A Cautious Man
February 11, 2009
Part Man, Part Monkey?
Every once in a while around here, we ruminate about evolution vs. intelligent design (or "ID"). As I've said here before, about ID proponents: "Instead of considering that the God they believe in could have created a universe where natural processes come together to result in intelligent life (an amazing thing if you think about it), they insist that there's some 'trick' that had to have taken place. They insist that somewhere we can see the 'seams', where creation came together, where something not 'natural' can be seen and therefore 'prove' the existence of God. And, they argue that opposition to them is somehow opposition to people of faith." In that same old post back in 2005, I had quoted the Director of the Vatican Observatory, who wrote:

There appears to exist a nagging fear in the Church that a universe, which science has established as evolving for 13.7 x 1 billion years since the Big Bang and in which life, beginning in its most primitive forms at about 12 x 1 billion years from the Big Bang, evolved through a process of random genetic mutations and natural selection, escapes God’s dominion. That fear is groundless. Science is completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications that may be drawn from its conclusions. Those conclusions are always subject to improvement. That is why science is such an interesting adventure and scientists curiously interesting creatures. But for someone to deny the best of today’s science on religious grounds is to live in that groundless fear just mentioned.

This stress on our scientific knowledge is not to place a limitation upon God. Far from it. It reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God. Such a view of creation can be found in early Christian writings, especially in those of St Augustine in his comments on Genesis. If they respect the results of modern science and, indeed, the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly.

So, it wasn't much of a surprise to read this in today's news:

The Vatican said this week that Darwin's theory of evolution fits in with Christianity despite its conflicts with the biblical Genesis.

The declaration appeared to settle speculation that Pope Benedict XVI might officially endorse the rival theory of intelligent design, which has gained a staunch following among some fundamentalist Christians, The Times of London said Wednesday.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said Tuesday that evolution's role in the world after the creation could be traced back to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

"In fact, what we mean by evolution is the world as created by God," said Ravasi.

The Vatican will hold a conference next month to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's book "Origin of the Species." The Times said intelligent design would not be on the agenda.

Actually, the Vatican's conference on Darwin will include a discussion of ID, but not in a way which will please ID's proponents:

Organizers of the March 3-7 conference did not explain at a news conference Tuesday why they had decided to include discussion of the view that life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone, and that a higher power has had a hand in changes among species over time.

"The committee agreed to consider ID as a phenomenon of an ideological and cultural nature, thus worthy of a historic examination, but certainly not to be discussed on scientific, philosophical or theological grounds," said Saverio Forestiero, a conference organizer and professor of zoology at the University of Rome.

One can only hope that this has an impact over on this side of the pond, in particular on right-wing politicians who either push for the teaching of ID, or for "teaching the controversy" as a way to slip ID into American public school classrooms. As Chris Mooney, author the book "The Republican War on Science" noted back in 2005:

ID proponents have also teamed up with conservative Republican legislators to further advance their agenda. ID’s most significant supporter has been Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. In 2001, Santorum teamed up with ID supporters to slip “teach the controversy” language into the No Child Left Behind Act. Singling out evolution in particular, Santorum’s amendment to the Senate version of the bill stated that “good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science.” This may sound innocuous enough, but when you learn that the language comes in part from ID movement progenitor Phillip Johnson, who believes that “Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence,” you see where Santorum is headed.

Or, maybe they won't stop. But, at least, there's a little more ammunition now to use against them.

February 02, 2009
"Almost Crashed
But The Lord Had Mercy ..."

Of course, the Super Bowl performance in the post below includes -

"The Crash"

I realized that it's a perfect metaphor for why we're fans. It's the biggest audience of his career, and he's packed the limited time given with all of the things people are expecting - preaching to the crowd and to the television audience, jumping on the piano, posing with the Big Man, joking with Steve Van Zandt, changing the words to songs to adapt to where they're playing - it's perfect.

