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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What if Kyle Shanahan Says No?

It's official. Kyle Shanahan is the last remaining candidate for the 49er head coaching position. All of the other candidates have either accepted other positions or have withdrawn their names from consideration, which raises the obvious question: What happens if Kyle Shanahan says no? What if he tells the Niners he'd rather remain the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator? Who will coach the Niners then?

Such a scenario is not beyond the realm of possibility. The Niner head coaching position isn't the most attractive in the NFL. As Steve Ruiz of USA Today put it a few days ago ("Kyle Shanahan should avoid the 49ers job"):
Why would Shanahan want to leave Atlanta - and guys like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman - for a team with no quarterback and a dearth of offensive playmakers? The 49ers rosters is still years away from competency, but the incompetent owner seems to think the team should win now. And when it doesn't, don't expect York, who runs the organization, to hold himself accountable... Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula got one year apiece despite overseeing one of the least talented rosters in the league. Give Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll that team, and you're getting roughly the same results.
One has to wonder if that is why Josh McDaniels decided to remain the New England Patriots offensive coordinator for another year. The official reason was that he didn't want to move his family, but local columnist Tim Kawakami has speculated more might have gone into his decision not to take the Niner position ("Josh McDaniels pulls out of 49ers’ search, so now Kyle Shanahan has all the leverage; do York and Marathe understand this?"):
I believe, and have believed from the outset of this long search, that the only candidates who possibly could fix the 49ers should and will have strong demands for Jed/Paraag, who have very much proven that they don’t like strong demands. We just saw the result of those competing interests, I’m very sure. 
McDaniels had the leverage to ask York and Marathe to clear out of his way, let him pick his own GM (likely ESPN’s Louis Riddick), and guarantee him a commitment level that allayed general concerns about the Yorks’ impulsive, short-sighted, leak-prone, race-to-2-wins ways. If the 49ers had the wherewithal to meet those demands, they’d be worth McDaniels uprooting his young family and taking a shot with this talent-depleted roster.
And I am guessing that, once they heard what McDaniels was telling them, York and Marathe were not pleased–because one thing we know about the Yorks is that they love to be praised and flattered, not challenged.
But now that Tom Cable has also dropped out (thank the Lord), Kyle Shanahan should have even more leverage than Josh McDaniels did. He should be able to name his price -- not so much in terms of $s (although I'm sure he'll be offered that too) but in the words of Kawakami, the power to "pick his own GM... and guarantee him a commitment level that allayed general concerns about the Yorks’ impulsive, short-sighted, leak-prone, race-to-2-wins ways." Or as ESPN's Nick Wagoner put it ("To land Kyle Shanahan, 49ers must be willing to give"):
It was already pretty much a given that York and the Niners would have to concede a lucrative, long-term contract to whoever they hire as head coach. No strong candidate would walk into this situation after the events of the past few years without plenty of built-in security. Likewise, there are some concessions the Niners might have to make in terms of personnel control, or at least in terms of making sure Shanahan has a general manager he feels comfortable with.
But what happens if Shanahan says no?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Can Jed York Do Anything More to Alienate Fans?

Jed York is quickly becoming the least-liked owner in the NFL (Note: Technically, Jed doesn't own the 49ers; his parents do). He alienated the 49er fan base by first firing Jim Harbaugh and then hiring and firing two more head coaches, assuming that they were the problem rather than himself. He did make a move in the right direction by finally dispatching GM Trent Baalke, but until Jed admits that he knows less about football than he thinks he does, it could be a long time before the Niners return to the Super Bowl.

Off the field Jed has probably proved to be more of a disaster. It all started out well with the construction of Levi's Stadium, which opened in 2014. However, the team wanted to take over the soccer fields next to the stadium for parking, and in 2012 York wrote a letter in which he proposed to “underwrite’’ new fields on the grounds of Santa Clara schools. Most people interpreted the letter to meant that the team would build and maintain several new fields. Jed had a different interpretation. Then in February of 2016 the Niners cancelled a girl scout sleepover because they booked a lucrative concert -- sense ultimately prevailed, the Niners managed to reschedule the sleepover, but the damage to public relations was done. Since then the City of Santa Clara has audited the Niners books, which led to a letter from the City Council accusing the them of potential breaches of contract. And then last Fall a mysterious "BLUPAC" sponsored attack ads against allies of the city's mayor, and now (just this past week), the Niners have sued the city for accusing them of breach of contract. Considering that the contract between the Niners and the City of Santa Clara has another 37 years to go, this is not a good start.

