Abusing Science

Number 3 of a series

This series is inspired by Philip Kitcher’s book of the same name.

Your grandfather’s creationist was a Bible-thumping absolutist: everything in the Bible was as true as the sun coming up in the morning. The universe and this planet plus everything on it were created by a supernatural being over the span of six days.

That didn’t sell after a while. Modern science came aboard like a hammer, demonstrating that accommodation for creationism in public schools was an extra-legal imposition of religious dogma. Enter the new creationists about 30 years ago. Unlike Carl Baugh and preacher Don Patton, both from Texas, these creationists sport real college degrees, Ph.D. degrees even, and some work at real institutes of higher learning and do basic research. And they do not publicly profess biblical inerrancy. However, their abuse of science is no less egregious.

The Discovery Institute (DI) is the center for promoting the new creationism in the United States. Their Center for Science and Culture (CSC) hosts a blog site titled Evolution News, where can be found daily Intelligent Design propaganda and exhibitions of the abuse of science. Here is a recent posting:

Gecko, Fairyfly, Manta Ray: Animals Push the Limits of the Possible

December 14, 2018, 4:12 AM
I’m going to pass by the fairyfly and the rest and concentrate on the Gecko, which is enough of a story. Here’s a sample:

But adhesion is not the only trick for these lizards popularized in car insurance commercials. Geckos can also walk on water! Believe it or not, geckos are among the few animals (including basilisk lizards and grebes) that can skitter across the surface of water without sinking. Scientists at the University of Oxford filmed them in slow motion to see how they do it.

That is for starters. The author (not identified) works toward the argument that something has endeavored to give geckos this remarkable ability, and there may be an intelligent cause in the background.

Watch the video from The Conversation, where Jasmine Nirody from the Rockefeller University in New York describes how her team figured out the unique way geckos solve this problem.

Yes, read the posting and watch the video. Here comes the message:

The two-minute clip shows several “superpowers” of the gecko beyond climbing walls and walking on water. Geckos are shown gliding through the air, landing upright like a cat, and inverting under objects while running at full speed. Show this video to your kids — that is, if you are prepared to have to buy a gecko for the holidays to satisfy their pleadings afterward. Indulge their curiosity about animals with superpowers while you can, because it might inspire them to become design scientists.

This Evolution News posting takes the reader through some basic background and into a glimpse at cutting-edge science before dropping in a conclusion unworthy of consideration. Fostered by the new creationists, abuse of science continues without letup.

Abusing Science

Number 2 of a series

This series is inspired by Philip Kitcher’s book of the same name.

Back when Kitcher published this book, creationists were of the worst kind. They wanted to convince people that the story of Genesis was true, the universe and all life forms were created by the God of Abraham in the course of six days about 6000 years ago. Furthermore, the story of Noah and a worldwide flood was for them a part of world history. It was tough sledding.

Modern science, starting around 200 years ago, began to undercut these fables. The science of geology pointed to an ancient Earth. Darwin’s explanation of biological evolution abolished the human species’ special place among living things, and studies of radioactive elements in the earth’s crust pointed to a planet over four billion years old. Finally modern cosmology accounted for the formation of the universe over 13 billion years ago—and by natural causes.

In a landmark court case, Federal Judge William Overton ruled in an Arkansas case in 1982 that “creation science,” as creationists then called their theories, is not science. Rather, it is religious-based conjecture. Subsequent attempts to get around this finding terminated in a subsequent loss in Louisiana in a case termed Edwards v. Aguilard. A proposal to require teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution was found to be religiously motivated and in violation of the Constitution.

The response from the fundamentalist religious community was to usurp the Young Earth Creationists with a new breed of ecclesiastical scientists and a fresh approach. These creationists were, and still are, real scientists with valid Ph.D. degrees in related fields, and they largely avoided mention of biblical stories about the age of the earth and the God of Abraham. They revived William Paley‘s concept of Intelligent Design. They insist that the complexity of modern life forms is evidence of a higher intellect behind the world we see today. In future installments I will touch on the activities and the writings of the various individuals involved, but to get things going I will delve into something recent.

The organization in this country that most prominently advocates for Intelligent Design is the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle. More specifically, the DI’s Center for Science and Culture is the focus for ID, and they host a blog site titled Evolution News.

