Oh, if only the press would have the balls to ask the twelve questions John Allen Paulos wants posed to our presidential candidates. A sampling:
Do you really believe, Mr. Huckabee, that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that humans and dinosaurs cavorted together?
Do you not see an implicit religious test in your statement that "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom"? Furthermore, are not, respectively, most of Europe and some Islamic countries obvious counterexamples to your statements?
Do any of you think God speaks to you, only to Gov. Huckabee, or to none of you? And, if I may, does God have a tax policy, a health care policy, a policy on Iraq, Iran, gay marriage, Guantanamo or the Riemann Hypothesis?
How literally do you take the Bible or other holy book? Do you subscribe to any argument(s) for God's existence other than the one that God exists simply because He says He does in a much extolled tome that He allegedly inspired?
Looking into the future, it seems obvious that these strangely religious 21st century days will, before too long, appear as superstitious hangovers from humanity's pre-scientific lineage.
As Paulson points out, it's freaking weird that the United States elects people to high office who hold such bizarre unproven and unprovable beliefs.
Good god. There's a chance this country might be led by a Mormon president who believes that special underwear confers religious benefits.
At the end of the PBS series, "A Brief History of Disbelief," philosopher Colin McGinn is interviewed. He foresees a time when questions of religious belief and disbelief simply are irrelevant to people, much as debates about the nature of phlogiston have vanished.
I'd like to distinguish atheism from anti-theism. Anti-theism is opposition to theism. I'm an anti-theist because I believe that religion is harmful. I'm not just an atheist who my only values are, that I don't agree with it. I'm actively opposed to it.
I'd distinguish that from I'd call post-theism or post-atheism. Which is the healthy state of mind where you've put all that behind you. Now we can't do that yet because there's lots of religion in the world and lots of bad results of it.
To me the ideal society would be one in which the question of religion didn't really arise for people. Or if it did, it wasn't a heavy question for them.
They would say to each other, "You know, those humans used to believe back there in 2003, some of them believed there was this god who did this, others didn't, and there were TV programs about why they didn't. What a funny debate that was, you know."
So it'd be a post-theist society where it just wasn't an issue.
May it come sooner rather than later. Like, tomorrow.
Uh - why so many religious questions when we are suppose to have separation of Church and State?
Obama is a member of a pro-queer church and Clinton is her own church. So what?
VOTE FOR RON PAUL!
Posted by: JustaDog | February 05, 2008 at 03:03 PM
Glad to see you're still enjoying your ride on the Dawkins Express. I hope the train stops every now and then so you can get a glimpse of the real world, one that's free of political paranoia and spiritual extremism (of both the religious and scientism kind).
In the meantime, you might enjoy watching a trailer of the upcoming Ben Stein intelligent Design propaganda movie coming to theaters in 2 weeks. link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGCxbhGaVfE
Even if you disagree with his viewpoint, this movie is done in the Michael Moore vein, and it's already stirring up the blogosphere.
If you buy the popcorn, I'll get the drinks. :-)
Posted by: Marcel Cairo | February 05, 2008 at 03:29 PM
Romney: "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom."
His speechwriters sure messed up on that one. They were trying to come up with a Kennedyesque "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." and failed miserably. Those types of lines are hard to come by. He's smarter than that and should have blown that one off, but went with it anyway. Nobody's perfect.
Yeah, Mormonism is pretty weird, but so is believing we can actually solve the health care mess via a subsidized government program. Just what we need. Long lines and poor service. I'd rather pay through the nose and have a better chance of getting competent treatment when I need it.
The voters will decide.
Posted by: tucson | February 05, 2008 at 03:33 PM
Marcel, thanks for sending the link to the Ben Stein trailer. As you surely expected, I found it ridiculous.
Stein misinterprets both science and intelligent design, which is why I and so many others find religious dogmatism so distasteful when it tries to subvert science.
Here's some of the errors in the trailer:
(1) Science doesn't consider that the universe or life evolved "by chance." Stein has no idea, obviously, about how evolution operates. Natural selection is anything but chancy. That's why we say "evolved" rather than "bounced around." It's a process of selecting the most adaptable genetic changes. I call that highly intelligent -- just not the product of an intelligent designer.
(2) The Discovery Institute has never, to my knowledge, published a single peer-reviewed scientific paper. Critics of evolution have every opportunity to present evidence showing Darwin is full of shit. But they can't do it. All they do is put forth ideas and concepts lacking objective support. This works in religion; it fails in science.
(3) Over half of Americans believe in biblical creationism. A good share of our presidential candidates do. Unfortunately, creationism and intelligent design isn't a minority opinion being trampled on by an oppressive scientific establishment. It's the majority (and inaccurate) world view of the American public. Like the so-called "War on Christmas," this trailer tries to make the case for religious views being threatened, while actually it is scientific truth.
Posted by: Brian | February 05, 2008 at 11:20 PM
Thanks for your kind words about my ABC Who's Counting column on the irreligious questions. You might (or might not) also find my new book, Irreligion, to be of interest. More information about it can be found here: http://www.math.temple.edu/paulos/irrel-revs.html
Best, John Allen Paulos
PS Nice site
Posted by: math233 | February 06, 2008 at 04:49 AM
Right-On Brian !!! Yo tellin it like it is. I am so damn sick of these religious nuts, and especially when some of them try to inject their bizarre religious illusions into the political arena or upon the supposedly secular state.
Posted by: tAo | February 06, 2008 at 07:27 PM
I hate to ruffle your feathers,Brian, but you have not kept up to date with all the debate and polemic that has been going on over Darwinian evolution. This debate and challenge is coming from evolution bioligiist themselves.
Darwin's theories created a basic framework that worked for its time, but with all the new knowledge we have about cells, tissues and quantum elements, his theories are fraying at the seams and starting to show major gaps.
Suggesting an intelligent design doesn't always imply a religious explanation to a cosmic causation theory. You just interpret it that way since you naturally become rabid at the first sniff (real or not) of religion.
Like Dawkins, you frame all your arguments as a battle between science and religion (The Abrahamic flavor), just so your dogmatic cry against their dogma can sound more rational.
Denying that there is a bias in academia to any idea, religious or not, that differs from the prevailing paradigm is just plain denialism.
Do you disagree with Ben Stein in saying that a university should be a place for open debate of all ideas?
Darwinian evolution is not a solid idea in the least. I'm not suggesting that it's wrong, I believe in evolution, but it is an incomplete theory. It just doesn't add up. Saying that it does without talking to the real debate is negligent and a misrepresentation of the truth.
A real "skeptic" would do some research before making wide sweeping comments that are simply unfounded. For a good summary of the debate at hand, you can go here -->
Posted by: Marcel Cairo | February 08, 2008 at 12:09 AM
I also forgot to send you the link to a very telling Seattle Times article on the subject of Neo-Darwinism. It is written by a couple of folks from the Discovery Institute, but the data in the article is verifiable.
Besides, it would be wrong of you to paint the discovery Institute like a conglomerate of conservative religious zealots. It just isn't so.
Here it is --> http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/701385/posts
Posted by: Marcel Cairo | February 08, 2008 at 12:39 AM