Dying to Believe

Number 135 in a series

In celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday, here is a post celebrating those who remove themselves from the gene pool:

Horrific moment shaman who said his supernatural powers would protect him in crocodile-infested lake… is suddenly dragged beneath the waters as shocked onlookers gasp

This is the moment a man claiming to have supernatural control over crocodiles died after one of the reptiles appeared to drag the shaman under water.

The man, named Suprianto, died after the suspected crocodile attack in Kutai Kartanegara, Indonesia, despite his supposed powers.

In the shocking video, he is seen swimming into the waters to look for the body of a teenager, called Arjuna, who was attacked the previous day.

Horrifying video of shaman dragged under water by crocodile.
Byron, if you are reading this, please caution everybody you meet. Some crocodiles have not read the memo.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 24 of a continuing series

This is about right wing religious fanatic Mike Huckabee, but that’s not Mike Huckabee in the photo above. That’s Sarah Sanders, daughter of the former Arkansas governor and further proof that the nut does not fall far from the tree.

We have met Governor Huckabee before, unadulterated:

One Nation Underpaid

Anyhow, here is what Governor Huckabee informed us recently:

Mike Huckabee to “Fox & Friends”: Trump juggles responsibilities like chef at five-star restaurant

Mike Huckabee insists that it only looks like the White House is chaotic, and argued instead that President Donald Trump was juggling responsibilities like the chef at a five-star restaurant.

The former Arkansas governor and father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends” to deliver a folksy rebuke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said “chaos and incompetence” prevented the administration from carrying out its duties.

This is breaking news. This is critical. This is telling us what what we are seeing with our eyes is not what we are seeing with our eyes. Which leads me to consider, “Maybe what you are reading right now is not what you are reading right now.” Anyhow, that’s question for the existentialists. For now we might want to review what it is we are not seeing with our eyes:

North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!

Brings a whole new meaning to the term “five-star.” Would anybody like to take a look at one-star? Anyhow, here is more:

Strictly five-star:

Five-star:

Governor, let’s not dine there.

Abusing Science

Number 10 of a series

It never lets up, and for this I am thankful. Nothing exposes the shallowness of the Intelligent Design argument so much as the continued efforts of its people to discredit legitimate science. Let’s recapitulate:

The Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) is the leading organization promoting Intelligent Design in this country, perhaps in the world. On Monday they posted this on Evolution News, a site sponsored by the CSC.

Skepticism About Darwinian Evolution Grows as 1,000+ Scientists Share Their Doubts

Over 1,000 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at dissentfromdarwin.orgreads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

“Because no scientist can show how Darwin’s mechanism can produce the complexity of life, every scientist should be skeptical,” said biologist Douglas Axe, director of Biologic Institute. “The fact that most won’t admit to this exposes the unhealthy effect of peer pressure on scientific discourse.”

On the surface that would appear to be devastating to any science suffering some kind of weakness. This kind of argument has a lot of appeal to people who don’t dig too deeply, especially when confirmation bias weighs in. The story goes back to 2002 and maybe before. When I debated creationist Don Patton in April that year, the creationists who showed up were crowing over The 100. Time has passed, and the list has grown to 1000 (and more). It would be fun to peruse that list and write up details on each of the scientists, most I am sure are serious, who have signed up as dissenting from Darwin. It turns out I can save myself the trouble this morning, this morning after the day I was supposed to have posted this entry. That’s because years ago I went down this rabbit hole on the shorter list, so I am going to recapitulate what I wrote back then. First, here is an excerpt of the new, expanded list:

Charles Edward Norman Ph.D. Electrical Engineering                                                     Carleton University (Canada)

Dewey Hodges          Professor, Aerospace Engineering                                                Georgia Institute of Technology

James P. Russum      Ph.D. Chemical Engineering                                                        Georgia Institute of Technology

Marko Horb               Ph.D. Cell & Developmental Biology                                             State University of New York

Here is what I had to say, from the August 2005 issue of The North Texas Skeptic:

The Christian Post mentioned that the DI CSC has compiled a list “of over 350 scientists” who have signed onto their “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” I did a quick check on DI’s Web site and noticed the list is now “[m]ore than 400.” The list doesn’t seem to include any of the luminaries of biological science, and I didn’t notice any Nobel winners, although there have been Nobel laureates in the past who oppose evolutionary theory.

