The Nephilim fossil of upstate New York

I’m not trying to jump the gun on the upcoming Patheos book club on this book, but I wanted to share this anecdote from W. Scott Poole’s fascinating Monsters in America. It’s the story of what happens when someone discovers a mastodon tooth before anyone knew what a mastodon was:

In 1705 a farmer discovered a giant tooth near Albany, New York. Puritan divine Cotton Mather, a hunter of witches as well as monsters, wrote a series of letters about the discovery to the secretary of the Royal Society of London, the premier association of scientific thinking in the early 18th century. Mather had no difficulty explaining, to his own satisfaction, the origin and meaning of the fossil. The tooth, Mather declared, represented a “wonderful confirmation of Mosaic history,” empirical proof of the ancient Near Eastern legend of the Nephilim, found in Genesis chapter 6. This strange tale of giants walking the earth before Noah’s flood and mating with human women now had, Mather believed, empirical confirmation. The fossil discovery proved that these horny giants had once stamped around western New York.

That passage in Genesis 6 is one of the strangest things in the Bible (and that’s saying a lot). You’re reading along there in Genesis through a series of origin stories and then you take this weird turn into something that reads like a fragment of The Silmarillion.

It’s a bewildering little four-verse hiccup before the story of Noah begins:

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterwards — when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

Here it is in the King James Version, which translates that strange word, “Nephilim,” as “giants”:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

My take on this passage is that the final sentence — “These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown” — explains the rest of it. This is just one more origin story here in the early chapters of Genesis — the origin story of legendary heroes. (The traditional reading — apart from just ignoring this weird interlude and pretending it’s not there — sees this as a passage about the descendants of Seth intermarrying with the descendants of Cain.)

Later in the 18th century, more strange bones were found near Niagara Falls and in Kentucky, generating great interest and casting doubt on Mather’s initial conclusion that his giant tooth was a giant’s tooth and therefore a “wonderful confirmation” of the literal historicity of Genesis 6:1-4.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were, of course, fascinated by these discoveries and by the fuller picture of the mastodon that began to emerge. Even George Washington took a side trip — during a break in fighting the Revolution — to visit a fossil site in New York. Poole picks up the story:

Some American thinkers saw the fossil finds as further proof of the biblical account of Noahic giants. … Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University from 1778 to 1795, at first refused to accept the contention that gigantic teeth unearthed in America belonged to a creature anything like a mastodon. Stiles instead embraced what he called the “Doctrine of Monsters,” the belief that anomalies like gigantic fossils proved that the biblical world of wonders existed on the American landscape. Writing about Washington’s visit to view fossils in New York, Stiles admitted that most natural scientists “take these bones to belong to Quadrupeds.” He insisted, to the contrary, that they belonged to giant humans, “like the bones and teeth at Claverack” that had fascinated Mather. Stiles, a major intellectual celebrity in the early American republic, shows that Mather still had plenty of disciples for this view, bringing together as it did the biblical history and the history of the new nation.

Charles Darwin hadn’t even been born yet and already Stiles is offering a preview of what would become, for 20th-century American evangelicals, the template for their rejection of evolution. Dismissal of the opinions of “natural scientists”? Check. Evaluation of evidence based solely on how it might best provide imaginary “confirmation” of strange new doctrines based loosely on an inscrutable Bible story? Check.

Stiles ultimately strayed from this template by allowing himself to be persuaded by overwhelming evidence presented to him in a long correspondence with Jefferson. That separates him from contemporary evangelicals like, say, Al Mohler or Ken Ham. They’re not willing to examine the evidence supporting other views. Nor are they open to the possibility of persuasion.

The initial reaction by Mather and Stiles in this story reminds me of a recent ChristianNewsWire press release announcing another, more recent scientific discovery portrayed as a “wonderful confirmation” of a literal reading of Genesis. “Hubble Discovery Confirms God Created the Universe,” the press release announces:

Since Biblical times, people have put their trust in the Genesis account of creation. In recent years however, some have challenged the account and say there is no scientific evidence to support Genesis. It appears now that discoveries made by NASA’s scientist are confirming that the Genesis account is scientifically accurate. The idea of no scientific evidence to support it is now being turned upside-down by the very findings made in 2004 by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Telescopes of proto-planetary disc that surround infant stars. According to NASA scientist, data from these two telescopes is revealing that planets like the Earth are formed in the exact same fashion as described at Genesis 1:2, 3.

The press release even links to this video from NASA’s site for the Spitzer Space Telescope. The video is very, very cool. The self-published book touted by the press release — Hubble Reveals Creation by an Awe-Inspiring Power — not so much.

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  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    The idea of no scientific evidence to support it is now being turned
    upside-down by the very findings made in 2004 by NASA’s Hubble and
    Spitzer Telescopes of proto-planetary disc that surround infant stars.
    According to NASA scientist, data from these two telescopes is
    revealing that planets like the Earth are formed in the exact same
    fashion as described at Genesis 1:2, 3.

    Head.  Desk.

    Oy.  As with most scientific discoveries, any images we get actually tend to prove and refine the theories we’d already developed.  And I fail to see how the Bible predicted “proto-planetary” discs, since all the Bible says is, “Goddidit.”

    I came from that world.  I don’t understand that world.  The fact that I accepted scientific explanations tells me I probably didn’t ever understand that world.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    The idea of no scientific evidence to support it is now being turned
    upside-down by the very findings made in 2004 by NASA’s Hubble and
    Spitzer Telescopes of proto-planetary disc that surround infant stars.
    According to NASA scientist, data from these two telescopes is
    revealing that planets like the Earth are formed in the exact same
    fashion as described at Genesis 1:2, 3.

    Head.  Desk.

    Oy.  As with most scientific discoveries, any images we get actually tend to prove and refine the theories we’d already developed.  And I fail to see how the Bible predicted “proto-planetary” discs, since all the Bible says is, “Goddidit.”

    I came from that world.  I don’t understand that world.  The fact that I accepted scientific explanations tells me I probably didn’t ever understand that world.

  • Vermic

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof.  I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.

  • Vermic

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof.  I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Yep. I just finished writing out a response on another thread in another blog, because an awful lot of this we-don’t-need-science-we-have-religion business seems to profoundly misunderstand the nature of science. If I may repeat it here (since it seems relevant):

    I don’t know if this will help clarify, or muddy the waters further,
    but here goes: given the way Christianity defines God, science cannot
    disprove His existence. Cannot. Simply put, that’s not what it’s for.

    Science is, at its core, two things:
    1. A means for testing ideas about the natural world.
    2. The body of knowledge (incomplete, and subject to revision if needed,
    but reliable to the limits of our current understanding) gained by
    using that method.

    When you start talking about all-powerful beings who exist outside of space and time – when you start talking about anything
    outside of space and time – you’ve moved beyond the scope of science. … There are
    no tests that we, as human beings, can use to determine omniscience, or
    to measure something that’s supposed to exist independent of space. The
    existence of God is not a testable hypothesis; therefore it is not a scientific question.

  • Tonio

    The idea that “anything outside of space and time” is beyond the scope of science is correct in principle. In practice, it’s often used to bash science. Some believers sound ad if they’re taunting science: “Ha ha, we can make any claims we want about things existing outside of space and time and you can’t challenge or scrutinize them!” That’s my real issue – not that claims about things outside of space and time can’t be scrutinized  scientifically but they apparently be scrutinized at all. This idea of science’s boundary presumes as fact that things exist outside of space and time, when really we don’t know if such things exist or not. Either such things exist or they don’t, and a claim of fact either way deserves some kind of challenge and scrutiny, from somewhere if not from science.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    “This idea of science’s boundary presumes as fact that things exist
    outside of space and time, when really we don’t know if such things
    exist or not. Either such things exist or they don’t, and a claim of
    fact either way deserves some kind of challenge and scrutiny, from
    somewhere if not from science.”

    I’d agree, but that was waaaaaay too esoteric for the particular folks I was talking to when I composed that.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Yep. I just finished writing out a response on another thread in another blog, because an awful lot of this we-don’t-need-science-we-have-religion business seems to profoundly misunderstand the nature of science. If I may repeat it here (since it seems relevant):

    I don’t know if this will help clarify, or muddy the waters further,
    but here goes: given the way Christianity defines God, science cannot
    disprove His existence. Cannot. Simply put, that’s not what it’s for.

    Science is, at its core, two things:
    1. A means for testing ideas about the natural world.
    2. The body of knowledge (incomplete, and subject to revision if needed,
    but reliable to the limits of our current understanding) gained by
    using that method.

    When you start talking about all-powerful beings who exist outside of space and time – when you start talking about anything
    outside of space and time – you’ve moved beyond the scope of science. … There are
    no tests that we, as human beings, can use to determine omniscience, or
    to measure something that’s supposed to exist independent of space. The
    existence of God is not a testable hypothesis; therefore it is not a scientific question.

  • Tonio

    The idea that “anything outside of space and time” is beyond the scope of science is correct in principle. In practice, it’s often used to bash science. Some believers sound ad if they’re taunting science: “Ha ha, we can make any claims we want about things existing outside of space and time and you can’t challenge or scrutinize them!” That’s my real issue – not that claims about things outside of space and time can’t be scrutinized  scientifically but they apparently be scrutinized at all. This idea of science’s boundary presumes as fact that things exist outside of space and time, when really we don’t know if such things exist or not. Either such things exist or they don’t, and a claim of fact either way deserves some kind of challenge and scrutiny, from somewhere if not from science.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    “This idea of science’s boundary presumes as fact that things exist
    outside of space and time, when really we don’t know if such things
    exist or not. Either such things exist or they don’t, and a claim of
    fact either way deserves some kind of challenge and scrutiny, from
    somewhere if not from science.”

    I’d agree, but that was waaaaaay too esoteric for the particular folks I was talking to when I composed that.

  • pshrock1

    Fun fact: they used that passage from Genesis 6 at the end of Eegah!, a movie that is otherwise known for truly disturbing scenes of a father urging his daughter to yield to the amorous advances of a giant caveman (played by Richard Kiel, who would later go on to portray Jaws in the Roger Moore James Bond movies).

  • Anonymous

    “Watch out for snakes!”

    Addendum to fun fact: They got the verse wrong.  Creepy Dad says the “giants in the earth” bit is from Genesis 4:32, which doesn’t even exist.

  • Anonymous

    This give me the idea that for the “Teach the Controversy!” folks I should insist that school children also be taught that creation and civilization is due to aliens coming down in their Christmas ornament spaceship and tossing down a gold hockey mask for a dimwitted, flying like a moron paleontologist and his does all the actual work sidekick to find centuries latter. After all, Aztec Andes London Stonehenge Aliens are just a *theory*, just like evolution! 

