Tonight’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor featured a discussion of the brand new creation museum outside Cincinnati. Guest host John Kasich was sitting in for Bill O’Reilly. Representing darkness and ignorance was creationist impresario Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis. On the side of sunshine and puppies was Case Western physics professor Lawrence Krauss. Here’s how it went down:

KASICH: In the back of the book segment tonight, the twenty-seven million dollar creation museum opens today in Kentucky. The museum is designed to convince visitors that the Biblical story of life on Earth is scientifically verifiable. But some people think it does more harm than good. Joining us now from Cincinnati Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, that’s the group that built the museum, and in New York, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a professor at Case Western Reserve University and an advisory board member of the group “Campaign to Defend the Constitution,” which opposes the museum.

All right, Mr. Ham, let’s start with you. I understand you had a big turnout today. What are you trying to accomplish with this museum?

HAM: Well, John, we certainly did have a big turnout, we had over 4000 people there. What we’re trying to accomplish is this: you know, through this nation whole generations of young people are being taught in the public schools there’s no God, life evolved by natural processes, they’re really just animals in the fight for survival, and that very much determines their morality, how they view themselves, their purpose and meaning in life, and so on. And what we wanted to do, was to give them information that’s been censored from the culture, information that helps them understand that mainstream science, I mean we have PhD scientists that work at our ministry, who recieved their PhD’s from secular universities –

KASICH: Right –

HAM: There are many other PhD scientists, to show them that we can use the science of genetics, biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, to confirm the Bible’s history. And if the Bible’s history is true then Christian morality based on that history is true. If there’s a God who owns you, then he sets the rules we have a basis for good for bad for right for wrong –

KASICH: All right, all right Mr. Ham. Doctor tell us, what’s your objection? Here’s a guy trying his best to bring some science itno this. Where do you object?

KRAUSS: Well he’s not bringing science into it, that’s the problem. It’s the semblance of science, but it really isn’t science. In fact, the way science works is we kind of ask questions about the universe, and nature gives us the answers. We don’t know the answers in advance. That’s a key part of science. And what this museum does, is it will confuse kids about what is science and what isn’t science. And Mr. Ham already said it too, it also gives them a really bad message that somehow science is anti-religion. That just trying to understand the world, we’re encouraging kids to be atheists and that’s nonsense. It’s unfortunate for kids, and it’s also unfortunate for science, especially in this country where right now we do a really bad job of teaching science and if we want to be competitive in the 21st century we have to a better job.

KASICH: Doctor, what would you say about the argument that God created the spark, that started life in the universe, and secondly, at some point God created the conscience, the soul, created the human being, you know put the special stuff into the human being that’s sort of a reflection of God. Would you accept that in concert with evolution?

KRAUSS: Well, in principle, yes, I mean the point is those are not scientific questions. Science just deals with things you can falsify, things you can measure –

Crosstalk

KRAUSS: I would agree that it’s certainly plausible, that science doesn’t disprove the fact that there potentially is purpose to the universe, but whether or not I believe that, or Mr. Ham believes it, evolution happened, and the Earth is four and a half billion years old. It isn’t six thousand years old.

KASICH: All right, Mr. Ham, what about the argument here that evolution is consistent with the fact that God created, God sparked life early on, God then made man special, different from animals. Why is it not acceptable that evolution and creationism can be compatible?

HAM: Well, there are many in the church that would say that evolution and creation are compatible. But evolution and a literal Genesis are not compatible. Because a literal Genesis –

KASICH: But maybe a literal Genesis is not the deal here. I mean, if you put the man standing next to a dinosaur, I mean why can’t we say that both works. That God made this great thing happen, but at the same time, you know, evolution, is not a bad thing?

HAM: Well, it’s not the God of the Bible that made it happen, because he doesn’t say that. If you read the Bible, for instance, Jesus in the New Testament –

KASICH: I do read the Bible –

Crosstalk

KRAUSS: I think it’s worth jumping in here, there are literally millions of people who are people of faith who understand that science tells us how old the world is. And they don’t have to feel like they’re atheists because they don’t buy this nonsense.

KASICH: No, but there are a heck of a lot of scientists that say, that discount God, and that’s the problem –

KRAUSS: I agree. We need less of that –

HAM: I’d like to answer if I could –

KASICH: We’re out of time guys, I think reasonable guys like you can get together and agree there is a certain mystery in life, a certain mystery in life, no one has the answer. But I think the museum is a very interesting thing, Mr. Ham, and I’ll bet you’re going to get a lot of visitors. Thank you both for being with us.

So there you have it. I don’t have a whole lot to say. I think Krauss acquitted himself rather well, especially considering that it is virtually impossible to discuss this topic coherently in the rapid-fire format of a cable news chat show.

Krauss’ final statement came in the midst of a lot of crosstalk, so I’m not sure if I got his words exactly right. I definitely got the sentiment right, however, and this is the only place where I would criticize his performance. The correct answer to Kasich’s statement was to say that some scientists are atheists and some are theists but that these are questions that are outside of science. Different people draw different metaphysical conclusions from the findings of science.

An even better answer would to be say that it’s not a “problem” when people of diverse religious views express their opinions. Here we have Kasich presenting the standard bit of religious arrogance that having someone like Richrd Dawkins (presumably whom Kasich had in mind) express his opinion is an inherently bad thing, and that he should really be quiet. Sadly, Krauss is right there agreeing with him.

I was a little disappointed that O’Reilly had the night off. In the past he has firmly aligned himself with the ID side and he likes to stick it to pointy-heads like Dawkins or Krauss. On the other hand, I doubt highly that he would want to throw in with a fanatic like Ham. O’Reilly tends to prefer, bland, nonspecific statement about God. It would have been interesting to see how he threads this particular needle.

Kasich, at least, allowed his guests to complete a sentence here and there. It is not really surprising that he would take the theistic evolution position. As readers of this blog know, in my view in terms of intellectual credibility theistic evolution is only a very marginal improvement over Ham’s literalism. It is, nonetheless, the default position of people trying to maintain the illusion that science and religion are compatible.

As for Ham, I’ve never seen him look worse. When he is preaching to his followers he is slick and eloquent. I’ve seen him speak publicly on several occasions, and while I despise everything he says and everything he stands for, I always find myself getting wrapped up in his presentation.

But away from his element he looked nervous and uneasy. After his initial statement he played almost no role in the conversation, and he seemed taken aback by the hostility with which Kasich informed him that he reads the Bible.

So, all in all, things went well. Kudos to Krauss for doing the good guys proud. I just wish he’d stop dumping on Dawkins…

Comments

  1. #1 QrazyQat
    May 28, 2007

    When he is preaching to his followers he is slick and eloquent.

    The preaching style requires a willing audience as part of the flow. Take away the willing, pliant audience and the preacher stumbles.

  2. #2 Grodge
    May 28, 2007

    Thanks for the transcript of the Krauss vs Ham interchange. Krauss is a very articulate voice for reason. We need more such folks who can rise above the shrillness.

    Recently I had occasion to see one of Ham’s accomplices in action, Dr. David Menton an Associate Professor of Histology at Washington University in St. Louis. He spoke on Lucy the hominid fossil and cast aspersions on the science surrounding it. I have blogged at length on this topic: http://www.kalamazoopost.blogspot.com

    Menton is a special case because he has quasi-credentials that give a verneer of credibility to his antics. The appeal is to unsophisticates who are either unschooled in the scientific method or operating from the realm of stark-raving terror at the eternity which will follow their own death.

    My only issue with your erudite surmise is your statement: “…while I despise everything he says and everything he stands for…”

    I fully understand your contempt, especially from you who have devoted your life to science and devote so much time to the teaching of young people, but such intense negativity can be unnecessary and counter-productive.

    I realize that you did not say that you despised him, but rather only the things he said and stood for, but the precipice of hate has a sharp slope. We are all making our way in this world, and we must all deal with the existential angst that accompanies the unknowns, such as what happens after we die, among other things. Ham and Menton have chosen a wildly obtuse way to achieve this end, but they have many sympathizers in this point of view, many of whom are hardworking honest, albeit ignorant, folks.

    Ham and Menton, as deranged as they may be, deserve our compassion. Krauss seems very empathic to Ham’s fears, and this attentiveness seems to disarm the irrational religionist and take him down a notch in intensity. Perhaps a more effective approach is to engage the fundamentalists, but meet their irrationality with concern for their fears.

    Thanks again for your wonderful writing on these issues.

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    May 28, 2007

    Krauss may be a good popularizer, but on this issue he’s in much the same category as Eugene Scott. That is, even though he’s a well admitted atheist who doubtlessly finds religious claims as obsolete and ridiculous as Dawkins does, he feels the need to condescend to the stupid religious people to keep them out of his hair. In other words, he views it as “a problem” that people share his views and openly express them.

