Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 

I Rather Like This


Karl Giberson had a debate with the Discovery [sic] Institute's Stephen Meyer.

He knew it wasn't much use:
Debates are curious events. They masquerade as intellectual contests, but are really just showcases for rhetorical cleverness and public charisma.
But I like Giberson's approach. After noting ID luminaries, such as Paul Nelson and Phillip Johnson have admitted that ID has no theory of how ID works, he says:
The absence of a clear and well-articulated theory is disastrous for ID, and excludes it from scientific consideration, because it makes it impossible to put any observations in context as evidence either for or against the theory. I made this rather complex point with a photo of the lake in front of my vacation home. A photo is an "observation," of course. But a photo is not automatically "evidence." A theoretical claim that can be tested with a photo must be present before a photo becomes evidence. My photo could be used as evidence, for example, to determine if 1) the water was higher than last week or 2) the winter ice was gone 3) the boat race was on some other lake or 4) if aliens were waterskiing that day. But, until you advance some relevant theoretical claim a photo is just a photo—it is not "evidence."

The many interesting examples that dominate the ID discussion—the little tail on the bacterium, our eyes or our blood-clotting mechanism, the explosion of new life-forms in the Cambrian period—are just snapshots of things in nature. They are not "evidence" for anything and won't be until the ID theorists develop a theory of how their "designer" works. Once they provide a well-articulated version of their central claim, we can decide whether or not our eyes—or our tails— support their theory.
Darwin knew this:
About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
But Meyer dodged the issue:
I mentioned in the debate that I thought this difficulty—acknowledged as it was by other ID theorists—was the deepest and most interesting challenge facing ID. But Meyer assured me that this is no longer an issue and that they now had a theory, although whatever it is appears to remain a well-kept secret. I objected that, as a physicist with a Ph.D who had studied some real theories—quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism—ID did not remotely resemble any other theory in the natural sciences and was thus hard to see how it might work. The response was that ID was under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of the scientific community for what a theory should look like.
In other words, "We don't need no stinkin' science!"

There is more in Giberson's article you should read, including how the DI declared victory based on the fact that Giberson used examples understandable to lay people, while Meyer baffled them with bullshit. But I thought Giberson's example of why theory is needed in science was very cogent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 

Here We Go Again


I have been remiss of late in tending to this blog ... a combination of physical problems, ennui, work and the lack of items that ticked my fancy.

This is a bit of a drive-by ... raising issues rather than trying to answer them.

Jerry Coyne, with a more than a bit of graciousness, congratulates Ken Miller for being named by the University of Notre Dame the 2014 Laetare Medal winner, given annually to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity."

Coyne focuses on some of Miller's stated beliefs, which Miller has never claimed were scientific in nature and labels them "antiscientific, [because they are] based not on evidence."

But Coyne has certain beliefs that are not based on evidence, much less scientific evidence, for example, his opinion of James Joyce:
I do not believe, nor have I ever asserted, that science provides us with all the answers that are worth having. Some answers worth having involve subjective taste: which bistro should I eat at tonight? Should I go out with Sue or with Megan? Is Joyce's The Dead truly the best story ever written in English? (The answer to that, by the way, is "yes".) Why does Beethoven move me to tears while Mozart leaves me cold? And there are the moral questions, such as "Is abortion wrong?"

Now some of these questions are at least potentially susceptible to empirical investigation and falsification ...
But what I have never seen is a coherent explanation of what specifically is different between Coyne's "subjective taste" in matters he finds aesthetically pleasing to think about the world and Miller's. What makes one "antiscientific" and not the other? Neither claim scientific support for their position, though both vaguely claim that science might have a bearing on their respective beliefs. Neither claim that their beliefs are actually part of science.

Why are Miller's beliefs anymore "antiscientific" than Coyne's? ... other than that Coyne aesthetically doesn't like religion?

Monday, April 07, 2014

 

Oh, Watch This Too!!!




Sunday, April 06, 2014

 

Goose. Gander. Sauce. NOT!


Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and marginally less deranged Religious Right theocrat, is sad.

Brendan Eich, creator of Java Script and one of the founders of the Mozilla web browser was recently named as CEO of Mozilla. This ignited a firestorm after it was revealed that in 2008 he contributed $1,000 to the effort to pass Proposition 8 in California to ban same-sex marriage after the California Supreme Court found such marriage was protected by the California Constitution. Under the unique law of California, where its Constitution can be amended by a mere majority vote in an initiative, a simple 52% majority decided to change the Constitution to remove the right to marry from gays.

Mohler, first quoting Alistair Barr, perhaps inadvertently, gets to the point:
The controversy around Mr. Eich's appointment demonstrates how gay marriage has grown to be seen as a bedrock civil-rights issue by many. In Silicon Valley, many see it as a nonnegotiable issue. Failure to support it is akin to tacitly backing the old race-discrimination laws of the 1950s and 1960s.

That is a profoundly important sentence. Alistair Barr gets right to the heart of the issue. As it turns out, it is exactly the case that those who have opposed at any point the celebration and normalization of homosexuality or the legalization of same-sex marriage now find themselves being painted as bigots, as prejudice [sic] homophobes, who have no place in polite society and certainly not in public policy, nor, emphatically in this case, in the corporate world, especially in Silicon Valley.
Well, yes, Al ... gay rights are a bedrock civil-rights issue and those people who were and are against those rights are prejudiced bigots and homophobes with no more place in polite society or public policy than Bull Connor.

Does that mean Eich should have been forced to resign for a $1,000 donation to bigotry years ago. Maybe not. As has been correctly pointed out, neither Hillary Clinton nor President Obama supported gay marriage back then. But neither did they take positive action to deny gays their rights and, as Mohler notes, they have both changed their positions and "publicly apologized for having held the previous position; something Brendan Eich said that he would not do."

Mohler quotes Debra J. Saunders to the effect:
Sadly, winning has made some advocates ... less tolerant, not more so. It's not enough that they won; they have to make opponents grovel in penance.
Silly me! I thought penance would be something Mohler would be in favor of!

Instead, he thinks Saunders' allegedly ironic coda, "All hail tolerance and diversity" is correct ... as long as it includes bigots!

Oh, wait a minute! Al was in the forefront of condemning the Christian charity, World Vision, for saying that they would employ Christians who are in legal same sex marriages.

World Vision's rationale was that not a few Christian denominations supporting it had accepted or, at least, not opposed, gay marriage ... you know, tolerance and diversity.

That was not enough for Mohler and his ilk. Within a couple of days, by threatening to withhold donations they were otherwise willing to make to deprived children around the world, they made World Vision grovel in penance. Let children starve if we don't get our way!

And all the evil silicon valley types did was say that a very rich person shouldn't have more power!

Oh, the horror!

 

Watch This!!!



Thursday, April 03, 2014

 

Pat Answers!




I bet you didn't know that Sweden is just like North Korea!

Silly person!

Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network had a report about how Swedish critics of Islam and immigration are facing North Korean-style oppression.

You know ... like how "Dear Leader Kim Jong-un" can have his own uncle executed for clapping "half-heartedly" when Kim was elected vice chairman of the country's central military commission.

Or, maybe not. The report does note that critics of Swedish society are unlikely to be shot but "your life could become very unpleasant." As compared, say, to the peaches and cream time that the "Evil Little Thing," Jessica Ahlquist, had.

