Texas creationist McLeroy spins the educational disaster he created

By Phil Plait | January 6, 2011 10:41 am

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: young-Earth creationism is wrong. It’s the wrongiest wrongness in the history of wrongitude. We know for rock-solid fact the Earth and the Universe are billions of years old, not thousands. Also, it’s illegal — unconstitutional, even — to teach creationism as anything other than myth in public schools, since it’s religion.

So you just know that reading an op-ed from Don McLeroy — an evangelistic creationist who was (was, thank heavens) the head of the Texas State Board of Education — trying to defend and spin the BoE’s insertion of religion and far-right rhetoric into the state standards is going to be head-explodey.

And it is.

Mind you, this is the one and the same Texas BoE that has been fighting teaching kids about evolution tooth and nail, which downplayed the Big Bang theory, which took Thomas Jefferson out of the standards, which praised Joseph McCarthy, which screwed up the state standards so massively California issued a warning that it would be looking at what Texas is doing to textbooks very carefully. The very same BoE that had the gall to pass a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as pro-Muslim while ramming fundamentalist religion into those same textbooks.

Ah, memories. I wrote a synopsis on all the damage this BoE has done, if your brain can stand it.

So anyway, reading McLeroy’s apologetics in the op-ed is astounding. Before he even starts, the nonsense and spin begins; the headline is "McLeroy: The State Board of Education’s standards should make Texans proud". Yeah.

OK, here’s a fun sample of what McLeroy says:

New science standards were adopted in March 2009. […] The controversy over science standards was actually the result of an attempted hijacking of science for ideological purposes by evolutionists. Their agenda was much more about worldviews than biology. The standards reflect real science and challenge students to study some of evolution’s most glaring weaknesses in explaining the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.

Actually, it really was about biology, and how the conservative Board members kept trying to distort scientific reality. It was McLeroy and his cohorts who inserted worldviews into the standards; his and the Board majority’s extremely narrow and religious view of the world. This is a standard creationist tactic: accuse others of doing what you’re doing. By the way, those "glaring weaknesses" are nothing of the sort; the Board uses weasel words and language to make it seem like evolution is a weak idea, when in fact it is the very basis and unifying concept in modern biology.

Here’s another fun one:

One significant standard brings much needed clarity to the commonly misunderstood phrase "separation of church and state." Our children will learn that it is not in the Constitution and, ironically, how it undermines the very language our Constitution uses to guarantee us religious liberty.

Technically, he’s correct that this phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution. However, teaching kids that fact doesn’t really give them much insight into the First Amendment, which does actually guarantee that exact separation. And the irony is all him, since the phrase not only doesn’t undermine the Constitution, it’s one of the document’s major points. After all, the word "God" doesn’t appear anywhere in it, which would be an odd thing for a document to leave off if, in fact, the country’s laws were founded on religion. The point, totally lost on theocrats like McLeroy, is that by guaranteeing a freedom from government endorsement of religion, no one’s beliefs or lack thereof get infringed. I wonder how he’d feel if a Muslims gained a majority on the BoE and they started fiddling with the standards the way he did… oh wait, we know exactly how he’d feel.

Anyway, you can read the rest of his nonsense in the op-ed — and I recommend you do. It’s a hoot. The thing that gets me is, I know a lot of people would accuse McLeroy of lying in the op-ed about what he and the BoE did. And the real problem is that he’s not lying. He’s totally and grossly wrong, but I’m completely sure that he believes every word of what he wrote.

And that is precisely why this image is still applicable:

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to absolutspacegirl.

Comments (218)

  1. Zucchi

    That sounds like a level of hypocrisy and willful ignorance that goes beyond dishonesty into pathology.

  2. Coyote Bongwater

    Well, at the very least, we can feel slightly better because of that little word, ‘was’. This particular kook is no longer in a position to cause further damage to our children.

  3. As a skeptic in Kansas, I oddly appreciate Texas for taking a little of the heat off of us. :-)

  4. guyinsfca

    So should we just accommodate this logic and not point out how flawed it is? We would hate to sound like a “dick,” wouldn’t we?!

  5. Drew

    Having lived in TX for 3 years (ending in 2009) I have come to truly despise this “man” McLeroy. Everytime the BoE was on the local news I would grit my teeth and fight back tears (of horror and hilarity). I long for the day when people like him can allow people to learn truth, instead of myth.

  6. I hate texas, the state where i lived my whole life. Just sucks here, it really does.

  7. Don MacLeroy: “The new standards require students to be taught… American Exceptionalism”

    Wow.

  8. I apologize for my state. :( I live in the same city as McLeroy… I hope he enjoyed our vuvuzela entry in the Christmas parade. :)

  9. QuietDesperation

    LOL! Trust me as a Californian. When *California* stands back at what you are doing and goes “Whoa!” you are seriously DOIN IT RONG.

    I hate texas, the state where i lived my whole life. Just sucks here, it really does.

    At least you still have an economy. Our government seems hell bent on eliminating ours, and then wondering where all the tax revenues went. Derp.

  10. Terry

    The sad part is that Texas will not be doomed. It is a growing economy. Educationally, they are in the middle of the road, while California consistently ranks at the bottom. That comes down to a simple equation. Those with growing economies have more incentive to seek a better education for their children. That’s why science boomed following the industrial revolution.

    Of course, private education has led to better adult outcomes on average…

  11. QuietDesperation

    Technically, he’s correct that this phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution.

    Doesn’t have to. The establishment clause has been well tested by the courts. It’s also well established by the other writings of those who created the Constitution. They made their intent blazingly clear. Example:

    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” — President Thomas Jefferson, 1802

  12. Joe R.

    @Scottie Davis

    Other than a miserable 9-years in Tokyo, and 2 even more miserable years in Los Angeles, I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, and really love it here. Maybe you’re in the wrong part of the state (Austin rocks).

    While I couldn’t agree more with the derision Phil pours on McLeroy, I also think a bit too much is made of it. I would prefer this stuff be kept in the church house and not the schoolhouse, but ultimately I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to see that their children are well educated. If they can’t be bothered to spend 5 minutes discussing the differences between creationism and evolution, shame on them.

  13. Dan I.

    As an attorney I HATE it when people bring up the “Separation of Church and State doesn’t appear in the Constitution!” to justify religious laws.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    Ok, so yeah, the actual literal words “separation of Church and State” don’t appear.

    BUT COME ON! Read the First Freaking Amendment people. It’s pretty obvious what they wanted.

    Nevermind that the U.S. actually signed a TREATY with the Barbary States saying “The United States is not a Christian nation”

  14. baric

    I would like to second Scottie’s words earlier:

    “I hate texas, the state where i lived my whole life. Just sucks here, it really does.”

  15. Daniel J. Andrews

    Oh, don’t be too hard on Texas…it can’t suck that much. You have the Brownsville dump and the Rio Grande River—both excellent places to do some birding for lifers. :)

    I had thought the original separation of church and state didn’t refer to schools, but was put in so the ruling head of the state wasn’t also the religious head of the state (as in what happened several times in England with the king’s control over the religion). So when Jefferson talked about this, was he extending it to government run institutions like schools? Or is that a later interpretation?

  16. Luke

    Did you know that the Constitution doesn’t say that government officials can’t shoot you for offensive language? Never mind that it’s a necessary conclusion of the 1st amendment, that phrasing doesn’t appear *anywhere* in the Constitution! Think of what else is not literally spelled out in the Constitution that we can now get away with!

  17. John F

    “Maybe you’re in the wrong part of the state (Austin rocks).”
    I’ve heard that Austin is a relatively normal and sane city… but that the rest of the State thinks Austin is weird

    I’ve only visited Dallas, which quite frankly strikes me as.. sterile.

  18. Donovan

    Intelligent Design, Bad Science and Bad Religion all rolled up into one spectacular amount of fail.

  19. Steve

    And idiots like McElroy and his partners in crime on the BoE will cost TX a whole generation of students who cannot think or reason, must less understand scientific principles and models. I’m in TX, but stuff like this makes me glad to be gay, with no kids in school!
    And now we have folks raising cain about having a nuclear/hazardous waste disposal site; they love the jobs and money generated, but want the rest of the USA to keep the risk! It’s getting so TX is like MS was in the ’50s, prejudiced and undereducated.

  20. Sam H

    When he’s praising McCarthy, you know that he’s FLAT OUT CRAZY. And we all know the effects of mixing religion and the constitution, whether we live in America or not (I live in a big city north of Montana). However, don’t label him a theocrat too fast – a good deal of Christian conservatives are simply idealists who want to see Christianity prominent in the public sphere again. One could call that an indirect theocracy, but technically it’s not.

    And also…as I am becoming interested in this religion again (the faith of my upbringing), I of course have encountered many a claim of young earthers. Their science is just wrong and their theology can go overboard, but they do have (somewhat of) a point – if evolution appeals to many on a personal level (which it appears to in some circles), then a collective bias may cloud total objective examination of the evidence. And everyone should know that science is NOT perfectly objective, even though it strives to be.

    I’ve been mainly avoiding the issue, but i will say that IMHO the Bible doesn’t contradict modern cosmology/evolution until you start saying humans evolved from ape-like creatures. As for the science itself, I’ll just say that some of the gaps between forms in the fossil record don’t seem to have an observed, plausible known-to-exist explanation for rapid jumps over timescales in the thousands of years. And their also is no known natural process that is known to form huge protein molecules (or at least so far as I know :))

  21. Georg

    BTW,
    is slavery prohibited expressis verbis in Your constitution meanwhile?
    Just asking….
    Georg

  22. ND

    “The controversy over science standards was actually the result of an attempted hijacking of science for ideological purposes by evolutionists.”

    Amazing, evolution is at the heart of biology and thus science but he’s trying to spin biologists as scientific outsiders trying to take science down the wrong road. Wow.

  23. Steve Metzler

    Shorter Sam H: “Teach the controversy!!!”

    With all respect, I don’t think your views are going to go down too well on a science blog. There are like a million (seriously) peer-reviewed papers on the subject of evolution. Now, let’s see if we can find a single one that provides verifiable evidence for creationism… um, no.

    It’s really, really difficult for fossils to be created/preserved. The conditions have to be *just right*. And then we have to *find* them. Add to that the fact that every species is a moving target (i.e. continuously evolving and branching off), it’s no wonder there are so-called ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.

  24. guyinsfca (#4): Seriously? I mean, seriously? Did you even read what I wrote here, or in the thousands of words I linked to in this post where I tear McLeroy and the BoE apart? Do I sound like I’m accommodating him or creationists?

    You have precisely and exactly gotten everything I said in DBAD wrong.

    Sheesh. It’s hard enough having to stand up against people like McLeroy, Wakefield, and all the others, but people claiming to be on our own side make it that much harder.

    Sheesh.

  25. McWaffle

    @20 (Sam H)

    “IMHO the Bible doesn’t contradict modern cosmology/evolution until you start saying humans evolved from ape-like creatures.”

    You realize how inane that sounds, correct? The bible doesn’t contradict evolution, except for one of its major and well-documented tenets. Harry Potter doesn’t contradict modern physics, except for the bit about the magic. Plus conflating cosmology, evolution, and abiogenesis? If you’re honestly interested in the subject and not a lost cause, I hope you seek out some ACTUAL information. Coyne’s book, maybe. Or Dawkin’s? I’m sure there are better ones than those somewhere, if anybody else has any suggestions.

  26. Acronym Jim

    Shorter McElroy:

    I am rubber, you are glue.
    Every wrong I do, I will attribute to you.

  27. MarcusBailius

    That the guy (among many others) is seriously deluded about what science is is sadly no surprise. I would hope that eventually the USA’s Jeffersonian Democracy (!) finally sees to it that this kind of nonsense ultimately is so completely sidelines, even the Tea Party people would think it a little weird.
    Well, one can hope…
    I landed briefly in Texas once, back in 1991 on the way to Hawaii for the total eclipse. (It was cloudy. Don’t ask.) Houston we landed at, and back then being British I pronounced the first syllable to rhyme with “who”. It was later on that trip, that a couple of guys put me right, saying it should rhyme with “hugh”… Which is the rather more onomatopoeic word used in Britain to describe the sound a person might make while producing a “pavement pizza” using the technique known as the “technicolor yawn”…
    It’s issues like this, that kind of make me think it is more than a little appropriate!

    Sam H (comment 16): You’re not reading the right books. There’s plenty of evidence out there, and even available in popular science books (say, “The Making of the Fittest” by Sean B. Carroll, which is simpy brilliant, and gets the message over without being patronising). Have a go.

  28. Bruce

    It is interesting that he would cite Feynman to boost his ideas as he probably would find those arguments flawed and the information being provided was set in a biased way where all the information would be slanted so that creationism becomes a valid scientific option in the minds of some.

    Also would using a quote from Lincoln lose points with some of his fans?

  29. Michel

    So… Texas is La-La-land?
    Ah well. Sheldon Cooper was born there, so maybe there is hope.

  30. Jim

    “an attempted hijacking of science for ideological purposes by evolutionists.”

    You mean, science hijacked by scientists?

  31. Sam H

    Dammit I am NOT conflating evolution, cosmology, and abiogenesis, although I’ll admit I probably should have said that clearer :roll:. And the word evolution (in the general sense, not scientific sense) because of overuse by pissed creationists has come to mean an all encompassing term for modern natural cosmology anyway. Nor am I saying “teach the controversy”, at least not yet. I don’t have an opinion as of now, but instead of dismissing ID out of hand as pseudoscience it probably deserves an honest look at the evidence for and against. People always say that an honest look at the evidence will reveal the truth, so that’s what I’ll do – eventually (doesn’t mean I won’t do it though!)
    Steve: I sure as hell know fossils are difficult to form (that also disproves flood geology, BTW :)), but it is true that “gaps” of a sort exist in the documented fossil record. Transitional fossils exist, but there are not enough to support original Darwinian gradualism, hence punctuated equilibrium. And no proven natural mechanism known to exist accounts for this yet, so far as I know. Even if I believe it heart I’m not saying in mind just yet that “Goddidit”, but since I haven’t seriously investigated it yet I’m not leaving out the possibilites of either natural or intelligent explanation.
    McWaffle: I am referring to non literalistic interpretations of that text. YECs say that old earth is impossible due to animal death before the fall, but the Bible never even said that – it only implies it, which is less certain and may be a later-developed theology. The Hebrew days in Genesis 1 don’t HAVE to be literal, and interpretations like the Framework hypothesis have regard amongst many scholars. There IS a legit controversy here, and this is an area I HAVE extensively studied. And I do have Coyne’s book on my iPod, just haven’t read it yet…again (lifelong procrastinator :roll:). BTW the bible doesn’t always appear as it seems – The red sea was likely mistranslated from “sea of reeds”, the star of Bethlehem was likely the movements of Jupiter and Saturn, and Jesus was pierced thru the wrists. Really, in order to understand it u need the original historical context, the grammar, related passages, & often the framework of a theology. And a Dawkins/Myers-esque courtier’s reply to that is really nothing more than an excuse for ignorance.

  32. Steve Metzler

    Sam H:

    As others have said, you would do yourself a service to read a good popular science book on the subject like Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne. Most of the stuff you are coming up with in this thread is just variations on the ‘argument from incredulity’ theme. We’ve heard it all before.

  33. @ QD:

    At least you still have an economy. Our government seems hell bent on eliminating ours, and then wondering where all the tax revenues went. Derp.

    Many, if not the majority of financial woes California faces were created by citizen-sponsored initiatives that have destroyed the fairness of our state’s tax system and made it all but impossible to pass annual budgets that aren’t bloated with one side or the other’s pork. Californians got what Californians voted for.

    @ Sam H:

    Nor am I saying “teach the controversy”, at least not yet. I don’t have an opinion as of now, but instead of dismissing ID out of hand as pseudoscience it probably deserves an honest look at the evidence for and against.

    Fair enough: Open any serious biology textbook and find mountains of evidence for evolution. Look through any serious biology textbook and search for any – any – evidence for creationism. Hint: you won’t find any. There is none.

    There, solved that for you.

  34. Jim

    Sam H, I’m a Christian, and I will tell you this: intelligent design is completely unsupported by scientific experimentation. This is documented in a lot of resources that any school board would have easy access to.

    You’re right, Darwinian gradualism appears to be unlikely. Punctuated equilibrium has its detractors as well. Change over time resulting in speciation has been demonstrated very handily at the lowest levels of life – the microscopic – in ways that indicate that perhaps evolution is neither gradual nor punctuated but perhaps a little of both, depending the pressures applied to a population or organism, without any need for intelligent intervention.

    And, obviously, I concur that reading Genesis one literally is a poor reading.

  35. McWaffle

    @Sam H #31

    I guess I have to trust what you say, but I have never met somebody who was honestly “considering the evidence for and against ID” that wasn’t doing so because they were heavily biased toward the Christian creation myth. This is because an honest appraisal of available evidence inevitably leads to the conclusion that the modern scientific consensus is the better hypothesis. But what it comes down to, really, is how one defines a reasonable standard of proof. If you believe some ancient shepherds’ remix of even-more-ancient fairy tales should even be considered as an accurate scientific/historical account, even through convoluted metaphor, you’re using a completely different set of criteria than those of us in the reality-based community. There’s a reason why ID has been rejected by courts and mainstream scientists, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not some grand conspiracy. I really do like skepticism, but people seem to misinterpret what it means. People who look at an issue like ID or AGW and say, “I know the evidence overwhelmingly supports one side, but since I’m a skeptic, I don’t know which side is right.” That’s not what it means.

  36. Sam H:

    Dawkins’ book “The Greatest Show on Earth” is also an excellent source for the evidence of evolution.

    Serious scientists HAVE looked at what ID claims, and those claims contradict what decades of good science have shown.

  37. Brown

    When someone says, “You know, the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the Constitution,” you can reply: “Well, neither is the phrase ‘Churches shall be exempt from taxes.'” Or, if you are really daring, you can reply, “Well, neither is the phrase, ‘Private citizens have the right to own handguns.'”

  38. Paul in Sweden

    Phil… this is for some reason a pet peeve of yours that keeps returning. I read your thoughts(all of your blog posts and consider myself a faithful BA reader) and generally avoid the temptation to post a comment on these political topics. Seldom do I comment anywhere on the Internet unless it is on an issue of massive government waste that gets under my skin.

    On this repetitive Texas BoE issue, I feel that you have not provided the complete picture. I do not recall in all my reading of your posts on the Texas BoE topic where you have provided the dismal statistics for k-12 & tertiary education in Texas prior to the effort to get back to basics – the three Rs and US history.

    Should I have missed this information in a prior post would you or one of your kind readers point it out to me.

  39. Greg in Austin

    @Sam H,

    Can you present one example of a scientific premise of ID? That is, can you provide a question, that if answered with a controlled physical test, would show ID to be true or false?

    8)

  40. @Paul in Sweden,

    Can you provide a link to these “dismal statistics?”

    What do the 3 R’s and US History have to do specifically with Texas’ Science curriculum?

    The link in my name goes to the Texas Freedom Network. From there, you will find information on the most controversial issues with the SBOE. As you will see, the biggest issues were with Science, Social Studies, Religion and Sex Education. I don’t recall anyone having a problem with the SBOE’s recommendations for Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

    8)

  41. McWaffle

    @Paul in Sweden

    Also, what exactly would these dismal statistics prove? I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Apparently something to do with “massive government waste”? I’m not sure how maintaining decent standards in science education has anything to do with “massive government waste”, and in fact, I’d argue the opposite to be true: were this BoEs science recommendations acted on, THAT would be the waste of money.

  42. Number 6

    The wrestling tag team of Don McLeroy and Andrew Wakefield is coming to a carnival tent near you….Showtimes are most inconvenient….Watch these masters of greed, ignorance, misdirection, and sometimes malevolence demonstrate their skills….If you see them, you’ll wish that you had missed them.

  43. Here’s the sad part. My nephew is applying to grad schools. His wife who is an HS English Teacher made only one ultimatum – she REFUSES to live and work in Texas because of the BoE there. So all Texas Grad schools are out of the question.
    How long before this kind of view point becomes mainstream and the only ones working in education in Texas are of the same view point as the BofE. At that point it just spirals out of control.
    Its not that I don’t sympathize with my niece in law, but if the only answer is not to respond to the problem and avoid the controversy – it will just grow out of control until the students of Texas are learning an entirely made up mythical view of the world.

    Its a scary thing.

  44. John F

    “Or, if you are really daring, you can reply, “Well, neither is the phrase, ‘Private citizens have the right to own handguns.’””

    “really daring” is an understatement….

    “, but I have never met somebody who was honestly “considering the evidence for and against ID” that wasn’t doing so because they were heavily biased toward the Christian creation myth.”
    ditto

    and YECs are really only interested in a conservative Protestant Fundamentalist view of creation- they want nothing to do with anyone else’s creation “myths”.

    I think the next legal attack on ID being taught should come from some members of a religion with a radically different creation story- and have them assert that ID contradicts their religious teaching and should therefore be banned.

  45. Lyn M

    I just got to Phil’s comment here and I am shocked. I mean, TWO sheeshes? Good heavens.
    And as for Phil being anything but a stalwart of the evidence-led science-founded system of thinking about the world, and being four-square onside with clear-headed thinking, well, I’m sorry. I have to add another sheesh, maybe even under-lined.

  46. Jeffersonian

    We need a caveatical abbreviation; TSA.
    Texas (sans Austin)

    El Paso’s quite different as well, though very Catholic.

  47. truthspeaker

    Daniel J. Andrews Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Oh, don’t be too hard on Texas…it can’t suck that much. You have the Brownsville dump and the Rio Grande River—both excellent places to do some birding for lifers. :)

    I had thought the original separation of church and state didn’t refer to schools, but was put in so the ruling head of the state wasn’t also the religious head of the state (as in what happened several times in England with the king’s control over the religion).

    You were misinformed. The First Amendment says Congress can’t establish a religion. An “established” religion is an official state religion, like most European states had at the time (and many still do).

  48. Andy Fleming

    Creationism/intelligent design really is a philosophy of ignorance. There seem to be quite a few educationally-challenged individuals in high up educational places in the US. There certainly are here in the UK.

  49. truthspeaker

    Sam H Says:

    I don’t have an opinion as of now, but instead of dismissing ID out of hand as pseudoscience it probably deserves an honest look at the evidence for and against.

    It already got that honest look a long time ago. See the transcripts of the Dover school board trial for some examples – many papers refuting the idea of irreducible complexity were entered into evidence.

  50. Dan I.

    @ 21. Georg Says

    Slavery is not prohibited in the Constitution proper, but the 13th Amendment states

    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Amendments, once ratified, are considered to have the same force as any other language in the Constitution. They are as much a part of the Constitution as the language contained in any of the main Articles.

  51. mike burkhart

    Everythings big in Texas even politcal stupidy Next Texas will probaly secsed form the union.Opps my mistake they did that before the Civil War.Speeking of the big bang I was just studying up on it ,wrote about it in my Astronomcal jounal.I did this during the big snowstorms last month since sky watching was out.

  52. John Sandlin

    Sam H @20:

    You might want to look at Ken Miller’s examinations of the ideas of ID. He does a thorough job covering why ID doesn’t provide a reasonable alternative to evolution. Ken Miller is a person of faith, so his take isn’t biased by atheism.

    http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/

    jbs

  53. Keith Bowden

    #37 Brown – When someone says, “You know, the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the Constitution,” you can reply: “Well, neither is the phrase ‘Churches shall be exempt from taxes.’” Or, if you are really daring, you can reply, “Well, neither is the phrase, ‘Private citizens have the right to own handguns.’”

    Ha! I like it!

    One thing that I’ve never understood about the “Intelligent Design” bit; if it’s not about god, then why don’t they suppport von Daniken? It’s only a slight step from visiting aliens interfering in society to manipulating genes. Now THAT’S “intelligent” design. :)

    (Okay before someone misreads that as badly as Phil was misread over “Technically, he’s correct that this phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution” [emphasis mine], I’m JOKING! It’s sarcasm.) :)

  54. SLC

    Technically, he’s correct that this phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution. However, teaching kids that fact doesn’t really give them much insight into the First Amendment, which does actually guarantee that exact separation.

    The words air force are also not in the Constitution. The Constitution specifically says that armies and navies may be established by the Congress but nowhere does it say that an air force can be established. Therefore, by Mr. McLeroys’ logic, the US Air force, as a separate service, is unconstitutional. The use of aircraft by the army and navy is constitutional as it can be construed as an increase in the range of the artillery of those services.

    Re Sam H @ #20

    I’ve been mainly avoiding the issue, but i will say that IMHO the Bible doesn’t contradict modern cosmology/evolution until you start saying humans evolved from ape-like creatures.

    If Mr. Sam H rejects the notion that apes and humans have a common ancestor, I will post a portion of a presentation by biologist Ken Miller, no atheist he, for his consideration concerning the observation of the relationship of human chromosome 2 with the fusion of ape chromosomes 12 and 13. It should be noted that this does not “prove” the common ancestry of apes and humans (there is no such thing as “proof” in science; proof is a concept of mathematics and symbolic logic). However, it is powerful evidence in favor of the notion.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

  55. Mike G

    “Transitional fossils exist, but there are not enough to support original Darwinian gradualism, hence punctuated equilibrium.”

    This is a common misconception. Punctuated equilibrium isn’t an ad hoc attempt to explain away gaps in the fossil record. It was proposed as the result of finding a lot of transitional trilobite fossils. In the fossil series Eldredge and Gould reconstructed, the trilobites stay largely unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years and then over a relatively short time, series of several clearly related species with derived features (i.e. transitional fossils) show up in the record. It’s based on positive evidence, not gaps in the evidence.

    It is one possible explanation for why there are are often gaps in the fossil record, but that wasn’t the reason it was proposed.

  56. Mike G

    @John F

    Austin thinks Austin is weird. They even have bumper stickers that say so. Really.

    And everyone who has been there, plus any other part of Texas, will readily admit that Austin is not in Texas….

  57. Joseph G

    Sweet baby linguine monster! “Hijacking of science by evolutionists”?!? That is some grade A doublespeak. Next thing you know, music is going to be hijacked by bands of musicians and sports is going to be hijacked by athletes. It would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.

    Grr, times like this I wish Jesus really would come back. He was a very literate guy, by all accounts, and I’m sure dopey people like McLeroy would infuriate him even more then they infuriate us.

  58. Joseph G

    The bit about cutting Thomas Jefferson out of the curriculum really got me. You’d think that these people would realize that they’ve gone off the deep end entirely when one of the most important of the founding fathers (a group they otherwise idolize) is too dang librul for them.

