Pharyngula

Local Boy Gets Obnoxious

Cool — I’ve been written up in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s a good story by a journalist, Tom Paulson, who I just met this week, and who seems to know what’s up in the area. I’ve already had a relative call up and say she’s glad I’m famous, so it’s all just in time for the family reunion tomorrow — everyone will be prepared to take me down a peg and make sure I’m not too cocky.

Since I did say a few things about the Discovery Institute, he called them up and got their side of the story. This part is the typical creationist sidestep.

Not so, said John West, associate director of the institute’s center for science and culture. Intelligent design allows for the possibility of some kind of ultimate intelligence behind everything, West said, but their research “doesn’t start from a religious premise.” He rejected Myers’ contention that they are “creationists.”

West noted that one of their scientists, Douglas Axe at the affiliated Biologic Institute in Redmond, just this week had an article describing his computer simulation of protein evolution published in the prestigious online science journal, the Public Library of Science.

“We’re not proposing the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook,” West said. “We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies.”

Where to start?

ID doesn’t just allow for the “possibility” of an ultimate intelligence, it is their fundamental premise. Read the very first sentence of the Wedge document: “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built.” It declares that their goal is the “overthrow of materialism” and that they want to re-open the “case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”

They are insulting our intelligence when they claim that they are not creationists. Of course they are. You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.

I never claimed that they were using the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook; however, their base, the people who are going rah-rah and trying to use ID as an angle to sneak their ideology in the public schools, would like nothing less. ID is a façade of pseudo-secularism erected to cloak the religious goals of their organization. If you followed the Dover trial exposed that plainly; there’s a reason we laugh and call these bozos “cdesign proponentsists“.

And of course West would bring up the recent PLoS paper — it’s an excellent example of their new attempts to patch up their secular cloak.

The paper is called Stylus: A System for Evolutionary Experimentation Based on a Protein/Proteome Model with Non-Arbitrary Functional Constraints. It’s a description of a new software package written by the secret Biologic Institute, which they argue will have utility in modeling protein evolution. The paper says absolutely nothing about Intelligent Design, makes no arguments against evolution, and is utterly untroubling to evolutionary theory, and it’s clear that the way they got it published was by studiously avoiding the kinds of stupid statements that are the hallmark of the Discovery Institute. It’s useful cover for them: they will now be announcing at every opportunity that they do too do science, and they deserve a cookie … hoping that the luster of a publication that does not address their core assertions at all can be redirected to put a little shine on the tawdry crap they advance elsewhere.

It’s actually not a bad paper, with an interesting idea at its center. They have designed an evolution simulator built on an analogy, that protein shape can be compared to the shape of Chinese characters. The virtue of the plan is that they can associate a complex morphology with an unambiguous functional criterion, its similarity to a representation in the vector world of of a Han character. It’s a clever idea, but the paper really doesn’t do anything with it yet, except propose it and make arguments for some similarities with natural processes. OK. Now if only I could trust the authors not to twist it in bizarre directions in the future, knowing that few of their critics will have bothered to plumb the arcana of their software, or that they know that all they have to do is claim that they’ve got some observation that disproves some facet of evolution, which will require that some people be distracted from real biology to address it.

Wesley already has some criticisms. I haven’t read it carefully enough to offer my own (I’m on vacation, dangit!), but I do have some general doubts…and suspect that if it works well at emulating biology, it won’t be supporting the scientific claims of Intelligent Design creationists, anyway. But no matter its successes, it is already being used by the Discovery Institute as a political tool to prop up their sham operation.

Comments

  1. #1 Doug
    June 6, 2008

    If it wasn’t for lies then creationists wouldn’t say anything.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    June 6, 2008

    “We’re not proposing the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook,” West said. “We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies.”

    No, they’re just insisting that something that may not be God, yet has all of God’s capacities and inscrutability, made life by unknowable means and for unknowable reasons (and it’s a total accident that life looks like it evolved without guidance).

    It’s BS that science are religion are friends. It’s also a false dilemma to suggest that either science and religion are friends or enemies. Then too, Collins thinks they’re friends, and he isn’t blithering on about a designer fashioning everything to look like it’s the result of unguided evolution (what for, a test?).

    What West is clearly doing is implying that because science and religion are not (he says) enemies, that sneaking religion into science is just fine. Which is the most offensive part of his statements.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  3. #3 SC
    June 6, 2008

    they will now be announcing at every opportunity that they do too do science, and they deserve a cookie …

    :)

  4. #4 Sastra
    June 6, 2008

    “We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies.”

    Doesn’t that sound friendly? And not at all obnoxious or — worse — “shrill.”

    What they mean to say is that a nice, helpful, positive kind of science will support the religious beliefs you already know are true through Other Ways of Knowing. And as long as those Other Ways of Knowing are paid respect in our culture and don’t have to establish their validity on common ground with science, people are going to continue to seek and find a friendly-kind of harmony in how they view reality.

    No, not through NOMA. That’s harmony through compartmentalization, and requires intellectual acrobatics not all can handle. They want harmony through unity.

  5. #5 H.H.
    June 6, 2008

    ID isn’t at all about religion, god, or Christian morality. In fact, nothing about the Designer’s identity, motives, or methods can be inferred from the mere fact of design.

    That’s why William Dembski can state that the signing of a transgender anti-discrimination bill “points up the lunacy that ensues in a world without design” because, you know, the one thing we apparently can know about this mysterious Designer is that he/she/it supports discriminating against transgendered people.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/culture/in-an-undesigned-world/

    All science so far…

  6. #6 bigjohn756
    June 6, 2008

    “They are insulting our intelligence when they claim that they are not creationists. Of course they are. You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.”

    D) All of the above.

    I love multiple guess choice questions!

  7. #7 James F
    June 6, 2008

    As Robert Pennock noted in a thorough takedown of the “academic freedom” bills,

    Science can’t test God and so can’t include God in its explanations, but that doesn’t mean that science and belief in God are incompatible. Indeed, the dominant theological view accepts that God could have created using evolution. But ID explicitly rejects theistic evolution. The untold story is that mainstream religious critics of ID are as dismissive of them for theological reasons as scientists are for scientific reasons.

  8. #8 Brownian, OM
    June 6, 2008

    We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies.

    If religion is so fucking friendly, then how come it can’t get along with homosexuals, many of whom I personally know to be fabulous people?

  9. #9 Wicked Lad
    June 6, 2008

    PZ wrote:

    I haven’t read it carefully enough to offer my own (I’m on vacation, dangit!), but I do have some general doubts…and suspect that if it works well at emulating biology, it won’t be supporting the scientific claims of Intelligent Design creationists, anyway.

    Scientific claims? What scientific claims? Unless you mean their baseless assertion that ID is science.

  10. #10 Physicalist
    June 6, 2008

    Cool that newspapers are now quoting creationists in Comic Sans. Once we get news reporters using a Daffy-Duck voice to quote them, we’ll have won the war.

