Weekly roundup of readers’ comments

The creationism was strong in the non-posted comments this week. Here are some of them that didn’t make it onto the website, and whose writers won’t be posting again. Nevertheless, they do get their day in court:

This first one takes the prizes for both Credulous Belief and Humorous Ranting. It’s from reader James, commenting on the post “Birds may be paedomorphic dinosaurs“. James tries to explain the fossil record by the creationist “hydrodynamic sorting” principle (with a little Satan thrown in for grins).

The serpent in the tree talking to Eve was not a snake. It didn’t crawl on it’s belly until after it was cursed in the tree. Satan tried to get them to fly by immalgamations with birds, but was unsuccessful. Note that all the members of the reptile family do still lay eggs. As they did before the curse. And Taridactils (sp) did not fly across the Pacific and dip for fish along the way. And then were not able to fly on to the our continent supposedly because they were too close to the beach while resting, got splashed by waves and could not fly because their fur was wet. If they could not fly with wet fir, how could they dip in the waves and catch fish. That evolutionary theory does not fly. When Noah’s flood waters were rising up on the mountains,some of which later became the Hawaiian Islands, they were stranded and or drowned when the flood waters rose. They were not allowed on the Ark because they were Satan’s workmanship, not God’s. The serpent was a bird flew into the tree. Satan used it as a medium to talk to Eve, and as the Bible states, God cursed it that from then on it would be on crawling in the dust. Some of the amalgamations had tail feathers as indicated with some North Asian fossil remains indicate, but God said they would not fly and they did not. And of course, never will as they are now extinct. The fountains of the deep that opened up, were the volcanoes of he Pacific Ring of Fire. Thus most of the Pacific Ocean floor is volcanic basalt. The waters were pretty high and as plates shoved them up higher, we now find sea fossils high on the slopes of Mt. Everest. Their were no lofty craggy mountains until after the flood.

There should have been a lot more “(sp)”s.  But this reader needs assistance on matters far beyond spelling.

***

Reader “SJ” gives encomiums for Ray Comfort’s recent movie that criticizes evolution because nobody’s seen it happen in real time (that claim is not true, of course). My original post was”Odious Ray Comfort movie (watch it below) to be distributed in public schools“:

It’s not atrocious or barf…it’s true. And that’s why all of you are so upset.

There IS no observable evidence regarding evolution. Comfort is making an excellent point. Everyone in the scientific community says, “I will think for myself. I will require proof of God. Only those things you can PROVE will I believe”.

Well, Comfort proved, that science can’t always be provable. That you must have faith in those who make certain scientific claims.

It was brilliant.

How can one deal with such ignorance and religiosity? You can’t. The person is beyond redemption, but we can still attack the source of this ignorance.

***

Reader “daniel joachim”, who has a website called JesusFusion, responded to my post “David Bentley Hart responds poorly (and arrogantly) to Adam Gopnik on God.” That post gave a list of supposedly religious scientists put forward by Hart, who turned out to get many of them wrong. Daniel’s take (the quote is mine):

“Yes, all of those scientists, as far as I know—save Einstein—were or are religious, but I doubt that Einstein abjured materialism or naturalism. If you read Hart’s book, you’ll know that he, along with many modern theologians, goes after naturalism and materialism as incoherent on philosophical grounds. What he doesn’t realize is that the pantheon of scientists he lists made wonderful discoveries about the universe using only the assumptions of naturalism and materialism.”

That’s just a plain silly straw man. Do Coyne even know the difference of methodological and metaphysical/ontological? The argument is, and Coyne probably knows, that given metaphysical mechanical naturalism: Reason wouldn’t be possible. Mathematics wouldn’t be applicable. A closed universe wouldn’t exist. Among others.

The argument is that there’s no reason to believe that blind, determined molecules in motion can qualitatively add up to a mind that can reason, intend, do syllogisms or love. Well, if you know the difference between correlation and causality.

