Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Do Theists Think Inflicting Their Beliefs on Others is a Right?

These two 'parents' are suing to prevent their child from getting the hormones and therapy prescribed because of gender dysphoria.  Their reasoning: it violates their religious beliefs.  "Parents Sue to Stop Trans Son from Having Hormone Therapy for Religious Reasons".  Of course they make no mention as to if it violates their child's belief set!  Since they are resorting to a lawsuit  they obviously do not have custody, I guess telling your child he should kill himself isn't a good example of proper parenting in Ohio.  Here's a couple of quotes from the Friendly Atheist blog post:

"They also told their son he should kill himself because he’s “going to hell anyway,” which tells you everything you need to know about why they don’t deserve custody."
"Medical experts testified that the father's ongoing refusal to call the child by his chosen name and the parents' rejection of the teen's gender identity have triggered suicidal feelings."
We discussed something related a few post back ("A Disrespectful Christian Fundraiser!") about the importance of one's support group, and usually parents are a large part of that support group, especially for their children. But there are too many times when the 'support' part of the group goes off the rails and the impact can be terrible.  The child is currently in the legal custody of the county and living with maternal grandparents, who apparently are willing to violate their daughter and son-in-law's deeply held religious beliefs.  Good for them!

I have a couple of issues with this whole story.  First off, what lawyer took this case?  I guess one of those religion-before humanity types, like the ones who defended the Dover School Board.  But seriously, I have to wonder how many lawyers did the parents talk too before finding one that advised them a lawsuit was the best course of action.

Secondly, why does the parents religion give the right to load up more emotional abuse on a child?  You know I have seen parents disown their children.  I've seen and heard of young girls kicked out of their homes for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, children kicked out for falling in love with a someone outside the religion or race of the parents.  I disagree with such decisions, but a lawsuit after you have already lost custody?  That's like pouring salt on an open wound!

I feel for the child, but I have little sympathy for the parents.  You know for all the lip service about the wonderful things religious groups like to claim about themselves, their willingness to inflict their belief set on other people often is at odds with their public image.  I am all for Religious Freedom, but real religious freedom.  I have no issue with you believing something I disagree with, but religious freedom doesn't give you the right to tell me I have to conform to your beliefs!

I've said it before, children can't smoke, drink, drive, or vote until they reach what's called the 'legal age'.  They shouldn't be exposed to religion until a similar age!  That way they can make an informed decision!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congratulations to Wikipedia, 'winner' of the Discovery Institute 'Censor of the Year' -- while not doing any actual censoring!

Last month I was discussing the upcoming awards season, which includes the Discovery Institute's (DI) "Censor of the Year" award.  It's awarded annually on Darwin's birthday.  One of the things previous 'winners' have had in common is that they don't actual censor anything, they simply say or do things the DI disagrees with.  I gave three predictions.

The first was that the DI would give the award to themselves.  I based that on the simple fact that while there is no evidence of actual censorship of Intelligent Design, the DI does self-censor themselves and then claim they do so because of all the censorship they use as an excuse to avoid doing any real scientific work.  Of course, since there is no real censorship, I wasn't sure they would give the award to themselves because they might have to admit that their whole censorship argument was nothing more than a lie, so they would pick on someone else.

My second suggestion is an example of real censorship, and my nominee would have been the current Administration. Who was is that It banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” A certain hamster-haired serial lying misogynist control freak, that's who! His Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, reprimanded the Joshua Tree National Park’s superintendent for tweeting about climate change. Trump is also trying to censor a free press. These are prime examples of censorship.  But since the DI was not Trump's target, I didn't think they would pick him.