  • Anonymous

    It reminds me of a hilarious quote from Salon (I think), after Rick Perry alleges that Texas teaches kids “both” sides of the story and lets them figure out what’s true:

    Yep,
    that’s how schools work. You tell kids some things that are true and
    some things that are made up and you trust that the children will be
    “smart enough” to figure it out. “America’s first three presidents were
    George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your
    AP History test.”

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    “America’s first three presidents were George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your AP History test.”

    I think it was George Clinton, Sam Adams, and the Green Hornet.  Teach the controversy!

  • Anonymous

    It reminds me of a hilarious quote from Salon (I think), after Rick Perry alleges that Texas teaches kids “both” sides of the story and lets them figure out what’s true:

    Yep,
    that’s how schools work. You tell kids some things that are true and
    some things that are made up and you trust that the children will be
    “smart enough” to figure it out. “America’s first three presidents were
    George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your
    AP History test.”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    This give me the idea that for the “Teach the Controversy!” folks

    Teach the Controversy!

  • Anonymous

    This give me the idea that for the “Teach the Controversy!” folks I should insist that school children also be taught that creation and civilization is due to aliens coming down in their Christmas ornament spaceship and tossing down a gold hockey mask for a dimwitted, flying like a moron paleontologist and his does all the actual work sidekick to find centuries latter. After all, Aztec Andes London Stonehenge Aliens are just a *theory*, just like evolution! 

  • Anonymous

    truly disturbing scenes of a father urging his daughter to yield to the amorous advances of a giant caveman

    Yes, but enough about Rayford Steele.  Weren’t you saying something about Eegah earlier?

  • Matri

    Yes, but enough about Rayford Steele.  Weren’t you saying something about Eegah earlier?

    *rimshots*

  • Anonymous

    truly disturbing scenes of a father urging his daughter to yield to the amorous advances of a giant caveman

    Yes, but enough about Rayford Steele.  Weren’t you saying something about Eegah earlier?

  • pshrock1

    Fun fact: they used that passage from Genesis 6 at the end of Eegah!, a movie that is otherwise known for truly disturbing scenes of a father urging his daughter to yield to the amorous advances of a giant caveman (played by Richard Kiel, who would later go on to portray Jaws in the Roger Moore James Bond movies).

  • Anonymous

    “Watch out for snakes!”

    Addendum to fun fact: They got the verse wrong.  Creepy Dad says the “giants in the earth” bit is from Genesis 4:32, which doesn’t even exist.

  • Anonymous

    This give me the idea that for the “Teach the Controversy!” folks I should insist that school children also be taught that creation and civilization is due to aliens coming down in their Christmas ornament spaceship and tossing down a gold hockey mask for a dimwitted, flying like a moron paleontologist and his does all the actual work sidekick to find centuries latter. After all, Aztec Andes London Stonehenge Aliens are just a *theory*, just like evolution! 

  • Anonymous

    It reminds me of a hilarious quote from Salon (I think), after Rick Perry alleges that Texas teaches kids “both” sides of the story and lets them figure out what’s true:

    Yep,
    that’s how schools work. You tell kids some things that are true and
    some things that are made up and you trust that the children will be
    “smart enough” to figure it out. “America’s first three presidents were
    George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your
    AP History test.”

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    “America’s first three presidents were George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your AP History test.”

    I think it was George Clinton, Sam Adams, and the Green Hornet.  Teach the controversy!

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    This give me the idea that for the “Teach the Controversy!” folks

    Teach the Controversy!

  • Anonymous

    truly disturbing scenes of a father urging his daughter to yield to the amorous advances of a giant caveman

    Yes, but enough about Rayford Steele.  Weren’t you saying something about Eegah earlier?

  • Matri

    Yes, but enough about Rayford Steele.  Weren’t you saying something about Eegah earlier?

    *rimshots*

  • Anonymous

    It’s really incredibly hard to disabuse people who come from fundamentalist backgrounds of their notions of what science is and isn’t, even through long and complex dialogues. In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    The problem, if you believe that it’s important for people to understand the biological origins of humanity, is that many of them seem to not really care if evolution is scientifically correct. Some of them really believe, or seem to believe, that the facts don’t matter, and that creationism is correct even if all of the scientific evidence points towards evolution being true.

    When you’re arguing against someone who says that the sky is orange, when all evidence shows that the sky is blue, you’re basically fighting a war on two fronts. That’s not a war that’s very easy to win, but it can be done.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

     In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    TheDarkArtist:

    I don’t understand how science DOES negate their religious beliefs.  Genesis, after all, is a bit vague on the method God used to create. The point of the creation story in Genesis is:

    1) God created the corporeal world;

    2) He  chose to create the world and humanity (i.e., people were not a mistake, as they were in Sumerian mythology where the gods created humans in error when they were drunk);

    3) He deemed every aspect of his creation, including life itself, to be a good thing;

    4) Given 1, 2 and 3, the world, and everyone and everything in it, matter.

    None of that contradicts any religious beliefs with which I’m familiar.  

    The evangelicals and fundamentalists seem to be getting upset about the divine equivalent of an artist painting a masterpiece using acrylics rather than oil paints, and oils are just SO much more traditional, and that’s what they THOUGHT the artist was using, and that’s what they’d just as soon go on BELIEVING that the artist was using, thanks ever so.

    If they want a deity in their cosmology…why does evolution  (which is an awe-inspiring process, if drastically different from zapping everything into being)  upset them so? Why do they feel that it tosses God out the window? Because I don’t see why they would feel that way.

     

  • Anonymous

    The point of the creation story in Genesis is:

    1) God created the corporeal world;

    2) He
     chose to create the world and humanity (i.e., people were not a
    mistake, as they were in Sumerian mythology where the gods created
    humans in error when they were drunk);

    3) He deemed every aspect of his creation, including life itself, to be a good thing;

    4) Given 1, 2 and 3, the world, and everyone and everything in it, matter.

    None of that contradicts any religious beliefs with which I’m familiar. 

    But because Gen. 1 is in the form of a story, and because an awful lot of literalists are dissuaded from reading ANY fiction of any sort “because they’re not true, and that means the authors are trying to deceive us and tempt us into sin,” they tend not to come to that conclusion.  Genesis 1 lists a process because clearly the point is SIX DAYS, you bloody heathens.  Never mind that “day” and “night” are DEFINED by the position of the sun, making the sun’s creation on the fourth day impossible.  Never mind that the entire story is reversed in Gen. 2.  No, it’s an exact, historical account, dictated verbatim by God to Moses, so the point is that it happened exactly the way it says in the book.

    I wish I were joking about any of that.  I really, really do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    They’re not QUITE that stupid.  Fundamentalists are grappling with a very real question- how does a Christian know that the Bible can be trusted to be remotely close to useful, worthwhile, or accurate?  They have an answer- because the Bible is literally God’s book, and God has breathed its words and protected them throughout the ages, preventing the slightest error from entering, and ensuring perfect transmission of the original intentions all the way through the ages.

    Well of course that’s crazy from a historical and literary standpoint.  In reality, the Bible is actually a compendium of religious writings by people who didn’t agree about a lot.

    But the problem with just saying that to them is that they don’t care about the Bible’s alleged perfect accuracy just because they have a Bible fetish.  They care because its their answer to the question of why Christianity can be believed to be anything more worthwhile than any other ancient faith, and because its their answer to why the Bible can be trusted about salvation and all of the other parts they really, deeply care about.  They fear that if the Bible can’t be trusted completely and totally, then other interpretive methods will have to be found, and chaos in Biblical interpretation will reign.

    And historically, they’ve been right about that last part.

    So… not really to defend them.  Obviously they’re wrong and they’re reasoning improperly. But at least they’re grappling with a real question, even if they’re grappling poorly.  For example, how does Rhysdux KNOW that the things he said are the “important parts” of Genesis?  How does he KNOW that other parts aren’t important?  What method did he use?  How can he prove his method is better than other methods that maybe generate different results?  These questions have significant consequences for Christianity.  If the interpretation of the Bible can vary wildly and be relatively personal, what does that say about the idea of salvation through faith?  What does that say about the idea that non belief can be a morally culpable state, if correct belief isn’t obvious and textual?  These are legitimate questions, and even if the fundamentalists are answering them badly, its at least got something to recommend it in comparison to the more liberal attitude of ignoring the issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    They care because its their answer to the question of why Christianity
    can be believed to be anything more worthwhile than any other ancient
    faith

    This is a big part of why I pity such fundamentalists.* What a tiny, fragile thing their faith is.

    “Either all of it is literally true or none of it is true at all,” I hear.

    If Jonah did not actually spend three days in the belly of a fish, then God doesn’t exist and Jesus doesn’t love them.**

    This need for absolutism both saddens and frightens me. It saddens me
    because it requires someone to lock themselves off from anything that
    conflicts with*** an unsustainable set of beliefs. The “Evangelical
    Bubble” that many here grew up in is a prime example of this behavior.

    * Not that my pity prevents me from working to stop their efforts to control/ruin others’ lives.
    ** I also hear this exact line of reasoning from anti-religion assholes on the Internet. I’m curious as to what degree this simply reflects a similar mindset, or how many such people grew up in believing in the “literal and inerrant Bible” and, when their ability to maintain cognitive dissonance gave out, they changed their conclusions but never questioned the premise.

    *** And “conflicts with” often means “does not loudly support.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Also, I hate Disqus right now.

  • Anonymous

    They’re not QUITE that stupid.  Fundamentalists are grappling with a
    very real question- how does a Christian know that the Bible can be
    trusted to be remotely close to useful, worthwhile, or accurate?  They
    have an answer- because the Bible is literally God’s book, and God has
    breathed its words and protected them throughout the ages, preventing
    the slightest error from entering, and ensuring perfect transmission of
    the original intentions all the way through the ages.

    I never said they were stupid, only that they were ignorant.  There is a difference. :)  I grew up with this stuff.  Yes, some of them DO denounce all fiction, because it is fiction.  (Kjos, for example, has denounced Christian children’s fiction from Narnia to Shadowmancer, because its not being literally true means that the author is trying to deceive your children.  Thus, fiction = Satanism.  Trufax.)  But when you don’t read fiction–when, in other words, you’re not made familiar with how to help people suspend their disbelief in something obviously untrue–it becomes difficult to distinguish between truth, allegory, and falsehood at all.  I’ve been in Bible classes telling the parable of the sower and the seeds, and great emphasis was put on the fact that we only know what it means because Jesus said so right in that chapter.  (Is it really that difficult of a metaphor to figure out?)  They can’t even see the implications of the Good Samaritan story beyond “Be nice to each other.”  (In 12 years of religious education, none of my fundie teachers noticed the significance of the man’s being a Samaritan.  ALL of my Catholic teachers commented on it.)

    They do have a good point–when you have a religious text, you need SOMETHING to justify its importance.  But a lot of them go to the extreme of acting like no other book is important, or that other books are actively evil, and this hampers their own ability to understand the Bible itself beyond “this is what the story literally says, and God wouldn’t lie, so the literal interpretation is true unless the passage specifically says it’s a metaphor.”  The very concept of mythology is completely foreign to them.  That’s the point I’m making.

