Sunday, March 31, 2013


Design and Discovery

A thought:
John Henry Newman, the great theologian who started life as an evangelical Christian, then became the leader of the High Church faction of the Church of England, and finally converted to Rome and ended up as a cardinal, can stand for many. He had long rejected the argument from design as a major stumbling block to science. In 1870, about his seminal philosophical work, A Grammar of Assent, Newman wrote: "I have not insisted on the argument from design, because I am writing for the 19th century, by which, as represented by its philosophers, design is not admitted as proved. And to tell the truth, though I should not wish to preach on the subject, for 40 years I have been unable to see the logical force of the argument myself. I believe in design because I believe in God; not in a God because I see design." He continued: "Design teaches me power, skill and goodness -— not sanctity, not mercy, not a future judgment, which three are of the essence of religion."

Michael Ruse, Introduction, The "Origin" Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the "Origin of Species," 2011. Princeton University Press.

Saturday, March 30, 2013



Oh woe is Erick Erickson!

Someday Christians are going to be gagged!
As long as there are still Christians who actually follow Christ and uphold his word, a vast amount of people around the world — never mind Islam — will never ever see gay marriage as anything other than a legal encroachment of God's intent.

So those Christians must be silenced. ...

Any Christian who refuses to recognize that man wants to upend God's order will have to be driven from the national conversation. They will be labeled bigots and ultimately criminals.
The funny thing is, at the comments section on Erickson's post, a commenter nymed "joec" was banned rather quickly for taking a libertarian sentiment that government should get out of the marriage business and for expressing skepticism of the claim that there is something that can be called "natural marriage."

And the excuse was joec's "stupidity."

What was that about using labels to silence people?

There's a whole lot more stupidity both in Erickson's piece and the comments, not least the insistence that God is against gay marriage and "that this country was undoubtedly founded on Judeo-Christian values," which pretty well demonstrates that laws against gay marriage are sectarian, not secular, in purpose and, therefore, unconstitutional.

What Erickson and his cohorts at RedState are afraid of is that they will no longer be able to demonize and discriminate against others without being criticized for it.

Oh, the horrors!

This does make want to gag ... but not them.

Via Ed Brayton

Monday, March 25, 2013


Clown College

The Sensuous Curmudgeon has already made (justifiable) fun of the original letter to the editor here, "Creationist Wisdom #311: The Ol' Ranger."

But I can't resist highlighting the (the so-far sole) comment to the letter by one Pete Greer. He is upset:
Mr. editor, I would like to show you a few conflicts between man's word (represented by the microbe to man Theory of Evolution) and God's Word (a literal reading of Genesis chapter 1). Evolution states that dinosaurs came before birds and Genesis says that birds came before land animals. Evolution says that the sun existed before plants and Genesis says that plants came before the sun. Evolution says that marine creatures came before land plants and Genesis says that land plants came before marine creatures. These are just 3 of many examples that demonstrate that a person must choose who to believe. These statements are in direct conflict, they cannot be reconciled with one another.
At first, I thought that Mr. Greer might be perpetrating a sly parody of creationism but, sadly, apparently not.
The concept of kinds stated in Genesis 1 (ten different times) stands today as a truth that has never been negated by OBSERVATIONAL science ... (Kind is usually on the level of family in the human classification system.)
Well, if he is using the standard bafflegab about "observational science" as something we can reproduce in a laboratory or has been observed during a human life span, then no, we haven't directly observed the origin of a new taxonomic family. If we had, of course, it would be a pretty good disproof of evolutionary science.

Frighteningly, Mr. Greer is not content to keep his ignorance to himself ... he spreads it like a virus:
I do teach basic genetics to older children in Sunday School at the appropriate time so they can understand the simple difference between the biblical view and what they learn in the public school classroom.
Because, naturally, Sunday School is where science should be taught.

But this is what made me comment:
What does a creationist have to do to be considered scientific rather than religious?
Well, let's see ... so far you have denied the science of cosmology, astronomy, physics, radiometric dating, geology, taphonomy, biology and ... for good measure ... the kind of archeology that Christians often cite as evidence for the truth of the Bible.

Maybe if you stop denying just about all of science, you might have a tad better likelihood of being considered scientific.

Unfortunately, it's so much easier to shoot yourself in the foot when you're wearing floppy shoes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Jesus is Shit ...


Via Ed Brayton

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Tiger, Tiger, Burning ...

Wall of Separation, the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has a post by Joseph L. Conn about the Republican Party's soul searching following the 2012 election results.
GOP Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled a new report yesterday outlining the things the Republican Party must do to improve its performance at the polls.

