Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oh yeah? So's your old man!

Dawkins and Dembski are having a schoolyard e-fight—landing blows of potential humiliation by publishing each other's email. It's all rather surreal—like waking up in an Ingmar Bergman flick. (Yes, perhaps four of you will know I used that line before.)

Dembski posts Dawkins's response to his request to condemn the disturbing blasphemy challenge. Dawkins wrote:

I had not given the Blasphemy Challenge any thought until you called it to my attention. Now that you have done so, I do not seem to feel strongly one way or the other. As that admirable bumper sticker has it, Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime. So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead. Do I find it offensive that so many young people are sending in their film clips? No. I hadn’t listened to any of them before you raised the matter. I have now done so, and I must say I find them more charming than offensive. They mostly seem rather nice young people, and they are doing their bit, in their own lively and entertaining way, to raise consciousness and set an example to their peers. I am especially pleased to note how young they are, for organized atheists have, until recently, been noticeably and discouragingly grey-headed. I think we may be witnessing the beginnings of a shift in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. I am delighted to see so many young Americans taking part, in a way that suits their age group better than mine or yours.

Richard Dawkins

Meanwhile, over at Dawkins's site, he publishes one of Dembski's emails (from 2004):

Dear Prof. Dawkins,

I enjoyed this bit of fun in last week's Guardian. It might interest you to know that Senator Rick Santorum, who is close to President Bush, endorsed my forthcoming book The Design Revolution. It might also interest you to know that President Bush lives in the same Texas county that I do (McLennan County -- his home is about 35 miles from my home). It might futher interest you to know that my university, Baylor, today made a bid on the George W. Bush Presidential Library (for the news conference, go to

Why might all this interest you? With the recommendations by Senator Santorum and others close to President Bush, I plan to pay him a visit at his home early next year and have a frank discussion with him about the future of science in the United States and the possibilities for public funding of intelligent design research. I expect your remarks below will help me make my case.

Thanks for all you continue to do to advance the work of intelligent design. You are an instrument in the hands of Providence however much you rail against it.

With all good wishes,
Bill Dembski

The old cliché about watching a train wreck comes to mind.

Also on UD, "agnostic" DaveScot (who likens me to Dana's Carvey's church lady) asks for prayers for those who have taken the blasphemy challenge. That is certainly a commendable request. I wanted to mention one comment to that post, from Matteo, speaking of the young atheists who accepted the challenge:
The thing I give credit to the militant atheists for is that it matters to them greatly whether God exists or not. I look at every person like Dawkins as a potential St. Paul, setting himself up for a Damascus moment. In the Book of Revelations, the Lord says ” I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” I’d say that indifference puts you at far greater risk than open enmity.
This is, most likely, an incorrect interpretation. Jesus (via John) is not stating (in Rev. 3:14-16) that it is better to be a PZ Myers than a less-than-zealous Christian. (May it never be!)

The proper explanation is related, surprisingly, to the supply of water. Laodicea [the church at which was receiving the warning about being lukewarm] was near Heirapolis and Colosse (of the letter to the Colossians fame). The three cities were “sister” cities, of sorts. Heirapolis was known for the medicinal benefits of its hot water, which emanated from hot springs. Colosse was famous for its refreshing cold water from mountain runoff. Laodicea, alas, had nothing but good-for-nothing lukewarm water with no redeeming qualities. So the explanation is that the Laodiceans should take a lesson from the water of their neighbors and be hot (healing) or cold (refreshing) in terms of their ministry and works, but not lukewarm—which provides neither benefit. To make it really kind of interesting, the first letters of the cities Laodicea, Heirapolis , and Colosse match the first letters of their temperatures. Why, that's as miraculous as the fact that Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress in German but it rhymes in English!

[Aside: the Laodiceans must have taken notice to the warnings in John's vision. Laodicea thrived as a Christian center. Long after the church at Colosse faded, Laodicea was important enough (in spite of its tepid water) to host a major church council, The synod of Laodicea, in 364 A.D.]

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