Thursday, December 14, 2017

"People critical of religion may fear it", Sort of!

In a letter to the editor "People critical of religion may fear it" may have a point, but I do not believe it is the one Joe [the letter-writer] is trying to make.  First off, a few things from his letter:

"My children were taught in public schools that their ancestors were monkeys, then perhaps they evolved all the way back to the ooze in the Nile River. "
He obviously doesn't really understand what evolution is, let alone how it's being taught in the classroom.  But that's pretty typical of theists.  They seem more afraid of something causing them to actually think about their religious beliefs than damn near anything else.  As for morality:
"Hollywood immorality seems to have crept into our society. If we are but evolved animals, any established morality is out the window. "
Is religion a viable source of morality?  I know theists like to make such claims, but when you look at not only the scores of differences between the moral beliefs of the multitude of religions in the world, but also look at many of the things done in the name of a religion!

Yes, some of the ideas of what is considered moral today and what is not may stem from one or more religious beliefs -- but it is not the belief in a particular religion that makes something moral, but societies decision of what is considered moral!  If that was true then theists wouldn't be committing any crimes let alone the most heinous!  How many religious leaders have been found to be much less moral than their own teachings?  How many children have to die from medical neglect due to someone's religious beliefs. No, as we have discussed many times, morality and religion do not go hand-in-hand, as many theists like to delude themselves.  And Joe, your information about Hitler is just plain wrong:
"By the way, Adolf Hitler, of no known religious affiliation, was an angry man who killed thousands of religious people."
Hitler's words often invoked Christianity, for example: (I underlined for emphasis)
"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality.
Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during recent years." (Adolf Hitler from the address he gave after coming to power in Germany (from "My New Order, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-1939", Vol. 1, pp. 871-872, Oxford University Press, London, 1942)."
As you can see, Hitler agrees with you about your Christianity being the very basis for morality, don't you feel special -- you have the same moral code as Adolf Hitler!  Yes, if you read any of Hitler's speeches, you will see Hitler invoked Christianity often!  Joe, you said:
"This country is about freedom of, not from, religion. "
Freedom 'of' includes the freedom to not believe -- or else it's not really freedom is it?  Just another form of religious control and oppression.  Joe, I have a question, supposed we did turn the US into a theocracy, which seems to be what you are preaching.  Suppose it didn't pick your particular version of Christianity.  What would you do then?  Freedom of Religion is what should be preventing that, but you aren't really about Freedom of Religion.  Your idea seems to be Freedom of religion, as long as the religion is yours.  That's not freedom!

OK, enough of his letter for the moment.  I would like to talk about fear!  I am not afraid of religion, and every non-theist I know isn't afraid of it.  If there is some deity that I will meet after I die, I will stand by my life!  Instead of trying to use a deity as an excuse, I live my life here and now!  When I make a mistake I pay for it now!  I make amends with people, I have committed no crimes, nor contemplated any, I don't even cheat on my taxes.  And I live my life without the need to beg forgiveness from anyone, let alone your version of a deity.  You, on the other hand, live in fear!

Yes, look at your religion, it's based on fear.  You try and live some aspects of your life by a set of rules handed to you by other men -- in the hopes your deity has the same set of rules.  You refuse to take responsibility for your actions because you regularly ask your deity to forgive your trespasses, instead of getting the forgiveness from the people you have hurt.  You believe because you are scared of some eternal punishment.  If you disagree, tell me how do you preach to non-believers?  Look at this article from the World News Daily, "Will scientists who reject God face greater judgment?".  While the WND isn't great source for news, I see this article as an example of the fear Christians keep trying to play upon.
"Are those who have a science degree and have rejected Christ going to be held more accountable before God based upon Romans 1:20?"
Why could this be the case, because -- according to the author:
"The holder of a science degree has had a high level of exposure to irreducible complexity, information science and special design, clearly illustrating the existence of God and His attributes."
So . . . since you have a science degree, you are more exposed to pseudoscience . . . and if you fail to recognize pseudoscience as God's work, you will be judged by God more harshly than anyone else.  Anyone else see the 'fear' at work.  It's not' believe because it's right', it's not' believe because it's good' . . . no, the message is 'believe or else'.  It's not just being judged more harshly, but your condemnation will be greater because you refuse to agree that pseudoscience is really some deity playing around..
"They spend years, if not a lifetime, being exposed to an unlimited amount of detail of special design, and many still reject it. As a result, will their condemnation be greater? I believe so."
You typically hear things along this line from theists when they mention things like 'going to hell!' . . . I have a question . . . why do they feel they have to threaten to gain adherents?  The first thing I usually hear is not all the good things done in the name of a particular religion, but that if I don't join their particular branch, I will burn for all eternity.  Fear is the marketing message!

If you read the whole WND article, don't you just love the author's analogy at the end.  Eating high cholesterol food isn't bad for you!  How can it be bad for you, it's in the Bible:
"Since her restrictions were completely contrary to what I can eat based upon Scripture, I knew it was her source of information, “man’s wisdom,” that was wrong and not mine."
Scientific evidence has supported for years that saturated fats and high level of cholesterol are bad for your arteries and your heart.  But, this guy treats the Bible as a nutritional textbook!  Even the research he hints at claiming that it's not really bad for you is misleading.  The degree is what has changed, not the unhealthy aspects of such a diet. But it doesn't matter to the author, if anything is based on man's knowledge, it gets immediately dismissed.

