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Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the what's-old-is-new dept.

Science 528

With his trademark hat and beard, Dr. Robert Bakker is one of the most recognized paleontologists working today. Bakker was among the advisers for the movie Jurassic Park, and the character Dr. Robert Burke in the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park is based on him. He was one of the first to put forth the idea that some dinosaurs had feathers and were warm-blooded, and is credited with initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontology. Bakker is currently the curator of paleontology for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado. He is also a Christian minister, who contends that there is no real conflict between religion and science, citing the writings and views of Saint Augustine as a guide on melding the two. Dr. Bakker has agreed to take some time from his writing and digging in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

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528 comments

And... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799025)

Let the mud slinging BEGIN!

Science is the antithesis of religion... (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about a year ago | (#42799053)

A central tenant of science is that you could be wrong, that seems to conflict with religion. Which is not to say you can't have faith and be a scientist. Just that you would have to keep a fair amount of mental separation between the two. I would even go so far as to say that to be a good scientist you would have to question your faith.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (4, Insightful)

eksith (2776419) | about a year ago | (#42799239)

Without stepping on anyone's toes...

Science is the process of understanding the environment through observation, calculation and inference. Theories are formed and they're tested. Even if one believes in God, He is quite safe from science as a result, since... well... it would only be as if you're studying what God has created. One's faith in a higher power need not be shaken when all you're doing is studying His work. If it's observable, repeatable and logical, we can reasonably infer, it is true.

In this regard, science and faith need not be mutually exclusive.

To religion OTOH, science would be Kryptonite, since that's an institution of man and, like all institutions, there's a hierarchy of (usually) other men. And men will fight back when their status within this hierarchy is threatened. With science, there's suddenly no need for an interpreter to reality, since you can do the observations yourself.

Full disclosure: I don't believe in a personal God.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#42799641)

Science is the process of understanding, or at least generating workable knowledge, through observation, theorizing, and testing. The process of science is antithetical to faith since it requires that you test everything. You accept (and only provisionally at that) only things that have good evidence supporting them. Faith is the opposite - belief regardless of supporting, absent, or contradicting evidence.

The only way you can reconcile faith (in anything, a god, your mother, a book) is to put artificial limitations on the applicable domain of science, as you appear to do. That's fine, and people, particularly religious people, are great at doing that kind of thing. Someone can do good science and believe in whatever. But it's entirely a construction of his own psyche. If science ever does come in conflict with the artificially walled off domain, as it has repeatedly and will continue to do, the believe has to give up or revise his faith, or or give up being a scientist, at least in that area of overlap.

The theory of a personal god, for example, lacks any explanatory or predictive power whatsoever, and yet requires a great deal of complication.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#42799693)

With science, there's suddenly no need for an interpreter to reality, since you can do the observations yourself.

Oh, please. Do you listen to yourself? When was the last time you had direct observation or measurement of The Big Bang, string theory, fundamental particles, atoms, or even bacteria?

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (2)

minogully (1855264) | about a year ago | (#42799807)

What if (and this is perhaps a big "if", depending on your personal beliefs), the religion that you believe in didn't start as an institution of man, but as an institution of God? In this scenario, I see the possibility of the two systems not conflicting with each other.

Full disclosure: I don't believe in a personal God either.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#42799859)

Religion doesn't require an interpreter of reality, just like science doesn't require you to do the observations yourself.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (4, Insightful)

LikwidCirkel (1542097) | about a year ago | (#42799257)

I completely disagree. The conflict you speak of is a media fabrication, because controversy sells, and all intelligent people recognize this. Religion and faith can help some people be at peace and believe things which science does not yet explain - and there are certainly many things which science does not explain.

Science denialism is a problem yes, but it is absolutely possible to be religious without denying science. I was raised into a religious group of sorts which never denied any scientific observations. They would actually adjust and adapt their teaching as science advanced. I am no longer an adherent, but I have observed such religious thinkers, and quite frankly, the conflict and divisiveness is more of a problem than religion itself.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799545)

You really believe that the creationists are a media fabrication? Normal Christians coexist with reality because they dump any religious belief that's obviously silly. Conservative Christians dump any reality that conflicts with their religious beliefs. As everyone who can think and adapt leaves religion on the trash-bin of history, the people who can't absorb new info and discard bad ideas are becoming more extreme. Check twitter tag #tgdn to see these intellectual infants act out.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (5, Insightful)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42799589)

They aren't a fabrication, they're a vocal minority that gets more coverage than they are worth because it helps people like you feel superior.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799917)

They're certainly vocal, but the bit about them being represented in the media might have more to do with their varied success at ruining schools, harassing families of dead soldiers and pregnant women, firebombing health facilities and shooting doctors, being elected to public office, appearing on our national science committees, impeding research to save lives, and using considerable donated wealth to bend the ear of our nation's highest ranking politicians. The list goes on, of course.