It's hard to imagine how Jed will restore the Niner image with both the fan base and the surrounding community. He (and his parents) appear to be more interested in making money than fielding a winning team or being a good corporate citizen. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the Yorks will sell the team. The Niners do turn a profit. But that doesn't mean we Niner fans can't hope. It's going to be on my next year's grown-up Christmas list.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Possessive Singular

What do Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones's Baby have in common, aside from sharing the same central character? Both movie titles form the possessive singular by adding 's' to 'Jones,' even though 'Jones' ends in 's.' As Strunk and White note in, The Elements of Style (p. 1), we should follow this rule "whatever the final consonant. Thus [we should] write,
Charles's friend
Burns's poem
the witch's malice"
Are Strunk and White alone? No. As the authors of Grammar Smart note (p. 122), "If the word is a proper noun that ends in -s, add an apostrophe and an -s. (This is the part that people get wrong)
Yeats's poem
Ross's riddle
Chris's crisis"
And aside from a few exceptions the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press agree ("Apostrophe-S vs. Apostrophe: Forming Possessives of Words Ending in S (or an S Sound)"). Still skeptical? Consider the following "real life" examples:
Anyone who chooses to believe something contrary to evidence that an overwhelming majority of people find overwhelmingly convincing... will not be convince... And so, with this book, I do not expect to convince anyone in that boat. What I do hope is to convince genuine seekers who really want to know how we know that Jesus did exist, as virtually every scholar of antiquity, of biblical studies, of classics, and of Christian origins in this country and, in fact, in the Western world agrees. Many of these scholars have no vested interest in the matter. As it turns out, I myself do not either. I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian agenda. I am an agnostic with atheist leanings, and my life and views of the world would be approximately the same whether or note Jesus existed. My beliefs would vary little. The answer to question of Jesus's historical existence will not make me more or less happy, content, hopeful, likable, rich, famous, or immortal.
-- Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, pp. 5-6

During our period at the abbey his hands were always covered with the dust of books, the gold of still-fresh illumination, or with fellowship substances he touched in Severinus’s infirmary.
-- Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, p. 17

But Harry was already pulling a roll of parchment from the owl's leg. He was so convinced that this letter had to be from Dumbledore, explaining everything -- the dementors, Mrs. Figg, what the Ministry was up to, how he, Dumbledore, intended to sort everything out -- that for the first time in his life he was disappointed to see Sirius's handwriting... "I can't stop the owls coming," Harry snapped, crushing Sirius's letter in his fist.

Note that religion is singular in James's definition and plural in Dennett's. James is describing an experience that he takes to be universal among religions of all descriptions, while Dennett sees religions as distinct 'social systems.'
-- Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind, p. 8

In using it to build a science of the materially extended world, Descartes missed the significance of empirical measurement and inductive mathematical principles in physics; he went so far as to dismiss Galileo’s law of gravity because it was merely empirical. Descartes’s methodological pronouncements missed the actual procedures of the scientific revolution as badly as Bacon’s. Nevertheless, Descartes’s deductive system became for a generation or more the leading emblem of the “mechanical philosophy”; his Principles of Philosophy in 1644 was the most comprehensive statement across the range of science, incorporating everything from physics, chemistry, and physiology to celestial mechanics into a single materialist system.
Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies,  p. 568

Over the course of a week Amos [Tversky] gave five different talks about his work with Danny, each aimed at a different group of academics. Each time the room was jammed--and fifteen years later, in 1987, when Biederman left Buffalo for the University of Minnesota, people were still talking about Amos's talks.
Michael Lewis, The Great Undoing, p. 205
Johann Arnason has pointed out that Jaspers's "most condensed statement" of the axial age, describing it as the moment when "man becomes conscious of Being as a whole, of himself and his limitations," and "experiences absoluteness in the depths of selfhood and in the lucidity of transcendence," is remarkably similar to Jaspers's own version of existential philosophy.
-- Robert N. Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution, p. 272 

There are plenty of more examples, but surely this should suffice.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Can The Niners Send a Signal That Things Will Be Different?

Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group
In economics, signaling refers to the concept that one party credibly conveys some information about itself to another party. It is a method of overcoming the problem of asymmetric information, which is where one party has information the other party does not. For example, potential employees can send a signal about their ability level to various employers by acquiring the appropriate education credentials (e.g., BS, MBA, PhD). Employers can also send signals about the desirability of a place to work. This becomes especially important when they are competing with other firms for high end talent (e.g., high tech firms competing with one another for top engineers and computer scientists).

