They tried to teach my baby science!

By Phil Plait | March 30, 2008 12:00 pm

What we we do without the Onion?

The image is old, but when ever does The Onion not become relevant?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Religion, Science

Comments (64)

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  1. petronellas blog » Blog Archive » intelligent falling | March 30, 2008
  1. Yoshi_3up

    Ah, this made my day.

  2. J_w23

    Wow, a strong message wrapped in a nice pack of humor!

  3. Danniel B.

    Oh no! That sick teacher! She actually tryed to teach that poor defenseless child something REAL!

  4. Matt Garrett

    Ridiculing people of faith doesn’t show small minded they are, it shows how small minded YOU are.

  5. Rystefn

    Poor Matt…. How very small-minded of us to ridicule those who don’t believe in the real world… What were we thinking. There must be something wrong with us.

  6. defectiverobot

    Thanks Phil, you just made me go off on a 30-minute Onion bender.

  7. Laguna2

    Matt he is not ridiculing people with faith.
    He is ridiculing people with faith that try to force their way they see the world into childrens brains.

  8. Tom

    Don’t forget intelligent falling

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39512

    (Note: some adds in The Onion get a little risque’)

    T

  9. Dave

    @ Matt:

    I don’t see anything that mentions people of faith – not in BA’s post, not on the “magazine” cover. It’s just about knuckledraggers who deny reality, that’s it. If *you* think the two groups coincide in whole or part, well, that says more about you and people of faith than it does about us…

  10. PerryG

    That image was on my office door for a long time…

  11. jfatz

    Science, as always, is impressive: http://i26.tinypic.com/16bbp0x.jpg
    …and astronomers will probably find the cure to Earth’s problems: http://i25.tinypic.com/ettp41.jpg

    …but scientists themselves are overrated: http://i28.tinypic.com/fa62q0.jpg

  12. Michelle

    Aaah matt, such a sour person you are. It’s a JOKE. Live with it. And frankly… Not recognizing that science shows the world as it is is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous. I’m not the narrowminded one for laughing at this 100% awesome cover – you are for thinking that’s offensive. Sheesh. Get a grip.

  13. Brango

    Secretly teaching kids stuff that could one day help our entire species advance beyond the all-protecting hand of faith is dangerous in the extreme!

    How many good people have we lost because they figured stuff was out there that appeared to be missing from the instruction manual of the all knowing creator?

    Look at what happened to Einstein… he’s dead! And all because he tried to work crap out. Hubble… yeah, the worms are feeding good tonight because his beady eyes saw swirly things instead of swirled the goodness of the creater in his heart.

    Science is dangerous, kids!

    Jump off a building with the faith of the almighty in your heart and verily he will prove that your splattered innards have eternal life!

  14. @jfatz: Ooooh, Bill Nye! Wow, it’s been years since I watched his show… he was awesome, though. (And, to show just how much of a geek I am, his show’s theme is in my head right now.)

  15. sci_tchr

    I have a very small minded sister in law that is home “schooling” her child. While visiting over the holidays, I had turned the TV to the Discovery channel. She blew up saying that they teach evolution on that channel and and changed it back to some mind numbed cartoon.

    She scored less than 700 on the SAT. I doubt that her son will do much better. :(

    Can you imagine a teacher that actually teaches a student some real science?

  16. baley

    Those teachers are really evil teaching Real Stuff in science class is way too irresponsible!

    In the future Biology teachers will have to say something like this? : “some say that life evolved from simple life forms over the course of billions of years through evolution, but that’s not true for all, some believe that god poked his finger often to speed up the process. Some other believe that all was created 6000 years ago by identity crisis God, others it was a flying spaghetti monster other believe a trans-dimensional UFO are playing around with as, other think that we are part of a simulation so that everything we see does not really exist … ” * and so on with all the loony creation myths*

    I also wonder what the Flying spaghetti Monster creation mechanism is. I was wondering what kind of pasta man and woman were made of and the pastafarian original sin! (did the woman eat low fat pasta? (does it even exist?) )

  17. davidlpf

    @matt get a sense of humour.

  18. Matt reminds us all why blatant and illogical appeals to emotion are epic fails.

    Since when is a joke about teaching creationism an attack on religion?

  19. Sergeant Zim

    Excellent point, CC. After all, doesn’t the DI maintain that ID is NOT religious?

    Matt reminds us how dishonest creos tend to be.

    Sci_tchr, my sister-in-law and your siter-in-law appear to be cut from the same cloth. My ‘s-i-l’ took her kids out of public school because they *dared* to tolerate people of ‘alternate’ sexual preferences. Not in hiring, but in READING assignments *shudder*.

  20. Nmal524

    I love when arguments come up between people who seem to be stuck in using faith to explain everything and can’t stand to have big bad science come up with a new discovery or way of explaining something and those that are so by the numbers with science that they can’t stop and accept that maybe there is something more to life then what can be figured out in a lab.

    I am a very religious and spirtual person who happens to believe in evolution. Do I believe there is a God that created everything, absolutely, by why can’t I believe that in God’s grand scheme of things evolution isn’t what God intended as well as all the rest of the laws of physics and chemistry and biology etc… God didn’t make us so curious and inquistive to sit back and not figure things out, God made us that way so we could explore our world and discover how wonderful and cool the natural world is.

    Sorry for the rant, just tired of seeing noone commenting on the middle ground and people just seeming to be on one extreme or the other…

  21. cc.petersen:

    Since when is a joke about teaching creationism an attack on religion?

    I don’t see any mention of “creationism” or “religion”. (Or even “evolution”.)

    All I see is a mention of “biology worksheet” and “the physical world and its mechanics”. If anyone actually believes it’s an “attack on their religion”, that says a lot more about their belief than anything else. On the other hand, Matt may (or may not) just be trolling. (Just look how many people responded directly to his post.)

  22. Aaron

    I think the woman might have only been objecting to one type of science (evolution). This tells a lot more about how the person reacts to such things then to the fundamentalist view towards science, and most religious believers I live around do not consider science at all a threat to their beliefs but they are fundamentalists hardcore.

