Saturday, March 6, 2010

Science vs Science™

The following is extracted from the summary of a paper published in 2009 by two German physicists titled, Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics. Although global warmingism doesn't give quarter to atheistic worldviews, and therefore is not as ultimately destructive as Darwinism, still the popular hullabaloo over global warming/climate change has the same "feel" in that it is hyped in the popular media and academia as an unquestionable fact despite it's flimsy scientific foundation. Detractors are portrayed as right-wing, hyper-capitalist, and anti-science, which is very similar to the type of knee-jerk dismissives directed towards Darwin doubters.
Here is a link to the full paper.

Physicist's Summary
A thorough discussion of the planetary heat transfer problem in the framework of theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics leads to the following results:
1. There are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect, which explains the relevant physical phenomena. The terms "greenhouse effect" and "greenhouse gases" are deliberate misnomers.
2. There are no calculations to determinate an average surface temperature of a planet:
with or without an atmosphere,
with or without rotation,
with or without infrared light absorbing gases.
...[14 more results]...
Already the natural greenhouse effect is a myth beyond physical reality. The CO2-greenhouse effect, however is a "mirage". The horror visions of a rising sea level, melting pole caps, and developing deserts in North America and in Europe are fictitious consequences of fictitious physical mechanisms as they cannot be seen even in the climate model computations. The emergence of hurricanes and tornados cannot be predicted by climate models, because all of these deviations are ruled out. The main strategy of modern CO2-greenhouse gas defenders seems to hide themselves behind more and more pseudo-explanations, which are not part of the academic education or even of the physics training. A good example are the radiation transport calculations, which are probably not known by many. Another example are the so-called feedback mechanisms, which are introduced to amplify an effect which is not marginal but does not exist at all. Evidently, the defenders of the CO2-greenhouse thesis refuse to accept any reproducible calculation as an explanation and have resorted to unreproducible ones. A theoretical physicist must complain about a lack of transparency here, and he also has to complain about the style of the scientific discussion, where advocators of the greenhouse thesis claim that the discussion is closed, and others are discrediting justified arguments as a discussion of "questions of yesterday and the day before yesterday". [LB: This sounds familiar.] In exact sciences, in particular in theoretical physics, the discussion is never closed and is to be continued ad infinitum, even if there are proofs of theorems available. Regardless of the specific field of studies a minimal basic rule should be fulfilled in natural science, though, even if the scientific fields are methodically as far apart as physics and meteorology: At least among experts, the results and conclusions should be understandable or reproducible. And it should be strictly distinguished between a theory and a model on the one hand, and between a model and a scenario on the other hand, as clarified in the philosophy of science....
The point discussed here was to answer the question, whether the supposed atmospheric effect has a physical basis. This is not the case. In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Start Toward Postdarwinism?

I'm too busy to write an original post, so in the meantime, for your edification, here's a review by John C. Landon of the newly published What Darwin Got Wrong. Paragraph 3 gives me a big smile.

One of the puzzles of modern science is the inability of evolutionary biologists to see through the oversimplification of Darwinian natural selection. It is a morbid irony that T. H. Huxley, on the eve of the publication of Origin, warned Darwin on this point. And yet here we are a century and a half later stuck in the same routine. The appearance of this book is thus a welcome and much needed challenge to the mass delusion of the current culture of Darwin worship.

The book opens with a unique new argument comparing the case of Skinnerian behaviorism to that of the Darwinian selectionist scenario. Once pointed out the comparison is devastatingly apt, and we can only hope that this book can 'do a Chomsky' on the out-of-date reductionist (crypto-behaviorist) junk science of Darwin.