The San Francisco 49ers have a signaling problem. Two years ago, after Niner CEO Jed York fired head coach Jim Harbaugh and kept GM Trent Baalke the 49ers inadvertently signaled to the rest of the league that San Francisco was no longer desirable place to work or play, as evidenced by the mass exodus of players who left for other teams or decided to retire. And therein lies the Niners problem going forward as they seek to hire a new GM and a new head coach. Who will want to work for the Niners when there are other teams that are more desirable and far less dysfunctional? As columnist Ray Ratto puts it ("York Has His Work Cut Out For Him in Replacing Kelly, Baalke"):
You see, while most folks will be focusing on the identities of the next GM and coach (or coach and GM, if Jed decides to work backwards), the atmosphere is what needs the biggest workover. There is no compelling reason for excitement around either of these vacancies, no more than for the Chargers’ coaching job (Mike McCoy got canned after losing to the Chiefs), the Rams’ coaching job (Jeff Fisher was canned nine days after being extended), the Jaguars’ coaching job (Gus Bradley got it on a plane ride home), the Bills’ coaching job (Rex Ryan cleared space for Anthony Lynn to lose his first game), the Broncos’ coaching job (Gary Kubiak announced he is stepping down), or possibilities in Arizona, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and New Orleans. And yes, it figures that the 49ers would be looking for a new coach when the market is replete with more stable offerings. 
Jed is good at several things – making a stadium turn into an ATM machine, avoiding the public, firing people and paying coaches not to work for him. Other than the money thing, none of these are useful social skills or confidence-builders. 
And that is what he needs most right now – a way to indicate not just to unhappy fans but to the hiring pool that he actually does have a grasp on this football business, even if his grasp is to let go of it and hand it to someone who can repair what he has wrought. The “it’s one of 32 jobs so anyone would be desperate to have it” logic doesn’t work when the brand has been so comprehensively devalued.
In short, the Niners need to send a signal that San Francisco will once again be a desirable destination in the NFL. Doing so won't be easy. In fact, the way York handled the dismissals of Baalke and Kelly (i.e., leaks to the media, not telling Kelly personally, etc.) wasn't a good start. As Tim Kawakami noted last night and this morning:
But once again, the Yorks muffed the delivery by leaking the firings on Saturday night without first telling Kelly, then declining to formally give him word until after Sunday’s loss to Seattle at Levi’s, which gave the 49ers a 2-14 final record. How can the Yorks make all the necessary, wholesale changes to this stultified franchise if they continue to try to play these heavy-handed public-relation games? How is this team going to be any different if their owners continue to act like children? ("A Bungled Start to the 49ers’ New Era")
As we all get ready for Jed York’s 10 a.m. third annual I-fired-somebody-we’ll-get-it-right-this-time presser today, it’s time to note that the 49ers might actually get it right in 2017, but their owner’s actions so far are not quite signaling that. Basically: Some good general manager and coaching candidates are going to look at Jed’s petty behavior in the run-up to the firings of Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly and his self-serving comments afterwards and think: You know, he’s just going to blame me for his mistakes eventually. ("Jed York... continues to behave like somebody who thinks he has it all figured out, but really, really doesn’t")
The Niners remind me of the Golden State Warriors when Chris Cohan owned the team. The franchise made a lot of money during his tenure, but the Warriors only had two winning seasons in the 15 that Cohan owned the team. And Sports Illustrated ranked him as the league's fourth worst owner. I'm sure that if Sports Illustrated decides to rank football owners, Jed would end up toward the bottom (Note: Yahoo Sports Columnist Frank Schwab believes the Niners' vacancy is the least attractive of those available).

The only cure for the Warriors was Cohan selling the team, but (unfortunately) the chance that the Yorks will sell the Niners is close to nil, so Niner fans can only hope that Jed will one day realize that, like his uncle, Eddie Debartolo, he doesn't know a whole lot about football and will hand over the reigns of running the club to a GM who does. I have little confidence that such a day is nigh, however. Hopefully, I am wrong.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Patience Used To Be A Virtue in the NFL

