I used to write a lot about the BioLogos organizqtion, particularly after Francis Collins and Karl Giberson founded it with the help of Templeton funds. Its mission was to persuade evangelical Christians that their faith was not at odds with science, particularly evolution. Since one of my avocations is studying how people reconcile faith and science, I paid close attention to BioLogos for a while.
Well, Collins resigned when he became director of the NIH, and Giberson left as well (he’s now “a faculty member at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, where he presently serves as Scholar-in-Residence in science and religion.”) Giberson also writes stuff for Templeton.
The new President of BioLogos is Deborah Haarsma, who was an astronomer but now apparently writes on the compatibility of science and faith.
I lost interest in BioLogos when, as part of its mission to harmonize faith and science, it got heavily involved in arguments about whether Adam and Eve were literal people: the ancestors of all of us. This is a touchstone of Christianity, as that belief is the very source of original sin, and were BioLogos to claim that they were only metaphorical people promulgating a metaphorical sin, it would drive away their audience. Therefore, despite ample evidence from population genetics that two contemporaneous people were NOT ancestors of all of us (indeed, that there were never just two specimens of H. sapiens on the planet), BioLogos twisted itself into knots trying to figure out how Adam and Eve could be real. (After all, some claims of Christianity aren’t negotiable.)
I gave up at that point, realizing that the science-y people at BioLogos had surrendered to the goddy ones—and to erroneous claims of Christianity. This shows my contention that every Abrahamic faith, and many others (e.g. cargo cults, Scientology) do depend on factual statements, and when science disproves them, this creates a conflict. You do have to choose: a literal Adam and Eve or the data from population genetics.
This morning I went back to BioLogos just to see what was up, and I see they’re involved in the same mishigass, not having made much of a dent in causing evangelical Christians to accept evolution and the rest of science. (That was always a fool’s errand.) Here are just two examples
First, a two-minute movie that conveys the tired old message. It’s just down from the top on the main BioLogos Page, so I can’t give you a direct link. But click on either screenshot below and look for the header:
The message is old: science answers the empirical questions, while faith (i.e., Christianity) answers the Big Questions. Here are some of the Big Questions that science can’t answer:
- What matters most?
- Is the purpose of the human soul mapped in their DNA?
- What is the atomic number for joy?
Presumably Christianity can answer them (well, maybe except for the third). The answer to all the Big Questions is always the same: “because that’s the way God wants it, and our job is to serve God and Jesus.” Here’s the last sentence of the video:
Science can tell us how the world works, but only in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus do we see what it all means.
They don’t deal with Judaism, Islam, or other faiths because the audience of BioLogos is evangelical Christians. But one would think that thoughtful Christians would ask themselves two questions:
a.) Well, are those other people who believe other things (and not in Jesus as God/son of God) simply wrong? After all, their belief is as strong as mine!
b.) How do we know that the “answers” that Christianity gives us are true? Science, after all, has independent ways of checking what is true, while the “answers” given by faith are all contained in a single self-contradictory book written millennia ago. And books from other faiths say different things.
But perhaps the terms “thoughtful evangelical Christian” is an oxymoron.
The other piece you can read (click on screenshot below), is a soothing paean to the harmony between science and religion by Deborah Haarsma, BioLogos’s President:
First, Haarsma coughs up some statistics I’ve mentioned before—statistics that show the increasing secularization of America. One reason for the waning of religion in America is that it truth claims of religion seem increasingly irrational and insupportable.
In research over a decade ago, Barna asked millennials who grew up in the church why they left. Although respondents gave several reasons, 29% said “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” and 25% said “Christianity is anti-science.”
In 2018, Barna surveyed the next generation (GenZ), the teenagers currently attending church, and science was an even larger concern: 53% agreed that “the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.” And in 2019, Barna surveyed young people all over the globe, asking them why they doubt things of a spiritual dimension, and found that “science” was one of the top reasons they doubt, second only to “hypocrisy of religious people” and even greater than “human suffering.” Science is a growing factor in people leaving church, doubting God, and dropping away from their faith altogether. With the increased polarization over science during the pandemic, I fear this trend will only grow.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way! Christian beliefs can actually support the investigation of God’s creation, and discoveries in the natural world can build up one’s faith. The problem is that most young people aren’t hearing this message.
