Darwinism and Its Ideological Distortions: Lecture in Lethbridge


Darwin, from U. of L. site


The Annual Tagg Yoshida Lecture in Liberal Education this year will be by

Dr. David J. Depew

Darwinism and Its Ideological Distortions

7:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12

Viewing Gallery, Sir Alexander Galt Museum

What Darwinism is really about is not always clearly understood. When transferred to the social sphere, Darwinism gave rise to important distortions, such as discourses about class, race, and, since the 1970s, gender. Yet, Darwinism prizes difference and individuality, so that the real lesson of Darwinism is to precisely eliminate the thinking about “essences” or collective categories such as race, class, and gender.

Dr. Depew is a professor of Communication Studies and Rhetoric of Inquiry at the University of Iowa.  Recent articles and book chapters include The Rhetoric of the Origin of Species andConsequence Etiology and Biological Teleology in Aristotle and Darwinism.

A public reception will follow.

The Tagg-Yoshida lecture underscores the importance of liberal education to Canadian Society.  Each year a speaker is invited who has not only made significant contributions in his or her area of academic study, but as well, significant contributions to our shared public interest.  Dr. Depew’s lecture is in conjunction with the Darwin Symposium (information can be found at https://www.uleth.ca/conreg/darwin/) being held at the University of Lethbridge on November 12-14, 2009, and is co-sponsored by the following University of Lethbridge departments: The President’s Office, Dean’s Office (Arts and Science), Faculty of Education, Faculty of Fine Arts, The School of Health Sciences, and the Department of Philosophy.


Defining Dawwinism

This lecture is in conjunction with the Defining Darwinism: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Debate symposium being held at the University of Lethbridge on November 12-14, 2009 (symposium information can be located at https://www.uleth.ca/conreg/darwin/).

Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 scholars have been unceasingly involved in exploring the various implications of the theory of natural selection. In addition to the several distinct possible conceptions of this idea in the biological sphere, the notion of a changing world influenced by natural selection has also found applications in the social sciences (e.g., social Darwinism, sociobiology) as well as in the physicochemical sciences (e.g., thermodynamics, self-organization). Much more than a mere biological theory, Darwinism has rapidly become a dynamic, multi-dimensional, and evolving research entity with near-universal implications for science, a context which has in turn subjected it to various ideological, epistemological, and metaphysical influences. One hundred and fifty years after Darwin’s original publication, it is still now not entirely clear what Darwinism is all about. The aim of this meeting is to reflect upon the nature of the complex and changing research entity known as Darwinism.


All of the above is shamelessly reproduced, adapted and stolen from the promotional material…

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Badge War Resumes Again!

Ok, the first rounds of the badge war ended several days ago with Jim West getting the last badge in. One should not take that as a victory. See here for the first 5. West’s last feeble attempt was to claim that my key to his mythical door on truth wouldn’t work. Alas, a cold and lots of marking and reality (ugh) got in the way of a speedy response.

So here is West’s latest handiwork,



My response after the break.


Categories: Blogging, Fun
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Best Book of Samuel Cartoon EVER! Far Left Side Rules!


It doesn't get any better than this, biblically speaking.

That’s Biblical Family Feud!


Categories: Fun


Recommended Reading in Philosophy of Religion?


Free Thinker

Any ideas what a freethinking club might want to start reading in this area? I’ve been asked to suggest some titles but as far as philosophy goes, I’m a better hardware salesman… I’ve suggested David Hume’s Dialouges and B. Russel’s Why I am not a christian.


Any others?


Dr Jim’s Kittehs on I Can Haz Cheezburger!

I’ve been suffering from a terrible cold for 2 days. I was sent home yesterday and cancelled classes today. I’m still headachey and coughing up my lungs, but I needed something to cheer me up.

Well, if Robert Cargill can put Prof. Tiggens on ICHC, I can put my crew on there! They are old pictures, but what the heck?

This is Mr. Dash Molasses when he was still little (about a year ago). He was very shy and hid a lot. He does like people (except Jim West), but needs a bit of time to warm up to visitors.

Um, no, I not hided. Wuz fighin

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This Mr. Max Mischief. Chief Boss of Everything as Declared by Himself. And for only having one brain cell (he shares it with his brother) he is a genius.
I haz red ur teesis awn teh Fyre Breevin
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Dearly departed Alice Louise Kitten on the right and Molly Rose Bean on the left. Molly is the real boss of the house.

Bet she got more than me.
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Molly again.

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Can ANYONE be non-religious about anything?

