Posts Tagged ‘creationism’

Walking the walk

I’m trying to avoid letting this become just a link blog, but my new job (yay!) is cutting into my online time because of their no-surfing policy (boo!). And sometimes,  somebody either says something really awesome, or does something really awesome, or both, as is the case here.

Dale McGowan at the awesome and excellent Parenting Beyond Belief blog is recounting the ongoing saga (well, perhaps ongoing, perhaps as resolved as it’s going to get) of his efforts to handle what appears to be a creationist science teacher at his son’s school. I can’t strongly enough urge you to read the entire saga, starting with the first post and continuing via the links at the bottom.

It’s easy to talk about how to push back against religious nuts while still being polite and respectful, but Dale gives us all a textbook example of how it’s done.

(via The Panda’s Thumb; pic via Adventures in Science)

Science Is Real

science_is_realThis is awesomely awesome: My favorite-ever band, They Might Be Giants, has a new kids’ album out, “Here Comes Science.” And in the song “Science Is Real,” they lay it all out:  “I like those stories about angels, unicorns and elves … but when I’m seeking knowledge, either simple or abstract, the facts are with science.” And they make it clear that you can’t just pick and choose: “Science is real, from the Big  Bang to DNA/Science is real, from evolution to the Milky Way.”

So, is this polite? Is it a breach of etiquette? Well, maybe. It’s perhaps a bit rude to suggest to religious folks that angels (which are mentioned in the Bible, not just in populist pablum spouted by feel-good New Age-y types) are in the same category as unicorns or elves.

But is it rude to say that if you’re seeking knowledge, you should look to science rather than religion? I don’t think so. Unless, of course, you want to argue that it’s rude to say that if you’re seeking divine/godly/spiritual/religious guidance, you should look to religion rather than science. I’m guessing most religious types don’t think it’s rude to make such a suggestion, or to say that science can’t tell us about God since science deals with the natural while religion deals with the supernatural.

So, sauce for the goose, etc. If you want people to respect what religion has to tell us about spiritual matters, then have some respect for what science has to tell us about material matters. It’s a two-way street.

Sure, Richard Dawkins says his scientific perspective tells him that there aren’t any deities (a position not advocated by most atheists), but it’s not like he’s trying to get the government to force religious preachers to stop preaching religion, or to preach scientific concepts as if they’re religion. Whereas there are plenty of folks trying to get the government to force science teachers to stop teaching science, or to teach religious concepts as if they’re science.

Sunday Sermon: What if God was one of us?

god_brainSo some creationists are trying to be happy about a recent scientific study that says the appendix isn’t as useless a vestigial organ as was previously thought.

As has already been pointed out, the study is based on a phylogenetic analysis of various critters, including humans — that means the results are based on the assumption that humans and those other critters all evolved from a common ancestor.

But creationists have a long-standing explanation for the evolutionary relationships between various critters (again, including humans). They say it’s “common design” rather than common descent. After all, when we design things, we often reuse the same components for different designs, don’t we? So of course it’s not surprising that God would do the same thing.

There are lots of problems with this — ask yourself why the same bone structure would be ideal for a bat’s wing, a human hand and a dolphin’s fin — but what interests me about it is its sheer anthropocentrism. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing deity, whose mind we can’t begin to fathom, do things the way ordinary humans tend to do them?

It’s funny how when humans describe how God works, it always seems to be pretty much the way humans work — except when God does something no self-respecting human would ever do.

When God tells a loyal follower to tie his son to a slab and plunge a knife into his heart, or instructs a tribe to kill all the men, women, boys and babies of a rival tribe, saving only the young girls for themselves, or tells a couple to let their teenage son die rather than seek medical help —  suddenly God’s ways become mysterious and unfathomable by us puny humans with our tiny brains.

Wright is wrong

religion_evolutionRobert Wright’s NYT commentary on science vs. religion makes some good points, but glosses over the arguments militant atheists use against God, and the arguments theists use against evolution.

Wright says militant atheists “might even grant that natural selection’s intrinsic creative power — something they’ve been known to stress in other contexts — adds at least an iota of plausibility to this remotely creative god.” How does that makes sense?

If a purely natural process has intrinsic creative power, how does that argue for the existence (or increased possibility of existence) of an intrinsic creative power outside of nature? That’s like arguing that the ability of a television broadcast to create the appearance of little people inside the TV screen adds at least an iota of plausibility to the notion that there are actually little people in the TV, and your 3-year-old has been correct all along.

Wright also suggests that religious folks are within shouting distance of getting the concept: “The first step toward this more modern theology is for them to bite the bullet and accept that God did his work remotely — that his role in the creative process ended when he unleashed the algorithm of natural selection (whether by dropping it into the primordial ooze or writing its eventual emergence into the initial conditions of the universe or whatever).” Yeah, right, Wright.

The problem isn’t that there are a lot of people who think evolution needed a bit of divine nudging here and there once it started, the problem is that there’s a disturbing number of people who don’t accept evolution at all — who insist that God created everything in 6 days, a few thousand years ago, just like a literalist interpretation of the Bible declares. And those people have a ridiculous amount of influence in our society. Nudging the moderate folks a bit more toward science isn’t going to do anything about the (pardon the lapse in etiquette) yahoos who are still driving the religious discourse in America.

But Wright has some good points as well, like this one: “Of course, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on awe and inspiration. The story that science tells, the story of nature, is awesome, and some people get plenty of inspiration from it, without needing the religious kind.” As the late Douglas Adams said, “I’d take the awe of inspiration over the awe of ignorance any day.”

(cartoon via Palmyria)