Religion and keeping “the lower classes quiet”

“I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. Continue reading

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In praise of flip-floppers

In a recent post titled “Down the Creationist Rabbit Hole,” I remarked that I grew up creationist and later changed my mind due to the evidence in favor of evolution. Regarding the difficulty of getting people to seriously consider evidence, a commenter replied,

I wish it was just a matter of presenting the evidence and waiting for it to sink in for most people; unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. I do understand that nobody wants to look like a fool and nobody wants to lose face while debating, but it seems like people should eventually let other superior opinions seep in and change their mind… perhaps I’m being to idealistic.

And why is that so rarely the case? We can talk about cognitive dissonance or the theological implications of evolution (for one thing it makes nonsense of Paul’s main argument for the necessity of the atonement; see Romans 5:12 and following–meaning that there’s a whole worldview at stake for believers who know their Bible), but another big part of it is that in our culture, changing one’s mind is seen as a sign of weakness and unsteadiness. And the bigger the issue, the more the change bothers other people.
We need to challenge this attitude. Continue reading

Lawrence Krauss: Our godless universe is precious

Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss says that science shows us that “we are more insignificant than we ever could have imagined,” and that “the future [of the universe] is miserable.” So why isn’t he bothered by this? He explains in this two-minute video. Continue reading

Down the creationist rabbit hole

I don’t normally go to creationist blogs looking for fights, but when a church posted a little animated video yesterday, titled, “Evolution is impossible, really funny!!” temptation got the better of me. At any rate, it’s an opportunity to share something really cool (if you don’t already know about Tiktaalik roseae, the “fishapod”) and to say something about the peculiar style of argumentation that’s become common among evangelicals.

The post is here, with a video that features a cartoon fish who gets the idea to jump up on land and evolve into humans. As the fish flops around helplessly on dry land, the ‘camera’ pulls back to reveal the bones of other fish who have apparently tried the same thing.

Ha, ha! See? Evolution is impossible! A fish would die on dry land!

I rolled my eyes. I grew up with this kind of pat-yourself-on-the-back ignorance. Continue reading

We are all stupendous badasses

I’m reading Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson’s 1999 book that’s been described as the “ultimate geek novel.” Apropos of nothing, Stephenson begins a chapter with a surprisingly funny and concise summary of evolution. Enjoy: Continue reading

Napoleon on religion and inequality

“There is only one way to encourage morality, and that is to re-establish religion. Society cannot exist without some being richer than others, and this inequality cannot exist without religion. When one man is dying of hunger next door to another who is stuffing himself with food, the poor man simply cannot accept the disparity unless some authority tells him, ‘God wishes it so…in heaven things will be different.’”

—Napoleon Bonaparte, quoted in John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe from the French Revolution to the Present, Second Edition (2004), p. 522.

Is it an accident that conservative politics keeps such close company with religion? Continue reading

Why? Because we’re human. This is what we do.

Today I watched a man ride a balloon up to 128,000 feet — and jump out. The picture above is a still from the video shown on the BBC. As of this writing, we’re still awaiting official confirmation that Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier with his body. [Update: Yes he did.]

The media refer to Baumgartner as a daredevil, and he certainly is that. You could call his jump a stunt, call it foolhardy, call him an adrenaline junkie — and maybe all those things are true. But while watching the broadcast I couldn’t help but think, This is who we are. This is what we do. Continue reading