Thursday, July 28, 2005

In the beginning... (Introduction)

Okay, this may be more of a test post than anything else.

Not having written a blog before, I'm not sure what the standards are. Honestly, I still don't quite understand what a blog is, whether it's different from a web journal and if so, how. Yet here I must post an introduction to this project I'm undertaking, so I guess I'll just say what's on my mind.

I'd been intending for some time to try to dedicate a little more time to Bible study. I really haven't done nearly enough of it lately, and I think the practice of my faith is suffering for it. It occurred to me that one of the things I'd always enjoyed greatly in the past was taking the Bible as an intellectual study; pulling it apart and analyzing it as best I could and dealing with the issues it raises. I don't think an unexamined faith is a healthy one, and whatever religion a person happens to subscribe to (and I include atheism in the category of "religion", whether the reader agrees or not) they should take time regularly to ponder whether it really stands to reason.

One of the more interesting ways that I have done this in the past was to discuss Biblical matters with people who were not Christians. The fact is that while discussing the Bible with fellow Christians is something that every Christian should spend some time doing on a regular basis, no matter how much we try to be intellectually honest, when a bunch of Christians sit down to discuss the Bible together there's a tendency to settle into a state in which we all nod our heads and say, "Isn't God great?" and move on, because it's a rhetorical question when we all already share that belief. I don't think it's intellectual dishonesty per se, but just something akin to the way we don't notice the smell of our own house, even though every house does have a distinctive odor. You invite an atheist in, and they say, "What's that smell?!" You reply, "Oh, it's 2 Kings 2:23-24; I totally forgot I left that there..."

So, getting to my point after several awkward run-on sentences and a questionable metaphor (probably par for my writing), I intend to work my way through the Bible in study, essentially using the Skeptic's Annotated Bible as my study guide. Well, assuming that editor Steve Wells approves of my doing so, which I think he will. I have contacted him via e-mail, and he seems to be pleased with the idea. If not, I'll find another source, I suppose, or use some of the concepts in the SAB without direct quotation so as to avoid any form of theft of his intellectual property. Oh, and I'll have to change the name of the blog, which I might do anyway.

Well, off to play a bit with the settings to see how this stuff works. My next post or two will be an overview of what I'm thinking rather than hitting any particular passage, but I hope to hit Genesis 1 by early next week.


marauder34 said...


Do you realize you actually have a link to your blog from the front page of the Skeptics Annotated Bible? No wonder you're getting so much traffic and so many comments.

As to the name: I think the name is fine, but how about changing the description? You could make it, "You don't have to think to be a Christian, but it sure helps" or something similar.

-- dave learn

Anonymous said...

How refreshing.....finally another one of the many Christian thinkers to step forward courageously and answer the most amazing drivel of the increasing host of talking head skeptics that have been the larger part of the parasites that have attached themselves to the carcass of Christianity for the last 2000 years.

Brucker said...

I'm not sure how to take your comment. It sounds a bit sarcastic, but to those on both sides of the divide. I suppose I should simply thank you for reading and move on...

Anonymous said...

Remember, faith can get you a religion...Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. ect. Critical thinking and analysis can get you the truth. JR

Anonymous said...


What is the truth in your eyes?

John 18:38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked...

John 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Anonymous said...

The truth is that christians are extreme atheists. They don't believe in the 1000s of Gods created by humans in the past until now, besides their own "God".
And so are Islamists and all other Godbelievers that selected one of the 1000s of Gods that men created in their minds as the "right" one.
Believers have stopped thinking on their own - so why bother reading their Blogs and discuss with them?
Its obvious that they don't bring any new ideas than some rubbish which was discussed by people 1000s of years ago when people who wrote parts of books called bible or koran or whatever and had a knowledge of the earth and the universe that was smaller than a todays childs knowledge is ...

Brucker said...

Oh, don't tell me... we're closed-minded too, right?

marauder34 said...

No, that's just you.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm a lost man coming to Judaism, and I think this blog is great.

I think the atheists miss the point of religion when they scoff at its unscientific and unnecessary nature. Religion is, indeed, all about believing in something without evidence; religion is, indeed, all about doing things even if you don't need to. Religion is about understanding and accepting the blessings - and challenges - which G-d has entrusted to us; it's about staying strong and trusting G-d, the Holy One, blessed is He.

Brucker said...

Hi Caleb, glad to hear you like the blog!

