Pharyngula

Witless wanker peddles pablum for CFI

It looks like Michael De Dora is calling me out. The wishy-washy, sloppy-thinking director of the NY CFI, whose main claim to fame lately is a series of blog articles notable only for their fuzziness and willingness to accommodate any nonsense from religious BS artists, is now taking me to task for my post arguing that the Tennessee case of a creationist objecting to a textbook calling creationism “the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian god in 7 days” was a) an example of a true twit peddling ignorance, and b) that the textbook phrasing was accurate and justifiable.

De Dora disagrees. He thinks it is inappropriate for a biology text to directly address a damaging social trend that is hurting the teaching of science — and that we shouldn’t refer to religious stories as myth. He even has the gall to call what he wants to promote a “science only approach,” and in a remarkably weasely bit of wording, tries to imply that I think that just teaching science would “negatively impact the quality of public school education”. Interesting move. Sometimes, lying about your opponent’s position does work.

But he forgets what we’re fighting against.

Why is it that our biology classes — or even public schools in generally — must reject religious beliefs to educate children? I think we will find that, even if decided that our children would be better off hearing critique of their parents’ religious beliefs, this question is irrelevant, as according to our laws we cannot do such a thing. In turn, the answer seems to be that we should ensure our high school science teachers are instructing students on how to think like a scientist, and imparting to students the body of knowledge scientists have accrued (and that all of our teachers generally are doing similar in their respective fields).

Oh, let us confine our discussion to the nebulous vagueness of “religious beliefs”, that we may continue to pretend that charlatans are not lying to our children. There should be nothing special, nothing privileged about calling a falsehood a “religious belief”. When religious ideas directly contradict the scientific evidence, we must be able to point out that they are wrong…and please note, the textbook in question did not even slam creationist foolishness that hard, but merely pointed out that it is the product of a religious myth.

This isn’t simply about religious freedom. It’s about a loony-tunes popular bogosity that explicitly claims the earth is 6,000 years old and was created in six days, both assertions false, unsupported by any credible evidence, and contradicted resoundingly by the body of evidence discussed in the textbook. Those are “beliefs” that must be rejected by any scientist, by any textbook purporting to describe how science works and what conclusions it reaches — anything less is cowardly intellectual dishonesty.

i-1dedeecd642589de98491a43a8261698-religious_principles.jpeg

I am not opposing a “science only approach”. I am saying that a science only approach has a story to tell that must contradict the ridiculous myths our Sunday schools are feeding our children. We don’t need pablum-pushers like De Dora helping the pious frauds further gut our science curricula.

I haven’t even reached the worst part of De Dora’s quisling approach. He has a footnote.

It is important to note that creationism and related ideas like intelligent design do belong to the field of religion, not science; they are theology and philosophy (bad theology and philosophy, but that’s another matter). Hence, science cannot reject them in full — for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith? Or that God has been the hand behind the process of evolution? A scientist must here put on the philosopher’s cap to continue.

Great. Creationism? Can’t criticize it in our science classes. Somebody says the universe appeared magically a few thousand years ago, I guess that has to be a valid answer on the test question, “How old is the universe?”. To actually state that it is about 14 billion years old, and make such an answer a necessary part of the student’s grade…why, that is philosophy or theology, and not to be discussed in science class.

And here’s ever-helpful Michael De Dora, reassuring the creationists that “science cannot reject [their ridiculous ideas] in full”. Thanks heaps. Did I mention “cowardly intellectual dishonesty”? Yes, I did. And that’s what De Dora is endorsing.

And a special thanks to CFI. What the hell were they thinking when they gave this milquetoast marshmallow a soapbox? Does CFI stand for the Church of Fatuous Incompetence now?

Comments

  1. #1 James Sweet
    April 14, 2010

    A scientist must here put on the philosopher’s cap to continue

    FWIW, in the strictest parsing of the words, I agree with him here. Rejecting the inanely stupid argument that God created everything exactly as Genesis says, and then either he or Satan planted evidence to make it look like the Earth had been around for billions of years, is technically a philosophical position, not a scientific one. There’s no empirical problem with that argument, it’s just really stupid.

    But come the fuck on, that basic level of philosophy is something we are forced to engage in every minute of our lives. Should teachers also not tell their students that knowledge is a good thing, since that technically is also a philosophical position? Yeesh, that’s just dumb.

  2. #2 Samantha
    April 14, 2010

    OK, I didn’t say it on the previous post but I have to say it here. The academic usage of the word “myth” or “mythology” says absolutely NOTHING about how true or false said myth may be. It is colloquial use only that adds the inference that “myth” is by necessity false.

    What that textbook was saying was not “Creationism is the false folktale that…” but “Creationism is a story that”. They can argue all they like about whether or not it can be classified as a story, but to get up in arms because it “suggests that the Bible is false” is to be upset based on a misunderstanding of what a word tends to be defined as. Of course, words can have multiple meanings depending on who reads them, but the textbook authors have a great argument to back them up. Every student of comparative religion or English literature will back them up by saying that in this usage, “a myth is a religious narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form” which is EXACTLY WHAT CREATIONISM SUPPOSEDLY IS.

    The creotards can fight that all they like, but in an academic context (which is what a textbook should be taken as), the word myth is entirely correct to be used in that sentence, even if it doesn’t mean what the angry father (and, to a certain extent, PZ) thinks it does.

  3. #3 Glen Davidson
    April 14, 2010

    What a jerk. He’s equating the proper label of “myth” placed on the Genesis creation falsehood with science rejecting religion in full.

    “Myth” does not mean lie, nor that we can’t embrace them.

    The text would be as accurate if it called the Genesis myth a fable based on ignorance and supertition. That is to say, it’s actually being nice to that old hunk of junk by calling it “myth,” which, after all, many of us like in the Greek collection.

    Unfortunately, it’s hardly up to Greek standards. Be that as it may, in the text I’d probably call it a “myth,” too, and refrain from judging it an uninteresting and contradictory reworking of better pagan myths.

    What I’m saying is that the text was accommodationist by being as nice to Genesis as to call it a “myth” and to say no more. De Dora’s blithering that it just wasn’t accommodationist enough, that nothing dismissive should be said about past religious failures at all, no matter how true it is.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  4. #4 H.H.
    April 14, 2010

    Add Michael De Dora to the long list of people who don’t understand what the Establishment Clause actually entails. Let’s look at the Lemon Test again:

    1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
    2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
    3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    Number 2 is the one to pay most attention to. Notice it says that a government action (in this case the teaching of some scientific fact) cannot have the primary purpose of advancing or inhibiting religion. However, if it incidentally advances or inhibits religion, that’s perfectly legal. In this case, the government has a perfectly legitimate, secular purpose for teaching children the science of evolution. That the fact of evolution may also conflict with some people’s religious belief that species were specially created is incidental. So De Dora is just wrong. There is nothing unconstitutional about pointing out that the Genesis account is unsupported by science and has been ruled by US courts to be a myth. Those are simply facts.

  5. #5 Holytape
    April 14, 2010

    His argument doesn’t make any sense. Creationism claims that it is actual history of the world. It makes claims of fact. That is the realm of science. Science rejects religion not because of biases, but because every factual claim about the physical workings of the universe has been shown to be false.

    Noah and the dinosaurs.

  6. #6 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    I made this point in the other thread, but the only reason pointing out that creationism is nothing more than mythology is offensive at all is because for some reason so many religious idiots still believe it!

    Astronomy texts regularly discuss Galileo while giving a history of modern astronomy. And in doing so make no bones about pointing out that Galileo had to struggle with overcoming the persecution of challenging the accepted religious doctrine of the time that the Earth was the center of the Universe, as was put forth in biblical text. Pointing out that such an idea was part of the mythology of christianity now wouldn’t be seen as offensive because everyone understands that it is mythology. So where are all these offended apologists railing against teaching that history in regards to astronomy?

    No… it’s only that creationism is still accepted as true by a completely moronic, ignorant, religion-addled, and far too large portion of the US population, that cause people to be “offended” when pointed out that it is equally as absurd as geo-centrism.

    Just as in astronomy, a comprehensive and complete teaching of evolution should include the history of the theory, and its challenges and why it has withstood them. Depriving children of that knowledge and allowing them to continue to believe in Santa-Clause level myths, just for fear of offending the religious majority, ir morally reprehensible, and De Dora should be ashamed of himself for not realizing that.

  7. #7 steve
    April 14, 2010

    And a special thanks to CFI. What the hell were they thinking when they gave this milquetoast marshmallow a soapbox? Does CFI stand for the Church of Fatuous Incompetence now?

    Well, here is what Ronald A. Lindsay, president & CEO of CFI was thinking on Saturday March 20, 2010 at 7:48am when he weighed in on the De Dora post on “The Problems With the Atheistic Approach to the World”:

    Having read some of the comments on this blog post, I?d like to remind everyone that blog posts on Free Thinking represent the personal views of the blogger, not the official position of CFI. This allows our bloggers to advance views with which not all CFI supporters may agree – and the result, one hopes, is a robust discussion of relevant points.
    My own (personal) view is that Michael makes a number of valid points. On the other hand, in places he tends to lump atheists together as though there were a monolithic bloc of atheists with specific, uniform positions on certain matters, including tactics to use when addressing religion. Not only is that false, but it seems internally inconsistent with one of Michael?s theses, which is that atheism by itself is too narrow and limited, consisting solely of a rejection of god beliefs.
    I also think it a bit unfair to suggest atheists endorse ?sneering,? at least if by ?sneering? one means unadorned insults against believers. On the other hand, sharp observations and comments, that can be supported by reason and evidence, are perfectly appropriate when directed against ANY belief, whether it is a religous belief, atheism or humanism. Indeed, one concern I have is that some treat humanism as a scared cow with affirmations or principles that are akin to scared texts that cannot be questioned. The last thing we need is a creed. We are critical thinkers above all and we should welcome pointed scrutiny of our own views?and not hesitate to subject other views to critical examination.

    So why is the president & CEO of CFI making his (personal I assume) views known about an article expressing the personal views of another executive of CFI made on a blog that in no way represents the official position of CFI ?

  8. #8 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: Samantha | April 14, 2010 12:06 PM

    OK, I didn’t say it on the previous post but I have to say it here. The academic usage of the word “myth” or “mythology” says absolutely NOTHING about how true or false said myth may be. It is colloquial use only that adds the inference that “myth” is by necessity false.

    What Samantha said. And frankly, anybody with a high school diploma should be familiar with that usage of the word “myth”.

  9. #9 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 14, 2010

    De Dora. D’Souza. Deepak.

    I’m just saying.

  10. #10 cb
    April 14, 2010

    ‘Faith’ and religious arguments don’t generally stand up well in philosophy either. ‘How?’ ‘What’ ‘Why’ and ‘What is your eividence/proof?” are all questiong that should be expected in philosophy. It is an entire field based on logical argumentation and, as I am sure PZ knows, there is nothing logical about creationist claims.

  11. #11 chgo_liz
    April 14, 2010

    Somebody says the universe appeared magically a few thousand years ago, I guess that has to be a valid answer on the test question, “How old is the universe?”. To actually state that it is about 14 billion years old, and make such an answer a necessary part of the student’s grade?why, that is philosophy or theology, and not to be discussed in science class.

    I think you’re misinterpreting this part. He isn’t saying factual questions can/should be answered using philosophy/theology. He’s saying that a scientist can’t understand the universe on a woo level without using woo as the yardstick.

    I assume, based on everything you’ve quoted here from him, that he believes using philosophy/theology to think about the universe on a woo level is to think at a higher level, beyond “mere” facts. He’s giving religious belief the higher pedestal to stand on. But I don’t think he’s arguing against scientific facts on a test.

  12. #12 raven
    April 14, 2010

    and that we shouldn’t refer to religious stories as myth.

    So, what are we going to call myths then? Religious stories? Fairy tales? Lies?

    Need to find some sort of euphemism to designate myths that some people think are facts. Delusions would work but some xian kooks would probably object to that too.

    De Dora ignores that the myth comment was in a discussion of a court case that makes it illegal to teach religious ideas in kid’s science classes as facts.

  13. #13 cervantes
    April 14, 2010

    Not to worry — CFI stands for Certified Flooring Installers. I believe that’s the organization this guy works for.

  14. #14 Jillian Swift
    April 14, 2010

    This whole “treat religion with kid gloves” thing is just vile.

    It is exactly that which allows the extremists to be extremists, and allows the moderates to comfortably ignore the extremists. Calling ideas wrong when they are wrong, or calling them unsubstantiated when they lack evidence, (etc.) is clearly necessary especially in the context of science and science education.

    Shame on you, Michael De Dora!

  15. #15 Jerry Coyne
    April 14, 2010

    Oh dear. I guess De Dora would have me stop criticizing creationism when I give my “evidence for evolution” lectures in introductory evolutionary biology. That evidence makes sense only in view of the most popular alternative view, which is creationism. Creationism may be religiously based, but it makes empirical predictions, and those predictions aren’t borne out by the data.

    If we can’t directly dispel creationist ideas in the biology classroom, then we’re preventing kids from learning a very valuable lesson about evidence and criticality.

    I don’t understand how De Dora’s lucubrations add anything to the CFI’s mission. In fact, they hinder it.

  16. #16 Ryan F Stello
    April 14, 2010

    Regarding CFI, I had to chuckle when I heard Groethe state the institute’s goal as the promotion of reason and science and reason and then having a podcast on the Jesus Seminar and another with some Discovery Institute shill, both without any counterpoint or real challenge.

    At least, I think that that was their intention with Point of Inquiry. I unsubscribed from it last week and can’t check.

  17. #17 Steve LaBonne
    April 14, 2010

    Completely Fucking Inane.

  18. #18 H.H.
    April 14, 2010

    And remember, the sentence containing the word “myth” was lifted straight out of a court decision explaining why teaching Creationism in public classrooms is a violation of the Establishment clause. Does Michael De Dora really think the courts would find it unconstitutional to quote their own decision on this matter? The mind boggles.

  19. #19 Brownian, OM
    April 14, 2010

    Why is it that our biology classes — or even public schools in generally — must reject religious beliefs to educate children?

    Well, Mikey, that’s because we want to:

    ensure our high school science teachers are…imparting to students the body of knowledge scientists have accrued

    …right?

    When the world’s religions stop making claims about history, anthropology, physiology, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, and the rest of the “body of knowledge scientists have accrued”, we’ll have nothing to reject now, will we?

    Thanks for playing. We’ve got some loving parting gifts for you.

  20. #20 lucidish
    April 14, 2010

    I don’t see how his argument makes any sense of what science is about. Science is about inference to the best explanation on the basis of the evidence. That’s why science is the universal acid, and isn’t bound to obey lectures from NOMA advocates. The best explanations can, after all, be on the basis of incomplete evidence.

  21. #21 tytalus
    April 14, 2010

    We can give Laplace’s response to “the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution”. Science doesn’t debunk this, nor do we need it to. Science demonstrates that the claim is unnecessary to explain the phenomena.

  22. #22 Matt Penfold
    April 14, 2010

    De Dora has now posted a link to a BBC news report in which a UK based gay-rights group, Stonewall, criticises the RCC for propagating the myth that the sex abuse scandals are down to homosexual priests. The call the claim a myth.

    De Dora seems to think that the article if definitive in defining the correct use of the word.

  23. #23 wylann
    April 14, 2010

    Similar sloppy (IMO), faithiest thinking was one of the reasons I gave up on Kansas Citizens for Science. They are good at what they do (fighting the stupid on the state school board), but I was just ‘too militant’ for them.

    About half of the board of directors were what I’d call faitheists, the other half were mostly just too conciliatory towards religion in school and generally.

  24. #24 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    – for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith?

    Like this:

    “Then god is a liar and that makes anything he says, including his Holy Word and the sole basis of that faith, untrustworthy.”

  25. #25 residualecho
    April 14, 2010

    how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith? Or that God has been the hand behind the process of evolution? A scientist must here put on the philosopher’s cap to continue.

    Whether the universe is the product of a lying trickster god or not, since there is (by definition) no way to tell that it is or is not, the scientist does science as usual, learning everything that can be known about a universe in which gods appear to be unnecessary and superfluous.

    Philosophically, any asshat proposing that a discussion take place in a public school science class that characterizes god/s as tricksters and liars is going to do far more damage to religion than would the proper and appropriate use of the word myth.

  26. #26 Anodyne
    April 14, 2010

    What a crock of horse shit. Really? A CFI blogger saying we’re being a bunch of mean atheists because we rightfully don’t agree with this guy?

    What ever happened to looking at cold, hard facts and basing decisions on that? (did we ever?) If there is no evidence for something, then it is considered a myth (pejoratively, in addition to the literal meaning in the book.) Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

    If one group with an astounding number of members has made a very deliberate attempt to derail literary education in the US for THIRTY+ YEARS , and it wasn’t mentioned in one single schoolbook, no one would say a word if it was one day added to the curriculum. But because it’s the whiny little pissant creotards, this idiot gets to be on national television telling his sob story.

    Just shut up already.

    (Disclaimer: I have just come from a news article talking about this and the comments have made me a little…er…grumpy. Idiots.)

  27. #27 knutsondc
    April 14, 2010

    I wholeheartedly second Samantha’s observation that the textbook’s use of “myth” is not pejoritive in this context. I have to ask, though, whether a science teacher should even bring up the Genesis story (or other creation myths) in class?

    Students are well served when all science classes teach and reinforce the scientific method, including its reliance on methodological naturalism, empirical observation, inference, and experiment and then emphasize that the substantive knowledge and ideas taught in the class are the product of that method.

    Students may well ask about the conflict between the answers science produces and those taught by their religious traditions, in which case the teacher can simply remind the students that only knowledge gained through application of the scientific method is taught in science classes.

    If pressed, the most cautious response for the teacher might be to acknowledge that some religious and philosophical traditions reject philosophical naturalism and claim that knowledge about reality can be derived through means other than empirical observation, inference and experiment, but those methodological claims — and the substantive claims about reality based upon their application — are not based upon the scientific method and thus will not be covered in a science class.

    A public school science teacher can also appropriately defend the scientific method based upon the vast store of useful knowledge it’s produced, but s/he’d be asking for unnecessary trouble were s/he overtly to attack specific factual claims based on religious traditions. Shouldn’t it be enough to say that such claims are simply not derived from the scientific method?

  28. #28 johnnykaje
    April 14, 2010

    I would be bothered if that showed up in my textbook. “Judeo-Christian myth”?

    Good sir or madam, I belive you mean “Abrahamic myth”!

    I hate that weasly mashup “Judeo-Christian”. It’s only purpose is to prop up a false buffer against claims of anti-Semitism, and to distance themselves from those pesky Muslims.

  29. #29 Iris
    April 14, 2010

    @Sili:

    De Dora. D’Souza. Deepak.

    Dawkins, Dennett…uh, deGrasse Tyson?

  30. #30 Kevin Anthoney
    April 14, 2010

    You’d think somebody who looked that much like a Vulcan would be a tad more logical!

  31. #31 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    A public school science teacher can also appropriately defend the scientific method based upon the vast store of useful knowledge it’s produced, but s/he’d be asking for unnecessary trouble were s/he overtly to attack specific factual claims based on religious traditions. Shouldn’t it be enough to say that such claims are simply not derived from the scientific method?

    The whole reason we’re teaching science in the first place is because it is useful and the best way we have to know things. Otherwise, why bother?

    Why should it dance around religion?

  32. #32 llewelly
    April 14, 2010

    Michael De Dora: Yet another ignoramus who needs to read Dennett’s Breaking The Spell.

  33. #33 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    Here’s the controversial quote in context:

    “In the 1970s and 1980s, anti-evolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for “equal time” for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian god in six days. But a court ruled that the “equal-time” bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state.”

    If, instead of “myth,” the word “story” had been used instead, would the parent who complained be happy? What about De Dora?

    On Brayton’s blog, I suggested a more acceptable version:

    “In the 1970s and 1980s, anti-evolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for “equal time” for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical story that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian god in six days. But a court ruled that the “equal-time” bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state.

    And we will now spend the rest of this book explaining how this biblical story is wrong, wrong, wrong. Your teacher may then supplement this dash of cold water with the explanation that a lot of religious people think that the creation story was never meant to be taken literally, and doing that diminishes God and destroys faith — but because of that separation of church and state thing-y referred to in the above paragraph, that’s not his advice, he’s just saying.”

    There. That should make everyone happy.

  34. #34 lenoxuss
    April 14, 2010

    (bad theology and philosophy, but that’s another matter)

    My new least favorite canard from the Sophisticated Religious:

    “Creationism/intelligent design is not just bad science, it’s bad theology.”

    Gag me with a spoon.

    The only reason it’s “bad theology” is that you desperately want theology to be taken seriously, and in keeping with that, to not contradict established science. However, to claim that the Bible and/or a creator God are empirically true with loads of supporting evidence is a perfectly valid Christian theological claim. It was pretty much the default theological claim until some other -ologies came along to demonstrate more powerfully explanatory alternatives.

    After the Origin of Species was published, or during the Modern Synthesis, did theologians rejoice, saying “At last, we have an answer to the question of where we come from! We’d been wondering that, since we all knew Genesis was just a collection of myths.”

