Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who 'Owns' a Rainbow?

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

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

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

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

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

The Discovery Institute has been going Eclipse Crazy

I've been reading their 'coverage' of the upcoming Solar Eclipse and it's been very entertaining.  While their posts start out OK, they quickly have to being a Creationist spin to the party, but not much of it.  That's the funny part.  All of these posts are over at their pseudo-blog site, Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV).

  • The Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017: They say this:
    "Oh yes, we will also cover the intelligent design aspects of solar eclipses!"
  • Great American Eclipse: A Teachable Moment:  Lists 10 things about eclipses, all from their 'design' perspective.  Reading this led me to believe they will be working in their 'Privileged Planet' nonsense.  You remember how they tried to explain that the formation of the solar system and the position of Earth was done so that life could survive, well after it was first created by one of their deities.  Bet they interview Guillermo Gonzales, unless he's cowering under a desk somewhere because of the:
    ". . . total solar eclipses are fearsome and awesome phenomena . . ."
Now here is where I got a little confused.  You see EnV tags all their posts, and while these first two tags are "Intelligent Design", the later Eclipse stories are tagged as "Physics, Earth, and Space".  Here's a screenshot:
So are they reneging on their promise to thrill us all with their Intelligent Design perspective on the eclipse?  I guess we shall see.  
  • Recalling the 1979 Total Eclipse:  Is a written memory of an eclipse witness.  Nothing design worthy, but I can see why the DI liked it, I mean they like anything that acknowledges a deity, and this ended with:
  • "We blinked in the light It was as though an enormous, loping god in the sky had reached down and slapped the earth’s face."So that reference alone made this post 'design-worthy'.
  • Eclipse Coincidences: They list a few things that sound suspiciously like facts, like the distance to the Moon, how the Moon is receding from the Earth, how over the course of time the Sum will expand . . . we're talking millions of years here.  The DI claims that the 'coincidental' Moon moving away and Sun getting bigger will let us enjoy perfect eclipses for a long, long time.  Then they add:
    "Are these just coincidences, or do they point to intention and design? How could observers on earth be linked to total solar eclipses? Stay tuned and follow our eclipse series for answers."A 'perfect eclipse' is one only visible from Earth because the sun and the moon are a 'perfect' fit.  Of course, by the wording, you know what they believe.  They very idea of a coincidence is an anathema to them.  It has to be intention and design!
  • Solar Eclipses Still Inspire Science: And here we have it, the whole "Privileged Planet" nonsense.  Yes, things exist, but trying to rationalize they exist because one deity intended for them to happen is not science.  They offer no support other than supposition, no evidence other than the acknowledgement that things exist.  They cannot accept natural explanations, so they have to force reality into a mold that demands the existence of and very specific actions by a deity.  I'm sure it will get mentioned again, ad nauseum!  They end it with this quote from the film:
    "Our argument suggests something completely different. It suggests that the universe was intended, that the universe exists for a purpose, and that purpose isn’t simply for beings like us to exist, but for us to extend ourselves beyond our small and parochial home: to view the universe at large, to discover the universe, and to consider whether, perhaps, that universe points beyond itself."
    Isn't that dead horse glue yet?  No!  Well. let's beat it some more.
  • To Go, or Not to Go (See the Eclipse)? That Is the Question:  Well, it's a question, not 'the' question.  I, for one, will not be going anywhere.  I'll get a small partial eclipse here in Ohio and will see the shadow from my office window.  If I were closer to the total eclipse, it might be worth a drive, but I have plans for my vacation days that don't include an 8 or so hour drive to see a two minute event that will be covered over and over again by the news.  Partial eclipse is just going to have to be enough.  Nothing special about this post.  Anyone who has planned a trip anywhere for any purpose knows about dealing with the logistics, including lodging, meals, traffic, and weather.  I do have to wonder if the eclipse is some message from a deity, shouldn't the weather be perfectly clear all along its path?  The message gets a little lost if you can't see much of it.  You want to prove the hand of a deity, how about a total solar eclipse around the entire world all at the same time!  Now that might get a few converts.
  • The Best Solar Eclipses:  Best?  By what standard?  The DI seems to think eclipses anywhere but here aren't very special because of the size differences between the Sun and the object casting the shadow.  Other planets have total solar eclipses as well, in fact Jupiter, with it's 60+ moon can have multiple ones on the same day (NASA has pictures).  'Best' is an arbitrary distinction that doesn't mean much.  We even have pictures of a solar eclipse from Mars, the Curiosity Rover sent us the pics.  This 'best' things sounds like something that hamster-haired serial lying misogynist would say "We get the best solar eclipses in the solar system, by far!"  Makes as much sense as anything he has said.
  • Don’t Miss the Solar Eclipse! (Unless You Are Ill, or Trapped in a Dungeon): Here's a quote:
    "Have you noticed the odd coincidence? The Moon and the Sun aren’t much alike. Yes, they’re spherical. But one is a giant ball of gas and plasma. The other is a much smaller rock. And yet, during a total eclipse, they mark off the same space in our sky. They match. That’s because the Sun is about four hundred times larger than our Moon, but also about four hundred times farther away."
    Gee, they are round and for a brief period of time they pass each other in line with the Earth.  So they 'match'?  Really?  Now if the math seems off to you, the DI is talking about diameter, not any other measurement.  Area or Volume and the Moon is pretty much insignificant when compared to the Sun.  The DI thinks it's special simply because it will block out much of the Sun's body.  But that will be changing, remember the Moon is moving away form the Earth and in about 600 million years, solar eclipses will look very different.  In a few billion years the sun will be expanding, and eclipses, if we have a moon then at all, will be very, very different by then.
  • Solar Eclipses and Life:
    "Since there appears to be a physical basis for the solar eclipse coincidences, does this not remove the need for a design explanation? Not at all! It seems surprising on the chance hypothesis that the universe would be setup in a way that the most habitable locations would also be the best places to observe total solar eclipses. But this makes sense on the hypothesis that the universe is designed so that observers can enjoy total solar eclipses.
    Thus, solar eclipses became the first example of the Privileged Planet thesis (published in book form in 2004), that the universe is designed for scientific observation and discovery."
    The fact that solar eclipses occur, and that because they occur here and are visible to humans is an example of the Privileged Plant Thesis?  The link takes you to the Privileged Planet website where they hawk the book.  So what is this thesis?  For a change, at least, they are admitting it's a thesis, which is nothing more than a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.  Which simply means more conjecture and wishful thinking, not proof, not empirical support, but just a statement that would like someone else to support -- because in the 13 years since publication, nothing has actually supported it.
OK, so in all their posts, and I am sure there will be more before the 21st, there is very little design perspective in their 'coverage' of the upcoming eclipse.  It's more like they are using a natural event to push their own agenda, while dressing it up to sound like they know and understand real science.