My final prediction was Wikipedia, and I said:

"But we know the DI will stick to their guns and pick on someone, or something, that didn't actually censor them, just did something that annoyed them.  My guess would be Wikipedia.  I think Wikipedia has been a nominee before (2015 almost certainly for "Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!"), and this past year they [Wikipedia] annoyed the DI by dropping a Wikipedia bio for one of their senior fellows ("Does Losing a Wikipedia Page Ruin a Career?"), which they keep whining about pretty constantly.  Which is why I believe Wikipedia will win this year."
And. guess what? They made their announcement and Wikipedia has 'won':  "Happy Darwin Day! Our 2018 Censor of the Year Is Wikipedia".  Yes, another instance of a censorship award for not having done any censorship.  Here is their 'rationale':
  1. They don't like how Intelligent Design is represented in Wikipedia, and Wikipedia keeps busting them in their efforts to self-edit the page.
  2. They disagree that one of their own fellows isn't notable enough to rate a Wikipedia page -- even though most of their fellows do not have a page.
  3. When all else fails, call it 'fake news'.  Gee, how come whenever a conservative group -- and you don't get that much more conservative than the DI ministry -- calls something 'fake news' is always turns out to be true?
Nothing here is an actual example of censorship.  Wikipedia's description of ID is accurate, and also agrees with court cases involving ID.  Of course the DI doesn't like it, since Wikipedia calls out ID to be the pseudo-science that it really is.  All of their efforts to edit it has run smack dab into the editing policies of Wikipedia.  While Britannica Online doesn't call it pseudo-science, it does explain how it is built upon an argument for design for the existence of God.  Why isn't the DI complaining about that?

While removing one less-than-notable pseudo-scientist's Wikipedia entry might seem like censorship, it's more accurate to say that it was in line with the encyclopedia's policies.  If it was actual censirship then none of the ID proponents would have Wikipedia pages!   Bechly [the guy whose page was deep-sixed] isn't notable enough to have a page on Britannica Online either:
Yet, the DI doesn't seem to be whining about that.  Could it be because anyone can create a Wikipedia page, whereas Britannica has different policies when adding subject pages?  Of course both encyclopedias have inclusion standards, the difference is that Wikipedia's are applied after the subject page is created, and Britannica's are done prior to the creation.  So that means Bechly does not meet the criteria of either encyclopedia for being 'notable'.

And, then finally, hop on the 'fake news' bandwagon and complain about something that is true by claiming it's 'fake news'.  Tell me, has anyone found anything that certain hamster-haired serial liar misogynist control freak claimed to be 'fake news' to actually be fake?  Yea, neither have I.

So there you have it, another censorship award to a group that doesn't actual do any censoring.  I congratulate Wikipedia on being a thorn in the side of the DI!  I hope one day I will have done something to annoy the DI enough that I may be a nominee for such an 'honor'!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Where Does It End?

In many ways I look forward to the future.  One of the things I most look forward too is watching one of these 'religious protection laws' eventually bite some theist right where it hurts the most.

For example, we are all familiar with the case of the Colorado baker who refused to do a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his religion for legal protection.  We are also familiar with the Kentucky clerk who refused same-sex couples marriage licenses also citing her religion.  These are just a couple of examples to make my point.

As a result, a number of states have enacted, or are working on enacting laws that protect people who use their religion to discriminate.  They are referred to as 'shields laws".  While the lawmakers repeatedly claim the laws cannot be used for discrimination, the reality is they certainly can be, and are!  There is nothing written in the law when there is a conflict between a religious belief and a civil right -- the way those laws are worded, the religious belief taking precedence.

Here is what I think will eventually happen.  Sooner or later someone is going to use those religious belief to discriminate against other theists.  For example, if I were the owner of the building the Colorado bakery was in, I would cancel their lease.  Or if I were a clerk in the department of motor vehicles, I would refuse to grant a drivers license renewal for that Kentucky clerk.  In each case I would cite my deeply held beliefs that their religious beliefs were interfering with my belief set!

Imagine the hue and cry!  I would thoroughly enjoy watching it!  Imagine if a bank called a mortgage due immediately on one of these theists who use their belief set to discriminate?  Or a restaurant refused service for the Colorado baker and his family?  They would immediately start whining about the whole imaginary 'war on Christians', yet if there are laws protecting religious-based discrimination, the law would not be on the theists side.  Yes, I know you might claim not all belief sets are religious beliefs, but imagine trying to defend that in court.

Back in the mid-to-late 80's two young airmen assigned to Nellis AFB refused to salute the flag or to salute and obey the orders of female officers (The Spokesman-Review) claiming a religious objection.  They were held responsible for their actions and placed in confinement (military jail).

