Creationist genetics

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Reading through Good Math, Bad Math, I saw a classic example of creationist foolishness: a fellow who insists that math will vindicate the Bible by proving that π = 3. It reminded me of this old post where a creationist had the thread jumping in her need to prove that the story of Jacob and Laban actually demonstrated a valid form of biblical genetics. So here it is; the original comments are also amusing.


It's not just the US that is infested with creationists; take a look at Canadian Christianity. Like their southern brethren, they seem to be greatly concerned about homosexuals and evolution; I'm always astounded at how much conservative Christian identity is tied to the denial of civil rights and opposition to science. There are several juicy tidbits of benighted ignorance there, but I'm going to focus on one incredible claim made in an interview with a Kirk Durston, who is apparently a director of some Campus Chrusade for Christ ministry...which, apparently, means he is now a fully qualified creationist biologist. In the interview, he's asked this leading question:

As you know, evolutionists tend to use 'evolution' as a blanket term, without making the crucial distinction between 'micro-evolution' (physical changes within a single species) and 'macro-evolution' (transformation from one species into another). Because micro-evolution is scientifically provable, they can say that evolutionary theory is legitimate science—and by using the general term 'evolution,' they imply that macro-evolution is also legitimate science. Do you think there is sufficient awareness of the fact that there is no concrete evidence for macro-evolution? Are evolutionists simply afraid to admit this to the public—and perhaps to themselves?

Creationists do love the terms "microevolution" and "macroevolution"—they pretend to acknowledge that one is good science, so their claim that the other is false looks a little more impartial. Of course macroevolution is legitimate science, backed up by evidence: the fossil record is one big catalog of macroevolutionary events, while the molecular evidence for common descent unambiguously ties together disparate lineages. Read Zimmer's At the Water's Edge (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) (subtitled "Macroevolution and the transformation of life") for some lucidly presented examples.

Durston, of course, obligingly buys into the interviewer's phony claim, but goes a little further and says something astounding.

It is very important to make a distinction between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution has been known for thousands of years, with the first documented case occurring in Genesis, when Jacob [manipulated] his father-in-law's sheep and goat herd so he could get more striped and spotted livestock. Any examples of evolution we observe today fall into this category.

I quite agree that the breeding of domesticated animals is an excellent example of the transformation of populations with evolutionary consequences. Darwin himself wrote extensively about domesticated animals in his books, and considered them good supporting evidence for his ideas. But have you ever read the story of Jacob and his microevolutionary research program in genetic manipulation? It's amusing. Here it is:

31
"What should I pay you?" Laban asked. Jacob answered: "You do not have to pay me anything outright. I will again pasture and tend your flock, if you do this one thing for me:
32
go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the sheep and every spotted or speckled one among the goats. Only such animals shall be my wages.
33
In the future, whenever you check on these wages of mine, let my honesty testify against me: any animal in my possession that is not a speckled or spotted goat, or a dark sheep, got there by theft!"
34
"Very well," agreed Laban. "Let it be as you say."
35
That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as the fully dark-colored sheep; these he left. . . in charge of his sons.
36
Then he put a three days' journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to pasture the rest of Laban's flock.
37
Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane trees, and he made white stripes in them by peeling off the bark down to the white core of the shoots.
38
The rods that he had thus peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs, so that they would be in front of the animals that drank from the troughs. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink,
39
the goats mated by the rods, and so they brought forth streaked, speckled and spotted kids.

40
The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he set these animals to face the streaked or fully dark-colored animals of Laban. Thus he produced special flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban's flock.
41
Moreover, whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the rods in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the rods;
42
but with the weaker animals he would not put the rods there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the sturdy ones to Jacob.
43
Thus the man grew increasingly prosperous, and he came to own not only large flocks but also male and female servants and camels and asses.

This is the biblical science creationists want to put in our schools. How do you breed striped livestock? You let them look at striped sticks while they are mating, and then their offspring will be striped. Under this logic, we'll have to assume that white ceilings are a racist plot to breed more Caucasian children. And yet this creationist, in all seriousness, suggests this ridiculous story as an instance of Biblical microevolution and genetics.

