Elsewhere, July 21, 2010

Elsewhere: A collection of interesting links and articles that I’ve come across in the last week or so. For more of the same, follow me on Twitter.

Twitch’s Todd Brown reviews Alien Versus Ninja (watch the trailer):

Though the festival is still young and there are literally scores of films remaining to screen at the 2010 edition of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival, if this morning’s reaction to Seiji Chiba’s Alien Versus Ninja is anything to judge by the festival may have already found its Audience Award winner. Know this: Any film that has a prayer of unseating AvN has a literal mountain of hooting, hollering, laughter, spontaneous waves of cheering and applause and other related expressions of joy to overcome. A party broke out in the Hall today and Alien Versus Ninja was the pretty girl everybody wanted to take home.

Ron Rosenbaum wants “An Agnostic Manifesto”:

I would not go so far as to argue that there’s a “new agnosticism” on the rise. But I think it’s time for a new agnosticism, one that takes on the New Atheists. Indeed agnostics see atheism as “a theism” — as much a faith-based creed as the most orthodox of the religious variety.

Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence — the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence. (And some of them can behave as intolerantly to heretics who deviate from their unproven orthodoxy as the most unbending religious Inquisitor.)

Faced with the fundamental question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” atheists have faith that science will tell us eventually. Most seem never to consider that it may well be a philosophic, logical impossibility for something to create itself from nothing. But the question presents a fundamental mystery that has bedeviled (so to speak) philosophers and theologians from Aristotle to Aquinas. Recently scientists have tried to answer it with theories of “multiverses” and “vacuums filled with quantum potentialities,” none of which strikes me as persuasive.

And Julian Sanchez responds:

To the extent that it is a meaningful question, I have no reason to expect that science either eventually will, or even in principle could answer it. But I am not sure why I am supposed to care, except insofar as it’s interesting to mull over, if you go for that sort of thing. Suppose I allow that it is a genuine mystery — radically uncertain, even. It’s outside the realm about which we can talk meaningfully or offer evidence. So what? If there were some part of the world about which we couldn’t even in principle gather information, would I have to declare myself a basilisk agnostic because, after all, they might be there?

Rosenbaum’s mistake is to suppose that atheists are committed to providing some kind of utterly comprehensive worldview that explains everything in the way religious doctrine sometimes purports to. But why? Can’t we point out that claims made on behalf of one brand of snake oil are outlandish and unsupportable without peddling an even more wondrous tonic?

The Gospel Of Scientific Materialism:

If all the mental images we have about ourselves are deceptions, who can blame us for screwing things up? Who can blame us for trying to snatch what happiness we can, even if we have to transgress the moral laws our parents held dear? With this excuse, we can act contrary to our consciences, since conscience itself can be explained away by recourse to a deeper law of nature or a material process.

Yes, free will gives life its drama. But a life without drama is less stressful, less perilous, less urgent, less tense, and the therapists recommend stress reduction. If I’m just DNA trying to out compete other DNA, the mess I make of my life doesn’t matter, and it may even help the onward evolution of the species.

What Do Most Christians Really Believe About Evolution?

The results might be surprising to those who see the world, or wish to see it, in simple black and white terms. Catholics and many Protestant Christian groups (e.g. Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans (ELCA), United Church of Christ, and others) have statements of faith that show absolutely no problem with evolution. Some even have strong statements attesting to how an understanding of modern evolutionary biology even enriches their faith.


Perhaps a more surprising result from the survey is the indication that, although this is far from proven, those persons with a deeper, stronger education in theology — not science, but theology — are the ones most likely to understand and accept evolution as part of their faith. One example of this was the 1998 survey of the Presbyterian Church USA, where the statement “evolutionary theory is compatible with the idea of God as Creator” was agreed to by only 61% of the general membership but by 85% of the pastors. This seems to imply that although many church leaders tend to accept evolution, this acceptance does not seem to trickle down to the members of their congregations.

David Galbraith contacts Tim Berners-Lee and confirms the exact location where the World Wide Web was invented in 1989.

GameInformer lists five facts about your Dragon Age 2 character.

Jennie Hogan argues that “Faith should harness art’s appeal”:

Despite the centrality of faith in the art of centuries past, religious themes within contemporary art are fading fast. At Chelsea College of Art & Design, where I work as chaplain, God is dead. As students in their studios aspire to join the avant garde there is only a faint desire to look back at works in which the Christian tradition is central. Perhaps when universal themes such as death, suffering and delight are explored though a religious and theological lens the students cannot see them. Could it be then that art is replacing religion? The Tate’s Turbine Hall, into which visitors flock, could be recreating the awe and excitement that great cathedrals and churches once provided. Or is it that objects created by people are filling in the empty spaces where the ineffable and the invisible once dwelled?

Five cautionary statements when exploring and thinking about the worldviews expressed in art:

Analysing a work of art by constructing a worldview that supposedly shapes the work of art or is embodied by the work of art is currently a fashionable trend in Christian engagement with the arts. While I think this is a valuable approach, I am sometimes uncomfortable with the way that the relationship between the worldview and the work of art is conceived.

Edgar Wright’s 10 Coolest Movie Moments (includes Bullitt, Danger: Diabolik, and The Black Hole)

Hayao Miyazaki Compares iPad Use To Masturbation:

In an interview in the July issue of “Neppuu”, the Studio Ghibli published pamphlet, the famed animator does not pull any punches when discussing the iPad, or what he calls the “game machine-type thing” that people are “stroking with strange gestures”.

“For me, there is no feeling of admiration or no excitement whatsoever,” Miyazaki said about the iPad. “It’s disgusting. On trains, the number of those people doing that strange masturbation-like gesture is multiplying.”

6 Boring New England Destinations Made Awesome by H.P. Lovecraft

Inception and the Ten Rules for Proper Dream Sequences

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