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Mixing Science and Religion (It Can Be Done)

Richard Dawkins, scientist, atheist, and author of “The God Delusion”:

Refusing to believe that science and religion could ever be happy bedfellows, the self-confessed atheist said that professional scientists who did promote that theory needed to prove the existence of god because it was a scientific question.

Emphasis mine, to point out that there have been many scientists who indeed were very religious. For instance:

Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible — exhibited this week for the first time — lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history’s greatest scientist.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law — even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters — and combing the Old Testament’s Book of Daniel for clues about the world’s end.

Any scientist who does that today would no doubt be considered a nut by Dawkins and his supporters. And yet I’m certain that Dawkins has no problem accepting the scientific conclusions of someone he’d consider a religious fanatic today.

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

“It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner,” Newton wrote. However, he added, “This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.”

In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see “the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom,” he posited.

This is not someone with just a passing interest in a popular religious text of the time, this is someone who takes it seriously. Oftentimes, this sort of religious display is handwaved away as purely cultural, but I don’t think you can do that here.

Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit’s curators, said the papers show Newton’s conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.

“He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it,” she said.

The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. “These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God’s actions in the world,” she said.

They are not mutually exclusive.

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Shire Network News #93

Shire Network News #93 has been released. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice. I had this week off, so no commentary text here.

Self-Government Without Self-Control…

…is self-defeating (Paul Harvey).  From MEMRI:

The current wave of violent Hamas-Fatah clashes is one of the most brutal the PA has known, especially considering that it broke out only a short while after the signing of the Mecca Agreement, which was supposed to put an end to the mutual fighting. The large number of casualties, and the fear that has taken hold of the Gaza streets, have sparked intense protest among Palestinians and Arabs, with harsh criticism directed towards both the PA and Hamas.

Some consequences of the clashes are public statements by residents calling on Israel to reenter the Gaza Strip, and concerns regarding the effect of the fighting on the international community’s faith in the Palestinians’ ability to establish a state, to honor agreements, and to maintain peace.

Emphasis mine. ‘Nuff said.

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Shire Network News #90

Shire Network News #90 has been released. The feature interview this week is with filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney, whose documentary, “Indoctrinate U”, examines the extent of political bias in American higher education. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment, complete with links.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to Consider This:

Paul Harvey has a phrase he uses to introduce some of his news stories. “Self-government without self-control is self-defeating.” I think that phrase fits quite well with this story.

Earlier this month, the German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported that the Hamas-backed al-Aqsa TV station was broadcasting a new children’s show into the Palestinian territories. It involved an obvious copy of Mickey Mouse, named “Farfur” which means “butterfly”, and a little girl named Saraa, and is called “Tomorrow’s Pioneers”. What brought this innocent-sounding show to the attention of the world was that its two loveable characters were engaged in cutesy things like showing how to hold an AK-47 and inciting violence against Israel and America. How positively charming!

Later on, Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said the program had been yanked and was “under review”. He complained that “some American television stations” were still covering the story after it was supposedly resolved. The mouse, named “Butterfly”, was no longer on the air.

Except that wasn’t the case. Hamas announced that it would defy Barghouti’s request and show the mouse, named “Butterfly”, according to schedule. Barghouti then decided that this “review” would take place on the air, while he watched the show. Recently, Fathi Hammad, Chairman of the television station defended the program saying it didn’t violate any moral or professional standard, and that it would not be withdrawn, nor would its content be modified.

So to recap: Saraa and her friend Farfur the Mouse, or Butterfly, tell kids how Islam will militarily conquer the world, on a TV station owned by Hamas. Israel reacts. The Palestinian government, who’s senior partner is Hamas, says that they’ll take it off the air and review it, while complaining that this is a non-story. Hamas defies its own government and continues to run the show, thus making this non-story a story. The Palestinian government, trying not to look irrelevant, says, “Well, OK, but it’s still under review”, but the TV station continues to demonstrate that the government is, in fact, irrelevant.

Self-government without self-control is self-defeating. And sometimes becomes self-parody.

This isn’t an isolated incident. “The Children’s Club” was another program in this vein, that mimicked “Sesame Street” but included kids shouting for jihad against Israel and one little girl singing, “”When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber.”

“Hey kids, today we’re going over to the trash can of Schlomoe the Grouch and teach him a lesson. After that, we’ll find our 72 vir…er…playmates.”

And there have been others. If Israel were doing this, there’d be a UN resolution. In the meantime, the mouse called “Butterfly” merrily continues to influence the next generation of jihadis.

