Trying to reconcile Sciene and Religion: So Gauche!


Don’t worry, having been shamed by Nicole, this not another whiny post about baby talk and idiot colleagues. I found this exchange on the New Humanist Blog to be funny:

In our current issue, AC Grayling reviews Questions of Truth by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale, a collection of essays that claims to address 51 “Questions About God, Science and Belief”. Suffice to say, Grayling wasn’t a fan (one star was awarded in the print magazine).

Polkinghorne is a particle physicist-turned-theologian who won the Templeton Prize (which rewards attempts to reconcile religion and science) in 2002, while Nicholas Beale is a former student of Polkinghorne who, while he describes himself as a “social philosopher/management consultant” in real life, manages Polkinghorne’s website and blogs about religion and science in his spare time.

On top of dissecting the text itself, at the end of his review Grayling outlined his problem with the fact that the book was receiving a launch at the Royal Society (an event which happened on 2 March): “Polkinghorne dishonours the Royal Society by exploiting his Fellowship to publicise this weak, casuistical and tendentious pamphlet on its precincts, and the Royal Society does itself no favours by allowing Polkinghorne to do it.”

Beale must have picked up on Grayling’s review, and in particular his comments about the Royal Society, as he wrote to him questioning his objections to that event and inviting him to a similar event coming up at the Royal Institution on 1 April, which will be chaired by historian of religion Stewart Sutherland. I’ve reproduced Beale’s email to Grayling below, followed by Grayling’s fantastic response. Enjoy.

The exchange is below the fold.

Continue reading

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Badiou, Rosenzweig and the word “Jew”


Mostly a thinking out loud post based on some visceral reactions, really. I have heard the charge of antisemitism directed at both Badiou and Zizek for sometime now, and while I’m not completely unsympathetic to such claims, they do tend to misinterpret and simplify both thinkers, which of course, have the effect of missing the mark completely. Now, in particular, with regards to Badiou and the term “Jew,” this seems to me to be an old problem of particularism vs universalism rather than the typical knee jerk reactions towards the state of Israel (see here and here). In this sense, it’s hard not to think of Isaac Deutscher, who remarked in a speech he gave to the World Jewish Congress in 1958:

Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I therefore a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

Now because I’m without shame, here’s my original comment pertaining to the above passage. This is a very interesting response, and really, a very Jewish one. This begs a number of questions: Is it ever possible to reconcile ethnic fidelities with a commitment to “universal human emancipation? ” Is the only option to simply choose sides, that is, either a nationalist (particularism) or a “non-Jewish Jew” (universalism/cosmpolitanism)? But here’s the thing, if Judaism is a particular community/ethnicity/religion with a universal aims/goals/ramifications (e.g. a light unto the nations) to begin with then there is no choice to be made, the “Jew” as such would not have to choose either/or, but then again, perhaps I’m just not very dogmatic.

I still have the same response, but I often find myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable when I hear Badiou discussing these issues. In an article I dug up on lacan.com, “The Uses of the Word “Jew,”” Badiou writes this: Continue reading

Root Of All Evil? (Video)


Richard Dawkins scares us with a cool video (and a soft British accent saying things like “There are people out there trying to kill you and me…”) – the question mark in the title of the program is, of course, a kind of gesturing, since we all know what Dawkins thinks about religion, therefore I dedicate this post to the lost art of gesture: Continue reading

Philosophers on God.


A great and entertaining overview of the past and present discussions of the existence of God in Boston Review – a holidays special post: 

God has had a lot of bad press recently. The four horsemen of atheism, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, have all published books sharply critical of belief in God: respectively, The God DelusionBreaking the SpellThe End of Faith, and God Is Not Great. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens pile on the greatest amount of scorn, while Dennett takes the role of good cop. But despite differences of tone and detail, they all agree that belief in God is a kind of superstition. As Harris puts it, religion “is the denial—at once full of hope and full of fear—of the vastitude of human ignorance.”

Does Religion Make You Donate More Blood?


A great article of the relationship between religious beliefs and niceness – Does Religion Make You Nice? – that raises some interesting issues:

Arguments about the merits of religions are often battled out with reference to history, by comparing the sins of theists and atheists. (I see your Crusades and raise you Stalin!) But a more promising approach is to look at empirical research that directly addresses the effects of religion on how people behave.