    I especially love this description of the attitude as “live and let live” and “let’s just get along” by people like Krauss. Does anyone else notice that the living and getting along is all on the terms of the theists? My view is that if religion is so insecure in it’s foundaton that it cannot tolerate a few books on the NYT and WSJ best seller lists, then we’re in a much more sorry situation than even atheists as lenient as Krauss take us for.

  4. #4 Rien
    May 29, 2007
  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 29, 2007

    Rien-

    Your link does not seem to be working, and I have not been able to find the correct one.

    Grodge-

    Thanks for the kind words, and the gentle criticism.

    Tyler-

    I agree with your take on Krauss. I generally love his writing and I’m with about ninety-five percent of the time. But it really is aggravating that so many atheists have this blind spot when it comes to criticizing religion.

  6. #6 386sx
    May 29, 2007

  7. #7 Rien
    May 29, 2007

    Sorry, I got some junk at the end in the address. 386sx provided the right one.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 29, 2007

    386sx and Rien-

    Excellent! Thanks for the links.

  9. #9 Chris
    May 29, 2007

    ….It is, nonetheless, the default position of people trying to maintain the illusion that science and religion are compatible….

    Gee thanks.
    How about being blunter in your contempt for scientists who are also theists.
    Is their science polluted and yours pure?

    Do you agree with Ham that science is atheist and leads to atheism?

  10. #10 hoary puccoon
    May 29, 2007

    The whole is-there-a-god thing bores me. But why doesn’t anyone emphasize how ethical science is– and how unethical the creationists look to scientists?
    The Six (and counting) Commandments of Science
    Thou shalt not lie. Fudging data is a mortal sin, enough to terminate one’s career.
    Honor thy fathers. You must give credit to the previously-published work of other scientists.
    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Misrepresenting another scientist’s work merits public exposure and condemnation. (The creationists never understand just how immoral their quote-mining seems to scientists.)
    Love thy neighbor. Ad hominem arguments are not acceptable in scientific discourse.
    By their works ye shall know them. If Linus Pauling is a legend and Watson and Crick are complete unknowns, whose model of DNA is accepted? W&C’s– because theirs is right and Pauling’s was wrong.
    Let your yeas be yeas, and your nays, nays. Scientists must define their variables explicitly, and not fudge and say, ‘oh, I really meant something else’ if their hypothesis is disproven. (This is actually why theism versus atheism doesn’t much matter in practicing science. God, whether he/she/it exists or not, is too fuzzy a variable to produce clear results.)
    This could probably be worked up to ten commandments, but the point is, scientists, whether theists or atheists, do have strict rules of ethics– which the creationists constantly violate. This point needs to be hammered into the public discourse. The creationists aren’t just getting a few dry facts wrong– they are undermining the entire ethical basis of science. Letting the fundies get away with claiming they represent morality is, in my opinion, morally wrong.

  11. #11 MartinC
    May 29, 2007

    hoary puccoon, that is a good point.
    To write a scientific paper capable of passing peer review you need to complete about twenty double spaced A4 pages of text and figures without a single untruth. Try to find a single creationist or ID paragraph that doesn’t contain a lie or distortion of some kind or other. It is no wonder they never get anything published.
    Still, my own personal view on the matter is that we will never defeat them in the religious arena by using science. We need to promote critical thinking amongst their followers and the best means to do this is ridicule.

  12. #12 Chris' Wills
    May 29, 2007

    The whole is-there-a-god thing bores me. But why doesn’t anyone emphasize how ethical science is– and how unethical the creationists look to scientists?….
    ….Letting the fundies get away with claiming they represent morality is, in my opinion, morally wrong.
    Posted by: hoary puccoon |

    Excellent idea :o)
    Do you mind if I use your list or the idea?

  13. #13 hoary puccoon
    May 29, 2007

    Chris- No problem. If other people can make use of this, I’m all for it.

  14. #14 Jeff Webber
    May 29, 2007

    I also would like to copy this list just in case (VERY well put!)

  15. #15 Lawrence M. Krauss
    May 29, 2007

    thanks for the transcript… it was difficult, and I wasn’t
    entirely pleased.. the segment kept getting cut and it was of course hard to actually say anything.. I agree that if I had had time to finish my last sentence I may have said something along the lines of what you suggested (as in fact I have done in the past), but, alas, I didn’t have time… although if you read my comment earlier you see I tried to make the point that considerations of purpose are not scientific ones…

  16. #16 Jim Ramsey
    May 29, 2007

    Here’s an irony. I’m willing to bet that Ken Ham has never read the account of Creation in Genesis. He’s read translations, but that’s not the same thing. A real Biblical scholar can correct me, but I thought the Genesis creation accounts (recall that there are 2 creation accounts) bounced around as oral tradition before being written down and that the original written versions are lost.

    To get a sense of what I mean, imagine translating Mark Twains “Life on the Mississippi” into Arabic. Now try to imagine using the Arabic edition to navigate the Mississippi.

    So, in fact, Ham proposes to use an oral tradition spoken in a language he does not speak and then transcribed into a language which he does not read as the foundation of his understanding of how the world began.

    Here’s another example. Look at how much information is lost just in the transcription of this short segment on the Factor. Or as Jason puts it:

    Krauss’ final statement came in the midst of a lot of crosstalk, so I’m not sure if I got his words exactly right. I definitely got the sentiment right, however, …

    Multiply this by a few thousand years.

  17. #17 Reginald Selkirk
    May 29, 2007

    HAM: Well, there are many in the church that would say that evolution and creation are compatible.

    The church? As if there is a single Christian church, rather than a crazy quilt of thousands of churches with wildly disparate beliefs.

    KRAUSS: I think it’s worth jumping in here, there are literally millions of people who are people of faith who understand that science tells us how old the world is. And they don’t have to feel like they’re atheists because they don’t buy this nonsense.

    And what would be so terrible about feeling that you’re an atheist? It works for me. The only down side is the stigma that has been foisted on atheism by millenia of slander from the superstitious.

  18. #18 Caledonian
    May 29, 2007

    I suppose we might consider people who believe in a Hollow Earth, alien saucer abductions, or Elvis’ survival and retirement to a nursing home in Texas, ‘scientists’.

    But they wouldn’t be very good scientists.

    Theism represents a failure to apply scientific reasoning. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are in various scientific professions who fail to apply that reasoning to all sorts of things – but it diminishes their credibility and impartiality.

    If they’re willing to suspend reason for one set of beliefs that they favor, why not another? Without the rigorous honesty that causes scientists to report and consider results incompatible with their cherished beliefs, how can fraud or just plain error be avoided?

  19. #19 Linzel
    May 29, 2007

    Christianity caused a 1000+ year delay in the correct view of a circular world by replacing a Ptolemaic world view with a biblical world view. Evolutionary theory has just begun its work.

  20. #20 doctorgoo
    May 29, 2007

    Considering how much the odds were stacked against him, it’s clear that Krauss won the argument. And why is this? Because he framed the argument properly… by reminding moderate Christians (who are a majority of Christians in the US, although comparatively silent) that only crackpot wingnut fundamentalists like Ham believe in a literal Genesis.

    KRAUSS: I think it’s worth jumping in here, there are literally millions of people who are people of faith who understand that science tells us how old the world is. And they don’t have to feel like they’re atheists because they don’t buy this nonsense.

    Whether some other atheists might nitpick this statement, it’s clear from Kitzmiller and many other cases that this is a VERY powerful argument to convince the public that Evolutionary Theory should be taught in schools.

  21. #21 AJS
    May 29, 2007

    Science and religion are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level. Science starts from the standpoint that everything can be explained. Religion starts from the standpoint that some things cannot be explained.

    If you believe that everything can be explained, then you leave no room for gods. If you believe that some things cannot be explained, then you are denying science. It is not possible simultaneously to believe two conflicting statements in any meaningful way.

  22. #22 doctorgoo
    May 29, 2007

    Science and religion are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level.

    Absolutely 100% true. But when it comes to leading Christians towards a more scientific mindset, pointing out the ways in which science and evolution are (at least superficially) compatible will gain more converts than simply agreeing with those creationists who argue that it’s impossible to be both a scientist and a Christian.

  23. #23 PZ Myers
    May 29, 2007

    Why? Are Christians idiot children who need to be led with baby-talk?

    I guess what I find most disrespectful to religious people aren’t the ones who tell them their beliefs are utter nonsense (PZ raises his hands…yeah, that’s me) but the ones who think the religious are unable to comprehend that others disagree with them strongly, and that they need to be suckered into coming halfway to us by lying a little bit. We make progress by setting out clear positions that accurately reflect our views…not some imaginary in-between position that very few believe, and that we don’t believe.

