Thursday, May 23, 2013


Did I Get the Scout Salute Wrong?

I'm going to keep this as an open post to record the head explosions of the wingnuts to the decision of the Boy Scouts to allow kids, who already know they are gay, to be ... you know ... kids, instead of cultural and political footballs in the Righteous Right's campaign to drag us back to pre-Enlightenment times. Expect frequent updates!

Oh, here's one, from John Stemberger, founder of
He claimed that scouting groups now have two options: to "segregate" gay Scouts from heterosexual ones by putting them in separate tents, or "put homosexual boys with other boys and put them at risk."
At "risk" of what? Rape? But the Bible is okay with rape: Judges 21:10-24; Numbers 31:7-18; Deuteronomy 20:10-14; Deuteronomy 22:28-29, for example.

Now "boys being boys" was a common phenomenon in the Army when I was in. Scared and lonely kids tend to seek solace. Here's an idea! ... let's stop making kids scared and lonely and maybe they won't "huddle up" at night. As always, the Righteous Right imagines that what they hate is so attractive that no one can resist it. Maybe they should look into their own psyche.

Here's a nice one:
Jonathan Saenz, president of the Austin-based conservative advocacy group Texas Values, which organized one of the protests outside the annual meeting, called the vote a "tragic decision" that showed the Boy Scouts had "chosen to place sex and politics above its timeless principles."

He blamed national leaders who called for the vote and "willingly opened the door to allow homosexual advocates to overrun an organization that stands for a code of morality that these intolerant advocates reject." He predicted the vote could destroy the organization.
Because, of course, allowing a vote is a terrible thing. Wait a minute! Weren't the homophobes saying just a second ago that whenever the "homosexual agenda" was put to a vote they won? Voting is, apparently, a good thing only when they win.

And, again, from the Family Research Council:

It is clear that the current BSA leadership will bend with the winds of popular culture, and the whims of liberal special interest groups.
Because, of course, all those anti gay marriage votes a decade ago were just the winds of popular culture and the whims of wingnut special interest groups.

And another:

“My concern all along has been boy-on-boy sexual contact,” John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and organiser of On My Honor, told the Dallas Morning News in April. “If this resolution passes, it will be open season for gay young men. How do we protect the Scouts who are not gay?”
Oh, I don't know ... maybe by telling the non-gay kids to just say no?

Bryan Fischer could not be far behind:

BSA now stands for Boy Sodomizers of America, because that's what will happen. Mark my words.
It's a little late for that, Bryan.

Okay, it is only fair to include some sensible things that are said, in this case by a parent, Wes Comer, a Pentecostal:

To be honest, I'm torn at this point. I'm not sure exactly what our decision will be.

If I place this situation in the context of my religious beliefs, I'm forced to ask myself, 'Would I turn a homosexual child away from Sunday school? From a church function? Would I forbid my children to be friends with a gay child?' I can't imagine a situation where I would answer 'yes' to any of those questions. So how can I in this one?

Yet he said was "extremely disappointed" in the entire debate, and suggested that the BSA "has dealt itself a mortal blow."
Yeah, but if it was violating your own sense of justice before the change, isn't it nobler to take that "mortal blow" than to continue as it was?

Back to the stupid, in the person of Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma:

If the Left were truly tolerant, they would tolerate the Boy Scouts being who they have always been.
Umm ... Did you notice that 61 percent of the voting members of the BSA's National Council supported the change? Do "liberals" really make up 61 percent of the BSA's National Council? Or is that most Americans have become fed up with homophobes?

In the category of duh, there is Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington Catholic Diocese:

Overarching all of this will be our firm commitment to preserving the integrity of the Church's teaching on the authentic meaning of human sexuality.

As an organization founded on character and leadership, it is highly disappointing to see the Boy Scouts of America succumb to external pressures and political causes at the cost of its moral integrity.
Riiight! As if the Church of Pedophile Protectors is anyone to lecture the rest of us on the meaning of human sexuality!

Here's a good one:

He [Jonathan Saenz, president of the Austin-based conservative advocacy group Texas Values] blamed national leaders who called for the vote and "willingly opened the door to allow homosexual advocates to overrun an organization that stands for a code of morality that these intolerant advocates reject."
As before, when you win, democracy is a great thing ... when you lose, it is the worst thing in the world.

Expect more ...


