Friday, August 26, 2016

Biblical Math

Gryphen had an interesting post over on The Immoral Minority Blog : "Flood of "biblical proportions" destroys home of president of anti-gay Christian group. Really the jokes just write themselves."  While it would be tempting to turn this post into some sort of swipe at this particular religious nut, after all saying for years that disasters occur to gay people as God's retribution for being gay, you just have to see some level of humor in this.  However, having your home destroyed is a devastating event, but what I find most interesting is the Christian Hate-Monger calling it a flood of 'biblical proportions'.

Maybe what we have here is an excellent example of 'Biblical Math'.  I have to wonder if Liberty University or kennie ham teach classes in it.  Let's break down this example,  Tony Perkins is caught in a flood and loses his home, he and his family make their escape in a canoe.  So, let's break this down:

  • Flood
  • Canoe
Now the Noah story is something more like this:
  • World-wide catastrophic flood
  • Ark
What makes this interesting is that Tony describes the flood of being 'biblical proportions'.  Now I am in Ohio, only about 900 miles from Louisiana and we haven't been impacted by any flooding from this storm.  So obviously 'biblical proportions' either no longer means what it did back in Noah's day, or maybe the flood kennie and Tony like to talk about was one of less than 'biblical' proportions.  

Since I cannot imagine Tony or kennie admitting to any error, the current flood must be of 'biblical proportions', which means that if the proportion of the world flooded currently is the same as the proportion of the world that flooded back then . . . something must have happened to expand the flood from a localized event to a world-wide catastrophe!  That's where Bible Math comes in.

You use this type of extrapolation in Junior High Math classes for determining percentage:  
Solving for 'x' lets you determine what percentage 4 is of 12.  Since it holds true for numeric percentages, why not use it to prove whole Noah story?

So that being said, if the local flooding is of biblical proportions, then the canoe also needs to be of biblical proportions, right?  Yeas, that's the ticket.  We now have proof of the validity of the Bible, all we needed was a judicious application of 'Bible Math'!

And there you have it!  Solve for 'X' and you have determined that an Ark is the only possible answer.  Biblical Math in action, Noah's Flood has 'mathematical' proof!  I'm just not sure if little kennie will see the humor, or simply become even more apoplectic than he typically is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yet Another Post That is Sure to Annoy Little kennie ham, Yes!

Yes, another Christian basically saying kennie's off his rocker . . . and not just any Christian, but a Pastor!  Here's the article: "Noah’s Ark facsimile raises questions that go beyond fact"
Pastor Steve Hammer, Esperanza Lutheran Church in Phoenix, AZ, had quite a bit to say.  Including these gems:

"One of the things you will see at the Ark Encounter is human beings coexisting with dinosaurs even though the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago and human beings as we know them have only been around for a couple of hundred thousand years." 
"This may seem obvious to some, but sacred story is story. It is not science, it is not journalism, it is not history." 
". . .as the old saying goes, a good story teller never lets the facts get in the way of the truth."
I had to underline a few things to highlight some of the things sure to raise little kennie's blood pressure.  I can't help but wonder how many other Christians do not treat the Bible as if it were a science textbook?  From everything I have read over the years, including time spent in parochial school -- I have to say that it's not just most of them, but the overwhelming majority of them do not treat the Bible as a science, history, or even philosophy text. . . and that has to get little kennie's goat every time anyone posts about it.

PS: I haven't even posted this yet, when I checking my Google News Alerts and found that little kennie has certainly read Pastor Steve's article and responded to it! "Ken Ham Tells Pastors: If Noah Is a Myth, Then Jesus Is a Liar".  Little kennie accuses the Pastor of being a Liberal, which doesn't mean that the Pastor is actually a political Liberal.  You should realize that there are very few people to the political right of kennie ham.  To kennie, anyone who disagrees with him is a Liberal.  Here is a quote:
 ". . . says the account of Noah is not history, but if that's true then Jesus, Peter, and the author of Hebrews lied. The pastor says Genesis is myth."
Which isn't exactly what the Pastor said, he never claimed creation was a myth, but he did say it was a story and not a historical fact.  Little kennie can't stand it!  Genesis has to be historical for kennie, which give you a hint just how weak kennie's faith really is.  Little kennie also said:
"Would the pastor rather have children be taught evolution as fact and creation as myth?"
The majority of Christians are taught the Bible is a collection of allegorical stories designed to teach various moral lessons.  The stories are not presented as factual histories and it was never an issue about the lessons it attempts to teach. Let me repeat that -- it was never an issue when it comes to the lessons it tries to teach!  Even if Mose's didn't actually come down the mountain carrying two stone tablets, that doesn't invalidate the lesson of "Thou shalt not kill" does it?  But, apparently, to kennie it does matter.  Instead of learning the lessons the Bible tries to impart, kennie gets hung up on spending more time trying to market it as historical.  Where is any sort of compassion, where are any of the positive messages from the Bible? 