  24. #24 Cappy
    May 29, 2007

    Bill O’Riely thinks he IS God.

  25. #25 Bob C
    May 29, 2007

    Linzel’s comment that “Christianity caused a 1000+ year delay in the correct view of a circular [presumably spherical, RC]world by replacing a Ptolemaic worldview with a biblical worldview” is wrong on a number of counts. It was by adhering to the Ptolemaic worldview in the face of mounting evidence that the earth moves round the sun, that the Catholic church held back science, at least in the part of Europe where catholicism predominated. This did cause problems for a couple of hundred years. The few scholars who held out for a flat earth, such as Cosmas Indicopleustes were simply ignoramuses, even by the standards of the day. (Every age seems burdened with a supersufficiency of ignoramuses.)

    Cheers,
    Bob

  26. #26 Flex
    May 29, 2007

    PZ wrote, “I guess what I find most disrespectful to religious people aren’t the ones who tell them their beliefs are utter nonsense….”

    While I agree with you, I doubt that most of the fanatical religious see it that way.

    Those with strong religious convictions are not idiot children, and we should not lie to them. But we have to understand that we will raise the ire of those who have strong religous convictions when we challenge them with reason and logic. The pussy-footing around is not a deliberate attempt to lie, but an attempt to avoid the anger.

    Finally, regardless of the arguments we make, we will be accused of lying. Eventually these accusations may be solely from the few remaining staunch believers in the literal reality of a book of fiction, and with any luck we are only a couple generations from this point. But until this point is reached, there will be plenty of people who will compromise their own position in order to avoid strife.

  27. #27 Scott Hatfield
    May 29, 2007

    I appreciate PZ’s straight talk, though of course many Christians are infantile.

    I also think that the word ‘convert’ as used by doctorgoo is revealing. It is precisely the impression of attempting to convert belief that I would think we would wish to avoid.

    Ultimately, the point of agreement is not the question of straight talk about the claims of theists, Christians included. It is the question of whether or not we are going to defend the nature of science, or not. The problem is not that some Christians believe in a 6,000 year old earth. The problem is that some of them are attempting to pass it off as science and that puts them on a collision course with those of us who care about science education.

  28. #28 Gary Hurd
    May 29, 2007

    When one of the AiG gang claims that science undermines Christian morality, my response is that using lies to promote Christian morality is not only hypocritical, but worse is counter effective. This was recognized by Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) as well as Thomas Aquinas. When young people are lied to (the Earth is 6000 years old, there were humans and dinosaurs together on the Ark, even that there was a Noah’s Ark) they are more likely reject the entire Christian message.

    Further, there are millions of Chrisitans who see no conflict between evolution or any science and their faith. Ham and his gang are insisting scientists resolve this theological debate by supressing science. Rather than a scientist and a fundamentalist debating this, the argument is between competing branches of co-religionists.

  29. #29 island
    May 29, 2007

    I didn’t have time… although if you read my comment earlier you see I tried to make the point that considerations of purpose are not scientific ones…

    So if there is a thermodynamic conservation law which brings carbon based life into existence for a specific reason, then this is not scientific because it indicates that we have a real purpose in nature.

    I don’t think so, Larry, and the fact that you might not know of any such law, off-hand, doesn’t mean that science in context with purpose in nature, is unscientific.

  30. #30 doctorgoo
    May 29, 2007

    PZ, If they know you’re an atheist, then they already know that a strong disagreement exists. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll automatically tune you out as long as they don’t feel like they’re being insulted. (Hatfield, I agree that “convert” is a loaded term that isn’t best to use here. I simply meant “getting others to agree with our position”.)

    In general, I’ve found that in order to convince people to agree with you, it’s always best to having a starting point that everyone can agree with. A good starting point for moderate Christians in this debate would be to point out the issues where we already agree… i.e. that Evolutionary Theory as taught in high schools does NOT disagree with a moderate (or liberal) interpretation of the Bible. This way, we can put aside many of our core disagreements for the common (though maybe short-term) good.

    After all, if the YECs and the old-earth IDists can put aside their obvious disagreements to fight on the same team, then I think we too can welcome moderate Christians into the fold and let them help in the fight against fundamentalist dogma in biology classes too.

    And if the main goal is to convince people to drop religious superstitions altogether, I don’t think we should skip over the benchmarks (like the acceptance of Evolutionary Theory in public high schools) and jump straight to non-belief. Sometimes I wonder if you realize that Christians are very unlikely to agree with your position unless they’re already sitting on the proverbial fence when it comes to their beliefs. So most will just ignore you simply because they perceive you as being too obnoxious.

    In this regard, you (PZ) do a fair amount of expressing your arguments in a way that is VERY convincing… but sometimes in a tone that is insulting enough for many moderate Christians to automatically want to tune you out, resulting in them not being willing to fight against the Creationism of Ken Ham.

    Imagine if Krauss hadn’t said:

    I would agree that it’s certainly plausible, that science doesn’t disprove the fact that there potentially is purpose to the universe, but whether or not I believe that, or Mr. Ham believes it, evolution happened, and the Earth is four and a half billion years old. It isn’t six thousand years old.

    If he phrased it something similar to “religion and science are incompatible”, followed by listing the common arguments from the atheist perspective… then that’s basically just agreeing with Ham (and handing him a minor victory).

    But more importantly, this appears to be when the tide of the conversation turned against Ham. If something even remotely disrespectful towards Christians was said instead, then surely Kasich would have focused on this instead of putting Ham on the defensive and forcing him to admit that “there are many in the church that would say that evolution and creation are compatible.”… followed by Kasich cutting him off and belittling his concept that a literal Genesis is all that important.

    I know I’ve rambled on more than a bit here, so let me see if I can summarize it concisely… Be as honest and straght-forward in your arguments, but do so in a way that the other side will be most receptive to hearing it. If this means that our side needs to focus on smaller goals temporarily, then by all means, let’s do so. Instead of seeing this as losing our main focus, we should think of it as building the foundation for future ‘battles’.

  31. #31 DuWayne
    May 29, 2007

    AJS -

    Science and religion are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level. Science starts from the standpoint that everything can be explained. Religion starts from the standpoint that some things cannot be explained.

    If you believe that everything can be explained, then you leave no room for gods. If you believe that some things cannot be explained, then you are denying science. It is not possible simultaneously to believe two conflicting statements in any meaningful way.

    I was just in a discussion about methodological naturalism, my answer to which applies to this as well. I think the notion that that which many people attribute as supernatural, is a false dichotomy. I have some very strong theistic type notions (I do not believe in revealed religion, but I do believe in an interventionist God). I do not, however, attribute them to something outside of the natural world. If God and/or the spiritual exists, it is natural and potentially quantifiable. I couldn’t begin to tell someone where to start, in the attempt to quantify or measure the spiritual, but my beliefs are based in the notion that either the spiritual exists, is natural and potentially empirically observable, or I am mistakenly attributing the divine to what is merely extraordinary coincidence.

    Put simply, I do believe that everything can be explained, including God, but the mechanism for quantifying and measuring the spiritual, simply do not yet exist. Too, my spiritual beliefs are quite meaningful to me. Please do not take this to mean that I think that science, in any way, supports my belief. I just believe that it is possible that it eventually could.

  32. #32 harold
    May 29, 2007

    I agree that Krauss was wrong to imply that Dawkins or other atheists don’t have a perfect right to express their views. But I disagree with this…

    “As readers of this blog know, in my view in terms of intellectual credibility theistic evolution is only a very marginal improvement over Ham’s literalism.”

    I guess the key words here are ‘in my view’. To this reader, on the other hand, the suggestion that the views of Kenneth Miller or the Dalai Lama are ‘only a very marginal improvement over Ham’s literalism’ is quite unfair.

    “It is, nonetheless, the default position of people trying to maintain the illusion that science and religion are compatible.”

    This statement is more or less meaningless in the abscence of a definition of ‘religion’. What is ‘religion’? If you’re trying to claim that another person’s religion, as they define it, is ‘incompatible with science’, it stands to reason that you would have to have a very complete understanding of their religious beliefs.

    AJS wrote –

    “Science and religion are irreconcilable, at the most fundamental level. Science starts from the standpoint that everything can be explained. Religion starts from the standpoint that some things cannot be explained.”

    There is no reference here. I certainly don’t agree with this at all. I don’t agree with this statement about science, nor with this statement about religion. Where did this come from?

    I hope I’m not provoking any intense anger, nor false assumptions that I myself practice traditional Christianity, by raising these issues.

