on incompetent vs. intelligent design

Dr. James McGrath has an excellent post on the importance of accepting the basic scientific principle of human evolution through natural selection, especially for Christians.

If one allows that one may argue from evidence of design to a designer, then one opens up the possibility of arguing from shortcomings in design to an incompetent designer.

If you are a religious believer, and you refuse to accept evolution, then you have little choice but to blame God for the shortcomings seen in nature. You have little choice but to conclude that God wanted to leave us open to death by choking, when he made the routes for food and air converge on the same passage. And that is but one more of a very long list of examples of things that make good sense when considered the result of the slow adaptive processes of evolution, but which look ridiculous or even malevolent if considered the direct design of a divine Engineer.

Essentially, there are anatomical and physiological elements in every species that demonstrate vestigial anatomy and functionality. That is, there are things in our bodies that would never be a part of any “from scratch” blueprint of an intelligent designer. I’ve mentioned fingernails and the appendix and the optic disc (blind spot) before. Richard Dawkins discusses the laryngeal nerve as evidence of historical legacy in human anatomy.

Dawkins sums up:

A designer, an engineer, can go back to the drawing board, throw away the old design and start afresh with what looks more sensible. A designer has foresight. Evolution can’t go back to the drawing board; evolution has no foresight.

Thus, if a part of our anatomy appears vestigial and inefficient (like our appendix or blind spot or our laryngeal nerve), it probably is. It is the result of small changes over time. It cannot “go back to the drawing board” and start over like a designer. The fact that our laryngeal nerves descend into our thorax and then back up to our larynx is evidence that it was not designed (at least not intelligently) that way, but evolved that way (however inefficient it may be).

McGrath continues:

So don’t be surprised if other fellow religious believers, better informed about both science and theology, insist that you are demeaning rather than glorifying God through your refusal to accept evolution.

You are making God out to be an incompetent, not an intelligent, Designer.

the ‘iranian influence on judaism’ at bible and interpretation

There is an excellent article by Jason M. Silverman (Trinity College Dublin) entitled “Iranian influence on Judaism” at Bible and Interpretation.

It’s a topic of great interest to me, and I’m assigning it as immediate reading to my Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys class here at the University of Iowa, where we are presently discussing potential Zoroastrian influences on Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife. The article (and forthcoming book) will be great resources for the study of Second Temple Judaism.

At one point, Silverman discusses the problem within Biblical Studies of quantifying one culture’s “influence” upon another, especially when the former culture favors oral means of communication:

It is perhaps not surprising in a field centered on the study of a collection of written texts (the Bible) that researchers sometimes assume that all ideas that appear in that collection come from other texts. This assumption can lead to real interpretative difficulties, but it also ignores the many ways in which humans communicate and share concepts. The realm of spoken communication is very important for Iranian influence on Judaism (as it is for the origins of the Hebrew Bible).

When investigating influence, one needs to take into account the ways ideas travel in a world run primarily through spoken language. The search for quotations and direct borrowings from other texts has dominated past research. The direct use of earlier texts—while important—is not the only nor even the most important way in which ideas could be transmitted between peoples and even authors. More nuanced ways of looking for influence are needed. The key, as noted above, is to look for interpretive changes in texts. Once these are identified, one can ask whether or not said changes relate to the cultural milieu of the time, one of which was the Achaemenid Empire.

And Silverman hits the nail on the head when he argues that influence may take the form of adoption, reinterpretation, or rejection of and apologies against another culture’s religious conception:

It bears repeating that the kinds of influence will vary in different instances. In some cases, Iranian texts may have been borrowed and adapted for new Judaean texts. In other cases, existing Judaean concepts may have been reinterpreted in line with Iranian ideas. In still others, Iranian ideas may have been rejected and argued against, perhaps being inverted as a rhetorical strategy. Further, there remains the possibility that biblical texts became re-interpreted after they were written by Jewish and Christian communities, using ideas ultimately derived from Iran.

Do head over to Bible and Interpretation and read the article.

how to tick off james mcgrath four times at once

How to piss off James McGrath four times at once

How to tick off James McGrath four times at once

This is how to tick off Butler University’s Dr. James McGrath (and sci-fi nerds everywhere) four times all at once. All the picture needs is a reference to taking the TARDIS to visit HAL on the Lost Island and his head would implode like red matter does to Vulcan.

Enjoy.

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements should merge

I told some friends last week that the first person to see through the ideological panoply present in both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, and grab hold of their essentially identical core issues – that of government corruption in the form of taxpayer money being diverted to both government and corporate special interests (which are increasingly becoming one and the same), that person wins. And by “win,” I mean that “collaborative seeker of common ground” can lead a real movement against the establishment powers that are diverting monies to corporations that should have gone under in a truly capitalist system, and to government programs that need to be revamped or eliminated, but are not reformed out of fear of losing the support of a particular block of voters.

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements should merge. Could you imagine the change that could bring?

Whoever can say to the Tea Party and the Occupy crowds, “Look, we know you have many complaints and diverse ideological interests from opposite ends of the spectrum, but your core concerns are the same. Let’s unite together on this one issue – government corruption – and make a real change.” – that person will lead the revolution.

Perhaps Lawrence Lessig is that person. Because if the people of these two parties can see past their vast differences and come together to address the central issue of corruption, then there’s no reason why the representatives they elected can’t do the same.

For more, read the open culture blog. (Joseph Stiglitz teaches at the Columbia Business School and Columbia’s Department of Economics and, of course, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001. Lawrence Lessig founded Creative Commons and recently moved from Stanford (where he worked in digital copyright law) to Harvard, where he now focuses on government corruption.)

what exactly is biblical marriage?

Have you ever wondered what real “Biblical Marriage” looks like? Before you go arguing for “traditional,” “biblical” marriage, take a look at this handy dandy chart.

