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Dr. Francis Collins - The Language of God (Merged)
Posted: 02 September 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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narwhol - 02 September 2007 08:37 AM

“I certainly do not have that kind of unshakable faith - I admire people who do”

Why?

What in the hell is admirable about it?

I’m right in the middle of Daniel Dennett’s book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.” I’m not a great fan of Dennett (yet), but he has a chapter called “Belief in Belief” which addresses this observation that a lot of people admire unshakable faith. Certainly that idea is promoted in the Christian scriptures (the story of Doubting Thomas, for example. Also, if you have faith as a mustard seed ... ). I think religious culture & ritual constantly reinforce that idea to the point that people who are immersed in it just never question the concept anymore.


Richard

ps, I should add that Collins does consider Christian scripture to be authoritative (i.e. a reliable eye-witness account) according to his book.  This explains quite a bit. I criticize his book for not including enough critical biblical scholarship (mainly popular appologetics, though maybe A.B. Bruce is the more skeptical of his references).

[ Edited: 02 September 2007 09:26 AM by rgill ]
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Posted: 02 September 2007 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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.

[ Edited: 20 October 2007 03:21 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 02 September 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I have no issues with books like “Breaking the Spell”, but the books I have read so far- The God Delusion, End of Faith, and alike- basically say the same things that I have said or thought before.  I’m not sure anymore what is the point in my reading them, except maybe they have thought of something I have not.  I haven’t read “Breaking the Spell” and it’s not that I don’t want to, but it seems my line of thinking agrees with them already.  The problem is getting the audience they are actually directed to, to read them.  Until then, they are just “preaching to the chior”.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 02 September 2007 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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how would any of the christian scripture writers have been eye-witnesses.  The first writings weren’t until 30-odd years after the supposed blokes supposed crucifixion was claimed to have happened, and were written by a guy who claims he never even met the guy he was writing about.  The earliest of the Gospels was written by a Roman, living in Rome 67 years after the date they give for the supposed crucixion.  And he wasn’t over the age of 67 years (being exactly 67 wouldn’t count, but he seems to have been middle aged rather than pensionable anyway so this is irrelevent).  And there is no evidence that he had ever left Rome itself.  There is no way that any of the christian scripture writers could have witnessed the crucifixion given the time scale and it is extremely proable that Jesus was made up for political reasons that later backfired on Rome whereupon they had to start using the christians as big cat food.  Mark (the first Gospel writer) is purported to have been in prison awaiting the arena when he wrote his gospel).

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Posted: 02 September 2007 01:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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They aren’t and can’t be, Narwhol.  He was talking about Collins.  Needless to say, you’re “preaching to the choir” too.  There are just too many people who want to believe they are true and eyewitness accounts even though they are not.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 02 September 2007 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Francis Collins might be considered “one of the world’s leading scientists”, but that shouldn’t mislead us into assuming that he can think clearly on topics not directly related to DNA. In the course of the interview, he expressed some pretty fuzzy, confused opinions. He makes a continuous series of logical errors and contradictions. It’s hard to know where to start.

As he gets to the core of his argument, he starts stumbling around in evolutionary biology:

“Remember, evolution cares about your genes, they don’t care about much else. And they care about the genes of the individual, not the genes of the group.”

If we disregard the personification of evolution as a natural process that “cares”, this doesn’t sound so bad. But then he almost immediately goes on to ask:

“Why would we admire someone like an Oskar Schindler who risks his life to save thousands of Jews from the holocaust when he’s not even himself Jewish?”

What does Schindler’s group affiliation have to do with his altruism? It seems like Collins wasn’t listening when he just said that evolution doesn’t “care” about the genes of the group. We, of course, admire Schindler because he put his life on the line for others. Obviously this is something we hold in high regard because it benefits people we care about. And if Collins is a little bit confused about why we should care about people without a specific sanction from a god, it’s because we enjoy their company and appreciate that together we can accomplish what individually we cannot. The Nazis, on the other hand, would have considered Schindler despicable and traitorous.

