I dont have a huge amount of online time at the moment so I cant do these two news items justice. However, I still think people should read them (both from New Scientist)

The first link is a depressing indictment of a society that has allowed itself to be tricked into thinking there is an even argument betwen Evolution and Creationism. This is madness of the highest order. The concept that “teaching both sides” is a good thing only seems to apply against evolution, but still no one notices the weirdness. Shame on the nation that allows this sort of thing.

The second is worrying. Not so much that Archaeologists seem willing to allow world heritage sites to be hit during an attack but the implicit assumption there will be an attack.

Not a good day.

Faith Blinds

(Old news from the department of simple answers)

My time away has meant that some of the weird and wonderful nonsense over the last few weeks has escaped the harsh light of reality. Take this little blinder posted by Joanna Sugden to the Times Online on 2 May 08.

The article is titled: “Is the Bible science fiction?

Simple answer: “Yes” (Or slight variation: “No, it is fantasy fiction”)

Why is there any need for more debate? Strangely, debate there is… As you can imagine, the article talks about “debate” as to the veracity of Noah’s Ark. It seems that some people over the age of six actually think that two of every species on Earth was crammed into the Ark to survive a world flood. Wonderfully, IMDB list a film about this under “Science Fiction Literature” which I think is a GoodThing™.
Equally great is the predictable response of the loonies.

The first to kick it off is Rick Beekman who is certainly a “person of faith” (and, I suspect with no real evidence, an American):

I believe the story of Noah’s Ark. I also believe all the stories in The Bible.
The ones who don’t believe it are the usual group of scoffers..Atheists..Secular Humanists.Those Who generally think everything has an Explanation based on their worldly but non-spiritual understanding of Events in the Bible they deem “Impossible”.

Word salad. This is nothing but an assertion of his belief with an appeal to ridicule against anyone who disagrees. The unusual capitalisation is always a good sign of a nutjob – I hope he doesn’t have access to firearms. After this start, he continues:

The reason for these stories is to teach we lowly humans what God has done..And what he can and will do.

Scary. I find myself agreeing with the insane. Dear Toutatis save me. Actually, the bit I agree with is the reason of the story. They are not supposed to be factual representations of the past. They are there to “teach” (for want of a better word) people about their belief system. This subtle fact is lost on Rick – despite the fact he worded it in quite a good way, I suppose that was just chance. (Monkeys, typewriters…) Anyway, after a bit more drivel he finishes off:

In Genesis 8 v 4 we read where the Ark rested upon Mt. Ararat as the waters receded.
Sattelite Photos confirm taken in 1972 that something very large is encased in Ice on top of that Mountain.
How could any large Ship get up there unless Water rested it there as The Bible says?

WTF? Seriously, what sort of insane leap of faith is this? How did “something” become a “large ship” in the space of a full stop? Quantum physics be damned! (Why is water capitalised?) Critically, why have none of the ultra rich evangelical groups over the world got a more recent ultra high res photograph to confirm – or just gone there on an expedition? Madness like this gives me a headache.

My faith in human nature is restored by a run of sensible comments, but then Rick returns:

God our Creator can do whatever he pleases. He usually does things to suit his purposes not necessarily for what we think. He knows The end from the beginning. God could have chosen to just let everyone drop dead except the chosen animals etc and of course Noah and his family. There is no human now or past or in the future who is any match for the Wisdom and creator.

Ah the way of the madness runs true in this one. This at least shows there is no science in the bible or in creationism. Basically this is Rick saying he doesn’t care what feeble evidence there is, he knows his Invisible Friend can do things other people can’t. Well done Rick. There are seven year olds kicking themselves in shame at this…

More sensible refutations are made – thank Heimdall for the human race – then someone called CESEELEY chimes up with their own brand of wisdom:

One of the main points of stories like Noah’s Ark is to help one from the Old Testament into the New Testament so that one will learn to walk in the Spirit after being Born Again, Baptized and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Ah, here come the erratic capital letters. Wonderful. Still it is all gibberish.

Our bodies were designed by God to be guided by the Holy Spirit. That is what those scripture about the Holy Temple imply.

Eh? Is this going anywhere? This is more drivel – why use 1 word to say something when eight hundred and ninety four will do… Comments on Times Online are moderated so a human actually decided this was relevant enough to the thread to let through (and about 50% of mine get knocked back… hmmm).

If you want to experience the more Abundant Life that Christ promised and have become Born Again and Baptized by immersion, then start taking Roman 12:1-2 seriously in your life so that you can prove what is God’s perfect will for your life as compared to His permissive will.

Ok, I’ll stop here. It doesn’t get any better. It is just a string of meaningless drivel with little relevance to the topic other than it seems to want every one to become a Born Again lunatic. I am a touch confused about his “perfect will” being different from his “permissive will” though…

Not to be out lunatic’d, Rick returns:

To All;
Seems I am the only one on this thread who believes the Story of Noah And His Ark.

God, I hope so…

I guess God Really did’nt ask Adam to name all the animals Either..(Genesis 2 verses 19 & 20).

Well done for taking a step in the right direction. Why did God let Adam name the echnida such a bloody awkward name? Oh right, he didn’t because Adam would never have seen one..

According to the “Experts” on this thread there is no possible way God could have brought all the animals to Adam from all over so Adam could name them.