And, of course, Sweden's "Stalinist-style atmosphere" means that it will eventually become a "Third World nation." because ... reasons!

Pat was shocked, SHOCKED, by that "frightening" report and because the fact that critics "can be killed by political correctness shows what can happen here," despite the same report saying you can't be killed for it.

Why, it's almost like reality shifts from minute to minute.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

 

April Fools


The Discovery [sic] Institute doesn't like Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey!

Truth be told, there is a lot I don't much like about it either. But that's for another post.

But the DI has been kvetching mightily about it in their usual vein. But the latest from Casey Lumpkin Luskin amused me. After complaining that "many prominent physicists believe the laws of the universe are finely-tuned to allow for life to exist" (probably about as many as biologists who accept "irreducible complexity"), he goes on to say:
In the previous episode, Tyson had inaccurately claimed that the religious beliefs of early founders of science like Isaac Newton didn't do anything to positively foster scientific discovery. This latest episode covers some additional giants from the annals of science, such as Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, but again omits any mention of their strong, positive religious influences. Ian Hutchinson, MIT Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, explains how Faraday and Maxwell were committed Christians.
Casey then goes on to extensively quote Ian Hutchinson about how the supposed inspiration of the work of both Faraday and Maxwell was to discover intelligible laws of nature that came from their metaphysical presuppositions.

The problem is, where were god(s) in their results? Where did they try to quantify God mathematically, as in specified complexity or otherwise? Faraday, for example, thought he was, like Newton, "reading the book of nature." Did Darwin claim anything more?

If merely being a scientist and believing in God is enough to "prove" ID, why does the DI hate "committed Christians" like Ken Miller and Francis Collins so much?

Oh, right! They are believers and still explain the world in naturalistic terms ... the same way Faraday and Maxwell did!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

Good News and Old News


U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional on Friday. I was busy all weekend with a work project and missed the news. But that's not the old news.

The old news is that the Religious Right will now be losing its collective mind once again.

Of particular interest here is that the trial in the case was the first time that Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas and the Religious Right's darling, had testified about his infamous "study" that supposedly showed (but did nothing of the sort) that children do better in families headed by opposite-sex parents than in those of same-sex parents.

Regnerus got absolutely smoked on cross examination.

Among other things:
~ Regnerus' admitted that he deliberately structured his study to compare children whose parents had a same-sex relationship with those who grew up in opposite-sex households undisturbed by separation or divorce;

~ Regnerus conceded that more than half of the respondents he classified as children of "gay dads" or "lesbian moms" were the offspring of failed heterosexual marriages, and that only two of the 3,000 respondents he interviewed had been raised by same-sex partners who remained together throughout their childhoods. And those two, like their peers in stable opposite-sex families "looked pretty good" in his study's measures of adult outcomes;

~ To add insult to injury (to whatever is left of Regnerus' reputation) his department at UT released a statement on the day he testified distancing themselves from his "study" and his personal views about same-sex marriage. When asked about that on cross examination, he said: "It's regrettable, I guess they just want to distance themselves from me." No wonder!
I have described Al Mohler as a marginally saner wingnut (he has admitted that the fight against same-sex marriage is lost) but the margin has all but disappeared this time. He says:
Judge Friedman, citing evidence that the study had been commissioned and paid for by conservative opponents of same-sex marriage, wrote, "The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged."

That is judicial slander pure and simple. I happen to know Mark Regnerus and I know the quality of his work, and I happen to know that this kind of accusation made in a judge's opinion like this really isn't a scientific statement about which, by the way, the judge is incompetent to rule.

Rather it is a political statement and it is intended to be the kind of political statement that, as Eckholm recognizes, will reverberate in other court decisions as well.
First of all, it is not "judicial slander" of any sort. Cases involving constitutional violations are bench trials, meaning that the judge is the jury. Fact finders are not only allowed but required to examine the motives of witnesses and determine their credibility based on the evidence presented. Let's look at some of that, as related by Judge Friedman:
The Court finds Regnerus's testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 "study" was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it "essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society" and which "was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study." In the funder's view, "the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain" and "proper research" was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that "this is a project where time is of the essence." Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder's comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger and Windsor v. United States were threatening the funder's concept of "the institution of marriage."

While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study "a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements" (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a "romantic relationship with someone of the same sex" for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this "study," he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus's own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus's views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.
In other words, Judge Friedman judged him the way any fact finder in court would ... he looked to his motives and actions and found those didn't match his testimony.

As to Judge Friedman being "incompetent to rule" on the quality of Regnerus' work, Mohler has no problem pronouncing on that subject, though he gives none of his qualifications to do so. On the other hand, the judge's only duty is to rule on the credibility of Regnerus' work in the scientific community, which determines if it is admissible in court as a support for the state's position. He had the benefit of the testimony of the plaintiff's expert's on that issue and it is no small matter that the American Psychological Association and Regnerus' own department at UT has disowned the "study."

Thus the judge has done nothing that any jury doesn't do ... he listened to the evidence presented in court and made a judgment based on it. Is Mohler against our court system?

Friday, March 21, 2014

 

Up Close and Personal With the "Designer"


This is precious!

The Discovery Institute has been furiously denying that, in the course of its attacks on Ball State University for jettisoning a course that was, apparently, claiming that Intelligent Design Creationism is scientific, that John West, Vice President and Senior Fellow of the DI, admitted that ID is, in fact, a religious belief. You can go to the links and decide for yourself how successful their denials are.

But, thanks to The Sensuous Curmudgeon, we now have it, straight from one end of the horse or the other ... Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and "a founder both of the intelligent design (ID) movement and of the CSC" ... in an article in the Christian Post entitled: "Big Bang 'Gravity Wave' Discovery Supports Biblical Creation, Say Old Earth Creationists." The article is about the discovery of gravity waves announced earlier this week by scientists at the South Pole telescope called BICEP 2. Young-Earth Creationists are uncomfortable with the result but those "old-Earth Creationists" aren't.

Who should show up amongst the OECs but none other than Meyer!

In a horrible accident, beans were spilled everywhere:
Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at The Discovery Institute and author of the New York Times best-seller Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, told CP on Tuesday that he also believes "the big bang theory supports a biblical understanding of creation."

"If you look at scientific history, the theory that persisted before the big bang was the steady state theory of the universe, which fits well with Carl Sagan's famous line: 'The universe is all that ever was, all that is, and all that ever will be,'" Meyer said. By suggesting a concrete beginning, the big bang hints toward creation, rather than the eternal universe, as proposed by Sagan and presented in the new series, "The Cosmos."

Meyer even suggests that the recent evidence for inflation supports the scriptural depiction of an expanding universe.

"We find repeated in the Old Testament, both in the prophets and the Psalms, that God is stretching or has stretched out the heavens," he noted, suggesting that there are "at least a dozen references" to this idea in Scripture.

"Space expanded very rapidly, and this is additional evidence supporting that inflation," he said, referring to the study. ...

Meyer's [sic] also pointed to three large scientific discoveries in the past century that supports the biblical account for creation: the big bang, which says, "the universe had a beginning;" "the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe," which claims the rules of matter work in a way best suited for human life; and evidence of the information-bearing properties of DNA that the basic building blocks of life have a sort of knowledge.

He also commented on his article, "The Return of the God Hypothesis," which he said explains that only theism, not deism, pantheism or materialism, can account for these new discoveries.

