Saturday, January 25, 2014


Jesus Toast

Sabine Parish, Louisiana, has a school. It is supposedly a public school. Paid for by taxpayers and part of the local government.

Except it isn't.

Instead it is a Christian school ... exclusively!

It is a school where the school marque flashes Biblical messages, such as (at 01:41):
It is a school where Jesus (or a very poor "portrait" of him) looms over the exit where students go to board buses:

It is a school where that same poor "portrait" of Jesus presides over graduation ceremonies:

And worse, it is a school where, according to the ACLU suit, a "science teacher" ends her tests with:
ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And guess what! The "Lord Boda [Buddha]" isn't the "right" answer! Did I mention that the plaintiff school child is of Thai descent and a Buddhist?

But it, incredibly, gets worse:
As [the "science" teacher] was returning the tests to students, one student declared again, for the whole class to hear, that "people are stupid if they think God is not real." [The "science" teacher] agreed, responding, "Yes! That is right! I had a student miss that on his test."
But we are not finished yet! When the outraged parents went to complain to the school superintendent, they were told that "this is the Bible Belt," and she recommended that they simply tolerate [the "science" teacher's] proselytization because "[t]eachers have religious freedom."

In a irony meter exploding statement, the superintendent then wondered whether the child "has to be raised Buddhist" and even asked whether he could "change" his faith ... because, of course, teachers have religious freedom but children don't!

But just to bring me back around to the main purpose of the blog, here is what the "science" teacher said about evolution:
[She] told her students that evolution is "impossible" and a "stupid" theory that "stupid people made up because they don't want to believe in God." She has informed her students that, "if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today."

The school board issued the usual statement:
The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side's allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts.

The school system recognizes the rights of all students to exercise the religion of their choice and will defend the lawsuit vigorously.
This will, doubtlessly, play out the usual manner: the locals will insist that their behavior is perfectly legal because they are the majority and demand the school board defend their right to impose their religious beliefs on all and sundry.

From there, it will go one of two ways. First: the school's insurance company will explain that, unless they remove all the Biblical and Jesus iconography, refrain from official school prayers and (gasp) stop telling children that don't believe in Jesus that they are "stupid," they will lose this suit and, if they don't follow the insurance company's advice, it will not pay the damages. The school board will then face up to reality and agree to a settlement with a Federal judge ready at the nonce to penalize them if they return to their wicked ways. Or ...

Second, they will be seduced by the offer of some Christian group (such as the merry band of incompetents at the oxymoronic "Liberty Counsel") to fight the case because they are getting "free" representation, not realizing that, when the bill comes due, Liberty Counsel will be nowhere to be found. In which case the students of Sabine Parish will be the losers, when hundreds of thousand dollars are siphoned away from, you know, actually educating them.

Either way, the school board is toast!

By the way, here is the father's moving story.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Master of ID

There is an interesting critique at Evolution New & Views, the Discovery Institute's propaganda outlet, of an article in First Things, a conservative Christian publication founded by Richard John Neuhaus, who was a Lutheran pastor who became a Roman Catholic priest. The article, by Stephen Meredith and entitled "Looking for God in All the Wrong Places," is behind a paywall I have no desire to penetrate.

What I find interesting is the DI's criticism of it, in the person of Michael Flannery.

According to Flannery, Meredith's thesis is that "Darwin's rejection of religion was based mainly on a narrow definition of it: the dubious religious doctrine of a six-thousand-year-old earth and the constancy of species since creation." Flannery, on the other hand, insists that "Darwin's views on theism generally and Christianity specifically were much broader and pervasive than a mere rejection of the design argument of William Paley (1743-1805) or the 6,000-year-old earth of Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656)."

Again, I'm not interested in who is right about that, though Flannery is probably closer to the truth, if he is fairly representing Meredith's position. Darwin was, self-admittedly, confused about his position on theism and his stated views changed frequently over time. All of that was further masked by his desire not to cause pain to his Unitarian wife (who, therefore, was not a True Christian™ by our modern Religious Right's "standards") .

This is where it gets interesting:
This leads to the second key point. A theory like Darwin's that purports to explain all of nature and of life itself cannot be separated from the metaphysical commitments of its founder.
Really? So Protestantism can't be separated from Martin Luther's anti-Semitism?

Flannery goes on to babble about the supposed differences between "begotten" versus "made" that somehow makes methodological naturalism "inherent in the theory [of evolution] itself," presumably as opposed to Newton's theory of gravity which, though Newton allowed the possibility that God's angels might have to adjust the Solar system at times, never invoked anything but natural forces to explain gravity or its effects. Long before Darwin scientists had been invoking methodological naturalism; Darwin just had the "misfortune" to make it work for that most central issue of our egocentric species, showing how we could have arisen without being the special pet of some superior being.