This is just ignorant. And people wonder why Coyne is seen as one of the weakest of all gnu atheists? 🙂

This is the old and discredited Plantinga-ish argument (one made also by Hart) that reason wouldn’t be possible under naturalism. Because it couldn’t have evolved, it must have come from God. And God gave it to other creatures too, as many animals beyond primates show the ability to reason.  Surely, then, New Caledonian crows were also made in the image of God.
I’ll ignore daniel’s gratuitous insult and just say that yes, there are reasons to believe that naturalism and materialism can produce a reasoning and loving mind. In fact, there are more reasons to believe that than in the existence of some deity who was required to create reason. We have tons of evidence for evolution, and not an iota of credible evidence for God.
***
Reader Shaun felt compelled to comment on my “Atheism of the gaps” piece which, by the way, has met with a lot of pushback from theologians who have tried to engage in the fruitless practice of theodicy:
I find this whole thread quite comical for a few reasons, the first is this. For people that have a lack of belief in deities you sure seem obsessed with them. Secondly Prof Coyne’s arguments are sophomoric at best. I guess if he really wanted to impress me he’d be able to show me how the most advanced processing unit in the known universe not only built itself but invented itself. That would convince me that you are onto something.
Thanks but no thanks, Shaun: you’re requiring me to completely reconstruct the evolution of the human brain, neuron by neuron. (What, by the way, makes you think that it invented itself?) I’ll do that when Shaun tells me what God was doing before the Big Bang, and what evidence he has for that. (No fair saying, “I don’t know!”) The stuff about “obsession” with religion is simply dumb: it’s like saying to civil rights workers that they certainly are obsessed with racism for people who find racism reprehensible.
***
When in doubt, SHOUT! At least that’s what reader Liz did after reading “Incensed secularists pile on David Cameron for saying that Britain is a Christian nation“:
It is refreshing that despite some bad policies David Cameron does know where the good comes from in this country! Most schools, most charities, most communities in the UK have been founded by our Christian faith. Make no mistake there is a vast population of practicising Christians in this country who live for truth peace and unity. THIS IS A HISTORICAL AND A MODERN REALITY!
Really, the communities were founded BY Christian faith? And do note that the percentage of Christians in Britain is dropping faster than a priest’s trousers. As I reported two days ago, 41% of Brits describe themselves as nonreligious.  Of course, Brits will always be able to say that their country was Christian in historical times, but that’s no more an endorsement of Christianity than saying that slavery is good because many countries once allowed the ownership of slaves.
***
Reader Jim had a thing to say about my post “Teaching creationism is widespread in U.S. public schools“:

The day that so-called “orthodox” scientists can actually prove the “Big Bang” occurred spontaneously within an infinite void, is the day I’ll stop looking at Creationism as a viable alternative theory of how the Universe was formed.

Even the famous Christian evangelist William Jennings Bryan acknowledged that God invented natural law and could, therefore, alter or suspend it at His will.

Sorry, Jim, but scientists already have good evidence about the Big Bang occurring in a quantum vacuum. Are you ready now to stop looking at Creationism as a viable option? Oh, no—I forgot. You’re religious and no evidence will change your mind.

And as for “William Jennings Bryan said it, I believe it, that settles it,” well, that’s just embarrassing. Many “famous Christian evangelists” say all kinds of nonsense about science.

***

Reader Jon had a comment on the same post:

Do your research. Teaching creation Science is not religion. You say evolution is true, which evolution are you talking about? 1.cosmic evolution (Big Bang THEORY), 2.chemical evolution (one chemical to another ex. Hydrogen to iron;can’t happen by the way),3.steller and planetary evolution(stars forming spontaneously), 4.organic evolution (origin of life), 5. Macro evolution (changing from one kind of animal to another), or 6. Micro evolution (adaptation of species)? Only number 6 can be observed so you can call that science, the others are dumb theory’s that have already been disproven and take faith to believe them. And don’t say fossils are proff because you can never prove any fossils had children like themselves. Teaching creation science is legal http://www.creationtoday.org/can-creation-be-taught-in-public-schools/.

What a mishmash of ignorance we see here? Yes, cosmic evolution is true. And yes, despite Jon’s claims to the contrary, one “chemical” can change to another. It happens all the time with radioactive decay (we’re talking about “atoms”, by the way). Stellar and organic evolution are also true, as judging by scientific evidence. So is macroevolution: we have both the fossil and genetic evidence to show that.  The argument about the absence of “macroevolution” should be shelved, even by creationists, given the profusion of fossils we have now showing transitional forms—forms whose existence was not only predicted, but predicted to occur at the times they lived (e.g. fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to mammals, reptiles to birds, artiodactyls to whales, and early to modern hominins).  Yes, we do have the “proff” for all of that.