Back to the original article and the idea of 'fear', you are afraid to live your life, to take responsibility for your actions, to live without the crutch of an ancient belief set. And you think it's others that are afraid?

There is one thing I fear, it's the damage theists do, all in the name of their religion.  Your homophobia, your intolerance, your willingness to execute your own children through a lack of basic medical care, your efforts to destroy science education in the name of your belief set, your need to pass laws protecting your rights at the expense of the rights of others -- are just a few examples.  Disagree?  How about your own intolerance.  Let me repeat:
"This country is about freedom of, not from, religion. "
You see?  You can't even handle the idea of non-believers, whether they are atheists, agnostics, or apathists.   What you seem to be afraid of is a dissenting point of view.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Why did Methodological Naturalism Replace a Theological View of the Universe?

Sort of interesting article from the Adventist Review Online: "Cliff’s Edge – The Neo-Darwinian Inquisition", but like many similar arguments, it misses a simple, yet key, point.

Cliff Goldstein said:

"Sure, like 400 or 500 years ago, “natural philosophers” (the term “scientist” is a nineteenth century creation) nibbled away at the dogma, tradition, and ecclesiastical authority that for eons dominated the intellectual landscape. My favorite line in the history of the West came when—defying the stranglehold that Aristotle (the Darwin of his day) had on just about every discipline (like Darwinism today)—Englishman Francis Bacon declared, “I cannot be called upon to abide by the sentence of a tribunal which is itself on trial.” Wow! In other words, How dare you condemn me for violating a tenet of your worldview when your worldview itself is what I am challenging to begin with?"
I think Cliff is missing a few points.  First off a question, why did dogma, tradition, and ecclesiastical authority dominate the intellectual landscape for eons?  Do you see what I am getting at?  Cliff is complaining that natural philosophers nibbled away at that authority, but does Cliff explore why that authority was so paramount for so long?  Eons is stretching it, but it was the principle authority for a long, long time.  So why was it so?

In all honesty, it was the only game in town, wasn't it?  Who controlled the educational system?  Religious groups, did they not?  Monarchies ruled by the grace of one deity or another, didn't they?  Look at every town and you find often the largest and most ornate building was a religious one.  There were regular mandatory gatherings, and people were not allowed to exempt themselves, were they?  It literally was the only option, and it wasn't much of an option.  Even in the largest cities you might have multiple religious groups, but often they were segregated in certain areas -- or often they segregated themselves.  Marriages were often based on religion, children raised in the religion of their parents . . . and endless list helping to keep religion the only game in town.

Cliff also doesn't want to remind people that religions are incredibly jealous masters, even Christianity, which sells itself as being good and wholesome, has as its first commandment 'Thou shalt have no God before me'.  OK, sometimes it's listed second -- after the one about idols.  But the point is that adherence to the Christian God is before murder, theft, and adultery -- which is a perfect example of religion's priorities.  Most religions decry other religions, often tolerating them more than actually accepting them.  Many theists might never admit it, but anyone not of their specific religion is looking down as some sort of lesser human being. They are taught to feel sorry for others who fail to share their belief set and are constantly trying to convert them

Not complying with the religious authority could get you ostracized, banished, or even killed, it was hard to even consider any possible alternative.  Now let's ask the same question in a different way?  Did those dogmatic, traditional, or ecclesiastical authorities offer answers that actually worked?  Did prayer cure disease?  Did a deity help you plant the crops that would let you survive through a barren winter?  Did it help you build shelters, or explain how the sun rose each night or where it went at the end of every day?  In other words did religious answers provide anything useful in a practical sense?

So, even though it was the only game in town, and an incredibly jealous master, the answers that authority provided weren't particularly useful.  You have a very sick child -- then you were supposed to pray!  If the child died it's your fault for not praying hard enough!  If the child lived, praise your deity!  Sound familiar?  Even today when a disaster strikes, there are religious zealots who want to blame the lack of faith of the people affected.  Disagree?  Well then I guess you weren't watching the news about the some of the recent events like mass shooting and hurricanes.  I've mentioned the religious tendency to blame the victims a number of times, for example.

The reason I raise the question the way I have is because of another point Cliff misses.  Not the fact that science is replacing much of the religious dogma that has been taught for centuries, but why is science so successful at replacing religious answers?

It's funny, in the past when one set of religious dogma replaced another, it's stories and traditions simply replaced the old.  It wasn't that it was any better or more usable, just different.

Cliff makes it sound that such ecclesiastical authority was some monolithic structure, but the reality is it was different wherever and whenever you lived.  Every religion had their own set of stories, the only difference was the time and location -- Norse Gods, Roman Gods, Native American Spirits, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu . . . we could go on for days just listing them all.    How many different explanations for the Sun going across the sky existed?  Apollo's chariot (or Surya's chariot in Hindu mythology) or Sol, the Norse Goddess of the Sun are just two examples -- there were many others.  Even when the Sun was understood not to be a chariot, it was said to go around the Earth, because the Earth was the center of the Universe.  While they were different in specific detail, they all shared the same idea -- when you fail to understand something, slap a deity in front of it and start praying.

Science, on the other hand, isn't replacing one set of theistic explanations for the world we live in, but all of them.  Why is that, Cliff?