    If the interpretation of the Bible can vary wildly and be relatively
    personal, what does that say about the idea of salvation through faith? 
    What does that say about the idea that non belief can be a morally
    culpable state, if correct belief isn’t obvious and textual?  These are
    legitimate questions, and even if the fundamentalists are answering them
    badly, its at least got something to recommend it in comparison to the
    more liberal attitude of ignoring the issue

    I can think of a typical liberal Christian response to all those questions.  1. As James wrote, “Show unto me thy faith without works, and I will show ye my faith through my works.”  If one truly believes, then one will feel motivated to want to do the right thing.  Believing Jesus exists without obeying him is not good enough–so does the Devil, after all, and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.  2.  It is possible that in the famous “Way, Truth, and Life,” Jesus meant “through me” to mean “through following my teachings.”  By such an interpretation, anyone who is generous and quick to forgive is doing what Jesus wanted, even if he’s not the reason they’re doing it.  If this is so, then nonbelief does not damn a person to Hell, if zie is living in a Christ-like manner.  (I have heard the phrase “Christ-like, but not Christian” many, many times in Catholic schools.)  Essentially, the liberal viewpoint is, non-Christians can be saved by being Christlike, but Christians are more likely to succeed at it, simply by virtue of knowing what Jesus wants us to do.

    Liberals aren’t ignoring any of those questions–they just have answers that are completely foreign to conservatives and fundies, so the latter view this difference as evidence that libs are hellbound or “don’t really understand the question.”  So the liberal Christians don’t make a big deal out of their answers, and these answers seldom even get heard outside the churches and church-run schools in question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    Right, right, I know liberal Christians have answers to… lets call them the “first order” questions.  But what fundamentalists tend to be all worked up about (they literally write books on the subject) is the second order questions: How do we know our answers to the first order questions are true?

  • Anonymous

    They don’t.  They can’t until the world ends and proves them either right or wrong.  That’s true of ANY religious system, though, and is the whole reason faith is important to such a system in the first place.  Anyone who insists that you MUST know whether or not your faith is right or wrong is a bit unclear on the concept. :)

    Indeed, certainty is arguably a more serious sin than anything such a person rails against, because it leads to the idea of being better than others because YOU know what’s going on and THEY don’t.  I’d rather not know, and be aware that I don’t know, than think I grok something I’m incapable of even partially understanding.

    But then, I’m a Wiccan ex-fundie-Catholic, so the fundies aren’t likely to listen to me anyway. :)  (I honestly don’t think my parents would have continued sending me to the only private school in the county if they’d known exactly what was going on in those religion classes.  I may have mentioned the Mike Warnke videos, the pushing of YEC books (I still have The Answers Book as a reminder to be a bit more humble), or the demonization of other faiths, in a different comment thread.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit frustrated by your response.  I think you’re being overly lawyerly in order to avoid the point.

    The fact that absolute certainty is impossible doesn’t mean that some beliefs can’t be more or less supported than other beliefs.  For example, if someone comes along and claims that Jesus was an anthropomorphic squid person, you can bet I’m going to have some hard questions about where they got that information and whether its reliable.

    If religion is to be more than an aesthetic sense coupled with suspended disbelief, questions like “why should we believe this?” or “why this religion and not that one?” have to at least be addressed in some minimal fashion.  And generally, they are!  The point I’m trying to make is that its the adequacy of the answers to these questions that is at issue for literalists.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

    Well, why not?  Presumably, God could if He wanted to. 

  • chris the cynic

    and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    I’ve argued that, unless we’re assuming that the problem is on God’s end instead of the Devil’s, it doesn’t make sense to argue that the Devil couldn’t be saved if you assume that he was responsible for his decision to rebel in the first place.  I haven’t argued it in any kind of detail, but I have made that argument.

    Does that count?

    I suppose that if you take the thing about a certain sin not being forgivable in this age or the next, assume that there are only two ages, and operationalize that sin as denying the holy spirit with full knowledge that it is the holy spirit you are denying, then I guess I can kind of see how you might argue that the devil and his angels blew it, but I don’t see their unsavability as being in any way a foregone conclusion.  It seems like if you’re going to claim that they can’t be saved that’s a claim that needs to be backed up with an argument.

    Consider, for example, the context I pulled that out of.  What if the Devil started feeding the hungry, giving drinks to the thirsty, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and visiting those sick and in prison?

    I guess what I’m really saying here is that “could” is probably the wrong word.  Especially since your point really doesn’t seem to be about what could happen as what is happening, it seems to me that to make your point it is sufficient to say that in this belief system that the Devil currently believes but has not proven to be worthy of redemption, or something to that effect.  I don’t know if that would be universally agreed with, but it would seem to fit better than “could”.

  • Ross

     Believing Jesus exists without obeying him is not good enough–so does the Devil, after all, and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    Origen did. And St Clement before him.

  • Tonio

    There are some common misunderstandings about science among people who aren’t fundamentalists or even creationists. Many of them talk about “evolution” as some mishmash of natural selection and abiogenesis, often assuming that it rejects the existence of any god. Apparently there’s a tendency to compare any scientific hypothesis about the origins of the universe and of life with creation-type ideas (as distinct from creationism) as though these are the default.

  • Anonymous

    It’s really incredibly hard to disabuse people who come from fundamentalist backgrounds of their notions of what science is and isn’t, even through long and complex dialogues. In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    The problem, if you believe that it’s important for people to understand the biological origins of humanity, is that many of them seem to not really care if evolution is scientifically correct. Some of them really believe, or seem to believe, that the facts don’t matter, and that creationism is correct even if all of the scientific evidence points towards evolution being true.

    When you’re arguing against someone who says that the sky is orange, when all evidence shows that the sky is blue, you’re basically fighting a war on two fronts. That’s not a war that’s very easy to win, but it can be done.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

     In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    TheDarkArtist:

    I don’t understand how science DOES negate their religious beliefs.  Genesis, after all, is a bit vague on the method God used to create. The point of the creation story in Genesis is:

    1) God created the corporeal world;

    2) He  chose to create the world and humanity (i.e., people were not a mistake, as they were in Sumerian mythology where the gods created humans in error when they were drunk);

    3) He deemed every aspect of his creation, including life itself, to be a good thing;

    4) Given 1, 2 and 3, the world, and everyone and everything in it, matter.

    None of that contradicts any religious beliefs with which I’m familiar.  

    The evangelicals and fundamentalists seem to be getting upset about the divine equivalent of an artist painting a masterpiece using acrylics rather than oil paints, and oils are just SO much more traditional, and that’s what they THOUGHT the artist was using, and that’s what they’d just as soon go on BELIEVING that the artist was using, thanks ever so.

    If they want a deity in their cosmology…why does evolution  (which is an awe-inspiring process, if drastically different from zapping everything into being)  upset them so? Why do they feel that it tosses God out the window? Because I don’t see why they would feel that way.

     

  • Anonymous

    The point of the creation story in Genesis is:

    1) God created the corporeal world;

    2) He chose to create the world and humanity (i.e., people were not a
    mistake, as they were in Sumerian mythology where the gods created
    humans in error when they were drunk);

    3) He deemed every aspect of his creation, including life itself, to be a good thing;

    4) Given 1, 2 and 3, the world, and everyone and everything in it, matter.

    None of that contradicts any religious beliefs with which I’m familiar. 

    But because Gen. 1 is in the form of a story, and because an awful lot of literalists are dissuaded from reading ANY fiction of any sort “because they’re not true, and that means the authors are trying to deceive us and tempt us into sin,” they tend not to come to that conclusion.  Genesis 1 lists a process because clearly the point is SIX DAYS, you bloody heathens.  Never mind that “day” and “night” are DEFINED by the position of the sun, making the sun’s creation on the fourth day impossible.  Never mind that the entire story is reversed in Gen. 2.  No, it’s an exact, historical account, dictated verbatim by God to Moses, so the point is that it happened exactly the way it says in the book.

    I wish I were joking about any of that.  I really, really do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    They’re not QUITE that stupid.  Fundamentalists are grappling with a very real question- how does a Christian know that the Bible can be trusted to be remotely close to useful, worthwhile, or accurate?  They have an answer- because the Bible is literally God’s book, and God has breathed its words and protected them throughout the ages, preventing the slightest error from entering, and ensuring perfect transmission of the original intentions all the way through the ages.

    Well of course that’s crazy from a historical and literary standpoint.  In reality, the Bible is actually a compendium of religious writings by people who didn’t agree about a lot.

    But the problem with just saying that to them is that they don’t care about the Bible’s alleged perfect accuracy just because they have a Bible fetish.  They care because its their answer to the question of why Christianity can be believed to be anything more worthwhile than any other ancient faith, and because its their answer to why the Bible can be trusted about salvation and all of the other parts they really, deeply care about.  They fear that if the Bible can’t be trusted completely and totally, then other interpretive methods will have to be found, and chaos in Biblical interpretation will reign.

    And historically, they’ve been right about that last part.

    So… not really to defend them.  Obviously they’re wrong and they’re reasoning improperly. But at least they’re grappling with a real question, even if they’re grappling poorly.  For example, how does Rhysdux KNOW that the things he said are the “important parts” of Genesis?  How does he KNOW that other parts aren’t important?  What method did he use?  How can he prove his method is better than other methods that maybe generate different results?  These questions have significant consequences for Christianity.  If the interpretation of the Bible can vary wildly and be relatively personal, what does that say about the idea of salvation through faith?  What does that say about the idea that non belief can be a morally culpable state, if correct belief isn’t obvious and textual?  These are legitimate questions, and even if the fundamentalists are answering them badly, its at least got something to recommend it in comparison to the more liberal attitude of ignoring the issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    They care because its their answer to the question of why Christianity
    can be believed to be anything more worthwhile than any other ancient
    faith

    This is a big part of why I pity such fundamentalists.* What a tiny, fragile thing their faith is.

    “Either all of it is literally true or none of it is true at all,” I hear.

    If Jonah did not actually spend three days in the belly of a fish, then God doesn’t exist and Jesus doesn’t love them.**

    This need for absolutism both saddens and frightens me. It saddens me
    because it requires someone to lock themselves off from anything that
    conflicts with*** an unsustainable set of beliefs. The “Evangelical
    Bubble” that many here grew up in is a prime example of this behavior.

    * Not that my pity prevents me from working to stop their efforts to control/ruin others’ lives.
    ** I also hear this exact line of reasoning from anti-religion assholes on the Internet. I’m curious as to what degree this simply reflects a similar mindset, or how many such people grew up in believing in the “literal and inerrant Bible” and, when their ability to maintain cognitive dissonance gave out, they changed their conclusions but never questioned the premise.

    *** And “conflicts with” often means “does not loudly support.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Also, I hate Disqus right now.