    @#14 Dan I: As an attorney I HATE it when people bring up the “Separation of Church and State doesn’t appear in the Constitution!” to justify religious laws.
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    Ok, so yeah, the actual literal words “separation of Church and State” don’t appear.
    BUT COME ON! Read the First Freaking Amendment people. It’s pretty obvious what they wanted.
    Nevermind that the U.S. actually signed a TREATY with the Barbary States saying “The United States is not a Christian nation”

    To be fair, they were mostly trying to convince the Barbary pirates that they weren’t anti-Muslim infidels so that they’d stop looting our shipping and instead pick on other countries (“England has an official church, they’re real Christians, go raid them instead…”)

    But yeah, it’s disingenuous in the extreme for people to claim that because a given phrase doesn’t appear, that whatever concept it embodies is irrelevant. By that note, the Constitution also doesn’t promise “sanctity and inviolability of the anus,” so by that token, the government should be free to root around in our rear cavities as they see fit.
    Given the new TSA procedures, this rhetorical example isn’t all that far from reality, sadly.

  59. Floyd

    Not to pick on Daniel Andrews too much, but the phrase “Rio Grande River” is redundant, as it translates into “River Big River.” Instead, use “Rio Grande” (what the river’s called in New Mexico and Colorado), or maybe the original name “Rio Bravo del Norte,” as it’s known in Mexico south of El Paso.

  60. Acronym Jim

    Mike G@55: “Austin thinks Austin is weird. They even have bumper stickers that say so. Really.”

    And Portlanders think Portland is weird and have for decades. Most of us consider that a good thing.

    P.S.: We would like our bumper stickers back in corrected format. The standard wording is “Keep Portland Weird.”

  61. Chris

    Don’t be mistaken…. this is a backlash to the science community’s attempt to prove God doesn’t exist (which you can’t.) Texas’ failure is a more broader failure of Christian fundamentalism in general. They’ve painted themselves into a corner from which there is no return. Other less fundamentalist segments of Christianity don’t have the issues with evolution (even the Pope has decreed that there is room for evolution and the big bang in Catholic theology.)

    Christian fundamentalism’s tenet of creationism is destroying the faith of their followers, “could the universe be only thousands of years old…. could God of concocted these alternative theories to test the faith of his followers, of course….” The best answer is “why would he,” if he created everything out of nothing, could there be a metaphorical 7 days in Genesis. The audacity that we could understand the mind of a deity. Geesssh.

  62. Daniel J. Andrews

    Not to pick on Daniel Andrews too much, but the phrase “Rio Grande River” is redundant…

    Oo boy! I’m an idjit. That was a massive finger faux pas. I have three years of high school Spanish, worked in Mexico for 3 months, have worked and traveled in southern Arizona extensively over the past 5 years, can understand, speak and read enough Spanish to get around and make myself understood……sighh….just can’t believe I typed River Big River. Oh yeah, even worse is that I have been planning a trip to bird along the Rio Grande for a while and have all sorts of articles and brochures on it….Does Christmas turkey cause senility?

    truthspeaker–thank you. I wasn’t sure of how it was used in the states, and my King Henry history where I first learned it is fading (I’ll blame the turkey again–makes me too lazy to google apparently).

  63. Joseph G

    Phooey, and I thought “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” was original.

  64. TheBlackCat

    Don’t be mistaken…. this is a backlash to the science community’s attempt to prove God doesn’t exist (which you can’t.)

    That is just a recent excuse tacked onto a far older issue. These claims have been used for 200 years, back when evidence showing the world was really old was first found (by Christian creationists, I might add). The backlash really started then, and it was largely between on group of Christians (those who accepted the evidence and changed their views) and another group (those that didn’t).

    The move of science to being more non-religious came long after the controversy started, when breakthroughs in biology and cosmology removed the last clear cases where God was required.

    Creationism became much more popular after the rise of fundamentalism, which was a backlash against perceived liberalization of the Christianity, not against science or atheism.

    The current publicity around atheist scientists arguing against God is a new phenomenon, not going back much more than 10 years. Creationists have been consistently trying to interfere in science education for at least 80 years.

  65. «bønez_brigade»

    Don McLeroy’s willful ignorance is so cute, he make me go lulz.

  66. Don’t be mistaken…. this is a backlash to the science community’s attempt to prove God doesn’t exist (which you can’t.)

    What TheBlackCat said, and this: since when is observing the world and figuring out how it works attempting to prove (your) god doesn’t exist?

    I think what you really meant to say is that scientific discoveries continue to run contrary to (your) holy writ, which might make a person consider (your) holy writ to be somewhat inaccurate.

  67. Mea Culpa

    Phil,

    You know that Thomas Jeffereson has NOT BEEN removed from the Texas standards. Even you reported that fact in your blog post “Texas conservatives screw history”

  68. Solitha

    I may be missing something here…

    While I don’t support in any way McLeroy and his agenda, I keep wondering if he’s not handing science teachers a (cough cough) blessing in disguise.

    After all, under this agenda, they are now totally free to openly talk about evolution and creationism, side-by-side… more importantly, they are able to show students in detail what holes exist in evolution, and the big gaping chasms in ID.

    Openly. Officially. Let the kids bring in what they’ve heard, challenge the class to actually THINK about the evidence for and against, and let them prove to themselves (the very best way to learn) that evolution is by leaps and bounds the stronger theory.

    To me this seems the most perfect way to bring ID into a hot, withering spotlight and kill it in the young before they have time to get indoctrinated.

  69. G Williams

    See posts passim RE: Please don’t blame Texas for the so-called elected officials. By perpetuating the popular stereotype of Texas and Texans as backwards fundamentalist rednecks, you discourage the large population of relatively intelligent, right thinking individuals from voting or otherwise taking an interest in a state government that it is already increasingly difficult to take an interest in due to politics that have for decades been dominated by the perpetuation of stereotypes that are no longer representative of the State’s demographics

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Scottie Davis (6) said:

    I hate texas, the state where i lived my whole life. Just sucks here, it really does.

    If it’s anything like France*, I understand and sympathise.

    * There’s a very old joke here in the UK, that goes (roughly) “France would be wonderful, were it not for the French,” (with apologies to any French readers for digging up such an old and non-PC joke).

  71. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel J Andrews (15) said:

    I had thought the original separation of church and state didn’t refer to schools, but was put in so the ruling head of the state wasn’t also the religious head of the state (as in what happened several times in England with the king’s control over the religion). So when Jefferson talked about this, was he extending it to government run institutions like schools? Or is that a later interpretation?

    A state-funded school is a government institution. If a religious view is taught in such a school, you automatically establish one religion above others (or above an absence of religion). Therefore, it is unconstitutional to teach one religious view in a state-funded school, except in a class on comparative religion or some similar topic.

  72. fred edison

    I read his op-ed, though it was difficult to weed through his scripture at his thinly veiled attacks on the scientific method. He must have been bruised from vigorously patting himself on the back while writing it. Sure, McLeroy, let’s teach our kids how to mindlessly follow a myth/story of your own choosing and call it “real science.” No thanks and no way. To call McLeroy a pompously deluded man with a firmly religious agenda wouldn’t begin to describe his Texas BoE attempts at “educational standards.”

  73. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (20) said:

    And also…as I am becoming interested in this religion again (the faith of my upbringing), I of course have encountered many a claim of young earthers. Their science is just wrong and their theology can go overboard,

    According to professional theologists, YEC is bad theology through and through.

    but they do have (somewhat of) a point – if evolution appeals to many on a personal level (which it appears to in some circles), then a collective bias may cloud total objective examination of the evidence. And everyone should know that science is NOT perfectly objective, even though it strives to be.

    Perhaps.

    But evolution as an idea has been examined for 150 years. Darwin’s original work has been modified and updated many times, but his core ideas have survived through 150 years of criticism, because they are the best that anyone has thought of in that time. If evolutionary theory is, in any sense, “wrong”, then it must at the very least be a pretty reasonable approximation to how biology really works. If it were not, the evidence we have accumulated by now would tell us this. Instead, all of the evidence regarding biological change over time supports evolutionary theory.

    I’ve been mainly avoiding the issue, but i will say that IMHO the Bible doesn’t contradict modern cosmology/evolution until you start saying humans evolved from ape-like creatures.

    This is rubbish.

    If you take a reasonable look at the evidence and at the theology, you work out two things: first, that it is a fact that humans share ancestry with the great apes (in fact, with all primates, all mammals, all vertebrates and all animals if you look back far enough); second, that this does not contradict any aspect of the bible unless you insist on a literal interpretation of scripture. But, a literal interpretation of scripture has (inter alia) locusts possessing the wrong number of legs so it is very obviously contrary to reality.

    Taking most of the biblical stories as they were intended – i.e. as metaphor, parable and fable – there is no contradiction between reality and scripture.

    I have a problem with anyone who insists that Adam was made directly from a
    handful of dirt, because this is evidently false. Unless, of course, you worship the Great Deceiver (IOW, unless you weasel out of it by saying that god made it all look the way it is to fool us into thinking that humans evolved).

    As for the science itself, I’ll just say that some of the gaps between forms in the fossil record don’t seem to have an observed, plausible known-to-exist explanation for rapid jumps over timescales in the thousands of years.

    This is rubbish.

    I’ll tell you what – you come up with what you think is the best example of a “rapid jump over timescales in the thousands of years” and we can examine it together.

    And their

    “there”?

    also is no known natural process that is known to form huge protein molecules (or at least so far as I know )

    Actually, it looks like a pretty trivial piece of chemistry to form large peptides – the main requirements being an abiotic system and plenty of time.

    And, never mind that abiogenesis is a separate issue from biological evolution. Evolution applies even if one accepts a single act of creation about 3.5 – 4 billion years ago.

    Look at it the other way around, too. What mechanism might exist to prevent natural selection from operating, where a selection pressure exists?

  74. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (31) said:

    Dammit I am NOT conflating evolution, cosmology, and abiogenesis, although I’ll admit I probably should have said that clearer .

    I should cocoa!

    Your mention of the difficulty of producing a complex protein in a paragraph criticising evolutionary science might have something to do with that.

    And the word evolution (in the general sense, not scientific sense) because of overuse by pissed creationists has come to mean an all encompassing term for modern natural cosmology anyway.

    Not really. “Evolution” on its own has come to mean biological evolution, at least as far as such authors as Wells, Behe and Dembski are concerned.

    Nor am I saying “teach the controversy”, at least not yet. I don’t have an opinion as of now, but instead of dismissing ID out of hand as pseudoscience it probably deserves an honest look at the evidence for and against.

    No, you are saying “teach the controversy”, or words to that effect.

    ID has been examined. It comprises the following logical fallacies or rhetorical tricks:
    1) Strawman attacks on evolutionary theory;
    2) Arguments from ignorance;
    3) Arguments from personal incredulity;
    4) Obfuscation (yes, Billy Dembski, I’m lookin’ at you!);
    5) Misrepresentations – if not outright lies – about the evidence;
    6) Ad hominem attacks on evolutionary biologists (arguments along the lines of “Dawkins is an atheist so you can dismiss everything he says”);
    7) Poisoning the well;
    8) False dichotomies;
    9) The “Gish gallop” (i.e. to ignore valid criticism and simply bring up a different point, then repeat when that point is also shot down in flames; subsequently return to the first point).
    That’s all I can think of just now, but I’m sure there are more.

    I can summarise the evidence that supports ID (as opposed to any other theory of biological origins) here:

    There. Did you enjoy it?

    ID has been given a fair chance, and it has been found to be a load of tosh. To demand now that it be given a fair hearing is to ignore the last 15 or 20 years of commentary.

    People always say that an honest look at the evidence will reveal the truth, so that’s what I’ll do – eventually (doesn’t mean I won’t do it though!)

    Why? People far more qualified than you have already done so.

    Most of the world’s leading biologists have either denounced ID as the rubbish it is, or are ignoring it because it is genuinely beneath their notice. ID has been proven in a court of law to be a religious idea (creationism) masquerading as science under a new set of meaningless terms.

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (31) said:

    I sure as hell know fossils are difficult to form (that also disproves flood geology, BTW ), but it is true that “gaps” of a sort exist in the documented fossil record.

    OK, first, define precisely what you mean here by a “gap” in the fossil record.

    Second, considering the context of the known fossil record, try to find some way of explaining how these gaps – if they genuinely exist – cast doubt on evolutionary theory. Or are you trying to use an argument from ignorance?

    Transitional fossils exist, but there are not enough to support original Darwinian gradualism, hence punctuated equilibrium.

    This betrays your lack of understanding of evolutionary biology.

    There are many thousands of exquisite transitional fossils. In fact, every fossil species is transitional in some way between its ancestors and its descendents (assuming it had any). For example, google Ambulocetus natans and Pakicetus. Go to a museum and look at a skull of Homo erectus. Or look up the many fossils of feathered dinosaurs / proto-birds that have been discovered in China over the last 15 years or so.

    Or go and visit TalkOrigins and look up transitional fossils.

    The fossil record supports punctuated equilibrium as a refinement of Darwin’s ideas. It is clear that you have not read On the Origin of Species, because if you had, you would not accuse Darwin of gradualism, since he expected the rate of evolution to change from time to time and from place to place. The key point about punctuated equilibrium is that it explains unexpected periods of stability when little or no evolution appears to be occurring. The new idea there was that it was possible for selection pressures to make a population morphologically stable for hundreds of thousands of years.

    And no proven natural mechanism known to exist accounts for this yet, so far as I know.

    Natural selection and genetic drift both explain biological diversity.

    This looks like a shadow of the “micro- versus macro- evolution” talking point. “Oh, yes”, you say “evolution explains how we see small changes, but it doesn’t explain larger changes”. However, this falls down because it demands some mechanism to prevent small changes from accumulating, over time, into large changes, and none has ever been propsed.

    Even if I believe it heart I’m not saying in mind just yet that “Goddidit”, but since I haven’t seriously investigated it yet I’m not leaving out the possibilites of either natural or intelligent explanation.

    But you are excluding the possibility that the scientists really do know what they are talking about, and I find that offensive.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (31) said:

    I am referring to non literalistic interpretations of that text. YECs say that old earth is impossible due to animal death before the fall, but the Bible never even said that – it only implies it, which is less certain and may be a later-developed theology. The Hebrew days in Genesis 1 don’t HAVE to be literal, and interpretations like the Framework hypothesis have regard amongst many scholars. There IS a legit controversy here, and this is an area I HAVE extensively studied.

    Actually, McWaffle was right.

    Common Descent is a key component of evolutionary theory, which is the core of modern biology. If you try to deny that humans and apes share ancestry, then you are arguing against reality.

    There is no legitimate controversy about the facts, and the relevant fact here is that common descent is as close to a proven fact as anything empirical ever gets.

    There may be legitimate controversy about interpretation of scripture, but that doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense when it comes to working out how the biological world reached its present diversity.

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Sam H (31) said:

    Really, in order to understand it u need the original historical context, the grammar, related passages, & often the framework of a theology. And a Dawkins/Myers-esque courtier’s reply to that is really nothing more than an excuse for ignorance.

    Heh. That may be true enough when debating interpretation of scripture, but it does not change this point:

    The bible is not a textbook. Only by studying reality can we learn what is real and what is not. We do this through a process called science.

  78. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge :

    The bible is NOT a science textbook certainly – but nor, I think, was it ever meant to be.

    Also “reality” can be more than just purely physical, material reality methinks.

    A painting, a poem or an emotion can hold immense real meaning – and yet that “real meaning” can also be subjective & open to interpretation and deeply personal.

    I believe it was Galileo Galilei who famously noted :

    “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven not how the heavens go!” ;-)

    There is, arguably, some sort of truth in the Bible but it is NOT a scientific, physical or materialistic truth but rather a spiritual and poetic, artistic and symbolic one. The Bible is about ethcis and relationship betwixt humans and God NOT a textbook.

    If we want phsyical, scientific answers on how the universe came into being science trumps religion every time. If we wish tolearn about ethics and what itmeans to be a good person and what are some of life’s ethical ideas OTOH, the Bible beats any science text – because those have very little to sya on such matters.

    But that’s getting off-topic.

    Anyhow Creationist-ID-ology is terrible religion as well as non-science and, indeed, non-sense. It does a great discredit to both sides of the science / religion divide and both magisteria.

    Don McLeroy is a fruitcake and a particularly bitter, sour and inedible one at that.

    On the positive side, the way this outsider percieves things trending, the tide of creationism is on the ebb anyhow – withdrawing and fading away and deservedly so. :-)

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 73. Nigel Depledge :

    Nice takedown except – What’s so [sunglasses emoticon] cool about “False dichotomies?” ;-)

    That’s why I use full stops not brackets after my numericallly listed points! ;-)

    &

    “I should cocoa!”

    Huh??? What do you mean by that please?

    &

    “Evolution” on its own has come to mean biological evolution, …

    The first thing I, personally, think of when ‘evolution’ is mentioned is stellar evolution – & then galactic evolution after that and so forth, but then that’s just me! ;-)

    ID has been given a fair chance, and it has been found to be a load of tosh. To demand now that it be given a fair hearing is to ignore the last 15 or 20 years of commentary. … [SNIP!] … Most of the world’s leading biologists have either denounced ID as the rubbish it is, or are ignoring it because it is genuinely beneath their notice. ID has been proven in a court of law to be a religious idea (creationism) masquerading as science under a new set of meaningless terms.

    Spot on & seconded by me. :-)

  80. David A.

    I spread the word on Facebook. Can I now please be entered in you giveaway contest? I refuse to join twitter. That’s right, I’m a FB Snob, down with the Tweet!

  81. Messier Tidy Upper

    @60. Acronym Jim Says:

    Mike G@55: “Austin thinks Austin is weird. They even have bumper stickers that say so. Really.”
    And Portlanders think Portland is weird and have for decades. Most of us consider that a good thing.
    P.S.: We would like our bumper stickers back in corrected format. The standard wording is “Keep Portland Weird.”

    People – and life – are weird, full stop! ;-)

    Not that I’m any exception to that either! ;-)

  82. David

    Try living in Texas as a Progressive (ok, liberal or Socialist, I don’t give a damn!), especially in the Fort Worth area. Dallas, while being a Los Angeles wanna be, is fairly liberal and Austin is the best if one lives in the UT area. I do love the state however, as my past relatives moved here in the early 1800’s and left too much blood and sweat here for me to leave.

  83. I am an atheist. But I’m also an anything-is-possibleist.

    I do not believe there is a god but I also don’t dismiss the possibility.

    What I am sure of is that if there is a god or gods then every major religion is absolutely wrong about what god is. He’s not the small-minded, mean-spirited, fragile-ego jerk depicted in the christian bible.

    We’re not going to convert zealots. But I do have bible-thumping friends who repeat all the nonsense about evolution stating we descended from monkeys and gaps in the fossil record and “it’s just a theory”.

    So I ask them if they believe in a literal translation of the bible. Some say yes and other say no. I love the ones who say yes because then when I point things out in the bible that they don’t like, suddenly the bible isn’t to be taken too literally.

    So in an effort to at least get them to accept that evolution is a possibility I say why couldn’t the part where god created man from earth just be a lot easier to explain than evolution? That god’s method of creating man was through evolution. Man is made from earth’s elements. In other words, christianity and evolution aren’t mutually exclusive. Sometimes I get at least an, “I guess it could be like that.”

    Then I explain to them that their christian god was at the bottom of his class in God School which is why people are so defective. Why couldn’t we have gotten a more competent god? I mean by christian standards, god is perfect.

    Can anyone explain to me how a perfect being can create anything that isn’t perfect? If god is perfect then why did he have to wipe everyone out because they were defective?

    Anyway…

  84. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 80. CafeenMan : Taking the Bible literally is NOT just silly, its virtually impossible because how the blazes can anyone seriously say that the Bible is *literally* inerrant, infallible and not open to varying interpretation and being taken as metaphor when we get lines like :

    “..a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”*
    – Revelation 12:1

    Source :

    http://www.thebricktestament.com/revelation/satan_thrown_to_earth/rv12_01.html

    &

    “.. the serpent spewed water from his mouth like a river to sweep the [same] woman away with the flood.”
    – Revelation 12:15

    Source : http://www.thebricktestament.com/revelation/satan_thrown_to_earth/rv12_15.html [Brackets added.]

    & suchlike in it?

    Can anybody truly picture those things cited in Revelations *literally* taking place given the plain English meanings of the words used and a modern scientific understanding of what that entails? (Plus, of course, originally the Bible was written in, I think, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek adding the issue of translation problems.) Really?

    If so, whatever they’re smoking, I’ll have some! ;-)

    Yeah, I know most of the Bible isn’t quite as psychedelically nutso as the book of Revelations – although some bits are almost as bad – but still!

    —–

    * I must admit to an odd pedantic curiousity over precisely *which* 12 stars those were on her clearly light-years wide head & what their spectral types are! Just the twelve nearest ie. Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A & B, Barnard’s Star, Wolf 359, Sirius A & B, UV Ceti A & B, Ross 154, etc .. or other brighter, larger hotter, more distant stars? Is it even remotely possible, given current scientific knowledge to interpret that verse literally or as anything *other* than symbolic or metaphorical? Especially if this nebulous (!) light-years in size lady then gets swept away by a terrestrial river spewing from the mouth of a snake!

    (An anaconda even worse than that J-Lo & crew fought in the eponymous movie presumably? ;-) )

    See also via :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/12/15/comic-takedown-of-global-warming-denial/#comment-345868

    originally – comments # 56 & 64 on that thread.

  85. Nigel Depledge

    Chris (61) said:

    Don’t be mistaken…. this is a backlash to the science community’s attempt to prove God doesn’t exist (which you can’t.)

    This is absolute nonsense.

    No-one is trying to prove that god doesn’t exist – no, not even Richard Dawkins. He’s an intelligent guy, and he knows it’s a non-starter. He once lent his support to a campaign promoting the idea that “god probably doesn’t exist – now just get on with your life” sort of thing. So I don’t think he’s ever claimed to know that god doesn’t exist – just that god is unnecessary to explain the world.

    As another commenter pointed out, religiously-based objections to evolution and an old Earth are far older than atheism in western scientists.

    You’ve been swallowing too much creationist propaganda.

    Texas’ failure is a more broader failure of Christian fundamentalism in general. They’ve painted themselves into a corner from which there is no return. Other less fundamentalist segments of Christianity don’t have the issues with evolution (even the Pope has decreed that there is room for evolution and the big bang in Catholic theology.)

    I more or less agree with this.

  86. Dan in Texas

    Having recently moved to Texas your Texas doomed picture is exactly correct. Between the BoE(Very glad I have no kids in school here) and the denial of air pollution, climate change… U of T destroying the big 12 conference. Gotta love Texas and their belief in there position at the center of the Universe.

    Any way keep up the good work love the blog.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (77) said:

    The bible is NOT a science textbook certainly – but nor, I think, was it ever meant to be.

    Also “reality” can be more than just purely physical, material reality methinks.

    Yup.

    A painting, a poem or an emotion can hold immense real meaning – and yet that “real meaning” can also be subjective & open to interpretation and deeply personal.

    And yet open to study using science – neuropsychology has made some very surprising advances over the last decade or so, enough to suggest that, given enough time, we may obtain a real understanding of how the human mind functions – emotions, subjectivity and all.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (78) said:

    Huh??? What do you mean by that please?

    Erm, sorry – that’s a rather obscure colloquialism.

    Read it as:
    I should say so!

  89. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge : Okay thanks. :-)

    @83. Nigel Depledge :

    neuropsychology has made some very surprising advances over the last decade or so, enough to suggest that, given enough time, we may obtain a real understanding of how the human mind functions – emotions, subjectivity and all.

    Maybe so – but the emotion itself will still be felt in a real and different & personally subjective way quite apart from how science understands it.

    Science might one day be able to explain what laughter and love and grief and joy and a sense of wonder, etc .. all are at an abstract bio-chemical technichal level however the *experience* of such emotions is *still* going to be a different thing again – and still going to be “real” in a non-empirical, non-scientific sense methinks.

    I’ve also heard (&/or read) that there are some serious philosophical arguments to the effect that genuine “objectivity” is ultimately impossible and all claims of it are illusory self-deceptions esp. according to the structuralist / post-structuralist / post modernist (?) academic schools of thinking anyhow. This could be my misunderstanding of what they’re saying & I’m not necessarily agreeing with that view but still..

  90. TheBlackCat

    Science might one day be able to explain what laughter and love and grief and joy and a sense of wonder, etc .. all are at an abstract bio-chemical technichal level however the *experience* of such emotions is *still* going to be a different thing again – and still going to be “real” in a non-empirical, non-scientific sense methinks.

    What makes you so sure science will not be able to understand and explain the experience as well?

  91. Bob_In_Wales

    @77 Messier Tidy Upper – “If we wish to learn about ethics and what it means to be a good person and what are some of life’s ethical ideas OTOH, the Bible beats any science text – because those have very little to say on such matters.”

    Ummm. Personally I’m not so sure about that. A close reading of the Bible produces a set of very bad examples of how to live. I’m not sure that as an ethics text book it really stands the test. Look at oft quoted stories like Daniel in the Lions Den. As soon as he gets out Daniel has his persecuters thrown in and eaten. Moral of the story – once you win the argument it is permitted (required?) by God that you slaughter your religious persecuters. And that is just one example that springs immediately to mind.

    Read between the lines of what science tells us about the world on the other hand and I think a reality based understanding of people suggests a much higher morality than the Bible does. For example look at things like sexuality (a favourite obsession of religious groups). Personally I think that any familiarity with the range of sexual behaviour in the animal kingdom precludes any assumption that people come as “Men” and “Women” and that is it, and that therefore anything outside basic standard heterosexual copulation for the purpose of procreation is “unnatural”. The ethical conclusion from the Bible is that it is fine to persecute people who practice “non-standard” sexual practices, from science that such persecution has no justification.

  92. TheBlackCat

    I would have to agree with Bob_In_Wales. As an example, any 10 year-old can come up with a better set of 10 commandments than the Bible. Basic reciprocal altruism leads to a better set of rules. Only half of the ten commandments could be seen as having anything remotely to do with actual moral or ethical behavior, and they are not particularly good rules (some are okay, but too absolute to be useful in the real world).

    It is true that science has very little to say on such matters. But so much of what the Bible says about “ethics and what it means to be a good person and what are some of life’s ethical ideas” is absolutely horrible by any modern standard, I would say the little science says on the matter is still far superior. Just saying more isn’t a good thing if what you say is despicable (such as “joy is dashing babies on rocks”).

  93. vel

    one more Liar for Christ ™. sad really when they seem to think they can get away with lies (and poor lies at that) when their holy book says their god is so against them, in any form. Unfortunately for them, lies are all they have anymore. Their god has vanished in the harsh light of reality.

    The bible is a book from xenophobic agrarians who had nothing but superstition in their lives. Nothing of any note has come from these mythical “kingdoms” except books that show that humanity will always outstrip the religions it creates. It is never morality or science that has to play catch up, it is always religion which tries to keep us in the morass of the past.