  23. TheBlackCat

    Evolution is not a “type of science”. Science is science. Evolution is the same “type” of science as the atomic theory of matter, the heliocentric model of the solar system, the germ theory of disease, Newton’s laws of motion, gravity, and any other major scientific principle you can imagine. They are all science, they were all found using the same fundamental processes and the same fundamental rules. There is nothing unique about evolution, except for the amount and variety of evidence there is supporting it (this amount and variety being nearly unrivaled by any other scientific principle in history) and the degree to which it is the central, unifying concept of an entire branch of science (biology). You cannot object to the evolution “type” of science without objecting to science as a whole, since evolution is not any sort of special type of science..

  24. Rogue74656

    In the future Biology teachers will have to say something like this? : “some say that life evolved from simple life forms over the course of billions of years through evolution, but that’s not true for all, some believe that god poked his finger often to speed up the process. Some other believe that all was created 6000 years ago by identity crisis God, others it was a flying spaghetti monster other believe a trans-dimensional UFO are playing around with as, other think that we are part of a simulation so that everything we see does not really exist … ” * and so on with all the loony creation myths*

    My son’s MS science teacher prefaced his section on evolution in Life Science this way:

    “The state says that I have to teach you about evolution. Now, we all know that it is wrong and that God created us all, but I still need to teach it to you and you still need to learn it, no matter how wrong it is, because it is what science tells us is true. I can’t talk about God or Jesus, even though they are the true source of creation, so if you have any questions about them, I can’t answer them. I can only describe how we came from monkies.”

    When I complained to the principal, she was shocked that I believed in evolution. Funny thing is, the school never called me to substitute after that (I had a BS in science education and my teaching certificate) even though I had been their most sought after substitute….

    Rogue in Oklahoma.

  25. baley

    @Rogue

    It’s a shame that such fundamentalist religious people are in power <_< Should the Sciences curriculum defined by AAAS?

  26. Phil C

    FFirst, what a hilarious cover. The Onion has done it again.

    Second, everyone needs to loosen up. There’s a tremendously large middle ground. There’s theistic evolution, which a number of religions espouse (basically small i, small d intelligent design in which the scientifically provable age of the universe is the age of the universe and the evidence of evolution isn’t tossed under the bus).
    No one wants to have a person coming to their door trying to convince them to join their faith, by the same token I really object to the overly superior attitude that the more strident atheists take towards people with religions, that’s no way to win people over to your position (hypothetical response: “Jeez, thanks for making me feel small and stupid. I’m now ready to give up my belief system” (dripping with sarcasm)). Enforced atheism (think U.S.S.R.) isn’t any better than legislated Evangelical Christianity or any theocratic state. People need to come to their own beliefs and will rebel against enforced beliefs. I’m personally an undifferentiated Monotheist (as in not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim), and I am not going to force my beliefs on anyone, and don’t care if you believe in no god, Jesus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as long as you don’t force it on me. The moment someone tries to force the kids in public school to be taught big I big D Intelligent Design (the thinnest veiling of Creationism, anyone remember “cdesign proponentsists?”), I loudly and whole-heartedly object.
    We live in a plural society that I wouldn’t trade for a homogeneous blah culture. Rock & Roll is the bastard child of Country and Blues and wouldn’t have happened in a homogeneous culture. We need to learn to respect each other’s beliefs if we want our beliefs respected in turn. That being said, anyone who cannot respect someone else’s beliefs and wishes to tread all over them needs to be shipped off to Antarctica…

  27. Melusine

    Tom, that Onion link was great:

    Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein’s ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

    Gaps in gravity! Lol.

  28. Carl

    I agree with the poster who appealed for some middle ground. In that spirit of conciliation, can’t we all just agree that human beings evolved from primitive, less intelligent forms of primates, except in certain parts of the USA, where they haven’t?

  29. Doc

    @baley

    “I also wonder what the Flying spaghetti Monster creation mechanism is.”

    The FSM was just noodling around …

  30. Boba Fett

    History lesson, folks, from an Agnostic:
    Egyption “mythology” (it’s religion) lasted over 4,000 years. Judaism is in its 5th millenium, Islam is less than 2, 000 years old. Greek “mythology” (it’s religion) lasted less than 1,000 years. Same for the Roman “mythology.” Christianity is only 2,000 years old and is destined to disappear and be remembered as mere “mythology,” too, just like all the other religions. So, no sense in devoting your world to it to any degree. How come only Christianity and Islam contain religious lunatics who challenge and deny rational thought and science? if you believe in Creationism because somebody in a robe told you to believe it or you read it in a book by unknown authors with unknown and unverifiable credentials, then you also believe that Archie can’t decide between Betty or Veronica, and that there IS a Superman. God, if there is one…HELP US! This country is DYING. Long Live the USA.

  31. Doug Little

    Nmal524,

    I don’t mind people believing in something creating the universe, after all we will probably never be able to answer the ultimate question of how the universe came to be. What I do object to is people who believe in a Personal God (the kind of one that answers prayers and exists in old books) and the supernatural. To me this is where the stupidity tipping point exists. I myself think that there is enough lack of evidence that makes the existence of a creator almost impossible if not impossible, the chances that such a beast exists is well, slim to none. So yes, we need more people in the middle ground but only if these people are willing to comply with reality, ie. The earth is billions of years old, Evolution is a fact and people cannot bend spoons with their mind. Just a final question, What makes you so sure that there is a God? after all the default position should be that something doesn’t exist unless there is some proof that it does.

  32. Calli Arcale

    Searching for middle ground? Well, you could try this out. I believe that God created the world, and that we are His children. I believe that the method of creating us was evolution. Not intelligently designed evolution, either. The natural selection kind. After all, our shapes are not important. It’s our souls which are important.

