Jennifer Wiseman on the compatibility of Genesis and evolution

As I noted yesterday, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman is not only an astronomer with NASA, but director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Templeton-funded program, “Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion” (DoSER). She’s also on the executive board of the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of evangelical Christian Scientists with fairly hard-core beliefs (the group refuses, for instance, to take a stand on the truth of evolution.)  The aim of the AAAS’s DoSER program is “to facilitate communication between scientific and religious communities.”

As I’ve said before, Wiseman is free to believe what she wants and to say what she chooses as a private citizen, but her statements and interviews do bespeak a distinctly unscientific attitude.  These questions and answers are from an interview with Wiseman at the UK’s Rejesus site:

You constantly seek to expand the final frontier of space. Are the biggest challenges to your faith from within science?

No, I am troubled when I see the innocent suffer, whether that’s innocent children in a war zone or innocent animals being abused. I often join the chorus in crying out: ‘God, why are you allowing this? Why don’t you intervene?’

I believe in miracles. I believe God answers prayer. So when tragedy strikes I struggle with this question of why. But I also know that God is always present in troublesome situations and he can change people’s hearts and minds in amazing ways. I have witnessed enough of God’s faithfulness and presence and responses to cries for help to be convinced that God is real and that the gospel is true.

She also believes that God answers prayer (empirical study shows that this isn’t true), and her theodicy is incoherent.  God is “present in troublesome situations” like tragedies, but apparently He chooses, in those tragedies, to allow some people to die or experience unimaginable suffering. (And we’re not even talking about animal suffering here, which is equally problematic.)  Why is that? And when people “change their minds in amazing ways,” some of them change their minds in bad ways and do evil.  How does she know which cases of mind-change are caused by God, and which occur by other means (presumably Satan?)

How does your scientific view relate to what you read in the Bible about creation?

As a Christian, I believe the Bible is inspired by God. I have a great respect for the Bible. Respecting the scriptures includes understanding the kind of literature that was being written and what is being read. We need to be humble and respectful in trying to understand what it is that God is teaching us through each book and each passage. Every book has a different type of literature, a different historical time frame and a different initial audience.

The opening words of Genesis are very powerful – ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ – because they set the stage for a theology which says that everything is created by one God.

If we read Genesis as a text of scientific detail, I think we misunderstand its purpose. God was not giving us the details of how he created things. If it was that kind of text it would have been a much longer book. I find it amazing that the stages of Creation in Genesis match fairly well with what scientists understand to be the way things have come into being.

Here is the stages of creation as given in Genesis; remember that there are two versions of Genesis showing different orders of “creation”:

Genesis 1:

  1. Light and dark
  2. Sky
  3. Seas, dry land, plants (herbs and trees and grasses)
  4. Stars, the sun and the moon
  5. Sea creatures and flying creatures
  6. Land animals
  7. Humans

Well, there’s a bit of discrepancy there, as stars came before the seas, dry land on Earth, and plants. Further, sea creatures came before plants. And the stars and light were presumably coincident.  Finally, land animals (amphibians and reptiles) came before birds.

The second chapter of Genesis gives a different order:

Genesis 2:

  1. Earth and heavens
  2. Plants of the field and herbs
  3. Water (how were the plants and herbs growing before this?)
  4. Male human (Adam)
  5. Trees
  6. Beasts and fowls
  7. Female human (Eve)

In Genesis 2.0, humans appear before other creatures, and plants appear before water.  If Wiseman “find[s] it amazing that the stages of Creation in Genesis match fairly well with what scientists understand to be the way things have come into being,” which version of Genesis is she talking about?   And does she use that (non) coincidence as a way of comporting her Christianity with comic and biological evolution?

These answers constitute a prime example of the incompatibility between science and faith, and it amazes me that someone who operates as a scientist during the day can believe in this kind of stuff in their off-hours.  Genesis is not compatible with cosmic and biological evolution, and an omnipotent and benevolent god is not compatible with evils and tragedies.

When there’s this kind of discord, the religious scientist simply makes stuff up so that the two magisteria once again harmonize. In science, when your hypothesis is at odds with the facts, you discard the hypothesis. Are those methods compatible?

100 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I suppose our chant of protest will be, “Doozers, not DoSER!” http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Doozers

  2. Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    She was probably already rather stupid before religion took her mind over, but religion has surely exacerbated the problem.