Taking a sample of one from DI’s list, I checked out “Marko Horb,” who is listed as a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology at the State University of New York. An Internet check turned up numerous references to Dr. Horb, of SUNY at Stony Brook. Looking further, I was unable to locate Dr. Horb through SUNY Stony Brook’s Web site.

In the past we have noticed that a creationist’s link to a famous university has lingered long past its shelf life. In critiquing the DI-sponsored video “Unlocking the Mystery of Life,” Andrea Bottaro, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center noted the peculiar circumstances of Jed Macosko. In the video Macosko is listed as one of these scientists who oppose Darwinism and, presumably, someone who supports Intelligent Design. However, as we reported in our February issue of this scandal sheet last year, Macosko’s credentials were considerably laundered. See the link above to the newsletter item:

Macosko is described in UML as “Molecular Biologist, UC Berkeley,” but his association with Berkeley seems to be limited to his UC Berkeley degree and his work there as a postdoctoral trainee. He has never been listed on the UC Berkeley faculty and is not currently at the University. Some ID Web sites show him teaching chemistry at the religious La Sierra University in California, though at the time Dr. Bottaro wrote to WNYE Macosko was not listed on that university’s faculty.

We don’t claim this is the case with Dr. Horb or any of the other 400 dissenters listed by DI. Except for Dr. Jed Macosko. On DI’s list of “[m]ore than 400” Dr. Macosko is still listed as “Ph.D. Chemistry University of California (Berkeley).” DI is probably still working to bring the list up to date.

DI’s list provides skeptics a marvelous opportunity to practice their investigative skills. Go to DI’s Web site, navigate down to the section on the Center for Science and Culture. Get the list of 400 and have a go at it. If the file has moved or is no longer available, send me an e-mail, and I will forward a copy to you.

In the meantime, the Berkeley, California, based National Center for Science Education has compiled a similar list. Similar in the sense that NCSE’s list is of scientists who support evolutionary theory. Dissimilar in the sense that their list is larger, and NCSE has tried to keep it small enough to fit on most people’s computer hard drive. They kept the list small by restricted the list to scientists named Steve. Supporters of Evolution named Steve, Stephen, Steven, even Stephanie are listed, but all the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys are excluded. Maybe later when computer drives get larger. In the mean time, you can get the condensed list from NCSE’s Web site. See the link above.

And, yes, Jed Macosko is still on the list, and I assume his status has not since improved. That said, I am pleased the CSC and all the other creationists out there have not improved on their methods after being at it these past decades. Keep at it, people. We love to watch you work.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 23 of a continuing series

I previously posted an item detailing what people of faith hold dear, all credited to their favorite president, Donald J. Trump. According to President Trump’s press secretary, the deeply-religious Sarah Huckabee Sanders, people of faith are fans of all kinds of malodorous conduct. Lying seems to be conduct they are most comfortable with.

Now we right wing religious fanatic Franklin Graham telling us it is not necessary for people of faith to sanction lying in their support for President Trump, and that is because the president does no such thing. No such thing, that is, that the Reverend Graham is aware of. My guess is that Reverend Graham has just returned from the back side of the moon and has missed a boat load of what the president has been dishing out these past two years. The Friendly Atheist has the story:

Franklin Graham Refuses to Acknowledge Any of Donald Trump’s 8,158 Lies (So Far)

BY HEMANT MEHTA

 JANUARY 30, 2019

MELVIN: But you can acknowledge that the president has said things that are not true?

GRAHAMI don’t think the president is sitting there, behind the desk, trying to make up lies. I don’t believe that for a second. Has he misspoken on something? Sure. All of us do that. You do it and I do it. And sometimes we get the facts wrong and we say something that later on we realize, we could’ve said it better, or it was misrepresented. And so, uh, I think the president is trying to do the best that he can under very difficult circumstances.

There is more. Read the entire article. From other sources:

I have to stop there. That’s January of this year. The PolitiFact listing goes back years. Any sentient carbon life form cannot escape that our president is a congenital liar, and Reverend Franklin Graham cannot see that?

There is an obvious explanation for Graham’s inability to see, and that explanation is that he can see, but he denies what he sees. The obvious conclusion is that Franklin Graham is, himself, a congenital liar.

The Government You Paid For

Number 56 of a Series

Jesus Christ! Now I know for sure we are getting the government we paid for. Want evidence? Here it is, brother, here it is:

Sarah Sanders: God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’

(CNN) — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she believes God wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported on Wednesday.

