Tuesday, August 28, 2012
That's All Folks!
He's "issued" (i.e. paid for) a press release:
Atheism ignores the Laws of Thermodynamics.What will happen then? Uhhh ... nothing?
The Second Law says we are constantly converting useful energy into waste heat. There is plenty of evidence for this, none for the contrary and this is ongoing. The First Law says the amount of total energy is fixed. We may safely predict, therefore, that at some point in the future the universe will run out of useful energy and all reactions will stop for want of energy.
What will happen then?
And why the interval of this present existence?
Like those who dismiss photographs of a round Earth, those who say there is no God (Atheists) are the modern home of the Flat Earth Society.
(Tom Ritter taught academic physics and chemistry for over a decade in a Pennsylvania public high school and was, to hear his students, a great teacher.)
P.S. Atheism is properly capitalized because it is a religion, that is something based on an article of faith, which in turn is something important that cannot be proved. The existence of God (or not in the case of Atheists) is a good example.
And does Ritter have photographs (or any other empiric evidence) of God? Or is this just another excruciating example of projection?
By the way, one reason you haven't heard of Ritter lately is that the Federal court, on its own motion, dismissed his suit less than 4 months after he filed it. You see, Ritter not only filed suit pro se (without a lawyer) but in forma pauperis (as a "pauper" who cannot afford the court fees). In such circumstances, the court screens his complaint to insure it is not frivolous. His first complaint was found to not state a cause of action but he was given a chance to amend it. He did no better the second time. As the court said:
We find that our Plaintiff has not properly alleged that Defendant Blue Mountain School District's primary purpose of teaching evolution in the public schools was to advance any religion. Plaintiff merely avers that teaching evolution "is actually Atheism (no Creator = no God)" and, that "it is illegal to teach Atheism in the public schools." (Doc. 4, p. 1). We do not find that Plaintiff's attempted logic sufficiently shows, for purposes of his First Amendment claim, that Defendant's teaching of evolution amounts to teaching any religion or atheism. Thus, we find that Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendant 's policy of teaching evolution had a non-secular purpose. We find no religious purpose is properly alleged with respect to Defendant 's policy. We find that the policy of Blue Mountain School District clearly has only a secular purpose. In fact, as the Kitzmiller Court pointed out, in Epperson, the Supreme Court struck down Arkansas's statutory prohibition against teaching evolution. Therefore, based on Epperson, if the state enacted a law forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools for religious reasons, it would be unconstitutional. 393 U.S. at 103. See also Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987); Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98, 116 (2001) (Supreme Court in Edwards held that "a Louisiana law that proscribed the teaching of evolution as part of the public school curriculum, unless accompanied by a lesson on creationism, violated the Establishment Clause.").Demanding logic from creationists may not be totally "fair." After all, if creationists were logical, they wouldn't be creationists.
Thus, Plaintiff Ritter seeks, in part, relief, i.e. for this Court to declare Defendant Blue Mountain School District's policy of teaching evolution violates the Establishment Clause, which may be unconstitutional based on Epperson.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Well, tropical storm/hurricane Isaac is causing scheduling postponements at the Republican Convention.
Where's ol' Hurricane Pat Robertson when you need him?
Or is God just angry at the Republican nominee?
Inquiring minds want to know!
The Road to Perdition
Saturday, August 25, 2012
One Small Step
US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, has died aged 82.My parents ("bless" them) woke me up in the middle of the night to watch the moon landing.
It was burned onto my consciousness in ways my parents might later have regretted but I, in every sense of the words, would not have missed it for the world.
Mortality creeps up on us and all our heroes start to die.
Sorely will he be missed.
Okay, the Discoveryless Institute has been trumpeting Thomas Nagel's new book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False ... particularly because of this quote:
In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture... by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.So I bought the Kindle version for $13.72 US. I've read about a third of it and it already seems like a waste of money.
As far as the above quote goes [see P.S. below!], Nagel does state that "[p]ointing out [the limits of the tools of science] is a philosophical task ... rather than part of the internal pursuit of science ...". Which is what we have been saying about ID for as long as it has been claiming to be "science." In a class on the philosophy of science, it is fine (if outmoded and rather silly). However, it and its supposed "controversy" has no place in a science class.