And let's not run away with the "minority" bit. There are enough of them to build their megachurches around the country, buy TV time, affect political elections, etc. Those resources come with large numbers.

So short of any kind of violence, people like me would rather they just vanished. It's not us keeping them around just for entertainment. They do real harm.

Disagree all you like, it's still correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799547)

Remember, RELIGION. Not faith. Not God. Religion.

Show me one that makes claims that concur with science and I'll show you one created in the last few years to do only that.

But religion makes claims about this world.

Claims that are absolutely nonsense.

Hell, it makes claims about itself which are absolutely nonsense!

It's possible to have FAITH and have science. But no religion so far made (apart possibly from Spinoza's God) can manage to be accepted in the face of science. Because religion says its words are Word From God. And when that word turns out to be bullshit, either

a) God is a bullshitter. Goodbye religion's followers.
b) The revelation was human not godly in origin. Goodbye religion's followers.

Re:Disagree all you like, it's still correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799691)

You have a very narrow view of what constitutes religion. Not all religions have a rigid dogma, or even believe in a single God. The wacko bastardized American Christianity is not representative of global religions as a whole. Get out and travel the world before you spew such narrow-minded rhetoric.

Re:Disagree all you like, it's still correct. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#42799831)

You are aware that the so-called "bastardized american christianity" didn't even originate on this continent, right?

By default, religion is bullshit (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799929)

Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods. Since there is no evidence gods exist and science is based on fact and evidence religion, by default, is bullshit and is therefore incompatible with religion.

No, no , no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799587)

- and there are certainly many things which science does not explain.

Which does NOT mean religion is right - or any other system without evidence; which unfortunately for the uneducated masses means "science can't explain it so religion is right!"

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about a year ago | (#42799787)

Why must religion hide in the shadowy world of the undefined? Is that what you want to limit religion to - living in the places science has not yet penetrated?

Regardless, religion and science are at odds as ways of knowing. With science it is all about evidence. With religion - faith - the presence of belief in the absence of evidence, or even reason.

That being said, religions that emphasize only believing in what you can experience do exist - some interpretations of Buddhism fall under this category.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (3, Interesting)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#42799271)

That depends on how literally you take your religion. Much of the voices you hear in the press and in places like the Creation Museum believe that the Bible was written directly by God and every word is the literal truth. In that case, you're right.

I'm religious(I'm not a minister, but I do attend services regularly along with serving on the governing body of the local parish). To me, there's symbolism all over the place in the Bible, so why isn't much of the Bible itself symbolism?

Absence of proof doesn't mean it didn't happen, but proof of something happening is pretty darn convincing. I can say God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, but I can't prove it. But I'm not going to try and convince you I'm right about that. There's plenty of evidence that the Big Bang happened and the universe is 14ish billion years old and monkey and humans share a common ancestor. There's plenty of things that science doesn't explain (yet): what happened before the Big Bang? What caused the bolt of lightning that caused the amino acids to come together? What caused humans to evolve the way we did? Those are all things where God acts within the laws of nature He created to make us the way we are.

Disagree? I'm cool with that. This works for me. I don't expect it to work for everyone.

In other words.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799387)

"God of the Gaps" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps)

Re:In other words.... (2)

Cstryon (793006) | about a year ago | (#42799751)

Not quite. In fact I'd almost say quite the opposite. It sounds like the GP is saying that he applies credit to his god for the things that science understands, and suggesting it most likely is his god in the things we don't understand. Which means he can accept proofs, and not let his beliefs stop him from recognizing the proofs. His belief in a god gives him someone to appreciate for how the laws of nature were set/made/came to be.

I tend to agree with this. I'm not practicing any religion. But I do believe there must be a god. each time science learns something new, I credit my God* rather than trying to think of reasons why science must be wrong. No amount of science could make me think there is no god until science proves it. Meanwhile, science is just proving to me how much of a genius this god is.

