Also sometimes referred to as secular, modern, or humanistic. This is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God, to be interpreted in its historical context through critical analysis. Examples include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra-conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
|•||Belief in Deity |
Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. Many believe God is incorporeal.
Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Some believe we are all sons and daughters of God and that Christ was exemplary, but not God.
|•||Origin of Universe and Life |
The Bible's account is symbolic. God created and controls the processes that account for the universe and life (e.g. evolution), as continually revealed by modern science.
|•||After Death |
Goodness will somehow be rewarded and evil punished after death, but what is most important is how you show your faith and conduct your life on earth.
|•||Why Evil? |
Most do not believe that humanity inherited original sin from Adam and Eve or that Satan actually exists. Most believe that God is good and made people inherently good, but also with free will and imperfect nature, which leads some to immoral behavior.
Various beliefs: Some believe all will go to heaven, as God is loving and forgiving. Others believe salvation lies in doing good works and no harm to others, regardless of faith. Some believe baptism is important. Some believe the concept of salvation after death is symbolic or nonexistent.
|•||Undeserved Suffering |
Most Liberal Christians do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design, even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, and most take a humanistic approach to helping those in need.
|•||Contemporary Issues |
Most churches teach that abortion is morally wrong, but many ultimately support a woman's right to choose, usually accompanied by policies to provide counseling on alternatives. Many are accepting of homosexuality and gay rights.
Friday, February 16, 2007
By PETER BART
Hollywood is of one mind politically -- at least, that's the long-standing myth. Well, at this moment (a rare moment) the myth may have become reality. The anti-war sentiment in the entertainment community is as pervasive as it was during Vietnam. Yet there are many other cross-currents as well -- and they are strengthening as the '08 campaign looms.
One obvious area of disagreement, of course, involves personalities. Barack Obama's cameo appearances in town have created a fervent constituency, and Hollywood likes instant stars. Still, the Hillary backers have power and money and are diligently trying to disconnect her from the debacle in Iraq.
The political star system has its built-in tensions, to be sure. Adam Venit, a honcho at Endeavor, hosted a reception for John Edwards at his agency the other day. Not present was Venit's partner, Ari Emanuel, who threw a hot Obama bash not long ago and whose brother, Rahm, may (or may not) remain in the Hillary camp.
At the same time, Hollywood loves box office, and Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," has become Paramount's single most profitable release. Suddenly Gore is a star again.
There are other emerging fissures, as well. The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word -- Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. As a chill descended on the gathering, the Edwards event was brought to a polite close.
Support for Israel in the U.S. has lately become bafflingly multi-cultural, representing an alliance between diaspora Jews, traditional Zionists and evangelicals. Support from Christian zealots, who now represent about one third of Israel's tourist business, is welcomed even though, according to evangelical doctrine, Judgment Day will bring the ultimate destruction of Israel and death to most of its residents.
The Economist observed this week that "knee jerk defensiveness" of Israel ultimately will erode support for that country around the world, even among Jews. Only 17% of American Jews today regard themselves as "pro-Zionist," the magazine points out, and only 57% say that "caring about Israel is a very important part of being Jewish." And Jimmy Carter only exacerbates these mixed signals with his recent perorations that Israel must "give back" territories to the Palestinians.
Given that the Christian Right and neo-conservatives in this country seem more obsessed with Israel than the Jewish community, the "I" word is becoming a potentially lethal component of today's political dialogue.
The Middle East crisis represents just one of the issues that could splinter the formidable anti-Bush sentiment in the entertainment community. Further, as Democratic candidates compete to propose ever bolder ways to bureaucratize health care, this issue, too, could undermine the seemingly liberal consensus.
Liberals also have to figure a way to catch up with The Governator on environmental issues. Clearly, Schwarzenegger is finding consensus positions that cross party lines -- something the liberals have been unable to fashion.
All this provides both an opportunity and a trap for Obama as he mounts his presidential campaign. His platform has the purity of a fresh screenplay that's about to be submitted to the Hollywood studios. And Hollywood has mastered the process of messing things up with its interminable "notes."
Obama must at once enter the fray and stand above it. And his mentors, whoever they turn out to be, must remember that while Vietnam knocked the bad guys out of power, it delivered the nation to Richard Nixon.
