Jason Rosenhouse posted Entry 1244 on July 23, 2005 02:13 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1242

As should be clear from the previous entries in this series, I am providing an account of the conference presentations that I attended, in the order in which I attended them. I attended nine talks at the conference, out of forty that were available (not counting devotionals). I mention this because a commenter to one of my previous entries rattled off a list of talks he challeneged me to provide scientific refutations to. Sadly, most of the talks he mentioned were ones that I did not attend. Such scientific content as there was in the talks I did attend was of such low quality that I am not optimistic about what was presented in the remaining sessions. I will discuss some specific scientific assertions made in the talks as I go, but the only one that I am planning to go into great detail on is the one by Werner Gitt, entitled “In the Beginning was Information.” That will come in part five of this series.

Now, back to the conference!

Monday, July 17. Afternoon.

Carl Kerby's talk was followed by a two hour lunch break. I fled the classroom, emerged into the humid Lynchburg weather, and went searching for a place to eat lunch. I eventually settled for a nearby Mexican restaurant. Ordered a fajita burrito. It was really, really, good. Felt better.

I finished lunch with more than an hour and a half to spare before the next talk. Since I was close to my hotel, I decided to relax there for a while before going back to campus. Got to the hotel, went back to my room, laid down the bed. Grew contemplative.

I am often asked why I do this. Why would I spend so much time, and a not inconsiderable chunk of money, hanging out with people whose views I obviously have little respect for? Actually, I often ask myself the same question. There are a couple of reasons why I do it, with no one reason taking precedence over another.

Partly my interest is as a journalist. Especially for those of us who live in the red states, the pernicious influence of religious fundamentalism is a simple fact of everyday life. Someone has to keep an eye on what these folks are doing and saying.

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it. Nonsense has to be confronted. A short drive from my home, some two thousand people are gathering to listen to a series of frauds and charlatans impugn the characters of my colleagues and tell lies about what scientists believe and why they believe it. How could I live with myself if I didn't do what little I could to challenge it? Frankly, I think it should be a requirement of every science PhD program in the country that students attend a conference such as this. Let them see first-hand the ingorance, the anti-intellectualism, the anti-science propaganda, the anti-anything that doesn't conform to their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible attitude. Maybe then people on my side of this would wake up, and stop acting like it's a waste of time to pay attention to these folks.

Partly I think I can do some good. In other conferences of this sort that I have attended there have always been opportunities to ask questions after the talks. Merely by asking a polite but challenging question I knew I could count on having a large crowd around me afterwards. In those forums you have a chnace to plant a few seeds. Merely by letting them see a calm, patient, articulate (if you'll forgive the immodesty) defender of science you can do a lot to undo the stereotypes the speakers are presenting. I have no illusions about how much good one person can do, but imagine if my challenging question was followed immediately by another, and another. These people crumble when their arrant nonsense is confronted with simple common sense. (Incidentally, you can read about some of my experiences at past creationist/ID conferences here and here. Both links are in PDF format. The first article appeared in Skeptic, the second in BioScience.)

Yet another reason is anthropological. From the time I've been old enough to think about these things, religion has always struck me as pretty silly. And fundamentalist religion of the sort being preached at this conference has seemed downright delusional. Yet I am also aware that most people do not agree with this view (well, not the first part anyway). A commenter to one of my previous entries suggested that perhaps I am searching for something. Indeed I am. I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I've tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists. My hostility towards religion has only grown as a result. But most people have come to a different conclusion. So I keep searching. And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.

And let's not overlook my last reason. I enjoy it. I like seeing poeple who are fired up about big questions, and I like a good argument. And since having the Earth open up and swallow them whole doesn't seem to be an option, I might as well engage them.

Enough contemplation. Back to the conference.

My choices were “How to Defend the Christian Faith in a Secular World,” by Ken Ham in the basic track, and “Rocks Around the Clocks: The Eons That Never Were,” by Emil Silvestru in the advanced track. Having had my fill of Ham, I elected for the rocks.

Big mistake. Silvestru's talk was a typical creationist snow job. Look! Here's a tree buried thorugh many layers of sediment. Look! Here are some preserved dinosaur eggs. Look! Here's a Sequoia fossil in the Arcitc. In most cases the examples went by far too quickly to digest what their importance was supposed to be. Frequently the logic seemed off. For example, why are preserved dinosaur eggs supposed to be a problem for evolution? If I understood Silvestru correctly it is supposed to be because for an egg to be preserved, it must be covered in sediment very quickly. But preserved dinosaur eggs come from all over the world and are from roughly the same time period. Such rapid burial could only have been caused by a major catastrophe. And this catastrophe would have had to be global to explain the distribution of eggs. So Noah's flood is real. QED.

I am open to the suggestion that I have misunderstood Silvestru in some way, because the argument as I currently understand it is just too dumb. These eggs may date to the same geological era, but they surely were not literally buried during the same few days. And it's not as if the globe was pock-marked with droves of dinosaur eggs. It was not at all clear why several local “catastrophes” could not explain the data Silvestru was attributing to a global event.

And those multi-layer tree fossils are likewise a big nothing.

But mostly I didn't pay too much attention to Silvestru, since he was uttering one howler after another every time he brought up evolution. For example, he argued that the rates of evolution as documented by the fossil record spell the death knell for the theory.

In the notes accompanying the lecture Silvestru expresses the point this way:

Thus the Archean represents 47 percent of the Earth's age, the Proterozoic 40 percent and the Phanerozoic the remainder of 13 percent! Yet it is during the Phanerozoic that the vast majority of evolution is claimed to have unfolded, with human evolution (the most complicated of them all!) taking the shortest time of all! There is definitely a strange correlation between time and evolution since our planet is believed (by evolutionists) to have taken a quarter of its entire age before the first form of life evolved, 62 percent of its age all it accommodated was single-celled creatures (protozoans) but then it surely caught up with its completely random goal, evolving the absolute majority of all known life forms in just 13 percent of its age!

I'm not kidding.

Then creationists wonder why we don't take them seriously.

I've been staring at my screen for about five minutes now trying to decide if its worth trying to correct everything that's wrong with that paragraph. I think I'll follow my mathematical instincts and leave it as an exercise for the reader.

There were other howlers as well. He opened his talk with the assertion that there were basically two models for the history of the Earth: The creation model, which is based on science, and the evolution model, which is mased on natural laws. You figure out what that means.

He then argued that we must test these models against the evidence. No problem with that. An example of a prediction made by the Creation model is that we will find no transitional forms in the fossil record. By contrast, evolution predicts that we will find many such forms. Wow, I'm still with him. And then he simply asserted that there are no transitional forms and so the Creation model wins.

!!!!!!

Enough of Silvestru.

Next up was Phillip Bell in the Basic track discussing, “Ape Men, Missins Links, and the Bible,” and Douglas Kelly on “The Importance of Chronology in the Bible,” in the advanced track. I went Basic this time. It was after Bell's talk that I worked up the nerve to confront the speaker after the talk. Stay tuned!

To Be Continued

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Comment #39092

Posted by Rubble on July 23, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

I’m truly enjoying your reports here, Jason.

That said …

Jason Rosenhouse wrote:

Frankly, I think it should be a requirement of every science PhD program in the country that students attend a conference such as this. Let them see first-hand the ingorance, the anti-intellectualism, the anti-science propaganda, the anti-anything that doesn’t conform to their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible attitude. Maybe then people on my side of this would wake up, and stop acting like it’s a waste of time to pay attention to these folks.

IMO facts and logic are immaterial to the subject at hand – the alleged invalidity of common descent, an old Earth, an old universe, and so forth. Rather, the pertinant matter is the fear of losing one’s “Christian” lifestyle by adopting such ideas as scientifically supported. Remember that these people are generally fearful of this world; reminding them of facts, suggesting that they’re only grains of dust in the grand scheme, doesn’t address this root cause.

Hence, a PhD candidate isn’t going to have any scientific advancement achieved by engaging with YECs. It’s a waste of time; you can’t fight fear with facts and logic. You’re dealing with demogogues here: Ham, Sarfati, and the rest all play to these Christians’ fears of losing their faith, which is everything to these people.

IMO the proper route is to address the fear. Acting calmly in the face of adversity tends to calm the fears of others. You spoke of “planting seeds.” If done patiently and calmly, with no expectations of results, IMO you’re most likely to see the fear dissipate, the mind engaged, and the eyes opened. Beyond that, we can expect nothing more.

Comment #39095

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 23, 2005 6:01 PM (e)

I fled the classroom, emerged into the humid Lynchburg weather, and went searching for a place to eat lunch. I eventually settled for a nearby Mexican restaurant. Ordered a fajita burrito. It was really, really, good. Felt better.

Glad to hear your trip wasn’t a complete bummer.

Comment #39109

Posted by Mike Walker on July 23, 2005 6:26 PM (e)

It’s interesting you bring up the issue of what you are doing in creationist territory in th first place, and I accept your reasons on face value, but might I suggest there is one more that you did not mention…

I too have spent a fair bit of time, online mostly, discussing and debating with creationists, fundamentalists, and pseudoscientists of all stripes. As you say, it can be fun to argue about such things from time to time.

But at one point I sat back and thought more deeply about my motivations for engaging in these debates. I found that, if I was being honest, it was because it made me feel superior knowing that I was right and that all these idiots are completely wrong.

Now, before all you creationists and IDists leap in and say “Aha! Told you those evolutionists were all arrogant bastards!”, I’ve got news for you…. you do it too. Oh, you pretend it’s solely your humble duty in the glorification of God, but that’s not the whole truth, is it?

(It’s most obvious when you get those “witty” one-line zingers that both sides are more than happy fire out.)

It’s part of human nature, people want/need to be validated, be it be their spouse, their peers, or simply by like-minded people. It may be obvious to you, but it was a bit of an eye-opener to me when I realised how selfish some of my motivations were in engaging in the debates.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing for one thread. On with the show!

Comment #39115

Posted by Mike Walker on July 23, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

I sat through an hour of a creationist panel discussion on cable access TV this morning that included Bill Dembski.

To be charitable, there were a couple of interesting points made, including one panelist’s opinion is that YEC is on the way out - being replaced by a more “sophisticated” presentation of creation (I guess he meant ID).

(They also complained that if the conference had been about “How to Pray for your Pet”, they would have had a lot bigger attendance!)

He even singled out AiG (without naming them) as doing a huge disservice to the creationist movement because they villify any Christian who is not a young-earther.

But anyway, I sometimes wonder where these guys leave their brains in the morning. They got on to a discussion about abiogenesis - specifically attacking the biological sciences because they haven’t even come close to showing how life could have come from non-life (or a “rock became a walking rock” as their chief-sloganeer put it). Therefore it obvious that naturalistic life-from-non-life must be impossible.

Duh! These guys want both sides of the argument. What do you think will be the first thing out of their mouths if we ever create new life…? “See! All that proves is you need a creator to create life!”

Comment #39123

Posted by KR on July 23, 2005 6:56 PM (e)

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it.

I’m glad you evolved that way, rather than evolving only to survive.

I am open to the suggestion that I have misunderstood Silvestru in some way, because the argument as I currently understand it is just too dumb. These eggs may date to the same geological era, but they surely were not literally buried during the same few days. And it’s not as if the globe was pock-marked with droves of dinosaur eggs. It was not at all clear why several local “catastrophes” could not explain the data Silvestru was attributing to a global event.

Wow, awesome refutation.

Actually, the hypocrisy is amusing. Jason whines when creationists supposedly speculate, but then he turns around writes this as if he knows that a specific epoch of the Mesozoic suddenly experienced several local floods—since rapid burial is the only way to preserve eggs.

I’m not kidding.

Then creationists wonder why we don’t take them seriously.

I’ve been staring at my screen for about five minutes now trying to decide if its worth trying to correct everything that’s wrong with that paragraph. I think I’ll follow my mathematical instincts and leave it as an exercise for the reader.

That’s rich. More glib smugness from the intellectually-anointed Jason.

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

Comment #39138

Posted by steve on July 23, 2005 7:32 PM (e)

You want refutations? Give a creationist argument, and I’m sure we can find you a refutation of it, if you aren’t able to yourself.

By the way, do you have any training in biology?

Comment #39141

Posted by steve on July 23, 2005 7:35 PM (e)

But please allow some time for the refutation to appear. Sábado Gigante is on.

Comment #39153

Posted by Alan on July 23, 2005 7:58 PM (e)

rapid burial is the only way to preserve eggs.

I’m not so sure. I heard that the best Chinese 100 year old eggs are buried quite slowly but with great care. ;}

Comment #39158

Posted by AdrianG on July 23, 2005 8:21 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #39159

Posted by PhilVaz on July 23, 2005 8:22 PM (e)

Excellent report, but I noticed a few typos.

challeneged me
which is mased on natural laws.

I’ve listened to some of the MP3s of the talks, its very sad the poor logic of these kinds of fundamentalists / evangelicals. I would recommend faith-affirming and science-filled books like Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by geologist Keith Miller or Finding Peace with Science by biologist Darrel Falk to all these folks.

As Protestant Christian Mark Noll wrote in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the main problem seems to be there isn’t one.

Phil P

Comment #39160

Posted by scott pilutik on July 23, 2005 8:26 PM (e)

Thanks for the report Jason, it’s really appreciated. Your masochistic foray is ironically Christ-like of you - you suffer so we don’t have to, like those bloggers from NewsHounds.us who watch Fox News all day long.

Comment #39165

Posted by Albion on July 23, 2005 8:40 PM (e)

Hence, a PhD candidate isn’t going to have any scientific advancement achieved by engaging with YECs. It’s a waste of time; you can’t fight fear with facts and logic. You’re dealing with demogogues here: Ham, Sarfati, and the rest all play to these Christians’ fears of losing their faith, which is everything to these people.

Yes, but the problem is that too many scientists, science students, and other rational people dismiss creationists as a minor, harmless bunch of fringe nutters. They aren’t. They’re part of a well-financed, well-connected political and ideological movement with a plan for the future of the country, and they have a LOT of grass-roots support from people who don’t know any better than to believe what they say about science.

If it does nothing more than show some of these young scientists how vital it is that scientists engage in public outreach on a regular basis, it’ll be worth it.

Comment #39169

Posted by ajp on July 23, 2005 8:51 PM (e)

The reason for differentiating between science and natural laws is to facilitate the theft of credibility that science has acquired though it’s systematic approach to natural laws. And so it would seem that these people have no regard for natural laws or their own.

Comment #39172

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 23, 2005 9:02 PM (e)

You know Jason. The image I have you sitting in the audience forcing yourself to watch creatobabbler after creatobabbler reminds of a scene in “Sleeper”

Thats the scene where they are showing Woody Allen footage of Howard Cosell. Afterwards Woody is told that the current belief is that prisoners were forced to watch tapes of “that man” for hours on end as form of a torture.

Woody Allen agreed.

I don’t know how you put up with such torture.

Comment #39176

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 23, 2005 9:12 PM (e)

KR, In an earlier post you mentioned that Humphreys proposes that the half-lives of radiogenic materials like U decreased by many orders of magnitude during the flood. THe flood lasted about one year. This vast decrease in half-life explains why so little helium is found in the rocks examined by Humphreys, correct?

And Humphreys explains the flood waters protected Noah from the radiation.

But such a decrease in half-life would mean that the Earth’s heat flow increased by a similar amount.

Can you explain with a heat flow ~70Mwm-2, that’s 70Megawatts per square meter why the oceans weren’t a boiling cauldron, much less vaporized?

Is that specific enough a refutation for you?

Hint: Your preacher can’t help you.

Comment #39178

Posted by roger Tang on July 23, 2005 9:34 PM (e)

I predict a resounding silence from KR on any specific objection.

And I predict a glib avoidance of ANYTHING that has to do with the talk.origins site; there’s far too much damaging evidence there for him to attempt deal with (there’s only so much cognitive dissonance that even a creationist can deal with).

Comment #39179

Posted by ts on July 23, 2005 9:39 PM (e)

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it.

I’m glad you evolved that way, rather than evolving only to survive.

A sense of moral obligation helps societies to function.

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

Such ad hominem arguments are the savior of scumbuckets.

Comment #39180

Posted by natural cynic on July 23, 2005 9:42 PM (e)

Market for confirmation>>market for information.

Or, is it >>>>?

Comment #39181

Posted by Arun on July 23, 2005 9:56 PM (e)

In my opinion, while you’re doing the rest of us a great favor, what you’re doing is not good for you; get away from that conference.

Comment #39182

Posted by Rubble on July 23, 2005 9:58 PM (e)

Albion wrote:

Yes, but the problem is that too many scientists, science students, and other rational people dismiss creationists as a minor, harmless bunch of fringe nutters. They aren’t. They’re part of a well-financed, well-connected political and ideological movement with a plan for the future of the country, and they have a LOT of grass-roots support from people who don’t know any better than to believe what they say about science.

This isn’t a matter of facts or logic here – more specifically, not a matter of the physical data and the scientific framework used to explain and further discovery of those data. You seem to believe that it is; after years of discussing this online with numerous Creationists, I’ve come to the conclusion that presenting facts and logic doesn’t do the trick, but you seem to insist otherwise.

Albion wrote:

If it does nothing more than show some of these young scientists how vital it is that scientists engage in public outreach on a regular basis, it’ll be worth it.

The likely Creationist response is simply to ignore them, much as they’re doing now. Again, in the face of fear, facts and logic simply don’t penetrate.

Comment #39183

Posted by Michael Buratovich on July 23, 2005 10:16 PM (e)

Dear Jason,

I attended the Mega Creation conference too. My experience was similar and different. I interacted with lots of very nice people who have a lot in common with me. They pay taxes and too much for gas like me, they have kids who sometimes misbehave like me and they are trying to grapple with the meaning of life like me, even if they have a completely different way of going about it. My largest problem is the spouting of inaccurate science by these people just because so-and-so at the some YEC conference said so. I know the vast majority of the folks at a conference like this are not scientifically trained, but I met a few people who are and they sincerely want to know how the world works, even if they have a rather small trough of options for how it works.

All in all, I think it was a useful venture for me, even if I got thoroughly tired of being called a “compromiser.” Yes, I was flummoxed, angered and even gobsmacked at some of the bad science I heard, but I view these folks with a little more sympathy than you do. My angst is reserved for the professional scientists who lead them this way and ought to know better.

That’s what I think.

MB

Comment #39184

Posted by Jeff Chamberlain on July 23, 2005 10:20 PM (e)

“From the time I’ve been old enough to think about these things, religion has always struck me as pretty silly. And fundamentalist religion of the sort being preached at this conference has seemed downright delusional. Yet I am also aware that most people do not agree with this view (well, not the first part anyway). A commenter to one of my previous entries suggested that perhaps I am searching for something. Indeed I am. I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I’ve tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists. My hostility towards religion has only grown as a result. But most people have come to a different conclusion. So I keep searching. And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.”

Me, too.

Comment #39188

Posted by ts on July 23, 2005 11:01 PM (e)

I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I’ve tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists.

WHY? If you can identify what has motivated you to want to believe that God exists, you’re much of the way toward understanding why many people take the additional step and embrace that belief.

And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.

