Friday 30 September 2011

Letter to the East Alien Dangly Times in response to some religious nuts

Reproduced from Flashmaggie's Posterous.

Dear Sir,

The responses that you’ve published to P J Davison’s assertion (26 September) that we should greet the decline of religious broadcasting with “Good riddance!” were predictable, but full of inaccuracies, particularly on science and evolution.

A R Wainwright of Halstead wrote, “You can’t always see electricity, nor touch, taste, hear or smell it – yet it can be powerful enough to kill you. What makes the spiritual world so different?” Evidence, Mr/Ms Wainwright, that’s the difference. There’s no evidence for any spiritual world, but try telling your energy supplier that there isn’t any for electricity; that’s what meters are for. And just try touching it if you dare!

Richard Martin asserts that “more and more scientists are abandoning belief in evolution.” More and more? In 2006, the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian “think tank”, published an anti-evolution letter signed by 514 “doctoral scientists”. However, a majority of those “scientists” were evangelical Christians without any expertise in the biological sciences, hence no more expert than any lay creationist, such as Mr Martin. The institute letter was published in response to another letter published the day before by the Alliance for Science, which was signed by over 10,000 clergy, scientists and educators who oppose the teaching of creationism in schools. A 1991 Gallup poll found that only 5% of US scientists identified themselves as creationists. Earlier this month in the UK, top scientists and educationalists, including Sir David Attenborough and a leading science educator who’s an Anglican priest, together with the Association for Science Education, the British Humanist Association, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Christian beliefs and values think tank Ekklesia, have put their names to a statement calling for the teaching of evolutionary science, not creationism, in school science classrooms. Far from “more and more”, it’s fewer and fewer, Mr M.

Your correspondents who wrote to defend religious broadcasting are in a small minority. 5 years ago, media watchdog Ofcom asked viewers what types of programming they most valued on the terrestrial channels. Of the 17 genres identified, religious broadcasting came 16th. Considering that we all pay a licence fee yet very few people watch or listen to the religious output, I’d argue that we should have far less.

Margaret Nelson

Thursday 22 September 2011

How to make a creationist weep . . .

"Tell them advanced civilizations do not ever really intellectually degenerate. Tell them that, developmentally speaking, the human brain is not really designed to unfurl and regress, to suddenly erase complex, deeply learned wisdom. It is not our nature to understand, say, electromagnetic waveform and photosynthesis and suddenly revert to thinking it's all magic fairies and gnome spit.
You can say we will never return to slavery. Our hospitals will never again lop off gangrenous limbs with rusty hacksaws and no anesthesia. Never again will we believe the earth is flat, that we are the center of the universe, that trepanning will release evil spirits from your skull. And sorry, but we will never again believe that everything was created when angry bearded grandpa suddenly snapped his fingers and belched.
You can thusly summarize: If the arc of history bends toward justice, it also lurches, hiccups and stumbles toward basic progressive intelligence. Barring some sort of environmental cataclysm and starting all over, there really is no going back.
As the tears begin to flow, you can offer solace: "It's OK," you can smile, "we just evolved that way.""

By Mark Morford. Read complete article.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Profile of Richard Dawkins

  "A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy". A nice profile in the New York Times of  the world's most influential evolutionary biologist.

Monday 19 September 2011

Sunday 18 September 2011

A thought for Sunday church-goers

‎"The most powerful being ever created a universe of over 100 billion galaxies, each with over 100 billion stars, which existed for 14 billion years, and then picked one of the 100 billion galaxies and picked one of the 100 billion stars in that galaxy, and picked one planet revolving around that star, and of the million species on that planet he picked one animal member of all those species and said: ‘I’ve really got to tell that guy to stop gathering sticks on the Sabbath’.” ~ Michael Nugent

Thursday 8 September 2011

How evolution poses a problem for Christianity

But of course  . . . . that's not to say it poses a problem for all Christians, since many Christians happily accept evolution: they see Genesis 1 as merely a metaphor, and declare that if God chose to create us using evolution, that's fine by them. I used to be this kind of Christian myself; but I must confess that my blitheness was only possible because I had only the vaguest possible idea of how evolution works and certainly didn't know enough about it to realize that unguided-ness is central to it. While I welcome anyone who recognizes that the evidence for evolution is such that it cannot sensibly be denied, to attempt to co-opt evolution as part of a divine plan simply does not work, and suggests a highly superficial understanding of the subject. Not only does evolution not need to be guided in any way, but any conscious, sentient guide would have to be a monster of the most sadistic type: for evolution is not pretty, is not gentle, is not kind, is not compassionate, is not loving. Evolution is blind, and brutal, and callous. It is not an aspiration or a blueprint to live up to (we have to create those for ourselves): it is simply what happens, the blind, inexorable forces of nature at work. An omnipotent deity who chose evolution by natural selection as the means by which to bring about the array of living creatures that populate the Earth today would be many things - but loving would not be one of them. Nor perfect. Nor compassionate. Nor merciful. Evolution produces some wondrously beautiful results; but it happens at the cost of unimaginable suffering on the part of countless billions of individuals and, indeed, whole species, 99 percent of which have so far become extinct. It is irreconcilable with a god of love.

Evolution poses a further threat to Christianity, though, a threat that goes to the very heart of Christian teaching. Evolution means that the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are wrong. That's not how humans came into being, nor the cattle, nor the creeping things, nor the beasts of the earth, nor the fowl of the air. Evolution could not have produced a single mother and father of all future humans, so there was no Adam and no Eve. No Adam and Eve: no fall. No fall: no need for redemption. No need for redemption: no need for a redeemer. No need for a redeemer: no need for the crucifixion or the resurrection, and no need to believe in that redeemer in order to gain eternal life. And not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.

Christianity is like a big, chunky sweater. It may feel cozy, it may keep you warm, but just let one stitch be dropped and the whole thing unravels before your very eyes. Evolution is that stitch. Evolution destroys the loving creator on which the whole of Christianity depends. I can quite understand why the evangelicals throw up their hands in horror at the very idea of it and will do everything in their power to suppress it. But they can throw up their hands all they like: it won't make any difference to the reality. All that will be achieved by their determined efforts to keep young people misinformed about it is that another generation of Americans will be condemned to ignorance, unable to understand the world around them properly, and at a real disadvantage when having to deal and compete with their peers from more enlightened countries. Wilful ignorance is a choice; evolution is not.

Paula Kirby (Consultant to Secular Organisations) wrote this response to Governor Perry for On Faith, the Washington Post’s forum for news and opinion on religion and politics.

Friday 2 September 2011