Sunday, April 29, 2012


This is from CNN. Their  Sunday religion column. This one is so funny I had to reprint the entire thing. My snarky insightful comments are embedded

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN

I hear the audible voice of God. No, not in the same way that the Bible’s Eve did (allegedly) when God asked her outright and out loud: “Woman, what in my name have you done now?”
Scriptures don’t tell us specifically, but I suspect at that particular moment in eternity God must have sounded a lot like Perry Mason: “C’mon, tell the truth. You know I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.” (Is this for real? This person got printed at CNN? What's happening?)
Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry is a pastor’s daughter in Alabama. You’d think if God spoke to anybody, it would be a pastor’s child, but Patti swears she has never heard the voice of God. The only time God speaks to her is through the written word.
I find that odd since God talks to me all the time.

Here's the problem with God speaking to people: 1. How can you tell the difference between an actual transmission from a diety and your own brain making you THINK you are getting a transmission from a diety? 2. Do you mean actual audible sound waves impinging on your ears? If so, why can't someone standing next to you hear him too? 3. Of course hearing happens in the brain so God skips the ear part and goes right to the part of the brain that interprets information from our ears. But like all of this stuff. . . how does it work? Is it REAL?  Now, back to the fun . . .

Certainly God knows I’m an auditory learner, so if he wants my attention he has to talk to me. How do you know what God knows? When God speaks to me, he sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, (uh oh. . .) host of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion." In other words, he’s engaging, often very funny, and almost always an absolute joy to be around. Even when God’s mad with me (more often that I care to admit), he’s fairly good-natured about it. Theologians who study this sort of thing (and get paid???) say that our image of God is formed by our relationships with our fathers. That image is formed in part by how our fathers speak to us. If they bark orders at us all the time, we might hear God as a crank. But if our fathers speak to us in instructive, encouraging tones, we may hear God as our best coach. My father died when I was young, so I don’t remember his voice, but I’ve listened to Garrison Keillor pretty regularly for 25 years. Doesn't this support the idea that God is a figment of your imagination and your indoctrination as a child. Why wouldn't a real being appear and sound the same to everyone?

When my husband and I were raising our children, we banned television from our household. (Child ABUSE!)"A Prairie Home Companion" (Actual child torture!!) was our primary form of entertainment on Sunday afternoons. With Sundays as our Sabbath, I suppose it is natural for me to associate God with Garrison. Oh sure, this all seems completely natural . . .

Many people don’t even speak to God, much less listen to what he has to say. (Because we're not crazy.) I imagine for some the thought of a God as Garrison Keillor would be pure hell, what with all that Guy Noir Private Eye nonsense and those saccharin sweet ketchup commercials. Perhaps (What, not sure?) like a good mother, though, God resorts to a variety of different voices to reach all of her children. Do you identify any of the following?
Spock, from “Star Trek,” is the defining voice of God. Spock is half-mother (human) and half-father (Vulcan). Who could be more egalitarian, more Godlike than that? Anyone who thinks of God as arbitrary and capricious needs to have a chat with Mr. Spock, who once so rightly noted, “Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.” Amen. Amen.
Anyone who thinks of God as NOT arbitrary and capricious should visit the aftermath of a tornado. Or could it be that the world has a randomness to it and the unproveable God doesn't exist?

