Sophisticated Medicine

I have nothing to add to this swell cartoon by Pliny the in Between from Evolving Perspectives.  The caption tells the tale.



  1. Sastra
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink


    This is also a common tactic in popular attempts to reconcile science and religion, particularly in Islam and Hinduism. The discoveries and theories of modern science are combed through for anything which can be vaguely interpreted as being similar to what was said in a Holy Text.

    Thus, the Quran “predicted” the red shift and expanding universe because of a passage where Allah is said to lay out the heavens like a blanket. The discovery of 3 atomic particles confirms the 3 gunas of spiritual qualities in nature. If you can find a resemblance or make an analogy, then you’re bringing science and religion together! One confirms/predicts the other.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Funny, innit, how no religious sage of any stripe predicted the mass of the Higgs Boson before the LHC announced its discovery?



    • Dave
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Behemoths is dinosaurs, don’cha know.

  2. eric
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The irony is, the theologians who are the butt of this joke are the more rational theologians. The ones that tend to be less extremist and peaceable. These are the theologians that take in new data and give it weight, even if they filter it quite badly. The more destructive and dangerous theologians are the ones who ignore advances in human understanding and rights altogether: there were (only) two ancestors, period. Women must not oversee men, period. Homosexuality is a sin and a choice, period. Etc.

    I’ll take “Bile means IL-1” over “Bile exists, modern medicine is just wrong, and we’re going to treat your illness the way Hippocrates says to treat it” any day. Yes yes, the answer ‘take neither’ is preferable over both, but if I have a choice of neighbors, I’ll take the former believer over the latter every time.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      In a sense, I think the more rational theologians are the ones who deserve rational critique even more. They’re more like adversaries who are also colleagues. And when would, say, an evolutionary biologist fail to point out the flaws in another biologist’s theory or study because hey, at least they’re not a Creationist?

      I’ll also point out that the more liberal theist intellectuals often heap an enormous amount of scorn on atheism. They can get incredibly nasty and the public eats their contempt for us up with a spoon. Sure, we recognize the distinction between the relative dangers, but bottom line many atheists personally care more about the charge of being irrational, ignorant, and ludicrously wrong than we worry about the charge that we’re going to go to Hell.

      • eric
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        I don’t have enough direct reading of them to comment on your second point, but I agree with your first. Its even biblical – avoid casting pearls before swine. 🙂

  3. Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Good one! 🙂

  4. rom
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    When it comes to addictive drugs I am all in favour of harm reduction, needle exchange etc.

    Now I happen to think many aspects of religion are addictive as well. To be fair many aspects life are as well, but that is another discussion.

    Having said that what is do we recommend for those that are addicted to God? Other than cold turkey? Where is the theological harm reduction? Of course there are those that say Sophisticated Theology enables people with God. But then there are people who claim safe injection sites enable drug use.

    What is the actual evidence that Sophisticated Theologies enable harmful behaviours?

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Beliefs are binary, within rounding. You do or don’t believe, with some degree of certainty. And they’re typically interlocking…if you don’t believe that the Christian Bible is trustworthy as a source of factual historical information, you’re not going to be a Christian — whereas, of course, if you do, you are.

      What tends to hold people in religions aren’t the beliefs so much as the cultural accoutrements — the built-in social network, the rituals, the art, the festivals, and the like. And, to no small extent, the peer pressure and cognitive dissonance.

      It is entirely possible in some religions to be full and respected and welcomed and loved members of the religion and not believe a single bit of the theology. There are rabbis who are open atheists. Robert Price, if I remember correctly, still regularly attends church services despite being not only an outspoken atheist but one of the most eloquent historians who presents overwhelmingly compelling evidence that Jesus was entirely a mythical construct. There are Buddhists have no doubt that the Buddha, if he even existed, was a mere mortal and not all that remarkable. There’re likely many who regularly attend services in the Church of England who would be aghast at the notion that there’s any truth to any of the Bible stories.

      The problems arise when you introduce notions of supernaturalism. If you’re arguing that Jesus really is real, and not just a favorite character from antiquity…well, now you’ve got to take the Bible seriously, which means Jesus really did come to bring not peace but a sword…and you’re now off to the races.

      Worse still are those theologians who argue for the virtue of faith. Faith is nothing more nor less than the confidence that conmen feed on. Convince somebody to value faith, and you can convince that person to believe anything on the basis of faith alone. And, statistically, the thing that person is most likely to believe is that the holy texts of some religion are divinely significant, if not infallible. Given that so many respected theologians themselves do so, and then go on to, as William Lane Craig does, argue for the virtues of the horrors in those texts…is it not obvious the harm such theologians present to society?



      • eric
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        Beliefs are binary, within rounding.

        I half-believe that.

      • rom
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        This is all very interesting, but if we take one of our favorite whipping girls, a sophisticatedly inclined theologian, Karen Armstrong, she says in The Case for God that what is more important for the theistically inclined is not what one believes but what one does.

        I would argue this is true of people who don’t hold beliefs.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Having said that what is do we recommend for those that are addicted to God? Other than cold turkey?

      As Ben points out, many of the beliefs of the god-addict are interlocking, so the injection of doubt into one aspect of their belief system will eventually lead to the rest of the edifice unravelling.
      That’s one of the reasons that they’re so afraid of evolution – it’s results are very visible and directly go against the creation myths.
      The strong drops in religious belief and practice amongst the younger generations will eventually erode church membership and the social contempt for the non-church goers.
      What half-way houses do I have for the god-addicted? I don’t. Let them eat their turkey, cold.

  5. Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Yep! Both the Bible and the Qur’an are great for predicting discoveries that science has already made.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Gotta love that divine data compression and the redundant universe that allows it!

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