The journal Nature is not prone to publish a lot about religion and science, so this one is unusual. Lots of comments from the religious and the not-so. Interesting to note the tone of the different comments.
“The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn.”
The full article called “I used to be a human being” is here: http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html
This article tries to clarify the categories of creationism for the uninitiated reader. As usual with such things it caused a vigorous comments storm between those who think science is the be all and end all, and those with more moderate views of science.
Francesca Joynt writes: “A little while ago I asked my mother the question that most mothers hesitate in answering: “When you had me, did you think about abortion?” … When it comes to caring for or raising a child who has an intellectual disability like myself, you need to think about what’s in the best interest of the child before thinking of what many people say is inevitable: an abortion.” More here.
Here’s another sad, sad story told by an expert about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Our policies are likened to torture: designed to induce dreadful suffering.
JOHN STACKHOUSE: As a Christian myself, I think that the idea that Christians run the country, well, we’ve had a chance to do that a number of times over the last 2,000 years and the record is pretty chequered actually. You know, we didn’t run South Africa all that well and we had trouble in imperial Russia making sure everybody was looked after and there were those few bits of European history where Christians ran the show and didn’t necessarily came off unscathed. So as a Christian myself, I’m not entirely sure we are trustworthy with the whole package. I think, in fact, it’s best to have a diversity of views and keep each other honest and that’s why I think the right wing theocrats, whether they’re Christian or Muslim or whether their even narrow-minded folk like Richard Dawkins, who thinks that only people like him should run the show.
JOHN STACKHOUSE: People do have the right to be a bigot. In fact, it is an important thing for Christians, as well as others, to try not to grant other people less liberty than God does. It’s always important not to be more holy than God and if God is willing to allow people to say all sorts of things that he doesn’t approve of, we need to be careful about that as well. … I do think that free speech is so precious that we have to be very careful not to pronounce people unable to be bigots, because bigot is always defined by the people who have power and when people in power start saying what you can and can’t say I frankly am a little worried about that.
JOHN STACKHOUSE: I’ve been teaching world religion for 25 years. Islam is not a religion of peace. They’ve tried to trademark that but it’s just not true. Islam is a religion that copes with the real world and in Islam, including in its holy books, there are provisions for warfare and there are provisions for defensive warfare and there are also provisions for the extension of Islam, which is why the whole history of Islam has been steady territorial expansion. Of course it’s a religion of peace, by which they mean the subjugation of other people under sharia and that’s peace but it is an imperial sort of peace and I’m not judging it. I mean, we Christians have done the same thing and lots of other religions have done the same thing as well.
TONY JONES: I mean, I beg to differ you. You do appear to be judging it?
JOHN STACKHOUSE: No, I’m simply correcting the record. I mean, as a matter of fact, the Qur’an and the sharia are very clear that the jihad can be both the internal, the greater jihad of subjecting myself to the will of God, and the lesser jihad is to subject the world to God. I mean there is only two realms. There is Dar al-Islam. There is the submitted part of the world and then there is the rest of the world that’s not yet submitted to God, the dar al-harb, the situation of war, the house of war. So it’s a pretty clear worldview and while many of my Muslim friends are liberal and multicultural and love Canada and have no interest in the violent prosecution of their faith and I think it’s really important to understand, nonetheless, we just can’t make sense of world history if we suggest that Islam doesn’t have within it the legitimation of violence.
PETER GRICE: Professor Stackhouse, as you know, there is a lot of strife in the world at the moment in various place, including what one commentator called “Evil, the likes of which we’ve not seen in generations.” Such evil is even being visited on innocent children and many Australians are beginning to feel a sense of despair. It’s tempting to ask why God hasn’t shown up on the scene to fix a very broken situation. But supposing he did, what is your sense of a just punishment for those who bomb, torture, rape and slay innocent human beings and, by the same token, what remains of a positive vision for peace?
JOHN STACKHOUSE: Well, I think it’s an excellent question because I think we do have to presume, if we’re Christians and people of similar outlooks, that God is mourning over the world, that God is not happy about these things and that God is, in fact, as the ancient scriptures say, you know, keeping a log of these things. That nobody does anything in a secret place. God has maximum surveillance, in fact. He does know what everybody is doing all the time.
TONY JONES: He knows your metadata?
JOHN STACKHOUSE: He knows the metadata and the data. He has got it all.
TONY JONES: He doesn’t do much with it though?
JOHN STACKHOUSE: Well, that’s, I think, the crucial question is that if God wants me to continue to trust him as an all-good and all-powerful God when he manifestly seems not to be one or the other or both, then he’d better give me a jolly good reason to trust him anyway and God hasn’t given me any account, any daily briefing about why he is allowing the atrocities here and why he is allowing them there and they go back since the dawn of time.