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there,” Sanders told CBN’s David Brody and Jennifer Wishon, according to a transcript of the interview provided by CBN.

“I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about,” Sanders added.

On the surface this may appear to reveal how Donald Trump managed to become president. A deeper understanding is this shows what people of faith really care about. For that point I will provide additional clarification:

If there is one thing we have gained from the election of Donald Trump it is that we now know what people of faith care about.

Plato Revisited

A short series

On 12 August 1994 I turned in my final assignment in Mathematics of Physics and walked out of a classroom for the last time in my life. So I thought.

Last fall I had a meeting with Oak DeBerg at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He’s a former Air Force officer who subsequently went over to the dark side and became a professor of philosophy. He told me that this year he would be teaching a course titled Minus Bible. It’s about the philosophy of non-religion—non-belief in God. I could audit the course, and because I’m over 65 the university would waive fees. Except parking.

So, Tuesday I started showing up weekly to learn and to philosophize about atheism. What I have to offer here are some gleanings from the course and excerpts from the reading assignments. Start with Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens (now deceased) has written God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I have not read the book. I need to clear some stuff off my plate before I can take on another review. However, others have read it, and some of the remarks are interesting. Some even object.

No surprise—I already read the book. Here is something from next week’s reading assignment:

I wrote earlier that we would never again have to confront the impressive faith of an Aquinas or a Maimonides (as contrasted with the blind faith of millennial or absolutist sects, of which we have an apparently unlimited and infinitely renewable supply). This is for a simple reason. Faith of that sort— the sort that can stand up at least for a while in a confrontation with reason— is now plainly impossible.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 107). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Hitchens assignment I find interesting, because, although this is a philosophy course, Hitchens did not approach religion as a philosopher. Rather he was like a witness in a criminal trial—accusing and  naming names. For the pure approach we have been assigned readings from others, including the ancients.

Some Internet searching revealed to me that the works of Greek philosopher Plato have largely survived intact. Rather than read the assigned item on-line, I purchased the complete works of Plato, the Kindle edition, for $0.99 (plus tax). Here is an excerpt from Socrates’ dialogue with Euthyphro. So this is not strictly Plato talking, but supposedly quoting from his teacher, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And what is piety, and what is impiety?

EUTHYPHRO: Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime—whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be—that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others:—of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?—and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons, and that he too had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner. And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

Plato. Plato: The Complete Works . Pandora’s Box. Kindle Edition. [location 2044]

For me this is going to be the fun part of studying philosophy, because a lot of stuff that philosophers do is like this. Plato constructed these extended arguments, using immaculate reasoning and logic, but based on a vacuous premise. Here his premise is the existence of the deities. Many philosophic constructions, especially those of the ancients, are like this. They will presuppose something not in evidence and proceed from there to develop marvelous arguments leading to shimmering conclusions, meaning nothing.

This is going to be fun. The class comprises deep-rooted believers, convinced atheists, and some in between. For the record, Oak DeBerg declares for atheism.

Keep reading. There will be more to follow.

Abusing Science

Number 6 of a series

This series catalogs the abuse of science throughout recent times. Particularly, creationists have turned to misinterpretations of peer-reviewed science to bolster their attacks on modern biology and geology. These sciences contradict the core of creationists’ belief that the God of Abraham created the universe within the past few thousand years and further that a world-wide flood subsequently eradicated most of life on this planet. Beginning about 1989 I attended meetings of a group called the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) in the Dallas area. These meetings typically featured creationist Don Patton, a self-professed Ph.D. A business card he gave me indicated he has a degree in Geology, but there is no evidence he ever obtained so much as a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute of higher learning. In a conversation he told me he skipped that phase of his education and went straight for the Ph.D.

Don Patton gave a talk in February 1992, and I attended with a co-worker. We listened in amazement as Patton garbled published science toward his goal of refuting scientific findings for the age of the Earth. Particularly what we found, when we checked his citations, is that he selectively pulled quotes from published works, even re-arranging the order of sections of material to create a story of his own. Following is a reprint of the story that was published in the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics in April 1992. A copy of the presentation from the meeting is available on-line, as well as a copy of some source material (see below).

An Ageless Story

By John Blanton and Jeff Umbarger

Part I

The flier from the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) advertised “The Scientific Evidence for the Age of the Earth.” Since this is a subject of concern to anyone interested in modern science and cosmology, we decided to give it a look. Besides, neither of us had been to a meeting of MIOS since they moved their monthly lecture series to the Ridgewood Recreation Center in northeast Dallas, and we were anxious to see how they were doing in their new home. Just fine, it turns out.

