Okay, so the Eighth Day Inventism calendar as rolled around to coincide our Holy day with one of yours. We Inventists are open minded people and often try to reach out to you heathen irreligious puppy grinding moral monsters. Because that’s what you are, you know, if you don’t exactly believe and do what we Inventists do.
So to try to save you from your moral malaise of happy lives and families, meaningless rituals that you perform on turkeys several times a year, and other abominations that you make more or less simultaneous with the summer solstice (did I mention that Inventists use God’s calendar, which is based on the holy giant pineapple at Nambour, Queensland? It’s in the Holy Manual), I will privilege you with this sermon.
You apostates seem to think that the truth lies in whatever crap you all happen to believe. Merely because you were raised in an infidel faith, or came to it because somebody offered you a community that paid them ten percent of your income, doesn’t make your particular heresy true.
For instance, take this spittle-flecked rant by Grant Swank, whose sole qualification is that he has been married for 43 years and has two divinity degrees.The world is crazy, he says. Why? Because evolution is a crock with big holes in it. He knows this, you see, because he can’t understand evolution, and so he thinks that because he has to hold silly things on faith, other people must hold on faith things he thinks are silly. He has two divinity degrees, you see. So he doesn’t need to know anything about evolution to know that it has big holes in it. It does, because he says so.
[Contrast this with the pure rationality of Eighth Day Inventism, which has no leaps of faith in it. For a mere $25,000 I can show you how it follows logically from true premises we can all observe. Email me with your bank account details.]
Swank thinks that logical postulates determine how the world must behave, and so he invents a few that he says he was taught in school (bullshit, I say. Anyone who says that schools teach you cannot get the greater from the smaller is either a student of Greek philosophy or lying). He thinks that merely because the entire world of biologists who actually study biology think evolution is true, that this is just because they got together in a “clique”. I must have missed that meeting of the International Communist Illuminati Committee, and they never sent me the minutes, neither.
“It takes”, says the pastor, “as much faith to believe in evolution as it does in angels and demons and an invisible God. It takes as much faith to believe in Darwin’s spin as it does to believe that Jesus fed thousands with a kid’s lunch.” Well thank you for at least noting that your own faith is an unsupported leap. But somehow I doubt that observations of real organisms in populations and their genetic, ecological and developmental dynamics is on a par with angels and demons and an invisible God. But never let it be said that the pastor thinks observations trump dogma. As
Groucho Chico said, “Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?” Unfortunately, In America and the fundamentalisms it has exported to the rest of the world, the answer is not obvious.
Why? In what possible way could empirical experience not trump the personal claims of know-nothing individuals like Swank? The answer to that question goes a long way to explaining religions (other than the Inventist Church, which is empirically adequate. Send $50 by mail and I will send you the Truth by return mail. Bear with the Mongolian Mail Service – it’s cheap by not that reliable. If you haven’t received your Copy of the Holy Manual by July 2009, drop me a note.).
Back in the 70s, a philosopher of science, Stephen Toulmin published one volume of what was to be a series on Human Understanding. In it, he treated the evolution of culture as an identical process to that of biological evolution. Well, sort of identical – obviously there is no intellectual “sex”, and there are other disanalogies. But the interesting thing was that the analogue of “species” in Toulmin’s book is “traditions”.
The thing about traditions is that in most instances there is no need for a tradition to be sensible. In fact, being unsensible is a way to ensure that the tradition remains “reproductively isolated” from other traditions. Nobody outside the rabbinic tradition would spend a lifetime studying the Mishnah, and those who do find no need to study other traditions. So holding crazy beliefs ensures that those inside the tradition tend to not talk much to those outside it. Of course, religions range from the open and secular to the insular and cultish, examples of the latter being the Exclusive Brethren, or the Amish. As a friend said once, the reason some people believe silly shit is that it stops them getting information from those who don’t.
Which segues nicely back to our lunatic at RenewAmerica. He isn’t going to have his mind changed by information or education. He’s too invested in his faith tradition to want to do that. But he has to make science out to be a religion if he wants to promote his own faith, because on empirical grounds, he simply cannot compete. As Darwin once noted, in his Autobiography,
Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament; from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.
Of course this sort of thinking has to be attacked by the religious, because if you start to apply critical thinking to your tradition this way, what is left?
Well now, that is an interesting question in itself. Many religious traditions do in fact try to engage with the empirical world, while at the same time trying to retain some core set of beliefs. It remains to be seen how successful that will be, as they evolve to adapt to their cultural environment. Assuming that the other kind doesn’t result in the extinguishing of science itself, either current religion will evaporate in favour of novel religions, or, as Swank and the entire Religious Right in America seems to want, it will reject science as unhelpful and slowly fade into a kind of village fundamentalism like the Talibanate. Either way, things will be interesting.
But just in case you want to have a religion that is completely unchallenged by science, send a stamped self-addressed envelope together with a $100 (US) check made out to “Cash” to me, and I will send you a fifty-six part series on Eighth Day Inventism, the only faith that is guaranteed to be 100% compatible with reality. Enjoy your pagan festivals and sacrificial birds.