Burt Humburg posted Entry 2561 on August 30, 2006 01:00 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2555

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Chapter 15 is entitled “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”. For much of this chapter, the reader will find Wells on his soapbox about this or that aspect of, you guessed it, “Traditional Christianity”. And, like “Darwinism” in the first chapter, Wells struggles to find a definition for his term. Wells chooses a current version of the Nicene Creed as the sort of “creedal affirmations that” traditionally unite Christians. (Apparently the litmus suggested by Jesus was inadequate.) Wells almost approaches clarity when he implies that if one doesn’t adhere to the tenets of the (current?) Nicene Creed, one cannot seriously consider him or herself as a Christian. (No word yet on the apparently non-Christians who affirmed a prior version of the Nicene Creed.)

There are two important things to say about Wells’s definition of a “Traditional Christian”. First, the commitment to the tenets of the Nicene Creed is hardly a universal litmus for determining who is and who is not a Christian. A Protestant, even one who subscribes to every tenet of the Nicene Creed, who thinks that Wells is right is encouraged to try to obtain the sacramental elements from a Catholic communion and see how far he gets. (According to Catholic tradition, Protestants cannot receive Catholic communion.)

The second important thing to note is that Jonathan Wells is styling himself as a defender of “Traditional Christianity.”

Read that again: Jonathan Wells, Traditional Christianity. Not to be impolite, but to us here at the Thumb Wells defending “Traditional Christianity” reads as queer as Ann Coulter defending “traditional values”.

Jonathan Wells has testified that he is a Unificationist, a follower of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and a member of the Grand Unification Church. According to Wikipedia, among other things, Reverend Moon published a document in 2002 that claimed all the leaders of the world’s five major religions (and several communist leaders besides) all voted Moon to be the Messiah and pledged their support to him.

Wikipedia also describes that, according to Unification Church theology, when Reverend Moon marries couples in a mass marriage ceremony, he cleanses those believers of original sin. For those not versed in “traditional Christianity”, original sin is the reason why people need to be born again; according to traditional Christian theology, absent original sin, we would have no need for a savior or forgiveness. (For those interested in more information on Reverend Moon or his Grand Unification Church, John Gorenfeld and Mark Levine’s interviews regarding Reverend Moon here and here are highly recommended.)

As I wrote in my review of Chapter 1, we here at the Thumb defend Wells’ right to say and publish anything he wants. However, words must have meanings and any definition of “Traditional Christianity” sufficiently plastic to accomodate Unificationist theology would really be expected to accomodate verified observations like evolution.

So the definition of “Traditional Christianity”, like “Darwinism”, is a word that means whatever Wells wants it to mean, but Wells doesn’t stop with just new definitions for words. When Wells writes, “Before Darwin, science and theology in Christendom generally got along quite well. Indeed, most of the time they were mutually supportive. Serious conflict erupted only after 1859, and then only because Darwinism declared war on traditional Christianity” (p. 170), he’s also inventing a new history of the interaction between religion and science.

We here at the Thumb would remark that readers should Google, at their convenience and presumably after they have replaced their irony meters, “Galileo”.

Snark aside, the onset of the science and religion war is not linked in any way with Darwin. Whether by politics (as suggested by this Wikipedia article on Science and Religion) or by an inherent immiscibility between its philosophies, science and religion have had periods during which they didn’t get along. As Scott Liell notes in a NY Times Essay entitled “Shaking the Foundation of Faith:”

At the end of the day, it was never faith per se that stood in opposition to science; Franklin was ultimately as much a believer as Thomas Prince. Many people of faith - Unitarians, Quakers and those who, like most of the founding fathers, were deists - were prominent members of the scientific community. Rather, it was (and is) a specific type of belief that consistently finds itself at odds with science, one that is not found merely in America and is not limited to Christianity. It is the specific brand of faith that devalues reason and confers the mantle of infallible, absolute authority upon a leader or a book. It is only the priests of these sects, as Jefferson said, who “dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.”

(Excerpt from “Shaking the Foundation of Faith” from the NY Times)

Wells’s claim that science and religion were chummy up until Darwin is ahistorical nonsense, as preposterous as the idea that the South won the Civil War.

Still on his soapbox, Wells moves to reject theistic evolution in a section tellingly entitled, “Surrendering on Darwin’s Terms”. After describing how philosopher Michael Ruse considers Darwinism, “so well established that Christians should accept it as fact” (p. 173), Wells quotes Ruse as saying, “‘It is still open to you to accept that God did the job. More likely, if you accept God already, it is still very much open to you to think of God as great inasmuch as He has created this really wonderful world’” (p. 174). Wells then sneeringly writes, “In other words, a Darwinian who really, really [emphasis in original] wants to be a Christian can be a Christian of sorts—just not a traditional one” (p. 174).

Or take Wells’s contempt for biologist and Kitzmiller trial expert witness Kenneth Miller. (No, not just Miller’s theology but also for him as a person; please see Mark Perakh’s review.) Wells quotes Miller as believing “in Darwin’s God”. For those who have not read Miller’s Finding Darwin’s GodAmazon, I highly recommend it. It’s the kind of easy read that just about anyone can pick up and enjoy. Take, for example, this excerpt.

“Look at the beauty of a flower,” [Father Murphy, Kenneth Miller’s priest during childhood] began. “The Bible tells us that even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed as one of these. And do you know what? Not a single person in the world can tell us what makes a flower bloom. All those scientists in their laboratories, the ones who can split the atom and build jet planes and televisions, well, not one of them can tell you how a plant makes flowers.” And why should they be able to? “Flowers, just like you, are the work of God.”

I was impressed. No one argued, no one wisecracked. We filed out of the church like good little boys and girls, ready for our first communion the next day. And I never thought of it again, until this symposium on developmental biology. Sandwiched between two speakers working on more fashionable topics in animal development was Elliot M. Meyerowitz, a plant scientist at Caltech. A few of my colleagues, uninterested in research dealing with plants, got up to stretch their legs before the final talk, but I sat there with an ear-to-ear grin on my face. I jotted notes furiously; I sketched the diagrams he projected on the screen and wrote additional speculations of my own in the margins. Meyerowitz, you see, had explained how plants make flowers.

(Excerpt from Finding Darwin’s God, by Kenneth Miller)

Miller goes on in that chapter to talk about the biology regarding how plants evolved flowers, the theological implications of this, and in general holds forth on a view of science and religion in which they interact, not wage war. Agree or disagree with Miller’s perspectives, for Christians on just about any side of the evolution debate, it’s a fascinating read and begs discussion in coffee shops or Bible study groups.

Wells chose a different portion to quote, thereby introducing the reader to Miller’s book:

Miller argues that the inherent unpredictability of evolution was essential to God’s plan to create human beings with free will. “If events in the material world were strictly determined,” he writes, “then evolution would indeed move toward the predictable outcomes that so many people seem to want…. As material beings, our actions and even our thoughts would be preordained, and our freedom to act and choose would disappear.”

(p. 174)

Wells moves quickly to disavow Miller’s perspectives by writing in the very next sentence, “In the Christian tradition, however, human freedom is an attribute of our non-material souls rather than a product of material evolution. Darwin’s God is not the God of traditional Christianity” (p. 174). Then he moves on to Stephen Jay Gould. No discussion about Father Murphy or Meyerowitz. No acknowledgement or analysis of the rich detail of Miller’s book. Instead, Miller’s patiently argued point, that putting faith in God because of scientific failures represents poorly placed faith (described a bit later in this essay), is simply lost on Wells; he’s already handwavingly dismissed it on other, highly questionable grounds.

Did You Know?

  1. Mainstream Christianity has no problem with theistic evolution.
  2. More religious scientists support evolution than “intelligent design”.
  3. Jonathan Wells, self-styled defender of “Traditional Christianity”, is a follower of Rev. Moon and not a traditional Christian.

I write “questionable” because there are serious flaws with Wells’s logic. When Wells retorts that our decisions are the exclusive ken of our spiritual bodies, does he seriously not think that coffee in the morning tends to make those decisions sharper for many people (even Christians who fully adopt the Nicene Creed)? Is Wells honestly not aware that children born with certain combinations of abnormal chromosomes or genes can predictably have problems with cognition or demonstrate maladaptive behaviors, even in mild cases? From a theological and sociological perspective, it must be an excuse to simplemindedly say, “my genes made me sin”, but genes and other physical factors do matter. No understanding of theology that completely rejects these materialistic influences is likely to be convincing to those with even a pedestrian understanding of neurobiology. Wells’s dismissal of Miller’s attempt to describe his understanding of God is just that: an anti-intellectual, handwaving, supercilious, and simpleminded dismissal.

We here at the Thumb would caution Wells that Behe’s dismissal of evidence didn’t work too well at the Kitzmiller trial.

Wells then turns his hatred of theistic evolution to Father George Coyne, cosmologist and former director of the Vatican Observatory. Coyne is quoted, “‘… Science is completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications …. It is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For the believer, science tells of a God who must be very different from God as seen by them’” (p. 178) Again, Wells moves quickly to rebuke: “This logic-challenged priest—science is theologically neutral yet leads to a different God—has the arrogance to lecture a pope and a cardinal on Catholic doctrine” (p. 178).

To put these dismissals of theistic evolution into perspective, the reader must understand that there is a venerable history of enthusiasts of science trying to find peace with religion and vice versa. Throughout history and forever into the future, whenever the conclusions of science conflict with contemporary theological understanding, believers have struggled and will struggle to reconcile them.

Miller provided an example of that kind of conflict: Father Murphy believed in God because of scientific ignorance in a problem. In the fullness of time, that problem was solved by science, in this case by Meyerowitz. Stated in slightly different language, the elucidation of the evolution of flowers undermined the logic behind Father Murphy’s theology. As Miller writes in his book:

Like [Father Murphy, the creationists who use God of the Gaps thinking] have based their search for God on the premise that nature is not self-sufficient. By such logic, just as Father Murphy claimed that only God could make a flower, they claim that only God could have made a species. Both assertions support the existence of God only so long as they are shown to be true, but serious problems for religion emerge when the assertions are shown to be false.

If a lack of scientific explanation is proof of God’s existence, the counterlogic is unimpeachable: a successful scientific explanation is an argument against God. That’s why this reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than it is to science. Eliot Meyerowitz’s fine work on floral induction suddenly becomes a threat to the divine, even though common sense tells us it should be nothing of the sort.

The reason it doesn’t, of course, is because the original premise is flawed. The Western God created a material world that is home to both humans and daffodils. God’s ability to act in that world need not be predicated on its material defects. There is, therefore, no theological reason for any believer to assume that the macromolecules of the plant cell cannot fully account for the formation of a flower. Life, in all its glory, is based in the physical reality of the natural world. We are dust, and from that dust come the molecules of life to make both flowers and the dreamers who contemplate them.

The critics of evolution have made exactly the same mistake, but on a higher and more dangerous plane. They represent no serious problem for science, which meets the challenge easily. Their claims about missing intermediates and suspect mechanism can be answered directly by providing the intermediates and demonstrating the mechanisms. Religion, however, is drawn into dangerous territory by the creationist logic. By arguing, as they have repeatedly, that nature cannot be self-sufficient in the formation of new species, the creationists forge a logical link between the limits of natural process to accomplish biological change and the existence of a designer (God). In other words, they show the proponents of atheism exactly how to disprove the existence of God—show that evolution works, and it’s time to tear down the temple. As we have seen, this is an offer that the enemies of religion are all too happy to accept.

All of this logic is lost on Wells, who dismisses Miller’s theology because it accomodates the obvious influences on our decisions by physical and material things. Like Behe on the witness stand in the Kitzmiller trial, Wells waves away this inconvenient theology with which he disagrees.

Father Coyne doesn’t get much more respect. Wells tries to earn schoolyard snark points by identifying an apparent logical contradiction: how can science be neutral to theology and yet inform our understanding of God? When one reads Father Coyne’s entire essay, one almost gets the feeling that Coyne knew about the apparent contradiction beforehand and published it regardless. Look what Coyne writes in his final paragraph:

These are very weak images, but how else do we talk about God? We can only come to know God by analogy. The universe as we know it today through science is one way to derive an analogical knowledge of God. For those who believe modern science does say something to us about God, it provides a challenge, an enriching challenge, to traditional beliefs about God. God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity. God lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution. He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves. Is such thinking adequate to preserve the special character attributed by religious thought to the emergence not only of life but also of spirit, while avoiding a crude creationism? Only a protracted dialogue will tell. But we should not close off the dialogue and darken the already murky waters by fearing that God will be abandoned if we embrace the best of modern science.

(Final paragraph from God’s Chance Creation by Father Coyne, former director of Vatican Observatory)

Humility and honesty, that’s what I’m struck by when I read these words. “Apparent grammatical contradictions be damned”, Coyne might be saying to us. “We need to have an honest discussion about God and talk about what’s really going on.” Here’s a priest seeking to reconcile the science he understands and the things he wants to believe. Miller is a scientist seeking to do the same. Both of them are doing their best and both want to dialog with believers who find the answers provided and verified by science threatening.

Apparently Wells isn’t too impressed by their efforts. Indeed, he’s scornful of the fact that these scientists who are Christians are thinking and endorsing thoughts that diverge from “Traditional Christianity”, or at least Wells’s elastic version of it. And the method with which he expresses his scorn—calling Father Coyne arrogant for daring to have an opinion that is in variance with his superiors in the Church—is noteworthy because it brings up an important thing to understand about Wells’s book.

Wells’s screed certainly purports to be a subversive and revolutionary book that advocates “intelligent design” using freethinking arguments: the title is The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, the pages are peppered with callouts like “Books You’re Not Supposed to Read” and “Websites You’re Not Supposed to Visit”, and much verbiage is spent positioning “intelligent design” as this underdog, upstart idea that just needs a fighting chance and reasonable people willing to think forbidden thoughts to support it, thereby allowing “intelligent design” creationism to get a foothold and find its success over the inferior “Darwinism”.

This book is not revolutionary. Wells is writing in a highly conservative fashion. Wells is not a freethinker. When Father Coyne put forward what he stated to be an inarticulate best effort to describe his feelings about God, feelings which were in keeping with the best available science but necessarily conflicted with Schöenborn’s anti-evolutionary position, Wells derided him as one who had “the arrogance to lecture a pope and a cardinal on Catholic doctrine”. Frankly, it is inconsistent of Wells to beg for open-minded thinking and posture as a revolutionary when it comes to “intelligent design” and turn right around and disagree with that person’s theology on the basis that the person was arrogant for disagreeing with a religious leader in the first place.

The chapter in its entirety endorses “Traditional Chrisitanity”, implicitly and explicitly belittling those who somehow fall outside of Wells’ elastic definition. Wells writes, “Although [Darwinism] may allow for the existence of a deity, it is not the God of traditional Christianity, who created human beings in his image. The contradiction couldn’t be sharper, and most attempts to blunt it end up abandoning traditional Christianity” (p. 173).

This is not revolutionary thinking. It is highly conservative thinking. Conservative here does not necessarily mean “anti-abortion” or any of its modern connotations but instead the “preserve the status quo, tradition, and the thinking of our fathers” sense of the term. Such conservatism stands diametrically opposed to revolutionary, freethinking philosophies. Because it is only these freethinking philosophies that can credibly recommend “Books You Aren’t Supposed to Read”, this makes Wells an ersatz revolutionary. His invocation of these attitudes in support of “intelligent design” is mere spin. Wells writes as though one can simply call for the teaching of something that is not generally taught—say the idea that two and two are six—and spin the deviance as a matter of political incorrectness instead of advocacy of ignorance and stupidity. Political incorrectness, at least how Wells uses it, is simply a marketing ploy.

Wells is not writing this book in isolation. When the creationists in Kansas tried to change the definition of science to allow in supernatural causation, only the naive would fail to recognize that those changes were at the behest of the Discovery Institute. The creationists who rejected the recommendations of experts, which includes the authors and contributers of this book, would have us return to a time where every earthquake and disease was a reason to fear God and science was practiced with no restrictions to testable claims—the Dark Ages.

Setting aside Wells’s thinly veiled spin of “revolutionary thinking”, what is really going on is that the writer of this chapter—hard to believe it is Wells given his beliefs—takes deep issue with theologies that are not “traditional” and with any science that contradicts those preconclusions. Pseudo-Wells, in any other language, is highly conservative; he or she should have included a callout in the margins of a page in this chapter, “Thoughts You’re Not Supposed to Think” and put “Theistic Evolution” or “Any Thoughts About God, Bourne of Personal Experience with Science that Happened to Conflict With Religious Dogma, with Which I Disagree”.

As Jack Krebs has written:

[The ID creationists’s] tactics have changed. Actually developing an alternative science of Intelligent Design has failed miserably—they haven’t really even tried. Legislating design via laws, state science standards or local school policies has failed. At this point, the new tactic seems to be escalate the divisive culture war….

On the one hand, it would be a relief if these direct attacks on science and public science education would quiet down. No one really needs to take the time any more to seriously address “complex specified information”, “irreducible complexity,” or any of the other unworkable psuedoscience concepts offered by ID.

But really, the culture war approach, while more honest, is also more dangerous. The ID advocates will continue talking to their target audiences as if design were true and evolution were false, and as if believing in design and rejecting evolution is the only position compatible with their religious beliefs—and their target audiences will be glad to uncritically accept this. By dropping the pretenses about the purely scientific aspects of ID, ID advocates will in fact be able to mobilize their target audiences much more effectively. As the Salvo quote implies, the battle here is for the “public imagination” about these worldview issues. Separating ID from the cultural issues in order to attack science and education hasn’t worked, so now it’s time to abandon that tactic and go all out in arousing people to join up for the “us against them” war of the worldviews battle.

This approach is dangerous to American society because it’s Wedgey divisiveness, its self-righteousness (“the only worldview that works”) and its vilification of all other perspectives is antithetical to the fundamental need for our society to have room for a broad spectrum of cultural and religious perspectives. The approach these ID culture warriors are taking, if successful, would likely lead to the same type of destructive fragmentation that we see in other countries where religious fundamentalism is ascendent.

Scientists who think that, ever since Kizmiller, the challenge of “intelligent design” is over are sorely mistaken. As Krebs points out, the culture war dispatches will merely change. Away goes the pretense that “intelligent design” creationism is scientific; enter the argument that the method of science itself, and its attendant exclusion to testable causes, is evil. This argument is dangerous for the reasons Krebs discussed above and PZ discusses at Pharyngula. Both scientists and mainstream theologians—indeed, anyone interested in furthering and defending the enlightenment—have an interest in fighting this culture war waged by the creationists. The Kitzmiller decision, as decisive as it was, represents only a beginning. If historians were shocked that James Kennedy just aired a program about how Darwin led to Hitler, wait till you see what they cook up next. As Donald Kennedy put it, the scientists who are the beneficiaries of the enlightenment must now be its stewards.

At the beginning of my review, I mentioned that Catholics don’t allow Protestants to take communion. I close this chapter’s review with an important point to understand about fundamentalism. Depending on how sharply you define “Traditional Christianity”, one may exclude just about anyone. “Keeping Christianity traditional” could mean anything from shunning those who think that God used evolution as His tool to shunning those who think women should be allowed to have a leadership role in the church. But if we took this argument—pseudo-Wells’s argument—to its logical conclusion, we could conceivably roll back the clock to a time when a notion of “Traditional Christianity” included the belief that sickness was not caused by agents doctors can treat today but by demons. Pseudo-Wells, for all his pained traditionalism, might likely be considered as much of a heretic as Kenneth Miller by the “Traditional Christians” of that day, if he happened to take a Tylenol for a headache.

Science marches on, relentlessly, and believers have often used science to gain a deeper understanding of scripture. Science, in this sense, provides a kind of feedback, a reminder that we shouldn’t let our theological beliefs get the better of us and that we should be humble enough to recognize and react to the fact that we don’t know everything. God might still have something to say to us, and we should not fear the discoveries of science. This attitude is exemplary for not just Christians, but believers of any stripe, including Muslims, Jews, and others.

One of the more successful (at least in terms of popular acclaim and academic and theological approval) fruits of this feedback is theistic evolution. A defense of some form of this Christian theology, or a more complete description of its tenets and controversies, is beyond the scope of this review and charter of this website. (And I’m grateful to our non-Christian readers for their forbearance during this post.) Interested parties are referred to Keith Miller’s Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, Kenneth Miller’s aforementioned Finding Darwin’s God, or the rich discussions found elsewhere on the internet.

I close this review with a message of hope. Theologians and scientists alike credit Galileo and remember him as a paragon. On the other hand, Galileo’s accusers who claimed the mantle of traditionalism have probably engendered more atheistic attitudes than anything else. Those who lashed out at Benjamin Franklin in the “Shaking the Foundations of Faith” article above similarly put all their chips on a notion of God that today is literally ridiculous. More importantly than leading people away from Christianity is the fact that those who claimed that Christianity could not survive if Galileo’s views were correct were, in the fullness of time, wrong. Those who claimed that Christianity could not survive if Ben Franklin’s views were correct were, as we know today, wrong. They were wrong about Christianity not surviving, and they were definitely wrong about the science.

Those traditionalists invoked faith because they were afraid of losing God. They should have invoked reason because they were confident in God. So it is with pseudo-Wells. In reading these considered and researched reviews, provided by those who took time to understand the material, the reader is already aware that pseudo-Wells is on the wrong side of science. From a historical standpoint, at least to this Panda’s Thumb contributor, pseudo-Wells and other “traditionalists” who invoke faith over verified science and “dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight” have been on the wrong side of Christianity as well.

And this gives me great hope for the future.

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Comment #124355

Posted by fusilier on August 30, 2006 10:44 AM (e)

Just a niggle.

The Church (yes, I am Catholic) is not the only body which limits communion to members. My Beloved and Darling Wife is a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the Sunday booklet containing the order of worship always includes a statement wrt their belief in the Real Presence, and says that distribution is limited to LCMS members.

A colleague is a member of the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church and that body makes the same statements. In conversations with My Beloved and Darling Wife’s pastor, it is not clear that he would automatically distribute communion to someone he knew was WSLC, much less me.

fusilier
James 2:24

Comment #124375

Posted by deadman_932 on August 30, 2006 11:52 AM (e)

That was nicely done. Congratulations, and thanks.

Comment #124382

Posted by Christopher Heard on August 30, 2006 12:17 PM (e)

For what it’s worth, the link to the “litmus suggested by Jesus” goes to Mark 16:17ff. (and why link to a 400-year-old translation?), a passage that does not appear in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts of the gospel of Mark. Mark 16:17ff. are part of what is called “the longer ending of Mark,” one of at least three different endings (sounds like a Director’s Cut DVD) attested in various ancient manuscripts. The manuscript evidence suggests that the original version of the gospel of Mark ended at v. 8, but in the second century CE the original ending was deemed unsatisfactory by at least three different scribes or tradents, who tried to supply suitable endings. My understanding (I work in the Hebrew Bible, not the New Testament) is that the vast majority of New Testament scholars don’t think that the sayings in Mark 16:17ff. authentically go back to Jesus himself.

