Pharyngula

A nice perspective

This is a good opinion piece in the Charlotte Observer by an Englishman residing in the city. He states right up front that he likes the city and sees a great deal of promise for the future in it, but he has one reservation: the region’s religiosity.

To a foreigner like myself, it’s disturbing that a majority of Americans don’t believe in something as fundamental as evolution (in a CBS/New York Times poll, 55 percent said God created humans in their current form). This erosion of belief in science and rationality is especially troubling for a prosperous region such as ours. American action is vital if we are to defuse the looming crisis of global warming, and Charlotte’s rise as an emerging global city gives us special responsibilities to play a leading role in solving this challenge. But solutions will be impossible without informed debate based on rigorous science.

It’s a polite piece that makes a solid point, that common American attitudes about science and religion are becoming an obstacle to economic progress.

Comments

  1. #1 craig
    January 25, 2008

    I predict many nasty letters to the editor in response.

  2. #2 Ross Nixon
    January 25, 2008

    The Englishman has revealed his ignorance by saying that there is a global warming problem. He needs to read some rigorous science (not political statements from IPCC sycophants). I suggest http://www.icecap.us, as it is updated daily and covers the scam from all angles.

  3. #3 garth
    January 25, 2008

    I wernt made from no monkey!

    no where’s my jug with three X’s on it. I feel the need for a hoedown.

  4. #4 octopod
    January 25, 2008

    ::points at #2::
    ::laughs for a long time, ending in a sob::
    I thought this blog was for friends of science…

  5. #5 Brian Coughlan
    January 25, 2008

    I thought this blog was for friends of science…

    This bizarre attitude to global warming, is a graphic illustration, that the real problem we face is not religion, but ideological dogma. Religion is just a subset. In this case, a particular brand of free market extremism that simply rejects even the most benign and obvious regulation of the commercial environment, as “socialism”.

    I used to get red in the face and spittle flecked at the determined idiocy of posts like 2, but now I just ignore them. The evidence for AGW, thanks to the work of tens of thousands of scientists over decades, has become a juggernaut that is sweeping aside the deniers.

    Deniers used to be a minority with an cautionary point, even boasting some genuine scientists, in the relevant field, without a hidden agenda. Maybe 10 years ago.

    Now almost all of them are as off base as any 911 conspiracy theorist, or YEC.

  6. #6 Brain Hertz
    January 25, 2008

    Much of that column resonated with me, as a Brit resident in Oregon for the last 8 years. As the author notes, the religious views espoused by most mainstream politicians in this country would be considered totally inappropriate to the level of effective disqualification from office in the UK.

    As it happens, though, I don’t see anything like the same level of religious influence locally here as one might see in some places in the US, and certainly nothing reflective of the more extreme elements of national religious politics.

    I can only hope that the extreme theists don’t succeed in driving this country off the rails (and possibly taking the rest of the world with it)…

  7. #7 Chris
    January 25, 2008

    Oh Ross Nixon, no one here is interested in your propaganda, pseudoscience, or non-science. Please go bother someone else. Actually, better yet please just go and don’t bother anyone.

  8. #8 Ross Nixon
    January 25, 2008

    Chris, I regret that you are bothered by my post.
    I try to keep my posts short and infrequent.
    Don’t be so narrow minded and intolerant. (I mean this in the nicest possible way.)

  9. #9 Azkyroth
    January 25, 2008

    “I’ll admit to a certain bias against incoherent arguments…” -D. C. Simpson

  10. #10 G. Tingey
    January 25, 2008

    Especially for the global-warming deniers, I suggest that they be first directed to these links:
    http://royalsociety.org/landing.asp?id=1278&gclid=CKmdnvSOkZECFQLnlAodiWbiGw
    http://data.kew.org/wild/phenology/more_info.html
    http://www.naturescalendar.org.uk/

    If you don’t believe what the staff of the oldest, largest, and most professional botanic garden on the planet, and the oldest continuous professional body of scientists on the planet tell you, then I suggest you should start doing your own research …..

  11. #11 Richard Harris
    January 25, 2008

    I heard Craig Ventor on BBC Radio 4 this morning, talking about Intelligent Design. This was in relation to his team’s recent manufacture of a bacterial chromosome, from various chemicals, which can be inserted into an ovum stripped of its own genome, in the hope that a viable organism results. The next stage is to redesign the chromosome so that the resulting organism has specified characteristics due to bio-engineering. This really would be Intelligent Design, not the nonsense pedalled by the god-goobers.

    So, it got me thinking that rationalists should co-opt the term Intelligent Design to mean what Craig Ventor meant. Maybe, if it gets regularly used in the scientific literature, the other meaning will become extinct, in a sort of Darwinian struggle.

  12. #12 Azkyroth
    January 25, 2008

    So, it got me thinking that rationalists should co-opt the term Intelligent Design to mean what Craig Ventor meant. Maybe, if it gets regularly used in the scientific literature, the other meaning will become extinct, in a sort of Darwinian struggle.

    That’d be poetic justice, but given how much they rely on the general public’s limited understanding of what terms used by scientists mean (“theory” of course being the big one, but there are numerous others), it’s likely to backfire.

  13. #13 sacamano
    January 25, 2008

    I’m an evolutionist, but, really, what is the evidence that not believing in evolution is “becoming an obstacle to economic progress”.

    There are plenty of bright, excellent corporate citizens who are theists.

    Afterall, somehow the US has become the biggest economy in the world despite the fact that most of its citizens deny evolution. Rising economic powers Japan and China are even more theistic.

    I’ll agree that a denial of evolution can *change* spending priorities (funnel funding away from stem cell research, for example), but I’ve seen nothing to convince me that it is an obstacle to economic progress.

    Both sides of this debate seem to inflate their own self-importance — on a rational, intellectual basis, sure, it seems obvious that we should all believe in Evolution. But it is precisely because it has so *little* of an effect on our day to day lives that people are able to continue to deny it.

    Now, if belief in evolution really *was* an obstacle to economic progress, you’d see atheists popping up in every boardroom in America.

  14. #14 Branedy
    January 25, 2008

    It would seem the reason most people deny global warming, it that it’s not mentioned in ‘The End Times’ ;-)

  15. #15 Lev
    January 25, 2008

    “Rising economic powers Japan and China are even more theistic.”

    Are they?

  16. #16 Brian Coughlan
    January 25, 2008

    “Rising economic powers Japan and China are even more theistic.” Are they?

    Errr … no.

    I think I’ll just leave that as a bald and self evident assertion. Someone else can do the leg work for stats if they like.

    Even better, the original poster might do some legwork to support their absurd position.

  17. #17 sacamano
    January 25, 2008

    If you want to try to convince me that most of China’s population believes in Darwinian evolution you are more than happy to try.

  18. #18 MartinM
    January 25, 2008

    Evolution and atheism are not synonymous.

  19. #19 Ross Nixon
    January 25, 2008

    But both of them sin_on_y’_mouse!

  20. #20 Norman Doering
    January 25, 2008

    sacamano wrote:

    Afterall, somehow the US has become the biggest economy in the world despite the fact that most of its citizens deny evolution.

    You might soon have to replace “has become” with “once was.” After 8 years of Bush I’m not sure we have the biggest economy in the world. China is poised to take the lead.

    If a European Union happened, Europe would surpass us just by doing that.

  21. #21 Adam C
    January 25, 2008

    “Rising economic powers Japan and China are even more theistic.”

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/rel_rel-religion-religions
    China:Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%
    Japan:observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16%(including Christian 0.7%)

    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/08/14/science/sciencespecial2/20050815_EVO_GRAPHIC.html
    The US is far behind Japan in acceptance of evolution, China wasn’t surveyed

  22. #22 Greg Baumbach
    January 25, 2008

    I lived in Charlotte for a year. The churches weren’t the only thing in your face–the mens clubs had a very sizable presence in the city, hardly hidden in the back alleys as they are in the northeast. At the time I was still a practicing Catholic, and didn’t understand the dichotomy, but then again, they *were* Protestants. Many godless years later, it makes perfect sense. Can’t imagine how godiculous the place has gotten of late.

  23. #23 Brian Coughlan
    January 25, 2008

    If you want to try to convince me that most of China’s population believes in Darwinian evolution you are more than happy to try.

    I think you meant, “more than welcome to try”. Thanks so much.

    I’m not aware of any surveys. What we do know is that a few hundred million people live in grinding poverty and are illiterate. They are unlikely to have even heard of evolution, but this is not quite the same thing as rejecting it. The most rabid rejection of science comes from the christian and islamic wackjobs, and China doesn’t have terribly many of those.

    Thus, I would expect a survey of the urban, educated elite would show broad acceptance of established science, including evolution. Anyone got some stats?

  24. #24 bill r
    January 25, 2008

    belief … in evolution
    erosion of belief in science and rationality

    Isn’t belief the problem? Just switching it from Jesus to Evolution doesn’t really make belief any less pernicious. I thought the target was understanding.

  25. #25 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    To my American friends,

    please note the difference between the following statements :

    1. “Keep religion out of politics”
    is not the same as
    2. “We should get rid of religion”

    For a politician to say,
    1. “We don’t do God”
    is not the same as
    2. “We don’t believe in God”

    1. “Evolution is a fact”
    is not the same as
    2. “Evolution is a fact, therefore you can’t believe in God”

    1. “we can’t waste precious time and energy fighting fairy tale creationists who want to turn the clock back to pre-Darwinian days of medieval mysticism”
    is not the same as
    2. “we must waste precious time and energy fighting fairy tale creationists who want to turn the clock back to pre-Darwinian days of medieval mysticism”

    As long as American free thinkers and religious moderates don’t ally to fight for the 1.s, I’m afraid the 2.s are the only things that are going to come out.

  26. #26 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    N-eater -

    Nice points theoretically, but not realistically.

    Take your first. If the religious can’t remove religion from science and history, they simply won’t do so from politics.

    It’s just a sobering look at the way they behave.

  27. #27 weemaryanne
    January 25, 2008

    The letters to the editor will employ the “if you don’t like it you can just go home” and “poor persecuted Christians” tropes in all their glorious emptiness. I hope the writer’s employer is ready for that.

  28. #28 gg
    January 25, 2008

    I have to share an anecdote about Charlotte and religion. Just south of it, in South Carolina, I was shocked on a drive to find that there was a used car dealership named “God’s Glory Auto Sales.” I remember thinking to myself, “Is that really a selling point for a car?”

    Letters to the editor in Charlotte can be funny. You’ll have one letter saying that Charlotte is experiencing a drought for its sinful ways, followed the next week by a few letters pointing out what an idiot the first writer is.

  29. #29 charley
    January 25, 2008

    “I’m an evolutionist, but, really, what is the evidence that not believing in evolution is ‘becoming an obstacle to economic progress’.”

    What kind of evidence would this be? Economists can’t even make basic reliable economic predictions, let alone tease out the effect of evolution belief on prosperity.

    It’s obvious that many future economic opportunities will rely on advanced scientific knowledge and those who possess it. Evolution denial and global warming denial are aggressive attacks on science by non-scientific groups who are threatened by scientific findings. These groups create societal hostility toward science which has the potential to drive scientists away and diminish public support for research.

  30. #30 SLC
    January 25, 2008

    Re Russ Nixon

    Gee, Pat Michaels and Fred Singer, the UVA nutcases. Prof. Singer has a long history of denialism. As I recall, he denied the effect of fluorocarbons onthe ozone layer, and the contribution of cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Not a very good track record.

  31. #31 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    Healthphysicist,

    you missed my point, “As long as American free thinkers and religious moderates don’t ally to fight for the 1.s, I’m afraid the 2.s are the only things that are going to come out.”

    Americans always say, oh Western Europe is more secular anyway. So what, you guys think we didn’t have to fight for it ? You think we’re just “naturally” less religious ?
    No, first you fight for secularism, and over 2 generations, religious fundamentalism dissapears (5% left instead of 45% in the USA), and you’re left with 40-50% religious moderates who really don’t feel the need to put much of their religion in politics, nor science.

    And fighting for secularism means getting moderate Christians to fight together with you.
    The calculation is simple :
    45% moderate Christians + 10% free thinkers = 55% that’s the majority
    You need first to get secularism once and for all established in this country.
    If you first start trying to prove to the moderates that they are as deluded, as the fundamentalists, that they’d be better off abandoning their faith alltogether, you are refocusing the debate on religion.

    I keep hearing Harris et co saying : “shaking these God soaked heads is what works”, or when he maintains that “moderation” in religion poses considerable dangers of its own, that it blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.

    Now how about that as an example for secularism ?
    Please where is the evidence that this works, that is, that it convinces the moderate Christians to fight together with us for secularism ?

    You say :
    “If the religious can’t remove religion from science and history, they simply won’t do so from politics.”

    The religious fundies are the ones who want to move religion into science. Not the moderates.
    Religion is part of history, so don’t see why one should remove it from there.

    And talking about “realistic”, how realistic is it that America, not having succeeded in taking the first step (a secular nation), is going to move to the second step (a godless nation) ?

    sarcasm on sarcasm off

  32. #32 holbach
    January 25, 2008

    I wish he had ended the article with “Reason willng,
    of course.” He could have remained neutral even if he
    believes in a god.

  33. #33 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    sorry, my last sentence was supposed to be :

    sarcasm on < now let's just shake these god-soaked heads a bit more. That'll certainly work. > sarcasm off

  34. #34 T_U_T
    January 25, 2008

    Though theory of evolution has only limited direct practical application ( antibiotic resistance anyone ? ). It is still true that denial of evolution impedes all science and thus undermines most of the modern economy. It is because science is interconnected. All areas of science have some overlap with others. So, to deny evolution, you will have to get wrong huge parts of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and even the scientific method itself. So, the inevitable result of denial of evolution is reduced capacity to understand and apply all science. And also, more denials in other areas. ( did you notice that double, triple, multiple area denialists are much more common than it should be if there were no correlation ? )

  35. #35 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    sorry, one more try…

    sarcasm on
    * Now let’s just shake these deluded, god-soaked heads a bit more… That’ll certainly work. *
    sarcasm off

  36. #36 helathphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    N-eater:

    I infer you are from Europe. Europe did not start out as secular, you earned it, like you said.

    In contrast, America did start out as secular! We’ve been fighting for it ever since and the moderates are silent.

    Those are just the facts.

  37. #37 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    Maybe I should say “we’ve been losing secularism ever since”.

  38. #38 Don Smith, FCD
    January 25, 2008

    One of the weirdest things I’ve experienced is the rational people I encounter in regards to religion (“It’s a crock”) who are irrational when it comes to Global Warming (“It’s a conspiracy of scientists”).

    WTF???

  39. #39 Brian Coughlan
    January 25, 2008

    One of the weirdest things I’ve experienced is the rational people I encounter in regards to religion (“It’s a crock”) who are irrational when it comes to Global Warming (“It’s a conspiracy of scientists”).

    WTF???

    I find it utterly fascinating, as well as deeply disturbing. We can clearly see such people are deranged in the context of this narrow, limited focus. Yet many of them remain utterly convinced that we are the crazies.

    Makes me seriously wonder what I’m deranged about … that I absolutely can’t or won’t see. Whats a non expert to do?

    Relentless, constant, skeptical vigilance is the only way, until such time as the weight of expert opinion becomes overwhelming, and not completely letting your guard down even then.

  40. #40 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    “and the moderates are silent.”

    And why in your opinion ?
    Everytime you get a moderate like Collins or Miller open his mouth, he gets more destroyed by the Atheists, than by the fundies.
    And the more the debate is being polarized between Atheists and Fundies, on
    - “how religion poisons everything”, or
    - “how deluded religious people are”, or
    - “moderates are dishonest, they should abandon their faith” or
    - “faith and evolution are incompatible”, or
    - “religion is the root of all evils”,
    The more the debate is on “faith vs science” (which the fundies love, it gives them so much importance), the more the moderates will remain silent.

    Honestly, if you were a religious moderate, in this context, would you take side ?

  41. #41 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    N-eater:

    I think you are devaluing the element of TIME. The polarizing debate you mention comes on the heels of decades of trying to work more passively. It simply hasn’t worked.

    So in the present, there are more desparate, outspoken attempts. They may or may not work. But we know for sure that we’ve tried to work with moderates for decades to contain the fundies and it hasn’t worked.

    So why have the moderates been silent? My guess is there are different reasons applicable to different moderates, in varying degrees. I have experienced some of these, personally:

    1. Other more pressing problems…divorce, marriage, work, etc.

    2. Inability to comprehend the issue. For example, they don’t understand evolution well enough to understand how it completely trumps creationism.

    3. Family/friends who are fundies causing social pressures.

    4. Sense of fairness, everyone should be allowed to speak. They don’t realize science isn’t about fairness of opinions.

    5. They associate religion with charity and morals and science with materialism. So even if science is technically right, it will lead to a downfall of society.

    Etc., etc.

  42. #42 jim a
    January 25, 2008

    If you want the religious types to believe in global warming you just have to sell it as evidence that the rapture is near. “God is warming up the planet and Hell’s a’poppin! Rising sea levels are just another example of the tribulatins that will be visited upon all them unbelievers after God has taken us into his bosom.” Of course this won’t help if your goal is to get them to act to avoid it. But BELEIVING is something that they’re rather practiced at.

  43. #43 Peter Ashby
    January 25, 2008

    I think the way to win the moderates to secularism is to remind them that it wasn’t us atheists who invented it. It was invented to prevent the religious from fomenting sectarianism in the public sphere. It evolved in Europe out of hundreds of years of war and internecine conflict between catholic and protestant and both individually against other ‘heresies’. It resulted in Britain having a Jewish Prime Minister (Gladstone) in the 19thC, with the power to appoint Anglican bishops.

    Remind them that xianity is not one religion and if the dominionists win the argumen it will be THEIR brand of dogma that will be only one allowed. Reread your copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, all those apparently throwaway references to pockets of Baptists being mopped up in the mountains. It will be like that. The Jews should know this stuff too, get them away from the millienialist xians who only want Armaggedon to come.

    Don’t make the mistake of letting the xians think the secular space is only for the irreligious. Do that and the moderates will stand with the fundies against you.

  44. #44 Dave Munger
    January 25, 2008

    Believe it or not, there are plenty of rational people in the Charlotte area. Yes, the churches are influential, but there are also lots of atheists and agnostics. Sometimes I even forget I’m living in the South.

    There are also religious wackos in “enlightened” places like Seattle and San Francisco.

  45. #45 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    P.A.:

    You would think that that line of reasoning would work, but it hasn’t.

    The religous moderates still go to church, where they continue to hear things like “we’re a Xian nation”, or every blastula “is a human soul”, etc.

    The/A church is organized whereas the secularists aren’t.

    You may be aware that the House just passed 2 resolutions promoting Xianity – HR847 & HR888. You may also be aware of the lack of backlash against two Presidential candidates who are outspoke on promoting religiosity.

    The moderates should be acting on their accord, without atheist support for the reasons you mentioned. But even with atheist prodding, they’re not doing much.

  46. #46 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    Correction – HR888 is only proposed, not yet passed.

  47. #47 Kseniya
    January 25, 2008

    Peter Ashby:

    Don’t make the mistake of letting the xians think the secular space is only for the irreligious.

    Amen, brother! Much of the damage done by the Religious Right over the past quarter-century has come from its relentless campaign to characterize distasteful notions like evolution and secularism as the ideologies of liberals and atheists. This tactic has not been entirely unsuccessful in undermining the standing of these ideas as foundational concepts of science and government.

  48. #48 negentropyeater
    January 25, 2008

    Fully agree with Peter.

    Healthphysicist,
    you say : “But we know for sure that we’ve tried to work with moderates for decades to contain the fundies and it hasn’t worked.”
    Evidence please ?

    Look, where does one find the biggest chunk of fundies ? Well, first and foremost within the 80 million Evangelicals, who spread like wild fire in the more rural areas of America, partly as a counter reaction to the more liberalizing trends of the metropolitan areas.
    I really don’t see what moderates and free thinkers have done to stop this epidemy. Remember 80 to 1. that’s the ratio between the USA vs the UK evangelical population.

    Then you say :
    “The religous moderates still go to church”,
    some do, some don’t, but unlike the fundies, they don’t go there every Sunday to get endoctrinated about the misfeats of liberalization…

    Then :
    “You may also be aware of the lack of backlash against two Presidential candidates who are outspoke on promoting religiosity.”

    Oh yeah ? Well, let’s wait and see if you are right. I think there is going to be a HUGE backlash in America. It’s happening now, and thanks to GW Bush. That’s the one positive thing GW has accomplished. He’s open America’s eyes to the dangers of religious fundamentalism.

    Now is the right time to fight for secularism, not the time to prove moderate Christians how deluded they are.

  49. #49 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 25, 2008

    I wince at the use of “believe” and “belief”… that’s simply not something that applies to science… Comment 24 is right.

    There are plenty of bright, excellent corporate citizens who are theists.

    Since when are “theist” and “creationist” synonyms???

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 25, 2008

    I wince at the use of “believe” and “belief”… that’s simply not something that applies to science… Comment 24 is right.

    There are plenty of bright, excellent corporate citizens who are theists.

    Since when are “theist” and “creationist” synonyms???

  51. #51 WayBeyondSoccerMom
    January 25, 2008

    I live in Charlotte, NC, and I agree with David Walters about fearing for Charlotte’s future economic growth. The city is the home base for two large banks, Wachovia and Bank of America. Charlotte is a fast growing city, but it also has a perception of being made up of “yahoos”, ignorant corn-pones who carry the bible everywhere, fearing “city slickers”. Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and because of its fast growth, it seems to be wrestling with its traditional Southern ways (including being God-fearing) and the “invading” ideas of the more cosmopolitan transplants from the North and West, along with those dang foreigners.

    It’s interesting to watch the cultural clash on a daily basis as it is hashed out in the local paper, The Charlotte Observer.

  52. #52 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    Evidence is work done by organizations like the ACLU (multi-secular/religious founded in 1920) at http://www.aclu.org/about/index.html and Americans United Against Sep of Church & State (muti-secular/religious founded in 1947) at http://www.au.org/site/PageServer. There are also humanist organizations (http://www.humanism.org/) and secular religious organizations (like http://www.culturaljudaism.org/ccj/about).

    These folks have and continue to work with religious moderates to enhance secularism. Yet we are today, where we are. And where we are has led to the realization and frustration that things are getting worse, not better.

    That has led to what I perceive as your view that we are being too polar. We are. But there are and have been plenty of others who haven’t been as polarizing. It just hasn’t worked.

    Moderates and free thinkers can’t prevent people from moving. And the rural areas are not bastions of education and already have large numbers of church goers. So the fundies “prosper” there.

    Agree that G.W.B. has opened some eyes, but apparently not enough to make it political infeasible for those candidates to speak as they did. There is so much wrong with G.W.B. that it’s hard to tie to only fundieism.

    But there doesn’t seem to be enough of a connection to make it politically infeasible for those House bills to be proposed, with one passing. Not enough to prevent the formation of religious internet versions of YouTube, Wikipedia, and Amazon. Not enough to desecularize the military (http://militaryreligiousfreedom.org/urgent_issues.html).

    And on and on.

    I agree we should be arguing for secularism (actually we shouldn’t have to, but reality is what it is).

    But why haven’t the moderates been effective? They haven’t been.

  53. #53 healthphysicist
    January 25, 2008

    I hope this isn’t a second post…my first seems to have vaporized..

    N-eater:

    Evidence is ACLU work (multi-religious/secular, formed in 1920) Amer. United for Sep. of Church & State (multi-religious/secular formed in 1947). Various secular/religious organizations like this one http://www.culturaljudaism.org/ccj/about.

    Perhaps the greatest evidence is our public schools and government doc’s. In complete disregard for our history and what is hopefully the correct teaching of it, the moderates are not doing anything.

    G.W. is a buffoon, but he’s made so many mistakes, I can’t say that his failures will be seen as tightly wound up with fundieism. He hasn’t caused the political inexpediency of:

    1. The passage of one House bill promoting Xianity with a second pending
    2. Two candidates still bragging about fundiesm.
    3. The continued appearance of proreligious alternatives to mainstream internet media like YouTube vs. GodTube, Wiki vs. Conserv, Amazon vs. the other one on this blog, etc.

    We’ve been fighting for secularism and losing.

  54. #54 PeteK
    January 25, 2008

    They believe in science, but they don’t think evolution is part of science, probably because they have been taught a bogus version of it. Define “evolution” and “science” and “rationality” differently and things would be different.

  55. #55 SLC
    January 25, 2008

    Re Peter Ashby

    “It resulted in Britain having a Jewish Prime Minister (Gladstone) in the 19thC, with the power to appoint Anglican bishops.”

    I think that Mr. Ashby is thinking of Benjamin Disraeli, not Gladstone.

  56. #56 Peter Ashby
    January 25, 2008

    Dammit! I’m too young for such a senior moment. Indeed Disraeli, thankyou SLC for the correction.

  57. #57 AlanWCan
    January 25, 2008

    I call troll on sacamano. Who the hell uses the word evolutionist except godbots? And that thing about “Rising economic powers Japan and China are even more theistic” I’d like to see some data to back up that assertion please. I lived in Japan for a decade and one of my favourite things about that country is that, in my experience, they just don’t take religion at all seriously. Really, people have shinto new year celebrations and car blessings (!), a buddhist funeral (because then you get reincarnation), and a lot of people have fake christian church weddings because they like the big white dress. I know lots of western guys who were hired to act as fake xtian priests for these weddings – there’s good money in it. Every city has at least one huge building filled with fake churches for weddings. They do have a small low level infestation with mormons and jehovas witnesses and all sort of other godbotherers, but by and large they treat religion the same way the Italians seem to treat politics–not at all to be taken seriously–and I think you’d have a hard time finding more than a small percentage of people that would profess to actually believing there are a dozen deities circling the country in a boat or their own shinto creation myths or any of that other wine into blood stuff. So, I say you’re talking out of your ass.

  58. #58 Matt Heath
    January 25, 2008

    @Peter Ashby: A further correction: Disraeli wasn’t a follower of the Jewish faith. He was ethnically Jewish but baptised and practising (if not believing too strongly) C of E.

    Your original main point is made of win though.

    The article in the OP kind of suggests that Clegg has been able to be MORE open about his Godlessness than Blair was about his God-bothering. This isn’t really true. Clegg answered a direct question and then did some damage limitation about his Roman Catholic sons and his respect for faith. When specifically asked about his Christianity while in office, Blair said at least once that it had shaped his politics and pulled him away from Marx (serial believers – the scariest kind).

  59. #59 Cairnarvon
    January 25, 2008

    You might soon have to replace “has become” with “once was.” After 8 years of Bush I’m not sure we have the biggest economy in the world. China is poised to take the lead.

    If a European Union happened, Europe would surpass us just by doing that

    The EU is already the largest economic bloc in the world, controlling about a third of the global economy (and growing), though it doesn’t beat out the US’s 27% by very much. The third is Japan, with 9%.

    There’s a lot of hype surrounding China, but it’s still only at 6%. Given its population, it’s an economic dwarf.

  60. #60 noodlesoup
    January 25, 2008

    DOES GW-SCEPTIC = 911-CONSPIRACY

    With evolutionary biology we have so many facts, hard evidence, and correlation with may other fields of science. With GW we have several facts, among them are [1] the mean temperature has been getting warmer and [2] the CO2 levels produced by man have been increasing and are currently excessive by any measure. HOWEVER: The Maunder Minimum and other sunspot-corresponding events do seem to indicate that sunspots, and solar-activity in general, may play a role in climate change as well. I am all for addressing CO2 as a pollutant and immediately requiring filters on all coal-fired powerplants. What I’m leery of is the DOOMSDAY scenarios and the goofy ersatz-solutions such as the carbon-tax, carbon-offsetting by paying somebody to ride a bicycle or plant a tree, and the Gore et.al. proposals for a weird version of Catholic Indulgences or trading “carbon credits” on a dedicated stock exchange. All of this to me seems simply goofy. Finally, WTC-7 (the one that wasn’t hit by an airplane) collapsing does seem odd to me. Feel free to attack me for being a reality-denying “crazy person” on par with a Creationist.

  61. #61 Autumn
    January 26, 2008

    Well, noodlesoup, since you are “all for addressing CO2 as a pollutant” but against “goofy, ersatz-soloutions” which address CO2 as a pollutant, as well as finding “odd” the fact that a structure damaged by the impact of debris from the collapse of the largest office-building on the planet could possibly come out worse-for-the-wear, I do hereby call you a crazy person.

  62. #62 sacamano
    January 26, 2008

    Who the hell uses the word evolutionist except godbots?

    What a ridiculous argument. Is this evidence of your rational thinking? Should I use Pastafarian instead?

    Look, my main point — that still hasn’t been adequately addressed by anyone — is that belief in evolution has very little relevance for most people’s day to day living. PZ made the assertion that lack of believe in evolution is an “obstacle to economic progress”. I see no evidence for this, and none has been presented.

    It is precisely because of this limited practical application that it is only a limited “obstacle to economic progress”. Again, if it really were an obstacle to economic progress, evolution would be more widely believed.

  63. #63 BaldApe
    January 26, 2008

    Richard Harris said (#11)
    Maybe, if it gets regularly used in the scientific literature, the other meaning will become extinct

    I doubt it. Look at the track record for such simple concepts as mass vs. weight, acceleration, speed vs. velocity, the use of the word “literal” to mean “seems to,” and I should hardly need to mention “theory.”

    Bill R (#24)
    Yes, belief is exactly the problem. Science has become just somebody’s opinion.

    And global warming deniers should look at the RealClimate blog. Excellent documentation, although the science might hurt their tiny little brains.

  64. #64 Azkyroth
    January 26, 2008

    With evolutionary biology we have so many facts, hard evidence, and correlation with may other fields of science. With GW we have several facts, among them are [1] the mean temperature has been getting warmer and [2] the CO2 levels produced by man have been increasing and are currently excessive by any measure.

    Do you understand the reason why the increased CO2 levels are thought to be driving the change in temperature? Have you made any effort to find out?

    HOWEVER: The Maunder Minimum and other sunspot-corresponding events do seem to indicate that sunspots, and solar-activity in general, may play a role in climate change as well.

    First, without at least a plausible proposal for a mechanism of causation, assuming a causal relationship between these events is nonsensical (has sunspot activity actually increased recently, btw?). Second, even if sunspots do play a role, there’s really nothing we can do about them any time in the remotely foreseeable future, whereas we can do quite a bit about greenhouse gases.

    I am all for addressing CO2 as a pollutant and immediately requiring filters on all coal-fired powerplants.

    I’m not terribly familiar with power plants, but all the proposals for filters I’ve ever heard of were intended to address particulate emissions, not CO2.

    What I’m leery of is the DOOMSDAY scenarios and the goofy ersatz-solutions such as the carbon-tax, carbon-offsetting by paying somebody to ride a bicycle or plant a tree, and the Gore et.al. proposals for a weird version of Catholic Indulgences or trading “carbon credits” on a dedicated stock exchange. All of this to me seems simply goofy.

    Well, if you think those are goofy, what would you propose instead?

    Incidentally, the basic motivation of all those proposals is to create an economic incentive for corporations and individuals to reduce pollution. This is done first by placing the cost that pollution imposes on society in terms of increased health care costs and environmental damage – a burden that is presently spread across society as a whole – directly on polluters, in proportion to the amount of pollution they produce, and second, by reducing the cost burden that aggressive pollution-reduction strategies might otherwise impose on individuals and corporations. Additionally, emission credit trading gives companies that can economically make huge reductions in their emissions the chance to profit from doing so by selling this as a service to companies that cannot do so, reducing the total emission level without driving the latter out of business. I would suggest you read up on these concepts; Wikipedia is fine, but I have at least one EPA paper on emission reduction credits I’ll have to look up.

    Finally, WTC-7 (the one that wasn’t hit by an airplane) collapsing does seem odd to me. Feel free to attack me for being a reality-denying “crazy person” on par with a Creationist.

    The WTC part is completely off-topic. But frankly, yes, you are on a par with Creationists. You’re doing the same thing they tend to: you’re feeding your pre-existing biases and subjective perceptions into a very limited and somewhat garbled set of data on the topic, failing to educate yourself to improve that data set, spitting out nonsense that “seems logical”, and pretending that this trumps the results obtained by scientists who’ve actually studied the topic rigorously.

  65. #65 Phoenix Woman
    January 27, 2008

    The 9/11 nutballs holler that “WTC 7 wasn’t damaged in the attacks, but it was blown up to hide the evidence of the conspiracy!!!”

    Except, of course, that WTC 7 was indeed damaged, and fairly heavily, which is why it was demolished: It was so badly damaged in the attack that it was going to collapse anyway. http://www.debunking911.com/WTC7.htm

    In fact, there is video of a firefighter lamenting not being able to save the heavily-damaged WTC 7: http://www.debunking911.com/pull.htm

  66. #66 noodlesoup
    January 27, 2008

    RE: “I’m not terribly familiar with power plants, but all the proposals for filters I’ve ever heard of were intended to address particulate emissions, not CO2.”

    Why are people who are unaware that coal-fired powerplants are the leading source or CO2 emissions calling me a Creationist? Fine, go ahead and pay somebody to ride a bicycle and put Gore in charge of the CO2 stock exchange.

  67. #67 Azkyroth
    January 27, 2008

    Why are people who either use the term “filter” when they mean “chemical scrubber” or the like, or are unaware that filters are intended to remove suspended solid particles (or that carbon dioxide molecules are not “suspended solid particles”), complaining about anyone else’s unawareness of anything? The fact that your somewhat ambiguous statement implied that you supported the use of a technology that is useless for controlling gaseous emissions for reducing the carbon dioxide output of power plants was what confused me. (I wasn’t aware that the percentages broke down quite that way, actually, though I’m certainly aware that coal-fired power plants are a major source – my area of specialization, however, is mobile source emissions. Where exactly are you getting these statistics? I’d like to see them.)

    So, any chance you’ll respond to the rest of my statement? In particular, the reason I cited for comparing you to creationists?

    For that matter, any chance you’ll give any argument against the policies you decry other than that you, personally, think they’re “weird?”

  68. #68 Azkyroth
    January 27, 2008

    Footnote: I looked up “greenhouse gases” on Wikipedia and the percentages in the article showed gasoline narrowly edging out coal as the major contributor. However, it’s not immediately obvious where in the cited source those figures came from, so I’m looking for more information.

    (I predict, based on previous trends, that Noodlesoup will pounce on the fact that I was using data derived from a WIKIPEDIA article and ignore everything else in this post, especially the part about the cited source. Yet another Creationist trait).

  69. #69 Azkyroth
    January 27, 2008

    Addendum: Based on these EPA figures, where I admit I probably should have started, Noodlesoup’s statement about coal contributions to CO2 production suggest that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    Although the labeling on the table suggests that it may only apply to the US. I’ll have to read through the text around it in more detail.

  70. #70 Azkyroth
    January 27, 2008

    …and, based on EIA figures, it would appear that Noodlesoup’s assertion about coal’s contributions to carbon dioxide emissions was correct.

    (Isn’t it amazing what you can discover when you actually do some research and educate yourself instead of just blowing off things that seem “weird”?)

  71. #71 MAJeff
    January 27, 2008

    As to the “How should we be dealing with the religious moderates?” and secularism stuff above, some thoughts:

    We are a diverse group of people who take a lot of different approaches toward talking to and interacting with religious folks in various settings. Just because we say speak in one way on a blog comment list, doesn’t mean we walk up to people looking at Bibles in Barnes and Noble and say, “You demented fuckwit,” or even to do so when sitting across the table at lunch with colleagues and friends. Those are different social spaces, and all of them have different “rules of the game.”

    Additionally, the folks who get so consistently fussy with the outspokenness and bluntness of us anti-godders don’t seem to understand that we work with religious folks on a daily basis, and we do so on a friendly basis; they don’t seem to understand that social movements (and this is an interesting form of one working to get moving and have an impact) are almost never successful if monolithic. They take different forms and have people doing different things in different ways in different social arenas. There isn’t going to be any single approach, and as much as some folks might hate it, ridicule is a useful political tool with a long history.

    Now is the right time to fight for secularism, not the time to prove moderate Christians how deluded they are.

    Why can one not work against irrational theistic beliefs and for secularism simultaneously? I know one thing: if we do the, “Before we can address B, we have to solve A” approach, B will never be addressed.