Faith in the Future is No Faith at All: Disney’s Weak Theology

For a film inspired by a Disney theme-park subdivision, Tomorrowland has a lot more going for it than one might expect.

Above all, the film is, now and again, surprisingly moving—a story about a quest to save the world, maintaining hope despite the odds, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Good stories about heroes and hope make the heart swell. And may it ever be so.

But exactly what kind of hope does Tomorrowland extol? Who is to hold this hope? On what grounds? And with what result? What is Tomorrowland asking us to hope in and hope for? And what is it asking us to do?

These are the kinds of questions a theologian in my own tradition might ask, especially if he or she were concerned with what we call “critical eschatology”—theologies that engage today’s realities against the horizon of an ultimate divine future.

Would this kind of theological critique affirm Tomorrowland’s take on hope?

In the film, Tomorrowland exists in a dimension alongside our own. It is a place where imagination and innovation are given free rein, where technology is not driven by markets or utility but by the sheer joy of play and exploration. This sleek, apparently classless, beautifully multicultural, and apparently infinitely-resourced tomorrow (or is it a parallel today?) takes a dark turn when its inventiveness leads to the discovery of a means of warping the space–time continuum and of, therefore, peering into the future of the world as we, the audience, know it.

The technologists of Tomorrowland discover that our world will fall prey to an unspecified catastrophe that will immediately and completely extinguish earthly life. The plot of the film centers on identifying a person who has the creative smarts and technical skills to change the future by finding a way in to Tomorrowland and dealing with this technology “that should never have been built.” Critically, this person must still truly believe that change is possible.

It’s the standard fairy-tale formula: the idealistic, pure-hearted person who does not quite fit in turns out to be a chosen figure plucked out of obscurity for a fantastic quest. Here, though, the fairy godmother is an android, the exiled and rehabilitated king is a despondent inventor, the maiden in distress and the heroic dragon slayer combine (quite interestingly and refreshingly) into our quick-thinking and passionately driven heroine, the dragon is a piece of highly advanced technology, and the kingdom to be saved is our own quotidian world, our own reality, marked by our own short-sightedness.

Like all fairy tales (and Disney movies, apparently), this story is meant to convey a moral message about what is truly, rather than apparently, good and about how we should conduct ourselves in light of that. The moral message of Tomorrowland concerns hope. It is the loss of hope, the film tells us, that lies at the heart of our global woes.

There is a good case to be made for this, philosophically and theologically, as critical eschatologists unhesitatingly affirm. But the version of hope that Tomorrowland champions is, from a Christian theological perspective, not necessarily the one we are lacking.

The theologians of the early twentieth century who witnessed the horrors of World War I helped us understand that the late-nineteenth-century liberal Christian belief in ever-increasing human progress was a fantasy. But this fantasy returned in the years following World War II in the form of a general fascination with human mastery of the future. With advances in science and technology, such thinking went, humanity would be able to create a world free from want, disease, ignorance, and inequality—maybe even from death itself.

Christian theologians like Edward Schillebeeckz, Johann Baptist Metz, and Jürgen Moltmann began to question the revived myth of human progress embedded in this futurological view.

How, they asked, does a future that arises solely out of present circumstances produce anything other than more of the same? How can any human creation—a technology, a political or economic system, or anything else—avoid reproducing societies with “victors” and “losers” until that very idea has been eliminated from human hearts? In short, unless the future reality referred to in Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry as “the kingdom of God” somehow enters into the present to change at the root how we relate to one another, the perfection longed for by those with faith in the future will remain a pipe dream, a utopian mirage.

But this is exactly the the vision of global flourishing on offer in Tomorrowland. Creative ingenuity and technological advance are the drivers of a better—even paradise-like—world. Even when such advances also lead to Tomorrowland’s and our planet’s potential downfall, a technological remedy is sought. Moreover, the film ends with a sequence in which agents are dispatched to recruit gifted people able to rebuild Tomorrowland’s futuristic Eden, and to make it even better than it was before.

A critical eschatology would contend that there is a disquieting materialism about all of this that connects all too well to the contemporary view that suffering and evil are problems we can solve by employing the proper gene sequence, algorithm, or pharmaceutical, on the one hand—or public policy, economic theory, or surveillance scheme, on the other.

Associated with this is Tomorrowland’s problematic reduction of hope to optimism.

It’s certainly true that we are saturated by media that offer an enervating doomsday narrative that we do well to resist, as Tomorrowland pointedly recommends. The film, though, seems to suggest that resistance might lie in ignoring harsh realities rather than by contending with them. It places the media in the hands of an evil cabal that is broadcasting “negativity” and “hopelessness” into the minds of humanity in order to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. This plot device has the unintended effect of blaming “the news” for the state of the world.

It’s true that news and other media shape our attitudes, which in turn shape our realities. And it is true, as the character behind this scheme observes, that the more the media turns up the volume on our collective awfulness, the more the public appears to embrace it. But Tomorrowland never asks why this might be (except to posit a general unthematized, solipsistic nihilism infecting the vast majority of the global population), nor does it ask us to take a closer look at the consumerism, gross inequality, and ecological rapaciousness that lie behind those news stories—never mind asking us to take action against such conditions (or even simply to demand better journalism!).

It therefore insinuates that things are not as bad as we have been led to believe. And it counsels us to remain positive, not to succumb to the negativity into which we are being manipulated. In Tomorrowland, hope reduces to remaining “upbeat” and “positive” in the face of adversity, even if that means bracketing out the troubles of the world.

And here is where a theological reading provides a useful counterpoint. There’s a difference between hope and optimism: hope can be maintained even when optimism can’t, because in theological terms hope is funded by the promises God has made to the world and not by human ingenuity. Christians are asked, in this reading, to immerse themselves in the world’s suffering rather than to look away from it. A Christian eschatology features, of course, the resurrection—the guarantee of an ultimate condition that far surpasses anything that human beings can envision, let alone achieve, on our own. It tells us there is life on the other side of even the most acute suffering.

This, of course, is not to say that oppression, suffering, and death are good. It is only to say that they are not final. This is what gives hope. Maintaining hope in the eschatological future of God—the promised coming of the kingdom that Jesus preached—empowers us to work now with God to create conditions that look more rather than less like the promised kingdom of liberation, joy, and life.

Eschatological hope allows us to join people in their suffering rather than ignoring it, or “staying positive.”

Eschatological hope, therefore, is active. It demands engagement, as Schillebeeckx, Metz, Moltmann, and their theological allies make passionately clear. This is not the case for Tomorrowland’s futurological optimism. In this Disney-world there are a select few who are chosen to go to Tomorrowland as the innovators who will shape our future. Our hope is in them. Our hope is that someone else will do the work needed to right the world’s wrongs. We can go about our business, confident that someone out there is doing what needs to be done. We can  feel free to ignore what is causing those problems, to avoid asking who benefits because of them, and to neglect considering what it would take to fix them.

As in the film, when something momentous occurs, it won’t be on account of us. We, like them, will simply raise our smartphones and post pics. Doing something to change the world? That’s for the elites. For the chosen. Not for me.

Of course, the writers of Tomorrowland certainly mean for us to identify with the heroine. We are supposed to understand ourselves as one of the chosen, with a contribution of our own to make. However, the trope of the Chosen One in such stories always entails the fact that there are many more who are not chosen than who are, more who stay at home than who embark on the hero’s quest.

From a futurological perspective, this makes perfect sense. Building a better world is for those with requisite aptitude and training. From an eschatological perspective, though, this is anathema. The theology of active, worldly engagement that a critical eschatology extols takes its model from Jesus’ open invitation to all to turn toward and labor on behalf of the kingdom of God. All are charged with loving God with their whole hearts and minds and with loving their neighbors as themselves, which means that all carry the responsibility of contributing to the furthering of God’s eschatological mission.

There are to be no spectators.

In stark contrast, Tomorrowland exhorts us to take comfort in the existence of an elite cadre of gifted technologists who, among themselves and apart from most of us, will “make the world a better place.” This is a false messianism that short-circuits hope.

Eschatological hope, on the other hand, causes us to question our world without ceasing because we know that no human technology or system comes without a cost to someone somewhere. It causes us to address suffering and injustice where we find it because that’s what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. Unlike holding out for a hero, this hope charges us all with taking on that responsibility. The exceptionalism of American-style individualism has no place in eschatological hope, which is held in common for the common good by the common disciple.

And this hope is justified even when optimism fails, because it does not depend on us, as optimism does. Rather, because it is rooted in the transcendent source, sustainer, and perfecter of life, we depend on it.

Tomorrowland may be a fine fairy tale, but it is important to recognize just how conservative and politically quietist this movie’s message is.

It never asks anything of us, other than to continue being optimistic that technological savior–heroes will arise to cure our world of violence, hatred, and environmental catastrophe, often using the same methods and tools that created these conditions in the first place.

But the theological—and political—vision I have described here demands that we each do our part. No special invitation needed. No person excluded. No heroics required.


  •' Jim Reed says:

    These thousands of years should have taught us Jesus will not be the answer. I think they show us we need to look beyond Christianity. America probably had the best shot to do something different, but we blew any opportunity. Future technology will bring big advances, and should also soon bring the start of a big change. As we leave the planet, and make our way to Mars, and other points in the solar system, we will grow beyond what society has made us this far. Once we are across the solar system, we will start to spread across the universe. We will be more than just humans as we are now. Once we get off our earth gravity, we will start to split into two, and multiple different species. These new species will likely be enhanced at the DNA level, and combined in new ways with electronics. This will split us into even more species, working many different ways. We may still have fights and wars, but we will spread everywhere, and become what seems like everything. Just something else to think about, because spreading across the universe will be much easier and quicker than fixing our religion.

  •' Stephen Abbott says:

    Another radical who had faith in the future and called for it to be immediately brought into our reality was Jesus Christ. Like the Kingdom of God, the future the founders of Tomorrowland hoped would come to pass never did, because it’s easier to wait for doom and gloom (and help to come from another reality, or heaven, to break into our world and “fix” all our problems) than to actively WORK to make them come true. Of course modern Christians despise “works” even though Christ commands them. Hope in the future seems hopelessly out of date to today’s Christians, whereas fatalism and easybelivism without effort is what should be going extinct.

    All that said, in the film, Tomorrowland never helped anyone, ever. It was always a potential Good, and by spreading doom and gloom, it became the source of our failure as a planet. Not hopeful at all.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The only way to “work” for a better future is to work for humanism and environmentalism. Christian works tend to be more evangelical in nature, and in the end they tend to sow more division and bring us closer to the end.