I talk a lot about it in my other blog, but I think both science and religion have an important and indispensable role to play in society. So many people fall prey to the idea that they can declare one to be superior to the other, when they're comparing apples and oranges. What's more, people on either side of the argument seem to want to argue not only is their apple superior, but that they can squeeze perfectly good orange juice out of it.

I'd also like to comment on your statement about "believing in something without evidence;" because I've never liked that phrase. Judaism, for instance, has plenty of evidence: the Torah, the history of Eretz Yisrael, the survival of the Jewish people despite multiple attempts at genocice, and probably quite a bit more that I just can't think of since I'm a bit groggy.

In my opinion, faith isn't belief without evidence, but belief without proof.

(In an apparent contradiction to my apples to oranges spiel, I'd like to point out that science never proves anything, so what does that say about my definition?)

Na said...

It's true religions have lots of anecdotal evidence, such as there are lots of priests that say it's true. I'm happy to accept the statement that "faith is belief with at best anecdotal evidence, but does not require evidence of any kind and can continue even in the teeth of direct evidence against".

Science never proves anything? I guess we better let everyone know that guns are much safer than we thought as there is no way in knowing what bullets fired from them are going to do (or even if they will fire at all), it's just purely down to bad luck if someone gets hurt. And anyone convicted of a crime through DNA evidence should be let out. Of course if you can read this it is purely by chance, because computers themselves are a scientific proof of all sorts of ideas about electronics.
There is this line in philosophy that says that just because the universe has proved predictable up until now, there is no guarantee that this will continue. If that is what you're leaning towards here, then that's really lame! Note that this gambit does nothing to help religion and it just means I would have to prefix certain statements about science with something like "as long as the laws of the universe don't change..."

Brucker said...

Well, I wouldn't say that religion *only* has anecdotal evidence, but I think you'd be right to say that most religions are built on mostly anecdotal evidence. I'd also agree that religious belief is often immune to the application of evidence against, but there's something to be said about how that may not be an entirely wrong-headed sort of stubbornness. The church in Galileo's time was in an uproar over emerging claims that the earth revolved around the sun. It went against church teaching. Once it was firmly established to be so, did this mean the church needed to shut down? No, the church needed to admit that they were in error concerning cosmology, and that they treated Galileo unfairly. They probably should have learned to stay out of the way of scientific progress as well, but this doesn't seem to have happened.

The discussion about science should probably be attached to that post, but so long as you bring it up, I should briefly reply. Taking your gun example, how does one approach the question of the potential danger of guns? Set up a null hypothesis (guns are not dangerous), perform experiments (shoot a lot of guns at a lot of things), analyze the data (a gun of a given caliber causes, on average, X amount of damage with a standard deviation of S), and report on the findings. The findings, stated with proper scientific precision, won't be, "Guns are dangerous." Rather, they will be something like, "We have established with a confidence level of 99% that a bullet of caliber A fired from a gun at distance B, if aimed at an average-sized human will come into contact with said human 98.2% of the time, and upon making contact is 67% likely to cause a life-threatening injury. For other distances and calibers, as well as an overview of the methodology of the study, see appendix."

So, science won't (and shouldn't) say that a gun will kill you; they rather say in some manner that studies indicate if you find yourself with a gun pointed at you, it would be best to be somewhere else.

Na said...

Sorry I haven't got back to you for a bit, less free time.

As far as Galileo's concerned the response was to threaten him with torture, banned his works and keep him under house arrest for the rest of his life, which they probably thought was more than generous. And it only took the church roughly 350 years to apologise for this unfair treatment.

With regards to the gun. One of the conclusions from this would be that "guns are dangerous", especially as this was what the tests were designed to find out in the first place; there is also nothing in that sentence that suggests you will be harmed by simply being in the presence of a gun. Besides all you have really shown is that by looking closer at the findings you can see much more specific things that science will have proved, which seems to support what I was saying in the first place.

Brucker said...

One of the things that people seem to overlook about Galileo's persecution is that the people persecuting him were the scientific "experts" of his day. On one hand, I think this says a lot about the usefulness of skepticism in science (not rejecting, but always being willing to question), and on the other hand it says a lot about how disastrous it is when science and religion get too mixed up.

As for science proving things or not, I certainly would agree that science helps us get a better grasp on the nature of reality; it's just that there is always that lingering 1%, or whatever. Why did people in Galileo's time believe the sun went around the earth? Because it was something they could scientifically observe; it just turned out to be a less than fully satisfactory observation method.