Not that I’m a big fan of the Nicene creed, or any creed, for that matter.

Comment #124388

Posted by sts060 on August 30, 2006 1:03 PM (e)

after they have replaced their irony meters

That should have been “after the smoke has cleared and the fire department has left and they have swept up the charred fragments of their irony meters”.

I suppose, given that I eat meat on Fridays and when (ahem) I attend church it is in English rather than Latin, I don’t qualify as a real Catholic, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognize me as a real Christian. But clearly I don’t need a Moonie lecturing me on Christian theology. The fact that the DI’s disciples would promote such an essay is clearer testiment to their intellectual bankruptcy and mendacity than anything a critic could write - clearer even than your thoughtful and well-written essay. Thanks.

Comment #124393

Posted by Carl Hilton Jones on August 30, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

Interesting. If the Nicene creed defines “traditional” Christianity, then he can’t possibly have any objection to evolution; there is certainly nothing in the creed that conflicts with it. The creed says God “created”
all things. It does not say anything at all about the mechanism by which God chose to create them. Does Wells think he has the right to dictate policy to God?

Comment #124401

Posted by Burt Humburg on August 30, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

You’re right, Carl. That would be pretty “arrogant” of Wells! :)

BCH

Comment #124409

Posted by Brian on August 30, 2006 2:33 PM (e)

Excellent review and rebuttal. I often get tired of the condescending paternalism of the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, ICR, etc. The “I know better than you and unless you agree, you’re going to hell” tactic doesn’t work for me, especially when these people claim they’re close to God. Perhaps they forgot when an “expert in the law” asked Jesus what the most important thing in life is, and Christ replied (paraphrasing here) “Love God, love others, and the rest is details.” Of course, this is tricky because of a lot of uber-conservative Christians believing “loving” someone is making sure they know how wrong/evil/hellbound/etc they are.

Still, it is a two-way street. There are many aethiests who agree with evolution just as intolerant of Christianity, claiming that the evidence disproves God. Perhaps in the respect of this review, where creationists set the tone of the debate and say that if you can prove naturally how a flower opens you thus disprove God, but as Gould and others have told us, this isn’t the case. Every person must come to a decision about faith on their own, and it’s exceedingly hard reconciling science and faith. Every time I wear my Darwin shirt from AMNH (the one with the tree of life that says rEVOLUTIONary on it) I get funny looks and people have no problem putting me on the grill, assuming I’m going to destory the foundations of the church like some bad cartoon in any of Ken Ham’s books.

Anyway, I supposse what I’m getting at is there is plenty of intolerance to go around, and it seems that those in the creationist camp are setting themselves up by how they define their faith and science. As someone who has spent time as both Christian and agnostic, both viewpoints can be hard to handle, but all the while I’ve never had a problem with evolution. The whole debate to me seems to be misplaced. Not believing in a literal interpreation of the Bible is not what keeps people from the church or accepting God or however you want to put it… for me and (I assume) many others it’s the actions of people like Wells, Ham, and other believers we know in daily life are terrible example of faith. I’d look at evangelicals telling people that they’re going to hell unless they agree, and I didn’t want any part of that. Where’s the love in that? Is that what that religion is suppossed to be all about? It’s the irresponsible and judgemental actions of so many people that are a barrier to the most important thing in life. Christian, atheist, or (insert belief system here)… everyone seems to agree that love towards our fellow human beings is paramount, but the way it’s interpreted by some continues to cause division, and it’s coming from both sides.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on for so long, but at least to me, I don’t see a debate between science and religion… only between the truth and what a few misguided people (like Wells) want to impose on everyone else because they think they know better.

Comment #124413

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 30, 2006 2:54 PM (e)

Brian, while I’m inclined to agree with much of what you say, I wonder what your evidence is for this statement:

There are many aethiests who agree with evolution just as intolerant of Christianity, claiming that the evidence disproves God.

This is ofter said of Dawkins, for example, but he does not make any such “scientific” claim (though, obviously, since he is an atheist, it’s presumably his personal belief).

Comment #124415

Posted by Collin DuCrane on August 30, 2006 3:02 PM (e)

Ok, on topic this time, steering clear of the lake of entropy …

Mark 16:17 is not a litmus test for Christianity. Glossalia and excoricism are spiritual gifts that non-christians can posess. See Matthew 7:22-23.

The actual litmus is 1 John 4:13-21, and simply requires confessing Jesus as Lord, which is part of the Nicene Creed, which in turn is useless if you don’t believe it. Wells is correct in this, at least. As for him being a Moonie, I used to live on Twin Peaks in SF, a block away from “the Moonie Mansion”. Apart from being a curiously good place to observe a lunar corona (check it out), they attracted little attention.

As for tradition, the NT gives warns against letting praxis over-rule theoria. (Mark 7:13) Traditions are dead works without faith.

I would like to point out how easy it is to take scripture out of context. The Nicene Creed is the result of prolonged intense disciplined effort by ancient scholars who had enviable attention spans my modern standards.

Wells is merely pointing at the Gospels. His personal affiliations have no bearing whatsoever on this. Defending “Traditional Christianity” (praxis) is secondary to spreading the Gospel (theoria).

Comment #124416

Posted by Brian on August 30, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

Thanks for calling me out for clarification Stevie. My assertion there came from primarily personal experience, and refers to personal beliefs. I don’t charge. Dr. Dawkins or saying God can be scientifically disproven or does not exist… that’s his belief and he’s entitled to is just as I am mine. I have known many people personally who have asserted that evolution disproves God, but this is not the primary reason they did not believe (rather it was the actions of people, global suffering, etc). I would not make a sweeping generalization that all or even most atheists believe this, and I do not believe that either, but it all depends on the context. Many of the atheists and agnostics I know were hurt by the church, and in regards to evolution the church said that you can not prove (insert natural phenomenon here). Thus the church linked the existence of God (something that can’t be empircally tested) to something real which can be empircally tested, so when it was shown that there is a reason for flowers blooming or whatever other example, the people I know responded that there is a perfectly good explanation that does not require God (which is true), but other feelings got tied up into this, so they continued the train of thought to something like

God is not necessary = God does not exist

At least that’s what they explained to me, and it’s the way I thought for a while myself. Still, let me restate that I do not believe that all or even most atheists believe God can be scientifically disproven, but I have indeed known many who mentioned this as a point of their logic and is tied in with interactions between the individual and the church. Again, thanks for calling me out so that I could clarify (although I have the sinking feeling of a man who just confused things even more…)

Comment #124422

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 30, 2006 3:27 PM (e)

No, I appreciated your response.

I particularly agree that, in hitching it’s (emprically) unprovable asssertions about God to (empirically) disprovable claims about mundane matters, the “Church” (in its multitudinous guises) has done an excellent job of pointing its finger at its own forehead and pulling the trigger.

Comment #124423

Posted by Henry J on August 30, 2006 3:29 PM (e)

Re “Does Wells think he has the right to dictate policy to God?”

Isn’t that what creationists and/or IDers have been doing for decades?

Henry

Comment #124427

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 30, 2006 3:56 PM (e)

Dr. Dawkins or saying God can be scientifically disproven or does not exist… that’s his belief and he’s entitled to is just as I am mine.

Dawkins has never said that God can be scientifically disproven – he has explicitly said the opposite. There is some sense in which you are “entitled” to your erroneous beliefs and misrepresentations of the beliefs of others, but there is also a sense in which you are not.

Comment #124428

Posted by Mr Christopher on August 30, 2006 4:02 PM (e)

On topic - a Moonie telling me who is a real christian and who is not is a knee slapper. I forget my christian cults facts but I believe Moon is considered Christ, yes? Not Jesus, but a Christ figure.

Off topic sort of - People are always characterizing atheists as thinking this way or that way and they are usually always wrong. I’m an atheist and I have been for a decade or so. I have numerous atheist friends and I’ve met more than my share of atheistic folks and I have never heard a single one mention Darwin or evolution or science had ANYTHING to do with their decision to drop kick their faith. Nor did being paddled by nuns or attending a church that wasn’t so nice influential on their decision.

For that matter I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a fellow atheist about Darwin, science or evolution, at least nothing more than superficial chit chat. Every single atheist I have ever known (and spoken to about their lack of faith) all based their lack of faith on what they perceive as the absurdity of the reasons given for thinking otherwise.

I keep hearing (from the “faithful”) about how science and Darwin and evolution have lead or leads people to atheism. I would love for someone to introduce me to a person who abandoned their faith in god after reading Darwin, taking a science class or understanding evolution, because, as I mentioned, in my 10 years of godlessness I have never met a person. I have never met an atheist (of the non-scientist variety) who cared about Darwin, science or evolution.

And it might be worth mentioning that my (very limited) understanding of biology, specifically as it pertains to evolution, did not come about until 7 years or so after I drop kicked my faith in god/jesus. So I had never read Darwin, could care less about evolution, and wasn’t interested in science when I took the godless plunge.

The christian/religious notion that science/Darwin/evolution somehow promotes atheism is not only wrong, it’s moronic. The thing that promotes atheism is critical thinking and you cannot stop people from doing it. You can change the definition of science, you can pretend ID is science, you can burn anything written by Darwin but you cannot stop people from thinking.

Robert Ingersoll has probably done more to legitimize atheism than any other person in America, at least in his day. And all he did was illuminate the absurdity (think critically and out loud) of the more popular religious notions of his time. People if you want to lose your faith in god, don’t waste you time reading Darwin or studying boring subjects like cell replication, DNA, novel species etc. Read Ingersoll instead. Read people who think about religious concepts with a critical eye.

But I’ll tell you what kind of person leads people to atheism. Guys like Wells, Dembski and the rest of the DI liars for jesus. They make belief in god look really stupid and questioning the kind of garbage spoon fed to you by IDiots like Wells and Dembski will lead one to atheism. Who wants to believe in something that is popularized by liars, cheats and frauds? Especially when what they say and write can be proven to be untrue. That makes skepticism easy. In fact the best thing Wells and the rest of the top shelf IDiots can do to keep people from becoming atheists is shut the heck up. Seriously.

Anyhow, my turn is up. :-)

Next?

Comment #124430

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 30, 2006 4:06 PM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote:

There are many aethiests who agree with evolution just as intolerant of Christianity, claiming that the evidence disproves God.

This is ofter said of Dawkins, for example, but he does not make any such “scientific” claim (though, obviously, since he is an atheist, it’s presumably his personal belief).

No, Stevie, it is not Dawkins’ personal belief that the evidence of evolution disproves God, and I don’t understand why that should be “presumed” from the fact that he’s an atheist. Perhaps this quote will clarify his view:

A friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew who observes the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. He will not call himself an atheist because it is in principle impossible to prove a negative. But “agnostic” on its own might suggest that he though God’s existence or non-existence equally likely. In fact, though strictly agnostic about god, he considers God’s existence no more probable than the Tooth Fairy’s.
Bertrand Russell used a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars for the same didactic purpose. You have to be agnostic about the teapot, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as being on all fours with its non-existence.
The list of things about which we strictly have to be agnostic doesn’t stop at tooth fairies and celestial teapots. It is infinite. If you want to believe in a particular one of them – teapots, unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh – the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not. We who are atheists are also a-fairyists, a-teapotists, and a-unicornists, but we don’t’ have to bother saying so.

Comment #124432

Posted by Shaffer on August 30, 2006 4:07 PM (e)

Wow. Hard to believe that Wells actually has the temerity to claim that there was no conflict between science and religion prior to Darwin. Of all his howlers I’ve read about in these reviews, that one is by far the most astonishing. How morally bankrupt do you have to be before you start making statements like that one, and how ignorant do you have to be to believe it?

Comment #124446

Posted by JohnS on August 30, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Collin
You had me going with ‘excoricism’. Google define: and the online M-W dictionary couldn’t help. I had to figure it out with my wife’s Bible.

Certainly, Mark 16:17 isn’t much of a litmus test for Christianity. Anyone can babble. Driving out a demon first requires proof that there is one present. If one speculates that it means curing mental disease, then maybe a test could be defined, but even so…

Now if the reference was meant to include Mark 16:18, then we have a verifiable test. Unfortunately no Christian can pass. This verse is so problematic for literal interpreters of the Bible that some resort to denying it is part of the ‘true’ Bible, as Christopher Heard stated above.

I regard the existence of hospitals as proof that the Bible is not inerrant.

At first I thought you meant that Matthew 7:22-23 said that non-Christians could speak in tongues and drive out demons. Instead it declares that these signs alone are not enough for a get out of hell free card.

If only the religious could spend more time doing good works and less on determining who they will not accept as ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. Every time a schism appears amongst the believers, we get to experience another round of Hell on earth.

Comment #124452

Posted by Jeff Hebert on August 30, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

Can I make a request for the stickied outline post to contain the chapter titles? Currently they just say “Chapter 1, Chapter 2” etc, but you don’t know what the chapter (and refutation) are about until you click on it. It would be nice to be able to see them in list format so we could jump right to the ones we find most interesting.

Thanks for putting all of this together, guys, it’s great stuff!

Comment #124458

Posted by Stephen on August 30, 2006 4:52 PM (e)

“after they have replaced their irony meters”

My new irony meter goes up to 11

Comment #124462

Posted by Kristine on August 30, 2006 5:10 PM (e)

Nice points being made here that I haven’t read elsewhere, about the ultimate faithlessness of people like Wells, and his utter lack of faith in human beings, too…even those who would make up his audience.

This is a wonderful piece for being not just a takedown but an eloquent plea for a rational, mature approach not only to science and belief, but to relationships between people. Thank you for this.

I’m an atheist myself. I call myself this for never truly having the sense of or need for a cosmic spirit or deity or presence that others seem to be talking about when they mention God. I have been like this was since age nine and it had nothing to do with evolution, since up to that point and beyond I had nothing but Sunday school lessons about a six-day creation. I daresay that I have more faith in people than does Jonathan Wells…

“Of course science cannot disprove the existence of God. But there are a million things that science cannot disprove.”
–Richard Dawkins, “Root of All Evil?” toward end of Part One

Comment #124463

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 30, 2006 5:16 PM (e)

Popper, I agree. I was aware of some awkwardness in expressing myself in composing, did a little revision, but should have done more.

All I am justified in presuming from Dawkins’ being an atheist is that he does not “personally” believe in God, not that he “personally believes” that science (or the evolutionary biology component thereof) has somehow disproven God. Your quote could, in fact, be read to suggest that Dawkins’ stance may even be somewhat less rigid than that–more toward the “soft” end of atheism or agnosticism.

My various attempted statements were too highly-compressed, with the result of misleading the reader.

I should add that I interpreted Brian’s response of

I don’t charge. Dr. Dawkins or saying God can be scientifically disproven or does not exist… that’s his belief and he’s entitled to is just as I am mine.

a little differently than you. First, I think that both the period/full stop after “I don’t charge” (which I think led you to exclude it from the similar snippet of Brian’s that you quoted) and the “or” after “Dr. Dawkins” were likely typos, and that Brian thus intended to type:

I don’t charge Dr. Dawkins of [that is, “with”] saying God can be scientifically disproven or does not exist…

And, of course, Brian didn’t initially name Dawkins at all, but ascribed the “evolution has disproved God” meme to “many atheists.” I was the one who brought Dawkins up (in an attempt to make sure that Brian wasn’t relying on misrepresentations of Dawkins–as everybody’s favorite “promintent atheist”–with the opinions that Brian was referencing), though my attempted clarification has seemingly only led to further confusion (but, hey, at least I’m working in the correct past tense of “lead” at every reasonable opportunity).

In any event, if my reading of Brian is correct, he never did hold an incorrect interpretation of Dawkins’ views.

Comment #124464

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 30, 2006 5:19 PM (e)

Er, “promintent” ==> prominent.

Sigh. Frickin’ typos.

Comment #124467

Posted by stevaroni on August 30, 2006 5:26 PM (e)

Collin wrote
I would like to point out how easy it is to take scripture out of context.

How very true.

In fact, that’s the problem I’ve always had with organized religion (especially the telecentric version so publicly on display in America these days). It seems to take everything in the scriptures out of context.

I grew up in a religious family, and once upon a time had to go to church and Sunday school and consequently built up more than a passing familiarity with the Good Book. And the way I read mine is that God dumps all these laws on the Israelites, and after 1000 years, they just don’t seem to get it. So god turns to his boy and says “Son, this just isn’t sinking in, go down there and explain it to them in plain Aramaic”.

So Jesus spends his entire adult life - and 180 pages of the new testament, the biggest block on any single subject - delivering exactly one message. Ya gotta hand it to him, he knew how to stay on-topic.

And his message was “Love one another. Treat your fellow human being like a human being”.

This is easy. Simple. Straightforward. A child could understand it - and they do, till the adults get involved.

And yet every time I see a name-brand religious figure on television he’s not loving, helping, or understanding, he’s ranting against gays or raving against abortion because of three sentences in Leviticus or a throwaway phrase in Deuteronomy.

And I have to ask myself “Why can’t this man read?”. He’s got an entire book about hope and possibility in front of him and he chooses instead to concentrate on a few sentences about hate.

Now that, my friend, is “out of context”.

Comment #124471

Posted by ninewands on August 30, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

All I have to say is …

WOW!

Now if we could just get “the other side” to read these reviews, especially this one, “the controversy” just might evaporate. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Comment #124476

Posted by Salad is Slaughter on August 30, 2006 5:37 PM (e)

Mr. Christopher wrote:

I have numerous atheist friends and I’ve met more than my share of atheistic folks and I have never heard a single one mention Darwin or evolution or science had ANYTHING to do with their decision to drop kick their faith.

I think science helped move me toward athiesm. I remember in 8th grade telling a nun that they really needed to rewrite the bible, because the Genesis story didn’t match what she was teaching in science class. You can imagine how well that went over.

Comment #124478

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 30, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

God is not necessary = God does not exist

This is a reasonable conclusion, much as it is reasonable to conclude that, since Santa Claus is not necessary for the delivery of presents, Santa Claus does not exist. Of course, this is coupled with the complete and utter lack of positive evidence for Santa Claus, awareness that Santa Claus is an invented fable, and so on. The conclusion that God does not exist is arguably equally well grounded. Of course, the evidence that parents put the gifts under the tree does not disprove the existence of Santa Claus – nothing disproves it in a deductive sense. But proof in the deductive sense is a red herring, at least for Santa Claus.

But there is a point of disanalogy. It is not unscientific to argue, or even conclude, that there is no Santa Claus, as that is a reasonable result of empirical inquiry. But God is not a jolly fat man or a fellow with a white beard; what God is, is a matter of philosophical debate and metaphysical speculation, and so whether God exists is not a matter of empirical inquiry, not something that science can answer, although empirical findings can inform the philosophical debate. In my (reasoned philosophical) view, it’s not that God does not exist, it’s that the word “God” doesn’t actually refer to any possible thing; it’s a bit like a square circle (but a lot more vague and unsettled in its description).

Comment #124486

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 30, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

Brian, while I’m inclined to agree with much of what you say, I wonder what your evidence is for this statement:

There are many aethiests who agree with evolution just as intolerant of Christianity, claiming that the evidence disproves God.

Perhaps he reads … um … some well-known, uh, science blogs.

Comment #124489

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 30, 2006 6:25 PM (e)

Collin, thanks for sharing your religious opinions with us.

What, uh, makes your religious opinions any better or more authoritative than, uh, anyoen else’s? After all, your religious opinions are just that, your opinions. They are no more holy or divine or infallible or authoritative than anyone else’s religious opinions. No one is obligated in any way, shape, or form to follow your religious opinions, to accept them, or even to pay any attention at all to them.

Right?

Comment #124497

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 30, 2006 6:35 PM (e)

All I am justified in presuming from Dawkins’ being an atheist is that he does not “personally” believe in God

In other words, all we are justified in presuming from Dawkins being an atheist is that he is an atheist.

Your quote could, in fact, be read to suggest that Dawkins’ stance may even be somewhat less rigid than that–more toward the “soft” end of atheism or agnosticism.

There’s somewhat of a continuum; “weak” atheists merely lack a belief in God, while Dawkins apparently goes beyond that, arguing that the existence of God is extraordinarily unlikely, like the tooth fairy. “strong” atheists, hold affirmatively that there is no God. I consider myself in that category, but I make the distinction that there is no God because the concept is ill-defined, and attempts to formally define it lead to logical inconsistencies (primarily infinite regress) – my affirmative belief that there is no God is not a matter of “faith” or scientific “proof” (and my initial doubts about God stemmed from similarities between stories I read in books of mythology and books of religion when I was still in elementary school, long before I knew much of anything about evolution or science).

I think that both the period/full stop after “I don’t charge” (which I think led you to exclude it from the similar snippet of Brian’s that you quoted) and the “or” after “Dr. Dawkins” were likely typos

Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to make of that; your parser appears to be more robust in the presence of errors than mine.

if my reading of Brian is correct, he never did hold an incorrect interpretation of Dawkins’ views.

Agreed; sorry Brian (assuming Stevie got your meaning right, and I think he probably did).

Comment #124513

Posted by Brian on August 30, 2006 7:09 PM (e)

Yikes, I appear to have created quite a row. That’s what I get for not paying attention to what my brain is doing while my back is turned.

Anyhow, what I actually meant was the interpretation Stevie presented of

I don’t charge Dr. Dawkins of [that is, “with”] saying God can be scientifically disproven or does not exist…

I typed about half of my response initially, realized it was crap, went back to try and clarify it, but instead botched it up terribly because I wanted to leave to office. I wasn’t trying to make any generalities about atheists as a whole (I admit I should’ve clarified things a bit better), nor was I trying to say what Dawkins does or doesn’t believe. I was merely speaking from my own experience, both from being agnostic for some time and discussing the issue with friends who are atheists and agnostics. I don’t try to say that many or most or all atheists/agnostics all came to that conclusion by certain events under certain conditions, but merely what I and other people I know experienced. Everyone has their own view of the universe and how it works, so it would be foolish of me to lump people together and say “This is what they believe”… I’m not like Wells who would have the public believe “Darwinists” are essentially a collective that think and act alike in the name of evil or any other such generalizations.

At least in my own life, it seems that most people I know who are atheists are so because of Christians. If this is true in the rest of the world, I don’t know, but at least among the people I know the #1 cause of atheism is Christians messing things up terribly and not evolution, science, or anything that people like Ken Ham spend so much time worrying about.

Thanks to those who have spoken on my behalf to try to make sense of my nonsense, and for the patience of all the readers. Obviously this is the first slew of postings I’ve made here and I have already learned much about wording things carefully, but if I did indeed offend anyone or make anyone think I was trying to slap a label on Dawkins or other atheists, this is not the case at all and I am sorry. I think the core of what I was getting at (Christianity typing something that can’t be proven with things than can be proven/disproven is akin to shooting themselves in the foot) is generally agreed upon, but I should’ve done away with most of the packaging. Thank you all for your patience, and best regards

Brian

Comment #124520

Posted by H. Humbert on August 30, 2006 7:30 PM (e)

I find it amusing that any person who says “it is easy to misinterpret the bible” almost invariably follows it up what they know to be the “correct” interpretation.