  •' Robert Geraci says:

    hmm. i feel like we watched different movies. i distinctly recall a character in the film railing against humanity for accepting a tragic vision of the future precisely because that vision did not require that people do anything. the whole point was not that we should all just sit back and hope that geniuses rescue us, but rather that we all work toward a better future. the elite people’s wonderland was as screwed up as earth (but in different ways, as it allowed earth to spiral into destruction). the key here is that people will allegedly accept horrors to come, simply because acceptance precludes action. the movie, as far as i could tell, actively promotes the idea that people should work to counteract evil.

  •' Whiskyjack says:

    I think the author has things horribly wrong. It’s not belief in the possibility of progress for humanity that’s a fantasy – it’s the expectation of divine justice in an afterlife. Through just about any metric for human well-being, things have got somewhat better – particularly since the Church lost its grip on society and the Enlightenment shed some of its light. That’s not to say that there aren’t serious problems remaining, but I hope they can be addressed.
    One of the factors that held humanity back for so long was the focus of theologians on an imaginary afterlife. By directing so much attention and resources to mythology instead of focusing on real life, the Western world stagnated for centuries. Progress and hope come from human industry and ingenuity, not theological fantasies.

  •' Craptacular says:

    The author should rewrite this from the opposite perspective and see if there is actually the difference he thinks there is.

    An example:

    “How, they asked, does a future that arises solely out of present circumstances produce anything other than more of the same? How can any human creation—a technology, a political or economic system, or anything
    else—avoid reproducing societies with “victors” and “losers” until that very idea has been eliminated from human hearts?” – Scott MacDougall

    How do religions produce any thing other than what has “arisen out of present circumstances?” Religions also produce a society of “saved” or “not saved,” depending on which religion they are a part of. The difference with technological advances is that they serve anyone (admittedly, those that can afford it and have access), regardless of which god they believe in, including those that disbelieve in a god.

    “Eschatological hope allows us to join people in their suffering rather than ignoring it, or “staying positive.” – Scott MacDougall

    Ah yes, “join them in their suffering.” How about we take the secularist approach of relieving or eliminating the cause of the suffering? Oh, that’s right, god put them there to suffer so relieving it is contrary to god’s will. (Let the religious actually suffer a bit and see how long they put up with it before requesting technological relief.)

    A question for Scott:

    How is this:

    “In stark contrast, Tomorrowland exhorts us to take comfort in the existence of an elite cadre of gifted technologists who, among themselves and apart from most of us, will “make the world a better place.” – Scott MacDougall

    different from this?:

    “And this hope is justified even when optimism fails, because it does not depend on us, as optimism does.” – Scott MacDougall

    On the one hand you castigate the film for showing the “everyman” sitting back and letting someone else handle the problem, but, when the chips are down, you take comfort in the fact that you will be taken care of? I am sorry, but during the tornado this week I took shelter in my basement (optimistic that it would protect me) rather than simply praying (hoping something keeps the tornado away from me).

  •' Jim Reed says:

    We need to give the new authors a chance to catch up and learn how we do things here.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Right, look at how much progress we have made since “Tomorrowland” first came out with its little oval shaped “House of the Future” with new plastic appliances that might have been one of the inspirations for “The Jetsons” TV program.

  •' joeyj1220 says:

    Agreed, but I do see some of the author’s point in that the film holds up the ideal that only an elite few get chosen to be a part of this bright new world. The masses are left to the dustbin. I don’t think director Brad Bird means to, but it seems to be a recurring theme in his films. He did one of my favorites “The Incredibles” and it, too, follows the “only a select few are truly special the rest are bland mediocre”. If you remember in that film the populist who believed “if everyone is a super, than no one is” turns out to be the film’s villain.

  •' Craptacular says:

    “… I do see some of the author’s point in that the film holds up the ideal that only an elite few get chosen…” – joey1220

    I am still confused as to how this is different than most religions, as the author purports. Especially christianity…if not for the sacrifice of the “elite one,” no one would be “saved.”

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    You really don’t know anything about Christians do you except for the fundamentalists. You ever hear of Sr. Maegan Rice? Sr. Dorothy Stang, Liberation Theology, the climate change conference at the Vatican? And that’s only a few of those things you obviously don’t know about on the Catholic side of things.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    This is a very interesting article and I will have to think a lot more about it before I have anything substantial to say. The contrast between hope, as in the Gospels and in the Jewish prophetic tradition and chamber of commerce style optimism is something I hadn’t thought of before. Turning science and technology into a god is something that is entirely in line with worshiping Mammon. But it’s a false god. I remember in the week that he was dying and died the worship of i-god, Steve Jobs, was thick and gooey on so many blogs frequented by people who pride themselves on being so sciency and modern. That was until his biography was published. And, then, it wasn’t the revelation that he was a self-centered, selfish, cruel and irresponsible jerk that offended them, it’s that he had engaged in “woo”. I recall in the week before that someone snarkily compared him to the rival god of the PC sect, Bill Gates. Someone said, “Oh, yeah, that would be because coming up with your next shiny, flashy new toy is so much more worthy of respect than trying to wipe out malaria. Only Gates isn’t much of a good god substitute either. And the Disney is just another sect of the same Mammonism that the rest of it is. When you worship material objects, that’s bound to be the result. Both Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz were notable for their attraction to luxury, especially when they stopped pretending to be any kind of a real leftist which neither of them ever were.

    I think that even as Media Matters is the focus of Republican troll activity, Religion Dispatches is the focus of atheist troll activity.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I know about the Catholic side of things from what is in the news.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    RD is a place to ask religion the questions that they try to avoid.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Those individuals and the conference were in the news, even here where such news is generally suppressed. Which is why atheists never seem to know about them. Virtually every liberal denomination of Protestantism and some evangelicals work and lobby for the environment, against war, for economic justice, for civil rights, against oppression, etc. But you don’t hear it because the American corporate media has disappeared all of that in favor of presenting the view of religion that you have. And who says that the American media doesn’t service the interests of atheists? Of course that’s not their motive, their motive is that those other materialists, the vulgar, capitalist-corporatist type, have the same interest in suppressing such news about the activity of religious people. Jesus and the Prophets aren’t good news for their Mammonism anymore than they are the atheists’ materialism.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    They might have been in the news, but the news is dominated by the bishops and their support for conservative Republicans.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Do you own it? You don’t seem to read the articles and comments by religious folk asking those questions. Here and elsewhere.

    If you think religious people don’t ask those questions of themselves, you really know even less about religion than I had thought a minute ago. You couldn’t have read much of any religious literature. You might start with that most exigent of self examinations, assumptions of guilt, wrong motives and even doubt, The Bible.

    Atheists always seem to figure they own everything.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    In America the big question about religion is what is Christianity? At least that is what the question should be, from my point of view. I think the discussions on RD show they have got themselves in a state where that question can’t be answered.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I can answer it, or, rather Jesus answered it in the most unambiguous of terms. Christian must do to the least among them what they would do for God, they are to love their enemies and pray or them, they are to give away their money if they have any, they are to let their yes mean yes and their no mean no, to pay workers their just wages (following The Law which is infinitely more radical in its economic and social justice than any atheist alternative ever proposed), they are to forgive wrongs an infinite number of times, they are to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves. And some other things but that’s enough to be getting on with and a lot more.

    Jesus also said that there would be false followers who used his name but who didn’t follow his teachings. He predicted there would be lots of those about. He never said it was easy, he just said it was what defined his real followers instead of the posers.

    If Americans followed his teachings in large number, it would be an imperfect society because people are imperfect, but it would be a lot closer to heaven on Earth than the world advocated as inevitable by materialists, Darwin, Haeckel, Disney…..

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    The news is dominated by the bishops? Really? You think they exposed the pedophile abuse scandal? As I recall it was a team at the Boston Globe, I believe at least one prominent member of that team a Catholic lay person.

    The news has on whoever they think will push their agenda of electing Republicans who service their corporate owners. Under the last two really bad popes those bishops did the same thing. Fr. Richard McBrien and a number of other priests and nuns and Catholic lay people complained that under JPII and Benedict the quality of people named as bishops had plummeted. Only you’d have had to read them to know that.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    You are letting your hate show. You are calling Darwin a materialist? He was a scientist, seeking the truth about the workings of the world. And for your information, Jesus was an invention of the church from the latter part of the first century, and on into church history of the following centuries.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Its just a church. They do what they do.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I thought we’d established last week that I’d read him whereas you hadn’t. He endorsed Haeckel’s book, The History of Creation, Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte. which was a promotion of materialist monism as the fundamental grounding of science and reality, in no uncertain terms, with no ambiguity, handing Darwin the credit of having given that materialist monism its final triumph. I thought we’d established that I looked up all of Darwin’s relevant citations in The Descent of Man that established that. If we didn’t then, I invite you to read The Descent of Man and the books and articles he cites, a shocking number of which are available from neutral sources and pro-Darwin sources online and see if you can refute what I said.

    In no place did I see that Darwin repudiated the credit for the triumph of materialism that Haeckel granted him or anything else in The History of Creation. If Darwin didn’t really mean to endorse the ideas in a book he said he was in agreement with, in a book which Darwin meant to have the reliability of science, it was up to him to say so, unambiguously. I looked over the evidence for years, having begun looking for the evidence that Darwin was not responsible for eugenics, and failed to find anything like that repudiation. What I found was confirmation that Darwin was, in fact, the inspiration and an early supporter of eugenics, as Francis Galton, Darwin’s own children and every, single other supporter of eugenics said up to the revelation of what eugenics leads to in the 1940s.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    As can be seen by the criticism of popes by priests like Fr. McBrien (who, by the way, was never punished for saying what he did even though he worked at a Catholic university), nuns, Catholic lay people, your statement about religion never asking itself tough questions is nonsense.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Darwin saw the pattern that all life on earth is related through a branching design of species developing from earlier species. It was a wonderful understanding of life on earth. You are just looking for reasons to hate on him. Give him some credit. He was willing to stand up to what the church was teaching when he knew the church was wrong.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The tough questions are why this “Trinity” stuff? What about heaven and hell? What about the fact that the gospel Jesus story was invented in the last part of the first century, and developed in following centuries, and didn’t match the earlier written record of Christianity?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Your idea of the time line of the books of the Second Testament are not widely shared by those who specialize in studying it. Mark is generally believed to date from the 50s AD (I usually use CE but for occasions like this one I use the more traditional designation). The letters of James and some of Paul’s are believed to predate those, so not too many years after the death of Jesus. Unlike Socrates, who can be considered the invention of Plato, primarily, an unbelievable figure who never seems to have met anyone to argue with except people who agreed with him or where not too bright. You think he didn’t exist?

    Jesus talked about The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But,as far as I recall, he didn’t mention a belief in the Trinitarian explanation of God as a requirement of those who were his followers.