  • Anonymous

    They’re not QUITE that stupid.  Fundamentalists are grappling with a
    very real question- how does a Christian know that the Bible can be
    trusted to be remotely close to useful, worthwhile, or accurate?  They
    have an answer- because the Bible is literally God’s book, and God has
    breathed its words and protected them throughout the ages, preventing
    the slightest error from entering, and ensuring perfect transmission of
    the original intentions all the way through the ages.

    I never said they were stupid, only that they were ignorant.  There is a difference. :)  I grew up with this stuff.  Yes, some of them DO denounce all fiction, because it is fiction.  (Kjos, for example, has denounced Christian children’s fiction from Narnia to Shadowmancer, because its not being literally true means that the author is trying to deceive your children.  Thus, fiction = Satanism.  Trufax.)  But when you don’t read fiction–when, in other words, you’re not made familiar with how to help people suspend their disbelief in something obviously untrue–it becomes difficult to distinguish between truth, allegory, and falsehood at all.  I’ve been in Bible classes telling the parable of the sower and the seeds, and great emphasis was put on the fact that we only know what it means because Jesus said so right in that chapter.  (Is it really that difficult of a metaphor to figure out?)  They can’t even see the implications of the Good Samaritan story beyond “Be nice to each other.”  (In 12 years of religious education, none of my fundie teachers noticed the significance of the man’s being a Samaritan.  ALL of my Catholic teachers commented on it.)

    They do have a good point–when you have a religious text, you need SOMETHING to justify its importance.  But a lot of them go to the extreme of acting like no other book is important, or that other books are actively evil, and this hampers their own ability to understand the Bible itself beyond “this is what the story literally says, and God wouldn’t lie, so the literal interpretation is true unless the passage specifically says it’s a metaphor.”  The very concept of mythology is completely foreign to them.  That’s the point I’m making.

    If the interpretation of the Bible can vary wildly and be relatively
    personal, what does that say about the idea of salvation through faith? 
    What does that say about the idea that non belief can be a morally
    culpable state, if correct belief isn’t obvious and textual?  These are
    legitimate questions, and even if the fundamentalists are answering them
    badly, its at least got something to recommend it in comparison to the
    more liberal attitude of ignoring the issue

    I can think of a typical liberal Christian response to all those questions.  1. As James wrote, “Show unto me thy faith without works, and I will show ye my faith through my works.”  If one truly believes, then one will feel motivated to want to do the right thing.  Believing Jesus exists without obeying him is not good enough–so does the Devil, after all, and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.  2.  It is possible that in the famous “Way, Truth, and Life,” Jesus meant “through me” to mean “through following my teachings.”  By such an interpretation, anyone who is generous and quick to forgive is doing what Jesus wanted, even if he’s not the reason they’re doing it.  If this is so, then nonbelief does not damn a person to Hell, if zie is living in a Christ-like manner.  (I have heard the phrase “Christ-like, but not Christian” many, many times in Catholic schools.)  Essentially, the liberal viewpoint is, non-Christians can be saved by being Christlike, but Christians are more likely to succeed at it, simply by virtue of knowing what Jesus wants us to do.

    Liberals aren’t ignoring any of those questions–they just have answers that are completely foreign to conservatives and fundies, so the latter view this difference as evidence that libs are hellbound or “don’t really understand the question.”  So the liberal Christians don’t make a big deal out of their answers, and these answers seldom even get heard outside the churches and church-run schools in question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    Right, right, I know liberal Christians have answers to… lets call them the “first order” questions.  But what fundamentalists tend to be all worked up about (they literally write books on the subject) is the second order questions: How do we know our answers to the first order questions are true?

  • Anonymous

    They don’t.  They can’t until the world ends and proves them either right or wrong.  That’s true of ANY religious system, though, and is the whole reason faith is important to such a system in the first place.  Anyone who insists that you MUST know whether or not your faith is right or wrong is a bit unclear on the concept. :)

    Indeed, certainty is arguably a more serious sin than anything such a person rails against, because it leads to the idea of being better than others because YOU know what’s going on and THEY don’t.  I’d rather not know, and be aware that I don’t know, than think I grok something I’m incapable of even partially understanding.

    But then, I’m a Wiccan ex-fundie-Catholic, so the fundies aren’t likely to listen to me anyway. :)  (I honestly don’t think my parents would have continued sending me to the only private school in the county if they’d known exactly what was going on in those religion classes.  I may have mentioned the Mike Warnke videos, the pushing of YEC books (I still have The Answers Book as a reminder to be a bit more humble), or the demonization of other faiths, in a different comment thread.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Hickey/30117548 Patrick Hickey

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit frustrated by your response.  I think you’re being overly lawyerly in order to avoid the point.

    The fact that absolute certainty is impossible doesn’t mean that some beliefs can’t be more or less supported than other beliefs.  For example, if someone comes along and claims that Jesus was an anthropomorphic squid person, you can bet I’m going to have some hard questions about where they got that information and whether its reliable.

    If religion is to be more than an aesthetic sense coupled with suspended disbelief, questions like “why should we believe this?” or “why this religion and not that one?” have to at least be addressed in some minimal fashion.  And generally, they are!  The point I’m trying to make is that its the adequacy of the answers to these questions that is at issue for literalists.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

    Well, why not?  Presumably, God could if He wanted to. 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    I’ve argued that, unless we’re assuming that the problem is on God’s end instead of the Devil’s, it doesn’t make sense to argue that the Devil couldn’t be saved if you assume that he was responsible for his decision to rebel in the first place.  I haven’t argued it in any kind of detail, but I have made that argument.

    Does that count?

    I suppose that if you take the thing about a certain sin not being forgivable in this age or the next, assume that there are only two ages, and operationalize that sin as denying the holy spirit with full knowledge that it is the holy spirit you are denying, then I guess I can kind of see how you might argue that the devil and his angels blew it, but I don’t see their unsavability as being in any way a foregone conclusion.  It seems like if you’re going to claim that they can’t be saved that’s a claim that needs to be backed up with an argument.

    Consider, for example, the context I pulled that out of.  What if the Devil started feeding the hungry, giving drinks to the thirsty, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and visiting those sick and in prison?

    I guess what I’m really saying here is that “could” is probably the wrong word.  Especially since your point really doesn’t seem to be about what could happen as what is happening, it seems to me that to make your point it is sufficient to say that in this belief system that the Devil currently believes but has not proven to be worthy of redemption, or something to that effect.  I don’t know if that would be universally agreed with, but it would seem to fit better than “could”.

  • Ross

     Believing Jesus exists without obeying him is not good enough–so does the Devil, after all, and no one is going to argue that the Devil could be saved.

    Origen did. And St Clement before him.

  • Tonio

    There are some common misunderstandings about science among people who aren’t fundamentalists or even creationists. Many of them talk about “evolution” as some mishmash of natural selection and abiogenesis, often assuming that it rejects the existence of any god. Apparently there’s a tendency to compare any scientific hypothesis about the origins of the universe and of life with creation-type ideas (as distinct from creationism) as though these are the default.

  • Anonymous

    Excuse Me! A plain, common sense reading of the text will clearly show that it was George of the Jungle, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mr. Green Jeans. Liberal! 

  • P J Evans

     I thought it was the Jolly Green Giant, myself.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I thought it was the Jolly Green Giant, myself.

    Heathen!

    Helicopters can’t run for President.  It’s an abomination.  Get thee from my sight.

  • Hawker40

    Geds, why’d you link to a Sea Stallion to talk about the Presidency?  The President flies in a modified Sea King (H-3) flown by the Marines.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Geds, why’d you link to a Sea Stallion to talk about the Presidency? 
    The President flies in a modified Sea King (H-3) flown by the Marines.

    Because the Sea King isn’t nicknamed the “Super Jolly Green Giant.”

  • Hawker40

    Butbutbut that’s what the *Army* calls it!  It’s a Sea Stallion!  MH-63!  One of the 4 reasons I have hearing problems!  (Along with the Sea Knight, Sea Cobra, and Huey.  USS New Orleans, LPH-11)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Butbutbut that’s what the *Army* calls it!  It’s a Sea Stallion! 
    MH-63!  One of the 4 reasons I have hearing problems!  (Along with the
    Sea Knight, Sea Cobra, and Huey.  USS New Orleans, LPH-11)

    Um, you missed the joke.  We were talking about how schools ALWAYS teach the controversy, so someone said that the first three Presidents were George Washington, John Adams, and the Green Lantern.  I said it was George Clinton, Sam Adams, and the Green Hornet.  Someone else said that it was the Jolly Green Giant, so I said that helicopters can’t be President.

  • Hawker40

    And I was trying to increase the absurdity, by using the naval nickname as opposed to the army one, then adding in the presidential helicopter nickname…

    IOW, I got the joke, tried to top it, and failed.  Sorry.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    Someone else who remembers Mr. Green Jeans? EXCELLENT.

  • Anonymous

    Excuse Me! A plain, common sense reading of the text will clearly show that it was George of the Jungle, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mr. Green Jeans. Liberal! 

  • P J Evans

     I thought it was the Jolly Green Giant, myself.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I thought it was the Jolly Green Giant, myself.

    Heathen!

    Helicopters can’t run for President.  It’s an abomination.  Get thee from my sight.

  • Hawker40

    Geds, why’d you link to a Sea Stallion to talk about the Presidency?  The President flies in a modified Sea King (H-3) flown by the Marines.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Geds, why’d you link to a Sea Stallion to talk about the Presidency? 
    The President flies in a modified Sea King (H-3) flown by the Marines.

    Because the Sea King isn’t nicknamed the “Super Jolly Green Giant.”

  • Hawker40

    Butbutbut that’s what the *Army* calls it!  It’s a Sea Stallion!  MH-63!  One of the 4 reasons I have hearing problems!  (Along with the Sea Knight, Sea Cobra, and Huey.  USS New Orleans, LPH-11)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Butbutbut that’s what the *Army* calls it!  It’s a Sea Stallion! 
    MH-63!  One of the 4 reasons I have hearing problems!  (Along with the
    Sea Knight, Sea Cobra, and Huey.  USS New Orleans, LPH-11)

    Um, you missed the joke.  We were talking about how schools ALWAYS teach the controversy, so someone said that the first three Presidents were George Washington, John Adams, and the Green Lantern.  I said it was George Clinton, Sam Adams, and the Green Hornet.  Someone else said that it was the Jolly Green Giant, so I said that helicopters can’t be President.

  • Hawker40

    And I was trying to increase the absurdity, by using the naval nickname as opposed to the army one, then adding in the presidential helicopter nickname…

    IOW, I got the joke, tried to top it, and failed.  Sorry.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    Someone else who remembers Mr. Green Jeans? EXCELLENT.

  • Paul D.

    In the Book of Giants, an addition to the Book of Enoch known only from fragmentary manuscripts (including one at Qumran), one of the Nephilim is named Gilgamesh. This jives nicely with the idea that these “giants” were ancient heroes and demigods of Mesopotamian legend.

