evolution

In the end, was journalist Tom Wolfe 'cool' or not? Well, he sure was proud to be a heretic

In the end, was journalist Tom Wolfe 'cool' or not? Well, he sure was proud to be a heretic

Once upon a time, there was this era in American life called the Sixties. As the old saying goes, if you remember the Sixties, then you really weren't part of them -- which kind of implies that the only people who remember the Sixties were Baptists, or something like that.

Anyway, lots of things in the Sixties were "cool." Some things were even "groovy," although I thought -- at the time -- that no one who was actually "cool" would have fallen so low as to use the word "groovy." 

Whatever the word "cool" meant, journalist Tom Wolfe was "cool," while at the same time being "hot." If you dreamed of being a journalist in the late Sixties and early 1970s, then you knew about Wolfe and you looked at his writing and thought to yourself, "How does he DO that? That is so cool."

Revolutionaries were "cool" and traditionalists were "not cool."

So with that in mind (and as an introduction to the content of this week's "Crossroads" podcast), please read the following quotation from a 1980 Rolling Stone interview with Wolfe. The key is to understand why, at one point, he calls himself a "heretic." This is long, but essential:

RS: I believe it was in the New Republic that Mitch Tuchman wrote that the reason you turned against liberals is that you were rejected by the white-shoe crowd at Yale.

WOLFE: Wait a minute! Is that one by Tuchman? Yeah, oh, that was great.

RS: He talked about your doctoral dissertation. 

WOLFE: Yeah, he wrote that after The Painted Word. It went further than that. It was called "The Manchurian Candidate," and it said in all seriousness that I had some-how been prepared by the establishment, which he obviously thought existed at Yale, to be this kind of kamikaze like Laurence Harvey -- I think that's who was in The Manchurian Candidate, wasn't it? -- to go out and assassinate liberal culture. I loved that.

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When discussing Dawkins' dissing, journalists miss a major irony and lots of context

When discussing Dawkins' dissing, journalists miss a major irony and lots of context

Richard Dawkins is, arguably, the world's most famous atheist. He opposes religions of all stripes as "false," dangerous and anti-scientific. And while that stance has earned him the opprobrium -- and, presumably the prayers -- of many faithful people in many religious traditions, it's rarely gotten him bounced from a speaking engagement.

Until now.

Radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California, canceled an event featuring Dawkins -- in the video above, he uses the rather charming term "de-platformed" to describe it -- because the station didn't like the author's "assertions during his current book tour that Islam is the “most evil” of world religions, Twitter posts denigrating Muslim scholars as non-scholars and other tweets," as a statement from the radio station indicated.

This generated somemainstream media coverage, with The New York Times coming to the fore:

Henry Norr, a former KPFA board member, criticized Mr. Dawkins in a July 17 email to the station. “Yes, he’s a rationalist, an atheist and an advocate of the science of evolution -- great, so am I,” Mr. Norr wrote. “But he’s also an outspoken Islamophobe -- have you done your homework about that?”
Lara Kiswani, the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which is based in San Francisco, also emailed the station last week. She said Mr. Dawkins’s comments give legitimacy to extremist views.
“KPFA is a progressive institution in the Bay Area, and an institution that reflects social justice,” she said in a phone interview on Saturday. “It isn’t required to give such anti-Islam rhetoric a platform.”
Quincy McCoy, the station’s general manager, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. In a KPFA news broadcast on Friday, he said the station “emphatically supports free speech.”

Except, apparently, when that "free speech" offends followers of one of the three Abrahamic faiths.

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Fresh look at evangelicals and the evolution dispute can help guide newswriters

Fresh look at evangelicals and the evolution dispute can help guide newswriters

A recent Gallup Poll showed 38 percent of Americans agree with what’s known as “young earth creationism,” which believes God created humanity in its present form some 10,000 years ago.  

That percentage, the lowest since Gallup began asking about this in 1982, was a tie with those saying humanity developed over millions of years “but God guided the process,” so-called “theistic evolution.” Meanwhile, 19 percent said God played no part, double the number in 2000.

The long-running dispute over evolution continues to present journalists with a big challenge in providing fair treatment, particularly if they lack expertise in Bible interpretation. Thus the importance for all media professionals of “Old-Earth or Evolutionary Creation?,” a July book from InterVarsity Press, known for quality presentations of conservative Protestant thinking.

This dialogue book presents respectful but vigorous disagreements from two evangelical camps that share belief in God as the Creator and the full authority of the Bible. BioLogos of Grand Rapids, Mich., champions of “evolutionary creation” (it prefers that label to “theistic evolution”), which harmonizes the Bible with Darwinian evolution. Debate partner Reasons to Believe (RTB) of Covina, Calif., advocates “old earth creation” and criticizes standard evolutionary theory on scientific and biblical grounds.  

