Science

The Creationist COSMOS

Ever wonder what a Creationist COSMOS would look like? Perhaps it would look like this:

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 3

Most Teen Girls have No Sex Education Before Having Sex the First Time

sex education

Here we are, in 2014, and we still a huge problem with American children receiving comprehensive sex education. While teen births are down, less than 20% of teens have any form of sex education before having sex for the first time.

Talking Points Memo reports:

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that surveyed teen girls between the ages of 15 and 17, most young women don’t receive formal sexual health instruction until after they’ve already become sexually active. Federal health researchers warn that “this represents a missed opportunity” to ensure teens are receiving the medically accurate information they need to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Even though the teen birth rate has been declining for the past several decades, and continues to hit record lows, the United States still has one of the highest rates in the developed world. The CDC is particularly worried about unintended pregnancies among younger teens between the ages of 15 and 17, since they’re at greater risk for “poor medical, social, and economic outcomes” after giving birth.

Nonetheless, federal researchers found that this population isn’t necessarily hearing the right information about sexual health. About a quarter of them said they had never discussed the issue with their parents. And although about 91 percent of teen girls said they received some kind of sex ed instruction in school before they turned 18, just six in ten said that included information on both birth control and how to say no to sex. And a staggering 83 percent said they had already started having sex before they heard anything about the topic in class:

Considering the fact that there aren’t currently any national standards for comprehensive sex education classes in public schools, the results are perhaps unsurprising. Just 18 states and the District of Columbia mandate that sex ed courses need to cover information about birth control. Instead of providing teens with medically accurate information, many school districts rely on an “abstinence-only” model that imparts shame-based messages about sexuality to youth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the National Education Association all endorse comprehensive sex ed programs. But, thanks to social conservatives who falsely claim that teaching kids about sex will spur more of them to become sexually active, there’s still considerable resistance to adopting these policies…

You can read the entire article here.

Note

I suspect these numbers are even worse because an increasing number of teens engage in oral sex and many of them do not consider fellatio or cunnilingus as having sex. The report defined sex as vaginal penetration.

 

Published: April 9, 2014 | Comments: 1

Do the Religious Beliefs of Politicians Matter?

jesus campaign endorsment

I am a big supporter of religious freedom, but I also know that religious beliefs affect how a person thinks and the decisions they make. So, a politicians religious beliefs do matter because they will affect the decisions they make on our behalf.

There was a time when politicians understood the difference between personal religious beliefs and political beliefs. They understood the difference between sacred and secular.  John Kennedy understood this, and because he did he infuriated Roman Catholic church leaders. However, since the days Jimmy Carter roamed the halls of the White House, religious beliefs and political beliefs have been intertwined, with every President giving some sort of testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.

These days, thanks to the religious right, religious beliefs, namely fundamentalist Christian beliefs, dominate every political and policy debate. From blind support of Israel to reauthorizing the SNAP program, right-wing Christian politicians have been willing to use the Bible to justify how they voted on a matter. Instead of the first question being, what is in the best interest of the American people, the first question is, how does my right-wing Bible reading Christian voter base want me to vote?  Instead of acting on the behalf of all their constitutes, right-wing politicians pander to the religious extremists that now dominates the Republican Party. (especially those who align with the Tea Party)

Result? Politicians advocating for young earth creationism, homeschooling, and Bible-verse infused capitalism. We now have politicians who are ignorant of history, ignorant of the fact that the United States is a secular state. Some even think that the United States is a Christian country.  They oppose religious pluralism and use their political might to destroy the wall of separation of church and state. They are quite willing to support legislation and litigation that gives Christianity preferential treatment and, in some cases, persecutes people who are not Christian.

Because Jesus is alive and well and directing people how to vote, I want to know exactly what a politician’s religious beliefs are. Here in Ohio, Christian fundamentalists have taken over the state government and are using their political power to advance a religious agenda.  Because of this, we can no longer relegate religious beliefs to the realm of personal and private. When a politician flaunts their religious beliefs and uses them to advance their ideology, then their beliefs deserve investigation.

palin speaking in tongues

Scott Walker, the current right-wing nut job inhabiting the Wisconsin governor’s office, is a great example of a politician who frequently speaks about his religious beliefs and uses them for political means.

Here is a 2011 tweet by Governor Walker:

walker tweet

Michael Luciano, writing for The Daily Banter, writes:

…Dear Jesus, please give me the strength to cut food aid and reject health care funding for those who need it. 