Priebus said Republicans have to reach out to women, Hispanics and other minorities and change their "narrow-minded" and "out of touch" image. One of the to-do items was to alter the GOP approach to social issues such as equality for gay people.

"Already," the report observes, " there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out."
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 58 percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. Worse, for the Republican Party, young adults age 18 to 29 support gay marriage by an overwhelming 81 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the Righteous Right is not amused:
The American Family Association's radio ranter Bryan Fischer, for example, said it would be "idiotic" for Republicans to change their stance in order to win over young voters.

According to our friends at Right Wing Watch, Fischer fulminated, "[Young people] don't need to be pandered to; they need to be educated. We don't pander to the least mature, least intelligent, least informed, least experienced, least educated members of our movement; we educate them."
This is amusing because, along with people 65 years old and above and white evangelical Christians, one of the largest "pockets of opposition" is composed of white voters who do not have a college degree. They oppose gay marriage by 56 percent to 40 percent.

But the real dilemma is illustrated by David Lane, who organizes conservative Christians nationwide:
[Lane] said the more than 65 million Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals are feeling increasingly alienated from electoral politics.

If GOP leaders embrace same-sex marriage, he predicted, "it will lead quickly to the collapse of the Republican Party," causing a core constituency to leave for a third party or to renounce politics.
Of course, the other option appears to be to continue to alienate the general public that is increasingly seeing the Party as mean spirited bigots.

As Conn says:
Back about 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and other Republican leaders made a deal with the devil. They wholeheartedly embraced odious Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and the rest of the Religious Right. In exchange, they got legions of fundamentalist Christian voters but lost the party's reputation for moderation on social issues.
The real problem with riding a tiger is how to get off.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


From A to B(ananas)!

Ray ("Banana Man") Comfort (along with his doppelgänger, Kirk Cameron) may be the stupidest creationist on Earth. He suffers, to the nth degree, from the greatest weakness of all creationists who "contemplate" evolutionary theory: linear thinking.

He simply cannot grasp the idea that species do not evolve from individuals, in some sort of creation-like event, but that it is populations that evolve. Thus, he propagates stupidity as in:
I ask questions about where the female came from for each species. Every male dog, cat, horse, elephant, giraffe, fish and bird had to have coincidentally evolved with a female alongside it (over billions of years) with fully evolved compatible reproductive parts and a desire to mate, otherwise the species couldn't keep going. Evolution has no explanation for the female for every species in creation," he said.
But David Klinghoffer is not far behind. Quoting [cough] Nina Jablonski, Penn State anthropologist and author of Skin: A Natural History, Klinghoffer purports to find "a bit of a puzzle."

Ya see, Jablonski hypothesizes that humans are the "naked ape" because:
... the reason we started to lose body hair is related to the need for controlling body heat.

It turns out that primates lose most of their heat through radiation from the surface of the body into the environment, and by evaporation of sweat. The hotter it is outside, the more important sweat becomes, especially if the animal is exercising vigorously and generating a lot of internal body heat. Internal body heat is good to a point, but you have to be able to liberate excess heat, otherwise your brain, organs and muscles get too hot.

Primates as a lineage almost exclusively use sweating for this purpose (versus other mechanisms such as panting). There have been a lot of hypotheses made about why we lost most of our body hair. And I definitely, and many colleagues of mine definitely are of the opinion -- based on the environmental, anatomical and genetic evidence at hand -- that we lost most of our body hair because of the needs of heat regulation.
This is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. Many lines of evidence indicate that the major differences driving the divergence of chimps from humans, after our split from our common ancestor, was that chimps remained in shaded and relatively abundant forests, while humans were forced, for environmental reasons, into savannas where they were required, in order to survive, to expend much more energy foraging and hunting out in the sun. Jablonski is saying that, given our ancestors' need to sweat, heavy fur, which traps perspiration and slows cooling by evaporation, would be a selected-against trait.

But, aha! ... as Klinghoffer trumpets: "chimps beneath their fur have light-colored skin"!!! That, supposedly, requires "anticipation," a "hallmark of intelligent design":
Take away the fur and you've a light-colored animal that, in the hot African sun, would be extremely vulnerable to the damaging rays of the sun. So you need dark skin. But what would the evolutionary advantage of that be before the transition to going furless? None that's apparent. So which came first?
Umm ... David ... why, besides your inability to think rationally about evolutionary theory, would you think that one has come "first"? If a creature was forced out into the sun more than its ancestors, the ones with finer, sparser, fur would be better able to shed heat while exercising and would have differential reproductive success over their hairier compatriots. The ones with sparser fur who also had darker skin would have differential reproductive success over their equally less-furry compatriots who had lighter skin. What, exactly, beyond your religious beliefs, makes you think both traits couldn't evolve together?

