Spock’s Eyebrows

The recent flurry of humanist literature is partly a reaction to the re-emergence of creationism as a challenge to evolution. But, in this piece, My God Problem, at secularhumanism.org, Natalie Angier wonders why scientists don’t worry about the more central Christian beliefs.

Few scientists, for example, worry about the 77 percent of Americans who insist that Jesus was born to a virgin, an act of parthenogenesis that defies everything we know about mammalian genetics and reproduction. Nor do the researchers wring their hands over the 80 percent who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the laws of thermodynamics be damned.

Her essay is so full with evocative phrases like Spockian eyebrow of doubt that I found myself wanting to quote everything.

She takes on the criticism that science can’t explain everything…

I recognize that science doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t pretend to, and that’s one of the things I love about it. But it has a pretty good notion of what’s probable or possible, and virgin births and carpenter rebirths just aren’t on the list. Is there a divine intelligence, separate from the universe but somehow in charge of the universe, either in its inception or in twiddling its parameters? No evidence. Is the universe itself God? Is the universe aware of itself? We’re here. We’re aware. Does that make us God? Will my daughter have to attend a Quaker Friends school now?

…but the real reason I liked her essay is because it echoes Richard Dawkins plea that atheists stand up for what they believe in. What chance does a closet atheist stand in a culture where this is acceptable?

Now it’s not enough for presidential aspirants to make passing reference to their “faith.” Now a reporter from Newsweek sees it as his privilege, if not his duty, to demand of Howard Dean, “Do you see Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe in him as the route to salvation and eternal life?” In my personal fairy tale, Dean, who as a doctor fits somewhere in the phylum Scientificus, might have boomed, “Well, with his views on camels and rich people, he sure wouldn’t vote Republican!”

How I wish there were a politician with the balls to take her advice!

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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