Saturday, August 28, 2010

Omnicompetent, huh?

Can science answer every question there is? No! And no one thinks it will. Well other than Mary Midgley and her post over on the Guardian titled "Metaphysics and the limits of science". Here is the thing, scientists know this. Anyone with a working brain knows this. Science focuses on what happened, how it happened, what caused it, and what implications are there for the future. There are questions science will never be able to answer -- and we already know this. Can science tell me why I am here? That's a very popular philosophical question. Science can tell me how I got here. They can tell me what I am. They can even make lots of predictions like life expectancy, potential for catching certain diseases . . . lots of information. But they can't tell me why 'I' am here. The reason is simply, it's not an area that science addresses.

Here is the thing that Mary, and others, can't seem to understand. Science limits itself to nature, to the material world, to physical activities on the huge and tiny scale. I would go as far to say that if an occurrence -- no matter what it is -- happens in the material world, one day science will explain it. It's that limitation, if you want to call it that, that allows science to work, to produce results, to predict and be falsifiable. I prefer to think of that limitation as more of a framework of science. If it is within the framework, science will eventually address it. No, we don't have all the answers, but we answer more and more every day. That framework of science works out pretty well. Science is as tool, a process for providing explanations that we can reproduce and use. All of our engineering is based on science.

So along comes Mary and she raises a flag and builds a metaphysical strawman that she proceeds to tear apart because science does not address it. We already know this. This is not news, except maybe to Mary. There is no argument here. Let the philosophers go off and do what they do. Maybe someone can tell me why they think I am here. It makes little difference to me, since I think I make my own way and determine why I am here by my own actions. I know science will not be addressing it, and that works for me to. This is not a new idea, but maybe it is for Mary.

Now here is the real question that Mary fails to address is if not science, what else would do what science does for us? What other process would add to our knowledge of the world around us and provide us with results we can build on. She doesn't offer one. She doesn't even offer a process for addressing question science does not address. So there is no alternative in sight, what is she complaining about. Science doesn't address many things -- for example, the gorilla in the room -- Religion. Science does not address the issue of God.

Science will never prove or disprove the existence of God. What it will do is address specific natural phenomena that some people like to attribute to God. That is within the realm of science and that seems to be a really annoying point for some people. That particular question, as I see it, isn't science's issue -- but an issue for the people who claim to know what God may or may not have done. I mean look back in history. What is different about a Christian claiming God created Man and an ancient Greek claiming Zeus tosses around lightening bolts? At one time all natural phenomena has been attributed to one God or another. People still do this and then they get their feathers all ruffled when a scientist provides a better explanation. One that may not be philosophically acceptable to them, but one based on evidenciary support their philosophy is ill equipped to handle. It's not God's problem, it's not even a problem for scientists, it's a problem in how they insist on looking at the world.

Of course their insistence becomes our problem when they also insist that their philosophy is supposed to be ours. In other words current day Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents. I mean look at what happened in Dover PA, Kansas, Ohio, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and other states. Look at what's going on in Louisiana. It isn't that science is wrong or has failed, it is one group of folks who are insisting their religious beliefs have to be everyone's religious beliefs and they keep trying to use science and scientific theories as their weapon of choice. The problem is their ideas are not scientific, so they have to resort to tactics their own religious beliefs claim are wrong to do so. Read the Dover testimony and you will see for yourself that self-professed Christians LIED under oath about their actions and the reasons for their actions. Read about the school board meeting in Livingston Parish La and listen how the members think Creationism can be taught as science legally, in spite of all the rulings against it. Read the Wedge Strategy document as see that while the Discovery Institute has been sounding so reasonable lately, they are not reasonable at all -- it's just another tactic.

Mary doesn't address this sort of stuff, she just seems to go on about stuff we already know. She describes science as 'omnicompetent', is that even a word? no, Mary, science cannot and will not answer every question. Some of us learned that in our first science class. I guess some of us never learn it.

(I caught the graphic off of Google Images and don't see a copyright or anything. I just liked it. Since I would rather not make you look at my own feeble artistic efforts, I thought that one was appropriate. If it is copyrighted, just pass me the word and I will remove it.)

Intelligent Design: For Entertainment Purposes Only!

I believe that John G. West, yes, that one, from the Discovery Institute (DI), has this form letter and all he has to do is fill in the name of any biologist/journalist/scientist, add a link to their article, and then have it posted on his website. Here check out "A Biologist Misunderstands Intelligent Design (Again)" if you wish, but if you have read any of the standard "They just don't understand ID" posts, you already know what it says. He even acknowledges it with his "(Again)" in the title. If it is so common, Johnny, why don't you get off your butt and publish some valid science that supports ID. then no one could mis-understand it. But that seems to be out of the question.

So what we see yet another biologist, this time Dr. Kathryn Applegate, affiliated with the Biologos Forum, being critical of intelligent design in her article "Self-Assembly of the Bacterial Flagellum: No Intelligence Required" and instead of actually addressing the shortfalls in intelligent design or the details of her critique, he would rather question the biologist's knowledge of ID. In all honesty how much do she need to know? I'm not being flippant, but if you read her article she goes through and explains how the bacterial flagellum, one of Michael Behe's poster children for irreducible complexity, forms through a natural process. ID proponents claim otherwise, including Behe's who's books she references.

