Pharyngula

Two idiots get a forum

Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are two of the very dumbest creationists you will find — and they were upset at the Blasphemy Challenge, so they demanded a chance to debate. And of course, since they are the dumbest, most inane, silliest creationists around, television executives jumped at the chance.

ABC loved the idea, and will host a debate in New York City on May 5, 2007. Moderated by Martin Bashir, the debate will be streamed LIVE on their website and will also be filmed for “Nightline.”

It’s not at all clear who they are going to debate—there’s nothing about it on Brian Flemming’s weblog, nor is it mentioned on the Rational Response Squad page. Perhaps they will debate each other?

Cameron (“Growing Pains” sitcom and Left Behind movies) will speak on what he believes is a major catalyst for atheism: Darwinian evolution. The popular actor stated, “Evolution is unscientific. In reality, it is a blind faith that’s preached with religious zeal as the gospel truth. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was once a naïve believer in the theory. The issue of intelligent design is extremely relevant at the moment. Atheism has become very popular in universities–where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are school shootings. Cameron will also reveal what it was that convinced him that God did exist.

Yeah, right. The child-star of a pathetic sit-com is an expert on biology. Tying evolution to school shootings in this little précis tells me precisely how competent his argument will be. Of course, he’s a genius next to Comfort.

“Most people equate atheism with intellectualism,” Comfort added, “but it’s actually an intellectual embarrassment. I am amazed at how many people think that God’s existence is a matter of faith. It’s not, and I will prove it at the debate – once and for all. This is not a joke. I will present undeniable scientific proof that God exists.

Uh, the guy who thinks a banana is evidence for God is calling atheism an intellectual embarrassment?

I don’t want to watch this laughable piece of junk, but I’m going to have to insist that everyone who called Dawkins’ The God Delusion a poor examination of the legitimate and credible philosophy behind belief in a deity ought to be required to sit through it all, and then write a ten-page essay explaining why the Comfort/Cameron rationale really doesn’t count as a representation of real Christian belief. You heard me, people. This is your alternative. Take it like good little apologists and suffer.

Comments

  1. #1 Saint Gasoline
    April 26, 2007

    Yep, nothing proves Dawkins’ points better than these idiots and the masses of people who think like them. Sadly, I’d rather Dawkins were wrong about this, and that most people believed in the absent, politically indifferent transcendental God that can’t be talked about espoused by so many theologians.

  2. #2 John F
    April 26, 2007

    I think they should debate a banana on why it is/isn’t evidence for god.

    My money goes on the banana for the win.

  3. #3 Chris Ho-Stuart
    April 26, 2007

    This is rather weird. One comment with respect to Dawkins is that he focuses on a stunted and limited view of religion.

    Now I’m not sure that this is a valid criticism. I don’t think that more “sophisticated” theologians (supposedly) have anything really interesting to offer. To the extent that they can avoid Dawkins’ criticisms, they also seem to set up a God that is hardly worthy of the name and has little to do with the religious beliefs Christians in the pews at church. Paul has pointed this out before, and I think it is a pertinent and valid response, and justification of the value and validity of Dawkin’s criticisms of religion.

    But on the other hand, it is a blisteringly stupid response to single out two of the absolutes dumbest Christians around and hold this up as some kind of valid response to the charge that Dawkins is focussing on a limited view of religion. It seems more like a simple confirmation that you are picking easy targets.

    That is my fundamental criticism of Paul’s strident anti-religion comments. It’s not that I think he should be quiet about atheism, or about criticism of religion. It’s not even that I think it’s bad thing to be stridently opposed to religion.

    It’s quite simply that Paul occasionally becomes flatly stupid when he gets stuck into this topic.

    It’s a pity. I’m a big fan of Paul’s writings, which I have been following and enjoying with interest for years — from long before Pharyngula was started. I still am. But sometimes he gets carried away and his usual sharp incisive intelligence gets replaced with dumb-as-post material like this.

    Oh well. Cheers — Chris

  4. #4 Christian Burnham
    April 26, 2007

    I already know the outcome of this debate.

    Jesus will win.

  5. #5 andyo
    April 26, 2007

    Is there any chance that some (just some) people aren’t really the product of evolution? Either that, or intelligence isn’t really an adaptive trait. Maybe reason and religion are both two separate misfirings of the brain?

  6. #6 Sophist
    April 26, 2007

    I am amazed at how many people think that God’s existence is a matter of faith.

    So am I.

  7. #7 DamnYankees
    April 26, 2007

    I hope someone throws a plantain at Comfort during the debate.

  8. #8 Hank Fox
    April 26, 2007

    Well, criminy. With such a stunning bit of news, you’d think they’d tell us who this earth-shaking debate will feature on the atheist side. With two such powerhouses of Christianity, it’s gotta be … well, somebody really, really, REALLY important. Perhaps at last we leaderless and confused atheists will know who the Messiah of Atheism really is.

    Heh, heh. And “I will present undeniable scientific proof that God exists.” Can’t wait to see THAT. Probably be attested to by a panel of independent Christian judges, too.

    This part really gets me:

    Evolution is unscientific. In reality, it is a blind faith that’s preached with religious zeal as the gospel truth.

    Once again, a godder unwittingly uses the language of RELIGION to slam science. Obviously, as he uses the terms, “blind faith” is BAD. If it’s “preached,” it’s BAD. If it’s preached with “religious zeal” it’s BAD. If it’s presented as “the gospel truth,” it’s BAD.

    I realize this is part of the Big Lie technique, but still, it’s fascinating that the worst possible words they can come up with to slam evolution are deeply and completely from the language of religion.

    Without realizing it, the guy really is saying “Evolution is every bit as stupid and dogmatic and WRONG as the stuff *I* believe.”

  9. #9 Sophist
    April 26, 2007

    But on the other hand, it is a blisteringly stupid response to single out two of the absolutes dumbest Christians around and hold this up as some kind of valid response to the charge that Dawkins is focussing on a limited view of religion. It seems more like a simple confirmation that you are picking easy targets.

    PZ isn’t singling out Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, ABC is. It’s all well and good to wave your hand towards some more interesting targets over thataway, but these are the ones getting shoved in our collective face at the moment.

  10. #10 John Marley
    April 26, 2007

    Scientist:

    The hypothesis of a “divine Creator” is unfalsifiable, therefore unscientific.

    Creationist:

    I know you are, but what am I?

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    April 26, 2007

    I will ask who is more popular, has a wider following, gets more promoted, and rakes in more money: Plantinga (to pick a random apologist for religion who is often cited in these arguments), or Ray Comfort?

    This absolutely is not a matter of picking on the easy targets. It’s a matter of picking on the most threatening and most widely held positions. What’s astonishing is how closely correlated the stupidity of an argument is with its popularity. Now you’d be right to argue that targeting Plantinga would be more challenging, but I contend that if we utterly vaporized Plantinga, if we convinced everyone in the world that his claims were completely bogus, we’d find that they were also completely irrelevant. The fans of Comfort and Cameron are not exercising their brains in contemplation of sublime theology.

  12. #12 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    But on the other hand, it is a blisteringly stupid response to single out two of the absolutes dumbest Christians around and hold this up as some kind of valid response to the charge that Dawkins is focussing on a limited view of religion.

    I think it’s your comment that’s blisteringly stupid. Do please cite the non-dumb Christians you think PZ ought to be singling out instead of Cameron and Comfort. Remember, this alternative must be a Christian who defends a version of Christianity as it is popularly understood and practised by its adherents, not merely an obscure academic defending an abstract philosopher’s God that has nothing much to do with the God of the Bible. Who do you suggest? The Pope? Pat Robertson? Ted Haggard?