That didn't help much.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 03:46:34 AM PST
The most famous biologist of all time was born 198 years ago today. As a boy, Charles Darwin considered becoming a parson or a doctor. But a love of science soon consumed him and his course was set to become a naturalist. At age 22, unfulfilled and restless with youth, he took advantage of an offer to sail the exotic south Pacific on a ship called the H.M.S. Beagle.
Upon his return, he poured over the wealth of zoological data he had meticulously recorded. Darwin's burgeoning thesis was elegant: If humans could breed wolves into poodles using artificial selection in a few thousand years, couldn't nature select for even greater changes in species over eons? On November 24, 1859, he formally published those ideas in a book that would shake the scientific establishment, along with all western culture, to the core: The Origin of Species. The book sold out within minutes of hitting the shelves.
Since Darwin's time, science has uncovered insights into the origin of life on earth that would have astonished and delighted him. The eukaryotic cells in the bodies of all animals carry that evolutionary legacy written in genetic code. Some of the tiny organelles found in those cells may have started as out as free living organisms, which were domesticated by natural selection into a sort of microbial co-op billions of years ago. The remains of fish that evolved limbs1 300 million years ago (right), and whale ancestors that lost their legs 250 million years later, have been unearthed from their rocky tombs.
Fossils of adorable egg-laying mammal-like reptiles2 from over 200 million years ago (left), whose descendants would give rise to every living mammal including humans, have been found. And from strata in China, feathered dinosaurs3 of the Cretaceous, cousin to all modern birds, have come to light.
Despite the mountains of evidence for common descent, to this day many people reject Darwin's ideas, usually on religious grounds. Entire ideological industries, mostly fueled by the ultra conservative wing of the Republican Party, feeds on that manufactured conflict. And the crux of that denial hinges on the glaring paradox that the intricate universe science reveals somehow challenges the existence of the Creator who crafted it.
Even as a skeptic, I cannot imagine greater testimony to the brilliance of a Creator than a myriad of dazzling, complex processes unfolding over vast oceans of space and time in exquisite order, spanning the entire cosmos. If I were a Pastor, I'd encourage my congregation to rejoice in the diversity of God's marvelous creatures and be thankful for the amazingly elaborate biochemical mechanisms those ancestral benefactors endowed us with. They would never again have to fear that science would undermine their faith. Indeed, if anything, the grandeur of the natural world would only serve to strengthen it.
I'd praise our Darwinian origins and be grateful for our Linnaean ancestors, from the primates to the microbes and, yes, all they way back to the comets and the rocks and the dust. For through them God bequeathed unto us the finest natural wonders we will ever know: our bodies, our brains, and our world.
KINGSTON, R.I. — There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.
His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”
But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.
For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”
He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. “People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate,” he said. “What’s that to anybody else?”
But not everyone is happy with that approach. “People go somewhat bananas when they hear about this,” said Jon C. Boothroyd, a professor of geosciences at Rhode Island.
In theory, scientists look to nature for answers to questions about nature, and test those answers with experiment and observation. For Biblical literalists, Scripture is the final authority. As a creationist raised in an evangelical household and a paleontologist who said he was “just captivated” as a child by dinosaurs and fossils, Dr. Ross embodies conflicts between these two approaches. The conflicts arise often these days, particularly as people debate the teaching of evolution.
And, for some, his case raises thorny philosophical and practical questions. May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn?
Those are “darned near imponderable issues,” said John W. Geissman, who has considered them as a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico. For example, Dr. Geissman said, Los Alamos National Laboratory has a geophysicist on staff, John R. Baumgardner, who is an authority on the earth’s mantle — and also a young earth creationist.
If researchers like Dr. Baumgardner do their work “without any form of interjection of personal dogma,” Dr. Geissman said, “I would have to keep as objective a hat on as possible and say, ‘O.K., you earned what you earned.’ ”
Others say the crucial issue is not whether Dr. Ross deserved his degree but how he intends to use it.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Ross said his goal in studying at secular institutions “was to acquire the training that would make me a good paleontologist, regardless of which paradigm I was using.”
Today he teaches earth science at Liberty University, the conservative Christian institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell where, Dr. Ross said, he uses a conventional scientific text.
“We also discuss the intersection of those sorts of ideas with Christianity,” he said. “I don’t require my students to say or write their assent to one idea or another any more than I was required.”
