Among the Creationists

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In a recent column, the Reverend Jerry Falwell personally invited Christopher Hitchens to come down to Lynchburg, Va. to attend to the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference "so that he can learn the Creationism is not just the whim of a bunch of snake-handling mountain evangelists." I don't know if Hitch will make it, but I've decided to go. I will be filing daily dispatches covering the conference's first 3 days starting this Tuesday.

NEXT: Nimble Little Fingers

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  1. Since I live a reasonable distance away I’m almost tempted to go.

    Almost.

    Have fun, and give us a steady stream of amusing dispatches!

  2. Sounds like good entertainment. Please, Please, Please! tell us all about the talk entitled, “Hubble, Bubble, Big Bang in Trouble!”

    Considering some predictions by the big bang theory have been reproduced with accuracy of 99.9% (that’s unheard of, the law of gravity doesn’t behave that well) I’m particularly interested in where they have poked holes in this theory.

  3. I have no problems with Creationism… until they pretend it’s science.

  4. Please ask anyone you can this simple question:

    What possible piece of observed or discovered evidence can you think of that would prove the Creation (or design) hypothesis false?

    Note that actual scientists have no problem answering that question.

  5. About scientific theories, that is.

  6. What possible piece of observed or discovered evidence can you think of that would prove the Creation (or design) hypothesis false?

    None. I also can’t think of any reason why the Scientology creation myth is provably false, or the theory that the universe was vomited from the mouth of an intergalactic star goat ten trillion years ago is false. By that reasoning, I suppose any doctrine can be assumed to be as valid as any other.

    But when my tax dolars are being spent educating my kids on a theory that is wholly derivative from religion, cannot be reconciled with demonstrable science, and is in fact at odds in many respects with empirical science, I draw the line.

  7. When will you be swingin’ by the “Answers in Genesis” museum and amusement park over near me in Sinincincinnati and Big Bone Lick?
    Is Jerry stealing some of our alleged thunder?
    Makes one wonder why a Mega-Conference would be over in Lynchburg, where sunshine must be piped in, versus here, right by a major hub of Delta.
    Has Karl Rove already moved to his next assignment: advisor to Jerry?

  8. I’ve always thought that sciences such as, say, chemistry and nuclear physics must have reached some conclusions that don’t square with the bible, but the creationists never go after them. Is it because they know they’d get handed their ass in a hat?

    Either we let science explore this universe using the methods that have demonstrated their usefulness beyond any shadow of a doubt (Nuclear power plants? God didn’t make those. Computers? Scientists again. Air conditioners? Nope, not one of God’s, either) or we decide “God did it”, close the labs, shut down the universities, and we all go home and sit in the dark until we die of some hideous, easily-preventable disease.

    And yet these idiots will quite happily enjoy all the comforts, safeties and benefits brought about by science, in many cases oweing their very lives to science, and attack it because some of its conclusions don’t jibe with their 2,000 year old, badly-written fable.

    I just don’t get it.

  9. Why not make it a game? See how many times you can be condemned to hell in a day, or in an hour.

    Where’s H.L. Mencken when you need him most?

  10. Oh, sorry, I guess that should have read “…3,500 year old, badly-written fable.” Most creationists are New-Testament types so I picked the more recent edition. Anyone know what the Jewish take on evolution might be?

  11. Is “god created the universe” provably false? No. Doesn’t mean its true either.

    But anyway, creationism doesn’t equal “god created the universe”. It’s “god created the universe at a specific time in the recent past just as it is today, and we will twist ourselves into intellectual pretzels to convince outselves of that.”

  12. I posted this link in a creationist thread a few days ago. Seems even more appropriate now.

    Warning: Gravity is Only a Theory!

    Ronald, good luck, man.

  13. “Anyone know what the Jewish take on evolution might be?”

    Reform and Conservative Jews generally have no problem with it; Orthodox Jews tend to reject it but with some significant exceptions. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism_and_evolution

  14. Actually some mainstream scientists – not creationists – have started to question whether the Big Bang is accurate. The Big Bang itself beat out the solid-state theory of the universe peddled by scientists decades ago. Funny thing about the Big Bang is that it’s embraced by the leading intelligent design academics, which clearly separates them from creationists. I don’t know which scenario is closer to the truth, but if we think all our theories of the universe are infallible, we’ll get our asses handed to us as well.

  15. In a recent column, the Reverend Jerry Falwell personally invited Christopher Hitchens to come down to Lynchburg, Va. to attend to the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference “so that he can learn the Creationism is not just the whim of a bunch of snake-handling mountain evangelists.”

    But there are snake-handlers involved?

    Sadly, the bible-beating numbskull is right. You don’t have to be some inbreed, backwoods redneck to believe in the Genesis myth… but it sure does help.

    Ronald, please, why do you even bother talking to these knuckledraggers? I can’t think of anything more depressing than attending a virtual convention of medieval mentalities who have made the willful ignorance of scientific reality into a political and social cause. You can’t debate them since there is nothing to debate. You can’t reason with them since their faith-based system of what I’ll loosely call “thought” does not operate on reason. You are essentially covering an intellectual train wreck. Why bother?

  16. “Creationism is not just the whim of a bunch of snake-handling mountain evangelists.”

    Of course not. It’s also the crutch of the cognitively challenged, the convenience of the imaginatively stunted, and the tool of the unscrupulously ambitious.

    Yogi,
    Yeah, I used to be intrigued like you. But once you’ve actually heard the lecture (or read the book), it’s a let down. The logical fallacies are obvious, and often they resort to quackery that is even more transparent. Such as syntax abuse, “So you see, Big Bang theory requires calculations with ‘imaginary’ numbers while Creation calculus is entirely ‘real’.”

    I’ve never spoken to any of the authors, but I’ve gotten into it with several of their devout readers. If you work at it long enough, you can box them in and they’ll inevitably say something like “I know you must be wrong because you contradict the Bible”.

    Ron,
    I don’t envy you the task you’ve set yourself. I recommend packing strong sedatives to counter the overwhelming urge to start screaming every five minutes.

  17. Akira, I certainly don’t answer for Ronald, but I have to say that I like listening/talking to creationists for the same reason I like talking to Scientologists or animal “rights” people.

    It’s tragically hysterical.

    Ronald really ought to ask them what major advances the theory of creationism/intelligent design has led to.

    Could a “scientist” with a C/ID outlook come up with new forms of penicillin? Or gene therapy? Cure a disease? Come up with a treatment for, oh, I dunno, cancer?

  18. This would all be fine if school policy for all weren’t on the table. While your there see who you can get on board for school choice.

  19. “But when my tax dolars are being spent educating my kids on a theory that is wholly derivative from religion, cannot be reconciled with demonstrable science, and is in fact at odds in many respects with empirical science, I draw the line.”

    True cdunlea, and I agree. But creationists probably object to being taxed to fund schools that teach theories that they don’t want taught to their children as well.

  20. And since I don’t have any kids, I object to the entire concept of publically funded schools.

  21. True cdunlea, and I agree. But creationists probably object to being taxed to fund schools that teach theories that they don’t want taught to their children as well.

    …and if we lived in Libertopia, all schools would be private and parents could have their offspring learn whatever ignorant bullshit they deem fit.

    Trouble is, for good or bad, public schools exist and always will. All the libertarian pipe dreaming is going to change that. As long as we have government schools, they have to obey “the rules”, namely the Bill Of Rights and the establishment clause of the first amendment. The fundies might not like the fact that their tax money is going to fund the teach of actual science, but the constitution is (or at least should be) on our side.

