Going Out on a Limb

By Sean Carroll | October 22, 2008 4:45 pm

Q: Why is fundamentalist Christianity better than string theory?

A: Because it makes testable predictions.

Here is a prediction, from none other than Sarah Palin: God will intervene on Election Day.

In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.

Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”

“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”

She also thanked her supporters — including Dobson, who said he and his wife were asking “for God’s intervention” on election day — for their prayers of support.

“It is that intercession that is so needed,” she said. “And so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it.”

Admittedly, not a very good testable prediction. I doubt that we’ll see wholesale conversion to atheism on November 5th if Obama wins. More likely, we will be told that this is just an exceptionally subtle part of God’s plan. It’s like predicting supersymmetry at the LHC!

I went on a brief trip to Ireland and England a couple of weeks ago. You know what they couldn’t stop talking about? Sarah Palin. And religious Americans more generally. This pretty much sums up why:

I understand that later on in the interview, Tracy claims that the bit in the Gospels about loving your neighbors was “probably inserted by Communists,” and she raised her eyebrows so high that her eyeballs popped completely out of her head.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Religion
  • John

    I hate to be difficult, but I’m very disappointed, but I think you’ve strayed a little from the scientific method here. First of all, there’s a world of difference between “fundamentalist Christianity predicts” and “Sarah Palin predicts”. If I claim that global warming (or for that matter, gay marriage) will cause the world to burst into flames tomorrow morning, I don’t think you can make a case against either one come noon tomorrow.

    Second, it’s not even a testable prediction of Sarah Palin. From all the polls I see, it looks pretty likely that “the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”

  • John

    I’m also disappointed in my editing ability, but that’s a topic for another post.

  • Randall


  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    I think you’re all missing something.

  • Plastic Jesus

    I shivered at watching this – I’d heard of people voting based on faith, but to actually see someone talking about the election in this way, voting on the religious faith of the candidates, rather than on the more tangible real-world issues facing the US, is quite frightening, especially as I’d wager this is someone who believes in the “End Times” predicted in Revelation.

    I guess the Atheist Bus Message Campaign wouldn’t go down well in certain areas of the US, then…

  • Tarun

    Most of the times when I hear about the existence of such people I pretend not to care. But seeing them in flesh and blood and realizing that their crazy extremist is most likely going to affect the most important presidential elections in entire US history, about which I do care, is really really depressing.

    Good luck USA, you would need a lot of it.


  • Luke

    This woman’s beef with Obama is really motivated by bigotry, not Christianity. When some Christians use the phrase “born again”, it refers to a Christian becoming a new person and putting his past behind him. Thus, it is perfectly possible for an atheist or a Muslim to become a Christian. The fact that Obama’s mother was an atheist and his father a Muslim is completely irrelevant.

    Sometimes when I hear the ramblings of people like this, I assum that they’re fundamentalists who are constantly reading the Bible and running around citing verses that they think apply to any situation. The truth is that many of these people never go to church, have only a vague notion of what Jesus was really talking about, and have constructed their own personal theology to support their bigoted view of the world.

    I have more respect for people who simply state the truth, which is that they don’t want a black president. They’re nasty, hateful racists, but at least they’re honest, nasty, hateful racists.

  • http://www.thechocolatefish.blogspot.com Yvette

    Cringe indeed…

    You know, I really feel sorry for moderate Republicans- you know, the type who’s in it mainly for economic reasons. Per my experiences they seem to make up the great majority of people who vote that ticket, but they keep getting hijacked by this crazy religious sect on the right that totally ruins what chances they had.

    Obviously these moderates need to go and realize what a terrible rap they’re getting from the fringe and take their party back, as no one else can do it for them. I’m really hoping this election will be a slap in the face wakeup call for them, as the American system could greatly benefit from having a reasonable dialogue of differing opinions instead of the “you’re either with me or against me” diatribe we’ve evolved into.

  • tacitus

    Don’t forget that the American political spectrum is skewed heavily to the right when compared to most other democratic countries. Only in America could the pre-2008-election-campaign John “Maverick” McCain be considered a moderate. Anywhere else he would have been considered be a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. These days, he’s way out on a limb.