Imagine the difficulties in aligning military requirements and responsibilities with the religious beliefs of all of the members, the hundreds if not thousands of different belief sets.  The military reasoning is simple, your religious beliefs take a step back when it comes to military requirements.  Think about it, refusing to obey an officer due to their gender, or refusing to fulfill duty requirements on whichever holy day your religion mandates?  Military discipline cannot take a back seat.

Where does it end?  Where are the lines to be drawn protecting civil rights, including religious freedoms?  The current laws in work are designed to elevate discrimination through belief set and make it legal.  There is a problem with that.  I am pretty sure that if you line up all the religious belief sets and all the civil rights, you will find that more than likely all the civil rights we have can be negated by one of more of the list of religions.

I know where I believe it should end.  Religious-based discrimination should never be legal and those religious protection laws need to either be dropped -- or at least placed behind other statutes dealing with discrimination.  Civil rights should always come before religious rights, similar to how the military places their requirements ahead of those religious beliefs.

Here is one last example, religious child-care facilities that do not have to adhere to the laws preventing child abuse.  Check out: "Whipped, hit and locked in closets: Life inside some religious day cares".  See what the lack of protection can do to children in religious day care facilities?  Those places should be required to comply with ALL laws and regulations for non-religious day care before putting their religious spin on things.  But no, too many places place their religious beliefs ahead of protecting children!  And now they want to do the same thing for laws against discrimination.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Disrespectful Christian Fundraiser!

A drum that various Christians refuse to put down happened in 2008. A young man committed suicide. That's a tragedy, without a doubt. What a grieving father did was blame his son's reading of Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion" for his son's death. Christian speakers have brought this up immediately and it's been a recurring theme.

 Of course the father (a Fundamentalist Pastor) is looking for someone to blame. The more objective press reported a number of things, like the suicide rate for returning Iraqi veterans, of which the young man was one -- and also chidren who are on the receiving end of negative feedback from parents -- of which the young man may have been one (based on comments from some of his friends).  In other words, there were a number of factors that could have been a player in this tragedy, but groups like the Discovery Institute like to use this story to raise funds.

It was mentioned again this this past week: "Christian Speaker Claims The God Delusion Drove Former Believer to Suicide".  While the original tragedy was in 2008, in January of 2010 it was reported that The God Delusion had sold over 2 million copies.  In 2014 it 3 million.  If this book is so incredibly dangerous as to cause suicide, where are they?  Selling another million copies over 4 years should have seen an jump in suicides by true believers -- yet that didn't happen.

That's not a flippant statement, even though it may sound like one.  I'm serious.  The problem isn't this book, the problem is much closer to home!  According to many reports Jesse Kilgore was a conservative Christian raised by a retired military chaplain who was also a fundamentalist minister.  Jesse recently began to question his faith -- well before reading Dawkins' book.  Is it possible that Jesse, described as a sensitive young man, was struggling with his faith and that played a part in his decision?  Of course it's possible!  But in reality, we really have no idea of the cause for Jesse to commit suicide.  If his family and friends knew about his crisis of faith, how did they react and what did they do for him -- if anything?  Pointing at one specific book isn't helping the matter.

But that doesn't stop the DI and other Christian speakers from bring up his name over and over again and using it to raise funds.  What's needed here is not to give them more money, but find ways to help anyone suffering to the point of considering suicide!

I don't care if they are returning veteran, an LGBT person who is struggling with their identify, or a young Christian trying to reconcile his faith.  The problem isn't with a single book, the problem is these people need places to go for help!  When they feel they have no place to go, suicide is too often their last resort.

Now the question about Jesse isn't what impact a single book may have had on him, but why didn't he have someplace to go for help?  That's the key!  How did those who knew he may have been struggling with his faith react when they realized it?  Did they offer help or disdain?  Who did he rely on and did he go there for help?

A young lady I knew committed suicide in the mid-1980's.  I didn't know her well, she had been a student of mine for one class and I didn't even know her first name -- in the military it was rank and last name in those classes.  I happened to run into her just a few days before she took her own life.  Just brief "Hello!" sort of meeting that happens regularly with folks.  When I heard the circumstances I always wonder what I didn't see that could have done something, anything!  I'll never be able to answer those questions, but I also have to ask what about the people that were closer to her, the ones in her daily life?  What did they see, or miss seeing?  How did they feel?  We often look at the people around us as a sort of support group.  Where was her's and where was Jesse's?

