"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Anatomy of a Fundamentalist

It's been a while since I posted as PTET, and a recent comment I received from a visitor called Svensun reminded me why.

He is well-meaning but deluded, sanctimonious, bigoted, ignorant and frankly dishonest. Harsh words? Judge for yourself, as I give you an Anatomy of a Fundamentalist...

Svensun: Regarding Naturalism, in response to your statement that:
"the overwhelming majority of scientists who are recognised authorities in biology do not believe in a personal God. A much higher proportion are atheists and agnostics than the general population."
my answer would be: OF COURSE! These are people who by and large have abandoned whatever traditional beliefs they may have had or been raised with to follow their new GOD: materialistic Naturalism.
What, all of them? Who says? They don't themselves. These scientists are, as my statement says, simply people who don't believe in a personal God. Some, like Steven Hawking (and Einstein before him) believe in an impersonal God as described by Spinoza... Some are atheists, some are agnostics, and some simply don't or won't say. In general, these scientists will say that they do not know what the answers are... All they ask is that science is allowed to be limited to what it can and cannot say - and their general view is that theological questions are outside the scope of science...

But Svensun, like the fundamentalists criticised in my original post, lumps them together as godless (indeed anti-god) heretics who's diverse and complex views and opinions can simply be rejected and ridiculed. Who needs to understand, this implies, when you can simply pigeon-hole and condemn?

But for Svensun, it's a case of us-versus-them - and to the devil with what people might have to say for themselves...
Svensun: Obviously, to those in the thrall of such a faith, any challenge to it's basic assumptions is unacceptable, just as rejection of the basic tenets of Christianity are personally unthinkable to a fundamentalist like myself.
Here Svensun shows that it's not just non-Christians who his pernicious straw man arguments dishonestly misrepresent... It's Christians and other theists too... For even amongst those who believe in a personal God (and amongst Christians and even Fundamentalists themselves) there is a diverse range of opinions and beliefs.

Not all Christians think that evolution is wrong, or that the Bible is infallible or even inerrant... And not all people describing themselves as Fundamentalists share the same beliefs, about the age of the Earth, for example, or the primacy of certain versions of the Bible. I wonder what Svensun thinks the "basic tenants" of Christianity are. He doesn't say...

As Svensun demonstrates, Fundamentalism itself seems to have certain unspoken tenants... On no account let people of differing opinions speak for themselves; and it is, it seems, quite permissible to lie if you do it in God's name...
Svensun: I think Johnson's point is that, for those not worshipping at the altar of the Church of Materialistic Naturalism, otherwise known as Neo-Darwinism, it's promises and explanations ring hollow.
As I have to point out each and every time I answer a Fundamentalist, the majority of Christian scientists accept that neo-Darwinist evolutionary theory is overwhelmingly supported by over a century of evidence and research, and poses no threat to their faith.

And take the Discovery Institutes much-vaunted list of over 400 scientists who reject standard evolutionary theory... Compare that with the list of over 10,000 clergy in the USA who reject the non-scientific and purely political idiocy of intelligent design to support the standard understanding of evolution...

You will not read about these facts from Svensun or from any other Fundamentalist... To paraphrase Gould, "whether this is due to stupidity or ignorance, I do not know". One thing is for sure, it certainly is not honest.
Svensun: Regarding Morality, I will gladly and freely answer your question. If I ceased believing that that I was forgiven for my sins and didn't have to worry about whether I was saved or not because there was no eternal reward or punishment, and my body and physical experience was the sum total of what I am or ever will be, I might be tempted to commit more 'immoral' or criminal acts, depending upon whether or not I would face earthly punishment.
Notice how Svensun doesn't answer the question at all! Would he be less moral or more criminal, or wouldn't he? He doesn't say!
Svensun: But this begs the question. You are implicitly claiming that morality exists among humans independent of the existence or God, or even of the belief in God.
Yes I am - and that's the very point. Fundamentalists expressly claim that non-believers are less moral than believers... And they present no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.

Look at the evidence... Are atheists in the USA more likely to commit crime? Or go prison? Or be unemployed or uneducated? Of course they aren't. That doesn't stop Fundamentalists dishonestly (and without presenting a shred of evidence to support their libels) saying otherwise...
Svensun: I suppose you would argue, then, that morality has 'evolved' in some way, that there is some materialist explanation for why people, or at least most people, don't kill or steal or rob, at least openly (I think almost all of us are guilty of stealing in one form or another - think about it!). But if it's true that morality has 'evolved' whether by means of sociobiology or some other more intricate mechanism, then it must also be true that belief in God has also 'evolved', since isn't belief in God, or Gods, or the divine, a basic part of the human experience worldwide...
Hey! I could joke about hearing the cogs turn in Svensun's head - but at least he's thinking, so I applaud him for that...
Svensun: ...with the exception, perhaps, of certain university departments?
Clunk. Does Svensun really believe that only ivory-towered academics don't believe in God? Does he really not know that 8% of the US population and over a quarter of the UK population are atheists or agnotsics? If he doesn't, he is being deliberately and studiously ignorant. If he does (even if he pretends to himself otherwise), he is being dishonest.
Svensun: If so, then isn't it also possible to assume that these two separate behavioural 'morphologies', morality and belief in the divine, could have 'evolved' together, and that they are in some way interdependent upon one another? And just as certain morphologies vanish or become vestigial in certain species as conditions change, isn't it possible that as belief in the divine become a 'vestigial remnant' among humans, that morality itself will become a useless appendage, no longer necessary for human 'fitness'? After all, if you believe naturalism rules the world, how in the world can you exempt yourself from it's influences? What is insulting about that?
It is insulting, bozo, because this argument again implies that non-believers are or will be less moral than believers - with no evidence whatsoever to support it.
Svensun: Morality, in a naturalistic world, IS meaningless, apart from the 'fitness' it provides, right? Therefore, what if morality only increases fitness in an environment where belief in the divine is widespread? Once that vanishes from the environment, perhaps traditional morality, defined by you as an aversion to killing, raping and stealing, will become another useless appendage, so to speak, handicapping those individuals who retain it.
That is utter gibberish, of course. Society itself - all societies - have rules against killing, raping and stealing... And with good reason, for these behaviours are destructive to society... And again I ask, is Svensun really saying that he'd be more likely to do these things if he was a non-believer? Why won't he answer?

But wait - it get's better... Look at the Bible. It clearly states that God condones killing, raping and stealing when it suits "Him". So much for "Absolute Morality"...
KILLING: "And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. At God's instructions, the Israelites "utterly destroyed the men, women, and the little ones" leaving "none to remain. "And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain..." [Dt 2:33-34]

RAPING: "Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." [Is 13:16]

STEALING: "And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: God encourages the Israelites to steal from the Egyptians. And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians." [Ex 12:36-36
Let's spell this out for the hard of thinking... Just because some people have argued that a nihilistic naturalistic view of nature could justify a rejection of all morality, it by no means follows that all non-theists end up being immoral or criminal. Perhaps Svensun should spend less time worrying about non-believers, and more time worrying about why his own belief system requires him to be actively ignorant and dishonest...

And let's look at Christianity. In the past, this has been used to justify genocide, slavery, the subjugation of women, beating children with sticks, bombing abortion clinics, and every other horror imaginable. Does this mean that Christianity inevitably leads to these things? Of course it doesn't. If anyone argued that, they would be rightly ridiculed.

