What Creationists think gives an argument worth March 22, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, Science, wingnuts.
Commenter Sirius Knot apparently has his own blog, where he’s made (in comments) my favorite version of a common Creationist argument. The basic version of this argument is this: if you don’t believe in God, then you can’t believe that people have any real value, because the only value they can have must be given to them by God. Now, they don’t usually say the last part, because it makes clear how foolish the argument is. But the argument runs roughly as I’ve outlined 9 times out of 10.
But Sirius has taken the argument to a fun new conclusion, and one that is unintentionally telling. He writes
If you believe that individual men have no individual worth then I must point out the hypocrisy of your post: if the individual has no intrinsic worth then neither does his opinions, counting yours.
Who has ever seriously argued that ideas have intrinsic worth? The value of ideas isn’t in that they’re ideas, but that good ideas are ideas which illuminate and correspond to reality, or ideas that provide us with productive means of acting. They don’t have intrinsic worth: rather, the worth of an idea is based on its demonstrable merits. Evolution through natural selection is an incredibly powerful idea, because it explains so much about the world. Communism was a powerful idea that now has much less power, because it has repeatedly given rise not to a workers’ paradise, but to totalitarian governments antithetical to the expressed aim of communism.
Science is a wonderful tool for helping us discover, test, and affirm or disprove a wide range of ideas. Those ideas are said to have merit if the prove helpful in describing reality and making useful predictions.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone reading this. But apparently Sirius thinks differently, since he’s worried that without god, ideas would lose their intrinsic worth. Wow. How oddly postmodern from a self-described fundamentalist.
Note: the post the comment is from is a defense of Creationism, and good for a laugh. My favorite part is when he insists that the burden of proof is on those who don’t see clear evidence of design in the universe. That’s right: he wants us to prove a negative, while he gets to assume that
toast that looks like the Blessed Virgin any feature of the universe that seems designed absolutely must be. Naturally, he ignores–as he did in his comment on my blog–all that we do know about how “design” features like irreducible complexity can be formed by completely natural processes, despite the fact that the whole IC argument depends upon the perceived necessity of design.
But naturally arising complexity discredits his whole line of argument, so we’re not likely to see him admit to any of this.
Of course not. But over at Uncommon Descent, they’re bleating about how Nature’s published an example of ID. One little problem, though: they’ve not detected the work of
god the designer, but rather just listened to those who did the research:
The following is an edited extract from a Nature paper. It is an example of real ID research. Notice that the designers only used evolutionary techniques to very slightly tweak the enzymes scaffold structure that had been designed with “borrowed components” from existing enzymes tacked together. The novel active site was completely intelligently designed. doi:10.1038/nature06879
Kemp elimination catalysts by computational enzyme design
“We designed eight enzymes with computationally designed active sites. In vitro evolution enhanced the computational designs, demonstrating the power of combining computational protein design with directed evolution for creating new enzymes.
This is sad. ID proponents have long tried to claim that the fact that humans design things somehow validates “magic man done it” as a scientific explanation. But now they’re actually pointing to human design as though it somehow demonstrates the validity of their psuedoscientific nonsense.
But I’m a fair man: I’ll make a deal with the ID folks. If they can secure an interview with
god their designer, so we can learn what techniques he used and what he designed. Better yet, they could suggest any mechanism by which the Intelligent Designer works. They could propose and attempt real, falsifiable experiments to test their “theory.” Any of this would work.
Somehow I suspect we’ll get more nonsense, lies and quote-mining instead.
Obama speaks out on race March 18, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in News and politics, race.
It’s no secret that Barack Obama is an extremely engaging and effective speaker. While I’ve had cause to take issue with Obama in the past, I must say that his speech today–a speech about race, about the troubles facing the U.S. and about what we can do to make a better future–is amazing and powerful. I have rarely heard a politician talk so honestly or so eloquently about these issues, and it has been years since I’ve seen a combination of the two like what Obama presented today.
I don’t know how it will go over: it is a long speech and complex, and the far right will no doubt quotemine it to continue their smear campaign against Obama. The media, which deals in sound bites, is woefully ill-equipped to deal with the substance of Mr. Obama’s words. And that is a great shame, because what he said needs to be a central part of our national discussion on race, privilege, disturbing social realities and great hope for our future.
I thought about posting excerpts, but it deserves to be read as a whole.
Bravo, Mr. Obama. This was an important a brave moment. I hope, going forward, your campaign will live up to the very high standard of this speech.
Some thoughts on prostitution March 17, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Morality, News and politics, sex.
I’ve been debating whether to weigh in on recent discussions around the blogosphere about prostitution’s place–or lack thereof–in society (Ann has a great recap of a number of relevant posts on the issue). The reason I’ve been hesitating is, I must admit, only that, as a man, I hesitate to say anything at all on this. I’m not directly affected by the issue, as I’ve never paid for sex and am privileged enough to have never been forced to do anything more degrading than answer phones for telecom companies, so my perspective is as an outsider. After some consideration, I’ve decided that it’s better to speak on an issue I feel strongly about than to remain silent for fear of what the reactions might be. If you don’t want to hear what a straight white boy has to say about prostitution, I certainly won’t hold it against you. For those interested, my thoughts are below the fold.
82nd Skeptics’ Circle is up! March 13, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Blogging, Skepticism.
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I just wish he hadn’t let on about my super-secret vulnerability to magnets. Now my foes will know my weakness!
Creationists quotemining Jefferson March 12, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, Science, wingnuts.
Over at Uncommon Descent, BarryA thinks Thomas Jefferson was an ID supporter. I won’t link to the post, since I can’t be certain it won’t be mysteriously changed, but here’s the what BarryA had to say:
Jefferson to John Adams on April 11, 1823:
I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripedal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms.
We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in its course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view, comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have exited thro’ all the time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe.
Now, this is of course gibberish. Jefferson couldn’t, as BarryA implies, have been an ID proponent. There are two reasons I know this: first, ID isn’t really a theory at all, but a creationist attack on evolutionary theory. Since Jefferson predated Darwin, he couldn’t possibly have been opposed to Darwin’s theories, making BarryA’s (and Waldman’s) claims ridiculous on their face. Second, merely believing, as Jefferson did, in a deist god hardly makes one an ID supporter. There are plenty of deists and theists who reject the BS that is Intelligent Design Creationism.
The obvious points aside, I can demonstrate that Jefferson would have had no use for ID for one simple reason: Jefferson rejected the Christianity that underpins ID, and he does so in the very letter from which BarryA is quoting, which I quote in its entirety below the fold:
Shorter Jonah Goldberg: March 12, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in News and politics, wingnuts.
Seriously, even the LA Times should be embarrassed to publish this trash. Jonah Goldberg thinks Obama should talk less about unity and more about patriotism. Goldberg’s “argument” is basically that liberals don’t talk enough about patriotism, which indicates they’re not patriotic.*
The last sentence is full of the kind of head-exploding irony that only a true neocon can spout without collapsing into a gibbering wreck:
Better that our politics be an argument about why and how we should love our country, not about whether some do and some don’t.
This from the same man who argues in his book Liberal Fascism: How Everything Bad is Caused by Al Gore that liberals are fascists because we eat at Whole Foods, and that “the white male is the Jew of liberal fascism.” This man, whose violation of Godwin’s Law is so severe as to disqualify himself from any place in reasonable public discourse, is now arguing that liberals aren’t patriotic enough because they don’t use the word “patriotism” enough. I agree, Jonah: it’s disgusting when people accuse others of not loving their country as a cheap political tactic to discredit their opponents.
So now that we’ve agreed you’re despicable, please go away.
*Naturally, he doesn’t note that those politicians who, of late, have most draped themselves in the flag are the ones who have most egregiously undermined American values. They’ve lied to start wars, they’ve undermined the Constitution, destroyed checks and balances, fired public servants who refused to kowtow to them, manipulated the voting process and silenced critics. But these people Goldberg doesn’t condemn: no, he condemns those who have fought against this anti-American bullshit for refusing to go around spouting “patriotism” like Giuliani spouts “9/11″
WND: Jack Cashill thinks he wins science debate March 10, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in News and politics, Science, wingnuts.
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So I haven’t seen anything but Jack Cashill’s self-serving report about his debate with Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, and that’s the really sad part: even Cashill’s own words describe exactly how anti-science the crazies over at WorldNutDaily truly are.
Before the evening was through I would make the case that if there really is a war on science in America today, it is being waged by the hard left with an able assist from a largely Democratic media.
This should be good.
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I’m a bit late to this one, but of course I couldn’t resist noting that Phil Kline, the former Kansas AG who was humiliated in his attempt at re-election then given the job as Johnson County DA when Kansas Republicans decided to be more overt than usual in giving a Fuck You to the voters, has seen his trumped-up attempt to shut down Planned Parenthood receive yet another setback. A grand jury told him just what they thought of his case:
A Kansas grand jury that investigated a Planned Parenthood clinic has refused to issue an indictment on allegations that it violated restrictions on the procedure.
The Johnson County, Kan., grand jury’s decision was announced Monday evening, Planned Parenthood officials said.
Abortion opponents, through a petition, had forced the court to convene the panel and investigate the clinic in Overland Park, Kan., to determine whether it violated laws on parental notice and informed consent.
The news is not all good, though: opponents of women and the rule of law are threatening to try again, continuing to force Grand Juries to convene until they get what they want. This is yet another in the string of humiliating defeats for Kline, who consistently puts his ideology and hatred for women above doing his fucking job, but he won’t stop: after all, the man clearly doesn’t have anything else to do but pry into private medical records and push frivolous legal action.
Still, every loss for Kline is a victory for humanity and the rule of law, so I’ll celebrate this one.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite. [...]
The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.
The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.
That’s right, folks, the Religious Right, self-appointed champions of Truth against the tide of evil liberal relativism, are pushing for a bill that would require schools to reward students for positing religious answers to any “otherwise permissible subject” (rtf of the bill is available here).
I should think it obvious that such a law would be incredibly destructive to real education, as facts are forced to become subservient to unsupported religious beliefs. If for some of my readers, it’s not immediately clear why a student should not be allowed to claim that A Magic Man Done It is an acceptable answer to scientific questions, consider answers provided by any religion but the one you happen to support:
Question: What causes lightning?
Surely that deserves full credit, right?
Naturally this problem isn’t limited to science, either. There are all kinds of crazy religious views on history, for example. Should Mormon students be given credit for factually incorrect versions of American history that have Native Americans being descendants of the Jews? Should Christian students be given credit for arguing that America was founded by God to be a “City on a Hill,” when asked to describe the country’s founding?
It never ceases to amaze me how us “evil secular progressives” are blamed for trying to ruin students education, when there are those on the extreme right who are actively arguing that students should be rewarded for giving incorrect answers, as long as they can argue their ignorance isn’t simple lack of understanding but instead is based on their religious views?
Somehow that’s what we’ve come to: proposed laws that enshrine religiously-motivated ignorance as knowledge.