Saturday, July 31, 2010


The ADL Loses Its Mind

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement about the "debate" over the proposed Islamic Center near "Ground Zero" in Manhattan:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values. These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Let's see if we can recast this just a little:

There are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the Great War and our nation's defeat. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed in that war.

The controversy which has emerged regarding Jewish communities within our nation is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe Germany would be better served if alternative locations could be found for these Jewish communities.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Jews, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build and maintain their communities, and what connections, if any, their leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.

Proponents of Jewish communities may have every right to build at those sites, and may even have chosen their sites to send a positive message about Judaism. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, allowing Jewish communities in the shadow of our World War defeat will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Those whom the gods would destroy ...

Friday, July 30, 2010


More On Columnists

Diana West is a moron.

When you are a columnist syndicated by numerous news outlets, you presumably don't want to write blather that contains its own contradiction. Obliviousness or, worse, pandering to religious biases to sell stuff, is the mark of a moron.

The occasion for this is West's reaction to the speech by Britain's Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging Turkey's admission to the European Union. Now, there may be good reasons not to admit Turkey to the EU but, if so, West doesn't have a clue what they are. Hers are all bound up in false theology:

Never mind the EU's deliberate omission of "God" or "Christianity" in its 439-page constitution.

... West writes from the vantage point of a country whose much shorter and much more elegant Constitution also deliberately omitted mention of "God" or "Christianity." She goes on to say:

But there is another implication to the debate: that Western identity is merely an atavistic expression of petty insularity. Free will, free conscience – the evolution of individual liberty – is the fruit of Judeo-Christian civilization, one that Islamic doctrine is unable to produce.

Tragically, it is also one that Westerners are throwing away.

That "Judeo-Christian" is particularly cute. Even excluding the Nazis, with their "Gott Mit Uns" belt buckles, shoving millions of Jews into gas chambers, Europe's record on allowing Jews freedom of conscience and liberty was appalling well into the 20th Century.

How Jews keep from screaming whenever these Christianist bigots wrap themselves in the mantle of Judaism, I'll never understand.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Comedy Act


Barbara Forrest has been having some fun with Louisiana creationists and, particularly, with Casey Luskin, the Lou Costello of the ID Movement. Besides demonstrating, once again, that that the good, but perhaps ignorant, people of the Pelican State are fully aware the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discoveryless Institute are unrepentant liars when they repeatedly pinkie-swore that creationism had nothing to do with the politician-named "Louisiana Science Education Act" (you can always assume that a law will have the exact opposite effect of the label any politician puts on it), she gives a good history of the law and its connection to creationism.

As I noted before, the Livingston Parish School Board couldn't help but "pull a Buckingham" and blab their intention to inject creationism into science classes. Forrest imagines the telephne conversation between Luskin and Darrell White, the LFF's creationism "wrangler":

Casey Luskin: Hey, Darrell, you guys aren't sticking to the script. We've been over this a hundred times. Didn't you practice this with the school board ahead of time? You aren't supposed to mention 'intelligent design' and you darn sure aren't supposed to use the word 'creationism'! OK, one more time — here's how it goes: first, the Discovery Institute teaches the Louisiana Family Forum the code terms, and second, the Louisiana Family Forum teaches them to the school board. What's hard about that, Darrell?

So for Pete's sake, clean up your language down there! We spent all that time and energy helping you people out, and now you're screwing everything up! Get with the program. We told you how you were supposed to do this. Instead of using the word 'creationism,' your people on the Livingston Parish School Board — or Ouachita Parish, or wherever — are supposed to say that they simply want the public schools to help students engage in "critical analysis" or "critical thinking" about evolution. Or maybe they can say that the school board just wants to add the "evidence for and against evolution" or the "strengths and weaknesses of evolution." But none of this creationism talk, for heaven's sake! They're tipping everyone off! We already got our butts kicked once up in Pennsylvania!

Darrell White: Now, now, calm down, son. Everyone down here knows what's really going on, and most people are totally cool with it. Creationism, intelligent design, critical analysis, strengths and weaknesses. What's the difference? You and our other Discovery Institute friends already did your job by providing the template for the Louisiana Science Education Act — your "Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution" — and then lending us David DeWolf to help us tweak and sanitize our version of it so we could sucker the legislature. And on top of that, y'all were nice enough to send Caroline Crocker — a real creationist who's practically a movie star! — down here to testify for the bill. And then on top of all that, y'all helped us steamroll the DOE and BESE. We're mighty obliged, son. But you can let the grownups take it from here. We may talk slow down here, but we know what we're doing. It's gonna work out fine.

Casey: OMG — But let's get that code language into whatever **written** policy the school board comes up with, OK? And get the word out to your school board friends in other parishes. Can you at least handle that? Don't make me have to come down there again. OMG.

It's funny indeed ... but I think she's giving Luskin too much credit for cojones. Luskin's default attitude is to whine ... mean ol' "Darwinists" disrespect IDers ... IDers are "expelled" by "elitists" ... drunken young women take advantage of him ...

So, let me reimagine the conversation:

Casey Luskin: M...ister ... Mister White ... ? I wanna ... talk to you ... if it's okay ... about the Livingston Parish School Board ... if that's okay?

Darrell White: Vat does it matter? Look into my eyes ... deep into my eyes ...

Casey Luskin: Ummm ... but the courts ... the ACLU ... couldn't you just tone it down?

Darrell White: ... you are getting sleepy ... very sleepy ...

Casey Luskin: ... but ... but ... "evidence for and against evolution" ... "strengths and weaknesses of evolution" ... I'm sleepy ... very sleepy ...

Darrell White: [leaning over towards Casey's neck] You vill obey ...

Casey Luskin: BUD! BUD! Help!

Bud Chapman: What is it now?

Casey Luskin: I saw him ... Dracula!

Bud Chapman: You're dreaming again!

Casey Luskin: No, no ... I saw him right there!

Bud Chapman: You're crazy! ... But who's on first?

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Sad Tale

PZ Myearshertz is already on this but I think he missed the real story.

Harold Camping has predicted that Christ will return on May 21, 2011 and the Earth will be destroyed five months later on October 21, 2011.

A group that claims to be unaffiliated with Camping is encouraging people to put up bus bench ads announcing the Second Coming all across the country. But that's still not the story.

