“Cosmos” and Christianity (or any religion, for that matter)

“Cosmos” and Christianity (or any religion, for that matter) June 10, 2014

Like many of you, I watched the entire FOX series Cosmos for the last several weeks and which concluded this past Sunday.

More than once I found myself in stunned awe of the incomprehensibly huge and old universe we live in, and how much science has been able to learn about it.

I felt the series was extremely well done, and very effective in communicating things we know and how much we don’t know and must, with humility, accept.

Though less prominent than with the original series (with Carl Sagan, which I also watched when it come out), there did seem to me to be an undercurrent of impatience with religion in general, or better with Christian fundamentalism in particular. I certainly get the frustration that people like Neil degrasse Tyson must feel toward the un-education represented by the pseudo-sceince of Creationism (a frustration also voiced by Bill Nye in his “debate” with Ken Ham a few months ago).

What disappointed me a bit, though, was how little awareness there seemed to be of how religious people, including Christians, genuinely synthesize cosmic, geological, and biological evolution in their thinking. I say “disappointed” but not really surprised, for I am not sure I expect a series like this to have its finger on the pulse on Christianity as a whole, especially given how much air time Creationism gets in the media.

Many Christians understand that the Bible does not give scientific explanations of physical origins but mythic explanations in keeping with ancient modes of thinking, and as such are not to be juxtaposed to scientific inquiry.

Still, the choice that seemed to be posed in the series was rather simplistic: between science and any sort of faith in a higher power, supreme being, whatever we want to call God. The reason for such a dichotomy seems to be the nearly total focus on the extreme of Creationism as a contrast to demonstrable scientific discoveries.

This dichotomy seemed peppered throughout the series; scientific advances vs. medieval and/or fundamentalist dogma. At each point, legions of Christian and other religious thinkers could have contributed to the discussion in ways that might have disarmed the simplistic view of religion of the series.

I would go so far as to say that the series had an agenda, though, again, more subtle than the original series, that science has dethroned religion and it is high time we all got over it. What clinched this perception for me was the commercial spot by Ron Reagan for the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

I know plenty of atheists and/or agnostics who genuinely feel, as Reagan does, that religious freedom includes no religion at all, and they are worried about a heightened rhetoric for “civil religion”–a syncretism of state and religion. I agree that history shows this combination rarely works well, and I would further contend that the New Testament has zero tolerance for such syncretism.

Having said that, airing this spot at the conclusion of the series, near the end of the last episode, not to mention Reagan’s (at least it appeared to me) condescending, smug tone, was hardly an accident, and suggests to me a proselytizing agenda. Perhaps I am overreading, but that’s what I came away with.

I wonder, too, if Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” soliloquy contributes to overall “we’re over religion” vibe. I’m not sure. Sagan’s speech is a moving, beautiful, sobering, and eloquent expression of the sad and triumphant human drama, one that Christian thinkers and theologians would do well to think through whenever they delude themselves with thoughts of absolute knowledge.

This cosmic perspective virtually reduces me to silence in my thinking about God, and, as Sagan says, makes we want to be kinder toward others, fellow residents on the earth, the only home we know.

Still, it’s hard to shake what many would call the absolute materialism of the speech and the series as a whole–as Sagan famously put it in the original, “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.”

At any rate, I am not trying to stir a debate here between theism and atheism/agnosticism. I’m simply reflecting on a series I enjoyed tremendously, learned much from, but that also seemed to have a large blind spot about the existence religious people–including scientists–who have a more sophisticated view on religious matters.

I’m sure I’ll watch the series again on line and perhaps I’ll form a different opinion.


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  • Andrew Bossardet

    I am reading a book called “World Upside Down” by Kavin Rowe, documenting the public witness of the Church in Acts. Rowe claims that the Church sidestepped the dichotomies of the day and, while eschewing any accusation of supplanting Rome, dug at the very foundations upon which Rome stood (might makes right, etc.). I think one of the dichotomies of our day is going to be “ignorant religion” and “enlightened but detached academia.” A Church willing to feed the poor while wrestling with the deeper questions of the cosmos is a Church in which I am excited to participate

    • Al Cruise

      “A Church willing to feed the poor????” Science has done more to feed and care for the poor than the Church ever has. Science breakthroughs in food production, health care, delivering education etc. has helped the poor far more than any religion.

      • genetic_engineer

        yes, and of course no religious person has ever been involved in those kinds of discoveries right. What a dick….

        • Randy Wanat

          Religion doesn’t contribute to scientific discoveries. Conflating people with the process is intellectually dishonest. Scientists use science to discover ways to improve life for people. They are the ones responsible for there being enough food to feed twice as many people as we have. What’s the last useful discovery (I.e., applicable in a demonstrable way) religion made? Science, as a process, is the tool used to make pretty much every such discovery.

          • Anthony

            “Scientists use science to discover ways to improve life for people.”

            True, and many of them are driven to do so by their religious beliefs.

          • Randy Wanat

            The motivation is irrelevant. It doesn’t get anybody any closer to a discovery. Science does that. You can have all the religious zeal for discovering beneficial things for humanity, but without a means of making that discovery, the motivation is impotent.

          • Anthony

            And without the impetus, the method is irrelevant.

          • Randy Wanat

            But, the source of motivation is irrelevant. The method of discovery, meanwhile, is integral. Whether the motive is religious or secular matters not, but whether or not science is the means is the difference between throwing rocks and building a wall. Hoping you reach a useful result by other means is not as effective as science, which winnows away the errors and builds upon everything learned prior. When religion yields a demonstrable useful discovery (not merely religious people doing science, but religious people doing religion), it will be worldwide front page news.

          • DKeane123

            Not true. Look up how many of the scientists in the National Academy of Scientists are atheists or agnostics. These scientists are motivated by a curiosity of how the universe Actually works.

      • Anthony

        The classic uninformed opinion! I forgot to include that as a characteristic of the culture in my previous comment.

      • Andrew Bossardet

        Hey- someone read my comment. Cool. I will call you out for a false dichotomy though. Actually, two. 1) Science vs Church is a false dichotomy. Apples and oranges. Science has never fed a single person, as science has no hands with which to distribute. I am assuming that you mean Science vs. Religion, then, to which I will also say… 2) That’s a false dichotomy, the exact dichotomy I was addressing in my comment. Religious belief, while certainly leading to violent acts, also motivated discoveries about food production (monks were the first geneticists), education, health care, etc. My argument is that science and faith could make for very good partners if the notion of mutual exclusivity can go the way of the flat earth theories.

        • Baz

          Except that it’s not a false dichotomy.

          Religious belief really has never motivated discoveries about food production.

          You have had some religious people who became curious about certain natural phenomena that led to discoveries but they weren’t motivated by their religion to make that discovery any more than atheist scientists were motivated to make a discovery by their lack of religion.

          Curiousity is what motivated these, and all other discoveries. Science just gave us a method to check these discoveries against observable reality so we don’t fool ourselves like we have so many times before – it made the discoveries meaningful and valuable to the world rather than the mere play thing of isolated and bored monks and gave us the ability to build upon those discoveries to make more and tie them together to build a cohesive understanding of the world that can be constantly improved upon and refined.

          The problem is that they really are fundamentally mutually exclusive – science requires the ability to question and over turn long held beliefs, religion denies this ability since it starts with the assumption of whatever holy, special beliefs it holds need no proof and can never be disproven. It therefore can’t help but be opposed to science’s process when it comes to fundamental beliefs of that particular religion – it demands some beliefs go unquestioned, are never doubted when questioning everything, doubting everything is the most basic principle of science.

          Just my 2 cents worth.

          • Jude

            In reply to “religion denies this ability since it starts with the assumption of whatever holy, special beliefs it holds need no proof and can never be disproven.” Um, no. that’s not what religion is. You have created a straw man to tear down.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “You have had some religious people who became curious about certain
            natural phenomena that led to discoveries but they weren’t motivated by
            their religion to make that discovery”

            Based on the writings of many of those who made scientific break-throughs from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment, you are incorrect.

          • Andrew Bossardet

            I can appreciate your two cents worth, and yet I find myself in disagreement. I turn to one of the confessions of the Reformed faith- the Belgic Confession. In it, there is a conversation about “two books” from which the Christian may learn and grow. The first is Scripture, the second is Creation. At least in the mind of the 16th century author, the two are not mutually exclusive but complementary. Numerous scientists who ascribe to the Christian faith (and others… I am just coming from my own perspective) would see theology and science as helping one another.

    • Ben

      I also read Rowe’s book, and although I think he romanticizes both the past extent and present viability of “sidestepping dichotomies,” I also like the idea of a church dedicated to social justice and academic inquiry. Unfortunately, neither one seems to be very popular among everyday people (and honestly, I almost always prefer the latter to the former).

    • Anthony

      “A Church willing to feed the poor while wrestling with the deeper questions of the cosmos is a Church in which I am excited to participate.”

      Me, too. But to where do I turn in the meantime?

      • Andrew Bossardet

        I am a pastor in a Christian church… and the best advice I can give is to be a Christian willing to feed the poor while wrestling with the deeper questions of the cosmos. I get plenty of pushback, and I have learned that it is part of people’s learning. The less I take the pushback personally, the more engaged I am in continuing to be refined. My prayer is that the Church, not simply churches, will take the responsibility of faith seeking understanding seeking justice seriously in our context. Blessings to you as you discover the joy and struggle of the path you are on!

  • Anthony

    “The reason for such a dichotomy seems to be the nearly total focus on the extreme of Creationism as a contrast to demonstrable scientific discoveries.”

    This is so true, but I wonder if it’s just one of many false dichotomies pop media presents or if this particular case is uniquely dubious.

    What I mean is that mainstream media (both liberal and conservative) seem to define the sides of many social issues by their extremes, to focus on the most fundamentalist representatives of causes and movements (even when they hold the minority view), etc., in a way that presents the viewer with a choice between a seemingly level-headed position and a crazy one.

    Actually, the same seems to be true in conversation with my friends and family, around the water cooler at work, and even, sadly, in my graduate studies. Sophistication and nuance have been supplanted by over-simplification and false dichotomies, and few exhibit a genuine interest to understand others’ views.

    Do you think the The Cosmos’s condescension towards religion is the secular equivalent of how Ken Ham would portray evolution and is, therefore, just a sign of the times, or is it part of a broader agenda? I tend to lean towards the latter in this case because Tyson and the people producing The Cosmos can’t possibly plead ignorance to the diversity of Christian thought on the matter. They should know better.

    • neilbash

      Anthony: they should know better, and they DO know better. They have chosen to ignore it because they have an agenda to maintain. The Ron Reagan commercial is a real concern. Most secular progressives eventually want to enact the same kind of dominance against their adversaries that they claim that their adversaries are doing to them. However, when it is “their” side winning the battle, its all fine.

      This is a slow march to outlawing those “stupid religious notions”. And, Neil deGrass Tyson will be more than happy to lead the way. He disdains religion and has indicated that in other interviews. Like Bill Nye, he comes across all jovial and such, but in reality he is a really nasty man.

      • Randy Wanat

        Did you renew your No Spin Zone membership?

      • Baz

        Nice, irrelevant personal attacks on Tyson and Nye (who I’m betting you don’t know) – of course they’re nasty people because the believe something that you and have the utter temerity to say so! Those evil SOBs! Have you ever considered that disdaining religion is actually a perfectly reasonable stance? Far more reasonable than dismissing science because it goes against what’s in your “holy” book.

        But this is why science and religion don’t go together – end of the day you guys have beliefs based on nothing real which no one can challenge without this kind of response. It’s only fortunate that religion no longer holds quite as much power in western societies – you know it’d only be a matter of time before someone like neilbash wanted Tyson and Nye burned at the stake for heresy.

      • ron_goodman

        I don’t care of those “stupid religious notions” are outlawed, I just don’t them involved in setting government policy.

    • Ben

      Strong dichotomies equal strong rhetoric. Helpfully, moderate positions can be equally as strong if they’re framed the right way. I see the question as, how do you make a “moderate” position (in this case, thoughtful Christianity with a respect for science) attractive to people on the “extremes”? How do we convince atheists that Christians who believe in evolution can serve their interests as well or better than completely marginalizing Christian belief will?

      • Anthony

        That is a great question and an enormous challenge.

        What concerns me more in this case, though, is how the undecided layperson is affected when the theistic evolutionist view is completely absent from this and all other presentations of origins. How can we insert the theistic evolutionist view into the discussion when both the atheists and the young earth creationists are determined to silence it?

        • Brian Westley

          What concerns me more in this case, though, is how the undecided layperson is affected when the theistic evolutionist view is completely absent from this and all other presentations of origins.

          This particular presentation of origins was based on the scientific method, and the supernatural claims in theistic evolution aren’t testable in any way I’ve heard, so it shouldn’t appear in such presentations.

          • Anthony

            You’re missing the point. What I meant is that IF the Christian / religious view is going to be presented, I wish the young-earth view was not presented as THE Christian view, since Christian thought on origins is far more diverse than that.

          • Brian Westley

            The impression I got was that many ancient religious beliefs, not just Christian, were mentioned at various times as contrast. There are far too many religious myths to cover all of them.

          • Randy Wanat

            And, why address the people who aren’t creating the biggest educational mess of the last 300 years?

        • Randy Wanat

          You mean, a show about science didn’t treat your favorite ancient creation myth as equally valid to fact-based, evidence-driven science? What kind of scientist would do such a thing?

          • Anthony

            The show (and Tyson on his own) is juxtaposing itself against religion. I didn’t insert it into the discussion, they did. I’m simply stating that if you’re going to address religious views of origins, you should do so with integrity and not present one view as all inclusive of people of faith.

            And anyway, what is your assumption? That people of faith sit on one side of the aisle while scientists sit on the other? Ever heard of Francis Collins?

          • Randy Wanat

            Thanks for the strawman.

          • Anthony

            What strawman?

            Do you have anything in your toolbox other than sarcasm and belittlement?

          • Randy Wanat

            So, you never created an argument, attributed it to me despite it not being my position, then refuted it. Fascinating, as that is the definition of the strawman fallacy. When you can start being honest with yourself, let us know.

          • Anthony

            I didn’t create an argument, I responded to the implication of your comment, which was that a scientist would not treat ancient creation myths as equally valid to science.

            And I never said ancient creation myths should be treated as equally valid as science. Nor did I imply it. So, if anyone is guilty of the strawman fallacy it’s you.

            Perhaps you should spend more time carefully reading through these threads so your troll comments will at least actually address what’s being discussed.

          • Randy Wanat

            I didn’t imply; you inferred. Why would any slightly more nuanced, but still anti-scientific, religious creation myths be presented? The extreme embodies all that is scientifically invalid about every “God did it” scenario that Christians fabricate. If given a single target that contains the entire set, or myriad individual targets, which approach would YOU have taken? Tackling the various creation stories that incorporate at least part of the extreme, or the extreme, which umbrellas over them all?

        • DKeane123

          Theistic evolution is not compatable with science. It isn’t evolution as scientists view it, and doesn’t belong in science programming.

        • ron_goodman

          Look up “Occam’s Razor”. What would a “theistic evolutionist view” bring to the table?

  • FredClark

    I like Neal DeGrasse Tyson, but I like him most when he reminds me of David Bradstreet. Tyson often captures a good measure of the awe, wonder and love-driven curiosity that I still treasure from astronomy classes at Eastern. That’s why the NDT is a media superstar — because he’s *almost* as good at that as your colleague over there on the roof of McInnis.

  • Cosmos mark II does indeed present a dichotomy between science (as it has come to be practiced) and traditional religions, so I think it would not be wrong to conclude that the writers had an “agenda”, namely one to downgrade the role of traditional religions in society.

    There is a divergence on-going in our society between traditional religion followers and secularism, I gather, from the social issues that arise around us.

    Was it not some of the Reconstructionists who came up with the phrase “the eschatology of epistemological self-awareness”? Some of them seem quite intent on it.

    Cosmos is what I call “sciencetainment” – not really a science documentary but a form of visual entertainment exploiting the products of much scientific research and science publications. In watching the reboot I’ve been struck that the narrative fulfills what some contemporary science communication advocates believe what scientists should do – tell stories to the greater population, rather than strictly instruct others about discoveries.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Well, it’s just easier to present it as a distinct dichotomy. It is also more effective, serves the agenda better. The ground is so well prepared for simplistic standoffs like this, that even the targeted conservatives accept this approach. In a way, and for now, it even serves the ultra-conservative agenda. The alternative approach of taking a broader view of evangelical thinking into account (e.g. even outside the US), simply will not serve either agenda as well, the ground is poorly prepared and it would be just a lot more difficult.

    All of which is why post-conservative/progressive Christians need to be somewhat firmer with our brothers and sisters who still insist on giving “nineteenth century answers to sixteenth century questions” (quote from N.T. Wright’s latest and elsewhere). If we fail to effectively challenge such thinking in a Christian manner, the “forces” Pete and others see at work here will hammer these good folk in most un-Christian manners. In the latter scenario, more progressive Christians will sustain significant collateral damage. And much worse, the Gospel message will be unnecessarily muted, even further distorted.

  • Brian Westley

    Having said that, airing this spot at the conclusion of the series, near the end of the last episode, not to mention Reagan’s (at least it appeared to me) condescending, smug tone, was hardly an accident, and suggests to me a proselytizing agenda. Perhaps I am overreading, but that’s what I came away with.

    This makes no sense at all — the FFRF *bought airtime* to broadcast a commercial during Cosmos, but that doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with any “agenda” that Cosmos may or may not have. How can you even conflate the two? The church of Scientology ran a commercial during the superbowl, are you going to accuse them of promoting Scientology?

    I’m sorry, you aren’t even THINKING at this point.

