Head of Faraday Institute avers his Christian belief

Dr. Denis Alexander, head of the Templeton-funded Faraday Institute of Science and Religion at St. Edmunds College, Cambridge, is interviewed by the BBC on how he comports science with his evangelical  Christianity.  In the 30-minute interview, Alexander, a molecular biologist, explains his background, his transformation to Christianity, and his beliefs.  They include his acceptance of the divinity and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of the efficacy of prayer.

He also draws the usual distinction between science as answering the “how questions” and religion as answering “why questions.” But (at around 17:00) he draws a number of parallels between the scientific and religious searches for truth:

  • They’re both looking for coherence.
  • Scientific hypothesis are based on data, and so are religious beliefs, which, he says, are heavily reliant on evidence (e.g., the fine-tuning of the universe).  At 17:40, he claims that if the stories in the Bible about Jesus aren’t true, and there’s no afterlife, then Christian faith collapses.

But he still sees the stories of Genesis as one of “figurative language,” not meant to be a “scientific textbook” (he refers to Augustine as holding this view, ignoring the many other church fathers who didn’t).  Genesis, he claims, is meant to show us the “purpose of mankind”, which is:

The purpose of humankind is to know God, to worship Him, and to be good stewards of the planet that God has put into our charge, that we’ve made such a huge mess of.

AT 19:20, he explains to the interviewer, Joan Bakewell, why he considers the Bible to be “scientific evidence.”  It’s bizarre: it’s because the Bible had the “amazing insight” that there was only one God and that he was a “god of love” (Alexander doesn’t explain how he knows these claims were true).  Bakewell calls him out by asking why such a god would sacrifice his son.  Alexander explain that Jesus was God’s “sacrificial lamb,” apparently to save us all.

As for the disparity in the different accounts of the Resurrection in the different gospels of the Bible (Bakewell asks him tough questions), Alexander replies, “The accounts we have of the Resurrection are exactly what you’d expect of eyewitness accounts. And I would myself be very suspicious if they were very coherent, and matched up, and so on. .  ”  And then he claims that these accounts are not contradictory. It’s a Biblical Rashomon!

At the end, he’s asked whether he thinks that Christianity is the one true faith, and after a bit of waffling about the Abrahamic faiths, he basically says yes, because they have Jebus, and there’s “honest disagreement” with faiths like Islam.

Make your own judgment; I find it remarkable that a trained scientist can find so much hard evidence in a book that by his own admission is largely metaphorical. As always, Genesis is a metaphor but the story of Jesus and his resurrection is non-negotiable truth.

h/t: Dom

85 Comments

  1. Marella
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    It is very saddening to see an intelligent well meaning man make such a fool of himself. The sort of thing blights reputations for eternity. Like Wallace, his achievements will be overshadowed by his gullibility and desire to believe nonsense. It is distressing to watch.

    • PB
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      An intelligent man does intelligent things, a fool does foolish things, for an intelligent man does foolish things, you need religions …

  2. Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    It’s a Biblical Rashomon!

    Brilliant!

    I find it remarkable that a trained scientist can find so much hard evidence in a book that by his own admission is largely metaphorical.

    Remarkable… and sad.

    /@

    • Gigaboomer
      Posted January 10, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      What’s sad is that apparently otherwise intelligent people are happy to accept a naturalistic origin of the universe and life despite what real science tells us.

      • Posted January 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Obviously some definition of the term “real science” that I was previously unaware of…

        Can I take it, Gigaboomer (“giant male kangaroo”?), that you have some evidence for a non-naturalistic origin of the universe and life that you can share with us?

        I thought as much.

        /@

        • microraptor
          Posted January 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

          It’s probably related to Real America, where everything looks like a set from Leave It To Beaver.

  3. Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    OFF-TOPIC: I’ve just created a page on Jerry at RationalWiki, focusing on the stuff of interest to skeptics.

  4. DarkmaneX
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I’m quite past being surprised by this level of cognitive dissonance, but not past being embarrassed by it.

  5. raven
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Bakewell calls him out by asking why such a god would sacrifice his son. Alexander explain that Jesus was God’s “sacrificial lamb,” apparently to save us all.

    If you try to make sense of xian mythology, it doesn’t make sense.

    God sacrificed jesus to save us.

    Save us from what?

    Eternal torment in hell for not believing jesus is god.

    And who created hell and runs it? God. God created hell, satan, and demons and lets them run around loose.

