Monday, November 3, 2014

Backdoor . . . or Backfire?

As I posted a few days ago, the 'Creation Summit' group was all buzzing over a pending 'summit' at Michigan State (Backdoors take on a whole new meaning . . . or maybe not).  The conference/summit/revival meeting happened this past weekend and apparently was much more of a whimper than a bang.  They were hoping to get the faculty up in arms and generate lots of free publicity, but for the most part the faculty blew them off.  What few comments were made were not made in anger but more derision.  Slate reported " “It’s Not Debatable” Michigan State University’s perfect response to a creationist conference on campus." which detailed a few.

Here are a couple of my favorite comments:

“We don’t debate evolution because it’s not debatable,” she said. “It’s like debating the existence of Canada.”
" . . .scientists shouldn’t engage “in forums where the discussion is controlled by people who equate evolution with Nazism.”  "

The group organizing this revival meeting even tried the very childish tactic of 'daring' to try and con Dr. Robert Pennock, who testified during the Dover Trial, into a debate, to which he pretty well ignored.  He did talk about it and said:
“Scientists have already shown that there is no substance worth debating in these old creationist challenges to evolution,” . . .“Evolution is fact, creation is fiction, and there’s just no point in pretending like there’s a real scientific debate between reality and fantasy.”
 Apparently total attendance was about 100, with few students.  A handful of students did attend, either out of curiosity, or maybe to for a chance to win a free iPad.  The winner of the give-away was identified as a 'pro-science graduate student who studies evolutionary microbiology'.  I wonder if Creation Summit will make him/her sign an article of faith before receiving the prize.

It will be interesting to read about any spin put on by Creation Summit.  But then again, maybe a turnout of about 100 is a rousing success for them. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is Creationism banned from schools?

A resounding 'No, it is not!'

You might be a bit surprised, what with all the claims of persecution and prejudice constantly spewing from creationist sources.  The truth of the matter is that creationism is not banned from being discussed or even taught in school.  What is true is that since creationism is not science, it cannot be taught in science class as if it is science.  At least not in public schools without violating Federal laws AND it shouldn't be taught in private schools without violating common sense.  There's a world of difference between being banned and not being taught as science.

So when and where would it be appropriate to discuss creationism?  Let's approach this from a different angle.  Does anyone remember taking a Chemistry class?  Did you discuss alchemy?  More than likely, but it wasn't taught as if it was chemistry, was it?  I don't believe so.  It was taught in a much more historical context in tracing the history of the science we commonly refer to as chemistry today.  Right?  When you discussed scientific methodology, it probably came up again since alchemists developed many laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental methodology, some of which we still use today.  So right there in the science classroom, you are legally and perfectly correct in bring up the topic of alchemy.  But you cannot teach alchemy as if it were science -- why?  Because it's not science as we know it today, but as odd as it might sound, it is still practiced today -- although the names have changed to things like 'new age medicine' and 'homeopathy', it involves many of the principles used by alchemists throughout history.

How about 'Flat-Earth'?  Did you also discuss this as a concept?  Possibly in History class, maybe in Geography.  Was it taught as if it were science?  Of course not.  But the historical perspective of what many people believed to be true fit's into the discussion both from a historical perspective and the geographic.  These perspectives are actually still believed by some people today.  There is a link to the  'Flat Earth Society' website, whose stated mission is:

" . . . to promote and initiate discussion of Flat Earth theory as well as archive Flat Earth literature.  Our forums act as a venue to encourage free thinking and debate."

I do love the phrase 'encourage free thinking and debate'.  Sounds like a common enough cry from many Creationists when they try and insert Creationism into the science classroom. How often do we hear plays on the concept of 'We're not anti-science, we just want there to encourage free thinking and debate on evolution, since it's only a theory after all.'

 So why do creationists claim to be banned from school?  It's nothing more than an emotional argument that appeals to our sense of fairness, to our outrage that ideas aren't being freely expressed in our schools.  It even appeals to our own religious notions, even if we disagree with theirs.  But the reality is they are not banned from the classroom.  They are simply placed within a context appropriate for the venue.  When it comes to science, the reality is that creationism is not science and no matter what lab coat you dress it up in, be it Creation Science or Intelligent Design, it is not nor should it be taught as if it were actual science.

Unlike creationism, science never fully closes a door.  It is within the realm of possibility that someone may actually offer evidential support for some aspect of creationism at some time in the future.  I cannot say what it might be, or when it might happen.  But the possibility always exists.  Science, unlike religion, always leaves the possibility there, even if the probability is minuscule.  That's not an opening for religion, but it's an opening for religion proponents to provide the support that would take them from the supernatural to the natural.  That's how science works, we never completely dismiss an idea, but the proponents have to play on the same playing field as scientists.  Until they offer proper and validated scientific support then creationism belongs with alchemy, flat-earth, tarot cards and the like.  Not banned, never banned, but not taught as if it was an equal part of the curriculum.

So when a Creationist or Creationism website makes claims for being banned, know the truth.  They aren't banned, they just aren't given validity.  Validity is earned, not just given based on who whines the loudest. You might also notice that while alchemy, flat-earth, and even astrology can be discussed, no one is crying to teach them as alternatives and allowing students to make up their own minds, yet you hear that often from creationists.  Wonder why that is?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Backdoors take on a whole new meaning . . . or maybe not

Being a Christian and holding to what was taught to me years ago as Christian values used to be a small source of pride.  Do unto others, taking care of the people around you, honesty . . . yes, these were the hallmarks of being a Christian I was once taught.  Nowadays, I have become quite ashamed at many who profess to be Christians.  In my opinion, while little kennie ham is the poster child for un-Christian-like behavior, he isn't the only one.  Here's a group who seem to think being dishonest is the pathway to heaven.

The latest example is the 'Creation Summit' group who is holding a conference at Michigan State University.  Now I am not against their conference, but what I am against is how they are marketing it.  Here is a link to their web page about it "Origin Summit".  Right now, as of 27 Oct 2014, there is not a single mention of who sponsored it on campus, only that it is at Michigan State.  I find this a disreputable tactic.  The group got on campus through a campus student religious group.  Do they mention that in it's online advertising?  What it does is give the impression of being sponsored by the University!  As far as I know the only thing the University is involved in is providing a location.

This isn't the first time Christian groups have done this.  I recall the Discovery Institute bragging about a conference at SMU that was also sponsored by an on-campus ministry, but again they forgot to mention that part.  They love to make it sound as if the University invited them there.  I posted about one ("Intelligent Design Tolerance") where Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute thanked the “SMU administration” for hosting the event, when the SMU Administration had nothing to do with the it at all.

I recall one of the DI's favorite sons, davy klinghoffer tried to wangle an invitation for a DI rep to speak at the University of Vermont by writing to one of the professor's Nicholas Gotelli and got back what has to be one of the classic responses in history.  If you don't remember it, you can refresh your memory here.  The highlights is that after writing a scathing rebuttal to an opinion piece written by Professor Gotelli on Ben Stein being invited as the commencement speaker, davy tried to get him to invite the DI to speak.  The professor responded with such gems as

"However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists."
"I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist."
"Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science,  they would receive such invitations as well."
Typical tactics!  When your ideas cannot stand the light of day, you use someone policies, like the University's policies on allowing student groups to use school facilities, and try and make it sound like the University is sponsoring the revival meeting.  Pretty sneaky way to try and identify with some legitimacy.  This 'Creation Summit' group even advertise this tactic on their website, and guess what they call it? 

See, they even call it a 'Backdoor Strategy'.  Instead of doing the work that will get them invited, even welcome, in through the front door -- they seem to be proud of the fact they are sneaking in.  And at the end of the 'summit' sites is a call for you to donate money or goods.  Yes, let's allow them to misrepresent themselves and get the opportunity to pay for the privilege.

Does being a Christian nowadays mean having no shame when using such disreputable tactics?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Humor that hits close to home

The most humorous things in the world often come way to close to the truth, that's what makes them so funny.  Case in point, "Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science" from the Borowitz Report, in humor section of the New Yorker Magazine.  Without even reading the 'report', you can get the idea of the humor and you probably also realize how close to the truth it hits.