Apart from its intrinsic merits this book represents an almost symbolic gesture forcing open discussion of evolution among secularists. This critique is from mainstream academic science/philosophy circles, and makes clear its secularist (atheistic) perspective. That should not be necessary, but in the current environment the public tends to assume all critics of evolution are from the Bible Belt, and that is false. This book can't be pegged on any religious or ID rubric, and hopefully the mainstream scientific public can recover from a generation of the Dawkins regime and the Darwin propaganda machine to acknowledge the obvious: Darwin's theory is very probably not right, so let's move on. It is way way overdue for this to happen, and whatever else it has done (or not done) the ID movement is a reminder that culture is going to balk if it is forced to believe forever in Darwinian absurdities through force-feeding by pseudo-scientific distortions. The pity is that secular culture has been unable to break free in similar fashion from the conditioning imposed by this cult of Darwinian scientism. The result is an imporverished secular culture. That can now change, perhaps. But it is almost twenty years since Robert Wesson's Beyond Natural Selection, which was unable to make a dent in the armor of the Darwin stupidoes monopolizing discourse on evolution and intimidating all dissent. Let us hope this fate does not await this book. It is not the last word on the subject of evolution, but it is a start toward Postdarwinism. The courage to produce this book, sure to be given the 'treatment', is commendable.

I find the authors' refusal to hype another theory at the end commendable. As Wesson warned twenty years ago, after the Darwin pipedream there is no second pipedream in the form of a keep-it-simple-stupid 'theory' for science grunts.

Must read, despite its fairly stiff learning curve. Maybe Darwin groupies can be cured of their laziness with this book and do some hard thinking for once.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Sabio

Recently, Sabio published a series of "Declare Thyself!" posts in which he asked his readers to state their positions on sets of religious and philosophical issues. I have been hesitant to "declare myself" despite, as he has noted, a willingness to state my positions elsewhere. My reasons have more to do with Sabio's choice of a title than anything else. When I declare my position on some topic, it's because I want to engage (argue with) someone on that particular issue. It is of no importance to anyone that one of the opinions expressed is Laughing Boy's, the issue is the issue. In contrast, when asked to declare myself, I am the issue, and that doesn't appeal to me. It's probably true that by blogging at all I am, to some degree, making myself the issue. Inherent in expressing my opinion is the idea that other people should care what I have to say. But in my mind I've gone too far if I simply say, "Hey, World, these are my views." It seems to me that statement implies that I think the world wants to know (or should want to know) my views. I don't think it does or should.

On the other hand, I don't want to give Sabio the cold shoulder. So with this disclaimer, in the interest of congeniality, here are my responses to Sabio's "Christian, Declare Thyself".

My Denomination: Presbyterian Church in America.

God's Nature: Trinitarian. Personal. Omniscient, omnipotent, omni-present. Perfectly just. Perfectly loving.

Christology: High.

Theology of Scripture: Inerrant and infallible in all it teaches.

Soteriology: Exclusivist, Calvinist.

Atonement Theology: Penal substitutionary with elements of governmental and moral influence theories.

Literal Bodily Resurrection: Yes.

Cosmology: Old Earth.

View on State of Israel: Israel-neutral to moderately pro-Israel.

Missionology: Service first.

Eschatology: Tentative amillenialist.

View on Science: Science friendly, scientist-neutral, scientific establishment-leery.

Women can be priest or minister: No, but my opposition is highly apathetic.

Homosexuality can be valid life style: No, but another's sexual preference is none of my business.

Relation of Science to Religion, Part 3 of 3

Excerpt from the concluding chapter of Charles Hodge's What Is Darwinism? published in 1874.

Third Cause
The bearing of scientific men towards the men of culture who do not belong to their own class.

The third cause of the alienation between religion and science, is the bearing of scientific men towards the men of culture who do not belong to their own class. When we, in such connections, speak of scientific men, we do not mean men of science as such, but those only who avow or manifest their hostility to religion. There is an assumption of superiority, and often a manifestation of contempt. Those who call their logic or their conjectures into question, are stigmatized as narrow-minded, bigots, old women, Bible worshippers, etc.