    Also, I might add, I personally don’t think that anyone who believes otherwise should pretend to think that science and religion are compatible, just to make religious people feel better. I don’t think they are necessarily incompatible, and I think that those who feel they are are oversimplifying what is meant by religion, but if I thought they were, I wouldn’t suggest lying about it.

  33. #33 Grodge
    May 29, 2007

    Why do religionists believe the things they do???

    It’s for any number of reasons, but the predominant emotion is fear. This is a big scary world and then we die, thus passing into an unknown oblivion. Freaky.

    When a group– scientists, atheists, school board members– come along and imply that their religion is silly, the religionists’ behavioral responses such as defensiveness and anger would be expected. They get their morality from these Biblical fairy tales and their ministers are telling them that all you evolutionists want to take it away, leaving them and their kids at sea without direction.

    I’m not sure what to do, and I’m sure there are other dynamics playing as well, such as the snake-oil salesmen out to make a buck, but we must remember that much of the sentiment backing religion is genuine.

    “Teach ‘em all science” is not valid. There will always be some who have that need for a god or a religion– which is why study now is taking place in a new field called “neuro-theology.”

  34. #34 llewelly
    May 29, 2007

    Chris:

    [Jason:]

    …It is, nonetheless, the default position of people trying to maintain the illusion that science and religion are compatible….

    Gee thanks.
    How about being blunter in your contempt for scientists who are also theists.
    Is their science polluted and yours pure?
    Do you agree with Ham that science is atheist and leads to atheism?

    There is no evidence of an interventionist god. Most European and Middle-Eastern religions assume a strongly interventionist god – to the extent that members of these religions find a non-interventionist god either unrecognizable or pointless. Were it not for the pervasiveness of ‘partitioning’ science would lead to atheism – or to a kind of Einsteinian pantheism, which many religious people would find indistinguishable from atheism.
    Science and interventionist theism can only co-exist because the human brain has a remarkable (and often necessary) ability to assign issues to different domains, and approach these issues with domain-specific thinking methods. But at the same time, many scientists are well aware that domains and domain-specific thinking methods are convenient thinking shortcuts, that applying the thinking of one domain to another can result in novel discoveries, and that shortcuts can lead one astray. When the partitions between science and interventionist theism are adjusted, or become permeable, interventionist theism is likely to dissolve.
    In short, for once in his life, Ken Ham is nearly right; science often does lead to disbelief in interventionist gods, which Ken Ham likely finds indistinguishable from atheism.

  35. #35 Science Avenger
    May 29, 2007

    I thought Krauss’ performance was fabulous. Kasich is a pontificating pious ass, and regularly takes positions completely biased against atheists. Krauss played that angle perfectly, and I’m with PZ on being a bit militant about these things. But no point in doing so if the host is going to give the stage to some charletan like Ham as a result.

    Far better that it went like it did – Ham was such a rigid fool that even with a host clearly bending over backwards to help him look reasonable, he still came off as very surly, whereas Krauss was downright chipper, gleefully accepting the wonder of mystery, and yet getting in the strong claim of “nonsense”.

    Plus Ham is just a scary looking guy. I had the same reaction when I first saw Ted Haggert. I’d really be shocked if Ham helped his cause here.

  36. #36 David Heddle
    May 29, 2007

    Grodge,

    It’s for any number of reasons, but the predominant emotion is fear. This is a big scary world and then we die, thus passing into an unknown oblivion. Freaky.

    That’s a bunch of crap. What is your evidence that it is fear, other than that sounds right to you? I know of very few Christians whose tesitimony involves fear.

    When a group– scientists, atheists, school board members– come along and imply that their religion is silly, the religionists’ behavioral responses such as defensiveness and anger would be expected.

    No, quite a few of us understand that you have no choice but to consider it silly. We don’t take it personally at all. We have no anger, not even a tad.

    They get their morality from these Biblical fairy tales and their ministers are telling them that all you that all you evolutionists want to take it away, leaving them and their kids at sea without direction.

    I have attended conservative churches all my Christian life. I never heard one minister argue that “evolutionists want to take it [morality] away, leaving [us] and [our] kids at sea without direction.” Not one.

    Making so many gross generalizations in one small comment is no way to argue a point.

    As for the compatibility of science and theism–they are perfectly compatible. Only peas in a pod, like Dawkins and Ham, who despise one or the other, find them incompatible.

    The circumstantial evidence is that not one person here arguing the incompatibility can match the scientific output and credentials of Miller, Collins, Penzias, Townes, …

    If their religion is incompatible with their science, and yet they are indisputably productive scientists, then what exactly does that incompatibility mean? If their religion has no deleterious effect on the quality of their science in what meaningful sense are they incompatible?

  37. #37 Science Avenger
    May 29, 2007

    Fabuluous stuff on the Science Commandments Hoary Puccoon. I’ve featured it on my blog, and am soliciting additions. I’ll add:

    7) The facts will lead us out of the land of ignorance. We shall hold no fact above all others. In science, everything is fair game for inquiry and challenge.

  38. #38 Robert O'Brien
    May 29, 2007


    There is no evidence of an interventionist god. Most European and Middle-Eastern religions assume a strongly interventionist god – to the extent that members of these religions find a non-interventionist god either unrecognizable or pointless. Were it not for the pervasiveness of ‘partitioning’ science would lead to atheism – or to a kind of Einsteinian pantheism, which many religious people would find indistinguishable from atheism.

    I forgive you this nonsense; Mormonism clearly left you worse for the wear.

  39. #39 Robert O'Brien
    May 29, 2007

    Ham and his gang are insisting scientists resolve this theological debate by suppressing science.

    And he is trading on his slight resemblance to Honest Abe while doing so!

  40. #40 Robert O'Brien
    May 29, 2007

    Theism represents a failure to apply scientific reasoning. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are in various scientific professions who fail to apply that reasoning to all sorts of things – but it diminishes their credibility and impartiality.

    Once again Caleduncian demonstrates he is a do-nothing philosopher and not a scientist.

  41. #41 Koray
    May 29, 2007

    Ken Ham says that they had PhD’s on-board with degrees from secular institutions. This is the crux of the problem in the public arena. This illusion of a controversy is possible because these frauds get to keep their degrees while manufacturing delusions.

    The public will never follow deep scientific debates to detect these people as fraud. It’s up to the scientific community to do something about it.

    God vs Science is the secondary concern here. The general problem applies whenever somebody wants to abuse science, e.g. big bad business, evil politicians, etc. for a number of subjects like global warming, new drugs, new energy sources, etc.

  42. #42 Tyler DiPietro
    May 29, 2007

    Wait a minute, was that really Larry Krauss up there?

  43. #43 Grodge
    May 29, 2007

    David Heddle says, “As for the compatibility of science and theism–they are perfectly compatible.”

    The question has concerned the theism of Biblical literalists, as referenced in the main discussion of this thread about the Creation Museum, and that IS NOT compatible with science.

    I’m glad for you that you have no fear of the unknown. You may be the first person I’ve met. For most of us, fear, especially of death and eternity, is exactly what brings us to our religious practice and dogma. Do I have a reference?

    http://brainmind.com/DreamsSpiritsSouls.pdf

    Which says in excerpt:

    And now Israel, what does the Lord your god require of you, but to fear the Lord your god. -Deuteronomy 10:12.

    Fear…is often the most potent means of eliciting religious feeling, for even a committed atheist when confronted with the possibility of a horrifying death may cry out to god.

    The Lord God Yahweh, in fact, depends on
    fear, and glories in terrifying his subjects in order to reveal his presence and power: The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. -Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33.

    God has come… in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you so that you do not go astray. -Exodus 20:17.

    Perhaps I should have added that compassion and love are also triggers for religious inspiration, but I cannot see that Creationists are motivated by love and compassion when they choose to ignore the science of evolution and radioisotope dating. My view is that they have some other strong emotion, such as fear, that presses them to distrust scientists. Am I missing something?

    Krauss has spent the better part of his career trying to separate the subjective religious from the objective science inside the classroom. Maybe compassion is driving Biblical literalists to promote their dogma, but I doubt it.

  44. #44 Bob Evans
    May 29, 2007

    “Fear”,Grodge, in the biblical sense, is interpreted as “awe” and “reverence”. It is not defined as “terror”. Getting beyond the semantic “Tower of Babble” which often gets in the way of a cogent discourse between theist and atheist is job 1 in paving the way for productive dialogue down the road.

    Bob Evans

  45. #45 Grodge
    May 29, 2007

    Bob, I’ll put you down as a Biblical non-literalist.

    The reference discusses brain physiology and religious belief. Perhaps this is outside the realm of this blog about evolution, but I can see some validity to this discussion.

