rational rejection of supernatural mythologies

Essential Whining

 Not content to con reputable scientists into their ridiculous movie about science’s rejection of the IDiocy of so-called ‘intelligent design’ creationism, the producers are now trying to lure logic-challenged students to whine about poor reception of pseudoscience in science classes.

 Those who are not sufficiently well versed in science or logic might continue to be fooled by the ID propaganda, which relies on a very old, and refuted argument to make the illogical proposition that ‘scientific accounts of evolution fail’ and that religiously motivated con artists have something to offer by way of explanation. They don’t. The design argument is based on the irrelevant analogy that human-designed creations are the product of intelligence, so, by their ridiculous reasoning, ‘life could not have arisen by chance and biological complexity could not have evolved by natural processes’. It could and it did, but these fools care nothing for the truth. This argument is unfounded and the claims of ID creationists that they have anything useful to add to scientific knowledge is an unabashed falsehood that rakes in contributions from the terminally deluded.

 Religious fundamentalists are so desperate about the refutation of religious dogma by scientists and philosophers that they must resort to ridiculous ploys such as IDiocy in an attempt to maintain credulity in the ignorant and the credulous. There is no grounds for debate about evolution versus creation because evolution has been overwhelmingly documented as a fact and creationism has been soundly disproven. The scientific theories that explain the mechanisms by which the fact of biological evolution has operated are incomplete but not inaccurate. This is the beauty of science–it is a work in progress, continuously being checked, refined, and verified.

 I do think that there is a place for discussion of IDiocy in university classrooms–disproving ID claims could enliven discussion of the likely mechanisms of abiogenesis, of probability calculations, and of the actual mechanisms of biological evolution; and, the rampant illogic of IDiocy would provide plentiful examples of fallacious logic for discussion of critical thinking. Beyond these applications, IDiocy has absolutely no truth value and no merit for education.

Blogs ~ The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students ~ Expelled: No Intelligence Evident ~

Earlier Blog reactions ~ Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

October 28, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

Essential Deceits

 Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin appears in today’s New York Times.

 Scientists, including Richard Dawkins and Eugenie C. Scott have revealed that their appearance in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was induced under false pretenses. 

 Reputable scientists have eschewed so-called intelligent design since its resurrection by American creationists a decade ago. Yes, resurrection. The argument for design dates back to the Greeks and was last rehashed by Christian apologist William Paley in 1802. This argument from analogy might fool creationists, who are, after all, already fooled, but it fools nobody with two neurons to rub.

 Part of the movies purpose was to whine about rejection of creationist pseudoscience by the scientific community. The rejection continues, and is seconded by NYT’s Cornelia Dean:

“There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.””

The British government has released guidelines concerning the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science classes. “The verdict: they are not science, and they have no place in the curriculum.” Better late than never. It reflects badly on American educators and politicians that they have too long displayed either ignorance of science or cowardly refusal to distinguish scientific reality from religious delusion.

 Of course the makers of Expelled needed to resort to Rampant deception! Eternally outspoken PZ Myers would have enlived the movie, but not in the way that the producers hoped. The arch-deceptionists could not reasonably have expected some legitimate experts on science to otherwise appear in a movie intended to promote unscientific creationist stupidity.

“If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Others might have appeared, but would have been more prepared for deceptiveness-in-interviewing.

Dr. Scott, whose organization advocates for the teaching of evolution and against what it calls the intrusion of creationism and other religious doctrines in science classes, said the filmmakers were exploiting Americans’ sense of fairness as a way to sell their religious views. She said she feared the film would depict “the scientific community as intolerant, as close-minded, and as persecuting those who disagree with them. And this is simply wrong.””

Americans’ sense of fairness? This appears to be confined mostly to atheists who have too long tolerated religious nonsense. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness toward genuinely free speech that they would sooner vote for a Muslim presidential candidate than for an atheist. American fundamentalist theists are so woefully short on a sense of fairness that they presume to tell other how to live their lives on the basis of 2,000 year-old moralistic pronouncements in a book that they attribute to a nonexistent supernatural deity so lacking in omniscience as to have concocted mythology fraught with inconsistency. 

Read more on other sites: Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

September 27, 2007 Posted by | atheism, creationism, education, evolution, fundamentalism, science | 3 Comments

Lies the Biased told us

The Church authorities feared that scientific knowledge would turn people away from religion en masse.

“My knowledge is weak on the immediate response after Darwin published.”

My goodness! Really? It’s so famous that I thought that every educated person in the Western world was aware of at least some of the response.

Darwin predicted the furor – and both his prediction and the furor are quite famous. In England, it was the C.of E., and initially the Royal Academy of Science as well as the universities. British scientists were mostly convinced within a decade of publication of the Origin of Species (1859). The Descent of Man was not published until 1871. I am confident that you are aware of the American “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 and of the fact that American creationists continue to attack Darwinism.