Biblical Marriage Chart

Chart of Biblical Marriage

So essentially, you can have your choice of anything from the chart and you can still be considered “biblical.” You raped someone? That’s ok, just pay your fine (to her father) and make sure you marry her.

Or, if you’re a soldier, perhaps take a prisoner of war and marry her.

You can choose any one of them – after all, they’re all biblical and often ordained by God himself.

Now, for those of you who will argue, “but the New Testament superseded the Old Testament. I believe in ‘New Testament’ marriage,” well, for you there’s 1 Cor. 7:8:

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.”

and, of course, 1 Cor. 7:25-26:

“Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.”

and 1 Cor. 7:32-34:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

So, you basically have the choice of not getting married if you want to be truly biblical.

Of course, if you are totally weak and completely lack self-control, then as a concession, you can marry (1 Cor. 7:9). Just remember what Paul warned you in 1 Cor. 7:28b:

“Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.”

Then again, some might respond and say, “Hey now, you’re leaving out the verses that say nice things about marriage, like Romans 7:2:

“Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.”

and Matt 19:5//Mark 10:8//Eph 5:31 all citing Gen 2:24, noting that people, in fact, do get married. But is that not most likely referring to one of the acceptable forms of the “biblical marriage” from the above chart? And there are other verses that speak about marriage, but should not the fact that the above verses are also “biblical” be a bit disconcerting to those who argue for “scriptural authority” for marriage?

Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not advocating against marriage. I love being married to Roslyn, and we are quite happy together. But we define the arrangements of our partnership, and we chose to love each other. Likewise, any two other consenting adults, regardless of race or gender, should be able to enjoy the same joys and benefits of marriage that Roslyn and I do.

That is to say, if you’re going to argue that same-sex couples cannot get married because it is not a ‘sanctioned’ form of marriage in the Bible, then be prepared to defend those forms of marriage that are sanctioned in the Bible, like forcibly marrying rape victims and prisoners of war, for according to the Bible, these too are sanctioned by God.

Or, you can stop discriminating against the civil liberties of homosexual individuals while hiding behind some mythical construct of “biblical marriage” and let people who love one another and want to commit their lives to one another actually get married.

At the very least, before you go advocating for “traditional” or “biblical” marriage, it’s probably not a bad idea to read the text and make absolutely sure you actually want to argue in favor of “biblical” marriage.

Have a nice day.

HT: Travis Spackman via Kim and the Rabbi with thanx to nonstampcollector.

where shall the bloggers congregate at sbl in sf?

Texting while eatingas we have not yet decided upon a place for bloggers to congregate to imbibe quaffable adult beverages and consume artfully prepared, yet affordable kickshaws, we must decide two things:

  • when (date and time)
  • where

as for the when, please comment what day (sat, sun, mon) and time you can meet up. i’m thinking something like between 6-8pm, so those who want to stay can stick around and those who need to get off to other meetings/dining obligations can still get away. remember, we can’t accommodate everyone, but we want to do what’s best for most folks. but we need to decide on the best day.

as for the where, i’ve done a little research. all suggestions below are within walking distance of conference hotels and union square, and i tried to keep them affordable.

please let me know if any of these sound good. or, suggest your own place.

The Irish Bank

The View (in the Marriott Marquis)

The Press Club

Johnny Foley’s

First Crush

Lefty O’Douls

Library Bar

or what say you? suggestions?

bloggers, please spread the word, and have suggestions come here. then, based upon what most people want to do, we’ll meet there.


AND DON’T FORGET, there are two SBL sections that bloggers should highlight:

S19-314 – Blogger and Online Publication
11/19/2011, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Golden Gate C2 – Marriott Marquis

Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa, Presiding

Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa
Welcome and Introduction (5 min)

Alice Bach, Case Western Reserve University
Can Blogging at 3 AM Be Considered Scholarship? (25 min)

Madeleine Flannagan, University of Auckland and Matthew Flannagan, Independent Scholar
Blogging a Short-Cut to Peer Review: How to Do It Effectively (25 min)

Juhana Markus Saukkonen, University of Helsinki
Sense and Practicality: Building a Historical GIS Online (25 min)

Richard Price, Academia.edu
Academia.edu: The Past, Present, and Future of Scholarly Social Networking (25 min)
This session will conclude with a Q&A discussion period with Academia.edu CEO, Dr. Richard Price.

Discussion (25 min)


S19-320 – Engaging the “Wired-In Generation”: Knowledge and Learning in the Digital Age
11/19/2011, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 3000 – Convention Center

Theme: Hosted by the Student Advisory Board

Teresa Calpino, Loyola University of Chicago, Presiding

Mark Goodacre, Duke University
Pods, Blogs, and other Time-wasters: Do Electronic Media Detract from Proper Scholarship? (15 min)

Christian Brady, Pennsylvania State University
On the Internet No One Knows You’re a Grad Student, Or How Social Media Can Help You, Build You Up, and Tear You Down (15 min)

Kelley Coblentz Bautch, St. Edward’s University
Videoconferencing in the Classroom: Broadening the Horizons of Students through Interactive Scholarly Exchange (15 min)

Discussion (30 min)


cheers and see you in sf!

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

Bloggers in Atlanta

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

wwjd (to bankers)?

What would Jesus do? How about what did he do?

Jesus whipping bankers as depicted in John 2:15.

Jesus whipping bankers as depicted in John 2:15.

Nonviolence is the best way to bring about social change. Unfortunately, that’s not what the nonviolent, loving lord chose to do to those who financially oppressed the poor in John 2:15.

“Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

(Oh well, I guess is better than what he had in mind in Luke 22:38…)

Is there an “Occupy the Temple” movement yet?

HT: JW

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