    If they don’t like, they can work a second job to send little Elijah to bible school, or move to a country where there are no boundaries between church and state. I hear Saudi Arabia is nice.

  22. intelligent design academics

    Academics?? Heh.

    I don’t know which scenario is closer to the truth, but if we think all our theories of the universe are infallible, we’ll get our asses handed to us as well.

    That is true but entirely irrelevant. Is there a single person with any real scientific understanding, interest, or training whatsoever, who has ever claimed our theories of the universe are infallible, in anywhere near modern times? Anyone who understands what science is certainly knows that all our theories are tentative explanations and subject to refutation. This, as was pointed out above, is precisely what separates them from ID and creationism.

  23. As long as we have government schools, they have to obey “the rules”, namely the Bill Of Rights…

    Like when schools let the cops come in with drug sniffing dogs and search all the lockers?

    Or when they mandate that anyone involved in extracurricular activities take a pee test?

    Or force a kid to change his clothes because he came to school in a Marylin Manson/Antiwar/Prowar/NRA/PeTA tshirt?

    /sorry for the snarkiness

  24. Godspeed Mr. Bailey, as you go into the belly of the beast.

  25. I wonder how many creationists have actually read Darwin and made a conscientious effort to at least understand what it is they’re railing against. Maybe some have done so; certainly none of the creationists I have actually met have. They’re like Joe Morgan dismissing sabermetrics out of hand for emotional reasons, therefore seeing no reason to read Moneyball.

  26. One thing I’d like to ask the ID supporters which has been asked before, so of course this is not an original idea (as if I ever have those!) and my apologies to whoever raised it on a previous thread, but I’ll raise it again: If you find the arguments for ID so compelling – that some biological structures are too “irreducibly complex” to have evolved naturally and therefore imply the existence of a designer, well, then who designed the designer? Certainly anything so complex as to be capable of designing all these amazing biological specimens must be much more complex than the very items claimed as requiring a designer in the first place. So, the designer must also be irreducibly complex and therefore must also require a designer, and so on.

    And no, I don’t want to hear any more about the secret designs of secret designers… :)~

  27. Jim- Not many. I’d have to say that were C.S. Lewis still alive, he’d probably give it a go.

    Possibly John Eldridge, but he tends to focus more on the positive spiritual aspects of a belief in Christ rather than bashing people over the head with a clasp-locked Bible and a big pile of guilt.

  28. “And since I don’t have any kids, I object to the entire concept of publically funded schools.”

    Me too, mediageek. But not just because I don’t have kids.

    Akira,

    Look, I’d rather have my future children learn sound science as well (and if I can afford it, in a good private school). My point is, taxing creationists to pay for little Johnny’s evolution education is morally no better than taxing the rest of us to pay for mandatory lessons in intelligent design.

  29. I think it would be a good idea not to automaticaly see these people as enemies. Their possible allies in that they don’t want to be forced to pay to be given a product they don’t want. It’s an agree to disagree situation so we can get a bigger goal we do agree on, stop fucking with our children.

  30. [They’re] possible allies in that they don’t want to be forced to pay to be given a product they don’t want. It’s an agree to disagree situation so we can get a bigger goal we do agree on, stop fucking with our children.

    Yeah they’d be allies except that’s not quite all they want. They don’t want freedom from government coercion; they just want to control that coercion. In other words they want government to fuck with everyone’s children but just in a way they approve of. Hasn’t the last four years proven beyond any doubt that social conservatives are not “small government” supporters, federalists, or any other friends of libertarians unless they feel out of power?

  31. But creationists probably object to being taxed to fund schools that teach theories that they don’t want taught to their children as well.

    No doubt. But then, why send the kiddies to a school at all if that’s how they feel? I mean, if they don’t want their kids learning the science the rest of the world is getting–the science they will need to demonstrate to get jobs in anything from medicine to engineering to info tech (try getting through a 4 year college without Astronomy 101)–make school attendance mandatory and keep them on the farm picking turnips.

    To put it another way, if my holy book mentions that 2 + 2 = 5, and I try to argue that in class, I’ll have a hard time passing any kind of math class regardless of my beliefs. While evolution is hardly as factual as that, many of the underlying premises are at least demonstrable.

  32. Y’know Akira, your optimistic outlook on life and respect for all mankind are really an inspiration to us all.

  33. My point is, taxing creationists to pay for little Johnny’s evolution education is morally no better than taxing the rest of us to pay for mandatory lessons in intelligent design.

    Without that background in evolutionary theory, you can forget about a career in anything from medicine to biotech research. Whether or not you agree with it, the entire scientific community–or at least the community holding the jobs, grants, teaching posts, journals, and international recognition–considers a working knowledge of the theory’s applications vital in a fellow.

    IE, on the other hand, is no more relevant to serious science than Buddhism or Kabbala. And as public schools are a good to society, and cost money, I’d rather see my kids learn something that will help them get jobs in the future.

  34. “We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.” – Charles Darwin

  35. Jerry Falwell personally invited Christopher Hitchens…

    Personally, I’d love to hear what Richard Dawkins would have to say about it.

  36. I’m surprised Bailey isn’t going after Sen. McCain’s efforts to push the old Nighthorse bill giving Indian tribes the right over what to do with pre-historic remains that aren’t associated with any existing tribe.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002382732_kennewick15m.html

  37. mediageek —

    C.S. Lewis? The collossal sophist who gave us the infamous (or ought to be) “trilemma”? This is the same guy, isn’t it, who made the hilariously ill-conceived analogy that premarital sex was as grotesquely wrong as chewing food for the pleasures of taste and then spitting it out? I, for one, would hate to be refuted by Chiclets.

  38. J. Goard,

    Ever read Mere Christianity? I find it interesting that he opens up with an explanation as to why he won’t discuss the merits of various Christian sects – he wants to hide the disputes in order to not scare away those who are non-Christians. Of course as religions in general are built on keeping some aspects of their belief mysterious and unknown, this sort of deceptive and dishonest behavior shouldn’t be surprising.

  39. “The Big Bang itself beat out the solid-state theory of the universe peddled by scientists decades ago”

    Like Hoyle they did. I assume you mean steady-. But If only it were so, Bohr’s remake about the solid-state theory would have universal ecumenical appeal among the Creationati

    “The Devils at the surfaces.”

  40. What possible piece of observed or discovered evidence can you think of that would prove the Creation (or design) hypothesis false?

    Jesus could come back to earth, show ’em the scars, and say “Hell no, I didn’t make this shit!”

    But they probably wouldn’t believe him.

  41. When asked by my Creationist friends, “What would cause you to give up your belief in evolution by natural selection and recognize the Hand of a Designer?” I normally reply, “Let’s say the DNA sequencers find several strands that are common to all creatures, where the base pair sequences spell out pi or e (base 4, of course) to 100 decimal places…”

  42. SY,

    Ha ha ha. πŸ™‚

  43. I mean, if they don’t want their kids learning the science the rest of the world is getting–the science they will need to demonstrate to get jobs in anything from medicine to engineering to info tech (try getting through a 4 year college without Astronomy 101)–make school attendance mandatory and keep them on the farm picking turnips.

    It is possible to teach basic science to christian-whackoes without mentioning evolution. There are many well paying jobs, like plumber and electrician, that are not affected by disbelief in evolution.

  44. Twba,

    Well, yes, for most people it really doesn’t matter much; that includes even most scientists and engineers.

