Thursday, March 6, 2014

Privileged Jesus

I ran across this image in my +google feed and ended up in a bit of a debate over it. Since comments don't really let me do the subject justice, here it is on my personal blog. 

One one level this is a an anti-GOP joke. I don't care enough about the party to really be bothered by it but the composition mostly bothered me because of the image on the right and just a bit for the one on the left. Now to be clear, this is the kind of thing I think of as a representation of Jesus.

In other words, I've got little invested in the north european localized image on the left side of the first image. I don't have anything against it. It's just not my cup of tea.

But I recognized the image on the right from a Popular Science article and thought at the time it was just poor science pushing forensic anthropology far beyond what it has any rights making scientific claims to. Among other things, the team that made the image started off from the Shroud of Turin, a long haired depiction of Jesus with above average height between 5'7" and 6'1" and turned him into a 5'1" short haired man because that was culturally appropriate for a 1st century semitic man and that was athe average height back then. Because that's what Jesus was all about, being culturally respectful and sporting an average physique. As an artistic call, this is perfectly acceptable. As science, it has zero value and is a misuse of the term. It is an example of scientism, adopting the trappings of science without the scientific method.

Now this scientific Jesus image is showing up as evidence that the GOP is anti-science. The actual message to the religiously educated and somewhat science knowledgeable is that in the name of science, we're going to rule in or out your artistic traditions. That's the sort of thing that incrementally makes it harder  to convince skeptical legislators to fund science. They've got plenty of projects clamoring for public dollars. Without an identifiable fingerprint on any of the decisions, now science will get a few dollars fewer. But hey, they get to make a hostile work environment for religious scientists, and politically alienate the GOP from natural allies in the scientific community so if that's what you care about, that top image is just great.

One thing it's not is scientific or pro-science.