last updated 7-26-02

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Critical Thought and Religious Liberty

  • Science and Religion
  • Separation of Church and State
  • Theism and Christianity

  • Science and Religion

    Hooking Leviathan by Its Past: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "The embarrassment of past absence [of cetacean transitionals] has been replaced by a bounty of new evidence — and by the sweetest series of transitional fossils an evolutionist could ever hope to find. Truly we have met the enemy and he is now ours. Moreover, to add blessed insult to the creationists' injury, these discoveries have arrived in a gradual and sequential fashion — a little bit at a time, step by step, from a tentative hint fifteen years ago to a remarkable smoking gun early in 1994."

    Science and Religion: Bridging the Great Divide: by George Johnson
    "Ever since science began drifting away from religion, centuries ago, each has dreamed of subsuming the other. Scientists, in their boldest moments, speak of explaining away all the mysteries by empirical inquiry. … And the faithful, fervently believing in spiritual forces unmeasurable by any meter, find it absurd that God's children would aspire to heaven solely by building telescopes and computers — scientific Towers of Babel."

    Evolution as Fact and Theory: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Yet amidst all this turmoil no biologist has been lead to doubt the fact that evolution occurred; we are debating how it happened. We are all trying to explain the same thing: the tree of evolutionary descent linking all organisms by ties of genealogy. Creationists pervert and caricature this debate by conveniently neglecting the common conviction that underlies it, and by falsely suggesting that evolutionists now doubt the very phenomenon we are struggling to understand."

    The "Threat" of Creationism: by Isaac Asimov
    "[Scientific theories] are firmly founded; all are accepted as valid descriptions of this or that aspect of the universe. They are neither guesses nor speculations. . . . Creationism, on the other hand, is not a theory. There is no evidence, in the scientific sense, that supports it. Creationism, or at least the particular variety accepted by many Americans, is an expression of early Middle Eastern legend. It is fairly described as 'only a myth.'"

    How Science Responds When Creationists Criticize Evolution:
    by Boyce Rensberger "Unfortunately, many of us challenged by those who call themselves creationists are not well prepared to respond. But science has good answers to these challenges to the theory of evolution. First, there’s absolutely no controversy within science about the reality of evolution. There is a well accepted, solidly established body of evidence showing that evolution is real and, although knowledge of some mechanisms is incomplete, much is known about how evolution works."

    The Wedge: A Christian Plan to Overthrow Modern Science?:
    by Keith Lankford "What is troublesome about the [Wedge] document (and CRSC in general) is that it focuses on overthrowing evolution, not from within scientific establishments, but through convincing the public that its theory is the morally acceptable one."

    Darwin's New Critics on Trial: by Michael Ruse
    "[Behe] is in as much trouble in the realm of philosophical theology as he was in the realm of biological science. He has offered us a freshened-up version of the old 'God of the gaps' argument for the deity's existence: a Supreme Being must be invoked to explain those phenomenon for which I cannot offer a natural explanation. But such an argument proves only one's own ignorance and inadequacy. It tells us nothing of beings beyond science"

    Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Darwin on Trial, hardly deserves to be called a book at all. It is, at best, a long magazine article promoted to hard covers — a clumsy, repetitious abstract argument with no weighing of evidence, no careful reading of literature on all sides, no full citation of sources. . . The book, in short, is full of errors, badly argued, based on false criteria, and abysmally written."

    How We Threw the Bums Out: by Adrian Melott
    "I want to look briefly at [creationists] strategies and the strategies we used, and the ones I think might win and might help. One, again, is their wedge strategy: you're with us or you're an atheist. We belie that by having a range of people making statements and explaining that science doesn't have any position on religious issues. It's very simple to say that, but it's very hard to get it across to the public."

    Darwin's Untimely Burial: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory—the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer's phrase 'survival of the fittest,' but what does this famous bit of jargon really mean? Who are the fittest? And how is 'fitness' defined?"

    Creationist Deception Exposed: by Barry Williams
    In this article Barry Williams (a writer at The Skeptic), reveals how a creationist group in Australia tricked zoologist Richard Dawkins into giving them a bogus interview. When the interview was released, Dawkins — much to his dismay — was made to look as though he, and evolution as a science, couldn't address the feeblest criticism. Here Williams documents their methods and the latest example of "telling lies for God."

    God and the Big Bang: An Online Correspondence: by Tod Billings
    An online discussion between a Christian-theist and an atheist Physics undergrad on the theological implications of the Big Bang. For example; according to the Big Bang model, does the universe require a cause? If so, need the cause be supernatural; and if this is the case, is it reasonably fair to ascribe this 'cause' to Yahweh, the Christian god of the Bible? These questions and many others are tackled in this very provocative exchange.

    Leading scientists still reject God: by Edward Larson
    "Our chosen group of 'greater' scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences. Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers."

    The Lady Hope Story: A Widespread Falsehood: by Simon Yates
    If lying about natural history wasn't bad enough—here presented are various excerpts refuting the often repeated historical myth that Darwin's recanted his theory of evolution, as well as his religious agnosticism.

