Friday, May 27, 2011



Over at Jerry Coyne's home for the philosophically disadvantaged we are being treated to yet another example of the incredibly slippery definition of "accommodationism" deployed by "Gnu Atheists."

Now, supposedly:

The accommodationist strategy of recent years advocates that the public voice of evolutionary science should exclusively be that of theistic evolutionists.
Hey! I was there! The whole "accomodationist" flap started with the National Academy of Sciences' booklet, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, and its treatment of the compatibility of science and religion. Nothing in the NAS's booklet in any way suggested that the public voice of evolutionary science should exclusively be that of theistic evolutionists.

Now, to be sure, the animosity of certain camps of atheists has moved on since then. But can we, at least, send up a flare or something when the "definition" is gonna change radically once again?

The study reported on is interesting and I'll try to absorb it and comment later. Meanwhile, you might want to go to John Wilkin's blog for an antidote to illiteracy of the philosophical sort.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


About to Take a Header

The Giles County (Virginia) School Board has flirted with jumping off the same sort of cliff that the Dover School Board did. This time it isn't about pushing Intelligent Design Creationism in public schools but, rather, the posting of the Ten Commandments.

The district had posted the Commandments after the shootings at Columbine High School and there wasn't any controversy until December 2010, when a complaint was made. The board then took them down at the advice of its attorney. After a public outcry, they were briefly put back up again but then taken down once more.

Never fear, the ... um ... fifth time's the charm.

A local Assistant Commonwealth Attorney, Bobby Lilly, has proposed a Resolution to set up a "presentation of historical documents" that just [cough] happen to include the Ten Commandments. The Resolution is rather long but can be seen in its entirety in the school board's minutes for May 19, 2011. The gist of it is:


It is recognized by the Board that many documents and symbols, taken as a whole, have special historical significance to our community, our county, and our country’s history. Some of these documents and symbols include, but are not limited to, the idea of equal justice under law as symbolized by Lady Justice; the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Magna Carta and the Ten Commandments. ...
I suppose we should stop here and contemplate just where in the Ten Commandments the idea of equal justice under law is symbolized. Do you get equal justice if you want to make for yourself an idol (other than an American Idol, that is) and the law stops you or if you take the name of the Lord in vain, because you disagree about just who the "Lord" is, and the law punishes you? Or are equal rights only for those who believe in the Bible?

Anyway, to continue:

A sense of historical context, civic duty and responsibility, and a general appreciation and understanding of the law of this land are all desirable components of the education of the youth of the county. We believe these above named documents positively contribute to the educational foundations and moral character of students in our schools. There may be other documents, speeches, letter, and writings which are equally important as those mentioned above, but, it is our opinion, that these above mentioned documents that may instill qualities desirable of the students in our schools, have had particular historical significance in the development of this country.


1. The Giles County School Board will allow the posting of the above named documents together, in a display in Giles High School and other schools in the district as set forth herein. ... The document display shall also include a brief explanatory document, suitably framed. These historical displays shall be financed by funds of private organizations, and no school funds shall be used for this purpose. No service of school personnel of the school district shall be utilized during any time such employee is employed by the school district and no school employee shall be required to assist in placing the above mentioned documents in any school. ...

2. The display of these historical documents shall be uniform in size and content. No document shall be larger or given any prominence over any other document in the display ...
So far, this is pretty clever in terms of isolating the school board from direct involvement with the display ... except, of course, in choosing the original ones to include, which will likely be the plan's undoing. The "brief explanatory document" is also a possible pitfall.

A potential source of amusement is that the Resolution allows for other documents to be included at public request:

4. Any person, group, or organization that wishes to post any other historical documents at any schools, shall notify the Superintendent of the Giles County Schools in the same manner as is outlined herein above. Each request must be made in writing and signed by the person, individual, or group that wishes to place any historical document in the school. They shall attach a copy of the document or documents the person wishes to place in each school and shall cite the particular historical significance and importance of said documents. The Superintendent shall present the petition to the Giles County School Board. If the Giles County Board approves the same, a copy of each such historical document shall be added to the historical document display at the schools, at the expense of the person or organization requesting the additional historical document display.
Peppering the school board with requests for inclusion of historical documents the good plain folks of Giles County might not have contemplated, such as, say, the opening of Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery, by Thornton Stringfellow, D.D., which certainly had great effect on our history leading up to the Civil War, should be interesting. Stringfellow said:

I propose, therefore, to examine the sacred volume briefly, and if I am not greatly mistaken, I shall be able to make it appear that the institution of slavery has received, in the first place,

1st. The sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age.

