God, Science, and Kooky Kansans

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A week or so ago, I was interviewed by Sarah Smarsh, a writer for a Lawrence, KS-based alternative newspaper. She was looking for people who could comment on the interactions between science and religion, or more specifically how one could be a Christian and also understand evolution.

You can read the article on the web now and I think she did a pretty good job.*

BCH

*For the record, the churches I grew up in did not teach that the world was flat. True flat-earth creationists are vanishingly rare these days, creationists having found a way to overcome the flat earth beliefs that a true literalism would demand.

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Here’s an article in an alternative Kansas newspaper that discusses the conflict between teaching science and religious faith in that state. (If you’re not well aware of what’s been going on in Kansas the last few years regarding tea... Read More

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After Mirecki’s beating, do you have any second thoughts about consenting to have your photo run with this article?

The main point that it is a political movement is prescient. Dembski is going to debate a rabbi or two and they, well, here’s the article and some excerpts: Controversy expected at intelligent design debate

William A. Dembski, a professor of science and theology at Southern Theological Seminary and considered the most eloquent advocate of intelligent design, along with Orthodox Jewish thinkers including Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, a noted ethicist and biology professor at Yeshiva University in New York, Herman Branover of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar of The Shul in Surfside and Eduardo Zeigler, professor of biology at UCLA will discuss, “How Should We Teach the Origin and Diversity of Species?”

Some students, like Frank Gomez, said that intelligent design and religions are two separate spheres.

“Intelligent design, in my opinion, is inclusive of pretty much all religions, meaning that it does not promote the establishment of a religion, which is what the Constitution defines as separation of the church and state,” said Gomez, who is majoring in broadcast journalism. “There are no constitutional or scientific grounds to keep intelligent design out of schools.”

Also, for a little fun type “Dembski” and run the spell checker.

That is a good article. It seems as though, while the press first comes out reporting only the shouting extremists on both sides, eventually the dust settles a bit and more moderate views get reported.

By the way, Burt: thanks for the good work you’re doing. Keep it up!

–B

Here’s some fixed links for the Dembski-rabbit debate: Controversy expected at intelligent design debate Science and Torah: Conflict or Complement?

William A. Dembski … considered the most eloquent advocate of intelligent design

Laugh, or cry?

For people posting long URLs, please consider two alternatives:

1. Use KwickXML. The syntax is: [url href=”URL HERE”]your short text here[/url], replacing the square brackets with angle brackets.

For example, place your cursor over the following and look down at the bottom of your browser: this thread.

2. Use http://tinyurl.com/

Thanks! RBH

Sorry. That did some wierd stuff. I won’t do it again.

Laugh. If he’s the best they got…

“These major religions today that are very popular in the U.S. are based on an ancient, pre-scientific worldview where people express their ideas using impressionistic images, parables, poetic language,” says Mirecki, who likens the current hoopla over evolution to 17th-century Catholic resistance of Galileo’s findings. The church refused to accept his theory that the Earth was round and not the center of the universe.

The Catholic church accepted that the Earth was a sphere for about a thousand years before Galileo though they did think it was in the center of the universe. Indeed, educated people in Galileo’s time know that the Earth was a sphere. The premise that prior to Columbus that people (excepting the uneducated) thought the Earth was flat is an invention of 19th Century textbooks. I might also point out that first trip around the world (by Ferdinand Magellan’s crew) was before Galileo was even born. And even before Magellan’s journey, the pope divided the sphere of the Earth between Spain and Portugal.

After Mirecki’s beating, do you have any second thoughts about consenting to have your photo run with this article?

Hell, I think that photo would discourage any yahoos from coming around. Bullies aren’t going to be too quick to take on a former All-American.

Frank Gomez, broadcast journalism major:

“Intelligent design, in my opinion, is inclusive of pretty much all religions, meaning that it does not promote the establishment of a religion, which is what the Constitution defines as separation of the church and state. There are no constitutional or scientific grounds to keep intelligent design out of schools.”

The Constitution of the United States of America:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I need say no more. Pitiful.

Yeah, not to beat around the point, but the troubles Galileo had with the church revolved more around being an outspoken critic on a lot of matters, rather than around what the earth revolved around.…which is entirely more clear in my head than what I just wrote. The church has published a few things on the matter in recent years which are kinda interesting to read. If you’ll allow: the documents basically serve to apologize for losing their temper with him, but also pretty much say, “he was so obnoxious, we didn’t really have any choice.” It kinda reminds me of something along the lines of what a big brother might say when forced to tell his parent how the little brother ended up being stuffed into one of the trash cans outside.

PS, the article WAS very nicely done, seemed fair and balanced and reasonable and all of that.

Which is precisely why I doubt it will persuade a single fundamentalist.

I do think more needs to be written on why fundamentalists reject certain aspects of modernism the way that they do, and on why some science and technology (but not really fancy computer controlled audiovisual systems in their megachurchs, complete with satellite broadcast) is among their targets.

A lot of people think science is the bee’s knees, but only if it can be harnessed to their chariot. You see the same thing all over. The point at which they realise that they can’t control the path of progress is generally the point at which they start whining like a baby that’s dropped its candy. I’m mostly aware of this in a more technological context, but I imagine it’s equally true in science. Normally step 3 is to try to litigate said technology out of existence, the difference being that Science makes enough money for US corporations to be able to fight back and win.

The primary mover behind the conference in Miami, where Dembski will debate several rabbis and Jewish professors on intelligent design, is the organization named Shamir whose head is professor Herman Branover. I know him personally for over 30 years. He is a Lubawitcher Hassid, that is a follower of Lubawitcher Rebbe. I overheard him once saying that the late seventh Lubawitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneersohn was a great scientist, an authority on all branches of science. Perhaps one example can illustrate what kind of a scientist the Rebbe was. Branover co-edited a collection of the Rebbe’s pronouncements on all kinds of topics. Once the Rebbe was told that a certain rabbi was suffering from toothache. The Rebbe provided an advice as to how to cure it. According to the great scientist, the rabbi in question should simply check if the “tzitzit” on his undershirt met the prescription of the Halakha (“tzitzit” is kind of fringes the orthodox Jews are required to have at the bottoms of their undershirts. Halakha is the set of rules prescribing how orthodox Jews must behave). If “tzitzit” meet the prescription, the toothache will be gone. (See pages 364-365 in “Mind over Matter,” published by Shamir, 2003, edited by H. Branover and Joseph Ginsburg). It is easy to foresee the level of debate at the conference in Miami where Dembski will certainly fit in very well with other great scientists of the same caliber as the late Rebbe. (Some of them are in favor of ID, some against it). At least Dembski can be confident that if he will suffer from a toothache in Miami, the cure will be readily available.

Actually I think that at the time of Gallileo the everyone, or even all ‘educated people’ accepted that the world was a sphere, is just as much of a factoid, as the idea that Columbus proved that it wasn’t flat. The people who pull this one out often seem to be American fundies, who want to re-write history to cover up an embarresing mistake. The Greeks of course, had worked out not only that it was a sphere, but it’s approximate dimensions. Christians opposed the idea that the earth was a sphere because it didn’t agree with the bible and it wasn’t until the Arabs re-introduced the Greek Science to Europe that the idea of a spherical earth was re-considered. For a more detailed analysis go to wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth

Just came across this T-shirt design for sale:

http://www.demockratees.com/kansas.htm

Seemed appropriate for the issue under discussion…

The people who pull this one out often seem to be American fundies, who want to re-write history to cover up an embarresing mistake.

Well, I heard Martin Luther believed in a flat Earth based on buy-bull passages. But I don’t think the Catholics who debated Galileo did. There is always a vast mix of beliefs inside any one individual and you can’t easily characterize all beliefs of a group, much less an individual, based on one example of a belief.

So you methodolegistical naturists think the earth is round, eh, with your fancy “science”?

Think again.

http://www.fixedearth.com/

steve s Wrote:

So you methodolegistical naturists think the earth is round, eh, with your fancy “science”?

Think again.

http://www.fixedearth.com/

Number of legit results from “fixed earth” cranks = number of legit results from ID cranks.

Teach the Controversy.

One error in the article.

She writes: “Yet two-thirds of respondents to a recent Lawrence Journal-World poll reported believing in evolution theory and God.”

