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I am the Alpha Delta and Omega

There’s a hilarious typo in the illustration accompanying the article on the recent Salk Institute evangelical atheism conference that appeared on the front page of the Science Times today. The fact that this got by the author and the editors at the NYT speaks volumes about the broader cultural illiteracy of the science-worshipping, liberal literary establishment. The conference itself was remarkable — I include the opening paragraphs of the Times story and a link below.

Delta and Omega

======================================================

November 21, 2006
A Free-for-All on Science and Religion
By GEORGE JOHNSON

Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller.

Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. “We should let the success of the religious formula guide us,” Dr. Porco said. “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

She displayed a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn and its glowing rings eclipsing the Sun, revealing in the shadow a barely noticeable speck called Earth.

There has been no shortage of conferences in recent years, commonly organized by the Templeton Foundation, seeking to smooth over the differences between science and religion and ending in a metaphysical draw. Sponsored instead by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps (who acknowledged his role as a kind of “anti-Templeton”), the La Jolla meeting, “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival,” rapidly escalated into an invigorating intellectual free-for-all. (Unedited video of the proceedings will be posted on the Web at tsntv.org.)

MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/21/science/21belief.html?_r=1&ref=science&pagewanted=print

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29 Responses to I am the Alpha Delta and Omega

  1. Let’s see the NCSE spin on this. Why was Ken Miller absent from this debate?

  2. The graphic of the two men arm wrestling does seem to get something right now with the religious point of view open to questions (?) while the dogmatic scientist make exclamations (!).

  3. I can’t see what the typo is. Can you give us a hint?

    The “science vs. religion” comparison that the media keeps hyping is really getting to me. Ideally, there is no discord between the two. I would say it’s the agenda-driven mainstream scientists out there who are pitting science against religion who are doing the most damage, not the faith-based community which for the most part is perfectly at peace with a correct scientific understanding of the world around it. Too bad the mainstream media is just taking their talking points from the aforementioned scientists, thereby hyping a debate that is really about a separate set of arguments altogether: can we know about a world that is beyond our finite senses and mathematical calculations?

  4. That is pretty funny.

  5. Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

    The “greatest contribution to civilization” is making people believe that their lives are pointless? Well I may agree that some things are pointless e.g. Weinberg’s nihilistic agenda, but he does show us just how essentially dark and cruelly savage the evangelical atheist extremist is. They seem to revel in the death of hope, soul murder. To them the destruction of our only hope for life beyond our few years in our present bodies seems to be of no concern and even to be sought after. When a child’s mother dies and the father tells them that “don’t worry because she is heaven” the Weinbergs and Dawkins of the world want to crush that belief and faith in eternal life for us all into dust, all in the name of “science”. These crumbums ought to be ashamed of their agenda. But instead they seek to spread their venomous hatred to all. They sneer at their colleagues who see the utter despair these ogres seek to dump on peoples lives. They claim that ID is basically just an argument from incredulity or an argument from ignorance when in fact it is they who reject the glaring impossiblity shown by scientific research that evolution is. It is their incredulity and argument from ignorance which they parade around as the “scientific approach”. God is unbelievable to them for one reason or another, therefore God cannot exist to them. Any evidence to the contrary is nothing more then a battle science has yet to conquer (Newton’s example). They claim we argue from incredulity when showing how evolution cannot explain so many points and by necessity there must have been an intelligence behind it. In actuality it is they who base their entire outlook on incredulity and an argument from ignorance. No amount of evidence can disprove evolution to them because god cannot exist.

  6. Mentok: look at the “myth of Prometheus” here: http://www.designinference.com.....ntribs.pdf.

    P.S. If Dawkins is going to get the Templeton Prize, perhaps for once the Templeton organization should give the prize to two people. I would be happy to share it with Dawkins.

  7. More “words of wisdom” (abridged, from http://www.edge.org, “What is Your Dangerous Idea?”) of Carolyn Porco, Planetary Scientist; Cassini Imaging Science Team Leader; Director CICLOPS, Boulder CO; Adjunct Professor, University of Colorado, University of Arizona:

    The Greatest Story Ever Told

    The confrontation between science and formal religion will come to an end when the role played by science in the lives of all people is the same played by religion today. … the same spiritual fulfillment and connection [as has been found in religion] can be found in the revelations of science… We scientists have the drama, the plot, the icons, the spectacles, the ‘miracles’, the magnificence, and even the special effects. We inspire awe. We evoke wonder… And we don’t have one god, we have many of them. We find gods in the nucleus of every atom, in the structure of space/time, in the counter-intuitive mechanisms of electromagneticsm. What richness! What consummate beauty!…

    So what are we missing?