Nope, they’re not hearing it, despite BioLogos spending a lot of money to get that message across. And the rest of her piece explains how Christian beliefs (including the Resurrection, original sin, and presumably the End Times) can be made compatible with science and the disaffected young folk indoctrinated in this view.
By the way, Haarsma didn’t come by her Christianity through empirical investigation or study of other faiths: she was brought up that way—indoctrinated.
In the 1970s and 80s, I grew up in a wonderful church in the suburbs of Minneapolis. This was a white evangelical church, back when “evangelical” meant an emphasis on evangelism, not politics. This community grounded me in the faith, giving me a bedrock conviction that God exists and loves me. My Sunday school teachers and the Bible quiz team fostered in me a deep knowledge and love of the Bible. When it came to science, people at church encouraged me in school, and the parents of my church friends included an engineer and a math professor.)
But she did have an epiphany at her Christian college when she encountered John Calvin’s phrase, “All truth is God’s truth,” which of course presupposes a Christian God in the first place. And so she had the Big Revelation that the Bible should be read as an extended metaphor, not as a textbook of science. (What she means here, of course, is that “parts of the Bible aren’t really true, but I know which parts are true”.):
. . . For the first time I heard about the culture of the ancient Near East. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians believed that many gods were involved in creation, and they pictured a flat earth with a solid dome sky with water above it (a “firmament”).
I realized that in Genesis chapter 1, on the second day of creation, God takes credit for making this firmament. That means God didn’t try to correct their misconceptions about the natural world; it would have distracted them from the larger message. God had other goals in mind.
I concluded that if God didn’t put modern science into Genesis, I shouldn’t be trying to get modern science out of Genesis. Instead I should focus on God’s primary message: that there is one sovereign Creator (not a pantheon of gods), that creation is good, and that humans are made in God’s image.
Note how they slyly call the factual claims of the Bible “science”, so that they can evade them by saying “the Bible isn’t a textbook of science.”
It’s curious how these people know what God’s primary message is, and it’s not in the least literalistic. But where in the Bible does it say, “This book is largely metaphorical. The message it intends to convey is this ______________.” After all, the message Haarsma says is God’s primary message could easily have been conveyed to people two millennia ago. It doesn’t need to be tricked out with stories about creation, Floods, exoduses, crucifixions, and resurrections.
And so she tells us how to get people to accept her message, a tactic she learned from Elaine Ecklund at Rice University, who’s made a career twisting the facts to show that science and religion are compatible:
Thus, I came to understand how I could accept the scientific evidence without leaving God behind. This is a key point for many people. Research by Elaine Howard Ecklund in 2018 (Religion vs. Science, see p.139) found that, across multiple science issues, people of faith are open to science as long as they hear two important points: 1) that there is an active role for God in the world and 2) that humans as God’s image bearers hold a special place in creation. No matter the issue, believers need to know that learning scientific findings won’t remove God from the picture or make humans insignificant.
But how are you going to convince people of a theistic deity who cares about you, as well as about the uniqueness of humans made in God’s image? You can do this only by appealing to their confirmation biases (“I want this to be true”) or by propaganda. There is no independent evidence for them.
And this is why I say that in one sense, at least, people must choose between being a pious religionist or accepting science (naturalism, really). Either you have good reasons for what you believe or you don’t. That’s why my book on this topic is called Faith Versus Fact. Sure, you don’t have to choose if you see nature as god, or embrace a watery deism that makes no factual claims. But that’s not the message BioLogos is pushing.
At the end, Haarsma says that the key to getting believers to accept science is to show them scientists who are believers, and ignore those nasty atheists who mix godlessness with science. But what you cannot do is tell the questioning young people that Christianity must be wrong. Let them question, by all means, but also “hold to the core of our faith”:
This was in the 1990s; in the decades following, the militant atheist movement made it even harder for Christians to trust what a popular scientist had to say, because authors like Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, and others were regularly saying that science rules out God and smart people aren’t religious. But in Portraits of Creation, I found chapters by Christian geologists and Christian astronomers, who explained the scientific evidence for the age of the earth and how they reconciled it with their faith. I came to see the Big Bang not as an atheistic alternative to God, but as a scientific model describing God’s work in creating the universe. Learning about science from Christian voices I trusted made all the difference.