And then the knee slide, which is another one of those things he's always done. Except, this time, maybe he didn't have enough practice on this stage. So, he seems to have misjudged the distance this time. So, he crashes into the camera man ,,,

But, again, that's why we're fans. When this happens, in front of the previously mentioned "biggest audience of his career", he grins apologetically into the camera (and to everyone in said "biggest audience ..."), gets his microphone handed back to him, then turns and dives back into the song.

Now, a random philosophical thought. In today's economy, lots of us are "crashing" these days, for various reasons (yours truly included). I get some encouragement from thinking that no matter how hard we crash, or how many people see us crash, we can grin and jump back into it. And that's our take-away for today.

February 01, 2009
Sunday Night Springsteen
Super Bowl (duh ...)

Step back from the guacamole, and put the chicken fingers DOWN ...

Part 1

Part 2

As the man said, "I'm goin' to Disney Land!!!"

[Note - Had to replace the video links, because the first ones were taken down due to an NFL copyright claim. The ones up now aren't as good quality, though.]

Sunday Morning Springsteen
It's Springsteen season, again - the guy is everywhere. He was all over the inauguration celebrations two weeks ago. He was all over the sports pages the other day, with a press conference in connection with the Super Bowl. As New Jersey sportswriter Steve Politi put it in my local paper the other day -

Our team finally arrived at this Super Bowl XLIII, and not a moment too soon. The storylines here are stale and the matchup is dull, with no compelling reason to watch.

Our team can save the day. This is a veteran unit from New Jersey, and judging by its press conference Thursday, the players are ready. Now if we just could do something about how long they'll be on the field ...

One thought: Can the NFL hold the football game at halftime of a two-part Bruce Springsteen concert?


It looks like a fun time was had by all. You can watch below -

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And this morning, he's smiling out from the front page of the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section. [If it asks you to log in to read, you can use the name "Cautiousman" and the password "cautious"] It's an interesting interview, not least for the fact that he discusses the reaction to the special, "Wal-Mart only" song compilation that went on sale recently -

He made another promotional deal he now bluntly calls a mistake. On Jan. 13 a $10 collection of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “Greatest Hits” — 11 songs from a 1995 hits anthology, as well as “Radio Nowhere” from “Magic” — went on sale exclusively at Wal-Mart. Since Wal-Mart has been accused of anti-union practices by Human Rights Watch, among others, and has paid large fines for violating labor laws, the announcement prompted online criticisms like the one from asroma on the fan site backstreets.com: “Bruce is doing biz with Wal-Mart? Kind of goes against everything he stands for.”

In an interview with Billboard, Mr. Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, defended the release, saying Mr. Springsteen’s albums were already in Wal-Mart, which accounts for 15 percent of his sales. He also said: “We’re not doing any advertising for Wal-Mart. We haven’t endorsed Wal-Mart or anybody else. We’re letting Sony do its job.”

But Mr. Springsteen said the decision was made too hastily. “We were in the middle of doing a lot of things, it kind of came down and, really, we didn’t vet it the way we usually do,” he said. “We just dropped the ball on it.” Instead of offering the exclusive collection to Wal-Mart, “given its labor history, it was something that if we’d thought about it a little longer, we’d have done something different.” He added, “It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.”

But I'm concerned about another item from that interview, which is near the start.

At 9 o’clock on a recent morning Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were already half an hour into a rehearsal at the rock club Terminal 5 in Manhattan. As N.F.L. executives and a television production team watched, they were tightening their miniset of four songs — dropping verses, streamlining segues — to fit their 12-minute slot as the halftime entertainment Sunday at Super Bowl XLIII, expected to reach tens of millions of viewers.

"Dropping verses"? "Streamlining seques"? Is this halftime going to be (*gasp*) a medley? Sort of like when the songs rush by you in a commercial for a Time-Life greatest hits compilation? I'm with Mr. Politi on this one -

Can the NFL hold the football game at halftime of a two-part Bruce Springsteen concert?


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