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For Jewish author, invisible divide between religious and secular worlds
Nathan Englander grew up in an insular Jewish world and still says that "the whole world is Jewish to me."
March 19th, 2012
02:45 PM ET

For Jewish author, invisible divide between religious and secular worlds

By Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) – Nathan Englander’s characters are always looking over their shoulders.

They’re Jews, mostly, often of an intensely devout stripe, but whether they’re Israeli settlers, Orthodox youngsters or thoroughly assimilated middle-class New Yorkers, they’re waiting for judgment, either from history, a disappointed God or their next-door neighbors. They’re straddling worlds and don’t want to put a wrong foot in either.

Englander, author of a new book of short stories called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” has roots in many of these worlds. He was raised in an Orthodox community in Long Island, New York, and then entered the secular world when he went to college. He’s spent time in Iowa – at the famed Iowa Writers Workshop – and has lived in Israel. He now lives in Brooklyn and describes himself as “culturally Jewish.”

The concept of identity and its burdens is close to his heart.

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” comes five years after Englander’s critically praised novel “The Ministry of Special Cases” and 13 years after his first story collection, “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” put him on the literary map.

The Foer questions: Literary wunderkind turns 35

Englander recently did the translation for a new Passover haggadah (a book that recounts the Exodus over the traditional meal), due out in March. He’s now at work on “The Twenty-Seventh Man,” a play based on a story from “Urges,” which will premiere in the fall.

Englander spoke to CNN while visiting New Orleans. The following is an edited version of the interview.

CNN: It’s been five years since “The Ministry of Special Cases,” and that took you several years. How long does it take you to write?

Nathan Englander: (For) the novel, I didn’t do anything else, except for like mild dental hygiene, for eight years.

I get so consumed. I work these stories in my head. I wrote five of the eight stories (in “Anne Frank”) in the last year. And I do draft after draft. As a reader, if I see a comma out of place, I slam the book shut. I did NOT invest all this time to see an errant comma.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

This Jewish idea of kavanah – focus – I was raised with. The rabbis were always on us: “kavanah, kavanah” – “focus, focus.”

I also like the idea of things that transfer from Jewish life, like a makom kavuah (a fixed place for prayer). You pray in the seat in the same place every day, because that will help you.

It’s like writers, why you should sit at the same desk or eat the same thing or work at the same time: It’s all about finding focus. To write is an out-of-body experience. That is the point. That’s where the work gets done.

CNN: The Jews in your stories are almost carrying a physical burden and are always looking over their shoulders. Is this religious or cultural?

Englander: I don’t know if these are the ideas of a culture or of a religion. It might just be being a New Yorker. (But) these things are me.

I want to shy away from stereotypes. I get so sensitive about the Jewish writer thing (because) I understand where the assumptions come from. We all have to categorize. (But) a story’s only functioning if it’s universal. That’s the definition of art to me. It’s not a functioning story for me if it’s not absolutely real world, and it’s not absolutely real characters.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

I grew up totally religious in this insular world. I lived in Israel. I lived in New York. I lived as a religious person. I took a degree in Judaic studies when I was at college to learn everything secular. I’ve had many facets of Jewish experience. The whole world is Jewish to me. That was my experience. The other world didn’t exist. So for me to see this as somehow “other,” I have no sense of what “other” is.

CNN: Your stories are often haunted by the Holocaust.

Englander: I spent a fall in Berlin a couple years ago, and I was living at the American Academy, formerly the American Officers Club, and before that it was built by a Jewish banker who got out before the Holocaust, and then it was taken over by a high-ranking SS officer. But the point is to live in the house that was built by a Jew and also has the ghost of a very horrible Nazi, and basically our windows looked out at Lake Wannsee of the Wannsee Conference, looking across the way at the house where (top Nazi officer Adolf) Eichmann sat. … I feel like this book is part of that time.

Living in Germany in this Jewish house, this SS house, something snapped, a freeing thing. I suddenly became comfortable that this is how my head is patterned. If this is something that obsesses me and tortures me and focuses me and is all about this idea, that is how my brain is patterned, we are talking about me willing to be vulnerable and explore my pattern in this brain.

CNN: I like how you investigate that theme about whether it’s better to look forward and put the past aside or to never forget.

Englander: I don’t know what other idea to have.

In the “Camp Sundown” story (about elderly Jews who believe a member of their vacation camp was a Nazi collaborator), the idea of all these things – of religion, of faith – is finding meaning or making order from chaos. So we need the Holocaust for that story; we need Jews for sure; we need East Coast Jewish culture for that story.

But the point that I’m exploring is, what do we do if justice has not been delivered? If someone will not deliver justice, do you deliver justice? Religion helps to frame those things.

CNN: Do you enjoy poking at the hypocrisy of your more devout characters, who seem unaware of how elements of their religious lives contrast with their secular lives?

Englander: Often what we’re saying when that person is hypocritical, we’re saying that person is human. So the idea is more that when there’s a social contract. Teachers have responsibility. Clergy. That’s where hypocrisy comes in.

Where this religious thing never stops interesting me is people negotiating that balance of humanity and faith and what (the Bible) says and what they’re supposed to do. I hardly ever feel comfortable saying I’m sure of everything. The idea of people wanting to change things with such great surety, using the Bible for that, is such a misuse of the Bible and such hubris.

Clearly, we’re supposed to treat each other better, and the idea of using the Bible to treat everybody worse in this country, to me, is just a crazy reading.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Books • Judaism

soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. b4bigbang

    More info from mainstream secular science casting doubt on Darwinian human evolution:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7388/full/nature10842.html
    http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/10/2266.full
    Commentary found below:
    http://www.icr.org/article/6723/

    March 20, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Alvin Pimples, International Man of Mystery

      And now you are back to saying evolution is untrue.

      I usually don't admire stupid people, but I have to give you credit for coming up with three different, incompatible, and totally absurd positions in three quick posts. You are the Holy Trinity of Stupid!

      March 20, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      "Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's "just" a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence. They embrace such an explanation confidently but provisionally—taking it as their best available view of reality, at least until some severely conflicting data or some better explanation might come along."

      "Furthermore, the supporting evidence (for evolution) is abundant, various, ever increasing, solidly interconnected, and easily available in museums, popular books, textbooks, and a mountainous accu.mulation of peer-reviewed scientific studies. No one needs to, and no one should, accept evolution merely as a matter of faith."