And then the money quote from Flannery:
... Meredith's downplaying of Darwin's religious views as a mere rejection of the young earth design argument à la William Paley is seriously misleading. Meredith winds up serving as an apologist for methodological naturalism at the expense of viable theism. He isn't the first to be so deluded. What apparently is true of God and money is also true of God and Darwinism: "No one can serve two masters" (Mattew [sic] 6:24).
And since "Darwinism" is the DI's code word for "modern evolutionary science" we can translate that to "no one can serve both science and God." Thus, Stephen Meyer, Casey Luskin, David Klinghoffer, William Dembsky and all the other admitted theists in the ID movement, despite their frequent claims to the contrary, cannot serve science by actually doing it; they are only "serving" God by pretending to do it ... and lying about it! Other Christians, for example, Ken Miller, have no problem serving both science and theism ... in their proper forums! But not IDers ... all they're concerned with is keeping theism "viable" against the pernicious influence of nasty science!

Once again, thanks for the confirmation that ID has nothing to do with science but is, instead, a dishonest attempt to circumvent the Constitution of the US and sneak sectarian religious instruction into public schools at taxpayer expense.

But, then again, they told us all that in the Wedge Document, didn't they?

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Friday, January 17, 2014


Quote of the Day

As reported by SCOTUSblog:
A federal judge in Tulsa, ruling that the majority view of Oklahoma voters that marriage should be open only to a man and a woman "must give way to individual constitutional rights," on Tuesday struck down the state's ballot measure banning same-sex marriages. Senior U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern put his ruling on hold during any appeal that is pursued by the state to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
But the judge's money quote is this:
Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.
Well said, well said!

People in Oklahoma might want to wear raincoats for a while in case of nearby wingnut head explosions.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Giggle ... Snort ...

Slightly modified from Non Sequitur.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Someone Is Not Even Wrong on the Internet

Everybody knows this iconic cartoon.

Worse, everyone who has spent any time in various online forums has fallen prey to the sentiment.

After many years (and the help of an 11.25-step program) I have mostly given up the addiction of trying to correct all the idiots on the web (or listening to their attempts to correct me).

But sometimes you run across something so monumentally stupid that you just have to do something, even if it is only holding it up for ridicule on an obscure blog floating forlornly on the vast ocean of the internet.

You may have heard that the Oklahoma State legislature has gotten itself into quite a pickle.

The legislature decided it wanted to have a Ten Commandments monument erected on the grounds of the state capitol. Anyone but an idiot knows the purpose was to proclaim the hegemony of local fundamentalist Christian majority, in clear violation of the Establishment clause of the Bill of Rights. But, as a [cough] fig leaf, State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who introduced the bill and paid the $10,000 cost of the monument, and state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso, the bill's Senate sponsor, argued that the monument would only honor the historical significance of the Ten Commandments and not its religious aspects. They readily admitted that they were basing this on the Supreme Court decision in Van Orden v. Perry.

The Van Orden case had significant factual differences from this situation. Both the plurality decision by Justice Rehnquist and the concurring decision by Justice Breyer (who was the fifth vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Texas monument) made much of the fact that the monument was donated by an outside and widely respected civic group, the monument had stood for some 40 years without complaint and it was one of 17 monuments and 21 historical markers commemorating the "people, ideals, and events that compose Texan identity."

Compared to that was the case of McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., decided on the same day as Van Orden. As Justice Breyer noted:
[Van Orden] also differs from McCreary County, where the short (and stormy) history of the courthouse Commandments' displays demonstrates the substantially religious objectives of those who mounted them, and the effect of this readily apparent objective upon those who view them. That history there indicates a governmental effort substantially to promote religion, not simply an effort primarily to reflect, historically, the secular impact of a religiously inspired document. And, in today's world, in a Nation of so many different religious and comparable nonreligious fundamental beliefs, a more contemporary state effort to focus attention upon a religious text is certainly likely to prove divisive in a way that this longstanding, pre-existing monument has not.
Correctly focusing on the Oklahoma monument's stand-alone nature, a number of organizations have been lining up for a chance to have their own monuments erected. First and most amusing was a Satanist organization, whose design is, I think, rather nice.

And it is people friendly too! The Satanic temple spokesman, Lucien Greaves, said in a statement. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."

