsic value within metaphysical meta-narratives. For example, the prominence of eco-ethics and its related issues is quickly gaining popularity among Christian ethicists and will likely be the topic of Pope Francis’ next encyclical.

Religious Naturalism is not without its own philosophical critiques (lack of a coherent account of “God”, the problem of criteria, etc.), but its emphasis on a scientific account of the world as a foundational mythos instead of theological interpretations of that account is one that resonates with the spiritual values of “billions and billions” of human seekers of the truth in all things.

iPhone: The Core of Apple and Your 401k

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 8.42.37 AM

Jeff Sommer, writing for the NYTimes:

Even people who don’t buy iPhones and don’t own Apple shares have a stake in the company. I don’t own any Apple stock, for example, but I do have a stake indirectly through my 401(k) account. That’s because mutual funds in my portfolio own Apple shares as their biggest holdings. Nearly every pension fund holds some stock, and these days, there’s a good chance the biggest holding is Apple. And the most important financial lever at Apple is the iPhone.

When Apple decided to enter the mobile phone arena in 2007, Steve Jobs called the iPhone a “bet the company product“. Now, that product accounts for more than 60% of Apple’s most recent quarterly profit; 42 billion in sales, 8 billion in profit*, and 39 million iPhones sold in the last 3 months alone. And this, in only 7 years since its introduction. That’s nothing short of historic. The iPhone has not only redefined a product category and changed our daily routines (my students look dumbfounded when I ask to imagine their lives without it), but it has also become the single most valuable consumer product sold by any company, anywhere at anytime.

And it will likely help you retire.

*Note: just for some perspective, if you were paid $1,000 every day since the birth of Christ, you wouldn’t yet be a billionaire. Apple just pocketed 8 billion in the last 3 months and has 155 billion in the bank.

The iPhone 6 Plus: Tradeoffs

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 10.14.40 AM

After spending some extended time in the Apple Store yesterday, I immediately texted my brother, who told me he was planning to get the iPhone 6 Plus. I told him that, after some initial bewilderment (“How could anyone practically use that in place of a smaller device?”), I completely understood why he was going for the larger of the two new iPhone models. In this piece, I’ll argue why I think that instead of being merely a “fad” (as characterized by Devindra Hardawar of VentureBeat), the iPhone 6 Plus will quickly become as popular and mainstream as its smaller counterpart due to the fact that it incorporates the essential elements of two product categories in one device and provides acceptable tradeoffs in order to do so. Continue reading