But why is Collins asking why we admire Schindler? He had just spoken of how, although altruism is often of no direct value to a person or their kin, they still do it. He should have asked, “Why did Arthur Schindler put his life on the line to save unrelated people?” Obviously, Collins hasn’t gotten beyond his simplistic ideas of what evolution “cares about” to consider other options besides blind compliance with “divine law” such as: a parental concern for those in need (Schindler referred to his Jewish workers as “my children”), the future potential benefits from increasing one’s standing in the community, etc. Collins even admits that Schindler’s actions were “. . . a stunning example of the noble kind of action that we all feel we should somehow try to achieve and usually don’t.” So what is his confused point? That these altruistic actions that we seldom exhibit prove that there’s a god?

It seems like Collins has gotten stuck in a fantasy that gives him warm and fuzzy feelings. Sure we can enjoy fantasy as well as reality, but come on Francis, grow up and learn to differentiate between the two.

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Posted: 02 September 2007 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I don’t have Francis’ book to check to see where he may state that he believes the NT is all authoritative in the sense of eye witness accounts. This would imply a kind of literalism, which from Francis’ influences would seem odd.

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Posted: 02 September 2007 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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zarcus - 02 September 2007 01:49 PM

I don’t have Francis’ book to check to see where he may state that he believes the NT is all authoritative in the sense of eye witness accounts. This would imply a kind of literalism, which from Francis’ influences would seem odd.

I don’t actually own a copy, but had borrowed one from a friend to read. My hand-written notes are at home right now so I can’t give you page numbers.  By authoritative, I do not mean literal. I suspect that the majority of Christians consider the Bible to be an authority (basically reliable and inspired by God), but not literal in every detail. Collins falls into this category. He claims that the Genesis creation stories are metaphorical, but considers the Gospel accounts as essentially true, and yes, I believe he did use the phase “eye-witness accounts”, but I’ll have to check my notes.  He cites Christian appologist authors like Habermas, Strobel (The Case for Christ)  and Bruce (A.B.?).

Richard

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Posted: 02 September 2007 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Mriana - 02 September 2007 10:32 AM

I have no issues with books like “Breaking the Spell”, but the books I have read so far- The God Delusion, End of Faith, and alike- basically say the same things that I have said or thought before.  I’m not sure anymore what is the point in my reading them, except maybe they have thought of something I have not.  I haven’t read “Breaking the Spell” and it’s not that I don’t want to, but it seems my line of thinking agrees with them already.  The problem is getting the audience they are actually directed to, to read them.  Until then, they are just “preaching to the chior”.

I can’t recommend “Breaking the Spell” at this time. I don’t like his writing style at all (could have used a better editor). He wastes the first 70 or more pages going on and on and on about how we all ought study religion more (as if nobody had done this before). Maybe this is common for philosophy books, but he is continually going off on tangents, almost as if enumerating all the possible explanations.  All I can say is “talk is cheap.” After page 200 things start to get more interesting, so I’ll reserve judgment till the end of the book. Anyhow, the book does not get off to a good start.


Richard

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Posted: 02 September 2007 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Sometimes we tend to think because a person has attained a considerable amount of knowledge or fame in one area, they must be experts in all areas. 

If Dr. Collins would think things through, he would realize only a third of the world’s 6.6 billion are Christian. 4.6 billion do NOT believe JC is their personal savior as claimed in John 14:6.  Of the 55,242,00 deaths on this planet each year 37,012,140 are non Christian and therefore, will go straight to hell. (Remember, Collins didn’t say it, Jesus did) At a rate of 70 per minute, in just the 5 minutes it took to pound out these thoughts, 350 people are doomed for eternity.  And since god is omniscient, he/she it knew this all along. 

If one knew in advance that 4 out of 6 children they brought into the world would suffer some hideous painful disease for, say 60 years before they died, would you still do it?  Probably not.  But, our Christian friends argue; god’s ways are not man’s ways. Indeed. They should be better.

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Posted: 02 September 2007 10:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Ok, my notes are a bit sketchy, so feel free to check the context of these quotes if you have a copy of the book (I don’t).

——
Regarding Scripture he says on p 223 “Concerns about errors creeping in mostly laid to rest”

“The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbaised historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar” (p 279?)

for p 219, my notes read “convinced by eyewitness nature of narratives”

p 208 “Many sacred texts do indeed carry the clear marks of eyewitness history, and we as believers must hold fast to those truths”
——

There are actually quite a few outragious quotes in the book.

