Thursday, January 11, 2018

So You Want To Know What's Wrong With Religion? (8)

In recent months, Hollywood has exploded over the issue of sexual misconduct.  No, that's to simple a phrase.  It's exploded over allegations of rape, sexual extortion, and harassment.  Calling it sexual misconduct makes it sound like a little boy trying to peek under a skirt!  This is nothing more than criminal behavior.  But, you might ask how does this tie into religion?

Back a few years ago, the Catholic Church imploded with a scandal over pedophile priests.  I am sure you heard about it.  It was not only pedophiles, but the cover-up instituted by the Church hierarchy.  You might take a look at the movie "Spotlight", which is described as "The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core." I highly recommend it.

Three recent articles made me think more on this topic.  The first one is almost humorous:  "Bill Donohue: The Catholic Church is a “Model” for Handling Sexual Misconduct"  I say 'almost' because I hope no organization handles it the way the Catholic Church did.  There are lessons that Hollywood can learn from what the Catholic Church did and did not do, but calling them a 'model' is stretching things way out of line.  Bill said:

"If they want to navigate the issue properly, they should really look to an organization that has done everything right regarding abuse: The Catholic Church."
No, the Church has not done everything right, and Bill claiming this was a problem is pretty much history is ridiculous.  Take a look at "Timeline: A look at the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals".  Australia, 2017, The Dominican Republic 2014, The Netherlands 2011 . . . the list goes on.  It is doing things better -- maybe, but right -- that remains to be seen.  But the Catholic Church isn't the only religious organization with self-induced problems.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have apparently done similarly stupid things, not just abuse, but protecting the abusers!  "FaithLeaks Releases Documents Surrounding Sexual Abuse Investigation in Jehovah’s Witness Congregation".  While they, the Jehovah's Witnesses, have refused to hand over documents, costing them $4000 a day to keep them away from public view.  Court records do show
" . . .the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually knew that Campos abused numerous children, yet they continued to promote him and didn’t take any steps to keep him from doing it again. The church actually gave him more responsibility and more access to children, despite their knowledge of his admitted wrongdoings."
Even modern megachurches aren't immune.  Just recently allegations of a sexual relationship between a pastor and a 17 year old girl have become public.  The pastor has admitted to it and, more importantly the victim is pressing charges.  However two points bother the hell out of me, one is that this -- after the allegations went public Memphis Megachurch Pastor Andy Savage, got up in front of his Megachurch and sort-of confessed.  He told his congregation that he had sinned and that it was never a secret from church leaders.  ("Memphis Pastor Admits ‘Sexual Incident’ With High School Student 20 Years Ago")

Huh?  Church Leaders knew about this and didn't do anything but let him continue his career?  I hope charges also get pressed on those who knew!  The other thing that is disturbing is his congregation gave him a standing ovation after his sort-of confession.  Let me repeat that -- They applauded!  This group of people STOOD UP AND APPLAUDED sexual assault!

Church leaders transferring known criminals, covering-up their crimes, refusing to cooperate with investigations, and at least one congregation applauding the crimes of their pastor!  And you wonder why I have problems with religion?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

And the Award Goes to Ourselves!

The Di is asking for nominations for Censor of the Year, something don't recall them doing before.  I was just used to them talking through some possibilities and then making the award.  But if you are interested, you can certainly "Submit Nominations for 2018 Censor of the Year Now!"

I am sure you can guess my issues with this whole deal, but for fun I will lay them out. First off, this award is only people or groups who annoy the Discovery Institute (DI). It really has nothing to do with censorship at all. If you look up the definition of censor:
"a : an official who examines materials (such as publications or films) for objectionable matter
Government censors deleted all references to the protest.
b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (such as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful"
(Merriam-Webster: Censor)
You will find that the previous three winners (Jerry Coyne, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the United Methodist Church (UMC) did nothing to the DI that meets that definition of a censor.  Nothing the DI has accused them of comes anywhere near censorship.  The DI is still free to publish, prevaricate, and market with the best of them.  The only thing they cannot do is pass of Intelligent Design as if it was science in the public school classroom.  They sure haven't stopped trying to pass it off as science anywhere else!

If you look for all of 30 seconds, you will find that no one is censoring the DI.  What groups like the are doing is applying standards of scholarship that the DI refuses to meet.  Where is the research, where is the evidence, and where is the support?  There are many things that would make ID acceptable as science and in the science classroom, and the DI hasn't offered up a single one.  