    Those teachings I mentioned are the real tough issues of Christianity, the reason that snobs and rich people have had to bury the real Jesus, to deny his existence, to replace him with a phony entity who had the same name, what the post-war Darwin industry did with old Chuck when it became clear that following his ideas could lead to genocide. Something which as orthodox a biologist as Vernon Kellogg came to conclude was a danger as he met with and talked to German military officers who had had a formal training in science during the First World War. Something which William Jennings Bryan warned about in his undelivered closing speech during the Scopes trial, which proved more insightful than what Clarence Darrow (who I’d rather respected until I read him at length) and such luminaries as Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. said during the same decade. Bryan was very wrong about evolution, he was spot on about the consequences of believing that natural selection was the engine of it. Just to spice the pot, a bit.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I have no problem with the idea that all of life is descended from an original parent organism, I have not criticized that idea, though I admit that past a certain point, nothing can be known about it. I’m a big, big fan or science being verified by empirical evidence and past a point in the past that evidence is either entirely unresolvable or it is entirely missing and will certainly never be found. I have no problem identifying my believe in a common ancestor as belief, not knowledge and certainly not scientific. It is a belief based on the fact of evolution and inter-relatedness.

    I am talking about natural selection and its inevitable product, eugenics. And by that I don’t mean just forced sterilization, I also include those things which Darwin included as a boon to the state of the human population, murder, infanticide, neglect of the poor, the ill, the lame and the weak. The ones whose survival he said was inevitably a disaster for the well being of the human species. The ones who he complained were being kept alive in too large numbers through means he named, vaccination, medical care, the levels of charitable aid given under the New Poor Law and the death camps that the Victorian work houses were. I’ve analyzed that passage always hauled out of The Descent of Man, his self-provide golden parachute about aid we feel compelled to give even as he was saying such monstrous things. In the course of pretending to advocate that aid he continually undermines giving it with predictions of disaster resulting from it.

    You can contrast that with the passage not much farther into the texts in which he pooh-poohs the idea of applying his same method of discernment to the “useless drones” which his aristocratic class produced in such large numbers, saying that they don’t have much of a bad effect on things.

    I began my study of Darwin’s writing, those of the men he cited as reliable science, believing the Darwin industry plaster St. Darwin was accurate, I read its refutation in Darwin’s own words, in the words of his adoring children, most of the active eugenicists who attributed eugenics to their father and held that their eugenics activism was a continuation of his work. They obviously knew him more completely and intimately than anyone in the post-war Darwin industry and the people who are duped by it.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    From what I read Mark was written later, like the 70s, which makes sense because Paul didn’t know the gospel stories when he wrote. The gospels were written later.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Science even has evidence of the beginning of the universe, 13.75 billion years ago. Darwin’s genius was noticing species came from a common ancestor, and were not separate creations.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Oh, so you want to jump back to the beginning of the universe. That’s cosmology. The problem with cosmology is that they’re bound to change their minds two weeks from next Thursday and they never agreed either. Current cosmology is so riddled with ideology, primarily atheist ideology furious that religious folk won’t give up their belief that God created the universe, that it hardly counts as science anymore. They’re joining the abiogenesists and the evo-spy kind of folk in demanding that they get an exemption from having empirical confirmation of their theories (which are hardly uniform) so they can claim to have killed off God, in their own minds, at least. It’s not so much different from the insistence on natural selection as the law of evolution when the actual evidence that would confirm that will never be had. I thought we’d gone through that last week as well.

    I can’t recall, I didn’t think Charles Darwin originated the idea of a common ancestor of all life but I’m only really interested in his real claim to fame, natural selection, its problems and the clear malignant effect it has had in subsequent history.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The important thing is the idea the church had that scripture records divine science of origins was wrong, and Darwin shows the origin of species was from other species, and cosmology describes the evolution of the universe.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Atheists have no monopoly on the love of luxury. Eh, Creflo Dollar? Oral Roberts? The Bakkers? Bishop Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst? Pat Robertson? I could go on and on.

    RD is not a “Christian” website, you know. It’s a mostly liberalish blog for the discussion of religious ISSUES, not so much theology itself, though this article is doing so.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I would beg to differ. At least where I live, the fundies assume they own everything – and everyone. I wouldn’t DARE put a Darwin fish on my truck and park it at Walmart.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I don’t live there. And that still doesn’t make atheists the owners of this website.

    I’m not responsible for what you would and wouldn’t dare to do. Imagine what it would be like to drive while Muslim.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Get back to me when that list of people are notable for following the rules Jesus made for preachers, especially the one about them carrying no purse or wearing shoes or having more than one change of clothes. And working for whatever food people put before them. Not to mention every single one of those distinguishing features he said would be how you would know his genuine followers form the phony imitation.

    I never said Religion Dispatches was a Christian website. Is there some kind of ban on discussing theology here? Who died and made you God?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    See answer posted above.

  •' phatkhat says:

    The Disney empire is very conservative and always has been. They push gender stereotypes, they push false optimism (read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided), and, obliquely, Christianity.

    I much prefer Harry Potter’s world to anything Disney has done.

  •' phatkhat says:

    “The ones whose survival he said was inevitably a disaster for the well being of the human species.”

    Well… If you go to Walmart, or a tent-revival, or a tea-party meeting, you might come away with the impression that he wasn’t wrong. (And no, I’m not a proponent of eugenics, though it probably would be for the best in the long term.)

  •' phatkhat says:

    The media presents the fundies because they make a lot of noise. And the Kochs, et al, finance it. Religion teaches obedience to authority, and that is the whole point.

  •' phatkhat says:

    There are rarefied theologians who ask tough questions. Yes. And I don’t doubt the RC church and some liberal seminaries have those people in abundance. Americans on the whole, however, have some really screwed up notions of God, life, money, etc., as you, yourself, have mentioned. The vast majority never question at all.

    I would also posit that the quickest path to atheism is to study the Bible, as I did. And there are a lot of atheist theologians and pastors, whether or not you accept that. They may teach the good stuff, like love and forgiveness, and treating others well, but they don’t actually believe the stuff like Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Ascension, etc. Or the miracles.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Yeah, that’s why the fascist governments in places like Latin America killed lay people, religious, nuns, even Archbishops who defied their authority. Hey, and that’s the reason that the early Christians were banned because they defied authority and why Jesus died because he was a threat to authority.

    It’s atheism that has the record for totalitarian government and killing people for defying authority. Not to mention the present day atheists of groups such as CSI and CFI with their own indices of prohibited ideas and why their thought police sabotage things like Wikipedia pages about people who hold heretical ideas.

    Atheists are also the current greatest promoters of ideas such as free will and free thought are delusions along with the consciousness that they use to do all of those things. Under materialism everything has to obey physical laws and there is no chance that anyone doing anything else is possible because it is, as I pointed out elsewhere, a strictly monist ideology.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I think you are overly optimistic. Bioethicists are warning against human DNA manipulation even to prevent/cure disease! I suppose they are, even if they don’t consciously realize it, afraid to “play god”.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Oh, really. While I know Uncle Walt was an antisemite, I’m surprised that a corporation headed by Micheal Eisner for more than two decades, someone who identifies himself as a “secular” Jew would be pushing Christianity. What is it? Parent Trap? Tron? Mary Poppins?

    Your comment is especially ironic in that J. K. Rowling is a Presbyterian and her story is beyond any doubt a Christian allegory. I read all of them to my nieces, most of them more than twice. Believe me, I know from my Harry Potter.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Considering that Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Ernest Haeckel, Francis Galton, W. R. Greg and most of the scientists who Darwin cited in The Descent of Man were flagrant bigots and sexists, three of whom I know believed that entire racial groups would inevitably be wiped out by the advance of Europeans and they thought it was a good thing, your heroes, or at least heroes of atheists, were probably more benighted than a lot of those people in Walmart or a tent-revival.

    What is it about the repeated Republican electoral successes of the past forty seven years don’t you get? Those people you hate and disdain will vote against people who look down on them and there are ever so many more of them than there are atheists and there always will be.

    See, that’s why I advocate liberals dump the atheists, they are ballot box poison and they think that’s just brilliant of them.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    We should at least be able to manipulate animal DNA and cure diseases in animals, and increase animal lifespans. That could be useful for pets, like dogs, because right now they live so many fewer years than their owners. I don’t think anyone would complain about us playing dog gods..

  •' Jim Reed says:

    It is a website for dispatching religions.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    If you have Disney books for young children, they steal every story idea out there that there is to possibly steal. Then they buy the Muppets, and sue a daycare center that had pictures of muppets on the wall.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Ah, yes. The fascist governments the US Industrial Complex supported, aided and abetted. Those people killed were, yes, rebels. Were they acting out religion, or were they acting out humanist ethics? Jesus would have been a good humanist, actually.

    As to the atheist totalitarians… yawn. Totalitarian leaders come in all flavors, and brutality is committed under every flag – even religious ones. Wars over religions are the worst wars, and they can last centuries.

    And yes, everything DOES obey physical laws. Have you ever seen a rock fall UP? There has never been a virgin birth, and no one has come back from truly being dead (brain dead). There are no miracles that cannot be explained.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    “The Church”. Which church? The Catholic church never banned Darwinism, though it did reject eugenics. While any institution that has as long a history as the Catholic and Orthodox churches has gone through different periods, those who misread Genesis and other passages in the scripture as science are probably a minority. Darwinism was never banned by any of the mainstream Protestant churches that I’m aware of, either.

    You do know that the irony of what you’re saying is that the opposition to the Big Bang theory was largely mounted by atheists because, 1. it was first proposed by Fr. Georges Lemaitre, quite a figure in the history of physics and cosmology, as late as the 1990s, the atheist fundamentalist John Maddox, the editor of Nature was railing against it and predicting it would be overturned because he suspected it was some kind of Christian plot. A number of prominent atheists were holding out for a steady state universe of some kind, just as atheists such as Carroll and Krauss are holding out for whatever steady state multiuniverse notion that they bring up as their last one is shot down in an effort to have to avoid answering the question of what there was that the universe came from, ultimately. I recently read a book review that pointed out that Krauss’ most recent candidate is a proposed quantum entity the origin of which he admits he can’t account for, either. Just as a matter of parsimony the invention of the multiverse is the greatest creation of matter and no one but a bunch of cosmologists and physicists stuck with implications they don’t like to speak it into being.