This was the question blogger Rick Wadholm asked in response to a plan for a secular biblical researcher’s special interest group meeting in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature (which is the largest academic society in the world dedicated to research into all matters biblical).

I wrote this up a few days ago and then decided that I should just ignore these comments but darnnit… some very important points need to be made.

Wadholm, who is listed in SBL’s membership directory, followed a link on SBL’s facebook page and found his way to my blog. His comments only go to show how badly the SBL is in need of a major campaign to tell its own members what “fostering biblical scholarship” involves, beginning with what scholarship itself actually is. If some folks don’t like it, the SBL should have the guts to tell them that their subscription fees are not needed that badly.

Wadholm writes that I had advertised the formation of a “group of ‘Biblical scholars’ for reading the Bible in a “non-religious” manner.” Note the inverted commas he places around the expression “biblical scholars”. Wadholm goes on to ask ask if non-religious biblical studies is possible, adding:

Is there any way for ANYONE to be “non-religious” about anything?

I wonder how “religiously” Wadholm pulled his trousers on that morning.

One line in the original announcement was found particularly egregious by Wadholm. It said that a possible aim of the proposed group would be to act as a “counterbalance” to the Evangelical Theological Society and to engage this group in a productive discourse. The ETS is one of a number of theological associations that meets in conjunction with the SBL. In the post Wadholm read, the various aims are merely proposals, items at least worth talking about. Nothing is set in stone. The comment about the ETS might be taken as somewhat provocative, but not necessarily so. I’m not sure naming a specific group was the best way to put it (and if a formal group is organized, I will argue that such naming NOT be included in our aims). Given the amount of theologizing that goes on at the SBL, however, certainly there is room for talk about secularism. Isn’t there? Isn’t that what “counterbalance” means? Apparently not. Wadholm continues:

However, the site offers to organize a group to challenge the Evangelical Theological Society (and even the sub-heading of the blog includes the notion of “atheism”).

Now, notice how “counterbalance” becomes “challenge”. Sure I’m an atheist. Millions of people are. Big deal. I talk to a lot of religious people constructively. It doesn’t mean I’m constantly trying to get them to abandon their religion!

But Wadholm isn’t done yet. In his next sentence “challenge” is  replaced with the claim that our agenda is not the “non-religious” reading of the Bible but an “anti-Christian” reading. Notice the escalation of the perceived attacks on his faith! He then says we are using “naturalistic” terms to give the air of being “very ‘scholarly’”, and hide our true intent that would be too hard to sell straight up.

Is it possible that an ‘atheistic’ reading of the Bible will be “non-religious”? Or will it simply offer its own godless reading where man sits as the arbiter of truth and revelation? Further, what is the point? Why would ‘Biblical scholars’ (or anyone else for that matter) want to “non-religously” read the Scriptures that claim to be the words of the Lord demanding faith from humanity?

What do you think? Can there be any “non-religious” reading of the Bible? Or should there even be an attempt to do so?

Oh my godless! Does one have to believe in Baal to study Ugaritic mythology? If we are to study the Book of Mormon, do we have to believe that Joseph Smith really did find the golden tablet? Did L. Ron Hubbard really talk to a bunch of aliens? How else to understand Dianetics and the other scientology stuff? How does Wadholm learn anything about other people and other cultures?

All secular biblical scholarship is is the study of the Bible and its historical and cultural contexts in the same non-confessional fashion that the scriptures and religious thought of other religions are studied. Why should one set of religious documents be treated by researchers according to fundamentally different rules from others?

Here are a few things for Mr. Waldholm to ponder.

It matters not in the least that the Bible, or perhaps better, religious traditions that employ a bible,  make claims on people’s loyalty. Every religion makes claims. Why do you suppose those made by your religion should be treated in any way different from the claims made by other traditions? And remember, there are more than one bible that religious societies have made for themselves.

And should non-religious folk not study religion? Religion has been an important part of people’s lives probably since people evolved on this planet scores of thousands of years ago, and people are just intrinsically interesting. People are interested in people; their past, their thoughts, their art, their societies, politics, wars, foibles, moments of genius and their failings. Anybody can study these things and intelligent, well educated have developed academic methods to do just that.  Why not study people’s religions with the same intellectual tools? Religion is no really so special a phenomenon. It is a complex one, but not a special one. IT is intrinsically wrapped up in politics, personal and group identity, totemism, symbolic projection, social control and a host of other things, including humans’ innate tendency to anthropomorphize things.

There are probably a large number of agnostics and outright atheists in the Society of Biblical Literature who know a hell of a lot more about Christianity, its mythology, history of doctrines and theological thought than Wadholm does. They’ve been studying it for years.

