mirrorshard: (Terrella)
2011-03-14 12:26 am

Science & Religion

Someone else on Twitter, asserting that science & religion are opposites as though it were too obvious to deserve explanation.

Really, why do people keep doing this?

Given the sheer number of religious scientists... "most of them" wouldn't be an exaggeration, in fact... saying that science and religion are inherently opposed basically means saying that Galileo, Gilberd, Newton, Hooke, Boyle, Darwin, Eddington, Einstein, and Burnell were stupid or deluded, rather than holding particular views about the nature of the universe that they had considered thoroughly and were eminently qualified to hold. (And that's just the Christians I could list off the top of my head. Islamic science was staggeringly accomplished.)

There's a quotation from Burnell in particular that I want to share:
"I find that Quakerism and research science fit together very, very well. In Quakerism you're expected to develop your own understanding of God from your experience in the world. There isn't a creed, there isn't a dogma. There's an understanding but nothing as formal as a dogma or creed and this idea that you develop your own understanding also means that you keep redeveloping your understanding as you get more experience, and it seems to me that's very like what goes on in "the scientific method." You have a model, of a star, its an understanding, and you develop that model in the light of experiments and observations, and so in both you're expected to evolve your thinking. Nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally."


I really ought to remember not to argue with atheists unless they actually demonstrate that they have some knowledge of religions—and by "religions" I don't mean white Protestant Christianity. Any attempt to assert facts about "religion" as a whole generally brands them as a clueless Dawkins cultist, unlike any of the sensible atheists I know & like.

Do any of you lovely people know of a short, easy-to-understand resource online for educating people about different denominations' & religions' attitudes to truths & the natural world?

(Comments are open & encouraged. I reserve the right to moderate or friends-lock if things get heated. I do not mind being disagreed with, but be civil, and especially to other commenters.)
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-07-04 10:25 am
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More Jehovah's Witnesses

This time, I took a different tack with a preemptive statement.

"I'm a Christian, and I believe in honesty, integrity, tolerance, complete equality, women in the workplace, evolution, and sex before gay marriage. If you think any of those things are incompatible with Christianity, there's no point our discussing things."

"Well, some of those, such as evolution, are difficult to reconcile with the Bible - "

"Not for me, they aren't."

"-but we won't keep you, and I hope you have a nice day."

I'm tickled to learn that they (or that one, at least, with the obligatory lurking sidekick) apparently think evolution is worse than gay sex/marriage.
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2009-05-30 11:43 am
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Religious spam

Bah. Lost my temper with a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses - well, with the one who did alllllll the talking, while her sidekick lurked ominously in the background - who wouldn't accept evolution.

"Everything was created in its kind. Dogs, for instance."
(Explains about the mutation clock. There is, provably, a time before dogs. You cannot deny this.)

Damn, if I hadn't lost my temper (later on, after a particularly egregious I-am-your-teacher implication) I might actually have managed to confuse her properly.

(And yes, I mostly just posted so I could use the phrase "a time before dogs".)

Edit: This is not stopping upsetting me. I hadn't previously encountered this particular strain of evolution denial, and hadn't realised just how incredibly bad theology it was, as well as bad science. "God went through a period of creativity, and then stopped." That's just... so sad.
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2009-03-09 07:38 pm
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More Catholic fail in Brazil

More Catholic Fail: nine-year-old rape victim pregnant with twins, has abortion, bishop excommunicates everyone who helped her, Vatican defends the bishop.
Read more... )
Really quite sad. I almost pity him, except, well... he took up bishoping of his own free will, and Peter Principle or not he knew what was coming up.

Since I'm genuinely curious - what's the point of bishops? Why do we still have them? What do they do that any other priest can't?
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2008-12-23 12:20 pm
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Priestcraft

Looks like the Pope's been shitting in the woods again.

[Edit: [livejournal.com profile] lizw comments on the actual text. Brief version: he didn't say that, he said something more subtle and as bad in different ways.]
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2008-09-20 04:36 pm
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Spinoza on the nature of God

Spinoza's argument, summed up crudely and imprecisely and shorn of the chop-logic and sophistry, runs thusly:

God : Universe :: Mind : Brain

Now, this brings up some odd questions, both practical and ethical.

  • Is it ethical for a concept to question the mind in which it's hosted?
  • What's the status of the concepts in our own minds?
  • Has this analogy been stretched to breaking point yet?
  • Is Satan a pink elephant?
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2008-09-15 09:55 pm
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Faith, certainty, and reason

This is something I've had percolating for awhile, sparked off originally by a reader's letter in the Metro, which was (of course) batshit insane. It argued, as far as I can recall, that scientists were right in being more certain and dogmatic than religious leaders. (It isn't a matter of right or wrong; it's down to understanding where certainty comes from and why being certain about anything complicated makes you look like an idiot.)