The Discoveryless Institute tries so hard to distinguish themselves from people like Comfort (without offending them and driving them out of the "Big Tent") but, when it comes down to linear thinking, Klinghoffer has nothing but a banana in his hand.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


The Mask Falls

Not that it is a surprise. Once again, the Discovery [sic] Institute has revealed its true objective and this time it comes directly from the top ... Bruce Chapman, Chairman of the Board of the DI.

As already documented by the Sensuous Curmudgeon, Chapman and the DI was stung by a conference on evolution, organized by the Pontifical Council on Culture, that "disallowed participation by supporters of intelligent design." Chapman rants about the Templeton Institute (which he hates almost as much as that materialistic, atheistic bogeyman, Jerry Coyne, does), quotes unnamed people to denigrate the status of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and to separate the Vatican from the "Church." In short, the spittle flies.

But this is the interesting part, reading (a bit) between the lines:
[T]he [Pontifical Academy of Sciences] is run by staff that is friendly to scientific materialists and hostile to many orthodox believers who are scientists. It is not just the science issues of evolution where the blind spots appear, but also other biological and personal ethical issues. Voices normally hostile to Christian faith are considered acceptable at the Academy, while scientists who also are serious Christians and hold to Church doctrine often are not.

[T]he greatest challenge to Christianity today ... is not some other religion, but aggressive, evangelizing secularism. Materialism lies at the heart of this competitor philosophy (which might as well be a religion). It brooks no competition. At some point, the Church must deal with the source of the competitors' faith, not just the symptoms of it. Pope Benedict began that process of examination, but Pope Francis still has much to do if he wants to mobilize the Church on this crucial subject.

[There is] a need for greater intellectual clarity on the pseudo-scientific materialism that afflicts society as a whole, challenges the Church at a deep doctrinal level, and undermines faith, especially among the young and the educated elites.
"[A]ggressive, evangelizing secularism" is, of course, the combination of scientists who demand empiric evidence and people who honor the American Constitution's separation of church and state. Instead, what Chapman wants is that "serious Christians" (as opposed to non-fundamentalist Christians such as Ken Miller, Francis Ayala, Theodosius Dobzhansky, and many others), that hold to "Church doctrine," instead of doing science, to be included in science. Scientists, including many theists, who respect, instead of loathe, the results of science, find ID laughable. Those people who value the Constitution don't want those "serious Christians" using taxpayer money to meet challenges to any particular brand of Christianity. That's not "hostility" to any flavor of Christianity, it is an insistence that all religious and non-religious beliefs are equal before the law, so each is equally protected.

With equality, the IDers are free to argue their case for "Church doctrine" and "faith" in venues appropriate to religious activism, even trying to convince "the young and the educated elites." That's where their "competition" to science belongs ... not in taxpayer-funded public school science classes.

What Chapman makes clear is that ID is nothing more than a tool of proselytization for his own brand of Christianity.

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Monday, March 11, 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, Duh! Tennessee Legislature!

Via the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, comes news of the latest candidate for the country's stupidest state legislator.

That would be state Sen. Randy McNally (guess which party) who has "crafted" SB 0965, which requires that "certain administrative-type procedures be followed prior to a person filing a suit against a local government or governmental unit based on a violation of the establishment clause." Specifically, the claimant must:
... at least 60 days prior to any claimant filing an establishment clause claim against a local government unit or local government servant, the claimant or the claimant's attorney must provide written notice of the potential claim to the local government unit or local public servant whom the claimant intends to name as a defendant.
Then the government has 60 days to respond to the claimant and state that (1) action will be altered to bring the local government into compliance with the establishment clause; (2) the local government challenges or rebuts the claim; (3) state that the violation that have been corrected to comply with the establishment clause; or (4) that the alleged violation is the same as a previous allegation that was determined not to be a violation.

If the local government takes option (1), it then has 120 days to implement the change. If it doesn't act at all, then suit can be brought. If the claimant believes that whatever action has been taken does not correct the violation, then s/he must sent another notice stating why the claimant believes the action taken fails to correct the alleged violation (isn't this fun?) and wait another 30 days before filing suit.