OK, back to the topic at hand.  If we expand the scope from just pissing off the DI to actual Censorship, who would be your choice for Censor of the Year?  Looking back over 2017, I would have to say "The Trump Administration".

Who was is that It banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”  A certain hamster-haired serial liar and misogynist, that's who! His Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, reprimanded the Joshua Tree National Park’s superintendent for tweeting about climate change.  Trump is also trying to censor a free press.  These are prime examples of censorship, not the watered down "Pissing on the DI's cornflakes" version.

But we know the DI will stick to their guns and pick on someone, or something, that didn't actually censor them, just did something that annoyed them.  My guess would be Wikipedia.  I think Wikipedia has been a nominee before (2015 almost certainly for "Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!"), and this past year they [Wikipedia] annoyed the DI by dropping a Wikipedia bio for one of their senior fellows ("Does Losing a Wikipedia Page Ruin a Career?"), which they keep whining about pretty constantly.  Which is why I believe Wikipedia will win this year.

Another real possibility is the self-censorship the DI does to themselves.  They claim they are doing it to protect career possibilities of ID proponents, but that seems fishy to me because for all their claims of censorship, they are the only ones doing any censoring -- and they are doing it to themselves.  So self-awarding themselves as Censor of the Year would be totally within character, don't you agree?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Mommy Spanking Daddy as a Lesson for Three-Year Old?

One of little kennie ham's Answers in Genesis (AiG) talking heads discussed in a video how he explain Jesus dying for our sins to his young son.  According to his story, his son did something wrong, so instead of being spanked, Daddy [Terry Mortenson of AiG] took the spanking in his place.  Apparently he let his wife spank him with a wooden spoon.  Don't believe me, you can watch the video of Terry talking about here, and no the video isn't one of him being spanked!


What lesson did the child really learn?  "Oh look, I can get away with something and watch Mammy spank Daddy!"  Is a child really capable of understanding this very abstract concept, especially a three-year old?  In any event, Terry might get to look forward to many more beatings . . . how kinky!  Terry might be glad his son was three, because an older child would have whipped out his cell phone and captured the video for all the world to see!

Here is my main issue with this scenario -- There are so many transgressions a child can commit that are not sins!  Plus many of the 'sins' are only sins in one particular religion and not sins in many others.  Of course, since Terry is part of the very narrow version of Evangelical Christianity -- Ham's AiG -- whatever the child did, it certainly may not be a sin in other belief sets!  How confusing that might be as that child grows up.

Actually if I were Terry's little boy I would be very, very careful.  After all Terry's God killed his only son to protect followers from his own wrath.  A note to Terry's son, watch it when Daddy gets mad at other people!  You might want to duck and cover.

Don't 'Give Till It Hurts' . . . the new message is 'Give Or Else It Will Hurt'

Check out this little gem, courtesy of the Friendly Atheist: "Trump’s Spiritual Advisor: Give My Church One Month’s Pay or Face “Consequences”".  It's also being reported in The Christian Post: "Paula White Urges Followers to Sow 'First Fruits' Offering of Up to 1 Month's Pay"

Yes, A certain hamster haired serial liar and misogynist's spiritual advisor is telling people to give their entire January paychecks to her, or else.  Here it is in her own words:

"All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences."
Yes, Paula White says a pretty typically vague promise of rewards if you donate, and promises consequences if you don't.  The downside is there are people who will fall for this.  She's preaching the Prosperity Gospel, which had such a perfect take down on Last Week Tonight starring John Oliver:

We should also note that twice-divorced Paula is worth about $5 million dollars and many in the religious circles don't even consider her a preacher because of her lifestyle.  I know that shouldn't make a difference, but don't ya just love Christians and their ability to rationalize things.

Here's how I see things.  Goods things happen, and so do bad things.  Some of the people who donate will have something good happen and Paula will be happy to use them in her marketing for further donations.  The contributors who have bad things happen to them will be told their belief wasn't strong enough -- in other words they need to donate more.  Sound familiar?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Self-Censorship and the DI

A while back I wrote about censorship and how there doesn't seem to be much support for the Discovery Institute (DI) claims of censorship.  In "Is anyone actually censoring the Discovery Institute?" there doesn't seem to be any actual censorship . . . so of course, the DI annually award a 'Censor of the Year', and so far there awardees have done little in the way of actual censorship.