    As for feeling sorry for those “moderates”, spare me. For six years they stood by and watched — nay, enabled — the Bush administration’s ideologically incompetent foreign and domestic mismanagement, and *now* they want us to feel sorry for them? No thanks.

  • tacitus

    (Note, I am talking about those moderate Republican enablers in Congress, not those outside who came to their senses early on and have opposed Bush for years).

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Its interesting how Sean is an atheist zealot. I think atheism is as fanatical a belief as fundamentalism. Its interesting that Sean even thinks of a day when America will “convert” to atheism even if the comment is in jest.

    Most Christians are not fundamentalist wackos, just as most Muslims are not fundamentalist Muslims or terrorists.

    Well its interesting that the people you met in Ireland were talking about “religious Americans”. So is everyone in Ireland an atheist? I seriously doubt it. There are probably not very many fundamentalists in Europe, and maybe not nearly as many regular church goers, but Europeans still by and large have some faith in God. I have a friend that lives in Austria and most people there are Christian, just not of the Sarah Palin variety.

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Obama is in fact a Christian:


  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    The atheist bus campaign proves what I just said-atheism is in itself a religion. Why waste time worrying about whether other people believe in God or not?

  • http://whenindoubtdo.blogspot.com/ Eugene

    last I heard even God only has one vote, no?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    God has either zero votes, or infinity votes.

  • andyo

    <blockquoteI doubt that we’ll see wholesale conversion to atheism on November 5th if Obama wins.

    I think you meant “de-conversion”, lest the pesky wishy-washy agnostics and the religious themselves start gloating on how “fundamentalist” and “faithful” we-who-do-not-have-a-god are.

    Whoops, too late.

  • andyo

    shite, forgot to close the blockquote, but you know what I meant.

  • Brad

    I’d like to point out that this woman is an n of 1 and so it is inappropriate to make from this datum broad sweeping generalizations. There are no doubt many others like her, but this one idiotic individual really means nothing about the attitudes of anyone else.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean


  • http://diracseashore.wordpress.com/ Moshe

    I think this clearly falls short of a prediction, she just says that god will ensure the right thing will happen. The right thing I expect is defined to be whatever god made happen, so this is just good old fashioned exercise in tautology. I’ll show restrain and refrain from engaging in any physics analogies.

  • Doug

    “Why waste time worrying about whether other people believe in God or not?”

    I will promise to stop caring about people’s beliefs if they promise to stop letting them influence their voting choices.

  • Janus


    Have you ever thought about just disabling comments on Cosmic Variance? I mean, sure, you’d miss out on a few worthy contributions, but for the most part it wouldn’t be much of a loss. I know it would greatly enhance my reading experience.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    David McMahon, my friend I think you are living in some sort of Religious Disneyland. I live in Europe and can assure you that most people are NOT religious or fanatic in any way. Look up the word secularized, and you get the picture.

    In many cases USA is the leading country in the world. But, when it comes to politics and religion you have really messed things up. I say you are more than a 100 years after the rest of civilized world.

    It’s a big relief to live in a country where politicians cannot do utterly stupid things, and then refer to a mysterious holy ghost as highest judge and responsible for what is right or wrong.

    The real danger starts when the people stops using their brains and instead look down in a 3,000 year old book of crazy and violent stories – to get the solution for the problems of today.

    It gets even more troublesome if the Commander-in-Chief have Rod Parsley as Spiritual Guide.

    We who lives in Europe are not afraid for a new Adolf Hitler or the Communists or Usma bin Ladin. We are truly afraid the things will go terrible wrong on the other side of the Atlantic, and that the world will have a religious wacko with the hand on the nuclear button. That would be the end of everything.

    For those who want more info before you vote; McCain Pastor: Islam Is a ‘Conspiracy of Spiritual Evil’

  • tacitus

    The atheist bus campaign proves what I just said-atheism is in itself a religion. Why waste time worrying about whether other people believe in God or not?

