Beards are proof of evolution is false? August 10, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in Origins, Science, wingnuts.
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So says “Brian Thomas, M. S.“:
On the other hand, if everything was created by a God who exists outside the physical world, there is a ready answer, one with broad application: beards present a certain appearance. Aesthetic features were emplaced by Someone who knew how things look in addition to how things work. Beards do not confer any selectable survival advantage to humankind, but they do serve to add distinction to men, perhaps as different features distinguish women.
It would be consistent to think that it simply pleased the Creator to outfit humans and other creatures with certain visually appealing characteristics. “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him” (1 Corinthians 15:38). The study of purposes is called apobetics, and beards are evidence that God designed certain features simply with aesthetics in mind.
I’ll just point out that this is actually a pretty decent argument when compared to the ICR’s usual tripe. Which means, naturally, that it’s only embarrassing, not shockingly embarrassing.
Right up until the end of the piece, that is:
Researchers have not yet found a metaprogram in this universe that guides clouds of space dust into raw functional, let alone variously aesthetic, forms. After all, what does the impersonal universe care about beauty? A Creator God who appreciates beauty and wants others to appreciate His handiwork must be responsible for the origin of aesthetic features. Men have beards–some thick, some sparse–because it pleased God to adorn them so.
Don’t you love it when Creationists think they’ve just indicted science for points that scientists long-since have considered and dealt with? It’s almost as funny as their pathetic misunderstandings of evolutionary theory. Seriously, have these people ever heard of sexual selection? Genetic drift? For that matter, are they really so stupid that they can’t think of a more plausible reason that beards aren’t in favor than that A Magic Man Gave Them To Us But We’ve Lost Our Way? (Hint to Creationists: when is a beard more important? when you’re in a cave or your parents’ nice warm basement?)
…which is to say, revisionist nonsense.
Pat Buchanan, last seen suggesting that WWII was the fault of Churchill, and already infamous as a holocaust denier, has decided to turn his Goldberg-esque eye on Evolution. As an exercise in demonstrating just how odious Buchanan is, and as yet another reminder that MSNBC continues to give the bigot a voice, this post will point out just a few of Buchanan’s lies and distortions. Readers are encouraged to fill any gaps with their own observations: there is literally too much here for me to track down every error.
Shorter Eric Hovind May 21, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, Science, wingnuts.
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- Here I am, stuck at the bottom of this deep hole with only a shovel. Godless scientists claim that I dug my way here, but they can’t explain how that’s possible since I can’t even reach the top of the whole. How could I dig way up there? You tell me!
Via Crooked Timber, I find that Stanley Fish is eager to use Terry Eagleton to bash atheists.* The piece relies almost entirely on misrepresentations of mainstream atheist opinion, and a conception of faith and Christianity that would does not represent religion or Christianity as adhered to by most practitioners. In other words, the essay commits the usual theologists’ sins of attacking strawmen and proposing a convoluted understanding of faith resembling the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.
PZ’s already promised to have more to say about the piece, so I’ll limit my usual rant to a fairly reasonable size. A few observations will suffice to illustrate the problem. Fish writes,
By theological questions, Eagleton means questions like, “Why is there anything in the first place?”, “Why what we do have is actually intelligible to us?” and “Where do our notions of explanation, regularity and intelligibility come from?”
Ugh. The first question may not end up being answerable by science, but we’re learning more about the early state of the Universe all the time. Science may find that it cannot demonstrate anything about what, if anything, predated the big bang, but Fish/Eagleton beg the question by assuming it cannot. This is a god of the gaps fallacy, of course, and doesn’t become anyone wishing to be taken seriously as a defender of faith.
The second question is phrased oddly, but if it means, as I take it to, “why are we able to understand and value those things that surround us” it is, to put it kindly, odd indeed to say theology answers the question and science does not. Evolutionary theory suggests a clear answer to the question: these things are intelligible to use because we have evoloved in such a way that allows them to be so. It isn’t difficult to see that creatures which cannot interact effectively with their environment are selected against. Human evolution has caused us to be less strong and agile than many creatures, and to have longer periods of regularly helpless childhoods, and in exchange we have big brains that allow us to understand a lot about the world around us, to make tools and solve abstract problems.
The same basic reasoning is true for the third problems: we see the universe as orderly and understandable because a) experience has shown that the universe follows basic laws and that we can predict the effect of those laws and b) because our brains have evolved to seek and understand patterns, even when that ability works to our detriment.
So Fish’s examples of questions only answerable through theology are in two cases clearly answered by science, and even if you wish to assume that the origin of the universe, unlike all of the other now-defunct god of the gaps arguments, will never be understood by science, that still leaves the question of how can something that replaces reason and evidence with “faith” possibly hope to provide true (as opposed to emotionally satisfying) reasons for anything.
That religion is really about experience and not truth seems to be something Fish is on the verge of admitting:
When Christopher Hitchens declares that given the emergence of “the telescope and the microscope” religion “no longer offers an explanation of anything important,” Eagleton replies, “But Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”
Eagleton is on the verge, it seems, of arguing that religion, properly understood, is a way of relating to the world, like art and music, rather than a system that makes truth claims (“explanations”) about reality. I have zero problem with the religions of those who understand their faith in such a way, but Fish doesn’t seem to understand that most religious people believe their faith does offer explanations. How else is one to explain that nearly half the American population areyoung earth creationists. They clearly don’t think that religion offers no explanations. Neither does Fish, it would seem, who doesn’t bother to explain how theology can answer important questions but not provide explanations. He does not appear to be using either terms in the way they are commonly understood.
Yong earth creationists and mainstream religious people could be wrong, of course, and Fish right, but how could one determine such things? They are, after all, a matter of faith, by their very definition. Yet I could still forgive Fish his conception of religion which is so out of step with most religion, were it not for his hugely uncharitable understanding of the atheist’s position:
Rosenau continues to trounce Martin Cothran’s arguments. April 24, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, Science, wingnuts.
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Josh Rosenau obviously has more tolerance for dealing with dishonest hacks than I do, because he’s still explaining the myriad problems with Cothran’s arguments, and doing so expertly. It seems that his extensive experience dealing with creationists has helped Rosenau immensely.
This time round, Rosenau is taking Cothran to task for first approvingly citing Pat Buchanan’s work and doing so on Yom HaShoah. Cothran’s bumbled through a couple of replies, but as usual, offers nothing but strawmen, dishonesty and incomprehension. And this from an instructor in logic, no less!
Okay, theists, impress me! April 6, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in Blogging, Religion, Science.
I’ve been hearing a lot of discussions recently about whether “fine tuning” or Kalam other such considerations make it more or less likely that there is a God. I must admit to being singularly unimpressed with these debates, in large part because I’m unconvinced that there is any relevance to the point. Even if I were to be convinced that the fine tuning of the Universe demands a creator, what is the significance of that? What does it predict about our Universe? What does it tell me about what exists outside or before the universe, or how the universe fits into any larger structures that may exist?
In short, if there really is a being that created the Universe, demonstrating that being is likely to exist should do more than be the basis of an increasingly flimsy theological house of cards, in which I’m expected to find compelling a chain of logic that begins before the Big Bang and ends with the deity of your choice welcoming my worship.
To be clear, I find the foundation of such a claim to be flimsy, and every bit of scaffolding afterward increasingly flimsy, until I’m meant to find it obvious that God gave his Perfect Unchangeable World both to a group of nomadic bronze-age worshipers and to the writers of King James 1611. So don’t tell me that accepting the possibility of the a God means that I must worship Jebus. Tell me what I can expect in a universe that has a god; tell me what predictions that makes.
Most importantly, tell me why believing that God somehow explains life, the universe and everything is any better as an hypothesis than “magic man done it.” Because I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking and I honestly don’t see the chain of causality that proceeds as follows:
1. the universe implies a creator
Obviously, that’s a bit glib. But God hasn’t proved to be a worthwhile hypothesis in terms of anything else that we’ve learned about the universe: from gravity to supercomputers to star formation to quantum mechanics, everything we know about the universe is in spite of people insisting that God Is The Answer. Theists can put together elaborate philosophical arguments for God all they want, and they’re welcome to do so, but none of those arguments seem to me to offer anything testable, or to do anything but shut down further inquiry into the nature of reality.
So here’s my challenge, theists, offered in good faith: explain to me how belief in a creator (NOT in Your Deity of Choice) offers anything to our understanding of reality not offered by remaining at least agnostic on the question of what, if anything, created the universe. Be specific, and argue in good faith, and I’ll do my best to engage you with as much seriousness as you engage me.
And for the love of Thor, don’t waste my time! If I’m not convinced there’s any reason to believe in any god, quoting your favorite holy book at me won’t get you anywhere.
That’s right, folks! I’m giving up my unjustifiable defense of Evilution, and from here on this blog will promote the obvious truth: the world was created about 6,000 years ago, along with all species, by the all-loving, all-mighty Jehovah.
I realize that up to this point I’ve only claimed to believe in Darwinism because it allowed me to avoid answering for my Sins. I’m much happier now that I’ve quit running from God and admitted what’s obvious: that humanity is His Special Creation, with absolutely no relationship to monkeys. Yes, it was all a cheep veneer designed to conceal my moral turpitude from myself and others.
I’ll be following Biblical Morality from here on out, and I envite you to join me.
Bonus points for the commenter who can successfully guess what led me to renounce my Godless Scientism.
[UPDATE: LQ (who may have had an unfair advantage) was closest. The thing that convinced me, of course, was that we've never seen a crockaduck:
Death from the Skies (Short) Review March 27, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in language and lit, Science.
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Unfortunately, I don’t have the time at the moment to write a full review of Philip Plait‘s excellent Death From the Skies!, but if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know about Dr Plait’s excellent work, and I can say with confidence that people who enjoy this blog will enjoy DFTS. If you’re new to all things astronomical, you’ll learn a lot about the amazing wonders of our universe–and how many of them could kill us. If such things are old hat to you, you’ll still learn a lot about how to communicate science to non-scientists, and even most of us who keep abreast of science will learn a lot.
I particularly appreciated Dr Plait’s look into the long-term future of the universe, which stands as easily the most accessible general-audience description of our universe’s fate that I have ever encountered.
If you have science fans in your life, or if you want to learn more about how to communicate science to a wide audience, you need to read Death from the Skies! It’s well worth the effort.
(P.S. you can still get a copy from JREF, and support a good cause while you’re at it!)
Shorter Vox Day March 20, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in Science, Skepticism, wingnuts.
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- When scientists tell you vaccines are safe, they’re making pointless appeals to authority. Clearly they’re wrong, and I would know, since I paid $40 for a chance to get a piece of paper telling me I’m S-M-R-T.
[h/t to the always-keen Orac]
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Over at UD (I’m still not linking to that thoroughly dishonest blog) the latest post is by Walter ReMine, entitled “Message Theory–Testable Alternative to Darwinism–Part 1.” He’s been promoted by ID supporters before, but his (self-published) popular, never peer-reviewed book that’s more than 15 years old still hasn’t received the critical attention he would like, so he’s back and making waves about how evolutionists won’t take his work seriously.
For those of you in the know, creationists describe “Message Theory” as proposing that “Life was reasonably designed for survival and for communicating a message that tells where life came from. The biotic message says, ‘Life is the product of a single designer – life was intentionally designed to resist all other explanations’.”
And it probably won’t surprise you to find that ReMine doesn’t have any real background in biology, but rather is an engineer (why are so many engineers cranks, anyway?).
Neither will it surprise you that, after spending 12 paragraphs talking about how great and testable “Message Theory” is, ReMine neglects to explain anything about it, instead promising that in a future post.
And that is why I feel bad for UD: they just accidentally admitted the whole arc of creationist “thought”! The pattern is:
1) publish a “theory” without peer review;
2) pout that no one takes your easily refuted crackpot theory seriously;
3) promise a serious, testable alternative to “Darwinism” and/or a serious research-based program;
4) GOTO 2.
In extreme cases, this should be readjusted to GOTO 1. I wonder how many times ReMine has completed this grand pattern. Probably about as many consecutive years as we’ve seen promises like these from the creationist camp.