Friendly, Courteous and Kind

Here's another data point in just how thoroughly the Righteous Right has lost the cultural war to impose its homophobia on the rest of America:
The Boy Scouts of America threw open its ranks Thursday to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders — a fiercely contested compromise that some warned could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors.

Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee.
Of course, this measure did not go nearly far enough. Openly gay scouts will be, for as long as this lasts, forced out of scouting when they turn 18. Still, baby steps ...

Naturally, the Righteous Right is threatening to pick up their marbles and go home because they lost. Since many scout troops are sponsored by church groups, that could be harmful to the scouts in the short run. But, then again, I wouldn't be surprised to see local governments, enlightened corporations and secular groups picking up at least some of the slack. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest sponsor of scout groups, has signaled that it's okay with the change.

As Ted Olson, hardly a flaming liberal, said, in a slightly different context:
I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Design Parameters

The Sensuous Curmudgeon is already all over this. The Discovery [sic] Institute has released (as in a toxic spill) "the first full curriculum to present the scientific evidence for intelligent design in both cosmology and biology."

Amusingly, they note that it is suitable for use:
... in settings such as private schools, a general family and home setting, homeschool, church environments, small discussion groups, extracurricular school organizations (such as IDEA Clubs), or personal use. When used as a textbook, DID is not intended to replace standard subject science texts, but instead can supplement them by presenting information not available in many standard textbooks. While DID is strictly scientific in its content, it is not recommended for use in public schools.
As the Curmudgeon notes "They claim it's "strictly scientific," yet it's not recommended for public schools. Why is that?"

Well, for one thing, in the first chapter of the curriculum, the DI resorts to a quote mine, hardly a marker for science. Arguing against "materialism," they present this:
Materialists impose philosophical restrictions upon science which prohibit any reference to intelligent causes. As one evolutionary biologist argued in the world's leading scientific journal, Nature:
Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.
Um ... not quite. Here is the complete quote from Scott C. Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University, commenting on the Kansas Board of Education's 1999 decision to eliminate the required teaching of evolution in public schools:
Most important, it should be made clear in the classroom that science, including evolution, has not disproved God's existence because it cannot be allowed to consider it (presumably). Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic. Of course the scientist, as an individual, is free to embrace a reality that transcends naturalism.
In short, Todd was not espousing "materialism" but Methodological Naturalism, which the DI defines as:
The belief that, whether or not the supernatural exists, we must pretend that it doesn't when practicing science.
But, wait a minute! The DI also says:
However, in the debate over ID, those who raise questions about the supernatural are often attempting to shut down the discussion by refusing to address the evidence.

The bottom line is simply this: All that intelligent design scientifically detects is the prior action of intelligence. It does not venture further, beyond the boundaries of science.
Well, if the DI recognizes that the supernatural is "beyond the boundaries of science," then what was wrong about what Todd said?... Other than the fact that the DI is lying through its teeth and wants their audience to make exactly the conclusion that the "designer" is the God of Christianity.

This is also cute: the DI says that there are Seven Tenets of Materialism, the first two of which are:
1. Either the universe is infinitely old, or it appeared by chance, without cause.

2. The physical laws and constants of the universe ultimately occurred by purposeless, chance processes.
But if the designer who created the universe and the physical laws and constants of the universe isn't God, I'll eat John Wilkins' epistemological hat!

And they wonder why we call them liars.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Into the Lion's Liar's Den

Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) sent two women, Kate (a contributor to his site) and Louise Kellar, to attend Ken Ham's "Answers for Women Conference."

Now, the reason I know this is because I happened to drop into the Answers in Genesis site to see if anything interesting going on and, lo and behold, Ken was kvetching about "an 'interesting' blog post [that] appeared on a well-trafficked atheist blog" that recounted how "[t]wo women, both atheists, had attended the conference in an "undercover" manner—with an obvious agenda".

Of course, lest his followers might hear anything that would take them out of their little biblical cocoon, the maintenance of which is, of course, the major objective of the Creation "Museum," Ham didn't give the name of the blog, much less a link. It took me a few minutes to find "We Attended the Answers in Genesis Women's Conference… and This is What Happened."

Ham's first complaint is that:
... part of the ministry of the Creation Museum is to share the gospel with unbelievers, in the hope that they will repent and believe. So we encourage atheists to visit.
Um, riiight!