    Nonsense. Using that standard, you can call any effort to sway someone’s beliefs about anything “a religion”. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some people will go in their attempts to redefine atheism as a religion. To be honest, I really don’t see the point of doing that anyway. It’s not as though atheists are trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by denying that they practice a religion.

    As for why atheists bother advertising? In the UK, I don’t honestly know. The ranks of the non-believers in Britain has been growing so fast in the past few decades it would make any Christian evangelical outreach coordinator green with envy, and it’s happened without any organized effort (unless you want to call making mandatory school assemblies incredibly boring an organized effort!).

    But in the US, there is plenty of reason for atheists to be more vocal. A more vilified and distrusted minority it would be hard to find these days (unless it’s all those imaginary socialists the Republicans keep fretting about), especially when it comes to running for elected office. Just last week, Elizabeth Dole even went so far as to smear her Senate campaign opponent by linking her to an atheist PAC in a sinister fashion.

    One way to counter the distrust and hatred is to grow the number of atheists in the country. I don’t happen to believe that overt advertisements will do much good, but it wouldn’t hurt. Fact is, the US is slowly becoming more secular with each new generation, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach the same tipping point many western European nations passed decades ago sometime in the near to moderate future, and it will happen organically not through some mass organized effort.

  • Otis

    In order to inject a little balance into this debate, perhaps it is a good time to remind folks (including Europeans) about Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

    Senator Obama was a member of Pastor Wright’s church for 20 years and financially contributed to it while all the hateful sermons were being preached. Pastor Wright performed the marriage of Senator Obama and his wife, and baptized his two children. Meanwhile, Pastor Wright preached that the US deserved the 911 attacks and that the US government was responsible for the AIDS epidemic in the African American Community, plus much more hateful nonsense.

    Senator Obama has acknowledged that Pastor Wright was his “spiritual mentor” and even gave Wright a position in his presidential campaign.

    The PBS video clip in Sean’s post is a tempest in a teacup compared to the implications of Senator Obama’s long relationship with Pastor Wright.

  • tacitus

    It’s not surprising that all the US election talk in the UK and Ireland is about Sarah Palin. She’s new and a cultural oddity to most people there. Even by the standards of Ireland, which is still shaking off the political dominance of the Catholic church, Palin is pretty much an anomaly these days. Politically she is far to the right of any mainstream politician in these two countries (leaving out the convoluted Northern Ireland situation, which I am not currently up to speed on), and her religious views, except perhaps for her anti-abortion stance, are also far to the right of what the Brits and the Irish normally encounter. The number of “Bible-believing” Christians there is vanishingly small.

    But most of all, why should we be surprised when a (likely) young-Earth creationist VP candidate for the most powerful country in the world is the subject of astonishment amongst our less religious allies? It astonishes them because it should be astonishing (and disturbingly so) in this day and age.

  • tacitus

    Senator Obama was a member of Pastor Wright’s church for 20 years and financially contributed to it while all the hateful sermons were being preached.

    How many “hateful sermons” exactly. I’ve only ever seen one. Was it really a pattern week in, week out? (I honestly don’t know.) But that’s not to excuse Obama. If he had continued to defend Wright after all his nonsense and outbursts once the fuss erupted, then I would be leery about Obama too.

    However, Obama gave a full account of the relationship in a public press conference, answered all questions, categorically repudiated the words of Wright, and then cut off all ties once Wright continued to repeat them.

    Palin? She hasn’t even begun to do any of these things, so where’s the equivalence?

    One side note: Wright’s “God Damn America” sermon is no different in substance to countless statements and sermons I have heard from right wing pastors like Robertson, Falwell, and Hagee in which they blame America and its sinful ways for the removal of “God’s shield of protection” that (somehow) enabled 9/11, the Oklahoma bombing, Katrina, and other attacks and natural disasters to befall the US. They all say the same thing — that we deserve the bad things that happen to us. That’s not to excuse Wright in any way, but he is not alone in citing that sentiment, even if he uses a sharper tone to do it.

  • tacitus

    Have you ever thought about just disabling comments on Cosmic Variance? I mean, sure, you’d miss out on a few worthy contributions, but for the most part it wouldn’t be much of a loss. I know it would greatly enhance my reading experience.