Easy answers, validation of their egotism, and a basis for rejecting the belief that they will cease to exist in a few years. The latter is quite explicable in terms of evolution. Like other evolved critters, we are built to prolong our existence, increasing the chances that the genes that built the phenotype (us) will be propagated. Unlike other evolved creatures, we are planners who build models of the future which we use to prolong our existence (lacking other useful features like acute senses, armor, strength, and piercing weaponry). An accurate model of our future includes our inevitable cessation, but the knowledge of an inevitability cannot aid in overcoming it; in fact, it tends to bring the inevitable closer, because our avoiding danger is largely based on the illusion that we can prolong it indefinitely (notice how people say things like “You’re not going to die”, “he escaped death”, “smoking will kill you”, etc., when the process of living kills you). No one way of resolving this is more rational than another. Some people live dangerously, some live cautiously, some commit suicide, and some convince themselves that they’ll live forever on some cloud. In the view of Sartre (one of those suicides), “life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal”. This is also the view of many of the religious, but their solution is to deny that it’s an illusion.

Comment #39191

Posted by ts on July 23, 2005 11:33 PM (e)

Oops. Somewhere along the line I seem to have reified Sartre’s talk of suicide as an existentialist statement of will into his actually committing suicide, but he didn’t.

Comment #39194

Posted by Marek14 on July 24, 2005 1:07 AM (e)

Like Jason, I too was thinking about what is so important about religion that it makes people cling to it. Perhaps it’s the childhood. When you are a child, you live (or you should live) without much worries. Your parents give everything you need to you. They protect you from harm, they even grant you wishes that you are unable to fulfill by yourself.

Then you grow up.

Suddenly you are in a world that, by large, doesn’t care about your existence. You have to work to make your wishes come true.

So, is it a coincidence that people tend to view God as a heavenly father? Someone who does the same things for adults as adults do for kids? Someone who provides the good things and protects from bad?

If this view is true, then it explains much about the evolution-hating. Because what evolution says could be basically boiled down to this:

“Noone will help you. To be one of the fittest, you have to work for it. It won’t come for free.”

It’s eminently possible that this view is incorrect, but that is really not important here - the important thing is whether it LOOKS like a correct interpretation, since that’s what average person cares about.

Comment #39195

Posted by Jaime Headden on July 24, 2005 1:08 AM (e)

On the basis of egg burial, one major point is missed it seems in these arguments, and that sequential layers of fossils and fossils buried in clastic sediments in a single series. In the case of eggs, there are sites in Mongolia and Argentina dating into the Late Cretaceous where in the same slope, one right above the other, eggs and nests and nests of them are found, some with bones and entire animals located around them. Sites such as Liaoning in China, Auca Mahuevo in Argentina, and Ukhaa Tolgod in Mongolia, show sections of fossils preserved in non-flood sediments, but rather volcanoclastics, in this case ashes that do not occur in submarine environments. The layers of fossils right atop another don’t stop there, but they don’t seem to garner much attention in the debate against a global flood. Regions such as the US midwest Western Interior Seaway show frequent advances and recessions of a great seaway, showing marine fossils on top of terrestrial fossils atop marine fossils…. I’ve used the successive layers of fossils in arguments before, it usually makes them stop and think….

Comment #39196

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 24, 2005 1:23 AM (e)

Actually, the hypocrisy is amusing.

So is the continuous refusal of creationist/IDers to answer any direct questions that are put to them.

Just like you.

Comment #39206

Posted by Timothy Scriven on July 24, 2005 6:00 AM (e)

May I ask what “TS” stands for, does it have anything to do with T.S Eliot? I want to know because, as far as I am concerned you have stolen my initals.

Comment #39207

Posted by SteveF on July 24, 2005 6:12 AM (e)

Let me get this straight; the flood, that global megacatastrophe, carver of canyons, raiser of mountains, was able to preserve a fragile egg.

This flood was amazing - it was simultaneously powerful enough to re-shape the world and not destroy delicate objects. Quite remarkable. Of course, the flood was able to do this, because in fundie land, it had to do this.

Comment #39209

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 6:54 AM (e)

I want to know because, as far as I am concerned you have stolen my initals.

That doesn’t speak well of you.

Comment #39210

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 6:57 AM (e)

“Noone will help you. To be one of the fittest, you have to work for it. It won’t come for free.”

Actually, to be one of the fittest, you merely need to get laid.

Comment #39212

Posted by Chip Poirot on July 24, 2005 8:00 AM (e)

Actually, you need to do more than “get laid”. That act of “getting laid” needs to produce viable offspring, and those viable offspring must be capable of surviving to sexual maturity and reproducing at at least the average rate of the rest of the population.

Comment #39215

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 9:17 AM (e)

t.s. -

“Easy answers, validation of their egotism, and a basis for rejecting the belief that they will cease to exist in a few years.”

Of course, this would not apply to religious beliefs that emphasize the opposite of these views, as many do, including many forms of Christianity and Judaism, as well as almost any form of Buddhism (list not intended to be exhaustive).

“The latter is quite explicable in terms of evolution. Like other evolved critters, we are built to prolong our existence, increasing the chances that the genes that built the phenotype (us) will be propagated.”

Humans have evolved a relatively long potential life span, even relative to our large size. However, natural selection will increase the frequency of alleles in a population when they reproduce faster than other alleles, regardless of the lifespan of an individual organism. Male humans have historically tended to reproduce throughout life, so longevity may well be associated with reproductive “advantage” in many human populations. However, short life span and rapid reproduction at a young age is a more common evolutionary adaptation, in terms of the overall biomass.

“An accurate model of our future includes our inevitable cessation, but the knowledge of an inevitability cannot aid in overcoming it; in fact, it tends to bring the inevitable closer, because our avoiding danger is largely based on the illusion that we can prolong it indefinitely (notice how people say things like “You’re not going to die”, “he escaped death”, “smoking will kill you”, etc., when the process of living kills you).”

Smoking may cause you to die earlier from a disease that you would not have contracted, had you not been a smoker. Smoking, thus, may kill you, and although one could superficially argue than “anything may kill you”, the probability that smoking will do so is non-trivial. The fact that something else will kill you eventually doesn’t change this. The concept that people can escape death (temporarily, but for a non-trivial period of time) is central to modern medical science. Of course, I’m taking the scientific view on these issues.

“No one way of resolving this is more rational than another.”

This would seem to be a change from earlier positions. It’s a rather strong statement.

“Some people live dangerously, some live cautiously, some commit suicide, and some convince themselves that they’ll live forever on some cloud.”

But naturally, these are not the only choices.

“In the view of Sartre (one of those suicides), “life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal”. This is also the view of many of the religious, but their solution is to deny that it’s an illusion.”

Whether this is the view of many of the religious I can’t say. I consider myself religious, and I don’t hold any of the views that you’ve ascribed to the religious, certainly not this one. Others may. Unless they’ve told you, of course, it’s just your guess as to what they may believe.

Human cognitions are strongly influenced by emotion and mood, among many other things (these entities are all hard to define strictly, but all have been successfully studied with a scientific approach). Most people who commit suicide express ideas which reflect their emotional distress. Sometimes such expressions may be overtly irrational, at other times, they may be nondisprovable subjective statements, along the lines that “there is no hope”. Whether it is ever rational to commit suicide is an argument for philosophers (let’s put aside suicide of people with intractable physical suffering). From a scientific point of view, suicidal people can be treated. The frequent result is that they change their mood and emotional state, and express different subjective ideas, including the idea that suicide is not their choice after all. My guess would be that Sartre suffered from treatable mental illness at the time of his suicide, rather than arriving at the conclusion that he should kill himself from “pure reasoning”.

Comment #39217

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 24, 2005 9:37 AM (e)

One reason for torturing yourself by attending such a conference is the same reason I am currently reading Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Some day you will find yourself arguing with a Creationist, and he/she will say, “you’re just parroting what you heard at Talk.Origins, or from the Evil Atheist Conspiracy”. You can say to them truthfully, “No, I actually listened to Dr. X’s pitiful POS arguments and they actually don’t make sense.”

Comment #39218

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 24, 2005 9:52 AM (e)

To reiterate my point, I just hopped over to amazon.com and found this in a review of Evolution, a theory in crisis by Michael Denton:

There are those who judge books critical of evolution without actually reading them, evidently considering that to be needless toil. They “know” that evolution is true and explains everything, and therefore “know” that all critics have bad motives and worse education. Those who find that they need actually to read a book in order to fairly judge it will find Denton reasonable, extremely well-informed, clear, readable and thought-provoking. I highly recommend “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.”

To morons like this ( Daniel V. Davis “Library Ghost” (Rochester, MN USA) I will be able to say, “Yes, I read it. Now how can you call Denton well-informed when the one area where he claims to have special expertise, molecular biology, he got it spectaularly, head-slappingly wrong? Is he dishonest or just incompentent?”

Comment #39219

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 9:59 AM (e)

BB -

I agree. It’s extremely important for some pro-science people to keep up with creationism, in all its stripes.

Their goal is to bypass scientific critique and build a “following”. The more rapidly and efficiently their stuff can be exposed, the better. Plenty of well-meaning, honest people buy into it because it “sounds right” in the absence of a critique. Shining the bright light of real science on it is an incredibly valuable thing to do.

Comment #39223

Posted by JR on July 24, 2005 11:53 AM (e)

KR wrote:

a specific epoch of the Mesozoic suddenly experienced several local floods

How “sudden” is 80 million years?

Comment #39225

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 12:11 PM (e)

Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.

Comment #39226

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 12:21 PM (e)

Comment #39207

Posted by SteveF on July 24, 2005 06:12 AM (e) (s)

Let me get this straight; the flood, that global megacatastrophe, carver of canyons, raiser of mountains, was able to preserve a fragile egg.

This flood was amazing - it was simultaneously powerful enough to re-shape the world and not destroy delicate objects.

What Can’t a magic flood do?

Comment #39217

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 24, 2005 09:37 AM (e) (s)
Some day you will find yourself arguing with a Creationist, and he/she will say, “you’re just parroting what you heard at Talk.Origins, or from the Evil Atheist Conspiracy”. You can say to them truthfully, “No, I actually listened to Dr. X’s pitiful POS arguments and they actually don’t make sense.”

I don’t think it’s necessary for us to spend time reading any creationist arguments. We know they’ve got nothing. Biology scientists overwhelmingly say evolution is correct. Some religious people assert the opposite. That’s enough info to make a judgement.

And before some pedant says AH! That’s an argument from authority! let me go ahead and say, well, not quite, it’s a probability argument. What are the odds that this time the religious objectors are right, and all those scientists are wrong? Slim to none, and slim just left town.

Comment #39228

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 12:29 PM (e)

I would say the best reason to read the ID Creationists is for amusement. For instance, for several months I asked “What are the ID Creationists going to do when the courts rule that ID is Creationism, and prohibited?” and at some point Dembski said “We’ll change the name to Intelligent Evolution.” or something like that.

Do you see why that’s so funny? Because now they can’t change the name to IE. They’d be on record saying IE was just ID under an assumed name.

Watching this Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is hilarious.

Comment #39230

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 12:37 PM (e)

Here’s something else that’s morbidly funny. For years now Paul Nelson has been writing his magnum opus, which aims to show that horizontal gene transfer ruins parts of evolutionary theory. But in the meantime, while he’s been writing this manifesto, real scientists have started using horizontal gene transfer to understand evolution. There have been papers already.

In the south, we have a nice phrase for that sort of person. He’s a day late, and a dollar short.

Comment #39232

Posted by Stephen Early on July 24, 2005 12:58 PM (e)

I’ve found TalkOrigins and this site extremely helpful in helping me slough off any remaining pro-Creationist/pro-ID baggage I’ve held onto over the years. You have my sympathy and admiration in putting up with an entire conference on views that you disagree with. As others have pointed out, 21st Century American Christian fundamentalism is not the exclusive theistic (or even Christian Theistic) worldview out there. I’ve lately been reading an Eastern Orthodox Christian Catechism (The Living God / tr. by Olga Dunlop) that has absolutely no problem with evolution. It deals with the Theological concepts and implications of the first chapters of Genesis but openly states they are not history (Just as Jesus’ parables are not meant to be history). This is not to say that one won’t find young earth Creationists and/or ID’ers in the Eastern Orthodox faith. There are more than a few. But the origins question is not a “settled issue” for the Orthodox as it is in some Protestant Fundamentalist denominations.

Personal thoughts on religion and theism (as more raw data for your anthropological researches):

It seems to me that virtually every human acts as though there is meaning in life and that there are objective principles of good and evil (even if some say they don’t believe there is meaning or objective morality, even if everyone doesn’t agree on all the particulars, and even if some people flaunt those principles openly or hypocritically). Some despair at the lack of meaning in life. (I’ve had those moments). But why despair over something that does not exist or has no direct or indirect connection to something that exists? My cats don’t despair. Why do I? It seems to me that the despair still suggests that there is something real and objective out there. I wonder if it comes down to this: the theists believe that the ultimate source of meaning and morality is somehow sentient; the non-theists either believe that the source is non-sentient or that it doesn’t matter. But both seem to act as though there is a genuine source. Maybe the line between theism and a-theism is finer than many are willing to admit.

Christian theists take things further: they believe that the sentient ultimate source of meaning, morality, and everything else, became human, lived, was executed by crucifixion in a particular time and place, resurrected from the dead several days later, and then bodily left this earth again some weeks after that.

If the death/resurrection of Jesus did actually happen as a historical event, then it has implications. An old earth and biological evolution does not change those implications. Strip off centuries of accumulated theological interpretations and Church splits and you’re still left with a unique occurrence: a man verifiably dead (according to accounts) appeared alive some days later. For good or for ill, belief in that occurrence unleashed events that led to the radical religious transformation of the Roman Empire three Centuries later, and Western Civilization has never been the same since.

If fundamentalist Christians desire to defend their faith from secularism (and I believe modern Western secularism is still deeply rooted in a Christian worldview), maybe they should focus on the historical and scientific verifiabile evidences – or lack thereof – of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. If the death/resurrection did not happen, then all the proofs of a young earth and flood covered eggs are irrelevant (although it might be comfort to Orthodox Jews).

Here’s another book that might help in your anthropological researches: The God experiment : can science prove the existence of God? / by Russell Stannard. Stannard is a physicist who also accepts evolution as fact. While I don’t expect it to be convincing, the book may provide interesting insight in how a “typical scientist” may also be a Christian believer (not that there aren’t uncompromised “typical scientists” who may also believe in Hinduism, Islam, or communism).

My best wishes as you suffer (as in “endure”) the rest of this conference.

Comment #39238

Posted by Fold_Me on July 24, 2005 1:30 PM (e)

LOL, that is awesome! I may go to one next time for the comedy of it all.

Comment #39239

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 24, 2005 1:51 PM (e)

As others have pointed out, 21st Century American Christian fundamentalism is not the exclusive theistic (or even Christian Theistic) worldview out there.

Indeed, it’s not even the dominant one. Fundamentalist Biblical literalism is a tiny lunatic fringe within mainstream Christianity.

Were it not for the political support the fundies get form the Republicrat Party, they would (rightly) be dismissed as just a very small but very loud bunch of nutters.

Comment #39241

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 24, 2005 2:47 PM (e)

Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.

No body I know does that.

Comment #39242

Posted by colleen on July 24, 2005 2:50 PM (e)

You are shameless, Dr Rodenhouse!
I thought the mayhem (myahem) you mentioned would be in this third post.
Please hurry with the next installment.
I wait with baited breath.

Comment #39244

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 3:08 PM (e)

Really, Bayesian? I see it all the time. It’s higher up in this comment section, is what caused me to ask.

Comment #39247

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 3:40 PM (e)

Actually, you need to do more than “get laid”. That act of “getting laid” needs to produce viable offspring, and those viable offspring must be capable of surviving to sexual maturity and reproducing at at least the average rate of the rest of the population.

Yes, of course, but these aren’t things that YECists have any trouble with. The (obvious?) point was to highlight the sort of elitest Spencerian non-Darwinian notions of “fitness” that are behind the comment I responded to.

Comment #39248

Posted by Albion on July 24, 2005 3:46 PM (e)

This isn’t a matter of facts or logic here — more specifically, not a matter of the physical data and the scientific framework used to explain and further discovery of those data. You seem to believe that it is;

Not at all. I’m simply saying that too many scientists don’t know what creationists are about. This isn’t a few biblical literalists sitting off in a corner demanding that we teach the Bible in science class, it’s a well-organised, well-funded movement that scientists can’t afford to ignore.

after years of discussing this online with numerous Creationists, I’ve come to the conclusion that presenting facts and logic doesn’t do the trick, but you seem to insist otherwise.

I have no idea where you’re getting that idea. I’m saying that young scientists need to understand that creationists can’t be dismissed as a small number of isolated nutters; creationists have a much better track record than scientists at persuading the general public of the truth of their cause. Young scientists need to be aware of the wider world as it is, and the wider world (at least in this country) is becoming increasingly hostile to science because the creationist ministries are so much more effective at public outreach than scientists are.

The likely Creationist response is simply to ignore them, much as they’re doing now. Again, in the face of fear, facts and logic simply don’t penetrate.

I understand what the likely creationist response is. My post was talking about how scientists should be out there getting their points across to the public at large (not to hard-core creationists), rather than spending their lives talking to each other and leaving the wider stage open for creationists to come in and redefine science for the public. If young scientists don’t know the depths of ignorance and misinformation out there, they’re not going to be motivated to spend much time doing anything about it.

Comment #39249

Posted by JonBuck on July 24, 2005 3:57 PM (e)

What we need is another Carl Sagan. We need someone with charisma and a deep understanding of science as a spokesperson. We need to connect with the average man on the street who was never really interested in science. And we need to do it in a way that does not threaten his religion.

Not a simple task. Not by a long shot.

Comment #39250

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 4:08 PM (e)

the non-theists either believe that the source is non-sentient or that it doesn’t matter. But both seem to act as though there is a genuine source.

The genuine source of meaning in my life is my own mind, and the genuine source of good and evil is the evaluations I make. Stepping back, the source of what is in my mind is culture and other aspects of my environment, as it interplays with the physiology of my brain. Meaning refers to conceptual frameworks that we impose on events in order to model them and deal with them. This talk of “genuine meaning” involves a fundamental conceptual error, that of essentialism. “meaning” is not some sort of stuff, to be found “out there”, or something to be found somewhere, or something that someone or some thing can be the “source” of. As for morality, it consists of a set of judgments into which we are indoctrinated as children, and which we modify as we develop; none of us have quite the same set. Some of these have their roots in evolution, some are necessary for societies to function, and some are specific to certain cultures and contingent upon the history of that culture. Or subcultures – thus the “culture war” in the U.S. The notion that there an “objective” or “absolute” morality, to the degree that it is conceptually coherent at all, flies in the face of facts. It is basically a mechanism by which some attempt to impose their own peculiar moral judgments upon those who don’t share them.

Comment #39252

Posted by Ed Darrell on July 24, 2005 4:35 PM (e)

Where in the world did you find a decent burrito in Lynchburg?

Comment #39253

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 4:39 PM (e)

“No one way of resolving this is more rational than another.”

This would seem to be a change from earlier positions. It’s a rather strong statement.

I don’t see how the statement that no one way of living in the face of the inevitability of mortality is more rational than another is “strong”, as it seems to me indisputable (except by those who believe that rationality is derived from authorities rather than reason and who believe that there are authoritative injunctions on how one should live one’s life, but I’m not one of those and am not addressing such persons). Nor is it a change from my previous positions on the matter, from the time I first thought about it. But then, you also claim that it’s irrational to call IDists dim-wits, without giving any reason for your belief. Rationality is relative to context, relative to one’s goals. If one’s goal is to do something impossible, like live forever, then rationality is of no help. If one’s goal is to stop fearing death, then literally killing the fear seems as rational as any other method. As Hume noted, suicide “may be free of imputation of guilt and blame.”