    Has NASA established the missing day of Joshua: by James Lippard
    There is a very popular urban legend circulating in Christian circles which claims that in the late 1960s NASA had unwittingly discovered astronomical proof of a Biblical miracle: the day that Joshua made the sun stand still. In this joint-article, the story is finally put to rest, showing how the legend came about and why it couldn't have happened to begin with.

      See the Science Page for further material on this topic.  

    Separation of Church and State

    Religious Court Rulings: (1948-1997)
    Excerpts from some of the most significant court decisions regarding State/Church Separation, and "Creation vs. Evolution."

    It's a Free Country, Not a Christian Nation: by Ed Buckner

    Words of our American Founding Fathers: Quotation Compilation
    Did the Founding Fathers of the United States really mean to disentangle the Church from the State? This comprehensive quotation list attempts to demonstrate so. Read what the founders had to say about Separation, as well as what they said regarding their own religious views.

    Piety versus "Secular Humanism": A Phony War: by Marvin Frankel
    "A measure supporting public-school prayers became a central plank of the Republican platform, endorsed by president Reagan with the kind of folksy passion that lifted his high popularity ratings. While that position has never commanded the two-thirds vote in Congress required to launch an amendment, it appears steadfastly to enlist a large majority in American public opinion polls."

    Does the 1796-97 Treaty with Tripoli Matter to Church/State Separation?: by Ed Buckner

    A Memorial and Remonstrance: by James Madison (1785)
    "Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"

    Draft for a Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson (1779) "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."

    Letters of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

    Essays in Addition to America's Real Religion: by Gene Garman
    "When Christian fundamentalists want to appear open-minded they refer to America as a Judeo-Christian nation or a nation built on Judeo-Christian principles. However, there is not one Christian fundamentalist who believes that Jews are going to Heaven or that Judaism is worthy of spiritual respect in this world—because Judaism rejects the divinity of Jesus. Christian fundamentalists use the Jewish name only to abuse it."

    The Practical Separation of Church and State: by Benjamin Underwood
    Underwood's 1876 public address is a ringing call for the separation of church and state. The address is important not only for it's philosophical and practical arguments on behalf of separation, but for it's historical arguments that separation was intended by the framers. Additionally, Underwood argues against what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt amend the Constitution to officially acknowledge Christianity.

    The Great Infidels: Thomas Paine: by Robert Ingersoll (1881)
    "Thomas Paine was a champion, in both hemispheres, of human liberty; one of the founders and fathers of this Republic; one of the foremost men of his age. He never wrote a word in favor of injustice. He was a despiser of slavery. He abhorred tyranny in every form. He was, in the widest and best sense, a friend of all his race. His head was clear as his heart was good, and he had the courage to speak his honest thoughts."

    Letter to Andrew Dean: by Thomas Paine (1806)
    In this short letter Thomas Paine explains to his friend why he has rejected the Christian faith. Though, for a fuller explanation of Paine's views, see his classic essay The Age of Reason, written in the years 1794-1796.

    Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Subjects of Tripoli (1796-97)   "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;"

    The United States Constitution: (1787)
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Theism and Christianity

    The Age of Reason: by Thomas Paine
    "It has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion;… As several of my colleagues, and others of my fellow-citizens of France, have given me the example of making their voluntary and individual profession of faith, I also will make mine; and I do this with all that sincerity and frankness with which the mind of man communicates with itself."

    Why I am not a Christian: by Bertrand Russell
    "A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create."

    Language, Truth, Logic, and God: by A. J. Ayer
    "If 'god' is a metaphysical term, then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that 'God exists' is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance."

    Theology and Falsification: by Antony Flew
    "A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications. And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil, of theological utterance. Take such utterances as 'God has a plan,' [or] 'God created the world,'. . . They look at first sight very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions. Of course, this is no sure sign that they either are, or are intended to be assertions."

    Religion and Science: by Albert Einstein
    "How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and . . . I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research."

    Religion versus Reason: by Nicholas Otani
    "As well as contributing to the advancement of civilization, ideas can be significant obstacles on the path to positive progress. Certain bodies of belief may have a harmful influence on the quality of our lives and the course of history.…I think there is ample support for the proposition that many religious doctrines are much more destructive than they are constructive."

    The Faulty Nature of the Transcendental Argument for God: by Tod Billings  "The Christian hasn't shown such a basis [for logic, or the laws of nature], s/he has simply guessed. The fact that the Christian has offered a possibility and the atheist has not offered such a guess doesn't offer evidence that the Christian is correct, only that s/he is less content to admit that it is unknowable at this time, or possibly at any time."

    Nonmoral Nature: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "It is amusing in this context, or rather ironic since it is too serious to be amusing, that modern creationists accuse evolutionists of preaching a specific ethical doctrine called secular humanism and thereby demand equal time for their unscientific and discredited views. If nature is nonmoral, then evolution cannot teach any ethical theory at all."

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