    LOL! No one’s putting a gun to your head to force you to keep hitting the page down key. Turning off comments is a terrible idea, though I have noticed that many right-wing blogs do exactly that. Not sure what that means.

  • joe

    I wouldn’t say Palin’s prediction is testable because what she really means is that no matter what happens on November 4, God will have done “the right thing for America” and therefore God exists.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    Sean, “God will intervene on Election Day.”

    Sure enough and that God is called Diebold and ESL. With divine help like that McCain might have it in the bag.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Hey “Speedy Gonzales” I am not living in a “religious disneyland”. I haven’t been to church since 1990. The FACT is the vast majority of people on this planet believe in spirituality and God. That is all I am saying.

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Do you people really spend your days looking for “empircal” and “testable” predictions everywhere? That must really be stressful. I would say its a neuroses. A new mental illness has been identified: Scientific Neurosis.

    Advice: Keep the scientific “method” where it belongs, in doing science. It does not apply to everything. Making it apply to everything is nothing more than a religion.

  • Speedy Gonzalez


    Oddity, surprised, astonishing – is good words but the verdict is more like “one level” above this.

    We just don’t understand how she does the math? What material is she made of?

    Sarah Palin is Pro-Life. And at the same time she is fond of pit bulls, guns and more of this?

    This kind of “logic” just does not work in Europe at the moment… “Prayer warriors”, what is that? Sounds like medieval…?

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Hey Speedy,
    What is wrong with Pit Bulls? Have you ever known one personally?

    If Pit Bulls are aggressive, its due to the owner. Pit Bulls raised by good owners definitely can turn out to be sweet dogs.

    Your comment is like many others on this blog-a Straw Man. Why don’t you criticize Sarah Palin’s ideas-there is plenty of room for that-instead of attacking her for being fond of Pit Bulls and guns?

    What is wrong with guns anyway?

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    David McMahon, and what I’m saying is that the majority of people in Europe does not believe in God. And that the majority of the countries in Europe are secularized by law:

    “secularize, UK USUALLY secularise
    verb [T]
    When something is secularized, religious influence, power or control is removed from it:
    He claims that Western secularized society makes it difficult to live as a Christian.”

    Everyone is free to believe in Santa Claus, God or that the Earth is flat. The important thing is *secularized*.

  • http://biblical-understanding.org David Douglass

    A science blog which introduces one of literally thousands of variations of so called “Christianity” do so on what scientific basis? Haha.

    Seriously — I’ve been a bible student all my life and seldom see proper hermenuetics, which remain consistent from the first book to the last book.

    Palin and Dobson both “use” the Bible to suit their own philosophical based theology: the stringing together of verses that produce a similar feeling. which is based in their own subjective desires.

    Simply because a biblical writer wrote of a person or himself as speaking to God in prayer and providing some personal feelings experienced at that time, doesn’t set a godly precedent for all so called “believers” to partake in the same relationship that writer had or his subject had at that time. (Just because King David felt something when Jehovah spolke to him doesn’t mean and can not mean it will be the same for me as it was for him as King of Israel at that time)

    Yet this is the type of biblical application that is promoted 98% of the time in the diverse, opposed, conflicting, contradicting, religion called, “Christianity.”

    And by the way, when you say, “Fundamental Christianity” every one who touches a Bible stands up to be counted — claiming to be the prime example.

    Here’s a “Fundamental” that all Christians miss — What is the context of the first book of the Bible?

    Answer: Exodus chapters 3 – 7 It was during this time that Moses was told that His God was Jehovah of Abraham, Creator of the universe, i.e. Egypt and everywhere else.

    The context of Genesis was and is, not the creation of the universe.

    A prayer by one of the “Christians” followed by a feeling, has nothing at all to do with God’s Will, and can not be proven biblically.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    David McMahon, “What is wrong with guns anyway?”

    It’s more like Palin is “wrong”, in thinking that guns and war is very useful tools for saving the life of small humans.

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon


    That is a bunch of baloney.