  • Paul D.

    In the Book of Giants, an addition to the Book of Enoch known only from fragmentary manuscripts (including one at Qumran) and considered scriptural by some early Jews and Christians, one of the Nephilim is named Gilgamesh. This fits in nicely with the idea that these “giants” were ancient heroes and demigods of Mesopotamian legend.

  • chris the cynic

    There was, as I recall, a history of assuming that mastodons were the heroes of Greek myth including one case where a people from a city, told they needed to give a hero a proper burial, found a mastodon skeleton, dug it up. put it into oversized armor, and then buried with full honors as though it were a person.

    Of course it’s late enough right now that I could be remembering things that never happened.  Goodnight all.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’d read that the ancient Greeks assumed that mastodon skulls were from the Cyclopes – apparently, their big nostrils are in the right place to be mistaken for a single huge eye-socket.

  • Matri

    I’d read that the ancient Greeks assumed that mastodon skulls were from
    the Cyclopes – apparently, their big nostrils are in the right place to
    be mistaken for a single huge eye-socket.

    You read that right.

  • Jack Heron

    Interesting trivia about the Cyclopes: the name means ‘Wheel-Eyed’. Thracian smiths used to tattoo a ring on their forehead (boasting that they were skilled enough to smelt metal and hence make rings). I wonder if there are any mastodon skulls in Thrace….

  • Fraser

    As I recall that’s right. The book First Fossil Hunters discusses classical Greek efforts to make sense of fossil bones.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    There was, as I recall, a history of assuming that mastodons were the heroes of Greek myth including one case where a people from a city, told they needed to give a hero a proper burial, found a mastodon skeleton, dug it up. put it into oversized armor, and then buried with full honors as though it were a person.

    Of course it’s late enough right now that I could be remembering things that never happened.  Goodnight all.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’d read that the ancient Greeks assumed that mastodon skulls were from the Cyclopes – apparently, their big nostrils are in the right place to be mistaken for a single huge eye-socket.

  • Matri

    I’d read that the ancient Greeks assumed that mastodon skulls were from
    the Cyclopes – apparently, their big nostrils are in the right place to
    be mistaken for a single huge eye-socket.

    You read that right.

  • Jack Heron

    Interesting trivia about the Cyclopes: the name means ‘Wheel-Eyed’. Thracian smiths used to tattoo a ring on their forehead (boasting that they were skilled enough to smelt metal and hence make rings). I wonder if there are any mastodon skulls in Thrace….

  • Fraser

    As I recall that’s right. The book First Fossil Hunters discusses classical Greek efforts to make sense of fossil bones.

  • Matri

    You know, this gives new origin to the phrase “Larger than life”.

  • Matri

    You know, this gives new origin to the phrase “Larger than life”.

  • MikeJ

    I was disappointed that the press release didn’t refer sneeringly to the big bang, since the name big bang was coined by another fundamentalist.  Of course he thought the whole idea was silly and couldn’t be true because he insisted it required the existence of god.

  • MikeJ

    I was disappointed that the press release didn’t refer sneeringly to the big bang, since the name big bang was coined by another fundamentalist.  Of course he thought the whole idea was silly and couldn’t be true because he insisted it required the existence of god.

  • Narm00

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof.  I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.

    While it was common fanon Celestia was Equestria’s creator, the S2 opener would seem to contradict that. Who or what actually did create Equestria, we don’t know, which makes it a bit hard to prove them as of right now.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t Celestia say that Discord was older than her? 

  • ako

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

    DOUBLE BROHOOF TO AKO!

  • Narm00

    Didn’t Celestia say that Discord was older than her? 

    Hm. Not as far as I can tell. It’s certainly possible to come to that conclusion – Celestia talking about Discord’s eternal reign before she and Luna opposed him – but neither of them say one way or the other.

  • Narm00

    Didn’t Celestia say that Discord was older than her? 

    Hm. Not as far as I can tell. It’s certainly possible to come to that conclusion – Celestia talking about Discord’s eternal reign before she and Luna opposed him – but neither of them say one way or the other.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof. I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.
    While it was common fanon Celestia was Equestria’s creator, the S2 opener would seem to contradict that. Who or what actually did create Equestria, we don’t know, which makes it a bit hard to prove them as of right now.

    “Once upon a time,
    In the magical land of Equestria…”
    (Brohoof to Narm00)

    I have never thought of Celestia as a creator-god; she’s primarily a Sun Goddess with another aspect as Mother/Alpha Mare to Her Little Ponies, and her sister is a Moon Goddess fanonically credited with the aspects of Night, Sleep, and Dreams as well.  She’s a Vala of Equestria, not Iluvatar.

    And contrasting with the TurboJesus of Left Behind, Celestia is a benevolent, approachable, and even playful pop-culture god-figure who prefers to work indirectly, maneuvering mortal ponies into the right place at the right time instead of galloping in directly.   (And who takes a lot of crap in various “Trollestia/Molestia/Celestia The Impaler” fanfics by fanwriters who seem to have a real problem with any authority figure.)   It’s really saying something when My Little Pony has a more benevolent and approachable god-figure than a lot of RTCs.

  • Narm00

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof.  I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.

    While it was common fanon Celestia was Equestria’s creator, the S2 opener would seem to contradict that. Who or what actually did create Equestria, we don’t know, which makes it a bit hard to prove them as of right now.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t Celestia say that Discord was older than her? 

  • ako

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

    DOUBLE BROHOOF TO AKO!

  • Narm00

    Didn’t Celestia say that Discord was older than her? 

    Hm. Not as far as I can tell. It’s certainly possible to come to that conclusion – Celestia talking about Discord’s eternal reign before she and Luna opposed him – but neither of them say one way or the other.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The real challenge would be finding a creation story, anywhere in the world, that modern astronomy doesn’t confirm using CNW’s “standard” of proof. I’m confident you could use the Hubble to prove Ymir, the Ogdoad, the Tenchikaibyaku, Frith, and Princess Celestia if you were so inclined.
    While it was common fanon Celestia was Equestria’s creator, the S2 opener would seem to contradict that. Who or what actually did create Equestria, we don’t know, which makes it a bit hard to prove them as of right now.

    “Once upon a time,
    In the magical land of Equestria…”
    (Brohoof to Narm00)

    I have never thought of Celestia as a creator-god; she’s primarily a Sun Goddess with another aspect as Mother/Alpha Mare to Her Little Ponies, and her sister is a Moon Goddess fanonically credited with the aspects of Night, Sleep, and Dreams as well.  She’s a Vala of Equestria, not Iluvatar.

    And contrasting with the TurboJesus of Left Behind, Celestia is a benevolent, approachable, and even playful pop-culture god-figure who prefers to work indirectly, maneuvering mortal ponies into the right place at the right time instead of galloping in directly.   (And who takes a lot of crap in various “Trollestia/Molestia/Celestia The Impaler” fanfics by fanwriters who seem to have a real problem with any authority figure.)   It’s really saying something when My Little Pony has a more benevolent and approachable god-figure than a lot of RTCs.

  • http://robrodger.com Robert Rodger

    Hey! Local claim to fame. I’m about a mile and a half from the historic marker for the Cohoes Mastadon. I had no idea its discovery was dated so far back. I guess maybe one of these days I should pass the marker at something less than 30 mph.

  • http://robrodger.com Robert Rodger

    Hey! Local claim to fame. I’m about a mile and a half from the historic marker for the Cohoes Mastadon. I had no idea its discovery was dated so far back. I guess maybe one of these days I should pass the marker at something less than 30 mph.

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only person who, upon seeing the post title of “the Nephilim fossil of upstate New York,” was really hoping that Fred would be upbraiding a senator or representative?

    But actual, literal fossils, those are cool too.

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only person who, upon seeing the post title of “the Nephilim fossil of upstate New York,” was really hoping that Fred would be upbraiding a senator or representative?

    But actual, literal fossils, those are cool too.

  • ako

    According to NASA scientist, data from these two telescopes is
    revealing that planets like the Earth are formed in the exact same
    fashion as described at Genesis 1:2, 3.

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very Large Array.

    Also, if NASA has documented everything as matching Genesis, does the planet exist before the sun is formed?

    Wait, no, I read the article and they’re apparently using “in the exact same fashion” to mean “in a fashion that could be interpreted as metaphorically similar”.  Because if they admit they’re using interpretation and metaphor, they somehow lose.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there
    be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the
    clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very
    Large Array.

    Well, if you squint a little and add a couple more planet-making gap, the animation Fred linked to looks rather like a thumbprint.

    On the other hand, maybe we’ll find that if we viewed the right patch of sky at just the right angle (probably by fiddling with a 3D model), we’ll find that the stars or galaxies spell out Genesis 1:1 in Sanskrit or something. It’d be like we were living in the world of Weekly World News.

    Actually, I think the WWN world would have the stars spelling out “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Jailhouse Rock.”

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there
    be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the
    clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very
    Large Array.

    Well, if you squint a little and add a couple more planet-making gap, the animation Fred linked to looks rather like a thumbprint.

    On the other hand, maybe we’ll find that if we viewed the right patch of sky at just the right angle (probably by fiddling with a 3D model), we’ll find that the stars or galaxies spell out Genesis 1:1 in Sanskrit or something. It’d be like we were living in the world of Weekly World News.

    Actually, I think the WWN world would have the stars spelling out “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Jailhouse Rock.”

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there
    be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the
    clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very
    Large Array.

    Well, if you squint a little and add a couple more planet-making gap, the animation Fred linked to looks rather like a thumbprint.

    On the other hand, maybe we’ll find that if we viewed the right patch of sky at just the right angle (probably by fiddling with a 3D model), we’ll find that the stars or galaxies spell out Genesis 1:1 in Sanskrit or something. It’d be like we were living in the world of Weekly World News.

    Actually, I think the WWN world would have the stars spelling out “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Jailhouse Rock.”

  • Tonio

    There’s a fairly long tradition of fundamentalists claiming that scientific discoveries prove the factualness of their beliefs, often distorting or even lying about the nature of the discoveries. Do you think this is about scoring points off science, sort of how Ellanjay turn the people who they perceive as mocking their beliefs into hideous straw people? Or is this about insecurity in their own beliefs?

  • Anonymous

    I think that fundamentalists cherry-pick science exactly as they do their Scripture.  As quick as they are to reject the findings of “atheistic materialism” as being anti-God, they’re just as quick to embrace such findings uncritically whenever they appear to (or can be contorted to) support their beliefs.