All to often in the past when threatened people turn away from established science and run towards the nearest source of . . . OK, I'll be polite . . . damn, I can't find the words I would like to use, so I'll stick with 'pseudo-science'.  Remember Laetrile?  It was found to be clinically ineffective 3 decades ago, yet it still has it's supporters.  Even Steve McQueen gave it a try.  The question is why?

That's where I think the issue is, the 'why'.  Why do people cling to things that obviously do not work.  Why do they rush to grab something not only unproven, but potentially harmful.  I can understand it in the early 70's before any studies were done someone clinging to peach pit extract, or at least I think that's where laetrile came from.  But once the verdict is in, wouldn't most folks step away?  To me if the only place to get something is some roadside stand in Mexico, I would reconsider it's possible effectiveness.

The current anti-vaccination movement is another example.  People making spurious claims and then a celebrity or two jump on the bandwagon and suddenly you have real children dying of diseases that were once considered pretty much wiped out.  Why do people turn away from science so quickly?

One issue is that science does not have all the answers.  It may never be able to cure cancer at the snap of a finger.  When you or your loved ones are threatened and the best medical science can do for you are treatments that seem nearly as bad as the disease itself, you are willing to grasp at straws.  In all honesty, that doesn't bother me very much.  When you are under such stress and pressure, you might be willing to suspend disbelief and use it to extend the possibility of hope.  Even if it doesn't work, at least for a brief time, you had something to hope for.  A medical doctor may not be able to offer you such hope, especially when they know the prognosis is poor.  Their profession requires a certain amount of directness and honesty that the purveyors of things, like Laetrile, are never going to have.

What bothers me isn't the people who have run out of hope and are grasping at flimsy straws.  These are the people who aren't operating under those stresses and still deny science.  Maybe they are looking for someone to blame.  After all isn't it easier to blame some vaccine for your autistic child than not know the answer as to why your child is the way they are?  We do not know what causes autism, so gleaming onto a phony medical study that claimed a link between a vaccine and autism is better than not knowing the cause.  Isn't it?  I don't think so.

Imagine how worse off things would be if we mainstreamed the idea that vaccinations might cause autism.  Think of the incredible dangers that would have caused.  Polio, whooping cough, rubella, measles . . . so many diseases that would do the most damage to our children!  Not only that, but research into the actual causes would come to a grinding halt. Therein lies the danger.  The anti-science movement can impact real science, not as a viable replacement, but as an impediment.

Like I said, sometimes the humor hits way too close to home.  Science denial is an area that can have near-term and far-reaching effects.  When you hear of the preventable death of a child, the humorous aspects of the anti-vax movement pale beside the horrific.  When you see the facts that previously preventable diseases are on the rise due to a lack of vaccinations, you have to look past the humor of people getting their vaccine 'science' from Jennie McCarthy or homeopathy from Dr. Oz and recognize the need to learn about science, to understand it in order to make good decisions.  Failing to do so does a disservice to your own, and other, children!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Case Western steps up, rejects House Bill 597 (From Panda's Thumb)

Panda's Thumb just posted this:  "Case Western steps up, rejects House Bill 597"  Great reading and something I hope the Ohio politicians will pay some attention.  I really liked this part:

"Rejects the notion that non-scientific perspectives, such as faith-based theories, have a place in the teaching of science;"
I'm sure the Discovery Institute will respond with another 'What, that's not what the bill says' post, just like they did here, and again calling any fears 'groundless'.  Luckily there are many people not fooled by such antics.  Many folks remember:
The potential impact of HB 597 on science education is not a groundless fear.  It is a concern based on the actions of Creationists in the past, and I do include the Discovery Institute when I say 'Creationists'.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A License to Discriminate

As much as I hate to admit it, little kennie ham made a point I didn't originally consdider . . . it was in his response to his many critics about using state funds/tax incentives for his ark encounter ministry.  I did address it in my post "Kentucky Common Sense Part III", but there was one angle I didn't give much thought, so here goes . . .

In his post he tried to compare his discriminatory hiring practices to two other organizations, the  Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and American Atheists.  Little kennie claimed how foolish it would be to force them to hire people who disagree with their basic philosophy.  And he tried to use that as justification for his continued discriminatory practices.  As I said in Part III, since those organizations weren't asking for state funds/tax incentives, kennie's comparison was meaningless.

Now, I want to address this from another angle, can a vegetarian be a butcher?

I know, it seems like a really tangential thing to consider, but look at the question.  Can someone who butchers, cuts, packages, and sells meat be a vegetarian?  The answer should be an obvious 'Yes' and an equally obvious follow-on 'but why would they want to'.  The 'yes' is because there is nothing that says a butcher has to eat meat to be able to do their job.  The follow-on is really because it's challenging to see a vegetarian even wanting such a job.  I know a number of vegetarians and I cannot imagine any of them wanting to handle raw meat.  One of them gets nauseous watching the scene in Rocky where he's punching slabs of beef and any myths in Mythbusters that use a pig carcass really grosses her out.  In fact the one where they put the pig carcass in a deep-sea diver suit and . . . never mind . . . if you haven't seen the episode it's really cool . . . apparently unless you are a vegetarian.

There is the thing that I think little kennie fails to realize, his discriminatory practices let him avoid hiring anyone for any position who doesn't already believe his particular brand of kool-aid.  But the real question is why would anyone who didn't already believe as he does want to work there?  His belief set would probably discourage people who didn't share it from wanting to work there, as I am sure not being an atheist might discourage people from wanting to work for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU)  or the American Atheists.  While the law doesn't allow the atheist groups to discriminate, it does allow kennie to discriminate because he's a non-profit religious organization.  Actually I take part of that back.  I am pretty sure not being an atheist might discourage people from applying to the American Atheist organization, but it might not discourage folks from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  I mean responsible theists might have an equal interest in the separation of Church and State, right?  That's more conceivable than a non-atheist wanting to work for an atheist organization or a non-Evangelical Christian pseudo-biblical literalist wanting to work for kennie.  OK, back to the topic at hand.

I would think that kennie should be more worried about getting qualified people to work for his organizations, but that's not kennie's way.  He wants to first make sure of their 'religious reliability' and any other skills they bring to the table seems to be a distant second.  Is such legal discrimination really necessary?  If he needed someone of my skills -- should my disagreement with his religious beliefs be an issue for either of us?  Makes me wonder if kennie follows the old Soviet Union policy of appointing political commissars to oversee military officers to insure their political reliability?  Interesting comparison, don't you think?  Anyone know if one of the additional duties in kennie's places of business is that of 'religious commissar'?  Probably not, but I wouldn't be surprised if anyone voiced opposition to kennie what the result would be.  You might think it far-fetched, but I still remember the warning signs and omnipresent security on my visit to the Creation 'Museum'!

To me this is an example of little kennie using the law to his own end.  I wouldn't want to depend on kennie for my livelihood, but the law makes it legal for kennie not to hire someone like me, regardless of my skills and expertise.

Let's look at another example, can a pacifist work for the Department of Defense (DoD)?  Since the DoD has a great many employees, I am sure some of them would consider themselves pacifists.  So can they apply for a job and be hired?  Certainly!  Would their pacifistic beliefs get them fired?  No, however if they practiced their beliefs in interfering with the mission of the DoD, those actions would probably get them fired.  Right up until the point they started acting in opposition to the mission of the organization, their beliefs were a moot point.

Can a butcher be a vegetarian?  Certainly, and their job would be secure as long as they continued doing their job.  But the second they refuse some aspect of their job because of their vegetarianism, their job would be in jeopardy . . . as it should be.  But it would be in jeopardy NOT because of their vegetarianism, but because they were refusing to do the job for which they were hired.

