Nice boys don’t ask questions like that said the minister

Earlier this week, Dan Brown the author of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” appeared on CBS Good Morning. It was fascinating to learn of his upbringing as he was raised by a mathematician father and a very devout mother who was the church choir director. Brown even sang in his mother’s choir. He said he was raised to ask questions and lived in a very healthy balance of science and religion.

Brown noted it was not uncommon around the dinner table to question all things, such as what if Jesus was not the son of God and was a mortal prophet? This type of questioning was encouraged as it opened his mind to discussion. It also let him gain a better understanding of religion in the context of greater scientific information. When he became concerned that the Big Bang Theory seemed to be at odds with the bible’s view on creation, he went to ask his minister. The answer he received was not welcoming of discussion. The answer resides in the title to this post. “Nice boys don’t ask questions like that,” said the minister.

He said this was a life changing answer. It had the opposite effect from what the minister likely intended. Brown said it told him that we should be questioning more things in the bible especially where the text doesn’t jive with scientific data and leading thought. Many who have discussed the Big Bang Theory have noted that it need not, by itself, contradict a divine hand of creation. But, that is not the answer he received.

Since he wrote “The Da Vinci Code” which is based on the plot that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, he was asked on the show about the recent papyrus that indicated that Jesus was married, but was proven to be not authentic. Brown notes that religious scholars over time have discussed whether Jesus was married. The book and movie just made the issue more known to others. He was not saying Jesus was or was not married. Brown was simply noting that it has been discussed in religious scholar circles.

So, we should question texts such as the bible, especially when considering the context of when they were first written and later translated. I have written several posts about people of faith teaching against science and scientific exploration. For the home schooling mothers (and fathers) and owners of the Creationist museum that talk about the dinosaurs walking with man on an earth that is only 7,000 years old, this does a huge disservice to the children. They are being taught that others will try to dissuade you from these teachings, which will only alienate the kids from their teachers when the truths become more evident.

As someone of faith, to repeat a message that I have been noting in earlier posts, it is not possible that every word in the bible is true or any religious text for that matter. They each have good messages and teachings to live by, but even if divinely inspired, these texts were written by imperfect men, interpreted and reinterpreted by imperfect men, and translated and retranslated by imperfect men. God did not dictate, so the men related what they believed to be true in the context of their own biases, understandings of science, and human imperfections. And, they were men. Women are treated as second class citizens and even chattel in many religious texts.

For a minister to give the response to young Dan Brown’s question like he did, showed his own lack of faith in the document. The bible has many great lessons, but it also has parts that don’t get brought up much in sermons. We must question things. King Solomon, who is revered in the bible for his wisdom, tells us God gave us a brain and we honor him when we use it. So, we should use it and ask questions.

We need to reconcile what the text means in the greater context of science and history.  For those who believe the earth is only 7,000 years old, when data literally beneath your feet refutes what you are saying about the age of the earth, then you should pause and think. If we don’t allow an updated understanding of the bible and religious texts, then people will pay attention less and miss the key messages that Jesus had for us. And, that would be a shame.



But, mom said dinosaurs walked the earth with people

I watched a pretty good documentary this weekend on HBO called “Questioning Darwin” which shows a contrast between evangelical “Creationist Christians” and various scientists and scientific historians. It is worth watching, although it will leave you with some interesting emotions. Attached is a link which speaks to the documentary.

For context, I am a Christian, but one who believes the bible was written by men, reinterpreted by men, and translated by men over many centuries. If it is divinely inspired, there are many imperfections and interpretations of what God intended therein. To say it is word for word what God meant, simply cannot be true, as many of the men, especially King James, were known for some creative license. God may be perfect, but men are not.  I would also add, there is an old saying if you ever want to create an Atheist, have them read the bible. A Pew Research survey a few years ago, said Atheists actually know the bible better than Christians.

