More religious incursion into science

UPDATE:  The DoSER program is also supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ELSI program (that is, the “Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications” initiative of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the NIH), as well as the Smithsonian Institution, so your taxpayer dollars are funding this brand of accommodationism.  I’m not sure which money goes where, but since some of the DoSer activities are explicitly sectarian (like this one), it may be a violation of the First Amendment.

Oh, and for more pollution of science by religion, the AAAS has an essay by Elizabeth A. Johnson that says this:

In dialogue with contemporary science, theology understands that the Creator God is neither a maker of clocks nor an instigator of anarchy, but the one ceaselessly at work bringing overall direction and order to the free play of the undetermined realms of matter and spirit, “an Improvisor of unsurpassed ingenuity.”(34) In this evolutionary world, the essential role of genuine randomness does not contradict God’s providential care but somehow illumines it. To use Christopher Mooney’s lovely phrasing,

Wave packets propagate and collapse, sparrows fall to the ground, humans freely decide for good or for ill; yet hairs of the head nevertheless get numbers, elusive quantum particles eventually statistically stabilize, and “where sin increased. grace abounded all the more.” (35) 

The world develops in an economy of divine superabundance, gifted with its own freedoms in and through which God’s gracious purpose is accomplished. “The Love that moves the sun and the stars,” (36) it now appears, is a self-emptying, self-offering, delighting, exploring, suffering, sovereign Love, transcendent wellspring of all possibilities who acts immanently through the matrix of the freely evolving universe.

________

As I’ve pointed out before, the John Templeton Foundation has given a $5.3 million dollar grant to America’s most famous scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to promote a “dialogue on science, ethics, and religion.”  Most scientists I know subscribe to the AAAS publication Science, which, along with Nature, form the most prestigious pair of scientific journals in the world.

If you’re curious what this Templeton-funded program is doing, have a browse around the “DoSER website.” (Note: browsing may be deleterious to your well being.)

As reader Steersman pointed out, among the many accommodationist materials available is an essay by Georgetown theologian John Haught: “Does evolution rule out God’s existence?” (guess the answer!). It’s about the mutuality of evolution and religion. Here’s the last paragraph, which explains why, after all, God’s plan for the world had to involve evolution:

However, there may be an even deeper way in which faith in God nourishes the idea of evolution. The central idea of theistic religion, as the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner (among others) has clarified, is that the Infinite pours itself out in love to the finite universe. This is the fundamental meaning of “revelation.” But if we think carefully about this central religious teaching it should lead us to conclude that any universe related to the inexhaustible self-giving love of God must be an evolving one. For if God is infinite love giving itself to the cosmos, then the finite world cannot possibly receive this limitless abundance of graciousness in any single instant. In response to the outpouring of God’s boundless love the universe would be invited to undergo a process of self-transformation. In order to “adapt” to the divine infinity the finite cosmos would likely have to intensify its own capacity to receive such an abounding love. In other words, it might endure what we now know scientifically as an arduous, tortuous and dramatic evolution.

Viewed in this light, the evolution of the cosmos is more than just “compatible” with theism. Faith in a God of self-giving love, it would not be too much to say, actually anticipates an evolving universe. It may be very difficult to reconcile the religious teaching about God’s infinite love with any other kind of cosmos.

Note again: this is on the website of a scientific organization.  I invite Dr. Haught to tell me if I’ve taken these words out of context.

I am offended by not only the inanity of these empty apologetics (what in the world is the sweating theologian trying to say?), but also by this stuff being offered at America’s premier science organization as a way to reconcile science with religion. It says nothing, means nothing, and should offend anyone who values clear thinking.  Any scientist writing this kind of stuff would immediately be challenged by her peers with the question, “How do you know that?”

Theology is seemingly immune to such challenges because in that field, like much of lit-crit, opacity is a virtue and lucidity a vice.  But at least the AAAS shouldn’t be polluted with this kind of nonsense.