My heart sinks when I get these comments, and these are only about half the creationists who tried to post this week. Does anybody seriously think that such ignorance would be pervasive if there weren’t religion? As I always say (a Professor Ceiling Cat Aphorism™), “You can have religions without creationism, but you can’t have creationism without religion.” While I’m sure I’ve missed a few secular creationists, the only one I know of is David Berlinski, and I’m not too sure about him!

You have to be blind not to see that creationism is a direct outgrowth of religious belief—one of the lesser evils that religion brings to this planet. And despite this in-your-face evidence, believers (even those who accept evolution) are reluctant to indict religion as the root cause of creationism.

102 Comments

  1. Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Did you edit out the part where James denies eating squirrels but then comes around and admits it while insisting its his right?….or maybe I’m thinking of a Monty Python skit

  2. Ian Hewitson
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    I stumbled on Professor Coyne’s site during my ongoing search for an explanation to understand how people can actually believe the sort of insanity that appears above. I have to say that after reading that lot I’m still searching for the answer because the level of fuckwittery on display is beyond my comprehension.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Brainwashing.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 1, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      I think that in one of his occasional excursions out of mathematical physics, Einstein managed to nail that one. In amongst such obvious non-starters as “Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht. (Subtle is the lord, but malicious he is not)” and “It would be a good idea to try to make nuclear bombs.”, he’s also reputed to have said “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

  3. Dominic
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Reader James was wrong – not ALL reptiles lay eggs; viviparous vipers for one!

    Also note the famous fossil of an Ichthyosaur giving birth…
    http://www.livescience.com/43344-ichthyosaur-fossil-live-birth-found.html

    • Dominic
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      By the way, regarding percentages of non-religious Britons, on the last census I ignored the optional place to mark religious/non-religious views, so I wonder how that was counted?

    • Christine Janis
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      Also evidence that a fossil can have have children like itself!

    • Charles E. Jones
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      There are 108 examples of live birth among the lizards and snakes!

      Blackburn DG (2006) Squamate reptiles as model organisms for the evolution of viviparity. Herpetological Monographs: 131–146.

      • Dominic
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Thanks! Are you a reptiles man like Greg?

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Not to mention a few mountains of dinosaur eggs, with fossil fetus bones inside. Baby dinos, juvenile dinos, etc.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      And Reader Jon says there can be no chemical evolution (not quite sure what he means by this), but for starters, hydrogen can be converted to helium.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton%E2%80%93proton_chain_reaction

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        And poor James has a fascinating ‘immalgamation’ of mythological narrative.

  4. John K.
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I can only imagine how much time I would waste commenting on comments like the ones on display. I wholeheartedly endorse continued moderation of such people.

    • Stephen Pilotte
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      I agree ! The site would be flooded with these kinds of comments…

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Replying to them would be exhausting and fruitless. Once those things go up, I cannot resist wasting time trying to educate them, no doubt having no effect at all.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Firstly, I love that daniel joachim ended his insult with a smiling emoticon.

    Finally, that whole founded on Christianity and therefore a good nation is just so full of fail! Besides the fact that Britain historically has a bunch of influences – mostly pagan ones – do we really want to talk about Christianity has historically good in Britain? Have we forgotten about all the burnings, tortures,inquisitions and holy wars?

    • bric
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      My old school was founded by King Henry VIII, almost certainly using resources confiscated from the monasteries. If you happen to be CofE Christian that might be a good thing; if of the Roman Church probably not. There really isn’t A Christian view, there’s around 30,000 of them . . .

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

        Indeed. I’m sure some would argue that many schools were founded by monks – sure but the same also had you killed for possessing a copy of the bible in any other language other than Koine Greek!

  6. eric
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    there’s no reason to believe that blind, determined molecules in motion can qualitatively add up to a mind that can reason

    That’s like saying there’s no reason to believe that cheese, bread, and sauce can qualitatively add up to pizza. Huh? You just look at the damn thing and see what it’s made of – that’s your reason. When we look at the brain, we find molecules of normal matter. We find biochemistry. Nothing else. When we image a thinking mind, we see movement of chemicals (blood) and electrical signals. So we quite reasonably conclude that molecules, biochemistry, electrical activity, etc. is what mind is made of.

    don’t say fossils are proff because you can never prove any fossils had children like themselves.

    I’ll admit, this is a new one to me. I’ve never heard someone argue that fossil creatures were one-offs and not species at all.

