Thursday, November 30, 2006

I could just cry

Behe's lecture at KU has been cancelled due to weather. I was just sitting here trying to figure out a way to convince my husband that the weather isn't really that bad, but decided to check in with KU first. They've already cancelled it.


They better reschedule that sucker, or I'll be seriously ticked off. But, I'd bet that there are plenty of people who would like to get Behe's lecture cancelled permanently.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm starting to have a panic attack

Man, it is sleeting like crazy in Topeka right now! What if this doesn't let up before tomorrow night? What if I miss the Behe lecture??? My husband has already told me I'm insane to consider driving to Lawrence tomorrow.

CRAP!!! I'll freak if I miss his lecture and have to hear about it from all the anti-ID bloggers...

Hmmm...let's see... snow tires, chains, drive behind a sand truck....


Interesting conversations at the Salk Institute

Now you can listen to the Salk Institute conference for yourself. I mentioned this shindig in an earlier post.

It appears that these philosophical naturalists are planning to put their evangelizing skills to work.

Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to read about this conference because my computer has been on the blink and I’m having trouble viewing this link.

I’m gonna ask Santa for a new laptop!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Don’t miss this one!

Finally! We get to hear from someone who can give us a different perspective on the Intelligent Design movement. So far the “Difficult Dialogues at the Commons” lectures have been presented by anti-ID activists. This Thursday, Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box will be up to bat.

Thurs., Nov. 30, 2006, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
Difficult Dialogues at The Commons
Michael Behe
“The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology”
Kansas Union Ballroom
I’m kinda curious to hear how Leonard Krishtalka will introduce Behe. He’s certainly kept it no secret as to his adoration for Richard Dawkins and his philosophical view of the world.

Should be very interesting...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Further dialogue with Seldom

This post is lengthy, but I sometimes enjoy carrying on dialogue with those who take the time to comment. Seldom and I have been discussing a variety of issues and I’m going to bring this conversation to the top again.

Seldom wrote:
But Christianity wasn't remotely the near the first religion and neither was Judaism! There were tons of religions with creation stories and Gods before Judiasm and Christianity came along. So those religions were wrong, then Judaism magically appears and gets it right, then religions that followed strayed away? I don't see how your comment makes sense unless you are a hardcore young earth creationist who is completely oblivious to thousands of years of human history.
Gosh, here I go opening up a whole can of worms. Now, just relax for a moment because I know this will throw you for a loop, but yes, I favor a young earth for many reasons. Surprisingly, scientific data - not religion is what brought me to consider young earth arguments.

As far as religious beliefs are concerned, I’ve never found it written anywhere in scripture that in order to be a Christian you must believe in a young earth. The age of the earth is irrelevant to salvation, IMHO. I know many Christians who support an old earth as well as arguments for common descent. I used to believe that the scientific data favored an old earth and never gave it a second thought. But, over the last 5 years, after considering things I’ve read in the fields of philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology and theology along with scientific arguments for and against an old earth, my feelings on the topic changed.

So back to your statement above...yes, I’m quite aware that “Christianity” wasn’t the “first religion”. But, as far as historical support for a variety of religious beliefs, we have to consider that the earliest evidence we have of the written word is only approx. 6,000 years old. Consequently, the bible documents historical information from approx. 6,000 years ago. It stands to reason that, ~if~ the earth is young, then the first human inhabitants may have known more about the true creator of the cosmos than we give them credit for. That doesn’t mean that after a time, the truth didn’t became muddled along the way. Many scholars agree that Job is the oldest book in the Bible, written by an Israelite about 1500 B.C.. Even at that time in history, Job was looking forward to a redeemer. It could be that other nations branched off and held some of the same truths but added their own window dressing. Who knows......right?

You quoted me and then commented:
"Dude, the scientific community does “recognize the term” of macroevolution because they refer to it all the time."

OK, they recognize it in the sense that the "opposition" uses it, and they understand what they mean by it, and they may use it in explaining why they don't agree with its usage, so yes they recognize it in to the extent that they are aware that the word exists. But they certainly don't consider it a valid or meaningful distinction.
Interesting, because just a couple days ago, I was reading an article in Science magazine titled, Rapid Temporal Reversal in Predator-Driven Natural Selection, Science vol 314, 17 Nov. 2006. The following sentence was included in the last paragraph of the article:

Evolutionary biology is by its nature an historical science, but the combination of microevolutionary experimentation and macroevolutionary historical analysis can provide a rich understanding about the genesis of biological diversity.
Seems pretty clear cut to me...I don’t have an on-line subscription to Science so the link only offers the abstract, but you may have or you can check it out in hard copy if you like.

You quoted me and then commented:
"For example, all species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design."

Your terminology confuses me. To say a species appears fully formed makes no sense. There is no predetermined end product that a species is on its way to becoming. There is no such thing as a species being "partially developed". HOW do they show design? What specifically is the telltale sign of design? This is where ID has problems. For this to be meaningful there has to be some way to know this. It "looks" designed is not good enough!
Yes, terminology is a problem in this debate. Let’s see... in creationist talk, I’d state the we do not have empirical evidence that supports the notion that primitive hearts eventually evolved into more advanced hearts as the evolutionary tree of life expanded. These vital organs are so intricate in design that intermediates wouldn't live through the process. Now, an evolutionists will say, “but look, we have various creatures with hearts that are unlike the human heart and this tells us that those more primitive forms of the heart are what led to the development of the human heart“. It's interesting speculation, but we do not have empirical evidence to support that this is what actually happened.

Evolutionists reject the idea that the microevolutionary changes that we witness in nature cannot carry over into macroevolutionary changes of vital organs or other highly complex body parts from one species to the next. We can consider your examples from your earlier post as well--“There is excellent fossil evidence of proto-feathers and nature today is full of organisms with eyes running the entire gammit from blind to eyes better then our own.” True, but that does not provide empirical evidence that the heart and eyes of those organisms all evolved from a common ancestor. That is an ~interpretation of the data~. Perhaps you are right, but then again the creationist’s interpretation may be the correct one.

Here’s the deal though. It’s not that I “fundamentally misunderstand how evolution works”, but that I do understand it, and from the empirical data that is available, I have to admit that I do not believe there is enough evidence to support the theory at the macro level.

But, the theory of Intelligent Design is entirely different from creationist theories. I’m going to offer a couple paragraphs defining Intelligent Design from Thomas Woodward’s new book, Darwin Strikes Back, because although I know you are familiar with the theory, many are still quite confused as to what exactly the theory is about.

Scientific tests now show a shockingly severe limitation on the ability of random mutation to evolve new functional genes. Also, the more we learn about the threadlike DNA molecule, which in human cells has 20,000 genes--digital files embedded on the cell’s DNA hard drive--the more we realize that this DNA information is structurally identical to the ordinary coded information in human communication (books, digitized DVDs) and artifacts. To pin down what kind of cause “wrote the DNA file,” we are able to apply a powerful reasoning approach that scientists now use called “inference to the best explanation.” Since DNA (with RNA and proteins) have a mathematical structure called “specified complexity” (even one gene displays an astoundingly low probability, while its letter are highly specified), that enables us to ask a key question. In the real world, the world of scientific testing and experience, do we ever observe natural processes producing this kind of complexity? In fact, we have never recorded an instance where nature crafted this kind of complexity. Yet, in the cause-effect structure seen in our world today, intelligent causes easily produce this kind of specified complexity. So the inference to design for DNA is based on our experience of the observed structures of the real world, not an imagined one.

One finds equally compelling evidence for design in the bacterial flagellum, whose rotary motor drives certain bacteria through liquid like a submarine with an outboard motor. The flagellum, as biologists Michael Behe and Scott Minnich have shown, has a machinelike irreducible complexity, which is an empirical marker of design because it rules out step-by-step evolution through selection. Take one part away from the flagellum, and its rotary system won’t work. Darwinian accounts of the evolution of the flagellum are (at best) sketchy “Just So Stories.” Its forty parts, all of them precisely shaped proteins, are prima facie evidence of a intelligence behind life, and the flagellum is just the tip of the iceberg. The cell is chock full of such complex, multipart systems that continue to defy a step-by-step Darwinian explanation.
You wrote:
But to say it is clearly ridiculous is to say that 99.9% of experts in biology look at the same evidence as you and come to the wrong conclusion. Or that for the 100+ years, science has been intentionally perpetrating a fraud on the world. Every scientist knows that their is a Nobel prize, piles of cash, and fame that will outlive them, if they could disprove evolution and put forward a better theory. There is no giant atheist conspiracy at work. The problem is that every line of evidence points to the same conclusion: evolution is the correct explanation for the biodiversity of the Earth.
First of all, I do not in any way, shape of form believe that there is a “giant atheist conspiracy at work”. I do believe that a person’s philosophical beliefs can get in the way of their science, just as you believe a person‘s religious beliefs can get in the way of their science.

