October 19, 2004


Faith against reason: The US election has exposed a growing conflict between two world views. Can they co-exist in one country? (Jonathan Freedland, October 20, 2004, The Guardian)

Bush is a subtle enough politician not to make his campaign an overt religious crusade. But he communicates, through nods and winks, to his evangelical base: they know the mission he is on. He uses their language, answering a question on abortion by referring to a "culture of life", one of their favoured phrases, or nodding to a 19th-century supreme court ruling often cited in their own literature.

This is a revolutionary shift for a country that was founded on the separation of church and state. If Bush wins on November 2, the chances are strong that the shift will accelerate, perhaps even towards permanence. [...]

The campaign has hardly been fought on this ground. If anything, John Kerry has had to go along with the intrusion of religion into politics - insisting on his own Catholic credentials, telling audiences that he was once an altar boy. But the tension is there. [...]

[T]he clash under way now is about more than Bush v Kerry, right v left. It seems to be an emerging clash of tradition against modernity, faith against reason. The true believers pitted against the "reality-based community".

That leaves two questions, one for the future, one for November 2. For the future: how long can these two competing world views, so far apart from each other and so sharply divided, co-exist in the same country? For November 2: which of these two camps is going to be absolutely determined to win?

The contest is between Faith and Reason but there's one key difference between the two that does make it an existential confrontation: for the faithful Reason is one of the gifts God gave man in order that we might better comprehend Creation, while for the Rational there can be no legitimate place for Faith in public discourse. In Europe we see the triumph of Reason, in America the triumph of Faith. Mr. Kerry offers a summons to the America of the 70s, when Reason had the upper hand even here. Mr. Bush seeks to continue the restoration begun by Ronald Reagan and continued by Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress. The choice is indeed simple and stark.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2004 11:39 PM

Mr. Freedland, bless his heart, is completely free of knowledge about American history and politics, and clearly felt no need to actually read a subject before writing about it, with the result that if a monkey at the London Zoo had typed this up, it wouldn't have made less sense.

America traditionally has separated church and state, NOT religion and state, a distinction apparently too subtle for lil' Jonathan. This is further shown by his assertation that the '04 campaign is unique in "the intrusion of religion into politics".
The names Washington, Lincoln, Carter, or Clinton would ring no bells for Mr. Freedland.

The clash may be of tradition vs. modernity, but ironically enough, it's KERRY who's the candidate of tradition. Bush has proposed a crewed Mars mission, increased research on hydrogen fuel cells for consumer automobiles, privatizing Social Security, and increasing the number of "clean-coal" burning power plants in the US. Can't get much more Captain Future than that.

The answer to the "question for the future" is: Given that the "two competing world views" have co-existed in the US for over 225 years, another 225 years is a pretty good guess.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 20, 2004 3:32 AM

Indeed another example ably served up by Mr. Freedland (alas only one of many) showing that sophistication and ignorance do not at all clash....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 20, 2004 3:52 AM

      If Freedland knew any real U.S. history, he'd know that the Constitution forbade the national government to establish any church, but allowed the states to do so.  Several states had state supported churches at the time the Constitution was ratified.

      Freedland wants to rewrite history to make the U.S. of 1789 a haven of modern secularism.  It ain't true.


Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge at October 20, 2004 5:30 AM


Thank you!

Posted by: Bart at October 20, 2004 10:46 AM

>In Europe we see the triumph of Reason, in
>America the triumph of Faith.

L'Age de Raison n'a pas besoin de Licornes...

And I have a basketful of unicorn heads and a Place de la Revolution running in their blood to prove it.

Posted by: Ken at October 20, 2004 1:31 PM

>America traditionally has separated church and
>state, NOT religion and state, a distinction
>apparently too subtle for lil' Jonathan.

Steven Ben Deste over at USS Clueless has an essay somewhere in his archives touching on just this subject.

His thesis is that the US never had an established church, but the majority of Americans until recently were practicing Protestant Christians (if not a true majority, enough to leaven the culture and set the moral standards). However, these Protestants were split up over a myriad of denominations, not a single organized Church like in Anglican or Catholic countries. The result was that though there was a general Christian consensus in the country, no single denomination/group of Christians was large enough to dominate and really throw their weight around.

