I was delighted a while ago to discover that the British ITV detective/mystery series Midsomer Murders (1997-) has, at least in the past, featured a character named “Dr. Dan Peterson.
Who, I wondered, could they have hired to represent a person with such a solemn name – so august, respectable and important? Surely it would have been a decision laden with cultural significance, made after long and serious deliberation. Several actors came immediately my spirit.
But no. They chose an actor who surprised me. Frankly, I must admit that personally, I would never have thought of him:
Another random observation on the passing scene: I often marvel at the bizarre behavior on the Internet of some apostate critics of Mormonism. Some time ago, however, I think I found an explanation for their antics:
More than a few of the craziest internet apostates post from time to time about the life-transforming wonders they discovered in their post-liberation coffee drinking.
May be. But I’m a scientist, and the alternative seems to me something closer to demonic possession. I would prefer not to resort to this explanation. Unless, of course, we postulate that the devil lives in coffee. Which is, surely, something to ponder. . .
Speaking of science: I find the continual contrasts between science and religion made by some atheists – including at least one who likes to comment on my blog here – extremely odd. They continually point out that science has given us new technologies and cures for polio and other diseases, while theology has not.
My answer, overall, is “So what?”
To me, that’s a bit like criticizing the Houston Astros for their inability to score a single touchdown the entire past baseball season. Or blame Homer because his English was so bad. Or lamenting Chaucer’s uselessness in eradicating the bubonic plague or the uselessness of accurate Renaissance knowledge for the construction of a road bridge.
It’s like declaring that Thucydides, Tacitus and Josephus are no longer worth reading since we now have electric toasters. Or that in these times of jet travel, there’s no point thinking about ethics or morals. Or that now that we have identified muons and positrons and covalent bonds, the philosophy is obsolete. Or that, for a society that has essentially eliminated smallpox, Shakespeare, Bach, Monet, Dickens, Goethe, Dante and Dostoyevsky are no longer relevant.
(I understand that people who make these unfavorable oppositions of science to religion are likely to continue to do so, despite the fact that, from my point of view, they are committing something analogous to what Gilbert Ryle called a “category error” – and, yes, I’m well aware that Ryle was arguing against mind-brain dualism when he coined the term – but I keep the vain hope that, just maybe, one of them will, at the manner of a Buddhist monk reflecting on a Zen koansone day experience enlightenment.)
In the past, I have devoted at least two overlapping columns to this subject in the Desert News – but, since the argument continues to be advanced, I think it is worth recalling them once more:
Moreover, when these atheists observe that religion has not given us modern cosmology or a flu vaccine, they seem, implicitly, to claim science and its achievements for atheism, which is a totally unjustifiable part of ideological imperialism. It overlooks and completely ignores characters (and their number could be multiplied many times over) like the cathedral canon Nicolaus Copernicus (father of the modern heliocentric concept of the solar system), the devout Christian Francis Collins (who oversaw the sequencing of the human genome), the profoundly Lutheran Johannes Kepler (who made the Copernican system precise by positing elliptical rather than circular orbits for the planets), Father Georges Lemaître (the mathematical physicist who first formulated the concept of a universe expanding and the “Big Bang”), the great Isaac Newton (who spent about as much time commenting on the Bible as inventing modern physics), the devout Jew Arno Penzias (co-discoverer of the first empirical confirmation of the Big Bang, 1978 Nobel laureate and father of a rabbi), Father Gregor Mendel (the founder of modern genetics), the devout Muslim theoretical physicist Abdus Salam (winner of the Nobel Prize in 1979), the very Christian Al lan Sandage (among the most eminent astronomers of the 20th century), the great American chemist of the Latter-day Saints Henry Eyring (whose son is currently a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter-day Saints), and Theodosius Dobzhansky (the Russian Orthodox evolutionary biologist who was a leading figure in the synthesis of Darwinian evolutionary theory with genetics).
Please see my 2018 Desert News column on “Kepler and the alleged war between science and religion”,
“It’s a big myth that all scientists are atheists who hate religion: whether or not you think science is wonderful, the stereotype that all scientists are atheists is unrealistic. There is, however, a special dance”
“I was only thinking of God’s thoughts after him,” Johannes Kepler once wrote. “Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God so far as the book of nature is concerned, it is to our advantage to think, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all, of the glory of God.”
And here is yet another column that I once wrote for the Desert News which is also relevant for this problem:
The insistence of some militant reductionist naturalists that “mind” is just a more or less illusory product of purely chemical/physical processes, that consciousness and free will are hallucinations, seems to me clearly self-refuting. Why should I pay more attention to the neurochemical events in an atheist’s brain than to his digestive processes? What meaning would they have? And anyway, given such preconceptions, what would it mean for “me” to “pay attention” to such things? What could it mean to state that neurochemical events occurring at one GPS location are “about” neurochemical events occurring at any other?