Saturday, September 27, 2014


How to Satisfy a God

Sorry I've been absent for a while and for this just being a drive-by. But the Discoveryless Institute has just pointed to a video of a very uncomfortable William ("Wild Bill") Dembski trying to "explain" why 300+ years of restricting science to materialistic testing is wrong: William Dembski Explains Why Intelligent Design Does Not, and Cannot, Make Sense Under Materialist Premises.

The DI laughingly calls this a "satisfying explanation."

How "satisfied" are you?

Friday, August 29, 2014


Protecting Backs

PZ Myearshertz points to a video and a gofundme campaign by Daniel Ashley Pierce who was apparently beaten ... particularly by his mother ... and thrown out of the house by his family because he is gay.

His gofundme campaign was looking for $2,000 to "get the basic things I need such as a bed, text books, medical stuff and transportation."

Instead, in a day (last time I looked) he has raised $84,463 from 3,185 donations. That should keep him for a couple of years, at least.

The cynical lawyer part of me says it might have been staged to raise money, but it didn't feel that way. It would take a Shakespeare to stage such horror. Anyway, I kicked a few bucks in ... not more than I'd spend on lunch and a couple of drinks after work. I think it is worth it to do the same.

Maybe I'm a sucker, but maybe there is a bigger lesson in all this ... maybe the next kid will feel freer to tell the truth in a hostile environment in hopes that people ... caring people ... will have their backs.

Update: From Daniel:
I would like to the opportunity to thank each and everyone of you who has so generously donated. My intent is to pay if forward and hopefully turn something so negative into something positive. I will do my best to value the gift I have been given by so many of you. Thank you for your love and support.

If you would still like to make a donation please consider donating to Lost-N-Found Youth in Atlanta... they have been an amazing support and resource through this difficult time.
I sent them a few bucks too.



Poor Al Mohler!

His head is 'sploding.

A Federal judge in Utah has struck down a portion of the state's law against polygamy. Not the part of the law that refuses to legally recognize multiple partner marriages, only the part that that makes cohabitation between adults to whom they are not legally married a crime.

Al laments:
[W]hat we see here is a classic expression of the current sexual morality. That sexual morality now holds that the only defining and important moral principle is consent. So long as the persons involved in any sexual relationship are consenting adults, then there is understood to be no moral problem whatsoever, and society is told that it must simply accept the new arrangements. Finally, we also note that in his protest against laws against polygamy, Jonathan Turley says that the only factor of real interest here is whether or not the law is proved to prevent a harm to others. Well just consider that for a moment.

The only harm that he would consider here is a harm that is limited directed to the individuals involved. No reference here is allowable to the larger harm to society, or the injury to marriage as an institution. But as we have seen in the forward march to the legalization of same-sex marriage, the issue of harm to marriage and the larger society is simply excluded from moral consideration.
I wonder if Al would really consent to have the government install a camera in his bedroom to make sure he and his wife neither get nor give a blowjob ... part of the classic definition of sodomy ... and suffer criminal prosecution should it happen.

As to the stuff about "the issue of harm to marriage and the larger society is simply excluded from moral consideration," another bit of news shows the problem with that. No one has been able to demonstrate that there is any harm to marriage or society ... other than the heads of people like Al Mohler 'sploding because they can no longer force their ideas of what is right on everyone else.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



Vicky Beeching, a British-born evangelical Christian worship singer has come out as a lesbian and has been urging churches to change their doctrine on homosexual behavior.

Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, present candidate (snicker) for Massachusetts governor and one of the progenitors or the horrific anti-gay laws in Uganda, Nigeria and, maybe next, in Kenya, is unhappy!
He explained that after the Stonewall riots in 1969, homosexual activists banded together to oppose every American institution that did not fully accept and promote homosexual behavior.

The first victory was over the American Psychiatric Association, and within 40 years, every other group had been conquered, he said. The Boy Scouts were the latest to fall, just a year ago.

Now, the only organization left is the church, he said.
Beeching had the temerity to say:
What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.
Lively, however, said Beeching represents "the drawing back of the tide before a tsunami" and an indicator of "how bad this is going to get."
Poor Lester Maddox must have felt the same way at some point!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Tide Continues to Roll In

A Federal district court judge, Robert L. Hinkle, has joined 19 prior decisions in Federal court by finding Florida's constitutional and statutory bans of same-sex marriage or recognizing same-sex marriages legally entered into in other jurisdictions to violate the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.

As always, I think the stories of the plaintiffs in these cases are the most important part. There were many plaintiffs in this case but one story stands out:
Arlene Goldberg married Carol Goldwasser in New York in 2011. Ms. Goldwasser died in March 2014. The couple had been together for 47 years. Ms. Goldwasser was the toll-facilities director for Lee County, Florida, for 17 years. Ms. Goldberg is retired but works part time at a major retailer. The couple had been living with and taking care of Ms. Goldwasser's elderly parents, but now Ms. Goldberg cares for them alone. Social-security benefits are Ms. Goldberg's primary income. Florida's refusal to recognize the marriage has precluded Ms. Goldberg from obtaining social-security survivor benefits. Ms. Goldberg says that for that reason only, she will have to sell her house, and Ms. Goldwasser's parents are looking for another place to live. Ms. Goldberg also wishes to amend Ms. Goldwasser's death certificate to reflect their marriage.
It takes a particularly virulent bigot to deny Arlene Goldberg the relationship of marriage with Carol Goldwasser.

