A brand new type of accommodationism

February 2, 2011 • 11:08 am

You’d think there would only be a finite number of arguments about why science and faith are compatible, but Noah Efron,  a city councilman in Tel Aviv, Israel, has come up with a new one. It’s not worth spending much time on, but we have to keep up with the enemy.  In an article at (where else?) HuffPo called “The meaning of science and religion in real life,” Efron finds the loving concordat of science and faith in the internet.  Why? Because it’s a product of science but can be used for social purposes.  So why are “social purposes” religious?  Because the Pope talked about the internet!

A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement about social networks like Facebook, called “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.” The Pope’s tone is one of reflection and careful measure, and he finds online things to admire and things to avoid. He sees in the Internet “a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations.” At the same time, he finds in posting and Tweeting and poking a “tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world” and a “risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.” Life online shakes up life as we knew it, raising important questions:

Who is my “neighbour” in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world “other” than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting?

What makes this document moving is the fact that in it Pope Benedict tries to make sense of how the vast changes quickly wrought by scientific technologies affect the lives of our kids and our own lives, how they might bring people together or keep them apart, how they add to our loneliness or subtract from it, how they allow us to find meaning and love, or prevent us for this. What makes it moving is the Pope’s certainty that “the truth of Christ” and “the task of witnessing to the Gospel” are affected by the Internet . . .

Here’s the best part:

Even more than tired polemics about Darwin, this is where science and religion meet in ways that matter, behind the locked bedroom door of a teen at a screen, waiting, forlorn, to be friended. Meetings of this sort reflect no “great war of ideas.” They are something more delicate than that, far from headlines, taking place at a scale more human than seminar room polemics, with stakes that are, in the end, higher.

Umm. . . I don’t think that most teens who are on the internet behind locked bedroom doors are “waiting to be friended.”

Efron promises a “series of essays” on this stuff.  LOL!

31 thoughts on “A brand new type of accommodationism

  1. JAC: ‘I don’t think that most teens who are on the internet behind locked bedroom doors are “waiting to be friended.”’

    Perhaps Efron finds being “friended” a lot more exciting than most people?

    Facebook does waste almost as much time as religion, but at least it’s fun. Also, although Pope Zuckerberg might be as evil as Ratzinger, but at least he keeps quiet about it.

  2. Science and religion are meeting on the Internet, alright, and religion is getting it’s ass kicked. I was raised Christian and was 30 years old before I ever encountered anyone who told me they didnt believe in god. By contrast, today’s kids are on the net constantly, and see religion attacked constantly on message boards and chat rooms. I think the free exchange of ideas that the net facilitates is poisonous to religious faith.

      1. I once lost a spelling bee by fiat (a truly despicable, histrionic, abusive third grade teacher).

        The word was “it’s”. Even as a third grader, I knew there was a problem. I asked for a sentence. She said something like “Its fleece was white as snow.” — looking at me with disdain, like I was stalling for time on a fucking 3-letter word, no less.

        So I said… “Thank you. Its. I-T-S.” She predictably said “Wrong. I-T-apostrophe-S.” The state of Alaska was deprived of its true 3rd-grade champion on that day.

        There’s a happy ending, though. About ten years later, I saw her in an alley, clutching a nearly empty bottle of ripple. There was no one else around, so I just just kept kicking and kicking and kicking and kicking.

        Just kidding. But some events do scar you for life.

        1. The next year, BTW, I bought a new record album with the allowances I had saved. Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe”.

        2. I had one teacher tell me I had broken a Commamdmentment after she had asked for a sentence using the words “Jesus” and “spices” and I offered “In the time of Jesus, people used many spices.” (I guess the “right” kind of of sentence would have mentioned Mary Magdalene, the Magi or the Entombment.) So AD and BC are blasphemous? The same teaher insisted the sun is the centre of the universe because “universe” means “one centre”.

          1. Teacher say the darndest things.

            8th-grade Catholic middle school… on Oahu. Our home school teacher fancied himself the science buff. He didn’t believe in a young universe or anything like that, and did a pretty good job unlearning the concept of the Bible as a natural history guide.

            Instead he taught that you would see the back of your head on Venus, because of the intense refraction bending light all the way around the planet. He had silly “facts” like that for every planet, which were always on his tests. (he would present the silly fact, and you’d have to correctly answer which planet).

            I’m so glad I’m never having kids. If I did, I’d be homeschooling them at least until the 11th grade.

