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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Over in the Huffington Post, writer Kamran Pasha has landed the coveted “I’ve got a book to sell, and so I’ve been invited to write a poorly-argued essay about current events that will allow me to repeatedly plug my book over the course of several thousand words” slot.

Today’s essay is all about how Angels and Demons (38% fresh, “too often wavers between implausible and ridiculous”) is “great storytelling” and a “very human picture of characters who are motivated by faith and committed to struggling with ‘demons,’ both in others and within themselves.”

I am sure that the movie would be entertaining enough to watch on an airplane; nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that a Tom Hanks movie could present a “very human picture” of anything (except maybe for “what it’s like to fall in love with a mermaid” or “how fantasy role-playing games can destroy your life.”

The really exciting part of the essay, of course, is where Pasha takes another brave stab at arguing for the compatibility of science and religion:

A Christian friend of mine once asked how I reconciled the story of Adam and Eve in the Qur’an with the scientific consensus on evolution. I smiled and said to him that I didn’t bother. It’s like comparing apples and musical notes. The scientific theory and the scriptural story serve totally different purposes. Science is about how. Religion is about why.

Of course! HOW vs. WHY! Why didn’t I think of that? Anyone can play this game:

Man Less Hairy Than Apes
HOW: Evolution.
WHY: God also less hairy than apes.

Lights in the Sky
HOW: Nuclear Fusion.
WHY: To mark seasons and days and years.

Women Different from Men

HOW: Chromosomes.
WHY: Women intended as “helpers”.

Snakes Crawl on Belly

HOW: Evolutionary pressures possibly related to burrowing underground.
WHY: Punishment for apple-related trickery

Childbirth Painful

HOW: Large baby passing through small birth canal.
WHY: Punishment for falling prey to apple-related trickery.

Farming Difficult

HOW: Distorting effects of Agricultural Subsidies.
WHY: Punishment for listening to wife.

I could continue, but I think you get the point. Science is helpless to provide valuable moral lessons about god’s hirsuteness, telling time, women’s proper place, and supernatural justifications for life’s difficulties. All praise religion! (And buy Pasha’s book about Mohammed and his seven-year-old bride!)

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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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Over at the Friendly Atheist, Hemant challenges people to describe the chronology of their religious transformations. Here’s mine:

4: noticed gaping logical errors in C.S. Lewis books

5: found the “Captain Kangaroo” episode “Mr. Green Jeans and the Argument from Design” utterly uncompelling

6-7: watched “Superbook” and became concerned that none of my Bibles allowed me to time-travel

8-10: after watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, realized that the Old Testament was completely silent on the Ark of the Covenant’s face-melting powers and began to wonder what else it left out

11-13: discovered the powerlessness of prayer to jumpstart puberty

14-18: internet erotica

19-20: attended college Bible meetings for the free pizza

21-23: internet erotica

24: got kicked out of friend’s wedding for taking joke photos in confession booth

25-28: internet erotica

29: poorly-timed Manhattan vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

30: poorly-timed Bali vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

31: poorly-timed Casablanca vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

32: poorly-timed Madrid vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

33: poorly-timed London vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

34: poorly-timed India vacation resulted in near-death at hands of religious fanatics

35+: internet erotica

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