    • H.H.
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s a matter of intelligence. She’s smart enough. It’s that she lacks the emotional maturity to accept unpleasant facts. That’s the divide I see between theists and rational skeptics. Not intelligence, but maturity.

      • Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Whatever the cause of her stupidity, the result is the same.

        If you loudly assert that 1 + 1 = 3, you are an idiot, regardless of if you truly believe it, if you’ve convinced yourself of the “fact” because you love Dear Leader and that’s what He says, or if you don’t believe it at all but you’re cynically trying to manipulate others to your own advantage.

        There’s also Dunning-Kruger to consider. There is no doubt but that there are all sorts of subjects about which all of us, yea even Richard and Jerry, are idiots. But, for the most part, most non-religious people have the wisdom to shut up rather than prove their idiocy.

        Dr. Wiseman, on the other hand, wears her idiocy on her sleeve, with pride. Worse, as an astronomer, she simply has no excuse — the nature of her idiocy has been rubbed in her face since the day she first observed the CMB, if not long before.

        Idiocy is still idiocy, no matter how sophisticated it is.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          Right, Ben. As Bugs Bunny would say about her: “What a maroon!”

          • Arnie
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

            I have to say that I am truly baffled after reading her statements. If you can’t say that she is stupid you can’t say it for anyone.

          • Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

            Or, if she’s especially sweet despite being twisted “What a macaroon!”

            …sorry….

            b&

            • Posted March 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

              That just takes the biscuit!

              /@

              • MadScientist
                Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                That’s just crackers.

      • Andy
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        You could also say that anxiety is the cause of her inability to accept certain facts. She fears the feelings that would result from a view that challenges her beliefs. Is that immature? Perhaps, but it could also just be some kind of nervous disorder.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      There are a lot of clips of her on youtube on the channel of the test of faith organization.
      This is part of the Templeton funded Faraday Institute. In one of them she mentions her reason for becoming religious. Basically she was raised in a religious family. That’s it.
      I wouldn’t say she is stupid – she wouldnt have become a NASA project manager without having some intellectual ability (it IS rocket science!) but she clearly sees the world through God goggles and seems to have no ability to see outside this worldview.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

        Serious question – how much do project managers in NASA actually know about anything technical? Because in my (utility) organisation, project managers have to know all about financial systems and programming resources and report writing, i.e. glorified clerks and bean counters, but nothing messy and technical like actual engineering. Now IF NASA is like this (and I have no actual knowledge) then any connection between her and rocket science could purely be on the glossy front cover of the annual report.

        But I really don’t know.

        • Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:46 am | Permalink

          Well, I don’t know what you need to be project manager in NASA, but Wiseman (who is neither) does have very credible qualifications: a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT and a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard.

          But even very well qualified people can still be very stupid about things outside their professional expertise…

          /@ B.Sc. Ph.D.

      • MadScientist
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Oh, you get all sorts of losers in NASA – such a huge organization is not immune from idiocy at every level. People tend to remember the really amazing things that brilliant people in that organization do rather than the bizarre nutcases that pop up now and then. Who still remembers the astronaut who put on her Space Diapers and drove a long distance just to harass someone?

        • Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          I remember. I thought she was going in a jealous rage to kill the woman she thought was taking her man, when he wasn’t her man to begin with. Talk about wingnuts!

    • SLC
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I would have to take issue with Dr. Dawkins here. I don’t think that Dr. Wiseman is stupid, like his favorite creationist Kurt Wise (who he admits is not stupid), she has been brainwashed.

      • Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:35 am | Permalink

        In the absence of kidnapping and/or torture, how long would it take an intelligent person to overcome brainwashing? Probably not long, if there were many around her who weren’t also brainwashed, and yet, we’ve a tendency to hang around like minded folks, so she probably manages to maintain her brainwashing, as she is brainwashed to do.

        This is where atheists coming out of the closet will make the biggest difference, and this is why religionists are so afraid of just that. I’m bowled over by the audacity and courage of the latest atheist billboards. Anyone else noticing them? Ramping up just in time for the Reason Rally. This is going to shake Dr. Wiseman’s world, whether she consciously realizes it or not.

  3. daveau
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I have witnessed enough of God’s faithfulness and presence and responses to cries for help to be convinced that God is real and that the gospel is true.