2d. That it was incorporated into the only National Constitution which ever emanated from God.

3d. That its legality was recognized, and its relative duties regulated, by Jesus Christ in his kingdom; and

4th. That it is full of mercy.
Certainly, that's a document of special historical significance that bears on the idea of equal justice under law as it has developed over time in America.

Many other such documents might be suggested and the ones the school board approves -- or not -- might be powerful evidence for -- or against -- its sincerity in creating a truly historical display.

But, of course, the real problem for the school board is the people of Giles County. Besides the local church busing in a hoard of supporters, wearing "Ten Commandment" T-shirts (no "Bill of Rights" or "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom" T-shirts), the "Keep the Ten Commandments" bumper stickers and the prayers in the halls and meeting room before the meeting, there was the statement in the minutes by the Reverend Shaun Wilburn:

There have been folks that have made comments in regard to not posting the historical documents for fear of perhaps legal action. I appreciate their opinion, but I’m also reminded that without a heritage, every generation starts anew and afresh. We are basically a Christian nation. Proper education teaches that a nation must teach its heritage. ... [O]ur forefathers understood that God was doing something unique in establishing this great country called America ... In regards to avoiding the potential legal fight, if this was a playground scuffle, we would all try to avoid it at all cost, but the fight is bigger than us. We know that this fight has been brought to us by people that don’t even know us. We know that there are those that will participate that want to remain unnamed and don’t want us to know who they even are. There are those who want to deny our heritage and rewrite our history and even as is posted on the national motto on the bulletin board of this building In God We Trust and One Nation under god and all these things that we look at, there are a group of people that want us to pass on a godless heritage. ... Therefore, we understand that’s it’s not merely a scuffle, but a war of perhaps many battles ahead ... For far too long, we have allowed a vocal minority that has yielded [sic] undo [sic] sway in our land and I confess that much to our shame ... June 7th will be the day that we will draw the line in the sand and figure out where we all stand. ... I know that there are some things that you cannot say in a public venue. Our lord taught us that we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. That means don’t tell everything you know and I understand that as well.
I can't imagine a clearer statement of the motives of those pushing for this "historical display" or the basic and widely recognized dishonesty of it as a mere ploy to evade the consequences of violating the Constitution.

What it says about the "morality" that religion instills in believers is another matter.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


When In Doubt, Double Down!

Harold Camping is now saying "that his predicted May 21, 2011 Rapture was 'an invisible judgment day' that he has come to understand as a spiritual, rather than physical event." That is, no physical Rapture folks! ... at least until the Earth is consumed in a fireball.

But October 21, 2011, when the Earth is supposed to be destroyed, that's still on! Only "it will be very quick." Aw gee ... the faithful won't have the smug enjoyment of watching the damned suffer on Earth as in Hell? What fun is that?

They'll just have to settle for a long pig barbeque.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Casey at the Batty

Casey Luskin's lips are moving again.

Amusingly, he accuses those who opposed the Synthese "disclaimer" of engaging in "conspiracy theories." This from the Gofer General of the Discovery Institute, the entire purpose of which is to propagate the notion that the scientific community, mislabeled "Darwinists," is engaged in a vast conspiracy to deny the "scientific" status of Intelligent Design Creationism.

Luskin even explains the origins of conspiracy theories:

People often invent conspiracy theories when they feel dejected and disenfranchised, but are unwilling (or politically unable) to admit the possibility they are wrong. Such theories are often an attempt to save face by inventing opponents who can then be blamed.
Now, who does this describe better, Barbara Forrest, whose take on ID has received widespread support within the philosophical and scientific communities, including from the editors-in-chief of Syntheses, despite any quibbles about "tone," or the creationists, who have been frustrated at every turn by the courts, starting with Epperson v. Arkansas; through McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education; Edwards v. Aguillard (and the rise of "cdesign proponentsists"); and culminating in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District?