So why do Fundamentalists get away with making the same ridiculous arguments about atheists? Why indeed...
Svensun: It's something to think about, anyway.
Not if you are a Fundamentalist like Svensun it's not. He's already checked his brains at the door.
Svensun: Regarding the Bible, that's exactly what Christians do, 'idolize' Scripture! Recall the opening words of the Gospel of John:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
And yet even the most whack-job Fundie will accept that the Bible was not written until centuries after the creation of the Earth... And so my point remains - it is idolatry in direct violation of the First Commandment to place the authority of "Scripture" over all the over evidence that God, if God exists - has placed for us in the Universe to ponder.

So, if you want to know why I've not been posting much lately, read Svensun's post again, and weep...


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Back for the Fall Term...

Hello world... I'm back. I went on holiday for two weeks - but I guess that wasn't enough of a break from religious craziness and anti-logic. So, I worked on some other projects, took a break from blogging here, and tried to make the most of the summer. But hey, I guess I just missed the old place... so here I am.

The progressive conservative (gay, British, inclusive and worth reading) blogger Andrew Sullivan recently noted:

The Catholic bishops of England tell American fundamentalists the bleeding obvious: not Everything in the Bible is literally true. Money quote: "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision." Of course. Anyone who believes that the world was literally created in six days a few thousand years ago is not expressing his or her "religious beliefs". Believing something that is demonstrably and empirically untrue is not religion. It is simply superstition or lunacy. It has nothing to do with faith in things we cannot know. The notion that it should actually be taught in public schools as science is beneath even debating.
And yet recent Gallup Polls say that 54% of USicans believe that Creationism should be taught in public science classes - even though 55% "also said evolution was definitely or probably true"...

So who's to blame? The media for failing to stand up to pseudoscience & anti-intellectualism? Or the politicians and churchmen who make capital out of both? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Travel Time

I'll be on the road over the next couple of weeks. I'll only be able to post sporadically. Have fun ya'll...


Sciencewatch Continues To Show IDiotic Bias

Although Darrick has stopped me (anyone!?) commenting on his Sciencewatch blog, he can't stop me reading it.

He quotes on his main page that paragon of scientific virtue, the eminent lawyer Phillip E. Johnson, saying these fine words:

"Science should never fear honest intellectual tools such as precise use of terms, unbiased investigation of evidence and refusal to accept unjustified extrapolations."
It is utterly bizarre, therefore, that Darrick's posts to his Blog continue to be so woefully and idiotically biased.

His recent post Environmental Extremists Costing American Economy Billions references an article Steve Milloy - who is hardly an "unbiased" source.

His RNA Still Unsolvable Problem for Evolution quotes a scientific paper as evidence against evolution - without mentioning that the authors of that paper see it as nothing of the sort. What kind of dishonesty is that?

Most hilarious is the post Hundreds of Scientists Defect from Evolution Pseudoscience. This links to a list of "more than 300 scientists" who "have courageously stepped forward and signed onto a growing list of scientists of all disciplines voicing their skepticism over the central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution..." The article is dated 1 April 2004. Why did Darrick post it on his blog this week? I'd say that my recent posts on the overwhelming scientific support for evolution probably have something to do with it. In any event, DD's list contains at most six "Steves".

Compare that with the NCSE's list of over 500 scientist "Steves" who have signed up to this statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
There are also substantially more than six Steves on the list of over 4,000 Christian Pastors who have signed a recent statement saying that they accept standard evolutionary theory alongside their faith.

Darrick's attempt to show the lack of scientific support for evolutionary theory does just the opposite. Instead he has clearly demonstrated that only around 1% of scientists think that there is any real controversy over standard evolutionary theory. And he has also shown that, despite the empty words of Phillip Johnson, his Blog remains a bastion of bias and unjustified extrapolations.

Well done Darrick.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An open letter to Jonathan Bartlett

Dear Jonathan

You kindly took the time to respond to my essay Just who is immoral in the evolution debate?, which I posted at soc.religion.christian.

My answer to your post will appear there in due course... But in the meantime I thought it would be worth contacting you directly. One of the benefits of posting publicly is the opportunity it gives to understand how other people see things... And as I hope I can demonstrate here, I think your views on Intelligent Design and Evolution are mistaken.

You seem to think that standard evolutionary theory discounts the hand of God. It does not. It may discount certain notions of "God" - the YEC interpretation being a prime example - but it most certainly does not equate with atheism. It also does not say that evolution occurs through "chance". Similarly, there are certain atheists who argue that evolution disproves any notion of God. (I do not agree with them.) Again, that position is beyond the scope of standard evolutionary science.

As I wrote in my essay, the Catholic Church accepts standard evolutionary theory. (A great many other Christian and Jewish organisations do to). As I noted, their position is "that evolution is the product of divine will - but that is a question beyond the scope of science". They clearly do not accept certain "atheistic" views of what evolution means, but that doesn't stop them agreeing that life evolved through natural processes, from microbes to man. (They believe that God provided man with a soul - but again that is beyond the scope of science to demonstrate or disprove).

You seem to think that disproving or challenging some part of evolution is support for an "alternate" theory of Intelligent Design. It does not. Intelligent Design makes specific claims (depending on whom you ask) that all life. or certain aspect of molecular evolution, could not have occurred naturally - and more than that, that we can reasonably infer the hand of an "intelligent designer" in this process. This position has almost no scientific support. It does, of course, have vocal and powerful support amongst the US population... But quite staggeringly, even ID scientists themselves admit Intelligent Design does not (yet?) offer a viable, teachable, useable alternative to standard evolutionary theory. What is most incredible in all of this is that ID supporters do not appear to care about any of this. All that matters to them, it seems, is that evolution is "wrong".

Let me be clear. I am not saying that Bonnie Alba, Ken Ham or anyone else are bearing false witness by not believing in standard evolutionary theory. My accusation is specific. They misrepresent what other Christians believe - either deliberately or through ignorance. That is bearing false witness. That is wrong. The fact that they know that they are misrepresenting other Christians makes it more than wrong. It makes them dishonest. Even more worrying, they do not care.

In your reply to my post, you wrote: " That [Philip Johnson]... believes the falsehood of pure naturalism is so bogus that nearly everyone can easily recognize it? How is that dishonest?" It is dishonest because the overwhelming majority of scientists who are recognised authorities in biology do not believe in a personal God. A much higher proportion are atheists and agnostics than the general population.

You write: "without God morality has no intellectual basis" and "that if morality is simply the _result_ of an unguided evolutionary process, then it is, in its essence... meaningless". That is gibberish and, frankly, insulting. I'll ask you what I have asked a great many Christians. If you ceased believing in God, would you suddenly go out and kill and rape and steal? Would nothing stop you? Answer that question. No other Fundamentalist Christian I have asked has had the courage, wit or courtesy to.

In your post, you referred me approvingly to a Blog entry by Crevo which contains the following statement:

"By its own admission, scientific knowledge is tentative. However, we let the tentative results of science trump belief in the authoritative word from scripture. As Christians, our authority is in scripture. Ceding that to other authorities is the equivalent of idolatry."
Please explain to me why insisting upon the "truth" of the Bible in the face of all of the wonders of creation is not idolizing scripture.

In closing, if you can provide cogent, reasoned, arguments against anything I have written here, I am prepared to change my position, Can you say the same thing?

Thanks for your time!