75 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    This is just wrong on so many levels. First, clearly, for centuries theologians did *not* anticipate evolution. Second, why would an infinite god be incapable of creating a universe that could absorb all his “love”? Why would the universe created by an infinite god be finite at all? Or vice versa, if the universe is finite, even if you think it was created by some being, why would you even think it would be an infinite being? Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough, or something.

  2. Donald L. Anderson
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Copy of email sent to DoSER:

    From: donaldlanderson@comcast.net
    To: doser@aaas.org
    Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:17:39 AM
    Subject: DoSER

    I understand this is Templeton funded, yet nowhere on the site http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/ does it tell me that.

    Is that appropriate? Could there be a conflict in motivations? Should AAAS be quietly taking millions to espouse (perhaps) religious positions?

    I am most disappointed.

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Actually, there is at least one place, here, that acknowledges Templeton funding.

      • Achrachno
        Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Looking at that, I noticed another, unexpected, supporter: “Center for Research in Science of Azusa Pacific University”

        For those who’ve never heard of APU, from their website: “Azusa Pacific University is a comprehensive, evangelical, Christian university located 26 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California.”

        I wonder where they got the money to support this program and whether their purposes are any different from Templeton’s. I didn’t think APU was a big enough operation to be playing at this level. I guess we should be grateful it’s not ORU.

  3. Teemo
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    “But if we think carefully about this central religious teaching…”

    Well, there’s your problem.

    • dbredes
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Exactly.

  4. Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Wait a minute now, Haught might be on to something. His only mistake is that, as anyone who has read the Old Testament is well aware, Yahweh is less of a lover and more of a hater. Try the quoted blurb, with “hate” substituted for “love”:

    The central idea of theistic religion…is that the Infinite pours itself out in hate to the finite universe..But if we think carefully about this central religious teaching it should lead us to conclude that any universe related to the inexhaustible all-consuming hate of God must be an evolving one. For if God is infinite hate inflicting itself on the cosmos, then the finite world cannot possibly receive this limitless abundance of maliciousness in any single instant. In response to the outpouring of God’s boundless hate the universe would be invited to undergo a process of self-transformation. In order to “adapt” to the terrible infinity the finite cosmos would likely have to intensify its own capacity to defend against such an abounding hate. In other words, it might endure what we now know scientifically as an arduous, tortuous and dramatic evolution.

    Viewed in this light, the evolution of the cosmos is more than just “compatible” with theism. Faith in a God of white-hot hate, it would not be too much to say, actually anticipates an evolving universe. It may be very difficult to reconcile the religious teaching about God’s infinite hate with any other kind of cosmos.

    Indeed!

    • Doc
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      That’s beautiful! Well done!!!! Wish I’d thought of it, in fact! Everyone, please read the above. THIS is worth it! (And, it seems like one of Hitch’s word games, too.)

      • Alexander Hellemans
        Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        Perhaps Haught is perpetrating a similar hoax like that performed by the physicist Allan Sokal in the 1990s. Sokal’s hoax stopped any further attempts at “postmodern” theories of the nature of science in its tracks. Perhaps we should do something similar, overwhelm theology sites with word salad or soup (not that I expect that the theologians will notice!).

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      What can be asserted with no evidence can have its contrary asserted with no evidence. (I bet Hitch could find one word for “have its contrary asserted”. “Contraverted” is almost the world, but not quite.)

    • PB
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      You might have something here, internal hate in human psyche is usually manifested into many abnormal psychological symptoms, things like obsessive compulsive complexes, ritualism, non-rationality, grandiose neuroses. Things that we also know are actual basis of a lot of religionism, esp the organized kinds.

      And basically judaism, christianity, not to mention islam, are not covering their hatred very well. Maybe the repeated words of love, peace are actually metaphors ? “the inner circle knows better” ?

      This can be an actual literature study, whether hate is the actual basis of levantine religions? (do you think Templeton will be interested?)