So one side claims God-Did-It -- without naming the designer -- and Kathryn Applegate says not so fast. She supports her position with a nicely done explanation, so what's an ID proponent to do? Attack her understanding of ID -- something she doesn't really need to present the natural process by which bacterial flagellum form. Did he address the process she described? Did he address the experiments that developed her understanding of the process? Did he make a case for how the 'Designer' did it? No, that would be too much like work.

So apparently here are the rules -- post something positive about Intelligent Design or the DI will fill out West's 'form' letter and claim you don't understand Intelligent Design. It doesn't really matter what you say, if you aren't an ID proponent, then you must not understand ID. Makes perfect sense . . . in their delusional world.

I think Dr. Applegate understand all she needs to about ID. She doesn't need to read more material about it because it doesn't really matter. Anything she says that is critical will get the same response. Rather than educate, Johnny and his cronies would rather condemn. The entire world has been waiting for the DI to produce anything other than popular press books and articles -- books and articles that show an ever changing concept of what ID is supposed to be. It's like hitting a moving target and unless you kneel before the DI and proclaim their 'Designer' to be the end all of scientific knowledge, they will complain that you really don't understand it. So in other words over 99% of the biologists and scientists in the world all misunderstand the DI and their pet concept, Creationism's little brother. I think Johnny has been hanging around with his cronies too long and needs to get out more for some perspective. I thought the low was when Casey Luskin took on a Canadian Quilter about her award winning quilt "Myths of our time: Intelligent Design", but West hit a new low with his non-critique

I do love how he sneaks in the term "intelligent design theorist", as if they actual had a theory to study. So now they are creating what . . . job titles for imaginary positions? At best he should call them 'intelligent design conceptualizers' or in a fit of self-examination he could call them 'marketeers', but that level of honesty is too much to expect. I guess that would make Dr. Applegate an 'anti-ID theorist' and I am sure that is a title she would wear proudly!

Hmmm . . . so I guess that makes me . . . what exactly? An Anti-ID Blogger? Not really, but I doubt Johnny would understand. I am not against ID, I am not even anti-creationism -- as theology and philosophy. I am against anyone, or any group, who make scientific claims without having done the work. I am against anyone who uses disreputable tactics, lies, and misrepresentations of science in order to garner support for their personal religious beliefs.

If the DI would simply do the work and actually support their contentions with something resembling facts, I would be lobbying for their inclusion in science class. But they seem to be unwilling, or unable, to do so. As long as they remain unwilling or unable, then I will argue that they belong on the same shelf in the bookstore as Astrology, Phrenology, the Psychic Friends Network, and Tarot Cards. Just like the small print disclaimer on those psychic infomercials of a few years back, Intelligent Design is "For Entertainment Purposes Only!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Glenn Beck-erhead is wrong -- what a shock!

I caught part of a Glen beck episode mainly by accident. Now Beck, like Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh are pundits. I do not care for pundits in general -- Certain ones in particular. Now you might ask why I dislike pundits, it's easy. They say little and mean less. They are pseudo-journalists without any accountability for their actions. There are no ethics for pundits, they are actors playing a role, and the role means a loud, obnoxious mouth saying anything in order to gather an audience and inflame them. One important thing to remember is that pundits are NOT journalists. There are no ethical considerations. they can be as rude and pretty well say anything they want and get away with it.

Glenn Beck is a prime example. He recently was 'discussing' the relationship of Government, Religion, Science, and Commerce from a historical perspective. Of course then he admits to not being a history teacher! Well he sure proved that without a doubt. But my main complaint is his tactics. Just before one break he drops a bomb and then does what pundits do and walked away. Here watch it for yourself and identify the bomb and then wait for the follow-up -- like me you would still be waiting. Glenn Beck Part II. Watch the next part as well and you still won't hear him support his accusations. Why? Because he's a pundit and he doesn't have to.

He discusses Abolitionists, Josiah Wedgewood, and then mentions that two generations later, Wedgewood's great-grandson, Charles Darwin, is the father of modern racism. Aside from the obvious issues with math (two generations is not a great-grandson) but he drops his bomb and then walks away. He takes a commercial break and when he comes back, he fails to support his words. He says it, and then fails to support it. Plainly put Glenn Beck is wrong in typical pundit style.

Aside from his whining, there is no truth to Darwin being a Racist. There is no truth to Racism, eugenics, or Nazi-ism being caused or started by Charles Darwin or his scientific theories. To make a statement like that and then walk away just shows you what pundits are -- nothing! They try to inflame, but never explain. They don't care if the majority of the people who might have heard it know better -- they only care with their core audience, the ones who are making them wealthy, pay attention and nod their little ditto-heads.

Need more? When someone is discriminating what are they doing? They are making a judgment. They have made a decision that someone else is less than they are. Whether they are talking race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, religion . . it's all about judging, making a decision. Whether you are talking to a loud-mouth bigot or an ethnic cleanser -- it's all about judgment -- a decision. Someone decides that one group is somehow superior to another and then act on it. It doesn't matter what their rationale is, it's still a human being passing judgment.