  45. It is mind boggling how much intellectual effort goes into creationism, intelligent design, and similar arguments. I can’t help but feel kind of sad about the whole enterprise. I mean, say what you want about the merits of the arguments, it took a lot of thought to come up with irreducible complexity. There is an implied desperation there that just kind of depresses me.

  46. Jason Ligon,

    A lot of effort is put into all sorts of wacky shit; indeed, we are literally surrounded by wacky, irrational, silly, etc. notions, be they UFO abductions, reflexology, penish enlargement creams or pumps, magnet therapy, etc. The great thing about freedom is that you are free to be foolish; and I am free to criticize the foolish.

  47. Jason Ligon,

    By “you,” I didn’t mean you personally. πŸ™‚

  48. I just received confirmation on my booth, so I WILL be there, though somewhere at the back of the floor because I couldn’t get a decent rate. Just look for the blinding light.

    I’ll be signing copies of My new book “Heaven Help You Idiots” ONLY. I repeat. ONLY MY NEW BOOK. Copies will be available for purchase. Thank you.

  49. I have a booth there too. I still can’t figure out what form I’ll be in though.

  50. I’m with Akira. Yes, I understand why creationist parents object to paying for something that they don’t believe in, and no, I’m not defending that. But as long as public schools exist, well, there has to be some rational, objective way for determining what gets taught in science class. No government program has ever been improved by a lack of objective standards.

    If it’s any consolation to them, I’d be willing to endorse a disclaimer at the beginning of the evolution lessons. However, the usual “just a theory” one doesn’t really explain the core issues. Here’s what I’d propose.

    “Now we’re going to study evolution. The scientific study of evolution requires that we draw inferences about the past from data available in the present, and assume that events in the past were governed entirely by known, predictable laws of nature rather than supernatural intervention. To the extent that one accepts that premise the theory of evolution is sound. If one rejects that premise, well, one might draw different conclusions. In this class I will discuss the consequences of that premise, and will give homeworks and tests based on that premise, and leave it to you on your own time to decide to what extent you accept that premise.”

    No doubt the more philosophical types on this forum could tighten that up a little and plug the loopholes, but the basic idea is sound and representative of what most scientists think.

    Anyway, I think such a disclaimer might satisfy at least some creationists. Not the activists, of course, but maybe some of the ordinary parents would see that the science teacher isn’t an arrogant jerk trying to shit all over their beliefs, but simply a guy presenting the best scientific information out there while politely acknowledging that some people feel differently.

    And I don’t think we should underestimate the extent to which a lot of critics would be satisfied by that. I have found that a lot of people become much easier to get along with if you simply demonstrate that you understand where they’re coming from and you respect them. Respect doesn’t mean surrender (after that little disclaimer the teacher should go right along with the evolution lesson), it just means that you understand that not everybody agrees, and you understand that the root of the disagreement comes from sincerely held beliefs. That’s all.

    A little respect can go a long way in life.

  51. Has anyone bothered to inform creationists that giving up this silly belief does not mean that you have give up other, more essential beliefs as far as Christianity is concerned? What’s more, they cling to this belief but often ignore other strange or false teachings of the bible.

  52. I’ve always found Liberty University’s name to be highly ironic, since its founder really despises liberty. I mean Falwell supports and end to public education (he plans to have all public schools taken over by Christians) but wants public funding for “faith based” intiatives, though he wants none of that funding to go to non-Christian groups. He’s a welter of contradictions.

  53. thoreau,

    Actually, I suspect that most creationists (activists or not) still wouldn’t like it. As to respect, well, creationists and theistic idiots in general don’t respect atheists, so I see no need to respect them.

  54. Along those lines, Hakluyt, did you see the news story last week about the Christian adoption agency in Mississippi? This agency, which accepts some money from the state from the sale of “Choose Life” license plates, will not as a matter of policy place children with Catholic parents, because Catholicism does not adhere to their “Statement of Faith.” IOW, “Catholics are not real Christians.”

    I loves me some sectarian infighting!

  55. thoreau,

    I distinctly remember during the Roy Moore granite block flap in ‘Bama watching interviews of the individuals involved in the protests outside. The few atheists, secularists, etc. who were there were continually patronized, shouted at, threatened, etc. for their thoughts on the matter. No, if its an issue of respect, its one where theists aren’t practicing it.

  56. Vishnu:

    Okay, it’s fine that you go, and since you probably have your deposit down there’s nothing I can do anyway.

    But please don’t be spooking the rubes by waving all those arms around. These creatures are very fragile. Okay? Be cool.

  57. Phil,

    Well, that is just typical of theistic thinking. For example, in WWII, as desperate Jewish parents in Europe handed their children over to the Church for safekeeping, the Church decided that they would not give them back to their parents if the parents or their relatives survived the war. Following the war, when the parents or relatives showed up to collect the kids, the RCC refused to hand them over. By that time they had already baptised them as Catholics, set them up with Catholic families, tried to erase any memory of being Jewish from their minds, etc. I’m sorry, but such behavior on the part of the RCC is just despicable. Same for this Mississippi group.

  58. Phil,

    Anyway, what they are doing is clearly unconstitutional and one should expect a lawsuit out of the matter soon if the state doesn’t straighten up the act of this group. Religious groups always want state money (meaning in part my money) without any strings attached. Being forced to give religious groups my money just pisses me off to no end.

  59. “It is possible to teach basic science to christian-whackoes without mentioning evolution. There are many well paying jobs, like plumber and electrician, that are not affected by disbelief in evolution.”

    I have a relative who is a research scientist (IN BIOLOGY) who tries occasionally to convert the family to literal creationism.

    It makes my teeth hurt (I’m a computer scientist and I can’t figure out how anybody in any kind of science or engineering field can believe in that stuff – but ESPECIALLY a biologist).

  60. thoreau-

    I agree entirely. Just as Creationists trying to force religion into science annoy me, scientists who try to force science into religion or philosophy annoy me even more. Science is amoral. It’s dangerous to take the results of a scientific theory and base a philosophy on it. (Much worse, a dogma.) All science is evolving. But, in science, the next theory still must explain all of the data and events that the previous theory did. Quantum Mechanics didn’t prove Isaac Newton wrong, it just improved on his results for the extremely small world.

  61. M1EK,

    Just ask yourself how many left-wing intellectuals in the 1930s, who were otherwise very intelligent, could have supported the USSR from a far? Very intelligent people can rationalize all sorts of things; indeed, their intelligence probably makes them more adept at that.

  62. Yogi,

    Name me some scientists who try to force their way into religion.

    And science isn’t amoral; there is definite moral content to much that is in science, especially in fields like medicine, food research, etc. Science doesn’t sit outside human society; its as much a part of it as any other human institution.

  63. It easy to dismiss all believers in ID as “cognitively challenged” and “imaginatively stunted”, but sometimes you can be surprised. I used to work for a brilliant mechanical engineer, a graduate of Princeton, who was well known and respected in his field, and throughout the aerospace industry — and he believed in ID.
    He was deeply religious, and (I guess) was able to compartmentalize his knowledge of science from his certainty in God’s creation. I respected him, and he respected me; we happily agreed to disagree on evolution.

  64. Yogi,

    Norman Borlaug definately sees a moral component to the research he and others do in increasing crop yields, etc., and he is not shy about telling you about it either. Nor is he shy in his criticism of those who oppose GM foods, etc.; he’ll, to paraphrase, tell you they are elitist fucktards that should basically shut up.