Cliff seems to be trying to equate one religion being replaced by another with the changes science has made in the landscape  . . . but he keeps forgetting one key feature.  The point Cliff is missing is 'Why', not why did this happen, after all belief sets have been coming and going for centuries.  The 'why' is more why did science manage to replace theology in addressing questions, and not just one set of theological, but all of them.

Think about it, right now, in modern times there are still hundreds of different religions, even if you look at the main branches, you are looking at tens of different ones -- all with their own set of religions stories.  Science isn't one religion replacing another, as people like Cliff would like you to believe.  But it's one set of answers replacing all the religious stories for a very simple reason, they works.

It works regardless of what religion might be prevalent in a region, it works regardless of national borders, it even works regardless of the opinions of pandering politicians.  Science works, Cliff.  That's the point you keep missing.  When you say things like:
"Newton’s formula (within limits), and modern science in general, worked so well, their predicative and technological successes so stunning, that today science wields oppressive power over most every intellectual endeavor. "
Cliff, you aren't recognizing the truth in your face.  Modern science, mainly scientific methodology, doesn't wield oppressive power the way religions did for centuries, but it does wield tremendous influence because it works!  Of course religious alternatives don't gain traction, not because of that influence, but because they don't work.

That's where the modern Intelligent Design Movement, and all the other religious concepts keep failing so many challenges.  I'll put the question to you, What's been the single biggest difference between the challenges put forth by yet another religion, and the one by science?  It's a pretty simple answer . . . which one works?  Which one meets the evidence, which one can be used to produce results, predictable and consistent results?

Yes, there is the point Cliff conveniently forgets to mention.  When science answers a question they offer support as in evidence, as in testable explanations, as in predictions that later discoveries confirm.  I'm being serious, can you point to a specific example of a deity taking action?  Be my guest, but in reality, you cannot.  If you are a theist the best you can do is identify something you think a deity may have done, but you cannot substantiate it in any way.  When pressed you drag out your religious tome as if that's evidence.  Even if your one example is in fact the actions of a deity, can it be applied consistently?  Can it be depended upon to work?  If so then the lottery would have millions of winners each week, wouldn't it!

We haven't found a single turtle holding up the Earth or pillars holding up the sky, nor found an angry deity causing an earthquake. Scientific theories have offered more and better explanations than any religious story I have every heard, and I would hazard a guess that science will continue to provide better explanations regardless of your religious beliefs.

Hopefully you can see the difference.  While religious explanations seem to touch something within some people, the reality is they don't offer much in the way of explanatory power.  Science, on the other hand, actually works.  That's the point Cliff seems to keep missing.

So what's a theist to do?  Well, the majority of them seem to have no issues with dealing with the world around them as it is as opposed to someone's claims a deity says it is.  Some small, yet vocal, minorities like to resort to all sorts of activities to try and protect what they perceive to be their 'turf'.  The problem is their explanations still do not work, not matter how many politicians pass laws 'protecting' them or their theistic 'pseudo-scientists' claim otherwise.

If you disagree I will ask once again, show me an actual scientific advance that how at it's core a religious concept?  I've had this conversation with different people over the years and at best they claim that a deity was the inspiration behind a scientific advance.  That's it!  They can't point to one scientific theory, or even part of a theory, and tell me anything specific.  They offer nothing but their own conjectures and lots and lots of wishful thinking.  But when it comes down to testable, measurable, and usable explanations, science leaves religion in the dust.

Is science perfect?  By no means!  But don't try and tell me perfection only applies to deities . . . if that was true, why do we need thousands of religions?  But when it comes to actually providing real answers, science, and the scientific methodology, is that only one that provides them.  Medicines cure disease, Materials science explains how structure we build remain standing, Geology explains earthquakes, Physics explains gravity, . . . -- all without invoking a single deity.  Do we know everything on every subject, no.  We will continue to learn and grow -- but working and workable answers will continue to leave out the deity, all of the deities!

And while we continue to advance on the scientific front, religions will continue to fight tooth and nail to protect their beliefs.  The tactics of mistakes they use will continue as long as they are donors willing to fund them.  People like kennie ham in Kentucky or those less than honest dealers in pseudoscience at the Discovery Institute will continue to both market their beliefs and fail to withstand any actual scrutiny, as long as their a people willing to fund them.  Science will continue, not because of a stranglehold of ideas, but because science simply works.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Is This an Example of a Big Christmas Present? I Don't Think So!

I celebrate Christmas, which might surprise some of you.  I consider it a secular holiday more than a religious one -- regardless of its history.  And while I sometimes get annoyed at Christians who insist of 'putting the Christ back in Christmas' usually while they are complaining about the lines while they are buying their Christmas presents, I like to tell them of the Pagan origins of the holiday so that way we are all annoyed :-)  Plus it's fun!

But that aside, I am curious.  If you received a gift card to Ark Encounter, would you consider that a Big Christmas gift? Apparently little, small-minded kennie ham seems to think so: "Give Something BIG This Christmas".

First of all, I was always taught to try and tailor my gifts to the person you are giving them to . . . with one possible exception, and I'll explain that one later.  The reasoning for the tailoring is that you really do not want to give a gift that would be unwelcome or unappreciated, regardless of the words exchanged upon opening.  My joy in giving gifts is the reaction upon opening, which is why I never bought my children underwear as a Christmas gift.  I always try and aim for something they need and also something they like.  If the two can come in one package, so much the better!