Now where in all of Charles Darwin's work does he say evolution involved making a judgment on the superiority of one group over another? Look hard because you will not find it! The Theory of Evolution, and particularly Darwin's contributions, do not factor in any form of human judgment. It's not there, it's not even implied. Beck-erhead isn't the first to make this argument, He, little kennie ham, and even smaller-minded david klinghoffer should get together and pat each others back. But they all make the same mistake. They are lying to us, one and all. Here is what a few others are saying as well.

Glenn Beck on Darwin, the Dispersal of Darwin Blog
Glenn Beck on Darwin and Racism, The Sensuous Curmudgeon Blog
Glenn Beck Wrong on Darwin, Michael Zimmerman, Huffington Post

Glenn Beck does live up to his role as a pundit. He says little and means less. He really doesn't give a damn what anyone else thinks as long as some people buy his books, watch him on TV and listen to him on the Radio. He has his fans, and I certainly am not numbered as one of them. It would be nice if he would get educated on a subject before ranting about it, but that is much to much to expect. Besides, he would lose his audience . . . and his income.

I'll leave you with two of the quotes of Darwin:

"As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews (sic) us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow creatures." The Descent of Man
"With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil." On Origin of Species
Remember that last one is the one misused by bennie stein when he tried this same disreputable tactic in his mockumentary "Expelled: No intelligence Allowed" He strung together a few sentences from this complete quote to imply a very different message. Just another lie! I talked about Stein when I discussed Quote Mining. Beck finds himself in pretty poor company.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Luskin wiffs again . . . and again . . . and again.

Over on The Skeptical Teacher blog is a terrific article, but I just wish Matt hadn't had to go through listening to Casey Luskin to write it. I mean there had to have been something better to do like clipping toenails, weeding, or smashing your own fingers with a hammer. In other words Matt is braver than I. I'm not sure I could listen to Luskin with a straight face.

OK, well here is a link to "My Thoughts on Attending Casey Luskin’s Intelligent Design Talk at the University Club of Chicago". The title is kinda long, and so is the post -- but it's a great read.

Luskin seems to be the point man for testing out new tactics. I mean who better than a lawyer to play word games. He explains his role as someone who can help teachers teach evolution "more objectively". Anyone else see this as nothing more than an extension of the 'teach the controversy', teach all sides', 'free speech' and 'academic freedom' tactics. What Matt says, and I agree is that they are searching for the right phrase that will allow them to slip their pseudo-science under the radar. But no much how much mayo you use, pseudo-science is still pseudo-science.

Luskin then stays true to the Discovery Institute script and alludes to ID proponents being discriminated against or censored. I almost wish it were true, but it is nothing but another tactic. Let me put it this way, along the same way Matt put it, is it censorship or discrimination to teach Astrology in an Astronomy class? No! Teaching a non-science viewpoint is not being discriminatory or censoring anyone. You do not teach English in Math class, why would you teach theology in science class? You wouldn't and, more importantly, you shouldn't!

Little casey also tries to make the claim that ID is being distorted by the media and that simply because of their unwillingness to name the designer, they should be accepted as science. Uh . . . didn't Phillip E. Johnson name the designer? Didn't Michael Behe? Didn't Bruce Chapman? Yes, but since they did not do it 'officially' it's O.K. to claim that they haven't identified the designer. It certainly didn't stop them from saying so in the "Wedge Document". It sure didn't stop a Federal Court from calling it Creationism by any other name in the Dover Trial.

Casey also knows well how to LIE! Apparently he also referenced a paper by Stephen C. Meyer that was central to the Sternberg Peer Review Controversy. Of course, does Luskin mention that the peer-reviewed paper he just referenced was pulled because it did not go through an actual peer review? No, that would be something called honesty. Something I am not sure Luskin understands.

He then goes on to do more mis-direction and keeps trying to tie known man-made objects as a comparison to so-called designer-done. This argument has been tried over and over again and it doesn't work for one very simply reason, the appearance of design is not proof of design! I bet Casey never actually reads a book, he just looks at the covers and calls himself an expert on the contents.

I really like Matt's Test for Design Inference:

1. Take two sets of a dozen drinking glasses.

2. Drop one set from a significant height into a clear plastic box so that they smash apart into a random jumble of broken glass at the bottom of the box. This is the “naturally caused” pile of broken glass.

3. Take the second set of glasses and break them up with a hammer or whatnot in a very specific manner and then place the pieces into the bottom of a second box so that the pile of broken glass appears random. This will be the “intelligently designed” pile of broken glass.

4. Do all of this out of view of the ID-proponents (the test must be blinded), and then ask them to apply their method to identify the “naturally caused” pile from the “intelligently designed” pile. Of course, the entire procedure would have to be performed many times to get a correct read on the statistics.

5. If there really is something to the ID method of “inferring design”, then the ID-proponents should be able to determine correctly the “intelligently designed” piles of glass at a rate significantly higher than chance (well over 50%).

The fact that I’ve never seen any ID-proponent perform, or even seriously suggest, such a blinded test of their design inference methods speaks volumes, folks. And remember: they’ve been at this for 20 YEARS!

He . . . OH I have had enough. Please read the article, it is great, especially Matt's comments. Luskin does no more than the normal parroting the DI party line and adds nothing new. of course he fails to mention many things like how ID has added nothing to science, or how "Complex Specified Information" and "Irreducible Complexity" have absolutely no support. He even manages to quote-mine Richard Dawkins for God's sake. I really don't see how Matt put up with it. Casey Luskin is a mouthpiece and not a very effective one, he apparently had a real hard time addressing any actual questions and got frustrated at some point and did a standard attack on Judge Jones, the judge in the Dover Trial.