Then get this:
If a claimant files an establishment clause claim prior to the expiration of the 120-day period, or otherwise fails to comply with the requirements of this bill, the claimant will not be entitled to receive, and the court will order the claimant to pay, any litigation expenses, including attorney's fees, discretionary costs, and other costs.
Don't make a mistake negotiating this labyrinth or the government can recover all its costs against you!

It gets worse, the Tennessee state legislature is trying to impose these limitations on the Federal courts:
Under this bill, any claimant or claimant's attorney filing an establishment clause claim in any state or federal court of this state that names any local government unit or local public servant as a defendant must:

(1) File an affidavit with the claim certifying that the claimant or the claimant's attorney has provided notice prior to filing the establishment clause claim as required by this bill (described above); and

(2) Attach the following documentation to the affidavit:

(A) A list of all lawsuits alleging violations of that portion of the first amendment to the United States constitution that prohibits laws respecting an establishment of religion, or article 1, section 3 of the constitution of Tennessee, or both, previously filed by the claimant and the claimant's attorney against other local government units or local public servants in this state within the previous 24 months, which must set forth the final disposition of these prior lawsuits, and if dismissed, the grounds for the dismissal; and

(B) Evidence establishing compliance with the written notice requirement.
This kind of law is known as a "notice of claim" statute, a requirement that is in common use (though not nearly so Byzantine in application) in cases against state and local governments involving personal or property damage. The Supreme Court has already addressed whether states can impose a requirement, in order to bring suit to enforce constitutional rights, to notify local governments of the violation and then wait a period for to give the governmental entity an opportunity to correct it. In Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131 (1988), the Court held that, even in cases brought in state courts, states cannot impose such a limitation:
[T]he notice provision operates, in part, as an exhaustion requirement by forcing claimants to seek satisfaction in the first instance from the governmental defendant. Congress never intended that those injured by governmental wrongdoers could be required, as a condition of recovery, to submit their claims to the government responsible for their injuries. ...

... States retain the authority to prescribe the rules and procedures governing suits in their courts. That authority does not extend so far as to permit States to place conditions on the vindication of a federal right. Congress meant to provide individuals immediate access to the federal courts, and did not contemplate that those who sought to vindicate their federal rights in state courts could be required to seek redress in the first instance from the very state officials whose hostility to those rights precipitated their injuries.
If state laws cannot impose notice of claim requirements on actions brought its own courts, it follows, even more clearly, that they cannot impose such limitations on cases brought in Federal courts.

But they're not finished yet:
Under this bill, a person commits an offense who intentionally, without or prior to the filing of a complaint, lawsuit, or other legal action in any federal or state court of this state communicates, in writing or by electronic communication, with a local government unit or local public servant in a repetitious manner with the intent to influence, persuade, or induce the local government unit or local public servant to terminate, halt or cease a particular policy, practice, action or custom and the person:

(1) Intends the communication to be a threat of initiating legal action against the local government or local public servant challenging the particular policy, practice, action or custom, and a reasonable person would perceive the communication to be a threat of initiating legal action; or

(2) Makes a threat within the communication to initiate legal action against the local government or local public servant challenging the policy, practice, action or custom.
Umm, guys ... in case you haven't noticed, you've just made it a crime to provide the notice of claim you prescribed above (remember, if the local government says it will correct the violation but doesn't, you have to send a second, repetitious notice of claim!). Gee, requiring someone to commit a crime in order to bring suit against a government for violations of civil rights might just constitute a civil rights violation in and of itself, dontcha think?

Then there could be the little matter of the part of the First Amendment that prohibits abridging the right of the people peaceably to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, which certainly includes the right to inform the government that you will take all legal steps to enforce your rights.

Update: Opps! I missed the provision at the very bottom that says: "The offense would not apply to a person providing a written notice to a local government unit or local public servant pursuant to this bill."

Friday, March 08, 2013


Klinghoffer's Lips Move

The ever ridiculous David Klinghoffer is at the propaganda arm of the Discoveryless Institute talking about Zack Kopplin's interview with Bill Moyers.

Klinghoffer focuses on Kopplin's statement about creationism that:
Essentially it's a denial of evolution, mainly based off a literal interpretation of Genesis.
Given that the Gallup poll in 2012 found the 46% of Americans believe that that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years, it is a safe bet that most support for creationism is based on a literal reading of the Bible. Heck, we know that most support for the badly misnamed Louisiana Science Education Act comes from Biblical creationists and the DI knows it too ... they just try to pretend otherwise.