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Guns are a useful tool, if you get car jacked, or someone breaks into your house, or if you have to hunt for a meal.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    David McMahon,

    So if someone breaks into Sarah Palin’s house, she can kill that person with her gun and say that she is Pro-Life?

    Is that what you are saying?

  • http://quantummechanicsdemystified.blogspot.com/ David McMahon

    Hey speedy, If you broke into my house, I would kill you dead. Yes Sarah Palin can kill someone in self-defense and be “pro_life”, since the latter term means strictly against abortion.

    For the record, I already voted-and did vote for Obama. I am not strictly against abortion in the right wing sense. That being said, any individual certainly has the right to self-defense.

    What would you do if someone broke into your house while you were sleeping?

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    David McMahon, welcome onboard! 😉

    Were I live you be accused for murder if you killed a burglar. So I would call the police.

    After a while I will of course realize that the things he took I will get compensation for from my insurance company. And that is not civilized to kill someone even if he steals my brand new TV.

    I would thank “god” for that I didn’t had a gun in my house and killed someone and had to live with that for the rest of my life, just for a fu**ing TV.

    And I should also explain that burglars in my country “knows this”, so 99,99% does not carry a gun.

    I’m pretty sure that USA is on the wrong path. What are you going to do in the future? Are you going to arm the kids before they go to school??

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Speedy and David — as a rough rule of thumb, if more than one out of every five or so comments is by you, you’re doing something wrong. Let’s try to whittle it down to your most essential contributions.

  • http://ropata.wordpress.com ropata

    Speaking of statistics, I’d say that the eminent “Tracy” is fairly accurate example of a huge swathe of the population, have you seen the IQ distribution? Brainy bloggers and academics tend to forget that most people are terribly limited in their ability to understand the world around them.

  • Old Trigg

    During his first campaign, W. also very confidently predicted that he would win in Florida. I wonder if we won’t see once more a divine intervention on ballot machines ?

  • http://www.murky.org/blg/ Murk

    The reason Sarah Palin gets so much attention in Europe?

    As Sandi Toksvig points out on the Radio 4 ‘News Quiz’ – she’s a gift to comedy (indeed, every time she is mentioned they play a little snatch of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel to thank the Gods of Comedy)

  • nota bene

    @ #11–Unlike adherents of organized religion, atheists, strictly by virtue of their atheism, are not members of any movement. No atheist speaks for me, and I will never claim to speak for other atheists. I heartily encourage all human beings to pursue their beliefs to whatever ends they desire, but no one should ever accuse atheism of being a religion, because it is surely not.

    Atheism is a choice, and no two atheists believe exactly the same things. There is not, and can never be, by definition, an organized body of atheists, despite occasional attempts.

    @ #25–please keep attacking Sen. Obama over Messrs. Wright, Rezko, & Ayers. It worked so well for Hillary Clinton.

    The odds of both Colin Powell and Warren Buffet endorsing some wild-eyed radical are pretty close to nil, don’t you think? But please, by all means–keep firing McCarthyite broadsides against Sen. Obama’s character while America struggles with two wars and a crippling financial crisis. I mean, we’re cheering $2.50 gas. Oh yes, and add Galveston to the list next to New Orleans….perhaps Obama can pull himself away from fomenting the Islamofascist Revolution long enough to appoint a competent FEMA Commissioner.

    Anyway, I’m interested to hear more about what the Europeans had to say about the election beyond just Palin. She’s going to go down as embodying the worst qualities of Eagleton, Quayle, and Agnew.

  • ST

    Speedy is proud that: “Were I live you be accused for murder if you killed a burglar. So I would call the police.”

    I knew a girl who went to prison because a burgler tried to rape her and she killed him with a knife. In Amsterdam. I am not making this up. The point is that it is your over-liberal silliness that tells you that burglars are peaceful people who come into the house, ask permission, take a TV and leave.

    Just for the record, I am not for guns either. But moral high ground without a smack of realism just isn’t very useful, even for people outside the academia.