    God sent himself down and sacrificed himself to save us from…himself.

    • Rob
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      Sorry, no cite (Ben, you have one?)

      I thought the angels (and hence Satan) were preexisting.

      • microraptor
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        All mainstream Christian faiths that I’m aware of hold that god predates everything else and is responsible for everything’s creation, which would necessarily include the angels and Satan.

      • raven
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I thought the angels (and hence Satan) were preexisting.

        Never heard that.

        Even the Mormons who believe there are countless gods existing for near infinite time don’t say that. According to them, jesus, satan, demons, angels, and humans are all siblings, spirit children products of god fucking his fleet of nameless goddesses.

    • steve
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Yep, that’s their story, and apparently they are sticking to it.

  6. raven
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Bakewell calls him out by asking why such a god would sacrifice his son. Alexander explain that Jesus was God’s “sacrificial lamb,” apparently to save us all.

    How does that work. When jesus resurrected, did he get a big bag. When we die we just throw all our sins into it on our way to heaven?

    How does jesus having a bad weekend (He was only dead temporarily), pay for the sins of 7 billion people thousands of years in the future?

    If god is all powerful, why didn’t he just fix things, show up once in a while, or just realize that he screwed up when he created us in his own image, and keep moving. If god can do anything, murdering an innocent man on a cross to fix things seems pretty lame. Even most humans today wouldn’t do this for ethical reasons.

    • Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      See “The Streets of Ashkelon” by Harry Harrison.

      /@

    • anon
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      I always thought it would make more sense if Jesus stayed in hell, instead of ‘rising’ after 3 days. So: Jesus is in hell suffering for sins so we don’t have to.

      That is an ACTUAL sacrifice. Getting tortured and nailed to a tree really isn’t that big of a deal when you know the second you die you become god.

      • Jim Jones
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        It would make even more sense if ‘Jesus’ stayed around to fix everything instead of ‘leaving’ after 3 days and fixing nothing. It’s like a Lone Ranger story where he rides off into the sunset – or a letter to Penthouse, “We never saw him again, but I’ll always remember those 3 days we had together!”

        The whole story is an exercise in apophenia.

      • Sigmund
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        But it was Jesus himself who invented Hell!
        If he went to Hell it was just a case of head office turning up!
        I bet Lucifer and his demons were on their best behavior for the boss!

    • microraptor
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      The only answer I’ve ever gotten when I’ve asked Christians about that problem has tied into vengeance based justice- god created the rule that someone must pay for sinning and therefore, rather than simply strike the law from the books like any intelligent authority would do, he had to instead create a loophole to follow the law without actually punishing anyone.

      • raven
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        If god created that rule, he could just suspend or modify it. He is supposed to be all powerful, after all.

        We humans do that all the time. At one time it was illegal to sell alcohol in the USA, prohibition.

        Before that it was legal to buy opiates and marijuana over the counter.

        At one time it was a death penalty offense to be an atheist or the wrong sort of xian in the wrong place.

        • microraptor
          Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

          That’s what I said, but since when has a conversation with person who think that a book of ancient fairy tales actually happened ever involved logic?

  7. Sigmund
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    The Augustine argument is somewhat of a constant in these apologetic pleas yet I think it is possible for skeptics to turn it around to use to our advantage.
    The way apologists use it is something like the following:
    “St Augustine, even in the early centuries of Christianity, taught that the genesis stories were not to be taken literally but rather metaphorically.”
    Now, even if we ignore the fact that Augustine felt that a lot of Genesis WAS indeed history, and focus only on the parts he claimed were metaphors we can ask ourselves why he felt confident to deem some parts metaphor and some history. The famous quote from him that is constantly trotted out by apologists makes it clear that it is the fact that the progress of human knowledge had made some parts of Genesis unreconcilable with the common knowledge of hie era:
    “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.”
    In other words the learning of the Greek and Roman civilizations had rendered many parts of Genesis unbelievable to those who were versed in the “science” of that age.
    Fair enough. Augustine had a point there.
    Unfortunately for Augustine and the current crop of apologists, his point was contingent on the knowledge of the day. Scientific knowledge has progressed so much since Augustines time that if we use the same criteria that he did to determine metaphor from possible literal history (are the facts reconcilable with modern scientific understandings of the workings of the universe) we are going to rule out many of the things that Augustine felt were historical – such as the age of the Earth, whether there was a literal Adam and Eve and whether a human can come back to life, three days after rigor mortis has set in.

