I don’t like Richard Dawkins as the spokesman for the ‘New Atheists’, but I still very much respect him as an evolutionary biologist and science educator. In this video, he explains how the eye might have evolved.
Few books have had so profound an impact on Judeo-Christian religious thought as Isaiah. It was once assumed by believers that the book was the unified work of a sole author, an eighth-century BC prophet named Isaiah who lived in the Kingdom of Judah. This view is still popular among the Christian and Jewish laity. But the true authorship of Isaiah has been the subject of considerable controversy.
The first to challenge the unity of Isaiah came from Jewish writer Moses Ibn Gekatilla in the second century AD. Modern critical scholarship of the book of Isaiah, however, didn’t begin for another 1,600 years. In 1789, Johann Doederlein argued that chapters 40-66 of Isaiah were actually the work of a post-exilic author—the so-called ‘Deutero (Second) Isaiah.’
Doederlein’s theory that there were at least two authors of the book of Isaiah is now held as a truism by the majority of Bible scholars. (Some posit a ‘Trito (Third) Isaiah’ who wrote chapters 56-66.) I won’t review all of the reasons why scholars reject the unity of Isaiah, but it’s important to briefly discuss a few.
From The New York Times:
How much do you know about religion? Try answering a sampling of questions asked in a phone survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.
On average, people who took the survey [Edit September 14, 2012 for broken link. Substitute Link] answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.
Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.
“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.
I wonder, given the findings, if atheists from Mormon or Jewish backgrounds are especially knowledgeable about religion.
Take the test, and tell us how you did. I answered 93% of the questions correctly.
Not long ago, Ted Haggard was arguably the most powerful evangelical Christian pastor in the United States. His megachurch, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, boasted a membership a 14,000. Haggard was also president of the 30 million-member Nation Association of Evangelicals. This influence won him the ear of President Bush, with whom he spoke on the phone every Monday.
In late 2006, Ted Haggard’s world came crashing down. Mike Jones, a male prostitute, alleged that Haggard paid him for sex and drugs. Haggard confessed to some of the allegations, and was forced to resign from the church that he founded. More than that, his church exiled him from the entire state of Colorado. How very Christian.
For the next two years, Haggard was periodically homeless and unemployed. He and his family moved in and out of hotels, and stayed with strangers who were willing to taken them into their homes. To support his family, he applied to be an online representative for Phoenix University, hung up thousands of door-hangers, and worked as a traveling insurance salesman. He also went back to college for the first time in 30 years to study psychology.
Quite the fall from grace.
Via Education Week comes today’s installment of satire confused as public policy:
The Texas state board of education, which earlier this year stirred national controversy with its overhaul of social studies standards, today narrowly adopted a resolution warning textbook publishers against infusing their materials with “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions.” The resolution was approved by a 7-6 vote by social conservatives on the board, who warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.
The resolution declares that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks,” and that the board should reject any future textbooks that favor one religion over another.
The Washington Post points out that the “facts” used by the board in making the decision were not accurate; however, facts probably stand no chance against the political machine that is the Texas school board. It also raises the question of whether we should worry about the pro- or anti-religious biases of duly elected or appointed public officials. Texas wields considerable clout in the textbook publishing world as the largest “adoption state” in the U.S., where a central body approves public school textbooks rather than individual districts. It’s not clear whether the resolution will prompt textbook publishers to make immediate changes to sections devoted to Christianity and Islam.
Meanwhile, the Association of American Publishers claims that textbooks are already necessarily fair and balanced because “there is no good reason for them to submit things that would be biased”. Luckily for America, “bias” and “reason” go hand-in-hand.
Last night, I attended BYU professor William Bradshaw’s lecture on the biological origin of homosexuality. It was epic. Dr. Bradshaw made a compelling case that homosexuality is primarily caused by genetic factors and is not a choice. He concluded with a plea for compassion toward homosexuals. The presentation was well-received—it got a standing ovation, in fact.
You can listen to Dr. Bradshaw’s presentation here, courtesy of Mormon Stories. (At 1:22:55 in the recording, I asked, “Do you have any thoughts about last weekend’s Evergreen International conference?” He declined to answer the question, and I suspect it’s because he didn’t want to publicly criticize the general authority who spoke there.)
Science blogger Chard Orzel tries to distill quantum physics into seven essential elements. If, like me, you know relatively little about quantum physics, this article is a good place to start.
Fred Karger is the first Republican to officially announce his candidacy for president in 2012. His group Californians Against Hate helped uncover the extent of Mormon involvement in Proposition 8.
A recent study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research proposes that the parting of the Red Sea described in Exodus might have occurred (if it occurred at all) as a natural phenomenon, not a miracle. Their simulations found that a strong wind of over 60 mph could have pushed the water into two separate basins, creating a pathway.
The Deseret News reported on Sunday that 1 in 5 Utah women use antidepressants—double the rate of Utah men. Roy, Hooper, Riverdale, Brigham City, Layton, and southern Cache County dole out the most antidepressants.
You Are Not So Smart argues that humans “tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause.” We often mistake the common for the uncanny.
The most bizarre rituals in human history. Not for the squeamish.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group, has declared this Sunday “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Over 100 pastors will risk their church’s tax-exempt status and endorse specific candidates for the mid-term elections.
In what I think was an unwarranted curtailment of free speech, The UK arrested six men for burning Qur’ans on September 11th.
The first annual “Galileo Was Wrong” conference will be held in November. There, Catholic academics will defend geocentrism, the theory that Earth is at the center of the universe. Yes, really. It needs to be mentioned, though, that these Catholics are not speaking on behalf of the Vatican.
This is old news, but the pope visited the UK last week. In his address, he called Nazism an example of “atheist extremism.” Richard Dawkins, predictably, was incensed. I’ve tried to be charitable to the pope’s claim that Nazism was atheistic, but it’s just bad history. Hitler, and Nazism more generally, had a complex and conflicted relationship with religion.
I mentioned in the previous link bomb that Christopher Hitchens recently debated David Berlinski. The video is now available. The cancer has taken an obvious toll on Hitchens, but his mind remains as agile as ever.
Eli Brayley has become somewhat of a fixture at Utah State University. He has been open-air preaching outside the Taggart Student Center to the largely LDS student body since fall 2007, when he moved to Cache Valley from Canada.
Yesterday, Eli was invited by the Religious Studies Club to share his spiritual biography and explain his ministry.
(SHAFTers should take particular interest in Eli’s story, because his presence at USU unwittingly contributed to the creation of SHAFT. Eli started a religious conversation on campus, and several people and I felt that atheists/agnostics deserved a voice in that conversation.)
I was unable to attend Eli’s presentation, but a friend recorded it (thanks, Will!), and Eli has given me permission to post it here.
On Thursday, September 23rd, BYU biology professor Dr. William Bradshaw will discuss the significant role that genetics plays in homosexuality. He will also argue that homosexuality is not a choice and cannot be changed.
It will be an interesting lecture, and I’m thrilled that BYU is hosting it. Here is the event info:
When: September 23rd @ 7:00 PM
Where: Thomas S. Martin building (MARB), rm. 445
(Search “MARB” in the BYU campus map and you’ll find it.)
Dr. Bradshaw gave a similar lecture back in 2004. Read this Daily Universe article (originally entitled “Professor gives scientific evidence of homosexuality”, but changed to “Professor claims scientific evidence of homosexuality”) about his 2004 lecture if you want a preview of Thursday’s presentation.
For those in Logan: SHAFT will have a presentation of its own this Thursday. At 6:00 PM in Old Main 201, SHAFT officer Chris Gardner will discuss ancient creation myths and how they evolved into modern day religions.