Opening Shot

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Thanks to everyone for your welcoming comments. I want to start by giving an overview of my own positions and the topics on which I believe I can make a profitable contribution here.

I’m called a theistic evolutionist. I have significant problems with that designation, though I find it necessary to use it at times. First, I accept the biological theory of evolution. It’s not a doctrine, it’s not a philosophy, it’s not my religion; I accept it as a valuable and overwhelmingly well-documented and supported scientific theory. Second, I am a theist, in that I believe in a personal God. The second does not impact the first. There would be no difference in my formulation of any scientific statement about evolution and that of an atheist. There is no such thing as a theory of “theistic evolution,” there is only the theory of evolution. But because there are those who assume that the debate over creation and evolution is one between theism and atheism, it is necessary to make that designation.

So what am I doing here?

Let me note that I was trained by the other side. I grew up as a young earth creationist. I have literature from the young earth camp that I purchased as a teenager. I went to a private, Christian elementary school where we memorized Genesis 1 & 2 and were indoctrinated in the clearly literal intent. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are from Seventh-day Adventist schools, and the SDA position has long been strong young earth support.

I came to accept and understand evolutionary theory (to a limited extent as a non-scientist) first through Bible study. I took my first personal step away from a young earth position in writing a research paper on textual issues with the genealogies of Genesis 5 & 11. At the time, I simply thought that in order to accommodate the evidence from archeology, we would probably need about 100,000 years, considering population growth, migration and so forth. I followed this by studying the cosmology and imagery behind the creation stories of Genesis and other parts of the Bible, and comparing them with their counterparts in neighboring cultures. As a result, I came to understand that there is nothing in the Biblical text that cannot be explained entirely by an understanding of contemporary cosmology in the ancient near east, and that there is no implication of any modern scientific understanding in those texts.

At this point I still had no understanding at all of either geology or the theory of evolution. That had to wait for a number of wonderful trips through the western states with roadside geology books in hand as I watched the elements of evolution and geological processes fall into place for me.

I say all this because I am often confronted by the assumption that I learned about evolution in public school (I never spent a day in a public school classroom) and was indoctrinated in the “worldview” of evolution and then abandoned my previous belief in Genesis. The process was, in fact, the reverse. By studying the texts, I found that they could not be taken as any form of scientific statement, that they could not possibly be regarded as narrative history, that they had no claim to chronological accuracy, and thus they must be rejected as an explanation of the origin of the diversity of life and the early history of humanity. It was only after I had done so that I read my first books on origins written by authors who were not young earth creationists. (I exempt my High School biology text, because I was required to read a creationist book alongside it to prevent me from believing any of the evolutionary theory presented.)

Because of my background and training, I plan to contribute posts in the following three areas:

  • Literary and critical studies of the Biblical stories relating to creation and human prehistory. I have already published a translation of the flood stories, disentangling and annotating the sources (http://energion.com/rpp/flood.shtml, and I intend to follow with a similar breakdown of all of Genesis 1-11. I will also write about the genre of the literature involved and how we understand it.
  • Specific religious elements of the arguments and goals of the creationist and intelligent design movements. I find these as objectionable from a religious point of view as I do from a scientific one. I will argue that we must allow the science curriculum to be driven by the concensus of scientists, and that giving the force, authority and financial backing of the state to religious doctrine is destructive both of the state and of spirituality.
  • Theological (and just logical) problems with intelligent design theory. I believe this is simply another means to get the support of the state for a particular religious doctrine. I believe it is both bad theology and bad science. In fact, it is generally bad theology that requires the combination of disguise and government authority in order to gain acceptance.

Finally, I note that while I have been called a theologian in some of the responses to the post introducing me, that’s not my profession. My field is Biblical languages most specifically and Biblical studies in general. Thus I will focus on the first item I listed. My best area of contribution to this debate, I believe, is in the serious study of the literature.

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Why Americans Doubt Evolution from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on November 27, 2004 6:12 PM

Yesterday I raised the question of why such a high percentage of Americans reject evolution and accept creationism despite the evidence. Here are some other suggestions on why that is from others. Timothy Burke, in an open letter to my... Read More

118 Comments

Welcome Henry! At least three of your fellow ‘Pandists’ are also theists, but none has your valuable special knowledge. But just so you’ll know where you stand, Phillip Johnson, big guy at the DI (Discovery Institute) and reputed Father of the Wedge has said that Christians who don’t reject evolution are “… worse than atheists, because they hide their naturalism under a veneer of religion.” (1) I’m afraid this means you’re going to Hell. At least if the DI gets to choose. Before you go though, perhaps you can help us unravel the DI’s cat and mouse theology.

1. As related in Jack Krebs’ talk.

Welcome Henry! At least three of your fellow ‘Pandists’ are also theists, but none has your valuable special knowledge. But just so you’ll know where you stand, Phillip Johnson, big guy at the DI (Discovery Institute) and reputed Father of the Wedge has said that Christians who don’t reject evolution are “… worse than atheists, because they hide their naturalism under a veneer of religion.” (1) I’m afraid this means you’re going to Hell. At least if the DI gets to choose. Before you go though, perhaps you can help us unravel the DI’s cat and mouse theology.

1. As related in Jack Krebs’ talk.

Welcome Henry! At least three of your fellow ‘Pandists’ are also theists, but none has your valuable special knowledge. But just so you’ll know where you stand, Phillip Johnson, big guy at the DI (Discovery Institute) and reputed Father of the Wedge has said that Christians who don’t reject evolution are “… worse than atheists, because they hide their naturalism under a veneer of religion.” (1) I’m afraid this means you’re going to Hell. At least if the DI gets to choose. Before you go though, perhaps you can help us unravel the DI’s cat and mouse theology.

1. As related in Jack Krebs’ talk.

If the Bible must be rejected as an explanation of the origin of the diversity of life and the early history of humanity, why discuss it on this site? Why present negative theological arguements, instead of positive scientific arguements?

Why discuss it at this site? 1) Why not? 2) The DI is in effect spreading a package of bad science and bad religion. And I don’t mean the Rock Group.