  35. #35 abb3w
    April 14, 2010

    Samantha: The academic usage of the word “myth” or “mythology” says absolutely NOTHING about how true or false said myth may be.

    In general, yes.

    In specific context, the word “myth” was used in “Asking About Life” in reference to the SCOTUS “equal time” case. While not named by the book, the case is Edwards v. Aguillard. As it happens, that ruling includes one use of the word “myth”, with Scalia’s (characterization omitted) dissent in noting testimony (by creationist-leaning Senator Bill Keith) that “The scientific problems with evolution are so serious that it could accurately be termed a ‘myth.’”

    As such, in this specific context “myth” is associated with having “serious scientific problems”, albeit subtly and not (in this case) inaccurately.

  36. #36 samilobster
    April 14, 2010

    and that we shouldn’t refer to religious stories as myth.

    Really? Do tell this to the writers of all my textbooks who had no problem talking about Greek MYTHology and Egyptian MYTHS about the afterlife and Native American LEGENDS.

    Lets be honest about what this, and every single other statement asking someone to ‘respect’ *AKA: Not question* their religious beliefs is really saying:

    And that we shouldn’t refer to religious stories as myth, if the religion has enough members to get pissy about it.

    You’ll never see any of these pricks telling you to respect scientology or Odinisim unless it’s immediately after being called out on this double standard.

    Also:

    for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith?

    The same way they answer the claim that a magic leprechaun farted out the universe 20 minutes ago and it just appears old. By laughing.

  37. #37 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    Is wippersnapper9 Charlie Wagner?

    Posting only videos with bold subtitles, from an empty livejournal account. Just like previously with windsurfer and I think some other ‘nym.

  38. #38 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    FROM A CFI STAFF MEMBER:

    PZ, I adore you, really. But you should know that CFI allows open dialogue among its staff and we don’t always agree with each other. I am the executive director for CFI DC and I strongly disagree with Michael’s post. I have a real concern for his criticisms of you and other so-called “New Atheists.” But I also have a great deal of affection for Michael. I can’t speak for Michael, but I think a lot of his ideas are being developed in public and he is open to criticism and perhaps to even being wrong.

  39. #39 Shplane
    April 14, 2010

    #40

    I watched the video. It was interesting.

    It had fuck-all to do with “Cosmic Ancestry”.

  40. #40 False Prophet
    April 14, 2010

    @Samantha,

    OK, I didn’t say it on the previous post but I have to say it here. The academic usage of the word “myth” or “mythology” says absolutely NOTHING about how true or false said myth may be. It is colloquial use only that adds the inference that “myth” is by necessity false.

    I agree wholeheartedly, but look how much BS the colloquial use of “theory” causes in discussing evolution. The colloquial definition will be at the forefront when you deal with colloquial people.

    Incidentally, “colloquial” just means everyday or familiar, but watch how many people take it as a pejorative. You just can’t win when you use the English language.

  41. #41 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    I think De Dora’s absolutely right. In fact, we should stop referring to the stories scientists tell as “knowledge,” and start calling them myths like any others. Why the special status? Why do their stories get to be called knowledge? As I recently suggested elsewhere (have to go back now that my tax forms are filed), what should really be taught are all of the creation stories, including those narrated in the scientific literature (look how much the name gives away!). Fair and equal. Or we could have a Worldviews curriculum, in which the science worldview is presented as just one among many sets of stories about the world. The way it’s done now – with these textbooks presenting one worldview’s assumption-laden stories as “knowledge” – is pure epistemic elitism.

  42. #42 PZ Myers
    April 14, 2010

    Has he ever been right, though? I looked over the collection of articles under his name there, and a soppier cow flop of feeble mush would be hard to find…and to find it promulgated by CFI, an organization for which I have considerable respect, is embarrassing.

    It’s nice that he’s wrestling with his efforts at forging creationist apologetics in public, where he can be publicly pilloried. I’ll continue to do my part in tearing him down unapologetically.

  43. #43 llewelly
    April 14, 2010

    wippersnapper9 | April 14, 2010 2:25 PM:

    The better question is: did you watch the f***ing video?

    Not having been born yesterday, I don’t waste my time on videos unless there’s some reason to believe they might make it worth my while. I don’t care whether you’re Immanuel Velikovsky or PZ Myers; you can’t expect me to watch a video just because you posted it.

  44. #44 raven
    April 14, 2010

    As I recently suggested elsewhere (have to go back now that my tax forms are filed), what should really be taught are all of the creation stories, including those narrated in the scientific literature

    OK. Very Postmodern. Don’t forget all the universe creation stories found in science fiction, New Age, and fantasy as well.

    I’d write one but many authors have done it already and better.

    Maybe there should be a contest to see who can come up with the best creation stories with categories for sci-fi, fantasy, New Age, and horror.

    And make the kids write one as well. Gee, Postmodernist science is fun.

  45. #45 Dark Matter
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI wrote:

    PZ, I adore you, really. But you should know that CFI allows open dialogue among its staff and we don’t always agree with each other.

    So how much of the CreoCamel is in the CFI tent there, MelodyCFI…
    by your name you have a better view than we do.

    Do you still have room to roll around?

    You won’t, soon.

  46. #46 Flea
    April 14, 2010

    Yes, CFI is clearly going down. DJ left, then here comes Mooney, then this clown…
    And about the “cowardly intellectual dishonesty”, methinks there is a better explanation: The Templeton Bribe ™.

  47. #47 Mercury
    April 14, 2010

    #27

    Students may well ask about the conflict between the answers science produces and those taught by their religious traditions, in which case the teacher can simply remind the students that only knowledge gained through application of the scientific method is taught in science classes.

    If pressed, the most cautious response for the teacher might be to acknowledge that some religious and philosophical traditions reject philosophical naturalism and claim that knowledge about reality can be derived through means other than empirical observation, inference and experiment, but those methodological claims — and the substantive claims about reality based upon their application — are not based upon the scientific method and thus will not be covered in a science class.

    But isn’t this more pussyfooting? This isn’t a comparison of recipes — “we’re talking only about roasts today so we will not cover claims that boiling can produce equally tasty dishes”? Science is a quest for the truth about the physical world. To the best of our knowledge the universe really is 13.7 billion years old and everything we see today was formed in a Big Bang. Therefore, any claims to the contrary, whether derived by scientific, religious, telepathic or whatever method, are to the best of our knowledge false, and stating that completely belongs in science class if the competing claims are brought up. I agree that it is not the job of science education to list all creation myths that have ever existed in order to dispel them, but this textbook was simply providing some history before the start of the actual chapter.

  48. #48 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    I don’t have any problem with CFI allowing and even encouraging healthy disagreement: De Dora is taking a respectable viewpoint which I happen to think is wrong, but it’s well worth discussing why it’s wrong. It’s not quite as extreme as some are characterizing.

    It’s an error; not a heresy.

  49. #49 hyrcan
    April 14, 2010

    @melodyCFI Then perhaps someone at CFI or CFI DC should make a public statement about this? (btw, hi from DC)

    As I’m now reconsidering renewing my support. I think CFI does a lot of good work, but there’s a lot of other good organizations I’d like to support too, but it’s hard to feel inspired to support CFI when I see a senior member (even if regional) using the organization to promote something that seems to contradict the core tenets of the mission…

    “The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”

    Oh and the first line below that?

    “To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present…”

  50. #50 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    These conspiracies about CFI are unfounded. One moment we are called radical atheists (This claim was been specifically made about me and others) and now we are being taken over by the accommodationists. CFI staff who I would call more conciliatory toward religion are a small minority. If you bother to read teh comments, you’ll notice the amount of push back Michael received from me and others on staff and from its membership.

  51. #51 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @hyrcan: Our CEO, Ronald Lindsay, expressed his disagreement with Michael in the comments section of the blog. If every blog on the CFI site is going to be viewed as an official statement by CFI, then we won’t have a blog, we’ll only release statements from our communications department.

  52. #52 Sven DiMilo
    April 14, 2010

    for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith?

    Parsimony:

    ‘Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.’

    we could have a Worldviews curriculum, in which the science worldview is presented as just one among many sets of stories about the world.

    If only everybody who suggested such things was being as sarcastic as you are!

  53. #53 moochava
    April 14, 2010

    This statement–

    …atheism by itself is too narrow and limited, consisting solely of a rejection of god beliefs.

    –has always bewildered me. I mean, I guess I’m okay, since I’m an atheist and I also draw comic books and watch baseball, but what does he imagine everyone else is doing? Sitting beside a telephone in an empty room like the woman from Audition, waiting for a Christian to make a logical fallacy?

    It’s the failure to make an argument while still pretending to have a point that annoys me the most about these people. Didn’t any of them stop to think that “Not believing in God consists solely of not believing in God” was kind of an inane thing to say?

  54. #54 cadfile.myopenid.com
    April 14, 2010

    There is a small subset of non-believers who don’t like causing a fuss by dissing religion and they claim when it happens it holds our movement back.

    Like PZ, we must call wacky beliefs wacky when called for and not worry about hurting the believers feelings. They sure don’t worry about ours when they try to claim we aren’t citizens, can’t hold elective office, or marry their children.

    I just think giving unproven ideas even a small voice in a science book is giving the unproven ideas too much credit.

  55. #55 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    One of the things I really like about Council For Secular Humanism’s Free Inquiry is that they often have side-by-side opposing viewpoints expressed on controversial topics like abortion, animal rights, capitalism, euthanasia, multiculturalism, etc. One popular humanist will argue pro, another will argue against. The LTE’s weigh in, both sides. They’ve been doing this for years.

    I don’t think they’re doing anything new here.

    Secular humanism is not a series of conclusions: it’s a basic approach to understanding the world, and solving problems. I would expect debate. It’s standard.

  56. #56 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith?

    This is a strawman from De Dora. The subject has to do with what a science teacher might encounter in a public school. I doubt very much that any science teacher in a public school has encountered this lame version of Last Thursdayism. Unless it’s from one of the stoners, maybe: it’s on par with “hey, dude, maybe we’re all in the Matrix but we can never find that out.”

    Last Thursdayism is “outside of science” because it’s defined in a way that deliberately makes it untestable. God, however, is a hypothesis based on evidence. I agree that it shouldn’t be tackled head-on in a public school — but creationism is inserting itself into direct conflict with science (as opposed to theistic evolution’s slightly less direct conflict with science), so it’s fair game.

    Still, I would have changed the word “myth” to “story.” Popular parlance is that a ‘myth’ is a fictional fable, and it’s not worth getting into teaching literary terms in science class.

    If they still complain about the word “story,” they’re on shakier ground. The shakier the better, I say. Make them run out into the wide open.

  57. #58 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    @Sastra in #56: you’d also think that any scientist would already have all the tools to deal with Last-Thursday-ism in their toolbox, without having to go home for their philosopher’s hat. I mean, what scientist leaves home without their Occam’s Razor?

  58. #59 simondavis79
    April 14, 2010

    PZ, it’s fine to disagree with De Dora-encouraged in fact- but as a reader (and a CFI DC volunteer) I would urge you to please not “politicize” this. CFI does good work in NYC and other places. I’ve met Michael and he’s no exception.

    Please understand that statements like “what was CFI thinking” mean something to people. This is not a game, we are talking about people’s livelihood here. I’m not saying CFI should get a free pass or immunity with everything, however on the whole they do good work and donations in this economy are hard to come by. CFI is not immune to the recession.

    Let’s stand behind CFI and other secular organizations so that they are viable LONG TERM.

  59. #60 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Please understand that statements like “what was CFI thinking” mean something to people.

    Yes, they do. That particular statement means “what the hell was CFI thinking?” It’s a valid question. I’m glad Ronald Lindsey took the time to give a partial answer to that question.

  60. #61 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: MelodyCFI | April 14, 2010 2:20 PM

    FROM A CFI STAFF MEMBER:

    PZ, I adore you, really. But you should know that CFI allows open dialogue among its staff and we don’t always agree with each other. I am the executive director for CFI DC and I strongly disagree with Michael’s post. I have a real concern for his criticisms of you and other so-called “New Atheists.” But I also have a great deal of affection for Michael.

    I have a great deal of affection for my cat, but I don’t let her post on my blog.

  61. #62 A. Noyd
    April 14, 2010

    knutsondc (#27)

    Shouldn’t it be enough to say that such claims are simply not derived from the scientific method?

    No, because given how much religion, supernatural beliefs and postmodernist bullshit permeate this culture, that dodge just reinforces that there are “other ways of knowing.” Which there aren’t. In order to properly teach what science is, we should be very clear that there is no equivalent to the scientific method which can be used to support religious beliefs and if people want to continue to believe in such claims, they’re being irrational. They’re free to be irrational, of course, but they shouldn’t be given the false impression, even by omission, that they’re rational to believe in things “not derived from the scientific method.”

  62. #63 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @truthspeaker: My personal feelings for Michael have nothing to do with the fact that allowing open discourse on our blogs is vital. We have made it clear that these blog posts are personal opinions. When we disagree, we can all someone out on it, which has been done a hundred times over now concerning this blog.

  63. #64 lenoxuss
    April 14, 2010

    #57 jcmartz:

    That is the single worst piece of science journalism I have ever seen since “Could Baroque Music Have Killed the Dinosaurs?” and “Evidence of Parthenogenesis in Lizards May Explain Birth of Athena from the Skull of Zeus”.

  64. #65 samilobster
    April 14, 2010

    @hyrcan: Our CEO, Ronald Lindsay, expressed his disagreement with Michael in the comments section of the blog.

    Yeah he really tore him a new one:

    First, Michael, thanks again for a thought-provoking post.

    I can still see the smoke from that burn…

    PS: I love how anything embarrassing *like one of your directors defending creationism* can be brushed off as not being the ‘official’ position.

  65. #66 simondavis79
    April 14, 2010

    I am curious to know out of all the anonymous CFI detractors (who are really quite indistinguishable from trolls in some instances) in this comment section: how many have visited a CFI community? Been to an event? Donated their time? Donated their money? Done the same for another similar organization?

    Why the animosity against an organization that stands for everything you claim to support? At least PZ has the integrity to criticize openly and has a track record of achievements. What the hell is their beef?

  66. #67 raven
    April 14, 2010

    simondavis the troll:

    I am curious to know out of all the anonymous CFI detractors (who are really quite indistinguishable from trolls in some instances) in this comment section: how many have visited a CFI community? Been to an event? Donated their time? Donated their money? Done the same for another similar organization?

    I’m curious about why you have such animosity against trolls. Seeing as you are one and you are trolling pharyngula. Insulting a whole message board first thing automatically disqualifies you from having anything worthwhile to say.

    Seek psychological help for your self loathing. Really, many trolls can recover enough to go back to lurking under the bridges of the information superhighway.

    PS Is CFI a cult? I’d never even heard of them before today but their members remind me of Moonies. Not impressed. Whatever you do, don’t move to Guyana and have a kookaide party.

  67. #68 Rog
    April 14, 2010

    I have to admit…I dont see the issue with DeDora’s position.

    So, what are we going to call myths then? Religious stories? Fairy tales? Lies?

    In a biology text book? Nothing at all. Why refer to creationism at all? Why not simply teach biology in a biology textbook?

  68. #69 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @samilobster:

    “Yeah he really tore him a new one:
    First, Michael, thanks again for a thought-provoking post.
    I can still see the smoke from that burn…
    PS: I love how anything embarrassing *like one of your directors defending creationism* can be brushed off as not being the ‘official’ position.”

    First off, Michael does not defend creationism. At the minimum, you could put him in the “conciliator” category.

    As far as our CEO’s criticism, I was talking about this one posted above:

    Having read some of the comments on this blog post, I?d like to remind everyone that blog posts on Free Thinking represent the personal views of the blogger, not the official position of CFI. This allows our bloggers to advance views with which not all CFI supporters may agree – and the result, one hopes, is a robust discussion of relevant points. My own (personal) view is that Michael makes a number of valid points. On the other hand, in places he tends to lump atheists together as though there were a monolithic bloc of atheists with specific, uniform positions on certain matters, including tactics to use when addressing religion. Not only is that false, but it seems internally inconsistent with one of Michael?s theses, which is that atheism by itself is too narrow and limited, consisting solely of a rejection of god beliefs. I also think it a bit unfair to suggest atheists endorse ?sneering,? at least if by ?sneering? one means unadorned insults against believers. On the other hand, sharp observations and comments, that can be supported by reason and evidence, are perfectly appropriate when directed against ANY belief, whether it is a religous belief, atheism or humanism. Indeed, one concern I have is that some treat humanism as a scared cow with affirmations or principles that are akin to scared texts that cannot be questioned. The last thing we need is a creed. We are critical thinkers above all and we should welcome pointed scrutiny of our own views?and not hesitate to subject other views to critical examination.

  69. #70 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: MelodyCFI | April 14, 2010 4:14 PM

    @truthspeaker: My personal feelings for Michael have nothing to do with the fact that allowing open discourse on our blogs is vital.

    Then why did you bring it up as if it were relevant?

  70. #71 simondavis79
    April 14, 2010

    raven: I’m not insulting the whole message board. Only referring to the small portion that anonymously disses CFI.

    And I’m not “lurking” anywhere. If you visit CFI DC, you can find me at most events.

  71. #72 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Raven:

    “PS Is CFI a cult? I’d never even heard of them before today but their members remind me of Moonies. Not impressed. Whatever you do, don’t move to Guyana and have a kookaide party.”

    CFI happens to be the largest secular organization in the world, who has done more to promote and defend science, reason, and secular humanism than any other single organization. They are the umbrella group for The Council for Secular Humanism and the Council for Skeptical Inquiry. They also publish Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines. You may have heard of them.

    PZ Myers in above post said he had a great amount of respect for the organization.

    PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, James Randi, among others, will be speaking at their CSH conference in October. Christopher Hitchens is speaking at the CFI branch in DC in June. You can learn more about the organization by visiting http://www.centerforinquiry.net

  72. #73 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: simondavis79 | April 14, 2010 4:21 PM

    Why the animosity against an organization that stands for everything you claim to support?

    Because that organization employs as a director someone who stands against many of the things we support.

  73. #74 nonotme23
    April 14, 2010

    It seems like CFI is going very big tent these days. I’ve been a long time fan of the Point of Inquiry podcast. With DJ gone they’ve been doing a rotation including Chris Moony (who isn’t all that bad, who is engaging the audience and seems to be serious about making it work). One of the other hosts is Robert Price, who is nothing short of awful and his participation implies some terribly fuzzy thinking on the part of the CFI team. His most recent outing was an interview of Thomas J.J. Altizer on the subject of the death of god. I just about crashed my car when I found out that you had to be christian to be an atheist. Here’s the comment thread…

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/7427

    I kind of think of it as a discussion about the death of POI.

  74. #75 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @truthspeaker: I brought it up because I don’t want to criticize Michael without saying that he is a good guy that happens to think some things I disagree with.

  75. #76 samilobster
    April 14, 2010

    First off, Michael does not defend creationism.

    Really? Because I could copy and paste this to a discovery institute blog and no one would think it was out of place:

    Hence, science cannot reject them in full — for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith? Or that God has been the hand behind the process of evolution?

  76. #77 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    OK, I get. Free discussion and opposing views are encouraged on CFI blogs. But it’s not OK for PZ to criticize a CFI blog post here.

  77. #78 wheelbrain
    April 14, 2010

    >Please understand that statements like “what was CFI thinking” mean something to people. This is not a game, we are talking about people’s livelihood here. I’m not saying CFI should get a free pass or immunity with everything, however on the whole they do good work and donations in this economy are hard to come by. CFI is not immune to the recession.

    Gosh, where have I heard this before. Recently, too. There’s a guy with a funny hat involved…

    Oh yeah! The pope! Just because he’s an asshole doesn’t mean the whole church is bad. Well, just because the church is bad doesn’t mean you should attack it — we’re talking about people’s livelihood here. On the whole they do good work and donations in this economy are hard to come by.

    But no. Nobody gets a free pass. CFI should dump this equivocating moron. Maybe he doesn’t realize, living in New York and all, what a big fucking deal creationism is in the rest of the country. Maybe he doesn’t realize that when he opens his fat mouth and spews forth anti-scientific, anti-education, anti-knowledge bullshit like a fucking volcano of worthless bile, he is actually hurting people. And anyone who protects him or defends him can go fuck themselves.

    Wow! That felt really good.

  78. #79 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    @76

    I’d point out Occam’s razor, but I’m half scared De Dora would reply with “well, then the simplest explanation with the fewest parameters is ‘God did it’”.

  79. #80 filmour
    April 14, 2010

    @ #77

    I didn’t read her original post that way. Nor any of the follow-up’s. I’ve contributed in CFI Grand Rapids and they do good work around here. They’ve made my deconversion experience a whole lot less jarring. I’m glad she’s quick to defend CFI and, for the reasons that Sastra stated (see #55), I think she is in the right.

  80. #81 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @samilobster: He’s saying you can’t prove a negative. Michael De Dora is not a deist or an agnostic, he’s an atheist. I’m not here to defend most of De Dora’s views. I’ve already said I disagree with him in various posts. This much I think I know, though: Michael De Dora does not defend creationism. If he does, I need to have a serious talk with him.

