Monday, September 10, 2012

Just How Fundamentalist are Mormons Anyway?

On this week’s Penn’s Sunday School podcast, Penn Jillette and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) were having an interesting conversation about creationism and belief and the like. Penn asked Bill a question about the last time he (Bill) had had an in-person conversation with somebody who truly believed in the inerrancy of the Bible and in creationism. Bill’s answer was that his most recent experience in this regard was when a couple of Mormon missionaries knocked on his door a few years earlier.

They didn’t pursue the conversation very far, and Bill didn’t offer any specifics but the answer he gave struck me as very odd.  Having grown up Mormon and served as a missionary myself, I would never think of lumping Mormons into the fundamentalist camp when it comes to Biblical accuracy. Certainly I was never raised to believe that the Earth was only six or ten thousand years old - yes, Mormons believe in creation as an act of God, but they don’t believe the Bible is any sort of inerrant history text (in fact, that's part of the reason the Book of Mormon was necessary, to correct the errors that had crept into the Bible over the centuries). 

In my experience, Mormons have a healthy respect for, and invest a huge amount of money in, modern science. Certainly many paleontologists are Mormons (lots of dinosaur bones out there in Utah).  I remember being taught evolution in science classes at BYU, and, when some students complained about it, the professor calmly explained that, whatever anyone’s religious beliefs, evolution was the state of modern science, and it was the University’s obligation to teach it. That’s maybe not the most ringing endorsement of evolution one could hear, but it’s a far cry from what you’d get at a fundamentalist Christian college.

So the conversation made me curious. In the 25 or so years since I've been to church, have things changed in this regard? Are missionaries now out there extolling the virtues of young Earth creationism?  

Certainly Mormons have made common cause with fundamentalists in the political arena in recent decades, so maybe they’ve changed the way they look at and teach these doctrines as well. My hunch, though, is that the very fact that Mormons and conservative Christians have been so publicly supportive of each other politically has led people to lump them into that same category. But I'm definitely curious.

I’ll have to check it out.

What Are They Teaching (in Alabama)?

If there's one thing I really don't understand, it's Biblical literalism. The idea that the Bible -- as important as it is -- can be taken as some sort of actual historical text just boggles my mind, and always has. I would consider it just an odd bit of religious flotsam, and add it to the long list of strange things that people accept on faith and talk about amongst themselves on Sunday, if said people weren't so insistent about pushing the concept of creationism on our kids. In a world where we need the smartest, most well educated citizens to help keep pushing the boundaries of science and knowledge, saddling them with the archaic idea that the planet is only 6,000 years old because some holy book says so is unconscionable.

And, as usual, the best way for me to express my feelings on this was through music, so here's a song about what I think we ought, and ought not, to be teaching in schools.

You can find all of my skepticism-themed songs and music videos at The Skeptic's Songbook.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Page Launched: The Skeptic's Songbook

So, even though I post all of my songs on this blog, I also tend to ramble on about other topics at some length, and the songs can get lost. I decided to make it easy for anyone who actually wants to check out my catalogue of skepticism-themed or inspired videos by creating a new blog:  The Skeptic's Songbook.

I'll still post new songs here as I finish them, but the other site will simply exist for the music.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A New Song: The Universe is Awesome!

I was thinking recently about some of the amazing scientific advances we’ve been privileged to witness over the last few months - the potential discovery of the Higgs Bosun, the discovery of huge numbers of planets that could harbor life and, most recently and impactful, the landing of Curiosity on Mars. 

If you pay attention, the advances of science are mind-boggling. And for those of us who have adopted a science and critical thinking-based view of life it is, well, worldview-affirming.  It’s almost enough to make you think that the woo and magical thinking we encounter around us every day will finally, inevitably, fade away amidst an onslaught of new knowledge and, you know, facts.

It won’t, of course. But one can hope.

Anyway, these kinds of discoveries do continue to convince me that the world and the universe we live in are, in fact, awesome. Far more awesome than any myths or magic or fables that we creative humans can come up with.

So I wrote a song with that theme - and the not-at-all-subtle title “The Universe is Awesome!”


PS. I want to thank my son James, a far better musician than I will ever be, for contributing the guitar solo to this recording.