Trait Thompson, chairman of the Capitol Preservation Commission, which decides on monuments on the capitol grounds, said that "There are standards for this type of art. It has to be relatable to the history of the state of Oklahoma in some form or fashion. And it has to be museum-quality art." Whoa! Let's look at the 10 Commandments monument, shall we?

The only museum that would belong in is one that celebrates tombstones.

Of course, the Oklahoma legislators are busy digging the hole they're in even deeper.
"I think you've got to remember where you are. This is Oklahoma, the middle of the heartland," said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. "I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma, and that's not going to fly here."
Umm ... the purpose of the Establishment clause is not for the government to be tolerant of non-majority religious or non-religious beliefs but to be neutral towards all of them.
"I do not see Satanism as a religion, and they have no place at the state Capitol," said [Rep. Earl] Sears, R-Bartlesville.
The government doesn't get to decide which religions are "real" and which aren't and why is religion even an issue if you are just celebrating the historical influence of the 10 Commandments? Surely you are not going to deny the historical influence of the concept of Satan, after so many Christian leaders have sermonized about him throughout our history, are you Representative?

Even worse for the legislature, now a Hindu group has proposed erecting a statue of the monkey god, Lord Hanuman. Even if they could make some case that the Satanist's offer is a sham, there is no way they could deny a religion such as Hinduism, which has a small but real presence in Oklahoma, access to government grounds on the same basis as Christianity.

As a result, the state has called a moratorium on all proposals for monuments on the capitol grounds pending the outcome of an ACLU lawsuit, further admitting that the original intent was to further Christianity.

But enough preliminaries ... let's get to the stupid!

One Delilah Belmont, self-described as a "professional journalist and blogger," for something called the Civic Tribune, has an article under the headline: "Hindus Attempt To Violate First Amendment, Propose "Giant Monkey God" Statue On Oklahoma Capitol Grounds."

Now, if a Hindu group was trying to have a monument only to its religion on government grounds, that would be, if successful, a violation of the Establishment Clause and all we could accuse Ms. Belmont of was being incredibly ignorant of the story she was purportedly reporting on. But that's not it!
Yesterday marked the day that yet another religious minority group demanded special treatment from the United States. A Hindu sect called the Universal Society of Hinduism made a request to the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission asking to have a monument of their own placed on Capital grounds, a giant statue of their demonic Monkey God named "Lord Hanuman."

This request is a timely one, and adds to the growing list of religious minorities in the United States who are seeking to be treated above and beyond the average American, such as last week's attempt by Satanists to get their own memorial added to the same grounds in Oklahoma's Capital.

Despite the First Amendment protecting government property from endorsing or sponsoring religious freedoms that were not Christian, the Satanic religious group has won their plea to have a monument erected on capital grounds. This has opened the flood gate for even more religious minorities to request their own pagan Gods be represented on federal soil, as we have seen yesterday with the Hindu group's application.

The Satanic monument will join the 10 Commandments monument that was built in 2012, after the GOP state legislature passed a law that allowed religious displays back in 2009. This law was of course only meant to allow Christian religions access to placing their own monuments on the property, but due to an unforeseen loop hole, Satanic and Hindu groups are now taking advantage of the legislature.
Lordy, lordy, lordy! Where to begin? Of course, she got the factual details wrong. The Satanic monument has not been approved. Nor does this case involve "Federal soil." And Hindus do not consider Lord Hanuman to be "demonic" (quite the contrary, he is considered the embodiment of bravery and faithfulness), anymore than Christians consider their God to be demonic ... although others may have a different opinion on that score!

But, worse, she seems completely ignorant of the US Constitution!

Even the clinically insane (or cynically deceptive) Bryan Fischer merely claims that the Establishment clause protects Christianity only, not that it prohibits government endorsement of religious freedoms for non-Christians. Nor is it seeking "special rights" or to "be treated above and beyond the average American" to demand that the government treat all religions equally. And, it wasn't a "loop hole" in the law that is going to trip up the Oklahoma legislators. It is, in fact, the Establishment Clause that will bring this whole scheme to grief.

The one thing that Ms. Belmont got right was that "[t]his law was of course only meant to allow Christian religions access to placing their own monuments on the property." What she fails to appreciate is that the legislators, in doing so, not only broke the 9th Commandment (as Protestants count them) but their oaths of office to "protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States.

The only "loophole" here is that the people of Oklahoma elected a particularly dumb and venal breed of legislators.

Thursday, January 09, 2014


The Curse of Ham

It seems the Curse of Ham is upon us.