Previous 'winners' for 'Censor of the Year' are Jerry Coyne, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the United Methodist Church (UMC). The DI says Coyne's 'crime' was encouraging Ball State University to stop teaching Intelligent Design. That's not exactly true. What Ball State University did was stop teaching Intelligent Design as if it was science.  Now, what did Neil deGrasse Tyson did to offend the DI? He hosted the updated Carl Sagan series Cosmos, which presented a few segments on religion's negative impact on scientific inquiry over the centuries. The DI really took exception to that.  The UMC had the audacity to decide that their annual convention was for their members and not to let the DI present their belief set at their own convention -- a belief set not shared by the UMC.

One of this years contenders seems to be something called 'self-censorship'. In this post from their blog "Quiet Self-Censorship and the Academic “Consensus”" they describe a phenomena in which Intelligent Design supporters never admit to being supporters because it might have an adverse impact on their academic and professional life.

I certainly hope being an ID supporter would have an impact!  After all, if you are in, or are entering in, a scientific field, shouldn't you be focused on actual science and not pseudo-science?  That's the point folks like Sarah Chaffee, the author of this particular piece and a regular DI mouthpiece, seem to miss.  She mentions this:

"We know a tenured science professor who in giving presentations in a private setting needs to begin his talks with a peculiar slide — a disclaimer that he does not speak on behalf of his university. He must include it, even though, again, he is speaking at a private event."
I would be surprised if she wasn't talking about Michael Behe, one of the few tenured professors who support ID and is a senior fellow at the DI.  He is tenured at Lehigh University, which has this disclaimer:
"The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."
Without such a disclaimer, it would be easy to assume any presentations by Behe would have the support and approval of Lehigh University.  By requiring such a disclaimer, the University recognizes both Behe's right of freedom of expression, but their own right to not be construed as supporting pseudo-science.  It might sound funny, but I respect both Lehigh and Behe for dealing opening and honesty about his support for ID.  One thing Behe doesn't seem to do is let his support for ID affect his teaching and research at Lehigh.

You will note that Behe isn't being censored, but he isn't allowed to present in such a fashion that his presentations imply that ID actual science. When it comes to his work for the university, he leaves ID at the door instead of demanding it be allowed at the science lectern. After all, Lehigh is pretty unequivocal when it said "It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."

Sarah goes on to say that during their Summer Seminars on ID, they didn't take any pictures of people's faces, and asked that they not posting on social media about it, all so: 
"their career prospects will not be harmed by an association with intelligent design."
So the DI is censoring themselves!  Maybe they do deserve to award themselves as 'Censor of the Year'.  But they are missing the reason.  Think it through!  Would their career prospects be hurt if they profess their support for ID?  Most likely!  But why?  Don't just stop there, take it to the next logical step, why might their career prospects be in jeopardy?

That's the part Sarah and her friends never want to really examine.  Say you are a Physicist about to graduate and you publicly support Dark Matter Research?  Would that cause you difficulties in getting a job?  How about a Rocket Scientist who expresses an interest in Ionic Propulsion?  No, why?  Because those fields are part of the overall concept of Physics and Rocket Science.  So why does such career impacts happen with ID?  Simple, ID isn't part of Biology and until ID proponents stop whining and produce actual, viable, repeatable and falsifiable science, it never will be.

Suppose a mathematician posts all over Facebook stuff on Numerology and teaches it as Math, wouldn't that affect his career prospects?  That's the part Sarah doesn't get.  ID is not science, it is a religious proposition and supporting such may have negative impacts on your career -- unless you do what Behe does and separate them.

I know Sarah will trot out people like Gonzalez and Croker who claim to have had negative career consequences because of their support for ID.  But that's not the whole story, Gonazlez and Croker, along with Sternberg, Abahams, and a few others all have something else in common -- they let their support for ID interfere with doing the job they were hired to do.  Gonzalez failed as a tenure applicant, Croker failed to teach her subject, Sternberg violated publishing rules for the journal he was the outgoing editor for, and Abrahams refused to do his job as an 'Evolutionary Biologist'.  It's not their support for ID that had career impacts, but their refusal to do their jobs!  They put their religious beliefs ahead of the professional responsibilities and the expectations of their employers!  In other words, they were held accountable and they can't stand it!