This is. As Lauri Lebo points out, the Colorado Springs Gazette interviewed a person who had sponsored one of the ads, at a cost of $1,200. It turns out that she is unemployed. But not only did she waste her money, she goes on to say:

There are things I felt I always wanted to do—get married, have a kid, travel more," she said. "But it's not about what I want out of life. It's about what God wants.

Lebo calls it "the saddest quote I have ever read in a news story" and I agree. As I know all too well, life is short and wasting 10 months sitting around waiting for something that isn't going to happen, instead of working on those other good things, is a shame.

Some day she might wish she had those months back.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


How Many Bends Does That Make?

Orly Taitz has sailed 'round another bend.

In case you haven't been following the trials and tribulations of everyone's favorite dentist/lawyer/delusional birther, here's a brief recap, courtesy of Ed Brayton:

Taitz has been filing frivolous lawsuits on behalf of various parties, including soldiers who don't want to put their butts in harm's way and, therefore, claim they can't be deployed to Iraq by Obama because he's not legitimately the commander-in-chief. A Federal judge in Georgia, Judge Clay Land, a Bush appointee, had had enough and told her to knock it off.

Being delusional, Taitz couldn't help herself and continued to file crap in Judge Land's court and he sanctioned her $20,000 for frivolous conduct.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sanctions.

And then she appealed to the Supreme Court, asking Justice Thomas for an emergency stay of the enforcement of the sanctions ... because, if she can be sanctioned, FEMA will be opening Gulags the next day.

Needless to say, Justice Thomas denied her application ... soooo ...

Taitz filed a motion to Justice Roberts to confirm that Justice Thomas really signed the order.

Ya see ...

On July 16, Friday 2010, around 9PM EST Applicant Attorney Dr. Orly Taitz, Esq (hereinafter Taitz) checked the electronic docket of the Supreme court, it showed no answer from Clarence Thomas. ...

On Saturday July 17, 2010 Taitz started getting comments on her website from some Obama supporters gloating about the fact that Justice Thomas dismissed her application. Originally, Taitz dismissed those as a dumb joke, but as those comments continued, she checked the electronic docket of the Supreme Court and to her amazement found, that somebody made a new entry on Saturday July 17, 2010, and backdated it for Thursday the 15th of July, stating that Justice Thomas dismissed her application.

On Saturday the court was closed, Justices and clerks were not there, therefore the applicant has reasonable belief and suspicion, that above entry was not authorized.

There appears to be a pattern of docket entries made or deletions of entries from the docket done when the Supreme Court is closed.
Which leads off into another fantasy about other birther cases being "disappeared." Naturally, the Supreme Court may just have an outside firm taking care of the maintenance of its website and entry of data, whose employees don't enjoy judge's hours.

Of course, she could just go the Supreme Court and check the paper file.

But that wouldn't be Looney Toons enough.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Dishonesty Institute

Given that the creationist agenda may be heating up in Louisiana, here's a thought from Barbara Forrest:

Creationists are always forced to morph into something less recognizable -- and, they hope, less legally vulnerable -- after losses in federal court. "Creation science" had morphed into "intelligent design" after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling barred public schools from teaching it. However, after Kitzmiller, that term, too, is legally dangerous, so DI had to disguise its efforts yet again. Consequently, "intelligent design" creationists now shroud ID in multiple alternative identities: "critical analysis of evolution," "teaching the controversy," teaching the "strengths and weaknesses of evolution," "evidence for and against evolution," and, in the form of legislation in Louisiana and five other states this year, "academic freedom." These code terms are instantly recognized by DI's supporters as announcements of creationist initiatives. However, the local foot soldiers cannot be relied on to stick to the DI terminological playbook. Early in the effort, Sen. Nevers ["author" of the Louisiana law] candidly told a reporter that he introduced the legislation on behalf of the LFF because "they believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory." (emphasis added) After some quick spinning for the media (and probably some additional coaching), Nevers got back on message.


Update: Via Greg Laden, more from Barbara Forrest and the NCSE.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010


curiosity saves the cat

here on a tangled bank
reflected in ape eyes
meaning eludes us
except in facile lies

against all odds
knowledge comes
worn about the edges
and dearly dearly won

living is to learn
learning is to be alive
each the purpose
and the breath
that stopped in one
insures the other




I Don't Want to Hear It!

Here's an interesting lawsuit, Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley et al., in the Southern District of Georgia:

A graduate student in school counseling is accusing Augusta State University in federal court of violating her constitutional rights by demanding that she work to change her views opposing homosexuality.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Augusta, Ga., the student, Jennifer Keeton, argues that faculty members and administrators at the university have violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion by threatening her with expulsion if she does not fufill (sic) requirements contained in a remediation plan intended to get her to change her beliefs.

Ms. Keeton's lawsuit accuses the university of being "ideologically heavy-handed" in imposing the requirements on her "simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity." It argues that her views, which hold that homosexual behavior is immoral and that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle, would not interfere with her ability to provide competent counseling to gay men and lesbians.
In essence, the university required that Keeton undergo "remedial" training, partly for her poor writing skills and, relevant to her lawsuit, concerning her "ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations."

The plaintiff is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, self-described as "a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth." The text of the Complaint can be found at the ADF's website. Perhaps the heart of the lawsuit is this:

57. Miss Keeton gave consideration to her options in the days following the May 27, 2010 meeting. She did not want to be subject to the terms of the second portion of the remediation plan, which required her to be subject to a sustained program of proselytizing that was overtly hostile to her Christian convictions, which no other student was required to endure in order to remain in good standing in the program.
Strangely (or maybe not so), the ADF does not include Exhibit B, the actual remediation plan Keeton was required to adhere to. Here are the relevant parts:

Another equally important question that has arisen over the last two semesters is Jen's ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations. Jen has voiced disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian "lifestyle." She stated in one paper that she believes GLBTQ "lifestyles" to be identity confusion. This was during her enrollment in the Diversity Sensitivity course and after the presentation on GLBTQ populations. Faculty have also received unsolicited reports from another student that she has relayed her interest in conversion therapy for GLBTQ populations, and she has tried to convince other students to support and believe her views.