    Scientist: We’ve observed evidence of planetary formation via dust accretion around a young star in Taurus.
    Fundamentalist: Ah!  Creation from chaos, just as described in the Bible.
    Scientist: Initially the proto-planet is obscured by leftover dust, but gradually this too is condensed into the larger body through gravitational attraction.
    Fundamentalist: “Let there be light.”  Science and religion in one glorious voice affirming the truth of Genesis!
    Scientist: In the observed instance, we estimate this process started between 500,000 and one million years ago.
    Fundamentalist: Oh … um … er … Hey, look over there, a coelacanth!  [throws down ninja smoke bomb, escapes]

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Fundamentalists would be much cooler if they used more ninja smoke bombs.

    But then, so would I…

  • Anonymous

    At least Ninjas use smoke-bombs to disappear. Fundies tend to use smoke-bombs (and mainly rhetorical ones at that!) to either obscure fact or pass their opinion off as such — or both — while not having the decency to do the disappearing part.

  • Anonymous

    At least Ninjas use smoke-bombs to disappear. Fundies tend to use smoke-bombs (and mainly rhetorical ones at that!) to either obscure fact or pass their opinion off as such — or both — while not having the decency to do the disappearing part.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Fundamentalists would be much cooler if they used more ninja smoke bombs.

    But then, so would I…

  • ako

    Fundamentalists tend to use troll logic.  Much like with internet trolls, it is not about finding the truth or accurately assessing the information, but about using any trick, however cheap, to support one’s own side and spite one’s opponents.  So science is garbage whenever it doesn’t support them, and righteous wisdom when it does, and the inconsistencies don’t matter because consistency, like logic and factual accuracy, is less important than winning.

  • ako

    Fundamentalists tend to use troll logic.  Much like with internet trolls, it is not about finding the truth or accurately assessing the information, but about using any trick, however cheap, to support one’s own side and spite one’s opponents.  So science is garbage whenever it doesn’t support them, and righteous wisdom when it does, and the inconsistencies don’t matter because consistency, like logic and factual accuracy, is less important than winning.

  • ako

    According to NASA scientist, data from these two telescopes is
    revealing that planets like the Earth are formed in the exact same
    fashion as described at Genesis 1:2, 3.

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very Large Array.

    Also, if NASA has documented everything as matching Genesis, does the planet exist before the sun is formed?

    Wait, no, I read the article and they’re apparently using “in the exact same fashion” to mean “in a fashion that could be interpreted as metaphorically similar”.  Because if they admit they’re using interpretation and metaphor, they somehow lose.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    So NASA got pictures of a deity saying stuff like “Let there
    be firmament?”, causing the water to divine into the ocean and the
    clouds?  You’d think information like that would come through the Very
    Large Array.

    Well, if you squint a little and add a couple more planet-making gap, the animation Fred linked to looks rather like a thumbprint.

    On the other hand, maybe we’ll find that if we viewed the right patch of sky at just the right angle (probably by fiddling with a 3D model), we’ll find that the stars or galaxies spell out Genesis 1:1 in Sanskrit or something. It’d be like we were living in the world of Weekly World News.

    Actually, I think the WWN world would have the stars spelling out “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Jailhouse Rock.”

  • Tonio

    There’s a fairly long tradition of fundamentalists claiming that scientific discoveries prove the factualness of their beliefs, often distorting or even lying about the nature of the discoveries. Do you think this is about scoring points off science, sort of how Ellanjay turn the people who they perceive as mocking their beliefs into hideous straw people? Or is this about insecurity in their own beliefs?

  • Anonymous

    I think that fundamentalists cherry-pick science exactly as they do their Scripture.  As quick as they are to reject the findings of “atheistic materialism” as being anti-God, they’re just as quick to embrace such findings uncritically whenever they appear to (or can be contorted to) support their beliefs.

    Scientist: We’ve observed evidence of planetary formation via dust accretion around a young star in Taurus.
    Fundamentalist: Ah!  Creation from chaos, just as described in the Bible.
    Scientist: Initially the proto-planet is obscured by leftover dust, but gradually this too is condensed into the larger body through gravitational attraction.
    Fundamentalist: “Let there be light.”  Science and religion in one glorious voice affirming the truth of Genesis!
    Scientist: In the observed instance, we estimate this process started between 500,000 and one million years ago.
    Fundamentalist: Oh … um … er … Hey, look over there, a coelacanth!  [throws down ninja smoke bomb, escapes]

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Fundamentalists would be much cooler if they used more ninja smoke bombs.

    But then, so would I…

  • Anonymous

    At least Ninjas use smoke-bombs to disappear. Fundies tend to use smoke-bombs (and mainly rhetorical ones at that!) to either obscure fact or pass their opinion off as such — or both — while not having the decency to do the disappearing part.

  • ako

    Fundamentalists tend to use troll logic.  Much like with internet trolls, it is not about finding the truth or accurately assessing the information, but about using any trick, however cheap, to support one’s own side and spite one’s opponents.  So science is garbage whenever it doesn’t support them, and righteous wisdom when it does, and the inconsistencies don’t matter because consistency, like logic and factual accuracy, is less important than winning.

  • Anonymous

    @TheDarkArtist:

    It’s really incredibly hard to disabuse people who come from fundamentalist backgrounds of their notions of what science is and isn’t, even through long and complex dialogues. In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    If you’ve managed to convince even that many, then I’d say you’ve done a magnificent job and in all sincerity I salute you, sir or madam.

    @ako:

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

    Let’s CNW it up:

    According to NASA scientist [sic], data from these two telescopes is revealing that planets like Equestria are formed in the exact same fashion as described in the My Little Pony season openers. According to NASA, planets form inside a proto-planetary disc of dust and debris, starting out in a formless and chaotic state in total darkness, as describe [sic] in Return of Harmony part 1.  “Before my sister and I stood up to him, [Discord] ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness.”

    NASA’s scientists have discovered that as the planets mature inside their dusty cocoon they suck up all the dust between them and the sun so that the planets slowly emerge from darkness into the light as described in Mare in the Moon. “The eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun; the younger brought out the moon to begin the night.”  Then there came to be light.

    BRONIES: VINDICATED BY SCIENCE.

  • Anonymous

    @TheDarkArtist:

    It’s really incredibly hard to disabuse people who come from fundamentalist backgrounds of their notions of what science is and isn’t, even through long and complex dialogues. In 15 years of arguing with cdesign proponentsists, I’ve managed to turn maybe 5-10 of them and get them to understand exactly why their view of the universe is so drastically wrong, and why science doesn’t negate their religious beliefs.

    If you’ve managed to convince even that many, then I’d say you’ve done a magnificent job and in all sincerity I salute you, sir or madam.

    @ako:

    You know, if Discord created Equestria, and he made it a swirling chaos of dust, and the influence of Princess Celestia gradually led to the formation of order and making the environment more liveable, bringing sunlight and solid ground to walk on, then NASA has just completely proven the existence of Equestria!

    Let’s CNW it up:

    According to NASA scientist [sic], data from these two telescopes is revealing that planets like Equestria are formed in the exact same fashion as described in the My Little Pony season openers. According to NASA, planets form inside a proto-planetary disc of dust and debris, starting out in a formless and chaotic state in total darkness, as describe [sic] in Return of Harmony part 1.  “Before my sister and I stood up to him, [Discord] ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness.”

    NASA’s scientists have discovered that as the planets mature inside their dusty cocoon they suck up all the dust between them and the sun so that the planets slowly emerge from darkness into the light as described in Mare in the Moon. “The eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun; the younger brought out the moon to begin the night.”  Then there came to be light.

    BRONIES: VINDICATED BY SCIENCE.

  • http://agirlcalledraven.blogspot.com sarah

    Slightly off-topic from the evangelicals-and-science thing, but has anyone here read Madeleine L’Engle’s *Many Waters*? It’s part of the Murray series (Wrinkle in Time, etc), and it’s the twins’ story of how they get sent back to Noah’s time. This post reminded me of it because the book’s got Nephilim as part of the plotline.

    I love Madeleine L’Engle. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to meet her while she was alive. And she was only in New York, too! A couple hours away!

  • Anonymous

    Sarah – I’ve read most of what Madeleine L’Engle wrote, have met her briefly at a couple of her speaking engagements, and have one of her books that she autographed.  A Wrinkle In Time is one of the best children’s books ever.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah – I’ve read most of what Madeleine L’Engle wrote, have met her briefly at a couple of her speaking engagements, and have one of her books that she autographed.  A Wrinkle In Time is one of the best children’s books ever.

  • http://agirlcalledraven.blogspot.com sarah

    Slightly off-topic from the evangelicals-and-science thing, but has anyone here read Madeleine L’Engle’s *Many Waters*? It’s part of the Murray series (Wrinkle in Time, etc), and it’s the twins’ story of how they get sent back to Noah’s time. This post reminded me of it because the book’s got Nephilim as part of the plotline.

    I love Madeleine L’Engle. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to meet her while she was alive. And she was only in New York, too! A couple hours away!

  • Anonymous

    Sarah – I’ve read most of what Madeleine L’Engle wrote, have met her briefly at a couple of her speaking engagements, and have one of her books that she autographed.  A Wrinkle In Time is one of the best children’s books ever.

  • http://twitter.com/infernalserpent Cameron

    “Doctrine of Monsters” would be a killer band name.

  • Lonespark

    I am still tickled by “Consecrated Zippo,” which came up at the other site.  I think it could be some kind of awesome religious band…UU punk band?  I dunno…

  • Lonespark

    I am still tickled by “Consecrated Zippo,” which came up at the other site.  I think it could be some kind of awesome religious band…UU punk band?  I dunno…

  • http://twitter.com/infernalserpent Cameron

    “Doctrine of Monsters” would be a killer band name.

  • Lonespark

    I am still tickled by “Consecrated Zippo,” which came up at the other site.  I think it could be some kind of awesome religious band…UU punk band?  I dunno…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    A few weeks ago, I was passing through the book section at a grocery store and there was a couple looking at a children’s book of some sort. I overheard one of them ask the other “Is it big bang or intelligent design?”

    Since “Intelligent Design” is supposedly an alternative to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, I’m not sure what the Big Bang Theory has to do with it, but then I’m guessing they didn’t either. It appears to be part of the attitude I’ve often seen that a “literal reading”* of the Bible explains Life, the Universe, and Everything, so if any one scientific theory fails to do all of that it must be false atheist propaganda.

    Sometimes, I try to make myself feel better by saying that there are simply many people who are incapable of grasping the concept of a metaphor.

    * “Literal Reading of the Bible,” as Fred has often noted, means “the specific human interpretation that I agree with, which is often not very literal at all.”

    The fact that people have been pointing out the absurdities of these “literal readings” since at least St. Augustine obviously doesn’t affect these people.

  • Matri

    Since “Intelligent Design” is supposedly an alternative to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection,

    No, no it isn’t.

    It is an “alternative” to the Theory of Evolution the same way a railway spike through the neck is an alternative to cough medicine.

  • Randall M

    It is an “alternative” to the Theory of Evolution the same way a railway
    spike through the neck is an alternative to cough medicine.

    “I guarantee you’ll never cough again.  Now hold still.”