Astrology & Uncritical Thinking

From Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions: Astrology:

"...astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn't), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role."

"...astrology takes away from the real grandeur of the Universe. We live in an amazing place, this Universe of ours, and it's quite fantastic enough without needing people to make up things about it. Astrology dims the beauty of nature, cheapens it. "
Too, too true.

And, of course, born-again Christians are more likely to believe in channeling, astrology and reincarnation than the rest of the population.

Monday, June 13, 2005

God - a paranoid, violent psychotic role model?

If you want to see the "clash of worldviews" in action, consider these two recent posts...

First is my old friend Darkstar218. He writes of his six year old daughter:

"Ruth... asked something along the lines of 'well, when will I find a husband for me to love?' I smiled and told her 'sweetheart, someday Daddy will find you a good man. He will find you a man that will love you the way Daddy loves Mommy. He will be a Godly man. And when the time is right, Daddy will bring him to you.' ..."

"When Fathers turn their hearts toward their children, and the children turn their hearts toward their fathers - it prepares the way for children for a right relationship with God. When children have their hearts turned to their earthly fathers, the way is paved for them to easily turn their hearts to God to be their Heavenly Father. But if Fathers don’t prepare their children’s hearts, if children grow up in rebellion against their earthly fathers, if they never have their hearts COMPLETELY turned to their earthly fathers, there will always be a struggle for them to surrender completely to their Heavenly Father..."

"I told her that when she looks to me, she should see God. I told her that someday, she will have a relationship with God much like she has with me - that I might be her father on earth, but God is our Heavenly Father. And whereas I might not always be perfect, God is perfect always. If she learns to trust me, obey me, and love me - she will someday understand how to trust, obey, and love God as well."
In other words, Darkstar218 says, his job as a father is to prepare her daughter for submission to God by teaching her to submit to him.

Interesting, huh?

Especially when you consider what the Bible says this about God:
"No man may see me and live" [Exodus 33:20]
As the Raving Atheist points out today:
"Look, omnibenevolence has it limits. It’s not that God’s a paranoid, violent psychotic, just don’t fucking stare at it or it will massacre you, okay??? Oh, and the word 'man' in 'no man may see me and live' includes women this time because there is no Hebrew word for 'person,' and because God likes to kill women."
Extreme? I don't think so. Consider this passage in the Bible, where God threatens to punish King David for disobedience:
"This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight." [2 Samuel 12:11]
A while ago, I asked Darkstar218 about the morality of threatening this rape (or at the very least sexual immorality, then subject to the death penalty) as punishment. He replied:
"Most of the time, we focus on David’s sin for sleeping with Bathsheba.However, doesn’t the door swing both ways?We are not certain from Scripture, but there is no mention of Bathsheba resisting David’s advances.Could it be that she chose to sin as well and needs to be punished?2.) We are also uncertain by the passage in 2 Samuel 12 that the wives that are taken by Absalom were raped.On the contrary, we know that Absalom was known for being very handsome and most likely adored by women.Could it be that this punishment hurt and embarrassed David as King more so than anyone else?... Even if the incident was painful for David’s wives, it don’t see how that detracts from an Absolute Morality in the least."
In other words, Darkstar218 argues, God can do anything he wants, including breaking his own rules, because he is the absolute authority. He is, after all, God.

While I have no doubt that Darkstar218 is a loving and capable father, I find it disturbing that he expects absolute obedience from his children... And that he uses as his model for absolute authority an Old Testament view of God who his subject to no limits in His enforcement of that authority.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Just who is immoral in the evolution debate?

You can't look far in the debate over evolution, creationism and intelligent design without finding some warning about morality.

The writer Christopher Hitchens recently described conservative Christian extremists as a "creeping and creepy movement" that is "trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent."

The creationist Reverend Jerry Falwell thundered in reply: "That is certainly a simplistic - and wildly exaggerated - way to define the efforts of religious conservatives who want to preserve their rapidly disappearing rights in this great land... Mr. Hitchens has specifically gone to great lengths to define creationism as 'nonsense' and to belittle those who dare to disbelieve that the universe just randomly appeared."

He went on to praise Answers in Genesis (AiG) founder Ken Ham, who states, "If you can't trust the Bible's history, how can you trust its morality?" and added "Christians must be equipped to defend their faith and be prepared to give an answer to everyone who challenges them on their views."

But how moral is creationism?

In answer to an accusation of dishonesty in a book it promotes, AiG replied that its opponents must "justify the very concept of honesty if we are just rearranged pond scum."

I had a similar recent experience with creationist columnist Bonnie Alba. I pointed out a recent article of hers on evolution was blatantly wrong, and asked her about the Biblical prohibition on bearing false witness. She answered "There can be no meaning of what I write or the commandments of God for a humanist or an atheist since all is relative, is it not?". I asked her how that justified her own behaviour. She did not answer.

There is something insidiously nasty at work here.

These Conservative Christians say that without creationism there can be no morality. They conveniently ignore the facts that every human culture has morality and that evolutionary theory provides ample explanations for moral and altruistic behaviour. We can even see apparent examples of such behaviour in the animal world.

These Creationists also deliberately ignore the fact that organisations representing more than half of the Christian world say that there is no conflict between an earth that is billions of years old; standard evolutionary theory; and their faith. And they mislead their followers by pretending that any more than a tiny portion of scientists see that there is any "controversy" in evolutionary theory.

But it is not just creationists who push this false claim that only they can be moral - and who are dishonest about the beliefs of other Christians.

Philip Johnson, a lawyer and leading member of the Intelligent Design movement, says: "The fundamental and most far-reaching assumption of Darwinism is that life is the product of forces that are impersonal and purposeless - that life is a cosmic accident... This is a philosophy that strikes most Americans as false, not just fundamentalists. If Christians frame the debate that way, we can't be marginalized." And there is the key to this dishonesty.

The leaders of the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements have a vested interest in misleading the public over the beliefs of other Christians and the overwhelming scientific support for evolution.

The ignorance they preach is repeated - deliberately or otherwise - throughout the creationist and ID movements.

Please understand - I am not saying that Creationists and ID supporters are insincere in their beliefs. I am only saying that they are misguided in their actions and motives. And and, by bearing false witness against science and other Christians, they are behaving immorally.

There simply is no need for this behavior. Religious leaders hardly come more conservative and "Biblically moral" than the new Catholic Pope Benedict XVI.

As a Cardinal under Pope John Paul II, the then Joseph Ratzinger presided over the church's International Theological Commission. This stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."

Oh course, he believes that evolution is the product of divine will - but that is a question beyond the scope of science.

If Pope Benedict XVI can preach Biblical morality without relying on dishonest statements about science or the beliefs of other Christians, then why can't the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements?

If Jerry Falwell, Ken Ham, Philip Johnson and others wish to push their brand of Biblical Morality, they should do it honestly. They should openly recognise that the vast majority of scientists, and a great many Christians, see no "controversy" in evolution.

For now, the political influence of the Creationist and ID movements its easy to see. Publicly, President Bush may say that "the jury is still out" on evolution - but his science advisor John Marburger is clear: "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory... I don't regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic."