My guess would be that Sartre suffered from treatable mental illness at the time of his suicide, rather than arriving at the conclusion that he should kill himself from “pure reasoning”.

Your guess is off the mark. As I noted in my correction, Sartre didn’t actually kill himself. But while he was alive and quite free of mental illness, he argued that suicide was rational “as an assertion of authentic human will in the face of absurdity” (quoting http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/).

Comment #39254

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 4:41 PM (e)

My post was talking about how scientists should be out there getting their points across to the public at large (not to hard-core creationists), rather than spending their lives talking to each other and leaving the wider stage open for creationists to come in and redefine science for the public.

There’s a belief some people have that scientists are discouraged from publicising science. When some scientist blogger–was it a physicist?–failed to get tenure recently, that was one of the first suggestions I heard about why. Me, I have merely an undergrad degree in physics, I don’t know if it’s true or not. Can some academics comment on that?

Comment #39255

Posted by Engineer-Poet on July 24, 2005 4:45 PM (e)

Colleen:  With what are you baiting your breath?  And baiting implies a trap; for whom (or what) are you waiting?

I will not hold my breath; turning blue to attempt to compel you to answer is not my style.

Comment #39260

Posted by RBH on July 24, 2005 5:13 PM (e)

Steve wrote

There’s a belief some people have that scientists are discouraged from publicising science. When some scientist blogger—was it a physicist?—failed to get tenure recently, that was one of the first suggestions I heard about why. Me, I have merely an undergrad degree in physics, I don’t know if it’s true or not. Can some academics comment on that?

There was recently a spate of blogging on the potential effects of blogging (meta-blogging?) on young faculty’s chances for hiring and retention. Those discussions were remarkably free of data and a bit heavy on anecdotal “friend of a friend” stories.

The physicist to whom Steve is referring might be Sean Carroll of Preposterous Universe. But there were no suggestions in the comments there that his blogging might have played a role in the denial of tenure.

RBH

Comment #39264

Posted by Schmitt. on July 24, 2005 5:47 PM (e)

How odd. Yesterday I made a comment listing a handful of finds of Dinosaur eggs and nests from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous, and got an automatic message that my post was being checked as I was a first time poster. I’ve never had that message before when posting here.

-Schmitt.

Comment #39267

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on July 24, 2005 5:53 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'b'

Comment #39271

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 24, 2005 6:07 PM (e)

The genuine source of meaning in my life is my own mind, and the genuine source of good and evil is the evaluations I make.

Any Taoist or Buddhist would agree with you.

“Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One.” – Shakyamuni

Whenever some foaming fundie asks me what meaning my life has, I answer honestly “whatever meaning I give to it”.

Sad, isn’t it, that so many people are utterly incapable of taking charge of their own lives and their own decisions, and instead allowing others, long-dead, to decide for them ……

Comment #39274

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 24, 2005 6:15 PM (e)

Not at all. I’m simply saying that too many scientists don’t know what creationists are about. This isn’t a few biblical literalists sitting off in a corner demanding that we teach the Bible in science class, it’s a well-organised, well-funded movement that scientists can’t afford to ignore.

I, of course, have no gripe with much-improved science education, and much-improved efforts at communicating science to a non-science audience.

But ….

At root, the evolution/creation “debate” is not a scientific one. Indeed, in a very real sense, science is utterly irrelevant to it. It is a POLITICAL fight. It will not be beaten with science or with science education. It will only be beaten the same way every OTHER political movement is beaten — by out-organizing it. Scientists, alas, generally do a very poor job of that.

By treating this as a SCIENCE dispute, you are simply playing straight into the hands of the fundies, assaulting their strong points and avoiding their weaknesses.

Whether we like it or not, most people don’t care a rat’s ass about science, and never will. So fighting creationism with lectures about the wonders of science, is a quick way to political suicide. Most people, right before their eyes glaze over and they fall asleep, will simply conclude that the creationists are right, adn this is just a scientific argument between “their scientists” and “our scientists”.

The fatal weakness of the fundies is their political agenda. While the vast majority of people in the US don’t give a flying fig about science or science education, they DO care about having a bunch of ayataollah-wanna-be’s running things. People in the US (including the most pious of Christians) simply don’t want a theocracy and don’t support the fundie agenda to impose one. THAT is the reason the fundies will utlimately lose. And the way to beat them is to hammer them with their political agenda, over and over and over again.

Comment #39281

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 24, 2005 6:48 PM (e)

…most people don’t care a rat’s ass about science…

Most parents do give a rat’s ass, maybe even a hamster’s hips, about their kids.

Pointing out that creationist “science” isn’t science won’t make much of an impression: pointing out that it’s a shortcut to failure in college and reduced career prospects will, at the least, draw attention enough for a message to be received.

Comment #39292

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 24, 2005 7:17 PM (e)

Really, Bayesian? I see it all the time. It’s higher up in this comment section, is what caused me to ask.

Me make joke. Me insert space into nobody. Apparently joke not funny.

Where in the world did you find a decent burrito in Lynchburg?

Yes, do tell. This is what hard-hitting investigative journalism is all about. Spill the beans.

Comment #39296

Posted by SEF on July 24, 2005 7:31 PM (e)

pointing out that it’s a shortcut to failure in college and reduced career prospects

… will cause them to campaign harder for ignorance to be promoted and tolerated in colleges and jobs too so that their precious little ignoramuses won’t be discriminated against by the evil educated elite who think people should have to meet certain minimum levels of competence to pass exams. They are already doing that to some extent with the attacks on academicians. Just remember how horrified Mummert effectively was that education should have its standards set and be run by the “intelligent, educated segment of the culture”.

Comment #39302

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 7:48 PM (e)

t.s. -

Yes, that was a bit careless of me about Sartre, to put it mildly. I don’t know why my memory failed me.

At any rate, I would recommend that anyone about to commit suicide because of a sense of absurdity, or for any reason, consider therapy first. I certainly don’t consider suicide “immoral”, but it strikes me as a very good idea to avoid it (exempting the issue of intractable physical suffering or other rare circumstances). After all, the decision NOT to commit suicide can be easily reversed later, whereas the decision to do so often cannot be. There is ample tragic forensic evidence of second thoughts during the last moments of life for some successful suicides, and evidence from the testimony of “surprise survivors”, such as those who survive a high jump due to a freak wind or whatnot, that last minute re-evaluations are not uncommon. Also, almost any suicide attempt carries a high risk of producing disastrous medical consequences, such as severe facial injuries, brain damage due to transient asphixiation, and so on, without producing actual death - a terrible result by any sane evaluation.

It’s irrational to call IDers or others dim-wits, with possible exceptions in extenuating circumstances, for the following reasons…

First of all, “dim-wit” usually implies someone who is not merely wrong, but who finds academic achievement and abstract thought challenging. Unfortunately, many IDers and even YEC creationists are not dim-wits. Even the likes of “Dr Dino” exhibit a lot of wasted talent. Let alone Dembski. So it’s not technically accurate. The specific person you used it on struck me as misguided but not necessarily dimwitted. You also used different but similar terms to describe regular posters Lenny Flank and Flint, who are anything but (and not creationist either).

Second of all, and far more importantly, calling someone an insulting name has predictable behavioral implications. It is very likely to make them feel angry and/or hurt, which will neary always cause them to reject and dislike your position, however logically compelling it may be. It may make some bystanders view them as ridiculous, but it may cause others to feel a sense of emotional support for them, which could actually blind the sympathetic bystander to the technical flaws of their position. If your goal in communicating with them is to produce these predictable results, it is rational to use this technique. If it is not, then this result will conflict with almost any other goal, such as convincing them, convincing third parties most effectively, etc.

Also, if you subscribe to an ethical system which discourages mistreatment of others, such as Secular Humanism, producing this result may even be at odds with your ethical system. In the sense that one chooses one’s own ethical system for some reason, violating it may be deemed irrational - why choose it if you’re going to violate it? Of course, I don’t know if you consider yourself a secular humanist or whatever, so this may not apply.

Some creationists may actually be challenged by abstract thought, but even so, their arguments can be dealt with without drawing attention to their deficiencies with an insult. After all, we see people every day who have some sort of challenge or difficulty relative to others. This doesn’t compel us to insult them for it, even when it would be “technically accurate” to do so.

Needless to say, firm language is often needed when dealing with creationists, who are often the sort to take considerate language as a sign of “weakness”, and who typically intiate the insults themselves, often spontaneously (while paradoxically claiming to be “Christian”). But it’s a question of degree. I don’t suggest that “revenge” is justified, but I do think that to some degree they themselves set the tone that they receive.

And we may note that insults are irrational even from a creationist point of view. If creationists were sincere (which I often cynically doubt in many cases), they would truly believe that others who believed differently than they do were bound for damnation, but that God wishes to save souls. Logically, this would compel them to communicate effectively, and to make a special effort to reach those who do not already believe as they do. Yet harsh insults and exaggerated expressions of scorn work against this purpose. My subjective but not irrational interpretation of this is that they actually support a rather harsh political, social and economic vision for life in the United States, and see creationism/harsh fundamentalism as an arm of the program (as opposed to being motivated by a powerful belief in creationism, independently). This doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes convince themselves.

Comment #39304

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 24, 2005 8:00 PM (e)

Pointing out that creationist “science” isn’t science won’t make much of an impression: pointing out that it’s a shortcut to failure in college and reduced career prospects will, at the least, draw attention enough for a message to be received.

It would, of course, help immensely if all the Fortune 500 corporations and all of the respected colleges and universities would make the simple announcement that they will not accept anyone who has been given any less-than-honest science education (like creation “science”).

But, alas, they don’t seem to have the ping-pongs for it. At least not until it begins to cost them money.

Comment #39308

Posted by Albion on July 24, 2005 8:18 PM (e)

At root, the evolution/creation “debate” is not a scientific one. Indeed, in a very real sense, science is utterly irrelevant to it. It is a POLITICAL fight. It will not be beaten with science or with science education. It will only be beaten the same way every OTHER political movement is beaten —- by out-organizing it. Scientists, alas, generally do a very poor job of that.

By treating this as a SCIENCE dispute, you are simply playing straight into the hands of the fundies, assaulting their strong points and avoiding their weaknesses.

I’m not sure why people are getting the impression that I’m saying that this is about science. It isn’t about science, it’s about the Religious Right trying to take control of the educational and legal systems and remake society and culture in their own image.

What I AM saying is that scientists need to understand what the creationists are about. They can’t afford to just shrug off the existence of creationists because creationists are wrong about the science. The science isn’t the point, the long-term and wider goals of the creationists is the real problem.

At the moment, a lot of people believe what the professional creationists tell them because the creationists are “men of God” and hence MUST be telling the truth, can get at people very young by connecting with churches and Sunday schools, have the money to produce and distribute a lot of propaganda fairly cheaply, and tart up their propaganda with scientific terms to make it appear that they’re just as knowledgeable about things as scientists are and that the whole business is just a matter of different interpretations - one by Godly men who don’t lie and one by a bunch of pointy-headed liberals who hate America.

If the public hears this stuff from young childhood on, and never hears any good popularisation of science because all the scientists are too busy doing their science to bother to go and talk to people, then we’re going to find that sooner or later, the great bulk of the population will be lost to real science at any level. They’ll have tuned into the “evolution is bad, stem cell research is bad, environmental science is bad, cosmology is bad, scientists are a bunch of lying atheists, and your pastor knows what he’s talking about” propaganda to the extent that it’s too late to do anything about it, and no doubt scientists will be surprised that nobody’s listening to them.

Either scientists need to get out there and correct these misconceptions - not just the scientific ones, but also the “evolution is atheistic, evolution is a religion, etc” stuff - because they won’t correct themselves and too many people are buying them because they’re being peddled by talented salesmen.

Comment #39309

Posted by Albion on July 24, 2005 8:21 PM (e)

sigh - hit “post” too soon

…or they’re going to end up being mistrusted or ignored by society at large while people turn into scientifically illiterate sheeple who follow their pastors and their creationist ministries because they don’t know what science actually is and they don’t realise the politics behind the propaganda.

Comment #39310

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

It’s irrational to call IDers or others dim-wits, with possible exceptions in extenuating circumstances, for the following reasons…

Thanks for providing your reasoning, but I don’t find it compelling, largely because it omits a number of facts, such as the actual content of the page of the fellow I called dim-witted, the actual nature of debate with such folks, the actual consequences of calling that fellow dim-witted, and so on; it’s all a bit of just-so story detached from reality. And yes I’m a secular humanist, but no, I don’t think that calling someone dim-witted is unethical. And I certainly don’t believe that we choose our own ethical system. I think it was Schopenhauer who noted that we can do what we want but we cannot want what we want. Einstein commented on how, when he came across this, it lifted a great burden from him.

Comment #39311

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 8:33 PM (e)

Rev Flank -

“At least not until it begins to cost them money”

Yep, in the end, it will be about money.

Back in 1999, when the creationists in Kansas (the original ones) simply tried to remove evolution from the curriculum, I said that some student should sue.

Some student should argue “I was denied a standard high school science education, simply because some other guy’s (ostensible) religious beliefs were given more consideration than everyone else’s. My lack of basic understanding of evolution could screw up my interviews for Harvard or Oxford, or put me at a disadvantage in my quest to become a biotech executive or orthopedic surgeon. It’s straightforward discrimination. That other guy could have studied and understood the theory of evolution without believing it (and turned to his church or family for guidance through the dissonance, as a holocaust denier or flat earther who wished to graduate would have to do), or he could have chosen not to study evolution and taken his chances. It’s part of a mainstream high school curriculum, and the onus is on the eccentrics to make their own peace with it. The policy is straightforward discrimination against all of us mainstream Protestants/Catholics/Buddhists/Hindus/moderate Muslims/Quetzalcoatl worshippers (he demands human sacrifice, but he has no problem with evolution)/Wiccans/you name it, and I’m suing!”

And I meant it.

Biology is the underpinning of medicine, pharmacology, and agriculture, to name a few things. This is what will get them in the end.

Comment #39313

Posted by steve on July 24, 2005 8:55 PM (e)

It would, of course, help immensely if all the Fortune 500 corporations and all of the respected colleges and universities would make the simple announcement that they will not accept anyone who has been given any less-than-honest science education (like creation “science”).

That’s a terrible idea. Remedial classes if necessary. You don’t want to give poor helpless kids a scarlett letter.

Comment #39314

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 9:02 PM (e)

t.s. -

“Thanks for providing your reasoning, but I don’t find it compelling, largely because it omits a number of facts, such as the actual content of the page of the fellow I called dim-witted,”

Irrelevant to almost all of what I said. Partially applicable to my point about accuracy. However, in my equally valid opinion, the individual was misguided but not lacking in academic ability - not a so-called dimwit. Empirical evidence supports my position.

“the actual nature of debate with such folks, the actual consequences of calling that fellow dim-witted, and so on; it’s all a bit of just-so story detached from reality.”

No, my points about how you can expect people to respond to insults could easily be tested empirically, if anyone needed to do so, and is obviously grounded in reality.

“And yes I’m a secular humanist, but no, I don’t think that calling someone dim-witted is unethical.”

Well, I’ll admit it’s a relatively mild insult under many circumstances, but I think many secular humanists would disagree with you. I think that needlessly causing emotional pain to others is unethical.

“And I certainly don’t believe that we choose our own ethical system. I think it was Schopenhauer who noted that we can do what we want but we cannot want what we want. Einstein commented on how, when he came across this, it lifted a great burden from him.”

You seem to be a well-read and in some ways highly intelligent person (albeit not necessarily well-read in biology, the actual subject of this page, ostensibly), and in the context of finding something to say to obsessively contradict whoever you happen to be arguing with, you raise a lot of good points. Certainly, it was an oversimplification to say that we “choose” our own ethical system, although it’s true on some level. Shopenhauer’s statement, while sounding simple, is profoundly insightful.

Man, you are seriously arguing that it’s rational to run around calling other people “clowns” and “dimwits” and whatever the other one was. Please.

Comment #39316

Posted by Henry J on July 24, 2005 9:12 PM (e)

steve,

Re “Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.”

I don’t know. Perhaps for the same reason that some write “a lot” as “alot”, but I don’t understand that either.

Re “And before some pedant says AH! That’s an argument from authority!”

Well, when somebody says that, point out that the logical fallacy to which they’re referring is actually “argument from inappropriate authority”. That points been made on this blog before.

Henry

Comment #39317

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 9:14 PM (e)

Man, you are seriously arguing that it’s rational to run around calling other people “clowns” and “dimwits” and whatever the other one was. Please.

It was “nutcase”. It was rational to say so in the sense that it was true. As to the rest, it’s a fairy tale. None of my goals has been endangered by using any of those terms relative to not using them; that’s what rationality amounts to. As I noted before, it is you who have been claiming it is irrational – it’s good to see that you finally provided some support for your assertion. I haven’t made any point of claiming that such usage is rational or irrational – it’s more along the lines of Bartleby, a matter of preference.

in the context of finding something to say to obsessively contradict whoever you happen to be arguing with, you raise a lot of good points

Ah, yes, making good points is obsessive contradiction. How rational of you. As Flint said (misdirected at me), for some people, “rational” comes down to “agrees with me”.

Comment #39324

Posted by harold on July 24, 2005 10:05 PM (e)

t.s. -

“It was “nutcase”. It was rational to say so in the sense that it was true”

So it’s always rational to say something insulting about someone, if it’s true?

I’m fairly sure it wasn’t true, as well. But then again, I suppose it depends on the definition of the derogatory slang term “nutcase”.

“None of my goals has been endangered by using any of those terms relative to not using them; that’s what rationality amounts to”

Really? What are your goals (in the context of posting)? Also, is this really a good definition of rationality?

“I haven’t made any point of claiming that such usage is rational or irrational — it’s more along the lines of Bartleby, a matter of preference.”

So you just prefer to insult people. As if anyone had any doubts of that. There are actually insulting terms for that, too - insults for insulters, would you believe it? But I won’t lower the tone of discussion by flinging them about. Nevertheless, unless your only goal is to produce the very predictable results of insulting, giving in to this preference may be construed as irrational.

“Ah, yes, making good points is obsessive contradiction.”

No, that’s not what obsessive contradiction is. Obsessive contradiction is, well, obsessive contradiction.

“As Flint said (misdirected at me)…”

No, I’m fairly sure Flint directed that at you on purpose.

Comment #39329

Posted by ts on July 24, 2005 10:53 PM (e)

But I won’t lower the tone of discussion by flinging them about.

Harold, you started low with your ad hominem rant during our original discussion about religion; when I noted that it was ad hominem, you accused me of turning it around, even though your rant was right there in black and yellow, and you said that people like me will even always use those words: “ad hominem”. Ooh, there’s a distinguishing factor, people who use the proper term. And then you said I would follow you around launching insults at you. But, that never happened; rather, it is you who are obsessed with me and my word usage. Notably, you don’t have anything to say about Lenny, because he’s your ally; your whole process is steeped in hypocrisy.

“As Flint said (misdirected at me)…”

No, I’m fairly sure Flint directed that at you on purpose.

Well duh; he didn’t misdirect it at me accidentally.

Comment #39353

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 25, 2005 7:14 AM (e)

“At least not until it begins to cost them money”

Yep, in the end, it will be about money.

In any fight between God and Mammon, bet on Mammon. Every time.

Americans (including the fundies) care far far more about their money than they care about their God.

Comment #39359

Posted by SEF on July 25, 2005 7:47 AM (e)

Re “Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.”

I don’t know. Perhaps for the same reason that some write “a lot” as “alot”, but I don’t understand that either.

