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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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It can be tough being a Christian. You have to believe all sorts of unbelievable things. You have to go to church every Sunday and listen to some preachy dude beg for money. You have to put up with brilliantly-written, riotously-funny, expertly-argued books patiently debunking your faith. (I suppose this one doesn’t really distinguish you from believers in any other religion.) And you have to tie yourself into knots trying to explain why the latest scientific discoveries explaining how the world works don’t actually contradict your millennia-old, rooted-in-superstition, alternative “explanations” of how the world works.

But you’re not alone in your struggle. The BioLogos foundation is there with you every step of the way (and when you see one set of footprints, that’s where they were carrying you).

Today, for instance, they’re offering “Three Ways to View the Fossil Record [that aren’t incompatible with your religious faith, even though (if you want to get technical) the fossil record isn’t compatible with your religious faith].”

  1. God created each species “individually from nothing” as time proceeded. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  2. God created species in “bursts” over time. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  3. Evolutionary biology is the proper explanation for the history and diversity of species, but god has been continually doing the work behind the scenes. So, for instance, he’s always choosing which genetic material crosses over during meiosis, and he helps ducks decide which other ducks to rape, and he helps misdirect mooses he doesn’t want reproducing into having sex with horses instead.

Although the third theory is (vacuously) compatible with the fossil record, it presumes a level of perversity on the part of god that’s really more compatible with the jealous, kinky Old Testament god, not the effeminate, hippie New Testament god.

Accordingly, New-Testament-believing Christians might be better served by a fourth way of viewing the fossil record:

  1. Your religion is false.

This explanation does have the drawback of not being exactly “compatible” with the Christian faith. But this is almost surely outweighed by its virtue of being the correct explanation.

Make sure to come back next time, when we discuss “Five (Incorrect) Ways To Explain The Existence of Suffering”!

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It’s always exciting when scientists are able to corroborate fictional stories. Who wasn’t thrilled when paleontologists found the skeleton of Moby Dick? Who didn’t get excited when epidemiologists were able to isolate the “Captain Trips” virus? What child wasn’t delighted when zoologists successfully trained a mouse to ride a motorcycle?

I felt that same sense of excitement today, when I read that scientific tests had confirmed that certain bone fragments actually belonged to the apostle Paul:

Benedict said scientists had conducted carbon dating tests on bone fragments found inside the sarcophagus and confirmed that they date from the first or second century.

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” Benedict said.

I suppose the Pope’s conclusion isn’t perfectly obvious unless you also know that

(1) The apostle Paul dated from the first or second century, and
(2) No one else dated from that time period.

But those are both pretty much common sense. Hooray for science!

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Friend of the blog Enemy of the blog (and anti-evolutionist, and Discovery Institute waterboy, and loathsome human being) David Klinghoffer gloats that the Holocaust Museum shooter was an “evolutionist,” based on his demented writings:

As with ALL LIBERAL ideologies, miscegenation is totally inconsistent with Natural Law: the species are improved through in-breeding, natural selection and mutation. Only the strong survive. Cross-breeding Whites with species lower on the evolutionary scale diminishes the White gene-pool while increasing the number of physiologically, psychologically and behaviorally deprived mongrels.

Unfortunately for his disgusting gloating, the cited passage demonstrates misunderstandings of evolutionary theory on par with the ones that Klinghoffer and friends routinely propound. Shall we count the ways?

1. “Natural Law” has nothing whatsoever to do with “miscegenation” — it mainly promotes Chopric practices like Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying

2. Inbreeding does not typically improve a species, unless you consider having only two toes (like Cletus) an improvement.

3. Lots of the “non-strong” survive. In fact, in today’s Web 2.0 economy, the Super Crunchers and the AJAX programmers are totally outsurviving the strong, most of whom work at soon-to-be-defunct government-owned automobile manufacturers.

4. There is no such thing as “lower on the evolutionary scale.” In fact, there is no such thing as an “evolutionary scale.” There is an evolutionary tree, which I am surprised that the Discovery Institute has not tried to deface; however, its different levels refer not to different species but to different granularities of species-grouping. Species can be closer on the evolutionary tree. They can be farther. They cannot be higher or lower.

None of this stops Klinghoffer from his demented accusations:

No, he doesn’t cite Darwin by name in the part of his book that’s readable online — the first 6 of 12 chapters. But do you get the general drift?

Yes, we get the general drift. The general drift is that a white-supremacist jackass who doesn’t understand evolutionary theory in the slightest (but who haphazardly and illogically appropriated some of its concepts to buttress his terrible pre-existing racist theories) went on a shooting spree. And also that there is apparently no depth that Klinghoffer, as part of his tireless crusade to impugn any science that contradicts the superstitious beliefs bequeathed to him by his cavemen ancestors, will not stoop to in order to promote his nonsense.

That’s the “drift” you had in mind, right?

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The governor of the Vatican visited CERN recently to reassure everyone that the Catholic Church “supports” “science.” In fact, according to his speech, the Church has always supported science.

USA Today seems to have reproduced his quote, but for some reason they left out all of the footnotes, which I have carefully reconstructed below:

“The Church never1 fears2 the truth3 of science4, because we are convinced5 that all truth6 comes from God7,” Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican City’s governor, said Thursday in Geneva. “Science8 will help our faith to purify9 itself. And faith10 at the same time will be able to broaden the horizons11 of man, who cannot12 just enclose himself in the horizons of science13.”

1. certainly not during the pesky Copernicus incident or during the whole Galileo flap
2. “hates” is probably a more accurate description
3. keep in mind that we don’t use that word the same way you do
4. which, as usual, we will mischaracterize in a way that backs up our crazy belief system
5. not, mind you, by evidence, but rather by the assertions of an ancient, mis-translated book of myths
6. see note 3, above
7. who doesn’t actually exist, but bear with us
8. by which we mean “the parts of science we want you to know about”
9. “sell”
10. i.e. believing whatever we tell you to not because it makes any sense but just because we said to
11. “narrow the horizons”
12. because we’ll burn him at the stake if he tries
13. because he might disbelieve our dogma if he did

Although he didn’t follow up this quote with support for science related to embryonic stem cells, IVF, or human cloning, I’m sure that’s just because the interview was running long.

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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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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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