    I don’t mean souls in a mystical sense. I mean souls in the sense of that which makes us who we are. Our minds. Jesus came into the world to give us eternal life — our souls will be restored to life long after our flesh has died. Not sure if they’ll work the same way they do now, stripped of their hardware, but I’m told that it will work, and I have faith that God knows what He’s doing in that department.

    So if we arose through natural selection, without God directing the process, why did Jesus come to save *us*? Why not dolphins or elephants or chimpanzees? What’s special about us? How could we be special if God didn’t create us? (I think for a lot of creationists, this is the basic reason they reject evolution.) The answer is that God sent His son to bring His message to us, and not other species, because we were the first the evolve to a point where we could receive it, intellectually speaking. Someone (can’t remember who) once described humanity as the point where the rising ape meets the falling angel, a poetic and apt description.

    So, to religious folks, I have this to say. We have free will. And we are subject to natural selection. It is up to us to decide what we shall evolve into as a society and a species. I think we should try to evolve in the model of Jesus’ message, and I would think that other Christians would want that as well. If we cannot evolve, what would be the point of him bringing that message?

    Furthermore, it does not do to blind ourselves to the world around us. Jesus never preached intolerance, nor did he preach blind obedience to religious law.

  33. Doug Little

    Not to turn this into a thread on religion but I have to ask.

    Calli,

    Why do you believe? How do you choose what to believe and what not to believe in the Bible? I’m assuming that your acknowledgment of Evolution means that you reject Genesis and the great flood. What makes you so sure that a historical Jesus even existed, the evidence for his existence is sketchy at best and if he was such a polarizing figure in his time why isn’t there hundreds of independent documents validating his existence? and finally,

    Have you applied critical thinking skills toward your religion and bible as you have when deciding that evolution via natural selection is a good description of why we see the diversity of life that we do.

  34. Stargazer

    Well, since this thread is already half way to Kalamazoo, I feel that I can add this here. I have a lot of trouble believing in any god that is “all powerful” enough to create everything from nothing, and at the same time, insecure enough to send people to be tortured for eternity for not worshiping him. Rather than teach faith through ignorance, **Cough, cough, catholic church, Cough** try faith through reason. that is how I was taught, and just looking at all of the various scientific precepts, I do believe that it was made. My education, especially the basic college level physics, just reinforced my belief in God.

    Meanwhile, back on the main thread:

    Thanks for the laugh BA. I loved that cover.

  35. Nmal524

    Doug,

    Just to kind of answer your question, I am sure there is a God because of all of the things I have seen in my life. I have been a soldier and an Addictions counselor, never been anything else, don’t want to be anything else, to many people that may mean that I have seen so many terrible things in the world that I wouldn’t believe that there is a God. I have seen the worst side of people but I have also seen the extreme good that exists and that just reinforces my faith. You can explain to me in scientific terms why a sunset is the color it is, but you can never explain to me in scientific terms how I feel when I look at them. There is too much in this world that to me just reinforces the existence of God, including the laws of physics. To me it is sometimes more frustrating to me to listen to an atheist spew out their rhetoric and refuse to see the things that just may not be able to be explained in a lab or by reason as those who are religous fundalmentalists, i.e. Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Christian etc… who kill or hate in the name of a so called Loving God. I don’t want to convert you, if you don’t want to believe you don’t have to, that is between you and your maker but I have seen a lot of evidence for the old saying “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole”.

  36. TheBlackCat

    You can explain to me in scientific terms why a sunset is the color it is, but you can never explain to me in scientific terms how I feel when I look at them.

    I think you understimate the progress we are making in neuroscience. We can’t explain it yet, but saying that we will never explain it is entirely unfounded and almost certainly false.

    There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole

    This is an outright lie, and one of the most insulting things you can possibly say to an atheist. It insults the memories of a lot of brave men and women who have fought and died for their countries. And it is just another sign of the arrogance many religious people have, this opinion that atheists’ beliefs are less heartfelt and less resilient in the face of crisis than those of religious people, that really deep down they believe but just won’t admit it, that as soon as things turn bad atheist will come running back to religion. That may happen occasionally, it may be true for some people, but it is far from universal. Large numbers of atheists have lived their entire lives, gone through countless traumatic experiences, and yet maintained their lack of faith.

    For someone who claims to want to find a middle ground, who is criticizing people for insults and refusing to cooperate, you toss out what is amongst the worst insults imaginable.

    To me it is sometimes more frustrating to me to listen to an atheist spew out their rhetoric and refuse to see the things that just may not be able to be explained in a lab or by reason as those who are religous fundalmentalists, i.e. Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Christian etc… who kill or hate in the name of a so called Loving God.

    I’m sorry, but WHAT? You find talking worse than murder? Even if it is just occasionally finding it a little less frustrating then murder then I’m sorry, but there is so little common ground between us then discussing this any further is pointless.

  37. Aquaria

    Funny, I’m ex-military and I don’t need religious belief. Didn’t need it then. Don’t need it now.

    And talking about atheists “spewing” their rhetoric–that’s rich, when religionists are constantly spewing theirs. They do it in every part of society, but if an atheist even expresses his view on the matter, however meekly–watch out! The atheist is suddenly the one “spewing” and “militant.” Not the religionist, even though he could very well be spewing truly deplorable, militant things. Look at Robertson and his ilk getting treated in the media like credible voices for ANYTHING –as if such morons have anything worthwhile to add to any discussion. How many atheists get such opportunities?

    Religionists even come to my house, uninvited, to spew their rhetoric! How many atheists would presume to knock on your door to “spread the word” to you? Very damned few, and saying otherwise would be a lie. I don’t like the nuts coming to my door, so I don’t do it to others. Wow. An atheist has morals (something religionists constantly claim is impossible–they’re constantly spewing such arrogance!).

    As for refusing to accept things that can’t be seen by science?

    Using the excuse of religion as an explanation for things we don’t YET understand is as ridiculous as Newton saying that God had to be responsible for explaining the motions of more than two celestial bodies because he couldn’t quite figure out the math for it. Obviously it could be explained–and was. Not being able to understand something right now doesn’t mean we never will. We certainly won’t if we don’t keep coming back to something to attempt to understand it.

    Science has made tremendous strides, but it’s only a tiny fraction of what we don’t know–too much is out there to learn. Yet scientists keep trying to learn more and more. Every now and then, they learn something amazing. Even if they don’t get a huge breakthrough, they add to the banks of knowledge and understanding.

    On the other hand, anti-science religionists are willing to surrender to ignorance, rather than fighting to overcome it. That dooms them to failure–and stasis. We’ve seen what happens when a society abandons science. It doesn’t move forward. Its people suffer.

    Oh–and your “feelings” when you see a beautiful sunset (or painting) or hear beautiful music? I’d start with Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works. Dr. Pinker is a noted cognitive scientist. You could say he studies why we feel and think. You did know there was a scientific field devoted to such things, right?

  38. Nemo

    Boba Fett:

    How come only Christianity and Islam contain religious lunatics who challenge and deny rational thought and science?

    Ah, have you not heard of Hindu creationism? It’s wonderfully amusing — it’s much like Abrahamic creationism, except that it errs in the other direction when it comes to the ages of humanity and of Earth.

  39. ZekeCDN

    Thanks Aquaria. As I scrolled down this thread I was composing a reply in my head. Then I saw your post, which hit on every single point I wanted to make (extra props for the Pinker ref).

  40. Calli Arcale

    Absolutely right Nemo — anyone who believes that only Christianity and Islam contain religious lunatics opposed to science is a person who has not spent a lot of time exploring other religions. Truth is, there are crackpots everywhere. There are even atheist crackpots. I knew a guy in college who firmly believed there was not a God. He also believed that there was a massive government conspiracy to conceal the truth about aliens, and that homeopathy was real, etc. Your basic run-of-the-mill nut, but he happened to be atheist as well. This is not to indict atheists, but merely to point out that crackpots come in all flavors.

    The group least likely to fall victim to crackpotism is usually agnosticism, except for those who are agnostic simply because they don’t care one way or the other. Those who are agnostic out of a sense of intellectual honesty, however, are usually well-protected against crackpottery.
    rm of a turtle, and is no longer truly being worshiped by the vast, powerful religion of Omnianism, and consequently is dying. (Gods o
    Now, in answer to Doug Little, it’s a very personal question why I believe. In part, it is because I believe the four canonical Gospels were not fictions. Jesus life was not well documented outside of the various gospels. Some Christians will point to various other sources and say “Look, he was real!” but these aren’t very good evidence, quite frankly. The majority were not truly contemporary, and rather than being evidence of Jesus, they are evidence of early Christians busily spreading the message. It is no more evidence of Jesus than the Wikipedia entry on Scientology is evidence of Xenu and dead thetans and all of that.

    But there are other things which are better documented. Probably the most important person to the development of modern Christianity was the apostle Paul, and his existence is a bit better documented. He was, after all, a very high-ranking member of the Jewish community, a well-traveled man, and also somebody who got in trouble with the Romans. Paul’s written testimony speaks highly to me.

    It’s not proof, though. There is no proof, not in this life, and it could be a later forgery. And even if it’s not a forgery, Paul could’ve invented a fiction, and even if he didn’t invent it, he could’ve been misled by whomever converted him to Christianity (even assuming the account of Jesus appearing to him is wrong, we must still conclude that *somebody* convinced him to leave the powerful and prosperous life of a Pharisee). But insofar as it does not violate what I know about the world, I can’t falsify it. There’s a lot that can’t be falsified — I can’t falsify the Flying Spaghetti Monster either. But it means that there is no harm in believing in Jesus — and I find a great deal of hope in Jesus’ message.

    When it gets right down to brass tacks, that’s the reason I have faith. I like the message. It gives me hope. Not hope for resurrection; truthfully, that’s never been a big draw for me, in part because I find myself a bit skeptical that we’ve all understood Jesus correctly on that. (The whole idea of people sprouting wings and playing harps on cloudtops while dining on the finest cuisine is frankly pretty absurd. I won’t even get into how absurd I find the popular notion of hell.) No, it’s not the promise of eternal life that draws me. It’s hope for what *we* can become, as a species, if we apply the message of love and self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Voluntary love.

    That’s why I believe.

    Do I apply critical thinking skills to my religion? I try to. I think it is vital, in fact, to teach critical thinking right alongside faith. It’s the only safeguard a church has against abuse. If I find an inconsistency, that is not something to handwave away. It’s something to explore very seriously. In my opinion, faith should never be an endpoint. It’s a journey that one undertakes, lasting one’s whole life, as one constantly evaluates and reevaluates the tenets of one’s faith. A lot of churches discourage that, because there is a tendency for critical thinkers to ask a lot of very uncomfortable questions. Like, just where is that money going? Would Jesus really kick out the homosexuals, given that he went out of his way to interact with ritually unclean people? Is it right to fire a staff member for getting a divorce? And so on. Eventually, critical thinking leads to questions like “am I really damned if I don’t do as you say?” and “why do we really need this religious hierarchy?”

    The most dangerous thing about Christianity is not faith. It’s religion. Faith, in and of itself, is not bad, though without being tempered by critical thinking it can leave a person vulnerable to religion. Religions have done a lot of good through the years, and also incalculable evil. Religion is not something God created, though. It’s something we created. The religious structure is not part of God, and so it should be reasonable to be suspicious of it. This is why religions often fear critical thinking.