  11. #11 Reginald Selkirk
    June 6, 2008

    PZ “Paul” Myers

    That’s slightly odd. Isn’t the usual practice to put the nickname in quotes, as in Paul “PZ” Myers?

  12. #12 lloyd barrester
    June 6, 2008

    How come Christians can’t get along with homosexuals?

    More to the point, the question should be, Why are homosexuals worthy of a spiritual death and separation from a loving God? The answer may be summed up by reading a profile of a homosexual. This isn’t very pretty.

    (Rom 1:28 KJV) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    (Rom 1:29 KJV) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    (Rom 1:30 KJV) Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

    (Rom 1:31 KJV) Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

    (Rom 1:32 KJV) Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    Note: Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

  13. #13 Longtime Lurker
    June 6, 2008

    Hate to break it to you, religion, but science just isn’t that into you.

  14. #14 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    Atta boy PZ!! Never give them less than a full broadside of snark. :)

  15. #15 Reginald Selkirk
    June 6, 2008

    “It’s true that a number of good scientists also have religious beliefs,” he said. “I’m not saying they are not good scientists. I’m just saying they also appear to believe in a magic sky fairy.”

    Zing!

  16. #16 Monado
    June 6, 2008

    If you’re still in Seattle, you might drag the family to see Paul Allen’s collection of vintage airplanes, which has just opened to the public. On weekends they’ll fly a couple of the planes so people can see them in action.

    I don’t know if you like old gadgets and fine machinery, but I do.

  17. #17 SteveM
    June 6, 2008

    Cool that newspapers are now quoting creationists in Comic Sans.

    Except that they aren’t.

  18. #18 Jose Fly
    June 6, 2008

    It’s a clever idea, but the paper really doesn’t do anything with it yet, except propose it and make arguments for some similarities with natural processes. OK. Now if only I could trust the authors not to twist it in bizarre directions in the future

    Duh…it’s obvious where the ID creationists are headed with this one.

    “Look! Proteins are just like Chinese characters, and we all know intelligence is the only thing that produces Chinese characters. Therefore, proteins must also be produced by intelligence!”

    It’s just a variation of their genome = computer code analoogy.

  19. #19 HumanisticJones
    June 6, 2008

    knowing that few of their critics will have bothered to plumb the arcana of their software

    Does anyone know if the software will be open source? If so I would gladly plumb the depths of it in conjunction with a person that understands proteins to see if they’ve put limits in the software that would later “prove evolution wrong”.

  20. #20 brokenSoldier, OM
    June 6, 2008

    Note: Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

    Posted by: lloyd barrester | June 6, 2008 4:13 PM

    All right, who let this guy out of the Dark Ages?

  21. #21 Tulse
    June 6, 2008

    Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

    Gee, lloyd, that sounds like a death threat to me — care to provide us with your address so we can alert the police?

  22. #22 arachnophilia
    June 6, 2008

    hey lloyd, you must not be very well versed in pauline christianity. the apostle argues that all are worthy of death. that includes you, buddy.

  23. #23 Rey Fox
    June 6, 2008

    Crap, I’m worthy of death because I enjoy MAJeff’s insightful comments to this blog?

  24. #24 Sastra
    June 6, 2008

    Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

    Damn, they finally got me on watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

  25. #25 Brian
    June 6, 2008

    Well, not to rain on their parade, but PLoSOne is not a peer reviewed journal. At least not in the traditional sense. The editors don’t really read for content before it’s published – that’s the job of the community at large when they make comments on the paper.

  26. #26 Etha Williams
    June 6, 2008

    I think it’s fairly obvious that lloyd takes pleasure in homosexuals as a target for his perverted hatemongering, so…worthy of death?

  27. #27 Coturnix
    June 6, 2008

    PLoS ONE is a peer-reviewed journal, in a traditional sense. It ALSO has post-publication peer-review in case the traditional review screws up as it sometimes does. This paper was reviewed just like any other, it is technically sound, but at PLoS ONE the reviewers are not supposed to judge the novelty, utility or media-worthiness (or politics) of a paper – just its technical soundness and proper writing.

  28. #28 MrSquid
    June 6, 2008

    If religion is so fucking friendly, then how come it can’t get along with homosexuals, many of whom I personally know to be fabulous people?

    Are they scientists?

    :)

  29. #29 James F
    June 6, 2008

    #19 HumanisticJones,

    It is (all PLoS journals are open access), although Wes Elsberry is encountering problems getting it to run. You ought to compare notes, and I would love to know your findings and help out if I can.

  30. #30 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    There I go scuttling off to hell again…I’ve gotten way more pleasure out of the Portland Gay Men’s Choir than I ever did out of the Mormon Choir. Good thing the road to hell is well paved.

  31. #31 phantomreader42
    June 6, 2008
    Lloyd the death-cultist:
    Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

    Tulse:
    Gee, lloyd, that sounds like a death threat to me — care to provide us with your address so we can alert the police?

    Since it’s a mass death threat, sounds more like terrorism, so a job for the FBI or Homeland Security.

    lloyd barrester, bible-thumping troll and terrorist. Wonder if he’ll stay as long as Undead Kenny.

  32. #32 Owlmirror
    June 6, 2008

    The answer may be summed up by reading a profile of a homosexual.

    Yeah, we know, the author of Romans was a homosexual who deserved to go to hell. There’s nothing about being a homosexual that means that they’ll be good people.

    Fortunately, we know that Jesus said (John 13:34) “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

    So obviously, homosexuals who love one another are gladly accepted into heaven, and are right with God.

    Yup!

  33. #33 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    Lloyd is probably one of the protesters at my local porn shop.

  34. #34 SC
    June 6, 2008

    I think it’s fairly obvious that lloyd takes pleasure in homosexuals as a target for his perverted hatemongering, so…worthy of death?

    Definitely not cake.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=rZVjKlBCvhg

  35. #35 Curt Cameron
    June 6, 2008

    ID is a fašade of pseudo-secularism erected to cloak the religious goals of their organization.

    I think the proper term here is “stalking horse.”

  36. #36 SC
    June 6, 2008

    Walton, you reading this? #12?

  37. #37 Dennis N
    June 6, 2008

    I thought lloyd was being sarcastic and pointing out how barbaric the bible is. My Poe detector is all messed up.

  38. #38 Slaughter
    June 6, 2008

    Uh-oh. My wife was watching a marathon session of “What Not to Wear” on TLC the other night. I watched a couple episodes myself. I better make sure our wills are in order.

  39. #39 Steve Zara
    June 6, 2008

    It would actually be pretty neat if ID was a science. Yes, I know. But bear with me.

    Wouldn’t it be simply wonderful if we could come up with testable criteria that would indicate that there is no way that any possible evolutionary route to specified biological structure will, or could, ever be found?

    For some reason this brings to mind the Halting Problem that Alan Turing deal with. It turns out that it is in principle impossible to write a program to decide in all cases if a specified programs will ever stop running (I hope I have remembered that correctly).