    • Anthony

      The absence of a connection between ad and show in one instance is not relevant to the potential connection between ad and show in another. Perhaps Cosmos’s producers did not plan it that way, but I find it highly unlikely that FFRF’s choice of show was coincidental.

      • Randy Wanat

        Of course it’s not a coincidence. A show that refutes superstitions and dispels ignorance is a prime place to advertise skepticism. A smart advertiser decides, based on the audience, which shows they’d like to attach their ads to. Is there a conspiracy between Dick Wolf and reverse mortgage providers, or soap operas and feminine products, or Divorce Court and correspondence schools? Or, do the advertisers merely choose their spots based on the prospective audience?

    • Anthony

      Oh, and that’s not to mention that the Olympics and Scientology do not share ideological agendas, whereas Tyson and Reagan do.

      Is your position that FFRF’s placement of their ad at the end of The Cosmos is purely coincidencal?

      • Brian Westley

        No; you STILL aren’t thinking.

        The FFRF decides where to buy ad time. But for some reason, you think that what the FFRF does indicates something about the “agenda” of Cosmos. It doesn’t. It indicates where the FFRF decides to buy airtime.

        • Anthony

          I’m pretty sure I’m thinking. Perhaps you should think a little more carefully about Dr. Enns statements.

          He’s clearly speculating, and I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to wonder if the ad’s placement is something like product placement, like when the Mercedes I keep seeing in my favorite sitcom appears again in an ad.

          The placement of the FFRF ad isn’t proof of an agenda, but you would be naive if you thought ad placement decisions are always made by completely different people than show producers. Expose yourself to Fox News or MSNBC sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

          • Brian Westley

            This is from ffrf.org’s own website:

            …FFRF’s commercial was rejected for national “Cosmos” airing because it’s an advocacy ad…
            They had to buy ads in individual markets.

            “Product placement” is when what is being advertised appears in the show itself. This didn’t happen.

            If a church had decided to buy airtime during Cosmos, would that mean Cosmos is promoting that religion? Ridiculous.

          • Anthony

            “They had to buy ads in individual markets.”


            Notice I used the phrase “something like” before “product placement.” And I would argue that what was advertised by FFRF does, in fact, appear in the show itself (again, maybe you should think more about Dr. Enns statements).

            To your last question, no. The question you posed is silly. It’s like asking if the pro-choice ad is being promoted by the pro-life show in which the ad was placed. Now, if the ad and the show are both pro-life, it wouldn’t be unreasonable or ridiculous to wonder if there’s a connection.

            Let me put it to you this way and then I’ll give you the last word. If you were someone who intended to promote an agenda and wanted to try to shape the culture, wouldn’t you think that coupling a show that has a subtle message with advocacy ads that promote the same worldview would be a good way to to it?

          • Brian Westley

            To your last question, no. The question you posed is silly.

            The question I posed is exactly the same situation, except a church buys ad time instead of the FFRF.

            It’s like asking if the pro-choice ad is being promoted by the pro-life show in which the ad was placed.

            Now you’re just showing your own bias. You’re assuming that the “agenda” of Cosmos MUST be opposed to EVERY church that might buy ad time. That’s absurd.

            If you were someone who intended to promote an agenda and wanted to try to shape the culture, wouldn’t you think that coupling a show that has a subtle message with advocacy ads that promote the same worldview would be a good way to to it?

            Now all you have to do is show some evidence that this is actually the case.

            I think this illustrates the real difference between us — you’re willing to believe whatever you want to believe is true, while I insist on evidence.

          • Anthony

            Well, I WAS going to give you the last word, but then you had to go and attack me personally.

            I’m getting that you fancy yourself to be a real thinker among people who just can’t think for themselves, and yet you still can’t grasp something as simple as conjecture.

            And anyway, evidence is not the same thing as fact. Evidence is anything that is presented in support of a conclusion. To suggest that I (or Dr. Enns in this post) believe in things that are devoid of evidence is to not understand what evidence is.

            You are welcome to disagree with my conclusion (that it’s POSSIBLE there is an agenda at work with the FFRF ad), but if you’re going to accuse me of not thinking and of believing whatever I want to believe, at least make sure you know what the words you’re using mean.

          • Brian Westley

            I’m getting that you fancy yourself to be a real thinker among people who just can’t think for themselves, and yet you still can’t grasp something as simple as conjecture.

            Of course I can. And I’m objecting to ridiculous conjecture.

            Evidence is anything that is presented in support of a conclusion.

            Yeah, and there’s such a thing as terribly bad evidence. You said much the same thing about my hypothetical ad from a church during Cosmos, even though the only difference is what’s being promoted.

            You are welcome to disagree with my conclusion (that it’s POSSIBLE there is an agenda at work with the FFRF ad),

            I’m replying to the inane suggestion that the appearance of a FFRF ad shows that *Cosmos* has an agenda.

          • Anthony

            “You said much the same thing about my hypothetical ad from a church during Cosmos, even though the only difference is what’s being promoted.”

            Right, but what’s being promoted is the reason for the conjecture. It’s the critical element of the suspicion there is an agenda at work.

          • Brian Westley

            That’s a ridiculously low threshold of suspicion. Do you think there’s an agenda at work if a restaurant ad appears on the Food network?

          • Anthony

            If the Food Network show features Mario Batali and the ad is for Eataly, sure.

            Just like I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to suspect that when a pro-life ad appears during a pro-life show, there may have been some effort by the show’s producers to promote their views through the ads as well as the show.

          • Brian Westley

            If the Food Network show features Mario Batali and the ad is for Eataly, sure.

            Now all you need to do is show a similar relationship between Cosmos and FFRF, otherwise a better comparison would be Mario Batali and an ad for Olive Garden.

          • Anthony

            They do have a common interest. Both Cosmos (and Tyson) and FFRF promote a particular worldview.

            It’s not as clear cut as the Batali comparison, I’ll give you that. But I think the pro-life show/ad comparison is pretty fitting, and you neglected to address that.

          • Brian Westley

            I think your pro-life show/ad example is also reaching. I don’t think that an ad that goes well with a TV show indicates some kind of hidden collusion.

  • “Many Christians understand that the Bible does not give scientific explanations of physical origins but mythic explanations in keeping with ancient modes of thinking, and as such are not to be juxtaposed to scientific inquiry.”

    I wish that was “MOST” Christians rather than “MANY” Christians. Unfortunately the most recently polling data indicates that 46% of Americans believe a more “creationist” view that God placed human beings in their present form onto the Earth less than 10,000 years ago.

    The case may be made that the Bible provides us with a moral and ethical framework within which we might conduct our lives with greater decency and humility. But too many people are also content to see the Bible as the only science textbook we really need. Case in point are the people who run the Creation Museum in Kentucky. They insist that if you choose not to believe the strict, literal account of Creation as set forth in Genesis, it is tantamount to calling God a liar.

    Let’s face it: To accept that Life, The Universe, And Everything came into being less than 10,000 years ago causes everything we know about astronomy, physics, and higher mathematics to fall apart. But that doesn’t matter to people who believe that those sciences are little more than an elaborate Satanic deception.

  • James

    I saw the same subtle agenda. The universe is full of mystery. Whenever theists confront mystery they automatically insert god and the spirit of exploration dies. If we got rid of religion and superstition we would be free to solve mystery ourselves and be the better for it. I did like the open ended excitement of discovery which is exactly what all Christians should feel most profoundly. Materialists have only material for god–superficial, really.

    • john

      I take issue with your first statement which is frankly wrong and typical of the atheist mind set. God is everywhere and in all things and so it’s appropriate to consider God’s hand in any mystery we encounter, that does not mean that the spirit of exploration dies. As you will know some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been made by Christians

      • Randy Wanat

        The time to believe any gods exist in any capacity is when there is sufficient evidence, and not a moment before.

        • Anthony

          Ah, yes. Another who lives under the delusion that all of the beliefs they hold arise out of a thorough examination of “evidence.” Do you honestly contend that every belief you hold is supported by irrefutable evidence that you, yourself, have examined?

          • Randy Wanat

            Science doesn’t recognize “irrefutable,” and the scientific method is self-correcting. Beside that, anybody is free to duplicate experiments to confirm the results or to test explanations. Do you recognize that there is evidence to support the acceptance of the scientific community’s global consensus as the best current understanding of how X phenomenon can be explained? Here’s a suggestion: look up the definition of “rational,” and then see if it applies to what you’re arguing.

          • Anthony

            Do you recognize that the scope of scientific inquiry is limited and does not even attempt to explain what it cannot test?

            My guess is your values, morals, beliefs, etc., include many things that cannot possibly result from a series of experiments, and yet you’re going to troll religious blogs and accuse others of being irrational.

          • Randy Wanat

            Science can only investigate things that manifest within demonstrable reality. If you’re going to assert that there is something other than demonstrable reality, and thus beyond the purview of science, the burden of proof is yours to demonstrate that your assertion is valid. Otherwise, it’s just wishful thinking.

        • john

          What we have here is the absurd notion that man, with his limited senses, thinks he has sufficient capacity to comprehend all things, and petulantly refuses to consider the possibility that he has not.

          • Randy Wanat

            There is equal evidence supporting the existence of the following: Yahweh, Zeus, Thor, Gilgamesh, Harry Potter, leprechauns, fairies, naiads, dryads, Orcs, ogres, Pegasus, unicorns, gryphons, gorgons, hydra, dragons, goblins, gremlins, angels, demons, ghosts, poltergeists, psychic powers, auras, souls, chakras, chi, and The Force. Which of these things is a person rationally justified in believing is real, and which are absurd? More importantly, how do you make that distinction without resorting to a logical fallacy? If you just don’t care whether the things you believe are actually true, that’s fine, but have the guts to admit it to yourself.

          • john

            Interesting that you did not include Jesus of Nazareth in your list. The answer is in your question, if it’s rational believe it if it’s absurd don’t believe it. In which category does Christ fall?

          • Randy Wanat

            Jesus may have existed as a mortal human being, an itinerant charismatic rabbi. There is equal evidence for all the supernatural/miraculous/magical things that are attributed to him as there is for all the other stuff on the list. How common was it, in that time, in that region, to attribute things like virgin birth, resurrection from the dead, healing powers, and the like to popular figures? There are not three L’s (liar, lunatic, or lord); there are four (legend). The post-hoc aggrandizement and hagiography that surrounded popular figures in first century Middle Eastern societies is well documented. Is it more likely that this is what happened, or that all the fantastic stories about him are true, unlike all the other fantastic stories about other people of that age and area? How much of our understanding of demonstrable reality needs to be rewritten to accommodate each option?

          • john

            I thought so, in spite of the most overwhelming historical evidence, first hand accounts from people who were no more gullible than you are, to the point that they were willing to die for the truth and the fact that Christ is still the most influential figure on the planet, you simply dismiss it all as legend. That’s not rational, that’s you simply ignoring the evidence that you don’t like. You see Mr Wanat you are not rational, anymore than anybody else. Human nature is not rational and the scientific world you think you live in is no different. Christ’s words have more to say about the human condition than your than science will ever tell you.

          • Randy Wanat

            Ever hear of the Jonestown massacre? How about Heaven’s Gate? Or, every suicide bomber? Your rationale makes all of their beliefs true, which involves some that are mutually exclusive. How about this: ever heard that people thought the world was flat until Columbus made his 1492 voyage, or that George Washington had wooden teeth and said, “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree?” These are people we KNOW existed. We know when they were born, where they were educated, their lineage, their offspring, and everything necessary to confirm they lived and that they were who we understand them to be. Did people actually think the world was flat in 1492? Did Washington really have a cherry tree caper or wooden teeth? No on all counts. These stories arose after their deaths, and became part of the mythos that surrounds them, to the point that they are largely taken as facts despite all the evidence to the contrary. If we, in the 21st century, still have these stories, why do you think someone like Jesus was immune to having such tales told about him? By the way, is it not the LEAST BIT suspicious that Jesus just so happened to have the most popular divine characteristics of that era and area (virgin birth, healing powers, prophecy, resurrection)? What we the odds that Jesus would end up being the embodiment of the most popular features of that day’s version of a superhero? Is it more likely that a magical being incarnated himself in such a way that conformed to the memes of the day for a bunch of people who thought that a striped stick in a trough would produce striped sheep, or that a man became a bit of a cult hero, and stories of his exploits grew beyond reality and incorporated the contemporary themes of divinity? Which one requires the greater suspension of disbelief? Which one, if you replaced Jesus with anybody else and heard the same explanations, would sound the most like what you would think would have happened?

          • john

            You seem not to know very much about the subject, for example the striped stick incident and the virgin birth are over a 1000yrs apart. The point I was making is that your narrow rationale is insufficient, and you, like everybody else, believe what you believe in faith not fact. There is more than enough evidence to counter your feeble attempt to explain away the story of Christ and it does not follow that if we accept the existence of the supernatural then we have to accept every crazy idea from any source. You have chosen to make your intellect your god and that is a poor choice

          • Randy Wanat

            So, you’re saying it’s more likely that Washington had wooden teeth, and that the people at Jonestown were right about Jim Jones. Your logic. Your choice. You’re the one saying that sincerity of belief is the primary and, really, only necessary factor in determining the veracity of a fantastic claim. Good for you, you’ve just confirmed that suicide bombers will get their virgins in heaven. Your logic. Your problem.

          • john

            I think we have reached the end of the line here since you don’t appear to be able to comprehend what I have said. I hope that one day your eyes will be opended. God bless

          • Randy Wanat

            Oh, I comprehend perfectly. You would rather focus on a factual error that was, at best, ancillary to the argument, than deal with the argument, which would force you to admit that legends are frequently created around popular historical figures, and sometimes understood as facts even when there is contradictory evidence. You want to avoid admitting that such a thing was not only possible, but probable compared to the alternative. You want to avoid admitting that people throughout history have been willing to die for sincere, albeit misguided, beliefs regarding charismatic leaders. You want to avoid admitting that no level of sincerity in a belief will ever be sufficient to make that belief true. You will not, indeed, cannot, admit any of these things, because you think to do so would unravel Christianity and a fundamental part of your identity, and that frightens you. I get it. But, at some point, you must either choose to be honest with yourself or decide to commit 100% to the lie. It’s up to you. You can’t lie to me if you don’t first lie to yourself. That’s a miserable cycle, and only you can choose to break it for yourself. You will still be a good person. I promise.

          • john

            I was once where you are. Do you think I’m blind? I have investigated these things rigorously and they stand scrutiny very well. But it is not that that convinced me, it was a miracle. Something that happened that I cannot deny, not magic, not delusion, not imagination but real and long lasting such that I too would be wiling to die rather than deny it. All the other aspects of my Christian faith followed from that and have proved to be rational and soundly based. Of course there is much nonsense attached to religions of all sorts, but that does not mean there is no truth. Regarding your last statement I’m afraid I would not still be a good person if I abandoned my faith. I’m not a good person now and you are in no position to make me promises about my moral state.

  • Thanks, Peter. Glad you wrote about your observations. I have yet to see the last episode but will, and saw all the others. I agree that there was a fairly evident agenda re. religion. It did not distinguish between young-earth Creationists and the other synthesized views re. creation/evolution. Nor between the reactionary actions of the Church of the Renaissance period and the broader, often much more science-prone universal “Church” (or Christianity). The early episode (#1 I think) on the Church and Bruno, Galileo, etc. I thought was both inaccurate and a purposely negative portrayal, to cast Christianity in a bad light.

    Like you, I loved the series and learned things! I can appreciate the reaction of Tyson and the writers but not condone it, however. My sense is that they, perhaps like Sagan and the original series, were mainly reacting to any/all serious “rejectors” of science in its institutional form of materialism and “sensationism” (truth by sense experience and “objective” measurement only)… which generally includes atheism, at least for the controlling element within the scientific enterprise. Because of this, all forms of theism become the “enemy”… very unfortunately.

    For just one great and brief (but packed) book that shows a “middle way” between the science and theism divide, I’d highly recommend “Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith” by David R. Griffin. It gives the core of the issues and a Process-oriented “solution” that is the best we have at the moment, I’m convinced.

  • A T

    The debate is simply over whether we should believe things without sufficient justification, and Cosmos (as well as Science itself) comes down firmly in the “no” camp. That doesn’t mean there’s not more to find out, or that we know everything (not even close), nor does it close the door on any ideas. It just says if you don’t have sufficient justification for your belief, then you shouldn’t believe it! And we certainly shouldn’t spread the ignorance around.

    • The issue then may also be what can stand as “sufficient justification”, and whether scientific procedure and knowledge is the only way we can claim to know things. i agree that one should have ‘sufficient justification for believing what one believes. I think I have “sufficient justification’ to believe what I believe, but I often encounter people who have differing standards than I.

      • A T

        I’m sure adherents of Hinduism, Sikhism, and the Baha’i Faith feel equally justified in their beliefs… and there are thousands of further religions that humans have practiced, and many thousands of gods that we’ve worshiped, throughout our history as a species. If all of these religions can’t be reconciled, if there’s no way to differentiate between what’s true and what’s not, then they’re all in the same basket. Then what we’re stuck with is doing Science and ignoring our religious differences until they smack us in the face (9/11) and wake us up to the inherent division of humanity. We need a solution, eventually.

        • Well not sure how to take your comment since two of the three religions you mention by name are attempts to reconcile some if not all religions. Also I wasn’t meaning that I merely felt justified in my beliefs but that I had sufficient justification for them, though I agree that most people think that about what they believe. There’s a number of ways to address what your talking about but that would kind of hijack this comment thread, and get us off into tangents like the philosophy of warrant, or the nature or desirability of pluralism. The nature of knowledge and its relation to truth etc. Also, there is in your comment simply the sense that religious difference is inherently violent. But if you want to talk about what you meant by “sufficient Justification” I’m willing to engage you otherwise this isn’t the space to get into all of what I’ve mentioned.