Remember Nathanial Abraham, the Creationist hired by Woods-Hole Oceanographic as an evolutionary biologist, who after being hired refused to perform something like 90% of his job because he didn't believe in evolution?  Yes, he got fired and sued, claiming religious discrimination, and his many complaints and suits failed to change anything.  He was fired for failing to do his job, not for his religious beliefs.

How about David Coppedge?  A Creationist who was let go during a staff reduction who also sued for religious discrimination and whose suit ended in his being embarrassed.  He could have been fired because he tried to use his job to influence the people around him with his belief set.  But the bottom line is he was let go due to downsizing.

And my favorite -- John Freshwater!  He was fired for his actions, not his beliefs.  His actions included using a electrostatic device to burn student arms with a cross, displaying a Bible and other religious materials in his classroom even after being ordered to remove them, and failing to teach the subject for which he was hired to teach.  Even the US Supreme Court decided his appeal wasn't very appealing.

So the question really becomes SHOULD little kennie be allowed to hire based on people's religious reliability?  I know it's the law, but I think it's a ridiculous law.  When it comes to certain jobs, maybe, but not carte blanche.  A minister certainly should have the belief set of the people he will be ministering, for the most part -- although you could argue against that using military chaplains as a good example.  A fighter pilot should be willing to pull the trigger . . . these are examples of specific jobs where beliefs can impact the performance of the job!  But an accountant or a CAD designer?  What difference does their belief set have in the ability to perform their duties?  That's where I think kennie is stretching his discriminatory hiring practices past the breaking point and maybe it's time to change the law.  I'm sure kennie would say something like he's just protecting people from themselves, after all who would want to join an organization that might make them feel less than welcome or in any way uncomfortable.  I think it should be the individual's choice, not an institutional mandate.  If I am able and willing to do the job, my personal beliefs shouldn't matter -- unless they are central to performing the job!

No one should have the ability to discriminate in job requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to perform the job!  Little kennie should allow the very fact of working for organizations like his ministries discourage would-be job applicants, but he should not be given a license to discriminate!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kentucky Common Sense Part III

OK, part III, little kennie ham has been heard from, and he pretty much shrugs his shoulders and says "So What’s This Hubbub All About?"  I think we now have an idea of what his strategy is going to be.  His post, if you want to read it yourself, is: "Ark Encounter in the Headlines Again!"

How I read this is that kennie is going to  . . . and let me quote him to make sure I get it right . . .

"The Ark Encounter has confirmed over and over to the state and media that it will carefully adhere to all applicable federal and state laws in hiring." 
Here's the thing made clear in this post, kennie thinks that his organization's discriminatory hiring practices are within applicable federal and state laws because he's a religion . . . did he forget the part about for-profit business?.  There is where we disagree.

Kennie tries to compare what he is doing to the two other organizations, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and American Atheists, claiming how foolish it would be to force them to hire people who disagree with their basic philosophy.  This raises several question to me. 
  • The first question is simple, is a religious organization who owns a for-profit company asking for state funds and tax incentives allowed to discriminate in their hiring practices?  I don't know the legal end, but common sense tells me they are not so allowed, or at least they should not be.
  • Second of all are Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and American Atheists building some edifice and asking for state money and tax incentives?  I took a look at their websites and don't see them asking for state money or tax incentives for anything.  So what kennie is trying to do is distract us from the central issue of the money.  Quite disingenuous if you ask me!
  • Third question is do Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and American Atheists discriminate in their hiring practices?  There is nothing on their websites that indicate they focus on anything other than the ability to do the job for any applicants . . . I repeat . . . nothing.  So kennie's comparison is meaningless.
  • Fourth question. Little kennie, like Mike Zovath, is trying to claim this as an issue of religious freedom.  Since when does religious freedom require state funds and tax incentives?
  • Fifth question.  Little kennie says that the whole issue of state money and tax incentives have been used by 'similar tourist projects'.  Is that a true statement?  Are there other religious ministries asking for state funds and tax incentives?  For some reason I think kennie is again trying to confuse everyone.  His ministry is not for the purpose of bringing in tourists.  It's not for entertainment, it's not for everyone either.  It is a religious ministry, as he himself said!  AiG is a ministry, the Creation 'Museum' is a ministry and the Ark Encounter is a ministry!  Somehow I don't think Kentucky has authorized state money and tax incentives for any similar projects.  I think if that was true, kennie would have said something more than a vague 'similar tourist projects'.  He would have named the project!
I did find humor in one thing, remember when one of kennie's many attorneys claimed the job opening that raised this whole issue was for AiG and not for the Ark Encounter Ministry, at least kennie himself validated that the job opening was not for AiG, but for the Ark Encounters Ministry.   So I guess his lawyer did tell an untruth.  Gee, a lawyer lying?  Who would have thought?

Little kennie closed with these two lines:
"Think about it—groups like the AU would rather Kentucky not have millions of dollars in additional revenue to fund programs to benefit its citizens than see a Christian message proclaimed.
Ultimately, AU and groups like them want freedom from Christianity, not freedom of religion! Thankfully, under our Constitution, such oppressive ideas will never float."
Is kennie's new project going to generate millions of dollars in additional revenue?  I would like to see how much money the so-called Creation 'Museum' has earned for the State of Kentucky?  For some reason I think he's overstating the idea of millions.  I would really like to know exactly how much money from kennie's various activities has been given to the state to fund other programs for the benefit of it's citizens? 

You know what I would really love to know. . . if any of the money from kennie's activities are used to fund any programs kennie himself would object to?  Now that would be hilarious!  I know, no way to figure that out.  If there is anything from kennie's activities, it would be lumped in with other monies . . . but I still think it would be hilarious.

I think he also misstates who is oppressing whom.  kennie has stated over and over again that he does not believe in freedom of religion.  His idea of freedom of religion is that he is free to believe as he wishes and he is free to make you believe as he wishes as well.  He is perfectly willing to use the Constitution to force his views on other people.  He has, in my opinion, set up his own sect of Evangelical Christianity.  I personally believe kennie should no longer be considered a Christian, but his followers should be called 'Hamians', but he won't agree.  He gets too much mileage claiming persecution when anyone disagrees with whatever he seems to want.

I am clear in what I believe, and I know kennie will call me an atheist . . . which is fine with me.  Little kennie thinks anyone who disagrees with him is an atheist, regardless of their actual religious beliefs.  But I believe the State of Kentucky should allow kennie to build his next ministry, but he should be given the freedom to fund it himself and not ask the people of Kentucky for one cent! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kentucky Common Sense Part II

We might have an inkling of little kennie ham's next tactic to insure employees of the Ark Encounter Ministry toe the religious line WITHOUT damaging kennie's ability to siphon off state funds/tax incentives for his religion.  In addition to the news articles I mentioned there was one from that offered a bit more detail.  "Ark park hiring issue jeopardizes tax incentives" quotes Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, as saying:

"The Commonwealth doesn't believe that Ark Encounter, LLC will be complying with state and Federal law in its hiring practices" 
Pretty straight forward shot across kennie's bow.  Well aside from the letter from their lawyer (part I) which tried to claim the job posting wasn't for Ark Encounter Ministry -- which it obviously was -- Mike Zovath, a co-founder of Answers in Genesis said
" . . .the matter is still under discussion with cabinet officials."
"We're still in the negotiation with the state, saying why are you requiring us to do something you don't require other applicants to do? And why are you requiring us to give up our religious freedom and our religious rights to comply with an additional requirement that isn't in the state Tourism Act?"
Does the State of Kentucky allow other for-profit ministries asking for state funds/tax incentives to use discriminatory hiring practices?  I don't think so!  If the state funding and providing tax incentives to for-profit ministries was the normal course of business, kennie wouldn't have been concerned as all.  But I guess it's not, so kennie has to be a little worried that he might have to go back to his supporters for more money to keep his ministries open.

