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Jesus, the XX Male

December 8, 2015 63 comments

imageThe feature article in the December 2015 issue of the New Oxford Review is an article by Maria Hsia Chang, The Virgin Birth: Where Science Meets Scripture

If that occurs — if replicability is achieved for the DNA data from the Shroud and Sudarium — it means Jesus indeed was an XX male. We are then faced with two rival hypotheses:

1. Jesus was one of those rare four out of every 100,000 all-too-human males who have two X chromosomes but no Y chromosome. But that doesn’t mean He was born of a virgin or that He had no biological father. The only problem is: How could the writer of the Gospel According to Luke, centuries before the discovery of DNA, possibly know that Jesus was an XX male and so tried to account for Jesus’ abnormal DNA with a made-up virgin-birth story?

2. Jesus was an XX male with no Y chromosome because Luke 1:26-35 tells the truth: Jesus was born of a virgin and has no human biological father.

In the end, as in the identification of the man who left His image on the Shroud of Turin, it is science that enables us to decipher DNA testimony from the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth. There was a time when science caused an erosion of faith. But the Shroud and the Sudarium demonstrate that science and faith need not be at loggerheads. Instead of showing the Shroud and the Oviedo Cloth to be fakes, it may well be that science can confirm the miraculous character of both.

The article began by pointing out that 68% of American adults believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God but only 57% believe in the virgin birth.

Disbelief in Jesus being born of a virgin, which is a fundamental tenet of Christianity, in turn implies a belief that the author of the Gospel According to Luke lied when he wrote:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus….” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (1:26-35; emphasis added)

This is a philosophical minefield. It imposes assumptions about miraculous conception onto science in order to try and prove the assumption. You may not want to believe it, but Luke could have been writing myth to make a point. That is a third hypothesis. To an Atheist, what Luke (and indeed Matthew) wrote about the virgin birth is part of the fabric of what must be a much bigger fictional account.

Does the XX male argument rest on the authenticity of the shroud or is it another argument for authenticity?  

Categories: Science and Religion

Joel Bernstein on Good Science, Bad Science, and the Shroud of Turin

November 14, 2015 8 comments

5:11 mark: “… first, I’m going to talk about good science and bad science. We’ll contrast them. And I’ll give you some examples of good science and bad science…. You’ll have then the
rules … I’ll give you the story of one particular person’s research on the
Shroud of Turin and let you judge….”


This lecture by Joel Bernstein, Global Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at NYU Abu Dhabi, was given in May of 2014. It was published on YouTube three days ago where it has so far been watched only nineteen times, including by me.  It runs one hour and thirteen minutes, including questions.

 

From the YouTube description:

This talk explores the tension between scientific fact and religious faith in the identification and verification of a sacred relic. Many catholic cathedrals and churches can claim some relic associated with Christ. The sanctity of the religious institution is enhanced by proximity of the relic to the time and place of Christ’s life. However, the source and history of many of these relics are often cloaked in mystery due to the scanty historical record. One of the most famous is the treasured Shroud of the Cathedral of Turin. In the 1970’s, authorities overseeing the Shroud enlisted a team of scientists to examine and presumably to verify its source and history. Some of the conclusions drawn from that study, and the absence or presence of scientific evidence for those conclusions, has led to perhaps the quintessential conflict between acceptance of the validity and veracity of the scientific method on the one hand, and religious belief and faith on the other.

Joel Bernstein
Global Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, NYUAD

image
Hat tip to Joe Marino for spotting this.

Again: Does God Exist?

January 1, 2015 115 comments

When you talk to shroudies you discover this topic is never really off topic.
— Happy New Year —
BTW: The last link in this posting is all you need.

imageIt’s that time of year, isn’t it? It’s that time of year for discussions in the press about the existence of God. It’s not that this is a particularly appropriate time to have these discussions, but this seems to be one of the times of year when it happens more often. 

Last week, Eric Metaxas wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God; The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Steven T. Corneliussen responded strongly in Physics Today. The links in the next paragraph are to where the arguments most recently re-begin. The link in the previous paragraph to the Wall Street Journal points behind a pay wall (thankfully?)

In this venue, a recent media report about the op-ed "The perils of romanticizing physics" began, "The Wall Street Journal‘s opinion editors have a complicated relationship with physics and physicists." The latest such complication: a WSJ op-ed claiming to invoke new astrophysical understanding to justify recycling old intelligent-design arguments.

[ . . . ]

Metaxas joins intelligent-design advocates from the Discovery Institute in promoting quotations from astronomer Fred Hoyle ("a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics") and theoretical physicist Paul Davies ("the appearance of design is overwhelming").