    Atheists account for a good part of the decadence that science is in at the moment, multiuniverse, M-theory, string theory, abiogenesis, evo-psy, it’s all a sign of a decadent phase in science that, oddly, Bertrand Russell anticipated in response to Eddington’s Nature of the Physical World. You might like to look up Russel’s gloomy essay called The Twilight of Science, it’s online from safely atheist sources so you won’t get cooties from reading it. I think a lot of Russell’s anti-religious stuff is due to a Christian, Godel, demolishing his great effort and another religious figure, Wittgenstein, refusing to revive it for him. Which is actually more interesting than my previous theory that he figured if more women were atheists he’d be able to get them into bed easier. The old roué.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Again, who died and made you God?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Oh, dear. No, you are not going to claim Oscar Romero, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, Mary Donovan and Maura Clarke for atheism. You are not going to claim the Base Communities for atheism, or the Six Jesuit Martyrs El Salvador, their house keeper and her daughter. They were all of them Christians, if you want to read what they wrote you will find that THEY, not you, said what their motivation was and it was The Gospel and The Law as found in the First Testament, the Catholic theological tradition and such things as encyclicals of various popes.

    Do I have to go over “Humanism” again?

    So are you comparing your thought to a falling rock? If you really believe the materialist ideology concering peoples’ minds you would have removed any reason for a religious person to listen to you because your thinking is merely your peculiar brain chemistry working itself out with no transcendent property of truth being involved, just as their brains would be working out the chemicals it had at hand to produce a result that was perfectly in line with physical law. They would have no reason, whatsoever, to listen to you or to conclude that your thinking had any objective reality to it any more than theirs did. As I’ve pointed out over and over again, materialism has the interesting property that it can only be true if it is false. Otherwise it’s just a variety of chemical reaction, no more true than the reaction of a base and an acid coming into contact or food rotting. Food rotting would have exactly the same quality of truth as any idea you could advocate.

  •' phatkhat says:

    MOST fantasy literature can be viewed through any lens you like. A lot of good fantasy is allegorical, even openly, like LOTR. You can see Xtian allegory in HP or not, as you wish. But Rowling creates HUMAN characters that are three-dimensional and do very human things. HP is no angel, he has his moments of doubt, anger, pride, etc. Hermione is a very strong woman, and without her, Harry would probably not have succeeded. (BTW, Rowling now regrets how she handled the epilogue. She would have done it differently were she doing it now.) Harry also had a lot of help from his friends, some of whom were unlikely, like Luna and Neville.

    Actually, the Tomorrowland story seems to have borrowed from HP. The parallel worlds, the need for the “chosen one” to cross between them to save them both, catastrophe looming… Or is that just the fantasy meme?

    Perhaps Disney is simply pushing conservative morality, and it is without particular religious identification. The only good “Disney” movie I ever saw (Touchstone, actually) was The Watcher in the Woods. THAT was a truly creepy flick! I was surprised to learn it was a Disney production.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    So you think you know Rowling’s mind better than she does. Why doesn’t that surprise me. I remember reading someone denying that Dumbledore was gay after she said he was. If you were more familiar with scripture you would have noticed she put some in crucial places in the story. Go look it up. I really don’t want to get into Harry Potterology but I am prepared to.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I don’t know Rowling’s mind unless she tells us what she is thinking, and she did. She SAID IN AN INTERVIEW that she should have handled the epilogue differently. Go google it. I’m not going to post any spoilers. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so, yes, I’m pretty familiar with the whole saga.

    Having once been a fundie, I’m pretty familiar with scripture, too. But just because Rowling is a Presbyterian doesn’t mean much. Lots of novelists use Biblical references, because the Bible is also literature. It’s entertainment, and I took it as such – HP, that is. I didn’t try to read into it.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    The Epilogue was a tiny part of the book. What I seem to recall she’d have changed was Hermione and Ron’s getting married, a few other things that didn’t impinge on my contention. If you’re familiar with scripture I’m surprised you can’t see the theme of the series as a religious allegory. I don’t see who she could have made it more obvious.

    I’m surprised that line about where your treasure is there your heart will be and, you know, little things like life after death, being willing to die for your friends and that being your and their salvation, things like that wouldn’t have jumped out at you. If you were a fundamentalist at one time.

    You see, I was never a fundamentalist so I can see a wider view of Christianity, perhaps. Few of the Christians I’ve met have been fundamentalists.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I do not think there are too many atheists today who would promote the idea of genocide. Nor do I think that very many atheists have even read the authors you cite. You take exception to radical atheists like Dawkins, but overlook the ordinary people like myself who do not believe in gods. (If I did believe, it would be my avy.) Or the secular humanists who actually try to do all those things for others that Jesus supposedly talked about. I’m sorry, but atheists are not monsters.

    As far as racism and sexism go, remember that the KKK were Christians. As were most slaveholders. As were the preachers who presided over the lynchings of black people well into the 20th century. If you read old geography/history books from the early 20th century, you will find that the ideas of racial superiority were not limited to atheists. In fact, some of the strongest voices against people of color were Christians. AND THEY STILL ARE TODAY. And whatever problems the atheists have with women, they are nothing compared to the Southern Baptists or the patriarchy/quiverfull folks.

    And you certainly missed the boat by suggesting that I was an elitist. I have a master’s degree, for what it’s worth, but I hardly think I am some sort of paragon. My college grad husband drives a truck, for heaven’s sake. (It’s hard to find a good-paying job when you are over 60, so you take what you can get.) We are working folks ourselves, and our neighbors are, as well. I don’t hate or look down on anyone, nor wish harm upon them. In fact, I get quite perturbed with the “limo liberals” from the cities who refuse to believe there are actually liberals (and atheists) in the sticks.

    All I meant by my statement about the people I live among is that they are largely uneducated, have way too many kids, and have no drive to do any better. It would be far better if they had fewer kids, and maybe the educated people should have more. We certainly don’t need any more Huckabees or Duggars. And yes, I’m from Arkansas.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Or cat goddesses. ;o)

  •' Veritas says:

    There are miracles and I have seen people declared brain dead who were not. That you do not believe a miracle is possible is cynicism and arrogance, not intelligence. There is a statistical probability that an object may “fall” upward, but very remote.. But it is still possible.
    Science may make a virgin birth a reality… Do not be so confident in what we know about the universe, we only percieve a fraction of the truth of reality

    As for totalitarians, their religion is about worshipping them. That they may trick people into thinking they have Gods authority, that is illusion.
    Jesus taught respect of authority only to the point that it must yield to the inner loyalty to God and to neighbor. Their is nothing self serving about the true teaching of Christ, he was selfless to the end.

    That you may not believe the story of Jesus and the resurrection is your choice, but science has not disproved it, that is not a possibility at this late date.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Well, you don’t own it either, you know. And we have as much right to our opinions as you do to yours.

    Driving while Muslim would be bad. (Especially if you were a woman in Saudi Arabia.) But driving while black or Latino isn’t safe, either. And though Bill Maher and Dawkins are awfully vocal about Muslims, they pale next to the likes of Pam Geller.

    So, as much as you hate Darwin, do you go around keying cars with Darwin-fish? Some of the “Christians” here would. Or worse. The most radical thing I’ve put on the truck was a Mark Pryor bumper sticker.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Eh, so are you a barefoot, indigent street preacher? Somehow, I doubt it. You sound pretty privileged, actually.

    No one made either Jim or me “god”. But you seem to think we have no right to disagree with your rather pompous blathering.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Jim Henson must be spinning in his grave. That’s pretty cold.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Yeah, right. Miracles always have a logical, natural explanation. And there is nothing wrong with that. We don’t need “miracles”. We simply need a sense of awe and wonder at the grandness around us in nature. That is spirituality enough, and even us atheists can have that!

    Do you actually think that people who do not believe in god(s) cannot be just as kind, compassionate, and ethical as those who do???

  •' phatkhat says:

    Even that old witch, Mother Teresa, admitted that she had doubts. No one knows what is in anyone else’s head, including you. You don’t know if someone who professes belief actually believes or not.

    And actually, humanist ethics are not so far removed from some of the religious ones. We seem to have hard-wired tendencies to be ethical, and all religions, as well as non-religious, tend to observe the golden rule.

    The brain is a complex organ. I have no idea how it works. Not even neurosurgeons truly understand it, though they know what parts do what. But once the computer is turned off, that’s it, as Stephen Hawking has said. And goodness knows, he must be the smartest living man on the planet at this moment.

  •' Veritas says:

    I didn’t say that miracles couldn’t have a logical explanation in nature, The God who created nature can certainly work within it. A miracle is not the impossible happening, merely the improbable. Life would be dull and limited without that awe and wonder, creation itself is a miracle.

    Atheists are of course capable of morality and compassion, I know many. What separates us is one fundamental question and the result; what was the non-contingent first cause of creation? The answer has implications to why and how tightly we hold to our moral convictions.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Oh, yes, the final book was kind of heavy on the allegory. Or could be viewed that way, at least. Unless Rowling said she wrote it as Biblical allegory, however, I will assume it was written as the good vs. evil meme prevalent in fantasy novels. After all, those things you mention are also present in OTHER religious writings, and in non-religious philosophical writings as well.

    Perhaps she was hoping to assuage the Christianists who condemned the books. I have no idea. But it was a great saga, and I was as excited as any kid on the days the books came out! They were a ripping good read with or without allegory.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I wouldn’t call it morality. Morality is a religious word, sort of like “sin” is. I don’t believe in sin. I believe in wrongful acts, but sin is more than that. I like to call right actions “ethical” rather than moral.

    The origins of the cosmos may never be satisfactorily explained. Or maybe they will. Who knows?

    You know, I’m not totally averse to the idea of a “creator”, but any such “god” would be totally outside our realm of understanding. The idea that the “god of the cosmos” would be so petty and venial as the prophets of old (and new) times made him out to be is totally ridiculous. THAT god is man’s invention, made to order for social control.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    It was a long time ago when they bought the muppets.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Altering DNA to improve the animal and give it a longer life would be expensive, and I was going to say maybe we could only afford one species, but then thinking about it maybe the only animal that can afford that kind of money would be a racehorse.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Well, horses live a long time, but maybe not racehorses. Cats seem genetically programmed for kidney failure, and it would be cool if they could fix that. I have lost too many kitties that way, and at young ages, and it is heartbreaking. I’d love to see a genetic fix! >^..^<

  •' Russ Dewey says:

    I liked this whopper: “The theologians of the early twentieth century who witnessed the horrors of World War I helped us understand that the late-nineteenth-century liberal Christian belief in ever-increasing human progress was a fantasy.”

    Actually, the best case BY FAR for hopeful progress in humanity is the post-WW II development of IT and the resulting progress in nearly every area of life, as documented by Peter Diamandis in the book Abundance. Or look at Kurzweil’s graphs of exponential progress, available free on the web. Never mind the nuttier stuff like the singularity; just look at the amazing progress in so many areas. Increasing life expectancy, less infant mortality, increased prosperity in almost every country in the world… just compare China of today to China in Mao’s era. Compare technology of today to technology 20 years ago. Compare the attitudes expressed on blogs. No progress? I don’t think so!