Here's the lying part:

John S. Wilkins, subsequently wrote a post on PandasThumb asking, "Did Synthese bow to Intelligent Design pressure?" and suggesting that "[p]erhaps threats of legal action were made against the journal or the editors."

Similarly, Barbara Forrest ... apparently believes that William Dembski was behind some kind of campaign to turn the journal against her [because she was critical of Dembski, as well as Beckwith, in her article].

Now, however, the New York Times has picked up on this story and recently reported that there was no evidence of such pressure from ID proponents like Dembski, nor were there legal threats.
Of course, Luskin ignores the EiCs own statement, published just a day after the New York Times article, that admitted they had "received messages that we take seriously as legal threats." They only denied, in weasel words, that the threats came from "Christian philosophers." Now, just who could those threats have come from but ID proponents? At the very least, it is reasonable to suspect that IDers were the source. A suspicion, stated as such, based on known facts and a reasonable assessment of motives is not a conspiracy theory.

On the contrary, Luskin is proposing a conspiracy theory by asserting that large segments of the philosophy community are engaged in a conspiracy theory.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Quote of the Millennium

Jerry Jenkins, co-author with Tim LaHaye of the 'Left Behind' series of apocalyptic novels that have sold millions of copies worldwide, has a problem with Harold Camping's prediction of the Rapture.

As a believer, I'm already a kook compared to most people, so for someone to choose a date and get everyone excited about a certain time, my problem is it makes us look worse.


Timing Is Everything!

Well, it's the big day, when we're all goin' Camping!

As you may know, God, as an orderly being who wouldn't want His Elect caught unawares, is arranging for the Rapture to occur at 6 p.m. local time all around the world. Naturally (or, rather, supernaturally) the Rapture will be accompanied by gigantic earthquakes. Consider how lucky we in America are (God has always loved us Merkins). We'll have some 18-21 hours after the first reports of the devastation rolling from east to west to "get right with the Lord."

As close as I can figure (I'm sure God will be able to work out where in the world daylight savings time is observed and where it isn't, but I can't), the Rapture will begin in the first time zone west of the International Date Line at 2 a.m. Eastern (U.S.) Daylight Time.

So, if my fellow East Coasters are wise, after sleeping in a bit and maybe a leisurely breakfast, they'll tune in the news to see how things are going in, say, eastern Africa.

If Nairobi has just fallen down, gone boom, it's time to get down on our knees.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Cam Artists

A certain plexiglass box replete with blinking lights has a bone or two to pick with "complementary and alternative medicine" or "CAM."

He ain't seen nuthin' yet:

Exorcism is experiencing a renaissance in American Catholicism. There are more exorcists in the United States now than at any other time in modern history, according to experts. More than 100 bishops and priests met in Baltimore last November to recruit dozens more. ...

The Roman ritual cautions exorcists to use “extreme circumspection and prudence” and not perform the rite unless they know with “moral certainty” that a person is possessed. It also warns against mistaking mental illness for demonic influence.

“To too readily go to that explanation (of demonic possession) and, therefore, treatment for what can otherwise be explained as mental illness, carries serious risk,” says Father John Cecero, a psychology professor at Fordham University. ...

In deference to those concerns, some priest-exorcists, such as Thomas, employ “exorcism teams” that include psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians.

Grob breaks mental health professionals down into three categories: Those who believe in exorcism, those who think it could have a placebo effect, and those who think it’s a crock.

Dr. Richard Gallagher, a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, falls into the first category. The only American on the governing board of the Rome-based International Association of Exorcists, Gallagher has for the last 25 years assisted exorcists throughout the United States by screening people who say they are possessed and evaluating them for mental health afflictions. ...

But possession could, in a way, make it into an upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to Dr. Roberto Lewis-Fernandez, who is part of a team updating the manual.

