Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the “conflict hypothesis”

January 22, 2020 • 9:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “kit”, came with the email note:

“Science and religion again. And it won’t be the last time.”

Indeed; one could have called this strip Faith Versus Fact, and I suppose it summarizes my book in just four panels. It’s a particularly good strip, but of course I’m biased.


Go here to become a Patreon of the strip, and here to buy the latest collection of cartoons (I wrote the foreword).

31 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the “conflict hypothesis”

  1. It’s funny but in the opening video of Dawkins’ 1991 Royal^* Institution Christmas Lectures we were looking at yesterday, he says he has “enough faith” in the scientific method to stand in the path of the cannonball pendulum and it won’t touch him. Oh, to be in 1991 again, when we could say “faith” and the twittermites wouldn’t come out of the woodwork!

    *Check Bill Maher’s editorial from 17th January 2020 (this past Friday).

    1. Count me amongst your sceptical admirers, Prof Coyne. And allow me to elaborate on the sceptical part.

      While it may be theoretically true that anything that is to happen from now on, on earth as it will in heaven, could be predicted if we knew all facts, vectors, interactions, and parameters… and while it’s empirically proven that decisions result from naturalistic processes under the skull and elsewhere in our body… I don’t think it follows that all human achievements are foregone conclusions.

      Whereas ‘raw’ decisions may present themselves unbidden in our brain, it is quite untrue that we abide by raw decisions alone; we have a capacity to edit them in various ways, or to refine and even alter them as soon as rational thought kicks in; either by fresh input from our internal knowledge base (frame of reference, insights, etc.) or by critique coming from others.

      This is why life is more interesting than a menu; something Anglo-Saxons, prone to define humans as bundles of individual preferences, seem hooked on. Now for mechanistic reasons I might prefer fish & chips over falafel; but perhaps I’m accompanied by a vegan friend, or recall having been in that joint with that friend a while ago. Even a mundane occurrence such as this would complicate the model: I’d need to edit my initial or spontaneous or habitual ’decision’ (or action…) & invoke ethical, political, and imaginative skills to handle this. Or decide to defiantly ditch wokeness and go for fish & chips…. It seems plausible that all sorts of factors weigh in when it comes to action beyond the remit of a tax form.

      Now one might reason that such factors – under headings like ‘editing’ or ‘self-reflexion’ – stem from the same sort of naturalistic causal chains as do ‘spontaneous’ thoughts or acts of ‘will’; which may be true for the cosmos generally. But not, I submit, within any human situation bound to a limited chunk of space-time. Which is one reason why I look forward to ‘tha Pinkah’s’ study of shared (or common) knowledge; or to your good self’s monography against free will – that is, in case Nature has ordained it so 😊

      1. Say what to who? I thought I was the dummy and even drunk, come on get your f…ing head straight. You really want me to explain the obvious for me…. here we go, a lot of scientist and specially one in particular named Richard Feinsteing a nuclear scientist or whatever they call themselves that study …. forgot the name, said very clearly that science is not betrayed of of God, also that dude with with white hair? Really, I have to go into specifics with someone as smart as you, come on give me something else that is not “say what?” You say that so that Smart answer so you get the Smart comment, get the fuck out of here, trying to be nice in your blog and you come up with that shit

          1. Look it up on Dr. Google, there are differences of opinión but there is one certain opinión, that they all wonder about it and that is the beauty that is why in my first comment they are intertwinged? (spelled that wrong) point being is that they have been brought up in religión and they are trying through physics ( which I love to learn just a bit about) through quantum physics that is, to make them apart and they truly can´t in my humble opinión since they can´t explain through quantum physics everything

              1. I know, I am sorry for that but that is me when I feel insulted. Worst actually if it was a guy face to face….. but again sorry, it most certainly was innapropitate. Had a bad days these days so I just reacted in words at least, as with others not in words. Sorry again. You know I´m not usually like that, it might be my defenfense mechanism I guess. But certainly not for a person like you so I do truly regreat it and if you want to “pardon” me I would be gratefull. If not……. I know I F…cked up so I´ll deal with you being mad at me as a human.

          2. Science isn’t betrayed by the invisible pink unicorn under my desk either.
            He’s always there because I know he’s there and science keeps going.

  2. “I suppose it summarizes my book in just four panels” — yes, when I saw it my first thought was it could be on the cover of the second edition of FvF.

  3. Come to think of it, I read Faith v Fact last year. The seed of this strip was almost certainly planted at that time. I will add a hat-tip to the post. Thanks!

    1. taking a moment to – awkwardly – make an edit to a comment above, that was supposed to go here. What I wanted to say was :

      [ GASP !!!! ]


      … like I said – awkward.

    2. The line about the toolkit being mainly for maintenance is brilliant! And, yes, I detect the influence Faith vs Fact in it! In fact a second edition could have a ‘maintenance kit’ section tacked on to each chapter!

  4. They’ve been doing maintenance since Copernicus.

    They’ve been saying “We’re special because God said we are!” Hallelujah. I wish they’d all put their iPhones down design their own sewer systems on faith and see how that works out for them.

  5. Maintenance work, indeed. When you think of religion as a virus, the viral DNA only performs infection and replication(maintenance). It has evolved by selection through culture – a viral meme.

  6. The line about maintenance work is a brilliant way of summing up the difference, and irreconcilable difference between science and religion — science progresses; religion replicates & does a bit of maintenance work.

    Theologians are wrong to take offense at this notion. Artists don’t insist that art progresses, and no one suggests that it is worthless if it doesn’t. It shouldn’t progress. No Buddhist suggests that someone sitting in Vipassana today has more awareness than Gautama the Buddha.

    The trouble only arises when theologians claim to possess factual knowledge. Factual knowledge by its nature progresses, (h/t Aristotle), and if it doesn’t progress, then it wasn’t factual knowledge.

    That’s why theologians find themselves (a) insisting that they don’t make fact claims; then (b) making fact claims; and then (c) insist they never make fact claims. (For anyone yet to read Jerry’s Faith vs Fact, this ridiculous tendency gets mercilessly and explicitly exposed.)

    1. Our old friend NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria), which is a modern idea that the ancients wouldn’t have understood. Here is another writer’s take on it:

      The earliest account I know of a scientific experiment is, ironically, the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal. The people of Israel are wavering between Jehovah and Baal, so Elijah announces that he will conduct an experiment to settle it—quite a novel concept in those days! The priests of Baal will place their bull on an altar, and Elijah will place Jehovah’s bull on an altar, but neither will be allowed to start the fire; whichever God is real will call down fire on His sacrifice. The priests of Baal serve as control group for Elijah—the same wooden fuel, the same bull, and the same priests making invocations, but to a false god. Then Elijah pours water on his altar—ruining the experimental symmetry, but this was back in the early days—to signify deliberate acceptance of the burden of proof, like needing a 0.05 significance level. The fire comes down on Elijah’s altar, which is the experimental observation. The watching people of Israel shout “The Lord is God!”—peer review.

      — “Religion’s Claim to be Non-Disprovable” by Eliezer Yudkowsky

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