Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jerry Coyne on Francis Collins

If I blogged on all of the dumb things Jerry Coyne says, I'd have no time for anything else.

But here's a whopper from Coyne:

Francis Collins is ticked off at atheists

Speaking at an editorial board meeting at USA Today, National Insitutes of Health director Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian, has struck out at atheists. He’s particularly upset at some critical comments made by Steven Pinker that were first reported on this website. Collins now argues that the conflicts between religion and science are “overstated.”
There is no conflict between science (the empirical study of nature) and belief in God (the belief that nature has an intelligent Personal Cause). There is obviously no logical contradiction, and there is no historical contradiction. Most great scientists have been Christians. Few were, or are, atheists.

If there is a logical contradiction to be found between science and theology, it would be between the search for rationality in nature and the belief that nature has no rational cause.

The atheist explanation for ultimate reality-- 'shit happens'-- is no impetus to science.

Asked about complaints from researchers such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker, over an avowed Christian heading a scientific agency, Collins said, “angry atheists are out there using science as a club to to hit believers over the head.”

He expressed concern that prominent researchers suggesting that one can’t believe in evolution and believe in God, may be “causing a lot of people not familiar with science to change their assessments of it.”
Yep. My guess is that a lot of ordinary folks, taking a close look at Coyne, Myers, and Dawkins, are saying "as*holes". What should bother scientists is that these people are:

1) Right.

2) Taxpayers
“A person’s private beliefs should not keep him from a public position,” Pinker wrote in 2009. “But Collins is an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs, and it is reasonable for the scientific community to ask him how these beliefs will affect his administration,” he added...
'Have you now or have you ever been a Christian...?'

None of Collin's beliefs are 'anti-scientific'. That's particularly funny coming from Pinker, a pseudoscientist p.r.-obsessed psychologist who wouldn't know what the inside of a laboratory looked like, who is criticizing the science cred of one of the best molecular geneticists of the century.

And Collins is still an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs, including the notion that the laws of physics indicate fine-tuning by a deity (the same one who freezes waterfalls in three parts), and that human morality—which he calls “The Moral Law”—can’t be explained by evolution, ergo Jesus. (I’m publishing a response to the latter idea within the next few days.)
Debates about the origins of natural laws and constants are philosophical debates, not scientific debates. Pinker, a man who believes that the laws of nature 'just happened' is calling the belief that they have an intelligent Source ' anti-science'. What a jerk.
I’m still awaiting evidence for Collins’s accommodationist claim that those who argue for an incompatibility between science and faith have turned many people away from science. What we do know is that those arguments have turned many people away from faith, which is of course a good thing.
Don't worry, Jerry. The insistent public assertion that science is only compatible with the fringe ideology held by 4% of the population who have a propensity to totalitarianism won't affect the public's view of science. Rest easy, fool.
Collins has, of course, again overstepped his boundaries as NIH director. To see this, imagine if he was an atheist instead of a Christian, and “struck out at angry religious people” for trying to blur the boundaries between science and superstition.
Coyne 'strikes out' at "angry religious people" all of the time. He's a tenured professor at a major university and is the recipient of  lavish public funding. Many of his coprolalic colleagues (e.g. P.Z. Myers)  are employees of public universities.

Atheists suckling at the public teat should be careful about advocating religious litmus tests.
Imagine if he said that religious people were using Jesus as a club to hit the scientifically-minded over the head. Collins would be fired in a millisecond, and religious people would come down on him like a ton of bricks.
Atheist scientists say that all of the time. That's about all they say. They keep their jobs, and sell tons of books.

Would Coyne like to list the atheist scientists who have been fired for their view? I can name quite a few Christian scientists who have bee fired for their beliefs-- Richard Sternberg, Guillermo Gonzalez, David Coppedge, the list goes on.
His ability to get away with this as America’s most famous government scientist shows the profound asymmetry between theists and atheists in America.

The asymmetry, Coyne, is this:  Christians believe in freedom of speech and unfettered public discussion. Atheists' views on the matter are becoming more clear each passing day. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Norweigan mass killer Brevik is right-wing Christian Darwinist evil

Predictably, folks have been trying to pin Anders Behring Brevik's killing spree on various ideologies- conservatism, Christian fundamentalism, Darwinism, etc. (here here here here).

Leave me out of this nonsense. 

Brevik is an evil mass murderer. I suspect that he is a diagnosable paranoid schizophrenic, although I have no specific evidence of that. He represents no ideology. He's a cold hearted bastard who shot helpless kids close up. He doesn't deserve to be ennobled with an ideological label.

Of course, my adversaries will say 'Of course Egnor denies Brevik's ideology, because Brevik is a conservative Christian, yada..yada..'

No. Let me explain.

I recall Walter Cronkite on TV on the day of JFK's assassination, before Oswald's identity was known, saying that right wingers in Texas were dangerous folks and clearly implying that they were responsible for  Kennedy's assassination. Yet he knew nothing of the real assassin or of his motives. 

I've thought a bit about Cronkite's assertion since, and it makes me sick. It was a horrible time of national anguish and this sleazebag (Cronkite) was using the opportunity to slander conservatives without a shred of evidence. Cronkite was a typical media liberal. He should have been fired on the spot. 

Whenever some nut shoots people, ideologues line up to paint the guy's motives as examples of the ideology they oppose. It is cheap stuff, and diminishes those who do it. 

Two lessons:

1) It is unwise and unethical to attribute evil acts to anyone before all the facts are in. Speculation without facts is slander.

2) Ideas are not discredited because some evil nut does something and attributes his act to the idea.

Marxism wasn't discredited by Oswald's assassination of JFK. Environmentalism wasn't discredited by the Unabomber's mailbombings. Darwinism wasn't discredited by the Columbine shooters' endorsement of 'natural selection'. Conservatives weren't discredited by Jared Laughner's massacre in Tucson. Liberals weren't discredited by Bill Ayers' bombings in the 70's.

The truth of an idea is not determined by the invocation of that idea by a nut. There are lots of nuts and lots of ideas. The combinations are endless.

The evaluation of the truth of an idea-- the truth of Marxism or Christianity or atheism or Darwinism-- is a complex and subtle matter, based on all sorts of insights. Anecdotes based on psychopaths are worthless.

I do believe that the real world consequences of ideas matter enormously, and thoughtful analysis of the impact of ideas is essential. But the real world consequences of ideas aren't discernible in the wanton acts of psychopaths. The 'psychopath' component of the crazy act is always so much bigger than the 'idea' component of the crazy act that attribution of the crazy act to an idea is flawed from the start.

To attribute acts to ideas, we need to understand the broad impact of ideas among people who aren't psychopaths. The old adage about religion is untrue about religion in isolation, but is true about ideas:

'Bad people have always done bad things. But really bad ideas are ideas that motivate good people to do bad things'

Ideas do matter, and it's perfectly legitimate to draw conclusions from genuine insight. For example, this is what history (not forensic psychiatry) reveals:

1) Atheism always has produced tyranny when it has been a governing ideology. 

2) Darwin's understanding of man was the philosophical basis for modern eugenics. 

3) Christianity is the core of Western science, art, law, and morality. 

These observations are true, and important. 

I don't like cheap tactics when they are used by my intellectual opponents, and I don't like them when they are used by my allies. Anders Behring Brevik' was no Darwinist, and no Christian, and no atheist, and no conservative. He was a psychopath, which transcends ideology. Anecdotes about the ramblings of spree killers are cheap rhetorical shots.

There are important issues about atheism, morality, Darwinism and Christianity, but nothing is gained by sifting a madman's spew. Discerning truth is a matter of history, sociology, philosophy, political science, logic, etc. Once you're into forensic psychiatry, truth fades in relevance, and idiosyncratic psychopathology is determinant.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Could something be evil, even if all human beings thought it was good?

The atrocity in Norway highlights some profound questions about moral law that are important in the discussion about atheism and theism. I assert that only theism is consistent with the existence of objective moral law.

I suspect that some atheists have a problem understanding what I mean by "objective" moral law.

I mean moral law that:

1) Exists
2) Was not made by humans
3) Can be obeyed or disobeyed by humans.

If we define evil as defective 'mirror neurons', or a particularly unpleasant evolutionary adaptation, we mean that evil is subjective, and exists only in our minds. Of course, a subjective moral law can be widely and even universally held, but it has no reality independent of human minds.

So here's a question that gets to the heart of the issue:

Could something be evil, even if all human beings thought it was good?

If yes, then moral law is objective reality. If no, then moral law is entirely subjective.

Only theism offers an explanation for objective moral law. If atheism is true, then all moral law is just a matter of opinion, even the moral status of murdering children at a summer camp.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My question for atheists on the Norway massacre

All sane people are horrified at the recent mass murders in Norway. This tragedy provides an opportunity for reflection on morality itself.