That's what Klinghoffer is doing:
There you have it: Creationism = Biblical literalism = intelligent design = Darwinism skepticism. Academic freedom legislation = sneaking the book of Genesis into public school science class. Look, I've heard this nonsense repeated many times but the boldness of the deception, and how dopey media people are about simply accepting it, still sometimes takes my breath away.

So this should give you an idea of what it means to be a Friend of Darwin. In the case of Zack Kopplin, it means grossly misleading the public about science and education.
For anyone from the DI to accuse others of misleading the public about science and education takes industrial grade projection. In a rare moment of honesty, the Isaac Newton of Intelligent design, William Dembski, admitted that IDers are "a group of Christian scholars who call themselves design theorists." That's the same Dembski who also admitted to being a "biblical inerrantist" (though probably not a YEC).

Of course, you don't have to be a Biblical literalist to be a creationist. All you have to do is deny evolution based on your religious beliefs and attempt to use taxpayer money to teach that denial and, necessarily, the religious belief, in public schools. That's precisely what ID is all about.

P.S.: Zack just put up an article on how the LSEA is, in fact, "A Trojan Horse for Creationism."

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Gish Gallops Off This Mortal Coil

Duane T. Gish, the young-earth creationist who most demonstrated the futility of oral "debates" between scientists and YECs, has died. Developer of the "Gish Gallop," where numerous misrepresentations were floated in sound bites that could never be countered in the time allotted, he mastered the false debate where nothing substantive was discussed and the only point was to reinforce the faithful's preexisting beliefs.

With malice toward none and with charity for all, he still will not be missed in the halls of education.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Drink Deep of the Pierian Spring

Albert Mohler is upset. It seems (with all due caveats about his sources) that:
Pornography is a scourge, and the magnitude of the pornography industry is a tragic commentary on the moral state of affairs in this nation. Furthermore, the pervasiveness of pornography, even among young males, indicates that the scope of the problem will only grow in years to come.

Now, we can add yet another dangerous effect to the impact of pornography — the development of a worldview that is pervasively non-judgmental and permissive about an entire range of sexual behaviors.
Non-judgmental and permissive about what? Mohler cites to Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas:
"Statistical tests confirmed that porn use is a (very) significant predictor of men's support for same-sex marriage, even after controlling for other obvious factors that might influence one's perspective, such as political affiliation, religiosity, marital status, education, and sexual orientation," Regnerus explained.

He concluded by stating: "In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men's support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts." Interestingly, Regnerus also suggested that the avoidance of procreation in heterosexual pornography may also influence acceptance of the negation of procreation in homosexual acts.
Notice how, to Mohler, not only is being "non-judgmental" and "permissive" (read "permitting others to do what they want when it does no harm to others") a bad thing, but so are "ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness." And that's not to mention the "avoidance of procreation" (i.e. birth control) as considered something to be shunned.

In case you think I am reading Mohler uncharitably, he cites to Paul J. Wright of Indiana University and Ashley K. Randall of the University of Arizona to the effect that use of pornography was associated in males with an increased support for a more libertarian worldview that would see sexual and intimate relationships as completely outside government regulation. He goes on to quote them:
If people think individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether to have same-sex sex, they will also think that individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether to get married to a partner of the same sex.
It is in that context that Mohler calls pornography a "scourge."

The ironies abound. Mohler decries pornography for reducing women to objects of sexual attraction (true enough!) without a hint of understanding that he and his cohort of religious authoritarians do exactly the same thing by trying to remove any woman's ability to control her own body, whether it be through abortions or even contraception. A baby factory is as much a sexual object as a porn star.

And then, there is this:
Wright and Randall also found that the influence of pornography on attitudes toward same-sex marriage was especially pronounced among less educated males. More education was itself associated with an openness to more liberal sexual attitudes and support for same-sex marriage.
In short, his real concern is about those "less educated males" who are more likely to belong to religious denominations, like his, that despise liberal attitudes toward personal freedom. Can't anyone think of the collection plates?

But the biggest irony of all is that Mohler and his ilk are for "small government" ... just as long as it is small enough to fit into everyone's bedroom!

Sunday, March 03, 2013


The Axis of Ignorance

PBS's Moyers & Company interviewed Zack Kopplin about his campaign to prevent school voucher programs funding private and parochial schools that teach creationism along with or, in some cases, instead of evolutionary science.

The above is a screen shot of the interactive map that PBS created from Zack's data showing schools getting taxpayer money while teaching creationism.

P.S. You can see Zack's interview here.

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