Nothing new, but Matt's takedowns are well worth the read!

Monday, August 16, 2010

How can you tell the difference between design and the appearance of design?

Wild Bill Dembski has a ridiculous post over on his . . . well I have trouble calling it a blog because his moderation policies. Over there he is making . . . what he seems to think . . . is an example of logic and rational thinking. I call it yet another pile of Dembski. I'm sure someone over at the Discovery Institute will cite his post and tell us how brilliant he is . . . but the reality is he is full and I think it's starting to leak. I guess I should say it's one of his contributors, but they don't seem to believe in names, so I will simply blame Dembski -- it's his blog. Here is the link if you feel so inclined: So here goes. To start take a look at this:

One common objection which is often raised regarding the proposition of real design (as opposed to design that is only apparent) is the criticism that design is unable to be falsified by the ruthless rigour of empirical scrutiny. Science, we are told, must restrict its explanatory devices to material causes. This criterion of conformity to materialism as a requisite for scientific merit is an unfortunate consequence of a misconstrue of the principal of uniformitarianism with respect to the historical sciences.
. . .
I have thus concluded that free will exists (arguing otherwise leads to irrationality or reductio ad absurdum) and that hence materialism – at least with respect to the nature of consciousness – must be false if rationality is to be maintained.
My reasoning can be laid out as follows:
1: If atheism is true, then so is materialism.
2: If materialism is true, then the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain.
3: If the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain, then human autonomy and consciousness are illusory because our free choices are determined by the dual forces of chance and necessity.
4: Human autonomy exists.
From 3 & 4,
5: Therefore, the mind is not reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain.
From 2 & 5,
6: Therefore, materialism is false.
From 1 & 6,
7: Therefore, atheism is false.
Now, where does this leave us? Since we have independent reason to believe that the mind is not reducible to material constituents, materialistic explanations for the effects of consciousness are not appropriate explanatory devices.
Here is how you build an 'analogy' in the style of 'logic' as Wild Bill.
If A is true, then B.
if B is true, then C.
if C is true, then D.
D is not true.
Therefore C is not true.
Therefore B is not true.
Therefore A is not true.
I am so wonderful I just solved an E!
Now this works like the Mad Libs. Do you remember them. The objective of that game was to select specific words of a certain type, like three Nouns, two Verbs, one Color, and a Number. Then you would turn the page and place those words within the context of a story and view the funny results.

If we do it the Wild-Bill way we would substitute anything we like for the variables 'A' thru 'D' and . . . lo and behold . . . your first variable 'A' is found to be untrue and that disproves something you hadn't even been addressing 'E'. Here is the secret that Dembski forgot to mention -- the items you select do not have to have anything to do with each other. In fact the more unconnected they are, the better! Therein lies the fun!

What, you don't believe me? Well read that his set-up again. That's where he blows it with
" criterion of conformity to materialism "
OK, Materialism is a philosophy that claims that the only thing that exists is matter. All interactions, including consciousness are derived from material interactions.

Fine, as far as it goes. But is there a requirement to conform to Material in Science? There is a relationship, but not in the way Bill assumes -- or tries to sell it to us. Science DOES NOT claim that matter is the only substance. Science's relationship with Materialism is that nature, and it's interactions, are the only things we can reliably examine and form conclusions. Anything other than that is beyond the scope of science. Let me repeat that for you Bill . . . BEYOND THE SCOPE OF SCIENCE. The philosophy of materialism shares a boundary of science.

Remember what science is, don't you? It's attempting to formulate construct explanations of a given phenomena that can be tested, repeated, and used. How can we do that with explanations that assign responsibility to metaphysical manifestations -- manifestations that never seem to manifest outside people's imagination? How do we use explanations requiring the action or activity beyond the material universe? Truth is, we cannot. Science is limited to the material world, the natural world. But that doesn't mean that materialism, as a philosophy, is true, only that science, if it wants to be repeatable and useful, must confine itself to the natural world.

So now where does that come into his supposed chain of logic? His ridiculous. 'If atheism is true then so is materialism'. This is a logical fallacy. Atheism is rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In order for this statement to be true than the ONLY form of metaphysical manifestation would be Gods. I would love to see him prove that one! What we have here is an assumption and one teamed with a logical fallacy . . . well you get the idea.

Now why does atheism make materialism true? It doesn't. You might as well say that belief in God makes Pluralism true. It is an unsupported statement and meaningless. I love how he slips 'consciousness' into the mix. What is consciousness? It's been the subject of philosophical debate for centuries. Is it tied to a physical mind, or does it somehow transcend the physical and into the metaphysical? No one knows . . . especially not Wild Bill. But he pretends that he does. by taking an unknown and using it to 'prove' his reasoning. Bill, I wish you would leave science to the scientists and stop pretending you have a clue.

I have a better answer for you Bill . . . 42! It makes as much sense, but it is infinitely more entertaining than reading your tripe. Oh wait, tripe has a purpose, as does manure. So I am having trouble finding the right adjective to describe your post other than wishing I hadn't bothered to read it. I'll be more circumspect the next time I see a link to your uncommonly bad blog.