Yet that isn’t what the poll asked. It asked “In your opinion, is it possible to believe in both God and Evolution?” [bolded mine]

A slight but important distinction. There may be a number of respondents who believe it is possible to believe in both, yet don’t personally believe in either one or the other or either.

For instance, while I would have answered that poll question in the affirmative, I myself am an atheist.

eteve s Wrote:

So you methodolegistical naturists think the earth is round, eh, with your fancy “science”?

Think again.

http://www.fixedearth.com/

That’s what happens when you decide to use a big tent. You end up letting all sorts of riffraff in.

Dean Morrison writes: “Actually I think that at the time of Gallileo the everyone, or even all ‘educated people’ accepted that the world was a sphere, is … a factoid… For a more detailed analysis go to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth

Okay, I went there for a more detailed analysis and read: “From a European perspective, Portuguese exploration of Africa and Asia in the 15th century removed any serious doubts, and Ferdinand Magellan and Francis Drake’s circumnavigations any remaining ones.” Magellan’s fleet’s circumnavigation was completed in 1522; Drake’s in 1580. Galileo entered the University of Pisa as a teenager in 1581 to study medicine. So, why again is it only a factoid?

Mark,

You didn’t finish the story. Did the toothache go away?

The late rebbes followers not only thought of him as a great scientist (he was educated as an engineer at the universities of Moscow, Berlin and the Sorbonne) they also believed he performed miracles. Did it work in this case?

You are quite right Nat Whilk. I made the mistake of relying on my confused memory, and conflated the voyages of discovery with Gallieo for reasons known only to workings of my subconscious. I should have made the point without dragging poor Gallileo into it. The substantive point is the same - the Christian Fundies of the time were the ones who were prevented from using the same evidence and intelligence that was available to the Greeks from coming to the correct conclusion about the world: and this because of their literalist interpretation of the Bible. If nothing else this shows that there is more than one, in fact there are many, ‘literal’ interpretations of the bible. Every time a new one is ‘created’ a new Christian sect springs up. The more successful of these make lots of money, and spread, until, in turn new varients of these arise. Some die out of course, especially through competition with other ‘kinds’. Remind you of anything?

Oh, Carol, don’t let him steal your heart away!

Um, by the way, didn’t you leave several unanswered questions and evaded points on another thread here?

(You know how us knitters hate to see a stitch get dropped.)

I’m reminding you because I’m sure you’ve just overlooked these, not because I think you’re an intellectual chicken. (Hey, you’d be surprised, there’s some pretty brainy chickens in the world…) I’m sure that, now that the matter’s been brought to your attention, you’ll hustle right back over there and deal!

After Mirecki’s beating, do you have any second thoughts about consenting to have your photo run with this article?

I have a 38oz Louiville Slugger on the back seat for that purpose.

I can loan it out for a short time.

So you methodolegistical naturists think the earth is round, eh, with your fancy “science”?

Think again.

http://www.fixedearth.com/

That’s what happens when you decide to use a big tent. You end up letting all sorts of riffraff in.

About six years ago, I joined, using a fake name, a creationist-only email list run by a guy named Stephen Jones, and pretended to be an ultra-Biblical-literalist geocentrist who thought creationists were compromising with Satan by accepting Copernicism (Copernicus was, after all, the first guy who tried to use satanic “science” to show the Bible was wrong about something). In addition to Bible verses, I also cut-and-pasted bits and pieces from the fixedearth website, as well as from geocentricity.com and the Catholic International Apologetics website (complete with reward offer to anyone who can demonstrate that the earth revolves around the sun – see: http://www.catholicintl.com/epologe[…]hallenge.htm).

I found it crashingly amusing (and extremely illuminating) that NONE of the creationist list members could offer any valid scientific explanation as to why any of my regurgiquoted geocentric arguments were wrong — but EVERY ONE OF THEM wanted to argue with me endlessly over “what the Biblical verses really meant”.

Lenny that wasn’t that lost (biblical) tribe they kept talking about on (I’m showing my age here) on the old TV show F Troop.

I seem to recall they were called the “lost post modern objectivists led by nihilistic literal obscurantists”. The WHERE THE F*** ARE WE Tribe.

You have to look very, very hard to find any educated person who didn’t know that the world was round long before Columbus. Greek astronomy is based on a spherical earth and that’s what they taught you at school. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, tne Neoplatonics, Augustine, Aquinas, and the rest of the theologians and philosophers from Socrates onward argued for a round earth and poets like Dante described the world that way, too. The flat earth business really is a canard.