      From "Was Darwin Wrong?" By David Quammen, National Geographic, Nov. 2004

      March 20, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  2. Paris Hilton Takes A Strong Stand Against Being Against Things And Stuff, Totally!

    Boy, when the seculars provide solid evidence for evolution, the Christians are just like cockroachs when you turn on the light – they skitter away into the cracks.

    March 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Evolution is true – it's one of God's greatest creations!

      http://www.nwcreation.net/evolution_creation.html

      March 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Alvin Pimples, International Man of Mystery

      That's hilarious! One post down you are calling evolution a fraud, and now you are claiming God did it!

      March 19, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      b4bigbang
      Of the mountains of evidence supporting evolution, none of it indicates that any god had a hand in it. Sorry, but all you are saying is just words, with nothing to back them up with.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  3. You don't need fossils to see evolution

    Want proof of evolution that has occured in your lifetime? Antibiotic-resistant diseases. Before, there were just the diseases – the micobacteria of tuberculosis, for example. Antibiotics worked on them. And over time, genetic mutations (the basis of evolution) evolved a variant that was impervious to the preferred antibiotics, which was biologically successful and flourished.

    We have only had antibiotics available since 1939, and already evolution has responded. Various diseases are evolving into superbugs, resistant to many forms of antibiotic. This is a real problem going forward, because if the only known effective medicines are rendered ineffective, the old diseases thought to be totally controlled reassert themselves.

    I could talk about how flus mutate as they progress around the globe, often rendering flu shots ineffective because of the change, but you won't believe that evidence either.

    But of coourse evolution is a fraud, and we all know that God only wanted to let us control horrible diseases for a while, but now wants them to wreak havoc in the world and kill indiscriminately. That makes sense, unlike evolution

    March 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Jacobson’s Organ
      Vomeronasal organ

      Jacobson’s organ is a fascinating part of animal anatomy and it tells us a lot about our own s.e.xual history. The organ is in the nose and it is a special “smell” organ which detects pheromones (the chemical that triggers s.e.xual desire, alarm, or information about food trails). It is this organ that allows some animals to track others for s.e.x and to know of potential dangers. Humans are born with the Jacobson’s organ, but in early development its abilities dwindle to a point that it is useless. Once upon a time, humans would have used this organ to locate mates when communication was not possible. Single’s evenings, chat rooms, and bars have now taken its place in the process of human mate-seeking.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      This is like teaching kindergarten.

      Goose Bumps
      Cutis Anserina

      Humans get goose bumps when they are cold, frightened, angry, or in awe. Many other creatures get goose bumps for the same reason, for example this is why a cat or dog’s hair stands on end and the cause behind a porcupine’s quills raising. In cold situations, the rising hair traps air between the hairs and skin, creating insulation and warmth. In response to fear, goose bumps make an animal appear larger – hopefully scaring away the enemy. Humans no longer benefit from goose bumps and they are simply left over from our past when we were not clothed and needed to scare our own natural enemies. Natural selection removed the thick hair but left behind the mechanism for controlling it.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  4. b4bigbang

    A partial list of evolution fossil frauds:
    http://www.nwcreation.net/evolutionfraud.html

    March 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      A partial list of morons who post on this blog:

      b4bigbang

      March 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      b4, you are a laugh.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      b4, what is the appendix for again?

      March 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Alien Orifice (UD)

      TT
      To answer your question from the other day. I am about half way through the last Millenium book. Great reads, all three.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Denise

      The existence of even one fossil blows away the silly bible creation tales, not that those tales weren't wacky enough without looking at the evidence. Do you claim that no fossils exist?

      March 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Alien Orifice (UD)

      b4, what are those handy Wisdom Teeth for again??

      March 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Extra Ear Muscles

      Also known as the extrinsic ear muscles, the auriculares muscles are used by animals to swivel and manipulate their ears (independently of their head) in order to focus their hearing on particular sounds. Humans still have the muscles that we would once have used for the very same reason – but our muscles are now so feeble that all they can do is give our ears a little wiggle. The use of these muscles in cats is very visible (as they can nearly turn their ears completely backwards) – particularly when they are stalking a bird and need to make the smallest movements possible so as to not frighten its future meal.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bwahahhha! b4, it's a dog-pile and you're the bone.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Plantaris Muscle

      The plantaris muscle is used by animals in gripping and manipulating objects with their feet – something you see with apes who seem to be able to use their feet as well as their hands. Humans have this muscle as well, but it is now so underdeveloped that it is often taken out by doctors when they need tissue for reconstruction in other parts of the body. The muscle is so unimportant to the human body that 9% of humans are now born without it.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Junk DNA
      L-gulonolactone oxidase

      While many of the hangovers from our “devolved” past are visible or physical, this is not true for all. Humans have structures in their genetic make-up that were once used to produces enzymes to process vitamin C (it is called L-gulonolactone oxidase). Most other animals have this functioning DNA but at some point in our history, a mutation disbled the gene – whilst leaving behind its remnants as junk DNA. This particular junk DNA indicates a common ancestry with other species on earth, so it is particularly interesting.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • You don't need fossils to see evolution

      Look at the skeletal structure of the fins of modern whales, seal lions, seals, and porpoises, and tell me what you see. Go ahead, it's easy. Those are not the structures found in large fish fins; they are the structure of the paws of land animals.

      All sea mammals were once land animals.

      Evolution has HARD evidence. Creationism and Intelligent Design have none. Nothing. Not a shred or a scrap or a speck or an iota of evidence.

      March 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      "A partial list of evolution fossil frauds:
      http://www.nwcreation.net/evolutionfraud.html"

      All christian research has been proven a fraud because of their personal bias and prejudices.

      March 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      b4
      "All christian research has been proven a fraud because of their personal bias and prejudices"

      Ok, 1, that doesn't even make sense but whatever. The first step towards recovery is admitting you are just uneducated and dive into reality. Don't be afraid!

      March 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Or the coxxyx, and why some babies are born with syndactyly (their finger and toe webbing still intact)? Born in water with a tail and webbed feet? Its the evolutionary process in 9 months.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Do you have a list of all the creationist frauds, like those human footprints chiseled next to the dinosaur ones in the Creation Evidence Museum at Glen Rose? Tell me, doesn't Jesus supposedly frown upon lying?

      March 20, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  5. Mon aéroglisseur est plein d'anguilles

    So for Jewisn authors, invisible friends cause invisible divides?

