Archive for June, 2008

Scientific Method

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Bill Curry had a curious letter to the editor published June 10th edition of the paper that sponsors this blog. It was in response to a letter from someone who objected to the paper publishing a Phyliss Schlafly column supporting Ben Stein’s movie Expelled about creationism.  I read the Bible every day too and believe that God created everything, just not in the literal fashion that creationists like Mrs. Schlafly and Mr. Curry claim.

Mr. Curry took off on a revisionist history trip in an effort to connect science and Christianity.  He wrote that Bible-based Christianity is responsible for modern science because many of the scientists during the Scientific Revolution (16th century) were Christians. Credible historians do see a connection, but not the one that Mr Curry asserts. The connection is that the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Counter-Revolution, the discovery of the new world, the fall of Constantinople, and the rediscovery of Aristotle undermined the status quo. It was finally politically acceptable (no more inquisitions) to challenge established thought and a new age of scientific discovery began.

Stranger yet, he claimed that the scientific method was inspired by a Bible quote. This is curious on two counts. First, historians attribute the scientific method to al-Haytham, a first millenium Muslim Arab widely regarded as the first scientist. Second, this same method is the foundation for the theory of evolution and the reason why the vast majority of the scientific world rejects creationism.

I do agree with Mr. Curry that science is revealing many wonderful insights every day that strongly suggest God’s presence, but scientific discovery is something we all share as humans.  It is part of our wiring.  Though it may be the result of individual inspiration, it is generally not attribued to prayer or spiritual belief.  It dates back to the discovery of fire – well before the invention of writing.  As a result, it is shared by all cultures and religions.

Finally in an effort to establish his position that good science is based on a belief in God, Mr. Curry took a swipe at Buddhism saying that the reason there aren’t any well known Buddhist scientists is because Buddhism is an atheist religion.  This is just wrong on so many points that I don’t know where to start.  It may be better to just leave you with a quote from one of our greatest modern scientists,

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.” Albert Einstien

Whose Fault Is It?

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Well we finally have a choice.

Most might think that it is a choice between Senator Barak Obama and Senator John McCain.

Both are talented politicians who have dedicated their lives to public service. One is conservative. The other is liberal.

My sense, however, is that the choice is more profound than that.

I believe that this election will be between the sort of wedge politics perfected by Karl Rove (but practiced by everyone) and what I hope to be a new democracy.

It’s gets down to a simple question.

Whose fault is it?

If you feel that someone else is to blame for whatever condition you find yourself in, wedge politics is for you.

If you feel that the answers to our problems are not nearly so obvious or simple as some may suggest, then you may be ready for this new democracy.

Here’s how it will likely play out in the next five months.

The wedgies (a good name I think) are going to raise the classic issues of gay marriage and abortion. These will be accompanied by a healthy dose of racism (both African American, Latin, and Arab), terrorist fear mongering (Obama is a muslim), age discrimination (the youth can’t be trusted), and demagoguery (liberalism is unpatriotic).

Obama will have an opportunity to model the sort of behavior he is advocating by raising the level of the debate.

Instead of talking about gay marriage, he has an opportunity to begin a discussion about the concept of inalienable individual rights and equal treatment under the law. How far are we as a society willing to allow the government to dictate private behavior?

The same holds true for abortion. Where do we draw the line between a necessary medical procedure and an inappropriate expensive form of birth control?

Obama has already opened the door to a healthy discussion about race that we all have been trying to ignore for decades. Life is not universally good for everyone in this country. Discrimination (racial, gender, religious, and sexual orientation) and segregation are still alive and well. The only way that we get past it is to admit that it exists and that it is not acceptable regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sexual preference, or creed.

Similarly, demonizing our enemies is not patriotic. It is idiotic. According to Maslow, everyone is motivated by more or less the same things. The only reason you don’t understand why someone else is doing what they are doing is because you don’t fully appreciate their frame of reference. If you did, you likely would be doing the same thing (blowing yourself up).

If someone is willing to blow themselves up, what value do we get from threatening to kill them? Doesn’t it make way more sense to figure out why they are trying to blow themselves up and then spend our time and money altering the circumstances that lead them to that conclusion? In order to do that, we have to talk to them, in the same way that we have to talk to each other. We have to seek to understand before we demand to be understood.

This isn’t the naiveté of youth.

It also isn’t empty-headed liberalism.

This is in fact basic fundamental Christianity.

It is a profound demonstration of love your neighbor as yourself.

It will be interesting to see what the nation chooses in November.

Maid Arise

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

“And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.  And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.  And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.  And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.” Luke 8:52-56

 

Recent news has raised a fundamental question regarding religion and the rights of parents.

 

The most recent case was a polygamist sect in Texas.  There were claims that girls below the legal age of consent were being forced to marry older men.  As the result of an anonymous phone call, now regarded as a hoax, the state of Texas protective services got a court order to take all of the kids except for newborn babies away from their parents.  That order was overturned by the Texas appeal courts because Texas protective services was unable to prove that the children were actually at risk.

 

There are also usually a couple of cases a year where parents choose to pray rather than involve a physician in the care of their children.  The state intervenes in an attempt to force a particular course of medical treatment when it appears the child’s life may be at risk.

 

In cases of child custody, the state usually has a significant bias, based on research, against removing a child from their mother’s care.  Generally that preference is overcome only when the state feels that the child may be at significant physical or emotional risk.  Just to put that in perspective, significant risk (as long as there is no obvious violence) has to be more than children whose parents are drug addicts or criminals.

 

As someone who believes in freedom of religion, the power of prayer, and cultural diversity; I’m really torn, because I’m also someone who believes that there is a role for government in modern society.  The temptations of personal gain are just too great for the private sector to handle in some cases.

 

In the case of monogamy, there is nothing explicit in the Bible prohibiting it.  Given the history of Abraham and others, however, I think that it is fairly obvious that if there were a problem with polygamy, it would have been spelled out pretty clearly in the same way as incest.  There are clearly other cultures in the world where polygamy is legal and appears to work fine for all involved.

 

Similarly, there are a lot of passages in both the old and new testament where prayer healed those whom the physicians had failed to heal.  There are also plenty of examples every day around the world of healing through prayer.

 

So in my mind, it comes down to culture and not religion.  We have a culture where monogamy is the only legal form of marriage in most places.  We also have culture where medical science is viewed as superior to prayer.

 

If you choose to be a polygamist, many people in our culture will assume that it is because (if you are a woman) you have been either brain-washed or coerced.  Similarly if you choose to rely on prayer to treat yourself and your family, you are assumed to be a delusional fanatic, or at least naïve and misguided.  So, in the interest of protecting children, we give the government fairly wide latitude to impose our cultural biases against both practices.

 

Imagine how the government would respond today if Jesus walked into a Ronald McDonald house and offered to heal all of the kids in there with terminal diseases.  What if He told them all to get out of their beds, pull out all of their tubes, get dressed, and call their parents for a ride home?  Just like Bethesda, some of the kids would believe Him and do as He asked and some wouldn’t.  As a result, some would be healed, and some would continue to depend on their physicians.  He, on the other hand, would likely get arrested and thrown in jail for reckless child endangerment.

 

So where do we draw the line between legitimate government involvement in the private lives of citizens and invasion of privacy/coercion to conform to the norms of the majority?