There are three major issues of concern with these statements and behaviors. First, these statements and actions are in direct conflict with the codes of ethics to which counselors and counselors-in-training are required to adhere. Section C.5, of the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics (2005) clearly states that counselors "do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law" (p. 10).

Part of the Preamble of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Ethical Standards (2004) states:

Each person has the right to be respected, be treated with dignity and have access to a comprehensive school counseling program that advocates for and affirms all students from diverse populations regardless of ethnic/racial status, age, economic status, special needs, English as a second language or other language group, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, family type, retigious/spiritual identity and appearance. (p. l)
The ASCA Etnical Standards further state in section E. 2 that the professional school counselor:

a. Affirms the diversity of students, staff and families.
b. Expands and develops awareness of his/her own attitudes and beliefs affecting cultural values and biases and strives to attain cultural competence.
c. Possesses knowledge and understanding about how oppression, racism, discrimination and stereotyping affects her/him personally and professionally.
d. Acquires educational, consultation and training experiences to improve awareness, knowledge, skills and effectiveness in working with diverse populations: ethnic/racial status, age, economic status, special needs, ESL or ELL, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, family type, religious/spiritual identity and appearance. (p.4)
These codes dictate the necessity for counselors to possess an awareness of personal biases, a desire to gain knowledge of multicultural populations, as well as the ability to remain respectful, affirming, and most importantly, responsive to the needs of minority populations. This is especially important for school counselors, which Jen aspires to be, as they are responsible for assisting in the development of an affirming and safe school environment for all students in schools.

Secondly, the psychological research about GLBTQ populations asserts that sexual orientation is not a lifestyle or choice, but a state of being. Most researchers believe that how one becomes gay or lesbian is a complex process influenced by both biological and environmental factors. To work effectively with the population, one must develop an understanding of the history, discrimination, oppression, and current problems that confront GLBTQ people.

Third, research in psychological peer-reviewed journals has also reveals that conversion therapy is ineffective in changing individual's sexual orientation from same-sex attractions to opposite-sex attractiveness. Peer-reviewed studies have actually indicated that conversion therapy may harm clients rather then help them. The American Psychological Association repealed inclusion of homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973, stating that it is not a mental health condition for which people are in need of change.

Given all of the above, and since the ASU counseling program trains counselors to work in public as well as private institutions, faculty question Jen's ability to become an effective practitioner in the counseling field without more deliberate and intentional action to further develop her multicultural counseling awareness, knowledge, and skills specifically towards working with GLBTQ populations. Her lack of awareness of how her beliefs may negatively impact future clients is of great concern. Therefore, the steps below are required.

Summary of Remediation Planning Session:

Faculty met with Jennifer on May 27 to review the problems described above and develop the following remediation plan:

Remediation Plan Outline :

To address issues of writing ...

To address issues of multicultural competence and develop understanding and empathy:

7. Jen will attend at least three workshops prior to the end of the mil 2010 semester which emphasize improving cross-cultural communication, developing multicultural competence, or diversity sensitivity training toward working with GLBTQ populations. She will provide to her advisor evidence in the form of attendance certificates.
8. Jen will continue to develop her knowledge base on GLBTQ issues by outside reading on the topic. She will read at least ten articles in peer-reviewed counseling or psychological journals that pertain to improving counseling effectiveness with GLBTQ populations. There is much research available on the ALGBTTC webpage under Resources.
9. Jen will work to increase exposure and interaction with gay populations. One such activity could be attending the Gay Pride Parade in Augusta. She will report on these interactions in her reflections (below).
10. Jen will familiarize herself with the ALGBTIC Competencies for Counseling Gays and Transgender Clients.
11. Each month - Jen will submit a two-page reflection to her advisor that summarizes what she learned from her research, how her study has influenced her beliefs, and how future clients may benefit from what she has learned.
12. Based on these written reflections and two scheduled meetings with Jen prior to December 2010, faculty will decide the appropriateness of her continuation in the counseling program

Please note that failure to complete all elements of the remediation plan will result in dismissal from the Counselor Education Program.
Let's consider the hypothetical of a graduate student in geology who insisted that he believed in "Flood geology" as an explanation for the geologic record. Would educators be within their right to insure that the student understood the evidence for an old Earth?

In this case, is it proselytizing to insure that Keeton understands "how her beliefs may negatively impact future clients," by knowing, even if not agreeing with, present psychological views of the genesis of gender and sexual identity? Or is it merely fulfilling the object of education? Nothing in Exhibit B requires that she change her views, only that she be aware of the contrary evidence and reflect upon it.

Keeton is claiming that she was threatened with termination from the program if she did not change her religiously held views. If so, she may have a case under the First Amendment. But if the claim is that she should be free from having her religious views challenged by information inconvenient to her beliefs, then she is just demanding to be ignorant ... something that no educational institution needs to concede.


A Confederacy of Dunces

Here is a frightening story from National Public Radio:

A new report warns that the United States is falling farther and farther behind other countries in the proportion of adults with a college education. Researchers say the decline could have devastating economic and social consequences for the country.

According to the College Completion Agenda, no more than 40 percent of the U.S. adult population has a college degree, and even though most high school graduates enroll in college, only 56 percent earn an undergraduate degree in six years or less. The completion rate drops even more in community colleges, where only 28 percent earn a degree in three years or less.

"It's a very serious problem. People like never before in the United States understand how critical it is to get an education," says Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, which commissioned the study. He says the U.S. is losing its competitive advantage in the world because it's not producing nearly enough people with the level of education necessary to keep high-paying jobs from leaving the country.

The study doesn't single out any one cause, in part because there are so many, but it does cite students' transition from high school to college as a major issue. For example, the commission found that more than a quarter of college students require remedial classes in reading, writing and math. Community colleges know this all too well.

No doubt the same can be said of science, particularly biology. The bottom line is: the U.S. now ranks 12th in college completion among 36 developed nations and is slipping:

[T]he United States ranks fourth in postsecondary attainment for citizens ages 55 to 64. The United States trails the Russian Federation, Israel and Canada in this age group. As America's aging and highly educated workforce moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world. However, ... among citizens who are ages 25 to 34 in developed countries, the United States ranks 12th. Among this key demographic group, Canada, Korea, the Russian Federation, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia are ahead of the United States. Also, Denmark and Sweden are close to parity with our nation.