Answers in Genesis's Ken Ham is bemoaning the fact that its Ark Encounter theme park is in serious financial trouble. AiG and Ham are faced with the daunting task of selling $29 million in unrated (i.e. "junk") municipal bonds by Feb. 6 or face collapse. Staggeringly, the northern Kentucky city of Williamstown (where Ark Encounter is supposed to be built) in December issued taxable "industrial-development" bonds for affiliates of Answers in Genesis. Even more staggeringly, they have managed to sell $26.5 million of these "securities" (is "a fool and his money are soon parted" from the Bible? If not, it should be!). However, unless they sell at least $55 million in total, a redemption of all the bonds will be triggered.

As Bloomberg noted:
The [bond] documents cite at least 39 risks to buyers, including that Answers in Genesis has no obligation to back the debt. Bondholders' sole revenue stream would come from money spent by visitors.
Ham takes these developments with all the rationality we have come to expect of him:
As you have read in some of my prior emails, many challenges and road blocks came up as we worked through the stages of the bond offering and the first closing. From atheists attempting to register for the bond offering and disrupting it, to secular bloggers and reporters writing very misleading and inaccurate articles about the bonds, to brokerage firms saying "yes" but after reading these incorrect reports saying "no" in allowing the Ark bonds into their client accounts ...
In other words, giving their clients sound financial advice ...
Several persons directly involved in the Ark bonds process have indicated to us that they have never experienced the level of opposition as we have encountered. It's an indication of the immense spiritual battle we are in, as per Ephesians 6 above ["For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."].

As I've written to you before, the attacks we have seen on the Ark bond offering have just confirmed for me that the Enemy does not want this project to go ahead. Actually, though, the opposition just encourages me. You see, if we weren't involved in a vital Bible-proclaiming outreach that should have a massive impact on the hearts and lives of countless people, I don't believe we would see this sort of opposition.
Yeah, that's the ticket! Satan made them not do it! And atheists! And secularists! And the main stream media! And Wall Street! (Are there any dog whistles I forgot to blow?)

Sunday, January 05, 2014


In a New Yorker Minute

Both James McGrath and John Wilkins have noticed a slide show of some of the most popular New Yorker cartoons. These were some of the ones I liked.

The above one could easily have been labeled "Scientists" and "Creationists" instead of, respectively, "Realists" and "Idealists."

The following one might be "Irreducible Complexity."

Followed by "Married Life ... Only Slightly Exaggerated."

Last is "Fairy Tales Come to Life."

Friday, January 03, 2014


Coming By It Naturally

For some time I have asserted, in various contexts, that the "supernatural" is that set (quite possibly empty) of phenomena and forces that are not what we call "natural." The tough part is defining "natural." As far as I can tell, the latter means those phenomena and forces that occur with such regularity as to appear to us to be lawlike.

John Wilkins, the inestimable but resolutely antipodean philosopher of science, has a nice article up on What is "nature"? As John notes:
Many critics of science, including Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, attack something they call "naturalism", the view that the natural world is all there is. As Papineau notes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry, the term has no very precise meaning in philosophy, or in science. However, as he goes on to note, there are two streams: ontological naturalism (the view that all that is, is natural) and methodological naturalism (the view that all that can be known can be known via natural methodologies such as scientific method). ...

"Nature", however, is often held to exclude the "supernatural", which is defined against the natural. If nature is all there is and their properties, then the supernatural doesn't exist, or is propertyless. This cannot be the view Plantinga and Craig wish to defend, so the question remains: what is nature? Mill goes on to note that the natural is regular and lawful, that it behaves in ways which are predictable. ...
John goes on to discuss other aspects of "nature" and its modern uses, so go and read it.

Why do I bring it up? Well, as one who argues often over philosophy, and particularly its relation to science, it is comforting to know that professional philosophers basically agree that you are not a complete dufus.

Thursday, January 02, 2014



Can the wingnut right get any more ridiculous?

Not for a lack of trying!

Via Ed Brayton comes the story of Jim Garrow "predicting" that President Obama will soon try to distract Americans from his supposed scandals … by claiming that he is now in touch with alien life.

But, even worse, Obama will invite Canada to invade the US (along with Russian, Chinese and UN "Blue Beret" troops), which can fight any "insurrection" because Canadian soldiers don't swear allegiance to the US Constitution (Why were we never told this?).

Of course, a Canadian invasion of the US could take a long time as the Canadian Army waits, politely at our checkpoints for permission to enter. The upside is that we will be politely asked to line up to be shot!

The next question is, under Obamacare, will someone see to having these peoples' medication adjusted?

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