In this article (via BlueLyon) the author sets out to demolish “3 Silly Religious Beliefs Held By Non-Silly People” - “three widely held beliefs of modern progressive and moderate believers: beliefs held by intelligent and educated believers who respect science and don't think religion should contradict it.” In other words, silly beliefs held by the good guys. The beliefs she goes after are:
1) Evolution is guided by God.
2) There is an immaterial soul that animates consciousness
3) The universe is sentient, apparently also expressed as a belief in a “World-Soul”
I know absolutely nothing about the third belief she lists and have nothing to say about it. I found her specific arguments against the first two beliefs interesting but unsophisticated, somehow off-focus. I have no background in theology but it sounds to me as if she’s arguing more against her image of these beliefs than against the actual beliefs as they exist within a coherent religious framework particularly in her comments about an immaterial soul. Still what really struck me about her article was her conclusion and that’s what I want to address.
After first commenting on the author’s woefully inadequate analogy of evolution as a kitchen redesign. Capital “E” evolution strikes me as being remarkably similar to how a computer program evolves: you start with a program designed to do one thing and as you add functionality you are constrained by the need to insure that the existing code continues to work. This means you end up with some very elegant code, some inelegant but serviceable code, some very odd code, some very inefficient code, and some code that appears to be totally unnecessary but that everyone is afraid to rip out for fear it’s doing something important somewhere. Occasionally you mumble - or scream - that the only smart thing to do is scrap the whole system and start from scratch but deep in your heart of hearts you know that the system is now so complex you probably couldn’t recreate it if you tried. And, hey, the system pretty much works. (Note that my analogy explains seahorses which I think is more than anyone else can do. Seahorses are what happens when you’ve been pulling all-nighters for too long and need to write some code that reminds you how much fun programming can be. We mortals come by our playfulness honestly.)
Now about the article’s conclusion:
If you're going to be a moderate or progressive religious believer; if you're going to be a religious believer who respects and supports science instead of treating it as the enemy; if you're going to be a religious believer who wants their beliefs to at least not be directly contradictory with the available scientific evidence... then you need to be willing to consider the possibility that your own beliefs are every bit as contradicted by that evidence as the beliefs of the fundamentalist crazies.
And if the answer is "yup, that belief seems to be contradicted by the evidence"... then you need to be willing to let go of that belief.
So you see it doesn’t matter if you support every item on the moderate - even the progressive - agenda; it doesn’t matter if you staunchly oppose even the slightest hint of religion creeping into education or the public square; it doesn’t matter if you rally, march, and vote for every penny of funding desired by the scientific establishment; it doesn’t matter if you accept every claim of the scientific establishment as Holy Writ. So long as you harbor impure thoughts you are unfit to consider yourself a communicant in the great church of moderate and progressive religious believers. You are a heretic. You are the enemy.
I wonder what religious beliefs this author would permit moderate and progressive religious believers to cling to while still allowing them the privilege of communion with the great congregation of Respect for Science and Separation of Church and State. And has she informed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that some of their silly beliefs are going to have to go?