Well, science does rule out some aspects of Christianity, like the Great Flood or the existence of a couple, Adam and Eve, who were ancestors of us all, but my main message that science absolutely rules out Christianity, but that it gives is no evidence for Christianity (or any such faith), and why should you believe—without good evidencee—something so important to your life (and afterlife) as Christianity?
Just hold onto your faith when you talk to the young people. Don’t let them bother you with questions like, “What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected besides the contradictory stories in the Bible?”
We can all help the next generation. Let’s come alongside young people in their questions, rather than giving simple answers. We can wrestle with them on the secondary issues, while showing ways to hold to the core of our faith. Let’s point to believing scientists as trusted voices who can explain where the scientific evidence is rigorous, show which pieces are scientific speculation or atheist add-ons, and tell their own stories of following Jesus Christ. And whatever the issue, let’s tell the larger story.
Explaining the scientific evidence is not enough. We can show how God has an active role and how humans have a special place in God’s creation. We can come alongside the next generation as they reconstruct a strong, Christ-centered faith, and become gracious, faithful, and informed leaders on the difficult questions of today and tomorrow.
If you want the full version of this argument (if it be an argument), Haarsma makes some of these points in a 50-minute talk at the 2022 BioLogos conference. You can see the talk here.
52 thoughts on “A check-in with BioLogos”
“Here are some of the Big Questions …”
I can feel god already … or maybe it’s something else.
Yes, reading Haarsma’s piece brought a lump to my throat. Luckily it didn’t end up on the carpet.
Surely “What matters most” is the top quark! What does questioner mean, precisely, when using the terms “purpose” and “soul” in the second question? Is there any good reason to think any such things even exist? And what was the IQ number of the person who posited the third question? If it’s even as many as 2 digits, I’ll be surprised.
The unshakable faith of the faithful is that they are special and that heaven is real. Once that is established magic is possible. Religion is nothing without magic! GROG
Theists and especially the theologians among them presuppose that the concept of their personal god as a spatially/spatiotemporally unlocated immaterial ghost or spirit is coherently intelligible—but is it? I don’t think so, thinking instead that Jewish/Christian/Islamic monotheism is a conceptual nonstarter; so you cannot consistently be a serious rational scientist and accept that nonsensical concept of God.
“[T]hough men may put together words of contradictory signification, as spirit and incorporeal, yet they can never have the imagination of anything answering to them[.]”
(Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. 1651. Ch. XII: Of Religion)
“[W]hat is a spirit? That simple question is sufficient to occupy your attention as long as you remain a Theist, without attending to any thing else: but I will help you out of it: I will solve it for you. A spirit is a phantom, nothing. No such beings exist, and if it may be called a being for the purpose of illustration. It is a chimera: it is a word that relates to nothing, and consequently should not be used, as it can convey no idea.”
(The Republican. Vol. VII, January 3, to July 4, 1823. Printed and published by Richard Carlile. London, 1823. p. 403)
“If you say: “I can imagine myself being a disembodied spirit.
Wittgenstein, can you imagine yourself as a disembodied spirit?”
—I’d say: “I’m sorry. I [so far] connect nothing with these words.””
(Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Edited by Cyril Barrett. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. p. 65)
The descriptions made me think of Casper the ghost.
Hobbes argues that God must in fact be corporeal, which means Hobbes was either a very eccentric kind of Christian or an atheist. Each option is as likely as the other, and scholars are still debating the issue.
I share a quotation :
“Probably the most powerful single assumption that contributes most to the progress of biology is the assumption that everything animals do the atoms can do, that the things that are seen in the biological world are the results of the behaviour of physical and chemical phenomena, with no “extra something’. You could always say, ‘When you come to living things, anything can happen’. If you accept that you will never understand living things. It is very hard to believe that the wiggling of the tentacle of the octopus is nothing but some fooling around of atoms according to the known physical laws. But when it is investigated with this hypothesis one is able to make guesses quite accurately about how it works.”