Erm, yep. See, after a while everyone starts to agree with the lunatics.

Another one has stated the story of the flood is a Babylonian myth.

Yes, some one did state that. I thought they were being charitable instead of just calling Rick insane. Obviously Rick just likes using words, because he doesn’t even try to refute the claims any more – he just repeats them. He does, however, save the best till last:

I Just Wanted All Of You To Know All Of You Are Dead Wrong…But the Good News Is I’m Not Upset And Love All Of You!!

Wonderful. Don’t you just love the shift key… How would we spot lunatics without it.

Preach the Controversy…

The nonsense, and false controversy, created by Expelled just seems to never want to go away. In this respect the Discovery Institute really hit on to a winner with what could best be described as a poor first attempt by an art student film. Atheist and science blogs have been discussing the nonsense for what seems like eternity. I cant imagine how anyone could even begin to pay for this amount of publicity but there you go. Sadly, I actually feel that all this furore around the crap film is actually required.

Gorilla's EyesOnce upon a time I was optimistic about the human race. In this mindset I would have thought to myself “everyone seeing this film will realise it is total bullshit and ignore it.” I have, sadly, learned to think differently. When nonsense is placed into the public domain it can be either challenged or ignored. By challenging it the nonsense rises to the status of “controversy” and there is (in the public mind at least) the concept of a debate taking place. By ignoring it, the unthinking public begin to think it has merit and it slowly becomes an accepted “truth.” It really is a lose:lose situation for rational science. I can not think of a way to avoid the nonsense taking over the Earth, but at least, where I can, I will try to challenge it.

With this in mind, I came across a gorgeous picture of an American church on flickr. This is a very attractive picture so please, take a moment to visit and have a look – if you have a flickr account, please let the photographer know what you think of the picture (and he has a pretty good photostream).

It all went downhill, however, when I read the description of the picture.

Freedom of thought and expression are two of the most basic tenants of any free society.
Without those two things, you do not have a free society.

Well, I pretty much agree. They may well not be the most basic tenets of society but freedom of expression is very important. On a pedantic note, I cant see how (realistically) you can take away someone’s freedom of thought until mind-reading becomes commonplace.

We went to a must see movie this weekend. In Ben Stein’s (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”) new documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Ben shows how little academic freedom exists in our universities if you want to discuss unpopular topics like the origins of life. (links removed here but intact on the original)

Ouch. And he had got off to such a good start. Notice how this brings in the Creationist stand-by of creating the false associations with “academic freedom” and “unpopular topics”? Creationism / ID relies on trickery to convince the unthinking that it is a legitimate “alternative” and some secret cabal are trying to repress it. The “freedom” word is thrown around whenever someone tries to point out is not science to the extent that the average non-scientist actually thinks it is an oppressed viewpoint. Amazing really.

Much of the academic world thinks that the conversation should be closed because Darwinian Evolution has answered all of those questions… But, is that true????

Another creationist gem. This is a great question because it is massively false. No scientist, especially evolutionary biologists, think the conversation should be closed. That is the claim made by the creationists. However, this 180 degree spin goes a long way to masking that.

If you do not think that is true as a professor, get ready to loose you job. Yes, that politically incorrect thought has been banned in the university… I thought the university was a place of open discussion and thought???? Think again…

And here is the first falsehood. No professor who thinks the question about origins of species is not closed would lose their job. A professor who is so confused about their subject area as to think Creationism is an “alternative” to evolution should lose their job in the same manner that a physics professor who thinks the luminiferous ether exists, and propagates light, should lose their job. Imagine a woodwork teacher who thought you could cut would with butter, should he remain teaching? No. But not because “politically incorrect thought has been banned.”

Further on, as part of a short debate, the photographer comments:

You are exactly what the movie was talking about… you just to creationism the moment that intelligent design is brought up…
and you assume that all tenants of darwinian evolution are true..
and you think they are well defined….
Darwinian evolition is a mess… It is not science in the least…

More weirdness. Creationism is ID. No one assumes all the tenets of “Darwinian Evolution” are true, no one even assumes all the “tenets” of Evolution are true. That is not what science is about. The odd bit is the claim that Evolution is not science… I really struggle to get my head round the idea that people can honestly think Creationism Intelligent Design is “good science” compared to evolution. Where is the falsifiability? Where are the predictions?

After a while others join in the debate with things like this (from an otherwise reasonable person):

All that said, Wayne I completely agree that the way the discussion is silenced in academia is shameful. When scientist trot out the “earth is flat” idea they forget that at one time “scientiist” accepted that idea too. In other words, the commonly accepted “facts” might be wrong.

Argh. Do people honestly think that the academic world should engage in constant debate over all possible alternatives to a scientific theory? When did scientists EVER think the world was flat?

The last point I want to make before I remind everyone to go and look at the picture themselves is based on this:

We know from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) stuff always breaks down and degrades…. macro evoution requires more information to be added to produce more complex things…. second law of thermodynamics directly contratics that…. btw.. this is a law… meaning it always happen… not a theory like evolution…

Ouch. That good old standby the 2nd law. Obviously the Earth lives in isolation from the rest of the universe and no information (energy) can be added. Damn that Sun…

The best bit is the Law / Theory nonsense. Do people really not understand how the words work? Obviously not, because when challenged on the matter, our creationist photographer responded:

With all due respect, you are wrong about scientific law and theory.
You can read here and a million other places…

Argh. Such madness, especially as the link doesn’t really support his claim but I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to try an educate him.