      • PB
        Posted November 14, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

        Note: the wash-ritual of wudhu, that has to be performed 5 times a day by moslem, are very similar to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) type of cleanliness. Just dig deeper!

    • Sastra
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      In addition to an ability to substitute “infinite hate” for “infinite love” in that passage, you can also substitute “finite love for the term “infinite love” and still find that it kinda sorta makes sense (if you’re trying to find that it kinda sorta makes sense.)

      “The central idea of theistic religion…is that the Special-Because-It’s- Finite pours itself out in love to the infinite universe..But if we think carefully about this central religious teaching it should lead us to conclude that any eternal universe related to the exhaustible precious love of God must be an evolving one. For if God is finite love dribbling itself in small bits into the cosmos, then the infinite world cannot possibly receive this limited scarcity of love in any single instant in a way that would effect the whole cosmos …etc etc etc”

  5. Doc
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Time for Occupy AAAS.

  6. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    How DARE the man speak of something he demonstrably has no knowledge of:
    ‘thinking carefully’.

    I’m with #1 (wrong on many levels): I started with pointing out the more obvious logical fallacies … but there are just too many of them. I have better things to do.

    Is THIS the man who accused Jerry of being ‘unsophisticated’?

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Here’s some residue of that boundless love: http://www.worldisround.com/articles/80502/photo54.html

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Neville Chamberlain was an accommodationist.

  8. GBJames
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Gives new meaning to the phrase “word salad”.

  9. Doc
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    If that money comes from tax free donations to religious institutions and organizations, shouldn’t it rightfully be used to feed the poor, home the homeless, find jobs for the unemployed, etc? Do those donors even know their dollars are spent on useless propaganda? And, since the intent is to affect political discussion, isn’t it illegal? That is, shouldn’t it, then, become taxable income?
    Regarding political effect, it seems thus: If religion pays science gobs of money, then science will become dependant on that income and recognize a need to tip its hat to religion, and moreso over time, to credit religion with whatever the religion lords demand of its new serf.

  10. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I’ll just say that Haught’s method of argument (may… might… must have…) is remarkably similar to, and just as valid as, those of the other theologians I’ve read, such as von Däniken, Baigent and Leigh, and David Icke. Only they sell more books, which he must find really irritating.

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      +1 LOL

  11. Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/11/04/haughtiness/

    If we apply Haught’s logic (faith allows us to see beyond the level that his own logic tells us we cannot see beyond) to other rungs of his philosophical ladder, we cannot discount the possibility of rocks being self-aware, even enlightened, through the power of faith.

    Hogwash.

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that what pantheism teaches?

    • BradW
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Hey! My pet rock takes offense!

    • Draken
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      Trolls certainly beg to differ.

  12. Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Haught obviously is trying his best to resolve the problems created by knowing evolution is true and needing the comfort of an all powerful, loving God who promises an eternity in heaven. Basically, he is afraid to face reality and death. He is a coward who needs big daddy for protection. In spite of his confusion and the confusion he spawns, he seems to be undermining the fundamentalist theology and stirring up the loyal resistance. For this we should be grateful. I kinda enjoy the guy. I think he undermines the faithful and entertains the freethinkers.

    • Dermot C
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Yes, it never really hit home to me how evolution by natural selection threatens the very centre of the theists’ sense of themselves and their security in the world until I saw, in the Dover case video posted the other day, the comments towards the end by Mr. Buckingham, one of the fundamentalist School Board.

      It was clear (unless he was perjuring himself again and acting extremely well) that he regarded Darwinism as almost an ad hominem attack on him and his prospects for eternal life; I thought I saw real fear in his eyes. He said words to this effect, “If Darwin was right, I have no hope of heaven.” The thought evidently was gnawing at him. Long may it nibble.

      On Haught, imagine you were writing a work of fiction, outlining a conversation between a God-botherer and an anti-theist; imagine you put Haught’s words into the mouth of your theist. I suspect your editor would return it with the instruction that his argument should make sense and at least be dramatically credible. Otherwise, you as the author are merely setting up a straw-man.