The American public, led by well intentioned but misguided religious leaders, haven't quite realised that yet.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Evolution "warning labels"

The Panda's Thumb has a great piece NCSE files amicus brief on the history of evolution "warning labels" which has this eye-popping stat on the relative scientific support for & against evolution:

In comparison to the Discovery Institute’s forty-eight (48) scientist signatories, the Science Organizations Amicus Brief is signed by fifty-six (56) science organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  In comparison to the eight (8) biologists who signed the DI brief, the Science Organizations Amicus Brief is signed by about twenty-one (21) biology organizations.  Altogether, hundreds of thousands of scientists are represented by this collection of organizations.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Silly Humans - Atheist Dominion?

That's right kiddies, the atheists have taken over America and are trying to bury your God and eradicate your right to worship it!

Well, unless you want to acknowledge reality.

In the latest Associated Press/Ipsos poll on religious attitudes within 10 industrialized nations, Americans came out as the most willfully delusioned people in the group...

The poll shows that around 70% of the US population have no doubts that God exists. The figure for the UK is just 23%.

More stats from 2003 and before are available on my Facts For Fundamentalists page.


The irony is that fundamentalists surely acknowledge that nature, the human brain, and reason are among God's gifts. What could be more Godly, for example, than the attempt by contemporary scientists to understand the creation of the universe by observing the heavens themselves? Did sacred revelation suddenly cease 2000 years ago? Indeed, it seems egotistical and presumptuous to allow creationist dogma to trump the evidence from both God's universe and our God-given brains. Why do fundamentalists so despise the notion that we are connected through evolution to the rest of God's Earthly creations, that indeed God created humans and evolution is the way he/she did it?

Creationism promotes the worst form of pollution, namely pollution of minds. A person who is convinced that eternal damnation is a possible consequence of rational thinking is likely to shun rationality, and thus forfeit the very faculty that most makes us human. As the Enlightenment forerunner Galileo put it, 'I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.' America's future will be dim if fundamentalists win their home-grown holy war.

Creationism, Modern Times, by Art Hobson, NWA Times 28 May 2005

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bonnie Alba's War On Culture

Bonnie Alba's latest salvos in the Culture Wars are attacks on "Evolutionary Psychology". *

Her previous writings have shown her to be ignorant both about evolution (which she apparently opposes) and "Intelligent Design" (which she purports to support). This time, she keeps things subjective. Only those who believe that their "mind-soul will survive death", she says, "will see the merits" of her arguments.

Bonnie's position is essentially this: science alone cannot achieve absolute knowledge. Its truths are always provisional, in that other information may come along to change them. Therefore science alone cannot be trusted to make moral judgements. When faced with questions of science and morality, Bonnie argues, we should ask what is "beneficial for the progress of mankind?"

But why is this controversial? Morality and ethics have been debated by philosophers for thousands of years. Does one really need to believe in an afterlife to hold that there are moral and ethical questions which science alone cannot answer?

Bonnie certainly thinks so. She recently wrote: "Churches and Christians must teach their young people the difference between the worldviews so they are better prepared to reach the conclusive, objective biblical truth of who God is and what he says about himself and his creation."

In other words, Bonnie argues, religious truth is "objective", and can override the "subjective" truths of science. Now, as Bonnie points out, I cannot prove or disprove the existence of anything beyond the physical world. But I can demonstrate that she is dishonest in her arguments. Bonnie claims, for example: "Today’s scientists see no boundaries in proposing their singular unethical theories".

If that statement sounds ridiculous, then that's because it is. If you have visions of thousands of mad atheistic scientists roaming the streets looking for embryos to experiment on and animals to have sex with, then good - that's precisely what Bonnie wants you to imagine.

"Darwin’s theory", she continues, "is... a produced-in-the-brain idea which threatens to overtake all of humankind to dissatisfactorily explain all things".

But wait - isn't Darwin's theory accepted by the Catholic Church, an august and conservative organisation with a moral line very similar to that championed by Ms Alba? Well yes, it is.

The flaw in Bonnie's magical thinking is this... She claims that her basic beliefs in Christianity and the Bible are objectively "true". But how can she be so sure? If her "truth" comes from religious revelation, then who is to say that it is more true than any other claim of "truth" from religious revelation - such as that claimed by Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, abortion clinic bombers or anybody else?

The real truth is that objectivity is something we must strive for - not something that we can claim to have by default.

Bonnie believes the Bible teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the evidence is conclusive - the Earth is vastly older than that.

Does that make the Bible "wrong"? Of course not. But it does make Bonnie's interpretation of the Bible wrong. And if the "truth" of the Bible is dependent upon one's interpretation of it, then that "truth" is clearly relative - not absolute.

The irony is that while Bonnie claims to champion absolute morality and truth, her own words and behaviour speak of morality and truth being relative. If her arguments were "absolutely true" she wouldn't have to pretend that only those who believe in an afterlife "will see the merits of" them.

There is a real moral debate about what is acceptable and what is not in science, whether that means animal testing, embryo research or genetic screening.

But it is not as facile as Bonnie pretends. She says that Evolutionary Psychology's "desire is to correct present adaptations of natural selection and eliminate God, religion, morality, values, standards and let 'right behavior' select itself -- their way. Most of us will fight tooth and nail to keep what has worked for civilization, knowing that without rules and morality, we have chaos and anarchy."

But in truth it is Bonnie and her ilk who wish to ignore "what has worked for civilisation". Her claim that "Science" calls for an abandonment of "rules and morality" is ignorant, bigoted and dishonest.

If we follow Bonnie and insist that the only "truth" comes from her interpretation of the Bible, then we are stuck with only her "truths" as a guide in this moral debate. Bonnie insists that we must reject everything else that humanity has learned over thousands of years in many different cultures. She insists that we must believe only as she believes - and that it does not matter if we are dishonest about what others believe, because they have less of a claim on "truth" than believers in her "true" religion.

Ask yourself: Is that beneficial for the progress of mankind?



The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and Bonnie Alba, PTET, May 20, 2005

Scientists Speeding Up Darwin's Natural Selection?, Bonnie Alba, May 23, 2005

That Old Magic - Evolutionary Psychology, Part I, Bonnie Alba, June 01, 2005

Nature Vs. Nurture - Evolutionary Psychology, Part II, Bonnie Alba, June 08, 2005

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Scientific support continues to elude Intelligent Design

Over at Sciencewatch, my friend Darrick Dean makes this observation:

"While we have seen no science in the journals supporting young-earthism what-so-ever, here is what may be #200,899,999 evidence for an old universe..."
That got me thinking. Just how much evidence is there for Intelligent Design? Interestingly, the ID movement set itself a clear goal on this point. The Wedge Document, made public in 1997, Set ID a "five year" objective of "One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows". That five year period ended in at least 2002. And what has been published in support of ID?
"Although Davis and Kenyon... claim that intelligent design represents a viable alternative to neodarwinian evolution, the scientific literature does not support that claim. Compared with several thousand papers on evolution, the combined searches produced only 37 citations containing the keyword "intelligent design." A closer look at those 37 references suggests that none reports scientific research using intelligent design as a biological theory."

George W Gilchrist, The Elusive Scientific Basis of Intelligent Design Theory March 16, 2001

"Ultimately, whether a scientific issue is controversial or not is determined by the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals. When the ratio is 1:1, there's a controversy. When it's 3:1, there's a dominant view and a more heterodox but still respectable view. When it's 100:1, it's safe to say that there's no controversy. In the case of evolution vs. creationism, if I had to bet I'd say that the ratio is in the vicinity of 10,000:1 in general and 1:0 in Nature and Science (i.e. no pro-ID papers have been published in either of these journals)."