It’s because, in English, “no-one” and “no one” mean quite different things (or can do). Then of course, if you’re American you might not really speak English … not even all English people do …

Comment #39360

Posted by harold on July 25, 2005 7:51 AM (e)

t.s. -

I’ll just clear this up very briefly.

“Harold, you started low with your ad hominem rant during our original discussion about religion; when I noted that it was ad hominem, you accused me of turning it around, even though your rant was right there in black and yellow, and you said that people like me will even always use those words: “ad hominem”.”

Ad hominem has a very specific meaning. It means attempting to negate another person’s argument by using an irrelevant personal attack. “The theory of relativity is wrong BECAUSE Einstein is a clown”. It’s not the same thing as “The theory of relativity is wrong AND Einstein is a clown”. The latter is obnoxious, perhaps, but not an ad hominem attack. I’ve never suggested that you make ad hominem attacks, for example, but merely that you insult people.

Insult is not the same thing as strong but justified criticism, either, although in that case, the boundaries may be blurred.

Nevertheless, a common response to a critical post, on the internet, is to parse it for the mildest critical words and declare it to be “ad hominem”, rather than addressing its substance.

“And then you said I would follow you around launching insults at you. But, that never happened; rather, it is you who are obsessed with me and my word usage.”

That stopped shortly after I made the prediction, yes. Your posting behavior has modified in general, for whatever reason.

I was genuinely curious why you thought it rational to use insult terms. Insult terms are usually a sign of emotional excitement, intended to provoke emotional distress, and their use detracts from rational goals. You evaded the question and demanded that I provide an explanation as to why it is irrational to use insults, which I eventually broke down and did. To be honest, it just seemed so obvious…

“Notably, you don’t have anything to say about Lenny, because he’s your ally; your whole process is steeped in hypocrisy.”

I certainly don’t agree that Lenny insults people the way you did. There’s a world of difference between tough persistence with relevant critical questions about biology and ID, and casual insults to people over philosophical differences. Lenny is my “ally” in the sense that we both oppose creationist, although so are you, technically. I “agree” with Lenny’s religious beliefs, too, by coincidence, but that isn’t relevant, since neither of is trying to force our religion onto the other or into public schools, nor arguing that science must be wrong because of our religion (nor vice versa).

At any rate, enough is enough.

Comment #39363

Posted by White Stone on July 25, 2005 7:59 AM (e)

I have a question for Jason. See if I am getting this right. If a child should ask how life as we know it today came to exist, today’s public school teacher, according to the evolutionary teaching, should answer something like this:

Billions of years ago a cataclysmic event occurred whereby matter came into existence and billions of years later a particle of microscopic matter became “living” or alive and this was our first life on planet earth. This one celled ‘being’ then reproduced asexually. The offspring took three forms, one form was like the parent and this form remains with us today. One form became animal and one form became plant, hence two great kingdoms emerge. As these one celled animals and plants began to also reproduce, they either remained the same or began to mutate or specialize. This process of mutation and specialization is what we call evolution when it involves the species that has formed improving and becoming a new class, phylum, or kind. Many plants and animals evolved. Some cease to evolve at certain or different stages while others continue on in this evolutionary process. This accounts for all the species and races that we have today. It explains how some species thrive and become superior while others stop evolving at an inferior stage. For example, it explains how some primates walk upright and others do not. Some even become extinct. This process explains the different races of people on earth and the differences one finds in the races.

Could you answer if this is a satisfactory explanation and if not, why not? Also, could you answer this question: Is life still orignating spontaneously, or has this event ceased and why? If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal? If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics? If we are going to teach this to children, we need to have the answers, right?

Comment #39366

Posted by Jim Wynne on July 25, 2005 8:45 AM (e)

White Stone wrote:

I have a question for Jason. See if I am getting this right. If a child should ask how life as we know it today came to exist, today’s public school teacher, according to the evolutionary teaching, should answer something like this:

The correct answer to the question is “We don’t know.” The study of evolution concerns itself with how the present diversity of life occurred after the first instance of life appeared.

Comment #39367

Posted by Raven on July 25, 2005 8:55 AM (e)

If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal?

Because as moral beings, we have decided that it is a value to treat everyone as equal, a value which we live up to in practice more well or less well, depending on the situation you look at. Evolution is a component of that process by which we have developed a brain that makes those kinds of assessments. Your question, though, makes it sound like you think that the process of natural selection means we necessarily have to put old people out on an ice floe–am I misunderstanding you?

If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics?

That’s a pretty sweeping–and wrong–assumption right there. The scientific literature is full of accounts of altruism in different species, some primates, some not. Also, anyone who’s been around animals very much at all would know that their lives are not void of these characteristics. If a child asked me that question, I’d prescribe some time spent with animals in different situations to show them the range of the emotional life of animals.

Comment #39368

Posted by Alan on July 25, 2005 8:56 AM (e)

White Stone

Your post implies to me that evolution is anti-religion. It isn’t. It has nothing to say about how life on Earth got started, but attempts to explain what happened next by looking at all the clues that are available.

Fundamentalists, a small section of Christians, insist on the literal truth of the bible, which unfortunaly brings them into conflict with reality.

Evolution has nothing to say, either, about a moral code. Many people who accept ideas such as evolution manage to live a spiritually fulfilled life.

Comment #39371

Posted by SEF on July 25, 2005 9:27 AM (e)

White Stone wrote:

This one celled ‘being’ then reproduced asexually. The offspring took three forms, one form was like the parent and this form remains with us today. One form became animal and one form became plant, hence two great kingdoms emerge.

Wow! Even when apparently attempting to be polite and present what they think is science, they still can’t help getting it wrong and doing so in a simplistic trinity-oriented way. The indoctrination (and resistance to critical thought and decent research) runs deep in these people.

Comment #39372

Posted by Rob on July 25, 2005 9:39 AM (e)

As advocates of science we will never defeat our opponents until we stop playing the defensive and start going on the offensive. Instead of being so reactive every time creationist absurdities rear their ugly heads, we should be seeking out school boards, locales and even biology classrooms that don’t adequately include evolution (and other important cornerstones of sound science) in their curricula and actively demand its inclusion.
I, for one, would be quite upset to find out any local public school wasn’t actively teaching evolution in its biology classes. Even private schools that oppose the teaching of the subject should, in the very least, be publicly exposed for the practice.

Also, as far as teaching the scientific method goes, we should actively advocate that the importance of peer review be included as the final step of the scientific method; I believe the lack of education on this point explains much of the lack of ability of the general public to discern the difference between solid science and the musings of fringe crackpots.

We would not need to spend so much time exterminating infestations if we sanitized their potential breeding grounds.

Comment #39374

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 25, 2005 10:19 AM (e)

White Stone wrote:

The offspring took three forms, one form was like the parent and this form remains with us today. One form became animal and one form became plant, hence two great kingdoms emerge….
Could you answer if this is a satisfactory explanation and if not, why not? Also, could you answer this question: Is life still orignating spontaneously, or has this event ceased and why? If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal? If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics? If we are going to teach this to children, we need to have the answers, right?

That is most definitely not satisfactory. Perhaps you should study a little biology yourself before attempting to determine the curriculum for others.

You are quite off on the origin of plants and animals and numerous other points. You are quite wrong that love, compassion, charity, etc. exist only in humans.

As for whether life is still originating spontaneously (presumably you mean here on Earth), the answer is probably not, and there is no evidence for that. One likely reason is that already existing life forms are already exploiting most of the available resources.

Comment #39375

Posted by Flint on July 25, 2005 10:30 AM (e)

White Stone’s general model doesn’t strike me as so much distorted by creationist dogma, as rather a fairly well-presented picture of what evolution means to the general population. And this makes a depressing kind of sense: many if not most public schools kind of gloss over or ignore evolution. It’s often in the last chapter in the book, which they never reach during the school year. Nor do either schoolteachers or their administrators wish to court controversy and headaches by teaching it. Finally, most high school biology teachers themselves have never been trained properly in evolution (they often double as the gym teacher). Somewhere I read that about a third of high school science teachers themselves are creationists.

So if White Stone didn’t learn about it in school, where DID s/he get those ideas? Surely not from reading the literature or even from reading popularized accounts from Gould or Dawkins. Few people expend that effort. Perhaps from osmosis, general exposure to the idea as implied by journalists. Perhaps from discussions in church groups or with others no better informed. These sources tend to regard evolution generally as “where did we come from?” which lumps in any related past event, including the big bang, abiogenesis, and anything else.

Notice that White Stone’s hypothetical child’s question isn’t “how does evolution work” (who cares?) but rather “how life as we know it today came to exist.” And common descent implies that “life as we know it” describes the very first form capable of evolving. Everything since then is just mechanical details. But how life as we know it came to exist, I think, is best interpreted as how did the earliest common ancestor come to exist. And THAT question is critical, because this is clearly where God stuck in his oar.

And this is why the focus on public education is so important. White Stone’s presentation includes one false assumption after another. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the assumption, the statement is so misguided. But this is what we would expect when evolutionary ideas must be attached to a hopelessly inappropriate framework. And as children mature, unlearning an incorrect framework becomes increasingly difficult.

With apologies to Ernst Mayr, I think White Stone’s exposition is an excellent description of the general public conception of What Evolution Is.

Comment #39381

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 11:10 AM (e)

Whoever was complaining that there aren’t enough creationists around here anymore, enjoy White Stone. Me, I could live without it.

Comment #39383

Posted by harold on July 25, 2005 11:44 AM (e)

White Stone -

I appreciate what you’ve done. You’ve been up front about YOUR understanding of the theory of evolution, and some other scientific and moral issues. This allows misconceptions to be cleared up and questions to be answered.

“Billions of years ago a cataclysmic event occurred whereby matter came into existence and billions of years later a particle of microscopic matter became “living” or alive and this was our first life on planet earth.”

No. This is too oversimplified. There is a difference between summarizing something, versus deliberately presenting it in a manner so crude as to make it appear nonsensical. This isn’t a fair summary of big bang cosmology or abiogenesis.

Furthermore, the theory of evolution, properly speaking, deals with the history of cellular life (and post-cellular life (?) such as viruses) on earth. I certainly believe that abiogenesis (the emergence of cellular life from biochemical precursor forms) occurred, an opinion which is irrelevant to my religious beliefs. Most researchers in abiogenesis consider their work to be compatible with and an extension of the theory of evolution. I agree with them. But strictly speaking, the theory of evolution does not yet incorporate abiogenesis.

“This one celled ‘being’ then reproduced asexually. The offspring took three forms, one form was like the parent and this form remains with us today. One form became animal and one form became plant, hence two great kingdoms emerge.”

Absolutely not. Prokaryotes, the “simplest” cells today, are incredibly diverse and highly evolved. The emergence of eukaryote status and multicellularity were major evolutionary events, the latter may have happened more than once. The divergence of plants from animals (if this is indeed what happened) is a complex topic, as are all of these, for that matter.

“As these one celled animals and plants began to also reproduce, they either remained the same or began to mutate or specialize. This process of mutation and specialization is what we call evolution when it involves the species that has formed improving and becoming a new class, phylum, or kind.”

Absolutely not. Whenever there is reproduction, there is evolution. Evolution is sometimes described as being driven by “mutation and natural selection”. It would be better to speak of “sources of genetic diversity and natural selection” perhaps, and we shouldn’t overlook the role of the developmental environment, although that may fit under natural selection, broadly defined. Differentiation and specialization are RESULTS of evolution. Evolution may lead to long term morphologic stasis in a lineage, but reproducing organisms are always evolving.

“Many plants and animals evolved. Some cease to evolve at certain or different stages while others continue on in this evolutionary process.”

No, see above.

“This accounts for all the species and races that we have today. It explains how some species thrive and become superior while others stop evolving at an inferior stage.”

Here you reveal some common, major misunderstandings of evolution. 1) As I said above, all life evolves constantly. 2) The idea that one form of life is “superior” or “inferior” to another is a value judgment. It is completely unrelated to the theory of evolution, except in the very indirect way that the evolution of the human brain underlies human value judgments.

“For example, it explains how some primates walk upright and others do not. Some even become extinct. This process explains the different races of people on earth and the differences one finds in the races.”

The human species is “genetically small”, because of our rapid population increase over a short period of time. Race is a social construct, differing in nonscientific ways across societies, based on a few aspects of physical appearance, which sometimes correlates with a limited number of non-trivial biological factors like genetic diseases, and correlates strongly with social roles in some societies (but not at all in others). In the US, people with superficial features suggestive of Asian or African descent are ascribed to that “race” socially, even if most of their alleles are recently from Europe, rendering the concept virtually meaningless. People are even ascribed a “race” according to the language they speak, as when European actor Antonio Banderas is refered to as “hispanic” (itself a biologically meaningless category, but often considered a “race” in the US). “Race” is thus of great interest to sociology, potentially important in day to day science-based activities like clinical medicine and law enforcement in some ways, but relatively meaningless in biology.

“Could you answer if this is a satisfactory explanation and if not, why not?”

It’s not. Clearly, if you’re interested, you need to learn more.

“Also, could you answer this question: Is life still orignating spontaneously, or has this event ceased and why?”

There is no evidence to suggest that life is originating sponaneously at present, one obvious reason why being the vastly different conditions at present than in the distant past. Also, note the difference between “abiogenesis” - the scientific study of how cellular life may have originated - and “spontaneous generation” - a superstitious view that complex modern organisms like mice or flies could appear magically out of nothing, famously discredited by Louis Pasteur.

“If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal?”

For the same reasons we would assert this if evolution were not true. Moral reasons unrelated to the physical details of how people originate. It is patently clear that modern scientific societies are far more protective of equality and human rights than pre-scientific societies. Therefore, it would be more logical (albeit still mistaken) to argue that the theory of evolution ENHANCES our appreciation of human equality.

“If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics?”

First of all, other animals are not necessarily void of these characteristics. Second of all, even if they were, humans are relatively unique in many ways (we are a seperate species after all). This is not evidence agains the fact that we evolved.

“If we are going to teach this to children, we need to have the answers, right?”

Not sure what you mean, but my likely answer is NO. The theory of evolution explains the diversity of cellular and post-cellular life on earth. It is a powerful and important theory, and critical to medicine, agriculture, biotechnology, pharmacology, and other applied biomedical fields. We should teach it. An obsessive focus on how it may relate to social and ethical values is unwarranted except at the graduate level in fields like anthropology, psychology, and perhaps some branches of biology. These things are not absolutely unrelated to evolution, of course, but they are not the main point of it, either.

Comment #39384

Posted by Albion on July 25, 2005 11:52 AM (e)

As advocates of science we will never defeat our opponents until we stop playing the defensive and start going on the offensive. Instead of being so reactive every time creationist absurdities rear their ugly heads, we should be seeking out school boards, locales and even biology classrooms that don’t adequately include evolution (and other important cornerstones of sound science) in their curricula and actively demand its inclusion.

Indeed. One good change would be to have textbooks written showing evolution where it belongs: an introductory chapter near the beginning of the book, not a few pages just before the index, and then evolutionary concepts intertwined throughout the subject matter of the book, because that’s what evolution’s about. It isn’t some sort of afterthought to be dismissed if teachers don’t want the hassle; the very placement of evolution as the last chapter is encouraging children to think that it isn’t really part of biology, just some sort of atheistic propaganda that the nasty scientists are trying to pollute them with.

Comment #39411

Posted by Moses on July 25, 2005 2:28 PM (e)

Re: 39123

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

And there is something wrong with that? There is no need for anyone to produce copious amounts of “new” work or arguments to address the same tired, lame, bogus creationist arguments, no matter how restated.

What is being done is in the matter of efficiency. To do otherwise is pointless and a time waster.

Comment #39412

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 25, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

pointing out that it’s a shortcut to failure in college and reduced career prospects…

… will cause them to campaign harder for ignorance to be promoted and tolerated in colleges and jobs too so that their precious little ignoramuses won’t be discriminated against by the evil educated elite who think people should have to meet certain minimum levels of competence to pass exams.

SEF, you’re positing a likely reaction of the leaders of the creationist movement, not that of the sincerely-well-meaning but under/dis-informed parents whose sole concern with educational policy is its effect on their kids.

It’s the latter we have a good hope of reaching, but that can’t be done by assuming they’re entirely brainwashed. Tactically, the pro-science camp needs to separate such folks from the creationists, not push them together (rhetorically or politically).

Comment #39413

Posted by Moses on July 25, 2005 2:38 PM (e)

Steve 39225

Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.

Perhaps because “no one” and “nobody” are synonyms and one is two words, while the other is one word and this creates some type of cognitive dissonance? And our educational system sucks and is more concerned with test scores than learning… But I’ll save the rant for some other time…

Comment #39414

Posted by Dave Snyder on July 25, 2005 2:43 PM (e)

Harold,

Brilliant. Bravo.

Comment #39415

Posted by Flint on July 25, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

One news article talking about teaching evolution in school quoted someone as saying, essentially (I don’t have the exact quote, but the thrust was memorable), “I don’t know anything about evolution and I don’t have an opinion about teaching it, but I do know that I don’t want the school to do anything that will reduce my daughter’s chances of going to heaven.”

The point was clear. For the Silent Majority, evolution may or may not be real, but God and Heaven are emphatically real. And this is also why White Stone automatically associated evolution with our moral health. Most of science might be dry, boring, and irrelevant to most people, but evolution in their minds isn’t science, it’s the theology of amorality, and a threat. Maybe we need to reassure people that evolution is just boring technical biology, don’t worry, you’re still going to heaven.

Comment #39418

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on July 25, 2005 3:24 PM (e)

Somewhat OT: (But White Stone’s little creationist rendering of evolution fer kids brought it to mind.)
I was at the San Francisco Zoo this last weekend with my wife and our 3-year old son.
The two of them went to go get a good look at the several lowland gorillas they have there (I, myself, cannot look them in the eyes and continue to have a good time at the zoo). Anyhoo…

My wife said something to our son to the effect that the gorillas were “our cousins,” and a man jerked his head to give her a hard stare, looked down at our boy with a sad shake of his head, turned his back pointedly, and walked away.

You want to be able to shrug, and say, well, to each their own, but clearly that’s not what’s going through his mind, is it?

Evolution really scares people, folks.

Comment #39419

Posted by SEF on July 25, 2005 3:43 PM (e)

Pierce R. Butler wrote:

you’re positing a likely reaction of the leaders of the creationist movement

Not really. I was basing my speculation on the all too real behaviour of parents (and leaders pandering to parents as well as pursuing their own machinations) in the UK about education in general. Standards are being dummed down here because school children apparently aren’t allowed to suffer failure even at the things in which they are dangerously rubbish (competitive sports were removed/downplayed too!). Even though the children would do better themselves to find it out sooner rather than later after wasting their and other people’s money and time.

As a result, universities and employers are finding it hard to pick the best/right ones for each subject/job (meaning some rubbish ones with the right cheating techniques will take the places of more deserving ones). New employment laws are also making it harder to get rid of the incompetent ones later (and in some professions the incompetents may already have killed/damaged someone with their cluelessness by then). It’s already damaging our economy a bit.

Now you could say it was all down to the leaders but it isn’t. The parents sometimes help their children to cheat and even put undue pressure on the teachers (sometimes physical though not as bad as Turkey reportedly!) - not to teach better but to just give their darling X whatever happens to be in issue (a good grade, permission to bunk off or beat up the teacher or other pupils etc). That’s individual behaviour, not a campaign organised by some leadership somewhere.

Comment #39422

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 4:23 PM (e)

From Ed Darrell in Comment #39252:
“Where in the world did you find a decent burrito in Lynchburg?”