Meyer reiterated his belief that Christians must use the best available scientific evidence and the best available understanding of the Bible and reconcile the two.
Only theism, not deism, pantheism or materialism, can account for these new discoveries? But what about aliens? Oh, right! He was lying about that for constitutional reasons!

But don't forget, folks, ID has nothing to do with religion ... because the DI has told us so!

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

 

The Rape of the Sabines


According to legend, shortly after founding Rome, Romulus and his followers, who were seriously short on females, set up a ruse to "rape" (abduct) the women of a nearby tribe call the Sabines. After some unpleasantness, cooler heads prevailed and the Sabines joined with Romulus and became Romans.

It's not quite as bad ... or as good ... as the situation recently in Sabine Parish, Louisiana.

You may remember this story. It had all the usual elements: Jesus "portraits" popping up everywhere in halls and graduation ceremonies, a marque that flashed Bible passages, a science teacher including "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, where the only "right" answer was "Lord Jesus," and so on.

But the most egregious aspect was the same teacher joining in bullying a student, right in class, because he is a Buddhist. And, when the parents went to complain to the school superintendent, they were told that "this is the Bible Belt," and that that they should simply tolerate [the teacher's] proselytization because "[t]eachers have religious freedom." The superintendent went on to wonder whether the child "has to be raised Buddhist" and even asked whether he could "change" his faith.

Back a couple of months ago when I first ran across this, I predicted one of two outcomes. One, the district's insurance carrier would force a quick settlement, with all costs paid by the insurer. Or, two, the school board, probably seduced by some faux legal foundation, such as "Liberty Counsel," would put up a fight, still lose, and wind up having to pay costs out of the taxpayer money that should go to the kids' education because the insurance company disclaimed.

Fortunately for the young people of Sabine Parish, the first scenario seems to have prevailed.

A settlement and consent decree has been entered in the Federal District Court case that is, to say the least, sweeping. While, the school board, school superintendent and the awful teacher admit no wrongdoing the list of things they can no longer do is extensive and telling. Among the highlights:
~ School Officials shall neither offer nor participate in a Prayer during or in conjunction with a School Event.

~ School Officials shall prohibit non-student third parties (including, but not limited to, clergy or other religious leaders) [from offering prayers at school events].

~ No Religious Service commemorating the graduation or grade-promotion of a class of students shall be comprised, led, or directed by School Officials in their Official Capacity.

~ The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event.

~ School Officials shall not orally express personal religious beliefs or affiliations to students during or in conjunction with instructional time or a School Event. School Officials shall not express personal religious beliefs or affiliations to students through written or symbolic means [wearing crosses, yarmulkes, etc. is ok] (whether placed on a classroom or hallway wall, erected on a classroom floor, or otherwise attached or placed on the District's tangible property ...). [There goes the ugly Jesus "portrait"!].
And, to my mind, the most important of all:
~ School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious beliefs, or lack thereof.
The school board is required to provide a copy of the Order to all teachers and administrators and conduct training by a lawyer (probably provided by the insurance company) of school official's obligations under the Consent Decree and under current First Amendment jurisprudence. The training is also to include the psychological and developmental impact of religious discrimination on students. This traing must be developed in consultation with the ACLU.

The Order applies to all students, present or future, not just to the plaintiffs in this case and the court will retain jurisdiction over the matter for at least ten years. Thus, violations of the Order can result in further judgments or sanctions merely on a showing of a violation.

The plaintiffs were awarded nominal damages but the ACLU got $40,000 in legal fees (which the insurance company no doubt thinks is getting off cheap), the plaintiffs get $4,000 to recompense them for transport costs of their son to a distant school that is somewhat less biased and the school has to pay for bus service for the student to the new school until he graduates (which the school board ought to consider getting off light!).

All-in-all, a satisfying outcome. Now that cooler heads have prevailed, maybe the Sabines can join the rest of the country in forming one nation under the law.

Friday, March 14, 2014

 

Who Didn't Get the Memo?


Michael Zimmerman, founder and director of "The Clergy Letter Project," has a post up at HuffPo about "Intelligent Design's Final Days."

He refers to Texas Freedom Network's blog TFN Insider post concerning a March 14-15 conference at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands north of Houston, about whether "advances in cosmology, biochemistry, paleontology, and genetics undermine essential Christian doctrines, or is there in fact compelling evidence for design in nature?

They mean that space aliens or time traveling designers support essential Christian doctrines?

This, of course, is nothing new. ID, from the beginning, has faced the conundrum of how to pretend that ID is scientific for constitutional purposes while, at the same time, frantically hand signaling the faithful that the "designer" is not only a god, but the "Christian God."

You can read Zimmerman's and the TFN's posts for yourselves. I am nowhere near as hopeful as the title of Zimmerman's post implies. Lying with a straight face is a required talent for ID "advocates." They will not be embarrassed, much less deterred, by a few cats out of the bag.

But what amused me (you know this blog is about what amuses me, right?) is the organizer's description of William ("Wild Bill") Dembski:
Dr. William Dembski is Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He is also the Phillip E. Johnson Research Professor of Culture and Science at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he helps head its Institute of Scientific Apologetics.
"Scientific Apologetics"? Now really! Could there ever be a better two-word description of ID?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

 

Cosmos


Okay ... nothing Neil deGrasse Tyson or Ann Druyan can do can make those of us old enough to remember watching "Cosmos" forget the impact of Carl Sagan's original.

The special effects are much better than the original and Tyson may (or may not) be able to avoid some of Sagan's ticks ("billyons and billyons") but smooth delivery will never take the place of Sagan's obvious passion for his subject. Not that I think Tyson is any less passionate about science, but glibness and "production values" can mask that.

And the impact of the better special effects is all but destroyed by the cheesy animation of Giordano Bruno's story, especially since the tale of Bruno told, as a supposed hero of science against the darkness of religious dogma, is cardboard "history" at best.

Still, that is only one episode and the "modern" version of Cosmos may turn out better and have more impact on the public than the original.

And maybe the fact that I'm old and suffer the human tendency to see our youth as a "golden age" accounts for the fact that I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

 

Loser's Lament


Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and marginally more rational religious right wingnut, points to a Public Religion Research Institute survey with the lament "We may lose the marriage argument with the culture, but we're in trouble if we lose it with our kids."

Here is the survey and here is a summary.

From the summary:
Overall support for same-sex marriage jumped 21 percentage points, from 32 percent in 2003 in a Pew Research survey to 53 percent in 2013 in PRRI's survey. During this period, gay marriage became legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, that blocked federal recognition of legally wed gay couples.

Since 2003, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America opened their doors to gay bishops and clergy, even as most other major U.S. denominations kept their teachings against homosexual behavior intact. Yet over the decade, PRRI found, the number of people who say same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs dropped, from 62 percent to 51 percent.
Even though "[o]verall, most people (51 percent) say sex between adults of the same gender is morally wrong":
... "support for legality outstrips moral acceptability in several religious groups," said Jones. For example, 47 percent of white Catholics find gay sex to be morally acceptable, "but 58 percent of the same group say they favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. It is not only that they are more tolerant of a legal norm. They are shifting their own moral lens on the issue."