It is no secret that the grand majority of scientists are philosophical naturalists. It is also no secret the "scientific community" is working overtime at keeping out what they deem as “pseudo-science”. It’s not because they are trying to push their atheism on the world (although there are a few who are), but that they truly believe that Darwinian evolution is factual beyond all doubt. It’s the interpretation of the data that they were born into, and their philosophical worldview holds it as truth for them.

Even if a scientist did have the magic theory that disproved evolution without a doubt, he’d still never receive his “Nobel prize, cash, or fame” because his theory would never make it through peer review -- UNLESS, it is a theory that does not even remotely correspond with any type of religious ideal. Because if it does, Eugenie and the NCSE along with a big ‘ol group of other naturalists are going to come in screeching and hollering with everything they’ve got.

Remember the Sternberg affair...?

From Darwin Strikes Back
On November 10, 2006, National Public Radio’s Barbara Hagerty covered on All Things Considered the lingering brouhaha over Richard Sternberg, the editor of “an obscure scientific journal loosely affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, where he is also a research associate.” She pointed out that “he published in the journal a peer-reviewed article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design,” and then fleshed out the motives and misery of Sternberg:

“Why publish it?” Sternberg say, “Because evolutionary biologists are thinking about this. So I thought that by putting this on the table, there could be some reasoned discourse. That’s what I thought, and I was dead wrong.”

At first he heard rumblings of discontent but thought it would blow over. Sternberg says his colleagues and supervisors at the Smithsonian were furious. He says - and an independent report backs him up - that colleagues accused him of fraud, saying they did not believe the Meyer article was really peer-reviewed. It was.

Eventually, Sternberg filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal employees from reprisals. The office launched an investigation. Ultimately, it could not take action because Stenberg is not an employee of the Smithsonian. But Sternberg says before closing the case, the special counsel, James McVay, called him with an update. “As he related to me, ‘The Smithsonian Institutions’ reaction to your publishing the Meyer article was far worse than you imagined.’”

McVay declined an interview. But in a letter to Sternberg, he wrote that officials at the Smithsonian worked with the National Center for Science Education...and outlined “a strategy to have you investigated and discredited.” Retaliation came in many forms, the letter said. They took away his master key and access to research materials. They spread rumors that Sternberg was not really a scientist. He has two Ph.D.s in biology -- from Binghamton University and Florida International University. In short, McVay found a hostile work environment based on religious and political discrimination.

After repeated calls and emails to the Smithsonian, a spokesman told NPR, “We have no public comment, and we won’t have one in the future.”
We also find bloggers such as Larry Moran, a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, making the statement that we should just “flunk” students who support Intelligent Design, or never let them be admitted to the university in the first place. Some of the more dogmatic scientists don’t hide the fact that they will reject tenure to those who support ID as well.

You wrote:
You guys had your big opportunity to prove evolution false when genetics technologies became available. If whale DNA had turned out to be closer to shark DNA than to human DNA, or if bird DNA was more similar to bat DNA than to reptile DNA, evolution would have crumbled to the ground. But the genetic evidence supports common ancestry and evolutionary relationships. This is simply the most power evidence possible and I don't know how you refute it.
Right, I’ve heard these arguments before, and I just don’t believe that they are as strong as you suggest. There is so much more to consider in this regard. For example DNA reproduction and repair is very difficult to explain from an evolutionary perspective.

As far as similarities between species is concerned, obviously an Intelligent Designer would not need to redesign every living organism in order to reassure us that we are not all related to a common descendant. Most designers we witness in our world don’t reinvent the wheel for every product they design. Automobile designers use the same parts for most cars and tweak them for different purposes, yet they are all designed for the same driving environment. The same thing applies to all living creatures. We all drink the same water, breathe the same air, and eat the same food.

Duane Gish once wrote:
Supposing, on the other hand, God had made plants with a certain type of amino acids, sugars, purines, pyrimidines, etc.; then made animals with a different type of amino acids, sugars, purines, pyrimidines, etc.; and, finally, made man with a third type of amino acids, sugars, etc. What could we eat? We couldn’t eat plants; we couldn’t eat animals; all we could eat would be each other! Obviously, that wouldn’t work. All the key molecules in plants, animals, and man had to be the same. The metabolism of plants, animals, and man, based on the same biochemical principles, had to be similar, and therefore key metabolic pathways would employ similar macromolecules, modified to fit the particular internal environment of the organism or cell in which it must function. (Gish, 277.)
Makes sense to me.

You quoted me and then commented:
"Huh? Darwinists do claim that evolution can account for the entire universe. Darwinists claim that evolution does not explain the ~first cause~, but once the big bang (or whatever) initially occurred, evolutionary mechanisms took root and structured the entire universe."

I'm sorry but you could not be more wrong! This isn't a matter of opinion like so many of our other points of disagreement. You are completely misstating what evolutionary theory says. Please point me to any "Darwinist" who says anything remotely like this.
This is probably a matter of semantics. Granted, evolution in the sense of Darwin’s theory is different than the evolution of the cosmos, but the “scientific community” refers to the evolution of the universe all the time. It falls unders the umbrella of the evolutionary paradigm.

You quoted me and then commented:
"Where do these type of “fundamentalists” live? I am constantly warned by on-line atheists about these “Christian reconstructionists“, and I’m told that Christians are looking to take over government and re-establish Old Testament law."

Been to see Jesus Camp yet? And by the way, Christians don't need to "take over" the government, they've had it for the last 6 years. Remember the proposed Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage? Remember the Dover school district trying to bring religion back into public school science classes. (regardless of whether ID guys like Dembski or Behe have religious motives, the ONLY reason that school board was pushing it was religious).
Good grief... Jesus Camp? Are you serious? A gal puts together a Jesus Camp, for what? 100 kids this summer? That’s the kind of stuff you think Christians are indoctrinating their children with? Did your parents indoctrinate you in a similar fashion?

BTW,“Jesus Camp” was shut down, thank goodness.

That example would be like me making the bizarre statement that the mother of these twin girls is indoctrinating her children to hate anyone who is not white because Hitler had a thing for the theory of evolution and wanted to keep the bloodlines pure. Therefore, I believe that there are many Darwinists who indoctrinate their children this way as well.

Do you see how silly it is to refer to a camp of 100 kids and assume that Christians indoctrinate their children to become Christian reconstructionists in this same manner? These “Christian reconstructionists” are a fringe group, yet some people like to throw all Christians into this category.

Let me tell you how I approach the issue of evolution with my children. My kids are being taught evolutionist theories in school, and we discuss intelligent design and creationist theories at home when we have the time. They go to public school, and both of my kids LOVE science. They are well aware of the controversy between evolution and intelligent design. They are taught that there are different interpretations of the evidence, and that the tools of science are continually lending to further knowledge about our universe. That is why we should never become dogmatic in the way we view those interpretations.

I want them to consider ALL the empirical evidence with an open mind. I tell them to learn absolutely ~everything~ they can possibly learn about the theory of evolution because ~if~ the theory is lacking, then they need to understand it well to discern where it is lacking. The same thing applies to the theory of intelligent design.

If, in the future, they decide that the theory of evolution is the more accurate interpretation, so be it. At least I know that I laid ALL the information on the table and didn’t keep anything from them. I believe they should look at all of life in this manner, that would include their religious beliefs as well.

One more quick thing about “the proposed Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage” you mentioned again. We’ve talked about this quite a bit in recent dialogue, but you may want to also consider this link I ran across the other day.

From the link:
Dutch will allow paedophile group

A Dutch court has turned down a request to ban a political party with a paedophile agenda.

Judge HFM Hofhuis ruled that the Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity Party (PNVD) had the same right to exist as any other political party.

The PNVD was formed by three paedophiles in May, prompting outrage in Dutch society. It seeks to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12 and legalise child pornography and sex with animals. "Freedom of expression...including the freedom to set up a political party can be seen as the basis for a democratic society," Judge Hofhuis said in the ruling, according to the Associated Press news agency.
How far will society be willing to go?

