Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Little Kennie Ham is Having a Tantrum (Again!)

Apparently little kennie is upset because someone connected his words with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Here's one of the many articles that offended him: "Hurricanes punish us for gay rights? Who decided that?"  There are a number of Christians who have been blaming the recent hurricanes on many of the things they have decided are sinful, particularly homosexuality.  According the little kennie, he was unfairly lumped in with that group.  Here's the offending quote:

"Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee and now Ken Hamm of Answers in Genesis and the Ark Park state without reservation that disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are God’s punishment for homosexuality."
To be fair, kennie didn't specifically say that Harvey and Irma were caused by homosexual behavior.  Not in those precise words.  However, what has he said about hurricanes just a couple of weeks ago (My underlining for emphasis):
"Devastating Hurricanes-reminder we live in a fallen groaning world as a result of our sin against a Holy God-it's our fault not God's fault" (Sep 6, 2017 tweet)
So what is kennie's opinion of Homosexuality?  
  • Well back a few years ago two men were denied entry into a AIG event because they were assumed to be gay.  They weren't as the multitude of articles can attest, but that didn't stop kennie and his folks at one of his ministries from denying them entrance to an event for which they bought tickets.  
  • There are a huge numbers of posts and articles about Homosexuality on his many websites and blogs.  Boiled down, he tries that old trope about love the sinner and hate the sin.  In other words people can be as gay as they want, as long as they don't perform anything that can be construed as a homosexual act, that's the sin according to little kennie.
  • Here are a couple of quotes from little kennie, again I underlined the most interesting parts:
So if kennie views homosexual behavior as a sin, and hurricanes are the result of sin, doesn't that lump kennie in with those pseudo-Christians who claim Harvey and Irma was caused by such sins?  So while he may not have used those specific words, he is certainly a member of that group.

This certainly isn't the first time religious zealots have used natural disasters to drum up support and, more than likely, donations.  I recall Pat Robertson tried something similar about Haiti in 2010 when a devastating earthquake struck the country.  I'm not sure if you will remember, but Robertson even predicted a disaster for Dover PA in 2005:
"Conservative Christian television evangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them yesterday not to be surprised if disaster struck." (Robertson Says Town Rejects God)
So it's a pretty common theme. I recall a post from 2010 about an Iranian cleric claiming "Women's promiscuity and revealing clothing causes earthquakes".  I guess Iran being located in an Earthquake prone region has nothing to do with it.  Anyone else remember Jen McCreight's "Boobquake"?

I'm a little surprised kennie is trying to separate himself from the group, it's not like he's suddenly changed his mind on sin?  While it would be fun to claim his Rainbow lights on his ark park ministry is a sudden show of support for LGBT rights, it's not, he's trying to re-claim the rainbow for his version of evangelical pseudo-Christianity.

Bottom line is simple, anyone actually believe little kennie doesn't belong in the same group as the rest of the pseudo-Christians who want to blame natural disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, on sin and homosexuality?  I didn't think so!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

So You Want to Know What's Wrong With Religion?

When I first read this post, I was so hoping it was phony, but it sure doesn't look that way: "Air Force Chaplain writes article claiming that Christian servicemen "serve Satan" by demonstrating respect for other religions."

Yes, the USAF, who I was proud to be a member of for over 20 years, has a Chaplain encouraging members to not support the Constitution of the United States.  Not only is this individual a Chaplain, but he's stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, my last duty assignment before retiring.

The original article is from Newsweek, I caught it off of "The Immoral Minority", one of the blogs I read religiously (pun intended).  What this tells me is that the Chaplain is committing a Courts-Martial offense.  Or did he have his fingers crossed when he swore this oath:

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’
Simply put, he has allowed his religious beliefs to trump (pun not intended, but fitting) the responsibilities he swore when he accepted his commission as an officer of the USAF.  It's apparently long past time for him to be held accountable.

When I was in the service, I didn't have a great deal of contact with chaplains, as you can probably tell due to my apathy toward religion in general.  But the ones I did cross paths with, usually as part of dealing with personnel issues, were professional in their duties -- regardless of the particular religious beliefs of the people they interacted with while carrying out those duties.

Writing an article filled with such comments as this:
"Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home—which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right." 
"Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived. "
Statements such as these are in direct violation of the oaths all service members swear and writing this article should put a swift end to his responsibilities as an officer in the USAF.  I have to wonder about this from the USAF FAQ page:
Q: Can someone who is openly gay, lesbian or bisexual join the Air Force?
A: Yes. Air Force applicants are not asked nor required to reveal their sexual orientation. At the same time, statements about sexual orientation will not be a bar to military service or admission to service academies, ROTC or any other accession program. Openly gay, lesbian or bisexual applicants will be evaluated according to the same criteria and requirements applicable to all others seeking entry into the military.
He certainly doesn't comply with current rules and regulations, I have to wonder about what he would  say on this?

In any event, this chaplain isn't acting as a chaplain...and if you disagree, you might take a look at the online comments the article has received, nearly 300 so fr between Newsweek, Facebook, and the BarbedWire site itself.  The best part is the comments are overwhelming against the soon to be unemployed (I hope) chaplain. Here are a couple of examples:
"How deeply offensive. The role of a Military Chaplain is to ensure and support the religious, spiritual or meaning-making practice of EVERY Service Member. Proselytizing or demonization of other traditions by necessity requires they resign their post and find a different way to serve. Mr Hernandez should resign or be removed from his post. Such belief is shameful in the face of Christ's teachings and how a Chaplain serves." 
"If your religious beliefs come before the Constitution you shouldn't be in the military."
In fact the only poster who seems to support the Chaplain is an obnoxious little internet troll who spends more time calling people names than supporting his position. For example when one poster said this:
"As my mother would have said, "bushwah!"
The Chaplain's supporter responded with an ad hominen attack:
"mother" ???????????
ewwwwwwwwwwww
Poor woman. Nine months wasted."
Such a perfect example of everything that is wrong with religion!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Imaginative . . . sort of

Just recently one of the DI's Senior Fellows referred to Evolution as:

"merely a loose collection of narratives that are forged to fit the evidence"
I don't recall which talking head said that, we discussed it here.  I would like to introduce you to something that fits that description considerably better. In this post, also from the DI, "Intelligent Design Changes Everything, Thanks to You!".  What post is about is a plea for donations, but the 'loose collection of narratives' is how they try and sell this idea of contributing to the mis-education of America.

They create an imaginary family visiting a museum:
"Imagine taking your family to a museum where you are transported back to prehistoric times. In every direction are recreations of creatures you’ve only seen in books. Unfortunately, in every direction there are placards informing your family that fossil succession, biogeography, homology, and natural selection prove that evolution is responsible for these amazing creatures and their modern day counterparts…including you."
This family just happened to run into Stephen C. Meyer, one of the DI senior guys and have an imaginary conversation:
"He tells you that the sudden appearance of the Cambrian creatures cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution. Rather, the reams of information needed to create these novel life forms point to intelligent design. You’ve never heard of this theory before, but his explanation makes total sense."
Here's where things take an even more imaginary turn, the family thinks that Meyer's imaginative stories, stories that have been shown to be false and the product of poor scholarship, makes total sense? That's the unbelievable part.  They are surrounded by museum artifacts, items supporting the evidence of evolution and biology -- items that are so cavalierly dismissed by Meyer.

No one at the DI seems to think it might be a little weird having a stranger preach to you something without a shred of evidence and then they claim it 'makes total sense'. While they seem to want us to believe this really happened to a family at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta.  I have serious doubts.  Aside from rarely trusting anything the DI talking heads like to say, I would find this much more credible if it happened at the Creation pseudo-museum in Kentucky.  At a real museum, it's much harder to believe.

They further compound the story by having them run into another DI talking head.  Talk about stretching credibility.  This time they claim that the family's son had his picture taken with Meyer.  Sure, that's just the kind of thing you do with strangers at museums, let your child get his picture taken with a complete stranger who just finished preaching his religion to you.

But even if this did happen, I bet Stephen failed to mention a few things, like:
  • How his book has been completely dismissed by actual Paleontologists due to his failure to actually understand or reference any real paleontology.
  • How there is no debate about Evolution within the scientific community, only a cultural debate driven by religious beliefs.
  • How a US Federal Court ruled Intelligent Design was Creationism re-labeled, and that the  judge who made that ruling was a Conservative  by a Republican President. 
  • How, even after opening their own lab, they have failed to produce any evidential support for their ideas.
  • How, even after opening their own publishing group, have failed to gain any traction in academic circles -- and their response to that is claiming a centuries-long, multi-cultural and multi-national conspiracy against them as the reason for their failure.
  • How his organization continually uses tactics like lying, quote-mining, re-defining real science in order to keep financial support coming in.
No, I doubt Stephen would have mentioned any of that.  No, he told them a very loose and unsupported narrative that appealed their their religious sensibilities and then claimed they thought it was a life changing experience.

So just what is life changing about Meyer and his claims?  To date, what, if any, life changes have come about due to Intelligent Design?  Are there any scientific advances based on it?  Are there any new actual scientific theories because of it?  Has anyone invented anything that uses it?  Has a single medical treatment or medicine been developed based on their pseudo-scientific religion?  There is nothing life changing about ID, other than your wallet being a bit slimmer if you cough up a donation.

If it had been my family, I would have been laughing at Meyer and would have kept him away from my children.  Even if he had managed to corner them, I would enjoy watching one of my daughters take him down with a look of either sheer incredulity or significant laughter.  Even better to see the face of one of my nieces, who is majoring in Biology, as she cuts him off a the knees.  I don't know of a family member who studied paleontology, so it might not have been a clean sweep.

Meyer might have tried to engage in a debate, but that would be a waste of time.  DI's folks don't debate, they pontificate and obfuscate, they don't seriously engage in a debate.  They prefer to tell you both sides of the cultural debate, of course heavily bent in one direction while build strawmen out of science for the express purpose of knocking them down and claiming a victory.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Does the Discovery Institute Understand Scientific Methodology At All? Apparently Not!

I've explained this many times, but it bears repeating because the Discovery Institute continues to trot out the same erroneous arguments.  An analogy of a Scientific Theory is that it is like a snapshot in time.  It is the best explanation based on the available evidence we have right now.  In the future, as we learn more, scientific theories change.  While the DI likes to brand this as a weakness, it's actually one of its strengths.  If it were incapable of change, we certainly wouldn't have gone to the Moon, flown a single balloon -- let alone an airplane, nor cured and eliminated many diseases.

In this latest post, new evidence is changing some of the theories around evolution and the DI is complaining.  There complaint goes like this:  Since science is changeable, it means it's wrong, and therefore cannot be counted on.

Here's the post: "With Two New Fossils, Evolutionists Rewrite Narratives to Accommodate Conflicting Evidence".  Without even going into the post, you can see the complaint.  That's why I have to question an organization claiming to be a scientific organization not understanding how science works.  But when you see the DI for what it really is, a religious ministry, it's not so hard to understand.

If you do read the post, it's little new, except for this little gem:

"Dubious procedures like these would be unthinkable in other natural sciences, such as physics."
Yes, Physics and the other hard sciences make no allowances for new discoveries at all.  Scientific theories in Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Astronomy . . . never change when something new is discovered, really?  So Nobel Prizes are awarded for what?  Maintaining the status quo?  I can hear the announcement from Stockholm now "And the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2018 goes to John Smith, for doing nothing at all!" and everyone applauds, except for me -- I mean, I did nothing in Physics at all, so where is my Nobel?

I do find is funny that this post uses Physics as it's example because the DI has frequently poked at Physics, as well as most of the rest of the hard sciences.  Usually they are trying to tear down support for Biology from any of the other sciences, but equally as often they are trying to use new discoveries in those science to disprove biology.  Funny because in this post they claim that the other hard sciences don't change with new discoveries, and yet when new discoveries are made they try and twist it into something against Biology.

Anyone with a functioning brain knows that a scientific theory is not:
"merely a loose collection of narratives that are forged to fit the evidence"
That's what the DI would like people to believe.  Which is why they like using such disreputable tactics as "It's Only a Theory" and calling Evolution 'Darwinism', both designed to make Evolution appear to be less than it is, a Scientific Theory -- which is, just in case you need a refresher:
"A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, by using a predefined protocol of observations and experiments. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and are a comprehensive form of scientific knowledge." (Wikipedia: Scientific Theory)
Just a wee bit more than a 'loose collection of narratives' . . . which happens to much closer to the definition of something else:
"The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures that Jews and Christians consider to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans. 
Many different authors contributed to the Bible. What is regarded as canonical text differs depending on traditions and groups; a number of Bible canons have evolved, with overlapping and diverging contents.
" (Wikipedia: Bible)
Many different authors, collection, different canons . . . certainly sounds more like a 'loose collection of narratives' than a 'repeatedly tested' and 'withstood rigorous scrutiny', doesn't it?

But the DI would have you believe that scientific theories are nothing more than a bunch of stories with no evidence at all . . . exactly what their pet idea of Intelligent Design has always been.  You think one day they might learn . . . oh wait, but anyone who thinks scientific theories should never be able to be changed isn't demonstrating the capacity for learning, are they?

Discrimination, Religious Style in Australia

Caught a report today about an Australian couple who had made arrangements to get married in a Presbyterian Church.  Apparently they had to change their plans because the minister say on one of the bride's Facebook posts support for Marriage Equality.

The minister's message:

“By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct. 
Also, if the wedding proceeded in the Ebenezer St John’s church buildings, the same inferences could be drawn about the Presbyterian denomination. Such inferences would be wrong.“
The couple's response:
“We feel this decision is absolutely disgraceful and is a disgrace to you and all the church, especially when we have been loyal and valued members of this congregation for 10 years,” they wrote. 
“You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage? 
“We understand we did agree with the teachings of the church in our marriage counselling but just because we agree with that for our own lives, doesn’t mean that we have to push those beliefs onto others.”
So, don't religious groups realize the amount of self-inflicted harm they do their own position when they take stands that revolve around discrimination and intolerance.  Apparently 'Love thy Neighbor as thyself' is just a catch phrase to this Minister and even the Presbyterian Church of Australia who have not only declared homosexuality a sin (1994) but in 2007 called on the government to amend the Sex Discrimination Act "in such a way as to prevent same-sex partners and singles from continuing to access artificial reproductive technology."

Hmmm, the same Sex Discrimination Act says:
"prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, marital or relationship status, actual or potential pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or breastfeeding in a range of areas of public life. These areas include work, accommodation, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services, the activities of clubs and the administration of Commonwealth laws and programs."
You know, reading that, isn't the Minister in violation?  After all, he's supposed to be providing a service?  He cannot claim the couple violated his religious beliefs because they agreed to the teachings of the church for their own life.  But this Minister, and apparently the Presbyterian Church of Australia not only want the power to control their members lives, but they want their members to be guilty of discrimination against others as well.

Good for this couple and their decision to leave that church.  I am sure they can find places they will be welcome that don't demand you drop anyone in your life who is LGBT as a requirement.  I have to wonder if this late change of heart by the Minister had a financial impact?  If so, they might consider suing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alt-Right is Secular? Anyone Buy That?

One of my favorite targets is the Discovery Institute (DI) and the lengths they will go through to rationalize just about anything.  Today's topic is "The Religion of the Alt-Right", and it appears to be an attempt at disassociating themselves not only from their religious roots, but any connection with Alt-Right groups.

The Alt-Right is collection of people, self organized into a number of different groups who lean to the far-far right of the political spectrum.  Their main weapon, at least according to the DI is Racism.  Their recent activities in Charlottesville Va is a good example of their behavior.  I think that view is quite narrow.  The Alt-Right is against a number of things, like Abortion, Gay Marriage, Antisemitism, Immigration, Civil and Women's Rights, and pretty much a rejection of any American Ideals.  Their tactics are full of violence and hatred for anyone who supports an alternative view.  Yet, the DI just wants to focus on just Racism.

Now why would the DI want to disassociate themselves from such groups and why use a one-trick argument, Racism?  I see two reasons here.  The first is one of the common themes from the DI, the efforts to disassociate themselves from their conservative religious underpinnings.  You see that in this post because what they are doing is to try and claim that the Alt-Right is not particularly religious, but secular.  Most of this post is a rationalization about the Alt-Right's use of religion and how they really aren't religious  -- regardless of all the religious symbolism and right-wing religious organizations that belong to the Alt-Right.

Why is that important?  Remember the DI is really a religious ministry wearing an ill-fitting lab coat and constantly trying to convince people that they are a scientific organization.  If they were not a religious ministry, then why is this part of the post be necessary?  If you aren't sure here is the first line of the DI's description in Wikipedia (my underlining for emphasis):

"The Discovery Institute (DI) is a politically conservative non-profit think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design (ID)" (Wikipedia: Discovery Institute)
From the same Wikipedia page, a few words from the Dover Court Decision:
"The court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions," and the Institute's manifesto, the Wedge Document, describes a religious goal: to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."[  It was the court's opinion that intelligent design was merely a redressing of creationism and that, as such, it was not a scientific proposition."
Now, you are the DI, and you are associated with being conservative as well a being a religious organization.  So how to you try and break any association with the Alt-Right?  You disassociate yourself if you can, and if you can blame Charles Darwin at the same time you have a win-win.

That's what the rest of this post is all about.  And since the DI has tried to establish the Alt-Right as a secular organization, then it's just one more step to claim that they are followers of evolution and lay all the trouble they have been causing at the footsteps of Charles Darwin.  They even manage to drag in Hitler for a brief cameo.

So who does the DI turn to for this attempt? Why Richard Weikart, one of their stable of pseudo-historians and also a Senior Fellow at the DI. 
Richard Weikart is best known for his book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.  The Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement, funded the book's research.  The academic community has been widely critical of the book.  Regarding the thesis of Weikart's book, University of Chicago historian Robert Richards wrote that Hitler was not a Darwinian and called criticized Weikart for trying to undermine evolution.  Richards said that there was no evidence that Hitler read Darwin, and that some influencers of Nazism such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain were opposed to evolution. " Wikipedia: Richard Weikart)
Of course the DI doesn't mention that Weikart's book received an almost universal negative criticisms from academics -- historians and theologians alike -- conservative and liberal as well.  The main criticisms focused on his very selective focus on one narrow point of view and failure to regard a host of factors influencing Hitler and the Nazi's.  Bottom line is Weikart's pushing the DI's agenda, and therefore critics don't matter much, after all, the DI and Weikart are doing God's work, aren't they?

So what we have here is not some treatise to be taken seriously.  It looks like nothing more than a rationalization to try and officially disassociate the DI from their religious and conservative underpinnings and at the same time promote an already widely dismissed idea blaming Darwin and Evolution for the abhorrent behavior of some of the DI's philosophical brothers, those in the past and those in the present.

I do have to wonder about the timing of this?  The DI does nothing without a motive.  So why this sudden interest in disassociation with the Alt-Right?  Are they setting the stage for some new argument, or is this just an excuse to trot out Weikart again and his already much discredited ideas?  Guess we'll see what the future brings.

What 911 means to little kennie ham

While many of us were remembering September 11, 2001, little kennie ham was not just trying to make some religious mileage out of it with one tweet, he was trying to re-define the word 'marriage' with three.  Now, why would he want to do that?  Simply put . . . he's homophobic.  Here is the series of twitter posts from the little guy on 9-11:

Now I do not follow kennie on Twitter, I actually caught this reported from the Friendly Atheist: "Ken Ham Thinks He Can Defeat Same-Sex Marriage With a Hyphen", a blog I read often.  Once I read that, I popped over to Twitter to take a look myself, and sure enough, kennie wants to spell 'Marriage' as 'Mar-raige' and use the definition of the word 'mar' because it means 'Damage/Impair'.

I know little kennie only wants to apply it to gay marriage, but I am sure there are others who might like to apply it to all marriages.  The Friendly Atheist had a great suggestion:
" . . .we can all start describing Ark Encounter as mar-velous and he won’t know whether or not it’s a compliment."
I was wondering at all the other words starting with 'Mar' and how people who dislike them can try and convince us to change the way we spell it to publicize their dislike:
  • Mar-athoners - for couch potatoes.
  • Mar-gerine - For dairy purists who insist on butter.
  • Mar-ksman (or Mar-kswoman) - for those who don't like guns.
  • Mar-aschino - for those who hate maraschino cherries.
  • Mar-supial - antikangaroo bigots.
  • Mar-ch - for those years the month comes in like a lion.
    There are many other words starting with the letters 'Mar' that someone, somewhere, has a grievance with.  But just because a minority has a disagreement with a word, that doesn't mean we have to change the spelling.  Actually the whole idea is rather silly and reveals kennie's lack of understanding of English.  Hyphenated words are two actual words whose relationship is hyphenated for a new phrase that may mean something different than the two words individually, for example 'deep-fried',  'one-eyed', and 'same-sex'.  So if 'mar' means 'Damage/Impair', just what does 'riage' mean anyway?

    In reality, there is no such thing as 'gay marriage', it's just 'marriage', little kennie and his philosophical compatriots like calling it that because it makes them feel all warm inside. . . sorta like when he pees on himself while wearing black trousers. Supposedly it's a nice warm feeling, but no one can see it.

    And since little kennie seems to consider himself a martyr for Jesus in the make-believe 'war on Christians', we can call him a mar-tyr see if he gets it.

    Saturday, September 9, 2017

    Theism and Morality, any Correlation? Apparently Not!

    One of the sillier posts from the Discovery Institute's Evolution 'news' and Views site is this: "On Atheism and Morality, Study Confirms Voltaire?"  The basic question is "Can you be good without God?"  Michael Engor, one of the DI's talking heads has a lot to say about it.  I do enjoy his opening line:

    "Can you be good without God? Of the various questions raised in the theist/atheist debate, this question has, I believe, occasioned more witless commentary than any other. "
    You can find a wonderful example of 'witless commentary' than the rest of Michael's post.  He begins with a discussion of what 'without God' means -- and he starts that with an assumption:
    "If God does not exist, you cannot be good. You cannot be evil."
    I think he missed the metaphysical boat on this one -- but then with how often the DI claims not to have religious roots, they, and all their talking heads, love to discuss theistic subjects.  That aside, where I think Micheal blew it by not really addressing what it means to be 'good' or 'bad'?

    If those concepts are really driven by religious beliefs, then Michael might have a point, but if they are not, then the whole 'with and without God' discussion is -- as Michael would say -- 'witless commentary'.

    So, just what is the source of Morality?  Let's do something the DI hardly ever does and define our terms:
    "Morality (from the Latin moralis "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness"." (Wikipedia: Morality)
    Look at this line in particular:
    'Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.'
    So the source of what is determined to be 'good' or 'bad' may or may not come from a religion, it could just as easily come from many other sources.  What that tells me is that the source is unimportant.  That might annoy some, but think it through.  Regardless of the source, the key is how it's defined by society, not a particular religion.  And if you look at the things generally defined as 'moral' and 'immoral', what is the key?  Human impact!

    Murder, slavery, child welfare, among many others have all been codified into a set of morals because of the impact they have on us as people.  Many groups, religious and secular, have defined similar codes.  Is the insertion of a deity required for such a code to exist?

    To support that, look at all of the things we consider 'good' and 'bad' and tell me is there one religion that holds all of those same standards?  Many of today's moral improprieties are not against religious beliefs, but societal ones -- human ones.  Plus many religions conflict on matters of morality.  Is Birth Control a sin?  Depends on which set of religious beliefs to which you subscribe.  What about alcohol?  Some religions call any alcohol immoral, others only claim drunkenness is immoral, and still other standards of morality don't bother with alcohol unless you are driving or acting up in public.  Was it moral to send children to work in coal mines?  Is killing a non-believer murder?  Pre-marital sex, often religiously immoral, but still practiced by many -- including theists. I went to a wedding a few years ago, music was allowed, but dancing was a sin.  Do you know how hard it is to prevent my granddaughter, who was 5 or 6 at the time, from not dancing at a wedding when every other wedding she had been had hours of it.  At my nephew's wedding there were nearly as many pictures of her dancing as the newlyweds. The definitions of 'morality' change from religion to religion as often as they do from country to country and culture to culture.

    So, 'good' and 'bad' are determined by society, not by a religious tradition.  Some of our moral 'standards', for lack of a better word, can trace their history back to various religious beliefs, but that has little to do with those moral standards in place today.  It's the human impact, regardless of apparent source, that matters.  Add in the conflicts between religion and the enforcement of those standards on society, you really see that the source of a moral position matters little.  It's societies' acceptance of those standards that are important, many of them further codified into laws.

    That being said, the question becomes are atheists as capable as theists of leading a 'good' life when the 'good' is not based on a religious tradition, even if a specific moral judgment may have historically been part of one.  So what else would support a contention that theism is a necessary part of such a life?

    I know, how about US Prison populations?  Theists like to claim that without a set of theistic beliefs, usually their own specific set, you have no basis for the idea of good or bad, therefore Atheists are more likely to be criminals.  So the expectation is that Atheists will have a higher percentage within the prison population than Theists.  If it's not true then Theists are just as likely as anyone else to commit crimes.  I know many would like to think their religious beliefs place them on some sort of moral high-ground, but there doesn't seem to be much data to back that up.

    The first question I wanted to know was if there are specific instances of religion having an impact on certain types of crimes.  With one exception, there doesn't seem to be a correlation, and that is fraud, it's apparently a high percentage problem with many non-profits, including churches.  Churches seem particularly susceptible to fraud and embezzlement, mainly because they are exempt from filing annual reports to the IRS.  Forbes discusses it in a 2013 article.  The other reason is religious groups try to keep their legal and moral issues internal . . . yea, we saw how well that works a few years back for the Catholic Church, didn't we.  Other forms of crime, theists seems to commit them more often than atheists.

    In a Wikipedia article, "Correlations of Criminal Behavior", there are few studies that hint people with strong religious convictions may be less likely to commit certain types of crimes, there's not enough evidence to back up that claim.  A 1997 study found little correlation between religion and a lack of criminal activity, or drug use.  Funny it found a much more statistically relevant connection between religion and alcohol.  How about Prison Statistics?

    Hmm, interesting, "Mean religious affiliation of inmates in U.S. prisons, as reported by prison chaplains in 2011" has an interesting graphic:
    It's a little hard to read, but you can see that over half the inmates are reported to have a Protestant religious affiliation, 50.6%.  Only 10.6% profess no religious preference, and only 5% are unknown.  There is no category for Atheists, so making a comparison is difficult.  But form the above statistics, you can see that those with 'no preferences' and 'unknowns' are are less than one-quarter of the total just comparing then to Protestants and Catholics (65.1% v. 15.6%).  While I believe I can safely assume some of those unknowns and no preferences are Atheists, all that would do would make the statistic even more lopsided, in favor of the Atheists being less likely than Theists in committing criminal offenses.

    I found another set of stats from a study done in 2013.  This one actual identified a category for Atheists:
    While the Protestant percentage dropped and Catholics nearly doubled from the previous stats, the percentage of Atheists is 0.1%, or 1/10 of 1%.  So far, the idea of morality requiring a religion seems to be taking a beating.  If being a theist means you were less likely to commit crimes, that doesn't seem to hold up when you actually start digging.  I guess theists simply like to claim it as a point in pride, but the reality is that is just doesn't seem to be true.

    So, looking at the prison population, while Atheists represent 0.7% of the general population, only 1/7th of them are represented in the prison population.  Yet theists of varying types, represent 99.3% of the general population also represent 99.9% of the prison population.  So there really doesn't seem to be much to support the idea that you require a deity to have a standard of good and bad. Society lays out those standards, the historical source is immaterial.

    So, based on all this, Atheists and Theists alike have the choice of what type of life they lead.  Being a Theist doesn't seem to offer any better chance the life led will be morally better than an Atheist.  At best the idea of religion may be a factor that weighs in a Theists mind before heading down a religiously forbidden path, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence to show being aware of that forbidden path actually stops people from treading on it.

    One last thought, if Theism was a viable deterrent to immoral behavior, there should, not only be statistics to back that up, but then many types of these behaviors should be able to be handled by theistic groups.  However, looking the example discussed above, theistic groups don't seem to have a good record of policing themselves.  A quote from the Forbes article cited included this gem:
    "Johnson [the author of the study] told me [the Forbes article author] that "part of it is a reluctance to see the bad side of a nice pastor, a secretary or a board member of the church." Johnson even cited one quote from a church member who knew of an embezzlement and said, "I know he stole my money but I still think he's a wonderful person.""
    'he stole my money but I still think he's a wonderful person'?  And the DI thinks belief in a Deity makes a person more moral than someone who does not believe?  Seriously?  If Theism is a reason to still believe that someone who stole your money is still a wonderful person, then the impact of theism isn't on whether or not a theist can commit a crime, but on the gullibility of theists in general.  I think we are done here!

    A Book Review Invitation, Maybe?

    I need a good laugh every once in a while, and not just at the expense of kennie ham or the Discovery 'Institute'. Today I received an invitation to review a book, here's the basic invite:

    "My name is Cheryl [XXXXX], Communications & PR Manager for David Birnbaum, author of the 3-book Summa Metaphysica series.
    I am reaching out because I noticed you wrote an Amazon review for books similar in theme to ours.
    Accordingly, we would like to invite you to review Summa I and/or Summa II and/or Summa III."
    I don't know the lady, or the author, so I was curious how did they get my name and email. The invite had a little addition, looks like boilerplate to me:
    "This is a highly intuitive work attempting to advance our speculative conjecture about the cosmos but fully comporting to our knowledge of the spectrum of various realities, across the sciences, both physical and social. The work is written within a Jewish context, but its motifs are universal. If the construct proposed herein proves to stand the test of time, mainstream Jewish philosophy and theology will comport to its contours and other belief systems will find ways to accommodate its assertions."
    Ah, now it makes sense.  I have written a number of reviews on Amazon, for both books and various products.  I think it was my reviews of some of the DI's pseudo-science books that caught their attention.  I do find it funny that after the shellacking I gave those books, another theologically-bent publication would even think I would make a good reviewer.

    However, there are two main reasons I will not be participating.  The first is this is not really a request for a review.  If it were the books would have been included.  Instead what the email contains was a link to purchase those three books from Amazon.  So this is less an invitation to review as it is a sales pitch.

    I have reviewed a number of books for my profession and the request ALWAYS either included the book, or an agreement to perform an editorial review with a way of getting a copy of the book -- at no cost to myself.  So, no review.

    The second reason is even simpler, time!  If I am going to spend my time reviewing something, it's not going to be something like this.  At least the DI tried to hide their theological leanings.

    In addition, the email contained a number of images, most of which were hysterical.  Unlike the DI, the publisher of this particular religious tract bought an ad on the back over of several magazines.  Here's one of the images from the email:
    Remember these were ads, not articles that would adhere to the publication standards of these magazines, but ads.  They also included an image the one from the back cover of Scientific-American (SA):

    The small print says:
     "See full length article in HUFFINGTON POST | SCIENCE section"
    Just because it appears on the back cover does not mean SA in any way endorses Birnbaum's publication, just that Birnbaum's publisher paid for the space to advertise.  Which is what tells me they are most likely trying to gain an legitimacy that that cannot get through other means, like actually publishing in a scientific journal.

    Now, I don't know about you, but the Huffington Post is not a place I would go to for Science news.  This is a site that frequently includes articles by supporters of alternative medicine and anti-vaccine activists.

    So what does all this mean?  Nothing much.  We have yet another religious publication trying to pass itself off as science by advertising in some science magazines.  Doesn't seem to be worth reading, let alone reviewing.

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    Letter to the Editor Pulls No Punches

    A letter to the editor over at the Lexington Herald-Leader tickled my funny bone.  You have to be careful with sarcasm when you are writing, because you can't send to obvious non-verbal clues which help to sarcasm-deficient people from understanding the meaning behind what you are trying to convey.  I do so enjoy things that are clear-cut, like a slap in the face.

    This one hits the nail right on the head: "Ark Park wizardry".  While the facts of the recent debacle over the emergency tax are pretty simple -- the ark park folks have offered little substantiation for their claims that they had always intended to pay it, nor for that matter a reasonable explanation about why the property changed metaphysical pockets- going from kennie ham's for-profit pocket to his non-profit pocket and then back to his for-profit pocket.  Mark Looy, the ark parks communication chief seems to expect us to believe there was no connection with the timing of the property shift or the potential loss of the State's Sales Tax rebate because of the switch.

    So, let me get this straight, Mark.  You get hit with a tiny tax that you claim you never saw coming, and right after the local community reminds you that you are a for-profit business, kennie changes from one pocket to the next, and back again after learning the State was less than amused and offered to pull the $18,000,000 in estimated sales tax incentives  And you expect us to believe all those actions are unrelated?  Really?

    I don't think Daniel Phelps, the writing of this short, but entertaining letter, buys that either.

    Loved how he closed it:

    "Not only are the Ark’s leaders the world’s most holy men and know more about science and religion than anyone else, they are also ace businessmen, financial wizards and philanthropists who want only to help Williamstown and Grant County public schools."
    Sarcasm, my second language.  Actually since I am from Brooklyn NY, English is my second language with Brooklynese my first.  So I guess sarcasm is my third one.  I don't think that is what comes to mind when you think 'multi-lingual'.

    I also recall a Washington Post asking people to add or remove one letter from a common word and define the new word.  One of the winners from a few years ago is now an entry in the Urban Dictionary:
    "Sarchasm - the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it"
    I know which side of the chasm little kennie is probably on, which one are you? 

    Scientific Consensus is Not Just a Raised Hand!

    In a recent conversation, the subject of scientific consensus was raised and their reaction was fascinating.  They immediately dismissed it as something that does more damage than good.  What it told me is they have absolutely no idea how scientific consensus is achieved and what it takes to change that consensus.

    Here's my issue in a nutshell, remember the conversation about the words 'theory' and 'belief'?  In the colloquial sense they mean one thing, but when you look at the scientific sense, they mean something very different.  That's what's going on here.  'Consensus' and 'Scientific Consensus' are incredibly different.

    To them, consensus is nothing more than a group agreeing on something, as if a bunch of scientists sat in a room and the majority raised their hand when a topic was announced.    Suppose someone on the radio says something, and a group of people call in and most agree with it.  A good example of Rush Limbaugh's 'Ditto-Heads', which are people who call in but instead of re-hashing and taking up airtime, they just say 'Ditto!' to show their agreement.  You can say that the group that called in has consensus if the majority who called in agree with the statement.

    But, does that mean the consensus is right or wrong?  Or even closer to right or closer to wrong if you don't want to address absolutes?  With the idea of the colloquial term 'consensus', there is no way to make a value statement.  The only thing you know is that the call-in group agreed.  That's not a scientific consensus.  Like other words often misused by pseudo-scientists, that's horrible example of a scientific consensus.  The idea of a scientific consensus is something much more, considerably more.

    Here's the Wikipedia explanation:

    "Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity.
    Consensus is normally achieved through communication at conferences, the publication process, replication (reproducible results by others), and peer review. " (Wikipedia: Scientific Consensus)
    A few things to note:
    • A community of scientists in a particular field of study -- in other words the only ones who count are the ones who are in a particular field.  These are the people who study a subject and the agreement of people outside the field is simply opinion.
    • General agreement  . . . not unanimity -- which, of course means, that the entire group doesn't have to be agreement, but the clear majority of the scientists working in a specific field agree, but not by a vote, through a number of other mechanisms, including:
      • Conferences -- We aren't talking about a matter of opinion, scientists present to their peers and if you have ever presented to a group of co-workers, you know this isn't just a 'because I said so' presentation.  They present not just their conclusions, but details about exactly how they came to those conclusions -- and then the fun begins.  Their conclusion are not just examined, but their entire methodology.  Scientists do not go into these conferences voicing a simply opinion.
      • Publications -- Similar to conferences, publications are another avenue for communication.  One difference, publications usually go into a great deal more detail than a conference can.  The level of detail has to be enough for other scientists to fully understand and even replicate the work.
      • Replication -- Here is an important piece, scientific conclusions that cannot be replicated never reach a level of consensus.  The details from those conferences and publications are replicated, not by the originating scientist, but others in the same field, often competitors.  If it cannot be replicated, it eventually falls to the wayside (ask the Cold Fusion guys).
      • Peer review --  Here one of the biggest differences between the colloquial 'consensus' and the scientific consensus.  Before publication, scientific papers are reviewed at the request of the publication editor.  It is sent to the author's competitors, again members of the same field, for review.  Most often this is a blind review, the author doesn't know who is reviewing it, and the reviewers don't know who the author is.  These reviewers don't just give a thumbs-up or down, but document issues they had with the paper.  The editor typically has multiple options, commonly:
        • Outright rejection -- which is usually done when the paper doesn't meet publishing standards.  It could be the subject is outside the publications purview or it may have massive technical or procedural errors.
        • Editing the paper -- Normally when the reviewers find minor errors that can be fixed without changing the meaning of the paper.  Many scientists aren't professional technical writers, so often there are editorial changes to clean things up, so to speak.
        • Return the paper to the author -- which is usually done to give the author the chance to address those concerns and re-submit at a later time.
    You see Scientific Consensus is not just a bunch of scientists all nodding their head, but a concerted effort to make sure that there is a general agreement on a specific subject through a number of mechanisms that cause the concept to be evaluated.  Not an absolute agreement, but a general one based on such evaluations.  Scientists are free to disagree with minor or major parts as they see fit, and often that is where future scientific work is directed.  But rarely do scientists go against consensus without some evidence that there is a reason for doing so, evidence is the key.

    Opponents like to build a very rosy picture of the scientific community, how they all work together, all for some altruistic goal.  The reality is much different.  There is a surprising amount of conflict, both professional and personal.  In fact many of the most lauded scientific achievements are done by scientists who buck the consensus.  But the key is they buck it with evidence, not wishful thinking.

    Is scientific consensus a perfect thing?  No, but can anyone name a better process?  The Discovery Institute has tried a couple.  For example, they keep trying to sell the idea that opinion is just as valuable at scientific consensus.  They also like to publish articles and books without a single critical review from anyone outside their own group of believers.  People like Answers in Genesis keep trying to tell you how wrong science is on certain things without a lick of evidence to support their contention.

    But when it comes to explanations that actually match the evidence and are usable and workable, scientific consensus seems to work really well.  If someone has a better idea, let's hear it.  But until there is one, scientific consensus is one of our best methods for understanding the world around us.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    Whats Wrong with This Picture -- A Review of a Review of a Book We Haven't Read Yet?

    Talk about knee-jerk reactions.  Here is a review of a book the Discovery Institute (DI) has not yet seen . . . huh?  Actually it's a review of a review of a book the DI has not yet seen.  Here's their post, "Early Review of A.N. Wilson’s Anti-Darwin Biography Could Have Been Predicted".  No byline for this one, wonder why?

    The review they are reviewing is here: "‘Radical’ new biography of Darwin is unreliable and inaccurate".  Without a doubt it's a scathing review of a biography of Charles Darwin called "Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker", by A.N. Wilson.  Since I haven't read it either, this is a commentary on the DI's review of the review -- it is not a review of the review of the review of the book the DI hasn't read yet.

    Here's what I see.  The DI does not like Charles Darwin.  You know many the reasons why.  They blame Darwin for pretty much every bad thing that has ever happened, especially racism, Hitler, the decline in church attendance . . . an endless list.  So therefore, anything that bashes Darwin has to be a good thing in their very narrow minds.  So the question is how to publicize something that says nasty things about Darwin.  That's the knee jerk reaction I was talking about, it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong about Darwin, it's a bash at him, so it deserves to be publicized.

    The review (the real one, not the DI's review of the review) went through a number of claims made by A.N Wilson.  In a nutshell John van Wyhe said the book is wildy off the mark from anything Charles Darwin did or said. van Wyhe concludes with:
    "The book claims to be a “radical reappraisal of one of the great Victorians, a book which isn’t afraid to challenge the Darwinian orthodoxy”. The result is one of the most unreliable, inaccurate and tendentious anti-Darwin books of recent times."
    Let me repeat "unreliable", "inaccurate", and "tendentious".  That's pretty scathing!  A review like that would normally put me off paying much attention, especially when the review is published in a reputable source like "New Scientist".  No, New Scientist isn't perfect, for example their 2009 cover saying "Darwin was Wrong!" while the article didn't say that, only that Darwin was wrong on some details, but right in the overall concept.  But it does have a much more positive reputation than anything put out by  . . . say . . . the Discovery Institute.

    So, back the original question, how do they publicize this bashing of Darwin?  First step, attack the reviewer with an accusation:
    John van Wyhe is a Darwinian partisan
    Which may or may not be true.  But it doesn't matter to the DI.  Of course it matters not if any criticism of Wilson's book is based on something other than partisanship, right?

    Since van Wyhe contradicted many of the things Wilson claimed in his book, they have to call him names and try and make it sound as if the only reason van Wyhe would say nice things about Darwin is because he's a partisan, so his defense is only what's expected.

    A question, who would you contact to write a review about a person?  I guess the DI would want to contact someone who knew nothing about the subject themselves so they could offer an objective opinion, right?  That's crap!  Here's who New Scientist contacted about a review:
    "John van Wyhe is a historian of science, with a focus on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, at the National University of Singapore. He holds some academic and research positions, ranging from founder and director of The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online, Scientific Associate, The Natural History Museum (London), a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Member of the British Society for the History of Science. He has given more than 50 public lectures on Darwin in more than a dozen countries. He lectures and broadcasts on Darwin, evolution, science and religion and the history of science around world. He also wrote The Darwin Experience, a biographical book about Charles Darwin." (Wikipedia: John van Wyhe)
    They contacted an expert on the subject.  A historian, someone knowledgeable.  Doesn't that make sense?

    Just for comparison, just who is A.N. Wilson?
    "Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views." (Wikipedia: Andrew Norman Wilson)
    Look a little closer, "known for his critical biographies", just the sort of author you want to make that your reviewer knows the subject at hand!  According to that Wikipedia page, he's been accused of inaccuracies in his biographies before.  So why might the DI want to attack the reviewer?

    You may or may not remember this post from a few years back, "Why would the Discovery Institute call it 'Censorship' ", and I said:
    "The DI are masters at Public Relations and Marketing. Anyone who says something negative about the DI or Intelligent Design is automatically a target. Do you remember little gem from 2006: "Canadian Quilters Attack Intelligent Design" from Evolution 'News' and Views and "“ID is a Myth” Quilt Wins National Contest" from Uncommon Descent. Yes, a quilter . . . a quilter did a quilt that made fun of Intelligent Design . . . and she is suddenly part of a cabal of Canadian Quilters who are attacking ID. See my point? They can't even allow someone to make a little fun of their pet version of Creationism without trying to gain some PR mileage out of it. A humorous quilt is suddenly an attack!"
     Anything that can be construed as an attack on ID is immediately counter-attacked back in a fit of defensiveness.  I also spoke about their knee-jerkisms a number of times, like "More 'Knee-Jerkiness' from the Discovery Institute, Emphasis on Jerkiness" and described their reactions like this:
    • "First, if you say something nice about Intelligent Design (ID), the DI falls all over itself to say nice things about you.  It doesn't seem to matter if what you say is pretty well meaningless, even if the bias of the author is well known -- case-in-point the recent posts (here and here) based on a new book by Tom Bethell.  
    • The other knee-jerk reaction is it you say anything that can be construed as negative about ID, they immediately jump on their keyboards and denounce you, usually claiming you didn't explain ID correctly and that you aren't fairly representing the official position of the DI.  case-in-point today's post: "In the Public Interest? ProPublica Misrepresents Intelligent Design and Discovery Institute Policy"
    So, this is a pretty normal tactic of the DI, a knee-jerk reaction without giving any real thought to what they are going to say.  I mean how else do you consider an attack on Canadian Quilters?  Their immediate and first reaction is one of being defensive.

    Which can explain a lot.  You see there are a number of mechanisms we use when we get defensive.  Denial, rationalization, and others.  The one I am most interested in right now is 'projection'.  What the DI is doing is using this to claim that van Wyhe is protecting Darwin because he's a partisan.  They pretty well ignore most of his critique, focusing on the one area it touches on their marketing.  But the reality is who is being partisan here?  The DI is the one attacking van Wyhe, not because his critique is invalid, but because he dared provide a scathing review of someone who can be perceived an ally of the DI.  They accuse van Wyhe of partisanship, yet it looks more like they are the ones acting as a partisan.

    If van Wyhe's critiques are based on fact, then the one being a partisan, or maybe calling them an anti-Darwin partisan, is the DI.  If his critique is based on conjecture and opinion, then the DI might have a point.  Read the review itself and tell me what you think.

    Little casey luskin, when he was with the DI, once actually posted
    "The moral of this story is this: Whether the case ultimately wins or loses in court, don’t speak out publicly on a case until you know the facts. " (source)
    If this was truly one of the guiding principles of the DI, they would never had reviewed this review until they could conduct their own review of the book itself, but they can't do that yet because:
    "We haven’t yet seen a copy of A.N. Wilson’s forthcoming anti-Darwin book"
    Which is reasonable, to a point. It also means they have no way of knowing if van Wyhe review is valid or not.  Actually that's not true, they could check out all the examples van Wyhe wrote about, but that would take too much effort.  So they simply write a meaningless disclaimer.  They also said this:
    "Wilson’s competence or incompetence on Darwin remains to be seen with our own eyes."
    While this sounds reasonable too, I see it as another disclaimer, a way of avoiding any real responsibility for what they write.  If Wilson's biography is found to be crap, then they can point to this line and claim innocence.  In the meantime, did they address any of the examples from van Wyhe's review and refute any of them?  No, they did not.  Let's discuss:
    1. Did the DI examine van Wyhe's description of how Wilson defined Darwin's theories?  No, they love to create their own straw-men and then demolish them, so maybe they feel Wilson is a kindred spirit.
    2. Did the DI look at Wilson's use of 'conflict' as an evolutionary mechanism and how that contrasted with what Darwin actually wrote?  No, but then they love the mischaracterization of 'survival of the fittest' themselves.
    3. Did they address Wilson's apparent confusing between Darwin's theories and Lamarck's?  In a dismissive sort of way, but that doesn't detract from the apparent delight they had trying to dismiss, or at least diminish the review.
    4. Did they address the material obviously copied from at a source who is notoriously anti-Darwin?  Why bother with facts, right?
    5. Did they address any other other identified factual errors?  They acknowledge that the errors might make the book "problematic", but never check into the things themselves.
    No, they did none of this.  What they did do was grab onto one of the things that they have been pushing themselves, Darwin's supposed connection to Hitler, which has been debunked time and time again.  Not that debunking their ideas has ever stopped them from pushing them.

    The DI ends with this:
    "The key is exactly what does Wilson say and how does he say it. We know well by now to be cautious of Darwin’s defenders. They are often cagey and misleading. So at this point, who knows?"
    Darwin's defenders are cagey and misleading?  So, instead of being cautious about a biography from someone known to play fast and loose with the facts --they are being cautious of a historian of science; the founder and director of The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online, Scientific Associate, The Natural History Museum (London); a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Member of the British Society for the History of Science.  Why is that?  Guess which one aligns with the goals and tactics of the DI itself?

    As you can see, it's not van Wyhe who can be seen as not being objective.  If the DI was being objective, even in the slightest, they would have waited for their own review once they could actually examine Wilson's own words.  But they can't let any bashing of Darwin pass unnoticed, even if it's nonsense.  Besides, if they wait and discovery that van Wyhe is right in his critique, does anyone think that would appear in any of their posts?  Of course not, they would then see reviewing this review as a missed opportunity.

    So now let me ask you a question, who is playing at partisanship?

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    OK, One Final Eclipse Post . . . unless those DI guys Say Something Irresistibly Funny Again!

    I wasn't planning to write anything else about the eclipse, but some things just have to be shared. As I mentioned just yesterday, two of the Discovery Institute (DI) fellows are covering the eclipse via Facebook. Well one of them, Jonathan Witt, had a post today that I just had to laugh at. This post isn't so much about the eclipse, but the workings of the theological mind. Here's his post, if you want to read the whole thing: "I Witnessed the Perfect Solar Eclipse in Missouri. Amazing!"  Here's the part that cracked me up (underlines are mine):

    " . . . I got into a conversation with a family . . .. I asked them what they thought of the odd fact that the moon fit just perfectly over the sun. Not too small that it never covered it. No so large that it covered too much of the sun and thereby blocking the corona. This meant the corona was beautifully visible during a perfect eclipse. 
    The family chewed on the question for a moment. A couple of them seem a little puzzled. What was I getting at? Perhaps I hadn’t phrased it well. I know I hurried the question. Finally one answered that, well, the sun and moon fit perfectly because the moon was much closer than the sun, so that made up for the sun being so much bigger. 
    Yes, of course. The sun was 400 times bigger, but the moon was 400 times closer than the sun. But I had hoped they would wrestle with the question of final causes. What was the deeper explanation for why we had been allowed, on rare occasions, to enjoy something that has dazzled humans for ages and, in recent generations, helped scientists to discover and test some truly amazing things about our universe?"
    He asks them a relatively simply question and then he is disappointed in the answer because they didn't go for what he calls the 'deeper explanation'.  By 'deeper' he really means 'theological' explanation.  He was disappointed because they didn't voluntarily add a layer of unnecessary deitification to their perfectly satisfactory answer.

    I don't know if 'deitification' is the right word, but the idea fits.  Everything the DI looks at is filtered through their Bible-colored glasses and when they find someone who doesn't look at things the same way, they just tune them out and continue on, adding their religious viewpoint like Jonathan did here.  I wonder what the family in question really thought of Jonathan?  I am a little surprised he didn't start preaching the DI party line..  He also said in his post:
    "Many who have described the viewing of a perfect solar eclipse say it as borders on a religious experience, people of many different religious faiths and of no religious faith. What best explaining that feeling?"
    Yet he didn't seem to be able to find any of the 'many', did he?  He only mentioned speaking to one family and yet he says 'many' as if it had any real meaning.

    I do have to ask, just what makes something a 'religious experience'?  Is there anything empirical that helps make that determination? No, it's just another opinion.  I mean who can contradict you if you say you have had a religious experience?  You do learn, especially when you live in a apartment, that hearing "Oh God!" coming through the walls does not necessarily mean an actual religious experience.

    I stood with approximately 30 people during the height of the eclipse, looking through a pinhole viewer, sharing several eclipse glasses and discussing the eclipse.  Jonathan would have been horribly disappointed in all of us because not a single one voiced anything along the lines of 'deeper meaning'.  No one cried out in fear or supplication either.

    You know, with how often the DI tries to hide their theology behind ill-fitting lab coats, popular press articles and books, they never seem to really stray far from it.  Jonathan shows us this as he ends with a firm nod to his religion and an affirmation why the DI will never be able to convince anyone they aren't a religious ministry:
    "I am convinced that the best explanation for that feeling of reverence is that there is a maker worthy of reference at work here. And I’m convinced that this explanation — design and not chance — is both the most imaginative, the most reasonable explanation. 
    Today I was not alone in giving praise to the maker of sun and moon for a perfect solar eclipse. Hallelujah!"
    He's convinced, even though no one in the DI, or anywhere else, has offered one shred of evidence that such a maker, not only exists but set up things as the DI wants to believe they set things up.  Imaginative?  Maybe, but hardly reasonable.  I will take the family from Jonathan's own experience.  He asked them a question and they gave back a perfectly reasonable response . . . only it wasn't reasonable by his standards.  Without the insertion of some reference to a deity, he doesn't find that reasonable.  So, let me get this straight.  Unless you look at 'deeper explanation', any answer isn't reasonable?  Why is that?  We have thousands of scientific answers that we make use of on a daily basis and not one single one of them requires the invocation of a deity.  Wouldn't you consider something that works, and works well, pretty damn reasonable?

    But he's convinced!  Why?  It's simple, he cannot rationalize a world without a deity running the show.  That's it, his disappointment at the family shows that.  He doesn't understand how you can look at the world without a deity in the mix.  To him 1+1 doesn't just equals 2, it equals 2 because a deity permits it.  He cannot comprehend how anyone sees the world without needing a deity.

    But he's convinced -- and also disappointed because not everyone is looking at things as he does.  You almost feel sorry for Jonathan . . . well not really.  Tell me, Jonathan, how would adding in the opinion that a deity did something do to that family's enjoyment of the eclipse?  Like most efforts to add theology into science, it doesn't do anything other than complicate things with non-answers.  Just like the DI's claims about Issac Newton, there isn't a point in any of Newton's work where you can say "and here is where God did this".  Religious beliefs do not add to our understanding of the universe, it inhibits.

    It inhibits some people from asking questions, and others from seeking answers.  It has been used many times to stop scientific inquiry in it's tracks.  Imagine where we would be if every time someone tried to do something new, or look at something differently there was a Jonathan telling us that one deity or another doesn't agree and we should stop.  Look at all the world's religions, I am sure pretty much anything we do will be against one or more of them.  Religion can paralyze us, if we let it.  We would be at the mercy of perfectly natural events, without any understanding of them.  We would probably be still standing outside of our first cave, because someone in the group didn't want to irritate one deity or another.

    Without a shred of evidence, Jonathan and Co. want us to place his religious beliefs into everything we do -- whether or not we agree with them and also whether or not they add anything.  If not, then he'll be disappointed.  Well I hope he is prepared to live with lots and lots of disappointment.

    How Did We Know There Would Be an Eclipse Today?

    Creationists or many stripes and colors have been going crazy over the impending eclipse.  These are the same groups that often malign real science with pseudo-science idiocy.  A quick question, how did we know there was going to be an eclipse today?  Not just today but exactly the time and the locations where it would be visible?

    According to many theists, the only book you ever need is the Bible, so was today's eclipse listed in the Bible?  Not just a passing mention, but all the complete details?  Maybe it's in an appendix that my copy, or more accurately my copies, don't have?  Nope, nothing on the specific of an astronomical event, or any specific event.

    How about any other theological book?  No, how about Nostradamus?  Nope, nothing worthwhile.  So how do we know?

    It's called . . . and I know some of you might not like it . . . it's called 'Science'.  Yes, the same science that theological organizations tear apart on a daily basis.  Astronomers have been studying the sky for generations.  They have been documenting it and using that documentation for predictions for a very long time.  And, you know something, it works pretty well.

    Astronomers, like biologists, physicists, geologists, paleontologists, and the rest all follow the same methodology.  That methodology includes:

    Yet, for some unsupportable reason, when science is addressing anything a theist believes to be part of their religion, they come up with all sorts of excuses and rationalizations why the science is wrong.  The speed of light was different way back then, there wasn't anyone to see it -- so how do you know, radio-logical dating doesn't work . . . and the list goes on.  In each case the real science behind the physics, chemistry, biology, and the rest of the physical sciences stand on firm ground and are well-supported.  It's the theists who keep trying to change it to suit their religion.

    And then, for some even stranger reason, they like to use the results of science to further their own belief systems.  I mean right now the folks of kennie ham's answers-in-genesis (AiG) are 'sharing the gospel along the path of the eclipse'.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  How about two of the Discovery Institute fellows are covering the eclipse via Facebook?  Another 'fun' way to kill a few braincells hours.  One of the two talking heads, I can never tell which is which because they are so hard to tell apart, is quoted saying
    “If you watch videos of people during total eclipses they gasp and scream and cry, and so there is some kind of primordial connection that we have to eclipses that is very hard to account for.”
    I don't have trouble accounting for it, I would check first the educational level of anyone gasping and screaming, and then I would check their religious beliefs and see what they have been told about eclipses.

    Conspiracy theorists are hedging their bets.  The NY Post reports that 
    "Conspiracy theorists are warning the “Eclipse of the Century” Monday could mean the end of the world as we know it — or, at the very least, Donald Trump’s presidency." (source)
    Although for many conspiracy theorists, the two are pretty much the same thing.

    What we have happening is a natural event, but there is always something trying to use it to further their own agenda.  Many theists organizations have been going eclipse crazy, even quoting Bible verses about a supposed black moon.  New flash, the Moon isn't actually changing color (Science can explain why it looks that way) . . . which is how they will be happy to rationalize things when the world doesn't end.  Just remember, if you hear a trumpet blowing, they might be right . . . or the Jazz club down the street left their doors open.

    So, just wanted to pen this note, probably the last one in which I will discuss the eclipse.  Had to point out the hypocrisy of theists who denigrate some part of science, without anything resembling support, while trying to use other parts to push their theological agenda.  Science is a methodology, and they simply don't like it when it works -- in spite of their religious beliefs.

    A side-note, during the peak of the eclipse, I was standing outside with several co-workers, we were enjoying the view of the 90% partial eclipse.  A lady from another company in this building commented:
    "During the 1919 total eclipse my grandfather was alive and living in a remote region in Appalachia.  No radio, no television, no Internet.  They had very few ways of knowing the eclipse was going to happen.  He really thought the world was ending."
    To an extent I can understand that . . . then . . . but today?  With all of the avenues of communication and the insane amount of time spent covering this 90 minute or so event.  Anyone who didn't know of its coming had to have their head buried in the sand.  And anyone who believes some dire event is about to occur because the Moon got between us and the Sun. . . really needs to get out more.  Put down the Bible and read a science book once in a while!

    Here is the main reason for this post, I am always amazed at how the theological mind works.  They can denigrate science while using a computer that was created using the same scientific methodology they like to question.  They drive cars using the same science, they use medicines and medical treatments created using that same science, and they eat food created and even prepared using that same science . . . the list of the ways theists use science is endless, and yet when science even has the appearance of brushing up against their belief set, a belief set defined by men centuries ago, they become unhinged and start trying to re-define science to protect their beliefs.  

    Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    Who 'Owns' a Rainbow?

    A British Pastor claims that "God owns the rainbow not gay pride". Apparently this guy is taking lessons from little kennie ham, who is trying to "Reclaim the Rainbow". Just like little kennie, the Pastor ignores all the other symbolism involving rainbows and focuses on the LBGT community, who have been using if as a symbol since the late 1970's.


    So, also like kennie, we see this isn't really about the rainbow, but yet another theistic attack on the LGBT community for not following the same lifestyle at the pastor and his particular flock. The Reverend quoted the Christian Bible:
    “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Chapter 9, verse 4 of the book of Genesis)
    A token, in other words -- a symbol. So theists of this particular stripe did exactly what the LGBT community, Skittles candy, Rainbow Brite, the Care Bears, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and many politicians across both aisles in the US Congress have done, they's adopted a natural event as a symbol representing something. That's not ownership!

    The Reverend also said:
    “God is saying, it’s my rainbow. It belongs to me. And it does. He owns the copyright for the rainbow. The copyright for the rainbow belongs to almighty God. Not to the LGBT movement.”
    So there are Copyright laws in Heaven? Oh, there are some people who are going to get really upset. What are the rules, how does one apply for a heavenly copyright? Is there a time limit, can it cross national borders? How much does it cost . . . although that's a question I would never put to a clergyman. (old joke about a dog being declared a Catholic)  Does this apply to trademarks as well? Does the little copyright symbol look different when it's given by a deity? Maybe it has a star around it instead of a circle?

    Little kennie doesn't seem to have a problem with other groups adopting symbols that are also used by the various theist groups. Why isn't kennie complaining when the KKK uses a cross, and burns it?  How about all this Fish-related industries who dare to use a Fish as a symbol? Why aren't kennie and this pastor whining about reserving the fish symbol?  There's a Chicago Street Gang who use a 6-pointed star as a symbol, why is no one claiming copyright on the Star of David?  Or is it only the Christian God who needs copyrights?  How many organization is use a ship's wheel as a symbol, why aren't the Buddhists claiming ownership?

    Sound even sillier now, doesn't it? No one, not even a capricious deity, owns a rainbow. Claiming otherwise makes you look even sillier than usual. It's not really an ownership issue, this is just another attack on a group of people who live a life different from the Pastor's and little kennie. So much for Christian ideals and values.