Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Discriminating Tastes

Mississippi has passed one of those "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" laws that both sides expect will be used to protect businesses who refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Of course, it may not have much effect right away. Mississippi doesn't allow or recognize same-sex marriages and, as far as I can tell from a quick search, there are no anti-discrimination laws at a state or local level that include homosexuals as a protected class. But there have been some lower court decisions requiring states that do not permit same-sex marriage to recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in states that permit it. And, of course, there have been a plethora of lower court decisions holding that it is unconstitutional to deny gays the right to marry.

Never accuse the religious right of not being prepared.

But there are hopeful signs even in Mississippi. A group of businessmen in the state have started a campaign to distribute stickers with the message "We don't discriminate. If you're buying, we're selling."

The funny thing is the reaction of the religious right, such as Buddy Smith, executive vice president of Tupelo-based American Family Association, to the sticker campaign:
"It's not really a buying campaign, but it's a bully campaign," he says, "and it's being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.

"They don't want to hear that homosexuality is sinful behavior – and they wish to silence Christians and the church who dare to believe this truth."

Smith offers a word of caution for those who do business with facilities posting the decal supporting homosexual activism. "If you do that, you are agreeing with these businesses that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience," he tells OneNewsNow.
Wow! So much stupid in so small a space! Someone tramples the religious freedom of Christians by refusing to discriminate against gays? It's almost as if they are claiming it's their religious right to control everyone else's religious beliefs.

And they are being silenced because other people speak up in favor of the rights of gays? It's almost as if they think no one else has freedom of speech.

And agreeing to serve same-sex couples means that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience. It's almost like the only way that Christians can have religious freedom is if nobody else has any.

What they really fear, of course, is the change in public opinion, even among their fellow Christians, and that this campaign will show them up for what they are: hate-filled bigots.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Once Again I Agree Wholeheartedly With Jerry Coyne

Alain de Botton has been allowed into the Rijksmuseum, home of many Rembrandts, Vermeers and other great Dutch art, to "put up giant Post-It™ style notes next to the paintings, telling the viewer how he/she is supposed to react to the paintings."

I would recommend a firing squad* for de Botton and the Post-Its but shooting is too good for them!

They should be boiled in their own fatuousness.

Jerry is spot on:
The good thing about art is that each person brings his or her baggage and history to each work of art, imbuing it with different meanings. Imagine what would happen if de Botton went next door and got his sticky fingers on the Van Gogh Museum!
I'm more worried that he'll go closer to home ... the Tate ... and leave his grubby shallow fingerprints on J.M.W. Turner.

Other than to tell you a bit about the painting's subject and history, who needs to be told how to react to it?

I can go blind staring at that all on my own, thank you very much!

* For the sarcasm impaired, I'm not serious about that ... much.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Klinghoffer's Designer

In the category of "As If We Didn't Know Already" comes this little missive from David Klinghoffer.

Klinghoffer is grousing about Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, with what Klinghoffer describes as "a sensible moderate conservative perspective" and Gerson's column entitled " The strange tension between theology and science."

Gerson was writing about the Associated Press-GfK poll that found that Americans doubt certain scientific ideas, including the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, anthropogenic climate change and, Klinghoffer's pet peeve, evolution. Here's Klinghoffer's kvetch:
Gerson seems implicitly to wrap up "evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change" in a big bundle, all equally factual and unworthy of further questioning. However, there's a huge difference between, on one hand, the first and last items in that list -- if by "evolution" you mean Darwinian theory as to the mechanism underlying evolutionary change -- and the second and third items, on the other.
After the obligatory trotting out of Lynn Margulis as a "doubter" of neo-Darwinism (heck, why not Larry Moran?) who, of course, does not doubt that there is a naturalistic explanation of evolution.