A principal talking point used to support ID is the source of novel information. The contention is that for novel life forms to develop, some additional information must be supplied. For illustration purposes, imagine an animal like a fish. It is generally agreed that the ancestors of present day land animals, lizards, for example, were fish. The proponents of ID will point out that fish have no legs, and for land animals to walk around, given that lizards evolved from fish, then new information about legs had to be supplied from somewhere. Or from somebody. Novel information cannot come out of thin air. There must be a supreme intellect behind the development of land animals with legs.

Novel information, and information in general, is a large part of ongoing arguments for Intelligent Design. The CSC person charged with developing and supporting this connection between is mathematician William Dembski. To illustrate how far the modern creationists buy into the relevance of Dembski’s work, he has been dubbed to be the “Isaac Newton of information theory.”

William Dembski is the Isaac Newton of information theory, and since this is the Age of Information, that makes Dembski one of the most important thinkers of our time. His “law of conservation of information” represents a revolutionary breakthrough. In Intelligent Design Dembski explains the meaning and the significance of his discoveries with such clarity that the general public can readily grasp them.He convincingly diagnoses our present confusions about the relationship between science and theology and offers a promising alternative.

[Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin—from the dust jacket of Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1999.]

Being compared to Isaac Newton is a dab of adulation that Dembski has never disavowed.

So we have it. Information theory continues to crop up in items aimed at supporting Intelligent Design, and that brings us to this:

Bacteriophages, Budding Yeast, and Behe’s Vindication

Ann Gauger is a senior research scientist at Biologic Institute. Her work uses molecular genetics and genomic engineering to study the origin, organization and operation of metabolic pathways. She received a BS in biology from MIT, and a PhD in developmental biology from the University of Washington, where she studied cell adhesion molecules involved in Drosophila embryogenesis. As a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard she cloned and characterized the Drosophila kinesin light chain. Her research has been published in NatureDevelopment, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.”

Specified complexity is an argument proposed by Dembski and used by him in his works promoting intelligent design. According to Dembski, the concept is intended to formalize a property that singles out patterns that are both specified and complex. Dembski states that specified complexity is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent, a central tenet to intelligent design and which Dembski argues for in opposition to modern evolutionary theory. The concept of specified complexity is widely regarded as mathematically unsound and has not been the basis for further independent work in information theory, complexity theory, or biology. Specified complexity is one of the two main arguments used by intelligent design proponents, the other being irreducible complexity.
Abuse of science did not end with demise of the Young Earth Creationists. This series will continue to turn over such cases until I run out of ink.

Abusing Science

First of a series

Philip Kitcher published the book in 1982, and a friend at work recommended I get a copy. I will do a review later, but for now it’s going to serve as the title for a series related to the abuse of science. I will get started with the matter of a sponsored posting that keeps showing up on my Facebook timeline. It’s from the Center for Science and Culture, a division of the Discovery Institute, headquartered in Seattle. The pertinent text goes as follows:

An artificial and oppressive wall separates the realms of faith and science, a wall that needs to be demolished.

That’s the provocative thesis of the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith, to be held just two months from now, January 18-19, 2019. Join philosopher of science Stephen Meyer, radio host and bestselling author Eric Metaxas, theologian and Privileged Planet author Jay Richards, and Rice University synthetic organic chemist James Tour as we breach the fabled wall.

[Links added]

The Facebook posting includes a link to a video, and you should take some time to view it. Here is the link:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWdihTt3tLM

Pertinent screen shots give an idea as to the message. Some disturbing findings are revealed.

Fifty-five percent of American adults believe science and religion are in conflict. (Surprise, surprise!)

Nearly a quarter of young adults from a Christian background think Christianity is anti-science.

Among college freshmen, a significant percentage believe the universe arose by chance.

Let’s take a deep look at these findings.

First, science and religion are in conflict. Science is a way of knowing that involves looking at what’s going on in the natural world and coming up with explanations that fit the findings. Religion answers questions by making stuff up. It cannot be put more straightforward than that.

Second, Christianity is anti-science to the extent that many Christians support their beliefs by denying established science.

Third, good for those freshmen. The universe did not arise by means of an intelligent being intent on performing an experiment with natural law. In that sense, the universe did arise by chance.

So what’s the point of this Science and Faith conference in Dallas?

The CSC has a history, going back more than 20 years, of failed attempts at undermining scientific explanations for the existence of life and even the universe. The obvious intent is to replace religious explanations, their own, for explanations based on fact. Phillip Johnson, a significant catalyst for the revival of the Intelligent Design argument, is the principle author of the Wedge Strategy:

The Wedge Strategy is a creationist political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the pseudoscientific intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document. Its goal is to change American culture by shaping public policy to reflect politically conservative fundamentalist evangelical Protestant values. The wedge metaphor is attributed to Phillip E. Johnson and depicts a metal wedge splitting a log.

That the CSC has not been successful in its goals after more than 20 years speaks not so much for the skepticism of the American public as for the creationists’ delusional nature. They keep putting forward arguments that are demonstrably wrong. Thirteen years ago the push to promote Intelligent Design failed spectacularly when the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district attempted to insert the creationist text Of Pandas and People into the science curriculum.

Come forward to 2019, and the CSC people will be having another go at it. The effort appears to be headed up by Stephen C. Meyer, a founder of the CSC. Here is what he has to say (from the video):

Are science and faith incompatible? No! Just the opposite. Science is providing support for faith.

That has to be about the most profoundly stupid statement to ever show up on my view screen. Scientific finds provide no support for the existence of the supernatural, let alone supernatural explanations for life and the creation of the universe. The fact of the matter is that science has worked 500 years at undermining the basic tenets of religious supposition. That would be starting with the age of the earth right on through the supposed miracle of the Shroud of Turin. Additional examples on request.

The CSC posting announces others who will be presenting at the conference. Will I attend and do a review? Only if I can get a pass from Barbara Jean. May Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 8 in a Series

 

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

He analyzes the route by which we create gods.

Man, in his ignorance, supposed that all phenomena were produced by some intelligent powers, and with direct reference to him. To preserve friendly relations with these powers was, and still is, the object of all religions. Man knelt through fear and to implore assistance, or through gratitude for some favor which he supposed had been rendered. He endeavored by supplication to appease some being who, for some reason, had, as he believed, become enraged. The lightning and thunder terrified him. In the presence of the volcano he sank upon his knees. The great forests filled with wild and ferocious beasts, the monstrous serpents crawling in mysterious depths, the boundless sea, the flaming comets, the sinister eclipses, the awful calmness of the stars, and, more than all, the perpetual presence of death, convinced him that he was the sport and prey of unseen and malignant powers. The strange and frightful diseases to which he was subject, the freezings and burnings of fever, the contortions of epilepsy, the sudden palsies, the darkness of night, and the wild, terrible and fantastic dreams that filled his brain, satisfied him that he was haunted and pursued by countless spirits of evil. For some reason he supposed that these spirits differed in power—that they were not all alike malevolent—that the higher controlled the lower, and that his very existence depended upon gaining the assistance of the more powerful. For this purpose he resorted to prayer, to flattery, to worship and to sacrifice.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 204-214). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

When people began to employ science to understand the natural world, the usefulness of religion started to become not only absurd, but embarrassingly foolish.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 7 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

Ingersoll demonstrates additional proof that people have created their gods rather than the reverse.

Man has not only created all these gods, but he has created them out of the materials by which he has been surrounded. Generally he has modeled them after himself, and has given them hands, heads, feet, eyes, ears, and organs of speech. Each nation made its gods and devils speak its language not only, but put in their mouths the same mistakes in history, geography, astronomy, and in all matters of fact, generally made by the people. No god was ever in advance of the nation that created him.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 166-169). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

It brings to mind an old joke. Here is my version:

Herbie was born and grew up in Queens, more properly Queens Borough, New York. His friend Nathan from time to time pestered Herbie with wacky ideas. One day Nathan came in all excited.

“Herbie,” he exclaimed. You have got to come to see this woman I met yesterday. Her name is Miss Yarna, and she tells me fantastic things. She tells me things about myself that only I know.”

Herbie was nonplussed. He told Nathan that business was fake and nonsense. But Nathan was persistent. “Herbie, she can put you in contact with your grandmother, your Bubbe.”

Herbie figured he needed to get Nathan clued up, so he went along with him to visit Miss Yarna. Miss Yarna was properly impressive. She wore a long, flowing gown, and her hair was stacked almost to the ceiling. Nathan introduced Herbie, and he told Miss Yarna that Herbie wanted to communicate with his Bubbe, who had been dead five years.

Miss Yarna told the two she would enter a trance and would speak to them in Bubbe’s voice. She closed her eyes and rocked back and forth. Finally she began to speak. She reminded Herbie how she told him to always eat his vegetables and to not run around with fast women. And much more. Finally Bubbe asked Herbie if he had a question he wanted her to answer.

Herbie, obviously entranced, thought for a moment and then spoke. “Bubbe, when did you learn to speak English?”

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 22 of a continuing series

They really do, readers. These wacko right wing religious fanatics say the darndest things. In that light, here is some old news:

Roy Moore says ‘we’ve asked for’ shootings and killings by turning away from God

As I mentioned, that was last year, but it is no less worth reminiscing about. It serves as a notice to how close American society has come to the brink. Not clear? Here is a bit of analysis.

As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Judge Moore repeatedly broke the law by using the power of his office to promote religion at public expense. After being overruled by the United States Supreme Court and after defying the Court’s order, Judge Moore was removed from office, twice. His second term in office came about when Alabama citizens chose personal preference over the rule of law and elected the disgraced judge back to his previous position. There is more.

Out of office, Judge Moore saw a new opening. President Donald Trump nominated his staunch supporter Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be Attorney General of the United States. After a contentious confirmation process, Senator Sessions obtained the appointment. Then he fell immediately into President Trump’s disfavor owing to his preference of the rule of law over Mr. Trump’s desire to rule by decree.

Anyhow, that left open a Senate seat in Alabama, and Judge Moore made a run for it. Fortunately for the country, Judge Moore’s fondness for young girls proved to be enough to bring Alabama voters to elect Judge Moore’s Democratic opponent to the Senate, shaving the Republican majority in the Senate by one more count.

Let’s double the irony. Donald Trump subsequently fired Jeff Sessions, so now the once Republican Senator from Alabama is now a private citizen. I am sure Donald Trump never saw this coming or possibly did not care.

Anyhow, this nation narrowly dodged a bullet, in the form of a carbon life form who believes removing a fictional character from public adulation had the direct result of mass killings in the United States. To which thinking I would respond, really? Let’s take a look at what we lose by shunning this bit of biblical fiction. Start with this:

Judges 19:29 New International Version (NIV)

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

But that is not strictly speaking mass murder. This is:

1 Samuel 15:3 King James Version (KJV)

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

 This is how we avoid mass killings in this country? Never was “wacko” so well-defined.

Dying to Believe

Number 134 in a series

Hey! I’m quitting putting these out on Tuesdays. Tuesdays are going to get a different series starting this week. These Dying to Believe posts will be coming out whenever something along those lines pops up. Which are likely to be often.

I am told that God helps those who help themselves. Apparently Jesus feeds those who feed themselves:

South African pastor dies after 30 days fasting; wanted to beat Jesus Christ’s record

A pastor in South Africa who wanted to break the fasting record held by Jesus Christ ended up killing himself from hunger.

Published: Isaac Dachen

A popular pastor in South Africa, Alfred Ndlovu, took the temptation of competing with God too far when he decided to embark on a dry fasting that would break the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus Christ underwent, when he died after just 30 days into the programme.

This seems to be old news. Maybe 2000 years old. But hey, people, don’t go believing stuff your read in the Bible. That book is filled with stories of animals that can talk, dead people coming back to life and people turning wine into water. Or was it water into wine? Doesn’t matter. It’s a bunch of foolishness, and you don’t want to be pulling down a Darwin Award for killing yourself through false belief. Take it from me and have a nice bowl of multi-grain cereal with skim milk for breakfast, and have a glass of orange juice on the side. I won’t guarantee you will live forever, but you might maked through the remainder of the month.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Lotz Wife

A Recurring Appearance—Number 4

This is a bunch to unload, but here’s a start, from The Intellectualist:

Billy Graham’s Daughter: We Deserve To Be Hit With A Nuclear Strike

Evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, said God will punish America’s immorality with a nuclear strike.

Lotz says she believes severe judgment is coming and has partly begun. “And I’m talking about something like a nuclear strike, an earthquake that splits us in two, an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack that devastates our electrical grid. Something major that would be a game-changer for America, because we are so defiant and rebellious and idolatrous and immoral, and we know better.”

I don’t know about you, but I am glad to receive the heads up.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 6 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

Ingersoll discusses the perceived influence of Jehovah and the devil with respect to human welfare. It is claimed that God has people’s best interest at heart, but his dealing with Adam and Eve is one of suppression and retribution, while the devil rewards the pair with knowledge, freedom, and advancement. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible. Ingersoll did.

The account shows, however, that the gods dreaded education and knowledge then just as they do now. The church still faithfully guards the dangerous tree of knowledge, and has exerted in all ages her utmost power to keep mankind from eating the fruit thereof. The priests have never ceased repeating the old falsehood and the old threat: “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” From every pulpit comes the same cry, born of the same fear: “Lest they eat and become as gods, knowing good and evil.” For this reason, religion hates science, faith detests reason, theology is the sworn enemy of philosophy, and the church with its flaming sword still guards the hated tree, and like its supposed founder, curses to the lowest depths the brave thinkers who eat and become as gods.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 150-156). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

He has a keen sense for picking out absurdities that should be obvious to the most casual of readers yet remain hidden in plane sight to the faithful. May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 5 in a Series

Continuing a review of Robert Ingersoll’s collected works

His analysis of the Bible as the supposed work of an overarching intellect is keenly observant.

All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the Bible is simply and purely of human invention—of barbarian invention—is to read it Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the cowled form of superstition—then read the Holy Bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 112-116). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

A person would have to wonder how it would be possible to take advice from the Bible after reading it while leaving behind the prejudice from conviction. May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 4 in a Series

Robert Ingersoll, writing in the 19th century,  was a notorious critic of the Bible, raising criticism that portended major issues that confront us today. From The Works of Robert Ingersoll:

The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious. This is the book to be read in schools in order to make our children loving, kind and gentle! This is the book to be recognized in our Constitution as the source of all authority and justice!

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 89-91). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

Dying to Believe

Number 132 in a series

No longer relegated to a Tuesday schedule, these will be posted whenever something of interest bubbles up, such as this from The New York Times:

Mr. Pathak said Mr. Chau, believed to be 26 or 27 and from Washington State, may have been trying to convert the islanders to Christianity. Right before he left in his kayak, Mr. Chau gave the fishermen a long note in case he did not come back. In it, police officials said, he had written that Jesus had bestowed him with the strength to go to the most forbidden places on Earth.
Apparently Jesus has spoken, with prejudice.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 3 in a Series

Robert Ingersoll employed considerable energy picking apart the absurdity of religious faith. An example from The Works of Robert Ingersoll:

Few nations have been so poor as to have but one god. Gods were made so easily, and the raw material cost so little, that generally the god market was fairly glutted, and heaven crammed with these phantoms. These gods not only attended to the skies, but were supposed to interfere in all the affairs of men. They presided over everybody and everything. They attended to every department. All was supposed to be under their immediate control. Nothing was too small—nothing too large; the falling of sparrows and the motions of the planets were alike attended to by these industrious and observing deities. From their starry thrones they frequently came to the earth for the purpose of imparting information to man. It is related of one that he came amid thunderings and lightnings in order to tell the people that they should not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. Some left their shining abodes to tell women that they should, or should not, have children, to inform a priest how to cut and wear his apron, and to give directions as to the proper manner of cleaning the intestines of a bird.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 50-58). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

This series will continue to explore comments from this 19th century speaker. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

People Unclear

This is number 64 of a series

Aha! Caught you. Here’s another person unclear on some of the very basics:

Ohio GOP Leader Blasted For Calling Wildfires ‘God’s Punishment To Liberal California’

“California has been overtaken by liberals who have taxed and over-regulated the state,” said Dave Johnson, chair of the Columbiana County GOP.

Yes, you heard it correctly. A person who is not only allowed to use sharp objects and to operate machinery, also to vote and to hold elective office in this 21st century country, is solidly convinced of the reality of a non-material entity concocted by some Bronze Age tribal members. Not only that, but that this entity is taking sides in present day politics and is whimsically punishing one side of the political divide by invoking fire and brimstone, minus the brimstone I guess.

But you missed the best part. This conjured-up being, having been invested by its creator with the power to poof the Earth and the Universe into existence, has to resort to setting a few trees ablaze and allowing nature to take its course. I mean, a mischievous 14-year-old could have accomplished the same thing, and, furthermore, the 14-year-old could be a liberal. Does Dave Johnson have a sense of humor or what? Fortunately he is not in a position that would allow his fantasies to wreak havoc on the saner half.

What am I saying? This guy is county chairman of a major political party. That really is too close for comfort. May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

Number 2 in a Series

The first volume of The Works of Robert Ingersoll is titled “Lectures.” The first of these dissects “The Gods: An Honest God is the Noblest Work of Man.” Ingersoll stands aghast at how little the gods know about the realm they are credited with creating.

These gods did not even know the shape of the worlds they had created, but supposed them perfectly flat Some thought the day could be lengthened by stopping the sun, that the blowing of horns could throw down the walls of a city, and all knew so little of the real nature of the people they had created, that they commanded the people to love them. Some were so ignorant as to suppose that man could believe just as he might desire, or as they might command, and that to be governed by observation, reason, and experience was a most foul and damning sin. None of these gods could give a true account of the creation of this little earth. All were wofully deficient in geology and astronomy. As a rule, they were most miserable legislators, and as executives, they were far inferior to the average of American presidents.

Ingersoll, Robert Green. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (Kindle Locations 40-46). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

Ingersoll concludes, as does any honest person, that God was created by man and suffers all of man’s shortcomings.

Dying to Believe

Number 131 in a series

On 19 April 1993 death came to Texas in a most gruesome manner. Here’s the story:

Fifty-one days after the siege began, the Davidians were told via loudspeaker they were under arrest and to exit the compound and that gas was going to be used. Minutes later, tanks are used to breach the walls and inject the gas. Six hours after the first breach, at about noon, the compound begins burning. Nine Davidians flee the compound and are arrested. More than 70 Davidians die in the fire, including 17 children. Koresh and others close to him died of gun shots fired at close range.

Federal agents had previously planted listening devices in the building, and recordings reveal plans and activities to pour (possibly) gasoline and to torch the compound. Indications are that executions by gunfire ended the lives of leader Vernon Howell and others. Howell had promised to release children if he were allowed to publicize his views. The wish was granted, but Howell reneged and only some of the children were allowed to leave. Twenty-three died in the fire.

Deconstructing Robert Ingersoll

First in a Series

Robert Green Ingersoll was an American politician and orator of the 19th century, “noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism.” A collection of selected speeches is available in Kindle edition from Amazon for $2.99. This series will excerpt critical and noteworthy quotes, sometimes with analysis. Comment is invited.

The book is 4079 pages, so this series should run for several years, even if I post one quote a day. The opening paragraph is worth a view:

EACH nation has created a god, and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own. All these gods demanded praise, flattery, and worship. Most of them were pleased with sacrifice, and the smell of innocent blood has ever been considered a divine perfume. All these gods have insisted upon having a vast number of priests, and the priests have always insisted upon being supported by the people, and the principal business of these priests has been to boast about their god, and to insist that he could easily vanquish all the other gods put together.
Ingersoll, Robert. The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, (Complete 12 Volumes) (First Page) Kindle Edition.

This is from Volume I, Lectures. It “is dedicated for the love of God and the use of man.”

Ingersoll’s insight is piercing, and his style strikes the heart of the disgrace that is religion. In another era he would have been burned at stake, after first being mistreated. Even a casual reading of his comments gives cause to acknowledge their truth. There is much more to come. Keep reading.

People Unclear

This is number 63 of a series

Everybody hold up for a second. Somebody didn’t get the memo. Let me do a quick check. Yes, here he is. It’s Matt Shea, representing Washington’s 4th District:

I believe in limiting government and empowering the free enterprise system so that the people of Washington state can retain and create private sector jobs. Allowing the economy to grow, increasing our tax base, is what should fund our state budget – NOT tax increases. The Freedom Agenda, the most successful slate of conservative legislation in Washington state, is based on defending the Constitution, private property rights, gun ownership, veterans, and the sanctity of human life, while promoting lower taxes, less government and more freedom.

Hold on. That’s not all. Mr. Shea of the great state of Washington has more to say:

Biblical Basis for War

  1. God is a warrior.
  2. When is the time for war? When God says it’s time…Prayer Council.
  3. Fight to win so you don’t have to fight again.

And more, including some very interesting points:

c. Make an offer of peace before declaring war.

[Leading to…]

iii. If they yield – must pay share of work or taxes.

iv. If they do not yield – kill all males.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but something tugs at me that says this is going beyond any amount of reason. But wait. Haven’t we seen this before?

12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:

13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

Yeah. That explains a lot. Representative Matt Shea has been reading the Bible again. Apparently he did not get the memo.

And what a relief is to learn that Matt Shea is not allowed to handle sharp object, or to operate heavy machinery. Or to vote. But then, I’ve been wrong before.

People Unclear

This is number 62 of a series

As mentioned, I tune in to a number of off-kilter sources. Some are mines rich in absurdity. Here is one:

Dr. Robert Jeffress <drrobertjeffress@ptv.org>
To: jf_blanton@yahoo.com

Defeat Satan’s Destructive Plan

Look around you … read the headlines …

It will become clear that 1 Peter 5:8 is as relevant today as it was when Peter wrote it nearly 2,000 years ago to the Christians of the day who were suffering from religious persecution:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

This world in general — and our individual lives in particular — frequently appear out of control … that is no accident.

Satan is on the prowl.

The spiritual attack on America, our beloved country, is greater than we have ever witnessed in our lifetime.

But no matter what is happening in your life right now … and in the culture at large — even when it appears that evil is winning over good you have the upper hand in this spiritual war.

Against God’s weaponry, your Enemy doesn’t have a prayer.

That’s an email from Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. The message is obviously intended for members of the congregation, and one would like to believe this represents a vanishing section of American society. One would hope for too much. The truth is, this manner of codswallop goes down with multi-millions of the voting public. There are multitudes out there who remain unclear on some of the basics.

To put a point on it, Jeffress and his kind believe there is an actually being called Satan with all the attributes implied here. That would be Satan is a creature existing not only in peoples imaginations but in the known universe. And here lies the scary part. People who believe in this work with sharp objects and operate heavy machinery. They also vote. When you go to the polls in support of better public education, these people push for teaching that Moses was a real person and that this planet is only about 6000 years old.

That in mind, some of Pastor Jeffress’ comments bear examination. He states without elaboration, “The spiritual attack on America, our beloved country, is greater than we have ever witnessed in our lifetime.” We are left to imagine what is meant by that.

Here is something that warrants special attention:

But no matter what is happening in your life right now … and in the culture at large — even when it appears that evil is winning over good you have the upper hand in this spiritual war.

“Evil is winning.” It could be Pastor Jeffress knows of which he speaks. We have proof in the form of his favorite political leader. Here is something from The Dallas Observer:

“Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out when you realize he is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative judiciary in history, and that includes either Bush or Ronald Reagan. I think that is why evangelicals remain committed to this president and they are not going to turn away from him soon,” Jeffress told Fox News Monday night after the meeting. “We have to understand these are still allegations against the president, so I’m not going to judge the president on these things. But even if they were true, some of these allegations, I mean, obviously, we don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush-money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies.”

Allow me to illustrate:

And that is about all I have to say about evangelical Christian values for today. And I am not even going to mention Sean Hannity. Oops! I already did.

In fairness to Pastor Jeffress, the email I received is, at the base, a solicitation for money.

It would also be my pleasure to send you just the powerful book, The Divine Defense, and the “Equipped for Battle” brochure with my thanks for your generous tax-deductible donation.

And that makes it all perfectly understandable. Hopefully we are all clear on that point.

Dying to Believe

Number 130 in a series

Snake handling, living off air, sweat lodge cures, alternative medicine, faith healing—there are any number of ways profound stupidity can lead to untimely death. I continue today with another story from Christian Science:

Amy Hermanson, 7, of Sarasota, Fla., took sick on Sept. 22, 1986. A week later, after her parents had returned from a Christian Science conference on healing in Indianapolis, her condition had worsened. The authorities learned of her condition and hastily scheduled an abuse hearing for the next day. Amy, who remained at home, died during the hearing; the cause of death was determined to be diabetes. Her parents, William and Christine Hermanson, were convicted of manslaughter; their conviction is being appealed.

Next Tuesday, an even more grim story, this one close to home.