  • chris the cynic

    There’s a lack of understanding amoung some people of what evolution is.  It’s already been pointed out that some people seem to have confused evolution with abiogenesis.  In Left Behind there is a conflation of evolution with spontaneous generation.  There doesn’t seem to be much effort to understand what evolution is, and thus a lot of things get slapped with the name.

    If you turn to the Gospel of Jack Chick you will be told that there are in fact six facets to the theory of evolution:

    Cosmic Evolution = The Big Bang theory

    Chemical Evolution = “Higher elements evolve,” whatever the hell that means

    Evolution of Stars and Planets from Gas = I can’t even … I mean … what?

    [giant gap so that the teachers hand doesn’t obscure any of the words, but if he’s already finished writing everything why is his hand here in the first place?]

    Organic Evolution = abiogenesis

    Macro Evolution = which for reasons that defy explanation appears to be defined using the religious idea of “kinds”

    Micro Evolution = the only one of these things that creationists believe in.  How can you tell if it is micro evolution?  If there is proof of it that even they can’t deny, then it’s micro evolution.

    So you see, the big bang is part of the theory of evolution, so says The Gospel of Chick, Tract Big Daddy, Panel 10.

    Planets and stars evolved?  Really?  Given that the big bang and nuclear fusion and abiogenesis all make it onto the “creationists call this evolution chart” I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but seriously how does anything in the formation of stars and planets … I just don’t … I … what the Hell?

    I do wonder why linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > If you turn to the Gospel of Jack Chick you will be told that there are in fact six facets to the theory of evolution

    Sounds like the thing he’s responding to, and tagging as “the theory of evolution,” is the idea that physical things as they are got that way solely through the action of physical forces on physical things as they used to be. There used to be interstellar hydrogen, and through the action of gravitational attraction there came to be stars, and through the action of fusion there came to be planets, and so on and so forth.

    Which actually isn’t an unreasonable thing to use the word “evolution” to mean, in and of itself. Of course, “the theory of evolution” is more commonly understood to refer to the modern synthesis describing the origin of species through natural selection operating on variant phenotypes caused by random mutations in DNA, which (as you say) has basically nothing to do with that other stuff. (Nor linguistic evolution, nor cultural evolution, nor etc.)

  • hapax

    Macro Evolution = which for reasons that defy explanation appears to be defined using the religious idea of “kinds”

    I could explain why — it has to do with the dimensions of Noah’s ark and the time frame of Genesis — but it makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

    Look up “baraminology” in the mighty Wikipedia and it will tell you more than you want to know.

  • Anonymous

    Of course, even with Noah only needing to find “kinds” there’s still no way the Ark could work. If nothing else, he’d need two blue whales (who would react…poorly to all the oceans on Earth suddenly becoming fresh water) which is already far larger than any possible wooden ark could have been.

    Oh, that reminds me, apparently the Book of Enoch explains Noah’s flood being caused by God’s displeasure with the Nephilim, they were the evil beings that spearheaded all the acts that lead to God feeling the flood was necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    In Left Behind there is a conflation of evolution with spontaneous generation.

    **boggle**

    I’m fairly sure spontaneous generation was disproved at least a century before the theory of evolution started gaining traction, and quite sure Louis Pasteur made a thorough disproof of it not too long before. Do they think that evolutionary theory also involves the Four Humours?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m fairly sure spontaneous generation was disproved at least a century before the theory of evolution started gaining traction, and quite sure Louis Pasteur made a thorough disproof of it not too long before. Do they think that evolutionary theory also involves the Four Humours?

    Don’t give them any ideas!

    No, it’s because they think that abiogenesis (the presumed origin of life when chemicals first became self-reproducing, then organized into cells) is every bit as implausible as the hypothetical tornado in a junkyard that spontaneously assembles a (fully loaded?) 747.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    No, it’s because they think that abiogenesis (the presumed origin of life when chemicals first became self-reproducing, then organized into cells) is every bit as implausible as the hypothetical tornado in a junkyard that spontaneously assembles a (fully loaded?) 747.

    What they keep missing is that this kind of logic is only plausible if you assume that evolution has a particular pre-determined end-point that it deliberately tries to eventually produce.  I.E., the tornado will generate a 747 as opposed to, say, a bunch of other scrap randomly mish-mashed together.  Enough tornados over a long enough period of time will eventually produce some kind of scrap chimera that actually functions, but that is not necessarily of a form any of us would recognize.  

    Evolution has no end point.  It is a process, not a deliberate planned progression. That seems to be what creationists have a difficult time grasping.  If you take intent out of creation, evolution becomes so much easier to understand.  Of course, that implies that any creator deity has no particular plan in mind, and it goes against their dogma to believe that a creator deity would treat our would like some kind of petri dish in a experiment mixing and growing live cultures.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    A few weeks ago, I was passing through the book section at a grocery store and there was a couple looking at a children’s book of some sort. I overheard one of them ask the other “Is it big bang or intelligent design?”

    Since “Intelligent Design” is supposedly an alternative to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, I’m not sure what the Big Bang Theory has to do with it, but then I’m guessing they didn’t either. It appears to be part of the attitude I’ve often seen that a “literal reading”* of the Bible explains Life, the Universe, and Everything, so if any one scientific theory fails to do all of that it must be false atheist propaganda.

    Sometimes, I try to make myself feel better by saying that there are simply many people who are incapable of grasping the concept of a metaphor.

    * “Literal Reading of the Bible,” as Fred has often noted, means “the specific human interpretation that I agree with, which is often not very literal at all.”

    The fact that people have been pointing out the absurdities of these “literal readings” since at least St. Augustine obviously doesn’t affect these people.

  • Matri

    Since “Intelligent Design” is supposedly an alternative to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection,

    No, no it isn’t.

    It is an “alternative” to the Theory of Evolution the same way a railway spike through the neck is an alternative to cough medicine.

  • Randall M

    It is an “alternative” to the Theory of Evolution the same way a railway
    spike through the neck is an alternative to cough medicine.

    “I guarantee you’ll never cough again.  Now hold still.”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    There’s a lack of understanding amoung some people of what evolution is.  It’s already been pointed out that some people seem to have confused evolution with abiogenesis.  In Left Behind there is a conflation of evolution with spontaneous generation.  There doesn’t seem to be much effort to understand what evolution is, and thus a lot of things get slapped with the name.

    If you turn to the Gospel of Jack Chick you will be told that there are in fact six facets to the theory of evolution:

    Cosmic Evolution = The Big Bang theory

    Chemical Evolution = “Higher elements evolve,” whatever the hell that means

    Evolution of Stars and Planets from Gas = I can’t even … I mean … what?

    [giant gap so that the teachers hand doesn’t obscure any of the words, but if he’s already finished writing everything why is his hand here in the first place?]

    Organic Evolution = abiogenesis

    Macro Evolution = which for reasons that defy explanation appears to be defined using the religious idea of “kinds”

    Micro Evolution = the only one of these things that creationists believe in.  How can you tell if it is micro evolution?  If there is proof of it that even they can’t deny, then it’s micro evolution.

    So you see, the big bang is part of the theory of evolution, so says The Gospel of Chick, Tract Big Daddy, Panel 10.

    Planets and stars evolved?  Really?  Given that the big bang and nuclear fusion and abiogenesis all make it onto the “creationists call this evolution” chart I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but seriously how does anything in the formation of stars and planets … I just don’t … I … what the Hell?

    I do wonder why linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > If you turn to the Gospel of Jack Chick you will be told that there are in fact six facets to the theory of evolution

    Sounds like the thing he’s responding to, and tagging as “the theory of evolution,” is the idea that physical things as they are got that way solely through the action of physical forces on physical things as they used to be. There used to be interstellar hydrogen, and through the action of gravitational attraction there came to be stars, and through the action of fusion there came to be planets, and so on and so forth.

    Which actually isn’t an unreasonable thing to use the word “evolution” to mean, in and of itself. Of course, “the theory of evolution” is more commonly understood to refer to the modern synthesis describing the origin of species through natural selection operating on variant phenotypes caused by random mutations in DNA, which (as you say) has basically nothing to do with that other stuff. (Nor linguistic evolution, nor cultural evolution, nor etc.)

  • hapax

    Macro Evolution = which for reasons that defy explanation appears to be defined using the religious idea of “kinds”

    I could explain why — it has to do with the dimensions of Noah’s ark and the time frame of Genesis — but it makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

    Look up “baraminology” in the mighty Wikipedia and it will tell you more than you want to know.

  • Anonymous

    Of course, even with Noah only needing to find “kinds” there’s still no way the Ark could work. If nothing else, he’d need two blue whales (who would react…poorly to all the oceans on Earth suddenly becoming fresh water) which is already far larger than any possible wooden ark could have been.

    Oh, that reminds me, apparently the Book of Enoch explains Noah’s flood being caused by God’s displeasure with the Nephilim, they were the evil beings that spearheaded all the acts that lead to God feeling the flood was necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    In Left Behind there is a conflation of evolution with spontaneous generation.

    **boggle**

    I’m fairly sure spontaneous generation was disproved at least a century before the theory of evolution started gaining traction, and quite sure Louis Pasteur made a thorough disproof of it not too long before. Do they think that evolutionary theory also involves the Four Humours?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m fairly sure spontaneous generation was disproved at least a century before the theory of evolution started gaining traction, and quite sure Louis Pasteur made a thorough disproof of it not too long before. Do they think that evolutionary theory also involves the Four Humours?

    Don’t give them any ideas!

    No, it’s because they think that abiogenesis (the presumed origin of life when chemicals first became self-reproducing, then organized into cells) is every bit as implausible as the hypothetical tornado in a junkyard that spontaneously assembles a (fully loaded?) 747.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    No, it’s because they think that abiogenesis (the presumed origin of life when chemicals first became self-reproducing, then organized into cells) is every bit as implausible as the hypothetical tornado in a junkyard that spontaneously assembles a (fully loaded?) 747.

    What they keep missing is that this kind of logic is only plausible if you assume that evolution has a particular pre-determined end-point that it deliberately tries to eventually produce.  I.E., the tornado will generate a 747 as opposed to, say, a bunch of other scrap randomly mish-mashed together.  Enough tornados over a long enough period of time will eventually produce some kind of scrap chimera that actually functions, but that is not necessarily of a form any of us would recognize.  

    Evolution has no end point.  It is a process, not a deliberate planned progression. That seems to be what creationists have a difficult time grasping.  If you take intent out of creation, evolution becomes so much easier to understand.  Of course, that implies that any creator deity has no particular plan in mind, and it goes against their dogma to believe that a creator deity would treat our would like some kind of petri dish in a experiment mixing and growing live cultures.  

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on because all right-thinking people know that languages do not evolve. Every difference between modern English and divine beauty of King James English – which Jesus Himself spoke in, as you can clearly see in the Bible – is a direct result of the enemies of God changing the way people talk in an attempt to make it harder for us to understand His unchanging Word.

