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SF424
Application for Federal Assistance

DATE: July 9, 2009

APPLICANT: Joel Grus
CONTACT: your.religion.is.false -at- gmail.com

NAME OF FEDERAL AGENCY: National Institutes of Health

DESCRIPTIVE TITLE OF PROJECT:

“Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”: Religious Implications of Hydrological Phenomena

ESTIMATED PROJECT FUNDING: $30 million

ARE HUMAN SUBJECTS INVOLVED? yes
ARE VERTEBRATE ANIMALS USED? yes
DOES THIS PROJECT HAVE A POTENTIAL IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT? yes
DOES THIS PROJECT HAVE SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS? oh god yes

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Joel Grus

POSITION/TITLE: Author, Your Religion Is False

DOES THE PROPOSED PROJECT INVOLVE HUMAN EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS?

It does now!

RESEARCH PLAN

SPECIFIC AIMS:

To investigate the effect on god-belief of human exposure to various hydrological phenomena.

BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE:

Over the past decade, Canadian/American indie rock supergroup The New Atheists have been steadily producing books arguing that the god of the Christian bible (among other gods) doesn’t really exist. Although the biological sciences seem to provide unambiguous support for this view, it is possible that god willing some of the other sciences may countervail.

PRELIMINARY STUDIES:

In 1977, Francis Collins (who is the new director of your agency, but please don’t let that sway your opinion) was hiking in the Cascades, when he came across a waterfall frozen into three streams. As this reminded him of the Trinity, he fell on his knees in the dewy grass and devoted himself to Jesus Christ. So far this experiment has never been replicated.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS:

We will collect a large assortment of scientists and randomly assign them to visit hydrological features, including aquifers, beaches, catadupae, drainage basins, endorheic basins, flood plains, infiltration basins, losing streams, percolation trenches, riparian zones, streams, and waterfalls. (I, for instance, will be randomly assigned to the “beach” treatment.)

Each scientist will be measured both before and after his trip using the Dawkins Scale of Religiosity, after which we will use some type of computer (which we will purchase with the grant money) to make graphs and play Minesweeper draw conclusions.

Based on the results of this first experiment, we will repeat on a larger scale, expanding the subject pool to include non-scientists, monkeys, kangaroos, and human embryonic stem cells.

If all goes well, I think we can get our work published in one of the InterVarsity Press science journals. We’d also present at some of the Campus Crusade science conferences, of course. And we’d be happy to facilitate inclusion of our results in the science curriculum in Texas.

OTHER FUNDING:

We’ve also applied to the BioLogos Foundation for funding. If you could put in a good word for us with Director Collins, that would be just swell!

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If (like me) you’ve been busy wringing your hands over the fact that we live under a form of government in which the majority gets to tell the minority what to do, you may have missed the news that our good friend Francis Collins, the brains behind BioLogos, is in line to be the next Director of the NIH.

Sure, his bio is a bit iffy in parts:

Collins coined the term “BioLogos” to describe the conclusions he had reached about how life (Bios) came about through God’s speaking it into being (Logos); in that sense DNA can be considered metaphorically as God’s language.

Nonetheless, I have high hopes for this appointment, as it likely means that the current (boring) NIH website will get spruced up with thought-provoking, BioLogos-y questions. For example:

  • What is the proper relation between medicine and religion?
  • At what point in the evolutionary process did humans attain the “Image of God”?
  • If God created the NIH, what created God?
  • How does the illness and disease in the world align with the idea of a loving God?
  • Is there room in healthcare to believe in miracles?
  • What factors should be considered in determining how to approach a passage of scripture?

And really, who better to lead the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research than a guy who started an entire foundation devoted to twisting science in ways that justify his belief in the supernatural.

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If you’re a Christian (or a Jew), you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to believe in both science and the Bible. Human Genome Project leader (and evangelical Christian) Francis Collins has noticed this too:

After his best-selling The Language of God came out three years ago, Collins began receiving thousands of e-mails — primarily from other Evangelicals — asking questions about how to reconcile scriptural teachings with scientific evidence. “Many of these Christians have been taught that evolution is wrong,” Collins explains. “They go to college and get exposed to data, and then they’re thrust into personal crises of great intensity. If the church was wrong about the origins of life, was it wrong about everything?

You’d like to think a “scientist” would conclude, “yeah, probably.” I mean, if I were to show up at a scientific conference and present my several-hundred-page “Grand Theory of Everything,” and if the first few chapters were filled with obvious falsehoods, you’d hope that the other scientists would laugh me off the stage, tell me to take a long walk off a short pier, or tar and feather me. And you’d certainly hope that they wouldn’t run off to their little science lairs and try to come up with harebrained justifications as to why the rest of my theory was probably still true.

Which is why, although I have great respect for the Human Genome Project (a scientific achievement on par with the Alan Parsons Project), I find myself wondering just how rigorous it was. And looking at Collins’s BioLogos website isn’t doing much to reassure me.

Here, for instance, is how he sums up his answer to “Question 11: Is there room in BioLogos to believe in miracles?”

This response provides a simple answer to the question of miracles, namely that BioLogos does not in any way remove the logical possibility of miracles. However, for the universe to behave in an apparently ordered fashion, such events must be rare. BioLogos is thus compatible with many faiths that have miraculous events at the center of their doctrine. Finally, although a scientific explanation does in fact take away a phenomenon’s miraculous status, it does not establish that God was not involved in the process.

In other words,

  • The fact that the laws of science are regular and predictable seems to leave no room for miracles; however, there could still be miracles as long as they didn’t happen very often.
  • Also, even though any given “miracle” may have a perfectly natural scientific explanation, god may have been involved somehow.

I am not sure what the word is for “let’s add an element to our theory that makes it more complicated and doesn’t actually explain anything, but that makes our theory more palatable to the superstitious,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not “science.”

Still, I’ll keep checking the BioLogos site, because I want to see what their answer is to “Question 39: This whole website is just a gigantic prank, isn’t it?”

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