          • A T

            My meaning is that if you were raised to believe in Hinduism, that’s what you’d believe instead of what I assume to be Christianity? Every religious adherent looks at other religions askew, without recognizing that it’s a matter of chance that they’re of one faith and not another. A skeptical person looks at them all and sees no compelling reason to believe one of them (out of thousands) as representative of the truth. Were there a way to test them, which there isn’t, they could be vetted. As it stands most religions are equal in making claims that either are untestable or categorically false (such as the global flood that there’s no evidence of whatsoever). Humans share basic fears and desires, such as the hand-in-hand of not dying and living forever. Also we seek pleasure and justice. Before we had the instruments and methods of discovering reality for ourselves, we “made reality up”, to put it bluntly. That’s why we have *THOUSANDS* of religions, and other than related ones they very rarely teach the same things. We do have some basic morality enshrined in all religion, as far as I know, because those moral laws are necessary for tribes and larger societies to work in the first place (so they’d be laws, and morally right or wrong, whether there was a religion to tell us some deity said so). Aaaaaaaaaanyway, getting way off track here. I really don’t want to have this discussion here at any rate. If you want to have a real discussion, e-mail me at TorAldris (gmail), and I’ll be happy to see where it leads.

        • Is secular humanism a ‘religion’? Actually, a definition of ‘religion’ from you would help me understand what you mean by the term.

          • A T

            I think you accidentally replied to the wrong post/person.

          • No, I did not. In addition to actually defining ‘religion’ (so you know precisely what you are referencing with the term), I’d suggest reading the NYT op ed Are There Secular Reasons?

        • fredx2

          What you ignore is the fact that when each of these people deeply prays to his god, he was in fact praying to the one God that existed. He just called him by another name and perhaps understood his qualities imperfectly. But it was always the same God.

          • A T

            How can it be demonstrated that there’s actually something there, as opposed to them praying to an idea in their heads? To a part of their own minds? And why would you think it’s the Christian God instead of something else? A Hindu could say it’s all Brahma that everyone is praying to (including Christians), which is then justification to follow the Hindu scriptures instead of the Bible because obviously these religions are so different. You can’t lump them all together while at the same time extolling any set of scriptures as worthy to be followed, and if you aren’t extolling any scriptures then belief becomes academic — it wouldn’t matter whether you believe or not. That’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where people try to legislate their beliefs into laws, beliefs that are based on particular scriptures, and they very much act on their beliefs in ways that affect other people.

            There’s no way to reconcile all of these very different worldviews… no way to prove one of them true and the rest false. This is a very real problem, with real-world consequences, and it’s not something we should brush off. What you’re raised to believe is what you’re going to believe, unless you’re skeptical of unjustified claims in which case all religions fail to meet their burdens of proof. Someone that’s a Christian now, had they been raised by Hindu parents, would’ve been a Hindu instead; a skeptical person would still be a non-believer. Religious belief thrives through two things: indoctrination (having it taught to you as true when you’re still at the age that you accept everything your parents tell you), and the fears and desires of all humans. The fear of death and desire for immortality. The fear of pain and desire for pleasure. The desire for justice, for no one to get away with anything and for people to get rewarded for doing good. These are all represented by the afterlives of religions… so is it more realistic to think there’s some afterlife, but we’re not sure which afterlife of which religion it is? Or that all these afterlife stories are made up to resolve the existential angst we all have? I think that’s pretty clear.

            Christianity’s “Hell” in particular, a place of eternal torment for finite sins (including, apparently, being raised to believe in Hindu gods), is a very evil and sadistic idea. The Jews thought there were only two options: you die and are gone, or you go to Heaven, until Christianity came along with this immoral Hell idea. It’s born out of a desire for justice, but it’s poorly conceived. We humans are better at justice than this… more moral than this. Even Hinduism has a more moral afterlife system, with people being reborn in better or worse conditions, suffering the karma of their past lives in exact proportion to their evil acts, and reaping the benefits also in exact proportion to the good they did. That’s not to say that’s real either, but it’s “better” than the Hell concept.

      • fredx2

        Exactly. What is subtly hidden by all of this supposed talk about science is that they only want you to come to the conclusions that they deem acceptable.
        Let’s look at how this would have applied to Copernicus. He had a theory about the sun being at the center of the solar system. He dared not publish it, because the Universities were filled with people who were convinced that the earth was the center of the universe, and his career would have been ruined. *By the way, his archbishop urged him to publish it) Furthermore, Copernicus could not prove his theory, because for it to be correct, the distances of the stars would have to be trillions and trillions of miles away – and nobody could prove that in those days. HE HAD NO EVIDENCE to prove his theory. Not until the invention of the telescope and stellar parallax was it possible to prove the stars were, in fact, unimaginably distant.
        So under the rather shallow “only believe things for which you have evidence” lots of stuff that is true gets suppressed, because after all, you can only believe in things that have evidence. Like all broad, simple rules it is often wrong.

        • That’s an interesting reading of Copernicus. You make me want to revisit that history now. Thanks.
          I”m a little perplexed by your “they” exactly who is this they.
          Also, I suppose one could see that as suppression. But what your interpretation of what happened with Copernicus suggest to me is that no one had a way of knowing including Copernicus himself if his theory was true or not. Also, Copernicus’s model isn’t simply true, he simply had the best heliocentric model ( if my memory from Science classes and from history serves me) though he wasn’t the first in history to have such a model. His model is inaccurate (untrue) according to our understanding.
          Without evidence it’s kind of a toss up whether a geocentric or heliocentric model is correct.
          I wonder does anyone take Kuhn’s On Scientific Revolutions seriously anymore? the acceptance of new scientific explanations according to that work is a complex and very human process.

    • fredx2

      Thank you. We can now stop believing in global warming

      • A T

        Doesn’t follow. Over 97% of the scientists who have studied climate change have reached consensus that it’s happening and it’s being caused or accelerated by human activities. If you want to ignore all the hard work of scientists, then okay… but I don’t see as you have sufficient justification to then say it’s not happening. You can justifiably be agnostic about it, if you’re not in-the-know about the science, but there’s no controversy in the scientific community. The few dissenters about it are just like the scientists who buy into Young Earth Creationism (or even Intelligent Design); not accepted by mainstream Science because all the evidence is to the contrary. Climate change is happening, and burying your head in the sand won’t save you. It’ll only hurt others, like not vaccinating your kids because you’ve become convinced vaccines cause diseases.

  • … not to mention Reagan’s (at least it appeared to me) condescending, smug tone …

    Let’s be fair. Ron Reagan would seem condescending and smug if he was reading a Berenstain Bears book to pre-schoolers. He probably sounded condescending and smug when he was a pre-schooler. It’s just his ordinary manner, not unlike how Peter Lorre always looked anxious or Bill Clinton always looks like he just scored some babe’s phone number—and, no doubt, it is a curse that has led to more than a few misunderstandings for the poor chap.

  • Slim

    Ron Reagan ad aside, the show is executive produced by Seth McFarlane and he has been pretty transparent in developing an anti-religious platform. Like Dr. Enns wrote: “At each point, legions of Christian and other religious thinkers could
    have contributed to the discussion in ways that might have disarmed the
    simplistic view of religion of the series.” But that’s not the show you are going to get from McFarlane and degrasse Tyson.
    I like the science but found the perspective off-putting and my agnostic brother agreed that the agenda was distracting.

    • Zeke

      other religious thinkers could have contributed to the discussion in ways that might have disarmed the simplistic view of religion of the series.

      Really? Can you give me an example? Is it less simplistic to accept evolution and a billions-year-old universe, yet still maintain that 2000 years ago God sent his son to earth to atone for imaginary sins?

      • Corinne

        If for nothing else then to attempt to erode the prevalent belief that Christians have no regard for sound science or thought. Take a quick look at the Reasons to Believe site at reasons.org.

        • Zeke

          Thanks. That was 30 minutes of my life I’m never getting back. I clicked on a few podcasts to hear intelligent-sounding men defending an historical Adam, discussing what biological age he was when he was created, and the extent of Noah’s flood. Scripture is regularly quoted as a source. This is the soul of dogmatism, and has no place on a show about scientific progress.

          • Corinne

            I apologize you feel as though you wasted your time. I loved watching Cosmos. Unlike you, I watched from the perspective of the awesomeness of our Creator. I was so frustrated that there were anti religious tones to the show that disregarded those who believe in a Creator because they “follow the evidence wherever it may lead,” not despite it. And I was frustrated none of those who are intelligent in the area of science and faith seemed to speak up. Leaving those like me, who love both science and faith, but don’t have the formal theological or scientific education or a platform in which to speak eloquently into the matter, a bit frustrated.

            There are many out there that are well respected and have more than done their homework and regard the bible as a reputable source. I do not ask you to agree or believe, but I don’t think you can in all circumstances call references to the Bible as the soul of dogmatism.

            Christian apologist Josh McDowell said that “After personally trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scriptures, I have come to the conclusion that they are historically trustworthy.” More Than a Carpenter Copyright 1977

            I truly do try my best to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

            Best to you.

          • Zeke

            No apologies necessary, I was being (well, trying to be) funny. I wouldn’t be reading Christian blogs if I thought my time was wasted. Dr. Ènns is one of my favorites.
            Regarding Cosmos though, were there any episodes where you thought a religious explanation or Bible passage would have given viewers a better understanding of the topic?
            And do you truly believe that scripture is “historically trustworthy”?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Really? Can you give me an example? Is it less simplistic to accept evolution and a billions-year-old universe, yet still maintain that 2000 years ago God sent his son to earth to atone for imaginary sins?

        Exact same argument as Ken Ham, just reflected in a funhouse mirror.

    • Psycho Gecko

      There’s not much of an agenda in saying something like “This is what science tells us. Scientists don’t go into a situation assuming the answer is God. They follow the evidence, no matter their personal feelings about religion might be.”

      • fredx2

        There is no need to even mention God. Just be a show about science. Anything other than that is a political broadside, which makes atheists look bad, by the way. They looked really weak if they had to hijack a science show.

  • AntLionKing

    “Still, the choice that seemed to be posed in the series was rather
    simplistic: between science and any sort of faith in a higher power,
    supreme being, whatever we want to call God.”

    That choice has, unfortunately, been made by dogmatic religionists, who de facto own the franchise on God, and get to establish the definition on what is meant by the name “God,” and seem to set the parameters on what can be discussed when God enters the conversation. They have taken it upon themselves to decide who are the True Believers, in essence. The moderate/progessive/science-friendly/whatever-you-call-it concept of God was usurped back in the late 70’s with the rise of politically active evangelical Christianity.

    “Moderate” Christians/theists, at least in the US, are off cowering somewhere, shouted down by the likes of the Ken Hams (and feel free to insert the name of your favorite radical Muslim cleric here) of the world.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Take it from a guy with 20 years in-country in Furry Fandom:

      LOUD CRAZIES HAVE THIS WAY OF DEFINING THE PUBLIC FACE OF A MOVEMENT. And it’s hard to fight back against them because the Loud Crazies have no lives to take time away from advancing their obsession and you do.

    • fredx2

      Wrong. The Fundamentalists are few, and the left loves to elevate their status because they get the mob all lathered up. But they are in fact few.

  • A P

    I think this falls under the heading of “If it isn’t about you, don’t make it about you.” Tyson and the scientific community are frustrated with, and the series critical of, religious people who reject and deny science — if you are not such a person, you are not who was being snarked at.

    • fredx2

      So what? People are allowed to believe what they want to believe. If they are going to have a show about science then let it be a show about science, not a show taking pot shots at religion in a creepy, dishonest manner.

      • DKeane123

        The scientific method is about evaluating the evidence behind competing theories and being able to identify the best possible choice. It sounds as if you are criticizing Tyson for applying the scientific method to creationism and climate change denialists. Critiquing competing theories IS science.

  • DKeane123

    Since much of the origins of scientific research occurred during times when there was almost no such thing as an atheist or agnostic, Christianity, Islam, and other religions are bound to have some claim to the birth of science. Of course the difference is that now there is the option of atheism and other non-theistic world views. The fact is that scientists are much less likely to be religious and this is amplified at the top levels in the National Acadamy of Sciences, means that Cosmos accurately reflects the current attitude of science towards religion. It is generally irrelevant.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Does that Pastafarian icon of yours have anything to do with your statement?

      (I’m of the Order of Bolognese with Chopped Olives, myself…)

      • DKeane123

        Both the icon and my comment are a result of my attitude toward the supernatural and the applicability of science to truly understand how the universe works.

        BTW – love the name. I need a hug.

    • fredx2

      Again, another atheist that does not understand history. There have always been atheists, probably in as great a proportion back in the middle ages as there are now. The historical records, and religious records are full of them. They were treated then much as they are now. People throughout history have always realized their might not be a God.

      • DKeane123

        Yes, in a trivial sense there was the concept of not believing in god. But the the costs associated with being non-Christian in the middle ages was very high (or not Muslim in other parts of the world), this kept the relative percentage of atheists very low to almost non-existent. Jews in the slums of Venice or people suffering through the Spanish Inquisition are prime examples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_atheism#The_Middle_Ages

        Also, let’s not forget where all the money was during the birth of science – mostly religious based institutions. Thank you, but I do understand my history.

        If you have a reference showing that there were lots of atheists running around during the middle ages, I would love to hear about it.

  • I noticed that almost every time one of the featured scientists had a religion that significantly affected his work or life, whether Catholic, fundamentalist, or Muslim, that faith was acknowledged and attributed to the work that the individual did.

    Is that not enough?

    • Asemodeus

      Not really. Each time a scientist made a discovery it was in spite of his religion.

      • That would be a difficult thing to prove. If you look at the life of someone like Isaac Newton, you see in one man a nutty metaphysical crackpot and a scientifically rigorous genius. But I don’t see him, as an individual, doing all that he did if he was’t both. He was an obsessive in getting his theories right because he was a fanatic. You might say it’s easy: just divorce the garbage about alchemy and astrology and numerology, and keep the good bits. But sometimes a person can be given the impetus to discover amazing truths from sources that are wholly irrational. And if you remove that irrational, faith based spark of inquiry, you damage the entire drive and motivation behind uncovering new information. There are scientists who are motivated to understand the mind of God by their studies. If they are otherwise completely unrestrained in their explorations, how is their religion holding them back? Do they need to be motivated “correctly” to do science right? Is having a completely secular humanist outlook the only acceptable (or truly consistent) way to be scientific?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          If you look at the life of someone like Isaac Newton, you see in one man a nutty metaphysical crackpot and a scientifically rigorous genius.

          AKA, “quite a character”.

          But sometimes a person can be given the impetus to discover amazing truths from sources that are wholly irrational. And if you remove that irrational, faith based spark of inquiry, you damage the entire drive and motivation behind uncovering new information.

          Long ago, I remember reading an Isaac Asimov short story (one of his Robot series) that made exactly that point.

      • Scot Miller

        Kepler actually believed that the universe is a physical expression of spiritual reality, which led him to confirm the heliocentric model of the universe: it made more theological sense to have God at the center of the universe rather than the creation, and it was made evident in a sun (=God) centered universe. He felt he was thinking the thoughts of God when he discovered the laws of motion which governed the movement of the planets.

        • Asemodeus

          Again, you miss the point. Look at Newton’s writings. Not once did he appeal to any divinity to make the math work. Because such hypothesis isn’t required.
          You can look at any other scientist or researcher going back centuries and see this same thing happening.

          If religion were real, this wouldn’t be happening.

          • Psycho Gecko

            There was a talk where Neil DeGrasse Tyson mentioned something like that. It boiled down to Newton only invoking God once he reached a point where he couldn’t explain anything anymore (the God of the Gaps). Then someone else came along, explained that using new knowledge, and only invoked God once he reached a point where he couldn’t explain anything anymore.

            I think it’s in the same talk as the bit that’s nicknamed his “Cosmic sermon”.

          • Scot Miller

            Actually, my response is directly relevant to your claim, “Each time a scientist made a discovery it was in spite of his religion.” I have proven that statement to be false. Kepler was a scientist who made the discovery of three laws of motion, not necessarily because of his “religion,” but motivated by his religion. His religious commitments led him to believe that the universe is intelligible, and that mathematical models could unlock the intelligibility of the universe. He sought mathematical order because he believed the universe was an expression of a divine intelligence. Sorry, but your original assertion about scientists and their discoveries and religion is just false.

          • Asemodeus

            “I have proven that statement to be false.”

            Actually you missed the point entirely, as described above.

            “Kepler was a scientist who made the discovery of three laws of motion,
            not necessarily because of his “religion,” but motivated by his

            None of which has any need for Christianity to be proven or even calculated correctly. Just because a person is a christian doesn’t make his math christian. Math is universal.

            If religion were real with a single god that intervened it he affairs of men, this wouldn’t happen. The functional laws of the universe would only be understood by the followers of that god.

            You don’t need to invoke Christianity to get physics to work. Which is as clear cut as evidence that religion is a unnecessary step in human understanding. It doesn’t contribute to the big questions and never did.

      • Do you have empirical evidence which shows this “in spite of”?

        • Asemodeus

          Every published work on anything related to science.

          • And assuredly you define ‘science’ as to exclude ‘religion’? If so, that would be circular reasoning! So I hope you have a better definition.

          • Asemodeus

            Thanks for proving my point by the way. Great help.

          • fredx2

            And three.

          • fredx2

            Another one.

      • fredx2

        That is perhaps the dumbest comment ever made on the internet.

        • Asemodeus

          Good to see my posts being affirmed by a actual expert on idiocy.

  • Triston Dyer

    The irony is no atheist can justify even one knowledge claim if God does not exist! To know anything at all you would have to know everything or have a revelation from Someone who does. And that’s because what you don’t know may contradict what you think you know. The choice is God or absurdity. Neil deGrasse Tyson has chosen absurdity.