Pictures are sometimes worth a thousand words: Darwin as an ape, cartoon, 1871. A caricature of Charles Darwin from the London Sketchbook, 1874. Caricature of Darwin’s theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. Darwin as a monkey on the cover of La Petite Lune, a Parisian satirical magazine published in the 1880s. There are more cartoons out there and I’m sure that most Westerners have seen them.

“I’m not sure to which Church authorities you refer and I don’t have any evidence as to what they said. You’re statement sound a bit interpretive.”

I read of the reaction of Church authorities somewhere in a book by a Christian religious historian. Accuse him of being interpretive, but I took him to be reporting on the basis of his academic scholarship.  I have three such books and I wish that they were electronically searchable in the way that the Internet is! If they were, then I would give you the exact quote. I’m sure that the topic (not the book) is searchable on Google or another search engine. In the absence of such a facility for finding the original, I shall merely have to ask that you accept me on the word of an unbiased authority. I would not have said it otherwise.

“While you may think they excessively complimentary, it seems you are particularly derogatory concerning the human rationality before Darwin.”

Actually, I was being derogatory about human rationality since Darwin. You teach highschool. I think that the 11 plus examination has been abandoned, so I don’t know what measures are currently employed, but I presume that you are acquainted with average rational capacities. 

Sometimes the current received wisdom is faulty and an entire conceptual framework must be revised to adapt to a better, more accurate explanation.

“So the whole evolution thing could be completely wrong because we could have the entire conceptual framework wrong?”

I expected you to say this. Yes, that remains within the realms of theoretical possibility – remote possibility. The examples that I gave were specific examples of single special-case conceptualizations within large subject areas (cosmology and geology). Biology is one of the older sciences and biological evolution is acknowledged as an overwhelmingly supported empirical fact by unbiased biologists. The theory of evolution has itself been evolving along the same logical line ever since Darwin. That is the theory has been better refined by new observations, but its is vanishingly unlikely that the modern synthesis will ever be fully overturned, as creationists clearly hope.

Even if the current theory were overturned, rather than merely refined, this does not mean that the unutterably simplistic God-did-it-through-a-miracle explanation will ever be a viable alternative explanation.

Natural selection remains accepted as one of the mechanisms by which biological evolution occurs. Did you know that Darwin reached the insight because of Malthus‘ work on populations? Quite aside from whether or not you accept the principle of natural selection, I always find it interesting how one theory inspires another.

“Who’s to say that a better, more accurate explanation may be more compatible with special creation?”

Who? The unbiased experts in the field. Since there is no supernatural entity that could have brought about special creation, please don’t hold your breath on this every happening. I would not want you to commit suicide-by-anticipation.

“Or are there special interest factions that would immediately assume that such a conceptual framework cannot be true, or that would suppress it because it might turn people toward religion en masse.”

Theists fail to recognize that if there were a God scientists and not theologians would have been the first to know. Nobody would need faith because science would have provided empirical demonstration. If you want to promote deistic ideas and envisage God as setting up the Big Bang and the natural laws that enabled biological evolution then you would be removing the concept of God safely out of the reach of scientific testing. I think that such a deity would devolve the divine into nature.

Scientists originally believed that they were cataloguing the Works of God. The empirical facts eventually convinced most of them otherwise. I think that assuming that scientists simply refuse to see that God is behind it all is probably the commonest theist fantasy. “If only we could prove that for whatever nefarious reason of their own, scientists are simply refusing to see the Truth, then we can prove that God Did It.”

This is a false dichotomy because even if cosmology and the modern synthesis were demonstrated to be incorrect, this would not mean that God did it since there could, indeed certainly would, be a better explanation within the physical and not the religiously-motivated ineffable supernatural realm.

Behe . . . His university has posted a disclaimer about his nonsense on its website.

‘That was fun reading. Not only did his department post a disclaimer but several of his colleagues went out of their way to align themselves with Darwinism with statements on their own pages.”

Hardly surprising. It seems likely that Behe has only been retained on staff because of the protection of his having attained tenure before publishing puerile scientific heresy. Academics are fired pre-tenure for far lesser offences than biased stupidity. Behe’s probably a nice enough guy (he has a nice face), but its hardly surprising that his fellow scientists at Lehigh wish to distance themselves from his nonsense. It’s interesting that you choose to imply that their affirmations are laughable and yet probably applaud the scientists who signed the Declaration of Ignorance.

Scientific knowledge is not up for debate by religious special interest factions.

“I thought scientific knowledge was always up for debate.”

I should have said up for revision. Scientific topics are always open to debate (that is not science.)

Revision is not up to debate by religious special interest factions, which merely make unfounded criticisms based on a desire to prove The God Who Never Was.

I called it the so-called debate because the science is solid and the creationist side comprises only fallacious arguments: arguments from analogy, false dichotomies, arguments from ignorance, arguments from incredulity, red herrings, straw man fallacies, simple denial and outright lies, etcetera, etecetera, etcetera.