That is a much more important question to ask!  It's not a question that gets asked by the DI or this particular Christian speaker because it's not a question that gets donations.  It's easier to use this tragedy to frighten people into adding to the coffers of some televangelist or ministry than use the money to create services that might have helped Jesse.

Pointing to one book isn't any help for Jesse or people like him.  But, apparently, it's a good fundraiser!  

Seven Tenets of One Religion v. the Ten Commandments

I found this incredibly interesting, and it will probably infuriate some.  There is a religious group that doesn't use a version of the 10 Commandments, but instead have these 7 things they call their Seven Fundamental Tenets.  Talk a look:

  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word
I have had issues with the 10 Commandments.  For example the list is different is separate books of the Bible and the first couple usually deal with the deity and things like murder are much further down the list.  But these tenets look much more reasonable.

Obviously these would never pass muster in a Christian church.  I mean Respecting other people's freedoms, Conform beliefs to our best scientific understanding, acting with compassion . . . these things seem more an anathema to Christians than anything else.  I mean can you imagine an Evangelical Christian suggesting "One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone." while telling women at the same time their body isn't their own!

So whose tenets are they?  Take a look: 7 Fundamental Tenets.  See, I told you it would piss some people off.  Of course Christians would dismiss it out of hand if they knew the source before looking at the tenets themselves.  I like this list, regardless of source.  In some ways it reminds me of Asimov's Three laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

I would reword them slightly, but I think they could easily be better guiding principles than the 10 Commandments.  Think about it:
  1. Don't hurt other people or, through inaction, allow others to be hurt.
  2. Obey the Law except where obeying the Law would cause others to be hurt.
  3. Protect yourself, however not to the point where you have to disobey the law or hurt other people.
You know, even those few 10 Commandments I agree with could easily fit within these three Laws, or those 7 Tenets -- all without invoking the need to project a deity into the process.

Certainly bears thinking, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Is Ignorance Bliss?

Caught an interesting line from a post over on The Slowly Boiled Frog: "The conservative Christian freak-out over Barna's Gen-Z study".  While's its subject isn't my usual cup of tea, I was caught by one line in particular:

"Religious literalism causes people to be wrong most of the time yet never uncertain. In effect it is a celebration and affirmation of ignorance. "
'Wrong, but never uncertain!'   It certainly can explain a few things, maybe even more than a few things.  Theists are always so sure, whether or not they can articulate any sort of valid reasoning for what they are so sure about.  I think that's one of the things that annoys me the most.  They embrace ignorance, celebrate it, want to pass laws protecting it, and  . . . worst of all . . . demand the right to force their ignorance on all schoolchildren, not just their own.

I know any theists will claim not to be ignorant, but the word applies.  What does a theist usually do when faced with actual evidence?  Look at little kennie ham and his Kentucky ministries for example.  He ignores it.  If he cannot ignore it, he denies it.  If that doesn't work, he rationalizes it.  When pressed he comes up with the most outlandish stories to remain as ignorant as possible.  Plus, like all to many others, he makes his living pushing such ignorance.

OK, if you want to argue semantics, I guess it's acceptable to be ignorant when you are not exposed to something.  But once you have been exposed, remaining ignorant is a choice, and it's one all too many theists make.  What they 'know', particularly when it comes to science, is pretense.  Here is a Jesus and Mo strip that explains it well:
" . . . as long as there are questions, there are people who will pretend to know the answers!"  Great line, but it gets even worse when they convince other people to join them in their pretense, and then they get organized and the followers pay for the privilege of being ignorant.  The final step is they want everyone, not just their followers, to pay for their ignorance.  Think about how much money the taxpayers of Kentucky have paid and will continue to pay for little kennie's ministries!

Now, just to be clear, when I say 'ignorant', I am not talking about intelligence.  There is nothing to indicate theists are more or less intelligent than non-theists.  While there was a study that some sites tried to make such a claim, it really doesn't support that idea. (Did a Study Find That Atheists Are Smarter Than Religious People? Not Quite.)  What the study did find that when intuition comes into play, non-theists tend to do better.  I believe that's because a theists intuition will invariably follow their religious beliefs -- which often turn out wrong in the real world, as we stated above.

