Reliable Texts?

From: bivalve (
Date: Mon Sep 08 2003 - 15:19:29 EDT

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    >1) The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, pg. 107 (1983, Random House, New York, NY)
    >2) A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., pg. 91 (1985, American Heritage Press Inc., New York NY)

    Are these reliable texts? Probably not.

    >Medical advances have been actively opposed by the clergy, as interference with the ways of a wrathful God. When Ethan Allen, the Revolutionary War hero was inoculated against smallpox, he was threatened with persecution for violating a local ordinance against it. (2) <

    This claim would be a little more plausible as evidence for your claim, assuming that the story is true, if there were evidence that the local ordinance were religiously motivated. In fact, in Massachusetts the church authorities were in favor of inoculation while the unbelievers scoffed at it. This is what got Ben Franklin his first job as a printer; his older brother had been banned from printing for making fun of the
    idea of inoculation, so to avoid shutting down the operation it was claimed that Ben was now in charge.

    I found this in the introductory material to a collection of American humorous short stories, which was clearly not biased towards a Christian viewpoint.

    Such inaccurate historical claims as the ones you presented are quite rampant in popular accounts of the history of interactions between science and faith. The claim that science and faith have always been at war, with a progressive triumph of science, is an historical lie. Steve Gould, whom you may recognize as not being particularly inclined to a Christian viewpoint, described the account in Simon Winchester's "The Map that Changed the World", as "silly" in his review.

    In fact, the church has had no uniform response to any scientific issue, and the majority opinions at any one time have been no more or less likely to be in agreement with modern scientific understanding than the opinions of any other group of people. You can always find the radical conservative who rejects any new idea, the adaptive progressive who claims that each new discovery fits exactly with what he claimed all along, etc. The same sorts of views can be found within the ranks of science in response to any new idea, yet you would have a hard time convincing folks that there is a continual war of science with science.

    Additionally, some of the most famous conflicts of science and faith are fictions. Columbus did not show that the world was round, as educated people knew that already. Huxley did not trounce Wilberforce in debate about evolution; just like modern politcal debates, the audience mainly paid attention to whomever supported their prior views, and there is no evidence that Huxley actually uttered the famous line about preferring a monkey to Wilberforce for an ancestor. Many years later, Huxley produced an account of the incident which differs considerably from evidence contemporary with the debate.

    If you wish to make a positive impression about the merits of an atheist approach, you need to present good arguments.

        Dr. David Campbell
        Old Seashells
        University of Alabama
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        Dept. Biological Sciences
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    That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at Droitgate Spa


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