Another question is the State of Kentucky trying to deny them religious freedom or their religious rights? Not in the least!  There is nothing stopping kennie and his pals from building as many ministries as they want. What Kentucky is saying is that you have to fund your own ministries.  What religion right means the state is required to help fund your ministries?  None that I am aware of.  Zovath went on to say said:
"the state . . . wants Answers in Genesis, a recognized religious non-profit, to change our hiring policies for something that has no application to the Tourism Act. Answers in Genesis isn't asking for Tourism rebates, the Ark Encounter is."
OK, now I am confused.  First off, AiG does have discriminatory hiring practices, they are legal because federal and state law allows them to discriminate in hiring based on religion as a non-profit ministry.  That's not the issue and Zovath isn't denying the practice.  However, Zovath wants to use their non-profit ministry discriminatory hiring practices for their wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary and wants state money to help them in this endeavor.  Just to make sure we know what organization are what, the article also quotes Zovath as saying that Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter
"are two different organizations, two different operations that are wholly owned by Answers in Genesis."
Yea, that really clears things up.  AiG owns Ark Encounters so it's hiring practices should be allowed, and yet the non-profit owns the for-profit so state funds/tax incentives should also be allowed.  Do I see what looks like cherry-picking which laws should apply?

The second thing that struck me was " . . . has no application to the Tourism Act" comment.  Isn't tourism how kennie justified the request for state funds/tax incentives?  So why would the issue of approving the funding also fall under tourism?  

I still say "Good" on the State of Kentucky.  If kennie ham and Mike Zovath want a new ministry in Kentucky, fine.  Nothing is stopping them.  But they should not be asking for anything from the State of Kentucky in the way of funding or tax incentives to build it. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kentucky Common Sense?

How much would you like to bet that a job posting I wrote about in August, "Kennie Ham is still making a fool out of Kentucky!" has been changed somewhat.  I haven't peeked yet, but here is the part I quoted just two months ago:

"Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
Now this was for a job advertised in the AIG website.  The job was for a CAD Technical Designer for Ark Encounter.  Now when I wrote about it I was questioning the use of State funds and tax incentives in support of a Ministry.  I was only one tiny voice in the dark, and there were others, many others, saying similar things.

Recently news outlets are reporting that the Ark Encounter ministry's tax incentives might be held up because of their violations of state hiring practices.  It is being reported in a bunch of news sources, including the Lexington Herald-Leader "State tax incentives for Ark Encounter in limbo following hiring dispute", WKRC-TV, Cincinnati "Ark Encounter tax incentives questioned", and even Yahoo News "Kentucky warns Noah's Ark theme park over hiring practices".  The bottom line is that little kennie ham specified a:
In response to a letter on this topic Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons said
"the posting was for Answers in Genesis, not Ark Encounter, and that the park officials would honor the requirements for state tax incentives."(I am quoting this article, I do not have a source directly from Parsons himself)

Now in my opinion that's a lie.  Here is a screen capture of the original job posting:
(Image source

(Image source

Hmmm, see why I called it a lie?  Page 1 clearly shows Ark Encounter Ministry and page 2 shows the requirement for the Salvation Testimony, Creation Belief Statement, and Confirmation of agreeing with the AIG Statement of Faith.  Now, I have to wonder if the job is still posted and what does it currently say.  My guess  is that all job postings for Ark Encounter will probably have been removed form the AIG site.  In the near future we will probably see an Ark Encounter jobs site be online.  But right this second I am going to wander over to AIG and see what I can see.

Read more here:
Hmmm guess what?  Yup!  The jobs posted on AIG no longer mention anything about the Ark Encounter Ministry, although the jobs still require the Salvation Testimony, Creation Belief Statement, and Confirmation of agreeing with the AIG Statement of Faith.  In fact one job, for a Solutions Developer,  specifies under education and experience:
"A proven firmness in one’s walk with Christ, evident through a personal life that is above reproach, with an “ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11); that is, the heart of a servant that works diligently and seeks to defer praise to God."(
Now what does that have to do with some of the other requirements of "Strong experience with the following languages: HTML5 (including CSS and JavaScript), TSQL, and C#." and "Must have experience with Adaptive/Responsive Design, MVC, WCF and RESTful services, and N-Tier architecture development." I have no idea, but there it is.  If you want to work at AIG or the Creation 'Museum' you have to be in alignment with kennie's idea of a religion.

So while the official requirement of the same set of beliefs for the Ark Encounter Ministry might have disappeared from the website, in my opinion, kennie and his followers will find a way to make sure those employees also toe the philosophical line.Remember he didn't remove the requirement from the job posting for Ark Encounter, he removed the entire posting and any other Ark Encounter postings.  Sounds like he's circling the wagons until he can figure out a new approach.

One last note, from now on I am planning to call Ark Encounters 'the Ark Encounter Ministry'.  After all, that's what little kennie called it in the original job posting!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Caught an interesting post from Dr. James F. McGrath's 'Exploring Our Matrix' blog, "Defining Pseudoscholarship".  We've discussed Pseudoscience many times, but I thought the perspective here was interesting.  He quotes a commenter, Peter Regnier, on one of his other blog posts.  Paul defines Pseudo-scholarship like this:

Pseudo-scholarship tends to
  1. Denigrate entire scholarly fields
  2. Largely ignore established academic channels
  3. Largely ignore or parody academic conventions
  4. Reflect a narrow range of ideological perspectives
  5. Reject entire meta-narratives, not points within them
  6. Make sensationalist claims
  7. Appeal to dubious methodological privilege BUT
  8. In reality employ flawed methods
  9. Rely on supernatural over natural explanations
  10. Be developed and supported disproportionately by non-specialists.
Let's see how well any of these apply to the whole idea of Creationism/Intelligent Design.  Since we have to narrow the field a bit, let's be a little more specific and consider the Creationism/Intelligent Design outflow from the Discovery Institute:
  1.  Denigrate entire scholarly fieldsHow often have I, and many others, asked that the Discovery Institute support their own ideas rather than denigrate biology and evolution?  Often in their meanderings, you cannot find a single item of substance supporting their own ideas, but only attack after attack on biology and history.  Yes, remember their Nazi and Darwin conspiracy ideas are laughed at by biologists and historians. 
  2.  Largely ignore established academic channelsWhile the Discovery Institute whines and complains about not being able to get published in established academic channels, the issue isn't they do not, the real issue is that they don't seem to be trying.  They don't seem to make any effort for a very simple reason, they refuse to follow the same rules and guidelines for submitting their work as actual scientists.  To quote Dr. Mark Chancey again (Chair of the Religious Studies Department at SMU) " . . . When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day." 
  3.  Largely ignore or parody academic conventionsI think they parody more than ignore.  Isn't their pet lab, the wholly owned Biologics Institute, whose contact information and address is the Discovery Institute, a parody of a real lab?  Isn't their own journal and publishing house set-up as a parody of an actual scientific journal and publisher?  They comply with none of the standards such professional journals and publishers have for vetting and supporting the work they publish, yet they claim things self-published are peer-reviewed.  Sounds like a parody to me.  As for ignoring, how about any aspect of scientific methodology?  Dressing up in a lab coat does not make you a doctor.  Dressing up ideas in one doesn't make your idea a scientific theory.
  4. Reflect a narrow range of ideological perspectivesRegardless of how often the Discovery Institute, and their various mouthpieces, claim that Intelligent Design is not a religious proposition, each and every examination shows it's religious underpinnings.  It was found to be religious by a Federal Judge.  They constantly give presentations to religious audiences and at the invitation of religious groups and organizations.  Their own strategy document, the Wedge Strategy, makes the connection quite clear.  Yet they continue to verbally deny while their actions support a very narrow range of ideological perspectives.
  5. Reject entire meta-narratives, not points within themNow this one I am not sure how to address, exactly what is a meta-narrative?  I checked a few definitions and see that it's a 'narrative about other narratives', or a comprehensive explanation overarching other more narrow explanations.  OK, that works because isn't the modern theory of evolution an overarching explanation consisting of many other much more specific theories?  Doesn't the DI make sweeping characterizations to reject the majority of evolutionary theory?  Even the whole idea of micro-evolution v. macro-evolution is nothing more than a way to try and reject a large portion of evolutionary theory.
  6. Make sensationalist claimsHow many can we name?  Dembski's 'Design Filter' which is supposed to be able to detect intelligent design in nature, but doesn't seem to do much of anything?  How about the constant claim of the demise of evolution?  That's been going on for decades, and the DI keeps harping on it.  I think it was Dembski (again) who predicted a 5 year period that would spell the end of evolution and I think we are a decade past that.  Or the annual Paul Nelson Day as we still wait for his detailed exposition of “ontogenetic depth" as a way of measuring complexity.  I think we are about the decade past the due date on that one as well.
  7. Appeal to dubious methodological privilege BUT
  8. In reality employ flawed methodsI have to tie these two together because I'm not sure they mean much apart.  The key here is their flawed methodology.  A lack of falsifiability, the use of straw-man arguments, inability to test, reliance on testimonials, the assumption that if science hasn't addressed something it must be a deity's action, refusing the consider conflicting data, the list goes on.  Yet for all their methodical errors, they insist their pet idea is the equal to a real, valid, viable scientific theory and they demand a spot on the science lectern, a privilege they have yet to earn!
  9. Rely on supernatural over natural explanationsThat's all they rely on!  They try and cover their supernatural explanations with more innocuous words like 'Designer', but they are talking about a deity.  Their own words and actions reveal more than their official denials.  They are desperate to deny their dressed-up version of Creationism, but they never can separate themselves from it and they never will.  Once their efforts fail, they'll find another lab coat.  Creationism in school changed to Creation Science which became Intelligent Design.  They'll be something else once this one is realized to be futile.  But at the core of all of the comments, tactics, and strategies lies their supernatural ideas and desires. 
  10. Be developed and supported disproportionately by non-specialistsWhen you look at the Discovery Institute and their popular authors, posters, and bloggers.  You find lawyers, philosophy majors, historians, but very few biologists of any sort.  Do they do the science to persuade other biologists?  No, they target politicians, school boards, and every Christian group they can find.
    Hmm, let's bring up something we haven't discussed in a while, their 'list' of 700+ 'scientists who 'dissent from Darwinism'.  Remember that list?  I think they finally topped 800.  If I recall the last check, less than 20% of the list were people in biology-related fields and none were in any field that related in any way to evolutionary biology.  There were chemical engineers, self-taught rocket scientists, a guy who writes books on butterflies,  . . . you get the idea?  Sure didn't take aim at scientists and biologists, did they?
Well, it certainly looks like the pseudo-science promulgated by the Discovery Institute is certainly an excellent example of pseudo-scholarship!