    You asked if I reject Genesis and the great flood. Sort of. I think the first two chapters can be taken as an allegory, but they’re certainly not literally true. And the story of Noah also has allegorical elements — cataclysm stories are fairly common around the world, though not all involve a flood — but I suspect it’s actually a mutated version of an actual historical event: the flooding of the Black Sea. Not a worldwide flood, but to the people who lived there, it probably seemed like the whole world had been flooded out. The ancient Hebrews wrote these books to contain the state of their knowledge about the world. It should not really be surprising that they didn’t know it all. We don’t either, which is why science remains exciting. ;-)

    You also asked why the historical evidence of Jesus is so sketchy. This should not really be surprising. Christians tend to have a rather distorted view of Judea 2,000 years ago, and as a consequence of Christian influence on the development of Western Society, so do most people in the West today. Truth is, he wasn’t that important of a figure, politically. There would have been no reason for him to be recorded. After all, the people keeping the records didn’t think he was the Messiah. At most, they would have thought he was yet another revolutionary, and those were dime a dozen in those days of Roman occupation.

    So the quest for a historical Jesus is, I suspect, completely futile. There are a few choices: have faith that he existed and came back to life and is the Messiah, accept the possibility that he existed and influenced a bunch of people who subsequently launched a religion based on his teachings, reject the possibility that he existed and assume therefore that Christianity is based on a fiction, or refrain from holding an opinion on whether he was real or not and simply get on with life. Which to choose is a personal decision, but it should not be made blindly.

    That brings me back to the original post. The Onion has hilariously skewered the viewpoint that science (and, by extension, critical thinking) is something to be feared. Those who hold that viewpoint (and sadly, they are many) made their choice blindly and now hold stubbornly to it, fearing to open their eyes.

    One closing thought: you may want to check out the book “Small Gods”, by Terry Pratchett. It’s fantasy, but has some wonderfully astute observations on religion.

  41. Doug Little

    Calli,

    Yeah, I’ve read some Terry Pratchett, damn good books. Getting back to your post, you stated:

    When it gets right down to brass tacks, that’s the reason I have faith. I like the message. It gives me hope. Not hope for resurrection; truthfully, that’s never been a big draw for me, in part because I find myself a bit skeptical that we’ve all understood Jesus correctly on that. (The whole idea of people sprouting wings and playing harps on cloudtops while dining on the finest cuisine is frankly pretty absurd. I won’t even get into how absurd I find the popular notion of hell.) No, it’s not the promise of eternal life that draws me. It’s hope for what *we* can become, as a species, if we apply the message of love and self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Voluntary love.

    This message that you like, why do you like it? have you ever asked your self the question? There are plenty of other messages that are laid out in the bible that are very opposite to this one, repression of women, keeping of slaves, messages of revenge, hatred toward gay people, I could go on. Do you think that you needed someone to tell you that love and self-sacrifice is the way to go or would you have worked it out by yourself. See I live my life for the betterment of the human race and the people around me, I too want to see us as a people make real progress before I check out but I don’t need anybody to tell me this, it it really just common sense, an instinct that we have developed living as social animals in groups. It makes sense to cooperate with your neighbor so he in turn will cooperate with you.

    I do not need religion to teach me this and quite frankly, if you do need religion to stop you from anti-social behavior then you are one scary individual. So you and I in this respect are alike, except I don’t need a god belief to understand what’s right from what’s wrong.

  42. Calli Arcale

    Glad to hear you like Pratchett! One of the most brilliant writers of this age, IMHO. Sadly, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s very early stages right now, so it’s not impairing his writing. But it does mean that his time is limited. Do read “Small Gods” if you haven’t yet. It’s one of the best. It’s one of the cases of somewhat confusing Discworld chronology; later references to Omnianism have me thinking it must’ve taken place quite some time ago. But in any case, Omnianism is a very strange thing on the Disc — a monotheistic faith. Monotheism on the Disc is almost as bad as atheism, since gods are quite real on the Disc, and prone to playing practical jokes on unbelievers. (They’re not very nice people.) But they are quite literally created *by* their believers, and their strength is equivalent to the amount of faith people have in them. Om has manifested as a small, one-eyed turtle — quite a shock considering that there are hundreds of thousands of Omnians who live in utter terror of disobedience to their religion. But that’s just it — they believe in their religion. They don’t believe in Om. That’s what religions do, given enough time and enough power.

    This message that you like, why do you like it? have you ever asked your self the question? There are plenty of other messages that are laid out in the bible that are very opposite to this one, repression of women, keeping of slaves, messages of revenge, hatred toward gay people, I could go on. Do you think that you needed someone to tell you that love and self-sacrifice is the way to go or would you have worked it out by yourself.

    I don’t know if *I* would’ve worked it out, since after all I grew up with it, but plenty of people have worked it out on their own. You did. And consider Buddha. Probably the single best example in all of history. Now, he was born long before Jesus, so he obviously didn’t learn it from him. He figured it out on his own. See, part of what I like about the message is that it is *not* limited to Christianity. It’s not some weird, mystical mumbo-jumbo but something that actually makes *sense*.

    Yes, the Bible does have messages that are opposite to it. That’s *why* Jesus had to come. To straighten that out. I think that Biblical literalism in very misguided, both from a scientific standpoint and a theological one. Jesus actively worked against the religious law, so clearly he was saying that there’s something wrong with it. And to me, it’s quite simple what’s wrong with it: organized religion. People start building up rule upon rule, deciding who is better and who is worse, telling you that if you just do things this particular way that you’ll be a right and proper person, and that’s *wrong*. Wrong on so many levels.

    So, what I believe is that Jesus came into the world to let people know that this was wrong and to demonstrate what was right. People were saying that you have to do this or be like that in order to be loved by God, but it wasn’t true — it was misrepresenting God, so He had to set the record straight.

    Now, I may not be correct about that, but it’s what I believe. That the whole mess that is most religion is something that God would send His own son to try to sort out.

    See I live my life for the betterment of the human race and the people around me, I too want to see us as a people make real progress before I check out but I don’t need anybody to tell me this, it it really just common sense, an instinct that we have developed living as social animals in groups. It makes sense to cooperate with your neighbor so he in turn will cooperate with you.

    Yes, what the Minbari (Babylon 5) refer to as “enlightened self-interest”. That’s another great resource for fascinating insights on religion and philosophy. Fantastic series. Almost as good as Doctor Who! :-P

    I do not need religion to teach me this and quite frankly, if you do need religion to stop you from anti-social behavior then you are one scary individual. So you and I in this respect are alike, except I don’t need a god belief to understand what’s right from what’s wrong.