Please, take a moment to visit the Flickr photo page. It is a nice picture and the more sensible, reasonable and educational comments he get, the greater the chance he (or others) will learn something. If the nonsense is ignored, then the nonsense prospers.

AIG in the UK

The British can’t feel too smug in the face of American gullibility. Ken Ham is busy dipping into our own bottomless well of credulity, according to James Randerson in the Guardian. He’s been on a lecture tour of the UK and seems able to draw a few hundred people to a venue.

The operation in the UK is smaller but still significant, with an annual turnover of around £500,000. One report suggested it dispatches between 30,000 and 50,000 books, DVDs and videos each year.

Let’s hope that most of these DVDs and videos are pirate copies of “Lost” .
Or else that the word “dispatched” is being used in the sense of “disposed of humanely”. Landfill would be my first suggestion, although I know that’s not too ecologically friendly.

Tricky Stats

One of the letters in this weeks New Scientist reports the reassuring facts that, despite the antics of various school boards and the attempts of numerous kook religion sites, Creationism is in decline. This is good news, and personally I would like nothing more than to think it was true – in fact if you base your analysis on my personal experience, then hardly anyone believes the creationist nonsense.

Sadly, I am not (yet) fully convinced that this is the true description of the world.

Now, the letter in NS helpfully produces some figures to support its claim. This is nearly always a good thing but this time it seems to be a touch confusing. Look at this:

Since the 1980s in the US the fundamentalist opinion that Adam and Eve were created a few thousand years before the pyramids has held fairly steady at between 43 and 47 per cent, with the lowest value occurring in 2007.

OK, it seems reasonable to take from that sentence the idea that creationism fluctuates around 45%, give or take 2%. While it is reassuring to see creationism is at its lowest last year, that is not really a decline.

Interestingly the numbers are compared with:

The number believing in human evolution under the guidance of God has stayed between 35 and 40 per cent.

The number agreeing with the scientific consensus that evolution occurred without a god has risen from 9 or 11 per cent at the end of the 20th century to a high of 14 per cent in 2007.

Sadly, this is less reassuring. I am not sure how three effectively stable sets of numbers can be used to show creationism is in decline. Equally, (admittedly ignoring the variation with the start figure of proper evolution) the numbers all show basically the same variation. Going from 11% to 14% is not a significant change when 47% – 43% is described as “fairly steady.”

As far as I can see, from the three sets of figures here, the numbers are all basically “steady.” All have about a 5% spread which seems to fluctuate. This is, in itself, not a downward trend for creationism.

Can anyone else show more positive figures?

Equally lacking in comfort to the rational is the information that, in the worlds only superpower, a nation with the ability to destroy every living person:

Remarkably, the number taking the Bible literally has steadily sunk from about 40 per cent in the 1970s – nearly matching those who then favoured the Genesis story – to between a third and a quarter.

So, at best, 25% of people still take the Bible literally. Wow. Scary wow.

I’m on a roll

That was such fun that I have to look at more GoogleAds appearing on the blogs of members of Mojoey’s Atheist Blogroll

No God blog has

the atheist’s riddle. so simple, any child can understand so complex, no atheist can solve

from I’m not sure what this is offering except 5 days of spam e-mails, You don’t even get to find out what the riddle is until day 4. (If it’s like any other riddle I’ve ever read, the answer is always “the moon” or “a man”.)

No God blog also has adlinks to an organisation that wants a referendum on the EU Constitution, the familiar “end-times” site and (Look, don’t spoil this now by having relevant links, please….)

And It has a few lines at the bottom of the index page, a prayer you are supposed to say and a big gold YES button you are supposed to click if you said the prayer. Bugrit, I’ll click anyway. Momentarily disappointed that choirs of angels haven’t appeared, I find it’s just a mailing list.

No explanation of the 2020 bit. I guess they were looking for a domain name and everything up to jesus2019 was already taken by Spanish-speaking men.

Just about to leave Nogodblog, when I see its links are going to eat up this whole post, all by itself. It’s got another tier of GoogleAds. More pantheism, Christianity in the UK, Catholic religion after Vatican II. Plus

My Son is Gay? One woman’s struggle with her son’s homosexuality and God’s answer.

(After he turns down her offer of a Christian un-gaying solution, she decides to hate the sin and love the sinner.)
Plus, from

Atheism against the law? Scientific proof that atheism requires a belief in miracles.

Do these Christian sites really have to demonstrate that “form follows function” so slavishly, by having such unattractive blogs? This is yet another site with an eye-burning colour combination. This combo might be OK in a different context. Such as, if it didn’t involve text. Turquoise on black with primary red links isn’t normally associated with readability.

After listing teh universal laws that atheism is supposed to break, the site concludes:

Atheism requires not only a tremendous amount of faith but also a belief in miracles. And not only miracles but natural miracles, an oxymoron. Both naturalism and supernaturalism require faith and which one you place your faith in is one of the two most important choices you will ever make.

Imagining for one moment that this stuff is actually meaningful, I still can’t see any logical connection between the arguments that (a) science doesn’t provide answers to everything and (b) therefore there is an all-powerful “god”.

Click link to “find out how life began.” Guess what, a magic man did it.

Baseless Creationist Arguments Find a New Home

Blimey, yesterday, Heather wrote about some empty nonsense being spouted by a blog on the atheist blogroll. In a nutshell, Tom Stelene, writing on the Al-Kafir Akbar blog, has spent a few days recently, ranting about how environmentalism is a “secular religion,” how global warming is a scam, how people who care about about the environment are dirt worshippers and so on. Over the last few days, Heather, Blacksun Journal and Salient have drawn attention to the nonsense he spouts.

Sunrise in AutumnTom Stelene has tried a comeback blast with a post titled “Deniers” (Blog Action Day Continues), and it is well worth reading if only to see the logical holes presented as “argument” and the good rebuttals from BlackSun and Salient. They have both done an excellent job of taking his nonsense to task.

Not being grown up enough to be bothered engaging in reasoned debate, I am simply going to point out some of the more obvious bits of nonsense Tom has turned into bits on the internet. Fisking is fun. If we start with the opening paragraph:

Amidst the latest politically-correct trend of environmentalists to throw out the smear, “global warming deniers,” I sense that by and large they probably have little familiarity with the science and reasoning as to why some deny “global warming” – as most narrow-minded religionists are unfamiliar with the reasons and arguments of atheists – or, better still: “God-deniers.”

Sunrise in Autumn 2By Toutatis, that is a difficult sentence to read. It is completely meaningless but it is still difficult to read. It makes a single attempt at a real claim and, personally, I doubt that this (basic) claim is true. If he is saying, as it seems to read, that his detractors have little understanding as to the science about why the detractors deny global warming. After the headache (caused by trying to resolve this tortured line of attribution) cleared, I decided he must be talking about the psychological reasoning as to why some people will pathologically deny the evidence which is presented to them and disproportionately give value to the minority evidence which can be interpreted as arguing against the mainstream. I am sure that there is a term for people who evince this weird behavioural trait, but I am not a psychologist so I have no idea. Generally, most of the people who do this seem to be arguing for the creationist brand of woo.

After I realised where I had seen this idiotic type of “argument” before, it suddenly became clear that pretty much all of Tom’s “arguments” against AGW fall from the Intelligent Design is Science school of idiocy. Blimey. Loki must have been having a field day letting this one out into humanity.

Tom claims his area of expertise is philosophy, so we can look at the first type of argument he uses and critique it with a philosophical point of view attached.

Swan in flight - Vignette addedOne of his oft-repeated claims is that those who advocate action to combat human-influenced climate change are following a “secular religion” – he uses such entertaining terms as “dirt worshippers” and so on. All very clever. This is the same as the ID / Creationist claims that “Darwinism” is a religion. The reality however is different.

Religion, in its normal use of the term, tends to mean people are holding to a belief either without any evidence or will hold to the belief in the face of evidence to the contrary. In keeping with the creationists, Tom holds to his beliefs without any evidence and retains the belief in the face of contrary evidence. Yet he still claims it is his detractors who are holding to a religion. Yeah, seems odd to me as well.

The next issue I have with his claims is, still in keeping with the creationist ideal, the idea that the isolated – often badly interpreted – data which may be interpreted as contradicting Anthropogenic Global Warming is so significant and Earth shattering it means more than the mountains of data which support AGW. Here Tom shows he doesn’t understand science – something he freely admits – and really should try to learn some more before demonstrating his ignorance. The fact of the matter is there is nearly always some data published which can be interpreted as contradicting a scientific theory.

Little Burrowing MammalMost of the time this data is the result of experimental issues – poorly designed experiments, mistaken conclusions, equipment issues and so on – but some times the data is valid and does pose a contradiction. What happens next is part of the broader scientific method – something Tom seems to neglect – the data is double checked, additional experiments are conducted and, if it is verified and repeated, the theory is adjusted to account for the new information. Despite the greatest wishes (and prayers) of the creationists, isolated findings do not count as evidential falsification. Likewise, Tom has fallen into the layperson’s trap of finding isolated contrary reports and attributing to these much greater weight than they deserve.

Here is a quick quiz question: If 99 reports conclude humans are responsible for climate change and one doesn’t, which should you go with?

The most blatant example of Creationist-Inspired woo-nonsense comes in this little gem:

Precisely because science is not my area (that being philosophy) I have to carefully consider both sides, and for some twenty years as a curious observer (if man causes global environmental problems I obviously want to know) I have read and listened to environmentalist claims – which get plenty of publicity – yet the science that challenges them gets ignored.

Chimpanzee on a TreeThis is seriously worthy of some further examination. It reeks of the same lack of understanding which tries to push ID into the classroom. There are not “two sides” to the argument (if anything there are dozens), so considering “both sides” is meaningless. In the past, I have commented on the debate problem which creates the illusion there are “both sides” regarding evolutionary theory. It seems the same fallacy applies with regards to AGW.

The idea that some one completely ignorant of the methodology and theories of climate science can accurately assess the validity of any competing theories (and there are dozens) is interesting – strictly speaking the layperson can go through the published data and draw their own conclusions, but the chances of that conclusion being a valid expression of the reality are not great. It would be better for Tom to say that, because science is not his area he would be better off listening to the scientific consensus.

For my, cynical, mindset, the reason why he has not gone down this route is borne out by the last part of that sentence. It reeks of the conspiracy-theories pushed by all kinds of deviant scientists.

“…yet the science that challenges them gets ignored.”

Utter nonsense. The “science” that challenges the various AGW theories is not “ignored” by any stretch of the imagination. Where science does challenge the theory it is investigated – sadly most of the claims of “science” which challenges turn out to be bad science at best. This, as with most of Tom’s arguments, is straight from the ID School of non-science. When people from wildly unrelated scientific disciplines (at best, often it is complete non-scientists) write a pile of nonsense about Evolution / AGW, it is quite rightly ignored. The pro-ID / Anti-AGW crowd then pick on this nonsense and scream about some hidden cabal who are suppressing the “alternative theories.” Total nonsense.

If some one can prove AGW is false they will be in line for the Nobel, along with all the people who can invent perpetual motion machines, prove ID, falsify GR, falsify SR etc., etc.,

Until then, science is science. You can rail against the findings all you want, but remember it is akin to shouting at the sun that your “research” shows it should be dark…

The Rise of Creationism

Oddly, until a few years ago I had never even heard of Intelligent Design or Creationism. I put this down to having gone to a good, high quality, school and having as my main circle of friends intelligent and educated people.

I can honestly say that prior to discovering the American madness, I was blissfully unaware that anyone really thought there was any grounds for this to be thought of as sensible, let alone a legitimate scientific topic. I think my first encounters with the madness idea called ID came around the turn of the millennium. How things have changed in the last seven years.

The idea that, in 1999, there was a mainstream awareness of ID / Creationism in the UK is laughable. It was certainly never even alluded to while I was at school – it might have been hinted at in Religious Education classes, but even then it was done with an understanding it wasn’t “real.”I have friends who have gone on to be teachers and university types – who all studied around the end of the 1990s, and they support my recollections that ID/Creationism was virtually unheard of in the UK at that time.

Now, however, things are different.

Reading the BBC Education news draws a frightening picture, with an article titled “Teachers Fear Evolution Lessons.” The BBC piece is well worth reading, and begins:

The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London’s Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

This generates two reactions in me. Sadly for teachers (and my closest friend is a biology teacher), neither cast teachers in a good light.

First off, since when have teachers been “fearful” of entering a debate with their students? What crazy world is this we live in. If a teacher is incapable, or unwilling, to debate with a student who disagrees with what they are saying then they are not teachers. Do teachers want to simply teach robotic children who soak up every single thing they are taught without question or challenge? I honestly hope not.

Secondly, why are teachers allowing these ideas to spread in the first place? It seems teacher-spokespersons (often self appointed I presume) will regularly come up with some news worthy diatribe about how teachers are being prevented from teaching because parents are allowing their kids to be unruly, eat the wrong food, watch too much TV etc. Surely this is really not something the teachers can blame others for. If teachers were doing their job properly, then people would understand how creationism is nonsense and could get on with the task of learning science.

Anyway, going back to my original point, when did creationism become such a big thing in the UK. We were once (as social “scientist” Heather will keep reminding me) a more secular nation than Communist Russia where religion was outlawed. This is now, obviously, consigned to the dust bin of history, but I am curious as to when / why this change took place. Did the internet and Americanisation of our culture cause it? Does the vast amount of Polish immigrants cause it? Does any one know? Read the article and let me know what you think.

[tags]Education, Teachers, Biology, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, ID, Darwin, Dawkins, Science, Religion, Belief, Madness, Society, Culture, Secular, Christian, UK, Michael Reiss, London’s Institute of Education, Teaching, Educational Standards, Nutcases[/tags]

Sued God fights back in court

In the court case in which Ernie Chambers is suing god, it seems that God has now decided to defend himself. Libby Purvis says in the Times that:

God apparently left a robust response on his lawyer’s desk. Theologically, it’s actually quite sound…if you ever accept theology as sound.

(I followed the link on the words “robust response” just to see what theist apologetics might look like straight from the mouth of God but I just ended up at Forbes magazine. Don’t tell me God edits Forbes magazine. Then again, that might explain a lot. You’d certainly have a better chance of a compensation payout if you decide to treat Forbes magazine as God’s representative on earth for legal purposes)

Indeed, Libby Purves has been putting out some interesting posts recently.
For instance:
PC users holier than Mac fans

An analytical blog has discovered that Windows users are 20% more likely to read religion stories online than Mac users. “Could it be that the occasional brush with a “blue screen of death” gives the Windows user a greater sense of their own mortality? ” it asks.

Is the world flat discusses the astonishing rubbish talked on The View

I do not think this mindset would be socailly acceptable on TV if it were not for the Creationist extremes in the US which reject other facts such as evolution. It’s enough to make Dawkinses of us all…

The last Libby Purves post mentioned here sparked some creationists to spout their stuff in the comments. You know the “uncanny sense of deja vu”………

Commenting on Comments

I was not planning to do a post on the nonsense being spouted by the comments on the John Humphrys article over on the Times Online (see previous post), but the idiocy and madness some of them presented couldn’t be ignored. Please forgive me, Zeus.

In no particular order we get this wonder from “Timothy” in Ross-on-Wye:

Christianity can be tested by whether the Resurrection occurred or not (1 Cor15). Secular and hostile sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, the Talmud and the Toledoth Jeshu testify of the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb. That blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side indicates heart failure and we can be certain He was dead. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead where is His body? The disciples started proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem where the Priests could have produced the body if they knew where it was, ending Christianity. Why would the disciples steal Jesus’ body?

Blimey, where do I start. First off, shall we look at motivation? The disciples had a vested interest in Jesus’ body not being found, so there is motive for them to ensure the priests didn’t know where the body was.

More interestingly shall we look at the witnesses (Secular and Hostile sources)? For example, Tacitus was born in about AD56 (56CE for purists) and is unlikely to have travelled to the middle east until around AD76 (or 76CE if you prefer). Even allowing for some major errors on the date of Jesus’ birth, it is unlikely that Tacitus was around to see the event and if anything, he is repeating a secondary or tertiary source. Lucian is even more removed as it was around AD125 (125 CE) he was born. Josephus has potential, being born around AD37 (37 CE), but that is stretching things.

So basically this discounts the secular sources as evidence. The Toledoth Jeschu is equally flawed as it was written around the second century after Jesus was supposed to have been born – again this means it is the result of secondary or tertiary sources AT BEST. I will ignore the Talmud because I don’t know it well enough to comment on how it describes Jesus’ life.

From “D Walsh” in Skipton we get:

For the intellectually honest, atheism is also a matter of faith. It is difficult to prove a negative. There is no absolute proof of the non-existence of god(s), though the lack of proof for his/her/their existence is suggestive. Atheism is therefore a belief, rather than a lack of it.

This is a tired old argument. Lack of belief is not a belief unless you have the preconceived idea that the thing being believed about exists. For example, if I chose to believe the keyboard under my fingers right now didn’t exist, this would be an item of faith. While it is unprovable, I have met no (sane) adults who believes that Faeries do not swap children at night. Atheism is not a matter of faith. Ever.

“Virginia” in Australia writes:

The atheist are the stupid ones. They refused to believe that they will burn in hell for all eternity. There is really no point in trying to convince these people as they are the minority as God puts the belief in us when we were created. That is why there are very few geniune atheist if the truth were known. The physical body dies but the spirit lives forever. So everyone has eternal life, it is where you will spend it. Imagine a world full of atheist? There will be no accountability charity justice compassion purpose worth morals mercy regrets guilt sin compassion and hope. Who do think run orphanges, soup kitchens, red cross, Salvation army, life line, op shops, youth camps, and many other charitable organisations? The atheist? CERTAINLY NOT.!! The atheists think about no one except themselves and if the world is full of them, it would be like HELL. So dont be so proud to be one of them, we dont envy you, we feel sorry for you that your life is so worthless.

This is what I love about the loving, caring, compassionate theists… It is a good job that is only Atheists who can be frowned upon for speaking out. It is good job the world isn’t full of evil atheists, isn’t it… “Chie” in Tokyo continues the false reasoning argument about Atheism:

Agnosticism is the only logical position a thoughtful human being can adopt. Once understood properly, it ends the futile and barren debate about whether God exists or not. Atheists (if by this is meant people who believe that there is no God) are in just as a rationally untenable position as believers. This is why it has to be said that Dawkins, although interesting on religion, shows his intellectual limitations. It’s probably due to the influence of Western mind training, which tends to take a binary approach to everything.

Again, this is nonsense. No matter how much woo you try to wrap around the situation, nor how much patronising you do the situation remains the same. If Chie is trying to suggest God is in a quantum superposition along with Zeus, Hera, Thor, Hemidal, Loki, Monkey, Fox, Rabbit and every other god humanity has come up with over the aeons, then he is deluded. A similar argument is suggested by “Richard” in Bexhill, Essex, which proves the point about people from Essex being thick.

“Eugene” from Heildelberg, Germany (I strongly suspect he is an American serviceman, and he reminds me of one I worked with many years ago) writes a diatribe which finishes with the patronising:

If you are truly intelligent, you will come to this coclusion. GOD IS MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT.

Nonsense. He doesn’t even say which god he thinks is more probable than any of the others. It is nothing but an appeal to mystery in funny clothes.

“Warren Toles,” from Canada, goes a long way to prove that Theists really are stupid and opens his comment with:

It is interesting that there are so many brilliant people in this world that will believe Darwin’s THEORY of evolution and completely dismiss the the Biblical account of creation. This can only be accounted for by the fact that those taking this position have not studied either the Bible or Darwin’s life story including the fact that he dismissed his own theory of evolution prior to his death. And yet we continue to teach Darwin’s Theory of evolution in our schools and Universities as though it is pure fact without any doubt attached to it.

It is great isn’t it. First off it is painfully obvious that Warren has no idea what a “theory” of science actually means. I assume he wants alternate theories of gravitation, thermodynamics (etc) to be taught as well. Add in the nonsense about Darwin’s dismissal of evolution on his death bed and you can see why Atheists laugh at the way Theists believe things without questioning… Shame on you Warren, the internet is a great tool – you should use it to learn new things.

“John W” from Oldham lives in a bleak world and writes:

As soon as you say there is no god, you say that there is no such thing as life or as a person. You reduce everything down to its component parts. You say all our thoughts are self interested delusions, lacking any intrinsic value. You forever steal the smile from the babies face, remove the beauty from the sunset and kill all that is noble in the world.

Wow. My being an atheist seems to stop my children smiling… Oddly this is not the case. I find it worrying that some people really do think they only reason they can be happy in this life is because some invisible person has promised them something in an imaginary afterlife. If this wasn’t a world religion, these people would be in a lunatic asylum. I think the idea that people are only “noble” because of god is what really steals the nobility of their actions. It makes them a vessel for others and implies that without Big Brother watching them, they would really be stealing and raping. I find that a sad, sad world.

“CC” from Cardiff falsifies himself with this:

Having read Dawkins God Delusion out of interest, I am still not convinced about religion or atheism. There are strong arguments for atheism in the book, but there are also some weak arguments. Having a scientific background and a career in engineering, I like to see real evidence. Maths and statistics can be used to ‘prove’ anything academically. So what are the weak arguments for atheism:
1. There must be a planet of other beings out there STATISTICALLY. Ok, but then if those planets do exist then the laws of evolution would apply and we might expect that one of them might be more advanced than we are…so where are they?
2. Although we as humans have made fantastic progress is medicine, we are still only tinkering. Until we can CREATE life from the basic elements I remain unconvinced that we can ever do it.
3. The human state of consciousness, how a body gets life in it cannot be reproduced by humans ‘artificially’.
I feel that if I say I am an atheist then I it would be naive

Wow, he claims to have a scientific background but demonstrates no understanding of science or mathematics. Maybe it is true what they say about engineers… Statistically, in an infinite universe, there are an infinite number of planets out there with life. Basic principles state we (on Earth) are not in a unique position regarding time or place, so you must assume that there are, indeed, some alien civilisations who are more advanced than ours. However, and this is important, these basic principles also assume that the laws of physics hold equally at all points in the universe (keep this in mind). Now, we know that statistically, the chances of another planet near to Earth having an massively advanced alien civilisation is low so we can dismiss them, this means that the statistically probably aliens are going to be quite some distance from Earth, the nearest potentially habitable planet is 60 light years away. Why must all Alien civilisations be capable of Faster than Light travel along with a burning desire to visit Earth? The rest of his “reasoning” is even more dribble.

I will finish (for now) with this head ache inducing comment from “William J” in Oban, Scotland: (Dont you just love the case choice…)

The fact we can debate, discuss, and not only argue about belief,but even in extreme situations go to war over beliefs, in anyway detract from belief:
In fact, rather it proves that belief is Truth.
Richard Dawkins is in fact a Belief Meister He Believes in Non-belief. John Humpry is Still Seeking He Believes in Seeking.
I Believe in God.
The only problem occurs if any of us try to force our beliefs upon the other two. I recently read somewhere that Charles Darwin is indirectly responsible for The Horror of The Nazi Gas Chamber and The Second World War. I found this Idea Abhorrent yet then no sooner had this thought registered,when I remembered The French Revolution was a product of Militant Aitheism. Yet There Again , our “Glorious Revolution” The English Civil War was Based upon The Opposite Belief incidentally it Was The Scottish Covenanters who having handed King Charles The First over to The Parliamentary Army were so Horrified at The English Action, The Crowned Charles

Toutatis knows what he is trying to say here, but I will point to this as further evidence as to the IQ of theists and atheists. Read the comments, they are priceless. Atheists point out logical flaws and are accused of “hateful attacks.” Theists demonstrate ignorance (and more than a little hate towards atheists) and everyone gushes about how wonderful they are.

[tags]Religion, John Humphrys, In God We Doubt, Belief, Christiantiy, Islam, Judaism, Society, Culture, Darwin, Dawkins, Evolution, Creationism, Bible, Tacitus, Toutatis, Zeus, Hera, Loki, Times Online, Nonsense, Delusion, God, Logic, Logical Fallacy, Fallacies, Atheist, Agnosticism, Atheism, Theism, Woo, Lucian, Josephus, Toledoth Jeschu, Talmud, Flaws, Idiocy[/tags]

Fundamentalist Newton?

The Boston Globe has an article purporting to show that Newton believed in Intelligent design so he couldn’t possibly get a decent post in a modern university.

They reach this conclusion via a mode of rhetoric that makes you want to chew your own arm off. It’s like one of those long drawn out jokes in which the punchline is supposed to come as shock.

That is, they characterise the beliefs of an unknown professor in a succession of paragraphs that are supposed to make you think he’s a real extremist fundamentalist.

Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor who espouses not merely “intelligent design” but out-and-out divine creation.

Of course, Dawkins’s name gets drawn in, Dawkins somehow having the ultimate say over all academic appointments in the fundy worldview. Continue reading

ID proponents are theosophists

In your face, creationists. Here’s some old school stuff about Intelligent Design from Blavatsky net – amazing that Mme Blavatsky can blog from beyond the grave. Pretty well proves the survival of the soul all by itself doesn’t it? 🙂

(It’s also mildly amazing that she somehow managed to get the French form of Mrs into her name. (Like Lord Lucan. Or President Bush. It’s only us lesser folks that have to use our first names.) But I digress.)

Helena Blavatsky, in 1888, was the first person to use the phrase “intelligent design” to convey her understanding of evolution.

Continue reading

Creationists claim +/or disown Crick

Sparked by a May post and comments on Hells Handmaiden’s always-interesting blog. Hell’s Handmaiden was reasonably challenging the absurdity of Denyse O’Leary’s claim that Francis Crick (one of the people who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, do keep up) would not get tenure today because he propounded the theory that human life was seeded by aliens. This post brought out a pretty incensed series of anti-PC comments from one Wakefield Tolbert. (I admit to being impressed at the Pythonesque surname, fitting so well with my mental picture of the commenter.)

I googled for evidence, with a half-thought out idea that the alien seeding idea was more associated with Fred Hoyle – a former Royal Astromer (thereby giving the lie to the “no honours for eccentric scientists” idea) – and Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Creation Web seems pretty clear that Crick is the enemy:

Long before he ever discovered DNA’s structure, he held strong atheistic views. The news article even reported that Crick’s distaste for ‘religion’ was one of the prime motives that led to his discovery, and also said, ‘The antipathy to religion of the DNA pioneers is long standing. In 1961 Crick resigned as a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, when it proposed to build a chapel.’

They then attack him for suggesting at one point that life is seeded through the universe.

Cross-currents go further in that they try to claim Crick for a slightly misguided one of their own:

What he proposed is, of course, Intelligent Design without a Divine designer—essentially putting off the question of Who or what (be that a Designer or spontaneous process) created life structures able to develop the space-travelling aliens….There’s certainly a lot more evidence for the Hand of G-d than there is for visiting space aliens—but none other than Sir Francis Crick was willing to grab for the latter in order to avoid the former.”

Well, no. There isn’t much evidence for either as far as I can see.

Except that Panspermia itself doesn’t exactly require a belief in visiting space ships. It seems a perfectly rational hypothesis as defined by Answers. com

The theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth and possibly in other parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist.

There are some fundamental issues of logic here.

Firstly, Crick was indulging in scientific speculation, as the discoverers of the double helix did. They had to test that theory and it proved to fit the observations. If they had found out that DNA molecule was connected in the shape of a teapot or a Mobius strip, they’d have changed their views. Crick did in fact come to modify his views on Directed Panspermia.

Secondly, the reliable authority fallacy is rearing its head again. Crick was successful in one area of thought, ergo, everything he says must be equally respected. I bet Francis Crick was probably not a good breakdancer. That is not to say that he couldn’t try a few fancy moves, if he so chose. However, being part of the team that discovered the structure of DNA would not, in itself, reflect on his skill as a break-dancer. He wouldn’t win an MTV B-boy competition just on the basis that he’d published a Nobel-prize-winning paper on molecular structure.

So, why do ID-proponents care about Crick’s speculations on the origins of life? Because they get a bit miffed that any respected scientist (read – an Authority) is an atheist.

Any potential Authority is going to get dragged in to support their arguments – from Einstein (because he spoke using the odd spiritual metaphor) to Chuck Norris (because he was in a film with Bruce Lee once.) So Crick is no exception. Try to get him on-board somehow.

From the Wikipedia entry on Crick and Creationism

It has been suggested by some observers that Crick’s speculation about panspermia, “fits neatly into the intelligent design concept.” Crick’s name was raised in this context in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial over the teaching of intelligent design. However, as a scientist, Crick was concerned with the power of natural processes such as evolution to account for natural phenomena and felt that religiously inspired beliefs are often wrong and cannot be trusted to provide a sound basis for science……In a 1987 case before the Supreme Court, Crick joined a group of other Nobel laureates who advised that, “‘Creation-science’ simply has no place in the public-school science classroom.”

Obviously, if you are trying to claim the advantages from borrowing Authority (e.g. those trying to use Crick to support the Dover School Board) you’re stuck when your Authority opposes you. So you have to deAuthoritise them pretty damn quick.

Evolution Falsified By Genetic Algorithims?

For the interests of people who read this blog sans comments (shame on you), I have “promoted” a short debate taking place in the comments of Heather’s post titled “ID Advocates Never Sleep.” I have done this, largely, because I think it is interesting and one side of the debate shows how a misconception about the applicability of a theory over different domains can lead to all manner of, what I think is, illogical reasoning.

Please feel free to add any comments of your own, either here or on the original post. This is quite long, and it broadly just repeats posts from previously so it is under the fold for those viewing on the blog.

Continue reading

Too stupid to be real

Well, from the department of the ineducable idiocy, I have found a blog which I don’t for one second think is a legit creationist / theist blog. I refuse to accept that anyone can be as stupid as this person, yet still be able to breathe unaided. Seriously. Still, it has given me a chance to rant about a few topics which have been annoying me lately.

The blog in question is called “Atheist Stooges” and, from that name alone, you just know it is going to be full of juicy idiocy. In this instance, the idiocy is so bizare I can only assume (hope?) that this is a wind up. Can people honestly hold to ideas like this and still function in society?

The blog has an article called “Enter the excavation” which really does hit a new nadir of nonsense. The basic crux of what is a long, wordy and badly written, post is that because you can not pin down a point in time which some human invented Atheism it must be sent by demons. What wonderful logic. There are so many fallacies in the post it would take months to unravel them all. This tends to happen when you take a false premise and try to make conclusions based on it though.

The opening paragraph sets the tone:

Do you know that if you make an endeavor to find out when and by whom atheism was authored you will not be able to find such information from any source? Not even the most “educated” atheists – particularly those associated with the most elite universities throughout the world can truthfully inform you when and by whom atheism originated. They can enlighten you as to who were its main perpetuators in different cultures; but they cannot identify its founder and when it actually originated. Continue reading