I am a big believer in the overarching messages of Jesus, which translate well to other religious texts. Jesus was a big believer in helping those in need and treating people like you want to be treated. That is the greatest lesson from the bible. The bible also teaches us through Solomon in Proverbs to honor God by using our brain for the betterment of mankind. To me, this is an ideal issue for us to use the wonderful brain that God gave us. If we don’t think, we do Him a disservice and harm others.

I want that context known as it disappoints me greatly that the “creationist” movement continues to take footing along with the establishment of creationist museums, which lend credence to something that has little solid science to back it up. For example, these museums exhibit dinosaurs walking the earth the same time as people. One minister noted that dinosaurs were created on the fifth day when all land animals were created. And, what I found quite interesting, per these teachings all dinosaurs were herbivores until Adam ate of the apple and original sin was created. Then the ones who wanted to be carnivores could now eat meat.

Yet, what really made me sad was seeing mothers home schooling their kids and teaching this as scientific fact. One of the kids even wanted to be a scientist, so I could see this kid going to college to find out that what he was told had no scientific basis at all. The ministers, teachers and counselors had a plan for that saying when you get out in the real world, people will tell you what you believe is not true. So, you should not believe them. I am a parent of three, and what parent would want to honestly tell their child to only believe what you learned here? That would set that child up for a harder adult life of learning.

When evidence abounds to the contrary, these kids will grow up and be frustrated with others first, then likely with their church leaders and parent-teachers for misleading them. “Mom, why did you tell me dinosaurs walked the earth with people?” they will ask. They will begin to see that scientific data on the age of the earth, when dinosaurs walked the earth, when man walked the earth, how species have evolved including man, how species continue to evolve to meet certain environmental conditions, etc.  As the scientists and scientific historians note in “Questioning Darwin,” many sciences are hinged off the tremendous depth and breadth of study of Darwinism.

I also came away even more impressed with Darwin. This man went to great pains, details and hardships to discover and validate his findings. The time he took to do this is impressive. His significant body of letters to other scientists is extraordinary by itself. The reaction “On the Origin of the Species…” was not only negative as believed today. Its overwhelming body of work and science was actually received favorably by many. And, it also may be of interest, Darwin was buried with acclaim inside of a major cathedral  in England, so what he painstakingly defined need not be at odds with Christianity. Those who buried him in an exalted place seemingly did not believe this.

Our country has fallen behind on math and science education to a degree that STEM education is a focus. Yet, to steal time from that focus to teach a misrepresented and misunderstood history of how the world was created is a terrible abuse of time, energy and resources. When Louisiana signed into law that creationism had to be taught as a science, Zack Kopplin, a young teen sued the state and was joined by over hundred Nobel laureates in science to advocate against the folly of this decision. His point was you are hurting my education to teach me something that is contrary to evidence that permeates everything. Here is an article on his reasoning for the lawsuit.

The creationists in the documentary where concerned because they believe every word in the bible to be true. In other words, if Darwin is correct, then that means everything they believe is not true. To me, you are setting yourself up for failure with that construct. The men who were divinely inspired wrote from their perspective at the time. Just like any religious leader today, they would bring their own biases into the writing, even if divinely inspired. Also, as noted before, if you believe every word in the bible to be true, then you need to teach all parts of it, including the parts the ministers don’t like to dwell on. These are the parts that tend to create the Atheists who do read the bible.

So, to me as a Christian, we should recognize the bible as an imperfect book that includes some wonderful teachings that we all could learn from. Evolution is a proven and accepted science, but it need not make you lose your faith in and of itself. The sooner these “Creationist Christians” realize this, the better off they will be, as will their children and everyone else whose time you are wasting. That is what I believe.

Random Musings on a Rainy Friday

“Let it Rain” sang Eric Clapton, as that is precisely what it is doing. At least it is not snow and ice, as we have had more than enough of the solid precipitation. A few random musings on this rainy Friday are in order.