            1. Ah, teachers: at primary school we had this gushing woman who told us what our names meant: ‘And, Timmy, do you know what your name means? It means “God-fearing”!’ The class ended, and out in the corridor it was ‘You fear God! You’re God’s enemy!’ – Smack! That was one of the things that cured me of Christianity quite early on, and made me pleased to discover that there was a splendidly polytheistic and pagan Timotheus, a poet and musician no less, who was Alexander the Great’s court scop, to use a good Anglo-Saxon word.

  3. Hold the phone…A Tel Aviv city councilman with the name of Noah talking in glowing terms about “the truth of Christ”?

    Methinks my irony meter just pegged at 11.

      1. Named “Noah Efron”?

        Methinks one might take the evidence in front of one and just make a leap of “faith”.

        Seriously, do you need me to do the research? A Tel Aviv city councilman named “Noah Efron” might be a Christian? Seriously?

            1. OK, then he’s Jewish. But there was no reason to assume he was Jewish just because of his name or where he lived. Israeli Christians often have Hebrew-sounding names.

              1. Actually… teacher at the Jewish School of Theology in Tel Aviv sounds kind-of like a faitheist to me.

  4. People have emotions and emotional needs, and science doesn’t fulfill all of them. Therefore, God exists. Got it.

  5. I wonder if the Pope is a Tim Minchin fan…

    A study I’ve been involved with had a huge component of it as the capture and network modeling of a huge number of MySpace pages, back when MySpace was king. I’ve seen literally millions of MySpace pages and/or data scraped from them.

    One of the variables I insisted on capturing was religious preference. Very little of the content was religious-themed, as it’s kind of a buzzkill. But I think I need to take a renewed look at how many bothered to answer the question.

    Sampling was snowball (following network links from seeds that fit a high-risk STD/HIV profile), so generalizability is an issue. However, the amount of data is very huge.

    1. As a follow-up, I’d say that most teens today have the most amazing tools to get laid than have ever existed at any point in human history. To be young again.

      “Waiting to be friended” is clearly projection from an older person’s point of view.

  6. Oh good grief…

    Gee, buses are social, too, so is that another why science and faith are compatible? Large buildings are social, is that a why science and faith are compatible? Supermarkets are social, is that a why science and faith are compatible?


  7. Religious apologists are well aware of the damage the internet is inflicting on their belief systems. And they are scrambling to neutralize the threat.

  8. And let us not forget that the internet is the fulfillment of the prophesy of Teilhard de Chardin for the coming of the Noodle Sphere (or is it spelled noosphere?).

  9. What makes this document moving is the fact that in it Pope Benedict tries to make sense of how the vast changes quickly wrought by scientific technologies affect the lives of our kids and our own lives, how they might bring people together or keep them apart, how they add to our loneliness or subtract from it, how they allow us to find meaning and love, or prevent us for this.

    Translation: What makes it moving is that a simple regurgitation of what technologists, sociologists, and others have been muddling over for over a decade is somehow new and novel just because the Pope said it.

    Seriously, I mean, the topic of social cohesion in the internet age is an important one, but it’s been discussed to death. The fact that the Pope (or his advisors) finally noticed is about as ho-hum as it gets.

  10. A friend forwarded me this post and, as I’m the guy getting slagged, reading it is a strange, dismaying experience. I wasn’t arguing for “accommodation” (whatever that would be) or a “loving concordat between religion and science” (whatever that might be). What I was saying is that so much of the discussion of the relationship between religion and science focuses on the pretty abstract issue of evolution, when there are a million points of contact between the two that aren’t about abstract ideas, but about other more practical things, like RU486 and prozac and the internet.

    You can agree or disagree with this, but it’s weird that it meets with the anger that it does here, or the icky innuendo of the first comment, Ray Moscow’s. I’m a historian of science, university professor, avid advocate of science, unnerved opponent of creationists. So why the vitriol?

    And yes, of course I realize that I’ll get slagged worse for posting this. I can take it, but still it bums me out.

  11. What exactly is a “point of contact”?
    This term may originate all your perceived “slagging” (and that term doesn’t anything to me in California).

    I am being presumptuous in speaking for “naturalists” here, but I assume that all atheistic thinkers simply want zero commentary about anything from religious folk, from the Pope on down, about the internet, evolution, you name it. Their commentary is “tainted”, just like any and all food from a restaurant that has been judged unsafe by the health department. It doesn’t matter who delivers me that food and all the stories they may tell…”not eating, not desiring to eat, any and all things from that restaurant..”

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