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!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

If you believe in evolution, should you worry about climate change?

A somewhat interesting point from Jeff Van Fleet in an opinion piece posted in the Daily site,  "If you believe in evolution, then don’t worry about climate change".

If you don't want the long answer, the short one is "Yes, you should be worried, all of us should be worried!"  The rest of this is an expanded note to what I posted on their site.

His closing paragraph confused me quite a lot:

"Evolutionary theory demands both environmental changes and species extinction. The conservation movement is contradictory to both the theory of evolution and modern science. An evolutionist who supports conservation is like being an atheist who supports their local church. It isn’t logical and it does not make any sense."

Evolutionary theory doesn't demand anything.  As changes occur, they will be explained by evolutionary theory, not driven by the theory.  Do proponents of Atomic Theory want a nuclear blast in their neighborhood?  Wouldn't that be logical?

Proponents of evolution want people to understand the process but they do not push that the process be forced along some path.  Failing to support conservation means that preventable changes will more than likely occur.  But does than mean evolution proponents are unaffected bystanders or worse ones who wishes for environmental changes, potentially on a massive scale, just to help win a cultural debate?  Sure, let's see how many 'evolutionist' would vote for mass extinction of the human race?  That's what Jeff seems to be saying.  It's illogical if that's not what they want to see happen?  Ummm, no, it would be illogical for a member of the human race to wish for extinction.

Winning the current debate over evolution doesn't validate it as a scientific theory, it's already been validated time and time again.  It is a scientific theory and winning or losing the cultural debate won't change that.  What it will change is the ability of teachers to teach real science, of students to learn more of the reality of the world around them.  It may very well impact the funding of future research within the field, a field I remind you that has directly impacted food production, medicine, and the environment for a very long time.  These are things being impacted by the debate today, not the validity of the theory, but the teaching of it and the use of it.

As someone who understands climate change, as he claimed, I would expect him not to treat it as some sort of esoteric idea.  Look at the loss potential of the debate over climate change.  We could very well be driving the extinction of the human race.  It really wouldn't take all that much, especially if the carbon-dioxide level keeps rising.  Will humans evolve to handle the new levels, or will we go the same way as 99% of all species that have existed on Earth and go extinct?  If we keep debating, the issue may well become moot as we pass a point where any action on our part will not impact the outcome.  Science might explain the results, but it's not something any evolution proponent would wish to occur.  Of course on the Creationist-side, you could just pray for your particular deity to stop the rise in CO2 level, because prayer has been such a reliable tool in the past, right? 

Let's see, if I were a member of the last group of humans on Earth would I prefer they were Creationists who meekly accept what must be the will of a capricious deity for human extinction, or be scientists who will fight tooth and nail for every last breath?  I know which group I would prefer.  Jeff here seems to think evolution proponents would be the ones rolling over and being dead.  Somehow I think he's a bit off there.

Evolution proponents are also concerned about climate change because the same sort of pseudo-scientific arguments that have been used against biology are now being used against the climate and often by the same groups.  That's another reason to be concerned!  If these groups win the debate, not only will any future activity to change the outcome be more challenging, but what's next on their personal agenda?  In Texas they've been trying to re-write the history books and make it sound like Christianity was the goal in the formation of the USA.  Imagine what such groups would do with a carte blanc license!  Evolution and climate change would just be the start!  I think Jeff need to think through his science a little more.  It's sounding more like he's forming opinions based on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, not science.

Someone once told me that in about 60,000,000 years the Earth will be a frozen ball of pretty much nothing important, and anything we do today won't make much of a difference in the long run.  Yea, there's a mantra to hang on your wall!   Sorry, words like that might be an interesting intellectual exercise, but pretty lousy ones to live by.  I prefer to be evolving as fast as I can!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are supporters of Evolution concealing information?

How many times have we heard of the huge conspiracy that Creationism/Intelligent Design are being held back by 'Big Science'.  I remember comments along those line in Ben Stein's abortion "No Intelligence Allowed", I've seen comment after comments online in posts in too many places to list.  Just yesterday I posted about an article on Uncommon Descent that was quite explicit in it's accusation. . . well, here, you read it:

"Darwin’s followers have spent so much time stamping out dissent, they haven’t noticed the looming pile of contrary evidence, let alone done much to address it."(Creationists know more about Evolution?)
Now, when asked for examples of this 'stamping out of dissent', I have yet to get a credible answer from anyone.  Most often you get the stories of Guillermo Gonzales, John Freshwater, or Richard Sternberg . . . of course anyone familiar with any of those cases know they weren't silenced in any form.  Just as a reminder, Gonzalez was denied tenure for failing in his responsibilities, Freshwater was fired for abusing students AND teaching religion instead of science, and the infamous Sternberg Peer Review Controversy.   I hear about the Discovery Institute whining about not being able to be published in credible science journals, but are they actually submitting to those journals? If they were, why would they have to put forth their own journal? 

In any event, I have yet to see any credible evidence that Scientists are trying to silence anything about Creationism/Intelligent Design.  Oh yes, they are trying to keep it from being taught as a scientific theory in science class, just like they would argue against tarot cards and astrology.  But any credible examples or trying to stamp out dissent?  Not a one!

However, is the opposite true?  Here is what happened just this evening:

I have mentioned before that I get news alerts from Google about a number of subjects that I am interested in.  This evening I received this alert:
The link in the article was to:

I clicked on the link and got a page that surprised me.  I was tempted to post a copy of the page, but that would violate the terms of use for that particular website.  So, just let me say when I clicked I ended up at a site that called itself  'Godlike Productions' with a message that said: "Sorry, that message is no longer in the database."

My first instinct was to think the link from Google was bad.  But then I looked at the site.  "Godlike Productions" and decided to dig a touch deeper.  So, I did what anyone would do and did a search on the site for Kenneth Miller.  I figured that should get me to the right place.  The search returned no results.  Hmmmm!

Hmm, now I am more than a little suspicious.  I'm familiar with the Google Alerts after using them for years and found them to be very reliable.  So, just out of curiosity, I search for 'Intelligent Design', still hopeful of  finding the original post, but my hope was much less than my first search effort.  There were a bunch of data returned from that search, but funny, all of it looked like it was favorable to Intelligent Design. Imagine that!

OK, let's recap.  Scientists get accused all the time of suppressing Creationism and Intelligent Design and yet when a website called 'Godlike Productions' apparently published a comment critical to ID and a link to a video by Dr. Kenneth Miller . . .and after a brief period of time, albeit long enough to get picked up by one of Google searches, it disappears completely.  

Anyone else find that more than amusing?  I guess the real question should be does anyone else find this surprising?  I would love to hear some feedback on that!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Creationists know more about Evolution?

"But the creationists still know more about evolution than they do, and always will. Because they want to know, that’s why." (Uncommon Descent)

Does anyone actually believe that?  Have you run into any Creationist who actually know even Evolution 101?  I sure as hell haven't!  The point here doesn't make much sense.  I know you can point to knee-jerk liberals and conservatives who know little about what they are espousing on any topic under the sun, but I have yet to discuss anything about Evolution with a Creationist who actually understands what gets covered in basic biology, even at the High School level.  I tend to hear to same tired cliches, like tornadoes in a junkyard and how evolution is totally chance driven.  I don't believe they even want to know more because knowing more might make them question their own faith way more closely than their own religious leaders would want them too.

I did find it funny that they had to define 'Creationist'.  And the author does so in the loosest possible terms with
"So I  clarify: I mean people who think that at least some life forms appeared as an act of divine creation. That’s the traditional meaning."
Is that the traditional definition?   It's not the one I have heard from people who self-identify as a Creationists.  It's certainly not the one put out by AiG, ICR, or ACN.  They are considerable more hard line about what is a Creationist.  In fact Kennie (AiG) is even more hard-line on what it means to be a Christian -- which seems to be what Kennie says it is regardless of the rest of the Christian community believes. No matter how well educated a Creationist claims to be, someone who believes in the Genesis version of Creation doesn't delve too deeply into evolution for one reason or another . . . or should I say one rationalization or another.

Of course folks at the DI might think differently.  Don't forget Uncommon Descent was started by the DI's own Bill Dembski, so  the connection is there.  But I wonder if this loose definition helps prop up the big tent approach they have used for years to try and align YEC, OEC, Biblical Literalists, and the like, into one political group to market Intelligent Design?  I mean if you were too hard-line, you might alienate the very folks you need to try and pass the next pseudo-academic freedom piece of **** legislation.  It should make one think, I know it makes me consider the possibilities.  But it still isn't enough to assume that the typical Creationist knows as much or more about evolution as I do, or even any of the people I know.

The article has a few other choice phrases that I wish they would back up with evidence.  I mean really, who are they kidding?  Sure, teaching real science is stamping out dissent?  If that were true we would be still teaching exactly what Darwin wrote.  The science wouldn't have changed in 150+ years. 
"Darwin’s followers have spent so much time stamping out dissent, they haven’t noticed the looming pile of contrary evidence, let alone done much to address it."
Where?  Anyone else actually see this looming pile?  Or is it more steaming? .  If there is so much contrary evidence, why are they keeping to themselves?  Why haven't they shared it?  Unless they are talking about their usual -- cannot stand the light of day -- evidence.  Got another Gap you want to cram a deity into, or are you talking about Dembski's design filter.  Did Dembski tell us when his filter would finally be able to reliably pick up on design, or is it more like Paul Nelson's prediction of evolution's imminent demise?  I don't think so, I guess that isn't what this post is talking about.  I would be very curious about all of this evidence that seems to have remained hidden for over a century and a half.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Response to 'That's Deception, not Concern' post

I got a couple of emails about how disingenuous I am for accusing the Discovery Institute (DI) of doing something everyone does when they use words to make a point.

I do agree everyone uses words to better their own position, that is a recognized tactic.  But the DI seems to be much less honest about it.  Did they ever mention their religious objective to euthanasia?  Wouldn't that have helped a reader grasp why they were making the argument?  In the past did they ever mention that their pet idea, Intelligent Design, isn't a scientific theory?  Did they forget to tell lawmakers and voters that the 'academic freedom' laws they helped write and get passed in Louisiana has nothing at all to do with academic freedom?  How often have we heard how ID is not Creationism, yet the religious underpinnings are clear for all to see?  That what I mean about being more dishonest about it.  I've seen many articles where a individual or group's motivation is included in most diatribes.  Most groups are proud of their positions and aren't afraid to tie into that motivation.  Do you ever see the DI being so open and honest?  I don't think so.

The problem is more that this indicates a pattern of behavior, not just playing lawyer-word games.  Here are a few others I've mentioned in the past:

  • Remember how the DI misrepresented the organizational affiliations on the 'Dissent from Darwin' petition? (here
  • Now about how the DI forget to mention that the reason most of the 'scientists' who signed their petition didn't sign for scientific reasons? (here)
  • One of their authors, Stephen C. Meyer, identified two reviewers of one of his books as not being ID proponents, when nothing could have been further from the truth. (here, the part near the end about Philip Skell and Norman Nevin)
  • How about the behavior of the DI before during and after the Dover trial?  You can check out Panda's Thumb for the good information, or read Lauri Lebo's 'Devil in Dover' -- but let me remind you of a couple of things: When the Conservative judge was announced, the DI pretty much said it was over and they won, yet after the trial they claimed the judge was an activist judge and tried to spin the ruling that was devastatingly against them.  Don't forget the three of their senior fellows bowed out of testifying.   They also claimed not to have given any help or advice on one hand and on another claimed to have advised Dover's school board not to pursue it . . . of course these comments differ sharply from what the Dover School Board members said during testimony.
  • My all time favorite will always be the bibliography given to the Ohio School Board trying to convince them of evolution's imminent demise (here).  After their shenanigans, they did add a disclaimer to the bibliography, but it doesn't change how they represented it in Ohio.
This list can get pretty long, but I hope you get the idea.  In my opinion, the Discovery Institute cannot be trusted to represent themselves in an open manner.  They fail to follow a standard methodology expected of all scientists, yet they demand a place at the lectern in science class for teaching their religion.  They do this using tactics that, again in my opinion, are reprehensible.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

That's deception, not concern

I have a Google News alert for stuff coming out of the Discovery Institute.  They have quite a bit of stuff coming out, but most of it is geared strictly for the drinkers of their particular Kool-aid and if I wrote something up for each of them, blogging would be a full time job and not a particularly well-paying one at that.  However sometime that news feed drops something worth thinking about.

However, before you get your hopes up, it is not an article by the Discovery Institute, but one about them.  In particular "Controlling Language Controls the Euthanasia Debate" caught my eye.  It's not a usual topic for this blog, but I wanted to highlight the tactic of 'Controlling Language'.  The author of the article goes into the DI's Wesley J. Smith complaining about using the 'v-word'.  The word is vegetative, as in a vegetative state, a medical term describing someone with few cognitive abilities usually due to accident or illness. Apparently they don't like the term ostensibly because of negative connotations about the word 'vegetable'.  They even go as far as associating it with the 'n-word' and all the negatives there.  Does that sound familiar, associating something you don't like with something no one likes and you gain support with little effort.  I know vegetative does have negative connotations, but then don't many medical terms have them?  Telling someone they have a 'dysfunction' makes people feel OK, doesn't it?  How about 'Walleyed'?  I have to ask, is 'Yellow Fever' the next target on the political politeness express?

The real question raised is more along the lines of is the DI the least bit interested in political correctness?  The author of the article doesn't think so. For some reason he thinks that they have a religious agenda when dealing with the concept of ending a life.  Are you kidding me, the Discovery Institute having a religious agenda and trying to use words to change the playing field!  How can he possibly think that?  My guess would be he's had experience with the DI before.

I think you know where I am going with this and how this ties into their position and tactics on science education.  I would like to remind you about a few words:  theory, belief, controversy, Darwinism, Materialism, weaknesses, academic freedom . . . We've talked about many of them before.  The tactic is common from the DI.  They frequently change how words are used in order to control the debate.  My favorite example, of course, is the word Theory.  Science uses the word with one definition that is very different from the colloquial definition.  The phrase 'Evolution is only a Theory!' is designed to try and cast doubt and make people think that as a theory, it's only an idea, a concept and one not with much actual support.  Of course, in science, the word 'theory' is about the highest pinnacle anything can achieve.  It has tremendous levels of support and applicability that a run-of-the-mill 'idea' cannot compete with.  If an idea cannot compete with a theory, then you either have to raise the idea up, or tear the theory down.  How much work has the DI done raising their idea of Intelligent Design up as compared to how much effort they have put into trying to tear evolution down?  Pretty lopsided if you ask me.  In fact how much actual work have thy put into Intelligent Design?  Haven't seen much, have we?

The word 'Darwinism' is another example.  The suffix 'ism' is a derived word used in philosophy, politics, religion or other areas pertaining to an ideology of some sort (definition from from Wikipedia).  The definition goes on to say that it is frequently used derogatorily.  Now, a long time use of 'ism' is 'Creationism'.  It certainly applies as a philosophy and religious concept.  It is also frequently used in a derogatory way because of the connotation of ignoring science, denying evidence, and attempting to push a strictly religious agenda into any aspect of education.

So, when you are fighting an uphill battle with the negative connotations of 'Creationism' why not take a two-fold approach.  First distance yourself from Creationism and constantly deny any connection.  Sound familiar?  It took a Federal Court (Kitzmiller v. Dover) to remind everyone that Intelligent Design is Creationism in the same way 'Creation Science' was nothing more than Creationism dressed up a little bit. 

The other plank in this platform is trying to make the scientific theory of Evolution nothing more than another 'ism'.  I guess 'Evolutionism' would have been to weird to say, so why not attack Charles Darwin and the scientific theory at the same time?  Let's see, how many things have they blamed Charles Darwin for?  Pretty much everything bad in the 19th and 20th century.  Now in reality, what is Darwinism?  It has nothing to do with Evolution because the current state of evolutionary theory would be barely recognizable to Darwin, but facts like that have no room in the DI's version of reality.  Doubt about Darwin could very well cause some to doubt the theory.  Never lose sight that the DI's target audience are not scientists, it's politicians, school board members and the general public who vote for them and who contribute to causes they support.

Without going through every term, briefly consider how they try and equate belief in God with belief in a scientific theory, how they denigrate the naturalistic philosophy of science and try and include the supernatural, and how they treat science's ability to adjust as we learn new things as a weakness in science.  The list is pretty much endless.

I hope you would think about the DI's use of words and realize that while they are prolific when it comes to marketing and send out lots of articles, books, and frequently comment on any subject near and dear to their hearts, their use of terminology is very deliberate and designed [pun intended] to aid in their objectives.  They aren't concerned with political correctness, they are only interested in their own righteousness and any tactic, even trying to redefine the words involved, is fine with them if they think it changes the playing field in their favor.