    • The irony is that you don’t realise that most atheists, including Tyson, do claim that there positively is no god. We simply reject every claim made that there is based on the lack of evidence.

      And despite the fraudulent claim that the only other choice besides your chosen idol is absurdity, I’d much rather embrace the unknown than your particular idol.

      • Triston Dyer

        Your entire atheistic worldview is nonsense. You can know nothing for certain. You’ve given up knowledge by embracing atheism.

        • peteenns

          Triston, I’d rather that this post (or blog) not become a place to debate presuppositionalism.

          • Triston Dyer

            Sure. You wouldn’t want to let little things like facts, truth or the reality of things distract from having a successful blog.

          • peteenns

            No, Triston. That’s not it. Please don’t be sarcastic. I am very familiar with presuppositional apologetics, and though you may value it, I feel it obscures discussion over the “facts” as you put it. You are free to have this debate elsewhere.

          • Triston Dyer

            Thanks for the reply.

      • Psycho Gecko

        I like the courtroom analogy of it that I heard somewhere. Either The Thinking Atheist or Atheist Experience, I think. It’s the one where theists are like the guilty verdict, while atheists are a verdict of not guilty. It’s not a case of making a vote of innocent; you just pick not guilty if you think the prosecution hasn’t proven their claim.

      • Michael Romero

        NDT is an agnostic, not an atheist. He’s said this repeatedly.

        • I’m also agnostic. And I’m an atheist because, like NDT, I reject every postulated god out of hand for lack of evidence.

          • Bryan

            NDT says he is open to the discussion of God and makes hard distinctions between atheism and agnosticism. Please see video above. Very good.

    • A T

      To know anything at all you must know everything? Wow. You can’t even justify your “knowledge claim” that God exists, and you’re trying to tell everyone else they can’t know anything unless they believe in you invisible friend. =) C’mon guy/gal, that’s a huge fallacy (and that’s not a compliment).

    • Blizzard

      The irony is no atheist can justify even one knowledge claim if God does not exist!

      Neither can you. It works for everyone, not just atheists. If God does not exist then you can’t justify even one knowledge claim either. So I don’t get your point at all. It seems rather circular if I may say so. The only thing I can make out of it is that you are trying to justify your belief that God exists, perhaps because you have nothing better. Not being able to “justify” a knowledge claim is not the same thing as “absurdity” anyway. Different animal altogether. If you are circular, and atheists are circular, than that makes everybody even in the circular department. Welcome to the “you are the same as atheists” club. Everybody going nowhere fast I guess!

    • A T

      Oh LOL this is too funny, I found out where you got this ridiculous view… Sye Ten Bruggencate, who was destroyed in debate by his opponent Matt Dillahunty on May 31st. It was even more of a rout than the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate. Man my side aches from laughing, thank you so much for playing the clown, whew!

  • Bryan

    On one hand, the scientific community certainly has good reason to be upset with the church when reflecting on a history marred with control and abuse of power. But on the other hand, although science is empirically driven to verify its claims and makes academic contributions with deliberate precision, it is ironic that the scientific community makes no distinction between fundamentalists and the Christian academic community who accepts many scientific claims rejected by fundamentalists…or are they just completely out of the loop on this one?

    • Brian P.

      I think it’s that Christianity is irrelevant baggage from the perspective? How does Christianity relate to the increase of knowledge?, the ideation of hypotheses?, the funding of research projects? I would think it’s less that it’s an “out of the loop” and more that it’s that the Christianity loops are warbles at best. Meanwhile, few–under any banner–are interested in living cruciform life, but I suppose that’s another matter.

      • Bryan

        I think there are a few problems here. The first is that the split between science and theology in the middle ages juxtaposed these two disciplines in such a way that a false dichotomy emerges. The second, is that “Christianity” is to broad a brush stroke here (I would draw a sharp distinction between mainstream Christianity and academic Christianity; two different worlds). The third, is that authors such as Murphy, Lindbeck, et al. are demonstrating ways in which we can look at science as pointing to theism or miracle language thus obliterating distinctions which maintain an adversarial false dichotomy in which one has nothing to do with the other.

        • Brian P.

          Good points. Rather than “mainstream” Christianity, I think I might consider it “popular’ Christianity and popular Christianities as that. Yes, there is a world of difference between popular Christianities and that held and practice by academic Christianity. While the conceptions and beliefs can be quite different and often popular Christianities can be feel quite crass and academic Christianities can feel quite nuanced, I would think to that to many scientists all of these can be quite irrelevant. The dichotomy isn’t false, it is one that has been presented as dichotomy over and over. Perhaps I would agree that it is a unhelpful and needless dichotomy, but it is not a false dichotomy.

          • Bryan

            Perhaps “popular” is a better adjective here. And I would have to agree that, yes, “crass” is a fair description. Most are victims of a philosophical, theological and scientific history in which they are unaware and therefore makes it difficult to adequately engage in scientific discussions (or theology for that matter). However, I would still maintain a false dichotomy because the work of many theologians and philosophers (not all) desires to blurr the distinctions between science and God. In other words, to be a good theist, one must engage with science. I do not see this issue as choosing “either” God “or” science, but maintaining that both are equally important.

          • Brian P.

            Indeed, Bryan you may not pick the fight, but I assert for most the dichotomy of choice is not false. In emergence from the Middle Ages, the Church felt threatened by science as possible power and prominence for guiding men’s thoughts. You may think there’s no personal, ontological, or philosophical dichotomy for you (and perhaps you’re right in many ways). But because many do not reason as you reason, their personal dichotomies become our shared sociological dichotomies. And these are very, very real. I suspect the ways in which the Church has waged the wars were doomed from their commencement. Fear and feeling of being threatened is not a way to propagate a religion, at least not a religion that finds its power in powerlessness and the living of a cruciform life. Much of Christianity seems to be dying on its own Cross and perhaps rightly so.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            “And stop screaming. Nobody likes a religion with people screaming.”
            — Internet Monk

          • Brian P.

            Related, another thing I’ve noticed recently is the mocking. My pastor’s pretty bad at it. He set up’s his in-his-mind-strawmen-and-foes and then channels thought hypothesized thoughts in this mocking, sing-song, voice to the audience. Flipping stations on the radio today too, I herd similar. I’d think nobody really likes a religion with mocking of outisiders either. Or at least they shouldn’t if you ask me.

          • Bryan

            well said.

          • Bryan

            You’ve made some good points and I do understand where you are coming from. Even your last statement, “Much of Christianity seems to be dying on its own Cross and perhaps rightly so” rings true with me. I believe a large part of the problem is that popular Christianity is at odds with academic Christianity and yet I am not so naive as to suggest that academic Christianity will solve all the problems.

            It is sad that for a group of people who propose to have the answers to all of life’s problems, are often just another contributor. With that said, my thoughts turn towards MacIntyre’s (After Virtue) moral assessment in the West as radically individualistic and emotivist at best (Christians are no doubt a part of this). One of his chapters is “Aristotle or Nietzsche”. Again, I would have to admit most have succumbed to Nietzsche…Christians that is.

          • Brian P.

            Would think that “people who… have answers to… life’s problems” actually more so show and not necessarily tell.

          • Bryan

            Very well said.

          • fredx2

            I hate to interrupt your reverie, but Christianity is growing, both in the United States and around the world.

            Islam is growing as well.

            The five fastest growing religions in terms of absolute numbers (new adherents per year, in millions):
            1. Christianity 25,210,195
            2. Islam 22,588,676
            3. Hinduism 12,533,734
            4. Chinese folk-religions 3,715,548
            5. Buddhism 3,687,527

            • The total growth of Christianity (25,210,195) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Australia (21,555,500) or the U.S. State of Texas (23,904,380) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.

          • Brian P.

            Well wowser.

          • Brian P.

            Of course both are important. Would suggest both or good lenses to understanding humanity.

    • Psycho Gecko
      • Bryan

        Again…the uninformed has spoken. This article makes no distinction between creationism on the fundamentalist side and theistic evolution on the academic side. This is the typical false dichotomy in which binary options are presented as the only options.

    • fredx2

      Exactly. There is a sort of unthinking, unreasoning emotional response at work here. They get their jollies by feeling superior or something. Antony Flew, the most famous atheist in England even reprimaded Dawkins for this, saying that a scientist tries to defeat his opponents strongest case, not his weakest. To defeat the weakest case and then crow about it is a sign of a boor.

  • Jonathan S

    The problem is that we have outgrown religious symbols and narratives, but not the needs that they met in the first place. And those opposing religion don’t seem to have much awareness of what called it forth, what needs it met.

    I am not externally or overtly religious – not a church-goer – but I am sure ‘redemption’ means something other than simply a religious platitude. It means a state of being beyond the reach of sorrow and death. Of course such a state is unimaginable – which is why it was told in narratives and parables in the first place.

    Science as we know it, grew out of that yearning. But instead of trying to locate that sense in an inner state, it transposed it to the literal ‘heavens’ and the belief in space travel and ‘leaving the world’ in a literal sense, to colonize the Universe. That is so obviously a search for heaven. But the true religions have always taught that what we seek is not elsewhere. It is right here, but we don’t know how to look. And until we understand that, we don’t really understand what they were talking about.

    • A T

      “but I am sure ‘redemption’ means something other than simply a religious platitude. It means a state of being beyond the reach of sorrow and death.”

      That almost sounds like Nirvana, which is something we Buddhists are looking for in this very life (IMHO the only life we have, I don’t subscribe to literal interpretations of rebirth that try to sneak a subtle self/soul into the equation). It’s complete clarity of reality as it is, from moment to moment (and universally: transient, ownerless, interdependent), leaving no room for ignorance and ignorant desires that lead to suffering. It also removes any and all existential angst to see reality clearly; to see what “you” really are clearly, and what the causes of your unsatisfactoriness and frustration with life really are.

      The paradigm shift from Christianity and the like to Buddhism is one of “other salvation” to “self salvation”, if salvation can be used as the word.

      • Jonathan S

        Well, I am Buddhist, but am not thereby anti-Christian. Also believe that the reality of the wheel of life-and-death is basic. Problem is we moderns don’t have a way of conceiving of it, so we simply bracket it out.

        • A T

          I’m also a Buddhist (+Skeptic +Humanist), so I’m not against people believing anything, I’m just against it being pushed on others… and against believing unjustified claims in general (as an epistemological flaw). I say live and let live, but the right-wing here in America won’t roll with that, they want it to be a Christian Nation with religious views embedded in law. In particular things like the “gay marriage” debate where people want a Biblical view enshrined in the law for all Americans, banning LGBT couples from civil marriage in the same way interracial couples were banned. Such things need spoken out against. Also the misconceptions about atheists, since technically I’m an atheist and these misconceptions lead to so much hatred that it hurts. Best I can do is help clear it up.

          The wheel of life and death is you’re born from your parents, and the next generation is born from you. 🙂 That’s the rebirth of life, happening in real time for anyone to see and recognize. It’s not that there’s something about life and death we don’t understand, it’s that we’re making up something to not understand due to our fears and desires. Buddhism is not free of human wishful thinking.

          • Jonathan S

            I don’t believe that genetics and molecular biology will ever provide a complete account of the human condition. In that I am with the religious conservatives. But I don’t believe creationist nonsense.

          • A T

            Yeah I’m not one of those people that think Science is going to answer absolutely everything, nor should it. I think it should answer what it can, but it’s up to the rest of us to imbue our existence with meaning and purpose… and to live life fully, trying to build a better world and end conflict.

          • Jonathan S

            But I don’t think the ego is the source of meaning and purpose. It can only be sought in something beyond the self, and no matter what problems Christianity might have, it knows that basic truth.


          • A T

            I really don’t know what you mean. There’s no real self, only the illusion of self, and we’re part of something greater, much greater… the totality, the universe. When we transcend our delusions and see that there’s no separateness, that everything is connected and interdependent, our angst-ridden need for an external source of meaning disappears.

          • Jonathan S

            Illusions can only occur to subjects.

  • Zaoldyeck

    I think the gripe with Christianity is that it makes it seem as though the universe were created for us, but astrophysics makes us seem so impossibly small that any thought that any ‘creator’ of the universe would care about us makes us seem arrogant. That is the undercurrent of the pale blue dot. Now if your god doesn’t really care about humans, in a Spinoza’s god fashion, that’s fine, but that seems decidedly not the type of god who “sacrifices his son to save his chosen people”.

    We are not the centre of the universe anymore. We are not special. We are specks of dust on a tiny planet looking upwards. Hopefully we can reach beyond our dot.

    • Danny

      The pale blue dot scene actually reminded me of Psalm 8, where actually David says something very similar as he looked up to the starry hosts, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” The Bible affirms over and over again that the universe was not made for us, but for “the glory of God.” Yet even Neil can’t escape that we are in some special place where are intelligent and able to learn and the cosmos. And David in Psalm 8 affirmed something very similar when he said that we were created a little lower than the angels and given dominion over the earth. The series definitely seemed to agree with that. We have it in our hands to steward this planet and care for it, but we could also destroy it with our recklessness. That’s a pretty high view in itself to have of us.

      • Zaoldyeck

        ” Yet even Neil can’t escape that we are in some special place where are intelligent and able to learn and the cosmos.”

        Huh? As opposed to… what? If we weren’t in some place with suitable conditions for life (which happens to be this rock but who says there aren’t plenty of others with life, or even intelligent life) we wouldn’t be able to wonder about being somewhere that is suitable for life.

        It doesn’t seem farfetched to me that specks on a dot could make life unlivable for other specks on a dot, it does seem farfetched to me that any creator of the hundreds of billions upon hundreds of billions of other dots out there would care at *ALL* about what goes on in our little speck of the universe.

        If you think dominance over the earth is a ‘high view’ then you miss the point entirely. The earth is small. Tiny. Insignificant. It’s *EASY* to ruin something tiny. We should seek to go well beyond the earth, seek greater things, not to be creatures of this small earth.

        I hope we were destined to be players in the cosmos, not ‘stewards of this planet’. This planet will one day die, let us strive to make humanity outlive it.

        • Psycho Gecko

          When it comes to people thinking humanity occupies some special place because, in their minds, we were set in all these perfect conditions to evolve into what we became, I think of Douglas Adams:

          “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, may have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            Hope that puddle knew where his towel was…

      • The Bible affirms over and over again that the universe was not made for us, but for “the glory of God.”

        Does it? The very Psalm you quote, and even your remarks about it, affirm that man is given dominion over Creation: does this not indicate that Creation was made for the very creatures who are given the dominion? In Genesis the Lord even directly says that He gives everything He has created to man. Surely, man is told to do all for the glory of God, that is affirmed in Scripture, but Scripture also, while it does point out our smallness, the consequences of sin, and the transience of our lives as they are now, is quite plain that the world was made for man.

    • bdlaacmm

      See my note on perspective, posted above.

    • fredx2

      BUT the fact remains that EVERYWHERE is the center of the universe. So, in actual fact, we are still at the center. But so is everywhere else.
      See, your statement was wrong not only philosophically but also scientically. We are at the center. We certainly seem to be very special,since we are unaware of any other life at all in the universe, at least at this point. You can be a speck if you want, go ahead.

      • Zaoldyeck

        If you want to adopt the GR standpoint then yes, every point is accelerating away from every other point and has always been doing so back to at least the inflationary epoch (I don’t comment on planck scale physics)

        A basic fact of relativity is that points aren’t special, so a ‘center of the universe’ cannot actually exist, which means alternatively, you can *think* of each point as being the center of the universe.

        Take any map of the world in your preferred projection and it’s trivial to find the center of the map. You could define this as being the ‘center of the surface of the world’. You could do this for any arbitrary map in any arbitrary projection for any arbitrary point on this globe.

        I take the lesson to be ‘coordinate systems themselves are arbitrary, the transformations between them are not’, if you take it to be ‘every point on earth is special as it is the center of the surface of the planet!’ well then you just sound like a hippy.

        I AM a speck of dust, in a very elaborate universe, and I’d very much like other specks out there to try to reach somewhere beyond this small earth. I don’t want to be bounded by our perceived importance in a perceived special place, doomed to eventually die. I want us to push forward with curiosity and understanding.

        I want more for humanity than just the Earth. I want the stars.

  • Jonathan S

    The thing is, for a Universe to be ‘the Universe’ there needs to be a *perspective*. Otherwise, there is no *Uni*. There is simply objects and forces. You’re a ‘speck of dust’ in a mind that knows what a ‘speck of dust’ is, relative to the Universe, which your mind can comprehend to some extent.

    Some speck.

  • It’s understandable that some secular humanists and scientists view religion as (at best) a placeholder which will eventually be discarded in favor of genuine scientific knowledge. And many religious beliefs throughout history fit that description. Scientists can treat religion as worthy of sociological study, but they can’t advocate a practiced, lived experience – that’s a value judgment a scientist could never make. But in the end, if you aren’t a practicing saint/contemplative/worshipper than you are holding the whole thing at arm’s length . . . any experience can be subjected to the critical lens of science, but still appreciated on its own terms. Our love for our families can be seen, from one perspective, as a mixture of chemistry and kinship dynamics. I remember reading Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained and thinking . . . there is so much to learn from an objective, critical assessment of religion. The webs of meaning holding together faith are of our own making, often upheld by our culture. And that is important and humbling to sift through. Like moral values or political beliefs, the spiritual life can be greatly informed by science. But science can’t dictate, in the final analysis, what we do with the knowledge it produces. It can’t give us the “wisdom to know how to be silent, and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others,” as St. John of the Cross puts it.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I don’t think it’s wrong at all for Cosmos to act in opposition to Christians who believe in Creationism.

    There was this poll recently (http://www.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx) that found that 42% of Americans believe that God made humans in their current form within the last 10,000 years. So much for that being a minority fundamentalist view of Christianity, right?