I am reminded of a scene in an old movie, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  The Bing Crosby one from 1949.  He's about the be hung and remembers that an eclipse was going to happen right then and there.  So he plays up the fear as the sun disappears and wins the day, and eventually the fair maiden -- well sort of.  Apparently that story was taken from a real-life example of none-other-than Christopher Columbus on his 4th voyage.

Even Answer in Genesis is getting into the act with a bunch of posts of their own.  Before you explore that, you might read this one from 2015.  "Watch the Lunar Eclipse from the Creation Museum"  Here's a quote:
"It’s your last opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse from North America until 2018. And we want to invite you to watch the whole thing with us at the Creation Museum! On September 27, around 9:07 PM, we’ll see the moon start to slip into the moon’s shadow and it will be completely hidden a few hours later."
So back in 2015 there was a Lunar eclipse and the Creation pseudo-museum threw a party.  I have to guess it wasn't a big hit because they aren't holding an event this time around.  Granted you wouldn't get to see the total solar eclipse at the pseudo-museum, but you would get a decent partial one.

Since using eclipses' is a time-honored tradition both in movies and real life, I am surprised little kennie ham isn't selling tickets.The one in 2015 was $16 a person, imagine what he could charge today?

Monday, August 14, 2017

So Who is Censoring the Intelligent Design Community's Free Speech?

As expected, the Discovery Institute (DI) has renewed their free speech whine.  "Evolutionist: Free Speech for Me, Not for Thee, Certainly Not for ID".  So the question is are the rights of free expression being taken away from the DI and the few others who are part of the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement?

We discussed something close to this last year, "Is anyone actually censoring the Discovery Institute?".  We determined that the DI's cries of censorship were unfounded and nothing more than another marketing scheme.  They weren't being censored, nor was anyone talking about censoring them.  Disagreeing with them, absolutely!  Keeping them from being taught as science in the science classroom, certainly!  Making fun of the mental rationalizations they use to justify their existence (and funding), oh most definitely!  But those are neither censorship or a violation of free speech.

Now for today's post, it's a teaser for one of their pod casts. In the post they claim:
"Dr. Coyne favors it for people who agree with him, not so much for those who disagree."
I disagree completely. Jerry Coyne's blog "Why Evolution is True" is not about free speech only for those who agree with him, but about telling truth about those with a bone to pick with real science, among other topics. When groups like the DI push pseudo-science as if it was actual science, he's often there to correct them. When they try and hold Darwin up as a poster boy for Hitler, he's quick to point out how wrong they are.  He blogs on many topics, not just Evolution, but often current topics, like the Charlottesville shooting, Feminism, Wildlife pictures (animals and bird, not people).  His blog is interesting and informative.  I don't always agree with him, the differences are usually one of degree, not position.  He is opinionated, for sure, and pulls no punches, so when he called the DI "creationist mushbrains", he means it.  I think he's giving them too much credit, but it is his blog, after all.

I find it hard to think the DI will miss Jerry if he stops blogging.  Their comment:
"The University of Chicago biologist has said on various occasions that we’re “obsessed” with him, but the truth is he is just very useful, very helpful to us. If there ever comes a time when he tires of blogging at 'Why Evolution Is True', that will be a very sad day."
As often as I, and many others, point out the DI's many lies and obfuscations, anyone who has been a thorn in their side for as long as Jerry has will not be missed if he stops blogging.  Jerry has one huge advantage over the DI, he's an actual biologist, not a philosopher or lawyer pretending to be one.  That gives added weight to the topic of evolution and intelligent design.  Can anyone tell me one time Jerry took the DI to task and he turned out to be in error?  Just one?  Neither can I.

One last quote from the DI, which caused me to choke a little on my Diet Dr. Pepper:
" . . . Dr. Egnor [Michael, on of the DI's talking heads] . . . first getting interested in intelligent design, something that impressed him was the way ID proponents are absolutists about letting opponents talk, write, and teach freely, never, ever stooping to the tactic of threatening someone’s job at a university, or the like.  Meanwhile, Darwinists are keen on shutting down conversation — not a hallmark of a strongly supported scientific theory"
So, ID proponents let opponents talk, write and teach freely?  A couple of points here, sort of in reverse order.  Are any ID proponents in a position to not allow science teachers to teach science?  Well the DI would like you to think that even if they had the power, they wouldn't exercise such power.  I do not believe them, for a very simple reason, how many teachers have been disciplined or fired from non-secular schools for teaching actual science?

