15 May 2008

Weekly sampler 18

1. A nice new Tangled Bank went up yesterday at The Beagle Project Blog, which is a cool site worth visiting at other times, too.

2. Last week saw the unveiling of the Evangelical Manifesto, "an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for," which seeks "to rally and to call for reform." The document has sparked some pretty intense discussion among Christians I know. Some of my colleagues at Calvin have denounced it fairly strongly, at least in part due to frustration with evangelical politics. Jamie Smith (another Calvin colleague) has some interesting remarks in three parts (II and III) at Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank, and profitable discussion ensued. Here's one excerpt of clear relevance here:

All too often we have disobeyed the great command to love the Lord our God with our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and have fallen into an unbecoming anti-intellectualism that is a dire cultural handicap as well as a sin. In particular, some among us have betrayed the strong Christian tradition of a high view of science, epitomized in the very matrix of ideas that gave birth to modern science, and made themselves vulnerable to caricatures of the false hostility between science and faith. By doing so, we have unwittingly given comfort to the unbridled scientism and naturalism that are so rampant in our culture today.
All well and good, but it's the last sentence I don't like. It's certainly true that evangelical credulity and ignorance are potent fuels for New Atheist engines, but in my opinion that's not the primary danger of the malignancy of obscurantism. Evangelical buffoonery on scientific matters betrays a deep and latent gnostic infection – North American evangelicals, in my experience, too frequently veer right to the brink of outright Gnostic heresy. "False hostility between science and faith," it seems to me, is actually real hostility toward the natural world, as evidenced by a pervasive preference for supernatural action as "God's work." I would have written something very different at the end of that paragraph – something sort of like this:
By doing so, we have unwittingly given comfort to the unbridled gnosticism that is so rampant in Christendom today, a great and ancient heresy that cleaves the creation in two, inviting the open degradation of God's good work by those who mistakenly assume that what is natural or material is worthless.
But I do like the document overall, and I agree with one commenter at the Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank who pointed out that it's the discussion of the document that makes it come alive.

3. I'm currently engaged with a discussion on the ASA listserv with one pseudonymous Mike Gene. He's recently published a book, and blogs at a site promoting that book. But wait...he's one design proponent who seems to be swimming clear of the Discovery Institute wreckage, by virtue of uncharacteristic intelligence and intellectual integrity. It's still ID, and I'm not enthused about the pseudonymity, but if you're looking for a pro-ID thinker who actually acts like an adult, Mike Gene is someone to check out. James McGrath gives the book a strongly positive review over at Exploring Our Matrix.

4. ORFans are genes that seem to exist in isolation, say in one or only a few closely-related species. They seem to have just popped into existence in those species, amid a huge common collection of genes shared by, say, all animals. If this sounds weird or interesting to you, go to Panda's Thumb to learn more. (Yes, of course, ID fellows have seized on this as another piece of ignorance on which to build.)

5. Check out someone's illustrated list of the world's 25 weirdest animals. I'm pretty sure I saw Dobby in there.

6. Gordon Glover is continuing his excellent series on science & Christian education. What do the Antipodes have to do with evolution? Are they anywhere near the Antilles or the Galapagos? Well, I'm not going to tell you; Gordon does it better.

7. Publishers Weekly online has a little interview with Ken Miller. He mentions his part in the intriguing new Templeton effort in which they've gotten a collection of big-brained white men (and one woman) to address the question "Does science make belief in God obsolete?" Included is a debate between Miller and Christopher Hitchens.

8. On the ASA web site, Jeffrey Schloss of Westmont College has an extensive review essay on Expelled, "The Expelled Controversy: Overcoming or Raising Walls of Division?" A blog was set up to allow discussion among ASA members (I'm not a member, dang it); not much there yet, but maybe that will change soon.

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