I believe that legitimate debate pertains only to topics that do not yet have a clear correct and incorrect.

“Isn’t that why it’s constantly being tested?”

Scientific knowledge is tested and refined by scientists – some of the most illustrious and influential of whom have included amateurs and monks. The special interest religious factions perform no experiments that can be counted as refining scientific knowledge (even Behe’s protein biochemistry efforts fall within the realm of regular science and cannot test for God’s miracles).

Those clearly religious factions, which lie about being religiously motivated, have generated no scientifically valid falsifiable hypotheses.  They do generate false and falsifiable philosophy, but lack the honesty to admit that they have been refuted. I suspect that many also lack the rationality to recognize this.

In the final analysis, it probably does not matter in so far as they are preaching to the already convinced who will gleefully believe whatever they are told no matter how unsupported or illogical. After all, isn’t that exactly how religions prosper?

(I wonder, if faith in the absence of empirical evidence is the point, then why should it really matter to deny scientific truths (cosmology and the fact of biological evolution). Doesn’t this fear of science reflect a fear that faith might indeed be unfounded? I think that the real problem is the fear that belief in Special Creation is unfounded. This is probably attributing too much logical awareness to some creationists, but others who can follow the logic will tell them what to think.)

It does matter in so far as damage to education and rationality matter. This is why American parents are suing school boards and winning.

Follow-through on The so-called creation versus evolution debate and Comment.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | creationism, education, evolution, logic, religion, science | 2 Comments

Immoral Prescriptions

“I suppose if the moral lessons of the Bible aren’t explanations, Jesus could have saved a lot of breath. It seems like he went to great lengths to explain appropriate behaviour.”

I think that it is much simpler to explain what one considers appropriate behavior (should-s) than to convincingly argue for those behaviors. However, I’ll concede that moral allegories often suffice to convince and that Jesus’ moral lessons could be regarded as moral explanations. I reacted to the wrong word because my objection is to being should upon 

I have no intention of studying the Bible because I do not accept the underlying precept (a supernatural says that you should behave this way), but I know enough to know that it is inconsistent.

As I said, when I was a kid I liked Jesus’ more tolerant moral tales. Take the story of the adulteress, for example: I think that a punishment should fit a crime (though better to fix the causes of the crime) so the notion of a crowd’s presuming to stone someone to death for mere adultery is preposterous and the crowd’s act is immoral according to other moral rules. The hypocrisy of juxtaposing thou-shalt-not-kill with stoning for adultery is utterly objectionable.

  Before you think that Jesus was stopping that act and that such immoral prescriptions no longer occur, I remind you that a few years ago a Muslim woman was sentenced to be stoned to death (as soon as she’d delivered the baby conceived out of wedlock). Stoning and killings – mostly of the female participant – are still perpetrated in Islam. In this sense, Christendom is ahead of Islam, and mostly thanks to secularism in Christendom.  

You said that you think that I believe in Christianity. No, I only accept the compassionate segments, and I accept those because we are all united by our common humanity. I don’t care who provides an explanation or under what pretext of authority it is written, the point is whether or not the moral rule makes humanistic sense. The problem that I see with the Bible is that many of the prescriptions are immoral (in a humanistic sense) or contradict one another.    

The behavioral problem lies more with people than with religions, but people-problems spread into religion because people administer religions. Still, religions ideally could prescribe only humanistic behavior, and some people would still disobey.

The problem that excites some atheists to anti-religious sentiment lies in the fact that some religions are employed to justify and promote behaviors that are immoral. Intolerance and hatred are anti-humanistic, so Christianity continues to be guilty of less egregious crimes than stoning.

Islam is currently being subverted to the political aims of hateful imams. Those in Muslim countries who lack the education to see where their theocracy is headed are dupes on a collision course.

“If God kills, lies, cheats, discriminates, and otherwise behaves in a manner that puts the Mafia to shame, that’s okay, he’s God. He can do whatever he wants. Anyone who adheres to this philosophy has had his sense of morality, decency, justice and humaneness warped beyond recognition by the very book that is supposedly preaching the opposite.” ~ Dennis McKinsey in newsletter Biblical Errancy

Follow-up on Of must and men and Comments.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, education, fundamentalism, morality, religion | Leave a comment

Absolutist Fears to Emotion

Because the WordPress system does not allow for modification of posting time, the following lengthy sequence is posted out of order:

Full sequence: Absolutist FearsComments Bouncing back to Dave , Comment; No Things in Moderation; Creation MythsComments; Conversions, Comments; My God is bigger than your god, Comments; Of must and men, Comments; Transcendant rhetorical devices, Comments; The so-called creation versus evolution debate, Comments; Apologetic creations, Comments; From the Cradle, Comments; West of Eden, Comments; The Clash of Titans, Comments; The place of Emotion, Comments .

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, Jerry Falwell, logic, morality, Pascal's Wager, philosophy, psychology, religion, science | Leave a comment