We had concluded from the title that MIOS Chairman Don Patton would be presenting scientific evidence that our favorite planet was less than 10,000 years old. Our mistake. This is not to say that MIOS is one of those proponents of old Earth creationism. Far from it. Don’s group is among those creationists who still maintain that the earth (and the universe of Carl Sagan, as well) was created just a day or two before the first humans appeared on the scene. In MIOS lectures previously Don has also been known to espouse periods of extremely rapid evolution, if you have not already guessed.

Hoping to see just how good the scientific evidence for the age of the earth is, we were told, instead, just how bad it is. Furthermore, the evidence presented was not from creationists but from honest-to-goodness, card-carrying scientists of the first kind. Really, folks. After taking in Don’s complete lecture, we began to wonder why scientists even bother with the issue of the age of the earth. None of their methods ever seem to work for them. Radiometric dating methods, says Don Patton for example, are just about worthless, even according to anti-creationist scientists such as William D. Stansfield, author of Science of Evolution, which Don quoted often during his lecture.

Don’s talk consisted to a large part of a discussion of citations from legitimate journals of science, these citations being mainly critical of modern geological dating methods. Following the lecture, MIOS was gracious enough to supply handouts of most of these citations, and that along with notes we made from the slide presentation enabled us to follow up on the evidence. One of us (Jeff) spent an evening at the UNT library making copies of the citations that could be located. The citations, as presented by Don, turned out to be even more interesting when compared with the complete text from the journals.

Here, from the MIOS lecture, is what appears to be a highly derogatory critique of radiometric dating practice. Under the heading “SHIFTY URANIUM” it reads:

“The fourth assumption presupposes that the concentration of uranium in any specimen has remained constant over the specimen’s life. …ground-water percolation can leach away a proportion of the uranium present in the rock crystals. The mobility of the uranium is such that as one part of a rock formation is being improvised another part can become abnormally enriched. Such changes can also take place at relatively low temperatures.”

I note here that the text from the handout is reprinted exactly. The cited text was from an article in Scientific American by J.D. MacDougall entitled “Fission Track Dating” (see Note 1).

Although I had gotten the impression from Don’s presentation (wrongly, it now seems) that this statement pertained to the uranium-lead dating method, a review of the complete text reveals that the process being discussed is, as the title indicates, dating of mineral samples by counting the tracks of nuclear fission products within crystals. Far from being critical of the method, the author promotes it highly in the complete copy. The “fourth assumption” being described by the author is the fourth, and the weakest of the required assumptions, the first three being 1) radioactive decay rates are constant [they are], 2) “fission tracks are produced with 100 percent efficiency” [laboratory experiments indicate they are], 3) the tracks are perfectly retained by the crystal [they are generally, but, for example, heat can anneal the material and shorten or eliminate the tracks]. The complete text concerning the fourth assumption, quoted directly from the Scientific American article follows:

“The fourth assumption presupposes that the concentration of uranium in any specimen has remained constant over the specimen’s lifetime. This assumption is usually valid, but there can be exceptions. A combination of elevated temperatures and ground-water percolation can leach away a proportion of the uranium present in rock crystals. The mobility of the uranium is such that as one part of a rock formation is being impoverished another part can become abnormally enriched. Such changes can also take place at relatively low temperatures. Andrew J. W. Gleadow and John F. Lovering of the University of Melbourne have compared heavily weathered grains of apatite, a common mineral in rocks with unweathered grains still embedded in the parent rock. The weathered grains contained approximately 25 percent less uranium than those in the parent rock and yielded anomalous age determinations.”

I am sure that the editor who prepared this material for the MIOS lecture had the comfort of the audience in mind when he eliminated the words “This assumption is usually valid, but there can be exceptions. A combination of elevated temperatures and …” from the lecture materials. This part is particularly wordy, and it does break up the train of thought being developed. Nothing lost, however. Interested readers can stop by the library and read the complete article by J.D. Macdougall. This fascinating account outlines the theory and application of the fission track dating method which appears to be both robust and broadly applicable. For example, as described by the author, the technique has been used to provide a reliable date (2.0 +/- 0.3 million years) for a sedimentary stratum in the Olduvai Gorge, and it has also been used to determine that a supposed 18th-century Chinese glass ring was really a 70-year-old forgery.