    Humans are attuned to problems and worries, and Christians, especially the increasingly dominant conservative variety (who would not even recognize the progressive Christian who commented below as a Christian) say the world is spoiled, inherently evil, or hopeless without their supernatural solutions. Tainted by original sin.

    Meanwhile, science advances at a never before seen pace. The outline of the whole history of the cosmos has been unlocked in the past 20 years, including the fact that it is 13.8 billion years old, the discovery of the cosmic background radiation that verifies the details of inflationary theory to a shockingly precise degree… As Pinker argued in a book-length treatise, there is less violence and war today than every before. Ordinary people have computers more powerful than the richest person could afford 20 years ago. Free HD video on YouTube allows you to see some of the world’s greatest teachers, like David Attenborough, any time you want in your own home. Facebook and other social media allow us to reach out to distant friends and relatives on a daily basis like never before.

    My son finished a post-doc in Budapest where he worked with bright, sociable, and socially responsible graduate students from about a dozen different countries. They were all on the same wavelength, all contributing to science, all speaking English along with other languages because English is the language of science and commerce these days. There was no ethnic strife, no religious combat (few were religious and if they were, they kept it to themselves). All worked together to pursue truth the way scientists do it, by doing experiments and gathering evidence, and they enjoyed doing it.

    I could go on. Perhaps because I am not a Fox News conservative, I actually see lots of progress in lots of places, such as California and Colorado, to use U.S. states as an example. Only a few places stand out as going the wrong direction, backwards…places like Kansas and North Carolina. And I hope that is only temporary.

    Anyway, the idea that things are not “progressing” is absurd. But it does show an important built-in difference between scientifically inclined people and conservative religious figures. Scientists believe in evolution, because all sorts of evidence in every area of science shows it is true. Consequently they realize that things always develop and change, and they can change for the better if people realize that is adaptive and encourage it. It is our responsibility to meet the moral challenges (hateful discrimination against gays, inequality of women, etc) and change them for the better. That’s “progressive.”

    Opposed to this is the idea that a perfect revelation occurred only once, thousands of years in the past, and was fixed into place, never to change. For those who swallow that idea, the only responsible thing for authorities to do is keep things fixed in place, or roll them back to a bygone era. What a depressing notion!

    I can see why somebody yearning for 1950s culture in America might feel threatened by recent changes. However, I was born in that decade, and I think there has been really amazing progress in my lifetime (including the development of computers and the internet!). I can only feel sorry for somebody who thinks the world is spoiled. They should wake up!

  • Just ignore him. A few weeks ago, he said a number of things about the Duggar scandal that were so ignorant and outrageous that most of us have shunned him.

  • Of course he was a materialist. A materialist is someone who believes that the only things that exist are physical — an anti-supernaturalist.

  • Rubbish. Eugenics is the result of social Darwinism, an illegitimate offshoot of the theory of natural selection.

    And of course you believe in evolution. If you make use of any modern medicine you accept the basic principles of evolutionary biology.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Some people think the Duggars have also said a number of ignorant and outrageous things about the Duggar scandal.

  •' cken says:

    Certainly the hope or assurance of salvation is theological. However for thy will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven requires faith, hope and even optimism. Faith by definition incorporating the other two. Therefor I think the author is splitting hairs in the definition of hope and optimism as both require faith things will be better at some point in some way.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Another fan of Charles Darwin who never bothered to read him. That line that Social Darwinism was the creation of Spencer and, mercy Me, it has nothing to do with St. Charles Darwin is most easily refuted by quoting what Darwin said in the fifth edition of Origin of Species.

    “How will the struggle for existence, briefly discussed in the last chapter, act in regard to variation? Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act most effectually. Let the endless number of peculiar variations in our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, in those under nature, be borne in mind; as well as the strength of the hereditary tendency. Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organisation becomes in some degree plastic. But the variability, which we almost universally meet with in our domestic productions, is not directly produced, as Hooker and Asa Gray have well remarked, by man; he can neither originate varieties, nor prevent their occurrence; he can only preserve and accumulate such as do occur; unintentionally he exposes organic beings to new and changing conditions of life, and variability ensues; but similar changes of conditions might and do occur under nature. Let it also be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life; and consequently what infinitely varied diversities of structure may be of use to each being under changing conditions of life. Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations, and the destruction of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions.”

    That’s about it for the contention separating the plaster St. Darwin from Spencerian Social Darwinism, he, himself identified natural selection with it in absolutely unambiguous terms.

    And, as anyone who read The Descent of Man, the things he cited as reliable science in that book meant to have the reliability of science and many of his letters, as well as the testimony of his own children and his closest scientific colleagues who, unlike you, knew and talked to the living man, can see, your belief is a total and complete fiction. I have been unable to locate it in the period before the end of WWII, it is a construction of people who never knew the man to distance him from the eugenics that had proven to be such a moral atrocity. That post-war mythical Darwin was falsified as late as April 1939 when his son, Leonard Darwin, credited his father as the inspiration of German eugenics as he had his own eugenics in previous decades. As did Francis Galton, the inventor of the word for his extension of natural selection into the human species.

    I don’t know how you people can be so confident about your beliefs when it’s clear you have never read what the man said about it, himself.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    What I said was that there were far worse pedophile rape scandals that are entirely ignored as Salon was publishing dozens of articles about the creepy misdeeds of a 14 year old. Things like the incest themed, pedophile themed porn that is freely and ubiquitously available online, the photographic and video record of children, often in third world countries being raped by men, with the infliction of pain being one of the things promoted.

    I have not noticed Salon or Alternet or many of the other online webloids publishing articles about that or the hundreds and thousands of commentators being at all concerned with far worse than what they were accusing the admittedly putrid Josh Duggar and his admittedly putrid parents with. Apparently you don’t think that the industrial rape of children as entertainment for men is any big deal, either.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    “Daniel A. Kaufman” being one of those, here.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Jesus was a homeless Jewish peasant whose career, whether a stonecutter or the carpenter the Greek word is translated as more commonly was of about the lowest economic class there was in his day. They weren’t the beneficiaries of collective bargaining and organized unions.

    You think I sound privileged? Because I know how to read and write? How very snobbish of you. My income is barely enough to keep me out of destitution, I’m a working class kid who went to college, my father worked in a non-unionized factory for lousy pay, I went to public schools. Perhaps unlike you, I did my homework. You might be surprised at how smart some of those people you see at Walmart and tent shows are, though I don’t shop there or go to revivals. That is if you weren’t so busy looking down on them and insulting them.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    People have a right to their opinions, no matter how ill informed, they don’t have a right to pretend those are facts.

    Darwin was a thoroughly detestable person, he had more in common with the people you hate than you would like to know. You can find that out by reading him, both his scientific writing and his correspondence. Anyone who could have read the advocacy in Malthus to starve to death millions of people for diversion and then go on to twist it even more to advocate his British class based beliefs were a law of all of nature is pretty bad. As I noted in one of the comments, in his book about evolution in the human species, he granted an exception to his own, aristocratic class as he did himself. As he advocated the salubrious effects of millions of people dying before they reached the age of reproduction, he believed himself to be chronically ill and infirm. It didn’t stop him from fathering a whole mess of kids, himself. None of whom would appear to have been unvaccinated as I can find no evidence of Darwin descendants getting small pox. As I also pointed out he was something of an anti-vaxxer, opposed to UNIVERSAL vaccination, complaining that it kept too man of the “weaker members” of the human species alive.

    You can read it all in Darwin’s own words, in his books, from the most pro-Darwin of sources. Though in my experience at least the Darwin Correspondence Project would seem to be reluctant to transcribe some of his worst letters to Ernst Haeckel, I had to find those from academic sources off line.

    The big difference between me and you guys is that I am encouraging everyone who thinks they know all about Charles Darwin to read him and look up his citations, not to cover him up with myth.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Oh, well, that little thing, only the denoument of the seven book series.

    You were never a fundamentalist, you have to be entirely ignorant of the scriptures if you couldn’t see the references to Christianity all through the series.

    I doubt she was worried about the condemnation she got from a few fundamentalists anymore than the guys in Monte Python did. John Cleese said it was a great thing in that they promoted The Life of Brian more effectively than their publicity people could have. He said he made a lot of money out of the furor against that movie. It doesn’t seem to have seriously disadvantaged her.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Ah, I would refer you to several things. Francis Galton, the inventor of eugneics, credited Charles Darwin as the inspiration of eugenics in his memoir, chapter 20.

    “The publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science…

    … I was encouraged by the new views to pursue many inquiries which had long interested me, and which clustered round the central topics of Heredity and the possible improvement of the Human Race.”

    In the same chapter he reproduced the letter Charles Darwin sent him when he read Galton’s first book on the topic, “Hereditary Genius”


    3rd December

    “MY DEAR GALTON,–I have only read about 50 pages of your book (to Judges), but I must exhale myself, else something will go wrong in my inside. I do not think I ever in all my life read anything more interesting and original–and how Well and clearly you put every point! George, who has finished the book, and who expressed himself in just the same terms, tells me that the earlier chapters are nothing in interest to the later ones! It will take me some time to get to these latter chapters, as it is read aloud to me by my wife, who is also much interested. You have made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think this is an eminently important difference. I congratulate you on producing what I am convinced will prove a memorable work. I look forward with intense interest to each reading, but it sets me thinking so much that I find it very hard work; but that is wholly the fault of my brain and not of your beautifully clear style.–Yours most sincerely,

    (Signed) “CH. DARWIN”

    As anyone who bothered to read The Descent of Man can see, from the many positive citations of Hereditary Genius and the articles published in Macmillians’ magazine, Darwin considered Galton’s eugenics to be reliable science of an order meriting positive citation in his own book on the topic.

    If, as I suspect you will, you note that Galton didn’t use the word “eugenics” until the year after Charles Darwin died, that doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference as Galton also noted that Hereditary Genius and the two articles that preceded it count as documents of eugenics.

    Charles Darwin’s son, Francis, also called the article that George Darwin (the George mentioned in Darwin’s letter) wrote in the 1870s, advocating the abolition of marriages of people who are found to be insane, were eugenic articles. Articles which his father approved of and defended against criticism, notably from St. George Mivart. I have noted that Darwin’s son Leonard, as well, attributed his eugenics to his fathers inspiration, calling it the continuation of his father’s work.