So giving a gift such as little kennie is suggesting would only be appreciated if they share kennie's belief set, which few really do.  I know kennie doesn't recognize any belief set other than his own, but the rest of the world certainly does.  Kennie's narrow-mindedness shouldn't ruin a perfectly good holiday for everyone else!

So before giving a gift for one of kennie's ministries, shouldn't you understand if such a gift would be appreciated?  I know kennie doesn't really care, because he will have his money regardless of whether or not the recipient actually goes to one of his ego-monuments.  But shouldn't you care if such a gift would be well received?  After all, you are buying a gift for a friend/relative/co-worker.

I also realize that, like little kennie's ruinous foray into Halloween trick-or-treating, what he is really doing is not only making money, but getting you to pay for the privilege of doing his preaching for him.  He's trying to inject himself into one of the more fun parts of the holiday, and at the same time, ruin people's gift giving.

OK, I did mention that I had one possible exception when sizing up potential gifts, and that is when looking for something as a joke gift.  Like the time my daughter got me gold-lame boxer shorts!  Appropriate?  Hardly, but funny as hell and something commented on occasionally since that year's gift exchange.  Now I don't recommend a gift card to one of kennie's ministries as a joke since ticket prices are running in the $40 range, an expensive price for a joke.  But that would be the only reason I would even consider giving one to anyone.

Hey, if anyone has an empty kennie gift card, that might work . . . sorta like those phony lottery tickets that were the rage a few years back . . . only at least with those the recipient had a small period of excitement upon opening, instead of the 'WTF' look kennie's card would most likely receive.

I wonder if one of the local strip clubs in Kentucky sells gift cards??  Now that would be funny to send kennie, almost as good as that thank-you letter he got from Planned Parenthood!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Can We Agree To Disagree? No!

It's only been recently that I've heard people actually use the expression "We can agree to disagree!".  Before that people disagreeing didn't require any sort of statement because what was usually happening was two people arguing about something inconsequential and couldn't find a way to end the argument, so without stating it, they would simply drop it.  The key for me was that it was always something inconsequential, like two fans of different sports teams or an opinion of a movie or restaurant.  Both parties recognized not only were they never going to agree, but whatever they were arguing about was really nothing important.

According to Wikipedia the phrase actually has a long history, much longer than I had realized, dating back the to 1770:

"There are many doctrines of a less essential nature ... In these we may think and let think; we may 'agree to disagree.' But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials"
Note the phrase 'less essential nature', in other words 'inconsequential.  The problem is that when I hear the phrase being used, it's not an inconsequential argument.  As I said previously the argument would end without having to declare agreeing to disagree.  But nowadays when I hear it, it's taken on a very different connotation for me.

There is an example in this blog, you might remember a commenter named 'Rory'. He responded to one of my posts: "Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!", in it he claimed  . . . well, here is his comment:
"Actually, an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend. To understand this turn of events, including perspectives of many leading scientists, see Intelligent Design vs. Evolution — The Miracle of Intelligent Design."
The link is to a webpage of his own which didn't do a very good job of making his case that 'an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe . . .'.  I didn't respond in a comment, but drafted a separate post: "In response to a comment".  In my response I went searching for independent confirmation of Rory's claim:
  • I visited the Discovery 'Institute' (D'I') to see if they showed a significant increase in signatories to their anti-evolution petition -- which they did not.
  • I also checked out the Biologics 'Institute' (D'I' private pseudo-lab) to see if they were publishing anything supporting Intelligent Design -- which they had not!
  • I searched on Pub Med to see if there was an increase in the number of Intelligent Design-friendly papers being posted and used for further research -- and found none.
  • I also hit several secular and non-secular universities to see if ID appeared in their curriculum -- which it has not.
  • Finally I reviewed Rory's link and found it to be mostly quote-mines and showed a severe lack of scholarship and hardly any research at all.
Bottom line, Rory had absolutely nothing to support his claim and I said so in my response post. Of course he had to respond and before repeating some of the same stuff over and over again, he started his long-winded response with:
"Thanks for your comments and rebuttal. We can agree to disagree."
So, can we really 'agree to disagree'?  At the time I said 'Yes, we can', but the more I hear the phrase, the more I realize that we cannot.  I see two reasons, the first is that 'agreeing to disagree' is a tacit agreement that the arguments being made are equivalent.  My second issue is that such arguments are not about inconsequential things.

Arguments such as the one with foolish Rory was about Science and scientific methodology.  Rory was in it to praise his version of a deity.  Since that is something not addressed by science or any rational scientific methodology, Rory was doing nothing but preaching and using lies and distorting other people's words (quote-mines) to do so.  How can anyone agree to disagree when faced with such disreputable tactics?

Arguments concerning Evolution, Vaccinations, and Climate-change are not inconsequential!  These are important areas that should not be trivialized because of one's religious beliefs.  Belief in a deity is not going to save children from getting preventable diseases, it's not going to develop cures and new medical techniques, and it's certainly not going to change how humans have impacted our environment!  That's why most Christians have no issue with those areas at all!

So I have come to the conclusion that when someone says "We can agree to disagree" really means they have lost the argument and are looking for way out without having to actually concede.  In recent conversations, the people who uttered that ridiculous phrase seem to be trying to equate their complete lack of factual support with the opposition's facts and evidence.  But, it doesn't work that way.

My example of Rory should how little factual support he had for his arguments, so he tried the 'agree to disagree' BS.  No, I do not agree to disagree, particular when your arguments are based on lies and distortions.  Bring the evidence that supports your arguments and then we can discuss.  If you have no evidence, don't expect me to let you off the hook by agreeing to disagree.