Our total military spending is about a trillion to a trillion and a quarter dollars a year. The last Education Department budget was $63.7 billion. Including all public and private funding we're spending about $972 billion a year on education. That may seem impressive but what does our national security really depend on ... bullets or brains?

Saturday, July 24, 2010


They Know What You Did, Part Deux

It seems I was a tad premature when I said that all was quiet on the creationism front in Louisiana.

It appears that the Livingston Parish School Board is intent on a plan to deprive the children under their care of no doubt sorely needed resources by pouring them into a futile lawsuit. The board has even copied the means used by the Dover School Board to achieve this end. In an article in the Baton Rouge Advocate by Vic Couvillion, entitled "School Board might OK teaching creationism," published July 24, 2010 (on page 4B, in case anyone is looking for it later), we learn:

The Livingston Parish School Board will begin exploring the possibility of incorporating the teaching of "creationism" in the public school system's science classes.

During the board's meeting Thursday, several board members expressed an interest in the teaching of creationism, an alternative to the study of the theory of evolution, in Livingston Parish public school classrooms. ...

[Jan] Benton [director of curriculum] said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed "critical thinking and creationism" in science classes.

Board Member David Tate quickly responded: "We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can't we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?"

Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, "I agree … you don't have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom."

Board President Keith Martin, while reminding the members that a decision had been made in the past not to teach creationism, suggested that now might be the time to re-examine the issue.

Martin said that one problem with the teaching of creationism versus evolution is that, "You don't want two different teachers teaching two different things."

Martin, noting that discipline of young people is constantly becoming more of a challenge for parents and teachers, agreed: "Maybe it's time that we look at this."

When Martin suggested that the board appoint a committee to study the possibility of introducing creationism into the classroom, his opinion met with general, if unofficial approval.

"We shouldn't just jump into this thing, but we do need to look at it," Martin said. "The American Civil Liberties Union and even some of our principals would not be pleased with us, but we shouldn't worry about the ACLU. It's more important that we do the correct thing for the children we educate."

Hey! How about teaching the children you educate about the United State's Constitution? You know, the parts that say that everyone has freedom of religion and that government should not impose one group's religious beliefs on everyone else at taxpayer expense?

As for the ACLU, you should be afraid of it because you've just handed it a giant club and invited it to beat you with it. (And hint: claiming that the entire board was addicted to Oxycontin and didn't remember ever mentioning "creationism" is not about to work.)

Memo to the Louisiana Family Forum and the UnDiscovery Institute: when you are working with people stupid and/or ignorant enough to fall for the notion that creationism can be scientific, they are not likely to get the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean" and will state directly what they know you are promising them.

But thanks again to the Livingston Parish School Board for confirming that they knew the LFF and DI were lying through their teeth when they swore up and down that the Louisiana Science Education Act had nothing to do with teaching creationism in public schools.


Via John Lynch at a simple prop

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Blogarrhea Anniversary

It was five years ago today that I first put pen to paper ... errr ... electron to computer display ... at this site.

For all those I've infuriated, and the few I've entertained, you have Wilkins to blame for it. It started merely as a convenient place on the web to lodge photographs of John Wilkins' visit to New York and the Howlerfest thrown in his honor at the American Museum of Natural History.

There was nothing more profound about then and, doubtless, nothing more profound occurred in the years since ... except that life, as is its habit, went on.

Friday, July 23, 2010


They Know What You Did

You'll remember the Louisiana Science Education Act and the terrible place it put the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Despite the fact that the law has been on the books for almost two years, things on the creationism front in Louisiana have been quiet. The natives are, however, getting restless, as shown by this Letter to the Editor, "Being lukewarm on the question of man's origin" in the Shreveport Times:

Man was either purposefully designed or he was not. One is accurate. The other is false. Our nation is divided on that question.

Those who believe man was purposefully designed attribute that design to a supreme being, a creator, e.g. their God. For most Christians and Jews, this would be the biblical God, the God of Abraham. Atheists, on the other hand, deny the existence of God and reject any suggestion that man was purposefully designed.

... Our biology teachers, whom we pay and direct, routinely make liars out of our preachers and rabbis who believe and teach that man was purposefully designed by God.

In high school biology classes, our children are taught that humans evolved from a lower life form that, in turn, evolved from a lower life form, etc., and that all living creatures evolved from a single common ancestor without the benefit of any planning or design, e.g., without the involvement of a supreme being, a creator, a God. Humans and turnips have a common ancestor. ...

Our legislature passed and our governor signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which permits an objective critique of evolution theory as it relates to man's origin. It authorizes the use of texts or teaching aids that question the evidence supporting that view and introducing material that supports the alternative view, e.g. that man was purposefully designed. The law's apparent purpose is to change what is being taught in our public schools re: man's origin (and purpose). The intent is to expose the children to both sides of this two-sided question.

But, of course, the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discoveryless Institute swore up and down that the law wouldn't inject religion into science classes ... until, of course, the BESE actually tried to implement guidelines to insure that, at which point they had a cow.

So, the reality-based community already knew that this supposedly non-creationist legislation was a lie perpetrated by people who, as Judge Jones noted, "so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, [but who] time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise [their] real purpose ..."

The good news is that, if the letter writer is correct, it is the local school boards who are avoiding stepping on their ying-yangs, perhaps learning from the example of Dover and the marine rodent propensities of the DI.

But the locals are happy to confirm that everybody believes that the LFF and the DI are liars.


Via The Sensuous Curmudgeon

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Thursday, July 22, 2010


Suffer the Little Children

The British government's Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, intended to promote educational field trips for schoolchildren, has given a "Quality Badge" to Noah's Ark Zoo Farm.

The British Humanist Association is not amused:

BHA education campaigns officer James Gray said:

'This is an appalling decision. It is entirely inappropriate that the Council should support an establishment that advances creationism and seeks to discredit a wide variety of established scientific facts that challenge their religious views, such as radio carbon dating, the fossil record and the speed of light.'

'Teachers and parents look to the Council for assurance that children will experience high quality educational visits that meet the relevant government guidelines. Awarding this particular zoo a Quality Badge risks exposing hundreds of children to anti-scientific dogma.'