  8. Mark Thurman
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    It sounds like he is the poster boy for Cognitive Dissonance. People talk about ‘burning the candle at both ends’ to describe a person who is very active at both ends of the day when it is still dark

    I think this guy lives at both ends of the belief scale and to rationalise away the things he sees and understands every day in the lab, well it must take its toll somewhere…

  9. Daryl
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    So, religious searches for truth are (like science) looking for coherence, yet he would be very suspicious if the resurrection accounts were coherent?

    • Chris Granger
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Precisely. The resurrection accounts are contradictory, therefore true, therefore inspired by an omnipotent god. After all, we’d be suspicious if books inspired by an omnipotent god didn’t contradict themselves.

      *gives head a shake*

  10. vel
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    oh, that’s just sad. One more Christian who is sure that their particular god “fine tuned” the universe and of course fails to show that this is the case with any evidence whatsoever.

  11. Dermot C
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    If the resurrection is such a central idea in the story and theology of Christianity, why do we not see it clearly in the first Gospel account of Mark?

    A man in the tomb says, ‘he is risen’ but that’s it. Quite a deus ex machina, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    This person is never mentioned before nor after, not even in Matthew where it is an angel, nor Luke where there are two men, nor John who mentions no-one at all. The Mark account amounts to the allegation that some bloke told me the body had gone. Who was he? No explanation.

    Now if you’re going to make as amazing a claim that a man rose from the dead and that you have the evidence for it, then you need to make sure you get the story right. If I was told that the son of God was resurrected within my own lifetime, I think I would be pretty certain to remember the details of such an event. Even those who believed the most in Him got the story wrong? Is that plausible? Do you really believe that, Dr. Alexander?

    I assume you don’t use the same lax standards of proof in your scientific work.

    • Chris Granger
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I assume you don’t use the same lax standards of proof in your scientific work.

      Perhaps we shouldn’t assume that. It gets me to wondering, at least…

    • raven
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      why do we not see it clearly in the first Gospel account of Mark?

      Matthew and Luke are just rewrites of Mark. It’s quite likely all the details of the resurrection in those two Gospels were invented.

      IIRC, the zombie uprising is in Matthew where hundreds of zombies pour out of their tombs and wander through Jerusalem.

      And no one who wasn’t writing a Gospel thought to note this.

      • Dermot C
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        According to the majority of Biblical scholars, Mark was written first around 65-70 CE. Matthew and Luke came next around 80-85 CE, using Mark as a source as well as the ‘Q’ document, now lost (Q for Quelle, German for source).

        So, no, Matthew and Luke are not rewrites of Mark, but they do use some his stories. Briefly, and a little bit crudely, the second and third Gospel notably embellish the Passion, the Resurrection and Ascension, as well as introducing the Virgin Birth idea. A great deal of theological change occurred between Mark and the other two Synoptic Gospels.

        There is a theory that the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE, between the writing of Mark and that of Matthew and Luke, must have had a huge impact on the latter. How to explain an apocalyptic event like that and to account for the Messiah’s failure to Come a Second time?

        • Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          Mark couldn’t have been earlier than 70 CE – it alludes to the destruction of the Temple.

          • Xuuths
            Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

            Unless that was just metaphor . . .

          • Dermot C
            Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            Thereby illustrating the factual/metaphorical interpretations. Referring to the Temple, the Christ says, “There shall not be left here a stone upon a stone, that shall not be thrown down.” However, Mark immediately puts the prophecy in an eschatological and apocalyptic context.

            As a matter of fact, the Anointed One’s prophecy (in the literal interpretation) was wrong; the Wailing/Western Wall still stands.

            • Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

              apparently it was much more effective sales tactic to pretend the writer was in the past and predicting something that already had happened that was scary for readers.

        • Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          yea, your religion consumers are saying “Wha!? i bought into all this gave them offerings, etc and now this!?”

          my understanding is that this is the most extensive written record of the promises and marketing campaigns rulers and priests made to get control, mainly of young men…women are pretty much absent from the great religious books of the time….it was mainly young men fighting for women that [presented the problem to the communities…

          people were really, really poor and young men had to have kids fast…

          also, apparently the different books correlate with the different governance and power challenges this part of the world…also apparently great urbanization and the subsequent greater “pathogen load” show correlations

          for example the > the pathogen load/chance of getting an infectious disease, the more bloody the religious practices and utterances and aversion to “others.” — makes sense.