Comment #124524

Posted by collin ducrane on August 30, 2006 8:22 PM (e)

there seems to be lots of confusion about the message of Jesus on his blog.

here is a real evangelist in jerusalem speaking directly to this topic of Christ’s purpose and the end of the religious apartheid tradition

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDsdsmPO3Vg

btw he could kick dawkins’ ass …

Comment #124529

Posted by Burt Humburg on August 30, 2006 8:39 PM (e)

there seems to be lots of confusion about the message of Jesus on his blog.

Jesus had a blog? NOWAI!!!

Sorry. Had to.

BCH

Comment #124536

Posted by Coin on August 30, 2006 9:03 PM (e)

Collin Ducrane wrote:

btw he could kick dawkins’ ass …

As Christ would have done.

Comment #124540

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on August 30, 2006 9:09 PM (e)

Mr. Christopher: … I would love for someone to introduce me to a person who abandoned their faith in god after reading Darwin, taking a science class or understanding evolution…

I have a friend, formerly a Southern Baptist, who became an outspoken atheist after scout training in Army Ranger School: they taught him to assess the validity of evidence, the reliability of witness reports, etc, and he applied that procedure to larger questions.

That may not count as a “science class” (though he is now a professional chemist), but it may help to illustrate why critical thinking per se is rarely taught in US schools.

Comment #124557

Posted by fnxtr on August 30, 2006 11:04 PM (e)

Weighing in with yet another anecdote on worldveiw:

I have a vague memory of going to some Sunday school or other, singing “Climb up sunshine mountain”, but had no idea what it meant.

Got a pocket bible in Grade 5 or so, still have it many many years later. Read a bit. Just wasn’t interested.

Later on moved to a highly religious community – Chilliwack,BC, home of a billion Mennonites. Had a few Christian friends, some light philosophical discussions. Never saw the need for God, at least in the broader sense. Sure I wondered where the universe came from, but religion just seemed to be taking the easy way out. Personally, it would have been nice to have such a thing sometimes, but I just couldn’t abandon my critical thinking faculty. Garbled oral traditions of a credulous population seemed more likely to me than miracles. And of course the Old and New Testaments are not what the modern world would call unbiased reporting. These people were (and are) on a mission to convert and consolidate.

There’s a lot of wisdom in ‘the words written in red’ (again I point out Matt 7:12, or “how great it would be if people were nice to each other for a change”), but there’s a lot of culturally-limited perspective, and stuff I just disagree with, too, mostly the “My way or the Highway (to Hell)”. This is someone’s idea of a loving god?

I didn’t “become” an agnostic, I just never got trained in any faith. I never learned to speak Greek or Latin either. It’s never been necessary (shrug).

Comment #124561

Posted by ScottN on August 30, 2006 11:35 PM (e)

Mr. Christopher wrote:

The thing that promotes atheism is critical thinking and you cannot stop people from doing it.

I think you are correct in saying that you can’t stop people from thinking critically, but I wonder how many people who are fundies actually start doing so?

Comment #124604

Posted by John Mark Ockerbloom on August 31, 2006 5:08 AM (e)

Interesting post, though there are various bits, such as the versions of the Nicene Creed or the interpretation of the end of Mark that seem like distractions from the main point.

If Wells is using the Nicene Creed as the defining criteria of “Traditional Christianity”, it’s probably worth explicitly noting what it says about the origin of the world. It’s not that long, and is essentially the same in all versions. (I’ll use the ICEL Catholic translation in the quotes below):

God is “maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen.”

And “through [Jesus Christ] all things were made.”

That’s it. (Well, the longer version also mentions the Holy Spirit as “the giver of life”, though with respect to biological origins that’s essentially echoing the earlier points that God is ultimately responsible for all of existence.)

There’s nothing in the Creed concerning *how* things were made, or even anything explicitly distinguishing the creation of humans from the creation of anything else.

Which means that the Creed by itself is compatible with a wide range of beliefs about the method by which the world and humans came to be, including theistic evolution.

Many Christian traditions include additional beliefs about the origin of the world and humanity (Catholics have a few, for instance, summarized in Pius XII’s _Humani Generis_, though those additional beliefs are not incompatible with evolutionary theory.) But if Wells explicitly mentions the Nicene Creed as the standard for “Traditional Christianity” and then invokes criteria for TC that aren’t in that Creed, then he’s moving the goalposts. Not having read the book myself, I don’t know for sure if that’s what he’s done in this book, but it does seem a frequent fault of “Intelligent Design” advocates to equivocate about the basic definitions of terms in debate.

Comment #124615

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 31, 2006 7:21 AM (e)

Collin, thanks for once again sharing your religious opinions with us.

Once again, I ask why your religious opinions are any better or more authoritative than anyone else’s? After all, your religious opinions are just that, your opinions. They are no more holy or divine or infallible or authoritative than anyone else’s religious opinions. No one is obligated in any way, shape, or form to follow your religious opinions, to accept them, or even to pay any attention at all to them.

Right?

You are just a man, Collin. Just a man.

Comment #124628

Posted by mark on August 31, 2006 9:10 AM (e)

I wonder if that other Traditional Christian, Tom Cruise, will also write a critique of evolution. It would likely be just as credible as the Wells account.

Comment #124652

Posted by Collin DuCrane on August 31, 2006 11:05 AM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank sez:

“You are just a man, Collin. Just a man”

If Mr. Flank actually posessed a doctorate in Divinity, he would know that the Gospel is not religious opinion, but rather the very word of the living God.

Further, when a man shares the Gospel with his neighbours, he is no longer just a man, but rather the very glory of the living God.

The topic of this thread is : “Traditional Christianity,” Ersatz Revolutionaries, and the Culture War.

Christianity began as a rebellion against established religious cults, led not by a revolutionary, but rather the Messiah. It is the longest running rebellion in history. Missionary casualties remain high to this day.

Revolutions are sucessful rebellions. Christianity will never suceed in a worldly sense - only jingoists believe that. It’s purpose is to rebel against any culture that would place itself between God and man. In the end, the victory has already been won.

Comment #124659

Posted by Burt Humburg on August 31, 2006 11:22 AM (e)

The fact that Colin thinks of Christianity as a thing that can be won is telling. Centuries ago, “traditional Christians” wanted scientists to shut up about the whole Earth going around the sun thing. Today, they want evolution to go away. Let’s say they got their goal, what then? My guess is that we’d see a redux of the War of the Roses, or perhaps we’d be back to Crusades or anti-Jewish pogroms.

Christianity changes over time. It evolves. Had Christians refused to rethink their theology in the light of heliocentrism, it would not be a feasible religion. So, too, are Christians having to rethink their theology in the light of evolution. And like the critics of Galileo, we have our detractors as well. Our progeny will have their Wells also.

Enlightenment is a process; may Christianity ever phototax.

BCH

Comment #124672

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 12:20 PM (e)

If Mr. Flank actually posessed a doctorate in Divinity, he would know that the Gospel is not religious opinion, but rather the very word of the living God.

No he wouldn’t.

Comment #124680

Posted by fnxtr on August 31, 2006 12:43 PM (e)

Collin:

If Mr. Flank actually posessed a doctorate in Divinity, he would know that the Gospel is not religious opinion, but rather the very word of the living God.

Which is an opinion, Collin, not a fact like the fact that the Earth goes around the sun.

Lots of people believe your opinion.

Lots of people believed in a geocentric universe, too.

Doesn’t make it true.

Comment #124681

Posted by Collin DuCrane on August 31, 2006 12:56 PM (e)

Burt Humburg sez - “Christianty changes over time. It evolves”

The word of God does not evolve it the least. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

It is traditions that change over time - that is why they are worthless in the acceptance of eternal salvation.

Evolutionary theory is simply the latest cult tradition which rejects eternal salvation. You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.

From the eternal perspective, the physical universe is doomed to dissipation. Call it evolution, call it entropy or call it intelligent design. In the end, it is just God folding up this universe like the old rag that it is.

Comment #124683

Posted by Peter on August 31, 2006 1:01 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #124691

Posted by Burt Humburg on August 31, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

>>Evolutionary theory is simply the latest cult tradition which rejects eternal salvation. You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.

Do you have chapter and verse on that one? In my Strong’s, evolution isn’t indexed.

>>From the eternal perspective, the physical universe is doomed to dissipation. Call it evolution, call it entropy or call it intelligent design. In the end, it is just God folding up this universe like the old rag that it is.

Therefore, we should encourage and advocate ignorance of highly-useful science. That sounds like great theology. If I were an atheist, I’d want a piece of what you’ve got there. Man, I can’t wait to get Dawkins on the phone and convince him how things could be so much better if he’d just shove his head in the sand whenever his thoughts about how the world worked conflicted with how the world actually worked.

Dude, you’re advocating ignorance on the basis that “You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.” You’re in fear.

The NT doesn’t have a lot to say about Darwin, evolution, or genetic drift. It did have some things to say about fear and lying, IIRC. (Where did I put that Strong’s?)

BCH

Comment #124694

Posted by Laser on August 31, 2006 1:53 PM (e)

Colin wrote:

Evolutionary theory is simply the latest cult tradition which rejects eternal salvation. You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.

Wrong, and wrong again. Two sentences, two incorrect statements.

Comment #124696

Posted by CJ O'Brien on August 31, 2006 2:04 PM (e)

Indeed, Collin “Trollin’” DuCrane has elevated “wrong” to an art form.

Comment #124704

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 2:47 PM (e)

Evolutionary theory is simply the latest cult tradition which rejects eternal salvation.

I fail to see the relationship between evolutionary theory and eternal salvation.

You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.

That’s an empirically false claim. It’s also particularly obtuse since, if evolution contradicts the 2LOT as you claim, a belief in evolution would enable a belief in eternity.

From the eternal perspective, the physical universe is doomed to dissipation.

From the laws of thermodynamics, you mean.

Call it evolution, call it entropy or call it intelligent design.

Ah, so evolution isn’t incompatible with 2LOT; you were just lying.

In the end, it is just God folding up this universe like the old rag that it is.

Sez you.

Why should we believe that God speaks through the stupidest, most ignorant, and most dishonest among us?

Comment #124705

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 31, 2006 2:51 PM (e)

Totally off topic, but…

fnxtr, I lived in Sardis, B.C., for several years. My middle son was born there.

O Canada, eh?

Comment #124707

Posted by Larry Gilman on August 31, 2006 2:59 PM (e)

Wells is a ninnyhammer, no doubt about it, but the following bit is careless:

There are two important things to say about Wells’s definition of a “Traditional Christian”. First, the commitment to the tenets of the Nicene Creed is hardly a universal litmus for determining who is and who is not a Christian. A Protestant, even one who subscribes to every tenet of the Nicene Creed, who thinks that Wells is right is encouraged to try to obtain the sacramental elements from a Catholic communion and see how far he gets. (According to Catholic tradition, Protestants cannot receive Catholic communion.)

This is careless because it equates Catholic “tradition” with official doctrine as enunciated in Papal bulls—the two are not synonymous—and because it is not Catholic doctrine that Protestants are not Christians. It is indeed Catholic doctrine that the Eucharist should not be served to Protestants (and other non-Catholics), but this is not the same thing as judging Protestants to be not be Christians. See, for example, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s website (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/index.htm). Protestantism’s variants are considered “Christian religions” by the RC Church, as distinguished from “non-Christian religions” such as Buddhism or Islam; modern Popes have routinely referred to non-Catholic Christians as “Christians” (e.g., at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2003/november/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20031104_pc-chrstuni_en.html).

It is not true that a definition of “Christian” is an intrinsically absurd thing to propose, as long as one acknowledges that no definition can be absolute and that there will be gray areas.

Comment #124713

Posted by Burt Humburg on August 31, 2006 3:20 PM (e)

Larry,

I’m looking at Wells’ dreck from the standpoint of a Protestant raised in a non-denominational Pentecostal church and in my experience I have been denied communion by a Catholic priest. My guess was that this was being done because of their refusal to recognize me as a “Christian.”

Even assuming that what you’ve said is true, what exactly is the papal thesis in operation here: that Jesus thinks Communion (“This do ye as often as ye remember me”) should be non Christians-only but Catholics-only? I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around that. (Another, “All men are created equal, but some men are more equal than others” kind of a situation to my Protestant ears.)

Be that as it may, your larger point, that “ability to receive the elements of communion from a celebrant may not be a reliable indicator of that person’s recognition of you as a Christian or not” is well taken. I could probably rethink this aspect of my paper when it comes time to revise my paper for the TalkOrigins.org version that will be forthcoming.

Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate everyone who’s taken time to write in and challenge my views or offer their comments.

BCH

Comment #124741

Posted by Collin DuCrane on August 31, 2006 4:14 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost,

I am sure you mean “stupidest, most ignorant, and most dishonest” in the spirit of good conversation, as required by the policies of PT.

Apologetics is the art of defending faith. Wells could certainly use some lessons on this discipline, but his heart is in the right place. I see no-one on this blog defending the unmerited faith required to believe in evolution.

The Darwinian Narrative is the scientific apologete response to the Nicene Creed. It is the litmus test for membership in the anti-creationist cult of evolutionary science.

Sez me, but certainly not alone in that choir. I applaud Wells’ efforts and encourage the readership to refer directly to the Gospels if they want to find out more.

Comment #124750

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

On a point of friendly (and minor) challenge:

Wells wrote “Before Darwin, science and theology in Christendom generally got along quite well” whereas you write “Wells’s claim that science and religion were chummy up until Darwin is ahistorical nonsense”. But Galileo was not an atheist or agnostic; far from it. It isn’t religion with which he – or his science – had a conflict, but rather church dogma. Nor, for that matter, did Darwin’s agnosticism spring primarily from his theory, but rather from his problem with theodicy (which he had earlier argued evolution was a solution to) after the deaths of his daughter and father. But Richard Dawkins has argued that the theory of evolution has made it possible (not necessary) to be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist”, by providing the basis for a casual explanation of the natural world. Dawkins may be overstating it, but the notion that the ToE contributed to the growth of atheism is not absurd or ahistorical. This of course does not change the fact that Wells distorts the truth at will.

Comment #124751

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 4:27 PM (e)

I am sure you mean “stupidest, most ignorant, and most dishonest” in the spirit of good conversation, as required by the policies of PT.

I meant it as an expression of fact, supported by your continuing to proselytize and blabber about “apologetics” while talking of “the policies of PT”.

Comment #124754

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 4:34 PM (e)

BTW, you didn’t answer my question; why should we believe that God speaks through the stupidest, most ignorant, and most dishonest among us? Or, if you deny the obvious, that you are among them, why should we believe that God speaks through you, “that choir”, or “the Gospels”?

Comment #124758

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 31, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

so what’s the verdict?

do we keep him, or call shenanigans on Collin?

Comment #124760

Posted by Darth Robo on August 31, 2006 4:58 PM (e)

“Evolutionary theory is simply the latest cult tradition which rejects eternal salvation. You cannot believe both in eternity and evolution.”

Um, why? And can you explain why there are still plenty of people who believe in both God AND evolution (which would contradict the above statement)? And which part of your biological knowledge led you to this conclusion?

“From the eternal perspective, the physical universe is doomed to dissipation. Call it evolution, call it entropy or call it intelligent design.”

Ah, 2LoT and entropy again! Your specialty. Although you STILL haven’t answered any critiques of this position when pointed your way (could it be you don’t know the answer?), why would God want to slowly destroy the universe? (I certainly wouldn’t call THAT intelligent design!)

“In the end, it is just God folding up this universe like the old rag that it is.”

Actually, I don’t think he’s started doing that yet, with the universe still expanding and all.

Comment #124762

Posted by David B. Benson on August 31, 2006 4:58 PM (e)

I vote shenanigans. Whatever that means…

Comment #124764

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 5:02 PM (e)

Well, has he “discuss[ed] evolutionary theory, critique[d] the claims of the antievolution movement, defend[ed] the integrity of both science and science education, and share[d] good conversation”?

Comment #124765

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 5:06 PM (e)

“In the end, it is just God folding up this universe like the old rag that it is.”

Actually, I don’t think he’s started doing that yet, with the universe still expanding and all.

Plus, folding a rag generally requires smoothing it out, aligning the corners … inducing order.

Comment #124766

Posted by David B. Benson on August 31, 2006 5:07 PM (e)

None of the above. I vote again for shenanigans.

Comment #124773

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 31, 2006 5:22 PM (e)

I vote shenanigans. Whatever that means…

I forget that a lot of folks don’t watch South Park.

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

Stan: Dude, these dolls are cheap rip-offs! [A Phillip leg falls off]
Kyle: After all that?! Shenanigans! Shenanigans! SHENANIGANS! [Barbrady, Garrison, and others show up]
Officer Barbrady: What’s all this?
Kyle: Officer Barbrady, I would like to reinstate my previous Shenanigans! This whole carnival is a rip-off!
Mr. Garrison: You know, uh, excuse me, but I agree. These rides are really stupid! Chamber of Farts isn’t scary at all!
Priest: Yeah, and the food is terrible!
Chamber of Farts Operator: Hey, it’s just a stupid rodeo. What do you expect?
Officer Barbrady: Ho-kay okay, let’s calm down. People of South Park, do you declare Shenanigans on the carnival people?
Townspeople: Yeah!
Officer Barbrady: Okay, carnival people, do you accept this decree of Shenanigans?
Woman: …What the hell are you talking about?! This whole town is screwy!
Officer Barbrady: Well, that settles it! Everybody grab a broom, it’s Shenanigans! [the town cheers, and some of the folks have brooms already. They gang up on the carnival people and beat them all for a long time. Stan and Kyle just watch]

Comment #124778

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 5:31 PM (e)

Do brooms increase order or decrease order? Does it depend on which end of the broom you use?

Comment #124780

Posted by AC on August 31, 2006 5:35 PM (e)

Burt wrote:

Wells’s screed certainly purports to be a subversive and revolutionary book that advocates “intelligent design” using freethinking arguments: the title is The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, the pages are peppered with callouts like “Books You’re Not Supposed to Read” and “Websites You’re Not Supposed to Visit”, and much verbiage is spent positioning “intelligent design” as this underdog, upstart idea that just needs a fighting chance and reasonable people willing to think forbidden thoughts to support it, thereby allowing “intelligent design” creationism to get a foothold and find its success over the inferior “Darwinism”.

This book is not revolutionary. Wells is writing in a highly conservative fashion. Wells is not a freethinker.

David Brin would probably say that the idea of being a revolutionary underdog is so appealing to Americans that it even appeals to those whose idea of revolution represents a huge step into the past. In their desire to take on an “overthrowing orthodoxy” posture, people like Wells claim to see orthodoxy where there is none - indeed, in the case of science, where the idea of orthodoxy (in a religious sense) misses the point entirely.

Of course, people who prefer to live as brainless theopolitical bandwagoners eat it up, which reinforces the inherent ego trip and provides an income source if the claims are presented in a book.

Then there are the Collins, who say “If Mr. Flank actually posessed a doctorate in Divinity, he would know that the Gospel is not religious opinion, but rather the very word of the living God.” with a straight face.

Believers believe their beliefs are true? Now there’s a doctoral thesis!

Comment #124781

Posted by Steviepinhead on August 31, 2006 5:38 PM (e)

And let’s be sure to clarify in advance whether we can use the new, improved abrasive brooms, or the old, less-effective polite brooms.

Comment #124783

Posted by Popper's ghost on August 31, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

“brainless theopolitical bandwagoners” … damn, that’s good. I’m adding it to my repertoire; thanks.

Comment #124786

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 31, 2006 5:55 PM (e)

Believers believe their beliefs are true? Now there’s a doctoral thesis!

Isn’t there a discussion of Leonard’s thesis on a different thread?

no reason to bring it up here.

;)

Comment #124888

Posted by Peter on August 31, 2006 8:51 PM (e)

I’m perplexed by a number of things, not the least of which is Collin who seems to be a card-carrying member of the “stupidest, most ignorant, and most dishonest” people in the world. Why should we remotely believe that God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen…would just fold up the universe as “the rag it is” and throw it away? What sort of loving act is that? If you want to advocate both a loving and intelligent designer, this is assuredly not the best tactic to take.
Further, isn’t stating that God’s creation is a rag (defined in the OED as “A small worthless fragment or shred of some woven material; esp. one of the irregular scraps into which a piece of such material is reduced by wear and tear.) an un-Christian belief? Shouldn’t you love God’s creation?

Nowhere in ANY evolutionary text that I’ve read (granted I’m only an evolutionary hobbyist and layman) does anyone have anything to say about salvation. Evolution has nothing to do with salvation as far as it is concerned and only the willfully ignorant conflate the two. It’s ridiculous.

That said, I will agree with Richard Dawkins that ToE/Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. I would describe myself as an atheist who had been an agnostic for many years and was, for a brief period, a Christian. However, my continued questioning about the observable world - that world in which we live and experience the panoply of phenomena - was only minimally more interesting with the insight of Christian readings (whether the Bible or St. Augustine). However, my mind and “spirit” were set ablaze by rational inquiry and where it led me. It led me to all kinds of scientific and philosophical areas including the ToE which explains a mountain of observed data better than any other explanation out there. So, the DI is right that the ToE has enabled a lot of atheism.
BUT, it has enabled very little lying and cruelty on the kind of grand scale it is accused of. In my life, I know few atheists. All of them are among the most enlightened, educated and gracious people who devote themselves to ideals of honesty and enlightenment that I see in few religious people. Most of the atheists I know engage in a minimal hypocrisy and most certainly do not shove their beliefs down the throats of the religious. That includes our understanding that evolution is a fact that we can observe and that the ToE is the best available explanation for the data that human beings have accumulated. It is only when faced with those who would seemingly like to return us pre-Enlightenment…no, pre-Renaissance thinking that we bristle and take public stands about the OBVIOUS.
You can live in a world of demons and angels. But I’ll join Lucretius who wrote that it is not religion that brings us the truth but (translation by Humphries):
Our terrors and our darknesses of mind
Must be dispelled, not by the sunshine’s rays,
Not by those shining arrows of the light,
But by insight into nature, and a scheme
Of systematic contemplation.

Comment #124901

Posted by fnxtr on August 31, 2006 10:12 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost:

Do brooms increase order or decrease order? Does it depend on which end of the broom you use?

Brooms decrease the information content of the area swept, but increase the entropy of the dust bunnies. Or something.

p.s. Collin, you’re not really interested in learning anything about the real world, are you? You’re just waiting for the Rapture. Or something. Good luck with that.

Comment #124902

Posted by fnxtr on August 31, 2006 10:22 PM (e)

Hey, Steviepinhead:

Cultus Lake: inspiring truancy since 1938! (I just made that number up)

fnxtr.