While we all condemn the acts of Anders Behring Breivik, we condemn them for reasons that differ according to our understanding of life, God, etc.

For example, Christianity teaches that killing innocent people is mortal sin. It's objectively wrong, independent of human judgement.

Atheism, of the materialist stripe, explains the moral sense of right and wrong as evolved adaptations, lacking objective reality. We are appalled at certain acts because we have evolved by natural selection (and kin selection, yada yada) certain social constraints that have helped us reproduce.

Atheism intriniscally lacks recourse to objective moral law, in the sense of moral law that exists independently of human beings and that would be objectively real and true even if all men disagreed.

I'm not saying that atheists don't feel moral law as strongly as Christians do. I'm saying that, despite the horror we all feel, atheist ideology provides no basis for asserting that the moral law is objectively true.

Atheism concludes that killing children in a summer camp is wrong only as a matter of opinion, and not wrong as a matter of objective fact independent of opinion.

So here's my question for atheists: was Breivik's slaughter of scores of innocent people last week objectively wrong, as opposed to a subjective adaptation, an evolved opinion?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on the Norway atrocity and the future of Europe

The motives of the monster who detonated the car bomb in Oslo and who methodically slaughtered innocent children at a summer camp are becoming more clear.

Anders Behring Breivik is crazy and evil.

He is no Christian, in any meaningful sense of Christian theology or practice. His rambling 1500 page manifesto and web pages quote Locke, contain large swaths of pasted Unabomber screed, endorse freemasonry, rail against Muslims, Marxists, and feminists, and invoke Darwin and Christian culture.

He seems to be an organized version of Jared Lochner, the Tuscon mass-murderer.

The leftist press, predictably, has tried to link Breivik to fundamentalist Christianity, without success. Breivik's slaughter has nothing to do with affirmation of the Virgin Birth. Breivik invokes defense of Christian culture, among many other things, and he violates every precept of Christian morality.

The most haunting aspect of this tragedy, besides the horrendous loss of innocent lives, is what it tells us about the future of Europe. 

Genuine Christian belief and culture have been dying in Europe for a couple of centuries. Europe in the 20th century was a charnel house. In the 21st century the rump of its childless secular culture is exhausted, infertile, and dying, sipping lattes served by Islamic immigrants brought in to prop up European societies without youth. 

Islamic immigration will radically transform Europe. The European response will be an infestation of Breiviks, heirs to the Nazis, who will slaughter innocents in imitation of the Muslim slaughter of innocents.

All of Europe will be the Balkans by the end of this century.

The future of Europe, the Christian incubator of genius that gave us Shakespeare and Newton, will be Atta and Breivik. In this twilight of genuine vibrant European Christianity, Islamic terrorists and Neo-Nazi butchers will rend each other, and countless innocents, in a struggle for Europe's secular/atheist husk.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is Herman Cain an anti-Muslim bigot?

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson on Republican presidential nomination candidate Herman Cain's assertion that communities have the right to prohibit Muslims from building Mosques:

Stand up to Herman Cain’s bigotry

By Eugene Robinson, Published: July 18

It is time to stop giving Herman Cain’s unapologetic bigotry a free pass. The man and his poison need to be seen clearly and taken seriously.

Imagine the reaction if a major-party presidential candidate — one who, like Cain, shows actual support in the polls — said he “wouldn’t be comfortable” appointing a Jew to a Cabinet position. Imagine the outrage if this same candidate loudly supported a community’s efforts to block Mormons from building a house of worship.

But Cain’s prejudice isn’t against Mormons or Jews, it’s against Muslims. Open religious prejudice is usually enough to disqualify a candidate for national office — but not, apparently, when the religion in question is Islam.
Would Robinson appoint a congregant of the Westboro Baptist Church to a cabinet position?  How about a devout member of a Christian Identity church? How about a member of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam?

The difficulty here is that, while we rightfully protect the free exercise of religion, the fact is that some religions advocate things that reasonable Americans abhor.

This is certainly true of wacko churches like Westboro Baptist and churches associated with white supremacists (and black supremacists). Is criticism of these religions and of the people who profess them "bigotry"?

On Sunday, Cain took the position that any community in the nation has the right to prohibit Muslims from building a mosque. The sound you hear is the collective hum of the Founding Fathers whirring like turbines in their graves.
Many of the Founding Fathers took a very harsh view of Islam. The Establishment of Religion inherent to Islamic theology was anathema to the founding principles of our secular democratic form of government.
Freedom of religion is, of course, guaranteed by the Constitution. There’s no asterisk or footnote exempting Muslims from this protection. Cain says he knows this. Obviously, he doesn’t care.
I don't recall any essays by Mr. Robinson (liberal Democrat) defending the right of Christians to pray publicly at graduations, etc. Leftist Democrats are friends of religious expression, selectively.
Cain’s remarks came as “Fox News Sunday”host Chris Wallace was grilling him about his obsession with the attempt by some citizens of Murfreesboro, Tenn., to halt construction of a mosque. Wallace noted that the mosque has operated at a nearby site for more than 20 years, and asked, sensibly, what the big deal is.

Cain launched into an elaborate conspiratorial fantasy about how the proposed place of worship is “not just a mosque for religious purposes” and how there are “other things going on.”
Cain has a point. The activities going on at a house of worship may involve things other than worship. How would Robinson feel about cross-burnings at a local skinhead church?

This is not to say that nefarious activities necessarily go on in Mosques. But it's not crazy to raise the issue. In this country, and in much of Europe, there has been radicalization at quite a few mosques that raises real questions about public safety.
This imagined nefarious activity, it turns out, is a campaign to subject the nation and the world to Islamic religious law. Anti-mosque activists in Murfreesboro are “objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, sharia law,” Cain said. “That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”
Cain is right.  Religious practice entails worship as well as political activities. Worship is Constitutionally protected. Politics, especially potentially violent politics, is subject to statutory law.  You can praise Allah, which is obviously protected by the Free Exercise clause . You can advocate sharia law, but advocacy of sharia law is not protected by the Free Exercise clause. It is of course protected by the guarantee of Freedom of Speech. But opposition to sharia law is not religious bigotry. It is a political difference of opinion.

Let’s return to the real world for a moment and see how bogus this argument is. Presumably, Cain would include Roman Catholicism among the “traditional religions” that deserve constitutional protection. It happens that our legal system recognizes divorce, but the Catholic Church does not. This, by Cain’s logic, must constitute an attempt to impose “Vatican law” on an unsuspecting nation.
Similarly, Jewish congregations that observe kosher dietary laws must be part of a sinister plot to deprive America of its God-given bacon.
Neither Catholicism nor Judaism advocate any unconstitutional principle. The Vatican does not advocate imposition of "Vatican Law". It advocates moral opinions that some (too few) Catholics use to guide their own voting. Jewish Kosher Laws are not statutes. They are voluntary decisions by Jews to adhere to dietary rules.

Sharia law per se is an Establishment of Religion, and is inherently unconstitutional. Muslims may of course vote for and advocate for individual aspects of sharia law that pass Constitutional muster, but sharia law understood as a body of law is religious law, and it's imposition in the United States would be unconstitutional.

Wallace was admirably persistent in pressing Cain to either own up to his prejudice or take it back. “But couldn’t any community then say we don’t want a mosque in our community?” Wallace asked.

“They could say that,” Cain replied.

“So you’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque. . .,” Wallace began.

“Yes, they have the right to do that,” Cain said.
The Westboro Baptist and Christian Identity white supremacist examples can be invoked again. Would residents of a gay neighborhood (Westboro Baptist) or a black neighborhood (Christian Identity) have a right to oppose the construction of those churches? Something tells me that liberal democrats who preen about religious freedom would take a different tack about a Christian Identity church in Harlem.
For the record, they don’t. For the record, there is no attempt to impose sharia law; Cain is taking arms against a threat that exists only in his own imagination. It makes as much sense to worry that the Amish will force us all to commute by horse and buggy.
For the record, there have been many efforts to impose sharia law in European democracies, and the issue has been raised in the U.S. as well.
This demonization of Muslims is not without precedent. In the early years of the 20th century, throughout the South, white racists used a similar “threat” — the notion of black men as sexual predators who threatened white women — to justify an elaborate legal framework of segregation and repression that endured for decades.
This is not demonization of Muslims. This is raising genuine questions about Islam. Robinson's comparison between honest discussion of the political and social implications of religious ideology and discrimination based on race are disgusting.
As Wallace pointed out, Cain is an African American who is old enough to remember Jim Crow segregation. “As someone who, I’m sure, faced prejudice growing up in the ’50s and the ’60s, how do you respond to those who say you are doing the same thing?”