But then Klinghoffer gets down to the real business of ID and the Discoveryless Institute:
Gerson also seems to think that no scientific notion could be a legitimate source of "tension" with faith. He writes about the Big Bang, observing that
the idea of a universe that began in a flash that flung stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies across the vast canvas of space is, to put it mildly, compatible with Jewish and Christian belief: "Let there be light."
Of course he's right, which is why some scientists have resisted the Big Bang: along with cosmic fine-tuning, it does appear to confirm a theistic view.
The "resistance" to the Big Bang was short and yielded to the overwhelming empiric evidence ... something that the IDers refuse to supply for their own "theory." Cosmic fine-tuning is, in fact, a metaphysical claim because, with only one example of a universe, we cannot possibly "know" what the probabilities of "hitting" the particular mix of basic forces within our own universe are, anymore than we can know what the probabilities of dealing a particular poker hand is from a deck with an unknown number of cards.
But to think that no assertion from science can challenge religion is to make your faith basically fatuous. If it so forgiving, so content-free, as to accommodate any statement whatsoever about the universe, about reality, valid or invalid, so long as the statement comes from a scientist, I don't see that as a formula for a religion that's worthy of consideration.

For example, the idea that biology gives no indication of purpose or creativity on God's or anyone else's part would seem to be, from the perspective of traditional Judaism or Christianity, a bridge too far. If Darwinism were right about that, it would surely undercut my own Jewish faith.
I like that handwave in the direction of the Constitution, "on God's or anyone else's part." As if positing Satan, or Odin or a Deist First Mover as "the Designer" would be any less a bridge too far for "traditional Judaism or Christianity"!

But I wonder if Klinghoffer ever thinks about the reverse of his formulation ... if your faith makes you deny science, isn't it already fatuous?

Anyway, Klinghoffer's ultimate complaint is that journalists like Gerson "simply haven't taken the time to study the details of the Darwin controversy" ... which, of course, is just like a journalist not bothering to study the homeopathic "controversy" with science-based medicine ... as propounded by a homeopath!

I suspect Gerson is aware of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board and why should he revisit the dishonesty that is ID? On one side we have a small group of alleged scientists motivated by their concern for their "traditional" faiths and on the other we have some 98% of scientists made up of a diverse group with different philosophies, including theists like Ken Miller, Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala, who reject the notion that ID is science.

Now, it is true that, within the scientific community, there are more atheists and fewer "traditional" believers than in the population at large. But whose fault is that when the "traditional" believers drill into their children's heads that to accept the power of science to know the workings of the natural world is atheism and materialism? It is not that science, or the methodological naturalism that powers it, is inherently atheistic, it is that the "traditional" theists have made it a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I Rather Like This

Karl Giberson had a debate with the Discovery [sic] Institute's Stephen Meyer.

He knew it wasn't much use:
Debates are curious events. They masquerade as intellectual contests, but are really just showcases for rhetorical cleverness and public charisma.
But I like Giberson's approach. After noting ID luminaries, such as Paul Nelson and Phillip Johnson have admitted that ID has no theory of how ID works, he says:
The absence of a clear and well-articulated theory is disastrous for ID, and excludes it from scientific consideration, because it makes it impossible to put any observations in context as evidence either for or against the theory. I made this rather complex point with a photo of the lake in front of my vacation home. A photo is an "observation," of course. But a photo is not automatically "evidence." A theoretical claim that can be tested with a photo must be present before a photo becomes evidence. My photo could be used as evidence, for example, to determine if 1) the water was higher than last week or 2) the winter ice was gone 3) the boat race was on some other lake or 4) if aliens were waterskiing that day. But, until you advance some relevant theoretical claim a photo is just a photo—it is not "evidence."