You wrote:
This might surprise you, but I have no problem with my kids being catholic, protestent, whatever. I just insist that they come to that decision through some informed process. Which means no indoctrination when they are too young to make rational decisions. For numerous examples, go see Jesus Camp.
I agree that the type of “Jesus Camp” indoctrination you are referring to is WRONG.

But, if a person is an atheist, I can’t imagine they would send their children to church -- I mean, what church would they send them to? So, their children start out with a disadvantage as far as learning what other children are learning in regard to religious beliefs. By the time their parents might consider them to be old enough to “make a rational decision”, their kids may not even care to put forth the effort into researching various religious beliefs because they’ve learned from their parents that it doesn’t really matter anyway ("my parents don’t believe that stuff, why should I waste my time thinking about it"?).

So, if there is religious truth out there somewhere, they may never consider the possibility because their parents were non-believers. That type of indoctrination is no different that the indoctrination that Dawkins claims I am doing to my children by sending them to a Christian church.

I often wonder if atheists even consider this...what if they are wrong? What if there is a Creator of the cosmos? What if that Creator really does want a relationship with us? Is that something you would deny your child simply because you believe you have reason to reject the idea?

I’ve given my children the chance to learn about the Christian faith, and we often talk about other faith beliefs as well. If they choose to believe that there is no God, at least I have provided them with the opportunity of a religious education in the same way that I send them to school at an early age to learn about mathematics, science, reading, etc., etc.

Okay, I’m done for today. Thanks again for the respectful dialogue, and I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday.

Arguing amongst themselves

There have been some very interesting conversations going on in blogosphere lately. It seems that lines are being draw among the atheist/agnostic supporters of Darwinian evolution.

On the one side, we have the die hard atheists who feel that it’s not just science that needs to be grasped away from the clutches of the “Christians”, “fundamentalists”, and “ID supporters”. They feel that the world needs a wake up call in order for us all to realize how foolish our “supernatural” beliefs really are. Supporters of this line of action include: Richard Dawkins, biologist and author, Sam Harris, doctoral student in neuroscience and author, PZ Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, and Larry Moran, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto.

On the other end, we have bloggers who agree with the aforementioned gentlemen on all matters of science and most of their beliefs about religion. But, they feel that the better approach in this debate is not to lean so hard on people of various religious beliefs because there are many theistic evolutionists who believe in a god while at the same time supporting Darwinian evolution. They don’t want to lose those supporters by being too hard on their faith beliefs. Those who hold this line of thought include: Ed Brayton, a freelance writer and businessman, Pat Hayes blogger of Red State Rabble, and Joshua Rosenau, biology graduate student at the University of Kansas.

So, what to make of all this??? Well, it appears that they are all trying to find the best route in which to keep science free from anything they believe is being thrust upon them by “authoritarian fundamentalists” (ie, anyone who supports Intelligent Design). Yet, they don’t want to alienate those who may support various religious beliefs which do not interfere with the philosophical views held by atheists and agnostics. In other words, any of the theistic evolutionists who reject Intelligent Design or any other theory that questions Darwinian evolution.

Though, they all agree that it is fine to go after supporters of Intelligent Design by any means necessary. I’ve been told that I am a “religious authoritarian” because I support Intelligent Design and find Creationist theories quite compelling as well. That makes me the enemy, and I’ve also been told that Christians like myself are out to push my religious beliefs into the science classroom. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but that’s the subject for another post.

It is quite interesting that they call us “authoritarians”, because I’ve never heard supporters of ID say that they want to eliminate evolution from being taught in the schools. We would merely like the students to have the opportunity to critically analyze the various aspects of Darwinian evolution, and give consideration to the theory of Intelligent Design.

The way I see it, these gentlemen who are fighting amongst themselves are the true “authoritarians” because they refuse to allow their theory to be questioned. On the other hand, supporters of ID are more than happy to let the ToE be taught in it’s full glory. It seems to me that if the ToE is such a solid theory, we wouldn’t see such a huge uproar from the “scientific community”. They seem so defensive, while the ID guys seem quite happy to put their theory alongside the ToE. Actually, ID is not a threat to evolution, it's only a threat to those who hold the philosophical belief that the universe is the product of mere chance.

Hmmm.. makes you wonder who is more confident about their science.

Here’s the conversation that takes the cake....

PZ Myers hops over to Kansas Citizens for Science to have a little conversation with Liz Craig and Jack Krebs, avid supporters of Darwin as well.

Check out how PZ describes Christians who take God's word seriously:
The atheist influence in this part of the country has been negligible: our region's problems must be laid entirely at the door of our good fellow Christian citizens, no others. Those problems are entirely the result of a smug, insular, nastily inbred Christian monoculture, one that never questions the Book of Genesis, never confronts different ideas, never thinks.
LOL... now don’t be too offended by PZ’s nastiness. He hates anything that remotely resembles religious thought.

Here is where he really blasts us...

But you do need some small minority [meaning himself and his atheist "team"] who are willing to stand up to those fundamentalist freaks and tell them without hesitation that they are goddamned idiots. You need someone to tell them to be ashamed of their ignorance. You need someone to tell them they're wrong without following it up with a friendly pat on the head and a reassurance that you still love and respect them merely because they share some superstitions with you.
Good grief, PZ, why don’t you really let us know what you think of us?? Isn’t it interesting that a guy whose philosophical beliefs are held by a relatively small minority of people is telling all of us what “idiots” ~we~ are?

At least he’s honest. I’ve seen some of the other supporters of Darwinian evolution say some pretty inflammatory things about people who hold various religious beliefs as well. But, lately they’ve been toning down because they don’t want to appear as bigoted as PZ does.

It doesn’t mean that they don’t agree with him. In fact, I know that many of them do. But, they know that type of attitude won’t help in their agenda to keep their theory from being questioned.

If you keep reading through the KCFS conversation, you’ll see that Jack Krebs is hoping to further “educate“ the poor idiots who have no understanding of how science works. See, they believe that you are merely "ignorant" about science if you question common descent or consider arguments for Intelligent Design:

Now that we have a couple of years where the standards aren't our main concern, we plan to work on informing and educated the public about issues in a way that might make the creationists have less appeal at the polls.
Now, bear in mind that “creationist” means anyone who considers the theory of Intelligent Design. As long as a religious person keeps their beliefs to themselves and never considers arguments that support the improbability that the complexity of the universe evolved by any means other than natural causes, then they are free to be part of the “team“.

Otherwise, you are deemed a “goddamned, ignorant freak” according to PZ Myers supporters.

And now a word for the “Reasonable Kansans” out there. Listen intently to what the Kansas Citizens for Science group has to say about science. Believe me, Jack Krebs is much more reasonable than PZ Myers. But, be sure to also consider all the evidence against their arguments as well. There are many excellent books covering all the issues of this debate from the point of view of credentialed scientists who very much oppose the views of the above mentioned individuals. I’ll put together a long list of excellent books in the near future.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey time!!

Well, I got the sucker stuffed and in the oven. Now we're just waiting for the company to arrive.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, and remember to give God thanks for the many blessings in your life!!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Corkins resigns

I guess our state education commissioner decided to save the liberal majority the trouble of firing him. Whatev.

Well, let's see...

That leaves them yet with the science standards and the sex ed opt-in to reject and then on with life as usual. Sheesh, such a big deal over a few minor changes.

Doesn't matter one way or the other. The Intelligent Design movement isn't going anywhere, but it is a shame that students are currently under such a dogmatic scientific regime.

Won't last for long...

Article by Logan Gage

It seems Logan Gage, from the Discovery Institute, is noticing the same evangelical atheist movement that I have been commenting on.

Here is an article he wrote recently.

From the article:
Just as we have confidence that black holes exist, not by direct observation, but because of the movement of bodies around the blackness, so, too, can one be sure an intellectual revolution is underway when we increasingly find books on The New York Times best-seller list by evangelical atheists like Richard Dawkins.

These authors are surely responding to something. That something is powerful scientific evidence challenging their worldview. Time got it right: “This debate long predates Darwin, but the anti-religion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design. …”

Scientists join forces in a push for "The End of Faith"

Okay, if you question my concern about fanatical philosophical naturalists pushing their own godless faith views on our students and society in general, read this article titled, A Free-for-all on Science and Religion.