Lewis-Fernandez, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, proposes including “possession trance” as a category of dissociative identity disorder in the volume. Possession trances, like dissociative identity disorder, are marked by the feeling that one’s usual self has been hijacked by internal or external forces, and afterwards, retaining little memory of the experience.

The entry would not address whether the external forces are “real or unreal” and would distinguish between stressful trance states such as demonic possession and more positive religious experiences, such as being “slain” by the Holy Spirit, Lewis-Fernandez says.

Treating possession trance disorder could include exorcisms. “As long as it’s done by a sensitive human and doesn’t do violence, it could work,” he says.

Gallagher says he has seen exorcisms work in scores of cases. But the church has only anecdotal evidence of the rite’s effectiveness. While it has tried to put responsible limits on the use of exorcism, it has never publicly studied how often it’s performed, where, and by whom.

In previous eras, even suggesting a scientific study of exorcism would get you laughed out of the room. But a growing number of psychiatrists such as Lewis-Fernandez profess a willingness to incorporate religious beliefs in medical treatment. Academics in the mental health professions might some day be tapped by the church to empirically study exorcism’s capacity to heal.
Personally, I think it will be interesting when exorcists start applying for Medicaid and Medicare payments. Are witch doctors far behind?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


No Contest

Let's see ...

Stephen Hawking against ...

Kirk Cameron!

Recently, Hawking said that heaven is "a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Cameron calls in a real expert! ...

John Lennon!

John Lennon wasn't sure. He said to pretend there's no heaven. That's easy if you try. Then he said he hoped that someday we would join him. Such wishful thinking reveals John and Stephen's religious beliefs, not good science.

Too bad Cameron hasn't a clue to whom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Of Editors and Hemlock

Via Brian Leiter, the editors-in-chief of Synthese have "responded" to the petition demanding an explanation of their behavior in the matter of the "disclaimer" appended to the print edition of the special issue of Synthese entitled "Evolution and Its Rivals." Here is some background.

The petition read:

To: Editors-in-Chief of Synthese

We, as members of the philosophical community, call upon the Editors-in-Chief of Synthese to:

1. Respond forthrightly to the allegations in the 'open letter' from Glenn Branch and James Fetzer, the Guest Editors of the special issue on "Evolution and Its Rivals" (their open letter is available here).

2. Apologize to the Guest Editors and the contributors for the unprofessional manner in which this issue, and the insertion of a "disclaimer," were handled.

3. Retract the "disclaimer" in a subsequent print edition of Synthese.

4. Disclose the nature of complaints and/or legal threats from Francis Beckwith, his supporters, and supporters of Intelligent Design that were received by the Editors-in-Chief after the on-line publication of "Evolution and Its Rivals" last year.


[468 signatories]
Strangely, the statement was put on line in a format in which it could not be easily copied and pasted. I've corrected that and below is the statement in full. Let's see how well they have "responded" to the petition.

In response to the petition sent to Synthese:

We have considered the demands contained in this petition very seriously. We have implemented a moratorium on new special issues and we have begun planning appropriate changes to the editorial procedures of Synthese.

The petition asks for full disclosure of all legal threats. There have not been any communications received from Christian philosophers that constituted legal threats. There was a single email from a member of the public expressing the view that the entire special issue was 'scurrilous and libelous'. We did not consider this email to be a legal threat. It is important to note that this email was received after our initial contacts with Professor Beckwith.

As far as meaningful legal action is concerned, we have received messages that we take seriously as legal threats but these have not come from Christian philosophers. Our ability to provide detailed responses in the blogs is constrained by these challenges.

Professor Beckwith requested an opportunity to respond to Professor Forrest's paper. We agreed that this was a fair course of action. As regards the inclusion of our editorial statement and the email correspondence with Professor Forrest, it is true that there was considerable discussion between the editors of all aspects of the special issue. We took these matters very seriously and as is often the case with serious deliberation there were some oscillations prior to our reaching a conclusion. Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers.

With respect to the claim that the guest editors were given assurances that no editorial statement would appear, it is true that the guest editors were privy to internal discussions between the editors-in-chief at earlier stages. We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors.