*Should also point out that I would also credit the individuals involved. Man kind can do it's own thinking.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#42799889)

"To me, there's symbolism all over the place in the Bible, so why isn't much of the Bible itself symbolism?"

that means god must be a symbol then. its either a god telling us what to do or he doesn;t exist and some twat in the desert had a great con to write about.

if you cherry pick what god tells you to do i.e. you eat pork and prawns or you don't stone people to death for working on sundays, that tells me you are just too scared to go the final step and admit there is no probable chance of him existing (i think this is the case for most religionists who arent stupid enough to be creatilonists)

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799277)

Science is evidence-based on reproducible results or at the very least requiring mathematical modelling and compelling logic.

Most religions are based on some guy who fasted in the desert heat for a month and then hallucinated a burning bush talking to him, wrote that down in a fevered craze and then those words are considered to be the absolute truth for now and forever.

I can tell you which one I have more faith in.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799317)

It may conflict with some religions, but religion is not faith. You may share a religion with others, but your faith is your own. Nobody else can ultimately have it with you. Faith without doubt and questioning is not faith, it is certainty. Certainty breeds extremism.

Re: Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799337)

Tenant? Perhaps you mean tenet?

Re: Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799409)

Nah, I think he meant Tennant [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799439)

Not all religions are equal, Catholic Christianism is friends with science (some popes have been sciencists all their life, even!), though there are some forms of protestantism and religions such as Islam that have a history of banning scientific progress. However, the recent conflict that forces you to choose sides between religion and science (in a false dychotomy) is due to marxism rooted humanism, which hates religion because Carl Marx claimed himself to be a sciencist (which he wasn't, according to Karl Popper) and he said that religion was bad because it kept the people in chains (and according to sociologists, he was dead wrong, because religion precisely gives people the strength to break the chains, as exemplified by the recent islamic revolts in Africa).

So basically all this religion bashing is because public education is currently filled with marxism-rooted humanists, which believe in the most dangerous pseudoscience in the world (marxism), preach the worst economic models (keynesianism and malthusianism), and according to sociologists, behave exactly as a religion, even though they themselves deny it.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#42799559)

Catholicism may be a friend of science at times, but that hasn't stopped some Catholic clergy, some in very high positions, from spouting unbelievable crap about birth control.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | about a year ago | (#42799679)

I can't speak for the prof, but most of the religious people I know do question and critically examine their faith. If your mileage varies, perhaps you need to mix with more thoughtful religious people.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (2)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#42799905)

"but most of the religious people I know do question and critically examine their faith."

and they still believe???? cant have done much soul searching then

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

m.shenhav (948505) | about a year ago | (#42799759)

People have already covered the Pragmatic sides to this, and the issues of not taking religion too seriously and using it as a metaphor.

I would add that while it may seem from the Exoteric doctrines (i.e. what most people consider religion) that religion is about believing particular statements, it has been my experience that the Esoteric doctrine (i.e. what you learn when you study the subject a bit more deeply) are actually advocating extreme skepticism of human capacity to describe and understand reality in the rational sense. Indeed many of the Philosophical Skeptics have been religious.

In any case if you are Skeptic you would not take beliefs - Scientific, Religious or otherwise - too seriously. Its amusing because you see Atheists like Dawkins argue against a position of believing such a narrow conception of what god is that he misses the point. What if the Divine is simply a term used to describe the Ineffable - the Immeasurable - the Indescribable in the universe?

After all - the idea that reality has Immutable Laws that we can discover which govern its function is completely speculative and unfalsifiable. Not to say we should not try and find them, but this search has a subjective and objective part. Take a guess which discipline deals with which part.....

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#42799821)

You do realize why there is more than one church right? Christians have been debating right and wrong interpretations for almost 2000 years.

Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799887)

> A central tenant of science is that you could be wrong, that seems to conflict with religion.

Unless of course we are talking about global warming... er... climate change. Then you are shouted down if you disagree.

Demands to be asked. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799117)

What are your thoughts on raptor Jesus?

Re:Demands to be asked. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#42799951)

Why is Raptor Jesus "off topic"? The man is a world-class dinosaur scientist, and Christian minister to boot. You'd be hard pressed to find anybody on the surface of the Earth better qualified to discuss it.

Mixed Footprints (2, Interesting)

croftj (2359) | about a year ago | (#42799119)

So what is your take on the human footprint inside of the dinosaur footprint in the one creation museum near the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas?

