Sunday, January 29, 2012
The supporters of Indiana's truly bizarre "creation science" bill once again demonstrate that they know their own:
In committee debate Wednesday, Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said there are legitimate questions about the theory of evolution and that many scientists agree with the concept of intelligent design, the theory that life on Earth is so complex it was guided by an intelligent higher power.Right! Intelligent Design Creationism is just "creation science" in sheep's clothing, attempting to slide it pass the courts ... as anyone familiar with cdesign proponentsists already knows.
"What are we afraid of? Allowing an option for students including creation science as opposed to limiting their exposure?" Schneider said.
But it's nice to have confirmation that creationists realize it too.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Jason Rosenhouse is one of the more considered of the (newly acceptable) "New Atheists." But I think he misses the mark at several points in his "Another Round on Adam and Eve."
First of all, as is necessary in all such discussions, I have to state explicitly that I am not "defending" Peter Enns or his interpretation of the Bible or his Evangelical beliefs. But it's only fair, while Jason is criticizing Enns, to look at Jason's arguments as well.
Briefly, Enns, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, argues that the "creation stories" of Genesis were never intended as literal truth by their authors:
Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch -- an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about "the beginning," however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question "Where do humans come from?" They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious -- and often political -- beliefs of the people of their own time.Jason's reply is, to say the least ... well ... strange:
Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples.
It is strange to speak of the purpose for which the Genesis stories were designed, since it seems clear they were not designed at all. They began as part of an oral tradition, presumably evolved a bit through frequent retellings, and gradually assumed tremendous importance to the ancients simply by virtue of having been repeated so often.Huh?
The Iliad wasn't designed? Homer was a singer of songs in an oral tradition but he had no design in mind? The people who repeated, and, perhaps, changed the songs, had no purpose either?
But then Jason says:
More to the point, to judge from the stories themselves it just seems wrong to suggest that the specifics of how humans appeared were just throwaway details irrelevant to the main purposes of the story. For example, the historicity of Adam and his actions in the Garden of Eden are given explicitly as the factual basis for the need of Jesus' sacrifice.Is it wrong to suggest that the specifics of how Achilles dragged Hector's body about the walls of Troy were just throwaway details irrelevant to the main purposes of the story? Probably not. But does that mean that Homer and his listeners didn't know it was a story?
And to say "the historicity of Adam and his actions in the Garden of Eden are given explicitly as the factual basis for the need of Jesus' sacrifice" is simply a non sequitur ... unless Jason wants to admit that the purpose of the authors of the Genesis stories was to prefigure Christ.
Jason is right that: "The story of Eve's creation from Adam's rib is given as the explicit basis for proper gender relations in marriage" ... for the storytellers ... but Enns' point is that Evangelicals need not take those storytellers as ... well ... Gospel.
Jason's parting shot:
A final point is that nothing Enns says about the purposes of these stories implies that the ancients thought the stories were fictional.... seems to me to fly in the face of human psychology.
We are Homo storytellis. We spin and harken to stories even when we know they are not true ... or else Shakespeare and a thousand thousand other storytellers would not hold our ears.
Which is not to say Enns has an easy task to convince his co-religionists that the old tales are not literally true. When stories are widely shared enough, it's so much easier to sit by the fire and hear the song ... than it is to think.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Heh! You know how ID advocates like to say "Darwinism" (i.e. modern evolutionary theory) is "a 19th century theory ... taught dogmatically to 21st century students"?
Well, projection is a well known concept and the IDers are admitting that ID is far older than Darwin.
In their zeal to deny that the detection of alien life, even slime, would be a triumph for "Darwinism," Evolution News and Views says:
If the European discovery of human inhabitants in the New World didn't defeat the argument for design, then neither will the discovery of inhabitants on New Worlds.But that means the IDers are now admitting that their "science" is a "theory" older than Columbus.
Of course, it is far older than that but it's nice to know they are now admitting that their's is a 15th century theory that they are trying to teach dogmatically to 21st century students.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Missouri creationist bill, that I previously gave a flyby, and which seeks to revive the "equal treatment" ploy that the Supreme Court slapped down in Edwards v. Aguillard, is being "defended" by its sponsors:
Rick Brattin, the primary sponsor, told the St. Louis Beacon, in "Darwin vs. design — if one is taught, should the other be required?":
"Some of the folks on the evolution side of things say this is not science and doesn't need to be in the classroom," he said. "But there are other sides of the debate. We're trying to say intelligent design is a very viable theory, much like evolution. I believe it makes good science to have both points of view in the classroom and allow the students to decide for themselves, to conduct their own research and come up with their own hypothesis for what happened.Well, of course, by that standard, we don't know what happened last week, much less back when "written history" began. It gets worse:
"We don't know what happened 10 million years ago. We don't know what happened 100 million years ago. It's all theory."