I'm sure the DI will claim that those had nothing to do with ID -- because they like to claim ID is not Creationism. But we know that is nothing but another lie and marketing campaign. Teaching real biology in a private school can, and has, gotten teachers fired. J.B. Stump is one example, as are Thomas Jay Oord, Pamela Hensley, and Stacy Mendrick.  They aren't the only ones.  All are examples of the close-minded condition of the theological brain.  

One famous, or infamous, example is from the DI's own past, William Dembski.  Anyone else remember :
"While serving as a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dembski wrote The End of Christianity, which argued that a Christian can reconcile an old Earth creationist view with a literal reading of Adam and Eve in the Bible by accepting the scientific consensus of a 4.5 billion year of Earth. He further argued that Noah's flood likely was a phenomenon limited to the Middle East. This caused controversy and Dembski's reading of the Bible was criticized by Tom Nettles, a young Earth creationist, in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Southern Seminary's official theological journal. In 2010, the dean of Southwestern's School of Theology, David Allen, "released a White Paper through the seminary's Center for Theological Research defending Dembski as within the bounds of orthodoxy and critiquing Nettles for misunderstanding the book. The paper included Dembski's statement admitting error regarding Noah's flood." Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson, a young Earth creationist, "said that when Dembski's questionable statements came to light, he convened a meeting with Dembski and several high-ranking administrators at the seminary. At that meeting, Dembski was quick to admit that he was wrong about the flood. "'Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school,' he said." (Wikipedia: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary flood controversy)
Now the reason I want to remind you of that is because just recently the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported this: "Dembski and the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind". In it they quote Dembski about that particular controversy:
" . . . this entire incident left so bad a taste in my mouth that I resolved to leave teaching, leave the academy, and get into a business for myself, in which my income would not depend on political correctness or, for that matter, theological correctness."
How quickly the DI tends to forget the idea of 'Theological Correctness'.  So while the DI continues to deny their religious roots, we can see that the theological minded are much more close-minded than the science community, even more close-minded than the claims the DI likes to make against the scientific community, unsubstantiated claims, in my opinion.

If you disagree, just point to a single teacher, professor, administrator who was fired for teaching Intelligent Design?  Not one!  The nearest was John Freshwater, but he was fired for a number of things, including failing to teach the science curriculum he was supposed to be teaching.  So he wasn't just trying to teach ID in addition to real science, he was replacing the curriculum with one of his own choosing.  If that was all, he still might be employed, but remember Freshwater is also the one who lied to investigators, encouraged his students to lie for him, burned crosses into students arms, and lied about leading prayers for one of the student athletic groups.  The others the DI likes to claim were fired, or disciplined, for their support of ID is another set of lies.  Click the links yourself to read about them:
  • Crocker's contract was up and she was not re-hired partly because she was failing to teach the subject she was hired to teach..
  • Gonzalez was not given tenure because he failed in his responsibilities as a professor with graduate students.
  • Sternberg was the already outgoing editor of a minor biological journal who, on his way out the door, violated the journals review procedure to publish one of his friend's ID papers.  A friend he now works for -- imagine that!
  • Coppedge was simply downsized and tried to turn it into a religious discrimination suit and failed.  Of course he looked pretty bad when all the evidence showed that he was a poor employee (there were complaints), liked to preach his religion to his co-workers (there were more complaints), and refused to keep his skills current.
There are a few others, but when you did a little you find that the DI's characterizations of the stories are more than a little suspect.  We discussed some of those here: "Skepticism vs. Scholarship (From James F. McGrath)"  It's amazing the spin the DI places on their martyr stories!

Now a new question, Are Darwinists (DI pejorative for Biologists) really shutting down the conversation?  Just how are they doing that?
  • One way is to fight letting ID into the science classroom.  Is ID science?  No one has provided any support that ID belongs in the science classroom, especially not the DI.  So this isn't a matter of free speech, but a matter of teaching an actual science curriculum.  Should be also add Astrology to the science classes of Astronomy?  Numerology to Math classes?  Of course not, ID is just like those other area, pseudo-science at best.
  • Another way is by reviewing ID literature.  Pointing out the many procedural and factual errors is not a violation of free speech.  Funny when the DI complains about a negative review, they never address the contents of the review, but attack the reviewer.  Did you notice in this very post there isn't a single factual error of Jerry Coyne pointed out, is there?  ID literature is also never published in any forum where the requirement includes actual empirical support.  
  • Most scientists refuse to engage in the debate.  For years, real scientists have ignored groups like the DI, Answer in Genesis (AiG), the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and the Access Research Network (ARN).  Only recently when they try and threaten science education have some scientists spoken up.  The majority refuse to engage because of the tactics of such groups. One of the best responses to such a debate request was "How to respond to requests to debate Creationists", it's a great read, especially the actual response.  This, again, isn't a free speech violation, but an example of using comment sense and professional ethics.  Here, I just have to quote this from Prof Gotelli:
    "So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn't science and doesn't merit an invitation."
So in what other ways do you think the DI complain about?  Not all complaints, just the ones they keep trying to characterize as issues of free speech?  If we got into their whines about 'academic freedom' -- which I do not believe they understand what that phrase means -- we might be here all night.