Hopefully this will end the Freshwater Saga for good.

Both the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and Panda's Thumb are reporting that the Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear John Freshwater's appeal of his firing as a science school teaching in Mount Vernon OH.  All I can say is Yay!

"Over at last for Freshwater" and "Freshwater: It is finished" spells it out pretty clearly.  It's a case that should have ended years ago, preferably with a jail sentence for Mr. Freshwater for using an electrostatic device to burn crosses into students arms. 

What annoys me the most about this entire case is not the cross-burning into arms, not the teaching of Creationism/Intelligent Design, not his continual disregard for the for the policies and procedures of his superiors, nor even the need for other teachers to re-teach science education to his former students . . .but the cowardice of John Freshwater.

Yes, I know a lot of people think he is brave for standing up for his beliefs.  But I disagree.  To me only a coward lies about his actions when confronted during the school boards investigation.  Only a coward who also knows just how wrong he was in his actions would teach his students to lie for him.  Let us never forget that he not only lied, which I see as a refusal to accept responsibility, but he taught his students that it's OK to lie.  This is not a man I want in the classroom and the only word that comes to mind is cowardice. 

He told you one thing to your face and when you weren't looking, did something else and said something else.  This is not a brave man, this is someone who cannot be trusted, certainly not with the education of our children. Don't we try and teach our kids that one of the true essences of being an adult isn't how you behave when someone is watching, but how you behave when no one is looking.  We try and teach responsibility and even honor, but then they go to school and their teacher says something like 'Remember those crosses I burned into your arm, you need to call them 'X's now or I might get in trouble.'

This is the man one of the Answers in Genesis folks, kennie ham's ministry site, referred to:

 " . . .Mr. Freshwater and others like him who truly are missionaries in our public school system."(
Missionaries?  Well since kennie himself thinks lies in support of his beliefs are OK, I guess he would see a kindred spirit in someone else who lies and then tries to use his religious beliefs to support his actions.  Lying and teaching children to lie for you is not the action of a missionary, unless the lesson you wish to teach is more the variety of Dicken's Fagin.  I don't normally picture that when the term 'missionary' is used, but I might have to change my opinion whenever AiG uses it.
Image source:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Occam's Razor used to explain the difference between Creationism and Evolution

Caught this from the Immoral Minority Blog.  It's not one I regularly read, but I might have to add it to my list. "Never has the difference between Creationism and Evolution been explained quite so well."

Could it be much more succinct?  I don't think so.

If you aren't sure of the meaning, let me place it in context . . . you might remember Kirk Cameron as an actor from the old show 'Growing Pains', starring Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns and ended over 20 years ago.  Towards the end of the show he converted the Christianity, and not just the run-of-the-mill, but the Evangelical variety.  He partnered up with Ray "Banana Man" Comfort and they run a ministry to train other Christians how to be Evangelicals.  (Evangelicals need to learn how to be Evangelicals?)  Ray's the guy constantly claiming the banana is the evolutionists' nightmare, forgetting to mention that the banana he continually fondles doesn't exist in nature but the results of selective breeding by man . . . yea, that Ray Comfort.

You might also remember Kirk from a few years back he, and others, distributed free copies of an altered version of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species on college campuses.  The book consisted of Darwin's text with four chapters of the book removed, and with an added introduction by Ray Comfort reiterating common creationist assertions about Darwin and evolution, such as the whole 'Darwin is responsible for Hitler' creationist canard.

Hopefully you didn't need any explanation, but if you did, now you can place the image in an appropriate context.  I gave serious thought to not writing this, but Kirk isn't exactly a household name anymore.  Now, if you need info on physicist Stephen Hawking, just Google it -- there's a ton -- much more than Kirk.   I believe Hawking's list of awards is considerably longer than Cameron's entire filmography :-) 

It is, I peeked at Wikipedia.  In fact it looks like Hawking's filmography is longer than Cameron's . . . well it made me laugh.  In any event, now you have context for the image and the caption, which really made my day!

Friday, September 26, 2014

What is the source of morality?

A common theme running through many a post by one theist or another is that without religion, you cannot possibly be moral.  I disagree, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.  The question to isn't what is the source of morality, but whether or not the source is important?

Morality, in it's simplest form is nothing more than behavior that is characterized as 'good' or 'bad'.  It's a standard that is set by society.  Regardless of the source, morality is what tends to keep people from doing things they realize are unacceptable to the society they live within.  The issue at hand isn't whether or not a particular behavior is moral, but is the source of the standard important to the application of the standard.

There's where I have issues with the whole religion = morality argument.  Yes, some of the moral standards we live with can be traced to one religion of another.  Others can be traced back to one legal system or another.  Still others have formed through custom and courtesies we see and practice ourselves.  Regardless of the source, morality is a driver of a surprising amount of our behavior.  Most of us try and make daily decisions based on our understanding of morality, often unconsciously.  I mean we rarely think specifically about morality unless it's a blatant issue, like abortion or pedophilia, but our morality comes out in much smaller ways.  How we treat other people, how we communicate, how we go about our day-to-day lives.  We might consider morality as we read about the latest school shooting, or how other people are treated around the world, but while we think about it, do we consider the source of the morality?