If scientists want to consider “science” a faith based ideological stance for atheism, all power to them. But, this is clearly a breach of separation of church and state laws, IMO, as this philosophical belief system is no different than any other faith based religious belief system.

Gosh, this type of article just lays the ground work for opening the door to Intelligent Design and Creationist theories. If Darwinian evolution supports this new atheism movement they’ve got going on, then ID definitely deserves equal time in the classroom.

From the article:
Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller.

...Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. “We should let the success of the religious formula guide us,” Dr. Porco said. “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

...With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. “The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty,” said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.”

...Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

...With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?
Um....Wow! They seem to be admitting that they are “losing out in the intellectual marketplace”, but what is with the big push of the atheist agenda? Do they think that is going to help their position? Or have guys like Dawkins, Weinberg, Harris, Dennett, et. al. simply decided to lay all their cards on the table and push the rest of the scientific community to come out of the closet and start a scientific movement of sorts to rid the world of religious belief? What the heck is going on here?

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”
Sounds to me like desperation here. I think the Intelligent Design movement has them completely flustered as to what to do. Their philosophical beliefs are being tampered with and that doesn’t feel so good.

Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

“She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she’s getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once,” he lamented. “When she’s gone, we may miss her.”

Dr. Dawkins wasn’t buying it. “I won't miss her at all,” he said. “Not a scrap. Not a smidgen.”
Dawkins is such an extremist it is truly frightening.

I must say, in the last few months I have been completely amazed and bewildered at the turn of events. Last year, it seemed that supporters of Darwinian evolution were trying to convince the public that science did not promote atheistic views, and in fact said nothing about religious beliefs at all. We were told that those who support the Intelligent Design movement were right wing religious fanatics who were trying to shove their religious beliefs into the classroom and that the ‘scientific community’ was merely interested in promoting “good” science.

But, within the last 6 months or so the tide has sure changed! Dawkins & Harris have new books on the best sellers list, and many other scientists are jumping on board with them in declaring that science supports their atheistic beliefs and that the rest of the country needs to be purged of our “mythical” beliefs, denounce our faith, and stop indoctrinating our children with bogus religious beliefs. We need to join forces with the church of the godless!

My gosh, Ann Coulter was right!!!

They are not just concerned with teaching “good” science anymore. They are aimed at teaching our students that science is the only source of truth, and that truth will ultimately lead to “The End of Faith”.

I truly wonder what theistic evolutionists think about all this...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More Eugenie Scott banter

Bill Dembski / Uncommon Descent comments on PZ Myer’s take on Eugenie’s lecture.

The comment from "mentok" was interesting:
As time goes on it becomes clearer and clearer to everyone that the leading evangelical evolutionists are nothing more then ranting ideologically driven preachers trying to convert everyone to their faith and who want us to accept them as their prophets who will guide us to surrender to their worshipable deity; Darwin (PBUH) They reject any good scientific argument against their position based on their dogmatic doctrine that:

LOL. I laugh, but actually it’s kind of sad.

When I first became involved in this debate, I seriously didn’t believe that so many of the leading Darwinian evolutionists were die hard atheists. I’d heard people mention that, but I figured they were just being paranoid or something. After being involved in this debate for a few years, that fact couldn’t be more clear.

Truth be told, I view PZ Myer as a Fred Phelps clone. He preaches hate every bit as strongly as Phelps except his hatred and bigotry is aimed at “Fundamentalists” or “Creationists” rather than homosexuals. Read his blogspot sometime, and be sure to check out the comment sections to witness the seething anger and nastiness projected by his choirboys. It’s quite disheartening.

Too bad he can’t focus on finding some things he may have in common with some of these "ignorant, stupid, moronic, idiotic", etc., etc., "fundamentalists".

He just seems like such a grumpy 'ol hateful thing to me.

Hey, maybe I’ll have to take a flight up to Minnesota and ask the guy out for dinner sometime. It’s about time he relax and look at this whole debate from a different perspective. As much time as he spends in cyberspace, it might be a good idea for him to get out and have a good time for just a bit.

Think he’d take me up on it??

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another perspective from the Eugenie Scott lecture

Jon Voisey, blogger for The Angry Astronomer, offers an interesting perspective of Eugenie Scott's lecture.

His views are in opposition to my own in regard to the topics of Evolution and Intelligent Design, and I believe it is always beneficial to consider all aspects of this debate.

Here is the link.

Scott's lecture at Kansas University

Eugenie Scott is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc...
A not-for-profit membership organization of scientists, teachers and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution and science as a way of knowing. It opposes the advocacy of “scientific” creationism and other religiously-based views in science classes. Dr. Scott has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over 20 years.

Scott is also an activist for several church and state separation organizations. Clearly, this issue goes deeper than science for her as she is a philosophical naturalist, as are many of the other scientists who are leaders in the movement to shun Intelligent Design from being considered in the public realm of education.

Much of her lecture covered “ways of knowing” such as from authority, revelation, personal state of insight, and science. Science, she says, is different in that empirical evidence is attainable through observation, testing, and inferences. She mentioned that science is limited to the natural world and that if there are supernatural forces, you can’t hold their effects constant, which renders them unable to be tested. Therefore those forces are out of the realm of what science can explain. I’d argue with this description to a certain degree, but that is the subject for an entirely separate post.

She made the statement that “once we stop looking for natural causes, we’ll never find them“, hence keeping “the supernatural” out of the equation is positive for science because we’ll never give up researching for answers. Of course, she claims that the Intelligent Design movement is merely a religious movement that invokes the supernatural. This is far from factual, and to get a better understanding as to what ID is or isn’t, please read this article by Stephen Meyer regarding Design arguments.

Also consider these statements from the science textbook, Of Pandas and People, which is rejected by the scientific community as ID propaganda:
If science is based upon experience, then science tells us the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. But what kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. This is no different, really, than if we discovered life did result from natural causes. We still would not know, from science, if the natural cause was all that was involved, or if the ultimate explanation was beyond nature, and using the natural cause (Of Pandas and People, pg. 7, 2nd ed, 1993.)

Surely the intelligent design explanation has unanswered questions of its own. But unanswered questions, which exist on both sides, are an essential part of healthy science; they define the areas of needed research. Questions often expose hidden errors that have impeded the progress of science. For example, the place of intelligent design in science has been troubling for more than a century. That is because on the whole, scientists from within Western culture failed to distinguish between intelligence, which can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural, which cannot. Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science (Of Pandas and People, pg. 126-127, 2nd ed, 1993).

The idea that life had an intelligent source is hardly unique to Christian fundamentalism. Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic. Moreover, the concept of design implies absolutely nothing about beliefs as normally associated with Christian fundamentalism, such as a young earth, a global flood, or even the existence of the Christian God. All it implies is that life had an intelligent source (Of Pandas and People, pg. 161, 2nd ed, 1993).
If that doesn’t convince you that ID is not a religious argument which invokes the supernatural, consider the famous atheist philosopher Antony Flew’s statement:

"It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument for design."

Flew’s statement demonstrates that ID is based upon empirical science, and clearly not supported exclusively by religious advocates.

Of course, if ID is to be rejected because many of it supporters hold religious beliefs then, as I’ve mentioned in the past, it can be argued that Darwinian evolution is supported by philosophical naturalists (ie. atheists), and their bias is what leads to their rigid adherence to the theory.

Scott talked a bit about Michael Behe and his book, Darwin’s Black Box. She feels that IDists are wrong in regard to their science because “although some things are not explainable, that doesn’t mean that will always be the case“. Science is always working to find answers.

She makes it appear as if IDers are simply satisfied with stating that “the designer did it”, so they no longer have anything to research. This is, quite frankly, a bunch of bunk.

ID has actually pushed science to a whole new level of research into finding answers for questions regarding the first cause(s) of life and solving the unanswered questions regarding the evolution of “irreducibly complex” machines.

The “scientific community” has been in a frenzy searching for the answers to these problems in order to stop the intelligent design movement. IDers actually welcome this effort at further research in finding supporting evidence for the complexity of life.

As far as Scott’s demand that science must be restricted to natural causes, Behe writes in this regard:
On the other hand, like myself most of the public takes a broader view: “science” is an unrestricted search for the truth about nature based on reasoning from physical evidence. By those lights, intelligent design is indeed science. Thus there is a disconnect between the two views of what “science” is. Although the two views rarely conflict at all, the dissonance grows acute when the topic turns to the most fundamental matters, such as the origins of the universe, life, and mind.