Cain’s response was predictable: “I tell them that’s absolutely not true, because it is absolutely, totally different. . . . We had some laws that were restricting people because of their color and because of their color only.”

Wallace asked, “But aren’t you willing to restrict people because of their religion?”

Said Cain: “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”

Generations of bigots made the same argument about black people. They’re irredeemably different. Many of them may be all right, but some are a threat. Therefore, it’s necessary to keep all of them under scrutiny and control.

Bull Connor and Lester Maddox would be proud.
I've got no problem with Robinson's excoriation of his fellow Democrats (Connor and Maddox), but there is no parallel with honest questions raised about the spread of Islamic ideology in America.

The vast majority of Muslims are decent law-abiding people. But serious questions can and should be raised about the political ideology inherent to Islamic theology. Many Islamic precepts are abhorrent: the establishment of religion, the subjugation of women, the invocation of violence to spread Islam, the vicious anti-semitism, the division of the world into the realm of Islam and the realm of war. Only a fool would look without concern at the European experience. Large Muslim sections of several cities, including Malmo and Paris, are ungovernable regions where police do not enter.

The problem of Islam in the democratic West is very real. We are a people informed by centuries of Christian culture, and our legal system and Constitutional protections reflect that origin. Islam is in many ways opposed to our system, and explicitly asserts the prerogative to overthrow it by violence.

What to do with abhorrent political beliefs associated with a particular religion in a nation founded on the free exercise of religion? To what extent is rejection of these beliefs and refusal to associate with people who hold them "bigotry" and "prejudice", as opposed to, well, good judgement?

We're going to have to find men with more insight than Eugene Robinson to answer that question.

Men like Herman Cain, for example.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Larry Moran gets the evolution debate right (sort of)

Larry Moran at Sandwalk:

The National (USA) Center for Science Education (NCSE) has just endorsed a four-year-old statement on teaching evolution from the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution [Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution adds its voice for evolution].

Here's the statement:

There is overwhelming evidence that life has evolved over thousands of millions of years. The ancestors of modern organisms, as well as whole groups that are now completely extinct, have been found in great abundance as fossils. The main processes responsible for evolutionary change, such as variation and natural selection, have been repeatedly observed and verified in natural populations and in laboratory experiments. All the features of living organisms, including those discovered in the recent advances in molecular biology, are readily explained by the principles of evolution. Any scientific theory that provides a clear mechanism, offers a broad explanation of natural phenomena, receives strong support from observation and experiment and that is never refuted by careful investigation is usually called a “fact”. The cell theory of organisms, the germ theory of infection, the gene theory of inheritance and the theory of evolution are all facts. Teaching alternative theories as though they had equivalent scientific status is a perversion of education that damages children’s ability to understand the natural world. In particular, creationism is a religious doctrine long since known to be a fallacious account of Earth history that has no scientific standing and cannot be represented as a credible alternative to evolution. Evolution is the single most important principle of modern biology and the foundation of any sound biology curriculum.
Graham Bell
President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution
I expected Moran to endorse the statement without reservation. I was wrong.


I don't like this statement because: (1) it implies that the "theory of evolution" is only about variation and natural selection, (2) it confuses evolutionary theory with the facts of evolution, and (3) it confuses creationism with Young Earth Creationism. 
If you are going to claim that your version of evolutionary theory is correct then you would be well-advised to define it. And if you are going to claim that it's a fact then what's the point of calling it "evolutionary theory"? The "theory" part of evolution is an explanatory model that's used to understand and interpret various facts about the history of life. 
With respect to point #3, one of the main threats to science these days comes from Intelligent Design Creationism and there are many IDiots who do not subscribe to an obviously "fallacious account of Earth's history."

Moran makes some very good points. I have noticed that Moran, despite some horrendous bigotry against Christian students and some juvenile posts unworthy of a senior academic, has a deeper insight into some of the issues with evolution that many of his less cogent compatriots. Perhaps it's because Moran is a genuinely accomplished scientist  who is still doing science, rather than a has-been mediocre scientist or a never-been scientist.

Here's my take on the Canadian Society's statement, line by line:

There is overwhelming evidence that life has evolved over thousands of millions of years.
If by "evolved" they mean 'changed', it's true. The evidence only supports change. Nothing else in evolutionary science, especially the cause of the change, is supported by "overwhelming evidence". Evolutionary biology is a federally-funded food fight. Except for atheism. They all agree on that.
The ancestors of modern organisms, as well as whole groups that are now completely extinct, have been found in great abundance as fossils.
Fossils certainly show many extinct species. Whether organisms in the fossil record are ancestors of modern organisms depends on the truth of the theory of common descent. There is some evidence for common descent, but much of that is also evidence for common design. The evolutionary tree of automobiles is analogous in many ways to the evolutionary tree of life. Automobiles didn't evolve by natural selection from a common ancestor. Automobiles were designed by intelligent agency.
The main processes responsible for evolutionary change, such as variation and natural selection, have been repeatedly observed and verified in natural populations and in laboratory experiments.
Variation and natural selection aren't "processes". They don't constitute causes of an effect. Natural selection is a tautology-- survivors survive-- and variation is a trivial fact of all of nature. Classically, nature is defined as 'that which changes' (Aristotle). Change in nature and survival of survivors have been "observed and verified in natural populations and laboratory experiments." But a banality isn't a scientific theory of any value.
All the features of living organisms, including those discovered in the recent advances in molecular biology, are readily explained by the principles of evolution.
There are liberal drug laws in Canada, and it shows.  Is it really true that "all features of living organisms are readily explained" by invocation of random variation (stuff changes) and natural selection (stuff that survives survives)? These folks are on hallucinogens. Nothing in  biology is explained by tautological drivel. There is not a single experimentally confirmed evolutionary pathway for even one biological molecule. Just-so-stories don't count.
Any scientific theory that provides a clear mechanism...
'Stuff changes' and 'survivors survive' isn't a mechanism.

offers a broad explanation of natural phenomena...
The explanation is too broad. How did trait X evolve? 'Well, in a population of organisms that lacks X a mutant organism with X emerged, and it produced more offspring than the organisms that lacked X.'

Evolution 'accounts' for anything, and therefore nothing. That's the problem with elevating triviality and tautology to the status of a scientific theory.
receives strong support from observation and experiment...
What observation or experiment would disprove the theory that 'stuff changes and survivors survive'?
and that is never refuted by careful investigation is usually called a “fact”.
A scientific theory that is never refuted by careful observation is usually called a 'tautology'.

Teaching alternative theories as though they had equivalent scientific status is a perversion of education that damages children’s ability to understand the natural world.
Teaching alternative theories is called 'science'.
In particular, creationism is a religious doctrine long since known to be a fallacious account of Earth history that has no scientific standing and cannot be represented as a credible alternative to evolution.
 Intelligent design theory is the primary scientific challenge to Darwinism, and it's not "creationism". The reason that Darwinists don't specifically address ID, and repeatedly refer to it as a form of young earth creationism, is that they realize that the ID arguments are very persuasive. It's easy to assert that the earth is 5 billion years old rather than 6000 years old. It's much harder to credibly assert that the genetic code shows no sign of intelligent agency.
Evolution is the single most important principle of modern biology and the foundation of any sound biology curriculum.
Evolution is the single most important principle of modern biology atheism and the foundation of any sound biology atheist curriculum.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scientismist (is that a word?) Dr. Harry Kroto: "Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH..."

Scientismist Dr. Harry Kroto

From the moonbat files. The Guardian's Andrew Brown:

Science is the only road to truth? Don't be absurd
Overvaluing science leads to illogicality, as a Nobel prize winner has proved
By the standards of very clever men who believe some very silly things, Harry Kroto is a quite unremarkable scientist.
[Kroto said]:
"Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH with any degree of reliability."

Scientism (the belief that natural science is the source of all truth) is a bizarre intellectual affliction. Brown points out Kroto's idiotic error:

Think about this for a moment. Is it a scientific statement? No. Can it therefore be relied on as true? No.

Scientisimists (scientists afflicted with scientism) make what is perhaps the most obviously self-refuting assertion imaginable: the assertion that science is the basis for ascertaining all truth. Obviously, that statement itself is not a scientific claim. It's not amenable to experimental testing and to falsification, except in the most fundamental logical falsification-- it's self-refuting.

So what would lead an otherwise intelligent fellow to say something so stupid:

[Kroto] did play a prominent, and I think disgracefulpart in the agitation to have Michael Reiss sacked from a job at the Royal Society for being a priest.

Oh. Kroto's an atheist. Apparently the Royal Society has no problem with philosophically ignorant bigots. Just with priests.

Krotos' self-refutation is an example of the Liar paradox. If a cretin says that all cretians are always liars, his assertion is paradoxical. If his assertion is true, than his assertion is false.

The paradox persists today in the form of scientism. Atheists (all scientismists are atheists) assume to modern role of cretins, which seems appropriate.

Brown on Kroto:

Remember, [Kroto] has just defined truth (or TRUTH) as something that can only be established scientifically. So nothing he says about ethics or intellectual integrity after that need be taken in the least bit seriously. It may be true, but there is no scientific way of knowing this and he doesn't believe there is any other way of knowing anything reliably...
Scientism is essentially the announcement 'Nothing I say can be taken seriously'.


Note how [Kroto's] position completely undermines what he then goes on to say – that "the Ethical Purpose of Education must involve teaching our young people how they can decide what they are being told is true" (his caps). Again, this is not a scientific statement, and therefore cannot, on Kroto's terms, be a true one.

Those of us with a modicum of common sense who are not scientismists are free to have rational opinions.


The rest of us, of course, are perfectly free to believe that education should involve the promotion of critical thought, or at least to consider the question seriously. We are under no obligation to believe anything half so silly as that science is the only road to truth. We can reasonably argue that there are lots of ways to establish truth that are not scientific. Obviously they rely to some extent on the sifting and weighing of evidence, but that doesn't make them part of science, or else every member of a jury would be a scientist.
In a similar way, we can believe that ethical truths exist, even though these clearly aren't scientific, or the products of science; but Kroto can't. Not that this stops him. Like anyone else who is sane he talks as if ethical truths do matter, and exist.
Kroto gets even more amusing. Brown:

What makes this even funnier is that he then starts talking about the Galileo affair. He asks his audience how many of them could recapitulate Galileo's arguments for the Earth's going round the sun. Hardly any can. "See!" he said. "You've accepted it. You've accepted it without evidence. And 70-80% of people do that."
I'm prepared to accept on trust his figure of 70-80% even though it is of course very low. If by "evidence" he means "people familiar with Galileo's arguments" it's unlikely to be more than about 1% of the scientifically literate; and if he means "people who have actually read the source material", the proportion is just about infinitesmal. The idea that we should test everything against the evidence crumbles to dust the moment it is itself tested that way.
Still, let's assume that Kroto has himself studied Galileo's arguments for heliocentrism. He should therefore be familiar with the contemporaryscientific arguments against them. Because if there is one thing that has been established in the history of science in the last 50 years, it is that in strictly scientific terms, and going by the evidence available to him and to his contemporaries, Galileo was wrong and Cardinal Bellarmine was right. Heliocentrism was a beautiful theory, and Galileo would have been free to teach it as such – but the observation of stellar parallax, or rather the discovery that none could be observed, should have knocked it on the head (for a fuller explanation, see here and here).
Obviously it was wrong to suppress Galileo's views entirely; but if only what is scientifically justified may be taught, then Bellarmine would have been right to do so.

Brown again:

This isn't just a matter of historical curiosity. The illogical positivism of Kroto's talk is symptomatic of a widespread problem. Although Kroto is exceptional in his self-confidence and lack of intellectual self-awareness – few other people would state as baldly as he does that science is the only way to establish the truth – no one in the audience seems to have reacted with a healthy giggle. They may have felt there was something a bit off about the idea, but the full absurdity was veiled by layers of deference and convention. The great attraction of telling everyone else to think, to question, and to take nothing for granted is that it makes a very pleasant substitute for doing these things yourself.
The padded room of logical positivism (of which scientism is a modern spawn) is occupied by surprisingly many scientists, all atheists: P.Z. Myers, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Steven Novella, Larry Moran.  

This may seem harsh, but scientism deserves nothing but ridicule and contempt. It is a trivially self-refuting tenet of the larger atheist delusion, and the idiots who endorse it-- no matter how prominent their status in science-- need to be called out for what they are.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kin selection, e. coli, and lying

Altruism is a huge problem for Darwin's theory.  Human society and the natural world are full of selfless acts-- from young men giving their lives on Omaha beach to save total strangers to insects sacrificing to serve their colony.  This of course is a defeater for Darwinism, which asserts that all adaptations evolved to maximize reproductive success.

Internment in Arlington National Cemetery is evidence for many things-- heroism, love,  the last full measure of devotion.  It is not reproductive success.  Why do the best of mankind sacrifice for others?

Christianity provides the obvious answer: we are made in God's image, and at our best we imitate Him.  He sacrificed His own life out of love for us all. The graves at Arlington rightfully are covered with crosses.

Darwinism, a lie, is a fecund lie.  Darwinists are a dull lot, but given time, they can explain anything. As you might expect, they have tried to explain away the utter contradiction of altruism for their theory.

They have hypothesized about kin selection (your genes give your life to save your kin's genes), reciprocal altruism (I'll give my genes if you'll give yours), the Potlatch Effect (I'm so superior to you that I can sacrifice for you), etc. etc.

Kin selection, the most widely endorsed Darwinian evasion of altruism's defeat of evolutionary theory, has a problem, though.  In the theory of kin selection,  genes can propagate if they use the organism as a vehicle to enhance the propagation of identical genes in other organisms. Kin will have more nearly identical genomes than non-related, so we are 'programmed' by our genes to be altruistic to close relatives. And the closer, the more altruistic.

There are of course all kinds of problems with this. Parents share the same fraction of genome with children  as siblings share with each other, but sibling altruism is substantially less intense than parental altruism.

But the catastrophe for kin selection is asexual reproduction. If a parent will give his life for Darwinian reasons to save his kids, who only share half his genomes,  imagine the altruism of bacteria, who are surrounded by billions of identical copies of themselves! Bacterial reproduce asexually, and their kin selection and altruism should be intense. As philosopher David Stove, author of Darwinian Fairytales, notes wryly,  bacteria should be so altruistic that they couldn't even decide who should go through a door first.

Yet Darwinists assert that bacterial evolution by natural selection-- the competitive struggle for existence-- is prime evidence for Darwinism. Antibiotic resistance and all that.

Darwinists deflect the obvious observation that altruism is a defeater for Darwin's theory. It can't be rescued by kin selection, which, if true, would virtually eliminate evolution in asexually reproducing organisms.

Darwinists implicitly exempt asexually reproducing organisms from kin selection theory.

Now if humble me (and others) see this contradiction, certainly the bright lights of evolutionary biology noticed it too. But they are silent. They apply kin selection when it advances their ideology, and fall silent when it doesn't.

Darwin's theory isn't just bad science.  It's a lie.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Horror in Norway

There have been terrorist attacks in Norway, against government buildings and a youth camp. At least 16 people-- perhaps many more-- are dead.

The perpetrators are not yet known with certainty, and I'll forgo commenting on them until identities are well established.

Please pray for the victims, their families, and all of the good people of Norway at this sad and horrible time.

Stories-- even silly ones-- have implications in the affairs of men.

Commentor bachfiend has raised some important issues.

I had written a post attributing the disintegration of the black family in American to liberal social policies. bachfiend replied (in part):

...Being able to tell stories, putting together series of events together in sequence, allows us to make sense of situations without actually understanding them...

I replied:

Isn't that what Darwin's theory does?

It certainly does, if your comprehension of evolutionary biology is still stuck with Darwin's 1859 theory of natural selection. You're just making a straw man argument.
The modern synthesis is an elaboration on Darwin's basic idea of RM + NS as an explanation for adaptations. If you're willing to admit that the ground of modern evolutionary theory is story-telling, I'd certainly agree.


Your naive belief in intelligent design is equally silly. ID is just a story too, one for which there isn't the shred of any evidence.
ID posits that intelligent agency is potentially discernable in biology. So does Darwinism, although Darwinists go through contortions to deny it. ID and Darwinism are merely two opposite answers to the same question: is there intelligent design in biology? Both are stories, in the sense that they are post-hoc inferences about fundamental causes.

There is nothing wrong with stories as historical science, as long as wildly inappropriate claims are not made for their value to science. The claim that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution' is not true, just as 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of intelligent design' isn't true either. Most biologists do their work just fine without meaningful explicit inference to either hypothesis. Many of the fundamental questions about teleology in biology are philosophical questions more than practical scientific question.

We could discuss the evidence (logical and empirical) for and against intelligent design, but the wild assertions of evolutionary biologists that Darwinism is 'proven' or that biology cannot progress without the materialistic implications of Darwinism are nuts.

In a previous thread, you'd argued that morality had been implanted into all humans by God, and was therefore proof of God's existence,
Morality isn't "proof" of God's existence. God isn't one thing among others whose existence can be probed empirically. God isn't a scientific hypothesis. He is a Person, and his existence can be experienced.

Theologians have demonstrated (e.g. Aquinas' Five Ways) that the Prime Mover/First Cause etc can be logically deduced. The connection between logical demonstrations of that sort and the triune God of the New Testament is a matter of revelation and personal encounter with Him.

My argument against evolutionary psychology's explanations for morality is (in part) that denial of God's existence pretty much excludes the objective existence of moral law. Your argument is, then, that murder isn't really wrong, in any objective way. It is merely maladaptive, and thereby we perceive it as 'wrong'.

My goal is to make you state clearly the logical implications of your theory, and people can judge for themselves whether the theory makes sense.

The theory that murder/rape/theft aren't objectively wrong, but merely maladaptive, is a view that most people find implausible.

And your evolutionary theory of morality poses enormous problems for the criminal justice system. You can justify punishment for willful disobediance of objective moral law. But how can you justify punishment for (errant) evolutionary adaptation?

And if you claim that punishment is really control of maladapted humans, rather than punishment of a person with free will who violates an objective moral law, your view gets even uglier, because you reduce people who commit crimes to the level of defective animals, who need to be 'controlled' and 'conditioned', rather than dealt with as persons with transcendent value and responsibilities.

Darwinism is a universal acid. Do you really want that acid in our criminal justice system and in our Bill of Rights?
 ...deriding my claim that evolutionary psychology's theory that morality is naturally selected for in human social groups as being just a 'story'.
Stories are fine, as long as one understands their limitations (and strengths). I believe that the story that God created us to be moral is a quite plausible story. I believe that the story that morality is a subjective evolutionary adaptation is a stupid story.

I try to get you to explain it in detail, and own up to its logical implications, so people can see just how stupid it is.

Divinely implanted morality is just as much a story, and one that isn't particularly plausible, because it isn't particularly well embedded in most people.
The moral law is deeply imbedded in virtually all people. Even murderers usually make up a moral justification for their act-- 'he had it coming', 'she resisted me', 'I was mistreated by my father', etc.

Moral law is so deeply imbedded in man that the failure to recognize it, even on rare occassions, is a diagnosable illness-- psychopathic personality disorder. The moral law is so pervasive that failure to experience it is a disease.

Of course, none of us obey it without exception, but we all feel its weight, especially when we don't obey it.

Michael Jones, in his book 'Leningrad', detailing the 872 day siege of Leningrad during WWII, gives lots of cases where the atheist Russians acted with extreme morality and empathy, and the theistic Germans acted with extreme inhuman brutality.
Of course many atheists acted, and act today, with extreme morality and empathy. While atheism provides no ground for objective morality whatsoever, most atheists are basically moral people. Morality is written in our hearts, and integrity and decency are not the domain of any one faith. We act (often) in accordance with moral law because we are human, and that is how we are created.

Christianity provides an explanation for our morality (and our immorality), and provides us with some very Personal help when we try to be moral.

I'm not entering into arguments whether Hitler was a Catholic or not.
Hitler was baptised as an infant (probably), and he used religious rhetoric as a politician. There is no evidence that he practiced Catholicism. His marriage to Eva Braun on the last day of his life was performed in a small civil ceremony without religious references. His last will and testament make no reference to religious beliefs, and he asked to be cremated, which at the time was not permitted in the Catholic church.

Hitler obviously was not in any meaningful way a Christian.

I concede that if he had won the war, then almost certainly no religion besides National Socialism and worship of Hitler would be allowed.

I agree.

But all his generals and his troops were believing Christians. The troops had chaplains in the front lines for pastoral duties.

You don't know the beliefs of "all his generals and troops". What a stupid thing to say. There were some believers, some not. Germany was a country with a long Christian heritage, so it would not be surprising if many Germans continued to practice Christianity during the war.

National Socialism was not a particularly religious ideology, except perhaps in a pagan sense-- worship of blood and soil . Not a lot of "love thine enemies" and "the meek shall inherit the earth" in Nazism.

But the Germans had as their policy to destroy Leningrad and its population by siege and starvation. Artillery units had as their targets marked on maps such military targets as schools and hospitals.
[National] Socialists can be a nasty bunch.

Evolutionary psychology has no problems explaining how Hitler managed to manipulate the German people to behave with such inhuman brutality in Russia.
Evolutionary psychology has no problem explaining anything. That's the problem.

Through years of propaganda and indoctrination, the German people were taught to regard the Soviets as being outside the group of humans, not deserving of humane or moral treatment.

A Darwinian understanding of human origins-- that humans were mere evolved animals-- runs through much of Nazi anthropology.

Stories-- even silly ones-- have implications in the affairs of men.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jeffrey Shallit, Lebensunwertes Leben, and gay marriage

Jeff Shallit has a characteristically nasty and ill-considered post at Recursivity:

The shame of Princeton University, Robert P. George, is at it again

The shame of Princeton University? George is the McCormic Professor of Jurispridence at Princeton University,  a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution,  a former member of the President's Council on Bioethics and founder of Princeton's James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.  He currently holds the professorship occupied by Woodrow Wilson.

He is also a renowned Catholic scholar, which, of course, explains why Shallit calls him "the shame of ...".

Princeton also employs Peter Singer, an atheist ethicist who advocates abortion, infanticide of handicapped babies, and sex with animals. But for Shallit,  it is a conservative Catholic that is the shame of Princeton.

If George came around and recommended zoophilia, perhaps Shallit might reconsider his condemnation. 

What's really funny about George and other "natural law" advocates is they never, ever discover that "natural law" is in violation with beliefs they already hold. No, somehow, miraculously, "natural law" demands that their prejudices be true
Of course, George can't say this out loud, so he's required to surround it with academic bafflegab like "sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation". And he makes ridiculous, over-the-top claims like "New York has abolished marriage as a matter of civil law and replaced it with a counterfeit that New Yorkers’ children and grandchildren will be taught to accept and approve as if it were the real thing." And he makes bogus claims, as when he states, "It is to give up on the truth that children need both a father and mother, and benefit from the security of their love for each other." (For the truth, go here.) In my field, if you said stuff like this, with so little to back it up, and expected to be taken seriously, people would just laugh at you. But in philosophy, or politics, or constitutional interpretation, or whatever field George thinks he is master of, it's considered to be important work. Go figure.
The really sad thing about George's claims about gay marriage is that you can transform nearly every claim, mutatis mutandis, to a similar claim about interracial marriage. And George's bigotry against gays will seem as quaint and baseless in 20 years as proscriptions against interracial marriage do today.

Interracial marriage? Natural law argument about interracial marriage is quite clear: it is perfectly moral.  Heterosexual marriage isn't about race, and race, from a natural law standpoint, is meaningless.

Interracial marriage has been practiced throughout human history.

The laws against interracial marriage were violations of natural law.  Those laws were the inappropriate application of misguided political viewpoints (blacks were inferior and blacks and whites shouldn't mix) to natural marriage.  Natural law supports interracial marriage and heterosexual marriage.  Laws contrary to that-- laws that establish racial boundaries or that establish same sex marriage-- are against natural law, because they misrepresent the truth about marriage, which is heterosexual and color-blind.

Natural law is a strong defense of heterosexual marriage,  irrespective of race.

I point out that laws against interracial marriage in the US were created entirely by Democrats (Shallit's wing) and opposed by Republicans (George's and my wing).  Shallit needs to get out more,  and to understand the historical bigotry of his political confederates.

Back to the issue of bigotry and opposition to homosexual marriage based on natural law.

Support for natural law isn't bigotry, of course.  The recognition that heterosexual unions are potentially procreative, and homosexual unions aren't,  isn't bigotry. It's recognition of truth about man and nature.  It is recognition of the truth that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. But it's more than that. It's recognition that marriage is consensual, between two individuals, not between relatives, etc.

Does Shallit support non-consensual marriage? If not, then he is using the natural law inference that marriage is only valid if the parties consent.  Surely Shallit wouldn't endorse a bigoted natural law philosophy like consent.

Does Shallit support polygamy? If not, why not? Would that make him an anti-Mormon bigot?  Does Shallit support marriage between a father and a daughter?  If not, why not (no appeal to natural law!).  Is Shallit an anti-incest bigot?

If you're familiar with Shallit, you'll know that it's best of course not to take anything Shallit writes too seriously.  He's a nasty, but unserious, fellow.

Nasty, you ask?  How so?

Shallit, 2009:

" ...why are decisions [labeled] as "eugenic" necessarily bad? Why, exactly, would the world be better off with more Down's syndrome children?"

Shallit defends eugenic extermination of children with Down's syndrome.  Presumably, though,  if they escaped Shallit's eugenic plan, they could marry same sex partners.

For Shallit, gay marriage is fine.  Handicapped children-- "Lebensunwertes Leben"-- are another matter entirely.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

From Hogwarts to the Texas Board of Education: NCSE's Josh Rosenau peddles atheism

There's a cluelessness to atheists that's often downright funny. Josh Rosenau, the National Center for Selling Evolution's Science Education's Policy and Program Director, inadverently makes that point nicely.

On his blog Thoughts from Kansas, Rosenau recounts his attendance at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. It sounds like a Harry Potter convention. The Amazing Meeting is an annual get-together of atheists, organized by Dumbledore The Amazing Randi, a stage magician revered in atheist circles.

From last Thursday through Sunday, I was in Las Vegas at The Amazing Meeting!, a gathering of skeptics hosted by James "The Amazing" Randi.... It was great to meet Randi, who urged us to give him copious hugs, and whose beard threatened to overwhelm the entire crowd of 1600 TAMmers. It was great, too, to watch magician Penn (of Penn and Teller, the long-time twosome of Vegas magicians who were introduced by Randi) and his band perform at a bacon, doughnuts, and rock-n-roll party. It was awesome meeting Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) in the lobby after attending Penn and Teller's show at the Rio. It was fascinating riding to the show with Genie Scott, Carol Tavris, Elizabeth Loftus, and Barbara Anne, a former Vegas singer who worked the casinos in the era portrayed in Casino, and could vouch for the authenticity of De Niro's character.... It was fun watching everyone walking past nervously beg NCSE's Genie Scott for an autograph, or a photo, or just a handshake, and to see her graciously acquiesce again and again.
Sounds like quite a fest:

It was fascinating to see the same old fights come up, and to see them mashed up in odd ways... I also saw Dawkins coming into our session on Defending Evolution in the Classroom. We chatted about it a bit in the hallway later, and he seemed to have liked it. And I got to talk activism with Desiree Schell (@teh_skeptic on twitter), whose workshop on grassroots activism was excellent, and whose talk on the last day worked as hard as any I've seen to describe genuine middle ground in the confrontationalist/accommodationist conflict – to account for the time and place for confrontation, a formal account of how something like Overton's window could be helpful (and therefore which attempts to invoke it are fallacious), and to inculcate a spirit of thoughtful and informed activism.

There was other stuff, dark, odd, and unfortunate stuff, but that's for another day.
Harry Josh Rosenau and Hermione Eugenie Scott (the Director of the NCSE) presented sessions promoting censorship in science classrooms to a meeting of atheists organized by a magician.

A cynic might ask just what about TAM wasn't "dark, odd, and unfortunate stuff..."

If I did this as a parody, people would complain that it was too outlandish.

But wait, there's more.

Rosenau had to skedaddle from TAM in Las Vegas to testify as an impartial advocate of science at ... a meeting of the Texas Board of Education.


This Thursday, the Texas Board of Education will vote to adopt science textbook supplements.

You'll recall that the board approved new science standards a couple years ago... [b]ut they stuck in a line about "all sides of the evidence," whatever that means, and inserted language requiring greater scrutiny for evolutionary concepts than for all others, and inserting creationist ideas about cellular complexity and "sudden appearance" of fossil species....It's rare that I'm relieved to see a statewide school system underfunded, but in this case I'll make an exception...So off I go, having barely unpacked my bags from TAM!, I'm repacking to testify before the board this Thursday. I fly out tomorrow, and will spend Wednesday with friends and colleagues in Austin, testify and livetweet at @JoshRosenau and @NCSE (using hashtag #txtxt, if you care) on Thursday, then watch the board vote on Friday, and come home. It should be a blast, but also fairly whirlwind. All told, I'll have been traveling three of July's 5 weeks, for a total of 14 days. That's eight flight segments, for a carbon footprint I don't even want to think about.
Rosenau, fresh from an atheist Qabalah at which he and the executive director of the NCSE presented talks to fellow atheists on how to best censor science in public schools, presents himself to testify as an ideologically neutral defender of science at a Texas Board of Education meeting.


Here's a suggestion for the first question asked of Rosenau during his testimony:

"Mr. Rosenau, you present yourself and your organization (the NCSE) as non-ideological defenders of science. So I ask you this: where were you yesterday, why were you there, and did you give any presentations relevant to your testimony today? Given the ideological bias of the audience at the meeting you just attended, how are you able to assert credibly that you are an ideologically neutral defender of science?"

The NCSE is an atheist organization devoted to insulating Darwin's theory from scrutiny. Several of its top officials are atheists active in national atheist organizations. Atheism is a religion, and Darwin's theory is its creation myth.

And its apostles aren't even smart enough to cover their ideological tracks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

P.Z. Myers: Decimation of the black family? Yaaawnnn....

Witless Godless liberal P.Z. Myers ridicules Michelle Bachman for her insight into the catastrophic disintegration of the married black family.

Bachman said:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born in to slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African- American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
Myers commented:
I don't understand the message she's trying to get across here. "Slavery: Not So Bad As Freedom?" Or is she making a pledge to re-enslave all the black folk and force Mommy and Daddy to live together and raise their children?
Here's the message she's "trying to get across", P.Z.:

Even in the throes of slavery, in the worst of Jim Crow and the KKK, the black family remained intact. Historically,  black families in the U.S. were more stable than white families. That's despite enslavement, lynching, the KKK, Jim Crow, poverty, 'separate but equal', etc.

Then, beginning in the 1960's, things changed, and within a decade or two, the black family was demolished.

What happened?

Liberalism happened. The Great Society happened. Welfare happened. Liberal social policy, beside leaving blacks in cities vulnerable to the astronomical crime rates of the 70's and 80's because of catch-and-release pinhead liberal crime policies, made the black father financially superfluous. Liberal democrats paid poor black families to break up.  If the father stayed home, the family was ineligible for welfare. If the father left, the government stepped in and sent the checks. Liberal jerks ignored the most basic rule of ecomonics: you get more of what you pay people to do, and less of what you tax people to do. Idiot liberals did what the slave owners and the KKK couldn't do: they broke up black families, wholesale.

Why? Obviously, one need not assume intent on the part of liberals. Mere stupidity accounts for much of liberal policy. But I believe there was venality here as well. Wards of the government vote for the government. By making millions of black families utterly dependent on government largesse, Democrats secured the votes of these families in perpetuity.

So, P.Z., this what Bachman meant: the fundamental cause of the disintegration of the black family in America is liberal Democrat jerks.  They pose as open-minded compassionate enlightened progressives, but they don't give a damn about the people in the communities they destroy.  It's all narcissism.

Recognize yourself, P.Z.?

How is man different from animals? Harvard discovers Aristotle.

Natalie Wolchover from Life's Little Mysteries:

There's no consensus on the question of what makes us special, or whether we even are. The biggest point of contention is whether our cognitive abilities differ from those of other animals "in kind," or merely in degree. Are we in a class by ourselves or just the smartest ones in our class?
Charles Darwin supported the latter hypothesis. He believed we are similar to animals, and merely incrementally more intelligent as a result of our higher evolution. But according to Marc Hauser, director of the cognitive evolution lab at Harvard University, in a recent article in Scientific American, "mounting evidence indicates that, in contrast to Darwin's theory of a continuity of mind between humans and other species, a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind."

Hauser and his colleagues have identified four abilities of the human mind that they believe to be the essence of our "humaniqueness" — mental traits and abilities that distinguish us from our fellow Earthlings. They are: generative computation, promiscuous combination of ideas, the use of mental symbols, and abstract thought. [Read: Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]

1. Generative computation

Humans can generate a practically limitless variety of words and concepts. We do so through two modes of operation — recursive and combinatorial. The recursive operation allows us to apply a learned rule to create new expressions. In combinatorial operations, we mix different learned elements to create a new concept.

2. Promiscuous combination of ideas

"Promiscuous combination of ideas," Hauser explained, "allows the mingling of different domains of knowledge — such as art, sex, space, causality and friendship — thereby generating new laws, social relationships and technologies."

3. Mental symbols

Mental symbols are our way of encoding sensory experiences. They form the basis of our complex systems of language and communication. We may choose to keep our mental symbols to ourselves, or represent them to others using words or pictures.

4. Abstract thought

Abstract thought is the contemplation of things beyond what we can sense.

"This is not to say that our mental faculties sprang fully formed out of nowhere," Hauser wrote. "Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement foot print of the skyscraper that is the human mind. The evolutionary origins of our cognitive abilities thus remain rather hazy. Clarity is emerging from novel insights and experimental technologies, however."

Notice "the evolutionary origins of our... ".  Homage to evolution is the tax that must be paid by any scientist who presents a finding that calls into question the materialist ideology on which evolutionary theory is based.  Materialism has no explanation for man's capacity to reason,  because materialism is an utterly failed theory of mind.  But when I read the article and read the quite cogent description of the enormous qualitative difference between man and beast, I knew that somewhere the scientists had to pay homage to evolution.  It's usually in the last paragraph, just to ensure materialist censors that the authors are still on the plantation.

The assertion of the scientists is refreshingly true, but not refreshingly new.  Aristotle defined man as a rational animal, and all philosophers and theologians (e.g. Aquinas) who followed in his footsteps have agreed. It is the ability to engage in abstract thought,  to use symbols and language, to combine and compare ideas, and to contemplate universals and not just particulars that defines man and sets an unbridgeable gulf between man and beast.

How did man's reason evolve? The ability to do metaphysics has little to do with reproductive success. It may even be a hinderance; who gets the girls, the football star or the philosophy major?  And even the concept of 'evolution' of reason presupposes that reason is material, like hoofs or wings.  But the materialist philosophy of the mind is in shambles, widely regarded as a dying superstition.  Much of the mind is clearly immaterial, including the capacity for reason. How does something immaterial 'evolve'?

So how to account for man's qualitative difference from animals, which is his ability to reason?  Perhaps, in addition to mind and body, we have spirit as well,  and we were created in the image of a Spirit-- the Creator of reason.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Goodness gracious this is sad...

A little girl's tragic decision in India.  If it's true:

Girl ends life to donate eyes to dad
Ashis Poddar, TNN Jul 4, 2011, 12.15am IST

NADIA: For days, Mumpy would listen quietly as the elders discussed how only an eye surgery could save her father's vision and a kidney transplant her brother's life. But both surgeries were beyond the family's meagre means. So, Mumpy hit upon a plan, which to her 12-year-old mind seemed the answer to all troubles. She would kill herself, which would save the dowry, too, and her organs would give her loved ones back their lives.

Mumpy did stick to her plan. But the suicide note in which she had scribbled down her wishes was found the day after she was cremated.

The incident took place in Dhantala's Jhorpara on June 27. Her father's and brother's ailments had left Mumpy Sarkar, a Class VI student, anxious. One of the kidneys of her brother Monojit, a Class XI student, was damaged and the other was getting weak. Father Mridul Sarkar, a daily wager, was also gradually losing his eyesight.

"The family had approached the local MLA for help. We had decided to grant them some money for the boy's treatment. But the tragedy happened all of a sudden," said Dhantala panchayat pradhan Tapas Tarafdar.

Mumpy had taken elder sister Monica, a Class VIII student, into confidence and had urged her to commit suicide as well for the "cause". When Mumpy told Monica about her plan on the morning of June 27, the latter laughed it off and left for school. Their father was away at work and mother Rita had gone to fetch rice.

"Finding herself alone at home, Mumpy consumed Thiodan, a pesticide. Then, she ran to meet her father, who was about half a kilometre away. She told him that she had dreamt that someone had poured poison into her mouth and her stomach ached. Her alarmed father took her to a local pharmacy immediately where she was given some medicines. But her condition worsened soon and she had to be rushed to the local Baranberia hospital. From there, she was referred to Anulia hospital. But the doctors declared her brought dead," Tarafdar said.

It was only the day after her cremation that Mumpy's father found a note on her bed. Addressed to her mother, the girl requested her to make use of her eyes and kidney for the treatment of her father and brother. This left the aggrieved family inconsolable. "We were too late in understanding the feelings of a very sensitive child," Mridul wept. Mumpy's mother has gone into shock.

What a horrible thing. I hesitate to make an ideological point from this tragedy,  but it's worth noting that this nightmare brings home the truth that human beings are ends, not means.  This child's belief that it was moral to kill herself to give her organs to her family was based on her terrible misunderstanding of her own intrinsic worth.

She was the gift to her family.  And she was so much more than her organs.  May God rest her soul,  and console her poor family. 

Scientists decry the 'God of the gaps' argument; also condemn fairies, leprechauns

Commentor oleg:

oleg said...

[Mike wrote: No one makes a God of the gaps argument. I've never heard a scientist say that. If you have, give me the reference.] 

Gladly. David Snoke, a physicist from the University of Pittsburgh, a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church in America, wrote an article entitled In Favor of God-of-the-Gaps Reasoning. It begins thus:

"For more than fifteen years, I have read the ASA journal and participated in discussions of science and Christianity. During this time, I have found that while ASA members disagree over many things, certain unquestioned points of agreement flow through all of our dis cus sions. In particular, I have found that no matter what the topic, one common premise seems to reign supreme. This is the universal condem nation of God-of-the-gaps arguments. A person might present all manner of impressive reasoning about something, but if his opponent says “that is a God-of-the-gaps argument,” even the stoutest evidentialist wavers. Why is this so? In this communication, I wish to take a heretical position"
within the ASA and argue in favor of God-of-the-gaps arguments. 

Your own Discovery colleague Jay Richards agrees that Newton applied God-of-the-gaps argument in regards to the motion of planets in the solar system. 

It's truly mind-boggling that you are unaware of these.

This is really funny.  Snopes is right that there is probably no inference in science more passionately rejected by High Science today than the God of the gaps argument. It is everywhere excoriated. It is proposed to be a tremendous threat to science.

Yet there is no inherent contradiction between the belief that God is the First Cause of nature and the belief that the Second Causes are worth investigating. In fact, this inference is the most common inference in Western science, held by nearly all great scientists from the 13th century to the early 20th, when atheism became the vogue in elite circles. Obviously the inference that 'God did it' is no hinderance to 'let's understand it'.

Oleg cites Newton's invocation of the God of the gaps argument. Newton believed that the matrix of space itself was a manifestation of God's mind, and that God maintained all planetary motion by supernatural intervention to overcome 'viscosity' and 'friction'.

Here was Newton's take on atheism:

Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.

Newton was a smart man. And if he used a God of the gaps argument, I'll still take him on the Christian side of the scientific ledger.

Now oleg quotes physicist David Snoke as a proponent of God of the gaps. Snoke is a highly accomplished physicist: he is professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society for his work on optical processes in semiconductor systems.

Oleg isn't clear on the damage Snoke has caused to science by his invocation of the God of the gaps argument.

Perhaps it is as profound as the damage Newton caused to science.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Michael Barone on racial quotas

Michael Barone has an eloquent commentary on racial quotas that's a must-read.

I can only add this:

Racism is wrong. The race of the perpetrator and the race of the target are irrelevant to the morality of racism.  People should be judged only by the content of their character,  not by the color of their skin.

It might reasonably be asked: how did the Democratic party,  ostensibly the party of civil rights,  come to be such advocates of racial discrimination?  Why does a party that claims to promote equality incessantly play one race against another.  Why not insist on a color-blind society in law?  Equal protection of the law is already in the 14th Amendment,  and statutory racism is banned by the Civil Rights Act.

Why does the Democratic party incessantly play the race card?

Perhaps some perspective can help to answer.

Historically,  the Democratic party was the party of racism.  It was the party of slavery,  of Dred Scott vs Sanford,  the KKK,  of Jim Crow,  of Plessy vs Ferguson,  of segregation,  of George Wallace,  Lester Maddox,  and Bull Connor.  Democrats all.  The Republican party was formed as the abolitionist party,  and has a 150 year history of opposition to racial discrimination.  It was Republicans, not the Democrats, who provided the Congressional majorities needed to  pass the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960's.  Martin Luther King was a Republican.

So how is it that blacks vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and that the Democratic party, the party of racism in America,  is widely viewed as the most racially enlightened?

There is no question that some Democrats have supported Civil Rights. Harry Truman's desegregation of the Army is a good example.  But the focus of racism in this county has always been in the Democratic party. By the early 1960's,  Democrats realized that their  Jim Crow America was dying, and they needed a new tack. They realized that people dependent on government largesse would be likely to vote for the party of government largesse-- the Democratic party.

So the Democrats enacted the Great Society,  which devastated poor families by replacing the father with a government check. A disproportionately large portion of these demolished families were black-- a tragic irony, given that historically black families tended to be more stable and cohesive than white families.

Democrat politicians became champions of racial discrimination-- Affirmative Action-- for two reasons:

1) The Democratic party is the party of racial discrimination,  so why change?

2)  The Democratic party exists by rewarding interest groups. It rewarded whites at the expense of blacks for a century and a half.  Now it rewards blacks.  Whatever gets votes.

The damage that the Democratic party has done to racial relations and to the black family in America is incalculable.  The KKK could only dream of destroying the black family and making black neighborhoods incubators of crime and misery.  But perhaps the KKK did accomplish it anyway,  via the party to which it was always violently loyal.

This explains the racial policies of the modern Democratic party:  several decades ago, the Democratic party realized that black people were more valuable in a voting booth than on a tree limb.

Study: godless are the most gullible of all.

There's a fascinating study out of Baylor that deserves much wider discussion. The study,  What Americans Really Believe, published in 2008, is a detailed study of American religious (and irreligious) beliefs. Understandably,  the godless have been largely speechless about it.  This, from the Baylor website, is why:
Atheism and Irreligion
During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists (Ch. 14, "Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened"). Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).
Oh. So at least as of 2008, atheists in the U.S. were 4% (!) of the population. They're small, but noisy and litigious.
In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had "no religion." Although nearly a third of the "no religion" group are atheists who reject "anything beyond the physical world," the Baylor Religion Survey found that two-thirds of the "no religion" group expressed some belief in God and many of those are not "irreligious" but are merely "unchurched" (Ch. 17, "The Irreligious: Simply Unchurched-Not Atheists").
Oh, again. I thought that atheists were like 10-15 % of the population. But it seems that 2/3 of the "no religion" folks have some belief in God, which sort-of takes them out of the 'atheist' category.  Oh, well, it's common for fringe cults to use any means at their disposal to exaggerate their membership.  So next time you hear 'no-religion percentage', think 4%, not 15%.  And when you hear 'the godless are growing' think 'cult exaggerating their membership'.
Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts.

That is really funny. Even the 'no religion' folks often pray.  There are no atheists in foxholes, or pretty much anywhere else, it seems.

Now, for the most interesting finding.  Recall all of the atheist blather about being exemplars of reason, skepticism, and science?  Well,  according to the Baylor study,  that's hooey. The truth is the opposite:

The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, "Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot"). Still, it remains widely believed that religious people are especially credulous, particularly those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, born again, Bible believers and fundamentalists. [emphasis mine]
The misrepresentation of devout Christians as malleable easily-led dupes is a transparent lie to anyone who has had any acquaintance with these good people. They are smart sophisticated people,  in my experience generally much better informed and rational than the self-styled godless exemplars of science and reason, who are too often half-educated sophmoric illogical anti-Christian bigots.

It was my personal experience with many devout Christians (as a physician, I often see people in their most difficult moments) that played a big part in my conversion to Christianity from atheism.  Even in the worst imaginable moments-- a terminal diagnosis, the death of a child, intractable pain-- Christians had a peace and a strength that astonished me. It got to the point that I could pretty much pick out the serious Christians before they told me. I could tell by their courage and decency. I actually had one devout Christian mother tell me that she felt so bad for what I as a doctor was going through-- when I told her that her daughter was dying (the child survived).  The effect this kind of integrity and humility had on me was profound.  I won't hear these good people slandered. The Baylor study confirms what I knew by personal experience: devout Christians, as a group, have their heads screwed on straight.
However, the ISR researchers found that conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.
Wow. Again, this comports with my personal experience. Not only are Christians more rational and better informed than their godless neighbors, but conservative Christians, who tend to be more devout, are the most rational and well-informed of all.
"There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true. That is to say, religious people don't believe this stuff, but there's no education effect," Stark said.
Stark nails it. Godlessness doesn't 'liberate a man from belief'. Godlessness opens a man up to all sorts of crazy beliefs. It is traditional belief in God, taken seriously, that best protects man from superstition.
Among other interesting findings on paranormal or occult beliefs: People who have read The Purpose-Driven Life or any book in the Left Behind series are less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal, while those who have read any book on dianetics or The Da Vinci Code are more likely to believe.

The godless are an impetuous ignorant cult.  Their 'intellectuals' (Dawkins, Myers, Coyne, Dennett ...) are half-educated narcissists obsessed with fame and book revenues. But those of us who have dealt with the godless a lot, and who were even godless themselves at one time in life,  know first hand the gullibility and veniality of this uncommonly noisy 4%.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Unconstitutional repression of religious expression continues, this time in Houston

National Review Online:

‘Strict Separationism’ Runs Amok 

Houston, we have a problem.


Arleen Ocasio seems to be setting herself up for a second rebuke from a federal judge. Ocasio has been, since 2009, the director of theHouston National Cemetery, which, at 419 acres, is the second-largest cemetery administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, exceeded in size only by Arlington. Houston National has somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 men and women interred there, including several Medal of Honor winners and the congressman who worked to have the cemetery built and recognized as a national one. It is, like all such places, a scene of both sorrow and celebration, of patriotism — and prayer.
Recently, however, Ocasio, the cemetery’s Obama-appointed director, has been credibly accused of engaging in a pattern of censorship directed against private religious expression. The chapel has allegedly been closed, its cross and Bible removed, and it is now said to be used as a “meeting space” when it is unlocked at all. The carillon in the 75-foot bell tower no longer tolls on a regular basis. And members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the National Memorial Ladies, attending upon the bereaved families and friends at veterans’ funerals, say they have been required to have their prayers pre-approved by Ocasio’s office, and have been told that the words “God” and “Jesus” are not to be used by them if they wish to continue their volunteer service at the cemetery...

This government thug Ocasio (how much ya wanna bet she's an atheist?) requires 'pre-approval' of prayers, and exclusion of "God" and "Jesus" at a national cemetery?

We are in a culture war in this country, and it is a war of religion. On one side are the vast majority of Americans who are traditionally religious, mostly Christian, mostly tolerant.

On the other side is a fringe scattering of atheists,  utterly intolerant bigots. They use every (semi-) legal means at their disposal to censor the free exercise of religion in the public square. They hate Christianity, and they have no qualms at all about censorship and hijacking the legal system to blackmail you.

They need to be confronted and stopped.

High Church atheists assault reason. Low Church atheists assault you.

Internet Superintelligence Vox Day has a great post  on the growing population of atheists in prison:
The explosive growth of atheism... in prison
Atheists often like to erroneously claim that Christians are more likely to be imprisoned than atheists. Both Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have made this bizarre, and irrelevant, appeal to atheist "morality". But these arguments are inevitably based on nothing substantive, and more importantly, they are belied by actual prison statistics. While the USA doesn't keep comprehensive statistics related to religion, the UK does, and it's here that we can see the actual facts of the matter.
What is interesting is that it appears atheists have become significantly more criminal since I found the 2002 statistics when writing TIA. (Since then, the UK Ministry of Justice has gotten its online act together and it's much easier to find the relevant annual statistics.) In the seven years between 2002 and 2009, the number of imprisoned High Church Atheists rose 475%, from 0.17% of the England and Wales prison population to 0.84%. That's still fairly small, of course, but it's worth noting that it is a larger percentage of the prison population than is represented by any of the following religions and denominations:
Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Quaker, United Reformed Church, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Christian Scientist, Coptic Christian, Greek/Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventist, BaHai, Jain, Pagan, Rastafarian, Scientologist, Zoroastrian.
I love Vox's distinction between High Church Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Myers) and the Low Church (incarcerated) wing of the cult.

And the observation that atheists have become significantly more criminal of course excludes atheists in power-- State Atheism-- who have always been criminals.  When atheism assumes state power, criminality and genocide become mere atheist office politics.

However, as I pointed out in TIA, the correct comparison between Christians and atheists is not between all Christians and self-identified High Church Atheists, but rather between all Christians and all No Religion atheists, less agnostics. It is easy to demonstrate why this is so, the inevitable Atheist Dance notwithstanding, given the correct definition of an atheist as "one who believes that God does not exist" rather than "one who calls himself an atheist". This assertion is supported by the action of the atheists at the British Humanist Association and their census campaign, which asserts that is an individual's identification with a religion - or presumably, identification with a specific appellation - irrespective of the extent of their religious belief or practice is not the appropriate concept to measure. And while one could argue that "no religion" is not perfectly synonymous with "belief that God does not exist", it is safe to assume that most, though not all, no religion individuals are practical atheists even if they are not inclined to call themselves atheists. It is also in keeping with the practice of Richard Dawkins, the British Humanist Association, and many vocal atheists to consider "no religion" a form of atheism.
It seems that the Low Church atheists are twice as likely to end up in prison as their percentage in the population would suggest.
The reason this matters is that is the Low Church atheists of the No Religion variety who make up 33.1% of the prison population, more than twice the 15% of the general population. (The 15.1% number is from 2001 and will likely be around 20% in the 2011 census; I will update the numbers accordingly when they become available.) The statistical overrepresentation of no religion atheists in prison is surpassed only by Buddhists (0.3% general, 2.2% prison) and Muslims (2.8% general, 11.9% prison). 
So, keep this in mind the next time that an atheist attempts to claim that atheists are more moral or less criminal than Christians. All they are doing is cherry-picking the most intelligent subset of the atheist population and comparing it with the entire intelligence spectrum of the Christian population. Since low IQ tends to correspond highly with criminal behavior and imprisonment, it should come as no surprise that self-styled Atheists are less likely to be found in prison than no religion atheists.
Who would have imagined that atheists who deny objective moral law and eternal accountability would hurt other people at a much higher rate than theists who accept moral law?

Life is strange.