[…]

In Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks notes that atheists are less charitable than their God-fearing counterparts: They donate less blood, for example, and are less likely to offer change to homeless people on the street. Since giving to charity makes one happy, Brooks speculates that this could be one reason why atheists are so miserable. In a 2004 study, twice as many religious people say that they are very happy with their lives, while the secular are twice as likely to say that they feel like failures.

So religion makes you happy and you give more blood? Not so fast, writes Paul Bloom:

2005 study by Gregory Paul looking at 18 democracies found that the more atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy.

Not to give away the answer, but it’s all apparently about the community, not beliefs – it’s a great piece, worth reading in full.

Lieberman and Hagee: Best Friends Forever


Joe Lieberman is at it again.  He can’t help himself!  Lieberman is scheduled to be a featured speaker and honored guest of none other than Pastor John Hagee next week. If you don’t recall, Hagee’s the same delightful guy that said in public that God sent Hitler. Even McCain had the smarts to renounce Hagee’s endorsement in June, and common sense would have figured that Lieberman would do the same. Yet, they are, to use tweener vernacular, BFF!  Lieberman has called Hagee a “eesh elokim like Moses” even though Hagee (among many other things) has spouted such tolerant and fair-minded judgments, whether calling the Catholic Church a “great whore,” blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gay community of New Orleans, or repeatedly declaring that “all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews,” Hagee knows just how to sweet talk Joe Lieberman.

Now, whenever people point this out to Joe he likes to gesture to Hagee’s pro-Israel record.  Now, last time I checked Hagee supports such counterproductive measures like the construction of more settlements and has advocated for going to war with Iran, but most troubling is this whole apocalyptic, Armageddon, Christian Zionism nonsense, by which I mean that Hagee and his traveling circus believe (see this article) that

before the Second Coming of Jesus, Jews will return to Israel for a final confrontation with Iran, which will cause all the Arab nations to unite under Russia’s leadership, and lead to an “inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon.

Seriously Joe, what the fuck?  Good grief! I wonder if Joe Lieberman got arressted, sent to Rikers and was then raped in the shower he’d put his rapist on the payroll as his very own proctologist.  Just saying, you know?

John Hagee: Lunatic, Friend to our Politicians


I’ve been watching McCain and Lieberman dance their way around their respective connections with John Hagee over the last few months and now I just can’t resist any longer. Not so latent reactionary Joe Lieberman recently described his good friend John Hagee as an eesh elokim like Moses (eesh elokin literally means “man of God,” but it also can mean prophet, clearly the intent here–yikes).  Wow, way to go Joe!  A new low!  I guess that if you bring together lots and lots of those creepy “pro-Israel” Christians in order to lobby for a war with Iran in the hopes that Israel can be wiped out in order to fulfill God’s wishes you’re ok with Joe Lieberman. But hey, it’s ok, Joe just figures that this has to happen. Why? Well, it’s simple, because Hagee told him that what God wants. Hagee and company needs all those stiff Jewish bodies to get into the Kingdom–a last minute conversion for Lieberman? Yeah, Christian Zionism is great for Israel. Let’s not forget that this is the very same John Hagee who believes (and has even said publicly) that the Antichrist will be “a blasphemer and a homosexual” who is “at least partly Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler, as was Karl Marx.” Nice one! From the Huffington Post:

In his 2006 book “Jerusalem Countdown”, Hagee proposed the theory that “anti-Semitism, and thus the Holocaust, was the fault of Jews themselves — the result of an age old divine curse incurred by the ancient Hebrews through worshiping idols and passed, down the ages, to all Jews now alive.” He also wrote that “Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.

Antisemitism just isn’t what it used to be, maybe a pogrom in Crown Heights would get everyone’s attention. Don’t worry though, Hagee is equal opportunity! He also hates Muslims because they are “mindless murderers that are mandated by the Koran to kill Jews and Christians.” Not only that, he hates Harry Potter:

As millions of people anticipate the release of the latest Harry Potter book and film, we’re reminded once again of Satan’s ongoing attempt to deceive and destroy. The whole purpose of the Potter books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult.

Since I could spend the rest of the day listing all the crazy things Hagee says, here’s a clip: Continue reading