    I don’t feel that I need a god for that either. I feel that the truest “right” is fundamental to the universe. That’s why it’s completely possible for people to find it via different paths. If it were only available via Christianity, frankly, I would be highly suspicious of it. But if God comes and gives that message, isn’t that okay too? Just because God agrees with you is not a bad thing. I like the idea that God wants us to love each other and become a better species. I really do.

    One last thought. I think you’ll like this one. Gandhi (a Hindu, of course) was once asked what the biggest problem was with Christianity. He replied, “Christians”. And he was absolutely right. (Got that quote from my pastor, actually.)

  43. Doug Little

    Calli, common nothing is better than Doctor Who!

    Your stance is quite interesting and not of the norm I might say. I guess you kind of missed my point, I don’t see how your world view requires the existence of the supernatural. You seem to throw away most of the bible which is meant to be the infallible word of god, you aren’t particularly interested in the afterlife a lot of religion makes no sense to you, and you follow a moralistic code that has wholly organic beginnings. If you can see through biblical literalism as you have stated why can’t you apply the same thinking to god and what he represented back in the time that the bible was written, back then superstition ruled the world and they used god to explain the unexplainable. A lot that was attributed to god now has wholly materialistic explanations, it’s not a stretch to extrapolate this further into the future until there are no more gaps for god to fill.

    One final thing you stated:

    That’s why it’s completely possible for people to find it via different paths

    Are they different paths or is the underlying instinct really doing the guiding, after all people seem to pick and choose what they want to believe an awful lot.

  44. Jarrad

    As a studying university student, I found this actually quite scary. Not so much for the fact that I’m an athiest, but more so for the fact that this is essential knowledge that our children and even childrens children are/will be deprived of.

    What sort of a world is it that is affraid of teaching science – the fundamental building blocks of well, everything – to future generations!

    Now i’m not saying rule out peoples faith outright, it’s important for many people (and some scientists too!) to keep their faith just like they do their knowledge of the universe. But ruling out science and discovery all together is much more damaging in my opinion. I couldn’t begin to imagine a world where science was ruled out, though I have read some interesting books!

    Why can’t people just find a common ground between the two rather than completely ruling one or the other out.

    -Jarrad

  45. Nigel Depledge

    NMal524 said:
    “I love when arguments come up between people who seem to be stuck in using faith to explain everything and can’t stand to have big bad science come up with a new discovery or way of explaining something and those that are so by the numbers with science that they can’t stop and accept that maybe there is something more to life then what can be figured out in a lab.”

    Well, yes and no. While the creationist denial-of-reality position is demonstrably absurd, the same cannot be said of the mankind-can-know-everything opinion. There is an argument from logic that says we should not suppose the existence of a creator until we have some hard evidence to support such an assertion.

    If I find myself in an argument over creationism vs science, I often suggest that the creo can look on it this way: the laws of nature are God’s toolkit. Science is a way of rummaging through God’s toolkit, working out how everything happens / happened. Having said that, this approach is rarely well received by dyed-in-the-wool creationists, presumably because they are so personally invested in their own interpretation of scripture.

  46. Nigel Depledge

    The Black Cat said:
    “You cannot object to the evolution “type” of science without objecting to science as a whole, since evolution is not any sort of special type of science.”

    Hear, hear.

  47. Nigel Depledge

    Phil C said:
    “Enforced atheism (think U.S.S.R.) isn’t any better than legislated Evangelical Christianity or any theocratic state.”

    While I agree that enforced atheism is a bad thing, the enforced atheism in the USSR is not what caused the system to fail. What caused the system to fail was a combination of widespread corruption and the triumph of idealogy over reality (cf. Lysenkoism).

    Additionally, enforced atheism may actually be a little bit better than a theocracy (consider the reign of Queen Mary, who preceeded Queen Elizabeth I in England – Mary was a Catholic, and supported the systematic persecution of Protestants. I have heard that she was nicknamed “bloody Mary” but this might be an urban myth)

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Calli Arcale said:
    “I believe that God created the world, and that we are His children. I believe that the method of creating us was evolution. Not intelligently designed evolution, either. The natural selection kind. After all, our shapes are not important. It’s our souls which are important.”

    Alternatively, God foresaw the conditions needed for us to evolve into this shape and set everything up at the beginning to develop just so. After all, what’s the point in being omniscient and omnipotent if you have to tinker?

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Calli Arcale said:
    “No, it’s not the promise of eternal life that draws me. It’s hope for what *we* can become, as a species, if we apply the message of love and self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Voluntary love.

    That’s why I believe.”

    Well, not to rain on your parade, Calli, but I fail to see the connection. How does a hope that humanity will become something better than it is become the foundation of a belief in God and Jesus? I have hope that humanity will become better than it is (in terms of kindness, selflessness, mutual respect and so on), but this does not lead me to a belief in Jesus. I’ve seen too much hatred perpetrated and propagated by people who called themselves Christians to accept that connection.

  50. Scythe

    What is worrying is that creationalism has taken a hold at-all in this century, that really does have seriously frightening ramifications for human civilisation in our part of the world.

    So, how are we to interact with those whose internal map of the world is so strange that it bears no relation to the outside?

    The brain builds up an internal model of the external world so that we can “anticipate” cause and effect, a mechanism of survival as much as anything else. It’s our ability to use that same mechanism consciously that enables us to think beyond our experience, for better or worse.

    If my internal model is faulty then to you my behaviour will seem irrational and unpredictable, but to me, if I don’t take care to correct my internal view of the world what I do will seem perfectly rational even though to you I will appear to be insane.

    Put junk in at an early age before a person is firing on all cylinders and able to discard that which is dubious and that’s your lot! That’s why it is an abomination to not give a child the broadest education possible.

    After-all, even God made it clear that freedom of choice is a primary directive!