    March 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Jews are what cause divides anyway.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  6. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    March 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Over It

      Karl Pilkington is a loveable idiot - you, well..........

      March 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Including plants, prayer changes plants

      March 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      -No body sucks the life from my penguins except ME!!!! And polar bears, but that's just Nature Gunter.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. It's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor … and surviving.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • just sayin

      Yes prayer changes plants, look up the original rose, then look at the roses developed by man and God working in prayerful harmony that we have today. Praise God in prayer.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      Plants are in my pants.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes pants.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      We are all Karl Pilkington
      Prayer changes things

      March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things"

      You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!! .

      March 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Susan

      Praying Mantises eat a lot of harmful bugs in my garden. That's a positive change, I suppose?

      March 20, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  7. bobcat

    Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Russ

      Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.
      -Thomas Paine

      March 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • fred

      Yeah, that makes sense. I know that global warming was not caused by man since New York was covered by ice that has been receeding for thousands of years. Obama and the democrats claim it was caused by EXXON and Peta claims it was caused by Cow farts. Your great reason woud say there is no global warming.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • graytiger

      @Russ
      and what about satanism and the thugs? Not exactly good religions.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      I will avenge thee!.......slightly soiled books....
      -Fin

      March 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Russ

      @graytiger: i'm not a thomas paine fan, personally. just countering the quote from paine above.
      paine was not as consistently anti-religion as the original quote would have us think.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Susan

      Russ
      But, sometimes what a religion considers "good" is anything but to an outsider. Human sacrifice, for example.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Russ

      @ Susan:
      in order to judge another religion, one must be appealing to one's own metaphysical convictions (defining good/evil).
      or put cheaply: "it takes one to know one."

      the only way to judge another religion as evil is to have comparable convictions (even if one refuses to call that "religion"). do you see that others might say the same about your convictions?

      March 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Susan

      @Russ
      Frankly, I don't care what others say about my convictions. All I'm saying is that, what is considered "good" in one religion, need not be universally seen that way. Except for the things like murder, thief and lying, which can be explained away using evolution, there is no universal morality.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Susan:
      if there is no universal morality, then there's no basis for moral outrage. it's all relative – including any objections one might have to another's religion.

      much to the contrary, there are certainly reprehensible acts that are always wrong – pedophilia, racism, etc.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Susan

      Russ
      People can still be morally outraged following their personal, relative guidelines. Bands of them following the same religious standard can, and often are, morally outraged as a group, but this is still a far cry from "universal" moral outrage.

      Pedophilia wasn't always wrong. 200 years ago tween girls were routinely married off to much, much older men, and nothing was said of it. 200 years ago racism was a "normal" part of society. If you want to play the "are always wrong" argument from today's perspective be prepared to have hom0ph0bia similarly judged sometime in the near future.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Susan: that's exactly what I'm talking about, though.
      The moral outrage you feel over an issue (such as hom.o.phobia) assumes that previous generations and/or other cultures got it wrong. otherwise there is simply no incentive for change.

      and more problematic for your position: if morality is truly relative, then it would be *wrong* (by definition – it's relative) to judge someone else's morality. you've got to be ok with their hom.o.phobia & racism – because that obviously is what those who advocate such a position believe to be right. in such a case, you are only able to judge people by their own standards. and Hitler ardently believed in his standards...

      March 21, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  8. Alien Orifice

    @Russ
    Just starting and easier to find thread if you are still there.

    True, but all fantasy builds off the foundation of previous fantasy and the thing I like about it is they don't hide it. It is the same universe with winks to Tolkien and Lewis and the myths. And don't forget the Wizard of Oz and all of those stories. Everyone borrows from L. Frank Baum. Harry Potter borrows heavily from everywhere. Two books I really enjoyed were "Wicked" and "Son of a Witch" by Gregory Maguire. Stayed with tradition but really put a twist on the story. Highly recommend "Wicked". (Nothing like the musical mind you, which I have seen twice and love.)

    March 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  9. Atheism is healthy for children and other living things

    Waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! My brane went pop-pop-POP again, worse than last time! Jesus is pulling me sideways backwards into the yellow noise noise noise, and I . . . I . . .

    MY HOVERCRAFT IS FULL OF EELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO YOU WANT TO COME BACK TO MY PLACE, BOUNCY BOUNCY? DROP YOUR PANTIES, SIR WILLIAM; I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL LUNCHTIME!!!!!!!!!! I AM NO LONGER INFECTED!!! MY NIPPLES EXPLODE WITH DELIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I HAVE SEEN JESUS AND HE LOOKS LIKE SPINY NORMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Prayer changed my brane. Proven. Powerful. Oblong.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      "Sir knight? I've just p i s s ed in my pants... and nobody can do anything about it..."

      March 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  10. Alien Orifice

    I am going to keep posting this until Sam logs on here and feels sorry for me and says it is funny:

    "I am Wind In His Hair! I am Wind In His Hair! Do you see that I am not afraid of you!? Do you see!?"

    Wind in His Hair, being a worshipper of false idols, confronts Satan after being slain by the Pawnee.

    Thinking quickly, the chief of the tribe decides to, "smoke a while".

    It was at this point that Joseph Smith arrived with a "White Man's" hat and some magic golden plates! He was immediately wounded by an arrow of course and the Medicine Man was summoned to the teepee.

    Many moons passed while Joseph Smith recovered from his injuries, during which time he spaketh the Mormon Gospel to Chief Ten Bears and a great friendship was forged between them. At length, it was time for Joseph Smith to head westward. As he waved goodbye to his new Lakota Indian friends, a voice could be heard on the wind….

    "Joseph Smith! ... Joseph Smith! ... I am Wind In His Hair! ... Do you see that I am your friend!? ... Can you see that you will always be my friend!?" Can you turn down the heat? It is like furnace down here!

    March 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • sam

      It's funny, it's funny!! LOL

      March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Yeah!!

      March 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Forest Gump

      Stupid is as Stupid does

      March 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Forest, beyond lame. omg.

      March 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  11. Reality

    To save everyone to include the author a lot of time:

    ONLY FOR THE NEWBIES:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    March 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

      March 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Wow TT, your nap gave me a very large horizontal scroll bar! Pardon my french.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Glad you enjoyed it.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  12. Nathaniel

    Modeh ani lifanekha melekh hai v'kayam shehehezarta bi nishmahti b'hemla, raba emunatekha.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam poke'ach ivrim.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Nathaniel

      Blessing: Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, ha'gomeyl lahayavim tovot, sheg'malani kol tov.