Consider the following win-loss records of actual NFL teams over their first three seasons with a new head coach:
● 0-11; 4-9; 5-8
● 1-13; 5-9; 6-8
● 6-10; 7-9; 7-9
● 7- 9; 1-3; 8-8
How long do you think the head coach of these teams would last in today's NFL? I'm not sure if any of them would've lasted beyond two seasons. But now take a look at to whom those records belong:
● 0-11; 4-9; 5-8 (Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys - 2 Super Bowl Championships)
● 1-13; 5-9; 6-8 (Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers - 4 Super Bowl Championships)
● 6-10; 7-9; 7-9 (Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns - 4 Super Bowl Championships with the New England Patriots)
● 7-9; 1-3; 8-8 (Mike Shanahan, LA Raiders and Denver Broncos - 2 Super Bowl Championships with the Broncos)
I'm not a big fan of Rex Ryan, who was just fired by the Buffalo Bills, but surely two years wasn't long enough for him to turn a Bills' franchise, which hasn't been to the playoffs in 17 years, around. Of course, there's no guarantee that Ryan would've turned the franchise around, but the Bills need to give someone enough time to do so. Imagine if the Cowboys hadn't stuck with Tom Landry, or the Steelers hadn't held on to Chuck Noll. Would they have been as successful? Probably not.

The Cleveland Browns did stick with Belichick for five years, but Belichick's success after leaving Cleveland suggests that firing him was a (huge) mistake. To be fair to the Browns, Belichick had only one winning season during his tenure with them, but compare that to Tom Landry who didn't have a winning season until his 7th year (no, that isn't a misprint). Then, of course, there is Bill Walsh, who was 2-14 and 6-10 in his first two seasons as the 49ers head coach before he won the Super Bowl in his third. And let's not forget that the New York Jets fired Pete Carroll after one season (6-10), and while Carroll has since won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, the Jets are still looking for their first Super Bowl win since Joe Namath predicted one back in 1968.

Unfortunately, patience no longer appears to be a virtue in the NFL. My sense is that some owners are quick to blame their coaches when they should focus more on the poor draft decisions of their general managers. They remind me of some segments of corporate America that privilege short-term profits over long-term viability, which is generally not conducive to organizational success.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Birth of Jesus According to Matthew

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Genius's For Jesus (Updated)

A common assumption in some circles is that religion and education/science are incompatible, but as the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould (who was, at most, an agnostic) once remarked (Scientific American, 1992):
To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth millionth time. . . science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists... Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs—and equally compatible with atheism, thus proving that the two great realms of nature’s factuality and the source of human morality do not strongly overlap.  
Gould isn't the final word on the matter, but sociologists of religion have known for some time that there is a positive association between education and religious belief and practice. For whatever reason, however, this knowledge has failed to find itself to the larger population.

My intention in this (updated) post from a couple of years ago, however, isn't to reiterate known facts but to provide a series of brief biographies of "geniuses" who are/were also Christians. Some are scientists (e.g., Steven Barr, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne), some are philosophers (e.g., René Girard, Alasdair MacIntyre, Gabriel Marcel, Edith Stein, Charles Taylor), some are writers (e.g., Maya Angelou, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, Marilynne Robinson, Dorothy Sayers, John Updike), and some are hard to classify (e.g., Jane Addams, Jaques Ellul, C.S. Lewis, John Sexton, J.R.R. Tolkien). Most are Roman Catholics, which is surprising given the disdain that many contemporary intellectuals have for Catholics. And there are some whom I could've included but didn't (e.g., Alastair McGrath, Peter Berger, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Søren Kierkegaard, Cornell West). I also intentionally left professional theologians off the list since they might be seen as "biased." Of course, although this post focuses on Christian intellectuals, one could just as easily write about intellectuals who are affiliated with other faiths (e.g, the Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas), but I'll let someone else take up that task.

Note: The following information was gleaned from numerous sources, such as Wikipedia, news reports, websites about the individuals, etc. They (hopefully) appear in alphabetical order. New entries are Jane Addams and Edith Stein.

Jane Addams (Presbyterian)—Addams is probably best known as the co-founder of Hull House in Chicago, a settlement house that opened its doors to recent immigrants from Europe. She was also a social activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, leader in women's suffrage, all of which led to her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. What's left out of many textbooks is that she was also a Christian. Her religious faith was a central motive in co-founding Hull House, and in fact she sought to convert others to Christianity. Addams's personal beliefs were shaped by her wide reading and life experience. By the time she had graduated from Rockford Seminary, she knew the Bible thoroughly. Although she remained a member of a Presbyterian church, Addams regularly attended a Unitarian church in Chicago. She also established a close relationship with members of the established Jewish community, notably with the rabbi of Chicago Sinai Congregation, Emil G. Hirsch, and several of the congregation's members.