But he has also written and spoken on scientific subjects, and with a creationist bent. While still a graduate student, he appeared on a DVD arguing that intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, is a better explanation than evolution for the Cambrian explosion, a rapid diversification of animal life that occurred about 500 million years ago.
Online information about the DVD identifies Dr. Ross as “pursuing a Ph.D. in geosciences” at the University of Rhode Island. It is this use of a secular credential to support creationist views that worries many scientists.
Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a private group on the front line of the battle for the teaching of evolution, said fundamentalists who capitalized on secular credentials “to miseducate the public” were doing a disservice.
Michael L. Dini, a professor of biology education at Texas Tech University, goes even further. In 2003, he was threatened with a federal investigation when students complained that he would not write letters of recommendation for graduate study for anyone who would not offer “a scientific answer” to questions about how the human species originated.
Nothing came of it, Dr. Dini said in an interview, adding, “Scientists do not base their acceptance or rejection of theories on religion, and someone who does should not be able to become a scientist.”
A somewhat more complicated issue arose last year at Ohio State University, where Bryan Leonard, a high school science teacher working toward a doctorate in education, was preparing to defend his dissertation on the pedagogical usefulness of teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution.
Earle M. Holland, a spokesman for the university, said Mr. Leonard and his adviser canceled the defense when questions arose about the composition of the faculty committee that would hear it.
Meanwhile three faculty members had written the university administration, arguing that Mr. Leonard’s project violated the university’s research standards in that the students involved were being subjected to something harmful (the idea that there were scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution) without receiving any benefit.
Citing privacy rules, Mr. Holland would not discuss the case in detail, beyond saying that Mr. Leonard was still enrolled in the graduate program. But Mr. Leonard has become a hero to people who believe that creationists are unfairly treated by secular institutions.
Perhaps the most famous creationist wearing the secular mantle of science is Kurt P. Wise, who earned his doctorate at Harvard in 1989 under the guidance of the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, a leading theorist of evolution who died in 2002.
Dr. Wise, who teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote his dissertation on gaps in the fossil record. But rather than suggest, as many creationists do, that the gaps challenge the wisdom of Darwin’s theory, Dr. Wise described a statistical approach that would allow paleontologists to infer when a given species was present on earth, millions of years ago, even if the fossil evidence was incomplete.
Dr. Wise, who declined to comment for this article, is a major figure in creationist circles today, and his Gould connection appears prominently on his book jackets and elsewhere.
“He is lionized,” Dr. Scott said. “He is the young earth creationist with a degree from Harvard.”
As for Dr. Ross, “he does good science, great science,” said Dr. Boothroyd, who taught him in a class in glacial geology. But in talks and other appearances, Dr. Boothroyd went on, Dr. Ross is already using “the fact that he has a Ph.D. from a legitimate science department as a springboard.”
Dr. Ross, 30, grew up in Rhode Island in an evangelical Christian family. He attended Pennsylvania State University and then the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he wrote his master’s thesis on marine fossils found in the state.
His creationism aroused “some concern by faculty members there, and disagreements,” he recalled, and there were those who argued that his religious beliefs should bar him from earning an advanced degree in paleontology.
“But in the end I had a decent thesis project and some people who, like the people at U.R.I., were kind to me, and I ended up going through,” Dr. Ross said.
Dr. Fastovsky and other members of the Rhode Island faculty said they knew about these disagreements, but admitted him anyway. Dr. Boothroyd, who was among those who considered the application, said they judged Dr. Ross on his academic record, his test scores and his master’s thesis, “and we said, ‘O.K., we can do this.’ ”
He added, “We did not know nearly as much about creationism and young earth and intelligent design as we do now.”
For his part, Dr. Ross says, “Dr. Fastovsky was liberal in the most generous and important sense of the term.”
He would not say whether he shared the view of some young earth creationists that flaws in paleontological dating techniques erroneously suggest that the fossils are far older than they really are.
Asked whether it was intellectually honest to write a dissertation so at odds with his religious views, he said: “I was working within a particular paradigm of earth history. I accepted that philosophy of science for the purpose of working with the people” at Rhode Island.
And though his dissertation repeatedly described events as occurring tens of millions of years ago, Dr. Ross added, “I did not imply or deny any endorsement of the dates.”
Dr. Fastovsky said he had talked to Dr. Ross “lots of times” about his religious beliefs, but that depriving him of his doctorate because of them would be nothing more than religious discrimination. “We are not here to certify his religious beliefs,” he said. “All I can tell you is he came here and did science that was completely defensible.”