RTB began in 1986 under leadership of the Rev. Hugh Ross, a pastor with a Ph.D. in astronomy.  BioLogos was founded in 2007 by Francis Collins (.pdf here), director of the Human Genome Project and currently director of the National Institutes of Health. The two groups held 15 meetings that provide the substance of the new book. 

Both BioLogos and RTB support the vastly long timeline that has long been standard among scientists.

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Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Gold star for follow-up in the Religion News Service's story on scientist Bill Nye's visit to the Ark Encounter theme park. But a half-star for trying to do it by remote.

When last we saw Bill with  Ken Ham, the developer of the replica of Noah's watercraft, they were debating creationism versus evolution.  As I wrote on Friday, RNS' onsite story outperformed national media like The New York Times.

What a great opportunity to lengthen its lede, eh? Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The follow-up just pulls public statements, creating a follow-up with a detached, superficial feel to it.

Here is how the article tells it:

And it was "like the debate all over again but more intense at times," according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on Friday (July 8).
"Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed," Ham said on Facebook. "It was a clash of world views."

Just a Facebook post? (Actually, Ham also posted the story on Answers in Genesis.) Well, hmm. What content did they discuss? On what topics did they most challenge each other?  

Good questions for a phone interview, no? But if RNS tried one, it doesn't say. Further down, the article has Ham quoting Nye saying "not crazy to believe we descended from Martians." Ham answers, of course, that it's no more crazy to believe that "we descended from Adam and Eve."

And what did the "Science Guy" say about the visit? We get another non-answer:

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Ark Encounter: RNS creationist park coverage is way ahead of the Times

Ark Encounter: RNS creationist park coverage is way ahead of the Times

"The Ark Encounter: Where All the Yahoos in Kentucky Love It and All the Smart People Elsewhere Are Against It."

No, no, that isn’t really the title of the new creationist theme park. It's the reaction of a fellow GetReligionista after reading yesterday's article by the Religion News Service.

I can see where my colleague gets that from the way RNS covered the opening of the park, where Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, has built a full-size replica of the biblical barge. But despite a few flaws, I still like the story -- especially compared with some of the competition.

The RNS piece is a luxuriant 1,500 words, enough to cover several facets.  And it gives us an expansive, non-cynical description:

The park’s centerpiece features three decks of exhibits explaining Answers in Genesis’ views of the biblical flood account and life-size figures depicting what life on the ark might have been like for Noah and his family — an extravaganza Ham described as "beyond Hollywood."
The park also features a two-story restaurant, aerial zipline cables and the Ararat Ridge Zoo with goats, ponies, emus and more animals. The next phase of park construction likely will include a walled city "that takes you back to Noah’s day" with shops, restaurants and street performers that visitors will walk through as they approach the ark, said Michael Zovath, chief action officer for Answers in Genesis and project director for the Ark Encounter.
But the Ark Encounter is "not just for entertainment," said Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.
It’s to "proclaim God’s word and the gospel," he said. It’s meant to show — in keeping with Answers in Genesis’ ministry, focused on issues such as creation, evolution, science and the age of the Earth — that the biblical flood account is historic and the Bible is true in regard to history and science.

But the RNS piece goes beyond p.r. It recounts the "rough waters" -- criticism by "freethinkers," legal tussles over tax breaks, disagreement from Christians who don’t read the Bible as literally as Ham & Company.

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Some background for Godbeat pros: What is Seventh-day Adventism?

Some background for Godbeat pros: What is Seventh-day Adventism?

RUSSELL’S QUESTION:

Since Donald Trump brought Ben Carson’s religion to the forefront, can you tell us more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Presidential candidate Trump contrasted his own “middle of the road” Presbyterian Church (USA) with Carson’s Seventh-day Adventist Church as a religion “I don’t know about.” That suggested the SDA denomination is not just lesser-known but on the cultural margins and possibly suspect.

This born-in-America faith is indeed distinctive. It’s also a notable success story (while Trump’s “mainline” church declines). SDA global membership reached a million in 1955, 92 years after the founding.

Today the Maryland-based church boasts 18.7 million followers, 94 percent of them outside North America. It gains a million adherents a year through immersion baptisms of youths and adults. It operates 7,579 schools and colleges with 1.8 million students, and 627 healthcare institutions, among the largest such global networks. Members’ tithing is a major emphasis -- and strength. The notably diverse U.S. contingent is 37 percent white.