Very simply, it works like this: they want people to believe that the argument from ignorance is scientific. In theology, the argument from ignorance becomes ‘God of the gaps’. This may lead to additional problems in either field. Many in the general public would be more concerned with keeping bad religion out of schools than bad science. But they don’t know about it. Let’s help them find out.

p.s. don’t let the posting system here, which sometimes reacts slowly, lure you into a double post. :(

Welcome Mr. Neufeld! As a fellow theist, I am looking forward to what you have to contribute. Your area of expertise is precisely what I would like to go into once I finish up with my undergrad studies. I, too, graduated from a Christian school and am wrapping up a management/ministry degree at a Christian college. I have talk.origins to thank for opening my eyes (or sending me to hell, depending on who you ask) over the last four years or so.

Welcome to Pandas Thumb!!

Henry,

What is your opinion on the “seventh day?” When I read Genesis 2 it seems to come out of no where, as if it was tacked onto an earlier story. I think Genesis 2 might have been adapted from a base-six mesopatamian culture and the base-seven hebrews added the final day to work it into their culture. Is this reasonable or bullshit?

Hi, Henry: You certainly are welcome to PT as any sincere person should be. As a life-long agnostic, I’ve some questions for you. Now, when I define myself as an agnostic I mean that I don’t know of any unequivocal proof of either existence or non-existence of a Creator of the universe and therefore I abstain from maintaining a definite position on that point (although circumstantial evidence, IMHO, makes atheism more plausible than faith). However, my view of religions is a different matter. There are tens of thousands of religions, so why should I take Christianity more seriously than, say, Bahai or Sikh faith? My opinion is that all religions are based on very shaky foundations so thair tenets cannot be taken seriously. You are a theist - but from what you told about your biography seems to follow that your faith in a personal God stems from the indoctrination you receieved in your early formative years rather than from any rational argumentation.

Can you kindly explain why you, an obviously rational person who is capable of viewing the Genesis story from the standpoint of its logic and consistency, nevertheless keep faith in a personal God despite the complete lack of evidence, besides a sentimental adherence to your sweet childhood emotions? I have tried to get an answer to that question from other theists who, apart from their faith, are perfectly rational and science-loving people, but none of them gave a coherent answer (most simply avoided any answer).

Thanks in advance and, again, welcome. Mark Perakh.

Mark-

To be honest, I don’t think that’s really an appropriate question for this forum. Henry is not here to defend theism or Christianity, but to look at the validity of creationism/ID from the standpoint of a biblical scholar. To get off into arguments about the truth or falsity of Christianity in this forum would be counter to our goals, I think.

Ed, the question I asked may indeed be viewed as inappropriate for PT if judged from the original position of this blog’s initiators. However, in the course of its gradual progress, PT has been inundated with many comments and even posts that went rather far from the initial scope of its topics, so a brief discussion of my question will hardly lead us much farther from the original schema than it has gone already. I am not requesting from Henry a defense of faith or Christianity but only an explanation of how people like him maintain both their faith and adherence to science despite the quite serious divergence of the approaches and methods between religion and science. If, though, there is a strong aversion to discussing my question here, I’d be quite satisfied with getting a private response from Henry.

I too welcome you Henry, not quite as enthusiastically as Pete has perhaps, but genuinely just the same. I am new here too, and find most of the discussion a bit too technical to really grasp, particularly complex arguments about the chemistry involved. As a confirmed agnostic, I have been open to the fence sitter argument, but two things have moved me to my position, one is the extreme ignorance of our species on scientific questions of the most basic sort, the other, the problem of beginnings. God, gods, or naturalism has vouchsafed me no insights, so I am more inclined to the atheistic side of agnosticism, but still, I don’t know. I view a lot of what I see here as a competition between apples and oranges, the apples accuse the oranges of not having enough appleness, and the oranges demanding the apples submit to their orangeness, then provide pseudo applish reasons, and, in fact, become oranges “on faith” and applish argument. Religion, and science are very different at the core, and both have important places in the society we have. Try as it may, science cannot answer all questions, and (some) religion often makes unreasonable claims on the credulity of the flock. I am hoping that you will add some insights to this ongoing impasse. I certainly have not seen an example of anyone being convinced to “switch” in spite of a sea of arguments.

This all seems to be quite timely as I discussed intelligent design with several Christian friends who (surprisingly to me) had reached the independent conclusion that intelligent design was dishonest and a God of the Gaps argument and as such was posing a danger not just to science but also to religion. It was good to hear how Christians are starting to see how Intelligent Design is scientifically meaningless and poses a significant risk to religion.

Joseph Wrote:

I view a lot of what I see here as a competition between apples and oranges, .…

The problem is certain people saying dumb and clearly false things about biology, and being very politically insistent about teaching these things in school as if they were science. It’s apples and (here’s a sample) anti science propaganda.

pete wrote: being very politically insistent about teaching these things in school as if they were science.”

I agree pete, you are preaching to the choir here, I am saying that the realm of science and the realm of religion do NOT and should NOT be overlaped, that the new “Religious Right” wants to was addressed by my earlier post here:

“demanding the apples submit to their orangeness, then provide pseudo applish reasons, and, in fact, become oranges “on faith” and applish argument.”

I find it wildly inapproiate, they do not understand their own religion IMHO.

From what I have read here so far, I am inclined to the view that pussyfooting around difficult questions leads far too often, to discussions like competition between apples and oranges . It is as if the thinking apparatus of some correspondents slides away from the initial point. Where is the terrier instinct? Let us define ourselves by our brains.

IMO all those who confess religious beliefs should try to answer this reductionist question. “ Is belief in a existence after death of the body, essential to be considered human and if so, then by what means do humans acquire this property of continuation? “.

Science teaches that humans evolved from proto-humans. Therefore there had to be the first one, different from its parents. This poor bastard was the first of our kind to realise the concept of personal death. What a ghastly thought! Probably the most pyschologically damaging idea idea ever. In order to rationise the fear, this horror of personal oblivion, the first thinker decided that positing the hypothesis of after-existence and actually coming to believe in it, seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh boy, that was a bad idea.

Humans since then have believed in thousands of false gods. Atheists simply choose to believe in one less than the rest.

Pericles

Joe Wrote:

If the Bible must be rejected as an explanation of the origin of the diversity of life and the early history of humanity, why discuss it on this site? Why present negative theological arguements, instead of positive scientific arguements?

