Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 28 Link Round-up

Tabernacle of DEATH!  Pastor killed by gunman while preaching.

The New York Times profiles the Buddhist temple where the Navy Yard shooter worshiped.  Among my many questions, why would a black guy live in a town called "White Settlement" anyway?

Perhaps the Dalai Lama -approved book on Buddhist science will explain it.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail puts two and two together and comes up with "Jesus was here."  Despite no evidence whatsoever that there was anything Christian about a first-century synagogue being dug up in the supposed home of Mary Magdalene, Christians want to believe it's proof that Jesus met Mary M. there and that Christians and Jews worshiped together.  WTF?

The Westboro Baptist church apparently switching gears, starts a twitter war with country singer Blake Shelton, who is an "adulterer" for getting divorced and remarried.  I can't wait until they decide to start a twitstorm in Hollywood!

German town to modern Jews:  oh you want your pre-Holocaust land back?  LOL no way, suckers.

I stumbled onto a
great list of naturalistic woo-parrot objections to actual science, and short, to the point responses.

A Christian school soccer game is cancelled because someone brought a holstered gun. Seriously. Apparently they don't think that praying not to be shot will be effective ;-)

It's come to this. It's a blogworthy event when someone "comes out" as pro-vaccine.

Video of the week:  the off-air part of the interview of Richard Dawkins on the Daily Show is longer than the part that aired (which was rather grim).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 21 Link Round-up

How the Discovery Institute spends its "nonprofit" moneys. Conclusion: it's a scam. (Found via The Sensuous Curmudgeon)

Navy Yard shooting survivor:  "I got Lucky"  I wish more survivors would say this!
"I got lucky. It was my birthday, and I consider myself the second luckiest person on that day because my friend was the first luckiest person. But all those other people, they did not deserve that death," said Weaver, who knew six of the 12 people killed.

Glacier National Park's glaciers have been disappearing and soon there won't be any.

Global warming denial is equivalent to being a flat-earther.

PAC  to elect atheists/freethinkers.  Might not help but it couldn't hurt!

Video of the week:  Atheist and Christian comedians discuss God:

Another video of the week:  High school student activist who won an FFRF essay award reads the essay and answers questions:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14 Link Round-up

Child-abusing cult in Germany with roots in Tennessee raided and the children placed in foster care.

Get yer Harry Potter spells exorcised here!  Only $400+ for private sessions!

Atheists get bullied in school.  No shit, Sherlock, erm, The Atlantic!

"Holy" water contains bacteria and fecal matter.  Yech!

Evangelicals take sides in the Baby Veronica case.  If they win, could it also mean the end of religion-specific adoptions?

Evangelical publication that doesn't have a list of Things that cannot be said was in trouble but got saved.

The 16th St Baptist Church bombing is still within living memory, yet Americans feel they are superior to muslims somehow.  If American history includes a church bombing that killed innocent little girls, is it any wonder our moral authority is questioned?

Hindu-Muslim violence again in India.  European Protestants and Catholics must feel so smug.  There is hope, though.  A new fatwa declares it's okay for Muslims to eat with Hindus.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Meanwhile, Muslims may have some relief from Buddhist violence in Myanmar.  And tourists from Singapore who put up Buddhist symbols and performed Buddhists chants in a Muslim prayer hall get booted out of Malaysia.

Why are people afraid of atheists again?

Video of the week:  Lawrence Krauss on whether science and religion can co-exist:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Discovery Institute threatens Ball State

Unless they think Hedin can file a grievance against Ball State, the Discovery Institute has absolutely no standing to make demands, yet they did it anyway:

The Sensuous Curmudgeon blog has excerpts and a link to the single-spaced 8-page letter that the Discovery Institute sent to Ball State's President JoAnn Gora, making several demands and setting an impossible deadline of September 30.  This is basically a game of tit-for-tat which can only waste Ball State's time, if they bother to do more than file it in their crackpot letters file.