  94. vel

    @jim “And, obviously, I concur that reading Genesis one literally is a poor reading.”

    but no one, especially Christians, can agree on what the “right” way to read it is. So we are stuck with Christians yammering, all sure that their sect’s version is the only “right” one, when *none* of you can show that yours is any better than anyone elses. You pick and choose what you want to be literal just like all of the rest, you just realize that genesis story is no more than a myth. But I’m pretty sure you want to believe that Jesus really did live and die for your “sins”. That bit could be just as much “metaphor” as Genesis. You all want to claim that you know what God “really really meant” and as we can see, there’s no reason to think that God meant anything since there is no evidence it exists at all. I love how “liberal” christians think that they are something special.

  95. @ MET:

    The bible is NOT a science textbook certainly – but nor, I think, was it ever meant to be.

    This is patently false.

    The books of the old testament were very definitely meant as a textbook. They explained the world, how it came to be, and man’s (or rather, men from the kingdom of Jerusalem’s) position within it. They did this using the tropes available at the time, which included gods, demons, magic, and all the rest…taken literally.

    To paraphrase from authors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, Yahweh was not some airy-fairy something or other entity, but a real, bronze-age super god who was expected to come marching over the mountains in his big ol’ sandals and robes, ready to smite to smithereens anyone who stood in his people’s way.

    To reinterpret the bible, or any other ancient mythological text in light of modern ideas and thinking is folly. It does a disservice to the ancient authors of those texts, and misleads the gullible among the modern population.

  96. Beau

    As a high school teacher in Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth area), I can tell you MOST CERTAINLY that evolution is taught in the school I’m in and there is no mention of intelligent design. Please don’t lump all of Texas with McLeory.

    *I will also add that I am a Bible believing Christian, that believes religion and science should not be at odds with each other. Science can (and does) describe the processes by which the world works, evolution being one of them, but it can not explain why all these processes exist in the first place.

  97. Buzz Parsec

    ARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    Quoting Richard Feynman on scientific integrity to justify his destruction of science by forcing pseudoscentific nonsense into the curriculum?

    My head keeps exploding over and over.

  98. TheBlackCat

    but it can not explain why all these processes exist in the first place.

    … yet.

  99. Matt B.

    I would go so far as to call evolution the Fundamental Theorem of Biology.

  100. Pennstatejoe

    Quiet Desperation #9 says:
    “At least you still have an economy. Our government seems hell bent on eliminating ours, and then wondering where all the tax revenues went. Derp.”

    I suggest that you read Paul Krupman’s opinion piece in the New York Times from yesterday in which he argues that Texas, in fact, does not have as robust an economy as its governor would like to have everyone believe. Maybe Texas won’t be as bad off as California (how could it be?), but things aren’t all that rosy deepinthahearta Texas.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/opinion/07krugman.html?hp

  101. @ Beau:

    Science can (and does) describe the processes by which the world works, evolution being one of them, but it can not explain why all these processes exist in the first place.

    And Christianity can? Where exactly in the new testament does Jesus, Paul, or anyone talk about evolution? Or cosmology? Or pretty much anything having to do with the natural world as it is observed?

    Oh, right. It’s all that unobservable stuff that’s key. The stuff you can just make up things about and nobody can “prove” you wrong because it’s, you know, unobservable.

  102. Beau

    @kuhnigget

    First, Jesus and Paul were more concerned with matters of eternal salvation than scientific knowledge, but since you’re asking about where it talks about cosmology and the like Job 38:31-ish talks about all sorts of fun stuff… Pleadies, Orion, Big/Little Dipper, laws of the heavens, etc…

    Anyways, I believe Christianity can provide the WHY, but it doesn’t fill in the HOW (that’s science’s job), and vice versa. If you can provide a scientific explanation that you can prove as to WHY these processes occur, and what set them into motion, I’ll gladly listen and objectively consider your evidence. I’m probably one of the more scientifically minded Christians you’ll run into (I have a M.Ed in science education, my dad worked for JPL), but there is plenty of stuff that’s unobservable that you have to take on faith. Everything is meant to be seen and known, but it’s meant to point to a Creator rather than the lack thereof.

    Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…. vs 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    There’s a tendency among people to think that since they know the processes behind what they see, then clearly there can’t be a God. Yet, they miss the fact that understanding the intricacies of the natural world is there to point people to a Creator. Like I said, I accept the theory of evolution, but I see this intricate biological process as more a sign that there is a Creator God, as opposed to the opposite.

    Anyways, my two cents. But like I said, if you can provide this proof as to why everything is here, I am completely open minded to solid evidence.

  103. ND

    Beau,

    I think you’re only backing up what kuhnigget is saying. And this applies to any religion with a creation myth. Your quotes simply assert that there is a deity behind all this. It offers no evidence. And the since religious people claim there are deities, the onus is on them to back up this claim. Otherwise you can’t demand that holy books should be taken proof.

  104. Keith

    But what makes it all worth it is that the op-ed’s byline identifies McLeroy as a Special “Contributer”. I’d like to think it’s the result of an editor with a penchant for irony, but chances are it’s just the product of the Texas educational system.

  105. Beau

    ND,

    As my quote of Romans 1 would indicate the only evidence that can be offered is the physical universe. All of creation is meant to serve as evidence of a Creator. So in terms of any other evidence I freely admit there is none. However, in lieu of evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe in God.

  106. McWaffle

    @103

    That is probably the oldest, tiredest, and in my opinion, most laughable justifications for belief out there. “Why is everything here?” is just a dumb, empty question. Why do you assume there is a reason things are here? Or, better said, a Reason? It’s painfully simple to answer. There’s no overarching Reason for universe to exist, and no justifiable reason to believe their should be.

    But ultimately, I think the best response to the inane “Why is everything here?” question, is simply “If everything wasn’t here, nobody’d be around to ask the question in the first place”.

    You don’t get to ask a “Big Question” then pretend like it justifies your particular brand of stone-age diety. Even if I were to accept the premise that the universe must have a Reason behind it, you can’t just assume the Bible has any reliable information about that Reason. Any honest reasoning would tell you that, but I guess religious faith hasn’t ever been big on honest reasoning, eh?

  107. ND

    Beau,

    If the intricate mechanics of the HOW, as observed by science cannot be taken to mean there is no God, then it can be taken to mean there is one either.

    “All of creation is meant to serve as evidence of a Creator.” I’m not sure how to parse this. I think you’re saying there is a Creator simply because intricate mechanics of nature exist at all.

  108. @ Beau:

    Job 38:31-ish talks about all sorts of fun stuff… Pleadies, Orion, Big/Little Dipper, laws of the heavens, etc…

    Job 38:31 is talking about the constellations Pleides, Orion, et al. Not the physical stars, clusters, etc. You are taking an example of poetic description and trying to pass it off as scientific theory. It is not, nor does it claim to be. Quite the opposite, the message of those passages is that a mere mortal cannot know anything about the “mysteries of the heavens,” which is nonsense.

    However, in lieu of evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe in God.

    As is your right. Just don’t try to pass if off as anything other than a belief, unsupported by anything other than your desire to believe.

    Meanwhile, the cosmos rolls on…

  109. Tunnelman

    Gah I’m so sad to read so many negative comments about Texas! I’ve lived here my entire life and I enjoy it quite a bit. Admittedly the politics are absolutely terrible, I become enraged and embarrassed when I read articles like these. But the state itself, the things to do and see are genuinely wonderful. Though currently there seems to be no signs showing any political progress in the other direction I try to remain hopeful as I don’t want to live anywhere else.

  110. John F

    “What I am sure of is that if there is a god or gods then every major religion is absolutely wrong about what god is. He’s not the small-minded, mean-spirited, fragile-ego jerk depicted in the christian bible.”

    The God of the “christian bible” (New Testament) is anything but a ” small-minded, mean-spirited, fragile-ego jerk”

    now if you want to talk about the god depicted in the Old Testament and/or Koran…

  111. jfb

    I’m a fifth-generation Texan, and there’s a lot I love about Texas. McElroy is not one of them. Alas, the TxSBOE is not elected at large; I only get to vote against one idiot out of the lot. Thank $NONEXISTENT_DIETY his people voted him out.

    TX may not be irrevocably doomed, however; demographic trends are such that the Christofascist wing of the GOP will eventually lose power as the state becomes more urban and diverse. That’s not going to happen overnight, though.

    Frankly, we need help. And it’s in the interests of others to give it to us; we just gained 4 seats in Congress, and TX is going to be playing an even bigger role in national politics going forward. Just sitting back and saying “let ‘em secede” isn’t going to help either of us. We need help from the national Democratic party to push back against the good-ol-boy money, and we need them to do it IN THE LEGE, not the Governor’s mansion.

    Speaking of which…

    Beware Rick Perry. He’s going to announce a run for President sometime this year. He has the conservative bona fides (the failed HPV vaccine mandate and the Trans-Texas Corridor plan notwithstanding), he can run on a somewhat successful economic record (TX weathered the recession better than most of the country), and he has Obama’s spooky ability to make his opponents commit open-field fumbles. He’s the longest-serving governor in TX history, compared to the Quitta from Wasilla. He’d almost certainly win the GOP nomination and would be a threat in the general (he’d have all of TX and FL (which also gained two seats this year) electoral votes locked up).

    You have been warned.

  112. Joseph G

    105 Keith: Contributor or contributer, he’s certainly “special.”
    In the educational sense :P

    What I don’t understand is how Texas has such influence over what other states put in their textbooks. I’m sure the system just sort of congealed that way, but it’s a lousy system, obviously, and ought to be changed.

  113. John F said:

    The God of the “christian bible” (New Testament) is anything but a ” small-minded, mean-spirited, fragile-ego jerk”

    I dunno, playing that whole “I’m such a martyr I’ll get myself killed so I can resurrect myself and prove what a good guy I am” thing is chock full of egoboo. If he’s so obsessed with overcoming death, why not just get rid of dying?

    And let’s not get into the whole passing judgement/eternity in hellfire business…. Nothing mean or small-minded there.

  114. Joseph G

    If I might be a buttinski on this God debate, it seems to me that when most people talk about God, they don’t mean simply “a being that created the universe,” but a more specific deity, alluded to in various holy books, with certain characteristics. These tend to include odd contradictions such as “omnipotent, but angry when certain things happen” or “omniscient, but surprised when people act a certain way”. And of course there’s the whole Problem of Evil (or, as I prefer, since I don’t really think “evil” is an appropriate description of natural calamity, “Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People”?
    I think we can pretty conclusively discount, for instance, that if there is a God, that he/she/it intervenes in any way in our everyday lives, or even, in any observable way, in the universe at large.
    I guess what I’m saying is, I can understand the plausibility of believing in a Creator (ie a progenitor of the big bang), but to ascribe to that creator any of the other characteristics that God is normally thought to have seems rather hopeless.

  115. Joseph G

    @114 kuhnigget: The various bits about life, death, everlasting life, flesh and blood and all that always seemed rather “tacked on” to me (after the fact).
    At the risk of offending people, I’ve always presumed that Jesus was in fact a pretty stand-up guy, who preached peace and love, but that the message behind his apparent acquiescence to execution wasn’t “Hey guys, psst, I’m gonna be back in three days, and if you pray to me you won’t go to Hell” but “I’d rather practice what I preach and sacrifice myself then encourage people to revolt, and in doing so create more violence.”
    I know I have no proof of any of this (Heh, what a concept!) but it just seems like the most plausible explanation to me. People have always had a habit of deifying people they respect and admire; I think it’s just human nature.

  116. @ Joseph G:

    I’ve always presumed that Jesus was in fact a pretty stand-up guy, who preached peace and love, but that the message behind his apparent acquiescence to execution wasn’t “Hey guys, psst, I’m gonna be back in three days, and if you pray to me you won’t go to Hell”

    Well, according to the gospel of Mark, most likely the first written, Jesus’ last words were, “M y god, why have you forsaken me?” So, assuming any of this is factual, there’s a very good possibility he wasn’t too keen on the whole death thing that daddy had planned for him. Prolly waiting for some last minute thunder and so forth to stop the whole deal. “Uh, hello? Anybody up there? Waiting….!”

    Indeed, this is further evidence of how contrived Christianity, like any other religion, is. Somehow they had to explain away their leader’s death. Gods don’t die, after all, right? Right?

    As episcopalian bishop Shelby Spong has said, there undoubtedly was something about this guy’s preaching that moved people. Too bad it got so corrupted.

  117. Martin from NoVa

    ” This is a standard creationist tactic: accuse others of doing what you’re doing.” Substitute “Republican” for “creationist” and you’d be more accurate.

  118. Joseph G

    @117: I always thought that that was one of the most poignant and heartbreaking parts of the whole Bible. I can see why the “Jesus knowingly sacrificed himself for our sins” angle is so darn attractive – I mean, other then the obvious benefits for humanity. Just that image of a person of faith, dying in agony, realizing that perhaps his faith was misplaced… that makes me a sad panda.

  119. @ Joseph G:

    Indeed. Looking at the story that way, it also explains what happened next, how the story of a “resurrection” became the answer to the question that must have tortured Jesus’ followers: “How could our messiah die, and die so horribly?” Their answer is a very human one, and typical of our ability to rationalize away that which goes against our beliefs.

    Note that I don’t think there was necessarily any conscious effort to deceive (though I don’t rule it out), rather the fictionalization of Jesus’ rebirth was just a coping mechanism devised by a very traumatized following. Were it not for the peculiar genius of Paul, the story might have died away like those told about so many other “messiahs” wandering around at that time.

  120. TheBlackCat

    Anyways, I believe Christianity can provide the WHY, but it doesn’t fill in the HOW (that’s science’s job), and vice versa.

    What reason do we have to think Christianity’s “why” is any better than any other religion’s, or any random guess for that matter? What reason do we have to think there even is a “why”?

    If you can provide a scientific explanation that you can prove as to WHY these processes occur, and what set them into motion, I’ll gladly listen and objectively consider your evidence.

    There are a number of different extensions to the standard model of physics that do have something to say about this, but we don’t know which (if any) is the correct one. They do show, however, that the claim that science has nothing to say about the matter is false.

    In other words, the fact that science hasn’t shown yet what started it all (if the question is even meaningful) doesn’t justify your assertion that science can’t answer such questions.

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
    – Charles Darwin

    but there is plenty of stuff that’s unobservable that you have to take on faith.

    Such as…?

    Everything is meant to be seen and known, but it’s meant to point to a Creator rather than the lack thereof.

    So in other words, you start with the conclusion and interpret the facts to fit the conclusion. That doesn’t sound very “scientific-minded” to me. The normal term for this is “bias”.

    Anyways, my two cents. But like I said, if you can provide this proof as to why everything is here, I am completely open minded to solid evidence.

    No, you explicitly stated that you are not open-minded. You explicitly stated that you automatically interpret everything as evidence for a creator. That is the exact opposite of being open-minded.

    And where is your proof? Why should we be the ones having to back up our position? Why are you allowed to arbitrarily set your own unfounded assumption as the default position and force everyone to prove you wrong?

  121. BillC

    Anybody arguing that any religious text should be accepted as literally true in any context other than personal belief is disingenuous, dishonest, or confused. Anybody that argues that any religious text has anything to say about physical reality doesn’t understand religion. There is no compatibility between science and religion. Humans are so subtly complex in their beliefs that they can willingly hold two mutually exclusive concepts as being equally true. Our thoughts, beliefs, imaginings, feelings, hopes and desires are only part of reality in that they occur in our neurological substrates which are biologically derived. My beliefs have no bearing on truth or reality except that they conform to reality. Believing that mankind was divinely created doesn’t make it so – no one has any evidence that gods exist except as allegories. As to whether their existance can be proved or disproved is a religious issue. (The question as to why there is something, rather than nothing, is the same question, reframed.) In the absence of evidence science has nothing to contribute to that debate. Science is not, IDiots and YECists aside, a belief system, it can only function on the basis of evidence.

    The head of the church warned the rebellious protestants that this profusion of conflicting ideas would come about if they insisted upon making the biblical text accessible to everybody for interpretation.

    If anybody has any interest at all in how the gods and religions began and evolved to their current state, Julien Jaynes, in his seminal publication “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” provides us with an astounding (and, yes, controversial) thesis. It is not for the feint of heart, nor is it a casual read – this is not pop science, Jaynes pulled out all the stops, he used archeology, evolution, comparative linguistics, history, and psychology in a rigorous fashion to challenge our concepts of religion, culture, morality and consciousness. This book is the beginning of a new paradigm in human studies. If you want to get beyond the confusion, the rhetoric and the endless (to say nothing of mindless) arguments of religionists and their apologists this is the place to start.

  122. Messier Tidy Upper

    @96. kuhnigget Says:

    @ MTU : “The bible is NOT a science textbook certainly – but nor, I think, was it ever meant to be.”

    This is patently false.

    O really? I disagree with that.

    The books of the old testament were very definitely meant as a textbook.

    This is part of why – you forgot to note there that I specified *science* textbook.

    Given the fact that science as we know it – or a reasonable approximation to it – really first started with the work of Francis Bacon (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) & Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) – which post-dates the New Testament by over a millennium and a half and the probable origination of the Old Testament / Torah by centuries more!

    Even the proto-scientific philosophical forerunner of modern science dates back to perhaps classical Greece although some disparate elements I’ll grant have been dimly seen earlier.

    How can a book be intended as a *science* textbook when the people writing it have no conception or knowledge of what “Science” is or means?

    It can’t be – and clearly was NOT.

    The Bible was originally many things – adventure story, tribal life & ethics guide, source of laws and accumulated cultural wisdom – but it was NOT intended to be science any more than the Illiad or Odyssey or Epic of Gilgamesh were.

    They explained the world, how it came to be, and man’s (or rather, men from the kingdom of Jerusalem’s) position within it.

    In terms of the limited knowledge of the time – yes. But in fairness it wasn’t *just* Israelites and men being explained but also Humanity in general as they knew it at the time incl. women, children, other tribes & empires, etc ..

    They did this using the tropes available at the time, which included gods, demons, magic, and all the rest…taken literally.

    Maybe, maybe not. The people of the past weren’t complete idiots incapable of sophisticated or subtle thinking and symbolic /artistic interpretations. Without time travel it is pretty much impossible to know exactly how ‘literally’ the ancient Israelites took the scriptures and like our civilisation there was probably at least some diversity of opinion and some who were more or less skeptical, more or less able to interpret it in ways beyond the face-value.

    Of course, the ancient Israelites – & also the Judean Kingdom inhabitants – had far less scientific knowledge far less resources, far less available technology and a very different cultural context from us.
    Ideas we take for granted would be utterly alien to them – & vice-versa.

    To paraphrase from authors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, Yahweh was not some airy-fairy something or other entity, but a real, bronze-age super god who was expected to come marching over the mountains in his big ol’ sandals and robes, ready to smite to smithereens anyone who stood in his people’s way.

    Sometimes, to some (okay even many) people back then yes. Not always though. Much of early Jewish thought was directed at understadning why this may not be the case why for instance the Roman diaspora and Babylonian captivity were allowed to happen to the Chosen people and much of Jewish monotheism was a direct rejection of just that idea which the pagan neighbouring tribes preferred. Your God is .. well just one not a pantheon? Invisible? Always good and beyond human in personality rather than human-writ large like Zeus?

    To reinterpret the bible, or any other ancient mythological text in light of modern ideas and thinking is folly.

    I dispute that & disagree strongly. Religion has evolved and each generation I think has always re-interpreted it to greater or lesser degrees as their cultural context has altered. Different ravbbincical school and Christian philosophers have come to differing conclusions and ideas. Different verses have been – and still are – emphasised by different individuals and groups with different perspectives and using different translations which reflect different societies.

    It does a disservice to the ancient authors of those texts, and misleads the gullible among the modern population.

    Why do you say and think this and can you back it up with anything beyond your assertion?

    I think, in short, things are a lot more complex and complicated than you are making them sound.

  123. Messier Tidy Upper

    @92. Bob_In_Wales :

    @77 Messier Tidy Upper – “If we wish to learn about ethics and what it means to be a good person and what are some of life’s ethical ideas OTOH, the Bible beats any science text – because those have very little to say on such matters.”

    Ummm. Personally I’m not so sure about that. A close reading of the Bible produces a set of very bad examples of how to live. I’m not sure that as an ethics text book it really stands the test. Look at oft quoted stories like Daniel in the Lions Den. As soon as he gets out Daniel has his persecuters thrown in and eaten. Moral of the story – once you win the argument it is permitted (required?) by God that you slaughter your religious persecuters. And that is just one example that springs immediately to mind.

    Well, okay, that ending to the “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” tale is a new one for me. Not that it overly surprises or shocks me.

    Look, I’m agnostic. I think there is a lot in the Bible that is really amazingly good – and also a lot that is also amazingly bad.

    I’m ambivalent about it & I can see both sides here.

    I have religious friends and atheist ones, have read widely on both sides of the God / no-god argument and still aren’t sure what to think except that both sides can put a good case and neither side, I think, fully understands, listens to and engages with the other on fair terms.

    Read between the lines of what science tells us about the world on the other hand and I think a reality based understanding of people suggests a much higher morality than the Bible does.

    You say that as if people’s understanding & interpretation of of the Bible is unitary (singular) and monolithic. Like there is only one way people read the text on which they universally agree. :roll:

    That is just NOT the case.

    Various people, various individuals and schools of thought within “Christianity” read the same text and yet disgaree vehemently about it and interpret and understand it quite differently.

    There is NO one idea of what Christianity *is* – the picture of, for example, a moderate Catholic is vastly different to that of the picture of a fundamentalist evangelical. A Russian Orthodox Christian will have very different ideas and a very different perspective to someone who takes every word of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell or Tammy Baker as “gospel” and a moderate Quaker will have a different point of view and perspective again.

    The Christian faith and the extensive spectrum of “Christian” ideas are a much more complicated and diverse set of beliefs than the New Atheist strawmen created and attacked by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens would have you (too simply) think.

  124. Messier Tidy Upper

    Part II continued :
    —-

    @ 92. Bob_In_Wales :

    For example look at things like sexuality (a favourite obsession of religious groups). Personally I think that any familiarity with the range of sexual behaviour in the animal kingdom precludes any assumption that people come as “Men” and “Women” and that is it, and that therefore anything outside basic standard heterosexual copulation for the purpose of procreation is “unnatural”. The ethical conclusion from the Bible is that it is fine to persecute people who practice “non-standard” sexual practices, from science that such persecution has no justification.

    Not quite true. Again, you are being a bit too simplistic and overlooking the range of “christian” views.

    The idea of gay priests and female priests is a burning and contentious topic among many divisions for example with both pro-and anti-sides using examples from the Bible and arguing differing – possibly both valid – interpretations.

    There are both homophobic extremists are keen to quote ancient Jewish rules expresly forbidding male-to-male sex in Leviticus condemming that along with eating shellfish and kids disrespecting their dads as “abominations” *and* also groups that point to verses such as this one :

    1 Samuel 20:42
    Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn in the name of Yahweh that Yahweh will bond you and me and your descendants and my descendants forever.’

    Source : http://www.thebricktestament.com/david_vs_saul/jonathan_and_david/1s20_42a.html

    As sanctioning (divinely even!) the idea of gay marriage.

    There are *both* those “christians” who misuse the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (whose crime is not necessarily what you might think) and those who point out the example is being misunderstood and misused.

    It isn’t clear-cut and there is consderable very heated debate among and within Christian groups as to what idea, what interpretation, what conception best fits the “christian” belief system.

    @93. TheBlackCat Says:

    I would have to agree with Bob_In_Wales. As an example, any 10 year-old can come up with a better set of 10 commandments than the Bible. Basic reciprocal altruism leads to a better set of rules. Only half of the ten commandments could be seen as having anything remotely to do with actual moral or ethical behavior, and they are not particularly good rules (some are okay, but too absolute to be useful in the real world).

    Again, I call strawman and misunderstanding of the (range of) Christian perspective(s) here.

    It is true that science has very little to say on such matters. But so much of what the Bible says about “ethics and what it means to be a good person and what are some of life’s ethical ideas” is absolutely horrible by any modern standard, I would say the little science says on the matter is still far superior. Just saying more isn’t a good thing if what you say is despicable (such as “joy is dashing babies on rocks”).

    What you mean like this verse? :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTAhg64GIvg

    Yes, I agree that’s pretty appalling – but it is NOT *all* or even the main thing or message in the Bible.

    There’s also stuff like this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnIIpTGmEuo

    To consider as well – and arguably that’s a far more important part of the “bible message.”

  125. Messier Tidy Upper

    (Part III) In a nutshell, the Bible is, indeed a mixture of stuff; some of which is pretty atrocious and some of which is deeply moving and immensely powerful and exceedingly good. Not everything that happens in the Bible or Torah is supposed to be be condoned by it – some (much even) is straight historical recording of what occurred rather than ethical recomending of the same. There is much in the Bible and Torah that requires thought and meditation and it *isn’t* simple to properly understand and *is* easy to misinterpret and take out of context and abuse.

    I honestly don’t know whether God exists or not, and, if so, whether the God of Bible is a notion with much validity to it or not.

    I am no fan of organised religion.

    I do, however, think the “New Atheist” case has its logical & real world weaknesses incl. strawmen,cherry-picking and greatly misunderstanding what religion esp. Christianity (& Judaism for that matter) really is about & says.

    I also don’t believe in anything as downright silly as a literal interpretation of the Bible and I am quite happy to adopt Stephen Jay Gould’s “magisteria” notion and believe both these aspects of life have their separate purposes and validities and can co-exist in harmony.

    Creationism / “Intelligent Design” is stupid – both bad science and bad religion and there is only one reason for it to be taught in science class – and that is to expressly and briefly debunk it and use it as an example of what is NOT really science and why. ;-)

  126. @ MET:

    This is part of why – you forgot to note there that I specified *science* textbook.

    Okay, fair enough. But you are forgetting that to the ancient mind there was no distinction between gods, demons, magic, etc. and the “real” world. To them, having a god – or a spirit, or djinn, or what have you – be responsible for why the sun moves across the sky or why the earth shakes violently or why it rains was perfectly natural. Not “super”natural, just natural. So yeah, okay, not science. But natural history.

    but it was NOT intended to be science any more than the Illiad or Odyssey or Epic of Gilgamesh were.

    Wrong again. Epics such as the Odyssey and the Illiad were very much about describing the world and the way it works, and the way mankind fits into it. That’s one of the reasons why there is so much repetitive ritual described in them, especially in the Greek works. Part of what doing your Homer-work was all about was learning your proper place in the world, how you relate to others, how you relate to the gods, and how it all fits together. The ancients were describing the world they observed using the only language and analytic tools they had available to them at the time. It may not be our “science,” but it was performing a similar function (among other functions, admittedly.)

    Much of early Jewish thought was directed at understadning why this may not be the case why for instance the Roman diaspora and Babylonian captivity were allowed to happen to the Chosen people and much of Jewish monotheism was a direct rejection of just that idea which the pagan neighbouring tribes preferred. Your God is .. well just one not a pantheon? Invisible? Always good and beyond human in personality rather than human-writ large like Zeus?