The reason I believe such commentary is legitimate is because of comments such as the following:

Kurt P. Wise Wrote:

The Bible is preserved, reliable, and true because of the nature of its Author. It should be believed over observation and evidence. (Faith, Form, and Time, p. 26)

I think it is appropriate for either a scientist or someone versed in Biblical studies to respond to such a claim. It is as legitimate as explaining to students that “Gone with the Wind” will not help them learn chemistry, should any student actually think it would. And note that by saying that “Gone with the Wind” does not present facts of chemistry, I do not say that it presents nothing of value.

“Therefore there had to be the first one, different from its parents. This poor bastard was the first of our kind to realise the concept of personal death. What a ghastly thought! Probably the most pyschologically damaging idea idea ever. “

cf Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: “Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on for ever. It must have been shattering- stamped into one’s memory. And yet I can’t remember it. It never occurred to me at all. What does one make of that? We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there’s only one direction, and time is its only measure.”

Mark Perakh Wrote:

If, though, there is a strong aversion to discussing my question here, I’d be quite satisfied with getting a private response from Henry.

I’m quite happy to respond privately, but I am also quite willing to respond publicly, just in another forum. I’m already available on the Compuserve Religion Forum (I have links to the sections at http://energion.com/chatting.shtml).

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

What is your opinion on the “seventh day?” When I read Genesis 2 it seems to come out of no where, as if it was tacked onto an earlier story. I think Genesis 2 might have been adapted from a base-six mesopatamian culture and the base-seven hebrews added the final day to work it into their culture. Is this reasonable or bullshit?

I think it’s a legitimate question, though I don’t know a definite answer. I believe the seventh day was part of the text in the immediate written source (in this case P, the priestly source) of Genesis 1. In fact, the six day creation scheme is used to focus on the seventh day and enshrine in worship form God’s sovereignty over time. (Genesis 1 is much more liturgy than any other form of literature.)

In the prehistory of the text, however, there is a clear design to counter certain poritions of the Mesopotamian stories, both Sumerian and Babylonian, while at the same time participating in the same cosmology and general symbolism. I will see whether I can find any definite evidence that would tie Genesis 2:1-3 to that background.

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

What is your opinion on the “seventh day?” When I read Genesis 2 it seems to come out of no where, as if it was tacked onto an earlier story. I think Genesis 2 might have been adapted from a base-six mesopatamian culture and the base-seven hebrews added the final day to work it into their culture. Is this reasonable or bullshit?

I think it’s a legitimate question, though I don’t know a definite answer. I believe the seventh day was part of the text in the immediate written source (in this case P, the priestly source) of Genesis 1. In fact, the six day creation scheme is used to focus on the seventh day and enshrine in worship form God’s sovereignty over time. (Genesis 1 is much more liturgy than any other form of literature.)

In the prehistory of the text, however, there is a clear design to counter certain poritions of the Mesopotamian stories, both Sumerian and Babylonian, while at the same time participating in the same cosmology and general symbolism. I will see whether I can find any definite evidence that would tie Genesis 2:1-3 to that background.

I’m confused. One important creationist position is that evolution is inconsistent with theism, and that accepting the former does or could lead to rejecting the latter. “Theistic evolutionists” say that evolution is not, or need not be, incompatible with theism. Mr. Neufeld said he was such a person. He also said, at least by implication, that in his view the creationist position is a mistake, and indeed a theological mistake. Mr. Perakh’s (original) question, as I understand it, is how one can embrace science (and its methods) while still maintaining belief in a personal god – how one can accept evolution (or science) and also theism. This seems pertinent to the typical creationist view that the two are incompatible. What’s inappropriate about that as a subject for discussion on this forum? Isn’t this a “theological problem … with intelligent design theory?” How can one argue that the creationist position that evolution (in particular, and maybe science in general) is incompatible with theism is “bad theology” without “defend[ing] theism” – at least to the extent of defending its compatibility with science?

Pericles wrote: all those who confess religious beliefs should try to answer this reductionist question. “ Is belief in a existence after death of the body, essential to be considered human and if so, then by what means do humans acquire this property of continuation? “.

A significant portion of those with religious beliefs would answer “no” and consider the rest of the question meaningless, for example Hinduisim and Buddhism are concerned with the removal of the individual from the wheel of life. This “karmic” idea also seems to have been present in the Orphic, and other mystery cults of the pre christian mediteranean area. Much of the Tao is concerned with proper behavior in society, and has little to say of an afterlife. Many religions have seen, and do see the afterlife as, at best, a shadowy affair. Ancient Greeks among them. Religions that have a strong “after life” theme have this continuation usually conditional on “right” behavior. Of course the definition of “right” is the exclusive realm of the church leadership’s interpretation. Galileo’s “crimes” come to mind. Science is based on reason and methology. Religion is based on faith. Any overlap is a figment, in the eye of the beholder, an argument from ignorance, or if you will, comparing apples to oranges, an argument, settled to the satisfaction of most, a century ago. This is an EX-ARGUMENT (or parrot).

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Several years ago, while visiting the Smithsonian, I saw an exhibit of artifacts from the excavations at the ancient site of Ur (most on loan from the U of Pennsylvania). One of the most striking artifacts is a small sculpture of “A ram caught in a thicket,” which has a clear parallel in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Picture available at http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/001019/ur.shtml

Henry, do you know of a more complete list of “borrowings” from Mesopotamian mythology in the first 5 books of the Bible?

(A local columnist has described Biblical fundamentalists as being obsessed with Genesis and Revelations, while paying too little attention to everything in between.)

Jeff Chamberlain Wrote:

How can one argue that the creationist position that evolution (in particular, and maybe science in general) [YES- pete] is incompatible with theism is “bad theology” without “defend[ing] theism” — at least to the extent of defending its compatibility with science?

What’s to argue? We know from astronomy & geology that the earth is very old and the universe much older, and vast. But there is nothing in theism as such that says that the universe must be a particular size or age, or that life wouldn’t evolve if the universe has great age.

Well before modern science, Christian theologians noted that not everything in the Old Testament need be believed literally. Jesus didn’t even take all the ‘moral’ rules literally. The ‘literal translation’ (two words that don’t go well together) fixation is a recent pathology.

I don’t know of other “list” like articles. Most discussions of the flood myth remark on the obvious match points using Atrahasis, and Gilgamesh. The flood story was very popular. The gods regret creation of man, they disagree (in Genesis Yahweh/Elohim is conflicted too), they seek to destroy man, man the “clever one” (the literal translation of Atrahasis) with help from a god, defeats the gods intention, the gods regret their acts and promised not to try to destroy man again.