Re:Mixed Footprints (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799249)

Obviously it represents an unsuccessful divergence in evolution and shows that all one footed dinosaurs died out long ago, mostly due to having only one foot. More successful species (that had more than one foot) were much more "fit" and lived far longer, thus showing a perfect example of evolution favoring those who have evoled more fully.

No Real Conflicts? Really? (0, Troll)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42799165)

He is also a Christian minister, who contends that there is no real conflict between religion and science, citing the writings and views of Saint Augustine as a guide on melding the two.

Really? Surely as a paleontologist, you must realize that we are but a blink in time compared to the Earth's age let alone our Universe's age. Take, for the purpose of discussion, the Christian creation story written by God through man. So Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, etc proposed that the six days of creation were merely a loose framework for what actually happened in the creation of where we are now. How is it that you dig up these fossils of massive beasts easily more impressive than humans in every feature save the brain and yet you never wonder why God didn't tell whoever wrote the Book of Genesis about this amazing history of the Earth and Universe? Why was everything described only the present day stuff in a seemingly random order? Why weren't things that would advance medicine like viruses and bacteria described by God instead of the obvious stuff? Why was something as trivial as the moon described as one of "the two great lights" in Genesis 1:16 while something as important as black holes, dinosaur killing asteroids [wikipedia.org] , super nova, etc didn't even deserve a foot note? Doesn't this vex you endlessly? That an all powerful all knowing being decided to serve us up the stuff we already knew in His codex of life and then to give us a convoluted framework? The skeptic in me feels like you could pull a random paragraph from a Sears magazine and it would do an equally good job of providing a framework creation story for our actual creation.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799247)

Maybe a better way to phrase this question is "How seriously do you think we should take the Bible considering that you must agree, as a scientist, that there are factual errors in it?"

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799391)

Whether the Bible is or is not based on divine revelation, it was written by pre-industrial people for pre-industrial people.
The moon was many times more important to them than black holes.
And the Bible's purpose is moral, not to "advance medicine".
The purpose of the creation story in Genesis is to establish God's authority as creator and ruler of man, not to teach science.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (0)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42799535)

Whether the Bible is or is not based on divine revelation, it was written by pre-industrial people for pre-industrial people.

So an omnipotent and omniscient being's intent is undone by mere mortals. Good to know we're that powerful. Why didn't The Holy Spirit just take over the body of the writer and make it all perfect and then simply stop anyone from altering those words? I mean, you are infinitely powerful but that's too much effort?

The moon was many times more important to them than black holes.

Really? I bet if you described to them that there was something out among the stars that was capable of destroying everything they knew in the blink of an eye without any care or concern or remorse, they would be a lot more interested in it than the moon.

And the Bible's purpose is moral, not to "advance medicine".

Is not advancing medicine a moral good? I'm sorry, do religious texts not contain medical advise?

The purpose of the creation story in Genesis is to establish God's authority as creator and ruler of man, not to teach science.

Really?! Is that why there's so many versus on what you can and can't eat and what is clean and unclean? Take Leviticus 13:2-5 for example:

2 "When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. 3 The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. 4 If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. 5 On the seventh day the priest is to examine him, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to keep him in isolation another seven days.

So God is going to tell us how to quarantine but not how to use make and use soap? That above passage is about morality and not put in there to save lives?

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799543)

And the Bible's purpose is moral, not to "advance medicine".

But it did so well that the Jews were left so nearly untouched by the black plague that there was belief they started it.

See also that Revelation pre-supposes (not predicts, pre-supposes) at least 20th century technology.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (0)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#42799939)

"And the Bible's purpose is moral"

You have to be fucking joking, genocide, child abuse, homophobia, mysogeny to name a few

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799405)

Wow, where to start with this? Maybe because sheep herders wouldn't have understood anything more technical than what they were given. Maybe because the answers to those questions are too complex for our little minds to handle. Maybe because knowing about dinosaurs and blackholes weren't the type of information those people needed to survive the world they lived in. Maybe because you have a kindergarten view of religion, spirituality and philosophic thought and trying to understand why quantum mechanics wasn't included in the first book of the bible shows you just asked the questions without really thinking about what your were asking. Each of your questions can be answered with a little common sense, you only asked them because you have a preconceived idea of what the answer is without even considering that your preconceived ideas might be wrong. FYI; the universe is a lot more complex than you will ever grasp.