The Character if Physical Law
I am holding back from posting more quotations this treasure trove of scientific wisdom – seek this book and be enlightened!
Excellent quote: I hadn’t heard that one.
George Carlin has a short riff that sums up evangelical christianity. Youtube george carlin “god loves you”
Re: “… and how humans have a special place in God’s creation.” Well, at least those who are fortunate enough to have been informed about him and are of the persuasion to believe in him on weak/absent evidence. The rest will writhe for eternity in Dante’s inferno. Unless, of course, you continue to cherry pick from the bible what you like and to explain away whatever you don’t like as metaphor, or through some other legerdemain. This is why I often “like” the fundamentalists more, in a way: at least they accept what the bible says and stick by it. Well, OK, at least they say they do.
Adam and Eve *must have existed* because…
the Original Sin arising from their choice…
means that Free Will exists…
therefore god cannot be blamed for everything bad.
Me? I don’t accept the existence of Free Will, or Original Sin, or Adam and Eve. When no god exists it’s not troubling to see that bad stuff happens to good people, or even good stuff happens to bad people.
The other thing that really gets me is how such writers have adopted such a seemingly reasonable, enlightened and/or sciency rhetoric or writing style. My new favorite: “… our deeply held questions”! What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!
Joshua Swamidass has devised a clever way out of the Adam and Eve problem you refer to above. His Adam and Eve are your genealogical ancestors, but not your genetic ancestors; they are not the same people as Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve (who indeed lived at vastly different times). You may see my review of his book here. I am not particularly sympathetic with his project but, as I note in the review, he teaches a lesson to us scientists who are sometimes too sure of ourselves.
Your review says this:
Where in the bible are these pre-Adamic hominids from? Swamidass apparently just made them up.
And no, I reject your comment that I and others should learn a lesson from this. I reviewed and critiqued Swamidass’s thesis here.
Pre-Adamic hominids (Schroeder’s term, not Swamidass’s) are sort of implied; who, after all, were the people who scorned Cain? Who married the descendants of Adam and Eve? It is, sort of, Biblical literalism to claim that pre-Adamic hominids did not exist because they are not mentioned specifically in the Bible.
Swamidass’s thesis is pure special pleading, an ad-hoc hypothesis designed to prop up a failed theory. Nevertheless, it told me not to be too sure of myself when arguing that Adam and Eve lived at different times. In fact there almost certainly was a single couple who are the genealogical ancestors of all of us. We cannot then dismiss Adam and Eve on the basis of genetics. There are many other grounds for dismissing them, but I think that Swamidass has forced us to rethink one of them. I, at least, was too certain that the genetic argument (that they necessarily lived at different times) was dispositive.
I point out in my piece that Adam and Eve must have been only our most recent common genealogical ancestor. There must have been others before them, other hominins. The whole idea is not only special pleading, but untestable.
In 2018, Barna surveyed the next generation (GenZ), the teenagers currently attending church, and science was an even larger concern: 53% agreed that “the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.”
Isn’t that why there is so much political effort to undermine public schools and divert funds to religious schools? If students aren’t learning science in public schools they’ll be less apt to contrast the science they are learning against the religious doctrine they’re also being taught in religious schools.
Damning admission: the incompatibility between science and religion isn’t about the questions being asked, but the humility involved in the asking. “I’m going to test my hypothesis, but the findings need to be what I want,” said no real scientist, ever.
One way to protect a bad idea is to overstate or invent what the opponents’ objections are. Science doesn’t rule out God with 100% certainty — which is what laymen mean when they say something is ruled out. Instead, science is more cautious than to claim something which isn’t logically impossible is, in fact, impossible. But claiming that yes indeed, that’s what atheist scientists were saying gives them room to find the flaw they invented.
Even more so with “smart people aren’t religious.” At no point is that the point Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, etc were making. But how comforting to the intelligent believer if they think the atheist scientists thought so.