  81. #82 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    I am curious to know out of all the anonymous CFI detractors (who are really quite indistinguishable from trolls in some instances) in this comment section:

    Your concern is noted.

    how many have visited a CFI community? Been to an event? Donated their time? Donated their money? Done the same for another similar organization?

    Courtier’s Reply

    Why the animosity against an organization that stands for everything you claim to support?

    Because we’re questioning how an organization who’s self-described mission “to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values” is furthered by employing and giving blog space to a director who can make such anti-science statements as “Hence, science cannot reject them in full — for how does the scientist answer the claim that God made it look like there’s been evolution, and that we are merely natural products, to test our faith? Or that God has been the hand behind the process of evolution?”

  82. #83 samilobster
    April 14, 2010

    @samilobster: He’s saying you can’t prove a negative.

    Which has been the favorite argument for creationism and religion in general for at least 200 years

  83. #84 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI and simondavis79…

    I can understand your desire to come here and defend the CFI, as a group… although I think your defense is a little misplaced.

    The frustration you are hearing here from many of the regulars is not simply spawned from this particular incident, which if you are a regular reader here, you will know full well.

    More and more we hear the rallying cry of “play nice, you’re huuuuurting the cause”, from the few sources we have in this world that are supposed to support the very principles we are trying so hard to uphold.

    We don’t feel the need to show deference to religion, we see it as ripe for criticism as any other position built on lies, deception, and manipulation, and we’re not interested in treating it with kid gloves for the sake of “getting along”.

    In fact, many of us feel strongly that the more influential the woo-based establishment, the harder and more vocally it should be attacked, as its influence has greater range and effect and should garner special attention.

    We’re not going to be told that alt-medicine should be attacked with bear traps, but religion should be gently swiped with special butterfly nets, and we’re going to be damn well irritated when leaders of the secular organizations that are supposed to represent the values we hold put forth that very idea, and do so while sneering at those of us who find that position repugnant.

    “To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present…”

    Do we believe that, or only so long as it doesn’t upset the apple cart?

    Michael has a right to state what he stated, and he damn well has a right to be criticized for it. And if the CFI, as a group, does not present a strong and public voice opposing that viewpoint, they also deserve the criticism. You can come in here and make all the claims you want about not agreeing with him, and that’s fine, for you… but in defending the CFI, while the CFI, officially, has not opposed this viewpoint, you seem a little disingenuous.

    My 2 cents.

  84. #85 Ronald A. Lindsay
    April 14, 2010

    PZ: Disappointed in the intemperate tone of your post and your mistaken observations about CFI. More detail here:
    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/cfi_home_to_both_atheist_fundamentalists_and_religion-loving_wankers/

    BTW, looking forward to seeing you at our October conference. There should be an interesting exchange between you and Chris Mooney (with a minimum of wanking, I hope).

  85. #86 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Celtic_Evolution: No, I don’t think CFI should have to make a public statement against a couple of unpopular blogs that have already been thoroughly criticized in the comments section by staff and members.

  86. #87 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI #69

    First off, Michael does not defend creationism.

    You’re wrong. Accomodationists like De Dora piss me off. Creationists, like anyone else who purposely and knowingly peddles lies deserves all the abuse they get. De Dora doesn’t seem to object to children being lied to. He IS defending creationists and is whining about their lies being shown as being lies.

  87. #88 raven
    April 14, 2010

    simondavis:

    raven: I’m not insulting the whole message board. Only referring to the small portion that anonymously disses CFI.

    You said post #59
    “all the anonymous CFI detractors (who are really quite indistinguishable from trolls in some instances)

    Calling commenters on a message boards trolls, isn’t going to give you any credibility or audience.

    Why the animosity against an organization that stands for everything you claim to support?

    Read the thread again. Most of it was criticism directed against De Dora, not CFI. If you want to claim persecution, join a xian fundie death cult.

    At least PZ has the integrity to criticize openly and has a track record of achievements.

    More insults. Many of us are anonymous, including myself, because we’ve been getting death threats for years, have kids, and are tired of dealing with the FBI and the police. And how do you know we don’t have “track record(s) of achievements”. Did you visit the local homeless shelter and notice all the people posting to Pharyngula? Which is nonsense, with wireless netbooks, even the shopping carts in the park brigade could be here.

    Really Simondavis, you are not making yourself or CFI look good here. Rule 1. “When you find yourself in a hole, STOP DIGGING!!!

    And I’m not “lurking” anywhere. If you visit CFI DC, you can find me at most events.

    Well that is good to know. For a minute there, I thought you were going to start launching bible verses like cruise missiles.

  88. #89 Kel, OM
    April 14, 2010

    and that we shouldn’t refer to religious stories as myth

    But religious stories are myth by pure definition…

    Next he’s going to say we shouldn’t call evolution a theory because colloquially theory means hunch or guess.

  89. #90 Anodyne
    April 14, 2010

    Just to clarify my original rant, I support CFI, but I never would have expected this tripe on one of their blogs (and this isn’t the only post on his blog with which I take issue). However, I’m not about to throw out the baby with the bath water, and I don’t see why any other rational person would. It’s a good group.

    If it is to remain in my good standing, then this sort of wishy-washy crap needs to go. It seems like it would be far more appropriate on a personal blog, and not a blog where a posting undermines the core tenants of the group. “What if [particular creation story] is true?” Has nothing to do with reason. It has nothing to do with anything that exists in reality. I don’t know why anyone would even give it so much credit as to postulate it in a blog identified with this organization. THAT is the big problem. An organization that is supposed to speak for common humanist/freethinking/atheist goals has a higher ranking member giving the creationism story the time of day.

    I highly disagree with this individual, but CFI should not be thoroughly bashed for this one blog. And calling it a “Church” as PZ did is unwarranted. That’s such an ugly word. …church… blech!

    Either way…this guy’s a toolbag.

  90. #91 Carlie
    April 14, 2010

    I am curious to know out of all the anonymous CFI detractors (who are really quite indistinguishable from trolls in some instances) in this comment section: how many have visited a CFI community? Been to an event? Donated their time? Donated their money?

    Me? None. In fact, CFI has been in the very periphery of my knowledge until now.

    Why the animosity against an organization that stands for everything you claim to support?

    Maybe because when confronted with inanity like the post highlighted above, people like me, for whom this is their first exposure to CFI, might say “Huh, it’s a group that features that guy. Guess there’s nothing to see here.” It’s kind of dumb to worry about offending the religious when by capitulating to them you’re offending the people who would otherwise be your biggest supporters.

  91. #92 simondavis79
    April 14, 2010

    @Celtic_Evolution:

    In fact, many of us feel strongly that the more influential the woo-based establishment, the harder and more vocally it should be attacked, as its influence has greater range and effect and should garner special attention.

    Have you voiced this opinion directly with a national secular organization? Are you a member of said organization? Or is your opposition confined to the comments of the blogosphere? I’m honestly curious.

    Also, I would challenge anyone to show me where CFI has told ANY popular atheist/author/blogger etc. how to talk and when. Dawkins, Harris, Myers, et al will be featured speakers at our conference, if nothing else that should show that CFI management supports them.

  92. #93 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Carlie: “It’s kind of dumb to worry about offending the religious when by capitulating to them you’re offending the people who would otherwise be your biggest supporters.”

    Very few people at CFI are worried about offending the religious. Have you heard of Blasphemy Day? Yeah, that’s a CFI effort.

  93. #94 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    For what it’s worth, I thought I’d point out that Mr. Lindsay’s stock defense against CFI detractors is (paraphrased) “religious people call us atheist fundamentalists and now you’re calling us religion lovers? How unreasonable.” He used the exact same shtick when people complained about Mooney taking over PoI from DJ (well, taking over half the shows). He never actually deals with the substance of the complaints. But I suppose that’s what you expect from an executive.

  94. #95 Carlie
    April 14, 2010

    Melody – that’s great. I’m glad it does so many good things. But my point was that having him on the website by default implies some sort of stamp of approval, and that if someone’s first exposure to CFI is to him, then “being worried about offending the religious” is exactly the impression they will get about CFI. It’s simple marketing and branding.

  95. #96 simondavis79
    April 14, 2010

    Carlie: I work in online marketing and I entirely disagree. Having 50 blog posts that all tout the company line are much more suspect and propaganda-like than having honest and frank discussion.

    Paul: The “atheist fundamentalists” comment actually came from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, hardly a religious man.

  96. #97 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    Paul: The “atheist fundamentalists” comment actually came from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, hardly a religious man.

    I’m not illiterate, and I did not misrepresent where the quote came from (I did not represent it at all). The point I was making was simply that when atheists disagree with something said by a CFI member (or CFI bringing on someone people have strong reservations with) if Ron A. Lindsay says anything, it’s “religious people call me an atheist fundamentalist and now you’re calling me soft on religion”, as a way of “framing” (heh) the person as being unreasonable, attacking someone who has to put up with being called an atheist fundamentalist. The other example I was referencing was on Russell Blackford’s excellent blog :

    Finally a footnote: a few months ago, CFI was excoriated by some, principally “accommodationists” in the matter of critique of religion, for sponsoring Blasphemy Day. Now we are being criticized from the other side, by those who believe in a very robust, not to say harsh, critique of religion.

    If one is bored, they can look at that situation and recognize the similarities: he ignores the substance completely, using the fact that religious people criticize the CFI as cover to try and prevent non-religious people from criticizing CFI. I wasn’t trying to forward any serious point, though, just providing information I thought fellow blog readers might find interesting.

  97. #98 Akira MacKenzie
    April 14, 2010

    The “atheist fundamentalists” comment actually came from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, hardly a religious man.

    But he is a fucking a little coward who pisses on atheists who don’t hide under their beds in difference to the superstitious savages who want atheists shoved back into the closet…

    …or in front of a firing squad.

  98. #99 Akira MacKenzie
    April 14, 2010

    Let’s try that again:

    The “atheist fundamentalists” comment actually came from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, hardly a religious man.

    But he is a fucking little coward who pisses on atheists who won’t hide under their beds in deference to the superstitious savages who want atheists shoved back into the closet…

    …or in front of a firing squad.

  99. #100 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Paul: “If one is bored, they can look at that situation and recognize the similarities: he ignores the substance completely, using the fact that religious people criticize the CFI as cover to try and prevent non-religious people from criticizing CFI. I wasn’t trying to forward any serious point, though, just providing information I thought fellow blog readers might find interesting.”

    These were not religious people doing the criticizing. These were people within the organization saying that CFI was being run by atheist fundamentalist.

  100. #101 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    Link in 97 didn’t work. The comment is here

  101. #102 Kel, OM
    April 14, 2010

    There’s a difference between having disagreement for the sake of disagreement, and having legitimate disagreement.

    If someone says something stupid, they should be subject to criticism. The problem so often in this “accomodationist” debate is that by criticising those who pander to religion with nebulous and fuzzy praise shrug off any legitimate criticism by using the words militant or fundamentalist to describe the attacks. Same thing happens for theistic evolution, Ken Miller tried to paint the likes of PZ as being on the same side as the creationists because he said science and religion are incompatible. That’s not having a fair conversation, it’s making the middle ground a ground where people refrain from taking a solid position between two extremes that are willing to.

    Shouldn’t scepticism be about proportioning one’s belief with respect to the amount of evidence?

  102. #103 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: MelodyCFI | April 14, 2010 4:46 PM

    @truthspeaker: I brought it up because I don’t want to criticize Michael without saying that he is a good guy

    Oh, I see. You must be confused. This is the internet, not a kindergaten class.

  103. #104 Kel, OM
    April 14, 2010

    This was highlighted in a recent documentary called “Did Darwin Kill God?” where a theistic evolutionist painted himself as being an ever beleaguered moderate being squeezed out between those who say the world is 6000 years old and the ultra-darwinists who try to do away with God entirely.

  104. #105 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    These were not religious people doing the criticizing. These were people within the organization saying that CFI was being run by atheist fundamentalist.

    Apologies. Since it wasn’t really relevant to the point I was making, I didn’t put much thought or care into who made the accusations. I should have checked it instead of just repeating, but the reason I didn’t cite who said it in the first place was that it was irrelevant to what I was pointing out.

    Lindsay lacks substance, here and before. He simply says “I got called an atheist fundamentalist”, and that’s supposed to be some sort of argument against people who think they’re coddling the religious and alienating atheists with specific substantive actions (which he does not discuss).

  105. #106 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    On a completely different topic:

    Posted by: Anodyne | April 14, 2010 5:17 PM


    If it is to remain in my good standing, then this sort of wishy-washy crap needs to go. It seems like it would be far more appropriate on a personal blog, and not a blog where a posting undermines the core tenants of the group.

    For fuck’s sake, it’s tenets!

    One more time:

    A tenet is an opinion, principle, or doctrine especially one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement

    A tenant is someone who occupies a rental property.

    George Tenet is the CIA director who got a medal for providing false intelligence about Saddam’s WMDs.

  106. #107 truthspeaker
    April 14, 2010

    Posted by: wheelbrain | April 14, 2010 4:50 PM

    Maybe he doesn’t realize, living in New York and all, what a big fucking deal creationism is in the rest of the country.

    He wouldn’t have to look very far. There are rural New York school districts where creationism is a problem.

  107. #108 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Paul: “… that’s supposed to be some sort of argument against people who think they’re coddling the religious and alienating atheists with specific substantive actions (which he does not discuss).”

    This is about a blog post that says that it is the opinion of the author and not of CFI. I challenge you to find actual work we have done in the secular community that has alienated atheists. I invite you to attend a conference or one of our very active community centers that give atheists a “home.”

    Ron has a valid point. We have Blasphemy Day and we are called fundamentalist atheists and compared to Hitler by fellow atheists. Then we allow an employee who could be considered an accommodationist to express their opinion (that most of us have publicly disagreed with) and we are accused of being run by religion coddlers. We aren’t going to make everyone happy all of the time no matter how much we try. This is the nature of advocacy.

  108. #109 AdamK
    April 14, 2010

    Truthspeaker speaks the truth.

    A palindrome is a terrible thing to waste.

  109. #110 knutsondc
    April 14, 2010

    @tsg (#31) and @Mercury(#47):
    Personally, I agree with both of you. I’m an atheist and thorough-going naturalist. I believe that empiricism and science give us the only reliable information we have about reality. Current science says the Earth is about 4 billion years old, so I agree that a Bible-based opinion that it’s only 6,000 years old is just flat wrong. When speaking as a private citizen, no one need cut creationism any slack, whether based upon “creation science,” ID, faith-based Biblical inerrancy, special revelation from the “spirit world,” or whatever. I certainly would tell any YEC’er “if your religion tells you the Earth is 6,000 years old, your religion is simply wrong.”

    Please bear in mind, however, the specific context we’re discussing here, science instruction in public high schools, where teachers are acting as public employees, not as private individuals. As such, they can earn themselves and their schools considerable trouble by appearing to attack students’ religious beliefs unnecessarily. They might face not only the ire of creationist students, parents and activist groups, they could also conceivably incur some legal liability. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause commands government neutrality on religious beliefs. Public schools are banned not only from endorsing religious beliefs, they’re also prohibited from “attacking” religion.

    A public school teacher going beyond teaching science to flat-out label a student’s religious beliefs “false” or “wrong” could be viewed to violate that neutrality. At least one federal court in California recently held that a high school science teacher violated the Establishment Clause when he told his class creationism is “superstitious nonsense” and said “when you put on your Jesus glasses you can’t see the truth.” Much as I and most others who regularly visit Pharyngula might disagree with that court’s opinion, it’s not outside the mainstream of the law. I, for one, would hesitate to counsel a teacher to risk legal jeopardy simply to avoid the appearance of “pussyfooting” around religion.

    It’s one thing to say that the best science available indicates the Earth is 4 billion years old or to attack the scientific accuracy of claims for a Young Earth purportedly based upon “creation science” such as “flood geology” or hominid and dinosaur fossils claimed to be the same age. Claims like that may be motivated by religious faith, but they purport to be based upon the scientific method and thus are fair game. But it’s quite another thing to label a student’s religious beliefs themselves “false,” “wrong,” “mistaken.”

    So, if a student says “my Christian faith tells me we’re all the result of God’s special act of creation 6,000 years ago, so evolution must be false,” I’d advise the teacher against telling the student anything like “what your faith tells you is wrong,” but rather something like

    This is a science class, so I teach what biologists and other scientists have found to be the best natural explanation for what we’ve observed in nature, namely evolution. If you have questions about whether or how evolution theory accounts for the empirical evidence, or whether there is a better natural explanation for that evidence, I’ll try to answer them. However, supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, or explanations based upon something other than inferences from empirical observations, including religious faith or authority, just aren’t based upon the scientific method and will not be addressed here. Whether and how religious beliefs are consistent with any of the scientific explanations for the evidence taught in this class and whether religious beliefs need to be consistent with those scientific explanations are also not themselves the subject matter of science. Questions of that sort are more appropriately addressed in philosophy classes.

    In a perfect world, the reliability of the scientific method and its results will have been presented to the students before any of them expressly raises a religious objection in such a direct way. Intelligent students will get the point that accounting for inconsistencies between science and their religion’s dogmas is their religion’s problem, not science’s.

    Sorry for this lengthy reply, but I thought it worthwhile to illustrate the reasons for my concerns with overtly attacking religious beliefs in public school science classes.

  110. #111 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    Ronald Lindsay: “PZ: Disappointed in the intemperate tone of your post”

    Oh, heaven forfend PZ should disappoint you with his tone!

  111. #112 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 14, 2010

    I have found that referring to religions using anthropological terms such as “myth”, “ritual”, “shaman” etc is a good way to get the religious upset.

  112. #113 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Screechy_Monkey Most of us our fans of PZ’s snark, but its not fun when its directed at your friends.

  113. #114 jon.richt
    April 14, 2010

    Your normally sensible if slightly acerbic tone is replaced by the one found here, PZ. Whereas De Dora sounds measured, you sound angry and antagonistic. It’s your blog, of course, and you’re free to do/say whatever you want. But I think this post stands out from what I normally consider to be a reasonable & fun-loving soap box.

    If religion doesn’t belong in science class, it certainly does not belong in high school level science text books; it’s pure hypocrisy to suggest otherwise. Myths which threaten to undermine science most definitely need to be confronted – but not in a high school biology course. Perhaps (as you implied) it’d be more appropriate in a sociology course, or perhaps as part of curriculum involving skepticism and critical thought. Perhaps it’s better suited to college level courses…

    I side with De Dora on this one.

  114. #115 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    @Screechy_Monkey Most of us our fans of PZ’s snark, but its not fun when its directed at your friends.

    What, we’re not fans of the Golden Rule? That’s distateful. At least the religionists try to pretend that they are.

    If I’m wrong, I want to be told that I’m wrong. If I take pleasure in seeing others’ snarkily eviscerated, it’s only fair to get the same if I deserve it.

  115. #116 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Screechy_Monkey: I wasn’t talking about my friends. I’m talking about PZ’s friends at CFI. Yes, because he knows CFI so well, I expect him to give them the benefit of a doubt. He says he respects the organization, but that he’s disappointed. Well, I too am disappointed… in the way he has dealt with the situation.

  116. #117 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI@108:

    This is about a blog post that says that it is the opinion of the author and not of CFI. I challenge you to find actual work we have done in the secular community that has alienated atheists.

    Those “the opinions are those of the author and not of this organization” disclaimers don’t really cut it with me in this context.

    You’re not a public broadcaster providing airtime to members of the public. You’re an advocacy group, at least in part. (According to CFI’s “About” page, it carries out its work through “education, publishing, advocacy, and social services.”)

    Your blog is part of your “actual work.” If you don’t see it that way, you need to start. It’s how many members of the public will see you.

    While particular blog posts may not represent the organization’s “official” position, they are, presumably, intended to further the mission. I assume that CFI wouldn’t run a series of posts by an employee about the wonders of homeopathy. Or whether the Yankees will win the World Series this season. So those posts do reflect on the CFI.

    If a CFI blogger argued for creationism, would you continue to run his posts? If a post contained racist diatribes, would you leave it up there and dismiss all criticism with “well, it’s not our official position”? If a Discovery Institute blogger made some reprehensible statements, would we let the DI off the hook with the “not official position” disclaimer, or would we comment on the nature of an organization that gives such people a platform?

    Then we allow an employee who could be considered an accommodationist to express their opinion.

    Your employees can express their opinions elsewhere. When they do it on YOUR blog, it reflects on your organization, whether it constitutes official policy or not. (Actually, it still reflects on your organization if they do it elsewhere, but to a much lesser degree.)

  117. #118 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    Let me see if I’ve got this right.

    Michael De Dora writes a blog whining about a textbook having a statement that’s mean to creationists. He really wishes that statement wasn’t there. He thinks, almost certainly incorrectly, that the statement is unconstitutional if read in a public school. Also scientists aren’t philosophical enough to know if Gawd is a liar.

    MelodyCFI says, “I don’t always agree with Mikey but he loves kittens and you guys are big meanies for saying nasty things about Mikey.”

    simondavis79 thinks CFI is the greatest thing since sliced bread and we’re all meanies for not appreciating what a neato-spiffy-keen bunch CFI is.