The many interesting examples that dominate the ID discussion—the little tail on the bacterium, our eyes or our blood-clotting mechanism, the explosion of new life-forms in the Cambrian period—are just snapshots of things in nature. They are not "evidence" for anything and won't be until the ID theorists develop a theory of how their "designer" works. Once they provide a well-articulated version of their central claim, we can decide whether or not our eyes—or our tails— support their theory.
Darwin knew this:
About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
But Meyer dodged the issue:
I mentioned in the debate that I thought this difficulty—acknowledged as it was by other ID theorists—was the deepest and most interesting challenge facing ID. But Meyer assured me that this is no longer an issue and that they now had a theory, although whatever it is appears to remain a well-kept secret. I objected that, as a physicist with a Ph.D who had studied some real theories—quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism—ID did not remotely resemble any other theory in the natural sciences and was thus hard to see how it might work. The response was that ID was under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of the scientific community for what a theory should look like.
In other words, "We don't need no stinkin' science!"

There is more in Giberson's article you should read, including how the DI declared victory based on the fact that Giberson used examples understandable to lay people, while Meyer baffled them with bullshit. But I thought Giberson's example of why theory is needed in science was very cogent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Here We Go Again

I have been remiss of late in tending to this blog ... a combination of physical problems, ennui, work and the lack of items that ticked my fancy.

This is a bit of a drive-by ... raising issues rather than trying to answer them.

Jerry Coyne, with a more than a bit of graciousness, congratulates Ken Miller for being named by the University of Notre Dame the 2014 Laetare Medal winner, given annually to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity."

Coyne focuses on some of Miller's stated beliefs, which Miller has never claimed were scientific in nature and labels them "antiscientific, [because they are] based not on evidence."

But Coyne has certain beliefs that are not based on evidence, much less scientific evidence, for example, his opinion of James Joyce:
I do not believe, nor have I ever asserted, that science provides us with all the answers that are worth having. Some answers worth having involve subjective taste: which bistro should I eat at tonight? Should I go out with Sue or with Megan? Is Joyce's The Dead truly the best story ever written in English? (The answer to that, by the way, is "yes".) Why does Beethoven move me to tears while Mozart leaves me cold? And there are the moral questions, such as "Is abortion wrong?"

Now some of these questions are at least potentially susceptible to empirical investigation and falsification ...
But what I have never seen is a coherent explanation of what specifically is different between Coyne's "subjective taste" in matters he finds aesthetically pleasing to think about the world and Miller's. What makes one "antiscientific" and not the other? Neither claim scientific support for their position, though both vaguely claim that science might have a bearing on their respective beliefs. Neither claim that their beliefs are actually part of science.

Why are Miller's beliefs anymore "antiscientific" than Coyne's? ... other than that Coyne aesthetically doesn't like religion?

Monday, April 07, 2014


Oh, Watch This Too!!!

Sunday, April 06, 2014


Goose. Gander. Sauce. NOT!

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and marginally less deranged Religious Right theocrat, is sad.

Brendan Eich, creator of Java Script and one of the founders of the Mozilla web browser was recently named as CEO of Mozilla. This ignited a firestorm after it was revealed that in 2008 he contributed $1,000 to the effort to pass Proposition 8 in California to ban same-sex marriage after the California Supreme Court found such marriage was protected by the California Constitution. Under the unique law of California, where its Constitution can be amended by a mere majority vote in an initiative, a simple 52% majority decided to change the Constitution to remove the right to marry from gays.

Mohler, first quoting Alistair Barr, perhaps inadvertently, gets to the point:
The controversy around Mr. Eich's appointment demonstrates how gay marriage has grown to be seen as a bedrock civil-rights issue by many. In Silicon Valley, many see it as a nonnegotiable issue. Failure to support it is akin to tacitly backing the old race-discrimination laws of the 1950s and 1960s.

That is a profoundly important sentence. Alistair Barr gets right to the heart of the issue. As it turns out, it is exactly the case that those who have opposed at any point the celebration and normalization of homosexuality or the legalization of same-sex marriage now find themselves being painted as bigots, as prejudice [sic] homophobes, who have no place in polite society and certainly not in public policy, nor, emphatically in this case, in the corporate world, especially in Silicon Valley.
Well, yes, Al ... gay rights are a bedrock civil-rights issue and those people who were and are against those rights are prejudiced bigots and homophobes with no more place in polite society or public policy than Bull Connor.