Smart people make the same errors dull people make — they just come up with more interesting explanations.
I’m reminded of something Seth Andrews said (not an exact quotation): I wasn’t stupid when I was an evangelical Christian; I was just deluded by indoctrination.
Many islamist sites are devoted to showing that the Qur’an is compatible with modern science, nay, preceded it. A never ending source of (somewhat jaundiced) joy. Just one example:
I think Haarsma would do well to listen to one of Richard Carrier’s talks. And then go on from there. Carrier makes it clear that the evidence for Jesus actually having existed is not exactly robust.
But there is not really any need for any extraordinarily clear evidence for some bloke named Jesus having existed and preached a bunch of religious twaddle and getting crucified for it, as these are not extraordinary claims. A few mentions in a few texts suffice to make it likely enough. (The evidence for this is actually quite good and is the mainstream view in scholarly circles. See, e.g. https://historyforatheists.com/jesus-mythicism/) The claims that he rose from the dead because he’s the son of god and will save the world, … now those are claims that need some extraordinary evidence, which, last time I checked twitter, is not yet extant.
I didn’t mean to say that there never was a preacher executed by Pontius Pilatus, but that the historical Jesus -if indeed he existed- has little to do with the Historical Jesus described. Moreover, I did not say there is no extra-Christian contemporary evidence, just that it is not exactly robust -nor really contemporary.
Eg. Tacitus cites Christians, admittedly he doesn’t appear to doubt them, but he did not report on this crucifixion himself. Note that Tacitus was born a quarter Century after Jesus’s alleged death, not exactly contemporary.
Josephus, born shortly after Jesus’ death did’t write anything we know of before 71 ad. His passage about Jesus is widely thought to be a later insertion, or at least an ’embellishment’. And also not really contemporary.
But we have no evidence of a Jesus born from a virgin, transforming water into good quality wine (a favourite of mine), the feeding of a crowd with a few fish and breads, etc., etc. The census of Quirinus took place in 6 ad. (and why would Joseph have to go to Bethlehem other than to fulfil a prophecy about the Messiah?), etc.
And we would certainly have heard about all these resurrected saints from contemporaries..
There is nothing much left of the ‘Historical Jesus’, maybe just a historical Jesus.
Above you wrote “the evidence for Jesus actually having existed is not exactly robust.” Now you are egregiosly shifting the goal posts.
The Jesus of the gospels is recognized as mythical by critical scholars and the Jesus of Paul’s letters is a theological construct. Whether there is a historical Jesus behind either the gospels or the letters is impossible to determine because there is no contemporary independent source to confirm the existence of such a person. That state of affairs was explicitly acknowledged by Albert Schweitzer in his detailed book arguing against the mythicists of his day. And reliance upon contemporary independent witnesses is the touchstone of the historical method. (Even where sources are late, historians look for indications that the author was drawing upon sources from the time of the person or event being discussed.)
The problem with trying to make a case for the historical Jesus by trying to imagine what the author of the gospels would or would not have made up (criterion of embarrassment) — e.g. the disciples getting violent at Jesus’ arrest — is that very many details in those gospels were evidently made up to illustrate some fulfilment of scripture. But more to the point, I think, is if we let ourselves be guided by the normal methods of dating documents, and that means again relying upon independent witnesses. In the case of the canonical gospels, there is no clear cut evidence that anyone knew of them until the mid second century. We can speculate all sorts of reasons that we lack earlier evidence of their existence, but then we are merely trying to explain why we don’t have the evidence for what we want to be true.
As for the meaning imputed to the crucifixion of Jesus, among the earliest sources is a range of views. Some spoke of his death as a ransom being paid to “the devil” to release the dead from Hades. Others treated his death the same way some treated the (momentary) death of Isaac (some traditions said Isaac was slain but restored immediately) and the Maccabean martyrs — the blood atoned for all sins of Israel.
There is also good reason to think that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark was a careful personification or metaphor for the people of Israel, especially their demise in 70 and even perhaps 135 CE. But one thing is sure: we have no clear cut evidence that anyone had heard of a gospel narrative until the middle of the second century — and that first evidence comes with Marcion apparently producing his gospel (whether that was based on an earlier gospel we don’t know). And once one was known, a cottage industry of producing lots more was begun.