Carson is, yes, loyally Adventist, though he says that he regrets that his church doesn’t ordain women. Trump’s taunt provoked an article by Utah newsman and adult convert Mark "former GetReligionista" Kellner. Carson is a famed brain surgeon, Kellner noted, but SDA ranks have also included the first surgeon to implant a baboon heart in an infant, the originator of “Tommy John surgery,” and the inventors of proton therapy for breast cancer.

The faith’s 19th Century founders were disciples of self-taught Bible teacher William Miller who believed Jesus Christ’s Second coming would occur on Oct. 22, 1844, a non-event called the “Great Disappointment.” The Adventist faction said Miller was correct that God restored his “sanctuary” in 1844, calculated from biblical Daniel 8:14 with “days” meaning “years.” But they decided Miller was mistaken that Daniel predicted an earthly event.

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Billings, Mont., Gazette needs to pose more questions about dinosaur museum imbroglio

Billings, Mont., Gazette needs to pose more questions about dinosaur museum imbroglio

There’s a lot of religion out in America’s rural precincts, far from the big news zip codes that really matter, but sometimes it's hard to get decent coverage.

Here’s a piece about public school children in northeast Montana who’ve had an annual field trip for several years to a museum that espouses a creationist perspective. Then someone anonymously complains -- apparently not to the school itself but to an out-of-state group that has the legal chops to make things unpleasant if it so wants to -- and said group threatens the local school district. Judging from the tone of this piece, the local reporter is not familiar with Americans United for Separation of Church and State but those of us who’ve covered religion out of Washington DC know them quite well. They have a nice suite of offices on Capitol Hill and they can be intimidating.

Here’s what happened:

Glendive third-graders will no longer visit their town's creationist museum amid concerns that the annual school trip to learn about dinosaurs violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
School district administrators had authorized this year's field trip to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum but reversed course last week after receiving a letter from a Washington, D.C., advocacy group calling the school-sponsored event illegal. Their decision dashed the hopes of many of the children, some parents said.

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Big Bang and Bobby Jindal: Is Louisiana governor's silence on pope's evolution remarks newsworthy?

Big Bang and Bobby Jindal: Is Louisiana governor's silence on pope's evolution remarks newsworthy?

A regular GetReligion reader alerted us to a New Orleans Times-Picayune story on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender:

Gov. Bobby Jindal has declined to comment on Pope Francis' position that evolution and the Big Bang are real and whether the pope's beliefs will influence his views on the issue going forward.
The pope said last week that God didn't use a "magic wand" to form the universe. He said evolution explains how God allows his creation to develop.
"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it," the pope said. "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

The reader complained about the headline's description of Jindal as "silent" on Francis' remarks:

So are Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Mark Dayton, Chris Christie and many other politicians. This is one of the dumbest stories I’ve ever read!

My first thought was: Why does an evangelical politician need to respond to the pope? But then I recalled — as the Times-Picayune story notes — that Jindal actually is Catholic. He's an "evangelical Catholic," as media organizations such as the Washington Post have described him.

Given Jindal's religious affiliation, asking him about what the pope said doesn't strike me as terribly offensive. 

In fact, the story explains why the issue might be considered newsworthy,

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On planned Noah's Ark theme park, NPR doesn't tell the hull story

On planned Noah's Ark theme park, NPR doesn't tell the hull story

NPR raises an eyebrow but mostly keeps an even keel in a report on a tax break for a planned creationist theme park in Kentucky. But the shallow draft of the story is less a voyage than a day cruise.

Answers in Genesis, which opened its dino-friendly Creation Museum in 2007 in Petersburg, Ky., now wants to build a fullsize replica of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel. For this so-called Ark Encounter, the state tourism board approved $18 million in tax breaks, though the state legislature still must ratify it.

The primeval story of a world cataclysm, and one man's effort to obey God through it all, has long captured people's imagination -- the epic film Noah,  released in March, has earned $359 million worldwide thus far. But NPR's focus is on the government's role in what it calls a "controversial" project.

Yet this article, part of NPR's  breaking news section called "The Two-Way," is a very brief 417 words and offers little background. Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, is mentioned high in the story, yet he's never quoted directly. He's cited mainly for having debated Bill Nye, the so-called Science Guy, on creation versus evolution.

And that recap, in shipping terms, lists a little:

The debate, which was streamed live online, pitted Ham's biblical literalism, which among other things includes the belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, against Nye, who argued for Darwinian evolution.

Apparently, NPR thought biblical literalism needed spelling out, but Darwinian evolution was self-evident. Nor does the article quote Ham or anyone else connected with the project.

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