    It gets worse. 31% believe evolution was guided by God. So even amongst the more liberal Creationists, they’re still fewer in number than the Young Earth Creationists. Overall, that means 73% of the U.S. thinks that evolution either didn’t happen or that God moved it along. I’d say that when Cosmos is having to counter 73% of a country, they’re not reacting to a fundamentalist minority anymore.

    The other group, those who accept evolution occurring without divine intervention (a view also known as the scientific consensus on evolution), was limited to just 19%. I hate the numbers not adding up either, but I guess some people have no opinion.

    And for those who think Intelligent Design is better, I suggest you do a little light reading on the origins of that species: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Cdesign_proponentsists

    • Bryan

      Who ever said that fundamentalism was the minority? Also, I have never heard of a “liberal” Creationist. It sounds like an oxymoron.

      • Asemodeus

        Like A conservative Atheist. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but oh man what a messed up worldview that would be.

        • fredx2

          There are lots of conservative atheists. But I think you have just revealed that you are more liberal then you are scientist. In other words, you support science only to the extent that it supports your liberalism.

  • shepard

    just a quick note on the FFR spot, it’s no more an agenda than trying to capitalize on the viewership of a particular audience, in this case, likely a receptive one. In the first episode, there was an ad for the epic film Noah. Highly out of place, I thought, until I thought better of it: probably a lot of people receptive to biblical mythology watching that first episode, even if disapprovingly. Never miss a chance to connect with you audience, etc.

    Far from an agenda, I’d say, as they obviously weren’t parochial in the way they presented advertisers.

  • Jerry Lynch

    I suppose if I was doing something on the ways to help maintain a healthy body, I would spend a little time on dispelling myths that may actually hurt the body. But Christian beliefs in Creationism do not hurt science. It is not like the universe is going to get sick and die due to a belief in God. Such beliefs change nothing. Just sticking with a straightforward explanation of the Cosmos makes it science and not to be interpreted. Having an agenda to defeat religion in the process makes the science suspect. How we may describe a process or explain its function can be worded in objectivity or slanted, with a hidden motivation, to attack. The “slant” can reasonably produce question or doubt: is that really and exactly what can be concluded?

    I loved the series and had similar concerns. But not for Christianity. I thought it hurt the science.

    • Brian Westley

      But Christian beliefs in Creationism do not hurt science.

      It does when it weakens teaching actual science in schools.

      • Muff Potter

        The square root of 2 still cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers, Avogadro’s law still holds, and the domain of the function 1/x still excludes zero as a replacement for ‘x’. How does believing in the creative agency of the Almighty instead of natural selection seriously compromise all that sort of thing?

        • Brian Westley

          When religious idiots try (or worse, succeed) in removing or watering down the teaching of actual science like evolution, or promotion of non-science like “intelligent design”.

          • Michael Romero

            Why can’t the THEORY of evolution be taught alongside the theory of intelligent design

          • Ben

            Yes, evolution is a theory. You should learn what “theory” means in a scientific context, because intelligent design is not science, and not a theory.

          • Michael Romero

            You’re wrong. Intelligent design is a legitimate theory, just as much as the theory of evolution.

          • rockycoloradan

            Intelligent Design is not a legitimate scientific theory. Google ‘what is a scientific theory’ and read up on it.

          • Jonathan S

            But you also can’t test whether evolution is really random and just happened to result in humans, without seeing how it plays out on other planets. So such aspects of evolutionary ‘meta-theory’ are also untestable whilst having considerable consequences for your worldview.

          • Brian Westley

            As others have already said, evolution is a scientific theory (and has been observed), while “intelligent design” does not qualify; it’s just creationism in disguise. Google for “cdesign proponentsists” [sic]

          • A T

            If people were being honest (and informed), they’d be claiming Intelligent Design as a “hypothesis” (at best), not a scientific theory. They’re confusing the everyday use of the word theory with the scientific use. When the hypothesis of ID is actually tested in some manner, when data is gathered that supports that hypothesis over the currently accepted theory, then someone will be doing science. Hell, someone would win a Nobel Prize for that!

            They haven’t even begun yet… they’re trying to pass it off as a scientific theory, with persuasion tactics alone, without going through the steps that real theories have to pass through. That’s underhanded if they know what they’re doing, or ignorance at best.

          • IasanMacCuinneagain

            The Problem with calling Intelligent Design a “hypothesis” is that a hypothesis must be testable.

            Intelligent Design is a philosophy, an non-testable idea about the world.
            Just like the existence of God: non-testable/non-scientific.
            Just like the non-existence of God: non-testable/non-scientific.

          • A T

            Thanks, that’s even better. 🙂 My thinking was that you come up with the hypothesis first (a reasonable guess) and then you design one or more tests (and I have doubts they can think up suitable tests), but if falsifiability is required to call it a hypothesis in the first place…. problem solved. They’re even further behind than I stated.

            It’s been a long, long time since I took any Science classes. My bad. At least I did put “(at best)” there, so my “mea culpa” has some mitigation. Thanks again!

          • Avengeme

            If intelligent design is a theory than so is the existence of Zeus and Thor, Vishnu and all the rest. Please research what qualifies as a theory, you’ve been misled.

          • Karinetta1

            — and progressively more and more scientific discoveries cut holes into the evolutionary theory and offer a chance to a supernational outlook.

          • fredx2

            It is a legitimate theory, however it is one with very very few adherents among scientists. This is usually, but not always, the sign of a BAD theory.
            Copernicus, for example was the correct one when all the others in the universities thought he was crazy.
            So the only thing to do is let theories live or die in the marketplace of scientific ideas, rather than keep trying to suppress one side or the other.
            When it is a matter of class time, it only makes sense to ignore the theories that are adhered to by only a very tiny minority. However that does not mean you have to suppress the tiny minority.

          • Donalbain

            Because only one of them is scientific. Once you insert non science into science lessons, you weaken the science education you are providing to children.

          • Avengeme

            ..because intelligent design isn’t a theory, it’s a fable.

          • Muff Potter

            Men have always feared ideas not their own. The only real idiots are those on both sides of the aisle who let their fear escalate into suppression. Bad ideas wither away on their own, like ice cubes on an August sidewalk, they need no help.

          • Brian Westley

            Yeah, well, that’s what a lot of creationism supporters do; they try to suppress the teaching of evolution.

          • MattB

            Like Jesus mythicists, who try to suppress that Jesus existed.

        • Randy Wanat

          Math is not science. But, if your religion taught that the square root of 2 was purple, and continuously tried to find ways to get that idea into math curricula, would you be arguing that the laws of physics wouldn’t change, so what does the square root of 2 being purple hurt? This is the argument you’re making. Do you see the problem with your logic?

    • fredx2

      What the series tried to say, in their slightly underhanded way, is that you can’t be a Christian and be a scientist. This is obviously very, very wrong, and in the end making such statements hurts science.

  • Danni Coy

    I think both this Cosmos and the previous one are aimed at something a bit more fundamental, how you go about processing information and how to form a world view rather than which particular world view is right.

    I think the big take-away from the series was the 5 rules in the final episode.

    1) Question Authority – no idea is true just because somebody said so
    2) Think for yourself, Question Yourself
    3) Don’t believe something just because you want to, believing something doesn’t make it so

    4) Test Ideas by the evidence gained observation and experiment, follow the evidence where it leads. If you have no evidence reserve judgement.
    5) Remember that you might be wrong.

    The series negativity about religion or world view to me seems to be targeted at things only in so far as they conflict with these 5 rules. Rule 1 is antithetical to most organised religions. I know that the Bruno segment in the first episode copped a lot of flack but it seems to me that they were trying to establish the value of thinking for yourself moreso than talking about the evils of the catholic church.

    The other part is perhaps to construct a narrative that has a spiritual quality to it that non religious people can get on board with. By spiritual I think I mean that it has a certain type of emotional resonance. This goes to looking at how are relatives of every other living thing on the planet and form an unbroken chain of existence stretching back billions of years.

    I imagine that one could be Christian and get on board with these things but you would probably be closer to a John Shelby Spong world view than a Fred Phelps.

    For some more insight into how Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan (who wrote the second series) view religion I recommend this talk by Ann Druyan discussing her and Carl’s dealings with the Delai Llama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc8EasjRpIo

    • fredx2

      So it looks like you agree that yes, rather than a straight science show, it was instead a propaganda piece for atheism.

      • Danni Coy

        The 5 rules: do you see them as atheist propaganda, if so why?

        • Craig Reynolds

          Excellent, Danni Coy – but I’m sure it will escape many readers and posters to this entry. I note how responses to you commentary like, stopped.

      • Danni Coy

        I think there is a difference between the findings of science and the philosophy (or epistemology) of science. Both cosmos series are more interested in the later where what you would describe as a “straight science show” deals more with the former.

        Those 5 rules I mentioned in my post really are the ground rules of doing good science. To the extent that your world-view is in conflict with those rules is the extent that your world view conflicts with science.

        I think it is possible to have a religious world-view that is explicitly religious that is somewhat harmonious with these rules (the linked video gives a good example) but concede that these do contradict the doctrines of most of the major religions.

  • Michael Romero

    I thought the FFRF commercial was in bad taste. Horrible conclusion to the series.

    • Randy Wanat

      Yeah. Why should people be allowed to say they’re proud to not be religious? If anything, they should be ashamed! And, why should state and church be separate anyway? Seems to be working wonders in Iran and Saudi Arabia and Uganda!

      • Asemodeus

        Actually, the most theocratic nation on this planet is North Korea.

        • Randy Wanat

          Yes, they’re very theocratic, too. The Kims fashion themselves as gods, and create fantastic historical narratives about themselves, and demand worship and unquestioning allegiance. They are capricious, violent, irrational, and sociopathic megalomaniacs. I see nothing to distinguish them from the Abrahamic notions of “God” or “YHWH,” or “Allah.” Well, except that there is evidence that the Kims exist. Definitely not atheistic.

          • Asemodeus

            You should watch the interview Hitchens had after we went to North Korea. he was spot on about this and how this is what heaven looks like for christians. Where their every move and existence is only there to glorify the leader.

          • fredx2

            North Korea is a communist state. Atheism has always been central to communism, and is that way in all other communist countries. North korea is perhaps in some ways an exception. Now, your regular communist -atheist countries, like the Soviet Union and china etc killed 100 million people. And the atheists during the French revolution killed another 40,000. Everytime atheism gets any kind of political power, people die.

          • It’s almost like the problem is human, and not religious or atheistic. :-p

            Man will only become better when you make him see what he is like.

                                                            — Anton Chekhov

          • Craig Reynolds

            Ummm – Spanish Inquisition anyone? Catholic and Protestant hordes steamrolling over the native peoples of the Americas? The Great War (no commies in that one on either side)? And let’s not be so parochial about religion – check the blood-drenched histories of India and China. The name of the game is power, though it’s hidden under veils.

          • Zeke

            Except for the unpleasant fact that the most religiously superstitious country, the US, has much higher rates of murder, crime, teenage pregnancy, incarceration and violence than the more secular countries.

          • Asemodeus

            It isn’t the most, but it is up there.

          • Asemodeus

            Your mistake is not actually knowing what communism means as detailed in Marx’s book. Every country your listed was just a fresh new way of forming totalitarian governments. In the past those were supported by the church, but now they were supported by a form of state religion.

            Also Stalin was heavily favored by the church and he regularly gave them power under his regime.

          • fredx2

            The difference is that no one believes them – even themselves. The public in North Korea does not really revere them as Gods. But because they have a system called communism, (originally devised and implemented by atheists) they can pretend and enforce the impression that their relgion is accepted. It is not.

          • Randy Wanat

            By the way, , building a governmental system around a deity, no matter who that deity may be, is theocracy.

          • Asemodeus

            If nobody believed them their society would have had collapsed long ago.

        • Karinetta1

          You mean Norh Korea is the most stalinist, PolPot-like, Mao-like, Godless, narcissist-dictatorial, Hitlerite nation.

          • Asemodeus

            Nope. North Korea is hands down the most theocratic.

  • Donalbain

    My question would simply be this: What would religious voices have added to the story? If they added supernatural things like a god, then they would have no place in a story of our scientific understanding of the universe. If they just talked about the science, they would not have added anything, other than “I agree with this, but I also believe in X as well..” which would again be adding non science to the story of our scientific understanding of the universe.

  • bdlaacmm

    A note on perspective. Too many people, when first confronted with the realities of how small and apparently insignificant the Earth (or even our galaxy) appears when viewed from a universe-embracing perspective, fall into the trap of thinking that this is somehow the “true” or correct perspective, and that our human-scaled one is therefore “wrong”.

    But nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, I’ve occasionally been told the exact reverse – that when I look at, say, a chair, and it appears solid to me (at least, solid enough for me to sit on it), I am told in “reality” the chair is composed of countless atoms with mostly empty space separating them, and that that is the True Reality.

    So which is it? Is the “true” scale the atomic one, or the intergalactic one? I say that it is both. And more, I also maintain that our human perspective on things is equally valid. When I stand on the seashore, I am correct in considering the ocean to be vast beyond comprehension. I am correct in regarding 1000 years as being a great span of time. I am correct in thinking the ocean is deep, or the International Space Station is “way up there”.

    Differing perspectives are valid only when appropriate. When considering good and evil, right from wrong, beauty and ugliness, justice and injustice, sin and holiness, the proper and totally valid perspective is the human one.

    • Asemodeus

      ” am told in “reality” the chair is composed of countless atoms with
      mostly empty space separating them, and that that is the True Reality.”

      That isn’t even the most whacky thing there is about atoms. With atomic theory, you never actually “touch” anything. The sensation of touching is just electron fields interacting with each other, as the center of the atoms never collide.

    • Zaoldyeck

      So what aspect of reality then is god supposed to describe under the “human” perspective, and how does this map onto our understanding of things on an “atomic” perspective? The problem seems to be that physics right now is not only capable of fully describing atomic physics, which can be fully translated to macroscopic phenomenon, but that if physics is missing something AT HUMAN ENERGY SCALES (such as the interactions in our brains, or nervous system, etc) then physics must be wrong by the equivalent of Newton’s Law of Gravity suddenly being violated on earth.

      I can use empathy, which is a fine human based human scale describable phenomenon, with clear (and obviously beneficial) evolutionary pathways… to differentiate between ‘right from wrong’. I can use my own personal human scale appreciation of ethics to describe beauty or not. I can use empathy tempered with pragmatic reasoning to understand justice.

      None of these things makes me find the description of ‘god’ in any way useful. I can think like a human just fine, and I can understand myself as a human under the lens of science just fine. I don’t see what the vaguely defined concept of ‘god’ is supposed to lend.

  • Jim

    I didn’t think the Cosmos series was anti-religion. It should, however, give pause to those who think Genesis is a true account of creation.

    • Michael Romero

      6 days to God aren’t necessarily 24 human hours * 6.

  • The thing I found most surprising about the show was its intellectual dishonesty in excoriating the Church over Giordano Bruno while glossing over things like Father Mendel’s contributions to genetics or Father Lemaitre’s contributions to astrophysics.

    Thing was closer to a New Atheist diatribe befitting a Richard Dawkins acolyte than an accurate summary of science.

    • Asemodeus

      “The thing I found most surprising about the show was its intellectual
      dishonesty in excoriating the Church over Giordano Bruno while glossing
      over things like Father Mendel’s contributions to genetics or Father
      Lemaitre’s contributions to astrophysics.”

      Because they were constructing a narrative about the importance of self doubt and questioning and Bruno fit that narrative. You cannot cover every important physicist in a 40 minute show. That would be retarded.

      “Thing was closer to a New Atheist diatribe befitting a Richard Dawkins
      acolyte than an accurate summary of the history of natural science.”

      To which the show never claimed to be doing in the first place.

      • Bruno didn’t ‘fit that narrative’, he was executed for preaching a heretical theology (denying the Trinity and preaching Pantheism, definite violations of his oath as a Dominican).

        As far as actual science, there were a whole host of Priests from that era who made far more significant discoveries – Father Christopher Scheiner, Father Bonaventura Francesco Cavalieri, Father Marin Mersenne and Father Laurent Cassegrain all contributed much more than Bruno to our understanding of the cosmos, but since they remained faithful and were allowed to study in peace, their discoveries don’t ‘fit the narrative’.

        Perfect example – the first person to correctly calculate the size of the earth was a Catholic Priest, Jean Felix Picard. Using the instruments available in the early 1600s, his calculation was correct to less than 0.5% margin of error.

        But better to talk about Bruno and Galileo – ‘fits the narrative’.

        • Asemodeus

          “Bruno didn’t ‘fit that narrative’, he was executed for preaching a
          heretical theology (denying the Trinity and preaching Pantheism,
          definite violations of his oath as a Dominican).”

          It isn’t a either/or. He was executed for a list of reasons, one of which was his ideas on the cosmos. Humans are allowed to have multiple motivations for their actions, remember. You are human, correct?

          “Perfect example – the first person to correctly calculate the size of
          the earth was a Catholic Priest, Jean Felix Picard. Using the
          instruments available in the early 1600s, his calculation was correct to
          less than 0.5% margin of error.”

          There were plenty of other men WAY before Picard who tried to calculate this. Eratosthenes first amongst them.

          “But better to talk about Bruno and Galileo – ‘fits the narrative’.”

          Dr. Tyson spelled it out right in the first episode as to what the narrative was. Were you paying attention?

          • Yes, I paid attention. That’s how I noticed the obvious agenda behind the parade of strawmen, false dichotomies and egregious omissions.

            I eagerly await your next snarky attempt at a thinly veiled insult.

          • Asemodeus

            “Yes, I paid attention. That’s how I noticed the obvious agenda.”

            Then, instead of complaining about strawmen, how about you actually address the show directly?