The old saying "Ignorance is Bliss" doesn't seem to apply either.  I mean are theists really more blissful than non-theists?  The more hardcore ones certainly are not.  They are at war with the rest of the world all the time.  One of the most common reasons for war are religious differences.  And we are not just taking war, but fighting and disagreements in general.

Case in point, remember Tammy Kitzmiller, she was a parent in the Dover PA school district and one of the 11 parents who were plaintiffs in the Dover suit. For whatever reason her name was listed first so the suit is commonly referred to as Kitzmiller v. The Dover Area School District. According to Lauri Lebo's excellent book "The Devil in Dover" and many articles about the trial, Ms Kitzmiller and her family suffered verbal abuse and attacks from self-identified Christians. In a York Dispatch article they mentioned some of it:
  • One letter she received, scrawled in big letters across a sheet of yellow notebook paper, begins, "When you open your eyes in hell. ..."
  • One boy at school told the girls to tell their mother to "go to hell," delivering the message through a third person.
  • The atmosphere worsened as campaigning began for a hotly contested school board election and people prepared for the trial. There were nasty phone calls and confrontations in restaurants and on the streets.
These attacks were enough to have her stop her daughters from even answering the phone! This isn't the only example. The judge in the Dover, Judge John E. Jones also received death threats as a result of which he and his family were given around-the-clock federal protection. I believe the parents who sued John Freshwater after he burned a cross into their son's arm also received similar backlash once their identity was revealed. The members of the Iowa State University, after they refused to give Guillermo Gonzalez tenure -- tenure let me remind you that he failed to earn -- were vilified by some online blogs and posts, same with Ball State University's president, Jo Ann M. Gora and the whole Hedin/Gonzalez issue (yes, the same Gonzalez who screwed up so spectacularly at ISU).

So, what have we discovered?  While theists may be as intelligent as non-theists, often they are wrong when it comes to matters that impact their belief system - mainly because they rely on that system to answer questions it is unsuited to answer.  And while they may be certain, certainty is not a measure of being right.  By the same token, that certainty often bring them into conflict, conflict driven by those same beliefs.  That conflict manifests in everything from full-scale war to make attacks against people who refuse to share their belief system.

It's this close-mined certainty that makes dealing with many theists so challenging.  As soon as you challenge any part of their belief system, they avoid, deny, or outright lie to protect it -- regardless of any actual evidential support for their position.  Ignorance may breed certainty, but it sure doesn't bring out the bliss.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ark Park Costing Kentucky Taxpayers Even More

"$3.5 Million Road Project Expected to Improve Access to Ark Encounter" paid for by whom?  The taxpayers of Kentucky!  Aren't you guys getting a little tired of funding a religious ministry?

Think about it, the only reason this project is going forward is to improve access to the ark park.  Not because it needs an upgrade, not because the people living there demand it, not for any reason but to support a non-existent flood of traffic to the ark park.  Doesn't that seem a bit off to you -- Kentucky Taxpayer?

Don't forget that early estimates by little kennie ham said the first year would being a minimum of 2.1 million people to see his ark -- of course he later changed that to give himself a little breathing room to 1.4 to 2.1 million visitors.  At its first anniversary, they hadn't hit a million yet, they said it would come later in that month -- but nothing authoritative on if they actually hit it, only little kennie's word.  The areas around the ark park have often reported that they have not been the beneficiary of all the economic windfalls kennie said they would receive. ('"It's Not My Fault" . . . The Gospel According to Little Kennie Ham').  Yes, there were a few sporadic reports of an upswing in tourism overall . . . but remember the area also hosted a Major League Baseball All-Star Game as well, which always shows a small tourism boost.  So the only way to know it the ark park really has had a positive economic benefit is to look at the numbers long term, but we have no long term numbers.  Not only haven't they been released for the first year -- but there doesn't seem to be requirement for kennie to admit them publically.  But, to date, the numbers we have heard from kennie have fallen well short of his projections, his most pessimistic projections.