Ed,
I can’t speak to Lynchburg, but if you are ever in North Carolina try here.
There’s none better.
Paul

Comment #39423

Posted by ts on July 25, 2005 4:23 PM (e)

> I’ll just clear this up very briefly.

Patent intellectual dishonesty doesn’t clearf anything up.

> At any rate, enough is enough.

Oh, you think so? But I don’t doubt you’ll resume your obsession soon enough.

Comment #39424

Posted by ts on July 25, 2005 4:37 PM (e)

Harold,

Brilliant. Bravo.

I agree; a very fine response.

And if White Stone is a creationist, which isn’t clear to me, s/he is Katarina’s answer to “where are the polite creationists” from another thread.

Comment #39425

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 4:41 PM (e)

From White Stone in Comment #39363:
“If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics?”

Would it be helpful to remember, from several years ago, when a child fell into the gorilla pen at a major zoo. One of the females (elder or younger I can’t remember, though it seems important, I will guess she was an older, childless female) defended the child from aggressive males and tried to take care of the child until zoo employees removed the child from the pen. The qualities you mention are characteristic of higher brain functions but humans don’t have a monopoly on those higher brain functions and they exist in a broad spectrum across the animal kingdom.

Sincerely,
Paul

Comment #39426

Posted by White Stone on July 25, 2005 4:49 PM (e)

Well, SEF, C.J. O’Brien, Flint, Moses, Pierce R. Butler, Rob, Alan, Bayesian Bouffant, Jim Wynne, want to be heard, but only Harold has anything with substance to say and Jason, to whom the post was addressed did not weigh in at all. Harold, I appreciate you taking the time to give a sensible, rather than a defensive, answer. While you say that,

Prokaryotes, the “simplest” cells today, are incredibly diverse and highly evolved. The emergence of eukaryote status and multicellularity were major evolutionary events, the latter may have happened more than once. The divergence of plants from animals (if this is indeed what happened) is a complex topic, as are all of these, for that matter.

Remember, I did not say that it wasn’t complex, just that it happened, or at least evolutionist say it happened. I do not agree with Harold’s views, but he certainly is entitled to them.

Actually, I did some of what I set out to do. To one of you, I made your theory sound ridiculous. To another, I made your theory sound anti-Christian. To another, I made the theory very much over simplified, but possible. To some, you acknowledged that you do not know what happened originally, because evolution is concerned with life after it’s origin and not with it’s origin. My hope is that those of you who have so little tolerance will begin to realize your own intolerance. I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude, you will be able to say that there is MUCH we do not know. I really do not think that you see or hear yourselves as others see and hear you. You seem to spend way too much time fighting against those with whom you disagree, ie. - those who believe in a Creator and/or an Intelligent Designer. Some of you believe in biogenesis, the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter and you believe it so strongly that you want it taught in public schools. Because you see evolutionary processes at work within species, you believe that it is responsible for all species. This has not been proven.

Comment #39428

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 4:58 PM (e)

And that last one seems to take issue with the conclusion. Well, happy dickering.
Paul

Comment #39429

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 5:28 PM (e)

From white stone in Comment #39426:

“Actually, I did some of what I set out to do. To one of you, I made… To another, I made… To another, I made… “

Actually, all you accomplished was to demonstrate how hopelessly fatuous it is to try to encapsulate an explanation about life, the universe, and everything into a measley two hundred words or less (unless your real name is Deep Thought, in which case, 42 will do).

This is why it is so important that science education in school not be watered down, but rather expanded wherever possible to the greatest extant possible. Science simply can’t be learned in sound bites.

and more from stone:
“To some, you acknowledged that you do not know what happened originally, because evolution is concerned with life after it’s origin and not with it’s origin. My hope is that those of you who have so little tolerance will begin to realize your own intolerance. I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude, you will be able to say that there is MUCH we do not know.”

I haven’t read, or read of, a single scientist who ever was so arrogant as to claim that they knew everything. The only people I have ever seen make a similar claim were religionists of a christian stripe who said that the bible has the answer to everything. As has been pointed out in the last three or four days by Jason, that is true arrogance.
You may be polite but you are obviously not sincere.

Comment #39430

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on July 25, 2005 5:38 PM (e)

Whatever you say, buddy.
I didn’t so much “want to be heard” as answering your (supposedly innocent) concerns. You sound like a perfectly “intolerant” creationist to me.
I posted an anecdote of my recent experience, brought to mind by your post, that I thought might be of momentary interest to others here.

But I will answer one point in your follow-up diatribe. I think that what you mistake for a “‘we have all the answers’ attitude” is actually a level of comfort with the incomplete and necessarily provisional answers that are all we can expect science to provide. We (humanity) don’t have all the answers. And accepting that actually relieves some of us of needing to believe all this stuff you’re convinced we believe.
Naturally this is infuriating to people who cannot imagine existence without utter confidence in a belief system and who further cannot deal with the fact that science is not just a rival belief system, amenable to apologetics and argument.
Go lie to your kids all you want. I’m going to tell mine what we know, and how, as well as what we don’t, and how he might go about finding out, if he were so inclined.

Comment #39433

Posted by ts on July 25, 2005 5:48 PM (e)

A couple of comments on White Stone’s post:

a particle of microscopic matter became “living” or alive and this was our first life on planet earth. This one celled ‘being’ then reproduced asexually.

This reflects a view called vitalism, which was explicitly abandoned by most scientists and philosophers once a scientific framework for understanding life processes was developed, but it is still adhered to by the population at large and still permeates our language and our conceptions, even of sophisticated scientists and philosophers. Being alive is not the sort characteristic that can be added to something, the way a piece of white cloth can be dyed and become red. “alive” refers to certain characteristics, such as reproduction, growth and change, and the utilization of chemical energy sources (metabolism). There isn’t a hard and fast line between being alive and not being alive – while many things are clearly alive and many things clearly aren’t, there are boundary cases where some of the characteristics of life are exhibited and some are not – one can debate whether such cases are alive or not, but these are debates about definition and terminology, not debates about the facts.

Rather than a particle of microscopic matter becoming alive, the (simplified) informed speculation is that, after millions of years of somewhat random molecular combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms (which are structured in a way that is conducive to forming in many different combinations), one (or more) formed in such a way that it could act as a “template”, such that carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules that became attached to it would form a duplicate of it. This was (speculatively) the first self-replicating molecule. The self-replicating nature of this molecule guarantees that many copies would be created, through this template process, rather than the much rarer random chance that brought about this and other molecules. With many copies floating around, some might happen to combine with others, or with other random molecules, to form larger and more complex molecules. The molecules that were the most robust, that had the best chance of forming a duplicate rather than breaking to pieces, would form the most duplicates, and would be the most prevalent – this is “natural selection”. Eventually, many millions of years later, these molecules might have become so elaborate and complex as to form a primitive cell. All this is highly speculative, with murky details, but the point is that it’s a fairly mechanical and understandable process, not something magical like a bit of matter “becoming” alive. And the same of detailed mechanical elaboration applies to the other instances of “became” in your story. The details are very complex, and can’t be satisfactorily captured in a short paragraph.

If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal?

The assertion in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal is in regard to their rights, not their physiologies. It is stated under the authority of a “creator”, which is perfectly valid if that is your belief, but it is also perfectly valid from a secular point of view (and many of the founding fathers were, for all intents and purposes, secularists). The statement is a statement of ethics, of how we should treat people, and it is grounded in the Enlightenment period in which its authors lived. But it wasn’t just ethics; one of the forces behind this was the “political economy”, aka economics, of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, et. al., which held that all men are rational animals whose behavior is based on the principles of trade. Whatever you think of his economic theory, Smith was a moral philosopher whose views were instrumental in ending slavery. And the political economists were joined by the Evangelicals, whose biblical belief was that all men were literally brothers. Interestingly, the British anti-slavery Jamaica Committee included prominent Evangelicals as well as John Start Mill and Charles Darwin.

I can’t think of any way in which the theory of evolution disallows me from applying the same ethical principles to everyone; perhaps you could explain why you think there’s a problem.

If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics?

The precursors can be found in other social animals like apes and dolphins, and many people believe their pets, especially dogs, display love and devotion. Humans are unique in our possession of culture, which is grounded in language. The nature of culture itself evolves, due to the transmission of ideas (this is sometimes referred to as mimetics, analogous to genetics, though not nearly as well developed as a science). Human culture produces many wondrous things that delight and move us, like art, music, literature, philosophy, and science, the most creative among us have often been in the forefront in cajoling the rest of us to be more charitable, compassionate, and loving.

Comment #39437

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 25, 2005 5:49 PM (e)

This summary had a bit more detail than Paul’s links (IMHO). His memory of the incident was generally accurate, though apparently the female gorilla had an infant of her own at the time (which makes sense) and the threat posed by the other gorillas was apparently felt to emanate mostly just from curiousity. The mother gorilla’s quick decision to take the human child to the exhibit entryway was an interesting one…

“At Brookfield Zoo on the afternoon of August 16, 1996, visitors crowded around the popular Western Lowland Gorilla exhibit watched in horror as an unattended, three-year-old child climbed over a protective barrier and tumbled 20 feet to the bottom of the gorillas’ exhibit.
“Lying unconscious, the child was pick up by a female gorilla named Binti Jua, who also cradled her own infant, Koola. Videotape and photographs capturing the accident show Binti Jua shielding the boy from the other curious gorillas in the enclosure, then gently carrying him to the exhibit doorway where a rescue crew waited.”

Comment #39440

Posted by ts on July 25, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

Because you see evolutionary processes at work within species, you believe that it is responsible for all species.

No, that’s not why.

This has not been proven.

When did you become an expert on what has been proven?

the “we have all the answers” attitude

Which you have displayed so well.

Comment #39441

Posted by Flint on July 25, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

White Stone wrote:

I do not agree with Harold’s views, but he certainly is entitled to them.

This, if anything, shows the futility of education beyond a certain age. What we have here is the protestation of tolerance of one arbitrary belief system for (what is assumed to be) another. So once again, to the religious, all view are religious. Evidence simply is not understood. Drawing conclusions from evidence rather than vice versa is completely incomprehensible. Once again, we see the tired complaint that science lacks “proof”.

Yes, some of us DO wish to be heard. Too bad those who most need to hear us, cannot listen.

Comment #39442

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 5:55 PM (e)

Comment #39422

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 04:23 PM (e) (s)

Ed,
I can’t speak to Lynchburg, but if you are ever in North Carolina try here.
There’s none better.
Paul

Paul Flocken is a big fat liar. The best burrito in North Carolina is sold at a taco trailer in the parking lot of that mexican grocery store on St. Albans, off Wake Forest rd. The second best is possibly at that mexican restaurant on Peace Street whose name keeps changing. Last I was there, it was called La Parrillada, but it’s something different now.

Comment #39443

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 25, 2005 5:58 PM (e)

I have a question for Jason. See if I am getting this right. If a child should ask how life as we know it today came to exist, today’s public school teacher, according to the evolutionary teaching, should answer something like this:

I have a question for you. See if I am getting this right. If a child should ask how life as we know it today came to be designed, today’s public school teacher, according to the ID teaching, should answer something like this:

“We don’t go there”.

Right?

Also, could you answer this question: Is life still orignating spontaneously, or has this event ceased and why? If evolution is true, how can we assert that all people are equal? If evolution is true, from whence comes love, compassion, charity, etc. in humans when all other life is void of these characteristics?

Huh? Evolution has nothing more to do with love, compassion, charity etc than does gravity or nuclear physics or plate tectonics.

And I wouldn’t be so sure that “all other life is void of these characteristics”.

Comment #39444

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 25, 2005 6:01 PM (e)

As advocates of science we will never defeat our opponents until we stop playing the defensive and start going on the offensive. Instead of being so reactive every time creationist absurdities rear their ugly heads, we should be seeking out school boards, locales and even biology classrooms that don’t adequately include evolution (and other important cornerstones of sound science) in their curricula and actively demand its inclusion.

Wow, that sounds familiar …. ;>

I’ve been saying this for years now. Not only should we actively demand its inclusion, but we should sue the living crap out of any school district that drops it, either because they “don’t believe in it” or “to avoid controversy with parents”.

We’ve let the nutjobs set the agenda for far too long. It’s long past time that we begin taking the fight to THEM.

Comment #39445

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

Now what would be really cute, is a refutation of that argument were placed on Talk.Origins.

Then, when people complained about us just linking to Talk.Origins, instead of retyping the same old thing for the thousandth time, we could just….

;-)

Comment #39446

Posted by ts on July 25, 2005 6:04 PM (e)

And if White Stone is a creationist, which isn’t clear to me, s/he is Katarina’s answer to “where are the polite creationists” from another thread.

Silly me; even the most arrogant fool can feign politeness. (Harold, as to my calling WS a fool – shut the fk up.)

Comment #39449

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 6:07 PM (e)

Comment #39413

Posted by Moses on July 25, 2005 02:38 PM (e) (s)

Steve 39225

Why do people persist in writing “no one” as “noone”? It’s bizarre.

Perhaps because “no one” and “nobody” are synonyms and one is two words, while the other is one word and this creates some type of cognitive dissonance?

My guess is, it’s because “someone” is one word, and “anyone” is one word, so people wrongly assume “noone” is one word.

Comment #39450

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 25, 2005 6:09 PM (e)

I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude

Um, if we had all the answers, scientists would all be jobless.

The reason scientists still have jobs, and havent all retired to the Bahamas by now, is because we DON’T have all the answers.

Intelligent design “theory”, by contrast, offers NO answers. None at all. Not a one. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

If you disagree, please by all means provide an answer that ID “theory” gives. For anything.

Comment #39451

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 6:12 PM (e)

Is misspelling the phrase “Dumbed down” ironic? Or just funny?

Comment #39456

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 6:28 PM (e)

My hope is that those of you who have so little tolerance will begin to realize your own intolerance. I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude, you will be able to say that there is MUCH we do not know.

Well, science can be a harsh pursuit. Most scientists, and most people here, are very helpful to people who don’t know anything about biology, such as yourself, but if there’s one thing that riles us up, it’s being lectured to by such people.

I really do not think that you see or hear yourselves as others see and hear you. You seem to spend way too much time fighting against those with whom you disagree, ie. - those who believe in a Creator and/or an Intelligent Designer.

Yeah, whereas the IDers, by comparison, spend all their time doing research and experiments, I suppose.

Some of you believe in biogenesis, the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter and you believe it so strongly that you want it taught in public schools.

I wouldn’t mind if it were mentioned in public schools, because there’s tantalizing evidence of it, even if it’s still not understood.

Because you see evolutionary processes at work within species, you believe that it is responsible for all species. This has not been proven.

That’s just jibber-jabber, it’s nonsense. You need some Intro to Evolution textbooks. In the meantime, whenever you think up a revolutionary argument which obliterates evolution, just look here.
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html
I’m sure it’s already been dealt with.

Comment #39457

Posted by Albion on July 25, 2005 6:42 PM (e)

I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude, you will be able to say that there is MUCH we do not know.

On the whole, it’s scientists who do say that. It tends to be the creationist critics of scientists who are forever claiming that scientists think they know everything. It stands to reason that if scientists had all the answers, there’d be no more need to do science. However, the fact that scientists don’t know everything doesn’t mean that they don’t know anything. Another creationist trick is to claim that because this or that area of evolutionary biology or (more commonly) abiogenesis isn’t clear, the whole of evolution must therefore be similarly speculative. That isn’t the case.

I really do not think that you see or hear yourselves as others see and hear you. You seem to spend way too much time fighting against those with whom you disagree, ie. - those who believe in a Creator and/or an Intelligent Designer.

On what basis do you assert that scientists in general and evolutionary biologists and the regulars in the forum in particular are not believers in a Creator? There’s nothing about any branch of science that requires a disbelief in God. That includes evolution, by the way. Whatever you’ve been told along the lines that evolution (or neo-Darwinism or whatever the latest buzzword is) is necessarily atheistic is flat-out wrong. And don’t start on about Richard Dawkins or Richard Lewontin or Daniel Dennett either. These people’s opinion about science and God are just that - their opinion about science and God, not some sort of commandment that must be adhered to by everybody who accepts evolution.

Here’s part of a chapter of a book by a scientist who accepts evolution and doesn’t accept atheism:

http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Brown_Alumni…

His opinion about science and God is no more compulsory than Richard Dawkins’s opinion; people are allowed to think for themselves, you know.

Comment #39460

Posted by SEF on July 25, 2005 7:18 PM (e)

steve wrote:

Is misspelling the phrase “Dumbed down” ironic?

None of your assumptions. It’s deliberately superior etymology. Dummed via dummy or dum-dum, not from dumb = mute. These people are anything but mute, being extremely vocal in their wilful ignorance. It’s a new addition to the language as a spoken word first and I regard everyone else as misspelling it due to their inadequate education. So it’s closer to sarcasm than irony.

Comment #39461

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

more crapola from stone’s Comment #39426:

“Some of you believe in biogenesis, the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter and you believe it so strongly that you want it taught in public schools.”

You left out a “A”-as in- Abiogenesis.

Anyway. We don’t believe in abiogenesis. We accept it as overwhelmingly probable based on the evidence uncovered through the research (lab and field) done by scientists across the last 50 years. It’s details are incomplete and will no doubt change, but it is the best explanation we have. Science is accepted, religion is believed. One is justified, the other is not. If you want to take this on then argue with ts. He needs a good target(even if he doesn’t need the practice, his aim is quite sharp). But if the science changes we will accept that. Could you change your belief if your religion changed?

Additionally, we don’t want to teach abiogenesis as a factoid. Again, science can’t be taught as ‘soundbites’ and rote regurgitating conclusions is not ‘learning’. Science is best taught in terms of the wonder scientists feel, the questions they ask, the research they do, the methods they use, the conclusions they reach, the back-and-forth debate they engage in over their conclusions, the new research and new methods suggested by the debate, etc., etc. It is as much history as facts; a helical(credit to S Mgr), climbing progress. As a non-science teacher this is the best I can write. Someone else could no doubt write better.
Sincerely,
Paul

Comment #39462

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 25, 2005 7:51 PM (e)

Well, SEF, C.J. O’Brien, Flint, Moses, Pierce R. Butler, Rob, Alan, Bayesian Bouffant, Jim Wynne, want to be heard, but only Harold has anything with substance to say…

Ah, White Stone, this is a multilateral discussion here; I wasn’t addressing your post at all (mostly because I thought Harold was doing so better than I could). FYI, I had been silently deploring some of the harsher comments others were making, with the thought they were being unfair to someone who might well have been offering sincere and well-intended questions. Now I’m reminded of previous similar situations, in which the questioners turned out to be the know-nothing hecklers others had treated them as.

I did some of what I set out to do.

How do you expect anyone, now, to treat you as anything other than a sneak and a wannabe trickster? Perhaps worse yet, you join a long line of similar unsuccessful con artists, achieving nothing but to reinforce the stereotype of religious dishonesty.

Comment #39464

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 7:56 PM (e)

And teaching science this way may actually get children more excited about joining that effort and adding to that progress, but this is just my assertian.

Comment #39465

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 8:05 PM (e)

From Steviepinhead in Comment #39437:

“This summary had a bit more detail than Paul’s links (IMHO). His memory of the incident was generally accurate,”

Thankyou stevie. I really should do the google thing before I post. I thought the female was elderly, had had children but was now past childbearing age. In my defense, at the time this happened I was getting off a carrier and preoccupied with outprocessing from the Navy, not paying much attention to the outside world…

Paul

Comment #39467

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 25, 2005 8:15 PM (e)

SEF: … I was basing my speculation on the all too real behaviour of parents (and leaders pandering to parents as well as pursuing their own machinations) in the UK about education in general….