Look at the parent who says something like "I know what's best for my child!"  In many cases that's true, but when it comes to vaccinations and medical treatment, is the opinion of a parent the same as a trained medical professional?  It's not even close!  Yet groups, like the Discovery 'Institute' (New Discovery Institute Key Word: "Intuition") keep trying to sell folks that their intuition is as good as scientific methodology!  Show me one scientific breakthrough that is based on intuition or even opinion?  Intuition and opinions do not keep buildings standing, that's called engineering and it's based on sound scientific principles.

So if you ever say to me 'We can agree to disagree' and we are talking about something more important than the NY Giants chances for the Superbowl, you can forget it -- because we cannot agree to disagree and we never shall!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Does Losing a Wikipedia Page Ruin a Career?

This story has been rumbling around the web for a while, in fact the DiscoveryInstitute talking heads have had a great deal to say about it. Before you read it, you might need to understand that Wikipedia has standards, one of the set of standards is academic notability. While nearly anyone can create a page on Wikipedia, it's contributors can easily remove pages that fail to meet those standards.

That's what happened to Dr. Günter Bechly, there was a Wikipedia page for him and Wikipedia took it down because it failed to meet their standards for academic notability.  Of course the DI immediately declared it an outrage, claiming all sorts of collusion, discrimination, and cover-ups -- much like their defense of Guillermo Gonzalez.  If you remember Gonzalez was denied tenure after failing to achieve the requirements for tenure.  The DI claimed the denial was based on him being a Creationist, but they never addressed several issues like:

  1. The Chronicle [Chronicle of High Education] observed that Gonzalez  . . . had published no significant research during that time
  2.  . . .had only one graduate student finish a dissertation.
  3. According to the Des Moines Register, "Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.
All the DI could do was whine and cry discrimination, yet the evidence says Gonzalez failed in the requirements for tenure -- requirements normally spelled out when you accept a tenure-seeking position.  Publishing research is probably the main requirement, but successful graduate students are also a typical responsibility, as is raising outside grant money.  Gonzales failed, and the DI never bothered to address his failings.

Doesn't that sounds exactly like the whining and crying they are now doing over Günter Bechly. According to Wikipedia, his academic achievements do not merit a Wikipedia page. So instead of showing Wikipedia a list of notable achievements -- related to actual science, they whine and cry about imaginary discrimination. Where is his Curriculum Vitae (CV)? CV's normally include information on academic background, including experience, degrees, research, awards, publications, presentations, and other achievements. Like Gonzalez, why isn't the DI publicizing Günter's?

The real question is -- is he truly notable?  According to WikiSpecies, he's been part of only 4 publications -- and he wasn't the lead on any of them.  Not particularly notable.  He is still listed in the German version of Wikipedia, which made me think a bit, what about his contemporaries?

Günter  used to work at the he State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, so I found their website and staff listing. I randomly selected a dozen members and have not found a single US Wikipedia page for any of them, in spite of several showing larger publications lists on the German version of Wikipedia.  Interesting, so Günter had a US Wikipedia page for some reason.  So that leads to my next question, what differentiates Günter from the rest of the staff?

There only seems to be one thing that separates Günter from the ones who still work there, his support for Intelligent Design.  So . . . why did he have a Wikipedia page in the first place?  Apparently his old co-workers didn't merit one?  Could it be his notoriety as one of the few scientists who support ID?  I don't know, but that seems to be the only distinction between Günter and his associates.

So, let's check a few other Wikipedia pages and see if the other members of the DI Religious Ministry have had their pages deleted.  Of course if Günter  was deleted because of some form of discrimination, logic says others will also have been deleted!
  • Michael Behe -- page still there
  • Wild Bill Dembski -- still there
  • Phillip E. Johnson - still there
  • Paul Nelson -- still there
I started searching individually, but then found a page at the DI that shows 12 of the 17  DI Senior Fellows have Wikipedia pages.  I would have to assume that the other 5 never had a page or the DI would be making even more of a hue and cry.  14 of the 24 Fellows have Wikipedia pages.  So I do not see any evidence of discrimination, only efforts to rationalize the removal of Günter's page.

I was pretty much laughing about the whole thing and had no intention of even addressing it until I saw this headline:
"Pro-Darwinists Destroy Scientist’s Career After He Turns to God-Based Evolution Theory"
Is his career ruined?  Currently he's working at the Biologic Institute (which is owned and operated by the very people who are raising the fuss -- the Discovery Institute.  Now since this job aligns well with his religious beliefs, you would think it would be a dream job for him.  Apparently he's still employed, so I have to ask, did the removal of his Wikipedia page really ruin his career?

Much like Gonzalez, the removal of the Wikipedia hasn't ended his career, so what might have had a negative impact?  Perhaps his time and energy and efforts promoting a non-scientific concepts may have played a role?  You get hired for a job and you spend most of your time doing a different job -- and then you find yourself working in a pseudo-lab instead of an actual lab?  Think about it, would you keep on a butcher who spend only part of his work time actually butchering meat?  How about a rocket scientist who spend hours a day preaching to co-workers?