      Congregational Response: Amen. Mi sheg'malkha (for a woman: sheg'malayikh) kol tov, hu yigmalkha (yigmalayikh) kol tov. Selah.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  13. J.W

    I read the Fox News website. It was very conservative and Obamahating.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • bobcat

      I just watched Monty Python's Flying Circus it was very British and funny.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • sam

      I just watched season II of The A-Team, and I'm gonna go blow some shit up.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  14. just sayin

    Everyday I wake up with a smile hearing God's voice.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      And every moment you fear your trip to hell. Good point.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • just sayin

      So sad you do not hear his precious voice.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Who wants to have voices in their head? Apparently you do.

      I'll leave that 'being a whack job' up to you.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'm glad i don't hear big brother's voice in my head. how scary. but honestly, if you really think you're hearing voices in your head, you should seek psychological/psychiatric help. really.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are being entertained by an atheist who lacking character of their own simply stole a name and is making a fool of itself .Sympathy extended . God bless

      March 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      Lost sheep, how can they expect to hear anything...let alone God's precious voice?

      March 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Purpose still served – proving that all religious tools need to be ridiculed.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • just sayin

      When theft and lying are acceptable tools of atheism why would any normal human being want to have anything to do with it?

      March 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • just sayin

      I forgot to mention the voice came from my pants.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • just sayin

      If you would read instead of being caught up in your own importance you would know Tom, Tom. It was already posted.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Umm, when did I ask you for anything, you moronic nut-case?

      March 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Lithium would take care of those voices.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      ...and what does that invisible and imaginary friend tell you to do?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  15. Ridiculous

    Praying is the useless act of convincing yourself that your god is necessary.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      It makes plants healthier

      March 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  16. just sayin

    Prayer is talking with God, Jesus is God, God acts on the prayers of His people. Prayer is how a life is changed from death to life in Christ. Prayer changes things. Prayer is made possible through Jesus Christ.

    March 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • momoya

      Oh... the demons are a-tremblin'

      March 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and other living things

      Do you hear god's voice?

      March 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • just sayin

      Once an atheist steals a name they tend to overdo it. Thievery and lying are "virtues " to an atheist. The only thing they are denied here is their murders, but that day may come. Parallel values = Atheist / Satan.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • just sayin

      I cannot imagine going a day without hearing God's voice.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Just sayin

      What do you mean "parallel values?"

      March 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • just sayin

      Satan is very real and he plots against us Christians. Unbelievers enable Satan.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Every religious nut fears his or her death.. that is why they want to believe this b.s.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      Those values Satan holds dear Atheists also hold dear.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Brad

      just sayin – The truth may make you uncomfortable, but quite a few non-theists subscribe to entirely acceptable moral standards and live meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives. I'm a believer, but I don't find it helpful or useful for people to plug misinformation the way you often do.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer is talking with God"

      You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!

      March 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • just sayin

      Satan is in my pants.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • just sayin

      At the end of the day atheism is an evil. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. You may assume a code of conduct without God but the incredible evil in your heart will ultimately betray you, to your harm and the harm of those about you.
      Like a virus or germ, the filth of atheism will even infect the innocent, all of which you will some day have to answer for.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • just sayin

      That's where the odor came from, too. Peeeyooo!

      March 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What 'values' does "Satan hold dear" just sayin crap?

      March 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • just sayin

      Atheists spew their vile corruption on creamy white virginal children they beguile. The evil they do is so far from what we know it has no name. They are limited only by the inner corrosion and rot brought about by their filthy sin. Hideously depraved, they are pathetic when they are at last brought down by it.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @just sayin

      I think you're actually starting to lose it now. In all seriousness you need to seek help. You're words have gone far beyond the things you have said before, and you really should seek help before you hurt others or yourself.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Aww just sayin wouldn't hurt anyone. He's a sweetums. Aren't you, Mommy's little nookums?

      March 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are responding to an impostor. The name has been stolen as it is the nature of some to steal.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Recent posts by just sayin are examples of red herrings and appeals to emotion.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      March 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • just sayin

      If it was reported to cnn that the name was stolen the thief would find itself in violation of the agreement and responsible for what it posted. No red herring or emotion involved . Cnn could track down the perpetrator and deal with it but then we wouldn't have fallacy spotter here anymore would we?

      March 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • LOL

      "If it was reported to cnn that the name was stolen the thief would find itself in violation of the agreement and responsible for what it posted. No red herring or emotion involved . Cnn could track down the perpetrator and deal with it but then we wouldn't have fallacy spotter here anymore would we?"

      OH...Poor baby... boo hoo...guess what...cnn doesn't control this part of the site word press does... what a moron.

      March 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bwahahhahhhahah! Right, sure thing, just sayin. If that were a fact, you'd be running for the hills, you lying POS.

      March 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • AGuest9

      After that "spewing" post, I have to ask. Is just sayin a priest?

      March 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • just sayin

      "just sayin

      If it was reported to cnn that the name was stolen the thief would find itself in violation of the agreement and responsible for what it posted. No red herring or emotion involved . Cnn could track down the perpetrator and deal with it but then we wouldn't have fallacy spotter here anymore would we?"
      >
      lol and what basis do you own the name? You remind me of HeavenSent...delusional very delusional

      March 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      It's Groundhog Day!

      March 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ "Prayer changes things" –
      Do you really think rote, antagonistic repet.ition fulfills the Great Commission?
      What do you make of what Paul says in 1 Cor.9:19-23?

      March 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • just sayin

      Once everyone has the opportunity to know and accept the Truth, then it might be time to become more detailed. Milk before meat. That also is from Paul. It is better for a fool to be exposed to his folly in this life rather than face eternal judgement. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things is a revealing Truth.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ just sayin:
      Is the truth "prayer changes things" or that Jesus changes things?
      Seems to me the milk Paul was talking about was the latter (1 Cor.2:2).

      It may be time to reconsider your primary message.
      The scandal of Christianity is not prayer per se, but Jesus himself & the particularity of the Gospel.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • just sayin

      If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and ... reconsider their primary message?