Na said...

I don't think you can call the church using their interpretation of the Bible as their sole scientific and indisputable text, the "scientific "experts" of their day". That is not science in any way I would recognise the term. People assumed the sun went round the Earth I guess because that's what the church told them, no experimentation applied.

Here's the thing, science doesn't prove things because it accepts it can't be absolutely certain of anything, as you say there is always that 1% or whatever. For instance I still think meaningfully science can be used to prove that guns can be used to harm, however I accept this doesn't take into account possibilities such as I'm actually in a mental asylum hallucinating everything around me and guns are only made possible by my hallucination; and this is the place we have to go when we start talking about science not proving anything, technically it true, it just provides evidence that implies things to a lesser or greater degree (which has allowed the world as we know it (if it exists as we think it does) to come about). So I will summit that you are right in that assertion, but the wiggle room that gives religion is the same wiggle room occupied by an infinite amount of crazy fiction, and if that is where you accept the debate for religion places it's hope, I can agree with that.

Just thought you'd like to know that I recommended your blog to a friend the other day for a Christian take on Bible verses.

Na said...

by "world as we know it" I of course mean what we've added to it; houses, hospital equipment, computer network etc. I'm not claiming we created the world. I don't think that you would not have made this mistake Brucker, but I feel there are others who may have chosen to interpret it that way for the sake of argument.

Brucker said...

The church at the time was not "using their interpretation of the Bible as their sole scientific and indisputable text," I think you're confusing them with present-day young-earth creationist fundamentalists. The (European) scientific community of Galileo's day actually leaned heavily on Greek philosophy as well. There was experimentation, but it had far less rigor than we employ in science today in general.

And rigor, as well as proper definition of terminology, is important in science. Saying "guns can be used to harm" is actually almost too vague to be a scientifically useful statement. I could just as easily say "ice cream cones can be used to harm" because it's true. (I could poke your eye out with one!) On the other hand, I can truthfully tell you that I've been shot with a gun on at least two occasions, one with no injury, and another with only a small bruise. Of course I should mention that the first was with a BB-gun and the second was with a paintball gun. But blah blah blah, where am I going with all this? Your point about "more specific things that science will have proved" is along the lines of what I'm trying to say. When science speaks with rigor, one does not make blanket statements about reality, but rather ones like, "Within X parameters, Y action is highly likely to yield Z results."

Galileo was exploring gravity in many of his experiments. To say that gravity means "things fall down" would be greatly lacking in scientific rigor. Why doesn't my house fall down? Why does a helium balloon fall upwards? Why do objects that are dropped in Australia fall in a different direction than ones in North America? Why doesn't the moon fall on the earth or the earth fall on the sun? In Galileo's day, they didn't know the answers to many of these questions at all. Isaac Newton came up with better answers, and later Einstein and his contemporaries came up with even better ones. The one thing we don't know (and really can't know) about science is whether future scientists will come up with new explanations of the way the universe works to make Einstein's theories look as crude and inexact as those of Galileo's contemporaries. I'd grant it's not highly likely with respect to gravitational theory, but many other scientific fields have lots of wiggle room, almost as much as religion.

Whew, this almost turned into a blog post in itself rather than a comment, but I want to point out a couple more small but important points. In my response to your first comment, I said (which was the point I was trying to make make with the apples and oranges analogy to Caleb) I believe science and religion should stay out of each other's way, and in my last comment, I said Galileo's scientific "experts" were a prime example of why. I don't believe religion can speak with authority to science, nor vice-versa. Philosophy, on the other hand, is somewhere in between and has whatever authority one cares to give it, but that's neither here nor there. (And here I am, not an authority on science, religion, or philosophy, trying to make blanket statements about all three! In 1Tim. 1:15, Paul calls himself the chief of all sinners; sometimes I think of myself as the chief of all hypocrites.)

I'm not talking about the sort of extreme skepticism you're referring to (although philosophically it could be considered), but rather I'm saying proper science makes careful, limited statements about specific physical phenomena, while religion makes broad evaluations of esoteric spiritual "truths". Once again, apples and oranges, if not more like apples and beehives.

Thanks for recommending my blog; advise your friend to tread carefully if s/he wanders into the comments section. ; )

Na said...

But it wasn't the (European) scientific community condemning him, which is the point, the church held the power and going against them resulted in, well, at best what happened to Galileo, and so my response still stands.