RG

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Posted: 03 September 2007 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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rgill - 02 September 2007 05:32 PM
Mriana - 02 September 2007 10:32 AM

I have no issues with books like “Breaking the Spell”, but the books I have read so far- The God Delusion, End of Faith, and alike- basically say the same things that I have said or thought before.  I’m not sure anymore what is the point in my reading them, except maybe they have thought of something I have not.  I haven’t read “Breaking the Spell” and it’s not that I don’t want to, but it seems my line of thinking agrees with them already.  The problem is getting the audience they are actually directed to, to read them.  Until then, they are just “preaching to the chior”.

I can’t recommend “Breaking the Spell” at this time. I don’t like his writing style at all (could have used a better editor). He wastes the first 70 or more pages going on and on and on about how we all ought study religion more (as if nobody had done this before). Maybe this is common for philosophy books, but he is continually going off on tangents, almost as if enumerating all the possible explanations.  All I can say is “talk is cheap.” After page 200 things start to get more interesting, so I’ll reserve judgment till the end of the book. Anyhow, the book does not get off to a good start.


Richard

I haven’t jumped to getting and reading the book yet.  I some how feel, like I said before, he probably wrote the same thing I have been saying for years.  So, far I haven’t read much of anything new, except maybe Dawkins use of science to make his point.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 03 September 2007 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Mriana - 03 September 2007 02:11 AM

I haven’t jumped to getting and reading the book yet.  I some how feel, like I said before, he probably wrote the same thing I have been saying for years.  So, far I haven’t read much of anything new, except maybe Dawkins use of science to make his point.


I’ve felt the same way about Dawkin’s books. I read “The Blind Watchmaker” 15 years ago, and really enjoyed it, but haven’t bothered with his recent work (though I enjoy listening to his debates and TV series). Would rather spend my time reading things that are more challening to my worldview. I’m stuck reading Dennett only because I agreed to write an essay on him for a book. I went to a lecture by David Sloan Wilson that was really excellent and novel. Bought his book “Darwin’s Cathedral” but haven’t read it yet.  Wilson gets flack from both Christians and athiests alike (he’s one of those evolutionary anthropology types who is trying to re-popularize a form of group selection and functional approach to religion ... though he seems to be surprisingly apologetic towards John Calvin).

He would make a great guest for a future Point of Inquiry podcast.

Richard

[ Edited: 03 September 2007 10:11 AM by rgill ]
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Posted: 03 September 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Oh I did that for Hemant Mehta- wrote a review for him to get his book, for free.  (I love being a writer!  Now if I could just get REAL pay for my efforts.  LOL  )  However, I did learn something from his book though- a little about Jainism, where he was coming from by going to all those Christian churches, and alike.  He did have a point when he wrote that he did not know anything about other religions, except Jainism, to make an informed decision.  Which means, his culture was different too.  So, he was learning about a different culture as well as a different religion.  If all you know is one thing that comes with your cultural background, how can you really say something else is not for me?

Basically, what I’m saying is, not all books written by atheists say the same thing that I have thought for a very long time.  That is the advantage of reading books that you promise to write a review or an essay about.  You sometimes do get a new thought. Consequently, I have studying Hinduism this semester at the university, but like him, I’m not going to convert from atheism to a form of Hinduism.  LOL  I can at least say I do know a little about Hinduism though when I’m finished and the prof is good enough to teach some cultural background of India, but it won’t be the same as going there.

Humm… I guess this is not too far of topic, for the idea/language of God in Christianity is far different from Jainism.

[ Edited: 03 September 2007 10:28 AM by Mriana ]
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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 03 September 2007 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I was impressed by the recent discussion with Hemant Mehta on the Infidel Guy’s show, and I was thinking of getting his book ... mainly so I could include it on a recommended reading list for a talk I will be giving in February on christian - atheist dialog.

BTW, I think Jainism gets used by both Sam Harris and David Sloan Wilson as an example. If I recall correctly, it is an example of how religion can be economically beneficial to a group (a functional view of religion), and also of how a small number of extreme altruists within the group are important for overall group success. This relates to Collin’s (I think misguided) statements on the nature of altruism.


Richard

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