Before then, who knows? We have the Book of Revelation. Perhaps the Ascension of Isaiah.
——Godfrey, Neil 30MAY2022. post-1013930@ “The Christ Myth Theory”. Internet Infidels Discussion Board.
Of course, you are quite welcome to subscribe to the Christ Myth Theory. Please just realize that biblical and historical scholars, religious and secular, are very nearly unanimous in rejecting it. The overwhelming consensus is that there was very likely a historical Jesus. (Obviously the miracles, other supernatural events and conceptions and subsequent myth building are matters for believers and are not at issue here.) You can find the basic info in the Historicity of Jesus entry on Wikipedia or, as mentioned above, at Tim O’Neill’s History for Atheists regarding the Christ Myth or Jesus Mythicism question (https://historyforatheists.com/jesus-mythicism/).
And you are quite welcome to subscribe Tim O’Neill’s legendary atrocious and apologetic historical methodology!
See this tag https://vridar.org/tag/tim-oneill/ at Vridar
• Godfrey, Neil (29 April 2021). “Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #1”. Vridar.
• Godfrey, Neil (2 May 2021). “Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again – and not just Probably) — #2”. Vridar.
• Godfrey, Neil (7 May 2021). “Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #3”. Vridar.
• Godfrey, Neil (10 May 2021). “Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #4”. Vridar.
•Godfrey, Neil (10 May 2021). “Did Paul Quote Jesus on Divorce? — Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #5”. Vridar.
• etc & etc…
However, for peer reviewed scholarly argument, see:
• Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 978-1-909697-35-5.
• Carrier, Richard (2014). “Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt: Should We Still Be Looking for a Historical Jesus?”. The Bible and Interpretation.
• Carrier, Richard (2020). Jesus from Outer Space: What the Earliest Christians Really Believed about Christ. Pitchstone Publishing. ISBN 978-1-63431-208-0.
• Carrier, Richard (2020). “Jesus from Outer Space?”. The Bible and Interpretation.
• Lataster, Raphael (2016). “IT’S OFFICIAL: WE CAN NOW DOUBT JESUS’ HISTORICAL EXISTENCE”. Think 15 (43): 65–79. doi:10.1017/S1477175616000117. ISSN 1477-1756.
• Lataster, Raphael (2019). Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse. Brill-Rodopi. ISBN 978-9004397934.
“…the Christ Myth Theory.”
That terminology is obsolete and should be deprecated!
Arguably every modern biblical scholar who is not a devotee of the god called Lord Jesus Christ, holds that that god (Christ) is a myth, and per said myth: historicists argue that Jesus b. Joseph/Pantera was a historical personage and biblicists argue that the literary protagonist named Jesus, in the gospels (a genre of historical fiction) was based on a real historical person of some sort (i.e he had a long form birth certificate 🙂 ).
The academic criticism of Christian dogma in the belief of Jesus’ immortality and incarnation is commonly held to originate in 1835 with David Strauss.
It makes as much sense to call Strauss (who denied the fantastical assertion of a Christ god’s existence i.e. the fictional lord of the Christian church) a “Christ mythicist” .. as it does to call someone a “Unicorn mythicist” for denying that Unicorns exist. A 1910 syndicated news report noted the mythical theory of Strauss, “[The gist of the mythicist] position in large measure was like the mythical theory of David Strauss, which created a sensation fifty years ago. Strauss held there was verity in the historic Christ, but that the vast mass of miracle and supernatural wonders had been woven like wreaths around the head of Jesus.”
Oh thanks – that was a very interesting talk. I was thinking of a modern analogy like Qanon, & then he had Roswell! I shall look for his stuff.
[MOOD-MUSIC] “In The Beginning”. YouTube. Hans Zimmer.
Lord IS revealed himself to his first devotee and said many wise thing to him. Said devotee gave Lord IS the cognomem XS, and started a cult called XSians.
In short: Paul believed in the divine Lord IS XS from the very beginning!