In the second part of this story, we’ll look at some claims MIOS makes for moon rock dating, and the dubious and deceptive schemes used to support their claims.

Notes:

1) J.D. Macdougall, Scientific American 235 (6), 118

Editor’s note: The page from Scientific American has been marked up to show the text that was lifted for Patton’s presentation. The picking of selected text and the exclusion of selected text is intended to mislead readers and is a typical example of the abuse of science practiced by Creationists of the First Kind.

 

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 12 in a series

Which brings us to the matter of David Rives Ministries.

The Creator left a pattern of His fingerprints across each corner of the universe, found in every crevice on earth, and imprinted in every cell of our bodies. A pattern that David Rives has devoted his life to researching, revealing, and sharing… while declaring the glory of God through scientific study.

David’s world travels and research has made him an in-demand speaker with an abundance of knowledge and his powerful and inspirational delivery makes learning about Bible history and science fun and easy for audiences of all ages. His weekly TV show “Creation in the 21st Century” airs to millions globally on TBN. He is a weekly news columnist on science and the Bible, and author of the books “Wonders Without Number” and “Bible Knows Best.” Featured on the History Channel, DirecTV’s NRB Network, WND, TBN, James Dobson’s FamilyTalk , and heard on radio, David’s exciting life and world travels are documented on his ministries’ active Facebook page with over 115,000 active followers.

Yes, this is real, people. There is a David Rives, and he does promote this stuff, and there is additional that is much worse. There are multitudes who buy into this. Those who are sure this planet and everything else came into being a few thousand years ago, directed by an omnipotent, omniscient being, would fill a major American city, yea, one of the larger of the 50 states. Call me a reactionary freethinker if you want, but I consider this to be a bit of overindulgence. A joke can be carried only so far.

It’s not my intent for you to think this is the only show in town. From my estimation there are more David Rives types than there are members of Congress. However, that should not dissuade you from examining his pitch to gain insight into the world behind the curtain.

It would appear that Rives doesn’t write a bunch of stuff. What you’re going to see on his site is an outlay of video presentations, and if you are not acquainted with creationism of the worst kind, then it might be worth your while to view one or more of these. For additional narrative that I can cut and paste, here is something from the site’s ABOUT page:

One of his favorite activities is to awe audiences with the incredible accounts of discovery, Biblical accuracy, and creation-based science, and show that each person is “wonderfully made” with purpose – a biological miracle from our Designer, not a product of random chance. David appeals to some of the largest Christian church audiences in the country, but also enjoys interacting and sharing the Gospel with those who might be skeptical. He leads discovery tours, keynotes at conferences, and has a rigid filming schedule for his TV show, video series, and more.

The emphasis is in the original. This says that Rives “appeals to some of the largest Christian church audiences in the country.” If that gives you pause to be concerned, then I have accomplished what I set out to.

Abusing Science

Number 5 of a series

The go-to place for abuse of science is the Evolution News blog site, maintained by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. The site is wall-to-wall creationism, attempting to be oblique, often blunt to the core. I pull items from them when I need an illustration. This is from one posted last June:

New Paper in Evolution Journal: Humans and Animals Are (Mostly) the Same Age?

Could it be that animals were designed together with humans and instantiated at the same time too? Or did they get off the same spaceship? Or off the same boat?

An exciting new paper in the journal Human Evolution has been published which you can read here. Popular science reports such as this have incautiously claimed, “They found out that 9 out of 10 animal species on the planet came to being at the same time as humans did some 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.”

But to be more precise, what they actually found is that the most recent common ancestor of those species seems to have lived during that time period.

The above link regarding “such as this” has apparently gone stale, but it most likely pointed to this paper, available from the journal Human Evolution:. It’s a PDF file, so you can download it and read it, which I encourage readers to do.

That aside, what are we to make of the post? The opening sentence conveys the point unequivocally. “Could it be that animals were designed together with humans?” The operative word is “designed.” The CSC is about Intelligent Design above all else, and these people are willing to push their argument beyond what is ethical or even believable.

Somebody who is more up on the subject can wade in on this, but what appears to be going on is the writer is encouraging readers to look at last common ancestors (LCA), note how many line up and are recent, and then conclude this is evidence of a common design event.

This is not the same as the Young Earth Creationists pointing to out-of-order geological formations to rebuke basic principles of geology, but it does highlight the modern creationist ploy of abusing science to promote religion.

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.