    You think you know Darwin’s thinking better than his own sons and Francis Galton did? They knew him. They talked to him on an intimate basis. You never laid eyes on the man from a distance. He’d probably been dead scores of years if not a century before you were born.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Sam Harris, his admirers, obviously put the lie to what you said. Christopher Hitchens blithely and infamously defended the genocide of the inhabitants of the Americas as progress in an infamous article that The Nation saw fit to publish. I was a subscriber at the time, I read it, it was one of the reasons that I let my subscription lapse. I have yet to notice it made his career as a professional atheist any less successful.

    The KKK certainly didn’t follow the teachings of Jesus. On the other hand, such of their opponents as Ida B. Wells and most others were Christians. The civil rights struggle was manned almost entirely by religious believers, the large majority of them Christians, working in Christian Churches. Atheists contributed almost nothing to that struggle or to the struggle to abolish slavery. Thomas Huxley, as I’ve noted recently, even as the ink was drying on the Emancipation Proclamation snarkes that all it did was turn black people from “well kept” animals to inferior men who would certainly die off in a struggle with superior white people, in a fight fought with “brains instead of teeth” his words. Darwin as well blithly predicted that many named racial and ethnic groups would be wiped out with the advancement of “civilised” people. In his letter to G. A. Gaskell he named the Brits as one of the foremost of those “civilised” conquering peoples. I don’t see that it’s has made either men less popular with atheists today.

    I think it’s notable that almost any gathering of atheists will be mostly white, mostly male. It has always been that way and I suspect it always will be.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    My favorite was when the parents said what Josh did was not pedaphilia like they were accusing others of maybe about to commit because technically you can’t be a pedaphile until you are 16, and Josh had barely turned 15 at the time.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    You are the one calling them putrid. We were not really saying they did anything that bad as much as just holding them up as a prime example of the evangelical world, and making sure what they did is not overlooked, whether it was bad or not, and certainly not judging them as putrid. Josh was just a little too curious about girls.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Thanks for helping us with all the feedback.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    The Quiverfull cult is not typical of evangelical religion. Evangelical Christianity, not a form of the religion I buy, is not a uniform entity. It includes some rather liberal people as well as patriarchal cultists of their kind. I find their politics putrid as well as their clear use of their decision to have more children than they can supervise and their decision to turn their fecundity into a marketing opportunity on cabloid TV and in the pseudo-Christian right. I think I said somewhere at Salon that I thought that was more honestly considered the Antichrist than an intention to try to follow the teachings of Jesus. I think the Republican right and its associated corporate entities make a rather convincing Antichrist and I’m not even so big on considering the book of Revelation as a legitimate scripture. It does, though, have some useful ideas in it.

    You guys imagine everyone looks at the scriptures the way fundamentalists do when fundamentalism isn’t all that old and it was certainly never really practiced or followed.

    I never advocated overlooking what Josh Duggar did. Neither do I advocate overlooking what pornogaphers, their distributors, the consumers of their product, the British elite in their own enormous pedophile sex scandal, the European one, sex tourists to Thailand, which brings us to such figures as Gore Vidal whose conduct and words lead to the reasonable suspicion that he indulged in pedophile sex tourism as asserted by his sister and nephew. Not to mention such “Humanists” as Vern Bullough whose CV contains the information that he was an active member in a group, Paidika, which advocated legalizing child rape. In which case no one could be convicted of child rape if they could dupe a child into “giving consent” when there is no way such “consent” is meaningful. I suspect that most of the atheists and others I engaged in discussion at Salon and elsewhere are entirely in favor of overlooking those other documented and probable cases of pedophile rape and abuse.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    This was supposed to be a simple story about a large evangelical family, and the oldest boy was sneaking into the girls room to feel them while they slept, sometimes over their clothes, and sometimes under. After this continued for a while and they couldn’t stop it, they sent him off for a lecture from a policeman who is now serving a prison sentence for child porn. Can’t we just appreciate the story without getting into all that other stuff?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Oddly, enough. Most people who study the Bible don’t end up atheists. You’ve been reading Daniel Dennett. A book that is certain to support his career as a professional atheist. Do you think he’d have gotten a book about atheists who became religious would sell? Anatheism is an up and coming thing, I suspect lots of former atheists find a more mature religion than the one they left. I did, I was an agnostic for about a quarter of a century before I realized that the pose requiring knowledge of such things was just a pose and eventually a mature person needed to make a firm decision about what they believe, dropping the absurd idea that absolute proof outside of mathematics is possible.

    I don’t happen to believe in the Virgin Birth, though I don’t see how it can be deemed to be impossible. The Resurrection was attested to by multiple witnesses, apparently, so that’s harder to discount. The Ascension is less reliably attested to. Jesus never set belief in those as a requirement to be his follower.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I never said a word about it, never having heard of Josh Duggar and only being marginally aware of the Dugger clan until about the dozenth 2-minute hate article appeared on the Top Stories sidebar at Salon. Then there were more, I would like to know how many Top Stories at Salon, Alternet, etc. how many frantic blog posts and jillions of hate bites have been expended on that story while the far more extensive, blatant and obvious rape of children goes unmentioned for weeks, months, years at such places. One of the blogs I used to frequent has often advocated lowering the age of consent well under where anyone in their right minds with any memory of their childhood or knowledge of young children would have to know that they can’t give consent because they are too immature and manipulable. The bright things at that blog all thought it was good and moderny and scieny to take that view of it. And, then, there are the colleagues of Vern Bullough at Paidika who advocated abolishing age of consent laws and sophisticated folk like Gore Vidal – who supported the formation of NAMBLA, fundraising for them as it was forming – about whom one must not speak the truth. I used to like Gore Vidal until then.

    All of that was at least equally worthy of attention as a 14-year-old with issues feeling up his sisters and a babysitter. Granted he had issues and maybe still does and is a creep and a hypocrite. What he did is certainly less than is known and documented to happen in organized pedophile rings in the UK, elsewhere in Europe and which is a world wide phenomon in places such as Thailand, with an industry to service men who will pay to rape children held in bondage, some of them kidnapped from surrounding countries to be used up, killed and disposed of by that industry servicing mostly white, Western, men.

    Where’s the outrage about that?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    You learn anything?

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Good summary of things. And now people are starting to think we might be almost ready to make the move to Mars, and from there the rest of the solar system. The young people will live to see a lot of exciting developments.

  •' phatkhat says:

    You know what? If anyone here sounds snobbish, it’s you. And that is why I said privileged. And you obviously look down on a lot of people yourself. What was that about specks and logs?

    I came from a destitute childhood, myself. I know what it’s like to be hungry. But like my first sociology prof said, there is a difference between being penniless and being poor. I was not “poor”, because I (and evidently you) was raised to value education and to do better than my parents. A lot of kids are not so lucky.

    I know a lot of uneducated people are clever, street-smart, and have common sense. How much better for them if they HAD education. Had a chance at education. But you have to admit, there are a lot of people out there who are not exactly playing with a full deck. They have a right to a good life, too, but it would be better if they were not the very ones who have a dozen kids. (And no, I’m not advocating forced sterilization, either.)

  •' phatkhat says:

    You know what? I really don’t care what Darwin did, other than his scientific research. A LOT of people have probably been assholes who still managed to contribute great things. Steve Jobs was a real jerk, but he produced a fantastic technological revolution. Henry Ford was a real bastard, but he revolutionized manufacturing. I could go on and on.

    I have no interest in combing through ponderous nineteenth century tomes by long dead scholars – or even literary giants. It’s boring. If it trips your trigger, then go for it. {shrug} I’ll take the distilled version written in modern language.

    I spent some years in journalism, editing, writing, and doing layout. One thing I learned was that being clear and concise is important. Showing off your vocabulary not so much. I can tell by your style that you are quite enamored of 19th century authors. I’m not.

  •' Russ Dewey says:

    I’m actually skeptical about humans on Mars, but that’s a whole other discussion, isn’t it! The hazards are daunting. But if Elon Musk thinks it’s possible, perhaps it is! Certainly this represents the sort of exciting development that lies in the future, and even if we only tour Mars in virtual reality, while robots do the actual exploring, our knowledge of it will become more and more detailed, and virtual flyovers more vivid and realistic in time. And that is indeed a good example of continuing “progress.” It’s weird when people are uninspired by the future, or afraid of it. Or wanting “end times.”

  •' phatkhat says:

    That denouement WAS important from a feminist standpoint. And perhaps Rowling realized it after the fact.

    Maybe I wasn’t looking for scripture in Harry Potter. Maybe I was simply looking for good fantasy. Like I said, the good vs. evil meme is the foundation of most – if not all – fantasy literature. And those memes are also the foundation of all religious thought/philosophy. Of course it’s there.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Let me tell you something. There are a LOT of atheists. And MOST of us are not big fans of Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. They are pompous asses, and they do not speak for all atheists, any more than Franklin Graham, the late JR Rushdoony, and John Hagee speak for all Christians.

    There are leaders in every movement. There are people who work hard in the movement without being leaders. There are bound to have been plenty of atheists working for civil rights, and there still are today.

    And yes, there is a disconnect between women atheists and the white male leadership of the so-called “new atheists”. But that isn’t limited to atheism. I have had online debates with many Christian men who suddenly dropped it when they found out they were arguing with a woman. LOL! There are many men who cannot abide the thought of a woman who is their intellectual equal.

    I really don’t think there is so much a philosophical line there, as there is a cultural line.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I’ve never read ANY of the “new atheists”. I arrived at atheism by progressing from fundamentalism to deism to agnosticism to atheism. I do not believe in the supernatural, though I accept that extraordinary things do happen.

    I survived an EF4 tornado, and that was certainly extraordinary. I will not, however, call it a miracle. Other people DID die in the storm. I simply did what I had predetermined to do if a severe storm ever hit (no storm shelter), and it saved my life.

    If you don’t think that a lot of theologians and pastors are losing their faith, check out The Clergy Project.

    As to the resurrection… Perhaps the man wasn’t dead at all. Yogis can put themselves into something like suspended animation, you know.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Does it seem like there might be a little less talk of end times and Jesus coming than there was just a few years ago? I wonder if they are finally starting to see how stupid it sounds to others, and so they are starting to downplay it a bit? If you tell them thousands of times, 2000 years is enough, it is not going to happen, maybe they finally start to see the problem, or at least see they need to be more quiet about it.

  •' phatkhat says:

    You might check out The Unauthorized Version by Robin Lane Fox. Fox is an atheist, but he’s also a scholar and meticulous researcher, and provides tons of resources.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I would rather consult people with less of an axe to grind. I find the scholars I consult quite open and honest about the contingencies of their conclusions.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Isn’t that Daniel Dennett’s shtick? I have little to no respect for Dennett who I think is one of the sillier philosophers around these days. If I had a dollar for every logical impossibility he’s pushed I would be able to have a good weekend, if not a week of vacation.