Professor Huxley's advice to metaphysicians and theologians is, to let science alone. This is his Irenicum. But do he and his associates let metaphysics and religion alone? They tell the metaphysician that his vocation is gone; there is no such thing as mind, and of course no mental laws to be established. Metaphysics are merged into physics. Professor Huxley tells the religious world that there is over-whelming and crushing evidence (scientific evidence, of course) that no event has ever occurred on this earth which was not the effect of natural causes. Hence there have been no miracles, and Christ is not risen.[44] He says that the doctrine that belief in a personal God is necessary to any religion worthy of the name, is a mere matter of opinion. Tyndall, Carpenter, and Henry Thompson, teach that prayer is a superstitious absurdity; Herbert Spencer, whom they call their "great philosopher," i. e., the man who does their thinking, labors to prove that there cannot be a personal God, or human soul or self; that moral laws are mere "generalizations of utility," or, as Carl Vogt says, that self respect, and not the will of God, is the ground and rule of moral obligation. If any protest be made against such doctrines, we are told that scientific truth cannot be put down by denunciation (or as Vogt says, by barking). So doubtless the Pharisees, when our blessed Lord called them hypocrites and a generation of vipers, and said: "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves," doubtless thought that that was a poor way to refute their theory, that holiness and salvation were to be secured by church-membership and church-rites. Nevertheless, as those words were the words of Christ, they were a thunderbolt which reverberates through all time and space, and still makes Pharisees of every name and nation tremble. Huxley's Irenicum will not do. Men who are assiduously poisoning the fountains of religion, morality, and social order, cannot be let alone.

Haeckel's Irenicum amounts to much the same as that of Professor Huxley. He forbids the right to speak on these vital subjects, to all who are not thoroughly versed in biology, and who are not entirely emancipated from the trammels of their long cherished traditional beliefs.[45] This, as the whole context shows, means that a man in order to be entitled to be heard on the evolution theory, must be willing to renounce his faith not only in the Bible, but in God, in the soul, in a future life, and become a monistic materialist.[46]

It is very reasonable that scientific men, in common with lawyers and physicians and other professional men, should feel themselves entitled to be heard with special deference on subjects belonging to their respective departments. This deference no one is disposed to deny to men of science. But it is to be remembered that no department of human knowledge is isolated. One runs into and overlaps another. We have abundant evidence that the devotees of natural science are not willing to confine themselves to the department of nature, in the common sense of that word. They not only speculate, but dogmatize, on the highest questions of philosophy, morality, and religion. And further, admitting the special claims to deference on the part of scientific men, other men have their rights. They have the right to judge of the consistency of the assertions of men of science and of the logic of their reasoning. They have the right to set off the testimony of one or more experts against the testimony of others; and especially, they have the right to reject all speculations, hypotheses, and theories, which come in conflict with well established truths. It is ground of profound gratitude to God that He has given to the human mind intuitions which are infallible, laws of belief which men cannot disregard any more than the laws of nature, and also convictions produced by the Spirit of God which no sophistry of man can weaken. These are barriers which no man can pass without plunging into the abyss of outer darkness.

If there be any truth in the preceding remarks, then it is obvious that there can be no harmony between science and religion until the evils referred to be removed. Scientific men must come to recognize practically, and not merely in words, that there are other kinds of evidence of truth than the testimony of the senses. They must come to give due weight to the testimony of consciousness, and to the intuitions of the reason and conscience. They must cease to require the deference due to established facts to be paid to their speculations and explanations. And they must treat their fellow-men with due respect. The Pharisees said to the man whose sight had been restored by Christ, "Thou wastome a fool, that he may be wise;" or these, "Be converted, and become as little children;" or these, "The Spirit of Truth shall guide you in all truth." We are willing to hear this called cant. Nevertheless, these latter words fell from the lips of Him who spake as never man spake.

Relation of Darwinism to Religion

So much, and it is very little, on the general question of the relation of science to religion. But what is to be thought of the special relation of Mr. Darwin's theory to the truths of natural and revealed religion? We have already seen that Darwinism includes the three elements, evolution, natural selection, and the denial of design in nature. These points, however, cannot now be considered separately.

It is conceded that a man may be an evolutionist and yet not be an atheist and may admit of design in nature. But we cannot see how the theory of evolution can be reconciled with the declarations of the Scriptures. Others may see it, and be able to reconcile their allegiance to science with their allegiance to the Bible. Professor Huxley, as we have seen, pronounces the thing impossible. As all error is antagonistic to truth, if the evolution theory be false, it must be opposed to the truths of religion so far as the two come into contact. Mr. Henslow, indeed, says Science and Religion are not antagonistic because they are in different spheres of thought. This is often said by men who do not admit that there is any thought at all in religion; that it is merely a matter of feeling. The fact, however, is that religion is a system of knowledge, as well as a state of feeling. The truths on which all religion is founded are drawn within the domain of science, the nature of the first cause, its relation to the world, the nature of second causes, the origin of life, anthropology, including the origin, nature, and destiny of man. Religion has to fight for its life against a large class of scientific men. All attempts to prevent her exercising her right to be heard are unreasonable and vain.