        • raven
          Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          Gospel of Matthew – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_MatthewCached – Similar

          Most commentators seem to agree that Matthew, alone among the gospels, alternates …. Matthew, like Luke, incorporates nearly the whole of Mark, keeping

          Depends on the meaing of rewrite. Matthew has almost all of Mark. He does add a whole lot of extra stuff and changes a lot of the claims and theology. Which is why he wrote another gospel in the first place.

          Same thing with Luke.

          These are literary fictions with agendas. Human agendas.

          • Dermot C
            Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            Agree with everything you say, except that I remain unconvinced about the non-existence of Jesus (which I presume you hold to, due to your use of the phrase ‘literary fictions’).

            But I will read more analyses by Biblical scholars on that topic when I get round to it.

            • Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

              When you do, it is helpful to keep in mind that in Biblical history, “scholar” can be a weasel word. Many are theologians doing history, and would be all but unable – personally or professionally – to come to anything like a conclusion there wasn’t a historical Jesus even if they thought to investigate evidence pointing that way.

              • Dermot C
                Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                By Biblical scholar, I mean Bart D. Ehrman, Richard M. Price, Crossan and Carrier. You can tell an honest scholar by their clarity of thought. One can spot obscurantism and obfuscation a mile off.

            • Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              Hector Avalos details the differences between the seminary and secular streams of Bible-related study in his 2007 book The End of Biblical Studies.

              • Dermot C
                Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

                HA is a new one on me. Good one! After a quick look at his wikipedia entry. Will follow him up.

            • raven
              Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

              except that I remain unconvinced about the non-existence of Jesus (which I presume you hold to, due to your use of the phrase ‘literary fictions’).

              Not that it matters but not quite.

              There is simply not enough data to say whether jesus actually existed or not. That is why this debate has raged for centuries and will never be settled.

              That being said, IMO, the weight of what we do know implies that someone named jesus did exist. My best guess is that he was a charismatic failed apocalyptic preacher who managed to get himself killed by the Romans. His followers were then faced with the problem of explaining how god’s son ended up dead at 33.

              But I can’t prove that theory. The data doesn’t exist.

              Whether a jesus existed or not, has no bearing on whether the gospels were literary fictions. They were. After the canon was closed, the other gospels were suppressed. We still know of around 60 other gospels 2 millennia later. The Book of Mormon was a gospel, albeit a rather late one.

              • raven
                Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

                I’ll add here for entertainment value (if any) that a lot of scholars think jesus might have been illiterate.

                Literacy among his class was rare and overall maybe 10-15% back then. We also know that jesus the god left exactly zero documents of his own, a task a modern 3rd grader could accomplish.

                Even the Pagans back then noticed this. There is a passage in John where jesus is defending the adulterous woman and starts writing on the ground. John is really late and this charming story is claimed by some to be an even later addition.

                He might also have been fatherless. He is referred to as Jesus, son of Mary in Mark who says nothing about a father. Some scholars claim that they only use that designation when there is no jesus, son of (some man). I don’t know enough about ancient Judean society to evaluate this claim.

              • Dermot C
                Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

                No need to be hesitant about the entertainment value, raven, I’m hooked. This link demonstrates that the Christ-inspired movement has over 100 non-canonical early(ish) pieces of literature. You knock down one weeble and another bounces up.

                “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_apocrypha#Gospels”

                But some are Gnostic and others unorthodox in various ways; having said that, according to Ehrman, the 4 Gospels, which we have, were considered significantly more authoritative from very early on, before being regarded throughout the Church as definitive by around the end of the fourth century.

                Justin Martyr (103-65 CE) delivers an astonishing piece of chutzpah in his First Apologia written to Emperor Antoninus Pius; he alleges that the pagan world plagiarised Biblical prophecy again and again. So Jesus is not an amalgam of miraculous stories from around the Middle East; it’s rather the other way round! Ingenious and audacious.

                ‘And when, again, they (the devils i.e. pagans – DC) learned that it had been foretold that He (the son of God – DC) should heal every sickness, and raise the dead, they produced Aesculapius.’

                The trouble with all this fascination with the Jesus story is that we know it’s mesmeric, but that the distance between its sublime claims and the shoddy and banal dishonesty of its proponents boggles towards the infinite.