    Lets save the all-out European pride. It is a fact that Europeans can condescend Americans only because Americans do the dirty work for them. Of fighting the wars to protect the markets and resources of our beloved Western capitalism. I write this from Europe.

    America might be doing a lot of things wrong, but so is Europe. At best, it is an issue of degrees. There are plenty of skinheads and the like here, and in some places they are really close to the surface. Lets not even start about Berlusconi’s ilk. Most of my non-white friends have told me that England is far more racist than the US.

    I think America has certainly messed up in many ways (especially because it is a huge country and managing a continent is not easy), but it is also true that it is far from obvious that anybody else would have done a better job if they were dealt a similar hand.

  • TZ

    I think the main difference between the US and Europe (I’m Swiss) is not the fraction of people that would describe themselves as Christians, it’s the priority of the subject religion in politics. I have never heard of a major European election which has been decided by the religious views of a candidate. It is simply not a topic at all. We believe (at least in Switzerland, but I’m sure also in most other European countries) that religion belongs to the private live and has nothing lost in politics. I wouldn’t even know about the religious views of our politicians, and I don’t care neither. I only need to know about their views on economics, education, foreign policy etc, since this is what politics should be about. Therefore most Europeans are very surprised about all these discussions about religion in the US elections and this influence of religion in politics worries us (or at least me) and leads to a bad feeling about US politics here in Europe.

  • ST

    “I have never heard of a major European election which has been decided by the religious views of a candidate. It is simply not a topic at all.”

    On this I agree. This is a point where most of the US (the invisible majority who can still vote) is still very primitive.

  • Methalos

    I thought it might be worthwhile -as a Christian, by the way- to clarify some of the relevant information.

    “God’s intervention”
    From a Christian perspective this is almost an oxymoron. God is omnipotent and the whole construction of the world; all events and the entirety of history are fore-ordained. Thus the result of election day is in fact already determined. Whether or not it is in the Republicans’ favour is not important. Personally, were I an American citizen and of voting age, I would vote Democrat.

    “an exceptionally subtle part of God’s plan”
    I sort of covered this above. Nevertheless, just because Sarah Palin thinks it is God’s will for her party to win does not mean that it is so. Nor would it necessarily be the best result.

    “probably inserted by communists”
    That seems unlikely but there are certain aspects of Communism that even Christians should admire. Other aspects not so much.

    -separation of church and state
    Yes, I believe for a Christian, a Christian world view should tint their election choices as well as other choices. Nevertheless when a politician tries to sell me my religion I am always suspicious.

    -fanatic atheism
    Its already been said but it bears repetition. Fundamentalism is dogmatic insistence on core tenets of a belief system. For a Christian this boils down to the truth of the bible, for an atheist it’s not that different. There are many laws to which you abide, foremost that there is not and cannot be a god.

    -Science for Christians
    I think with a proper understanding of the bible you will find that it is not incompatible with science. If you could prove to me beyond doubt that it was, I would cease being a Christian. There would be no point.

    That seems to be all that’s relevant and bit extra for now.

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  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    You learn something every day. I always assumed everyone over here was fascinated in Sarah Palin because of her famous father, Michael, who used to be in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

  • http://biblical-understanding.org David Douglass

    Ok Methalos, the passages which present words like, “Fore-ordained”, Predestined, Fore-know,” etc, are ALL used in the writer’s context; service in the ministry of the Kingdom of God on Earth — which always involves Israel in some way.

    You said —

    “God’s intervention”
    From a Christian perspective this is almost an oxymoron. God is omnipotent and the whole construction of the world; all events and the entirety of history are fore-ordained. Thus the result of election day is in fact already determined.

    You have taken a biblical truth regarding God’s Kingdom and “assumed” to know exactly how God’s dealings with global matters works.

    Tell me, is it possible that God seeing all things in the timeline of humanity saw the American 2008 election and determined to NOT do anything regarding it ??

    The fact is “Christians” would do well to learn from Job and not attempt to explain God, nor His reasons and methods of dealing with mankind’s lives.

    No one can say with certainty that God has acted in any way for or on behalf of, this upcoming election, to say He has is to assume to know what God did NOT reveal in His revelation.