When told in the oldest version known to scholars, Atrahasis, there are many persuasive details that this is an account from the origins of agriculture, and early state level organization.

Some readily accessable books are:

Blenkinsopp, Joseph 1992 The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible The Anchor Bible Reference Library New York: ABRL/Doubleday

Cross, Frank Moore 1973 Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Boston: Harvard University Press

Dalley, Stephanie 2000 Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Revised Oxford: Oxford University Press

Friedman, Richard Elliott 1987 Who Wrote the Bible New York:Harper and Row (Paperback Edition)

Jacobsen, Thorkild 1976 The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion New Haven: Yale University Press

Pardee, Dennis 2002 Writings from the Ancient World Vol. 10: Ritual and Cult at Ugarit Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature

Parker, Simon B. (Editor) 1997 Ugarit Narrative Poetry Translated by Mark S. Smith, Simon B. Parker, Edward L. Greenstein, Theodore J. Lewis, David Marcus, Vol. 9 Writings from the Ancient World. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature

Friedman skimps the earlier Summer and Old Babylonian material, but has interesting thinks to say about the authorial sequences in the pentateuch.

Frank Wrote:

Henry, do you know of a more complete list of “borrowings” from Mesopotamian mythology in the first 5 books of the Bible?

Let me add to those already listed:

Thomas, D. Winton, Ed. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: HarperCollins College Division, 1979. This is the most closely tied to the Old Testament, but has the least breadth in ANE texts. It has a good scriptural index.

Pritchard, James B. The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Volume I). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965. This is a broader in terms of ANE texts than Thomas, but sometimes a bit harder to follow.

Pritchard, James B. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969. This is the real thing, but at $130 for a copy, use it at the library!

Pritchard, James B. Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Despite the dates involved, each of these has a substantial number of parallels annotated along with translations of the relevant literature.

There are many versions of the bible, in many languages. Vulgate, Catholic, Protestant. Some years back I was informed the the phrase “It is easier for a camel pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”, was mis-translated. Apparently the Aramaic words for camel and rope differ by one dot. Does anyone know whether that is true? I would seem to make more sense. Then there is the needle itself. A modern needle is steel and manufactured in millions. 2000 years ago, what was a needle?

Rather more recently, I was informed that the bible is available in Pidgin for New Guinean tribesman, the people whom Jared Diamond is convinced are brighter than us. There were many difficulties in rendering the King James version in Pidgin, however the phrase I like, illustrates how cultural differences shape language. The tribesman at that time were unaware of what sheep were, so the description “Lamb of god” had to be translated in terms to which these people could relate. An animal with which they were all familiar.

The direct translation? Christ was the “Pig of god”. On that basis, should creationists really believe in the literal truth of their bible? I am sure we would all like to know the answer.

The early fathers of the Roman church edited the New Testament to suit their political goals. Anyone any ideas what they left out as inconvenient?

Pericles

TTTTTTTT “It is easier for a camel pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”, was mis-translated. Apparently the Aramaic words for camel and rope differ by one dot. Does anyone know whether that is true? I would seem to make more sense.

It would seem to make more sense.

————————————– Have had look at bible translations. Found this!

Should The Church Be Concerned About Bible Translations? (By Marc A. Graham, D. Min.)

I am frequently asked as a pastor, “Which Bible translation do you recommend?” Most people, even most pastors, consider the answer to this question to be a matter of personal preference rather than an area of conviction.

Why does it matter which Bible we use: the King James, the New American Standard, or the increasingly popular New International Version? They are all the Word of God, we are told. ARE THEY REALLY? Let’s look and see.

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew with the New Testament being penned in Greek. This is why you hear many preachers referring to “the Hebrew” or “the Greek” in their sermons. But the key question is this: “Since none of us possess the original manuscripts of the Bible, can we truly say that we have the Word of God in our hands today?”

This continues somewhat and concludes.

Digital Sword note: The King James Bible is free, whereas most other translations are not, and is the bible translation used for this site. If you want to check a verse then click on it and the whole chapter will be shown in a new window and will jump straight to the verse you want.

If you like the bible translation used here you can get it for free from the brilliant HTML Bible website. They provided the translation used here and they also have free translations of the bible in many other languages, not just in English.

Please note that reading a different translation than the King James is not a sin, it won’t stop you being saved either, but it will mean you have missing words or verses and this could be a problem if you do detailed bible studies for instance.

This page has been used with the permission of the webmaster here where, if you click the link, you will find the original page. The content is exactly the same except for spelling corrections I noticed and corrected, and the addition of each bible reference being made into a link so that you can check out every reference for yourself . I didn’t write the article but do agree with it’s content which is why I have asked for, and been given, permission to have it on the site.

Hopefully this will be interesting to you, at the very least it’s an eye opener :o)

So, There we have it. Missing phrases or words. Digital Swords words, not mine. Let us consider reducing the number of words even more, so it makes better sense. And the word is “bollocks”.

Pericles

I believe people without a religion do not exist. There is an evolutionary necessity for religion. Something has to fill the hole, some conviction or philosophy. In an ever changing world, what is inside us needs to be a sure foundation, a definite truth, at least one. This is my justification for attempting to prove why theism and scientific reasoning can successfully co-exist. The first way they can co-exist is by having your beliefs co-incide with what can be proven. But this is taking the easy way. Most people seem to choose this route. But not everything can be observed. When the outcome depends on chance, no one can know what will happen, although using probability we can guess. I propose that, although God is not bound to working within ‘chance,’ it is certainly a way he can work without the possibility of being detected. He may do otherwise, but whether someone witnesses it is up to Him. He will not allow science to probe him, therefore ID has no chance to prove His existance, neitehr does real science, to prove either His absence or presence. Is this a “God of the gaps” argument? It is the only way I can think of to pacify both sides.

shaggy maniac wrote:

… What I can say is that your opinion of religion and the value of faith experience in life is quite apart from mine.  IMO, your exposition displays a very ill-informed and incomplete picture of the impact and importance of religious expression in the lives of many people.  You seem to be entirely ignorant of a wide range of humanitarian work that is done by people who are motivated by their faith.

I don’t believe in god or anything supernatural. But I don’t think anything I’ve written displays an ill-informed or incomplete understanding of the importance or impact of religion. I’m not ignorant of humanitarian work by people motivated by faith (or simply by human empathy); I don’t know what I wrote that led you to assume that.