I won't even get into the ethical lesson here, which seems to be that it is OK for Jacob to cheat his father-in-law, and that his reward is to own servants.

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Under this logic, we'll have to assume that white ceilings are a racist plot to breed more Caucasian children.

Teh funny! What do people with mirrored ceilings get?

I won't even get into the ethical lesson here, which seems to be that it is OK for Jacob to cheat his father-in-law, and that his reward is to own servants.

Actually, Jacob may have been genetically conditioned to cheat relatives. His father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham were pretty craven, too.

I have always wondered what the moral of these stories is supposed to be. They put the lie to xian moral standards.

I think the following comment by "Susan" in the original post is funny given the creationists' love of quote mining:

Look for the Author's Meaning, Not the Reader's

Creationism and fundamentalism, in the end, are both systematically guilty of that intellectual sin.

By Michael Hopkins (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Jacob did have reason to hate his father-in-law, who was quite the bastard, starting with making Jacob work seven years to marry his daughter, then pulling a switch at the ceremony and marrying him off to the other ugly daughter first. However, what's with the sticks? When I just read it I thought that meant somehow the spotted/striped animals that had been removed were attracted to the sticks (maybe better food?) and mated there, re-insinuating themselves back into the flock. Is it really supposed to be a case of surroundings=offspring?

So what does pi equal, PZ? 3.14? 3.14159? 3.141592653589793238462643383279502? In fact, pi does not equal any of these numbers. It does it equal 3.14 or 3.14159 or any figure including the multi-billion digit value that it has currently been calculated to. Pi does not equal anything we can express because it is an irrational number.

Of course, any reasonable, rational, intelligent person can see that the Bible makes absolutely no claim about the value of pi. The Bible passage in question describes the measurements of a man made object. That's it. For skeptics to extrapolate anything more from the passage (e.g. the value of pi) is silly and dishonest. Big surprise, that.

Guess you'd better change the Wikipedia information about the Bible and pi:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi#Early_approximations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_numerical_approximations_of_%CF%80#Biblical_value

It is sometimes claimed that the Bible states that Ï = 3, based on a passage in 1 Kings 7:23 giving measurements for a round basin as having a 10 cubit diameter and a 30 cubit circumference. Rabbi Nehemiah explained this by the diameter being from outside to outside while the circumference was the inner brim; but it may suffice that the measurements are given in round numbers. Also, the basin may not have been exactly circular.

And, gosh, look at this page from Internet Infidels:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/arguments.html#pi

The Bible says pi is 3!

In I Kings 7:23, the Bible says:

And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

If you make a molten sea with a circumference of thirty cubits, you'll find that the diameter is 30/pi or 9.55 cubits. Or ten cubits, to round to the nearest integer.

In short, the Bible does not say that pi must be three, unless you are going to assume that the numbers given are accurate to more than two significant figures, which is unjustifiable given the wording.

Now, quick! Everyone call me a troll so you don't have to face these facts (again)!

No Jason on this one your not trolling(yet) but just remember it has been Christians who claimed it was piand accurately so before the skeptics rebuted it.

But you certainly pick the minute details of the post rather than the meat.

I'm no longer reading your droolings, Jason, but since I see you are here, it gives me the chance to tell you that your parents definitely had mirrors on the ceilings of their bedroom.

Not a troll,but someone who uses a source that is highly suspect when promoted that it represents "facts". These are stories, fables, myths...proverbs and and subjective morality plays, not objective facts that can be proven by experiment and duplication.

By naturalist (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

At best the pi = 3 thing is just an example of how our knowledge of the world has advanced since the Bible was written. We've revised pi. The tech in the Bible is not up to date.

The macro/micro evolution thing always makes me laugh. Like there's a line, and organisms will know not to cross it as they adapt to their surroundings. Speciation's a no-no, apparently. When you discuss increasingly large and small dog breeds, it becomes "kinds", and very rapidly slips off into Arbit'ry County.

To make an analogy, it's like saying that there's no concrete evidence for rusting, because nobody has seen a car spontaneously collapse in a dusty heap of iron oxide. Sure, we've seen bits of cars rust over time, but have you ever seen a car turn all the way into a big bit of rust? Of course not. Macrocorrosion. Pfft.