    So, even as a skeptic I would give a child the freedom to choose their path. How could I possibly do otherwise?

    Now here is the dilemma. If a clock becomes conscious that it is displaying the incorrect time is it cured? Or would that only be if it displayed the correct time? And what of a clock that is displaying the correct time, would it be aware if it started to go wrong?

    Abstract I know…

  51. Calli Arcale

    Doug,

    This is really quite enjoyable. So you like Doctor Who too! Awesome. ;-) But then, the BA does tend to draw the right sort of people to his site, Whovians among them.

    You seem to throw away most of the bible which is meant to be the infallible word of god, you aren’t particularly interested in the afterlife a lot of religion makes no sense to you, and you follow a moralistic code that has wholly organic beginnings. If you can see through biblical literalism as you have stated why can’t you apply the same thinking to god and what he represented back in the time that the bible was written, back then superstition ruled the world and they used god to explain the unexplainable. A lot that was attributed to god now has wholly materialistic explanations, it’s not a stretch to extrapolate this further into the future until there are no more gaps for god to fill.

    Several points:

    * Ah, the “god of the gaps” concept. I don’t like that idea, personally. Smacks too much of God as a sort of intellectual “John Doe” or undefined variable used to represent a specific absence of data. No, I regard God as existing entirely outside of our universe. God is not necessary to understanding how this universe physically operates. God need not be invoked to explain why gravity exists, for instance, or what happens on the other side of a black hole’s event horizon. In science, there should be no appeal to God at all. Fundies take this to mean that science is godless, or is suggesting that god is totally irrelevant, but all it means is that god is irrelevant to *science*. God’s relevant elsewhere. I suppose I’m a bit like the humanistic theists 200 years ago. I believe that God loves us but generally just lets us get on with our lives. I believe in a God who indeed is not required for understanding how the universe operates. But I like the idea of Him anyway. I like Him very much. Maybe when I die the joke will be on me, but I’d rather believe than not. Like I said earlier, it’s personal. I wouldn’t ask you to believe. One should only believe because they feel it is right for them to so, not because someone else says so.

    * I do not believe the Bible is the infallible word of God. I believe that it *contains* the infallible word of God, but relayed by mere mortal humans and bulked up with a whole lot of other stuff. I believe that the Bible is the best path to learning about Jesus and our relationship with God. This may annoy some people, but frankly, I consider many fundamentalists to be guilty of idolatry because they worship the Bible. The Bible is a *book*. It is not meant to be worshiped. Studied, yes. Worshiped, no. I think this is why so many fundamentalists misunderstand scientists. The fundies worship Scripture, so they expect that scientists must worship things like the Origin of the Species, which of course is not true. A scientific person does not have a problem with books not being 100% accurate. A scientific person *expects* books to have flaws, and thus is on the lookout for them. An unscientific person, on the other hand, expects books to be perfect, and so any flaw is a sign of dishonesty. That’s why many fundamentalists can’t understand the scientific viewpoint.

    Are they different paths or is the underlying instinct really doing the guiding, after all people seem to pick and choose what they want to believe an awful lot.

    Ah, now that is the question, isn’t it? ;-) I couldn’t answer it. If I could, I’d probably be the most brilliant person who had ever lived, and might have the power to sway all mankind to my bidding. Is there truly an ultimate “right”? Or is it all an illusion fostered by millenia of evolution to produce a species with a fantastic capacity for abstract thought and consciously-directed civilization? No way to know. That said, natural selection does apply to cultures as well, and it’s possible that even if there are multiple “rights” now, in time, with globalization, there may be only one. The “right” way may one day be baptized as such by virtue of outliving the others, which of course may be utterly meaningless — we all know that in natural selection, the result isn’t really a better species, since nature doesn’t deal in value judgments. If it happens, will it mean that our civilization has found the right path — or that there was really only one path to begin with, just with different decor — or that there were many paths and the one we found just got lucky?

  52. Calli Arcale

    Nigel Depledge:
    Well, not to rain on your parade, Calli, but I fail to see the connection. How does a hope that humanity will become something better than it is become the foundation of a belief in God and Jesus?

    It doesn’t have to. It’s just that in my case, I really like the message offered by Jesus. I think it could lead to us becoming something better, and since I believe in God, the idea that God has personally endorsed this message is particularly appealing to me. I like the idea. I like it really a lot. That’s why I believe in it. It’s how it can *become*.

    Now, if you don’t like it enough to believe in God, or if you don’t feel that Jesus’ alleged divinity enhances the promise at all, then don’t believe in God or Jesus. It’s as simple as that.

    I have seen nothing to suggest that Jesus was not the Christ. Absence of contrary evidence is no reason to believe — I could believe a lot of damn fool things if I felt that way. But this particular one is too important to me for me to let it go just because it’s unprovable.

    Mind you, I won’t believe anything for which there actually is contrary evidence. ;-) That is of course why I’m convinced that Genesis is not literally true.

  53. Doug Little

    Calli, I must say that talking with you is a breath of fresh air. I think you for being honest about your faith and you seem to have similar views to another guy I know on another blog, I don’t know if you post there under a different screen name or not but you are more than welcome to join in the discourse at the NoGodBlog (www.nogodblog.com). We definitely welcome people like you who have an interesting take on faith and religion, BTW the guy’s screen name is Spanders, you don’t know him do you? Since this thread is pretty much dead and buried I would like to defer this conversation for another time and place. i have lots more questions and nogodblog is probably a more relevant place to ask them.

  54. Nigel Depledge

    Doug Little said:
    “Calli, I must say that talking with you is a breath of fresh air. I think you for being honest about your faith …”

    Hear, hear.

  55. Boba Fett writes:

    [[Christianity is only 2,000 years old and is destined to disappear and be remembered as mere “mythology,” too, just like all the other religions.]]

    Just keep telling yourself that. BTW, Han Solo is after your butt, and he’s pis-sed.