IMO, it is extremely condescending for you to imply that such folks are just somehow unnecessarily deluded with fairy tales.

No more condescending that people of faith constantly talking down to atheists and implying that we are immoral, incapable of compassion or humanitarianism, or that we are missing something essential in our lives.

For many people of faith, God’s presence in their lives is a first hand experience - that experience is the personal evidence that grounds their faith.  For example, by faith I experienced the healthy birth of my son as a miraculous event to which I am moved to express thanks to God.

I know people experience things that are outside their understanding or capacity to describe. I experience those things, too. I just don’t attribute them to the presence of a god in my life. I have three children, I’ve experienced the powerful emotions of childbirth and fatherhood three times now, but I don’t find any need to thank god or attribute my powerful feelings to something supernatural. If you had been raised without faith, or in a faith without a tradition of personal connection to a god, don’t you think you’d still experience intense joy and love for your child? What’s wrong with just accepting that those emotions are part of everyone’s human experience, and that we can’t explain or describe them?

By faith, I accept that God gives the freedom to live life apart from God.

If I believed in god I would think it presumptuous to pretend to know god’s mind. How do you know god gives anyone freedom to live apart? Because of divine revelation passed down to you? Because god told you so? Except for a handful of exceptions people who claim direct communication with and revelation from god are treated as dangerous lunatics (especially by other people of faith). Everyone else has to rely on second-hand revelations and stories passed around in their culture.

This is all very interesting (to me), but it’s not the point I was originally making. I offered the opinion that someone who holds supernatural beliefs is ultimately less credible as a scientist than someone who doesn’t. That isn’t to say scientists can’t believe – Darwin and Einstein come to mind – but that their faith either imposes a limit on their ability to reason, or their faith is always receding into abstraction as science shines more light on their understanding.

IMO, it is extremely condescending for you to imply that such folks are just somehow unnecessarily deluded with fairy tales.

Nevertheless, they do. So the problem changes to, when to put it more bluntly, when to put it less bluntly, when to avoid discussion. Just because people believe in fairy tales, for terrible reasons, doesn’t mean that we have to shout that all the time. It also doesn’t mean we have to always pretend that it’s a perfectly sensible thing to do. In my opinion, finding the right balance at the right moment can be more important than how the argument itself is made. Perfectly good arguments can fail because they aren’t adjusted for the audience. And then you’ve just wasted time.

I would say that this discussion goes a bit out of the bounds of what Panda’s Thumb focuses on, but the addition of Henry Neufeld brings general religion into the proper debate. Which is one reason I don’t like it.

“So the problem changes to, when to put it more bluntly, when to put it less bluntly, when to avoid discussion.”

Exactly. It is so politicized now that defenders of science have to tread more carefully to avoid stepping on people’s personal beliefs. After all, it is extremely personal. Be diplomatic. If our leading evolution “idols,” as someone put it earlier, had done that all along, (what purpose is there to saying that God was not needed in the process? It would have been enough to say that we cannot know either way, or to avoid mentioning God at all) maybe the anti-evolution movement would not be as politically strong.

I don’t like mixing theology and science either, but it has been done already, and not only by anti-evolutionists.

The point that Mr. Jorgenson made, that he does not trust scientists who are religious, can go both ways. People don’t trust scientists who write about whether or not God is needed for the process of evolution. It may be true that he is not needed, but is it a good move for a scientist who is not a theologan to even bring it up? I think not. It is too late to run from the question now.

Me (to Greg)…IMO, it is extremely condescending for you to imply that such folks are just somehow unnecessarily deluded with fairy tales.

Greg (in reply to me)…No more condescending that people of faith constantly talking down to atheists and implying that we are immoral, incapable of compassion or humanitarianism, or that we are missing something essential in our lives.

Do I correctly take this response to mean that you are satisfied with your condescending tone? I’ve never said those things about atheists - though I have no doubt you may have heard them from some condescending people of faith. I don’t see much practical value in taking such a posture.

“I offered the opinion that someone who holds supernatural beliefs is ultimately less credible as a scientist than someone who doesn’t. That isn’t to say scientists can’t believe — Darwin and Einstein come to mind — but that their faith either imposes a limit on their ability to reason, or their faith is always receding into abstraction as science shines more light on their understanding.”

Greg thanks for clarifying what is, I believe, your most direct and yet least well supported point. Surely you must have some data to support such a strong assertion, or are we to take your personal distaste faith expression as authoritative reason to accept this unsupported premise?

Do you really think a person of faith who is a scientist necessarily expects some inexpplicable quirks in their data and just chalks it up to the hand of God or some meddling pixies? If you I’ll await your convincing demonstration of why a person of faith cannot practice science under methodological naturalism that is in any way less than that produced by an athiest.

In my haste to reply, it seems I added a confusing negation to my last sentence. Hopefully, it is obvious that I mean to ask…why, other than Greg’s opinion, should we accept the premise that science practiced by a theist is necessarily less than science practiced by an atheist?

my comment above should read “Nevertheless, they are…”

Nevertheless they do is confusing and the result of overwork.

Hello, I have a comment on the literalism: if you insist that the Bible is literally true, IMHO you cannot possibly refer to any text except the original Hebrew for the Old Testament and the ancient Greek for the New Testament. So, how comes that most YEC swear by KJV? I would like Henry’s opinion on this. (You see, I am Italian, and there are almost no open creationists around here, so I don’t know whether this argument has been tried by someone and with what degree of success) Thanks

Salvatore-

What’s worse, we have none of the original manuscripts for any of it. Arguments about which English version is authoritative come down to arguments over which (unoriginal) manuscripts were used in the translation process, though I’m sure Henry could answer you much more precisely.

Shaggy

My comment is mainly that it is logically impossible to expect having a version of any text that is both literally true and a translation from another language.

The translation process simply cannot convey all the original meaning, because each language creates its own network of concepts, and they are all different in subtle ways (as anybody who knows more than one language can attest).

So, it is irrelevant which original the translation was made from, the very fact that it is a translation defies its literal interpretation (indeed, Muslims insist on not translating the Koran AFAIK), yet I would expect this point to be completely lost on most YECs.