Meanwhile, religious leaders' continued preaching against homosexual behavior is driving some people out the church doors, Jones said. PRRI found people perceive three major religious groups to be "unfriendly" toward lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people:

• The Catholic Church (58 percent)
• The Mormon church (53 percent)
• Evangelical Christian churches (51 percent)

Among those who say they left their childhood religion and now have no religious identity, nearly one in four (24 percent) say their church's negative teachings or treatment of LGBT people was an important reason they left. ...

At the root of change: A personal connection to someone who is LGBT. The number of Americans who say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian rose from 22 percent in 1993 to 65 percent today.
Now the really bad news for Al. While 51 percent of Americans think homosexual relations are morally wrong, "56 percent of millennials (ages 18-33) – say it is morally acceptable."

Personal connections to someone who is LGBT, the biggest factor in favoring gay rights, has risen to 65 percent generally but, among millennials, "71 percent say they have a close friend or relative who is gay or lesbian."

And worst of all for Al, among those who say they left their childhood religion and now have no religious identity, 31 percent of millennials, compared to 24 percent generally, say that church homophobia is a major reason, "damaging churches' ability to bring in — and keep — young adults."

It sounds like, Al, that you are not losing the argument with your kids but that you have lost it.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

 

The Eyes of Texas ...


... religious wingnuts are crying!

United States District Judge Orlando L. Garcia has issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the State of Texas "from enforcing Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution, any related provisions in the Texas Family Code, and any other laws or regulations prohibiting a person from marrying another person of the same sex or recognizing same-sex marriage." This is not a final judgment but the grant of a preliminary injunction is all but the equivalent in that such an order requires that a plaintiff must establish four factors: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat that failure to grant the injunction will result in irreparable injury; (3) the threatened injury outweighs any damage that the injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) the injunction will not disserve the public interest. However, since other courts have stayed similar decisions recently, Judge Garcia stayed his ruling pending an appeal.

As always, the important part is just who the plaintiffs are:
Plaintiffs De Leon and Dimetman have been in a committed relationship since they met in 2001. De Leon is a United States Air Force veteran. She was on active duty for four years and served six years in the Texas Air National Guard. De Leon was honorably discharged after ten years of service. At the time she met Dimetman, De Leon was serving in the Texas Air National Guard while also working as a statistical analyst. Dimetman was running her own business.

As a couple, De Leon and Dimetman have supported one another as they pursued further education. During their time together, De Leon attended and completed graduate school, receiving a Master's degree in Applied Statistics from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Meanwhile, Dimetman attended the University of Texas Law School and became an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. De Leon and Dimetman continue to share finances, live together, and have a loving, stable relationship.

De Leon and Dimetman wanted to have a family, and it was important to them to marry one another before they became parents. The couple wanted to marry in Texas, their home state, but Section 32 prevented them from doing so. Therefore, they chose to marry in Massachusetts, a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. They married in Boston on September 11, 2009, after having an eight-year solid, loving relationship.

In 2012, De Leon and Dimetman became parents to a child, C.' Although De Leon is C's biological mother, both her and Dimetman consider themselves C's mothers. They both share child-rearing duties and obligations. Because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage, Dimetman could not be considered C's legal parent without going through the adoption process. Therefore, to obtain recognition as C's parent, Dimetman formally adopted C at considerable expense. ...

Plaintiffs Holmes and Phariss met in the spring of 1997. At the time, Holmes was in the Air Force and stationed in San Antonio. Phariss was and remains an attorney licensed to practice in Texas. The couple quickly developed a friendship that became a dating relationship. On August 9, 1997, the couple went on their first date. They celebrate August 9 as their anniversary.

After dating for several months, Holmes and Phariss started living together. Holmes, who joined the Air Force when he was eighteen, began a military program to become a physician's assistant. After completing the program, the Air Force stationed Holmes at different bases throughout the country. Because Phariss continued to live and work in Texas, he and Holmes spent the next eleven years in a long-distance relationship. Depending on where Holmes was serving, Phariss and Holmes would travel as often as every week to see each other. During Holmes' final assignment at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas, Holmes and Phariss generally saw one another each weekend and on special occasions during the week.

Holmes honorably served our nation for nearly twenty-three years and retired as a Major at the end of 2010. After enduring an eleven-year, long-distance relationship, Holmes and Phariss were able to live together again. Holmes and Phariss now want to marry in Texas. On October 3, 2013, the couple applied for a marriage license at the Bexar County Clerk's office, but Defendant Gerard Rickhoff refused to issue one because Holmes and Phariss are both men.
Those are, of course, horrible people, who society should penalize and shun and try make their lives miserable.

Not!

As Judge Garcia noted:
Defendants in this case have identified two bases or purposes for Section 32: (1) to increase the likelihood that a mother and a father will be in charge of childrearing; and (2) to encourage stable family environments for responsible procreation. These bases fail rational basis review as explained below. ...

There is no doubt that the welfare of children is a legitimate state interest; however, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples fails to further this interest. Instead, Section 32 causes needless stigmatization and humiliation for children being raised by the loving same-sex couples being targeted. ...

Defendants have not provided any evidentiary support for their assertion that denying marriage to same-sex couples positively affects childrearing. ... To the contrary, this Court finds that far from encouraging a stable environment for childrearing, Section 32 denies children of same-sex parents the protections and stability they would enjoy if their parents could marry. ...

Furthermore, Defendants' proferred reason fails rational basis because Defendants have failed to establish how recognizing a same-sex marriage can influence, if at all, whether heterosexual couples will marry, or how other individuals will raise their families. ... Defendants' proferred rationale presumes that same-sex couples cannot be good parents -- this is the same type of unconstitutional and unfounded presumption that the Supreme Court has held "cannot stand." ...

The procreation argument raised by Defendants also fails. The notion that [banning] same-sex marriage will encourage responsible procreation assumes that heterosexual marriage is "naturally procreative." However, procreation is not and has never been a qualification for marriage. ...

Defendants have failed to establish how banning same-sex marriage in any way furthers responsible procreation. "Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages."
As to the Due Process argument, Judge Garcia found:
The Constitution guarantees that all citizens have certain fundamental rights. These rights vest in every person whom the Constitution protects and, because they are so important, an individual 's fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote and may not depend on the outcome of elections. (Emphasis in original) ...

In this case, Defendants argue the right to marry does not include the right to same-sex marriage. That is, Defendants claim this is a "definitional" issue, in that Plaintiffs are seeking recognition of a "new right to same-sex marriage" as opposed to the existing "right to marry." This Court finds this argument fails, as the Supreme Court did not adopt this line of reasoning in the analogous case of Loving v. Virginia. Instead of declaring a new right to interracial marriage, the Court held that individuals could not be restricted from exercising their "existing" right to marry on account of their chosen partner. ... That is, an interracial marriage was considered to be a subset of "marriage," in the same way that same-sex marriage is included within the fundamental right to marry.
Anyone who values fairness in our society ... anyone who thinks that decent, loving people should be treated equally under our laws ... cannot rationally or honorably try to deny Cleopatra De Leon, Nicole Dimetman, Victor Holmes, and Mark Phariss the rights and privileges of marriage.

Only people, intentionally or not, who are evil could want that!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

 

Poor Misunderstood ...


Poor Christians! ...

So misunderstood!

According to, Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, they are not bigots, out to impose a new round of Jim Crow laws on LGBT people, where people in businesses of "public accommodation" can refuse to serve some minority ... think Lester Maddox and axe handles ... they just don't want to be forced to participate in ... to celebrate ... same sex marriages! Thus we must have laws all across America to protect the tender consciences of Christians!