No, if Günter's career is ruined, he cannot blame Wikipedia for enforcing their standards.  Günter, you have to look a bit closer to home and wonder if maybe you should have really kept your religion out of your workplace?  Spending your time and resources on your religious beliefs and not on actual science may have played a larger part -- not because of discrimination, but because you aren't doing your job.  You might look up Nathaniel Abraham, David Coppedge, Catherine Croker, or John Freshwater.  They also damaged their own careers because they put their personal religious beliefs ahead of their careers, and then seemed surprised when they were held accountable by their employers!

So now you are in the DI pet laboratory, the Biologics Institute.  Now you have a choice.  You can continue to whine and cry -- or you can do what no one else at the DI seems to be able or willing to do.  Get out of marketing and support your religious ideas with actual science -- not pseudo-science but actual science, following scientific methodology.  If you can do that, you might notice a significant career boost.  But if you fail at that, or simply keep whining and crying -- then you might one day realize your career was always in your own hands, not Wikipedia's.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

I Wish I Had Thought Of It! A Donation in kennie ham's name to Planned Parenthood!

I enjoy a good joke, and I also enjoy a good practical joke.  You can ask my friend Brian whose computer lost it's network connection during an OSU basketball game.  Every 10 minutes or so he would come by my desk and ask me to hit a sports website to get a score update.  The website had a nice graphic of a basketball court with the score on a score board hanging in the middle.  Well, me being me, I took a snapshot of the page, dropped it into a paint program and instead of OSU being up by 15, they were suddenly down by 9.  The next time Brian came by, I opened the image full screen and he did everything but screw himself into the ceiling when he thought OSU was losing.

As I said, I like practical jokes. One day I might tell you about the case of soda, the stale cupcake, or the office full of balloons. But today I have to hand any sort of crown over to an anonymous practical joker who pissed little kennie ham off. Here is the headline I saw this morning:

"Ken Ham 'Disgusted' to Learn Anonymous Donor Sent Money to 'Murderous' Planned Parenthood in His Name"
I stand in awe!  I so wish I had thought of it!  Not only does kennie get all upset, but Planned Parenthood gets a donation!  Whoever thought of this is brilliant!  I hope many of the organizations kennie targets with his brand of hatred and intolerance start receiving anonymous donations in little kennie's name.  I don't know how many might send thank you letters, but I hope kennie gets inundated.

I am sure any of the numerous groups who promote women's rights, gay equality, teaching actual science. In fact. let's list a few:
Of course these are just a few of the organizations that kennie preaches against.  Whether or not he names them directly, he frequent attacks on the rights supports by these, and many other organizations, are well documented.  I don't know if anyone of them have a habit of sending a 'thank you' note, but I do intend on finding out.  I might be adding a few names to the places I regularly donate.

Now, I will admit to not doing any homework about these organizations yet, so I never do until I know a bit more.  For example how much of your donations goes into the activities the organization as opposed to supporting the organization itself.  I have been surprised at those numbers for different organizations, sometimes seeing less that 25% going toward the charity, and in some cases less than 10%.  So I always encourage doing your homework before sending anyone any money.

But if you happen to donate in little kennie's name, you can send any notes along to 
Ken Ham
C/O Answers in Genesis
PO Box 510
Hebron, KY 41048

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How does a Creationist Explain Extinction?

I've asked this question before and rarely got an answer that makes any sense, especially when you run into a creationist who wants to explain how baby dinosaurs were on the Ark all along.  Today's Non-Sequitur had this:

The source doesn't allow me to copy it for myself, so I hope the link stays live.  If you can't see it, you might try searching for Non Sequitur for Nov 17, 2017.  It's worth a little effort.

Of course come creationists, like little kennie ham, won't like it, but then do they like anything that doesn't support their particular brand of religious story-telling?  After all, kennie is the one selling the idea that dinosaurs and men lived together in perfect harmony.  Remember this picture:
I took it on my only foray to little kennie's Creation pseudo-museum.  When I see velociraptors with children I don't think harmony, I think 'lunch!'  But since kennie fails to recognize the enormous time difference between dinosaurs and human beings, I'm not surprised that he thinks everyone lived happily for a while.  I mean on a geological scale, kennie's 6000 year old Earth means the time difference between dinosaurs existing and humans was pretty short, so some overlap is almost expected. 

Every time I think about kennie's idea of dinosaurs on the ark, all I can think of is the scene from Jurassic Park II, you know the one, T-Rex on a ship:
Yup, "LUNCH!"

Technology at an Decidedly Non-Technological Ministry

Maybe it's just my sense of humor, but where in the Bible does it mention Lasers?  Little kennie ham is hawking his latest attraction to bring in contributors. "Ark Encounter Introduces Christmas Light Show":

"Christians and non-Christians alike will enjoy this technologically cutting-edge program,” said Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, the ministry which created Ark Encounter."
Yes, technology and cutting-edge are words you don't associate with kennie's ministries.  He, and his Hamians, spend most of his time trying to destroy science and science education.  Of course they have no issue with using the technology that was developed by the very science they cannot accept because there isn't a hint of deference to their version of a deity.  Anyone else see how hypocritical that is?

I am sure little kennie will find some rationalization as to how lasers aren't anti-religion, but evolution is.  But that's all that is, a rationalization.  Science does not address issues involving the supernatural, that doesn't make any scientific discipline anti-religious.  The problem here isn't science, but kennie.

You see kennie, like most theists, have a list of things they insist one deity or another did.  It doesn't matter if the action is written in one of their religious tracts or not.  If they claim it, then they defend it, regardless of reality.  They will fight tooth and nail to protect their religious beliefs, even though they have nothing concrete to stand on.