    That seems just a smidge unscientific. The compartmentalization and rationalizing that some people will perform in order not to upset their paradigm is astounding to me.

    • Gluon
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-answers-prayers-of-paralyzed-little-boy,475/

      God Answers Prayers of Paralyzed Little Boy. “No”, says God.

      I suppose the quarter of a million who died in the 2004 tsunami failed to cry for help, or failed to invoke the proper name for God, or some such. Or perhaps, as they were drowning, they had a redemptive experience of God’s grace and converted to Christianity. Or perhaps, they all died to serve as a moral lesson for someone, perhaps someone in the first world whom we might relate to. Truly, God is faithful.

      The ability of this sort of world view to ignore something so obvious as “prayer does not work” is breathtaking. After all, it’s such a well known fact that prayer is useless that it is the unexplained background of an idiom, as in “He doesn’t have a prayer”, which means that he can’t even appeal to that most useless and unreliable form of help.

      • Mike Lee
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

        Ah well now, that’s where the Muslims are clever – “God willing” – of course. That’s the escape route in case he’s not in the mood to help….

  4. Griff
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Oh for ffs, why not just say “it isn’t” and be done with it?

    What is wrong with these people? Have they no sense of the extent to which they have to twist their holy books to massage them into a modern context?

    Seriously, what is wrong with them?

  5. TJR
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Streuth. The cognitive dissonance must *burn*.

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      If only it did….

      b&

      • rhetoric
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        Maybe its a KY His&Hers type of burn?

    • Gluon
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Witnessing it does.

  6. Richard C
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Genesis 1 says that plants were growing before the sun, moon, and stars were created. That’s ridiculous in light of modern-ish* science of course, but would have been a perfectly rational belief in ancient times when the Earth was still assumed to be flat.

    If the Earth were flat and the Sun were still the source of daylight, we would see a visible shadow moving across the sky in the morning and evening as the Sun rises and sets over the Earth’s edge. Instead the sky slowly brightens for an hour before dawn and slowly dims for an hour after the Sun sets. Flat earth = the sky must be self-illuminating.

    Genesis 1 does say that the Sun and Moon are “torches” that were created for the specific purpose of helping us tell time, NOT to create the light of day. Instead Genesis says daylight was created separately by God.

    (Genesis 1 also says the Sky is made of some sort of solid sheet — usually translated as “firmament” or “structure” — upon which the waters of the sky are resting. Guess that’s why it’s blue and why rains falls from it?)

    How Genesis can be reconciled with science without ignoring half of what it says and making liberal wordplay with the other half is beyond me. (I myself used to go through lots of creative reinterpretation to make it make sense, so I know how tempting that can be.)

    * Don’t know if 300 BC is “modern”. More modern than a bronze-age tribal kingdom that figured out how to write down its stories for posterity.

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      You are so overthinking this, and giving them waaaaaaay too much credit.

      Genesis is a faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. Alternatively, it’s an horrific allegory about an abusive single parent who first neglects and then evicts his helpless children.

      Actually taking any of it seriously the way you did gives those who take it seriously far more credibility and gravitas than they could ever possibly deserve.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • daveau
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Stop it, Ben. You’re making the little baby Jesus cry.

        • Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Good! Barbecued Jesus babies taste so much better when marinated in their own tears.

          Don’t you agree?

          b&

          • daveau
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            Tastes like lamb.

            • Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

              Not just any lamb, but lamb with cod!

              Cheeses fried in lard, lamb with cod, be greasy upon the sole.

              Nobody ever said Christianity is good for you, but just think of all that deep-fried fat! Is it any wonder it’s so popular?

              b&

              • daveau
                Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                Put it on a stick and you can sell it at the State Fair! Better yet, a stick with another stick placed horizontally about 1/4 of the way down.

              • Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

                So, don’t just sell a chew on a stick, but a deep-fried chew on a stick?

                Hmmm…might wok….

                b&

              • daveau
                Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

                You can give it a natural casing, so that you can fondle its intestines. Sort of…

                Gee. I thought when we were out of reply links, I could get out of this mess. Guess not.

              • Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

                …”deep-fried Chew on a stick”? Great Godwin’s Law!

              • Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                Every time a god wins, a Republican gets his jackboots….

                b&

      • Richard C
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:57 am | Permalink

        So it’s not a subject that interests you. I take it seriously and enjoy studying the history of what people believed about the world at different times.

        Not sure why you think my comment — where I point out Genesis is claims the sun doesn’t create daylight, has plants growing before the Sun, claims the sky is made of water, is based on a flat Earth, and can’t be reconciled with science — with giving credibility to those who believe it to be true.

        • Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          If somebody sincerely believes he’s a Harry Potter-style wizard and carries a “magic” wand that he waves around constantly while chanting gibberish, is the proper response to suggest that his beliefs aren’t entirely compatible with the current understanding of the laws of thermodynamics…or is it to contact the local mental health services agency?

          If somebody gets a kick out of reading Ms. Rowling’s books, as I certainly do, that’s fine. And literary analysis is absolutely merited, perhaps even to the point of figuring out what is and isn’t possible according to the rules of that book’s universe.

          But, as soon as somebody loses sight of the fact that it’s fiction, the only sane response is to step entirely out of the fiction, yourself. By staying within the fiction and treating it seriously at that point, all you’re doing is convincing the crazy person that the fantasy is real, and all you’re doing is haggling over the details.

          b&

  7. Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    “And the stars and light were presumably coincident.”

    No, according to the big bang, light was created long before the first stars. See the Photon epoch for details.

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Not that there aren’t other glaring problems with Genesis, but the verse where light was created was:

      “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

      So, it’s not just light from some non-solar source. It’s the light of day.

      • Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:22 am | Permalink

        “Glaring problems… with light…” Good pun.

        • Claimthehighground
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

          How bright of you to notice

    • Gluon
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I’m just bugged that the Bible neglected to mention that the Sun is a star the Earth goes around, or that if you boil your water before drinking it you will never get cholera, or how to set a broken bone, or even that germs cause disease. So many useful things it could have said, but didn’t. Almost everything useful is missing, in fact.

      For that matter, I find it grossly irresponsible of God that the Bible does not contain a FAQ. A simple FAQ would have eliminated hundreds of years of wars and conflicts over the interpretation of scripture.

      • Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        Msybe fire was still a bit difficult to come by, at the origin of the bible. At least God said something about bathing, especially when it came to skin disease, and ritual hand-washing (or did the rabbi’s develope that one) before eating, after using the bathroom, and at various other times. It’s a start, considering microscopes and germ theory came thousands of years later.

        • David T.
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          I wonder how many of these things were caused by sickness. Example, they notice that if they wash their hands before they eat they get sick less than when they don’t, therefore god is punishing them for not washing hands.

          Or they eat pork under cooked and catch a disease therefore god hates pork, ect.

          • Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

            FWIW, I think it’s highly likely and pertains to other customs, as well, including — dare I say it and start this discussion all over again? — circumcision. (Any questions on medical benefits, see JAMA, October 2011, forgot which weekly issues of that month.)

          • Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Actually, it’s much more closely related to tribalism. Those guys over there really like shellfish, so we’ll set ourselves apart by proclaiming shellfish to be the food of the devil. Anybody observed eating shellfish is automatically known to be an outsider and therefore an unperson.

            And there’s a lot of codified OCD in there, too, presumably traced back to an influential individual with that particular obsession.

            b&

            • Posted March 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

              As I understand it, that’s why Christians have church on Sunday, when the Jewish god said Saturday was the Sabbath. Even the current (Christian) calendar keeps Saturday as the seventh day. It’s also why Christianity flows through the father. It was a way of countering Judaism, which passes through the mother. Yep, drawing lines of distinction.

              Americans vs. Communists, too, with “under god” added to the Pledge…

              All silliness.

    • richardconnamacher
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      Where in the Big Bang theory does it say that plants were growing on a fully formed Earth a full day before the first stars were formed in the sky?

      Remember: Genesis says light, then the day/night cycle, then water, then the sky, then dry land, then plants, THEN stars.

      And why do you think that a Bronze Age creation story set only 3000 years in its author’s past was really talking about a primordial soup of quantum energy 14 billion years earlier?

  8. Mike
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    People were praying at Treblinka and Sobibor and Auschwitz. Those prayers were unanswered. Was God present? Did he change any nazi hearts and minds in an amazing way? Maybe God withheld the miracles since the prayers weren’t routed through Jesus.