All I'm trying to show is that certain questions can be answered beyond a reasonable doubt through science, and the though you can say "science proofs nothing" that doesn't necessarily amount to much. It certainly isn't a reason for it to get out of the way of religion.
Religion can't speak about science because it not a investigative tool, it is the subject of investigation because people take it seriously (though only one of them, the rest are fictions that people have been mislead by a variety of different pressures to take seriously). Science is a tool to investigate physical reality, so if religion claims something is real then science can comment on it.

My contention is this, to believe in religion you have to believe that much that is accepted and being proposed by today's scientific community is not just off but utterly wrong, or ignore that it isn't. At which point you are choosing one of many books about magic and demons above scientific investigation. Effectively you have to choose, and trying to claim that you don't is the same as choosing religion over science. Actually not even that, a religion over science.

I doubt she'll come down to the murky world of the comments :D

Though I don't agree with what you say, I think you say it well, and I thought it would be useful for her work.

Brucker said...

Admittedly, history is not one of my strengths, but there are bits of it that I'm pretty sure of (although I'm always happy to be corrected), and there's a bit here that I feel like I'm not getting across. In Galileo's time, Europe had a scientific community, but it was largely funded and controlled by the RCC. Thus there was a very real sense in which the scientific community and the Church were synonymous; the scientific community was opposing his research and conclusions, but this was because these people were devout Catholics who were taking certain statements in the Bible as literal scientific fact. Galileo was a devout Catholic himself, he simply didn't share their views on the matter of geocentrism.

It is my belief that this mixture of authority (not mixture of belief; it worked fine for Galileo to be a scientist and a Catholic without letting the two muddle each other) is dangerous and in the end logically flawed. You say "Religion can't speak about science because..." and I agree. However you also say, "...if religion claims something is real then science can comment on it." which is where I disagree. Why I disagree is tricky, but vital. "[I]f religion claims something is real..." then it is overstepping its bounds, and treading in the realm of science, agreed? But consider, if religion at any point has crossed over into the realm of science, "...then science can comment on it." Why? Because it's really scientific fact that is being commented on, not spiritual truth. In such a situation, (in my mind) it's less about scientists saying "religion is wrong" than saying "religion has overstepped its logical boundaries." (Although the former is also true in a sense.

You say " believe in religion you have to believe that [science] is not just off but utterly wrong," but I strongly disagree, mainly because I know that is not what I believe (nor what history would suggest Galileo and Newton believed), so it's possible to accept both sides. Furthermore, I don't think I'm as rare an exception as some might think. After all, the world has come to accept the heliocentric model, and in the end, the RCC and Christianity in general were not destroyed by this paradigm shift.

Na said...

Okay, first it is good that you recognise that where the scientific community opposed,...

and by opposed we mean condemn, not just disagree

...was because 1. "they were funded and controlled by the RCC" 2. they "were devout Catholics who were taking certain statements in the Bible as literal scientific fact".

Condemnation by members of the scientific community, came from them not acting as members of the scientific community, but as paid members of the catholic community.

Secondly, Galileo's trail was held and punishment handed out not by the scientific community, but by the Roman Inquisition, his crime was suspicion of heresy. The responsibility lays clearly within the church.

Okay you agree that religion cannot comment on science.
But you disagree that science can comment on religion, when religion claims that something is real. However, you only propose that the things that science can't comment on when religion says they're real are spiritual truths.
This leaves open most stories that various religions say about the world, the characters and events in the stories, and the abilities of the characters in the stories (as long as they are claimed to be real).
Turning to spiritual truths, I think you may need to define what is meant by that, so I can understand how it is logically impenetrable to science, while still actually having a meaning.

You say that you disagree with " believe in religion you have to believe that [science] is not just off but utterly wrong," however I did add at the end of that sentence "or ignore that it isn't". People are very good at holding two utterly conflicting views, as long as they are will to ignore the conflicts. One of the ways of doing this is just to say to yourself, I recognise the inconsistency but I choose to believe there must be an explanation. This can then be locked up tight by adding - and that explanation is not something accessible to man. However, when people do this they tend to ignore the truth of one view for what they want to be the truth in the other view. An example would be a woman who is afraid of her husband because he beats her daily often for no apparent reason (maybe his football team lost a game or something), but still believes her husband is good to her. The religious in the same way choose religious over science, even if they don't choose to recognise what they are doing.

