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.
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:
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.
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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...
Has anyone bothered to go see the new movie 10,000 BC? I know some people have because it's the #1 box office movie of the weekend, but that doesn't mean it's any good. I can't decide if it's worth the $67 ($9 for the ticket, $58 for the popcorn, snocaps and softdrink).
I wonder how many creationists have their panties in a wad over the title? After all, wouldn't that be like 6,000 years before gawd created the earth? How come Bill Donohue isn't protesting this movie?
Wooly Mammoths and Saber-Toothed Tigers in Egypt, huh? Going to movies like this is a little like believing in a religion, a willing suspension of disbelief is required. Doing this for a few hours is alright, but your whole life?
Many of these stats blew my mind, but the last one is downright scary to imagine.
The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.
Only 14% of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub.
Only 8% of the homes had a telephone.
A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost 11 Dollars.
There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S., and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California.
With a mere 1.4 million people, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour.
The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year; A dentist $2,500 per year; a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year; and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95% of all births in the U.S. took place at home.
90% of all U.S. doctors had no college education.
Back in 2005, Stephen Darksyde published a fantastic article here at UTI called "Ancestral Magnitudes". It used the metaphor of the "generation", and colorfully described human evolution in terms of our ancestors.
[DarkSyde] If the idea of a flat-earth or the Sun-god is a part of that faith then you either ignore the science and live in willful ignorance-at least in regard to that conflict-and trust to faith, or you adjust your theology. Those really are your only two choices as far as I can see.
What your objection more than likely reveals is that you don't like the idea of being the product of 'random' physics and biochemistry, that you feel there is no room for a Creator in such a scenario. I cannot imagine greater natural evidence for the Brilliance of a Creator than complex process unfolding over billions of years through countless steps in exquisite order spanning the entire Cosmos. The technical skill and artistic vision of such is to be admired in awe, and in that context evolution should be worthy of your devotion, not your disdain.
I encourage you to read the whole thing if you haven't already. It'll blow your mind.
A few days ago, Xavier Onassis from the blog "Doubting Faith" published the same sort of mind-blowingly cool article about our universe, and it puts our place in that universe into stark, unflinching perspective.
[Xavier Onassis] Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that a universe this vast, and this spectacular could not be a random occurrence. Personally, I don't have a problem with it being one big coincidence. But, let's just say it's not.
Do you really think that a hypothetical all-powerful, all-knowing God, responsible for the creation of EVERYTHING in this incredibly vast universe would really give a flying fuck how you voted in the last election? Whether or not a couple of gay guys get married? Whether or not you keep Kosher or go on The Hajj?
Get over yourselves. You're not that fucking important. You need to look at the Big Picture and put things in perspective.
Just excellent. Highly recommended. Great job, Xavier.
MY INAUGURAL ADDRESS AT THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD
(Note: This blog is identical to that on my site. I recommend you clink on the link below to get a more readable version of it than here. Also, Firefox browser blocks the annoying Angelfire popups.)
Preface MY INAUGURAL ADDRESS AT THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD
I'm the Captain
The Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead
My Favorite Sport
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?
Columbus, Ohio (AP) --
The man who plays Adam in a video aired at a Bible-based creationist museum has led a different life outside the Garden of Eden, flaunting his sexual exploits online and modeling for a clothing line that promotes free love.
After learning about his activities Thursday, the Creation Museum in Kentucky pulled the 40-second video in which he appears.
Yup, because you know, he can't have had a life at all prior to being Adam. But here's the best, and funniest, bit:
"For the Creation Museum, I did what I did as an actor. It doesn't necessarily mean I believe in evolution or a believe in creation," Linden said. "I'm hired to get a point across. On the flip side, if I was hired to play a murderer, that doesn't mean I'd go out and kill somebody. It's make-believe."
Roy Abraham Varghese, theistic apologist and god-bothering author from the "Institute of Metascientific Research", was recently interviewed by the Dallas Observer. Varghese is widely credited as "the man who won over Anthony Flew", and is now currently working on a book called "There Is A God" with Flew.
Varghese is an interesting character because his contention is that without a meta-intelligence, all science devolves into incoherence if you drill-down deep enough, or pull back far enough.
It's a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense of course, a philosophically slick update to the theistic evolutionist's mantra.
More below the fold...
During my lunchtime Science reading today I came across this article about Chimps fashioning spears and vigorously poking them into trees to kill bushbabies while they sleep (since they are nocturnal). I'm really out of the macro-biology scene...I didn't even realize that chimps ate meat. In another interesting twist, it appears that the females are the ones doing the hunting. Now, the sample size for this study is pretty small (only 10 spear hunts out of 22 viewing periods in one study in Senegal) but I still think this is pretty interesting. The New Scientist article that I linked to even has video.