In closing no one is inhibiting the DI in the area of free speech.  What they are doing is not giving the DI every platform they seem to think they are entitled to have.  Until they perform real science, they do not belong in the science classroom;  until they support their fanciful ideas, no one is obliged to take them seriously; and until they engage openly and honestly and stop using their many Tactics of Mistake, they deserve every scathing review, every turned down debate request, and not being taken seriously by the scientific and educational communities.

So, to answer the title question, just who is censoring the Intelligent Design Community's Free Speech?  No one, no one at all!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Free Speech is not Free!

First off a quote from the Bill of Rights, sorta stage setting:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (U.S. Constitution: First Amendment)
Recently this has come under some discussion concerning the freedom of speech for a former Google Engineer.  My question is simple: "Did Google firing the engineer who wrote an internal memo concerning a why women aren't as prevalent in the IT workplace as men an issue of Free Speech?"  I'm not going to address the contents of his memo, that's being done all over the Internet.  I am interested in how it ties to free speech.

Here's a post that drove me to consider this topic today, "Another Google Nail in Liberty's Coffin", it's from the World Net Daily, which is not one of the most objective sources for news.  The article never gets around to considering the responsibilities of free speech, which tells me that the author may not understand those responsibilities.

I have always been taught that 'Free Speech' isn't free from consequences.  The classic example of walking into a theater and yelling "Fire!".  There had better be a real fire or you can be held responsible for the ensuing panic of the people trying to leave the theater.  Any injuries or property damage may well wind you in court.  More close to home, my Dad once told me that there are certain words and phrases that might be legal to say, but if you say them in front of your Mother, you will probably live to regret it!  Just because you might be legally free, doesn't absolve you of the potential consequences of your words.  I think I fully understood this the first time I heard one of my kids telling a dirty joke :-)

So, was the Google Engineer's 'free speech' violated by Google terminating his employment?  

First one technicality, note the First Amendment above, is Google a government entity?  No!  Did Congress make a law preventing the engineer from writing his 10 page paper?  No!  Does the engineer have the right to express his opinion?  Yes, which he did!  No one legally could stop him from expressing himself on the topic.  It may not have even occurred to his employer that it might be necessary.

Now the tough question, is the right of free speech devoid of any consequences?  Here is the lesson that I think people forget.  No, the right to free speech, or freedom of expression as it is more often expressed, does not absolve you of the potential consequences.  When we exercise our rights, we also have responsibilities that go along with them.

Does Google have a right to expect certain behaviors from its employees?  Do they have the right of hiring and firing employees?  Internally the memo caused a number of reactions, including people saying they had no wish to work with that particular engineer, especially if his attitudes about women are the things he posted.

There's where you have to consider the responsibilities of free speech, not just the lofty idealistic version.  Freedom of expression is not the idea that people are free to say whatever they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want.  Why is that so hard to understand?  Should Google have kept the engineer despite of his post?  Should they force people to work with him?  Such opinions have an impact on working relationships!  Google, as a business entity, does have the right to employ who they wish and the right to terminate employees for a number of perfectly legitimate reasons.

If I have a negative opinion of the company I work for, or some of the people I work with, I have the right to that opinion.  Once I utter that opinion aloud, or in a post, I am truly exercising my right to free expression.  However that freedom doesn't shield me from the consequences of my words.  If my company, or co-workers, have a negative reaction to my words, there will be repercussions, and more than likely end my relationship with the company -- either voluntarily or involuntarily.  That's how life works!  Freedom of Expression doesn't shield me from saying something that could have negative consequences and shouldn't be used in that fashion.

It's like a prejudice.  Is it legal to have prejudices?  How can you legislate the thoughts in someone's head?  No one can tell you what to think.  But when those prejudices are expressed in words or deeds, that's when the repercussions start.  There are legal issues as well as personal ones.  Supposed I called one of my co-workers by some racial or ethnic slur.  Should the idea of 'free speech' be used to protect not only my employment but also my ass when it gets kicked?

No, by deliberately using words designed to harm others is not an example of free speech, but rather stupid speech.  Yes, I might win a lawsuit for assault and battery, but the odds of that are 50-50.  The judge might rule that my words caused the problem in the first place and was inciting the violence that put me in the hospital.  Even if the judge rules for me, how much fun will I be having from said hospital bed?  I'm pretty sure my job will have evaporated once I do get released from the hospital.

I've said it before, and I will keep saying and believing it.  Freedom of Expression is not a license to be an idiot, but a freedom that comes with not only responsibilities, but in exercising that freedom, it comes with an acceptance of the potential consequences.  Hopefully the Google engineer understood that.  He expressed a point of view that put a wall between himself and many of his fellow employees.

Google needed to make a decision.  I saw there were several possibilities.  He could have been ignored, fired, or promoted.  Ignoring him would have been a tacit form of approval.  That would have been perilous for the working environment at Google.  Promotion would have been a disaster, except maybe in the more conservative circles who would see it as some sort of validation, much like a certain hamster-haired serial lying misogynist's election.  I don't think Google had much choice.  The 10 page manifesto listed a number of things that were certainly against the policies of the company, the impact on the work environment, I think may have been the metaphorical straw,  Google will catch some hell for their decision, but I still do not see their action as a free speech issue.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When You Cannot Win With Evidence, Lie About It.

The Discovery Institute is at it again, not only are they betting against the possibilities of the future, but they have to change the definition of terms to support their position. Here is the post I am talking about, " “Fully Realized” AI Will Remain Forever on the Horizon – And That’s a Good Thing".

First off, just look at the title.  Does it remind you of anything?  It did me, how about "If God meant man to fly, he would have given him wings."  Yes, how many times has someone made a pronouncement that something or other will never happen . . . until it does!  Pretty much every invention had naysayers telling you how it'll never happen.  Luckily, no everyone listens to them.

