Monthly Archives: July 2007

Crimes of Communism and Christianity

How are communism and Christianity similar? Well, they both have good points (teaching about how to relate to each other) and they both have histories to be ashamed of.

The Russian Communist Party still exists. But to have any credibility it is only right that the Russian people would expect two things of it:

  • Acknowledge the mistakes and crimes of the past. (It started to do this in 1956 with criticism of the Stalin Terror, and in the 1980s with a more open consideration of its history);
  • Adjust its teachings, policies and political programme to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

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Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript

Scott This series about intelligent design and creationism has briefly covered the nature of scientific knowledge , the issue of scientific credibility, religious agenda and the science/religion conflict. The web sites listed below provide a more in-depth coverage. However, I recommend the lecture by Eugenie C. Scott for an excellent overview on the nature, history and problems of intelligent design and creationism. (She even covers a positive outcome for science resulting from the intelligent design campaign).

To watch a video of this lecture go to the University of Washington TV link.

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Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict

Previous posts in this series covered the nature of scientific knowledge , the issue of scientific credibility and the religious agenda of intelligent design (ID). This final one deals with the religion/science conflict inherent in ID.

Modern science doesn’t encompass supernatural phenomena – it is naturalist. Science is based on observation of, and experiment with, reality. Therefore, explanations based on non-observable (supernatural?) phenomena (if such exist) cannot be part of science. A scientific theory cannot be built on something that is not observable, not testable and cannot be confirmed.

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Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda

Previous posts have covered the nature of scientific knowledge and the issue of scientific credibility. This covers the links between intelligent design (ID) and both creationism and religion.

Creationist and religious heritage

Supporters of ID often deny its links to creationism and religion in an attempt to obtain scientific credibility. However, few observers are fooled for long. In the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover case (Kitzmiller_decision) Judge Jones said: “An objective observer would know that ID and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism” (p 18). Further: “The evidence …. demonstrates ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism” (p 31). “ID’s religious nature would be further evident to our objective observer because it directly involves a supernatural designer” (p 31) . “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory” (p 43).

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Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?

The first part of this series (Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?) stressed that the scientific credibility of any theory can be assessed by consulting the peer-reviewed scientific literature. If there isn’t any that is an immediate reason to be suspicious.

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Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?

Intelligent design/creationism and the attack on teaching of evolution is a big issue in the USA. It doesn’t have the same threat to education here in New Zealand. Nevertheless, there are Christian groups (e.g. Christian News) promoting these ideas and one could imagine that many of those supporting Bishop Brian Tamaki’s Destiny Church campaign to officially declare New Zealand a Christian nation could also wish to prevent the teaching of evolution here. So perhaps we should pay some attention to this (essentially political) movement.

To me the central issue is the attempt to use science in this campaign. Intelligent design and creationism are presented as a scientific theory, a rival theory to evolution. Proponents claim scientific support and attempt to undermine evolution with their assertion that it is “just a theory.” So what is the nature of that “scientific support” and what is a scientific theory anyway?

(If you would prefer a bit of light relief go to the Ricky Gervais video at the bottom of the post).

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Religion and children

Richard Dawkins called imposition of religion on a child a form of child abuse. He says there is no such thing as a “Christian child” or a “Muslim child” – rather they are children of Christian or Muslim parents. If religion implies a belief then such terms are abusive as they involving forcing a belief on a child who is too young to understand. Continue reading

Religion and morality

I had a visit from a Jehovah’s Witness the other day. He invited me to a meeting. I told him that although I am interested in the general question of religion his specific meeting didn’t interest me as I am an atheist. His response:

“I am sure that, despite that, you are a very good person.”

Although he said that with a smile on his face I told him that it was an insult. He was just revealing his own prejudices.

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Anti-slavery petition

This one is for New Zealanders. The question of slave labour in other countries is very relevant to us as it can be a reason for our cheap imports. Something we should think about! Go to the Trade Aid website for more details and to sign the petition (Full text below). The petition closes on August 23, 2007. Continue reading

Questions science cannot answer?

Alister McGrathIn a recent column The questions science cannot answer Alister McGrath (pictured right) comes out guns blazing in an emotional attack in Richard Dawkins. McGrath does seem to have a problem with Dawkins, particularly with his book The God Delusion and his championing of atheism. Several of McGraths own books even include Dawkins in their titles (Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life;The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine). Of course, Dawkins is more than capable of dealing with these attacks and a more sensible exchange can be seen in the video of his interview of McGrath for the “Root of all Evil?” documentary (see below*). However, I think McGrath opens up a wider issue by implying that science is intruding into areas it should stay away from.

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