We are ultimately responsible for what appears in the journal and we decided to publish the special issue without amendment to any of its papers. We wish to emphasize that our editorial statement should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of 'intelligent design'.

At this point, we have a duty to help create procedures to prevent situations of the sort we saw here from recurring. Thus, in consultation with the publisher, we have begun planning a transition to improved editorial procedures and improved oversight which will be in place in 2012. We will work closely with our board of area editors and our advisory board to make this happen.

Johan van Benthem
Vincent Hendricks
John Symons
Hmm! No mention one way or another about an apology or a retraction of the disclaimer.

There were "oscillations" (what a pretty -- and unforthright -- euphemism!) in their "editorial deliberations." The "guest editors were privy to internal discussions," until, for some unspecified reason, the editors were no longer able to "properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors." Reading between the tortured lines, it is pretty clear that, as the guest editors claimed, they were assured that the idea of an editorial disclaimer had been dropped and were not told that one would be inserted in the print edition before it was published, though it is obvious that Beckwith was, since he referred to it in his reply to Forrest's article.

Also notable is the fact that the editors-in-chief continue to be vague about which articles they are disclaiming, which was one of the original major complaints about the disclaimer, since it smears all the authors in the special issue. While it is now clear that Barbara Forrest's article was one target of the disclaimer, they specifically refer to a second article which they do not identify.

Their response to the issue of what legal threats Synthese received is even less forthright. No "Christian philosophers" (whatever the heck that might mean, though it presumably includes Beckwith) supposedly made threats. They refer to an email from a "member of the public" that used the words 'scurrilous and libelous' but which the editors did not consider to be a legal threat. Nonetheless, they make a point of noting they received the email after their initial contacts with Beckwith. They did receive legal threats that they considered serious but there is no mention of the time frame of those, much less whether or not they entered into their decision to publish the disclaimer (though I think the conclusion is obvious).

In essence, the editors-in-chief are admitting that, in their "earlier" deliberations, to which the guest editors were privy, they had come to a conclusion that, no matter what they thought of the "tone" of the special issue, there was no academic reason to issue a disclaimer. But, after the legal threats, they caved in to outside pressure and included it. And who else could those threats have come from but supporters of Intelligent Design?

The editors-in-chief "wish to emphasize that our editorial statement should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of 'intelligent design'." But when the editors of a prestigious journal issue "disclaimers" based, not on academic reasons, but on pressure from those leading an assault on science education and all of academia, their cowardice under fire is precisely that.

Gentlemen, would you like another cup?


Addendum: Mohan Matthen, in a comment at New APPS, took (with a little help from me) kind notice of my post and summarized the events as follows:

So, is this the sequence?

1. EICs included the Guest Editors in the discussions during the oscillatory phase.

2. Then Synthese received some kind of legal threat from someone other than a Christian philosopher.

3. "Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers." (What is "the" offending language? See below.)

4. "We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors."


5. "We have a duty to help create procedures to prevent situations of the sort we saw here from recurring."

Apparently, then, the EICs were going to let things go, but then the threats arrived. The phrase "the offending language" must refer to something that these legal complainers cited. (Without a specific reference, unfortunately hidden from us, the definite article makes no sense.) At this point, the publishers decided to dodge the bullet, and the editors caved.

5 sounds a bit ominous. What situations? In the light of the publishers' intervention, one might be worried.
That jogged my lawyer-born cynicism and it occurred to me that there was a possibility that would explain two other rather baffling aspects of this affair: 1) why was Beckwith told about the disclaimer (he references it -- disingenuously -- in his response to Forrest's article in the printed issue), while the guest editors weren't; and 2) why was Beckwith's response printed apparently without any editorial or refereeing process? As I put it at New APPS:

I think that sequence is probably right. Of course, the very failure of the EICs to be forthcoming makes this somewhat speculative but it fits the known facts and the less-than-clear "response" by the EICs.

There was initial concern by the EICs, probably initiated by the complaints of Plantinga, Clark and Beckwith, as documented in the New York Times story.

But the EICs decide that there was no basis academically for a disclaimer and assure the guest editors that they were dropping the idea.