    You thoughts are a prime example of “String Theology”.

  • tacitus

    -fanatic atheism
    Its already been said but it bears repetition. Fundamentalism is dogmatic insistence on core tenets of a belief system. For a Christian this boils down to the truth of the bible, for an atheist it’s not that different. There are many laws to which you abide, foremost that there is not and cannot be a god.

    Methalos, you’re missing the point. Sure, there are a few extremely outspoken atheists who are convinced they can prove there is no god, but that number is vanishingly small, especially compare to the number of outspoken Christians who believe they can prove there is a God (there are whole denominations of them in America).

    But just look at these “core tenets” you mention. On the Christian side, you have a supernatural being (God), whom you worship, you have holy scripture (the Bible) that contains hundreds of laws and commandments on how to conduct all aspects of your daily lives, and you have dozens of creeds, statements of faith, all of which unite large groups of people into organized sects and denominations.

    On the atheist side? Well, it’s a given that atheists don’t believe there is a God, and I suppose it follows that we believe that you should look elsewhere for guidance on how to live our lives. But that’s all there is. There are not “many laws” by which we abide (unless you mean the law of the state, but we all abide by those, including all religious people, unless you want to risk arrest and punishment).

    You say for a Christian boils down to the “truth in the Bible” and that for atheists it’s not that different. But apart from agreeing that we don’t believe there is a God, what is the equivalent for atheists? There is nothing in atheism that demands proof of no God, nor that we should convert people to non-belief. There are no atheist laws or commandments to follow, no prescribed political agenda, nobody telling us how we’re supposed to live our lives. Sure there are books written by atheists who have their own opinions on such things, but to equate that with the creeds of Christianity is to sorely miss the point.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    (Sean, sorry I got “carried away”. I’ve counted to 13 comments, so I hope this is okay. 😉 )

    TZ, thank you very much. This is exactly my point:
    EU = secularized
    U.S. secularized

    “God’s intervention – Thus the result of election day is in fact already determined. Whether or not it is in the Republicans’ favour is not important.”

    This kind of mumbo-jumbo scares me, and makes me feel sad. Why vote at all? Why not start the United States of Christian Dictatorship right away?

    Some try to tell me what I’m proud for and not, with the conclusion that I love EU and hate U.S.

    It’s wrong. I love America (except right-wing Christians). America gave the world blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, soul music, hamburgers, moon trips, space programs, new technology, science, the brightest brains in the world and everything that is modern.

    That’s why I’m worried that America will make a disastrous mistake mccain, sorry *again*, after eight years with GWB.

    It’s time to stop the American path toward medieval mumbo-jumbo before it’s too late.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    U.S. <> secularized

  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    er…I think there may be a few problems with your list Mr Gonzalez.

    I’ll grant you blues, jazz and rock’n’roll….but America gave the world science ?

    I didn’t know that Newton, Galileo, Einstein, Darwin, etc etc were all American.

    I’ll accept that America probably has many of the brightest brains in the world but I think many of them moved to the states from elsewhere so in this sense America didn’t give them, it took them.

    You’re even on thin ice with hamburgers which are named after Hamburg, a place in Germany.

  • Elliot Tarabour


    you forgot “Country Music”…. A unique American cultural contribution to be sure.


  • Pingback: links for 2008-10-23 | Yostivanich.com()

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Sorry guys, I’m not allowed to answer. I have to wait for at least 5 comments:(

  • pnb

    Palin’s prediction that God will do the right thing, to me, clearly implies that she believes the right thing is a McCain/Palin win. It’s not a general prediction that whoever wins is God’s choice. She means, “we’re God’s choice and we should win.” Anyone disagree?

  • James


    I think your key mistake about atheists (and I am one) is captured in your comment:

    “There are many laws to which you abide, foremost that there is not and cannot be a god.”

    The “cannot” belongs to religion, not atheism. Atheists (as far we can be regarded as group – I personally don’t go any meetings or ceremonies…) do not have any “faith” in the non-existance of god, instead we just make up our minds as best we can using the available evidence and the tools of reasoning that seem to have worked over the years.