Since then, I've had a few conversations which have brought new viewpoints to it, most of which ended up with an agreement that the axiom mismatch meant we weren't getting anywhere.
cut for length )
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2008-09-07 11:40 pm
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Christian Fail

I wanted to write something about this (via [livejournal.com profile] fjm) but I haven't the heart to do more than rant bitterly. That kind of sheer wrongheaded childishness... the pathetic naivety of their idea that God may be compelled or persuaded by prayer, or indeed that God has enemies...

We're told that He smut[1] a few people in the past, but that's all over, if indeed it ever did happen. He's grown up now, a Father and everything, and I'd like to think that we're better people too - or at least that He picks His friends more carefully than He did then.

I know that the crazyweird morons will always be with us, but it's always depressing to be reminded of their existence. And I do have faith that I'm not going to have to go have That Talk with Himself... you know the one.

"Look, I love you, you know that. But if you smite anything, just one more time, it's all over between us. I'm not prepared to be with a smiter. The God I fell in love with would never do that."



[1] Yes, that is the correct past tense of 'smite'. He smites; the target becomes smut.
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2008-08-08 11:17 am
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[Schismwatch] Who let the Tebbit out?

Disclaimer: the following contains a fisk of an Daily Mail article written by Norman Tebbit. Please do not read if black, gay, female, or under the age of 65, or while eating or drinking. (via [livejournal.com profile] valkyriekaren)

you were warned )
mirrorshard: (Blue flower tea)
2008-08-03 09:55 pm
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[Schismwatch] Women bishops, again

From the BBC yet again - more moves towards schism in the Church of England.

One suggestion from the group working on a potential Covenant has been for churches departing from tradition to have "diminished status" within the Communion.

Read more... )
mirrorshard: (Default)
2008-07-09 07:20 am
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Hurrah for the Church of England!

BBC:

The Church of England's General Synod voted in favour of consecrating living Gentile women as bishops and against safeguards demanded by traditionalists opposed to the move.

A Church group will now draw up a code of practice to try to reassure critics.

But Roman Catholic leaders believe this goes against the will of Christ, who chose only dead Jewish men as his apostles.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2007-10-01 03:06 pm
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(no subject)

Regarding the Vatican Astronomy Conference (via):

Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, a member of Father Funes's 13-strong team, explains that the Church has maintained its interest because science holds no fears for the faithful.

He told the BBC: "This is our way of seeing how God created the universe and they want to make as strong a statement as possible that truth doesn't contradict truth; that if you have faith, then you're never going to be afraid of what science is going to come up with."
mirrorshard: (Default)
2007-09-23 07:28 pm
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Religion in schools

Either overtly or by default, this country is still a Christian one. - C. of E. spokesman in this article from the Guardian.

One headteacher has been trying to set up an explicitly secular school, where children are not required to bow their heads, mumble, pass notes, kick the person next to them, and make up rude words to the tunes of popular hymns engage in an act of worship of a 'broadly Christian character' every morning.
Read more... )
mirrorshard: (Default)
2007-01-30 01:42 am
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Thou Shalt Not

Why did it never occur to me before that this was a promise, not an injunction?
mirrorshard: (Default)
2007-01-25 05:34 pm
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Catholic Church in Adoption Rumpus

There's two things I really don't get about this business. First, the Church are claiming that complying with anti-discrimination regulations (binding on organizations accepting government money) and placing children with gay couples is against their principles.

If you'll excuse my language - bollocks it is. Their religious principles, even the bad, wrong, counterproductive ones that say homosexuality is a sin (and if I recall correctly, that's from Leviticus. The same book of the Torah Bible that prohibits the wearing of mixed fibres, advocates the death penalty for witches and women taken in adultery, and lays down the Jewish dietary laws) have nothing whatsoever to say about accepting government funding. With the option of going it alone freely available, suggesting that their religious principles are being compromised is complete nonsense.

Secondly, the Church are claiming that if they don't get an exemption, they'll have to scream and scream until they're sick close their four adoption agencies, which between them place 200 children a year. "Oh, no," they say. "It's not a matter of sulking at all. We'll just have to close for lack of funding if we can't accept the conditions attached to your dirty dirty government money."

If you'll excuse my language - bollocks they will. This is, let me remind you, the Catholic Church we're talking about. The same millennia-old incomprehensibly rich organisation that spent most of its existence running a substantial fraction of the globe. The same guys who, for a long time, more or less defined civilised Western society... we used to call it 'Christendom' for a reason.

And they're telling us they can't afford to run four adoption agencies, in the faith-based charitable sector, with all the cheap labour costs that that implies? My heart goes out to them, really it does.

Whoever's using the World's Smallest Violin, please pass it back, the Catholic Church needs YOU.
mirrorshard: (The Book of Rainbows)
2006-12-25 12:34 am
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Rejoice, for the Son of Man is born!