    • Gluon
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      I have friends who will credit God with answering their prayers for a parking space, or some such trivial thing. It is a kind of breathtaking solipsism. And such people call atheists arrogant.

      • Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, here’s an insignificant nobody on a tiny rocky planet orbiting one of a hundred billion stars in a moderate-sized galaxy in a group of millions of galaxies in a universe with hundreds of thousands such groups spanning dozens of billions of lightyears…and he can command the very deity who created all of this, force him to hop instantly to his command and find him that damned parking space.

        Right now.

        No, you may not stop that tsunami first. I need my parking space now, damnit.

        Oh, and make that cute chick at the coffee shop call me back, too, while you’re at it?

        KTHKXBAI.

        b&

  9. Frank
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    “And does she use that (non) coincidence as a way of comporting her Christianity with comic and biological evolution?”

    While her silly views have a ‘comic’ aspect to them, they indeed do not comport with “cosmic” evolution! :)

    • DrDroid
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I noticed “comic” also. Perhaps it is not a typo? Jerry’s humor showing through?

    • MadScientist
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Bah, there’s no need for evilution – everyone knows that on the 8th day God made Jesus and Mo.

  10. Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    To be fair to Dr. Wiseman, it’s the compatibility of the Upanishads and evolution that worries me most.

  11. Sunny
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    And what evidence would one have to present for Wiseman and her ilk to consider the Gospel false? Apparently nothing!

  12. TomZ
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    God was not giving us the details of how he created things. If it was that kind of text it would have been a much longer book.

    Well, they could’ve made room by excluding all the genocide, slavery, rape, wars, patriachy, and baby-killing. A lot of room.

    • S A GOULD
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      I think an all-powerful god would have given us a MOVIE over some stone tablets. (And then he could have KEPT in “all the genocide, slavery, rape, wars, patriachy, and baby-killing.”

  13. Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    “to facilitate communication between scientific and religious communities.”

    Why? What’s to benefit humankind by facilitating this communication?

  14. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    When you believe in magic anything is possible and everything is explicable. Even if the explanation is a shallow as ‘Goddidit’ or ‘Shazzam!”

    I suspect that in Dr Wiseman’s brain there are separate neural networks for believing in magical stuff and believing in the natural world. Since these deep beliefs are in the subconscious they don’t interact, hence no dissonance. It’s only in her conscious that both ideas are presented, in certain circumstance, but the conscious brain struggles hard to update any beliefs held in the subconscious. Indeed most people have a cognitive bias to ignore uncomfortable ideas and place extra value on ideas that confirm existing beliefs.

    Ripe pickings for the Templeton Foundation.

  15. vel
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    “But I also know that God is always present in troublesome situations” one more verminous Christian who thinks themselves so special that other people have to suffer so they can “learn” something.

  16. Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Genesis I (that’s where the 6 days comes from) gives us whales and bids (day 5) before land creatures (day 6).

    She can say that Genesis is a human document (better, assemblage of documents) like any other. She can say that it’s divinely inspired in emotional tone but not intended to be a factually correct account (this might fit a Two Magisteria theology). The one thing she cannot say without getting laughed off the stage, is that the order in Genesis I (I haven’t even mentioned day and night before sun and moon) is scientifically informed.

    So why does she?

  17. J James
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update. The additional information is helpful. I still would like to know more about the details behind, how and why this DoSER thing got started. (The DoSER web site, which I studied, no doubt propagandizes this.) Not having more information, however, I am not addressing the underling wisdom of DoSER, or willing predict efficacy/futility. If its purpose truly is to reach accord amongst reasonable minds in warring worlds, I am all in favor of the attempt, probability of success be damned. There are irrational fundamentalists aplenty on this planet, and thoughtful people ought to employ all reasonable means available to marginalize and then extinguish their intolerance.

    Popper suggests responding in kind is sometimes the only tool and I don’t disagree. E.g., I will show no tolerance of those who would have their religion a part of government, schools and my life. However, employed indiscriminately, scorched earth policy is M.A.D. I always remember the iterated prisoner’s dilemma (equivalent retaliation) and whole-heartedly prefer cooperation, dialogue and tolerance if given back; remember, however, I have but two cheeks and will earnestly protect the second one.

