Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Fun With HuffPo Religion: The Importance of a "Reasoned" Faith

Dissection time! Thanks HuffPo Religion for providing such dreck. Without you I would take religious too seriously sometimes. This time we have Rabbi Samuel April: The Importance of a Reasoned Faith.

Excluding the billion and a half communists (ed. note: *groan*), most of the world’s 6 billion plus population unabashedly declares its belief in a Supreme Being.

The problem for the vast majority of those people is whether there is Divine Providence in the world. Most rational persons choose to believe in a Creator of the Universe, but they are not sure that the Power that created man and his milieu is concerned with his current welfare and ultimate fate. They have been taught to look for miracles, signs of Godly intervention to prove His existence and concern for humanity. Providence is not synonymous with intervention. Compare Chief Justice John Roberts’ interpretation and rewriting of the unconstitutional mandate in the Affordable Care Act becoming a legal tax that President Obama flatly declared up to that moment was NOT a tax.

Wha? “Most rational people choose to believe in a Creator of the Universe…”
This statement is both inane for implying faith is rational an also treads pretty close to employing the bandwagon fallacy. Most Americans also believe the Creationist account. Doesn’t make it true. Not by a long shot.

I won’t bother with the John Roberts/Affordable Care Act non sequitur to be “current.”

Similarly, I blame most of the preachers, rabbis, priests and ministers for teaching the wrong message to their congregants. Instead of instructing their listeners about the truth of the biblical text, they extrapolate, confound and confuse their congregations with their minority views, parables and far-fetched interpretations.

I’m sure the rabbi teaches the right message. Most everyone else is wrong. I have never heard that from a religious leader before. Never.

Remember he said “truth of the biblical text.”

I understand their efforts to be entertaining, controversial and original to impress their flocks, but at what cost? Throughout history, the Church has always condemned men of science who taught that the sun was the center of the universe and not the earth, e.g., Copernicus and Galileo. Their findings never bothered the rabbis, who properly understood the Torah and the Talmud, which speaks of many worlds that the Almighty has created.

There’s that “properly understood” excuse again.

However, one contemporary commentary makes this comparison: “A Korach or a Darwin always stand in the ready to dismiss the most obvious signs of Hashem’s Presence in the world; even if it means conjuring up some ridiculous assertion dressed up in sophisticated dialect” (Mishnas Chayim, Parshas Korach, June 23, 2012). To compare one who rebels against the authority of Moses because of jealousy and who wants to replace him, as opposed to Charles Darwin is nonsense. Darwin was a dropped out seminarian in England, went to the Galapagos Islands and wrote the “Origin of species,” in which he submitted his theory of evolution. In no way does this contradict the Bible, except in the eyes of literalists who refuse to accept science as the means to effect the desired results. It is perfectly compatible with the account in Genesis to state that the world was created by God and life evolved in stages until He provided man with a soul. (Genesis 2:7)

“…the most obvious signs of Hashem’s Presence in the world…” What would that be? What is this obvious evidence is the rabbi speaking of? It must be some new fangled definition of “obvious” I was previously unaware of.

Notice he says “theory of evolution” and not “theory of evolution via natural selection.” This distinction is important because evolution occurs via natural selection; which is the basis of all modern biological science. Genesis is NOT “perfectly compatible” with the Theory of Natural Selection. It is not compatible with natural selection at all. What the rabbi is trying to conflate is religion and science in a Supernatural Selection. Natural Selection requires no creator and indeed operates just fine without one. That’s why it is natural.

We have all heard that religion is “the opiate of the masses,” or that it is “a crutch” for the lame (courtesy of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud). What we do not hear as often is that for every scientist and psychotherapist who denies the existence of a Prime Cause, or a Teleological Being, there are many who affirm order in the universe. Chaos theory has no leg to stand on as contrasted to Albert Einstein and his followers who posited his eponymous dictum, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” My hypothesis is simply this! There is no conflict between science and religion if we agree that both disciplines seek to banish ignorance and superstition. Science provides the means, religion the ends.

When is a mandate a tax? When it is logical, reasonable and constitutional. When are religion and science reconcilable? When they are logical, reasonable and biblically true!

It is not for “for every scientist and psychotherapist who denies the existence of a Prime Cause, or a Teleological Being, there are many who affirm order in the universe.” It’s about 9:1 on the side of agnosticism/atheism.  

As for the oft misused Einstein quote; I don’t pretend to think for other people. All one has to do it Google “Einstein + religion” to see that isn’t as simple as quoting him and thinking he is one your side, no matter what side you’re on. For instance, I can use the quotes “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this" or "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.” Einstein was no theist. He also didn’t like being called an atheist. Stop using him to try and prove your side.

Regardless of how badly moderate and liberal believers want to pretend science and religion are compatible they are not. One could easily accept both, but this requires a significant compartmentalization to smooth the cognitive dissonance. Science and the scientific method cannot operate via faith. They unequivocally cannot. To make the assumption that a deity created the universe, guided evolution, or did anything is a faith claim. It is not a scientific claim. To say that the two are compatible is to not understand faith, science, or both.