    Ceremony.

    We lack ceremony. We lack ritual. We lack the initiation of baptism, the brotherhood of communal worship.

    We have no loving ministers, guiding and teaching the flocks in the ways of the ‘gods’… And we lack the all-inclusive ecumenical embrace, the extended invitation to the unwashed masses… Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way… One day, the sites we hold most sacred just might be the astronomical observatories, the particle accelerators… And today’s museums, expositional halls, and planetaria may then become tomorrow’s houses of worship, where these revealed truths, and the wonder of our interconnectedness with the cosmos, are glorified in song by the devout and the soulful.

    “Hallelujah!”, they will sing. “May the force be with you!”

    Worshipping a supposedly uncaring, blind, dumb, purposeless machine. Brilliant. I mean bright.

  8. The “myth of Prometheus” that is seen amongst the evolutionst community surely is a gold mine for psychoanalysts looking for interesting work. It betrays a sado-masochism inherent in the evangelical atheist mentality. They blindly flail at any perceived”attack” on their “rational scientific” enlightened atheism. Why they seek to convince themselves and others that there is no preternaturally powerful entity in our universe which can keep them alive forever, instead wanting to believe and make others believe that our existence is ultimately worth nothing and will end in annihilation, is something which shows the essential dementia they labor under. They want to convince everyone that there is no hope beyond a few scant years we live here on earth. Yet they are always claiming that they are noble servants on a quest battling against the forces of darkness (belief in eternal life), all for the betterment of mankind (belief in eternal death). They want to help that which they believe is doomed. That so called “help” is the convincing of everyone who believes in eternal life and joy as a very real and definite reality for them, that they are instead destined for a quick and summary eternal death? That is their noble quest? Welcome to the Bizarro World!

  9. jared

    I don’t know if Bill wanted to make people figure it out for themselves but at the risk that he did not… the symbols from the Greek alphabet in the upper left are delta and omega. Revelations 1:8 “I am the alpha and omega” says the Lord God. Meaning the first and last as those are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Somebody messed up.

  10. When Moses asked for the name of God at the burning bush in Exodus 3:13, God replied, “I am that I am.” This, and the “alpha and omega, first and last” reference were obviously attempts to communicate to ancient people that God transcends time and is self-existent — an uncaused cause.

    This is interesting in light of the fact that we now know that the physical universe, including time itself, had a beginning.

  11. P. Phillips — I’m afraid science is in fact becoming, and appearing to be, just one more ideology,

    I think it’s important to keep in focus that what they are claiming to be “science” is not. Their ideology is that everything — as in everything –has a material explaination and they claim that science, a very good and proven methodology for resolving material questions, proves it.

    It’s circular reasoning. It’s also demonstrably false.

    The materialist strategy is not about proving their point via observation/experimentation but attacking the foundations of the belief systems of those who aren’t materialist.

    I think it’s a big mistake to concede science to the materialist, and I’m grateful for Drs. Dembski, Behe et al for wrestling it back.

  12. Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto,

    The irony is the atheist Kroto shared his 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with the creationist Richard Smalley. To learn more about Smalley, see: Nobel Laureate given standing ovation after slamming Darwinism during a graduation ceremony

  13. Jared,
    You wrote:
    “The “science vs. religion” comparison that the media keeps hyping is really getting to me. Ideally, there is no discord between the two. I would say it’s the agenda-driven mainstream scientists out there who are pitting science against religion who are doing the most damage, not the faith-based community which for the most part is perfectly at peace with a correct scientific understanding of the world around it.”

    Have you forgotten that there are (historically, at least) thousands of religions, virtually all of which are mutually exclusive of one another? Almost (if not) all religions are necessarily contradictory to a correct scientific understanding.

    -Reed Orak

  14. Richard Feynman put it this way: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” – http://www.designinference.com.....ntribs.pdf

    “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool so that he may be wise.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18

    St. Paul got the idea earlier – but I guess the Bible isn’t a popular book of authority nowadays.