Comment #124921

Posted by Via on August 31, 2006 11:29 PM (e)

Mr. Christopher, as an atheist too, Darwin never was part of the reason I rejected religion. His theory of evolution bolsters my humanism, but wasn’t part of my path. I have always had the sense that, if God existed, I would know it in my heart.

Comment #125057

Posted by Raging Bee on September 1, 2006 9:46 AM (e)

Thanks for an excellent post about the loony right’s latest antics! This pretty much proves what I’ve suspected for a long time: the “mainstream” majority of moderate theists are starting to realize (and some have known for a long time) that their faith has been hijacked by loonies and con-men; they’re starting to reclaim their faith, which would spell disaster for the far right; which is why people like Wells are now trying to hound and bully the mainstream back into their camp, by pretending to be the absolute authority for defining “traditional Christianity.” Without mainstream support (or at least acquiescence), the far right will be isolated and irrelevant, and they know it. The most important battles against ignorance and bigotry will be fought in churches as well as courts. The fact that moderate theists are starting to speak up a little louder is indeed a hopeful sign.

[“God is not necessary = God does not exist”] is a reasonable conclusion, much as it is reasonable to conclude that, since Santa Claus is not necessary for the delivery of presents, Santa Claus does not exist.

Um…not quite. Just because God is not considered necessary for the explanation of natural phenomena, does not mean God does not exist. There’s more to the Universe than natural physical phenomena.

PS to Collin: Dishonest non-sequiturs make Baby Jesus cry. If you don’t watch out, you’ll end up confronting Baby Jesus in his terrible-twos. Ever wonder why none of the Gospels speak of Jesus in his terrible twos? It’s because NONE HAVE LIVED TO TELL THE TALE!!! You have been warned. Have a nice day.

Comment #125091

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 1, 2006 12:10 PM (e)

If Mr. Flank actually posessed a doctorate in Divinity, he would know that the Gospel is not religious opinion, but rather the very word of the living God.

It, uh, doesn’t take a degree in divinity to know that you are not God, and your words are, uh, not the word of God. Your opinions are just that, your opinions. They are no more authoritative than anyone else’s. (shrug)

Unless, of course, you can produce a certificate or a laminated card or something, signed by God, declaring you to be his spokesman.

Comment #125173

Posted by Adam on September 1, 2006 5:19 PM (e)

Burt Humburg wrote:

I’m looking at Wells’ dreck from the standpoint of a Protestant raised in a non-denominational Pentecostal church and in my experience I have been denied communion by a Catholic priest. My guess was that this was being done because of their refusal to recognize me as a ‘Christian.’

Burt,

Your guess is incorrect. The Catholic rules about who is and isn’t admitted to communion have nothing to do with whether the included or excluded party is considered Christian. The Catholic Church explicitly recognizes Protestants as Christians in the 2nd Vatican Council document Unitas Redintegratio. Even during the height of the counter-reformation 500 years earlier, papal documents referred to Protestants as Christians, albeit heretical ones. In addition, the Catholic Church has always recognized Protestant Baptisms as valid.

The communion issue, rather, is driven by Protestants’ beliefs about the nature of Holy Communion. Catholics believe they receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, and we share only it with those who share our understanding of it. That’s why, for example, Catholic children are not admitted to communion until they are old enough to understand what it means.

Thus we exclude Protestants, but we do admit to communion members of other Christian sects who share our beliefs about Holy Communion. These include, but are not limited to, the various Orthodox Churches.

In addition, a priest can give communion to a Protestant in a grave situation (i.e. in danger of death) if the latter asks for it and demonstrates that he accepts Catholic teaching about the Eucharist.

Comment #125183

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 1, 2006 5:39 PM (e)

[“God is not necessary = God does not exist”] is a reasonable conclusion, much as it is reasonable to conclude that, since Santa Claus is not necessary for the delivery of presents, Santa Claus does not exist.

Um…not quite…

You should’ve read the rest of PG’s post.

There’s more to the Universe than natural physical phenomena.

That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Comment #125240

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 1, 2006 8:16 PM (e)

[“God is not necessary = God does not exist”] is a reasonable conclusion, much as it is reasonable to conclude that, since Santa Claus is not necessary for the delivery of presents, Santa Claus does not exist.

Um…not quite. Just because God is not considered necessary for the explanation of natural phenomena, does not mean God does not exist. There’s more to the Universe than natural physical phenomena.

“there is a point of disanalogy” was meant to imply “Um…not quite”. As I went on to write:

But there is a point of disanalogy. It is not unscientific to argue, or even conclude, that there is no Santa Claus, as that is a reasonable result of empirical inquiry. But God is not a jolly fat man or a fellow with a white beard; what God is, is a matter of philosophical debate and metaphysical speculation, and so whether God exists is not a matter of empirical inquiry, not something that science can answer, […]

I dispute, however that “there’s more to the Universe than natural physical phenomena”, as “the universe” is synonymous with the set of all physical phenomena, and all physical phenomena are “natural” (surely there are no criteria for distinguishing between “natural” and “non-natural” physical phenomena). Notably, when people say “God created the universe”, they do not mean that God was among the things created. I don’t argue that “there’s more to the Universe than natural physical phenomena” is empirically false, but rather that it’s logically incoherent; it’s a sequence of words that looks like it means something, but doesn’t.

Comment #125243

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 1, 2006 8:19 PM (e)

BTW, just because Santa Claus is not considered necessary for the explanation of presents under the tree does not mean that Santa Claus does not exist, so it seems that you missed my points entirely.

Comment #125249

Posted by Julia on September 1, 2006 8:35 PM (e)

A very interesting and well-written post. I’m sorry to be so late adding a comment but I did want to say that I personally don’t find it “hard to believe it is Wells given his beliefs ….” when he objects to any theology that he can label as non-traditional.

I think Wells attempts to hijack the definition of “traditional Christianity” by focusing it on anything at all he can draw attention to except for the central focus of Jesus and Jesus’ doctrine of love as the means for reconciliation between God and people. Wells in his avowed service to Moon is, in this chapter of his book, it seems to me, using any means he can to do exactly what we would expect him to do.

Wells is presumably committed to seeing Jesus as not having completed his mission on earth, so that there is a need for Moon as the final messiah. In defining “traditional Christian” in a way as to (attempt to) drive a wedge between Christians based on evolution, he is focusing Christianity on something other than Christ. As soon as Christians argue about whether acceptance of a scientific theory (or about any other notion such as acceptance of the Nicene Creed and which version of it) includes/excludes some people from being “traditional Christians,” they are at least a little bit becoming what Wells is, I think, aiming for: a fragmented religious group for which Christ as the central figure is not enough. Such a group can the more easily be defined as incomplete and in need of a new “unification” messiah.

It seems important never to lose sight of the fact that Wells has an agenda beyond the promotion of ID.

Comment #125419

Posted by normdoering on September 2, 2006 1:29 PM (e)

UncomDe is back defending the Dr. D. James Kennedy Coral Ridge TV special on Hitler and Darwin, “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy”:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1539

Comment #125424

Posted by normdoering on September 2, 2006 2:10 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

… you write “Wells’s claim that science and religion were chummy up until Darwin is ahistorical nonsense”. But Galileo was not an atheist or agnostic; far from it. It isn’t religion with which he – or his science – had a conflict, but rather church dogma.

I think we may have to separate out god-belief from Christianity. People can believe in God without being Christian. The people giving the church headaches before Darwin were deists, not atheists. Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

Think of the French Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and also of Thomas Paine. They didn’t need evolution to argue against Christianity.

So, while god-belief was doing okay, Christianity was eroding before Darwin. Deists, protestants, more sects… revolution in France – all before Darwin. Deists did the bulk of the work. We atheists are incredibly weak when compared to them. Our atheist revolution is entirely in naturalism and science – we are political ineffectives.

I think there was a rise in atheism after Darwin, but they came more from the deist camp than the Christian camp.

… Richard Dawkins has argued that the theory of evolution has made it possible (not necessary) to be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist”, by providing the basis for a casual explanation of the natural world. Dawkins may be overstating it, but the notion that the ToE contributed to the growth of atheism is not absurd or ahistorical. This of course does not change the fact that Wells distorts the truth at will.

I think that Dawkins quote is part of the reason why atheism became more outspoken after Darwin. Before Darwin, rebels against the church more often called themselves deists, after Darwin they more often called themselves atheists.

Comment #125704

Posted by Adam on September 3, 2006 2:16 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

I think we may have to separate out god-belief from Christianity. People can believe in God without being Christian. The people giving the church headaches before Darwin were deists, not atheists. Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

False. Galileo was a devout Catholic until his death, even after the injustices he experienced at the hands of the Church. I defy you to find a single passage in his writings wherein he advocates deism or anything remotely like it.

normdoering wrote:

Think of the French Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and also of Thomas Paine. They didn’t need evolution to argue against Christianity.

Sure, there were Deists in the enlightenment, but there were also Christians. Think of Adam Smith, Pascal, and John Locke.

Deists did the bulk of the work.

So according to you, Adam Smith was a real slacker! As an economist, I take exception to that.

We atheists are incredibly weak when compared to them. Our atheist revolution is entirely in naturalism and science – we are political ineffectives.

Which should perhaps make you re-think your tactics, no?

Comment #125743

Posted by normdoering on September 3, 2006 4:49 PM (e)

Adam wrote:

normdoering wrote:
Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

False. Galileo was a devout Catholic until his death, even after the injustices he experienced at the hands of the Church. I defy you to find a single passage in his writings wherein he advocates deism or anything remotely like it.

What is it about religious people that makes their reading comprehension so poor? I said Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision. The question then is what qualifies as a deistic idea, or one running toward that vision, not an advocation of deism.

What qualifies as “running toward that vision” is the fact that so many Deists point to Galileo. For example, Raymond Fontaine credits reading of Galileo with his own move toward Deism:

http://home.att.net/~rayfontaine/

And here are some Galileo quotes:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means given us knowledge which we can attain by them.”
– Galileo Galilei

“…nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called into question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages.”
– Galileo, quoted in Blind Watchers of the Sky

“Philosophy itself cannot but benefit from our disputes, for if our conceptions prove true, new achievements will be made; if false, their refutation will further confirm the original doctrines.”
– (as quoted in Galileo at Work : His Scientific Biography, p. 108)

“It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of Scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

“To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them not to see what they do see, and not to understand what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

“It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of Scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

Galileo also writes about God as the sole author of Scripture and Nature. The “Book of Nature” he thought could be a field of dialogue among the religions of the world, because through the language of creation all human beings are capable of hearing, in the past as well as the present, the evidence of God. Just move that book of nature over the Bible and you’ve got the roots of deism.

Galileo, pushed his theory in spite of what the Church thought about the matter. By crossing that line he directly challenged the Church’s authority and the Bible. Thus when Galileo and Newton put forth theories that a very vast universe exists, and that it runs in a highly mechanical and orderly fashion guided by natural forces such as gravity they fed the Deism to come because Deism is a belief in God based on reason and nature. It is a belief in a God that created the universe and set it in motion to run by natural processes (laws), and is based on the observation of orderly universe and human reason rather than on holy books. It is taken without having to accept the creeds of any particular traditional religion.

normdoering wrote:

Think of the French Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and also of Thomas Paine. They didn’t need evolution to argue against Christianity.

Sure, there were Deists in the enlightenment, but there were also Christians. Think of Adam Smith, Pascal, and John Locke.

Which of those men were French? Only Pascal. And he too challenged the authority of the church. Your reading comprehension seems to have missed the word I put in front of the word “Enlightenment,” it was “French Enlightenment” and not “Enlightenment” for a reason.

Deists did the bulk of the work.

So according to you, Adam Smith was a real slacker! As an economist, I take exception to that.

Do you have any evidence he was much involved in the French revolution?

All the rebels against the authority of the church contributed, Christian, Deist and atheist. But in the end it was the men with the Deist’s ideas that sparked and fueled the bloody revolutions. Did Adam Smith ever write a call to arms like that of Thomas Paine or Jean-Jacques Rousseau? That was the work, writing books is being a slacker compared to that.

We atheists are incredibly weak when compared to them. Our atheist revolution is entirely in naturalism and science – we are political ineffectives.

Which should perhaps make you re-think your tactics, no?

In some ways – but probably not the way you’re thinking.

Comment #125746

Posted by normdoering on September 3, 2006 5:05 PM (e)

Wait, I may have conflated Rousseau with Robespierre.
Switch Maximilien Robespierre for Jean-Jacques Rousseau for now.

Comment #125795

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 3, 2006 9:29 PM (e)

What is it about religious people

Oh no, a religionist !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go get ‘im, Norm.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Comment #125941

Posted by David Wilson on September 4, 2006 1:23 PM (e)

In comment comment #125743

normdoering wrote:

Adam wrote:

normdoering wrote:
Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

False. Galileo was a devout Catholic until his death, even after the injustices he experienced at the hands of the Church. I defy you o find a single passage in his writings wherein he advocates deism or anything remotely like it.

No, that’s not what Adam wrote. What he actually wrote was this ( comment #125704 ):

normdoering wrote:

I think we may have to separate out god-belief from Christianity. People can believe in God without being Christian. The people giving the church headaches before Darwin were deists, not atheists. Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

False. Galileo was a devout Catholic until his death, even after the injustices he experienced at the hands of the Church. I defy you to find a single passage in his writings wherein he advocates deism or anything remotely like it….

The difference is in the first three sentences from the previous comment (#125424) of yours which Adam was quoting—sentences whose omission from your subequent quotation of him went completely unmarked.

normdoering wrote:

What is it about religious people that makes their reading comprehension so poor? I said Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision….

Well I’m not at all religious, and Adam’s interpretation of the remarks of yours which he actually quoted seems perfectly reasonable to me. Did it not occur to you that he was perhaps basing his interpretation on the whole of the text of yours that he quoted, including the bits that you snipped without marking, rather than on the somewhat vague and waffly bits of it that you have now tried to emphasize in your response?

Adam obviously (and very reasonably, in my opinion) assumed that, even though you acknowledged that Galileo did not actually call himself a deist, you had nevertheless intended to include him among the “people giving the church headaches before Darwin”, and whom you claimed “were deists, not atheists”. If you did not in fact mean to do this, then I would suggest that the fault lies not so much in any deficiency in Adam’s reading comprehension as in your failure to express yourself clearly in the remarks of yours that he quoted.

Comment #125963

Posted by normdoering on September 4, 2006 3:36 PM (e)

David Wilson wrote:

Well I’m not at all religious, and Adam’s interpretation of the remarks of yours which he actually quoted seems perfectly reasonable to me.

It was not reasonable to claim that I said Galileo was a Deist when I specifically said he may not have called himself one. His ideas and his writing still contributed the growth of Deism.

Did it not occur to you that he was perhaps basing his interpretation on the whole of the text of yours that he quoted, including the bits that you snipped without marking, rather than on the somewhat vague and waffly bits of it that you have now tried to emphasize in your response?

It doesn’t matter, adding the extra stuff does not change the meaning. What I claim is that Galileo had “Deistic ideas.” I have supported that with quotes. Galileo contributed to the erosion of the authority of both the Church and the Bible.

Adam obviously (and very reasonably, in my opinion) assumed that, even though you acknowledged that Galileo did not actually call himself a deist, you had nevertheless intended to include him among the “people giving the church headaches before Darwin”, and whom you claimed “were deists, not atheists”.

When I say that “his (Galileo’s) ideas were running towards that vision (Deism)” that completely undercuts your claims for saying I called Galileo a Deist. That’s saying he was getting there, not that he was there. Besides, he was a pre-enlightenment figure.

Your interpretation does not hold water.

If you did not in fact mean to do this, then I would suggest that the fault lies not so much in any deficiency in Adam’s reading comprehension as in your failure to express yourself clearly in the remarks of yours that he quoted.

I would suggest that both you and Adam have a deficiency in reading comprehension.

If you want to argue that Galileo was not moving toward Deism, then make that argument, because that’s what I said. Adam’s only claim against that is an assertion to fact what he cannot know is fact.

I would say that Adam’s claim that Galileo was in truth “a devout Catholic until his death” is far less certain than that he was moving toward Deism (and may even have secretly been a Deist). You can’t know that when you know the man recanted a theory he knew to be true because he felt threatened by the Church. If he wasn’t sincere about recanting his theory, you can’t know he was sincere about his devoution to Catholicism deep inside where it counts. That’s what happen when you try and force devotion, true beliefs go into hiding.

Adam wants to claim he knows Galileo’s heart. I only admit I do not know.

Comment #125975

Posted by Ed Darrell on September 4, 2006 4:21 PM (e)

As a Christian active in my congregation and an interested citizen and parent actively seeking science knowledge, I am greatly pained by the attempt to make a fight between religion and science. I have in the past noted that screeds like Wells’ tend to set up straw man arguments, claiming that Darwin was not so faithful and Christian as he was, for example, or claiming that all scientists who study evolution are atheist and are driven by animus toward churches and religion.

But I see something more disturbing. Wells isn’t just setting up straw men; he’s setting up a straw God. Worse, he’s expecting no one else to see it, or call him on it.

This is, I believe, a working definition of idolatry. Christians as well as others would be well-advised to be suspicious of those who mis-state science, history and religion. Perhaps there is one thing we really should learn from Genesis in an almost-literal way: Beware of talking snakes.

Comment #125976

Posted by normdoering on September 4, 2006 4:28 PM (e)

Ed Darrell wrote:

I have in the past noted that screeds like Wells’ tend to set up straw man arguments, claiming that Darwin was not so faithful and Christian …

Ummm… Are you saying that Darwin was a faithful Christian?

Where do you get that idea from?

How do you know what Darwin believed?

Comment #125979

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 4, 2006 4:51 PM (e)

How do you know what Darwin believed?

I thought that later in his life he was at best Agnostic.

Comment #125985

Posted by normdoering on September 4, 2006 5:18 PM (e)

GuyeFaux wrote:

I thought that later in his life he (Darwin) was at best Agnostic.

But why would you think that?

Did someone tell you? Did Darwin write it in one of his books, or in some letter to a friend saying something like “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent God would have created the Ichneumonidae or that a cat should play with mice”?

Lies spread easily if you don’t check out your sources, especially when people tell you things you want to believe.

Some say Darwin converted on his death bed:
http://www.carm.org/evo_questions/deathbed.htm

Comment #126002

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 4, 2006 7:03 PM (e)

Ummm… Are you saying that Darwin was a faithful Christian?

Oh no, ANOTHER religionist !!!!!!!

Go git ‘im, Norm !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment #126120

Posted by Raging Bee on September 5, 2006 11:03 AM (e)

Norm Wrote:

What qualifies as “running toward that vision” is the fact that so many Deists point to Galileo. For example, Raymond Fontaine credits reading of Galileo with his own move toward Deism…

Just because Deists “point toward” someone, does not make that someone a Deist, nor does it mean that that someone was “running toward” Deism. I’ve “pointed toward” John Locke, Karl Marx and Tom Robbins in my own political-economic philosophy, but that doesn’t mean either of those guys was “running toward” my camp.

Furthermore, all of the quotes from Galileo that you subsequently quote reflect ideas expressed by St. Augustine centuries before Galileo was born. Does this mean St. Augustine was “running toward” Deism?

Last question: Why the Hell am I arguing with someone who “may have conflated Rousseau with Robespierre?” How much more slipshod can your thinking get?

Comment #126198

Posted by Adam on September 5, 2006 4:10 PM (e)

normdoering wrote:

Galileo also writes about God as the sole author of Scripture and Nature. The “Book of Nature” he thought could be a field of dialogue among the religions of the world, because through the language of creation all human beings are capable of hearing, in the past as well as the present, the evidence of God. Just move that book of nature over the Bible and you’ve got the roots of deism.

Yes, Norm, but the fact is Galileo never made that final move. His writings on the relationship between Church and science have much more in common with modern Catholic thinking on the subject than they do Deism. In fact, they are not much different from what St. Augustine believed. You want to say that St. Augusting was “running toward deism” as well? Please.

As to Galileo’s religiosity, we have evidence from his post-trial behavior as well as the testimony of his friends that he remained a devoted Catholic. Now it’s true, he may have faked all of this, but I don’t see any reason to believe it. What would he gain by lying to his close friends who had little influence with the inquisition?

Which of those men were French? Only Pascal. And he too challenged the authority of the church. Your reading comprehension seems to have missed the word I put in front of the word “Enlightenment,” it was “French Enlightenment” and not “Enlightenment” for a reason.

Sorry, I somehow missed the French part. I thought you were talking about the enlightenment in general. Yes, I agree, the rabble-rousing bunch, like Rousseau, whose ideas led to the French Revolution were mostly Deists and neo-pagans. Seeing as how their ideas didn’t lead to much good, and in fact led to the greatest slaughter of innocents in history up until that point, I don’t see why you’re so anxious to lay claim to them. But go ahead.

If you want to compare positive impact on human welfare, Adam Smith beats Rousseau and his ilk by a long shot.

Comment #126200

Posted by Adam on September 5, 2006 4:18 PM (e)

My apologies to Raging Bee.

I see that he noticed before I did the similarities of Augustin’s ideas on the relationship between faith to Galileo’s. I made my reply to Norm before reading his post, and so did not aknowledge it in my. I am doing so now. Nice post, RB!

Comment #126202

Posted by GuyeFaux on September 5, 2006 4:42 PM (e)

But why would you think that [Darwin was agnostic later in life?]

From his Life and Letters:

What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates…In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.

And other places as well.

And this is just patronizing:

Lies spread easily if you don’t check out your sources, especially when people tell you things you want to believe.

Comment #126240

Posted by normdoering on September 5, 2006 8:09 PM (e)

Raging Bee Wrote:

Just because Deists “point toward” someone, does not make that someone a Deist, nor does it mean that that someone was “running toward” Deism.

I never said it made Galileo a Deist, however, because of the threats used against Galileo we can never know his true feelings. Don’t underestimate the effect that threatening a man with torture has. Galileo was put under house arrest and coerced into saying that what he’d written was not true and he was no longer allowed to write about such things (though he did). So, he wasn’t allowed to be a Deist.

As for “running toward Deism,” I’ll stand by that. He set up some foundations others would build on. You might want to take a look at “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” 1632:

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/dialogue.html

In the end I would say Galileo had the same problem agreeing with the Bible that ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank has agreeing with the Dalai Lama in this thread:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/08/summer_institut_1.html#comment-125209

Galileo wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess-Christina:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/galileo-tuscany.html

Where Galileo wrote:

The reason produced for condemning the opinion that the earth moves and the sun stands still in many places in the Bible one may read that the sun moves and the earth stands still. Since the Bible cannot err; it follows as a necessary consequence that anyone takes a erroneous and heretical position who maintains that the sun is inherently motionless and the earth movable.

With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth-whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify.

The problem is that the Biblical passage in question can’t be reduced to metaphor, it’s about a historical figure and a battle that supposedly really happened. Like Lenny, Galileo can not explain the metaphor or any other alternate interpretation, he can only claim it has to mean something other than what was really said.