So, we have a religious ministry passing itself off as a tourist attraction.  It has failed to live up to the hype kennie used to get it built -- and when you add up the money already given by the taxpayers, the money they will never see because of the rebates promised to kennie, the blatant religious discrimination in their hiring practices, and let us not forget kennie's attempt to sell the ark to himself to avoid a local tax for emergency services . . . hasn't Kentucky swallowed enough of its pride over this subject?  I guess not, because you are going to pay another $3.5 million dollars to fix up Interstate exit ramps for the express purpose of supporting the ark park.

You know, in the early-to-mid 1990s, several interchanges were constructed and/or upgraded to accommodate increasing traffic to and from Walt Disney World. However, that was 20 years after the park opened and the need for such interchange improvements were well validated by the actual traffic, not imaginary requirements.

Yes. yes, proper planning says those sort of changes should happen before a validated need exists, but does anyone really think the ark park is going to need $3.5 million in highway improvements?  Everywhere I have lived never saw highway improvements done ahead of time, it always came well after the need.  But the question does exist, will future traffic require the need for these improvements?  Many pictures of the ark park parking lots show mostly empty spots.  In fact, just for the fun of it, here is a picture little kennie himself tweeted in 19 July 2017 (more than a year after the ark park opened):

Look at the crowd!  Yes, sarcasm was intended.  I know little kennie was just trying to show off his latest ministry, but seriously, look at how empty it is!  I wonder why he didn't post any pictures of the parking lot?  To be honest, I don't know what day of the week this picture was taken, but . . . little kennie is the one who posted it!  I am sure weekends would show more folks . . . but enough to justify this taxpayer expense?  Does this look like a place that needs an upgraded Interstate access?

Here is the most current (as of 26 Jan 2018) of the Google Maps view of the ark park parking lot:
Doesn't look too busy to me.  Over a dozen of kennie's buses doing nothing in the bus lot, the lot itself looks about 1/4 full -- maybe 1/3 if we are feeling generous, and nothing in the adjacent lot or overflow parking.  The small parking lot in the center of the image, I wonder if that is employee parking?  Well in any event, I will ask my question again, does this look like a place that needs an upgraded Interstate access?  You can probably guess my answer, but the only answer that counts now are the taxpayers of Kentucky.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Is Any Scientist Really Inviolate? Not In The Least! Look At History!

Funny post from something called 'The Institute on Religion and Public Life': "St. Charles Darwin".  The basis is that no one is allowed to criticize Charles Darwin because . . . he's Charles Darwin.  The author is reacting to the many critical reviews of A. N. Wilson, Charles Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker.  Actually critical is an understatement.  In response to those reviews, the author of this piece believes that 'committed evolutionists' are outraged about the biography simple because Wilson attacked Darwin.

Well, to a point; she's half right.  People are outraged at the 'biography', but not because Darwin is raised on some inviolate pedestal, but because it is completely contradicted by every other biography, Darwin's own letters, and the writings of people who actual knew Darwin.  Why wouldn't we be outraged at an obvious hatchet job!  Like many things written about Darwin by Creationists, it's basically a hit piece, and many of the reviewers called it such.

One, of the many things the author of this piece fails to acknowledge is how science actually works.  If something was discovered that offered a better scientific explanation of how life evolved on this planet, Darwin would go the way of Lamarck.  That's how science works, and you can dig for a few minutes and find long lists of scientists who were tops in their field at one point and now, no one knows their name.  But the workings of actual science is something rarely recognized by creationists, like this author and Wilson himself.

I've written a little about this pseudo-biography before: "Whats Wrong with This Picture -- A Review of a Review of a Book We Haven't Read Yet?" in which we discussed how the DI reviewed a review of a book they haven't even read yet.  I haven't read the book either, and probably won't.  But something about this particular post simply tickled me.

Let me see if I can lay it out for you.  The author, Charlotte Allen, tries to make the case that the only reason some people are more than a little outraged about Wilson's 'biography' is because he attacked Darwin.   She completed missed the point that the many of the reviews detail the  areas where Wilson got things wrong, creating things that never happened, and offered his negative opinion as if it was fact.

"Wilson appears to have hit upon a rich seam of cliches in his five years of research for his book,"("Some still attack Darwin and evolution. How can science fight back?")
If you look at the Amazon listing you will see 24 reviews.  Only 6 of them are 5-Star and if you look at the links for these 5-star reviewers, you see the the religious and/or political leanings that explain the ratings. None of them identified the things that made it a top review, they are simply happy that Wilson is bashing Darwin -- regardless of the truthfulness of what he is saying.  There was one 3-star review and the rest were 1-star that make up 75% of the reviews.  If you look at those 1-star reviews you will see a litany of things Wilson got wrong, disregarded, or just plain invented.