    While true, it is also much simplified. One of the primary purposes of the original compiled pentateuch was to set up the Kingdom of Jerusalem/Judah as the center of a unified political entity that would come to be known collectively as “Israel.” Disparate beliefs and traditions were codified to serve the purposes of the temple culture in Jerusalem. There was no unified Yaweh-worshipping state, moved en masse from Egypt into Canaan, before that time. Indeed, Jerusalem’s rise to power came about exactly because of the Babylonian captivity, which was aimed primarily at the northern kingdom of Israel, and which created a political power vacuum the Jerusalemites exploited rather effectively.

    The point is, these texts are about much more than philosophy and “spiritual” matters. To interpret them solely in that light is absurd and disregards their historical context.

    To reinterpret the bible, or any other ancient mythological text in light of modern ideas and thinking is folly.
    I dispute that & disagree strongly. Religion has evolved and each generation I think has always re-interpreted it to greater or lesser degrees as their cultural context has altered.

    Okay, perhaps I wasn’t being clear. To reinterpret the bible, or any other ancient text in light of modern ideas and thinking…and to claim it is the same thing as its ancient originators believed…is folly.

    Clarify for you? Your interpretation of the bible is not the same as an ancient Judean’s interpretation. Your way of thinking about it is not the same, nor could it be the same because you are viewing it from a modern person’s perspective with 2000+ years of intellectual development behind you. To assume that your interpretation is somehow in tune with that ancient person’s ideas is just nonsense. As stated above, in that ancient world, gods and demons and magic were perfectly natural and real. In our world, they most clearly are not.

    I think, in short, things are a lot more complex and complicated than you are making them sound.

    I would level the same charge at you.

    What you mean like this verse? – edit –
    Yes, I agree that’s pretty appalling – but it is NOT *all* or even the main thing or message in the Bible.

    And therein lies the biggest problem of all: getting to pick and choose what parts of holy writ you get to emphasize and which parts get to be conveniently ignored.

    There are some good things in the bible, as there are in most religious traditions. But there is also a whole hell of a lot (intended) of horrible, awful, nastiness which, as TheBlackCat has stated above, is about the last thing in the world you’d want to use as the foundation for a civilized society. Humans are more imaginative than that. We can come up with much better on our own.

  127. SciMom

    @Joe R: Really? It’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my child evolution? Suppose I don’t have a science background — exactly how do I recognize the weaknesses in my child’s school curriculum? What resources do I have to correct them? And where do I find the time to do that, especially if I’m a single parent, part of a dual-income household, and/or if I just have more than one child involved in more than one extra-curricular activity?

    We have had to provide private tutoring to our children to cover gaps in what the schools were providing, and it’s infuriating, especially since we’ve always chosen our residence based on the school district’s reputation. I’m comfortable with teaching my children about values, but schools were supposed to be educating my children about science, history, math and literature, and darn it, that’s what I expected them to do!

    End rant.

  128. TheBlackCat

    I also don’t believe in anything as downright silly as a literal interpretation of the Bible and I am quite happy to adopt Stephen Jay Gould’s “magisteria” notion and believe both these aspects of life have their separate purposes and validities and can co-exist in harmony.

    You still have provided no reason to conclude this, despite several people asking you for it. The Bible is so contradictory that you can draw just about any desired conclusion from it. Based on the historical record, the modern concept of Christianity is radically different than the many historical concepts that have come and gone, nor is this concept even agreed upon within particular Christian sects.

    The Bible is merely a tool for justifying beliefs you got in other ways. It can be used in this way to justify pretty much everything. But as others have stated, the progress in morality has not been driver by religion, religion has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era.

    So if religion does not help push morality forward, if there is no way to get any sort of consistent or agreed-upon conclusion even from members of the same religion, if there is no reason to think any ideas of religion are any more valid than random guesses, then what exactly is the “magisteria” that religions covers?

    The Christian faith and the extensive spectrum of “Christian” ideas are a much more complicated and diverse set of beliefs than the New Atheist strawmen created and attacked by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens would have you (too simply) think.

    This is itself a strawman of the position taken by “New” Atheists (the only thing really new about them is that people are actually listening).

    No “New” Atheist I have ever heard of has said anything remotely similar to what you are accusing them of. In fact I have personally seen them all say exactly the same thing you just said.

    It would help if you actually read their own arguments, rather than just listening to what their opponents say about them. There are a lot of lies spread about “New” Atheists, this being one of the most pervasive and most insidious.

    Further, this directly contradicts your conclusion that religion is at all useful on issues like morality, ethics, or the “whys”. If even within the same religion, even within the same sect, no one can agree on issues relating to morality, ethics, or “whys”, then what value does religion have in addressing these subjects? Certainly not for providing answers, almost by definition.

  129. Joseph G

    Reason #1729 why I like this blog: a thoughtful religious discussion that doesn’t devolve (doh!) into a flame war :)

    @Messier: I have a question: When you say agnostic, do you mean the belief that we can’t ever know whether or not there is a God? Or that we just don’t know now, but that we might know at some point?
    I ask because the scientific part of me doesn’t want to concede that there are limits to what we might potentially discover, but the logical bit pipes up and says “If there is an all-powerful deity, and it doesn’t want to be found, well, that’s all there is to it.”

  130. Paul in Sweden

    Education in Texas has been broken and concerned citizens are attempting to take back the school system from the left-wing revisionists who are responsible for the poor state of education in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. Pretending that Texas education in Science, Math, History, etc were flourishing in Texas and non-leftist radicals are now interfering with the indoctrinization & dumbing down of children is all too common in the MSM & the blogosphere.

    As there was no response by Phil nor any of the other contributors to my post regarding the lack of background which may have appeared in prior posts by Phil here at BA regarding the dismal state of Texas education prior to the current attempts by the citizens of Texas to repair the damage done over the decades, I will provide the following quick stats & links which offer partial replies to:

    40. Greg in Austin Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    @Paul in Sweden,

    Can you provide a link to these “dismal statistics?”

    41. McWaffle Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    @Paul in Sweden

    Also, what exactly would these dismal statistics prove? I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Apparently something to do with “massive government waste”?[—]

    —————————————————

    Texas

    Remediation Rates

    38 percent of students at public two-year institutions enrolled in at least one remedial course in the fall of 2006.

    24 percent of students at public four-year institutions enrolled in at least one remedial course in the fall of 2006.

    Terry, B. (2007). The Cost of Remedial Education. Austin, TX: Texas Public Policy Foundation. Retrieved

    -http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2007-09-PP25-remediation-bt.pdf

    Remediation Costs

    $184.8 million in state appropriations provided for remedial education in public two- and four-year institutions in 2002–03.

    An additional $5.8 million was provided in the state Developmental Education Program Performance Fund in 2002–03.

    Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2002). Appropriations for Developmental Education in Texas Public Institutions of Higher Education. Retrieved February 7, 2008

    -http://www.thecb.state.TX.us/reports/PDF/0456.PDF

    In addition and specific to Texas, I recall reading alarming statistics regarding the need for remedial classes for Law school, med school and post doctorate studies. This failure in basic education spills over to the commercial market as well. Companies are not only having difficult times finding qualified workers but expending funds to bring them up to required levels of competency. I have of course only provided references and statistics about the sad kids who seek higher education in Texas prior to the citizens of Texas attempting to bring the concept of education back to Texas schools. We have not even discussed the drop out rates in Texas under the auspices of the radical left which dominates America’s school systems.

    ————————————————–

    There is too much political indoctrination and revisionism in schools today and too much control by teachers unions. Tax payers have the right to demand performance.

    As far as religion goes, I am well aware of the efforts by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, multitudes of church organizations throughout America and the UK to indoctrinate children regarding the hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. :) The CAGW theory should be limited in primary schools to science classes. It is inappropriate to bombard children with multiple mandatory viewing sessions of “An Inconvenient Truth” in English, Math and Gym classes. Intelligent design should be relegated in primary school education to social studies where a broad spectrum and history of the world’s major religions are discussed. CAGW in tertiary level education would probably be best addressed in marketing and media studies. Personally, I have never met a creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old. I can only assume that these fundamental creationists are limited and rampant in the leftist world where many of the responders on this forum reside.

    Religion and social causes should be limited to social studies and history. As far as that goes see the following excerpt regarding the Texas BoE:

    Texas Kicks Out Liberal Bias From Textbooks -
    Phyllis Schlafly

    “The review of social studies curriculum (covering U.S. Government, American history, world history and economics) comes up every 10 years, and 2010 is one of those years. The unelected education “experts” proposed their history revisions, such as eliminating Independence Day, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Daniel Boone and Neil Armstrong, and replacing Christmas with Diwali.

    After a public outcry, the SBOE responded with common-sense improvements. Thomas Edison, the world’s greatest inventor, will be again included in the narrative of American history.

    Schoolchildren will no longer be misled into believing that capitalism and the free market are dirty words and that America has an unjust economic system. Instead, they will learn how the free-enterprise system gave our nation and the world so much that is good for so many people.

    Liberals don’t like the concept of American exceptionalism. The liberals want to teach what’s wrong with America (masquerading under the code word “social justice”) instead of what’s right and successful. The SBOE voted to include describing how American exceptionalism is based on values that are unique and different from those of other nations.

    The SBOE specified that teaching about the Bill of Rights should include a reference to the right to keep and bear arms. Some school curricula pretend the Second Amendment doesn’t exist.

    Texas curriculum standards will henceforth accurately describe the U.S. Government as a “constitutional republic” rather than as a democracy. The secularists tried to remove reference to the religious basis for the founding of America, but that was voted down.[…]

    The deceptive claim that the United States was founded on a “separation of church and state” gets the ax, and rightfully so. In fact, most of the original 13 colonies were founded as Christian communities with much overlap between church and state.

    History textbooks that deal with Joseph McCarthy will now be required to explain “how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of Communist infiltration in U.S. Government.” The Venona papers are authentic transcripts of some 3,000 messages between the Soviet Union and its secret agents in the United States.

    [NOTE from Paul in Sweden: Many in America and even here in Europe do not know about the communist movement. Those of us who have had our families altered by the communist movement look with disdain at your utter ignorance.]

    Discussions of economics will not be limited to the theories of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Adam Smith. Textbooks must also include Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market theory.

    History textbooks will now be required to cover the “unintended consequences” of Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. Textbooks should also include “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s.”

    Texas textbooks will now have to mention “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” instead of blaming society for everything and expecting government to provide remedies for all social ills.”

    -http://tinyurl.com/38qdtgw

    While I have not seen the proposed text book excerpts that Phil rants about frequently that may or may not mention the religious belief in Intelligent design it is clear to me that the non-leftist radicals & tax payers in Texas are well on their way to restoring education to the school system in Texas on most matters.

  131. Conspiracies by the pope? Quotes from Phyllis Schlafly?

    Oh, murgatroyd!

  132. TheBlackCat

    If anybody has any interest at all in how the gods and religions began and evolved to their current state, Julien Jaynes, in his seminal publication “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” provides us with an astounding (and, yes, controversial) thesis.

    Controversial? That is the understatement of the century. Try “rejected by practically everyone who knows anything about how the brain works”. He the Velikovsky of the cognitive sciences.

    He is talking about, after hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of years of stability, a massive rewiring of the brains of everyone on the planet simultaneously in a couple generations, leaving no biological traces behind. That is about as plausible as, starting tomorrow, all children everywhere from then on being born with 4 eyes. That isn’t an exaggeration, in fact it may even be less plausible than 4 eyes scenario.

  133. Messier Tidy Upper

    @129. TheBlackCat Says:

    [me – MTU – “I also don’t believe in anything as downright silly as a literal interpretation of the Bible and I am quite happy to adopt Stephen Jay Gould’s “magisteria” notion and believe both these aspects of life have their separate purposes and validities and can co-exist in harmony.”

    You still have provided no reason to conclude this, despite several people asking you for it.

    I’m afraid I’m not sure what question specifically you (& apparently others) are asking here. Can you please clarify?

    Do you mean to ask as appears to be thecase why I don’t think the Bible is to be taken literally?

    If so, I thought I’d already made that clear – because the results are, in light of what we know today absurd.

    The Bible is so contradictory that you can draw just about any desired conclusion from it. Based on the historical record, the modern concept of Christianity is radically different than the many historical concepts that have come and gone, nor is this concept even agreed upon within particular Christian sects.

    This is hardly news and not something I’m denying in any way. That the Bible is paradoxical and open to multiple varying complex and, yes, at times seemingly contradictory interpreattions is very clear to me and, I think, most others.

    Doe sthat make it worthless or without any meaning? No, I don’t think so and agan, I don’t think I’m in the minority here.

    I’m frankly torn on this issue and can see various points of view without necessarily satying I agree with them. I have many questions and few clear and certain answers on this topic.

    I do agree with much of what Stephen Jay Gould has written regarding his conceptionof separate magisteria.

    If really pressed I guess I’d say that religion a bit like art, like literature, like a number of other things such as emotion may not make logical scientific snese but may make *another kind* of sense if you follow what I’m saying.

    I don’t claim any answers here – I myself have lots of questions and doubtsand uncertainties and clashing ideas in my head. I do however think that it is as wrong to belittle and disrespect people for their personal religious faith – to try and impose and compel atheism upon others – as it is for religious people to compel their religious beliefs upon atheists. Mutual respect and a willingness for both sides to listen and conceede their perspective may not be the be-alland end-all (in the *literal* sense in this case! ;-) ) is what I’d like to see.

    I think it most unlikely any internet debate or single polemical book or individual arguing about it will ever solve the whole “God or Not?” Question that has been an on-going philosophical and metaphyiscial debate pretty much since Humanity has been around!

  134. Messier Tidy Upper

    @130. Joseph G Says:

    Reason #1729 why I like this blog: a thoughtful religious discussion that doesn’t devolve (doh!) into a flame war

    Agreed – although give it time, this is one of those topics where flames seem to burst out all-too frequently alas.

    @Messier: I have a question: When you say agnostic, do you mean the belief that we can’t ever know whether or not there is a God? Or that we just don’t know now, but that we might know at some point?
    I ask because the scientific part of me doesn’t want to concede that there are limits to what we might potentially discover, but the logical bit pipes up and says “If there is an all-powerful deity, and it doesn’t want to be found, well, that’s all there is to it.”

    Its probably not a very helpful answer to say a bit of both really but that’s how it is. I think either of those possibilities might be right – or also wrong.

    There are a whole lot of possibilities and a whole lot of questions and while I know what different sides argue, I’m not sure myself which side is correct and can see good cases for each competing side.

    I suppose I’m an agnostic because I have to say, that I just quite honestly don’t know.

    @ Kuhnigget and others – sorry, I’m not ignoring you and I will get back to this thread with more, I promise, but I’m working tomorrow and really, really, must get some sleep now. Besides I make enough typos even when I’m not over-tired! ;-)

    PS. @Kuhnigget # 127 & #96 – just wondering but is there any particular reason why you seem to be referring to me as MET now rather than, say, MTU or Messier? ;-)

    If I have mis-spelt your chosen name I’d be surprised as I usually cut’n’paste & if so I am unaware of it, it was inadvertant & I apologise.

  135. Messier Tidy Upper

    One very last comment before I go to bed which I meant to mention earlier :

    It seems to me that there is a case for the first mention of the Separation of Church & State being not in the US Constituition but in the New Testament where Rabbi Jesus says :

    “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

    Or something very similar.

    In other words, the state is owed one thing and controls one ‘magisteria’ and God &/or the religious sphere is owed something else separately. Indicating, I’d suggest, that God & the State, politics and religion are to be considered, treated and respected separately and apart from each other & NOT united into a Theocratic State-Faith as is the (very bad IMHON) Muslim idea.

    The Creationists along with other extremists are, of course, in violation of that – and it is the extremists, I think, that are the problem not the religious or non-religious on either side of this debate.

  136. TheBlackCat

    Do you mean to ask as appears to be thecase why I don’t think the Bible is to be taken literally?

    No, the question I and others have asked is why you take this bit to be true:

    “both these aspects of life have their separate purposes and validities and can co-exist in harmony.”

    I explain this clearly in the next two paragraphs, but you didn’t respond to any of the questions I posed in those.

    You have provided no reason to think that religion has any purpose or validity. You assert it as if it were a self-evident fact, but that question is exactly what is being debated.

    This is hardly news and not something I’m denying in any way.

    Yes, I know, I point this out three paragraphs down from there, but you didn’t respond to that paragraph, either.

    Doe sthat make it worthless or without any meaning? No, I don’t think so and agan, I don’t think I’m in the minority here.

    Once again, you assert this, but refuse to actually tell us what this “worth” or “meaning” is, despite being asked repeatedly.

    If really pressed I guess I’d say that religion a bit like art, like literature, like a number of other things such as emotion may not make logical scientific snese but may make *another kind* of sense if you follow what I’m saying.

    No, as I keep saying, I do not follow what you are saying. What kind of sense does it make?

    Art and literature make aesthetic sense, but no sane person would argue that aesthetics can be used to decide who lives and who dies, while religion is. They can be used to convey messages arrived at by other means, such as bout morality. Religion is supposed to be the ultimate source of messages such as morality, yet no one can agree on what these messages actually are, and these messages, averaged across the population, always trail a little bit the prevailing moral climate (the exact opposite of what you would expect if religion was the actual source of morality).

    Please answer this question. I asked it in the post you responded to a small portion of, but you did not answer. You have been asked it repeatedly by several people before me as well. Your entire argument rests on this issue, yet you have, as of yet, provided no justification for it:

    So if religion does not help push morality forward, if there is no way to get any sort of consistent or agreed-upon conclusion even from members of the same religion, if there is no reason to think any ideas of religion are any more valid than random guesses, then what exactly is the “magisteria” that religions covers?

    I do however think that it is as wrong to belittle and disrespect people for their personal religious faith – to try and impose and compel atheism upon others – as it is for religious people to compel their religious beliefs upon atheists.

    Once again, the “New” Atheists are not trying to “impose and compel atheism upon others”. It is obvious you are only listening to the anti-new atheist rhetoric without bothering to actually looking at the arguments that “New” Atheists are actually making. You are simply spreading lies here.

    I’ve pointed this out to you already, in one of the paragraphs you ignored. Rather than taking my advice and finding out what the New Atheists are actually saying, you just repeat another standard lie against them.

    In other words, the state is owed one thing and controls one ‘magisteria’ and God &/or the religious sphere is owed something else separately. Indicating, I’d suggest, that God & the State, politics and religion are to be considered, treated and respected separately and apart from each other & NOT united into a Theocratic State-Faith as is the (very bad IMHON) Muslim idea.

    That is not what this passage is about, and was never how it was interpreted even at the time. The Roman Empire, Judea, and all of Christian Europe until fairly recently had “Theocratic State-Faith”, not to mention almost every, if not every, civilization prior. It is hardly a Muslim idea, it had been around for thousands of years, and had been common in the Christian-controlled Roman empire for centuries, by the time Islam was founded. The separation of church and state is a very new idea, and still uncommon even in Christian countries.

    Here is the relevant part of the passage:

    16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

    17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

    18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

    19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

    20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

    21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

    22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

    So the passage is specifically and exclusively about taxes.

  137. PS. @Kuhnigget # 127 & #96 – just wondering but is there any particular reason why you seem to be referring to me as MET now rather than, say, MTU or Messier?

    Fried synapses.

  138. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (90) said:
    Blockquote>Maybe so – but the emotion itself will still be felt in a real and different & personally subjective way quite apart from how science understands it.

    Fair enough – perhaps I misunderstood your earlier comment.

  139. Di

    Texas is not doomed. Please stop giving this guy more publicity. He doesn’t even hold office any more. Hello, we voted him out. I usually really love your posts, Phil, but you’ve got to stop it with his inflammatory type of journalism. I understand you feel the need to point out just how wrong he is, but frankly, you’re preaching to the choir WHILE besmirching and insulting an entire state. Not really all that cool, dude.

  140. Nigel Depledge

    @ Di (141) –
    I’m curious. Does it not embarass you that you (collectively) voted him in in the first place?

  141. Nigel Depledge

    Beau (97) said:

    *I will also add that I am a Bible believing Christian,

    Which throws up a problem that a preceding commenter highlighted – you believe the bible, but which of the many possible interpretations do you believe?

    Some of the bible is pretty clear – e.g. that children who diss their parents should be stoned to death – but some of it is either utterly at odds with reality if taken literally or pretty damn cryptic if taken metaphorically.

    that believes religion and science should not be at odds with each other. Science can (and does) describe the processes by which the world works, evolution being one of them, but it can not explain why all these processes exist in the first place.

    You missed out the most important word from that last sentence: Yet.

    Science cannot yet explain why those processes exist.

    This omission implies that you assume science will never explain why the universe is the way it is, and I think that is very rash.

  142. Nigel Depledge

    Ah. I see TBC (99) beat me to it.

  143. Nigel Depledge

    Beau (103) said:

    Anyways, I believe Christianity can provide the WHY, but it doesn’t fill in the HOW (that’s science’s job), and vice versa.

    This is the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (sp?) and it suffers from a fundamental flaw – it is just “god of the gaps” dressed up in a new suit.

    If you can provide a scientific explanation that you can prove as to WHY these processes occur, and what set them into motion, I’ll gladly listen and objectively consider your evidence.

    Here’s a scientific explanation for that that is just as valid as any biblical explanation, albeit rather shorter than the bible:

    Why not?

  144. Nigel Depledge

    Beau (106) said:

    All of creation is meant to serve as evidence of a Creator.

    If this is so, why does it look exactly the way we should expect it to if there were no creator god, but that the universe came to be through natural processes?

    So in terms of any other evidence I freely admit there is none. However, in lieu of evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe in God.

    So, for some (presumably) personal reason, you choose to reject the principle of parsimony. Is it, or not really?

    Furthermore, given the nature of the christian god, what possible evidence could exist to disprove its existence? After all, the bible is at odds with reality in so many places, and yet is still accepted by most christians as the word of god. Given that god is intangible, how could such postulated “evidence to the contrary” ever exist?

  145. Nigel Depledge

    John F (111) said:

    The God of the “christian bible” (New Testament) is anything but a ” small-minded, mean-spirited, fragile-ego jerk”

    now if you want to talk about the god depicted in the Old Testament and/or Koran…

    But is not the OT a large part of the “christian bible”?

  146. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (124) said:

    The Christian faith and the extensive spectrum of “Christian” ideas are a much more complicated and diverse set of beliefs than the New Atheist strawmen created and attacked by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens would have you (too simply) think.

    What is this “New Atheist strawman” of which you speak?

  147. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (125) said:

    The idea of gay priests and female priests is a burning and contentious topic among many divisions for example with both pro-and anti-sides using examples from the Bible and arguing differing – possibly both valid – interpretations.

    There are both homophobic extremists are keen to quote ancient Jewish rules expresly forbidding male-to-male sex in Leviticus condemming that along with eating shellfish and kids disrespecting their dads as “abominations” *and* also groups that point to verses such as this one :

    [snip]
    As sanctioning (divinely even!) the idea of gay marriage.

    There are *both* those “christians” who misuse the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (whose crime is not necessarily what you might think) and those who point out the example is being misunderstood and misused.

    It isn’t clear-cut and there is consderable very heated debate among and within Christian groups as to what idea, what interpretation, what conception best fits the “christian” belief system.

    I think this highlights the folly of using the bible as an exclusive guide to one’s stance on such topics.

    The humane approach would be to consider the happiness and wellbeing of the individuals involved, and never mind what some ancient god might have to say about the matter.

  148. @ Nigel:

    The humane approach would be to consider the happiness and wellbeing of the individuals involved, and never mind what some ancient god might have to say about the matter.

    It’s usually pretty clear what those ancient gods would say anyway: “Blood! I demand blood! More blood! More blood! My appetite for blood is insatiable!”

    Or words to that effect.

  149. Nigel Depledge

    Paul in Sweden (132) said:

    I have of course only provided references and statistics about the sad kids who seek higher education in Texas prior to the citizens of Texas attempting to bring the concept of education back to Texas schools. We have not even discussed the drop out rates in Texas under the auspices of the radical left which dominates America’s school systems.

    In fact, you have made several claims that may well be unconnected.

    The statistics you present are indeed, from some persepctives, “dismal”. Although I do notice that you present no context for them whatever, so that could, in fact, be the best year in decades.

    What you have failed to do, however, is twofold:
    1. You have failed to present any evidence that education in Tx – prior to McLeroy becoming chair of the state BoE – is indeed dominated by a political agenda.
    2. You have failed to link any particular bias of the state BoE with the “dismal statistics”. In fact, it looks like you are drawing your conclusions using the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy.

  150. Nigel Depledge

    Paul in Sweden (132) said:

    There is too much political indoctrination and revisionism in schools today and too much control by teachers unions. Tax payers have the right to demand performance.

    *Yawn*

    Did you have a point to make? If so, please present facts, not empty claims and personal opinions.

    As far as religion goes, I am well aware of the efforts by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, multitudes of church organizations throughout America and the UK to indoctrinate children regarding the hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

    And we are well aware that you are a relaity-denier when it comes to AGW. Did you know that in 2010, Greenland recorded a record loss of ice cap?

    The CAGW theory should be limited in primary schools to science classes. It is inappropriate to bombard children with multiple mandatory viewing sessions of “An Inconvenient Truth” in English, Math and Gym classes.

    Do you have any evidence that this actually happens?

    Intelligent design should be relegated in primary school education to social studies where a broad spectrum and history of the world’s major religions are discussed.

    No, I think ID is better off saved for secondary schools or high schools – where it should be discussed in Politics classes as an example of the manipulation of the press and public to serve a political agenda.

    Personally, I have never met a creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old.

    OK, so does that mean they don’t exist?

    No, of course not.

    IIRC, about 25% of the American public will – in a survey – choose “less than 10,000 years” when asked what age they think the Earth is. I have seen interviews on TV where Richard Dawkins has met such YECists – and the YECists come off looking really, really dumb, because they simply state and re-state their position and ignore the questions Dawkins asks. In one interview that I have only read about, not seen, the creationist insists over and over that there is no evidence for evolution, while at the same time completely ignoring Dawkins’s politely repeated question “Have you been to a museum and looked at Homo erectus?”.

    I can only assume that these fundamental creationists are limited and rampant in the leftist world where many of the responders on this forum reside.

    So, either you have your blinkers on again, or you have never visited Answers in Genesis.

    Were you aware of the Creation “Museum” (somewhere in Kentucky, I think)? They took several tens of millions of dollars of donations and opened a set of exhibits that explicitly claim a literally true bible – even as far as having Adam riding on dinosaurs.

  151. Nigel Depledge

    @ Kuhnigget (150) –
    LOL!

  152. Nigel Depledge

    Paul in Sweden (132) said:

    Religion and social causes should be limited to social studies and history. As far as that goes see the following excerpt regarding the Texas BoE:

    Texas Kicks Out Liberal Bias From Textbooks –
    Phyllis Schlafly

    Quoting Schlafly to support your argument is an instant lose.

    Even the excerpt you quote is nothing more than overblown rhetoric, making many dramatic claims but utterly failing to back any of them up with anything remotely resembling a fact.

