Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:
Republican mayoral candidate Anna Falling said Tuesday that putting a Christian creationism display in the Tulsa Zoo is No. 1 in importance among city issues that also include violent crime, budget woes and bumpy streets.
"It's first," she said to calls of "hallelujah" at a rally outside the zoo. "If we can't come to the foundation of faith in this community, those other answers will never come. We need to first of all recognize the fact that God needs to be honored in this city."
Falling, who has founded several Christian nonprofit groups and is a former city councilor, also said the next mayor needs to appoint people to boards, authorities and commissions who will "honor God."
"We will also look for people who want to characterize the origins of both man and animals in a way that honors Judeo-Christian science that proves God as the creator," she said.
Man, it must be nice that everything is so rosy in Tulsa that getting a creationism display in the local zoo is public priority #1.
The creep of creationism in Texas is not limited to the public school system, which is often held intellectual hostage by backward members its Board of Education, as was discussed in other posts of mine. No, it doesn't end there, for Texas State Rep. Leo Berman wishes to give full scientific legitimacy to biblical literalism at the graduate level. Berman has introduced House Bill 2800 (PDF), which would exempt purely private, nonprofit schools from the authority of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board when it comes to the certification of master's degrees. While the legislation is actually quite sweeping it its implications, Berman's purpose is to allow "schools" such as the Institute for Creation Research to offer Master of Science degrees in, yes, creation science.
Per Nora Zimmett of Fox News, I'm going to let Berman speak for himself here, for he does it better than I could paraphrase:
Things are getting really scary in Texas. I'm not kidding. Something is bubbling in the Lone Star State, and it has the stink of 100 percent pure crazy.
First, science communicator Bill Nye was booed during a lecture in Waco for insisting that the Moon reflected light from the Sun. Then we have Chuck Norris advocating for secession and installing himself as president of Texas, presumably as part of Glenn Beck's lunatic "let's bring back the utter terror we all felt after 9/11" faux-movement ("We surround them" he assures his nitwit followers).
But you already knew about that, right?
Tonight I discovered a couple more things that scared the hell out of me. This post will cover the first, because I don't want to give anyone any ulcers.
Here is a (Christian) set of videos about science that takes apart not only Creationism, but also Intelligent Design in support of traditional science.
I'd like to get some feedback evaluations and reactions to his presentations.
A report from the Pew Forum on belief in evolution is remarkable not only for its parsing of the various faiths' perceptions of evolution, but for what it says about how many atheists/naturalists/brights we actually have in America, and indeed, what it says about its own methods of categorization.
Take a look at their handy little graph (h/t Andrew Sullivan) showing what percentage of each religious group thinks evolution is the best explanation for humanity's origins:
If I were feeling more creative, I'd whip up a filk of the traditional spiritual, but not today. Someone else feel free.
Anyway, I think this is progress:
ATLANTA - After a lifetime in the church, the Rev. William L. Rhines Jr. lately has started to question one of the Bible's fundamental teachings, that God created man.
It's an especially touchy topic in his Wilmington, Del., congregation, where generations of black worshippers have leaned on faith to endure the indignities of racism.
But as the world marked the 200th birthday of evolution theorist Charles Darwin on Thursday, Rhines figures its time for even the most conservative congregations to come to terms with science.
"We're becoming more middle class, upper middle class, so we have more free time ... to ponder these eternal issues," said Rhines, who will encourage a discussion at Ezion-Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church.
* * *
Do you agree with Darwin’s theory of human evolution?
Does Parade's readership consist entirely of biologists? Are those that frequent its website all taking graduate-level courses in genetics? Are they sporting lab coats as they click the little radio buttons on the poll, having just put down this week's edition of Science?
There has been a lot of interesting commentary on atheist activism from very disparate sources over the past couple days, and a theme is emerging: How atheists hurt the feelings of the religious.
First there has been a long series of entries on Andrew Sullivan's blog concerning the merits of faith mockery, mostly in the form of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This has directly seeded other discussions on the same topic at places like the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, where there are posts by various authors, and I have commented on a couple of them. Meanwhile, a book review by Jerry Coyne in the New Republic, which I can't recommend highly enough, has also spurred many a blog conversation at such places as the American Scene (home of Alan Jacobs, writer of one of my favorite--and now defunct--blogs, TextPatterns).
One of the more interesting pieces I've come across comes from the United Church Observer, a small church publication from Canada, which places one of its journalists reluctantly aboard a cruise for the Atheist Alliance International convention. There, Jocelyn Bell comes to some important realizations about hernonbelieving neighbors (sorry, it's Canada: neighbours).
Ed Halliwell on the Guardian's blog makes what I can only assume is an attempt at a kind of charming, I'm-okay-you're-okay détente between believers and atheists in an otherwise benign post about the Buddha's unwillingness to delve into the question of the existence of a supreme being.
I suppose that's all well and good, but in his admiration for the Buddha's disinterest, he woefully mischaracterizes the atheist position:
Part of what makes the argument [over God's existence] so comical is how the concept of "God" onto which atheists project is rarely the same as the one defended by believers.
Whatever images of God some atheists might like to invoke in heated antitheistic rhetoric, the God whose existence is denied is not limited to one or another caricature, but all gods, all supernatural beings, all unknowable, mystical, cosmic consciousnesses. So not only is the concept of God that is refuted the same as the one defended by believers, but every concept of God (that is not merely a shorthand metaphor for what actually is).
In case you hadn’t heard, thanks to protesting e-mails and phone calls from the sane, the Cincinnati Zoo ended a cross-promotional deal with the Creation Museum of Petersburg, Ky. P.Z. Myers is getting a great deal of the credit/blame for encouraging his readers to make a stink. Well done, say I.
But I must also say, as happy as I am that this nonsense was dispensed with, I remain flabbergasted that the Cincinnati Zoo would enter into a deal like this in the first place.
'Big Science' is always suppressing The Truth with their blatant pro-evolution anti-wacko agenda: from the fact that UFOs built the pyramids to the reality of creationism and fact the universe is "Turtles All The Way Down". It is time to fight back and urge schools to Teach The Controversy with these intelligently designed t-shirts.
And now through the 30th they're having a 25% off summer sale! Excellent!
The canard below is popping up more and more these days. I know you have all heard it before - probably so many times that you are getting sick of it.
As am I.
It usually goes something like this:
"I believe in God, but I'm not a real religious person. However, it strikes me that the atheists are every bit as strident and absolutist in their views as the fundamentalists! Both sides are faith positions! It takes just as much faith to not believe as it does to believe!"
Blah blah blah.
I see this same thought repeated over and over again every day in blog posts, comments, forum messages, emails, news articles, television programs, and in everyday conversation. I also hear this same "argument" being used by self-identified "agnostics" - those ignorant folks who seem to think that agnosticism is some sort of middle way between atheism and theism that is somehow more morally courageous than those disgusting extremist radicals on both sides of the spectrum. The theological equivalent to a political moderate. (Here's a tip, moron - it's not. If you're an agnostic, then you're still either a theist or an atheist - in addition to being an agnostic. The terms are not fucking replacements for one another.)
The problem that I see is that the atheists, secularists, and scientists that I know don't actually hold the absolutist, "fundamentalist" views that they are accused of holding by those who throw this canard out there all the time. They don't talk like fire and brimstone preachers, and they never, ever claim to be 100% certain that a god doesn't exist.
In other words, the whole damned argument is a big dishonest game of "I know you are, but what am I?" on the part of the folks on the creationist/theist side of the issue. It must be extremely frustrating. So, the theists and creationists are forced to create some sort of faux position for their perceived opponents to hold. They look around and grab onto the worst examples from their own camp - the evangelical fundamentalist wackjobs - then create a whole-cloth strawman "fundamentalist atheist" in their own fevered imaginations - and argue against that instead.
I sympathize, actually. It's tough to argue against someone who simply says "I don't believe you." I mean, what do you say to that? All your arguments boil down to either, "yes you do, darn it!" Or, all too often, "you have to - or my imaginary superfriend will punish you after you die!"
Even the two most commonly-pointed-out examples of this mythical "fundamentalist atheist" - Dr. Richard Dawkins and Dr. PZ Myers - don't come across like this when you really sit down and read through their stuff, or spend a few minutes in conversation with them, or listen to them speak. At their absolute worst, they are "snarky". That is to say, mildy sarcastic. It's all very academic. For a comparison, read anything at all by any of the best-selling conservative authors (you know who I'm talking about - don't pretend that you don't,) then compare their vitriolic screeds against "liberals" with PZ's mockery of creationists on his blog.
Not that this will convince anyone of anything. The atheists, scientists, and secularists already know this - and the theists, creationists, and ignorant masses don't fucking care. All they see and hear is the sound bite. Perception - however far off the mark it is, and in this case it is way off - becomes reality.
And there are just so many of them...
So, is there any hope? I think so, but I think it is going to take a whole lot longer than we'd like for it to take.
Just keep plugging along, saying "I don't believe you." This is all that's really necessary, when you get right down to it.
Our old friend Lane Palmer gets it wrong. Again.
[Lane Palmer] So do you believe in aliens? Are there really races of creatures cruising around the friendly skies kidnapping cattle for “farm” aceutical purposes? ?
Well, I’m not sure - and frankly, I’m not sure I care either. But do you know who does care to know? The answer to this might surprise you - but in my experience, the group of folks who need aliens in their worldview are atheists.
More below the fold...
I'm going to be completely preoccupied with another project for the next several days, but I just could not resist passing on this delightfully wacky site. Here's a little excerpt, from one of their posts titled "WHY ALL EVOLUTIONISTS ARE CRIMINALLY INSANE":
Well, first, for this edition of this web page, we will not be addressing the criminal nature of evolutionists’ insanity. That we will do at a future time. So, for now, why are all evolutionists insane? They are all insane because they have no “legend of empirical advent.” What is a legend of empirical advent? It is “one or more things that demonstrate or imply the existence of something unseen.” And keep in mind it doesn’t matter whether these things are real or imaginary.
Over on Scienceblogs, there's a bit of a debate in various quarters about "Framing" in dealing with creationists and religious anti-science zealots. On one side, are those who confront the zealots directly, like Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers and others, by pointing out their lies, logical flaws and egregious misunderstandings in no uncertain terms. On the other side is mainly Matt Nisbet, a communications theorist, who seems to suggest that the message would get across better by expressing scientific positions in ways that would not offend the zealots--especially not using people who would tend to offend them.
Here's a nice place to start reading up on the issue: http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2008/04/the_trouble_with_framing_t...
And my two zlotys on the matter (also posted as a comment on Pharyngula):
I'm a tech support professional.
Anyone who deals at length with technical support organizations will probably sympathize with the feeling that technical and communications skills seem inversely proportional.
OK, just in case you haven't seen this over at PZ's or elsewhere, here's a hilarious and brilliantly done satire:
It takes some deconstructing, but the consensus is that it is indeed pro-science/skepticism.
I just read this on Wired News:
The Florida Board of Education officially upheld evolution yesterday.
In a 4-3 vote, the Board accepted a proposed curriculum that makes evolution central to public school science education.
Until now, Florida's schools weren't required to teach evolution. The old curriculum guidelines didn't even mention it by name.
The 4-3 vote was obtained by including a last-minute amendment to the standards. Suggested last Friday by religious conservatives and dubbed the "academic freedom proposal," the amendment required that the curriculum's references to "evolution" be replaced by the "scientific theory of evolution."
The amendment's supporters called the language change a victory -- and it is, though not in the way they imagine.
Who does God want the next American president to be? The race for the primary nomination in both parties is getting interesting with only 20-some days left until the Iowa caucuses kick off primary season. Obama is chipping away at Hillary's inevitableness and Giuliani has a slight lead over Huckabee. Personally I favor Obama, but I am almost certain to vote for whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary.
Florida State Board Of Education member Donna Callaway gets it so wrong that it's painful to read.
[link] Donna Callaway, a former middle school principal from Tallahassee, told the Florida Baptist Witness that evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origins of life."
She also said she hoped Christians would pray over the issue. "As a SBOE member, I want those prayers," Callaway said. "I want God to be part of this."
Evolution is not a "theory of origins of life", number one, and number two, the Christian God cannot, by law, "be a part of" the Florida State Board Of Education - unless you rescind the United States Constitution, or secede from the union.
But you've all heard this before, time and time again. It's been said, over and over, a thousand times or more. The facts are always the same; ignorant Christian creationist who does not understand what evolution is, or what science is gets elected to the school board. Then they convince other ignorant Christian creationists on the school board to "teach the (nonexistent) controversy" by reading the religious tracts put out by the Discovery Institute, WoTM, or Dr. Dino. Overworked civil-rights defenders like the ACLU and FFRF take the school board to court and win. Many indignant news stories and op-ed columns are written about the evil atheist plot to persecute innocent Christians by teaching science instead of Christian mythology in - ahem - science classes. Overwrought email chain letters get forwarded to everyone and their grandmother shouting about the nasty atheists and their evil plan to barbecue all the Christian children in the public school system for the crime of being Christian.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Things like this make me tired. It feels like we're bailing out a leaky boat with plastic beer cups. I mean, were doing something, going through the motions, making a lot of noise and fuss, but the reality of the situation is that the boat is filling up too fast. I fear that we are sinking, and that there is not a lot we can do to prevent it.
Still, we'll keep on bailing because what else can we do?