  56. Doug Little writes:

    [[What makes you so sure that a historical Jesus even existed, the evidence for his existence is sketchy at best and if he was such a polarizing figure in his time why isn’t there hundreds of independent documents validating his existence?]]

    This is a frequent trope of militant atheists, but there’s no professional historian in the world who would say Jesus never existed. As to why there aren’t more records — because 99% of the records from antiquity are gone, destroyed, missing. Duh. They didn’t have printing presses back then, and papyrus and parchment aren’t the most durable media, plus people tended to burn books they didn’t like back then. The earliest manuscript we have of De Bello Gallico is from the 10th century AD. In light of all that, it’s interesting that the earliest copy we have of John’s gospel carbon-dates to 125 AD and we have recorded statements about Jesus in four gospels, Acts, the Epistles, Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Josephus, Thallus, and the letter of Mara bar-Serapion. Jesus is actually one of the better-attested historical figures, certainly more than Socrates, who is only mentioned in two places. But nobody thinks Socrates didn’t exist.

  57. Stargazer writes:

    [[I have a lot of trouble believing in any god that is “all powerful” enough to create everything from nothing, and at the same time, insecure enough to send people to be tortured for eternity for not worshiping him.]]

    That’s a caricature of what Christianity actually says. Please do some research before making statements like the above. A good place to start, if you don’t want to read the Bible, would be C.S. Lewis’s books, Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain. The latter devotes a chapter to exploring the doctrine of Hell. It isn’t what you think it is.

  58. TheBlackCat posts:

    [[***There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole***

    This is an outright lie, and one of the most insulting things you can possibly say to an atheist. It insults the memories of a lot of brave men and women who have fought and died for their countries.]]

    Read for context. Nmal was posting about his experience as an addiction counselor.

  59. Aquaria posts:

    [[Using the excuse of religion as an explanation for things we don’t YET understand is as ridiculous as Newton saying that God had to be responsible for explaining the motions of more than two celestial bodies because he couldn’t quite figure out the math for it.]]

    You think Newton — Isaac Newton — came up with his notion of God’s intervention in Solar system stability because he couldn’t figure out the math for it??? You don’t know much about the man, do you? And BTW, it was the stability of the solar system he was talking about, not the n-body problem.

  60. Calli writes:

    [[I believe that God loves us but generally just lets us get on with our lives.]]

    That’s a very convenient sort of God. He’s there if you want to muse about him or admire a sunset, but you don’t have to actually change anything about the way you live or treat other people. I’m okay, you’re okay.

  61. TheFurlong

    Well, since we’re all in the thick of it (even if this is a really old post), I would like to suggest a thought experiment. Suppose that I describe a universe that runs under a set of rules. I give it initial conditions and then run it. I may do this on paper, or on a computer, but the point is that the universe (assuming it is given a deterministic set of rules), runs deterministically. There are certain facts about the outcome of this execution that are true. Now, a well established set of mathematical theorems tells us that given a mathematically described machine, in general, we will not be able to determine whether those facts are true. Likewise, there is no general (finite) method for determining the outcome of the universe at step N.

    On the other hand, this does not bar me from deriving theorems about this universe. For instance, I might determine that by tweaking the initial parameters in the right way, that I will be able to control some parameter in that universe. Likewise, nothing is stopping me from occasionally breaking the rules of executing this universe. For instance, I’m entirely free to alter a parameter of the universe during “runtime” (whatever that is), which again allows me to control an aspect of that universe’s future. Furthermore I can always re-run the universe from a certain state if I am dissatisfied with the outcome.

    Finally, suppose that one of my agendas in creating this universe is to create free-willed organisms. I could have any number of reasons for doing this. Perhaps I am curious. Maybe the same thing that compels me to create these creatures is what compels humans to adopt pets. Anyway, since these creatures are free willed, I probably shouldn’t mess with parameters that immediately affect their choices too much. I can, however, slightly modify parameters to goad these creatures in the right direction, if I feel that they need guidance.

    You probably know where this is going by now. God is outside the scope of science, and is therefore irrelevant to science. However, that doesn’t make the notion of God irrelevant. Is it that much more absurd to suggest that something just winked into existence which became our universe, or that it has always been there? These kinds of questions seem to transcend science. I may be wrong about that, but who can confidently declare that science will answer those questions and not say that that isn’t a form of faith?

    Some people find more value in believing that somebody greater than us is on our side than others. As long as those people aren’t using this notion to interfere with scientific progress or those aspects of their lives which are better addressed by science and rational thought, who are you to admonish them? Aren’t you imposing your opinion that a Godless world is better than a world with (one would hope) a reasonable God on them?

    I’ve heard all those arguments that belief in God is dangerous, but so is becoming a pilot, or devoting your life to scientific research. Each choice has risks, but assuming that the person making those choices is responsible, then we have to assume that that person would minimize those risks. A scientist is likely to live his or her life without ever discovering anything important, or may eventually be the victim of some horrific lab accident, through some careless, innocuous, error. Does that mean that the scientist would give up science? Don’t bet on it. Likewise, if a person prefers to believe God, why would you assume that he or she would then prefer not to believe in God if God and science were reconcilable? Just because there is a risk?

    As a final thought, I am aware of the age old argument: if God created us, who created God? I think that that’s a naive question to ask, perhaps akin to asking, “what came before the Big Bang?”, a question that seems to annoy many cosmologists, and perhaps even worse, because God is not really a well defined concept. Furthermore, I think the question of God’s existence is independent of the question of where we ultimately came from. To some people, the most important aspect of God is that there is a greater power on our side, not that everything was created by God.

  62. TheFurlong

    I meant “Is that much more absurd than suggesting”

  63. To all you self-righteous indignants: The “Science” you are waving-around is not the Last Word, the Absolute Truth. As has Always been true, nearly all of the Current Wisdom theories will be at least “adjusted” in the timespan of a generation. Most of our venerated Great Minds have reversed themselves at some point. What was “Fact” a few hundred years ago is laughed-at now. As what we “believe” will be in another few generations.

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