So maybe the DI is a self-censor, but they aren't doing it to protect people, they are using this concept of self-censoring as another tactic to try and discredit real science.  Look at this post, do you really think they are trying to hide their supporters?  No, they are selling the idea of censorship.  But when you look at it, what is being censored?  Are they still able to publish and post?  Oh, sure they cannot do it as if they really are science, but that's not because of censorship, but because they haven't provided anything other than marketing material.  No science, no discoveries, no advances, just religious preaching.

In reality, the censor of the year award doesn't seem to be awarded for actual censorship.  It seems to be an award for not agreeing with the DI.  Hey, maybe I could be a nominee one day?  Oh we can only hope!  My family would be so proud!

Another example of Cherry-Picking

It has been long been theorized that North America was originally populated by people coming over a land-bridge across what is now the Bering Sea.  Evidence of such migration has been presented often and little disputes it.  There are disputes over the exact dates, number, and duration of such migrations, in other words some of the details, but the basic theory is well supported.

Well, I caught a new headline from The Christian Times from my Google Alerts.  I know, I know, it's not exactly an authoritative source for much of anything, but it does support something I have said often -- creation pseudo-scientists are perfectly willing to accept some science, providing they can cherry-pick only certain parts of it and discard anything that disagrees with their religious beliefs.  Here's the story: "Discovery of ancient DNA in Alaska supports Tower of Babel account, creationists say".

"A team of researchers . . . sequenced the infant's DNA and compared it to that of modern Native Americans as well as to other ancient and living people across Eurasia and the Americas . . . The team believes that the infant's group and modern Native Americans shared common ancestry with people who crossed from Asia to North America through a land bridge called Beringia some 25,000 years ago."
OK, a study in Nature provides more evidence supporting the Bering Land Bridge.  That's fine in and of itself.  But then a creation pseudo-scientist who works for little kennie ham at Answers in Genesis (AiG) claims that this does support the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel's migration -- however the dating is flawed because it couldn't possible have happened some 25,000 years ago, kennie and his Hamians at AiG doesn't believe the Earth is that old.

So . . . according to kennie and co. when God messed with the people building the Tower and changed all their languages so they could not communicate and continue building a tower that would reach God's front door, they traveled from the Middle East, through all of Asia, crossed the Bering Land Bridge and settled North America all at once.  At the same time they migrated across Europe, Africa, Australia, and all the other islands of the world.  Hmmm, no stretching credibility there.

Of course, there isn't any real support for the Tower of Babel story, it's an origin myth to explain why there are so many human cultures and languages.  But notice how the AiG guy takes part of an actual scientific discovery and spins it to support his religious beliefs -- and yet dismisses other parts of the discovery because of those same religious beliefs:
"Nathaniel Jeanson, a Harvard-trained research biologist with Answers in Genesis (AiG), believes that the dating of the infant girl's DNA was not accurate. However, he said that the other details of the discovery support the Genesis 11 account of mass human migration after the attempt to build the Tower of Babel."
Does anyone really wonder why no one takes creation pseudo-scientists seriously?  AiG's Jeanson is joined by another pseudo-scientist:
"Kurt Wise, a Southern Baptist and Harvard-trained paleontologist, suggested that the 11,500 "radiocarbon years" cited in the study "amount to many fewer true (chronological) years (probably closer to 4,000-4,100 years).""
Were either of these two researchers on the team that made this discovery?  No!  They are simply taking other peoples work, cherry picking some of it, tossing aside the rest and declaring some sort of religious victory.  Have either of them provided evidence that the dating techniques are wrong?  No, they simply wave the Bible and use something called 'biblical chronology', which is somewhat interesting because there is no clear understanding of such a chronology, since it seems to change from sect to sect.  But details like that matter little to the dedicated pseudo-scientist!

Just to be clear, I am not using The Christian Times as an authoritative source, just as an example of how real science is cherry-picked by armchair pseudo-scientists.  I love how they work in that these two are Harvard-trained, like the education they may have been exposed to at Harvard means anything at all to them.  I would be very surprised if they were honest with their beliefs system or their planned use of their education while they were at Harvard.  In my opinion, these are two more examples in the 'Liars for Jesus' club.  Like so many others who misrepresented themselves for the purpose of having an assumed credibility based on their education.  