Your speculation is based on your reaction to purported laziness, gaming, & rule-bending, which is apples & oranges to the creationism/science debate. Yes, those things can be found in creationism, but ascorbic acid can be found in both kinds of fruit - they’re still not all that comparable.

And, alas, your critique is much too similar to countless other rants about the Modern Decline of Standards and Everything Decent for me to accept it as given. Certainly you have a point - perhaps a very good one, I’m too removed from British life to say - but what I see here on the western shore of the Atlantic leads me to think that there’s more to the picture.

Meanwhile, I’d like to repeat a point which seems to have been lost in the chatter: to reach the majority of parents, we need to talk about the advantages of good science education for their kids. That’s their first and last concern - most have no other dog in this fight.

Comment #39468

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 25, 2005 8:17 PM (e)

From steve in Comment #39442:

“The best burrito in North Carolina is sold…”

WELL(stamps foot), steve is a big, fat, parochial liar.

You really should get out of Raleigh more often. However, since you are a newly minted PhysicsBS let me pull a Roy Williams and offer you a graduation present. Next time you are in Wilmington any burrito you want is on me. Be ready to eat your words along with your burrito! I will have a printed copy of your post from above.
Paul

Comment #39469

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 25, 2005 8:21 PM (e)

The mother gorilla episode that Paul remembered makes a nice bookend to C.J. O’Brien’s account of the man–who on some level must have been fascinated by the gorillas, ‘cause there he was voyeurizing them–but who couldn’t stand hearing these objects of his fascination described as our “cousins.”

One imagines teleporting the poor guy to the very moment of the mother gorilla’s feat–from one zoo enclosure to the other–a moment after his disgusted headshake, the moment before the mother gorilla’s rescue.

Would a new thought have managed to penetrate?

Comment #39476

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 9:25 PM (e)

Hahaha okay Paul. And if you ever make it to Raleigh, you will eat your words, along with a fine chorizo or barbacoa burrito at aforementioned taco stand.

Comment #39478

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 9:33 PM (e)

BTW, i know it’s off-topic, but PT once again has a broken bathroom wall, so I can’t post it there:

Is it true that in ch 5 of NFL, Dembski admits that Behe’s IC is all busted? Considering how often creationists around here demand a refutation of IC–for instance, I believe we had one such event just last week–it would be cute to point to the big shot of ID saying so.

Comment #39480

Posted by steve on July 25, 2005 9:37 PM (e)

There’s a hell of a lot of delicious authentic mexican food around here, and ethnic food in general. I know I did a double take when I first noticed the Ethiopian restaurant on Avent Ferry.

Comment #39495

Posted by SEF on July 26, 2005 4:30 AM (e)

your critique is much too similar

That doesn’t make it untrue. Unlike most people, I have evidence because I was there when some of it happened and still have friends in the thick of things.

I can even put a date on some of the dumming down and quantify it. It was the introduction of the GCSE around 1986 (to replace the ‘O’-level GCE+CSE exams). I was involved in teaching at the time and was one of a number of people asked to provide input into the proposed new curriculum. My objection and that of a number of other people was that it actually reduced the maximum amount of science most people could or would do - from 3 full subjects to the equivalent of 2. The content wasn’t exactly great either (ditto for maths). Despite asking us, we were ignored and the government went ahead anyway. So that’s when a 1/3 amount of dumming down happened.

Meanwhile, one of my friends still tutors at university. He has reported a continual drop in standards of intake over the past couple of decades. It’s not that the students are more stupid but that they simply haven’t covered what they should have covered at A-level (and O-level before that). Nearly the whole of the first year was having to be wasted getting them up to speed.

Another measure comes from what has happened to A-levels (I would say as a result of the O-level to GCSE drop). There used to be an S-level above A-level for the best students to take simultaneously (concentrated on more critical thinking and quantitative analysis than just regurgitation of A-level material). That seems to have gone (I failed to catch precisely when) and instead an AS-level has been introduced below A-level so that the most useless students (the government are forcing more through the system than ever before without actually improving the overall pool) will still think they’ve won a prize as they drop out.

Again what used to happen was that there was an AO-level above O-level to be taken at the same time as O-levels for the more advanced children. NB The naming of this low achievement AS-level exam to look like the former high achievement S-level one is particularly confusing for employers and I can’t help wondering if that’s deliberate. The UK currently suffers from a cult of holding back the best children and artificially promoting the mediocre ones. There are still some who fail outright of course.

The government hasn’t even achieved its literacy and numeracy targets lower down the scheme of things. An investigative committee found evidence that results were rigged in various ways (eg teachers carefully teaching only what would be on the narrow test rather than more widely). Independent international comparisons also give the lie to the UK government’s claims that UK education is getting better - showing it falling in comparison instead!

The current PM is rabidly religious but actually the rot started a little before him with some wacky experiments into education from the 60s onwards (any of which could and even have been reversed and perhaps were necessary in order to find out how bad they were). He’s just accelerated the process massively as far as I can see. Have the US religious extremists done as much damage as that 1/3 cut to science yet? Possibly selectively in biology they have in some places …

Comment #39501

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on July 26, 2005 8:45 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #39502

Posted by Savagemutt on July 26, 2005 9:05 AM (e)

Actually, the best N.C. burrito is at Rio Burrito in Asheville.

Comment #39507

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 26, 2005 10:20 AM (e)

… A-levels (I would say as a result of the O-level to GCSE drop)…

Please keep in mind that many of the specifics you cite are just alphabet soup to those of us far outside the English educational system.

You cite “a continual drop in standards of intake”, but this seems to reflect changes which have no connection with creationism or religion. Perhaps we could trot out the usual suspects - television, spoiled parents of spoiled children, etc (though that last might seem a bit strained coming from someone who coins & defends innovative spellings as cheerfully as you have here…).

An investigative committee found evidence that results were rigged in various ways (eg teachers carefully teaching only what would be on the narrow test rather than more widely).

A major & increasing problem over here as well. In Florida, the school’s funding as well as the teacher’s job security and pay depend on students’ scores on standardized tests, and there is little pretense that anything else is taught. This will be a great boost for those who get jobs taking tests; all others will just have to scrape along.

However, university students & faculty of all ages agree that college-level course work is much more demanding than it was a generation ago: some standards seem to be rising.

Around here, the main damage that the religious seem to be doing to the public schools occurs on two levels: continuous attempts to raid their budgets via “voucher” schemes to subsidize sectarian academies, and endless hysteria to the effect that sex education must be limited to only cold-showers propaganda, and that nothing positive ever be said about any gay or lesbian person or lifestyle at any time. (No, I am not exaggerating.)

Comment #39508

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 10:30 AM (e)

White Stone (if you’re still out there)…

“Remember, I did not say that it wasn’t complex, just that it happened, or at least evolutionist say it happened. I do not agree with Harold’s views, but he certainly is entitled to them.”

As I understood it, you made a statement that modern microorganisms are presumed be homogenous, and to all resemble very early unicellular life, and then checked to see if this is what scientists actually believe. It isn’t. This isn’t “my view”, it’s a simple statement of fact. That isn’t the scientific consensus.

You are certainly entitled to believe that modern microorganisms are uniform and “uchanged” since the dawn of life on earth; that’s wrong from a scientific point of view; however, it’s your business if you want to believe it. You AREN’T really entitled to claim that others believe that, when they don’t, however. To make false claims about the beliefs of others would violate Christian ethics, and in some cases US law.

“Actually, I did some of what I set out to do. To one of you, I made your theory sound ridiculous.”

You didn’t make the theory of evolution sound ridiculous to anyone, actually. You couldn’t have, because you didn’t accurately discuss the theory of evolution, but rather, your own imperfect understanding of it.

“To another, I made your theory sound anti-Christian.”

Some people believe this (both Christians who reject evolution, and non-Christians who use this as an argument against Christianity). I totally disagree with the idea that the theory of evolution is anti-Christian. Most creationism is clearly anti-Christian, whereas the theory of evolution has nothing to do with Christianity.

“To another, I made the theory very much over simplified, but possible.”

The theory of evolution is neither oversimplified nor merely ‘possible’ - it’s a very strong, very well-developed scientific theory. Without meaning to sound rude, you need to learn a lot more if you are interested in biology and evolution. If your understanding of the theory is oversimplified, that doesn’t make the theory itself oversimplified.

“To some, you acknowledged that you do not know what happened originally, because evolution is concerned with life after it’s origin and not with it’s origin. My hope is that those of you who have so little tolerance will begin to realize your own intolerance. I hope that your lack of solid answers will be evident to you and instead of having the “we have all the answers” attitude, you will be able to say that there is MUCH we do not know. I really do not think that you see or hear yourselves as others see and hear you.”

I agree with all of this, although some may find the tone a bit condescending, and no pro-science poster here would hold the ridiculous belief that “we have all the answers”. We have some answers, however. I notice a slight tendency on your part to ascribe views to others that they don’t really hold. That’s a very dangerous habit; I suggest you rid yourself of it.

Abiogenesis is a great area of research, but it is true that the theory of evolution stands strong with or without it.

“You seem to spend way too much time fighting against those with whom you disagree, ie. - those who believe in a Creator and/or an Intelligent Designer.”

There is no conflict between the concept of a “Creator” and science for many people (and there are many ideas as to what it may mean to “create”). Many demoninations and variants of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism (all of which incorporate some idea of a creator) are found among practicing scientists and people who accept science.

The term “intelligent designer”, on the other hand, is associated with the work of William Dembski in particular, and the privately-funded “Discovery Institute” in general. This particular work should NOT be confused with religion in general - in fact, they claim it’s not religious. I very strongly oppose “intelligent design” in this usual sense of the term. We can discuss why in another thread, if you’re interested.

“Some of you believe in biogenesis, the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter and you believe it so strongly that you want it taught in public schools.”

No-one believes that we know EXACTLY how life originated, but it’s a valid field of scientific study. A discussion of some current hypotheses may be appropriate for high school seniors, especially in an AP Biology class.

“Because you see evolutionary processes at work within species, you believe that it is responsible for all species. This has not been proven.”

This has not been “proven” in the most tortured sense, but the evidence is overwhelming that evolution does account for the diversity of life. That’s what science shows, so that’s what should be taught in science class.

Comment #39509

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 26, 2005 10:31 AM (e)

Ahh,

Steve, I’d have to admit that Flaming Amy’s is to authentic Mexican what g. w. bush is to authentic cowboys. Still the best tho’.
Paul

Comment #39510

Posted by Paul Flocken on July 26, 2005 10:38 AM (e)

Flaming Amy’s, still the best, that is, not gw bush.

Comment #39513

Posted by rdog29 on July 26, 2005 11:19 AM (e)

Kudos to you, White Stone. I guess you put one over on the “Darwinists”!

Your hypocrisy and arrogance are truly astounding.

You accuse evolutionary bioligists of having a “We Know Everything” attitude, yet this exactly what YOU and the creationists and the IDers display.

Any scientist worth a damn, in any field of inquiry, will be the first to admit that they do not know everything. They have the balls to revise theories and models when new evidence comes to light. They have the humility to say, “I was wrong”. I doubt that creationists and ID “researchers” can say the same.

Much has been made in this thread about the origins of the first “living” molecules. OK, so maybe present day biology does not have a compeletely satisfactory model, but rather some tantalizing first steps. What would creationism or ID propose as an alternative? “Well guys, this nut is just too tough to crack. It must be Design (or Creation, or whatever). Let’s all go home.”

This is just one more symptom of the fact that ID and creationism are WORTHLESS as a predictive model.

There was a time, before Newton’s rise to eminence, when Gravity was also not very well understood, and people like Kepler were taking preliminary, tantalizing (and at times misguided) steps. Where would physics be today had there been IDer’s back then who said, “Whoa! This is planetary motion stuff is just too tough explain as a natural phenomenon. Must be some kind of Design. Let’s call it quits, guys.”

Comment #39516

Posted by Rob on July 26, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

I’ve been saying this for years now. Not only should we actively demand its [evolution’s] inclusion [in school curricula], but we should sue the living crap out of any school district that drops it, either because they “don’t believe in it” or “to avoid controversy with parents”.

We’ve let the nutjobs set the agenda for far too long. It’s long past time that we begin taking the fight to THEM.

I think this would be a good idea. It’s about time headlines in Cobb County and Dover, which involve evolutionary science on the defensive, were supplanted with headlines where evolutionary science moved on the offensive, demanding its conclusion in curriculum standards and classroom teaching where it is absent. It’s not good enough that creationism and intelligent design aren’t taught; evolution should be a required and pervasive part of any basic biology standards.

Teaching biology without evolution is like teaching chemistry without a periodic table or physics without Newton’s Laws of Motion - without evolution, biology is reduced to subsets of facts without any unifying principle; it’s high time we demanded that biological education standards be raised to par with the other sciences across the board.

Comment #39517

Posted by manila thrilla on July 26, 2005 11:48 AM (e)

WhiteStone’s got a lot wrong, but I don’t think he’s so far off on evolution being anti-Christian. Insofar as religious people hold a literal interpretation of the Bible, evolution and much of science is anti-religious. They are simply incompatible world views. This problem goes away if you ditch a literalist interpretation, but then again, so does much of the importance of the Bible. This is exactly what Jason reported as the primary worry of the conference speakers. If what the Bible says about the origin of species is just a story or a metaphor, might not what the bible says about Jesus be just a story or a metaphor, and wouldn’t that persepctive go some way to undermining Christianity?

Comment #39521

Posted by Descent & Dissent on July 26, 2005 12:17 PM (e)

Evolution (and other scientific theories) are not incompatible with all religions. Here’s a statement on evolution from the Church of Reality

Evolution is central to the Church of Reality

The first principle of the Sacred Principles is the Principle of Positive Evolution. The reality of evolution is central the our core beliefs. Evolution is all around us and is part of everything we do. The Tree of Knowledge is based on evolution, and the human race is evolving through the Tree. The Tree of Knowledge - which represents the sum total of all human understanding - is where human evolution is making the greatest progress. In fact, the exploration of reality the way it really is, is in fact the process of evolution….

Comment #39525

Posted by Kevin Dowd on July 26, 2005 12:56 PM (e)

“From the time I’ve been old enough to think about these things, religion has always struck me as pretty silly”

What? You don’t believe in the invisible guy in the sky?

You don’t stand in awe under the cosmos and feel small and alone and in the presence of a power greater than youself and all mankind? Aren’t you afraid of everything outside yourself and aren’t you especially afraid of dying? Or conversely don’t you hate yourself and your life and are willing to kill yourself for a greater cause than breathing, eating and crapping?

Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid. Religion is powerfull for the same reason that facist politics is powerfull: we are the best; everyone else stinks and/or is trying to kill us. We have our own rites, culture and language and everyone not-us is evil/dammed to hell/a traitor to the nation.

To cement power over people you must control

#1 sex - the whole marriage, condom, abortion thing
#2 money - the whole tithe, save the children thing
#3 discourse - the whole preach from the pulpit / media /town-hall meeting. also make up the meaning of words and call anyone not-us a liar and evil.
#4 fads and terrors - hype all events that appeal to purient interests, fears, greed and hates and biases.

The fundies use of creationism fits in with the above.

The laughable part is the fear in the statement that if evolution is correct then man is not “special” and was not created for a “reason” and therefor our lives are meaningless.

Satre and the Existentialists faced this question head on and agreed that there IS no external meaningness to our lives. We need to create the meaning ( and the beauty and the glory) in our own lives. No god to help you win ball games, no god to heal you of your grief and absolve you of your sins. You. You are responsible for everything that happens to you and you had better accept that fact now and deal with it.

Comment #39540

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 1:43 PM (e)

If what the Bible says about the origin of species is just a story or a metaphor, might not what the bible says about Jesus be just a story or a metaphor, and wouldn’t that persepctive go some way to undermining Christianity?

Of course. In order to be a scientist and a Christian, you must compartmentalize your intellect, and refuse to apply the same standards of reasoning to your religious beliefs as to your scientific beliefs. But saying such things leads folks like Harold to call you names and hound you for your “irrational” labeling of people as dim-wits, clowns, and nutcases.

Comment #39541

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 1:50 PM (e)

Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid.

And the same factors apply to religious scientists as to religious fundies, even if to a lesser degree.

Comment #39547

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

“This problem goes away if you ditch a literalist interpretation, but then again, so does much of the importance of the Bible”

This statement is empirically false, even though “importance” is an entirely subjective value judgment.

Empirically, the vast majority of people who have found the Bible important, whether for religious reasons, or for reasons related to archaeology, history, literature, etc, have not taken a literalist interpretation.

Kevin Dowd -

“Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid.”

This may be empirically testable. Do you have any evidence that all religious people are less intelligent and more afraid than all non-religious people? How do you plan to measure “religiousness”? How do you plan to measure “stupidity”? Measures of intelligence are quite controversial. Which do you plan to use?

“Religion is powerfull for the same reason that facist politics is powerfull: we are the best; everyone else stinks and/or is trying to kill us. We have our own rites, culture and language and everyone not-us is evil/dammed to hell/a traitor to the nation.”

What about religious beliefs and practices that don’t have these characteristics? How do they fit into your analysis?

How much do you know about other peoples’ religions?

The thing is, on another level, I agree with your frustration at the bigoted behavior that goes on in the name of “religion”.

All posters - Please note the difference between these types of posts, and posts that defend the dignity or rights of atheists. These posts do not defend tolerance, they attack the (imagined) religious views of others.

Panda’s Thumb is undergoing a major conversion. Many, many posts now consist of pure screed against “religion”, typically not further defined, with no scientific content whatsoever. They are heavy on statements such as “religion is stupid”, “religion is silly”, etc.

Any poster who argues that any religious tradition or practice is compatible with science is attacked, forcing all posters, by implication, to allow creationists to persist in one of their most powerful and obnoxious false assertions.

There are numerous “atheists and fundamentalists screaming insults at each other” web sites out there already. If Panda’s Thumb is to become one, so be it, I guess.

From the point of view of anyone who values science and science education, the idea that science should be declared incompatible with all religious traditions (and by corollory, that people who follow any religious tradition should be excluded from science), strikes me as very poor strategy indeed, as well as being ethically questionable.

t.s. -

The only two things you know about my religion are that I refer to myself as a Christian, and that I don’t agree that you have logically proved your religious perspective to me. Anything else you think you know is pure guesswork on your part. I don’t recall calling you a “name”; I certainly pointed out that you were posting in “troll mode” at one time (as you were, at that time - it’s a description of a posting style), and I continue to maintain that it is usually irrational to refer to people as “nutjobs”, “dimwits”, and “clowns”, for the reasons I stated.

Comment #39549

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 2:57 PM (e)

I don’t agree that you have logically proved your religious perspective to me

Don’t agree with whom? I don’t even have a religious perspective, let alone claim that I’ve logically proved it.

I don’t recall calling you a “name”

There’s a lot that you conveniently don’t recall.

Comment #39551

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 3:03 PM (e)

“Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid.”

This may be empirically testable. Do you have any evidence that all religious people are less intelligent and more afraid than all non-religious people?

He didn’t claim that religious people are less intelligent and more afraid. It was a statement about people, and why religion is powerful.

Any poster who argues that any religious tradition or practice is compatible with science is attacked, forcing all posters, by implication, to allow creationists to persist in one of their most powerful and obnoxious false assertions.