Thus, Galileo, through his ignorance of what the Bible said accidently did say that the Bible was wrong. It’s easy to agree with the Bible if you don’t bother to read it. Galileo put nature over the Bible and avoided interpreting the Bible. This is quite the reverse of St. Augustine who works on the Bible and ultimately ignores science.

So, whether Galileo wanted to contradict the Bible or not, he did do so, his only escape – the Bible doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. And he doesn’t try to find an alternate meaning, he sticks to science and believes it while leaving the Bible interpretation to others.

What survives: The Bible is wrong about Joshua making the sun stand still. That is one of many things the Deists latch onto. It doesn’t matter if Galileo avoided stating such a conclusion.

It was not until 1757 that the Catholic Church allowed people to teach heliocentricity, and not until 1822 did they lift the censure from Galileo’s work. Which happens to be about the time of the Enlightenment and the rise of Deism.

That is how Galileo was “running toward Deism.”

Comment #126259

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 5, 2006 9:42 PM (e)

In the end I would say Galileo had the same problem agreeing with the Bible that ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank has agreeing with the Dalai Lama in this thread:

(sigh) Norm, don’t be an ass.

Comment #126268

Posted by normdoering on September 5, 2006 10:02 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

I’ve “pointed toward” John Locke, Karl Marx and Tom Robbins in my own political-economic philosophy, but that doesn’t mean either of those guys was “running toward” my camp.

Yes it does mean they were “running” toward your camp, but the thing is it is not just your camp.

Ideas evolve in a similar way that life does, they branch like trees. Thus it’s possible for for Locke to have influenced not only the works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States but also Marx. To influence an atheist like Wittgenstein and the pope.

The same way an ancient primate led to both monkeys and men.

Few of the ideas and beliefs we have are actually the product of our own thinking. We inherit a lot of cultural products, so in some sense John Locke, Karl Marx and Tom Robbins did move toward the building of your’s and other different philosphies that are built upon their insights and their errors. If you had been born at another time you could not point to them and incorporate their ideas.

Furthermore, all of the quotes from Galileo that you subsequently quote reflect ideas expressed by St. Augustine centuries before Galileo was born.

Why did you not supply the quotes, why do you always try to set yourself up as an authority rather than presenting evidence and argument? Don’t you know by now I’m not going to buy that?

Provide evidence that St. Augustine said the same as Galileo. I know that St Augustine, in A.D. 354-430, in his “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” did write this:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
– Translated by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

That is not the same as what Galileo was saying. Making it out to be is a form of liberal quote mining. Remember, it’s from a book called, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” and here’s a sampling of what is in it:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/cms_content/316441242?page=416946&event=CF

I believe, the creation of man, especially of his body, according to what seemed to me to be the meaning of Scripture.
– St. Augustine

You ask:

Does this mean St. Augustine was “running toward” Deism?

Yes and no. It’s not as simple as you want to make things out to be. Certainly Galileo would have found quoting St. Augustine useful in his own argument and there was a belief by both men that the Bible had to agree with science. But St. Augustine didn’t imagine the conflicts that were coming and which Galileo ran into.

However, if Galileo read St. Augustine and if Galileo built his own views on theology or science using St. Augustine, then, yes, St. Augustine moved Galileo toward his views. What matters is drawing the connection between Galileo and St. Augustine.

I don’t know if that connection exists.

Comment #126326

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 12:50 AM (e)

Adam wrote:

You want to say that St. Augusting was “running toward deism” as well? Please.

The time lapse between Augustine and Galileo is over a thousand years. The time lapse between Galileo and the Enlightenment, using the Deist Voltaire as a marker, is about a hundred years:

St Augustine, A.D. 354-430
Galileo Galilei, A.D. 1564-1642
Galileo’s “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” A.D. 1632
Voltaire, A.D. 1694-1778

St Augustine was not “running,” maybe he was crawling toward Galileo if there’s any connection between Augustine and Galileo to find.

An evolutionary metaphor for this memetic evolution might be thinking of Augustine as a primitive fish, with Galileo an amphibian and Volaire as a mammal, Darwin an agnostic ape, and finaly Dawkins arriving as a full blown atheistic human being. While it took some fishy structures to create a science using amphibian like Galileo the fish still branched off into new species of fish to swin the seas of theology and in time they also adapted to our new environment and some lines went extinct. And while Galileo led to Voltaire, Galileo’s memes also split into other amphibious creatures who could move between the land of science the seas of theology. But those memes also split into a line that is no longer at home in the seas of theology, like Dawkins.

Comment #126412

Posted by Raging Bee on September 6, 2006 8:54 AM (e)

No problem, Adam, threads are sometimes hard to follow, especially when someone else posts while you’re typing a response.

Norm: your constant moving of goalposts is getting as tiresome as it is obvious. To begin with, alleging that Galileo was persecuted, and had to hide or misrepresent his opinions, does not give you the right to pretend you know what he “really” thought; it only means you have insufficient data to support your opinion of his opinion. It’s also kinda dishonest, since you quote him extensively even as you imply that his writings can’t be trusted.

Second – and I really don’t know how to explain this more clearly – just because someone else’s opinion helped to form mine (according to me at least), does not mean he was “running toward” my opinion, by any meaningful definition of that phrase. Both Martin Luther King and Pat Robertson claimed Christian doctrine as a basis for their respective beliefs; does this mean Christ was “running toward” racial equality, or cheesy theofascism? Or was he “running toward” both at once? (And no, ideas no not “evolve in a similar way that life does;” they evolve in different ways. You sound like an IDiot trying to compare cellular functions to car engines.)

Third, I am amused to note that, after you demand proof of similarity between St. Augustine’s and Galileo’s beliefs, you produce the very quote that satisfies your demand, without acknowledging it: both Galileo and Augustine explicitly said, though clearly not in the same words, that disciplined observation and understanding of the physical universe was not trumped by belief.

Thus, Galileo, through his ignorance of what the Bible said accidently did say that the Bible was wrong.

Are you embracing your Inner Fundie again? This is exactly what zealots and demagogues say to everyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the Bible – “You don’t know your Scripture!” (As if you’re in a position to know what Galileo knew or believed about the Bible – he was persecuted for his work and had to watch his step, remember?)

What survives: The Bible is wrong about Joshua making the sun stand still. That is one of many things the Deists latch onto. It doesn’t matter if Galileo avoided stating such a conclusion.

Of course it matters – if he didn’t state it, then we cannot know whether he reached that conclusion, or some other.

…But St. Augustine didn’t imagine the conflicts that were coming and which Galileo ran into.

He didn’t have to imagine them – they were happening in his time as well: Christians making asses of themselves by quoting, misunderstanding, and misrepresenting Scripture to “prove” allegations that others knew to be false. In fact, he specifically referred to astronomy as an example. Those old dead guys were sharper than today’s atheists give them credit for.

Comment #126511

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 5:49 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Norm: your constant moving of goalposts is getting as tiresome as it is obvious. To begin with, alleging that Galileo was persecuted, …

Are you denying that Galileo was “persecuted”?

Do you consider this website a pack of lies:
http://evolution.mbdojo.com/conflict.html

…and had to hide or misrepresent his opinions,…

Be specific. How have I hiden or misrepresented his opinion.

… does not give you the right to pretend you know what he “really” thought;

When did I say I knew what he thought? I said there was a possibility he might have secretly been a Deist, I don’t know that. You’re the one who is claiming to know he wasn’t.

…it only means you have insufficient data to support your opinion of his opinion.

When have you prsented any data at all? All your posts are bald assertion unsupported by any evidence.

It’s also kinda dishonest, since you quote him extensively even as you imply that his writings can’t be trusted.

Do you trust Galileo to have meant this:

“I swear that I have always believed, I believe now, and with God’s help will in the future believe all which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach and teach … Having been admonished by this Holy Office to abandon the false opinion that the Sun was the center of the universe and immovable, and that the Earth was not the center of the same and that it moved … I have been … suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the universe and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the same, and that is not the center of same, and that it does move … I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church.”
– Part of Galileo’s Recantation, June 22nd, 1633

More here:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1630galileo.html

Galileo either laid his hand upon the Bible and swore a lie before God and the Church or he believed his recantation.

Which was it, Bee?

Second – and I really don’t know how to explain this more clearly – just because someone else’s opinion helped to form mine (according to me at least), does not mean he was “running toward” my opinion, by any meaningful definition of that phrase.

Are you familiar with the concept of metaphor. Of course one does not physically “run” toward and idea or a conclusion. However, a man’s conclusions and beliefs are based on the evidence and ideas. When one is uncovering evidence fast, it can be called “running.” The evidence and ideas Galileo uncovered must have had some effect on his mind. Galileo was uncovering evidence that the explict, simple reading of the Bible passages in question were wrong. Care to explain how they failed to led Galileo to Deism when he had no new interpretation of them? What do you think held him back? Why wouldn’t Deism be a natural conclusion? Why would the church try to stop him?

…after you demand proof of similarity between St. Augustine’s and Galileo’s beliefs, you produce the very quote that satisfies your demand, without acknowledging it: both Galileo and Augustine explicitly said, though clearly not in the same words, that disciplined observation and understanding of the physical universe was not trumped by belief.

It’s not just different words. St. Augustine made a different statement that says something somewhat different than Galileo. Take a closer look. If you can’t figure it out I’ll explain it in more detail later.

St. Augustine never said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means given us knowledge which we can attain by them.” Augustine does not make such a strong defense of reason and intellect and call it “God given.” In fact, St. Augustine uses those “other means.”

The idea that reason and intellect are “God given” is not Biblical. It’s a common sense conclusion: We have reason and intellect, so God must have given them to us – just as God gave us atheists, Deists, viruses, disease, death, pain, earthquakes and me. In the Bible it often happens that God will just put ideas in people’s heads, the Holy Ghost changes hearts and minds with no thoughts necessary. God puts the idea in Pharaoh’s head that he should reject Moses evidence and “hardens his heart.”

This is exactly what zealots and demagogues say to everyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the Bible – “You don’t know your Scripture!”

Since when are fundies automatically wrong just because they are fundies? Can you prove you know your scripture better than your average fundy? A few of them take their Bible reading so seriously they read it in the original Greek and Hebrew.

…But St. Augustine didn’t imagine the conflicts that were coming and which Galileo ran into.

He didn’t have to imagine them – they were happening in his time as well: Christians making asses of themselves by quoting, misunderstanding, and misrepresenting Scripture to “prove” allegations that others knew to be false.

St. Augustine did not have a pope and major Cardinals denying a basic fact of astronomy that would come to haunt the Catholic Church for the rest of its existance. St. Augustine did not have a scientific fact that contradicted something as explict as Joshua’s story.

Comment #126512

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 5:53 PM (e)

Whoops! Got sloppy:

…and had to hide or misrepresent his opinions,…

Be specific. How have I hiden or misrepresented his opinion.

You meant Galileo, not me.
Well he did – he recanted what he believed that’s a matter of record. Look it up. Galileo swore on a Bible that his belief in a heliocentric solar system was wrong. What is that if not a lie?

Comment #126519

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 6, 2006 6:36 PM (e)

Norm, I’m curious — do you and Popper know each other?

Comment #126522

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 6:50 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank asked:

Norm, I’m curious — do you and Popper know each other?

No.

I wish he would show up. He could probably give us a clearer explanation of why Galileo and St. Augustine were saying different things than I can.

Comment #126525

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

Norm, don’t pay Lenny any mind; he’s an anti-intellectual buffoon.

As for Augustine, he berates Christians speaking nonsense for claiming that Holy Scripture supports their nonsense that any reasonable person can see is nonsense, thus casting Holy Scripture in a bad light. It’s much like folks like Carol Clouser who insist that there’s no inconsistency between the holy books and the claims of science. That’s really nothing like saying that empirical observation isn’t trumped by belief.

Comment #126526

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:21 PM (e)

Norm, don’t pay Lenny any mind; he’s an anti-intellectual buffoon.

As for Augustine, he berates Christians speaking nonsense for claiming that Holy Scripture supports their nonsense that any reasonable person can see is nonsense, thus casting Holy Scripture in a bad light. It’s much like folks like Carol Clouser who insist that there’s no inconsistency between the holy books and the claims of science. That’s not saying that empirical observation isn’t trumped by belief. But even though they are conceptually different, there is a common effect, which is that empirical observation is held as valid.

Comment #126529

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:26 PM (e)

Norm, don’t pay Lenny any mind; he’s an anti-intellectual buffoon.

As for Augustine, he berates Christians speaking nonsense for claiming that Holy Scripture supports their nonsense that any reasonable person can see is nonsense, thus casting Holy Scripture in a bad light. It’s much like folks like Carol Clouser who insist that there’s no inconsistency between the holy books and the claims of science. That’s not saying that empirical observation isn’t trumped by belief. But even though they are conceptually different, there is a common effect, which is that empirical observation is held as valid.

Comment #126530

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:31 PM (e)

Sorry about the repetition. But you can see the evolution of my thought between the first two. :-)

Comment #126531

Posted by Peter on September 6, 2006 7:31 PM (e)

Norm,
You are moving goalposts.

Comment #126532

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:37 PM (e)

Unfortunately, though, my grammar didn’t evolve. Perhaps this will be clearer:

Augustine berates Christians who speak nonsense. He berates them for claiming that Holy Scripture supports their nonsense. And that it’s obviously nonsense is something that any reasonable person – including non-Christians – can see. Holding up Holy Scripture as an authority for obvious nonsense makes those unknowledgeable about Holy Scripture think that it is nonsensical.

Comment #126534

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 7:39 PM (e)

Wow, Peter, that’s sure convincing.

Comment #126535

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 7:40 PM (e)

Peter said:

Norm,
You are moving goalposts.

Really?

Where was the first goal post and where is the new one?

Comment #126542

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 8:31 PM (e)

When I wrote earlier, I didn’t know exactly what things said by Augustine and Galileo are being compared, and I still don’t. But here is a previously given quote from Galileo:

With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth-whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify.

And here is a quote from Augustine from Wikipedia:

With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

They do seem rather similar to me. But RB said (emph. added) “all of the quotes from Galileo that you subsequently quote reflect ideas expressed by St. Augustine centuries before Galileo was born”. I haven’t gone through the thread to catalog all those quotes, and even I had I wouldn’t know which of Augustine’s writings each of them purportedly matches. It’s his claim, so he ought to support it.

Comment #126551

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 9:05 PM (e)

Sorry, Popper, I didn’t give you the quotes I wanted some comparative insights on:

This is the Augustine quote RB got from me which he thinks is similar to Galileo:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
– Translated by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

Here are some of the Galileo quotes:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means given us knowledge which we can attain by them.”
– Galileo Galilei

“…nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called into question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages.”
– Galileo, quoted in Blind Watchers of the Sky

“Philosophy itself cannot but benefit from our disputes, for if our conceptions prove true, new achievements will be made; if false, their refutation will further confirm the original doctrines.”
– (as quoted in Galileo at Work : His Scientific Biography, p. 108)

“It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of Scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

“To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them not to see what they do see, and not to understand what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

“It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment.”
– Galileo Galilei, “The Authority of Scripture in Philosophical Controversies”

I see Galileo making a much stronger case for “reason and intellect” than Augustine. Augustine only seems to be arguing for a kind of diplomacy – don’t make Christians look like morons. St. Augustine never said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means given us knowledge which we can attain by them.” Augustine does not make such a strong defense of reason and intellect and call it “God given.” In fact, St. Augustine uses those “other means.”

The idea that reason and intellect are “God given” is not Biblical. It’s a common sense conclusion: We have reason and intellect, so God must have given them to us – just as God gave us atheists, Deists, viruses, disease, death, pain, earthquakes and me. In the Bible it often happens that God will just put ideas in people’s heads, the Holy Ghost changes hearts and minds with no thoughts necessary. God puts the idea in Pharaoh’s head that he should reject Moses evidence and “hardens his heart.”

This Galileo quote looke like Deism writ small: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means given us knowledge which we can attain by them.” When you can actually say that new evidence and reason say the Bible must be wrong you have nothing left but the belief in the “God” who gave reason to you.

Comment #126557

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 6, 2006 9:24 PM (e)

Well, I’ll just leave this thread until PZ’s Puppies stop peeing all over the place.

Comment #126559

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 9:43 PM (e)

This is the Augustine quote RB got from me which he thinks is similar to Galileo:

Ah yes, I see where RB wrote “you produce the very quote that satisfies your demand”, but I think the Augustine quote I gave better supports his position. RB further said “both Galileo and Augustine explicitly said, though clearly not in the same words, that disciplined observation and understanding of the physical universe was not trumped by belief”, but I can’t see where either of them said that; Galileo said “the holy Bible can never speak untruth”, and Augustine said “With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith”. The belief in the bible is inviolate, but what the bible supposedly says is twisted so as not to contradict observation.

“…nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called into question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages.”

Compare this to what Augustine wrote: “If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books” – he repeatedly says that, if “this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience” is contradicted by what Christians foolishly say about the bible, it is those Christians one should disbelieve, not reason and experience. The difference is that Augustine’s program is to defend the bible whereas Galileo’s is not (other than his explicit statement that it can never speak untruth), but both hold up the rule of “reason and experience”.

I see Galileo making a much stronger case for “reason and intellect” than Augustine. Augustine only seems to be arguing for a kind of diplomacy – don’t make Christians look like morons.

Yes, Galileo is, but that’s not all Augustine is arguing. He’s not saying that the bible really is nonsense but please don’t admit it because that would make us look bad. He’s saying the bible, as understood through “the mode of divine eloquence”, does not actually contradict reason and experience. Which is mighty damn close to Galileo saying that “it can never speak untruth” but that “it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify”.

When you can actually say that new evidence and reason say the Bible must be wrong you have nothing left but the belief in the “God” who gave reason to you.

But if the bible can always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify, that it must be understood through the mode of divine eloquence, then you never reach the conclusion that the bible must be wrong, regardless of what evidence and reason say.

Comment #126563

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 9:58 PM (e)

“both Galileo and Augustine explicitly said, though clearly not in the same words, that disciplined observation and understanding of the physical universe was not trumped by belief”, but I can’t see where either of them said that

Hmm; I think I’ll take that back. They both said that nothing trumps reason and experience. Specifically, people’s belief that the bible is inerrant plus their belief as to what the bible claims (due to their erroneously taking it to mean what it appears to say in plain language, rather than interpreting “God’s eloquence”) does not trump reason and experience. (Of course, the idea that the bible is inerrant despite seeming to be full of nonsense and falsehoods doesn’t seem reasonable to me, but this is about what they said.)

Comment #126607

Posted by normdoering on September 6, 2006 11:34 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

But if the bible can always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify, that it must be understood through the mode of divine eloquence, then you never reach the conclusion that the bible must be wrong, regardless of what evidence and reason say.

Hmmm… You don’t see it either. Can the Bible always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify? Galileo was pushing the Church authorities to say that passages like Psalms 104:5, “The Earth is firmly fixed; it shall not be moved,” and the story of Joshua making the sun stand still must be re-interpreted to mean something they don’t seem to say. And what would that be? Galileo offers no advice.

In the case of the Psalms passage you could get away with it because it’s just poetry. With Joshua it’s not so easy, he’s supposed to be a historical figure and the battle with the Amorites a real battle:

Jos 10:12
Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
Jos 10:13
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. [Is] not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
Jos 10:14
And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.

Galileo would have pulled a Lenny Flank on that one.

Augustine on the other hand says what he says because it’s in his book, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” where he is offering up new interpretations of part of the Bible, not asking others to do it for him because he doesn’t care.

Yes they do agree on putting reason over belief (taking your preachers word for it?) and they say if your reason contradicts scripture, then your interpretation of scripture can’t be right (or your reason wrong) and I’m sure that Muslims would say that about the Koran and Hindus might say it about Bhagavad Gita. Who doesn’t say that? Differences of opinion about scripture’s meaning sometimes have to be settled and reason is really a tool of argument (unless its Raging Bee or Lenny Flank making the argument – then bald assertions are the tool).

The difference is, Augustine is trying to settle a difference of interpretation while Galileo is giving the Church authorities a new interpretation problem, making them contradict themselves, and not settling it for them.

That’s the context of what they are saying.

And while some of the Galileo quotes parallel Augustine, not all of my Galileo quotes do. It’s the differences that suggest the possibility of a type of Deism in Galileo not seen in Augustine.

Also, in other writings by Galileo there is a lot of talk about God, but very little about the Bible. Perhaps he was a Deist who thought he was a Christian because he didn’t know his scripture all that well.

For example: “Philosophy itself cannot but benefit from our disputes, for if our conceptions prove true, new achievements will be made; if false, their refutation will further confirm the original doctrines.” In this case, that’s doctrines partly based on scripture and while Galileo admits he could be wrong (though he earlier says its proved) he is implying that if he is later proved right, those older, Bible rooted, doctrines would be wrong. Indeed, Galileo was proved right and we went to the moon, put the Hubble telescope in orbit, and made other new achievements… But there still is no sensible interpretation of the Joshua story other than: It didn’t happen - the Bible writers probably lied about a historical figure. (Unless you want to believe it was some kind of local illusion or God stopped the Earth rotating, canceled inertia, and the ancient Chinese and Indian civilizations didn’t notice an extra long day – which doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy Galileo is).

How did Galileo miss that? Did he really expect them to explain away all the Bible’s uses of a fixed Earth? Or was he playing ignorant for political reasons?

I don’t make any claims to know this, but I see no reason to dismess the possibility.

Comment #126608

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 6, 2006 11:48 PM (e)

Hmmm… You don’t see it either.

It’s not good to start with an ad hominem. This is my last post in this thread; enjoy yourself.

Can the Bible always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify?

Of course.

Galileo was pushing the Church authorities to say that passages like Psalms 104:5, “The Earth is firmly fixed; it shall not be moved,” and the story of Joshua making the sun stand still must be re-interpreted to mean something they don’t seem to say. And what would that be? Galileo offers no advice.

He said that it speaks no untruth, but doesn’t say what the bare words signify. All one need do is say that over and over like a mantra – just as modern Catholics do.

Comment #126639

Posted by normdoering on September 7, 2006 3:01 AM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

Hmmm… You don’t see it either.

It’s not good to start with an ad hominem.

Why was that an ad hominem? You thought that was an attack agaist you, the person? How so?

This is my last post in this thread;

Which means I won’t get an answer to my previous question I suppose.

But you really didn’t see what I saw and what I had already elborated on in previous posts. That’s fact, not attack. You seem to be agreeing with Raging Bee on much of this. I can explain, and did explain in part in my previous posts, how what I see is different. Not necessarily right, but different. For example, you only took the bare words into consideration in your analysis but there’s a context to see also: Galileo defending science and reason, while Augustine is defending biblical interpretation (which seems to go beyond “mere” reason). That alone brings Galileo closer to Deism than Augustine (though not by much). I know there’s more context to see if their works are read in more detail and if their possible goals are given more thought.

Can the Bible always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify?

Of course.