      March 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and other living things

      The truth according to men. Ones faith in all religions starts in their felllow man.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • just sayin

      There is a sadness in seeing a person so desperate for attention that they must steal a name on an anonymous blog. Sympathy extended. God bless

      March 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven

      March 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Russ

      @ just sayin:
      prayer is a great thing – but it is not the center of the faith you proclaim. almost every religion believes in prayer.

      the real scandal & center of Christianity is the particularity of Jesus Christ. At its center, both the hope and offense of the faith is Jesus. it's all about Jesus (Lk.24:27, 44). and without the good news of Jesus, prayer is a necessarily misunderstood enterprise (trying to curry favor with God rather than just having a relationship with Him & living in light of his grace).

      bottom line: if you're going to spend so much time & energy pointing people to something, point them to Jesus (Acts 4:12).

      March 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      Atheists have already rejected Jesus, encouragement to prayer is for the believer, you missed the entire point.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • just sayin

      All will be answered when you open your heart and ears and hear the precious voice of God.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ just sayin: so your message is only intended for people who are already Christian?
      why not just go to an explicitly Christian website?

      March 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Jesus

      You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!! .. .. ..

      March 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mission Possible

      Most of the time the exchange here is bunkum; if a post makes no sense why does anybody bother to respond?

      March 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  18. b4bigbang

    List of evolution fossil frauds:
    http://www.nwcreation.net/evolutionfraud.html

    March 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      List of human frauds:

      b4bigbang

      March 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • momoya

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w57_P9DZJ4&w=640&h=360]

      March 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      A creationists' site to disprove evolution .. oh how rich. What a fail.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Chad

      @momoya "Theory of evolution made easy"

      =>why doesnt anything in that video address the exact correlation of missing fossil evidence and animals being called out as direct creations of God (the very first life form, fish, birds/land animals, humans)?

      March 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It doesn't need to. Anyone with a brain knows that evolution occurred.

      Funny that you require "proof" of evolution, but you can't provide any for a 'god'.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Chad

      @Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son "It doesn't need to. Anyone with a brain knows that evolution occurred. Funny that you require "proof" of evolution, but you can't provide any for a 'god'."

      =>the definition of atheist faith, no proof required, just belief 🙂

      March 19, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Wow

      "the definition of atheist faith, no proof required, just belie"

      Stupid remark with yet no proof, typical Christians. All you are doing is showing the world what a bunch of idiots you are, there is proof of evolution, no proof of creation with a snake, Adam and Eve.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Chad

      @Wow "Stupid remark with yet no proof, typical Christians. All you are doing is showing the world what a bunch of idiots you are, there is proof of evolution, no proof of creation with a snake, Adam and Eve."

      🙂
      never changes, the atheist answer algorithm works for every situation eh?
      1. Atheist “science isn't discarding any evidence of God, there just isnt any”

      2. Creationist “well, what about the origin of the universe, the fact that the universe obeys laws, the origins of life on this earth, the fact that the largest “gaps” in the fossil record correspond exactly with the organisms identified in the bible as being created by God, namely fish, birds, land animals and humans ”

      3. Atheist “We don’t know how to explain those things. The supernatural is by definition beyond nature and therefore beyond investigation by science. As utterly improbable as it is, our only answer at this point is to say it’s possible that all of those things just popped out of nothing via random combination of molecules”

      4. Creationist “Well, if you don’t have an answer for these fundamental events to begin with, and your only explanation is to posit the possibility of the utterly improbable time and time again, by what basis are you discarding the possibility of a force external to our universe?”

      5. Atheist: “Please go to step #1

      March 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      Still lacking a level of faith in your God to match the confidence that we supporters have in evolution, eh? You know that plenty of people of faith have no problem with evolution. Try reading the article "Was Darwin Wrong?" By David Quammen, National Geographic, Nov. 2004

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature1/fulltext.html

      Here's a few paragraphs to get you interested:

      "Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's "just" a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence. They embrace such an explanation confidently but provisionally—taking it as their best available view of reality, at least until some severely conflicting data or some better explanation might come along."

      "Furthermore, the supporting evidence (for evolution) is abundant, various, ever increasing, solidly interconnected, and easily available in museums, popular books, textbooks, and a mountainous accu.mulation of peer-reviewed scientific studies. No one needs to, and no one should, accept evolution merely as a matter of faith."

      March 20, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • sam

      What confuses me is that I have yet to meet a guy named Chad who isn't a douchebag. Do parents doom a kid by naming him Chad?

      March 20, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Chad

      @Oh Yeah "Try reading the article "Was Darwin Wrong?" By David Quammen, National Geographic, Nov. 2004"

      =>I prefer to go with an article written by Gould/Eldridge which, while often cited by atheists is rarely if ever actually read due to fear of the actual content.
      Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered Gould/Eldridge

      "We argue that virtually none of the examples brought forward to refute our model can stand as support for phyletic gradualism; many are so weak and ambiguous that they only reflect the persistent bias for gradualism still deeply embedded in paleontological thought." – Gould/Eldridge

      "Phyletic gradualism was an a priori assertion from the start-it was never "seen" in the rocks; it expressed the cultural and political biases of 19th century liberalism. Huxley advised Darwin to eschew it as an "unnecessary difficulty." We think that it has now become an empirical fallacy." – Gould/Eldridge

      "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record: The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. Darwin's argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution [directly]. In exposing its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all general views have similar roots). I only wish to point out that it is never "seen" in the rocks.

      Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin's argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study." Gould/Eldridge

      I am permanently indebted to those people who by accusing me of quote mining, stimulated me to read the entire article and therefor be in possession of all the facts therein.

      March 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      Oooh, yeah, I'm just shaking in my boots. 🙂

      Punctuated equilibrium may contradict some of Darwin's ideas about how evolution works, but nobody (except creationists) argues that Darwin was the final word on evolution any more than people argue that Newton, or even Einstein were the final words in physics. Punctuated equilibrium is just another view of how evolution works. In no way does it detract from the actuality of evolution one little bit.

      Yup, real scary.

      March 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Well if it isn't Chad, the guy who accuses every atheist about using the same old arguments but very christianly decides to ignore his own and fails to see how funny it is trying to disprove specific theories of evolution with other theories on evolution and yet doesn't understand when people ask him to apply that same type of proof, quotes and so on when it comes to god.

      Delusion is so sad.

      March 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Susan

      Chad's not so much deluded, but acting more like a child trying to debate adults. He has no idea just how out of his depth he is in this discussion.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Chad

      @Oh Yeah "Punctuated equilibrium may contradict some of Darwin's ideas about how evolution works, but nobody (except creationists) argues that Darwin was the final word on evolution any more than people argue that Newton, or even Einstein were the final words in physics. Punctuated equilibrium is just another view of how evolution works. In no way does it detract from the actuality of evolution one little bit."