Notice, that Corneliussen really says nothing useful. He simply uses warmed over responses to Metaxas’ warmed over arguments.

Fortunately, Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, a founding director of Sinai and Synapses has penned a useful reply in the Huffington Post: Sorry, Science Doesn’t Make a Case for God. But That’s OK. (This is the only link you need).

Guy Consolmagno on Science and Religion

September 30, 2014 Comments off

imageDavid Freeman writing yesterday in the Science section of the Huffington Post, How A Vatican Astronomer Views The Science-Religion Divide:

In an interview with HuffPost Science editor David Freeman, Brother Guy [Consolmagno, S.J., astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, pictured] said he believes the antagonism between scientific principles and religious faith exists mostly among fundamentalists.

"I mean fundamentalists on both sides," he said, "because there are also science fundamentalists. And what is a fundamentalist? It’s somebody who is clinging to the fundamentals of their truth because they don’t have the confidence or the faith in their faith to be able to say, ‘I’m settled, I’m happy with this, let’s see where it goes.’ Fundamentalism is a sign of fear."

The audio of the interview is available here.

Wikipedia Entry for Guy Consolmagno.

Lest the wrath of God descend upon them like a ton of bricks

September 21, 2014 19 comments

Angel, in a comment directed at Colin Berry, wrote:

… I am not stating you haven’t spent an enormous amount of time and energy attempting to recreate a likeness that would disprove the Shroud image. That is commendable, although antithetical to Christian belief. Yet, it is your right, as a scrutinizing scientist….

How could Colin not reply, even if it meant breaking his umpteenth pledge to never again comment in this “insistently proselytizing pro-authenticity” blog. He states:

Angel: there’s nothing “antithetical to Christian belief” in being a sceptic where the TS is concerned. Ask the Vatican if you don’t believe me.

This philosophical badinage reminds of a humorous letter to the editor of Nature. From four years ago:


Strangest Quote Ever on the Shroud of Turin

imageCesare Emiliani, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami, world renowned geologist, known for his work on marine sediments and plate tectonics, in a letter to Nature following the carbon dating of the Shroud in 1988.

Religion is perfect and unchangeable, the work of God. Science is imperfect, and, I suspect, the work of the Devil. The two should never be mixed. The scientists who participated in the dating of the Shroud of Turin should repent and promise to never do anything like that again. Creationists are even more guilty, for they have been mixing science and religion for years and years.  They should abandon their evil practices forthwith, lest the wrath of God descend upon them like a ton of bricks.

Mystery is never ever proof of anything

September 13, 2014 11 comments

imageThis morning, as my mind wandered while I walked the dog, I was reminded of something in another blog – as it turns out –  more than four years ago; Miracles, Mystery and Science in the Lewis Crusade blog. John C. Hathaway, the writer of that blog had found that I had written:

Mystery is unavoidable. For instance the images [on the shroud] are a mystery. And mystery can be seductive. If we are not careful, unanswered questions can lead to god-of-the-gaps thinking. All too easily some of us who are religious can be lulled into thinking that because something lacks an explanation it must be miraculous. Such thinking is bad science, bad theology and bad philosophy. Mystery can point us towards common sense. Mystery can challenge us to find answers. But it is never ever proof of anything.

He had responded thus:

This got me to thinking.  We often make a big deal about proving “science can’t explain it” when we talk of miracles.

Yet C. S. Lewis argues in Miracles that most miracles are really a “speeding up” of nature, not a violation of it.  God made the laws of Nature, and He doesn’t arbitrarily break His own rules.

I’ve always been a big fan of Lewis. But I’ve never really bought into this. How do miracles and the laws of Nature relate?

I guess I still believe in miracles that are miracles. And I believe that maybe there are mysteries that must always be mysteries. It needs more thought. Unfortunately, the dog was ready to go home. He is the boss.

A Reason to NOT DO More Scientific Testing on the Shroud

September 11, 2014 21 comments

imageHugh Farey writes in another thread, A Report on the Bari Conference:

Bishop Marcello Sanchez Sorondo [pictured], the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences emailed me with these words:

The opinion of the PAS is that in order to do something scientific, another test should be carried out but since the institutions that carry out these tests are rather anticlerical, the PAS currently thinks that it would not be prudent to reopen the matter until other scientific identification systems are devised.

Although not in any sense an official statement of policy, it does suggest that at present the Vatican does indeed lack confidence in scientists’ open-mindedness, if not their expertise.

I have taken the liberty of reformatting and emphasizing part of Hugh’s comment.

Here is a Wikipedia entry for Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

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