Recent Links and Comments: Ken Ham, Timothy Egan, Valerie Tarico, Adam Frank, Nathaniel Frank

I’m some two weeks behind on posting comments and links here, though I’ve been compiling such links for eventual posting. Website issues have preoccupied me. Here’s a first bunch of them. More tomorrow.

23 July:
Salon: The Christian right’s 5 worst scientific claims

Creationist Museum’s Ken Ham thinks there’s no point in exploring the universe, because if there are alien intelligent beings, they are all damned to Hell! Because Bible!

Creationist Ken Ham: We Should Stop Exploring Space Because the Bible Says Aliens Would Go to Hell.

Ha ha. This must be why there were no creationists on the starship Enterprise. The likes of Ken Ham and can stay home and rant, while the rest of us, maybe, if fundamentalists don’t disrail government and society, will go out and explore reality — the incredibly vast universe, of which our Earth and tribes are a tiny tiny tiny portion.

Actually, science fiction has occasionally addressed such issues, i.e., how do our local religions relate to the potential other societies in the vast universe? James Blish did this relatively intelligently in A Case of Conscience (though not convincingly, to me); Ray Bradbury did this rather dumbly in a famous 1949 short story called “The Man”, which I reread a year or so ago. As part of this blog’s theme, I will address these stories in detail eventually.

18 July, New York Times

Timothy Egan, Faith-Based Fanatics

A reminder, as if we don’t already know, that the vast majority of conflicts around the world are about one faith group fighting another, because each side thinks God is on their side. Sigh.

Sunnis vs Shiites. Rick Perry praying about the drought, which of course didn’t work. Hamas and Israelis. Boko Haram. Prostestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Buddhists and Muslams in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Egan concludes,

In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.

Is humanity doomed to such tribalistic, superstitious conflict?

9 July on Alternet;

Valerie Tarico: 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do

Do I seem to be continually harping about the evils of religion? Well, maybe it’s because these influences are doing, it seems to me, continuing damage to American (and Global) society, and the progress of the human race — in the grand sense of the themes of progressive science fiction — is being held back by such tribal influences, and might well be defeated by them. (Another answer to Fermi’s Paradox! — Tribal superstitions defeat intelligent attempts to save the species, based on reality, i.e. science.) Tarico’s points:

  1. Opposing protections and rights for children is evil
  2. Denying young people accurate information about their bodies is evil
  3. Demeaning and subjugating women is evil
  4. Obstructing humanity’s transition to more thoughtful, intentional childbearing is evil
  5. Undermining science is evil
  6. Promoting holy war is evil
  7. Abusing and killing queers is evil
  8. Destroying Earth’s web of life and impoverishing future generations is evil
  9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil

Who could disagree? Well, many religious folks, apparently.

13 July:

NPR’s Adam Frank: Science Vs. Religion: Beyond The Western Traditions

This expresses a point I’ve made here numerous times. Religious apologists who appeal to cosmological arguments via William Craig Lane or whomever, elide the vast distance between such arguments and their own personal belief system — implying that, for instance, the Kalam cosmological argument leads directly to Jesus being the savior who’s saved you from your supposed sins.

Adam Frank:

I’m often struck by how narrow the discussion remains. That’s because often people don’t want to talk about science and religion; they really want to talk about science and their religion. It’s exactly in that first step that the conversation goes down hill for all sides.

This is so obvious, the fact that there are so many competing and contradictory belief systems in the world, that I can’t help but believe that proponents of any one particular belief system … just aren’t very smart.

10 July:
Slate’s Nathaniel Frank on Mark Regnerus: What Does Mark Regnerus Want?

His conclusion:

He has clearly demonstrated that stigmatizing gay people is his very top priority. It’s no surprise that a federal judge in Michigan earlier this year dismissed Regnerus’ testimony against same-sex marriage as a farce, saying: “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” Hopefully the rest of the world will follow suit.

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