    Forget about dialogue with those at 1 and 2 on the Dawkin’s scale and take any “good book” literally; simply hope to marginalize them. I fear by lumping all believers into that group, you merely alienate the possibly educable, potentially driving them into the arms of the 1’s and 2’s.

    The wisdom of DoSER aside, I’m still unwilling to condemn Wiseman’s selection without information on the vetting process and her vision of, and commitment to, the mission. I predicted James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, was a terrible choice for the job and he was. Likewise, I predicted Warren E. Burger would be a terrible Supreme Court Justice (his background and writings screamed this). I missed that mark by 10 the tenth AU’s. Go figure. Sometimes the job changes us, eh?

    “Al-Dajjal will come, claiming to be God holding Heaven and Hell. His purpose is to deceive, and unbelievers will follow him. He is short, red-faced, blind in the right eye, and has hair which sticks up.”

    I resemble that guy.

  18. NoAstronomer
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “But I also know that God is always present in troublesome situations and he can change people’s hearts and minds in amazing ways.”

    What a sanctimonious ass.

    Presumably god took Sunday morning off in Panjwai, Afghanistan. Or is having 11 of your closest relatives shot one of the ways god changes people’s hearts and minds?

  19. Your Name's not Bruce?
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    What exactly does “inspired by God” mean in practical terms of bible as? Did someone take dictation from god? Did the writers dream their stories and god implanted the dreams? What about all the scribes, editors and translators? What mechanism or chain of events is supposed to have transpired to get one from a god to a “god-inspired” book? How does one recognize a god-inspired book from one that is not? I wonder how she would answer these questions. If one is going to claim that a book is the work or word of a god, the evidence should be really strong, or at least so one would think.

  20. AndreSchuiteman
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    In the beginning God created the vacuum.

    That opening sentence would, perhaps, have betrayed true insight on the part of the author(s) of Genesis. Instead, we read the exact opposite. And it only gets worse.

    • Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      I don’t think there were any local vaccuums around, in the bronze age, for anyone to recognize and name.

      • andreschuiteman
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

        Exactly. For a ‘divinely inspired’ work it is remarkable that there is nothing in it that could not have been imagined by ignorant bronze or iron age folks.

  21. Kevin
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    1) “She also believes that God answers prayer (empirical study shows that this isn’t true)”

    On the face of it, the statement in brackets appears ludicrous. Did the researchers observe that God always screens His calls? If God could be the subject of empirical study, surely all would be believers? 

    2) “an omnipotent and benevolent god is not compatible with evils and tragedies”

    Taking the definition of “benevolent” as “wishing us well”, I do not see the incompatibility. If by “benevolent” you mean “totalitarian”, then I see it.

    3) “Genesis is not compatible with cosmic and biological evolution”

    If by “cosmic evolution” is implied acceptance of the truth of the statement (at some point) that “nothing exists”, then incompatibility would be a good thing, since, by definition, truth would not exist at that point.

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Did the researchers observe that God always screens His calls?

      The Bible claims that Jesus most emphatically does not screen his calls:

      John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

      10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

      11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

      12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

      13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

      14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

      The only possible conclusions are that nobody actually believes in Jesus, that Jesus was lying, or that he’s simply make-believe (or some combination thereof).

      Taking the definition of “benevolent” as “wishing us well”, I do not see the incompatibility.

      Imagine that the most brilliant ER surgeon who ever lived is driving home from work. He’s on a back-country road, no traffic, and he spots a truly horrific motorcycle wreck. The hot-pink bike is wrapped around a tree and the rider lies twitching and bleeding several feet away, her long blonde hair stuck in the blood on the pavement. The surgeon’s daughter is a blonde who rides a hot-pink motorcycle.

      Rather than stop to render aid or even dial 911 from his hands-free voice-activated cellphone, the surgeon silently continues on his way home.

      How “benevolent” would you describe this particular motherfucking sonofabitch?

      If by “cosmic evolution” is implied acceptance of the truth of the statement (at some point) that “nothing exists”

      Are you somehow asserting that the phrase, “nothing exists,” is somehow empirically demonstrated, logically coherent, or anything that has ever been sincerely suggested by any modern cosmologist?

      If so, would you care to expound?

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Tim
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        You have such colorful ways of demonstrating, over and over again (such patience!) that theists still have no answer to Epicurus’s questions that aren’t completely monstrous or utterly insipid.