Personally I think whoever ghost-wrote this should go back to the very first line where they thinks there is an issue with determining actual design from the appearance of design. All you have to do is show an example of actual design. I thought so. The reason there is so much trouble telling the difference between actual design and the appearance of design is because there only thing anyone has found is the appearance of design. No one, not Dembski, Behe, Johnson . . . to name a few from the DI has been able or willing to do. If they cannot see past the appearance of design, then why should the rest of us bother to look? I have no trouble recognizing the appearance of design. It's quite common in the natural world. So far forays into actual design have been strictly metaphysical manifestations of wishful thinking. That and a couple of bucks might get your a little cup of decent coffee.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And Now for Some Levity

OK, enough serious stuff. Gotta lighten things up a touch. PZ Myers pointed out an article in the Sydney Morning Herald "The world's most craptastic tourist attractions " and lo and behold kennie ham's carnival side-show ride made the list. Here is what was said about the Creation 'Museum':

"The Creation Museum, Kentucky
Well, it was hardly going to be in Oregon, was it? Here, true
believers can learn about how the Earth was formed by the big man upstairs,
who manages to explain away such potential roadblocks as dinosaurs,
billion-year-old fossils, and that whole science thing with room after room
of ultra-religious tackiness. There’s actually been a lot of money poured
into this, and it’s anything but half-arsed. Misguided, maybe – but not

I do disagree with his statement that

" . . . some things are just so bad they’re good. They become guilty pleasures,
something you would recommend just for the pure experience of their hideous
I really can't see anyone considering the possibility that kennie's ego-massaging delusion can be bad enough to be good, I mean even the movie 'Ice Pirates' had it's good points -- although I cannot recall what they were right now. So recommending it? I don't think so. So what was the best thing about my visit to the Creation Museum? Seeing PZ Myers who was there with the Secular Students Alliance. So even the best thing about the Creation Museum wasn't about the Creation Museum.

I do like his phrase:
"There’s only one word for them: craptastic."
Craptastic! It just flows off the tongue and brings to mind such things many of the DI, ACN, and ICR posts and activities.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What if we Burned a few Bibles?

I don't think I have really irritated or aggravated enough people lately , so I am in sort of an ornery mood and feel like doing just that. So here goes:

I would like to organize a Bible Burning. Yup, you heard me, I would like to organize a Bible Burning and send up in flames as many Bibles as I possibly can. How does that sound?

I hope it really truly pisses you off! Now would like to hear my reasoning, or are you just so blinded by your own irritation, aggravation, and even hatred to listen? I am hoping most will listen, but I know from experience some will look at just a few words and get completely spun up to the level of a hate crime.

Michael Zimmerman's latest HuffPro piece certainly got my attention, just like I hope I got yours. " Why The Quran-Burning Church Relies On Incendiary Verbiage And Outrageous Actions" Terry Jones, senior pastor at Dove World Outreach Center is responsible for planning a Quran burning. Isn't that just so . . . Christian . . . of him. So let me get this straight, we live in a country that preaches religious freedom, right? Why do people tolerate the activities of the hate-filled Dove World 'Outreach' Center? As much as I dislike running up their web page statistics, you might take a look at their website. The nearest Jones and his cronies come to being Christian is their repeated misuse of the word. This is a site filled hatred and bigotry for anyone who doesn't subscribe to Jones' creed of fanaticism. The only 'Outreach' he wants to do is with a burning brand.

Now why does Jones preach this gospel of hate and intolerance? It's because he loves us! He wants to point us on the only path to redemption that his limited mind can see. Everyone else in the world is wrong and he's willing to burn someone else's religious document to make his point. Here, try these rationalizations on for size: "Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran" and tell me what you think.

That is why I would love to organize a Bible Burning. I think if Jones' version of Outreach happens, then it is only fair to balance the books with something that will just drive Jones to apoplexy! Now here is my personal little kicker. I think it's other Christians who should bring in their Bibles to be burned up. In fact let's open this up to 'Burn the Religious Text of your Choice' party! That's the ticket. Let's not be like Jones and go out and order a bunch of cheap copies of one religious book to stoke the fires. These should be your copies, personal copies that support your own religion and you should be willing to donate them for this cause to show Terry Jones and his ilk that he does not represent anyone but himself. That his attitude of hatred is not what the rest of us are all about. That our willingness to donate something we cherish shows the principles to which we try to aspire.

I can easily picture Jones ransacking a local library to remove any text he finds offensive. Because, folks, if we let him get away with this, that is the direction he will be heading. If it's not HIS way, we become less than human to him. We are nothing but either converts or future converts to him. The people who refuse to be converted to his perverse vision are nothing.

I realize that Jones is not alone in his hatred of all things Islamic. But when you look at the behavior of groups like Dove, you see the same intolerance and fanaticism that we witness facing the most radical fundamental Muslim. The only difference between Jones and a fundamental Muslim extremist is geographical. My problem is the message he is sending isn't the one agreed to by this country and it's members. In fact the only reason Jones gets to preach his creed of hatred is because he lives here in a country who will defend his right to believe as he wishes, even when we disagree with him. If only he was so capable of practicing the very freedom he takes advantage of!