Next came the "messages that we take seriously as legal threats" and the publisher and its lawyers get involved. The disclaimer idea is revived but the guest editors are not informed (possibly at the insistence of the lawyers), while Beckwith is told (possibly as a way, along with the opportunity for Beckwith to publish an unedited/unreviewed response, to head off the threat of litigation).

Update: There was a story in the New York Times yesterday presaging the "response." Also, Mohan Matthen at New APPS has commented and called the response "a passive aggressive gambit."

Friday, May 13, 2011


Goin' Camping

I've already touched on Harold Camping's prediction that Christ will return on May 21, 2011, setting off a terrible series of disasters culminating in the destruction of the Earth -- indeed, the entire universe -- on October 21, 2011.

Well the fun is about to start!

One side or the other -- the sane and sober among us or the crazy loons (pick which you think is which) -- are going to enjoy much merriment come May 22nd.

But, as I noted in my last post on the subject, there is a sad side to this that may not be evident, as in the case of the young unemployed woman who put up $1,200 to take out a bus stop ad and had put her life on hold for 10 months -- eschewing such things as getting married, having a kid, traveling more -- because of Camping's biblionumerology. Even if Camping is right (snort!), that's a waste of precious life.

Here's another example:

"Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans," says 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez.

... She and her husband, Joel, lived and worked in New York City. But a year ago, they decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter.

"My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary," she says.

And so, her husband adds, "God just made it possible — he opened doors. He allowed us to quit our jobs, and we just moved, and here we are."

Now they are in Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the Bible. Their daughter is 2 years old, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they're spending the last of their savings. They don't see a need for one more dollar. ...

"We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won't have anything left," Adrienne adds.
One has to wonder if the Martinez' don't own a calendar or if they think that babies will be born in Heaven. Be that as it may, one has to be concerned about the child and/or children of parents who won't even consider the consequences of their being wrong.

Maybe atheists could set up a service like this -- which rescues and cares for the pets of the raptured -- only in reverse, to care for the children of those who are wrong about the rapture.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Ain't It the Truth



Sunday, May 08, 2011


Um, Are You Listening to Yourself?

Via the Sensuous Curmudgeon, here is Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, an affiliate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and chief lobbyist for the anti-evolution and oxymoronic Louisiana Science Education Act, complaining about Zachary Kopplin’s campaign to repeal the law:

The Louisiana Science Education Act, which passed the Louisiana Legislature in 2008 with only three opposing votes, encourages academic freedom and inquiry in the classroom: a permissible constitutional objective! To date, not a single complaint has been filed, not a single school board has moved to address a related concern and not one lawsuit is on record to correct inappropriate action on behalf of a Science Education Act infraction.

In other words, the repeal efforts are a “political solution” in search of a problem that does not exist.

Um, no! That means that the law is a political solution in search of a problem that does not exist. There never was any problem with teaching “critical thinking” in science classes. The problem, as people like Rev. Mills see it, is that they aren't allowed to counter critical thinking with religious cant, as Bruce Chapman made clear.

But I loved the Curmudgeon's analogy for the law's disingenuous disclaimer of religious intent:

Mills refers to the laughable Discoveroid-drafted section of the law that purports to instruct the courts how to construe it (it’s non-religious, doncha know) in spite of the plain meaning and obvious intent of the law. That’s comparable to a suicide-bomber’s explosive-laden vest being sewn with a tag saying: “Attention Bomb Squad Coroner: The deceased wearer of this garment should not be construed to be a suicide bomber.”
How appropriate this week!


Friday, May 06, 2011


To Poe Or Not To Poe


(Click to enlarge)

This explains a lot! These poor creationists haven't taken a piss in their lives!

Via James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


A Putz Named Sue

Brunswick County, North Carolina, Commissioners Bill Sue and Scott Phillips think creationism needs to be a part of public school curriculum, right alongside the science of evolution.

“Darwin started out it was a theory, and by the time he got to the sixth chapter, it was fact,” Sue said Monday at a meeting between county commissioners and school officials. “Every theory that has ever been the basis of evolution has been disproven.”