      It never ceases to amaze me how incoherent the intellectual theists’ apolgetics are.

      • PB
        Posted November 14, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

        Yes, it is my impression that Haught is at pain. That does not means that he is correct or allowed to disseminate his outdated belief freely.

        Lord Kelvin at the turn of century comes to mind. A few honest theologians / priest may be due to honest pains in the years ahead. But for majority of them there is no pain, just continue with your drivel and earn your pay.

        Honestly, if you believe in something strongly for your whole life (say 5 decades), than you’re leaving all that, mostly your hard earned (you think!) seat that the right side of the big-guy .. it must be painful.

    • Your Name's not Bruce?
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Modern “sophisticated” theologians would have all been burnt at the stake for heresy or atheism back in the days the Catholic church had real power. They’ve been forced to abandon so much of their former territory to the findings of science that they have scarcely more than the dirt between their toes left to stand on.

  13. Occam
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    “The central idea of theistic religion, as the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner (among others) has clarified, is that the Infinite pours itself out in love to the finite universe. This is the fundamental meaning of “revelation.”

    C l a r i f i e d .

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Indeed: that’s an outright lie.
      Clarified: ‘made clear’, ‘removed confusion’ .. NO theologian has EVER done such a thing!

      • Christian
        Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        ‘Clarify’ in theology-speak seems to mean throwing as much bafflegab at an issue as possible so the original problem gets buried under a heap of babble and obfuscation.
        The goal is achieved if it becomes ‘clear’ that there wasn’t any conflict to begin with.

        • Occam
          Posted November 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          Many here, except Eric MacDonald, will not be familiar with Rahner. But this German theologian was hailed by many as one of the most ‘progressive’ in the 20th century, and a guiding spirit behind Vatican II.

          May I regale the audience with another theological gem from this liberal luminary, a figure most frequently opposed to Papa Joe Ratzinger:

          “I would say that in theology, as well as anywhere else, one cannot think enough, think intensively enough, courageously enough, and precisely enough.”

          (Karl Rahner, I remember: an autobiographical interview with Meinold Krauss. Crossroad, 1985; p. 57)

  14. Stan Pak
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I love one title by Mary Midgley on the AAAS site:
    “EVOLUTION AS A RELIGION: A COMPARISON OF PROPHECIES”

    We should start to pray to mighty Selection and bless our Trinity of Darwin, Wallace and Dawkins led with the wisdom of our pope Jerry.

    • Srikar
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      LOL too good

  15. M31
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Nothing shows the inanity of the religious “thinker” more than the way they throw around “The Infinite”.

    If you think for one second about the implications of an Infinite Being, everything falls apart. So does this Infinite run on energy? Is energy expended when the Infinite does something? Is it Infinite in size? Does it contain everything? If it’s infinite and contains everything then does it contain a bomb that just blew up the entire Universe and whatever outside-the-universe ‘place’ the Infinite lives in too? Well if not, why not?

    It’s like fucking Anselm all over again and it still makes no sense at all.

    • Christian
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      And then, in the same breath, they claim that this being is simple.

      *headdesk*

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Haha, “Infinite,” “Infinity,” The Templeton Foundation has convinced mathematicians that with these concepts they can access the realms of religious transcendence, and many seem to have fallen for this idea (among them an atheist friend being bribed with committee memberships and paid participation to Templeton conferences).

    • Your Name's not Bruce?
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      If this being is infinite (or Infinite, which must be even bigger), how is there any room left over for us? Unless it’s constantly passing through us like neutrinos or something.

    • Draken
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, and once you get over the ‘infinite’ obstacle, try and explain how we should imagine an omnipotent, omniscient being. Can it create a rock it cannot lift? Can it kill itself?