By Alex Whiteside (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Alex: good analogy with the rust. I also remember reading somewhere one where saying macro-evolution doesn't exist is kind of like wondering why all the new growth on a tree is at the twig level, and no large branches have spontaneously generated at all!

Sheesh. I'd better cut out certain bad habits or else my kids could end up being born handcuffed wearing skin-tight red latex.

By anonforthis (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Because micro-economics is scientifically provable, they can say that economic theory is legitimate science--and by using the general term 'economics,' they imply that macro-economics is also legitimate science. Do you think there is sufficient awareness of the fact that there is no concrete evidence for macro-economics? Are economists simply afraid to admit this to the public--and perhaps to themselves?

The important realization from Susan's comments is that, even though she believes what she says by producing a series of rationalizations and then willing herself to believe them, she's lying in her heart.

The same is true of Jason:

"Pi does not equal anything we can express because it is an irrational number."

Wrong; watch me express it: "the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter". There are many other expressions equal to pi, such as 4/1 - 4/3 + 4/5 - 4/7 ...
which expresses pi just as well as .3333... expresses 1/3. Your false statement reflects just enough understanding of math to say something wrong. But because you're a liar in your heart, you will continue to rationalize away demonstrations that you are wrong, rather than admitting it.

By truth machine (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

"No Jason on this one your not trolling(yet)"

Yes, he is; PZ never said that the Bible claims that pi is 3. Here's his statement:

I saw a classic example of creationist foolishness: a fellow who insists that math will vindicate the Bible by proving that Ï = 3.

And here's what he was referring to:

Very easy. You are talking about the value of Pi. That is actually 3 not 3.14....... The digits after the decimal forms a geometric series and it will converge to the value zero. So, 3.14.....=3.00=3. Nobody still calculated the precise value of Pi. In future they will and apply advenced Mathematics to prove the value of Pi=3.

Here's an easy prediction: Jason's next statement will again demonstrate that he's lying in his heart.

By truth machine (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Another instance of careless writing. Why does the Bible provide this much information at the risk sounding inconsistent? Why not just leave it at providing either the height or the circumference, but not both? An informed author would immediately realize that he'd either have to define what an irrational number is, or slap an "approximate" qualifier.

In fact, why provide any of this? What bloody difference does it make to know any of these details?

None. Chances are the writer was trying to impress readers and got caught with his pants down.

truth machine: as a dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned woman with a dair-haired, dark-eyed husband who just gave birth to a light-skinned, blue eyed, light-haired girl, that story makes smile.

Everyone call me a troll so you don't have to face these facts (again)!

Hi, Jinx! Speaking of not facing things, I have some questions you keep inexplicably ignoring. Care to answer them?

a) Do you believe, word for word, in the literal accuracy of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments?

(Since you're so proud of your Christian faith, I figured you'd be eager to answer this one)

and,

b) why do you not allow comments on your PZ-stalking blog?

Thanks!

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

OH NO! Pi deniers! Now I have heard everything.

When I just read it I thought that meant somehow the spotted/striped animals that had been removed were attracted to the sticks (maybe better food?) and mated there, re-insinuating themselves back into the flock. Is it really supposed to be a case of surroundings=offspring?

I thought there was a chance it could be read in a way that the rods weren't causing the stripes, that there was a chance it was just some sort of separation, but no.

The New American Standard Bible makes it even more clear what's going on:

41 Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods;

42 but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's.

43 So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.

Jacob put in the rods in when the strong ones were mating so that their strong offspring would be striped and be his. The weak offspring would not have stripes and would go to Laban.

What was that woman doing, staring at a checkerboard during sex?

LOL! Damn, I wish I had said that (except I would have said "checkboard pattern", cuz real checkerboards are rarely black and white :-). My mention of fundieism was actually a reference to racism and fundie explanations of race. I'm sure Susan could come up with an explanation of how the Bible predicted this outcome.

By truth machine (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Is it really supposed to be a case of surroundings=offspring?