          • fredx2

            You have no idea what you are talking about. Bruno was far from being a scientist, first of all, he was into magic and other similar things. Second, he most definitely was convicted of heresy, and it had nothing to do with any theories he might have had that are now being touted as scientific.

          • Asemodeus

            “Bruno was far from being a scientist”

            Nobody claimed he was, especially Dr. Tyson. If you are going to beat a strawman, do it on your own time.

            “Second, he most definitely was convicted of heresy,”

            You are a deeply confused little man if you think a man can only be persecuted for only one crime at a time.

      • And as far as the statement that the show ‘never claimed’ to be presenting accurate history, are we to take that as an admission that it was Atheist propaganda?

        • Asemodeus

          It never claimed that it was going to be any summary of history. Mostly because of how it jumped from place to place to serve a narrative. You would understand this if you bothered to watch the show correctly.

          • to serve a narrative

            A true narrative? Or just, a narrative?

          • Asemodeus

            The show was quite clear that it was supporting narratives on how science is done and how we should think as humans. They were telling stories each episode along these lines, not just a dry documentary.

          • “how we should think”—Does this thinking involve Truth? From whence comes this ‘should’? How is it grounded?

          • Asemodeus

            How we should think that is allowing us to communicate in the first place.

            Your derision of science while using it, right now, is highly amusing.

          • How, precisely, am I deriding ‘science’. You keep using that word… I don’t think it means what you think it means. You’re looking for ‘scientism’. That’s what I deride.

          • Asemodeus

            “How, precisely, am I deriding ‘science’.”

            By using a computer.

            “You’re looking for ‘scientism’.”

            Ah yes, this nonsense. False equivalencies are all you christians have, don’t you?

          • I’m afraid you’re going to have to be a bit more articulate than that, given that you, too, are using a computer. Unless you admit to deriding science, yourself?

          • Asemodeus

            I know your brain is muddled with religious memes and fallacies, but even you should be aware that this thing you are sitting in front of is a computer. It does things, sciencey things.

            In order to make this thing do what it is doing right now, in order for you to read my words over massive distances, requires critical thinking skills and research methodology. Which allowed us to advanced past religious nonsense and better the lives of everyone.

            This was the goal of Cosmos, to teach people the importance of this methodology through narrative structure. It was highly successful with people whom have open minds, which I guess is the reason why you are so deeply confused.

            Watch the series again and come back. Maybe a second viewing will help.

          • fredx2

            The atheist, when he is shown to be wrong, invariably begins insulting the other person. This comment is the perfect example of that.

            Do you even see the shallowness of thought that you just expressed? All you do is call people names

          • Asemodeus

            Are you done stalking me? Because keep it up, I find the creepy levels of attention amusing. I wonder how long you can keep posting without making a consistent argument.

          • Apostaste

            Now now, you are speaking with one person not all atheists. Your use of “The atheist” is easily interpreted as prejudice.

            your summary of the conversation above and your creative edits show that your not now serious about having an honest conversation, it is no wonder Asemodeus is disillusioned.

            Patience and humility could be used on both sides.

          • It’s pretty pathetic when you think about it, atheists spending their time trolling religious website, posting an incessant stream of strawmen, snide comments and thinly veiled personal attacks.

          • Let me get this straight:

            LB: How, precisely, am I deriding ‘science’.

            A: By using a computer.

            LB: I’m afraid you’re going to have to be a bit more articulate than that, given that you, too, are using a computer.

            And then your comment. Which says nothing possibly differentiating me from you except:

            A: I know your brain is muddled with religious memes and fallacies

            Where is your empirical evidence for this? Is this all you have to say, for how is it that you can use a computer and not deride science, while I’m using a computer and deriding science?

          • Asemodeus

            “Where is your empirical evidence for this?”

            Your meme about scientism. It’s also another classic sign of delusional christian worldview when you are incapable of self reflection.

            The rest is the usual gibberish. The point that is sailing way over your head, is that if everyone thought the way you did, we wouldn’t have high technology to make your point deriding science that allows you to make your point in the first place.

            It’s a basic level hypocrisy, something else very common with Christians.

          • But you haven’t made an argument; you’re just throwing about insults as if they stick without an argument. They don’t.

          • Asemodeus

            Actually I have, you just cannot notice.

          • The greatest electrical engineer of all time – Nikola Tesla – was the son of an Orthodox Priest and believer.

            So implying that the use of electrical devices represents some great debt owed to atheism is pretty disingenuous.

          • You’ve got your Freud Asemodeus wrong; Tesla was a genius because of his hatred for his father’s religious beliefs.

          • Paul,

            In Tesla’s time there was one great issue of electrical engineering, direct versus alternating current for public use, with Edison losing out to Westinghouse.

            Your nutto “greatest engineer of all time” took the bold position of sending the current direct through the ether to everybody’s house, so we wouldn’t have wires in the street, just those huge wooden domes he spent millions of investors’ money on.

            Methinks your “disingenuous” is closer to your home.


          • It’s the same false dichotomy that the producers of Cosmos employed.

            Assert a strict opposition between religion and science, cherry pick what you can from history to support that assertion, then shrilly insist that anyone who challenges that assertion is anti-science.

            Dawkins popularized these tactics and now the internet teems with people rolling out the same basic memes.

          • All they had to do was change ‘science’ → ‘scientism’, and then it really would have been S vs R. So close, and yet so far away.

          • Apostaste

            I think it clearer to describe it as a contrast between imperialism and faith.

          • Exactly. Did they happen to mention that the person who devised the scientific method – Rene Descartes – was a Roman Catholic who was educated in a Catholic university? Of course not – that didn’t ‘serve’ their ‘narrative’.

            Descartes’ primary intellectual mentor was the great priest, Father Antoine Arnauld, someone of great scientific renown in his own right, having written what became the primary geometry text for centuries, New Elements of Geometry. And that work in geometry was of critical importance, forming the foundation for the theories on optics that Descartes and others (mostly Jesuits) developed and ultimately led to the designs of most modern telescopes. of m

            And there’s quite an impressive intellectual tradition to be found in the Port Royal School, beginning with Arnauld and continuing on through Descartes,Leibnez and Pascal.

            But again, that doesn’t fit in the whole ‘Religion is the enemy of Science and Free Thought’ meme that the producers of Cosmos were so obviously pushing.

            It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the whole thing was an exercise in Atheist propaganda.

          • Have you read Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism? I’ve just started it and it’s awesome. Anyhow, I’m exploring the project of actually causing atheist and skeptic systems of thought to implode from the inside—by reasoning from their presuppositions and showing them their nonsense without having them to get to believe anything else than what they ought to believe. It is challenging, but can be quite fun! One result, as you’ve observed, is that the skeptic often ends up slaughtering language. It reminds me of Richard M. Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, in which he quotes Emerson in his chapter, “The Power of the Word”:

            The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.

          • James Stagg

            Excellent book!: The Last Superstition. Atheists/agnostics will not debate Feser.

          • Wait, seriously? How many refusals are known about?

          • Asemodeus
          • Having just read the preface, the following is erroneous:

            The preface, for example, is a typical polemic about gay marriage undermining our God-given moral values

            Have you read the preface to Last Superstition?

          • Asemodeus

            Why should I bother? Weak apologetics isn’t worth getting into with detail.

          • You shouldn’t, if you are not interested in truth.

          • I’ll have to check it out. David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions is great reading in this subject as well.

          • Thanks! I just requested it from my interlibrary loan system. 🙂

          • Randy Wanat

            They never posited that being religious was bad or stupid; they said religion was often (and still is) used as a means of suppressing truths that ran afoul of a particular faith’s dogma. With that you can surely not disagree.

          • Zeke

            Agreed. Beside Galileo, Cosmos also discussed the contributions to science of
            Newton and Faraday – both Christians. When the series derided religion,
            it was in those few instances where knowledge was suppressed or ignored
            due to religious dogma (Galileo, YEC’s).

          • Apostaste

            To explain the scientific methodology, honestly are you so insecure you feel the need to shoehorn religion into everything?

          • I have no idea how you got ‘religion’ out of what I said. The narrative being served is one being served by Cosmos. How did ‘religion’ get into this? And if you really want to, please give an exhaustive definition of the the term.

          • fredx2

            Oh, we watched it correclty. A science show, that shows us the history of science that lies to us, because they don’t have time to tell the truth.
            Typical Atheist stuff.

          • Asemodeus

            Where is the lie. Be specific.

          • Apostaste

            What Lie, honestly it seems like your just making stuff up now.

        • Karinetta1

          Definiitely yes.

          • Asemodeus

            Or just showing people how science methodology works. If that is atheist propaganda to you, then wow.

          • fredx2

            Since when do scientists have to lie to illustrate science methodology?

          • Asemodeus

            Where is the lie?

      • fredx2

        A show on science that does not tell you the truth? Because it is too hard, and you think they did not have time to tell us the truth?

    • fredx2

      The show was rather pathetic in that way. It was ham fisted triumphalist atheism. Just as in Animal Farm (“four legs good, two legs bad!”) the propagandists told their simplistic and often downright false (Bruno) stories with a sort of Jose Goebbels hate speech aspect to it.
      They sought to portray their “enemy” Christian as stupid, backward and evil. The producer Seth what’s his name and Degrassi are both atheists, both very proud of it and both somewhat contemptuous of their fellow man who are Religious. It is an arrogance that sound people do not have.

      • Michael Romero

        NDT is an agnostic, not an atheist.

        • fredx2

          Sorry, headlines like this made me think he was an atheist:

          “Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why He Believes Faith and Reason Are Irreconcilable”

          PBS Bill Moyers show.

          Maybe he should be called an anti-religionist.

          • Michael Romero
          • Randy Wanat

            What he said is he avoids labels because of all the negative baggage that people have attached to them. He does not believe in any gods of any kind. If someone doesn’t believe in any gods, what does that make them? Oh, right…atheist. If the answer to “do you believe in any gods?” is anything other than “yes,” you’re an atheist. By the way, would you accept atheist defining Christianity for you?

          • Michael Romero

            Do you know what an agnostic is? An agnostic isn’t sure whether or not there is a god, but is withholding judgement. An atheist knows there is no god. A theist knows there is a god.

          • Apostaste

            Your definitions are incorrect. Athesim and Theism refer to a belief or lack of belief in a god or gods.
            Agnosticism refers to the claims that one can or cannot have knowledge in the existence of such things. The terms are not mutually exclusive for example an agnostic atheist (Majority) lacks the belief that there is a god but admits that knowing for certain is not possible.
            In contrast an gnostic theist believes there is a god and asserts that they know that there is.

            You cannot have a spectrum of convictions on a binary proposition. Does this make sense to you?

          • Asemodeus

            ” If someone doesn’t believe in any gods, what does that make them? Oh, right…atheist.”

            It’s incredibly arrogant to label someone else on any level of personal belief or disbelief. You do not have telepathy and nobody gave you this power.

  • cken

    Science has their specious propaganda and religion has theirs. To say that either is completely right or wrong simply demonstrates ones inability to think with any depth. Your belief is almost always a function of the type of indoctrination you were subject to. Atheists have science as their god and believe rationality is their savior. Christians to have their God and their savior. The belief in a supreme entity and life after death has been around much much longer than science. Science is beginning to know a little but not much. There two equally laughable ridiculous stories that are popular now. — Some Christians believe God created everything including man in 6 days 6000 years ago. Some scientists believe all life arose out of some primordial soup a scant 3 or 4 billion years ago. Both beliefs are ignorant. At some point we will all acknowledge science is mans attempt to figure out what God did and how he did it.

    • Asemodeus

      All of which is a fun time false equivalency.

    • Willie Snow

      I’m a christian and believe God created man in 6 days of his time not ours. The word of God says in Psalms 90:
      Lord, you have been our dwelling place
      throughout all generations.
      Before the mountains were born
      or you brought forth the whole world,
      from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
      You turn people back to dust,
      saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
      A thousand years in your sight
      are like a day that has just gone by,
      or like a watch in the night.

  • Scientist4Christ

    A jaunt through the blogosphere (blogmos?) related to origins will quickly reveal that the ‘right’ Christians believe more or less in a tradiional version of strict creationism. You can tell that who the “wrong” Christians are because they accept more (if not all) of the science and are usually being soundly rebuked for their lack of orthodoxy (at best) or their heresy. Thus one group claims to be right and the most vocal/strident on their “Christianity”. It is not surprising at all to me that the general population (in fact most of academia in my experience) thinks Christians are wacko, frequently if not specifically, for their rejection of sound science (I rarely hear disparaging comments on substitutionary atonement or a trinitarian position). They seem unaware of a more nuanced population of believers. I submit that we don’t make up a large group at all in the general population.

    This situation is bad for at least two reasons.
    1) the Gospel cannot be shared effectively by creationists because they have set up a wall that excludes any who ‘believe’ science.
    2) a significant segment of the US population persists in ignorance of the science itself (compare w/ climate change).

  • Karinetta1

    Science does not disparage Christianity or the supernatural for that matter. It strictly belongs into the realm of touch, smell and the five senses in general. A moral yardstick based on faith and its cconcommitenti values is something altogether different:
    “The absence of evid4ence does not mean that there is evidence of absence”.

    • EqualTime

      I think I agree with your first paragraph Karin, but don’t quite understand where you are going with the second. The author seems disappointed there wasn’t more inclusion of religion in this science program – I’m not sure why he’d expect it and note he didn’t really offer how it might have been done other than to include scientists who happen to hold on to their faith as well.

      • Karinetta1

        To put it simply: Science deals in material verities; immaterial verities, like good, evil, love, mercy, moral yardsticks, faith, creation, God and eternal life are just as rational but impossible to grasp by those who regard this life as the be all and end all, denying and mocking anything that cannot be verified empirically.

        • Asemodeus

          Actually you do the same with your life, you are just in denial over it.

      • MattB

        EqualTime, I think Karinetta1 is somewhat on the right track here. Science deals with observation, hypothesis, and conclusions within the material natural world that we live in. Questions about God, life, meaning, morality, etc. are not testable by the Scientific method, and hence, these kind of questions belong to philosophers and theologians.

  • I agree 150%.

  • peteenns

    Folks, I think we can all agree that the conversation has gotten a bit dysfunctional, so I’m closing down the comments.

  • peteenns

    Actually, I TRIED to close them down, but things went screwy and now I am leaving my computer for a while, so try and place nice, OK? Use inside voices? Don;t hate each other?

  • John_QPublic

    Science and Christianity do not conflict. The conflict comes in due to the ASSUMPTIONS that cosmologists use to INTERPRET the observations. The Principle is a movie that shows that even mainstream science, which tends towards atheist, is having to admit that one of their foundational assumptions is wrong: The Copernican Principle.


  • EqualTime

    Science doesn’t need religion. That’s the point of science – to prove or disprove verifiable or falsifiable theories with repeatable experiment. Religion wouldn’t appear to need science – it’s based on faith, once defined as “believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” The only reason religion would need science would be to provide validation of religious beliefs to possibly insecure believers. Since the Enlightenment, the beginning of the era when our human race has been able to document events more accurately than in biblical times, has there been even one documented event which could be validated as evidence of a biblical God? I’m all for folks believing what they choose to believe, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. We should all be honest with ourselves though – if you choose a belief system which rests on faith, not proof, acknowledge it, and move on.

    • bdlaacmm

      “[H]as there been even one documented event which could be validated as evidence of a biblical God?”

      Yes. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well documented (the Gospels, the letters of St. Paul and st. Peter). And there is NO plausible alternative explanation to its being the literal, historical, physical truth. ALL of the 2000 years of attempts to explain this event away have failed.

      – Apostles stole the body? (Then why were they so willing to go to quite painful martyrdoms for what they would have known was a lie?)

      – Went to the wrong tomb? (And there wasn’t anyone around to say, “Umm.. it’s over there.”?)

      – Mass hallucination (You do realize that there is no such thing as a mass hallucination, right?)

      – Jesus didn’t die on the Cross, and was resuscitated 3 days later. (After having his hands and feet nailed through and a spear thrust through his side? Plus, the Romans were quite efficient when it came to executions.)

      – Apostles made the story up. (What? And when Peter started preaching the Resurrection less than 2 months after the event, people didn’t just wander over to the tomb and say, “Nope, he’s still there.”?)

      – Jesus had a twin brother or was a space alien (I shall just pass over these in silence.)

      – Jesus never existed. The whole thing’s a fable. (Problem is, any objective reading of the New Testament shows the vanishingly small probability of assembling such an unintentionally ingenious fraud. Just as an example, take the case of Rufus. See: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-biblical-easter-egg-in-passion-of.html to get an idea of how fantastically interconnected the whole thing is. And there are literally thousands of such details.)

      – Jesus was never put into a tomb in the first place. (Yeah, and a totally corrupt official like Pilate would surely pass up the undoubtedly juicy bribe offered him by the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, when he asked for permission to bury Jesus.)

      I could go on, but all the attempts to debunk the Resurrection have one thing in common – they fail.

      • A T

        The problem in a nutshell is accepting the Bible as a “historical document” of things that actually happened, while simultaneously holding the scriptures of other religions as non-historical. You think that the only people from thousands of years ago who actually wrote down “real” religious happenings were the Jews and the Christians, and that Hinduism and Taoism and the thousands of other religions are just made up. I think there’s some historicity to the Bible (Jesus, under the name Yeshua, may actually have been a rabbi that taught a message of love; while claims like the global flood of Noah are completely unsubstantiated), but to claim the miraculous things written in it actually happened, while simultaneously disavowing the miraculous claims of every other religion and their gods, seems… I don’t know the word for it. I don’t want to say absurd or ridiculous, because those aren’t strong enough for holding such a discordant view of human history and religion.