And examples of this are "now piling up," though, strangely, they all seem to resemble the same few instances we've heard about for a couple of years now: "[a] wedding photographer in New Mexico, cake bakers in Colorado and Oregon, and a florist in Washington State ..."
[T]he key issue is not a willingness to serve same-sex couples, but the unwillingness to participate in a same-sex wedding. Christian automobile dealers can sell cars to persons of various sexual orientations and behaviors without violating conscience. The same is true for insurance agents and building contractors. But the cases of pressing concern have to do with forcing Christians to participate in same-sex weddings — and this is another matter altogether.
It has something to do with "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas."

Well, thank ... um ... goodness, Al has cleared that up for us!

As long as Christians aren't forced to participate, their consciences are safe!

So the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is no problem as long as the Christian employers aren't asked to roll on the condoms, swallow the pills or (Heaven Forfend!) actually participate in the sex, with or without "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas" ... right?

That sound you hear is the motors of the goal posts being revved up.

Personally, I might be willing to allow some businesses involving "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas" to refuse to cater to same sex marriages if, and only if, they are required to post prominently, near the entrance to their business, in very large type, something like: "We reserve the right to refuse to serve people who we deem morally and socially corrupt."

Something tells me, in that case, the problem will be self-correcting.

Friday, February 21, 2014

 

Playing Dominos


There are presently two Federal lawsuits pending seeking to overturn Oregon's 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages. Since October of last year, in the wake of United States v. Windsor, Oregon has recognized such marriages performed in states where they are legal but has continued to refuse to allow them to be performed within the state.

Now, in one of the two pending lawsuits, state officials have announced that they will not defend the law but will continue to enforce it until there is an order striking down the provision:
The key statement in the new Oregon document, which was in the form of an answer to one of the lawsuits, said state officials "will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation. Rather, they will take the position in their summary judgment briefing that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." The paragraph added, though, that they would continue to enforce the ban as a legal duty unless and until it were struck down in court.
Pretty soon the wingnuts will have to start importing heads from China to replace the ones that keep exploding.

Friday, February 14, 2014

 

Now, Virginia Is Really for Lovers!



U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen has struck down Virginia's voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and recognition of such unions performed elsewhere.

In a nice touch, Judge Allen opened her opinion with a quote:
We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is? ... I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry. Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. ... I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

- Mildred Loving, "Loving for All," Public Statement on the 40th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (June 12, 2007).
Once again, there are people at the heart of the case:

Plaintiffs Timothy B. Bostic and Tony C. London live in Norfolk, Virginia, where they own a shared home. Mr. Bostic is an Assistant Professor of English Education in the Department of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He teaches English Education to undergraduate students.

Mr. London is a veteran of the United States Navy. He also worked as a real estate agent in Virginia for sixteen years.

Mr. Bostic and Mr. London have enjoyed a long-term, committed relationship with each other since 1989, and have lived together continuously in Virginia for over twenty years. They desire to marry each other, publicly commit themselves to one another, participate in a State sanctioned celebration of their relationship, and undertake the solemn rights and responsibilities that Virginia's Marriage Laws confer presently upon other individuals who marry. ...

Plaintiffs Carol Schall and Mary Townley live in Chesterfield County, Virginia, with their fifteen-year-old daughter, E. S.-T. Ms. Schall is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University ("VCU") in Richmond, Virginia. She specializes in research on teaching autistic children.

Ms. Townley is the Supervisor of Transition at Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. ("HDL"). She trains individuals with significant disabilities so that they may work at HDL.

Ms. Townley and Ms. Schall have enjoyed a committed relationship since 1985. They have lived together continuously in Virginia for almost thirty years.

In 2008, Ms. Schall and Ms. Townley were legally married in California. ...

Ms. Townley gave birth to the couple's daughter, E. S.-T., in 1998. During her pregnancy, she was admitted to the emergency room at VCU's Medical Center due to complications that left her unable to speak. Ms. Schall was denied access to Ms. Townley, and could obtain no information about Ms. Townley's condition, for several hours because she is not recognized as Ms. Townley's spouse under Virginia law. ...

Since E. S.-T.'s birth, Ms. Schall has yearned to adopt her. Virginia law does not permit second-parent adoption unless the parents are married. Because Ms. Schall is not considered to be Ms. Townley's spouse, Ms. Schall is deprived of the opportunity and privilege of doing so.
Judge Allen then details a rather long list, on page 6 and 7 of the decision, of the benefits that same-sex couples are given that are denied to Ms. Schall and Ms. Townley and the emotional and economic tolls they suffer as a result.

Good, decent, loving couples, loving parents, loving people, should not be so burdened. As Judge Allen put it:
Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, as Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms, a rending that would take his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, he wrote these words: "It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just ... the same thing—fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. "

The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

 

The Real Argument


A Federal District court judge in Kentucky has struck down its constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, to the extent that it grants privileges to opposite-sex married couples that it denies to same-sex couples legally married in other jurisdictions.

Cue the Religious Right head explosions in ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a marginally saner right wing theocrat than most, laments what he calls Justice Anthony Kennedy's "singular and decisive influence of one judge" in his majority decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the key provision of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

Of course, one justice does not a majority make.

What Mohler means is that, on a closely divided Court, he is more than willing to accept 5-4 decisions that rule for positions he favors as 'wise' decisions, while those that go against what he wants are the fault of only one justice.

Here's where Mohler's marginal sanity kicks in:
Christians who affirm the biblical understanding of marriage as the union of a man and woman must now recognize that we can no longer count upon the government and its laws to reflect that understanding. Even the proponents of same-sex marriage must surely recognize the radical legal and moral shift in Western civilization and human history this change implies. Christians understand that marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity and that marriage, as defined by the Creator, is fundamental to human flourishing.

We now know that the government cannot be counted on to affirm this message. As a matter of fact, we have to face the reality that the government — even in the Commonwealth of Kentucky — may teach a radically different message through its laws. But the real question for Christians is not whether the government gets the question of marriage right, but if we do. In the grand scheme of things, that is the Church's real challenge.
Mohler, at least, has recognized that, when it comes to same-sex marriage, the Religious Right has lost. This was reinforced by Judge John G. Heyburn's notation that:

[T]he Court was not presented with the particular question whether Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. However, there is no doubt that Windsor and this Court's analysis suggest a possible result to that question.
But here is the real argument for same-sex marriage, as detailed by Judge Heyburn:

Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have been together for 31 years. They were lawfully married in Ontario, Canada in 2004 and have two minor children who are also named Plaintiffs: a 14-year-old girl; and a 15-year-old boy. Jimmy Meade and Luther Barlowe reside in Bardstown, Kentucky and have been together 44 years. They were lawfully married in Davenport, Iowa in 2009. Randell Johnson and Paul Campion reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have been together for 22 years. They were lawfully married in Riverside, California in 2008 and have four minor children who are named Plaintiffs: twin 18-year-old boys; a 14-year-old boy; and a 10-year-old girl. Kimberly Franklin and Tamera Boyd reside in Cropper, Kentucky. They were lawfully married in Stratford, Connecticut in 2010.
In short, here they are, for all to see: loving couples; committed to their relationships for the long haul; no doubt proud parents; and decent human beings not so very much different than the rest of us.