This protest is very dishonest. It is you who personally attack (as you are doing here) people, rather than their arguments, and make the intellectually dishonest argument that certain views should be censored because of what they “allow” creationists to do.

Comment #39552

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 3:06 PM (e)

From the point of view of anyone who values science and science education, the idea that science should be declared incompatible with all religious traditions (and by corollory, that people who follow any religious tradition should be excluded from science)

There is no such corollary outside of your ad hominem logic.

strikes me as very poor strategy indeed, as well as being ethically questionable.

Lying is ethically questionable, Harold.

Comment #39556

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 3:24 PM (e)

My previous post above may have been a little too harsh. It’s just tough to fight the battle on two fronts. Creationists really, really don’t need any help. Religion is a complex topic on its own, whether you approach it from a religious perspective, or from the perspective of studying religion academically or scientifically. There are a lot of non-religious anthropologists and sociologists wh don’t agree that religion is “stupid”.

I try to stick to the point here. Most religious denominations don’t have a problem with science. The links below are very incomplete. I know there is at least one rabbinical organization that has released a strong pro-science statement, but I couldn’t find it quickly. Also, of course, the Dalai Lama is extremely well-known for his interest in science, and has had a couple of multi-scientist conferences, which have been the source of books.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-god.html

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion_scie…

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/clergy_projec…

t.s. -

Why don’t we wrap up the arguments?

I say that it’s usually irrational to use insult words (which isn’t the same thing as saying that I never, ever use them myself - we’re all sometimes irrational). You say it isn’t. I concede that in limited circumstances, it could be rational, but only when the predictable results of using insults are the desired outcome.

I say that it may be unethical to insult people, including under the ethical system of secular humanism. You say you’re a secular humanist, but you think it’s not unethical to insult people. I’m not an expert on secular humanism, and I suspect most secular humanists would say that it depends on the insult used and the context.

You say I called you a name. I say I don’t recall. But you may be right.

I call myself a Christian. You say that all religious beliefs and affiliations are irrational. I suppose this cuts to the meaning of the word “rational” (more so than the insult stuff above), but at any rate, I’m not convinced. This appears to be a fruitless and off-topic avenue of discussion, at least for the time being.

Comment #39557

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 3:25 PM (e)

Does anyone beside t.s. see me making any personal attacks on anyone?

Comment #39558

Posted by Kevin Dowd on July 26, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

“Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid.”

QUES: This may be empirically testable. Do you have any evidence that all religious people are less intelligent and more afraid than all non-religious people?

REPLY: Never said that. Almost all people, religious or not, are stupid and afraid..maybe less so now but certainly in the past.

QUES: How do you plan to measure “religiousness”?
REPLY: cash donations to tax-exempt groups

QUES: How do you plan to measure “stupidity”? Measures of intelligence are quite controversial. Which do you plan to use?
REPLY: Agreement to what I think is right.

QUES: “Religion is powerfull for the same reason that facist politics is powerfull: we are the best; everyone else stinks and/or is trying to kill us. We have our own rites, culture and language and everyone not-us is evil/dammed to hell/a traitor to the nation.”

What about religious beliefs and practices that don’t have these characteristics? How do they fit into your analysis?

REPLY: what like Quakers? They are not powerfull

kd

Comment #39560

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 3:58 PM (e)

t.s.

“He didn’t claim that religious people are less intelligent and more afraid. It was a statement about people, and why religion is powerful.”

Oh, I see, it was just a generic statement that all people, or people in general, are “stupid and afraid”, religious or not, and not an attempt to explain why specific individuals are religious, while others are not. I guess it’s not empirically testable after all. Just a pure statement of subjective opinion. It would be equally valid to say “people (in general) are intelligent and brave”.

“There is no such corollary outside of your ad hominem logic.”

I’ve explained this before. For it to be ad hominem logic, I would need to use some irrelevant supposed deficiency of an arguer as a purported contradiction of his argument. This statement was made independently; I didn’t even refer to a specific person who might hold a contradictory position.

True, if you declare “Shintoism is incompatible with science”, you may not put actual legal or physical barriers in the way of would-be Shinto science students. But they would certainly interpret it as an attempt to make them feel excluded. The insinuation would be that they must discard their religion if they wish to be scientists or science enthusiasts. I stand by my corollary.

“Lying is ethically questionable, Harold”

So is accusing other people of lying without sufficient justification.

Comment #39562

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 26, 2005 4:02 PM (e)

Harold said:

Does anyone beside t.s. see me making any personal attacks on anyone?

Ow! Owch! Harold, dude! Stop beatin’ on me!

Oh, whoops, sorry Harold. That wasn’t you, that was my partner wanting me to get back to work…

Comment #39563

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 4:03 PM (e)

Why don’t we wrap up the arguments?

If you wanted to wrap it up, Harold, you wouldn’t continue to post your pathetic complaints about the sort of things people write. Such complaints are implicitly personal attacks; and “atheists and fundamentalists screaming insults at each other” is pretty explicit.

Comment #39564

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 4:03 PM (e)

Kevin Dowd -

If what you’re actually trying to say is that some “religions” become powerful by preying (that’s preying, not praying) on people’s fears and ignorance, than I have no disagreement with you whatsoever.

I took your comments as a blanket condemnation of all religion, which would include Quakers, of course, as well many others that don’t take the positions you described on condoms and whatnot.

Comment #39565

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 4:06 PM (e)

So is accusing other people of lying without sufficient justification.

The claim that anyone has suggested that religious people should be excluded from science is an outrageous lie. My sufficient reason for the accusation is your explicit words to that effect above. So your charge of lack of sufficient justification is another lie.

Comment #39573

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 5:04 PM (e)

t.s. -

“The claim that anyone has suggested that religious people should be excluded from science is an outrageous lie. My sufficient reason for the accusation is your explicit words to that effect above. So your charge of lack of sufficient justification is another lie.”

Well, my definition of lying is “a deliberate falsehood”.

I honestly thought it was the position of some posters here that all religion is incompatible with science, even religion whose adherents say it isn’t.

I honestly thought that some here took the position, that if I or someone else argued that science is not incompatible with all religion…

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-god.html

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion_scie…

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/clergy_projec…

…that was a cue to jump in and argue that it was.

I honestly think that if you tell somebody, “Sorry, Billy, you’re family’s religion is incompatible with science”, that might have an exclusionary effect, with respect to Billy’s science education. If Billy’s ayatollah makes that statement, it’s one thing. That’s out of the control of responsible scientists and science educatiors. That’s for Billy to deal with (and not by trying to stop everybody else from studying science). That’s the problem we have right now in the United States.

If a scientist or “science expert” makes that statement, that’s something else. We don’t have that problem yet.

I see now that you, personally, don’t wish to exclude religious people from science. To the extent that my statement may have been construed as attributing that view to you, I issue this correction.

Comment #39578

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 5:18 PM (e)

I honestly thought it was the position of some posters here that all religion is incompatible with science, even religion whose adherents say it isn’t.

It’s dishonest to misrepresent one claim as another claim. Your corollary was that religious people should be excluded from science. That has nothing whatsoever to do with whether religion – i.e., the claims religions make – is incompatible with science – i.e., the claims that science makes.

I honestly think that if you tell somebody, “Sorry, Billy, you’re family’s religion is incompatible with science”, that might have an exclusionary effect, with respect to Billy’s science education.

As I said, it’s ad hominem thinking. It addresses people’s behavior in making their claims and the consequences, in your view, of making those claims, and involves a judgment as to whether they should make those claims, rather than the validity of the claims themselves. You can quibble with whether “ad hominem” is the correct term – a more accurate but less familiar term is “ignoratio elenchi” – but that’s all it is, a quibble. And as long as I’m mentioning terms, here’s another one for your silly poll of people who have better things to do than read or respond to any of this: consensus gentium.

Comment #39584

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 5:35 PM (e)

If a scientist or “science expert” makes that statement, that’s something else. We don’t have that problem yet.

Richard Dawkins has repeatedly made strong public statements that science is incompatible with religion. Daniel Dennett – not a scientist, but a highly respected scientific philosopher – writes in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea:

you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity

This applies not just the teachings he mentions – that the Earth is flat and that man is not a product of evolution – but to all false teachings, including that men can rise from the dead and move stones, or that celebrating our ancestors ensures the continued order in the cosmos.

Comment #39591

Posted by harold on July 26, 2005 5:59 PM (e)

ts -

“As I said, it’s ad hominem thinking. It addresses people’s behavior in making their claims and the consequences, in your view, of making those claims, and involves a judgment as to whether they should make those claims, rather than the validity of the claims themselves”

MY claim was that a logical corollory of declaring all religion incompatible with science, is that people who persist in practicing religion be excluded from science.

Whether that claim is true or false depends on how narrowly you want to define “excluded”.

Whether that claim is true or false, there is nothing the least bit ad hominem about it.

Ignoratio elenchi http://www.adamsmith.org/logicalfallacies/000633… is entirely unrelated to ad hominem. But my point doesn’t reflect this error either.

“Richard Dawkins has repeatedly made strong public statements that science is incompatible with religion”

The point you were addressing was my observation that we don’t have a problem, currently, in the US, with scientists or science educators telling students that their religion is incompatible with science. The well-known “opinions” of Dawkins, which of course reflect a deliberate courting of “controversy” to increase book sales (in my subjective opinion) are not relevant to my point. Clearly, I was aware of Dawkins.

Which is it? One minute you want all religions declared “incompatible with science”. The next minute you’re outraged that anyone would suggest that you want religious people excluded from science.

Comment #39595

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

MY claim was that a logical corollory of declaring all religion incompatible with science, is that people who persist in practicing religion be excluded from science.

That’s a lie about both your claim and logic.

Ignoratio elenchi http://www.adamsmith.org/logicalfallacies/000633…… is entirely unrelated to ad hominem.

No, it’s not; don’t pretend you understand something just because you can google it, especially when your reference doesn’t mention ad hominem at all. See, e.g., http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/f…

Which is it? One minute you want all religions declared “incompatible with science”.

That’s another lie – it’s not a matter of what I want declared, but of what I myself argue.

The next minute you’re outraged that anyone would suggest that you want religious people excluded from science.

I’m not outraged, I’m simply pointing out your lies. The two claims – religion is incompatible with science, and religious people should be excluded from science, are radically different. They aren’t even of the same sort; the latter is normative while the former is not. You’re clearly not too stupid to understand this, so it must be something else.

Your lies aren’t lessened by your compounding them. Save yourself some time and effort and go do something constructive, rather than continuing to dig this hole. I will continue to post comments critical of religious beliefs, whether you like it or not.

Comment #39605

Posted by Don P on July 26, 2005 6:54 PM (e)

harold:

I do believe that all or most religions, and definitely the religion of Christianity, are incompatible with science. I do not believe that people who practise such religions should be “excluded” from science. I think your claim that the first belief implies the second one is ridiculous.

Comment #39607

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

Religion is powerful because people are stupid and afraid. Religion is powerfull for the same reason that facist politics is powerfull: we are the best; everyone else stinks and/or is trying to kill us. We have our own rites, culture and language and everyone not-us is evil/dammed to hell/a traitor to the nation.

Ummmm, you’d have to look for an awfully long time before you would find any Buddhist or Taoist who would say any such thing. Or even anything remotely close to it.

A humble word of advice — if you mean to say “fundamentalist Christianity”, then perhaps you should SAY “fundamentalist Christianity”. After all, “religion” does not equal “fundamentalist Christianity”.

PLEASE don’t act like the fundies do, by presuming that there is only ONE “religion” — theirs.

Comment #39609

Posted by Don P on July 26, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

harold:

Do you have any evidence that all religious people are less intelligent and more afraid than all non-religious people?

I’m not sure about the “more afraid” but there is a substantial body of evidence that religiosity is inversely correlated with intelligence and education.

There is also substantial evidence that professional scientists, and especially top scientists, are much less religious than the general population. See, for example, the work of Larson and Witham, or the findings of the Cornell Evolution Project.

I think that, in general, the more one knows and understands about how the natural world actually works, the more implausible religious claims become.

Comment #39610

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:11 PM (e)

Insofar as religious people hold a literal interpretation of the Bible, evolution and much of science is anti-religious.

The simple problem with this statement, though, is that the vast majority of Christians, worldwide, DON’T hold any “literal interpretation of the Bible”. Indeed, the vast majority of Christians, worldwide, think creationists are utter nutjobs who, in addition to idol-worshipping a Book, do nothing more than make “Christianity” look silly, stupid, medieval, backwards, uneducated, pig-ignorant, and idiotic.

You (just like the fundies, oddly) seem to be equating “religion” with “Biblical literalism”. They are not the same. Not even remotely.

I won’t bother to point out (yet again) that Christianity is not the only religion. I shouldn’t have to.

May I politely suggest that when you mean “fundamentalist Christianity” you SAY “fundamentalist Christianity”. That is a very different thing from “religion”, particularly since the vast majority of “religions” worldwide, including most Christians, think the biblical literalists are completely nutty.

Comment #39613

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:15 PM (e)

If what the Bible says about the origin of species is just a story or a metaphor, might not what the bible says about Jesus be just a story or a metaphor,

Yes. Indeed, I think the stories were INTENDED to be metaphor. All of them.

and wouldn’t that persepctive go some way to undermining Christianity?

No more than the fact that rabbits don’t talk and don’t engage in foot races with tortoises, goes any way towards undermining the meaning of Aseop’s Fables.

Once again, you are equating “Christianity” with “Biblical literalism”. The two are not at all the same. As I’ve already noted, the vast majority of Christians, worldwide, view biblical literalists as nutty.

Comment #39614

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:16 PM (e)

QUES: How do you plan to measure “stupidity”? Measures of intelligence are quite controversial. Which do you plan to use?
REPLY: Agreement to what I think is right.

Spoken like a true fundie.

You and they are brothers under the skin.

Comment #39616

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:19 PM (e)

Satre and the Existentialists faced this question head on and agreed that there IS no external meaningness to our lives. We need to create the meaning ( and the beauty and the glory) in our own lives. No god to help you win ball games, no god to heal you of your grief and absolve you of your sins. You. You are responsible for everything that happens to you and you had better accept that fact now and deal with it.

Any Buddhist or Taoist would agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve just said.

Like the fundies, you seem to equate “religion” with “fundamentalist Christianity”.

They are not one and the same.

Comment #39618

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 26, 2005 7:26 PM (e)

I do believe that all or most religions, and definitely the religion of Christianity, are incompatible with science.

Curiosity compels the question ————

What part of Buddhism or Taoism, specifically, do you feel is incompatible with science?

Please be as specific as possible.

It would help if you could point out why, say, Aesop’s Fables are NOT incompatible with science (or do you think they are, too), but “all or most religions” ARE.

It would also help if you would explain why, if “most or all religions are incompatible with science”, why so many scientists are practitioners of some religion or another. If THEY see no incompatibility, why do YOU see it?

Comment #39624

Posted by Don P on July 26, 2005 8:07 PM (e)

Here are some links to more detailed information about the evidence I mentioned earlier:

On the negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence/education:

Intelligence and Religious Beliefs - Statistics

Religiousness and Intelligence - Wikipedia

On the low level of religiosity amoung scientists:

Leading Scientists Still Reject God

Results of the Cornell Evolution Project

Comment #39648

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 10:53 PM (e)

First harold lie:

From the point of view of anyone who values science and science education, the idea that science should be declared incompatible with all religious traditions

The claim “science and religion are incompatible” is not equivalent to “science should be declared incompatible with all religious tradition”. The addition of “should be declared” is a transparently dishonest smear, and the addition of “tradition” is an additional dishonest misrepresentation.

Second harold lie:

and by corollory, that people who follow any religious tradition should be excluded from science

The “corollory (sic)” cannot be logically derived from the first claim, not least because both claims are normative, not propositions, and derivation doesn’t apply. One can hold that science and religion are incompatible, or even that science “should be declared” incompatible with religion, and not hold that religious people or anyone else should be excluded from science. The two have nothing to do with each other. On top of that, no one has declared that religious people should be excluded from science; that’s an outrageous smear.

Third harold lie:

I honestly think that if you tell somebody, “Sorry, Billy, you’re family’s religion is incompatible with science”, that might have an exclusionary effect, with respect to Billy’s science education.

An empirical claim as to the effects of what some people say on other people’s decisions to enter science has nothing to do with what the first set of people think about whether the latter set should enter science. Only someone buried deep in his own web of lies would claim that these are the same. On top of that, thre phrasing is deeply dishonest; “Sorry, Billy” suggests that Billy is actively beiong discouraged. But in fact the argument about whether science and religion are compatible is being held among philosophically sophisticated (one would hope) adults. All this talk about Billy is just bullying, an attempt to get people to stop saying what they think is true because of projected deleterious effects on poor little Billy. But on that score, it’s just as likely that poor ostracized atheist Johnny will find that science is an area where he would be comfortable.

Comment #39649

Posted by ts on July 26, 2005 10:54 PM (e)

I do believe that all or most religions, and definitely the religion of Christianity, are incompatible with science. I do not believe that people who practise such religions should be “excluded” from science. I think your claim that the first belief implies the second one is ridiculous.

Indeed – bloody obviously so.

Comment #39706

Posted by manilla thrilla on July 27, 2005 9:40 AM (e)

The RDLF has made some very clear and correct points about not confusing “fundamentalist Christian” with “religious” generally. He also correctly points out that not all religions are as loaded with statements of historical and natural historical fact as the Bible religions.

However, when he states that what the Bible says about Jesus is just a metaphorical story (“I think the stories were INTENDED to be metaphor. All of them.”) I think he places himself outside of most Christian traditions. Maybe I’m very ignorant about Christianity, but I would be surprised to learn that a significant number of Christians viewed the claims that Jesus was the son of God, that Jesus was born from a virgin, that Jesus rose from the dead, or that Jesus ascended to heaven as simply metaphors. In my experience, Christians believe these things as literal truths.

I maintain that as long as Bible religions cling to supernatural interventions to describe how the world works or historical events, evolutionary biology and other sciences are necessarily opposed to them. This includes well meaning but intellectually conflicted Christians who have ditched a literal interpretation of the Old Testament but still consider most of the New Testament literally true.

Comment #39712

Posted by ts on July 27, 2005 9:54 AM (e)

In my experience, Christians believe these things as literal truths.

I’ve been assured by Christians of several denominations that you can’t reject the resurrection and be a Christian; the resurrection is the proof of Christ’s divinity.

Comment #39727

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 27, 2005 10:46 AM (e)

Religions don’t have any bones in them. Since they lack factual content,they are infinitely flexible. Which is why there can be many Christians who don’t believe in the ressurection and many Christians who believe you can’t be a Christian without believing in the ressurection. Anyhow, it’s always easy to interpret the notion of ressurection into anything you like. And that’s not a theoretical possibility. It’s exactly what’s happened. Myths mutate. That’s how they live.

Comment #39729

Posted by ts on July 27, 2005 10:55 AM (e)

Religions don’t have any bones in them. Since they lack factual content,they are infinitely flexible.

Almost all religions make empirical claims. It is in these empirical claims that they are incompatible with science.

Anyhow, it’s always easy to interpret the notion of ressurection into anything you like.

Christianity has some interesting concepts, like heresy. Religious individuals do not live in a vacuum; there are very strong group pressures to believe certain things.

Comment #39740

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 27, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

No doubt various religious people make factual claims incidently, but the articles of the faith, especially in the Abrahamic religions, are about imaginary objects like Gods and Angels that can not be verified or rejected by evidence. Propositions such as “Christ rose” are not like the DNA of the faith. Since such dogmas can and already have meant everything, they don’t constrain living believers anymore than “Thou shalt not kill” slows down pious fans of capital punishment.