I’m dissapointed you’re not going to argue against doing that. Or see anything potentially phony in Galileo’s evasive claims. I was hoping you could come up with something better than I could. You didn’t even point out that this claim by Galileo made the Bible unfalsifiable.

After all, if the Bible can always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify, then why can’t we also say that Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes are the key to understanding quantum mechanics if they are not interpreted by what their bare words alone signify? Why can’t any book mean anything you want it to mean? What criteria is left for judging and interpreting them?

He said that it speaks no untruth, but doesn’t say what the bare words signify. All one need do is say that over and over like a mantra – just as modern Catholics do.

While that seems a subtle dig at “modern” Catholics, it also seems to me you’re not seeing evidence that Galileo wasn’t like modern Catholics.

Comment #126690

Posted by Peter on September 7, 2006 7:50 AM (e)

When I said that Norm is moving goalposts I was simply stating that I agree with Raging Bee whose posts you can read. Take a minute and consider what moving goalposts means instead of simply engaging in this sophist’s battle. Nonetheless, I’ll take a few minutes to explain what I mean by moving goalposts and explain why two aspects of Norm’s argument create these goalpost maneuvers.
You implied in your posts that we can’t really know Galileo’s mind regarding the state of his Catholic belief. It follows pretty easily that because he may have been dishonest in this regard he was dishonest in some other regards. Yet, you quote him extensively. By doing so, you appear to be really picking and choosing the parts of Galileo’s life and words that suit your claim that he was “running toward [deism]. These selections seem to be quite in line with that which we despise about Biblical literalists: they state the sun remained in the sky over Jericho, that God annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah and that Jonah survived the belly of the whale but they don’t observe Paul’s call for women to cover their heads in church or the Old Testament prohibition on the eating of shellfish. These aspects inherent in your argument combine a slippery slope of extreme skepticism wherein we can’t really trust anyone’s words on any subject if they have even had the appearance of self-contradiction.
This creates an enormous truth window for an argument such as yours because you can’t be as right or wrong as the issue has been made to be on this thread. But both the accusatory and defensive tone you have taken implies that you have an extraordinarily strong belief that Galileo was “running towards deism” no matter the problem.
Secondly, the metaphor “running towards deism” presents problems of its own. “Running towards” anything is an ahistorical teleological statement. So, as in other posts on Wells’s drivel, we are going to have to all agree that words have to mean something. The OED defines running as follows:
I. 1. a. The action of the vb. RUN (in sense 1); rapid motion on foot; racing; an instance of this. spec. in Cricket, the action of making runs; also in phr. running between (the) wickets.
b. The action of moving rapidly with hostile intent; raiding; a raid or inroad. Obs.
c. local. Rapid skating in a direct line.
d. Rapid surface-swimming on the part of a harpooned whale.
2. a. The action, on the part of a horse, of going at (great) speed, esp. in a race; racing; a race. Also fig. of a person, the action of standing as a candidate or competing (for an office); cf. RUN v. 7b. (orig. U.S.).

(You have to love the cricket reference.)
All of these share one thing in common – high speed a la “rapid” in definition 1a,b,c & d; “(great) speed” in the definition 2.
You combine that with “toward” (OED once again):
1. Of motion (or action figured as motion): In the direction of; so as to approach (but not necessarily reach: thus differing from TO prep. 1).
b. pred. after to be: On the way to. Obs.
c. With implication of reaching; to. Obs.
2. Of position: In the direction of; on the side next to; turned or directed to, facing.
b. Beside, near; about, in attendance upon; in the possession of; with. Obs.
3. In the direction of (in fig. senses). a. gen.: esp. with words expressing tendency or aim, and followed by an abstract noun expressing state, condition, etc. (In quots. 13.. and 1553 ‘on the way to’: cf. 1b; in quot. 1600, ‘to’: cf. 1c.)

All three are “in the direction of” and definition 3 says “esp. with words expressing tendency or aim, and followed by an abstract noun expressing a state…” The state in this case is deism.
Inherent in your statement is a goal toward which Galileo was moving at a rapid rate with the intent of reaching it which seems unknowable even according to your own statements about how well we can know someone’s mind.
We might, with hindsight, observe how this or that idea moved toward what we perceive as a historical goal. Wagner’s, Schopenhauer’s, Nietzsche’s and Christian ideas all fed into the creation of the Third Reich’s its monumentalist architecture, belief in a “superman” (however perverted its version of Nietzsche), the will to power and the desires of the Creator of the universe. How each of these elements came into the Hitler’s philosophies and then how those philosophies would manifest in policies and beliefs in others, directly or indirectly, was unpredictable as was the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on the German psyche. However, that a social system is set up doesn’t mean that the social system was inevitable or that any of the aforementioned people had the intent of running toward the Third Reich.
It seems a no-brainer that Galileo hugely influenced, directly and/or indirectly, all of the people you have mentioned and that deists have been an enormous influence on Western thinking. But to say that he was running towards them doesn’t hold water as a metaphor. Sure, we are/I am splitting hairs. Nonetheless, the implicit teleology in your statement) is at the basis of some of the objections in the thread because you imply that Galileo wanted to reach deism as a goal when the word “deism” hadn’t been used in writing until 1682 by John Dryden (OED once again: Religio laici, or a laymans faith, a poem 1682 - “That Deism, or the principles of natural worship, are only the faint remnants or dying flames of revealed religion in the posterity of Noah.”)
A more accurate statement would be, “with hindsight, Galileo seemed to be moving toward deistic belief.”

Comment #126697

Posted by Raging Bee on September 7, 2006 8:46 AM (e)

First, norm, you blatantly misrepresent just about all of the points I made in my last post. Then you foist off this bit of monumental arrogance:

Also, in other writings by Galileo there is a lot of talk about God, but very little about the Bible. Perhaps he was a Deist who thought he was a Christian because he didn’t know his scripture all that well.

Right – a militant atheist – who rejects Scripture in its entirety – implying that Galileo knew less about Scripture than himself? Can you flush your credibility any further down the toilet? I’m not an expert on Galileo, but I strongly suspect that he dealt more closely with Catholic church and doctrine – albeit not always willingly – than you are ever likely to do; so you’re really not in a position to pretend you’re a greater Scriptural authority than him.

Such slipshod presumption, combined with your habit of tossing off insults (“You don’t see it either”) even at people like Popper’s Ghost, who wasn’t attacking your statements like I was, sinks your credibility to a level close to that of Larry Fafarman. And the fact that you did so much more work than Fafarman, to achieve the same result, makes it even sadder.

PS to Peter: Thanks for the tedious but spot-on clarification. It’s amazing how far astray a single bad metaphor can lead one. If norm had only said something more concrete like “Deists built upon the ideas of Galileo, who wrote…” or simply “Deists were partly inspired by Galileo…” the ensuing debate would have been a lot more grounded in reality.

Comment #126745

Posted by David Wilson on September 7, 2006 11:34 AM (e)

In comment comment #125963

normdoering wrote:

David Wilson wrote:

Well I’m not at all religious, and Adam’s interpretation of the remarks of yours which he actually quoted seems perfectly reasonable to me.

It was not reasonable to claim that I said Galileo was a Deist when I specifically said he may not have called himself one.

Why on earth not? Those two statements are not at all contradictory. Taken together they simply say that Galileo was a closet deist, which is exactly what I (and apparently Adam also) mistook you for having said. Later on in the comment I am now replying to, you yourself even speculated that this might have in fact been the case.

While it’s true that your final vague and waffly metaphor—that Galileo’s ideas “were running towards that vision”—might be interpreted as being inconsistent with his being classified as a deist, it is also very easy to interpret it in ways that are quite consistent with that classification as well.

Look, here is what you originally wrote, including the context that led up to it:

Popper’s ghost wrote:

… you write “Wells’s claim that science and religion were chummy up until Darwin is ahistorical nonsense”. But Galileo was not an atheist or agnostic; far from it. It isn’t religion with which he - or his science - had a conflict, but rather church dogma.

I think we may have to separate out god-belief from Christianity. People can believe in God without being Christian. The people giving the church headaches before Darwin were deists, not atheists. Galileo may not have called himself deist, but his ideas were running towards that vision.

I am completely baffled as to why you consider it unreasonable for anyone reading this to have taken the expression “people giving the church headaches before Darwin” as having been intended to include Galileo. I’m afraid I find none of the reasons you have so far offered in support of that opinion to be at all convincing.

normdoerring wrote:

Did it not occur to you that he was perhaps basing his interpretation on the whole of the text of yours that he quoted, including the bits that you snipped without marking, rather than on the somewhat vague and waffly bits of it that you have now tried to emphasize in your response?

It doesn’t matter, adding the extra stuff does not change the meaning….

Of course it matters. When one reads Adam’s original comment it is patently obvious that his interpretation of what you wrote was based on what we now know to be an understandable misreading of one of the sentences you omitted from your misquotation of him. Your misquotation, on the other hand, falsely insinuates that his remarks constituted nothing more than an absurd non-sequitur from the barely relevant parts of your remarks you chose to include in it.

normdoering wrote:

Adam obviously (and very reasonably, in my opinion) assumed that, even though you acknowledged that Galileo did not actually call himself a deist, you had nevertheless intended to include him among the “people giving the church headaches before Darwin”, and whom you claimed “were deists, not atheists”.

When I say that “his (Galileo’s) ideas were running towards that vision (Deism)” that completely undercuts your claims for saying I called Galileo a Deist….

You are mistaken. Nowhere in what I wrote did I say that you had called Galileo a deist. If you think otherwise, please provide the text of any remarks of mine where you think I did so and I will be glad to clarify them.

For the record, on reading your reply to Adam I had immediately recognised the possibility that we had been mistaken in our original impressions that you had called Galileo a deist. I apologise for not making that clear.

Comment #126840

Posted by normdoering on September 7, 2006 4:14 PM (e)

Peter wrote:

These selections seem to be quite in line with that which we despise about Biblical literalists: they state the sun remained in the sky over Jericho…

Your reading is sloppy in one regard here. Neither I nor the Bible say anything about the sun standing still over Jericho. Jericho is a city, Joshua supposedly used rams horns to blow down the walls of Jericho, but the sun stood still over Gibeon and the Moon in the valley of Ajalon. It happens after Jericho in a different place, close by, but no cigar there for you.

Joshua 9:3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to …

Peter wrote:

This creates an enormous truth window for an argument such as yours because you can’t be as right or wrong as the issue has been made to be on this thread. But both the accusatory and defensive tone you have taken implies that you have an extraordinarily strong belief that Galileo was “running towards deism” no matter the problem.

I really don’t know. What I do know, however, is that James Burke did a bit on Galileo and his connection to Deism, Voltaire and the Enlightenment in his TV show “The Day The Universe Changed.”

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/billotto/Day_Universe_Changed.html#Science

I saw the show over a decade ago and I can only remember it vaguely. My problem is reconstructing Burke’s evidence. What I feel confident about is that Burke knew more than Raging Bee, Bee who seemed to be denying Galileo was persecuted and which you seem to be missing:

Raging Bee wrote:

Norm: your constant moving of goalposts is getting as tiresome as it is obvious. To begin with, alleging that Galileo was persecuted,…

Burke did not say Galileo was a Deist, but he drew strong connections to the Deists – some friends of Galileo built an educational institution for the study of Galileo’s work and for pushing science ahead. And that produced Deists and Galileo starts taking on his nearly mythic stature after he is dead. Burke then asks, did Galileo know what he was doing? If he did, then he might have secretly been a Deist.

So, before you claim agreement with Bee, decide how much of what Bee says that you agree with. Because Bee now conflates Deism with my “militant atheism”:

Also, in other writings by Galileo there is a lot of talk about God, but very little about the Bible. Perhaps he was a Deist who thought he was a Christian because he didn’t know his scripture all that well.

Right – a militant atheist – who rejects Scripture in its entirety – implying that Galileo knew less about Scripture than himself? Can you flush your credibility any further down the toilet?

Peter wrote:

Secondly, the metaphor “running towards deism” presents problems
of its own. “Running towards” anything is an ahistorical teleological statement.

What do you intend to mean by “ahistorical teleological”?

I’ll agree it’s not the best metaphor, and metaphors, for the sake of clarity, should be avoided when possible, and it’s not Burkes, but calling it “ahistorical teleological” seems to be your own subjective reading. I’ll show you another way to read my metaphor.

First pick this definition for “running” from you dictionary list: “The action of moving rapidly with hostile intent; raiding; a raid or nroad.”

The state in this case is deism…Inherent in your statement is a goal toward which Galileo was moving at a rapid rate with the intent of reaching it which seems unknowable even according to your own statements about how well we can know someone’s mind.

No, the result of Galileo’s run is potentially arriving at a place called Deism. Thinking of it as a state at this point doesn’t help. Deism has to be seen in this metaphor as a place on a map of viewpoints – and it’s not linear, it’s at least two dimensional. If Galileo is running towards Deism then he can’t be there yet, he cannot know that state and he may not see it through the fog of his ignorance. Remember, the choices are 1) He is far-sighted enough to see where he is going or 2) he is going in that direction by accident while intending to arrive at another goal.

What Galileo can be said to be running to with some knowledge of what he was doing is only a conflict with the Church. It just happens that Deism is one place on the other side of that goal. Does Galileo see that far? Is he intending to go there? Those questions are still open in the running metaphor. You are trying to close them down.

We might, with hindsight, observe how this or that idea moved toward what we perceive as a historical goal.

We might also have foresight. Galileo wasn’t completely lacking in that department. Did Galileo want to win his battle with the church and have them re-interpret the Bible, or did he set up the conflict so that he would loose?

However, that a social system is set up doesn’t mean that the social system was inevitable…

I said nothing of what is inevitable. This indicates you see the map or landscape as a mere line. Think of it as a two dimentional map, or a landscape. There are choices to make in the direction you move. Galileo made a choice and devoted a lot of energy to that choice.

Galileo is moving on this map toward a conflict with the church. That was a choice he made after being warned not to. He could have stopped making telescopes and writing books and done some other research that the Church would not have objected to.

But to say that he was running towards them doesn’t hold water as a metaphor.

You have failed to make that case to me. It still holds water from where I sit.

…you imply that Galileo wanted to reach deism as a goal when the word “deism” hadn’t been used in writing until 1682 by John Dryden…

Maybe he did? But the metaphor does not imply that, only your reading of it does. One doesn’t necessarily have to know where one is going or see the destination that lies beyond one’s immediate goal when runs toward something. Say you’re running toward a door to break it down – you don’t have to know what is on the other side of that door, but whatever is on the other side of that door it’s what you were running towards, whether you knew it or not.

A more accurate statement would be, “with hindsight, Galileo seemed to be moving toward deistic belief.”

We’re not completely blind to the futures we make for ourselves. We do have foresight also. Only if Galileo didn’t see what was on the other side of the door that the Church was guarding is it only hindsight. That’s the question I do not pretend to answer, but the possibilty I want you to acknowledge: Maybe Galileo could see where he was going. Maybe the results were not all unforseen by him.

Comment #126867

Posted by Adam on September 7, 2006 5:14 PM (e)

Norm wrote:

Can the Bible always be interpreted as not saying what its bare words signify? Galileo was pushing the Church authorities to say that passages like Psalms 104:5, “The Earth is firmly fixed; it shall not be moved,” and the story of Joshua making the sun stand still must be re-interpreted to mean something they don’t seem to say.

Yes, and he actually succeeded. Soon after Galileo’s trial, Cardinal Ballermine, Galileo’s inquisitor, wrote:

“I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth but the earth circled the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.”

(The full text is here: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1615bellarmine-letter.html)

Galileo’s position is the modern Catholic teaching. That is, observation and experience cannot contradict the Bible, and if there is an apparent conflict, it’s most likely that your interpretation of the Bible that is wrong. This is exactly the position Galileo took, and it’s even the position that Galileo’s inquisitor took after the trial. St. Augustine also implied the same thing.

Hence it is exteremly tenuous to call describe this position as Deist or even proto-Deist.

As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference. Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped. The Psalms are poetry, and were never taken literally. Their literal reading would be contradicted even if we lived in a geocentric universe. They say the Earth shall not be moved, which is manifestly wrong given the existence of earthquakes.

Comment #126871

Posted by normdoering on September 7, 2006 5:27 PM (e)

Also, in other writings by Galileo there is a lot of talk about God, but very little about the Bible. Perhaps he was a Deist who thought he was a Christian because he didn’t know his scripture all that well.

Right – a militant atheist – who rejects Scripture in its entirety – implying that Galileo knew less about Scripture than himself? Can you flush your credibility any further down the toilet?

I suppose for the literalist Christians here who do believe that God did somehow produce, at least, the illusion of the sun standing still for Joshua will think my credibility blown. And also those who think the story could have some possible spiritual/metaphoric/very abstruse, “and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify,” explanation will also think my credibility blown.

If that makes me arrogant, so be it. I am arrogant in my knowledge just like Augustine warned you. And it’s not just science. I know what I know because I’ve given the Bible a reading and I don’t think you can give that story a sensible metaphoric/spiritual/abstruse meaning. Shout all you want about there being such an interpretation, but if you can’t produce it then what makes you so sure there is one? And as for the literalists, well, don’t ask me to believe in miracles you can’t prove happened. They are far more likely to be lies and are proof of nothing if they only happen in stories. I simply have no commitment to the idea that “the holy Bible can never speak untruth.” I think large parts of it are not just untrue, but simple lies. And since I don’t live with the kind of thought police Galileo did I also don’t find it, to use Galileo’s words, “prudent to affirm” such. (Why did he say it was merely “very pious to say and prudent to affirm” such and not claim to believe it? I find it rather weasly to use those terms.)

I’m not an expert on Galileo, but I strongly suspect that he dealt more closely with Catholic church and doctrine – albeit not always willingly – than you are ever likely to do; so you’re really not in a position to pretend you’re a greater Scriptural authority than him.

Suspect what you want, I don’t care. But if you want to argue with me prove that he was a greater Scriptural authority than me? If you can’t then don’t you have to acknowledge the possibility that I just might be a greater Scriptural authority than him?

And what about the pope, the Cardinals and the Inquisition, is Galileo also supposed to be a greater Scriptural authority than them in your scenario? After all, the pope and the Cardinals are agreeing with me that heliocentrism is going to cause a problem for the Bible.

Comment #126882

Posted by Peter on September 7, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

norm,
i think that your last post regarding my previous post reveals the tentativeness of your position and its inherent instabilities (as metaphor) much more clearly than your previous posts and i think that we are mostly in agreement now because we know that we can’t know galileo’s mind.
also, i concede that we can have foresight (though foresight is not prognosis) and galileo may have had some sort of foresight that he was moving toward a kind of belief that was going to have all kinds of implications that would cause big conflicts with the church. but that really is rather conjectural.

Comment #126891

Posted by Adam on September 7, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

Norm wrote:

After all, the pope and the Cardinals are agreeing with me that heliocentrism is going to cause a problem for the Bible.

Actually, that’s not true.

First of all, the Pope didn’t say anthing about the matter, only a tribunal of the Inquisition.

Second of all, the head of that tribunal, as I’ve already shown, didn’t think it would be a big deal if heliocentrism were true; all it would require would be a reinterpretation of a couple Bible passages, and that is indeed what the Church eventually did.

He condemned Galileo not because he was sure heliocentrism was wrong, but because he believed Galileo had jumped the gun, forcing a re-interpretation of scripture before there was sufficient evidence of heliocentrism. He was wrong, of course, but it is very clear that he most certainly did not hold geocentrism to be irreformable dogma.

Comment #126893

Posted by Raging Bee on September 7, 2006 6:12 PM (e)

…I’ve given the Bible a reading and I don’t think you can give that story a sensible metaphoric/spiritual/abstruse meaning. Shout all you want about there being such an interpretation, but if you can’t produce it then what makes you so sure there is one?

Once again, you’ve pretended to reply to me, frantically avoided my actual point, set up another strawman instead, bravely attacked it – and still fallen on your face.

But, to answer your (totally diversionary) question, without having to shout, if one or more Christians explicitly state that they’ve found such a “metaphoric/spiritual/abstruse” meaning, and somehow applied it in their daily lives, then, by definition, such a meaning would be proven to exist – for those Christians at least. You might even be able to find documentation, in the form of a sermon in some priest’s file-drawer. What you make of it would be your problem, not theirs.

You’re raving, norm. Go back to bed.

Comment #126906

Posted by normdoering on September 7, 2006 6:42 PM (e)

Adam wrote:

Soon after Galileo’s trial, Cardinal Ballermine, Galileo’s inquisitor, wrote:

“I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth but the earth circled the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.”

Okay, Cardinal Ballermine at least acknowledges he has an escape route which amounts to this: “The Bible tells the truth, but we don’t necessarily understand what that truth is or how it tells it.” He saves the Bible from being an obvious lie but still wrecks the authority of the Church which now has to confess some ignorance about what it is supposed to be an authority on.

Galileo’s position is the modern Catholic teaching.

Is that the modern Catholic teaching with the exorcisms, bleeding statues and the infallible pope?

That is, observation and experience cannot contradict the Bible, and if there is an apparent conflict, it’s most likely that your interpretation of the Bible that is wrong. This is exactly the position Galileo took, and it’s even the position that Galileo’s inquisitor took after the trial. St. Augustine also implied the same thing.

So, are we dealing with people who admit they believe things they don’t understand? Isn’t that a definition for superstition.

Hence it is exteremly tenuous to call describe this position as Deist or even proto-Deist.

Well, I’ll give you this: there are more alternative directions to go in on that map of viewpoints than I included in my metaphor. Are they orthagonal to deism or are they stopping points along the way? How long can you believe in a book you don’t understand before you try to understand it? Once you do that, you have to make a choice.

As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference. Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped. The Psalms are poetry, and were never taken literally. Their literal reading would be contradicted even if we lived in a geocentric universe. They say the Earth shall not be moved, which is manifestly wrong given the existence of earthquakes.

You can’t take a single passage and make an excuse for it. You have to put it all in context. All those passages and more together highly suggests that – just like almost all other ancient cultures and religions of that time and region – that these Bible writers didn’t really know the universe they lived in. Perhaps it’s just a frame of reference, but there are no clues as to them knowing how things really worked. There are no clues saying this is just a frame of reference and there are more passages in the Bible, such as in the book of Enoch, describing a view of the world that is flat with the heavens as a dome overhead. Is there any reason to think the ancient Israelites who authored the Bible thought the earth didn’t seem to be flat and circular sitting on pillars with a rotating solid sky dome overhead which carried the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars and allowed water to leak through “windows of heaven” or sluice gates to form clouds and rain. Remember how Noah’s flood is described.

As Augustine warned, with all that put together, “the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”

Galileo discovered a major truth outside the Bible which could never be found in it. That breaks natural theology off into a separate realm of science with its own truths you’ll not find in the Bible. And maybe those are the more important truths about our world.

So, do you think God made the Earth stop rotating and canceled inertia and the ancient Chinese and Indians failed to notice a really long day?