More movie stars as God ensues and it is pretty depressing from a writer's point of view that this pap gets published and distributed and probably paid for makes we want to nearly give up as a writer. Go on if you dare. . .
James Earl Jones. If I heard that baritone voice calling to me from a burning bush, it would stop me in my tracks. Who cares that Jones couldn’t cut the muster at Fort Benning’s legendary Ranger school? That’s nothing more than boot camp for a bunch of hellions anyway. There is something about the thundering power of Jones’ voice that naturally evokes trust from us. And if we can’t have a God in whom we can trust, what’s the point?
– Surely, Jeff Bridges is the voice of God for all the remnant of Jesus Freaks now seeking refuge as Episcopalians. “I am not Mr. Lebowski,” Bridge’s says in Coen Brothers’ “Big Lewoski,” in one of the oft-quoted lines in that cult classic. “You’re Mr. Lebowski. I am The Dude, so that’s what you call me. That or His Dudeness or uh, Duder, or, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.” Of course, aging Jesus Freaks and Episcopalians alike are all about that brevity thing, so they happily go along with “the Dude abides,” another classic line from the film.
Yoda, of “Star Wars,” is the voice of God for Zen-seeking, yoga-loving Emergent Christians. Emergents are the melting pot of Christianity, the place where hipsters who want to be spiritual but not religious go for community - typically a local brewery or Starbucks. “Luminous beings are we,” says Yoda. “Not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere!”
– Writer C. Terry Cline Jr. says when God speaks to him, it is in the scolding voice of Pee-Wee Herman - “What did I tell you?” In Cline’s latest book, "The Return of Edgar Caycee," Cline claims he was channeled by the previously deceased reincarnation guru, whose fan club has rivaled that of God’s. Is it any wonder God is miffed with Cline for conjuring up Caycee again?
– Your momma. Sonny Brewer, a Navy veteran and my editor at San Francisco’s publishing house MacAdam/Cage, says that the only voice he’s ever associated with God was his mother’s. Sonny’s mom has been nearly mute for nearly 20 years, the result of a stroke. “She can sing hymns but she can’t talk,” Sonny says. “When I think of God speaking to me, I think of my momma. Like God, she always loves me, even when I’m a bad boy.”

Whatever the cause, nobody enjoys getting the silent treatment. It is a particularly troubling matter when God goes silent on us, when we can’t hear his voice at all, whether it’s a tender whisper of encouragement, raucous laughter, or a thundering rebuke, it is then that we are most keenly aware of God. Silence stills us. We pause and listen, ear pressed, waiting, anticipating, hoping for just a word of assurance that we have not been abandoned. Or no one is talking. Why can't this be the logical conclusion of not hearing anything?

We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God. (I don't) If in such moments we would listen to the wind in the trees, the waves curling on the beach, feet crunching in sand, and the song of the mockingbird as the evening sun sets, (jeezus, pour some syrup on it while you're at it! What no kittens?) we would surely hear creator God singing hymns over us, his creation. Ah metaphor. . . why can't those sounds just be what they are and it's just us here.

Look, there are actual intelligent theologians that you can have intelligent conversations with about the IDEA of God, faith, science all of that. I had that experience when teaching for the Carmelites. This woman's idea of God has never progressed past an 8 year old's Sunday school version. It's not an unusual stance but I wonder again at how this simplistic, juvenile (and poorly written) load gets published.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tennessee- The Origin of the Specious Argument

Tennessee recently has allowed the teaching of creation science in their classrooms. That's nice. As written here before, you cannot legislate truth. There is no basis for creation science. There are several points that show that it is a flawed theory with many holes in it. That is is simply wrong. Why teach a wrong thing?

For example, back in Newton's day he had a contemporary, Robert Hooke, who discovered the simple math rule of how springs behave. So enamored with this rule he tried to apply it to the planets. He tried to show that the motion of the planets was caused by a force from the sun that was bigger when the planet was farther away just like a spring exerts a bigger force the farther you stretch it. This is a nice idea but it's wrong. It won't wash. You can't get the proper motion of the planets under the influence of such a force. So the idea just went away as bad ideas will do in the face of the data. You could have all the votes you wanted about that and you could even have a winning vote for Hooke's spring theory. You could even force teachers to teach it in school but the planets would still behave according to Newton's inverse square rule. And, if you voted money to send a probe to the moon or Mars based on a Hooke rule it would miss by a kabillion miles.

Now then. . . Trying to explain the variety of species, extinct species, and why we have a LOT in common with fish with intelligent design is hopeless. Intelligent design is just a pandering to what a bunch of religious zealots WANT to be true and because they are zealots it's not good enough for them to think it is true they want EVERYBODY to think it is true because somehow that will make it truer.

It won't. Why does this flawed theory of intelligent design keep getting resuscitated while Hooke's theory died peacefully in it's sleep? Because, Hooke's theory doesn't challenge anything in the bible.

I won't delineate the arguments here. I'm tired of that. The more you argue back and forth the more you give the zealots a platform. Let me just paint these broad strokes.