Alon Levy, commenting on Lisa Peters is a hero!, at Pharyngula, 14-MAY-05 at 11:39
When faced with this lack of scientific papers supporting ID, its supporters generally claim that ID scientists are "censored" or ostracised by their peers. (The case of Richard Sternberg is often given as an example). But the thing is:Even "Intelligent Design" Scientists admit that ID is not yet a "Theory".

If there's no science for ID supporters to publish, then what is there to censor!?

Given the all but absolute lack of scientific support for "Intelligent Design", there surely can't be long left before its "supporters" give up on it as a theory all together...


Update: I'll link to this post from my ongoing discussion with “bareshiyth”.

Update 2: I meant to link to the Index to Creationist Claims page on Peer review & Intelligent design...

reDiscovery Institute

The reDiscovery Institute maintains a slick web page, and tirelessly promotes archaic religious dogma elegantly dressed in modern scientific terminology, to school boards, museums, theaters, and editorial pages across America...

The reDiscovery Institute urges adherence to John Phillipson's Ice Pick Gambit: "Until we gain total control, keep the old testament part of our agenda quiet because it frightens normal people." The reDiscovery Institute is backed by members, a board, and an ultra-conservative, ultra-rich, California savings and loan heir who believes that the American democracy should be replaced with biblical theocracy.

This parody really hits the spot. Their New Periodic Table is just genius...

ID in their own words: Dembski

A recent pronouncement from Dr Dembski on ID has been causing a bit of a furore over at The Panda's Thumb...

As for your example, I'm not going to take the bait. You're asking me to play a game: "Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position." ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it's not ID's task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002
In other words, Dembski claims that the more he studies ID, the less it is able (or required) to explain. Or, as Kize Catson points out in a TO post, 'ID really *is* short for "I Dunno".'

Not that Dembski's dance will have any effect on ID believers. In my experience, most ID believers have very little clue what ID actually does and doesn't say. Hey ho.

On a seperate note, thanks to Rich for heads up that the Smithsonian has backtracked entirely on the reported "co-sponsorship" of a supposedly "pro-ID" film. I'm sure that Darrick Dean will provide a clarification/update on this story on his Sciencewatch Blog. Not! ;>

And finally, “bareshiyth” has moved my discussion with him over at Alcaide's Cafe over to it's own featured thread. Which is nice!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Friday Update

My daily look at RobotWisdom led me to the Harper's Index for May 2005. This contains the following eye-popping stats:

  • Annual cost of all sixteen U.N. peacekeeping missions currently underway : $3,870,000,000[United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (N.Y.C.)]
  • Monthly cost of the U.S. occupation of Iraq : $4,100,000,000[U.S. Department of Defense]
  • Revenue from Iraqi oil sales that the CPA could not account for, according to a 2005 audit : $8,800,000,000[Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Arlington, Va.)]

  • Estimated number of U.S. intelligence reports on Iraq that were based on a single defector : 100[Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington)]
  • Number of times the defector had ever been interviewed by U.S. intelligence agents : 0
Other interesting stats refer to anti-american feeling in the Muslim world:
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March, of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey : 1[D&R (Istanbul)]
  • Rank of Mein Kampf : 2
Scary stuff... But how many people know that much of the nonsensical anti-american propaganda still circulating in the Middle East came from the CIA, back in the 70s when it was propping up the Egyptian leader General Nasser?

Talk about reaping what you sew...

And on that point, check out the conservative commentator William S. Lind's piece on how Donald Rumsfeld's legacy will be a wrecked the US army. (Update: Also check out Lind's article Turkish Delight...)

Moving over to Sciencewatch, the indomitable Darrick Dean seems to have disabled comments on his blog entirely. This allows him to post his usual diet of anti-evolution & YEC-bashing diatribes without having to bother to defend anything he says. How nice for him :-)

My favourite post is the one where he invites his readers to "Join astronomer Hugh Ross, biochemist Fuz Rana, JPL physicist David Rogstad, physicist Rodney Whitefield, nuclear engineer Jeffery Kirkbride and others at the Cosmic Fingerprints: Evidence of Design conference..." He says "While skeptics want you to think intelligent design is some construct of mindless religious fanatics, these scientists will show you how design is science." How nice. Of course, Darrick doesn't mention that the scientists he lists all (being members of Reasons To Believe) hold that "The Bible is therefore our supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses." After all, if Darrick did that, people might think that these scientists were "religious fanatics" :-)

In another post, Darrick claims that "...the Smithsonian Institution will co-sponsor a viewing of a film intended to undercut scientific materialism..." For those interested, Panda's Thumb have the real rather grim story here: Smithsonian Warming to ID?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaanway... I'm still talking to "bareshiyth" on the Alcaide's Cafe blog; and I've also posted in a fun discussion on agnosticism & rationality on the Scottish Nous philosophy blog.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

The "National Conservative Weekly" Human Events Online has a rather hilarious piece entitled Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. It claims that "The Evil Empire of the Soviet Union put the [Communist] Manifesto into practice"; "The [Kinsey] reports were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy"; and "The Nazis loved Nietzsche". Aah, the wonders of anti-intellectuallism... But hey, who cares about nuances, contexts, arguments and facts when you have mindless prejudice to guide you ;>

Thanks to Fark for the link.

Scottish Nous: Evolution Necessary?

Here's a heavy post from the Scottish Nous philosophy Blog, entitled Evolution Necessary?:

Dr. David Deutsch is a renowned Oxford quantum physicist (winner of the Paul Dirac Medal) who has recently defended a bizarre physical view known as Omega Point Theory, a theory that I take it was originally expounded by Frank Tipler.  I was sent the link to this article via e-mail and briefly commented on it in response...

...What's worse is that Deutsch has to conclude that evolution (perhaps not our evolution but the evolution of some other beings in our universe or "some other universe") is/was NECESSARY. That's ridiculous. It's obviously (intuitively) merely POSSIBLE that intelligent beings evolved. If one can derive the conclusion that intelligent beings must exist necessarily from any premises, at least one of those premises is false.
It's tough reading for a layman like me, but in short the article argues against "deterministic" views of science, evolution and the universe (i.e. that there is any philisophical necessity for our existence). It argues against extreme interpretations of what the reviewed article refers to as "the Darwin-Dawkins theory of evolution" - but the same philosophical objections clearly apply to "Intelligent Design" theory. It shows that philosophers and scientists can be skeptical without letting their brains fall out...

What is Your World View? (updated)

I don't usually like these "quizes", but this is interesting:

You scored as Modernist. Modernism represents the thought that science and reason are all we need to carry on. Religion is unnecessary and any sort of spirituality halts progress. You believe everything has a rational explanation. 50% of Americans share your world-view.









Cultural Creative








What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

(Thanks to Robot Wisdom for the link)

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More from Darrick

My correspondence with Darrick Dean is becoming more and more surreal. (See his bizarre comments on my posts here and here).

He's now taken to posting about me on his blog. He refers to me as an unnamed "skeptic". Of course, he doesn't provide links to what I actually write myself, or allow me to comment on his posts. Heaven forbid! If he did that, people would realise that he is deliberately misrepresenting what I actually say.