Salvatore-

Your point is well-taken, indeed. Another reason to question literal interpretation a la YECs and other fundamentalists is that it is a practice that is essentially a modern approach to scripture and not at all consistent with the way in which scripture has been read and regarded over the larger course of church history. Trying to regard scripture as a factual account of historical events is a culturally derived practice that only really came about in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As Karen Armstrong has pointed out in _The Battle for God_, so-called fundamentalism, which grounds itself in biblical literalism, is not any kind of return to fundamentals, but is rather a very modernistic approach. Throughout most of church history, scripture was read primarily in a liturgical context. Reading scriptures such as Genesis as if one were reading a newspaper account is a significant departure from historical practice.

Shaggy

Salvatore-

There is another basic problem with literalist interpretation like we see from so-called fundamentalists. Such reading of scripture is out of step with the history of the church. Picking up the bible and reading it as though one were reading a factual account such as you might hope to find in a newspaper is a strong departure from the largely liturgical context in which scriptures were read throughout most of church history. Karen Armstrong in _The Battle for God_ points out that so-called fundamentalism grounded in biblical literalism is an essentially modernistic phenomenon. Fundies who claim to be doing something pure by “just reading what it says” and taking it at face value are treating scripture in a decidedly novel manner. There is little historical precedent and even less scholarly support for reading scripture in this manner.

Shaggy

Oops, I thought my comment had been lost in the blogosphere - sorry for the repetition.

Speaking of translations and such, I’ve always liked Jimmy Williams’ article from Probe.org, entitled “Are The Biblical Documents Reliable?”

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/d[…]ib-docu.html

An additional, classic resource would be FF Bruce’s The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable?, but that’s a book-length gig instead of article-length. So I usually settle for sharing William’s article with those interested in the question of whether or not Biblical reliability is adversely affected by “translations.”

FL

Fl writes

Speaking of translations and such, I’ve always liked Jimmy Williams’ article from Probe.org, entitled “Are The Biblical Documents Reliable?”

Here’s one of the first paragraphs of Jimmy’s intellectually rigorous argument:

The scribe was considered a professional person in antiquity. No printing presses existed, so people were trained to copy documents. The task was usually undertaken by a devout Jew. The Scribes believed they were dealing with the very Word of God and were therefore extremely careful in copying. They did not just hastily write things down.

Bwwahahahahahhhaahahaahahaha!!!!!!!!!

One of the late Sam Fuller’s least-seen movies is “The Baron of Arizona” starring the immortal Vincent Price as a rascally scoundrel who teaches himself the “profession” of being a scribe in order to forge a document which entitles him to the territory of Arizona. An awesome flick but unfortunately never available on home video.

Anyway, I just can’t resist reading that paragraph from Williams again. Heeh … hehehhe. …. hahhahaah.… bwwaahwahahhahhaahahaa!!!!!!

Henry Neufeld Wrote:

I’m quite happy to respond privately, but I am also quite willing to respond publicly, just in another forum. I’m already available on the Compuserve Religion Forum (I have links to the sections at http://energion.com/chatting.shtml).

Looked over there in Scholar’s Corner->Theistic Evolution but found no reply. Have you posted a reply to Mark Perakh’s question anywhere?

Giant Sloth Wrote:

Looked over there in Scholar’s Corner->Theistic Evolution but found no reply. Have you posted a reply to Mark Perakh’s question anywhere?

I replied to Mark Perakh privately. If you would like, I’ll be happy to reply publicly. I have placed a very brief comment with some links in a message thread titled Theism and Scientific Thinking (http://community.compuserve.com/n/p[…]25&tsn=1). I’m not going to discuss this issue in any way here, and I do not claim I will have a satisfying answer.

shaggy wrote:

Greg thanks for clarifying what is, I believe, your most direct and yet least well supported point.  Surely you must have some data to support such a strong assertion, or are we to take your personal distaste faith expression as authoritative reason to accept this unsupported premise?

Do you really think a person of faith who is a scientist necessarily expects some inexpplicable quirks in their data and just chalks it up to the hand of God or some meddling pixies?  If you  I’ll await your convincing demonstration of why a person of faith cannot practice science under methodological naturalism that is in any way less than that produced by an athiest.

I did write that it was my opinion – I wasn’t proposing a testable hypothesis.

History supports my point. I could make a long list of supernatural beliefs that were once widely believed that were challenged and wiped out by science. Some people clung to their superstitions even in the face of naturalistic explanations. Others adapted by moving the boundary of their faith. Some obvious examples are astrology, young earth, creationism, earth-centered cosmology, witchcraft, alchemy, thousands of dead religions.

To take one example, when Copernicus published his heliocentric theory and demonstrated that the earth is not the center of the universe, he challenged widely-believed dogma and upset some foundational beliefs of Christianity. Once the evidence started piling up to show that Copernicus was right, the Catholic church and its followers adapted to the reality and made their god a little more abstract: He became a little less of a superhuman master of creation directing the universe and a little more of a spiritual force enclosing and infusing creation. And yes, I know that Copernicus was a lifelong Christian: obviously he was able to adapt his faith a little faster than his contemporaries.

There are many similar examples. We’re still fighting the revolution Darwin set off, with creationists trying to deny the accumulating evidence for evolution and natural selection. Their creation and flood myths must be protected at all costs, no matter how much they contradict natural evidence (to say nothing of common sense).

If a scientist holds supernatural beliefs, they have to set a boundary where science and reason end and faith or superstition takes over. Today rational scientists who believe in god will describe god as an ultimate power who created the universe, or created the conditions that allowed the universe to create itself. Thinking scientists don’t have the same literal conception of god as a mediaeval mystic, or Oral Roberts, who grapples with Lucifer in his kitchen. My point is that the difference is one of degree – people who believe in the supernatural but who don’t want to seem ignorant push the boundary between reason and faith so far out that there’s little danger of science approaching it, at least not in their lifetime.

It’s pretty easy to show that gods aren’t sitting on Mt. Olympus directing our fates, and that the Christian god is probably not having phone conferences with Pat Robertson. We would ridicule a serious scientist who actually believed in astrology or young earth geology, because science can disprove those without question. Anyone who holds out for astrology as a matter of faith would not not be taken seriously, no matter how strong their faith.