  13. #13 Mike Haubrich
    April 26, 2007

    It’s a pity. I’m a big fan of Paul’s writings, which I have been following and enjoying with interest for years — from long before Pharyngula was started. I still am. But sometimes he gets carried away and his usual sharp incisive intelligence gets replaced with dumb-as-post material like this.

    Oh well. Cheers — Chris

    Where’s the real Chris H-S and who are you? I know that you have been around for a while, so you must realize that PZ hasn’t changed much since far before the time that I became one of the Sycophants. When did he not ridicule the dumbest of the Creationists?

    I can visualize you shaking your head in paternal disappointment as I read this, and it baffles me. I just want to check; when you refer to “Paul” in your post, are you referring to PZ?

  14. #14 David Wilford
    April 26, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart, please, do explain why it is that the likes of Cameron and Comfort are getting held up as being exemplary representatives of Christian theology on ABC. Surely PZ didn’t have anything to do with that.

  15. #15 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 26, 2007

    I hear time and again from these dumbfzzks that they represent Xianity, and no one from the Xian community disputes this. Well as far as I’m concerned, silence = consent. Therefore I think that they’re fair targets for PZ’s comments. I would welcome any explanation otherwise.

  16. #16 Narc
    April 26, 2007

    Atheism has become very popular in universities–where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes.

    I spent a lot of time as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student. I work at a university. I don’t ever remember being in a single class that taught there were no moral absolutes. Are there universities out there where Moral Relativism 101 is mandatory for freshmen or something?

  17. #17 gg
    April 26, 2007

    @14:

    “Chris Ho-Stuart, please, do explain why it is that the likes of Cameron and Comfort are getting held up as being exemplary representatives of Christian theology on ABC. Surely PZ didn’t have anything to do with that.”

    Indeed. We’re not picking the ‘stars’ of their movement; THEY are. There are crazy crackpots in the scientific world, too, but they’re marginalized and for the most part ignored. The religious folk who argue about science, on the contrary, seem to think that being sane or making an ounce of sense is completely irrelevant as a qualification to be a spokesperson for their movement, which tells you tons about their movement.

  18. #18 Chris Ho-Stuart
    April 26, 2007

    I got no problem with you guys picking on Cameron and Comfort. Where PZ goes stupid is not in singling these guys out for criticism! Long may PZ keep this up, and hold the toes of morons to the fire.

    The point where PZ went stupid is where he suggests that those who criticise Dawkins for picking on easy targets should examine this case and write a ten page essay on it. Uh, hello? These guys ARE the easy targets.

    Paul’s final paragraph in this article is a classic case where he goes wildly off the rails and into the absurd. Follow carefully, and don’t mistake what I am saying.

    Step 1. Dawkins makes a strong criticism of religion. It IS a strong criticism, and it is a very effective and telling demolition of the kind of stupidity shown by ratbags like Cameron and Comfort.

    Step 2. Some people have suggested that Dawkins is “poor examination of the legitimate and credible philosophy behind belief in a deity”. Is that true, or not? Well, it hangs on whether or not there is some other legitimate and credible philosophy behind the belief in a deity or not, doesn’t it?

    Step 3. Suggesting that people making this argument should write essays on Comfort and Cameron is stupid, stupid, stupid. The claim being made by these critics of Dawkins is not in the slightest conflict with the demonstration that popular religion is full of ratbags like Cameron and Comfort. It is that there are OTHER cases where belief in a deity is more credible; and which is (allegedly) untouched by Dawkins’ book.

    Clear?

    You don’t have to look far for Paul’s complete pointless request for a ten-page essay on why Comfort and Cameron fail to represent real Christian belief. They are certainly one form of Christian belief – a particularly stupid one – but most of the major churches tend to disavow this kind of extreme creationism. Thus Cameron and Comfort are not generally representative, but rather a limited data point not in dispute. Paul’s request for a ten-page essay could be met by a cut and paste from the statements by the governing bodies of many churches, as can be found at places like Voices for Evolution.

    JasonR asks me who Paul should be singling out.

    He should be singling out Cameron and Comfort. What he should NOT be doing is suggesting that critics of Dawkins are being refuted by such folks.

    Look, we all know that there’s a big problem within popular religion. But the abstract theologians you decry as so obscure do also have their fans in popular religion as well. I’m not a Christian or a church goer myself; but I have friends and family in the church. And I see them reading and discussing folks like Crossan, Polkinghorne, Spong, Robinson, and a host of others. A good example for we evolutionists to reflect upon would be Theodosius Dobzhansky.

    Now you can argue as to whether or not these guys have a coherent defense of theism, or even a consistent perspective of theism. That’s fine; engage that debate if you want. I would prefer that you continue with the good work of holding up Comfort and Cameron for ridicule. Just don’t pretend that this is any kind of coherent or intelligent response to the critics of Dawkins who want to suggest that there are other more credible examples of belief. Paul’s article was fine – up to the last paragraph.

    Cheers — Chris

  19. #19 The Science Pundit
    April 26, 2007

    Stop feeding the trolls!!!

  20. #20 Nerull
    April 26, 2007

    If you’ve been reading PZ for so long, you should probably know he doesn’t like to be called ‘Paul’..,

  21. #21 Gene Goldring
    April 26, 2007

    Comfort & Cameron will feel the bite of Zorb!
    (Hume does the feeding)

  22. #22 Hank Fox
    April 26, 2007

    You don’t have to look far for Paul’s complete pointless request for a ten-page essay on why Comfort and Cameron fail to represent real Christian belief.

    Chris: The ten-page essay statement was humor.

    Jeez.

  23. #23 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 26, 2007

    Mmm. Well, I for one have never claimed that Dawkins’ criticism of Christianity isn’t representative, but I’d be willing to discuss Comfort and Cameron’s theology here—if they actually do theology.

    But, if their press release as quoted above is the substance of their argument, then I’m afraid there won’t be much theology to discuss, just the usual creationist arguments. Creationism of the sort pushed by CC is, in and of itself, not so much a system of theology as it is a tortured exercise in retaining views consonant with a literal reading of parts of Genesis, and an exercise which is largely unorthodox with respect to its view of scripture.

    That doesn’t mean, of course, that it might not be very representative of a significant chunk of Christianity. Who knows? Maybe I can rip them both at some sort of local follow-up to the proposed broadcast. We’ll see!

  24. #24 Cat's Staff
    April 26, 2007

    I hope no one accepts the ‘challenge’ to debate them, it should be treated like the Kansas Board of Education hearing…just stay away. That will give the two of them more time to did themselves a little deeper anyway. Maybe they will reveal how belly-button fuzz is proof of a god. It’s impossible to debate someone who has the god-card up their sleeve and can pull it out to override everything you just said.

  25. #25 Mick
    April 26, 2007

    From the Xtian Newswire Link: Comfort continued, “there is something more sinister here than a few people not believing in God…. Why aren’t they making videos that blaspheme Buddha or Mohammed or Ghandi?”
    As blasphemy is defined as defaming a god or gods, I don’t think you could actually blaspheme Ghandi. Unless there’s a serious Mahatma cult out there I don’t know about. Which is possible, I do live in Wisconsin.

  26. #26 Ed Darrell
    April 26, 2007

    I’ll bet they debate Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas. Or maybe Outkast.

  27. #27 gg
    April 26, 2007

    @18:

    “Just don’t pretend that this is any kind of coherent or intelligent response to the critics of Dawkins who want to suggest that there are other more credible examples of belief.”

    I didn’t really take that interpretation out of PZ’s last paragraph. If he was really trying to defend Dawkins at all, instead of just making a sarcastic comment that the religious apologists should have to suffer through Kirk’s ramblings, I take away the following:

    We all know that ANY political or social movement, no matter how good it is, has its share of nutjobs. As I mentioned above (@17), science has its share of idiots; the strength of science is that they tend to be marginalized and ignored.