It seems the more we actually learn about the gospels and their main protagonist the more we must accept the conclusion that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus is a historicized fable. A religious story meant originally to teach, compete and elevate eventually became taken as literal fact.
@Nicolaas Stempels (#13). Here is a current debate with PhD Candidate Jack Bull.
Bull, despite being a self-described practicing Catholic, seems to be a sane and (apparently) independent-thinking scholar of Christian origins — one who is able to collegiality engage with Richard Carrier. I know of no others like him. Bull holds that Marcion’s version of Mark was the first version of Mark !
• “Did Jesus Exist? Dr. Richard Carrier Vs. PhD Candidate Jack Bull”. YouTube. History Valley. 1 July 2022.
I was a moderator of r/atheism (the main Reddit discussion forum for atheists, which calls itself the web’s largest atheist forum, at 2.7×10^6 members) for several years, even though I have never been religious (many of the other mods were ex-Christians). Over the last couple of years I began seriously contemplating that MAYBE, just maybe, the world as a whole, i.e. humanity, DOES need religion as some kind of stabilizing cultural force. I started thinking this way much more seriously after John McWhorter suggested that Wokeness has many of the accoutrements of religion, and remembering Dr. Dawkins’ statement that if the only antidote to Islam was Xantiy, he figured he’d have to support Xianity.
However, I’m still a hardened scientist (Hypothetical Physicist, to be precise), and religion thinking it can’t survive unless it destroys science is still one of the worst things about religion in general. I think religion is likely a direct cause of compartmentalization, and perhaps THE cause. I imagine that 100 centuries of religion have had a huge and overpowering effect on culture and sexual selection etc, resulting in most humans having a far stronger impulse toward religious-type beliefs than we’d have had otherwise.
“… MAYBE, just maybe, the world as a whole, i.e. humanity, DOES need religion as some kind of stabilizing cultural force.”
meaning, as a force that more stabilizing than it is now. Or was. And stabilizing for the religious, as well as those outside the one true religion.
Re “… i.e. humanity, DOES need religion as some kind of stabilizing cultural force.” Oh, indeed, you know, since human history was sooo fucking stable when religion ruled the waves.
If the world needs religion as a stabilizing cultural force, how come countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland are remarkably stable and basically atheist? They don’t seem to have replaced religion with wokeism or any other brand of unevidenced faith.
The pre-Adamic hominids were citizens of a place east of Eden, where Cain’s wife came from. As the inerrant bible tells us: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.” Cain was apparently so fond
of the Noddites that he built them a city, thus establishing the field of urban planning. Bible students have ever since wondered where the city of Enoch was located. Candidates of course include Enns in Austria and Enköping in Sweden, although I am partial to Encino in California.
Missed the opportunity on the suggestions post to say I enjoy this type.
Cold water on fluffy nonsense is always a joy to read for.
I have read very little of the bible, only enough to know that I didn’t care to read any more. But if the bible got anything at all scientifically correct, we only know that because of science. Without science we would have no way to differentiate what in the bible was correct and what wasn’t. Without science we would be stuck either believing it all, discarding it all, or cherry picking simply that which we liked. In the end it is the science that showed us what was true, not the bible. So while the bible may be historically interesting it seems to me to be scientifically irrelevant.
First time commenting here but this is the only blog I check every day. I am not a scientist or academic but I believe that religion and the erroneous belief in free will are extremely damaging. So I believe that blogs like this that explore these topics deeply are not just interesting but important (not news to you or your readers I’m sure). So it would be good to see this kind of stuff become as ubiquitous as religion because many people believe in religion simply because it is in the air that they breath. Most of these believers are harmless but they provide the ground out of which religious extremism can flourish.
Well the bible is not one book composed at one time, & once you start to realize that a lot falls into place. It would hardly be fair to those Bronze Age peoples who lived before science existed – say the last millennia- to expect it to be scientific. That is why religious texts are clearly just imagination & story telling, not the divine revelation that they pretend. What is sad though is that even in the 21st century when science gives us our way of life, we cannot slough off the skin of all that old nonsense, but indeed go on to create ever new nonsenses.
Humans really are very stupid.
Humans really are very stupid.