Brattin, who operates a drywall firm, acknowledges no advanced scientific expertise or training, and he says the bill has already drawn sharp criticism from those who do. But he recalls his own skepticism when he learned about Darwin in school, and he wants Missouri to further the debate."No advanced scientific expertise or training" is an understatement. His page at the Missouri Legislature site summarizes his education as "a 1999 graduate of Lee's Summit High School."
"I thought there were so many holes in what was being taught to me as fact," he said. "I even got into arguments with my science teacher. That's what sparked my enthusiasm."
Cosponsor Rep. Sue Allen, is not much better:
"Do I believe that everything that is said to be scientifically sound is scientifically sound?" she asked. "No. Could our beings come about solely that way and no other way? I don't agree with that. I'm not saying evolution shouldn't be taught. I'm saying it's a theory. It's like Freud or any of those other social science theories.Although that is mostly gobbledygook, one thing is clear: the law is intended to advance creationism in clear violation of the Constitution.
"You don't have to throw out Darwin if you do creation. Darwin and creation according to Genesis don't totally match up. But I think Darwin could have some explanation about how that direction happened."
Fortunately for the taxpayers of Missouri, the sponsors acknowledge that the bill is not likely to win passage in the General Assembly.
Via the NCSE.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
How Low Can You Go?
How bad is it getting in Republican politics when they start booing anyone who invokes Jesus?
I've been convinced for a while that America is destined to be a Second World country on its way to the Third World.
Now I'm beginning to think that's a good thing.
Via Stephen Law.
Monday, January 16, 2012
The God of Football
Among the 70% of Americans who say they know of [Tim] Tebow's success, here's how people by political affiliation responded to this question: "Do believe that any of Tim Tebow's success can be attributed to Divine Intervention?"I guess Tom Brady is more righteous in the eyes of the Lord.
– Republicans: 54% yes, 32% no, and 14% no opinion.
– Democrats: 38% yes, 48% no, 14% no opinion.
– Independents: 35% yes, 49% no, 16% no opinion.
Overall, the national average response (as reported yesterday): 43% yes, 42% no, 14% no opinion.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Don't Show Me
PZ Mxyzptlk has already rained scorn on the nearly impenetrable legalese of the latest creationist legislation from Missouri. When I took a look at it, I was struck how obsessed the authors were about "written history." No fewer than 5 provisions of the bill (with duplications) deal with the subject:
2. (8) "Origin", the events and processes previous to written history that define the beginning, development, and record of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, earth geology, earth geography, fossils, species extinction, plant life, animal life, and the human race, and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs;I can't imagine why there is that obsession about written history ...
3. (4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection [* See below];
3. (5) If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process. Details of the analogous naturalistic process may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning a naturalistic process previous to written history as to the occurrence of the process, cause of the process, date of the process, length of time for the process to occur, process conditions, process mechanisms, process materials, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection;
8. (4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection subsection;
8. (5) If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process. Details of the analogous naturalistic process may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning a naturalistic process previous to written history as to the occurrence of the process, cause of the process, date of the process, length of time for the process to occur, process conditions, process mechanisms, process materials, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection subsection;
But it nice to know that educators will be able to teach as a scientific fact that evolution by natural selection, genetic drift, etc. is presently occurring.
Naturally, the bill's definitions of "hypothesis" and "scientific theory" are doosies!:
"Hypothesis", a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular. One person may develop and propose a hypothesis."Faith-based philosophy"? You mean like how the author of this bill always prays before crossing a street that a speeding bus won't suddenly appear on top of him? The naturalism that is the basis of science is the same sort as every human being exercises every day.
"Scientific theory", an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. The inferred explanation may be described as a scientific theoretical model.
Helpfully, the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Rick Brattin, has made the real reason for this legislation clear:
I keep pointing to a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power," Brattin said. "And yet our schools only teach that we emerged from primordial ooze. I think students should get both sides of the issue and get to come to their own conclusions.Uh, huh ... a "higher power" ... but ID has nothing to do with religion!
But there is a place where the "higher power's side" can be heard. It's called the churches and homes of Americans who should be free to choose just what "higher power" they do or do not want to discuss with their children, without government, tax-payer financed, interference.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
The Little PZ With a Curl
When he was good, he was very, very good ...