  65. Slainte`,

    That’s what I was trying to get at with my statement on left-wing intellectuals and the USSR. You stated it much more elegantly.

  66. Hakluyt-I share your derision towards the bible-thumpers, but I think you go a bit far in damning all theists. There are bright people out there who believe in some sort of invisible man, and some even have intelligent reasons for their conclusions. I disgree with them, but would not go so far as to suggest than all theists are intolerant, gap-toothed yokels.

  67. “Considering some predictions by the big bang theory have been reproduced with accuracy of 99.9% (that’s unheard of, the law of gravity doesn’t behave that well) I’m particularly interested in where they [i.e., creationists] have poked holes in this theory.”

    “The Big Bang itself beat out the [steady]-state theory of the universe peddled by scientists decades ago. Funny thing about the Big Bang is that it’s embraced by the leading intelligent design academics, which clearly separates them from creationists.”

    Folks, creationism per se has roughly nothing to say about the origin of the universe; it is strictly about the origin of biological species, which the creationists hold arose not through evolution but through “special creation” (hence the name).

    But it should be noted that when the Big Bang theory was first developed, many Christians seized on it as confirmation of their beliefs, since it seemed so consistent with traditional Christian teaching that the universe has not always existed, but that there was a point of creation ex nihilo at which time and the universe began. For the same reason, a lot of non-theistic folks resisted accepting the Big Bang theory, until the empirical evidence favoring it became so overwhelming.

    So if Mr. Bailey hears the creationists in Lynchburg saying anything about the Big Bang, it will probably be that it supports the Christian view. (A good question to ask them would be what they would say if astronomical observations a generation from now indicate that the Big Bang theory has a lot of holes in it and that the steady-state universe looks more plausible after all.)

  68. I support the teaching of ALL creationism in schools: the whole Earth-on-a-turtle’s-back thing, the sneeze of the Great Green Arkelseizure, the aboriginals singing the world into existence, Q pissing into Earth’s primordial soup…

  69. Jeff, sure — but in a comparative religion or mythology class.

  70. I’m at work right now, so I’ll get to responding to Shem latet tonight.

  71. Number 6,

    And those would be the atypical theists. πŸ™‚

  72. “But then, why send the kiddies to a school at all if that’s how they feel?”

    Because they’re being forced to pay for it, cdnulea. So, naturally, why shouldn’t they have as much right to dictate the curriculum material as the rest of us?

    “And as public schools are a good to society, and cost money, I’d rather see my kids learn something that will help them get jobs in the future.”

    And religious parents would, no doubt, rather have their children learn all sorts of religious mumbo jumbo that they feel is more important than any future job. Why should your preferences trump their preferences?

  73. C.S. Lewis? The collossal sophist who gave us the infamous (or ought to be) “trilemma”? This is the same guy, isn’t it, who made the hilariously ill-conceived analogy that premarital sex was as grotesquely wrong as chewing food for the pleasures of taste and then spitting it out? I, for one, would hate to be refuted by Chiclets.

    The trilemma actually came from Josh McDowell, though I think Lewis popularized it. Also, I fail to see what’s so offensive about it, as it can be used to support or attack Christianity. As for other stuff, Lewis was an apologist. He took it as his task to make Christianity palatable to people who otherwise wouldn’t pay attention. It’s a standard marketing ploy. Regardless, by comparison Lewis was downright grounded in reality compared to Dobson and his band of goose-stepping nutwhacks just up the road from me.

    Has anyone bothered to inform creationists that giving up this silly belief does not mean that you have give up other, more essential beliefs as far as Christianity is concerned?

    I once argued to a friend that the entire C/ID vs. evolution argument was both a massive waste of time as well as a philosophical red herring. Lot of silence on the other end.

  74. The only thing more amusing to me than a — what was it? Snake-handling mountian evangelist? — is the self-professed, armchair scientist. The Bigbangist.

    Until the secular humanists ruining government in the name of their own religion (statist school as parent and god comes to mind; there are countless others) get down to the mindblowing non-ness of the subatomic, the Bang is as much metaphor for existence as the Bible.

    And that the Most Literate cannot see this point slays me. Evangelists make such convenient targets when all you have is faith yourself, no?

    The Religion of Science. Perhaps the most blinded mass pursuit since…the Crusades.

  75. “The trilemma actually came from Josh McDowell, though I think Lewis popularized it.”

    Since Josh McDowell did his writing after C.S. Lewis, that would be a pretty neat trick.

    Actually, I suspect it’s older than both. I believe the argument “aut Deus aut malus homo“, which poses a dilemma, was used in medieval times, and it would be a small matter for someone before Lewis to posit the third alternative (that Jesus was a nut case).

  76. Hakluyt-

    Regardless of who dissed who first (“They started it!”), I know that creationists want warning labels on textbooks. Well, I’m willing to give them a warning label or disclaimer, as long as it’s one that provides a more accurate description of the nature of scientific inquiry. “Just a theory” doesn’t cut it. “Contingent on the assumption of natural processes without divine or other supernatural intervention” is a very accurate description of scientific inquiry.

    Let’s have an honest warning label and see what happens.

  77. I guess what irks me the most about these ID types is this: imagine if all the scientists doing research into the universe and the origin of life threw up their hands and told the ID’rs “Yep, you’re right, you win.” and they all quit and went to work at Wal-Mart.

    Does anybody here have the slightest suspicion the ID “scientists” would continue researching the Big Bang and the origins of life? Would they devote their lives to miserable, underpaid jobs scratching around in the desert, trying to decipher the purpose of an oddly-shaped bone?

    Nope, they would be done. They would have their answers. We, as a species, would never take a single further step towards understanding anything about our past. So to let the ID’rs “win” the debate means to doom ourselves and our descendants to lives of utter and colossal ignorance.

    To all the legitimate scientists doing real research and expanding our knowledge of the universe, I salute you. To the ID fools kicking at those people’s ankles…up yours with knobs on.

  78. thoreau, but isn’t pre-big bang by definition “supernatural”? I’m betting that being “contingent on the assumption of natural processes”, at least in the who/how/what-made-the-universe race, is irrational in the extreme.

    Perhaps chaos theory should replace bigbangism in elementary school. And then mysticism should replace chaos theory at some distant but appropriate time. I’d put money on that too.

    On the other hand, with this disclaimer you do tend to point out the folly of “scientific” origins. That is, when “science” runs out of latitude in the natural, as already seems to be its m.o., it too will admit being a faith and by definition, have to bow out of courses in statist schooling. Oh, the ironies.

    Newtonian science — including that part of it we’ve adopted that says that the Universe can be adequately explained as what ultimately becomes for millions of us a weak philosophical platform — is an incomplete sets up rules and boundaries that are useless in the quantum realm; the universe’s very foundation. It’s therefore useless as comprehensive origin theory; as useless as our trying to understand the Universe from that single perspective, which is the core of anti-fundy toady thinking.

    Arrogant, exclusive Western literalism based on bigbangism is not “scientific”. And yet it alone can explain origins in a fit of self-importance unsupported by fact. The Wu Li masters surely must be dancing.

  79. 6Gun,

    No, Lewis merely adopts the idea that in order to convert people you have to be deceitful. Its all right there in Mere Christianity. Lewis also stupidly claims that all of human history has been regulated by one moral code no matter what civilization one looks to; which is about the dumbest damn thing someone could say.

    thoreau,

    There is nothing involved in the science of evolution that one needs to be warned about.

  80. 6Gun,

    thoreau, but isn’t pre-big bang by definition “supernatural”?

    No. Merely because something is unknown does not make it supernatural. But thank you for illustrating the concept of “God of the gaps.”

  81. My own crude understanding is that the concept of pre-Big Bang might be meaningless. We experience time as flowing, but prior to the Big Bang space-time bore no resemblance to time as we experience it.

    I could be totally wrong on that, and even if I’m right it certainly doesn’t answer everything. But the only point is that the scientific view of the universe’s origin is a little more complex than simply “For an eternity everything sat still, and then one day this singularity exploded and things started happening.”

  82. There is nothing involved in the science of evolution that one needs to be warned about.

    True enough. But if a little philosophical disclaimer on the nature of inquiry into past events is enough to keep the peace, well, what’s wrong with that? Scientists are big on disclaimers: Research articles are full of error bars and discussions of alternative hypotheses that couldn’t be ruled out. Admittedly, the proposed disclaimer is a little different in nature, but it’s completely consistent with the theory and practice of science, and if it keeps the peace, well, great. Even if it doesn’t keep the peace, maybe a few bright students will appreciate a brief discussion of philosophical matters.

  83. 6Gun, you’re not making sense. Just thought you’d like to know.

    nmg

  84. Since Josh McDowell did his writing after C.S. Lewis, that would be a pretty neat trick.

    Oops. Checking Wikipedia:
    The term “trilemma” actually comes from Christian apologist Josh McDowell, who based it on one of Lewis’s best-known arguments in favor of Christianity from his book Mere Christianity.

    Seamus, I stand corrected. Thank you.

    6Gun, given your attitudes about humanism and science, I find it peculiar that you rely on Jared Diamond as an authoritative source.

    Incidentally, what do the evangelicals make of trans-humanism?

  85. Scientists are big on disclaimers: Research articles are full of error bars and discussions of alternative hypotheses that couldn’t be ruled out.

    Were I a snarky atheist type,this is where I would point out that there are no disclaimers in the Bible at all.

  86. there are no disclaimers in the Bible at all

    Armaments, Chapter 9, verses 3-7:

    And Saint Colt held the bullet up on high saying “First shalt though chamber the round. .45 shall be the diameter of the round, and the diameter of the round shall be .45. The tolerances of that diameter shell be available from the manufacturer but shall not be more than one mil.”

  87. An update:

    My appearance at the expo portion of the conference is still a go, but I was just informed by the coordinators that I CAN’T use My blinding light “display”, as it apparently exceeds “maximum wattage/candles allowed”, even though the original contract SAID NOTHING ABOUT IT. Plus My nimbus is directly fueled by My own divinity, so I wasn’t asking for extra power cords or anything. But there you have it.

    Ergo, I will go to Plan B, where we will staff the booth with extremely attractive young women in tank tops.

    Thank you.

  88. I’m not sure how science can be a faith, given that faith by definition entails accepting things you have to logical reason to accept. Perhaps, 6 Gun, you’re referring to the presumption that science rules out all forms of deity. Of course, it does not. There is no logical way to get from a statement of the rules governing the universe to a statement that those rules are not created by a supernatural being.
    But the reverse is also true. There is not way to logically say that there must be such a being.
    Science explains what we can see and test. That’s not faith, but empiricism.

  89. Number 6:

    I think science, as it is consumed, depends a lot on faith. Have you personally tested all the principals you believe in? Or do you formulate your beliefs from the teachings of others?

    Science, like religion, is oftimes heavily political. It has its own morality. It’s often abused in order to control individual behavior. Scientific groups can be as dogmatic and fanatical as any mullah.

    Do I trust science the most? Sure. But like any human construct, it certainly has its flaws.

  90. thoreau,

    Your disclaimer idea would work, but it still makes me cringe. When you compromise with willful ignorance, everyone loses.

  91. Armaments, Chapter 9, verses 3-7:

    And Saint Colt held the bullet up on high saying “First shalt though chamber the round. .45 shall be the diameter of the round, and the diameter of the round shall be .45. The tolerances of that diameter shell be available from the manufacturer but shall not be more than one mil.”

    There is but one God: John Moses Browning and Jeff Cooper is his prophet

  92. How am I compromising? I suggest that a teacher say, in a nutshell, that this is science and the answers it gives aren’t always the same as what religion says, and that the students can disagree if they like but on the tests and homeworks they’ll have to answer questions in terms of scientific predictions.

    That compromises nothing. But if it makes a few people happy, well, what of it?

  93. Hume should be required reading for everyone on the planet. There, I said it.

    Of course there is faith in science. There is faith that the rules at my desk function the same way as the rules in my kitchen. There is faith in inferred causation. I can’t witness A causing B, I can only say that A always seems to precede B. Reason can’t get me out of the fact that these kinds of things are assumptions.

    That said, there is something very particular about scientific forms of faith. Namely, they are subject to revision based on empirical observation. If anyone ever identifies a circumstance in which gravitation performs differently than what NULG or General Relativity predict, we are obligated to modify our theory. Tests are public. Hypotheses are testable. Occam’s razor is observed.

    Religious assertions are fundamentally not in the public sphere, and they are not falsifiable. I could postulate a creation story just as provable as any religious story. My mother baked the universe whole in an Apple Pie in 1973. She included in her recipies false memories and misleading evidence of a world before that time. Prove me wrong. I could assert that some people have a theory of creation based on singularities and an expanding universe while others have one based on a Jewish Carpenter and His Dad, but the baker is the real truth. Since no one can prove me wrong, I guess we should include all discussions about origins in science textbooks.

    Magicians can be invoked to solve any problem, but such assertions are fundamentally not scientific, and they are certainly not especially useful.

  94. Jeff Cooper certainly thinks of himself as a prophet. How else to explain his obnoxious third person mode of writing and his condescending attitude toward any design put to paper after 1911 or so?

  95. Just so you know, my Book of Armaments post was meant more as a Monty Python joke than as a serious statement on firearms, on which I am utterly ignorant.

  96. I guess I just don’t like the idea of presenting religion as some sort of viable rational alternative. I should probably be more tolerant of people who make a conscientious decision to ignore evolutionary science and accept something else as the truth. :-/

    If it seems embarrassing to me to have to argue with proponents of C/ID, then I guess I could just let them be stupid.

  97. thoreau:

    You would be horrified at the irrationality of the whole firearms lexicon. You could have all sorts of interesting proclamations:

    “And, lo, there shall be a round called .357 and its true caliber shall be .38. And such round should not be confused with .38 Special upon pain of disappointing stopping power on the one hand and horrific smiting on the other. And now let it be known that there is also 9mm and .380 which are different too …”

  98. p-

    I never suggested in the disclaimer that creationism is rational. I said that if you accept one premise (in a nutshell, science) then evolution makes sense. If you accept another premise (in a nutshell, Biblical literalism) then evolution probably doesn’t make sense. The disclaimer said that students are free to decide on their own which premise they’ll accept.

    The only thing I didn’t say is that Biblical literalism leads to irrational conclusions, and there’s a good reason for that: Science class shouldn’t be about reverse evangelism. Students can sort out their philosophical and religious issues on their own time. Science class is about understanding science.

  99. Jeff Cooper certainly thinks of himself as a prophet. How else to explain his obnoxious third person mode of writing and his condescending attitude toward any design put to paper after 1911 or so?

    I…we, you know, like, the royal we. Editorial voice.

  100. Jason-

    According to my calculations, 9mm = 0.354 inches, almost exactly the same as .357. I guess the number .357 is not to be taken literally?

    I’m thinking of learning to shoot. I take it I should check my calculator at the door before entering a gun shop?

  101. thoreau-

    The numbers in calibers are rarely the actual diameter of the bullet.

    Usually has to do with manufacturing tolerances, whether the diameter is measured from the lands or grooves of the rifling in the barrel, and marketing.

  102. Also, there are a ton of different ways for denoting cartridges, all of them maddening.

    The commonly accepted ones are as follows:

    Metric designations in diameter by length- 9×19, 7.62×54, 8mm, etc. Generally applied to European cartridges.

    Standard designations: .45, .22, .32, .357

    And then a couple of variations of standard measurements generally used before there was any sort of standardization. 45-70, 45-110, 30-06, 30-30

    The first number is diameter, the second is either year of inception or length of cartridge. The 06 in 30-06 denotes 1906, the 30 in 30-30 denotes 18-30, whereas the 70 and 110 denote length.

    Realize that I’m just using this post as an excuse to air a bunch of semi-worthless trivia. When you pick a gun, it will tell you what caliber to use in the instruction manual, as well as it being stamped on the firearm somewhere.

    Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any gun-related questions.

  103. And don’t get me started on how they measure shotgun “calibers.”

    Because that whole system is just effing stupid.

  104. thoreau,

    The problem of course is that teaching science (as in teaching anything) is in part about indoctrination. Of course indoctrination can be a good thing.

  105. BTW, has anyone visited the “Mega” website? You’ll get to snicker a lot if you do. πŸ™‚

  106. And that should be 1830, not 18-30. Urgh.

  107. “The first number is diameter, the second is either year of inception or length of cartridge. The 06 in 30-06 denotes 1906, the 30 in 30-30 denotes 18-30, whereas the 70 and 110 denote length.”

    Umm, almost right. The 70 and 110 denote grains of black powder.

    Just another Gun Nut (and reloader).

  108. And Saint Colt held the bullet up on high saying “First shalt though chamber the round. .45 shall be the diameter of the round, and the diameter of the round shall be .45. The tolerances of that diameter shell be available from the manufacturer but shall not be more than one mil.”

    Amen!

    Jeff Cooper certainly thinks of himself as a prophet. How else to explain his obnoxious third person mode of writing and his condescending attitude toward any design put to paper after 1911 or so?

    Cooper’s method of writing has many Zen aspects to it. If I’m not mistaken, he’s a closet Buddhist.

    And when you’ve had to shoot multiple humans over the course of your life, you’d trust what works. Although, I should point out that Cooper was the inventor of the 10mm Auto, which directly led to the .40 S&W.

    I might be tempted to be high and mighty if I had such a resume too.

  109. TJ, thanks. I’m not so up on the cowboy cartridges.

    Ok, enough threadjack.

  110. Ugh, I just clicked over to that Mega Conference blog. On the schedule for today we have, among other things, “Rocks Around the Clock: The Eons that never Were,” “The Truth About the Scopes Trial,” and the fairly vague “Praise.” Sounds like a blast.

    I kind of need to stop reading this crap, because it only makes me more condescending towards Christians as a whole.

  111. p,

    “Praise” is a fundie catch phrase for a worship service. Creationism AND a church service in one! What more could a person ask for! [/snark]

  112. Hakluyt-

    Of course science is amoral. Just because it delves into the arenas of our lives where morality is a key issue, like the many you mentioned, doesn’t give it a morality.

    Take evolution as an example. One of the many concerns that people have about the idea of people decending from apes, is that we are not anymore special than the rest of the animal kingdom. They fear the morality of Social Darwinism (some claim Nazism took ideas based on evolution, though I don’t know enough about that to comment.)

    All science is doing is observing the world and trying to record its rules. Morality is a seperate from the rules of the game. What morality does gravity have? We use the rules of the universe as a guide, but they tell us not how to play the game.

  113. kmw,

    Please tell me there’s a Christian Rock concert thrown in there somewhere. Too bad Creed disbanded, right? (vomit)

    Is anyone else thinking of the movie “Saved!”?

  114. Check out the Mega-link. It just boggles the imagination.

    “Rod wrote this at 9:38 am
    Wow?what a great morning. As I?m typing this, Ken is finishing up his first presentation. We?re taking back the dinosaurs?we?re taking back biology, chemistry, astrophysics, geology?”

    ..”taking back” to the dark ages, they mean?

  115. How is it that Christianity came to be dominated by fundies, anyway? I grew up around Jebbies and Episcopalians, so these biblical literalists strike me as strange critters.

    As I’ve said, one can make a reasonable case for the existence of god, but these folks don’t even try. Willfull ignorance is exactly what we are dealing with.

  116. “No, Lewis merely adopts the idea that in order to convert people you have to be deceitful. Its all right there in Mere Christianity.”

    Since Mere Christianity was addressed, not to apologists, but to the very people that supposedly would have to be deceived in order to be converted, I’d be a bit surprised to find that idea set out “all right there.” Could we have a page citation, or at least a chapter citation?

  117. Jason,

    Just a distinction, here, but an important one, I think.
    You say, “Of course there is faith in science. There is faith that the rules at my desk function the same way as the rules in my kitchen…”

    I think the term you want is Trust, not Faith. As a part of the day-to-day functioning of science, this trust is based on tests, observations, logic, and so forth. Science is based on reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty. The ultimate basis for genuine Faith is pure belief, and it is irrespective of the results of any tests.

  118. Seamus,

    Its on pg. vi of the Preface in my copy.

    And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.

    Yogi,

    No, science is not amoral; the mere fact that it is practiced by humans undercuts such a notion. Science doesn’t sit outside human society at some archimedian point of neutrality; its part of human society just like any other human institution.

  119. Yogi,

    Now, what scientists observe, etc. in the natural world if demonstrated to be accurate may be amoral, but the practice of science itself isn’t amoral.

  120. Hakluyt: That’s hardly a call to be deceptive. That’s simply a call not to argue with your family members in front of strangers. I think that in Mere Christianity, Lewis is pretty candid about the fact that there are differences between denominations. He just doesn’t want to get into inter-denominational debates before those he’s evangelizing.

  121. Hakluyt-

    Okay, I think we’re both getting a better idea of where each of us is coming from.

    Take the issue of cloning/genetic modification. My argument is that the science behind this is amoral. Or in the otherwords, the knowledge of how the genome works and how to control it is amoral. However, whether or not we SHOULD be controling genes of plants or humans, etc, is a moral question. Let’s just not confuse the knowledge with the actions. I think you’d agree with that, right? Or am I still missing your point?

  122. Hello all,

    So. I’m a Christian and a fairly conservative fellow… perhaps a bit libertarian as well. I don’t believe in evolution, if you define evolution as we came from monkeys. So let’s define it. Macro or micro? It’s pretty clear that micro-evolution is supported by observable information. The finch beaks, all the varieties of dogs, etc. There is near infinite adaptability within species as I see it. In addition from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy there is an almost artistic aesthetic about existence. There are cheques (Canuck spelling, eh?)and balances within all systems. I just cannot accept as fact the premise that everything is a cosmic accident. Everything. For instance, what was the eye before it was an eye? How could it have been useful in any other form than what it is? I guess that’s the ID way of thinking. As for the concept of a Creator it most assuredly is NOT science. It’s clearly philosophy and should never be approached as anything other that that. Of course one can always point to possible evidence of a Creator but if you have concrete proof then what’s the point of faith? Regardless, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if those professing to be Christians became a touch less strident about unimportant things and, instead, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, housed the poor and visited those in prison. That and “loving the Lord your God with all your being and loving your neighbour as yourself.” That would go a long way to positively influencing our world instead of majoring on mostly bullshit.

    Anyway. I hope your days are long and prosperous and blessed. Even those who get really pissed off at Christians.

    Cheers.

    CT!

  123. For instance, what was the eye before it was an eye? How could it have been useful in any other form than what it is?

    Nature just provides a near infinite variety of biology. Nothing is useful other than whether it gives a creature an edge in survival. The creatures that have more “tools” as it were, are more like to spawn another generation. Those that possess fewer tools either get eaten or starved out.

    And the eye isn’t a particularly good example of good design. There are more elegant ways to achieve optic awareness.

  124. Seamus,

    It is quite deceptive. If I choose not to reveal something about how my ideology, etc. works as a means to keep you from scrutinizing it because I fear it will turn you off that is a form of deception. He advocates deceit as a means to snow potential converts.

    Anyway, Lewis was a stupid windbag whose apologetics were childish. My goodness, he acts like the Euthyphro dilemma is some new found concept of his.

  125. Nearly all Christian apologetics can be boiled down to shifting the locus of debate to a God-thing. How do you explain the universe? God created it. Well, who created God. How do we get to ethical standards? God created it. Well, how did God come by that set of standards, who created them for God, in other words?

    It goes on and on like Greek tale of the infinite turtles that hold up the Earth. Pinning shit on a God does not provide the “ultimate” answer that theists claim that it does; it merely shifts the debate to some other unknown. Well, instead of creating a deus ex machina that itself must be explained, I think the most rational position is to stick a non-theistic notion in the absence of evidence.

  126. Create This:

    Evolution of the Eye

    Also, Steven Pinker noted in “How the Mind Works” that with only evolutionary rules in place, a computer simulation produced an advanced eye design all by itself given enough generations.

  127. Here is Dawkins on that same eye simulation.

  128. Jason Ligon,

    Whenever the I.D. crowd comes up with an example of “design,” invariably evolutionary biolgists answer the claim with empirical evidence refuting the claim. Of the basic method for identification for I.D. claimants is this: “That looks complex. God must have done it.”

  129. I have to admit that, having just started work in biophysics, there are some things that blow my mind and I am amazed that any such machinery could arise naturally.

    However, the fact that my mind blows really proves nothing, except that evolution (or the Designer, take your pick) gave me a substandard brain.

  130. thoreau,

    There’s no problem standing in awe of the wonders of nature; that’s just another reason to study and understand it.

  131. thoreau,

    Speaking of awe over nature, I’ll be climbing Mt. Washington two weekends from now. I’ll have to e-mail or upload some pictures. Its a small peak in comparison to others I’ve done, but there should be some nice views.

  132. Hakluyt: Give me a break. Lewis freely admits that there are differences, many of them serious differences, between Christian denominations, but he says that he’s just not going to go into them when evangelizing non-Christians. It’s not as if he’s hiding the fact from his audience, much less “keeping them from scrutinizing” it. There are, after all, lots of public libraries, and now even the Internet, for those who really want to learn about the dispute between believers in double, thick, supralapsarian predestination and those who hold to single, thin, sublapsarian predestination.

    (Now I happen to believe that Lewis was overly sanguine about the possibility of distinguishing between “mere Christianity” (a kind of highest common factor abstracted from the various denominations) and points of doctine on which denominations differ. And I note that he doesn’t claim to draw that distinction when it comes to the early Christological and Trinitarian controversies, even though there are denominations (e.g., Coptic Monophysites and Nestorians) that still hold to the losing positions in those disputes. But I can disagree with Lewis without accusing him of deception.)

    “Anyway, Lewis was a stupid windbag whose apologetics were childish. My goodness, he acts like the Euthyphro dilemma is some new found concept of his.”

    This is completely unfair, and misses Lewis’s point. He would have been the first to tell you that little or nothing in Mere Christianity was original with him. But he wasn’t going to clutter up a series of radio talks to laymen by saying, “As Socrates said to Euthyphro” or by detailing the provenance of his “aut Deus aut malus homo” argument. He probably suspected that if he had tried including such oral footnotes, he’d have put off his listeners with what would have looked to them like putting on airs, showing off his erudition.

  133. Regarding the supposed accuracy of the Big Bang, consider this SECULAR dissent.

    http://www.cosmologystatement.org

  134. I think the most rational position is to stick a non-theistic notion in the absence of evidence.

    There is an absence of evidence of life outside of Earth. By your reasoning, we know that we are alone in the universe.

  135. You should be welcome at the conference. They really appreciate your similar approach to science in re global warming. For instance,
    http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/green.htm
    uses your work as a reference.

  136. “Actually some mainstream scientists – not creationists – have started to question whether the Big Bang is accurate.”

    That’s like questioning whether the speed of light is accurate. There is a speed of light, and there was a Big Bang; accuracy is a matter of refinement. In the Big Bang case, many of problems with the theory are solved by the inflationary universe model, which still involves a Big Bang.

  137. I don’t claim to know the details of the steady-state theory’s current status, but even if it’s wrong (which is probably is, from what I can tell), there’s still a huge difference between the steady state theory and creationism: The steady state theory is testable, when it fails those tests we learn something significant, and the proponents of the theory are talented and knowledgeable scientists who ask important questions.

    With creationism, well, there’s a very tiny handful of people asking useful questions. The rest is all bullshit. Hakluyt will no doubt insist that there is exactly zero valuable stuff in the creationist camp, but I have some sympathy for people who are wrong in interesting ways. All sorts of fascinating things can be learned from wrong theories. I spent most of today pondering a theory that, if right, would have significantly improved confocal microscopy. But I was wrong. And in proving myself wrong I significantly deepened my understanding of diffraction, and made a connection with some of my thesis work. I’m filing this away in my bag of tricks, because some day I will find myself facing another issue that involves diffraction, and when that day comes I’ll have a trick up my sleeve to solve it without writing down a single equation.

    Anyway, I actually do believe that there’s a handful of creationists asking useful questions. The problem is that:

    1) They are vastly outnumbered by people going over the same old ground or posing non-falsifiable hypotheses.
    2) A wrong theory is only valuable when it’s debunked in an interesting and honest manner, and the people posing interesting questions are letting somebody else do that heavy lifting.

  138. Ah! Home at last! Now, as promised…

    Shem:

    I don’t put a lot of store in “optimism.” Like faith, believing in the “bright side” is a denial of the cold, cruel fact that we live in an uncaring universe and we are but insignificant specs therein. No matter how much you may want, you can’t hope and wish something into reality. Having a sunny disposition isn’t going to make any difference in the results.

    As for my respect for mankind, or my perceived lack thereof, respect is like love: it’s always conditional. While I’ve certainly seen mankind at it’s best from time to time, mostly I’ve been pretty disappointed by our overall performance as a species. I respect my friends, I’ll respect some of my family, I’ll even respect most of the folks here, but the rest of mankind is too much of a unknown quantity for me to automatically and unconditionally respect humanity as a collective. I’ve been disappointed far too many times for that.

    Yeah, I’m a depressing person, but somebody has to keep a realistic sense of perspective.

  139. Akira-

    I really respect your intelligence, but your constant negativity only makes it more difficult for those of us who would rather change minds than spew vitriol all over the public square. Every time I try to have an honest conversation with one of these fundamentalists, I have to overcome the damage that people who were “realistic” had done. In the past I’ve actually had some success in my attempts to get religious fundamentalists of some of the less virulent stripes to at least examine their beliefs and acknowledge that they have no right to proselytize people who have no desire to convert. Invariably though, I run into people who are immediately defensive about anything to do with their religion. Without fail they react in this fashion because they’ve run into someone in the past, who, as you seem fond of doing, has made them feel like a moron for being religious. I am rarely successful with these people, and it upsets me, because someone who wanted to make another person feel bad has ruined this bystander’s chance at finding a worldview that involves real toleration. So, if you can’t disagree nicely or at the very least respectfully, then you shouldn’t say anything at all.

    Having said that, I suppose I should take my own advice. The post I made yesterday was an attack on you. I shouldn’t have written it, and I apologize.

  140. Seamus,

    He. I already gave you a break. Lewis was a simplistic twit who argued for deception when it came to conversion tactics; its part of the typical run of the mill agenda of Christians and other religious groups. The fact that today the internet exists, etc. does not excuse his behavior.

    Of course being dishonest probably came naturally to him; I mean, who the hell could ever buy his tale of being an atheist? He claims that he was an atheist because there is suffering in the world. If that was the reason he was an atheist, it was not a very thoughtful or learned reason.

    Lewis was not very erudite when it comes to theology; that is evident from every book he ever wrote on the subject and from his own statements on the matter. That’s why his books are – as one scholar has called them – cotton-candy apoplogetics.

    Christians like Lewis more for romantic reasons than anything. He added nothing to the debate and there is no reason to take him seriously.

  141. Seamus,

    And by stating that it is run of the mill I am not arguing that all Christians (or religionists) take on deceptive conversionary tactics (though self-deception does seem to be universal); but it is nevertheless a common enough trait found in religious circles.

  142. Any steady staters out there? Just curious, how does the current steady state model account for the apparent vectors of universal expansion as observed through redshift?

  143. Hakluyt: You have a conveniently expansive, but fundamentally wrong, idea of what constitutes “deception.” Lewis would have been deceptive if he tried to pretend that there were no differences between Christians on dogmatic matters. But far from hiding that fact, he admitted it, in the very book that compiled his apologetic lectures, which were directed at the very people you claim he was trying to deceive. In fact, he was no more deceptive than are high school science teachers who teach only the mainstream neo-Darwinist evolutionary theory, and deliberately avoid discussing (much less taking sides in) debates such as those between punctuated equilibrium and non-punctuated gradualism, lest it mislead students into thinking that there’s much less consensus among scientists than there really is. I suppose some creationists might describe this as “deceptive,” and for all I know so would you, but it isn’t.

    I obviously wasn’t arguing that the existence of the Internet today “excused” Lewis’s behavior, and your suggestion that I was shows how far you are reduced to clutching at straws. Rather, I insisted that there was nothing to excuse, that Lewis’s policy of not participating in doctrinal disputes can hardly be characterized as an attempt to be hiding the fact that such disputes existed, especially when he admitted that they existed, and when there were so many opportunities for those who really wanted to learn about them to do so. The reference to the Internet was a, perhaps inartful attempt, to show that any attempt to hide that fact would have been foolish and doomed to failure, especially in light of the ever-increasing availability of information. But you’re right, we can’t claim that Lewis consciously adverted to such developments of information technology.

    And of course Lewis never claimed to be a theologian, much less to possess any theological “erudition.” He was a literature professor (though he had a first class degree in Greats–basically classics and philosophy–as well as one in English literature). He certainly never claimed any originality, and probably would have been horrified to be accused of it. So if some of his fans think he’s the second coming of Thomas Aquinas, that’s not his fault.

  144. Merely because something is unknown does not make it supernatural.

    Er, in this context I’m not sure about that. The extension of this thought is that all will/must be understandable, and given what we already know happens in subatomics alone, that’s a fragile assertion.

    Science is based on speculative extensions of what should one day prove to be fact. I also don’t doubt classical evolution…and agree that it should have little if any repercussion for anyone, ID’ers included.

    But what’s amusing is that fundy machinations are so easily converted into proofs for the non-existence of God — logical falacies making pop wisdom about origins.

    The other claim for a happenstance universe isn’t much more encouraging: an incomplete science without a unified theory that appears to be about as much faith as the metaphor of a Supreme Being having created all there is.

  145. Hey M1EK,
    I’m a computer scientist and my Brother-in-law is finishing up his “doctorate” in biology doing creation “science” at the Institute for Creationist research (sp?) in San Diego. I’ve wondered the same thing myself.

    Synchronicity!

  146. My favorite thought on the subject:

    “It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.”

    H. L. Mencken

  147. hahahahahahah. before this falls off the board.

    until there’s proof otherwise: those who think that the absense of evidence “proof” works, you’re all pig fuckers. the rest of us aren’t. until you can prove that negative. hahahahahaha

    (awaiting this to fall off and kill this fucking pathetic discussion. or awaiting when some of these godfreakfuckers show how their imaginary friend is more real than the non-judeo christian ones that have equal lacking non proof proof something. no. ned flanders doesn’t count). actually don’t. your imaginary world and imaginary friends are okay. just don’t play with paint thinner when i’m around, please.

    argh. what have we done?????????

    (ordering cheese from rene to plug the ears when edith starts singing)

  148. until there’s proof otherwise: those who think that the absense of evidence “proof” works, you’re all [idiocy deleted]. the rest of us aren’t. until you can prove that negative.

    The can’t-prove-a-negative rule is a prudential rule for a courtroom.

    It is not a rule of logic or reason. It is not a law of science.

    Good lawyering there, but bad science.

  149. can’t prove a universal negative is simple logic, not a law of science, but an important guideline for scientists

  150. Biologist,
    Link? Or are you a logician by trade?

  151. Some negative statements:

    1. There are no black holes located inside the Earth’s orbit.

    2. Pure water contains nothing but hydrogen and oxygen

    3. Drinking water does not cause lung cancer.

    Do you think science has proven these statements?

    If yes, how has science statements #1 to #3 to your satisfaction?

  152. Dave W.:

    I am a biologist, as my name indicates. Strictly speaking, science does not PROVE anything. We only disprove. We may find evidence in support of a hypothesis to be overwhelming, but actual proof is left to purely logical exercises and mathematics.

    1. There are no black holes located inside the Earth’s orbit.

    Based on what we know about black holes, this is likely true, because we don’t observe any of the known effects of black holes. It could possibly be false, but many of our assumptions about the way black holes behave would have to be wrong. Also, this is not a UNIVERSAL negative.

    2. Pure water contains nothing but hydrogen and oxygen

    here we have a tautology: water is defined as the chemical compound the molecules of which are composed of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. Since you have specified that the water is pure, your statement is a tautology

    3. Drinking water does not cause lung cancer.

    This could be false, but I am not aware of any evidence to the contrary. In the absence of evidence or a hypothetical, the statement is likely true. I almost wrote “there is no evidence to falsify the statement”. That would be a negative statement that would require an extensive review of all the scientific literature to support. Again there is no PROOF (sensu stricto) that your statement is false or true and I don’t know of any evidence that would falsify your statement. The problem is the use of words that have both vernacular and technical meanings. Proof is such a word, as is theory.

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