    • Charles E. Jones
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Hmm, we do have seven fossil ichthyosaurs there were preserved in the moments of giving live birth. In all seven cases, the young are children that are simply smaller versions of the adults–amazing, eh?

      And of course we have famous examples of dinosaurs fossilized while tending their nests of eggs, and inside the eggs, children that look like the parents! Amazing.

      But I suppose that a creationist would argue that the dinosaur eggs contain a completely separate tiny species that just resembles the adults around the nest, and that in the case of ichthyosaurs, a completely separate tiny species was trying to swim into a dead larger species when it died. Because that makes good theology.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      That quote on the fossils having children makes me wonder if maybe the writer thinks that fossils were animals made of stone. Which would yes, be a new one.

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        Perhaps this person was bringing up the very old idea that fossils were remnants of biblical creation, where living things were formed from the earth in a kind of wave of god-driven spontaneous generation. It was actually a rather nice idea with some explanatory power. One could find fossils that were very detailed, as if they were almost done being made, to cruder looking fossils with lumps of quarts stuck on them, so these did not get very far from being made from dirt.
        Steven Gould writes about this very old idea in one of his books, but I do not remember which one. He goes on to explain how it was disproven, I think in an investigation involving Galileo.

        • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          I don’t know what Gould wrote, but thinkers from the Presocratics onwards have noticed that the fact that one finds fossils inland tells us that once there was water there. Others have noticed strange fossil animals and made up stories about dragons or other mythological animals. Some even (Empedocles) discovered evolution by natural selection this way, though had imperfect evidence and were not convincing.

          • Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

            Yes. There were Greeks who had figured these things out, but of course much of that knowledge was disregarded or lost in later centuries. The biblical creation interpretation of fossils was slanted by the world-view at the time. There must have been a creation, so it made sense that that was what fossils represented.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Not that a reasonable question about this would do anything to change his mind, but isn’t this completely antithetical to the Creationist claim that only “kinds” produce “kinds”? The implication here seems to be that there’s a unique (or N unique) form(s) of specific types of animals. Maybe these were God’s rough drafts? But that seems to be going of the rails on a crazy train even for Biblical literalists.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      After thinking about it for some time, I still don’t see how Jon’s claim would be a point for creationism. As Chris Buckley wrote, even creationism allows for reproduction. All I can conclude us that Jon is very, very hard of thinking.

      If I absolutely had to I’d maybe guess that Jon feels like making that claim comes close to disproving the existence of the several million species in the fossil record, and therefore disproves macroevolution. Maybe. A sort of head in the sand tactic.

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Comfort’s movie may well wind up in schools here and there, but I expect that Shubin’s series will too, and that it will eat Comfort’s lunch. Or at least all of his bananas.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Mmm, Shubin. The series is completed, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope it is re-run over and over again.

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        It is always a special pleasure to read a good book and then see a movie that strictly adhere’s to it, such a rarity with fiction.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          I hate to jump in with both feet (ha! say the people on the list who know me), but you aren’t trying to imply that Shubin’s book is fiction, are you?

          • Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

            Something about the way I worded that sentence didn’t seem quite right at the time, Mark, and your comment clarifies what is wrong with it. It certainly reads as if I wrote that Your Inner Fish is a work of fiction. Not my intent, I assure you.

            • Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

              Correction: The sentence I initially wrote clearly says Your Inner Fish is a work of fiction, which is not what I set out to say. My intent was to contrast this nonfiction book & Shubin’s video series, both of identical quality, with works of fiction I appreciated that were noticeably altered, and diminished in the process, when converted to film. (I think I state the situation accurately this time.)

      • Merilee
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        I’ve watched 2 out of 3 and am planning to buy the DVDs. Loved the book, too.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I hope kids in grade/high school get to see that several times, the same way some of us probably saw Hemo the Magnificent more than once. (I wonder if they still show that?)

  8. Merilee
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I can imagine it would be hard to fly with wet fir, especially if your fur’s also wet…

    • eric
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Sadly, I think the spelling mistakes are the least of James’ worries. Here’s hoping he’s ten or something; I would hate to think that content was the product of an adult mind.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        The content was almost certainly offered up by an adult and, obviously, it was not the product of an adult mind.

  9. James Walker
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    “show me how the most advanced processing unit in the known universe not only built itself but invented itself”

    I’m glad he sees the problem with explaining the origin of God …

  10. Sastra
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    How can one deal with such ignorance and religiosity? You can’t. The person is beyond redemption, but we can still attack the source of this ignorance.

