October 24, 2010

Where Science and Theology Collide

Posted in atheism, science, scripture, theology at 10:32 pm by Jerry

…The words NATURAL and RANDOM are not meant to exclude an intelligent agent: they are meant to accurately describe the process. The fact that gods become redundant is a side effect of the power of evolutionary explanations. All of our observations of evolution are adequately explained by random chance as the dominant force in our history, with directionality and function conferred by local, short term adaptation. There is no teleological force. There is no evidence of divine or even intelligent intervention in our past. Is this smart theology? To promote the counterfactual and unsupportable? It’s cunning and weird and increases the complexity of the model to postulate imaginary and unexaminable forces, but it doesn’t make it right.

…This “monogenism” is apparently an important (and sophisticated!) assertion. It’s an insistence on the idea that Adam and Eve were unique, real, and literal individuals and that the entire human race is directly descended from them with no other contribution from other individuals of that time. Some are fine with the idea that Adam and Eve were themselves the product of evolution and had non-human ancestors, while others insist that they had to have been divinely and magically created without parents, but at some point in time the Catholic god set these two, and only these two, people apart, bestowed them with souls, and set them to work procreating to generate the entirety of the human species.

That’s some genetic bottleneck. One pair. That’s it. Talking about populations defies sophisticated Catholic theology.

Unfortunately for them, it also defies population genetics and again violates the principles of evolutionary biology. Evolution is precisely about changes in populations over time, not individuals, and furthermore, a relatively recent bottleneck in genetic diversity that narrow would be apparent in our genomes. When you get right down to it, it turns out that Catholics are not supposed to accept evolution — they are only expected to embrace a superficial and literally falsified version of evolution that strips out the entirety of its mechanism.

…They also declare that Adam and Eve were real people and the sole progenitors of the human race, for exactly the same reason: original sin. Christian doctrine is built on the notion that all people are intrinsically guilty and sinful, and the specific crime they are guilty of is the act of disobedience by Eve described in the book of Genesis. While much of the rest of Genesis can be treated as poetic metaphor by Catholics, that ‘fact’ must be indisputable — we’re all sinners because Adam and Eve broke the rules in the Garden of Eden.

I know. Inherited guilt is absurd, but that’s how sophisticated theology works.

Why do Catholics have to prop up this concept of original sin? Because Jesus’s sacrifice makes no sense if it wasn’t done to atone for a universal crime. We all must have inherited that sin, or some of us are innocent and Jesus was irrelevant to us. Can’t have that! That would mean we weren’t subject to the domain of Christianity.


October 23, 2010

I Wish Believers Had Faith In…

Posted in church, culture, film, marriage, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 8:03 pm by Jerry

I wish believers had faith that same sex attractions were not sinful.

I wish they had faith that same sex marriage is righteous, Godly, beautiful.

I wish they had faith that wherever the bible seems to stand on a committed same sex romance, someday, God would reveal to biblical scholars and theologians that same sex marriage is God’s plan.

I wish believers had faith in THIS kind of love.

History and Biblical Scholarship

Posted in history, religion, scripture at 3:48 pm by Jerry

In one respect, history is at a serious disadvantage with respect to the hard sciences. When a chemist or physicist makes a hypothesis, we can perform repeated experiments to prove whether the hypothesis is false (or falsifiable, for that matter). Historical events occur once and are lost to the past. We have no direct access to the past, only the recollections of others. So even in the best of cases, we can only establish high probability. You would think that being stuck with late, contradictory, anonymous and pseudonymous sources would make Bible scholars more cautious. You’d be wrong.

Biblical scholarship is the only sub-field of history in which I’ve heard actual scholars use the term “innocence of the text” and accuse others of being “too skeptical.” It’s the only sub-field in which scholars feel obliged to publicly state that they don’t discount supernatural events, as if not believing in miracles and magic would be grounds for dismissal. (I know of no Homeric scholars who feel compelled to say they’re not sure whether Athena appeared on the field of battle at Troy.)

NT scholars are an even rarer breed. They take literary relationships and turn them into historical relationships. They transform plausible scenarios into hard facts. They create source documents out of thin air. They imagine an oral tradition that goes on for 40 years, but still contains factual information. They ostracize dissenters and then ask why they don’t get published in respected journals. Ask yourself, why did Earl Doherty have to self-publish a monumental work like Jesus: Neither God nor Man? Why did Thomas L. Thompson have to leave the U.S. and find a teaching position in Copenhagen? Why is it that Robert M. Price, a man with two earned PhDs, can’t find a position in any American university?


Using Hearsay as Historical Facts

Posted in history, religion, science, scripture at 3:23 pm by Jerry

Imagine a detective beginning with a hearsay account of a murder, and without knowing who made this assertion, and without any empirical evidence that there was a murdered victim, or that the said person had even existed, yet proceeded to seriously investigate the hearsay claims, apply criteria of embarrassment and dissimilarity to that unsourced assertion, and on that basis bring charges against someone in court!