...Big Bang theory struck many scientists as pointing to a supernatural cause. Yet it clearly is a scientific theory, because it is based entirely on physical data and logical inferences. The same is true of intelligent design.

If we limit science to natural causes and reject the possibility of design in nature, we are limiting an objective consideration of truth in scientific matters.

A portion of Scott’s lecture was comparable to a 7th and 8th grade science class. She talked about natural selection and gave an example similar to the classic peppered moth, but she used light and dark colored mice. Evidently this science lesson was given to make the point that to be considered science, the work must be testable.

Then she talked at length about British dowsers and how they find water with a fork stick. She even mentioned an experiment some “skeptics” put together to disprove dowsing.

Are you catching the implications?

She seems to be implying that science gives us facts, and religion (ie. Intelligent Design) is based on revelation, which in her mind is quite similar to the British dowsers failure to find water. Of course, she was very careful throughout the entire lecture not to exclude religion as being a way of knowing, but after considering her message in it's entirety, I’m not sure why she bothers with statements like that. She certainly doesn’t believe it as she is a philosophical naturalist like Dawkins and Steven Weinberg (who Scott mentioned as her authority figure).

She mentioned the “content of science” as:
1. Core ideas - tested over and over. The example was (of course) heliocentrism. She mentioned that in our modern world virtually every scientist supports heliocentrism as fact, although there are a few “fringe” scientists who hold a PhD and still support geocentrism (I find this doubtful). In similar fashion, she asserts that all scientists support common ancestry except for “a few fringe scientists” such as “those who support ID or creationist theories."

2. Frontier ideas - science that is changing and open.

3. Fringe science - she places supporters of Intelligent Design or creationist theories in with ESP, dowsers, psychics, etc.

She claims Intelligent design researchers are not attempting to engage in real science, so they are considered in the fringe. Yet she also mentioned earlier in her lecture that scientific inferences, assumptions, and speculation are legitimate ways in which we do science. Inferences explain facts. Intelligent Design inferences explain facts as well.

Scott also says IDers get the science wrong. At the infamous Dover trial, Behe spoke of the complexity of the immune system and the fact that we still do not understand how random mutations and natural selection explain the process which led to evolution of the immune system. The defense at that point hauled out a stack of books and peer-reviewed articles stating that evolution of the immune system had already been explained.

I urge all readers to consider this response from Michael Behe regarding the Dover decision. The book Traipsing into Evolution is also very helpful in getting an accurate view of the Dover trial.

In regard to the “pile of books” placed before Behe, here is his response:
(11) In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” (23:19(Behe)).

Several points:
1) Although the opinion’s phrasing makes it seem to come from my mouth, the remark about the studies being “not good enough” was the cross-examining attorney’s, not mine.

2) I was given no chance to read them, and at the time considered the dumping of a stack of papers and books on the witness stand to be just a stunt, simply bad courtroom theater. Yet the Court treats it seriously.

3) The Court here speaks of “evidence for evolution”. Throughout the trial I carefully distinguished between the various meanings of the word “evolution”, and I made it abundantly clear that I was challenging Darwin’s proposed mechanism of random mutation coupled to natural selection. Unfortunately, the Court here, as in many other places in its opinion, ignores the distinction between evolution and Darwinism.

I said in my testimony that the studies may have been fine as far as they went, but that they certainly did not present detailed, rigorous explanations for the evolution of the immune system by random mutation and natural selection — if they had, that knowledge would be reflected in more recent studies that I had had a chance to read (see below).

4) This is the most blatant example of the Court’s simply accepting the Plaintiffs’ say-so on the state of the science and disregarding the opinions of the defendants’ experts. I strongly suspect the Court did not itself read the “fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system” and determine from its own expertise that they demonstrated Darwinian claims. How can the Court declare that a stack of publications shows anything at all if the defense expert disputes it and the Court has not itself read and understood them?

In my own direct testimony I went through the papers referenced by Professor Miller in his testimony and showed they didn’t even contain the phrase “random mutation”; that is, they assumed Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection was true — they did not even try to demonstrate it. I further showed in particular that several very recent immunology papers cited by Miller were highly speculative, in other words, that there is no current rigorous Darwinian explanation for the immune system. The Court does not mention this testimony.

Scott spent some time giving explanations of what ‘science’ is and what ‘religion’ is, and stated that Gould believed that science and religion were two completely different ways in which to view the world and have no correlation to one another. She also mentioned that some people use science to inform religious views (much like beliefs of theistic evolutionists). Then there are those, like Dawkins, who believe scientific explanations rule out a creator of the cosmos. Others believe the word of God takes first priority and, in her opinion, those who believe in the revealed truth of their religion must manipulate science to fit their view.

Of course, I’d argue that Scott, Dawkins, Dennett and the “scientific community” for the past 150 years have been manipulating an immense amount of scientific data to fit their prior commitment to Darwinian evolution and their philosophical leanings.

True, evolution is a “core idea” in science, but that “idea” is limited as to how far it can be tested with empirical science, and all it takes is for a person to have enough interest to research the concept of common descent to see that it does not fit in with the concept of “core ideas”. Rather it would belong to the realm of fringe science except for the fact that the leadership in the "scientific community" is dominated by philosophical naturalists. Richard Lewonin lets us know up front just how sacred this philosophical view is to him:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

And, they’ve done a good job of keeping that “Divine Foot” out of science. Whereas many scientists from the past regarded science as a way to get closer to and understand the creator and His creation, today we find scientists heading farther away from even the mere mention of a Designer. If design or creation is mentioned, it is immediately declared pseudoscience or a breach of church and state laws. The scientific community has a tight hold on what will and will not be allowed to peek through the door and be considered in the world of science.

The prestigious scientific journal, Nature provided statistics from 1998 sharing with us the fact that 72.2% of “greater” scientists are atheist, 20.8% are agnostic, and a mere 7% believe in a personal god. There is not a chance that their philosophical beliefs do not affect their science if they are considering evolutionary or intelligent design arguments, and obviously since they have had control of the “scientific community” for some time, they are not about to give up the reigns.

During the question and answer session, Scott was asked what two questions she would ask of Michael Behe when he lectures at KU at the end of November. She said she would ask him:

1. If you believe the flagellum to be irreducibly complex, how would you respond to the Pallen, Matske paper?

Well, sheesh Eugenie, let me answer that one for you...

Recently Pallen and Matske addressed the issue of the irreducible complexity of the flagellum in a paper titled, “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella.” Nature Reviews Microbiology.

This is interesting in that evolutionists have been frantically trying to refute Behe’s claims by stating time and again that “we have the answer to the IC of the flagellum”, yet they continue writing various papers concerning this subject and every time Behe and Co. refute their claims which sends them scurrying back to the lab to look for further evidence to take Behe down.

It’s kind of interesting to watch. Way back in ‘99 Kenneth Miller stated in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, that Behe was wrong about the IC of the flagellum. He gave examples of why Behe was wrong in stating that molecular machines are irreducibly complex. You’d think that would have solved the mystery and there would be no more consideration of the problem, yet here we are eight years later and they are still stating that this newest paper solves the problem. Nice try boys, but Behe has already addressed your latest claims in this pod cast, and I've no doubt there will be more to come in that regard shortly.

It’s a never ending battle, with the evolutionists coming out with a solution to the IC problem of the flagellum, and Behe et. al. in turn taking down the arguments. Round and round they go, where they stop nobody knows. But, what we do know for a fact is that at this point in time, the evolution of molecular machinery is a mystery. In the conclusion of his response to the Dover trial, Behe writes the following:

On the day after the judge’s opinion, December 21, 2005, as before, the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would immediately be recognized as designed. On December 21, 2005, as before, there are no non-design explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories.

The second question Scott would ask of Behe was this:

2. Why did Behe and Minnich remain on as witnesses for the defense at the Dover trial when some of the other Discovery Institute fellows pulled out of the trial?

The Discovery Institute has already put forth a statement in regard to that query as well.

From the link:
Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute's Role in the Dover School District Case.

3. Mr. Thompson blames Discovery Institute for the non-participation of Discovery Institute Fellows Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and John Angus Campbell as expert witnesses on behalf of the Dover board. However, the non-participation of these scholars was due to Thomas More, which discharged them.