    Why do people have religious belief?

  46. #46 Bob Evans
    May 29, 2007

    Speaking only for myself, Grodge, I can tell you why I have religious belief. I believed in God, more or less by rote, until I was 35. I suppose it was the parochial school backround until then that caused me to have little problem with my “blind” faith. I immagine there are plenty of “blind” atheists out there as well; people who heard it from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone else.

    Finding a lot more time on my hands, mid-life, I decided it was finally time for me to personally explore my “faith”. I started by investigating the nearly 1100 Old Testament prophecies of the coming “Messiah” that seem to find their fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. I didn’t have to explore too many before I was pretty much rock solid in my belief in God.

    http://biblia.com/jesusbible/prophecies.htm provides a few paragraphs of prelude before citing 50 of these prophecies. This is an extract from that link: ” George Heron, a French mathematician, calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling only 40 of those prophecies are 1 in 10 to the power of 157. That is a 1 followed by 157 zeros. Compare it to this; your odds on winning the state lottery are 14 followed by 6 zeros.” The apparent fulfillment of this panoply of Old Testament prophesy, that seem to find fulfillment in the person of the Jesus of the New Testament, is the science upon which my personal faith is based.

  47. #47 Caledonian
    May 29, 2007

    I immagine there are plenty of “blind” atheists out there as well; people who heard it from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone else.

    I doubt this is the case. Atheism is in many ways counterintuitive, and religious belief is a ubiquitous element in human culture. In America especially, few people persist in their atheism because they’ve never been exposed to a competing meme.

    Did you look for competing interpretations of your prophesies, Bob? Or did you only read sources that were trying to support your pre-chosen position?

  48. #48 Bob Evans
    May 29, 2007

    No, Caledonian, I didn’t look for ” competing interpretations ” in the early days of my exploration. I was a library guy at that time and I was pretty much looking for books that had been recommended to me by persons of my own faith. However, in the two years that I have been on the net I’ve had a chance to read some of the counter-interpretations by Jewish theologians and others interested in refuting the Christian outlook. I can truly say that I was as objective as I could have been in looking at both sides of the coin. Remember, I was searching, and I think I’ll continue to search until my dying day. This is why I’ve described my faith a couple of times now as myopic, rather than blind. But there were enough there that seemed powerful enough to me, to throw in with the Christian interpretation. Isaiah 7:14 is as good an example as I can offer.

  49. #49 James McGrath
    May 29, 2007

    What I dare to hope is happening is that the cocky self-assuredness that Ham and others like him could have as long as people remained polarized, and felt that they had to choose between God and evolution, between the Bible and meaning on the one hand and secular science and meaninglessness on the other. Faced with that choice, the heart would trump the head most of the time. But as more and more individuals emphasize (as was done on the talk show) that it is a false dichotomy, that one does not have just two options at the extremes to choose from, the views of people like Ham start seeming increasingly silly. Not yet to the majority of American fundamentalist Christians, I admit, but to a growing number of thinking Christians, even some conservative ones. It gives one reason to hope!

    http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog/

  50. #50 Grodge
    May 29, 2007

    Bob, why did you feel the need to “search”? And why was it important to be “objective”?

    Not being contrarian, just wondering what the motivation was?

  51. #51 Bob Evans
    May 30, 2007

    I felt …” the need to “search”, simply because the essence of my faith was purely based on the didactical regimen of instruction I had received formerly in three parochial schools in my formative years. That was pretty much the sole basis of my Christian belief.

    I didn’t consciously feel “…it was important to be “objective”. I knew that I wasn’t interested in finding answers that conveniently reinforced my long held beliefs.

  52. #52 Mark Baker
    May 30, 2007

    That George Heron snippet really makes for a chuckle. Vaguely sourced claims about incalculable probabilities obtained through unknown means, pertaining to events chronicled in a collection of books, whose contents have no obvious basis in reality, written after the fact to establish the legitimacy of the subject’s claims.

  53. #53 Adam
    May 30, 2007

    I first encountered Ham’s poisonous tripe in my High School back in the early 80s. The Maths Master had experienced a spontaneous remission that he attributed to a miracle and as a result read every bit of Ham’s offerings at the time (“Evolution – The Lie” stands out in my mind), then proceeded to propagate the memetic contagion through out the school. Mental child-abuse. I was the only person who stood up as an evolutionist whenever the issue arose (it was a Church School after all.) Back in the early 80s here in Queensland, Australia, the State Government tacitly supported the teaching of Cretinism in school.

    Having a school library denuded of decent biology books meant I had to look elsewhere for some self-education on the relevant issues – my prize possession was a book on Prehistoric Life illustrated by Zdenek Burian, which had a phylogram of the link between invertebrates and vertebrates which was almost an icon for me of evolution’s truth.

    Anyway at that time I realised that Ham wasn’t just deluded, but actually evil – as inspired of the Devil as he claimed evolutionary scientists to be. He shows all the classic signs of a cult leader and luckily he hasn’t holed up in a compound for a final shoot-out with Big Bad “Secular” Government in the 20 years since.

  54. #54 Tyler Durden
    May 30, 2007

    Hi guys,

    I’m discussing Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection with a good friend of mine (we’ll call him “Dave”), he understands the basic concepts but is having trouble with the following concept:

    If species X moves out of the water and onto the land for whatever means, what is the spark that moves the genes to enable species X to develop, for example, legs?>

    Without him having to read “The Extended Phenotype” by Dawkins (not his type of book), is there a layman’s explanation?

    It is my understanding that over a given timeline, if species X moves from one environment to another, either thru adaptation or mutation, it will be the genes (the extended phenotype) that instigate this “change” in order to survive and adapt.

    The genes have the intelligence to make this change (grow a leg; grow lungs; grow hair) built into them and it is the active replicator that ensures this change happens over the given timeline in order to ensure the survival of species X.

    So, if species X needs legs to survive on land having once lived in the sea, it will be the active replicator that “triggers” the switch in the chromosomes/DNA to ensure this adaptation/mutation starts and continues throughout the species ensuring survival, until it becomes a dead-end replicator.

    “Dave” reckons the intelligence for this change had to come from somewhere, I reckon it’s embedded in the genes themseleves (the alleles?). He’s unsure but knows it’s not God :-)

    Am I on the right track with this? Any help would be most welcome.

    Best regards.

  55. #55 argystokes
    May 30, 2007

    Tyler -

    You are not on the right track at all, if I am reading you correctly. Genes (almost always) do not respond to the environment. So for your example of species X moving onto land, it would be wrong to expect mutations for survival on land to occur at a frequency greater than that which occurs in the sea-dwelling species X. Instead, the individuals with a mutation that facilitates life on land will have a greater survival opportunity than those without the mutation (on land!), and will therefore tend to propogate themselves. The gene with the mutation will therefore also propogate itself.

    The genes themselves have no intelligence, and I think you’ve misread Dawkins.

  56. #56 Kevin
    May 30, 2007

    “Genes (almost always) do not respond to the environment. ”

    except that there appears to be a feedback mechanism with RNA hitting binding sites and sort of opening up the gene to more frequent changes during copying. or something I’m not sure.

    here is a blurb on binding sites

    (3) binding sequences: those DNA sequences that are not transcribed into RNA nor translated into protein, but which function as binding sites for regulatory molecules such as repressor proteins, homeotic gene products, etc. While such sequences do not code for the production of a transcribed or translated gene product, they still participate in the regulation of other genes by serving as regulatory binding sites;

    I think we will find some loop that promotes changes in genes that DO effect needed trait development.

    some research in changes in plants:

    http://pcp.oxfordjournals.org:80/cgi/content/abstract/pcj072v1

  57. #57 Science Avenger
    May 30, 2007

    Tyler, you are anthropomorphizing way too much and it is muddying the waters unnecessarily:

    it will be the genes (the extended phenotype) that instigate this “change” in order to survive and adapt.

    No. There is no instigation, per se (noting Kevin’s point, but teach the basics first, then the nuance). Genes mutate all the time, because the DNA replication system is imperfect (which to me shoots down all the ID nonsense right away). So every generation has variation in their genetic makeup, and this influences how many of them will survive to have offspring of their own, and how many they have. The evolution of the leg happened, at the most basic, because it caused those that evolved it to have more children than those that didn’t, not because those that evolved it wanted to survive.

    For example, let’s say you want a high value on a die, so you roll several of them, and pick the highest valued one, which happened to be a 5. Now, the way you described evolution, I’m supposed to believe the die rolled itself into a 5 because it wanted to get picked. See the problem?

    The genes are the dice, the rolling of the dice is procreation, the selection of the dice is natural selection. That’s a very rough picture, and each of those generalizations require much more detail, but basically that’s the answer to your question.

  58. #58 Corey
    May 31, 2007

    I like the fact that you start off by first insulting the Creationist Ken Ham as “Representing darkness and ignorance”. I am thankful that there are people like you that like to attack the integrity of the person before hearing him out. The beginning of your blog is already one-sided. Why put a preconceived idea into your reader’s minds without first allowing them to look at the facts? Why attack the man before his words? If The Creationists world view or the Evolutionary world view is correct, then why not allow the facts hit the table and let everybody see for themselves what is true? The truth will speak for itself.

  59. #59 Kevin
    May 31, 2007

    “I like the fact that you start off by first insulting the Creationist Ken Ham as “Representing darkness and ignorance”. I am thankful that there are people like you that like to attack the integrity of the person before hearing him out. ”

    HAH HAH… do you think that Ham’s account of biblical creation is not well known to Jason R and this community? Have not his lies and prevarications not been exposed time and time again? The greatest harm that he does was not even on display in this to-do; that is reserved for his lying to the parents of kids that are then taught a false view of science and the world.

    “If The Creationists world view or the Evolutionary world view is correct, then why not allow the facts hit the table and let everybody see for themselves what is true?”

    The creationists have no “facts”. They practice no science and have no regard for the truth. The entire point of Ham is that when facts and the bible conflict, the bible wins. That’s it. all facts, theories, discoveries MUST conform to the literal word.

    Anyone see Sam Blowhard’s oped in the NY Times? now that needs a post.

  60. #60 Corey
    May 31, 2007

    Facts are what belief is based on. If there are no facts then that would be considered a blind faith, correct? If the “facts” of the Creationists are wrong then Creationism is wrong. If the “facts” for Evolution are wrong then evolution is wrong. I merely want the people within this blog to think about respecting the person and their stance and to hold off from challenging them until they have made a point. Without the first point, the other person has no basis by which to challenge him. I agree that Creationists may do the same thing, but that mean that it is right? There needs to be a mutual respect of persons. It is not the person that is to be attacked but their beliefs that need to be challenged. Why should we not respect the other person if we desire them to in turn respect us?

  61. #61 Kevin
    May 31, 2007

    “Facts are what belief is based on”

    I don’t believe that is the case. Knowledge is based on facts. Belief is based on assumptions, feelings and hunches.

    “If the “facts” of the Creationists are wrong then Creationism is wrong. If the “facts” for Evolution are wrong then evolution is wrong. I merely want the people within this blog to think about respecting the person and their stance and to hold off from challenging them until they have made a point.”

    But fine then, since the creationist have no “facts” we can infer that the “facts” are wrong and that the creationists are wrong.

    What was the point you wanted to make? Besides that you want respect for a stance (Ham’s I guess) that has been found lacking morally and physically? Anything else?

    You can’t do science when all the answers have to conform to a philosophy text. Do the science first, i.e. uncover the “facts” of the situation, and then find a “theory” that best explains what you have. Don’t start with a creation myth and shoehorn all the data into it by waving your hands and lying.

  62. #62 Corey
    June 1, 2007

    I don’t want to point here to be missed. If the man hasn’t made a point yet, then he shouldn’t be challenged. If the man is challenged before he makes a point, that is an accusation and the person has no ground since the man hasn’t made a point. Accusations lead to slander. If we all of us are to genuinely seek the truth we must first have respect for the other person. If we attack a person before hearing their points or beliefs, then we are not building ground on what he truly believes, but on what we perceive he believes. Let the man make his point and that will set the ground for a rebuttal. All that I am asking for is that we respect one another, as persons, but that we challenge one another, through what we perceive as “true” are “certain”. If it came down to a certain topic or situation and I was wrong, if you just slandered my character, how will I then come to accept what you have to say? Everything that you are saying could be true, but that doesn’t give you the right to attack my character. Separate the person from what they believe. There is no point in attacking the person forcing them to believe what you say, but if you challenge what they believe then the person will be challenged. A person follows his beliefs.

    A belief in this sense is based on what we perceive as “fact”. If what we have held to as “fact” are actually not true, then I would want a person to tell me the truth. Am I not correct? If what I believe is not true it is the moral obligation of an individual to correct. Especially with something as monumental as the Creation Evolution debate. I want us the think about how we order the facts before they come in. If the order of how we handle them is wrong then no matter how true they may be, we can run the risk of rejecting what is actually true.

    I agree with you that we are to do the science first and then create the theory. You have to have a hypothesis first before you can do the testing. Without a possible goal in mind, science is pointless. Science always has a goal in each of the case-by-case experiments.

  63. #63 David D.G.
    June 1, 2007

    Corey,

    Better people than I have already tried to help you see this, but I’ll give it a try anyhow: Jason’s blog post is, in part, predicated on stuff that has been going on for a long time already. Ham and his ilk have been dishing out this fraudulent, patently dishonest bilge for YEARS, and we are already sick to death of the fact that these people still get national attention and a show of credibility when it is no more warranted than it would be for a village idiot howling at the moon.

    If this blog post was your very first exposure to Ham, I can see how you might get the impression that he is being preemptively accosted; but if that’s what you think, then by all means do a little research into the history of his activities and claims. If you still think that this response here is unwarranted, then you are asking far too much of people. It is unreasonable to expect us to be “respectful” of someone who is intellectually dishonest, who continually denies reality, who distorts the truth, who misrepresents other people’s claims and work, who flat-out LIES (in the name of God, yet!) to support his own delusional and/or duplicitous agenda.

    While certain standards of objectivity and civility are always desirable, there is such a thing as carrying even empiricism too far. If someone has a decades-long history of being a dangerous raving lunatic, it is absurd in the extreme to think that every single appearance should be treated as if we’ve never heard the man speak before and have no idea what his position is. Heck, the man was even being introduced by the show’s host as an enemy of actual science; it just wasn’t couched in quite as loaded terms as Jason chose to use.

    The short response, I guess, is: Please pick your battles more carefully. People in general are deserving of respect only until they prove themselves unworthy of it, and Ham is one of those who threw away any claim to respectability with his disrespectful and despicable activities ages ago.

    ~David D.G.

  64. #64 Tyler Durden
    June 1, 2007

    Thanks lads, much obliged. If I’ve read your posts correctly, it’s a combination of:

    1) Time
    2) Mutation
    3) Natural Selection

    that allows species X to move environments.

    If these 3 factors don’t occur, the species dies out or doesn’t evolve any further.
    If these 3 factors do occur, the species evolves (and survives).

    The simple protein strands contained within the genes/DNA need an *external force* in order to mutate/adapt as there is no, ahem, “intelligence” contained within to allow to change by itself on a given random day.

  65. #65 Peter
    June 1, 2007

    I was raised as an Evangelical Christian. I distinctly remember the first time I saw a book with the word “Evolution” in the title. I literally thought it would burn my hand if I touched it. But I did finally touch it and then read it. I was shocked to find it to be a calm and reasonable explanation of evolution. I had expected it to be dripping with sarcasm and slander regarding religion. There was none. The only place I found sarcasm, emotion-laden arguments and deliberated shading of the truth were in the Creationists books I had purchased at the Institute of Creation Research in Santee, California. (One of those books was by Ken Ham who at the time worked there. By the way, why was he forced to leave and go across the country to Kentucky? What did he believe that Duane Gish and Henry Morris did not?) Because the “christian” books were so angry and nasty in their tone, so very un-Christian, I very slowly began to change my world view. If one attacks and belittles those Christians who ask questions, one cuts off all chance for one’s arguments to have the desired impact. At least that would have been the case for me.

    The beginning of my personal enlightenment had to do with the realization about the true age of the universe. I realized that if the ICR�s god and the Ken Ham�s god were the god Christians were worshipping then that god was a liar or a deceiver. Who else would leave so much evidence on earth and in the heavens that the universe was billions of years old, except a liar? My Christian friends said that god just made the universe appear to be old. He created starlight in transit to look old. The six million annual varves at the Green River deposits in Utah did not represent 6 million years, they just appeared to because god made them that way to test our faith.

    A few years later, creation and evolution became a hot topic in our town as we elected a creationist school board and their beliefs and actions were making national headlines (Vista Unified School District�1992). Because I was a local science teacher and Sunday School teacher, my minister gave me the pulpit for four Sunday evening services in a row. At the time it was a very high interest topic, hundreds attended during those evenings. The vast majority of attendees listened and responded well to the evidence for the ancient age of the earth. Most Christians are moderate. Most have no problem with the ancient age of the earth. Most are decent people who are just trying to find their way in the world.

    The forth and last evening service, I brought up evidence for natural selection as the driving force for speciation on the earth. It could be thought of as God�s driving force of creation set woven into the fabric of our universe. Only we see it linearly so it appears cause and effect. God, however, is above time–in all places at all times. His very being sustains the universe. His creative energy is natural selection. This explanation almost worked. I had them with me. But then I brought in the word �evolution.� That word has been so demonized by ministers (who I have heard) that the very word stopped the progress I was making with the congregation. (In our school district the science teachers call it the �E� word, because it dare not be fully enunciated in class.) That evening ended badly.

    Eventually I left the church. It became even more fundamentalist. Fiery fundamentalist sermons get emotions flowing. The more emotions, the more people think they have heard a great sermon and the looser they are with their donations at collection plate passing time. A minister only stays as minister as long as he keeps the funds coming in. Eventually the minister who invited me to speak was asked to leave. He was not fiery enough besides his teenage daughter became pregnant out of wedlock. Scandal of scandals! That was it for him. There is no tenure or job security for a minister at an
    Evangelical church.

    Given the chance, I still think I might be able to win my former congregation and other Evangelicals over to a more evidence based view of the world if I could just show them that Ken Ham�s and ICR�s views lead to a little god (only ruling a tiny 6 thousand light year wide universe) who has left the world full of his deceptions. A deceptive being who lies describes not god but Satan. Maybe if I had had 6 evening services, who knows?

    In order to begin to change minds one has to start slowly and always be respectful. Insults end discussions and close minds. Before my first Evolution book, I simply turned off and tuned out when I heard a teacher or professor talk about evolution. Because I knew better I heard nothing. I only thought about how wrong evolution was and how silly and sad were those who did not know it. Only because that first book on evolution was so careful to be objective and gentle was I able to make a transition from the very zealous faith of my mother to a more reasoned view of the world and religion. I also was lucky enough to talk with Eugenie Scott who was also very kind and never insulting. Had I started with Vincent Sarich , �we won, you lost, that settles it,� I am not sure I ever would have gotten passed his insults and anger to the meat of his arguments.

    To Hoary Puccoon, those Six Commandments of Science were wonderful. I have also plan to post them to my personal blog with links back. The contrast between the unethical behavior and words of the �christians� espousing �Young Earth� philosophy compared to those who told about evolution pushed me away from the ideas of the creationists. Christians are supposed to be ethical.

    By the way no one believes in Evolution. The Little God Creationists use this framing to show their followers that evolution is a religion. The goal is to convince the faithful that scientist just want to convert them. This is very frightening to the faithful. To convert is to lose all hope of an afterlife. It is also to lose all hope of seeing friends and loved ones again who have pre-deceased you. For many Christians accepting evolution (as a religion) ends all meaning in their lives. Christianity is the over-riding principle around which their lives are organized.

    Instead I think it is better to say we understand the evidence for evolution and accept the conclusions that the evidence leads us to. Just like detectives look at evidence and let it lead to a conclusion about whodunit.

  66. #66 Grodge
    June 2, 2007

    Peter, that was a wonderful summary of various arguments and an entertaining mini-memoir. Thank you.

    Perhaps you can answer a question for me: Why do religionists have such a visceral disdain for all things having to do with evolution? Why do charlatans like Ham, Hovind and David Menton have such a loyal following?

    I mean that as a serious question. It just seems like such an irrational fear that is kindled whenever the subject is broached. To me, it seems like a fear-based reaction that their worldview will be upset and their heavenly eternity will come crashing down.

    Granted, the arguments in favor of evolution, an old earth, natural selection, the fossil record, etc, are so compelling that any cursory appreciation for the facts begins a great unraveling in all irrational belief based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

    This leaves theists to grasp at a more ethereal and vague ideation of “God” ala Kenneth Miller, the avowed Roman Catholic and author of Finding Darwin’s God, who looked for and apparently found “God” in the quanta of the subatomic particles or some such thing. The personal and interventionist God sinks away into the miasma.

    This is scary stuff. We begin to root for William Jennings Bryant against the godless Clarence Darrow. We look for meaning in movies like The Robe and The Greatest Story Ever Told, but realize that if science is correct, then our traditional Judeo-Christian or Muslim worldview is in jeopardy.

    Why do people believe in religion? If we can understand that, then we can begin to understand the resistance to accepting the principles of evolution and all that it entails.

  67. #67 Peter
    June 3, 2007

    I dont know why people believe in religion. I only know why I did and why my views have changed.

    I believed in religion because my parents did, particularly my mother. I was brought up in a household where God was real. There was never any question about that. It was just taken for granted.

    I would never have seriously dated or considered marrying anyone outside my faith. My parents would have been too disappointed. My future wife and I met at our church. The majority of our dating involved church related activities. In college five hundred miles from home, when others around us were drinking or taking drugs or being promiscuous, my future wife and I felt sheltered from the chaos by our faith. Our faith was reinforced by each other.

    After obtaining our teaching credentials, we moved to a small town where my wife was offered a teaching position. The town was hundreds of miles distant from both college and our original home town. Going to church gave us a sense of purpose, a continuity with our past, and a group of friends. Because we attended church I was offered my first full time teaching position. At church I was introduced to a person of influence in the community (later he became a County Supervisor). Unknown to me, he made some phone calls and I was offered a teaching job to start the new school year. At a time of declining enrollment when teaching positions were nearly impossible to find, both my wife and I were employed. God had blessed us!

    A lot of business goes on at a big church. We had inadvertently decided to attend just the right church in that town. It contained many locally important business and civic leaders.

    But why did we believe God? My wife and I were not attending as cynical business owners looking to make connections. My wife and I really believed. There was no question. Part of belief is reinforcement. My beliefs were strongest when I attended most oftenSunday morning for three hours, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. The more I heard others tell me how wonderful God had been to them, the more I believed. (I think that is the lure of Islam as welleven more reinforcementfive times daily) During those years I was young and life was going well, my wife and I just seemed to be blessed. We got jobs. We were able to buy a house just a year out of college. Then we had children. Life was perfect or almost perfect.

    My first disillusionment with my religion came when a really nice member of our church became ill with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was a tireless worker at church. He had a lovely wife and four young daughters under the age of ten. We were all supposed to pray for his healing. I did pray daily. I expected that my prayers and those of others would work. I expected him to get well. I had always been taught that prayer worked. He died. His wife was left with no income. His family, his children were in despair. Finally a year later she married an odd much older (twenty years) man who had enough money to support both her and her daughters. I am not sure she married him for love. She and her now dead husband had been so happy. Their life had been perfect before his cancer. What purpose could his death have had? But God always has a purpose and he is a loving God, right? I just did not understand.

    But we stayed in the church. We stayed as another young father also succumbed to cancer. Then I started to get sick with what seemed to be severe allergies but turned out to be an immune system disorder. No matter how hard I prayed, it did not go away. No matter how good I was I did not get wellmore disillusionment.

    We ended up moving to a more healthy climate hoping I would get better. We found a new church homenew friends and a new sense of community. Then the religious right took over our local school board. I was a science teacher in town and I was forced to make a decision. I read many bookscreationists and pro-evolution. I found that these new style, muscular Christians, were not telling the truth. Facts were being mis-representednot just about science but also about public school teachers and public schools.

    These religious right fanatics are full of suspicion and dislike for schools. They say the most hateful and outrageous things about teachers. They accuse us of attempting to destroy the morals of our students.

    When the teachers union decided to oppose the religious right school board, I chose to support the union. These school board members and their supporters, who called themselves Christians, were so full of anger and so full of lies. They would tell disingenuous and self serving stories about supposed actions of teachers or union bosses. I was at those events that they told the lies about. I never saw or heard what they claimed to have seen and heard. I do not know if they were daft, adroit liars, or just unable to see reality.

    Because I supported the union side, I was more and more marginalized at church. Parents came in to sit and watch me teach Sunday School to the fifth graders. I had taught Sunday School for twenty years at three different churches, no one ever had shown any interest in my teaching before. Never before had someone come in to sit in and monitor me. Parents had always been glad tha someone would volunteer to teach their children while they went off to adult Sunday School.

    I also was becoming more ill, more often. My illness and the feeling of not belonging any more, of being a person others had to be suspicious about, caused my wife and me to stop attending the church. It did not help that our church became embroiled in dissension. (Dissension is very common at churches). The church elders fired our choir director and our youth pastor. I believe that behind the elders decision was a concern that the church was not growing fast enough. Well, really it was the offering. It always is the money. If the choir and the youth activities did not bring in new members and hold them, then there would be less money in the collection plates on Sunday. Sadly the elders did not cite revenues as their reason for the firing. Instead they made insinuations about some vague but very bad wrong doing.

    Now ten years later I am too disabled to work. My youngest son (25 years old) inherited my immune system disorder, but he is far more affected. He cannot walk unaided. He cannot get his own food or drink. He cannot even talk. Four years ago he was a normal college seniorgirlfriends, a job at his college lab, his own apartment. Now all he has is his bed and a chair with a TV in front of it. He was the editor of his college newspaper, now he cannot even use a computer mouse. This was a boy who loved to talk, who loved to socialize who had dozens and dozens of friends. He was very active in the major Christian organization at his secular college. How is it part of some plan of God for him to be imprisoned inside of his bodyin constant pain? The utter pointlessness of a condition like that of my son belies a loving God.

    My sons only hope is for the medical breakthrough. Prayer offers him no hope. Whole churches and their prayer groups had him on there daily prayer lists. He just gets worse.

    There another autobiography but you asked. I have tried to figure out myself why I believed for so long, why it was so important to me. I guess it is upbringing, family tradition, a sense of community with other believers and maybe just a bit of inertia.

  68. #68 Grodge
    June 3, 2007

    Peter, thank you again. You seem like a compassionate and sincere person. Accept my heartfelt best wishes for you and your son. My disillusionment with faith is not nearly as poignant as yours and I thank you for sharing.

    In your opinion, was the church congregation universally opposed to your point of view and concerns about education, or were some members supportive? Was the social pressure to conform within the church too strong for individuals to come to your aide?

    Do you feel that the elders think that they have followed the tenets of Christianity in their prosecution of church affairs? If not, then why do they bother to go through the motions of belonging to the religion?

    The cynical answer is either fear of dissent which might weaken their power base, and/or greed, which is really just another form of worldly attachment based on fear. What do you think their motivations were?

    You don’t have to answer these questions. I’m just fascinated by religious people and organizations that are able to justify duplicity and hypocrisy. (I grew up Roman Catholic, so I have some passing acquaintance with duplicitous religious organizations.)

  69. #69 Jud
    June 4, 2007

    Jason said: “But it really is aggravating that so many atheists have this blind spot when it comes to criticizing religion.”

    Just wondering why you see this as a “blind spot” rather than an informed tactical choice (a choice that may differ from the one you’d make, but a choice nonetheless)?

  70. #70 Peter
    June 5, 2007

    Would the majority of the members have supported us? Maybe. I do not know. Certainly the majority would not have wanted to chase us away. Most church attendees think of themselves as good people and in most ways they are. They do not break laws. They pay their taxes. They go to work and earn money. They do not steal from others or vandalize. The problems are maybe they are too good at following rules—at doing what is expected of them, of not questioning. We have a series of very influential media evangelists who have told the faithful that thy are being persecuted, that they should vote Republican, that abortion and stem cell research are murder, that scientists and liberals are somehow evil.

    It is very easy to fall sway to a media evangelist. The faithful want to do what is right. They can be more easily lead astray. Church goers tend to have problems with gullibility. The often are victims of various financial scams. I think gullibility is far more prevalent in the church going population than in the general population

    There is also the desire not to be left out of the in group. This is reinforced because to be left out of what other church goers find spiritually important means to be out of favor with God. It is very difficult to stand alone in that environment.

    Also zealotry feels so good, having a cause feels terrific. Being part of some great campaign is almost addictive. I am guessing that some kind of emotional endorphin is released. You do what ever needs to be done for your side to win. The cause becomes all consuming. Because you are doing the Lords work, it is easy to go too far. Many of the children of zealots seem to have either attention deficit disorders or risk taking behaviors-climbing on high ledges, taking drugs, drinking too much alcohol, driving too fast.

    The apple does not fall far from the tree. I am guessing there is some genetic predisposition that drives the excessive behaviors of the children and of their parents. The over the top actions the distortions the lies come not from a deliberate attempt to be unfair. I think it is almost genetically driven once a situation is encountered that triggers the behavior.

    Are they purposely duplicitous? No they just somehow jump to conclusion easily especially conclusions that reinforce their world view. Their need to feel good about them selves drives them to actions that they might not take otherwise when they are more thoughtful, more sober. Being a bit of a zealot my self, I can tell you that in the midst of working on a great cause, there is almost an alcoholic giddiness. You get an excess of energy. You become more alive than at any other time in your life. It is not just about being better than others more special more worthyall that is part of the good feeling but it is more. There is definitely something we get from the experience that is almost like a drug. Joining together to fight evil just feels so right so wonderful. Did you ever watch groups of male Muslims joining together and jumping up and down screaming death to Zionism, death to America? I believe they must be feeling the same thing I felt in my younger days when I was part of a great cause to change the world for God.

    Somehow zealotry allows us to do great evil and feel good about it.

  71. #71 wrpd
    June 6, 2007

    Bob Evans: Isaiah 7:14 says that a young woman (not a virgin) is (present tense) with child and shall bear a son and he will be named Immanuel. Jesus was named Jesus, not Immanuel. Read the rest of the chapter and it becomes clear that that verse has nothing to do with Jesus. Many of the so-called prophecies concerning Jesus in the Hebrew Scripture are taken out of context and in no way refer to the Messiah or Jesus. The gospels were not written for historical accuracy; they were propaganda.

  72. #72 Bob Evans
    June 7, 2007

    I’m sorry that verse was not to your liking, wrpd. It was offered in reply to a direct question posed to me by another blogger regarding my method of interpreting the scripture. In proper context, it wasn’t intended to persuade anyone to see it my way. By the way, Immanuel, means: “God with us”. Hundreds of Christian churches have used it to name their Congregations because it is regarded as another name for Christ. While many theists interpret this particular verse completely differently, as was pointed out by Caledonian, it was meant to serve as an example of why I personally regard it as having been fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

    Since you did take me to task, though, tell me where I and vast numbers of Christians of every stripe are going wrong in feeling strongly that Psalm 22:1-18 seems to describe “a man of sorrows”, possibly being crucified? Verses 1, 6-8,14 and 16-18, you might agree, are particularly stirring and inspirational to Christian theists.

    Micah 5:1-15 is also a striking example of biblical prophesy. This is a foretelling of the precise birthplace of the coming “Messiah” It also contains what Christians familiar with the scripture, feel is a vivid statement of the deity and humanity of Jesus of Nazareth.

    This isn’t Reverend Bob trying to convert anyone; I’ve made that clear a few times now. It does reinforce my point, though, that, Christians who have reflected on these scriptures have good reason to regard them as the essence and manifestation of their faith. It’s the only “science” that we have. And there are hundreds of them.

  73. #73 Tyler Durden
    June 7, 2007

    Bob, can I ask you to look at your sentence above from a rational pont of view:

    …that Psalm 22:1-18 seems to describe “a man of sorrows”, possibly being crucified?

    Now, two words scream off the page here: “seems” and “possibly”. Put those two words together in any sentence and it can read like just about anything you want…

    - It seems to be getting dark outside, possibly the end of the word?

    - It seems to be getting colder in December, possibly another ice age?

    - It seems to be raining, possibly to never end?

    Show me where it actually describes an act (i.e. crucifiction) where there is no need for “possibly” in the sentence – otherwise it’s open to interpretation either way. Theists take it one way, others, another.

    “Verses 1, 6-8,14 and 16-18, you might agree, are particularly stirring and inspirational to Christian theists.”

    Stirring and inspirational, maybe, but that doesn’t make it true:


    12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
    13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
    14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.

    Is this supposed to describe/foreshadow the crucifiction of Christ? And you think this accurate?


    16 Dogs have surrounded me;
    a band of evil men has encircled me,
    they have pierced [c] my hands and my feet.

    “They have pierced my hands and my feet” – The text should read: “Like a lion (Hebrew KeAri), they are at my hands and feet.”

    Like I say, open to interpretation. You say tomato…

  74. #74 Richard Simons
    June 7, 2007

    Hoary Puccoon: I too appreciated your commandments to scientists. I haven’t read all the comments so maybe someone has beaten me to it, but I’d like to add ‘Thou shalt not steal. Plagiarism can destroy your career.’

  75. #75 Triana
    June 23, 2009

    I think that Ken Ham could have handled this situation better if he was allowed the chance to speak his views. His views are that evolution is wrong and creation is true because we Christians have the evidence in God’s word which was written thousands of years ago. If evolution is true, then why do we have rules and laws? If evolution is true, then why do we have laws trying to differ between right and wrong? We have laws because in the begining there was one absolute law: GOD. He created us to be perfect, but since sin entered into the world we are not perfect. That is the reason why some proffesors are trying to break down Christianity: to rebel against God.

  76. #76 kelebek sohbet
    October 29, 2009

    Bill Riely thinks he is god

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