    Besides, Edison may have been America’s greatest inventor, but he certainly wasn’t a greater inventor than the likes of Archimedes, Da Vinci, Brunel, Newcomen or Harrison.

  153. Nigel Depledge

    Paul in Sweden (132) said:

    NOTE from Paul in Sweden: Many in America and even here in Europe do not know about the communist movement. Those of us who have had our families altered by the communist movement look with disdain at your utter ignorance

    Don’t patronise me.

    The town in which I grew up was considered to be a prime target should WW III begin. It was predicted that a single 1-megaton Soviet warhead detonated above the town at about 1500 m would kill everyone in the town (about 150,000 people at the time) within seconds.

    You seem to ignore the fact that there is a vast difference between genuine communism and the “communism” practised by the USSR in the Cold War. North Korea and China still have their own brands of “communism”, although I’d be prepared to bet money that Karl Marx – if he were alive to see it – would not recognise it as such.

    So, before you go making sweeping statements that assume the rest of us are utterly ignorant of global political history, perhaps you should define exactly what you mean by “the communist movement”.

  154. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (137) said:

    . . . a Theocratic State-Faith as is the (very bad IMHON) Muslim idea.

    Like the Holy Roman Emperors who ruled sizeable chunks of Europe from about the 6th to the 13th centuries AD (very roughly)?

    Methinks the Christians had theocracy before Islam got off the ground.

  155. Methinks the Christians had theocracy before Islam got off the ground.

    Pretty much every monotheistic religion has a pretty good track record of being intolerant of others.

    And the Christians were having a go at it well before the 6th century. Witness Roman emperor Theodosis’ antics at the end of the 4th century. (Anyone who’s read a certain english knight’s novel, The Final Oracle, would know all about that particular event. Shameless hint hint.)

  156. Messier Tidy Upper

    @127. kuhnigget : (belatedly sorry, RL intruduing again.)

    @ MET: “This is part of why – you forgot to note there that I specified *science* textbook.”
    Okay, fair enough. But you are forgetting that to the ancient mind there was no distinction between gods, demons, magic, etc. and the “real” world. To them, having a god – or a spirit, or djinn, or what have you – be responsible for why the sun moves across the sky or why the earth shakes violently or why it rains was perfectly natural. Not “super”natural, just natural. So yeah, okay, not science. But natural history.

    Maybe – but certainly NOT science as such. It was an era long before we had any idea of what science or the “scientific method” was – & so by definition we can’t say the Bible was intended as anything like a science textbook.

    It was also an age before the idea of “textbooks” really existed too. ;-)

    The Bible was, as I noted before, many things – but science and textbook it ain’t & was never meant to be. It could NOT have been in the historical and cultural context.

    “but it was NOT intended to be science any more than the Illiad or Odyssey or Epic of Gilgamesh were.”
    Wrong again. Epics such as the Odyssey and the Illiad were very much about describing the world and the way it works, and the way mankind fits into it. That’s one of the reasons why there is so much repetitive ritual described in them, especially in the Greek works. Part of what doing your Homer-work was all about was learning your proper place in the world, how you relate to others, how you relate to the gods, and how it all fits together.

    Yes, and again – NOT in a scientific or textbook way.

    The Illiad and the Odyssey were great stories and were unifying cultural and artistic texts that gave people idealised models to follow for society and life and ethics – but they weren’t science certainly NOT as we understand it.

    The ancients were describing the world they observed using the only language and analytic tools they had available to them at the time. It may not be our “science,” but it was performing a similar function (among other functions, admittedly.)

    Yep. I agree there. :-)

    I’ll just note that “similar” does NOT mean quite the same & re-iterate that the past is very much a foreign country and mindset. Our views and understanding of things would be alien to them & vice-versa

    While true, it is also much simplified. One of the primary purposes of the original compiled pentateuch was to set up the Kingdom of Jerusalem/Judah as the center of a unified political entity that would come to be known collectively as “Israel.” Disparate beliefs and traditions were codified to serve the purposes of the temple culture in Jerusalem. There was no unified Yaweh-worshipping state, moved en masse from Egypt into Canaan, before that time. Indeed, Jerusalem’s rise to power came about exactly because of the Babylonian captivity, which was aimed primarily at the northern kingdom of Israel, and which created a political power vacuum the Jerusalemites exploited rather effectively.

    Maybe. That far back history is pretty murky and fogged over.

    Also, of course I’m simplyifying somewhat, its a complex area and one I’m not an expert in – but as a broad overview & in general summary I think I’m right here, natch.

    The point is, these texts are about much more than philosophy and “spiritual” matters. To interpret them solely in that light is absurd and disregards their historical context.

    True but NOT what I’m arguing.

    The Torah, the New Testament and the Illiad & Odyssey (among other such examples) did say a mean a lot philosophically & spiritiallly – and also culturally and legally and purley interms of entertainment too. There was a *lot* to them – but a guide to science & a textbook, they’re NOT.

    The cretaionist are dead wrong in making them out to be and make easy targets – but most religious people are, I think a lot smarter than that and able to tell metaphor and parable from literal physical reality. I hope so anyhow! ;-)

    Okay, perhaps I wasn’t being clear. To reinterpret the bible, or any other ancient text in light of modern ideas and thinking…and to claim it is the same thing as its ancient originators believed…is folly.

    Clarify for you? Your interpretation of the bible is not the same as an ancient Judean’s interpretation. Your way of thinking about it is not the same, nor could it be the same because you are viewing it from a modern person’s perspective with 2000+ years of intellectual development behind you. To assume that your interpretation is somehow in tune with that ancient person’s ideas is just nonsense. As stated above, in that ancient world, gods and demons and magic were perfectly natural and real. In our world, they most clearly are not.

    Maybe. There are still some people .. and some odd things .. ;-)

    Your’e also kind a making the same point I was. ;-)

    “I think, in short, things are a lot more complex and complicated than you are making them sound.”
    I would level the same charge at you.

    But, but I was the one telling you things were more complex and less simple than that! ;-)

    So .. huh?

    And therein lies the biggest problem of all: getting to pick and choose what parts of holy writ you get to emphasize and which parts get to be conveniently ignored.

    There are some good things in the bible, as there are in most religious traditions. But there is also a whole hell of a lot (intended) of horrible, awful, nastiness which, as TheBlackCat has stated above, is about the last thing in the world you’d want to use as the foundation for a civilized society. Humans are more imaginative than that. We can come up with much better on our own.

    Er .. Is that an implicit acceptence from you that the Bible is somehow divine rather than human there!?! :-o ;-)

    Religion is a complex topic & one where despite reading & discussing widely I’m not claiming any special expertise on.

    I do however, think that there is reaosn for doubt and uncertainty and that there are many ambiguities and layers of misunderstanding here. I am cautious about coming down on either side of the fence here.

    I do know that religion does mean an awful lot to an awful lot of good people some of whoem are good friends of mine who I also respect.

    Who am I – who is Dawkins for that matter – to tell them they’re wrong?

  157. Nigel Depledge

    Kuhnigget (571) said:

    Anyone who’s read a certain english knight’s novel, The Final Oracle, would know all about that particular event. Shameless hint hint

    Would that be a silly English kuhnigget associated with a certain “so-called Arthur king”?

    Wait, you wrote a book? ;-)

  158. Nigel Depledge

    @ MTU (158) –
    I think the typos got the better of you in that one – something has gone screwy with your blockquoting. I could not work out which bits were you and which bits were kuhnigget, and I couldn’t be bothered to scroll up and down the thread between your comment and kuhnigget’s post that you were quoting.

  159. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge – Sorry. Could well be the case. I thought I’d made things clear – I have edited since but I admit I did stuff up on some of the italicising. :-(

    @157.kuhnigget :

    Witness Roman emperor Theodosis’ antics at the end of the 4th century.

    A bit hard to “witness” given the dating there isn’t it? ;-)

    Are the antics of Emperor Theodosis up on Youtube somewhere? ;-)

    More seriously, if you have to go *that* far back to find something like that to use as an argument against Christianity, y’know, maybe it just ain’t that bad? ;-)

    @156. Nigel Depledge : “Methinks the Christians had theocracy before Islam got off the ground.”

    Methinks the actions of so-called Christians isn’t always strictly “Christian” behaviour or what the ideals of Christianity would suggest. Regrettably. :-(

    In principle & in doctrine, Christianity rejects theocratic rule.

    Christ is not of this world but another as he mentioned to Governor Pilate during his trial.

    In practice, the Christian religion (among others) has often been abused and misued by other people.

    This is NOT the fault of true Christianity.

    OTOH, There is nothing equivalent in Islam and Islam is I gather set up to imply a theocractic Khaliphate where Religious Ayatollahs and Mullahs weild supreme *political* as well as theological power and where the idea of Church/ Mosque-State separation is utterly alien and seen as un-Islamic.

    There are many examples – Iran, the Taliban-era Afganistan, Saudi Arabia, parts of Pakistan – of modern day Islamic theocracies where brutal, misognyst, homophobic and just downright terrible Sharia laws and Islamic diktates are applied & justified by the Koran.

    Can you name one such Christian theocratic state in the modern world?

    I suppose, technically, you could mention the Vatican which is a sort of state within a state in Italy but even there – how many times these days do you see Vatican citizens executed for sodomy or stoned to death for apostasy or adultery?

  160. Messier Tidy Upper

    @139. kuhnigget : Fried synapses.

    Fair enough. I can relate to & sympathise with that! ;-)

    @127. kuhnigget :

    And therein lies the biggest problem of all: getting to pick and choose what parts of holy writ you get to emphasize and which parts get to be conveniently ignored.

    True enough.

    Context and the overall message of the Bible is something that matters here I’d suggest.

    What Jesus said “out-ranks” if that’s the right word and over-rides some of the nastier parts of Levitican law.

    The main Biblical messages – the key points (for me) that I think sum things up & are the most significant parts of its meaning :

    1. “Do unto others”,

    2. “Be kind to your neighbours.” (ie. all your fellow human beings.)

    3. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”*

    These are what the rest of the Bible needs to be evaluated against and need to be over-riding.

    Conscience as well as a little research seems to be a good guide where religion is concerned. Historical and artistic context needs to be considered.

    If science and the Bible contradict each other on matters of scientific fact (eg. evolution, Joshua telling the Sun to stand still & not set ie. implying a geocentic rather than heliocentric cosmos etc ..) then Science wins!

    That’s right, modern scientific knowledge overrules the understanding of the bronze-age people who recorded the bible tales. Surprise!

    No contest. I agree with the Dalai Lama there! ;-)

    As I’ve noted innumerable times, the Bible isn’t about science, as Galileo noted :

    “The bible tells us how to go to Heaven not how the heavens go!”

    (&, no, that didn’t make it a manual for rocketscience either! ;-) )

    When it comes to ethics, when it comes to religion, when it comes to history (esp. of the israelites – Jewish people and early Christians) however the Bible can, with care, be a useful and valuable source with much good to say.

    I’m not a Bible or Torah beleiver. I’m an agnostic. I know that there’s a lot I don’t know and don’t understand.

    I know many people claim to have a relationship with Christ and that this makes a huge positive difference in their lives. As I said before, who am I to deny their personal experiences?

    I don’t claim such a relationship myself. But I don’t reject the idea or reject my friends who do make such claims.

    FSM knows, I don’t have all the answers and I know there’s a lot I don’t know. A lot I’ll maybe never know or perhaps know too late.

    I like the idea that God is Love & Goodness & Knowledge.

    (“Heaven” for me, would be an endless library – &/or an FTL starship with databanks and the ability to go anywhere with anyone learning and seeing new wonders allthe time! ;-) )

    I like the idea that somewhere, sometime, somehow, there is actually Justice that happens and people – good and bad get what they deserve.

    Oh & yeah, I know what reality *is* may well NOT be what I wish to be but I can’t help hoping all the same.

    I don’t agree with organised religion & I’m not a follower of any faith but I don’t rule out that perhaps I’m wrong &n one of them is right.

    I don’t know.

    Knowling some of tehcomplexities and unceratinties here though I am very wary of those claiming Absolute Certainty here whether that is Richard Dawkins, the Ayatollah Khomenei or the Pope.

    —-

    * Taken literally this would seem to rule out any Christian (legal, scholarly or Chili cooking contest) judges and also seem to bar any christians from serving on a jury! ;-)

  161. Messier Tidy Upper

    @150. kuhnigget :

    It’s usually pretty clear what those ancient gods would say anyway: “Blood! I demand blood! More blood! More blood! My appetite for blood is insatiable!” Or words to that effect.

    That’s a cheap shot & also just not true. :-(

    Unless that is, you’re talking about Cthulhu! ;-)

    (Or so I garner, not a big Lovecraft fan.)

    ***

    PS. Oh & you wrote a book, Kuhnigget? Really? Excellent – please tell me more – I’d like to read it. Seriously. :-)

  162. TheBlackCat

    The Bible was, as I noted before, many things – but science and textbook it ain’t & was never meant to be. It could NOT have been in the historical and cultural context.

    You then went on to say this,

    There is, arguably, some sort of truth in the Bible but it is NOT a scientific, physical or materialistic truth but rather a spiritual and poetic, artistic and symbolic one. The Bible is about ethcis and relationship betwixt humans and God NOT a textbook.

    However you define “science” and “textbook”, this is wrong. The Bible is certainly about “physical or materialistic turth”, and has been consistently interpreted that way since the beginning until very recently. The idea that the Bible is only supposed to deal with ” spiritual and poetic, artistic and symbolic [truth]” is a very recent idea that is radically different than the one held even by the people who wrote it. There may have been a small number of people who held it at one point or another, but the consensus view by far is the exact opposite of this.

    However you define “science, kuhnigget’s point still stands against the rest of that post.

    The cretaionist are dead wrong in making them out to be and make easy targets – but most religious people are, I think a lot smarter than that and able to tell metaphor and parable from literal physical reality. I hope so anyhow! ;-)

    First, in the U.S. creationists are the majority, far from dead.

    Second, the ideas about what is and is not “metaphor and parable” has changed radically. So are you saying the people who wrote the books couldn’t tell how they were supposed to be used?

    More seriously, if you have to go *that* far back to find something like that to use as an argument against Christianity, y’know, maybe it just ain’t that bad? ;-)

    You are totally missing the point. You claimed that theocracy originated with Islam, yet Christian theocracy predates Islam by centuries, and other theocracies predate it by thousands of years. Blaming Islam for theocracy is patently absurd. In fact there are a great many people in the U.S. trying to set up a Christian theocracy right now. Theocracies are far from an originally Islamic idea.

    Methinks the actions of so-called Christians isn’t always strictly “Christian” behaviour or what the ideals of Christianity would suggest. Regrettably. :-(

    In principle & in doctrine, Christianity rejects theocratic rule.

    These are the people who wrote the Bible, who decided what “True Christianity” actually is in the first place! This is how it has been for essentially all of Christianity’s history. You are arguing that you know more about “true Christianity” than the people who wrote the Bible.

    You are taking the modern version of ultra-liberal Christianity and arguing that this is the “true” Christianity, but the whole point is that even amongst modern Christians this version of Christianity is far from agreed upon, and looks absolutely nothing like Christianity as it had been practiced for almost 2000 years beforehand.

    Jesus, if he existed at all, was born and raised in a theocracy. The whole point of Christianity was to be the next step in Judaism, which was itself a theocracy. The only reason Christianity didn’t become a theocracy immediately is because they failed at their primary goal which was to convert the Jewish people at the time. There was no need to explicitly set down a theocracy because the whole point was to take over an existing theocracy.

    If your claim that Christianity is explicitly against theocracies were really true then the Bible would have called for dismantling the Jewish state at the time, while the Bible called for exactly the opposite.

    The main Biblical messages – the key points (for me) that I think sum things up & are the most significant parts of its meaning :

    1. “Do unto others”,

    2. “Be kind to your neighbours.” (ie. all your fellow human beings.)

    3. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”*

    These are what the rest of the Bible needs to be evaluated against and need to be over-riding.

    So you cherry pick three of the nice things, arbitrarily call these “the key points”, then arbitrarily state that everything else is subservient to these? Where does the Bible give any support for this conclusion? None of these statements were made in isolation, they were made alongside a lot of other rules that you have ignored. None were given particular attention or focus, no indication was given that these were the key, or even primary, points.

    That is the problem here. You are not using the Bible as a guide, you are using the Bible to back up conclusions you obtained through other, non-religious means. But which points any given person chooses to latch on to (or even fabricate, in many cases) is totally arbitrary, and determined largely through secular means in light of secular moral rules.

    As I’ve noted innumerable times, the Bible isn’t about science, as Galileo noted :

    “The bible tells us how to go to Heaven not how the heavens go!”

    Galileo was a heretic. Far from supporting your conclusion, this goes against it.

    I like the idea that God is Love & Goodness & Knowledge.

    And tortures people for eternity if they don’t do exactly what he says.

    (“Heaven” for me, would be an endless library – &/or an FTL starship with databanks and the ability to go anywhere with anyone learning and seeing new wonders allthe time! ;-) )

    According to the Bible, “heaven” is being piled under God’s throne singing praises to him constantly forever and nothing else.

    That’s a cheap shot & also just not true. :-(

    Unless that is, you’re talking about Cthulhu! ;-)

    You do realize that the Christian God demanded blood sacrifices for thousands of years, right?

  163. @ MTU:

    TheBlackCat, whom I now am madly in love with, responded for me.

    Mostly…

    A bit hard to “witness” given the dating there isn’t it?

    There is ample historical record of Thedosis’ actions, including some lovely first-hand reports. So no, it’s not difficult to witness these events at all.

    In principle & in doctrine, Christianity rejects theocratic rule.

    Since you like basing your arguments on semantics (see textbook, above), Jesus had little to do with Christianity. Christianity was largely the work of Paul, who transformed a Jewish reform movement – one of many at the time – into a separate religion. As the light of my life, TheBlackCat, said above, Jesus was Jewish and concerned about reforming Judaism, which was utterly and totally theocratic.

    Your’e also kind a making the same point I was.

    No, actually I’m not.

    You are trying to impose modern views, including modern definitions such as “textbook” onto ancient people. In doing so you are hiding from the fact that ancient people had their own definitions and assumptions, one of which is that the “supernatural” elements of their beliefs were, to them, perfectly natural, indeed, very real descriptions of the actual world. Yahweh wasn’t some hazy force or “pure love” or whatever, he was a big ol’ god who marched to battle, staff in hand, smiting his enemies and crushing puny little humans under the heal of his sandal. This was the mindset of that time, and to miss that is to utterly misunderstand the context of these stories – or any other ancient religious tale.

    Er .. Is that an implicit acceptence from you that the Bible is somehow divine rather than human there!?!

    No, it’s not. “On our own” means without the help of ancient mythologizers. There is no more divine inspiration in the Jewish holy books or Christian holy books, than in the Bhagavad Gita or the suras of Mohammed. Modern society requires modern thinking. I would no more structure our laws around ancient modes of thought than I would try to build a rocket ship powered by djinns.

    Who am I – who is Dawkins for that matter – to tell them they’re wrong?

    If they try to equate their beliefs with observable, testable, verifiable evidence, then I’m perfectly happy to tell them they are wrong.

    When it comes to ethics, when it comes to religion, when it comes to history (esp. of the israelites – Jewish people and early Christians) however the Bible can, with care, be a useful and valuable source with much good to say.

    So long as you understand the historical context in which it was compiled. (Note I said “compiled,” not written.) The five traditional books of the pentateuch were created for very specific social and political reasons by the leaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in order to place their particular brand of Yahweh worship above all the others. They did this by uniting disparate religious and cultural traditions into one recreated “history” of the so-called Jewish people, i.e. the Yahweh worshippers of Canaan. They took advantage of the power vacuum created by the Babylonian destruction of the Kingdom of Israel to set up their culture as the one and only, beloved of Yahweh, with a fictional history going back a thousand years. It’s a piece-meal pastiche of brilliantly edited mythology, which served its purpose well.

    As a work of brilliant fiction, it does indeed have some good stuff in it. Obviously…it’s lasted long enough. But it also has some really, truly, awful stuff in it. In that regard, it is no better or worse than any other human invention.

    (My quote)It’s usually pretty clear what those ancient gods would say anyway: “Blood! I demand blood! More blood! More blood! My appetite for blood is insatiable!” Or words to that effect. (End my quote.)
    That’s a cheap shot & also just not true.

    There is nothing cheap about it. Practically every religious system of the ancient world, specifically the ancient near east, involved blood sacrifice. The ancient gods were blood thirsty. There is no way to rationally ignore this. It just is true.

    Yahweh was no different, and before the rise of the kingdoms of Israel and Jerusalem, he wasn’t too picky about whose blood he drank. “Firstborn sons” and all. Kriminy, even today, Jews who celebrate passover are celebrating the slaughter of thousands of innocent Egyptians by your “god of love and goodness and knowledge.”

    Paul knew this, as did the followers of Jesus who had to come up with a reason for why their messiah died so horribly. God’s blood lust had to be satisfied, ultimately, by the death of his own son. Of course, that didn’t sate his anger entirely, for he still carries on with his eternal torture, but hey…it was worth a shot, eh?

    You are free to believe in a god or not, and I will never tell you otherwise. But you cannot rewrite ancient history to make ancient gods match your modern view, nor can anyone else.

    TheBlackCat, PBUH, said:

    According to the Bible, “heaven” is being piled under God’s throne singing praises to him constantly forever and nothing else.

    Not to mention gleefully peeking down into hell and watching all those “sinners” being tortured for all eternity by the “loving” god.

  164. TheBlackCat

    @ MTU: It has been 5 hours since you responded to everyone but me, including posts before and after mine. Is it safe to assume you have no intention of responding to my post 138?

  165. Darth Robo

    Gee, late to the party again only to have to order another batch of irony meters.

    Paul in Sweden says: “Personally, I have never met a creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old.”

    Then he quotes one (Phyllis Schaffly)

    And then says: “it is clear to me that the non-leftist radicals & tax payers in Texas are well on their way to restoring education to the school system in Texas on most matters.”

    Yup, that’s gonna cost me a couple o’ grand. Anyone got any spare change?

  166. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 166. TheBlackCat : Don’t worry, I hadn’t forgotten you – your reply is coming shortly.

    Please remember that we live in different timezones and I do also have stuff to do in Real Life. Give me time. ;-)

  167. Messier Tidy Upper

    @138. TheBlackCat Says:

    No, the question I and others have asked is why you take this bit to be true:

    “both these aspects of life have their separate purposes and validities and can co-exist in harmony.”

    I explain this clearly in the next two paragraphs, but you didn’t respond to any of the questions I posed in those.

    Well, the fact that many scientists have also been – and are today – religious people is evidence that the two can be harmonious and co-exist. Many scientists throughout the history of science have also been faithful to – or deeply interested in – their religion for examples :

    1. Galileo Galilei – who remained a Catholic,

    2. Sir Isaac Newton who spent much time studying the Bible and is considered a theologian as well as a scientists – albeit a rather heretical one who also spent considerable time trying to find coded messages in the Bible and dating the crucifiction.

    3. Gregor Mendel, the “father of genetics” who was also an Augustinian monk.

    4. Father Guy Tachard, the Jesuit astronomer who first observed the binary nature of Acrux (Alpha Crucis) in 1685 among other observations.

    5. Father Richaud who first split the two stars of Alpha Centauri in 1689.

    6. Albert Einstein the Jewish physicist whose famous sayings include : “God does not play dice with the universe.”

    7. Freeman Dyson, a non-denominational Christian who has also prominently written about sceiwnce and religion and noted :

    “Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.”

    Source : Freeman Dyson , Wikipedia page. (Link will be added separately.)

    8. Jennifer J. Wiseman, Christian astronomer who is currently chief of the ExoPlanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center & who discovered periodic comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff in 1987. She is also the new director for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion taking that position in June 2010.

    10. Sir John Theodore Houghton, Welsh professor of atmospheric science and Christian who is one of the lead IPCC Authors & co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scientific assessment working group and also the chairman of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation “connecting Environment, Science and Christianity”, as well as a founder member of the International Society for Science and Religion.

    The list could continue for many, many more pages withscientists who do NOt see their faith as incompatible with science. Who do see these two magisteria co-existing peacefully.

    Part II to follow.
    9.

  168. Messier Tidy Upper

    Links – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeman_Dyson#Science_and_religion

    For Freeman Dyson’s views on science & religion incl. the quote given above.

    Extra quote aslo from there & worth considering :

    Dyson disagrees with the famous remark by his fellow physicist Steven Weinberg that “Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things—that takes religion.”[37]

    Weinberg’s statement is true as far as it goes, but it is not the whole truth. To make it the whole truth, we must add an additional clause: “And for bad people to do good things—that [also] takes religion.” The main point of Christianity is that it is a religion for sinners. Jesus made that very clear. When the Pharisees asked his disciples, “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” he said, “I come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Only a small fraction of sinners repent and do good things but only a small fraction of good people are led by their religion to do bad things.”

    That is a good point I think – Religion and Science can both be misused and well used. There are examples of bad scientists doing unethical things -& bad religious folks doing the same. Neither science nor religion should be balemd for the actions of some of their followers.

    & see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Wiseman

    For Wiseman’s (Wise ladies? ;-) ) wiki-bio.

  169. Messier Tidy Upper

    See also :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_T._Houghton

    and a fuller (though still only partial listing -remeber many scientists come from Jewish and other religious backgrounds as well is here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

    &

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science#Living

  170. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! As you can probably tell, I meant to have ten examples there but stuffed up :

    9. Robert James Berry is a Christian geneticist & naturalist who was professor of Genetics at University College London between 1974-2000. He was president of the Linnean Society from 1983 to 1986, the British Ecological Society and the European Ecological Federation. Berry has spoken out in favour of evolutionary creationism, and served as a lay member of the Church of England’s General Synod and president of Christians in Science. He gave the 1997–98 Glasgow Gifford Lectures entitled ‘Gods, Genes, Greens and Everything.’

    Part I point 2

  171. Messier Tidy Upper

    Part II

    @138. TheBlackCat :

    You have provided no reason to think that religion has any purpose or validity.

    Well, ideas of purpose and validity are in the eye of the beholder to some extent aren’t they? ;-)

    For some individuals religion means nothing.

    For other individuals religion means everything

    While for most, I suspect there is a form of balance where religion is part of life and an aspect of their understanding of the cosmos and part of their way of seeing the world but not their personal be-all and end-all.

    Religion is, I think, a personal thing, something people decide for themselves based on a number of different factors incl. upbringing , reading, experience etc ..

    You assert it as if it were a self-evident fact, but that question is exactly what is being debated.

    Well, it *does* seem pretty self-evident & obvious to me.

    Religion means an awful lot to an awful lot of folks.

    Religion has shaped our society – and the world’s – and been a big part in determining our collective identity, our culture, our history and almost certainly will be for our future identity and society too.

    Like Art it tells us and asks us questions of who we are, what we believe in, how we respond to things.

    Religion provides a lot of people purpose and validity in their lives. Who am I – who are the New Atheists – to take that away & cause others emotional and pyschological harm?