Little kennie is a living example of this quote often attributed to Gandhi:
"'I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"
Does kennie offer any support as to the factual nature of Genesis?  No, he never has, and I doubt he ever will.  But in reality he seems to be missing the point.  Does the historical accuracy of the Bible really mean all that much?  It doesn't seem to  . . . not to anyone but the most narrow of the Evangelical Christian sects, like kennie and his Hamians.  The rest of Christianity seems to focus on other things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More Bad News for Folks like Kennie Ham and the Discovery Institute, Theists who reject Creationism/ID as Science

One of the many tactics used by hardcore Creationists, which includes Intelligent Design proponents, is the claim that to support science, you are an Atheist.  As I have said before it's a gutter-level tactic and based on something Creationists claim to stand against, a lie.  So when something like this happens, it must make them burn!

Announced by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE): "Presbyterians add their voice for evolution", the actual proclamation is right here.  
Presbyterians have joined many other Christian, Unitarian, Jewish, and Buddhist groups in their support of actual science!  Their proclamation says some pretty powerful things, like:
"However, over the centuries some Christians have sought to deny observations of Nature by reference to Scripture. In the 5th century CE Augustine warned that claims about Nature, contrary to human reason and experience but supposedly derived from Scripture, should be avoided, lest they make Christians seem ignorant and the objects of scornful laughter."
Certainly rings true, don't Creationists come across as ignorant?  When one spouts off about science, especially evolution, that is certainly the case.  Please note I am not saying stupid, but ignorant, there is a difference.  What I find annoying is that it is a willful form of ignorance, which  . . . to me . . . is much more a sin than a theist who supports actual science.  Later in the proclamation lists nine very specific affirmations.  One I wanted to point out is this:
"That God has connected all life on Earth in a network of kinship by virtue of biological evolution from common ancestors;"
Yes, biological evolution!  I have to think kennie is probably going to comment about it eventually, more than likely 'explaining' to the world that Presbyterians aren't 'real' Christians.  But I do not believe kennie is the final authority on that subject.  Here on Earth, it's the group themselves that define their belief system.  But someone like kennie doesn't agree with that.  He seems to think he IS the authority, yet when anyone outside his little group of fundamentalists Evangelicals I like to refer to as Hamians, tries to correct any of kennie's narrow beliefs, it immediately get rejected.  Hmmm, another example of having your cake and eating it too?  Little kennie assumes the authority to correct the rest of the Christian world, but rejects any criticism that his belief set is so limited.

One last quote, the proclamation's final paragraph:
"Over the past 500 years humankind has gained more depth and breadth of understanding of creation than in all the preceding millennia of human history. Even within those five centuries there have been several revolutions in our understanding of creation. Though the findings of the sciences do not determine the Gospel message, as Augustine noted they do influence how that message can be credibly declared and persuasively received. The first task of an effective contemporary evangelism must begin with an assent to the Creation that God has indeed been calling and is calling into existence. It is for this purpose that the affirmation above has been developed."
Based on these comments, I might have to find a different way of referring to Creationists.  I mean obviously this proclamation makes it clear that they are Creationists, but ones of a very different stripe than the Evangelical sort, particularly any of the more fundamentalist variety.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Firings, yet Only One Outcry from the Discovery Institute

You all might remember John Freshwater, the former science teacher of Mt Vernon OH?  If you don't remember, here's a nutshell reminder:

John Freshwater was held accountable for a number of actions, including failing to teach the science he was hired to teach, lying to investigators about what he was teaching, asking his students to lie for him about what he was teaching, burning crosses into students arms using an electrostatic device whose instruction said not to use it against skin . . . there's more and you can read much more of the particulars as Panda's Thumb.

Well, as you can guess, the DI discussed his firing, claiming it was an issue of Academic Freedom.  You can listen to one of their conversations about it here: "The Academic Freedom Case of John Freshwater".  OK, so the DI likes to market themselves as champions of academic freedom, right? So where is any commentary on Thomas Jay Oord?

You might not be as familiar with Professor Oord.  His case didn't put out as much press nor drag out in the headlines like Freshwater.  You can read much more about him in "Northwest Nazarene professor shares views on God, loses academic freedom".  Why do I bring him up?  Because while the DI claims Freshwater was about academic freedom, Oord's case was certainly about academic freedom . . . yet where is any outcry from the DI?
Yes, there are some differences

  • Freshwater was teaching religion in a public school, instead of the science he was supposed to be teaching.  
  • Oord was teaching religion at a religious school and he just differed in some of the religious details from his Nazarene hierarchy.
  • Freshwater was warned, in writing, that he was in violation of school policy.
  • Oord found out he was being fired while on vacation.
  • Freshwater immediately found himself a lawyer and tried to argue all the way up to the Supreme Court.
  • Oord worked out a peaceful settlement.
But where was the DI in all this, especially based on their interest in academic freedom?  What makes it more interesting is while Freshwater was an unknown to the DI before the publicity started, Oord wasn't.  He was a contributor to "Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological & Religious Perspective" and other writings published by the DI.  Could it be because he was also critical of the theological implications of ID and also offered a number of other criticisms of ID, while agreeing, at least in principle, with some of it's overarching concepts.

In any event, we have a theist who is illegally teaching religion in a public school science class while burning crosses into students arms and another theist who is teaching religion at a religious school and differs in religious degree with his superiors.  One raises the ire of the DI, falsely claiming academic freedom concerns -- and the other is ignored by the DI.

There are other cases where a Creationist/ID Proponent was held accountable and the DI immediately springs to their defense, like Guillermo Gonzalez, Catherine Crocker. Yet never a single word when a teacher is teaching what they are supposed to be teaching finds themselves in trouble, like Pamela Hensley (2011) or Stacy Mendrick (2014)

So much for being a Champion of Academic Freedom!  So when I say, and others say, that the DI's idea of academic freedom isn't actually academic freedom, you will know better what I mean.  Their version seems to be academic freedom for public school teachers to teach religion only.  Which makes sense when your organization is more of a religious ministry than the scientific 'think tank' they claim it to be.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Still Pushing Discredited Ideas, I think Sarah Chaffee is Behind on her Homework

The Discovery Institute's Sarah Chaffee doesn't seem to have gotten the message that some of their arguments quit working a long time ago.  In her post "Use Your Brain: Scientific Controversies and Intelligence" she is commenting on a book she hadn't read, but she focused on a review of that book.  So she really doesn't know if it's a good review or not, or one that actually represents the book well.  She just found something she just had to comment about and she actually quotes both herself and . . . get ready for it . . . little casey luskin.

'Over 950 PhD scientists have signed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list, affirming they are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." For a summary of weaknesses and links to scientific articles challenging the major mechanisms of neo-Darwinism, read Casey Luskin's article, "The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution.'
Yes, the 'list' is now over 950. but they are still calling them PhD scientists, when not all of them have PhD's and only about 25% of them work in a biology-related field and none of them work in evolutionary biology.

The DI has been collecting signatures now for 15 years and they are all the way up to 950! Can you believe it? Especially when you consider that after this list was used as part of an amicus curiae brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design court case in October 2005, a counter-petition, A Scientific Support For Darwinism, was organized and gathered 7,733 signatures from scientists in four days. Yes, four days, with over 68% of those signatories working in biology-related fields, many were working evolutionary biologists.

Of course while the DI used to wave their list around all the time, even they seemed to cool it on the list for a while.  I had thought they finally learned that a petition doesn't mean that science is settled by a majority opinion, it only shows that real science, like evolution, has passed an incredible number of tests and evaluations and is supported by a huge amount of evidence that finding consensus on actual scientific theories, like Evolution, pretty simple.  So after 15 years of collecting signatures, the DI is all the way up to 950 names, of which -- while the DI claims they are PhD's, not all of them have a PhD -- far fewer of them work in biology-related fields, and . . . according to the NY Times, all of them have a philosophical, not scientific, bias against Evolution.  And Sarah is still using that list as evidence of the great 'scientific' controversy over evolution.  She might take a page out of the rest of the DI who rarely mention the list anymore.  But then she's relatively new to the DI I believe.

But maybe Sarah considers 950 to be a large number.  Maybe like asking a 4-year old if they want a nickle or a dime, they pick the nickle of course, it's a larger coin.  So in order to place Sarah's 950 in an appropriate context, we would have to know how many scientists there are in the world, but that number would be impossible to calculate.  So how about a rough estimate.  According to Wikipedia, approximately 79 out of every 10,000 workers in the United States works in a field and position the meets the definition of a scientist.  According to the US Department of Labor, there are over 150,000,000 workers in the US.  Using those numbers to create our rough estimate, there are approximately 1,185,000 working scientists in the US.  So if we say Sarah's 950 are all US citizens . . . which is an assumption because if you scan the list you can see that many are obviously not . . . but for the sake are our estimate, let's give Sarah the best possible outcome.  So, based on those numbers Sarah's list represents 0.08% of working scientists.

Of course, that estimate goes down the more signatories from foreign countries there are on her list, but even at it's best, Sarah's list doesn't indicate much support for Intelligent Design, but of course she won't say that, she'll keep waving the list around like 0.08% is statistically significant.

OK, enough on Sarah's list and let's keep going.  I do love how she points people to a paper by little casey luskin, a lawyer who used to work for the DI.  I think he might be her predecessor because she started posting much more after casey left.  Since casey isn't a scientists, the DI had given him the job of writing about science.  Sarah's not a scientist either, her background is a BA in Government and a job at Probe Ministries.  So I guess that makes her just as qualified as casey.  But she does need a bit more . . . shall we say  . . . guidance.  Little casey used to quote the ID 'bigs', like Dembski, Behe, and Meyer.  Sarah is quoting herself and little casey.  Definitely not playing for the varsity yet.

But Sarah's main point is nothing new, she's toeing the party line claiming that  . . . well here she says it:
"Origins science, no less than neuroscience, is beset by controversy."
Ah yes, the 'controversy'!  The one that seems to exist only in the minds of the DI and other ID proponents.  I ask very simply, is there a scientific controversy about the Theory of Evolution?  No, there is not.  The 'controversy' is a tactic used by ID proponents.  It's one of their many marketing campaigns.  In 2001 philosopher Robert Pennock wrote:
' . . . that intelligent design proponents are "manufacturing dissent" in order to explain the absence of scientific debate of their claims: "The 'scientific' claims of such neo-creationists as Johnson, Denton, and Behe rely, in part, on the notion that these issues [surrounding evolution] are the subject of suppressed debate among biologists. ... according to neo-creationists, the apparent absence of this discussion and the nearly universal rejection of neo-creationist claims must be due to the conspiracy among professional biologists instead of a lack of scientific merit." ' (Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives Robert T. Pennock. MIT Press, 2001. Page 322.)
Manufacturing a controversy isn't the same thing as there being an actual controversy.  Remember that Sarah's use of the Dissent from Darwinism petition which, at best, only represents 0.08% of scientists.  That's not much of a controversy.

Her final comment asks a question that has been answered, but I am happy to offer my opinion of it today.  She says:
"Is it such a stretch to recognize that products of human creativity (machines and code) have remarkably close parallels in nature (molecular machines, DNA code) and therefore to consider the possibility that they all have their origin in purposeful, intelligent agency?"
The answer is it has been considered and rejected because of a lack of any evidence.  The DI has had the last 20 years to provide something other than their desire for scientific legitimacy and have failed at every turn.  It's time to turn off the marketing machine and put more effort to actual science.  But people have been asking for that for years and the DI continues to prefer marketing to science.  They have to realize that by now, don't you think?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Very Definition of Irony

Please lower the gain on your irony-meters for this one, you might not want to replace it after you read this post.

 I was doing a little catch-up reading and caught this one over at Larry Moran's Sandwalk blog: "A refreshing admission on Uncommon Descent", without reading his post, I knew it was going to be fun.  The only sanity you get from Uncommon Descent is either unintentional or an attempt at obfuscation.  Unlike most ID Proponents, I will get to the whole article to see the context of the Uncommon Descent post.  If you aren't familiar with Uncommon Descent, it's the blog that used to belong to Wild Bill Dembski, who has since not only left the Discovery Institute fold, but a few years back he turned it over to a revolving collection of apologists.  I can't in good conscience refer to Uncommon Descent as 'UD' because here in Dayton Ohio that's the initials and common reference to one of the finest Catholic Universities in the country, the University of Dayton, and also one that teaches actual science in their biology classes.  In fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, UD doesn't even mention ID on it's website, but it does have classes on Evolution, quite a few of them in fact.

I've written about Uncommon Descent before -- a few times about how my comments on one of their posts or another magically disappears. One time it was because of something one of their posters claimed: "Creationists know more about Evolution?", which was really hilarious to read.  Another time was about something called an 'Intelligent Design (ID) Quiz', which was really nothing more than a survey and made little sense, "An Intelligent Design Quiz . . . not really" and for once my answers did make it on the site, not my direct comment, but part of another post by the 'quiz' author, who thought I was 'sneering and arrogant', (comment posted # 49).  Of course my posted response to him never found it's way onto their site, which is pretty much par for the course.  I find it funny that he asks for my opinion and because he didn't like it, I was sneering and arrogant.  But when I mention how his quiz was little more than a ploy to give those who already drank the DI's kool-aid to stroke his ego, the comment never makes it online.  Yet he was full of self-congratulations from the people who said nice things about ID, who he called thoughtful and kind.  Wonder why? 

As you can tell I have little to no respect for Uncommon Descent, whether it was under Dembski's moniker or one of the other posters.  So once I saw Larry's post, I knew it was going to be good.  I just have to post the opening paragraph from Uncommon Descent:
"Probably one of the most daunting aspects of carrying on debates either about proper critical thinking, theism vs atheism, or intelligent design and its implications is the seeming implacable nature of those we debate here and elsewhere. It most often seems that no amount of logic, evidence or even reasonable discourse makes one iota of difference to our interlocutors; however, I think this is probably because most of those who will take the time to seek our position out and criticize it on its home turf are already fully committed against such positions, and are often emotionally entrenched."(Uncommon Descent: The Benefit of Arguments at UD)
I just had to underline a couple of things to point out, and will address them, but I have to address the irony of the whole post.  If you read just this paragraph, you might not realize it was an ID proponent.  It would be easy to confuse because what you are seeing is a common DI tactic.  They take innocuous phrases and try and spin them for their own purposes.  The words sound so reasonable, but really?  Let's take a closer look.  If you read the rest of the post, William J. Murray, one of the multitude of ID apologists on Uncommon Descent, tells the story of how he 'taught' his granddaughter to a theist by telling why he was one.  Hmmm, sounds fishy to me, how about you?

I recall a book by Ann Coulter, you know the Bill O'Reilly for people who can actually read.  She decided to learn about the whole Evolution vs ID issue by visiting the Discovery Institute.  There she knelt down in front of a few of their usual talking heads and swallowed the kool-aid whole.  Now a reasonable person might have taken a little bit of time to get the scientific view from . . . oh, I don't know . . . actual working biologists, but not Coulter.  She prefers her science of the pseudo-science variety.  Why muddy up the waters with facts.  Like Coulter, Murray, isn't interested in an opposing view, so he tells his granddaughter one side and lo-and-behold, claims she's sold.  Isn't that such a cute story.

More fodder for the irony meter, his last line:
"Every once in a while it’s nice to be reminded that, sometimes, reason and evidence can actually get through to a person."(Uncommon Descent: The Benefit of Arguments at UD)
Reason and evidence? I am almost curious at what he considers reason and evidence? He does list a few things -- cosmological fine-tuning, bio-semiotics and cellular nano-technology, and also first-cause and moral arguments -- but are those things based on reason and evidence or based on wishful thinking and conjecture?  Has there been anything actually resembling evidence presents that supports a theistic position on any of those topics?  Now, remember, claiming to have evidence and actually having evidence are radically different things.

I do want to address a few of the things I underlined in the first quote: 

First of all, Critical Thinking, is the ID community really interested in Critical Thinking?  Has anyone actually seen any evidence of this?  I would like to remind everyone of one of the lines from the judicial decision from the Kitzmiller v. Dover et al:
"ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM [Intelligent Design Movement] is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID." (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, p89)
They use the term all the time, but they really don't want people thinking critically about Intelligent Design, their idea of critical thinking is an effort to damage science education on the assumption that it would allow ID to wedge it's way into the science classroom.  So far, it's been an abject failure . . . primarily because ID proponents haven't managed to support their version of Creationism with anything but wishful thinking.

OK, next up, Theism vs Atheism.  How many times has this come up in a debate about ID, and yet people like those at Uncommon Descent keep claiming that ID is not a form of Creationism.  If that were true, then why should theism vs atheism even come up?  We all know why, because Intelligent Design is Creationism minus any specific reference to the Christian God.  Therefore any debate quickly boils down to one apologist or another defending their religious faith while trying not to use religious terms.  How many times has an ID proponent unofficially identified the 'designer' as the Christian God?  How many times have their denied their religious roots while speaking at religious meetings, organized by religious organizations, and published in the religious press?  So there is a definite 'theistic' side, but then where does the 'atheism' come in?

So here is another example where an ID proponent is using the same sort of 'evidence' they claim supports ID as the support for their religious beliefs . . . Yes, read the whole post for yourself.  An ID proponent is publicly acknowledging that his ID beliefs are based on and the basis for his religious beliefs.  I know it won't impact the DI's constant denial of their religious beliefs, but here it is, again.  And I love the head-patting and sucking up many of the commenters gave Murray.  So they obviously agree! 

Here's one part I will never be able to forgive the ID supporters, the accusation that science is in some way atheistic.  That is a lie and nothing more than another gutter level tactic. They try and sell the idea that if you support science, you are obviously an atheist.  They are trying to create an artificial binary choice as a tactic to push theists into the Creationism/ID side.  But most theists haven't bought into it.  Creationists, like the DI and the posters at Uncommon Descent, are not making much headway against not only actual scientists, but the religious groups and schools where they believe pushing their religion would be an advantage -- but major religious groups haven't bought into their snake oil.  Just check out the Clergy Letter project again to see what I am talking about, over 14,000 signatures of Christian, Jewish, Unitarian, and Buddhist clergy supporting real science over pseudo-science.

The third things I underlined, ID and it's implications.  Just what implications are they talking about?  What has the ID Movement (IDM) actually accomplished?  What implications are their for science?  So far, with the exception of a few politicians pandering for votes, exactly what has the impact of the past 20 years of the DI's marketing campaign been on science and on science education?  Pretty minimal.  They have achieved none of their goals, they have done nothing in the way of actual scientific research, and their collection of tactics and strategies relies on lies and mis-direction.

Finally, no amount of logic, evidence or even reasonable discourse, really?  Scientific theories get changed all the time.  Real scientists working in actual labs and studying biology have updated and augmented the Theory of Evolution since Darwin.  Logic and discourse are two of the tools they use regularly.  Although I have heard that the discourse isn't always considered 'reasonable', and you can always find examples of scientists who are dug in so deep it takes something like dynamite to get them to accept change, but if you look at the changes over the decades, you can see even the most entrenched 'evolutionist' has changed considerably over time.  Can Creationists say the same thing?

How different are the DI's arguments from the William Paley "Natural Theology" arguments of the early 19th century?  While the terminology is different, the basic arguments are the same.  Said of Paley's Watchmaker Analogy:
" . . . creationists revived versions of the argument to dispute the concepts of evolution and natural selection, and there was renewed interest in the watchmaker argument. They related the analogy to the "argument from design," where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God, as well as for the intelligent design of the universe." (Wikipedia: Watchmaker Analogy)
All in all, I was entertained. I hope that Murray's granddaughter takes an actual science class from a school that teaches science, not the pseudo-science that Murray appears to like so much. OK, you can re-set the gain on your irony-meters back to normal. I just didn't want to be responsible for you having to replace them . . . yet again.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

GQ Visited the Ark Park . . . “To our mind . . . it’s hard to think of a message Jesus would like less.”

Of all the magazines, about the last one I would expect to pay a visit to little kennie ham's ark ministry is GQ, you know the magazine formerly known as "Gentleman's Quarterly".  Occasionally I have read articles on food, grooming, sex, music, and travel, usually while sitting in my local barber shop waiting to get my ears lowered (military humor).  I guess kennie's ministry could be considered under 'travel', but it still is a surprise to see GQ weigh in . . . and I loved it!