By all means, Al, go on preaching from your pulpits ... shout it from the tops of your steeples ... that these are horrid people that are not entitled to ordinary human rights. Just don't expect the law to enforce your prejudice the way it once enforced your racism (a Southern Baptist must be aware of that).

Please, please, go on!

I can think of no more effective way to diminish the toxic effect of your brand of religion on the body politic of the United States.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

 

Happy Birthday!




Monday, February 10, 2014

 

Anti-Huckster


A thought:
Convincing people to reject evolution—and the Big Bang, the age of the earth, and many other mainstream scientific ideas—was accomplished in part by portraying the scientific community as a cabal of elitist, politically motivated secularists conspiring with the assistance of Satan to undermine the traditional values of American Christians. This view of the scientific community resonated with conservative Protestants, bewildered by a world that they once controlled but that now seemed to be leaving them and their values behind. Such a view provides a reason to reject so-called "expertise" in favor of homey assurances that everything they needed to know about origins is in the Bible.

Just as it has always been.
- Karl W. Giberson, "Ken Ham: The Making of An American Religious Huckster," The Daily Beast, February 9, 2014.

Friday, February 07, 2014

 

Lenny Flank's Law


On my previous post, I gave an update about an interview by Allen Jones of KELO radio with South Dakota State Senator Jeff Monroe concerning the bill he had introduced, and then withdrew, that read, in its entirety:
No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
The money quote from Senator Monroe was:
I wanted students in high school and college both to … you know … to hear both sides of the story, whether its global warming or environmentalism or evolution versus creationism.
I was getting ready for work when I found the interview and only had time to note the above bit before rushing out the door. Tonight, after listening to the whole thing, I discovered there were other interesting bits:
And I think that our society has gotten to be real one sided in schools. Where the kids can't afford to go to a private school they should be able to have the both sides of the societal debate during school because we claim we want to get them ready for life and so that would be the way to go.
In other words, when kids can't afford to go to private religious schools, the state should step in and give them a religious education at taxpayer expense! Another "small government" Republican hard at work!
There were a lot of misconceptions out there about what the bill would do and there just no way to go against the misconceptions on the one side. On the other side, even though it was a good bill and even though the intentions were good and it had tons of support, I think the good that would have come from it would have been outweighed by the trouble that would have been caused with lawsuits with the state based on what's happened in other states and there are better ways to go about what I'd like to achieve for the teachers and for the students.
Can you say "Dover," boys and girls? ... Good!
For me, the main idea for the bill was to make it so a student would have a choice whether to believe they came from some animal or developed from monkeys or some other mammal or amphibians or repti ... whatever they just are told they evolved from. They should have another side of the story saying, no, you're special, you were made for a reason. But we don't get that side in the schools and I just wanted to have a balance.
Senator Monroe here displays his deep understanding of evolutionary theory. And, of course, it is the duty of government to instruct children on their purpose in life, even to those children, and their parents, who might disagree with Senator Monroe's beliefs in that regard!

Just another example of the Rev. Dr. Lenny Flank's law: "The ability of a creationist to shut his mouth about creationism's religious motive is inversely proportional to the legal necessity of their doing so."

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

 

The Invisible Hand


I recently wrote about the bill introduced in the South Dakota legislature that consisted of a single sentence:
No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
I speculated that the Discovery [sic] Institute might not like it because, if a local teacher started to teach ID and went over the line into proselytizing, the DI would have cover from any court invalidating what the teacher was doing by saying that he or she didn't "understand" ID and, therefore, the decision didn't affect ID as it was "supposed" to be presented. However, if the school district or board defended itself on the basis it could not stop the teacher because of the law, the focus would shift to whether ID itself is religious in nature and the DI could be faced with another "Dover Disaster."

What's more, the Kitzmiller case was never appealed because the creationist board members were defeated in an election shortly before Judge Jones rendered his decision. Avoiding an appeal is less likely in the case of a statewide law and the last thing the DI wants is to compound the Dover Disaster with a Circuit Court of Appeals or (Designer forbid!) a Supreme Court decision that ID is a religious argument.

My conclusion was: "It will be an interesting test of how vulnerable the DI feels to see their reaction to this bill."

I think we now have our answer. As the San Francisco Chronicle has reported, the bill has been killed by the South Dakota Senate Education Committee at the request of the sponsor:
The measure's main sponsor, Sen. Jeff Monroe, R- Pierre, said he had to scrap the bill because it was badly written but didn't elaborate. He said supporters from across the nation have said there are far better ways to address the issue, but he declined to say what he might do in the future. [Emphasis added]
Dollars to donuts, Sen. Monroe will soon be introducing a bill closely following the DI's "sample academic freedom bill," which should remove any possible doubt as to just who those "supporters from across the nation" were.

The DI will, almost certainly, never admit their role in this because [shudder] that would be honest.
_________________________________

Update: You can hear an interview with Monroe where he says:
I wanted students in high school and college both to … you know … to hear both sides of the story, whether its global warming or environmentalism or evolution versus creationism.
Its too late in the session for him to bring a new bill so we'll have to wait until next year to see what he'll come up with (as if we didn't already know!).

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

 

Please Tell Me He Was Kidding!



This is all over the web. As PZ Mxyzptlk noted, "Matt Stopera went to the Nye/Ham debate, and gave the creationist attendees a chance to speak their minds: he let them write a question on a sign for Bill Nye and then took pictures of them."

This is only slightly better than the nutbar "science teacher" In Louisiana who "informed" her students that, "if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today."

Of course, the answer is some variation on "If you are descended from your grandparents, why do you still have cousins?"

Perhaps the only hope for the future of America is that the shit-eating grin means he is satirizing the creationists.
________________________________________

P.S.: James McGrath has been usefully compiling after-debate reactions (Christian, atheist and secular alike) here and here. Outside of YEC sites, it appears there is a consensus that Nye "won" (there is no such thing as really "winning" in debates with YECs).

Saturday, February 01, 2014

 

Short But Not So Sweet


A bill has been introduced in the South Dakota legislature that, at least, has the benefit of being short and to the point:
SENATE BILL NO. 112

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit schools from preventing the instruction of intelligent design.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That chapter 13-33 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
Now, of course, the bit about "prohibit a teacher in ... nonpublic school" is unnecessary. State and local school authorities can set minimum standards for what is taught in private schools but cannot otherwise control the curricula of such schools.

But what will be interesting is the reaction of the Discoveryless Institute to this legislation.

The DI might know more about South Dakota politics than I do, recognize that the bill has no chance of passing and, therefore, hunker down and say nothing about it.

The bill is, however, close (depending what side of their mouths they are talking out of at any particular time) to the DI's pre-Kitzmiller position expressed in Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook:
[S]chool boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution-and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design.

The controlling legal authority, the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, explicitly permits the inclusion of alternatives to Darwinian evolution so long as those alternatives are based on scientific evidence and not motivated by strictly religious concerns. Since design theory is based on scientific evidence rather than religious assumptions, it clearly meets this test. Including discussions of design in the science curriculum thus serves an important goal of making education inclusive, rather than exclusionary. In addition, it provides students with an important demonstration of the best way for them as future scientists and citizens to resolve scientific controversies-by a careful and fair-minded examination of the evidence.
Note the "strictly religious concerns." Also, the vague "making education inclusive, rather than exclusionary." Inclusive of what? ... if not conservative religious belief?