I sometimes disagree with the Megahertz but, then, other times I just have to stand back in awe when he lances the boil of muddy thinking by those who should know better.
The latest muddy should-know-better is one Jay Mathews, apparently a columnist for the Washington Post, who opined about "Santorum's good (if controversial) education idea." The gist of it is that, since he assumes that the Discoveryless Institute drones are sincere in their
Um ... last time I looked, supernatural forces count as "gods." But never mind ...
When I first encountered this article this morning there were quite a few replies to comments by Mathews, which, at the moment, I strangely cannot locate. One of them was about how the DI seems to follow the scientific method. I pointed out that he should Google "Wedge Document" and see what is their real attitude about science, namely replacing science as it is presently practiced with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." That comment is nowhere to be found either.
But it is PZ who really (and joyously) demolishes Mathews and it is well worth the read.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Gimme That Ol' Time Religion!
I use to think this was the 21st Century.
America's Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution and are evenly split on whether the earth is 6,000 years old, according to a survey released Monday by the Southern Baptist Convention.And don't forget that Romney and the however many dwarves are left are off to court these people to become the next President of the United States.
When asked if "God used evolution to create people," 73% of pastors disagreed - 64% said they strongly disagreed - compared to 12% who said they agree.
Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed. ...
The Southern Baptist Convention survey, which queried 1,000 American Protestant pastors, also found that 74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people.
For once, I'm glad I'm old ... enough to not to see the US completely crash and burn!
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Telling the Truth For Once
This is cute:
A request that in many localities has resulted in legal battles over constitutional issues arose and resolved peacefully when a group of clergy in Smyth County asked the school board to consider their offer to post the Ten Commandments in county schools at no cost to the school system. Speaking for the group, Don Medley, pastor of Brookside Baptist Church in Sugar Grove, told the school board the group would fund the project.Oh, wait! I think I know ... you can post the 10 Commandments in your church or in your home and then everyone can be "peaceful" without your sneaking around for other ways to "do" it.
Posting the Ten Commandments in schools has generated controversy in many school divisions between proponents and those arguing displaying the Decalogue in public schools blurs the separation of church and state and violates the First Amendment's prohibition of state establishment of religion.Medley said the Ten Commandments were posted in Giles County schools with "no repercussion yet." Within days, however, two Giles County families announced intentions to sue the school board over its decision to display the Ten Commandments. Medley said he was aware that a suit is apparently pending in the Giles case, but it did not affect his group's interest in posting the commandment in Smyth schools.
"We're not wanting to do anything to get the county in trouble," Medley said. "We're not trying to do anything that is not peaceful. If this doesn't work, there are other ways we can do it."
The Village's Philosophical Idiot
Chris Schoen at U n d e r v e r s e has a nice piece on Jerry Coyne's "determinism."
My latest favorite Coyneism:
I deny free will—at least the contracausal form ["that we can, at any moment, behave in any way different from what we did"]—on the basis of science, not atheism.Breathtaking!
Well, even "Brother Blackford" is getting a little tired of it:
It becomes, I think, a question of trying to understand the situation as clearly as we can, while also working out how best to convey it to others without misleading them. That does, inevitably, get us involved in efforts in clarifying concepts, making distinctions, grappling with the existing philosophical literature, and so on. Given some of the issues that are stake in the contemporary debates among academic philosophers, it can involve grappling with other difficult concepts, such as responsibility, desert, and fairness - and the relationships among them.But Coyne can't help himself.
I only get upset when the efforts of people like Daniel Dennett, Tom Clark, and by extension me are dismissed as "changing the subject" or as being some kind of sophistry analogous to the efforts of theologians ...
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Well, Rick Santorum has taken his (very short) turn in the Evangelical Righteous Right's "He's not Romney" barrel.
But what I find amusing is that it is obvious that a very significant part of the resistance to Romney is because of his Mormonism.
But wait a minute! Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic... you know, the Whore of Babylon!
It was no more than a couple of generations ago ... if that ... that any Catholic politician faced serious disadvantages among the very people who are now preferring Santorum to Romney.
I'd almost count this as progress in religious tolerance, if it wasn't for the fact that it's rooted in deep intolerance for Mormons.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Please Stand By
A combination of being somewhat under the weather, pressures at work and melancholy over the recent anniversary of my wife's death have damped my blogging itch. I hope to be needing intertoobz calamine lotion in the near future.