Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Christians! Teach The Controversy!

Science is just the right tool for examining controversy.

Science classes should be where children are taught to evaluate different ideas by conducting experiments. Experiments are for testing ideas and deciding which are the best ones until we have a clear winner. Experiments test the predictions we make with hypotheses to see if they come true.

Take, for example, a claim made in the Christian Bible, in the Gospel of Mark. This claim would be an ideal thing for children to test in science class and should be something that no true Christian parent would object to. The claim is specific, unambiguous and makes an easily testable prediction. Moreover, it requires no fancy apparatus; no detailed knowledge to carry it out and observe the results, and the results wouldn't need sophisticated statistical analysis and interpretation. Even a five year-old could do it and evaluate the results.

The claim is:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; ... They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them...

Mark 16:16-18

So the experiment is easy to design. All you need do is check that a group of children have been baptized and believe in Jesus, then you give them some normally fatal poison, or some rattlesnakes to handle, and observe the results.

If the children come to no harm the prediction made in the Bible will be proved true and the alternative hypotheses - that they will be harmed by poison or rattlesnakes - will have been falsified.

Which true believer in Jesus could object to their faith being so easily proved true? Which parents who believe that religious ideas should be taught and tested in science class could object to this being done? It's a sure-fire winner for Jesus, designed to dispel doubters once and for all. And we know it must be true because Mark said Jesus said so.

And it teaches children the basic principles of science. A win-win situation.

I can't think why no one has recommended this before and why no state school board has put this on the school curriculum. It surely can't be that they fear for their children's health and welfare, can it? There is not the tiniest risk involved for a true believer.

I think we need to petition the Discovery Institute requesting they campaign to have this very simple proof of biblical inerrancy and very simple demonstration of the truth of Jesus's claims taught in public schools. I can't think of any possible objection from their usual champions like Michael Behe and William Dembski. Even William Lane Craig would need to be paid a very considerable sum of money to come up with a theologically sound explanation of how this verse is literally true, metaphorical, and false, all at the same time.

(Home schoolers: Don't try this at home. You'll risk having any surviving children taken into care because no one in their right mind believes this stuff really).

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  1. Wasn't the 'snakes and poison' section added some time after by a Greek translator?

    I have a fantasy about going to a 'happy clappy' church with my bottle of 'bleach and bag of snakes, demonstrating my belief' and then collapsing on the floor clutching my throat with the bag twitching next to me. Of course I would have someone filming it.

    1. >Wasn't the 'snakes and poison' section added some time after by a Greek translator?

      Possibly, but God must have inspired him to write it because it's in his inerrant Bible, so it must be true. ;-)

  2. The oldest extant manuscripts don't have Mk 16 vv 9 - 20. The two major complete manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) have versions of these lines but with variations and omissions. Both texts date from the 4th century. Portions of the text are quoted by Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the second and third centuries.
    The style doesn't match the rest of Mark and the whole passage is often left as a footnote rather than being included in the main text.
    If the bible were any other text this passage and many others would have been treated as late additions and eventually forgotten but as you say the bible is in errant so there must be a reason for having them in there.
    And of course there these American nutjobs who do play with rattlesnakes - several people get bitten every year.

  3. Rather than children, perhaps all of the televangelists of the world could arrange their schedules to film a TV special of them proving their faith is true under supervised conditions. I'm picturing a Big Brother style program with the preacher with the most votes each week being the lucky one to down the Draino & play with the Australian Brown snakes. Imagine the ratings and what a boon for Christianity when Jeebus saves them all:)

  4. Those that preach the importance of "believing with all your heart" must be absolutely thrilled that someone has come up with such an easy test that would obviously prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their omnipotent, omnipresent, loving, caring god exists! How joyful they must be to show us, the horrible, sinful atheists, such amazing proof of their god! Glory!! What a blessed day it is for them and their loving god. I hereby proclaim that if they carry out this experiment, supervised & verified that they have performed said experiment with ACTUAL poison and REAL rattlesnakes that have not had their poison glands removed or have been de-fanged, or any other "trickery" and that the ONLY protection offered is their prayers & their god, I will immediately acknowledge that they are correct. I will then turn myself over to their god and become a believer!
    So, all ye Christians....I can imagine there will be THOUSANDS of you waiting, to turn over your children to this experiment! After all, your faith in your god is STRONG!!! Right?
    Lets go.......

  5. This misses the point. As a religious person I KNOW that I would not be harmed by the snake bite so I don't need to test it scientifically. Scientific testing is for doubting Thomases, not the faithful. John 20:29 "Blessed are they that have not seen, yet have believed."

    Okay, I confess that I am only joking. I'm just an atheist with a twisted sense of humor. But I suspect the religious answer to such a test would be similar to the above sentiment.

    1. Then they would be missing the point - which is that, if their claims are true, they should be able to demonstrate them scientifically, and teach their children science in the process.

      I can't think why they don't, if they have confidence in their faith... :-)

    2. They think they have confidence in their faith.... It's science they are suspicious of. After all, it can make it seem like all the things they know to be true aren't really true.

      I mean seriously. They even have a story about how that goofy Apostle insisted on seeing the truth with his own eyes. Shame on him.

      I dated a Catholic girl when I was in high school. She said she felt guilty for questioning God sometimes. She was nervous that God would view her questioning as a bad thing. I told her that if an all powerful God were real he could probably stand up to being challenged by a 16 year old girl. She wasn't very impressed with my answer.

      So if a Catholic school girl thinks it is wrong to question god (might hurt his feelings), one can only assume the baptists would pretty surely not want to incur his wrath by introducing science into the mix.


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