My question is, how is a supernatural belief in the Christian god (for example) any different than a belief in astrology? And why do we pay respect to one of those beliefs and ridicule the other? If the answer is that I don’t appreciate the power or purpose of god, or that we can’t know enough to explain him, I hope you at least see that you are expressing an opinion that can’t be backed up with anything, and scientifically it’s shakier than my opinion. Anyone who claims there is a god and assigns attributes to that god has to back up their claim; I’m only saying that I don’t think there’s a god (or anything else we think of as supernatural) because there’s no evidence to support such a belief. It’s not my responsibility to prove everyone who does believe wrong.

Greg-

I appreciate that you identify your claim as opinion. Your historical review nicely shows the erosion of supernaturalistic views, albeit largely by the work of theistic scientists as you acknowledged in the case of Copernicus and others.

It is not in anyway my agenda to try to convince you or anyone, for that matter, of the existence of God. My faith will remain a valuable part of my life in any case. I don’t think you really answered my question, though. Do you have reason to expect a theistic scientist to make non-scientific claims about their data, i.e. to contaminate their work as a scientist with non-scientific claims? If the answers is yes, then I think your opinion demands some kind of evidence to be taken seriously, as it is quite a critical claim indeed. If on the other hand, you concede that a theist is can be perfectly capable of doing good science then I submit that your opinion is just anti-theistic posturing that is irrelevant to the discussion. Are you claiming that theists necessarily can only produce science that is of lower quality than non-theists? If so, you have a lot of history to deal with, indeed.

Cheers,

Shaggy

I used the phrase “theistic scientists” above. That is not what I meant. I meant to say scientists who were also theists. Sorry for the confusion.

shaggy wrote:

Do you have reason to expect a theistic scientist to make non-scientific claims about their data, i.e. to contaminate their work as a scientist with non-scientific claims?  If the answers is yes, then I think your opinion demands some kind of evidence to be taken seriously, as it is quite a critical claim indeed.  If on the other hand, you concede that a theist is can be perfectly capable of doing good science then I submit that your opinion is just anti-theistic posturing that is irrelevant to the discussion.  Are you claiming that theists necessarily can only produce science that is of lower quality than non-theists?  If so, you have a lot of history to deal with, indeed.

I think I made my point at least twice already, but I’ll restate it. Irrational beliefs in the supernatural (which includes religion) are always in danger of clashing with rational scientific thought. That doesn’t preclude anyone from practicing science, as long as their scientific thought is comfortably removed from their supernatural beliefs.

Since the beginning of recorded history we have believed in and then discarded systems of belief as our knowledge and tools for reasoning have advanced. At the same time our conceptions of god and the supernatural have retreated. Copernicus didn’t believe Zeus sat on Mt. Olympus hurling thunderbolts, and we no longer believe the sun and planets revolve around the earth. In western European and American culture, the last 2,500 years have seen a pantheon of anthropomorphic pagan gods dissolve into a single all-powerful god who is somewhat more removed from our day-to-day reality. As science encroaches into that god’s domain, casting serious doubt on the creation and flood stories, the age of the earth, the origin of species, the size and age of the universe, etc., rational people who believe in god have to redefine their god to keep him safe. So you find theists today who try to find god among quantum particles, or within themselves, where he is safe from the advance of science in a way that Isis and Apollo and Mithras were not.

Many, if not most, of the scientists responsible for profound advances in our understanding – Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Einstein – held religious beliefs. Depending on the area they worked in, and how they reconciled their superstitions with their scientific work, they were more or less successful at doing untainted work. More often their rational accomplishments were accompanied by equally vigorous but misguided work driven by superstition – Newton’s obsession with alchemy comes to mind. Their thought process may have been tainted but the result was more or less pure. When Copernicus published his ideas about the solar system he knew he would be turning church dogma on its ear, so he published philosophical and religious works to ease the blow, both for himself and for other believers. He didn’t want his scientific discoveries to threaten his faith, but truth is a powerful thing so it was the Christian faith that had to adapt to the reality of Copernican cosmology, not the other way around. We’re still fighting (at least in America) with religious people who want the truth of Darwinism to go away. Evidence of history shows that they will ultimately fail, because it is always religion that retreats from truth and regroups from a safe distance.

If you look at the history of science you find many, many examples of science tainted and influenced by religion. I don’t even think that’s a bad thing in itself. But it does show that even the greatest scientific thinkers struggled with reconciling their faith with the truth.

I do believe people of faith can do credible scientific work, but mainly because the truth has a way of getting away from them. But I also believe that superstition and religion influence scientific work, and to pretend otherwise is self-delusion. Once again I ask, if Mr. Neufeld was introduced as an astrologer or crop circle researcher joining PT as a contributor, how seriously would we take him? What if he was introduced as a Scientologist? Jehovah’s Witness? Member of Pat Robertson’s 700 Club? Mel Gibson-style Catholic? Do you see that we recognize degrees of belief that range from ridiculous to respectable? An astrologer is ridiculed, a deist is welcomed with respect. I recognize that the range of beliefs probably reflects a corresponding range of intellectual sophistication, but to me having no superstition is better than having any – I don’t have any faith or supernatural commitment that might be threatened by science, so I’m not going to reject an idea because its incompatible with my irrational beliefs.

Mr. Jorgensen,

You may be right in all you say. But I am having trouble figuring out where your point leads. Do you wish religion would be absent only from scientists, or from all people? If you wish religion would disappear, with what would you replace it, for, let’s say a factory worker raising a family? Or a farmer in a third world country? A philosophical code of ethics? What would compel them to accept it?

If religion is so awful for society, are you willing to disclose what you would suggest instead? Just curious.

Maybe I’m not reading this the way others are. How I read what he says is that there is a history of scientists allowing their religious beliefs get in the way of good science. That in our day scientist should be extra careful that they don’t do something non scientific because of their beliefs. In that same vain though Scientists that are atheists or agnostics shouls be careful too.

Greg Jorgensen wrote:

“No one needs a religion to tell them what is right or wrong — religion is a crutch.”

It wasn’t his original point, but a response to one of my comments. Still, I just want to know if he’s thought beyond that.

I think I made my point at least twice already, but I’ll restate it. Irrational beliefs in the supernatural (which includes religion) are always in danger of clashing with rational scientific thought. That doesn’t preclude anyone from practicing science, as long as their scientific thought is comfortably removed from their supernatural beliefs.

Which brings to mind something else the successful scientist George Washington Carver said:

“God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to make something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain, I would be helpless.”