Christians can and do decide that they believe things that are incompatible with science. My point is simply that they never have to make that decision. And the proof of that is the many Christian groups that happily coexist with the sciences.

By the way, heresy has nothing to do with facts either since the beliefs of heretics are also about fantasied objects. Anyhow, a heretic isn’t simply somebody who disagrees, but somebody who disagrees from inside the faith—a traitor, in other words. Heresy is much more a political than an intellectual phenomenon. Some years ago I interviewed a great many Catholic teenagers about their beliefs. They routinely expressed ideas that at other times and places would have got them in deep trouble. In Hartford in 1972, however, the same notions were endorsed blandly by the local priests, who obviously didn’t care what insignificant lay people thought. It’s OK for Alice the waitress to adhere to pantheism, but Hans Kung, a highly visible theology prof, better watch what he says.

Comment #39842

Posted by Don P on July 27, 2005 6:32 PM (e)

Jim Harrison:

Christians who “happily coexist with the sciences” do so mainly by not thinking their position through. The evidence of science and reason is simply not consistent with a benevolent, omnipotent creator God. Yes, you can reconcile them by making various leaps of faith. But science and reason don’t allow leaps of faith.

Comment #39847

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 6:43 PM (e)

However, when he states that what the Bible says about Jesus is just a metaphorical story (“I think the stories were INTENDED to be metaphor. All of them.”) I think he places himself outside of most Christian traditions.

Just call me “liberal”. (shrug) ;)

But you are mistaken; the vast majority of Christian churches, worldwide, do not view the Bible as a literal history or description. Only the fundies do.

Maybe I’m very ignorant about Christianity, but I would be surprised to learn that a significant number of Christians viewed the claims that Jesus was the son of God, that Jesus was born from a virgin, that Jesus rose from the dead, or that Jesus ascended to heaven as simply metaphors. In my experience, Christians believe these things as literal truths.

Actually, you’d be in for quite a surprise.

The term “fundamentalist” first appeared, in regards to Christianity, back in the 1910’s, when a preacher published a series of pamphlets entitled “The Fundamentals”. They were one of the first American works of theology to assert that Christians MUST accept the literal truth of several different things; (1) the literal inerrantness of the Bible, (2) the virgin birth, (3) the deity of Christ, (4) the physical resurrection of Christ, (5) salvation through faith alone, and (6) the Second Coming.

Before that time, various churches rejected some or all of these tenets.

So, it is only the FUNDAMENTALIST Christians who accept all of these as “literal truths”. Most other Christians reject some or all of them.

(By the way, next time some idiotic fundie blithers to you about being the True Bible-Beleiving Christians, make sure and remind him that fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible DID NOT EVEN EXIST until less than 100 years ago. Far from being “traditionalists”, they are, quite literally, the new kids on the block. They have no historical tradition extending beyond the 20th century.)

Comment #39860

Posted by qetzal on July 27, 2005 7:53 PM (e)

Lenny, I’m clearly unqualified to argue over religion, but I have a hard time with the notion of Christians who don’t accept the deity of Christ.

I mean, anybody can call themselves whatever they want (free country, right?), but that seems to stretch the definition past the breaking point. Sort of like a monotheistic Buddhist, no?

That said, I completely agree that most Christians do not believe everything on the fundie’s list, and we are all well-advised to keep that in mind.

Comment #39867

Posted by Don P on July 27, 2005 8:41 PM (e)

So, it is only the FUNDAMENTALIST Christians who accept all of these as “literal truths”. Most other Christians reject some or all of them.

The vast majority of Christian denominations teach one or more of those doctrines. The Incarnation–the doctrine that Jesus Christ was God incarnate–and the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example, are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian teachings.

Liberal Christians and their apologists routinely refer to all or most other Christians as “fundamentalists.” It’s a lazy and dishonest piece of rhetoric.

Comment #39872

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 27, 2005 8:51 PM (e)

Qetzal says: “I have a hard time with the notion of Christians who don’t accept the deity of Christ.” But there have always been Christians who did not buy into the trinity, and there are loads of ‘em today. (Harnack’s History of Dogma provides a run down of the ancient opinions.) By the same token, by the way, there are and have long been plenty of Buddhists who in effect interpret the Buddha as the supreme God, though Buddhists don’t like to use the word God anymore than the Romans liked to refer to their supreme ruler as a king.

Of course a believer is entitled to assert that only those who accept the divinity of Christ are Christians. That’s not my department. Looking at things descriptively, it appears that Christianity doesn’t have a definable essence. The various sects and churches that describe themselves as Christian share some family resemblences in terms of such elements as sacred narratives, theological themes like mediation and atonement, rituals, and perhaps even styles of feeling but if there’s a single core to this tangle of threads I don’t know what it is. Like other human institutions with a long history, Christianity is not so much coherent as stringy.

Comment #39891

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on July 27, 2005 10:03 PM (e)

It would be interesting if the PT software could muster a chart to show how often a thread succumbs to a small p i s s ing match (no names need to be mentioned to anyone who’s read this far).

The bandwidth of reader tolerance is narrower than some individuals/factions upload capability. A number of subthreads which had yielded a fair quota of facts seem to have been cut off here by a religious/atheist brawl which squeezed other participants out - just about exactly as it aborted more promising dialogs in the previous installation of Jason Rosenhouse (remember him?)’s adventures.

Finding such patterns statistically, where a small subset of participants comes to monopolize an earlier diversity of posters and produces rapid thread death, would probably be easier than presenting the analysis in clear graphics. Likewise, identifying the perps would be much easier than categorizing the topics which correlate with this syndrome, though recognizing the latter might be more useful.

A relatively small database could hold all the most frequent versions of “you lie, loathsome heretic!”; my formal prediction in making this hypothesis is that positive hits will strongly correlate with the logorrheic fever currently weakening the Panda.

I know neither whether the fabled Bathroom Wall is functional again nor whether any bricks thereof are reserved for habitual hairsplitters, but if repairs there would relieve excesses here, let us all pray & sacrifice according to individual inclination that the appropriate deus ex machina manifests soon.

Or, to put this a bit less pompously: the best clubs have good bouncers.

Comment #39899

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 10:15 PM (e)

The vast majority of Christian denominations teach one or more of those doctrines.

True.

The vast majority do not accept them all. Only the fundamentalist ones do.

Many Christian denominations don’t accept any, or only accept one or two.

The Incarnation—the doctrine that Jesus Christ was God incarnate—and the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example, are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian teachings.

That depends entirely on which Christians you ask.

You’d be in for a surprise.

Liberal Christians and their apologists routinely refer to all or most other Christians as “fundamentalists.” It’s a lazy and dishonest piece of rhetoric.

Umm, no —- “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names). The principles of “The Fundamentals” are literal belief in the afore-listed thingies.

Most Christian churches did not historically, and do not now, accept the literal truth of all (or even most) of the afore-listed thingies.

Hence, they are not “fundamentalists”.

Comment #39901

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 10:17 PM (e)

Lenny, I’m clearly unqualified to argue over religion, but I have a hard time with the notion of Christians who don’t accept the deity of Christ.

The UCC is arguing over the matter even as we speak.

Comment #39909

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 10:42 PM (e)

The UCC is arguing over the matter even as we speak.

More specifically, the UCC (United Church of Christ, which has 1.3 million members and is the 20th-largest Christian church in the US) has NEVER required any of its ministers to assert the divinity of Christ. Recently, a “conservative” member has begun a movement to require this. That effort has met heavy opposition, and it probably will not pass.

The UCC also does not assert or accept a literally inerrant Bible, or the physical resurrection, or the virgin birth, or salvation by faith alone, or the Second Coming. They view Heaven and Hell as symbolic and allegorical. And they refer to the Bible as “a” word of God, not as “the” Word of God.

The fundies, of course, don’t accept UCC as Christian. But then, fundies don’t accept the Catholic Church as Christian, either. Indeed, they don’t accept ANY non-fundie church as Christian. (shrug)

And no, I’m not a UCC member.

Comment #39921

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 10:58 PM (e)

Lenny, I’m clearly unqualified to argue over religion

As is everyone, since nobody alive knows any more about god than anyone else alive does. ;)

But what we are discussing here is simply what various Christian churches do or not believe. And that is a simple matter of asking them.

You will quickly find that a very large portion of Christians simply do not accept most (or even *any*) of the beliefs that are being ascribed to them by some of the folks here.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that most of us here get our exposure to Christians through the Internet, and specifically, through anti-fundamentalist parts of the Internet. Since the fundies are the loudest of the “Christians” here, and sicne they also repeatedly make the arrogant and self-righteous claim to be The Only True Christians™©, I suppose it is natural to simply assume that ALL Christians accept what the fundies accept.

‘T’ain’t so.

The fundies are a tiny lunatic fringe within worldwide Christianity. Most Christians, worldwide, think the fundies are just as nutty as everyone here does. And most Christians, worldwide, have no gripe at all with any of modern science. Only the fundies do.

So, for those who want to yammer on and on about “science and religion are incompatible”, it might behoove you to specify just what “religion” you are referring to. They are not anywhere near the same. Despite what the fundies here keep telling you.

Comment #39926

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 27, 2005 11:06 PM (e)

On the negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence/education:

Oddly enough, in the US, Buddhists tend to be much more well-educated than the general population.

They also tend to have higher income levels than average.

Comment #40191

Posted by Don P on July 28, 2005 6:45 PM (e)

Lenny Flank:

That depends entirely on which Christians you ask.

No, it doesn’t. They are standard, mainstream Christian doctrines regardless of which Christians you ask.

Umm, no —— “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names).

You, especially, seem prone to throwing around the word “fundamentalist” when referring to any group of Christians other than liberal ones.

the UCC (United Church of Christ, which has 1.3 million members and is the 20th-largest Christian church in the US) has NEVER required any of its ministers to assert the divinity of Christ.

I’m not sure why you think this claim is relevant (the issue is whether the divinity of Christ is a Christian doctrine, not whether a denomination requires its ministers to assert that doctrine). Even if it were relevant, the UCC is a minuscule denomination, comprising only 1-2% of all American Christians, so even if the UCC flatly rejected the doctrine that Jesus Christ was divine, that would tell us precisely nothing about how prevalent the doctrine is amoung Christians in general.

Comment #40196

Posted by SEF on July 28, 2005 7:09 PM (e)

I’m with Lenny on this one, having had to put up with lots of different flavours of Christian over the decades. The UK has a well established tradition of its Christian clerics not believing in many of those things. Unitarianism started here because of that sort of disbelief in the silliest bits of the religion (Newton being one of the earliest to reject the trinity - which was something of a problem while being at Trinity). The more extremist believers went to the US and possibly raised further extremists leading to the fundamentalist outbreak of the last century.

Anyhow:

(1) literal inerrantness not being regarded as true goes back before christianity was even invented - to jewish scholarship. The idiocy of literalism is very new and must be a tiny minority view indeed.

(2) I think the idea of a virgin birth was rejected by more than accepted it on some survey of clerics in my life-time (pre-internet).

(3) the deity of Christ has been discussed and is certainly questionable though I’m not sure of the balance of belief for that.

(4) ditto the physical resurrection of Christ.

I’m far too hazy on where majority verdict is for (5) and (6) unfortunately. However, I am sure that the locals don’t generally believe in the extreme literal version of (6).

Comment #40213

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:59 PM (e)

(the issue is whether the divinity of Christ is a Christian doctrine, not whether a denomination requires its ministers to assert that doctrine).

(sigh)

Learned your semantic sophistry from the fundies, didn’t you.

The UCC is a Christian church (the name, United Church of Christ, should have been your first clue).

The UCC does not assert the divinity of Christ.

So whether that is, or is not, a Christian doctrine, depends on which Christians you ask. To the Southern Baptists, it is. To the UCC, it’s not. If you ask a Southern Baptist “is the divinity of Jesus a Christian doctrine?”, he will say “yes”. If you ask a UCCer, “is the divinity of Jesus a Christian doctrine?”, he will say “no”.

So whether it is or not, depends on who you ask.

See how easy this is?

Of course, you can continue to wave your arms and declare that they’re “not really Christians”. Me, I’m not so arrogant or self-righteous as to declare who is or isn’t a “True Christian™©”.

You, though, apparently share that trait with the fundies.

But then, you seem to want to equate “Christianity”, or even “religion”, with “fundamentalist Protestantism”. Oddly, that is ANOTHER trait that you share with the fundies….

Comment #40219

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 8:14 PM (e)

the UCC is a minuscule denomination, comprising only 1-2% of all American Christians

Well, for comparison, American Jews make up approximately 1.4% of the US population. I woudln’t consider that “miniscule”. Also, the UCC is almost as large as the Episcopalian church (which holds about 1.7% of US Christians), and is larger than the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Assemblies of God. I don’t consider that to be “miniscule”. It should also be noted that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which at 24% is the single largest denomination in the US, and the Southern Baptist Convention, second largest with 16%, *NO* denomination in the US has as much as 10%. Most hang between 1 and 3 percent. So if the UCC, at 1.3 percent, is “miniscule”, so indeed is nearly every OTHER denomination.

, so even if the UCC flatly rejected the doctrine that Jesus Christ was divine, that would tell us precisely nothing about how prevalent the doctrine is amoung Christians in general.

There is no such thing as “Christianity in general”. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations, sects, and groupuscules, and they all believe different things. Which is, after all, why they ARE different denominations, sects and groupuscules.

There is nothing about which they all agree. Nothing.

Comment #40220

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 8:17 PM (e)

You, especially, seem prone to throwing around the word “fundamentalist” when referring to any group of Christians other than liberal ones.

I’ll repeat once again:

Umm, no —— “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names). The principles of “The Fundamentals” are literal belief in the afore-listed thingies.

Most Christian churches did not historically, and do not now, accept the literal truth of all (or even most) of the afore-listed thingies.

Hence, they are not “fundamentalists”.

“Not fundamentalists”?

Not.

N-O-T.

Not

Know what the word “not” means?

Comment #40225

Posted by Don P on July 28, 2005 8:41 PM (e)

Lenny Flank:

I’m about to stop responding to you again, but here’s one last try to get you to focus on the issue in question and to stop parading irrelevancies and nonsequiturs.

Well, for comparison, American Jews make up approximately 1.4% of the US population. I woudln’t consider that “miniscule”.

I would. I have no idea why you think 1.4% isn’t a minuscule fraction of the population.

Also, the UCC is almost as large as the Episcopalian church (which holds about 1.7% of US Christians), and is larger than the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Assemblies of God.

I have no idea why you think these observations are relevant, either. None of those denominations by themselves are representative of American Christians, and even all four of them combined comprise only a small fraction of the American Christian population.

It should also be noted that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which at 24% is the single largest denomination in the US, and the Southern Baptist Convention, second largest with 16%, *NO* denomination in the US has as much as 10%.

Again, this observation is completely irrelevant to the statement I made about the maninstream nature of the doctrines being discussed. But since you raised the RCC and the SBC, I will use them to illustrate the point: The RCC and the SBC combined comprise about 42% of American Catholics, and they both assert the doctrines of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as do most other large Christians denominations and sects. As I keep telling you, those are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian doctrines.

Comment #40233

Posted by Don P on July 28, 2005 9:12 PM (e)

SEF:

From the generally well-researched and reliable website religioustolerance.org.

On the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ:

From about 80 CE to the present time, most Christian faith groups have taught that Jesus was conceived by his mother Mary, while she was still a virgin …

Various polls have found that about 80% of American adults believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.

On the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

For almost 2 millennia, the Christian Church has taught that Jesus was crucified, died, and was bodily resurrected (i.e. returned to life in his original body) three days later. This has long been one of the church’s foundational beliefs…

The site references polls by Barna Research and Harris that found that between 85% and 95% of American Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It also cites a 2002 survey that found that only 12% of British Church of England clergy do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Comment #40234

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 9:15 PM (e)

The RCC and the SBC combined comprise about 42% of American Catholics, and they both assert the doctrines of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as do most other large Christians denominations and sects.

Well, as you said;

None of those denominations by themselves are representative of American Christians

Here, let me repeat the part you snipped and didn’t respond to:

There is no such thing as “Christianity in general”. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations, sects, and groupuscules, and they all believe different things. Which is, after all, why they ARE different denominations, sects and groupuscules.

There is nothing about which they all agree. Nothing.

If you want to wave your arms and decide who are the True Christians™© and who aren’t, well, feel free. It’s not a game that I find any use for. (shrug)

Comment #40235

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 9:17 PM (e)

This has long been one of the church’s foundational beliefs

Um, which church.

There’s more than one, ya know.

Comment #40261

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 2:55 AM (e)

From the generally well-researched and reliable website religioustolerance.org.

Facts, schmacts.

Comment #40263

Posted by Don P on July 29, 2005 3:00 AM (e)

ts:

Huh?

Comment #40265

Posted by SEF on July 29, 2005 3:24 AM (e)

Don P, you keep resorting to what Americans believe (probably ignoring anything other than the US in that) rather than addressing that I was talking about the UK - the example I know better (and the more mature older culture with a better appreciation of reality vs fantasy, like the jews). You also only address the items I said I didn’t know but implied were more likely to be believed. The first 2 are not believed by very many people - 1 in the whole population, and 2 within the clergy. The sort of people who believe in 1 tend to also believe in the tooth fairy and be many years away from being allowed to vote or drive a car or do anything which requires a better appreciation of reality than watching cartoons on TV.

Comment #40267

Posted by SEF on July 29, 2005 3:36 AM (e)

I almost forgot this, having bothered to look it up. While you are talking about the size of sub-sects or cults of Christianity within the whole thing and the typical size of those (and the Jewish contingent) being in the vicinity of 1% after the few big leaders, the UK 2001 census got 390,000 out of 52,000,000 claiming to be of the Jedi faith. That’s quite a respectable 0.75%. (I also find personal significance in the places which came highest.)

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=2…
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles…

It could be the fastest growing faith of its time … :-D

Comment #40276

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 4:15 AM (e)

Don P wrote:

ts:

Huh?

I was referring to Lenny’s attitude.

Comment #40291

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 7:15 AM (e)

the UK 2001 census got 390,000 out of 52,000,000 claiming to be of the Jedi faith.

IIRC, I remember seeing an interview with Lucas where he says that he modeled the ideas of the Jedi by distilling the basic tenets of seveal different religions (including Judeo-Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddism) and melding them all together. Jedi is, in essence, the core of several religions that have been stripped of all their theistic symbolism.

Comment #40347

Posted by Don P on July 29, 2005 12:41 PM (e)

SEF:

You said “I’m with Lenny on this one” and Lenny was most definitely not talking solely or mainly about Christianity in the UK.

Christianity in Britain is now so weak and uncommon that I don’t think it can be considered representative of Christianity even in the developed world, let alone globally. Even if most remaining British Christians rejected every one of the doctrines being discussed, that wouldn’t really tell us anything meaningful about the beliefs of Christians in general. The evidence I cited earlier suggests that, amoung British clergy at least, belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is still very common.

Comment #40404

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 6:12 PM (e)

the beliefs of Christians in general

There is no such thing as “Chrsitanity in general”. There is NOTHING about which they all agree. Nothing.

Not a thing.

Zip.

Zero.

Zilch.

Nothing.

Comment #40943

Posted by Kevin W. Parker on August 2, 2005 2:20 PM (e)

Where in the world did you find a decent burrito in Lynchburg?

Note that this question remains unanswered. This is yet another case of Darwinists discussing trivia while avoiding the truly important issues.