Sunday, February 28, 2010


Fun and Games Among the Faithful

The Florida Times-Union has an article, "Understanding why the Christianity-science divide is important: Is it merely academic, or is the schism a real issue for all of us?," that shows that most Christians are not yet successfully dealing with the issue. It leads off with a (simplistic) form of Pascal's Wager from a lay person:

"If I'm right, those other guys are going to be in trouble," [Mike Hardee] said, referring to eternal torment. "If they're right, I'm just going to turn to dust and be fertilizer."
Then it moves to a young-Earth creationist:

To [Richard Overman, president of Creation Education Resources, a Middleburg-based ministry that promotes the literal interpretation of biblical creation], Scripture is clear: The Earth was created precisely as described in Genesis, which, he said, makes the planet more than 6,000 years old.

"One day is one day, not eons" as some Christians say, he said.

"If you read the Bible and you take it at face value, you get some very clear meaning from it," Overman said. "So what Satan does is he tries to convince Christians and non-Christians that's it's not true, [and] he does that by trying to use science."

Overman, who leads fossil-hunting trips and lectures church and home school groups about creation science, said he is most often asked to square dinosaurs with his theological views.

That's easy, he said: Dinosaurs existed, were on Noah's ark, and went extinct like any other species within the past six millennia.

The real issue isn't whether T-Rex existed but how it's used to undermine creationism, which in turn could erode belief in other biblical tenets, such as the divinity of Christ or that marriage should be between one man and one woman, Overman said.

"It's a spiritual battle," he said of the debate.
Riiight! Science is Satan's way of supporting the Gays! And ignorance is a spiritual duty. Next we have a Christian who looks for more compatibility:

For [Charles Foster, British author of The Selfless Gene: Living with God and Darwin], however, faith suffers most in that either-or battle between what he described as "the extreme right wing factions" of the science-versus-faith debate.

"Young Earth" creationists ignore the growing body of evidence supporting some elements of natural selection while hard-core atheists are "misrepresenting the scientific record [because] they can't cope with nuance," Foster said.

The nuance they overlook includes altruistic behaviors in various species that point to a loving intelligence behind creation that contradicts the narrow and cruel "survival of the fittest" view of evolution, Foster said.

Seeing evidence of altruism helps a person to "continue to believe that God is good" while embracing scientific discoveries.

If Christians believe their God is one of truth, they should "have a passionate interest in science and the Bible."
Ummm ... "atheists," otherwise known as "scientists" in rational circles, have not ignored altruism but, instead, have proposed testable models to explain how "fit" organisms would develop such behavior. In short, it is not inconsistent that survival of the fittest, which, after all, is a metaphor, can result in "altruistic" behavior. It does no good to have a passionate interest in science if you don't have a passionate interest in understanding science.

If you don't want to fudge science, you can always fudge scripture:

The Rev. James A. Hull, senior pastor at North Jacksonville Church of God, doesn't go "berserko-crazy" over the issue because science will eventually prove biblical teachings to be true. He cited a verse in the Hebrew scriptures referring to "the circle of the Earth" - more than a thousand years before scientists concluded that the Earth is round.

"Given enough time ... you'll find that science and the Bible really do jibe together," Hull said.
Errr ... a "circle" is not the same thing as a "sphere."

The closest to sense in the article was this:

Christians shouldn't be concerned when science contradicts faith - or seems to do so, [Rev. Ted Pisarchuk, rector of St. Justin Martyr Orthodox Church in Jacksonville] said. Nor should they get overly excited when a scientific finding seems to bolster something in the Bible.

"We can get really silly with all of this - whether there was a flood or not, it doesn't matter," he said. "I believe there was ... but God is bigger than all of this."
It is silly to try to jam revelation into science or vice versa. The fact that Christians keep trying demonstrates that they have not yet come to grips with science.

He cited a verse in the Hebrew scriptures referring to "the circle of the Earth" - more than a thousand years before scientists concluded that the Earth is round.

See the Wikipedia article "Flat earth" under the heading "Isaiah 40:22".

Tom S.
He cited a verse in the Hebrew scriptures referring to "the circle of the Earth" - more than a thousand years before scientists concluded that the Earth is round

The current opinion amongst philologists is the the Old Testament was probably not written earlier than 500 BCE and with some of the opinion that parts of it were first writen in the first century CE. Given that the Greeks believed that the world was a sphere in the sixth century BCE the statement doesn't add up somehow!
Given that the Greeks believed that the world was a sphere in the sixth century BCE the statement doesn't add up somehow!

But Moses never heard of the Greeks, right?
The Wikipedia comments on Isaiah 40:22 are restrained in debunking the spherical interpretation of Isaiah.

Take a look at the words: "... he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth ..."

Picture the Lord sitting on the globe. Is this the image that the author is trying to convey to us? I leave it to the impious reader to imagine what country the divine nether parts are resting on.

The expression "the circle/globe/whatever of the earth" need not be an appositive: "the earth is a whatever". It could be referring to something associated somehow with the earth, such as the circular horizon, the celestial dome, the cyclical stellar paths, or lots of things other than a globe.

The most traditionalist opinion about the Book of Isaiah is that it was written in its entirety by the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century. That is only about 200 years before Pythagoras who is credited with being the first Greek to say that the earth is a sphere, 400 years before Aristotle who clearly argues for that, and 500 years before Eratosthenes who is famous for a quite accurate measurement of the size of the sphere. But beyond that, there are good reasons to believe that Isaiah 40 was written in the 6th century, making it (coincidentally, I'm sure) contemporaneous with Pythagoras.

Tom S.
I have to wonder if Mr. Foster read the book his book's title clearly references, because the most classic example of a "selfish gene" is altruism itself. Kin selection is essentially a case of a trait favoring itself over the organism it resides in---that is, altruism propagates altruistic behavior at the expense of each organism that practices it.
"...he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth ..."

or it could be a giant toilet seat.
There is this mosaic of Christ seated on a globe in the apse of San Vitale in Ravenna:

Tom S.
It's pretty sad when these folks can't even understand simple geometry. Although I did get a good laugh out of it.
Dinosaurs went extinct because Satan made them gay.
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