Archive for the ‘genesis’ tag
This speaks for itself. Via Twitter:
Two hundred four years ago today, Charles Darwin, the man who would go on to introduce the concept of evolution by natural selection (although he didn’t call it that at the time), was born. Of course, here in the year 2013 when we know that evolution is the process on which everything else we know about biology is based.
As such, it’s a sad and pathetic travesty that the parties of God, the Republican Party and some within the Democratic camp will probably prevent the nation from formally celebrating his contributions to, not just science, but one of the largest questions of life, that is, how did human life develop from less to more complex forms.
Ken Ham, for example, is not just a very enterprising young Earth creationist who raised more than $25 million to build the monstrosity known as the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is also also a danger to lovers of truth and to truth itself.
In his recent article for Slate, Mark Joseph Stern took one for the team and analyzed some of Ham’s books, which as he noted,
fall into two categories: colorful picture books designed to indoctrinate children, and pseudoscientific tracts aimed at persuading adults.
In one of Ham’s books for adults, “The Lie,” he claims that evolution is a “belief” — It’s not. It’s a scientific theory, or in other words, a fact as concrete as gravity — and is not backed by proof, or in his words, “All the evidence a scientist has exists only in the present.” That, of course, is simply not true.
Here is Stern:
This means we should disregard isotope dating, fossil records, genetic sequencing, geologic time, developmental biology, plate tectonics, disease resistance, and the rest of modern science because who can really know if they’re accurate?
“The Bible’s account of origins,” on the other hand, was written by “the Creator God” and contains all the “history we need to know to understand the present world.”
And that’s pretty much all Ham has. Blind faith in the Bible is superior to belief in evolution, because the former was written by God, while the latter is a myth perpetuated by sinful atheists. Science is a myth simply because it cannot be allowed to contradict the Bible. That’s Ham’s starting and ending point, his premise and his conclusion. Such unquestioning trust and circular logic pervades the pages of the book, presented with smug satisfaction.
There is hope that a formal Darwin Day may be established in the future, just not much of one. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) proposed a resolution to name Feb. 12 Darwin Day, but it’ll most likely die on the vine. As Phil Plaits with Slate notes with some disappointment:
I have more than a suspicion he has an uphill battle ahead of him on this. Far too many members of Congress think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, with far too many of them sitting on the House Science Committee. Of course, to be fair, having even one is one too many.
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
Yes, this guy sits on a science committee in Washington. I’m not making this up. In my view, a person capable of uttering such idiotic nonsense is ill-equipped to lead anyone, much less represent us on a science panel. Then again, maybe this country doesn’t deserve to wave Darwin’s banner when so few people realize the importance of his contributions, cling to creation myths and worse, don’t even attempt to understand or learn about how our world works. I would laugh if not for the equal portions of frustration, anger, and yes, pity.
[Credit: Artwork by gremz, Deviant Art user]
Most of the following video you can skip if you like because the interviewer, Howard Conder, quizzes Richard Dawkins on some rather absurd questions about evolution, irreducible complexity, etc., that he would already known the answer to if he had bothered to read any of Dawkin’s books.
Conder seems to not be able to comprehend the point that Dawkins makes, that is, if Yahweh is all powerful and essentially sets the rules on how mankind will be redeemed after the fall of Adam and Eve, why does God require a “perfect” sacrifice, or even a sacrifice at all.
Here is Dawkins:
The idea that God could only forgive our sins by having his son tortured to death as a scapegoat, is surely from an objective point of view, a deeply unpleasant idea. If God wanted to forgive us our sins, why didn’t he just forgive them? Why did he have to have his son tortured?
That’s a very good question.
Well, what’s your answer?
Conder then recounts the Genesis narrative in which Adam “lost that perfection for us all” when he sinned in the Garden. He then explains why Christ was necessary:
Another perfect being of the same degree of perfection could only be the proper ransom for our redemption.
Conder in response:
Being the god that he is, allowing for us to have freewill, it wasn’t just scrumping an apple. There was more to it than that. Adam was plainly disobedient, and I think he even admits it himself in the fact that he hid from God that particular evening because there was a fellowship between man and God every day.
So Adam was disobedient and that sin reverberated down the ages, is inherited by all humans. What kind of a doctrine is that? Inherited by all humans and had to be redeemed by the son of God being tortured to death. What kind of morality are you propagating there.
That’s a very good question (Are you noticing a theme? Dawkins raises very good questions to which there are no answers).
Conder then reiterated the point that Christ’s life had to be perfect. In apparent frustration with this exchange, Dawkins agreed that they should move on. Before going to a question and answer part of the interview, Conder said:
Please Richard, see my heart, not my intellect because my heart is for mankind as well.