Maya Angelou (Baptist)—Angelou is probably best known for her series of autobiographies, the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells about her life up to the age of 17. She became a poet and writer after holding a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub performer, and coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was active in the Civil Rights movement and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. From 1982 onward she taught at Wake Forest where she held the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She taught a variety of subjects, including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing. In 1993 she recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993) at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, becoming the first poet to give an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost gave one at President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration. Angelou used the same "writing ritual" for many years. She'd wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards, Roget's Thesaurus, and the Bible. She averaged 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she would edit down to three or four in the evening. Angelou was a member of both Mount Zion Baptist Church in Winston-Salem (for over 30 years) and Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. Both held services after she passed away in May 2014.

Stephen M. Barr (Roman Catholic)Stephen Barr is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware, and a member of its Bartol Research Institute. He does research in theoretical particle physics and cosmology and in 2011 was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the world's second largest organization of physicists. Barr obtained his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1978. He went on to do research at the University of Pennsylvania as a post-doctoral fellow (1978–80), the University of Washington as a Research Assistant Professor (1980-85), and Brookhaven National Laboratory as an Associate Scientist (1985-87), before landing at the University of Delaware in 1987. Barr is a Roman Catholic and writes about religion and science. He is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, and he serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the religious journal, First Things, in which many of his articles have appeared. In 2007, he was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2010 he was elected a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology.

Francis S. Collins (Evangelical)Collins is an American physician/geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is currently the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Yale in 1974 and then enrolled in medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he graduated in 1977. He became known as a gene hunter when working at the University of Michigan, which led him to be to be appointed the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. Collins's parents were, at best, nominal Christians, and by graduate school he considered himself an atheist. Dealing with his dying parents, however, led him to investigate various faiths, and C.S. Lewis's book, Mere Christianity, played an instrumental role in becoming a Christian. H has written several books on science, medicine, and spirituality, including the bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Dorothy Day (Roman Catholic)Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, who after living something of a bohemian life in New York, converted to Catholicism and helped give birth to the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. Her parents were nominal Christians who rarely attended church, but as a young child she displayed a religious streak, reading the Bible frequently. When she was ten she started to attend an Episcopal church, after her brothers join the church choir. She eventually was baptized and confirmed in that church. She quickly drifted away from the faith, however, and she soon described herself as an anarchist and a socialist. She worked for several Socialist publications and wrote in support of women's rights, free love, and birth control. She had long love affair with Mike Gold, who later became a prominent Communist, and in the early 1920s, after the end of a love affair that resulted in an abortion, she was married in a civil ceremony to Berkeley Tobey. The marriage evidently didn't take because she soon became involved with Forster Batterham, but their relationship became strained when Day became increasingly interested in Roman Catholicism. Soon after the birth of their daughter Tamar Teresa, she had their baby baptized in July 1927, but Batterham refused to attend the ceremony. And after one last fight in late December, Day was baptized into the Catholic Church.

Jaques Ellul (Reformed)Ellul was trained as a sociologist although many consider him a philosopher. He was a professor of History and the Sociology of Institutions on the faculty of Law and Economic sciences at the University of Bordeaux. He authored 58 books and more than a thousand articles. Many of these focused on the threat to human freedom and religion created by modern technology. Ellul was educated at the universities of Bordeaux and Paris, and during World War II he was a leader in the French resistance. For his efforts to save Jews he was awarded the title, "Righteous among the Nations," by Yad Vashem in 2001. He converted to Christianity when he was about 20. According to Ellul, a few years before, while translating Faust, Ellul knew he was in the presence of a something so astounding and overwhelming that he jumped on a bike and fled, eventually concluding that he had been in the presence of God. This kick started a conversion process that continued over the next few years. Ellul was heavily influenced by the work of three people: Karl Marx, Søren Kierkegaard, and Karl Barth. Marx and Kierkegaard were the only two authors of which he read all of their work, and he considered Barth the greatest theologian of the 20th century. Ellul was active in the worldwide ecumenical movement although he later criticized it for its often uncritical endorsements of leftist positions. He was, however, also critical of those on the right, and he staked out an explicitly anti-political stance as an alternative to both. Ellul is also credited with coining the phrase, "Think globally, act locally."