Does that mean Eich should have been forced to resign for a $1,000 donation to bigotry years ago. Maybe not. As has been correctly pointed out, neither Hillary Clinton nor President Obama supported gay marriage back then. But neither did they take positive action to deny gays their rights and, as Mohler notes, they have both changed their positions and "publicly apologized for having held the previous position; something Brendan Eich said that he would not do."

Mohler quotes Debra J. Saunders to the effect:
Sadly, winning has made some advocates ... less tolerant, not more so. It's not enough that they won; they have to make opponents grovel in penance.
Silly me! I thought penance would be something Mohler would be in favor of!

Instead, he thinks Saunders' allegedly ironic coda, "All hail tolerance and diversity" is correct ... as long as it includes bigots!

Oh, wait a minute! Al was in the forefront of condemning the Christian charity, World Vision, for saying that they would employ Christians who are in legal same sex marriages.

World Vision's rationale was that not a few Christian denominations supporting it had accepted or, at least, not opposed, gay marriage ... you know, tolerance and diversity.

That was not enough for Mohler and his ilk. Within a couple of days, by threatening to withhold donations they were otherwise willing to make to deprived children around the world, they made World Vision grovel in penance. Let children starve if we don't get our way!

And all the evil silicon valley types did was say that a very rich person shouldn't have more power!

Oh, the horror!


Watch This!!!

Thursday, April 03, 2014


Pat Answers!

I bet you didn't know that Sweden is just like North Korea!

Silly person!

Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network had a report about how Swedish critics of Islam and immigration are facing North Korean-style oppression.

You know ... like how "Dear Leader Kim Jong-un" can have his own uncle executed for clapping "half-heartedly" when Kim was elected vice chairman of the country's central military commission.

Or, maybe not. The report does note that critics of Swedish society are unlikely to be shot but "your life could become very unpleasant." As compared, say, to the peaches and cream time that the "Evil Little Thing," Jessica Ahlquist, had.

And, of course, Sweden's "Stalinist-style atmosphere" means that it will eventually become a "Third World nation." because ... reasons!

Pat was shocked, SHOCKED, by that "frightening" report and because the fact that critics "can be killed by political correctness shows what can happen here," despite the same report saying you can't be killed for it.

Why, it's almost like reality shifts from minute to minute.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


April Fools

The Discovery [sic] Institute doesn't like Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey!

Truth be told, there is a lot I don't much like about it either. But that's for another post.

But the DI has been kvetching mightily about it in their usual vein. But the latest from Casey Lumpkin Luskin amused me. After complaining that "many prominent physicists believe the laws of the universe are finely-tuned to allow for life to exist" (probably about as many as biologists who accept "irreducible complexity"), he goes on to say:
In the previous episode, Tyson had inaccurately claimed that the religious beliefs of early founders of science like Isaac Newton didn't do anything to positively foster scientific discovery. This latest episode covers some additional giants from the annals of science, such as Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, but again omits any mention of their strong, positive religious influences. Ian Hutchinson, MIT Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, explains how Faraday and Maxwell were committed Christians.
Casey then goes on to extensively quote Ian Hutchinson about how the supposed inspiration of the work of both Faraday and Maxwell was to discover intelligible laws of nature that came from their metaphysical presuppositions.

The problem is, where were god(s) in their results? Where did they try to quantify God mathematically, as in specified complexity or otherwise? Faraday, for example, thought he was, like Newton, "reading the book of nature." Did Darwin claim anything more?

If merely being a scientist and believing in God is enough to "prove" ID, why does the DI hate "committed Christians" like Ken Miller and Francis Collins so much?

Oh, right! They are believers and still explain the world in naturalistic terms ... the same way Faraday and Maxwell did!

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