John Mackett is the pastor of Meadowbrook Church in Wauwatosa, Wisc., which Walker and his family attend. It’s a Pentecostal outfit that encourages members to speak in tongues. Mackett calls this “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” because apparently spouting nonsensical gibberish is a great way to spread the Word.

Whether Walker has spoken in tongues is unclear because as far as I can tell, no one has asked him.

But it has always struck me how little interest the specific religious beliefs of politicians generate. The media frenzies that accompany high profile political races always seem bereft of nuanced questions on this front. While much of the American public is interested in whether a candidate believes in god, it seems few, including the media “watchdogs,” have time for details….

…While the Constitution prohibits religious tests as a prerequisite for holding public office, it doesn’t prevent us from asking the people seeking our votes to elaborate on the religious views they frequently hold up in their favor.

Specifically, here’s what I would like to ask Walker:

1. Have you ever spoken in tongues?

2. Do you agree with your church’s Statement of Faith that the Bible is “without error”?

2a. If yes, do you believe that god created humans and other animals in their present form, or do you believe that humans and other animals evolved biologically over time?

3. Do you agree with your church’s Statement of Faith that Jesus “provide[s] the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe and only such as receive Jesus”?

3a. If yes, do you believe that the 73 million Americans who aren’t Christians – including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, nonbelievers, etc. – will go to Hell?

3b. In your view, is this an appropriate fate?

4. Do you agree with your church’s Statement of Faith that the Second Coming of Jesus is “imminent”?

4a. If yes, how imminent?

4b. If you believe Jesus is coming back at all, would you look forward to the Second Coming and the accompanying Battle of Armageddon that is said will destroy the world in the Book of Revelation?

5. In 2009, you told a group of Christian business leaders that when you met your future wife, “That night I heard Christ tell me, ‘This is the person you’re going to be with.’” You replied, “Lord, if this is what you want, I’ll try it,” and that it was a matter of “trust and obey.” If one day, Jesus speaks to you and tells you to do something as a public official that you don’t understand, will you do it?

Again, it’s not just Walker. And while affirmative answers to these questions will score a candidate votes in many places, they’ll certainly lose them in others. Either way, we won’t know where candidates stand on the finer details of their religious beliefs if we continue to show irrational reverence to irrational beliefs….

I am with Luciano. We can no longer ignore the religious beliefs of those who want to represent us in Washington or at the State level. I really DO want to know if a presentational or legislative candidate thinks the Battle of Armageddon is real or that the destruction of Russia is prophesied in the Bible. I really DO want to know if they think the earth is 6,000 years old or that evolution is a lie of the devil. I really DO want to know if they think the United States is a Christian nation and that it is our duty to spread Christianity to the ends of the earth. I really DO want to know if they think God speaks to them in prayer or through reading the Bible.  I really DO want to know if they think an ancient religious text, the Bible, should be the moral and ethical standard for all Americans.

The answers to questions like this matter because they materially affect every one of us. (including people who live in other countries since we like to drag the world into our mess) It is time for the media to start asking probing questions about our politicians religious beliefs.  The future of the human race may depend on it. Many of the warmongering and global climate change denier politicians turn to the Bible for justification for their political beliefs. They should be openly challenged over their interpretations and they need to be reminded that they govern a secular state not an American version of ancient Israel.

What do you think? Do you think a politician’s religious beliefs are off-limits or do you think their religious beliefs materially affect the political decisions they make on our behalf and we should know what they believe?  Please leave your pithy comment in the comment section.

Published: March 26, 2014 | Comments: 10

Is God Still in the Miracle Working Business?

miracles

The Bible is full of miracles. Dead people coming back to life. Blind people seeing. Deaf people hearing. Dumb people speaking. Demon possessed people being freed of their demons. Water being turned into wine. A man walking on the Sea of Galilee. The rotation of the earth  stopping for a whole day. An ass speaking like a human. A man walking through a wall. A man walking out of a crowd without being seen. A river walled off so millions of people can cross it on dry ground. Men thrown into a fiery furnace and not being burned. A man thrown in with hungry lions and not eaten.

Those of us who were raised in church heard countless Bible stories about the wonderful, miracle-working power of God.  From our youth up, our pastor told us that the miracle-working God of the Bible is still in the miracle-working business today.  As a child we wholeheartedly believed this, but as we got older we began to notice that God seemed to be on miracle-working vacation. Perhaps we asked our pastor, why doesn’t God heal the sick or raise people from the dead any more? Why do all the miracles we talk about today seem trivial when compared to the miracles recorded in the Bible?

