Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Kansas Senators Are Really Saying When They Talk About Evolution

In today's New York Times, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback clarified his position on abortion. Here is his editorial, with a line-by-line translation for the thinking-impaired.

In our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves.

Boy, did I fuck up.

So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution.

I am putting the word "believe" in parentheses because you can only believe in God.

As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

Let me pretend to be reasonable while I pander to my base.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days.

Let me express the premise as a stark choice between blind faith in science and blind faith in an extreme form of creationism.

But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

I have now elevated faith to the level of science and reason. And by using the word “complexity,” I am implicitly stating that to unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution is simplistic.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason.

Faith and reason are the same thing. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you .

I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two.

And here’s that bridge I was talking about.

The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths.

Notice how, by using the word “truths” in both clauses, I imply that faith is just another type of scientific method.

The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

God is the answer to all questions.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us.

This is one of only three concessions I will ever make to science. And please note my deliberate use of the word “should.” I put that in there rather than start the sentence with the words “In a perfect world.”

At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question.

But Faith can. Oh yeah. Every single question ever. Go on. Try me. Ask me anything. The answer is always God.

Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less.

There is no clarity of vision without God.

Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose.

Belief in science is meaningless, valueless, and pointless.

More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love.

-- by telling us on the one hand that it’s God’s will, and on the other hand that it’s God’s purpose, as found in a book written by bronze-age shepherds interpreted by world-weary Greeks for power-hungry Romans called The Bible.

And Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

See above note on the word “should.” And note how "Faith" is capitalized but "science" isn't.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true.

This is the second concession.

If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Which technically means I reject evolution. You listening, Kansas?

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.

Because there are different theories, none of them can be correct.

Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

Since there is no current evolutionary theory which says that man has a unique place in the world, I am making shit up right now. I am doing this to equate science with philosophy.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident.

By using the word “vision,” I am implying that Darwinians don’t see facts, they just see the world differently.

That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Which would be all of them.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.

I have just used the word “facts” to mean “faith.”

There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species.

This is the last concession.

Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him.

If even one biologist believes in God, then science is meaningless.

It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

The reason why it doesn’t strike me as anti-science is because, to me, science is just another failed religion based on faulty philosophical presuppositions. Instead of, you know, facts.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table.

God did it.

For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion.

Because, since it’s not about correct or incorrect, but two different versions of the truth, equal time provisions must apply.

An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed.

I said, God did it.

As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well.

Read my lips: God did it. End of debate.

The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

Let me talk about abortion for a second.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded.

I am against abortion.

I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.

I am so totally against abortion I could just scream.

I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

God made us to fight abortion.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome.

You scientists go waste your time if you feel like it; we already know the answer to every question you’re going to ask.

Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.

God made man in His image.

Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge.

These aspects are called "creationism" and “intelligent design.”

Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

These aspects are called "science" and "reason."

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

Vote for me -- I believe in God.

Run don't walk

. . . and see Paprika. Not only is it a cross between Sandman and Philip K Dick, but there's more wit and humor in the credit sequence than in all 3 hours of Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Throwing Down The Gauntlet: Three Songs for Billy Collins

The poem Nightclub by Billy Collins starts out like this:

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.

I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.

You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.

Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

Well, not any more. My mission (which I have decided to accept) is to write three songs based on those themes: (1) I am so beautiful and you are such a fool to love me; (2) You are so beautiful (too bad you're such a fool); and (3) God what a fool you are to think I'm beautiful. Check back next week to see the results.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Trilogy's End

  • First show of the day? Check.
  • Trailer for next Nicolas Cage bomb (National Treasure 2)? Check.
  • Kid talking throughout movie? Check.
  • Really jarring concentration camp visual echo in first two minutes? Check.
  • Nature of visual echo? Ten-foot-high pile of boots from hanged pirates.
  • Two comic-relief pirates just as unfunny as two comic-relief robots in Star Wars? Check.
  • Keira Knightley's chin just as big as I remember? Check.
  • Plot totally confusing even though I've seen both previous movies? Check.
  • Ship-sailing-on-stars echo from Baron Munchausen? Check.
  • Being John Malkovich echo? Check.
  • The Good The Bad and The Ugly echo? Check.
  • Complete with spaghetti western guitar score? Double check.
  • Johnny Depp gets to say the words "feculent maggots?" Check.
  • Dog with keys has cameo appearance? Check.
  • Keith Richards plays guitar at crucial plot moment? Check.
  • Great cookie after the credits are finished? Check.
  • Weirdest WTF credit ever? Check.
  • Text of weirdest WTF credit ever: I didn't see the beginning of it, but I swear to Davy Jones that right at the end of the crawl there's this credit:

[Something] from "The Time of Your Life,"' by William Saroyan.

Used by permission.