TONY JONES: Well, is that where faith comes in? Because, as we know, plenty of Holocaust survivors actually lost their faith once they saw the real dark side of human nature and realised that God was never going to intervene?
JOHN STACKHOUSE: Well, indeed, I think that post-Holocaust theology among my Jewish friends is a very daunting and very dark place because, for them, there is no ground on which to continue to believe in God that is strong enough to outweigh the grounds to not believe in God and that, to me, is the real question. It’s not necessarily whether God explains to me what he is going to do. I’m not sure I have the mental or the moral capacity to be able to judge whether God is doing a good job in the world. I think he is not doing a very good job often, but I’m not sure I’m capable to judge that. But if he wants my allegiance, he jolly well better give me a very good reason to trust him anyway and for the Christian, that answer is Jesus. That answer is looking at this figure, whom Christians believe is the very face of God. So if God is like that, then I can trust this hidden god who is seems to be making a mess of the world. And if he’s not like that, then I am really in a much difficult situation. So, Tony, for me, as a Christian who looks at the world like anybody else does, if I don’t have Jesus, I frankly am going to be an atheist because, like my Jewish friends post-Holocaust, God actually doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job running things.
Steven Pinker’s 2002 book The Blank Slate: The modern denial of human nature was enormously popular and acclaimed. Why is it important? It’s important for the sake of humanity to preserve the view that there are some values and practices that are normal; humans are not a blank slate and infinitely manipulable. From a Christian perspective the diversity thesis is an (invalid) argument for relativism with the implication that Christianity is, at best, true for some people. But Pinker falls into the error of thinking science can give us all the answers about who we are. More here in Mary Midgely’s review of the book. A short quote from the review: “…aspiring new ideologies have taken care to appear in scientific dress, using apparatus drawn from the physical sciences and claiming their authority.”
If you don’t know about ISIS and the sad tale of the destruction of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities, you should. Here.
Judge Garry Neilsen has recently suggested that sexual relations between consenting adults who are brother and sister might be found acceptable by a jury. Such is the logic of individual liberty (‘as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’) that denies traditional moral norms unless they can be shown to cause harm. What seems peculiar is that there is such a furore about what the judge has said. Isn’t he being consistent with a culture that has normalised abortion, adultery, torture etc. in the name of individual liberty and the utilitarian principle of maximising pleasure? If you do away with God-given norms then what precisely is the problem with sex between brother and sister (who are adults)? This is yet another example of the moral confusion of a society that sometimes holds to its Judeo-Christian roots and sometimes rejects them; moral confusion runs rife.
Mark Scott runs the ABC. And he’s an unapologetic Christian. This article/interview at Eternity offers an insight into how he integrates his faith and a job where he exercises enormous power.
This article is an interesting intro to cosmology and also to philosophy of science. If the multiverse theory of the origin of our, and other, universes is ultimately untestable, is it science? Quote: “The inflationary paradigm is fundamentally untestable and hence scientifically meaningless.”
…is the highest form of treason, said TS Eliot. (And doubly so because of the pun!) The European right rejects Christian convictions but wants Europe to be Christian. The article is here and here’s a smidgen:
The European right is advocating a Christian identity for Europe not because it wants to promote Christianity but because it wants to push back against Islam and the integration of Muslims — or what the National Front calls “the Islamization of Europe.”
Here’s one for the ‘boys’, sent in by a Grist reader. Read, learn, mark, inwardly digest, spit out the dross, and if the cap fits, wear it. And if you are prone to be reactive about such things, perhaps recognise that that might be something to learn from too.
Here’s an intro to genetics and a Christian scientist’s response to the evidence for evolution.
This article is about a new book, which says the Christian church is wrong about human sexuality. The article is interesting for two reasons: firstly because of the issues and arguments around sexuality; secondly because it highlights the place of tradition in the Christian faith. Much comment could be made but time is short. Perhaps one thing, for what it’s worth: I think Christians (no, anyone, actually) should be very wary about opinionating about any issue unless they have first identified/understood/listened with love to those they disagree with. Otherwise their answers are cheapened by lack of empathy. (I’m thinking of glib Bible-quoters who, without empathy, seem to enjoy condemning people to hell, damning homosexuals, telling single people what a blessing singleness is, telling bereaved people that all is well, etc.) So if Christians are going to say that homosexual practice is not God’s best for his people, let them say it having listened and (slightly) understood what it is to be homosexually oriented.