Yes the RCC could not in the end beat back the heliocentric model forever. But money and influence has kept them a very powerful organisation. So powerful that the head of the church can move serial pedophiles about to harm again, have a signed letter that says to keep it secret at least in one of the cases, and is still defended by his flock, and never charged with anything, in fact invited to countries on the taxpayers bill as a moral authority. What people can allow themselves to believe or ignore when it comes to religious indoctrination I agree, is astounding.

Brucker said...

Yes, I am saying that while Galileo was mistreated by the scientific community, it is certainly because they were largely in the pocket of the RCC. (And despite the fact that Galileo was known as a brilliant scientist and pious Catholic.) But I'm still trying to say two things, one of which (religious authority + political power = trouble) I covered here. The other point is that I believe the scientific community throughout history, even when not controlled by church or state, has tended to be dismissive of scientists that put forward radical theories. Certainly such scientists should be thoroughly questioned and their theories tested independently, but outright dismissing them is not unheard of. (I believe Mendeleev was ridiculed for theorizing the periodic table. Luckily, this wasn't the sort of thing nor the kind of atmosphere to get him labeled a heretic.)

Where is science excluded from commenting on religious matters? First, in a very absolute sense; it's been often said the existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven scientifically. Claims religion makes about completely non-physical concepts such as God, Satan, angels, demons, Heaven, Hell, etc. are outside of the realm of science in my opinion. They're entirely a matter of faith (however one defines "faith", something I often disagree with skeptics concerning).

On the other hand, there are physical phenomena that involve "miracles" which I'd say are in a grey area, both in what constitutes a "miracle" and the nature of whatever actual physical phenomenon was involved. A simple example is Jesus walking on water: Science says that under normal circumstances (the Sea of Galilee wasn't frozen over, etc.) people can't walk on water. Science has every right to make such an observation, but the point of the story is that Jesus wasn't a normal person. Furthermore, since it happened 2,000 years ago there are no observations or experiments to perform on Jesus. Now if somebody had a piece of wood they claimed to be from the cross Jesus was crucified upon, and claimed anyone touching it will be cured of cancer, then science can demand such a claim should be tested before expecting skeptics to believe it. Any clearer?

I still don't get belief in religion and science being incompatible. As I said, Galileo and Newton were two excellent examples of men who were devout Christians and also highly accomplished scientists. I think such men tend to feel (at least in part) eager to explore the universe because it gives them insight into the Creator. Unlike some pseudoscientists such as most ID proponents who assume the Bible tells them what the universe is like and go searching for evidence that fits that model, these sorts of men observe with an open mind and praise God for whatever they find, even (or especially) if it's a surprise to them.

The RCC has been highly corrupt through most of its existence, and I've been very disappointed to see things have not changed, because I hoped for better. There are a lot of good Catholics in the world, but their leaders have let them down in major ways. In my opinion, it's long overdue for both national and international law to step up and punish the church for the things it's done. It's going to hurt them deeply, but they dearly need to learn some humility, and that they are not above moral reproach.

Na said...

I agree with

religious authority + political power = trouble

and have continued this at your link with I guess this:

religious authority + political = trouble > political power = trouble

I agree that scientists can be dismissive of ideas (there will always be proponents and skeptics), and very occasionally it can get nasty; in the examples that come to mind, it seems to be because there is a belief that a hoax is being perpetrated. However, scientists are usually quite open to debate and cautious with their claims. And the weight of opinion ultimately shifts with the evidence - everyone now accepts the periodic table.

I can't see how the reasons you give that religion can't be commented on by science are different to the reasons why any number of things are dismissed out of hand in the everyday world. Science comments on these kind of things with the null hypothesis (which I'm sure we've discussed before). Do you accept your arguments when it comes to Scientology? Or if people decided to start taking the flying spaghetti monster seriously, besides your different faith, would you see technically any difference between you and the Pastafarians? Do you believe that what stops you from believing any number of utterly insane ideas is just faith that they are not true, or do you appeal to the world being rationally and empirically consistent?

Surely science's comment on Jesus walking on water is that people can't walk on water under normal circumstances, and there is no reason to believe they ever have.
Is the reason the religious have for granting credibility to something just that it something reported in a past too far back to question any eye witness? Is Jesus's defense against the fact that it's questionable that he walked on water, because such an act is not scientifically possible the same that says witch used to actually fly on broomsticks?