'This is not a freedom of speech or freedom of religion issue. The question is whether the information displayed by this zoo meets the tests of accuracy and truth that parents, teachers and other educational professionals expect.'

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Quotable Quote Quoters

Michael Barton, at The Dispersal of Darwin, has a good idea:

I really think we should have a book with Darwin quotes much like The New Quotable Einstein.
Michael is collecting quotes and, whether or not it ever results in a book, it's a good idea to go over there and leave your own favorites. Here's mine (out of many possibilities):

It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

The Descent of Man, and Selection In Relation to Sex, 1871, p. 3

Monday, July 19, 2010


Pseudo Peer Review

Well, well! Wadda ya know! The Discovery Institute's Ministry of Misinformation is peddling another "peer-reviewed" article that "expressly endorses intelligent design (ID) via an exploration of a key question in ID thinking." This time the article, "Information and Entropy -- Top-Down or Bottom-Up Development in Living Systems?," appears in that prestigious scientific publication: the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, which describes itself as:

... act[ing] as a channel of communication for researchers from around the world working on a variety of studies involving nature and its significance to modern scientific thought and design.
Even then, the editors felt the need to note that "[t]he reader should not assume that the Journal or the reviewers agree with the conclusions of the paper." Some peer review!

There is much gobbledygook that I am not qualified to criticize but it seems to boil down that we need "the addition of outside intelligence, [or else] raw matter and energy will not produce auto organization and machinery." Hmmm, exactly how does one add "outside intelligence" and what is the thermodynamic explanation of how it comes to be added? Oh, wait! Maybe this explains it:

This latter assertion is actually repeatedly borne out by experimental observation - new machinery requires intelligence. And intelligence in biological systems is from the non-material instructions of DNA.
Riiight! The Watchmaker Analogy and miracles!

Nor is this much of a surprise, given that the author is Andrew McIntosh, a chemical engineer (Salem Hypothesis, anyone?) and a young-Earth creationist. Now, Professor McIntosh may well understand the thermodynamics of blunt chemical reactions but I'm hardly going to take the opinions of someone too dense or too ideology-ridden to understand the evidence for the age of the Earth and universe for anything outside the narrow confines of his field.

That the DI will tout this as evidence of the "science" of ID shows just how desperate they are for any scrap of scientific respectability.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Pawns of War

Dan Gilbert at Rationality Now has a thorough deconstruction of one of Answers in Genesis's videos: "Four Power Questions to Ask an Evolutionist." It's well worth the read.

But one point struck me as needing a bit of addendum:

In his argument that the creation days were six literal days, he uses a weak example of the Ten Commandments being simple to understand in plain language ("Thou shalt not steal… Thou shalt not murder") meaning that the rest of the bible is simple to understand in plain language, too. So when the bible says "six days," it means six literal days. This is important because, as emphasized repeatedly by AiG speakers, if you don't believe Genesis is real, then the rest of the bible falls apart.

"Thou shalt not murder" is simple to understand? Hmmm ... wouldn't cold-blooded killing of children, no matter what the sins of their parents, count as "murder"?

Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

That was Moses ... you know, the guy who supposedly wrote Genesis ... ordering the Israelite soldiers, who couldn't bring themselves to slaughter women and children in the course of the battle as they had been ordered to do and, instead, had brought them back to their camp, to kill infants.

The Ten Commandments are simple to understand? Only if you are so simple-minded as to not actually read the Bible.


Which End Is Up?

I'm glad they cleared that up:

The question has cast a spotlight on a group of scientists more used to leading quiet lives of research, often peering through fistulas positioned on the sides of cows to give direct access to their guts. The scientists, rumen microbiologists — "We're quite a few; you'd be amazed," Mr. Klieve said — study the stomachs of ruminants like cows, sheep and deer.

Ruminants release methane because of the peculiar way they digest their food. Inside a cow's foregut, which can contain more than 200 pounds of grass at any given time, fermentation of the food leads to the release of hydrogen, a byproduct that would slow down the fermentation. Microbes known as methanogens help the ruminants get rid of the excess hydrogen by producing methane gases that the animals release into the atmosphere.

In other animals known as hindgut fermenters, including humans — in which food is fermented after going through their stomachs — methane is sometimes released through flatulence, a fact that, Mr. Klieve said, has led to misunderstanding about his work

"We've had to put up with that all the time," Mr. Klieve said. "It comes from the front end! In the cow, it comes from the front end. But if you're a hindgut fermenter, it goes the other way."

Friday, July 16, 2010


Making Homer Look Smart

We need a new category. In this era of the Teabaggers, Ed Brayton's "Dumbass Quote of the Day," even when expanded to "of the year" or "all time" just no longer cuts it:

After the NAACP criticized the Tea Party for tolerating racism, Tea Party spokesman Mark Williams said, "I am disinclined to take lectures on racial sensitivity from a group that insists on calling black people 'Colored.'"
Maybe, "Has to Hunt Three Days to Find His Dumbass Quote of the Day."


Vanity of Vanities

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair has a delicious demolition of the Miss Congeniality in the Conservative Wet-Dreams Pageant, Laura Ingraham, and her recent exercise -- in book form, no less -- of puerile "satire" about the Obamas.

This part is cute ... in about the same way as a three year old trying to say "nuclear physics" is cute:

I think we live in the greatest country on the face of the earth. And of course America was going to elect a minority president. Why wouldn't we? I always hoped it would be a conservative that would be elected first, but we're America! Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant people in the face of the planet—a celebrated person around the world, also a disabled man. I mean, Oprah Winfrey is an African-American woman."
What's up with conservative "pundits" and Hawking? Wolcott reminds us:

During the health care debate the idiotic Investor's Business Daily ran an editorial claiming that Hawking were in the UK, he'd be targeted for the human scrap heap by the National Health Service. When it was pointed out to IBD with an accompaniment of of scorn and mocking that Hawking is in the UK, that he was born and raised and educated there, the paper issued a pissy little retraction, provoking Ezra Klein to observe:

Investor's Business Daily...has now deleted the offending line from their editorial and published a correction. "This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK," reads the addendum.