    De Dora’s and Melody’s boss, Ron Lindsay, says “PZ is a big meany for not appreciating Mikey and I should know, I’ve been called an atheist fundamentalist!”

  118. #119 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    Oh, before I forget:

    PZ Myers, you are a wimpy accomodationist.

    See, now you have automatic credibility, since you’ve been called both an accomodationist and an atheist fundamentalist! The Golden Mean Fallacy: fun for everyone!

  119. #120 KOPD
    April 14, 2010

    @114

    Your concern is noted.

  120. #121 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @Screechy Monkey: I think we would do a great disservice to our community if we monitored, censored, or had to approve every blog on our site by our staff. That’s why we have the disclaimer and I think it should be respected. Stifling speech is not the level of discourse we want to foster. As I said before, if every blog on the CFI site is going to be viewed as an official statement by CFI, then we won’t have a blog, we’ll only release statements from our communications department.

    You may think we have one or two (out of many dozens of employees) so-called “accommodationist” staff members. Even if they are, they do represent a part of the atheist community. If you think they do not represent our mission, then I encourage you to state your case. I would also encourage you to look at the full body of their work before you decide they are not worthy of CFI. I may disagree with them on some issues, but I am happy to work for an organization that is not authoritarian and allows me to have my own opinions.

  121. #122 raven
    April 14, 2010

    I have found that referring to religions using anthropological terms such as “myth”, “ritual”, “shaman” etc is a good way to get the religious upset.

    Oh. Got any other good ones?

    I’ve found that xian sponsored terrorism and assassinations of my colleagues is a good way to get me upset. The death threats work well too.

  122. #123 MelodyCFI
    April 14, 2010

    @’Tis Himself, OM: Sarcasm FAIL. I said I don’t agree with De Dora and didn’t criticize PZ for calling De Dora out. Go back and read the thread, please.

  123. #124 MadScientist
    April 14, 2010

    De Dora must have been the patsy in kindergarten. He obviously thinks it’s OK when you question some bullshit and people make up more bullshit.

    DeDora: Science says the universe is billions of years old, how do you reconcile that with your bible?

    Religiotard: God only made it look old to test us!

    DeDora: Oh, ok. I didn’t think of that. Yeah, science can’t prove you wrong so your parallel truth is equally valid.

    @Samantha #2: Just don’t forget that most of the world is neither aware of nor cares about your nuanced definition of ‘myth’.

  124. #125 Prometheus
    April 14, 2010

    De Dora deserves the criticism, CFI does not.

    Remember Blasphemy Day? You like these guys.

  125. #126 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI@121:

    You’re missing my point. You don’t need to censor or pre-approve every blog post if you choose not to, but you do need to accept that, whether you like it or not, those posts will reflect on your organization. You need to choose bloggers and set ground rules for them with that in mind. Blogging is a useful medium for an advocacy organization, but it’s not an exemption from accountability.

    I’m not suggesting that the CFI should have “censored” the post. But there is a middle ground between “this is the official position of our organization” and “this has nothing whatsoever to do with our organization and does not reflect upon us at all.”

    For example, if the CFI were to invite PZ to guest-blog on its site, that decision would reflect on the organization. It wouldn’t mean that PZ’s hypothetical guest posts would represent official policy, but it would indicate “here’s a voice we think furthers our mission.” And the folks who hate PZ and/or his “tone” would be justified in criticizing you for it.

  126. #127 phoenixwoman
    April 14, 2010

    Instead of being a cowardly appeaser, Mr. De Dora should tell the frothing Fundies who he so obviously fears that Jesus Himself repeatedly called for the separation of the spiritual and the material. In other words, if they really want to respect the wishes of the guy they say is their deity, then they should keep religion out of science. Period.

  127. #128 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    Quite the gender and racial balance among the CFI blog contributors.

  128. #129 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    But there is a middle ground between “this is the official position of our organization” and “this has nothing whatsoever to do with our organization and does not reflect upon us at all.”

    It’s also pretty difficult to make the latter case when the large majority of the bloggers are employees/officials of the organization.

  129. #130 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    john.richt #114 wrote:

    If religion doesn’t belong in science class, it certainly does not belong in high school level science text books; it’s pure hypocrisy to suggest otherwise.

    I think it’s important to look again at the actual content of the controversial quotation, and put it in context. Here it is again:

    “In the 1970s and 1980s, anti-evolutionists in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana passed identical bills calling for “equal time” for teaching evolution and creationism, the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian god in six days. But a court ruled that the “equal-time” bill was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state.”

    The textbook is teaching about the legal controversies with evolution. It’s not directly bringing in religion as “another way of knowing” or anything like that. Nor is it directly attacking it. I don’t see a problem with this passage.

    The word “myth” is referring not to the Bible, Christianity, or religion in general — it’s supposed to be describing only Young Earth Creationism. As understood in common parlance, this is saying it’s a fictional story, not to be taken literally. I really don’t see how evolution can be taught without implying this with no uncertainty whatsoever.

    The text isn’t taking on the validity of religion vs. science; it’s taking on evolution vs. creationism. And I think that’s legitimate.

    But — the word “myth” trips a panic button which probably wouldn’t be tripped by the word “story.” A story can be true or false. By referring to a Biblical “myth,” the implication is that the entire Bible is myth — it’s false. That’s not inside the scope of a high school biology class. And it’s not acceptable under the standards of church-state separation.

    So I think De Dora is partly right, but, in context, wrong.

    And I think PZ is guilty of hyperbole in calling him a ‘witless wanker.’ So now what is he going to use against witless wankers? He’s used it up on small, relatively reasonable game, and it’s a fine phrase.

    I’m a longtime member of both CSH and CSI (formerly CSICOP), and have gone to many of their conventions. It functions a lot like a forum. I think that anyone who decides that they wouldn’t want to join because there are some people in it who spout off controversial views is probably not much of a joiner anyway. Purists are nice to have around, but they usually don’t stick around in any organization: they tend to flounce off noisily, which of course is also fun.

  130. #131 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    MelodyCFI #123

    I said I don’t agree with De Dora and didn’t criticize PZ for calling De Dora out.

    If you had bothered to read what I wrote you would have seen: “MelodyCFI says, “I don’t always agree with Mikey but he loves kittens and you guys are big meanies for saying nasty things about Mikey.” [emphasis added] Also did you see any mention of PZ?

    Maybe next time you should refute what I wrote instead of something else.

  131. #132 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    “It’s also pretty difficult to make the latter case when the large majority of the bloggers are employees/officials of the organization.”

    Exactly.

    If the guy who mops the floors at CFI’s office writes a letter to the editor of his local paper about how atheists suck, who cares? As long as he shows up on time and mops the floors properly, it doesn’t matter.

    But when the people whose job it is to speak on behalf of the organization — especially when “speaking” is a big chunk of what the organization does — then it’s only fair for people to ask “what does it say about the CFI that these are the people it chooses to represent them?”

  132. #133 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    “what does it say about the CFI that these are the people it chooses to represent them?”

    Big debate tent?

  133. #134 Kel, OM
    April 14, 2010

    A public school teacher going beyond teaching science to flat-out label a student’s religious beliefs “false” or “wrong” could be viewed to violate that neutrality.

    Calling a creation story a myth is no more calling religious belief false than calling evolution a theory means it’s a guess.

    I thought it worthwhile to illustrate the reasons for my concerns with overtly attacking religious beliefs in public school science classes.

    This is the problem, this isn’t overtly attacking religious belief. If a religion believed that babies were delivered by storks after lots of prayer, would it be overtly attacking that religion to teach that babies come from fertilisation mainly due to intercourse?

    This is the problem with such rhetoric, it’s basically meaning that secular education can’t teach anything if it happens to contradict a cherished dogma of a particular religion. Do you gut history because certain historical facts don’t match with religious belief? The native americans being a lost tribe of Israel… think about it

  134. #135 Becca
    April 14, 2010

    Thank you to whoever posted the link to the CFI forum about the last Robert Price episode. I concur with the vast majority of posters: that kind of discussion is not what I listen to Point of Inquiry for. I was on the edge of whether to continue with PoI when DJ left… now I’m *really* not sure. I have limited bandwidth for downloads, and I just don’t know whether the bite is worth it.

  135. #136 Epinephrine
    April 14, 2010

    @MelodyCFI

    I think we would do a great disservice to our community if we monitored, censored, or had to approve every blog on our site by our staff. That’s why we have the disclaimer and I think it should be respected. Stifling speech is not the level of discourse we want to foster. As I said before, if every blog on the CFI site is going to be viewed as an official statement by CFI, then we won’t have a blog, we’ll only release statements from our communications department.

    There’s a difference between opinions on private blogs, and opinions on blogs maintained by the organization. Someone from your organization posting views that oppose the views of the organization, on its blog? That’s absurd.

    Hypothetically (stressing this – I don’t have anti-vaccine views) – let’s say I work in the regulation and approval of biologics in the department of health. If we had a blog and I waxed anti-vaccine on said blog, shouldn’t I be fired? After all, I’d be opposing the department of health’s advice on vaccines (get them, they save lives) on its own blog, as an employee. That would seem to be deliberately interfering with the mandate of the organization.

    Now if I were to do so privately on my own blog, without making reference to my place of work? Totally fair game.

    Should you monitor all the blogs? Heck no. If a blog by an employee is making statements that embarrass the organization, or are counterproductive? Action should then be taken. He should be informed that as an employee, he is held to a different standard, and shouldn’t take positions counter to the CFI’s on the CFI’s blogs – and probably retract his comment or something.

    If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t have a blog. We don’t.

  136. #137 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    Sastra@133: “Big debate tent?”

    Possibly. That’s certainly one legitimate conclusion to draw.

    I haven’t drawn any firm conclusions yet. I’d need to see a little more evidence: do the CFI bloggers truly represent a “big tent” of contrasting views, or is it mostly accomodationism?

    All I’m saying is that this particular blog post is one legitimate piece of evidence. The “not official policy” disclaimer is a cop-out. Also, the “circle the wagons” approach that the CFI employees and advocates have taken here does not encourage me. If you truly believe in a “big tent” and free-ranging discourse, then knock off all the non sequiturs about what a nice man De Dora is, and the hand-wringing about “tone.”

  137. #138 A. Noyd
    April 14, 2010

    knutsondc (#110)

    As such, they can earn themselves and their schools considerable trouble by appearing to attack students’ religious beliefs unnecessarily.

    Well, simply presenting science for what it is–our only source of knowledge about the world and everything in it (including possible gods about which testable claims are made)–can appear to “attack” religious beliefs since those aren’t grounded in the real world. But explaining what science is and why it deserves such prestige is necessary to getting people to understand science. There’s no way around it except dishonesty.

    Also, it would help your case if you could be more specific in what defines an “attack” on religion by a teacher and if you explained exactly what part of the Establishment Clause a teacher violates by correctly insisting that certain religious claims are known to be false.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    MelodyCFI (#121)

    If you think they do not represent our mission, then I encourage you to state your case.

    Try posts #49, #82 and #84.

    I may disagree with them on some issues, but I am happy to work for an organization that is not authoritarian and allows me to have my own opinions.

    Yes, because asking people to make sure their CFI blog articles are in line with the CFI mission is the same as the authoritarian censorship of opinions. After all, it’s not like there’s a whole internet where people can make a personal blog and discuss anything they please.

  138. #139 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    Someone please pinch me, I need a reality check. Just got this reply from De Dora at his blog:

    ?Are you saying that it?s OK to teach people that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, but it?s wrong to teach them that the earth isn?t 6000 years old??

    Yes. One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not. There is no reason for a high school biology teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas in a high school biology class.

    This is getting surreal. Surely I’ve fallen asleep and am hallucinating now, right?

  139. #140 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    Argh, blockquote fail, third paragraph is the reply from De Dora. It actually is late here, maybe I should go to bed.

  140. #141 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    All too often students will ask, or even demand, a teacher to explain why he or she isn’t teaching creationism instead of science. Is the teacher supposed to say “I’m not going to comment on that”? Or even “I’m not allowed to comment on that”? According to MelodyCFI’s bestest buddy, the answer should be “Yes, no comments about creationism are needed or allowed to be uttered by a science teacher.”

    That is just so much bullshit! Yeah, there was that teacher in California who was smacked down by the court for proselytizing atheism. But there is a difference between explaining that mythology isn’t science (despite what De Dora might believe) and promoting atheism.

  141. #142 Sastra
    April 14, 2010

    “Yes. One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not. There is no reason for a high school biology teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas in a high school biology class.”

    Now De Dora is being silly. If you teach that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, you are simultaneously teaching that it is NOT 6,000 years old. This isn’t like announcing “fundamentalist Christianity is false religion.” This is basic logic.

    “Teacher, how old is the earth?”
    “4.5 billion years old.”
    “You mean it’s not 6,000 years old?”
    “I didn’t say that.”
    “So it IS 6,000 years old?”
    “It’s 4.5 billion years old.”
    “Not 6,000?”
    “I didn’t say that.”
    “Oh, thank God.”

  142. #143 Kel, OM
    April 14, 2010

    Yes. One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not. There is no reason for a high school biology teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas in a high school biology class.

    Self-inflicted reductio ad absurdum, always nice to see. While most people would see that saying the world is 4.5 billion years old is implicitly saying the world is 6000 years old is wrong*, apparently this is a rhetorical trick to stop the demise of secular education which would otherwise be paralysed by religious concerns…

    give me a break!

    *which from what I can gather is part of the creationist outrage against evolution. By teaching that evolution is true, it’s teaching that creationism isn’t.

  143. #144 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    Thanks for posting that, Deen. Wow.

    Yes. One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not. There is no reason for a high school biology teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas in a high school biology class.

    I’m dealing with this in an argument on another blog. It’s a huge problem. I really don’t think these people have thought through the implications of what they’re saying. FFS, the scientific knowledge rejects the religious idea, as it does any ideas contrary to it, as FALSE. What the hell does he think scientific knowledge is, anyway?

  144. #145 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    Well then. Apparently De Dora is as shitty a constitutional lawyer as he is a skeptic.

  145. #146 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 14, 2010

    Apparently De Dora is as shitty a constitutional lawyer as he is a skeptic.

    I doubt he’s heard of the Lemon Test.

  146. #147 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    I think I’ll start a religion that holds, as a central tenet, that the earth is 224,975 years, 163 days, 8 hours and 21 seconds old. Science teachers will, of course, then be prohibited from saying this is false. As Terra-Age sects split and multiply, teachers will have to keep up with these developments – years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds,… – to stay on the right side of the law. They’ll be very tired, I’m sure.

  147. #148 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    @SC: how about we just start a religion which categorically states that anything science teaches is wrong? Maybe because science is the tool of the devil, or something? Then we could get rid of all those pesky science classes brainwashing our children in one fell swoop, because every science class is an insult of our beliefs!

    Of course, the problem would be that there will be too many people who want to join who don’t understand it’s satire…

  148. #149 A. Noyd
    April 14, 2010

    Props to Deen for eliciting that astounding bit of idiocy. Here’s my reply, which I posted over at De Dora’s blog:

    “One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not.”

    Is this your belief or are you trying to paraphrase how our government would approach the issue? Because the scientific knowledge ?denies? the religious idea simply by being true. The only way to say that one is constitutional and the other isn?t requires we somehow ignore the law of non-contradiction. I hope you can see the problem.

    And De Dora’s reply:

    Scientific knowledge denies many crazy ideas, A Noyd. There is no need for the high school biology teacher to actually go into denying all of them.

    *facepalm*

  149. #150 SC OM
    April 14, 2010

    @SC: how about we just start a religion which categorically states that anything science teaches is wrong?…

    Yes! Or that all scientific knowledge is wrong – “We’re ASKIW, and we won’t watch mutely as you stomp on our constitutional rights!”

  150. #151 KOPD
    April 14, 2010

    I wonder if I could get De Dora to loan me $6,000.

  151. #152 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    @A. Noyd: facepalm indeed. It seems that denying crazy ideas is the very basis of science.

  152. #153 Deen
    April 14, 2010

    Or falsifying them, if you’d rather to put on your philosopher’s hat. I’m of to bed though.

  153. #154 truebutnotuseful
    April 14, 2010

    There is no reason for a high school biology math teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas that 2+2=7 in a high school biology math class.

    Fixed.

  154. #155 Paul
    April 14, 2010

    Heh, more De Dora, this in the thread Dr. Lindsay posted:

    I?m concerned that you spent 3 posts refusing to admit that you were being deceptive when you implied that Myers attacked CFI instead of criticizing De Dora?s post. Mainly because it?s a common accomodationist tack, completely ignoring substance to complain about peripheral issues or tone.

    have you considered that because the substance has been agreed upon by most if not all of us, that some people think we ought to consider such issues such as tone and approach?

    For context, MelodyCFI is over there too, and she stated that “Michael?s post should have been criticized rather than attacking CFI for allowing open discourse on its blog” and refuses to retract it even though neither claim is true. She is the one my post was directed at.

    So yeah, apparently they tone troll PZ since the substance is “agreed upon by most if not all of us”. Which is funny, since even the CFI people say they don’t necessarily agree with him, let alone PZ.

  155. #156 chgo_liz
    April 14, 2010

    Quote from De Dora as relayed by Deen @ #139:

    Yes. One imparts scientific knowledge. The other denies a religious idea. One is constitutional; the other is not. There is no reason for a high school biology teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas in a high school biology class.

    Oh.

    I really didn’t want to believe he meant that, but clearly he did.

    With friends like these…

  156. #157 Geoffrey
    April 14, 2010

    There is no reason for a high school biology math teacher to get into denying specific religious ideas like π = 3 in a high school biology math class.

    Fixed again

  157. #158 Geoffrey
    April 14, 2010

    Whoops, that should be math not biology in the first instance.

  158. #159 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    simondavis79

    Have you voiced this opinion directly with a national secular organization? Are you a member of said organization?

    As has been pointed out to you, this is the Courtier’s Reply…

    And to answer your question, yes. Next question.

    Or is your opposition confined to the comments of the blogosphere? I’m honestly curious.

    Like hell you are. I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

    Also, I would challenge anyone to show me where CFI has told ANY popular atheist/author/blogger etc. how to talk and when.

    Interestingly enough, I never claimed that CFI or anyone else should tell anyone how to talk and when. Excellent strawman, though… well played.

    Asking that an organization oppose a viewpoint expressed by one of its leaders if it indeed does oppose that viewpoint is hardly “telling someone how to talk and when”. He can say whatever the hell he wants… and CFI can and should express opposition to it, if it indeed does.

  159. #160 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    knutsondc -

    Sorry for this lengthy reply, but I thought it worthwhile to illustrate the reasons for my concerns with overtly attacking religious beliefs in public school science classes.

    This entire comment tells me that you did not bother to read the prior thread about this issue, nor did you read the entirety of the context under which the statement in the text book is made. Given the full context, as was exhaustively explained on the last thread, the statement is perfectly valid and reasonable. Please bother to take the time to understand the situation fully before commenting on how overtly anything was “attacked”…

  160. #161 LeeLeeOne
    April 14, 2010

    I believe in free speech, period. This commentator has the right to their free speech as a commentator on the Center for Inquiry (CFI) website. They were not speaking FOR the CFI but were speaking AS a commentator on CFI. Free speech is what gives all of us the ability to learn as well as learn to listen. Please don’t argue about where this opinion was given. Argue about the opinion expressed!

  161. #162 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    LeeLeeOne, that may be the stupidest comment in this thread.

    Nobody is threatening to deny anyone their free speech. But “free speech” doesn’t mean “free from criticism.” Are you really this dense?

  162. #163 Gliewmeden
    April 14, 2010

    @ #7 Steve:
    CFI Ronald Lindsay’s comment:
    ” I also think it a bit unfair to suggest atheists endorse ?sneering,? at least if by ?sneering? one means unadorned insults against believers.”

    Wow… is this man calling the kettle black! Just google Lindsay and see what kind of vitriolic “unadorned insults against believers” HE spews forth. Lindsay is an embarassment to CFI and I have trouble endorsing an organization I believe in, and am a member of, that approves of a leader such as Lindsay. Baaah!

  163. #164 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    I believe in free speech, period. This commentator has the right to their free speech as a commentator on the Center for Inquiry (CFI) website.

    Thanks for that… now can you please point out for me where anyone here… anyone at all, expressed the opinion that he did not have the right to post his blog comment? Or suggest in any way that it should be removed?

    No… what we are arguing is that if his post directly contradicts the mission of the CFI (and we believe it clearly does), then the CFI, as an organization, has a responsibility to openly oppose that viewpoint.

    How does that in any way have fuck-all to do with free speech?

    Free speech is what gives all of us the ability to learn as well as learn to listen.

    This might mean something were it relevant to the issue.

    Please don’t argue about where this opinion was given. Argue about the opinion expressed!

    Please don’t invent arguments that don’t exist and then attack them. It’s annoying.

  164. #165 LeeLeeOne
    April 14, 2010

    “…. And a special thanks to CFI. What the hell were they thinking when they gave this milquetoast marshmallow a soapbox? Does CFI stand for the Church of Fatuous Incompetence now?….”