Rarely!  The source is less important than the imprint it left on us.  I look at it this way, it is immoral to murder someone.  Does it matter to me whether or not I learned it as part of the 10 Commandments or that I learned it from watching the news and forming an opinion?  When I consider the concept, the source is pretty much irrelevant.  For one reason or another I am full of what I consider 'moral' standards.  I am sure my upbringing as a Catholic was one of the sources, but they also include my parents and the rest of my family, my friends, my education, and most especially my own experiences added to the mix.  All of these things have formed various opinions that I use to judge my own and other people's behavior.  When I hold the door open for someone, it's a moral decision born of politeness and also of education from my mother and father.  My mother expected it and I saw my father do it regularly and I more or less picked it up.  Sure earth shattering it's not, but it's one of the judgements I make about my behavior and recently it made me think about the source of my morals.

I started a job in a secure building, one you needed a swipe card to enter.  The rules were such that if you let someone else in on your swipe, you could get fired.  So I had to develop the most uncomfortable behavior of literally closing the door in someone's face so the locking mechanism can engage and they can swipe themselves into the facility.  It might not sound like much, but it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.  Closing a door in anyone's face is really hard, but it was actually harder when it was a woman.  Yes, it might be sexist of me, but that's how I was raised.  The first time I did it, I could see my mother standing over to one side looking at me with a very disappointed look.  I knew the rules and I am sure the lady behind me knew the rules, but it made me very uncomfortable performing that very simple act that in any other environment would have been considered rude and  . . . yes . . . immoral. Again, not earth shatteringly immoral, but immoral just the same. 

I am sure technically since it was an enforced rule you could argue that it is moral of me to shut the door in their face, but that didn't change how it made me feel.  Last night while I was think about it, one of my favorite online comics, Jesus and Mo had a perfect one and one that followed some of what I was thinking:

I haven't read the study they reference (Morality in everyday life), but the idea that theists and atheists could be identical in a moral sense made me think again about the source of my personal morality.  Once again I came to the conclusion that being moral is about behavior and the source that drove that behavior is immaterial to the result. 

So when any theists makes a claim of moral superiority simply because they are a theist, it makes no sense.  Believing in a religion doesn't make you moral.  It's your behavior stacked up against what society considered morality that makes you moral.  So when someone like kennie ham lies to get someone in an interview (Turnabout is fair play!) and even using the excuse that God will forgive such a little transgression because it's for some higher purpose, his beliefs matter little because his behavior is immoral.  When Philip E. Johnson (One of the founders of the modern Intelligent Design Movement) commented "When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in trouble." he should have been addressing the morality of their position rather than simply complain about the lack of scientific progress.

My conclusion is being a theist does not make you a moral person, just like being an atheist or agnostic doesn't make you immoral.  It's your behavior in large and small things by which you are judged by your fellow human beings.  Lies, distortions of the truth, and deliberate mis-characterizations are immoral whether you think you have a deity looking over your shoulder or not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Latest on the Ark Park Ministry

Does this surprise anyone, kennie ham calling the Ark Park a  . . . well you can read some of it for yourself if you want, the headline is: "Ark Encounter—A Great Evangelistic Outreach".  So right there in the headline is 'Evangelistic', gee!  Isn't it time for the lawmakers and citizens of Kentucky to wake up and realize they are giving away potential revenue and other incentives for a totally religious purpose?  Not even a generic religious purpose, but one for a very specific religion!  I would assume so, but they don't seem to care.

Let's quote a few more lines from his post(I added the underlines for emphasis):

  •  ". . .we are now starting construction of the evangelistic Ark Encounter project . . ."
  • "When you think about the fact that the Ark Encounter will be one of the greatest evangelistic outreaches of our time . . ."
  • "I believe the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum will be two of the most powerful evangelistic outreaches in the world today!"
  • "How many other centers are boldly, unashamedly, and uncompromisingly standing on God’s Word? Defending our faith against the attacks of our day? Equipping Christians of all ages with answers? Challenging non-Christians with the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel?"
Does anyone actually believe the whole artificial structure kennie and his folks built to con the people of Kentucky out of revenue?  Really?  The Ark Park is an Evangelical Christian Ministry, nothing more. The people of Kentucky should realize that, and also realize that it's for a narrow sect of Christianity and not even one that is particularly inclusive.  Little kennie doesn't seem to believe that Christians who don't share his narrow view of things even have the right to call themselves Christians.  Instead I propose we should rename kennie's followers to 'hamians' to be able to more easily distinguish them from actual Christians!

The rest of kennie's post is about how he and his ministries keep coming under attack.  Nothing new there.  Anyone who dares to be critical of kennie is obviously the enemy and any criticism is called an 'attack', and not just a plain and ordinary attack, an 'atheistic attack'.  He does mention 'blog posts', I do so hope he counts my little effort here under that heading, it would make me so proud!

So just to be clear, if you oppose anything little kennie does you are not only not a Christian, but you are an atheist and your criticism is an attack.  That seems to hold true even if the rest of the Christian community accepts you as a Christian and also regardless of your actual religious beliefs.

 . . . A brief aside . . .

Let me tell you what annoys me about little kennie more than anything else.  I would like you to remember a lady named Tammy Kitzmiller.  She was a parent in the Dover PA school district and one of the 11 parents who were plaintiffs in the Dover suit.  For whatever reason her name was listed first so the suit is commonly referred to as Kitzmiller v. The Dover Area School District. According to Lauri Lebo's excellent book "The Devil in Dover" and many articles about the trial, Ms Kitzmiller suffered verbal abuse and attacks from self-identified Christians.  In a York Dispatch article they mentioned some of it:
  • One letter she received, scrawled in big letters across a sheet of yellow notebook paper, begins, "When you open your eyes in hell. ..."
  • One boy at school told the girls to tell their mother to "go to hell," delivering the message through a third person.
  • The atmosphere worsened as campaigning began for a hotly contested school board election and people prepared for the trial. There were nasty phone calls and confrontations in restaurants and on the streets.
Imagine what your life is like when you stand against obvious injustice, when you publicly voice opposition to something the local school board was doing that is patently illegal!  You get ostracized by members of your own community, often people you once considered friends and neighbors.  These were attacks, enough to have her stop her daughters from even answering the phone!  This isn't the only example.  I believe the parents who sued John Freshwater after he burned a cross into their son's arm also received similar backlash. The members of the Iowa State University, after they refused to give Guillermo Gonzalez tenure -- tenure let me remind you that he failed to earn -- were vilified by some online blogs and posts, same with Ball State University's president, Jo Ann M. Gora and the whole Hedin/Gonzalez issue (yes, the same Gonzalez who screwed up so spectacularly at ISU).

Little, small-minded, kennie ham is the same sort of person who would encourage such behavior.  That's what he's doing when he calls anyone who criticizes him as an atheist.  Does he know what religion someone is by their critique of his actions?  Of course not!  But he's quick to label because nothing bring out the ire of a Christian, especially an Evangelical Christian, like the label 'atheist'.  In my opinion kennie views anyone who doesn't agree with him an atheist.  That's crap, but that's just what I have some to expect from little kennie.  Of course his 'defense' if you can call it that, is a form that old favorite 'But God is on my side!' and he seems to think that excuses his behavior! 

  . . . OK, soapbox put away and now back to the main reason for this post . . .

I did enjoy his closing paragraph (again, I added the underline):
"If you are looking to invest time, prayer, and finances in a Christian ministry and see a great spiritual return, I believe the evangelistic Ark is a great Kingdom investment opportunity!"
And after touting the recent successes, and the gaining of more State incentives . . . and after whining and crying about any form of criticism being an attack . . . he hits up his 'hamians' up for more money.  Plus he's offering a great spiritual return, not even a mention of a financial return.  Little kennie ham has no shame!  In my opinion, kennie is the modern equivalent of the snake oil salesman! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dembski Design Filter . . . Success?

Wow, those 'geniuses' at the DI successfully used Demski's Design Filter to identify a man-made pile of rocks as a  . . . get ready . . . as a man-made pile of rocks!  Can you believe it.  It completely validate the filter . . . or does it?