But that's not a correction at all. IBD never claimed that Hawking didn't live in the UK. It claimed that the NHS would judge him worthless and leave him to die. That was what was wrong. And that has not been corrected by the IBD -- which says a lot about how much trust readers should place in their work. Instead, it has been corrected by Hawking himself.
I suppose that they dimly know that Hawking is the most famous and, quite possibly, the greatest, theoretical physicist alive and, having had their lizard minds imprinted with the "American Exceptionalism" meme, they can't help in their ignorance but assume that he's American.

But Wolcott then goes on to pile another log on what's rapidly turning out to be the bonfire of Arianna Huffington's vanity:

I don't know if you noticed -- I didn't draw attention to it -- but I removed The Huffington Post from my peerless blogroll for running anti-Darwin/pro-"Intelligent Design" claptrap propaganda, and now I see they're publishing Ingraham's "Obama Diaries" as a daily blog, only reconfirming my original slash mark through their name.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


God's Governance

In answer to the many prayers offered up all around the Gulf of Mexico, along with petitions from various state and local governments, the Almighty finally gave His permission for BP to stop the flow of oil from it's destroyed Deep Horizon well.

A spokesangel for the Heavenly Administration, when asked why it took so long to get the permit issued, seemed annoyed: "We get dozens of billions of prayers a day and each have to be evaluated for their content, urgency and worthiness for consideration. The Earth wasn't built in a day, you know ... and even the Big Guy needs a rest now and then. This Administration always works with all deliberate speed!"

The Demon Opposition, naturally enough, wasn't buying what it called "the 'bumbling bureaucracy' excuse for inattention and incompetence." Lucifer issued a statement saying: "This whole incident points up the need for smaller government of the universe closer to the people ... the kind our party can offer. It's crystal clear from any reading of the newspapers that real people much prefer what the Demon Party offers over any cradle-to-grave promises the Almighty makes."

When asked about Lucifer's statement, the spokesangel merely put his finger to the side of his nose and said: "Bad things can still happen to good people ... and everyone else!"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Out and About the Intertubz

Loony Lord Monckton's attempt to shut down academic criticism of his climate change denialism is the subject of Ken Perrott at Open Parachute.

Phil Plait's "Don't be a dick" speech and various lines of evidence for and against Phil's premise are discussed by Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas.

Whether religion really is a drug (and whether or not that's a good thing) is discussed by Tom Rees at Epiphenom.

[Mis]quoting Galileo is Thony C's bête noire at The Renaissance Mathematicus.

Abby has a few choice words about the epidemiology of homophobia at ERV.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Tennessee Two-Step

They had a weird sort of debate for candidates for governor of Tennessee recently, where the three Republicans and one Democrat participated. (Does Tennesse have one of those nonpartisan primaries?)

Anyway, the question of teaching the science of evolution as opposed to Intelligent Design Creationism (as you'll see, every candidate fully understood that ID is creationism) came up. You can find an audio file of that section of the debate here. I've done my best to make an accurate transcript of it -- leaving out the ums and repetitions -- but, as politicians often do, they were speaking very, very, fast with very, very, little regard for making any actual sense. Any corrections to my attempt will be welcomed.

An audience member, Whitney Dickerson, asks: "Do you believe Intelligent Design and/or Evolution ... should be in the public schools?" The responses were:

Mike McWherter, the lone Democrat:

I think there is a place for talking about evolution in our schools and there is no question about that. But the bottom line is I much prefer a more traditional curriculum for our school students, especially at a very early age. We can blend science and religion in that regard and the two do not have to contradict each other and I believe as long as we are responsible with it -- work with our teachers -- we can give our students the kind of encouragement they need to [crest?].

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:

I do believe in teaching Intelligent Design in schools. I'm a Christian myself -- I know that I was created by God -- I understand that and that's what I want my children to learn. There may be a place for evolution in public schools too, but let me assure you that we need emphasis on both sides of the issue: intelligent design that God created us, God created this universe and God created everything we see and know and do and at the same time we need evolution. I think we have lost this balance over the last few years.

Rep. Zach Wamp:

Well, my worldview is that man is not the center of the universe -- God is. And we're made by him to serve him and to serve each other. And I believe the Bible is the foundation of all good policy -- be it your family policy, your local government, state government policy -- so if there is to be teaching of evolution in the schools it better be counteracted by teaching faith-based, God-centered education. And frankly, in Chattanooga, where I came from, we had Bible in the school -- I love a local school board that will say: 'churches join together and teach Bible in the school in Tennessee'.

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam:

Well, I believe in an intelligent designer and I believe that it is people -- all of us -- who were created in the image of God. Also I would not have a faith that I am not [sic] afraid of science being taught in school with a chance for our students to interact and to get the kind of feedback that they are getting at home and have that sort of healthy interaction at school -- that doesn't scare me at all.

Well, if anything can be made out of that -- other than that politicians in Bible Belt states are soundly in favor of God! -- I'm not sure of what exactly it might be.

The nominal Democrat is willing to, sorta, allow that there might just be a place for talking about evolution in our schools, if it doesn't get in the way of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. Ramsey seems not to know that the ol' "balanced treatment" ploy went down in flames close on to two and a half decades ago. Wamp is encouraging local school boards to enrich the coffers of the ACLU by getting local churches in to teach the Bible. Haslam, while making furious hand signals to the Righteous Right, actually seems to be the closest to the correct constitutional position: let evolution be taught in public schools and religion taught by parents and pastors.

Care for another dip or two, my dear?

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Monday, July 12, 2010


Pipsqueek Paddling

As I'm a little under the weather tonight, here's Nick Matzke at The Panda's Thumb practicing the above on Casey Luskin by demonstrating, in what would be excruciating detail for anyone with an ounce of shame -- a condition Luskin does not suffer from -- the difference between rhetorical flourishes meant to obscure the truth and actual evidence and reasoned argument meant to illuminate the truth. One of several good quotes from Nick:

[T]hroughout his posts over the 5 years since the Kitzmiller trial, Luskin again and again fails to realize that court decisions are based on what evidence is entered at trial, where both sides have equal opportunity to enter evidence and testimony, and subject it to cross-examination. This is really surprising, considering Luskin is supposed to be a lawyer. Decisions are not based on things not entered into evidence, dreamed up via obsessive wishful thinking long after the trial, published by witnesses who withdrew from the trial and thereby avoided cross-examination, or published in friend-of-the-court briefs which are also not subject to cross-examination. I don't want to help Luskin, but given Luskin's belief in the credibility of the allegedly "pro-ID" articles that should have been entered into evidence, he would be better off arguing that the Defense did a bad job defending ID, than he would be arguing that the Court should have made a different decision, given the actual evidence actually put before it.