        • bdlaacmm

          Actually, it’s not me that’s “holding the scriptures of other religions as non-historical” – it’s the adherents of those other religions themselves. I of course can’t speak for everyone, but in my own community here in Maryland, I am literally surrounded by Hindus (including my next door neighbors and the family across the street). We’ve discussed (among many other things) religion at times (especially around the holidays), and I have learned that they themselves hold their scriptures to be a-historical, in the sense of any question of their historicity being totally irrelevant. (I’ve read the Mahabharata – great book, by the way – and there is no internal claim in it to being an account of actual, historical events.)

          Christianity is really the only religion I know of that utterly depends on historical truth. One can be a Jew and believe the Exodus to be a pious fable. Most “Eastern” religions make no pretense of historicity – they regard themselves as being rather above all that. Even Muslims do not see the Koran as an historical document, but rather as the timeless word of Allah. (I’ve read the Koran too, and there is precious little historical detail in it to begin with – it’s mostly poetry.) But as for Christianity, no Resurrection – game over, end of story.

          So there’s no discordance of views involved here. The very claims themselves of non-Christian religions are different not only in detail, but in category. They simply do not make the same sorts of claims. It’s not a matter of apples and oranges, but rather of apples and granite (or any other two, radically dissimilar, basically uncomparable objects).

          • A T

            People take things in different ways. Some Christians are fundamentalists that take everything literally, but many are not and take things metaphorically. There are miracle (or supernatural) stories written about the Buddha’s life and many lifetimes (rebirths), but many Buddhists think they didn’t actually happen (while many others take them more literally). There are Hindu and Buddhist miracles claimed all the time, such as levitation and surviving without food. Many people claim to have been abducted by UFOs or to have seen Bigfoot; many more, in fact, than the number of witnesses in the Bible. The fact is there are thousands of religions and thousands of gods. Humans have a need for answers even when they have no way of knowing, and humans have great imaginations. Religions all seem to answer the same questions — but in a variety of different ways. I think it’s time we move on to finding out what’s true, and not just believing what we’ve been taught as tradition.

            The Bible wasn’t even written by any of the people who had ever met Jesus, nor by any other witnesses. You should really research how the Bible came to be written, edited and revised, compiled and corrected to create a consistent narrative, from scholars and historians who aren’t taking things on faith. Taking things on faith is how we can have a world full of different religions, and it divides us and harms us more than it helps. We have people who want to kill us over religion, and they have as much faith or more than you. I’m not sure where you should start with that, but maybe someone else has a recommendation.

            For just critical thinking and skepticism skills, which you need, I highly recommend Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, and Guy P. Harrison’s “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God”.

          • bdlaacmm

            “You should really research how the Bible came to be written, edited and revised, compiled and corrected to create a consistent narrative, from scholars and historians who aren’t taking things on faith”

            I have – over a period of 6 decades. I have two shelves in my library filled with precisely such works. End result: I am more convinced than ever that the New Testament is a reliable account of literal, historical events.

          • A T

            That just reminds me of Ken Ham and how every piece of evidence that comes out against Young Earth Creationism just makes him believe it more. There’s a method to that madness, and it’s not reliable. I’ll just say “good day” and leave you be. Namaste!

          • bdlaacmm

            Good day to you as well. Just remember to keep your mind open, and not just read things that confirm what you already believe. I’m familiar with the mindset you just described, and I can assure you it’s not mine. I have learned much over the years, and many things I once believed I have now a very different view of. But don’t equate every believer with Ken Ham. He is no more a representative spokesperson for Christianity than Vladimir Lenin is for atheistic materialism, and it would be equally wrong to tar either philosophy / worldview / way of thinking (I don’t know what term I want to use here) with such a broad brush. We really ought to be engaging with the best examples of the people we disagree with, not the easiest to refute. Try refuting James Martin (“Jesus: A Pilgrimage) or John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament) or Scott Hahn (just about anything he wrote). Or to go back in time a bit, G.K. Chesterton (The Everlasting Man).

          • MattB

            Hello Aldris, It seems that you’re view is that all religions are equally true, and I would have to say that is false and misleading. All religions contradict one another and make absolute truth statements, hence, only one can be right in its statement. Jesus not only claimed to be God but he also proved to be God through his death and resurrection.

          • A T

            Hello Matt, no that is not my view. Or perhaps it is, if it’s understood that by “all religions are equally true” you mean they have the equal truth value of being “false”, or untrue. You, Matt, have the view that out of the thousands of religions one is true and the rest false, rather than them all being creations of human imagination coupled with human ignorance, fears and hopes. That requires evidence, and if you prove it you’d win a Nobel Prize and there’d be no more Muslims or Hindus or Taoists… they’d obviously be Christians if it were proven true. Christianity has no better claim than any other religion; the death/resurrection is just part of the narrative, like the magical narratives of all religions. In fact I know Christianity already fails in many of its claims to make true statements… take the Noah story, there’s no evidence whatsoever of a global flood.

          • MattB

            Aldris, the view that out of all religions one is true and the rest is false does require evidence, but it’s not illogical or ignorant. Truth by definition excludes. Religious pluralists want to believe that all religions lead to God and that’is simply impossible because they all contradict each other. Religious pluralists are basically relativists when it comes to truth. “There is no absolute truth” is in of itself an absolute truth statement. That is the same thing that religious pluralists say about Religion, which is self-defeating.

            Historians agree on certain things regarding Jesus after his death. Most NT scholars agree with the burial by JoA to Jesus in a tomb, and that his tomb was found empty by women 3 days later. Almost all agree that Jesus followers and non-believers had apperances of him after his death and that they disciples were transformed from being scared to bold men who died for Christ.

          • A T

            The major problem with this is that you think of “theologians” (Biblical scholars) as “historians”. Real historians, the ones that use evidence to corroborate written accounts, mostly agree that Jesus (“Yeshua”, his real Hebrew name from the Torah) probably existed… was baptized, and crucified. That’s it. I personally think he probably did teach against the judgmental religion of the time, saying to love one another and understand the deep and beautiful nature of the life that you are. Divine? See that’s why there are so many religions, people become legends and then gods… and eventually myths.

            It would take extraordinary evidence to single out Christianity as true among all the religions, and that evidence is lacking. I prefer religions that are about universal truths you can find for yourself, about reason and empathy and the lessening of suffering. Humanism isn’t really like a religion to me, but is important. Buddhism teaches about the transient, ownerless, causally interdependent web of life and how we cling so desperately to the illusion of permanence that we’re in perpetual anxiety about things like death. Religions that are about salvation are exactly about salvation from death… because we are fearful little beings. Heaven was salvation from death, and the Jews hadn’t even dreamed up the idea of Hell (because judgment/punishment are secondary to escaping death). It’s all escapism.

          • MattB

            “The major problem with this is that you think of “theologians” (Biblical scholars) as “historians”. Real historians, the ones that use evidence to corroborate written accounts, mostly agree that Jesus (“Yeshua”, his real Hebrew name from the Torah) probably existed… was baptized, and crucified. That’s it. I personally think he probably did teach against the judgmental religion of the time, saying to love one another and understand the deep and beautiful nature of the life that you are. Divine? See that’s why there are so many religions, people become legends and then gods… and eventually myths.”

            Now you’re just being ignorant. A NT scholar is a historian. The NT is a historical document and therefore requires historical methodology to study it, which is what NT scholars are trained in. They are also trained in Greek, Hebrew, and or Aramaic, as well as the cultural and background influcences of the time.

            “It would take extraordinary evidence to single out Christianity as true among all the religions, and that evidence is lacking. I prefer religions that are about universal truths you can find for yourself, about reason and empathy and the lessening of suffering. Humanism isn’t really like a religion to me, but is important. Buddhism teaches about the transient, ownerless, causally interdependent web of life and how we cling so desperately to the illusion of permanence that we’re in perpetual anxiety about things like death. Religions that are about salvation are exactly about salvation from death… because we are fearful little beings. Heaven was salvation from death, and the Jews hadn’t even dreamed up the idea of Hell (because judgment/punishment are secondary to escaping death). It’s all escapism.”

            There’s no such thing as “extraordinary evidence”. “Extraordinary” is a subjective term. Evidence alone is sufficient for something to be true. Again, you’re claiming that all religions lead to God and that’s simply impossible. They all contradict each other. This means that only one is right. The Judeo-Christian worldview is the only worldview that has proof and evidence which means all other religions are false. Jesus not only claimed to be God but he proved it through his death and resurrection from the dead. He died for your sin and my sin too. The Judeo-Christian worldview is the only worldview that explains the reality in which we live in: Life, death, evil, good, joy, meaning, purpose, hope, humanity,etc…..

          • A T

            The Bible is no more a historical document than the religious scriptures of every other religion. It’s not “special”. I’ve never said a thing, not one thing, about all religions leading to God. I think that’s rubbish. There’s no evidence of any gods to begin with. You’ve been indoctrinated, and your natural human curiosity, fears and hopes keep that indoctrination in place. Had you been raised to believe in the Hindu gods and in reincarnation, guess what you’d be talking about now? Hinduism. =) Good day sir, I think I’ve wasted enough time on a conversation that’s not going anywhere.

          • MattB

            The Bible is a historical document and that’s why it’s been subjected to biblical criticism by historians and scholars. Also, Jesus claimed and proved to be God through his death and resurrection.

          • MattB

            But you’re still maintaining something that isn’t correct. The Bible is a historical document that historians and scholars agree(even though it contains supernatural elements) it is at its core, a historical document.

            “You’ve been indoctrinated, and your natural human curiosity, fears and hopes keep that indoctrination in place. Had you been raised to believe in the Hindu gods and in reincarnation, guess what you’d be talking about now? Hinduism. =) Good day sir, I think I’ve wasted enough time on a conversation that’s not going anywhere.”

            You’ve committed the genetic fallacy, which tries to show a belief is false based upon how it originated. It may be true that if I was born in a country where hinduism is practiced that I could be a hindu, but that doesn’t mean that the belief in hindiusm false(hinduism is false). You have to judge a belief by evidence and reason and clearly, hinduism has none like the Judeo-Christian faith.

          • Matt, I wonder why you are continuing to assert that “Most NT scholars agree with the burial by JoA to Jesus in a tomb, and that his tomb was found empty by women 3 days later,” when you actually have no evidence that “most NT scholars agree” with this. It has already been pointed out to you that the only article that ever made a related claim (the Habermus “study”) fails to reveal its sources, and – even if taken at face value – only calculates what those NT scholars think that have actually bothered to write an article arguing one way or other – a tiny fraction of all NT scholars.

          • MattB

            Not true Beau.

            Jacob Kremer- NT scholar “By far, most exegetes hold firmly . . . to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.”

            D. H. Van Daalen:

            “It is difficult to object to the fact of the empty tomb on historical grounds; most objectors do so on the basis of theological or philosophical considerations. More New Testament scholars are honestly dealing with these empirical facts.”

            Norman Perrin- “The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based”

            Luke Timothy Johnson:

            “A truer estimate of the number of participants who met regularly, wrote papers, and voted on decisions is closer to forty. The Seminar’s climactic publication, The Five Gospels, lists seventy-four “fellows” of the seminar. The numbers alone suggest that any claim to represent “scholarship” or the “academy” is ludicrous. . . . the roster of fellows by no means represents the cream of New Testament scholarship in this country. . . . Forty of the seventy-four fellows listed by The Five Gospels received their doctorates from five schools: Claremont, Vanderbilt, Harvard, Chicago, and Union Theological Seminary”

            Bart Ehrman acknowledges that most contemporary scholars hold to the burial/empty tomb of Jesus(Even though Ehrman himself may have changed his view on the burial accounts of Jesus)


            Raymund Schwager, “it has recently become usual to assess positively the women’s role at the death of Jesus and on Easter morning,” in contrast to the legend hypothesis (Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche [1993]: 436)

          • peteenns

            Matt, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection do not prove his divinity, for people die and rise from the dead, not God. You could say that it demonstrates God’s faithfulness in raising “this man” (Acts 23:23) from the dead.

          • MattB

            His resurrection would verifiy his claims of divinity with God the Father.

          • peteenns

            So, resurrection was proof that Jesus is God? I don’t think the NT ever says this. Paul certainly doesn’t.

          • MattB

            Yes:) His resurrection affirms his claims to divinity. If Jesus was not God, then he could not have been resurrected from the dead like he claimed would happen and Christianity would fall apart like Paul the apostle says in 1 Cor. 15:

            “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile andyou are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

          • peteenns

            But this doesn’t support your point. Paul doesn’t say that the resurrection proves “Jesus is God.” It proves God is faithful. Those two things can’t be equated. Also, as I said earlier, being raised from the dead is a sign of humanity. If anything is not a sign of Christ’s divinity, it is his being raised from the dead by God.

          • MattB

            But people don’t usually rise from the dead. If Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t the ultimate event as evidence of his divinity, then what is?

          • peteenns

            Definitely correct, which is why Jesus’ unexpected resurrection powerfully vindicates him as God’s messiah–though an unexpected messiah, since in Jewish thinking messiah’s don’t die and rise. As Paul says in Romans 1:4, Jesus was declared Son of God “by resurrection from the dead.” Resurrection certified Jesus as messiah (=Son of God, which is a royal, messianic title in Judaism.) Maybe I can put it this way: resurrection doesn’t prove something a about Jesus, but about God and his faithfulness–to him and to us.

          • peteenns

            (I appreciate the conversation, by the way….)

          • This answer is interesting to me as an Orthodox in how it focuses entirely on the proof or “certification” concerning Christ’s identity. Granted, Matt Brown‘s question uses the word evidence and flows from a question of what the Resurrection proves about who Christ was, but I can’t help but think that intimately attached to that proof is that, to quote a hymn that we sing every Pascha, He trampled down death by death and bestowed life to those in the tombs. Later on in Romans the Apostle Paul does say that we are united to Christ in His resurrection as well as His death. The Resurrection reveals the renewal of Creation with Christ as the Second Adam repairing the consequences of sin that were brought by the first Adam. The Resurrection, which is no mere resuscitation of a corpse but is, rather, a resurrection unto a redeemed body (as demonstrated by some of its more unusual activities after the Resurrection) means also the resurrection that is brought for the entire world through the God-man, so that we, as the Apostle Peter says, may be partakers of the divine.

            In any case, a few additional thoughts from what may to the readership here be something of a minority view (that is, I take it Orthodoxy is not the lay of the land here).

          • MattB

            Thank you Dr. Enns for that wonderful answer:)

          • Just to be clear, “prove” is not a useful word in this context is it? The historicity of the resurrection is not something that falls into the realm of proof.

          • MattB

            I think you’re right beau. Prove is more of a mathematical/scientific term. What I should have said was “confirm” or “is evidence of.”

          • Right. It’s unlikely that Dr. Enns would propose that the resurrection is something for which there is good historical evidence.

          • MattB

            That’s not the kind of thing that I was talking about. I was simply saying that the word “prove” is used for math and science. Evidence and Reason are used in history and philosophy.

          • “Proof” really isn’t an element of science either. You can have a mathematical “proof”. And you can brew alcohol of a specified “proof”.

          • AugustineThomas

            The wonderful Philistine on “Exploring our Matrix” blocked me because he’s apparently threatened by a strong defense of Christianity so I’ll reply to your last post here.

            We can judge that those other belief systems you mention are almost certainly false for a variety of reasons I’ve alluded to; namely their societies all stagnated and their people remained barbarians. The Ancient Greeks, who had one of, if not the best culture after the Christians and Jews always subjugated women and held a ratio of slave to freeman greater than 5:1.

            As I mentioned, any culture, based on natural truths, is capable of some great and good achievements. As you suggest, this doesn’t prove them right.

            That’s where I think you’re misrepresenting my argument. Any serious Christian does not deny that believing in Christianity requires faith; my point is that Christianity is by far the most superior belief system in history and because of this we can say that the evidence points strongly to Christianity being true.

            You’re being dubious by suggesting that the only reason to believe in Christianity is acceptance of Christian miracles. (The historical record and logic have given me far more reason to believe than Christian miracles.)

            Only Islam can compete with Christianity as far as being accepted by the greatest proportion of the human jury, but we know that Islam spreads by forcing women to reproduce like livestock and by the sword. Christianity has been accepted by the most people based on their evaluation of the likelihood that it is true.
            The continuing decline of the West, after Christianity made it the most productive and successful region of the world in history, is yet more evidence that points to the truth of Christianity.

            You say that atheism requires no faith, but it certainly does, it requires a nihilistic faith that we can’t prove Christianity by material means so we should sit on our hands and just indulge our favorite cheap pleasures and sins instead of believing in what is, by far, most likely belief system.

            God bless you!

          • AugustineThomas

            I’m not going to engage you on this thread of comments. James McGrath blocked you on Exploring Our Matrix for specific reasons which he cites:


            Pete Enns has asked the following on this post (you can read it above):

            “All comments are welcome–pro, con, or neutral–provided they are respectful and genuinely engage the post or a comment on the thread.”

            “Badgering, abusive, nasty, mean, bullying, aggressive, disrespectful, baiting, insulting, etc. comments will be deleted and the commenter warned–once–and given the chance to try again (since there may be a good point behind the rough exterior) … Long comments will be tolerated but only if they genuinely contribute to the discussion.”

            I would ask that you respect Pete’s wishes, and refrain from hijacking this post for another conversation. If you would like to discuss the topic with me further, you are welcome to email me at beau.quilter@gmail.com

          • peteenns

            thanks for the heads up

          • I’ve been guilty of “hijacking” a few posts in the past; I’m trying to be a better participant.

          • AugustineThomas

            He blocked me because he thinks, by telling the truth, I’m threatening his efforts to convert you with his false sincerity and warm and fuzzy nonsense.
            I acted no worse than you did in our conversation. Both of us made comments that could be perceived as rude or as evidence of the imperfection of our attempts to defend our beliefs.
            I wouldn’t block you for insulting me in your zealousness to defend your beliefs. That guy is a joke and a hypocrite.