Nagel's objections to materialism (which he seems, to my "mind," to naively equate with science) are:
[T]here are doubts about whether the reality of such features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose, thought, and value can be accommodated in a universe consisting at the most basic level only of physical facts— facts, however sophisticated, of the kind revealed by the physical sciences.Nagel has not, up to the point I've read, put forth a simple, clearly delineated, explanation of his argument. Instead, he has argued against several schools of thought about "mind" and science. Anyway, here is his premise, as much as I can gather:
[W]hat explains the existence of organisms like us must also explain the existence of mind. But if the mental is not itself merely physical, it cannot be fully explained by physical science. And then, as I shall argue, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that those aspects of our physical constitution that bring with them the mental cannot be fully explained by physical science either. If evolutionary biology is a physical theory— as it is generally taken to be— then it cannot account for the appearance of consciousness and of other phenomena that are not physically reducible. So if mind is a product of biological evolution— if organisms with mental life are not miraculous anomalies but an integral part of nature— then biology cannot be a purely physical science.The crux of Nagel's argument concerning consciousness is this:
It is certainly true that mental phenomena have behavioral manifestations, which supply our main evidence for them in other creatures. Yet all these theories seem insufficient as analyses of the mental because they leave out something essential that lies beyond the externally observable grounds for attributing mental states to others, namely, the aspect of mental phenomena that is evident from the first-person, inner point of view of the conscious subject: for example, the way sugar tastes to you or the way red looks or anger feels, each of which seems to be something more than the behavioral responses and discriminatory capacities that these experiences explain. Behaviorism leaves out the inner mental state itself. ...Somehow, in some way, that Nagel does not explain clearly, those arguments metamorphize into:
What is it about [a physical event in the central nervous system] that makes it also [a mental event like pain or a taste sensation]? It must be some property conceptually distinct from the physical properties that define [the physical event in the central nervous system]. That is required for the identity to be a scientific and not a conceptual truth. ...
But all such strategies are unsatisfactory for the same old reason: even with the brain added to the picture, they clearly leave out something essential, without which there would be no mind. And what they leave out is just what was deliberately left out of the physical world by Descartes and Galileo in order to form the modern concept of the physical, namely, subjective appearances. ...
So if [a mental event like pain or a taste sensation] really is [a physical event in the central nervous system] ... then [a physical event in the central nervous system] by itself, once its physical properties are understood, should likewise be sufficient for the taste of sugar, the feeling of pain, or whatever it is supposed to be identical with. But it doesn't seem to be. It seems conceivable, for any [physical event in the central nervous system] that there should be [a physical event in the central nervous system] without any experience at all. Experience of taste seems to be something extra, contingently related to the brain state— something produced rather than constituted by the brain state. So it cannot be identical to the brain state in the way that water is identical to H2O.
I believe we will have to leave materialism behind. Conscious subjects and their mental lives are inescapable components of reality not describable by the physical sciences.Huh? If you are experiencing the taste of sugar, I can guarantee to stop that sensation by putting a bullet in your brain ... or, less drastically, by shooting you with a tranquilizer dart. What's more, by using a fMRI or EEG, I can show that there was a physical difference in your "brain state," before and after, that corresponded to the cessation of the "subjective appearances" of sweetness. Indeed, if the "subjective appearances" of pain are not physical states, why do we have people called anesthesiologists? And don't forget the "God helmet."
Do these examples prove conclusively that "mind" is simply a state of the brain? No. But vaguely stating that something is a "subjective appearance" does nothing to show that they are anything distinct and separate from brain states. They are clearly linked and until and unless Nagel can give good reasons to state otherwise, his is just a "mind in the gaps" argument.
I would have bet that Nagel was not stupid, even if wrong in this regard. But he trots out the old quote mine of Richard Lewontin, well explained here.
I guess I'll have to recalibrate.
P.S. I should have mentioned the usage of ellipses by creationists. In the "quote" by the DI of Nagel, they start:
In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture... by the defenders of intelligent design.What's in that ellipsis? Why, this:
In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture from a very different direction: the attack on Darwinism mounted in recent years from a religious perspective by the defenders of intelligent design.There is always one thing you can count on with the Discovery [sic] Institute ... dishonesty!
Thursday, August 23, 2012
In this case, Kevin D. Williamson, Deputy Managing Editor of the National Review:
It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis ...) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.Because, after all, "high status" (i.e. rich) males (you know, the ones whose sperm determine the sex of children) are the only ones who should be running a 21st Century country! And human females are, let's face it, just incapable of seeing anything of worth in a man except his earning power.
Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.
From an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote. All of it. He should get Michelle Obama's vote.
Hey, here's an idea! ... Instead of having sissy elections, why don't we just put the candidates in Thunderdome? Two men enter, one man leaves ... as President. What could be sexier than that?
That would have as much to do with evolution as Williamson's "idea."
Via Religion Dispatches
If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. [Emphasis added]Of course, he was castigated, even by prominent Republicans, for talking about "legitimate rape."
Then, Scott Lively started complaining about "leftists" (specifically the Southern Poverty Law Center) calling him a hatemonger just because, among many other things, he claims gay people are evil and were responsible for the Holocaust. Curious, I Googled up Lively's website and this was the first thing I saw:
Does a woman's body have a defense mechanism to block impregnation when the attacker is a "legitimate" rapist, meaning in the traditional sense a violent surprise attacker as opposed to, say, the more modern feminist sense of a chosen romantic partner that just won't accept "no" from the woman when she decides during heavy petting that she doesn't want to copulate after all?Ah! ... So that's the distinction between "legitimate rape" and everything else!
As commenter d cwilson, with tongue firmly in cheek, put it:
Don't these feminists know that once the guy has a wood, she is legally obligated to give it up? Sheesh!I think we should go on calling Lively a hate monger ... but just add "dumber than dirt" in front.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), his party's candidate in the Missouri Senate race to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill, has stepped in it big time and is desperately trying to scrape it off his shoe.
He managed to suggest that women who become pregnant from a rape weren't "legitimately" raped. Needless to say, the national party is aghast and is twisting all available arms to get him off the ticket. Akin has pumped new life into McCaskill's campaign, when she was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators and a linchpin in Republican hopes of regaining the Senate.
Akins apparently got the idea from a wingnut group of doctors. Predictably, it's garbage.
But the interesting question is how a longtime politician could make such a blunder. I think a commenter, d cwilson, at Ed Brayton's blog may have the answer:
I think we're starting to see the serious damage the Fox echo chamber is having on the conservative brain. They're so used to having whatever batshit crazy idea that pops into head being greeted with nods of approval that they're genuinely surprised when sane people react with horror [over] their casual remarks.When the only feedback you get is from crazy people, you're going to get crazier yourself.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I can see legal problems for this effort, particularly around interference with "parental rights." Even where laws have been passed allowing prosecution of parents who believe in faith healing for not getting medical treatment for their kids, there has never been any attempt to ban faith healing outright. On the other hand, the state does have the right and duty to protect children from abuse and irrational attempts to change sexual orientation could certainly qualify. If this legislation is enacted, it will be interesting to watch how it fares in the courts.
But given my warped sense of humor, I couldn't let this pass:
David Pickup, a Glendale, Calif. therapist said he's been a member of NARTH [National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality] for more than eight years. He told Fox News that he went through his own SOCE treatment and uses it to treat his patients.Quite apart from his name, the ridiculousness of Mr. Pickup trying to cram himself into a category of "a heterosexual man" when he has had "thousands" of homosexual encounters and still has sexual attraction to men, no matter how much he tries to minimize it, is excruciatingly obvious. Human sexuality is, of course, a spectrum and cannot be so easily delineated. "Heterosexual," "bisexual," "homosexual," "lesbian," "transsexual," and so forth are all approximations of our gloriously complex humanity and how we react to each other.
Pickup said that although he's had thousands of sexual interactions with men, he never identified himself as being gay.
"I describe myself as being a heterosexual man with a homosexual challenge," Pickup said, adding that after his own SOCE treatment he had feelings for women and now only experienced attractions towards men "once in a blue moon."
The sad thing is how Pickup feels so constrained by the particular group (almost certainly conservative Christianity) that he wants to identify with that he has to bend himself into a mental pretzel to do it.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Casey doesn't like "namecalling," such as "creationist" and "IDiot" but he and his compatriots have no problem calling Darwin, and by extension, all evolutionary biologists, proto-Nazis.