OK, I am being a little sarcastic, maybe more than a little.  The reason is how does this change anything?  Intelligent Design has often made the claim that all . .. no wait . . most . . . no wait. . . some  . . . yea, that's the current excuse . . ., SOME biological organisms and biological structures are too complex to have come about through natural means . . . meaning, of course, evolution.  The problem is they haven't found any support, nor anything in the way of original thinking.  Just in case, let me remind you of the Watchmaker argument (or Watchmaker Analogy).  It was documented in 1802 by William Paley. It goes something like this:

The watchmaker analogy consists of the comparison of some natural phenomenon to a watch. Typically, the analogy is presented as a prelude to the teleological argument and is generally presented as:
  1. The complex inner workings of a watch necessitate an intelligent designer.
  2. As with a watch, the complexity of X (a particular organ or organism, the structure of the solar system, life, the universe, anything complex) necessitates a designer.
In this presentation, the watch analogy (step 1) does not function as a premise to an argument — rather it functions as a rhetorical device and a preamble. Its purpose is to establish the plausibility of the general premise: you can tell, simply by looking at something, whether or not it was the product of intelligent design.(
So, since you can identify a watch as a manufactured item, you can assume that someone manufactured it.  So if, and that's a huge if, you can positively identify a biological structure as being designed, you have found evidence of some sort of deity.  Aside from the obvious logical flaw that it has to be a deity, let's just focus on the first part, identifying design.

Wild Bill Dembski has claimed for years to have formulated a design filter.  He spoke about it in his 'book' "The Design Inference" and he claims to be able to identify design.  So when archaeologists uncover a lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument in Israel that is about 5000 years old . . . The Discovery Institute applies their 'filter' and identifies it as man-made.  Hmmm . . . didn't the archaeologists already identify is as man-made, especially when they called it a monument?  If it was only a pile of rocks, would the archaeologists be writing about it?  (Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel).

So the archaeologists identified it as a man-made pile of rocks and published their results.  And then the Discovery Institute follow it up claiming to have used their filter to do what exactly . . . corroborate the results?  Was that even necessary?  Seems like an added layer of something completely and totally worthless.  Now what would have been news is if the archaeologists had been able to use Dembski's little brainchild to do some actual archaeological work, but no.  After the fact the DI takes their work and tries to use it to justify their ability to identify something man-made.  I really wonder if the archaeologists hadn't published their paper, would Dembski have found that particular pile of rock?  Somehow I doubt it.  Wild Bill is certainly no Heinrich Schliemann now is he? 

I refuse to give you a link to the DI's site.  You can find it if you really want to . . . but one of us driving up their hit meter by one is more than enough.  What made me laugh was their last paragraph:
"So here we see intelligent-design science at work in archaeology. One should be careful before making a design inference. You should realize that the "identity of the designer" is a separate question that requires other evidence. But the ability to distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes can motivate research, yield major discoveries, and stimulate investigation of follow-up questions."
First they claim that  . . . and this is the part that really floored me . . . 'intelligent design science is at work in archeology'.  Really?  Or are they simply trying to claim credit for the work being done by other people?  Did their 'science', such that it is, help the archaeologists or did the archaeologists' own work, training, and experience . . . which probably never mentioned the DI or their pet ideas . . . help them make that discovery?  Exactly what did the DI contribute here?  Isn't this what archaeologists have been doing for years? 

So first they make a spurious claim and then they add a little disclaimer about being careful making a design inference.  Typical Cover-Your-Ass silliness from the DI.  Like all their 'work' when someone comes around later and not only doesn't acknowledge their alleged contribution, but actively dismisses them, they can claim they were only making an inference, not stating it as a fact . . .you know like when all the examples of irreducible complexity Michael Behe wrote about in his book, 'Darwin's Black Box' were found not to be irreducibly complex at all.  Or like how quickly their support for Dover, Tejon Ca, and even Louisiana dried up when things started tilting against them.  Yea, claim a victory, but leave yourself a little politically correct denial-ability.  I can picture it when one of the archaeologists say "The Discovery what?", the DI can always claim they were just kidding!

The last part I thought was more than a little disingenuous of them.  They claim the identity of the designer is irrelevant to the idea of being designed.  Hmm, why toss that in there?  First of all I disagree.  One of the things archaeologists do is also determine who did it, how they did it, and often why they did something.  Working with other disciplines, they also try and determine how the artifact was preserved.  The DI seems to think those things are unimportant, well maybe to the DI.

Why would they say something like that?  My guess is because of all the flack they get when they come out and state the Intelligent Designer is the Christian God, which is what they tell their supporters, but they try and deny it when talking to anyone else.  They try their best to hide the identity of the designer because they know it is one of the things that keep them tied to Creationism coattails and those coattails are one of the many reasons they are not taken seriously as scientists.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I hate having my picture taken!

One of my friends commented on my picture with the blog.  Yes, it's me, but from about 2000.  I'll be honest.  I really hadn't noticed until my 'friend' was kind enough to point out that my hair is grayer, thinner, and . . . well as he put it . . . my  cheesy, porno mustache . . . is now much whiter.  I have very few pictures of myself, that one was cropped from a family photo.  I really hate having my picture taken, but that one has gotten a bit dated. 

I guess I might have to have one taken.  I refuse to do a 'selfie', I consider those to be way too narcissistic and anyone who knows me, I have little to be a narcissistic about :-)  So just be warned that the image accompanying this blog is from 2000, not too long after I retired and well before a granddaughter or my wife's small business . . . . which could account for the gray and thinning hair . . . going to have to think about that one.

I guess we can count this post as a disclaimer!  Maybe I should just Photoshop the hair and 'stache . . . naw, too much work.  Besides the only thing worse than a selfie is one that was Photoshopped as well!  (You know who you are!)


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taken to Task over the 'Supposed Controversy'

Someone recently pointed out to me that the subtitle of my blog  ("A blog about Evolution and the supposed controversy with Intelligent Design") makes it impossible for an Intelligent Design Proponent to get a fair hearing from me.  Are they right?

I certainly hope so, which sounds kinda mean.  But seriously, I would say the same thing is Astrologers were demanding time in the Astronomy class or Numerologists wanted to be included in a Mathematics textbook.  I don't see anyone complaining about that, do you?

Before addressing the idea directly, I want to talk for a minute about the subtitle.  The contention, as I am sure you realize, is about the word 'supposed'.  When I started this blog in 2007 the main issue was that there was no scientific controversy.  That was my point then, the question is does the point still hold true?  I believe that it does.  If there was a scientific controversy, where is all the science that should be supportive of Creationism/Intelligent Design?  Where are the hosts of scientists leaving evolution and joining Creationism/Intelligent Design?  Where are the articles using Creationism/Intelligent Design to explain actual scientific work?  To date what has been presented over and over again by folks like Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and especially the Discovery Institute seems to fall into two categories.

The first category, and the one that originally surprised me the most, had nothing to do with supporting their own ideas but trying to tear down current science. Frequent attacks on evolution appear to outnumber any effort to support their own position to the order of 10 to 1.  That's a rough estimate because I never sat down to count them up, maybe someone else has.  But by far the majority of the documents, articles, and posts concerning these topics try and attack evolution in many ways.

Now I was always taught that if you want to get an idea across -- first support your idea!  That applies in just about anything, not just science.  If I come up with something new at work, in the IT field, before trying to implement it, I have to support why it's a worthwhile consideration, how it's going to work and why it's better than how we are currently doing it.  This takes a great deal of time an energy, but the payoff is where it all counts.  If all I do is attack the current methodology without a viable alternative, then all I do is sound like I am whining.  Sound familiar?  How often has the request for Creationist/Intelligent Design proponents to stop marketing and go back to the lab and do the actual scientific work been asked?  More often than I bet most of us realize.

Obviously the second category is work that actually supports their own ideas.  The problem has been that they don't seem to be able to have any actual science in it.  They do no lab work, they make no effort to substantiate their ideas other than philosophically, they even have a hard time explain their ideas in any usable form (Design Inference anyone?).  Scientific theories are not born overnight, there is a long and often bloody (figuratively) path from conception to becoming a theory.  The path is littered with concepts that failed quickly to others that stood briefly in the light until they too shriveled up and fell to the wayside.  All the way the hypothesis gets tested, refined, tested, and further refined as it becomes more focused and stronger.  My question is where is this path for Creationism/Intelligent Design?  They formed an idea and immediately demanded the right to be the equal of an actual scientific theory.  When that didn't work, they formed other ideas to try and end run every decision that went against them.  Creationism led to Creation Science which gave way to Intelligent Design . . . but where is the scientific work that should be accompanying it?  I haven't seen it, have you?  They've also formed other tactical ideas, like "Teach the Controversy" and "Strengths and Weaknesses" to name just two.  But do you see what's missing?  Lawyer-ing word games and appeals to conservatives do not a theory make!.

There is the rub!  I will continue to call this a 'supposed' controversy partly because of the lack of science.  The other reason is that I believe the whole idea of a controversy is made up to make people think there is a scientific controversy.  There is a cultural debate, there are arguments at school boards, there are even legislative efforts.  But when it comes to a real controversy, the Creationism/Intelligent Design side simple doesn't have it -- but the marketing side of Creationism/Intelligent Design is hard at work wanting you to think there is one.

Why would they do such a thing?  I would think it's pretty obvious at this point.  If you think there is one, you have offered them a legitimacy in your mind's eye that they have failed to earn in the real world.  It's human nature to automatically think two sides of an actual controversy have some sort of equality.  So convincing you that there is a controversy implies that they are actually in contention for the biology crown, so to speak.  The reality is they are poor pretenders and without the support of people who share their religious beliefs, they haven't got a prayer (pun intended).  So they are trying to convince people of an artificial controversy, that being fair means that their idea have merit, or that it's a violation of academic freedom and free speech if they are not offered a place at the science class lectern.  What this fake controversy does is give them a leg up in the cultural debate, one they have yet actually earned.

I try and be pretty clear and I think the subtitle of my blog shows it.  Am I prejudiced against Creationism/Intelligent Design?  You bet I am.  Until they do the work to deserve consideration as science, we should all be prejudiced against Creationism/Intelligent Design!  If you are not, then you might look at your own motivations.  Do you share the same religious convictions and that automatically grants them some sort of consideration?  Have you found what no one else has managed to find actual science hidden in the depths of the religious and marketing materials?  Or are you bending over backwards to give the illusion of fairness to ideas that have yet to earn it?  You might peek under the covers, because they isn't much there for you to see.

Some have told me that I am close-minded on the subject.  I disagree.  Close-mindedness is when you are face-to-face with the evidence, you refuse to consider it.  I have been waiting for the evidence, I have been asking for the evidence, I have read and researched for years for some actual evidence.  Their failure to provide any doesn't mean I am close-minded, it means they have to do the work first.  Which to me seems like a fair and reasonable approach.  Their efforts to date mean they do not deserve a place at the science table, their controversy is non-existent, and the future doesn't look very promising for them. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

And now we see . . . motivations, shenanigans, and hijinks with Ohio HB 597

A little while ago I posted about Ohio HB 597 (All not quiet on the Midwestern Front, Common Core Standards, and Is it really fair?).  Recent events made some of the motivations maybe a bit clearer.  The bill was being debated and a few hearings were being held and there have been two notable changes.

As reported by the National Science Education Center (NCSE) a few days ago "Ohio's antiscience bill unimproved", some of the objectionable wording was removed and replaced with a comment with a different emphasis.  The provision requiring the state's science standards to

"prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another" 
was removed by the House Rules and Reference Committee.  The wording was worrisome because it certainly gave the appearance that all sides, even the pseudo-science ideas, would get presented and a teacher would be powerless to inform the students which things had scientific merit and others, such as Creationism/Intelligent Design were nothing but religious concepts and had no merit in science.

At first glance you would think that it was an improvement, but it was replaced by a provision requiring students to
"review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."
 Does that wording sound familiar?  Yes, the old 'strengths and weaknesses' that has been pushed for so very long by none-other than the Discovery Institute.  They tried to get it into standards in Ohio, Texas, and even Kansas.  They even had some success in Louisiana and Tennessee, but so far no one seems to be actually teaching using that argument.  At least it hasn't made the news anywhere yet.

I did like slipping in the phrase "in an objective manner", which sounds like to me if a teacher expressed the idea that something other than real science wasn't real science, he might be taken to task for not being objective.  Sound far-fetched?  I would like to remind you of Chris Comer, the former Texas Science Curriculum head who was fired for forwarding an email about a presentation by one of the witnesses of the Dover trial.  Remember the excuse?  Apparently the State Board of Education wants to remain neutral in the controversial issue of Intelligent Design/Creationism vs. Evolution.  Do you see any parallels?  I do!

What I really find interesting is that originally the DI did have a comment about the original wording, I posted about it here.  But since the change, not a peep out of them.  My guess is they don't want to draw any more attention to it.  There was one change, instead of singling out Evolution or Climate Change like they normally do, they took aim at the entire science curriculum.  Which, as you know, one of the common critique of the original strengths and weaknesses argument.

One last point.  we should never forget that HB 597 was supposed to be about repealing the Common Core Standards, and yet those standards did not address the science curriculum . . . funny thing, right?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tactics may change, but strategies . . . never!

Ken Ham must be reacting to critics.  I, and a number of others, have pointed out that Kennie Ham and the Ark Park should not be taking Kentucky money and incentives while discriminating on hiring practices.  As far back as 2011 this was noticed (here) and more recently the same issue with a job posting for the Ark Park.  The bottom line was kennie required you sign the AiG Statement of Faith as part of the application process.  The way it was worded, you HAD to sign before submitting your application.

Well I am pleased to report that requirement appears to have disappeared.  However . . . and you knew there had to be a however . . . The Sensuous Curmudgeon, whose blog I read regularly, reported that as you go deeper into the application process you have to answer several questions and requests for information that seem a bit suspect:

  • How old would you estimate the earth to be?
  • Please provide your Salvation testimony:
  • Please provide your Creation belief statement:
  • Please write the confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith:
OK, more than a bit suspect. Instead of requiring you you sign it, you have to write your confirmation of your agreement.  So I guess he can swear on a stack of Bibles that he wasn't requiring applicants to sign the statement itself.  Yea, real honest, kennie!

What makes this worse is you get to these questions AFTER you read that AiG doesn't discriminate. Yes, believe it or not, this is on the site before you get to those questions:

"Answers in Genesis, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action employer. We provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, citizenship status, veteran status, disability or any other legally protected status. We prohibit discrimination in decisions concerning recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, training, termination, promotions, or any other condition of employment or career development." 
So what really happened here is AiG, after getting some flack, took their requirement to sign their Statement of Faith off the front page and buried the equivalent in the application itself, along with several other questions regarding an applicant's religious beliefs and how they relate to AiG's and, of course that mans kennie ham's beliefs.  They also added a disclaimer, I guess people are supposed to read that and believe that kennie isn't being discriminatory!  If anyone believes that, I still have this bridge in Brooklyn I need to get off my hands.

First question is  . . . and I am not a human relations expert so I really don't know . . . but is it legal to ask these questions?  Supposedly the Ark Park is a for profit public company.  Add in that they are taking Kentucky money and tax incentives for the tourism they are supposedly going to bring into the park  Regardless of the legality, it's pretty obvious that the information will be used to filter applicants well before the process gets to the interview stage.  That's called discrimination, plain and simple!

Second question . . . posting that you don't discriminate and then asking questions designed to discriminate . . . isn't that lying?  Now according to my understanding of kennie's religious beliefs, isn't that a sin?  Well it is, but we are dealing with kennie ham and it certainly didn't bother him to lie before (Turnabout is fair play!), lying for Jesus is apparently an acceptable tactic.

Final question . . . why are the people and politicians of Kentucky putting up with it?  That's the part that I don't understand, that's the part I will never understand.  You shouldn't be paying for kennie's follies!  You certainly shouldn't be paying for someone who will violate Federal and State hiring practices!