      =>two points:
      1) The core of Darwinism is phyletic gradualism, and that is precisely what was completely debunked by Gould. They didnt object to some peripheral aspect, they tore the guts out of Darwin.

      "Darwin regarded the pace of evolution as a gradual process of orderly steps. It proceeded at a constant rate. He adhered to Linnaeus’ motto: "Nature does not make leaps." This conception was reflected elsewhere in the scientific world, most notably with Darwin’s disciple, Charles Lyell, the apostle of gradualism in the field of geology. Darwin was so committed to gradualism, that he built his whole theory on it. "The geological record is extremely imperfect," stated Darwin, "and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory." This Darwinism gradualism was rooted in the philosophical views of Victorian society. From this ‘evolution’ all the leaps, abrupt changes and revolutionary transformations are eliminated. This anti-dialectical outlook has held sway over the sciences to this present day. "A deeply rooted bias of Western thought predisposes us to look for continuity and gradual change," says Gould."

      2) The more important thing about Gould/Eldridge 1972 paper "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism" was the amount of ink they devoted to puncturing the myth of scientific objectivity. As they demonstrated with numerous examples, the atheist scientific community was deeply biased and this caused them to completely ignore the facts right in front of them.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      First, you have to understand that "Darwinism" is not the sum total of evolution theory, so even if some of Darwin's ideas were out of date nowadays, so what? The core discovery of evolution through natural selection is still rock solid. Science doesn't operate like the holy scriptures you rely on for truth eternal. Darwin isn't some kind of Moses or Jesus whose words are set in stone, never to be questioned. Science actually replaces people's first impressions should new research and evidence surface.

      Second, the fossil record was nothing in Darwin's day compared to what it is today, and DNA wasn't even discovered when Darwin wrote Origin. Besides, Darwin never said that all species evolved at a perfectly constant rate. Some species have remained well suited to their environment for a very long time and fell into "stasis", never needing to evolve. Gould is also a very gifted writer, a rare thing within the scientific community, which might just account to how popular this idea has become. Dawkins has some compelling counter arguments to punctuated equilibrium. It will be interesting to see how the debate progresses.

      It actually would have been very surprising indeed if later scientists hadn't been able to articulate evolution beyond what Darwin was able to reason out during his lifetime. If phyletic gradualism does turn out not to be the way evolution works, who cares? Evolution still works, and that's the important thing.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Chad

      @Oh Yeah "The core discovery of evolution through natural selection is still rock solid."
      @Chad: "LOL, I suspect you regret making that statement. Natural selection without a mechanism of genetic change does ZERO to create new species. It's the mechanism of genetic change that darwin proposed (phyletic gradualism) that was completely debunked by punctuated equilibrium, hence the obvious observation that PE tore the very center piece out of darwin.

      ============
      @Oh Yeah "The fossil record was nothing in Darwin's day compared to what it is today"
      @Chad "very true, Darwin appealed to an incomplete fossil record, we now know that the fossil record isnt incomplete, the gaps are real. that was the very essence of Goulds PE proposal, and the clear death knell for darwin"

      =========
      @Oh Yeah "If phyletic gradualism does [not] turn out not to be the way evolution works, who cares? Evolution still works, and that's the important thing."
      @Chad "ah yes, the ultimate statement of faith by all atheists "we dont know how it (origin of the universe, origin of life, progression of life, etc.), but we just KNOW that God didnt do it"

      it is often said that religion is based on faith, but God defines faith as "The evidence of things unseen".
      Atheism truly is based on faith, a faith that stands in opposition to the facts in front of them.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      The possible "mechanisms of genetic change" are mutation, migration, genetic drift and, arguably Darwin's favorite, natural selection. One, some, or all of them may be what propels evolution. What we're debating is if evolution was slow and steady, or quick and fast, with periods of little or no change in between. It's not an argument against evolution itself, but one about how it plays out. Nothing wrong with this inquiry, but supporting one side over the other doesn't make God's involvement any more likely. Whether the bear really did go over the mountain, or around it doesn't warrant any wild claims like the bear actually digging under the mountain or paying a wizard to teleport him to the other side.

      The fossil record will never be "complete" until every possible location for a fossil to lie has been checked, and there isn't enough manpower or research money to do that this side of the year 2500, right? As it is, any "gaps" in the record are filling in rapidly. Fossils indicating new species being discovered fairly regularly, with each one helping make the picture of evolution ever clearer. So, it's not I who will likely regret my statements here, my friend

      March 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Chad

      @Oh Yeah "The possible "mechanisms of genetic change" are mutation, migration, genetic drift and, arguably Darwin's favorite, natural selection"
      @Chad "wrong, natural selection does not produce variants of traits, it merely is the process by which variants survive in a population, without a mechanism to produce genetic changes, natural selection has nothing to do 🙂 "

      ===============
      @Oh Yeah " but supporting one side over the other doesn't make God's involvement any more likely.
      @Chad "Wrong again, as one goes from a process of gradual random changes surviving in a population due to natural selection, to a "nothing happens for millions of years then BANG many-many genetic mutations are occurring and surviving", even you would have to admit that that situation becomes less likely from probabilistic stand point. Therefore, obviously it engenders discussions of external influence.
      That is precisely why science fought PE for so long, and attempts still continue. One one end of the continuum, there is phyletic gradualism, on the other end is creationism/saltation. PE clearly moves closer to the right, that cant be argued.

      ========
      @Oh Yeah " The fossil record will never be "complete" until every possible location for a fossil to lie has been checked, and there isn't enough manpower or research money to do that this side of the year 2500, right? As it is, any "gaps" in the record are filling in rapidly. Fossils indicating new species being discovered fairly regularly, with each one helping make the picture of evolution ever clearer. So, it's not I who will likely regret my statements here, my friend"
      @Chad "third strike... fossil finds arent filling the gaps that corresponds to the animals characterized as direct creations of God (Fish, land animals/birds, humans), they are reinforcing the existence of them. Dont take my word for it though:

      The lack of transitional forms is a serious problem that can no longer be attributed to hypothesized undiscovered fossils (Johnson, 1990; Gould, 1989). All of the multi-millions of fossils so far discovered fit quite well into existing groups and rarely is it even argued that a fossil type fits between two orders or even families

      March 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      You're right, natural selection does not produce variants, but it does play a role in which variants survive. If the same insect comes in green and tan varieties, one will stand out like a sore thumb in almost every environment. Remove most of the individuals of one variant, in this case the less stealthy variety, and the breeding cycle will naturally produce fewer of them because fewer already exist to pass on this trait. See how it drives genetic change within a whole species now?

