Friday, April 22, 2011

Saved! ... or not

I just finished Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape (a great book BTW) and I will review it later, probably doing several posts on different topics, but, in honor of Good Friday, I thought I'd tease with the following bon mot. Harris was speaking of Francis Collins, the head of the NIH and a scientist that Christians like to parade out when trying to say that religion and science are compatible, because Collins professes to be a Christian.

Thus, Collins’s faith is predicated on the claim that miracle stories of the sort that today surround a person like Sathya Sai Baba and do not even merit an hour on cable television somehow become especially credible when set in the prescientific religious context of the first-century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed occurrence, as evidenced by discrepant and fragmentary copies of copies of copies of ancient Greek manuscripts. It is on this basis that the current head of the NIH recommends that we believe the following propositions:

  1. Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, was born of a virgin, ritually murdered as a scapegoat for the collective sins of his species, and then resurrected from death after an interval of three days. 
  2. He promptly ascended, bodily, to “heaven” -- where, for two millennia, he has eavesdropped upon (and, on occasion, even answered) the simultaneous prayers of billions of beleaguered human beings. 
  3. Not content to maintain this numinous arrangement indefinitely, this invisible carpenter will one day return to earth to judge humanity for its sexual indiscretions and skeptical doubts, at which time he will grant immortality to anyone who has had the good fortune to be convinced, on Mother’s knee, that this baffling litany of miracles is the most important series of truths ever revealed about the cosmos. 
  4. Every other member of our species, past and present, from Cleopatra to Einstein, no matter what his or her terrestrial accomplishments, will be consigned to a far less desirable fate, best left unspecified. 
  5. In the meantime, God/Jesus may or may not intervene in our world, as He pleases, curing the occasional end-stage cancer (or not), answering an especially earnest prayer for guidance (or not), consoling the bereaved (or not), through His perfectly wise and loving agency.

Just how many scientific laws would be violated by this scheme? One is tempted to say “all of them.”

"... And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you've been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don't want to be my slave
But you're staring at me again
Like I need to be saved, saved ..."

Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pregnant with knowledge

Again, from Roger Ebert's Journal, on the importance of reading:

"... At the end of the day, some authors will endure and most, including some very good ones, will not. Why do I think reading is important? It is such an effective medium between mind and mind. We think largely in words. A medium made only of words doesn't impose the barrier of any other medium. It is naked and unprotected communication. That's how you get pregnant. May you always be so."

What to do when meeting an alien ...

From Roger Ebert's Journal:

click to enlarge

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Philosophy/Religion Song of the Day: "New Dark Ages" by Bad Religion

Yeah can you hear the call in our rambling land
Susurrations that can expand beyond all hope of light
and plunge us into into unrelenting night

A pall on truth and reason,
It feels like hunting season

So avoid those lines of sight
and we'll set this right

Welcome to the new dark ages
Yeah, i hope you're living right
These are the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

Now come ye children one and all, let's heed Ezekiel's call
And bide until the word is good and ripe and get plucked clean out
of sight

The world will be erased
Our kin will be immaculate ejaculate in space
Before the kind of king's love, he'll snatch us
From above, brothers help me sing it

Welcome to the new dark ages
I hope you're living right
These are the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

So how do you sleep? “ there's nothing to keep“
This is deep
Because we're animals with golden rules
Who ... who can't be moved by rational views

Welcome to the new dark ages
I hope you're living right
Welcome to the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

"An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it." -- James Michener