In one post, Scientific Method's Link to Christianity, he writes:

One skeptic recently made the emabarassing claim to me recently that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of the scientific method. Sorry, try studying the history of science. Only with blinders would you not see the influence of Christianity on modern science

The Historic Alliance of Christianity and Science
Christianity and the Origin of Modern Science

Honesty doesn't seem to be Darrick's strong point. What happened, as related in my post Darrick Dean Has A Statement Of Faith, was this...

I asked Darrick how he could claim to be "scientific" when he claimed that the Bible was the "supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses".

He answered (or non-answered) "You are probably unaware that the modern scientific method was derived from biblical pinciples of study and 'testing all things.'"

I replied "According to Wikipedia's article on the Scientific Method, its beginnings can be dated back to at least 1,600 BCE. (The article does not mention the Bible once ;>). I can't find any reference to the Bible being the source of the Scientific Method. Perhaps Darrick can provide me with one. No? I thought not."

Let's be clear about this... Darrick's original claim was that the scientific method came from "biblical principles". His claim now is that I said "that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of the scientific method". That isn't the same thing at all! And as I said, he doesn't link to the previous correspondence or enable me to reply on his blog. Why not? Because if he did, people would realise that he is a lying, weasely toad.

In any event, he's now provided some references (linked above)... But while they point out that the early "modern scientists" were devout Christians (which is hardly controversial) they do nothing to show that the scientific method itself was derived from Biblical principles... Indeed, many of the scientists mentioned in these articles (Copernicus and Galileo especially) were persecuted by Christianity for their beliefs. Newton, Kepler and Pascal were mystics with very odd and unorthodox views of Christianity. None of these men were exactly poster boys for the church in their time...

But then again, neither is Darrick.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Thursday Update

Thanks also to Rich for these great links...

There may be some scientists who do not agree with every part of all of... [standard evolutionary] theories as they now exist, and no scientist believes that we have learned all that there is to learn about any of these theories. But the vast majority of scientists believe that the basic theories are correct...

Laurie Hess Lititz, What Scientists Go Through, Rednova, 24 May 2005

School boards across the nation face increasing pressure to allot instructional time in science classes to "intelligent design." ID’s proponents assert that life on earth and the universe itself were intelligently designed. In some states, teachers face demands to incorporate criticism of evolutionary theory into biology classes. Proliferating in community discussions and in the media are statements declaring evolution and ID as equally meritorious, insisting on fairness, and urging, "Let the students decide."

School board members responding to these pressures are prone to confuse biological fact with religious belief. The situation requires that they obtain sound advice regarding appropriate biological education for our future citizens.

Mynga Futrell, Ph.D., Objectivity, Accuracy and Balance in Teaching About Religion, Religion News, 25 May 2005

I've also updated my Facts For Fundamentalists, and am talking to "bareshiyth" on the Alcaide's Cafe blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Answering Darrick

Darrick Dean has responded to my post to him of 10 May.

His A Response to a Naturalism Evangelist is a spectacular example of Fundamentalist evasion, hand waving and irony-meter-shattering doublethink.

He will not, apparently, allow me to post this response or even a link to it from his blog.

Darrick Dean:
I have rarely seen such disconnected reasoning as in Ptet’s response to my posts.
Given what follows, that is a rather bizarre statement...

Darrick Dean:
He seems to think because of a statement he cut and pasted from ARN doesn’t claim ID theory is empirical, that it can’t be. Really? Claiming there is no other possibility than ID is not invalid simply because ARN doesn’t claim it, it's valid by virtue of the facts. The probability of chance or evolution creating the fine-tuned constants of biochemical complexity or the big bang are zero. Now because Ptet hasn’t bothered to study ID in-depth he obviously hasn’t come across such things, so in his mind they can’t be true because what he has read hasn’t said so. Bizarre. For more on fine-tuning see Creator and the Cosmos and Nature’s Destiny. For more on testable ID see Origins of Life.
Just wait a minute... My claim was not that ID "isn't empirical". It was that Darrick had not established that ID left "no other possibility" than design.

And he hasn't.

Hugh Ross does not claim that the "probability of chance or evolution creating the fine-tuned constants of biochemical complexity or the big bang are zero" and it is ludicrous to claim, as Darrick does, that "there are no presumptions are involved".

At the extreme, Ross claims that these things are so improbable that they could take much longer than the lifetime of the Universe to occur. That is not the same as the odds being zero.

And Ross's calculations are riddled with ridiculous presumptions.

For examples, see the analysis by the anti-evolution Christian Bolton Davidheiser (Ph.D., Zoology) A Statement Concerning The Ministry Of Dr. Hugh Ross on the Bible.Ca website ; and Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations by Dr Ian Musgrave, Senior Lecturer in Experiment & Clinical Pharmacology at Adelaide University.

Ross (like his follower Darrick) subscribes to the belief that "The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses." He specifically excludes even the possibility that the Bible could be wrong. How's that for a presumption...

Michael Denton's work contains similar flaws.

For a very beautiful discussion of the issues involved here from a working biologist, see sweetnes_n_light's The Impossibility of Evolution, where he provides this analogy:
"This man is standing in the middle of an airport, with hundreds of planes flying overhead. He is currently talking to a group of aerospace engineers, some of whom have worked on designing actual spacecraft. And he is telling them, "I get frustrated when you guys cannot see the impossibility of making a flying machine heavier than air".
Darrick is that man.

Remember... Both Darrick and I are arguing from authority here. Neither of us are physicists or biologists.

But I can point to thousands upon thousands of working, credentialed scientists working in physics and Earth and life scientists who have no problem whatsoever with the standard evolutionary understanding of evolution. There are a great many Christians amongst them.

Standard evolutionary theory is taught in the Biology departments of every non-Fundamentalist University the world over. Can Darrick point to one single university biology department (which does not insist that a religious work is the "final authority in all matters") which teaches Intelligent Design? Of course he can't.

As for physics and the Big Bang, just who the hell is Hugh Ross? He's hardly a leader in the field. How can he be an authority of what physicists say?

What about Lee Smolin or Brian Greene or Ed Witten or even Steven Hawking? None of them think that the formation of the Universe is "impossible" without an intelligent designer.

Darrick Dean:
...Dembski claims there is an intelligent cause based on the evidence. This is contrary to evolutionists who are still hoping for science to provide evidence for their predetermined construct of the world. See Design Revolution or Intelligent Design.
Note that Darrick neatly sidesteps the issue that Dembski most definitely does not claim that "there is no other possibility" than intelligent design.

Darrick Dean:
I wrote "Virtually no ID theorists hide their agreement with the age of the universe. Virtually none agree with evolution of species over time. Those whom do things are in the minority." ...

Ptet tries to prove his "contradictions" by two limited quotes. Johnson is an old-earth creationist who has avoided the issue to avoid offending young-earthers. I have taken issue with this elsewhere (Chapter 15 of my book), of course Ptet wouldn’t know that, being it's counter to his claims. In fact I have been very critical of ID’s refusal to directly tackle YECism. They bypass it by assuming it's wrong (which it is). In any case, virtually all of the leading ID theorists are old-earth creationists (including Johnson, Dembski, Behe, etc.) Johnson only respects YECs for their discussions on evolution. Rarely do you see YECs at the forefront of ID. Claim one stands.
The sound you hear is Darrick desperately shifting the goalposts. I fully accept that most of the leading ID Theorists reject a "Young Earth". My point is that they avoid talking about this in public.