I found this interesting blurb on The Greatest Plurgle:

When pressured for evidence of the veracity of their cherished holy books, many a believer points to the supposed existence of miracles in these texts. People could apparently do the impossible and defy the laws of physics because they were imbued with the strength/knowledge/wisdom/*insert positive trait here* of the deity.

What strikes me as odd is that these miracles often happened when literacy was a luxury and when we had few reliable methods of recording and documenting something. Hearsay was what many people relied on for information, especially if they couldn’t read and write. With the advent of such devices as the telegraph and the telephone, information could be spread more reliably. The invention of cameras meant that images could now be relatively easy to record and store for later use. As it became easier for the average person to record and document phenomenon, the number of miracles subsided. What constitutes a miracle now? A bit of burnt toast? Some good fortune? Coincidence? Supernatural events just didn’t happen anymore.

Or maybe, they never did.

I think The Greatest Plurgle is on to something here. Since we can now use technology to investigate, document, and verify miracle claims, it becomes harder for people to claim a miracle has occurred. The overwhelming majority of miracles are unsubstantiated. The only proof is that a person says that God worked a miracle on their behalf. Either we believe them or we don’t. Put me in the we don’t camp.

Years ago, I was watching Rod Parsley on TV. During his sermon he had the women of the church stand up and he began to pray for them. He had them place their hands on their abdomen and he began praying over them, speaking in tongues, and then, boom…the miracle-working power of God came down and healed some of the church women. Parsley  “sensed” that some of them women had cancer and God, though Parsley, miraculously healed some of the women. Proof? Rod Parsley said so.

But Bruce, Christians pray and God miraculously answers their prayer. How do you know it is God that is answering their prayer? If a person enters the hospital with a headache that is diagnosed a brain aneurysm, is it  a miracle when the doctor operates on them and saves their life? The Christian says yes, but this is a denial of the relevant facts. The real miracle workers are the doctors and the nurses. Through their training and expertise, they were able to save the person from sure death. Where is God in the story? If God is the one who guided the surgeon’s hand, is it also God that is responsible when a different person dies of the same aneurysm before getting to the hospital? If everything is in the hands of the miracle working God, must not this same God be held accountable when he fails to work a miracle? And, isn’t it fair to ask why God chose to miraculously heal one person but not the other? And, if God is such a miracle working God, why do 4 out of 10 people with a brain aneurysm die from it and 7 out of 10  who survive have permanent neurological problems? 200,000 people die each year from God not healing them of their brain aneurysm and half of those who die are under the age of 50.   I bet God’s malpractice insurance premium is quite high.

A few years back, I made a list of the miracles and big answered prayers in my life. As I carefully thought about each of them, I came to the conclusion that almost everything on the list had a human explanation. What I thought was God at the time was really a human being working on my behalf.

Gotcha Bruce. You said “ALMOST” everything. This means there were a few things you couldn’t explain, so those were miracles, right? No, what they were are things that I have no explanation for. I don’t subscribe to the  notion that a lack of explanation means God did it. It just means I don’t know. The likely explaination is that I am lacking the necessary information to determine who/what is responsible. Or perhaps it was luck.

Last year I wrote a post titled Cheating Death. I detailed a few circumstances where I cheated death. I concluded the post by saying:

When I was a Christian I had an explanation for all of these events…God. No one dies before their time. I now know better. I now know I was actually quite lucky.

It is a wonder that any of us live to be old. From the bacteria and viruses we inhale every day, to the accidents we narrowly miss, we are all lucky to be alive. We are also lucky to be living in a modern scientific world that gives many of us access to doctors,healthcare, and medicine that routinely saves us from diseases that would have killed us had we lived 50 or 100 years ago. Modern scientific advances have doubled our life expectancy over the last 150 years. (and those same scientific advances threaten to obliterate us off the face of the earth)

The only miracle-working God in the human story is us. We have the power to heal and transform. We also have the power to destroy. Like the fictional God of the Bible,we have the power to work “miracles” and we also have the power to cause untold suffering and death.