Obama nominates some questionable ambassadors. This disappointed me as he was supposed to be above recommending ambassador posts to some big donors. For someone who tends to get shortchanged on the good things he has done balanced by some of the bad things that have happened, you would think the President would not do something so foolish as to appoint some ambassadors who were not qualified and could not answer some basic questions. The fact that others have done this before is no excuse. In tennis, this would be called an “unforced error.”

Bill Nye has two debates with people with some interesting views. Bill Nye the Science Guy had not just one, but two debates the past ten days. First, he debated with Ken Ham about Creationism and the age of the world. Second, he debated Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who is Vice Chairperson of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, about climate change. Tennessee is home to the new Creationism museum which has among other things dinosaurs walking with people in exhibits. I am sorry but the Creationist debate was put to bed about 100 years ago and for people to believe the world is only 6,000 years old flies in the face of a mountain of data. I am not saying someone cannot believe in God, but the authors of the bible who were men, had lesser understanding of science than is known today.

As for Rep. Blackburn, she holds to the conviction that climate change is unproven science and said Nye was just an actor and engineer. It is time for the GOP to join the rest of the world and stop listening to their funders in the fossil fuel industry. Why am I picking on them? The industry hired a Public Relations firm around the time of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” whose sole purpose was to convince people global warming was a hoax. They did a good job, as the goal was to create enough doubt to continue fossil fuel retrieval at an even faster pace. If this was a sporting event, it would be a route 96 to 4. 96% of scientists, including the actor, believe climate change is real and man-influenced. The data is overwhelming.

But, let me put these two issues together for simplicity. If the GOP cannot recognize that climate change is real and is harming our planet right now or continue to let people in their party equivocate Creationism with science even passing laws to teach it as such, then they cannot be trusted with any problems of the day. I left the GOP for its stance on climate change in 2006 and that was eight years ago. Stop being the dinosaurs who show up with people in your Creationism museum.

Ukraine. You cannot kill your own people. If you do then you are a tyrant. A peace accord was reached today. Let’s hope the parties honor this and get to a better place. The Ukraine leadership has to decide which direction they want to go, forward toward freer markets and governance or backward toward more iron fisted rule, as that is what Putin wants them to do. Putin says he has no dog in this fight, but you cannot stir things up like he did, and then step back and say you had no role. The people seem to want the former and are willing to die for it.

Iran. The discussion between Iran and other countries to limit their nuclear development to electrical power uses show promising signs. I know these conversations are unsettling to some, but making progress through conversations about mutual needs, is far better than the alternative. I know there is an element of “trust but verify” needed in the discussions, but I see this as promising.

Syria. I was hopeful these conversations would have more success. The fact that there have been two sets of meetings following the chemical arms disarmament is good. Yet, for this decimated country to survive, two things need to happen, one of which is quite difficult, while the other is needed but harms an ego. The extremists in the rebel ranks need to be dealt with. They are capitalizing on the rebellion and have made it much worse. That is the hard part. The easier part is Assad must go. His ego is getting in the way. This country cannot continue with any trust in leadership with this individual in charge. It is that simple.

North Korea. Moving from one dictator to another, the United Nations has completed a report which says the North Korean regime has committed crimes against humanity. The conclusion is not a surprise, except the fact that is now in a formal public document. On the good side, a reunion of some separated families between South Korea and North Korea was allowed to happen, but only for a brief meeting. It is sad that there is not freer travel, but the first sentence above tells us why. If people were allowed to leave, they would likely not come back. It should be noted these meetings were on North Korean soil.

US Businesses are clamoring for immigration reform. This morning I read a piece that said businesses are pleading for immigration reform, as the states are doing Congress’ job in their absence of action. As a result, multi-state employers are having to deal with the various changes in immigration laws on a state by state business. The innovators have been crying for change as well as it is harder for them to recruit and keep talented immigrants and foreigners. The key problem is innovation is portable, so manufacturing will develop wherever the innovators land. Congress needs to decide if wants to govern or run for office. Unfortunately, their actions are toward the latter.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Thanks for reading my random musings. I look forward to your thoughts and opinions.