Meyer, Dembski and Campbell were all willing to testify as expert witnesses. They simply requested that they have their own counsel present at their depositions in order to protect their rights. Yet Thomas More would not permit this. Mr. Thompson has been quoted in media accounts as stating that to permit independent counsel to assert the witnesses' rights would create a "conflict of interest"--a claim for which he can offer no legal justification. When the witnesses refused to proceed without legal counsel to protect them, Thomas More cancelled the deposition of Prof. Campbell and effectively fired all three expert witnesses. After dismissing its own witnesses, Thomas More made an 11th-hour offer to Dr. Meyer alone to allow him to have counsel after all. But Meyer declined the offer because the previous actions of Thomas More had undermined his confidence in their legal judgment.

Since Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell were discharged, it has been reported that two other expert witnesses for the school board have withdrawn from the case. These two witnesses are not affiliated with Discovery Institute, and Discovery Institute had nothing to do with any decisions surrounding their withdrawal.

Casey Luskin, from the Discovery Institute, also addresses the same issues here.

But, of course, Eugenie Scott is more than aware of these answers, so her “questions for Behe” were posed only in order to make the audience think that these questions have not been addressed. That’s the really interesting thing about this debate. For every dart that has been thrown at the Intelligent Design movement, the aim has been off and the dart never finds it’s way to the bull's-eye.

I did learn one thing. The reason why the Darwinists are so adamant about exactly how high school standards are phrased is because they want to give the teachers a way to ward off students who question the evolutionary paradigm. Scott said that if a teacher is being asked questions by the student or the student's parents, they can simply say that the standards require that I teach the science that is approved by the consensus of those in the “scientific community“.

So in other words boys and girls, don’t think, don’t ask questions, never question the “consensus” of the authoritarian leaders of the “scientific community” (who, by the way, are composed of 90% atheists and agnostics who supposedly have no bias whatsoever when it comes to how they view evolution).

Scott was asked if she believes science supports the belief that there is no God, and of course she had to be honest and admit that she believes that it does. Yet, she said many of her friends would state otherwise. When asked what they support their beliefs upon, Scott stated that they consider probabilities, anthropic principles, and other Intelligent Design arguments. Scott said, with a wave of her hand, that those type of arguments “make no impression on me”.

It simply amazes me that those type of arguments “make no impression” on her. She believes that all questions in life can be answered by invoking natural causes alone. Amazing. I ask you....considering first causes, does it take more faith to believe that something comes from nothing, rather than to believe that something comes from something? Either way, we are considering a miracle (which philosophical naturalists adamantly reject).

Philosophical naturalists (ie. atheists) turn their back on natural causes as soon as they consider the first cause of their evolutionary paradigm. NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING...yet you’ll never convince them of this, and that is why I find this debate so extraordinary. For as much as these philosophical naturalists insist that all of life is the product of natural occurrences, they one up the theists as far as miracles are concerned when they claim that our entire universe, from a scientific perspective, was the byproduct of ~nothing~.

Simply blows the mind...

Friday, November 17, 2006

I’m at a loss for words...

...which is quite a rare phenomena for me.


I made it through Eugenie's lecture

Yup, I made it through the entire lecture without screaming. In fact, it was easier to sit through than the Dawkins and Miller lectures. I felt a bit like I was sitting in a 7th and 8th grade science class. Hopefully, I'll have time to put something together covering the lecture at a later date...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More to consider from Seldom

I appreciate your last response Seldom, and I would like to comment a bit further as well.

You quoted me and then added your viewpoint:
“Hmmm... and I guess if we both compile a list of what religious organizations vs. atheist organizations have accomplished for the common good, your list will be longer? Not a chance, and you should be well aware of that.”

This is a completely inappropriate comparison. Atheism is not a religion. We don’t organize in a way comparable to churches, temples, etc. Lack of belief in a God doesn’t require organization; it only requires the individual to reach this conclusion in his own mind.
I’d argue that atheists do organize in a way that compares to theistic groups - complete with social events and proselytizing just as churches do. Perhaps you are familiar with humanist organizations? Here are a few links:

The Council for Secular Humanism
American Humanist Association
National Secular Society

You’ll find that humanist groups do try to organize functions to help others in society, but their main focus is politics, rejection of the supernatural, science as truth, and various philosophical issues. They have meetings, bylaws and manifestos just as churches have meetings, church services, bylaws, and articles of faith. They encourage others to bring friends into the flock just as faith communities do.

I attended a documentary in Kansas City some time ago, and atheist groups were handing out information to share just as church groups do at their various functions. The documentary by the way was “The God who wasn’t there”, by Brian Fleming. Have you seen it? Here’s my review of the flick.

Some of the key players in the evolution/ID debate are involved in humanist organizations. In fact, Eugenie Scott is a notable signer of the Humanist Manifesto III. Barbara Forest and Richard Dawkins are also members of humanist groups along with many other key players in the fight against “creationism“ (as they refer to it). The Humanist Manifesto has a tone very similar to religious articles of faith. I fail to see the difference between religious groups and atheist groups other than the fact that there is a belief or disbelief in God.

In Nancy Pearcey’s Book, Total Truth, she makes a very profound statement, IMO. She wrote that, “Humans are inherently religious beings, created to be in relationship with God - and if they reject God, they don’t stop being religious; they simply find some other ultimate principle upon which to base their lives.”

You wrote:
A more valid comparison would be what has been accomplished by non-religious organizations v. religious organizations. We are talking about whether God is required for people to do good things. And the religion of the person isn’t what matters. After all, non-religious groups certainly benefit from people who believe in God, while many atheists support religious organizations like the Red Cross (I just gave blood this afternoon).
Well, number one, you’ll never hear from me that atheists are not able to benefit society or “do good things”. I will say that my personal belief is that if there were no God, if we merely evolved from nothing, and we were left with no guidelines as to how to lives our lives, I believe the world would be quite a different place. Nuf said.

God actively upholds all of creation. Found among the verses of Matthew 5:43-48 (which, btw, offer some wonderful words to live by) we find this: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” His gifts are given to nonbelievers as well as believers. BTW, This verse is not stating that atheists are “evil”, it’s making the point that regardless of our choices (good or evil) or our beliefs (godly or ungodly), God’s earthly gifts are available to all.

As for your non-religious organizations vs. religious organizations, I see a flaw in that way of thinking. There are numerous organizations that do considerable good for society that are not related to a particular church or religious belief system, but certainly many, many people who are involved in those groups hold various religious beliefs, so this is not an entirely accurate way in which to weigh the benefits of religious vs. non-religious groups. It would seem to me that religious beliefs might be a factor in how people choose to serve in these groups as well. Most Americans are brought up in religious households and religious upbringing certainly plays a factor in how we view our world and the decisions we make. In fact, religion has always had an influence on morality and even those who reject God are influenced by the morals of others (many of them coming from religious teaching).

You quoted me and then commented:
“Neither should we be making statements like “religion is the root of all evil” or “atheism is the root of all evil”. That completely closes the door to all meaningful and respectful dialogue.”

It does do that, and I never said or even suggested this. I assume you are using the “root of all evil” phrase because of the Dawkins TV series title. I’m also sure you have been made aware that he didn’t pick the title, strongly argued against it, states this fact whenever he discusses the show, and flat out says that it is a ridiculous idea.
I’m sorry if I made it sound as though you were making that statement. Yes, I was referring to Dawkins, and I am also aware that Dawkins claims not to support that statement. But, I’ve heard him speak, and I’ve read many of the articles and interviews regarding his beliefs. He certainly does feel that religion is at the root of most of the problems in society. He’s made that abundantly clear, and most strong atheists involved in on-line discussions certainly seem to lean toward that way of thinking as well.

I also believe that if Dawkins felt strongly enough about changing the “root of all evil” phrase, he could certainly have done it regardless of what he claims to have control over. Perhaps I’m wrong, but nonetheless, Dawkins has made his views abundantly clear regardless of what he chooses to title his books or films.

You quoted me and then commented:
BTW, “good works” are not the only positive result of Religion. Our faith in God also provides us with a connection to Him that an atheist doesn’t understand. His word (the Bible), provides us with answers as how to live a life that will benefit His creation. We find that when we follow His guidelines, they benefits us in numerous ways. God didn’t give us a set of unreasonable demands to live by. As our Creator, He knew what would lead us to live a more fulfilling and healthy life.”