It's not that there is nothing sacred, it's that anything sacred has to be above such hatred and such pettiness of spirit as shown by Mr. Jones. Either we are a country that really does stand for religious freedom or we are not. It's time that Mr. Jones got the message. Maybe someone from Jones' own family will bring in his bible for a ritual roasting! Now that would be hilarious!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Klinghoffer -- Discovery Institute shill

Lauri Lebo wrote an article, "Creationism: Don't use the 'C-Word'", about the cowardly Discovery Institute's efforts to distance themselves from a situation of their own making down in Livingston Louisiana. I commented on it in my own post "The Two Faces of the DI". Well she caused a pretty typical response form the DI, from one of their more dishonest shills, David Klinghoffer. I found it interesting that when she addressed a specific post to Klinghoffer's misrepresentation of Darwin and Hitler ("The Dark Side of Darwin") he was conspicuously silent. I mean she really tore him apart, calling into question his ability to research a topic and his integrity. She pretty much made him look like an idiot. Yes, I did enjoy her post on that subject. I also enjoyed her post on the DI fleeing the scene of their crime in Louisiana.

The reason I call Klinghoffer a shill is because he obviously doesn't know how to read. He is toeing the party line of the DI by repeating the claim that the Louisiana Science Education Act forbids teaching Creationism -- yet forgets to mention how that part of the law was not addressed in the implementation standards, which the DI helped write. He forgets to mention the Wedge Strategy, the guiding document of the DI, makes it very clear one of their goals is "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." (Scan of the original Wedge Strategy from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture).

So we have an organization with this as one of it's stated objectives, who set the stage for exactly this in the science classrooms of Louisiana, and then tries to take to task someone who realizes exactly what they are doing and why. Yup, sounds like a shill to me!

As I read the article I got the feeling that if Lauri was standing right next to Klinghoffer he would be patronizing her with a pat on the head. I mean he said:

"Ms. Lebo, a journalist who wrote a whole book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case"
A 'whole' book . . . Wow! Does this imply that she did something amazing by write an whole, entire book? Obviously he didn't read the whole book or he would realize that like Barbara Forrest, Lauri Lebo knows exactly what she is talking about. He was certainly damning with faint praise with:
"Giving Lauri Lebo the benefit of the doubt on this score -- she seems bright enough"
'Bright enough'? Who the hell is he to make such a judgment? This is the man who cannot do 30 seconds of research to realize his Darwin and Hitler comments have no support what-so-ever! David, she's plenty bright enough to see through your BS, isn't she? Which means she is considerably brighter than you -- which isn't much of a compliment because I think a cabbage has an intellectual leg up on you. So let me be clear. I read Lauri's book "The Devil in Dover" and enjoyed it for its professional and personal insight into the Dover trial. I have enjoyed reading her occasional updates on her Facebook page and I have certainly enjoyed her comments on the this whole subject. She is knowledgeable, writes well, and always supports her work! David, you should take lessons rather than try and patronize her!

Klinghoffer really does stick with the marketing line from the DI in his response, but he fails in typical fashion. Lauri Lebo is well up on the tricks, tactics, and lies told by people like Chapman and Klinghoffer. She has the journalistic integrity to call them on it. Klinghoffer's response is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to having another set of lies and disreputable tactics exposed to the light of day. Read in that light, it's actually pretty funny.

This type of reaction is more something I would have expected by Luskin, but then it's really getting hard to tell these guys apart just by reading. Well as much fun as watching Klinghoffer squirm, I have a few other things to do today. I wonder who is the next DI mouthpiece to comment? One thing is for sure they are not going to actually address the DI cutting and running out on Louisiana -- they would much rather attempt to attack Lauri Lebo. But then, that seems to be their normal way of doing business.

Just in case you aren't clear, the language in BOTH the Louisiana Science Education Act and the instructions for implementing the act open the door for non-scientific alternatives to science to be brought into the classroom as if they were science. The first school district in Louisiana to actually do so will be facing an expensive lawsuit -- and you can count on the DI to hide as far away from the action as they can. It's not a guess, it's based on their history.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The two-faces of the DI

OK, the Discovery Institute has made one response to the situation in Livingston Parish. And those marketeers are using it, but not in their typical fashion. I guess they figured the school board is either going to back off or try and go forward losing another lawsuit. I think even the DI would have trouble raising funds after another crushing defeat!

How I see it is that Livingston has two choices to either back off or press on. If the school board backs off, the DI can claim that if they had only gone the 'smart' route and followed their tactics of marketing pseudo-science they might well be in the position to offer Creationism while safely hiding it under a lab coat. If they press ahead and suffer another crushing defeat, the DI can claim that it wasn't ID that got creamed, but Creationism -- and we all know that ID is not Creationism (wink, wink). So how is the DI playing it? Well here is one response.

Bruce Chapman,the director and founder of the Discovery Institute, has a lovely little post that reminds me of the Mission Impossible opening theme where "the Secretary will disavow all knowledge". In my opinion this is the cowardly way out. The Discovery Institute SET-UP this scenario when they, and the Louisiana Family Forum included all the right words to open the door for a non-scientific critiques of science. They are the ones who opened the door for nearly any material can be used in the science classroom. They were the ones who removed any possible teeth from the implementation procedures to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. So when it finally does come to pass -- what does the Discovery Institute do? They cut their losses and run! See that yellow streak, that's Bruce running in the opposite direction!