  16. Eric Lawton
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    rofl. How many angels on the head of that pin? Shame on AAAS for giving them a pulpit but this kind offered fantasy nonsense is no great danger. It’s not likely to be pushed into school curricula.

    • Eric Lawton
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Sorry – tablet autotype changed my “of” into “offered”. Still learning these quirks.

  17. Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    This passage of Naught’s, like so many others that one might read or hear from him, is proof positive that the line between sound intellectual health and bat shit crazy is a very thin one.

    Haught’s form of intellectual madness is incurable. It’s a mystery to me why literally everyone, particularly group like the AAAS, are unable to see it.

    Why would any reputable scientific organization want to associate themselves w/ a lunatic? Are they really that desperate for cash?

    • Christian
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      That might have something to do with the fact that this kind of intellectual madness is not only regarded as socially acceptable but even desirable. And I’m afraid, that not even organizations such as the AAAS are immune to this.

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      I rather imagine that the AAAS has a lot of non-atheist (theist/deist) scientists who have their religion in the background, but read this kind of thing with their religious, rather than scientific, glasses on and say “Oh yeah, that makes sense” – i.e. it’s in tune with their rather vague, unconsidered religion and not in obvious conflict with their science (which may be some specialty that has no connection with the Big Questions).

    • Marella
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Organisations follow many of the same laws as individuals, they are concerned for their own existence and will take steps to ensure their continuity. The group of people who run it are dependent on it for many things, not least their livelihood in this case, and they also benefit from its growth. All of which means they are going to have trouble taking the high road and rejecting funding from any direction. Organisational evolution, I assume it’s a field that someone studies!

      • Larry Gay
        Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

        When your college sends you a request for money, you can always refuse by citing nonsense published by some faculty member. The AAAS could use some competition.

  18. Eric Lawton
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I sent this to AAAS, with a link to the article:” As a member, I am embarrassed by seeing this kind of medieval mumbo-jumbo on our web site. We should not be encouraging this kind of wild speculative thinking which offers no evidence, no predictions and built on premises announced without support. The only saving grace is that there are no implications for policy.
    Whether or not there is conflict between science and religion, there is surely conflict between this way of thinking and scientific thinking.
    If there is to be common ground between science and religion, let us look for it in ways to better the human condition. “

  19. Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I agree with your horror about this, but I’ve always admired how Templeton Foundation spends its money. They really have done a great job promoting the idea that religion and science have something to say to each other. They bankroll, via book deals and such, a lot of scientists who don’t have a firm grasp on the whole reality thing.

    • Occam
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.”

      Woody Allen, Without Feathers

      • Nick Andrew
        Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Dear Woody,

        I am Barr. Phillip Butulezi, an attorney of law to a deceased Immigrant property Magnate, who was based in the U.K, also referred to as my client.

        My client, named MISTER WOOCLY ALLEN, passed away due to an unfortunate accident involving two underage girls, a rolled-up copy of the New York Times and a block of cheese the size of a car battery.

        Prior to that accident and since then, I have been managing Mr Allen’s properties here in the U.K. Some of these properties, at the time of the accident, were already put on sale. I, as his attorney, monitored the sale of the properties, and the depositing of the proceeds into Mr Schoeler’s main Swiss bank account. I have contacted you initially to assist me in repatriating the money, and possibly ownership of some of the property left behind by my client; this is to prevent ownership of both reverting to the state. I am prepared to share the money with you in half.

        All I require is your honest co-operation and confidentiality to enable us sees this deal through.

        Yours in the Lord,

        Shamash Din Choudhry.

  20. OliversArmy
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I get the impression that the AAAS is using the DoSER Program to troll its own membership.

    I mean you have to admit that a sentence that starts with:

    Faith in a God of self-giving love…

    is some master baiting.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      I see what you did there.

  21. Saikat Biswas
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Haught almost gets something right in deluded piece :

    “..faith has no intensity or depth unless it is a leap into the unknown in the face of such absurdity.”