    There is in reality no such thing as a “religion”. Religions – as they are commonly refered to today are simply belief systems, many have so many differences it’s impossible to fairly classify them as being similar. However, the term religion today has be exploited to include any belief system that includes the supernatural. So if you want to ridicule Christianity, it becomes very convenient to compare it to worshiping the Flying Spagetti Monster or to Thor with his hammer.

  15. Reed Orak –Almost (if not) all religions are necessarily contradictory to a correct scientific understanding.

    It’s much more accurate to say that all atheism in necessarily contradictory to a correct scientific understanding.

  16. That should be “all atheism IS necessarily contradictory to a correct scientific understanding”

  17. Reed, I’ll be away for a bite so I probably should elaborate.

    Science cannot by definition address the supernatural. Does the supernatural exist? The materialist says no (or is irrelevant, which is even more bizarre.). Why? Because science cannot address it.

    Hence, the atheist who cites science to defend his position does not have a correct understanding of science.

    Now, if the atheist cites faith for his belief that everything has a material explanation, well, that’s a matter of faith and science is unable to rebut it. If the atheist refuses to cite faith and insists that what he believes is science-based, then the atheist is simply irrational.

    There is a hierarchy of truth. While it is very good to know the mechanics of a particular phenomenon, it is much more important to know the answers to “why we are here” and “how we should live”.

    It is impossible for science to address those questions.

  18. I could be wrong, but at its heart, wasn’t this a marketing meeting on how to sell the Materialistic philosophy wrapped in science? If it was really about science, the focus would have been on threats to cut off funding, stop research projects, integrate efforts, end turf battles, etc.

    Now, last time I checked, in the U.S., every student learns science, its history, and how it has made possible all the incredible advances in the human condition. Fantastic, true, and appropriate. And, in the government schools, religion is not taught, except with a passing nod in history class. For example, we have winter break, skip the reference to Christmas, please.

    And yet that God thing just won’t die!! What is it going to take to drive a stake through its heart? Oh, I know, lets arrange a conference where we can figure out and develop a plan. Oh yes, we just have not told the greatest story. We do not have hymns and the Hallelujiah chorus!! We need pipe organs and revival meetings!! We need to plant people in the audience that will pass out while gazing at photos of the rings of Saturn!!!

    So I ask you, who is going to be left to staff the research labs while everyone is parading down Main Street singing the praises of Darwin while entering ecstatic trances while pondering String Theory and Multiple Universes???

  19. Mentok said: The “greatest contribution to civilization” is making people believe that their lives are pointless?

    I think this comes down to the issue of whether purpose in life comes from within or without. You seem to be arguing that only a life after this one makes it have a purpose. Atheists, or at least this one, would argue that any genuine purpose must come from within oneself as it is chosen and not imposed.

    Of course, the thought that death is the end is not a pleasant one – who wouldn’t want to be reunited with loved ones who have passed away?! But if atheists consider that there’s no compelling evidence for an afterlife then what’s wrong with facing up to life based on that principle?

  20. # 20. bebbo, atheists evidently (see Dennett) devalue mystical experience or NDEs, Near Death Experience. “Compelling evidence” comes down to judgment, I think. These atheists are highly selective. We are viewing free will in action.

    Fascinating.

  21. P. Phillips, I don’t know if Dennett devalues experiences such as NDEs. Maybe he just doesn’t think they’re good evidence for an afterlife.

  22. @bebbo But if atheists consider that there’s no compelling evidence for an afterlife then what’s wrong with facing up to life based on that principle?

    How do you know that there is no compelling evidence for an afterlife? NDEs #21 seem to speak for it!

    How can you find purpose from within yourself for your life, can you elaborate on that?

    You mean passing on your DNA (from within) to the next generation so that your specific DNA survives? But what purpose (for your dead body) is in THAT ? Your character does not live on, your thoughts won’t be thought over, your ideas and dreams are gone. DNA will not bring that back! Clone yourself, your DNA will live on, your character will be dead!

  23. It is amazing this got by the editors. I just showed it to my wife who teaches college writing at a nearby college. Without telling her, I asked if she noticed anything unusual. It took her all of 15 seconds to spot the problem! Now, you’d think a NYT editor would have found it in at least 15 minutes!