Of course, history began to change after Kitzmiller.

Presently:
Discovery Institute opposes mandating intelligent design in public schools, and opposes legislation that even comes close to a mandate. Such laws if passed would focus unwanted and even career-killing attention on scholars working within the intelligent design paradigm. Bills, like doctors, should first do no harm.
Laws mandating the teaching of ID in elementary and high schools would destroy the careers of "scholars," exactly how? Oh, if the courts find, as Judge Jones did, that ID is just 'creationism in a cheap tuxedo,' there would go all those lucrative "seminars" and books and rounds on the Religious Right rubber chicken circuit reassuring the rubes that science supports the Bible.

Here is their dilemma: at present, if some teacher starts teaching ID and some student objects, the ACLU, Americans United, Freedom from Religion Foundation or some other such group has to hunt down each individual teacher or school board and show that what those particular people were teaching was religious. If this bill becomes law, once they get one student who objects, they can go straight to the state law and make the case that ID itself is religious and not science.

The DI got lucky in Kitzmiller. The locals, sick of the stupidity, voted out the creationists on the Dover school board, so there was no appeal. It's less likely to happen that way with a statewide law.

It will be an interesting test of how vulnerable the DI feels to see their reaction to this bill.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

 

Jesus Toast


Sabine Parish, Louisiana, has a school. It is supposedly a public school. Paid for by taxpayers and part of the local government.

Except it isn't.

Instead it is a Christian school ... exclusively!

It is a school where the school marque flashes Biblical messages, such as (at 01:41):
IN ALL WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE GOD & HE WILL DIRECT THY PATH - PROV. 3 v 6
It is a school where Jesus (or a very poor "portrait" of him) looms over the exit where students go to board buses:



It is a school where that same poor "portrait" of Jesus presides over graduation ceremonies:



And worse, it is a school where, according to the ACLU suit, a "science teacher" ends her tests with:
ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And guess what! The "Lord Boda [Buddha]" isn't the "right" answer! Did I mention that the plaintiff school child is of Thai descent and a Buddhist?

But it, incredibly, gets worse:
As [the "science" teacher] was returning the tests to students, one student declared again, for the whole class to hear, that "people are stupid if they think God is not real." [The "science" teacher] agreed, responding, "Yes! That is right! I had a student miss that on his test."
But we are not finished yet! When the outraged parents went to complain to the school superintendent, they were told that "this is the Bible Belt," and she recommended that they simply tolerate [the "science" teacher's] proselytization because "[t]eachers have religious freedom."

In a irony meter exploding statement, the superintendent then wondered whether the child "has to be raised Buddhist" and even asked whether he could "change" his faith ... because, of course, teachers have religious freedom but children don't!

But just to bring me back around to the main purpose of the blog, here is what the "science" teacher said about evolution:
[She] told her students that evolution is "impossible" and a "stupid" theory that "stupid people made up because they don't want to believe in God." She has informed her students that, "if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today."


The school board issued the usual statement:
The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side's allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts.

The school system recognizes the rights of all students to exercise the religion of their choice and will defend the lawsuit vigorously.
This will, doubtlessly, play out the usual manner: the locals will insist that their behavior is perfectly legal because they are the majority and demand the school board defend their right to impose their religious beliefs on all and sundry.

From there, it will go one of two ways. First: the school's insurance company will explain that, unless they remove all the Biblical and Jesus iconography, refrain from official school prayers and (gasp) stop telling children that don't believe in Jesus that they are "stupid," they will lose this suit and, if they don't follow the insurance company's advice, it will not pay the damages. The school board will then face up to reality and agree to a settlement with a Federal judge ready at the nonce to penalize them if they return to their wicked ways. Or ...

Second, they will be seduced by the offer of some Christian group (such as the merry band of incompetents at the oxymoronic "Liberty Counsel") to fight the case because they are getting "free" representation, not realizing that, when the bill comes due, Liberty Counsel will be nowhere to be found. In which case the students of Sabine Parish will be the losers, when hundreds of thousand dollars are siphoned away from, you know, actually educating them.

Either way, the school board is toast!
_______________________________________________________

By the way, here is the father's moving story.

Monday, January 20, 2014

 

Master of ID


There is an interesting critique at Evolution New & Views, the Discovery Institute's propaganda outlet, of an article in First Things, a conservative Christian publication founded by Richard John Neuhaus, who was a Lutheran pastor who became a Roman Catholic priest. The article, by Stephen Meredith and entitled "Looking for God in All the Wrong Places," is behind a paywall I have no desire to penetrate.

What I find interesting is the DI's criticism of it, in the person of Michael Flannery.

According to Flannery, Meredith's thesis is that "Darwin's rejection of religion was based mainly on a narrow definition of it: the dubious religious doctrine of a six-thousand-year-old earth and the constancy of species since creation." Flannery, on the other hand, insists that "Darwin's views on theism generally and Christianity specifically were much broader and pervasive than a mere rejection of the design argument of William Paley (1743-1805) or the 6,000-year-old earth of Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656)."

Again, I'm not interested in who is right about that, though Flannery is probably closer to the truth, if he is fairly representing Meredith's position. Darwin was, self-admittedly, confused about his position on theism and his stated views changed frequently over time. All of that was further masked by his desire not to cause pain to his Unitarian wife (who, therefore, was not a True Christian™ by our modern Religious Right's "standards") .

This is where it gets interesting:
This leads to the second key point. A theory like Darwin's that purports to explain all of nature and of life itself cannot be separated from the metaphysical commitments of its founder.
Really? So Protestantism can't be separated from Martin Luther's anti-Semitism?

Flannery goes on to babble about the supposed differences between "begotten" versus "made" that somehow makes methodological naturalism "inherent in the theory [of evolution] itself," presumably as opposed to Newton's theory of gravity which, though Newton allowed the possibility that God's angels might have to adjust the Solar system at times, never invoked anything but natural forces to explain gravity or its effects. Long before Darwin scientists had been invoking methodological naturalism; Darwin just had the "misfortune" to make it work for that most central issue of our egocentric species, showing how we could have arisen without being the special pet of some superior being.

And then the money quote from Flannery:
... Meredith's downplaying of Darwin's religious views as a mere rejection of the young earth design argument à la William Paley is seriously misleading. Meredith winds up serving as an apologist for methodological naturalism at the expense of viable theism. He isn't the first to be so deluded. What apparently is true of God and money is also true of God and Darwinism: "No one can serve two masters" (Mattew [sic] 6:24).
And since "Darwinism" is the DI's code word for "modern evolutionary science" we can translate that to "no one can serve both science and God." Thus, Stephen Meyer, Casey Luskin, David Klinghoffer, William Dembsky and all the other admitted theists in the ID movement, despite their frequent claims to the contrary, cannot serve science by actually doing it; they are only "serving" God by pretending to do it ... and lying about it! Other Christians, for example, Ken Miller, have no problem serving both science and theism ... in their proper forums! But not IDers ... all they're concerned with is keeping theism "viable" against the pernicious influence of nasty science!

Once again, thanks for the confirmation that ID has nothing to do with science but is, instead, a dishonest attempt to circumvent the Constitution of the US and sneak sectarian religious instruction into public schools at taxpayer expense.

But, then again, they told us all that in the Wedge Document, didn't they?