Judge Hinkle begins his opinion with this:
The founders of this nation said in the preamble to the United States Constitution that a goal was to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. Liberty has come more slowly for some than for others. It was 1967, nearly two centuries after the Constitution was adopted, before the Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, thus protecting the liberty of individuals whose chosen life partner was of a different race. Now, nearly 50 years later, the arguments supporting the ban on interracial marriage seem an obvious pretext for racism; it must be hard for those who were not then of age to understand just how sincerely those views were held. When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.
He is right, of course. The tide of history will wash any "controversy" about same-sex marriage away, leaving nothing but a few ripples in the sand, just as it did with interracial marriage. I think he put it particularly well when he said:
The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down. Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.
There are no losers here, only winners who deserve to win.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Before It's Too Late

Al Mohler is happy ... sort of. A Tennessee state court judge has disagreed with the consensus of judicial rulings since United States v. Windsor that banning same-sex marriage is a violation of the equal protection and/or due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The issue in the Tennessee case was whether Tennessee had to consider and grant a divorce to two gay men legally married in Iowa. Al was particularly happy with this from the judge's decision:
Marriage can simply not be divorced from its traditional procreative purpose.
According to Al:
Christians looking at this judge's reasoning would recognize the very logical case that the judges [sic] made. A case based upon a rational objective understanding of what marriage is. Tying marriage not only to its historical structure but also to its recognized functions: procreation and the raising of children. And also the fact that as that stable, unifying institution of society, marriage rationally deserves the kind of protection that the state of Tennessee offered through this ban on same-sex marriage.
Al, of course, does not tell us how, rationally, banning same-sex marriage "protects" marriage or why the state still allows post-menopausal women, women who have had hysterectomies or men who have had vasectomies to marry if procreation is the rationale of the law.

In fact, Al goes on to demonstrate that his, and Christians in general, real objection is that they don't like some peoples' sexual and gender identities, by railing against a transgendered teacher and her elementary school, which is seeking to have its students understand and accept Rebecca (nee Robert) Reuter.

Al quotes Mary Hasson in some rag called The Federalist to the effect that:
It is unlikely that children are going to immediately buy into this. It's going to take some very sophisticated brain tampering to get them to accept what they're going to be told. Some kid, perhaps even the majority of children, when told that the individual for them who used to be Mr. Reuter is now Ms. Reuter is simply going to think, and perhaps even to say, "no he is not."
I seriously doubt that. Children are pretty accepting of change and different people. In fact, the process runs in the other direction. Rodgers and Hammerstein were right:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
You've got to be carefully taught!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Surprise, Surprise!

Due to some recent health problems, including a couple of days in the hospital when I was gravely (pun intended) informed by doctors that I could have died, I have not been following the blogosphere as closely as I should ... if I was as obsessed as the once and (maybe) future Catshark should be.

Thus, I missed Neil Rickert's highly amusing discussion of a post over at Uncommon Descent, by "johnnyb" (who I understand is Jonathan Bartlett, a computer scientist), entitled "Do Darwinists Think that Women are Closer to Chimps than Men?"

It is Ray Comfort-like in that it all but commits the fallacy that human males and females have to evolve separately. Johnnyb even mentions bananas.

Go read Neil's post to fully appreciate the silliness.

What interested me was the comments over at Uncommon Descent. A good third of them explained why johnnyb was wrong. But his strongest supporter among the commenters, was "Silver Asiatic," who said:
Evolutionary ideas leave us with these kinds of conclusions. Distinctions which should be obvious to anyone are blurred. In classical Western philosophy, for example, humans are a radically different kind of being than apes. The gap between the two is virtually infinite.

When viewed by evolutionary-science alone, however, humans are a few mutations away from non-human ape ancestors.

In my view, reductionism of this sort leads to absurd conclusions like this. Humans are not apes and should not be redefined as such.
But ID is science, right? Except when science comes up with a result that "classical Western philosophy" (read as Christian philosophy, since there are plenty of different philosophies) doesn't like ... until it can no longer deny reality.

It was, of course, "obvious" to "classical Western philosophy" that the Earth was the center of the universe, that everything else revolved around it and, therefore, was the "bottom" of the universe where all the bad things "fell down" from the perfect "heavenly spheres." Damn Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton for their "reductionism."

The pretense of the IDers is that "design" is a scientific, empiric result but even their own adherents know that isn't true.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Pitch Melba

I've been reading, first, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August and, now, her The Proud Tower. The first was about the first month of World War One and how, based on the decisions of individuals, it turned from a war of vast military maneuver that could have been, as every supposedly sophisticated ruler, politician, pundit and average man in the street, the latter about to become cannon-fodder, thought, over in a month, but, in fact, became a four year abattoir.

The second book is about the societies in the late 1800s and early 1900s that let that tragedy happen. In her section on Anarchists (who I have no sympathy for anymore than their bastard stepchildren, Libertarians) there is one account that resonates:
The poor lived in a society in which power, wealth and magnificent spending were never more opulent, in which the rich dined on fish, fowl and red meat at one meal, lived in houses of marble floors and damask walls and of thirty, forty or fifty rooms, wrapped themselves in furs in winter and were cared for by a retinue of servants who blacked their boots, arranged their hair, drew their baths and lit their fires. In this world, at a luncheon for Mme. Nellie Melba at the Savoy, when perfect peaches, a delicacy of the season, were served up "fragrant and delicious in their cotton wool," the surfeited guests made a game of throwing them at passers-by beneath the windows.
Our own over-wealthy, governmentally over-pampered, elite, such as the Koch Brothers, have, at least, learned not to pelt the proletariat with the Peach Melba. Instead, sanctioned by the courts, they throw billions of dollars at them in the form of commercials to convince the prols to vote against their own interests.

Will the disaster be any the less? Certainly, whatever disaster comes will almost completely skirt the new elite. We can only wish us prols the best.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014



I previously highlighted U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen's decision striking down Virginia's laws and constitutional amendment forbidding same sex marriages or the recognition of those from states that permit them. I gave the equally heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories of the plaintiffs in that case before. The Circuit Court repeats the details.

A three judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld Judge Allen's decision in a 2-1 vote.

That now makes some 29 straight court decisions, Federal and state, that have found bans of same sex marriages to be invalid. I wish the Yankees had anything near that winning streak.