I'm still not convinced that you aren't just pleading for religion the same wiggle room that is occupied by literally an infinite amount of crazy fiction (as I mentioned previously).
It's true that the closer you get to frontiers of science, the more we find untested models fighting for their own space, however they at best claim that they are a possibility that might be able to explain observations, and they require evidence.
They never appeal to magic (which is what makes faith necessary).

Na said...

Everybody during Galileo and Newton's times believed in God.
Today a very tiny percent of the top scientists (members of UK's Royal Society and US's America National Academy) are religious. And generally even the religious today has discarded much that used to be held as true about their belief.
Newton also believed in alchemy, and followed the alchemy that even people who believed in alchemy at the time thought was nonsense.
I suppose you can believe in science and believe anything else. Still when the scientifically literate person claims that eating 3 average sized tomatoes can allow a person to survive 24 hours without breathing, he has clearly departed from science. And science is clearly at odds with his belief. It's in this sense science and religion is incompatible.

Both the religious generally and the ID proponents start out accepting a model to be absolutely real, and use the model to judge the evidence instead of the other way round. It's just that the religious stop doing this inside a science classroom and ID proponents want everyone else to be taught to do this in a science classroom.

I agree with everything in your last paragraph. I was raised Catholic, and am probably quite Catholic in my atheism :D
My mother is a Catholic and truly one of the nicest people I know. She was very disappointed with the latest pick for pope. She thinks the church needs someone who is in line with progressive ideas. As I understand it her view is that Jesus was progressive for his time, his story isn't a bunch of rules that remain true across all time, but instead an example of how we should act according to our own time; in essence be as progressive according to what that would mean to our day and age, as he was according to his day and age.

Na said...

Haven't been around for a while, and still really just to busy but just had the thought of having a quick visit. Saw my last post here and thought it was worth saying that I (and my mother) have been pleasantly surprised by this Pope (credit where it's due!)

Brucker said...

I haven't been following really closely because I don't have a TV and I'm not Catholic, but what I have heard has been definitely interesting, and I do think I like this guy a lot more than the previous.

Gosh it looks like there's unfinished conversation here, I should go back and read it to see it there's more that needed to be said.

Hmm... No, I don't hold much stock in the belief of the Pastafarians, nor the Scientologists. There are however degrees of incredulity that correspond to various religions/belief systems. I see a lot of value in Buddhism, for instance; while there are some beliefs on the spiritual side of it that don't square with my Christian beliefs, obviously, I admire and agree with a lot of what it teaches as far as right living. But I think the main point you were making is about my position on what science can and cannot say about religion. It depends a lot on what's being said, and what sorts of science are being brought to bear. Archaeology can make some judgments on certain aspects of Judeo-Christian beliefs, obviously, but can't really comment on miracles or salvation, because they're supernatural. (I believe Scientology claims that things they believe can be scientifically measured, and if so, they ought to be examined.)

Since Jesus walking on water is so against what science tells us is possible, that is what for most people gives power to Jesus' other claims: the laws of physics seem to be beholden to him, unlike the common man. Yes, there are other fantastical concepts that exist in our culture such as witches flying om broomsticks, but they are more of a cultural mythology rather than the way Jesus' miracles were recorded as eyewitness accounts. I don't believe that we've ever been contacted by space aliens, but when a large number of people witness strange lights over a city or something, I agree that they're seeing something that's actually there (whether aliens or not, I reserve judgment.)

Brucker said...

I'm not sure what you're trying to say about tomatoes; is it just a made-up example of a far-fetched belief that religion might suggest? I think Christianity doesn't make a lot of those sorts of suggestions for the common man, only that Jesus was able to do incredible things. Perhaps in such a sense, science and religion are incompatible, but I still think you can believe both. I believe in science which says people can't walk on water, and yet I believe Jesus was an exception to the general rule.

ID is a big problem because it's pseudo-science, which always wants to pretend to be real science. I think ID proponents need to get a grip on what real science is, and then figure out what part of their model can still hold up to scrutiny (it won't be much, but I think there is a kernel of something useful in there.)

Your thoughts about Jesus being a progressive are thought-provoking. I've had discussions with many people about how some religious ideas may have not meant to be a rule for all time, but rather a guide to help people become more enlightened. "An eye for an eye" is usually the best example, as it's likely not saying that the punishment must be equal to the crime, but rather that punishment should not exceed the crime, and maybe we should learn to be merciful in our judgments. It's entirely possible that the words of Jesus need to be examined in the light of 2000 years of history and progress as well as the light of the Holy Spirit.