    Come on. This is hyperbole and I assume you’re kidding. Just because someone is making a very weak argument doesn’t mean they’re personally “beyond redemption.” If that were true then there would be no former creationists — or, at least, all the former creationists would have believed only because of the complicated arguments like cellular flagella, with none of them indoctrinated at Sunday School.

    But you have redeemed creationists of all backgrounds. Have faith!

    As I always say (a Professor Ceiling Cat Aphorism™), “You can have religions without creationism, but you can’t have creationism without religion.” While I’m sure I’ve missed a few secular creationists, the only one I know of is David Berlinski, and I’m not too sure about him!

    I think your aphorism is safe because from what I’ve seen all the so-called “secular” alternatives to “mechanistic, Darwinian evolution” fall under the label of woo — and woo is supernaturalism without a specific and obvious connection to an established religion. The cosmos is intentional, or mindlike attributes like Creativity, Love, or Intelligence go down all the way to the Ground of Being, pure and irreducible. Nature knew we were coming; Consciousness-with-the- capital-C did not evolve. In other words, it’s Spirituality-with-the-capital-S.

    In my book — and probably in yours — this still qualifies as “religion, broadly construed.”

    The Spiritual foam at the mouth when we do this. No no no — RELIGION is the dogma and the organization and people making God/Spirit into their own image! Religion is all about power and control! But we’re doing nothing like that! Religion bad! Spirituality good! Science and Spirituality go together in harmony!

    No. Spirituality is just a somewhat diffused version of religion because what defines religion AS religion is the supernatural beliefs.

    • eric
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      I think your aphorism is safe because from what I’ve seen all the so-called “secular” alternatives to “mechanistic, Darwinian evolution” fall under the label of woo

      I think the apohrism is generally safe too, but its possible for there to be exceptions. Some people just like to fight against what they see as monolithic, overbearing mainstream science. They’re anti-establishment for no reason other than they think establishments are generally bad. When it comes to ID creationism, I can think of two examples of people who defend (or in the case of PF, defended) ID without it necessarily being religiously motivated: Stephen Fuller (who notably took part in the Kitzmiller trial for the BOE…but ended up hurting their position more than he helped) and Paul Feyerabend.

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        Both of course were “court jester” types at best, charlatans at worst.

    • Andrew D
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      So Sastra, when are you going to write a book? I am sure that Prof. Ceiling Cat and all his commentators would buy it (I would)

      • Sastra
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Ah, thank you. Too lazy to write a book. That’s hard work, and my easy work is to appreciate the hard work of others.

        • gluonspring
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          Just paste together all of your comments from here and hand it to an editor to glue together.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

          Go on panel discussions then? That would be good too!

        • Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          I seem to recall you mentioning that you keep files of interesting bits from yourself and others. It shouldn’t be all that much work to put something together.

          You do have your finger on the pulse of religious psychology (please excuse the mangled imagery). You could call it “The Religious Mind” or “The Mind of the Theist” or somesuch. Get it? Get it? With “Mind”?

      • Pete Moulton
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        I would too.

        • gravityfly
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          Me too. Do it, Sastra. Give the people what they want!

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        I’d buy two copies.

    • qlz
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Well, former creationists are probably people who value evidence above dogma and faith. The Prof is, I suspect, correct that many of these creationists simply cannot be convinced by any amount of evidence. Some folks, once they do (if they do) grasp the difference between science and faith, see the provisional nature of scientific fact as a weakness, and prefer the certainty of religion, despite the evidence. Some are inclined to mysticism, and willingly follow the frequent cultural exhortation to “believe” indiscriminately. Will evidence persistently, patiently, cumulatively provided, ultimately prevail? WEIT and the Cosmos and Inner Fish series, etc., certainly help.

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        I think you may have meant the reverse in the 1st sentence.

        Some of the most ardent YEC do come around, and so there is hope. But I think the point is that it is very difficult to pick out who will be ‘turned’, and what the trigger might be for any given person. Also, the success rate is pretty low. I do agree that it is probably fruitless to focus on any one individual and on any one approach.

        I also agree that creationists often see the provisional nature of science as a weakness. Dogmatic religion comes from authority, and is invariant and I suppose comforting. A truth claim that is asserted to be unassailable must seem better than a hypothesis or theory that could be overturned. The creationists can see scientists attacking the theories of other scientists, and they can see where things once considered to be true being discarded! To the religious, these events must be very unsettling b/c they resembles a religious schism.