Do I know Artificial Intelligence will happen?  I have no idea, but saying it will never happen seems to be pretty foolish, considering how often such statements are proven wrong.  Will it happen tomorrow?  Probably not, but claiming that it will "remain forever on the horizon" tells me how limited the author's imagination, and the DI as a whole because they posted this buying into it.  

Then I noticed who the author was and understood the lack of imagination. Davey 'klingy' klinghoffer certainly demonstrates very little imagination when looking at ideas that don't automatically fall in line with the DI's religious beliefs. Here is his opening statement:
"Overestimating the contribution of computers, failing to reckon with their spiritual costs, welcoming them deeper and deeper into our lives rather than seeking ways to limit them – these all go hand in hand with over-the-top expectations about the coming of “full” or “fully realized” Artificial Intelligence."
The 'spiritual costs' of computers?  Seriously?  Just what are the spiritual costs of computers?  Can anyone answer that question?  If you can't, you aren't alone.  I am sure similar issues were brought up with any technological advancement.  No one has been able to predict something as tenuous as the spiritual costs, yet it doesn't stop people like David from using it in such a negative way.  What I find funny is that I doubt klingy used a typewriter to write up his little post, it's being read from a set of servers and available to the world over another computer-related advance, the Internet.  So . . . just what sort of spiritual cost gets charged against klingy for using the very technology he seems to question?  I wonder if klingy has a smartphone as well?  Writing 'Computers are Bad!' on a computer just seems more than a little silly.

Now for my second issue, I want to lay a definition on you:
Methodological Naturalism: "Methodological naturalism does not concern itself with claims about what exists, but with methods of learning what nature is. It attempts to explain and test scientific endeavors, hypotheses, and events with reference to natural causes and events." (Wikipedia:
Methodological naturalism)
Now look at what klingy's post quotes about it:
"They never question methodological naturalism — the belief that there is nothing that exists outside the material world — which blinds them to other possibilities."
Let's be clear, methodological naturalism is not the belief that nothing exists outside of the material world, but a methodology to examine the natural world.  It doesn't address the supernatural, that's outside the scope.  It's like asking a doctor of medicine why can't he fix a jet engine! 

Hopefully you can see the difference.  klingy and company have to switch up the definition, because if they didn't their anti-science argument weakens.  Their argument is basically science doesn't address the supernatural because they are close-minded and not open to it.  The reality is science doesn't address it because it's outside the scope of scientific methodology -- how do you test the supernatural?  Of course people like klingy don't actually address the supernatural in any detail, they only make unsupported claims.

If you think their claims are supported, just ask yourself what questions have been answered by the supernatural?  What advances?  Name one question that can be answered by the supernatural reliably or repeatedly?  Prove that prayer works?  Prove any action by a supernatural entity?  You can't do it, and they never have been able to either -- for all their posturing!

Science offers real explanations, useful, usable explanations!  That's because they follow a methodology that addresses the world based on actual evidence.  It's answers are both repeatable and reliable. Making the claim the way the DI does is sorta like saying 'The steak was awful because there were no carrots in it', or '1 + 1 does not equal 'Northern European Monarchies, therefore mathematics doesn't work'.  It's not just an apples to oranges comparison, but even further apart than that.  Natural explanations do not deny the supernatural, it doesn't address them at all -- that's what 'out of scope' means.

I feel that one reason the DI makes this argument so often is because they have continually failed to provide any evidence to support their religious beliefs.  So in order to try and keep the marketing going, they have to mis-represent science to try and artificially level the playing field.   When you can't compete with evidence, lie about it.  That's what changing the definitions are to me, a form of lying.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What Harry said in 1948 rings true today more than ever!

Gryphen, over on the Immoral Minority blog had this terrific post "Remember, Harry Truman had the Republicans' number almost 70 years ago." reminding us of the words of Harry S. Truman in 1948. They bear repeating in these times:

"Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.
They stand four-square for the American home — but not for housing.
They are strong for labor — but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.
They favor minimum wage — the smaller the minimum wage the better.
They endorse educational opportunity for all — but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.
They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine — for people who can afford them.
They consider electrical power a great blessing — but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.
They think American standard of living is a fine thing — so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.
And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.
Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way — there is another way — the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party."(Source)
If Harry was giving the speech today he might have added a few things, perhaps:
  • Republicans are all for Women's Rights, as long as it isn't the right to control their own bodies or the right of equal pay for equal work.
  • Republicans support Civil Rights, as long at those rights aren't actually implemented in a way that might be construed as fair.
  • Republicans approve of Gay Marriage, after all, marriage between a man and a woman should be happy!
  • Republicans believe the climate is changing, but not that human activity could be a significant contributing factor -- because that would limit the amount of funding received from those patriotic energy companies.
  • Republicans support Freedom of Religion, as long as they are free to support whichever religion means the most votes for them.
And some people wonder why I have separated myself from the Republican Party!  ("I Believe it is Time to Part Ways with the Republican Party", "I've Been Getting Some Flack Over My Issues With the Republican Party").  I am not saying the Democratic Party is perfect, but when you compare the platforms of both parties, one stands much closer what we should strive to be as Americans, and it's not the Republican Party!  Currently I am registered as an Independent, and plan to stay that way until one party stands for not just a majority of the things I support, but stands for things that make sense in the 21st century, not the 19th.