    There is no evidence that Jesus practiced Yoga. None of the gospels, Acts or the epistles mention such a thing.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Actually, as a historical scholar, Fox doesn’t really grind any axes. He pretty much sticks to the research, whether or not it supports his bias. OTOH, you really mean, I expect, that you will stick to sources that support your own views.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I was being sarcastic in answer to what you said. Of course the denoument was important, as denouments generally are, except in Thornton Wilder when the’re always sort of a let down. If you didn’t recognize

    Here’s what Rowling said from the Daily Telegraph Oct. 20, 2007

    The author said that she had always deflected questions on the issue in the past to avoid disclosing the direction in which the books were heading.

    “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious,” Rowling said. “But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”

    At the end of her latest and final installment in the series, there are specific references to Christianity and themes of life after death and resurrection.

    At one point Harry visits his parents’ graves and finds two biblical passages inscribed on their tombstones.

    “They are very British books, so on a very practical note, Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones,” she said.

    “But I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones …they sum up, they almost epitomise, the whole series.”

    However the author, who was brought up an Anglican and is now a member of the Church of Scotland, said she still wrestled with the concept of an afterlife.

    “On any given moment if you asked me if I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes – that I do believe in life after death.

    “But it’s something I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books.”

    Memes are a pseudo-scientific invention that are no more real than the epicycles used to make classical astronomy work. Another of those Daniel Dennett ideas that are useful only to demonstrate how illogical and credulous he is when some so-called scientist who is also an atheist says something. Especially when they can throw in a good dose of natural selection.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I’ll stick with the experts I trust.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I’ve got no idea what Dennett’s schtick is. I’ve never read him, though I saw a video of a silly debate he had with someone. I agree with you that he is a poor philosopher, based on that clip.

    There are something like 20 years of Jesus’ (even assuming he was a real person) life that are totally unaccounted for. Who knows what he did or learned. And of course he went off by himself to pray, meditate or whatever. I don’t know that he became a yogi, but it isn’t impossible. Perhaps he stumbled upon the technique by himself.

    All I’m saying is that there is a NATURAL explanation for apparent miracles.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Just about everything I said was contained in his assertion of natural selection in a book he wrote as a scientist to be taken to have the reliability of science. That was his science.

    I wasn’t aware I was showing off my vocabulary. Back in my day this is how adults who had been to college were expected to talk about serious subjects.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I’m just going to start calling you Don (Quixote). EVERYTHING that anyone else says – at least if they are atheist – leads back to your crusade against Darwin.

    Actually, Dawkins coined the term “memes”, but it has nothing to do with atheism, but rather evolutionary biology. The idea is that memes are to culture/society what DNA is to the biological unit. According to Wikipedia (which I realize is not authoritative), “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices”.

    So, yes, good vs. evil in fantasy could be considered a meme.

    I did find the idea of Christianity juxtaposed with wizarding a strange one, and thought solstice might have been a more appropriate winter holiday than Christmas. (You know, since the Bible says such nasty things about witches.) But, literary license and all. That was one of the things I hated about lit courses – you couldn’t just ENJOY the literature, you had to analyze it to death.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Of course you will. ;o)

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    If you can document the presence of Yogins in that area in that time, it would be a necessary first step before you can make that leap of faithlessness.

    You can’t prove that there is a natural explanation for any purported miracle unless you have sufficient and relevant physical evidence to demonstrate that that specific claim was the result of a natural event. That’s what used to be called science, these days it’s whatever someone like Hawking or Dawkins or Carroll or Krauss or Tegmark want to make up and scribble down a few numbers about.

    What makes you think that God can’t manipulate the physical universe? God created it, it’s entirely consistent with the Bible to think that God can and does cause the ways of nature to work as they do. I’m afraid you’re stuck in a dualism that is anachronistic if the gospels are the question and was not anything like an assumption before the 17th century that I’m aware of. You might want to read Psalm 19 on that count.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Your writing is ponderous and hard to read. Sorry, but it is. I’m quite sure my vocabulary is the equal of yours, and I was once a Latin scholar. But I learned to write in a way that is easier to read, because you will not last long in journalism if you don’t.

    Since I’m pushing 70, I doubt you are much older than I am. And writing on a blog discussion need not be pedantic and tedious. That isn’t adult, really. It might even be a tad passive-aggressive. Think about that.

  •' phatkhat says:

    People are very blithe about miracles. It would be easy to say about my tornado survival that it was a “miracle”. Actually, it was a bit of rational thought in the midst of panic that caused me to do what saved my life. And was it miraculous that the same storm razed the nearby Baptist parsonage but spared the meth house? LOL.

    I am not a “hardcore” atheist. I concede that I cannot prove the non-existence of a deity. I have no evidence of one, outside of mathematical complexities and patterns, but you cannot prove the existence of a deity, so there we are. It’s a bit of circular reasoning to use the Bible to support your view that the Bible is correct.

    However, I am convinced that any deity capable of producing the cosmos is FAR beyond man’s comprehension, and attributing human feelings and emotions to such a deity is ridiculous. I suppose such a deity could intervene in the workings of the nature she/he set up, but why would they? We are an accidental development, not a special creation. That I am convinced of. Whether or not a deity cares if our race goes on or not is questionable. We create our own heavens and hells.

    And please do not equate Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. Hawking may be an atheist, but that is not his focus. He is probably the most brilliant man of the century, and certainly one of the most interesting.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    If you think I’m ponderous it’s no wonder you haven’t read Darwin, Galton, Haeckel and Huxley. Galton, geesh.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Stay focused on what is important.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I have enough focus that I’ve got plenty to spare.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    That “old witch”. Who for decades served the poorest of the poor in a city she went to in order to do that before she was noticed by the BBC and turned into a celebrity, something I’m sure that she wasn’t expecting would happen during those decades. Get back to me when you and Christopher Hitchens amass a similar record of unselfishness.

    Of course religious people doubt. There’s nothing new in that, it’s documented from the earliest books of the Bible. Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” People who are genuinely religious think hard and deeply about what they believe and they don’t always understand how it relates to their experience. I think belief in all areas of life, including science, are rather less if they’re not subjected to questioning and doubt. She didn’t stop serving poor people, did she.

    The brain. The materialist explanation of thought and consciousness is so absurd and so impossible that it being still widely believed only shows how intellectually disastrous atheist ideology has been for science.

    The metaphor of a computer for the human mind has to be one of the most clueless and stupid metaphors ever invented because computers were a means of imitating what computer scientists thought was an adequate schematic and reduced substitute for some aspects of human thought. The most aware of those understood that they were not recreating human thought but coming up with a very, very primitive imitation of it. It is no more thinking than the index of an encyclopedia or the phone book is thinking. To turn around and use a metaphor for human minds as a model of human minds is illogical, irrational, stupid and a sign of some especially hard cases doing what Joseph Weizenbaum warned of, forgetting what they were actually doing and mistaking a merely formal procedure of science for reality.

    “The man on the street surely believes such scientific facts to be as well-established, as well-proven, as his own existence. His certitude is an illusion. Nor is the scientist himself immune to the same illusion. In his praxis, he must, after all, suspend disbelief in order to do or think anything at all. He is rather like a theatergoer, who in order to participate in and understand what is happening on the stage, must for a time pretend to himself that he is witnessing real events. The scientist must believe his working hypothesis, together with its vast underlying structure of theories and assumptions, even if only for the sake of the argument. Often the “argument” extends over his entire lifetime. Gradually he becomes what he at first merely pretended to be; a true believer. I choose the word “argument” thoughtfully, for scientific demonstrations, even mathematical proofs, are fundamentally acts of persuasion.”

    Joseph Weizenbaum: Computer Power and Human Reason.

    Ironically, in his acknowledgements in the front of the book, he thanks the then young Daniel Dennett. I’d love to know if he knew of or what he thought of the subsequent career of Dennett as he did exactly what Weizenbaum warned against in that book.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Anyone who has bothered to read about Mother Teresa knows the real story. She was no saint, but rather a sadistic monster, who simply gave people a clean pallet to suffer on, because she believed it was good for their souls to suffer, refusing them palliative care, or even life-saving medicine in some cases. If there were a hell, she’d be there.

    Unselfishness? I suppose I’m unselfish in ways. I rescue cats, and I’ve given up a great deal to care for them. I support liberal causes with money I can ill afford. But, no, I feel no calling to go to India or Africa or wherever. Does that make me selfish? What have you done, for that matter?

    AI is getting very advanced. We may eventually be the victims of self-willed machines as so much sci-fi has speculated. I probably won’t live to see it, but the grandkids might.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I agree with you on most of it – but I don’t agree with increased prosperity in general. For some places, like China, yes. But prosperity in the US is pretty limited to the wealthiest. The rest of us are stagnant.

    Thankfully, technology is much cheaper now. LOL! I bought my first computer in 88 or 89, and it was an 8086 with a dual floppy drive. You had to put a DOS boot disk in when you started it. It cost $1200. I’m typing this on a Dell laptop with a zillion times the power that I bought for $300 slightly used.

  •' phatkhat says:

    No, the press just isn’t talking about it as much.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Thank you. Give Spencer credit where credit is due!

  •' phatkhat says:

    That’s right. You ” I suspect that most of the atheists…” are okay with child prostitution and child porn. Well, again, this atheist is NOT. Though I am fine with consensual ADULT engagement in such practices.

    For some reason, you are still insisting on taking a few atheists as a bad example, and painting all of us with the same broad brush. How is that different from painting all Christians with the Duggar brush?

  •' phatkhat says:

    “One of the blogs I used to frequent has often advocated lowering the age of consent…”

    I frequent a lot of liberal blogs, and have never seen any serious positive commentary on such a thing. What was the blog and why were you there, if it advocated something you find repugnant?

    Maybe, sir, you are protesting a bit too much.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    You never went to Eschaton, apparently. The regulars regularly ignore what Atrios says, though I said that I thought it was clear he didn’t have children he cared much about, as I recall.

    I don’t recall anyone at CSICOP (CSI, these days) resigning because Vern Bullough was part of a group that advocated legalizing the rape of children. Or people at Alternet dropping it when they carried an article pretty much suggesting lowering the age of consent to a ridiculously young age if not doing away with it entirely.

    By the way, I don’t think Atrios is actually a liberal, he’s a liberalish libertarian. As are most of the remaining regulars, the real liberals having long fled it.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Here’s how a quote works. If you start a quote you don’t fill in with your inventions.

