Sunday, May 30, 2010

Burned at the Stake

Day 110 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project. Thanks for all the fabulous comments on each other's reading! Great ideas, great suggestions, great brain food for thought.

Charles was about halfway through The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, not a circus book, when I asked the "What are you reading?" question at Facebook a week or so ago, so he must be 3/4 of the way through or perhaps finished by now! Here's exactly what he said:

I'm about halfway through Richard Dawkins's new book The Greatest Show on Earth, the best assessment I've seen of the evidence for evolution. Although evolution is accepted as scientific fact by all reputable scientists, a recent Gallup poll reveals that 44 percent of Americans believe that God created the earth and all living creatures within the last 10,000 years. With ignorance like that, who needs the Texas school board! Anyway, if you have any lingering doubts about evolution or if you're looking for ammunition to argue with those who do, pick up this marvelous new book. It'll fill you with wonder and awe.

It does amaze me that there are people who don't believe in evolution at all, or who mix religion and science, but hey! Seems to me the evidence for evolution is all around for the looking, as well as in this and other books.

I gather that Dawkins annoys several people by comparing creationists to Holocaust-deniers. I can't comment on that, not having read the book, except to say 1) the Holocaust was real and 2) evolution is real. We can debate and further quibble about how exactly evolution works, and whether Charles Darwin, an early describer and proponent, was correct in everything he thought, and no doubt he wasn't, as science has been wrong before, and then corrected itself, etc., etc., but surely evolution is going on out there in the natural world via genetics and mutations and adaptations.

Dawkins also wrote The God Delusion, and even the title of that troubles a number of people.

I guess I am someone who can live with ambiguity, uncertainty, and paradox. And I guess I must define God differently than the people who can't believe in evolution.

Speaking of God, and perhaps delusions, and also "ammunition," today is the day that, in 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. If not delusions, then visions. I have no trouble believing that Joan had visions, that she inspired an army, and that she shouldn't have been burned at the stake (Wikipedia says she was burned at the stake thanks to a biblical clothing law), but that, since she did, and since she was, she has had a huge and lasting effect on generations since, since she acted on her beliefs, and died for them. (That's a lot of "since.")

Woops! Look at the time. More coffee, le toast, then off to church!

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