  • Anonymous

    Linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on because all right-thinking people
    know that languages do not evolve. Every difference between modern
    English and divine beauty of King James English – which Jesus Himself
    spoke in, as you can clearly see in the Bible – is a direct result of
    the enemies of God changing the way people talk in an attempt to make it
    harder for us to understand His unchanging Word.

    Oh lord I wish you were joking.

  • Anonymous

    Linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on because all right-thinking people
    know that languages do not evolve. Every difference between modern
    English and divine beauty of King James English – which Jesus Himself
    spoke in, as you can clearly see in the Bible – is a direct result of
    the enemies of God changing the way people talk in an attempt to make it
    harder for us to understand His unchanging Word.

    Oh lord I wish you were joking.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on because all right-thinking people know that languages do not evolve. Every difference between modern English and divine beauty of King James English – which Jesus Himself spoke in, as you can clearly see in the Bible – is a direct result of the enemies of God changing the way people talk in an attempt to make it harder for us to understand His unchanging Word.

  • Anonymous

    Linguistic evolution wasn’t tacked on because all right-thinking people
    know that languages do not evolve. Every difference between modern
    English and divine beauty of King James English – which Jesus Himself
    spoke in, as you can clearly see in the Bible – is a direct result of
    the enemies of God changing the way people talk in an attempt to make it
    harder for us to understand His unchanging Word.

    Oh lord I wish you were joking.

  • Lonespark

    When I think of Nephilim, I think of the demons in N.K. Jemisin’s inheritance trilogy, which you should all go read right now.

  • Lonespark

    When I think of Nephilim, I think of the demons in N.K. Jemisin’s inheritance trilogy, which you should all go read right now.

  • Lonespark

    When I think of Nephilim, I think of the demons in N.K. Jemisin’s inheritance trilogy, which you should all go read right now.

  • Anonymous

    Hah, this reminds me of the incredibly trippy* game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. In it, you play as Enoch, who has been tasked by God with tracking down and killing the Nephelim, who are half-angel/half-human hybrids created by the fallen angels** and who are reveling in corruption and evil. I think.

    *No, seriously. The textures of some worlds change at random, or maybe the ground and sky aren’t clearly distinguished, or maybe you have to use objects in the background (while standing in the foreground) to move around, or maybe all shadows will suddenly vanish, making it almost impossible to distinguish objects from the environment, or maybe they’ll pull the old “that convex lump is really a concave hole” trick. I’m doing a very poor job of describing it, but it’s surreal almost beyond belief. Which is what makes it so much fun. It’s like trying to navigate a dream. Or, for those of you who know your somewhat-obscure Japanese games: It’s like if Okami*** was directed by Suda51. Then the resulting game was fused with a fireworks show.

    **Who haven’t fallen yet. Or something. See, it’s pretty clear that time doesn’t work the same way in this game. You’re helped on your journey by Lucifel, who is apparently a pre-fall Lucifer with incredibly tight jeans (Ezekiel has his own pair of them under his angelic armour) and a cell phone hotline to God. He can reset time by snapping his fingers. Save that he isn’t really resetting time. Or something. But if he hasn’t fallen, then there can’t be any fallen angels. No fallen angels means no Nephilim. Yet, here they are, and here he is. Like I said: trippy.

    ***It was indeed produced by one of the key figures in designing Okami, and has a very similar combat system. Only now your main weapon is a divine Bat’Leth.

  • Anonymous

    Hah, this reminds me of the incredibly trippy* game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. In it, you play as Enoch, who has been tasked by God with tracking down and killing the Nephelim, who are half-angel/half-human hybrids created by the fallen angels** and who are reveling in corruption and evil. I think.

    *No, seriously. The textures of some worlds change at random, or maybe the ground and sky aren’t clearly distinguished, or maybe you have to use objects in the background (while standing in the foreground) to move around, or maybe all shadows will suddenly vanish, making it almost impossible to distinguish objects from the environment, or maybe they’ll pull the old “that convex lump is really a concave hole” trick. I’m doing a very poor job of describing it, but it’s surreal almost beyond belief. Which is what makes it so much fun. It’s like trying to navigate a dream. Or, for those of you who know your somewhat-obscure Japanese games: It’s like if Okami*** was directed by Suda51. Then the resulting game was fused with a fireworks show.

    **Who haven’t fallen yet. Or something. See, it’s pretty clear that time doesn’t work the same way in this game. You’re helped on your journey by Lucifel, who is apparently a pre-fall Lucifer with incredibly tight jeans (Ezekiel has his own pair of them under his angelic armour) and a cell phone hotline to God. He can reset time by snapping his fingers. Save that he isn’t really resetting time. Or something. But if he hasn’t fallen, then there can’t be any fallen angels. No fallen angels means no Nephilim. Yet, here they are, and here he is. Like I said: trippy.

    ***It was indeed produced by one of the key figures in designing Okami, and has a very similar combat system. Only now your main weapon is a divine Bat’Leth.

  • Orion Anderson

    Re: El Shaddai

    Actually, they’re cleaving pretty damn close to the source material.  

    “Lucifer” isn’t a named angel in any of the Hebrew scriptures of apocrypha (to my knowledge.)  It’s a Latin translation of a Hebrew title (Heilel) that is used once in Isaiah to refer to a king and maybe obliquely to some kind of angel, god, or demon who is never mentioned again.  There is a Satan in the Hebrew scripture but that’s not the same thing. The apocryphal books which present the Nephilim explicitly as the children of fallen angels generally give the name of the angels’ leader as Semyaza or some variant there of.  The description of how and why they fell is also nothing like most Christian ideas about Lucifer/Satan’s fall.  
    What all this adds up to is that you can mix up some Christian and some Jewish beliefs to get a consistent timeline that does what we need it to.  I’ll be labeling premises with a (C) or a (J) based on which interpretive tradition they’re sourced from.

    J: Sometime in prehistory, Semyaza and his angels go or are sent to earth to observe the humans.  They offend God by setting themself up as rulers over humans, corrupting human society, and fathering the Nephilim.  
    C: The Christian Devil is an angel named Lucifer who sought to overthrow God out of pride.  (Or hated and shunned humans, out of pride).  
    Therefore: There were two separate fallen angel movements.  One ignored god and tried to control, the other despised God and tried to control heaven.

    C: the character “Satan” from the Old Testament is Lucifer, the Christian devil
    J: “Satan” in the Tanakh is a loyal servant of God who tests and punishes the unworthy.  
    Therefore: During pre-Christian times, Lucifer had not yet fallen.  

    Put it together and you get Lucifel as god’s chief enforcer who spent pre-history cracking down on lawless angels before eventually being corrupted by power or by disgust engendered by constant exposure to the least attractive aspects of God’s creation.  Lucifer ultimately rebels some time around the Roman conquest of Israel and begins spiritual warfare against the chosen people.  Hell was created for him at that time which explains why you don’t hear about it in Judaic texts.  Christ comes in 0 AD and not before because his Incarnation is a direct response to the chaos caused by Lucifer’s disobedience.  (And the end of Lucifer’s term as God’s right-hand man coincides with the end of the dispensation of law and the beginning of the dispensation of grace.)  

    The only real problem from a “can we fit everything in” standpoint is that the snake in the garden of Eden is now just a snake.  And that this story trades in uncharitable christian tropes about Judaism, but that’s what I have to work with.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The only real problem from a “can we fit everything in” standpoint is that the snake in the garden of Eden is now just a snake.

    In Genesis, it IS just a snake. So that’s not really a problem.

    I’m working on my own cosmology and timeline for some fiction, my ideas are along somewhat similar lines to yours, in that their is a distinction between Fallen (disgraced) and angels and Rebel (demon) angels. In this cosmology, Hell is just the place where the rebel angels are imprisoned and contains no human souls. It’s a crappy place because the rebel angels are jerks.

  • Orion Anderson

    Re: El Shaddai

    Actually, they’re cleaving pretty damn close to the source material.  

    “Lucifer” isn’t a named angel in any of the Hebrew scriptures of apocrypha (to my knowledge.)  It’s a Latin translation of a Hebrew title (Heilel) that is used once in Isaiah to refer to a king and maybe obliquely to some kind of angel, god, or demon who is never mentioned again.  There is a Satan in the Hebrew scripture but that’s not the same thing. The apocryphal books which present the Nephilim explicitly as the children of fallen angels generally give the name of the angels’ leader as Semyaza or some variant there of.  The description of how and why they fell is also nothing like most Christian ideas about Lucifer/Satan’s fall.  
    What all this adds up to is that you can mix up some Christian and some Jewish beliefs to get a consistent timeline that does what we need it to.  I’ll be labeling premises with a (C) or a (J) based on which interpretive tradition they’re sourced from.

    J: Sometime in prehistory, Semyaza and his angels go or are sent to earth to observe the humans.  They offend God by setting themself up as rulers over humans, corrupting human society, and fathering the Nephilim.  
    C: The Christian Devil is an angel named Lucifer who sought to overthrow God out of pride.  (Or hated and shunned humans, out of pride).  
    Therefore: There were two separate fallen angel movements.  One ignored god and tried to control, the other despised God and tried to control heaven.

    C: the character “Satan” from the Old Testament is Lucifer, the Christian devil
    J: “Satan” in the Tanakh is a loyal servant of God who tests and punishes the unworthy.  
    Therefore: During pre-Christian times, Lucifer had not yet fallen.  

    Put it together and you get Lucifel as god’s chief enforcer who spent pre-history cracking down on lawless angels before eventually being corrupted by power or by disgust engendered by constant exposure to the least attractive aspects of God’s creation.  Lucifer ultimately rebels some time around the Roman conquest of Israel and begins spiritual warfare against the chosen people.  Hell was created for him at that time which explains why you don’t hear about it in Judaic texts.  Christ comes in 0 AD and not before because his Incarnation is a direct response to the chaos caused by Lucifer’s disobedience.  (And the end of Lucifer’s term as God’s right-hand man coincides with the end of the dispensation of law and the beginning of the dispensation of grace.)  

    The only real problem from a “can we fit everything in” standpoint is that the snake in the garden of Eden is now just a snake.  And that this story trades in uncharitable christian tropes about Judaism, but that’s what I have to work with.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The only real problem from a “can we fit everything in” standpoint is that the snake in the garden of Eden is now just a snake.

    In Genesis, it IS just a snake. So that’s not really a problem.

    I’m working on my own cosmology and timeline for some fiction, my ideas are along somewhat similar lines to yours, in that their is a distinction between Fallen (disgraced) and angels and Rebel (demon) angels. In this cosmology, Hell is just the place where the rebel angels are imprisoned and contains no human souls. It’s a crappy place because the rebel angels are jerks.

  • Iceecclesiastes

    whats with all the strawman arguements, and attack after attack ad hominem?


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