Published: March 25, 2014 | Comments: 18

Ken Ham Advocates Giving Kids the Answers Rather than Teaching Them to Think

ken ham answers book

In a recent blog post titled Equip Your Kids With Answers, Ken Ham lets his young earth creationist readers know that Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are embarking on a program to give kids the answers about the world they live in. The program is called Kids Free in 2014 and through this program every child under the age of 12 is granted free admission to the Creation Museum with a paying adult.

According to Ham:

In the same way, our goal at Answers in Genesis is to equip you to rescue your children from this evil age. How do we do that? Well, we do this through the many outreaches of the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis. Part of our outreach is to produce great resources that you and your families will find helpful and engaging as you search for answers to the skeptical questions of the day.

Rather than teaching children to think for themselves, fundamentalists like Ham not only want to determine what the questions are but they also want to determine what the answers are.  Thinking and reasoned inquiry are discouraged. What is really important is knowing the right answers. What Ham is selling is a psuedo-science version of proof-texting. In the Evangelical church every question is answered with the appropriate Bible verse or verses and this is exactly what Ham is doing when he gives children answers rather than teaching them how to think.

This kind of thinking was on full display recently in several The Way Forward comment threads featuring a young earth creationist. The young earth creationist, educated at a fundamentalist Christian school and college, thought himself better informed about science than people who have spent their entire lives studying science. He saw himself as a science teacher to the non-creationist secular university trained scientists. His entire science training involved a couple of creationist science classes at the high school/college level, a few creationist books, and a lifetime of fundamentalist religious indoctrination.  He is a classic example of a fundamentalist who has been taught the answers but not taught how to think. His  demand for certainty cuts him off from any avenue of inquiry that doesn’t fit his fundamentalist presuppositions.

As the discussion quickly showed, it is impossible to reason with a person who is certain that they have all the right answers. In the case of Ham and his fellow young earth creationists, certainty begins when a person accepts the inerrancy and authority of God’s divine science book, the Bible. Every bit of evidence and knowledge is then made to fit the young earth creationist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. Every time secular scientists come up with new data that casts doubt on young earth creationism, the new data is reinterpreted to make it sound like it is really supporting and reinforcing young earth creationism.

The astounding thing to me is that a few secular trained scientists, like those associated with Answers in Genesis, can reject almost everything they were taught in the science classroom and instead embrace a thoroughly discredited, intellectually dishonest, and harmful theology that pretends to be science like young earth creationism. Of course, I know why this is; theology trumps science. ALWAYS! This is why when I engage a young earth creationist who objects to evolution I do so from a theological rather than a scientific perspective. (for one, I am unqualified to speak when it comes to science) I know that if I can get the young earth creationist to doubt their literalism and their belief that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God, the science questions will take care of themselves. Once the Bible is no longer viewed as a biology/astronomy/astrobiology/geology/paleoanthropology/physics/chemistry (to name a few) textbook, the science questions will likely take care of themselves. Once a person stops looking to the Bible to answer their science questions they will then, hopefully, begin to look elsewhere. And once they start looking somewhere else…who knows where their journey might take them.

Published: March 24, 2014 | Comments: 14

The Real Universe is a Biblical Universe, says Jason Lisle

According to Jason Lisle, who has a PhD in astrophysics from the University College, and is the director of research for Institute for Creation Research:

“Christians need to understand that their worldview is not merely hypothetical. The real universe is the biblical universe. Since the Bible is true, it can be used to explain and make successful predictions about what we find in the physical universe. Genetics, geology, astronomy, paleontology, archaeology, and many other sciences all show facts that are what we would expect, given the truth of the Bible”

As Lisle makes clear, the Bible is the starting point for the creationist. It has never been about the science. The creationist’s interpretation of the science is proof to them that the Bible is the supernatural book they say it is.  This is why I think the best way to deal with creationists is to attack their beliefs about the Bible. If they can be disabused of their belief that the Bible in an inspired, inerrant, supernatural book, then the science questions will take care of themselves. Until then, no amount of scientific evidence will change the creationist’s mind. When confronted with evidence that contradicts their “scientific” views, the creationist will attempt to reshape the evidence to fit their view, and by doing this, their belief that the Bible in an inspired, inerrant, supernatural book is affirmed.