  24. tb said: “How can you find purpose from within yourself for your life, can you elaborate on that?

    You mean passing on your DNA (from within) to the next generation so that your specific DNA survives?”

    Well, for me personally the purpose in life is not about having kids, and for those who do want to have kids I don’t imagine it’s because they’re specifically wanting to pass on their DNA.

    As for one’s purpose in life, it depends on the individual. We all have different goals, interests, and desires.

  25. Back to the Near Death Experiences (the other NDEs), the evidence is overwhelming:

    http://www.near-death.com/evidence.html

    Oh sure, the Materialist waves his or her hand and dismisses NDEs as delusions or hallucinations. But this is a bit of a stretch, considering that:

    1. NDE experiences occur even in situations where no brain activity can be measured,
    2. Conversations are heard and sights seen that are simply not possible from the location of the body, e.g., seeing scars on the surgeon’s scalp, describing medical equipment and procedures, etc.,
    3. Person blind from birth able to see for the first time, including colors never seen,
    4. Young children telling of seeing Angels, etc even though they are raised in secular families and no reason exists for them to anticipate such things.

    We can all argue about theology, but the evidence is overwhelming for the soul existing outside the physical body. But of course, as we all know, no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient for some people. Deep in their psyches they reject any spiritual realities because along with it comes the concept of accountability and responsibility, awards and penalties. Terrifying, isn’t it????

  26. It is a funny misstep…

    Delta 4, Dalet 4, smiles… and open door to Infinity, Lamniscate. Attributed first use in Mathematics publications to John Wallis, an ordained Minister who attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge and excelled in Mathematics and contributed to early Calculus. Said to be an excellent linguist too, probably mastering Greek and Hebrew(curious if he understood Gematria). “He also discovered methods of solving equations of degree four which were similar to those which Harriot had found…”

    Defended the origional controversial theory about circulation of the blood.

    http://www-history.mcs.st-andr.....allis.html

    Because of his ability at decoding encrypted messages he was eventually “given charge of the church of St Gabriel in Fenchurch Street, London in 1643″

    “One aspect of Wallis’s mathematical skills has not yet been mentioned, namely his great ability to do mental calculations. He slept badly and often did mental calculations as he lay awake in his bed. One night he calculated the square root of a number with 53 digits in his head. In the morning he dictated the 27 digit square root of the number, still entirely from memory.”

    Interesting amount of information buried behind one single symbol of infinity.

  27. Well, for me personally the purpose in life is not about having kids, and for those who do want to have kids I don’t imagine it’s because they’re specifically wanting to pass on their DNA.

    Of course it’s to pass on our DNA. And our thoughts and dreams and desires and beliefs.

  28. Another Darwinist myth? In the NYT article

    In the end it was Dr. Tyson’s celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that “the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing.” When Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” failed to account for the stability of the solar system — why the planets tugging at one another’s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun — Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was “an intelligent and powerful being.”

    It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton’s mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

    “What concerns me now is that even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops,” Dr. Tyson said. “You’re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says: ‘That’s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.’ ”

    I don’t think so. Newton attributed the design of the universe to God but he didn’t attribute the motion of the solar system to God’s continued interference. For crying out loud it was Newton who discovered gravitational mechanics! Here is what Newton actually wrote.

    This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One, especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun and from every system light passes into all the other systems; and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another.

    So it was the distance of the objects that kept them from falling into each other, not God propping them up. Newton wrote, “God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies; bodies find no resistance from the omnipresence of God.”

    The Laplace quote was not related to a discussion about improving on Newton by finding a formula for solar system mechanics that excluded God. Here is the conversation.

    Napoleon: “M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.”

    Laplace: ,, “I did not need to make such an assumption.”

    Napoleon: “Ah! that is a beautiful assumption; it explains many things.”

    Laplace: “This hypothesis, Sir, does explain everything, but does not permit to predict anything. As a scholar, I must provide you with works permitting predictions.”

    Laplace, lived and died a Catholic and called for a priest to administer last rights on his death bed.

  29. [...] In this UD thread, Mentok brought up something that, it seems to me, is quintessentially behind the ID versus materialism controversy: Is there, ultimately, any purpose or meaning behind anything, especially our lives? [...]

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