Reclaiming the Rainbow -- yes, it's as Stupid as it Sounds

Little kennie ham wants to reclaim the rainbow, his target is -- of course -- the LGBT community who use the rainbow to symbolize things that apparently kennie finds abhorrent -- you know things like peace and diversity.

Since the 1970's the Rainbow Flag has been used by the LGBT community as:
"The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. Other uses of rainbow flags include a symbol of peace and the colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, as the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride during LGBT rights marches. While it originated in Northern California, the flag is now used worldwide." (Wikipedia:
Rainbow flag (LGBT movement))
So, for over 40 years this symbol has just recently become a target for little kennie. Why is that?  I don't think it really has anything to do with the Bible, kennie is just using that as an excuse.  Little kennie is extremely Homophobic, and using the Bible in just this way rationalizes yet another attack on people who are different than little kennie and his Hamians.

Why do I think that?  Several reasons.  The first is that the LGBT community has been using the Rainbow Flag since the late 70's.  In other words it's been going on for 40 years and just recently little kennie played the rainbow card.  That tells me he really doesn't care about the Bible of the Rainbow, just looking for another way to attack people he doesn't like.

You see, kennie needs gay people.  Sounds strange, but think it through.  Little small-minded kennie need targets to rally his supporters against.  If he didn't have gay people, he would find another target.  Without groups to point to and try and proclaim some sort of superiority, kennie would have nothing!  His preaching doesn't encourage acceptance, diversity, or peace -- you know those Christian ideals.  His preaching wants and needs distrust and hatred to flourish, so he can continue his style of preaching and making a substantial living.  He tells people who to be afraid of, who to denigrate, and who to fight . . . that's his whole message.  He uses the Bible as a tool, not of enlightenment, but of segregation.  He's latest tool is the rainbow, that beautiful formation of nature.

Another reason kennie is just using the rainbow as another tool is ask yourself just how many times has kennie whined about the rainbow being used to support many other things, not related to anyone'e religious beliefs?  How about 'never!'  Things like leprechauns and breakfast cereal, candy, cartoon figures, a rock band, Christmas decorations, and politicians have used, or are using, the rainbow as a symbol.

Lucky Charms, Skittles, and Rainbow Brite are some examples.  There's a rock band called 'Rainbow', and Kermit the Frog sang about the Rainbow Connection'.  And, to really piss off kennie, a Rainbow Wreath for Christmas.  Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela referred to post-apartheid South Africa as the 'Rainbow Nation'.  Many political initiatives that span political parties are referred to as 'Rainbow Initiatives'.  If he was really interested in 'reclaiming the rainbow' his rant and rave wouldn't be targeting only one group who use the rainbow as a symbol, but all of them.

Yes, homophobic kennie . . . and don't let him tell you he loves gay people . . . he's as homophobic as $3.00 bill is counterfeit.  He compares homosexuality to other behaviors he considers a sin and tells you to love the sinner, but do not accept sinful behavior.  In other words as long as gay people don't act on their being gay, it's OK for them to be members of the church and  . . . I guess . . . be employed at one of his ministries.  I do have to wonder how many closets in kennie's little corner of Kentucky are hiding gay people who are too afraid to come out?  Probably more than kennie will ever admit to having.

There is a couple of final problems with little kennie's argument.  Take anything that is used as a symbol . . . can you find one instance where it can only be used for just one thing?  Little kennie can keep calling the rainbow as having religious significance, but kennie doesn't have the right to prevent any other group from also using it as a symbol for themselves?

In closing, I have to say it is the height of hubris to try and lay some sort of ownership claim to a rainbow.  Rainbow's existed well before kennie's little stories were written and will continue to exist even after little kennie's version of a religion is relegated to the history books.  That's one thing we can all hope for, little kennie's incredible narrow and hate-filled point of view being relegated to the history books.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Discovery Institute is Hosting a Little Get-Together -- and it's for Everybody -- or is it?

Here is their announcement.  "Join the ID Debate! Private Networking Conference in Seattle, October 6-7" and here is a few quotes, I added the underlining for emphasis:

"The debate about intelligent design in nature is for everybody. ID presents an ultimate question, far from being limited in the scope of its relevance to just scientists or philosophers."
This opening implies that the debate is open to everyone, which may be true, but the reality is most people don't care about the debate.  Seriously!  There is a small minority of theists who want to replace science with their religious beliefs, a vocal minority, but a small one.  So not only is the debate not really for everyone, the title of the post is a 'Private Networking Conference', so you know this conference isn't for everyone either.  Maybe they'll explain more about who can attend later, in the meantime there are a couple of other things I an interested in.

Intelligent Design (ID) presents an ultimate question?  Really?  Any questions ID raises are usually a form of a tautology or so vague any answer is meaningless. Seriously, tell me one question ID has raised that actually cast any doubts on real science?  The nearest they have come is pointing out things that may not have been fully explained by current science -- but what do those questions have to do with ID?  Look at Behe's 'Darwin's Black Box' and you will see what I mean.  Behe listed a bunch of things that science hasn't explained to some ill-defined arbitrary standard, but at no time did he make a connection to ID other than to claim maybe an intelligent designer did it, or maybe a space traveling alien.  In other words, 'who knows' is not support for ID.  Even if his questions were valid, they don't offer any support for ID. Anyone have anything better?  I would be greatly surprised.