He even mentioned Dover in his comments. Did he forget who was advising the former members of the Dover School Board? They cut and ran there as well. As soon it looked like a legal battle was coming and one they were not going to win -- they ran. They also ran from the minister's wife/part-time soccer coach in Tejon Ca who tried to teach a philosophy class about 'design' that was nothing more than a not-very-cleverly disguised ID class. They are the ones who claimed, after the fact, that they suggested she settle.

So here seems to be the modus operandi. They will do anything, say anything, promise anything to string some poor school district, teacher, or politician along. Then when the going gets rough and bad publicity or a legal defeat might be in their future, they firmly place their tails between their legs and run back to Seattle! Well I guess that is to be expected since , in my opinion, it's not like they have principles to support.

Let this be a warning to any other school district thinking of Intelligent Design, or it's older brother Creationism. Well before things look bleak, hours before the possibility of the darkest darkness before the dawn, you will see the Discovery Institute give up and head for home and start spinning things as if they were not responsible. The only difference in Livingston is that they are starting the spinning before the school board has taken any actual action! There you have it, the two faces of the Discovery Institute. The one face loaded with marketing muscle that makes all kinds of unsupported pronouncements about the immediate demise of evolutionary theory -- and the other face . . . or rather the back of their heads . . . as they cut and run leaving you in the lurch.

One last thing, Chapman called his post "A Classic Evolution Policy Blunder", but is this really about Evolution or is it about a school system making an anti-evolutionary policy decision that will make the DI look like idiots? Someone needs to help him write titles, his crayons must be getting dull.

OK, this really is the last item for this post. I start this post yesterday and this morning found that Lauri Lebo beat me to it. Please read her post "Creationism: Don't use the "C-Word". Great article! Thanks Lauri! I almost didn't post mine, but any chance to make fun of those ID'iots in Seattle is well worth it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How imappropriate is this?

I was working on another post when I took a quick look at PZ Myer's site and I could not believe my eyes. I still am having a hard time believing it. Here, take a look for yourself. "Charming Theodicy". Can you read the same twitter post that I did. I am steaming!

OK, took a short break, but I am still steamed up. I am willing to admit that I do not know the back story here. But I can't think of anything more STUPID than the comment made here.

"The most merciful thing an omnicient God might do is end the life of a child whom he knows will never seek Him."

-Pastor Doug Humphrey

First of all this post addresses what has to be the most difficult time in anyone's life, the loss of a child. I don't care what age or what circumstance, there is NOTHING someone can say to make this easier or more bearable. But this coming from a Pastor? Just how freaking STUPID is he? Does he think this will ease the pain or make it less unbearable?

I don't talk much about religion. In all honesty I think it's a personal decision each individual needs to make. I do tend to respond when some believer, of any particular stripe, decides to denigrate, mis-characterize, or out-and-out lie about science to help support their own faltering belief system. But this comment all by itself is the worst example of a Pastor . . . the only thing I can say, is that in my opinion, this is the worst example of abuse of a position of power and authority.

I might have to eat my words if the details come clearer, but even my imagination is unable to come up with ANY possible scenario that would make Humphrey's words acceptable. Trying to paint the most positive picture, and it doesn't make it very positive at all, is that this message is totally unsuited for a tweet. Your message size is too small to provide whatever context you might try and use to rationalize such a comment. The only thing that might be more positive is if Humphrey's get the hell out of the Pastor business if he thinks his comment is in any way justifiable. If he can justify it, he should be doing public relations for Tiger Woods.

Oh yes and didn't he misspell 'omniscient'? You would think the pastor of an omniscient deity would know how to spell it.

What's wrong with being 'Right'?

Over the past few years of blogging and commenting on the political anti-evolution sentiments I've come across a great many people who seem to think a number of . . . well erroneous things about this country. One of the most common is how this country is based on Christianity, and how that seems to rationalize some pretty bizarre behavior. Here is a quote I would like folks like kennie ham and others who are currently supporting the Christian Right. To folks who listen to right-wing pundits like Bill O'Rielly and Rush Limbaugh, or think Ann Coulter has anything useful to say. Right-wing conservative pandering politicians should pay attention as well.

"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality.

Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during recent years."

They are the words of Adolf Hitler from the address he gave after coming to power in Germany (from "My New Order, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-1939", Vol. 1, pp. 871-872, Oxford University Press, London, 1942).

Does the source of the quote surprise you? Now you can try and rationalize this away all you want. But my real target for this post are those people who keep trying to tie Darwin to Hitler and Nazi eugenics. The next time that stupid little thought occurs to you, come back and re-read this one and remember just what Hitler was all about! You cannot justify tying a scientific concept for your own political purposes, remember you need to more than just make an unsupported claim. When you fail, like David Klinghoffer, Ben Stein, and Kennie Ham, you cast more doubt on your own belief systems because of your transparent attack.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Proof ID is a sham

I've posted a couple of things about the happenings in Livingston Parish, La, ("Dover -- Redux", "South Carolina's Textbook Controversy Redux" and , "Livingston -- Wait 'til Nezt Year!") and one of the readers directed me to a post by Barbara Forrest, over at the Louisiana Coalition for Science website, which lays bare the whole idea of Intelligent Design not being Creationism.