    Atheists and agnostics are still a small minority of the population. We can ignore what the rest of our society thinks and believes in to some extent but we may well be better off listening and trying to understand them and why they think as they do. They aren’t necessarily stupid or deluded – even if Dawkin’s claims otherwise.

  172. Messier Tidy Upper

    The Third part of my response to # 138. TheBlackCat :

    Once again, you assert this, but refuse to actually tell us what this “worth” or “meaning” is, despite being asked repeatedly.

    Well the “worth” or “meaning” of religion here is intangible, it’s not something you can easily put a pirce on or quantify in the same way you can’t really decide the worth of a newborn baby or an emotion or a girl’s smile or the feel of sunlight on your skin and sand between your toes.

    Religion just is.

    Its worth and meaning is subjective, debateable and personal and Your Mileage May Vary.

    What is indisputable is that to a lot of people religion plays a massive role in their lives and is of deep emotional and pyschological value.

    Religion is an aspect, a part, of life and part of our culture and also of virtually all other cultures and societies.

    Societies that have tried to destroy it – such as the Communists in China and the Soviet Empire and North Korea – have failed to do so or ended up substititing a worship of the dictators (itself another form of religion) for it. It seems hard-wired into us, like a natural instinct. Religion, the need for a God or Gods seems to be part of our Human nature.

    Russia had Communist imposed nation-wide atheism for many decades – as soon as the Soviet dictatorship fell, the Russian people reverted very quickly to their traditional Orthodox Faith.

    You have have to ask yourself why that was. Why atheism failed to take hold and convince people. Why the vast majority of humans have always rejected atheism and seen “godlessness” as a very bad thing, an insult, something to be feared. Just propaganda from the religious maybe? If so, why then when the religious authority is removed & atheism powerfully propagandised in its place as it was by the Soviets – why do people under such circumstances still return to their religious roots so speedily and with such apparent yearning?

    Why is it that for so many centuries supposedly enlightened and intelligent athiest philosophers have predicted religion will fade away and vanish in the future – &yet in today’s world religion is more powerful and more widespread than ever?

    Religion, as noted earlier, is extremely important to many people. I’m not comfortable with calling all those people to whoem religion is deeply significant, who do feel they have a personal relationship with something supernatural, liars or deluded fools as the New Atheists do.

    Oh, don’t tell me they don’t either. I’ve read Dawkin’s book – and Hitchens one. Those books are well-written and make some good points and arguments. They are also incredibly one-sided and biased and do present alot of herry-picking and strawmen fallacies. Dawkin’s book (& Hitchen’s too) are also dripping in hatred and vitriol, saturated with contempt for those on the opposite side of the argument.

    Want examples? Dawkin’s very title is an insult – very likely a cynical one aimed at drawing attentionand boosting sales – accusing religious peopel of being deluded. he intorduces one chapter witha violent string of nasty and hateful adjectievs he claims describe the God of the Old Testament & Torah.
    Richarddawjkkin’s goe son to claim that parents raising their children intheir beliefs are as bad or worse than child molesters -and wishes the Amish & the way of life would vanish altogether from the world. What a charmer he is. :roll:

  173. Messier Tidy Upper

    CORRECTION :

    Want examples? Dawkin’s very title is an insult – very likely a cynical one aimed at drawing attention and boosting sales – accusing religious people of being deluded. He introduces one chapter with a violent string of nasty and hateful adjectives he claims describe the God of the Old Testament & Torah. Ignoring, of course, that a string of positive adjectives describing that same Diety are equally valid.

    Richard Dawkins goes on to claim that parents raising their children in their own religious beliefs are as bad or worse than child molesters – and wishes the Amish & the way of life would vanish altogether from the world. Gee, *what* a charmer he is! :roll:

    For clarity – oh & “herry-picking” = cherry-picking natch too. ;-)

  174. Messier Tidy Upper

    CONTINUATION still @ 138. TheBlackCat :

    Art and literature make aesthetic sense, but no sane person
    would argue that aesthetics can be used to decide who lives and who dies, while religion is. They can be used to convey messages arrived at by other means, such as bout morality. Religion is supposed to be the ultimate source of messages such as morality, yet no one can agree on what these messages actually are, and these messages, averaged across the population, always trail a little bit the prevailing moral climate (the exact opposite of what you would expect if religion was the actual source of morality).

    Please answer this question. I asked it in the post you responded to a small portion of, but you did not answer. You have been asked it repeatedly by several people before me as well. Your entire argument rests on this issue, yet you have, as of yet, provided no justification for it:

    But there’s no question from you there though – no question marks anyhow – just full stops! ;-)

    Are you asking there : Do I think religion is the source of morality & ethics?

    I guess so, it is at least one possible source, and the main one in practice for many people.

    Is your conscience part of God or part of you or part of both or a non-existent thing or what?

    There are many questions raised and, no, I’m not sure how to answer them.

    I would suggest that ethics and morality certainly come under the religion “magisteria” if that helps.

    So if religion does not help push morality forward, if there is no way to get any sort of consistent or agreed-upon conclusion even from members of the same religion, if there is no reason to think any ideas of religion are any more valid than random guesses, then what exactly is the “magisteria” that religions covers?

    Methinks the magisteria of religion covers the supernatural elements of our lives, the things science and logic can’t or don’t explain, this religion magisteria covers ethics and (some?) areas of philosophy, much of our motivation and sense of ourselves and our relation to the universe. The question of God or gods obviously sits in this magisteria as do questions of whether we have souls and spirits, what the meaning and purpose of our lives is and probably lots more I’m forgetting. ;-)

    Once again, the “New” Atheists are not trying to “impose and compel atheism upon others”. It is obvious you are only listening to the anti-new atheist rhetoric without bothering to actually looking at the arguments that “New” Atheists are actually making. You are simply spreading lies here.

    I’ve read their books – at least some of them. I don’t think I’ve lied. The attitude of Dawjkin’s towards religion comes across to me – and many others I think – as hateful and utterly contemptuous of the religious majority. I’ve already described dsome examples of why I think that’s the case in comments #174 – corrected for typos above in #175. Dawkins is a religion-basher & increasingly seems to be focusing more than that than his science which is, I think, a pity.

    Dawkins comes across to me as an incredibly arrogant man who says some pretty arrogant and offensive things. I admit he also make ssome very good arguments and points as well and writes in an entertaining if rather breath-takingly harsh style.

  175. Messier Tidy Upper

    Finally the last part of my reply to #138. TheBlackCat – was it worth the wait I hope? ;-)

    That is not what this passage is about, and was never how it was interpreted even at the time. The Roman Empire, Judea, and all of Christian Europe until fairly recently had “Theocratic State-Faith”, not to mention almost every, if not every, civilization prior. It is hardly a Muslim idea, it had been around for thousands of years, and had been common in the Christian-controlled Roman empire for centuries, by the time Islam was founded. The separation of church and state is a very new idea, and still uncommon even in Christian countries.

    I guess that depends how you look at it.

    When was the last time a priest or religious figure – rather than a King, Emperor, President, Governor or Parliament – was in control of the United States, Australia or for that matter, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada?

    Actually *none* of those nations I’ve mentioned have *ever* been directly or indirectly ruled by priests or religious figures – unless you count the British monarch’s as supposed “Defenders of the Faith” which would be drawing a very long bow indeed.

    Which is quite a contrast to Islam where until we removed them post-2001 the Taliban were running a brutal Jihadist theocracy, where Iran has been an Ayatollah ruled theocracy since the mid-to-late 1970’s, where Saudi Arabia is a theocratic kingdom, etc ..

    Here is the relevant part of the passage:

    … [SNIP]
    20 And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

    21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

    22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

    So the passage is specifically and exclusively about taxes.

    [Emphasis added.]

    Was it really?

    Why then the plural form – the *things* that are Caesar’s – *plural* not just taxes? Why not just have Jesus specifically say “render the taxes owed to Caesar to Caesar and pay your tithes to God” then?

    I would still argue that it is possible – quite reasonable in fact – to interpret that verse as meaning there are *more* than just taxes belonging to Caesar but there is also a whole lot of “things” and that Jesus is making a clear demarcation between the temporal Earthly political rulers and what we owe them and the Religious realm to which we owe different things.

    But YMMV sure. ;-)

  176. Nigel Depledge

    TBC (164) said:

    You are totally missing the point. You claimed that theocracy originated with Islam, yet Christian theocracy predates Islam by centuries, and other theocracies predate it by thousands of years. Blaming Islam for theocracy is patently absurd. In fact there are a great many people in the U.S. trying to set up a Christian theocracy right now. Theocracies are far from an originally Islamic idea.

    Nooooo!

    Don’t set MTU off about Islam, please!

  177. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (169) said:

    The list could continue for many, many more pages withscientists who do NOt see their faith as incompatible with science. Who do see these two magisteria co-existing peacefully.

    Although many of the more widely-known names on your list are of people who lived before atheism was widely “available” (for want of a better word), I do accept that many scientists are religious.

    However, this does not comment on the purpose of religion, which you claimed to be entirely different from that of science. NOMA, the idea of non-overlapping magisteria, is simply the god of the gaps argument. It only works if you assume that science will not – at some time in the future – learn a hell of a lot more about what makes people tick than is currently known.

    Most religious scientists living and working today (and, I suspect, many religious non-scientists who accept that science has told us something pretty darn close to truth about the world) can quite easily accommodate both modern knowledge and god by assigning god as the prime mover behind the processes that science has allowed us to discover. This is, IIUC, the position of the Church of England. However, this is a bit different from NOMA, because it doesn’t necessarily say that religion is the only source of moral or ethical guidance, whereas NOMA excludes science from achieving an understanding of certain aspects of the human condition.

  178. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (171) said:

    Well, ideas of purpose and validity are in the eye of the beholder to some extent aren’t they?

    For some individuals religion means nothing.

    For other individuals religion means everything

    I agree with this, but earlier on you were saying that religon has a purpose that is completely separate from science, which I disagree with. To some people, religion trumps science in explaining the world, including the bible authors (who, obviously, knew nothing of science). Thus, to some people, NOMA does not apply because science must be subservient to religious doctrine.

    So, I think the conflict here is that your NOMA-related claim was only true for a portion of modern religious people. It was not true of Christians through most of European history; and it is not true of a fair-sized chunk of religious “westerners” today.

    Yes, religion and science can coexist harmoniously, but only where the religious ideas make no pretension to either supercede or limit science.

  179. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (171) said:

    Religion means an awful lot to an awful lot of folks.

    Religion has shaped our society – and the world’s – and been a big part in determining our collective identity, our culture, our history and almost certainly will be for our future identity and society too.

    Agreed, to some extent.

    Like Art it tells us and asks us questions of who we are, what we believe in, how we respond to things.

    And you seem to be assuming that science will never be able to answer these questions. Is it, or not really?

  180. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (172) said:

    If so, why then when the religious authority is removed & atheism powerfully propagandised in its place as it was by the Soviets – why do people under such circumstances still return to their religious roots so speedily and with such apparent yearning?

    While I mainly agree with the point you make here, I feel it is worth pointing out that this particular instance could be due to the people collectively rejecting everything associated with the communist regime, and embracing that which was previously considered – officially, at least – subversive.

  181. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (172) said:

    I’m not comfortable with calling all those people to whoem religion is deeply significant [snip] liars or deluded fools as the New Atheists do.

    Your use of the label “New Atheists” implies that you have – at least to some extent – swallowed the propaganda of some of the religious fundies.

    Perhaps it is worth a few electrons to clarify exactly what you think the “New Atheists” do and provide some examples to help the rest of us understand why you think so?

    Oh, don’t tell me they don’t either. I’ve read Dawkin’s book – and Hitchens one. Those books are well-written and make some good points and arguments. They are also incredibly one-sided and biased and do present alot of herry-picking and strawmen fallacies. Dawkin’s book (& Hitchen’s too) are also dripping in hatred and vitriol, saturated with contempt for those on the opposite side of the argument.

    I have not read The God Delusion. Please can you cite an example of this vitriol of which you speak?

    Want examples? Dawkin’s very title is an insult – very likely a cynical one aimed at drawing attentionand boosting sales – accusing religious peopel of being deluded.

    It’s not an insult, unless you consider religion to be a rational worldview. Religions – all of them, actually – have the classic hallmarks of clinical delusion. It’s not intended as any kind of insult, merely to point out that our societies widely accept (and even demand that we respect) people believing – deeply and sincerely – some really extraordinary things for which there is no apparent reason. It certainly isn’t an example of “hatred” or “vitriol”.

    The way Dawkins comes across – on TV at least – is certainly not hateful or vitriolic. He seems to me to be genuinely baffled by the fact that our societies make so many allowances and special cases for the sake of religion, which we would not make for any other reason.

  182. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (174) said:

    Methinks the magisteria of religion covers the supernatural elements of our lives . . .

    Wait, what?

    I don’t know about you (maybe you have superpowers of which I am unaware) but there’s nothing supernatural in my life, nor in the life of anyone I’ve ever met (unless they were doing a damn good job of hiding something!).

  183. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (175) said:

    When was the last time a priest or religious figure – rather than a King, Emperor, President, Governor or Parliament – was in control of the United States, Australia or for that matter, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada?

    Actually *none* of those nations I’ve mentioned have *ever* been directly or indirectly ruled by priests or religious figures – unless you count the British monarch’s as supposed “Defenders of the Faith” which would be drawing a very long bow indeed.

    Not so. The British monarchs – since Henry VIII – are the official heads of the Church of England. QEII and some of her more recent forebears may indeed regard that role as purely ceremonial, but some were definitely actively deciding church policy.

    One of the causes of the English Civil War was that Charles I was seen as being too Catholic (although, of course, we subsequently learned that Cromwell was too puritanical, because it was at his orders that most of England’s beautiful Gothic churches and cathedrals were defaced).

  184. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (175) said:

    I would still argue that it is possible – quite reasonable in fact – to interpret that verse as meaning there are *more* than just taxes belonging to Caesar but there is also a whole lot of “things” and that Jesus is making a clear demarcation between the temporal Earthly political rulers and what we owe them and the Religious realm to which we owe different things.

    Precisely. It is possible to interpret it in one of several ways. It does not explicitly state what you claimed, and neither does it explicitly rule it out. But what it definitely does refer to – and this is the only thing that is explicitly referred to – is taxation.

  185. MTU said:


    You have have to ask yourself why that was. Why atheism failed to take hold and convince people. Why the vast majority of humans have always rejected atheism and seen “godlessness” as a very bad thing, an insult, something to be feared. Just propaganda from the religious maybe? If so, why then when the religious authority is removed & atheism powerfully propagandised in its place as it was by the Soviets – why do people under such circumstances still return to their religious roots so speedily and with such apparent yearning?

    As you implied yourself, those “godless” commies replaced one religion with another: the faceless workers, praise be upon them, are the martyrs of the communist “religion,” the faithful Party leaders the saints.

    The question of why religious ideas keep cropping up probably tells us more about human nature rather than anything about the existence of super beings. The naked little ape likes to be watched over, and the promise of a banana in the afterlife makes starvation and oppression in life slightly easier to tolerate.


    When was the last time a priest or religious figure – rather than a King, Emperor, President, Governor or Parliament – was in control of the United States, Australia or for that matter, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada?

    You must have been missing the past 20+ years of U.S. politics. While it’s true, no one specific bible thumper has been in control, the religious right holds enormous sway over U.S. politics. Like it or not, the U.S. is an incredibly religious country. And if the “taliban” among us were not restrained by the rule of our secular laws, they wouldn’t think twice about engaging in a little societal purging, the sort that would make Afghanistan look like a home for pikers.


    Methinks the magisteria of religion covers the supernatural elements of our lives . . .

    Ditto what Nigel said, and refer back to my comments regarding ancient people and their world views, which made no distinction between “super” natural and “natural.” The writers of these religious mythologies were using the “science” (in big ol’ quotes) of their day. Explaining lightning by invoking an angry god wasn’t a metaphor, at least not when these ideas were first set down. Obviously, they evolved over the centuries as other ways of viewing the world developed, but originally they were meant as genuine descriptions of the way things are.

    And now, I’d be interested in hearing what, exactly, MTU views as a “supernatural element” of his life.

  186. TheBlackCat

    Well, the fact that many scientists have also been – and are today – religious people is evidence that the two can be harmonious and co-exist.

    No, all it means is that people can hold two mutually-exclusive views at the same time. It is called cognitive dissidence, and it is well-established. The fact that people are able to hold two views at the same time does not come even remotely close to establishing that the view are at all “harmonious”.

    Many scientists throughout the history of science have also been faithful to – or deeply interested in – their religion for examples :

    I specifically said that scientists did not start rejecting religion wholesale until after recent advances in biology and cosmology rendered God unnecessary, and this happened much less than 200 years ago. So why are you bringing up people from hundreds of years before that? It was much more reasonable for people to accept God back before we had science in its modern form, and before we had adequate explanations for formation of the Earth, the diversity of life, and formation of the universe.

    6. Albert Einstein the Jewish physicist whose famous sayings include : “God does not play dice with the universe.”

    Einstein was not religious in any sense of the word that religious people would understand. I’m sick of religious people quoting Einstein as though he was one of them, and apparently so was we he:

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.’
    -Einstein

    Well, ideas of purpose and validity are in the eye of the beholder to some extent aren’t they? ;-)

    First, you say that religion has a specific role to play, but don’t tell us what this role is. How can we possibly discuss religion’s validity or role if you flat-out refuse to tell us what it is? You have been asked repeatedly to answer this question, but you continue to dodge, weave, and evade. Being purposefully evasive is not a good way to convince anyone here to your side.

    Second, no, they aren’t “in the eye of the beholder”. Either religion has proven itself a valid approach to do something, or it hasn’t.

    Well, it *does* seem pretty self-evident & obvious to me.

    Obviously, but you have indicated you have no understanding of the history, current issues, or even the claims of the other side, so what seems “pretty self-evident & obvious” to you does not help us.

    Religion means an awful lot to an awful lot of folks.

    Lots of things mean an awful lot to a lot of people. That does make it true. Astrology means a lot to a lot of people. Anti-vaxx means a lot to a lot of people. Creationism means a lot to a lot of people (no matter how much you deny this against all evidence).

    And which religion? Each religion provides mutually exclusive answers to many fundamental questions. They cannot all be right. No matter what we say, a large fraction of the world’s population (if not all of it) has to be spectacularly wrong.

    Like Art it tells us and asks us questions of who we are, what we believe in, how we respond to things.

    No, as I said, but you once again ignored, art can only convey messages from other people. Religion is taken to be the ultimate source of messages. This is totally different.

    And there is no reason to think any of the answers religion provides are actually true. It has a horrible track-record of things we have been able to verify, and provides countless mutually-exclusive answers to others, so I see no reason to trust any of its answers.

    Religion provides a lot of people purpose and validity in their lives. Who am I – who are the New Atheists – to take that away & cause others emotional and pyschological harm?

    Please, please, please actually read the New Atheist arguments before spreading lies against them. I have asked you repeatedly to stop, and I have been systematically ignored.

    Atheists and agnostics are still a small minority of the population. We can ignore what the rest of our society thinks and believes in to some extent but we may well be better off listening and trying to understand them and why they think as they do. They aren’t necessarily stupid or deluded – even if Dawkin’s claims otherwise.

    Utter and total hypocrisy. You insist we do this, but have not bothered to extend the same courtesy to your opponents despite being asked repeatedly to do so and having the errors in your statements pointed out to you. You also have not bothered to actually learn what religious people believe, either, pulling beliefs and statistics out of thin air.

    Unlike you, I actually have made a major effort to understand religion, I did so before deciding to give up religion. I looked in detail at what both sides were saying. I even talked to ministers about the issues (including one with a PhD in theology).

    Well the “worth” or “meaning” of religion here is intangible, it’s not something you can easily put a pirce on or quantify in the same way you can’t really decide the worth of a newborn baby or an emotion or a girl’s smile or the feel of sunlight on your skin and sand between your toes.

    That is an utter cop-out, and renders your entire argument meaningless. The whole point of “non-overlapping magisteria” is that religion has particular subjects that it works for, while science has particular subjects it works for, and science shouldn’t intrude into religion’s domains and vice versus.

    But now you are claiming that religion has no domains, that each person sets its own domains. But that means that the creationists, moderate Christians, and atheists are all right. Each sets a different range for which science has dominion (ranging from “nothing” to “everything”, and every possible grade in-between). But this makes the entire concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” completely and totally meaningless.

    You have talked over and over about specific areas of validity, specific subjects that religion is appropriate for, but if people can’t even agree on what those areas and subjects are then how can you possibly say they are valid? By your argument creationism and atheism are both true.

    Religion, the need for a God or Gods seems to be part of our Human nature.

    Except for the obvious fact that a large portion of Europe is non-religious. You do realize that in the U.S, the most religious 1st world country, non-religious people make up about 1/6th of the population, and there are more declared non-believers than there are members of every non-Christian religion combined, more even than almost every Christian denomonination? It is the fastest-growing “religious denomination”. In the world, non-religious is the third most common “religion”, after Christianity and Islam. Are you saying those people aren’t humans?

    Why is it that for so many centuries supposedly enlightened and intelligent athiest philosophers have predicted religion will fade away and vanish in the future – &yet in today’s world religion is more powerful and more widespread than ever?

    Because it’s not. The only place it is stronger is in Islamic theocracies, everywhere else it is rapidly weakening. Even in staunchly-catholic South America the power based of religion is weakening (which is why the Catholic Church is making such a big push there).

    Want examples? Dawkin’s very title is an insult – very likely a cynical one aimed at drawing attentionand boosting sales – accusing religious peopel of being deluded.

    It is hard to imagine a definition of “delusion” which religion does not apply to. Would you argue blood-letting was a valid approach to medicine?

    he intorduces one chapter witha violent string of nasty and hateful adjectievs he claims describe the God of the Old Testament & Torah.

    Except that those adjectives actually do describe the God of the Old Testament, a fact we have pointed out. You readily admitted you didn’t know the Bible well enough to realize that these were true.

    Richarddawjkkin’s goe son to claim that parents raising their children intheir beliefs are as bad or worse than child molesters -and wishes the Amish & the way of life would vanish altogether from the world. What a charmer he is. :roll:

    Utter baloney. Now I know you don’t know what Dawkins actually said. What he actually said was that filling their heads with images of hell-fire and eternal torment, not religion in general, was equivalent to child abuse, not child molestation.

    there’s no question from you there though – no question marks anyhow – just full stops! ;-)

    I guess you are not familiar with a colon, are you? It is a convention in written English, where the important part comes after the colon. You, and everyone else, can see the colon at the end of my quote.

    Methinks the magisteria of religion covers the supernatural elements of our lives,

    What supernatural elements? You first need to establish there even are supernatural elements before you can try to “cover”them.

    And what of religion and the supernatural. Different religions say totally inconsistent and mutually-exclusive things about the supernatural. So I ask again, if religion can’t agree on what the answer is, can’t even agree on whether the subject is even real, then what good are its answers?

    the things science and logic can’t or don’t explain,

    So in other words, “God of the gaps”. 200 years ago, religion would have explained the formation of the continents. 150, the diversity of species. 100, the formation of the cosmos. 400 years ago, lightning. Now it has nothing to say about any of those things. In other words, religions answers to what “science and logic can’t or don’t explain” are very often wrong, not to mention mutually exclusive. So what good are the answers for things we don’t know now if the answers to things we have been able to check have been almost uniformly not only wrong, but spectacularly wrong?

    this religion magisteria covers ethics

    I already pointed out, but you once again ignored (I’m seeing a pattern here), that religion: 1) doesn’t agree about morality, 2) has a horrible track record with morality, 3) is always on the trailing edge of moral progress, 4) has given no indication it has any special source for moral rules. Most people today do not follow the clearly-stated moral rules of their religion, they toss out the vast majority and cherry-pick the bits that fit with the secular moral rules they follow. So then what does religion have to contribute to morality or ethics?

    (some?) areas of philosophy,

    Religion’s track record with philosophy is no better than with anything else. What were its great contributions to philosophy? The Bible certainly had nothing new in it.

    much of our motivation and sense of ourselves and our relation to the universe.

    I don’t think “do this or burn in hell forever” is a good motiviation. And as for our relation to the universe, what religion said about this has been uniformly wrong.

    I’ve read their books – at least some of them. I don’t think I’ve lied. The attitude of Dawjkin’s towards religion comes across to me – and many others I think – as hateful and utterly contemptuous of the religious majority. I’ve already described dsome examples of why I think that’s the case in comments #174 – corrected for typos above in #175. Dawkins is a religion-basher & increasingly seems to be focusing more than that than his science which is, I think, a pity.

    Wow, first you accuse of Dawkins of trying “and impose and compel atheism upon others”, of “strawmen created and attacked by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens”. I call you out on this, and you can provide no support for your statements. So instead of admitting your mistake, you just change your story. Now it just “as hateful and utterly contemptuous”. Sorry, I am not going to let that slide. You made very specific accusations, and I expect you to either back them up or withdraw them.

    When was the last time a priest or religious figure – rather than a King, Emperor, President, Governor or Parliament – was in control of the United States, Australia or for that matter, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada?

    I specifically said that it was this way until several hundred years ago. Besides Britain, none of those countries existed until little over than 200 years ago.

    I have been very clear about the time-frames I am talking about regarding certain issues, yet you insist on citing examples from hundreds of years before or after the time-frames I clearly laid out. You did the same thing with scientists earlier.

    unless you count the British monarch’s as supposed “Defenders of the Faith” which would be drawing a very long bow indeed.

    This is a gross mischaracterization of how the British system actually works. The British Monarch is the head of the Church. This isn’t a big deal now, but it was the source of wars and massacres in the past (and very recently in Ireleand). Britain certainly was a very clear theocracy earlier, but less so now.

    Which is quite a contrast to Islam where until we removed them post-2001 the Taliban were running a brutal Jihadist theocracy, where Iran has been an Ayatollah ruled theocracy since the mid-to-late 1970′s, where Saudi Arabia is a theocratic kingdom, etc ..

    What the heck!? You specifically said that the idea of the theocracy came from Islam! Why are you now quoting events that happened 40 years ago? You were talking about the origin of theocracy, not modern theocracy. Once again, please stick the time-frames we are actually discussing here, not random stuff from thousands of years after.

    Why then the plural form – the *things* that are Caesar’s – *plural* not just taxes? Why not just have Jesus specifically say “render the taxes owed to Caesar to Caesar and pay your tithes to God” then?

    It was Caesar’s because it has his face and name on it! That was the whole argument. It says right at the beginning:

    20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

    21 They say unto him, Caesar’s.

    It is plural because there is more than one coin with Caesar’s face on it. There is no interpretation, it is quite clear that the coins belong to Caesar because his face and name are on them.

  187. Nigel Depledge

    @ TBC (188) –

    Ouch! That’s a smackdown and a half!