—(speech given at Marble Collegiate Church, 1924, quoted by Wm. Federer)

See, for Carver, there apparently wasn’t any such thing as “comfortably removing” one’s scientific thought from their supernatural beliefs.

In fact, for Carver, it was quite the opposite: Openly trusting in God, depending upon God, “placing your hand in His” regarding one’s chosen scientific research or study or experimentation. That was the path to never-before-seen discoveries, Carver suggested.

I don’t have any proof, but I am convinced that the USA would have been much further along in terms of scientific and engineering progress if we’d taken Carver’s personal philosophy of science (viz., dependence and trust in the supernatural God of the Bible) to heart as a nation.

Instead of watching Star Trek reruns for the zillionth time, we’d have probably landed a scientific team on Pluto or beyond by now, if we had done so. But that’s jmo.

FL

I think I made my point at least twice already, but I’ll restate it. Irrational beliefs in the supernatural (which includes religion) are always in danger of clashing with rational scientific thought. That doesn’t preclude anyone from practicing science, as long as their scientific thought is comfortably removed from their supernatural beliefs.

Which brings to mind something else the successful scientist George Washington Carver said:

“God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to make something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain, I would be helpless.”

—(speech given at Marble Collegiate Church, 1924, quoted by Wm. Federer)

See, for Carver, there apparently wasn’t any such thing as “comfortably removing” one’s scientific thought from their supernatural beliefs.

In fact, for Carver, it was quite the opposite: Openly trusting in God, depending upon God, “placing your hand in His” regarding one’s chosen scientific research or study or experimentation. That was the path to never-before-seen discoveries, Carver suggested.

I don’t have any proof, but I am convinced that the USA would have been much further along in terms of scientific and engineering progress if we’d taken Carver’s personal philosophy of science (viz., dependence and trust in the supernatural God of the Bible) to heart as a nation.

Instead of watching Star Trek reruns for the zillionth time, we’d have probably landed a scientific team on Pluto or beyond by now, if we had done so. But that’s jmo.

FL

katarina aram wrote:

Do you wish religion would be absent only from scientists, or from all people? If you wish religion would disappear, with what would you replace it, for, let’s say a factory worker raising a family? Or a farmer in a third world country? A philosophical code of ethics? What would compel them to accept it?

If religion is so awful for society, are you willing to disclose what you would suggest instead? Just curious.

I think the world would be better off without religion and superstition and people clinging to irrational beliefs, especially when the irrational beliefs shove rational beliefs aside (as creationism shoves evolution and scientific method aside).

Why would we need to replace religion with anything? Why do you believe religion or something like it is necessary at all? Why do you think religion – apparently forced on people (compelled, as you say) – is the only way to get people to behave morally or ethically?

An atheist can read the Bible or the Koran and find human truths and a basis for moral behavior, without accepting that the book is divinely inspired. The Bible includes what you call a “philosophical code of ethics.” The difference between us is not whether we accept the code or not, it’s whether we believe it comes from a supernatural god. I don’t need to believe in god to understand that the Bible is right to forbid murder and stealing. “Winnie The Pooh” contains lessons in ethics and moral behavior, too, but I don’t need to believe it’s literally true, or inspired by a god, to understand the message and take the lessons to heart.

If religion is such a great way to insure a moral society, why are so many religious societies (including ours) so full of immorality, unethical behavior, hate, violence, etc.? Would it be any worse, without religion to give people one more reason to look down on or hate their neighbor?

I realize that it’s an article of your faith that religion is enriching people’s lives – yours, factory workers, and farmers in the third world. I say it doesn’t, you just haven’t tried to live without the crutch of superstition. My little boy believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and those beliefs enrich his life, but no one expects that he’ll carry those delusions into his adult life.

People seem to be excessively prone to superstitious beliefs, maybe it’s in our genes, I don’t know. Personally I have replaced religion with no religion, and I haven’t compromised my morals or ethics. In fact I’m less likely now that I am no longer a Catholic to condemn someone for “living in sin” or homosexuality or using birth control. My wife and children are likewise atheists. My kids have never been compelled to believe or worship, but amazingly they are still capable of telling right from wrong and treating others with respect and love. How do you explain that?

Anyone reading this who believes religious faith is the sole source of moral behavior and social cohesion is demonstrating my thesis. If you believe it is god who enables you to behave morally, and only your faith and a supernaturally-inspired moral code keeps you from stealing and killing, you are not going to react the same way as I will to biological or evolutionary explanations for moral behavior and cooperation. Evolution includes ideas such as sexual selection, kin selection, cooperating, sacrifice for children or siblings, altruism, and so on. If a purely biological or Darwinist explanation for morality or any other human behavior is discovered and worked into a scientific theory, where will that leave religion? People used to believe that fire came from god, now we can explain, create, and control fire. When that happens to morality or altruism, will you adjust your faith accordingly, or will you fight the advance of science?

FL wrote:

In fact, for [George Washington] Carver, it was quite the opposite: Openly trusting in God, depending upon God, “placing your hand in His” regarding one’s chosen scientific research or study or experimentation. That was the path to never-before-seen discoveries, Carver suggested.

I don’t want to impugn George Washington Carver, but he was really more of a technician than a scientist. Making paints and stains from agricultural by-products is just not in the same league as what Darwin, Einstein, Copernicus, Kelvin, etc. did. It’s a commentary on the rampant racism of American culture, and the subsequent guilt, that Carver is elevated as much as he is not because of his work, but because he was black and the son of a slave.

I know that scientists can be inspired, and many attribute their inspiration to god, but I think they just don’t appreciate what their own subconcious mind is capable of.

I don’t have any proof, but I am convinced that the USA would have been much further along in terms of scientific and engineering progress if we’d taken Carver’s personal philosophy of science (viz., dependence and trust in the supernatural God of the Bible) to heart as a nation.

Fortunately even the most casual understanding of the histories of science and religion demonstrates the folly of that statement.

If we had to rely on dependence and trust in the Christian God, G.W. Carver would never have had a chance to do any work, because in his day many people of faith believed blacks didn’t have souls. People of faith also believed the world was 4,000 years old, and that Noah took dinosaurs on the ark, and that the planets and the sun revolved around the earth, and that most of the universe consisted of ether. If we still had to hold those beliefs true (because god said so in the Bible) science would still be where it was in the dark ages, and anyone who though man could fly, much less visit anothee planet, would be burned at the stake.

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