    On the flip side, ANY political or social movement, no matter how depraved, will have a few members who will transcend the limitations of the movement and shine. The Soviet Union produced many fine artists and musicians, in spite of its strong suppression of individual expression.

    Back to religion, if 99.9% of the ‘true believers’ are dangerous radicals, focusing your attention on that 0.1% who manage to have strong faith and not go crazy doesn’t really make a convincing argument that religion is good – in fact, it really demonstrates the opposite. PZ correctly points out that evidently most of the ‘true believers’ are paying attention to Comfort and Cameron – doesn’t that make them the representatives of religious faith?

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    April 26, 2007

    The critics of Dawkins are being refuted because Dawkins explicitly spells out that he is targeting the popular, supernatural god, so all the critics who complained that he didn’t address Polkinghorne or Spong are as silly as some who’d whine that he didn’t address the popularity of cricket.

    Now I know you’re in Australia, so perhaps you aren’t as familiar with what’s going on in my little country as some of us are, but this comment — “most of the major churches tend to disavow this kind of extreme creationism” — has no relationship to reality. It doesn’t matter what they tepidly disavow, they turn a blind eye to what’s actually going on. There are a great many Catholics here, for instance, who argue against evolution. There are a dozen weird little sects in every town that actively campaign against evolution. The Southern Baptists, no minor religion here, are adamantly anti-evolution. In my town I know of one solidly liberal church, many of the university faculty attend it and so I know many of its members have sensible ideas about science, but I have never seen that church take a stand against the anti-science sentiment so plainly stated by the others.

    The point of my last paragraph is very simple. There are a lot of people who treat Dawkins as the enemy, and this strange complaint that he didn’t address some particular, more difficult form of religious thought is the most common excuse. That’s nonsense. The enemy is idiocy like that of Comfort…and who is going to chastise Ray and Kirk with their flouting of Crossan and Dobzhansky? Anyone? Would they care? Will certain sciencebloggers who took the knout to Dawkins over their offended sensibilities at his book (even when many of them hadn’t even read it) expend even a tenth of the effort rebuking Comfort that they put into howling at the damned atheists?

    Of course not.

  29. #29 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    You still don’t seem to get it. If they’re fans of the abstract God of obscure academics, they are not adherents of “popular religion.” They may still go to a church. They may still call themselves “Christian.” They may still go through some of the motions. That doesn’t make them Christians in any traditional or popular sense of the word.

    As for Polkinghorne and Crossan, they are certainly adherents of traditional Christian doctrines. Polkinghorne’s high-church Anglicanism is no less dumb than Cameron’s populist evangelism. You can’t add wisdom to irrationality and wishful thinking by dressing it up in the language of an Oxford Don.

  30. #30 arensb
    April 26, 2007

    Cameron will also reveal what it was that convinced him that God did exist.

    I believe Cameron’s already said that he used to be an atheist until he asked himself, “What if I’m wrong?” In other words, he actually fell for Pascal’s Wager.

  31. #31 Steven
    April 26, 2007

    What is really worrying is that some of these idiots actually believe what they are saying.

  32. #32 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    Ah, but Pascal was an esteemed French mathematician and philosopher, so we’re supposed to pretend that his Wager has some intellectual merit as an argument for religious belief, rather than being the same kind of rank stupidity that we get from evangelical American Christians like Cameron.

  33. #33 DamnYankees
    April 26, 2007

    Anyone who hasn’t watched The Way of the Master’s full length episodes on evolution and atheism is in for a treat.

    The stupid…it burns!!!

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    April 26, 2007

    It’s a pity. I’m a big fan of Paul’s writings, which I have been following and enjoying with interest for years — from long before Pharyngula was started. I still am. But sometimes he gets carried away and his usual sharp incisive intelligence gets replaced with dumb-as-post material like this.

    chris ho-stuart, epitome of the concern troll.

    *yawwwwwwwnnnnn*

    why does anybody pay attention to this guy again? he posts essentially the same message every time he poots:

    “gee wiz, i sure duz luv ol PZ, but he just shouldn’t post things that disagree with the way i thinks.”

    gag.

    really; go check out the bulk of his posts over the last few months and you’ll see the exact same pattern. especially on any thread that mentions dawkins.

  35. #35 John Danley
    April 26, 2007

    “Evolution go up, evolution go down. Tide rolls in, tide rolls out. Creationists go up, creationists go down.” …O’Reilly

  36. #36 jbark
    April 26, 2007

    Seriously, is it perhaps time that scientists start holding press conferences to say “Hey!!! I grew up naively believing in Noah’s ark, but now I see why that is stupid!!!! Where are the religionists willing to debate me!!!! I insist on a debate now!!”

    Man, listening to people hem and haw about how Dawkins isn’t “qualified” to speak about the vast history of religion, while bozos like these two claim to have useful opinions regarding biology is enough to make my ass explode.

  37. #37 jbark
    April 26, 2007

    Aw crap. My ass exploded.

  38. #38 ichthyic
    April 26, 2007

    like this, jbark?

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Flamethrower+Ass

    or did you actually lose some cheek?

  39. #39 Basharov
    April 26, 2007

    “Growing Pains” was a “pathetic sit-com”?

    Bite your tongue, P.Z. Tracey Gold and Joanna Kerns were Teh Hot.

  40. #40 Protobiochemist
    April 26, 2007

    @ #30
    Darn, I was totally betting on “waterfall”….that one seems popular these days…

    Perhaps it was the moment he got to be on TV again, and his agent exclaimed: ‘There IS a god!”.

  41. #41 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2007

    But on the other hand, it is a blisteringly stupid response to single out two of the absolutes dumbest Christians around and hold this up as some kind of valid response to the charge that Dawkins is focussing on a limited view of religion. It seems more like a simple confirmation that you are picking easy targets.

    Please, single out some genius. The Pope, for instance? Will he do? Mr. “No Limbo”?

    Dawkins refutes them all with ease because they are all con artists.

    Please, give us an example of an intelligent theologian. I’ll show you someone who, no matter how fancy the arguments, ultimately fails to think straight.

    The truth is, they are all easy targets because they all make the same frigging mistake: the can’t stop picking at the idiotic god delusion inside their heads.

    The snootier one (pointy hats, golden shepards crooks, massive fleecing operations) are just bigger con artists.

  42. #42 Chris Ho-Stuart
    April 26, 2007

    The point of my last paragraph is very simple. There are a lot of people who treat Dawkins as the enemy, and this strange complaint that he didn’t address some particular, more difficult form of religious thought is the most common excuse. That’s nonsense…

    No; that’s not nonsense.

    I’m a fan of Dawkins, and I’ve got a whole bunch of his books, including The God Delusion.

    I think his argument is an excellent refutation of those who deny evolutionary biology and who see the complexity of life as evidence for God. But I do think it becomes a bit weaker when extended to be a refutation of God in general. He basically argues that complex things arise from simpler beginnings (Ch 4) – which is true, that’s what we see. But it is weak as a refutation of an allegedly complex being that has no beginning at all. If you take as a premise that “as on Earth, so in heaven”, then ok; but that premise is in dispute as well. Dawkins explodes the idea that complexity of the living world is evidence for God. He’s got some gaps to fill in the argument that the processes by which complexity arises in the natural world stand as evidence that God is improbable. IMO.

    I don’t believe in God either, and I have my own arguments that I find convincing. You can read them at Why I am a Strong Atheist. That link may not work for long; I am no longer at QUT. I’m surprised it’s still there.

    One of the criticisms of Dawkins is that his general argument against God is limited in scope to the easy targets. Now that criticism is debatable, I know. But the defense that Dawkins is aiming only at popular views won’t stand. Dawkins does intend a sweeping refutation of theistic religion. See page 60 of Delusion; he’s quite clear about it.

    Is there a “more sophisticated” version of theism that is untouched by Dawkins’ argument? Well, yes; Dawkins argument really doesn’t do a thing to address the idea of a God that has always existed; unless you take as foundational some naturalistic premises about how things come to exist. Don’t get me wrong, I also employ those naturalistic premises in my own metaphysics. But I recognize that they aren’t used by everyone, and that if I want to actually refute God, or defend my strictly materialistic naturalism, then I need a case using some more basic premises shared by those I wish to persuade. I try to do that in my essay linked above. Whether I succeed or not I am content for readers to judge.

    One point some people have made is that the advocates within the churches for beliefs that are consistent with evolution don’t speak up enough. I agree. More should speak up, more often and more loudly. But some within the church are speaking up and trying to refute the idiocy of Comfort and Cameron and their ilk. One of our favorite examples is Ken Miller.

    Cheers — Chris

  43. #43 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    But it is weak as a refutation of an allegedly complex being that has no beginning at all.

    And why would one suppose that anything exists without a beginning? And that thing would be complex?

    One point some people have made is that the advocates within the churches for beliefs that are consistent with evolution don’t speak up enough

    There are none- zero- they accomadate it because they know it’s true. Their beliefs are not consistent with it in any way shape or form and some of the circles they dive throughto keep up appearances are as bad as Comfort and the gang except they vote the right way.

  44. #44 Ian
    April 27, 2007

    PZ said: In my town I know of one solidly liberal church, many of the university faculty attend it and so I know many of its members have sensible ideas about science, but I have never seen that church take a stand against the anti-science sentiment so plainly stated by the others.

    In my church, which is in the South, issues like intelligent design and climate change are discussed from a scientific perspective. Spong, Borg and Crossan are among the best respected theologians. For Earth Day we had a roundtable led by a climate scientist and an ethicist about global warming. A few months ago there was a panel discussion about intelligent design – which was lead by scientists and, when it was announced by the pastor, she clearly identified ID as “a new form of creationism”.

  45. #45 llewelly
    April 27, 2007

    One comment with respect to Dawkins is that he focuses on a stunted and limited view of religion.
    Now I’m not sure that this is a valid criticism.

    It’s both entirely true, and precisely why Dawkins is so highly relevant (in the US, anyway). Most Americans – and especially those in control of the Republican party – do have a stunted and limited view of religion. Dawkins aims to break down those stunted and limited views of religion, and he does so at about a high-school or maybe freshman college level. That’s appropriate; even among the book-buying population, it is not common to find a much more sophisticated understanding of religion. Nor are more sophisticated kinds of religion a significant danger, or influential in American politics.

  46. #46 H. Humbert
    April 27, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart said:
    Dawkins argument really doesn’t do a thing to address the idea of a God that has always existed…

    Nor would he need to. Things asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    Dawkins does a good job of destroying the reasons theists often put forth as justifying belief in god. I don’t know why you think he would need to address beliefs offered without any justification at all. Those are dealt easily enough with a simple “nuh-uh.”

  47. #47 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Chris Ho-Stuart,

    He basically argues that complex things arise from simpler beginnings (Ch 4) – which is true, that’s what we see. But it is weak as a refutation of an allegedly complex being that has no beginning at all. If you take as a premise that “as on Earth, so in heaven”, then ok; but that premise is in dispute as well.

    It’s not weak at all. It’s a rational conclusion from our knowledge and experience of the world. It is no answer to this to simply declare that things are different in Heaven.

    Dawkins does intend a sweeping refutation of theistic religion.

    That’s right. He intends that and he does that. And yet you’re faulting him for failing to address philosophical deism or metaphorical theism. Your criticism doesn’t make any sense.

    Dawkins argument really doesn’t do a thing to address the idea of a God that has always existed;

    Of course it does. Postulating that God has always existed doesn’t rescue him from Dawkins’ “ultimate 747” argument or his other arguments.

  48. #48 Ian
    April 27, 2007

    jbark wrote: Seriously, is it perhaps time that scientists start holding press conferences to say “Hey!!! I grew up naively believing in Noah’s ark, but now I see why that is stupid!!!! Where are the religionists willing to debate me!!!! I insist on a debate now!!”

    Well, there’s always Michael Shermer. Not actually a scientist, but close enough.

  49. #49 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Ian,

    In my church, which is in the South, issues like intelligent design and climate change are discussed from a scientific perspective.

    What about, say, the idea that a 3-day-old decomposing corpse came back to life and ascended into heaven? Or how about the idea that human beings have an immaterial soul that survives the death of their body and that interacts with their body while they are alive to influence their behavior, and yet is undetectable by the methods of science, even in principle? Are those ideas also discussed from a scientific perspective in your church?

  50. #50 PSR
    April 27, 2007

    “…a banana is evidence for God…”

    “God is not a person out there in the sky overlooking human affairs. God is a field of consciousness that is set up for maximum diversity. And that includes the divine and diabolical, the sacred and the profane.”

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0704/18/cnr.06.html

    Deepak Chopra after the Virginia Tech Shootings on CNN

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyCwRsB_xf0Deepak Chopra

    “t’s the psychosis of the collective mind that thinks in terms of separation, alienation, humiliation, and rage. It’s our collective shadow that projects as evil out there.

    And, so, we begin with ourselves. We say, how can I add to the compassion in the world, to the love in the world? How can I participate in forgiveness? How can I bring healing to a personal relationship? And, if enough of us do that, and that reaches a critical mass in the world, that collective matrix of thought, then perhaps we will project a different world.”

  51. #51 Norman Doering
    April 27, 2007

    Cameron (“Growing Pains” sitcom and Left Behind movies) will speak on what he believes is a major catalyst for atheism: Darwinian evolution. The popular actor stated, “Evolution is unscientific. In reality, it is a blind faith that’s preached with religious zeal as the gospel truth. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was once a nave believer in the theory.

    Anyone want to bet on whether Cameron blames Darwin for the Nazis and then links atheism to Nazis?

  52. #52 David Canzi
    April 27, 2007

    Cameron and Comfort are not being singled out by PZ. They’re not being singled out by ABC either. They volunteered.

  53. #53 The quantum pancake
    April 27, 2007

    I saw Ray on tv , his proof went along theses…

    When you see a painting, you know there was a painter.
    When you see a building, you know there was a builder.
    Creation is proof of a creator.

  54. #54 PSR
    April 27, 2007

    Here’s the correct link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyCwRsB_xf0

    Deepak Chopra after the Virginia Tech Shootings on CNN

    “It’s the psychosis of the collective mind that thinks in terms of separation, alienation, humiliation, and rage. It’s our collective shadow that projects as evil out there.

    And, so, we begin with ourselves. We say, how can I add to the compassion in the world, to the love in the world? How can I participate in forgiveness? How can I bring healing to a personal relationship? And, if enough of us do that, and that reaches a critical mass in the world, that collective matrix of thought, then perhaps we will project a different world.”

  55. #55 The quantum pancake
    April 27, 2007

    I meant,along these lines.

  56. #56 Don Smith, FCD
    April 27, 2007

    I think that all we are saying is if there are ant religious people out there that want science taught in schools and religion taught in church, why don’t you stand up and shout down those fundies? Where are you? Why are you voting for this idiocy?

  57. #57 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    When you see a painting, you know there was a painter.
    When you see a building, you know there was a builder.
    Creation is proof of a creator.

    The teleological argument. Yawn. Doesn’t he have any new material?

  58. #58 The quantum pancake
    April 27, 2007

    If you take the exact opposite of what a creationist says to be the truth, you can actually learn an awful lot!

  59. #59 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2007

    It is that there are OTHER cases where belief in a deity is more credible; and which is (allegedly) untouched by Dawkins’ book.

    No, there are not.

    Every case of belief in a deity is incredible.

    Say there’s a continuum that runs from Cameron (thoughtless) to Dobzhansky (thoughtful).

    There is no point on that continuum where arguments for God somehow becomes miraculously more sensible so that God begins to exist for real. It just doesn’t happen.

    It’s baloney all the way down the line.

    You can try to make distinctions between a Cameron and a Dobzhansky but after all is said and done, they are locked in an embrace that cements them together forever: they both say things about a “creator” or “god” that are clearly made up.

    Dobzhansky: “the Creator has created the living world not by caprice (supernatural fiat) but by evolution propelled by natural selection.”

    Well, how the hell does he know that? The same way the banana guy knows God made non-slip bananas.

    He doesn’t. He has given free reign to a fantasy and, like every other god-intoxicated person who does this, the result is bullshit.

  60. #60 bad Jim
    April 27, 2007

    If there is to be a debate, perhaps we could put a quick-witted comedian up against these clowns. Frame the debate on favorable terms.

  61. #61 Molly, NYC
    April 27, 2007

    Yeah, right. The child-star of a pathetic sit-com is an expert on biology.

    It’s not merely that being a minor former celebrity doesn’t make you an authority about anything. It’s also that, unless the parents really put their foot down, formal education for “professional” children is tends to be rudimentary at best, the bare minimum that complies with local laws (and a wink and a nod when they don’t). Many of them–including Cameron, apparently–come out of it appallingly ignorant and completely unprepared for college or adult life.

  62. #62 MarcusA
    April 27, 2007

    Check out this video on YouTube about Kirk Cameron’s brain.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw3-4U81oXw

  63. #63 Inoculated Mind
    April 27, 2007

    If it was all about the banana, I would so be up for it. I have little experience debating, but that’s my field and I think they wouldn’t have a chance.

    It’s hilarious how they declare that they have undeniable absolute proof for god… and all I’ve heard them talk about it how perfect the curvature of a human-bred banana is for going in their mouths.

  64. #64 Warren
    April 27, 2007

    Of course they’re only going to debate one another.

    They’re both obviously master-debators.

    Who else do they need?

    On an offtopicish cant, I’m working on a Chick sendup on the dangers of Darwinism. Criticism welcome in the comments.

    Don’t be surprised if the “arguments” put forth there surface with IDiots eventually — they’re just as two-dimensional and cartoonish as Robby and Bobby.

  65. #65 reason
    April 27, 2007

    Is PSR #50 #54 an OT Troll we should all ignore? He makes no sense.

  66. #66 Chris
    April 27, 2007

    “Atheism has become very popular in universities–where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are school shootings.”

    That gets Cameron a special ‘Reprehensible Ghoul’ sticker. Hey, you never know, it might help hold his rusty car of an argument together…

  67. #67 John C. Randolph
    April 27, 2007

    Kirk Cameron guessed wrong, and will feel the wrath of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The afterlife’s not all Parmesan and Marina for the unbelievers, my friend. He shall dine on dry breadsticks and wait for the waiter to bring him a glass of water forever!

    -jcr

  68. #68 The quantum pancake
    April 27, 2007

    But will he be boiled gently for eight minutes in lightly salted water?

  69. #69 The Science Pundit
    April 27, 2007

    It’s the Rational Response Squad (Brian and Kelly) that they’ll be debating (oops! I meant proving God’s existence to) on ABC.

  70. #70 John
    April 27, 2007

    “If there is to be a debate, perhaps we could put a quick-witted comedian up against these clowns. Frame the debate on favorable terms.”

    I would nominate Bill Hicks, but he’s dead.
    I guess David Cross would do.

  71. #71 Warren
    April 27, 2007

    But will he be boiled gently for eight minutes in lightly salted water?

    Posted by: The quantum pancake

    No, then he’d be rubbery and listless. He needs to be al dente; that means a flash-simmer for about four minutes, after which he’d be blanched in cold water and then only reheated on demand.

    Huh. Well, I guess that’s his career, as it happens. So maybe we have to move on to flavor and spice for…

    Heh heh, naaaaah. The boy is such a noodle.

  72. #72 Gretchen
    April 27, 2007

    From the link PZ himself provided:
    He and Kirk Cameron (co-hosts of an award-winning Christian TV program) challenged the two originators of the “Blasphemy Challenge” to a debate on the existence of God.

  73. #73 Carlie
    April 27, 2007

    “If there is to be a debate, perhaps we could put a quick-witted comedian up against these clowns. Frame the debate on favorable terms.”

    Great idea. I nominate Lewis Black. Now THAT I would watch.

  74. #74 Warren
    April 27, 2007

    God = (sqrt) -1.

    Debate terminus.

    Questions?

  75. #75 Fernando Magyar
    April 27, 2007

    #63, “human-bred banana”
    No,No,No its the banana that has been manipulating humans.
    http://www.amazon.com/Botany-Desire-Plants-Eye-View-World/dp/product-description/0783896417
    BTW the author’s name is Michael Pollan. Pollan? come on now Pollan has to be pseudonym for pollen right? I tell you our squid overlords have all ready been beaten by the bananas, it’s too late.

  76. #76 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 27, 2007

    @Chris

    You don’t have to look far for Paul’s complete pointless request for a ten-page essay on why Comfort and Cameron fail to represent real Christian belief.

    With comment #18 and #42 you’re well on your way to 10 pages. I think you can do it!

    Good job!

    I don’t want to watch this laughable piece of junk

    Oh I’ll probably watch solely for the humor. If it’s anything like the other comedy skits I’ve seen them in it will be worth it. I, like many here, am curious who the other side will be. I hope ABC doesn’t got the way of CNN and other news orgs and pick some unknown, vaguely knowledgeable proponent for the reason side.

  77. #77 Caledonian
    April 27, 2007

    People like Chris just don’t like having to acknowledge that people like Cameron are on his team.

    Absurd arguments for theism certainly don’t invalidate reasonable and logical arguments for theism, no more than stupid arguments for atheism invalidate atheism.

    So why don’t you provide some of those reasonable and logical arguments, Chris?

  78. #78 Alison
    April 27, 2007

    I’d like to see Penn and Teller debate these guys. They might have to get bleeped on network TV, though.

    BTW, it really is a good idea to let these people talk on TV, in the right setting. I finally got around to watching April 19th Daily Show with Frosty Hardison. He did a great job of proving how sound creation science is, yessirreebob!

  79. #79 Chris Ho-Stuart
    April 27, 2007

    Hi, Caledonian. I’m a strong atheist. I have said nothing about any good or reasonable argument FOR God. I don’t know any arguments for God that I’d put in that category.

    Cameron is not on my team in any sense at all.

    What I have actually said here is that I think Dawkins’ argument AGAINST God does not live up to its promise. In particular, I don’t think it really deals with the notion of a God with no beginning. I’m not going to attempt that criticism here at any length. Suffice to say that to this extent I am a “critic of Dawkins”. Although I like Dawkins a lot and own many of his books; I don’t share his crusading antipathy to all forms of theism.

    Some theists — Miller, Dobzhansky, Polkinghorne, Borg, etc; plus many others less famous who share such views — do believe in a personal God, do accept conventional mainstream science, and do have a consistent perspective, even though I don’t share it. I don’t think any of them have any good argument FOR their perspective.

    What I object to here is the notion that critics of Dawkins are in some way obliged to write lengthy essays because of Cameron and Comfort. It’s a stupid comment, that spoils an otherwise fitting and well deserved roasting of a couple of creationist morons.

    I’ve said more about my background at the Afarensis blog, that has picked up some of my remarks; but I am seriously thinking of starting up my own blog for these kinds of discussion. If I ever do that, you will be welcome to come along.

    Cheers — Chris

  80. #80 Caledonian
    April 27, 2007

    Hi, Caledonian. I’m a strong atheist.

    Of course you are! Of course you are! I never suggested otherwise.

    Cameron is not on my team in any sense at all.

    What kind of loyalty is that? Team Moron has to stand together, or they’ll just sort of fall apart.

    What I have actually said here is that I think Dawkins’ argument AGAINST God does not live up to its promise. In particular, I don’t think it really deals with the notion of a God with no beginning.

    Since he’s arguing against the idea that the universe must have a creator because it couldn’t have existed forever with no beginning, your criticism is asinine.

    Some theists — Miller, Dobzhansky, Polkinghorne, Borg, etc; plus many others less famous who share such views — do believe in a personal God, do accept conventional mainstream science, and do have a consistent perspective,

    They do not, as scientific thought is utterly incompatible with belief in any deity. They do not accept conventional mainstream science – they pay lip service to it while absolving their personal delusions from its analysis.

  81. #81 Ichthyic
    April 27, 2007

    Chris Ho-
    – but most of the major churches tend to disavow this kind of extreme creationism.

    uh, yeah… tell it to the 30 million evangelicals who follow the church Ted Haggard leads.

    or is 30 million NOT a “major” church?

    face it; the argument that radical evangelicals are NOT a major group in the US is belied by the mere fact that the rethuglicans have been courting their favor as a voting block for 30 years now.

    so, what, you think the catholic church one of the “major” churches that denounces this drivel?

    well, one week they do, and one week they don’t – and go off on their own brand of creationism.

  82. #82 eewolf
    April 27, 2007

    “I would nominate Bill Hicks, but he’s dead.”

    I think Hicks would still win.

  83. #83 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2007

    Table turning time:

    “Atheism has become very popular in universities–where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are school shootings.”

    Religion has beome very popular in churches–where it’s preached that we came from God and that there are moral absolutes like “You shall have no other gods before me.” So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are grossly ignorant, narrow-minded, authoritarian dolts trying to create a fascist theocracy in the United States.

  84. #84 NickM
    April 27, 2007

    “I’ll bet they debate Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas.”

    If that happened, the atheists would win – “My Humps” constitutes irrefutable proof that there is no God.

  85. #85 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2007

    BTW the author’s name is Michael Pollan. Pollan? come on now Pollan has to be pseudonym for pollen right? I tell you our squid overlords have all ready been beaten by the bananas, it’s too late.

    This Pollan book review on Amazon made me ask – what about book reviews for the Bible?

    Genesis:

    “A wry, informed pastoral.”
    –The New Yorker

    The Apocrypha:

    “It is a rare pleasure to read a book of ideas so graceful and witty that it makes you smile – at times even laugh out loud – with delight as it challenges you to rethink important issues.”

    –Mark Kurlansky

    Surely someone has done this already.

  86. #86 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    April 27, 2007

    When you see a painting, you know there was a painter.
    When you see a building, you know there was a builder.

    If I follow the argument correctly, …

    When you see a banana, you know there was a bananer?

  87. #87 Alan Wagner
    April 27, 2007

    Chris, and earlier John Wilkins and RobScot, take PZ and Dawkins to task for targeting the easy version of theology but it seems to me that Dawkins and PZ actually attack not only the most popular, but also the strongest concept of god. Philosophy of Religion (which RobScot waived around as a talisman to ward off the evil of logic) can define god to be a title, not a name, for an entity which deserves or merits worship. If any entity deserves worship (an open question), then clearly the omni-omni interventionalist, personal, creator god would be the strongest candidate. This is the very concept that Dawkins is criticized for focusing on. However, anyone who wants to propose a more sophisticated concept, such as Bashful,the aloof and shy god of the philosophers, has a lot of heavy intellectual lifting to do to demonstrate that Bashful deserves worship.

  88. #88 notthedroids
    April 27, 2007

    As an atheist, I refuse to eat bananas.

    They are my worst nightmare.

  89. #89 Fraser Hartley
    April 27, 2007

    Ok, this is the first time I’ve posted a comment here, it may be unpopular. To some extent I agree with Chris H-S, the two believers mentioned by PZ here are easy targets. Hell, as someone said just chuck a plantain. Taking on these guys and beating them will be, well, easy BECAUSE they’re loonies. The problem is that you could dismantle and humiliate them and 50 others like them live across national TV and all you would do is create the smallest chink of doubt in their fellow creationists which would be filled in by their next visit to church/prayer meeting where the pastor would make some asinine comment about god testing their faith. That said, their idiocy still needs to be countered, and loudly at that which is something that I think PZ, Orac and others do well.

    However, the group in society that atheists should be looking at convincing or the irrationality of religion (and here I may sound like I’m formulating some kind of battle plan) are those who don’t believe in creationism, and probably laugh just as hard as many of those here at creationists, but see nothing wrong with George Bush or Tony Blair taking their moral guidance from bronze age/2000 year old fables. Or that a member of Opus Dei was elevated to minister of education and then minister for women and equality despite believing homosexuality was a sin and has since tried to water down legislation passed in Britain that would make it illegal for churches to discriminate based on sexual orientation. This group may rarely, or not ever attend church and almost certainly not hold some of the more extreme xian views. It may also be a smaller proportion of the population but by putting effort into countering moderate or liberal theists (without calling them enablers of fundamentalism – bad PR) is a course which I believe will lead more quickly to a rational thinking and acting majority.

    Argh, so garbled. Hope the point comes across though. Second disclaimer time – I’m British and have little idea of the moderate xian scene in the US. Is there one?

    Fras

  90. #90 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 27, 2007

    Sure Fras, there’s one. But they’re a meek bunch. When they do speak up it’s not against creationists. They like to pretend they don’t exist and try not to associate themselves with them, but they also rarely criticize them. They like to make a stink about those mean new atheists.

  91. #91 Kristine
    April 27, 2007

    Fras, a majority of Americans believe in some kind of creationism. You think you’re talking about the mainstream and it’s a minority here, that reasonable populace who doesn’t believe in creationism but is religious and doesn’t like Bush. (Yeah, Bush is tanking, but he wouldn’t be if we had ground Iraq into the sand. Americans lied to themselves; Bush didn’t have to lie to us.)

    Jesus, local art museums, not even natural history or science museums, now have to deal with people issuing challenges to the guides about the age of the earth and evolution. It’s coming up more and more. This baloney is every-flipping-where, okay?

    Religion is as religion does, and religion in this country is breeding a nation of superstitious, addle-headed control freaks. Do you see that reflected in our foreign policy incidentally?

  92. #92 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2007

    Typology of irrational god people:

    Irrational looney god people:

    Make loud, thoughtless, attention-getting arguments on t.v. and Internet.

    Irrational moderate god people:

    Haven’t given their religion much thought. Go with the flow. Laugh at loonies. Maybe respect academic god people – but never read them. For the most part, act in solidarity with the intoxicated loonies, rarely speaking out against them.

    Irrational academic god people:

    Make soft-spoken, faux-rational arguments in classrooms, leading to publication and recognition and academic legitimacy. Talking about loonies verboten. Is beneath them.

    The Plantingas of the world. Vast amounts of time wasted on elaborate academic exercises aimed at justifying faith. Nice job if you can get it.

    Result. People on web sites make comments like this:

    Plantinga uses a convoluted argument to show that god cannot create a world in which we have free will. He’s right about this, but only if we use his particular not-obviously-useful conception of free will. Plantinga’s focus is on the fact that god cannot create a world with free will in which people do only good. He wants us not to notice that he has also proved that god cannot create a world with freewill in which people sin.
    http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=59664

    Other god-intoxicated intellectuals chime in, adding to the fantasy discussion. Atheists throw up hands in disgust.

  93. #93 raindogzilla
    April 27, 2007

    The problem here is- as it is in most places- the “moderates”. If, whether by belief, birth, or choice, I’m a member of a certain club, it is my responsibility- as a member in good standing, to confront those who would stake out ridiculous positions while claiming to speak for my club. Otherwise, why have a club at all?

    Thus, predominantly moderate- if not ultimately reasonable, monotheistic majorities allow themselves to be so thoroughly- and submissively, tarred with the brush aimed at the extremists as to be both socially irrelevant and guilty as accessories to the extremism.

    The emblem of the moderate.

    For myself, I’m with Groucho…I wouldn’t be a member of a club that would have me as a member.

  94. #94 Glen Davidson
    April 27, 2007

    Neither PZ’s nor Ho-Stuart’s tie-ins to Dawkins have any significant degree of relevance to Cameron’s and Comfort’s little chest-thumping bravado. True, Chris brings up Dawkins because PZ did, but it was a non-sequitur where PZ mentioned it.

    The reason, however, that people criticize Dawkins for taking on the sorry folk religion of Cameron, and not Plantinga’s or Ken Miller’s God is simply that the philosophers and theologians provide cover for folk religion. One could compare it to the mythic views of evolution held by many on “our side”, alongside the fact that these people know that scientists really do have answers that they don’t have, meaning that even if their views are not completely correct, they’re still (supposedly, anyway) in the ballpark.

    Coulter herself illustrates this tolerably well: “Even if evolution were true, it wouldn’t disprove God.” She goes to considerable cutting and pasting of dolts like Dembski and Behe to try to show that evolution is false, but of course she still has her fallback position, the philosopher’s God who might have set up the conditions for evolution. Theists very often do have these levels of defenses, since even they recognize the shakiness of their apologetics, and if Cameron and Comfort aren’t good enough they’ll fall back to Plantinga’s mindless metaphysics (okay, his understanding of metaphysics isn’t mindless, his adoption of metaphysics is) and still deny evolution, or if even Plantinga fails they’ll turn to Hans Kung or some other more contemporary theologian.

    I don’t know if anyone really wants the philosopher’s God, except as a defense against the inner sanctum of their theistic prejudices. Nevertheless, they do want those defenses, hence if Dawkins attacks folk religion they’ll point out that there’s still the philosopher’s God, so they’ll stick with what they know.

    Moving target? Obviously. That’s why I don’t generally fault Dawkins for going after the religion that most actually do believe in, and which largely animates attacks on science. What’s he supposed to do, recapitulate every legitimate criticism of religion as it exists on every level?

    No, he critiques religion based upon the epistemology that virtually everyone accepts in name (even though many don’t understand it) and shows how religion doesn’t measure up to it, that it wouldn’t pass the science, or the court, test for evidence. That’s completely legitimate, but it doesn’t deal deeply with the many fallback positions that religionists adopt to smother their doubts. Others have answered the rest of the apologetics, of course, so Dawkins shouldn’t be faulted for not discussing every defense of religion out there.

    Thus many of the criticisms of Dawkins are indeed inappropriate (I’d continue to note that he doesn’t fully appreciate the religious psyche, memes being hardly adequate to address it), yet it’s still the case that the philosopher’s God and apologetics affects religious belief more than PZ admits. The folk religionists don’t understand it, they just know that it’s there and that supposedly it answers criticisms of theology.

    The foolishness of Cameron and Comfort lets everyone ignore the supposedly great arguments of Plantinga and non-creationist theologians. Of course we have to target the latest nonsense from the has-beens like Cameron and Behe, it’s just that this means that once again the same game is being played, the silly folk religions get attacked, while the circularly irrelevant (thus also silly) apologetics of the theologians remains supposedly intact (actually, any set of beliefs/arguments that irrelevant is nicely invulnerable, mainly because it means nothing).

    Dawkins didn’t argue badly, there’s just no getting around the layers of defense around religion in one shot. That is how religious “arguments” have evolved to become, impossible to take in one shot, and therefore even complete criticism of religion is mostly beyond the comprehension of the public. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done, of course, nonetheless it still means that Dawkins didn’t really tackle the more nuanced (if conveniently unfalsifiable) religions of the more intellectual believers.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  95. #95 Lee Harrison
    April 27, 2007

    Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron present “The Atheists’ Nightmare!” – a tragicomedy in one act starring a banana and two fruit loops.

  96. #96 Kurt
    April 27, 2007

    Alison: I’d like to see Penn and Teller debate these guys. They might have to get bleeped on network TV, though.

    I’m just free-associating here, but… I visited that http://www.Hollywoodblasphemy.com site out of curiosity, and while I was watching Ray Comfort go on and on about blasphemy in the movies it occurred to me that this might make an interesting experiment: Strap down Ray and Kirk, la “A Clockwork Orange”, and make them watch Penn Jillette’s “The Aristocrats”. See if they can make it all the way through without their heads exploding, or what not.

  97. #97 John Danley
    April 27, 2007

    Of mice and morons. They’d make a killing in the Southeast co-writing with Toby Keith. Jaysus done it again…

  98. #98 Fraser Hartley
    April 27, 2007

    Hey Kristine,
    I suppose I was commenting from a British perspective but I have to say that considering the sheer mind blowing idiocy of the creationist position that I hope there are some people out there who don’t believe it but dinnae want to rock their particular boat, or don’t see much wrong with presidents and prime ministers obtaining their morals from a higher power (or badly out of date book of fairy tales), and they may be who need to be engaged and debated with and persuaded to think a bit more rationally. Damn that was a long sentence. They may not be a majority, neither are the atheists but together they may be a big enough minority to make a difference. And they have to be engaged directly, humiliating somebody THEY BELIEVE not to be representative of their version of faith probably won’t have much impact.

    As for the foreign policy, well, yes. Britain’s isn’t exactly ethical or consistent either. But more concern for me are the crazies exported to places like PNG, the Philippines and Africa (apparently the SDAs are the third biggest church in PNG) and the religious restrictions on Aid money.

  99. #99 K. Signal Eingang
    April 27, 2007

    Apologies if somebody’s already suggested it (I just skimmed the comments — too many!) but what I would really like to see is an outcry from the liberal/rational theist groups, like the UCC or the Christian Alliance for Progress demanding that this be taken off the air, or possibly joining in as a third voice. *This* is where they could put their money where their mouth is and actually exert some leverage against the psychotic fringe of Christianity.

    I’d still hope for a genuine atheist voice to take these two clowns apart but I’m thinking considering the venue and the opposition, I’d rather see Penn & Teller there than Dawkins & Harris.

  100. #100 Ray
    April 27, 2007

    Ed Darrell: Outkast already convincingly argued against Cameron’s idea of moral absolutism:

    “sin all depend on what you believin in /
    faith is what you make it that’s the hardest shit since MC Ren”

  101. #101 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Fraser,

    Tony Blair is something of an anomaly. British Prime Ministers rarely appeal to religion or show much interest in religion. The idea of a British Prime Minister ending every major speech with “God Bless Great Britain and the British People!” or somesuch, in the manner that American presidents routinely invoke God, is laughable. Britain is secularizing even faster than the U.S. and religion in Britain is destined for oblivion in the near future.

  102. #102 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 27, 2007

    Unfortunately the most fanatic theists of england shipped over here 300 years ago.

    Thanks alot.

  103. #103 David Marjanovi?
    April 27, 2007

    God = (sqrt) -1.
    Debate terminus.
    Questions?

    You can do a lot of very useful math, e. g. in physics, with i.

    PNG is Papua New Guinea, right?

  104. #104 David Marjanovi?
    April 27, 2007

    God = (sqrt) -1.
    Debate terminus.
    Questions?

    You can do a lot of very useful math, e. g. in physics, with i.

    PNG is Papua New Guinea, right?

  105. #105 T R Carroll
    April 27, 2007

    Bobby Henderson debating these two fellows would make for some “must see t.v.” .

  106. #106 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 27, 2007

    I think Penn Jillette would be appropriate.
    No need for a scientist in this one.
    He would run rings around these guys,

  107. #107 Fraser Hartley
    April 27, 2007

    JasonR, we can only hope. You’re right about the ending of speeches, although I’m sure I can recall old Tony invoking the name of God in a couple of them shortly after 9/11, but not to the same degree as US presidents are wont. That said, as the saga over the Catholic church and gay adoption showed religion is bubbling under the skin of Mr Blair.

    David – yes, PNG is Papua New Guinea. Strange case there, and slightly worrying that the churches take up so much of the education and healthcare slack that the PNG government leaves hanging. A vast quantity of the population wouldn’t be able to read if not for the churches, but some of the information that gets passed on is of a dubious nature. And many of the aid posts have condoms they can’t hand out due to threats from priests or religious big men. Bit of a quandary as if the churches were not there, these services may not be provided in many parts of the country.

  108. #108 B.Ruhsam
    April 27, 2007

    You all forget that this is Cinco de Mayo, so they’ll probably be swinging loose after four or five margaritas.

  109. #109 Pete Wentz
    April 27, 2007

    Hay guyz. I’m not sure if we are going to win this debate. I think we all need to drop to our knees and pray to ensure it is won in the name of JAAAAYSUZ!

  110. #110 Tommykey
    April 27, 2007

    Kirk Cameron may be an idiot, but his wife Chelsea Noble is a major league hottie. She played his girlfriend in the last season or two of “Growing Pains” and I had such a crush on her at the time.

  111. #111 Kseniya
    April 27, 2007

    Thanks for the reality-check, Tommy. 😉

    “Mommy, how come all my friends can watch TV, and I can’t?” (Kseniya, 1991)

  112. #112 Ian
    April 27, 2007

    JasonR

    What about, say, the idea that a 3-day-old decomposing corpse came back to life and ascended into heaven?

    Actually, it was addressed in the Easter sermon – the pastor specifically dismissed the idea of bodily resurrection (and discussed the idea of why the authors used three days to describe Friday-night-to-Sunday-morning).

    Or how about the idea that human beings have an immaterial soul that survives the death of their body and that interacts with their body while they are alive to influence their behavior, and yet is undetectable by the methods of science, even in principle?

    Nope. But, quite frankly, like the whole resurrection idea, it really isn’t that important. One can be a Christian and not take 2000-year-old mythology all that seriously. But compared to most of the dominant superstitions, it’s a fairly benign one. If it’s a superstition that gets people out of bed and says “do something to improve the welfare of the world” once a week, it’s certainly better than the dominant culture which says “go shop”.

  113. #113 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Ian,

    Actually, it was addressed in the Easter sermon – the pastor specifically dismissed the idea of bodily resurrection

    Then he’s rejecting a doctrine that Christians have traditionally held to be a central component of their religion.

    Nope. But, quite frankly, like the whole resurrection idea, it really isn’t that important. One can be a Christian and not take 2000-year-old mythology all that seriously.

    How can the doctrine of an immaterial soul that survives physical death not be important? It is fundamental to Christian theology. How can there be an afterlife, a heaven and hell, salvation or damnation, if physical death is the end of existence?

    What is it exactly that your pastor and church members do believe that qualifies them as “Christians?” Do you even believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour? From what do you think he saved us if, as you say you believe, there is no soul and death is the end?

  114. #114 tinisoli
    April 27, 2007

    It would be nice if all the “believers” who do not actually believe in things like a resurrected supernatural deity would actually stand up and say so when the fundamentalists are ranting and raving and wreaking havoc on this planet. Right now it is simply too convenient and safe for “moderate” Christians to include themselves in categories that suit them (“I believe in kindness”) and then exclude themselves or others from another category that doesn’t suit them. There is an important difference between someone who thinks of himself as a good Christian because he’s nice to people and someone who thinks of himself as one because he believes the Bible is the word of God. More often, though, theists of all stripes are happy to huddle under any number of umbrella categories lest they be left out in what they perceive as the chill of atheism.

    If everyone would simply step out form under their umbrellas they might find that it’s actually not raining.

  115. #115 bernarda
    April 28, 2007

    Are there really relative degrees of dumb? How can one creationist be dumber than another? They are just dumb.

  116. #116 Marc
    April 28, 2007

    People dissatisfied with Dawkins’ arguments against God might benefit from the work of Victor Stenger. Stenger does address the impossibility of deity even in the most abstract, cosmological sense. I do find his writing way over my head, though.

  117. #117 Caledonian
    April 28, 2007

    We’ve already discussed that here time and time again, Marc. The traditional conception of ‘God’ simply does not exist.

  118. #118 David Marjanovi?
    April 28, 2007

    “Mommy, how come all my friends can watch TV, and I can’t?”

    Yes, how come? Inquiring minds want to know! :o)

  119. #119 David Marjanovi?
    April 28, 2007

    “Mommy, how come all my friends can watch TV, and I can’t?”

    Yes, how come? Inquiring minds want to know! :o)

  120. #120 Steve
    April 28, 2007

    This proves there is a god, because enduring television fare such as this is hell.

  121. #121 Mike Burns
    April 28, 2007

    When I got wind of this, I contacted the creators of The Blasphemy Challenge. They did reply back and, indeed, it is that duo who will be debating the creationists.

  122. #122 Matthew Angle
    April 28, 2007

    Oh come on, get off it. These guys are not prime examples of rational Christians. Just as Dawkins is not a good example of rational Atheists. Everyone knows that Cameron and Comfort are jokes, but why pretend like Dawkins is not? He is not A.J. Ayer or J.L. Mackie (both who I have the greatest respect for).

  123. #123 Carlie
    April 28, 2007

    These guys are not prime examples of rational Christians.

    No, they’re prime examples of the MOST COMMON kind of Christians. The moderate and liberal Christians can’t keep plugging their ears and chanting ‘no true Scotsman’ at the majority of believers, or people will stop listening to them in favor of the louder, more populous kind of believer. Oh, wait…

  124. #124 David Livesay
    April 28, 2007

    “But,” Comfort continued, “there is something more sinister here than a few people not believing in God. Why would so many be so bitter against Christianity in particular? Why aren’t they making videos that blaspheme Buddha or Mohammed or Ghandi?

    Could it be because Buddhists, Muslims and “Ghandi” [sic] haven’t been trying to shove their religions down our throats and insinuate their irrational beliefs into our laws and our schools and other public institutions?

  125. #125 j@ne futzinfarb
    April 29, 2007

    “Atheism has become very popular in universities–where it’s taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are school shootings.”< \em>

    Slurpies have become very popular in 7-11’s–where it’s always possible to find Hostess Ding Dongs and there are no Ring-Tailed Lemurs. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are convenience store shootings.

    Leaving aside for the moment the absolute absence of evidence for claims of the “popularity” of atheism at universities and wholesale teaching of “no moral absolutes”, it is well worth noting that much of the perniciousness of religion is built into this beautifully illustrated logical fallacy – confusing correlation with cause and effect.

  126. #126 Tatiana Bye
    May 1, 2007

    In the immortal words of Robert Heinlen:
    “Faith strikes me as a rather sloppy way to run a universe.”

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