A survey asking about people’s knowledge of religion has some not-so-surprising results. Protestants and Catholics are less knowledgeable about their own religion’s doctrines than atheists, Jews, and Mormons.
Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. [Yahoo News]
In addition, Americans don’t grasp the secular laws that protect both government and religion, the separation of church and state.
The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.
“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote. [Yahoo News]
Questions concerning Charles Darwin and evolution were included in the survey.
Respondents were also asked, “And which of these court trials focused on whether evolution could be taught in public schools?” and offered the choice of the Scopes trial, the Salem witch trials, and Brown vs. Board of Education. Only 31% of respondents selected the correct answer of the Scopes trial, 36% selected Brown vs. Board of Education, 3% selected the Salem witch trials, and 30% said that they didn’t know. [Nation center For Science Education]
Nothing particularly surprising in the results. The Pew Research Center’s report is here (PDF).
Watch the video and you’ll see David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, call the teleprompters in front of him “this new technology”. The teleprompters here are glass panels on poles angled so as to reflect the projected words from below. Well, here’s a picture from the 1980’s of Ronald Reagan speaking before British Parliament. Anything look familiar?
One of the reasons conservatives fail so miserably is because they’re not living in the same reality as the rest of us. And they think they’re being clever. How pathetic.
I have oodles of fondness for Canada. But I draw the line at accepting its trash. Recycle your own shit, Canada. I refer here to Ian Juby, creationist and clown extraordinaire. His claim to fame is that he’s opened a creation ‘museum’. Take the virtual tour and you’ll see that he’s using Michael Behe’s bacterial-flagellum argument for design –years after it was completely demolished. To be a creationist after all is to live in the land that time forgot. Juby’s videos are even more laughable. Talk about laying on the maple syrup thick –he addresses his audience while wearing a safari outfit, as if he’s trying to convince everyone he’s recently returned from an expedition. I think I saw him sweeping hay at the petting zoo. And I thought it was annoying when TV doctors wear scrubs on talk shows. But his level of creation argumentation is easily summed up in this one sentence.
“Do you think a frog can turn into a prince?”
Pure genius. Of course, he’s addressing a room full of children and their gullible parents. But I think the point here is that he’s attempting to indoctrinate and not educate. I cannot imagine real scientists feel the need to dress in their travel gear when they’re lecturing and they’re not actually in the field. For example, I don’t think the late biologist Ernst Mayr, who traveled the dangerous wilds of New Guinea in the 1920’s, ever spoke before a Harvard audience while wearing jungle fatigues. The Barnum-and-Baily-style antics are only necessary when the material is thin and specious. How incredibly degrading and condescending it is to watch children being treated in this fashion. Screw you, Canada, for not securing your borders.
The Guardian –a British liberal newspaper– is following the UK trend and kissing religion’s ass. To appeal to the politically-correct masses the paper has given a theologian —Dr. Justin Thacker— column space to voice his brand of apologetics. His Holy Triteness has just written a piece titled Did Darwin Kill God? which is his scanty coverage of a debate that was just held at Westminster Abbey –Darwin’s grave site.
I would have to agree with Thacker and say no –Darwin didn’t kill God. Darwin wasn’t the type of man to fight invisible monsters. But Darwin did make the idea of God’s creation completely unnecessary. The reality Thacker avoids is that his idea of Christianity getting along with evolution is a minority view. Polling data indicates most Americans see evolution as incompatible with their Christian faith. The UK polling strongly agrees.
In the debate Thacker describes, the apologists –Lord Winston and Professor Alexander– responded to the opposition
by pointing out that the Genesis account has always been considered allegorical, and certainly long before Darwin came on the scene.
What tiny island have these jokers been stranded on? I suggest Thacker, Lord Winston, and Professor Alexander vacation somewhere other than Fantasyland. Perhaps, a few weeks in Kansas or Texas might set them straight. The UK is just not representing.
I prefer Monty Python’s Bishop sketch to any story of real clergymen. But I’m sure the Bishop Of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donohue, is a warm friendly fellow who would offer a guest a cup of tea and a biscuit. When it comes to matters of the Catholic Church, however, I think he’s a die-hard theist. He’s all upset over the threat of “aggressive secularism”. He’s particularly in a tizzy over educated Catholics spreading skepticism. I think that’s called the free market, or in religion’s case, freewill. Huh. I get the feeling the Catholic Church doesn’t like competition, a.k.a. freedom of thought. What say you, Bishop?
“In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.”
“Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him”
So I’m obligated to buy your product, Bishop? Even drug dealers aren’t that aggressive in their advertising. Going door-to-door and shoving crack cocaine in people’s faces is bad for business.
In a Newsweek opinion peice from September 27th, writer Lisa Miller, “argues against the atheists”. The column is called “Belief Watch”, and Miller’s apologetic scribblings do the vacuous nature of religious belief complete justice. She begins by arguing that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are unfamiliar with real believers.
First, if 90-odd percent of Americans say they believe in God, it’s unhelpful to dismiss them as silly. Second, when they check that “believe in God” box, a great many people are not talking about the God the atheists rail against—a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs, who lays down inexplicable laws about sex and diet, punishes violators with the stinking fires of hell and raises the fleshly bodies of the dead.
When over fifty percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, what are we atheists supposed to think? If we include all Christians worldwide, particularly the ones in poorer Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nations, the percentage is probably much higher. This doesn’t take into account the non-democratic Islamic nations, where Western ideas are spat upon, and where basic education is limited to males, and where people are threatened into believing in the all-powerful Allah. So, the actual number of believers in an angry, vengeful, and intervening god is probably much much higher than even Lisa Miller cares to imagine.
Apologetics is a form of faith; it’s faith in faith. Miller finishes her paper-thin argument by hauling in the invisible sacred cow.
Submitting faith to proof is absurd. Reason defines one kind of reality (what we know); faith defines another (what we don’t know). Reasonable believers can live with both at once.
Reasonable believers? Can reason and faith coexist? And how can faith define the unknown? Isn’t the unknown, by its very definition, indefinable? Here, Miller’s mental gymnastics are Olympic quality. And most believers would likely take great offense to her reducing their unshakable faith to an algebraic X. Personally, I prefer to think of all faith simply as a Y.
Fictional mad scientists are most often portrayed as highly driven and glory hungry; they are the unwitting villains, the victims of their own inquisitive natures. Author, Reto Schneider, has written The Mad Science Book, which chronicles the history and present of questionable experiments carried out by real-life “mad” scientists. A list of nine of these experiments is on The New Scientist website. My favorite is Dogbot, the robot dog that was a social reject. Real dogs wanted nothing to do with him. Maybe his nose glowed red or he aspired to be a dentist. Whatever the reason, Dogbot was not allowed to participate in dog games.
What I like about mad experimentation is it’s raw unbridled curiosity. What does it matter if some experiments go wrong or if others are completely useless and outright wacky? What counts is that humans have a desire to understand the world. Thomas Edison was a mad inventor; he wasted ten years of his life on devising a new mining technique, which failed miserably. He also designed furniture and homes made out of that comfortable substance know as concrete. Not big sellers.
The lesson here is that in a complex world, curiosity saves the cat, it doesn’t kill it. But still there is an intellectual divide in society. There are those who care to know the world, and those who don’t care to have their world views tarnished by reality. I’m talking about creationists here. To them a mad scientist is someone to be feared.