Those are the reasons for the outrage, but that doesn't even get lip service from Allen.  Looking at Wilson's own prejudices and his history of such less-than-factual biographies, you will see even more how and why this book was written.  But does Allen do any of that?  No, her only point was claiming that Darwin is:
"a holy saint who must not be criticized".  Here is her closing:
"A. N. Wilson may have written a bad, unfair, inaccurate, and error-ridden biography of Charles Darwin. But he has homed in on something real and obviously troubling to Darwin’s disciples: the vulnerability of Darwin’s personality and his theories."
This would be true if the biography wasn't a flawed piece of poor scholarship and obviously done for the express purpose of denigrating Darwin and his science for religious reasons.  Don't believe me, do a little research on AN Wilson, in fact here is the critique from Wikipedia on Wilson's page (the underlines are mine):
"Wilson's biography Charles Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker, (2017), has been criticised by John van Wyhe in the New Scientist for confusing Darwin's theory of natural selection with Lamarckism at one point, as well as other scientific, historical and editorial errors.  Kathryn Hughes in The Guardian wrote it is "cheap attempt to ruffle feathers", with a dubious grasp of science and attempted character assassination. In The Evening Standard, Adrian Woolfson says that "..while for the greater part a lucid, elegantly written and thought-provoking social and intellectual history" Wilson's "speculations on evolutionary theory," produce a book that is "fatally flawed, mischievous, and ultimately misleading".  Steve Jones, an emeritus of University College London, commented in The Sunday Times: "In the classic mould of the contrarian, he despises anything said by mainstream biology in favour of marginal and sometimes preposterous theories." The geneticist and former editor of Nature, Adam Rutherford, called the book "deranged" and said Wilson "would fail GCSE biology catastrophically."" (Wikipedia:  AN Wilson)
Here is the funniest part.  Allen claims that the whole reason people are outraged at the biography is because of Darwin's status, while ignoring the obvious flaws. Rather than do a little homework and realize how 'bad, unfair, inaccurate, and error-ridden' it is, she dismisses all that to rationalize her own prejudice.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bait and Switch, Discovery Institute Style

A new post over at the Discovery Institute site is pretty typical of their tactics, what I like to call their 'Tactics of Mistake'.  Here it is: "Helpful Atheist Makes a Case for God".  In it they summarize something PZ Myers said and then do the something typical -- moving the goal posts:

"But we can ask an interesting question . . . How far back can contingency go? . . .
Myers would likely reply that “the primordial universe is the start. The universe is the fundamental existing thing.” That’s the stock atheist answer. But it’s wrong — the universe can’t explain contingency completely. Here’s why."
Look at what they did, they ask a question -- which is fine, but then they form an answer as they claim Myers would answer it.  I don't know how Myers would answer it, but even if he gave the answer they claim, within the context of what Myers said, it would still be a perfectly acceptable answer.  The context wasn't 'essential cause chains', what they did was change the context and then spend the rest of the post explaining why Myers, and Evolution, is wrong.

What's funny is the artificial distinction they use to explain 'accident contingency' and 'essential contingency'.  There is nothing in the definition of an contingency that requires the continued existence of the parent contingency.  Here is how they define it:
"Essential causal chains are causes and effects that depend on the continued existence of the entire causal chain to produce an effect."
Does this make any sense to you?  They are trying to create this new concept called 'essential causal chains' and claiming that everything in the chain must continue to exist or the end result cannot exist.  Then they end with:
"So evolution, as a contingent process in nature that contains some essentially ordered series of causes, requires a First Cause that is outside of nature. Of course, that First Cause is what men have called God.
Really?  Other than twisting around words, what have they provided that supports their contention that Evolution requires a first cause?  And even if one is required, why does it have to be outside of nature?  That's the part of their explanation they never seem to support.  The only reason seems to be that they have to have something outside of nature or they will never accept it.