    My point.

  165. #166 KOPD
    April 14, 2010

    Free speech does not guarantee choice of platform. Restricting or discouraging certain types of speech or comments on a blog is not a free speech violation, especially when it is your employer’s blog. No one is saying he couldn’t start his own blog and say whatever he wanted there, just that CFI, if they chose to, could suggest to their bloggers that certain comments do not represent the organization and should not be presented on the organization’s blog. This idea that free speech means that people should be able to say absolutely anything they want absolutely anywhere at absolutely any time is absolutely ridiculous. If you disagree, I’ll come to your house about 3 am and freely voice my opinion about it in your bedroom with a megaphone.

  166. #167 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    My point.

    Is weak and overstated, and ignores every fucking other post in this thread.

  167. #168 MadScientist
    April 14, 2010

    This is the problem I have with the “accommodationists”.

    Accommodationist: I respect your beliefs

    Neutral: (The position that people like Dr. Coyne say the NCSE should take) This is what we know and this is how we came to know it.

    PZ (and others): That’s some pretty dumb shit you believe in, what we actually observe is …

    Now someone tell me how the accommodationist ever ‘wins’ an argument? With the neutral position you will have people who will think about the religious nonsense they’ve been brought up with. With PZ’s position some religious people may be offended and while some will cry that they’re being persecuted just like jesus, others will think about why people are laughing at them and saying they have stupid beliefs. The accommodationist just strokes and sucks cock; maybe afterwards they say “did you like that? Did my cocksucking convince you that science is right?”

  168. #169 Akira MacKenzie
    April 14, 2010

    @ LeeLeeOne Re: 165

    My point.

    Ummmm… No retard, your “point” is not made. A private organization denying someone a soapbox to blather on about bullshit DOES NOT constitute censorship. De Dora can always peddle his crap elsewhere.

  169. #170 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    I think we would do a great disservice to our community if we monitored, censored, or had to approve every blog on our site by our staff. That’s why we have the disclaimer and I think it should be respected. Stifling speech is not the level of discourse we want to foster. As I said before, if every blog on the CFI site is going to be viewed as an official statement by CFI, then we won’t have a blog, we’ll only release statements from our communications department.

    But CFI does exercise editorial control, right? I mean you don’t just publish any piece from any Joe Blow that you happen to receive. You made a decision to give De Dora a platform from which to espouse his views. Am I incorrect in assuming CFI felt those views warranted such a platform? If so, then why did you give him one? If not, then precisely what is wrong with me criticizing CFI for making that decision?

    I mean, really. You can say “the views expressed by such-and-such a blogger don’t necessarily represent those of CFI” all you like, it doesn’t change the fact that you let him make them under your banner to begin with. And this “well, we also do” bullshit doesn’t fly either. Blasphemy Day is great. Letting De Dora post drivel that undermines your own stated mission is not. The two don’t cancel each other out. Two opposite extremes don’t make a happy medium. And if you’re going to give apologists and accomodationists a venue to spout their bullshit, you’re going to get called on it. Either you can deal with that, or you can’t. But what you can’t do is disown the opinions you made a conscious decision to give space to and expect us not to complain.

  170. #171 LeeLeeOne
    April 14, 2010

    I will more clearly state my point. The commentator was granted “free speech” to express their opinion through CFI who clearly disavows their liability of their personal commentators.

    My statement did not ignore “every fucking other post in this thread”. It was ‘inside’ the article and subsequent comments.

  171. #172 John Morales
    April 14, 2010

    Well, I’ve read the OP and comments for this thread.

    I thought MelodyCFI was rather admirable in the defense of CFI’s position and made some substantive points, until I reached comment #116, where the mask slipped and the agendum was revealed.

    So, MelodyCFI, your substantive points stand, but your basis for your concern over Michael’s treatment is noted and sneered at.

    Friendship should not compromise your professional duty; that it does so is not admirable.

  172. #173 KOPD
    April 14, 2010

    You’re suggesting that if they had not hired him they would have violated his free speech? I’ll have to remember that at my next interview.

  173. #174 Celtic_Evolution
    April 14, 2010

    I will more clearly state my point. The commentator was granted “free speech” to express their opinion through CFI who clearly disavows their liability of their personal commentators.

    That was “more clearly”? The commentator was granted nothing by CFI, except a platform for which to launch his opinion. His “free speech” was granted him by the US Constitution a couple hundred years ago or so… a point which no-one here is trying to attack. As has been pointed out several times now, CFI can disavow their liability all they want. We’re not holding them “liable”… we’re holding them responsible for not coming out in opposition of a point of view that so clearly contradicts their mission.

    So let’s try this again… this is not a free speech issue and no-one here is claiming it is except you. So if you want to continue having an argument with yourself, I suggest you find a mirror or some other similarly shiny, reflective object.

    My statement did not ignore “every fucking other post in this thread”

    Yeah… it really does.

    It was ‘inside’ the article and subsequent comments.

    No… it really wasn’t.

  174. #175 Screechy_Monkey
    April 14, 2010

    “The commentator was granted “free speech” to express their opinion through CFI who clearly disavows their liability of their personal commentators.”

    But that’s just it. CFI made a decision to give this guy a platform, and now insists that we can’t hold it accountable for that decision.

    And it’s not like De Dora is just some “commentator” recruited to give one opinion among many. He is the executive director of that organization.

    In other words, if you donate money to CFI, this guy has a role in deciding how it is spent. He’s one of the people representing the organization in its day to day activities. He’s one of the people deciding what CFI’s priorities should be.

    If Hilary Clinton said something ridiculous and offensive about foreign policy, Obama doesn’t get to wave it all away by saying, “oh, she wasn’t speaking in her capacity as Secretary of State. It’s not her OFFICIAL opinion that we should nuke Tehran, that’s just her PERSONAL opinion and I respect her right to free speech.”

  175. #176 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    I will more clearly state my point. The commentator was granted “free speech” to express their opinion through CFI who clearly disavows their liability of their personal commentators.

    The commentator was granted a platform from which to espouse ideas that fundemantally contradict the expressed mission of the organization that owns the platform who is now trying to disavow any responsibility for providing the platform. Do try to keep up. Free speech does not guarantee the speaker an audience, nor does it obligate others to provide one.

    My statement did not ignore “every fucking other post in this thread”. It was ‘inside’ the article and subsequent comments.

    Yes, it bloody well did. Try reading them this time.

  176. #177 tsg
    April 14, 2010

    Amusingly, #174 through #176, posted at pretty much the same time, are almost identical in content. I bet a dollar LeeLeeOne still doesn’t get it.

  177. #178 WowbaggerOM
    April 15, 2010

    tsg wrote:

    Amusingly, #174 through #176, posted at pretty much the same time, are almost identical in content. I bet a dollar LeeLeeOne still doesn’t get it.

    Or denounces them as ‘being in lockstep’ or ‘an echo chamber’.

  178. #179 Screechy_Monkey
    April 15, 2010

    Maybe we can start disagreeing, and then he can claim there’s a “schism” in the Church of Atheism.

  179. #180 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    echo chamber… echo chamber… echo chamber…

  180. #181 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 15, 2010

    what. . .what. . .what. . . what. . .

  181. #182 skepacabra
    April 15, 2010

    Wow! While I don’t necessarily agree with Michael De Dora on this issue, I think PZ’s response is many orders of magnitude too harsh on him. And I fear that it does a disservice to the broader atheist/skeptic community. It’s not like Michael is Bill Maher. There are those in this community worthy of strong criticism but these days there seems to be far more in fighting. We have to move beyond the petty feuds and collaborate. We’re not all going to agree on every issue but we have to prioritize which disagreements are deal-breakers and which are not. This one, in my opinion, falls firmly in the latter category.

  182. #183 neurosink
    April 15, 2010

    @residualecho #25

    Thank you for using the word asshat, I’m hoping it’ll continue to spread.

  183. #184 John Morales
    April 15, 2010

    skepacabra,

    We have to move beyond the petty feuds and collaborate.

    Even at the cost of compromising one’s principles, for pragmatism’s sake?

    We have to move beyond the petty feuds and collaborate.

    Takes two to collaborate, else you’re advocating acquiescence.

    Have you (or are you planning to) express your concerns to CFI, as you have here?

  184. #185 melior
    April 15, 2010

    I wonder if De Dora will leap to a similar display of Immaculate Conception Apologetics in response to biologists’ claims that modern science has overwhelming evidence that in humans fertilization is directly caused by the fusion of two human gametes.

  185. #186 Akusai
    April 15, 2010

    @simondavis79

    I have, indeed, attended an event put on my my local CFI branch in Indianapolis. I left thinking that it was indeed a Church of Fatuous Incompetence, or perhaps a Church of Feel-good Ignorance. The lecturers themselves seemed to be intelligent folks and independent thinkers, but almost every member I interacted with afterward was like an automaton repeating poorly understood buzzwords: “critical thinking,” “skepticism,” “freethought,” etc. They said these words and seemed to believe that they understood them and that, through that understanding, were part of a greater whole.

    A few of them didn’t know there was an antivaccination movement. This was in fall 2009. For members of an organization that claims to be promoting science and reason, this is inexcusable.

    A few of them argued with my friend about the need to teach critical thinking skills: it’s just not important to teach critical thinking because most people aren’t as smart as we are, so groups like the CFI just need to create a new scientific dogma to replace religious dogma and teach that dogma to all those dummies. They then compounded their ridiculousness by claiming that critical thinking (and, by extension, skepticism) is not, in fact, a set of methods for coming to rational conclusions about the real world, but rather a dogmatic set of conclusions that should be taught as such in schools. This is not a strawman; this is not a misrepresentation. This is what these CFI members actually said. We argued that critical thinking and science are methods; they argued that they are dogma, and yet had the gall to say that they were so much smarter than the ignorant rubes who didn’t belong to the CFI.

    Furthermore, those members (and others) argued that the CFI should emulate a church community. This idea was confirmed when, months later, I received an e-mail from CFI Indy advertising their “Secular Celebrant” training courses, which would teach non-theists how to perform non-religious ceremonies to replace, on a one-to-one basis, religious rituals. Marriage and funerals I can understand, though I think it’s silly and counterproductive to have a “Secular Celebrant” perform such ceremonies, as it takes a step toward turning secularism into the religion that the nutjobs on the Right think it is already. But “baby welcoming?” What possible use could a non-theist have for a baptismal ceremony? The CFI seems to be intentionally acting as a church for non-believers, which in no way promotes their stated goals. It merely turns them into an even more watered-down version of the Unitarian Universalists.

    We talked to a good number of the attendees after the event and were turned off by the overwhelming majority of them. They were pompous, self-important, and vacuous. They seemed to attend CFI events as a sort of secular replacement for the churches they no longer belonged to, and they accepted the words of the speakers in much the same way: what he says is true, and I’ll just repeat his words without really understanding them. I heard the phrase “scientific method” tossed about dozens of times by people who clearly had no idea what it meant, but it made them “freethinkers,” so they said it anyway.

    If this, at least in Indiana, is the kind of thing the CFI does, to create a back-patting echo chamber for a secular pseudoreligion, then I must dispute the claims that the organization does “good work.” It acts as a lubricant for a handful of speakers and lecturers, sure, but anyone could do that. In its day-to-day activities, in my experience at least, it panders to a bunch of ignorant hangers-on and fosters an attitude of religious deference to CFI-approved authorities while failing utterly to teach its members any actual skillsets which might allow them to engage in all of this “freethinking” they do so love to go on about. In creating an environment where this sort of self-satisfied ignorance is not only allowed but, apparently, encouraged by the general groupthink is bad enough; to do so while claiming to promote science and reason is insulting to those of us who actually understand what those words mean.

    Though most of the people at the top (De Dora excluded) of the CFI hierarchy seem to well understand what they’re talking about, the group itself seems to be made up of a bunch of professional audience members seeking certainty in a new worldview now that they’re no longer religious. They go to CFI events to absorb information and believe it rather than absorb critical thinking skills and exercise them. They’re content to believe what other folks say and don’t seem to care or question how those folks arrived at their beliefs so long as those beliefs are in agreement with their own and they can throw around “scientific method” and “critical thinking” as hollow mantras to back themselves up, and the CFI seems content to allow this. If they weren’t, they might host high-profile lectures and panels on how to think critically, or basic reasoning skills. Instead, everything I see from them (though there could be lots out there that I’m missing) is either hollow top-down community-building or lectures telling people what to think but not necessarily why to think it.

    Fuck. I’ve been waiting 6 months to get that out because it seemed important, for some reason, to play nice with the CFI. De Dora’s stupidity brought it to the forefront, and the parade of vague statements about the “good work” done by CFI, punctuated with flat-out fellatio from some, tore it right out of me. I have yet to see concrete examples of the “good work” that CFI supposedly does. As far as I can tell, at the very best they’re just spinning their wheels.

    So, CFI wankers, flame away.

  186. #187 scooterKPFT
    April 15, 2010

    This post reminded me that Bill Watterson is one of the great voices of my time.

    He’s up there with Douglas Adams, operating on another level.

    My son had no interest in reading into the third grade, he was functionally illiterate, and he found all my Calvin and Hobbes Compilations and was hooked.

    We would hang out with me and mom in the king size, reading and asking me the definitions and pronunciation of all the language from these Comic Strips written for adults.

    It took him about a month to get through all the Watterson stuff and weeks later he was pounding the Harry Potter then Tolkien, which meant that he went from first grade reading to 7th grade reading in two months.

    Special place in my heart for the great Bill Watterson.

  187. #188 Kel, OM
    April 15, 2010

    His most recent outing was an interview of Thomas J.J. Altizer on the subject of the death of god. I just about crashed my car when I found out that you had to be christian to be an atheist.

    Just listened to this today, it was a very odd idea to me. I can see where they are coming from, but for us who say “god doesn’t exist” as opposed to “God is dead”, where does that leave us?

    Interesting discussion though, I think Robert Price is really good as a host because he knows what he’s talking about. I can get my dose of DJ on For Good Reason, it’s nice to hear a similar format of show with different people coming from different angles.

    As for the hosts of POI, I actually find Chris Mooney the worst at the moment. I think he sounds a bit too much like a journalist, which doesn’t quite have that conversational feel that DJ was able to do so well and that Karen and Robert can do also quite well. Still, I’m going to listen each week because it is still interesting enough.

  188. #189 AlanDechert
    April 15, 2010

    This is exactly right (from De Dora).

    More specifically, the purpose of biology class is not to reject religious ideas; it is to inform students about biology*. There is no scientific reason for the textbook to discuss Christianity or label its creation story a “myth”; it has nothing to do with teaching the theory of evolution or biology generally.

    Coming at this issue from a different angle, Richard Potts, Smithsonian curator, gave an excellent answer when questioned for a CNSNews article regarding why no presentation of the creationist viewpoint. Basically he said it’s because all they can show is the evidence. There are no artefacts to show what someone might imagine to have happened.

    When asked by CNSNews.com why the exhibit does not include any reference to God or address the debate ? even in scientific circles ? about Darwinian evolution, Potts replied that the Natural History Museum ?is a science museum, and all the objects that a museum can possibly display about the origins of humans have been uncovered in the context of doing the science of evolution.?

    Nothing in the exhibit has ?come about as the result of reflection and commitment to a particular religious belief,? he added. ?The Smithsonian cannot really be involved in picking which aspect of which religion to represent to the American public or the international public.?

    Doing science and teaching science simply have nothing to do with the stories. If someone wants to use scientific works to compare with the stories, that discussion belongs in a different venue. The process of doing science and teaching science would get bogged down dealing with stories because there are so many stories and so many variants. You can’t even say Christians don’t accept evolution. In 1996, the Pope virtually endorsed evolution. There are almost as many variants on what Christians believe as there are Christians.

    And if you had a million times more hours to spend in class attempting to deal with what Christians believe, it is still futile because there are more religions with more stories — a complete waste of time. It is simply not what science is about and not what science is for.

  189. #190 SC OM
    April 15, 2010

    Doing science and teaching science simply have nothing to do with the stories…The process of doing science and teaching science would get bogged down dealing with stories because there are so many stories and so many variants.

    Yeah, it’s not like there’s been one set of religious claims in direct contradiction to the science that schools in the US have been pressured to teach. That people are trying to pass laws to get included in the curriculum. That has been the subject of major court cases for the past century. That science teachers have to deal with constantly, facing harassment from students and parents. Do you people really have this little appreciation of the history and current reality of science education? If people don’t want the history of their opposition based on false beliefs discussed by science educators, they shouldn’t spend decades opposing the teaching of scientific knowledge and trying to wedge their false beliefs into science curricula.

    It’s interesting, though, that people are discussing this passage from a textbook without addressing the fact that it’s about the history of opposition to science and science education in this area. Are you arguing that no history of the emergence and dissemination of knowledge in a given area of science ever has any place in HS science education? If you are, then you need to make that case, explaining how it would be a good thing to present scientific knowledge completely divorced from the context of its human production and dissemination (and addressing Celtic_Evolution’s post @ #6 especially). If you’re not, then you have to explain and make the case for why this simple statement about history specifically is problematic to you.

    And if you had a million times more hours to spend in class attempting to deal with what Christians believe, it is still futile because there are more religions with more stories — a complete waste of time.

    This is about creationism as a set of claims that is explicitly in contradiction with established scientific knowledge, not “what Christians believe.”

    It is simply not what science is about and not what science is for.

    The reasoned, systematic evaluation of fact claims bsed on the evidence is exactly what science is about and for. But this discussion is about science education.

  190. #191 Darreth
    April 15, 2010

    If we went to be really fundamentalist about this religious belief we must remember that Jehovah/Yahweh didn’t create the universe in 7 days.

    He created the universe in 6 days. He was tired after all that creating and rested on the 7th day.

  191. #192 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnb-E55g7vrnvH-3L1M6d7QuDYWoM_IDEM
    April 15, 2010

    As I have outlined at length elsewhere:
    CFI has been a vehicle for (specifically) Paul Kurtz’ continued employment, c.f.: Joe Nickell, special power: “skeptical investigator”, neither of whom (despite a lifetime of detective effort) have ever raised even a scintilla of evidence to suggest that their areas of investigation are more than pure bunk.
    Yet they carry on investigating.
    One does not need to be psychic to wonder why they never ever reach the conclusion that they have wasted most of their lives investigating obviously infantile garbage.
    The only reason that I continue to give the CFI the time of day is that they have employed Karen Stollznow. Let’s hope that she does not turn to the dark side of the farce.

  192. #193 Walton
    April 15, 2010

    While school science classes should not address religion in general, and I agree that schools should generally be neutral in matters of religion, I also think that school science classes should make clear that Biblical-literalist creationism stands in direct contradiction to all the scientific evidence. There was nothing wrong with the statement in the textbook; perhaps it could have been worded differently, but its substantive content was perfectly appropriate.

    Creationism is different from other religious doctrines, because it isn’t just non-evidence-based: it actually stands in direct contradiction to the scientific evidence. It makes claims about the natural world which can be empirically shown to be false, and a belief in creationism prevents a person from properly understanding science. It differs in this respect from most other religious teachings. A religious belief in the immaculate conception or in the resurrection of Christ, for instance, may be irrational and rather silly, but it doesn’t usually interfere with a person’s ability to do good science – whereas creationism inevitably does. A proper scientific education should, therefore, make clear that Christian creationism and young-earth-ism stand in direct contradiction to a vast amount of scientific evidence, and to the overwhelming consensus among all scientists in relevant fields.

    Government-funded schools, like all other state institutions, should neither promote nor attack any particular religion. But they should present the state of scientific knowledge as it stands, and be unafraid to explain what the scientific consensus is, including in situations where the scientific consesus direclty contradicts religious doctrine.

  193. #194 Walton
    April 15, 2010

    I would add that if children and young people don’t want to learn science where it conflicts with religious doctrine, they are perfectly welcome to opt out of science classes, or get their parents to homeschool them or send them to private religious schools. But if they do want to receive a scientific education, they need to accept that this education will sometimes entail challenging their religious ideas. They don’t get to cherry-pick just the bits of science that suit them, or ignore anything that might challenge their dogma; that’s intellectually dishonest, and defeats the fundamental point of education.

  194. #195 Matt Penfold
    April 15, 2010

    I would add that if children and young people don’t want to learn science where it conflicts with religious doctrine, they are perfectly welcome to opt out of science classes, or get their parents to homeschool them or send them to private religious schools. But if they do want to receive a scientific education, they need to accept that this education will sometimes entail challenging their religious ideas. They don’t get to cherry-pick just the bits of science that suit them, or ignore anything that might challenge their dogma; that’s intellectually dishonest, and defeats the fundamental point of education.

    That would be reasonable, providing the child and its parents understand the consequences of such action.

    No person who opts out of science for those reasons should be offered a place at university, since the reason for opting out indicate a rejection of reason and evidence. If a student rejects reason and evidence they are not suited to advanced study in any subject.

    Likewise, such a person is not going to be attractive to many employers, except for those offering unskilled, low-paid, jobs.

  195. #196 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    AlanDechert

    Doing science and teaching science simply have nothing to do with the stories. If someone wants to use scientific works to compare with the stories, that discussion belongs in a different venue.

    Oh, FFS… would it really kill any of you people to actually take the time to read the original post, or the entire context of the “offending text” in question, or any of the discussion in the threads that follow before posting your “religion doesn’t belong in the science class” blather??

  196. #197 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution #174 wrote:

    As has been pointed out several times now, CFI can disavow their liability all they want. We’re not holding them “liable”… we’re holding them responsible for not coming out in opposition of a point of view that so clearly contradicts their mission.

    I don’t agree, though, that De Dora’s viewpoint clearly contradicts CFI’s mission. For one thing, it’s a bit hard to know exactly what he’s advocating. I think some people are extending his stance beyond where he’d actually go.

    For another thing, within the wide category of ‘secular humanism,’ there’s room for the position that religion ought not to be brought up at all in public school science classes, and that it’s best to skirt the issue of creationism as much as possible. I’m not agreeing with this viewpoint, but I think it’s worthy of internal debate. A secular humanist could not consistently argue that creationism should be allowed in science class, sure, but that’s not the argument. This is just another weary argument over tactics, and fine interpretation of the first amendment.

    I’m glad they gave this ‘marshmallow’ a soapbox, because it brings up important issues humanists need to consider, and promotes the idea of coming to consensus through debate. I see an error: I don’t see a screamingly obvious logical self-contradiction.

    googlenick #192 wrote:

    Joe Nickell, special power: “skeptical investigator”, neither of whom (despite a lifetime of detective effort) have ever raised even a scintilla of evidence to suggest that their areas of investigation are more than pure bunk

    Well, yes — that’s rather the point of his investigations.

    I don’t see the problem here. First, it’s very useful to see the nuts ‘n bolts procedure of how to investigate extraordinary claims. Second, there are many of us who frequently encounter people and groups of people for whom “obviously infantile garbage” is a live option. You could probably include Young Earth Creationism in that category, too.

  197. #198 Feynmaniac
    April 15, 2010

    I would add that if children and young people don’t want to learn science where it conflicts with religious doctrine, they are perfectly welcome to opt out of science classes, or get their parents to homeschool them or send them to private religious schools.

    This is silly. What if the child doesn’t want to read or write because of their religion? Children are hardly qualified to pick what they learn. In today’s modern world knowledge of science is absolutely essential. Of course not everyone needs in depth knowledge of science, but citizens do require a minimum knowledge of the subject. They don’t have to believe the science they are taught, but they should understand the basics of it.

  198. #199 Ronald A. Lindsay
    April 15, 2010

    Below is a comment I posted on my blog, but it’s also relevant to some of the comments here:

    A few observations.

    First, I hardly think I was ?deceptive,? as some have alleged, when I took exception to the tone and some of the statements in Myers?s blog post. I did not imply that was the whole of his post, and, moreover, I included a link to his post so people could see for themselves what he said.

    Second, it was appropriate to take exception to Myers?s insults. They added nothing meaningful to his points. And I don?t think I should stand idly by when someone refers to CFI as a ?church? of any sort. Not sure there is a worse insult to a secular organization than that ? and it?s sadly ironic because, if anything, the diversity of opinion expressed on our blog convincingly establishes we are not a ?church.?

    Some have said I have deliberately avoided commenting on the substance of the issues being discussed. That?s not entirely true, but, in any event, I rarely comment on the substance of my fellow bloggers? posts for several reasons, including the fact that some will inevitably and mistakenly think that because I am the president & CEO my views represent the official position of CFI. (CFI has a process in place for determining what positions to take as an organization, and that process does not consist of what I happen to think on a given day.) Moreover, I don?t usually have time to do follow-up comments on my own blog posts, let alone comment on what other bloggers say.

    But here are few observations about what seem to be some of the substantive issues under discussion. (I am not going to direct these comments to points made by DeDora, Myers or anyone else, because that would then involve me in a secondary issue about whether I am correctly representing their views.)

    To begin, we should distinguish between what constitutional law currently requires and what we might like the law and public policy to be. Current con law provides that government action is unconstitutional if it has the primary effect of advancing religion or nonreligion. Context is important in making this determination. A passage from a textbook used in public schools would have to be pretty blatant in commenting negatively about religion or atheism to be considered unconstitutional (and the textbook that sparked this discussion does not seem to present a meritorious constitutional issue under this standard.) There is no constitutional prohibition on teaching facts, whether one characterizes them as scientific, historical or otherwise.

    Of course, what constitutes a ?fact,? is not a matter on which there is universal agreement. Regarding religion, current jurisprudence requires government entities to refrain from making explicit observations about the truth of religious claims. This does not imply one cannot teach facts that might contradict some religious beliefs; it does imply that one cannot expressly teach as a fact that religious beliefs are wrong.

    That?s the way the law is. Is that how it should be? It seems to me the law is basically where it should be. Obviously, we should teach the facts of evolution and geology, including facts about the age of the earth and so forth. Teachers can and should say the earth is not 6,000 years old. But I?m not sure what is gained by going further and also giving teachers the freedom to say, ?by the way, evolutionary theory shows that your religious beliefs about creation are just wrong and you should reject them as false.? If a religious student is paying attention and is open to changing her mind, she can draw her own conclusions. If she is not open to changing her mind, she is simply going to resent being forced to listen to what she considers atheist propaganda. Also, it seems to me we should foster and encourage critical thinking which, among other things, requires students to exercise their own powers of reasoning. Give them the science and the history; let them draw their own conclusions about what implications this has for certain religious beliefs. Drumming into their heads that ?Genesis is wrong,? the Koran is wrong,? ?the Book of Mormon is wrong,? or whatever, may make them nonbelievers, but their atheism will be built on insecure foundations.

    Also, to move from the ideal back to reality for a moment, as matters stand now, allowing teachers to comment on religion in our current state of affairs would result in significant promotion of religion, much classroom confusion, and little support for a secular state. Teachers? beliefs are not much different than the beliefs of the general population, and the U.S. remains overwhelmingly religious. If we say it?s OK to comment on the truth or falsity of religious claims in the public schools, what we?re going to get is not something like ?evolutionary theory shows that the traditional creation story is false? but ?there is much disagreement about evolutionary theory among scientists, but it?s clear that the complexity of life requires an intelligent designer, and this is the basic truth taught in the Book of Genesis.? If foregoing the illusory opportunity of pointing out explicitly the falsity of some religious claims is the price we have to pay to prevent many of our schools from becoming vehicles for religious indoctrination, somehow that strikes me as a good bargain.

  199. #200 Bobber
    April 15, 2010

    Just a comment on CFI in general, and Paul Kurtz in particular:

    While I believe CFI makes a valuable contribution to the rationalist community, Kurtz has come out against the “new atheist” movement for the usual reasons (alienating potential allies among the religious, being too simplistic philosophically, and just plain old “it’s bad manners”), but what Kurtz and those like him fail to appreciate is the fact that just about no one in the general populace gives a fig what he has to say. What good is promoting reason and science when no one hears your message?

    I like Kurtz’s efforts to promote a positive humanism – that’s an admirable goal. And I enjoy the contributions of Joe Nickell, Massimo Pigliucci, and others to the rationalist cause. Yet none of them have the name recognition where it counts: amongst the masses. Certainly none of them get the media attention that Dawkins or Hitchens receive.

    Kurtz is effective at addressing the nuanced, philosophically-considered faith of others who think at his level. But most religionists don’t put nearly the kind of thought into their faith that allows Kurtz to confront them on a level playing field (or Heddle to speak for “most Christians”); he’s jousting in the clouds, mounted upon a winged horse, against the small percentage of equally intellectual aerial cavaliers of the opposite side. That’s fine, someone has to engage on that level. But the ground fight is the important one in the U.S.; while Kurtz is debating his points in the halls of academia, the creationists are conquering at the grass roots level, with the effect of making Kurtz and other high-thinkers even more isolated in their ivory towers of reason.

    If you want to make headway against popular irrationality, then you must go against it where it lives – in the public body. The methods may not be pretty, but if you want to make a point to the masses, you may have to drop the polo mallet and get in the mud and wrestle.

  200. #201 simondavis79
    April 15, 2010

    @epinephrine:

    If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t have a blog. We don’t.

    Who’s “we”? Which organization do you work for if I may ask?

    @Akusai: I’m particularly interested in this (emphasis mine):

    It acts as a lubricant for a handful of speakers and lecturers, sure, but anyone could do that.

    Can you tell us what other secular/skeptic groups you’ve participated in Indiana? I’m just curious what the landscape is like out there for the secular community in general. I do know that having a physical venue costs money and that no other national group (or even almost any local group) makes such an investment. We should at least applaud CFI for making this tangible investment in the community.

    Since you are a skeptic, I’m sure you’ve heard of Joe Nickell and Ben Radford who are on our payroll? Skeptical Enquirer is by far the most-read skeptical journal in the US. James Randi will be at our upcoming convention and was also at our last World Congress.

    Perhaps you’ve also heard of our journal Free Inquiry featuring Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens (among others) way before they wrote their latest best-sellers.

    As far as the ‘Secular Celebrant’ concept, pretty much every secular organization does this. Margaret Downey comes to mind. I’m not crazy about the baby-naming thing either frankly, but I can live with it.

    Anyhow, I know we can’t please everybody, but CFI does have some concrete accomplishments in it’s 20+ years. And yes, any group could be doing the same thing or of course even more. However there are some things that CFI has done and we shouldn’t downplay that either.

  201. #202 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    I don’t agree, though, that De Dora’s viewpoint clearly contradicts CFI’s mission.

    Sastra… you know the high regard with which I hold you, but I’m going to disagree with you here… De Dora’s post, in its entirety, in my opinion, does clearly contradict CFI’s mission, if part of that mission is indeed as stated, “To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present…”

    De Dora’s post hardly lives up to that goal, in my opinion. And, given some of his responses in the comments, his accomodationist stance is made even more clear, and using some pretty silly arguments, in my opinion.

    And again, I’ll point out that I may differ from some other opinions here in that I don’t have a problem with the fact that De Dora was allowed to post what he did, and on the CFI website. I also believe that open debate is worthwhile. But given De Dora’s position within the organization, I still believe it is important for CFI to come out in clearly stated opposition to his viewpoint, lest they be assumed to share it, given the source of that viewpoint.

    This is just another weary argument over tactics, and fine interpretation of the first amendment.

    Well, I think it’s more than just this… as I pointed out above, I was taught, as were most people I know, about Galileo and his model of helio-centrism, and its opposition to the official religious position of geo-centrism. It was important in understanding just how important a figure Galileo was to astronomy, what he had to overcome, and why… It was important to understand that what we believed before Galileo was built on widely held biblical mythology, which was believed to be beyond questioning,and science had to overcome this problem in order to advance what observers such as Galileo knew to be reality. And most everyone is aware of that. But where is the rancor and sense of offense over presenting this knowledge to high-school students? It’s not there, and not because astronomy texts are careful not to offend religious sensibilities, it’s because no-one believes that geo-centrism is true anymore.

    The reason this is an issue is because creationism is still held as truth by too many of the faithful in this country, so therefor questioning it or calling it “mythology” is offensive, in a way that calling geo-centrism “mythology” is not, despite the sources for both coming from the same place.

    The same importance is carried with understanding the history of the Theory of Evolution and understanding the cultural and religious barriers that the ToE has had (and still has) to overcome to find acceptance in the general population.

    You have made the argument that replacing the word “myth” with “story” would have caused less of a foofooraw… fine, but once again, doing so accords christianity special privilege that we would not similarly accord other mythologies, while discussing them in the same context, and that offends my sensibilities.

  202. #203 Anodyne
    April 15, 2010

    For fuck’s sake, it’s tenets!

    One more time:

    A tenet is an opinion, principle, or doctrine especially one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement

    *fiercely applies palm to forehead*

    I’ve been doing stupid shit like that lately. Thanks for pointing it out, haha.

  203. #204 Ronald A. Lindsay
    April 15, 2010

    This is tangential to the principal issue being discussed on this blog post, although it does relate to perceptions of CFI so it is an appropriate matter for me to comment on.

    Some commenters have remarked on Point of Inquiry and how the show isn?t quite the same since DJ Grothe stopped being the host. I?m not going to comment on that perception (other than to say I think the podcasts have been good overall) because people can and will form their own opinions after listening to the shows.

    What I will comment on is the suggestion that DJ?s departure from CFI somehow was an indication that CFI was going downhill and was becoming more accommodating to religion. Huh? Where do you get that? DJ left because he had a great opportunity: he became president of JREF. If he had any significant philosophical differences with CFI, he did not express that to me.

    Second, DJ has endorsed Paul Kurtz?s Neo-Humanist Statement, which is sharply critical of atheists, especially the so-called new atheism. By contrast, CFI and I (in my personal capacity) declined to endorse the Neo-Humanist Statement in part because of its unwarranted criticism of atheism. See: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/show/atheism_humanism_and_the_neo-humanist_statement/

    So how exactly is DJ?s departure an indication that CFI is on the downward slope?

  204. #205 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution #202 wrote:

    De Dora’s post, in its entirety, in my opinion, does clearly contradict CFI’s mission, if part of that mission is indeed as stated, “To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present…”

    I reread De Dora’s original post again (which now contains postscript) and found several points where I disagree. But I just don’t see the clear contradicton. I agree with your take on this matter, but think De Dora’s is less radical than you seem to think it is. From what I can tell, he’s advocating a restrained tact for reasons which echo Lindsey’s points in #199.

    I did notice something interesting when I re-read the blog entry, though. De Dora quotes PZ as having written

    It would be nice if we did have a high school biology book that called all of Christianity and Judaism a collection of myths, but we don’t. Yet.”

    Uh, that’s a violation of the Establishment Clause, and as I recall PZ has said he does not advocate that public school teachers be this direct. Of course, the devil is in the word “yet.” I don’t think he means next week, or that this is going to be his new mission. I think PZ just meant that one day religion would be so irrelevant or attenuated that nobody will think this a problem. So, I think De Dora misunderstood — though he has a point if the quote is interpreted uncharitably.

  205. #206 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Ronald Lindsay –

    This does not imply one cannot teach facts that might contradict some religious beliefs; it does imply that one cannot expressly teach as a fact that religious beliefs are wrong.

    I’m sorry, but you are living in a fantasy world. Most religious fundamentalists, including the guy that started all of this, would whole-heartedly disagree with you. You can not separate one from the other in those ares in which the two directly contradict. You can not say that the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years without implicitly stating that the religious belief of a 6,000 year old earth is factually wrong, and that the flood story is factually wrong. And you can not teach that life evolved over billions of years through the process of Evolution without implicitly stating that the religious beliefs of the Genesis creation story are factually wrong. What the hell do you think the Dover trial was about anyhow? Biology classes were telling their students that creation story was wrong, simply by teaching Evolution. And that’s what pissed off the religious and caused the whole trial to begin with. Pretending the religious would just “leave us alone” is we simply didn’t mention religion in science class is ignoring history and covering your eyes from reality.

    But I?m not sure what is gained by going further and also giving teachers the freedom to say, ?by the way, evolutionary theory shows that your religious beliefs about creation are just wrong and you should reject them as false.?

    And I’m not sure what is gained by giving teachers the freedom to say “gay people are an abomination to nature and should be shipped off to an island”, but since no-one has said that, either, I’m not sure it’s any more or less relevant to the discussion at hand then what you just pulled out of your nether regions.

    I’m frankly surprised you’re so unaware of the impropriety of suing such an obvious strawman tactic.

    De Dora attacked the position we took, that the man who took offense to the clearly appropriate (as you already agreed in your comment) statement regarding creation mythology in the science textbook as offensive, was an idiot. Nowhere did any of us advocate the position that we should encourage teachers to tell their students that they should reject their religious beliefs as false as part of the classroom curriculum. That’s just absurd.

    If a religious student is paying attention and is open to changing her mind, she can draw her own conclusions. If she is not open to changing her mind, she is simply going to resent being forced to listen to what she considers atheist propaganda… etc etc ad nauseum

    Poor strawman… you really are beating him to death… no-one is advocating open and overt religious bashing in the classroom. Is your argument really that week that you must dedicate entirely half of your post railing against an argument no-one is making?

    Stick to the topic, if it’s not too much trouble.

    Your entire last paragraph is just beating the same drum. We all understand how afraid you are, and how worried you’ll be that it would “hurt the cause” if we actually encouraged people to back up what you and the CFI claim to support. But at the end of the day, we’re not (well, at least most of us) advocating that level of aggressive anti-religious rhetoric in the classroom. We’re really not. We’re simply looking at the case at hand, where a completely appropriate use of factual information was presented within a context appropriate of its use, was attacked as offensive by a religious wingnut. We ridicule that attack, and then are called out for doing so by a ranking member of the CFI, and again being told we’re too mean and not accommodating enough. And in this case that is a wrong position and one that I believe flies in the face of the mission of the CFI, as I’ve seen it stated.

  206. #207 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    *sigh*

    Typos above (including “week” instead of “weak”, among several others), courtesy of the damn Chimp… as always.

  207. #208 SourPersimmon
    April 15, 2010

    For years the anti-evolutionists have been pleading “teach the controversy.” This textbook does just that. Now DeDora wants “science only,” and the Tennessee parent seems to want “teach the controversy without hurting my tender, little feelings.”

    Does his challenge represent an end to “teach the controversy”? Has anyone from that camp weighed in on the issue?

  208. #209 frog, Inc.
    April 15, 2010

    A scientist must here put on the philosopher’s cap to continue.

    ?? What, science shouldn’t teach logic & methods of reasoning? Is he arguing that science should stick merely to technical methods?

    That’s unbelievably stupid. When you get an advanced degree in science, it’s called a Doctor of Philosophy! Without understanding the “philosophical” underpinnings, the methods of reasoning, science is a worthless heap of dung, merely a temporary accumulation of commercially exploitable techniques that will quickly recede into the kind of mindless denialism seen among engineers who lack adequate education outside of technical methods.

    How unbelievably ignorant and short sighted.

  209. #210 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    It’s this line from De Dora that most puzzles me:

    But I hope we never have a high school biology textbook that refers to our religious stories as myths.

    .

    You don’t? Really?

    You really don’t hope that someday, however far in the future it is, we can have science textbooks that can safely refer to christianity in the same mythological context as Greek mythology or Norse mythology?

    You really don’t want a textbook that someday states “We once believed that Zeus threw lightning down from the clouds, that the earth was formed from the body of Ymir, or that all the animals on earth were placed on an ark as the entire world was flooded. Science has allowed us to dismiss these myths and learn about the natural world around us in all its true wonder and natural splendor”?

    Huh. I sort of thought that was the point, ultimately… but I guess De Dora never wants to see that day come.

    Nope… sorry… doesn’t represent what I thought the CFI represented. Maybe I was wrong. And maybe that’s the point.

  210. #211 Epinephrine
    April 15, 2010
    It would be nice if we did have a high school biology book that called all of Christianity and Judaism a collection of myths, but we don’t. Yet.”

    Uh, that’s a violation of the Establishment Clause, and as I recall PZ has said he does not advocate that public school teachers be this direct.

    Ok, can you explain how this is a violation? I suspect based on a quick google search that many high schools offer courses in greek mythology, for example, which places a set of religious beliefs as myth.

    (ok to call it a myth if it involves turtles, or a god ejaculating to make a river, but not if it involves making a woman out of a rib?)

  211. #212 raven
    April 15, 2010

    I suspect based on a quick google search that many high schools offer courses in greek mythology, for example, which places a set of religious beliefs as myth.

    NO!!! How shocking!!! There are still a few followers of the Greek and Norse gods. How could a public school system get away with calling their sacred stories myths?

    I suppose their kids end up confused in school unless they are home schooled. Or unless they think all the sacred narratives are meant to be metaphorical.

  212. #213 Paul
    April 15, 2010

    First, I hardly think I was ?deceptive,? as some have alleged, when I took exception to the tone and some of the statements in Myers?s blog post. I did not imply that was the whole of his post, and, moreover, I included a link to his post so people could see for themselves what he said.

    I think I was the only person to use the term deceptive in your CFI thread, but I was not applying it to you. I was applying it to Melody for saying that PZ attacked the CFI rather than criticizing Michael’s post. You, I simply said that you did not touch the substance of the matter.

    By the way, Dr. Lindsay said the following for those that aren’t watching the CFI thread:

    I rarely comment on the substance of my fellow bloggers? posts for several reasons, including the fact that some will inevitably and mistakenly think that because I am the president & CEO my views represent the official position of CFI.

    I cannot figure out how to properly square that with the comments that people should not assume that one of their regional executive director’s (not executive director of the CFI at large, De Dora has asked peopel to be clear on this) publicly stated (on the CFI site) positions represent an official position of CFI.

  213. #214 Epinephrine
    April 15, 2010

    NO!!! How shocking!!! There are still a few followers of the Greek and Norse gods. How could a public school system get away with calling their sacred stories myths?
    I suppose their kids end up confused in school unless they are home schooled. Or unless they think all the sacred narratives are meant to be metaphorical.

    Number of followers shouldn’t matter – it is a religious belief. Either you can or can’t call religious beliefs myths. Since you obviously can (at least, if it is unpopular), calling Christian or Jewish stories “myths” seems acceptable.

  214. #215 Epinephrine
    April 15, 2010
    If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t have a blog. We don’t.

    Who’s “we”? Which organization do you work for if I may ask?

    I work in regulation of biologics (blood, tissues, organs and vaccines) for the Department of Health in Canada.

  215. #216 Deen
    April 15, 2010

    @Ronald Lindsay:

    But I?m not sure what is gained by going further and also giving teachers the freedom to say, ?by the way, evolutionary theory shows that your religious beliefs about creation are just wrong and you should reject them as false.?

    No, I agree, they can’t say that, and I think everyone else agrees as well. But like I already said on your blog, the claim “the earth is 6000 years old” is a statement of fact, and one that can be empirically tested. Therefore, it falls firmly under the purview of science. A teacher should be allowed to refute this claim, using the exact same evidence that he would use to teach that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years old. This evidence was deemed religiously neutral enough to be taught in school, so why wouldn’t he be allowed to apply it here? Or, if he’s not allowed to apply it here, why is he allowed to use it to teach that the earth is 4.5 billion years old?

    I?m not saying teachers should go out of their way to debunk every religious claim they can get their hands on. That would clearly be problematic. But some religiously motivated empirical claims are so common in our society, that it’s pretty much unavoidable that they will come up in class sooner or later.

    What the teacher can’t do, however, is comment on the theological or ideological implications of the refutation for the students’ beliefs. He can’t tell the students to change their religious beliefs. This, I’m sure, we can all agree on.

    So as long as the teacher doesn’t bring up theology, and sticks to the science, all scientifically testable claims should be fair game in a science class. It shouldn’t matter whether the claim was made by the priest at the local church or the weatherman on the local cable network. But if the origins of an empirical claim determine whether a teacher is allowed to evaluate that claim, doesn’t that in itself violate the Establishment Clause?

  216. #217 Die Anyway
    April 15, 2010

    Massimo Pigliucci has weighed in at Rationally Speaking. http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/

  217. #218 aratina cage
    April 15, 2010

    Massimo Pigliucci has weighed in at Rationally Speaking.

    I spent time listening to him blather on about Last Thursdayism yesterday. He seems to give far too much weight to unreasonable beliefs. His treatment of PZ is equally deplorable.

  218. #219 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Massimo Pigliucci has weighed in at Rationally Speaking.

    Yes… he’s very concerned about the tone.

    Fuck off already Pigliucci. Anyone want to count the strawmen in his very concerned post?

    He starts a paragraph with “And speaking of content”, and the proceeds to blather on hyperbolically about content that doesn’t exist in anything PZ posted. Then goes on to wrongly assert that the use of the term “myth” does violate the separation of Church and State, a position not even the defenders of the CFI in this thread agree with.

    It’s a whole bunch of “whaa whaa whaa stop picking on my friend you big atheist meanie” in which he must TWICE go out of his way to tell everyone he’s not sticking up for his friend because it’s so fucking clearly obvious that’s all he’s doing.

    He doesn’t address any part of the argument, or the content of PZ’s original post except that which he’s completely twisted into a cartoonish and hyperbolic misrepresentation of what was actually said. He got some of the insults right, but that’s about it. Grow up and get over it. Don’t want to be called stupid? Stop saying stupid things.

    And, like pretty much every OTHER fucking person on this side of the issue, he has clearly not taken the time to look at the fucking quote from the biology book in context. Honestly, if you can’t be bothered to do at least that much, and continue to just rail on about how religion is being attacked in a science book, then I have no use to even bother trying to argue with you.

  219. #220 Akusai
    April 15, 2010

    His response is mostly (not entirely, but mostly) the style over substance fallacy. “Lowering the level of discourse” is what pretentious people say to make themselves look and feel better.

  220. #221 aratina cage
    April 15, 2010

    “pretentious”

    QFT

  221. #222 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    rationallyspeaking is where people from the Intersection go when they’re feeling it’s not accommodating, warm or fuzzy enough there…

  222. #223 KOPD
    April 15, 2010

    Reminds me…
    Somebody pointed me to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast a while back, and I’ve been working my way through from the beginning. At one point they really bagged on New Atheists for coming across as sounding angry at religion and how that doesn’t help the cause of skepticism. I just about unsubscribed at that point, but decided to keep going, and fortunately since then the subject has hardly come up. But they, too, (or at least, the cast that was active in the first year or so) seem to hold this view that religion should be treated with kid gloves.

  223. #224 Ronald A. Lindsay
    April 15, 2010

    @Deen: I don?t think we have a disagreement. I said the teacher can tell students the earth is not 6,000 years old. I don?t think this raises a constitutional issue, nor should it.

    @Celtic Evolution: I did not utilize a strawman because I?m not trying to refute anyone. One or two commenters complained I had not addressed the substance of the dispute. So I did that. I carefully avoided stating that I was agreeing or disagreeing with anyone because I did not want to get into the issue of whether I was correctly interpreting someone?s position. The fact is, however, PZ in the blog that started this said:

    It would be nice if we did have a high school biology book that called all of Christianity and Judaism a collection of myths, but we don’t. Yet.

    Was he being facetious? Would I be misinterpreting him if I concluded that he would like to have a situation where teachers can encourage students to reject their religious beliefs as part of the classroom curriculum? I don?t know. So I did the charitable thing and simply gave my views about possible ways to approach this set of issues that some people might have. If it turns out no one holds one of the positions I outlined, fine. That just means there may be more consensus among us than might be apparent at first glance.

    Are we clear now?

  224. #225 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Are we clear now?

    Yes… what I’m clear on is that you ignored the meat and primary point of PZ’s post to instead focus on the one line:

    It would be nice if we did have a high school biology book that called all of Christianity and Judaism a collection of myths, but we don’t. Yet.

    Then you decided to interpret it for yourself, repackage it the way you saw fit, and attack it as if your repackaged version was PZ’s position, which you could only do if you were completely ignorant of everything else PZ has ever said on the subject, something I quite frankly know you’re not, and the fact that PZ does not endorse this position was pointed out earlier by Sastra in #205. If you know PZ at all or have read this blog much, you know he does not advocate what you are criticizing him for.

    I’t s strawman.

    If you are unclear on a person’s position (as you admit to being in #224), is it not better to ask for clarification rather than simply create an interpretation of that position and then attack it?

  225. #226 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Damn…

    blockquote fail…

  226. #227 AlanDechert
    April 15, 2010

    SC OM says,

    The reasoned, systematic evaluation of fact claims bsed on the evidence is exactly what science is about and for.

    This is not a very satisfying description of science in the sense that it gives the impression that real scientific projects might spend time debunking religious claims.

    Tell you what, take a stack of 100 National Science Foundation proposals — or take 1000 of them. How many references would you find to any claim of this organized religion or the other. My prediction: you will find zero references. Nothing at all. Real science has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    But this discussion is about science education.

    And we should not give students the impression that science has anything to do with religious claims.

  227. #228 knutsondc
    April 15, 2010

    @Kel (#134)
    @A. Noyd (#138)
    @’Tis Himself (#141)
    Much as I agree that the thesis that the scientific method (or, more broadly, empiricism) IS the only way to obtain knowledge about the world around us, that thesis itself is NOT a scientific proposition, but rather a philosophical one. Like it or not, there are lots of people out there who for religious reasons simply do not accept empiricism and the scientific method as the only source of knowledge about the world. The Establishment Clause forbids government entities in America from taking sides on that philosophical disagreement. Just as the government cannot tell us that divine revelation and prophecy are true and correct sources of knowledge, it cannot teach that that those ideas are simply bogus.

    I agree that the passage from the biology textbook that started this discussion isn’t an “attack” on religion. Of course a teacher’s presentation of science’s explanations for how babies are made, why and how new species arise, etc., that contradict a particular religion’s explanations for those things is also not an “attack” that might offend the Establishment Clause. In the course of the teacher’s explanation of the scientific method and review of science’s incredible success in revealing the workings of the natural world, the students may well get the idea that the teacher thinks that the answers s/he is giving are not only the best science has to offer, but the best anyone has to offer. That, too, poses no legal difficulty.

    But there can be a real legal problem if a public school teacher goes beyond presenting the scientific method, the case for using science to understand the world, and science’s best natural explanations for empirical evidence. Asserting, to quote A. Noyd, that science “is our only source of knowledge about the world and everything in it,” “religious beliefs … aren’t grounded in the real world,” or “certain religious claims are known to be false” is legally problematic. It’d be especially bad for a teacher to do so using derogatory terms like “irrational,” “superstitious,” “outdated,” or the like.

    I appreciate that drawing lines between simply “teaching the science” and “attacking religion” isn’t always a straightforward, easy task. If a science teacher keeps the discussion focused on the nature and quality of empirical evidence bearing on explanations or factual assertions and limits assessments of ideas such as creationism to their lack of scientific basis, there should be no problem.

    So, while it would be fine for a history or science teacher to comment on the lack of empirical or historical evidence for the claim that Native Americans were lost tribes of Israel and to point out evidence, such as DNA analyses from the relevant populations, tending to contradict that thesis, I’d advise the teacher to stop short of suggesting that The Book of Mormon and all other claims of prophecy or revelation are just bogus.

    Similarly, there’s no problem presenting creationism failure as a scientific theory and its inability to account for the evidence. If a student says “but the Bible says God created us 6,000 years ago, so evolution must be false,” the teacher should have no problem repeating that evolution provides the best scientific explanation of the evidence and that explanations based upon the Bible aren’t based upon science.

  228. #229 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    This is not a very satisfying description of science in the sense that it gives the impression that real scientific projects might spend time debunking religious claims.

    Satisfying or not, it occasionally is necessary (see: Galileo and astronomy, geology in relation to flood geology, etc, etc, etc… ). Are you claiming otherwise?

    Why?

    And we should not give students the impression that science has anything to do with religious claims.

    *sigh*. I’m so sick of this. Did you read the full context of the quote in question?

    Please explain to me how this was done in this case, and be specific to this case. And please explain how it differs from the case I made in #6.

  229. #230 CJO
    April 15, 2010

    “Waaaaah! You hit my religion with your science!”

    “You parked it in my driveway, you dumbass.”

  230. #231 Bobber
    April 15, 2010

    And we should not give students the impression that science has anything to do with religious claims.

    …except when the religious claim is one that contradicts scientifically-derived information about our reality, such as the age and origin of the universe. Science has as much of a duty pointing out the fallacies in religious claims as it does shining the light on claims of poltergeists and alien visitations. Whether it is benign or malign, fringe or widespread, fantasies are all just… fantastical.

  231. #232 knutsondc
    April 15, 2010

    @Celtic_Evolution (#160)
    Take a look at my first comment in this thread (#27) which begins:

    I wholeheartedly second Samantha’s observation that the textbook’s use of “myth” is not pejoritive in this context.

    Then tell me who “did not bother to read the prior thread about this issue …” or “bother to take the time to understand the situation fully before commenting …” If you had bothered to read the entire thread, you would have noticed that the context I treated extended beyond the specific case of the textbook that started this whole discussion.

    Frankly, some comments here seem to suggest that it’s perfectly fine for a public school science teacher in America to tell students, in effect, that if they believe things contradicted or unconfirmed by science because of their religious faith, those beliefs don’t merely lack scientific basis, they are “irrational,” “false,” or “wrong.” Much as most of us here on Pharyngula (including me) might agree with that sentiment, a teacher in a public school could very well get into legal difficulty for teaching that, so I offered my admittedly long comment. Some people need a reminder that the Establishment Clause applies to government attacks on religion just as much as it does public endorsement or support of religion.

  232. #233 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    knutsondc –

    I wholeheartedly second Samantha’s observation that the textbook’s use of “myth” is not pejoritive in this context.

    Correct… which is why I could not understand that, conceding that point, which is the primary point of the entire friggin issue here, you would continue to beat the drum of “stop advocating that we should tell religious kids their beliefs are irrational in science class”.

    Which you continue to do in #232 despite having been told we don’t advocate that several times in the most recent comments.

    Frankly, some comments here seem to suggest that it’s perfectly fine for a public school science teacher in America to tell students, in effect, that if they believe things contradicted or unconfirmed by science because of their religious faith, those beliefs don’t merely lack scientific basis, they are “irrational,” “false,” or “wrong.”

    Please identify the comment that advocates this position, exactly in the way you state it.

  233. #234 AlanDechert
    April 15, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution says,

    Satisfying or not, it occasionally is necessary (see: Galileo and astronomy, geology in relation to flood geology, etc, etc, etc… ). Are you claiming otherwise?

    Why, yes, I am claiming otherwise. But let’s set the context: We’re talking about science and science education in the current century in the USA. We are not talking about a class on the history of science. We are not talking about the Discovery Channel.

    Galileo’s treatment by the church is irrelevant to the discussion. We’re also not fighting the Revolutionary War again. Those things are ancient history.

    Go here http://www.nsf.gov/ and find me a single scientific project that directly addresses any religious claim. Science spends 0.0000 percent of its efforts on religious claims. The only correct response to any introduction of a religious claim in a science classroom is this: science has nothing to do with this claim.

    Any further consideration of a religious claim being brought up in the classroom is a waste of time. In fact, spending time on such a claim elevates the claim to a point where it may be seen as worthy of consideration by science. This works against what we’re after.

  234. #235 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    AlanDechert… you are lost. Utterly lost.

    I asked you about the context of the quote… not the context of the fucking conversation, or the context of the larger point you’re trying to make.

    We’re talking about science and science education in the current century in the USA.

    No, we’re not… YOU might be, but this post is not, nor was the original post that started it. What it’s about is some idiot’s claim that the use of the word “myth” to describe creationism is offensive, and the defense of that position by De Dora without giving any consideration to the context of the quote in its entirety, and his attacking PZ for properly ridiculing the guy.

    Galileo’s treatment by the church is irrelevant to the discussion.

    It might be irrelevant to the discussion you’re trying to insist this is about, but it’s certainly relevant to the actual discussion about whether or not the use of the term “myth” is any more offensive than describing geo-centrism as “myth” in teaching about the history of astronomy.

    Is that really that hard for you to grasp?

    We’re also not fighting the Revolutionary War again.

    *rolls eyes*

    Well played, Stimpy. Probably would not sound so stupid if you actually had any idea why I made the comparison in the first place.

    The only correct response to any introduction of a religious claim in a science classroom is this: science has nothing to do with this claim.

    This is not about a religious claim in a science classroom… it’s about making a factual claim regarding the history of the ToE, it’s challenges, and why it has survived them, and that statement being perfectly acceptable given the context. A fact which even the CFI and De Dora defenders have already conceded several times.

    Any further consideration of a religious claim being brought up in the classroom is a waste of time. In fact, spending time on such a claim elevates the claim to a point where it may be seen as worthy of consideration by science. This works against what we’re after.

    Your concern is noted.

  235. #236 knutsondc
    April 15, 2010

    @Celtic_Evolution (#233)
    How would you interpret comments like this (Mercury, #47):

    Science is a quest for the truth about the physical world. To the best of our knowledge the universe really is 13.7 billion years old and everything we see today was formed in a Big Bang. Therefore, any claims to the contrary, whether derived by scientific, religious, telepathic or whatever method, are to the best of our knowledge false, and stating that completely belongs in science class if the competing claims are brought up.

    or this (A. Noyd, #62):

    In order to properly teach what science is, we should be very clear that there is no equivalent to the scientific method which can be used to support religious beliefs and if people want to continue to believe in such claims, they’re being irrational. They’re free to be irrational, of course, but they shouldn’t be given the false impression, even by omission, that they’re rational to believe in things “not derived from the scientific method.”

    or this (A. Noyd, #138)

    simply presenting science for what it is–our only source of knowledge about the world and everything in it (including possible gods about which testable claims are made)–can appear to “attack” religious beliefs since those aren’t grounded in the real world. But explaining what science is and why it deserves such prestige is necessary to getting people to understand science. There’s no way around it except dishonesty.

    Statements like these go well beyond describing Genesis as a “myth” and appeared to me to be advocating teaching science in a way that could very well get public school teachers in legal difficulties. I realize that you did not say anything like this, but your rather snippy and self-righteous accusations that I hadn’t read the thread and was “beating the drum” on avoiding telling “religious kids their beliefs are irrational in science class” when “we don’t advocate that” were not well-taken.

  236. #237 Skepticop
    April 15, 2010

    Seems the couch-fainting concern trolls just can’t handle the truth…because it’s sooooooooooo offensive! *sniffle sniffle*

    We must PUNISH THEM for their buffoonery…verbally, of course. I will not be fucking silenced by wishy-washy cocksuckers.

  237. #238 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    knutsondc -

    reading the 3 examples you provided, not one of them comes close to advocating what you claim:

    Frankly, some comments here seem to suggest that it’s perfectly fine for a public school science teacher in America to tell students, in effect, that if they believe things contradicted or unconfirmed by science because of their religious faith, those beliefs don’t merely lack scientific basis, they are “irrational,” “false,” or “wrong.”

    Mercury goes out of his way to insist that claims brought up by students that contradict what the science tells us (be they religious or just out of ignorance) should be explained as being contradictory (i.e., false) according to the evidence. Are you saying those challenges should just be ignored? Mercury does not advocate openly and needlessly bashing religious beliefs as irrational just for the sake of it.

    And I’m sorry, but neither of A. Noyd’s comments reaches the level of rhetoric you are claiming.

    You are arguing against a position that you have built up to be something that is simply not being advocated.

  238. #239 irenedelse
    April 15, 2010

    Hmm. The problem is that some parents ? and schools ? interpret even the simple mention of evolution as a threat to their “core beliefs”.

    As in this case mentioned by Greg Laden yesterday:

    http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/thewestonforum/news/local/55349-mark-tangarone-tag-teacher-leaves-over-evolution-flap.html

    So, this teacher wanted to include an introduction to Darwin and the theory of evolution in a program for intermediate school-aged students. But after a row with the school administration, he resigned. And he claims that he was told it was “inappropriate” to teach children about a theory that involves a common descent of human beings and animals, as that touches a “core belief” of some families! (Obviously, those who adhere to the literal interpretation of Genesis.)

    Dr. Ribbens, the school’s principal, even wrote him in an e-mail:

    ?While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life. I could anticipate that a number of our parents might object to this topic”.

    And also:

    “I know personally that I would be challenged in leading a 10-year-old through this sort of discussion while maintaining the appropriate sensitivity to a family?s religious beliefs or traditions.?

    I wouldn’t like to be a science teacher in the USA. If you say that scientific findings disprove a specific religious belief, someone will accuse you of doing something unconstitutional. If you stick to science facts only, someone will accuse you to not be sensitive enough to people with religious beliefs!

  239. #240 frog, Inc.
    April 15, 2010

    AD: Tell you what, take a stack of 100 National Science Foundation proposals — or take 1000 of them. How many references would you find to any claim of this organized religion or the other. My prediction: you will find zero references. Nothing at all. Real science has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    Of course — because almost all religious claims of fact were debunked 100 years ago or more. I bet you also that there are no NSF or NIH grants debunking Lamarckianism, Orthogenesis, flat-earthism, the geocentric theory, the planetary model of the atom, and so on and so forth. On the other hand, most of those actually do come up in a college intro to textbook — in biology, physics, chemistry…

    Questions that are no longer scientifically contentious still motivate the history of science, which is necessary to understand science as anything more than as mere techniques. Why quantum physics? Because the planetary model didn’t work out. Why evolution? Because Lamarck didn’t pan out.

    What I can’t figure out is whether you’re abysmally ignorant of the educational process, or whether you “think” that science is just a technique, empty of a historical and philosophical structure that gives it meaning and life. Which is it? Did you just have terrible teachers, or are you just a tool, acting outside of a historical process? Which stupidity is yours?

  240. #241 Kel, OM
    April 15, 2010

    Go here http://www.nsf.gov/ and find me a single scientific project that directly addresses any religious claim. Science spends 0.0000 percent of its efforts on religious claims.

    That’s a really stupid statement. Do you honestly think scientific findings no matter what they are don’t have ramifications that touch on religious dogma? Any project that looks at the origin of the native americans is addressing a religious claim. Any project that is looking at the origin of humanity is addressing a religious claim. Any project that looks at geological history is addressing a religious claim.

    Stop thinking that religious people are so stupid that they can’t see the implications of science for their beliefs. If all this is an argument just to get out of legal responsibility, then all you’re doing is playing word-games. The rhetoric and reasoning behind creationist incursions into the science class is not because people are directly decrying creationism, but that the explicit teaching of evolution is implicitly saying creationism is false. Word games to avoid legal ramifications aside, children can see that if one is true then the other must be false and that evolution can contradict particular interpretations of the bible.

  241. #242 raven
    April 15, 2010

    Hmm. The problem is that some parents ? and schools ? interpret even the simple mention of evolution as a threat to their “core beliefs”.

    pandasthumb:

    Scott | November 3, 2009 5:12 PM | Reply | Edit I just got back from a delightful talk last night by Dr. Eugenie Scott here in Ashland, Oregon. While there, I ran into one of the local middle school teachers I know. She told about teaching in the small town of Brookings, on the Oregon coast. In her science class, she couldn?t even say, ?Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe?, without getting irate fundie parents storming in to her classroom and the principal?s office to complain. Literally: ?Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe? was too controversial for those parents, and threatened the very fabric of their existence, as well as the moral certitude of their children.

    Hey, for some fundies, mentioning evolution would be a capital offense if no one was watching out for them.

    Some fundies think teaching that “hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe” is blashemous.

    While this would fit in well with FSTDT, what seems to be happening here is this. The parents are extremely stupid and ignorant. It sounded sciency even though they had no idea what it meant. So they went into full witch hunter mode.

    I’d be surprised if they bothered to keep their kids in school and pleasantly surprised if their kids survived their parents idiocy without permanent damage.

  242. #243 doctoratlantis
    April 15, 2010

    I think pablum is good for babies, isn’t it?
    Seems like I heard that somewhere.

    How come when baby steps are suggested so many folks complain that we’re not sprinting yet?

    Does Pharyngula stand for

    Pugnacious
    Heathen
    Arguing
    Rhetoric
    Yet
    Never
    Guiding
    Useful
    Legitimate
    Activism

    Of course not! Clearly Pharyngula leads the atheist world in Internet Poll Crashing.

  243. #244 Kel, OM
    April 15, 2010

    So, while it would be fine for a history or science teacher to comment on the lack of empirical or historical evidence for the claim that Native Americans were lost tribes of Israel and to point out evidence, such as DNA analyses from the relevant populations, tending to contradict that thesis, I’d advise the teacher to stop short of suggesting that The Book of Mormon and all other claims of prophecy or revelation are just bogus.

    But there’s the problem. You are stating that the Book of Mormon is bogus. You follow the logic to its implications and you’re implicitly saying the story about the native American Indians is untrue.

    If this is about finding wiggle room to continue secular education despite reality’s contradictory nature to religious doctrine, then we’re arguing two different things. But I’d argue that by saying A is how it happened and A contradicts with teaching T, then a child is going to feel that T is under threat from A. Look at Sastra’s comment #141, this line of reasoning clearly reduces itself to the absurd.

  244. #245 SC OM
    April 15, 2010
    The reasoned, systematic evaluation of fact claims bsed on the evidence is exactly what science is about and for.

    This is not a very satisfying description of science in the sense that it gives the impression that real scientific projects might spend time debunking religious claims.

    What a strange statement. Of course they might, if these are claims of fact. Why not?

    Tell you what, take a stack of 100 National Science Foundation proposals — or take 1000 of them. How many references would you find to any claim of this organized religion or the other.

    My prediction: you will find zero references. Nothing at all. Real science has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    I suspect you would. Archaeologists might be studying, as part of their work, claims made in the Bible or other religious traditions. (That’s pretty direct.) Neurologists address dualist notions of mind. Biologists and anthropologists study the roots of morality. All of these address claims made by religions. The reason there are fewer now is that so many have already been long investigated and shown to be false. (Many of the people researching them weren’t seeking to debunk but to confirm them, but they were honest.) Moreover, I don’t see why this has to be intentional. If science establishes knowledge that shows religious claims to be false because they are contrary to it, they’re just as false if showing that was completely incidental and not what the researchers were seeking to do. The relationship exists.

    And we should not give students the impression that science has anything to do with religious claims.

    If they are claims of fact it sure does. Are you seriously arguing that anything claimed by any religion, including fact claims, is off limits to science?

    The only correct response to any introduction of a religious claim in a science classroom is this: science has nothing to do with this claim.

    That is ludicrous.

    Much as I agree that the thesis that the scientific method (or, more broadly, empiricism) IS the only way to obtain knowledge about the world around us,

    Do you really? On what basis?

    that thesis itself is NOT a scientific proposition, but rather a philosophical one.

    No. Science is the only means that has shown it can produce reliable knowledge.

    Like it or not, there are lots of people out there who for religious reasons simply do not accept empiricism and the scientific method as the only source of knowledge about the world.

    What are the other reliable means? What knowledge have they independently produced? Is it taught in schools? If not, why not?

  245. #246 knutsondc
    April 15, 2010

    @Celtic_Evolution (#238) I don’t mind people disagreeing with me — that’s what makes life interesting — but it really annoys me when someone falsely accuses me of not having read what I’ve commented on — laziness, in effect — which is the only reason I’m coming back to this. Your assertion that I’m “arguing against a position that [I] have built up to be something that is simply not being advocated” is just not accurate, so I’m going to respond.

    If a lawyer advised a public school district that it’s perfectly okay to teach in science classes some of the claims made in this thread, such as:
    a) claims not confirmed by science aren’t merely not scientific, they are “to the best of our knowledge false,”
    b) science is the “only source of knowledge about the world and everything in it,”
    c)”religious beliefs … aren’t grounded in the real world,” and
    d)”if people want to continue to believe in [religious] claims, they’re being irrational”

    and that it’d be just fine to permit the district’s science teachers to follow an instructional philosophy that

    “[students] shouldn’t be given the false impression, even by omission, that they’re rational to believe in things ‘not derived from the scientific method’”

    I’d be more than willing to give a formal opinion that that lawyer was guilty of legal malpractice. You and I may think that beliefs “not derived from the scientific method” are “irrational,” but that is a philosophical opinion on which governmental agencies cannot take a position without violating the Establishment Clause.

    You say

    …claims brought up by students that contradict what the science tells us (be they religious or just out of ignorance) should be explained as being contradictory (i.e., false) according to the evidence. Are you saying those challenges should just be ignored?

    Here’s where my personal irony meter gets pegged! You mistakenly jab at me for “not reading the thread,” yet had you “bothered” to read my earlier comments, you wouldn’t have needed to ask that question. Now that’s annoying! In my first comment (#27) I said:

    If pressed, the most cautious response for the teacher might be to acknowledge that some religious and philosophical traditions reject philosophical naturalism and claim that knowledge about reality can be derived through means other than empirical observation, inference and experiment, but those methodological claims — and the substantive claims about reality based upon their application — are not based upon the scientific method and thus will not be covered in a science class.

    In my next comment I said:

    So, if a student says “my Christian faith tells me we’re all the result of God’s special act of creation 6,000 years ago, so evolution must be false,” I’d advise the teacher against telling the student anything like “what your faith tells you is wrong,” but rather something like
    This is a science class, so I teach what biologists and other scientists have found to be the best natural explanation for what we’ve observed in nature, namely evolution. If you have questions about whether or how evolution theory accounts for the empirical evidence, or whether there is a better natural explanation for that evidence, I’ll try to answer them. However, supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, or explanations based upon something other than inferences from empirical observations, including religious faith or authority, just aren’t based upon the scientific method and will not be addressed here. Whether and how religious beliefs are consistent with any of the scientific explanations for the evidence taught in this class and whether religious beliefs need to be consistent with those scientific explanations are also not themselves the subject matter of science. Questions of that sort are more appropriately addressed in philosophy classes.

    So, stop with the self-righteous “thread cop” schtick with me — your last comment shows you have no standing to play it with me. If you have a substantive comment on what I’ve had to say, I’d be happy to read it.

  246. #247 furious.jew
    April 15, 2010

    Massimo Pigliucci has weighed in at Rationally Speaking. http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/

    From the comments there, I liked this argument which uses the religion-as-mental-illness paradigm:

    It does seem like a tempest in a teapot. The entire textbook, if it serves its purpose, is supposed to refute creationism. Whether the word ?myth? is used is irrelevant and, more importantly, superfluous.

    Now it would be a different matter if the controversy was over the term ?guanine?. Then we would have to say that, sorry, your kid needs to know about guanine. It stays. But a needless sociological/literary term in a textbook about biological evolution? Who cares?

    Suppose a few students in a biology class had a psychiatric disorder in which they experience panic attacks when they hear the word ?pentameter.? Should the biology teacher refrain from using the word ?pentameter?? The word is not needed in biology, so why the hell not?

    So even if we take the view that creationists have some sort of handicap (in fact I think it is a handicap of sorts, a cultural one), the way to overcome that handicap is through education. Buzzwords have nothing to do with education, and if they freak out on certain buzzwords–even if we agree that they are mentally ill for doing so–then we can exercise some politeness by not using them. The goal is education, which is hindered by gratuitously poking them in their psychological private parts.

  247. #248 SC OM
    April 15, 2010

    If a lawyer advised a public school district that it’s perfectly okay to teach in science classes some of the claims made in this thread, such as:
    a) claims not confirmed by science aren’t merely not scientific, they are “to the best of our knowledge false,”

    That’s quotemining and misrepresentation. Here’s what was said:

    To the best of our knowledge the universe really is 13.7 billion years old and everything we see today was formed in a Big Bang. Therefore, any claims to the contrary, whether derived by scientific, religious, telepathic or whatever method, are to the best of our knowledge false, and stating that completely belongs in science class if the competing claims are brought up.

    It wasn’t “claims not confirmed by science” but claims directly contrary to well-established science that were being referred to.

    b) science is the “only source of knowledge about the world and everything in it,”

    Science has a privileged epistemic status because it is the only means by which we acquire reliable knowledge about the world. What else have you got? What is knowledge that isn’t scientific knowledge?

    So, if a student says “my Christian faith tells me we’re all the result of God’s special act of creation 6,000 years ago, so evolution must be false,” I’d advise the teacher against telling the student anything like “what your faith tells you is wrong,” but rather something like
    This is a science class, so I teach what biologists and other scientists have found to be the best natural explanation for what we’ve observed in nature, namely evolution. If you have questions about whether or how evolution theory accounts for the empirical evidence, or whether there is a better natural explanation for that evidence, I’ll try to answer them. However, supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, or explanations based upon something other than inferences from empirical observations, including religious faith or authority, just aren’t based upon the scientific method and will not be addressed here…

    This is such nonsense. The question was about “we’re all the result of God’s special act of creation 6,000 years ago” isn’t just a supernatural explanation for a natural phenomenon, but a claim of fact that is in direct contradiction to well-established scientific knowledge. When the teacher asks on a test how old the earth is and a student answers “6,000 years,” do you think the teacher should be allowed to mark the student’s answer as wrong?

  248. #249 A. Noyd
    April 15, 2010

    knutsondc (#228)

    Much as I agree that the thesis that the scientific method (or, more broadly, empiricism) IS the only way to obtain knowledge about the world around us, that thesis itself is NOT a scientific proposition, but rather a philosophical one.

    So what if it’s philosophy? If a complete science education requires knowing why science is used to the exclusion of other methods, then that philosophy should be taught in the science classroom.

    The Establishment Clause forbids government entities in America from taking sides on that philosophical disagreement.

    Really? I don’t accept this or any of the rest of your assertions about the Establishment Clause. If you want to argue this, then support it.

    I appreciate that drawing lines between simply “teaching the science” and “attacking religion” isn’t always a straightforward, easy task.

    If you can’t draw the lines and give us a clear picture of whatever the hell you mean by “attacks,” then don’t make arguments about people attacking religion.

    If a student says “but the Bible says God created us 6,000 years ago, so evolution must be false,” the teacher should have no problem repeating that evolution provides the best scientific explanation of the evidence and that explanations based upon the Bible aren’t based upon science.

    And you’re an idiot if you think that’s not essentially telling the student there are “other ways of knowing.” Which is a lie.

    (#236)

    Statements like these go well beyond describing Genesis as a “myth” and appeared to me to be advocating teaching science in a way that could very well get public school teachers in legal difficulties.

    Do you really not get that I am talking about what is necessary for giving people a proper understanding of science? It’s an if-then proposition. If we want kids to understand science, then we have to explicitly teach them the epistemic value of science without leaving room for “other ways of knowing,” even via omission. We have to teach them that holding a religious belief and accepting a scientific fact are not equal. Maybe the religious belief can be justified on grounds other than whether it is true–that would be a matter for the philosophy classroom–but we can’t pretend it is just as rational to accept a religious belief as true or we are failing to educate our kids.

    Your “solution” of avoiding the issue by saying “such claims are simply not derived from the scientific method” just tells them that science isn’t what we use to determine whether religious beliefs are true, leaving room for (if not outright encouraging) them to believe there are other sources of facts. Your solution requires lying to them or failing to educate them or both. Maybe that’s what it takes to stay on the good side of the Establishment Clause, though you’d be more convincing if you’d go beyond simply asserting that. Even if it is, though, we should recognize that we’re sacrificing our children’s understanding of science for the sake of allowing them to think their false beliefs are equal to facts.

    So quit saying I’m advocating we implement any of this or that I think it wouldn’t be legally problematic. My thoughts on the matter are not nearly so simple. My point is only that what you’re suggesting is a sort of lie that will not work to properly teach kids science. And that your assertions about the illegality of the necessary* approach are not convincing.

    ………………………..
    *The use of “necessary” here is not an endorsement.

  249. #250 furious.jew
    April 15, 2010

    Lots of biologists will not debate creationists because the situation suggests a false dichotomy of both sides being respectable.

    Why does a textbook on evolution even mention creationism in the first place? Why should it give creationism the time of day? That also poses the danger of suggesting a false dichotomy. Rip out creationism from textbooks altogether, I say. No need to litter them with garbage.

    And if that argument does not suffice for you, then at least the argument from mental illness (#247) should mean something.

    [Lest there be confusion about my name, I am an atheist jew.]

  250. #251 Paul
    April 15, 2010

    Why does a textbook on evolution even mention creationism in the first place? Why should it give creationism the time of day?

    It’s a section on “What is the evidence for Evolution”, and it specifically discusses the Scopes trial. Textbooks almost always include background matter on the subject before really digging in to the scientific content (well, at least at the undergrad and lower level, which the textbook at hand obviously is).

  251. #252 Garrett
    April 15, 2010

    I made this point in the other thread, but the only reason pointing out that creationism is nothing more than mythology is offensive at all is because for some reason so many religious idiots still believe it!

    Yep. Nobody would make a fuss if you insisted that children be taught that 2+2 does not equal 5.

  252. #253 tfoss1983
    April 15, 2010

    I rarely talk about my job online. Pardon me for being vague.

    I frequently field questions from students. Yesterday, I introduced the topic of viruses, and used HIV as a frequent example. One student said that he’d heard HIV was created in a lab in New York to be used as a biological weapon, but it didn’t act fast enough. I said, “yeah, that’s the conspiracy theory. It’s a myth.” I then proceeded to explain some of the history of SIV and bushmeat that led to its evolution and spread.

    I frequently field questions about 2012, and I always make two points: it’s a myth, and no previous prediction of world destruction has ever come true.

    This sort of thing comes up very often, because students ask the questions directly. I haven’t had to deal with any real creationists or any vehement opposition to evolution or anything, but I do my best to dispel students’ misconceptions. Maybe I shouldn’t use “myth” as synonymous with “fictional story/urban legend,” but that’s the general connotation of the world. If a student said “I heard that the world was created 6,000 years ago,” I’d probably treat it slightly more gingerly–”some people believe that, but all the scientific evidence says that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old”–but the implication is the same.

    My question, then: if we’re going to treat religious beliefs with kid gloves in school, never saying outright that they’re wrong even when we’re providing information that directly contradicts them, then where do we draw the line? What marks the difference between belief in a young age for the Earth and belief that the Earth is going to end in two years? What of unfamiliar religious beliefs? I can tread lightly around the Christians’ religious claims because I’m familiar with them; what if a student brought up a belief I wasn’t familiar with–or didn’t know had a religious component?

    For instance, Hare Krishnas deny that we landed on the moon. I’ve had one student mention that he heard we never landed on the moon, and I explained some of the problems with the conspiracy theory. For all I know, that student could have been making the claim based on his devout Hare Krishna beliefs–am I guilty of overstepping my bounds as a schoolteacher?

    I think the textbook made a mistake in using a loaded word like “myth”–though I can’t imagine what word they could use that wouldn’t have the same implication–but to split hairs on what teacher supposedly can and cannot say like this is neither useful nor realistic nor sensible.

  253. #254 Kel, OM
    April 15, 2010

    I think the textbook made a mistake in using a loaded word like “myth”–though I can’t imagine what word they could use that wouldn’t have the same implication

    On that note, why aren’t English teachers being chided for the failure to correct the colloquial use of the word myth with the academic usage?

  254. #255 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 16, 2010

    For the record, the Establishment clause states:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof.

    This is constructed upon to say no government agent of any sort should endorse religion. It isn’t strictly written that way in the constitution, but we currently act upon it because it’s ultimately sensible. I’m pretty sure, given Dover v. Kitzmiller, that you can, in the classroom, specifically deny factual claims when you have the evidence against them.

    Bad: Christianity is full of shit. Go away

    While true, it’s also not a specific countermanding of a specific factual claim. It easily runs afoul of the spirit of the Establishment Clause.

    Good: While I have no comment on Christianity as a whole, the myth of the 6 day creation has been disproven by multiple lines of evidence. Current best estimates put the age at 13 billion years.

    You could even cut out the first clause and just say “The myth of the six day creation has been disproven…”

    Very Bad: Of course Genesis isn’t real. Everyone knows the world was made using the parts of a sacred cow. Given your ignorance, we can surmise your soul was made from the hooves.

    Incidentally, I’m assuming the teacher has been asked. Preferably without begging the question.

  255. #256 Q.E.D
    April 16, 2010

    De Dora understands the establishment clause of the first Ammendment like I understand quantum mechanics.

    The difference is I don’t lecture people on quantum mechanics.

    - a lawyer

  256. #257 Anti_Theist-317
    April 18, 2010

    I absolutely love the CFI magazines. Without question in my mind when compared to other similar material their magazines smash the ‘competition’. They are well written, nicely laid out, feels like a magazine ought to, priced right, current(relevant) and well… WEll, they are just god damn mother fucking great!

    But, on numerous occasions they seen to cater to, over look or are afraid to directly and openly challenge moderate theism(Christianity). Simply put they are afraid to call a pig a pig as it might offend a nice Christian. Although I suspect I know exactly why this I might not. . .

    Even if the theist is your Mommy or Daddy religion is stupid. Your mom or dad might not be stupid, I know. But if they believe an invisible ‘thing’ turned itself into its son to uproot existing social doctrine then knowingly allowed itself to be brutally murdered & tortured 2,000 years ago to mend sins it(God – ‘this thing’) knew in advance would happen. Then! your mommy and daddy have the balls/disrespect to wear an image of this dead man carcass who physically had his limbs nailed to pieces of wood around their neck. Well, your mommy & daddy might not be dumb. But, such a belief is dangerous, delusional, stuck up and vile – it is just stupid. If any rational human ever decided to openly wear the beaten, battered and bruised carcass of anyone which was susposed to be the likness of dude that died 2,000 ago we would rightly tell them to keep that shit at home – everytime. Well, every time unless they label such ignorance as a religious belief. Then somehow we are not susposta to challenge it.

    I would almost rather befriend a fag bashing Identity Christian neo-nazi skinhead rather than some of these wishy washy CFi folks. At least the nazi is willing to fight for, yell in the streets and demand others listen to what he/she believes they know to be the absolute truth (even though it is stupid, backwards and fucked up). The nazi has the courage and the pride to tell you how it is. If you do not believe what they believe they know is true after a few attempts at conversion at your conversion their solution is simple: Fuck You, Fuck off and their god is coming for you. They make no excuses, back down on their belief, try to rewrite/redefine the bible. So long as they consider themselves an Identity Christian there will never be a time they walk the fence. After all they know(believe they know – absolutely know) God/Jesus is on their side. They live the life without empathy or fear of hurting your feelings. They are fucked up people with stupid beliefs(Identity Christians). But, such strong, devoted, unwavering commitment to a belief is very respectable. In almost all cases more respectable than those who claim they preach the truth but are afraid of such open and public devotion to it.

    I am always shocked and sickened when atheists 100 fold more intelligent than myself are afraid to openly, actively and publicly label Christianity for what is it: Stupid dangerous shit that needs crushed. CFI on more than one occasion(all the time?) seems to suggest that theism and non-theism can coexist. The identity Christian knows god would not tolerate such bullshit as his book(the bible) clearly suggests.

    Common sense also tells us this simply not the case. A belief our children are born sinful or otherwise vile. A belief that you might rot, suffer or be tortured forever in hell if you do not love their god(Jesus). A belief that their god is going to come back and destroy, torture or cause suffering to over 2 billion non-christians at an unknown point in the future. Well, there is obviously a lot of god damn friction there. Often linguistical contortions and trite drivel dance around this. But, lets be honest two views which are so disconnected can never peacefully co-exist. Get off the fence assholes – off the fence.

    One recent example of this pandering to religious moderates while making the false and stupid assumption non-Christian and Christian ideas can somehow co-exist…. Is their promoting the ideas and platform of some local Cock Sucker who lives down the road from me – Michael Zimmerman. My local CFI chapter recently requested and allowed this shit dick to speak at a series known as, “Religion Under Examination”. LOL? Mikey Zimmer simply realized that he can earn more money, fame and fortune peddling middle man fence walking bullshit to the theist market as its much larger than the non-theist. Not only did CFI have Mikey speak and seem to promote or otherwise support his wacky ideas about Evolution. . . But, they wanted to charge $30-50 to listen to Mikey.

    For reasons similar to those noted here. I have no desire, interest or intention to support CFi. However, I think they will do fine without out my support.

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