  I've written about Jeanson before "It's Late, but Answers in Genesis might be joining the 20th century . . . finally!"  I don't recall Wise, but I am sure his name will come up again.  He's a consultant at AiG as well as working at a private Christian college.  Well if that doesn't work out for them in their current positions, maybe the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), Access Research Network (ARN), or Liberty University is looking for help.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Jesus and Mo Strike Another Chord!

I just love Jesus and Mo!  You can easily see why:

Self-awareness is not exactly a trait I have found to exist in most theists.  Now, self-righteousness certainly, but not self-awareness.  Often I like to point out the hypocrisy to a theist for fun.  They never get it!

Look at those theists who support a certain hamster-haired serial liar and misogynist for example.  Or how about those who supported that silly clerk in Kentucky or Roy Moore in Alabama.  The mental gyrations theists have to go through to self-justify their support for such people just cracks me up!  No, self-awareness is not a common trait in theists.

Even now after hamster-hair has broken most of his campaign promises, they still support him!  Many of his supporters are on the verge of losing medical coverage, and they still support him.  Many are not going to see any advantages in his tax bill, and might even end up paying more in taxes, they still support him.  It boggles the mind!  It would be even more entertaining, if it wasn't so tragic.

Here is how I see it.  To all too many theists, it doesn't matter what someone actually stands for, as long as they appear to stand for some of what the theists believe that counts.  Hold up a Bible and you will have lots of support.  It doesn't matter if it's never even been opened, it doesn't matter if you are a liar, a misogynist, or a pedophile -- it's the appearance that matters, not the content of your character! 

Pandering politicians are another popular example.  Regardless of what they actually believe, saying the right things and supporting ridiculous bills, such as trying to have the Bible as the official State Book, gains them lots of support -- even though it's a meaningless gesture.  Seriously, how many people even know what their State Book is, or even if their state has a State Book.  Ohio has a State song ("Beautiful Ohio") and a State Rock Song ("Hang On Sloopy"), but no State Book.  I think something by Paul Laurence Dunbar or Erma Bombeck, perhaps?

You would think they would learn, but no, they have no desire to learn -- especially anything that might cause them to question their own beliefs.  They would much rather rationalize than learn.  Appearance seems to be the only criteria to gain support from theists, and the more conservative the theists, the more support they give to the appearance of sharing their beliefs.

Wikipediatricians -- what a concept!

Caught an interesting post from Dr. James McGrath and his blog "Religion Prof". Professor McGrath is Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis.  While his blog isn't one you might think I read regularly, it certainly is.  I find his posts thought provoking, and this one certainly is:  "Wikipediatricians and Ways of Knowing".

Let's talk about Wikipedia for a moment.  I use it often and have also run up against criticism of it, usually from people who don't like their policies.  Yes, unlike what some people would like to believe, you just can't publish anything you want on Wikipedia.  There are processes, editorial policies, and rules that apply no only to those editing information, but what information can be included.  In other words, just like Encyclopedia Britannica, there are processes that must be followed.

For some background, I grew up with two sets of encyclopedias in the house and many an evening you could find my siblings and I huddled over one volume or another compiling information for school.  When I was in grade school -- even high school, I rarely questioned the encyclopedia.  However, once in college I used an encyclopedia reference in a paper just once and you would have thought the world had ended from the reaction of the professor.

That's where I got my first lesson in what an encyclopedia really was, a compilation of research, not an authoritative source -- and that you have to go to the source material for understanding.  While they are generally regarded as acceptable knowledge, when it comes to actual research and references, they are second or even third-hand information.

As a result, when I first saw Wikipedia, one of the benefits I saw was the live links to the source material supporting the articles. but I was curious as to how it stacked up against the gold-standard of encyclopedias "Britannica".  What I have found is that Wikipedia does have a slight bias to the left, especially in pages concerning corporations and governments, but, in my opinion, it wasn't a significant bias -- which may relate to my own biases; however, in scientific/technical subjects, it was as accurate as Britannica.  In some ways it is more current than a published encyclopedia because the editing is much more recent. Of course Britannica is also available online, but the currency issue still leans in favor of Wikipedia.