Of all the aspects of Christmas, the religious one is the only one I seem to be really comfortable with this year. Not that I've been indulging in a great deal of even that, and I still have a few grave theological reservations to work through, but it's the one sense in which I can feel any of the Christmas spirit.

I've been out for a walk with Himself, one of the same aimless, undirected walks that have always been a comfort and a reassurance to me - from scampering around in the Essex woods as a child to long walks in wax jacket and wellingtons along sheep-trails and Roman roads in the uplands of Gwynedd, from night-time wanderings around the city and suburbs of York as a relief from hopeless, frustrating study to a quixotic, joyous walk with a heavy pack from Newport Pagnell back to Cranfield after the last bus had gone and I had only the sketchiest idea of the way back. From two hours enjoying the middle of summer in Central London to a walk back through Edinburgh at chucking-out time made painful and frustrating by disintegrating boots, from a stressed, panicky early-morning expedition to find a supermarket in Glasgow to a trip around Colchester to find a fast-food place still open on a Sunday evening. Fresh air, no walls around me, and sunlight or stars or sheltering cloud.

When I was in York, I used to think of a walk like that as an imram, after the voyage of St Brendan, a trip done for the sake of it without a destination in mind. It occurs to me that I've got out of the habit recently, but then that's partly the season for you. I've spent a lot of time travelling around these Isles in my life, back and forth, and every time I pass a station I want to get on a train. On the 7th of July, when I heard about the London bombings, the first thing I felt was blind rage that they could attack the Tube. Travelling, especially flying, gives me the same feeling as dancing does - no going back, no more second-guessing, do the task that comes to hand with all your heart. The imramha are a lot like that, that moment when you realise you've no idea where you are and no more than the foggiest idea which direction home is in, and you know you'll still get back somehow, and that you'll see new things and meet strangers on the road and have adventures.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2006-05-08 06:41 am

Five Books

Five books I fully intend to own SoonTM.


  • Weston Martyr, The Southseaman. Referenced from Gordon's The New Science of Strong Materials which I've adored for years. I know or have tracked down most of the rest of his quotations, but not that one.
  • An English translation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses as recommended by [livejournal.com profile] elettaria in [livejournal.com profile] dracula1897.
  • Liza Picard's Victorian London. Which reminds me, I don't own a copy of Elizabeth's London, but that doesn't count for the list since the library Provided.
  • Sheri S. Tepper's True Game books. I have the Jinian trilogy, but not the others.
  • A good textbook on Dissenting movements in post-Reformation England. Haven't found out what it is yet, and still making my way through The Stripping of the Altars, so possibly not all that soon.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2005-04-20 01:11 am
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Religion

If I have a religion at all, I am a Quaker, I suppose - and as such, belong to a long tradition of social conscience, independence, good works, and abhorrence of spiritual authority. Indulge me, then, in a few moments' good old-fashioned polemic.

Now, I do not hate the Catholic Church, and I do not think that it is uniformly a bad thing. But I cannot condone dogma, or inflexible assumptions; and I cannot accept received truth.

My dislike, my pity, my contempt, is not based on policy, nor on theology, nor on dogma, nor on social effects. It is not because they oppose measures that save lives and avert epidemics, nor because they institutionalize very restricted social norms, nor because they condone and cover up misdeeds in their own ministry.

It is because they are, in essence and of necessity, the enemy of progress and the common good - implacably opposed to any kind of sensible error-checking mechanism, devoid of humility or of intellectual integrity, cowering inside their own sophist's house of cards, a small, sad structure of cold, uncompromising logic built in a vain effort to hide from the messy, confusing, wonderful, ambiguous world where actions have real human consequences.

You're wise and infallible, you say? And how are we to know this? Ah, yes, it's because you, being wise and infallible, told us so. And if we still doubt, you refer us to your interpretation of a two-thousand-year-old document of dubious provenance and unknown reliability, which can be read as a history, a parable, a metaphor, a work of fiction, or as the drug-inspired ramblings of a series of semi-literate peasants, at your pleasure. And if we're willing to accept the stigma of plebeian tastes and abilities, we can even read it in our own language.

It's a wonderful story, it's a compelling tale, but claiming moral and spiritual authority on the basis of that is laughable. As for being told to have faith and not to question - tsk. Questioning is what we do, it's how our civilization developed to the point it did.

Thank you for listening, ladies & gentlemen. This will almost certainly not appear in the exam.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2004-11-27 07:41 pm

The Ramayana online

I've always loved the Ramayana of Valmiki, ever since I read a Fontana translation at the age of 7 or so. This is a wonderful comic book version.

http://www.askasia.org/students/virtual_gallery/exhibitions/

And the Boing Boing post with background material.

http://www.boingboing.net/2004/11/25/indian_epic_ramayana.html