Phillips asked school officials, “What can we do to get creation taught in our schools along with the theory of evolution?”
Well, the first thing you can do is take a million or two dollars out of the county's, no doubt bulging, coffers and set it aside to pay the legal fees of the ACLU and/or Americans United for Separation of Church and State when they sue you into submission. Or, of course, you can just stick the school district with the bill and take it out of the hide of the children of the county.

The local school Superintendent, Edward Pruden, tried to explain reality to these goobers, noting that the the Supreme Court has forbidden the teaching of creationism in public schools and pointing out:

Where much confusion comes in regarding evolution is the word “theory,” he explained.

“To laypeople by ourselves, [it] sounds unproven. When scientists use it, it’s backed up by repeated observation and study” …

“But the entire scientific community, with very few exceptions, support the theory of evolution. And by the term theory, they mean the repeated observation by scientific method coming to the same result.”
The putz named Sue isn't having any part of it though:

I’m tired of my taxpayers’ dollars going to pay the price to teach our kids a lie in the schools,” he said. “And when you have a teacher who is in a position of authority standing before a class of fifth-, sixth-graders telling them they come from a monkey, it has a traumatic influence and effect on them. And I’m ready to go wherever we need to go to change that lie that’s being taught.”
He'd much rather that taxpayer money go to the ACLU, no doubt.

They'll never give up, however:

Sue said he understood Pruden could not allow creationism to be taught as a science, but he was going to “find somebody that can take it somewhere, because [evolution] is a lie.”
It's almost certain that Sue took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

It's amazing, though perhaps not surprising, that those who proclaim their godliness so loudly are so unwilling to take their oaths seriously.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Finding Gould's Goat

Kenneth R. Miller, author of Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory - Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul, as well as, with Joseph Levine, of the widely used high-school textbook, Biology, has been announced as the recipient of the 2011Stephen Jay Gould Prize.

Awarded by the Society for the Study of Evolution to “recognize individuals whose sustained and exemplary efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science and its importance in biology, education, and everyday life in the spirit of Stephen Jay Gould,” Miller clearly deserves it, given his tireless efforts combating creationism.

There is, however, a small irony. In Miller's Finding Darwin’s God, he was quite critical of Gould, holding him responsible for the use by creationists of Punctuated Equilibria, and Gould's rhetoric in support of it, to call evolutionary science into question.

I thought at the time that the criticism was rather unfair. If there is one thing that is impossible in this life, it is saying anything interesting about science that cannot be twisted by creationists.

Be that as it may, congratulations Dr. Miller!

Sunday, May 01, 2011


What Dilemma?

PZ Myearshertz and Jeffrey Shallit have already justly excoriated William Lane Craig for his “defense” of God ordering the Israelites to kill children and infants. Craig's “excuse” for God is:

… the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.
Gee, do you think God could have then told the Israelites to use a method of “salvation” less painful and terrifying than running them through with swords or bashing their heads against walls? But Craig's God always was a bit of an incompetent.

Geek that I am, however, what interested me was Craig's answer to the Euthyphro dilemma, which asks "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" The first horn of the dilemma is: if God commands good because it is good, then there is an independent moral code to which even God is subject and, therefore, he/she/it is neither the supreme authority on morality nor omnipotent. The second horn is: if the good is good only because God commands it, then there is no such thing as “morality.” It is just God's arbitrary command … the whimsy or caprice of a despot. Craig prefers the second horn:

According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.
Of course, Craig's “out” of the dilemma is that bit about “a holy and loving God,” which is somehow supposed to protect us from whimsy or caprice. Craig does no favors to his argument to recite the tale of Abraham, like a “Middle Eastern merchant haggling for a bargain,” getting God to promise to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there are even ten righteous persons in the cities … which God presumably already knew one way or the other.

But, wait a minute! How do we know God is holy and loving? Why, God told us so in the Bible!

So, where did God get the moral duty to tell us the truth?

By Craig's own “reasoning,” we have no warrant to believe the Bible is anything other than a pack of lies told by an evil imp.

And given Craig's defense of infanticide, I think that is a much more reasonable interpretation.

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