Back to the 'everybody' question.  They do go on to explain that it's not just scientists and philosophers, but everybody?  But not really 'everybody', sorta like their summer program, there are some qualifications:
"To join us, you must apply beforehand and explain your purpose and interests. The meeting is private and open to guests only at the discretion of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture."
Do you remember their Summer Program? Applications had to include:
  1. A copy of your resume;
  2. A letter of recommendation from an ID-friendly source;
  3. A copy of your academic transcript;
  4. A short (one page) statement of your interest in ID within your field of study.
Yes, for this 'conference' as well, you have apply beforehand and get vetted by the DI.  So you know there won't be a dissenting voice in the house.  If you hear anything about science, it'll be presented by one of the DI's own folks . . . and we know just how objective they are on that subject.  I see a lot of strawmen also attending this 'conference'.  A couple of last quotes:
"Ask questions, pose challenges, and sharpen your skills as an ID advocate. We’ll help equip you for this challenging intellectual battle."
Has this really been an intellectual battle?  No much sign of it.  Cultural battle, certainly, maybe philosophical battle is a better term -- but when you hear the phrase 'intellectual battle', this debate isn't what comes to mind.  There is an old joke whose punchline embodies something along the lines of 'refusing the enter a battle of wits with the unarmed'.  That's what this battle would look like if it was an actual intellectual battle.  One the one side you have 150+ years of science, evidence, and support and the clear majority of the scientific community -- and in the other corner you have a religious philosophy dressed in an ill-fitting lab coat with nothing but conjecture and wishful thinking.  Even the few scientists who are on that side haven't been able to muster a single scientific argument, only religious ones..  Talk about battling the unarmed!

I remember Lewis Black, the comic, said a couple of interesting lines a while back: "Whenever someone says they believe the Earth was created in 6 days, I  grab a fossil and say 'Fossil!'.  If they keep talking I throw it . . . just over their heads."  He also said:  "They watched the Flintstones and thought it was a documentary!"

And finally to attend, you get to pay for this yourself:
"The price, at $75, is affordable. "
I'm not sure this is a really physical or virtual get-together.  From the price I would guess a virtual one.  You sure aren't renting a conference center for even a small crowd at $75 a head.  So you'll most likely get to dial in and listen, maybe ask a question or two, only after you have been vetted by the DI and you get to contribute to the DI coffers.

I guess calling it a 'private networking conference' is supposed to somehow make you feel privileged.  But do you really think they are going to tell you things they haven't already tried to publicize and market to the widest degree possible?  Has any of their arguments changed in the last decade or two? They spin real science to try and create an ID-friendly message from other peoples' work.  They claim to not be pushing ID into the classroom, while continuing to create lesson plans just for that purpose. They will continue to cheer anti-science legislation, speak to religious groups and organizations, and publish in the religious and popular press -- avoiding real scientific journals.

More of the same, but you might feel special being in a 'private networking event' that's open to anyone who already agrees with their religious message and has a few bucks to burn.  I'm sure we'll be hearing what a wild success is was.  I wonder if they'll have the press release ready before the conference actually happens or will they bother to wait before announcing their success?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Estimate Author Making Excuses for Little Kennie and Poor Ark Park Attendance

I don't plan on writing more about the ark park and taxes, but I never said I wouldn't be writing more about the ark park, especially when they try and change history.  As has been pointed out a number of time, little kennie likes to change his attendance estimates, always in a downward direction.  He does this all the while forgetting the previous estimates -- as if they never existed and he seems to think no one will notice.  Luckily for kennie, we rarely let him forget!

Today I read a new revisionist history, over on the Lexington-Herald, a Letter to the Editor ("Timing hurt Ark attendance") tries to do exactly that.  Change a little history and at the same time offer an excuse as to why the attendance at the ark park missed all of little kennie ham's projection estimates by a pretty wide margin, nearly 30%.  I am basing that on one comment from this letter:

"I was disappointed the Ark hit only 1 million guests the past year because we should have had more."
The original estimate, which little kennie touted far and wide, was 1.4 to 2.2 million visitors.  At the low end, they missed by just under 30%, if you look at the high end, they missed by over 55%.  In any event the estimate was way off, and here, the author of the letter . . . and the one who provided kennie with the way-off estimate, tries to lay blame for his error.

Yes, the letter is by the owner and founder of 'America's Research Group', his name is C. Britt Breen.  I don't know what the 'C' stands for, so I'll call him 'Britt'  Who, if you recall is a friend of little kennie's AND provided the overly optimistic estimates that kennie kept lowering and lowering as the year went by.  It is a bit confusing because the source of kennie's estimates weren't always clearly identified, but kennie quoted Britt and his research group often.  So, what went wrong?  Well, according to Britt:
"We opened on July 7, 2016. By opening this late, we missed those who plan their summer vacations in March, April and May. Approximately 41 percent of families make their summer vacation plans before their children get out of school. Those making vacation plans before school ends exceed 10 million families in the states where we are getting the vast majority of guests. Many tour bus companies set up summer schedules by March so they have at least three months to promote tour plans.
Had we opened earlier and gotten more families and more tour bus operators, we easily would have attracted an additional 480,000 to 600,000 guests."
My issue is that Britt is attempting to re-write history.  It wasn't that the ark park
opened later than planned, the ark park opened exactly when they planned it. Back in 2015 kennie announced the opening date:
" . . .Ark Encounter will be opening on July 7, 2016. That’s 7/7/16. We wanted to choose an opening day that had significance, and so like we do in every aspect of the Answers in Genesis ministry, we started with God’s Word. Genesis 7:7 says, “So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.” Using the verse reference (7:7) as a date (July 7) gives us the most appropriate time to allow the public to enter the Ark as well."(Ark Opening Date Announced to Public)
Little kennie himself called it 'the most appropriate time', so wouldn't you think a professional research group would take into consideration the opening date when providing estimates?  I know I would think that, but instead Britt tries to lay the blame for the overly optimistic estimates on the open day, claiming that if they had opened earlier, they would have just made the lower end of Britt's estimate.