              • Posted January 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                apparently, the Bethlehem site of the birth was an alter to the young savior Greek god, forget the name…

                these were preliterate Iron Age folks who died very young…it’s all folks magic grafted on whatever stories were already working…

              • microraptor
                Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:32 am | Permalink

                While it’s impossible to rule out the possibility that Jesus was an actual historic figure, the evidence does not point in that direction. The first time he’s ever mentioned in any writing is at least one generation after his death and not a single record of anyone mentioning him outside the bible exists that actually predates the biblical references.

                For someone who supposedly did all the things the bible says, ignoring the supernatural stuff, he attracted remarkably little attention from the authorities in Jerusalem.

                While it would be pretty easy for there to have been a street-preacher named Jesus living in Jerusalem at the time whose followers eventually founded what would become a major religion after his death, all the details found in the bible appear to be fabrications.

              • raven
                Posted January 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                DC:

                But some are Gnostic and others unorthodox in various ways; having said that, according to Ehrman, the 4 Gospels, which we have, were considered significantly more authoritative from very early on, before being regarded throughout the Church as definitive by around the end of the fourth century.

                The reason there were so many extra-biblical documents is simple. There was no bible.

                The early xians were far more diverse than today. Gnostics, Jewish xians, Nestorians and on and on.

                The bible was compiled late in the game and the books were chosen by the proto-orthodox on theological grounds. The early church then suppressed the rest and ground down what ended up being the losers. A lot of what xians believe including the trinity was voted on by committees and enforced by bloodshed.

                There is a vast literature on early church history, the invention of xianity, biblical criticism, the existence of jesus, etc.. And yes it is fascinating. 98% of what I know about xianity I learned after I left the church. They don’t teach for example that Isaiah was written by at least 3 people or that Daniel is a 2nd BCE fraud book written in Aramaic pretending to be written centuries earlier.

                PS Microraptor, it’s been centuries and no one has yet proven or disproven a historical jesus. They never will barring a miracle like jesus actually showing up again. This controversy just never goes anywhere but in circles. I can’t say you are wrong.

              • Posted January 11, 2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink

                This is why I’m very much looking forward to Richard Carrier’s book on the historicity of Jesus, coming in a few months. (And not just so I can crib furiously from it for the RationalWiki article 😉

  12. Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    ‘The accounts we have of the Resurrection are exactly what you’d expect of eyewitness accounts. And I would myself be very suspicious if they were very coherent, and matched up, and so on.’

    Good to see Christians trashing the Gospels which explain that you can tell witnesses are false by the way their testimony does not agree.

    MARK 14
    Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

    Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

    But, of course, the Christians Old Book is not to be held to the same standards as everything else.

  13. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    He also draws the usual distinction between science as answering the “how questions” and religion as answering “why questions.”

    This is silly. Saying “God did it” does not answer how nor why. It (allegedly) answers who.

    If they could tell us how God did it, then we wouldn’t need the who. This is the entire history of science in a nutshell.

    Saying “God did it” also doesn’t really answer the why. It just pretends to answer, while creating another unanswered why question: why is there God?

  14. Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Fine-tuning?

    Isn’t that the claim that cells in the body have to reproduce with amazing consistency, because if they went wrong just once, we would get cancer and die?

    • Chris Granger
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Anthropic Principle ergo Jesus.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Intelligent design bad in biology; good in cosmology. He can scientifically accommodate a naturalistic soul – an emergent property of the brain, but cannot scientifically accommodate naturalistic fine tuning – an emergent property of genesis within the multiverse.

      Mind you he believes the soul survives death. Science ends with death, not the soul.

      • Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        ID in cosmology is no better than ID in biology. Consider how much of the universe would be lethal to us were we to find ourselves there. Or how much of our own planet, for that matter.

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

          Not to mention the rest of the multiverse!

  15. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    As always, Genesis is a metaphor but the story of Jesus and his resurrection is non-negotiable truth.

    And, as always, the question has to be asked, where in the bible does it say this? I keep looking but I cannot find an index or anything like, that shows which parts are allegorical and which parts are true. It’s just as likely that the whole of the new testament is a metaphor as is genesis.

  16. BradW
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    “Ain’t” the homo brain a beautiful conundrum?

    • Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      The hetero brain, too…

      /@

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        I choose the Heterodyne brain as the largest conundrum.

        After the brains on creationism, that is. Those are even more fantastic scifi devices!