René Girard (Roman Catholic)Girard was born on December 25, 1923, in Avignon, France. He studied in Paris’s École Nationale des Chartes and specialized in Medieval studies. In 1947, he emigrated to America and earned a doctorate at the University of Indiana. He remained in America and taught at several different institutions, including Indiana University, State University of New York in Buffalo, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Bryn Mawr, and Stanford until his retirement in 1995. During the beginning of his career as lecturer, Girard was assigned to teach courses on European literature. As he read the great European novels in preparation for the course, he became especially engaged with the work of five novelists in particular: Cervantes, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky and Proust. His first book, Mensonge Romantique et Vérité Romanesque (Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure) (1961), is a literary comment on the works of these great novelists. Until that time, Girard was a self-declared agnostic. As he researched the religious conversions of some of Dostoyevsky’s characters, he converted to Christianity and ever since has been a committed and practicing Roman Catholic. However, his Christian views were not publicly expressed until the publication of Des Choses Cachées Depuis la Fondation du Monde (Things Hidden from the Foundation of the World) (1978), widely considered to be his greatest work. In 2005, Girard was elected to the Académie Française, one of the highest distinctions that French intellectuals can attain.

C. S. Lewis (Anglican)As an undergraduate student at Oxford University Lewis won an unprecedented triple first, that is, the highest honors in three areas of study: Greek and Latin literature in 1920, Philosophy and Ancient History in 1922, and English in 1923. He was then elected a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he worked for nearly thirty years until 1954 when he was awarded the newly founded chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University and elected a fellow of Magdalene College. As a scholar he concentrated on the later Middle Ages, but he is probably best known for his Christian apologetics (e.g., Mere Christianity) and the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was raised in a church-going family in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), but he became an atheist at 15, describing himself as being "very angry with God for not existing." He slowly re-embraced Christianity, influenced largely by arguments with his colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien (see below) and the book, The Everlasting Man, by G. K. Chesterton. He first converted to theism in 1929 and then to Christianity in 1931, following a late-night discussion with Tolkien and another friend. He became a member of the Church of England, much to the disappointment of Tolkien, who had hoped he would become a Roman Catholic. Lewis is commemorated on the 22nd of November in the Episcopal Church's church calendar, which marks the day he died in 1963 (the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated). On the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honored with a memorial in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Alasdair MacIntyre (Roman Catholic)MacIntyre is a Scottish philosopher known primarily for his moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. He was educated at Queen Mary College, London, and has Master of Arts degrees from the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford. He began teaching in 1951 in the UK and then moved to the US in 1970. He has taught at numerous universities, including University of Manchester, Oxford, Vanderbilt, and Notre Dame. He was a relatively well-known Marxist philosopher for years until his "conversion" to Aristotelean ethics, which he articulated in his most famous book, After Virtue. Shortly thereafter he converted to Roman Catholicism after he became a fan of Thomas Aquinas. His conversion to Aristotelian ethics and the Roman Catholic Church hasn't led him to completely abandon his Marxist leanings, however. He has, for instance attempted to combine historical insights of Marx with those of Aquinas and Aristotle, and he does nothing to hide his contempt for liberal capitalism, which he believes dominates the world both in the realm of ideas and in its manifestations in political and social institutions. Thus, although he is in many ways a traditional Catholic, his politics often leans to the left.

Gabriel Marcel (Roman Catholic)Gabriel Honoré Marcel was born in Paris in 1889 and is remembered as a philosopher, playwright, music critic, and Christian existentialist. He authored over a dozen books and at least thirty plays, but he is best known for his two-volume work, The Mystery of Being (1951), the 1949–50 Gifford Lectures, one of the most prestigious lecture series in the world. Marcel's mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his aunt and father. His father was an agnostic, and Marcel was an atheist until he covered to Roman Catholicism in 1929. Marcel obtained the agrégation in philosophy in 1910 at the age of 21. During the WWI he worked with the Red Cross to convey news of injured soldiers to their families. He then taught in secondary schools, was a drama critic for various literary journals, and worked as an editor for Plon, a major French Catholic publisher. For many years, he hosted a weekly philosophy discussion group through which he met and influenced important younger French philosophers like Jean Wahl (Jew), Paul Ricoeur (Christian), Emmanuel Levinas (Jew), and Jean-Paul Sartre (Marxist). Evidently, Marcel was disappointed that he was known almost entirely for his philosophical works and not on his plays, which he hoped would appeal to a wide lay audience.