In one of my posts I had wondered that Livingston seemed to completely bypass Intelligent Design and were heading right to Creationism -- and not any old form of Creationism, the pro-Christian version (based on comments by Livingston Board member David Tate and the write-up in the local paper). I also wondered how the Discovery Institute would react. Foolish me thought that since Livingston was not re-treading the specific path chosen by the late Dover School Board, the DI might be out of the loop. My mistake! Not only are they in the loop, they are one of the ropes that I think will hang the Livingston School Board in the future.

I should have known better. I mean who helped craft the Louisiana Science Act? Well those less-than-stalwart fellows at the Discovery Institute, along with that very conservative Christian Louisiana Family Forum (LFF). Who helped gut the enforcement provisions implemented by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)? The DI and LFF again. Who has crowed about ever success, real and imaginary in Louisiana? The DI that's who! I think that's what put me off. Livingston Parish comes out and says they are considering bring back that ol' Time Religion and the DI doesn't say a word. It should have made me suspicious.

I guess sometimes I need a 2x4 to get my attention. It's another tactic, a ploy. They want people to forget about their involvement because of the anticipated lawsuit. So when the parish loses, they can say, with a straight face, that the parish didn't get their ideas from them, after all -- they are ID and ID has nothing to do with Creationism . I think it's also an attempt to distance Livinston from Dover. I mean the Dover decisions dealt with ID, not Creationism.

I, as usual, completely disagree with their tactics and methods. I think they were in it up to their beady little eyeballs. I think they are opening champagne over the apparent success. I think they are hoping that any complaints get tied up in the bureaucracy that they helped establish. I think that any legal challenges will take so long and be so expensive that no one will want to attempt them. I mean look at it. Not only do you have the support of a State Law, but you have the law that specifically state 'not to be used for a religion', so how can teaching Creationism be construed as a religion? One final 'I think', I think they are screwed up in the head.

My crystal ball says there will be complaints and the 'system' in place will not be able to deal with them. I see a lawsuit in their future and one that everyone, up to and including the present Governor, are already prepping for it. They are going to make it as hard as possible to simply make it to a Federal Court, but in the long run, I think they are looking at another defeat . . . which the DI will whine a great deal about. Will they wind up back in front of the Supreme Court? I don't see that. I mean the Court already ruled against them in 1987. Nothing new has been added but a bit of the waters being muddied up. But this is one mudbuggy in for a short ride in the swamps of Louisiana.

This could all be headed off if one of two things would happen. The easy one would be for the committee looking into it to realize that it is a lost cause and recommends to drop the whole issue. The other is if the people in Livinston Parish tell the School Board that they are screwing up! Of course since the committee is made up of school board members, I doubt they will come back with anything less than cautious support -- unless Tate is on the committee and then it will be wildly enthusiastic support, as long as they are talking Evangelical Christian Creationism. The real wild card is whether or not the people of Livinston really want to support this measure. David Tate certainly doesn't represent everyone in the Parish, I hope they start attending Board meetings and making their feelings clear.

My final point is also the title of this post. The Discovery Institute, in supporting these activities, have finally taken the sheet off ID and you can see the Creationism underpinnings. They really don't give a damn about ID, as long as their version of Creationism can wedge its way into the science classroom. This type of bait-and-switch is worthy of the most stereotypical used car salesman! That's exactly what the DI is a used car salesman, the they are about to cast aside the used car that has outlived it's usefulness and an even older car that got put on blocks in 1987. The sportier ID is giving way . . . as always intended by the DI . . . to the clunkness of Creationism. I hope the folks in La hold them accountable for their tactics and give them the answer they so richly deserve, another resounding defeat!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Livingston -- Wait 'til Next Year?

2The is reporting that the Livingston Parish School Board is not going to push the issue of teaching Creationism this school year. That's nothing but a respite because as I read the rest of the Article I thought sanity might be breaking out -- but right at the end I think the Dover Trial Ghost is living in Louisiana.

While Tom Jones, the Board's attorney sounded reasonable, Keith Martin and David Tate, the Board President and a Board Member respectively, certainly do not. Martin says that he voted against teaching Creationism in 2008 because he was worried that teachers would inject their own religious views into the classroom. He also seems to think that Creationism has undergone some changes in recent years and that would make it more appropriate to teach. So what's going on in Mount Vernon Ohio right now has nothing to do with a Teacher injecting his own religious views onto his students? OK, that is Ohio not Louisiana, right?

Martin really needs to listen to the words his one of his own Board members. Tate said

"We don't want litigation, but shouldn't someone take a stand for Jesus and risk
Isn't that Tate injecting his own beliefs into the fray even before the School Board committee reports back with a recommendation? Sure sounds like it to me.

Now you can see why I am concerned. The smoke has barely cleared from the Dover Trial and the same thing seems to be happening a little further South. Tate's comment reminds me of William Buckingham, former Board member of the Dover Area School District, who said [paraphrasing here]: '2000 years ago, a man died on a cross. Shouldn't we stand up for him now?' Of course he later denied his comments leading the Judge in that case to say in his ruling
"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly
touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover
their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

So is Livingston going to find itself on the losing end of costly litigation because of a school board member's religious beliefs? Sure seems to be heading in that direction. I wonder when the DI will chime in on this subject? They were so quick to respond to William Buckingham when some of his comments went public. Certainly something to watch for.