First up, let’s agree that Christian Nationalism is a problem. Separation of church and state is a worthwhile principle. Also, laws instituted to guard this principle, such as that churches are considered tax-free non-profit organisations, as long as they do not participate in election campaigning, are good. Continue reading →
Results from the decennial census show that for the first time ever, fewer than half of English and Welsh citizens identify as Christian. The decline has been precipitous, as shown by the graph.
It appears that most of the Christians jumping ship end up in the ‘no religion’ category rather than converting to another religion. No data on how many of them still believe in a god or gods, or in a ‘higher power’. Also interesting that if established trends continue, the ‘no religion’ folks will become a majority in the not very distant future.
Some people consider the human to consist of a body with all other aspects to be derivative from this fundamental reality. Some people are more inclined to view the human as having a body and soul, with the soul being in some way primal.
I believe the human can be regarded as being composed of body, soul and spirit. But there are other ways of analysis other than seeing the threefold division.
I was wondering what had happened to Uncommon Descent’s owner, lawyer Barry Arrington. Having bought the blog from “Intelligent Design” theorist* William Dembski, he established a reputation as a bit of a martinet, quick to delete comments and ban commenters he didn’t like. But recently, things have been much quieter and moderation has been light to non-existent, with no contributions from Arrington.
But he must have been saving himself up for a relaunch, as now a long (in comparison to Arrington’s other opening posts) post by him, What Must We Do When The Foundations Are Being Destroyed?, has appeared. I wonder initially who Barry means by “we” but the article soon makes it clear the call to arms is for the religious authoritarian right. It’s an annoying read as there is an inaccurate, misleading, selective point in almost every sentence so that, for me, it almost achieves the status of being so polarized in its essence as to be not worth responding to. But then that fulfils Barry’s prophesy and puts me on his level, on the other side of the barricade he is keen to erect.
Many atheists argue that if God existed, He would not allow all the suffering that goes on in the world. And many theists believe in an omnipotent God without thinking more deeply about what this entails.
And from a commentary on Aeschylus by Duane W. Krohnke, a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church:
The chorus in Agamemnon, a famous play by the Greek playwright Aeschylus (circa 525/524 BC—circa 456-455 BC) makes the following statement (in English translation):
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Another essay from my collection. Of note, this one was inspired by another poster on one of the sites I used to visit, however I don’t recall the poster’s name or what site this originally came up on. I’d like to give that poster credit for the original concept, so if the subject here rings a bell and you know who posted the idea previously, let me know. The essay is a more fleshed out and greatly elaborated take on the concept. _________________________________
I was brought up as an Episcopalian and went to church nearly every Sunday between the ages of about five through about fifteen. I recall many sermon topics and biblical teachings, but the topic that seemed to come up more frequently than others is the concept of a personal God. Certain priests and laypeople really gravitated to the idea that God was available on a personal level and claimed outright (and reiterated many times) that God wanted to have a personal relationship with everyone. This, of course, was coupled with the idea that God was also an all loving God. So, not only did this God want to hang out as buds, but in theory wanted the best for those folk it hung out with. Kind of like an invisible friend, but with the added bonus of being…well…Almighty. I confess, I really loved the idea of having God as a personal friend who was…well, in theory…really much cooler than any of my human friends. As you might imagine, I started to become a little annoyed and rather disillusioned when said supposed cool friend never actually did anything…well…cool. In fact, after a number of years it became quite clear (and rather disappointing) that this God didn’t do anything personal, at least not with me.
Now that more folk seem to have come out of the woodwork, I thought I’d put this essay up.
I used to hold the idea…the belief if you will…that I was following the “right” religion. I was Episcopalian, a devout Christian, and I believed Jesus was my savior. And of course, pretty much everyone around me at the time confirmed that yes, this was not only an accurate, acceptable way of thinking, but more importantly it was TRUE and the only CORRECT way of thinking! To contrast it, I (well…really…“we”, that is, the congregation in the church I went to) were reminded from time to time that “others” who did not accept such were not only wrong, but (and admittedly this was someone softened in many cases, which I now find rather odd) DAMNED! So, in other words, for years I bought into the idea that “I’m Special” because, of course, I was one of God’s chosen, loved, and forgiven people and…well…there were other folk who…well…weren’t.
There are a number of the things I find particularly head-slapping about this thinking when I look back on it now: the arrogance of it, for one, and the conceit, for two, but mostly the ridiculous anthropocentrism.
