Archive for the ‘reason’ Category

bible blog

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Slate magazine is doing an interesting thing right now – Blogging the Bible – in which one of the editors is reading the bible from the start and commenting on the chapters. It’s subtitled “What happens when an ignoramus reads the Good Book?” and background is here.

There was a section I just read which resonated with me due to a conversation Emma and I had on Sunday. I was saying that at church (and life in general) there seems to be an awful lot of thanking God for the good things that happen, but not much accountability for the bad things and I didn’t get why there wasn’t so much of a balance. Emma said that the concept of God being involved directly with human affairs is much more an Old Testament than New Testament idea – in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is (my broad understanding, and by broad I mean likely to be incorrect) supposed to move humans to do the work themselves. However, here’s an interesting note from the Bible blog:

God appears to Jacob in the dream and makes him an even better promise than He did to Abraham and Isaac. Not only will his descendants be everywhere, as He also offered Abraham and Isaac�God also makes this very personal commitment to Jacob: “Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

My wife and I have many evangelical Christian friends, and one thing that strikes me about them is that they have this Jacobian sense of God’s interest in their lives. Like Jacob, they feel that God/Christ is with them, and that God/Christ will not leave until He has done what He has promised them. But I don’t know any Jews who feel this way (or at least who talk this way). The Jews I know don’t act or talk as if they have a personal relationship with God. They pray to God and feel that God works in the world, but not that God takes a personal interest in them. (Of course it could be that I am friends with the wrong group of Jews.) Do Christians have more of this Old Testament sense of God acting in everyday life than Jews do? If so, why?

prayer

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

I’m not sure what to make about this article about the power of prayer, or lack thereof. I do think that it shows the mismatch between faith and science, or faith and reason, for example the “Intelligent Design” movement trying to shoehorn creationism into science. And it also contributes further to my frustration at the people who would have been willing to trumpet the power or prayer if this study had “worked” – suggested that prayer did actually help the patients – and are making excuses for the fact that it clearly didn’t. I get the same feeling with other applications of prayer – if it works then God has answered our prayers, but if it doesn’t then …. who knows? Did you pray wrongly? Not hard enough? Do you just not understand what God wants? How about if your 2 year old child is very ill and you pray for her recovery but she dies anyway? Maybe it’s that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. For me it’s the usual thing that there may be a truth out there, but it gets so distorted by the “religious” that I get very frustrated with the whole situation.

sunday

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Bit of a long day today. I had to sing at both the 9am and 11am services at the Cathedral, which was quite enjoyable but meant an early start. The 11am went really well, at least from a singing point of view. We did De Profundis by Dupre, which is quite dramatic and has lots of high notes in the tenor line. Due to the fact that my voice has finally, after almost 20 years, settled down after breaking, I was able to hammer out the high As with plenty of confidence, and a couple of the other choir members remarked on how good and easy it sounded. I think it’s about the best I’ve ever sung, which feels good. Before I forget, at the 9am we sang a hymn which featured a line relating to the fisherman being called by Jesus. The line was something like “Here are my fishnets, I am ready for working” which sounds a lot shadier than I think it was supposed to.

Lots of Toby time this afternoon – we watched The Little Mermaid together. It was his first time seeing it and I think he really enjoyed it. He was less scared of the scary bits than I expected. As usual the biggest laughs came from someone being bopped on the head with something.

This evening I’ve been playing Zoo Tycoon for the first time. It’s a lot of fun, and quite easy because I was playing on unlimited money mode. I think I wouldn’t enjoy it so much otherwise. Of course it’s one of those “where did the time go?” games, and now all of a sudden it’s 11:30, so definitely time to turn in.

not the safest

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

In today’s notes from the Intelligent Design trial in Harrisburg, PA on Slate the reporter notes the following couple of points which amount to the same thing:

“‘They need at least a couple of different perspectives to appreciate the difference between fact and theory,’ Behe says in his testimony. This is the safest position for ID people to take: What could be more scientific than subjecting a theory to hard scrutiny?”

This is absolutely not a safe position for IDers to take. The reason that no ID papers have been successfully published in peer reviewed scientific journals, and that “star ID witness” Michael Behe’s faculty at the university where he is a professor have basicall disowned his ID ideas is that if you subject “Intelligent” Design to the slightest bit of scientific scrutiny it falls on its face.

Trying to show a difference between fact and theory where it relates to evolution vs “Intelligent” Design would very quickly show that there are actually no facts which back the theory up at all. And that there is no way to prove the central tenet of their pseudo-religion – that an intelligent designer created life. Not to say that it didn’t happen, but it’s not possible to prove, or at least they have never found a way to prove it, and for something to be scientific you have to prove it until someone disproves it. Scientifically subjecting a theory to hard scrutiny is exactly what evolution scientists have done for the last decades. They have come up with refinements to the theory (as happens with all scientific theories) but the general basis of it still holds.

hypocrisy etc

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Christopher Hitchens writes an excellently outraged article about the religiousness or otherwise of the latest Supreme Court nominee here in America. He makes the good point that because she attends an evangelical conservative church she should either be a committed Christian whose life’s work is to convert people (he doesn’t mention that doing good deeds etc might be part of the deal too, but then neither do many evangelical conservative churches) or she’s a big fat hypocrite. Either way, not ideal.

In other religious political observation news, I saw Jon Stewart on David Letterman’s show over the weekend. Stewart was talking about the Bush response to Hurricane Katrina and pointed out the absurdity that the President’s main strategy to make things better appeared to be his National Day of Prayer. Especially as three days later Hurricane Rita moved in. So that would have worked out pretty well then.

more info

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

My brother Robin asked a few days ago about actual evidence for evolution vs. Intelligent Design. Here is a great article in the Guardian about what the theory of evolution is, what makes it a scientific theory, why ID is so crap and what makes it non-scientific. There’s also a link to talkorigins.org which is a great resource explaining evolution. Hope this is helpful for you all.

america the completely imbecilic

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Sometimes I wonder why I live in America, and at the same time I wonder about whether America will stay as a major power. Both wonderings come to the same conclusion. There are too many nutjobs in the country, and if it keeps going along this track it’s going to fall very fast. From our local paper (and New York Times):

“In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released Tuesday found that nearly 66 percent of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents hold strict creationist views, agreeing that ‘living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.’

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time; of those, 18 percent said that evolution was ‘guided by a supreme being,’ and 26 percent said it occurred through natural selection.

In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

The poll was conducted July 7 to 17 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The questions about evolution were asked of 2,000 people; the margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.”

The italics are mine because I just can’t believe that anybody could believe that. I just don’t understand how. And as for the first line of the report, it should have nothing to do with any debate about what to teach students. If it’s a science class, teach science. Simple as that.

the darkness of hearts

Friday, July 8th, 2005

Maybe it’s because I don’t know them personally but this “interview” in W magazine with Katie Holmes, and her Scientology “handler”, is just strange, strange, strange. And skin-crawlingly strange. I feel like I need to go and wash my hands having read it. Eeeurgh.

how it happened

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

This is the true story of creation, if you’re a nutter.

intelligent discussion

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Here’s a great series of comments from scientists where the San Diego Union-Tribune asked a few questions about Intelligent Design. The responses are slightly sneery but grounded in science and reason. Not that it’s likely to persuade the ID nuts but it clearly states what is science and what is faith.