I don't think that argument would be much better, of course: the Defense actually followed the ID literature closely, talked to its biggest experts, and got ID's two most credible academics to testify. They did a credible job presenting ID as it was available "off the shelf" in 2005. But there just wasn't that much on ID's shelf, especially compared to evolution's shelf – heck, evolution had a bigger shelf devoted just to the single topic of the evolution of the vertebrate immune system!

Everything I've said above is made even worse by the fact that the issue at trial was not "is there some marginal chance that ID might have the tiniest smidgen of credibility, if you squint just right, if you ignore everything inconvenient, and if the wind is blowing the right direction and the moon is in the correct phase." Rather, the issue was "is this ID stuff on the level of what is typically expected to be taught in public school biology classrooms and textbooks?"

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Nope, Damn It, No!

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I am sympathetic to religious people who accept science. But now, Darrel Falk, of the BioLogos Foundation, is over at what Stephen Matheson, himself a Christian, calls "The Cesspool" ... otherwise known as Uncommon Descent ... trying to reach a rapprochement. In response to a post by "Johnnyb" entitled "A Convergence Between Biologos and the Intelligent Design Movement," Falk says:

There are few things that we [the BioLogos Foundation] would like more than this. Johnnyb is right. We are almost on the same page in so many respects. Many of the leaders in evolutionary creation have been tangentially associated with the ID movement. Bill Dembksi asked me to be an ISCID Fellow and I accepted almost 10 years ago. About 4 years ago, I asked to have my name removed.

I recently attended a meeting with a small group of leaders of the TE/EC perspective. Someone asked for a show of hands of those who attended the "Mere Christianity" conference in 1996 at Biola. Several raised their hands.

So why did we become disillusioned? That's the question I'll leave unanswered right now. However, my prayer would be that John 17 will yet become a reality given that we have so much in common.
Are the Biologos Foundation people on the same page with liars? Are they willing to mislead children about science? If they are, I want no more truck with them than I would with the Discovery Institute or The Cesspool.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Counting Finger and Toes

Hey, our old friend, the Rev. Tony Breeden, is back trying to attract attention. This occasion is the Kanawha Creation Science Group's Stupidity Fest Creation Conference coming up in August.

Speaking of creationism stupidity, check out Breeden's co-presenter's take on the ol' leviathan = dinosaur horsehockey:

[W]e are also introduced to an element that is once again foreign to us. Leviathan apparently had another, more horrific, trait. Consider verses 19-21: "Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth." This absolutely must tell us that leviathan was able to breathe fire!

This concept may seem more fiction rather than fact. However, do not forget that lightning bugs and some beetles have a form of combustion internally. According to some scientific theories, all that would keep a creature from being able to convert the internal combustion of the insects mentioned earlier is a store of oxygen and a vehicle to spray the fire. Such ideas certainly draw on the images of fire breathing dragons of old.

Fiction? Naw! After all, there's always this.

But let's go see how Rev. Tony's Creation Letter Project is going. As you'll remember, the Creation Letter Project is intended to counter the Clergy Letter Project, which reads:

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as "one theory among others" is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator.

The Clergy Letter Project has a total 12,614 signatures as of July 7th. The Creation Letter Project, on the other hand, has 257 as of last count. But wait a moment! Perhaps sensitive to criticism that some of the signatories weren't clergy, Rev. Tony has a new list just for "Pastors, Youth Pastors, Sunday School Teachers, Evangelists, Chaplains & Missionaries." And there he has a whopping 65 signatures (70, with some additions in the comments).

As Rev. Tony says:

It is disgusting that this modern-day Goliath gets to mock the people of God, flaunting the compromise of some of our ministers as if it represented the majority opinion, with no answer in kind. If they managed nearly 12,000 signatures, surely there are as many, if not more, who will stand up for Biblical Truth! We believe that there are a greater number of clergy who actually believe in a literal, historical 6-day Creation as related in Genesis.

Rev. Tony, you seem to have a few more to go.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Badass Quote of the Day

Shamelessly stealing ... er ... borrowing from Ed Brayton, here is the Badass Quote of the Day... from Ed Brayton:

Glenn Beck University -- for those who find the curriculum at Liberty, Regent and Bob Jones a bit too intellectually taxing.
Forget about transferring credits ... the question will be if you can keep real universities from taking credits away!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Heavenly Outreach

George Neumayr at The American Expectorater Spectator has an (unintentionally) amusing piece on President Obama's supposed "Islamophilia." (What's up with the Righteous Right's new obsession with Obama and Islam? ... Oh, wait, using religious/ethnic bigotry as a political weapon works for them, doesn't it?)

Quite apart from the sheer looniness of Neumayr's basic premise:

His presidency largely exists for the benefit of one religion, the only religion he appears to consider blameless and holy -- Islam, and not even its moderate variant.

... he proceeds to give as an "example" of Obama's Islamophilia the following:

This week NASA administrator Charles Bolden announced that the space program has adopted a new mission -- to serve as a self-esteem project for global Islam. He informed a reporter with Al Jazeera that when he took the NASA job Obama made it clear to him that "perhaps foremost he wanted to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."

That's wrong because:

Earth to Bolden and Barack [otherwise known as Mr. President to twerpy "pundits" - JTP]: These imams don't "feel good" about Islam's centuries-back contribution to science; they feel ashamed of it. As Robert R. Reilly chronicles in The Closing of the Muslim Mind, mainstream Islamic theology today views science as impious/useless because it presupposes that God created the world rationally, a presupposition which is an affront to God (under the twisted metaphysics of Islamic theology) since it is seen as a limitation on his freedom and transcendence.

