After Orlando: The Uses of Anger

My previous post in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre urged an angry response that calls bigots to account, a response like the eulogy given by Dave Dennis in 1964 at the funeral of murdered civil rights worker James Chaney. Some comments on the post raised the issue of when anger is justified and what good it can do. Rather than respond in the comments section, this seems to me to be a big enough issue to deserve a second post.When is it right to be angry? Some things should make us … [Read more...]

After Orlando: We need a Dave Dennis Moment

In the "Freedom Summer" of 1964, young activists went into the Dante-esque netherworld that was the state of Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote. For a hundred years, racist goons, often wearing the uniforms of police or state troopers, had used violence and intimidation to prevent black people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Three of the activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County by members of … [Read more...]

Rice Chemist says that we Know Nothing about Pre-biotic Chemistry

James Tour, a synthetic chemist and nanotechnologist at Rice University, recently spoke at Waterloo University in Canada and delivered a vigorous castigation of anyone who presumes to think that we know anything about abiogenesis: report is from Evolution News, which should more honestly be called Intelligent Design Theory News since it is an anti-evolution advocacy site. Needless to say, the IDers are delighted that a … [Read more...]

What is a Microaggression?

OK, this is way off topic, but I asked my colleagues for clarification and have gotten almost no response. I guess (a) they do not care about the issue (odd), or (b) they think that I am just trying to stir up controversy (not on this occasion), or (c) they are, for whatever reason, hesitant to speak up on the issue (Why would this be?). One thing I know about our commentators here at SO is that they are not at all hesitant to speak up on controversial issues, so I will raise the question here: … [Read more...]

Critical Historians vs. the Dogmatists (Believers or Deniers)

Several recent discussions here at SO have addressed the perennially fascinating issue of the historical Jesus. In fact, in one guise or another, this is one of our most popular subjects for discussion. Recently, there have been abundant comments from “mythicists” who argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is a figure of myth or legend. This thesis was famously defended by G.A. Wells in a number of works. Wells argued that the evidence for the so-called historical Jesus was really no more com … [Read more...]

Science and Religion: The Clash of Ideals

In my previous post I argued that science and religion still can and do clash, especially concerning the implications of evolutionary theory and neuroscience. Specifically, an account of human origins that views Homo sapiens, like every other species, as the highly improbable end-product of a very long series of contingencies and accidents, cannot rest easily with worldviews in which humanity is an essential element if not the centerpiece of creation. Further, many if not most religions require … [Read more...]

How Science and Religion Still Clash

“Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every new science, like the serpents strangled by the infant Hercules.” That is how T.H. Huxley classically expressed the “warfare” theory of the relationship between science and religion. On that theory, science and religion are playing a zero-sum game. One advances at the expense of the other. Eternal and irreconcilable opposites, science and religion only flourish by excluding the other.A number of contemporary writers, especially some of t … [Read more...]

A Christian Responds to Harris on the Evils of “Moderates”

I recently had an interesting discussion here at SO on Sam Harris’s views on “moderate” believers. One commentator took me to task for saying that Harris holds that “moderates” are “just as bad” as extremists. I think he may have had a point that this was unfair, but Harris clearly does make some fairly serious charges. So, I wrote to a couple of friends, men of the cloth, to ask how they responded. One has graciously replied at length. I am giving below my letter of inquiry and his response. … [Read more...]