There is no evidence that however life started, it required a first cause to be outside of nature.  Remember it's not a requirement for the Theory of Evolution to explain exactly how life began, only that once it did, it evolved and been evolving ever since.  Yes, word games can make all this sound important, but the reality, all the DI's efforts to insert God into the equation have amounted to nothing.  Now they go a further step and try an tie in the concept of Atheism:
If P.Z. Myers follows his own argument about contingency a bit further, he would see that atheism is inconsistent with the contingency on which evolution necessarily depends."
Is the Theory of Evolution and Atheist theory?  Seriously, what in science addresses the concept of God?  God has always been within the realm of philosophy and metaphysics -- not science.  So, in fact, all of science can be considered atheistic.  Just like all of mathematics, cooking, finance, language . . . it's a pretty long list of all the things that fails to pay homage to a deity.  But does that make them inherently atheistic?

Of course not, but that doesn't stop folks like the DI from making the claim.  It's their belief set that requires it, and that's why they play these sort of 'bait and switch' games.
First, customers are "baited" by merchants advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods either are not available or are not as good as expected, or the customers are pressured by sales people to consider similar, but higher-priced, items ("switching")." (Wikipedia: Bait and Switch)
The DI baited their argument with PZ Myers words, changed the definition and then went on to make their point about evolution and then somehow turned it into a atheism hit piece.  Creative, maybe, but not very well done at all.  Pronouncements like these require more evidence than 'Because I said so!"

Friday, January 19, 2018

What Do You Get When a True Believer Visits the Ark Park? Can You Say 'Fluff Piece'

Just like this one: "The ark — something to think about".  If you haven't heard of a 'fluff piece' before, it's jargon for an report that doesn't examine something with a critical eye.  This is a good example.  There have been many reports about the Creation pseudo-museum and the Ark Park that call them not just bad science, but bad religion.

"The problem, according to Harvard biblical professor Michael D. Coogan, is that the museum “rests on an assumption that the bible is literally true in everything that it says.” Coogan emphasized that in the case of Noah’s Ark “that is simply not the case,” adding that the early chapters of Genesis are known to contain mythological references, and that its writers “drew on previous sources directly in constructing their own account.”" (The Jewish Times: Noah’s Ark 2 – The Kentucky Years)
“I held strongly to the view that it was an opportunity to expose the well-intending Ken Ham and the support he receives from his followers as being bad for Kentucky, bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind,” [Bill] Nye wrote about the experience.
The closing line from her opening paragraph certainly set the stage:
"The project stands as a powerful visual reminder of God’s twin attributes, justice and mercy."
So, supposedly killing millions of people in a world-wide flood . . . is an example of justice and which part is mercy?  I imagine the majority of the people supposedly killed shared one common crime -- a belief in one specific deity other than the Abrahambric God.  Funny how other civilizations at the time didn't mention this world-wide flood event, did they?

I love this line:
"But as Noah’s wife says in one fictional video, “Scoffers will scoff.”"
Yes, dismiss any critics by quoting Noah's wife and never address the meat of any criticisms like the lack of any evidence for the ark or a single world-wide flood, or the ability for one family to repopulate the Earth, let alone the time that would have taken --  just to name a few.  Forget the criticisms of how the ark park was financed or the discriminatory hiring practices little kennie put in place in violation of the law.  No, why get caught up on details when with the wave of one hand you can dismiss any critic as a 'scoffer'.

Her closing line:
"One thing is for sure: Anyone who enters the ark will leave with something significant to think about."
Well I have to disagree with the word 'significant'.  The author of this particular fluff piece already swallowed the kool-aid.  I doubt any of her thoughts following her visit were 'significant'.  Visiting little kennie ham's other monument to his own ego, the Creation pseudo-museum, didn't leave me with any significant thoughts.  I left more feeling a little sick to my stomach at realizing what a mockery of both religion and science it is.  I seriously doubt the ark park would do anything more significant than that.  Narrow-minded Evangelical believers will use it to reinforce their beliefs, the rest of the world will fall between finding it slight humorous or slightly nauseating.

No, I have no plans to visit the ark park.  Little kennie got enough of my money visiting his pseudo-museum.  However, if the Secular Students of America (SSA) decide to visit, i might change my mind.  They were an interesting group during my one and only visit to little kennie-land.