  188. Messier Tidy Upper

    @188. TheBlackCat Says:

    “Well, the fact that many scientists have also been – and are today – religious people is evidence that the two can be harmonious and co-exist.” [me]
    No, all it means is that people can hold two mutually-exclusive views at the same time. It is called cognitive dissidence, and it is well-established. The fact that people are able to hold two views at the same time does not come even remotely close to establishing that the view are at all “harmonious”.

    You, rather insultingly, call it ‘cognitive dissidence’, I & many others see it people accepting these differing aspects of life in harmony and working and thinking on both.

    I guess it depends on your point of view. Perhaps though you check out what these individuals are saying for themselves before effectively dismissing them as mentally impaired or deluded – bearing in mind that these are some of the most intelligent minds around. Smarter than me, perhaps smarter than you also.

    I specifically said that scientists did not start rejecting religion wholesale until after recent advances in biology and cosmology rendered God unnecessary, and this happened much less than 200 years ago.

    *Has* God been rendered unnecessary? Unnecessary for who & what?

    It is NOT at all clear that God has been rendered unnecessary especially given the continuing importance of religion to most of the worlds population.

    Your assertion raises many questions.

    So why are you bringing up people from hundreds of years before that? It was much more reasonable for people to accept God back before we had science in its modern form, and before we had adequate explanations for formation of the Earth, the diversity of life, and formation of the universe.

    Well, gee, could it be because some of those scientists I’ve named were, in part, responsible for us getting science in the form we know it today?

    Einstein was not religious in any sense of the word that religious people would understand. I’m sick of religious people quoting Einstein as though he was one of them, and apparently so was we he:

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.’ -Einstein

    Heh, you offer one Einstein quote – I give you three of them :

    “Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism since he was offended by their lack of humility.”
    “Einstein Versus God Round II” in ‘The Guardian Weekly’, Page 42, 2008 May 23rd.

    “Einstein referred to a “cosmic religious feeling” that permeated and sustained his scientific work.”
    “Einstein Versus God Round II” in The Guardian Weekly, P. 42, 2008 May 23rd.

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
    – Albert Einstein. (Quoted in The Guardian Weekly, P. 42 “Einstein Versus God Round II” 2008 May 23rd.

    Hmm .. hardly the words of a militant dawkins style New Atheist are they?

    Yes, Einstein’s view on religion was mixed and complicated and much debated. No, he wasn’t a believer in a particular fundamentalist style of religion – But saying he wasn’t religious in *some sense* of the word is plain wrong.

    End Part I

  189. Messier Tidy Upper

    Part II :

    NB. I’m sick of religious people quoting Einstein ..

    BTW. Did you forget the part where I noted I’m agnostic? :roll:

    I don’t believe in God, I don’t disbelieve in God, I think the question is open and as yet neither side has fully convinced me. I don’t think you can rule some form of God out as at least a *possibility.*

    First, you say that religion has a specific role to play, but don’t tell us what this role is. How can we possibly discuss religion’s validity or role if you flat-out refuse to tell us what it is? You have been asked repeatedly to answer this question, but you continue to dodge, weave, and evade. Being purposefully evasive is not a good way to convince anyone here to your side.

    Firstly, I’m not being purposely evasive thankyou – and attributing malice to your opponent is a logical fallacy. I have tried to answer your question as best I can & that after finally working out what you were actually asking as that wasn’t clear to me before. :-(

    I’m not entirely sure myself and I tried to explain some of my thinking on this to you in comments #162, 173, 174 & 176.

    What is religions role?

    It has many roles to different people – for you it seems to make a good debating topic and tribal identifier! ;-)

    For many people it has a meaningful role in helping them personally in life, giving them insight, inspiration and a form of knowledge of ethics and personal character and purpose beyond the everyday.

    For some it is useful socio-cultural glue and community bond, a way of establishing a sort of positive community of like-minded peopel who help others and seek knowledge ina particular way, for others a way of shaping and identifying and establishing one national & cultural nature.

    It is an aspect of life that is like sport, like art, another prism through which people percieve the world and are perceived by others and gain an extra intangible something in life.

    Second, no, they aren’t “in the eye of the beholder”. Either religion has proven itself a valid approach to do something, or it hasn’t.

    Valid in what respect and to who?

    Religion isn’t science, it isn’t as clear-cut and tangible and experimentally testable. It affects people in different ways much as, again, art and sport do. ;-)

    Not everyone enjoys the same sports or is affected by and even sees in the same way a particular painting or sculpture or piece of music.

    To a great many people religion is valid and meaningful and useful.

    To *you* it may not be but to *them* it is.

    Its like someone who is colour blind. Imagine you can’t see green or red.
    Most folks see green and red and recognise and appreciate them for what they are. A colour-blind person who can’t see red or green will not and will be left baffled and miss out on soem important things because of that.

    A scientist can tell you what the wavelength of green is, what chemicals emit it when burnt and so on – but that’s NOT the same thing as actually seeing *green* as non-colour blind folks see it.

    Is the correct response of someone who doesn’t sense green to deny that anyone else can see it? That the colour is illogical? To write a book denouncing those that can see green called, say, The Green delusion or Green is Not Great? Do you see what I’m getting at here? ;-)

    Or another analogy if I may just as you can understand the solar spectrum and have a detailed theoretical understanding of the chemical composition of sand grains at a certain beach are but yet that’s not the same physical, sensual, emotional experience, not the same essential *thing*, as feeling that sunlight warm upon your skin or the grains of sand beneath your toes. :-)

    Is the sunshine “valid?” Is that particular tactile sensation valid?

    What if you’ve never felt sunshine, what if you live in an area where there are no beaches and you have never experienced the feel of sand between your toes. Does that stop those feelings, those things from existing from being real or valid? How can you judge and valid in what sense?

    I’m not sure if God exists. I haven’t myself experienced God as some of my friends claim to have personally done.

    Does that make me blind and insensible to a whole dimension?

    Does that make them deluded and liars or at best mistaken self-deceivers?

    Or could it be we’re just different & perceive things slightly differently?

    Just as abee perceieves ultraviolet as acolour and my dog smells things i cannot, maybe some folks for whatever reason are lacking in “godsense?” If so, thenm would thatmean “god wasn’t real -or just that some peopel for whatever reason couldn’t sense God?

    One day maybe I’ll find the metaphorical beach here – or maybe its just a figment of the imagination. An intellectual abstraction. Right now, I can’t tell but it seems wrong to rule out the mere possibility based on my limited experiences – just as it seems (IMHON) wrong for the “New Atheists” to assert their arguments, their experiences, their way of thinking is the one and only way.

  190. Messier Tidy Upper

    @188. TheBlackCat : Part III

    you have indicated you have no understanding of the history, current issues, or even the claims of the other side, so what seems “pretty self-evident & obvious” to you does not help us.

    That’s your personal opinion there which as you’d expect I disagree with.

    What in particular do you think I’m NOT understanding about atheist history, current issues and claims?

    which religion? Each religion provides mutually exclusive answers to many fundamental questions. They cannot all be right. No matter what we say, a large fraction of the world’s population (if not all of it) has to be spectacularly wrong.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, each – or at least many of the religions – has its own kernal of truth or is one of many possible ways of perceiving a certain universal thing that is glimpsed (percived?) differently in what we call religion. Its an idea anyhow.

    Perhaps God is like the Doctor in having many different faces, personalities and incarnations that are all still him / her / it – is Tom Baker less the Doctor than David Tennant?

    Is Tom Cruise – or rather the character he plays – less the hero of War of the Worlds than the character in H.G. Well’s novel who is quite different – & indeed is set inadifefrentage and continet altogether?

    I don’t believe any one religious faith is right, I certainly think thereare many things that some religions have got badly wrong – I also, however, concede the *possibility* that there just mightbe something that one or even all of them have got right.

    Yes, I might be wrong about this – I conceed that possibility too. But then again, I might not be. ;-)

  191. Messier Tidy Upper

    Continuing .. @188. TheBlackCat :

    No, as I said, but you once again ignored, art can only convey messages from other people. Religion is taken to be the ultimate source of messages. This is totally different.

    Yes & I never said otherwise. Art and religion are different things and different magisteria just as science and religion or science and art are difefrent magisteria. These areas or aspects or ways of seeing things work in different ways and come from different perspectives. Science isn’t art or religion, religion isn’t science or art.

    Its fair to judge science from a scientific perspective – it makes little sense to do so from an artistic or religious perspective using the techniques of those magisteria. It is equally nonsensical to try to use science to judge art or religion. Ever see the scene in Dead Poets Society where the dry text on what makes a poem is ripped from the textbook and replaced with an appropriate non-technical, more artistically *right* approach?

    You don’t judge religion by scientific criteria, you don’t judge art by scientific criteria – you judge them on their religious and artistic merits instead.

    If you can’t or choose not to see the merit in art or religion, well, that’s up to you but it doesn’t mean that merit isn’t there for others.

    Would you insult an artist as “deluded” and say that, say, Heironymous Bosche’s triptych paintings are scientifically impossible and absurd? No?

    Would someone doing so be missing the point and being a utter philistine? Yes? Do you see the comparison? Sort of?

    And there is no reason to think any of the answers religion provides are actually true. It has a horrible track-record of things we have been able to verify, and provides countless mutually-exclusive answers to others, so I see no reason to trust any of its answers.

    You (& I) are, as you are well aware, in the minority on that last count.

    We have in fact verified some Biblical historical events – such as a particular pool that was discovered by arcaheologists matching one scene from the New Testament which was seen on the news ages ago or the existence of the Assyrians before the archaologists found the sites. Plus an amusing case of a tablet recording the Babylonian (IIRC?) seige of the Israelites where the Babylonians and Jewish people alike claim victory for their side.

    Mutually exclusive? Not necessarily so. Much of what religions say boils down to the golden rule (“do unto others”) for example.

    Please, please, please actually read the New Atheist arguments before spreading lies against them. I have asked you repeatedly to stop, and I have been systematically ignored.

    I *have* read some of their books – all of The God Delusion and God is Not Great for example. I borrowed these books – the former from a library and the latter from my brother – so I don’t have copies handy to pull exact quotes from, but I assure you I have indeed read them.How many times do I have to note this before it registers for you?

    Just because I disagree with them and view them as going a bit too far and making some strawmen & cherry-picking arguments doesn’t mean I’m lying – I’m just expressing my opinion as I have every right to do.

    “Atheists and agnostics are still a small minority of the population. We can ignore what the rest of our society thinks and believes in to some extent but we may well be better off listening and trying to understand them and why they think as they do. They aren’t necessarily stupid or deluded – even if Dawkin’s claims otherwise.” [Me.]

    Utter and total hypocrisy. You insist we do this, but have not bothered to extend the same courtesy to your opponents despite being asked repeatedly to do so and having the errors in your statements pointed out to you. You also have not bothered to actually learn what religious people believe, either, pulling beliefs and statistics out of thin air.

    Sigh. We totally disagree here.

    You really don’t get how rude and offensive some of the things Dawkins said are?

    Dawkin’s distinctly referred to “blind faith” overlooking the reality that for many religious peopel faith is NOT just blind but is informed by reason and personal experience also. Dawkins consistently cherry-picked examples and verses to suit his purposes ignoring those that didn’t. His approach was totally one-sided and full of derison and lack of nuance or respect for thsoe who disagreed with him.

    In short, Dawkins was a dick & came across to me as extremely arrogant and deliberately hurtful and up himself.

    Unlike you, I actually have made a major effort to understand religion, I did so before deciding to give up religion. I looked in detail at what both sides were saying. I even talked to ministers about the issues (including one with a PhD in theology).

    Well good for you. Except for the whole assuming I haven’t done likewise and just reached a different conclusion to yours part. :roll:

    You know what your life experiences have been but you don’t know mine.
    I’ll thank you not to tell me what I have and haven’t done in *my* life.

    But now you are claiming that religion has no domains, that each person sets its own domains. But that means that the creationists, moderate Christians, and atheists are all right. Each sets a different range for which science has dominion (ranging from “nothing” to “everything”, and every possible grade in-between). But this makes the entire concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” completely and totally meaningless.

    You have missed my point and misunderstood what I’m saying there completely. :roll:

    No, I wasn’t saying religion has no domain or that each person sets religions own domains.

    I was saying religion is hard to define – as for example art is – & that religion is a personal thing that people experience for themselves as individuals.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear or perhaps you were reading what you wanted to read into my words rather than what was *actually there* but you are way off the mark there. :-(

    Religion isn’t simple. Its not something that can be summed up in a formula or methodological checklist. I think a lot of problems come when people take too simplistic, too surface values an approach whether that’s done by creationists or atheists. Its far more complicated & less clear-cut, in my view, than those two warring groups make it out to be!

    [Yikes, still so much to cover .. ]

  192. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (190) said:

    *Has* God been rendered unnecessary? Unnecessary for who & what?

    Unnecessary in explaining how and why the universe is the way it is.

    It is NOT at all clear that God has been rendered unnecessary especially given the continuing importance of religion to most of the worlds population.

    It doesn’t matter how many people believe in it, it can still be unnecessary.

    Your assertion raises many questions.

    Only one, I think: why do so many people feel a need that is fulfilled by believing in a god?

  193. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (190) said:

    Well, gee, could it be because some of those scientists I’ve named were, in part, responsible for us getting science in the form we know it today?

    This is not relevant.

    Galileo, for instance, had no idea how old the Earth is, he had no concept of biological evolution, he was – AFAICT – unaware what fossils are and mean. So, he had no reason to question any of the church’s assertions about such topics. And even if he had questioned them, with what could he challenge those assertions?

    Galileo’s greatest contribution was – arguably – the demonstration that only through empirical testing (observation and experiment) can we truly learn about the world.

    As far as he was aware, god was indeed necessary to explain the diversity of the biological world. This changes neither the value of Galileo’s contributions, nor the significance of the superfluity of god (in explaining the universe) today.

  194. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (190) said:

    Hmm .. hardly the words of a militant dawkins style New Atheist are they?

    Well, they certainly don’t represent your strawman idea of an outspoken modern atheist. They are also sufficiently vague that they really could mean anything.

    At the end of the day, though, using the existence of religious scientists as an argument for the existence of god, or for the necessity and relevance of religion today, is flawed. After all, if – say, 250 years from now – all scientists were eventually to become atheists, would that disprove the existence of god? No, of course not. Would it prove that religion is unnecessary or irrelevant? No, of course not. It is not germane to the point.

    Additionally, if you have answered my earlier questions about what the term “New Atheist” means when you use it, I have not seen it.

  195. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (191) said:

    I don’t believe in God, I don’t disbelieve in God, I think the question is open and as yet neither side has fully convinced me. I don’t think you can rule some form of God out as at least a *possibility.*

    This indicates that you do not really understand atheism.

    I am aware of no atheists who claim that god does not exist. A year or two ago, Dawkins himself supported a campaign with a slogan along the lines of “there’s probably no god, now just get on with your life,”. Dawkins is a smart guy; I’m sure he is aware of the futility of any attempt to disprove the existence of an intangible being.

    Atheism is not itself a belief that there is no god, although I’m sure some atheists are convinced that there is no god. Atheism is living life without any religious component. To take the UK as an example, most people are probably atheists without even knowing it, because – whether they believe in some vague idea of god or that there is no god – they do not participate in any religious activities.

    On this view, agnosticism is a specific subset of atheism, or at least a set that intersects with atheism (because I daresay that there may be some agnostics who do attend religious activities as a form of hedging their bets).

  196. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (191) said:

    What is religions role?

    It has many roles to different people – for you it seems to make a good debating topic and tribal identifier!

    For many people it has a meaningful role in helping them personally in life, giving them insight, inspiration and a form of knowledge of ethics and personal character and purpose beyond the everyday.

    For some it is useful socio-cultural glue and community bond, a way of establishing a sort of positive community of like-minded peopel who help others and seek knowledge ina particular way, for others a way of shaping and identifying and establishing one national & cultural nature.

    It is an aspect of life that is like sport, like art, another prism through which people percieve the world and are perceived by others and gain an extra intangible something in life.

    Well, OK, but earlier on you played the NOMA card. And subsequently claimed that the purview of religion depnds on a person’s point of view.

    So, what is the role of religion in relation to NOMA? From what aspects of life or the world do you specifically exclude science?

    IOW, what is religion’s magesterium, into which science is not permitted?

  197. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (191) said:

    Not everyone enjoys the same sports or is affected by and even sees in the same way a particular painting or sculpture or piece of music.

    True, but not a valid analogy, because people who dislike a particular sport, or work of art, or piece of music, are at least able to experience it. I dislike football (soccer to USAians), but I can see that it exists.

    To a great many people religion is valid and meaningful and useful.

    To *you* it may not be but to *them* it is.

    Its like someone who is colour blind. Imagine you can’t see green or red.
    Most folks see green and red and recognise and appreciate them for what they are. A colour-blind person who can’t see red or green will not and will be left baffled and miss out on soem important things because of that.

    A scientist can tell you what the wavelength of green is, what chemicals emit it when burnt and so on – but that’s NOT the same thing as actually seeing *green* as non-colour blind folks see it.

    I can see the analogy you are trying to draw here, but I disagree with it. A colourblind person can at least understand that different wavelengths of light interact with different cone receptors in the eye (of a non-colourblind person) and hence generate nerve signals that are distinguishable from one another. Even though that person may not experience red and green as different sensations, he or she can at least understand that they exist.

    And, although I can see that religion exists, it appears to me to be an irrational pursuit because the keystone of every religion is to assume the existence of something for which there is no evidence. IOW, I do not accept that there is an analogy between atheism and colourblindness.

  198. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (191) said:

    I’m not sure if God exists. I haven’t myself experienced God as some of my friends claim to have personally done.

    Does that make me blind and insensible to a whole dimension?

    Does that make them deluded and liars or at best mistaken self-deceivers?

    Or could it be we’re just different & perceive things slightly differently?

    There are many people who claim to have experienced some kind of religious or divine sensation. But how can any of them distinguish this sensation from an hallucination?

    They can never know for sure if their experience really was divinely-inspired, or if that is wishful thinking coupled with a certain dogged self-delusion. And – due to the rather conveniently intangible nature of god – neither can anyone else.

  199. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (191) said:

    just as it seems (IMHON) wrong for the “New Atheists” to assert their arguments, their experiences, their way of thinking is the one and only way.

    It may not be the only way, but it is the only rational way.

    Religion violates the principle of parsimony and is therefore irrational. I suspect that most atheists would leave religion be, if only the religious fundies would leave off trying to either dictate what reality is, or claiming that their views have a rational basis.

  200. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (192) said:

    What in particular do you think I’m NOT understanding about atheist history, current issues and claims?

    Er … every time you make a claim about what the “new Atheists” do, without backing it up with a citation. I think you have made a fistful of strawman arguments about modern atheists, and you should either justify those with references, or retract them.

    The one time you did actually cite Dawkins, you misrepresented the meaning of the text, as TBC and I pointed out. So, perhaps we should start with that one:

    In what way is religion different from a clinical delusion?

  201. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (192) said:

    I don’t believe any one religious faith is right, I certainly think thereare many things that some religions have got badly wrong – I also, however, concede the *possibility* that there just mightbe something that one or even all of them have got right.

    Yes, I might be wrong about this – I conceed that possibility too. But then again, I might not be.

    There is, however, one thing of which we can be certain: if any religion has got something exactly right, it will be by chance, not by any reasoned process.

  202. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (193) said:

    You don’t judge religion by scientific criteria, you don’t judge art by scientific criteria – you judge them on their religious and artistic merits instead.

    Leaving art aside for the moment, let’s examine this. Why do you judge science and religion by different standards?

    NOMA is a relatively new idea, so it is only fairly recently that the claims made by religious texts about the universe have ceased to be taken literally by most people. (For instance, the age of the Earth: up until about the 17h century, the bible was accepted by all Christians as the authoritative source on this issue. Yet now we know that anyone who sticks with Bishop Ussher’s calculation is in direct contradiction with reality.)

    Religious texts were once considered to be authoritative about how and why the universe is the way it is. Now that science has advanced to the point that it has disproven much of what once was claimed, the idea of NOMA is touted.

    So, is there really any reason why we should not judge religion by the same standards with which we judge science? After all, a major point of contention in recent years has been religious organisations making claims abouyt reality that are directly at odds with what science has discovered.

    Taking the opposite approach, is there any way in which one can take the standards or criteria by which one might judge a religion (and, to be frank, I have no idea what they might be but this is your concept so I’m trying to run with it)? First of all, by what criteria do you judge a religion? Second, is there any reasonable way in which these could be applied to science?

    IOW, while it is indeed possible to use scientific standards or criteria to judge religion, I’m really not sure it is possible to use religious criteria or standards to judge science?

    If you can’t or choose not to see the merit in art or religion, well, that’s up to you but it doesn’t mean that merit isn’t there for others.

    By the same token, it doesn’t mean that any particular artwork or any particular religious component has merit. Perhaps the greatest merit that religion offers is the illusion of comfort?

    Would you insult an artist as “deluded”

    If the artist believed in something for which there is no evidentiary support, then it would not be an insult to say they are deluded, would it?

    Besides, I think that certain aspects of modern art really are a load of nonsense.

    and say that, say, Heironymous Bosche’s triptych paintings are scientifically impossible and absurd? No?

    I’m not adequately familiar with his work, but is anyone claiming that they are accurate representations of real physical events? If no-one is claiming that they are literally true – i.e. we are all free to interpret them as allegory or metaphor or what have you – then any impossibility or otherwise is not relevant. With religion, many people do claim that something that seems impossible (miracles) is literally true.

  203. @ Nigel (the man with the smoking fingertips):

    First of all, by what criteria do you judge a religion?

    That line is the signpost leading to the heart of MTU’s point of view.

    His take on religion, like most, is one that he has shaped and molded himself, apparently without any “outside” evidence or input, based solely on his own opinions, psychological needs and dependencies. He freely picks and chooses what he wants from traditional religions, modifies according to his own modern sensibilities, then tries to “backdate” his beliefs in order to lend them some sort of ancient authority.

    In a nutshell – cheap shot intended – that sums up many, if not most*, modern religions, and emphasizes the fact that all of them…ALL of them…are human inventions, and as such reflect the needs and desires of their human inventors.

    *I leave out such obvious frauds as Scientology, the history of which is well documented.

  204. TheBlackCat

    In my response, I will exclude some stuff Nigel has already addressed.

    You, rather insultingly, call it ‘cognitive dissidence’, I & many others see it people accepting these differing aspects of life in harmony and working and thinking on both.

    Are you kidding me? You cite the fact that they can hold the views as proving that science and religion are not in conflict, then when I bring up the inherent flaw in this you change the subject to how mean I am. Either defend your statement or withdraw it, don’t try to change the subject.

    I guess it depends on your point of view.

    If it depends on someone’s view, then by definition it cannot be used as proof that your view is the correct one.

    Perhaps though you check out what these individuals are saying for themselves before effectively dismissing them as mentally impaired or deluded – bearing in mind that these are some of the most intelligent minds around. Smarter than me, perhaps smarter than you also.

    What makes you think I haven’t? Although the vast majority of scientists in the U.S., upwards of 80% or so, are non-religious, and the best scientists are more along the lines of 90-95% non-religious. On the other hand the general population in the U.S. is more like 85% religious. So at least I am on the side of the vast majority of scientists.

    I specifically said that scientists did not start rejecting religion wholesale until after recent advances in biology and cosmology rendered God unnecessary, and this happened much less than 200 years ago.

    *Has* God been rendered unnecessary? Unnecessary for who & what?

    There is no process or object in the universe for which god is a better explanation than non-god. This was not the case until less than 100 years ago.

    It is NOT at all clear that God has been rendered unnecessary especially given the continuing importance of religion to most of the worlds population.

    I specifically was talking about science here, the fact that I was specifically referring to geology, cosmology, and biology should have made that pretty clear but I guess I have to be more explicity.

    So why are you bringing up people from hundreds of years before that? It was much more reasonable for people to accept God back before we had science in its modern form, and before we had adequate explanations for formation of the Earth, the diversity of life, and formation of the universe.

    Well, gee, could it be because some of those scientists I’ve named were, in part, responsible for us getting science in the form we know it today?

    Yeah, so? They lacked the knowledge we have now. You can’t cite scientists 500 years ago to support the validity of religion any more than you can cite them to support the validity of blood-letting or for God being responsible for lightning bolts.

    Heh, you offer one Einstein quote – I give you three of them :

    None of those quotes contradict mine. Not one supports the idea that he believed in a God of the sort that almost all religious people believe in. His definition of religion was also very different than the commonly-used one, as the the I showed explains.

    Hmm .. hardly the words of a militant dawkins style New Atheist are they?

    Where did this come from? No one was claiming he was, or made any comparison between him and Dawkins.

    Yes, Einstein’s view on religion was mixed and complicated and much debated. No, he wasn’t a believer in a particular fundamentalist style of religion – But saying he wasn’t religious in *some sense* of the word is plain wrong.

    But no one, not even Dawkins, has claimed that “religious” beliefs of someone like Einstein are in conflict with science. In fact Dawkins himself has explicitly stated quite the opposite.

    I don’t believe in God, I don’t disbelieve in God, I think the question is open and as yet neither side has fully convinced me. I don’t think you can rule some form of God out as at least a *possibility.*

    As Nigel said, you don’t understand atheism. You would have a hard time finding any atheist who claims otherwise. Certainly Dawkins has explicitly stated that he can’t disprove some sort of god, which once again you would know if you had actually bothered to read what he wrote. Every leading atheist I have heard say anything on the question has said the same thing.

    Firstly, I’m not being purposely evasive thankyou – and attributing malice to your opponent is a logical fallacy. I have tried to answer your question as best I can & that after finally working out what you were actually asking as that wasn’t clear to me before. :-(

    After having the same question ignored 4 or 5 times, including responses that selectively excise those question, it becomes hard to draw any other conclusion.

    What is religions role?

    [snip]

    As Nigel said, none of this helps with your case about NOMA, none of these are things that science cannot look at and address, none of these inherently require religion, none support your early statements about religion and morality, and none give even the slightest support for the validity of all the supernatural baggage associated with almost all religions.

    Religion isn’t science, it isn’t as clear-cut and tangible and experimentally testable. It affects people in different ways much as, again, art and sport do. ;-)

    No one uses art and sports to decide who should live and who should die.

    Does that make them deluded and liars or at best mistaken self-deceivers?

    Or could it be we’re just different & perceive things slightly differently?

    Just as abee perceieves ultraviolet as acolour and my dog smells things i cannot, maybe some folks for whatever reason are lacking in “godsense?” If so, thenm would thatmean “god wasn’t real -or just that some peopel for whatever reason couldn’t sense God?

    We can come up with tests to test all of these things scientifically.