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Friday, January 17, 2014

 

Quote of the Day


As reported by SCOTUSblog:
A federal judge in Tulsa, ruling that the majority view of Oklahoma voters that marriage should be open only to a man and a woman "must give way to individual constitutional rights," on Tuesday struck down the state's ballot measure banning same-sex marriages. Senior U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern put his ruling on hold during any appeal that is pursued by the state to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
But the judge's money quote is this:
Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.
Well said, well said!
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People in Oklahoma might want to wear raincoats for a while in case of nearby wingnut head explosions.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

 

Giggle ... Snort ...



Slightly modified from Non Sequitur.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

 

Someone Is Not Even Wrong on the Internet


Everybody knows this iconic cartoon.

Worse, everyone who has spent any time in various online forums has fallen prey to the sentiment.

After many years (and the help of an 11.25-step program) I have mostly given up the addiction of trying to correct all the idiots on the web (or listening to their attempts to correct me).

But sometimes you run across something so monumentally stupid that you just have to do something, even if it is only holding it up for ridicule on an obscure blog floating forlornly on the vast ocean of the internet.

You may have heard that the Oklahoma State legislature has gotten itself into quite a pickle.

The legislature decided it wanted to have a Ten Commandments monument erected on the grounds of the state capitol. Anyone but an idiot knows the purpose was to proclaim the hegemony of local fundamentalist Christian majority, in clear violation of the Establishment clause of the Bill of Rights. But, as a [cough] fig leaf, State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who introduced the bill and paid the $10,000 cost of the monument, and state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso, the bill's Senate sponsor, argued that the monument would only honor the historical significance of the Ten Commandments and not its religious aspects. They readily admitted that they were basing this on the Supreme Court decision in Van Orden v. Perry.

The Van Orden case had significant factual differences from this situation. Both the plurality decision by Justice Rehnquist and the concurring decision by Justice Breyer (who was the fifth vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Texas monument) made much of the fact that the monument was donated by an outside and widely respected civic group, the monument had stood for some 40 years without complaint and it was one of 17 monuments and 21 historical markers commemorating the "people, ideals, and events that compose Texan identity."

Compared to that was the case of McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., decided on the same day as Van Orden. As Justice Breyer noted:
[Van Orden] also differs from McCreary County, where the short (and stormy) history of the courthouse Commandments' displays demonstrates the substantially religious objectives of those who mounted them, and the effect of this readily apparent objective upon those who view them. That history there indicates a governmental effort substantially to promote religion, not simply an effort primarily to reflect, historically, the secular impact of a religiously inspired document. And, in today's world, in a Nation of so many different religious and comparable nonreligious fundamental beliefs, a more contemporary state effort to focus attention upon a religious text is certainly likely to prove divisive in a way that this longstanding, pre-existing monument has not.
Correctly focusing on the Oklahoma monument's stand-alone nature, a number of organizations have been lining up for a chance to have their own monuments erected. First and most amusing was a Satanist organization, whose design is, I think, rather nice.

And it is people friendly too! The Satanic temple spokesman, Lucien Greaves, said in a statement. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."

Trait Thompson, chairman of the Capitol Preservation Commission, which decides on monuments on the capitol grounds, said that "There are standards for this type of art. It has to be relatable to the history of the state of Oklahoma in some form or fashion. And it has to be museum-quality art." Whoa! Let's look at the 10 Commandments monument, shall we?

The only museum that would belong in is one that celebrates tombstones.

Of course, the Oklahoma legislators are busy digging the hole they're in even deeper.
"I think you've got to remember where you are. This is Oklahoma, the middle of the heartland," said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. "I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma, and that's not going to fly here."
Umm ... the purpose of the Establishment clause is not for the government to be tolerant of non-majority religious or non-religious beliefs but to be neutral towards all of them.
"I do not see Satanism as a religion, and they have no place at the state Capitol," said [Rep. Earl] Sears, R-Bartlesville.
The government doesn't get to decide which religions are "real" and which aren't and why is religion even an issue if you are just celebrating the historical influence of the 10 Commandments? Surely you are not going to deny the historical influence of the concept of Satan, after so many Christian leaders have sermonized about him throughout our history, are you Representative?

Even worse for the legislature, now a Hindu group has proposed erecting a statue of the monkey god, Lord Hanuman. Even if they could make some case that the Satanist's offer is a sham, there is no way they could deny a religion such as Hinduism, which has a small but real presence in Oklahoma, access to government grounds on the same basis as Christianity.

As a result, the state has called a moratorium on all proposals for monuments on the capitol grounds pending the outcome of an ACLU lawsuit, further admitting that the original intent was to further Christianity.

But enough preliminaries ... let's get to the stupid!

One Delilah Belmont, self-described as a "professional journalist and blogger," for something called the Civic Tribune, has an article under the headline: "Hindus Attempt To Violate First Amendment, Propose "Giant Monkey God" Statue On Oklahoma Capitol Grounds."

Now, if a Hindu group was trying to have a monument only to its religion on government grounds, that would be, if successful, a violation of the Establishment Clause and all we could accuse Ms. Belmont of was being incredibly ignorant of the story she was purportedly reporting on. But that's not it!
Yesterday marked the day that yet another religious minority group demanded special treatment from the United States. A Hindu sect called the Universal Society of Hinduism made a request to the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission asking to have a monument of their own placed on Capital grounds, a giant statue of their demonic Monkey God named "Lord Hanuman."

This request is a timely one, and adds to the growing list of religious minorities in the United States who are seeking to be treated above and beyond the average American, such as last week's attempt by Satanists to get their own memorial added to the same grounds in Oklahoma's Capital.

Despite the First Amendment protecting government property from endorsing or sponsoring religious freedoms that were not Christian, the Satanic religious group has won their plea to have a monument erected on capital grounds. This has opened the flood gate for even more religious minorities to request their own pagan Gods be represented on federal soil, as we have seen yesterday with the Hindu group's application.

The Satanic monument will join the 10 Commandments monument that was built in 2012, after the GOP state legislature passed a law that allowed religious displays back in 2009. This law was of course only meant to allow Christian religions access to placing their own monuments on the property, but due to an unforeseen loop hole, Satanic and Hindu groups are now taking advantage of the legislature.
Lordy, lordy, lordy! Where to begin? Of course, she got the factual details wrong. The Satanic monument has not been approved. Nor does this case involve "Federal soil." And Hindus do not consider Lord Hanuman to be "demonic" (quite the contrary, he is considered the embodiment of bravery and faithfulness), anymore than Christians consider their God to be demonic ... although others may have a different opinion on that score!

But, worse, she seems completely ignorant of the US Constitution!

Even the clinically insane (or cynically deceptive) Bryan Fischer merely claims that the Establishment clause protects Christianity only, not that it prohibits government endorsement of religious freedoms for non-Christians. Nor is it seeking "special rights" or to "be treated above and beyond the average American" to demand that the government treat all religions equally. And, it wasn't a "loop hole" in the law that is going to trip up the Oklahoma legislators. It is, in fact, the Establishment Clause that will bring this whole scheme to grief.

The one thing that Ms. Belmont got right was that "[t]his law was of course only meant to allow Christian religions access to placing their own monuments on the property." What she fails to appreciate is that the legislators, in doing so, not only broke the 9th Commandment (as Protestants count them) but their oaths of office to "protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States.

The only "loophole" here is that the people of Oklahoma elected a particularly dumb and venal breed of legislators.

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