In 2005 Nature did a study comparing the two and found that all-in-all, they were pretty much on par as information sources:
"In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site [Wikipedia and Britannica]."
Nature didn't mention any bias, but Forbes did later in a 2015 study -- but like me didn't see it as significant.  In fact one of the findings I found fascinating in the Forbes study:
"Perhaps the most interesting finding of Zhu and Greenstein's research is that the more times an article is revised on Wikipedia, the less bias it is likely to show—directly contradicting the theory that ideological groups might self-select over time into increasingly biased camps."
Yes, the most times an article is edited, the less bias is present.  Which I find very interesting since the groups that seem to whine about Wikipedia most often are groups with an ideological bone to pick, as noted in Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!.

OK, back to Professor McGrath, now that you know where I stand on Wikipedia itself.  It's not the source of information that may be problematic, but, as he puts it:
" . . . a failure on the part of readers to understand how summaries relate to the processes whereby academic conclusions are drawn."
Encyclopedias, whether print or online, are simply summaries from a wide variety of other source materials.  They are compiled by writers and editors that probably do not have the same level of expertise as the original writers.  That doesn't mean encyclopedias should be discarded.  What it means, especially in this environment of distrusting experts and the Internet's apparent democratizing of every opinion, we still need to understand that our own perspective is limited and that any single individual or group might understand some things differently than we do.  We need to grasp those not just as limitations, but as strengths.  I am not a doctor, so a doctor's medical opinion is going to be better than mine . . . and equating such expertise to an unsupported opinion on the Internet can be both dangerous and foolish.  Multiple doctors opinions would weigh even more heavily.  That's how it should be!

Like Wikipedia. the best information seems to be when it is confirmed by multiple reliable sources.  I am not talking about when all Fox News talking heads agree, but if Fox, CNN, and MSNBC are presenting similar stories, you can more than likely rely on them.  But when one source is leaning hard in one direction and the majority of the other news sources have an opposing view, you can be pretty sure the one is 'showing their slip', so to speak.  As you look at a variety of sources, you will come to find ones that tend to be more objective than others, like MSNBC and NPR over Fox News or Breibart.  But you have to experience multiple sources to figure that out.

Academic consensus, including scientific consensus, isn't the voice of one person, but the collaboration and confirmation by multiple people with a particular expertise.  If you distrust it, you always have the option to examine the source of the material yourself.  Wikipedia makes it easy, as does Google.  But do not let your perception be stuck in a rut with one source.  Branch out, you might learn something!

One of my friends is a hard-line conservative, and as the years have gone by become much more conservative than I am comfortable with.  His favorite news sources include Fox, Limbaugh, and a few specific websites.  When he tells me anything, I head out and check carefully.  As much as he will dislike reading this, I usually find his information to be biased to the extreme and often outright wrong.  Sometimes it's just a little twisted, but all too often it's simply a lie.  He doesn't seem to like it when I call him on it and he gets rather defensive -- OK more than just 'rather defensive'.  But until he figures out his usual sources aren't particularly honest, we will keep playing this game.

But therein lies the problem.  He has very few sources of information and gets told by those sources that any other sources are 'fake news', and he buys into it.  He's not learning anything, all he's doing is getting reinforcement for his own prejudices.  That's the dangerous point.

It's not Wikipedia that's a problem, but how we take information, regardless of source, and use it.  Are we learning or are we reinforcing beliefs we already have? Are we getting information from authoritative sources, or are we assigning our own form of democratizing and thinking authoritative sources and alternative sources are equal?  A doctor v. Hollywood celebrity on vaccines?  A spokesman paid for by the oil companies v. actual scientists who study climate change?  A biologist v. a lawyer?

You really need to think about who is more likely to give you good information rather than tell you something you might want to hear!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Years! The DI looks Back at 2017

Before going forward, the Discovery Institute (DI) likes to look back at their top stories/accomplishments of the previous year.  It's become an annual tradition.  This year instead of looking at them one by one, I decided to let them drop their entire list and look at the their accomplishments as a whole. Here is the list:

  1. Footprints from Crete Deepen Origins Mystery - And so a new discovery which may change some of the existing theories of human origins.  Of course, the DI didn't make the discovery, but they simply offer their spin to make it sound much bigger than it is.  What it really is -- is science in action, not pseudoscience.  New evidence may equate to theory changes  -- which, according to the DI is considered a weakness of science, but the actuality is it is one of science's strengths!
  2. Clueless Reporters and Canaanite DNA - While claiming not to get into 'Biblical exegesis' (explaining the Bible), they then do exactly that.  Yet at the same time they try and remind people how they are not really a religious ministry.  If they weren't a ministry, then why try and explain the Bible?
  3. Perfect Eclipse, Coincidence or Conspiracy? - Yes, the news was filled with the eclipse, but perfect?  By what standard?  Using math and numbers that were far from exact, they decided that the most recent eclipse was 'perfect', as in the moon 'perfectly' covered the sun (it was close) and a few other examples of 'perfection'.  Yet when you look at it objectively, you see it's only a coincidence because of the distances and diameters involved and the numbers aren't so 'perfect' after all.  Plus in a few centuries the numbers will be much further off as the moon gets further and further away, so we happen to live during the time when the size of the moon and sun 'appear' to be closely matched . . . so what?
  4. Wiki Co-Founder Blasts “Appallingly Biased” Wikipedia Entry on ID - This one isn't any sort of accomplishment, but it is a re-hash of their whines against any published content that doesn't say exactly what they want it to say.  Wikipedia has a history of failing to let the DI define Intelligent Design (ID) as if it was not pseudoscience and the DI really hates that.  So rather than offer evidence that it is not pseudoscience, they quote other people who agree with them.  Remember these are the same people who want to teach Evolution and ID and let the students decide for themselves which is true.  So Wikipedia has both the definition of  both of them, but they don't want students exposed to a non-DI version of an ID definition.
  5. Of Course You Aren’t Living in a Computer Simulation. Here’s Why. - So now they take on the Matrix, a fictional environment and try and explain how intelligence cannot be programmed into a simulation.  Huh?  What this post really means is Neil DeGrasse Tyson has an imagination and the DI does not.
  6. Dan Brown Pushes Atheism and Intelligent Design. Wait…What? - OK, the DI took a thriller, a fictional thriller, and somehow twisted it to some sort of support for Intelligent Design (ID).  Well, so far they have pretty well managed to spin anything they want into a back-handed support for ID, so not only shouldn't this surprise anyone, but is this such a big story it's one of their top 10?
  7. Intelligent Design Shines in Brazil with Discovery-Mackenzie Launch - Yes, this might actually be considered an accomplishment, opening up a new religious ministry in one of the most religious countries in the world.  My prediction is we will see the same amount of actual science coming out of this center as we see from the DI and their self-owned lab (the Biologics Institute).  Do you remember when opening IDEA clubs at several college campuses was lauded, but where are they today?  Can we say 'extinct'.
  8. Theorist Concedes, Evolution “Avoids” Questions - So there are questions yet to be answered . . . nothing new there.  Yet over the past 150+ years, how many questions has the Theory of Evolution answered?  Hundreds, even thousands.  Avoiding questions doesn't seem to be something real scientists actually do.  This is the DI trying to cast doubt on science because it hasn't answered every question.  Even with that, has ID answered anything at all?  Casting doubt is only effective if you have a viable alternative that provides better explanations.
  9. Genetic Code Complexity Just Tripled - not really tripled, but then the DI's strong suit isn't math.  In any event the discovery mentioned wasn't done at the DI.  This is just their commentary and another effort to cast more doubt on real science.
  10. Nobel Laureate Is “80 Percent” Confident in Intelligent Design - who says this without a single reference to anything accomplished by the DI.  He's expressing an opinion only.  Now if something done by the DI actually drove this particular opinion, that would be newsworthy, but as it is -- it means little.
OK, if you have read all, or even any, of them, you might have noticed the same thing I noticed, where is any original work?  The DI keeps claiming they are a scientific think tank, that they are doing actual science, and that all their issues with real science are based on science -- and yet where is it reflected in their annual list of stories/accomplishments?

