Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin, Pat Robertson, & G-d: a testable hypothesis

Today is the Charles Darwin's 200th birthday.
Somehow honoring this anniversary seems to be obligatory for all self-described progressive bloggers.
This is my contribution.

In November 2005 the citizens of Dover, PA, voted to oust every member of the town's school board, which previously had become "... first to mandate inclusion of Intelligent Design in a public school biology curriculum". All were replaced with new members who opposed including ID in the biology curriculum.

Televangelist Pat Robertson responded:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there."
[Pat Robertson Tells Dover Residents They Rejected God]
The Rev. Robertson is careful to say that he's not predicting the good citizens of Dover will be beset by problems... BUT - I think it's a fair inference that in his heart he believed that this would be the case.

Recall, the Reverend Robertson blamed America for the 9/11 attacks:
America was attacked, Robertson asserted, "because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us."
[Pat Robertson's Gold, WaPo, 22 Sep 2001]
When Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered a stroke, Reverend Robertson was quick to note:
"Ladies and Gentlemen I said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous periods of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person and I am sad to see him in this condition, but I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land.' God considers this land to be His. You read the Bible and He says 'this is my land' and for any Prime Minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says 'no, this is mine.' I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, it was a terrible thing that happened but nevertheless he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon who again was a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with, I prayed with him personally, but here he's at the point of death. He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America. God says 'this land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone.'"
[Robertson 'said Sharon being punished by God']
Hurricane Katrina?
"... We have killed over 40 million unborn babies in America. I was reading, yesterday, a book that was very interesting about what God has to say in the Old Testament about those who shed innocent blood. And he used the term that those who do this, "the land will vomit you out."
But have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way?"
So, yes - I'm quite certain that Reverend Robertson would interpret any "problems" that beset Dover, PA, as G-d's wrath... and that his admonition, "Don't turn to God", was by implication a prediction of G-d's wrath falling upon the town.

As it turns out, this is a semi-testable hypothesis.
In the 3.25 years since Dover, PA voters "voted God out of" their city, the U.S. has suffered 1000s of tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters.
The number of natural disasters suffered by Dover, PA? Zero.
The recent winter-storm induced power outages? Dover, PA has NOT been impacted.
I'm not sure that G-d observes any "statute of limitations", but it's curious that in three-and-a-quarter years since being voted out of Dover, PA, He's seen fit to spare the city.

On a more serious note: the Dover, PA school board election was held shortly after closing arguments had been presented in a much-watched Federal trial: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
Judge John E. Jones, III, issued his decision 20 Dec 2005.

Happy Birthday, Charles!

p.s. Of course, it could be that the deity worshipped by & in direct communication with Reverend Robertson is not G-d.
Who knows: perhaps G-d designed natural selection as the mechanism of evolution.

p.p.s. Copernicus's "hypothesis" was soundly rejected by both Luther and the Catholic Church. None of the ID folks seems to advocating that Ptolemaic astronomy be mentioned in high school physics classes... you know, to present both sides of the issue.
... and I am reminded of Laplace's quote:
"I had no need of that hypothesis." ("Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là", as a reply to Napoleon, who had asked why he hadn't mentioned God in his book on astronomy.)

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