Winding down for a very quiet Christmas allows me plenty of time to read and one of my favourite places to read for news and comment is the Guardian. I like it because it was founded in 1821 as a moderate pro-business paper and morphed into a more radical stance with the arrival in 1872 of C. P. Scott as editor and later owner. Later, ownership was transferred to the Scott Trust (now the Scott Trust Endowment Fund) to ensure editorial and financial independence. That the online version is fully-financed and free to all is a bonus, too. I should declare a personal interest as a fourth generation descendant of C. P. Scott is a family friend. Continue reading →
Astronaut Charles Duke became a Christian after he returned to Earth after being the youngest man to ever walk on the moon and after finding himself in a troubled marriage and problems with alcoholism. The Christian faith restored his marriage and brought sobriety into his life, and sometime thereafter he led a prayer meeting where a blind girl recovered her sight. Somewhere in all his life’s saga, he also became a Creationist.
One of the people who posted at TheSkepticalZone, Richard B. Hoppe (RBH), knew of Duke, perhaps even personally since RBH worked on the Apollo program intimately. When I confronted RBH about Duke’s Christianity and Creationism, RBH (normally quick to criticize Christian Creationists) became strangely silent. No one to my knowledge has questioned Charles Duke’s credibility or integrity as far a making up stories to draw attention to himself or make Christian converts. After all, he was a national hero, an air force general, an astronaut, and a successful businessman. Unlike a televangelist, there is little reason for him to make up stories of miracles.
I had the privilege of meeting Charle Duke when he spoke at a College Christian event…
Lehigh University biochemist and IDT spokesperson Dr. Michael Behe was recently asked by the Discovery Institute (DI) to write about covid-19. The following is to be found among what he wrote:
“do I think viruses were designed? Yes, I most certainly do! The viruses of which we are aware — including the coronaviruses, Ebola, and HIV — are exquisitely, purposively arranged, which is the clear signature of intelligent design [sic, properly “Intelligent Design”, since this “signature” is not being attributed to “strictly natural causes”]. Well, then does that mean the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] is evil and wants people to suffer? No, not necessarily. I’m a biochemist, not a philosopher. Nonetheless, I see no reason why a designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] even of such things as viruses should be classified as bad on that basis alone.” – Michael Behe (10-03-2020, https://evolutionnews.org/2020/03/evolution-design-and-covid-19/
Behe concluded the article stating that he has “no reason to think either that viruses weren’t designed [meaning, by a Divine Designer] or that the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] of viruses isn’t good”.
The biggest news of this week for the “conversation” this blog is in some small way a part of will likely be the discussion between Drs. Michael Behe and S. Joshua Swamidass in Texas. The answer for both men to the polemical question above is not “God w/out evolution”, but rather “God with evolution,” iow both God and evolution. So what else important is there left for them to disagree about? http://www.veritas.org/location/texas-a-m-university/
For Behe, “evolution” has a narrower meaning than it does for Swamidass. One key question, that likely won’t be asked, is: how wide is Swamidass’ meaning of “evolution” and where does it stop (i.e. what doesn’t ‘evolve’)? Is Swamidass, who somewhat incredulously claims to be neither a creationist nor an evolutionist, actually both? One of the biggest challenges unaddressed still by Swamidass regarding his evolutionism will be met when he starts describing or explaining the “limits of evolutionary theories”, rather than only “the great possibilities of evolutionary theories”, now as we live in a post-Darwinian, extended synthesis scenario.
We may nevertheless hope for some reconciliation, or even a moment or two of peace amidst an artificial storm in the USA involving “Intelligent Design”, evolution, and creationism. Those moments will likely constitute a rare pause in their otherwise contrary apologetics approaches, both taking a “public understanding of science” attitude of pedagogical communication to the stage. We may thus, purely on the communications front, simply get either a parody of abstract intellectualism driven by “religious” or “quasi-religious” agendas, or more positively, a few simple concessions of common ground that shouldn’t be too difficult for either of them to find, or to make towards each other.
Not long ago in a comment here, I posted a short version of definitions involving the Discovery Institute’s “Intelligent Design” (ID) paradigm, hypothesis, movement, theory, inference, policy, heuristic, or whatever one wants to call it, depending on which person they’re speaking with. This was done because the person in the conversation I was responding to appeared to be, to me at least, quite obviously conflating two meanings into one term (thing & theory). And he didn’t seem to realize that he was doing it. (Aside: there appear to be multiple reasons why people tempted by ideological Intelligent Designism [IDism] or repelled by it, may feel they need to intentionally conflate definitions of ID.) I wondered what might be the issue with what was merely an attempt to lay out simple definitions, for mutual benefit towards clearer communications, or ‘operations’ as some people here like to call it.
Within days, to my surprise, I discovered the exact same thing in a long exchange with a Discovery Institute () Fellow on a social media platform. This person too conflated two meanings into one. Why also is that? And this person wanted to equivocate over whether or not there even is a “movement” at play, before finally conceding that yes, indeed, there is = the IDM based at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, USA. The conversation reminded me of previous ones at Uncommon Descent & BioLogos with Eddie, now of Peaceful Science and Potiphar, who only begrudgingly, after listing off a number of ways that this “Movement” could only properly or ‘officially’ be spoken about, according to his somewhat “philosophistic” definition of “Intelligent Design theory” (IDT), conceded the point of there being a “Movement”, with all of DI-CSC’s Fellows admitted as members.
A psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada, in defense of swamidass’ fellow secular methodological naturalist and atheist partner in provocation over at PS, Nathan Lents (Human Errors), just said something I find quite curious, in case he is serious in his claim. It had appeared to me that this person who said it promotes ideological evolutionism. Yet this claim establishes at least some kind of important knowledge ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’ that ‘evolutionary’ thinking does not and cannot cross by definition. Perhaps he will come here to try to explain his terms in an effort to help clarify this difficulty.
As 2020 both cools down in temperature and heats up in rhetoric, here is a response to S. Joshua Swamidass’ recent book that deserves more air time given how a few evangelical Protestant theologians and apologists are expressing surprised praise at it, calling it a ‘game changer’ because of ‘genealogy’ vs. ‘genetics’. I would consider it a ‘game changer’ only in a borrowed or catch-up sense of that term, given Swamidass’ YECist+ audience. Any thoughts here on this critical review of the book by a fellow evangelical active at BioLogos?
From what I’ve read so far, I do not see that Swamidass “makes God a monster” in the book. That rather appears to be what comes from Johnson’s hermeneutics, rather than Swamidass’ intentions or expressions. BioLogos was similarly confused, and hadn’t read Kemp, much like Swamidass (that is, until he finally did). Swamidass has previously written about dungeons & suffering, which perhaps by some people may be mistaken as ‘monstrous’. It would be more appropriate and charitable to say, ‘he knows not what he does’ by opening this rift. Thus, he speaks about “what it means to be human?” as a distant (methodological) naturalist, with an important background personal concern involving local fellow YECists and activistic sociology behind the book’s publication (e.g. choice of publishing house).
This past Friday, I bumped into Dr. Michael Behe, and again on Saturday, along with Drs. Brian Miller (DI), Research Coordinator CSC, and Robert Larmer (UNB), currently President of the Canadian Society of (Evangelical) Christian Philosophers. Venue: local apologetics conference (https://www.diganddelve.ca/). The topic of the event “Science vs. Atheism: Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?” makes it relevant here at TSZ, where there are more atheists & agnostics among ‘skeptics’ than average.
On the positive side, I would encourage folks who visit this site to go to such events for learning/teaching purposes. Whether for the ID speakers or not; good conversations are available among people honestly wrestling with and questioning the relationship between science, philosophy and theology/worldview, including on issues related to evolution, creation, and intelligence in the universe or on Earth. Don’t go to such events expecting miracles for your personal worldview in conversation with others, credibility in scientific publications or in the classroom, if you are using ‘science’ as a worldview weapon against ‘religion’ or ‘theology’. That argument just won’t fly anymore and the Discovery Institute, to their credit, has played a role, of whatever size may still be difficult to tell, in making this shift happen.
A question arises: what would be the first question you would ask or thing you would say to Michael Behe if you bumped into him on the street?
Adding to that a 2nd question: If a person seeks ‘secularization’ (cf. laïcisation), i.e. ‘more secularity’ in their life and in the lives of those around them, in their hometown and in the nation in which they live, and even globally, does that qualify for the operational term ‘secularist’? In this sense, is ‘secularism’ the proper term for the ideology that such a person is promoting?
One might think it a polite necessity for certain voices to avoid all contact, and any proper and timely discussion of ideology, when addressing these two terms – secular & secularism – semantically, philosophically & especially ‘skeptically’. Some people of course just don’t make a priority focus on ideology, as Paul Nelson recently revealed here (re: ideological MNism, while avoiding ideological IDism), saying “‘Ideology’ is fine with me as a descriptive noun,” but is “[n]ot one of my lexical habits”. Even though Nelson is certainly not representative of TSZ voices, it might make a person wonder if there is a healthy skepticism at TSZ about conflating the terms ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, since it has also proven difficult here to differentiate them, just as it has at Peaceful Science. For others, the notion that ‘secular’ is now broadly considered as a condition, while ‘secularism’ counts as an ideology, isn’t all that difficult to acknowledge and accept.
He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.
Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.
Unarguably, young earth creationism (YECism) was & still is an echo chamber. It’s a shock to YECists when then get out of their common circles to hear statistically higher educated Christians than they are speaking about how compatible accepting limited biological evolutionary theories with their religious faith actually is. So when they get out of their echo chamber and realize that learning and research hasn’t stopped but rather continues, even among their fellow religious, that they didn’t know existed, it can have a chilling or liberating effect.
The Intelligent Design movement with its Intelligent Design theory/ideology (IDism) was & still is an echo chamber, based, governed & funded in Seattle, USA. I’d welcome an open conversation with Stephen C. Meyer & John G. West about this. Indoctrination going one way is all they’ve focused on, while indoctrination going the other way is an elephant in the room that IDists will eventually need to come around to address.