      The "BANG" you are referring to may be a literal one and even "external", like a massive meteor impact, for example, but it could be anything that changes the environment. Without something upsetting the status quo many species will go very long periods without changing. They would go on eating the same old food, blending in with the same old surroundings, and fighting the same old predators and diseases. Then one day, millions of years down through the generations, a volcano erupts and dumps ash over everything and, suddenly, only the individuals with bigger grinding teeth can manage to digest enough food to survive. After a few generations the species becomes one with ever bigger grinding teeth, and the species carries this trait on long after the ask has disappeared because there's no reason why it's a disadvantage in the old environment. Later, when their fossils are checked, the change in average tooth size is quite apparent.

      Regarding your third misunderstanding perhaps we should take Gould's word for it then:
      "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists – whether through design or stupidity, I do not know – as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups."
      —Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb

      You, my friend, are barking up the wrong tree if you think that Gould's work favors creationism.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chad “The core of Darwinism is phyletic gradualism, and that is precisely what was completely debunked by Gould. They didnt object to some peripheral aspect, they tore the guts out of Darwin”
      @Oh Yeah “The core discovery of evolution through natural selection is still rock solid. “
      @Chad “Natural selection without a mechanism of genetic change does ZERO to create new species.”
      @Oh Yeah “The possible "mechanisms of genetic change" are mutation, migration, genetic drift and, arguably Darwin's favorite, natural selection.”
      @Chad "wrong, natural selection does not produce variants of traits, it merely is the process by which variants survive in a population,”
      @Oh Yeah “You're right, natural selection does not produce variants”
      @Chad “Correct, and there for my original point that PE tore the guts out of phyletic gradualism stands 🙂

      ===================
      @Oh Yeah “The "BANG" you are referring to may be a literal one and even "external", like a massive meteor impact, for example, but it could be anything that changes the environment. Without something upsetting the status quo many species will go very long periods without changing.
      @Chad “Precisely, that is where PE corrects the dogmatic, biased viewpoint of phyletic gradualism, and, clearly moves closer to theism.”

      ===================
      @Oh Yeah “Regarding your third misunderstanding perhaps we should take Gould's word for it then:
      "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists – whether through design or stupidity, I do not know – as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups."

      @Chad “I warned you before, accusations of quote mining are only going to get you complete sections of Goulds paper in response to demonstrate two things:
      1. indeed my quotes are in context
      2. you have personally never read the paper, are uninformed as to the content, hence the inaccurate accusation of quote mining.
      So, here ya go, enjoy! Let me know if you want more.

      All of the below taken from Gould/Eldridge
      ===========================
      “As an a priori bias, phyletic gradualism has precluded any fair assessment of evolutionary tempos and modes. It could not be refuted by empirical catalogues constructed in its light because it excluded contrary information as the artificial result of an imperfect fossil record.” – Gould
      The interpretation supported by Eldredge and Gould is that allopatric speciation in small, peripheral populations utomatically results in “gaps” in the fossil record. Throughout their essay, however, runs a larger and more important lesson: a priori theorems often determine the results of “empirical” studies, before the first shred of evidence is collected. his idea, that theory dictates what one sees, cannot be stated too strongly.
      “In this paper we shall argue:
      (1) The expectations of theory color perception to such a degree that new notions seldom arise from facts collected under the influence of old pictures of the world. New pictures must east their inñuence before facts can be seen in different perspective.
      (2) Paleontology’s view of speciation has been dominated by the picture of “phyletic gradualism.” It holds that new species arise from the slow and steady transfonnation of entire populations. Under its influence, we seek unbroken fossil series linking two forms by insensible gradation as the only complete mirror of Darwinian processes; we ascribe all breaks to imperfections the record.
      In paleontoiogy. even the most "objective" undertaking. the “pure" description of fossils. is all the more affected by theory because that theory is unacknowledged. We describe part by part and are lod. subtly but surely. to the view that complexity is irreducible. Such description stands against a developing science of form I Gould. 19"0a, l9"la) because it both gathers different facts (static states rather than dynamic Correlations) and presents contrary comparisons (compendia of differences rather than reductions of complexity to fewer generating factors). DU'-krcy Thompson. with his usual insight, wrote of the "pure" 'raxonomist (1942. p. 1036). "when comparing one organism with another. he describes the difïerences between. them point by point and `charaeter` by ‘eharaoterf lf he is from time to time constrained to admit the existence of ‘cort‘elatior1` between characters _ . . yet all the while he recognizes this fact of correlation somewhat vaguely. as a phenomenon clue to causes which. except in rare instances. he can hardly' hope to trace: and he falls readily into the habit of thinking and talking of evolution as though it had proceeded on the lines of his own description. point by point and character by character."
      The inductivist view forces us into a vicious circle. A theory often compels us to see the world in its light and support. Yet. we think we see objectively and therefore interpret each new datum as an independent confirmation of our theory. Although our theory may be wrong. we cannot confute it
      . To extract ourselves from this dilemma. we must bring in a more adequate theory; il will not arise from facts collected in the old way. Paleontology supported creationism in continuing comfort. yet the imposition of Darwinism forced a new„ and surely more adequate. interpretation upon old Facts. Science progresses more by thc introduction of new world-views or “pictures"* than by the steady accumulation of information. This issue is Central to the study of speciation in paleontology. We believe that an inadequate picture has been guiding our thoughts on speciation for 100 years. We hold that its inñuencc has been all the more tenacious because paleontologists, in ciaiming that they see objectively. have not recognized its guiding sway. We contend that a notion developed elsewhere. the theory of allopatric speciation. Supplies a more Satisfactory picture for the ordering of paleontologicaî data.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      I'm not sure how you get any kind of refutation of evolution at all out of any of Gould's writing. Maybe you place his stuff behind a crystal ball and read through it, I honestly don't know, but it has become quite clear that this "discussion" is pointless. Good luck finding the actual answers some day.

