Monday, October 08, 2012

Biblical literalism strikes again

The left, especially its atheist component, has eagerly picked up a story about a statement made last month by Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, in which he very colorfully dismissed some scientific theories on the grounds that they are inconsistent with a literal reading of the Bible:

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said in videotaped remarks to the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet in Hartwell, Ga. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Broun, a medical doctor who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said there are “a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth.”
My observations:

  1. Dr. Broun (he's an M.D., so he's got a good mind) may be proven right on all counts someday. I don't think it's likely, but it's possible. Science is like that. I've always been charmed by the story told about Richard Feynman's physics students at Cal Tech explaining their post-lecture euphoria to a visitor: "It's great! Everything we knew last week is wrong!" 
  2. In the face of assertions like these, a genuinely scientific attitude should always lead us to patiently say, "All right, show me your evidence, and then show me how you reasoned from it soundly to the conclusion you drew." Often, when politely challenged like that, people with poor evidence or faulty reasoning will fold their cards immediately.
  3. Despite the chance of eventual scientific vindication, Rep. Broun needs to be more realistic about the effect such remarks will have right now. Most people who regard themselves as educated and scientifically-minded will not only dismiss these views out of hand, but from that moment on, will dismiss everything else he says. If you're a politician, that's a stupid thing to do to yourself.
  4. As a Catholic, I'm proud that my Church built the university system from which modern science sprang, and has consistently taken the view that all Truth is one; that is, genuine truths understood by Faith will always be consistent with genuine truths understood by science. (Yes, yes, there's the Galileo case. That's a dispute for another post).
  5. Biblical literalism like that propounded by Rep. Broun and his Liberty Baptist Church congregation is always going to lead to defeats for the Faith, and to increased hostility to Christianity in the general population.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Nothing to see here. Move along.

News item:

Mexico finds 50 skulls in sacred temple

Ah, those peaceful and charming Native Americans, the Aztecs. So cruelly mistreated by their Spanish conquerors.

Turns out that after decapitating their sacrificial victims, the Aztecs drove a wooden stake through the skulls so they could be displayed on a rack.

And what was one scholar's reaction to this news?
“It provides rather novel information on the use and reuse of skulls for ritual events at the Templo Mayor,” [University of Florida archaeologist Susan] Gillespie said in an email. ... “It ultimately gives us a better understanding of how the Aztecs used the human body in various ways in their ritual practices."
Remarkably similar, I'd say, to the way that those human-skin lampshades give us a better understanding of how National Socialism used the human body between 1933 and 1945: