Friday, June 30, 2017

And There is Still Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design

I decided to quit numbering these, because there have been too many posts exploring the religious nature of the Discovery Institute (DI) and Intelligent Design (ID).  Instead of numbering, I am simply going to continue reminding folks about the those religious underpinnings.

This time around the DI is hawking someone else's book.  Little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer wrote this post: "Scott Turner’s Purpose and Desire — An Important New Voice in the Evolution Debate".  Before getting into the post, I was wondering who Scott Turner is and whether or not he is actually a 'new voice' in the cultural debate between religion and science.

So, I hit my usual sources and found that while Scott might be new to klingy, he's not new to this debate. Like klingy, Wikipedia also mentioned Scott's last book "The Tinkerer's Accomplice, How Design Emerges from Life Itself" and the Harvard University Press Catalog says a few interesting things:

"Physiologist Scott Turner argues eloquently and convincingly that the apparent design we see in the living world only makes sense when we add to Darwin’s towering achievement the dimension that much modern molecular biology has left on the gene-splicing floor: the dynamic interaction between living organisms and their environment. Only when we add environmental physiology to natural selection can we begin to understand the beautiful fit between the form life takes and how life works."
It also mentioned something klingy seemed to ignore, Scott's last book was in 2010.  Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very new to me.  But that's only one issue with the above quote.  I have to ask, how did Darwin, and subsequent researchers, left 'the dynamic interaction between living organisms and their environment' on the cutting room floor?  Doesn't the very idea of Natural Selection get driven by how an allele affects the survival/reproductive opportunity within the environment?  How environmental changes affect evolution within a population?  The environment is, and always has been, a key factor in the study of evolution.

Here is where I start to suspect Scott's leanings.  By wording it this way, he seems to think there has to be a guide, a map, an . . . dare I say it . . . an intelligence, behind it all.  Instead of the environment causing natural selection, there is some sort of symbiosis between the environment and the population that drives evolution.  Ah, yes, from Scott's Wikipedia page we can see he is a proponent of the Gaia Hypothesis, something not very well supported by science.

OK, let see what klingy has to say.  He starts off with this little tarnished gem:
"The crisis of evolutionary biology is spoken of openly here and by scientists who are professed advocates of intelligent design."
'Crisis'? Really?  I understanding klingy wishing it was a crisis, but he's overstating things by a ton.  We don't have a crisis because within evolutionary biology, this barely a blip on the screen.  The debate is cultural, not scientific.  For years science pretty much ignored it until groups like the DI started threatening science education with their marketing and politicking.  If you remember the landmark lawsuits (Kitzmiller v Dover Area School DistrictSelman v. Cobb County School DistrictEdwards v. AguillardMcLean v. ArkansasLemon v. KurtzmanScopes Trial) were all focused on education, not science.  What does that tell you?  It tells me that we aren't talking about a crisis here.

OK, next up, klingy says:
"The latest biologist to come out swinging at Darwinism, Turner is not an ID proponent. He teaches at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry."
However, is Scott a biologist?  His own website says:
"I am a physiologist by training, but with a deep interest in the interface of physiology with evolution, ecology and adaptation." (SUNY: Bio)
I am not knocking Scott, I just wish klingy would stop mis-representing people. By referring to Scott as a biologist, you assume a much stronger background in biology.  Physiology is a branch of biology, but it's only a small part.  Here is the definition of Physiology:
"the branch of biology dealing with the functions and activities of living organisms and  their parts, including all physical and chemical processes." (
Now contrast it with the definition of biology from the same source:
"the science of life or living matter in all its forms and phenomena, especially with reference to origin, growth, reproduction, structure,and behavior." (
See some significant differences, don't you?  When you look at Scott's curricula vitae, you can call him Dr. Turner, he is a Doctor of Philosophy. not biology . . . but klingy calls him a biologist.  What I wish he would do is his homework and honestly represent folks!  This is a habit of the DI, do you remember some of the other times they mis-represented the facts:
So we know klingy is using one of the comment tactics of the DI -- the misrepresentation of the facts . . . or as I was taught to call it -- lying, even lying by omission is still lying.  Next klingy quotes the preface of Scott's book -- and it shows Scott is making the same mistake that the rest of the ID proponents do.  Here, read this:
"Instead of a frank acknowledgment of purposefulness, intentionality, intelligence, and design, we refer to “apparent” design, “apparent” intentionality, “apparent” intelligence."
Now, has anyone -- anywhere -- in the past 150+ years provided any actual scientific evidence for purposefulness, intentionality, intelligence, or design?  Without such evidence, all you have is the appearance of those things.  Science is all about accuracy and when all you have is the appearance, you do not make frank acknowledgements!

The whole modern intelligent design movement started with the assumption that the appearance of design was the same as the actuality of design.  This assumption is used to not only in an effort to tear down actual science, but to push a religious agenda that is not shared by the majority of the world.  But since that movement started, no one had offered anything other than conjecture and wishful thinking to support that assumption.  Scott appears to be making that same assumption.  That might work well for philosophy, but when it comes to hard sciences, like biology, assumptions do not cut it.

So, what do we have . . . is someone who is not new to the cultural debate, whose credentials are mis-represented by the DI and someone who shares the same assumption that the appearance is the same as the fact.  So nothing new at all, just another one who drank the kool-aid and ignored the lack of substance.  I may read his book, but only if it shows up in the religious section of the local library.  

Oh yea, did I forget to mention Scott's new book is being published by Harper-One -- which, as we have pointed out before, is the religious imprint of Harper-Collins.  So if I see the book, it will most likely be in the religious section of the library or bookstore.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Talk about Quick Change . . . it's a Ministry . . . No, It's a For-Profit Tourist Attraction . . . no, it's a Ministry . . .

Let's review a bit of history, the Ark Park, officially 'Ark Encounters, LLC', is a for-profit corporation.  This allowed them to push for public tax breaks and funding requests, which they received mostly because of Republican politicians.

So, when it comes to hiring practices, this for-profit business is being allowed to discriminate and hire based on religious beliefs.  If it wasn't for those pandering politicians, this would have ended their public tax breaks and funding.  If you don't think that was one of the reasons for the for-profit LLC, this is from the Ark Encounters own Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page . . . or it used to be.  For some reason lots of it is missing from the current FAQ.  But there is this website, the Wayback Machine.  It archives many webpages and it just so happens to have saved the originals from the Ark sites.  Here is a quote:

"The for-profit LLC structure also allows the Ark Encounter to be eligible for various economic development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit structure."
Interesting, one of the reasons for going this route was specifically for those tax breaks and other incentives.

However the local community, specifically Grant County, Ky, is in the middle of a serious financial crisis and the hopes that all the visitors to the ark park would bail them out has not materialized.  So the county took steps and imposed a $0.50 tax on entertainment tickets -- called a 'safety tax' -- on on attractions like the ark park.  The purpose of this tax is for emergency services -- you know the kind services that might be needed if lightening does to kennie's ark what it did to Big-Butter Jesus in 2010.

Little kennie ham whined about that already -- we mentioned it in "Greedy Shepherd Annoyed that the Sheared Sheep are Making Noise".  Well now we know their more formal response.  Apparently little kennie and company are requesting an exemption from the entertainment tax on the grounds that they are a ministry.  The Grant County News reported it: "Ark Encounter requests safety fee exemption".
"Skinner and the other councilmembers voiced their disagreement with the exemption request; with councilman Kim Crupper noting that the Ark Encounter operates on a for-profit status. City Attorney Jeff Shipp added that the organization’s corporate filings in Missouri indicate that they are a for-profit corporation. "
To back that up, here are another two quotes from the 'Wayback Machine'.  As usual, I underlined the most interesting bits:
"Why is the project so big, and why is a for-profit LLC going to own the Ark Encounter? 
Because feasibility studies revealed that the Ark would attract 1.6 million guests in the first year, the project needed to be much more than just the Ark alone to handle the anticipated crowds. Accordingly, eight additional biblically themed attractions were included in the Ark Encounter complex to accommodate all of the expected guests.Due to the size of the Ark Encounter project, a for-profit LLC structure was selected to be able to help raise the approximately $150 million necessary to build it ($125 million of that total will come through investments). We also desired to avoid financing the project through debt. In addition, this large amount of funding would not have been probable solely through donations. The for-profit LLC structure allows for the primary funding to come from private equity investment, while at the same time ensuring that the control of the content, design, and operations of the Ark Encounter will be led by Crosswater Canyon, a wholly owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis. . . ."
"Is this a non-profit endeavor? 
In a sense, the Ark Encounter is both a for-profit and not-for-profit endeavor. The Ark Encounter is a for-profit operation but is managed by a non-profit subsidiary ministry of Answers in Genesis. The LLC and its members will be responsible for all of the normal taxes required for pass-through business entities."
The good news, at least for now, is the county is standing their ground and reminding kennie that the ark park is not officially a ministry, but a for-profit corporation and therefore plans to reject the requested exemption.  Hopefully they will stick to their guns.  While kennie's legal beagle agreed it is a for-profit company, he said that if the exemption is not approved that the ark park is "considering their options".  In some ways I hope they push it to the courts.

I know, I know the odds of Kentucky actually enforcing its own laws on kennie and his ark park are slim, but there is always a chance the people of Kentucky might get a break and realize that not only is the park a ministry, but the tax breaks and other funding help they received should never have happened, especially in the light of them being a for-profit business.  So if the ruling is it IS a ministry, pull the state and county support -- including going back and getting fair value for the things already given based on the for-profit status.  If it is ruled a for-profit business, demand kennie comply with state and federal hiring practices and insure  . . . as originally agreed . . . that the park pays its normal taxes, which would include this 'safety tax'.

This is kennie being kennie.  'I'm a ministry, protect me . . . no, wait, I'm a for-profit business, give me tax breaks . . .'  He wants tax breaks and funding of a for-profit business, but he wants the legal protections for a religious non-profit that allow him to discriminate in his hiring practices -- after promising not to do so and avoid paying taxes -- even taxes designed to fund services he may need.  He seems to switch coats as it pleases him, and he looks nothing like Marie Antoinette.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Interesting Post That Will Raise Kennie Ham's Blood Pressure to Biblical Levels

This post "Ark park’s cubit sticks holy relics for gullible of today" asks a question, just what value do places like the Ark Park and the Creation pseudo-museum have in today's society?  It's an Op-Ed piece from the Lexington Herald Leader.  I think there are a couple of answers, but one of them is certainly the primary driving force.  So let's examine it a bit.

Who are the people who go to these sort of places?  I think you can group them into a few categories.

First of all you have the Hamians, they already believe in what little kennie ham is selling.  Those people do not need his monument to his own ego to believe. They are already sold and probably already contribute to the coffers of kennie's ministries, and did so well before the ark park was opened.  This is probably the only group that would plan a vacation around visiting.  This is more than likely the hard-core and largest group of the visitors.

The second group I would have to call Believers, but non-Hamians.  These might be the curious, who do not share kennie's entire belief set, but wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  They probably are mostly Creationists of one stripe or another, just not as hard-core as little kennie.  They probably wouldn't plan a vacation with the express purpose of visiting one of his ego-monuments, but if nearby will probably stop in.

The third group are the Non-Believers.  This group would include the atheists, agnostics, scientists, and those simply curious.  This would be like myself when I visited the Creation pseudo-museum back in 2009 or Bill Nye when he visited the ark park.  This is probably the smallest group to shell out money to kennie, and the group mostly entertained at the ridiculousness of his ego monuments.

So, in reality, the first group, the Hamians, don't need kennie's ministries to believe the hard-line evangelical message kennie sells.  The second group probably will see some things that align with their religious beliefs, but aren't going to climb on board kennie's train.  The third group most certainly won't start to share kennie's belief set.  They are the one's who are snickering at the obvious miscues and pointing out the error in kennie's pseudo-science.

So if the ministries aren't there to change people's minds, what's left?  The post makes it pretty clear, the objective is said to be a ministry, but the actual one is to make money.  Believers are notorious for letting various denominations of money go to religious organizations, look at how many fall for prosperity gospels? Remember John Oliver's incredible take-down on those!
While there is a lot of similarities between prosperity evangelists and kennie, there is one difference.  Little kennie isn't promising to make you rich, he's the one making money here.

So with no clear religious purpose, what's left?  From the op-ed piece:
"If Jesus Christ returned tomorrow, where would he spend his time: helping the sick, dying and impoverished or rummaging through some money-grubbing tourist trap that cynically preys on people’s faith to make a profit?"
I don't think little kennie has seen the piece yet, in some ways he's like that certain hamster-haired serial lying misogynist -- and kennie, that's not a compliment.  You share similarities because you are also quite thin-skinned and always on the defensive.  He'll probably accuse the author of being an Atheist, even though the author self-identified as a devout Presbyterian.  You might also remember that if you aren't a believer in little kennie's narrow view of the universe, you really aren't much of anything else.  After all this is the guy hosting a 'World Religions Conference' in a few weeks for the express purpose (I added the underlining): 
Either you believe as kennie does, or your soul is lost, LOL!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Shock of Shocks, I Agree with Kennie Ham . . . sort of!

Little kennie ham, owner and operator of several ministries (The Creation pseudo-museum, The Ark Park, and Answers in Genesis) is on his horse again.  Here's the article if you care to get your shoes all muddy:

"Ken Ham Warns America is on 'Precipice of Catastrophic Change', 'God is Judging Us' (Exclusive)" (The Gospel Herald, 22 June 2017)
You don't actually have to read it if I say one word:  "homosexuality".  Yes, kennie is running around like Chicken Little:
"Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham has warned that America is on the "precipice of catastrophic change" and said that one sign God is "turning people over to their depraved minds" is the increase in homosexual behavior seen across the country."
OK, if you want to read his rant, please be my guest, but if you have a single open-minded thought, it might turn your stomach.

So how can I possibly be in any sort of agreement with this bigoted pseudo-Christian?  It's in the wording, yes, I think we do stand on a precipice of catastrophic change, but not for the same reason.  I think the hate, bigotry, and intolerance spouted by people like kennie are the cause.  One of the reasons I think kennie is being so vocal about his bigotry is the huge shot in the arm such attitudes received when that hamster-haired serial liar and misogynist was elected.  Suddenly being a bigot might be socially-acceptable in some groups.

One of my friends, who is against gay marriage, actually asked me how I could be for it, since I wasn't gay.  I told him that I'm not a woman either, so how come I don't think women should be barefoot and pregnant?  I'm not a minority, so how come I don't think minorities and immigrants are second class citizens? Discrimination is discrimination regardless of whether the target is wearing a dress, has a different ethnic background, believes a different religion, or has a different idea of 'family' than you!  You might wonder how I can call him a 'friend', but I believe in the right to believe as you wish, I just refuse to allow him to force his beliefs on me.  If you think I am trying to force my beliefs onto him, you are in error . . . remember, he asked.

Discrimination should not be tolerated in any form.  People, like little kennie, who make their living being hateful, intolerant, and discriminatory are the ones that should be convicted of aiding and abetting the incivility, and often violence, that is the result.  As I have said before, you have the right to live your life, but you do not have the right to force others to live as you do.  For example, a couple of years ago Campbell's Soup featured an ad with two men feeding soup to a boy using hilarious imitations of Darth Vader and Chewbacca.  It was funny, touching, and cute.  But since it featured two men, homophobic bigots assumed the two men were the boy's gay parents and tried to make a tempest over it.

Don't buy Campbell's Soup if you dislike they commercial, but you do not get to decide no one should buy Campbells!  But something similar happened recently when Cherrios aired a commercial featured an interracial family.  Again, a minor news flap because of racist bigots.  The Today article raised an interesting point:
"“I’m not surprised at the reaction, because social media is kind of the new Ku Klux Klan white hood,’’ TODAY’s Star Jones said Monday. “It allows you to be anonymous and to say the kinds of things that you would never say to a person to their face. "
Personally, I thought the ad was terrific!  I'm not sure what it says about me, but I hadn't noticed the family was interracial until reading one of the bigoted comments on Facebook which pointed it out.  What was even better was that Cherrios brought the family back for a Super Bowl ad!  Now that's an appropriate response to bigotry.

As you can see, I do have to agree with little kennie's phrase, just not his cause, we are facing a potential catastrophe, but kennie is one of the ones pushing us closer and closer to that disaster.  His use of religion to push an environment of fear, mistrust, division, and intolerance is driving us toward that catastrophe.  Of course if/when a catastrophe occurs, he'll be standing on the sidelines blaming it on everything but his own personal hatred and intolerance.  Yes, kennie will be one of the causes, but one he will never admit -- after all he thinks god is on his side.  Certainly not the god I was taught about in parochial school, but a version even few Christians seem to recognize.

There are times, like when I read posts like this I do hope there really is a god and one that lives up to all of the ideals so many religions claim.  That way bigots like kennie will get their just reward, and a real hot one at that.  But in the meantime, kennie will keep making a living preaching intolerance and pushing hatred, incapable of recognizing the damage he does.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ark Park Failing?

An article in the Religious News Service: "Ken Ham disputes reports the Ark Encounter is sinking" caught my eye and my first reaction is "Of course he's disputing it!"  It's easy to dispute something no one is really saying.

Most of the articles about the 'ark park' don't claim it's failing, but that it is failing on its promise of economic benefits to the local area, that's all.  There is a world of difference, but it's easier to refute things not being said than those that are.  With one exception every other report shows the ark park hasn't had the impact kennie promised.  In one report, the one kennie mentions, it says that one community has seen an increase.  It is attributable to the park?  I don't know and neither does kennie, but he's going to take the one claim and use it to his advantage.

Ham dismisses the multiple reports from actual shop owners, calling it anecdotal evidence, but the one positive report doesn't talk to any business owners, just the Mayor of Dry Ridge.  Yes, politicians never stretch the truth, do they?  I think a reporter or two should talk to some of the other business owners in Dry Ridge and see if the ark has had an impact.

Granted the ark park isn't doing as well as kennie wants it to do.  His early predictions of attendance, approximately 2,000,000 per year were cut to between 1.4 and 2.2 million for the first year back in 2016.  The reality is that its been open just over a year and hasn't hit the 1 million mark yet, the reports say it might hit it next month . . . might?.  Not a good sign!  Other more reasonable estimates say about 345,000 average per year, recognizing that the first few years will see the most visitors.  Only time will tell which sets of numbers are nearer to accurate.

Attractions generally do best in their first few years, and then attendance drops.  That's why they are continually adding new attractions to keep their core audience coming back year after year.  I have a friend who has been to Disney World every year since he was 18, he's 40 now.  Little kennie is no different, he plans to add other features, I've seen mention of a Tower of Babel and a re-creation of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I believe those exhibits were going to be part of the ark park originally but it had to be scaled down after the failure of much of his funding schemes.

He, little kennie, learned a bit from his first ego monument, the Creation pseudo-museum, and how it was getting pretty poor numbers after being open for several years, He did try and added a petting zoo, gardens, and a zip line -- but opening the ark park has bolstered those attendance numbers at his other ego monument and quite possibly saved kennie's bacon for now.  The question is will the normal statistical occurrence of dropping numbers occur with the ark park?  Has any attraction, particularly one based loosely on the Bible bucked that trend?  I am not aware of any.  Many that have existed are closed, like Jim and Tammy Fey Bakker's Heritage USA and Dr. Dino's Dinosaur Adventure Land.

Do I really care about the economic numbers?  To be honest, not much.  My main issue with the park, and kennie's nearby pseudo-museum, is the message of ignorance they proclaim.  When I was at the pseudo-museum I listened to a parent explaining how perfect the world was before Adam at the apple and how sin and disease are all because of Adam.  The poor kid was swallowing it up!  I'm sure the parent believed it as well, more's the pity.

The person I felt most sorry for was the child.  Once you get locked into such a narrow belief set, how many educational and career fields become closed because of your closed-mind.  With church attendance shrinking, there's only room for so many ministers, right?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Does Protectionism Work? Not Economic, but Theological Protectionism.

One of the limits on our Freedom of Expression is frequently described as "If you are going to yell 'Fire!' in a movie theater, there had better be a fire."  It's expressed this way to remind folks that freedom of expression isn't an absolute freedom, but one that comes with responsibilities.  Wisconsin is dealing with such an issue.  Here is something to consider:

Rep. Terese Berceau, a Madison Democrat, was quizzing Rep. Jesse Kremer, her Republican colleague from Kewaskum, at a hearing for his proposed Campus Free Speech Act before the state Assembly’s Committee on Colleges and Universities recently. . . 
“Is it okay for the professor to tell them they’re wrong?” Berceau asked during the lengthy session on May 11.
“The earth is 6,000 years old,” Kremer offered. “That’s a fact.”
"Gagging the UW: Critics worry campus speech bill is another attack on academic freedom" (The Cap Times, Madison, Wisconsin, 7 June 2017)
Granted Kemer also said:
“this bill stays out of the classroom.”
But then he immediately reversed himself suggesting that:
"So the law could potentially cover things that happen in the classroom."
Notice that Kremer never said whether or not the professor can tell them they are wrong or not.  How crazy is this?

You know, I can understand a student being unwilling to voice an opinion that differs from the curriculum, like trying to say the Earth is 6000 years old in a Geology class.  But it's a GEOLOGY class and religious-based opinions, no matter how factual anyone would like to claim, has little place in the classroom -- except for maybe a historical perspective.  If the student really, truly holds that as one of their core religious beliefs . . . then WTF are they doing in a Geology class?

But this proposed bill will not only make it easier to voice their religious-based opinion, but what happens when they answer a question on an exam using those fact-less religious perspectives?  If this law doesn't specifically forbid it, you know someone is going to use it to defend their religion.  That is not how science works!  A religious-based opinion is NOT the same as a scientific theory.  One is nothing but conjecture, the other is based on actual evidence!  While theists like to think so, religious writings are not evidence!

These sort of laws are designed to force a University to remain neutral when addressing such topics.  But that, to me, is a smokescreen.  Theists, particularly religious conservatives, know damn well they cannot compete with evidence-based science, so how do you fight against it, you get the politicians to pass laws protecting your viewpoint.  A point to consider, in the long run, how successful is this strategy? Anyone else remember these:
This is a short list, there have been others, like when the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) filed a lawsuit against the University of California.  Bottom line is the ACSI was using religious books to teach a variety of college preparatory courses and were unhappy when University rejected those courses.  The results:
On August 8, 2008, Judge Otero entered summary judgment against plaintiff ACSI, upholding the University of California's standards.  The university found the books "didn't encourage critical thinking skills and failed to cover 'major topics, themes and components' of U.S. history" and were thus ill-suited to prepare students for college.
There are a great many similar cases, where the religious try to use the legal system to protect their religious views.  Once examined objectively, the offered protection fails.  See what I mean?  In the short run this sort of protectionism ends up losing when challenged. What is really short-sighted is how much damage does this do to your belief set once you lose this challenge? Remember what St. Augustine tried to teach:
Augustine took the view that, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor. (Augustine of Hippo, De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [408], De Genesi ad literam, 2:9)
Instead of learning that lesson, theists go the protection route, a route that has failed them over and over again.  You cannot claim that your religious opinions as fact without backing it up with real evidence!  Without the evidence, any temporary legal protection breaks down as that lack of evidence gets displayed over and over again.

The downside is this constant cycle of attempted protectionism fails, but the ones who get hurt the most are the students.  How many scientific careers are closed off because not only does a student hold outdated ideas, like the Earth is 6000 years old, but when a professor attempts to correct a student, a politicized protection law may make it illegal!

Tell me, other than working at place like Answers in Genesis (AiG), how much value with a Geology education that includes very little Geology?  Where do most geologist work?  Oil and gas drilling, mining, construction (dams and bridges) , hydro-geology (drinking water). . . don't such employers have an expectation as to the education of their employees?  How can that happen when protection of religious opinions take precedence over education?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ark Park: Economic Boom or Bust?

There have been a great many articles about the economic impact that 'little kennie' ham's latest monument to his own ego, the Ark Park, has had on the local community.  The clear majority has been bad news for the citizens who thought it was going to be a tourist goldmine.

If you remember, one of the rationalizations that kennie used to sell the building of his ark park was how many visitors it would being into Grant County, Ky and the surrounding area.  By portraying it as a tourist trap and not a ministry, he sold it to the State and local governments who granted him all sorts of incentives and breaks.

But in all the press concerning such economic benefits, I have seen only one semi-positive article, the rest portrayed communities feeling more than a little victimized.  There was one that should to be viewed with a grain of salt . . . it was written by little kennie himself ("Economic benefits of Ark Park unfairly downplayed").  The clear majority of the reporting has shown that the ark park hasn't meet the expectations of the citizens who are paying for those incentives and breaks.  Here are a few examples:
"While a steady stream of visitors has flocked to visit the ark and the nearby Creation Museum, the impact on Williamstown’s economy has been far less than what many local residents expected." (Answers in Genesis? Ark, other attractions haven't boosted economy as expectedThe Daily Independent, June 7, 2017)
"Stormey Vanover is less hopeful. . . . She has operated Country Heart Crafts on Williamstown’s Main Street for the past nine years, sometimes with a profit, sometimes at a loss. “We do get a few people from the Ark, but they don’t really know we’re here,” she said amid the Kentucky-made soaps, candles and ornaments featured in her store, which is surrounded by empty storefronts. “It’s just not impacting us the way we thought it would.” " (Town expected flood of business after Noah’s Ark opened. So far, it’s a trickle, Lexington Herald Leader, June 2, 2017)
But the project’s single largest source of funding was actually $62 million in junk bonds floated by the town of Willamstown, population less than 4,000, home to the Ark Encounter and the county seat of Grant County, which faced bankruptcy this spring.“In terms of revenue for the county, we don’t get too much from them,” says the county’s chief executive, Stephen Wood. The Ark Encounter negotiated a vastly discounted 30-year rate on property taxes in 2013 under a previous administration. “I hate it, but that’s the deal,” says Wood.(A giant ark is just the start. These creationists have a bigger plan for recruiting new believers., The Washington Post, May 24, 2017 )
So, with the conclusion that the economic windfall isn't happening, the next question is who is to blame.  While that might not sound like a fair question, it does need to be addressed because little kennie, for all his pronouncements about how well the ark park is doing, posted this today:
"Recently, a number of articles in the mainstream media, on blogs, and on well-known secularist group websites have attempted to spread propaganda to brainwash the public into thinking our Ark Encounter attraction is a dismal failure. Sadly, they are influencing business investors and others in such a negative way that they may prevent Grant County, Kentucky, from achieving the economic recovery that its officials and residents have been seeking." (The Secularist Media War Against the Ark Continues, Answers in Genesis Ministry News, June 12, 2017)
Basically it's the atheists' fault.  Regardless of the lack of reporting from little kennie on actual attendance figures, or economic information impact, it's all the secular groups' fault.  Now I have a question, do you think believers in kennie's narrow version of the universe really pay much attention to the media, especially when the media isn't particularly flattering about one of their ministries?

I'm serious, I don't think anything the media says would affect their interest to visit kennie's ministries.  The media hasn't been particularly flattering to his Creation 'museum' and it seems to be making kennie lots of money, but not the communities in the surrounding area.  So, if anything, the media's representation of the ark park is probably keeping some people away, but would those people want to visit it anyway?

Serious question, while some might visit out of curiosity, but no media coverage, flattering or not, will get most people who disagree with kennie's point of view to visit one of his ministries.  So why aren't the local communities experiencing some sort of economic renaissance?  One thing might be kennie's overstated projections.  In his post Kennie said ". . . The economic recovery that the officials and residents have been seeking" but that's not an accurate picture.  It's not just that those communities were seeking, but that's the economic impact kennie said they would receive . . . providing they gave kennie all sorts of incentives and breaks so he could build his ministry there.  They did, yet the economic benefits are going where exactly?

Before the ark park was built, little kennie made a number of projections made, he even reduced his final set of attendance estimates to between 1.4  and 2.2 million visitors a year, recent reports say he's close to seeing his 1 millionth visitor -- which is interesting since it's been open over a year now.  More realistic estimates claimed while the first year will bring in many curious believers, as time goes on, it will decline to about 375,000 a year.  Far below his projections.

While it would be nice to blame kennie, the fault isn't entirely his.  Yes, his forecasts and projections have been mostly smoke, but the local people and their elected officials are also responsible.  What they should have told kennie when he announced plans to build his ministry was "Have fun!"  They should not have offered any incentives or tax breaks, after all it's a ministry.  But they were looking for a lifeline and that bought into kennie's overly optimistic numbers. Remember the adage "Let the buyer beware.", well they bought into it and now they get to pay for the privilege.  If I recall correctly. kennie forecasted 3000 new jobs, but in reality on about 900 have materialized.  A small county not getting 2100 anticipated jobs is another significant impact.

Things are so bad for Grant County that they may have to go bankrupt.  But they do have a plan, and it hits kennie where it hurts, in his wallet.  They are proposing a $0.50 tax on entertainment ticket sales.  We wrote about it in "Greedy Shepherd Annoyed that the Sheared Sheep are Making Noise".  Little kennie claims such a tax would force him to raise his $40 ticket price.  Sure, 1.25% tax is going to 'force' his to raise his ticket prices.  It wouldn't have been necessary if kennie had made realistic projections and the county understood what it was getting.  But that is a little too much to ask.  

What I will say, at this point, is someone is making money off of the ark park, and it's not the local community.  Gee, I wonder who it could be?  In the meantime, little kennie's 'ark of ignorance' is open for business while the rest of the area might not be able to say that for long.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Do Creationists Understand How Science Works? Apparently Not! (Part II)

Yet another example of trying to take one of the strengths of Science and claiming that it as a Negative.  As I've said many times, and as evidenced by scientific advances time and time again, science doesn't stand still.  As we learn more and more, we adjust the scientific theories, the explanations of what we are learning, in order to better explain the world around us.  Think of any field and think about the changes from 100 years ago, or 50, or 25, hell even just 5 years ago.  We learn, we adjust.  Nothing is carved in stone!  That's one of the main strengths of science and scientific methodology.

But of course any change, small or large, is portrayed by the Discovery Institute as proof that science doesn't work. In this post "Another Day, Another “Rewrite” on Human Origins", you can see it in the title, without bothering the read the article itself.  Here's the closing paragraph:
"The more that experts on human evolution know about our origins, the less they seem to actually understand. Given evolutionary presuppositions, the direction of research and learning is not from lesser to greater clarity, but just the opposite. The result is, as Scientific American more candidly puts it, a “mess” (“Ancient Fossils from Morocco Mess Up Modern Human Origins”). If that is the case, maybe the problem is with the presuppositions."
First off, I have to ask  . . . which is it?  Is the scientific community hidebound, parochial, and too steeped in their own righteousness to examine mew ideas . . . or, as the DI claims here, so open to new ideas that we really don't know anything?

Think about it, how many times has the DI whined and complained because 'Big Science' doesn't let anyone play because they have it all sewn up?  That was one of the messages from that abortion "Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed!", it's also been a constant theme from the DI as they portray themselves as champions of science because they are willing to consider all ideas, including their religious ones.  Yet as real science learns more and more, we change our explanations pretty often.  

So which is it?  Are we too locked into 'presuppositions' or too close-minded because no one outside of very specific religious circles gives Intelligent Design serious consideration.  You sure can't tell from reading posts, books, and articles from the DI.  

The DI also seems to have a problem with English.  Here is the definition of 'presupposition' :
"a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action." (Google: Presupposition)
Is a scientific theory a 'Presupposition'?  That's where the typical word games of the DI try and take us.  Theories are explanations based on the current state of our understanding AND are subject to change.  There is no 'tacit assumption', if that were so they would never change.  But . . . when you look at the explanations offered by religion, what changes there?  Don't Creationists 'presuppose' answers before even examining the question?  Isn't that exactly what the DI is guilty of, presupposing an intelligent cause for no other reason than they believe it to be so.  They offer no evidence other than their presupposition.

So, science is bad because it changes, yet religion is good because it doesn't change . . . yet religious answers to scientific questions are worthless whereas scientific answers actually work.  So there you have it folks, if you don't want to change, join a religion.  But when you hit the switch for your TV things might not work well because the high priests at the power plants are busy praying instead of learning how to run the place.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Isn't it Time We Protect Children From Religion?

Do you remember those TV shows, like 'When Sharks Attack" or "When Ghosts Attack"?  I think it's time for one called "When Religion Attacks".  The problem is the usual victims are children.  Yes, a couple of more examples of religious parents inflicting their religion on defenseless children.

I do want to first remind you that back in 2011, Followers of Christ members Dale and Shannon Hickman were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for the death of their newborn baby in Oregon City.  They have lost all appeals and hopefully they are still serving their sentences!

But, this isn't about them.  Did you know Shannon Hickman has a sister, Sarah Mitchell. The real pity is she now has something else in common with her sister, aside from being members of the same church. She and her husband, Travis, are charged with murder in connection to the death the death of one of her newborn twins.  Same reason, refusing to get medical help and relied on prayer instead.  Being surrounded by 60 fellow church members wasn't much help.

See what I mean when I talk about 'When Religion Attacks'? Unfortunately, all too often it's children like Ian, Neil, Matthew, Austin, Amy, Robyn, Andrew, Harrison, Nancy, Dennis, Arrian, Zachery, Troy, Shauntay, and Rhett. who all died because some people, often their theist parents, believed prayer beats out medical care.

The downside isn't just death, but a life of misery. 20-year-old Mariah Watson, who would like to see her parents prosecuted for what they did to her, or rather what they failed to do.   Mariah has a condition called pulmonary hypertension. Her current situation could have been prevented if doctors had closed the small congenital hole in her heart in her infancy or childhood.  Now she's waiting a risky heart and lung transplant because of all the damage this reparable condition has caused her.  She is permanently disabled and requires a breathing machine or oxygen tank.  She didn't get any medical treatment until she managed it on her own, in her late teens.  I guess rancid olive oil rubbed on the skin isn't as effective as actual medial treatment, who would have thought?

Unlike Oregon, where Hickman and Mitchell lived, Mariah lives in Idaho which has one of those religious shield laws which may be enough to protect her parents from prosecution, even in the event of her death from this treatable condition.  If you wonder why I have issues with religion, now you know!

Inflicting a belief set on a child should be illegal!  Kids aren't allowed to drive, vote, smoke, drink alcohol, join the military, or even hold a job until they reach certain ages.  Those laws are for the protection of the children.  Isn't it time we protected them from religion?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

So There is Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design (Part XII)

I have to wonder, if there is nothing religious about ID, why this:

"On a new episode of ID the Future, author J. Warner Wallace talks with Center for Science & Culture research coordinator Brian Miller about the role that Wallace’s work as a cold-case detective played in his first analyzing the evidence for intelligent design. 
. . . 
That evidence played a key role in Wallace’s own spiritual and intellectual journey. He says he was attracted to the story and person of Jesus. However, in the course of exploring religion questions, he asked himself whether science and reason allowed for any view inconsistent with philosophical materialism." ("A Cold-Case Detective Weighs the Evidence for Intelligent Design")
Aside from the idea of the DI even has a 'research coordinator', a question we sort of already addressed in "The Discovery Institute has Opened an ID Center in Brazil! Quite Possibly the Perfect Retirement Job!", I underlined a couple of points to illustrate things that make it harder and harder to separate Intelligent Design from its religious roots.

No, I haven't listened to the podcast.  You might think I am remiss is not doing so, but when the description is so obviously theistic, do you really need to put yourself through it?  I don't believe so.  Like the DI's pseudo-scientific writings -- where they use lots of scientific-sounding language, I would expect this pseudo-detective to use lots of investigatory-sounding words and phrases, but at the heart of it is his personal spiritual journey -- which makes it all suspect from the start.

Now you might think I am overstepping things by calling him a pseudo-detective, after all, he is a detective, or at least he was one at one time.  However, is he acting as a detective when using his 'spiritual journey' as a basis for this conversation?

This is similar to a question we've dealt with before, "Whether or not a Creationist can be a Scientist?"  We've answered it simply that Creationists can be scientists -- but only if they are able to set-aside their creationist-beliefs and look at the world in a more objective fashion.  Those that cannot will forever be known as 'Creation Scientists' and their impact on real science will be marginal.

Those who are acting as scientists, especially those recognized for their work as scientists are those who are produced scientific work that is not based on their beliefs, but on supportable, falsifiable, and explainable science.  Little kennie ham himself once identified such an individual a few years back.  Of course kennie focused on his beliefs -- but never seemed to find a tie between his beliefs and his work.  We talked about him in "Documentary vs Documentary-Style -- aka Reality vs Fiction":
"A Renowned Creation Scientist, Inventor of MRI".  No one has ever pointed to any part of the theories behind magnetic imaging and said "and here is where God did such-and-such." or "here is the part that is based on creationism".  The celebrated work was not based on any religious belief, but on actual science -- supportable, falsifiable, and explainable science.  
So I am sure this detective has had success as a detective, but I am equally sure his religious beliefs were not mentioned in any report when he actually closed a case, much in the way Raymond Damadian's beliefs were not part of his MRI work. Therein lies the difference between a scientist, or a detective, who is a Creationist and a 'Creation Scientist/Detective'.  So when I refer to him as a pseudo-detective, that's the point I am trying to make.  He's no longer acting as a 'detective' when he starts using his religion, but as a pseudo-detective.  But back to my main point.

If there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design, then such a discussion wouldn't be based on his spiritual journey.  But since you cannot intellectually separate the two, listening to this podcast would be a waste of time. This is nothing more than another believer couching his belief in terms that try and mislead the listener into thinking they are some sort of objective investigator, when you already know from the start that it isn't true.

In my opinion anyone who can separate the two is lying and doing their best to mislead people.  If you disagree, just look at the words and 'tactics of mistake' the DI has been using for years.  They try and try to divest themselves of Creationism and Religion, not because they don't believe in it, but because they know it places a huge legal roadblock in worming their way into the classroom.  Look at their marketing efforts and who they keep targeting.  Are they doing the scientific legwork to gain actual acceptance within the scientific community? No, they are marketing to religious groups for support and politicians for legal assistance in pushing their religious agenda.

Of course you can read all their denials, and then they post something like this which makes the ties that bind them tighter and tighter to Creationism.    They whine and bitch about the metaphorical noose that spelled such disaster for them in Dover, and then tighten it even more with posts like this.

Division along Racial Lines is Bad, but Division along Religious Lines is OK! Really?

The Gospel Herald has an article about one of my favorite targets, little kennie ham of the Answers in Genesis, Creation 'museum' and Ark Park fame. In it they quote little kennie talking about racism:

"There aren't 'white' or 'black' people-we're all the same color," Ham wrote in a Facebook post. "All humans have the same basic color of skin (which comes from the pigment melanin) just different shades--there are no 'white' or 'black' people. Using terms like 'white' and 'black' promotes division, racism, and prejudice--all are brown." ()
My issue doesn't address race, but division and prejudice.  Yes there are specific terms are divide people in many ways.  In recent years we've seen huge examples of divisiveness due to politics, more so than I can ever remember.  But there is another set of divisive terms and for some reason kennie not only doesn't address them, but promotes them.  They have to do with religion.

This is the same man who is hosting a 'World Religions Conference' next month and the stated purpose of that conference:
""Join us for the World Religions Conference July 24-27 and please share this with friends and family members who might be interested.More than ever, Christians need to know what other religions believe and then learn how to reach the lost souls mired in them." (World Religion Conference)"
Let me repeat the last part of that: "reach the lost souls mired in them".  So we are expected to believe this is a person whose wants to end divisiveness and prejudice?  And yet shows absolutely no tolerance for any religious beliefs other than his own!  What makes his belief set any better than any other?  Absolutely nothing!  In my opinion, the fact that kennie believes it, should be a huge warning flag to anyone with a functioning brain!

He preaches that we are all one people, but it only works for kennie if we all share one religion, his religion.  It's not even mainstream Christianity any more, but a narrow version of Christianity based on his personal beliefs.  It may have started with Christianity once upon a time, but it's evolved into something much more divisive and prejudicial.  How can someone claim to against divisiveness when he clearly demonstrate s prejudice against anyone who fails to share his narrow viewpoint.

You can't even work for ham unless you share that view.  Here is a copy from the AiG Employment Website for the requirements for a Plumber:
Remember, this is for a Plumber, not a minister, a plumber.  But to work for kennie at any of his ministries, you have to share his narrow religious viewpoint. I can understand the first three, but what do the last three have to do with your ability as a plumber?  Although, you might ask why kennie would need a plumber, won't prayer handle any problems?

One of the things you can expect if you visit one of kennie ham's monuments to his own ego, is the lack of any sort of freedom of expression.  Back in 2009 the Secular Students of America visited the place and there was a number of email exchanges pretty much guaranteeing that free speech is not allowed, particularly any attire the Creation Museum staff decided was 'godless'.  Here is one example.

I was in attendance that day as well and found the SSA folks to be quiet and reserved.  I didn't notice any 'godless' clothing, but I did listen to a guy who was told to turn his shirt inside out because it said "There probably is no God".  A valid opinion, but not if you are kennie's place.  See what I mean, how divisive is an arbitrary limit on freedom of expression.

This is also the man who was dis-invited from two homeschool conferences back in 2011 for what was described by the organizers for:
"The Board believes that Ken's public criticism of the convention itself and other speakers at our convention require him to surrender the spiritual privilege of addressing our homeschool audience," read the email, posted on the AiG website."Our Board believes Ken's comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst," the homeschooling group wrote, however, that it is "100% young earth" in its scientific stance."
Look at the words:  "divisive at best and defamatory at worst"!  Little kennie, and his 'Hamians', are among the most divisive people on the planet.  They believe so strongly in their particular religious strain, that they are perfectly OK with discriminating against the rest of the world, the overwhelming majority of which don't share his views.  We don't even have to get into his views on the LGBT community to realize how divisive and prejudicial Ham and Co. is.  So take his post about racial divisiveness with a large bag of salt.  He doesn't care about it, he's just using it to market his religion.