[44] When Professor Huxley says, as quoted above, that he does not deny the possibility of miracles, he must use the word miracle in a sense peculiar to himself.

[45] Jenaer Literaturzeitung, January 3, 1874. In this number there is a notice by Doctor Haeckel of two books,—Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus, von Oscar Schmidt, Leipzig, 1873; and Die Fortschritte des Darwinismus, von J. W. Spengel, Cöln and Leipzig, 1874; in which he says: "Erstens, um in Sachen der Descendenz-Theorie mitreden zu können, ein gewisser Grad von tieferer biologischer (sowohl morphologischer als physiologischer) Bildung unentbehrlich, den die meistzen von jenen Auctoren (the opposers of the theory) nicht besitzen. Zweitens ist für ein klares und zutreffendes Urtheil in diesem Sachen eine rücksichtslose Hingabe an vernunftgemässe Erkenntniss und eine dadurch bedingte Resignation auf uralte, liebgewordene und tief vererbte Vorurtheile erforderlich, zu welcher sich die wenigsten entschliesen können." (Laughing Boy translation:) First, in matters of descent theory, a certain degree of profound biological (both morphologically and physiologically) education is essential and which the leaders of those Auctore (the opposers of the theory) do not possess. Second, a clear and true judgement in these things requires a ruthless devotion to rational knowledge and a consequent resignation required to ancient, cherished and deeply inherited prejudices, to which few can resolve themselves.

[46] In his Natürlische Schöpfungsgeschichte, Haeckel is still more exclusive. When he comes to answer the objections to the evolution, or, as he commonly calls it, the descendence theory, he dismisses the objections derived from religion, as unworthy of notice, with the remark that all Glaube ist Aberglaube; all faith is superstition. The objections from a priori, or intuitive truths, are disposed of in an equally summary manner, by denying that there are any such truths, and asserting that all our knowledge is from the senses. The objection that so many distinguished naturalists reject the theory, he considers more at length. First, many have grown old in another way of thinking and cannot be expected to change. Second, many are collectors of facts, without studying their relations, or are destitute of the genius for generalization. No amount of material makes a building. Others, again, are specialists. It is not enough that a man should be versed in one department; he must be at home in all: in Botany, Zoölogy, Comparative Anatomy, Biology, Geology, and Palæontology. He must be able to survey the whole field. Fourthly, and mainly, naturalists are generally lamentably deficient in philosophical culture and in a philosophical spirit. "The immovable edifice of the true, monistic science, or what is the same thing, natural science, can only arise through the most intimate interaction and mutual interpenetration of philosophy and observation (Philosophie und Empirie)." pp. 638-641. It is only a select few, therefore, of learned and philosophical monistic materialists, who are entitled to be heard on questions of the highest moment to every individual man, and to human society.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The scene in the afternoon. Not a grayscale image.

The scene at night.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Relation of Science to Religion, Part 2 of 3

Excerpt from the concluding chapter of Charles Hodge's What Is Darwinism? published in 1874.

Second Cause
The failure to make the due distinction between facts and the explanation of those facts, or the theories deduced from them.

A second cause of the alienation between science and religion, is the failure to make the due distinction between facts and the explanation of those facts, or the theories deduced from them. No sound minded man disputes any scientific fact. Religious men believe with Agassiz that facts are sacred. They are revelations from God. Christians sacrifice to them, when duly authenticated, their most cherished convictions. That the earth moves, no religious man doubts. When Galileo made that great discovery, the Church was right in not yielding at once to the evidence of an experiment which it did not understand. But when the fact was clearly established, no man sets up his interpretation of the Bible in opposition to it. Religious men admit all the facts connected with our solar system; all the facts of geology, and of comparative anatomy, and of biology. Ought not this to satisfy scientific men? Must we also admit their explanations and inferences? If we admit that the human embryo passes through various phases, must we admit that man was once a fish, then a bird, then a dog, then an ape, and finally what he now is? If we admit the similarity of structure in all vertebrates, must we admit the evolution of one from another, and all from a primordial germ? It is to be remembered that the facts are from God, the explanation from men; and the two are often as far apart as Heaven and its antipode.