Posted by: Ken at October 20, 2004 8:38 PM

for the faithful Reason is one of the gifts God gave man in order that we might better comprehend Creation

It pleases me to see Orrin ending his quixotic battle against science, in particular the theory of evolution.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 4:48 AM


Yes, there's been evolution. But Darwinism fails the test of reason.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2004 7:29 AM


That's possible, considering that the "Modern Synthesis" (or whatever the current mainstream theory of evolution is called) is nowhere near as securely established a science as solid-state physics, for example.

For now, though, it's the best we have, and it's lightyears ahead of competitors like Intelligent Design (ID) or Young Earth Creationism (YEC).

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 12:54 PM


Yes, that's a religious argument--"I know the proof for my belief is as non-existent as for yours but I choose it, dangit!"

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2004 1:28 PM


I based my comment on my impression that the evolution theorists have more than a century of copious data gathering, hypothesing, theorizing, revising, and improving under their belt. A lot of hard work, originality and genius has gone into this.

By contrast, the ID and YEC people are reduced to picking at nits, having very little of their own to contribute.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 1:44 PM


Their hundred year dead end puts them back where two thousand years of Creation started us. I suppose it's progress to have discounted that one theory, but it seems expensive.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2004 2:01 PM


What dead end? Tell you what, you've written at length about this topic before.

Save yourself typing and just point me to somewhere that you consider your "best shot" against the theory of evolution, and I'll go there and read it.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 2:05 PM


Thanks. Good to see that many of those who participated in the discussion last December are still around.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 2:43 PM

It would be interesting if, instead of non-specialists trying to defend the modern theory of evolution against your onslaught, one of the practitioners -- one experienced in communicating with the interested public -- could be induced to do so.

It's a tragedy that Stephen Jay Gould died so young. If he could have joined us for a discussion, I'm sure it would have been greatly interesting.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 2:50 PM


Gould was an apostate who is reviled by Darwinists for ditching the theory when he realized it justified genocide. And his theory of punctuated equilibrium is, of course, a metaphor for intervention from without the system and effectively refutes Darwinism.



Posted by: oj at October 21, 2004 3:07 PM


Did you ever invite Gould?

I really don't want to get drawn too deeply into this (I suspect that some of the commenters of this weblog who are no longer heard were foolhardy enough to do so, and are now securely shut away in padded cells), but it seems to me that catastrophic upheavals in environmental conditions (leading to a "punctuation of equilibrium") can be induced from the outside (meteors, dark star, etc.) or from within the "system" (collapse of the Gulf stream, humongous volcanic activity, etc.)

So, hardly a refutation of "Darwinism" (do they still call it that? I thought it was "modern synthesis" nowadays, but I'm not up to date and never had more than a layman's interest in the field).

Let's see... I don't think there is much sense in contacting Dawkins, he seems entirely too full of himself and probably would not even bother to respond to an invitation.

Who are some of the leading names among evolution scientists who also devote a significant chunk of their time to writing for / speaking to the public?

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 21, 2004 3:29 PM

Krakatoa didn't case speciation.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2004 3:33 PM


Just stop. Orrin specializes in quote mining, baseless assertions, tendentious reasoning and arbitrary, invented definitions to support his case.

There is one major thing to keep in mind. Evolutionary theory, like most science, is hypothetico-deductive. The theory entails many deductions which, so far, have turned out to be true.

YEC and ID, on the other hand, entail no deductions whatsoever.

The former is science, the latter hand waving.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 22, 2004 7:25 AM


Yes, but I haven't seen Orrin take a clear stand as an advocate of either ID or YEC.

I find some of the objections he raises thought-provoking and valuable, while others do appear pointless or silly.

Maybe he'll take up my suggestion and invite a prominent evolution scientist to do a one-on-one interview or participate in an online discussion with all commenters. There are successful precedents for both possibilities.

Orrin: how about an invitation to Jonathan Wiener, author of the book you reviewed in 2000?

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 22, 2004 2:23 PM


It's not as if we're starved for the Darwinist view in the world.

Posted by: oj at October 22, 2004 2:28 PM

Well, actually, we are.

About 99.999% of what is presented as 'darwinism' -- 100% of Orrin's offerings -- are caricatures.

Most textbooks either leave it out, or the teachers do.

It is vanishingly rare to discover anyone who is not a professional biologist who can state even approximately what darwinism is, or was -- it has evolved over 150 years.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 22, 2004 10:04 PM


Has to in order to stay ahead of all that's been disproved.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2004 9:14 AM

Which would be?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 25, 2004 7:35 AM
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