NPR, science, and God. (And magic.)

In a commentary posted on the NPR web site, Nancy Ellen Abrams writes:

“God” is a word. If we define it, even subconsciously, as something that cannot exist in our universe, we banish the idea of God from our reality and throw away all possibility of incorporating a potent spiritual metaphor into a truly coherent big picture. But if we take seriously the reliable — and, thus, invaluable — scientific and historical knowledge we now possess, we can redefine God in a radically new and empowering way that expands our thinking and could help motivate and unite us in the dangerous era humanity is entering.

I actually have had similar thoughts myself, once upon a time, and can still feel a bit of sympathy for this point of view. I think, however, that any comment I could make on this article would be best made by restating her arguments with one slight substitution. Instead of taking this as an argument for a “scientifically real God,” what if we view it instead as an argument for magic?

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Human life begins at conception

I saw somebody’s new Facebook page the other day, with a picture of a small child touching a pregnant woman’s belly. The text overlaid on the image said, “Science proves that human life begins at conception.” Hey, if you keep repeating something often enough, it eventually becomes “true,” right? And you probably know a bunch of good answers to this one, like I do. But I think I’m going to try something different this time. I’m going to agree that, yes, human life does begin at conception.

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Anti-evolution bill nixed by lawmakers

Good news from South Dakota. As the Argus Leader reports:

Senate Bill 114 was killed last week. More accurately, it was deferred by the state senate’s education committee to the “41st legislative day,” which doesn’t exist.

Senate Bill 114 was another one of those stealth creationism bills designed to encourage public school teachers to introduce kids to Genesis under the guise of “questioning” evolution. And you have to love this bit:

Language in the bill is also similar to model legislation from a group that has created intelligent design curriculum for private and home school teachers. Representatives for the Washington-based Discovery Institute say they don’t support teaching intelligent design in public schools.

No, of course they don’t support teaching ID in the public schools. They just design the curriculum (and help craft laws like SB 114) to make it possible for someone else to support teaching ID in public schools. See, that way, when the school district gets sued for First Amendment violations, and loses, the Institute doesn’t bear any of the liability, and are free to move on to the next school district.

Darwin was wrong (even though he was right)

In response to a recent proposal to have February 12 recognized nationally as “Darwin Day,” Ken Ham has issued a counter-call for that date to be hailed as “Darwin Was Wrong Day.” Ironically but perhaps not surprisingly, the AiG web site demonstrates that Darwin’s most famous contributions—natural selection and new species arising by descent with variation from common ancestors—are not only correct, but are necessary prerequisites even for creationist “biology.”

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Understanding the strategy

A lot of people were surprised when Republicans, including Sen. Jim Inhofe, voted in favor of an amendment explicitly stating that climate change is real and is not a hoax. They needn’t have been. Conservatives have been saying for years that climate change is real, even while insisting that it is a hoax, depending on who they’re talking to and how much they think they can get away with. And to those who think the Senate vote is a good sign: sorry, but that’s only partly true. It does show that people are (reluctantly) conceding the facts. But does this mean the Republicans are now willing to support measures designed to try and address the issue before it turns into a global catastrophe? Unfortunately no. It only means a slight shift in tactics.

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A wasted debunking

Via Ed Brayton’s blog last Halloween, we have this story of Raelians attempting to debunk the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

In this study we tested the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation by DNA analysis. Results showed unequivocally that the rituals performed by the priests during the Eucharist sacrament have no detectable effect on the substance of altar bread at the DNA level.

Very amusing, but pointless. The reason the doctrine is called “transubstantiation” instead of “transformation” is because when Catholics say “transubstantiation” they mean something very different from transformation. And it all goes back to Aristotle.

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Ken Ham knows

This article is a bit old, but it recently popped up in one of my news feeds, and I had to smile a little.

Time is actually a created entity. The first verse of the Bible reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis added).

A study of this verse reveals that God created time, space, and matter on the first day of Creation Week. No one of these can have a meaningful existence without the others. God created the space-mass-time universe. Space and matter must exist in time, and time requires space and matter. Time is only meaningful if physical entities exist and events transpire during time.

“In the beginning . . .” is when time began! There was no time before time was created!

It’s a classic example of how superstition can corrupt your thinking to the point that you can look right at the truth and even report what you are seeing, without ever actually seeing the truth you are looking at. If there was no time before time began, then there has never been a time when time (and space and matter and energy) did not already exist. In other words, there has never been a time when the material universe did not already exist. And since there has never been a time when the material universe did not already exist, then there has never been a time when it could have been created. Not even by a God.

Ken Ham knows this. He looks right at it and reports it to us. And yet, as you can see by the way he phrases it, he still believes that at some point in time, God created a universe that did not exist before that point. It’s a self-contradiction, but it’s what he believes, despite what he knows.

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Everything we need to know about God

I was a conservative, Bible-believing Christian until I was in my early forties, and as a believer, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was to understand God. Ironically, it’s only now, after a decade and a half as an atheist, that I’ve finally reached an understanding that truly does explain everything that seems odd or mysterious about God.

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Where the facts really stand

My two posts on Brendan Eich have attracted a commenter who wants us all to know he thinks homosexuality is a form of mental illness, and that therefore it is “tough love” to discriminate against them and deny their right to get married. He and I have been having a long back-and-forth discussion, in the most recent of which he said supporters of gay rights are guilty of “mental gymnastics” and “misrepresenting facts.” I have summarized my understanding of the relevant facts in my reply to him, but after thinking it over I’ve decided to promote it to a blog post as well. I’ll be interested in hearing your comments.

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Expectations: exceeded.

Since I previously expressed reservations about Bill Nye’s wisdom in agreeing to debate Ken Ham at the Creation Spewseum, I think I owe him a follow-up: he blew me away. My pessimistic assessment was wrong, and he totally pwned the opposition. Nor am I alone in this assessment. Dana Hunter has this to say:

I thought this would be a fiasco when I found out he’d agreed to debate Ken at Ken’s own Creation Museum, with only Answers in Genesis putting out DVDs, and when it seemed like only creationists were getting in the doors. And I’m still not happy this stunt will pull in some dollars for that epic fail of an organization. But to go on the creationists’ own turf, and still hand Ken Ham his ass in a sling, that’s some serious good-for-science there.


Check out the full article for a bunch of good links and good reading.

Go Science!