We aren't sheepherders. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799619)

So rather shortsighted to neglect a blink of geology later that people would still be reading this crap, isn't it. Hardly omniescent.

Yet the bible has many many things in it that sheepherders wouldn't have understood and this doesn't seem to have worried this god writer. Waters above and waters below? firmament?

The bible is nonsense.

Even if its god exists, the bible was never written nor inspired (except in as much as Gilgamesh inspired JKR to write Harry Potter) by him.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (2)

pastafazou (648001) | about a year ago | (#42799479)

so you think the bible is supposed to be a non-fiction work, dictated by God to a bunch of writers? Maybe you need to put your thinking cap on. Mankind was on this planet for tens (hundreds even?) of thousands of years prior to the invention of writing. Think of the bible more as a collection of stories that were handed down from one generation to the next, in order to preserve bits of history, teachings, knowledge gleaned, morals, ethics, and laws. Now think about this: Of all the civilizations that have emerged on this planet, with all kinds of different teachings, knowledge, morals, ethics, and laws, the oldest surviving civilization is that which based their life upon the bible; namely, Judaism.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about a year ago | (#42799531)

Just a thought... the moon controls tides. We have calendars based on it. Many real world applications of the moon, so to speak, exist. What's a real world application of a black hole? Does a black hole affect my daily life? Does it "govern" it in any way... like the moon does?

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year ago | (#42799599)

How is it that you dig up these fossils of massive beasts easily more impressive than humans in every feature save the brain and yet you never wonder why God didn't tell whoever wrote the Book of Genesis about this amazing history of the Earth and Universe?

My favorite explanation for this comes from Isaac Asimov: http://sumware.com/creation.html

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year ago | (#42799657)

Why do you assume that all Christians are Biblical literalists?

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#42799995)

if they are not literalists then they aren't true religionists, they are cherry picking people too scared to go the final step and admit god has no probability of existing. Fundementalists are the true christians whether you like it or not and they are nutjobs

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about a year ago | (#42799701)

Maybe because he realized that if he told us all these things there would be a lot of unemployed paleontologists and other scientists. Are you one of those people who needs to be spoon fed everything? It's often the the joy of discovery that makes the journey worth while.

Re:No Real Conflicts? Really? (3, Insightful)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#42799967)

Maybe because humans were too dumb to understand those things? Do you explain to your 3 year old about trichinosis or do you just tell him not to eat the pork? How do you explain a million years to a 3 year old who can't grasp the concept of a week? Maybe that information was originally given but since it was passed down orally the only things that remained where the things understood, such as do or do not.

Even today, we have people like you who cannot come up with simple logical answers to your questions.

timeline reconciliation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799173)

It seems to me that a lot of the conflict in Christianity about whether evolution exists comes down to the official timeline of events. Evolutionary science claims it took millions (and billions, etc.) of years for changes to occur on our planet, particularly changes in plant and animal life forms to get us to where we are today. Christians can't accept those terms, either because of a preconceived age of the earth or because they feel the Bible asserts that creation occurred during the first week and that week only, and that none could occur at a later date - thus invalidating evolution. Do you feel that there is any way to reconcile the broader Christian theology with observed evolution, and if so, how?

LOL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799195)

At what age does a choir/altar boy stop being molestable? Is there any guidelines handed down by the pope on this subject that you follow?

What number system does God use? (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year ago | (#42799197)

As humans, we express wonder at certain arrangements of digits, 666, 3.14[3/14] (Pi day) 12/21/2012, etc. However all of these are base-10, the same as the number of fingers we have. (Though some tribes did use fingers as base-2 digits) Computers are base2, with hexadecimal being a convenient short hand. If divinity is universal, surely God has a universal number base. I would assume e. What do you think God uses, if he uses math at all?

Mass extinctions? (5, Interesting)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about a year ago | (#42799201)

Hello Dr. Bakker,

Has your thinking regarding mass extinctions, particularly the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, changed or evolved from the time of your writing THE DINOSAUR HERESIES?

Thanks sincerely -

Dinosaur Behavior (5, Interesting)

capt.Hij (318203) | about a year ago | (#42799209)

There is a lot of speculation about dinosaur behavior. For example people talk about how velociraptors hunted in packs or how they hunted. When these things are discussed in the media the ideas are stated with a great deal of certainty. How do you react when these theories are stated as being definite facts? What do you, as a scientists, try to do to try to get reporters to understand the nature of science and the role of dialogue/debate and uncertainty within the scientific community?