      “We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher answer’– but none exists”
      ― Stephen Jay Gould

      March 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Chad

      @Oh Yeah “I'm not sure how you get any kind of refutation of evolution at all out of any of Gould's writing.”
      @Chad “you’re mischaracterizing my point of course (it’s known as a strawman), my point is this:
      a. Gould pointed out paleontologists acting on a heavy bias towards darwins gradualisms had willfully ignored the data, namely that species remained in stasis for millions of years, new ones appearing fully formed.
      b. Chad points out that species remaining in stasis for millions of years, and new ones appearing fully formed is obviously closer to creationism than phyletic gradualism.

      Perhaps this will help:
      @Gould “paleontologists have been demonstrating a huge predisposition bias towards darwins gradualisms and have willfully ignored the data, namely that species remained in stasis for millions of years, new ones appear fully formed”

      @Atheist “WHAT??? You cant say that, that sounds like creationism!!”

      @Gould “Look, it’s getting embarrassing, every year we find thousands of fossils, and each one only serves to reinforce my statement. It’s ludicrous to continue with this charade”

      @Atheist “So, what are you, a proponent of ID now???”

      @Gould “oh, absolutely not.. I’m still with you guys, I’m still as committed to disproving God as ever, it’s just that it was getting ridiculous, the plainly obvious had to be acknowledged”

      @Atheist “So, what now???”

      @Gould “Look, atheists don’t need good data to believe an argument that God doesn’t exist, any data will do… I mean for crying out loud, look how long gradualism captured those people despite a mountain of contradicting evidence”

      @Atheist “So, what do we tell them”

      @Gould “[sly wink], same as always, given enough time the impossible can become an everyday occurrence. Piece of cake.”

      @Atheist “Think they’ll buy it?”

      @Gould “Absolutely, just watch. For people that are determined to believe something, any data will do”

      🙂

      March 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • OhYeah

      "Good luck finding the actual answers some day."

      Chad is suffering from a mental illness, they were an alcoholic and a meth user, I think that sums up their dependency issues and why they are incapable of understanding real truth.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      Gould's "sudden" punctuations are between 50,000 to 100,000 years long, plenty of time for new species to have evolved completely naturally. Creationist thinking is limited by their 6000 year timeline view of the universe. Easy misconception to make, and to exploit.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Chad
      BTW, I don't agree with OhYeah's evaluation of you. I'm not sure if you're intentionally misrepresenting Gould here, or honestly mistaking his findings, but I don't think you're actually incapable of understanding real truth. I wouldn't bother discussing this with you if I did.

      Also, cute little play you wrote there. Maybe I'll make some little straw man figures and act it out later? 🙂

      March 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Bob

    The author started off with his heritage but ended up mentioning the Bible.

    Goes on to show that the Bible is the greatest book ever written!

    March 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • kavanah on the Bible

      🙂

      March 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      The greatest book ever written is the The Lord of the Rings. Far better than the bible.

      March 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Russ

      @ ungodly discipline: in the words of Tolkien himself then... (when he witnessed to then-atheist CS Lewis)
      "Christianity is not just one more myth pointing to some underlying truth.
      Christianity is the Truth to which all the other myths point."

      In other words, your own favorite author saw his work as ultimately pointing to Jesus.

      March 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Obviously. I have read his biography. What is your point?

      March 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Russ that was from UD, sorry I switched handles on you.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Russ

      @ AO / UD: thanks for the clarification.
      My point: I just thought it was ironic that the author of the book you hold in such high esteem came to exactly the opposite conclusion. Sounds more like he thought his magnum opus was at best an echo of the Gospel.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Russ, all fairy tales (Christianity included in my opinion) originate from epic poetic Norse sagas (Beowulf) and English Fables (King Arthur). There is always an evil demon, there are always gods, there is always a talisman and a hero, etc. Tolkien's personal beliefs relative to Christianity don't concern me, but his imagination and story telling do. If you REALLY want to see how far he took it, read the Silmarillian! I have read every book and translation he every wrote, even the ones his son compliled after his death. He was dedicated to fairy land!

      March 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ AO: I hear you. I too am a huge Tolkien fan. I have read the Silmarillion.

      Here was an incredible genius. And he knew myths better than you or I ever will.
      Yet his entire project as he understood it seems to be this:
      What if Norse (& other pagan) myths could be recast as echoes of the Gospel?

      Ever consider that maybe what you love so much about LOTR is Tolkien's purposeful retelling of the Gospel through a pagan cosmogony?

      March 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      @Russ
      Cheers to a fellow fan. (If you have read the Silmarillion, you rock in my book. No easy task.)

      No, I just like fantasy. And he was the best at it. Nothing more. Have you read the Inheritance Trilogy by Paolini? Not great, but a very nice effort for such a young author. And yes, like a good dweeb a loves me the Harry Potter books.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Oh Russ, if you haven't read Tolkien's translation of "The Green Knight" it is great Arthurian standard and an easy read, but a very fun read.

      March 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Russ

      @ AO: I have read the first 3 Paolini books. the new one is out, but I haven't gotten it yet.
      he's a good storyteller. i'll be interested to see what he does with some of the interesting questions he left hanging.
      overall, though, it feels a bit like a Tolkien rip off (especially direct lifts, like the Endless Stair – & even the map seems a little reminiscent of LOTR at a glance). but having said that, you've got to give credit to a 15 year old who can write like that...

      March 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Bible, Tolkien. Both fiction. Tolkien is better.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Russ

      @AGuest9:
      Tolkien: compassion/pity is the most powerful force in existence.
      (the only scene repeated in all 3 LOTR books: "Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life... The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.")

      the Gospel: the compassion of Christ is more powerful than death itself.

      it's hard to appreciate Tolkien if you can't appreciate his central inspiration.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Russ.
      Lots of literature has biblical themes, just as lots have themes from other mythologies. For instance, The Hunger Games is based on reality TV and the myth of the Minotaur. What's your point?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  20. Urafkntool

    Wahh. "always looking for judgement?" Well here's your judgement. I find the Jews guilty of crimes against humanity for the last 4000 years. All will immediately be executed.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Well aren't you just a big silly.

      March 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Ykcyc

      Only the last 4000 years?! What about before then? Do you mean "all of them"? Every last one?
      How do you propose it is done?
      But, if none of them left, there'll be no one left for you to hate. Your life will loose it's meaning.
      The "love" you spew will stop oozing from out of you. You'll be just another "sick phuck".
      Please stop taking you medication.
      Who will you propose to "do" next?

      March 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      @ykcyc: Eliminate that problem, and the rest of the world falls into line with no more zionist, is-rae-li sup-reme-cy nonsense.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.