I’d have more to say, but I’m currently reading “The Protocols of the Muppets of Zion”, and I’m just getting to the chapter on Miss Piggy. Should be interesting.

Back to you, Tom.

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Coretta Scott King Memorialized in Israel

Now here’s a very fitting memorial to Coretta Scott King.

Israel will name a forest in northern Galilee after Coretta Scott King as the country replants thousands of trees destroyed during last year’s war with Hezbollah.

The Coretta Scott King Forest, which will contain at least 10,000 trees, will be a living memorial to King’s legacy of peace and justice, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor said Thursday at a Washington ceremony launching the initiative.

I may not agree with points in her politics, but she and Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly deserve to be honored, and this forest–one that is being reborn after a war–seems to me to be appropriate.

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“See What You Made Me Do?”

So nice to see the Palestinians respectful of other religions’ places of worship. So much so that they’ll use them as military bases.

The ruins of two large synagogues in evacuated Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip have been transformed into military bases used by Palestinian Arab groups to fire rockets at Israeli cities, according to a senior leader of a Gaza militant group.

When Israel withdrew from the Gaza in August, 2005, it left intact 20 synagogues of the Gush Katif Jewish communities following an Israeli Cabinet decision against demolishing the structures. Immediately after the Israeli evacuation was completed, Palestinian Arabs destroyed most of the Gaza synagogues.

And who do the Palestinians blame for the desecration of these synagogues? Do you really have to ask?

“We are proud to turn these lands, especially these parts that were for long time the symbol of occupation and injustice, like the synagogue, into a military base and source of fire against the Zionists and the Zionist entity,” Mr. Abir said.

Mr. Abir blamed the Jewish state for the desecration of the Gaza synagogues by Palestinian Arabs, claiming the decision to leave the structures intact was part of an Israeli conspiracy.

Israel “left the synagogues behind so the world would see the Palestinians destroying them,” Mr. Abir said.

“We’re proud to do it, but they made us do it.” What a tortured piece of logic. Here’s an idea; how about just a tiny bit of self-restraint on the part of the Palestinians? Is that really too much to ask?

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UN Gives Hizbollah & Hamas Time to Rearm

UN resolution 1701 called for, among other things, the disarming of Hizbollah. The UN is giving it’s usual stellar performance. Via the Israel Project:

As Israel and the United States worked together this week to resume peace talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, growing signs indicate a concerted effort by the radical Islamic terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas to rearm themselves in preparation for further conflict.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based, Iranian-backed Shiite militant group that initated a war against Israel this past summer after their gunmen crossed the Lebanese-Israeli internationally recognized border, is now receiving weekly shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria. “We know that Syria is trying all the time to smuggle weapons over the Lebanese border to Hezbollah,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told members of the foreign press on Feb. 20.

In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Feb. 3, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah openly declared that Iran is supplying his group with monetary aid and weapons.

(The text is from an e-mail that is not yet posted on their site.)

I said back in August, when this was all being worked out, that the cease-fire that was supposed to solve everything and keep Hizbollah from further aggression was simply going to buy time for them to rearm. Indeed, that’s exactly what has happened. The toothless UN resolution is simply giving cover to those who who wanted to do something about it, regardless of how impotent. I’m sure they feel better about themselves for appearing, if not being, tough on terrorists. Unfortunately, the Israeli citizens on the Lebanon border and those within missile range of Gaza aren’t any better off for it.

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The Calm Before the (Next) Storm

Ah, the wonders of a UN resolution. The peacekeeping troops are there, and they’re doing…what, exactly?

One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can.

They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.

The job of the United Nations force, and commanders in the field repeat this like a mantra, is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese Army. They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.

And many in the Lebanese Army support the aims of Hezbollah, so you’re not going to see much on that front.

The Security Council resolution, known as 1701, was seen at the time as the best way to halt the war, partly by giving Israel assurances that Lebanon’s southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking. When the resolution was approved, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of its principal architects, said the force’s deployment would help “protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area.”

But the resolution’s diplomatic language skirted a fundamental question: what kind of policing power would be given to the international force? The resolution leaves open the possibility that the Lebanese Army would grant such policing power, but the force’s commanders say that so far, at least, that has not happened.

The UN backs up its toothless resolutions with toothless “peacekeepers” that let Hezbollah rearm in broad daylight. Is this what they meant in the resolution by “disarming” them? They’ve kicked the problem down the road and pretend they’ve solved it.

In the meantime, it appears that the world body’s outrage is all spent, or at least it’s selective. When Israel fought back, the UN acted (well, for loose interpretations of the word “act”). When Palestinians lob rockets into Israel, the UN yawns.
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