These human explanations are not only without authority, but they are very mutable. They change not only from generation to generation, but almost as often as the phases of the moon. It is a fact that the planets move. Once it was said that they were moved by spirits, then by vortexes, now by self-evolved forces. It is hard that we should be called upon to change our faith with every new moon. The same man sometimes propounds theories almost as rapidly as the changes of the kaleidoscope. The amiable Sir Charles Lyell, England's most distinguished geologist, has published ten editions of his "Principles of Geology," which so differ as to make it hard to believe that it is the work of the same mind. "In all the editions up to the tenth, he looked upon geological facts and geological phenomena as proving the fixity of species and their special creation in time. In the tenth edition, just published, he announces his change of opinion on this subject and his conversion to the doctrine of development by law."[43] "In the eighth edition of his work," says Dr. Bree, "Sir Charles Lyell, the Nestor of geologists, to whom the present generation is more indebted than to any other for all that is known of geology in its advanced stage, teaches that species have a real existence in nature, and that each was endowed at the time of its creation with the attributes and organization by which it is now distinguished." The change on the part of this eminent geologist, it is to be observed, is a mere change of opinion. There was no change of the facts of geology between the publication of the eighth and of the tenth edition of his work, neither was there any change in his knowledge of those facts. All the facts relied upon by evolutionists, have long been familiar to scientific men. The whole change is a subjective one. One year the veteran geologist thinks the facts teach one thing, another year he thinks they teach another. It is now the fact, and it is feared it will continue to be a fact, that scientific men give the name of science to their explanations as well as to the facts. Nay, they are often, and naturally, more zealous for their explanations than they are for the facts. The facts are God's, the explanations are their own.


[43] Fallacies in the Hypothesis of Mr. Darwin, by C. R. Bree, M. D., F. Z. S. London, 1872, p. 290.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Relation of Science to Religion, Part 1 of 3

My next several posts will be extended excerpts from the concluding chapter of Charles Hodge's What Is Darwinism? published in 1874.

Relation of Darwinism to Religion

The consideration of that subject would lead into the wide field of the relation between science and religion. Into that field we lack competency and time to enter; a few remarks, however, on the subject may not be out of place. Those remarks, we would fain make in a humble way irenical. There is need of an Irenicum, for the fact is painfully notorious that there is an antagonism between scientific men as a class, and religious men as a class. Of course this opposition is neither felt nor expressed by all on either side. Nevertheless, whatever may be the cause of this antagonism, or whoever are to be blamed for it, there can be no doubt that it exists and that it is an evil.

First Cause
The two parties...adopt different rules of evidence, and thus can hardly avoid arriving at different conclusions