Steven B. Case, a research professor at the Center for Research Learning at the University of Kansas, said it would be wrong to “censor someone for a belief system as long as it does not affect their work. Science is an open enterprise to anyone who practices it.”
Dr. Case, who champions the teaching of evolution, heads the committee writing state science standards in Kansas, a state particularly racked by challenges to Darwin. Even so, he said it would be frightening if universities began “enforcing some sort of belief system on their graduate students.”
But Dr. Scott, a former professor of physical anthropology at the University of Colorado, said in an interview that graduate admissions committees were entitled to consider the difficulties that would arise from admitting a doctoral candidate with views “so at variance with what we consider standard science.” She said such students “would require so much remedial instruction it would not be worth my time.”
That is not religious discrimination, she added, it is discrimination “on the basis of science.”
Dr. Dini, of Texas Tech, agreed. Scientists “ought to make certain the people they are conferring advanced degrees on understand the philosophy of science and are indeed philosophers of science,” he said. “That’s what Ph.D. stands for.”
Sunday, February 11, 2007
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press WriterSun Feb 11, 4:13 PM ET
Sworn testimony in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has shone a spotlight on White House attempts to sell a gone-wrong war in Iraq to the nation and Vice President Dick Cheney's aggressive role in the effort.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald rested his case against Cheney's former chief of staff on Thursday in a trial that has so far lasted 11 days. The defense planned to begin its presentation Monday.
The drama being played out in a Washington courtroom goes back in time to the early summer of 2003. The Bush administration was struggling to overcome growing evidence the mission in Iraq was anything but accomplished.
The claim about weapons of mass destruction that was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 had not been supported. Insurgent attacks were on the rise. Accusations were growing that the White House had distorted intelligence to rationalize the invasion.
Trial testimony so far — including eight hours of Libby's own audio-recordedd testimony to a grand jury in 2004 — suggest that a White House known as disciplined was anything but that.
What has emerged, instead, is:
_a vice president fixated on finding ways to debunk a former diplomat's claims that Bush misled the U.S. people in going to war and his suggestion Cheney might have played a role in suppressing contrary intelligence.
_a presidential press secretary kept in the dark on Iraq policy.
_top White House officials meeting daily to discuss the diplomat, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and sometimes even his CIA-officer wife Valerie Plame.
Libby is accused of lying to the FBI and the grand jury about his talks with reporters concerning Plame. Libby got the White House press secretary to deny he was the source of the leak. He says he thought he first heard about Plame's CIA job from NBC's Tim Russert.
But after checking his own notes, he told the FBI and the grand jury Cheney himself told him Plame worked at CIA a month before the talk with Russert, but Libby says he forgot that in the crush of business.
Cheney already was helping manage the administration's response to allegations that it twisted intelligence to bolster its case on Iraq when Wilson's allegation — in a New York Times op-ed piece on July 6, 2003 — came into his cross hairs.
Cheney told Libby to speak with selected reporters to counter bad news. He developed talking points on the matter for the White House press office. He helped draft a statement by then-CIA Director George Tenet. He moved to declassify some intelligence material to bolster the case against Wilson.
Cheney even clipped Wilson's column out of the newspapers and scrawled by hand on it: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an ambassador to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"
Cheney and Libby discussed the matter multiple times each day, according to Libby's grand jury testimony.
A former Cheney press aide, Cathie Martin, testified she proposed leaking some news exclusives but was kept partly in the dark when Cheney ordered Libby to leak part of a classified intelligence report. Later she arranged a luncheon for conservative columnists with Cheney to help bolster the administration's case.
"What didn't he touch? It's almost like there was almost nothing too trivial for the vice president to handle," said New York University professor Paul Light, an expert in the bureaucracy of the executive branch.
"The details suggest Cheney was almost a deputy president with a shadow operation. He had his own source of advice. He had his own source of access. He was making his own decisions," Light said.
Wilson had written that he had not discovered any evidence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa. Wilson also asserted that the administration willfully ignored his findings.
Bush mentioned the unsubstantiated Africa connection in his State of the Union address in 2003. The White House and the CIA disavowed the 16-word assertion shortly after Wilson's criticism appeared in print.
A week after Wilson's article, his wife's CIA employment was disclosed in a column by Robert Novak, who wrote that two administration officials told him she suggested sending the former ambassador on the trip.
The disclosure led to a federal investigation into whether administration officials deliberately leaked her identity. Her job was classified and it is a crime to knowingly disclose classified information to unauthorized recipients.
Libby, 56, is not charged with that. He is charged with lying to the FBI and obstructing a grand jury investigation into the leak of Plame's identity. Libby is the only one charged in the case.
Cheney was upset by Wilson's suggestion that his trip was done at the vice president's behest and that the vice president had surely heard his conclusions well before Bush repeated the Niger story in his speech.
The CIA later said Wilson's mission was suggested by his wife but authorized by others. The agency said Wilson's fact-finding trip was in response to inquiries made by Cheney's office, the State Department and the Pentagon.
Testifying for the prosecution, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said he was surprised to find the administration was backing off the 16 words that he had been defending. He said it wasn't the first time he spoke of the administration's position with great certainty, only to find it had changed and nobody had bothered to let him know.
Fleischer acknowledged passing along Plame's identity to two reporters. But he testified he did not know at the time that her CIA job was classified.
According to prosecution testimony, Libby had conversations about Plame's identity with Cheney as well as with a Cheney spokeswoman, a undersecretary of state and two CIA officials before he talked to Russert. In addition, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper testified that Libby discussed Plame's CIA employment with them.
Russert, the final witness for the prosecution, flatly denied Libby's assertion that the two had discussed Plame before Novak's column appeared.
On the grand jury tapes, Libby also described steps that Cheney took to use parts of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified assessment of Iraq's weapons capabilities, to rebut Wilson.
Among those not informed about this Cheney maneuver, according to the Libby tapes, were then-White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"What was interesting to me was what appears to be the total involvement of the vice president," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon White Houses. "If he's down to micromanaging news leaks and responses at that level, I found that quite astounding."
Meantime, it's become clear that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the first to disclose Plame's work to reporters — Washington Post editor Bob Woodward and then Novak. Armitage says it was a mistake, claiming he didn't know her job was classified.
Ultimately, he, Fleischer and special presidential adviser Karl Rove all have acknowledged talking to reporters about her. According to testimony, at least six reporters were privately told by top administration officials of Plame's connection with the CIA.
In the runup to the war in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld's chief deputy in the Department of Defense was Douglas Feith. The Pentagon's inspector general says Feith was weeding out intelligence reports that downplayed the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
In the runup to the war, the Bush administration said it again and again, Saddam Hussein had strong links to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
President George W. Bush, (October 7, 2002): "We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high level contacts that go back a decade."
At the U.N., Colin Powell presented it as indisputable fact.
Colin Powell, Fmr. Secretary of State, (Feb. 5, 2003): "What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network."
But today, the acting inspector general of the Pentagon told the Senate Armed Services Committee that intelligence officers were downplaying the connection between Hussein and bin Laden, but that that information was not getting passed along. Donald Rumsfeld's deputy was developing and disseminating his own information.
Thomas Gimble, Acting Inspector General: "All I can tell you is at the end of the day, when those things went forward, there were two sets of facts out there. One of them got passed over and it would happen to be the one that's in the very community that we look to, to have this kind of information."
Rumsfeld's deputy was Douglas Feith who has denied the suggestion that the information was manipulated.
Doug Feith, Fmr. Under Secretary of Defense (June 4, 2003): "This suggestion that we said to them, 'This is what we're looking for, go find it,' is precisely the inaccuracy that we are here to rebut."
The inspector general's report says Feith did not do anything illegal, just inappropriate -- leaving the head of the Senate Armed Service's Committee fuming.
Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman Armed Services Comm.: "That's mighty bloody suspicious."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said today the Bush administration can blame faulty intelligence, but it was their own fault.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House: "This is again another transgression on the part of the administration by mixing politics with policy."
Congressman George Miller says Vice President Dick Cheney shares much of the responsibility for the inspector general's findings.
Rep. George Miller, (D) Concord: "These are the people who were working for him. These were the people he put in charge of manipulating the evidence because he didn't like the answers he got from the CIA and from other intelligence agencies in the country."
Today, Douglas Feith said it's true that his office put out ideas that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community. It's not a crime, he said, it was criticism.
Feith also denied the inspector general's finding that his office was disseminating his criticisms as neutral intelligence analysis.