    There could well still be be a god, but he/she/it would have a lot to answer for (especially if Palin gets elected..)

  • pnb

    After thinking more about this, the only conclusion I can reach is that I really wish you hadn’t posted the video. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to know that these people are out there.

    I can only hope that PBS returns to her home on election night so we can all watch as she realizes that, oops, the Lord let her down – and that, despite her objections, we do indeed have a “President O-ba-ma.”

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    The GOP politician’s prayer:

    The Lord is my shephard;
    I shall not want.
    He make my ballot name shine forth
    He leads me besides electronic bliss.
    He restores my campaign,
    He leads me in the paths of
    electoral victory
    for His name sake

    Yea, though I walk through the valley
    of the shadow of Democrats
    I will fear no Obama,
    for Diebold is with me.
    Your vote switching black boxes,
    they comfort me.

    We are getting lots of strange stuff about white voter’s last minute reluctance and the like. This stuff about God’s intervention is maybe meant to placate true believers enough so they ignore the blatant election fraud, and FOXNEWS will obviously focus in on voter reluctance. The rest of us will be told to shut up, a’la O’Reilly.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Fleeb

    The FACT is the vast majority of people on this planet believe in spirituality and God. That is all I am saying.

    In fact I think the vast majority of people on this planet believe that the earth is at the center of the universe, and a large portion believe that the positioning of heavenly bodies directly impacts their lives. Unfortunately the universe is not amenable to majority rule. Though somewhere in the multiverse you might be able to find and environment where the laws of nature change based on popular demand!

  • William W.

    Once upon a time, there might have been a social benefit to monotheism, e.g. its ability to organize large numbers of people without much back talk. Monotheism was a “trait” selected for by social pressures of the time.

    I think, though, that we’re on the cusp of an enormous social revolution, one in which atheism is the trait that social pressures will select for. Monotheism posits some universal observer who knows all things. In atheism, there is a much bigger incentive to see things for ourselves, because there is nobody else to see them if we don’t. Monotheism posits a downward projection of morality, determined arbitrarily before humanity began. Atheism suggests that the best morals are those which usefully uphold the values dear to one’s self.

    As a social trait, atheism is infinitely more curious and flexible than monotheism.

  • http://www.forcesopposed.com Bobby

    Atheism suggests that the best morals are those which usefully uphold the values dear to one’s self.

    And this is why atheism will never be dominant. There will always be humans who believe that some values are, or should be, universal – even at the expense of themselves.

  • http://ropata.wordpress.com ropata

    There are many good things about the robust independence and personal growth associated with Atheism. I think Americans have been poorly served by their local interpretations of Christianity, which has been seriously warped by the consumer culture and militaristic nationalism. Lay Christianity in the West is sadly infantilised and glib. I agree that we’re on the cusp of an enormous social revolution, but one in which EXTREME WEALTH is NO LONGER the trait that social pressures will select for.

    Fundamentalism is based on certain erroneous assumptions about the Bible and the world…
    a) Every word is directed to the 21st century Western Christian reader
    b) Every verse in Genesis is a literal scientific observation (but don’t worry about imagery such as Ezekiel, Joel, Daniel, Revelation)
    c) The 21st century Western Christian lay reader is able to interpret the Bible infallibly by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
    d) There’s a lot to be afraid of in the big bad non Christian world, just keep buying Joel Osteen books and you’ll be OK
    e) Fill your soul with junk from the Christian subculture… don’t question anything or be TOO honest

    Perhaps in the coming decades people will discard their idiotic religious trappings altogether. I hope that the church evolves away from its monolithic soul-crushing religion, into a more homespun, humble, genuine, engaged, and spiritual faith.

  • dave

    “from none other than Sarah Palin: God will intervene on Election Day.”

    If Obama gets in ? Dang maybe she`s right .

  • tyler

    the joke that opened this post is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

    unfortunately, then the rest of hte thread happened

  • sonic

    I like the opening joke. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the outcome will be god’s will regardless.
    “God always answers your prayers- it’s just that sometimes the answer in ‘no!'”.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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