Groups like the SBL have been an intellectual home for considerable amounts of serious, secular scholars for many decades. Many of the people doing this good work are, if fact, Christians and Jews, but it would be hard, if not impossible, to tell what their religious views are based on the nature of their academic work. They let the data and reason speak for itself; and so even though they may be quite devout their, work is, in fact, secular. Certainly agnostics and atheists can join them in this and, for very many years, have done so.

What the proposed group can afford all of these secular scholars is a voice in defense of shared academic values, something Wadholm does not understand and seeks to undermine. The study of religion is not the practice of religion. Why is this concept so hard for people to understand?

Mr Wadholm, if you have problems with real scholarship, perhaps you should find a different kind of society to join.

Vote For Professor Tiggens! Lolcat baseball fan!

Biblioblogger and Pseudo-scholar-swatter Bob Cargill’s kitteh, Professor Tiggen,s is on I Can has Cheezburger!
Here is the picture the good doc made of the good prof!

i luvs da playofs
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Click the pic and vote for it so it will end up on the ICHC homepage!

It was such a neat picture I just couldn’t resist!

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Categories: Cats & Lolcats, Fun


Updates on Secular Biblical Studies Page

Just a quick note to say that there have been a few updates on the Secular Biblical Studies Page. All this stuff is not in a regular post. Just look for the big yellow and blue box for the link.


Now, there has been some uproar on the biblioblogging sphere (or is it more of a pancake?) about all this secularism of late. It all started when I made a Secular Bible Blog Badge:


Jim West corrupted this in his usual dilettantesque way to get the following which he duly posted on his “blog“.


To which I responded thusly:

believersbibleblog2At which point Dr. West got his knickers in a twist, and produced this idol, claiming that us non-believin’ folk can’t understand the Bible.


Ah, but we are clever little ducks, aren’t we?

KeybadgeYes we are!

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

I was sorting out some old photos as I load them into my my new iMac and I found some memories from Halloween parties past.

My house is the official faculty club for the department, and I’ve been hosting a Halloween party every year for the past 5 or six years. The rules are pretty simple. Grown ups (or at least the legally grown up) have to wear a religiously themed costume. They can get really inventive at times. Kids can wear any kind of costume they like.

Not a lot of photos have survived, but here are a few.

All Sorts 048This is from 2004. If you look closely, you can see Wendel and Deirdre the frog couple hiding in Noah’s hair. I had to quit shaving for a week to get my beard like that.

All Sorts 051An uncarved pumpkin has just about had enough…

Party 2005Picture says 2005, but on reflection I think it is not so old. Tommy Gun Annie (far left) from CKXU Radio is not a zombie, but someone 3/4 resurrected by miracle worker and “Extreme Prophetic” person Patricia King. We had just watched her “you can raise the dead, but practice first on dead houseplants and roadkill” sermon on the Miracle Channel a few weeks earlier. Note the roadkill racoon. The twins remain very healthy and lively. And I still can’t tell them apart.

3weirdosThree Weirdos.

WeirdosMore weirdos. Green Tara on the left. Poncho Pilot on the right (I told you they get inventive).

I can’t remember who Hillary in the middle is supposed to be, but this was the year that Religious Studies was promoted to being a full Department at the U. of Lethbridge. Hillary had told us, in excruciating detail, how a boring neighbour fancied himself an “artist” and craftsman and tried selling him a walking stick made of a sunflower stem. Since Hillary was named Dept Chair, I made our new Chief of Staff the Chief of Staffs from one of my home-grown sunflower stalks. Darn plant was 9’high. You can’t see it well, but a bright gold (and perfectly authentic) Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is dangling from the contraption. The Staff is firmly mounted in a giant white winter boot. Hillary still keeps the thing in his office.

TommygunTommy Gun Annie again, this time with a Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale. I wrote to the Brewer to tell them that it was named “The Official Beer of the Department of Religious Studies”. I was expecting a truckload of beer for free. They must have forgotten to send it. Bastards.

GiraffeHomer Simpson explains to one of the giraffes Noah left behind why Ganesh is not in favour of Apu’s marriage.

Happy FamilyA Happy Family (2008)

So, what about this year? You will just have to wait a week or so!

A Lolcat for Stephanie!

In the comments to this post, Stephanie said the only shortcoming to my other wise sane discussion was that it lacked a custom made lolcat. Now, I’m willing to forgive her for that “sane” comment if she forgives me for writing so much without providing a suitable midrashic-moggie. So here it is:

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And one more, just for the heck of it.

U hoomins eet froot
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There, my debt is paid.