    This does raise an interesting (but I suspect very unlikely) possibility. Is there a biological equivalent? Could there be a proof that it just isn’t possible to say “evolution didn’t do this”? That would be a proof of the incorrectness of ID (if one were needed).

  40. #40 brokenSoldier, OM
    June 6, 2008

    Definitely not cake.

    Posted by: SC | June 6, 2008 5:23 PM

    Very nice, SC. That’s one of my favorite bits from one of my favorite comedians! I say we put lloyd at the end of the line, right after the cake runs out….”So my choice is …or death??”

  41. #41 Brownian, OM
    June 6, 2008

    Gee, lloyd, that sounds like a death threat to me — care to provide us with your address so we can alert the police?

    Posted by: Tulse | June 6, 2008 4:42 PM

    *Cracks knuckles* Yeah, er, Tulse is right. So we can alert the police.

  42. #42 Owlmirror
    June 6, 2008

    This does raise an interesting (but I suspect very unlikely) possibility. Is there a biological equivalent? Could there be a proof that it just isn’t possible to say “evolution didn’t do this”? That would be a proof of the incorrectness of ID (if one were needed).

    That reminds me. I’ve often seen the obnoxious assertion that because we don’t know everything, we can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.

    It finally occurred to me that this can be turned around: In order to prove that God does (or did) exist, they have to first show that every single possible natural process and pathway could not possibly have lead to the origin of life in the first place, nor to Earth’s current biological diversity.

    So, get cracking, theists! It’s not enough to point to a stupid jar of peanut butter!

    To disprove abiogenesis, you need to try every single possible combination of organic chemicals in conjunction with every possible combination of inorganic chemicals (in case one or more is a catalyst), at every conceivable temperature range, exposed to every possible light frequency from the sun, for at least a billion years.

    AND you need to show that every single mutation in every single organism that ever lived, could not have occurred by chance.

    Go ahead. Go nuts. Get cracking with those proofs. Show ALL work. Don’t forget to clean up after the more hazardous chemicals.

  43. #43 Steve Zara
    June 6, 2008

    It finally occurred to me that this can be turned around: In order to prove that God does (or did) exist, they have to first show that every single possible natural process and pathway could not possibly have lead to the origin of life in the first place, nor to Earth’s current biological diversity.

    Absolutely.

    This is why “God of the gaps” arguments are rubbished even by theologians. They are, in principle, impossible to prove.

    Also, Intelligent Design includes a really wild anthropic-type principle that I haven’t seen pointed out before: It implies that humans alive now are capable of having the final definitive say on the nature of reality. If we can’t come up with an explanation for how something evolved, then that is it. Give up and say “designed”.

    I find the arrogance of this position astonishing.

  44. #44 Matt
    June 6, 2008

    You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.

    I don’t think John West is blind, but the rest fits.

  45. #45 rrt
    June 6, 2008

    HumanisticJones @ #19:

    Precisely. This paper is preparing the ground for other “work,” likely already written, or at least clearly conceived. As PZ says, it’s meant to give them a veneer of legitimacy (“See, we do real science!”) but is also meant to lend that legitimacy specifically to Stylus. They’ve been smarting from the valid evolutionary models for quite a while. Later on, there will be papers that claim to use Stylus to disprove evolution. When we object, they will cry: “Stylus was already published! You accepted it as valid! Now you hypocritically change your tune when we dare to criticize evolution!” Conveniently, this line works whether the Other Shoe Paper is actually accepted for publication or not.

    That’s my hunch, anyway. If it turns out to be true, what better example of wicked dishonesty than such a deliberate effort to create a hamstrung model? (Yeah, I know…”You mean since last Tuesday?”)

  46. #46 Ferrous Patella
    June 6, 2008

    West said, but their research “doesn’t start from a religious premise.”

    Technically true, but would be truer if West left off the last four words.

  47. #47 Bloix
    June 6, 2008

    “You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.”

    I suppose I will be attacked in short order as a troll, but I for one don’t think that ID is creationism. ID is a false religious belief but it rejects the biblical creation story, acceptance of which is what creationism is. Creationism is biblical literalism and belief in a young earth, and ID doesn’t accept either. When you say that ID is creationism, you open yourself to easy refutation.

    So, anyone who wants, go ahead and call me stupid, blind, and dishonest. I don’t mind. But after you do, tell me why someone who doesn’t believe in the biblical story of creation is a creationist.

  48. #48 Owlmirror
    June 6, 2008

    Creationism is biblical literalism and belief in a young earth,

    Not necessarily. Creationist beliefs span a continuum.

    http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/9213_the_creationevolution_continu_12_7_2000.asp

    Sometimes they fight and argue over their disagreements, sometimes they agree to avoid each others sore points.

    and ID doesn’t accept either.

    It depends on who the “ID”iot is.

  49. #49 Owlmirror
    June 6, 2008

    For example, Ben Stein (“ID” proponent shill) and Ken Ham (Young Earth Creationist) got along just fine.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/rare_hyperbole.php

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?, OM
    June 6, 2008

    ID [...] rejects the biblical creation story

    Behe does, because he accepts common descent. But does ID?

  51. #51 negentropyeater
    June 6, 2008

    I just don’t know what is so difficult to understand.

    Intelligent design allows for the possibility of some kind of ultimate intelligence behind everything, West said, but their research “doesn’t start from a religious premise.”

    As usual, there is nothing wrong with the so called “premise” of intelligent design, ie allowing the possibility of some kind of ultimate intelligence behind everything, there is nothing in our real historical sciences, cosmology, abiogenesis, evolutionary biology that excludes this possibility either.
    But this doesn’t mean that one has proposed a satisfactory method to find evidence that said intelligence exists.

    Now let’s suppose that in the future one does find such method, or evidence for a designer, I’m almost certain it won’t be ID researchers who would find it but real scientists who study real sciences the hard way in such areas as quantum cosmology, astrobiology, abiogenesis or evolutionary biology.

    If one would find such evidence, how would one derive from this the Christian God or Allah ? Or the hate of homosexuals ?

    This just smacks human intelligence. The key issue is not whether there is a higher intelligence behind everything, atheism vs theism, but the veracity of religions.

    When are people going to grow up ? There is absolutely no way that reason, nor science can be used to substantiate any religion. The only thing that can be done is to use human imagination to create religions as it has been done numerous times in the past, what seems so surprising is that we are stuck on the imaginary creation of antique goat-herders whose moral code has absolutely no relevance with our society.

    This sentence, doesn’t mean anything ;

    We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies

    We need to get rid of NOMA; this is really a terrible idea.
    If religion is recognized ounce and for all for what it is, the product of human imagination, a metaphorical code of practices with all its dangers and benefits , there is no reason that it be the enemy of science, it just becomes something fairly inoffensive, definitely not a “magisteria”. If one pretends that science can subsstantiate religions, than that is creationism, that is creating enemies.

