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Posts Tagged ‘fundamentalism’

For some reason, I like to play with fire. Spending time with thoughtful skeptics is one of my favorite pastimes. By way of example, I was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) one night and followed up with a student who wanted to know the differences between Jesus and Spinoza. He happened to be looking at a summary of Spinoza’s key positions on his laptop computer. After asking him to scroll through I said, “There’s the problem! In Christianity, God isn’t definable by a propositional statement.”

He stood up, flushed and agitated, bursting out loud, “What do you MEAN God is not definable by a propositional statement?” The result was a very late night and one of the best conversations I have ever had about God.

For those who don’t know me, I was one of the last undergraduate students to sit under the teaching of Astronomer, and well-known skeptic, Dr. Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame. If you are younger than me, then you may be more familiar with his best selling novel Contact which later became a motion picture starring Jody Foster. Dr. Sagan also won a Pulitzer Prize for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.

Our class was simply called “Critical Thinking”, but there was nothing simple about it. Admission to the course was by essay only, and it became more challenging from there. With over 25 books on the syllabus, we were expected to read at least 2 each week. The final project was an open debate against a classmate, with Dr. Sagan jumping into the discourse at will! At times, he read from a manuscript of his as part of the lesson. This manuscript later became one of his last published books The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

I wish I could say that I came out of the course unscathed, but I can’t. I definitely can’t! (more…)

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