  22. Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    This is a bit of blogwhoring, but it reminds me a bit of a creationist book I read from the 20s – God or Gorilla. This was from before the Big Bang theory was popularized (and maybe even before it was really formed at all). But the author of that book, Alfred McCann, was also amazed at just how ‘close’ Genesis was to the then modern understanding of how the universe was formed (perhaps – given the dishonesty and/or ignorance of creationists, I don’t know how well he represented the actual scientific understanding of his day).

    It’s probably not a surprise, but it just goes to show how malleable interpretations can be when people are convinced that a book has to represent the absolute truth.

  23. Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    This appears laughable but people like her peddle dangerous untruths.

  24. MadScientist
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    How’s that – Wiseman’s not such a wise woman.

    This phrase never fails to annoy me:
    “to facilitate communication between scientific and religious communities.”

    There is an implication that “scientific” and “religious” communities are mutually exclusive – something which anyone with a brain knows is not true. So Wiseman’s objective is to reconcile something which does not need to be (nor should ever be) reconciled.

  25. Badger3k
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    So, she’s not only ignorant of her own holy book, but she’s ignorant of the origins of the universe (and the order of planetary formation, evolution of living things, and probably a lot more). She’s perfect for Templeton, but a disgrace to scientists and rational thinkers everywhere. She’s sure to win the Templeton Prize, if she hasn’t already.

  26. Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    The original site had no comments posted, so I posted one:

    “Noting ‘outside the realm of God’s authorship.’ Would that include genocides in so many different places around the globe, plus natural disasters wiping out millions of people through starvation, drowining, or other means? And if not, then why not? If not God, then who?”

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      It hasn’t shown up yet, and I doubt that it will. But it’s a great comment!

      • Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, JAC.

        • Gluon
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          You might want to try again. There is a comment there now, but not yours. Maybe something went wrong?

          • Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:15 am | Permalink

            Good idea, Gluon. I found two comments, both looking rather atheist, so I gave it another try. Looks like it took, but came out indented, as though a reply to another comment. Oh, well. At least, it’s posted — (under a nom de plume).

            • Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:17 am | Permalink

              Rechecked, and it was gone, again, so I just posted the same comment for the third time.

  27. PoxyHowzes
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Sorry (at several levels), but the remark early on in this thread, namely:

    “She was probably already rather stupid before religion took her mind over, but religion has surely exacerbated the problem.”

    Seems to be bullying at best, classist and/or sexist at worst. This kind of naked scurrility does not advance rational discussion. It is simply (IMHO) a “stupid” remark, a playground taunt.

    The commenter, who should know better, if what he writes in his books is any guide — should know that there is overwhelming evidence that all of us are born irreligious, but grow up molded (moulded) into the religion of our parents. Whence, then the commenter’s offhand (and stupid (IMHO)) postulation that there was a “before” religion “took her mind over.”

    Did the commenter know Jennifer Wiseman, and know her to be “stupid” in her (presumably) early years before she was indoctrinated into religion by her parents? Did the commenter observe Ms. Wiseman as her postulated “stupidity” was supposedly compounded by religion?

    And what, indeed, does the term “stupid” mean, and what are its degrees, that it might get worse after exposure to religion, and what scale is it measured upon?

    I believe the term “stupid” to have no scientific referent. With or without religious mind-control.

    The commenter above is simply indulging himself in not-very-clever name-calling. Something any second-grade school-boy understands very well.

    I would have hoped that the commenter had learned something beyond second-grade. Apparently not, when it comes to name calling.

    PoxyHowzes

    • Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      FWIW, “stupid” is such a stupid word that, when I apply it, it tends to be “st00pid”, double-0 stupid, licensed to die. I apply it to people who refuse knowledge when their very lives depend on it, like someone praying for a cure for cancer, rather than receiving medical treatment at a curable stage.

  28. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    You’re all taking it far too literally. Just reduce it to bare essentials: First there was nothing, and then there was something. See? Perfect agreement between Genesis and science. ;)

    • Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:18 am | Permalink

      But, of course! Why didn’t I see it, all along? How utterly, godlessly foolish of me! And now, for God’s next trick, having brought me from mindless to understanding, I shall suddenly become brilliant!!!!

      Uhh… duh… What happened?

    • Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Hate to be padentic (no actually, I love it), but as far as I understand theories about the early universe, science does not say there was _nothing_, just that we cannot know what was there, as the laws of physics as we know them now did not apply yet… ;).

      For all science knows the Big Bang could have followed the collapse of a previous universe under its own gravity. Hardly ‘nothing’.

      But I did spot your winky, don’t worry ;).

      • Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        ‘Padentic’, whoops, no time for spellchecking here!

  29. andreschuiteman
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    Yeah, but where did ‘nothing’ come from? As if that doesn’t need explaining. Not to mention Mr. Uncaused Cause himself.

    • andreschuiteman
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      In reply to 28. infiniteimprobabilit

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:52 am | Permalink

        Ummm. Tricky.

        Try this:- after the Big Bang / Genesis there were things. So before it there were no things. No things = nothing.

        I think that explains nothing quite well. ;)

        “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded” – old tagline.

        • andreschuiteman
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          That’s probably the level of sophistication one can expect from a bronze age priest. So you may well be right.

          Those who think that Genesis has anything of value to say about the origin of the Cosmos, life on earth or mankind must have their head examined.

  30. pittigemaki
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    this remembers me of a clause in “1984” where the protagonist is tortured when asked how many fingers he sees. Because of his fear and pain he says what the torturer tells him. That’s exactly what happens here, she is so afraid of hell and her imaginary God that she tells everything even what her reason says “that’s impossible”. She dare not to imagine that the bible is the bullshit of bronzen age thinkers (especially
    womenhaters) despite of some pieces who are worth reading.

  31. Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    If you take, say, seven events of known order, chuck them in a bag and randomly pluck them out again, statistics and the way the human brain can find patterns even when there are none, overwhelmingly favour that the _random_ order will ‘match fairly well’ with the correct order.

    Look here:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Rearrange them in order as the numbers appear in the number pi:
    3 1 4 5 2 6 7
    You see 3 through 7 in the correct order, as well as 1 before 2. The number one is almost first, the numbers 6 and 7 are perfect, and 4 and 5 are only 1 off.
    Twist that and you’ll be able to argue the order is correct for 6 out of 7.

    In order as they appear in the number e:
    2 7 1 4 5 3 6
    2 and 6 are only 1 off, 4 and 5 are perfect. If you assume 7 is an error and that it is actually last, 6 out of 7 numbers are correct or within 1 place of correct.

    See? God is in maths!

    • Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      (to clarify I know that pi is not 3.145267 but I just started from the beginning and ticked the digits off the list as you encounter them going through the number)

  32. David T.
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I remember in my fundi days, I used to get so embarrassed by the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Not only do you have the absurd creation account, but you get other niceties such as sons of god mating with the daughters of men and this gives rise to a race of giants! Then there’s the explanation of languages because of the tower of babel. Finally you have the flood to deal with, for one second assume the water rose enough to cover the earth, then how did freshwater fish / plants survive?

    It used to embarrass me enough that I’d always tell people to not start at the beginning but always start in the New Testament. You still had some embarrassing stuff (like the epileptic which is due to a demon), but nothing like the old.

    Its easier when you just realize that the bible was written not by god or inspiration, but by a group of people looking for god.

  33. Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Your ordering of Genesis 2 seems wrong. According to my reading, man was the very first thing created, aside from earth and heaven (and there is mention of water before plants):

    This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:4-9, NASB)

    (Also of note is that the famed Tree of Knowledge is not mentioned at all in Gen. 1, and in fact God bids Adam and Eve to eat from ALL trees.)

  34. Sastra
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I find it amazing that the stages of Creation in Genesis match fairly well with what scientists understand to be the way things have come into being.

    Dr. Wiseman obviously interprets the Bible’s “consistency” with science using the same principle she uses to interpret evidence of God’s presence in tragedy: “It could have been even worse — ergo, God.”

  35. derekw
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve always been partial to Dr. Hugh Ross’s old-earth view of Genesis 1&2 (which I’m supposing Dr. Wiseman would be mostly in agreement with.) A nice theological themed article on reconciling Genesis 1 with cosmological/physical record at http://www.reasons.org/articles/does-old-earth-creationism-contradict-genesis-1 . Note it is written primarily in response to the young earth creationist view of which is most often disparaged.


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