The first cause of the alienation in question is, that the two parties, so to speak, adopt different rules of evidence, and thus can hardly avoid arriving at different conclusions. To understand this we must determine what is meant by science, and by scientific evidence. Science, according to its etymology, is simply knowledge. But usage has limited its meaning, in the first place, not to the knowledge of facts or phenomena, merely, but to their causes and relations. It was said of old, "ὁτι scientiæ fundamentum, διὁτι fastigium." No amount of materials would constitute a building. They must be duly arranged so as to make a symmetrical whole. No amount of disconnected data can constitute a science. Those data must be systematized in their relation to each other and to other things. In the second place, the word is becoming more and more restricted to the knowledge of a particular class of facts, and of their relations, namely, the facts of nature or of the external world. This usage is not universal, nor is it fixed. In Germany, especially, the word Wissenschaft is used of all kinds of ordered knowledge, whether transcendental or empirical. So we are accustomed to speak of mental, moral, social, as well as of natural science. Nevertheless, the more restricted use of the word is very common and very influential. It is important that this fact should be recognized. In common usage, a scientific man is distinguished specially from a metaphysician. The one investigates the phenomena of matter, the other studies the phenomena of mind, according to the old distinction between physics and metaphysics. Science, therefore, is the ordered knowledge of the phenomena which we recognize through the senses. A scientific fact is a fact perceived by the senses. Scientific evidence is evidence addressed to the senses. At one of the meetings of the Victoria Institute, a visitor avowed his disbelief in the existence of God. When asked, what kind of evidence would satisfy him? he answered, Just such evidence as I have of the existence of this tumbler which I now hold in my hand. The Rev. Mr. Henslow says, "By science is meant the investigation of facts and phenomena recognizable by the senses, and of the causes which have brought them into existence."[40] This is the main root of the trouble. If science be the knowledge of the facts perceived by the senses, and scientific evidence, evidence addressed to the senses, then the senses are the only sources of knowledge. Any conviction resting on any other ground than the testimony of the senses, must be faith. Darwin admits that the contrivances in nature may be accounted for by assuming that they are due to design on the part of God. But, he says, that would not be science. Haeckel says that to science matter is eternal. If any man chooses to say, it was created, well and good; but that is a matter of faith, and faith is imagination. Ulrici quotes a distinguished German physiologist who believes in vital, as distinguished from physical forces; but he holds to spontaneous generation, not, as he admits, because it has been proved, but because the admission of any higher power than nature is unscientific.[41]

It is inevitable that minds addicted to scientific investigation should receive a strong bias to undervalue any other kind of evidence except that of the senses, i. e., scientific evidence. We have seen that those who give themselves up to this tendency come to deny God, to deny mind, to deny even self. It is true that the great majority of men, scientific as well as others, are so much under the control of the laws of their nature, that they cannot go to this extreme. The tendency, however, of a mind addicted to the consideration of one kind of evidence, to become more or less insensible to other kinds of proof, is undeniable. Thus even Agassiz, as a zoölogist and simply on zoölogical grounds, assumed that there were several zones between the Ganges and the Atlantic Ocean, each having its own flora and fauna, and inhabited by races of men, the same in kind, but of different origins. When told by the comparative philologists that this was impossible, because the languages spoken through that wide region, demonstrated that its inhabitants must have had a common descent, he could only answer that as ducks quack everywhere, he could not see why men should not everywhere speak the same language.

A still more striking illustration is furnished by Dr. Lionel Beale, the distinguished English physiologist. He has written a book of three hundred and eighty-eight pages for the express purpose of proving that the phenomena of life, instinct, and intellect cannot be referred to any known natural forces. He avows his belief that in nature "mind governs matter," and "in the existence of a never-changing, all-seeing, power-directing and matter-guiding Omnipotence." He avows his faith in miracles, and "those miracles on which Christianity is founded." Nevertheless, his faith in all these points is provisional. He says that a truly scientific man, "if the maintenance, continuity, and nature of life on our planet should at some future time be fully explained without supposing the existence of any such supernatural omnipotent influence, would be bound to receive the new explanation, and might abandon the old conviction."[42] That is, all evidence of the truths of religion not founded on nature and perceived by the senses, amounts to nothing.

Now as religion does not rest on the testimony of the senses, that is on scientific evidence, the tendency of scientific men is to ignore its claims. We speak only of tendency. We rejoice to know or believe that in hundreds or thousands of scientific men, this tendency is counteracted by their consciousness of manhood—the conviction that the body is not the man,—by the intuitions of the reason and the conscience, and by the grace of God. No class of men stands deservedly higher in public estimation than men of science, who, while remaining faithful to their higher nature, have enlarged our knowledge of the wonderful works of God.


[40] Science and Scripture not Antagonistic, because Distinct in their Spheres of Thought. A Lecture, by Rev. George Henslow, M. A., F. L. S., F. G. S. London, 1873, p. 1.

[41] Gott und Natur, p. 200.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: Defender of Orthodoxy, Scourge of Liberalism

Seminary-trained Unitarian minister Marylin Sewell interviews Christopher Hitchens. An excerpt:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell: Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God—as you might as a matter of fact—as, “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish fulfillment and comes from the humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?”

Hitchens: I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning—at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

'tis a curiosity of capitalism...