  52. #52 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    I have a really bad feeling that when this story gets through the west coast fanatics by Sunday night, we are going to get a crop of trolls that will make Kenney & Brenda look like Jack & Jill. Hope I’m wrong – but Lloyd is typical of my whole town. >:( On the other hand, maybe they’ll just spew and run like the little sissy Lloyd cowards they are.

  53. #53 Kagehi
    June 6, 2008

    Umm, lloyd barrester. If those parts are *supposed to* refer to homosexuals, then why don’t they actually mention it, but instead pretty much describe the attitudes, behaviors and actions of right wing fundamentalists (including the fornication, even if they try *real* hard to pretend they don’t do that)? lol

  54. #54 rrt
    June 6, 2008

    I don’t need to call you stupid, blind or dishonest, Bloix, when I can settle for ignorant. And I mean that in the nicest way! (No really, I do. Yeah, it’s funnier if I stick with the insult theme, but I mean “ignorant” in the simple sense of “under-informed.”)

    Most anti-evolutionists are religious creationists of one stripe or another. And to most of them, ID is just another line of attack on evolution that they feel perfectly happy to exploit. ID functions as a big tent for creationists, allowing them to work together under the most politically and legally acceptable guise available. Rest assured that an enormous number of those pushing ID are doing so merely because they know creationism is a Bad Word in the courts. Consider Bill “Deer in the Headlights” Buckingham, America’s favorite school board member: “Don’t say creationism, don’t say creationism…: ‘Like creationism!’ Doh!”

    Better yet, consider many of IDs leading lights themselves. The Wedge document, cdesign proponentsists, their own recorded statements and creationist histories. Certainly many of them can be considered Old Earth creationists, but that still entails the necessary role of a supernatural entity in creating modern life’s diversity, and the inability of natural processes (e.g., evolution) to do so. That’s creationism, friend. And don’t think some of these guys aren’t closeted Young-Earthers. Occasionally you’ll see the facade slip, such as in attacks on common descent.

  55. #55 Etha Williams
    June 6, 2008

    @#47 Bloix —

    I suppose I will be attacked in short order as a troll, but I for one don’t think that ID is creationism. ID is a false religious belief but it rejects the biblical creation story, acceptance of which is what creationism is.

    If they’re so different, how do you explain cdesign proponentsists? How do you explain that “Of Pandas and People” (ID text) was just a creationist text with all instances of “creationism” sloppily replaced by “intelligent design”?

  56. #56 Etha Williams
    June 6, 2008

    @#53 Kagehi —

    Umm, lloyd barrester. If those parts are *supposed to* refer to homosexuals, then why don’t they actually mention it, but instead pretty much describe the attitudes, behaviors and actions of right wing fundamentalists (including the fornication, even if they try *real* hard to pretend they don’t do that)? lol

    To be fair, Paul makes it fairly clear that he is at least talking about those who engage in homosexual sex, if not homosexuals themselves, in the verses immediately preceding the passage Lloyd quoted:

    21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

    26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:21-27).

    I do like how “giving them over to their sinful desires” was God’s idea of punishment….

    Also, even in context, this passage could still quite well describe many fundies…Ted Haggart, etc….

  57. #57 Julie Stahlhut
    June 6, 2008

    Huh? LGBT people (and het friends of same) are all covetous, boastful, and lacking in affection or mercy?

    Sounds like lloyd doesn’t get out much. (We can only hope.)

  58. #58 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    Scooore Etha!
    (Please add the OM – you deserve it – wear it.)

  59. #59 Benjamin Franklin
    June 6, 2008

    negentropyeater-

    If I recognized religion ounce and for all for what it is, how would I be able to get my pound of flesh? Is deerely bought, ’tis mine, and I will haue it. Or at least blog about it.

    On another note, OT – for a good laugh go see the new website from the folks who are bringing you Religulous-

    http://www.disbeliefnet.com/

    Burkini babes is better than xxxchristian porn, and I really liked Youth Pastor Watch. – It needs a comments section, or is it just me who needs one after Expelled withered up and died like a fig tree that pissed off Jesus.

  60. #60 Benjamin Franklin
    June 6, 2008

    Ah Shit!

    I guess I’ll never get a nomination for a Molly unless I tone down my erudite and archane references, pithy puns, and pathetic play on words, and really crank up the venom factor, well – here goes!

    Walton – You’re just a Brit! Glen Davidson – are you some kind of scientist, or what? Brownian, you think you’re an informed, articulate well of knowledge? Um, never mind. erv – you don’t even have a sciency icon on your blog, just a dog! A dog? And Etha Williams, the picture on your blog is, well, just too cute! (notify Seed imediately for blatant cuteness harassment) And, finally, Mister Doctor PZ “Paul” (if that really is your name) Myers, you think you can get away with educating the uninformed so easily?

    Rats, epic fail…

  61. #61 Kseniya
    June 6, 2008

    [glad to see Etha hasn't disappeared]

  62. #62 Kseniya
    June 6, 2008

    I guess I’ll never get a nomination for a Molly unless I …

    Early to bed, early to rise, Ben. C’mon. You know this.

  63. #63 negentropyeater
    June 6, 2008

    Bloix,

    I suppose I will be attacked in short order as a troll, but I for one don’t think that ID is creationism.

    You might not “think” that ID is creationism, but the judges have spent quite some time anlysing the issue and have concluded this ;

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District/6:Curriculum%2C_Conclusion#Page_136_of_139

    “In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

    So, now, with this information, do you still not “think” that ID is creationism, if you don’t want to be accused of trolling please make sure you explain why, and also why you don’t trust the judges…

  64. #64 Kseniya
    June 6, 2008

    Also, ID creationism needn’t be synonymous with biblical literalism or young-earth creationism – as others have already pointed out, it’s still a form of creationism. The cdesign proponentsists try to mask that by ostensibly making no specific claims about The Designer – oh, we’re not saying it’s God, it could be intelligent aliens, or some undetectable ordering force in the universe – but later betray the lie by mocking someone like Richard Dawkins when he admits that the Designing Alien hypothesis isn’t completely implausible.

    As they say, a design implies a designer. They try (and fail – just look at Expelled) to avoid saying it’s God, but boy oh boy oh boy! do they want it to be God. Not just any god – their God.

    What they need to do – and what they have consistently failed to do – is to demonstrate why the supposition of a designer is necessary to explain the diversity of life on earth. They fail because they do not try; they do not try because they assume their conclusion, and try instead to insert their “theory” into public education by way of politics and propaganda.

  65. #65 Patricia C.
    June 6, 2008

    Benjamin Franklin – add two pineapple wedges, three sliced key limes and six Bing cherries to your sangria.
    I’m so totally into it with you.
    See ya later Dude! :)

  66. #66 Patricia C.
    June 7, 2008

    Kseniya, I sat through the whole Expelled thing, and I even tried to get the gawd bits – 50 years of good church lady called out to me!
    It still just plain made NO damn sense. It failed.
    Ben Stein hates nazi’s – that was hugely portrayed, but proof of gawd – none.
    It’s their gawd? Proof – no, you’re right, ‘F’.