    Hypothesis: bees see frequencies higher than we can.
    Prediction: bees can be fooled by paint or filters in these frequencies
    Result: True

    Hypothesis: dogs can smell better than we can:
    Prediction: dogs can be trained to react to chemicals at lower concentrations than humans
    Result: True

    Hypothesis: certain humans can have a “supernatural” sense that can detect things other humans cannot
    Prediction: there should be some consistency in what they detect.
    Result: False

    Everything that we normally call a sense has certain properties: it provides largely consistent information (although some details may vary) both across time and across people, it is independent of upbringing, it can be blocked in certain ways, the thing it it sensing can be independently verirified,

    Any time you try to actually define what sort of information this sense provides, it always ends up leading to predictions that turn out to be false. A color blind person can tell that everyone else agrees that red and green are two different things, if you take something that one person says is red and the same person says is green, and show them to someone else in the other side of the world they will give the same colors. But if you ask one person how many gods their supernatural sense tells them there are, and ask another person, they will likely give you two different answers. You ask them what their god sense tells them to do, they will give two different answers.

    Your color-blindness example is a great one, when combined with your bee one. Compared to bees, and many animals, humans are color blind, we see far fewer colors than many others animals. We can test and show that bees can see more colors than we can, we can study the organs that do the detection, we can run tests that manipulate these frequencies, we can use sensors to detect that the frequencies are present in objects they need to look at, we can compare the responses across bees. There are any numbers of ways to test whether bees have senses we don’t. And many do not rely on being able to detect the ultraviolet light ourselves.

    Another example is magnetic sense, a sense humans do not have to any significant degree. But we can detect and study it in other animals.

    One day maybe I’ll find the metaphorical beach here – or maybe its just a figment of the imagination. An intellectual abstraction. Right now, I can’t tell but it seems wrong to rule out the mere possibility based on my limited experiences – just as it seems (IMHON) wrong for the “New Atheists” to assert their arguments, their experiences, their way of thinking is the one and only way.

    Once again, a strawman. No one claims that they can definitively rule out the existence of any sort of god. But then again no one claims they can definitively rule out that there is an invisible gnome living in my garden, assuming I am careful to make sure it is undetectable. However, if I claim this troll says that I cannot eat turkey, everyone would think I am crazy. But if someone says their god tells them they cannot eat pork, no one has any problem with that.

    What in particular do you think I’m NOT understanding about atheist history, current issues and claims?

    I’ve pointed out several examples in this comment alone.

    You really don’t get how rude and offensive some of the things Dawkins said are?

    This isn’t about being rude and offensive. You have made specific claims about things Dawkins has said, things he not only did not say, but where he actually said the exact opposite. After I called you out on this, you suddenly switched to talking about how rude he was. I have never once claimed he was not rude. My problem is with specific positions you attribute to him that he does not hold, specific claims that you have attributed to him that he did not make.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, each – or at least many of the religions – has its own kernal of truth or is one of many possible ways of perceiving a certain universal thing that is glimpsed (percived?) differently in what we call religion. Its an idea anyhow.

    This sort of claim could only be made by someone who has not studied religions in any detail. When the most fundamental aspect of many different religions is that all other religions are wrong (this is the first commandment of the ten commandments, and automatically earns you a one-way ticket to hell in both Christianity and Islam), then no it is not possible for them all to be right.

    Yes & I never said otherwise. Art and religion are different things and different magisteria just as science and religion or science and art are difefrent magisteria. These areas or aspects or ways of seeing things work in different ways and come from different perspectives. Science isn’t art or religion, religion isn’t science or art.

    You say religion is like art, but now say they are not alike. In what way is religion like art?

    Its fair to judge science from a scientific perspective – it makes little sense to do so from an artistic or religious perspective using the techniques of those magisteria. It is equally nonsensical to try to use science to judge art or religion.

    It is fair to judge the claims made by art from a scientific perspective. The issue is that religion makes specific factual claims, so it is well within the prevue of science to check whether those factual claims are true. Whether Jesus actually existed or not makes a huge difference to the validity of Christianity as a religion, while whether there was a war between Greece and Troy makes no difference to the artistic merit of the Illiad.

    Think about it this way. Lets say that lots of people are excited about a new painting supposed to be by Leonardo da Vinci. The museum brings in some analysts to check whether it was really by him. Carbon dating shows it is less than 100 years old. Everyone loses interest.

    Was that wrong? Was it a mistake to judge a piece of art on scientific grounds? No, because a large part of its artistic merit was based on who painted it. The same is true of religion. A large part of its authority rests on its supposed divine source. So checking, to the extent that we can, whether the source really does appear to be who it is claimed to be is certainly a valid approach.

    We have in fact verified some Biblical historical events – such as a particular pool that was discovered by arcaheologists matching one scene from the New Testament which was seen on the news ages ago or the existence of the Assyrians before the archaologists found the sites. Plus an amusing case of a tablet recording the Babylonian (IIRC?) seige of the Israelites where the Babylonians and Jewish people alike claim victory for their side.

    Of course it includes some historical details, although most of the New Testament is pretty thoroughly refuted by the historical record. But there are more basic claims, like for instance the claims Jesus supposedly made about the answering of prayers, or the Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah was supposed to fulfill but Jesus didn’t, or major contradictions between the 4 gospels.

    Mutually exclusive? Not necessarily so. Much of what religions say boils down to the golden rule (“do unto others”) for example.

    Christianity says that anyone who does not believe Jesus is God is going to Hell. Islam claims that anyone who does believe Jesus is God is going to Hell. Buddhism says there is no Hell. I can name hundreds of more such contradictions. But there is no religion I have ever heard of that “boils down to the golden rule”. Even in the Bible it was not given particular prominence, it was listed along side many rules, both good and bad. People have focused on that one in modern times because they like it, but it was far from a major component of the bible, certainly not the single biggest component as you claim. I’ve pointed this out before, but you apparently either ignored it or weren’t reading carefully.

    I *have* read some of their books – all of The God Delusion and God is Not Great for example. I borrowed these books – the former from a library and the latter from my brother – so I don’t have copies handy to pull exact quotes from, but I assure you I have indeed read them.How many times do I have to note this before it registers for you?

    So you read them, but read them so carelessly that you completely missed major points and have not one of the arguments you attribute to them even comes close to an argument they actually made. It would have been better if you hadn’t read them.

    Dawkin’s distinctly referred to “blind faith” overlooking the reality that for many religious peopel faith is NOT just blind but is informed by reason and personal experience also. Dawkins consistently cherry-picked examples and verses to suit his purposes ignoring those that didn’t. His approach was totally one-sided and full of derison and lack of nuance or respect for thsoe who disagreed with him.

    So you claim, but every time I try to get specifics, you either drop back to talking about how rude he was or you say something Dawkins never said but that his enemies often falsely attribute to him. What he says certainly doesn’t match the positions of some highly-educated theologians, but he has said time and again he is addressing religion as it is actually practiced by mainstream believers, not the radically different religion practiced by the small number of theologians.

    Well good for you. Except for the whole assuming I haven’t done likewise and just reached a different conclusion to yours part. :roll:

    It is not an assumption. You make claims that no one who has studied the issue in any detail could make. You attribute arguments to your opponents that are the exact opposite of the ones they actually made. You lack a basic understanding of the history of religious concepts, lack knowledge of the historical events that surrounded the formation of religions, lack knowledge of the content of religious books, lack knowledge of the claims of religious groups, and lack knowledge of the positions of people on both sides of the debate.

    You know what your life experiences have been but you don’t know mine.
    I’ll thank you not to tell me what I have and haven’t done in *my* life.

    I can’t judge your life experience, but I can certainly judge your level of knowledge of the subject.

    You have missed my point and misunderstood what I’m saying there completely. :roll:

    No, I wasn’t saying religion has no domain or that each person sets religions own domains.

    I was saying religion is hard to define – as for example art is – & that religion is a personal thing that people experience for themselves as individuals.

    Can you give me one domain, one single domain, that is actually universal to all religious people? Name just one. So far you keep claiming that religion has domains, but when I try to get you to name one, you talk about how “mileage may vary” and refuse to provide any specifics except for examples that you say are not universal to all religious people. When I then take from that there are no universals, suddenly I am reading to much into it and there are universals. You can’t have it both ways. Either there are domains, in which case you should be able to name them (which you have refused to do), or there aren’t, in which case my understanding of your claims are correct.

    Either religion has a domain, in which case you should tell us what it is, or it doesn’t have a domain, in which case you should stop claiming it has one.

    Now do you see why I am concluding you are evasive? When I ask you a question, you refuse to answer, saying it varies too much between people. When I take this to mean there is no answer, you insist there is one, but still refuse to provide it.

    You claim it has a domain, but refuse to tell us which one. You claim it is like art and sports, but refuse to tell us how. You claim it has validity, but refuse to tell us what it is valid for. You claim that Dawkins uses strawmen, but refuse to tell us what they are. Whenever someone asks for specifics, you either say it is impossible to provide any or change the subject. When I take this to mean there are none, you get offended and claim I misunderstood you, insisting they exist, but still refuse to provide them.

    This is being evasive</b)i. Whether you are doing it intentionally or not I don't know, but if there is no answer to a question, stop insisting there is one. If someone asks you a question, don't try to change the subject to something complete unrelated. If you make a claim that turns out to be factually incorrect, don't try to deflect criticism by bringing up unrelated issues. Whether you are doing this intentionally or accidentally, it is a consistent pattern of behavior. Anyone used to dealing with evasive people will conclude you are being evasive, since you are hitting all the marks spot-on. You find some way to consistently avoid specific questions, while answering others with no problem.

  205. TheBlackCat

    Sorry, html fail there.

  206. What’s that I hear…? Why, it’s the sound of antipodean crickets, of course.

  207. Nigel Depledge

    Well, we are on page 6 now…

  208. Aw, c’mon… the UFO nutters don’t stop til post 500 and something!

  209. Click on my name for a little more of this discussion & my thoughts religion~wise. (Won’t risk it going into moderation as who knows if or when the BA will moderate this old thread now.Hope it works right – comment 270 unless moderation changes that.)

    Plus the “crickets” were because, much as I thought about going back and responding further here, I thought it would’ve been a waste of time because everyone had long since moved on & this thread had gotten wa-aay too old.

    Since I find its not .. well maybe we can make that 500 post mark. Although I’m not going to call you folks “nutters!” ;-)

  210. Messier Tidy Upper

    @194. Nigel Depledge :

    MTU (190) said: “*Has* God been rendered unnecessary? Unnecessary for who & what?”
    Unnecessary in explaining how and why the universe is the way it is.

    Hmm .. Maybe. That answer seems to assume we now *know* “how and why the universe is” and in a way that is other than tentative and incomplete.

    I don’t think that’s the case. Science has given us a staggering, mind-blowingly huge amount of knowledge on the hows and whys but this knowledge is still subject to further revision and refinement and there are still major questions that are open. Don’t get me wrong, I love science and am in aqwe of all the benefits it has brought us. I’m not knocking it. But. It isn’t everything and hasn’t answered everything either. Which I think is a good thing too! ;-)

    Also just because something may be unnecessary doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Appendixes and male nipples are unnecessary but real for example.
    ;-)

    @196. Nigel Depledge Says:

    MTU (190) said:

    Hmm .. [Einstein’s quotes are] hardly the words of a militant dawkins style New Atheist are they?

    Well, they certainly don’t represent your strawman idea of an outspoken modern atheist. They are also sufficiently vague that they really could mean anything.

    Really? Vague?

    Let’s see them again & check – emphasis will be added for clarity since some here seem to find even the straightforward confusing :

    “Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism since he was offended by their lack of humility.”
    “Einstein Versus God Round II” in ‘The Guardian Weekly’, Page 42, 2008 May 23rd.

    So Einstein got angry at “evangelical atheists” claiming his views for support and thought they lacked humility ie. were arrogant.

    Dawkins, incidentally is the very icon of an evangelical athiest. And by setting them in opposition it seems clear that Einstein was NOT an athiest – & very certainly NOT an “evangelical” New Atheist

    What’s so vague & unclear about that precisely?

    II. “Einstein referred to a “cosmic religious feeling” that permeated and sustained his scientific work.”
    “Einstein Versus God Round II” in The Guardian Weekly, P. 42, 2008 May 23rd.

    So Einstein experienced and was sustained by religious feelings.

    Er .. vague? Really? :roll:

    III. “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
    – Albert Einstein. (Quoted in The Guardian Weekly, P. 42 “Einstein Versus God Round II” 2008 May 23rd.

    What’s so hard to understand about that – Einstein’s words are unambigously saying both science *and* religion have significant roles to play and each benefits from the other. Sheesh, you really don’t get that? :roll:

    At the end of the day, though, using the existence of religious scientists as an argument for the existence of god, or for the necessity and relevance of religion today, is flawed. After all, if – say, 250 years from now – all scientists were eventually to become atheists, would that disprove the existence of god? No, of course not. Would it prove that religion is unnecessary or irrelevant? No, of course not. It is not germane to the point.

    It shows science and religion can – and do work together. They are NOT mutually exclusive and it is possible to appreciate & participate in both.

    Additionally, if you have answered my earlier questions about what the term “New Atheist” means when you use it, I have not seen it.

    “New atheism” in my view is the extreme, uncompromising, intolerant atheism espoused by polemicists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others who aggressive attack and insult those who are religious and who argue that religion is incompatible with reason and science.

    They tend not to be theological or philosophical in background – Dawkins being a biologist and Hitchens a political commenter and tend to be bursting with the opposite of humility. They come across (to me) as thinking they are intellectually superior to everyone else and thus able to tell everyone how to think and unwilling to concede the possibility that others may have equally valid but very different, even entirely opposite perspectives to their own. They are good, powerful writers & debaters who make some good points and argue a good case but who also seem to have an unfortunate tendency to cherry-pick (for example targeting the extremes and always drawing the least favourable conclusions and implicatios out of the religious sphere) and engage in strawmen tactics rather than show any willingness to seriously contemplate or give a fair hearing to the other side. :-(

  211. Messier Tidy Upper

    Or in finest distillate, the New Atheists make a good case against religious fundamentalism but they take it too far and are too extreme & aggressive in the opposite direction and won’t allow the other side and moderates a fair hearing.

    @197. Nigel Depledge :

    MTU (191) said: “I don’t believe in God, I don’t disbelieve in God, I think the question is open and as yet neither side has fully convinced me. I don’t think you can rule some form of God out as at least a *possibility.*”

    This indicates that you do not really understand atheism.

    Or, alternatively, that *you* don’t! ;-) :-P

    My definitions as I understand & view things :

    Atheism – the belief that there is NO God.

    Agnosticism – the belief that there may or may not be a God.

    & I’ll add another one too :

    Anti-Theism – The conviction not only that there is no God but that religious people are deluded and harmful and that religion shoudl be abolished. (Also identical in concept to “New Atheism” or dawkin’s worship! ;-) )

    I am aware of no atheists who claim that god does not exist. A year or two ago, Dawkins himself supported a campaign with a slogan along the lines of “there’s probably no god, now just get on with your life,”. Dawkins is a smart guy; I’m sure he is aware of the futility of any attempt to disprove the existence of an intangible being.

    Yet the way he rails away at religion and religious individuals and groups and that he at thevery leats implies they’re all insane .. :-(

    Dawkin’s may well be aware that he cannot disprove the existence of God.

    He does not, however, seem willing to tolerate the idea that God could well be real and is a good thing for many people.

    It seems to me Dawkins is adamant that there is, indeed, NO god but just can’t conclusively prove that beyond any doubt.

  212. Messier Tidy Upper

    Continuing :

    @197. Nigel Depledge :

    Atheism is not itself a belief that there is no god, although I’m sure some atheists are convinced that there is no god. Atheism is living life without any religious component. To take the UK as an example, most people are probably atheists without even knowing it, because – whether they believe in some vague idea of god or that there is no god – they do not participate in any religious activities.

    Non-participation in religious activities is NOT the same thing as atheism or especially Anti-Theism / New Atheism.

    Being secular and indifferent to religion isn’t being atheist.
    Being agnostic isn’t the same thing either.
    Nor is being opposed to (some or even all) *organised* religion and its various wrong-doings.

    In all cases there is the possibility of also accpeting overtlyor implictly the existenceof some sort of God.

    Atheism is the explicit, admanant rejection of the idea that God exists. (Whether or not the extar stepof trying to disprove God is taken.)

    On this view, agnosticism is a specific subset of atheism, or at least a set that intersects with atheism

    See the definitions I’ve provided above.

    Agnosticism is admiting the lack of knowledge and certainty about things religion~wise. It is saying we don’t know.

    Atheism is more certain & definite that there is NO God and makes the active claim that religion (all and any type of religion or religious belief) is wrong.

    (because I daresay that there may be some agnostics who do attend religious activities as a form of hedging their bets).

    Or out of respect for others views, or out of searching for more information and knowledge about religion, or as a social-community-cultural-national building activity or as part of participating in charitable activities and helping others. Do none of those alternative possibilities occur to you?

    @198. Nigel Depledge :

    So, what is the role of religion in relation to NOMA? From what aspects of life or the world do you specifically exclude science? IOW, what is religion’s magesterium, into which science is not permitted?

    The Divine, the spiritual, the miraculous, the sacred, the sort of knowledge that is non-material and to do with God and the human spirit. The afterlife. Some theories & philosophies of ethics and human nature.

    @199. Nigel Depledge :

    MTU (191) said: “Not everyone enjoys the same sports or is affected by and even sees in the same way a particular painting or sculpture or piece of music.”
    True, but not a valid analogy, because people who dislike a particular sport, or work of art, or piece of music, are at least able to experience it. I dislike football (soccer to USAians), but I can see that it exists.

    Its soccer to us Aussies too, mate! ;-)

    Yes, you can see a piece of art or hear a new symphony. But someone who is blind cannot see that same artwork, someone who is deaf cannot hear that same symphony. Yet the artwork and the symphony still exist. Likewise, perhaps if I cannot sense God then fault is in me & NOT God?

    Some people lack a sense of humour – does that mean there are no funny jokes?

    If enough other people tell you something is real and yet you cannot sense it, does that not at some point indicate that they may be capable of sensing & experiencing something that you cannot? Is there a point at which a blind man has to take the word of the majority that “colour” exists or the deaf women has to acknowledge that a voice can be baritone or contralto even through there is no way they can verify this for themselves?

    The majority of humans are religious & feel *something* special from the religious sphere. You may not agree with or like this analogy but it may, nonetheless, be a good approximation of the truth. We know our senses are limited and have blind spots – and some people more so than others. If there is a “God-sense” could this not be true of that also?

  213. Messier Tidy Upper

    I can see the analogy you are trying to draw here, but I disagree with it.

    Well, *you* would wouldn’t you!? ;-)

    You may not agree with or like this analogy but it may (or okay may not be), nonetheless, be valid.

    Even though that person may not experience red and green as different sensations, he or she can at least understand that they exist.

    Yes, and we *do* similarly understand that religion exists. Other people tell us that it does. We can detect changes in their behaviour and emotional attitudes and some would even argue physical states based on internal “religious” events.

    Past events have been recorded that aren’t always easily explained.

    Christianity had nothing going for it after the crucification of Rabbi Jesus. The group leader and source of inspiration had been brutally and humiliatingly executed, his followers had fled dispirited and afraid. His corpse was guarded and the eyewitnesses when the extraordinary happened were women – then viewed as unreliable and not held in any regard.

    There was a skeptic would personally placed his hands in the wounds of the risen Christ. Now you can always argue that event didn’t happen – but perhaps it did. Why didn’t Christianity vanish when it had everything going against it early on in its history? How sure can we really be that events did NOT happen that we regard as impossible? We weren’t there. Logic says some things couldn’t happen, science says some things couldn’t happen – but what *if* they did anyhow? Not saying they necesarily did or didn’t just posing the question. How open are we to the possibility that maybe things did happen that cannot be explained?

    And, although I can see that religion exists, it appears to me to be an irrational pursuit because the keystone of every religion is to assume the existence of something for which there is no evidence.

    No evidence that you will accept is not the same as NO evidence.

    To a blind person painting a picture or taking photos would seem irrational as to them colour does NOT exist.

    People’s understanding of what is “rational” varies – and humans are in case irrational beings. Reason can be used as sophistry to explain anything. Or nothing. In the end not everything comes down to reason. Emotion and instinct are also parts of how we humans work and sometimes more useful to us.

    Do you analyse your love of everything you love and what makes you attracted to someone else or do you just feel it? Do you analyse why you laugh or how the sunlight and sand feels on your skin? Can you rationally explain human sexual orientation or the desire to to help families – and even if you can is that NOT an afterthought to the experiences themselves?

  214. TheBlackCat

    Or in finest distillate, the New Atheists make a good case against religious fundamentalism but they take it too far and are too extreme & aggressive in the opposite direction and won’t allow the other side and moderates a fair hearing.

    Right, because it isn’t like religion hasn’t had the last few thousand years to make its case.

    Or, alternatively, that *you* don’t! ;-) :-P

    Right, of course, you understand the opinions of atheists better than the atheists themselves. Of course, yes Dawkins is the arrogant one here.

    Atheism – the belief that there is NO God.

    This is not what most, if any, atheists mean when they use the word. It is certainly not what any prominent “new” atheist says when they use the word.

    Yet the way he rails away at religion and religious individuals and groups and that he at thevery leats implies they’re all insane .. :-(

    No, it implies this to you. But of course a lot of stuff is implied to you despite the fact that they actually said they meant the exact opposite, so your assessment of their position has a pretty terrible track record.

    Dawkin’s may well be aware that he cannot disprove the existence of God.

    It isn’t “may well”. He explicitly said this. He said it in the God Delusion. You keep railing against him not properly understanding his opponents, yet you don’t even know the most basic facts about his position. That doesn’t stop you from just making them up.

    He does not, however, seem willing to tolerate the idea that God could well be real and is a good thing for many people.

    On the first count, you are right. He is not a postmodernist. He, like any scientists, asserts there is a single objective reality for everyone. Something either exists or it doesn’t.

    As for it being a good thing for many people, on the contrary he has one again explicitly said that it is a good thing for many people. Once again you don’t even know the most basic facts about his position, so you just make them up.

    It seems to me Dawkins is adamant that there is, indeed, NO god but just can’t conclusively prove that beyond any doubt.

    Once again, he has stated the exact opposite. Making up arguments for your opponents that directly contradict their real arguments and then bashing them for that is what we mean when we say you are using a strawman.

    Non-participation in religious activities is NOT the same thing as atheism or especially Anti-Theism / New Atheism.

    Where did Nigel say anything about “religious activities”. He said “any religious component” (emphasis added). This is not about activities.

    Atheism is the explicit, admanant rejection of the idea that God exists. (Whether or not the extar stepof trying to disprove God is taken.)

    No, that is your definition. That is not the definition that any atheist I have ever heard of has held, certainly not me, and certainly not Dawkins or Harris or other “New” Atheists.

    The Divine, the spiritual, the miraculous, the sacred, the sort of knowledge that is non-material and to do with God and the human spirit. The afterlife. Some theories & philosophies of ethics and human nature.

    Wait, you are saying that human nature is off-limits to science? The whole point of NOMA is that certain areas are strictly off-limits to science.

    What makes you think that science cannot deal with any of these? Science certainly looks at miracles and sacred things all the time. Religious authorities sometimes even request scientific analysis of sacred objects to check whether they could possibly be what they are claimed to be.

    Yes, you can see a piece of art or hear a new symphony. But someone who is blind cannot see that same artwork, someone who is deaf cannot hear that same symphony. Yet the artwork and the symphony still exist. Likewise, perhaps if I cannot sense God then fault is in me & NOT God?

    We have already been over this repeatedly. Please either address our points or drop this false equivalency. These examples are nothing whatsoever like belief in God, as we have explained in excruciating detail.

    Are you simply not reading anything we are writing? Because you keep on bringing up stuff we have already addressed again and again as though it were new, while ignoring all our criticisms.

    Yes, and we *do* similarly understand that religion exists.

    Religion != god. Homeopathy exists but that doesn’t mean the homeopathic vibrations that are supposed to be behind it exist.

    Christianity had nothing going for it after the crucification of Rabbi Jesus. The group leader and source of inspiration had been brutally and humiliatingly executed, his followers had fled dispirited and afraid.

    There is no proof that Jesus even existed, not to mention that he was executed in the manner described. No contemporary records support this conclusion.

    Nevertheless, lots of religious people and religious leaders in lots of religions have died far more brutal and painful deaths than Jesus was supposed to have. And people have done the same for totally secular reasons as well. This is hardly unique to religion, not to mention one religion.

    His corpse was guarded and the eyewitnesses when the extraordinary happened were women – then viewed as unreliable and not held in any regard.

    Depends on which gospel you are reading. The four gospels have totally different accounts of what transpired. You are elevating one to the level of proven fact while ignoring the other 3.

    Why didn’t Christianity vanish when it had everything going against it early on in its history?

    There were dozens, if not hundreds, of similar religions around at the time. They shared a lot of their underlying features, indicating that they appealed to people at the time. So the fact that one happened to survive is far from surprising. The issues with Christianity are only important in hindsight, there was not particularly exceptional about it at the time. It proved to be a convenient tool for controlling the Roman population, so bureaucrats adopted it and eventually convinced the higher-ups to enforce it as the official state religion and ban all others. This essentially made Christianity the only acceptable religion in most of Europe, and this was then pushed through the rest of Europe through a combination of conquest and missionary work. But if Christianity hadn’t existed we would likely be debating Mithraism right now.

    How sure can we really be that events did NOT happen that we regard as impossible?

    The question isn’t whether it is impossible, the question is whether there is any good reason to think that it DID happen. There is a large amount of historical evidence that directly contradicts the accounts in the New Testament, plus massive discrepancies between the accounts given in the 4 gospels.

    Do you analyse your love of everything you love and what makes you attracted to someone else or do you just feel it?

    No one doubts that people have religious feelings, the question is whether those feelings are directed towards something real or something imaginary. It is fully possible for people to have feelings towards things that don’t exist. Just look at all the fans of fictional characters.

  215. Jlanedc

    I think some folks are giving the few years kids spend in the educational institutions to much credit. One comment suggests “BoE will cost TX a whole generation of students who cannot think or reason, must less understand scientific principles and models”. While I am sickened by this man McLeroy and his blatant disregard for our nations constitution. I don’t believe the school system has that much power over ones ability to “think” or “reason”. I can see where a student might have a confusing understanding “of scientific principles” if they are taught that what science has been able to prove is not true and the misleading teachings of his school happens to be correct. But what I see possible is the exact opposite of what the comment quoted is suggesting. If parents spend time tutoring and reviewing their child’s school work this exact situation could lead to a student being able to “think” and “reason” on a much higher level. They will be forced to hear what their teachers are saying and then evaluate such lessons as fact or fiction. By being forced to do so their creative thinking and problem solving skills will be years ahead of kids their same level in other states. Of course this all depends on the level of interaction by parents to catch such lies and lead their kids to finding the facts. I understand this is not a good system of education but one that seems necessary if citizens allow for people like McLooser to lead important state agencies. I suggest the voters wake up and realize who they are electing as their Governor for starters. More importantly I hope they do so before trying to put that man in the oval office.

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