First of all, I apologize for my (second) long absence. In addition to finding out I had to move and then actually having to move within the course of 30 days, I had two family members die - one before and one after Christmas, so this has been a pretty hectic and emotional time for me these few months.
One of the first things I noticed (other than the fact that when you reach the age of 35 your friends and family will no longer help you move) was how death brings people from all religions together, but tends to exclude atheists. If death is the end, then what does it matter? Why even bother attending a funeral if you don't believe in God? It can be very upsetting and sometimes depressing to realize that one day it will be me that dies. It is a very hard reality to face.
But I also spent a good bit of time watching astronomy shows with my son (thank you Science Channel), who wants to be an astronomer when he grows up. (It is amazing to hear a 10-year-old boy tell me that he wants to invent a telescope that will allow humans to see ‘dark matter’). One scientist made a particularly astounding comment, and I paraphrase; ‘every molecule of matter on this planet and in our bodies was forged in the center of a star somewhere. So when we study the universe, we are actually studying ourselves.’
I've been reading a lot on evolution recently, as well as watching several really good television programs on it as well. One of the key theories regarding evolution is survival of the fittest. This is where species with traits that help them survive are able to live long enough to procreate and pass on those traits to the next generation. Over time, this strengthens a genetic line and creates a species that can exist and flourish in a given environment.
In addition, animals born with malformed DNA are typically sick or weak and killed off either naturally or by predators before they get a chance to procreate. This is yet another way that nature ensures that the strongest genetic codes carry on and that species can and will survive.
Humans and our ancestors have also played a part in this game. For hundreds of thousands of years we have evolved, taking our best genetics with us. This evolution has brought us to the level of society that we now know and enjoy today.
I want to bring up an unpleasant, if not taboo topic; has technology and advanced society negatively affected human evolution? Our species is no longer participating in survival of the fittest with regard to animal predators. Society insulates us from the harsh realities of nature. While it appears that our intelligence and natural abilities stem from evolutionary growth, we have come to a time where there is no longer any pressure on our species to maintain many of the skills we developed prior to the birth of civilization. Technology also allows people who would have died in years past to survive illnesses and genetic disorders, often at great personal and financial cost to those directly involved.
Evolution is a fact. It happens. It has happened. It continues to happen.
This is not in question. Those who protest either don't know what the heck evolution actually is, or they are lying to themselves and to you.
What I would like to talk about today is the perception that people have about what evolution is and is not, as well as what I believe we can do about it.
I have been arguing the creation/evolution debate for a long, long time. Back in 1986 I jumped into the infant online world with both feet, learning how to think critically and how to construct arguments. I have been an atheist since I was about 17 years old. I have been interested in science and the scientific method for much longer than that. The idea of a personal invisible imaginary friend seemed ridiculous to me even at the age of ten.
So, when the virtual world of the the new online services presented itself to me, I was floored. Here was a pure realm consisting of exact meaning. A world where people talked to each other almost mind-to-mind - cutting away the traps and the pitfalls that usually accompanied face to face conversation. Nervousness, apprehension, emotion, forgetfulness, shyness - none of this mattered when you were composing your thoughts off line in a text editor. You were able to edit and vet your words, making sure that they flowed well and made sense.
But those things which so attracted me to online text-based communication seemed to make others dumber than they would have been otherwise. Time and again I witnessed ostensibly intelligent people stumble and rush through a message or a rebuttal, making themselves sound like fools due to incoherent rambling, spelling and grammar errors, and faulty, fallacious reasoning.
It's almost as if they didn't care how they were perceived when they were online.
I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. Online communications in this day and age - YouTube notwithstanding - is primarily text based. That is to say that if you cannot form cogent and thoughtful sentences, spelled correctly with the meaning coming through crystal clear, then why the hell are you arguing online - using text to try and get your meaning across to the other guy?
But that is neither here nor there - except as a base for my thoughts about evolution and the way that I have observed that people look at it.
More below the fold...
Last night I was watching a National Geographic program with my son about the hippopotamus called ‘Ultimate Hippo’. A large part of the show revolved around its behavior and habitat, but they also spent some time discussing the evolutionary history of the hippo. What they proved was both astonishing and very profound, at least to me
In the show, they showed that the closest relative to the hippo was in fact the whale! Scientists showed that hippo DNA is closer to whale DNA than monkey DNA is to human DNA. In fact, whale skeletons share similar bones to hippos, the blowhole of a whale functions in exactly the same way as the nostrils of a hippo, and whales even have stubs of hind leg bones inside their bodies.
The first thing that came to my mind as I watched this was the human tailbone, and how that bone is to us what those tiny leg bones are to the whale - physical evidence of ancient ancestry.
As science discovers and learns from more and more fossils, they are finding irrefutable evidence that shows one species transitioning into another. The amount of evidence, combined with the scientific accuracy of the tools we have leaves me baffled as to how anyone can doubt the accuracy of the theories of evolution……AND YET…
I just read the story from the AP about the toddler lost in the wilderness who was found alive after three days.
When my daughter was three years old we lived in a small suburban neighborhood that we loved. Our neighbors were great, and there were lots of kids. It was a family neighborhood, friendly, and it felt safe. We held barbeque's and neighborhood get-togethers, and sat on the porch in the evenings.
One Saturday we were working around the house doing yard and housework - typical Saturday activities - when we noticed that our daughter wasn't in direct eyesight. She was a toddler, inquisitive and curious, but we weren't worried. She never wandered far, usually into the backyard, or into another room. She had always been the type of child to amuse herself. Very independent.
A quick search of the house failed to turn her up. We expanded our search to the front and backyards, but no little girl. The worry set in and grabbed hold of us with a nagging fear.
Where the hell was she?
More below the fold...
"So, Brent, your brother tells me that you are a registered, licensed Chaplain, able to perform weddings?"
And so it begins. I look up from my book and calmly reply. "Yep. I was registered as a real Reverend with the Church of All Worlds more than a year ago. I even have robe."
My brother Chris is going to get married sometime this year. Am I happy about it? Yes. I am. Maryanne is a wonderful person and I wish them both the very best.
So she corners me and asks if I can legally perform marriages in the state of Arizona. "Yup." I reply, "It's all completely legal."
"Good!" She exclaims, "that will save us a lot of money!"
Hmnn. I really don't have a problem performing their wedding, but I have to make sure that she understands what is at stake.
"Mary?", I ask.
"Yes?" She replies, switching my beautiful nephew from one hip to the other and managing to look interested.
"You realize that I cannot perform a wedding with a bunch of god references, right?" I look deeply into her eyes. I am going for sincerity here.
She smiles brilliantly. "Of course," she says. I nervously giggle. " I mean, I've seen your website."
Here's the weird part. I have never thought that my family (or potential family) have read UTI.
Stupid, I know. I mean, all they have to do is to Google "Brent Rasmussen" and they get me, in bleeding, full, living snarky color on their web screens.
Woo, hoo! Heh.
The thing that absolutely freaked me out was that she was fine with it.
"That will be a beautiful wedding," she said.
I was touched. I really was.
And you know what? If they decide to go with me as the officiant, I'll make their wedding the best wedding that has ever been.
I'm funny that way with my family. :)
Mom and Dad may not agree with it -- but it'll be fun, legal, and official - and it'll be done by someone who loves each of the participants with all his heart and mind.
Mom and Dad will understand.
Duane Gish, VP of the hoary old ICR trotted out the same, tired creationist apologetics at a church fundraiser in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that he's been bleating about for years.
[link] Gish said the fossil record also corroborates creation instead of evolution. In the Cambrian strata, no ancestors or transition forms of living organisms could be found. "You ought to find billions of ancestors and intermediate stages, but not one has been found," Gish said. Living organisms were "created fully formed, just like the Bible says."
Holy crap, Gish, give it a rest already. Why keep spewing this already-debunked hogwash?
Ah. Now I get it. P.T. Barnum was right; A sucker is born every minute. The quote below is from the comments to this story in the Lancaster Online:
[link] I agree with you, there are just too many unanswered questions when it comes to evolution. I think evolution does a pretty good job of describing how environmental conditions effect biological changes but doesnâ€™t definitively describe how life was formed from a collection of chemicals. By what mechanism did these early groups of chemicals become self propagating? Very primitive organisms still exist, why didnâ€™t they move up the evolutionary latter, how is it possible that these primitive organisms were not challenged by the environment during 5 billion years of existence?
More below the flip...
This is going to make a lot of evangelists apoplectic. Hopefully, that is.
[link] The close relationship between man and chimp has just got cosier, according to a study which suggests that ancestors of the two species interbred at some point in the distant past to form fertile hybrids.
Interesting article, though. It explains why human and chimp genomes are so similar - we're very, very close cousins.
Kissing cousins, one might say. Heh.