Mark Perakh Wrote:

“If “tzitzit” meet the prescription, the toothache will be gone.”

That’s hilarious.

I think whoever drinks the most Kaballah water at the debate will have the strongest argument.

Lenny,

You are avoiding the substance of the issues raised here. All you do is persist in repeatedly throwing the same meaningless clap-trap in all directions in an inept attempt to cover up your utter lack of ability to address that substance. Your conception of God is so utterly immature and downright silly that I needed to hold my sides as they ached from laughing. Try as hard as I did, I could not find one iota of merit in anything you wrote above. I would not know where to begin to straighten out your twisted thinking, so I will not make any attempt to do so.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 12, column 2, byte 638 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Tell me the one about the talking donkey Carol - that one always gets my sides splitting…perhaps it’ll help me with my twisted thinking,

You are avoiding the substance of the issues raised here.

Carol, you have not *raised* any issue of substance. (shrug)

You’ve stated your religious opinions. I’ve stated that I don’t accept your religious opinions, and I see no reason why science should give a flying fig about your religious opinions either. I’ve also asked (yet again) for you to tell me please why your religious opinions are any more authoritative than anyone else’s, and how you know more about God than anyone else alive does (other than your say-so).

And there the matter rests.

Are you going to answer those simple questions, Carol or aren’t you?

Your conception of God is so utterly immature and downright silly

Says you. (shrug) When did YOU become the Expert On God™(c), Carol? How the hell do YOU know any more about God than anyone else alive does, Carol? What makes YOUR religious opinions any better or more authoritative than anyone else’s, Carol? What makes YOU so more holy and godlike and divine than any other mere mortal, Carol? Why should science give a flying fig about YOUR religious opinions any more than it should about mine, my next door neighbor’s, my car mechanic’s, or the kid who delivers my pizzas, Carol? When did YOU become anyone’s Holy Judge, Carol? Who elected YOU Pope, Carol?

I think you’re a self-righteous arrogant prideful prick who has such a colossal sense of self-importance that she thinks (quite literally) that she is holier than all the rest of us mere mortals.

Sorry, Carol, but I simply don’t believe you’re any more divine or holy than any other mere mortal is. You are just a human, Carol. You crap the same way the rest of us do, and it doesn’t come out as Brier’s ice cream. (shrug)

So get over your damn self.

Carol Wrote:

Time does not exist independently of the universe.

Correct.

So it and the structured universe were created simultaneously. Therefore a cause is needed.

Simultaneity without time? A cause for time itself?

Cue Inigo Montoya.

P.S. The initial state of the universe was not “structured” in the way it was even an attosecond after expansion, much less the way it is today.

Did you think that religious folk perceive God as appearing like a human?

This one’s for Lenny, but I’m already in point-out-the-obvious mode, so I can’t resist.

Indeed, the gods of a great many religions are physically anthropomorphic. When you include the qualities of non-physical gods, it becomes immediately clear that the vast majority of man’s gods are very similar, in various ways, to humans.

If man created his gods, the explanation is trivial. If gods created man, which gods, and which men? I’d prefer to let the pantheon fight over that themselves.

Carol,

I resisted the urge to respond to your post in order to let dead threads lie, however, since AC brought it up… :)

My post to you was not intended as a Cosmology primer. I merely took *your* post and substituted God with Universe (and vice versa) to get a post that sound *more* rational than yours.

As AC pointed out, any statement that uses the words “before Universe” makes no sense. Existence outside of (either in space or time) the Universe makes no sense at all.

So saying “God existed before the Universe” or “God exists outside the Universe” just doesn’t have any meaning (scientific, religious, philosophical, or otherwise) that humans can contrive.

This leads us back to Lenny’s comments: “why do you think your feelings about this are any more valuable to humanity than those of the potatoes in my garden?”

This leads us back to Lenny’s comments: “why do you think your feelings about this are any more valuable to humanity than those of the potatoes in my garden?”

Geez, you can be snappier than THAT, can’t you? ;>

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This page contains a single entry by Burt Humburg published on December 8, 2005 10:50 AM.

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