The letter is an incoherent ramble despite having numbers and letters and page numbers and such.  From what I can tell, their demands are these:

Investigate all the Honors science courses to be sure nothing non-sciency is included, even though the course descriptions say these seminars are supposed to be about "the social and ethical consequences of scientific discoveries," among other things.  So.... they have to have real science in them, but also relate to real life.  A course that's basically just ID doesn't do either.  They are incensed that one of these courses includes ONE WEEK of religion and science.  Isn't that exactly what these courses should do?  The other fourteen weeks would include other social and ethical consequences of scientific discoveries.

They also complain that a biology course includes discussions of such things as cloning, gene therapy, and cancer.  Again, it sounds like this course fits the goals of the Honors science seminars exactly.  So their demand is that Gora investigate a course where the professor has done exactly what he/she is supposed to do.

They follow this up with a claim that Hedin's ID course fits the bill because it was interdisciplinary, which it clearly wasn't.  He was downright sneaky in the way he presented it, not to mention something of a prosletyzing bully, if the redditor who described his/her experience was telling the truth.  (Not impossible for them to be a liar - but I rather doubt it)

Another demand is for an investigation of a seminar course titled "Dangerous Ideas," which used the book, What is Your Dangerous Idea: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable.  They quote from a few of the atheists in the book, including Sam Harris (but not Jerry Coyne, who started the whole Hedin kerfuffle!)  They quote only atheistic excerpts, not the many, many other topics covered in the book.  They apparently can't comprehend the idea of context, nor are they able to understand that the very example they cite is the epitome of the kind of course that would put a religious discussion into a broader context -- i.e., exactly what Gora described as the appropriate way to incorporate religion in a university course.

The other problem with this demand is that it's a false equivalence to Hedin's course.  Hedin's course was offered for science credit.  The Dangerous Ideas course doesn't satisfy any particular requirement other than being a seminar course.  It's not a science course, nor is it considered part of any department in particular, though it could be a Philosophy or History course.  The course syllabus doesn't seem to be online, but if it follows the book, students would have been exposed to a wide variety of ideas, not just atheism.

They also demand the university examine the qualifications of the other professors who teach these courses, and indeed some are not scientists.  This is a fair demand, but since the course is interdisciplinary, it doesn't necessarily mean these people would be removed from the classroom.  Also, Hedin's credentials were less of an issue than the content of the course, and they affirmed his credentials in the end, so they're just being whiny.

Their legal claim is this:
Thus, in addition to banning science faculty from discussing intelligent design, you appear to have forbidden all BSU faculty from expressing their personal or professional
beliefs in favor of intelligent design in any class at BSU.  We believe that your effort to ban certain kinds of faculty speech at BSU is neither required nor justified by state or federal constitutional law, potentially runs afoul of the same law
First, they are misrepresenting what Gora's letter said.  Faculty can discuss intelligent design, but not as a science.  Second, they claim "To be lawful, your ban on the discussion of intelligent design in science classes must apply equally to science faculty who oppose intelligent design as well as to science faculty who support intelligent design."

So is this their threat?  On what grounds?  Religious expression?  That is the only possible grounds, which would undermine their claim that what they do is a science, not religion.  Stupid. Stupid.  Stupid.
But once BSU has determined that intelligent design is an impermissible topic in science classes, it cannot apply this policy selectively only to science faculty who support intelligent design; BSU must apply this policy equally to all science faculty and their classes.
Well, yes, it bloody well can apply it only to supporters of ID.  Science professors can say that astrology is baloney and that phrenology is nonsense, and that alchemy is bunk.  Add ID to the list of unscientific nonsense that deserves all the scorn a scientist chooses to waste class time hurling.   It deserves no respect at all from anybody in any field, but especially not in a science class.

So here we get to the tu quoque part of the Gish gallp: 
If all BSU faculty are now forbidden from endorsing intelligent design in any class they teach because you think their individual comments represent an official endorsement of religion by BSU, then those same faculty must also be forbidden from endorsing criticisms of intelligent design , because in BSU’s view those criticisms would be tantamount to an official attack on religion by BSU.
They also claim that Ball State "relied on stereotypes and misrepresentations from its critics" when defining ID as religion, yet one of the signatures is from a Ball State alumnus, John McLaughlin, whose credentials include missionary work in prisons and fund-raising for that horrid "Teen Mania" so-called mission (their real mission is fund-raising) that I have blogged about before.  So if they are trying to distance themselves from Christianity, why have this guy on their letter?  Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.

So which is it?  They don't want it to be considered a religion, except if it's convenient to them.  Would it be within a professor's rights to detail why ID is baloney?  Certainly.  It's not insulting to a particular religion, only to a religiously-motivated attack on science.  The only good reason to muzzle a professor who would be tempted to go on at length about the stupidity of ID would be to make them focus on real science that students need to learn.  There are 45 50-minute hours in a typical university course.  That's not nearly enough time to explore the wonderful and exciting discoveries made by real scientists.

They have no case.   The university can't possibly reply in time, nor should they bother.  This is simply a fund-raiser, intelligently designed to gin up support within their evangelical Christian base.

I happened to watch the Nova special on the Dover trial this past week, and in light of that video, I just have to laugh at this latest attempt on their part to be relevant on the national stage.  I highly recommend the Nova video. It's a much better use of your time than reading the DI letter:

The case was a slam-dunk for real science.  They are on the losing side of history and they just need to get over it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

September 7 Link round-up

Pastor asks a politician why he supports gay marriage.  Gets pwned.

Study shows the brain adds nascent cells during sleep.  We used to think you had all the brain cells you'll ever have by the time you're about three years old.  YAY for science for incorporating new evidence into the story of the brain.   That's how science is supposed to work.  Actually, that's how everything should be!

Gun-totin' soccer mom killed by her husband.  Live by the sword...?

Woman kicked out of Westboro Baptist Church celebrates her wedding without any blood relatives in attendance.  What a sick cult.

At the last minute, an Orthodox Jew gets to stay in school despite missing class on Jewish holidays.  Sheesh.  Why do Christians think it's okay to be dismissive of the sincere beliefs of others?

Conspiracy Theory Addiction and Christian Fundamentalism: why the two go together.

Grisly photos of skeletons of "saints" bejeweled in Rome's catacombs.  Why do saints need jewels anyway?

Video of the week:  Nova on the Dover, Pennsylvania (Kitzmuller) Intelligent Design trial.  Not new, but someone told me about it last week so it's new to me, and in case it's new to you:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Twelve Questions in Genesis

Some Questions about the Creation Story as told in Genesis:

  1. How could there be days before the Sun was made?  (Gen 1:3 vs. Gen 1:14-18)
  2. How could there be plants before there were night and day?  (Gen. 1:11-16)
  3. God made the Sun, the Moon and the Stars but not planets?  Where are the planets?  (Gen 1:14-19)
  4. If God is all-powerful why did he need a day of rest?  (Gen 2:2)
  5. Why aren't microscopic plants and animals mentioned?
  6. Why did God make livestock and then tell Adam & Eve to eat only plants?  (Gen 1:24; Gen 1:29)
  7. Why does Chapter 2 have a different version from Chapter 1?  Were there plants before Man was made or not?  And why was it a problem that there were no crops yet when they already had all they could eat in the Garden?  (Gen 2:5)
  8. If Adam was not alive until God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, does that mean that a fetus is not alive until it takes its first breath? (Gen 2:7)
  9. If Eve didn't know about good & evil before eating from the tree of good & evil, then how could she be punished for committing evil?  (Gen 3:4)
  10. If God is a spirit, how did Adam & Eve hear him clomping around the Garden of Eden?  (Gen 3:8)
  11. If the serpent was already a serpent, then why did God curse it to crawl on its belly?  Didn't it already do that?  (Gen: 3:14)
  12. If there is only one god, then why did he say, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." (Gen 3:22)