    Actually, it is a leap into absurdity in the face of unknown.

    • Marella
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      +1

  22. Tulse
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    What is especially wrong about all this is that the positions on the AAAS website are not some sort of “generic theology”, they are definitely sectarian, and the positions espoused are counter to those of various Christian denominations, never mind Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, etc. etc. etc. It is outrageous that the AAAS is endorsing any religious position, but is especially egregious for them to pick such a narrow, specific religious viewpoint.

    • Your Name's not Bruce?
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes; what research has led them to the conclusion that this particular, narrow, rarefied-to-the-point-of nonexistent brand of Christianity is correct? I don’t imagine that any Muslim cleric would see Allah as “self emptying”. Without an “Incarnation” to explain Muslim clerics have no need of this hypothesis.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      If only Wiccans and other rather looked-down-upon religions could be encouraged to demand their equal time in this “dialogue,” maybe AAAS would finally be sufficiently embarrassed to rethink this stupidity.

  23. salon_1928
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Haught has a vivid imagination – in my opinion he should take a crack at writing Science Fiction. That said, the AAAS should have no connection with this type of material…

  24. Posted November 13, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    While evolution does not rule out a “God’s” existence, it most surely does rule out the existence of the Christian God.

    • PB
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Many people just say God, while they mostly means christian god. Actually there are many different concepts of god, and whole billions of these people will laugh at the idea of jesus paid their debt to jesus’ father!

  25. Stephen P
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    what in the world is the sweating theologian trying to say?

    What he is really trying to say is that he hasn’t completely wasted his life. What I wonder is whether he is trying to convince other people or whether he is trying to convince himself.

  26. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    In order to “adapt” to the divine infinity the finite cosmos

    I think the AAAS should stop it right there. In what sense of physics is the universe finite nowadays?

    The basic mechanics of quantum mechanics _requires_ infinite freedom of a Hilbert space, or it wouldn’t work. And it seems to be a part of the physics rather than a mere math idealized construct issue, it can’t be removed and it has physical consequences. (Sean Carroll had some article on time vs infinity of Hilbert spaces. It’s an interesting hypothesis.)

    Moreover, the new standard cosmology _requires_ time to be forward infinite, or it wouldn’t work.

    Besides that, the same cosmology is simplest infinite in space (flat space of the observable universe continued). And it may well be that backward infinite time is the simplest solution for eternal inflation, which in turn is the simplest physics of the inflationary part.

    Speaking of eternal inflation, its natural ground state is the multiverse, which happens to imply an infinite amount of universes like ours.

    So we likely have infinities of infinities even. I doubt vanilla ‘infinite gods’ can keep up with that logically.

    Will we see infinite recursion theology, trying to trump any physics that could fall out of cosmology? Of course we will, it will be infinite turtle stacks on infinite turtle stacks all the way down* – but then Haught’s argument goes nowhere.

    ————–
    * The real funny thing is that language fails to express this after a while, and even math symbolism have trouble keeping up. So my guess is that it will revert to ‘it’s a mystery’ theology eventually.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Change “standard cosmology _requires_ time to be forward infinite” to standard cosmology predicts time to be forward infinite. My C&P got the better of me. :-/

    • Sastra
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Ah, Torbjorn, but you’re using the term “infinite” in the mathematical sense, the way it’s used in physics. Haught now is using it in the metaphorical sense, the way it’s used in stories. So his explanation of how the cosmos works no more conflicts with the mission of the AAS than a scientist reading fairy tales to his toddler during the breaks of a scientific conference conflicts with its goals. Or something like that.

  27. MadScientist
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Hahaha; Johnson is channeling Chopra. Mystical Quantum Mechanical Diddler etc.

    “… the undetermined realms of matter and spirit …”

    I wonder what the “undetermined realm of matter” is. This “spirit” thing is nonexistent and therefore entirely undetermined, but why the hell is she mixing reality with fantasy?