God and the Horridly Cruel Works of Nature (1, Interesting)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about a year ago | (#42799229)

Charles Darwin a life long student of nature very aptly commented concerning evolution "what a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature"

How can one reconcile the long suffering and blundering low and cruel works of nature with the notion of a powerful omniscient and omnibenevolent being?

Possible answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799855)

How can one reconcile the long suffering and blundering low and cruel works of nature with the notion of a powerful omniscient and omnibenevolent being?

Assuming god exists, the obvious answer is that god chooses not to interact or interfere with mortal undertakings (yikes, that would make liars of nearly all mainstream religions). The next possibility is that god exists, but is unaware of our existence (hey, the universe is a big place, not to mention what lies beyond). Another possibility is that god exists, and is also aware of us, but is unconcerned with mortal undertakings (i.e. god is apathetic towards mortals). The last possibility is that god exists, but chooses to commit aggression against mortals.

If you can't tell, I am agnostic, and to an agnostic, atheism is as much a religion as theism. With that said, I certainly do hope that god exists and that I spend eternity in heaven. Who the hell wouldn't?

Pop quiz, hotshot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799289)

There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?

Lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799291)

Which type of dinosaur did Jesus ride?

Flame wars on science articles (5, Interesting)

starglider29a (719559) | about a year ago | (#42799345)

It is my observation that reader comments on science article quickly follow a Godwin-like trajectory to a flame war between those who hold to religious (though many are scientists) beliefs and those who hold to scientific (usually atheist) beliefs. The two factions spew hate, obscenity, and generally impugn the intelligence of the other.

Question: What advice can you offer to help the readers, and thus the comment posters, to strike a balance? Can there be some kind of 'kumbaya manifesto' to skip the quarreling and get to the matter at hand? Climate change, dark matter, even human colonization need well-tempered minds, of all persuasions. How do we get there?

Raptor Red (5, Interesting)

Gertlex (722812) | about a year ago | (#42799355)

Dr. Bakker,

I'd just like to say thanks for the good childhood memories from your book, Raptor Red... I still have my signed copy of it, and should definitely re-read it some time.

I guess I should ask a question, too... If Raptor Red were being written today, are there any new discoveries in the last two decades that would neccessitate significant changes from how you wrote the original?

Species Centricity (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about a year ago | (#42799371)

Christianity is very species centric. That is, according to Christian beliefs humans are allegedly the center of the universe and a focus of God's concern. With the modern realization that humans and the earth are not at the center of anything how does a Christian handle the obvious species centricity of Christianity.

Re:Species Centricity (3, Informative)

Jonner (189691) | about a year ago | (#42799797)

Christianity is very species centric. That is, according to Christian beliefs humans are allegedly the center of the universe and a focus of God's concern. With the modern realization that humans and the earth are not at the center of anything how does a Christian handle the obvious species centricity of Christianity.

We don't know of any other sentient species yet. If we meet some, we might find that God had a very different way of revealing himself and interacting with them. Read Out of the Silent Planet [wikipedia.org] and Perelandra [wikipedia.org] for a Science Fiction take on this idea. Keep in mind that they were written a long time ago, so their portrayals of Mars and Venus, the planets they are supposed to take place on don't match what we know now very well.

Intelligent Design (1)

wagowago (2833639) | about a year ago | (#42799421)

If humans are indeed the resultant work of an intelligent designer, then why do we need toilet paper?

That's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799519)

If humans are indeed the resultant work of an intelligent designer, then why do we need toilet paper?

Because even no-wipers need one wipe to check!

Class? (2)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#42799441)

How can a whole class evolve of animal evolve to another class so completely (reptile->bird)? What could have to changed in their DNA/lifestyle that would cause something so drastic?

Re:Class? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799551)

Collapse of the large, not so bird like ecosystem caused by a massive meteorite?

What about the Permian? (4, Interesting)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#42799459)

I have a bunch, but yes, only one question per post. So:

Dr. Bakker, people are incredibly fascinated with dinosaurs, and with good reason. But there's a huge swath of very interesting creatures that lived life on earth prior to the end-Permian event. Lots of really interesting creatures like members of the labrynthodonts and sauropsids. Although children's imaginations and movies like Jurassic park focus on dinos and their immediate relatives, have you ever thought about promoting the diversity of creatures prior to the end-Permian in cultural ways? In other words, will we ever see a giant flesh-eating Anomalocaris in a movie? Can you make that happen please?