Since lasers don't brush up against on of those beliefs, it's OK to use them, but evolution, geology, cosmology all brush up against their creation stories and that scares them.  I mean if they have to accept that maybe their deity didn't create everything in 144 hours, then what other parts of their 'holy' books are not real?  Just because there is no evidence of it, doesn't stop them from protecting their beliefs, no matter how far they have to stretch their minds to come up with am explanation that allows them to not actually think.

I hate to break the news them . . . actually that's not true, I enjoy saying things like this:  "The theories behind lasers were developed using the same scientific methodology that was used in the Theory of Evolution!"  I actually enjoy pointing out such hypocrisies.  I know hard-core believers won't accept anything I say, but when I see some of the less-hardcore react to some of the things I -- and many others -- have said, I still have hope.  Of course my laughter when I get told I am going to burn in Hell really pisses them off!

So, in the meantime enjoy the fact that little kennie uses the very science he denigrates to push his messages of homophobia, divisiveness, fear, and hatred.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Scientists Are Not Stupid!

I thoroughly enjoyed this post: "Scientists aren’t stupid, and science deniers are arrogant". It's from the site "The Logic Of Science", which is a blog I run across frequently but now I will be adding it to my regular reading list.  The main premise can be summed up in this quote:

"I have found that not only do people with no formal training in science think that they know more than the entire scientific community, but in almost every case, they think that there is a fundamental and obvious problem that essentially all scientists have either missed or are willfully ignoring."
As I read this, nearly every conversation I have had with a denier on Evolution, Climate Change, and even Tobacco could have been an example cited in this article.  How it usually works for me is they start with some simple fact, twist it around and try and use it to discredit and entire scientific discipline, and then defend it with amazing rationalizations that simply boggle my mind.

Two examples of their use of facts:  Climate Change v. the Little Ice Age and Evolution v. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.  Conversations usually start with a brief explanation from Google or Wikipedia, which is usually fine.  Then they add in something heard from a very conservative source -- most often funded by an industry or special interest with a bone to pick with the science.   Commonly the Oil/Gas Industry or their funded 'think tank' the Heartland Institute when it comes to Climate Change, or a religious ministry like the Discovery Institute or Answers in Genesis when it comes to Evolution.

Once you start poking holes in their arguments, they veer away from their pseudo-facts and start rationalizing.  My favorite is the 'rice bowl' analogy.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, what it means is when someone jealously protecting a project or program.  It's believed to be from some Chinese or Japanese slang concerning losing your job -- i.e.: your method of providing for your family with staples, like food -- hence the use of 'rice'.  I've heard it many times in the military over the years.  It's also often expressed as 'defending your turf' as well.

If goes like this:  "Scientists are too busy protecting their jobs and sources of funding, so they dismiss evidence that opposes their self-interest."  There is a simple problem with this one.  While it's true job security is an objective of most working adults, what would happen to a scientist who succeeds in disproving something like Evolution?  Can you say 'Nobel Prize'?  Here's another quote from the article:
"Disproving evolution would result in me going down in history as one of the great minds of the 21st century. So, why haven’t I or any of the thousands of other ambitious young biologists published that evidence? Because it doesn’t exist! This idea that you have to blindly go along with the “dogma” to get anywhere in science is totally backwards. You don’t get grants to confirm things that everyone already knows. "
There is the fallacy in the argument, most scientists are not highly paid, in fact I make nearly twice the average salary of a climate scientist, and I am a computer programmer with a Master's.  Of course that data depends on a lot of things, like the exact position or even what part of the country they live in.  But no matter what data set you are looking at, climate scientists are not very highly paid.  If you look at a Biologist, or worse a Biology Teacher, their remuneration gets even lower.

Now, who do you think are scientists who make higher salaries?  Not the ones toeing some imaginary party line, but the ones making breakthroughs, discovering new things, developing new medicines and medical treatments.  So this 'protecting your turf' argument fails on many levels!  Plus you have to factor in that we are not just talking about scientists at one institution or location, but world-wide.  Think of how illogical to believe in a decades-long, multinational conspiracy of silence just so current scientists can keep their positions.

However, when you look at the people arguing against science, you really can't see the rice bowl protection going on?  Look at how climate science can impact profits of the current energy companies, you know the ones funding anti-climate change marketing material?  How about religious groups who are terrified of the impact real science might have on their congregations and donations?  And you think scientists are being defensive?

Conspiracies theories might be entertaining and fodder for idiotic television and radio shows, but when you look at the logic of them, they tend to be absurd.  One last quote from Logic of Science:
"Anytime that an argument requires you to think that the entire scientific community is hopelessly stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. you should be extremely skeptical. Scientists aren’t stupid, and if you think you have found something simple and obvious that all of them have missed, you are almost certainly wrong. It is the epitome of arrogance to think that a few minutes or even hours on Google have endowed you with a better understanding of science than the collective scientific community gained through countless years of training and experience."
Why is it so hard for too many people to recognize that training and experience count for a hell of a lot in the real world.  I wish one of them would look up computer programming on Google and see how well they would function doing my job, let alone one in physics or biology.  Would trust a dentist with your mouth who received such an 'education'?  Here's something fun to watch.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why The Earth May Not Be Round!

We are not advocating teaching the Earth is Flat, we are advocating to expand science education by teaching the controversy over why the Earth may not be round.  Sound familiar?