If you believe in miracles then almost anything is possible. If you reject the idea that the ancient Hebrews had a flat earth and dome model of the Earth just like other ancients, on what basis other than your desire to believe do you reject it? Is it probable? How much less probable did the miracle become after Galileo? It seems to increase the improbability to me.

There’s another way some Christians deal with the Bible’s miracles, they admit that the stories are probably lies but still think the Bible has other important truths to tell and those vary depending upon the believer in question.

Comment #126935

Posted by normdoering on September 7, 2006 7:58 PM (e)

Adam wrote:

… pope and the Cardinals are agreeing with me that heliocentrism is going to cause a problem for the Bible.

Actually, that’s not true.

First of all, the Pope didn’t say anthing about the matter, only a tribunal of the Inquisition.

According to Wikipedia here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair

Pope Urban’s view on the issue is repeated by a character named Simplicio. Because of this, Galileo was ordered to appear before the Inquisition for trial.

They’re talking about a character in Galileo’s book “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” that the pope felt mocked by. A book that Galileo had to submit to the Inquisition before it was published and so couldn’t say as much as he wanted without being sly. So obviously the pope did say something about it else Galileo couldn’t put those words in Simplicio’s mouth. And just the pope putting Galileo on trial required saying something about it to someone.

Second of all, the head of that tribunal, as I’ve already shown, didn’t think it would be a big deal if heliocentrism were true; all it would require would be a reinterpretation of a couple Bible passages, and that is indeed what the Church eventually did.

I dealt with that here in this comment: #126906

To sum up: It’s not just a couple Bible passages, those were only examples. There are more in the book of Enoch at least. All together you can’t say it’s merely a frame of reference and they really knew the truth because there is no other model offered and the wrong flat-Earth-with-dome model has similarities to other ancient models in Egypt and Sumer and that indicates that the ancient Hebrews didn’t know any more than them and so, as Augustine warned, “the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”

He condemned Galileo not because he was sure heliocentrism was wrong, but because he believed Galileo had jumped the gun, forcing a re-interpretation of scripture before there was sufficient evidence of heliocentrism. He was wrong, of course, but it is very clear that he most certainly did not hold geocentrism to be irreformable dogma.

It bothered them enough to put Galileo under house arrest and ban his books.

Comment #126957

Posted by Adam on September 7, 2006 10:23 PM (e)

Norm wrote:

Okay, Cardinal Ballermine at least acknowledges he has an escape route which amounts to this: “The Bible tells the truth, but we don’t necessarily understand what that truth is or how it tells it.” He saves the Bible from being an obvious lie but still wrecks the authority of the Church which now has to confess some ignorance about what it is supposed to be an authority on.

I’m sorry, but I fail to see how Ballermine’s admission wrecks anything. The notion that the Church doesn’t understand every single passage of the Bible was nothing new. Even St. Peter in his second Epistle acknowledged that much of scripture is difficult to understand. Just because the Church lacks understanding on one thing doesn’t mean she lacks understanding on everything. And just because she lacks understanding about something today doesn’t mean she won’t come to understand it in the future with more study. It took centuries for the Church to fully comprehend the miracle of the incarnation, for example. Go read Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

Is that the modern Catholic teaching with the exorcisms, bleeding statues and the infallible pope?

You’re cornered, so you bring up irrelevent side issues. How nice of you. At any rate, to answer your questions in order, yes, there is no teaching on bleeding statues, and yes.

So, are we dealing with people who admit they believe things they don’t understand? Isn’t that a definition for superstition.

Do you believe in dark matter? Yes? I guess that makes you superstitious, because there’s a lot we don’t understand about it.

You’ve been listening to too much Stevie Wonder. He’s a great song-writer, but not a great philology teacher. Come to think of it, I really feel like listening to that song…excuse me while I go turn on my CD player.

You can’t take a single passage and make an excuse for it. You have to put it all in context. All those passages and more together highly suggests that – just like almost all other ancient cultures and religions of that time and region – that these Bible writers didn’t really know the universe they lived in.

You think?! That’s why we don’t consider the Bible a good source of information on cosmology.

Perhaps it’s just a frame of reference, but there are no clues as to them knowing how things really worked.

Of course they didn’t!

There are no clues saying this is just a frame of reference

Given that all ancient peoples used the Earth as their frame of refernce, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet the ancient Hebrews did as well.

and there are more passages in the Bible, such as in the book of Enoch, describing a view of the world that is flat with the heavens as a dome overhead.

RFLOL. Book of Enoch! Son, before you start arguing about the Bible, you need to learn what’s in it. The book of Enoch is not part of the Bible, either Hebrew or Christian.

Is there any reason to think the ancient Israelites who authored the Bible thought the earth didn’t seem to be flat and circular sitting on pillars with a rotating solid sky dome overhead which carried the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars and allowed water to leak through “windows of heaven” or sluice gates to form clouds and rain. Remember how Noah’s flood is described.

Probably not. So what?

As Augustine warned, with all that put together, “the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”

And wrongly, at that. Just because they were unlearned about the natural world does not mean they were unlearned about the spiritual.

Galileo discovered a major truth outside the Bible which could never be found in it.

Yes, one of millions. Big deal. What makes you think Christians and Jews believe all truths are found in the Bible? I can’t believe I even have to point this out, as it should be obvious to anyone with even the smallest understanding of either religion.

That breaks natural theology off into a separate realm of science with its own truths you’ll not find in the Bible. And maybe those are the more important truths about our world.

Belaboring the obvious again.

So, do you think God made the Earth stop rotating and canceled inertia and the ancient Chinese and Indians failed to notice a really long day?

I’m not sure how God made the day longer. Perhaps it was an illusion. Perhaps it was done locally in some way. The only point was that God intervened to help the Israelites win their victory. How he did it is beside the point and unimportant from a religious point of view.

If you believe in miracles then almost anything is possible.

Not almost anything. Anything. God is omnipotent.

If you reject the idea that the ancient Hebrews had a flat earth and dome model of the Earth just like other ancients, on what basis other than your desire to believe do you reject it?

I don’t reject it, and it doesn’t matter one bit.

BTW, by the time of Christ, everyone knew the earth was round, yet it didn’t seem to bother anyone that the ancients seemed to think it was flat.

And furthermore, in the later parts of the Old Testament, there are references to a round earth.

Is it probable? How much less probable did the miracle become after Galileo? It seems to increase the improbability to me.

Miracles are very rare, and always have been. I don’t see any evidence that they are any less rare today than in ancient times.

There’s another way some Christians deal with the Bible’s miracles, they admit that the stories are probably lies but still think the Bible has other important truths to tell and those vary depending upon the believer in question.

That’s a silly view, IMHO. If one believes in an omnipotent God, then it’s not very hard to believe that he will on rare occaisions suspend the laws of nature for brief periods.

Regarding pope Urban and heliocentrism, he never said anything official on the matter. That’s what I meant when I said “didn’t say anything.” He likely had private conversations with Galileo where he did take the geocentric view, though accounts suggest he wasn’t completely convinced either way. Nevertheless, a pope’s personal opinions expresseded in private are in no way binding on the Catholic conscience.

Comment #126962

Posted by Raging Bee on September 7, 2006 11:09 PM (e)

There’s another way some Christians deal with the Bible’s miracles, they admit that the stories are probably lies but still think the Bible has other important truths to tell and those vary depending upon the believer in question.

“Lies?” For the umpteenth time, norm, there’s a huge range of colors between bald-faced lies and literal truth: non-literal truth, metaphorical truth, fiction and folktales that illustrate broader or deeper truths, layers of meaning, allegory, satire, and much much more. You really don’t understand how humans communicate and process important ideas, do you?

…these Bible writers didn’t really know the universe they lived in. Perhaps it’s just a frame of reference, but there are no clues as to them knowing how things really worked. There are no clues saying this is just a frame of reference and there are more passages in the Bible, such as in the book of Enoch, describing a view of the world that is flat with the heavens as a dome overhead.

“No clues?” Speak for yourself, dude. The storytellers needed a frame of reference that their audience could easily understand; so they used one. Such things are not unusual in literature.

So the Bible didn’t delve into cosmology. It also didn’t spend a lot of time on aerodynamics or siege-weapon design, either. Why should it? Did it ever occur to you that such diversions might distract attention from the Bible’s central point, which is Man’s relationship to God? Perhaps you should take this up with Carol Clouser; your opinion of how smart the Hebrews were – or what you think the Bible SHOULD have said – is no more relevant here than Carol’s.

Dude, you’re getting your ass kicked by your own strawmen. Go to bed before they take your credit-cards and poke your eye out or something.

Comment #126990

Posted by normdoering on September 8, 2006 2:25 AM (e)

Adam wrote:

… I fail to see how Ballermine’s admission wrecks anything. The notion that the Church doesn’t understand every single passage of the Bible was nothing new.

Can you provide an example that is as big and as important as the nature of the universe we live in? It’s a hell of a thing not to know that you live on a planet that is but a spec of dust in a universe so vast it takes light billions of years to cross it and is full of planets somewhat like the one you live on. Now, Galileo didn’t get as far as light years, but that’s the door he opened.

Just because the Church lacks understanding on one thing doesn’t mean she lacks understanding on everything.

True, but there are big things and there are little things and the fact that you’re living on a planet that’s somewhat like other planets in your solar system is a big thing – depending on your values. A somewhat smaller thing would be what the hell is the book of Jasher? Joshua mentions it: “[Is] not this written in the book of Jasher?” but it’s not on any list of Biblical books I’ve yet found. Another thing what’s that stuff in the New Testament about handling snakes and drinking poison?

And just because she lacks understanding about something today doesn’t mean she won’t come to understand it in the future with more study.

But how can you be any more sure than Ballermine that you actually understand what you think you understand? Before Galileo came along they were pretty sure that Ptolemy’s system was what our universe was really like and we were the crown of creation.

And what about all those religions that understand things differently, Buddhism, Islam, Mormons, Hindus etc.. some of their follwers are sure enough they’ll die and kill for their beliefs.

It took centuries for the Church to fully comprehend the miracle of the incarnation,…

What makes you so sure that you fully comprehend the miracle of the incarnation now?

… read Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

Maybe later – not tonight. But tell me why it is convincing to you.

…so you bring up irrelevent side issues. How nice of you.

It’s not irrelevant. It tells me what kind of Christian you are. Did you know there are Christians, and even Catholics, who don’t believe in demonic possesion, bleeding statues and even an infallible pope?

Do you believe in dark matter? Yes?

No. It’s only a theory which has yet to be fully confirmed and not one I’ve given much thought to yet. You’d be better off asking do I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution or heliocentrism, then I could say “yes, I believe in them to the extent I could be said to believe in anything.” And the reason I do believe them is because they’ve earned that belief. They’ve earned my faith. After going to the moon, you’d have to be crazy to deny heliocentrism.

Why did the Bible, Christianity and Miracles earn your faith? Or did you just give it away for no reason?

I guess that makes you superstitious, because there’s a lot we don’t understand about it.

No, because I’ve got a fair grasp of what dark matter is supposed to explain, no one really knows what it is yet or is sure it exists. It’s a bit of an ad hoc theory it seems to me.

You can’t take a single passage and make an excuse for it. You have to put it all in context. All those passages and more together highly suggests that – just like almost all other ancient cultures and religions of that time and region – that these Bible writers didn’t really know the universe they lived in.

You think?! That’s why we don’t consider the Bible a good source of information on cosmology.

Not any more. But they did before Galileo came along. Maybe one day you’ll figure out why the Bible is not a good source of information on God, sin, and the supernatural either when someone comes up with a theory that can be confirmed like Galileo’s.

The book of Enoch is not part of the Bible, either Hebrew or Christian.

Says who? And for what reason? But you’re right, I goofed when I said it was in the Bible. It’s Apocrypha, I know, but copies of the Book of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea scrolls and other Apocrypha were taken seriously at that time, like the books of Maccabees, The Wisdom of Solomon, Judith, Tobit, etc.. The Douay version of the Bible was one translation that included the Book of Enoch. The book of Enoch still re-confiems the idea about what kind of flat Earth the ancients thought they lived on, so it’s relevant for that reason, the same reason the Egyptian and Sumerian models are.

Here are more passages that seem to speak of an Earth that does not move: Proverbs 8:25 and 27:3, Job 26:7, Ecclesiastes 1:5, 1 Chronicles 16:30.

Is there any reason to think the ancient Israelites who authored the Bible thought the earth didn’t seem to be flat and circular sitting on pillars with a rotating solid sky dome overhead which carried the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars and allowed water to leak through “windows of heaven” or sluice gates to form clouds and rain. Remember how Noah’s flood is described.

Probably not. So what?

Here’s the so what: Since the ancients constructed a model of the universe they thought they lived in and they got it really wrong, then maybe they got this idea about God, sin and the supernatural really wrong too and God is also just an invention they created, in their own image, to explain the world they found themselves in when they wondered why they were here. Maybe God is no more true than their model of a flat Earth.

As Augustine warned, with all that put together, “the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”

And wrongly, at that. Just because they were unlearned about the natural world does not mean they were unlearned about the spiritual.

It also doesn’t automatically mean they knew anything about the spiritual. After all, Buddhists have some different ideas about the spiritual in their books. Are you sure they are wrong? If so, how so?

Galileo discovered a major truth outside the Bible which could never be found in it.

Yes, one of millions. Big deal.

Yes, it is a big deal, one of the four biggest deals around; the fact we live on a planet, evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics.

What makes you think Christians and Jews believe all truths are found in the Bible?

That’s not even an option today, we went to the moon, but in the past, there were a few who said that all important truths were to be found in the Bible. And considering what you said about the fact we live on a planet not being a big deal I’m not sure you wouldn’t agree. We not only believe different things, we apparently have different values because of what we believe.

The only point was that God intervened to help the Israelites win their victory. How he did it is beside the point and unimportant from a religious point of view.

But not from a scientific point of view.

If you believe in miracles then almost anything is possible.

Not almost anything. Anything. God is omnipotent.

So, do you think God could make a square circle or make one plus one equal five?

… by the time of Christ, everyone knew the earth was round,

Everyone? Are you sure it wasn’t just a few scholars who could read the right books? Not everyone was literate.

… it didn’t seem to bother anyone that the ancients seemed to think it was flat.

It’s amazing what doesn’t bother people when they just don’t care.

And furthermore, in the later parts of the Old Testament, there are references to a round earth.

Was that round like a disk or a penny or round like a sphere? Flat things can be round.

There’s another way some Christians deal with the Bible’s miracles, they admit that the stories are probably lies but still think the Bible has other important truths to tell and those vary depending upon the believer in question.

That’s a silly view, IMHO.

If you think that’s silly, what do you think of this guy’s views:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong

He [Spong] believes, as did his theological predecessor, Bishop John A.T. Robinson, that theism has lost credibility as a valid conception of God’s nature, preferring something more akin to panentheism. He identifies himself as a Christian because he believes that Jesus fully expressed God’s presence and that he was resurrected by God to “God’s right hand”, and that this is the meaning of the early Christian slogan of “Jesus is Lord” (Spong, 1994 and Spong, 1991). He rejects the historical truth of some Christian doctrines, such as the virgin birth (Spong, 1992) and the bodily resurrection of Jesus that he claims would define the resurrection as the literal resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus (Spong, 1994).

If one believes in an omnipotent God, then it’s not very hard to believe that he will on rare occaisions suspend the laws of nature for brief periods.

But can he also suspend the laws of logic and mathematics?

Regarding pope Urban and heliocentrism, he never said anything official on the matter. That’s what I meant when I said “didn’t say anything.” He likely had private conversations with Galileo where he did take the geocentric view, though accounts suggest he wasn’t completely convinced either way. Nevertheless, a pope’s personal opinions expresseded in private are in no way binding on the Catholic conscience.

What about a ban on Galileo’s books and putting him under house arrest, is that binding on the Catholic conscience?

Comment #127000

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 3:45 AM (e)

I just have to …

Adam wrote:

As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference. Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped.

Are you seriously suggesting that the authors of those passages weren’t mistaken about the relationship between the earth and the sun, and that the Bible doesn’t reflect such mistaken beliefs?

Norm, recognize what you’re dealing with and stop wasting your time.

Comment #127055

Posted by Raging Bee on September 8, 2006 7:51 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

Are you seriously suggesting that the authors of those passages weren’t mistaken about the relationship between the earth and the sun, and that the Bible doesn’t reflect such mistaken beliefs?

No, fool, he’s suggesting that the authors of those passages had something else that they considered more important to talk about. The ancient Hebrews were not a spacefaring race, or even a seafaring race, so they really didn’t need to argue about the shape of the Earth.

The next time you casually speak of the Sun “rising” or “setting,” will that mean you don’t know how the universe really works?

Hyperventillating over what the Bible said about the shape of the Universe has got to be the silliest diversion I’ve yet seen here. Carol Clouser needs to smack you and norm upside the head.

Comment #127068

Posted by Raging Bee on September 8, 2006 8:24 AM (e)

Here’s the so what: Since the ancients constructed a model of the universe they thought they lived in and they got it really wrong, then maybe they got this idea about God, sin and the supernatural really wrong too and God is also just an invention they created, in their own image, to explain the world they found themselves in when they wondered why they were here. Maybe God is no more true than their model of a flat Earth.

Yeah, sure, norm, the Bible got something wrong that its authors had neither the need nor the means to verify, on a subject that had nothing to do with the point they were trying to make; so that means we can’t trust the Bible to tell us anything about anything else. I’ll remember that next time you make a factual error.

(And spare us the fevered ranting about how cosmology is too important to get wrong. The physical configuration of the Solar System was NOT important to ancient peoples in ancient times. Whether you or I think it should have been, is totally irelevant. Judging ancient peoples by modern standards is pure blind snobbery.

Look, norm, if you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, that’s perfectly okay. Really. You don’t need to throw out an incoherent mess of subject-changing excuses. The fact that you do so anyway, implies that you’re deeply insecure and conflicted about…well, something or other that’s probably not our concern.

Comment #127078

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 8, 2006 9:07 AM (e)

No, fool, he’s suggesting that the authors of those passages had something else that they considered more important to talk about.

He plainly didn’t suggest any such thing, jackass.

The ancient Hebrews were not a spacefaring race, or even a seafaring race, so they really didn’t need to argue about the shape of the Earth.

This is entirely beside the point, you cretin. The Hebrews did not know about the relationship of the earth to the sun and their writing clearly reflected that.

The next time you casually speak of the Sun “rising” or “setting,” will that mean you don’t know how the universe really works?

I don’t going around claiming that the sun stops, because I know better, moron.

so that means we can’t trust the Bible to tell us anything about anything else

No, we can trust the Bible to tell us about stuff because the Bible came from God; we know this because the Bible says so. Trust and faith. Stupidity and idiocy.

Comment #127104

Posted by normdoering on September 8, 2006 10:57 AM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

Adam wrote:

As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference. Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped.

Are you seriously suggesting that the authors of those passages weren’t mistaken about the relationship between the earth and the sun, and that the Bible doesn’t reflect such mistaken beliefs?

Norm, recognize what you’re dealing with and stop wasting your time.

Yes, he did try to get away with that suggestion, but when I laid out a bit more evidence he back tracked and admitted they probably didn’t know. He’s now trying to get away with calling the nature of our universe “no big deal.” So, now I’m stuck in a values question rather than a fact question.

How does one argue values?
Could that be the pefect evasion?

Comment #127129

Posted by normdoering on September 8, 2006 12:19 PM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Here’s the so what: Since the ancients constructed a model of the universe they thought they lived in and they got it really wrong, then maybe they got this idea about God, sin and the supernatural really wrong too and God is also just an invention they created, in their own image, to explain the world they found themselves in when they wondered why they were here. Maybe God is no more true than their model of a flat Earth.

Yeah, sure, norm, the Bible got something wrong that its authors had neither the need nor the means to verify, on a subject that had nothing to do with the point they were trying to make;

Exactly what point were they trying to make in those Old Testament stories?

Is the point that some group chosen by God, the Hebrews, should destroy Jericho with loud horns, kill the Amorites, kill the golden calf worshippers, slaughter the the Midianites, etc.. because God tells Moses and Joshua and they tell you to kill people and you know it has to be God behind it all because Joshua and Moses did weird magic tricks?

Does this mean we should kill people for anyone who can do weird magic tricks and who claims they speak for God?

Is war the most important thing in the Old Testament?

Is that where your values lie?

Comment #127136

Posted by Adam on September 8, 2006 12:30 PM (e)

For the record, I *never* asserted that the ancient Hebrews had an accruate model of the Universe. They couldn’t have had one. That Norm and Popper’s Ghost think this is so important betrays their extraodrinary lack of understanding regarding the concerns of ancient peoples.

My comment on reference frames was specific to the particular passage in Joshua, and I stand by it. There is absolutely nothing incorrect with saying the sun stopped. The sun does move if you are using the Earth as your frame of reference, and the Earth is just as good a frame as the sun. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Hebrews understood general relativity. Nor am I suggesting they understood planetary mechanics or that their model of the universe is correct (it wasn’t, and only an idiot would think it was). My only point is that there is nothing wrong with this passage or others like it that refer to the motion of the sun. That’s it. Just because I find no fault with these particular passages doesn’t mean I think the Hebrews had a correct model of the universe.

Raging Bee, I think, answered Norm’s and Popper’s silly argument about the ancient Hebrew’s ignorance of cosmology well enough that I don’t think I have to address it now.

Comment #127146

Posted by normdoering on September 8, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

Adam wrote:

For the record, I *never* asserted that the ancient Hebrews had an accruate model of the Universe.

Really?

Let’s look at what you said:

As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference….

You used the plural indicating other passages, but you only account for the Joshua one. Then you say it is described using the Earth as the frame of reference, as a veiwpoint position. Meaning “that’s how it looked not necessarily how it was and all that is described is the viewpoint apperance.” But in other passages they go beyond mere appearance and describe what no one has viewed, for example Isaiah has, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” That can’t be called a human viewpoint, that’s the assumed model that Joshua worked with. Your excuse only works if you take Joshua out of context.

Additional verses that go beyond viewpoint references and describe the model and I’m still finding more:

Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he walks about on the vault of heaven.
— Job 22:14

Can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
— Job 37:18

The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth.
— Daniel 4:11

He who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and sets its vaulted dome over the earth.
— Amos 9:6

…the earth is turned upside down to scatter its inhabitants.
— Isaiah 24:1, KJV

Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped.

Only if you take Joshua out of context. It’s just the passage that links the model described elsewhere in the Bible to a supposedly historical event and thus takes that model out of the category of mere poetic metaphor.

The Psalms are poetry, and were never taken literally.

Actually, in other passages that model does become more literal.

My comment on reference frames was specific to the particular passage in Joshua, and I stand by it.

I’m afraid you are mistaken. You did use the term “the passages in the Bible…” which is plural.