Stratigraphy vs. the Created Young Earth (3, Interesting)

starglider29a (719559) | about a year ago | (#42799461)

I am aware of many ideas that "young Earth believers" foster to explain the stratigraphy of fossils in a 6K-year old Earth.

Question: What explanations have you heard? What answer can you offer from the middle ground between a scientist (whose expertise relies on that stratigraphic record) and a man of faith who reads the same Bible that the "young Earth believers" do?

Isn't that a bloody long commute? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799473)

n/t

Skepticism, Science and Religion (0)

m.shenhav (948505) | about a year ago | (#42799485)

Having been an Atheist and a Naive Rationalist in the past, it appears to me differences in the use of language obscures religion to modern Rationalists and Realists. I have come to see the essence of religion as a pure skepticism of human ability to describe and understand reality beyond experiencing it directly.

It seems that many in both Science and Religion tend to take their beliefs too seriously - resulting in fundamentalism. Do you think Skepticism, Humor and a Common Language based on it could help bridge the gap between positions? If so, how?

fundamental question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799487)

what is the difference between science and religion?

Why Dinosaurs? (1)

cmv1087 (2426970) | about a year ago | (#42799489)

Of all the things to choose to study, you picked dinosaurs. What inspired you to go that route rather than something that could potentially be easier to merge with your religious beliefs?

Science vs gods (0)

denisbergeron (197036) | about a year ago | (#42799503)

The gods was created to explain the nature, now we have science to explain the nature. What is the purpose of the different gods now ?

Persons with extraordinarily old age (1, Interesting)

Again (1351325) | about a year ago | (#42799529)

The Bible lists a bunch of individuals who lived 900+ years. Do you take this literally? If not, how do you interpret this?

Re:Persons with extraordinarily old age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799739)

The Bible lists a bunch of individuals who lived 900+ years. Do you take this literally? If not, how do you interpret this?

It means he lived more close to God, being 1000 the closer one, when the Bible says a man lived 900 years, it really means, he lived closer to God.

Quality of evidence (1, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | about a year ago | (#42799567)

You are an expert in two fields: paleontology & theology; please compare and contrast the quality of the evidence that supports the theories in each field and how the theories are objectively and repeatably tested.

Please pay particular attention to: independent verifiabilty of evidence; tests that could be performed which would show these these theories to be false (and, presumably, how the theories have been found to surive such tests); how the theories have been modified over time in the light of new evidence that has been discovered; independent critical peer review of writings about each set of theories; how full evidence is widely and completely made available; objective comparisons with competing theories; how critical discussion of competing theories happens in a calm manner without ad-hominem attacks.

Here's another: (5, Interesting)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#42799583)

This may be slightly outside your field of expertise, but I'd like to ask anyways:

There's a huge argument right now about what caused the end-Permian event, with lots of scientists thinking it was the Siberian Traps as the main culprit. Even with the end-Cretaceous event being thought of as a result of of a bolide impact, there's some scientists who think that the Deccan traps had to play a role. Now, I've read a number of books, especially "When Life Almost Died" that shows what appears to me to be a fairly strong relationships between bolide impacts and extinctions, but which also show the great possibility of these large eruptions causing the extinctions. There are some scientists who think that there is an antipodal relationship between bolide impacts and "bulges" or "plumes" going through the earth and causing large eruptions on the other side of the planet over time, thus contributing to or causing extinctions. (I also find it very interesting that in general, when positing the Siberian traps as the cause of the end-Permian event, no one ever really talks about what might actually have caused such a massive series of eruptions..)

As far as I know, the research on this effect is pretty limited, but to me as a non-scientist, I can say the relationship appears to be more than coincidental. But a real scientist can't say that, of course.
1) What is your opinion on antipodal bolide events causing or contributing to mass extinctions?
2) Do you have any recent information on research that is being done in this area that you could point me to? Any links? Thanks.

Religious rift in family (5, Interesting)

scrib (1277042) | about a year ago | (#42799615)

I am an atheist, but I will concede that science does not conflict with religion as a general idea (the belief in God, or things outside of science), but science often does conflict with specific religious beliefs.

My grandparents raised some of their children religious and some not religious. My parents are atheist but I have aunts and unlces who are missionaries and cousins who are young Earth creationists. They reject sciences like paleontology, geology, and astronomy as hoaxes because they all point to an Earth much older than their church tells them. Of course, they "know" evolution is wrong, though they have a weak grasp on what it actually is.