Why is this surprising? Even today, many people (including nearly the entire population of Ojai) think that the setting in which they conceive and their state of mind can affect the traits of the child.

By truth machine (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

I love how Jason says 2 amazingly stupid things (pi cannot be expressed / PZ claimed the bible says pi=3 when in fact it's fundies who claim this) then vanishes rather than defend himself. C'mon Jason! Quick! Don't be a troll! Back up up your toweringly ignorant bullshit!

Weird. A Canadian clone of Dempski. And he is just as pathetic. I was hoping he was at least American born and bred, but no such luck.

Kirk Durston B.Sc (Physics), B.Sc. (Mech. Eng.), M.A. (Philosophy) is, according to the New Scholars Society website (of which he is the national director) a Biophysics grad student at the University of Guelph. In fact, he is in the Department of Computing and Information Science. His thesis is on "Shannon Information in biopolymers". He seems to claim in the interview that it is a stealth ID research project.

Here we have yet another non-biologist applying his unrelated skills to criticise evolution and all because of his faith.

He is already talking up the conspiracy to keep ID research from being published. Must be why he is taking so long to get a PhD.

The interviewer, David Dawes, claims that the NSS is a "Campus Crusade for Christ ministry consisting of faculty members from Canadian universities". The NSS web page 'who we are' lists two other people, an ex-director and -teacher from the Ukraine Bible Institute in Kiev, Ukraine and an "adjuct instructor in Philosophy at Trinity Western University".

Maybe the NSS is open to tenured faculty, but I don't think they've snared one, yet. Gotta love their motto "Pursue Truth". Not that they want to find it or capture it; just chase it away.

By JohnnieCanuck (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

It reminded me of this old post where a creationist had the thread jumping in her need to prove that the story of Jacob and Laban actually demonstrated a valid form of biblical genetics.

Has it really been over a year now since Susan and her man-boobs were trolling the old Pharyngula?

Good times.

truth machine: as a dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned woman with a dair-haired, dark-eyed husband who just gave birth to a light-skinned, blue eyed, light-haired girl, that story makes smile.

-plucky puink

Congratulations.

...mine's cuter. :P

(For the record, caucasian infants' eyes usually appear blue or gray around birth, and take a few months to reach their "official" color. So don't count your chickens...)

I'm always amused when people go on about how "beautifully" the Bible was written. I doubt that any of them has read it in the original - and we all know how translations become more inexact the more languages they must go through, and depend upon the writing skill of the translator for whatever aesthetic qualities that remain. Not to mention those spelling inconsistencies in English over the centuries that made translations unclear...

My immediate progenitor, a Biblical archaeologist and one-time Episcopal priest who actually can read the original languages, and who has been digging at sites in the Holy Land for half a century renounced his orders some years ago, as he felt that continuing to be The Reverend Doctor Who would be hypocritical for a man who had become an atheist.

By DominEditrix (not verified) on 13 Aug 2006 #permalink

Just for accuracy's sake, about the original striped goats story, one of the last posts on the earlier thread makes the following (somewhat lengthy) point:

I agree with her critics regarding Susan's handling of science. And I still think that the (English) translations of Genesis 30 portray both Jacob and the narrator as believing that maternal visual impressions can determine the characteristics of offspring.

However, I did send Susan an article (J. of the Ancient Near Eastern Society, Vol 25, pp. 7-17, 1997) in which Scott Noegel (Univ. of Washington) contends that translations of Gen. 30 were influenced by medieval fertility magic beliefs. Noegel does not support Susan's theory that Laban believed the magic while Jacob pretended to believe it, but neither does he support the view that Jacob and the narrator believed it.

Noegel says that the earliest sources for maternal impressions belief appear in the 5th century CE. Noegel writes: "Although we possess numerous Egyptian, Ugaritic, Mesopotamian, and Aramaic magical texts, nowhere, to my knowledge, do the ancient texts reflect this belief. For example, one might expect to find a reference to such a belief in the numerous Mesopotamian potency incantations and teratological omen texts, where anomalous births are mentioned frequently, but one does not." He notes that though Gen. 30:39 "is frequently translated 'at the sight of the rods,' this is not an accurate rendering and seems to have been influenced by the assumed notions of fertility magic . . ."