And with a tinge of sarcasm, Dawkins replies:
Oh I can see that.
OK, so if you didn’t view the whole video, that’s enough to get a general feel for how it went in the last few minutes. As I said, Conder seems unable to wrap his mind around the question that Dawkins posed time and again, that is, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why the need for a sacrifice at all, much less a perfect sacrifice. At one point, Dawkins hints at the problem when he asks: “Why did God have to have his son tortured.”
Conder didn’t pick up on the subtly, but implicit in the question is if God “had” to do anything, if he is operating under a set of rules outside of himself or if he is constrained in his actions in any way, then he is not God. Essentially, he makes the rules, and the sacrifice that would redeem mankind had to be perfect, then some being or entity other than God is in control. Christ didn’t have to be killed to redeem mankind. Indeed, mankind didn’t have to redeemed by any physical action whatsoever. God could have just done it. He could have said:
OK, the gig is up. It’s been thousands of years now. I think you have toiled and suffered birth pains long enough now. You guys are off the hook. Eat, drink and be merry and enjoy your lives.
But no, believers would continue to have us believe that their God is so obsessed with the notion of vicarious redemption that nothing but a perfect sacrifice for redemption would do. Well, if that’s the case, God’s might, whatever it may be, is not omnipotent, and his love, whatever it might be, is not all-encompassing.
I … stepped out of a supernova. And so did you.
One of the most well done videos on all of YouTube. Stunning.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. — Gen. 22:12 (KJV)
Here we deal with one of the most well known, and by that I mean notorious, verses in the whole Old Testament.
The passage in Genesis 22 begins with God deciding, for whatever capricious reason God decides to do anything, to test Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering to him:
Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Of course, God gets it wrong here. Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, since in Abraham (then known as Abram) had copulated with Sarah’s maid:
Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. … And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Of course, we learned in the last edition of this series that God was going to give Sarah a son in Chapter 18. Why then, only two verses before that did God allow Abraham to impregnate Hagar when he knew that he was going to wind up intervening in the first place and giving Sarah a baby? In any case, Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, but then again, maybe God doesn’t count children born through surrogate mothers.
But back to the story. God tells Abraham to take Isaac up to a mountain — we aren’t told which mountain — and to sacrifice his son in order to prove his faith. Abraham and Isaac then start on a surely woeful march up the mountain when Isaac asks his dad:
Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
Abraham said not to worry, that God would provide. As an aside, Isaac is forced to carry the wood for his own sacrifice up the mountain, much like Jesus would later carry his own cross up to the hill for his sacrifice in John 19. Of course, since much of the gospels are embellishments on the others or directly contradictory (here, here, here, here, here, here ), John, the most embellished of them all, can hardly be trusted, and this detail may have been added later to further connect the story in Genesis with Jesus, since other comparisons can be made (Isaac’s reference to the sacrificial lamb, for instance, as opposed to a goat or some other hoofed animal).
While we are told in only five words that Abraham bound up his son, it would have been interesting for the writer to have included more detail here. For instance, I wonder how that conversation would have gone:
Abe: Isaac, you are the sacrifice. There is no lamb.
Abe: Yes. I’m sorry.
Isaac: But … (begins crying now)
Abe: I believe God will provide, my son, in his own time.
Isaac (screaming): You can’t be serious!
Abe: I’m afraid so. I’m sorry. I love you. But I love Yahweh more, so … Tough break, kiddo. Now help me with the rope.
I wonder if at some point there might have been a struggle. Isaac, of course, could have outrun his father since Abraham was an old man by now. Apparently, Isaac didn’t put up much of a fight, and Abraham then tied his son up like an animal on the sacrificial pit, raised the blade and was poised to strike when an angel appeared and stopped the action. A ram then appeared caught up in some brush, which Abraham then proceeded to sacrifice instead. The place was hereafter called “The Lord Will Provide,” which is a funny-sounding place name. In any case, God then appears and said he would bless and multiply Abe’s descendants as “the stars of the heaven” and said that from his seed, all nations will be blessed and that all his descendants would come to “possess the gates of their enemies.”
If you know anything at all about Israel’s history, you know that that last part never happened. Israel could have enjoyed some conquering successes on a local scale, if those parts of the Old Testament are true (doubtful), but the nation of Israel has been conquered territory in some form or another for more than 2,000 years now, beginning in 63 BCE with the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire. And from there:
In 635 CE, the region, including Jerusalem, was conquered by the Arabs and was to remain under Muslim control for the next 1300 years. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads,Abbasids, and Crusaders throughout the next six centuries, before being conquered by the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, and remained under Turkish rule until the 20th century.
