Saturday, August 10, 2013

    1. Atheists with straying eyes
    2. The “anti-science” canard
    3. Asymmetry
    4. The most awesomest judge


It’s as if he keeps trying to roll a rock to seal off the tomb, only to find it rolled away every darn morning.  Just look at the plots of The FallThe Plague, and The First Man and tell me God shouldn’t sue for copyright infringement upon the biblical narrative.

(Famous Atheists Who Weren’t Atheists 2: The Christianity of Camus, at Cosmos the In Lost)


Debate adversaries are called anti-science” most commonly during intense disagreements about the proper ethical parameters to establish over controversial areas of scientific inquiry …

Here’s another example of an ethical issue involving science. The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it will not fund new research using chimpanzees. Many applauded the new policy, citing the intelligence of chimps and their capacity to suffer as ethical reasons to stop the research. Others disagree – me included – citing the great human benefits that have come from using chimps in limited ways – the hepatitis vaccine is one – and the potential for future important breakthroughs, for example using chimps in the study of HIV.

So, why isnt the NIH rule also anti-science”? It could, after all, prevent us from learning valuable scientific facts and inhibit the ability of science to alleviate human suffering-the very reasons opponents of embryonic stem cell research are castigated.

The answer is simple: There is strong agreement within the scientific and bioethics communities for the moral view that led to the chimp policy, while most of these same advocates strongly oppose strict ethical limits on ESCR. In other words, whether one is deemed anti-science” often depends on whose moral ox is being gored.

(Wesley J. Smith) I pretty much had to toss a coin to pick my pull quote. The column ranges fairly widely, including into Intelligent Design (“methodologically science”), and is worth reading for more than this pull quote.


In America, a fair number of Evangelicals are becoming Orthodox. In Romania, a fair number of Orthodox are becoming Evangelical. There. Symmetry. Right?

Mihai Oara was a young Romanian Baptist when he came to United States in 1980 as a political refugee. He converted to the Orthodox faith in 1999. Now he looks at this question.

The whole column rings true about how Evangelicals view historic Christianity (spoiler: through a Romophobic lens), but for me, this observation rings true of Orthodox Americans becoming Evangelical (as happens), and so plausible for Romania as well:

It is easy to perceive an asymmetry between the two directions of conversion. In most cases, the Orthodox to Evangelical convert is one who was a nominal Christian and knew very little about the church in which he formally belonged, and through some friend has an encounter with an Evangelical service, where he has an emotional experience. He discovers friendship and love and a sense of community which were previously lacking in his life.

The typical Evangelical to Orthodox convert is a knowledgeable and theologically literate Christian who searches for truth and the right Christian practice. He discovers the Orthodox faith, but is first stopped by all the accusations which he had heard in his own church. In Romania, the Evangelicals often define themselves in opposition to the Orthodox. “Unlike the Orthodox,” they say, “we do not believe in…” After a careful study of the issues, he finds out that the accusations are either false of superficial. Moreover, he discovers a huge body of tradition, practice and theology, which stands as an answer to his or her many old questions.

The conversion of Mihai’s father in law illustrates:

The conversion of my father in law, Aurel Popescu, was even more interesting. When he was 17, he stepped into an Evangelical church and heard a man preaching about salvation. He liked it a lot and thought he made a great discovery. What happened next is both amusing and revealing. He had a Religion class in the high school (it was in the late ’30s, before Communism) and he immediately told the priest who was teaching the class that he had found the true faith. The following dialog took place:

The Priest: “… and what is your new faith?”

Aurel: “I discovered that Christ died for my sins.”

The Priest: “But that is what we always believed!”

Aurel: “No, Father, I believe this really happened.”

The Priest: “I also believe it really happened.”

Aurel: “No, no, I REALLY believe.”

Orthodox should not be too smug about the cluelessness of Popescu, but Evangelicals who have not experienced Orthodoxy, and who are taking second-hand partisan reports about us (some of them attributing to us beliefs of Roman Catholicism that we don’t share) as “gospel truth,” really need to find a month of Sundays to get their eyes opened.


Sasha Volokh regales us with the story of the story of “The most awesomest judge,” Mr. Justice Maule, who used a bigamy case to comment on the embarrassing state of marriage and divorce law in 1845. For instance:

You say you took another person to become your wife because you were left with several young children who required the care and protection of someone who might act as a substitute for the parent who had deserted them; but the law makes no allowance for bigamists with large families. Had you taken the other female to live with you as a concubine you would never have been interfered with by the law. But your crime consists in having — to use your own language — preferred to make an honest woman of her.

I by no means want to make light of the gravity of divorce, but the arcane and convoluted procedures the judge describes come from a world so alien it’s hard to imagine.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.