Is his statement true?  Well, if they had opened earlier, they may well have hit the mark set by Britt, at least the lower mark was within the realm of the possible.  But  . . . isn't Britt's statement sorta self-serving?  First off, did they really miss those who plan their summer vacations in March, April and May?  How can you even say that when you set the opening date more than 2 years earlier.  The people who planned summer vacations certainly had plenty of notice, more than enough to plan a trip if they felt the desire to do so.  So timing can't be the main reason, Britt might need to look elsewhere.

Little kennie blames Atheists and the media, he also blames the local community for not providing enough other attractions to really bring people in, and Britt here blames the timing -- which was determined years before the opening by kennie and Co.  Funny how no one mentions other potential causes, like:

  • Self-limiting the attraction to a specific audience
  • High ticket prices
  • Exhibits without an inkling of reality
  • Pretty much every review not given by an Evangelical or Conservative visitor

Personally, one of the mistakes kennie and Britt made was one of hubris.  They build an attraction that is designed to appeal to a small segment of the world's population and then they are surprised when people who don't share that world view don't show up in droves?  That would have been the only way to make those numbers, but the very idea people who think his world view is pretty silly would view the ark park as nothing but an expensive joke.  I'm sure some visited out of curiosity, but I would bet the majority paid it little attention.

All in all, it sounds like a case of hindsight always being 20-20?  I have to wonder if kennie giving his buddy Britt a hard time over missing the estimate so badly and this letter is an effort to pass the buck.  But in reality I don't really care.  What bothered me when I read it was the deliberate attempt to re-write history.  The estimates were missed and blaming the timing that was announced two years previously is a non-starter.  Britt, you might turn your 'professional research group' to look for a real answer why turnout is lower than prayed for . . . that answer might do kennie, and the people of Kentucky, some actual good.  But this letter tells me that Britt is less interested in reality than in making excuses.  He really should have been able to come up with a better one than this.

The reason I mention the people of Kentucky is simply because these are the people waiting for the as-of-yet unfulfilled promises of an economic turn-around.  They are also the ones that will be on the hook if the ark park fails miserably.  Don't forget the junk bonds floated helped build the un-floatable boat.

Do I plan on visiting the ark park?  No!  I already paid admission to one of kennie's other ministries, the creation pseudo-museum.  I have much more important things to spend money on than giving it to kennie, like paying my granddaughter to cut the grass or making a small donation to Planned Parenthood or maybe the local LGBT organization.  At least that money will get used in a more positive direction.  I doubt kennie's story has changed any since I visited his other ministry, and looking at a replica of a boat that there is no evidence of having actually existed isn't my idea of time well spent.  I don't think I would learn anything new, just a re-hash of kennie's version of the Biblical story, which actual Biblical scholars don't agree with anyway.

Maybe it is Too Soon To Retire the 'So There's Nothing Religious About Intelligent Design' Post Title?

I was going to retire the "So there's nothing religious about Intelligent Design (ID)" post title, but this one popped up and I just cannot resist, it fits to perfectly. For the less than honest fellows at the Discovery Institute posted: "For Culturally Illiterate Science Reporters, Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap Bible Around".  I don't really care to deal with their typical spin on any story, the part that interests me is right at the beginning and near the end. Here is the first line:

"Obviously, your friends at Evolution News are not here to do Biblical exegesis. However, when science headlines tendentiously try to manipulate readers in order to slam the Bible, well, that’s fair game."
Exegesis is defined as:
"is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text." (Wikipedia: exegesis)
Simply put the Discovery Institute (DI) is going to explain the Bible to us.  I don't think that's particularly correct, but I'll explain my thinking on that a little later in this post.  So, for this opening line itself, if there is nothing inherently religious about the DI and ID, then why is this post even necessary?  Who is the DI, that bastion of pseudo-science, to interpret the Bible to us anyway?  That's what I find so funny.

The second to last paragraph is the most interesting:
"Not “may have survived.” In the Bible’s account, they definitely survived, in large numbers. The original headline? “Ancient DNA counters biblical account of the mysterious Canaanites.” It should be, “Ancient DNA confirms biblical account…”"
So not only is the DI 'interpreting' the Bible for us, they are changing the meaning.  The Bible says the Canaanites were wiped out.  Deuteronomy shows the order to 'let none survive.  So how is the fact that they survived, show that the Biblical account is confirmed -- as claimed by the DI?  It sure doesn't seem confirmed to me!

OK, my issue is that there seems to be words the DI uses that means the exact opposite of what they say. This post wasn't an example of 'exegesis', but one of 'eisegesis', which is defined as:
" . . . is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. " (Wikipedia: eisegesis)
You can read the whole article and tell me that's isn't exactly what they are doing.  They are spinning in order to claim that science is messing up.  The reality is they are trying to introduce their anti-science agenda into the conversation, while claiming otherwise.  They aren't just 'interpreting', but they are changing the story -- eisegesis not exegesis -- not that we use those terms very often.

Personally when I tell a story and try and be very specific when I am putting my own interpretation on things, especially if I have no idea of the details.  I differentiate carefully between the facts I am trying to explain and my interpretation of those facts.  But then facts and the DI don't seem to have much of a relationship.  I wonder if they used the word 'exegesis' to either sound academic or deliberately mislead people.  I know I had to check the definition myself.