Flannery O'Connor (Roman Catholic)—Flannery O'Connor was an American writer and essayist, who wrote two novels—Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960)—and 32 short stories, some of which are collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). Her posthumously published collection of short stories, The Complete Stories, won the 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. O'Connor was born in 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, and her writing reflects her Southern roots. In 1945 she graduated with a degree in social sciences from Georgia State College for Women (Georgia College & State University), in an accelerated three-year program. In 1946, she was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa where she got to know a number of important writers and critics who lectured or taught in the program, including Andrew Lytle, who was the editor of the Sewanee Review in which he published several of her short stories. In 1951, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, the same disease her father died of. She was only expected to live 5 more years but lasted 14, dying at the far too young age of 39. O'Connor was a devout Roman Catholic. She collected books on Catholic theology and gave lectures on faith and literature, sometimes traveling quite distances in spite of her poor health. In 2013 her prayer journal ("A Prayer Journal"), which she kept while in Iowa and was just recently discovered among her papers, was published to rave reviews.

John Polkinghorne (Anglican)The Rev. Dr. John Charlton Polkinghorne is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he taught mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1958 to 1979. For 25 years, he worked on theories about elementary particles, played a role in the discovery of the quark, and researched the analytic and high-energy properties of Feynman integrals and the foundations of S-Matrix theory (whatever that is). He also spent time at Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, and at CERN in Geneva, and in 1974 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, which is the oldest an probably the most prestigious society for science in the world. In 1979 he resigned his chair in order to study for the priesthood, and in 1982 he was ordained an Anglican priest. He is the author of several book on physics and theology (e.g., Belief in God in an Age of Science), the latter of which tend to focus on the relationship between science and religion. He delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1993-94, he was knighted in 1997, and in 2002 he was awarded the Templeton Prize, which is something of the Nobel Prize for religion; it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension."

Marilynne Robinson (Congregationalist)Marilynne Robinson was born in 1943 and is an American novelist and essayist. She has received several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2012 National Humanities Medal. She was born and grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho, and earned her undergraduate degree in 1966 (magna cum laude) at Pembroke College, the former women's college at Brown University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1977. Robinson has written three highly acclaimed novels: Housekeeping (1980), Gilead (2004), Home (2008), and Lila (2014). Housekeeping was a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (US), Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer, and Home received the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction (UK). Lila, which was just released this year, has received excellent review. Home and Lila are companions to Gilead and focus on different aspects of the family of a Congregationalist minister. Robinson grew up in the Presbyterian church but later became a Congregationalist, worshipping and sometimes preaching at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City. Her Congregationalism, and her interest in the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, have influenced her writing. In an interview with the Church Times in 2012, Robinson said: "I think, if people actually read Calvin, rather than read Max Weber, he would be rebranded. He is a very respectable thinker."

Dorothy Sayers (Anglican)Although she was a poet, playwright, essayist, translator (e.g., Dante's, The Divine Comedy), and worked in advertising (she is credited with coining the phrase, "it pays to advertise"), she is best known for her mystery novels featuring the Lord Peter Wimsey, which are still in print and continue to remain popular; in fact, several have been turned into BBC and PBS movies. Sayers also wrote several essays and plays on the Christian faith, including Creed or Chaos? (1940), The Mind of the Maker (1941), and The Man Born to be King (1942). In fact, her religious works presented the orthodox Anglican theological position so well that, in 1943, the Archbishop of Canterbury offered her a Lambeth doctorate in divinity, but she declined. Although not a member of the Inklings, she was good friends with many of them, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. Sayers was born in 1893 at the Head Master's House, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, where her father was chaplain and headmaster of the Choir School. When she was six, her father began teaching her Latin, and in 1912 she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where she studied modern languages and medieval literature and finished with first-class honors. At the time women Oxford did not award women degrees, in 1920 when the policy changed, Sayers became one of the first women to receive a degree (Master of Arts) from Oxford.

John Sexton (Roman Catholic)—John Sexton is New York University's (NYU) 15th President. He joined the University's Law School in 1981, was named the Dean of NYU's Law School in 1988, and became NYU's president in 2001. While he was the Law School's Dean (1988-2002), it was named one of the top 5 law schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report, since he has taken over as the school's President, NYU has been named the “number one dream school” four times by The Princeton Review. And in November 2009, Time Magazine named Sexton one of the 10 Best College Presidents. Sexton earned a B.A. in History in 1963 from Fordham College; an M.A. in Comparative Religion in 1965 and a Ph.D. in History of American Religion in 1978 from Fordham University; and a J.D. (magna cum laude) in 1979 from Harvard Law School. Unlike a lot of university presidents, he continues to teach a full course-load, including the exceedingly popular (and hard to get into) class, "Baseball as a Road to God," which was featured on Bill Moyers Journal and was later turned into a book of the same name. The class had its genesis in a crack about baseball that a student made to Sexton several years ago:
I hear you're a big baseball fan. I think the sport is silly and I don't understand why anybody would waste time on it. 
To which Sexton replied,
You are among the unwashed...   
If you will read twelve books that I choose next semester, I will direct you in an independent study at the end of which you will realize that baseball is a road to God.
And the rest, as they say, is history ("Baseball as a Road to God").