Judge Allen, in a nice touch, opened her decision with a quote from Mildred Loving, the plaintiff in Loving v. Virginia, that struck down laws, incredibly a mere 47 years ago, against interracial marriages:
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.
It is historic resonance that Judge Allen and the Fourth Circuit have now recognized the same injustice done by Virginia to same sex couples.

There are some interesting technical arguments in the majority decision but the bottom line is that the Fourth Circuit majority found that such laws must be measured by "strict scrutiny," the highest constitutional test but that "even under rational basis review, the "[a]ncient lineage of a legal concept does not give it immunity from attack."

Ultimately, I don't think it will matter much for bans on same sex marriage which test is applied ... it fails all of them, as various courts have found. It will matter for other issues, such as attempts to "protect" Christians from anti-discrimination laws that deny them the right to discriminate against gays. But that's down the road a bit.

One interesting event is that the attorney general of North Carolina has said that his office would no longer defend his state's ban on same-sex marriage, because the Fourth Circuit decision had taken away all of the arguments that could be made for the ban. That's not quite true. Decisions by 3 judge panels of a Circuit Court are not really binding precedent unless confirmed by the full court in an en banc decision or the full court refuses to grant an en banc review. Still, it's nice some people see the writing on the wall.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Forsake Flanders Fields

innocents fallen from the sky

children in the hundreds kidnapped

many die because some die and vice versa

pitilessness piles on pitilessness

and now

the poppies row on row

mark only hatred

we are the dead


Friday, July 18, 2014



David MacMillan was a young-Earth creationist.

He isn't one anymore.

He explains, at length, how that came about at The Panda's Thumb.

In his last post, he makes an interesting observation:
Activists like Dawkins make the mistake of accepting fundamentalism's claims of validly representing the Bible in particular and religion in general. But fundamentalism's claims are simply false. As I stated before, creationism botches literary and biblical criticism just as badly as it botches science. Don't ever make the mistake of attacking a creationist's faith; if you do so, you're simply reinforcing their misconception that evolution is synonymous with atheism. Read the explanations given by theistic evolutionists. Ask questions like, "How do you know your interpretation of the Bible is correct? How do you know that Genesis should be treated as chronological narrative? How would the original audience have understood it? Why wasn't your interpretation a majority view throughout Christian history?" Be prepared to explain the history of creationism.
OMG! Accommodationism!

Of course, this is anecdotal evidence. But that is all the anti-accommodationists offer to "show" that "accommodationism"* fails.

Neither side has demonstrated that it is the "best" way to approach YECs with science or that the other way should be abandoned.

* Depending on what definition of "accommodationism" is current.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Brains Are Raining in Colorado Springs

A Federal Colorado District Court judge, C. Scott Crabtree, has joined the chorus of courts that have found that same sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. The decision is here.

It is the usual fare. The judge reviewed the three levels of scrutiny under which the constitutionality of state statutes are judged, strict scrutiny, heightened scrutiny and rational basis. Judge Crabtree noted:
The avowed State interest can be distilled down to encouraging procreation and marital commitment for the benefit of the children. The problem with this post-hoc explanation is that it utterly ignores those who are permitted to marry without the ability or desire to procreate. It is merely a pretext for discriminating against same-sex marriages.
The judge noted that the legislative history of the state's statutory ban and the state constitutional ban did not show any serious intent to encourage procreation or marital commitment. Therefore:
The Court has previously found that the State's professed governmental interest was a mere pretext for discrimination against same-sex marriages created "post hoc in response to litigation." Thus, the Marriage Bans cannot even pass muster under the rational basis analysis. The sole basis for precluding same-sex marriage is self-evident—the parties are of the same sex and for that reason alone do not possess the same right to marry (or remain married) as opposite-sex couples. The Court holds that the Marriage Bans are unconstitutional because they violate plaintiffs' equal protection rights.
As someone who has, on occasion, had to argue in defense of the indefensible, I have a certain professional admiration for this argument by the state:
Government [indorsement of] marriage is meant to try to fight the instinct to create children without remaining committed to their upbringing into adulthood. This problem is not caused by same-sex couples, at least not to any significant extent, and the state thus need not extend this part of its solution to them.
Inasmuch as gays who are parents tend to remain committed to raising their children into adulthood, the state has no need to grant them the rights and privileges of marriage?

No doubt heads are exploding right now in Colorado Springs, home to many Religious Right organizations, such as Focus on the Family. If you live in the area, you might want to take an umbrella today.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Kentucky Windage

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, who had earlier struck down Kentucky's refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, even where those marriages were legal under the state law they were performed in, has now struck down the state's refusal to allow same sex marriage in Kentucky.

Ultimately, the rational is familiar. Judge Heyburn is among those who have found that anti-same-sex legislation and/or state constitutional amendments cannot meet the lowest form of constitutional scrutiny: "rational basis."

But, as I keep saying, over and over, the real power of these decisions does not reside in the fine legal points or the judges' rhetorical flourishes. It is the story of the people who are being denied equality before the law. These are the human beings behind all the shouting in Kentucky:
Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have lived together for 34 years. On February 13, 2014, they requested a Kentucky marriage license from the Jefferson County Clerk's Office, presenting the requisite identification and filing fees. The Commonwealth refused to issue them a license because they are a same-sex couple. They allege that their inability to obtain a marriage license has affected them in many ways. For example, last summer, Love underwent emergency heart surgery, which had to be delayed in order to execute documents allowing Ysunza access and decision-making authority for Love. As another surgery for Love is imminent, the couple fears what will happen if complications arise. The couple fears that healthcare providers and assisted living facilities may not allow them to be together or care for each other as they age. In addition, the couple has had difficulties with professional service providers; they found out after they purchased their home that their real estate attorney disregarded their request to include survivorship rights in the deed.

Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have been together for ten years. On June 3, 2006, they had a religious marriage ceremony in Louisville. On January 22, 2013, they requested a Kentucky marriage license from the Jefferson County Clerk's Office, presenting the requisite identification and filing fees. The Commonwealth refused to issue them a license because they are a same-sex couple. They too have faced challenges as a result. For example, they allege that their neighborhood association will not recognize them as a married couple because Kentucky does not allow them to marry. In addition, their inability to obtain parental rights as a married couple has deterred them from adopting children. They also share a number of Love and Ysunza's concerns.
Those who think they are being "marginalized" for their religious beliefs are missing the point. Good, decent, loving people like Timothy Love, Lawrence Ysunza, Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James have been marginalized all their lives and no one ... no one ... has been able yet to give a rational basis why. Go on believing what you will, keep saying what you believe ... but when it comes to the law, leave them alone ... let them be equal.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Taking a Vacation from Sense

As Right Wing Watch reports, Ken Ham is promoting creationist tours of the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
No matter where you go when visiting America's national parks, city zoos, and other attractions, the religion of evolution and millions of years permeates the culture. To help combat these lies and proclaim the authority of God's Word, every year Answers in Genesis partners with Canyon Ministries to hold creation raft trips through the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. ...

Last year, Canyon Ministries began providing land-based rim tours of the Grand Canyon along its South Rim, operating under the name A Different View Tours. Now, rather than go to the rim and hear the anti-God, evolutionary explanation of the Canyon's formation, I encourage you to consider a tour with Canyon Ministries. It will provide you with a Bible-based presentation of the geology of the Canyon and how it confirms the Bible's account of a global Flood and belief in a young earth.
I frankly cannot understand how anyone can look at the above and think it came into existence in less than a year only 4,500 years ago.

But now, you can become stupider in air conditioned comfort in full or half day bus tours.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


It's Over ...

... the fat lady has officially sung!

The tiny town of Latta, South Carolina, with just 1,400 people, had a female Chief of Police who happens to be a lesbian. Despite having been on the police force for 23 years with a spotless record, she was fired by the new Mayor, supposedly for questioning authority and failing to maintain order, among other pretexts.

Then an audio recording of the mayor's homophobic rant surfaced:
"I would much rather have ... and I will say this to anybody's face ... somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.

Because that ain't the damn way it's supposed to be. You know ... you got people out there -- I'm telling you buddy -- I don't agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don't say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.

I'm not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I'm not going to see them do it with two men neither.

I'm not going to do it. Because that ain't the way the world works.

Now, all these people showering down and saying 'Oh it's a different lifestyle they can have it.' Ok, fine and dandy, but I don't have to look at it and I don't want my child around it."
The townsfolk rose up in protest and eventually held a referendum that overwhelmingly passed and stripped the mayor of much of his powers and transferred them to the town council. Last night, Crystal Moore was reinstated as police chief.

This is an example of antipodian philosopher John Wilkins' 95/95 rule: 95% of people are decent human beings 95% of the time. It is also an example of the power of familiarity. When you know people who are gay and realize that they are human beings, just like you; when you know that they are your friends and neighbors and even family members; when you see them as people with the same hopes, aspirations, sorrows and tragedies as you have; it is oh so much harder to hate them ... so much harder to stand by silently when the hatred by others tries to destroy them.

I have said all along that the most powerful aspect of the many recent court decisions in favor of equal rights for gays is not the legal reasoning or the sometimes soaring rhetoric, it is the stories of the people involved ... how ordinary they are, how so much like the rest of us they are. If you are one of the 95% and operating as you should that 95% of the time, you cannot help but to come to the aid of people like Crystal Moore.

Congratulations to the people of Latta, South Carolina!

For the haters who still insist it isn't over ... that LGBT bigotry can still make a comeback ... I say when you can't make a firing of a gay person just for being gay stick in a small town in South Carolina, it's OVER!!!


King Canute Keeps Losing

The tide keeps rolling in.

In another good week for marriage equality, a Federal judge in Indiana has struck down that state's same sex marriage ban and the first of the Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Tenth, has weighed in, upholding the District Court's overturning of Utah's ban. For the time being, this ruling also effects the District Court's ruling in Oklahoma, also part of the Tenth Circuit, that overturned that ban.

The 10th Circuit's decision was by a three judge panel and was 2-1. The state now has two choices: it can ask for an en banc hearing before the twelve judges of the full Circuit Court or they can immediately seek a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court for permission to have the case heard there.

Some interesting things to keep in mind: if the state opts to seek a writ of certiorari, it only takes four justices to grant the writ. If the four "liberal" (really, "moderate") justices vote to grant it, it would signal that they think Justice Kennedy is willing to find that same sex marriage is a constitutional right and the opposite will apply if the conservative justices vote for certiorari.

The 10th Circuit panel applied the toughest of all standards in determining whether a statute is constitutional: "strict scrutiny." Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit, in a case that involved, not same sex marriage, but preemptory challenges of jurors, refused to hold an en banc hearing of a three judge panel's determination that, in matters involving government action against gays, the second toughest standard: "heightened scrutiny," applies. Thus, again for the time being, any same sex marriage cases in the Ninth Circuit will be judged by "heightened scrutiny," which nobody thinks such bans can survive. Anyway, a number of the lower court decisions have made impressive cases for the fact that these laws don't even pass the lowest scrutiny, "rational basis."

Of course, as the writing on the wall has become clearer and clearer, the Religious Right has been progressively losing whatever mind they started out with, saying ever more crazy things.

I hope they keep it up.

There can be no better evidence that these laws were enacted, as Justice Kennedy put it in Windsor, out of animus; a purpose and effect of disapproval; an intent to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.

At the very least, the wingnuts' shouts to the skies demonstrate that there is no rational basis for these laws.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Stay Classy!

At Friday's Faith And Freedom Coalition Conference someone put a figurine shaped like President Barack Obama's head in a urinal in the ... um ... head.

In comparison, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior Obama adviser, Tweeted: "Totally uncalled for: Those ears are huge."