The bottom line is this…until a creationist sees that the Bible in NOT an inspired, inerrant, supernatural book, there is no hope of reasoning with them. Now this does not mean scientists should not challenge the “science” of creationism. They MUST challenge it because creationists are heaven bent on creationism being taught in the public school classroom. To ignore creationists puts our children at risk. If we want a scientifically literate population, then scientists must continue to challenge and attack the false “science” of creationists. (as I must do in attacking the presuppositions creationists have about the Bible)

Published: March 19, 2014 | Comments: 14

Eight Good Rules to Remember When Having an Internet Discussion

internet discussion

I know that many of the things I write about are controversial. I know that my writing irritates and inflames many Evangelicals, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, and virtually anyone else who has right-wing political, social, or religious views. I know that these same people are going to email me, leave comments on this blog, and use their own blogs, forums, and church pulpits to challenge me and discredit me.  I know, as long as I write about the things that I do, some people are going to react in a negative, often hostile, way. I can’t control how they react or what they say. All I can control is how I respond to them.

My friend Mike recently wrote a post titled How Not to Argue on the Internet.  In this post he gives some rules for having a discussion/debate/argument on the internet.  I think Mike’s list of rules is quite good, so I thought I would share them with you. I am going to make a permanent copy of these rules because I need to reminded of them every time I sit down at my desk and begin to craft a response to a comment left on this blog:

  • Stay on topic.
  • If you’re baited to go off-topic, don’t take it – or at least explain how your answer is relevant to the broader discussion.
  • Be as clear as you can.
  • Be concise – show you respect others’ time by avoiding essay-like comments
  • Avoid passive-aggressive behavior. Insults cloaked in a thin veil of intellectual maturity are still insults.
  • Never, ever get personal.
  • If you feel your interlocutor is out to “win” rather than understand where you’re coming from, politely end the conversation. You’re not going to change their mind.
  • Once you feel you’ve made your point, you’re not obligated to keep re-explaining yourself. If you don’t feel you’re being understood, yet you sincerely feel you’ve done your best, let it go.

Thank you Mike for reminding me of these important rules. I suspect my blood pressure will thank you too.

Published: March 19, 2014 | Comments: 9

Why I Have a Man Crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson

neil degrasse tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is my favorite scientist. He is an affable man with a unique ability to communicate complex science in a way that the non-science trained person (me) can understand what he is talking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of COSMOS, especially the part where deGrasse Tyson used the calendar year to explain the history of the universe. I thought, what a wonderful, easy way to explain the history of the universe.

Recently, Neil deGrasse Tyson (NDT) sat down for an interview with Bill Moyers (BM), another man I greatly admire.  The interview is quite long and the complete transcript of it can be found on Alternet. What piqued my interest was what deGrasse Tyson had to say about science, myth, and religious faith:

BM: So when a child sings, or used to sing, I don’t think they do anymore, “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are,” it’s not twinkling. Something powerful, dramatic, and dynamic is happening to it. Right?

NDT: Well, yes, and we call that twinkling. So yeah, there’s starlight coming billions of, or millions of light years, well it depends on if it’s a galaxy, well, hundreds of thousands of light years across space, and it’s a perfect point of light as it hits our atmosphere, turbulence in the atmosphere jiggled the image, and it renders the star twinkling.

And by the way, planets are brighter than stars typically, like Jupiter and Venus. Venus has been in the evening skies lately. And if you go, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are,” and you, I want, you want to wish upon the star, most people are wishing on planets. That’s why their wishes don’t come true. Because the planets are the first stars to come out at night.

BM: Don’t you sometimes feel sad about breaking all these myths apart?

NDT: No, no, because I think it’s, some myths are, deserve to be broken apart. The, out of respect for the human intellect. That, no, when you’re writhing on the ground and froth is coming out of your mouth, you’re having an epileptic seizure. You have not been invaded by the devil. We got this one figured out, okay? I mean, discovery moves on. So, I don’t mind the power of myth and magic. But take it to the next frontier and apply it there. Don’t apply it in places where we’ve long passed what we already know is going on.

BM: Do you give people who make this case, that that was the beginning and that there had to be something that provoked the beginning, do you give them an A at least for trying to reconcile faith and reason?

NDT: I don’t think they’re reconcilable.

BM: What do you mean?

NDT: Well, so let me say that differently. All efforts that have been invested by brilliant people of the past have failed at that exercise. They just fail. And so I don’t, the track record is so poor that going forward, I have essentially zero confidence, near zero confidence, that there will be fruitful things to emerge from the effort to reconcile them. So, for example, if you knew nothing about science, and you read, say, the Bible, the Old Testament, which in Genesis, is an account of nature, that’s what that is, and I said to you, give me your description of the natural world based only on this, you would say the world was created in six days, and that stars are just little points of light much lesser than the sun. And that in fact, they can fall out of the sky, right, because that’s what happens during the Revelation.