Edith Stein (Roman Catholic)—Stein was was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Roman Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, and was canonized as a martyr and a saint. In 1916 she received a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Freiburg under the direction of the philosopher Edmund Husserl. She also worked with Martin Heidegger editing Husserl's papers for publication. It was her reading of Teresa of Ávila's autobiography in the summer of 1921 that led to her conversion. Baptized on New Year's Day in 1922, she first taught at the Dominican nuns' school in Speyer from 1923 to 1931. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, but antisemitic legislation passed by the Nazi's forced her to resign the post in 1933. In 1933 she entered the Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) in Cologne, taking the name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she wrote, Finite and Eternal Being, in which she attempted to combine the philosophies of St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and Husserl. In 1938, in order to protect her from the Nazis, the Carmelites transferred Stein and her sister (also a convert) to their monastery in Echt, Netherlands. The Nazis invaded the Netherlands two years later, and in 1942 they arrested Stein and her sister. In August of that year, she died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. She was beatified as a martyr in 1987 and then canonized in 1998. She is one of Europe's six patron saints, and in 2006 the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (see above) published the book, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922, in which he contrasted her life with that of Martin Heidegger, a Nazi sympathizer.

Charles Taylor (Roman Catholic)—Taylor is a Canadian philosopher who has been awarded the Kyoto Prize (arts and philosophy category), which is Japan’s highest private award for global achievement, and the Templeton Prize, which is is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works." He also delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1998-99 (and again in 2008-09), which became the basis of three books: Varieties of Religion Today: William James RevisitedModern Social Imaginaries; and A Secular Age. Many people (e.g., Robert Bellah) believe the latter is already one of the most important books ever written on social and philosophical theory. Taylor earned his undergraduate degree at McGill University (B.A. in History in 1952) and then studied at Oxford, first as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College in 1955 (B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics), and then as a post-graduate (D.Phil. in 1961) where he studied under Isaiah Berlin and G. E. M. Anscombe. He was the founder of the Universities and Left Review (predecessor to the New Left Review) and a vice-president of the New Democratic Party. Perhaps his best known student is Michael Sandel, whose "Justice" series (the Harvard class, the PBS series, and the book) turned Sandel into something of an academic rock star and helped raise Taylor's profile outside of the academy.

J. R. R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic)—John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is best known for his books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but he was also a professor of English Literature at Oxford for a number of years. Tolkien's first job after WWI was at the Oxford English Dictionary, where he worked primarily on the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with the letter "W." In 1920, he took up a post as Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and became the youngest professor there. In 1925, he returned to Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, with a fellowship at Pembroke College. While at Pembroke, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings. As most people know, Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and he played a significant factor in the conversion of C. S. Lewis. Tolkien vocally opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party prior to WWII, and he especially despised Nazi racist and anti-Semitic ideology. He retired in 1953 and lived comfortably because of the sales of his books. He became a cult figure among the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, something with which he wasn't too pleased. He was, after all, a traditional Catholic.

John Updike (Episcopalian)John Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. He is considered one of the greatest American fiction writers of his generation and is best known for his "Rabbit" novels (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest). He is one of only three authors (Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner were the others) to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction more than once. Updike was also a Christian and theological themes pervaded his books (see e.g., Roger's Version). In fact, at a 2004 talk at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, he told the audience that his Christian faith had “solidified in ways less important to me than when I was 30, when the existential predicament was realer to me than now. … I worked a lot of it through and arrived at a sort of safe harbor in my life... When I haven’t been to church in a couple of Sundays, I begin to hunger for it and need to be there... It’s not just the words, the sacraments. It’s the company of other people, who show up and pledge themselves to an invisible entity.” Unlike many of his mainline Protestant contemporaries, Updike wasn't afraid to affirm tenets of the Christian faith, such as Christ's bodily resurrection, which many find embarrassing if not downright intellectually irresponsible:

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

-- "Seven Stanzas at Easter," John Updike (1960)