A Free-For-All Alright

The New York Times reports on the theatrics taking place at a forum on religion and science at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. The article is highly amusing and worth taking part of your hard earned free time to read. Here are three highlights:

It's Christmas a month early for Ann Coulter:

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

Mr. Sam Harris contributed to the discussion with this brilliant insight: "I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair." He apparently finds violence in religion as endemic to religion, a commonly held view that ignores the entire scope of religious teaching, practice, and history.

And finally, the comment that defies commentary. From Professor Richard Dawkins, D.Phil., Oxford University, author of the delightfully titled "The God Delusion":

“I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion...Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence."

Well now. For my take, consider a syllogism (defintion courtesy of www.dictionary.com):

1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
2. The universe had a beginning.
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

If both 1. and 2. are true, then 3. also must be true. Point 1. is a restatement of the principle of cause and effect, which, last time I checked, most scientists believed to true. Point 2. is a description of the Big Bang event, which, last time I checked, most scientists believed to be true. I know it gets complicated, but Stephen Hawkins is on my Christmas list for the second year in a row, so you'll have to wait for the details 'til after the Hawks win the Alamo Bowl. If cause-and-effect holds, then something or someone must have caused the Big Bang. And I wouldn't put money on me, Laura, or Dan McCarney (RIP).

In other words, it makes perfect sense for the rational person to accept at least the possibility that a higher power (alright, I'll just come out and say it - God) exists. Science can posit the existence of a higher power, but it is limited in describing the nature of that power or the implications that the existence of such a being may have for our lives. When these scientists talk about an "evangelistic approach to science" they sacrifice the limited, cautious, sober judgment required for good science.

The biggest enemy of scientific discovery and its potential benefit to society is not the black-robed preacher, but the hysterical Ph.D. with a hidden social agenda who allows irrational prejudice to cloud his or her judgment.

Imagine that, an entire post on science and religion without mentioning intelligent design. Read my last birthday present for the facts.



The Battle of the Alamo

It's good to be back folks. Now, to business:

Iowa has the most loyal college football fans in the country. How else do you explain a 6-6 overall record, a 2-6 Big Ten record, an 8th place finish in the Big Ten...and an invitation to the Alamo Bowl? Based on our place in the standings, we should be off to the retirement castles of Phoenix, Arizona, and the Insight.Bowl.

The Alamo Bowl, of course, is named after the famous Battle of the Alamo at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas, in 1836. Mexican General Santa Anna and 6000 soldiers laid seige to the fort for 13 days, killing all 250 armed rebels. The Alamo was guarded by a colorful cast of characters, including Davy Crockett, the frontier legend-turned-Congressman, who upon his January 1836 electoral defeat told his Tennessee constituents that "if they did not elect me they could go to hell and I would go to Texas!" Other defenders included Jim Bowie, who stole the idea of the 'Bowie knife' from his brother, and Lt. Colonel William Barret Travis, whose final dispatch during the battle read:

"The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered their demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat."

However, the battle turned the tide in the Texas Revolution. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston's outmanned army, the first to use the battle cry "Remember the Alamo", defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Incredibly, Houston suffered only 27 casaulties while destroying General Anna's army (650 killed, 600 captured) in 18 minutes of fighting. Soon after, the Republic of Texas was a free country (they still had slaves, but that's another story).

Does anyone else find it unsettling that Iowa is the home team in a bowl game named after a battle in which the "home team" was completely and utterly destroyed? Perhaps "Remember the Alamo" can be our 2007 rallying cry.

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