  17. Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    If Adam and Eve are metaphors, why not…

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Don’t go there unless you want your eyes damaged by insanely many religious text references and your brain damaged by insanely eager pattern search.

      • Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think it’s fair to call those items examples of apophenia.

        I’m not sure what Vridar intends to argue by highlighting the (IMO obvious) literary devices used on the gospels. Myself, I think that information makes for a decent arrow in the quiver of arguments against biblical literalism, specifically, and xianity in general.

  18. Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Ant Allen, homo refers to humans, as in Homo sapiens.

    • Posted January 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      There’s no Ant Allen here right now, but I’ll answer for my part…

      If that’s so, it should be capitalised and, strictly, also italicised: genus Homo; species H. sapiens.

      Perhaps you didn’t realise that I’d realised BradW’s mistake but facetiously misconstrued Latin for Greek … ?

      /@

  19. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Scientific hypothesis are based on data, and so are religious beliefs, which, he says, are heavily reliant on evidence (e.g., the fine-tuning of the universe).

    It is remarkable that a trained scientist can take a mythical text for gospel. But I am even more amazed by those who accept the religious finetuning argument. Instead of parsimoniously concluding that a solution lies in posing more instances of the already observed, universes, they pose an additional class of objects.

    And they pose a class that we can never hope to observe or even test* without additionally posing very finetuned characteristics of the new class. Gods that are all powerful and that uniquely chooses to create universes with exactly humans. This is even more finetuned than the problem they started out with!

    And rigorously that finetuning increases infinitely as you have to consider the ancestor gods that created those universe creator gods and only those, et cetera.

    It is both a non-starter and a non-ender. =D

    —————–
    Conversely you can test the posed multiverses on parameters like the cosmological constant, and perhaps observe other universes and their properties through remnants of universe collisions.

    • Sigmund
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      The fine tuning argument is also rather inconsistent with the idea of an intervening God.
      If everything in the Universe is set up in such a way that the slightest alteration in parameters would render everything unstable then why are we told that God has frequently altered those very parameters to perform miracles?
      Having a human virgin get pregnant without the aid of a sperm, bringing people back to life, ascending them to heaven (wherever that is!), communicating the bible (or the Koran or the Book or Mormon) etc.
      Why all the extra bother when everything was supposedly set up so perfectly in the first place?

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      God is claimed to be a more parsimonious explanation than the multiverse, but that is nonsense.

      A speculative natural cause has to be a more parsimonious explanation than a speculative supernatural explanation. 10 to the power of 500 universes is infinitely less a multiplication of entities than the addition of one God. Or is God not ineffable! (Beyond infinite!!!)

      If the multiverse is ever demonstrated to be true, who does not doubt that Alexander and his like will cheerily say that only adds to the magnificence of God’s creative power. Instead of a universe plus God they will blithely ditch Occam’s rule of parsimony by adding God to the multiverse.

      Let’s be clear: invoking God to explain anything explains precisely nothing; because God is not explained. Invoking God to explain fine-tuning is a God-of-the gaps appeal as well as an arument to intelligent design.

  20. Patrick
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This conviction that every question about “how” something happened must also have a “why” explanation as well is pathetic superstition. Its literally no better than being convinced that rocks and trees must have spirits, because everything with a physical form must have a spiritual form.

    Embarrassing.

  21. Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Religion and all ideology is about power over other people, that’s all.

    That is why it is so incoherent but effective — it will say or do anything that increases its power over others and then make up rationalizations post hoc.

    And for most animals, power = truth (get me food/mate/defeat the other/etc now)

  22. Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I made the mistake once of trying to understand the plot of “Basic Instinct” and gave myself quite a headache (If this is true, then that means…which doesn’t make sense, but if that isn’t true then that means…which doesn’t make sense).

    Trying to follow religious logic is just as bad, probably because most fiction writers haven’t improved much over the years.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      I preferred MAD magazine’s title for it: Basically It Stinks.

    • Aj
      Posted January 12, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      ~Don’t know if any of you have seen this movie at all, called Basic. Instinct?

      Now, Bill’s quick capsule review – piece of shit.

      I really don’t know what all the debate was about; “is it too sexist and what about the violence?” It seems like we’ve forgotten how to view things critically.

      Take your head out of your ass and look at it again, “Hey wait a minute, it’s just a piece of shit.” Exactly.