The official (cough, cough) policy of the Discovery Institute (DI) of not advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) is pure BS.  If it were true then they would not be writing lesson plans, politicking politicians and student groups, nor supporting legislation designed to weaken real science education, among other tactics and strategies.  What they claim to be advocating is expanding science education by teaching the controversy over Evolution. They re-iterated this in a recent post addressed to Utah (Dear Utah: Teach About the Scientific Controversy Over Evolution, Not About Intelligent Design)

I have a question, does teaching this 'controversy' really expand science education?  It would be one thing if there really was a scientific controversy over Evolution, but since the only controversy is an artificial one, a culturally-contrived controversy over whether or not religious beliefs should be taught instead of actual science -- is this really an expansion?

What this does is weaken science education, and this was found to be true during the Dover Trial.  Imagine a science teacher who covers the scientific theory of evolution, and then is required to introduce religious arguments against it -- arguments without any factual support or evidence.  What would be the outcome?  The Dover Decision made that pretty clear -- confused students because of a weakened science education.  Teaching religion as if it was science is a bad idea because  . . . well for one reason, it doesn't work.

Buildings are not held up by prayer, cars do not run because of the wishes of a capricious deity, medicines do not work because of wishful thinking.  They work because of the science and applications of that science in architecture,  engineering, and medicine.

I have to argue about one statement they made:

"In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned."
Is Evolution really taught as dogma and not open to any scrutiny?  That's what this statement implies.  So my next question is whether or not it is taught dogmatically.  So what evidence would support that?
  • Textbooks covered it as dogma
  • No changes to Evolutionary Theory since it's inception
  • An increasing number of scientists/science group advocating a non-religious alternative
First up textbooks:
However, I have look at a number of textbooks, including my own, my daughters', and my granddaughter's and there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that.  In my last visit to a local college library (Wright State University), I looked up several biology texts and also found it taught as a scientific theory and not dogmatic at all.
There is one point that I do keep hearing from creationists or varying stripes as evidence for this dogmatic approach -- evolution being explained as a fact and not a theory, but that is more word play than anything else.  Gravity is a fact -- hold something out at arms length and drop it, it falls -- only please don't do this with an iPhone, they seem to be more disaster prone than others (as my granddaughter can attest).  The fall of an object is a fact, and we call that fact Gravity.  Gravity is also a theory, it is the explanation of why things fall as they do.

Do you see the difference?  We use the same term to describe both the fact and the explanation.  We do the same thing in many areas of science, Light is a fact, the Theory of Light is the explanation.  Germs are a fact, Germ Theory is the explanation.  Evolution is a fact, the Theory of Evolution is the explanation.  Calling Evolution a fact isn't dogmatic, but contextual use of the word.  When you look at the evidence for life changing over time, you see the fact of evolution.  When you see the genetic differences and similarities between organisms, you see the fact of Evolution.  What you want to understand how those facts occurred, you look at Evolutionary Theory.

OK, how about whether or not evolutionary theory is open to scrutiny:
Has the Theory of Evolution changed and is it still changing?  The answer is 'hell yes!'  Since Darwin's day there have been many changes.  There have literally been thousands of scientists questioning all or part of Evolutionary theory on a daily basis and coming up with more and better explanations.  That's how science works.
If scientists thought Evolution was not open to scrutiny, would any of this come to pass?  There would be very few, if any, scientists working on it.  There would be very few changes, again if any.  Major changes would be unheard up.  Things like Punctuated Equilibrium, Genetics, Genetic Drift, and many others wouldn't possibly exist if Evolution was some untouchable sacred cow.

The reason they do exist, and new ideas and theories that will come in the future, is because science treats little as untouchable.  We've learned the lessons of the past that when ideas are considered inviolate, we cannot ignore evidence that appears to violate them.  Ignoring evidence is not how science advances. We learn by asking questions and finding answers, and when those answers don't match current theories, we keep going and figure out why, then adjust the theories with the new knowledge.

The reason I think folks like the DI keep making this 'dogmatic' argument is mainly because their failure to formulate and actual scientific theory that includes their religious beliefs.  Several years ago even the daddy rabbit of ID, Philip Johnson, even admitted it:
"I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world." (Berkeley Science Review, Spring 2006, retrieved from Wikiquote)
That's why they make this argument, not because they really think it's being taught dogmatically, but because they have not made any headway in an actual opposing scientific theory.  Without their cries of 'dogmatisim', they would have little else to say.  So the real question is not whether or not Evolution is taught dogmatically, but why haven't you, DI, been able to formulate a scientific theory that can compete with Evolution?  The Dover Decision included this little gem on why they argue the controversy instead of focusing on actual science:
"ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard"
One last thing, are there non-religious alternatives to Evolutionary Theory?
If there are, no one seems to be talking about them, anywhere.  The only alternatives that people hear about are Creationism and it's little brother Intelligent Design.  I know the DI likes to claim ID is not religious, but no one seems to believe them.  Their own actions, strategy documents, even the audience for their marketing materials all prove that ID is nothing more than re-packaged Creationism.  One last quote, and it's from the Dover Decision:
"The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism."
And that is why Intelligent Design will remain in the same section of the bookstore where religion, physic powers, numerology, and tarot cards are sold.  You can get your 'Flat Earth' conspiracy books there as well.  It should also be the reason why states, including Utah, should pass real science standards which focus on science and not religious beliefs.