"Inside Ark Encounter, the Life-Size Noah's Ark Theme Park That Will Save (Some of) Us All" is the article and as soon as I read the title I knew it wasn't going to be another piece trying to canonize kennie.  Here's a few things that caught my eye, including one insight I haven't seen widely publicized.

"Noah’s ark is the first left after the gas station, down the street from the Mexican restaurant . . .But given that it constitutes a $100 million boat-shaped Bible theme park and the self-proclaimed “largest timber-frame structure in the world [It's not],” I’d expected a more dramatic approach."
Before getting into the rest, I do have to specify the ark is not the largest timber-frame structure in the world.  That honor belongs to Atlas-I, aka Trestle, a structure completely built of wood and glue laminate to test electromagnetic pulse impacts on aircraft.  Not a single nail, screw, or metal joint.  I bet kennie can't say that!  Here's a picture with a B-1 sitting on it:
Little kennie's ark is big, but it's not this big.  Trestle is built of 6.1 million board feet of timber, slightly under twice as much board feet as the ark.  Oh well, kennie, nice try.

OK, back to GQ, I added the underlines to stress the overall point I got from GQ:
"Mission-wise, it’s there to deliver the other part of the Noah story, the one in which God grows so furious with his sinful creation that he kinda sorta murders everyone on the planet with an apocalyptic flood."
GQ pointed out something I haven't read in any other reports, how positively depressing the ark is.
"One video about drowning people employs a Wilhelm scream. . . . How many mothers and children perished in God’s planet-wide car wash, you might be wondering? Ark Encounter says it could be up to 20 billion—which is roughly triple the population of Earth today."
" In case that’s too thoughtfully subtle, a sign reading “And everyone died except the 8 people on the Ark” hangs over a Country Bear Jamboree-type fence."
At the end, here is where the article from GQ drove home the point My addition is in the [], done to avoid quoting the whole paragraph:
"All this suffering makes for a pretty downbeat tourist experience. . . . At one point in reporting this story, I call University of Dayton history professor William Trollinger, who (along with his English-professor wife, Susan) . . . [their visit to the ark park and they]  . . .left he and his wife feeling the opposite of uplifted."
The last line in the article says it all, and one I will probably be quoting whenever I write about kennie's wooden ministry:
“To our mind,” Trollinger said, “it’s hard to think of a message Jesus would like less.”
So . . . I have to ask kennie, how is this an educational, historical, or recreational attraction?  Remember, that's how kennie is trying to get around the Constitution and preach to more public school kids on school trips.  What I got from the Creation pseudo-museum a few years back, was it's defensiveness.  GQ caught that as well, how kennie tries to rationalize his version of Genesis to the point of being a very negative and depressing message.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Letters to the Editor Should at Least Show a Grasp of the Subject

In a letter to the editor from the Lexington Herald Leader, this little bit of inaccuracy appeared.  I'm not going to quote the whole letter, you can read it for yourself.  But the writer got a few things in error.  He said that at little kennie ham's ark park public school students will be "presented with a theory".  Talk about incorrect!  Creationism, either the wider Christian version or the narrow Fundamentalist Evangelical Ham version is not a scientific theory and trying to equate it to actual science theories is creating an equality that is completely artificial and misleading.  I have to wonder if the letter writer even knows that in saying something like that, he's actually lying?

Then he goes on to say that neither ham's version of Creationism nor Evolution is scientific, which tells me the people of Kentucky are well served because he ended his letter with "(NOT THE STATE EDUCATION CHIEF)" and I am sure every person in Kentucky should have been breathing as sigh of relief that the writer isn't the chief of education in Kentucky or the state of your educational system would rival the absolute worst in the world.
Then the author goes on to pass on one of kennie's mantras, of how "Both models rely on the exact same body of evidence but the adherents of each interpret the evidence differently."  Does anyone still buy into that anymore? Little kennie doesn't 'come' to a conclusion, he already has his conclusion, it's whatever he interprets from his reading of the Bible. He then ignores the majority of the actual evidence and does his best to twist what little evidence remains to fit his preconceived 'conclusions'. I think we need to use a different word than 'conclusions' when discussing kennie ham. A 'conclusion' is something that occurs at the end of a process.  You can't start with a 'conclusion', as kennie does and then he tries to find a way to back to it no matter how convoluted the path he creates.  Yes, kennie does create his own path, for example the log rafts he claims delivered animals around the world following Noah's flood, that's not in the Bible, but a Hamian invention.  So is his explanation of where the Land of Nod is, and . . . well we could be here all day listing the things kennie invented to rationalize Biblical stories.

The most annoying thing in this letter is the mandate that if education is doing its job then "a field trip to the Ark Encounter should not only be permitted but required".  I have to wonder does this writer work for kennie and he's trying to bump up ark park attendance, especially since preliminary numbers do not seem to be supporting kennie's 2 million a year estimated attendance?  Going against the Constitution of the US and having public schools fund a visit to a specific religious ministry isn't something any school system should be contemplating.

Of course kennie is trying to pass off his ministry as an educational, recreational, or historical attraction, but that's just a recent turn of events ever since he found out some people have an actual understanding of the Bill of Rights and a public school funding a school trip to one of his ministries is a clear violation.  His pseudo-museum and ark park are ministries, something he has stated repeatedly and the purpose of those ministries, in his own words is 

  • Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry.
  • Our purpose . . . to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
  • "Yes, our motive is to do the King’s business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith, . . ."
Sure, educational, recreational, and historical . . . where?  His own words betray him.  I know the author of the letter already buys what kennie is selling, but looking at the many comments about the letter, not too many other people are.  The bodes well for Kentucky's future.

Read more here:

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Definition of an Atheist -- the kennie ham way

Apparently little kennie ham (of AiG, Creation 'Museum' and now the new 'Ark Park' infamy) defines an Atheist as anyone who doesn't believe as he believes.  Here's an example, "Ken Ham: Atheists 'Go Ballistic' When Children Visit Ark Encounter, Speak Against Naturalism"  So who is speaking out against public school kids visiting kennie's monuments to his own beliefs?  Anyone who reads the Constitution for comprehension should be speaking out.The FFRF has voiced a concern about using public funds to send public school children to visit little kennie's church, as well they should.  I bet school system legal advisers are reminding teachers and staff about that same issue.  I bet many of those folks aren't actually atheists, but from kennie's point of view, they must be because they will be advising against visiting one of his ministries.

Seriously, have you read the First Amendment to the Constitution? I don't believe kennie has. Here it is (I underlined the parts about religion):
"The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances." (Wikipedia: "First Amendment to the United States Constitution")
Now, like the rest of the Constitution, anyone with an opinion tries to 'interpret' it in a way that benefits them.  We know kennie is very experienced at 'interpreting' things, just look what he did to a defenseless Bible!  In this case what it means is that over the years various courts, up to and including the Supreme Court of the United States, have made rulings explaining the meaning of the various amendments including the First Amendment (I underlined the part I wanted you to notice):
In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another ".
Tell me how public schools funding public school students to visit one of kennie's ministries isn't showing a preference for one religion over another?  There isn't a person in the world who would hazard an opinion that little kennie's tourist traps represent all of the world's religions, right?  A visit to one of his craptastic places of worship is designed to immerse the visitor in kennie's particular belief set, nothing more.  In his often voiced opinion he is the only expert on the Bible, his religious views are the only 'correct' ones, and he is the ultimate authority on everything.  Read his blog, check out his many press releases, or any interview . . you'll see what I mean.

Does anyone actually believe that the same group of parents/teachers would support using school funds to visit a Mosque, a Jewish Temple, or a Hindu Temple?  Highly doubtful!  Imagine that in order to justify visiting kennie, it's part of a larger set of visits to other religious places.  So let's build an itinerary, how many places of worship are there in the United States?  Is it possible to count them all?  Doubtful, so I guess we have to narrow the choices down a bit.  So let's set an upper limit to the number of places a single school could be reasonably fund for a group of students?  Say 10?  Well, knowing school budgets like I do, 10 is probably more field trips than any single group of students will see in their complete K through 12 academic career, but let's use it as an upper limit simply for the sake of argument.

So, if a school system was dedicated to funding 10 school trips to multiple places of worship, let's say it is for the purpose of a Comparative Religion class to frame these visits as actually educational, how do we narrow the 10 locations from the thousands, or more than likely hundreds of thousands of locations representing the thousands of religious groups currently operating within the US?  I am sure that each one feels their site is the most important religious site in the world!

That's a tough question, what would be the best criteria . . . census data?  Worship attendance criteria?  Self-identification?  Popularity of the potential site?  It really doesn't matter what criteria we use, little kennie wouldn't rate in the top 10 in any of those lists.  His narrow Fundamentalist group is only a very small part of the much larger Evangelical population and any objective criteria would probably never mention kennie's places of worship except maybe in the footnotes. (  Even when you Google tourist sites in Kentucky alone, you don't see mention of kennie's places.  Kentucky seems much more interested in horses, bourbon, nature, and history than in feeding kennie's ego.

It's hard to pin down exact numbers because fundamentalist groups, like kennie's, tends to be lumped into the larger group of Evangelicals because there is such widespread differences between even each group of fundamentalist Evangelicals, let alone once you start looking at the actual mainstream Evangelical groups.  So if we use any measurable criteria to select 10 religious sites, representing multiple faiths, to actually give students a broad base in order to actually compare and contrast various religious faiths, kennie's pseudo-museum and model ark wouldn't appear on the radar.  But suppose a school system did?.

Can you hear the hue and cry if a school did fund such a thing and scheduled 10 such visits!  Look at the issues with school vouchers. When they were passed into law in a number of states no one uttered much noise.  When they were used to send children to Christian schools, again there were a few complaints, but nothing Earth-shattering.  Most people seemed to agree using tax money to send students to private schools, even religious ones, was a good way to alleviate some of the issues surrounding public schools.  But when they were used to send some children to Muslim schools, people started screaming!  And what was the first item on the list used to justify this outrage?  You guessed it -- the US Constitution.