      So anyway, after I’d watched it about seven or eight times…

  23. MadScientist
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    If religion is looking for coherence it needs to dump its primary tool of making shit up. When police interview suspects who may have been in collusion the suspects are interviewed separately because it makes it so much easier to see when they make shit up. Even when they’re in the same room the suspects tend to make conflicting claims, but interviewing them separately does make life easier. Any specific organized religion makes conflicting claims whether in collusion or in isolation – just like any thug bound for jail.

  24. Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The comments on this post display a remarkable ignorance of Biblical scholarship and history. Storying telling in the first century AD was an oral tradition — we don’t have much in the way of any Jewish texts or for that matter, pagan texts from the period. What is remarkable about Jesus’ death and resurrection, is that the eyewitnesses who were quite obviously talking about this miraculous event to anyone and everyone who would listen (often at personal risk to their lives) decided at some point that they needed to write down these stories for posterity, since the Second Coming was going to be sometime far into the future.

    A great place to start investigating these historical questions is The Jesus Legend by Boyd and Eddy:

    http://www.gregboyd.org/books/the-jesus-legend/

    N.T. Wright’s scholarship is also very good.

    Or you could dip into this subject by reading this excellent Bayesian analysis of the Resurrection miracle which does a nice job of reviewing the historical evidence at the beginning of the paper:

    http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

    Finally, whatever you think of the Gospels, you have to deal with the fact that Paul’s epistles acknowledge Christ’s death and resurrection as central to the Christian message and faith and everyone agrees Paul was writing in the 50s.

    • Posted January 13, 2012 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      “is that the eyewitnesses who were quite obviously talking about this miraculous event” ⇒ “is that the people who were quite obviously making shit up about this spurious event”

      FIFY

      /@

    • Dermot C
      Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      @ Fake Herzog

      “…since the Second Coming was going to be sometime far into the future.”

      Mark 1:15
      Jesus says,
      “…The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

      This is the FIRST quotation of Jesus’ in the first gospel to be written.

      Mark 9:1
      ‘And he (Jesus – DC) said unto them, Verily I say unto you. That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till thye have seen the kingdom of God come with power.’

      KIng James Version.

      Your Christ was an apocalyptic Jew who expected the Second Coming in the lifetime of his auditors. It’s simple.

      Religionist, you don’t know what your own religion consists in; this is just to take one of the myriad statements you made which are plain wrong. If you can not prove the existence of your God, go somewhere else.

    • Posted January 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      no, in fact the Apocalypse myths of the middle east and Egypt, which were adopted by Jews and Christians predicted imminent destruction…

      these were sales campaigns, no one is going to “buy” into benefits in the too distant future…it was all about immediate gratification from fear…still is…

      apparently, the Mid East was experiencing a lot of warfare and what felt like local apocalypse so the slaes hook was real effect, there was death and destruction all over so..”who you gonna call?” prophets/salesmen of salvation…

  25. Posted January 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    “At 17:40, he claims that if the stories in the Bible about Jesus aren’t true, and there’s no afterlife, then Christian faith collapses.”

    Then the Christian death cult is doomed. Good riddance.

  26. Posted January 10, 2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    Fine-tuning?

    Wouldn’t that leave the Christian god responsible for disasters,as he fine-tunes the physical world to be set up just the way he likes it?

    Not so fast, my atheist friends.

    Here is John Polkinghorne ‘…God allows the world to be itself and does not stop tectonic plates from slipping and producing an earthquake, because they are allowed to be themselves just as we are allowed to be ourselves.’

    So not only does God fine-tune the laws of nature to an incredible degree, he also lets everything just get on with it in a totally hands-off manner.

    Once again, Captain Theology escapes from the dastardly clutches of his evil enemies, Dr. Logic, Mr. Reason and the Caped Consistency.

    They thought they had Captain Theology in their grasp, but they never expected him to say the total opposite of what he had said on the previous page.

    That was their downfall.

  27. geo dude
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    “[T]he Bible had the ‘amazing insight’ that there was only one God”? Oh really, just one god? God refers to itself in the plural in Genesis (“Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness'” Gen. 1:26). Hmmm.

    • microraptor
      Posted January 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      God either has multiple personalities (which would explain the erratic behavior for the rest of the book) or a tapeworm.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/head-of-faraday-institute-avers-his-christian-bel… […]

  2. […] with the other kind of people not so much. The evolution section, for instance – Denis Alexander is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, which was originally funded (and still gets funds from) the Templeton Foundation. He’s also on […]

%d bloggers like this: