Why no one believes in evolution, why faith in creationism isn’t Christian doctrine, and why we know Noah’s flood is false

September 2, 2014

I keep forgetting.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub was born in 2006.  That was three years after my first great forays into education policy in Texas, working to make sure science stayed in the science books — and probably about a decade after I started explaining evolution to creationists, patiently at first, and then with a great deal of snark, on the internet.  A lot of that discussion, and some good posts, died when AOL pulled the plug on archiving discussion threads (the schmucks!).

Another sign of AOL’s doom, perhaps.

From time to time I run into an earnest creationist, and rather than re-explain, I start looking for my old explanations here at this blog . . . and then I remember.  The explanations largely do not exist here.

Heck, 2006 was even after the decision in the Dover, Pennsylvania case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. (Read the decision in the case here, key documents and a chronology, here at the venerable TalkOrigins.)

We saw an uptick in creationist activity recently, in 2012, continuing into 2013.  We’ve seen eruptions of ignorance, blind faith and malice, sometimes, that warrant having explanations of evolution around.  So, even though it’s repeating stuff from elsewhere, even though this discussion should have been over by 50 years ago, here we are trying to establish a trail of information explaining why evolution is hard science, and needs to be taught in public schools (and all other schools, too), and why creationism and its mutant clone “intelligent design” are not science, but are instead religious beliefs that have no place in school science classes (nor any classes, IMHO).

There are good sites living in the tubes of the ‘net these days that didn’t exist even nine years ago — but creationists won’t find them quickly or willingly, and they will dismiss them if they do find them at all.   You can find good stuff there, and I highly recommend writings on evolution at these sites:

Recently I provided a brief correction to a post I fell across in some search or other, at a blog by a guy named Daniel Lovett.  He urged that we reject science with regard to evolution.  I responded, and he responded at a greater length.  I had hoped to point him quickly so something I’d written here, and found I hadn’t written it here.

These issues are simmering even in Texas again; I want to create a record.  Here’s a step.

Three points need to be made to the neo-creationists:

  • Evolution is not a faith, it’s based in science and observations of nature.  Consequently, one does not “believe” in evolution; one follows the evidenceThe old creationist snark that “it takes more faith to believe evolution than to be a Christian” is only a statement that one refuses to look at or acknowledge evidence, how evidence works.  It is a confession that one is biased against evidence in reality.
  • Creationism cannot be found in scripture, nor in most Christian tradition.  Creationism is a mostly-American invention falling out of a rather new form of scriptural interpretation called “literalism” which refuses to recognize scripture as documents written by humans about human history.  Creationism starts with an assumption, contrary to tradition and scripture, that God dictated much of the Bible.  In this way it confuses Moslem and Mormon doctrine with traditional Christian doctrine.  This is a long discussion that will only be touched on here even if it seems long.  Creationism claims incorrect authorship of scripture, inaccurately claims only one creation story is told, and assumes as Christian doctrine that the age of the Earth is of importance to the faith, and that contrary to scripture’s claims, one can determine how old the Earth is by following one family tree in the Bible.  Or maybe another family tree.  Serious students of the Bible know that at no place is there anything close to a statement that says, “God created in the Earth in a rush, in six days of slap-dash whim, and one must ignore science in order to be Christian.”
  • Noah’s flood, if it occurred at all, was regional, and not worldwide; assuming a greater cataclysm should not be a point of faith, when it requires one to deny physical reality.

With those preliminaries out of the way, I can answer Mr. Lovett’s arguments specifically, I think.  I stumbled into his blog, and I provided a very brief response to a post of his that makes several erroneous claims about science, about evolution and Christianity, and concludes that creationism is superior to evolution, scientifically.  Mr. Lovett responded, and called me “friend.”

Dear Friend Daniel, you wrote:

I am of the opinion that the Bible is true and accurate in every respect, scientific and otherwise. It can be trusted because Jesus can be trusted. Though I don’t pretend to know “how” God accomplished the creation in 6 days, I know that he did because he revealed that to us (see my other blog post: http://daniellovett.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/creation-science-oxymoron/).

Let’s be clear that the credibility of Jesus is not on the line here.  Jesus didn’t write any of the books we know as “the Bible” today.  So far as we know, Jesus wrote nothing that survives, no text at all.  Could Jesus write?  We don’t know.

So, for all of those reasons which tell us Jesus had nothing to do with the authoring of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, but also the New Testament, putting trust in Jesus has nothing to do with scientific accuracy in the Bible.  If you’re trusting the Bible because you trust Jesus, you’re projecting where projection is not logically required, and where the faith doesn’t ask it.

Evolution is not faith - Global Secular Humanist Movement on Facebook

If the evidence is there, no faith is required. Faith is what we use to substitute for evidence, for things we cannot prove in any rational fashion.

While you say “I don’t pretend to know ‘how’ God accomplished the creation in 6 days,” you assume God worked in a fast slap-dash fashion, and your entire post is dedicated to denying that God could have used natural processes of chemistry, physics and biology.  So you do pretend to know how God did it; and you make pretense to knowing that all of science is in error, for theological reasons that escape me.  For Jesus to be right about philosophy, or sin, or any other topic expounded on in Christian scripture, it is not necessary that science be in error.

As with Jesus not being the author of scripture, so we know — in Christian tradition — that God is not the author of scripture, either.  The earliest books we know were written by Jews; the first five books of the modern canon, in both Judaism and most sects of Christianity, we attribute to Moses by tradition, but by the words of the books themselves not to God.  In those books we find the clear command from God to Moses and the Jews to ‘write it down’ with regard to their history and laws.  Nowhere, according to scripture, does God say, “This is what to write down.”  Nowhere does God say, “Here is what I have written.”  The Old Testament was not written by God, was not dictated by God, nor is it the biography of God.

In a few places in those texts is there a claim that God revealed the when and why of creation.  In no place is there a claim God revealed the how of creation.   There are several places where various, different and frequently conflicting creation stories are told, however.  We get the history of creation, though, perhaps like Billy Pilgrim it is “unstuck in time.”  Creation occurred sometime before each story is told — but how long before is never a topic of scripture.  Depending on the version of the Bible one chooses, especially Catholic versus Protestant, there are four to eight different creation stories in scripture.  In Genesis 1 and 2, we find two different, often contradictory creation stories.  In Job, we find a story that is wholly different from both of the Genesis stories — and this is the one that is said by the author to be from God’s lips, explaining to Job what happened at the beginning when God wrestled a dragon to see who would have control of the Earth — no six day creation at all, no day of rest, no Eden, no Adam and Eve.

How can you “know” God revealed something when scripture doesn’t support that claim?  Do you claim to be a prophet?

Wholly apart from what you don’t know about science, I fear you’re unfamiliar with scripture, or you’re hiding those parts that simply do not support your own beliefs.  If the Bible is “true in every respect,” one should respect it; I don’t think you do.  How can you be said to respect scripture, when you ignore all the other creation stories, and the actual instructions of scripture as you do?

Daniel Lovett wrote:

So why do we believe Jesus or the word of God? Short answer: Because Jesus has been proven to be the Son of God and the Messiah, having fulfilled over 300 prophecies, lived a sinless life, worked miracles (all of which went unquestioned – people could have verified the facts by interviewing eyewitnesses), and finally the clincher – he rose from the dead.

I see.  You believe that you are correct, not for any rational reason, but because you believe what you believe.  Faith is a powerful quality; its exercise can be a bold act of tenacity, or a foolish act of stubbornness.  We need to take care when resting on faith, that which can be fact checked, lest we become the poster child of the Dunning Kruger Effect.

We don’t need to contradict your claim that the Bible is correct, but instead we might observe that at no place does the Bible claim to provide a literal and scientifically accurate story of creation.  Your trust in the Bible may be well placed.  Your claim that it presents a creation story in scientific accuracy, however, is not correct on the Bible’s own terms.

You have stretched the Bible to cover material it does not claim to cover, to make claims it does not claim to make.  At no point does the Bible, read as a complete collection, deny evolution, nor an old Earth, nor physics, nor chemistry.

Title page of James Ussher's Annales veteris t...

Title page of James Ussher’s Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine — the text upon which 6-day creationism is based. No, it’s not in scripture. (Photo: Wikipedia)

For example, at no place does the Bible claim that the Earth is young.  That conclusion was misapprehended through a misreading of the work of an Irish bishop, in the 17th century.  Bishop James Ussher, who passed for a geologist in his day. Studying nature was believed to be a rather divine calling for people who claimed faith in God in that time. Learning about nature was learning about God’s creation from a testament unsullied by mistranslation, church politics, or language difficulties.  Nature provided a solid, irrefutably correct second testament of God, and direct from God with God’s fingerprints on it.  In short, Ussher, and Darwin 200 years later, studied nature because of their belief that God was the creating force behind it.

Isn’t it ironic that, today, you reject the traditional Christian view of nature and its study, and instead adopt a more Pharisaic stance, that scripture written by men trumps God’s own creation?

Lovett wrote:

Jesus believed in creation:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’” Matthew 19:4

Now I grow concerned.  You say you put your faith in the Bible, but then you cite this passage as somehow evidence that Jesus disputed Darwin and geology and cosmology and biology.

Jesus was talking about divorce.  How in the world could you have missed the plain meaning of that passage, and how could you have confused it to say anything about science, and the science of creation of the planet?  In context, it’s clear Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for their clinging too strongly to scripture and not paying attention to reality; but at no point does Jesus pause and say, “By the way, the Earth was created in 6 days just a few thousand years ago.”  Jesus mentions a shorthand version of biological observation (I say shorthand because he ignores species with no gender, species with gender other that male and female, transgender, misgender, and species with more than two genders — if he’s relying on biology being accurate here, this passage would nullify all Abramic faith-based questioning of homosexual rights, since God also made them Adam and Steve, and Alice and Eve; but by now I’m digressing).  Jesus says mating is from God, and men shouldn’t create laws to undo it.

Jesus talks about divorce, and how it’s not part of the plan.  He says nothing against Darwin, and in fact appears to be relying on Darwin-style science, what we actually see in nature, to ground his argument against divorce.

I find it interesting that Jesus does not appeal solely to scripture here, but instead to nature.  If we stick to the words recorded, and the events, we get Jesus denying the religious laws of the day and saying, ‘Hey, Pharisees, haven’t you noticed that in nature things pair off; in humans, people naturally pair off in opposite-gender couples most of the time?  That’s an indication of God’s plan.  Divorce isn’t a key value of God’s scheme of marriage.  Don’t muck it up with a misinterpretation of scripture.’  You appeal to scripture, as the Pharisees did, to deny nature, where Jesus based his argument.  Plus, you do that on a topic that was nowhere mentioned in those 12 verses.

Let’s check the text.

In the King James version (so the fundies won’t squawk about mistranslations from Jesus’s English):

Matthew 19

King James Version (KJV)

19 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Indirectly, Jesus bases his argument on creation; you stretch that to say He was putting his faith in creation, something that Jesus does not say there.  Then you stretch that farther to suggest it means He also believed in creationism.  We can fairly deduce a belief in the existence of creation and some natural order; but it’s adding much to the text, to claim that passage contradicts science.  I find that an unfair and unholy twisting of scripture.

At no place is there anything close to “Darwin goofed.”  At no place is there a testament from Jesus to the short slap-dash creation you insist.

Lovett said:

He also believed in the flood:
‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the Flood came and destroyed them all.’ Luke 17:26–27

Again, I think you ignore what Jesus intended, and instead try to stretch a small part to say something else.

During the time Christians believe that Jesus lived and ministered, one of the divisions in Judaism broke over the issue of whether there is an afterlife, and what will be the signs of the Messiah’s coming, and later, of the end of the Earth.  Again, Pharisees try to hold Jesus to scripture, and again Jesus suggests different interpretations.  Notice that, again, neither side is talking about how the Earth as we know it was created.  That’s your add-on.

Again, from the King James Version, much of that chapter of Luke:

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.

23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.

24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.

25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

32 Remember Lot’s wife.

33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

Jesus is reported to have referred to a flood here, the flood of Noah.  As we noted earlier, Jesus is not the author of scripture, particularly not the author of the scriptures of the Pentateuch, in which the story of Noah is found.

But he’s not talking about whether a flood actually occurred.  Jesus uses literary allusion here.  Jews had their scriptures (not yet bound into the Torah), and observant and non-observant Jews, including especially the Pharisees, would have been familiar with the story of the flood of Noah.  When challenged about which side of the dispute he was on with regard to afterlife, Jesus didn’t fall into the trap.  He said, just like in the story of Noah when most people had no clue about the pending disaster, no one can know when “the Kingdom of God” will come (let alone exactly what that means).

So Jesus wasn’t saying, “By the way, the whole world was covered by a flood that can be pinpointed in time.”  Jesus was saying, “You Pharisees know the story of Noah; here’s an analogy:  The Kingdom of God will come when people don’t expect it, and they will be caught by surprise, as in the story of Noah people were caught by surprise by the flood.”

Critically, Jesus nowhere claims that the story is wholly, scientifically accurate.

Which is good, because that would make Jesus out to be a liar — and in your schema, where your faith seems to rest on whether Jesus is trustworthy in all things, that would destroy the basis of your faith, right?

I think perhaps you don’t understand what Christians mean by “faith.”  That colors your reasoning, and it clouds your understanding of scripture, and it completely fogs your view of science.  We call it faith because we don’t have the evidence to back it up.

If we did have the evidence, none of us could be anything more than agnostics — the agnostic position is that belief will come when the evidence is sufficient.  Christians believe, despite that lack of evidence.  We call the process a “leap of faith.”  We call it “stepping out on the word of God.”  It’s risky.  It takes faith, which is why we call it that.  (Jews and Muslims also make such leaps.)

It must be faith, because the evidence is not there — as the Bible occasionally acknowledges (see 2 Corinthians 4.18, or Hebrews 11.1; faith is in the things “unseen,” as they are eternal).

Built around the story of the flood of Noah, there is a trap a lot of people of faith fall into, a false dichotomy that, if divinely inspired, surely was intended by evil forces to turn otherwise faithful people away from knowledge and science.  I fear you’ve fallen into it.

Daniel said:

So to cling to a belief that Creation or the Flood is not true is to say that Jesus was a liar.

Quite to the contrary, to claim that Jesus said creationism is true, or that Jesus vouched for the historicity of Noah’s flood, is false.  Jesus didn’t intend that, as we can see from the context, and stretching his meaning to topics way beyond what Jesus was discussing puts us in the uncomfortable and unholy position of adding words to scripture that are not there.

[Hmmm. There's supposed to be a brief explanation of the science that disproves the idea of a worldwide flood as many creationists believe the Bible describes . . . pending. Maybe later.]

Sorry if I offended you by saying your religion has blinded you, but my position is that a Godless scientific world view is a religion. An unbiased look at science will always reveal the Designer. The scandal of the Gospel is that this Designer then became the man Jesus who died for your sin and rebellion and to restore you to your loving heavenly Father. I pray you find him.

your friend Daniel

Then what is a godful scientific position?  As creationists are too often wrongly happy to remind us, many scientists of the past were faithful, often good Christians.  Darwin, for example, studied for the clergy, and stuck with the church to his death.

Claiming that science is godless, or Godless, is a biased and inaccurate view of science, and as we have seen here, a biased and inaccurate view of  Christian religion, too.

Scripture tells us that regardless how the universe, matter, stars, galaxies, planets and life were created, God is behind it.  The scandal of creationism is the denying that God can be behind what the universe shows us to be true and accurate.  Jesus died for your sin and rebellion, too, Daniel — even your rebellion against God’s creation and the science that explains how and why it works.  You can’t find God if you refuse to look.

More:

Darwin's grave in Westminster Abbey

The grave of Charles Darwin, in the Nave of the Collegiate Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Darwin is interred near Sir Isaac Newton. Bishop James Ussher is interred in the St. Paul’s Chapel, a few dozen yards away. Photo via Graveyard Database.

(Yeah, this one’s kicked around in the draft file for a long, long time.)


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Reform of the Unbalanced State Board of Education

June 28, 2010

This post is seventh in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

Generally I’ll not comment on these planks just yet, but I must say that I take delight in the perhaps unintentional commentary offered in the title of this plank.  I suspect the intent was to point to the bias of the State Board of Education, an imbalance of political views, and not to the sanity of the board.  But, I could be wrong — the title may be just an official Democratic labeling of the Board’s actions as unbalanced behavior.

REFORM OF THE UNBALANCED STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

The right-wing Republican extremists who have dominated the State Board of Education have made a laughingstock of our state’s process for developing and implementing school curriculum standards that determine what our students learn. The damage they have done is no laughing matter. In rewriting the curriculum for social studies, English language arts, and science, they repeatedly have dismissed the sound advice of professional educators. Personal ideology, not high academic standards, has guided their work. Their skewed vision slights the contributions of racial and ethnic minorities. Their slanted versions of American history and of science mislead students and violate the separation of church and state. They use loaded language to favor the roles of right-wing organizations and activists. Led by a Rick Perry appointee as chair, this State Board of Education wants to indoctrinate, not educate, the schoolchildren of Texas. Their actions are unlikely to encourage a company to relocate and bring jobs to Texas. Any substantive changes to curriculum must be reviewed by non-partisan experts, and that review must be made public prior to any changes in curriculum by the State Board.

Texas Democrats will realign the State Board of Education with mainstream Texas values, will realign the state curriculum with objective reality and the facts of history and science, and will insist on the exercise of sober fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund, exposing and prohibiting conflicts of interest.


Jerry Coyne in San Marcos: Why evolution is true, even if some Texans don’t think so

March 17, 2010

Steve Schafersman sends along a press release; Texas college biology departments continue to advance science and education despite foggings from the State Board of Education.  Odd thought:  You can be relatively certain that you can avoid Don McLeroy, David Bradley or Cynthia Dunbar, by being at the Alkek Library Teaching Theatre on the evening of March 23; learning will be occurring there at that time, and so it is a cinch that the leaders of the Austin Soviet will not be there:

Evolution expert to deliver lecture at Texas State

SAN MARCOS — Jerry A. Coyne, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, will present an evening talk and book signing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, at the Alkek Library Teaching Theatre on the campus of Texas State University-San Marcos.

Jerry Coyne and friend

Jerry Coyne and friend (image stolen from Larry Moran's Sandwalk; pretty sure he won't mind)

Coyne’s presentation is titled Why Evolution is True (and why many think that it’s not) and is based on his latest similarly-titled book.

Admission is free and doors will open at 6:30 p.m. A book signing with light refreshments will take place following the lecture.

Coyne is an evolutionary biologist whose work focuses on understanding the origin of species. He has written more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject.

In addition, he is a regular contributor to The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, and other periodicals. He runs the popular Why Evolution is True blog, and is an internationally known defender of evolution and critic of creationism and intelligent design.

The book Why Evolution is True has received widespread praise for providing a clear explanation of evolution, while succinctly summarizing the facts supporting this revolutionary theory.

Coyne’s lecture is sponsored by the Department of Biology and the Philosophy Dialogue Series at Texas State. Contact Noland Martin (512) 245-3317 for more information. For more information about Coyne and his book, please visit his blog: http://www.jerrycoyne.uchicago.edu. [and Why Evolution is True]

This lecture is part of a larger series on philosophy and science, featuring a few lectures that appear designed solely to irritate P. Z. Myers:

Philosophy dialogue to take up evolution, identity

031410gordon1

Texas State philosopher Jeffrey Gordon will be among the speakers at the university’s Philosophy Dialogue Series in the next two weeks. Texas State photograph.

STAFF REPORT

The Philosophy Dialogue Series at Texas State will present evolution and identity as its discussion topic for the next two weeks in Room 132 of the Psychology Building on campus.

Following is the schedule of events, giving the discussion titles, followed by the speakers.

March 16: 12:30 p.m. – Evolution and the Culture Wars, Victor Holk and Paul Valle (Dialogue students). 3:30 p.m. – Arabic Culture 101: What You Need to Know, Amjad Mohammad (Arabic Language Coordinator).

March 17: 2 p.m. – Phenomenology of Humor, Jeffrey Gordon (Philosophy)

March 18: 12:30 p.m. – Stayin’ Alive: Does the Self Survive? Blaze Bulla and Sky Rudd (Dialogue students).

March 19: 10 a.m. – Sustainability group, topic be announced, Laura Stroup (Geography). 12:30 p.m. – Talk of the Times, open forum.

March 23: 12:30 p.m. – Evolution: An Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion, Harvey Ginsberg (Psychology), Peter Hutcheson (Philosophy), Kerrie Lewis (Anthropology), Rebecca Raphael (Philosophy & Religious Studies). Special guest panelist, Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago (Evolutionary Biology). Evening lecture – Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago, time and place to be announced.

March 25: 12:30 p.m. – Constructing a Masculine Christian Identity: Sex, Gender, and the Female, and Martyrs of Early Christianity, L. Stephanie Cobb, Hofstra University (Religion and Women’s Studies).

March 26: 10 a.m. – Sustainability Group: Civic Ecology, and The Human Rights of Sustainability, Vince Lopes (Biology), Catherine Hawkins (Social Work). 12:30 p.m. – Talk of the Times, open forum.

Sponsors of the Philosophy Dialogue Series include: the American Democracy Project, the College of Liberal Arts, Common Experience, the Gina Weatherhead Dialogue Fund, the New York Times, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Phi Sigma Tau, University Seminar, the University Honors Program, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

For more information about this topic, contact Beverly Pairett in the Department of Philosophy at (512) 245-2285, or email philosophy@txstate.edu. A complete schedule of discussion topics and presentations can be found at http://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/dialogue-series/Dialogue-Schedule.html.

Probably can’t make it to San Marcos from Dallas on a school night.  San Marcos biology and social studies students, and teachers, should plan to be there.


Dembski’s students sent into the crucible of Darwinism, at SMU!

September 24, 2009

Oh, the sermons they’ll be able to preach!

We learn from a couple of sources that Bill Dembski has assigned his students in two different classes at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary to try to crash a program honoring Charles Darwin and evolution theory at nearby Southern Methodist University, on Thursday, September 24.

Fall 2009

Christian Apologetics (SWBTS #PHILO 4373 – Fall 2009)

<> New as of 09.16.09! Dear Class, I want to share with you a few things: (1) For extra credit I’d like you to go to SMU on September 24th. On that day there are two back-to-back events at SMU celebrating Darwin — go to smu.edu/smunews/darwin/events.asp and scroll down to September 24th. I don’t want you going there merely as spectators but will indicate in class how you might actively participate and engage the Darwin-lovers you’ll find there.

*     *     *     *     *

Intelligent Design or Unintelligent Evolution (SWBTS #PHILO 2483 – Fall 2009)

<> New as of 09.16.09! Dear Class, I want to share with you a few things: (1) For extra credit I’d like you to go to SMU on September 24th. On that day there are two back-to-back events at SMU celebrating Darwin — go to smu.edu/smunews/darwin/events.asp and scroll down to September 24th. I don’t want you going there merely as spectators but will indicate in class how you might actively participate and engage the Darwin-lovers you’ll find there.

You gotta wonder just what would happen if one of those abused students were to actually pay attention to the science, turn honest, and become a defender of science and Darwin.  SWBTS students are not required to swear to honesty, however, so it’s unlikely they will turn (not at the tuitions they pay!).

SMU’s Year of Darwin programs feature the NOVA episode on the Pennsylvania trial on evolution and intelligent design.  The NOVA piece will be screened, and discussions will include the Honorable John E. Jones, the federal judge who presided over the trial and has since been maligned unfairly by Dembski and other religionists who reject the views of science.  Other lecturers include reporter Laurie Lebo and the team that produced the NOVA episode:

Sept. 24, 2009

Reception 10 a.m.

Lecture 10:30 a.m.

DeGolyer Library

The Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon and The Friends of KERA Invite the public to a special event in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species and the 200th birthday of its author, Charles Darwin. Featured speakers will be Paula Apsell, senior executive producer of NOVA, and Melanie Wallace, senior series producer of NOVA. Please RSVP to 214-768-3225 or cruppi@smu.edu, Complimentary Valet Parking.
Sept. 24, 2009

4-6 p.m.

O’Donnell Hall

Owen Art Center

Screening of “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,” a NOVA documentary. Introduction by Paula Apsell, senior executive producer of NOVA, who received an honorary degree from SMU in 2008.
Sept. 24, 2009

Reception 6-7 p.m.

Panel 7-8:30 p.m.

Caruth Auditorium

Owen Art Center

A panel discussion on the legal, ethical and journalistic issues surrounding the making of NOVA’s documentary film, Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Participants include John E. Jones, the federal judge who barred a Dover, Pa., public school district in 2005 from teaching “intelligent design”; Paula Apsell and Melanie Wallace, NOVA producers of the documentary; plaintiff’s council Eric Rothschild; and Laurie Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover.
Sept. 25, 2009

10:30 a.m. – noon

Karcher Auditorium

Storey Hall

“Intelligent Design in the Classroom,” a panel discussion on First Amendment issues featuring Judge John E. Jones III, Eric Rothschild (Pepper Hamilton, LLP), Hiram Sasser (Liberty Legal Institute) and Lackland Bloom, SMU’s Dedman School of Law.
Sept. 25, 2009

10-11:30 a.m.

3531 Garson

Owens Art Center

Master class on Documentary Film Making, taught by Paula Apsell and Melanie Wallace of NOVA. Strictly by RSVP (to Teri Trevino, trevinot@mail.smu.edu)
Sept. 25, 2009

2-3 p.m.

Hughes-Trigg Forum

Lauri Lebo will speak on “From Dover to Texas: Reporting on Extremist Views in a Fair and Balanced World” followed by a book signing of her book, The Devil in Dover.

I have attended sessions around Dallas where Dembski and other ID creationists were the featured speakers.  We know one thing for certain:  Dembski’s students will be given a more polite and mannerly reception at SMU than Dembski and his crew give scientists and critics at their own sessions.  For years, since 1991 at least, SMU has allowed Dembski and his accomplices to use the facilities and good offices of SMU to promote their anti-science screeds, though Dembski’s views are not shared by Methodists, and are contrary to positions taken by the Methodist General Assembly.

It is impossible to imagine that SWBTS would allow Methodists to do the same thing, teaching and promoting science and especially evolution theory, at the seminary.

SMU’s program is open to the public (go to the SMU site above to see more events set over the next few months).

Dembski is teaching apologetics.  Creationist apologists are not licensed, and generally cannot be sued for pedagogical or theological malpractice, even by their students.  Standards for apologetics don’t exist.  Scientists, on the other hand, are subject to peer review, and if using federal funds, prosecution should they tell falsehoods.

Nota bene: SMU’s lectures on Darwin’s Evolving Legacy are available on video, on-line.  See the wonderfully informative and explanatory presentation by Dr. Barbara Forrest, for example.


Bathtub reading, mortuary, cemetery, restaurant and airport version

August 30, 2009

Family funerals combine bitter and sweet.  A long life well-lived, the grief over loss, getting together with family and friends from eight decades — and then it’s back to work in a jolt.

Trying to stay caught up:

Outrageous insult to Darwin and Constitution in Missouri: Were the parents concerned about the quality of the brass section in the band, or did they really object to a humorous depiction of “the evolution of brass” in 2009, the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth?

They deserve to have their brasses kicked, but the innocent kids don’t.

P. Z. Myers caught the grossest tragedy:

Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

She doesn’t want her school associated with evolution?  How about associating the school with the Taliban of Afghanistan?  How about associating her school with Homer Simpson’s stupider brother?  How about associating her school with backwards thinking, 16th century bad science?  How about associating her school with the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the sort of stupidity that leads religiously-based violence?

Ray Mummert probably got the call to help Sedalia out, and he’s organizing to fight the forces of smart and intelligent people.  Comments from residents of Sedalia are shocking in their lack of information, and depressing.

Kids, pay attention in science class: A proud science teacher in Minnesota, and probably some proud parents, tooTip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula on this one.

Anybody who complains about this deserves to get their tail kicked with Tom Delay and every Republican who redistricted Texas last time around. (Sen. Ted Kennedy suggested the Massachusetts legislature should allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in the event of a vacancy, until a special election can be held.)

First Amendment wins again: Kentucky had a law that said the state could be safe from al Quaeda attack only by the grace of God.  A judge, noting that it will take a lot of work by a lot of dedicated Kentuckians who deserve credit, and that it’s illegal to make such a claim in law, overturned the law.

Private insurance failed this woman; Medicare would pay for the treatment under some circumstances, but there is no lie opponents to health care reform won’t tell in order to scare people away from the facts. They claim the woman couldn’t be treated under government care, but Medicare pays for the expensive drug in question.  Can’t they at least tell the truth?

This is getting depressing.  I’m going to go look at mountains.


Christian environmental stewardship: Disciples of Christ and the Alverna Covenant

August 5, 2009

I learned something new tonight.  The Disiciples of Christ formally adopted wise environmental stewardship as a denominational goal in 1981.

History of the Alverna Covenant

The Alverna Covenant was written by members of the Task Force on Christian Lifestyle and Ecology of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) while meeting at Alverna Retreat Center, a Franciscan retreat in Indianapolis, Ind. The name has added significance. Alverna is named for Mt. Alverna in Italy, the mountain retreat given to Francis of Assisi. Francis is honored for his concern for the care of and relatedness of all creation. The 800th anniversary of Francis’ birth was celebrated in 1981, the year the Alverna Covenant was first introduced at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Alverna Covenant

Whereas:

  • God has created the world with finite resources;
  • God has given to us the stewardship of the earth;
  • God has established order through many natural cycles.

And it is evident that:

  • We are consuming resources at a rate that cannot be maintained;
  • We are interrupting many natural cycles;
  • We are irresponsibly modifying the environment through consumption and pollution;
  • We are populating the earth at a rate that cannot be maintained;

As a member of the human family and a follower of Jesus Christ, I hereby covenant that:

  • I will change my lifestyle to reduce my contribution to pollution;
  • I will support recycling efforts;
  • I will search for sustainable lifestyles;
  • I will work for public policies which lead to a just and sustainable society;
  • I will share these concerns with others and urge them to make this Covenant.
  • What other denominations have statements on wise resource stewardship? What do they say?

    Tip of the old scrub brush to Darrel Manson, who writes at Hollywood Jesus.

    Resources:


    More Christo-totalitarianism: Science not welcome

    July 10, 2009

    Ooooh, I guess I push the buttons on these guys.

    I’ve been banned from two more blogs run by smiling Christo-totalitarians, Dr. Doug Groothuis in Denver (second or third banning, I can’t recall), and another pontificator of Christography, Paul Adams in Arizona.

    My sin?  I dared call their hand as they post false bloviations from the Discovery Institute’s Stephen C. Meyer in Meyer’s national anti-science campaign.  Adams claims I violated his guidelines.  Since I was polite, but sharp, I assume that they regard any dissent as “ad hominem” or discourteous.

    And, since they banned me, they wiped out my posts.  No need to answer the difficult questions if they can just pretend the questions don’t exist.

    They especially do not like my noting creationism and intelligent design as voodoo science, and the bizarre accounts creationists tell of the origins of evolution theory as voodoo history.  Truth hurts too much, I guess.

    Creationism might be on its last legs, when otherwise Christian people are driven to totalitarian actions like this, baby camel nose that it is.   Christianity generally flourishes when it’s oppressed.  When Christianity is the basis of oppression, however, the faith falters.  There is a darker possibility:  It may be Christianity that totters with creationism gnawing at the legs and tunneling through clay feet of the Christian monolith.

    You may have seen with the kerfuffle with the Kommissar of Houston, Neil Simpson, I don’t censor these Christ-claiming yahoos even when they get patently offensive.  One, their inability to muster rational arguments to defend their unholy War on Science always exposes them.  And two, there is always some hope that they might see the light, open their eyes and take their fingers out of their ears — at least there is hope on my part.

    Both Groothuis and Adams are otherwise edified philosophers (which only makes their actions more amusing).  What is it about philosophers that makes them try to philosophize away the world they do not like?

    On principle I am open to Groothuis or Adams trying to defend their assault on science in comments here, if they can.  This is an invitation to them to discuss their claims. I ask them to keep it clean and polite.   Since there is no rational or factual basis to their claims of intelligent design, they will have little to say.  Nor will they bother, I predict.  Creationism, including intelligent design, can only function in a fawning, unquestioning atmosphere filled with ignorance of science.

    If you want some good clean fun and you can stand a little aggravation when they get all huffy about it, Dear Readers, stroll over to Groothuis’s inaptly named Constructive Curmudgeon or Adams’s In Christus, and post the facts of science that Stephen Meyer wishes to ignore. Be aware, they are likely to censor comments and ban commenters who assault them with science.  Even Christians with Ph.D.s fall victim to Ray Mummert’s disease.

    These are two men who should know better.  These are two men whose faith claims should prevent them from supporting voodoo science, junk science, and the War on Education.

    Vampires of fiction and cockroaches of reality are negatively phototropic.  They avoid light generally, they cannot stand sunlight, the light of day.  Oddly, creationists share that trait.

    Update: Adams, whose philosophy appears to include neither manners nor good science, will not do me the courtesy of saying why he banned me despite two e-mails, but he will respond at his blog when a fellow totalitarian writes in, leaving off any evidence of what he claims is true.  Adams said today:

    I spent some time crafting my guidelines and intend on holding to them, expecting everyone to do same.
    They’re not optional. Perhaps I should change to “Rules.”

    In my estimation, Mr. Darnell committed the ad hominem fallacy violating guideline #2 when speaking to Doug’s inability to respond, rather than addressing the content/substance of Dr. Meyer’s presentation.

    How convenient that is.  Adams can claim that I posted nothing of substance against Meyers’ unscientific diatribe, and then Adams doesn’t have to answer.  As best I can figure it, when I note Meyer’s errors, Adams regards that as “ad hominem.”   If Adams were consistent, he’d take down Meyer’s piece. Meyer cannot talk without ad hominem, especially since he has no science to back his claims.  Don’t take my word for it.  Go look at Adams’ blog — warning, he’s unlikely to leave your post up if you point out any of Stephen Meyer’s many errors, or rudenesses, or ad hominem claims — and see for yourself.  If you think for a moment or two that Meyer starts making sense, keep that thought and go look at a serious review of his claims by professionals, here. Adams can’t tell you why he completely disregards Dr. Gotelli, nor will he explain why a link to Gotelli’s critique of Meyer is unacceptable on his blog.  There is no good reason other than Adams’ bigotry against science.  Gotelli, of course, is a practicing scientist in the field in which Meyer polemicizes about.


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