Friday, July 22, 2016

Is there Really a War on Christians

Since I commented on this in a recent post "Growing and Disturbing Trend, Discrimination by Theists!", one of my friends asked about my opinion on the, often-mentioned in the press, the 'War on Religion . . . most often expressed as a 'War on Christians'.  In my opinion, I do believe that some people have gone way to far . .  for example wanting to remove "In God We Trust" from our currency or trying to mandate 'Happy Holidays' instead of, what has certainly become a secular holiday for most of us, 'Merry Christmas'.  I also think many theist go overboard on professing their faith, like the waitress who says "May Jesus Bless You." to all of her customers.  But what I do not agree with is that there is some sort of war on religion.

If you look at nearly every cry of "War on Religion/Christians", what do you see?  Very little taking away of a citizen's rights, but most often -- by a huge majority -- it is the taking away of an effort to force people other to conform to their beliefs.  Think it through.  What is wanted most often isn't to protect someone's actual religious freedom, but to demand special privileges for no other reason than their specific belief set.

Here's my take.  For decades religion has forced it's way into many non-religious aspects of our lives. For example, did you know that the phrase 'Under God' wasn't added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, almost 67 years after it was written.  "Blue Laws" are another example, you can argue about them all you want, their original purpose was using civil law to enforce a specific set of religious beliefs, beliefs not shared by all Americans!  If you dig a bit into the history of 'marriage', you might be surprised to discover that religions weren't originally a source of authority for granting marriages, that came along later in many cultures.

What I am trying to get at is that religion, and here in the US that means most often one variant of Christianity or another, has played a large part in all of our lives -- whether we share the beliefs or not.  The majority of what gets termed a 'War on Christians' isn't taking away any of their rights, but removing their ability to force other people to share their beliefs.

You don't agree?  OK, explain how Kim Davis' refusal to put her name on a legal document infringes on her religious beliefs?  You can give it all the energy you want, but all you are doing is rationalizing her behavior.  She had a job and she refused to do it, claiming some sort of special privilege because she disagrees with gay marriage and citing her narrow-minded religious beliefs as an excuse.  You may sell yourself on your rationalization, but you can't sell it to me.

I've read all her excuses and the comments from the pandering politicians and other theists who want to hold her up as a symbol.  None of it means anything!  She wanted, and still wants as far as I can tell, special privilege to not do her job when she disagrees with something and Kentucky let her get away with it.  If the Governor had any balls, she would have stayed in jail until she was relieved of her duties and then removed from office following proper procedure.  It would have been because of her refusal to do her job . . . not her religious beliefs.

Find me another example, just one, where the 'war' wasn't a demand for some special privilege.  I haven't been able to find any.  Removing the 10 Commandments from public buildings seems a bit extreme, but if out government organizations are supposed to be blind when it comes to supporting one faith over another, maybe it shouldn't have been there in the first place.

So what exactly is the 'war', I see it as an excuse.  Christianity, and most organized religions, are on the decrease.  There is a myriad of reasons, but people don't seem to handle the myriad of reasons all too well . . . so they pick on one or two and blame everything on that.  Plus religious leaders, like political leaders, like to polarize their followers by pointing at something or someone to blame.   Look at the number one reason cited often, gay rights . . . so the highly publicized sex scandals, the demographic changes of our population, the increase in cross-religious marriages, the higher education, and the stand of many religions on nonsensical positions (like evolution and birth control) has nothing to do with the decline, it's all the fault of the one group of people who are doing nothing more than demanding for the same rights as everyone else!  (source)

Funny you don't see LGBT advocates asking for special privileges, you see them demanding the same rights as every other citizen.  In fact when you look back at the Civil Rights Movement and even going back to the Suffragettes of the early part of the 20th century, what you see is not a request for special privileges, but a demand for the same rights as other citizens.  I believe that's why those movement were ultimately successful, because no matter how you dress it up, denying any group of citizens the same rights as others is eventually found to be illegal and Unconstitutional, as it should be!

But that's not true of the religious 'war' hawks.  They don't want the same rights, they demand special privileges and are using this artificial persecution as one of the means for getting it.  They want the right to scoff at public law and use their religion as a basis for discrimination, like Kim Davis.  They want the ability to pick and choose their clientele based not only on their religion but on the religion or sexual preference of their potential clients, like Masterpiece Bakery.  It's one thing to make decisions based on legal areas . . for example a bartender who refuses service to someone already inebriated.  But it's another thing to refuse service because of a different religion, sexual orientation, race . . ..

Why am I picturing students being assigned to certain college classes because the professor doesn't want to teach LGBT students because of their religion?  How about a professor who refuses to teach women or minorities?  I'm sure you can scare up a religion that will let you justify that.

The bottom-line for me is that as soon as you hear someone claiming a war on their religion . . . look at what they trying to do.  Odds are excellent that what they are asking for is not a protection of their rights, but the requirement to force other people to conform to their beliefs.  That's not Religious Freedom, that path leads to tyranny!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

DI is celebrating 20 years of Intelligent Design . . . Why?

Here are the stated 20-year goals of the Discovery Institute (DI):

It's a little blurry, but I think you can make them out.  The reason I bring this up is because of this post from the DI: "Intelligent Design -- The Future! Join Us on August 12 to Celebrate 20 Years of Advancing Science and Culture".  I have to ask, what do they have to celebrate?

Look at the goals again, and it certainly leads to these questions:
  • Is Intelligent Design the dominant perspective in science?
  • Is design 'theory' being applied in any specific fields, in and outside of the natural sciences?
  • Does design 'theory' permeate our religious, cultural, moral, and political life?
Can anyone honestly answer 'yes' to any of these?  I know the DI will be placing some spin about how incredible the last 20 years have been, but have they achieved any of their goals?  That answer is not just no, a resounding No!

So one more question, what are they celebrating?  Twenty years of soliciting money from other people while continually failing?  Twenty years of refusing to perform any actual science?  Twenty years of publishing pseudo-scientific books and articles while failing to understand why no one in science takes them seriously? That might sounds kinda mean, but come on . . . what have they achieved?

Let's take a look at another set of goals, these are their five-year goals:
So now I have to ask:
  • Is Intelligent Design an accepted alternative and is there any actual scientific research being done form the perspective of 'design' theory?
  • Is design theory influencing any spheres other than natural sciences?  For that matter, is it actually influencing natural sciences?
  • Are there major new debates in education, life issues, legal, and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda?
Of these three, the only one you might be able to rationalize a 'yes' to is the second one.  But it would be a stretch.  Because the way 'design theory' is influencing natural science, or any other 'sphere', is in a negative way.  Has 'design theory' been used to develop any new scientific theories?  Has it been used to develop new medicines?  Has it been used in anything other than a continuation of the cultural debate that keeps springing up periodically when theists' religious beliefs feel threatened?  No, not at all!  So what does an organization who failed to reach any of their five-year goals in 20 years have to celebrate?

Here is the future, as I see it.  Since ID has been a failure in everything but raising funds for the DI, it's got to be time to replace it with something else.  Something that sounds even more 'science-y' and might have less of a close and personal relationship with Creationism.  

After all wasn't Creationism replaced by 'Creation Science' in an effort to convince some people that there was some rational basis for their religious beliefs?  Creation Science came around after Creationists started losing court cases (1968 Epperson v. Arkansas being the first big one).  And after 'Creation Science' lost it's big court challenge (1982  McLean v. Arkansas) it gave way to the more modern version of Creationism, Intelligent Design. Now if you look at a calendar, we find that losing a court case in 1982, it was 14 years before the establishment of the DI and the heavy marketing of ID. It's now been 11 years since ID lost it's big court case (2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), so shouldn't the DI be planning for their next pseudo-scientific idea?

I mean that ill-fitting lab coat has got to be wearing a bit thin, so I would suggest keeping the celebrating to a minimum, you might rip it and expose the priestly garments you try and hide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Growing and Disturbing Trend, Discrimination by Theists!

You know for all the talk about a war on Christians, what about the war by Christians?  Do businesses and government officials have the right to refuse service because they share a different religious tradition than potential customers?

Of course the biggest example is Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses because they couples didn't meet her personal idea of marriage.  But this seems to be a new trend.

Lawmakers in many states are pushing for laws to protect people when they discriminate based on their religion . . . no, let's be real . . . These are laws designed to protect Christians who object to issues like gay marriage, contraception, and any issue their religion claims is wrong . . . regardless of the legality of such a position.  Lawmakers are pandering yet again . . . and of course without thinking things through.  In my opinion they are trying to set religious beliefs above civil law. One problem is there is no actual definition for what is a religious belief and what is not.  So what I see happening is not just more Kim Davis', but many businesses refusing service for any list of reasons and claiming a religious exemption from the law.

The bottom line question is should undefined religious beliefs superseded civil law?  I did use the word 'undefined', but it really isn't necessary.  Imagine the arguments trying to codify religious beliefs and identify which ones allow discrimination and which ones do not.  It would be a lawyer-ing heaven and a nightmare for the rest of us.  One of my issues is we already have a system in place to insure one group isn't able to discriminate . . . it's called the law.  But Christians want to scoff at the law, claiming their belief set serves a higher purpose.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  If your religion demands that you discriminate against other people, you are supporting the wrong religion!  If you disagree with gay marriage, don't marry someone of the same gender!  It's that simple.  But there is nothing legal of being able to force your beliefs onto other people, which is exactly what Davis did and more Christians want too.

In some ways I almost want one of those bills to pass and then have someone from another religion, say Muslin, and use their religion to perform some formerly illegal act of discrimination . . . and watch the fur fly!

Here's an another example, during the recent Ark Park opening there was a group of people protesting against the ark park, something they have a perfectly legal right to do!  In an effort to be prepared, they commissioned Five Star Septic and Portable Toilet Rentals for portable toilets to be sent to the July 7 demonstration. The rental company agreed, but on the day of the demonstration they asked the protesters representative if the toilets were for protesters. Upon learning that they were, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says the rental company denied service.

Now the parent company has issued an apology, but the fundamental question is did that company have the right to refuse service based on the fact it was protesters against a pseudo-religious mockery 'replica'?  I put the 'replica' within single quotes because you cannot be a replica of a fictional boat.   I'm picturing a florist showing up at a wedding and seeing it was a gay wedding taking their flowers and going home.  Where is the line drawn?  A clown who makes a living performing at children's parties joins a religion that specifies minorities as a lesser status.  Can the clown refuse service?  Do you think I am stretching the truth here?

There are already religions that put women in a subservient position, imagine the lawsuits when a manager refuses to promote a woman because that might put her in a supervisory position over men! But these laws may allow them to get away with just that!  Now the glass ceiling may have a religious layer added to it!

You think we have a lot of religions now, just wait until some folks realize if they codify their prejudices into a religion, they can get away with just about anything.

As you can tell, I am against this whole thing!  Civil law is the ONLY place that should govern the behavior of all citizens and it should address those things common to all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs.  In areas where religious beliefs may come into contact with civil law, like Kim Davis, you have a choice . . either uphold the law regardless of personal discomfort . . . or resign your position!  Allowing any one religion to overturn civil law is a huge mistake, but one politicians are willing to make if it means a few more votes in their pocket.

This is going to get even uglier before it gets much better, but it's a fight we need to win or each and every person in this country is in danger of becoming a second class citizen every time they run into someone of a different religion.  We'll start seeing aisles in supermarkets marked by religion because some religions are uncomfortable handling certain food items.  At the motor vehicle registration department I can already see two lines, one for men and one for women because some religions don't believe women should be allowed to drive so therefor any clerk who supports that religion shouldn't be made to serve women!  Will we start seeing even more segregated schools again?  Public schools based on religion?

Where can you draw the line?  I don't think you can, but pandering politicos won't tell you that because they are less interested in civil rights, but in votes to keep themselves in power.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Discovery Institute is again claiming "More Scientists Praise Douglas Axe's Undeniable"

Late last week I posted "Are Scientists really saying nice things about Doug Axe's new Book? Seriously?" in which we discussed how davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, of the Discovery Institute (DI), was claiming how scientists are saying very positive things about Doug Axe's new book "Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed".  If you recall klingy found three 'scientists' to say nice things and forgot to mention that the three were already deeply involved with the DI and their pet version of Creationism, Intelligent Design (ID), one was even a Senior Fellow at the DI.

Today klingy posted a new article "More Scientists Praise Douglas Axe's Undeniable", now you know I can't just take his word for it.  But before that, I want to quote klingy:

"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."
Do you see what he's doing here?  In one line he tries to denigrate scientists and claiming that we all can make our own judgments . . . sure . . . let's all go build a new rocket, after all, we are all rocket scientists . . . or let me perform knee replacement surgery on my wife . . after all,  . . . do you see where I am going?  This has been a recent theme in klingy, and the DI's postings.  Trying to tell people their opinion on scientific matters is just as good as actual scientists.  Why would they do this?

It's simple . . . when you don't have any science to support you, you have to rely on something else.  This tactic wants people to go with their own opinions, their 'intuition' and not give any credence to the people who are deeply educated and who study the subject at hand on a daily basis.  So . . . how many of you are going to take your car to a psychic the next time it breaks down?  Let's ignore MD's because they can't know as much as we do about disease and medicine, can they?  After all 'we are all scientists', right?  BTW, guess what the topic of Doug's book?  Yup!

OK, back to the immediate subject, are these 'scientists' also known supporters of the DI and ID?  Let's find out.  Here are the three, along with the credentials klingy posted:
  • Russell W. Carlson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Georgia
  • Matti Leisola, D.Sc., Professor Emeritus of Bioprocess Engineering, Aalto University, Finland
  • Mark C. Biedebach, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Long Beach
On the surface, it looks like klingy may have something.  I mean Biochemistry, Bioprocess Engineering, and Biological Sciences.  But shall we look a little deeper.
  • Professor Carlson . . . it took me a minute to remember where I had heard that name before.  He was one of the people who testified in Kansas back in 2005.  Do you remember when Kansas was dealing with adopting school standards that would have made it legal to teach religion as science.  They held a hearing on it and it does make interesting reading.  Needless to say, Carlson wasn't on the side of Science.  He's also a signatory of the "Dissent from Darwin" petition, the DI has tried to use so often to cast doubt of the scientific viability of Evolution.  You know, the list that everyone pretty much laughs at.  I think they have topped 800 names and they've only been collecting names since 2001. 

  • Professor Leisola . . . it was harder to find stuff on Matti because so much of it is in Finnish . . . and as a born-and-bred Brooklynite, you are lucky I speak English.  But I did find that Matti is on the editorial team of 'Bio-Complexity'.  Bio-Complexity is the journal of the Biologic Institute, the Discovery Institute's in-house 'lab', and guess who runs it . . . Doug Axe.  Yes, that Doug, the author of the book Matti said nice things about.  Like Carlson, he's another signatory of the Dissent petition.
  • Professor Biedebach . . . There is lots about Mark, just do a quick Google.  I just looked at the first few.  Just like the others, he's is a signatory on the DI's petition.  He's also previously said lots of nice things about one of Stephen C. Meyer's books, "Darwin's Doubt", which we have also discusses many times.  Mark's hooked up with Catherine Crocker, you know one of the martyrs for ID after her contract wasn't renewed at a college because she wasn't teaching the subject she was hired to teach, yea, that one.  Anything else . . . oh look, it looks like he's writing a new lesson plan to revolutionize the teaching of Evolution called Evolution vs Creation and right there on the page it says "Views expressed in the following are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent a position that could be taken by the University, The Department of Biological Sciences, or other faculty."
I think we can safely say these three are not very ringing endorsements for Doug's book.  Like everyone else who the DI has identified as a fan, they already support the DI and ID.  Why doesn't klingy just come out and say so?  At least I would respect if he would make the connections out in the open, but that's too much to expect.

I know why he fails to identify such potential conflicts of interest, because many people will just see the comments and the brief description without digging deeper to realize that the DI is doing what the DI does, it's their version of 'peer review'.  They publish something and get a few folks who already agree to say nice things then they start bragging.  It's one of their favorite tactics and one that means very little.  It took me more time to type this than it did to find out how closely aligned these 'scientists' are to the DI and ID.  I am sure I'm not the only one who will look, and I am also sure I'm not the only one that will be pointing this out to anyone interested.

So, to date, klingy has bragged about 6 people who said nice things about Doug's book . . . and as we found that all 6 have lots of ties to the DI and are known ID supporters . . . and not only that, klingy failed to mention that little fact.  Certainly should make you think.

Most Christians do not agree with AIG!

Interesting article in the Centre Daily Times from State College PA, "Noah's Ark theme park is impressive, but its ‘facts’ don’t hold water".  It's from Tom Eblen, a Christian, and it shows a point of view not mentioned often enough in the news.  There are hundreds, if not over a thousand different Christian denominations and they differ in many things, including doctrine and authority.  Little kennie ham speaks for very few.  What interested me the most is the Tom's description of kennie ham and his belief set [I added the underlines]:

"Answers in Genesis’ young-earth creationism is the product of a strain of evangelical Christianity only about a century old that now seems to thrive on authoritarianism, conservative politics and feelings of persecution."
Authoritarianism, conservative politics, and feelings of persecution!  Wow, did he hit the nail on the head or what?  Think about the authoritarian control kennie has on his followers.  If you don't toe the line, you can't even be hired . . . and his line is absolute!  Conservative politics . . . who pulled Kentucky out of the lawsuit over sales tax incentives?  The new Republican Governor, tea-partier Matt Belvin.  Who how many posts of kennie's do you need to read before you realize what a marketing point he's turned the perceived persecution of Christians into?  It's a common theme of his!  I do have to wonder if he really believe this persecution complex or is it just another tactics of his?

I did like his closing comment, and one I wish would make more news than it ever will.  
"Answers in Genesis has built an impressive ark, and those who believe its theology are welcome to it. For me, though, this pseudo-science doesn’t hold water."
The Ark is news, but the simple fact that most Christians don't agree with kennie on anything he represents to be science gets little mention. Every tactic he uses is designed to confuse and obfuscate the fact that he has nothing but he own belief set without any supporting evidence at all.

Push him hard enough and he falls on "Were you there?" argument against actual science. Well, kennie, were you there when Jesus was born, died, or there in the hundreds of years the Bible was written and re-written? We all know the answer, but he will never admit it.  You see to kennie, it doesn't matter that he wasn't there personally, after all God was there.  But when it comes to science, the fact a person wasn't personally there mean it can't possible be true.  Such a ridiculous rationalization, but one he uses . . . religiously.

What little kennie reminds me of, and this is also why I refer to him as little kennie, is a toddler throwing a tantrum.  I once watching a toddler throw an absolute fit because Mom wouldn't buy him candy.  She was very firm and them I watched this  . . . probably about 4 to 5 year old . . . throw a fit and announce to the world how mean his mommy was and how unfair it was . . . he actually used the word 'unfair' which surprised me.  Intelligently, Mom picked him up and took him out of the store.  I don't know what happened after that, but if it had been one of my daughters . . . they might be sitting gingerly for a while and candy would not have been on the foreseeable horizon.

But in all seriousness, that's what little kennie reminds me of.  Suggest public school shouldn't visit his church . . . and you get a tantrum with lots of name-calling.  Withhold tax money because he reneged on his promise to uphold non-discriminatory hiring practices and you get a tantrum and a lawsuit . . . the list is endless.  Anytime you disagree with kennie, you are anti-religious regardless of fact you might believe in a completely different religious tradition.  Little kennie doesn't care, you are either supporting him or he claims you are some sort of atheist anti-religious zealot, he's a toddler who uses the concept of a deity to get his way.

If you disagree with my comment as to most Christians disagree with kennie, just look up the Clergy Letter Project and see the various denominations supporting it.  Right there is one major area where kennie is way out of step with the clear majority of Christianity.  As the author put it, it's their theology . . . I would add that they are welcome to it, because I sure don't want it . . . but their pseudo-science doesn't hold water, and neither will their ark 'replica'.  [Quotes added because you cannot make a replica of something that never existed.]

Friday, July 15, 2016

Follow up on the Ark Park

Here's a quick follow-up to "The 'Ark Park' is not an Educational Institution! Nor is its purpose Recreational or Historical!"

Kennie Ham has double-downed his whine toward the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  He's offering public school who organize a field trip a price decrease.  Instead of $28 per child, they can get preached at for $1.00 a child and the accompanying teacher can get in for free.  Imagine that, a 96% price decrease.  How incredible, it must be a miracle!

And, yet another bout of discrimination, and this one is against his own believers.  If your parochial school organizes a field trip, you get to pay full price.  Yes, a public school trip of 20 students and two teachers will run $20, but a Christian school trip will run $640, $28 per child and $40 each for the teachers.  I guess you don't need to cut believers a break.  We now know who kennie really, really wants to visit his church, don't we?  Believers get to foot the bill so he can preach to children who don't share his narrow worldview.

Here's what I see happening.  The majority of teachers and schools will ignore kennie's monument to himself.  But a few might get caught up in his delusion.  While you would normally assume teachers would know better, there are always instances where a teacher is also a believer of such fervor, that sense is overwhelmed by their religious beliefs.  Just ask John Freshwater and a pair of teachers  I read about just today concerning a school in Texas:
" . . . complaint alleged that one teacher showed the Christian movie, “God’s Not Dead,” to his ninth-grade health class in the spring of 2015 and other another showed a documentary about the theory of intelligent design to a ninth-grade biology class."
when a science teacher said they didn't believe in evolution and showed their students "Expelled!" and also the Christian movie "God is not Dead!" (source)
At least one parent, probably more, will object and find a lawyer.  The school system could very well end up in a costly litigation, something like the Dover Trial . . . and guess what that would cost little kennie . . . not one damn dime.  Plus he will get hours of airtime and inches of newspaper columns of free publicity.  Hopefully it won't come to that, but some teacher will probably put his religious beliefs ahead of his duties as a public school teacher and not only lower the education standard of their students, but place their school system in a precarious legal position!

I wonder what the DI is going to say about any of this?  I imagine they will be cheering kennie on, after all it won't cost them anything if Kentucky loses.  I wonder how many Kentucky lawmakers are they hitting up with a copy of their 'academic freedom' bill?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Are Scientists really saying nice things about Doug Axe's new Book? Seriously?

One of the common themes the Discovery Institute is constantly rallying against is 'scientific consensus'.  Their group complains pretty loudly about how bad it is when scientists agree, because that is the path to intolerance and censorship . . . well you know the whine.  However, they also do like to publish claims about 'scientists' who agree with them.  Does anyone else find this amusing?  Scientific consensus is a bad thing, unless they are agreeing with us then it something to crow about!  But, as expected, what we are seeing here isn't really consensus among a group of actual scientists, all we have is typical DI spin.

Here's the post, by 'our favorite' little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer: "Axe and Undeniable -- What the Scientists Are Saying".  Before looking at the article, re-read the title.  The words that jumped out at me are 'the Scientists'.  So the question that follows is did a group of actual scientists say positive things about Doug's book on how intuition is more viable than rational thought when it comes to forming scientific conclusions?  Now read the article and you will find that there was no large group of scientists, there wasn't even a small group . . . what you have is several -- which is defined as more than two but not many.

As the Sensuous Curmudgeon pointed out, it's three . . . yes . . . three, which does meet the definition of several, but just barely.  I can see why they wouldn't accurately report it as "Few Scientists say nice things about Doug and his latest religious tract" . . . after all that would be a counterproductive spin.  But klingy implies more than just several by using 'the Scientists!

But here is the kicker, it's not just three . . . it's three who already agree with the DI and their many marketing schemes of the past.
  • Michael Behe, who klingy forgot to mention is a Senior Fellow of the DI.  
  • Marcos Eberlin, Professor of Chemistry at Brazil’s University of Campinas and the author of 'Life and the Universe by Intelligent Design'.  
  • J. Scott Turner, Professor of Biology, State University of New York and someone previously identified as an ID supporter by none other than casey luskin himself.
Three current advocates of the DI and Intelligent Design (ID) support Doug.  That's a huge drop from the implied 'Scientists' to three already true believers, don't you think?  But it does repeat a common DI theme: one of the DI publishes a book and they gather a few of their current supporters and elicit comments they can publicize.  I remember commenting on this before, "That's it? An admission of failure?", where, if you recall, I listed a bunch of editorial reviews for one of Stephen C. Meyer's less laudable books -- although finding one that is actually laudable might be a stretch.  The list of 'reviews' was seriously stacked with DI and ID supporters:
  •  Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lonnig, senior scientist emeritus (biologist) at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.  Isn't he on the editorial board of 'Bio-Complexity', the DI in-house pro-ID journal.  He's written often for the DI and even been interviewed by casey luskin!  LOL!
  • Dr. Mark McMenamin, paleontologist at Mt. Holyoke College and coauthor of 'The Emergence of Animals'.  And a long term critic of evolutionary theory.
  • Dr. Norman C. Nevin OBE, BSc, MD, FRCPath, FFPH, FRCPE, FRCP; Professor Emeritus in Medical Genetics, Queen's University, Belfast.  Currently Nevin is President of the Centre for Intelligent Design in Scotland, sort of a low-rent version of the Discovery Institute.  I wrote about Nevin in "Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!"
  • Dr. Richard Weikart, Professor of History at California State University, Stanislaus; Author of 'From Darwin to Hitler'.  Did he forget to put on his resume that he's a senior fellow at the DI?
  • Dr. Matti Leisola, Professor, Bioprocess Engineering, Aalto University, Finland (emeritus); Editor-in-chief, Bio-Complexity.  Bio-Complexity is the in-house journal of the Biologic Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of the DI, in other words their pet lab.
  • George Gilder, Technologist, economist, and New York Times bestselling author.  Who is, among other things a founding member of the Discovery Institute, a Senior Fellow at the DI, and also cited 129 times in the article database.
As you can see, the deck was stacked. You might also recall that Stephen [C. Meyer] was once claiming this about one of his ID books:
"First, the scientific community is not uniformly opposed to ID. My recent book on the subject received enthusiastic endorsements from many scientists not previously known as advocates of ID, such as chemist Philip Skell, a National Academy of Sciences member, and Norman Nevin, one of Britain's top geneticists."
I responded to this with:
"In my humble opinion Stephen C. Meyer is a liar. According to this quote Meyer states that Philip Skell and Norman Nevin were not previously advocates of Intelligent Design. Let's set the record straight, Skell is a Signatory of the very discredited "A Dissent From Darwinism", the list used in Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns in an attempt to discredit evolution and bolster claims that intelligent design is scientifically valid by claiming that evolution lacks broad scientific support. Meyer is a liar, Skell may not have published a pro-ID fluff piece, but he is an advocate. Nevin is a supporter of "Truth in Science" a United Kingdom-based organization which promotes the "Teach the Controversy" campaign. It uses this strategy to try to get intelligent design taught alongside evolution in school science lessons. Meyer is once again, in my opinion, lying!"
What I find most amusing is that this time around, klingy could only round-up three?  What are the rest of them doing?  Trying to teach Donald Trump the intricacies of Intelligent Design?  Normally that would take about five minutes, but we are talking about 'the donald'.  The DI should be practiced at this, a while back they taught all of it to Ann Coulter, who then screwed it all up in another bombastic book.

In any event, there you have it.  The DI is really scraping up support for Doug and his effort to replace rational thought with feelings.  But instead of asking real scientists, maybe even objective scientists, they gather 'several' known ID supporters and stack the deck again.  And they wonder why real scientific journals don't take them seriously?

The 'Ark Park' is not an Educational Institution! Nor is its purpose Recreational or Historical!

Make no mistake about it, in kennie ham's own words, his 'Ark Encounter' is a ministry, nothing more and nothing less.  He said it back in 2011 when he posted for one of his earliest Ark Park job openings:

The first paragraph of the Summary section is a little hard to read, here is what it says:
"Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
Those are his words, not mine.  I just added the underlining for a little emphasis. Back a couple of weeks ago, kennie wrote this about the reasons he built his ark:
"Yes, our motive is to do the King’s business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith, . . ."
So when you think of his ark park, in fact when you think of his pseudo-museum as well, you have to think an incredibly narrow Evangelical Christianity viewpoint and, most certainly, a ministry.

That being said, should public school students visit either his ark park or his pseudo-museum on school trips?

Let's ask it a slightly different, but more accurate way.  Would you support your local public school making a school trip to a Catholic Church for Mass? 

Of course not!  Don't get annoyed for me picking out the Catholic Church, I figured it was better to have a specific religion in the question, because that makes a much better analogy to Ham's places of worship.  So why would you send them to ham's church to be preached at?  That's what it is, isn't it? It's a ministry for preaching the gospel.  Plus, if you have ever visited his pseudo-museum you know it's not even the gospel of Christianity, but it's the gospel according to kennie ham.

OK, as reported over on The Panda's Thumb, "Atheist group warns public schools against field trips to Ark Park …", the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a “warning” to more than 1000 school districts in Kentucky and neighboring states, advising them against field trips to the Ark Park. Of course, kennie had to respond . . . nothing really unexpected.  But what bothered me was how he tried to re-label his ark park . . . here is a quote:
"To repeat: as long as a school trip fits an educational, recreational, or historical purpose, for example, it would be constitutionally appropriate."
So, instead of being a ministry, now he is claiming educational, historical, and recreational purposes? Do you, or anyone, actually believe a visit to ham's ark park or pseudo-museum has a purpose that is educational, recreational, or historical?  Seriously?  Look at his original purpose, "edifying believersevangelizing the lostpreaching the gospel and defending the faith."  Again, his words, not mine.  He's a garden variety preacher, selling his religion, and gets really whiny when anyone reminds him of that.  If he hadn't spent other people's money to build this monument to his own ego, he would have a revival tent somewhere.

He not only has a license to discriminate against Kentucky workers who don't share his religious beliefs, now he wants public schools to fund trips to his ministry so he can market his incredibly narrow set of religious beliefs to students, claiming educational -- of only his personal religion, historical -- of a flood that has no evidence of actually happening, or recreational -- people always have so much fun being preached at, don't they?

I have said it before and I have to say it again.  Kennie Ham's idea of religious freedom is not based on the Constitution, not matter he claims, nor is it based on even the idea of actual religious freedom.  He doesn't want anyone to have the freedom to believe as they wish, he demands that everyone believe as he does!  And if you don't wish to give him the opportunity to preach to school children, he calls you an 'antireligious zealot'.  Zealotry, bigotry, and discrimination seem to be the hallmarks of kennie and his ilk, not those who don't wish to give him free reign in his preaching.

I hope public schools keep as far away from his religious zealotry as possible.  Even if you share some of his beliefs.  A visit to one of his 'edifices to himself' isn't to share your common ground, but so he can tell you how wrong you are because you don't share all of his beliefs, narrow as they are

Good luck Kentucky!  You let him build this foolishness in your state.  The question I have is are you going to continue to support it, especially after giving him a license to discriminate?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Discovery Institute is 'monkeying' around with a new survey

We've discussed this penchant for surveys by the Discovery Institute (DI) before (here and here).  If you remember, my issue was how they like to poll with very innocuous sounding phrases and then spin the results and claim it shows some sort of support for one position or another.  Most often it's to denigrate science and science education and this poll is a perfect example!  "Scientists Versus the Public on Airing Scientific Dissent", by little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer.

This time around, the DI presented a series of statements and asked some group of people through Survey Monkey to rate them on a 4-level scale,  'strongly agree', 'agree', 'disagree', or 'strongly disagree' with the statement.  Here are the statements from their latest poll (source):

  1. Teachers and students should have the academic freedom to objectively discuss both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution.
  2. Scientists who raise scientific criticisms of evolution should have the freedom to make their arguments without being subjected to censorship or discrimination.
  3. Attempts to censor or punish scientists for holding dissenting views on issues such as evolution or climate change are not appropriate in a free society.
  4. It is important for policymakers and the public to hear from scientists with differing views.
  5. People can disagree about what science says on a particular topic without being ‘antiscience.’
  6. Disagreeing with the current majority view in science can be an important step in the development of new insights and discoveries in science.
Now while the wording seems pretty basic, what do these phrases imply?  Here is how I see it:
  1. That teachers and students do not currently have the freedom to objectively discuss both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution.
  2. That scientists do not have the freedom to raise scientific criticisms of evolution.
  3. That holding a dissenting view results in censorship and punishment.
  4. The policymakers and the public do not hear dissenting views.
  5. Anyone who holds a disagreement are labeled as 'anti-science'.
  6. The since dissenting views are not allowed, there haven't been any new insights of new discoveries in science.

Now, you might think I am reading these implications into the survey; however, if that weren't true then this latest post from the DI, also by klingy, would never been written.  "Evolution's Enforcers Are Waaaaay Out of Step with Public Opinion".  Klingy is confirming that according to the DI, there is no freedom to discuss, dissent, or hold opposing views.

So the real question is not whether or not you agree with the DI's statements, but whether or not the implications of their statements reflect reality.  What do you think?

First of all students and teachers discuss scientific criticism of any scientific theory, including evolution, all the time.  The key here is scientific criticism.  Granted high school science classes might not have the time, nor resources, to spend a great deal of time on scientific criticisms, they still have the academic freedom to do so.

In fact, have you heard of a single person being censored or punished for discussing scientific criticisms?  Not at any public or secular schools!  The DI likes to trot out a list of people, like Guillermo Gonzalez, Catherine Crocker, and Richard Sternberg.  But anyone who examines those cases soon realizes that these folks weren't dealing with scientific criticisms, just run-of-the-mill religious criticisms dressed up in an ill-fitting lab coat.  Their religion either prevented them from doing their job, or interfered with them doing their job, in any event they were held accountable . . . not for their beliefs, but not doing their job!  Unlike the DI's rogues gallery, there have been quite a few cases of teachers being punished and censored from teaching real science! Chris Comer and Tom Oord's situations come to immediate mind.

Now I have another name I wanted to mention, one I have discussed on numerous occasions, William Dembski.  If you recall Dembski figured in a number of  . . . incidents  . . . centered around his support of ID and Creationism.  One of the ones I mentioned a while ago was how quickly Wild Bill changed his tune about the reality of Noah's Flood.  Here is the write-up in Wikipedia (I added the underlines):
"While serving as a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dembski wrote The End of Christianity, which argued that a Christian can reconcile an old Earth creationist view with a literal reading of Adam and Eve in the Bible by accepting the scientific consensus of a 4.5 billion year of Earth.  He further argued that Noah's flood likely was a phenomenon limited to the Middle East.  This caused controversy and Dembski's reading of the Bible was criticized by Tom Nettles, a young Earth creationist, in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Southern Seminary's official theological journal.  In 2010, the dean of Southwestern's School of Theology, David Allen, "released a White Paper through the seminary's Center for Theological Research defending Dembski as within the bounds of orthodoxy and critiquing Nettles for misunderstanding the book. The paper included Dembski's statement admitting error regarding Noah's flood."  Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson, a young Earth creationist, "said that when Dembski's questionable statements came to light, he convened a meeting with Dembski and several high-ranking administrators at the seminary. At that meeting, Dembski was quick to admit that he was wrong about the flood. "'Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school,' he said." (Wikipedia: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary flood controversy)
Now the reason I want to remind you of that is because just a couple of days ago the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported this: "Dembski and the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind".  In it they quote Dembski about that particular controversy:
"this entire incident left so bad a taste in my mouth that I resolved to leave teaching, leave the academy, and get into a business for myself, in which my income would not depend on political correctness or, for that matter, theological correctness."
Interesting turn of phrase, Theological Correctness.  So while we have a certain amount of imagined censorship and punishment for dissent of current science on the part of the DI, and yet when we find actual censorship and punishment we find even people who are ID supporters who have to toe a fundamentalist line or find themselves unemployed because they were not fundie enough!  So which side is actually guilty of censorship and punishment for dissenting views?  Certainly doesn't look like it's science, does it?

Back to the survey statements themselves.  It's obvious that they are designed (pun intended) to make you think such freedom to discuss, criticize, or dissent doesn't exist, but once you remember the whole purpose in life of the DI you can see why they want you to think so.  In the past, when has the DI ever been an advocate of academic freedom?  Look at the text and purpose of their so-called 'Academic Freedom' bills.  The purpose of such bills, which have been defeated is all but two states that have tried to pass one, is to weaken science education and allow their religion (Creationism/Intelligent Design (ID)) to wedge its way into the curriculum.  That's not made up . . that is their stated goal!

Barbra Forrest, you might remember her from the Dover Trial, just yesterday (July 7, 2016) had this to say about one of those bills:
" . . . the deceptively titled “Louisiana Science Education Act” was promoted exclusively by the Louisiana Family Forum, a right-wing religious lobbying group that has promoted creationism since its founding, and the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design creationist think tank in Seattle. The law is an attempt to evade the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which nullified a 1981 Louisiana law that required teaching creationism in public schools."("Letters: Here are the facts on La.’s Science Education Act")

Simple question, if a car mechanic refused to actually repair cars, should the garage who hired them keep them on the payroll?  Again, that's what the DI wants.  They hate the fact that people like Gonzales and Crocker were held accountable for their actions because they were failing in the job they were hired to do!  The list of all the supposed 'victims' of censorship and discrimination that the DI likes to wave around can all be traced back to their unwillingness or inability to do their job! That's not censorship or discrimination!  How much would car repairs cost of you had to help pay the salaries of people who 'worked' at the garage but who didn't perform any duties that fall under the heading of work?

I do like how they changed things after the second survey statement.  Did you notice how they dropped the word 'scientific'?  Just as an exercise, tuck it back in and see how it changes the meaning of the sentence.  Scientists who hold dissenting 'scientific' views should not be censored or punished . . . now have you noticed that at no time does the DI identify anyone who has been censored or punished for holding a dissenting scientific view?  So in their words, a dissenting view, regardless of its scientific viability, is just as important as a non-dissenting view.  So Astrology is an viable as Astronomy, Chemistry to Alchemy,  . . . you see where such a list can end.  Next thing you know we will be requiring our Math teachers to teach Numerology and Architects to cover Feng Shui.

People disagree with science all the time.  It's not the disagreement that makes someone like Jenny McCarthy 'anti-science', it's the snake oil she's peddling in its place that is anti-science.  There is no evidence that supports vaccines cause autism, none!  Jenny is anti-science!  The DI is anti-science, not because they disagree with science, but because they want to put their religion in its place.  Look at the tactics of people like McCarthy and the DI.  They don't promote their own ideas as much as they attack actual science with nothing but marketing, unsupported ideas, and lots of politicking.  Yes, they are anti-science not because they disagree, but because how what they do and say in what they are offering in its place.

For example my daughter is questioning the need for my granddaughter to receive the HPV vaccine.  She is questioning based on several specific things, like how the vaccine only protects from a small set of viruses, and not the more common ones and how HPV and the related cancers do not run in either side of my granddaughter's family tree.  What she isn't doing is raising irresponsible and outright lies about vaccines in general, but she has some specific concerns.  It doesn't make her anti-science, what it does do is make her cautious and wants to discuss it further with a actual medical professional before making a decision.  The applicable label isn't 'anti-science', but 'parent'.

The final statement of theirs is equally ridiculous, scientists criticize current scientific theories all the time.  That's where new scientific advances come from.  So again, I agree with the bare-bones statement.  But it's not the dissenting opinion that brings about new advances in science.  It's the scientists who put in the actual scientific work to support their views that end up becoming new advances in science.  Name me one scientific advance that is solely based on having a dissenting view?  There isn't one!  But this sort of statement is typical of the DI.  They are either unwilling or unable to do the real science to support their ideas . . . so they imply that no one is allowed to have a dissenting view, simply because no one takes them seriously because their dissenting view is not based on science, but on theology.

In closing this much longer than intended post, I recall something from a few years back, a quote from the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR), in Cambridge UK, also doesn't believe ID to be science. They go even further and say it's also bad religion!

Read this article for yourself, and it contains a link to their actual statement: "Leading science and theology scholars reject 'intelligent design' " I have to quote the article here:
"The concept of intelligent design is, says the report, “neither sound science nor good theology.” The authors do not attempt to specify precisely how they believe the religious believer can speak of God’s action as creator – a question on which they may differ among themselves. They are united, however, in resisting what they call “the insistence of intelligent-design advocates that their enterprise be taken as genuine science . . ."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Ark Park and the Kentucky Governor

Someone questioned a comment I made in a recent post and I wanted to clear that up. I said:

"Little kennie ham, with the help of a newly elected Republican Kentucky Governor, have once again made fools of the people of Kentucky and is opening an exhibit to showcase his narrow theological views and potentially leaving the people of Kentucky to pay for it . . . especially if his highly suspect attendance projections come in more like the reality of his other abortion, the Creation 'Museum'. " (This blog: Kennie's Ark Park about to Open, Sorry Kentucky! I feel your pain!)
The question was the involvement of the Kentucky Governor. Well just this morning I was thinking about how to address it when I read a perfect response from the Sensuous Curmudgeon. He was quoting little kennie is his whine over the reporting by I mentioned his whine in my own post, but I didn't pull any quotes from it. Well SC's post (Ken Ham Rants About “Biased” Ark News) pulled this quote from kennie:
"Yes, the Ark Encounter has the opportunity through Kentucky’s tourism incentive program to receive a future rebate of sales taxes that it generates at our theme park up to $18.25 million over a 10-year period after it opens. (And as the writer did correctly state, the right of the Ark Encounter to participate in this program was upheld in federal court.)"
When I originally read this from kennie, I knew he was overstating the case.  SC wrote the perfect response and I just have to quote it here:
"Ah yes — the legendary court victory. But as we keep reminding you, it didn’t happen that way. Early in the case, long before the trial began, the judge issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from denying the tax goodies. That is sometimes done to preserve the status quo in order to prevent damage being done until the case can be decided. At that point, the Governor stepped in and caused the state to withdraw from the case. It wasn’t a court victory on the merits of Hambo’s case; it was an embarrassing incident of lexus interruptus. "
Little kennie's case never went to trial  Other than political posturing, and kennie lying about upholding anti-discrimination laws, there was actually little done other than the temporary injunction, which it pretty typical in these type of cases.  The judge doesn't want any changes made until they go through all the legal hoops.  But after the election of a new Republican Governor, the State pulled out.  Little kennie did not win his case, nothing was upheld.  The Governor simply rolled over, in what I think was nothing but typical political pandering.  Just like he did when he kowtowed to Kim Davis on her refusal to do her job and issue legal marriage licenses.