    The only thing I said about the Duggars, other than that they were repugnant to me is that the sin of Josh Duggar was a drop in the bucket as compared to what you can stumble across in a totally unrelated google search, especially at venues such as Tumblr. I also pointed to other enormous pedophile rape scandals that such cabloid venues as Salon ignore with all their might, if it took any effort to ignore what you so obviously don’t care about, as well as the child rape tourist that Gore Vidal apparently once was. I doubt he went to Thailand every year because he liked to look at the temples, especially as he’d told people he was a pederast.

    I also said the Quiverfull cult was repulsive as was the entire aparatus of Republicanfascist Antichristianity, they are as good a candidate for being the Antichrist as any I’ve seen. If Christianity were matter they would be antimatter.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    The real story. As told by Christopher Hitchens and some snooty elite Indian hacks who would pass by people dying on the street without even noticing them. Hitchens was a pathological liar who never let reality get in the way of an opportunity to libel someone. Ask Sidney Blumenthal about that. I really do have a thing about the kind of Indian writer who is clearly from a high social group, was often educated at elite Brit universities and caught the Britatheist disease. They’re almost to a person total jerks who would fit right in the worst part of the American media. Oh, that’s right, some of them do.

    Who, as an atheist, do you suspect you would be hearing a call from? I didn’t think you guys heard voices.

  •' William Calhoun says:

    It seems to me that the source of “hope” in a movie like “Tomorrowland” is the same as that in tv shows like “Eureka”, “Stargate SG-1” and “Warehouse 13”: get the talented elite away from the unworthy scum and keep them and their inventions accessible only to the few and the worthy. Maybe that’s why the “real world” in “Tomorrowland” is doing so poorly: the people who could solve the problems have all been whisked away to their own private eutopia.
    We’ve put our faith in our toys and tech, but have WE changed any ? Are we more loving, caring, compassionate ? Ultimately, this movie seems to be saying “no”, that the clever folks who make the jetpacks are more than willing to let the rest of humanity wallow in poverty and destruction. If that’s the hope embodied in science, you can keep it.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I used to visit AlterNet, but never heard of the others. I quit AN over the incessant begging for money and the echo-chamber moderation. One of my friends got banned over nothing, really. Just being a bit un-PC. Aside from his views on Islam, he was quite progressive, and I felt it was totally unfair to ban him.

  •' phatkhat says:

    OTOH, the Xtian fundies do not consider YOU a “true Christian”. Oh, the bagpipes are everywhere!

    You want to believe the worst about all atheists, based on a few bad apples, but don’t want people to believe the worst about Christians based on a few bad apples. Not rational, is it?

    There are bad people of every religion and none. And good ones, too.

  •' phatkhat says:

    No, the real story told by other nuns who worked with her.

    We atheists have empathy/consciences, too. That might inspire us to go/do good works. IMHO, that’s what Christians hear, too. But they attribute it to their god.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I’ve read the literature of atheism, the stuff written by atheists with empathy and consciences isn’t what climbs to the top of the bestsellers among atheists, the Comtes, the Kropotkins, the Jonathan Millers, it’s the brutalists who do, the Haeckels, the Nietzsches, the utilitarians, the eugenicists. It is the materialists who see people as objects, objects for use, resources and undifferentiated masses. The neo atheism which accounts for virtually all of the online atheist phenomenon is notable for not being empathic or to have much of a conscience. It, as I’ve noted elsewhere, is rooted in the money of the Stalinist, Corliss Lamont and his hack, Paul Kurtz. You can add to that the Social Darwinist liar, James Randi, and others of that ilk up to and including Penn Jillette and Bill Maher.

    Yeah, I’ve read those accounts of Mother Teresa as well, they are certainly a minority view point among those who worked with her. She wasn’t a doctor, it’s an indictment of the Indian class system that so much of the work of alleviating suffering among the extremely destitute was left to nuns who didn’t have a modern medical education. Perhaps they were too busy concentrating on sending their sons to elite universities where they could become good British aristocrats.

    If you want to see really outrageous indifference to the suffering of the destitute, read the Darwinists up till the 1940s and many of them since then who thought not only suffering but the deaths of millions of people by disease, starvation, a violent bloody struggle in which the stronger killed the weaker was a boon for the survivors. Read the ones such as H. G. Wells, and quasi-Darwinists such as George Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence, and other Brits, Americans and others who advocated mass murder in “lethal chambers” of anyone they figured were not fit to live, decades before the formation of the Nazi party in Germany. While there are those such as Darwin’s closest associate in Germany, Haeckel, who had already advocated such mass murder as well as the enthusiasm for genocide which Brits like Darwin, Huxley and others eagerly anticipated at the hands of “civilised men”, didn’t specify gas cambers in anything I’ve yet read. As I’ve mentioned on this site earlier this week, Darwin complained that the death camps that the British work houses were didn’t kill off enough of the destitute, and they were the British elite’s idea of a charitable institution, though most people in the underclass knew better. The Fabians, long held up as heroes of the left by the sciency sort here, were among the most detailed of those whose calculated exactions of misery from the destitute and the poor were the basis of science-based British “charity”. I think the attitude that the so-called Christian right in America, along with such British inventions as “the rapture” learned its hatred of the poor and destitute from the British elite and a middle class taught to hate the poor and look down and fear them, always knowing they were an income away from joining them in the crushing misery that the heroes of atheism among them always feared was too much charity.

    None of those people are considered as badly by atheists, as a group, as a nun who worked for people who were literally dying in the street for decades before she was put on TV by the BBC. I would agree that she was totally unprepared to be in charge of delivering modern medical services and administering a large organization. Her mistakes were made out of ignorance, they were legitimate mistakes. The fine, educated folk I mentioned above were making no mistake, it was entirely intentional.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    By the way, I’ve read Compte who was a nut case and Kropotkin who, as usual, just ignores those things in Darwin that are inconvenient or unattractive. His solution to the brutality of natural selection while upholding Darwinism is irrational and was certainly never very influential among atheists as compared to the brutality of natural selection and eugenics in all its forms.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    You know, when one of you guys pulls out that PZ popularized line about “True Scotsmen” I immediately know where you’re coming from and it’s not an honest place.

    I don’t mind telling you that if someone claims that Jesus spoke with divine authority, then violates everything he ever said, including HIS explicitly stated requirements for being a true follower of him, they can’t be following the teachings of Jesus, the very basis of determining who is being good at being a Christian. It was entirely appropriate for Jesus to set the rules for how to determine who was truly representing his teachings and he did, explicitly. Anyone who doesn’t do to others as they would have done unto them, who shafted the least among them, who lived by the sword, etc. is objectively being bad at being a follower of Jesus. You can’t say the same about atheists who do the most depraved things. As I’ve pointed out, lacking those things taught by Jesus and others who taught morality, atheism is a deficient ideology which can’t make valid, atheist, requiring atheists who make moral criticisms of anyone have no choice but to leave the foundations of their ideology to do so. Generally, in the West, they swipe those from the Jewish-Christian tradition.

    I don’t believe the worst of all atheists, I admire many atheists and have said so on my blog and in comments on blogs, all along. I deeply admire Barney Franck, Richard Lewontin, Joseph Weizembaum, whole hosts of atheists few people have ever heard of. I’ve even said nice things about Jonathan Miller. I don’t think morality or egalitarian democracy is compatible or their survival possible under materialism, the actual faith of almost all atheists. I find most atheists are rather conceited and basely cruel people.

    One of the atheists who I particularly find hypocritical is the guy widely considered an expert on the immorality of religion, Steven Weinberg, whose profession gave us such great things as atomic and nuclear weapons, nuclear pollution, spent uranium to use in munitions. The scientists who gave us those things are predominantly atheists.

    Science has brought us modern munitions as well as medicine. It brought us eugenics and the popularization of the view of people as objects, “lumbering robots” at service to molecules that determine the course of our lives. Objects to be seen as useful (fit) to be used and used up or disposed of as an inefficient unit. Every one of those I’m familiar with, atheist materialists.

  •' phatkhat says:

    You see what you want to see. Period. Maybe nice atheists don’t write books. Maybe we don’t even read them. And, as the old saw in journalism goes, “if it bleeds, it leads”. Good news isn’t as exciting as bad news, and I suppose it goes for theology/atheism, too.

  •' phatkhat says:

    I’m really tired of your arrogant, pedantic rambling. You are what you accuse atheists of. I’m not into any of the stuff you talk about. I simply don’t believe in gods, because I see no evidence of any. I am not a bad person, I believe in being kind to people and animals, and I do what I can for them.

    At the end of the day, that’s all anyone can do. No gods required.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    How is that different from painting all Christians with the Duggar brush?

    I think there is at least a difference in the reactions to these things. The Duggars draw Christian support from Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. This has to be a productive conversation, even if we don’t understand completely where it might be headed. I think when they attack non-Christians it somehow doesn’t matter any more because they have lost all the tools they used to have to inflict damage. They want to change the conversation from the Duggars to the Dunhams. I see it as not an attack on the Duggars, but an exposure. Christians like a controlled environment, and they enjoy preaching to the choir. Now it becomes as Jill said as she was crying, “They can’t do that!” That is a conversation I would like to continue. Can’t do what?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    I don’t care if you don’t believe in gods (you think) or the Bible.

    “arrogant, pedantic, rambling”

    If you want finished prose, a comment thread isn’t the place to find it. Arrogant, as compared to the assertions of online atheists, that’s rich.
    Pedantic, I don’t do reductionist simplification. I try to face things in all of their complexity in so far as that’s possible. Not everything that is important to consider is simple and easy. I don’t dumb down what I say about them. I try to not say anything that I can’t back up with citations, unless I state it as my opinion. If that sounds pedantic to you, that’s not my fault.

    You know you can stop talking to me any time you choose to.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Well, you see, when people cite Comte, Darwin, Huxley, Kropotkin, etc. I sort of like to read them in their own words before I come to conclusions about them. Same for others. I don’t see what I want to see, I see what is needed to know what people really said.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I think I can see why the Palins would be invested in this battle. They kind of identify with the Duggars. In fact, if they weren’t such a hair trigger family, the Palins probably could have been the Duggars.

  • You’re an even worse reader. I was talking about Jim Reed, not you.

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Well, considering the context, you would have been a better writer if you had specified who you were talking about.

    Based on the rest of your comments here, you are a really lousy reader for a philosopher. Apparently philosophy at City College ain’t what it used to be in the Morris Cohen era.

  • It was a reply to you. I said to ignore “him.”

    As for your opinion of me….guess how much I care?

  •' Camera Obscura says:

    Um, a little more than I do?

    Like I said, way to carry on the philosophical tradition of City College.

    So, you look up my citations of Darwin and have your refutations from his text to knock me down with, yet?

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