This statement is so impossibly vague as to be without meaning to anyone who isn’t already of like-mind. I guess being an atheist, I just can’t understand it? Do you know how patronizing that sounds?
I’m sincerely sorry if that sounds patronizing, but I have no other idea how to state that fact. This is another thing that cannot be measured or understood except by each individual person. Many people state that they feel a strong connection with a “god” of some sort, and there is no way to know what exactly that may mean to each person. But, the majority of people on earth either believe in a divine creator or are open to researching the possibility due to the strong instinct to acknowledge that there is a creator of the cosmos.

I recently read this in an article: “The atheist knows that the universe began to exist and since the universe is, according to the atheist, all there is, the very existence of the universe seems to be a colossal violation of the laws of nature (i.e., a miracle). It's hard to believe in miracles without God. “

And, of course, scripture tells us: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:20-22).

You quoted me and then wrote:
“I’ve known many people, myself included, who have turned their back on biblical truth or morality at various points in our lives and have made decisions which in turn led to consequences that were not pretty.”

Of course you do. You live in the US. Virtually everyone you know is Christian. Of all of those people, if you didn’t know someone who turned their back on “biblical truth” and then exercised poor judgment of some kind, that would be truly surprising. But that doesn’t prove or even suggest a causal connection. As you might expect, I know many other atheists. Almost without exception, we were all raised by Christian parents and attended church until we were old enough to make our own decisions. We rejected your “biblical truth” and surprise—we are all law abiding, successful, productive members of society, living happy, fulfilling lives.
I’ve no doubt that you live a very productive life as an atheist, but bear in mind that as you stated and I alluded to regarding atheists in general earlier in my post, you had a religious upbringing. Do you truly believe that just because you decide to throw the concept of God out the window that those religious ideals you were brought up with don’t have some type of influence on you and your decisions in life? Darwinists often state that our morals are connected with influences from society. Since the dawn of written history, religion has always been extremely connected with education on morality. Atheists can’t escape that influence simply because they reject a Creator.

You quoted me and then commented:
“I am quite aware that atheists pull random verses from Old Testament laws that sound immoral and shout with outrage that anyone would consider them moral, but unless one takes the time to thoroughly understand what was going on during that time in history and how that ties in with the rest of the old and new testaments, you’re not going to get a clear picture of the entire message.”

Where did this come from? I did not cite any bible verses at all. I merely pointed out that virtually every argument coming from Christians, against gay marriage, seems to come from the Bible. “The Bible says so” is not a valid reason for a law in the US despite what some people would like to believe.
Never in my life have I heard someone simply state that something is right or wrong merely “because the Bible says so”, except for little children singing the song, "Jesus loves me". I’ve no doubt that those type of people exist, I’ve just not encountered one.

People may use Biblical ideals in support of their views, but they usually provide an explanation of why they believe it is the best idea, and tie that in with their own experiences and observations in society as I did with you on a few issues. There are reasons God gave us guidelines to follow, as I mentioned in my last post. They aren’t to hinder our lives from doing the things we want, but to enhance our lives.

You wrote:
Your point that you have to look at the Bible as a whole and understand what was going on at that time in history is very intriguing to me. This is because the Religious Right in this country seems to disagree with you as far as I can tell. I repeatedly hear that morality MUST come from the Bible otherwise we just have moral relativism. But you seem to be saying that we have to understand that what was moral then, isn’t moral now. Isn’t that the very definition of the evil moral relativism? Why did God require homosexuals, adulterers, and heretics to be stoned to death back in Old Testament times, but now he doesn’t? Having read the Bible in its entirety multiple times, attended more Sunday school classes than I care to remember, and having taken two college classes on Christianity, I offer the following semi-educated opinion: the moral teachings of Jesus mirror and expand upon the golden rule; they are well worth studying; however the main ideas are not unique to Jesus and certainly did not originate with him. The “morality” of the Old Testament is just plain scary and I would suggest that we would ALL be better off not taking it seriously.
The scriptures definitely gives example after example of how living contrary to how God designed for us to live with one another in society will result in negative consequences. King David’s life alone gives us so much to consider and learn from. But, I believe you truly have to consider the bible in it‘s entirety, the history surrounding Biblical times (especially during Old Testament times) and how Christ was considered the new covenant.

Gosh, this is such an interesting subject and we could go on forever, but with the life and death of Christ we have been given a new covenant, and many of the OT laws are obsolete as they are not relevant to the new covenant and teachings of Paul and the apostles and their guidelines for the church.

Where does one draw the line as to what is relevant in our modern society? Well, I believe Paul, in most cases, makes that pretty clear in his letters and instruction for the church. As I said in my last post, I’ve addressed a bit of this in an on-line forum.

After all those years of Christian education and two years of college courses on Christianity, it would seem that you might have given some consideration to the NT teaching of the new covenant in Christ‘s death and resurrection. But, then again, I missed the importance of that in my religious upbringing as well. It wasn’t until I really dug into scripture on my own and asked the really hard questions of anyone who would listen to me, that I actually came to a whole new understanding and appreciation for God’s word. Just out of curiosity, where did you attend college?

You made a very good suggestion:
“Harris doesn’t make an evolutionary argument, he makes a philosophical one. If you haven’t read “Letter to a Christian Nation” you should. It will only take an hour or two.”
Will do. I ordered it today.

You quoted me and then commented:
“An atheist would support the notion that morality has evolved in the same way we have supposedly evolved - through natural selection. But, there is very little to support this sediment other than "just so stories".

If you reject evolution to begin with, then there is really no point in me trying to argue this specific point, because there is no evidence or explanation that could possibly be good enough. So I will just say, that the evolutionary path to morality is very simple and common-sense when you consider that we are talking about a social species moving from living in small, family groups to living in societies.
No, Seldom, the “evolutionary path to morality” is not “very simple and common-sense“. If it were anything other than speculation, scientists wouldn’t be offering a variety of ~opinions~ as to how morality “evolved”. Scientists still don’t have a handle on how consciousness, altruism, or even the validity of thought evolved, much less the evolution of morality.

Evolution is a fact in as far as the theory can be supported with empirical evidence, but when we take the theory past the point of speciation and into macroevolution and evolution of the entire universe, we are basing the theory on inferences, assumptions and speculation. There is nothing wrong with that, and by all means let the exploration into finding the answers continue. But, don’t teach it dogmatically as a fact.

You wrote:
First, please note that I did not call you a bigot.
Well, actually you did. You’ve stated that you believe the word applies to “most people who are anti-gay marriage”. Um, that would be me.

You wrote:
I think we have a disagreement over exactly when “bigot” is appropriate. In my meaning, Dawkins and Harris are not bigoted at all, because they are criticizing beliefs that are chosen.
Webster’s dictionary defines a bigot as “one who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc.” Now, in that sense, ~I~ would certainly define Harris and Dawkins as bigoted, although I’ve no doubt that you would disagree. I believe their opinion that there is no god to be held on faith, not facts. They are also ~extremely~ intolerant of those who disagree with their opinion. I also consider both gentleman extremely divisive, and they encourage ridicule and belittlement of those who do not agree with their opinions on various issues. That, IMO, is morally wrong. Are there Christians who treat atheists in the same manner? Certainly, and their behavior is equally wrong as well. Remember, this is all just my opinion.

You wrote:
“I find it amazing that anyone who has met gay people thinks they chose to be gay. The gay people I have met are gay in the same way that I am male. More on this with your comments below.”
Well, actually my husband’s cousin chose to commit to a homosexual relationship after years of being in a heterosexual relationship. The reason was due to having her fill of men who treated her poorly. She decided to give it a shot with a woman.

A high school student who was living with his girlfriend at her mother’s house next door to us a few years ago told us that he knew high school girls who would engage in homosexual behavior just for kicks. My husband asked the kid if he was serious, and he assured him that he was.

Then of course, we all hear the stories from Hollywood regarding people switching back and forth between men and women.

I do not rule out that some people may be predisposed to homosexual behavior, but I believe that societal situations can lead to this behavior as well. My personal opinion is that they should at least consider counseling like anyone else who acknowledges that they find that their feelings or behavior is not the norm.

You quoted me and then commented:
“Only a relationship between a ~man and a woman~ will result in procreation. Then there is the fact that men and women differ in many ways, and children need the influence of both genders. Sure, a gay couple could get someone of the opposite sex to spend time with their child just as a single parent could. But, the ~best~ situation for a child is a Mom and a Dad in the household caring for the children.”

This is largely a question of what marriage is for in general. The purpose of marriage has changed constantly over time. Clearly, in the not too recent past it was related to procreation. I think that is now a very quaint, old fashioned idea. People now marry primarily, if not exclusively, for love. If this is accurate, your argument is no longer a valid reason for preventing gay marriage.
I would have to disagree with this statement. Marriage, in our modern society, is actually related to starting a family much more so than in the past. Today, many couples who love each other merely move in together. That seems to be becoming almost the norm at this point in time. When these couples consider starting a family, it’s at that point that they seek out the marriage certificate.

But, let’s consider your idea that marriage is exclusively due to loving another person. Where would we draw the line?

From the article I provided, The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage: “If the state must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example, or a sterile brother and sister who claim to love each other?”

Then, there is this:

Question: Once we open the door to redefining marriage, what is to stop the next "sexual freedom" movement from molding the definition of marriage to how they see fit?

Answer: Nothing.

---Mark Glesne, "Marriage and the Slippery Slope", 2004
You quoted me and then commented:
“My personal opinion is that there are social factors that cause some people to choose partners from their own gender, and I don’t rule out the possibility that there are those who are genetically predisposed to choosing partners of their own gender.”

Here’s the deal. If it is a choice, then we as a society are justified in accepting or condemning it as we see fit. If it is genetic, then this is no different than racism or sexism. Is the jury still out on this question? From what I have seen, I don’t think so, and—I can state without a doubt that I have never said this before—even Ted Haggard agrees with me.
Yes, the jury is still out on that one. Scientists have conducted studies on this issue, but as yet we have no conclusive evidence that homosexuality is genetic, though as I‘ve said before, it wouldn‘t surprise me if in ~some~ individuals it is.

My personal opinion about Ted Haggard is that he is one who chose that behavior due to some sort of power struggle or something similar. Not only is he stepping out of his marriage, but he is also apparently heavily addicted to drugs, and his ability to be honest apparently flew out the window some time ago. The man needs serious counseling, and my heart goes out to his family. My hope would be that their church will reach out to them and help them through this incredibly difficult situation.

You quoted me and then commented:
“You might also consider Rosie O’Donnell’s comments as well:
...Rosie said, "Yes he does, all the time." And Diane said, "What do you tell him?" And Rosie tells him, "You can't have a daddy, because I'm the kind of mommy who wants another mommy."

Same-sex marriage and parenting really comes down to those two words: "I want."

I’m sorry if this comes across as offensive, but quoting that is pathetic. You are taking what a grown up simplistically tells a child, and claiming it makes some larger point about the issue. Really? What was she supposed to do—explain sexuality in depth to a six year old? And God forbid that a gay woman wants the same thing for her life that 99% of the rest of us want: a spouse and a family! How selfish of her. Not one of your better efforts to say the least. (Note: I do realize that the quote above isn’t from you directly.)
Actually, my point was this:

During the program, host Diane Sawyer asked Rosie if her then-6-year-old son Parker ever asked why he can't have a daddy.

Rosie said, "Yes he does, all the time."
Her son misses the fact that he doesn’t have a daddy. Male bonding is very important for a child. When my children were little, it seemed their lives centered around me. But, as they grow, that bonding with their father is something wonderful to watch. My two boys are currently in 4th and 6th grade and they simply idolize their father at this age. Dad takes them hunting and fishing and takes them to batting practice, etc., etc. The other day I looked out my window and there was my husband walking across the yard with my two boys, one on each side like little bookends. They were both looking up at him and I could tell they were having a very interesting conversation by the expressions on their faces. It was so cute to watch. Children need the influence of both sexes and marriage is an institution that should center on what is the best choice for future generations.

As I’ve stated before, it’s not simply “because the bible says so” that people form strong opinions on this issue. We realize from experience and observation what the best scenario would be and it just so happens that God was right about those issues from the start.

You wrote:
I’ll try to stop by more frequently although I don’t want to monopolize your comment section with long spiels like this. I’m wondering if anyone is still awake at this point!
I enjoy talking with you and considering your perspective on these issues. Many on-line forums are controlled by people who are quite hateful when discussing various opinions which in turn makes it impossible to have a meaningful conversation. I like discussing these issues because I find them quite interesting, and it helps me further examine my belief system and my overall worldview. Thanks again.

[This post was edited to correct a few gramatical errors 11/16, 10:30pm]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I receive some really hilarious jokes via email. Here’s one I just have to share because my kid‘s pet guinea hen died just the other day, and this is a classic story of how crazy the whole pet experience can become.


Just after dinner one night, my son came up to tell me there was "something wrong" with one of the two lizards he holds prisoner in his room.

"He's just lying there looking sick," he told me. "I'm serious dad, can you help?"

I put my best lizard-healer statement on my face and followed him into his bedroom. One of the little lizards was indeed lying on his back, looking stressed. I immediately knew what to do.

"Honey," I called, "come look at the lizard!"

"Oh my gosh," my wife diagnosed after a minute. "She's having babies."

"What?" my son demanded. "But their names are Bert and Ernie, Mom!" I was equally outraged.

"Hey, how can that be? I thought we said we didn't want them to reproduce?" I accused my wife.

"Well, what do you want me to do, post a sign in their cage?" she inquired. (I actually think she said this sarcastically!)

"No, but you were supposed to get two boys!" I reminded her, (in my most loving, calm, sweet voice, while gritting my teeth together).

"Yeah, Bert and Ernie!" my son agreed.

"Well, it's just a little hard to tell on some guys, you know," she informed
me (again with the sarcasm, you think?)

By now the rest of the family had gathered to see what was going on. I shrugged, deciding to make the best of it.

"Kids, this is going to be a wondrous experience, I announced. "We're about to witness the miracle of birth."

"Oh, gross!" they shrieked.

"Well, isn't THAT just great! What are we going to do with a litter of tiny little lizard babies?" my wife wanted to know. (I really do think she was being snotty here, too. Don't you?)

We peered at the patient. After much struggling, what looked like a tiny foot would appear briefly, vanishing a scant second later.

"We don't appear to be making much progress," I noted.

"It's breech," my wife whispered, horrified.

"Do something, Dad!" my son urged.

"Okay, okay." Squeamishly, I reached in and grabbed the foot when it next appeared, giving it a gentle tug. It disappeared. I tried several more times with the same results.

"Should I call 911," my eldest daughter wanted to know. "Maybe they could talk us through the trauma." (You see a pattern here with the females in my house?)

"Let's get Ernie to the vet," I said grimly.

We drove to the vet with my son holding the cage in his lap. "Breathe, Ernie, breathe," he urged.

"I don't think lizards do Lamaze," his mother noted to him. (Women can be so cruel to their own young. I mean what she does to me is one thing, but this boy is of her womb, for Goodness sake.)

The Vet took Ernie back to the examining room and peered at the little animal through a magnifying glass.

"What do you think, Doc, a C-section?" I suggested scientifically.

"Oh, very interesting," he murmured. "Mr. and Mrs. Cameron, may I speak to you privately for a moment?"

I gulped, nodding for my son to step outside.

"Is Ernie going to be okay?" my wife asked.

"Oh, perfectly," the Vet assured us. "This lizard is not in labor. In fact, that isn't EVER going to happen. Ernie is a boy. You see, Ernie is a young male. And occasionally, as they come into maturity, like most male species, they um.... um....masturbate. Just the way he did, lying on his back." He blushed, glancing at my wife. "Well, you know what I'm saying, Mr. Cameron."

We were silent, absorbing this.

"So Ernie's just...just... excited," my wife offered.

"Exactly," the vet replied, relieved that we understood.

More silence. Then my viscous, cruel wife started to giggle. And giggle. And then even laugh loudly.

"What's so funny?" I demanded, knowing, but not believing that the woman I married would commit the upcoming affront to my flawless manliness.

Tears were now running down her face. Laughing "It's just...that...I'm picturing you pulling on its... its...teeny little..." she gasped for more air to bellow in laughter once more.

"That's enough," I warned. We thanked the Vet and hurriedly bundled the lizards and our son back into the car. He was glad everything was going to be okay.

"I know Ernie's really thankful for what you've done, Dad," he told me.

"Oh, you have NO idea,"

Closed mouth, my wife agreed, collapsing with laughter.

2 - Lizards - $140...

1 - Cage - $50...

Trip to the Vet - $30...

Memory of your husband pulling on a lizard's wacker.....Priceless.