He has neatly ignored this section of my post:
"...my original point was that IDers are slippery about what elements of mainstream science they actually believe in. This way they ensure the maximum possible base of support - even if it leads to a lot of confusion amongst ID adherents (and everyone else) about what ID actually says."
The YEC organisation Answers In Genesis has a specific page on its website on this point (AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement). They write
"Many of our supporters have asked us repeatedly for our position on the IDM, so this document is in response to that..."
Why would it be necessary for a YEC organisation to comment on ID if the ID theorists themselves were upfront about rejecting a "Young Earth"? They proceed with some telling statements:
"Since the only thing in their platform which comes close to being a commonly-shared presupposition is a negative (naturalism is wrong), they can provide no coherent philosophical framework on which to base the axioms necessary to interpret evidence relevant to the historical sciences (paleontology, historical geology, etc). So they can never offer a ‘story of the past’, which is one more reason why they must continually limit the debate to one of mechanism - and then only in broad, general terms (designed vs undesigned)..."

"They generally refuse to be drawn on the sequence of events, or the exact history of life on Earth or its duration, apart from saying, in effect, that it ‘doesn’t matter’..."

"Some who are prominent in the IDM appear to be sympathetic to the Bible’s account of Creation. However, if the movement should ever make the strategic inroads it hopes for, then our concern would be that any of its leaders who might later identify themselves with Genesis belief would lay themselves open to charges of having been publicly deceptive..."
The problem is compounded by leading YEC's like Albert Mohler and Jerry Falwell (and a host of happy amateurs like Bonnie Alba) who are all to happy to support ID as a movement without worrying about the age of the earth.

Darrick Dean:
Behe’s acceptance of evolution of species over time is not nearly as radical as evolutionists. Behe, who considers himself a theistic evolutionist, actually sounds more like a champion of limited microevolution than macroevolution. Of course genetics is now showing that many species thought related are not so. ID supporters are only 'slippery' in their beliefs when evolution supporters decide to not to study the details and pick and choose a few out-of-context quotes. Claim 2 stands. See Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design.
There's no argument on the first point... Behe is essentially a theistic evolutionist.

But the second point is hilarious... "genetics is now showing that many species thought related are not so". Huh? Sure, genetics is clarifying the relationships between species - and many superficially similar species are being shown not to be related as was previously thought. But that is science. Scientific understanding changes in the light of new evidence.

The authority Darrick quotes to support his contention on genetics is Thomas Woodward, a " professor at Trinity College of Florida, where he teaches the history of science, communication, and systematic theology." How does that make him an expert on genetics?

The fact is that geneticists overwhelmingly believe that genetics is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that exists for common descent. As the Wikipedia article on Evolution notes:
"Today, the theory of evolution has been strongly confirmed by the science of DNA genetics. For example, every living thing makes use of nucleic acids as its genetic material, and uses the same twenty amino acids as the building blocks for proteins. All organisms use the same genetic code (with some extremely rare and minor deviations) to translate nucleic acid sequences into proteins. Because the selection of these traits is somewhat arbitrary, their universality strongly suggests common ancestry."
Can Darrick point to anything more than three or four exceptions to the thousands of working geneticists who consider their field to be a strong (but certainly not the only) evidence for evolution & common descent? Of course he can't. That's why he just makes up his arguments as he goes along.

Darrick Dean:
Reality isn’t a democracy. The "overwhelming majority" once thought plate tectonics, the big bang model and impact events were wrong. Science isn’t about popularity. If it was, cold fusion would be "true." And considering that mankind appears in the record fully formed and advanced, genetically unrelated to other hominids, what does that say of the "scientists" who claim common descent? Most naturalists can't get their minds around the finds of genetics that have destroyed their theory. Naturalists claim: "But 90-some % of our genes are the same with primates!" If that's what you think, you don't understand genetics.
If wishes were horses, huh? But who is wishing here? I've already demonstrated that Darrick's view of what geneticists believe has no relation to reality.

And "Mankind appears in the record fully formed and advanced". What kind of gibberish is that? What about Sahelanthropus tchadensis? Or Orrorin tugenensis? Or Ardipithecus ramidus? Or Australopithecus anamensis? Or Australopithecus afarensis? Or Kenyanthropus platyops? Or Australopithecus africanus? Or Australopithecus garhi? Or Australopithecus aethiopicus? Or Australopithecus robustus? Or Australopithecus boisei? Or Homo habilis? Or Homo georgicus? Or Homo erectus? Or Homo ergaster? Or Homo antecessor? Or Homo heidelbergensis? Or Homo neanderthalensis? Or Homo floresiensis?

(Thanks to the TO Fossil Hominids FAQ for the list ;>)

The evidence in favour of common descent and evolution is massively greater now that it was a century ago.

Look. The evidence is overwhelming that evolution has occurred. That is why it is a fact. Behe accepts that it did occur. Other IDers do not. The question in evolution is "how did it occur". That's why its also a theory. We know some things. We don't know other things. But that is science. Does the fact that we don't understand Gravity entirely make gravity false? Or does the fact that we don't understand aerodynamics entirely mean that we can't build airplanes?

Darrick's complete and utter denial of reality seems to be nearly complete.

As I've said repeatedly, the main block to his thinking seems to be his total inability to accept that a great many Christians have no problem reconciling their faith with standard evolutionary theory.

He has swallowed hook, line and sinker the old creationist lie that "evolution" equates with atheism...

Darrick Dean:
No, but why is it that the world’s foremost atheists use evolution to support their belief? Without it, there is no atheism. Such an obvious piece of logic. More on the bankruptcy of atheism here.
Bangs head on desk.

Darrick, yet again, completely, dishonestly, and frankly bizarrely ignores the fact many Christians see no conflict between their faith and the standard scientific understanding of evolution. How many? How about organisations representing more than half of the Christians on the entire planet.

As the internationally renowned theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss recently pointed out:
"Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the church's International Theological Commission, which stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."
Yet again it's a case of:
Darrick: All evolutionists are atheists!
PTET: What about the Christian evolutionists?
Darrick: Yes, but all real evolutionists are atheists!
And he accuses me of a logical fallacy...

Here's another. Darrick seems to think that appeals to authority are valid when they are supporting ID, but not when they oppose it...

Darrick Dean:
No, I’m pointing out your blatant logical error. You tout 'authority' to support your view, but pretend no authority exists for the other side. I have said appeals to authority are fundamentally meaningless. It’s quality of scholarship that counts.
That is utterly surreal. Firstly, what does Darrick do but ignore authorities who do not agree with his position? Especially if they are Christian authorities... Secondly, what gives any validity to Darrick's authorities for Intelligent Design? Their "quality of scholarship" certainly hasn't convinced the overwhelming majority of scientists otherwise. And who judges "quality of scholarship? Darrick? Or, perhaps, other scholars in the field?

Darrick is not an expert in physics or biology. Either am I. Our arguments rely almost entirely on authorities.

An appeal to a valid authority is not a logical fallacy. An appeal to an invalid authority is a logical fallacy.

Darrick complains that I "ignore" authorities. How many would that be? 1% of them? 5% of them? Certainly no more than that. How many does that leave him ignoring?

And what "quality of scholarship" is he referring to?

Even ID theorists admit that there is no scholarship to support Intelligent Design as an alternative to standard evolutionary theory.

Plate Tectonics, the Big Bang model and Impact Events are all generally accepted because they have stood the scientific test of time. Cold fusion isn't because it didn't. Evolution has so it did... Except for one small thing - it conflicts with the theology of a small number of unscrupulous theologians who are prepared to lie outright to their flocks (including poor Darrick) in order to protect their "inerrant" view of the Bible.

(There are, of course, non-religious cranks who oppose evolution too... But then there are cranks who do not recognise Plate Tectonics, the Big Bang model and Impact Events).

Darrick Dean:
...ID has always been foremost about practicing good science, which evolutionists refuse to do. Instead they are busy framing the debate as 'science vs. religion.' People aren’t buying it anymore.

Ptet is a classic example of a naturalist evangelist who only studies what confirms his beliefs and holds to the naturalist talking points like they are gospel. Just like the young-earth creationists, naturalists live in isolation: They have already decided they are right and anything contrary can be labeled as religion or heresy. The point of this site has always been to leave these a priori assumptions behind. But the dedicated zealots on both sides probably never will. Their life’s work is at risk.
This from Darrick, who believes that "The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses."

This from Darrick, who cannot provide any evidence to support his claims that ID Theory leaves "no other possibility" than design; or that genetics disproves evolution, or even that "people aren't buying" evolution "any more".

This from Darrick, who in post after post after post, squirms and wriggles and dances and evades and does anything but admit that even one single Christian could ever possibly accept the standard scientific explanation of evolution.

This from Darrick, who won't allow me to post this response or even a link to this response from his blog...

Sorry, but I'm done. My irony meter can't take any more...


Updated for typos ;>

Fruit Trees: Genesis's Nightmare

Darrick Dean writes on his Sciencewatch Blog under the heading Genesis: The Skeptic's Nightmare:

The probability of the writer of Genesis getting science right 1000s of years before scientists figured it out is, well, zero. Yet the writer did get it right. Is Genesis evidence that a designer inspired the Bible? That God is who the Bible says he is? Find out in The Genesis Question.
I'm not sure why he's chosen now to plug a four year old book. In addition, he won't allow comments on his blog entry (or perhaps he just won't allow me to comment).

In any event, the Genesis account in the Bible most definitely does not "get it right" (and the odds of "guessing" the right order are certainly not zero!)

Genesis 1:1-20 says that God created fruit trees two creation days before the first mention of animal life.

Scientific understanding, on the other hand, is that the first plants with roots (ferns) didn't appear until around 350 million years ago - 120 million years after millipedes appeared as the first land animals. (And you think it's been a long time since lunch ;>).

The only way to can reconcile Genesis with scientific understanding is to add words to the Bible which weren't there to begin with.

This is discussed on the Christian American Scientific Affiliation website:
As late as 1835, respected commentators, speaking of Gen. 1:11,12, said, "here we find the earth bearing a great abundance of fruit, probably ripe fruit, before the sun and moon were made." Only with the coming of modern geology was the Church led to believe that Gen. 1:11,12 was saying that fruit trees did not come into existence until after the creation of fish and animals on Day 5. It seems evident that the concordists are reading modern science into the biblical text


It is time for evangelicals to lay aside extra-biblical definitions of biblical inspiration, and agree with Jesus that inspired Scripture can contain concessions. Genesis 1 is a concession. Or, as a modern missionary, aware of the imperative need for divine revelation to be clothed in the terms of the culture to which it comes, has explained: Genesis 1 is a case of divine contextualization.

Paul H. Seely, The First Four Days of Genesis in Concordist Theory and in Biblical Context, From PSCF 49 (June 1997): 85-95.
That doesn't sound like much of a nightmare to me.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

'Intelligent design' theory wasn't ready for prime time

The Smirking Chimp blog put me on to a great piece by Randy Scholfield in the Witchita Eagle of May 06. He watched the Kansas Education Board's hearings on evolution:

Jonathan Wells... star ID witness, is (scratch, scratch) a Moonie who once wrote that it was partly the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's religious dogma that prompted him to pursue a science Ph.D. and set out to "devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

But he echoed the other witnesses in admitting that intelligent design was a "young theory" that wasn't ready for classrooms.

"Most scientists disagree with me," he said flatly of his evolution criticisms.

So why is Kansas listening to him for advice on the state science standards?

Under questioning, ID looked less and less like a theory that was ready for prime time.

The Fossil Non-Problem

Here's another cracker from Darrick Dean:

"Many evolution supporters will claim 'fossils support evolution!' It's obvious these people haven't studied science, only the talking points of their leaders. Because if they had studied the science, they would find evolutionists who admit the fossils haven't born out evolution... [S J] Gould went on to push punctuated equilibrium, which tried to explain away the fossil problem. It didn't work because it lacked a mechanism. Other evolutionists didn't like it because it sounded like divine creation."
Gould answered this nonsense back in 1994 in his classic paper Evolution as Fact and Theory:
"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups."
Gould proposed amendments to the then standard understanding of evolution. Many of these amendments provided a better explanation of the data. Over time, the standard understanding of evolution evolved to include those amendments which stood up to academic scrutiny.

How difficult is that to understand? I guess we'd better ask Darrick. Except he's not allowing comments on that particular post. Funny that.

But it gets better. Michael Behe is one of the few ID leading lights who is a real scientist... Let's see what he had to say about the "Fossil Problem", in a post to the talk.origins newgroup in 1996:
"I didn't intend to "dismiss" the fossil record--how could I "dismiss" it? In fact I mention it mostly to say that it can't tell us whether or not biochemical systems evolved by a Darwinian mechanism. My book concentrates entirely on Darwin's mechanism, and simply takes for granted common descent."
It's a good thing that Darrick has "studied science" and not just "the talking points" of his "leaders". Otherwise he might end up making himself look like an idiot.


Darrick and Incomplete Knowledge

Darrick Dean commented:

"because evolutionary knowledge is not yet compete"

When is it going to be complete? Evolutionists have been saying for 150+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some ID supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." But since you blindly believe the talking points the evolutionist evangelists send you, you don't know that.

"Evolution is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief.
How about this?
Our knowledge of how gravity works is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Gravitationalists have been saying for 350+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some gravity supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." "Gravity is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are gravity supporters going to realise the truth that things fall because the invisible dancing pixies want them to be on the ground?
Or this:
Our knowledge of aerodynamics is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Airplane engineers have been saying for 100+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some "powered flight" supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." "Airplanes are possible, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are airplane supporters going to realise that powered flight is simply impossible?
Or this:
Our knowledge of medicine and disease is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Doctors have been saying for 3000+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some doctors have proposed "working hypotheses." "Medicine is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are doctors going to realise the truth that people get ill because they are possessed by demons?
Gee, this is fun :-)


Monday, May 23, 2005

Evolution, Education, and Critical Thought - Lembke

Just to add that Karl Lembke has written a very nice piece dealing with Bonnie Alba's lack of knowledge of science: Evolution, Education, and Critical Thought.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hello World

I submitted my recent piece on Bonnie Alba to OpinionEditorials.com and, guess what, they've published it.

So, hello to everyone who's visiting because of that.

Brent Rasmussen of the fun Unscrewing The Inscrutable blog has been in touch to say he's also written about Bonnie's recent writings - Science Is A Process, Not A Belief. He also points to this wonderfully surreal bit of hatemail:

"if you won't believe Jesus loves you, he will torture you for eternity! Every minute your site is up there, he gets more pissed off."
Says it all, really...

Have a good weekend, everybody!