Thursday, March 25, 2010

Political consequences for Bart Stupak

NRO considers the political fallout from Stupak's flip-flop. He ended up pleasing no side in the health care debate. Now he can plan on a bitter primary and, if he survives the primary, a worse election.


  1. What about the spiritual consequences for Bart Stupak? On Thursday's show, Al read the statement by Cardinal George concerning the recently passed health care legislation. It states that the bishops opposed its passage: " ... we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion."

    So, what's to be done with Bart Stupak? By supporting the legislation, did he cross the line into denial of Holy Communion territory? Or does the executive order signed by President Obama on Wednesday exonerate him? I know this is a judgement call for his bishop to make (His Excellency Bishop Alexander Sample). But many orthodox Catholics believe it's a slam dunk when it comes to Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, John Kerry, and other "pro-abort" Catholics.

    I usually ignore the daily poll question, but putting this one to a vote could help us find out where Ave Maria Radio listeners draw that line.

  2. ON the Crick piece I did use Schaeffer as well as Crick's Of Molecules and Men and two other articles that now filed away. Used wiki too.

  3. Al,

    I suspect that Francis Schaeffer may be the author of "his scientific enterprise was governed by a basic religious stance" quote. I've asked my local public library to ship in a copy of his book "Back to Freedom and Dignity" from another library in the system. Schaeffer has a chapter in the book about Crick's speech: "Why I Study Biology." Maybe I'll find something there.

    I also noticed from your remarks about Crick on the March 1 show that you may have picked up some ideas from the second chapter of William Lane Craig's book Reasonable Faith. In the second chapter, called "The Absurdity of Life Without God," Craig notes that Crick used personal language to describe nature -- like spelling nature with a capital N and saying that natural selection is "clever." I might have to look at his stuff, too.

    I don't understand why you're holding back on telling me the specific source of the quote. Maybe you found the quote on some old notes you kept around the house all these years and it's not footnoted. Or maybe you're just having fun.

    Anyway, I found this website that has Crick's handwritten notes for that 1971 Washington University speech, "Why I Study Biology." (The notes are on a PDF file. To see them, click on the little PDF icon next to "Missouri.") Unfortunately, his handwriting is so bad I can only make out bits and pieces of it. At the bottom of page 5 there appears to be some sort reference to religion. It's under a subheading called "Major biological conclusions" -- at least that's my best guess. The religion stuff comes after he talks about natural selection, role of chance, and open-ended something or other. Then I think I see "profoundly anti-religious in the conventional sense ... really a new religious attitude." I have absolutely no idea what that means, if, in fact, that is what he wrote. Unbelievable handwriting.

    It's impossible to figure out from Crick's notes what he actually said in the speech, so I'm hoping Schaeffer's book will help. There's also a tape of the speech at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK, but I don't know how to get hold of it. As you can see, I'm determined to solve this puzzle.

  4. I'm not holding out on the source of the quote. I didn't know how far you wanted to pursue it.

    I'm fairly sure it was Schaeffer and below I've sent the quote that I think you questioned. I like Craig but don't remember him recently being used. The photocopied notes I had were from 3 or 4 articles and listed in a general order for presentation. Those are usually tossed after the program unless it is a topic we shortly plan to return to.

    The Schaeffer I have in an electronic file and checked when you first asked. The quote you were concerned about was in quotes in Schaeffer's book, Back to Freedom and Dignity.

    Here is what I think you are looking for "Francis Crick, for example, said that his scientific enterprise is governed by a basic religious stance. And while he recognized that the particular stance he takes is antireligious in conventional terms,

    'it is a religious attitude because it’s concerned with religious problems.'

    He is absolutely right. What Crick and other scientists are doing is bringing forth what is really a religion based in science."

    Schaeffer's BFAD is the secondary source quoting Crick's lecture Why I Study Biology. The quote between the ' and ' is set out as Crick in Schaeffer's book. I would love to have the original lecture or the notes.

    If this doesn't do it for you, I'll poke around some more.

  5. Mauman,
    BTW, Crick's and others personalizing of nature is something Christians frequently point to as evidence that we can't escape seeking aim, purpose, meaning. It's similar to Dawkins and others having to remind themselves that the appearance of design is illusory.

    The first time it was drawn to my attention was when I was a jr. at MSU and taking the standard Natural Science core course for the year.

  6. Al,
    I think that does do it for me. That's the quote. Thanks for double checking. I'll be getting Schaeffer's book from the library tomorrow, so I'll look for it in there.

    I'm thinking that Schaeffer exaggerated when he characterized Crick in that way. Schaeffer desperately wanted to show that there aren't really any materialist atheists, so he pounced on Crick's reference to religion, giving it a meaning Crick did not intend. At least that's the way it looks to me. However, I need to read the book before I put my foot in my mouth, if I haven't done so already.

    BTW, you can see Crick's handwritten notes for "Why I Study Biology" on a PDF file if you go to this website. Just click on the PDF icon to the right of "Missouri." Crick's penmanship is appalling!

    I bet atheist scientists, like Dawkins, are kicking themselves for using language that could be turned around and used against them. But I don't think the use of such language means they are really closet theists. I mean, you don't really believe that, do you?

  7. Mauman,
    I'm on the run but thanks for the tip. I'll look at it tonight when things slow down.

    I think the sticking point is whether or not one can really do biology without some sense of teleology.

    I think you're probably right that atheists regret using language that deifies or anthropomorphizes nature. But I think it's inevitable. Something eventually sneaks in as ultimate and people like Crick and Dawkins and Sagan- wanting to give expression to the wonder and majesty of their observations- find themselves "worshipping" or extending a worth and status to the material world that can't be entirely justified by an appeal to its chaotic, cruel, unplanned origin.
    No doubt more to be said.

  8. Mauman,
    You're right. The handwriting is awful and the lecture is not well outlined either. I couldn't milk it for much of anything. If you find a transcript of the lecture let me know.

  9. Al,
    I haven't found a transcript of Crick's speech. I even looked at Washington University's library and the Library of Congress. The only thing I found was a tape at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K.

    I'm working on Schaeffer's little book "Back to Freedom and Dignity." (Did he title it as a reaction to B.F. Skinners "Beyond Freedom and Dignity?"). It has some large chunks of the speech, interspersed with his own comments. I wonder where Schaeffer got the text.

    Sure enough, I found the quotation that troubled me on page 19. I also see that Schaeffer, on page 18, observed how Crick personalized nature. It looks like William Lane Craig used Schaeffers's observation and expanded on it. I hope Craig gave Schaeffer attribution.

    Maybe I'll discuss Schaeffer's interpretation of the speech some other time.

  10. Mauman,
    I'm sure it must have been in reaction to Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity. I don't remember who said it but he claimed there were three great 20th century dystopias. Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave, New World and Skinner's Walden II. Never read Walden II but I doubt he meant it as a dystopia.

    There's a transcript of a debate between Skinner and Donald MacKay on the old Firing Line hosted by Bill Buckley that's worth reading if you can come across it. I'll take a look.

  11. Here's a link to a transcript. I didn't check it out.