To me it's just a reminder that we who can't read the original Biblical languages are relying on fallible translations. Moreover, Noegel and other scholars who can read Hebrew agree that Gen. 30 is one of the most ambiguously worded passages in the Hebrew Bible, so it's not surprising if translations of that text have been especially vulnerable to being colored by the mindset of its translators.

The thing about this that never ceases to amaze and disturb me is not the foolishness of specific beliefs people hold based on their particular interpretation of whatever translation they use of their preferred collection of ancient texts. Anyone is liable to temporarily hold false and ridiculous beliefs based on receiving a bit of bad information -- I know I've fallen for the occasional stupid urban legend because I was not sufficiently invested in its truth value to go out and verify it.

No, the thing that amazes me here is that a person would tie morality, life, and identity so tightly to a particular set of what are effectively very old urban legends as to be willing to fight even to the point of sacrificing morality, life, and identity in order to protect belief in the urban legend. I mean, seriously. "This guy said that if you eat pop rocks and then drink a can of coke your stomach will burst, and I know it's true because I read it on this awesome website, and also they said you should be nice to your pets so I'm gonna go pet Fluffy" is not a sensible foundation for a belief system.

And even most members of the more "ancient" religions seem to get the point when it's presented to them with regard to a newer religion. There's a reason the Mormons and the Scientologists and the Heaven's Gaters don't get much respect. The whole premise of text-based or revelation-based religious enterprises is sufficiently ridiculous that it's almost pointless to argue about the details of why any specific text-based claim is wrong.

And, on a side note, I'm horrified that the goat-striping argument about the precise meaning of a particular phrase went on for as many posts as it did before anybody on either side made any mention of the fact that semantic arguments about translated text are stupid without reference to the original-language source. Come on, people.

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Uh, to be clear, I'm horrified about the failure to mention translation issues in the original goat-striping argument. This time around, people seem to have gotten there fairly quickly. :)

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Jason likes to quote the bible and all he shows is how backward the authors were.

A close approximation of Pi was already given by the Babylonians in 1900 BCE and the Egyptians in 1600 BCE. The bible writers, who started writing it around 600 to 700 BCE, apparently had no knowledge of these precedents.

In fact, they seem to have had no knowledge of or interest in natural sciences and mathematics at all.

I'm horrified that the goat-striping argument about the precise meaning of a particular phrase went on for as many posts as it did before anybody on either side made any mention of the fact that semantic arguments about translated text are stupid without reference to the original-language source. Come on, people.

Come on yourself. The fact is that Susan's explanation was about the meaning of a piece of English text -- or rather her claim about what its author meant, as opposed to what it plainly says. Talk about translations is irrelevant and, frankly, stupid, and it's stupid of you to say that others were stupid when they weren't.

By truth machine (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

people seem to have gotten there fairly quickly

And, BTW, people have not "gotten there". DominEditrix wrote about people talking about how "beautifully" the bible is written, which has nothing at all to do with the issue in the Jacob/Laban discussion.

By truth machine (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

And finally

Noegel does not support Susan's theory that Laban believed the magic while Jacob pretended to believe it, but neither does he support the view that Jacob and the narrator believed it.

This assumes there ever was such a person as Jacob to have beliefs of one sort or another. All versions are fictions to one degree or another. But Susan's version of what Jacob believed was derived from such works as "King James Bible Commentary, Edward G. Dobson, Charles L. Feinberg, Edward E. Hindson et. al., Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, p. 59." The notion that "the original-language source" (for a story that surely was in circulation in verbal form long before being written down)
has any relevance to the discussion is stupid.

By truth machine (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

About the Canadian thing, yeah, we've got some of the nuts here too. I encountered them (CCfC) once even on campus when some colleagues and I noticed their advertising in a physics department, including anti-evolution nonsense. As far as I was concerned that was bizarro enough to mandate crashing their meeting, which I and 2 others did. Got a fair bit in edgewise, but I don't think it did any good.

plucky punk: I've heard that people (particularly the "sheeple") often have a glassy look in their eyes when they get confused ... maybe that's it.

Koray: A way to put that is that it seems that the author had no idea of pi at all, no matter how imprecisely known. That is, we know that one only need provide the diameter and the circumference is taken care of or conversely. But the author did not. So, divine inspiration my ...

Chiefley: I seem to remember that there was someone on talk.origins once who thought that -1 = 1 (with the usual meanings of the terms) and that 0.000 ... 0001 designated a number. Pi denial (i.e. denying the irrational nature of pi) has nothing on those monuments to failed education ...

truth machine: "The room is painted from ceiling to floor in a black and white checkered pattern!" (Anyone get that? :))

JohnnieCanuck: As you might know, but our US (and other nonCanadian) collegues might not, Trinity Western is sorta like the Canadian version of Bob Jones University. I.e., a fundy university. Amazingly, I know of someone who got a biology degree from there. That can't be worth the paper it is printed on ...

We continue to pray for all of you. God's truth will eventually be verified for you, though I hope you will realize it before you die.

By M Petersen (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

truth machine, I don't know how we could both have read that original thread and come to apparently completely opposite conclusions about the progress of the argument about striped goats. I'll grant you that it tangented off into other discussion in which this Susan character committed all kinds of entertaining rhetorical errors, but the part of it in which the precise meaning of, "When the animals were in heat as they came to drink, the goats mated by the rods, and so they brought forth streaked, speckled and spotted kids," was debated was nevertheless quite lengthy, and the subject of translation issues was never raised. Are we going to have to have a debate about the plain meaning of the text in the old comments thread and in this one? At least there won't be any translation issues this time!

And, as for this:

This assumes there ever was such a person as Jacob to have beliefs of one sort or another. All versions are fictions to one degree or another. But Susan's version of what Jacob believed was derived from such works as "King James Bible Commentary, Edward G. Dobson, Charles L. Feinberg, Edward E. Hindson et. al., Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, p. 59." The notion that "the original-language source" (for a story that surely was in circulation in verbal form long before being written down) has any relevance to the discussion is stupid.

I totally agree with most of this. Why do you think I was comparing religion to urban legends and questioning the value of debate about the details of an individual text? Please read my post next time before you make knee-jerk arguments which seem to be premised on the belief I have any sympathy whatsoever for theism.

Nevertheless, I do feel that if you're going to bother to have such a debate and argue about the so-called plain meaning of the text and its truth value you ought to at least use the version of the text that most proponents of the text consider to be the original source material. Hell, you can generally easily use this to mock the ignorance of modern believers, who very often deeply believe and closely analyze the precise text of their personal English-language rendition of these ancient books written in a language nobody had spoken colloquially for thousands of years until the advent of Zionism in the late 1800s.

Even the stuff that wasn't written in dead languages is often terribly misinterpreted to the degree that it becomes ridiculous and yet unchangeable doctrine. Consider, for example, the Catholic obsession with the supposed "virginity" of Mary. (Who, yes, probably never actually existed anyway.)

All I'm saying is that if atheists are going to spend time arguing about religious texts then it behooves us to have an understanding of them that goes beyond the superficial, "this particular translation says this so that's what I'm going to argue against" level. Argue that differing translations make "plain meaning" apologetics stupid, and more subtle apologetics an exercise in wishful thinking at best. Argue that it's silly to base your life on old stories recorded by jumped-up goatherders, no matter how they're translated. Argue that so-called Biblical literalism contradicts clear scientific evidence. But don't base your arguments on the precise correctness of a particular translation unless your opponent is doing the same -- then they just get to walk off feeling smug and thinking atheists are idiots.

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

I stay away from debates of scripture. Because it's all bunk. What's the point?

Believers will interpret it however they choose or however they are told to understand it.

We continue to pray for all of you. God's truth will eventually be verified for you, though I hope you will realize it before you die.

Well, now, you see, Petersen, my religious beliefs are quite different from yours, and I don't think your pronouncements have any validity. Could you please explain why I'm wrong, and you're right? In other words, why there's any more reason to pay attention to you than to anyone else? 'Cuz so far you haven't offered any reason except for "I really really really really believe this, therefore I'm right".

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

I stay away from debates of scripture. Because it's all bunk. What's the point?

This is probably a wise philosophy. It's generally a bad idea for the non-religious to debate scripture with fundies for the same reason it's pretty silly of fundies to try to debate science with scientists -- if you pit your amateur knowledge against somebody who focuses their whole life on studying the details of a particular topic, you will probably lose. It's usually much more effective to question their basic premises than to accept these premises as read and debate the specifics of their interpretations.

There's exceptions to this of course, but I think it's a pretty good guideline.

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Thanks for the comedic text 'Evolution battle heats up'. Sometimes I can get so tickled by the 'must be santa' explanation evoked whenever direct understanding is not forthcoming, or immediate. But it is infuriating when these guys dishonestly represent that evilutionists are in retreat, or on their 'last legs'..pathetic.

Moreover this article [to no surprise as it was the CC] ends with a great 2 liner.."The design evidence is easily strong enough to point to who the designer is. The only designer that gets through the scientific sieve is the God of the Bible."
So to the majority [all over the world] of you 'deists out there I say your out of luck get with the program, choose the RIGHT GOD!' LOL.

Perhaps this is what disurbs me most. Anyone in any religion should find it disturbing, as a 'wake up call' that all other religions[also read tribes] claim to have the corrected Truth creation myth included. Even if one wanted to 'find God' the question should be so overwhelming; chosing between equally silly sets of axioms from around the world that the only end to resign to atheism the only nontribal conclusion..

SO I end humming as often I do when reading your pages, PZ, the christmas song 'MBS'

By Must Be Santa (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

You know, there's a handy greasemonkey script that'll let all those of you who'd like to ignore Jason do so easily...

(After you install it, reload this page and select the "Kill" link next to his name, and he's gone from your view of the comment threads!)

It works on Panda's thumb and a few other blogs too.

Yes. Skip the scripture and get right to the meat of the matter. Why do they believe what they believe.

I truly do believe for some Christians (mostly conservative fudamentalist and/or evangelical Protestants?) the homosexuality issue is primarly a projection of personal or familial epxerience. They fear self-control is insufficient protection against temptation, hence the government must restrict or remove said temptation. Furthermore, they conflate their own struggles to societal struggles -- as if all of humanity is battling the same set of urges or desires from which they must be protected.

On a related note, 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography. http://www.christianpost.com/pages/print.htm?aid=23609

If a fundie insists that we should believe the Earth and all its life was created in six literal days approximately 6,000 years ago, and not try to interpret it as allegorical or metaphorical because if we do everything else in the Bible is not true--it follows that we should believe that pi = 3. If pi does not equal 3, there is no need for salvation. But if the fundie says that we should not believe pi = 3, isn't that being hypocritical?

Yeah, we have creationist types in Canada. But they don't have the same level of influence as in the US. In part this is because there are simply less per capita of them. Fewer Canadians are religious than Americans, and fewer of the religious follow Biblical literalist creeds

I want a t-shirt that says "Designed by evolution". :)

I don't know how we could both have read that original thread and come to apparently completely opposite conclusions about the progress of the argument about striped goats.

I do, and you illustrate it further in your comments, which I won't waste further time responding to.

By truth machine (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

I do, and you illustrate it further in your comments, which I won't waste further time responding to.

Uh, okay. Screw you too, I guess. That is, sorry for the misunderstanding and causing you inadvertent offense and all. But if you're going to treat someone who's assertively atheist and scientifically minded with as much contempt as you would a creationist or creationist-enabler simply because we seem to have a disagreement about a particular line of argument, then I see no reason to feel bad about my own actions.

I'm actually kind of upset about this. As a liberal and a scientist myself, I've commented sporadically on Pharyngula and some liberal political blogs for a while, and I don't think I've ever been treated like this before by someone I would have presumed to be an ally.

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

I just love reading these "scoops" in hindsight. The 40D has proven to be one hell of a product. Unless you're hung up on the fact it is not full frame, this camera is almost a perfect value. More rugged than the XTi, not as expensive as the 5D, and a nice step up from the 30D.