He next complained that:
They made fun of the attire of attendees at the conference, indicating that they had to wear skirts and couldn't wear shorts. But other women in attendance wore a variety of clothing including skirts and slacks.
We're really getting to the substance here, aren't we? In point of fact, what was said was:
I definitely needed caffeine to get started. Unfortunately, the hotel we picked was also home to many of the other conference attendees, and in my sleep-fogged state, I accidentally wandered down to the continental breakfast area in shorts. After collecting two dirty looks for my bare legs (the horror!) I headed back to my room, feeling properly cowed, and changed into an appropriately long skirt.
So, one of the women getting "bad vibes" for wearing shorts is refuted because some of the attendees wore skirts and slacks? And it's making fun of what the other women wear to wear a skirt? As usual, logic eludes Ham.

Then there is the standard ploy:
You know, it's interesting that atheists find our conferences and other meetings important and influential enough that they have to send people to attend to find out what's going on here. What are the atheists scared of?
Well, I'll let Louise answer that:
The misinformation, demonization, and outright disdain they showed toward anyone who isn't a "Creationist" or "Christian" came shining through at the conference. Ken Ham may say, "Why are they so worried about us?" I would flip the question back to him. We were only two females who respectfully attended a conference and wrote about it. Atheists and "Nones" comprise less than 30% of the population while the majority of Americans call themselves "Christians" and nearly half the country believes in Creationism.
I'd add that creationists are always busy ... trying to keep children in public schools ignorant, to violate the Constitution, to turn America into a theocracy where their religious beliefs are enshrined in the civil law ... and it is always legitimate to study your opponents ... especially when all you have to do is go and listen to what they say in public.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Speaks With Forked Tongue

No surprise here:
The Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly rejected an attempt Monday to repeal a 2008 law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside of the adopted textbook in the classroom — leeway critics say turns science into religion.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who has been working with Zack Kopplin in an attempt to repeal the badly misnamed Louisiana Science Education Act, tried to attach the repeal onto a bill by Sen. Eric LaFleur, which would require local school boards to create foreign language immersion programs under certain circumstances. Sen. Bill Nevers, who sponsored the LSEA, defended it by saying there is "not one word about teaching creationism." The funny thing is that LaFleur's bill would do something that Nevers wasn't so happy about:
But Nevers also opposed a section of LaFleur's bill that would repeal the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science law, ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. That law required public schools in the state to give balanced treatment to creation-science and evolution-science in classroom instruction and instructional materials.

Nevers said the law should be kept on the books in case the Supreme Court ever reversed its decision.
But, of course, there is no reason at all to think that Nevers is interested in injecting creationism into Louisiana's public schools!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


They Just Can't Get the Hang of It

It's Giles County all over again.

Apparently, Ten Commandments plaques hang in every classroom in Muldrow (Oklahoma) High School.

A brave young man, Gage Pulliam, contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation which, in turn, wrote to the school district demanding the removal of the clearly unconstitutional plaques.

The reaction was predictable:
[H]undreds of students have decided to stand up and defend the plaques by launching petitions and raising awareness on social networking sites. And lots of folks around town are wondering why a Wisconsin-based organization is concerned about the affairs of Muldrow, Okla.
Ya see, this Constitution thingie applies everywhere in the US and taking away other peoples' rights anywhere is a concern of every citizen! As to standing up and 'defending' the plaques, I suggest the students adopt George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door as their role model. Just because the local majority happens to think it is okay to violate the Constitution doesn't make it right.

"It's Christianity under attack within our own country," said Josh Moore, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Muldrow, Okla. "The irony can't be missed by anyone who's lived in this country or grown up in this country."
Because, of course, not letting Christians impose their beliefs on everyone else is to "attack" it. The irony that can't be missed is that the pastor is so certain that "our" country is coextensive with his particular version of Christianity that it is obvious that everyone has to agree with him.

But, for irony all around, this is the winner:
Parent Denise Armer told KHOG* she supports the students' efforts to save the Ten Commandment plaques.

"If other kids don't want to read the Ten Commandments, then they don't have to," she said. "But that doesn't mean that they have to make everyone else do what they want."
But the government can make students who do not agree, for example, that "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath" to sit there under a plaque telling them that they should believe? There is always a simple test for how serious this claim is. Would Ms. Armer be okay with verses from the Qur'an being posted on the walls of the public school for her kids to read or not as they choose?