You know, one of the signs that the second coming, is that the stars will fall out of the sky and land on Earth. To even write that means you don’t know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the wrong answer.

So what happened was, when science discovers things, and you want to stay religious, or you want to continue to believe that the Bible is unerring, what you would do is you would say, “Well, let me go back to the Bible and reinterpret it.” Then you’d say things like, “Oh, well they didn’t really mean that literally. They meant that figuratively.”

So, this whole sort of reinterpretation of the, how figurative the poetic passages of the Bible are came after science showed that this is not how things unfolded. And so the educated religious people are perfectly fine with that. It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literally, literal truth of God, that and want to see the Bible as a science textbook, who are knocking on the science doors of the schools, trying to put that content in the science room. Enlightened religious people are not behaving that way. So saying that science is cool, we’re good with that, and use the Bible for, to get your spiritual enlightenment and your emotional fulfillment.

BM: I have known serious religious people, not fundamentalists, who were scared when Carl Sagan opened his series with the words —

Carl Sagan, from “Cosmos”: The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

I mean, that scared them, because they interpret that to mean, then if this is it, there’s nothing else. No God and no life after.

NDT: For religious people, many people say, “Well, God is within you,” or God, the, there are ways that people have shaped this, rather than, God is an old, grey-bearded man in the clouds. So if God is within you, what, I’m sure Carl would say, in you in your mind. In your mind, and we can measure the neurosynaptic firings when you have a religious experience.

We can tell you where that’s happening, when it’s happening, what you’re feeling like at the time. So your mind of course is still within the cosmos.

BM: But do you have any sympathy for people who seem to feel, only feel safe in the vastness of the universe you describe in your show if they can infer a personal God who makes it more hospitable to them, cares for them?

NDT: In this, what we tell ourselves is a free country, which means you should have freedom of thought, I don’t care what you think. I just don’t. Go think whatever you want. Go ahead. Think that there’s one God, two Gods, ten Gods, or no Gods. That is what it means to live in a free country. The problem arises is if you have a religious philosophy that is not based on objective realities that you then want to put in a science classroom. Then I’m going to stand there and say, “No, I’m not going to allow you in the science classroom.” I’m not telling you what to think, I’m just telling you in the science class, “You’re not doing science. This is not science. Keep it out.” That’s where I, that’s when I stand up. Otherwise, go ahead. I’m not telling you how to think.

BM: I think you must realize that some people are going to go to your show at the planetarium and they’re going to say, “Ah-hah! Those scientists have discovered God. Because God,” dark matter, “is what holds this universe together.”

NDT: So is that a question?

BM: It’s a statement. You know, you know they’re going to say that —

NDT: So the history of discovery, particularly cosmic discovery, but discovery in general, scientific discovery, is one where at any given moment, there’s a frontier. And there tends to be an urge for people, especially religious people, to assert that across that boundary, into the unknown lies the handiwork of God. This shows up a lot. Newton even said it. He had his laws of gravity and motion and he was explaining the moon and the planets, he was there. He doesn’t mention God for any of that. And then he gets to the limits of what his equations can calculate. So, I don’t, can’t quite figure this out. Maybe God steps in and makes it right every now and then. That’s where he invoked God.

And Ptolemy, he bet on the wrong horse, but he was a brilliant guy. He formulated the geocentric universe, with Earth in the middle. This is where we got epicycles and all this machinations of the heavens. But it was still a mystery to him. He looked up and uttered the following words, “when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies,” these are the planets going through retrograde and back, the mysteries of the Earth, “when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.”

What he did was invoke, he didn’t invoke Zeus to account for the rock that he’s standing on or the air he’s breathing. It was this point of mystery. And in gets invoked God. This, over time, has been described by philosophers as the God of the gaps. If that’s how you, if that’s where you’re going to put your God in this world, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance.

If that’s how you’re going to invoke God. If God is the mystery of the universe, these mysteries, we’re tackling these mysteries one by one. If you’re going to stay religious at the end of the conversation, God has to mean more to you than just where science has yet to tread. So to the person who says, “Maybe dark matter is God,” if the only reason why you’re saying it is because it’s a mystery, then get ready to have that undone.

Published: March 12, 2014 | Comments: 7