The question: how can the deeply religious be convinced (or reassured) that accepting what science teaches does not require rejecting their faith?
Part B: have you ever convinced someone to change their mind about accepting those sciences?

Here's another (3, Interesting)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#42799639)

Dr. Bakker, what is the current status of the digging going on in southern Utah...do you expect to see new species found soon, or are they finding mostly duplicates of known species? Specifically, I'm really interested in the ceratopsids. I am fascinated by weird ones like Medusaceratops, and so I'm wondering if you think that they will find additional new specimens similar or even weirder than that one. Also, tell the naming committee to keep naming dinosaurs with very cool names. Medusaceratops is fantastic. Maybe...Shoggotheratops or Balrogeratops for the next one? Just a suggestion.

Favorite discovery (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42799667)

Whats your favorite personal discovery?
Usually /. interviews are more IT/CS/programmer types so I ask them for their favorite piece of code they personally wrote.
I guess for a paleontologist the comparison would be your favorite discovery.
Not one line, not a book, just a paragraph. No weasel words, no membership either as leader or distant drone, by direct personal discovery as in YOU found it.
I know there's more lab work in your field than most people think so a story not involving test tubes or whatever instead of swinging hammer is perfectly OK.
Also no "big project" allowed like a book. I'm looking for one individual personal precise discovery.
Insights or scientific papers are OK, doesn't have to be a physical thing.
As an example of what I'm looking for, if you have a PHD and it is your favorite thing in the world, go for it and gimmie a paragraph about it. If its not your favorite thing, well something you did similar that you actually happen to enjoy...
Don't be afraid to geek out, this is freaking /. if you fell in eternal love with the first trilobite fossil you ever saw, we're not gonna judge (well, not too much... mostly)

Do people joke about that Beatles song, Dr Robert? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about a year ago | (#42799721)

Do they ask you to pick them up, Dr. Robert?
Or about drinking from your special cup, Dr. Robert?

There is no "merging of science and religion" (-1, Troll)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | about a year ago | (#42799723)

How you resolve your cognitive dissonance is your personal matter. You abandon intellectual integrity and the practice of science when you talk rubbish.

 

Re:There is no "merging of science and religion" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799891)

The parent comment shows a lot of "intellectual integrity"

Why Slashdot? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799771)

Really, just look at the questions. Half of them are attempts to get you to say that Christianity is (in part or in whole) false, with the implication that if you say otherwise you are discrediting yourself as a paleontologist. Most of the readers of this forum have already decided their beliefs to the point where they believe that they do not have beliefs but are entirely guided by evidence, and will down-mod anyone who provides any counter-evidence.

science and religion (0)

msheekhah (903443) | about a year ago | (#42799783)

Richard Dawkins makes a couple of good points in a recent talk. 1) If God exists, he has to manage a universe filled with billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, and we're located on the outskirts in an ordinary solar system in an ordinary galaxy, only one species of potentially billions upon billions. Why does he care about sin and or our morality? That and 2) Using supernatural explanations for phenomenon is a way to chicken out, so you don't have to do real work to find out the real answer to said phenomenon.

Monogenism (1)

cmurf (2833651) | about a year ago | (#42799923)

Christianity commands all Christians believe in monogenism. Everyone comes from Adam and Eve, because only through the story of their fall, do all humans acquire the stain of original sin. From original sin comes the need for redemption, which is only provided for by Jesus Christ. The question is: How do you rectify the conflict between religion and science when it comes to monogenism?

3 questions in 1 (0)

Empiric (675968) | about a year ago | (#42799973)

Dr. Bakker,

I would appreciate your thoughts on the following extracanonical "saying" from the perspective of theology, evolution, and/or the sociopolitical conflict between the preceding two.

Jesus said, "When you see your likeness, you are pleased. But when you see your images which came into being before you, and which neither die nor become manifest, how much you will have to bear!"

--Gospel of Thomas

Thank you.

Would it be educational for us to make dinosaurs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42799989)

It seems likely that our knowledge of genetic manipulation will continue to advance to the point where it will be possible to build dinosaur-like creatures. Whereupon it will probably be done, because the PR value would be huge.

However, would doing it be beneficial for our knowledge of real dinosaurs? Or would it just help to reinforce the wrong ideas we have about them?

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