Even state legislators in Oklahoma realize that the attempt to 'save' the plaques is hopeless:
"A majority of teachers and students didn't agree with the Freedom From Religion Foundation letter, so they contacted myself and Senator Mark Allen. After talking with numerous Christian organizations and constitutional lawyers, it became clear that the superintendent and local school board has no choice but to remove the plaques if they want to avoid a lawsuit," State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said.
In 1980, in Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court thought it was so obvious that public schools could not post the 10 Commandments that it did not even bother to have briefs and oral arguments. Instead, on a petition for writ of certiorari, it ruled:
The preeminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one's parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness. See Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:16-21. Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day. See Exodus 20:1-11; Deuteronomy 5:6-15.

This is not a case in which the Ten Commandments are integrated into the school curriculum, where the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like. Posting of religious texts on the wall serves no such educational function. If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.

It does not matter that the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are financed by voluntary private contributions, for the mere posting of the copies under the auspices of the legislature provides the "official support of the State . . . Government" that the Establishment Clause prohibits. Nor is it significant that the Bible verses involved in this case are merely posted on the wall, rather than read aloud, for "it is no defense to urge that the religious practices here may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment." We conclude that Ky.Rev.Stat. § 158.178 (1980) violates the first part of the Lemon v. Kurtzman test, and thus the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, and the judgment below is reversed. [Citations omitted]
But the locals still may not get it:
Independent Christian student groups and the members of the Muldrow Ministerial Alliance are protesting the removal of the plaques with a planned show of unity by wearing T-Shirts on Wednesday with the Ten Commandments printed on them.

Students have reportedly been told if they wear them they will be made to turn the shirts inside out or go home and change.
No, no, no! The kids are allowed to express their beliefs. It is the government that cannot endorse a particular religion or religion in general.

* Love that call sign!

Update: The school board is doing the right thing. The plaques were taken down last week and the board voted to make that permanent.

The board got good advice from its lawyers:
"The Supreme Court has of the United States has already decided this issue and said that you can't post the Ten Commandments on a wall of a public school classroom,"Jerry Richardson, an attorney with Rosenstein, Fist & Reingold, explained. "That's pretty clear-cut."
While "dozens" of parents were described as upset, the reaction seems pretty muted. One bright high school student, Darian Preston, saw the big picture:
"I can see that they want to take it down that all religions are shown equally," she said. "They don't want to favor Christianity over Atheism or Agnostics."

Preston said that she recognizes the severity of the school being sued.

"It might be better for them to take them down just so they don't lose a bunch of money that they need to buy books and everything we need," she said.
Despite some nasty comments to the news stories, it seems cooler heads have prevailed.

Friday, May 10, 2013


More Sniffing

We have more on Dr. Jack Collins' colloquium at Greenville College, a Christian institution, about Intelligent Design.

Samantha Paulin, apparently a student at Greenville, reports on her experience at the colloquium.

First of all, she calls Collins "a renowned Intelligent Design proponent."

Really? Dang! I thought I knew most of them!

But Samantha may have answered that puzzle:
So what happens when one who supports this very idea steps onto the grounds of a Christian institution? I came into the colloquium and especially the discussion in class wanting him to come out and defend against the many critiques of Intelligent Design. ...

Dr. Collins presented his points of view towards both the natural and spiritual world, but nowhere did he attempt to push ID down upon us or desperately defend his beliefs. What he did do was lay out the facts, definitions, and ideas behind Intelligent Design, describe what it means to be a good theological theory, and show those present many of the quotes and views of the leading names in the fields of science and religion that came before him. [Quote mines, anyone?]

... Dr. Collins doesn't necessarily support 100 percent of the views that more conservative ID proponents believe in. He is first and foremost a believer in the Lord, not a scientist. He doesn't define his life by what he has discovered or written about, but rather by where his heart is and how he acts through his beliefs. ...

He doesn't let his scientific values govern his core religious beliefs, and why should he? If someone is serious about following the Lord, then conforming to a certain scientific theory and all that comes with it seems extremely limiting because science itself is limited to the study of the natural world.