Saturday, June 21, 2014


The Virtues of Discrimination

The ever odious Bryan Fischer is extolling the virtue of "discrimination," specifically when it comes to sexual behavior:
We need to reclaim the word "discrimination." We need to take back the word "discrimination." "Discrimination" is not a bad word. The Left has turned "discrimination" into a bad word and when it comes to sexual behavior, "discrimination" is not a bad word. "Discrimination is, in fact, a good word.

We discriminate against non-normative, sexually abnormal behavior all the time and we should. From our vantage point, we believe ... I believe ... that homosexual behavior is non-normative. It is abnormal. It is a sexually deviant form of sexual expression. By that I mean it deviates from God's plan for human sexuality.

"Discrimination" when it comes to human sexuality is not bad, it is good and it is necessary. The alternative is utter social chaos. It's time, ladies and gentlemen, to reclaim the "discrimination" word when it comes to sexual matters. It's not bad, its good. It's a virtue and it's necessary.
To a certain extent Fischer is right. Words aren't good or bad. It's the thoughts and actions that words represent that are good or bad.

Let's look at the definition of "discrimination" from Merriam-Webster:
1 a: the act of discriminating

...b: the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently

2: the quality or power of finely distinguishing

3 a: the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually

...b: prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment
I would add to definition 3 "the use of the law and/or the power of the state to enforce a prejudiced or prejudicial outlook."

I, as I'm sure most advocates for equal rights for LGBT people, couldn't give a rat's ass for any "fine distinctions" Fischer might actually be capable of making between gay and homosexual sex. We only care about his and his cohort's attempts to use the law and the power of the state to enforce their prejudice on others.

Fischer and his ilk are free to use the first two definitions of "discrimination" but not the third.

And I love the claim that, if we merely let consenting adults alone to decide what to do in their bedrooms, there will be "social chaos." No doubt the same "social chaos" George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent.

Friday, June 13, 2014



Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said recently, in response to Colorado's Civil Rights Commission unanimously upholding a judge's finding that a baker unlawfully discriminated against gay customers:
I'm beginning to think, are re-education camps next? When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?
Uh, huh!

Meanwhile, Republican candidate for Oklahoma's state house of representatives, Scott Esk, having advocated stoning gay people to death in a Facebook post last year, defended the idea, writing that such a plan is "totally just" because he has "some very huge moral misgivings about those kinds of sins."

So, let's see ... Christians are taken to court where they have rights to counsel and due process and that is a harbinger of boxcars to death camps ... but Christian candidates for public office can advocate stoning gays to death and ... well, have you heard any great hysterical outcry from the Religious Right against Scott Esk? No, me neither.

Quell surprise!

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Wisconsin State ... Come On Down!

A Federal District Court judge in Wisconsin is the latest in a long line who has overturned anti-equality laws and state constitutional measures on the issue of same-sex marriage in a case entitled Wolf v. Walker. Based on only my informal and cursory survey of these decisions, Judge Barbara B. Crabb's may be the most learned and (legally speaking) scholarly of the bunch.

As I've said before, however, the most important part of these decisions may not be the legal reasoning, nor the sometimes soaring judicial rhetoric about freedom, but the stories of the basic humanity of the people involved. Judge Crabb says little about the gay plaintiffs involved and indulges in even less soaring rhetoric but there is a bit of neat legal reasoning that I'll highlight.

Wisconsin Family Action (you all know what "family" in an organization's name means!) filed an amicus brief in favor of Wisconsin's law and amendment to the state constitution and against same sex marriage. Naturally, it contained all the pretenses the religious right have put forward to avoid their real objection to gay marriage, namely that it is icky and because "God said so," which they know are losing legal arguments. Judge Crabb dealt with those arguments at length. Reading the decision is worth it for her evisceration of them all. But this one was particularly neat:
Although amici try to rely on the inherent "nature" of marriage as a way to distinguish anti-miscegenation laws from Wisconsin's marriage amendment, the argument simply reveals another similarity between the objections to interracial marriage and amici's objections to same-sex marriage. In the past, many believed that racial mixing was just as unnatural and antithetical to marriage as amici believe homosexuality is today.
Judge Crabb quotes Mildred Loving as stating that "[t]he majority believed . . . that it was God's plan to keep people apart and that the government should discriminate against people in love" but that she believes that "all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry" and goes on to say:
Although amici may believe that a particular sex is more "essential" to marriage than a particular race, this may reveal nothing more than amici's own views about what seems familiar and natural. ...

Even if I assume that amici are correct that the condemnation against miscegenation was not as "universal" as it has been against same-sex marriage, the logical conclusion of amici's argument suggests that the Supreme Court would have been compelled to uphold bans on interracial marriage if the opposition to them had been even stronger or more consistent. Of course, the Court's holding in Loving did not rest on a "loophole" that interracial marriage had been legal in some places during some times.
Neatly skewered, Judge Crabb ... neatly skewered!

Saturday, May 31, 2014



Joshua Youngkin at the Discovery [sic] Institute wants "clarity" in South Carolina.

Apparently, one candidate in the Republican primary for South Carolina's superintendent of education, Sheri Few, said "There is no reason why the scientific theory of intelligent design should not be taught in the classroom alongside the theory of evolution."

No, no, no!

Heaven forfend that there be another Dover Disaster!
For many reasons, Discovery Institute opposes government insertion of intelligent design into K-12 public schools.
Like having their asses handed to them on a silver judicial platter.

Instead, they want "Academic Standards" that permit teachers to require students to "Construct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian natural selection."

Or, in other words, they want teachers to allow students to import all the old, totally discredited "creation science" arguments, that the DI has adopted as arguments against evolution, into science classes. Because, after all, K-12 public school students are in the best position to be the final arbiters of what science is or should be! Next up, the evidence that supports and scientific arguments that seem to discredit the "germ theory" of disease, rather than that "sin" is the cause of all human woes!

What the DI wants is not clarity but fog that will allow Christian kids to pretend that science has not shown beyond all reasonable doubt, that life, and humans, in particular, have evolved.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Mapping Progress

Via PZ Myearshertz, here is a handy (though temporary) map of the state of same-sex marriage in the US.