  67. #67 Dale Murray
    June 7, 2008

    One of the things I find most lacking in ID arguments where they proclaim they are not creationists has to do with the missing creation agent. From an engineering perspective there always has to be some entity to take a design from conceptual form to reality. A design can be in someone’s mind or documented in some form but it cannot take a physical form without some agent that implements the design. The ID people keep saying that they find evidence of design in nature but contend that they are not creationists. The question they never answer is who took the “Designer’s” design and built the life form? If they answer “the designer did it” then they would be admitting creationism. If they say they do not know how the design took physical form then they have an incomplete “theory”.

  68. #68 bastion
    June 7, 2008

    Note: Not only are homosexuals worthy of death, but also those people who take pleasure in homosexuals.

    Well, damn! Guess I’m doomed because I like to watch “Ellen.”

    But this is so confusing, because I’ve seen Ellen talking to God during one of her stand-up performances. And God and Ellen seemed to be getting along really well.

  69. #69 negentropyeater
    June 7, 2008

    ID completely failed with their own strategy.
    Their strategy was to hide their religious agenda and try to pass as genuine scientifc endeavour. They failed both.

    First, all the people who joined them were religiously motivated and even without the wedge document as evidence it was clear at every minute they opened their mouths what they were fighting for. Their various blogs serve as daily reminder.
    And the science part, it’s just not that easy to find evidence of design in nature, the only way to do it is to find elements that cannot have risen through natural processes. I don’t agree with some here that one necessarily needs to know the designer. If one would find designed object on a meteorite, one should be able to say it’s designed without knowing who designed it. So they haven’t found any evidence, and have, in my view not a clue how to find one, and anyway it doesn’t seem many serious scientists would want to spend their carreer looking for evidence of something we’re really not sure exists, nor see as a scientific priority.
    I wonder, if the religious agenda were dropped, would there be any funds allocated and anybody interested in such a project ?

  70. #70 Steven Carr
    June 7, 2008

    Science and religion are friends?

    Science demands public evidence.

    Leading Christian apologists like JP Moreland say that they listen to the voices in their head.

    http://kingdomtriangle.blogspot.com/2008/05/moreland-on-spirits-guidance.html

    ‘I talked about how the Spirit sometimes speaks/leads by placing thoughts in our minds (see Nehemiah 2:12) and I shared the phenomenology as to how I have made progress in discerning those occasions in my own life.’

    So we have careful peer-review on one side, and on the other side somebody who thinks the thoughts in his head are being planted.

  71. #71 Steven Dunlap
    June 7, 2008

    #47 Bliox

    ID supposedly not creationism.

    I’ve been down this road before. In the course of discussions about censorship, the literal dictionary definition of censorship as government ham-fisted behavior – shutting down newspapers, blacklisting writers, etc. – all came out. And then any use of the word to describe more subtle methods of limiting access to information or imposing prior restraint on writers, etc. then are supposedly not forms of censorship. Therefore, we have nothing to complain about. This is the typical 14 year old’s “definition of terms” argument.

    And more to the point, it’s an effort at “branding” ID (as a marketing term). As others pointed out above, the attempt to remove the words “creationist/ism” serves as a ploy to avoid people finding out what you’re really up to. I find interesting that what passes for discourse from ID/Creationists comes from marketing and propaganda and not from science. If ID had clear verification who would bother with arguing over whether to call it creationism?

  72. #72 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2008

    Negentropyeater,

    Your point about the meteorite is a good one, but if such an object was found you can bet that there would be a huge amount of effort put into finding out about who the designer was. The ID crowd seem incredibly uninterested in looking for the designed, and one cannot help but think it is because they already think they know who it is.

  73. #73 Steven Dunlap
    June 7, 2008

    #43 Steve Zara

    Yes, yes, yes.

    The “God in the gaps” argument is only part of the willful blindness on the part of IDers. (BTW, I always call this Deus ex machina, but no biggee, po-tay-to, po-tah-to). The logical problem extends well beyond just evolution. If we allowed for divine explanation for any phenomenon complex or challenging then that would stop scientific progress dead in its tracks. If scientific investigation allowed for someone to say: “it’s that way because God ™ made it that way,” then there’s nothing more to explain. Stick a fork in us – we’re done.

    The IDiots also look for evidence of evolution only where they will not find it. Their fixation on human evolution excludes all other evidence from their consideration. Unless you can show human development from earlier forms – bit by bit, tooth by tooth – then evolution (in their minds) has no evidence to verify it. Does anyone have any idea of how little of the fossil record hominids take up? (I would wild guess it at about 1 / 10,000th, but I honestly don’t know). Nevermind that we have plenty of transitional fossils for cetaceans. If you can’t find complete sets of “transitional fossils” in any given tiny part of the fossil record, well then, pack it up and go to church.

  74. #74 MerryAtheist
    June 7, 2008

    Great article! It left me with only two questions:

    1. Kent Meridian or Kentridge?

    2. What year?

    I’m Kentridge, ’80, by the way.

  75. #75 alex
    June 7, 2008

    sounds to me like religion only hangs out with science just so it can borrow money and steal its answers in exams.

  76. #76 Walton
    June 7, 2008

    I’m no scientist, but the “intelligent design movement” seems fairly nonsensical to me. As I understand it, it’s both bad science and bad theology. Bad science because they start from a conclusion (“God designed everything”) and then select results to fit that conclusion; and bad theology because it makes no sense to suggest that the natural world, with all its flaws and its innate cruelty, was designed step-by-step by a God who is both omnipotent and benevolent. I’m told evolution has its problems as an explanation (though as a non-scientist I won’t even try to comment on this, and I could be completely wrong), but this doesn’t seem like a persuasive argument for jumping to the conclusion that the natural world as we see it must have been designed through supernatural agency.

    I agree in principle with the statement that “science and religion can be friends, not enemies”; but this can only be achieved through the recognition that they each deal with a different sphere of thought and study. Trying to insert religion into science – thereby putting religion in conflict with mainstream science – simply reinforces and perpetuates the false impression that religion and science are polar opposites; and trying to limit God to the role of an “alternative scientific theory”, and a simple agent in the material world, jars with my understanding and conception of God.

    So this is why I oppose the Discovery Institute; and I think that their desperate crusade to get intelligent design into public schools is entirely counterproductive.

  77. #77 Patricia C.
    June 7, 2008

    Walton, Why would science WANT to be friends with religion? Do you have any friends that you truely like that do nothing but lie, and base their world view on lies? Did you read that post by Lloyd, could you be friends with that?

  78. #78 Dan
    June 7, 2008

    PZ wrote-
    “They are insulting our intelligence when they claim that they are not creationists. Of course they are. You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.”

    This is insulting to all the blind, stupid, dishonest scoundrels I know who each agree that ID is creationism under a different name.

  79. #79 Walton
    June 7, 2008

    Did you read that post by Lloyd, could you be friends with that? – No, certainly not. His post came over as intolerant and offensive, and he doesn’t speak for me in any sense. None of those Bible verses say anything about homosexuality, and quote-mining the Bible in order to support one’s hatred is neither helpful nor productive. I wholeheartedly condemn his remarks.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the only unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is in Leviticus, as part of the Mosaic law – which also forbids, inter alia, the eating of shellfish and the wearing of mixed fabrics, and mandates circumcision. The New Testament makes fairly clear that Christians do not have to follow the Mosaic law, nor is salvation gained (according to Christian belief) through doing so. Hence, modern Christians differ on the issue of homosexuality, and there’s even a whole denomination (the Metropolitan Community Church) designed especially for gay and lesbian Christians.

    So Lloyd’s brand of intolerance, while it does (sadly) represent the views of a lot of professed Christians (usually the less well-educated ones), is nowhere near representative of the whole of Christianity worldwide, nor is it an inevitable part of Christian doctrine. A common error made by many people here is to judge Christianity by the behaviour of its worst and most offensive adherents. This is as unfair as, for instance, judging American liberalism by Bill Clinton or Michael Moore, or, for that matter, judging atheism by Stalin or Mao.

    Before anyone says it, I am not using the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. I am not arguing that Lloyd is not a “true Christian”. I am arguing that Lloyd’s views are not representative of the whole worldwide Christian church, and that there are many Christians who would profoundly disagree (on a sound scriptural basis) with everything he has said on this thread.

    In short: Christianity is not synonymous with homophobia. It’s sometimes used as an excuse for homophobia, but that’s not the same thing.

  80. #80 Etha Williams
    June 7, 2008

    @#79 Walton —

    None of those Bible verses say anything about homosexuality, and quote-mining the Bible in order to support one’s hatred is neither helpful nor productive. I wholeheartedly condemn his remarks.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the only unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is in Leviticus, as part of the Mosaic law – which also forbids, inter alia, the eating of shellfish and the wearing of mixed fabrics, and mandates circumcision.

    Actually, in context the Romans passage does talk about people who engage in homosexual sex. Lloyd began at Romans 1:28. Here are the verses that immediately precede it:

    21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

    26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:21-27).

  81. #81 Patricia C.
    June 7, 2008

    Even if I give you a pass on your opinion of the Lloyd view – which I don’t because Jesus also commanded his followers to obey the law (OT), you didn’t answer the other half of the question. :)

  82. #82 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2008

    Walton,

    I doubt there is much that unifies Christians other than a belief in Christ, and in some parts of the Church of England as least even that seems optional.

  83. #83 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2008

    Etha,

    It is fair to say that many of the Christians who are most vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality do cite Leviticus as the source of their opposition. I just wish they would follow through and picket shops and restaurants that sell shellfish. After all, if you want to claim the bible is the literal word of god you do not get to choose which bits you follow and which you don’t. They might also want reconsider if borrowing money is OK, as I am pretty sure the bible mentions usury as being verboten.

  84. #84 Walton
    June 7, 2008

    It is fair to say that many of the Christians who are most vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality do cite Leviticus as the source of their opposition. – Yes, and in my view they’re wrong. Working from the premise of accepting the divinely-inspired nature of the Bible, a few New Testament passages really ought to be noted. Firstly, Acts chapter 10, in which Peter is given a vision telling him, in effect, that he need not obey the Jewish dietary laws.

    Secondly, several of the Pauline epistles, in which Paul makes clear that Christians are saved not by adherence to the Law, but by faith and grace. Practices such as circumcision – which was absolutely mandatory for males under the Jewish law – are expressly not required for Christians.

    A good passage is Romans chapter 14, in which Paul says: For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him… But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Basically, the chapter (as I understand it) is saying that some Christians may choose to adhere to strict dietary laws; others may not. But neither person should judge the other, nor does adherence to any particular rule or law guarantee or prejudice salvation; it is only through faith and grace that salvation is granted. Likewise, in my view, some Christians may choose to follow Leviticus and eschew homosexuality on moral grounds; but they shouldn’t condemn or attack those who are homosexual, because one’s sexuality has nothing to do with salvation, and one cannot “earn” salvation by abstaining from certain practices.

    I’m sure many people here will be familiar with these passages and with this interpretation; for an atheist community, I’ve encountered a remarkably high standard of Biblical scholarship from many people on this forum. (Which may not be as surprising as it seems; I myself almost became an atheist after reading Numbers 31 and the Book of Joshua, both of which are horrific.) So I’m sure I’m not introducing anything radically new into the discussion.

    To conclude, Christians may or may not consider homosexuality to be a sin, based on their understanding of Scripture; but even if it is considered to be a sin, condemning homosexuals and trying to exclude them from society, or from the church, is unjustified and entirely wrong. And I just want to reiterate that the homophobia which one hears from some (usually ill-educated) professed Christians does not mean that all believers subscribe to that kind of hatred. As I said, the Metropolitan Community Church is designed for outreach to gay and lesbian Christians, and even ordains homosexual priests; likewise, the Church of England (to which I formally belong), the US Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and many other denominations are broadly “liberal” in their view on homosexuality. So Christianity, as I said, is not synonymous with homophobia.

  85. #85 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2008

    Walton,

    It must be pointed out that most Christians are taught homosexuality is a sin.

    We know that because the largest denomination, The Catholic Church, teaches that and it alone accounts for 50% of Christians. When we add in the Orthodox and Protestant denominations that do the same, we get a majority of Christians being taught homosexuality is wrong.

  86. #86 Patricia C.
    June 7, 2008

    Good point Matt. People would find their religion crushing if they actually followed it. Every christian woman that cuts her hair is hell bound, same for men that shave. I’ve never actually made a list of the stupid bible laws, much less the contradictions, but it’s gotta be a long one.
    Thanks for grabbing the scripture Etha – I have to dig out the old five pounder and look them up. I can’t grasp the art of cut and paste.

  87. #87 Walton
    June 7, 2008

    Matt Penfold at #85: Yes, that is statistically true. However, as regards the Catholic Church, bear in mind that a lot of Catholics (even practising Catholics) don’t actually subscribe to all the church’s doctrines. Even Sean Hannity – who is certainly a believer, and could hardly be labelled a liberal – has publicly disagreed with the church’s teaching on contraception. Most of my friends and relatives who are Catholic also use contraception. Likewise, being a gay Catholic is by no means unheard of.

    When I was young, my family attended a church where the building was shared (to save money) between two congregations, one Protestant and one Catholic, so we got to know a few Catholic priests. One – who I believe is now a Monsignor – was actually remarkably outspoken in his disagreement with some official Church teachings (he even believed that women should be ordained as priests).

    It is entirely possible, and logically coherent, to subscribe to the basic Catholic doctrines (including transubstantiation, etc., as well as general Christian doctrine) without believing wholeheartedly in the infallibility of the Pope (which was only declared as church dogma in the nineteenth century, and – without intending any offence to any Catholics who may be present on this forum – seems to me to have been adopted largely for temporal political reasons).

  88. #88 Patricia C.
    June 7, 2008

    Walton, Matt is correct with his stats. Have another look at what Jesus commands his followers to do. The ‘true christian’ obeys Jesus not Paul. Letting new ideas creep into what the christians say that you know may, make it more cuddly for you, but that isn’t the strict teaching.
    Ha! Ha! Yep, a lot of folks on this blog are pretty bible savy – you got that one right. :)

  89. #89 Matt Penfold
    June 7, 2008

    Walton,

    Many Catholics may well not go along with the teachings of their church. However the fact they call themselves Catholic lends support to the church. Also they cannot escape responsibility for the actions of their church. Unless a Catholic is vocal in their condemnation of the church’s position on homosexuality then they are proving tacit support to that position.

  90. #90 Nick Gotts
    June 7, 2008

    So we have careful peer-review on one side, and on the other side somebody who thinks the thoughts in his head are being planted. – Stephen Carr

    Which is one of the most diagnostic symptoms of schizophrenia.

  91. #91 Patricia
    June 7, 2008

    Walton, I hate to be-labour this, but you are missing the point. The bible says homosexuality is an abomination, if you are a believer then you must toe the line on it. Otherwise you are not a believer and have fallen into sin. There is no half way mark. If you are a believer then you must burn or stone me to death as a witch. My business is making traditional herbal medications. If you look at a woman and think she has a cute ass – you gotta pluck out your eye. Christian wanna-be’s are hypocrites.
    I understand your battle with this point. You’re a young fellow and you have alot of choices ahead. Somehow I get the creeping idea that you are either here to try to save us or you already have the “splinter of doubt” (The Matrix) in your mind. :)

  92. #92 Anton Mates
    June 7, 2008

    #42,

    To disprove abiogenesis, you need to try every single possible combination of organic chemicals in conjunction with every possible combination of inorganic chemicals (in case one or more is a catalyst), at every conceivable temperature range, exposed to every possible light frequency from the sun, for at least a billion years.

    AND you need to show that every single mutation in every single organism that ever lived, could not have occurred by chance.

    Not good enough. Like the creationists love to point out, we can’t be sure that the laws of physics and chemistry were the same over the last billion years–WERE YOU THERE??–so the outcome of an experiment over the next billion years wouldn’t prove anything about what may have already happened. We would have to go back and personally observe the entire history of the Earth to be sure. And then we would have to account for any possible models of nature under which our time machine actually got diverted to an alternate history. And so on ad infinitum.

    Creationists just don’t get methodological naturalism. We don’t actually know what “natural law” and “natural processes” can do, other than by making inferences about them from observed phenomena, so it makes no sense to claim that a phenomenon can’t be accounted for by natural processes. If it could be proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that abiogenesis is impossible under all models of chemistry-as-we-know-it, then an obvious possibility would be that chemistry-as-we-know-it is wrong. If evolution really did violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then the Second Law of Thermodynamics would have to be revised. And so forth.

    There is no conceivable miracle that could be shown to violate the laws of nature, or even to be vanishingly improbable under the laws of nature. We always have the option of choosing a new set of laws which account for all previous evidence and also account for this miracle, whatever it is. We don’t do that unless we have to, of course–Occam’s razor and all–but if a miracle was proven to have occurred, that would be the reasonable way to deal with it.

    This is a problem with virtually all probability-based arguments for deism, as well.

  93. #93 Owlmirror
    June 7, 2008

    Like the creationists love to point out, we can’t be sure that the laws of physics and chemistry were the same over the last billion years

    Not that I’m an expert or anything, but:

    The fine structure constant affects neutron capture rates, which can be measured from products of the Oklo reactor, where a natural nuclear reaction occurred 1,800 million years ago. These measurements show that the fine structure constant has remained constant (within one part in 1017 per year) for almost two billion years (Fujii et al. 2000; Shlyakhter 1976).

    (emph. mine)

    http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/CE/CE410.html

  94. #94 Etha Williams, OM
    June 7, 2008

    @#84 Walton —

    Secondly, several of the Pauline epistles, in which Paul makes clear that Christians are saved not by adherence to the Law, but by faith and grace. Practices such as circumcision – which was absolutely mandatory for males under the Jewish law – are expressly not required for Christians.

    A good passage is Romans chapter 14

    But what about the passage from Romans 1 I quoted in #56? How can you read that as being anything but an explicit condemnation of homosexuality?

  95. #95 Anton Mates
    June 7, 2008

    The fine structure constant affects neutron capture rates, which can be measured from products of the Oklo reactor, where a natural nuclear reaction occurred 1,800 million years ago. These measurements show that the fine structure constant has remained constant (within one part in 1017 per year) for almost two billion years (Fujii et al. 2000; Shlyakhter 1976).

    That can easily be accounted for by positing complementary changes in other constants which affect neutron capture rates, resulting in an overall unchanged rate. Or by positing some time-varying process which has selectively eliminated various decay products, giving us a skewed estimate of the decay rate in the past. And so forth.

    No sane scientist would assert that, of course, because it’s massively unparsimonious. (Although some creationist scientists have made precisely this sort of claim.) But it’s certainly possible.

  96. #96 Skeptigirl
    June 7, 2008

    Wow! I just had a thought about where the ‘Stylus’ computer program research might be going. I was at the Discovery Institute a couple weeks ago listening to a little talk that the public was invited to. While the discussion was about something else, the speaker mentioned a new discovery that they were all excited about.

    You can find the gist of it here:
    http://the-spyglass.blogspot.com/2008/05/parable-of-laminin.html
    “The Parable of Laminin”

    There is a particular protein which is vaguely cross shaped which is involved in “the structural scaffolding in almost every animal tissue”. It would seem that seeing this random shape had great meaning as a secret symbol ‘God’ left for us to discover as evidence of ‘His Creation’. Perhaps the DI folks are hoping to eventually find more secret Bible Code in protein shapes.

    Funny thing is, when you saw the actual images of the proteins, they were pretty unimpressive. But when the speaker showed the diagrammatic version on a slide the crowd oohed and awed.

  97. #97 Anton Mates
    June 7, 2008

    But what about the passage from Romans 1 I quoted in #56? How can you read that as being anything but an explicit condemnation of homosexuality?

    As you note there, homosexuality actually seems to be the punishment God levied on mortals for their sins of apostasy and idolatry; Paul obviously thinks it’s dirty and disease-inducing, and also apparently really popular, but it’s not the root sin.

    So far as I see, Romans 1:18-32 can be summarized as:

    1) Stupid proud atheists/pagans/philosophers reject God.
    2) In revenge, God makes them gay. Which is really gross.
    3) God also makes them generally sinful, so that even though they know being gay or being backbiters or being disobedient or being any of two dozen other things are terrible sins worthy of death, they happily go on sinning.

    It’s still a condemnation, certainly, but not more of a condemnation than for covenant-breaking and pride and fornication and macrame and everything else that leads Paul to despise 99.9% of the human race.

  98. #98 Owlmirror
    June 8, 2008
  99. #99 Owlmirror
    June 8, 2008

    That can easily be accounted for by positing complementary changes in other constants which affect neutron capture rates, resulting in an overall unchanged rate.

    I am not so sure that that makes any kind of sense at all. Or if it does, that such changes would actually affect the laws of chemistry (as opposed to the laws of nuclear physics). But I don’t have the skills to argue it.

  100. #100 Walton
    June 8, 2008

    Patricia at #91: No. You clearly didn’t read my post.

    As I keep trying to say – but no one listens – the reason modern Christians ignore the passages in Leviticus, about stoning homosexuals to death etc., is because the new covenant, of faith in Christ, replaces the old covenant of the Mosaic law. This was a relevant concern in the early Church, and Paul wrote a lot about it. Read the book of Romans, from which I quoted earlier. Hence why Christians do not have to be circumcised, do not have to abstain from eating shellfish or wearing clothes of mixed fabrics, and do not have to follow the other 600 or so commandments of the Mosaic law – including the ones which condemn homosexuality. This is not merely my opinion, or me ignoring “inconvenient” parts of the Bible. This is based on a standard reading of the Bible itself.

    So when you say If you are a believer then you must burn or stone me to death as a witch. – this is simply empirically untrue. As I said, Christians are not required to follow the Mosaic Law, and I have repeatedly explained why.

    If you look at a woman and think she has a cute ass – you gotta pluck out your eye. – Not exactly. Jesus did say that he who looks on a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart; but he didn’t say anything about plucking out one’s eye.

    Indeed, Jesus’ attitude to sin is better illustrated by a particular story in the Gospels (I forget the reference). The people were preparing to stone an adulterous woman to death. But Jesus said “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Since no one is without sin, no one could cast a stone. So the woman was free to go, and Jesus said “Go, and sin no more.”

    Somehow I get the creeping idea that you are either here to try to save us or you already have the “splinter of doubt” (The Matrix) in your mind. – I’m not here to “save” or convert anyone. If I was interested in gaining converts, there are much easier places to do it than an online forum full of highly-educated professed atheists. And yes, I do have doubts about Christianity, as I’ve clearly expressed. I’m only here to ensure that Christianity (as well as the conservative politics to which I subscribe) are not unfairly represented.

  101. #101 reuben
    June 8, 2008

    Walton:

    I myself almost became an atheist after reading Numbers 31 and the Book of Joshua, both of which are horrific.

    Just curious Walton – what stopped you from becoming an atheist? I was never a Christian, but certainly after reading Numbers and Joshua I knew I could never in good conscience become one.

  102. #102 Walton
    June 8, 2008

    To Reuben at #101: Because the apparent immorality and cruelty depicted in a story does not have any bearing on that account’s truth or falsehood. It is true that I’ve never seen a satisfactory explanation of this great conundrum (why the God of Israel depicted in the OT – an arbitrary and capricious figure – is so different from the benevolent image of God in the NT and in modern Christian theology). Other than lame excuses and arguing semantics, Christian theologians have never really been able to answer this. (I read an entire book on the theology of the Old Testament by Walter Brueggemann, one of the world’s foremost theologians; it contained a lot of technical vocabulary, but seemed to me to weasel around the stark moral questions posed by the early part of the OT.) But that doesn’t necessarily lead me to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, nor can it rationally be admitted as evidence for that conclusion.

  103. #103 spurge
    June 8, 2008

    “But that doesn’t necessarily lead me to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, nor can it rationally be admitted as evidence for that conclusion.”

    Perhaps, but it certainly does provide evidence that Christianity is not true.

  104. #104 reuben
    June 8, 2008

    …or at least, if the Christian god exists, he is an asshole

    If you are suggesting that the Bible is in fact the “infallible word of god” (I’m not suggesting you are, this is just what most Christians seem to believe), then you must surely accept God’s “apparent” morality as accurate as to the text.

    You are right though, the accuracy or inaccuracy of the Bible (which is clearly written by men, not god) actually has no bearing on whether some form of god exists or not.

  105. #105 cicely
    June 8, 2008

    ….or, if the Christian god exists, he really isn’t the same god as the god of the Hebrews, as depicted in the OT.

    That guy is supposed to be “unchanging”. The dissonance between the god of the OT and the god of the NT just screams.

  106. #106 Skeptigirl
    June 8, 2008

    “Patricia at #91: No. You clearly didn’t read my post.

    As I keep trying to say – but no one listens – the reason modern Christians ignore the passages in Leviticus, about stoning homosexuals to death etc., is because the new covenant, of faith in Christ, replaces the old covenant of the Mosaic law.”

    Why is it when one is faced with people who disagree, they draw the conclusion they were not heard?

    A lot of Christians use that excuse for what they personally cherry pick from the Bible. But the fact is there are many contradictions about this matter in the New Testament and supposedly from Jesus himself. I suggest you look up Bible contradictions in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/otlaw.html

  107. #107 Kagehi
    June 8, 2008

    Ok. Wait.. I am real confused… Walton *admits* that the Bible can’t be right about a mess of things, but what? The NT is somehow? Has he not noticed all the evidence *strongly* suggesting that the whole NT was made up, probably even to the actual events, and that a lot of it, including Paul’s bit, who, by simple logic of his age when writing it and time it was written, can’t have been the same Paul as “knew” Jesus, if you presumed it was true?

    Oh, and here is another one. The Mithras god that many scholar think Jesus was partly based on would have been **well** known to Jews. The original name for the god was Mithra, which came from the “same” nearby mythology to what gave us the OT story. Its also the source of the whole, “God has some evil enemy he fights for all time.”, stuff. Mind you, in that mythology, its some dude named Ahura-Masda whose enemy is Ahriman (whose goal is to destroy creation via the spread of pure evil). These two got “borrowed” for parts of the OT, along with the concept of the father god, who was originally named El, and more to the point, had three sons, one of them named, wait for it… Yahweh. Judaism crammed the three together, rewrote the stories to, almost, make it sound like there was just one god, recast Ahriman as his “creation”, etc. Mithra survived by migrating simultaneously east and west, becoming Mitra in Hindu, and Mithras in Greek and Roman mythology. Needing a suitable way to make this new Jesus interesting, they, ironically, seem to have taken Mithras, from the same actual mythos as the original, and crammed a 4th gods into it. I am rather surprised we don’t find bits of Zeus, Apollo or even the Chinese Guan-Yin, supporter of the hungry and poor, crammed into this new gods pants some place (though, since that one is female, I suppose its one reason that it wouldn’t have gotten glued on). lol

    Its unclear to me why you find the Christian god compelling enough to think its plausible, or, on the chance you don’t, why you are any different than any soft agnostic that *hopes* one exists, argues that its “possible” for some sort of exist, but can’t *yet* admit that any one that we would find the least bit useful to know about, never mind having “any” attributes like those we describe in any sort of mythology we have come up with, makes any sense.

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