Except of course for those such as Haarsma who can overcome their human limitations to read accurately and in detail the infinite and omniscient mind of God and explain it to the rest of us.
I think what BioLogos is doing is merely theology, albeit Scientific Theology – putting on a show with scientific language to keep the congregation mesmerized.
I had a John Burroughs quote but it’s ling. But in 1900 Burroughs was already on to theology’s “puerile” minds, e.g. the monk Cosmas.
Check out “Light of Day” on Google Books. Search for “puerile” … and “glue” … to find the quote.
Stained-glass words from the scientific literature.
Same old same old. Religionists doing logical acrobatics to preserve claims that are nonsense. Religion makes empirical claims about the world. Empirical claims can be wrong. When scientists make empirical claims that turn out to be wrong, they reject those claims and move on. When religionists make empirical claims that turn out to be wrong, they start doing their acrobatics thing. One well-worn move is to argue that the original claim was just metaphor—that it wasn’t really meant to be taken literally—but that everything else holds. When that doesn’t work, they pivot to arguing that religion isn’t about empirical claims at all. In other words, they lie.
Not only do science and religion make incompatible empirical claims, they also hold to incompatible methods. Those who seek compatibility between the two are engaging in a fool’s errand.
Devotees of sophisticated theology dismiss science for being reductive. Therefore, one might understand that the truth claims of religion must be taken metaphorically because they are so BIG—being, after all, answers to those famous BIG QUESTIONS.
And another thing (I’m posting too much),
What do they mean, “big”? How is that measured? Bigness units? They just assert the question is “big”. So I can assert my question is bigger :
“How do you know your question is “big”, and by how much?”
Pfff … language magic spells — “big”.
Religion of this type have been pacifying and correcting itself over centuries. Once they learnt, killing family members, sticking spikes into people, buggering young boys, killing/ abusing unmarried pregnant females was not acceptable, it made god look like a dirty old man (YOU THINK?) Who also enjoyed a war or two and covering both sides was a winning strategy. Just to make it more interesting let’s go tribal and set one religious doctrine against another, what fun!
All of this behaviour right in front of the righteous. BUT now it’s time to get a little more leverage, wheels a falling off, LETS’s USE SCIENCE!
Squirming at its slow death everything is up for grabs even more lying which is religion exposed and desperate.
The faith aspect bolstering this, is humans being a bunch of lunatics which unfortunately there are ample examples of such an animal.
“What matters most?”
In what context, for who, and when?
“Is the purpose of the human soul mapped in their DNA?”
Assumes facts not in evidence.
What is the atomic number for joy?
I think “What matters most?” is one if those corporate board room licks, like “when the rubber meets the road”, “raise the flag”, or … “synergy”.
I mean, yes, it can be a useful question. But The Big Question? Douglas Adams already beat us to it.
But I know smart people who are religious. Therefore, science doesn’t rule out God. Voila.
By the way, please accept our congratulations on your elevation from gnu to new.
“ I realized that in Genesis chapter 1, on the second day of creation, God takes credit for making this firmament. That means God didn’t try to correct their misconceptions about the natural world; it would have distracted them from the larger message.”
Distracted? God would have had the attention of every human being that ever lived! “At the beginning God created the universe, which contains 200 billion galaxies…”
Yeah, it is kinda weird to have day and night, and light and waters, before there even were stars.
However, I was told as a child we should not take the first 11 chapters of Genesis literally. That made the rest OK, of course.
It isn’t the writings of “Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, and others” that makes people educated in science indifferent to organized superstition,. it is the facts of nature. The writings can make it easier to become indifferent, but – with apologies to our prominent host – they aren’t the source for the societal change
And this is twisted too, but in Haarsma’s own speciality of astrophysics:
There is no room for significant magic in an average flat general relativistic universe. It is sufficiently symmetric that we can describe it within observational uncertainty and beyond reasonable doubt by symmetries of natural processes that excludes magic action. ‘I wish it was so’ is not making it so.
But at least I now know why “Big Think” got some of their “No Think” articles from. I hope they don’t go the way of NPR or other apologetic media, I expect more quality.