Does anyone really think a plan to send students to multiple religion's sacred sites wouldn't meet opposition . . . and what do you think the main point of the opposition will be? The lawyers would be lining up like there was an ambulance crash!  The first item each and every one would raise would be the first Amendment of the US Constitution.  The same one kennie is trying to use to justify allowing school children to visit his site!

So how does little kennie head off any objections to his opportunity to brainwash schoolchildren?  He is trying to pass off his latest ministry as something with educational, recreational, and/or historical value in order for some gullible parents and teachers to bring students to his ark park. Can anyone really tell me what is educational, recreational, or historical about visiting one of kennie's various churches?  It tells a particularly narrow view of one very Fundamentalist Evangelical branch of Christianity to the absolute exclusion of any other view, even other fundamentalist evangelical viewpoints!  It denigrates real science in order to rationalize its view and kennie spent about $100 million dollars of other peoples' money to build a replica of a metaphorical ark. Where is anything but a purely religious purpose in all this?  I certainly can't see it.

And, in my opinion, if you can see it, I believe you are simply doing what kennie is doing -- a massive case of Rationalization.  Frequently, little kennie has declared his pseudo-museum and ark park are ministries, not educational institutions, not recreational attractions, not historical monuments . . . Ministries!  With the collusion of public officials he discriminates in the hiring of people for his ark park.  He has received tax breaks that could very well leave the people in Kentucky in a financial bind if his incredibly optimistic attendance projections aren't met . . . and so far it appears his numbers far exceeded reality, but he hasn't officially released any numbers that I have been able to find.  He did take a photo from his press day, which was well attended and tried to pass them off as photos of his opening day, but got busted doing that.  

So, as we started out with how I believe little kennie defines an Atheist, but I think he needs a new term.  An Atheist is not someone who doesn't share kennie's particular brand of kool-aid, but someone who doesn't believe in the existence of any deities, not just the one kennie defines for his Hamians.  So rather than discriminate against all Atheists, kennie needs to be more specific, how about 'anti-Ham'?  I know that sounds more like someone who doesn't like pork . . . but that seems remarkably applicable in this case as well.  What do you think?

Facts, We Don't Need No Stinking Facts

I was following some of the news concerning the two big political conventions and noticed something strange about one of them, an overabundance of 'feelings' conversation.  I was mulling it over and what jelled it in my mind was John Oliver's Last Night on Tonight commentary about the Republican National Convention (RNC):

They really did spend a lot of time identifying peoples' feelings about something, much more than relying on anything resembling a fact.  Oliver said, "Believing something to be true is not the same thing as it being true" summed up the RNC pretty well.  I really was waiting for the RNC to use "Feelings" as their new theme song.

The interview with Newt really keyed in on it.  How he, as a politician, would go with feelings over facts any day. Shouldn't that be a warning flag?  I am not talking a little 3x5 inch flag on the end of a piece of straw.  I am talking about a room sized piece of red cloth run up to the top of a 90 foot flagpole signaling a serious disaster!  When someone wants you to go with your feelings, it usually means they don't have any facts to back something up, so they need you to 'go with your gut'.  Why would that be?

I have to wonder if the RNC 'feels' they are in a losing position.  Changing from 'facts' to 'feelings' is only a tactic when the facts don't back you up.  As we can see from the Newt's part of the interview, the facts do not back him up, so he tries to make the claim that his feelings, and the voiced 'feelings' attributed to 'the average American' are actually facts in themselves. Sorry, Newt, an unsupported opinion does not equal actual supported numbers, and it never will.

An analogy in Poker is called a 'chopped pot', which means splitting the pot evenly among the players who have yet to fold the hand.  There are two instances of a chopped pot, one is the hands are truly tied after showing them.  The other is when one player feels they are at a disadvantage and wants to minimize their losses, so they offer to chop the pot rather than take the risk and see the cards.  This is usually done because of a 'feeling' of having a weaker hand than one or more of your opponents.  In chess it's the offer of a draw rather than play out the rest of the game.

As you might have noticed the Discovery Institute (DI) has been spending a lot of time claiming that intuition is just as good as actual science.  That your 'feelings' about a subject are just as valid as someone who studies and works and has the evidence to back up their claims.  Why would they do so?

Because they must 'feel' they are in a losing position.  I wonder if donations are down or some of their big donors are questioning their lack of results?  Why else would they be celebrating 20 years of non-achievement.  That's why they are pushing books like Doug Axes "Undeniable" and re-releasing books like "The Design of Life". And that is why they make statements like:
"We don't need to rely slavishly on what scientists say because, in an important sense, we are all scientists, capable of judging a big scientific idea like evolution, if not necessarily the technical details, for ourselves." (More Scientists Praise Douglas Axe's Undeniable)
I really love this statement because after years of the DI telling us how scientific they are and how many scientists disagree with evolution -- suddenly the message is who cares what scientists say anyway!  This is the equivalent saying "Oh Yea!" after a telling insult for which you have no response.  I mean what do scientists know anyway, nanny-nanny-boo-boo!

Telling people to go with their gut shows how little they have in the way of facts to support their Creationism/Intelligent Design.  To paraphrase a favorite movie "Facts, we don't need no stinking facts!"