...that I can buy a can of prunes with pits.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Scene From a Film

WALLY: Let's say: if I get a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant, I mean, of course, even I have a tendency, I mean, you know, I mean, of course, I would hardly throw it out! I mean, I read it, I read it, and I just instinctively sort of, you know, if it says something like: "Conversation with a dark-haired man will be very important for you," well, I just instinctively think, you know, who do I know who has dark hair? Did we have a conversation? What did we talk about? In other words there's something in me that makes me read it, and I instinctively interpret it as if it were an omen of the future, but in my conscious opinion, which is so fundamental to my whole view of life, I mean, I would just have to change totally to not have this opinion, in my conscious opinion, this is simply something that was written in the cookie factory, several years ago, and in no way it refers to me! I mean, you know, the fact that I got--I mean, the man who wrote it did not know anything about me, I mean, he could not have known anything about me! There's no way that this cookie could actually have to do with me! And the fact that I've gotten it is just basically a joke! And I mean, if I were to go on a trip, on an airplane, and I got a fortune cookie that said "Don't go," I mean, of course, I admit I might feel a bit nervous for about one second, but in fact I would go, because, I mean, that trip is gonna be successful or unsuccessful based on the state of the airplane and the state of the pilot, and the cookie is in no position to know about that.

And I mean, you know, it's the same with any kind of prophecy or sign or an omen, because if you believe in omens, then that means that the universe--I mean, I don't even know how to begin to describe this. That means that the future is somehow sending messages backwards to the present! Which means that the future must exist in some sense already in order to be able to send these messages. And it also means that things in the universe are there for a purpose: to give us messages. Whereas I think that things in the universe are just there. I mean, they don't mean anything. I mean, you know, if the turtle's egg falls out of the tree and splashes on the paving stones, it's just because that turtle was clumsy, by accident. And to decide whether to send my ships off to war on the basis of that seems a big mistake to me.

ANDRE: Well, what information would you send your ships to war on? Because if it's all meaningless, what's the difference whether you accept the fortune cookie or the statistics of the Ford foundation? It doesn't seem to matter.

WALLY: Well, the meaningless fact of the fortune cookie or the turtle's egg can't possibly have any relevance to the subject you're analyzing. Whereas a group of meaningless facts that are collected and interpreted in a scientific way may quite possibly be relevant. Because the wonderful thing about scientific theories about things is that they're based on experiments that can be repeated! [Long pause while coffee is being served.]

ANDRE: Well, it's true, Wally. I mean, you know, following omens and so on is probably just a way of letting ourselves off the hook, so that we don't have to take individual responsibility for our own actions. I mean, giving yourself over to the unconscious can leave you vulnerable to all sorts of very frightening manipulation...

But I mean, the thing is, Wally, I think it's the exaggerated worship of science that has led us into this situation. I mean, science has been held up to us as a magical force that would somehow solve everything, but quite the contrary, it's done quite the contrary, it's destroyed everything. So, that is what has really led, I think, to this very strong, deep reaction against science that we're seeing now. Just as the Nazi demons that were released in the thirties in Germany were probably a reaction against a certain oppressive kind of knowledge and culture and rational thinking. So, I agree that we're talking about something potentially very dangerous, but modern science has not been particularly less dangerous.

WALLY: Right. Well, I agree with you, I completely agree. [Pause.] You know, the truth is, I think I do know what really disturbs me about the work you've described, and I don't even know if I can express it. But somehow it seems that the whole point of the work that you did in those workshops, when you get right down to it and you ask: what was it really about; the whole point really, I think, was to enable the people in the workshops, including yourself, to somehow sort of strip away every scrap of purposefulness from certain selected moments. And the point of it was so that you would then all be able to experience somehow just pure being. In other words you were trying to discover what it would be like to live for certain moments without having any particular thing that you were supposed to be doing. And I think I just simply object to that. I mean, I just don't think I accept the idea that there should be moments in which you're not trying to do anything! I think it's our nature to do things, I think we should do things, I think that purposefulness is part of our ineradicable, basic human structure, and to say that we ought to be able to live without it is like saying that a tree ought to be able to live without branches or roots, but actually, without branches or roots it wouldn't be a tree. I mean, it would just be a log. You see what I'm saying?