"The catastrophic result of this view was the denial of the relationship between cause and effect in the natural order," writes Reilly. "In The Incoherence of the Philosophers, al-Ghazali, who vehemently rejected Plato and Aristotle, insisted that God is not bound by any order and that there is, therefore, no 'natural' sequence of cause and effect, as in fire burning cotton or, more colorfully, as in 'purging of the bowels and the using of a purgative.' Rather than a clear and binding relationship between cause and effect, there are merely juxtapositions of discrete events that make it appear that the fire is burning the cotton, but God could just as well do otherwise."

Now, what I'd like to know is just how is that different from this:

One of the assumptions you need to have in mind in terms of the assumption about the age of the earth that the scientific assumption comes down to this: uniformitarianism. The assumption that is crucial to establishing the age of the earth is based upon an intellectual assumption that was made in the early 19th century by Charles Lyell and others called uniformitarianism which assumes that the way we observe processes now is a constant guide to how physical processes always have operated. Thus a steady state of understanding physical processes is what we're talking about as the secular scientific assumption. We gauge these things and measure these extrapolated billions of years based upon the assumption, the scientists will tell us, that things as they are now are as they have always been in terms of physical processes.

That's from a speech by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and generally a high muckety-muck in the Southern Baptist church.

Maybe President Obama should refrain from reaching out to Southern Baptists too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Shameless Assholes

On the assumption that David Klinghoffer is still searching the pages of obscure blogs for mention of his name, I'd like to second the opinion of Salon's Alex Pareene about Huffpo's recent featuring of Klinghoffer's latest "Darwin Caused Hitler" stupid pet trick:

Giving a space to quacks to sell vitamin supplements to morons is insulting enough, but actually allowing a shameless asshole like Klinghoffer to use the Holocaust to promote his right-wing crusade to teach children lies is beyond the pale. Platform or no, there's no reason for anyone rational or even anyone with a sense of shame to continue giving Huffington free content.

Anyone who insists on opening his mouth in public about subjects that he is so obviously clueless about is surely an asshole. That he continues to do it in so brazen a fashion after so many corrections, shows he is shameless.


The Anti-Skeptics

Via Jerry Coyne, we have Greta Christina describing what it would take her to abandon skepticism. I'll just focus on the first "example":

What would convince me: If I saw an unambiguous message from God, I would be persuaded of his existence. If I saw writing suddenly appear in the sky, in letters a hundred feet high, saying "I Am God, I Exist, Here Is What I Want You To Do" -- and if that writing were seen by every human being, written in whatever language they understand, comprehended in the same way by everyone who saw it -- I would be persuaded that God existed. I'd be puzzled as to why he'd waited this long -- why he'd decided to do it in 2010 and not at any other time in human history -- but I'd still believe.

(And for the record: Yes, it's possible that this could happen without God. It could hypothetically, for instance, be accomplished by a highly technologically advanced alien species. But I don't think that would be the simplest explanation. If this phenomenon happened, "God" would, in my opinion, be a simpler explanation than "aliens" -- and unless I saw good evidence that the writing was done by aliens, God would be the provisional conclusion I would come to.)
Oh, goody! ... she at least recognizes Arthur C. Clarke's maxim that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

But why does she abandon skepticism? "If this phenomenon happened, 'God' would, in my opinion, be a simpler explanation than 'aliens'..." But, wait a minute, if "God" survives Occam's Razor when it comes to writing in the sky, why doesn't he/she/it survive in the Cosmological Argument? Surely, if God is the "simpler" explanation for writing in the sky, then he/she/it is the "simpler" explanation for the existence of something rather than nothing!

I frankly don't for a minute believe that Coyne or Christina would be such scientific naïfs as to fall on their knees because of a few squiggles in the sky. They are merely engaged in rhetoric, attempting, in a most unconvincing manner, to show that they would seriously consider evidence for a god.

That's far more damning of their claims to skepticism than anything that theists might challenge them with.



Franklin, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn


One of Ed Brayton's favorite whipping boys ... er ... blogs ... Stop the ACLU has posted a blatant self-promotion in the form of someone called Sharon Sebastian, self-described as "an author, writer and contributor for various forms of media including broadcast, print and online websites" (in other words, someone with no describable expertise whatsoever), humping her book Darwin's Racists – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, self-published by a vanity press.

Naturally, it is full of much hilarity, not least of all this:

Fascist/Socialist/Communist leaders and ideologists such a Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler all touted and relied on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to deny and denounce God as Creator. Top theologians say that Darwin's theory has done more to damage faith in America than any other philosophy. Top scientists today, many who once supported Darwin's theory, are now calling it flawed science and bankrupt. The reason Darwin's theory is taught in America's schools and championed by government is based on perpetuating the peoples' belief in government and not God. Charles Darwin's theory is a political tool for Marxists and Fascists.
For someone supposedly touting freedom of thought and conscience, there's a lot of appeal to authority there. And it doesn't end there. There is also an appeal to Benjamin Franklin, as if he represented the be-all and end-all of the thoughts of the Founders of America.

Note these words from the Constitutional Convention, 1787: "In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?" – Benjamin Franklin. America should be "sensible of danger" again and dare not imagine that we no longer need His assistance. Socialist, Communist and Fascist governments fear such a revival of the faith by the people.
This bit of palaver comes from "historians" of the ilk of David Barton. You can see Jim Allison's piece, "The Franklin Prayer Myth," at The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State for a nice debunking. Better yet, you can go to the sources.

The most authoritative source of knowledge of the events within the Constitutional Convention is James Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention which you can read here. From his notes on June 28, 1787, Madison summarizes Franklin's speech:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service-
Interestingly, the most prominent objection came from that hero of the right, Alexander Hamilton:

Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, [in the first place] bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & [in the second place] lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure.
In the end, the matter is tabled:

Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on [the] 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers ["&c to be read] in ye. Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2ded. this motion After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing [this] matter by adjourng. the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
In short, the delegates thanked Dr. Franklin for his stirring speech and promptly ignored him. A few days later, on July 2, 1787, Gouverneur Morris, one of the most influential delegates, had a wise thing to say: "Reason tells us we are but men: and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor."

More importantly, the Constitutional Convention produced a document without mention of God and which specifically held that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," a prohibition that was, after a bloody Civil War, extended to all state and local governments.

That was and is the "will of the people," whether or not pimples on the backside of the body politic such as Sharon Sebastian like it or not!

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