  28. Posted November 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Say it isn’t so AAAS. This is so dum. Suppose they want more impact with policy makers.

    America just hates science, have to just live with that.

    • Marella
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      America hates reality, and religion encourages this.

  29. Ken Pidcock
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    The folks at AAAS no doubt believe they are promoting science, and probably don’t fully realize that they are sustaining religion.

  30. FlyByNight
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m not so mad that my postdoc grant was rejected by the NIH…. still mad, but less so.

  31. Sastra
    Posted November 14, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Viewed in this light, the evolution of the cosmos is more than just “compatible” with theism. Faith in a God of self-giving love, it would not be too much to say, actually anticipates an evolving universe. It may be very difficult to reconcile the religious teaching about God’s infinite love with any other kind of cosmos.

    Oh please. Is Haught really trying to suggest that IF the universe was only 10,000 years old and the earth and everything on it created in its present form in only 6 days — and modern science all supported this — THEN he would be rationally forced to conclude that God doesn’t — couldn’t — exist? That, given that situation, God’s “self-giving Love” would be just too damn small and mean for him and he’d have to reject God as insufficiently wondrous and amazing?

    Give me a freakin’ break. God will NEVER be “too small” for the faithful: they have after all even taught themselves to go into transports over nothing at all. Unknowable mystery beyond ability to understand? WOW! I’m in tears!

    Faith, the approach and attitude of Faith, is fueled by a commitment to exclaim in triumphant vindication no matter what is discovered. Just look at the scientific findings and cry out “Why, isn’t that exactly what we would expect to find if God is real!”

    “Wait — I’m holding the paper upside down? Oh, my. These new results are even more conclusive than the opposite ones were! My faith in God and my appreciation of His magnitude and subtlety is strengthened even more!!!”

    “Oh, it was the right way before? Ahhhh…. I knew it. Clearly THIS shows how awesome God is even more than that temporary mistake I made.”

    “Oh, wait. You mean they’ve come up with something else? Well, will wonders never cease, this turns out to be EVEN MORE faith-strengthening than before blah blah blah.”

    Haught is kidding himself if he really thinks that anyone with any intellectual integrity thinks there’s merit in this disingenuous method of reconciling science and faith. God is falsifiable all right — but only if scientists had made some other discovery and come to some other consensus. It’s called predicting after the fact and no, it doesn’t mean that the God hypothesis had predictive power and has avoided falsification. Silliness.

    • Tulse
      Posted November 14, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Well said as usual, Sastra. It would be interesting to ask Haught if there is any empirical result that would reduce his belief in his god. If not, then the whole notion of evidence in this matter is completely irrelevant, a red herring tossed out for the appearance of intellectual respectability.

  32. Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Gahh! Short version……

    Dear World..

    God cordially invites you to become yourself.

    The process will take billions of years and you simply won’t believe the amount of pain, misery, suffering, torture and inevitable extinction of sentient beings it will all involve. Get over it. It’ll be worth it in the end. Honest.

    All the best.
    Your loving creator God
    RSVP (or else)
    PS: It’s a mystery :-)

    Long version…

    http://sirlancsallot.blogspot.com/2011/11/haught-n-jerry-2.html

  33. Posted November 16, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I think Haught here is playing with the meaning of the word “evolution” as synonym of “progress”.
    I’m not native english speaker, however the Merruam-Webster dictionary in my smartphone says that Evolution means:
    2a: a process of change in a certain direction: unfolding;
    2c:(1): a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse, to a higher, more complex, or better state: growth
    Taking these meanings Haught’s BS makes some sense. The problem is that this is not what Biological Evolution is. This guy is playing with an (willfull or not) equivocation of the meaning of the word “Evolution” to make his point.

  34. Peter Beattie
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Speaking of dishonesty:

    The central idea of theistic religion, as the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner (among others) has clarified, is that the Infinite pours itself out in love to the finite universe.

    Well, perhaps he could answer one question: what does the S in his name stand for?


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