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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

God In A Box

Category: Society
Posted: 08/12/05 11:01

by Glenn Marshall

I just don't get the whole creationism thing, including the new and improved version, "intelligent design".

This isn't about science-versus-religion. My puzzlement goes a lot deeper than that. It goes right to the core of precisely what we mean by "God".

There are a few nearly universal divine attributes that the faithful accept. God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere). God is transcendent - thoroughly and completely above human experience, only making contact with us mortals when He chooses to. God is inscrutable, not bound by the limits of human understanding and reason. God is the prime mover, having created all that is. I'm pretty sure that most theologians agree with these characterizations.

Here's the weird part.

The more we see of our universe through exploration and science, the more we find that we can't yet explain. We look deep into space, using the gravitational bending of light by distant clusters of galaxies as giant, cosmic magnifying lenses to see farther away in space, and so farther back in time than ever before. We keep noticing peculiarities in the motion and behavior of different bodies in space, and scientists create placeholder constants to compensate for effects that we don't yet understand, hoping that some day we'll be able to replace those constants with something that explains a little more to us. Scientists are suckers for asking questions that simply result in more questions.

Why? To amount to anything as a scientist, you have to have a well-developed sense of awe and wonder. Respect for creation.

What baffles me is that those who profess to have the greatest faith in God and reverence for His creation insist on constraining his abilities. They draw a little, tiny human-centric box that is anything but transcendent, and attack anyone who suggests God doesn't live in that little box.

What is more awe-inspiring:

The bearded giant in the clouds, snapping his fingers and magicking the world in a nice little chronological sequence of six days?

Or the inscrutable, transcendent force, utterly independent of space and time, creating all that exists in a single instant with unimaginable energy, yet with such delicacy that several billion years later in one immeasurably tiny section of the universe, we tiny, delicate mortals are made?

It is obscenely egotistical for a human being to believe that God must exist according to the rules of man, especially when they attack their fellow humans who paint really only a slightly different picture of the Bearded Cloud Giant than their own.

That difference is truly slight, when viewed with an honest acceptance of exactly what transcendence means. Independent of space. Independent of time. Independent of our notions of paradox. Even the most basic of constraints that bind the universe as we know it, the sequential measurement of time, one event following another, simply does not exist as a limit for such a being. Our method of comprehension on this is so puny that we cannot even describe it. Think about it: how can the phrase "before time began" even make sense?

I speak to every one of you who denies that reason and logic and mathematics are merely tools for better appreciating the wonders of creation: show a little respect for your Creator. Curb your pompous arrogance that insists that he lives only in the little box of your making. You're embarrassing the rest of us.
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Focus on the Nazis...

Category: Society
Posted: 08/06/05 11:45

by Dave Mindeman

There is one evangelical fundamentalist who is on the verge of replacing Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as king of the Lunatic Fringe. That fellow is Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family....A right wing group with growing influence among fundamentalist Christians. Dr. Dobson has become the spokesperson for those opposing stem cell research and on a Colorado radio talk show, he said this:

"The thing that means so much to me here on this issue (embryonic stem-cell research) is that people talk about the potential for good that can come from destroying these little embryos and how we might be able to solve the problem of juvenile diabetes," Dobson said. "There's no indication yet that they're gonna do that, but people say that, or spinal-cord injuries or such things.

"But I have to ask this question: In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind. ...

"We condemn what the Nazis did because there are some things that we always could do but we haven't done because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality. And you remove ethics and morality, and you get what happened in Nazi Germany."


Well, needless to say this caused a firestorm of outrage in the research community; even some Holocaust survivors who escaped from Mengele's death camp voiced their displeasure at the comparison. You would assume that a clarification or apology or even a statement about misrepresentation would be in order... but no, a direct statement from Focus on the Family followed with this:

"The analogy comparing the Nazi human experiments conducted during WWII and today's embryonic stem-cell research is historically and ethically accurate, appropriate, and we stand by it," Focus on the Family bioethics analyst Carrie Gordon Earll said Thursday.

Doesn't sound like much of an apology does it? I think back to the firestorm MoveOn had to deal with when that Hitler commercial appeared on their sight. The commercial was entered into a contest MoveOn was organizing and they had nothing to do with its production, placement, or message... yet they were castigated by the press and the Republican spin machine.

Where's the outrage here? Dr. Dobson may think he is appealing to some moral compass with this issue -- I think he is only empowering that Lunatic Fringe.
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Wal-Mart Helps the Rural Poor? Huh?

Category: Society
Posted: 08/04/05 15:14

by Dave Mindeman

One of the commentaries in today's Star Tribune had a headline that caught my eye -- Wal-Marts's True Value: It Helps the Rural Poor Reading that article was interesting to say the least. The business "experts" that wrote the article (which appeared in the NY Times), made their arguments strictly in the business purity of dollars and cents, profit and loss. Like a lot of business concepts, people are just another commodity.

According to them, two-thirds of Wal-Marts are in rural areas saving consumers about $16 billion a year. A figure, they say, justifies what they admit are certain impositions on society like destroying jobs in competing stores, driving employees toward public welfare systems and creating urban sprawl. Items they say that even if Wal-Mart was guilty of all, still would be made up for by the $16 billion savings.

Dollars... dollars...dollars. There must be some way to make the business sector understand, dollars aren't the only factor. When Wal-Mart enters a community, it is forever changed. Jobs are not the only thing lost.... it is community co-hesiveness. That local hardware store doesn't just lose jobs, it closes down. That quiet downtown street becomes a traffic maze. Local business profits are lost to the competition of Wal-Mart and local charities will be the first to suffer, as the extra dollars are now gone.

They also talk about the increase in productivity that Wal-Mart contributes heavily to. Nobody disputes that Wal-Mart has the ideal business model. It is lean and it is mean. But what good is increased productivity brought about by an increase in low paying service sector jobs that have no health care and poverty level wage scales.

We used to worry about inflation; prices constantly going up. Business has found a way to fight inflation but it is at the expense of labor. Unions are fought at ever turn and membership continues to decline. Overseas workers are exploited back to the sweatshop days of the industrial revolution in our country. Free trade has become Cut-Throat trade. Global competition has been forcing labor to take concession after concession, while at the same time, public assistance has been slashed. Productivity and profits are the winners -- but everyone, and I mean every individual takes the hit.
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