Links and Comments: Biblical Literalism; the Manhattan Option; the excessive optimism of 2001; Neil de Grasse Tyson explains everything

Adam Lee: So Wrong For So Long: On Liberal Biblical Reinterpretation

Lee discusses the cognitive dissonance of those who espouse progressive social views while maintaining fealty to their Biblical-based religions. They rely on relativistic interpretation of scripture, as if the words of the Bible don’t actually mean what people for most of two millennia have thought they meant.

If God wants LGBT people to be given equal rights, why didn’t he say so thousands of years ago? Why is that something he revealed only in the modern era – say, within the last forty years – ensuring that they were objects of hate, harassment and persecution for centuries before that? Why did he allow that injustice to continue for so long before finally delivering the revelation that would gradually end it? Whether you believe that the anti-gay verses in the Bible were God’s word but have been misinterpreted all along, or whether you believe God never had anything to do with them but that they were put there by fallible humans, the problem holds either way.

The same thing could be said about slavery, or the inequality of women, or racial segregation, or anti-Semitism, or any of the countless other evils that were justified in their day by citing holy books and the will of God.

Adam Lee also explores the idea of The Manhattan Option, a follow-up to the “Benedict Option”, in which Christians withdraw from wider society into their own, insular communities. [Though isn’t this mostly true in practice in most small towns throughout the ‘heartland’, especially in the South? is my thought.] The “Manhattan Option” is

a defiant pledge to engage in civil disobedience against any law that transgressed their “religious conscience”. While the Manhattan Declaration pays lip service to the idea of helping the poor or ending oppression as religious duties, the two causes it treats as paramount are, of course, banning abortion and ending gay marriage.

(One more example of one of my PvCs.)


Re: film, science fiction, the future.

This article at The Space Review, 1997, 2001, 1999: a science fiction calendar from the Apollo era makes the likely valid criticism of the canonical SF film 2001: A Space Odyssey was wildly over-optimistic, even for 1968, about its vision of huge orbiting space stations and cavernous landing pads on the Moon. With additional discussion of Lost in Space (a childhood favorite of mine) and Space: 1999 (which I never watched after the first episode, which took place on a Moon base “on the dark side of the moon”).

I have a small stack of books about past visions of the future, which in retrospect range from wildly optimistic (like the vision of 2001) to ludicrously implausible. This article might go with those.


Physicist Sean Carroll responds to an io9 post by George Dvorsky, asking Why is the Universe So Damn Big?.

Whenever we seem surprised or confused about some aspect of the universe, it’s because we have some pre-existing expectation for what it “should” be like, or what a “natural” universe might be. But the universe doesn’t have a purpose, and there’s nothing more natural than Nature itself — so what we’re really trying to do is figure out what our expectations should be.

The universe is big on human scales, but that doesn’t mean very much. It’s not surprising that humans are small compared to the universe, but big compared to atoms. That feature does have an obvious anthropic explanation — complex structures can only form on in-between scales, not at the very largest or very smallest sizes. Given that living organisms are going to be complex, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves at an in-between size compared to the universe and compared to elementary particles.

File this under: why human perception is not necessarily an accurate guide to reality.


Here is a video by Neil de Grasse Tyson that explains everything in the universe [as we currently understand it] in under 8 minutes.

Watch Neil deGrasse Tyson explain literally everything in the universe in under 8 minutes

This dovetails with the previous post — naive human ideas about how the universe should exist, according to human values. Anyone interested in reality, outside the tribal narratives that drive their evolutionary survival, should be curious about this.

File this under: the universe is large; human perception is not necessarily etc., especially on the point of the vast scale of the universe compared to what humans comfortably perceive.

I like this quote at the end:

“We’ve been empowered by the universe to figure itself out.”

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