Be that as it may, this is Casey at his blithely incompetent best:
Some of the most important discovery in biology and physics of the past 80 years show that nature offers unfathomable amounts of evidence for design and purpose.[Cough]
UNFATHOMABLE:Umm, Casey ... something that is immeasurable and impossible to comprehend is not evidence. But, hey, you already knew it was faith, didn't you? You just like to lie about that part.
not capable of being fathomed:
b: impossible to comprehend
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Ye Shall Know Them
"I know enough not to take what evolutionists say at face value," says [Shaun Johnston in an article published this month by Evolved Self Publishing]. "I know that to them denial of intelligent design is just a flag they muster behind. But I do think it makes them look silly. It's obviously not true. But it's also silly because they're saying that they, and you and I, are also not intelligently designed, though we, as human beings, obviously can design intelligently. In fact, that's almost the definition of 'sapiens' in 'Homo sapiens.' Tool making is definitely an example of intelligent design."It's amazing what non sequiturs and smug ignorance can lead people to believe.
Does it mean anything to claim that an intelligent designer--a human being--was not itself, or himself or herself, intelligently designed, asks Johnston? "I don't think it does. One could as logically say 'yes, we must have been intelligently designed,' as 'no.' If neo-Darwinists accept that saying 'yes' is within reason, then they must vote for or against human exceptionalism. If they vote for it, saying human beings are the only evolved creatures intelligently designed, then they skate close to the creationist position that humans are fundamentally different from the rest of nature. If they vote against it, saying human beings may not be the only ones that have been intelligently designed, then they're agreeing that all living creature have been intelligently designed. That's what I'd like them to do, they won't look so silly. And a lot of people who went over to the creationist side will come on back."
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Bible of Science
As you will see, UNC Charlotte has nothing to brag about. Nor does the school district that has a religion/history major teaching science. In a post entitled "Evolution is False: Public Schools Should Teach Intelligent Design," he presents the old canard:
It is ever apparent by the way those who believe in evolution and man-made global warming object to the presentation of alternative viewpoints in the classroom, that they do not have enough faith to allow for comparison. ...Because, after all, a teacher who flat out states that "evolution is false" is going to give an unbiased presentation of evolutionary science. Harvey reveals why he thinks evolution is false:
[Y]ou would certainly think that those who propagate these theories would have no fear of a science teacher who presents the information in an unbiased manner so as to encourage the students to use strong critical thinking skills in order to decide for themselves.
From my own educational experience as a public school student, I remember only two things being mentioned in science class in regards to evolution. My 8th grade science teacher who was a Mormon introduced the topic of evolution briefly and simply stated that she did not see why there was such objection to it; for we did not know how God created the Earth. My high school biology teacher made one single mention of the theory of evolution. When the majority of the students in the class expressed that they knew better than to believe in evolution, she quickly brushed over the topic and moved on.In short, he was never taught the science. And, apparently, his fellow students did have the right to express "alternate views," even if they were arguing against something that they and Harvey were totally ignorant of. Just in case you have any doubt, this is what Harvey thinks an unbiased presentation is:
My own knowledge of evolution actually came from the comparison of evolution to creationism in my high school Bible class, in which we did a several week study comparing the two viewpoints and debating them openly in class.Because that's where you'd expect to get the best science education after all.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
As has been noted, most of it is superfluous in that the US Constitution already protects legitimate religious practices. But some of its supporters think they are "undoing" the Supreme Court's 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision, which barred government-mandated school prayers. They haven't ... and local school boards who rely on the amendment to that effect will be diverting their scarce resources from educating children to paying lawyers.
But this is already galling:
One big issue that has been raised with the amendment is the portion that says, "No student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs."Riiight! Because humans aren't animals or even organisms and why would professional teachers bother to educate the children in their charge about one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever? Let the little bastards remain ignorant!
In Columbia schools, students already have the right to opt out of any assignments that conflict with their religious views. The most commonly challenged subject is evolution in biology classes, said Mike Szydlowski, district science coordinator.
However, he said, often the problem is that families have an incorrect perception of what the district is teaching about evolution.
"They hear evolution, and they have an impression oftentimes that we're teaching about how humans were created or how humans evolved," Szydlowski said.
Instead, the curriculum focuses on "how plants and animals and organisms have changed over time," he said. Typically, once families understand what's being taught, they realize it's not "challenging their beliefs at all," he said.
But it gets worse:
If families still insist their student not participate in the lesson, an alternative assignment is given, but students still are tested on the material they missed at the district and state levels.Why don't we just stamp "religiously ignorant" on their foreheads and sent them straight to the unemployment office?
