I'm in Playboy

By Chris Mooney | January 4, 2011 5:33 pm

To be more specific: I have an article in the Pamela Anderson issue currently on newsstands.

The article does not appear to be online, but it’s on p. 168 of the magazine–the Playboy forum. (Kinda hard to find, but you’ll get there.)

The piece is about scientists who aren’t religious, but are spiritual, in an atheistic sort of way. An excerpt:

But can scientists who say they are awestruck by nature and moved by their research really relate to more traditional religious experiences, a la those reported by saints? Aren’t “awe” and “wonder” nondescript notions that add emotional embroidery to the brute facts of the universe? Perhaps not. Feelings of awe, wonder and mystery recur in the context of human quests for deeper understanding or revelation. In his 1917 work The Idea of the Holy, German theologian Rudolph Otto singled out a sense of awe as a key characteristic of our encounters with what he termed the “numinous”–an overwhelming power or presence beyond ourselves.

Science can unleash this feeling too. Just sit in a darkened room and look at nebulae pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, as University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank describes doing in his book The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate. “Scientists are not the only ones who catch their collective breath before these pictures,” he writes. “The momentary hush and the gasp that follow are involuntary.”

Please note…if looking at the Pamela Anderson cover image makes you feel awe, wonder, or spirituality…you may need a type of care beyond anything that this blog can offer.

Comments (15)

  1. ben

    Thanks, Chris, for at least ending with this admission of the utterly pointless bankruptcy of the whole piece:

    “…we cannot have spiritual experiences without an Earth to have them on.”

    That’s really far more profound, and accurate, than you understand.

  2. Chris Mooney

    Wow my Playboy piece is becoming quite the Rorschach. I may have to say more about this.

  3. Doug

    It really ought to end with “we cannot have spiritual experiences, at least as far as spiritual experiences can be adequately defined as spiritual.”

  4. ERV

    Wow my Playboy piece is becoming quite the Rorschach.
    If by ‘Rorschach’ you mean ‘clearly and plainly demonstrates that any/all words that escape Chris Mooneys mouth are ultimately lip-service with the intent to support his true goal of self-promotion and celebrity’, then yes.

    Yes that article is quite the Rorschach.

  5. Wow my Playboy piece is becoming quite the Rorschach. I may have to say more about this.

    Its meaningless blob. Right.

  6. Wow my Playboy piece is becoming quite the Rorschach. I may have to say more about this.

    Alternatively, you could actually engage the criticism.

  7. Kirth Gersen

    So, are you telling us that scientists are touching God without knowing it? Or just that people searching for God experience the same emotions as everyone else, and that these emotions actually have nothing at all to do with magical powers? Or what? I’m at something of a loss as to what to “take away” from your excerpt… which may be intentional. Is the sole purpose of this “trailer” to sell more issues of Playboy to people who want to find out exactly what it is that you’re talking about?

  8. Webster

    The real beauty of this article is that it’s written by Chris Mooney so we don’t even have to read it to know that’s it’s a tired repetition of his apologetics. Now if only the pictures were something more interesting than Pamela Anderson. These two has-beens go together nicely with a bit of air(head)brushing.

  9. Mike McCants

    “scientists who aren’t religious, but are spiritual”

    As if the word “spiritual” had a real meaning in this context.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Secular spirituality denotes various attempts to recognize aspects of life and human experience which are not captured by a purely materialist or mechanistic view of the world, but without accepting belief in the supernatural.”

    Materialist? Nope. Religious? Nope. Meaningless? Yep.

  10. GroovyJ

    “Science can unleash this feeling too.”

    True. By putting a special hat on your head and stimulating your brain trans-cranially, science can make you experience the imminence of god in a potted cactus, a ham sandwich, or a used diaper. It can give you the EXACT SAME experience as all that praying and meditation simply by directly activating the part of your brain that is associated with peak experience. The only difference is that it provides the experience easily and reliably, unlike religion.

    Science can also inspire awe and wonder, of course, but that property is completely irrelevant, and it would take either deep dishonesty or incredible stupidity to assert that this gives science common ground with religion. You may as well be arguing that belief in science is comensurate with belief in leprechauns because leprechauns have pots of gold, and science has made some people rich as well. Your argument is every bit as cogent as that one, but slightly less honest in that it depends on equivocation to hide its ridiculousness.

  11. Heidi Anderson

    Christ Almighty, I do not understand the hate for Chris.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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