Comments: some press reaction to the Guardian interview

Coincidentally I blundered across this article today. It considers the thoughts of a Jewish Rabbi of over a century ago:

The article notes that Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook saw no need to disprove evolution. Indeed, he saw Darwin’s theory as pointing to “the unfolding of the spiritual dimension of existence...” Rav Kook explicitly rejected the very moral logic of seeking God through the scientific means: “We do not base our faith in God on an inference from the existence of the world, or the character of the world, but on inner sensibility, on our disposition for the divine.”

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 8:55am GMT

Hmm. The last two lectures I attended in London were one to celebrate 30 years of the Selfish gene, and the Boyle Lectures at St Mary le Bow. It struck me, listening to the atheist Dan Dennett, that he was giving exactly the same account of the emergence of consciousness as the Boyle lecturer, Philip Clayton. Christianity can adapt to any scientific theory. Whether the Bible can is another matter, of course. I suspect it is gross anachronism to read the Bible as compatible with a round earth, let alone a heliocentric solar system.

The interesting point about the Dennett / Clayton reasoning is that we are left with the problem of where meaning and beauty were before there were creatures capable of recognising them. But that is too long to go into in a blog comment.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 10:09am GMT

It's very instructive to read the actual transcript of the interview, and then to read what the press does with Rowan Williams' words. What begins as a subtle, careful conversation ends up as the archbishop announcing what 'side' he is on in one 'row' or another.

It should make us all pause every time we read the newspapers.

But then I note on another thread on TA that many people seem to have read the interview just as the press did -- looking for signs of which way the ABC will jump when the split comes. When he mentions Bonhoeffer, I think he's saying that there's a time when a person of integrity has to part ways with an institution-- but he specifically says 1) he's wary of the example because it could be seen as upping the ante, and 2) you can't predict or plan for when that moment will come. And he never says which faction he'll go with (in fact, if he follows his own advice in points 1 and 2, he couldn't say in any case).

Thanks, Cheryl, for the excellent article on Rabbi Kook. How far we have come from that kind of reasoned, unthreatened, and thoughtful religious discourse. (Can you imagine the reaction if a contemporary religious figure had the temerity to suggest, as Kook does, that popular religiosity is often crude to the point of parody?)

Posted by Christopher Calderhead at Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 2:29pm GMT


Loved your posting. How I wish someone would.

I have no problem with the idea of an "intelligent designer". As my daughter says "God invented evolution".

I do have a problem with the creationism/earth is only 6000 years (or whatever old). My biggest fear is that it is a delusional form of thinking that has at its core that reality exists so that humans can exist. The next logical conclusion, is that we don't have to take responsibility for looking after reality, because God will fix it to please us, because it exists so we can exist. That fear is not unrealistic when you see the creationist camp against working on the environment, let alone a myriad of other biblical exhortations (you know, justice, mercy, compassion, peace making)...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 9:20pm GMT

I know it's old news but this article is too cute to ignore:

I particularly liked these parts: "“The issue is fogged by evolutionary fundamentalists who turn an excellent scientific explanation into an all-encompassing account of everything. They are dogmatic high priests of a new cult... The enriching thing about human life is that nothing is cut and dried: religious people keep falling down manholes and humanists keep falling down Godholes/"

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 25 March 2006 at 4:12pm GMT
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