Christians, and Jews presumably, view the Abraham and Isaac passage as one of the most important in the Bible because they say it shows how important faith in God is and that God is trustworthy to follow through on his promises. Of course, other than the localized battles that may or may not have happened that I just mentioned, the ultimate promise was not kept, and one can make the argument that if we assume for a moment that he actually exists and actually cares about the protection of Israel, he is also a monster for sitting back silently while his precious nation has been ransacked for centuries, not the least of which was the slaughter of 6 million Jews in Nazi death camps.
What about God, or Abraham for that matter, as revered paternal figures? Not so much. What father would send his son to slaughter in the first place, much less in the brutal way that Yahweh ordained Jesus to be tortured and killed. Moreover, if God wanted to test Abraham’s faith, he could have easily done it by something other than a blood sacrifice. He could have made Abraham run laps around the mountain at his old age or made him climb a tree and then fast up there for three days and three nights, as the biblical parlance goes. That God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son places this sinister little story firmly in the context of the time in which it was written. No one but a sadist would ask a loving father to kill his son and put him through the emotional stress of actually contemplating such a heinous act, regardless of whether he was actually going to make Abraham go through with it.
We will no doubt revisit this sadistic side of Yahweh’s nature in future editions. Until then:
Here are two videos that detail a group of unbelievers and a scientist’s visit to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. The conversations with believers in the first video were particularly entertaining:
Enjoy Hitchens in this video, but on the other side, this is just a pathetic display from Douglas Wilson.
Wilson seriously makes an argument about who carries the burden of proof, implying that atheists do? Really? Yet, Wilson admits outright that the “self evident” fact that God exists is “self evident” only to believers. So, in essence, he has said nothing and is wasting our time. Hitchens, of course, can be counted on to make light of Wilson’s “almost beautiful circularity” in his reasoning.
Wilson then goes on to affirm his belief in the ark and animals talking in Genesis:
I’m a Christian, so I believe the Bible.
It sounds like you’re too intelligent to believe that literally. I understand your faith, but all those animals were on the boat. Come on.
Come on. We’re animals. And we talk.
WTF kind of embarrassing response is that? And this is the best Wilson can do. Stunning … or not.
Here is the full interview:
How did something come from nothing? That’s it. That is the only question believers can hang their hats on and say, “Yes, we have a one-up on the scientific community. We have at least one question they can’t answer.” This article addresses it.
Until we learn more, the scientific explanation of how the universe and earth began is exponentially more satisfactory than the religious explanation, which would have us believe that, hey presto!, God did it. This is true because A) religious folks would have to explain the genesis of God and B) they would have to explain how and why such a god might be capable or even willing to create life in the first place. Claiming that he is benevolent and does it just because he is good is fallacious reasoning since I, nor anyone else, has any eye witness accounts that he is actually so.
In the waning minutes of another year, I highlight the top 20 posts on this site from 2011:
- Jan. 5: Movie review: ‘Agora’ - “Given how beautiful and reasonably-minded Hypatia is thought to have been, I felt intense anger at the end of this film that such a smart and lovely creature had to endure such a hideous death by people who thought they had God on their side. And more than that, the feeling was tinged with the thought that she probably died in real life by a much worse means than suffocation and also that countless women were burned and hung or stoned as witches because of religion and ignorance. That’s not fiction.”
- Jan. 12: Harris on the Ten Commandments - “The need to dismiss religion in polite society still and unrelentingly presses upon us as a species, and this will continue as long as man fails to, in turn, dismiss his fear of death and the dark. “
- Feb. 12: Camus: ‘The point is to live’ - “So, like Sisyphus, in a moment that would shake most anyone to utter despair, Mersault is happy. And here is the consummation for Mersault and for the “Return to Tipasa” quote: Mersault had lived. He had experienced good times and bad, but in both, he found peace.”
- March 6: Why moderate religion is more bankrupt than fundamentalism - “Many, even myself, wholeheartedly agree that “love wins.” Some just don’t feel the need to summon God to make it so. As it turns out, love wins every day without him.”
- March 11: On the genesis of life - “Perhaps every theist agrees that there is an appearance of a design, but when I consider the vast number of failed planets and potential planets in our universe through the eons, the likelihood of a planet like ours eventually arising seems quite high, and in some 12-14 billion years, so high that we should be surprised if such a planet had not eventually formed. We live in that eventuality.”
- April 16: The gospel untruth – “It is, of course, within one’s right to believe something based on scant evidence and from a book steeped in contradictions, faulty science and math, bare bones textual evidence and stunningly primitive ethical codes. Some happily do, and all the better for them. … But even a cursory look at the case for the gospels reminds the rest of us that while Easter eggs, candy, and springtime offer nice pleasantries this time of year, the religious element ever behind the upcoming holiday was built, glorified and crowned on a now teetering house of cards.”