No university teaches Intelligent Design except for these. Notice there is no Big Ten school, no ivy league school, no school with a football team. If this is such a hot theory why aren't major research universities teaching it? You'll notice that all the schools have the word bible, baptist, seminary, etc in them. Not surprising and yet where is Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Georgetown, Loyola, St. Johns, DePaul, Duke, SMU, or Baylor?

When you read intelligent design crap the recurring theme is the old (and tiresome!) argument of 'incredulity'. Arguments that begin, "I just can't imagine. . . ", "Isn't it impossible. . . ", "How could it be . . . ", etc. These statements usually then go into some feature of the biological world that they find impossible to exist without a creator. The common example is the human eye.

The only problem with all of these arguments is that they've all been answered with a cogent, complete and simple theory of evolution. This is a common ploy. To CREATE controversy where none existed before they came along. To me THAT'S creation science - to create controversy by playing to the press as opposed to publishing peer reviewed scientific papers. But they don't do that. There is no journal or scientific organization that will accept any paper on intelligent design because . . . wait for it. . . IT'S NOT SCIENCE!

Then, see. . . it's all a conspiracy!!

And, if you're going to make incredulity a test of a theory let's pick anything from the quantum world or relativity. Why aren't those being attacked? For example, I can't 'imagine' an electron that has mass and yet no size. I can't imagine a photon of light and have light also be a wave. Why are teachers being allowed to teach crazy stuff like electron science or wave-particle duality to our youngsters? Why? Because the bible skipped over electrons and light (and the big bang by the way) so the faithful don't care. Oh, and that stuff about electrons and photons stands up to experiments. What experiment would you do to test intelligent design? There is none because the theory always ends up with . . . And then magic happened. You can't test for that. And maybe that's really the crux. The faithful are a group of people who somehow NEED there to be things that "just can't be explained". Somehow that is important to their world view so it is important that there is no experiment. This is better for them than an experiment that would come out in their favor. Unexplainable is somehow better.

Please read Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. It's clear. It's interesting. In it he not only explains how evolution works but shows how intelligent design fails miserably in explaining anything and ends up being self contradictory. For example, according to intelligent design everything is perfectly designed for its environment. Shubin shows many examples of species that plod along while NOT being so perfectly designed due to getting separated from where they first evolved. Why would a creator do this? Another obvious example is our own appendix.

The other excellent book is Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne. Read it. Similar to the above it is clear, concise and cuts to the heart of the intelligent design flaws.

Also, Darwin's own Origin of Species is surprisingly readable if a little lengthy. Oh, and it's free on Kindle.

Better yet, if you run into an intelligent design person you might ask them if they've read any of these or what they have read about evolution. Be prepared for a 'no' and a bunch of arguments of incredulity. Remember, just because due to someone's lack of education, they can't 'imagine' something doesn't make it impossible. In fact, if you want an argument using incredulity? Due to my having made it through a couple of college degrees and being a skeptic I can't imagine a deity that somehow builds creatures using magic. Which is more 'incredulous'?

I swear to Newton, if I had a kid in school in Tennessee I would move and move NORTH. In true Atlas Shrugged style, what if all the smart people (there must be some) left Tennessee?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Another Miracle

A navy jet recently crashed into an apartment building. It being mid day no one was home and no one was killed. The pilots ejected as per their training. Then this quote from the governor:

“I think it’s an act of divine providence,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Really? That's the first explanation that you can come up with? As if an explanation is even required. God saw to it to drive a plane into an apartment building but did so so that no one was killed. And his message was . . . . ? Or God was asleep at the helm and a plane was headed for the ground and at the last second God picked an apartment building with on one in it. This is the 'sorta-omnipotent' God.

Of course the obvious question by anyone with a brain is, if God is present for things like this why have the plane crash at all? Or why not have the plane just miss the apartment building and crash in the parking lot?

Why doesn't anyone come back on a statement like the governor's with a follow question or two? I'll tell you. Because we tip toe around statements of faith like that as if they are worth some extra respect and that is one of the small ways that myths continue to have life.

If the governor had said, " I think a giant squid stuck up a tentacle and pulled the jet down" he'd be driven from office within the month even though squids actually exist! We wouldn't respect or give the squid explanation ANY credence at all but we nod our heads and mumble something when someone says something equally stupid about 'divine providence'.