The dark blue bits are where marriage equality is in full force and effect. As Al Mohler notes, "though only 19 of the 50 states currently have legal same-sex marriage, it is certainly true that a majority of Americans now live in those states that have legal same-sex marriage."

A majority of Americans live in places where equality counts! Savor that!

The brown and tan stripey bits are where men and women of good will have assaulted the bigotry and spite of the (ever-lessening) resistance to equality but are awaiting further court action to join the 21st Century.

The rest of the colors represent benighted areas of the country that will soon (dog willing) change.


Al Mohler Didn't Know ...

... that tweets might not be "nuanced":

Concerning the recent decision of Judge Jones striking down Pennsylvania's anti-gay-marriage law, which the Democratic State Attorney General refused to defend, Mohler said:
[A] very interesting and revealing statement came from Pennsylvania's attorney general, that is, Attorney General Kathleen Kane. She previously had announcement [sic] she wouldn't seek to defend the ban on same-sex marriage in court, and yet on Tuesday, she tweeted, "Today in Pennsylvania the Constitution prevailed. Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never stood the test of time." Let's just note something very carefully. This is a very un-nuanced statement. ... the attorney general of Pennsylvania can't possibly mean what she wrote. When she says, "Inequality in any form is unacceptable," does she means then that any romantic relationship is to have an equal status with heterosexual marriage? Of course she doesn't mean that, but that's exactly what she stated. And furthermore, it just may be that the logic that is set loose in terms of the legalization of same-sex marriage means that the logic that she certainly did not mean to imply may nonetheless be inevitable given the kind of revolution and morality that she, along with so many others, have helped to bring to pass. They have opened Pandora's Box. Once opened, it is very hard to see how it can ever be closed.
This is, of course, the tired Religious Right argument that, if you allow same-sex marriage, that will invariably lead to marriages of pedophiles to children, people to animals, fathers/mothers to sons/daughters or (gasp!) the kind of polygamy that Abraham, David and Solomon, "godly" people all, practiced in the Bible.

The operative word in the tweet was "inequality." Neither pedophiles nor practitioners of bestiality are dealing with equals.

As to incest, which is not the same thing as child sex abuse, the main argument against it is the genetic damage to offspring. Since we can now (mostly) control procreation, incest is a more nuanced issue but still not an equivalent argument to same-sex marriage.

Polygamy is even a more doubtful case. Again, we are (or should be) talking about relationships between equals. But later in the Mohler's post, he says, of an article in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow (arguing that poverty is relieved by all sorts of "loving families" and not just what is laughingly known as "traditional families"):
Well I don't think Charles Blow is going to make an argument for those who are practicing polygamy in the American Southwest.
No doubt Mohler is referring to Warren Jeffs who was convicted not of the "crime" of polygamy but of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children! No rational person equates relationships between multiple consenting adults with child molestation ... do they?

I apologize for my seeming obsession with Mohler but he presents me with an interesting case study. He is generally articulate (compared to other Religious Right wingnuts, at least) and sometimes makes (at least tenuous) sense.

He seems to me to be betwixt and between and, therefore, worth watching.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


And the Beat Goes On

I have been remiss in keeping up with the developments in marriage equality.

Since I last discussed it, a state judge in Arkansas and Federal judges in Idaho and Oregon have overturned bans on same-sex marriages as well.

But now it's the turn of an old friend: Federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III of Kitzmiller v. Dover fame.

As I've said before, the stories of the plaintiffs in these cases are far more compelling than the legal arguments. Here's some of what Judge Jones described. It's long, but everyone should read it:
As a group, they represent the great diversity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They hail from across the state ... They come from all walks of life; they include a nurse, state employees, lawyers, doctors, an artist, a newspaper delivery person, a corporate executive, a dog trainer, university professors, and a stay-at-home parent. They have served our country in the Army and Navy. Plaintiffs' personal backgrounds reflect a richness and diversity: they are African-American, Caucasian, Latino, and Asian; they are Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Quaker, Buddhist, and secular. In terms of age, they range from a couple in their 30s with young children, to retirees in their 60s. Many of the couples have been together for decades.

As plainly reflected in the way they live their lives, the plaintiff couples are spouses in every sense, except that the laws of the Commonwealth prevent them from being recognized as such. ...

The plaintiff couples have shared in life's joys. They have purchased homes together and blended their property and finances. They have started families, welcoming children through birth and adoption. Some of them have celebrated their commitment to each other through marriage in other states, sharing their wedding day with family and friends.

Yet, with each of these joys there has been concomitant hardship resulting from the Marriage Laws. In terms of property ownership, all of the couples face the payment of Pennsylvania's inheritance tax – including on half of the value of jointly-owned homes and bank accounts ...

For those couples who have had children ... the non-biological parent has had to apply for a second-parent adoption. Dawn expresses that she and Diana are presently saving money so that she can legally adopt their second son, J.P. Until the adoption is complete, she has no legal ties to J.P. ...

For the children of these couples, it can be difficult to understand why their parents are not married or recognized as married. ...

In addition, for the couples who have chosen to marry out-of-state, they are acutely sensitive that their marital status changes when they cross state lines. Edwin Hill describes driving home to Pennsylvania after wedding David Palmer in Maine in 2013, elated to be traveling through all of the northeastern states that recognize their marriage. "And then we crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania," he recalls, "and we looked at each other and said, 'We're not married anymore.' And that hurt." ...

The plaintiff couples share their resources and support each other financially. But Plaintiffs commonly echo a sense of legal and economic vulnerability because of Pennsylvania's Marriage Laws. Many of them have paid lawyers to draft protective documents, like wills and powers of attorney, in efforts to emulate some of the protections afforded to couples recognized as married. Susan Whitewood estimates that her family has spent over $10,000 in legal fees for the preparation and maintenance of such documents, which would not have been necessary if the Commonwealth acknowledged their marriage.

Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd describe feeling particularly insecure. Angela is a clinical psychologist and the primary bread-winner, while Gail is an artist who does not draw a steady paycheck or contribute to Social Security. Angela expresses that she has "taken every step [she] can to ensure [Gail's] financial security" but that they still cannot duplicate all of the protections married couples receive, and she "live[s] every day with the fear that the steps [she has] taken will not be enough to protect Gail if something should happen to [her]." ...

The plaintiff couples have supported each other through illness and medical emergencies. Yet, because Pennsylvania considers them legal strangers, they may be left vulnerable in times of crisis. ... Lynn Hurdle remembers feelings of fear and helplessness when her partner, Fredia, was admitted to the hospital for unexpected surgery. Doctors began operating earlier than planned, and when Lynn discovered Fredia's hospital room to be empty, staff would not tell her why Fredia had been taken early or where she was.

The plaintiff couples demonstrate an intention to live out their lives together. Plaintiff Maureen Hennessey and her partner of 29 years, Mary Beth McIntyre, present a powerful example. When Mary Beth was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer, Maureen left her job to care for her and to help run Mary Beth's business until her death. ... They were married in Massachusetts after Mary Beth fell ill, but because Pennsylvania does not recognize their marriage, the line for "surviving spouse" was left blank and Mary Beth was identified as "never married" on her death certificate. Maureen was listed as the "informant."

Wishing to have their relationships recognized for what they are in the state they call home, and by doing so to transcend the pain, uncertainty, and injustice visited by the Marriage Laws, Plaintiffs brought this suit.
Shorter version: these people have loving relationships, commitments, aspirations and a will to overcome the slings and arrows of life just like the rest of us do. All they want is to have the same support heterosexuals have under our law and to be free of the fear that the law, enacted in spite and bigotry, will actively seek to destroy those relationships, commitments and aspirations.

Judge Jones ended his opinion well:
The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the rightfully discarded doctrine of "separate but equal." ... In the sixty years since Brown [v. Board of Education] was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

Update: Both Oregon and Pennsylvania have decided not to appeal the court decisions and have become the 18th and 19th states in which there is marriage equality.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Al Mohler Can't Think Except In Absolutes ...

... ergo neither should you!

Al has decided that the "transgender challenge will present evangelicals in this generation with a lifetime challenge."

Frankly, I'm grateful for that.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of those who want to see sexual preference and gender identity equality is the stupidity of their opponents.

Al points to Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky, where a brave principal, Thomas Aberli (kudos, sir!), and school counsel, added "gender identity" to its anti-discrimination policy to permit a "biologically" male student who identifies as female to use the girls' bathroom.

After seriously clutching his pearls, Al says:
One of the things that becomes very apparent, in terms of the cultural controversies over the transgender movement, is that the secular worldview can't handle its own convictions on this issue. It can't hold to a consistent argument. As a matter of fact, if you hold to a secular worldview, the transgender movement presents you with conflicting moral absolutes. For instance, you claim that it's an absolute that the individual gets to decide at any moment in time what his or her gender identity is, and then you claim, on the other hand, that sexual orientation is something that is biologically or genetically fixed and something that is unchangeable. And so you have two contradictory arguments and, furthermore, in terms of any policy decisions, you have trouble on the left, the right; you have trouble in the North, South, East, and West. There is nowhere you can go where there is not trouble.
Gee Al, if you weren't a moron, you'd be able to see that no one is claiming that anyone can just decide at any moment in time what his or her gender identity is. In fact, we adults are talking about situations where there has been a medically-based diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria (not that I am in love with either term). Both sexual preference and gender identity are biologically or genetically (or otherwise naturally) fixed and things that are unchangeable and crude attempts to change them inevitably result in great harm to the individual.

But Al, it gets even scarier for anyone who can only think in absolutes! Remember the "B" in LGBT? Sometimes people's sexual preference is "both"! And sometimes people's gender identity is "neither"! Isn't it a shame that reality can't always accommodate your imagined "absolutes"?

Al is unspecific as to how "no worldview except for biblical Christianity can handle this question" but you can bet that it involves some variation of "YOU HAVE A PENIS, THEREFORE YOU'RE A BOY; YOU HAVE A VAGINA, THEREFORE YOU'RE A GIRL!"

I cannot imagine anything more harmful to someone who is actually gender dysphoric or even just a boy or girl who isn't quite what their parents expect behavior-wise.

But why should we expect Al to actually consider evidence, given that he is a young-Earth creationist? He has mightily practiced the ability to ignore evidence and, unfortunately, succeeded.

Friday, May 09, 2014


Half a Loaf

You remember Eric Hedin, the physics professor at Ball State University, who was told by the university president, Jo Ann Gora, to knock off teaching a course, entitled "Boundaries of Science," that was, apparently, heavily weighted in favor of Intelligent Design Creationism?

Well, he has been promoted to "associate professor," which all but guarantees that he will receive tenure.

From the beginning, Hedin refused to play martyr to the tune of the Discovery [sic] Institute's playbook. The DI chivvied a couple of state legislators into questioning the university's policy, which also seems to have gone nowhere. Shortly after the Hedin flap broke, the university hired Guillermo Gonzalez, he of the great Iowa State tenure dispute, and one of the DI's Expelled. Gonzalez, too, has been keeping his head down, saying he planned to continue his research on astrobiology and stellar astrophysics at Ball State and would not be discussing intelligent design in the classroom.

Needless to say, the DI is less than pleased.

So much propaganda and nowhere to go!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Discriminating Tastes

Mississippi has passed one of those "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" laws that both sides expect will be used to protect businesses who refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Of course, it may not have much effect right away. Mississippi doesn't allow or recognize same-sex marriages and, as far as I can tell from a quick search, there are no anti-discrimination laws at a state or local level that include homosexuals as a protected class. But there have been some lower court decisions requiring states that do not permit same-sex marriage to recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in states that permit it. And, of course, there have been a plethora of lower court decisions holding that it is unconstitutional to deny gays the right to marry.