- May 2: 10 basic questions for believers (with sub-questions) – “What kind of loving father demands you love him or face the fire if you don’t? What kind of loving father demands you pass spiritual tests (Job, Abraham) to show your devotion?”
- May 13: Book review: ‘Night’ and the problem of evil – “No book that I have ever read brings these questions to the forefront with such brutal honesty. And I think it may be for that reason that The Times used the words “terrifying power” to describe this short, but seismic cattle car ride through the bowels of man’s darkest hour.”
- June 22: Jefferson’s religion - “To say Jefferson was a Christian in the modern sense of the word, that is, that Jesus was God incarnate, rose from the dead on the third day and will judge mankind on the last day, would be a false statement to make any way you slice it. He was a Christian in this sense only: he argued that to be literally “Christ-like” (the meaning of the word itself) was the highest moral height a person could reach, and that is all. Of everything else modern Christians believe about Jesus, Jefferson rejected without compunction, and this is clear from his letters and correspondence. In the modern sense of the word, Jefferson would not be a Christian and would be bound for eternal fire based on the doctrine of today’s Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Church of Gods and Calvinists.”
- June 30: Book review: ‘Tried by War’ – “Unlike other Lincoln biographies, which typically focus on his stance and political efforts to abolish slavery, his assassination, his humble upbringings and other topics, few, as McPherson points out, have delved specifically into Lincoln’s role as commander in chief.”
- July 3: Response to a recent letter to the editor – “And speaking of snakes, the Bible, with its differing accounts of man’s creation in the Garden, the variant steps by which the universe was made and contradictory details about Noah’s Ark, the Ten Commandments, Christ and, indeed, the very nature of God, the good book does a fine job of disproving itself and provides not even the hint of a “reasonable explanation.”
- Aug. 21: Book review: ‘Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society’ – “The conservative voice, often toeing the religious line, hostile to teaching evolution in the classroom, friendly to interests of corporations and investment bankers, hostile to the interests of minorities and the poor and hostile to change, is too strong in this nation, while the progressive voice, the only voice that demonstrably moves people toward ultimate utilitarianism, is too weak.”
- Sept. 13: Gene therapy to treat cancer - “… it’s hard to overstate how important research into cell modification, gene therapy and stem cell research could be in treating and curing some of the most destruction diseases of our time, from Lou Gehrig’s, to cancer, immune deficiencies, Parkinson’s and others, yet, most of the evangelical people in this nation are worried about protecting the interests of clusters of undifferentiated cells.”
- Sept. 25: Biblical deconstruction I: In exordium – “The Bible, as much and probably more so than the Koran (since the Bible is older), has been the central cause of more human suffering and misery than I care to contemplate. God himself, if he existed, would be on the hook for at least 2.476 million people, not counting the flood, first-born Egyptians killed, etc. Thousands of his followers have millions more on their hands, from the Crusades, to Native Americans, to Africans dying from not having access to condoms (thanks to the Catholic church), to the Salem Witch Trials, to … it goes on.”
- Sept. 29: Biblical deconstruction II: the garden – “Last, how moral is it that the crimes of a person from, say, the 18th century, be used to convict and imprison someone living in 2011? Yet, the errant choice of two people forever impacts the lives (and apparently the afterlifes) of every single person who has or who ever will live simply because a god in an ancient text penned by superstitious society in Palestine deems it so. Yet still, God doesn’t seem very interested in the “sins” of millions of blasphemers and worshipers of other gods that followed Adam and Eve, except of course, in the pages of the Bible. As it happens, the world outside of the Bible, the only world that matters, hasn’t heard a peep from Big Brother.”
- Oct. 5: Biblical deconstruction III: Cain and Abel – “If God, then, is the author of reason, reason itself must be modified to also include murderous, barbarous, cruel and sadistic, scheming, as well as capriciousness, which is actually one of his least offensive attributes.”
- Oct. 8: Real inspiration – “Religious folks talk a lot about spiritual inspiration. Well, how about inspiration, made possible by science, that brings a deaf woman to tears?”
- Nov. 20: No, this is not a spoof - “Has the electorate mindset shifted so much that a former establishment politician like Gingrich has to change is tone and amplify his speech to have a chance in 2012?”
- Nov. 30: On Butler’s ‘Erewhon’ – “All things considered, then, the entire text of the book is basically a business proposal that includes some proselytizing ruminations, and hidden behind the plot is Butler’s own cunning way of dicing up elements of Victorian life with the satirical knife edge.”
- Dec. 23: Josephus and the historical Jesus – “Article 3 is obviously the passage that Christians pull out of context and attempt to claim this is evidence for Jesus outside of scripture. First, an observing Jew would not admit that Jesus was the Christ, much less make laudatory comments about him like: there were “ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”