Even their number one stories from recent years shows a lack of scientific work:
  1. #1 of Our Top Stories of 2016: Happy New Year! Why the Royal Society Meeting Mattered - claiming recognition for their 'scientists' that no one else noticed.  How underwhelming!
  2. Happy New Year! Here Is #1 of Our Top Stories of 2015: A Scientific Debate that Can No Longer Be Denied -- about the release of the sequel to Darwin's Doubt -- you know, the book that was to address all the criticisms to the original, but they forgot to actual address those criticisms.
  3.  "Happy New Year! Our #1 Evolution Story of 2014: New Paper from Biologic Institute, "Shared Evolutionary History or Shared Design?"" - a paper from themselves that never answer the question they want to raise.
  4. Happy New Year! Here Is #1 of Our Top-Ten Evolution Stories of 2013: Responding to Charles Marshall’s Review of Darwin’s Doubt - More accurately, this is the first of four rebuttals to a devastating critique, and this rebuttal -- like the next three -- never manage to actually refute the criticisms.  The title of the critique should be the motto of the DI: "When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship" and it is an excellent read!
Wouldn't you assume that an organization that claims to be doing actual science, might be able to celebrate those achievements in their own blog?  Wouldn't you think that at least one of their own scientific accomplishments might rate a mention in their top 10 stories?  But no, their top stories reflect nothing of the scientific achievements because, as we all know, they haven't had any.  What these stories are is nothing more than a re-hash of their standard marketing material.

Sell, market, and try to sow doubt -- and at the same time push their religion while trying to deny that is what they do.  Yes, it's been a banner year for the DI.  Another year of spending other people's money and having nothing to show for it.

Of course, each one of their top 10 starts with a plea for a donation.  That way readers can contribute to another year of nothingness!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Kennie Ham Doesn't Like Santa Claus

In a new post over on AiG, "Naughty or Nice?" one of kennie's 'Hamians' said a few things, like this:

"Believing that Santa is watching their every move and judging their actions to see if they deserve gifts may be an effective way of getting children to behave during the holiday season, but what message is this sending?"
However, isn't that exactly what kennie does with his religion?  Let's paraphrase part this a bit and see where we go:
'Believing that God is watching their every move and judging their actions to see if they deserve gifts [like everlasting life]'
God, that omniscient and omnipresent 'entity', is doing pretty much what is also attributed to Santa.  The Hamian also said:
"It also urges children to “be good for goodness’ sake!” But some vague idea of “goodness’ sake” or the hope of reaping a reward from Santa (or anyone else) should never be our motivation for being good."
Wait a minute, a reward should never be our motivation for being good . . . yet isn't that the main selling point for religions?  Listen to the preachers when they are trying to convince you to join their particular religion!  They use both the threat of everlasting punishment as well as the reward of everlasting life in their sales pitch.

What I hear from every theists who wants to talk to me is how I am going to burn in hell for my failing to share their particular belief set -- and if I simply join them and repent all my sins, then I can live forever in one version of a heaven or another.  The same exact sales pitch, only Santa's rewards come in annually instead of running a lifetime account and coal in your stocking is certainly better than burning in hell, but the sales pitch is the same.  Do this and be rewarded, or fail to do this and get punished.  That's the message!

Here is where the post gets confusing . . . here is another quote:
"But this is completely upside-down compared to the gospel . . . Now he offers the gift of eternal life and freedom from slavery to sin to all who will put their faith and trust in him (Romans 10:9). And it has nothing to do with what we do—but it has everything to do with God’s mercy to us."
If it has nothing to do with what we do . . . why are religions so controlling?  Romans 10:9 says:
"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
So now I have a question for little kennie ham and any of his Hamians, why are you so homophobic?  Romans makes no mention that an LGBTQ person cannot do that confession and believe in their heart the rest, if it really has nothing to do with what we do -- then why be so homophobic?  Those are the authors words.

No, this post is nothing but trying to hide their controlling behavior and claiming one thing, but their behavior says something very different. It is all about what you do, not just what you believe. Ham won't hire someone for his ministries if they don't share the same set of beliefs. He's rabidly homophobic, while claiming love the sinner -- as long as they don't actually behave in a way he dislikes. He was even dis-invited to a couple of home school conferences because of his:
""unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited" remarks about the conventions and other speakers."
Here is the last thing.  Early in the post, the poster briefly discusses "for goodness sake" as something too vague and ambiguous to actually be applied.  Yet, look at this quote toward the end:
"As believers, we have favor with God because we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness."
Talk about vague and ambiguous!  Every version of Christianity has a different list of what is righteous!  No one really knows what that means, but they were it like a cloak.

In closing, a little bit of timely humor.  Calvin and Hobbes is no longer being written, but the strips are being re-run.  Yesterday's strip was quite timely and appropriate, don't you think?