            I didn’t hijack anything any more than you did. I made an argument against what I viewed to be an ignorant comment and you were every bit as responsible for the long debate that followed.
            I’m not even bitter. I don’t need to put on my sissy gloves when I have a debate. I can simply ignore the meaningless insults.

            God bless you!

          • You misunderstood me. When I suggested that we not hijack a blog post, I was talking about this one, Pete Enn’s not James McGrath’s. The readers of this blog post are discussing a separate topic, and Pete Enn’s has requested that comments be related to the post. Again, if you would like to continue this discussion, I suggest that you email me at beau.quilter@gmail.com.

          • AugustineThomas

            God bless you bud!

          • I’m confused Matt. Kremer’s statement is the only one that remotely agrees with at least part of your contention. And that statement was made in 1970’s with no research to back it up.

            The rest appear to be the statements of scholars who, to some extent, hold to empty tomb historicity, but have no research to show the consensus of scholarship.

          • MattB

            Beau, you can look at the names of biblical scholars from different parts of the globe from the 70’s and today who would say the same thing.

            Mark Allen Powell, the chair of the Historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature, “The dominant view is that the passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony” (Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68 [2000]: 171

            Whethere it’s Jacob Kremer from the 1970’s or Mark Allen Powell from the 21st century, both are stating the same thing: that most scholars of the NT hold to the burial/empty tomb of Jesus.

          • And like the Kremer statement, this is a vague assertion with no study or documentation to support it … and yet again you are letting WLC do all of your research for you. May I suggest that you do a bit of research that doesn’t involve the “reasonable faith” website of William Lane Craig.

            How about that “eaten alive” assertion of yours? Have you figured out how many scholars think that Jesus was “eaten alive?” Or was that a straw man of your own invention?

          • MattB

            Beau, I cited you multiple scholars and their sources; some of which are documented in books, journals, and articles. I don’t see what or how any of what I cited is vauge. Kremer and Mark Allen Powell’s statements as well as all the others were very clear on the issue at hand. Just because WLC is a conservative Christian doesn’t mean what he’s saying is wrong. He lists liberal and conservative scholars which I already quoted and they agree on the same thing: that most scholars of the NT hold to Jesus burial by JoA and his tomb found empty by women 3 days later. I’m not sure what else you want me to do. As I’ve said before, look at what scholars of the NT say on these issues.

            I don’t know how many scholars believe Jesus was “eaten alive”. I simply said that John Dominic Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar believes this.

          • Matt, a list of scholars does not represent a consensus of scholars, unless you can show a demonstrative study showing their consensus (which neither Kremer, Powell, or Craig do).

            Here is a list of scholars, cited in an article by Peter Kirby, that do not favor an historical empty tomb: Marcus Borg, Günther Bornkamm, Gerald Boldock Bostock, Rudolf Bultmann, Peter Carnley, John Dominic Crossan, Steven Davies, Maurice Goguel, Michael Goulder, Hans Grass, Charles Guignebert, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Randal Helms, Herman Hendrickx, Roy Hoover, Helmut Koester, Hans Küng, Alfred Loisy, Burton Mack, Willi Marxsen, Gerd Lüdemann, Norman Perrin, Robert Price, Marianne Sawicki, John Shelby Spong, Howard M. Teeple, and Rev. John T. Theodore.

            And this list is by no means exhaustive. It is clear, that the historicity of the empty tomb is not something that can be settled by scholarly consensus. It is an historical area in which there is much diverse conjecture.

            And, no Matt. John Dominic Crossan does not believe that Jesus was “eaten alive” by dogs. He, along with other scholars, notes that the bodies of most victims of Roman crucifixion were not buried, but were left to be ravaged by wild animals. He proposes that this might have been the fate of the body of Jesus.

            No scholar proposes that Jesus was “eaten alive” by dogs. As I’ve already said, that is a straw man of your own invention.

          • MattB

            Beau, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood my argument and I’m sorry for that. I can cite you a bunch of scholars who support the burial/empty tomb story, but the point of citing those few, was not to show their viewpoint, but to show that Habermas’ survey is accurate. The people I cited stated the viewpoint of what most scholars of the NT think. As i’ve said countless times: most scholars of the NT hold to the burial of Jesus by JoA and his empty tomb by women 3 days later. The scholars you cited represent the 25%(Not that it doesn’t matter because it does). The fact that most liberal and conservative scholars agree on the same thing is a reflection of the evidence.

            Claiming that Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs after his death is speculative and faulty. The accounts are unanimous in agreement on Jesus’ burial and empty tomb. Plus, there were special instances were criminals were given to families for proper burial(holiday and or special events). It’s not totally implaussible to say this is what happened to Jesus, especially when you consider that it was near passover and the Romans knew that Jews wanted to get the bodies down from the cross in a hurry. Dr.McGrath even told me in one of his comments that the archaeology in the area near Jesus’ crucifixion shows that Jesus would have most likely have been buried or placed in a tomb rather than thrown into a burial plot reserved for criminals.

          • Matt, why do you say, “the accounts are unanimous in agreement on Jesus’ burial and empty tomb”? What accounts? The gospels? Even Jacob Kremer points out that the gospel accounts are dependent on each other and do no represent multiple witnesses.

            And you’re changing your story, now. You claimed that scholars were proposing that Jesus “was eaten alive” by dogs. Did you make that up?

          • So Matt, have you found even one crazy scholar you can quote as asserting that Jesus was “eaten alive”‘ by dogs? Or did you make up this false allegation?

          • MattB

            Beau, I meant the idea that Jesus body was eaten by wild dogs is crazy. Again, I’m sorry for the confusion.

          • Your quotation from Luke Timothy Johnson has nothing to do with empty tomb consensus. It is an estimate of the number of scholars involved in the Jesus Seminar.

            This is typical of the approach I often see you taking: listing sources that are not arguing what you say they are arguing.

            Why do you take this deceptive approach?

          • MattB

            Luke Timothy Johnson’s quote is about the Jesus Seminar, yes. I mentioned him because the Jesus Seminar typically think that Jesus was eaten alive by dogs(John Dominic Crossan is someone who believes this), and this view is extremely radical, even for liberal scholars on the left.

          • The Jesus Seminar doesn’t represent a consensus of NT scholars (either for or against an empty tomb), so the quote doesn’t support your contention.

          • MattB

            Exactly! that’s my point. They don’t represent what a lot of NT scholars agree upon. One thing they think happened to Jesus after his death was that he was eaten alive by dogs and that is far too radical for both liberal and conservative scholars.

          • The Jesus seminar is not a list of all (or even most of) the scholars that reject the empty tomb; that’s why the statement doesn’t support your contention.

            And I see that you still haven’t read James McGrath’s book on the empty tomb, in which you would have read that many if not most criminals crucified by the Romans in this period were left in the open to be ravaged by animals rather than buried. The possibility that this might have happened if Jesus had been crucified is hardly a radical idea – though you try to make it so by calling it “eaten alive by dogs”, an idea that you (yet again) borrowed from William Lane Craig.

            Why do you bizarrely add the word “alive”? No scholar asserts that Jesus was “eaten alive” by anything! Where do you come up with this stuff?!

          • MattB

            I didn’t cite that from WLC, this is Luke Timothy Johnson’s words. Also, James McGrath doesn’t think Jesus was eaten by dogs or buried in a grave. He agrees, like most NT scholars that Jesus was buried in a tomb by JoA. Where McGrath disagrees is whether or not Jesus was given an honorable burial by JoA. He thinks that Jesus was dishonorably buried.

            Archaeological evidence also shows that the Church of the Holy Sepulchure is the most likely spot of Jesus’ tomb. Philo and Josephus mention how criminals were given special rites on certain holidays to be buried by family members.

          • I know what McGrath thinks – I’ve read his book. He gives a fair reading of several theories about the empty tomb, then submits his own theory with some equivocation. He doesn’t “radicalize” other opinions as you do. He treats them with respect and the acknowledgement that all such theories, including his own, are speculative.

          • MattB

            I’m simply saying that he agrees like most scholars with the burial and empty tomb of Jesus and he himself is a “liberal” scholar.

          • Yes. Still not a consensus.

          • One other point, Matt, that should be obvious. For the sake of argument, let’s credit Habermas’ undocumented study that 75% (or 70% depending on when you ask him) of scholarly articles on the historicity of an empty tomb favor an empty tomb.

            That means that at least 25% of the articles do not favor an empty tomb. 30% in other Habermas statements. Do you realize how high that number is? It only applies to articles on the empty tomb (doesn’t apply to all scholars), but even in this small subset you have 25-30% of scholars doubting the empty tomb. That, in itself, makes the empty tomb, by any scholarly measure, not an established fact, as minimal facts apologists like to claim.

          • MattB

            Right, I understand your point beau that a consensus should be neare 100, but the thing is that you have two opposing groups(Liberals and conservatives) who agree with the same thing and even though that isn’t proof that they’re right, it does show something about the evidence that leads them to believe this.

          • That’s a rather vague assertion. What you mean by conservative and liberal in this context escapes me, but if you mean Christian and non Christian, I have to point out that Ehrman no longer supports an empty tomb.

          • MattB

            By Liberal, I do mean secular scholars and yes, I don’t think Ehrman holds to this view anymore. The point of citing Ehrman was not to show his view, but the fact that he affirms the idea that most scholars hold to the burial and empty tomb.

            Liberals and conservatives are usually at odds with each other, but the fact that most of them agree on this issue is a reflection of the data.

          • One more point about your Kremer quotation. He is making an anecdotal point about “most exegetes”. An exegete is not the same thing as biblical scholar. One can be an exegete without being a biblical scholar. In fact, one could easily argue that most who practice exegesis are not scholars of biblical history.

          • MattB

            An exegete is a textual interpreter. A NT scholar is a trained exegete because they learn how to interpret the text. Jacob Kremer’s quote refers to NT scholars in general who are exegets.

          • Most preachers are also exegetes, and most preachers are not NT scholars. And whatever Kremer meant by the phrase (when he wrote it back in the 1970’s), he had no research to back it up.

          • MattB

            Jacob Kremer certainly didn’t think of preachers in his quote. I don’t know why you’re adding your speculation to what he said when Jacob Kremer is a historian/scholar and not a preacher. He is German so if I could find an english version of what he wrote on the issue, then maybe I can send it to you if you want me to. However, the document I cited was what he published in a German article.

          • Frankly, Matt, you have no idea who Kremer was referencing – you just borrowed the quote from apologist websites. It’s a vague, 30 year old quote, with no research to back it up. The sort of citation apologists frequently scrape up as “evidence.”

          • MattB

            Beau, Kremer was a NT scholar and wrote about the state of scholarship. Why do you keep claiming I’m wrong when other scholars back his statements up that I’ve repeatedly showed?

          • No, Matt, you’re just listing scholars who promote the conclusion that you like, but that proves nothing about the consensus of the scholarship. Anyone can play that game. Do you know what I appreciate about James McGrath’s scholarship? He has opinions, but he is honest about what can be known, and what is conjecture, and he clearly sees Jesus burial (as most scholars do) as an event about which we can only have historical conjecture not fact.

          • How about that theory that Jesus was “eaten alive” by dogs, Matt? What scholars were you quoting?

      • EqualTime

        Thank you for your sincere reply, but my question was since the Enlightenment, which began in the 15th Century, since modern man could document well our history, has there been some suggestion of the existence of the biblical God, other than the faith of his/her believers?

        • bdlaacmm

          Sorry, missed that. I’d say Fatima. Extremely well documented, and if true, certainly evidence for the Biblical God.

          • Andrew Dowling

            If you get a bunch of people expecting a miracle to stare directly at the sun, they will see some crazy stuff due to the ensuing retinal photo-sensitivity and phosphene visual artifacts.

        • Troy Johnson

          (Rom 1:20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
          The idea that is complicated world and cosmos we live in just happened to spring into existence from nothing is so ridiculous it is laughable. The idea that “given enough time anything can evolve” would if taken to it’s ultimate conclusion include God evolving.

    • Scientist4Christ

      I hesitate to say this because it is clear that reasonable statements don’t deter you from changing the topic in a discussion. This is a blog about Cosmos and the portrayal of all Christians being aligned with positions similar to that of Ken Ham–not all Christians think so little of the science. That said, “faith” is not the same as blind belief. Christians trust the things that Jesus said, they are the receivers of an ancient eyewitness account of the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a result, they take seriously the other written revelations about God that Jesus took seriously. This is quite different than believing something blindly. Sure, we weren’t there to see for ourselves, we’re trusting the report of others. But this is very much like us believing that John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln, an event with fewer witnesses.

      • EqualTime

        Thank you for our comment S4C. I thought the topic was set by Mr. Enns lamenting there was not a greater favorably religious sentiment in this show about scientific theory, and I posed my thoughts on it. I also question whether there is a false equivalency in your effort to analogize the Resurrection of Christ, a phenomena we have never seen since, with the assassination of a president, well documented and which, 149 years later, we have ample evidence not only of the event itself, but of similar events recurring on an all too often basis.

        • Scientist4Christ

          Do you also doubt the beginning of the cosmos, an event no one has witnessed, that has not recurred to our knowledge, and for which the subsequent results are our evidence? Incredulity is inadequate as an argument against an outcome, else evolution (also indirectly observed for the macro level btw) and an ancient universe would be readily discredited by many evangelical Christians.

          • EqualTime

            You may not agree, but some believe the burden of proof is on the theist, not the scientist, when comes to the existence of God. The cosmos clearly was created – we can see it. The scientific working hypothesis is that it originated from the Big Bang, in which physicists much brighter than me seem to be confident – though I’m sure they remain open to new theories supported by the scientific method. There is ample evidence to refute Young Earth evangelicals, whether they choose to see it or choose to hold on to Genesis and a 4-6,000 year old earth and that Man co-existed with dinosaurs. Even if we want to call the cause behind the Big Bang, if there was one, God, Creator, or First Mover, there is no evidence beyond the Bible of the mythology accepted by evangelical Christians. Thanks for the discussion.

          • Scientist4Christ

            You may have hit the nail head on. Scientists seek for testable hypotheses that can be proven or disproven. Only a very literal reading of the Bible can be tested (this reading falls short in many ways–indicating that a strictly literal reading is false). Once a primarily theological reading (as opposed to exclusively literal) is applied, the scientist has little to work with. Not all evangelicals accept the YE position, some accept the mechanistic and dating results of science. I believe this is Enn’s point about Cosmos, evangelical Christians are not a group in lock-step about the age of the earth, evolution, or even whether Adam is the first man or just a kind of representative. So, Tyson seems to take a stilted view in an otherwise well-done presentation.

            The theist is under no obligation to prove God. Nor really is the evangelist. An honest evangelical will tell you that knowledge of God does not begin with a logical proof of God, or even blind acceptance of Christian doctrines, it begins with coming to know Jesus. The scientist that insists on the irrefutable proof of God from the theist can’t get one. Many scientists have received their “proof” though, from Jesus. Discussion hurts noone, thanks.

      • A very strange claim, that Booth’s assassination of Lincoln had fewer witnesses than Jesus’ resurrection. For the resurrection, we only have a vague mention by Paul (who was not a witness) of 500 witnesses – vague hearsay at best regarding a strangely high and round number.

        By contrast we have the actual words of over 100 eyewitnesses to Lincoln’s assassination at the Ford Theatre:


  • Lark62

    Although it’s fun to see someone openly stating that they are an atheist, freedom of religion is for Christians also, and every other religion or non religion. No one should be using government authority, property or resources to promote one religious viewpoint. I wish the FFRF ad had been more inclusive.

  • JJ Thompson

    A professing Christian holding to an anti-Creationism position can hardly be described as having “a more sophisticated view on religious matters.” Denying the historicity of Biblical creation, while affirming supernatural events like the incarnation, substitutionary atonement, resurrection and ascension, is just an attempt to escape the “offense of the cross” by retreating to a form of pseudo-religion. Holding to pseudo-religion deserves more contempt than bearing the pseudo-science label – at least the Creationist can be considered uneducated and scientifically illiterate. The pseudo-religionist, however, lives under the contradiction of claiming to be intelligent and enlightened yet unable to follow through on the logic that the very same principles that deny Creationism, also deny all the supernatural claims of Christianity. If God didn’t supernaturally give life to the first Adam, why believe He supernaturally gave life to the “last Adam?” The irrationality here deserves full contempt from both the conservative Christian and the atheistic materialist.

  • I highly enjoyed “Cosmos”!

    To the question of whether religious perspectives should have been included in the program: I think it would have been irrelevant.

    The producers might have remarked on Einstein’s socialism, but the program was no more about political perspectives than it was about religious perspectives.

  • Joy_F

    I think the loudest section usually gets focused upon as being representative of the whole. The hundred thousands of peaceful Muslims going about their business in Asia are nonexistent in many people’s minds in the US. The radical groups make for good TV and stories. They are a visual to “rally the troops against.”

    In the same way, our Dualistic society doesn’t grant us voice. Not while Creationists are saying we aren’t true Christians and radical athiests can’t fit us into an agenda.

    As I watched Cosmos, I generally just thought of it as a response to fundamentalism.

  • Sagan and others like him weren’t and aren’t unaware that there are non-fundamentalist forms of religion. They are, as far as I have seen, convinced that any belief in supernatural tends to serve as a shortcut to real answers. Also, I’ve seen real frustration among agnostics/atheists that supernatural-based religions are so flexible, being reshaped to fit available data and leaving many believers effectively saying “nuh uh, that’s not what I believe” to skeptics who cite less-informed religious views.

  • hdkpatel

    just type Hinduism and cosmos, big bang theory and Evolution in google :

    you will find Eastern way of thing are quite different.