The population affected by these issues is small, Szydlowski said, noting that in his two years with the district, it has come up only twice. Still, at this point he said it's unclear whether the new amendment will affect how the issue is handled, particularly whether it still will be OK for those topics to be part of testing.
Fire Breath + Wooden Boat = What Me Worry?
jsonka wins the internet today!
Thursday, August 09, 2012
The Wages of Sin
Evangelical Christian scholars have been hammering Barton's false history. Christian academics, Warren Throckmorton, Michael Coulter and Jon Fea have exposed Barton's lies. Conservative Christian publications, such as World magazine, assisted by Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (you have to be an especially transparent liar to invoke the disdain of the Discovery [sic] Insitute), and First Things have been attacking Barton.
NPR has also noticed.
The last thing a con artist needs is exposure.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of Barton's end.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Condemned to Repeat It
Bryan Fischer waxes lunatic over the shooting spree by a racist neo-Nazi in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin:
You know what the Nazi Party stands for? It's the National Socialist Party. What about the word "socialist" do you not understand? They were the National Socialist Party - that is a left-wing political philosophy. And you think even here in the United States, who was the part of racism? It was the left, it was liberals who were the part of racism. It was Democrats that supported and defended the institution of slavery. It was Democrats that resisted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It was Democrats that instituted Jim Crow laws. It was Democrats that created the Ku Klux Klan. It was Democrats that filibustered the Civil Rights Acts of the mid-1960s.So much crazy in so few words!
First of all, argumentum ad label? Because the Nazi Party called itself "socialist," therefore they were liberals? Has Fischer ever heard of "fascism"?
FASCISMNow, I know that wingnuts like Fischer expect the UN black helicopters to fly any day now and view any action by government as autocratic but social regimentation? Just who is it that wants to put the LGBT community into concentration camps? And who is it that exalts the nation above almost everything? Besides, if the Nazis were liberals, why did they hate the communists so much?
often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
Then notice the shift in language from "liberals" to "Democrats." It is quite true that the Democratic Party of the 1840s through the 1860s and beyond supported slavery, instituted Jim Crow laws in the south and resisted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. The only problem is that the Democrats at the time were the party of conservatives and it was the Republicans who were the flaming liberals. Thereafter, and not for the first time in political history, two parties swapped philosophical identities.
By the time of the Civil Rights Acts, it was, for the most part, the nominally Democratic "Dixiecrats" who opposed those laws and it was a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, who ruthlessly twisted arms to get them passed. Interestingly, the Dixiecrats soon fled the Democrats for the Republican Party, where they rest comfortably to this day, churning out the new version of Jim Crow called voter ID laws.
But, of course, for delusional, morally bankrupt morons like Fischer, "liberal" is just a code word for whatever it is he does not like and it doesn't matter to him or his followers whether it is used in a way that the rest of the world would understand the term ... as long as their ingroup can hear the dog whistle.
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Aww! Poor Boobies!
A Catholic bishop has called for a blasphemy law in Germany, saying all religions deserved legal protection from attack in order to preserve human dignity.It is, of course, just a coincidence that the Pope recently sued the German satire magazine Titanic over the picture above. At least a spokesman for the bishop said his comments were not linked to the Titanic incident specifically, but were part of a discussion that had been going on for some time.
"Those who injure the souls of believers with scorn and derision must be put in their place and in some cases also punished," said Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick on Wednesday.
He said there should be a "Law against the derision of religious values and feelings," the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
The paper said that German law only criminalizes attacks on faith if it threatens to create a breach of the peace.
The magazine was ordered to stop further distribution of the issue but issues already in circulation do not have to be recalled. The magazine is also barred from publishing the image online. Of course, multiple images are on the internet.
By the way, the picture refers to a scandal about the Pope's and his close associates' correspondence being leaked to the media. The front translates as "Hallelujah in the Vatican. The leak has been found." The back reads "Still another leak has been found."
What gets me is calling such things "blasphemy":
BLASPHEMYThe Pope is sacred and/or inviolable? We sure as heck know he ain't God. And wouldn't claiming that Pope is sacred and/or inviolable be claiming the attributes of deity for him and be blasphemy under definition 1b?
1 a: the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God b: the act of claiming the attributes of deity
2 : irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable