Bat Shit Crazy

Tenth of a series

It’s a good thing none of that stuff is still going around:

This West Virginia school district has weekly Bible classes. A kindergartner is suing.

March 22

A kindergartner is battling county officials in federal court over Bible classes in public school.

In a federal lawsuit filed in January, Jane Doe, a pseudonymous plaintiff who is the mother of Mercer County, W.Va., kindergartner Jamie Doe, challenged the county’s “Bible in the Schools” program, saying it was unconstitutional.

“This program advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

The story, featured in The Washington Post yesterday, further describes idiotic themes promoted by the Mercer Counter public school system. According to the Post report, a lesson contained the following language: “imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time.” It continued: “So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur!” Additionally: “He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!”

Yes, this public school is cool with the idea of passing on to students the false tale of Adam and Eve from the biblical book of Genesis. Additionally these public servants want to tell students that, contrary to known facts, people and dinosaurs existed contemporaneously. An item appearing on the Patheos blog provides additional detail:

Bible indoctrination classes have been taught in Mercer County Schools for more than 75 years. Between 1939 and 1985, the bible classes were designed, financed, administered and staffed by a small group of Mercer County citizens. Following complaints by parents of eight students in 1985, the Mercer County schools took over the instruction in 1986, claiming to follow nine guidelines from the Office of the Attorney General.

Financing is provided by the “Bluefield Bible Study Fund, Inc.,” which operates a fund to pay bible teachers to instruct about 4,000 students. Bible teachers must follow lesson plans almost without deviation. There are 70 to 90 visuals used in each lesson. Lessons have included images of Jesus being tortured, nailed to the cross, and ascending into heaven.

Public schools can teach a host of ideas, but the idea of a person ascending into the sky while people look on is the far side of truth. Where did all this start? Where is it going to end? Are chemistry students going to learn everything is composed of four basic elements—fire, water, earth, and air? Will history classes get into the details of the lost city of Atlantis? Will science classes describe how the sun goes around the Earth? The Post item paints a dismal picture:

One mother in Mercer County said her child was indeed bullied for not attending the Bible classes. In fact, the bullying got so bad that Elizabeth Deal took her daughter out of the county school system, she said.

“I think this is definitely an outright gray area, if not outright illegal,” Deal said.

The school district’s motion also pointed out that the classes, which are paid for by a nonprofit organization, receive no public funding.

“The point of the course is to teach history and literature … a cultural enrichment objective,” said Hiram S. Sasser, a lawyer representing Mercer County Public Schools who works for the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based nonprofit focused on religious freedom. “To make sure that students obviously have the social currency to interpret Western literature.”

“The point of the course is to teach history and literature … a cultural enrichment objective.” Really? When did teaching history turn into teaching fables as true? Are students to be left believing Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan were true-to-life and their exploits real? Is Washington Irving‘s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to be elevated to the status of a historical narrative? When did “cultural enrichment” become indoctrination? At what point do we need to stand back and call this what it is, Bat Shit Crazy?

[Full disclosure: I am a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.]

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

It’s not always Jesus who comes to tell us it’s time to turn out the lights:

According to the Minnesota statute “no person over two months old may be allowed to enroll or remain enrolled in any elementary school or secondary school or child care facility” until the person has submitted documentation of compliance with compulsory immunization requirements.

Kayla Dee, a Rochester mother of three, has one child enrolled at Jefferson Elementary.

“My religious beliefs are if you get sick with something it’s part of your plan in life,” said Dee. “So why get the vaccinations to try to prevent it. Those diseases are going to suck if you get them, but if you live through them great. If you don’t that’s your plan in life. Also medically it’s against my beliefs because who really knows what’s in these vaccinations?”

Dee said she will home school her kids if fighting the law doesn’t work.  She said she has lost friends since her kids aren’t vaccinated.

Vaccination exemptions can be given for medical or religious reasons.

Yes, and death is Nature’s way of telling us to slow down.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Dumbest Kind

You wanna embrace the golden calf?
Ankle, and thigh, and upper half?
Here it is!
I mean, here it is!

That’s one way to get it started. Here’s another way.

 

Yes, that’s Texas’ own Congressman Joe Barton, representing District 6, just south of Dallas. He’s been in place for 32 years and appears to be well-entrenched. Something about Congressman Barton’s district favors his odd mentality, and he’s likely to stick around for awhile. The topic of the featured meme epitomizes his thinking:

At a 2009 hearing on renewable energy, Barton asserted that large-scale wind power projects could slow down God’s method for cooling the earth and possibly contribute to global warming.

 

A reference to the source comes from Newsweek, as reported 17 June 2010:

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.

Forget for a moment that Congressman Barton has just referenced a mythical being, what does the remainder of his statement say about the thoroughness of his thought processes? Some diagnosis:

  • Regarding wind being a finite resource, like many things, it is. Also, Barton made his relevant comment in a Congressional sub committee hearing. He started by citing university research that asserted wind is a finite resource, and he ended by summarizing in his own words, invoking God. Snopes has a complete discussion.
  • Regarding wind being a way of balancing heat, this is essentially true. It gets hot somewhere, the wind blows, heat gets distributed. Fact is, heat is what makes the wind blow.
  • Regarding less wind contributing to global warming, university research may or may not make this claim, but my own authority, being a certified physicist, is that less wind will amount to less global warming. The reasoning is this. If less wind causes heat to remain accumulated in a spot, the rise in  temperature at that spot will increase radiative loss of heat. The affected spot will lose more heat, while unaffected regions will not accumulate additional heat to make up the difference. Run the numbers for yourself.

Notably, Barton has also stated he does believe there is global warming, but he attributes this to natural causes. For Joe Barton, natural causes are documented in the Bible:

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

Barton then cited the biblical Great Flood as an example of climate change not caused by man.

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Hint: Congressman Barton receives considerable campaign support from the petroleum industry. A video uploaded to YouTube on 25 March 2009 elaborates on his thinking. People, he says, should be prepared to adapt to global warming as they have adapted to climate change in the past. He proposes we cease useless attempts to forestall efforts at ameliorating non-existent human causes and devote our immediate attention to accommodating the inevitable.

Congressman Barton is likely correct in thinking we will not be able fix global warming in time to avoid its impact on our lives. In his talk, presented in the video, he does not specify any steps we need to take to accommodate global warming. Among steps he fails to address is the need to protect coastal areas from the rise in sea level, already being observed. Miami, Florida, is a city currently dealing with sea level rise, and its projected cost to mitigate the problem is impressive:

From his sunny corner office on the sixth floor of Miami Beach City Hall, the engineer has spent the past two and a half years working on one of the hardest jobs in the country: trying to keep this city of 90,000 above water.

This is, of course, Miami Beach, which is strictly not Miami. I visited the area a few weeks ago and can attest the city is situated on a barrier island, separated from Miami and the mainland by a lagoon. These barrier islands exist all along the east and Gulf coasts, from New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas. They are not now and never have been permanent, being continually obliterated and reformed by wave action over cycles that last in the order of a thousand years. It was foolish for people to build facilities on these islands and expect them to be permanent.

Miami is on the mainland, on the coast of a state whose highest point is around 300 feet above sea level. It would not take much of a rise in sea level to erase much of Florida’s present coast line. Is this the kind of global warming problem Congressman Barton expects us to accommodate as though it were a hot summer day? The dumbness is strong in this one, Master.

The Comfort Delusion

Continuing the discussion of creationist Ray Comfort

I previously reviewed creationist Ray Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. A lot of the book is about Christianity versus atheism, but it is front-loaded with an interesting chapter on creationism. Chapter One is titled “Creation Must Have a Creator,” and it gives the author ample space to expound on why creationism must be true, and biological evolution plus a host of other sciences must be false. In my review of the book I didn’t dig completely into Comfort’s argument against evolution, so I’m backtracking and picking up a few interesting points.

Start with Comfort’s take on transitional forms:

I’ve been looking into the issue for more than thirty years, and I have never seen a hint of genuine evidence of species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record. The theory stands or falls on the supposed links between species. Even if you came up with what you believe is evidence, time would prove it to be another hoax, as it has so often in the past.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 471-473). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

This is an ageless creationist ploy, and some analysis is due, starting with some discussion.

A “transitional life form” or a “transitional fossil” is one that lies between two others in a chain of evolution. The TV program Nova on PBS has an excellent series titled Becoming Human, and it’s available for view on the Internet with a PBS subscription. Here is a screen shot from Episode Two (of three):

From PBS Nova: Becoming Human, Episode 2

This graphic lays out a collection of fossils representing the sequence of evolution from ancient ape-like creatures to modern humans. Scientists consider these to be valid transitional fossils. In fact, a strict definition of a transitional fossil makes it practically impossible to find a fossil that is transitional between an ancient creature and me. If somebody were bring to me the fossil remains of an ancient humanoid and tell me this is a transitional fossil between an ancient ape-like creature and me, then it would be easy for me to discount any proof the scientist could offer. At the very least I could force the scientist to demonstrate this ancient creature is, in fact, part of the evolutionary chain leading to me. There is no way to verify this particular creature did not die without ever producing any offspring.

This is a narrow restriction on the definition. In reality, scientists do not require a direct line of descent for transitional fossils. They allow great latitude. It is sufficient, and reasonably so, to describe as transitional any fossil that demonstrates the type of development expected in an evolutionary chain. For example, the fossil called Lucy is exhibited as an early hominin species called Australopithecus afarensis. While Australopithecus afarensis has not been demonstrated to be ancestral to modern  humans, the fossil does give proof to the existence of creatures representative of the human chain of evolution.

Any creationist worth his salt will dispute this being evidence of ape-like human ancestry, and to earn his daily bread he would demand to see samples from a single line of  descent, with a sample representing every thousand years or less and stretching back three million years. Never going to happen.

Comfort doesn’t go that far in his book. He settles for something like this:

Evolutionists say that all the animals we have now were not as we see them. They were radically different. Dinosaurs, over millions of years, became birds, fish became lizards, dogs were something else, primates evolved into human beings, etc. So, when they tell you this, ask why there are no species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record. Why is there no evidence anywhere (in the billions of bones of dead animals) of any species becoming another species?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 517-520). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

What Comfort seems to be demanding is something scientists do not expect to exist:

Let’s look closely at Tiktaalik, which evolutionists believe is an example of a species-to-species transitional form. We will go to the experts at Berkley. In an article published back in May of 2006, they ask the question, “What has the head of a crocodile and the gills of a fish?” (Wait a minute. Are the experts saying they have found a “Crocafish”? Why then am I so mocked by evolutionists when I ask you to show me a “Crocaduck”?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 480-483). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

A woman I worked with years ago questioned me about transitional fossils. The discussion devolved to most recent common ancestor. I pointed out that somewhere in the distant past there was an animal that was ancestral to people and ducks. She asked me for the name of that animal. I rightly said that:

  1. That animal no longer exists.
  2. If I had one I would not be able to tell you the name, because nobody has identified this species.

Science produces any number of things that cannot be directly demonstrated, but that must be true. These things are based on other evidence and by reaching the most logical  conclusion. The existence of most recent common  ancestor is one of these truths. For Ray Comfort, and for a host of other dedicated creationists, nothing true can be demonstrated  that does not include Jesus:

So when we speak of absolutes, we are speaking of a different realm. Man is limited. God is not. In addition to having absolute knowledge, He is absolute perfection and absolute righteousness. And because of what He is, He makes absolute claims about right and wrong. This is what the Bible says of God’s omniscience and omnipresence:

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 346-348). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He cites Psalm 139:1-8. Then:

If all this is true, it is unspeakably consoling for the Christian, and extremely frightening for the atheist (the “unbeliever”). Fortunately, there is a way to find out if it is true. God is there in the room with you right now…He’s seen everything you have done (even if it was done in complete darkness). He has been a witness to everything you have thought, and you have greatly angered Him—whether you believe it or not. So, today, repent of your sins and trust the Savior, and you will come to know Him. Absolutely.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 354-357). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

 

This is what passes for argument with people like Ray Comfort. It’s small wonder scientists have issues.

A continued analysis of Ray Comfort’s book will be worthwhile. Look for future installments of this series.

Heart Of Dumbness

Second in a Series

First of all, we should all be careful to not take Ray Comfort much too seriously. Even seriously:

In 2006, Comfort recorded a segment for The Way of the Master‘s television show in which he argued that the banana was an “atheists’ nightmare”, arguing that it displayed many user-friendly features that were evidence of intelligent design. Comfort retracted the video upon learning that the banana is a result of artificial selection by humans, and that the wild banana is small and unpalatable.

An excerpt of this amazing video is captured on YouTube, if only to embarrass Ray Comfort.

All this did not prevent me from purchasing a copy of Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. In the previous post I promised a review, and here it is. It’s 160 pages in the hard copy, but I purchased the Kindle edition.

Comfort has published a basket full of titles, laudable in itself. One is Overcoming Panic Attacks, but the remainder seemed to be overtly religious. I’m thinking possibly the panic attack book may also be anchored in religion. He is an evangelical Christian, teaming up with actor Kirk Cameron to form and promote The Way of the Master.

A big thing with Comfort is creationism and its obverse, modern science, biological evolution, cosmology, and anything else that gets in the way of creationism. That’s the center of the first of seven chapters, and readers will forgive me if I bear down on that section and trip lightly through the remainder. Besides the chapters there are also a forward, a preface, an introduction, a conclusion, and an excellent section of notes, covering references made in the book.

The Introduction is by atheist Darrin Rasberry, who oddly cautions us to be kind and gentle. Rasberry derides modern and vocal atheists, and it’s no wonder that he later turns out to have converted to the faith. This isn’t mentioned in the book, giving the impression that even atheists don’t like atheists. Notably, the book came out in 2009, and the link to Rasberry’s conversion dates from  2011.

Early on Comfort portrays matching it up with atheists as a grand sport. In the Preface he gives a clue to what is to come:

Most who profess atheism aren’t really “atheists.” After a few moments chatting with them about the fact that every building is proof that there was a builder, and that creation therefore is proof that there is a Creator, many change their minds.

But then there’s the staunch atheist. This one is a challenge. He is the marlin of deep-sea fishing, and he doesn’t give up easily. As a fisher of men, I have found that this type of atheist is always ready for debate. He will take the bait, the hook, and any line you give him, and give you a run for your money.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 55-60). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

But on to creationism. It is unfortunate that Comfort hangs so much of his argument for Jesus on the failure of evolution. His experience with the banana gives a clue to the level of intellect he brings to the discussion. He ties atheism to evolution, and he strikes close to home here. Modern theories of biological evolution completely undermine a basic premise of the Bible. Comfort and others of his ilk buy deeply into the literal truth of the Bible. To defend their faith, they must demolish evolution, along with geology, cosmology, and other facets of modern science. The first paragraph sets the stage:

Atheists’ beliefs vary as much as atheists themselves. Still, atheists hold a fundamental belief that unifies them. An “atheist” believes that there is no God and that man came into being without any intelligent design. If there was no designer, then an atheist owes his existence to random chance, over millions or billions of years, of course. While some believers in evolution deny that evolution is a random process, if it’s not unplanned, then it’s planned. And if it is planned, then there is Someone doing the planning.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 125-128). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Readers are going to come back at me and say, “Dude, there are loads of Christians who accept evolution as true.” Put those Christians aside, dear reader, Comfort has.

By the second paragraph he has launched into the kind of argument that brought him so much ridicule:

As a fly on the wall, we are there when Adam takes his first breath. It is fortunate that, when his lungs drew in the air that surrounded him, the air was there. If there had been no air, he wouldn’t have been able to breathe and he would have instantly died. But for some reason it was there, presumably at 14.7 pounds per square inch.

But it’s more miraculous than the air just being there. It was fortunate the air was made up of 78.09 percent nitrogen and 20.95 percent oxygen—the exact mixture that his lungs and blood needed to survive.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 130-134). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to point out additional, miraculous, coincidences to illustrate why there must be a God who caused all this to happen and with a plan in mind. Wasn’t it nice that Adam just happened to have  lungs to breathe the oxygen. Wasn’t it nice that Eve came along about the same time so the Clan of Adam could populate the Earth. And wasn’t is fortunate that Eve just happened to have lungs so she did not die before Adam could put the move on her. Do I  have to explain what’s wrong with this? I hope not.

The foregoing is a preamble. It is a view into Ray Comfort’s intellectual processes that should disturb you. It is possible that I was unfortunate in spending my working  life in the company of people who think for a living. That in mind, it’s jarring when I encounter somebody like Comfort. This is not the kind of person who should be allowed to handle sharp objects. Additional  examples illustrate:

It was also an amazing coincidence that gravity existed at the time of their evolution. Without it, the first man and his first mate would have spun off into the infinitude of space. But for some reason it evolved and matured at just the right time to keep their feet firmly planted on the earth, which also evolved.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 137-139). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

 

The banana pales.

Comfort strives mightily to convince us that there must be a God behind the universe and all creations. He employs two devices:

  • Ex nihilo
  • Creation-creator

The first is that the universe is here but it has not always been here. This is the ex nihilo argument. Something cannot come from nothing. We never see this happen:

In all of history, there has never been an instance of anything spontaneously appearing out of nowhere. Something being created from nothing is contrary to all known science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 382-384). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Except that we do. Quantum physics includes a a corner for actions without a cause and objects without a predecessor. Lawrence Krauss has discussed A Universe from Nothing. Folks, it is not unknown, if I can be forgiven the double negative.

The creation-creator argument is more involved. There is something. That something must have been created. Chapter One has the title “Creation Must Have a Creator.” Comfort illustrates:

In short, the evolutionary view cannot offer a logical, scientific explanation for either the origin or the complexity of the universe. There are only two choices: Either no one created everything out of nothing, or Someone—an intelligent, omnipotent, eternal First Cause—created everything out of nothing. Which makes more sense?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 384-386). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Comfort plays lightly with the meanings of words. Something was created. Waves created ripples in the sand. But there is a chair. It takes an intelligent being, something with a purpose, to create a chair. Comfort wants us to know that all things that exist were created in the sense of the chair. Somebody wanted the chair, and the chair was created for a purpose. It’s a different concept of creation for the ripples in the sand, but Comfort wants to impute purpose in all things.

Comfort is missing a major point, previously discussed. The creation Comfort has in mind comes from purpose, and purpose is a feature of living things, at diminishing levels. It is well considered that plants do not think. They put out leaves and roots solely on the basis of blind chemistry. People are considered on this planet to be the kings of purpose. They fashion instruments out of metal for serving up food, and they also construct elaborate craft for exploring other planets. Ultimately it all boils down to a matter of chemistry in action, and other animals, for example ants, have less of purpose than people.

Purpose, however, is a result of biological evolution—biological evolution that Comfort so much despises. Purpose is an inherited trait that promotes survival and procreation in a loop that feeds back to increasing the presence of that trait in a population. Darwin was right, after all.

Supposing God exists. What was God’s purpose in creating? What was God’s purpose in creating the universe, the sun and planets, and all living things on Earth? Are we a cosmological science project concocted by an ethereal middle school pupil? That hardly seems likely. If you are an ethereal fellow, then you have not experienced the forces of environment inflicted by existing on this planet, which supposedly you created. Arguing for creation must argue for purpose, for which we can find no excuse. It’s a philosophically devoid enterprise. It’s an enterprise Comfort pursues with an astounding blindness.

A significant blind spot that Comfort has missed is the core of his pitch. God wants us to be moral people (as part of his science project), and Jesus is his vehicle for imparting morality. The evidence of creation is the evidence of God. Missing is the connection. Suppose I were successful in proving there must have been a God behind the creation of the Universe. Nobody has ever connected this God with Jesus. The Bible provides this connection, but it is just words printed on paper (originally on parchment). There is nothing historically or philosophically sound to connect the creation of the Universe with Jesus, and thus morality.

I will leave the creation-creator chapter at this point. Comfort spends the remaining six chapters talking morality, religious orthodoxy, biblical inerrancy. But before that he reminds atheists what horrible people we are. He complains of his treatment at the hands of atheists:

In April of 2007, during an ABC Nightline atheist debate, Kirk Cameron and I produced imaginary pictures of what we imagined would be genuine species-to-species transitional forms. We called one a “Crocoduck,” and another was called a “birddog.” This was to show exactly what evolutionists believe, but can’t back up through the fossil record. We were ridiculed, called stupid, and told that we didn’t understand evolution. However, these books vindicate us (not that we needed it). They have done with the future what evolutionists have done with the past. They have made a mockery out of science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 609-613). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Bad. Really bad. How bad? Glad you asked:

It is because of God’s love that I care about the fate of atheists. When an atheist says he sees no evidence that God exists, I take the time to reason with him about creation not being an accident, even though it is intellectually demeaning to have to do so (atheism is the epitome of stupidity). It’s an intellectual embarrassment. But I have done so thousands of times, and will do so until my last breath…thanks alone to the love of God that dwells in me.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 170-173). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Apparently there is a lot of that going around.

Comfort obviously sees morality as the cornerstone of his thesis. He talks to no end on morality. One aspect of comfort’s morality is something I find very strange, and that something is the matter of sexual lust. Sexual lust, he asserts (and he backs it up with biblical references) is the same as actual sexual coupling, and it is just as sinful. And that is what is so strange. Sexual coupling is sinful? Really/ Sexual coupling is how we make people. Without sexual coupling there would be no people, and without people there would be no Christianity.  He mentions the word lust 49 times in the book and adultery 30 times. Something has happened in Comfort’s life, having to do with sex, and it seems to have been devastating. And we are offered a peek into this world at the price of purchasing his book.

Comfort’s reasoning for concluding the Catholic Church is not Christian is beyond the scope of this post, and I’m not going to dig deeper into his eschatological haranguing. Comfort and Cameron can be watched at length and for free on YouTube. Readers with a thirst for more can pursue at their leisure. With popcorn.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

It’s Tuesday again, and Jesus has come to take another child:

Oregon: Faith-Healing Parents Investigated In Infant’s Death

Faith-healing kills: Infant dies after faith-healing parents in Oregon fail to get medical attention for their new-born daughter.

According to reports, Sheriff’s deputies are investigating an Oregon City couple whose infant daughter died of apparent breathing complications just hours after she was born earlier this month.

Sarah Mitchell, 24, gave birth to 2 girls at her parents’ home earlier this month. One of Mitchell’s daughters developed breathing complications and died a few hours later.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for not visiting our house when I  was born.

Heart Of Dumbness

Possibly a new series

What got me to looking at this? Oh, yeah. It was a debate featuring Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. In 2002 the pair got together, along with radio host Todd Friel, and formed The Way of the Master, a Christian evangelism ministry based in the United States. Cameron is a former child actor, star of  Growing Pains, a popular sitcom series that ran six seasons starting in 1985. More recently Cameron produced and starred in Saving Christmas, which I reviewed last Christmas. Ray Comfort is remembered for his claims about the design of bananas. His claim is that bananas were designed especially for the convenience of  humans, despite their having been cultured by people from an inedible tropical fruit.

And that sets the stage. My searches turned up this interview, apparently staged in Austin over a public access channel. The video is posted on YouTube:

Uploaded on Mar 29, 2011

The Atheist Experience #702 from March 27, 2011, with Matt Dillahunty and Russell Glasser. Interview with Ray Comfort. Matt and Russell have a conversation “across the divide” with professional apologist Ray Comfort.

You might want to watch the video. It runs for 58 minutes, with Dillahunty and Glasser live in the studio and Comfort phoning in. I watched the entire 58 minutes, but the first few exchanges give the flavor of Comfort’s argument:

Regarding how to determine absolute truth, Comfort says as a Christian he can ascertain what is truth. He says he found absolute truth. “Jesus said, ‘I am the truth,’ and I don’t know if any atheist can point to some atheist that said that or point [to] anything that you can say, ‘This is absolute reality.'”

That’s an amazing argument, to say the least, and it points to why so many straight-thinking people cock their heads sideways when listening to Ray Comfort.

Russell Glasser takes up Comfort’s challenge and says,  “I am the way, and every thing I say is true.”

Comfort responds, “So now raise yourself from the dead, and I will believe you.”

At this point Glasser responds,  “Well how do you know that happened?” The matter is that Comfort is taking the story of resurrection as a given and going from there. Glasser could well  have responded by saying he, himself, rose from the dead, and he would have the same proof Comfort gives for the resurrection of Jesus.

The conversation gets into the scientific method, and Dillahunty elaborates. He refers to Comfort’s discussion of the age of the Earth in his book, You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think. The subtitle is Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. The discussion centers on how science has handled the age of the Earth. Rather than recap from the video, I will quote something from the book:

Could you tell me how old you believe the Earth to be, and why?

I have no idea how old the Earth is, but I’m not alone in this. Science can’t make up its mind either. Just over one hundred years ago, scientists thought that the Earth was about 100 million years old. Soon after, they changed their minds and came to the confident belief that the correct number was 500 million years. Then they changed their minds again and the figure jumped to 1.3 billion years. It wasn’t long until they did a double take on that one and said that they believed it was perhaps 3 billion years old. Of course, now they think that it may be 4.55 billion years old, give or take a billion years. I’m sure that contemporary scientists think they have the right number this time, until they change their minds again when more data comes along…and, of course, none of the “faithful” will question it.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 326-332). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

People originally did not concern themselves with the age of the Earth. Then they made up stories, such as Genesis, which pegs the creation of the Earth about 4004 B.C. Later, after science developed as a human exercise, scientists figured the Earth must be much older, in the order of millions of years—this from geological deduction. Not mentioned in the conversation is Lord Kelvin’s (William Thompson) computation, limiting the age to 500 million years. Subsequent investigation made use of the decay of radioactive substances, and the age was extended to in excess of 4.5 billion years. Comfort interprets this as waffling, indicating scientists don’t have a clue. Christians, however know for certain, and the answer appears to be Genesis.

A number of topics get batted back and forth in the video, and one of  them is slavery, which seems to  be condoned in  the Bible. Actually, the Bible does condone slavery. However, Comfort attempts to weasel out of this difficulty by pointing out the difference between slaves kept by the Israelites and unfortunates kidnapped in  Africa and transported to the Americas. He hangs briefly on descriptions of Israelite prisoners of war being enslaved, but the two atheists remind him of other Israelites being made slaves. And the Bible is OK with that. Here is one example from the Bible Gateway site:

Exodus 21:2-6 King James Version (KJV)

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

An underlying quantity is Comfort’s reliance on his experience with God as a basis for truth. He tells people (my interpretation) that if they truly have faith in God, then questions will be answered. It is a weird argument. It’s true because you believe it’s true.

If you want to follow through, there are a number of Ray Comfort debates on YouTube, and you can also follow the Atheist Community of Austin. Here’s a link: http://atheist-community.org

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Religion-WaitUntilYouAreDead

Here’s an update on a previous post. The consequences of false belief are sometimes spread around:

Alexandru Radita “lived and died very much alone,” a prosecutor noted Friday, moments after his parents were sentenced to life in prison for his murder.

Crown lawyer Susan Pepper said the fact there was no one in court to speak about the impact of the teenager’s death, save for a social worker who dealt with him eight years earlier, spoke volumes about his loneliness.

“It really highlights the degree of isolation that Alex lived in — he had no friends, or teachers, or support people, or doctors, or anyone,” Pepper said, after Emil and Rodica Radita were each convicted of first-degree murder in the boy’s death.

Justice Karen Horner accepted Pepper’s argument the parents intentionally neglected the 15-year-old for years, until he finally succumbed to bacterial sepsis related to starvation.

“Your actions in starving your son Alex to death are beyond comprehension,” Horner said, in ordering the couple to each serve a minimum 25 years without parole.

An additional news item recounts the false belief behind this tragedy:

‘They knew he was dying’: Canadian parents who starved their diabetic son, 15, to death and prayed for two hours rather than call 911 when they found him not breathing get life in prison

The time to have been concerned about young Alexandru would have been when it was first noticed his parents weighed their religious convictions above his well being.

I do one of these every Tuesday. Who is going to be the next to die to  believe?

The Condescending Tone

I post on a number of topics, and sometimes I obtain feedback in the form of comments posted by readers. Some of the responses are helpful—they fill in where I failed to provide adequate coverage, and sometimes a comment will set me straight on an error I have made.

Many of the comments I receive are from people who reject completely the point I am attempting to make, and on rare occasions these comments are thought out and well put. It’s the “rare” aspect that worries me. Too often the person so terribly offended is:

  • Completely fact-deprived and indicates no knowledge of the topic under discussion.
  • Knowledgeable, but nonetheless skilled in making his point.
  • Comes off as completely unhinged.

It is this last case I want to discuss. The example for today relates to a post from last July. The original post carries the title 44 Reasons Why Evolution Is Just A Fairy Tale For Adults. My post does not provide 44 reasons evolution is a fairy tale. The title is from an item posted by Michael Snyder on a site called D.C. Clothesline and subtitled “Airing Out America’s Dirty Laundry.” How this site came to be a vehicle for a creationism-oriented rant is a guess for somebody else. I felt it worth a response.

Snyder did list 44 reasons, and I (read the original post) took each of the 44 and penned a short response. Many of my responses reduced to stating that Snyder had not provided any evidence to support his point. He had quoted somebody else, and following  which he went on to his next point. My response to such attempts was to point out this fact and to note that repeating what somebody said in the past does not count for evidence in science. An example is Snyder’s point number 3. My reply is the bold text following Snyder’s point:

#3 Even some of the most famous evolutionists in the world acknowledge the complete absence of transitional fossils in the fossil record. For example, Dr. Colin Patterson, former senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History and author of “Evolution” once wrote the following

“I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them …. I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”

Again, it’s interesting to note that Colin Patterson said this, but again speech is not scientific evidence.

Anyhow, that has been out there for several  months, receiving one helpful comment almost immediately, and finally another one today. Here it is, exactly as posted:

idiot..i have one thing ti say…al the hearsay and lack of evidence you attack the writers of the article you were going after, you did as well. i can quote several times you didn’t explain..give examples…evidence…but guess what..just spoken or “written” words in your case. you did nothing and achieved nothing for most of this long article. also..you use circle reasoning thru-out, of which im sure you will use again to rebuttal this. asking some one to use evolution based world view foundation to disprove evolution or else anything said is wrong by inherent basis is like me requiring you to use creation based world view ” as the science is the same, just different world views direction how evidence is interpreted or rationalized”, to completely disprove creation. neither theory can be proven or disproved via the scientific method of observable and repeatable”,and neither are fact. where we get pissed of is your blind faith and enforcement of your theory as fact…when only reason you do so is cause the only other option besides everything made it self is some one else made everything.

In the past I have refuted people’s arguments and have been accused, in turn, of using condescending language. Here is an excerpt from a previous post. I had previously obtained a copy of Ben Shapiro’s small book How to Debate Leftist and to Destroy Them. Shapiro considers the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a leftist (his term) agenda, and he frets that leftists attack by calling their opponents stupid, mean, corrupt, and maybe all of the preceding. Here’s how the discussion unfolded earlier this year:

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

It’s that latter part that is critical. I found Dan taking the same stance Shapiro does. In point, Dan makes a completely ludicrous statement, one that galls the intellect. Then when somebody responds by pointing out the obvious, Dan comes back by chiding the other party for being condescending. And other terms. That’s what we are about to have here.

Snyder, in responding to my argument, appears to  have gone completely off the rails, beginning with a typographical monstrosity before settling down to a face-deficient rant. It’s usually at this point that I begin to become condescending.

I am not going to call Snyder a creationist nut case, partly because the phrase contains an obvious redundancy. My object is to approve his comment as posted and then allow it to hang out there as evidence of whatever anybody wants to conclude about Snyder.

After approving Snyder’s comment I sent him an email asking him if he would care to elaborate, hopefully to improve, on his comment. If ever I hear back from Snyder I will revisit the matter in another post.

There may be more to come. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Friday Funny

One of a series

Religion-ThankGodForDisasterBettyBowers

It’s Friday again, and I’m running out of funny. Just kidding. There’s always enough funny to go around, especially on Friday. Religious nut case Pat Robertson is a reliable source, even if others were to run dry:

I think, somehow, the Lord’s plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America. These other people have been trying to destroy America. These left-wingers and so-called progressives are trying to destroy the country that we love and take away the freedoms they love. They want collectivism. They want socialism. What we’re looking at is free markets and freedom from this terrible, overarching bureaucracy. They want to fight as much as they can but I think the good news is the Bible says, “He that sits in the heavens will laugh them to scorn,” and I think that Trump’s someone on his side that is a lot more powerful than the media.

In case you miss the point, an imaginary holy man is coming to the defense of an imaginary president and accusing his detractors of running athwart an imaginary entity. What could be funnier than that?