So, as far as the idea of Intelligent Design and all theories for that argument goes, there will always be critics and rightly so. But, as Dr. Collins showed, just because a scientist claims to support a certain theological idea, doesn't make him or her an unreliable scientist or a weak believer. It makes him or her a broken human saved by grace who uses this salvation to honor God through the study of the natural world. [Emphasis added]
But ID has nothing to do with religion!


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Wednesday, May 08, 2013


They Know Their Own

Intelligent Design is a commonly accepted theory in the faith community used to explain the role of God in creation and human existence.
Was that some evil "Darwinist" misrepresenting the Intelligent Design Movement?

No, it was the student newspaper of Greenville College, a Christian institution, reporting on a colloquium led by Dr. Jack Collins, a professor of Old Testament studies at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, who has degrees from MIT in Computer Science and Systems Engineering, a M.Div. from Faith Lutheran Seminary and a Ph.D. in Hebrew linguistics from the University of Liverpool.

It is not possible to tell how good Collins' presentation was from the scant information in the report but he apparently conveyed this:
Collins is careful to point out the flaws that come with a belief in ID. The theory lends itself to propose "God created this, because it is 'design,' while God is not responsible for that, because it is not 'design.'" He also cautions against appealing to areas of ignorance for assertions in God, and resting faith on an absence in knowledge.
Specifically, he warns against "God of the gaps" theology which, of course, the IDers deny they are engaged in.

No matter what their hope to someday fool the courts, it's clear they can't fool their co-religionists.

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Ray Harryhausen, died yesterday at the age of 92.

In case you don't know who he was, he made PZ Myearshertz' favorite movie, It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), along with many others.

Saturday, May 04, 2013


Wingnut Fireworks

This is more in the territory of Ed Brayton but the latest explosions of wingnut heads lighting up the night sky have to do with the impending courts martial of evangelical Christians in the military.

It will come as no surprise that it is, to put it charitably, bullhockey!

Warren Throckmorton is a Professor of Psychology at Grove City College (a Christian school where Guillermo Gonzalez wound up after he was [snicker] Expelled) who has in the past dismantled David Barton's crap, correctly, if inadvertently, titled The Jefferson Lies.

Throckmorton is all over the story:

Is the Military Preparing to Court Martial Christians? (UPDATED)

On the Military and Religious Proselytizing: Military Spokesman's Original Comments Used Out of Context

The Military's Policy on Proselytizing Is Not New and Is Consistent with Federal Law

Air Force Statement on Religious Proselytizing and Religious Materials on Desks

The short version is this: Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation had a meeting with the Air Force Judge Advocate General (the Air Force's top lawyer) to discuss the problem of military commanders using their positions to coerce those under their command to participate in religious functions that violate their subordinate's freedom of conscience. (See Ed's Blog generally on that point.)

Weinstein apparently said "Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior."

Faux News faux pundit, Todd Starnes, then apparently asked a military spokes-person about such courts martials, who, correctly, replied on that point::
Court[s] martials and non-judicial punishment are decided on case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases.
Typically for wingnuts, that was changed to "Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith."

In short, it is another in a long line of wingnut manufactroversies.

Oh, look ... the pretty lights in the sky ...

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Chutzpah Personified

This is precious!

David Klinghoffer is in high dudgeon!

It seems that some dirty "Darwinist" interrupted the lovefest between wingnut Michael Medved and Stephen Meyer on Medved's new weekly "Science and Culture Update" show by calling Meyer a "preacher" not a man of science.

There is, of course, the obligatory bluster:
Intelligent design considers the evidence of nature and infers the activity of a designer. But science does not say who or what that designer is. It just doesn't, much as some believers might wish it did. On claims about the supernatural, ID is simply agnostic. It must be. Why can't these people understand that?
Oh, maybe, it is because we just keep on actually listening to you.

But the funny part is that Klinghoffer fumes:
Isn't it interesting how often, confronted with scientific [!] evidence and arguments for design in nature, ID critics respond with theological countercharges. And they call folks like Stephen Meyer "preachers"?
Yeah! How could we possibly do that?

By Stephen Meyer and Del Tackett-- TrueU is a DVD-based apologetics curriculum. Dr. Del Tackett, architect and voice of Focus on the Family's The Truth Project®, describes this endeavor this way:

Produced by Focus on the Family in conjunction with Coldwater Media, TrueU is an apologetics training series primarily geared to help prepare high school students for the rigorous challenges and attacks that will confront them on the university campus.
Preacher? ... What preacher?

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