Never accuse the religious right of not being prepared.

But there are hopeful signs even in Mississippi. A group of businessmen in the state have started a campaign to distribute stickers with the message "We don't discriminate. If you're buying, we're selling."

The funny thing is the reaction of the religious right, such as Buddy Smith, executive vice president of Tupelo-based American Family Association, to the sticker campaign:
"It's not really a buying campaign, but it's a bully campaign," he says, "and it's being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.

"They don't want to hear that homosexuality is sinful behavior – and they wish to silence Christians and the church who dare to believe this truth."

Smith offers a word of caution for those who do business with facilities posting the decal supporting homosexual activism. "If you do that, you are agreeing with these businesses that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience," he tells OneNewsNow.
Wow! So much stupid in so small a space! Someone tramples the religious freedom of Christians by refusing to discriminate against gays? It's almost as if they are claiming it's their religious right to control everyone else's religious beliefs.

And they are being silenced because other people speak up in favor of the rights of gays? It's almost as if they think no one else has freedom of speech.

And agreeing to serve same-sex couples means that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience. It's almost like the only way that Christians can have religious freedom is if nobody else has any.

What they really fear, of course, is the change in public opinion, even among their fellow Christians, and that this campaign will show them up for what they are: hate-filled bigots.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Once Again I Agree Wholeheartedly With Jerry Coyne

Alain de Botton has been allowed into the Rijksmuseum, home of many Rembrandts, Vermeers and other great Dutch art, to "put up giant Post-It™ style notes next to the paintings, telling the viewer how he/she is supposed to react to the paintings."

I would recommend a firing squad* for de Botton and the Post-Its but shooting is too good for them!

They should be boiled in their own fatuousness.

Jerry is spot on:
The good thing about art is that each person brings his or her baggage and history to each work of art, imbuing it with different meanings. Imagine what would happen if de Botton went next door and got his sticky fingers on the Van Gogh Museum!
I'm more worried that he'll go closer to home ... the Tate ... and leave his grubby shallow fingerprints on J.M.W. Turner.

Other than to tell you a bit about the painting's subject and history, who needs to be told how to react to it?

I can go blind staring at that all on my own, thank you very much!

* For the sarcasm impaired, I'm not serious about that ... much.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Klinghoffer's Designer

In the category of "As If We Didn't Know Already" comes this little missive from David Klinghoffer.

Klinghoffer is grousing about Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, with what Klinghoffer describes as "a sensible moderate conservative perspective" and Gerson's column entitled " The strange tension between theology and science."

Gerson was writing about the Associated Press-GfK poll that found that Americans doubt certain scientific ideas, including the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, anthropogenic climate change and, Klinghoffer's pet peeve, evolution. Here's Klinghoffer's kvetch:
Gerson seems implicitly to wrap up "evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change" in a big bundle, all equally factual and unworthy of further questioning. However, there's a huge difference between, on one hand, the first and last items in that list -- if by "evolution" you mean Darwinian theory as to the mechanism underlying evolutionary change -- and the second and third items, on the other.
After the obligatory trotting out of Lynn Margulis as a "doubter" of neo-Darwinism (heck, why not Larry Moran?) who, of course, does not doubt that there is a naturalistic explanation of evolution.

But then Klinghoffer gets down to the real business of ID and the Discoveryless Institute:
Gerson also seems to think that no scientific notion could be a legitimate source of "tension" with faith. He writes about the Big Bang, observing that
the idea of a universe that began in a flash that flung stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies across the vast canvas of space is, to put it mildly, compatible with Jewish and Christian belief: "Let there be light."
Of course he's right, which is why some scientists have resisted the Big Bang: along with cosmic fine-tuning, it does appear to confirm a theistic view.
The "resistance" to the Big Bang was short and yielded to the overwhelming empiric evidence ... something that the IDers refuse to supply for their own "theory." Cosmic fine-tuning is, in fact, a metaphysical claim because, with only one example of a universe, we cannot possibly "know" what the probabilities of "hitting" the particular mix of basic forces within our own universe are, anymore than we can know what the probabilities of dealing a particular poker hand is from a deck with an unknown number of cards.
But to think that no assertion from science can challenge religion is to make your faith basically fatuous. If it so forgiving, so content-free, as to accommodate any statement whatsoever about the universe, about reality, valid or invalid, so long as the statement comes from a scientist, I don't see that as a formula for a religion that's worthy of consideration.

For example, the idea that biology gives no indication of purpose or creativity on God's or anyone else's part would seem to be, from the perspective of traditional Judaism or Christianity, a bridge too far. If Darwinism were right about that, it would surely undercut my own Jewish faith.
I like that handwave in the direction of the Constitution, "on God's or anyone else's part." As if positing Satan, or Odin or a Deist First Mover as "the Designer" would be any less a bridge too far for "traditional Judaism or Christianity"!

But I wonder if Klinghoffer ever thinks about the reverse of his formulation ... if your faith makes you deny science, isn't it already fatuous?

Anyway, Klinghoffer's ultimate complaint is that journalists like Gerson "simply haven't taken the time to study the details of the Darwin controversy" ... which, of course, is just like a journalist not bothering to study the homeopathic "controversy" with science-based medicine ... as propounded by a homeopath!

I suspect Gerson is aware of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board and why should he revisit the dishonesty that is ID? On one side we have a small group of alleged scientists motivated by their concern for their "traditional" faiths and on the other we have some 98% of scientists made up of a diverse group with different philosophies, including theists like Ken Miller, Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala, who reject the notion that ID is science.

Now, it is true that, within the scientific community, there are more atheists and fewer "traditional" believers than in the population at large. But whose fault is that when the "traditional" believers drill into their children's heads that to accept the power of science to know the workings of the natural world is atheism and materialism? It is not that science, or the methodological naturalism that powers it, is inherently atheistic, it is that the "traditional" theists have made it a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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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.

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