Comment #127155

Posted by normdoering on September 8, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

About Earthquakes, pillars and stars in the ancient Hebrew model:

There was a great earthquake; and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
— Revelation 6:12-13

…the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
— Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:25

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will shake from its place…
— Isaiah 13:13

The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry.
— 2 Samuel 22:8

He shakes the earth from its place and makes it pillars tremble.
— Job 9:6

The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.
— Job 26:11

When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.
— Psalm 75:3

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he set the world upon them.
— 1 Samuel 2:8

Comment #127191

Posted by Adam on September 8, 2006 4:36 PM (e)

Norm wrote:

You used the plural indicating other passages, but you only account for the Joshua one.

You quote mine worse than a creationist. Here’s the full context of what I wrote:

“As to the passages in the Bible actually contradicting modern astronomy, that’s nonsense. The Bible is described using the Earth as the frame of reference. Hence it’s perfectly appropriate to say that the sun moves or stopped. The Psalms are poetry, and were never taken literally.”

Notice that the frame of reference argument only applies to the passage in which the sun moves or stopped. Gee, now which passage do you think that could be? What other passage is there where the sun is said to move and stop? Hmmmm…

As any honest reading of the above will indicate, the other passages I was referring to were the Psalms, but you’ll notice that I don’t use the frame of reference argument there.

As to Job, Amos, Daniel and Isaiah being the “context” of Joshua, that’s pure nonsense as they were written centuries after Joshua. I didn’t address them earlier because they were not passages that anyone involved in the Galileo controversy paid much attention to.

Do they suggest an simplistic and incorrect cosmology when taken literally? Sure they do. And they probably reflect what the ancient Hebrews imagined about the universe at the time. But it doesn’t matter, because cosmology isn’t their authors’ concern, and the audience to which it is addressed didn’t care much about or hold strongly to any particular of cosmology. If you dig, you can find multiple contradictory cosmological models floating around the Old Testament, some in which the Earth is seen as flat (“ends of the earth”) and others where it is desribed as an “orb.” The fact that all these contradictory cosmologies are there, sometimes even assumed by the same authors, I think demonstrates fairly clearly that cosmology was just not important to them. The authors refer to them in order simply to illustrate a point about other, unrelated matters like the apocolypse

Furthermore, Hebrew prophecy is also poetic, full of allegory and metaphor, and no one, not even Rabbis during the time of Christ, took what they said to be stricly literal.

Comment #127215

Posted by Raging Bee on September 8, 2006 5:31 PM (e)

Norm: all those passages you quote were, and are today seen as, metaphorical or allegorical references to the power and wrath of God. Nothing more. The authors used the currently understood imagery for dramatic effect, because they were drama queens, and because those images were…CURRENTLY UNDERSTOOD. IF they didn’t use currently understood imagery, the current audience wouldn’t have understood. Get it?

Your first quote, in particular, shows that the author is using allegory and/or symbolism: even if the earth were flat and the stars could fall from the sky, they would most certainly not be falling LITERALLY like figs dropping from a tree – they’d be a LOT more dramatic and frightening.

You’d better be sitting down before you start reading my next paragraph. Are you sitting down? Okay, here we go…

Did you know that even today, people still use phrases like “ends of the earth,” “skies falling,” and even that ancient geocentrist word, “firmament?” Yeah, shocking, innit?

Comment #127352

Posted by normdoering on September 9, 2006 1:19 AM (e)

Raging Bee wrote:

Norm: all those passages you quote were, and are today seen as, metaphorical or allegorical references to the power and wrath of God. Nothing more.

Today, most Christians do see it that way, but that’s because the evidence we’ve accumulated makes heliocentrism certain and invalidates the ancient cosmological models. If your belief system needs a Bible that has “no untruth, no lies, no errors” then you need another model of truth to keep that belief alive in a scientific world. So, you need the most obscure and flexible model man can concieve of; metaphor and allegory.

Metaphor and allegory are always subject to multiple interpretations. For every shade of literal interpretation there will be a thousand more metaphorical and allegorical interpretations. Thus you’ll always have a surplus of meaning for the signs in your text and if you can’t come up with any, you put it aside and just believe there is one you don’t know about yet. Making the Bible out as metaphor and allegory makes it easy to elide between different definitions and evade being pinned down to any meaning.

No metaphorical or allegorical meaning can ever give you certainty.

Used that way, the Bible is as malleable as the inkblots in a Rorschach test. Stanley Kubric and Author C. Clarke, two atheists, were interviewed about the making of 2001 a few decades ago and they talked about all sorts of Christian metaphorical or allegorical meanings people were seeing in their film that they just didn’t intend to be there. Just like a Rorschach test.

The authors used the currently understood imagery for dramatic effect, because they were drama queens, and because those images were…CURRENTLY UNDERSTOOD. IF they didn’t use currently understood imagery, the current audience wouldn’t have understood. Get it?

Nope. Are you saying the writers of the Bible knew the truth but decided to use the current wrong model because it would be easier than explaining the truth? What you’re saying implies the writers had a choice about which models to use and that they chose a wrong one because it was one their audience would understand. But I don’t think the writers knew any more than their readers about the world. They didn’t really have that choice.

They more likely used the currently understood models because that’s what they currently understood, why do you need to say more except to avoid that point and dance around it? Dramatic effect or not wasn’t their choice (and you don’t think a universe several billion light years wide is more dramatic than a tiny Earth centered universe? The truth is far more mind blowing.)

Even Adam who thinks God really made the sun appear to stand still for Joshua now admits that the Bible writers probably didn’t know any better.

They only supposed writer/inspirer who had a choice of models and knew which was accurate would have been an omnicient, omnipotent God. That means God kept the Hebrews in the dark on purpose concerning the nature of the solar system because he didn’t want to bother with explaing things like that.

If a God wanted to teach them a better model of the universe, like we are all taught today rather than discovering all that for ourselves, then God could have done that. If he can write commandments and create worlds he could have written them some science books too and told them how to discover more. But this God seemed more interested in having Hebrews kill their neighbors and unbelievers rather than teaching them anything.

Are these the values we want to teach our kids; science is unimportant, God wants animal sacrifieces and the killing of unbelievers.

God keeps his chosen people in the dark and has them invade and slaughter nieghboring communities. For awhile they’re king of their
little hill and they think it’s the whole world, but outside the range of their vision there are other people’s, with other gods, other religions, and God’s chosen people find out that Alexander the Great and then the Romans exist and suddenly they’re not really in charge of their little world any more and they have to stop being agressive conquerors – not something they do very well after all that “God fights for Israel” stuff in their holy books. Eventually the Romans had to get rid of them and kick them out.

Though they did evolve a new species of loser religion: Christianity, all about turning the other cheek and loving even the infidels. Unfortunately they didn’t really get rid of the old aggressive conqueror religion and it became schizoid.

Your first quote, in particular, shows that the author is using allegory and/or symbolism: even if the earth were flat and the stars could fall from the sky, they would most certainly not be falling LITERALLY like figs dropping from a tree – they’d be a LOT more dramatic and frightening.

Dude, the stars wouldn’t fall to Earth, Earth would fall into a single star and their wouldn’t be room for more stars. Your average star is a lot bigger than and more massive than the Earth. Maybe you’re thinking of meteors, but the ancients didn’t know what stars were and they very well may have thought stars could fall like figs. It’s a metaphor that betrays their ignorance to compare any of them to figs. They had no reason to think otherwise.

You’d better be sitting down before you start reading my next paragraph. Are you sitting down? Okay, here we go…

Did you know that even today, people still use phrases like “ends of the earth,” “skies falling,” and even that ancient geocentrist word, “firmament?” Yeah, shocking, innit?

No, it’s stupid and insulting.

The reason people do that is to invoke ancient models and that sense of the primitive mind. It’s usually done to invoke a Biblical feel. It’s not done very often, it’s very rare that I hear or read the word “firmament” and then it’s usually a Christian who uses it.

The Bible is written by those primitive minds so it’s not evoking the ancient ideas and Biblical feel, it is the ancient ideas others invoke. It’s why we know what is meant by “sky is falling” and “ends of the Earth” and “firmament.”

It’s really a tiny comfortable little arrogant world view compared the mind blowing massiveness and complexity of reality.

Comment #127355

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 9, 2006 1:34 AM (e)

There is absolutely nothing incorrect with saying the sun stopped.

Despite the fact that, taking the earth as the reference frame, the sun has never stopped? Just what would be an incorrect statement, if plainly false statements aren’t incorrect?

Just because I find no fault with these particular passages doesn’t mean I think the Hebrews had a correct model of the universe.

It does, however, mean that you’re a moron. Anyone living today who believes that the Bible is anything other than the writings of ignorant men with political axes to grind, repeating and embellishing myths, has swiss cheese for brains.

Comment #127356

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 9, 2006 1:43 AM (e)

If you dig, you can find multiple contradictory cosmological models floating around the Old Testament, some in which the Earth is seen as flat (“ends of the earth”) and others where it is desribed as an “orb.” The fact that all these contradictory cosmologies are there, sometimes even assumed by the same authors, I think demonstrates fairly clearly that cosmology was just not important to them.

No, you cretin, it implies that there were multiple authors and multiple erroneous beliefs. And you have no way of knowing whether contradictory statements were made by the same authors or not; this garbage has gone through repeated quotation, paraphrase, embellishment, and translation. But anyway, who the dick cares what was important to them? They were on a whole, no more knowledgeable or wise than you – which makes them pretty dumb pumpkins.

Comment #127371

Posted by normdoering on September 9, 2006 3:34 AM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

If you dig, you can find multiple contradictory cosmological models floating around the Old Testament, some in which the Earth is seen as flat (“ends of the earth”) and others where it is desribed as an “orb.” The fact that all these contradictory cosmologies are there, sometimes even assumed by the same authors, I think demonstrates fairly clearly that cosmology was just not important to them.

No, you cretin, it implies that there were multiple authors and multiple erroneous beliefs. And you have no way of knowing whether contradictory statements were made by the same authors or not; this garbage has gone through repeated quotation, paraphrase, embellishment, and translation. But anyway, who the dick cares what was important to them? They were on a whole, no more knowledgeable or wise than you – which makes them pretty dumb pumpkins.

I hope you won’t feel insulted if I offer a minor correction.

You’re letting Adam sucker you with that multiple contradictory cosmological models line. It’s only half true. For a book that does not have a single point of view, that’s a collection of books (24 to 73 of them, depending on which version you accept) written and rewritten over more than a thousand-year period by a wildly diverse collection of writers, the cosmolical model is actually amazingly consistent and consistently wrong even after they meet the Greeks who know better.

Across the generations the cosmological model more often than not has those pillars, from earliest Old Testament to Revelations, the sky as a dome is there more often than not, God is literally up in the sky, etc. etc.. They constantly refered to some basic model for over a thousand years with only a dab of variation and creativity to fill in the gaps the basic model doesn’t talk about. When they do talk metaphorically, they’re talking metaphorically about that model and you can figure out how.

The Earth is always seen as flat and if there is a passage where it’s described as “orb,” it’s a translator’s cheat on circle (the Bible is still being sneakily re-written). Check any Earth as “orb” reference against other translations. Or, maybe Adam just confused passages where the moon or sun is called an “orb.”

Don’t trust his facts. Check.

Comment #127392

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 9, 2006 5:12 AM (e)

The bible serves as nothing more than an artifact of cultural history. I personally couldn’t care less which misconceptions those long dead people had, so it’s not worth my time to check; Adam’s take on the bible is stupid whether he reports on its contents accurately or not.

Comment #127395

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 9, 2006 5:19 AM (e)

To make my point more explicit: when I wrote “No, you cretin, it implies that there were multiple authors and multiple erroneous beliefs”, by “it” I meant what Adam claimed the bible says, not what the bible actually says, which I don’t know and don’t care. The point was that his inference was cretinous. If his facts were wrong too, so much the worse.

Comment #127399

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 9, 2006 5:57 AM (e)

BTW, Norm, going back to something you wrote: “I’m dissapointed you’re not going to argue against [interpreting the bible as not saying what its bare words signify]”, I don’t know where the heck you got that idea, after I had just written “Of course, the idea that the bible is inerrant despite seeming to be full of nonsense and falsehoods doesn’t seem reasonable to me, but this is about what they said”. You said other odd things, like “You didn’t even point out that this claim by Galileo made the Bible unfalsifiable” – you mean, it needs to be said explicitly? Even in addition to the snark I wrote? You also wrote “Or see anything potentially phony in Galileo’s evasive claims” – I see things potentially phony in everything anyone claims, but I’m of the marginally informed opinion that, when Galileo said “the holy Bible can never speak untruth-whenever its true meaning is understood”, he meant it; that his brain was infested with that meme, just as many brains have been infested with it over the ages. I could be wrong, but you can hardly expect me to make a better argument for your position than you did when, rightly or wrongly, I’m not firmly convinced that you’re right.

If you want to look for a “run toward Deism”, I think you should direct your attention to one of Galileo’s contemporaries, Descartes, who quashed publication of his own work on physics because of the church’s attack on Galileo, and still had his works prohibited by the Pope. FWIW, Descartes’s philosophy was heavily influenced by Augustine.

Comment #127587

Posted by normdoering on September 9, 2006 3:20 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

To make my point more explicit: when I wrote “No, you cretin, it implies that there were multiple authors and multiple erroneous beliefs”, by “it” I meant what Adam claimed the bible says, not what the bible actually says, which I don’t know and don’t care. The point was that his inference was cretinous. If his facts were wrong too, so much the worse.

Thanks for being clear. I’m trying to nail Adam on a different argument you see.

He said that 1) the model wasn’t important to the ancient Hebrews, and he also had said about how, 2) by the time of Christ, everyone was accepting a more or less Ptolemaic system, an astronomical model with Earth being a sphere, at the center of the universe, and the stars on some kind of crystal sphere around it.

I don’t yet buy those claims. I think Adam’s preachers have lied to him. I’m now trying to find out if in fact the model was important to most of the Bible’s writers, and if the early Christians accepted Ptolemy, or rejected because of a flat Earth comittment. (Odds are some did and some didn’t, Christianity was never consistent, (it claims too many hidden things only revealed to those god chooses) and they’ve always had to enforce orthodoxy with violence.)

I do know of one later Christian who may have believed in a flat Earth; Martin Luther.

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/tektonics/flat_earth_bible.html

“Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters…We Christians must be different from the philosophers [astronomers] in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity; with our understanding.”
- Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Vol. 1, Luther’s Works, Concordia Pub. House, 1958 To see a picture of Luther’s view of the cosmos that was printed inside his translation of the Bible.

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

“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, [our biblical system] which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool [or ‘man’] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” –Martin Luther.

Comment #127600

Posted by normdoering on September 9, 2006 4:05 PM (e)

Popper’s ghost wrote:

BTW, Norm, going back to something you wrote: “I’m dissapointed you’re not going to argue against [interpreting the bible as not saying what its bare words signify]”, I don’t know where the heck you got that idea, after I had just written “Of course, the idea that the bible is inerrant despite seeming to be full of nonsense and falsehoods doesn’t seem reasonable to me, but this is about what they said”.

That wasn’t up to your old standards I thought. You only gave the Galileo and Augustine quotes a kind of shallow analysis. I was looking for some help with trying to find subtle differences in attitude which I only have a gut feeling about but can’t pin-point yet.

You said other odd things, like “You didn’t even point out that this claim by Galileo made the Bible unfalsifiable” – you mean, it needs to be said explicitly?

In order to get at an answer to the question of whether Galileo knew he was offering the church an unfalsifiable method of interpretation, yes, I think it needs to be explict. Of course, the concept of unfalsifiability being unsound doesn’t come about until later on in history, but Galileo may have had a sense of how flawed such methods of interpretation were.

Maybe Galileo was more gnostic than deist?

Even in addition to the snark I wrote?

Snark is not evidence.

You also wrote “Or see anything potentially phony in Galileo’s evasive claims” – I see things potentially phony in everything anyone claims, but I’m of the marginally informed opinion that, when Galileo said “the holy Bible can never speak untruth-whenever its true meaning is understood”, he meant it; that his brain was infested with that meme, just as many brains have been infested with it over the ages.

Maybe it was, but what if it wasn’t?

Galileo lived in a time of killer thought police, Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake for saying, in part, Copernicanism was true:

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

Galileo is on record as being a proud liar and we know he told two whoppers, 1) he told the senate in Venice he invented the telescope he showed them – he only built his own based on Hans Lippershey’s design (though he did make some subtle improvements). 2) he put his hand on a Bible and recanted his theory when ordered to.

He seems to have made some young friends toward the end of his life that would later delare themselves Deists and promote him into a mythic figure for Deists.

I could be wrong, but you can hardly expect me to make a better argument for your position than you did when, rightly or wrongly, I’m not firmly convinced that you’re right.

True, but I didn’t know that until you disappointed me.

Comment #127631

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 9, 2006 6:47 PM (e)

It’s very hard to find a Christian author of any period who denied that the world is a sphere. Church fathers like Augustine and Jerome were educated men who knew damned well that the world is round. I recently read a 4th Century book by a guy named Macrobius that neatly summarizes received cosmic and geographical ideas. The book, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, was one of the basic sources of scientic information in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Macrobius’ cosmology is routine geocentrism.

Comment #127642

Posted by normdoering on September 9, 2006 8:01 PM (e)

Jim Harrison wrote:

It’s very hard to find a Christian author of any period who denied that the world is a sphere.

Wikipedia found a few:

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

A few Christian authors directly opposed the round Earth:
* Lactantius (245–325) called it “folly” because people on a sphere would fall down.
* Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386) saw Earth as a firmament floating on water (though the relevant quotation is found in the course of a sermon to the newly baptized, and it is unclear whether he was speaking poetically or in a physical sense);
* Saint John Chrysostom (344–408) saw a spherical Earth as contradictory to scripture;
* Diodorus of Tarsus (d. 394) also argued for a flat Earth based on scriptures; however, Diodorus’ opinion on the matter is known to us only by a criticism of it by Photius.[13];
* Severian, Bishop of Gabala (d. 408), wrote: “The earth is flat and the sun does not pass under it in the night, but travels through the northern parts as if hidden by a wall”.[14]
* The Egyptian monk Cosmas Indicopleustes (547) in his Topographia Christiana, where the Covenant Ark was meant to represent the whole universe, argued on theological grounds that the Earth was flat, a parallelogram enclosed by four oceans.

Comment #127674

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 9, 2006 10:44 PM (e)

Cosmas and Lactantius are the two standard exceptions. I’m surprized about Christotom, but the other guys are pretty obscure. The point stands, however, since the vast majority of Christian writers knew the earth was spherical. Of course there is no way of knowing what shepherds in the Alps were thinking, but I presume we are speaking about educated folks.

Comment #127927

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 3:42 PM (e)

Jim Harrison wrote:

… since the vast majority of Christian writers knew the earth was spherical. Of course there is no way of knowing what shepherds in the Alps were thinking, but I presume we are speaking about educated folks.

Yes, do keep in mind that we are indeed speaking about educated folks here, and educated in previously Hellenized Roman cities, these guys aren’t the Old Testament writers who wrote in Hebrew and who lived before Alexander the Great Hellenized the area. Nor are they the New Testament writers and the writer of Revelations who used the old flat-earth motifs in his verbal imagery. Cosmas and Lactantius are writing in Greek and Latin, not Hebrew (the New Testament is also Greek and not Hebrew or Aramaic). Cosmas and Lactantius are Roman names and converts. That means they got educated on Aristotle and Plato and Ptolomey and the evidence for a spherical Earth in school and then went backwards after conversion.

When talking about flat-earth beliefs we are talking about the original bible writers, the Old Testament writers and quite possibly the Aramaic speaking original Christians who knew Christ before Paul/Saul may have reinvented things. We are talking about the root, not the thousand branches of belief systems that sprouted off that root. Some of the branches that split off went against the science of that day early.

Comment #127943

Posted by Jim Harrison on September 10, 2006 4:25 PM (e)

I’m not even sure if there’s a dispute here. The cosmological ideas reflected in some of the language of the Jewish Bible involve a flat Earth, though astronomy was hardly a focus in these scriptures. Educated Christians understood that the earth was a sphere. The exceptions are a handful of authors who have a reputation for not being too with it in other ways as well. We know which books the monks used for textbooks in the Middle Ages–Macrobius, Boethius, Isadore of Seville, the Venerable Bede, etc.–so we have a pretty good handle on what they thought. Is there another issue here I’m missing?

Comment #127951

Posted by normdoering on September 10, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

Jim Harrison wrote:

Is there another issue here I’m missing?

Yes.

I’m not buying that you can dismiss at least certain parts of the flat earth model as being unimportant to the Old Testament writers. An important part of that model is that God lives up there above the physical dome of the sky. He watches from up there and comes down (with others he talks to) when he destroys the tower of Babel, people get physically taken up into heaven while alive, waters are above the dome are released by him when it rains, etc.. All sorts of little details are consistent with that model and they seem less like metaphor when you understand how they connect to that flat earth model.

If you say that is old testament flat earth is metaphor, then maybe god himself is just old testament metaphor. He’s the one who moves up and down, releases the rain, and is linked to it model by living up there.

If you say it’s wrong, a mistaken belief, then maybe God too is just a mistaken belief.

I don’t accept this statement:

… astronomy was hardly a focus in these scriptures.

God lived up there in the old testament and “watched people like grasshoppers.”

Comment #128399

Posted by Popper's Ghost on September 12, 2006 3:52 AM (e)

Norm bolds one of my words:

BTW, Norm, going back to something you wrote: “I’m dissapointed you’re not going to argue against [interpreting the bible as not saying what its bare words signify]”, I don’t know where the heck you got that idea, after I had just written “Of course, the idea that the bible is inerrant despite seeming to be full of nonsense and falsehoods doesn’t seem reasonable to me, but this is about what they said”.

Sigh. What part of “but this is about what they said” don’t you understand?

That wasn’t up to your old standards I thought.

My “standards” have a lot to do with how much I care about something. I only posted on this idjit thread because my name was mentioned.

Even in addition to the snark I wrote?

Snark is not evidence.

Neither is “point[ing] out”. Have you taken a stupid pill?

I’m of the marginally informed opinion that …

Maybe it was, but what if it wasn’t?

Well then, I would be wrong (which would hardly be surprising, my being marginally informed and all) and whatever follows from that would be the case. Sheesh.

Comment #128911

Posted by Kevin from nyc on September 12, 2006 9:35 PM (e)

“Posted by Popper’s ghost on September 6, 2006 07:15 PM (e)

Norm, don’t pay Lenny any mind; he’s an anti-intellectual buffoon.”

HO HO!

and he voted for Nader in Florida and so is personally responsible for BUSH II and the subsequent death of thousands of US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

.

Comment #129013

Posted by normdoering on September 13, 2006 2:36 AM (e)

My “standards” have a lot to do with how much I care about something.

Mine too.

I only posted on this idjit thread because my name was mentioned.

Sorry about that. But you’ve caught things I missed before.

Comment #136042

Posted by beepbeepitsme on September 30, 2006 5:41 AM (e)

When will the madness of these people ever end..

RE: intelligent design
Intelligent Designer
http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/2006/09/intelligent-designer.html