    • H.H.
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Spirituality is just a somewhat diffused version of religion because what defines religion AS religion is the supernatural beliefs.

      Religion is notoriously difficult to define, but I think belief in some aspect of the supernatural, the non-material, or in some form of “magic” is the clearest defining characteristic.

      For this reason, I have trouble labeling secular humanism a religion. Same with non-wooish versions of Buddhism. Since they lack supernatural presuppositions which must be taken as articles of faith, I consider them “life philosophies” and not religions.

      Sometimes accomodationists point to these “religions” as being compatible with science in order to defend the general propositions that Religion is compatible with Science. But cherry-picking the few “religions” which lack supernatural content in order to make that point always strikes me as intellectually dishonest.

      At the same time, Secular Humanism (and atheism, for that matter) are clearly recognized as equivalent to religions in that they deserve the same legal protections and considerations. They are alternatives to religion, imo, but fill the same role.

      What does everyone else think? Are religions which lack supernatural content still religions?

      • Sastra
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        No, I’d call them life philosophies as well (Paul Kurtz tried to push the term “eupraxophy” but it didn’t take.) Secular Humanism and atheism then would like religions be considered “matters of conscience” and thus deserving of the same legal protections and considerations.

        I have a problem though with the whole idea that ‘religion’ is a protected class on par with race, nationality, sex, and so forth. It’s a problem all atheists have because we reject religion for what makes it distinct from the secular: the supernatural fact claims. But lumping it in with “protected classes” rejects this approach and treats a person’s religion as an aspect of their core and inviolable identity.

        That’s a mistake. Religion comes down to a conclusion or series of conclusions about the nature of reality and the supernatural — conclusions which can and should be changed because they are mistaken. I’d put ‘religion’ then in the same category as politics … or science.

        Now it gets dicier when it comes to laws which prohibit discrimination. There is still unjust bias and unfair treatment, but the group is made more fluid. This approach removes the assumption that disapproval of a belief automatically translates into disapproval of a class of people.

        And it also removes new atheists from the charge of being “just like racists” because we’re telling the religious they’re wrong.

        The religious seem to really like it when religion is seen as similar to race. Doing that reinforces the specialness of faith. It sets you apart. You believe what you believe because of subjective reasons involving who you are. And criticism of the belief is now criticism of the believer, and forbidden not only by the conventions of civility but also perhaps by law.

        Whenever the list of “protected classes” is read off and they get to the part about ‘religion’ I always hear the Sesame Street song running in my head: “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

        • Posted April 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          In Iceland, they use the term “life stance” (but in Icelandic, I’d guess).

          /@

        • Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Right wing Christian dominion political strategy going on its fourth decade emphasizes victimization of Christianity and Christians. Transparently a strategy to legally enshrine privilege and concomitant special rights for the various sects and practitioner/believers, the strategy is clearly modeled on Great Society ethnic minority civil rights legislative protections now under assault from the highest federal bench. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-reverses-decision-that-tossed-out-michigans-ban-on-racial-preferences/2014/04/22/44177ad6-9d8f-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html

          One hopes this ruling clearly will have a chilling affect on Dominionism, Reconstructionist’s, Barton style Revisionist’s, business owner’s seeking individual personhood religious status for their business entities’, and other increasingly aggressive intrusion into the heretofore secular sphere by organized religion. Sure.

          Like maybe I’ll dig into a vein of gold when I put out tomatoes this spring. And maybe I’ll purchase that winning Powerball ticket soon. and the Royals will win the 2014 World Series where I’ll have great seats I buy with my lottery jack. And maybe pigs will fly.

  11. Walt Jones
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I like the irony of Shaun’s describing the arguments as “sophomoric,” when the point of the original post was to use the believers’ forms of argument to argue for science.

  12. Kevin
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    That should be a saying:

    “The Creationism is strong in this one.”

  13. Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    congrats to SJ who has single handedly shown that no one should believe in his religion because there is indeed no observable evidence that it is true.

  14. Dominic
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it better to say cosmic development rather than evolution?

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      I think that it is ok to say that the cosmos has ‘evolved’. Languages evolve, and I think cosmologists are using the E-word.
      The term ‘evolution’ has changed over time, and it has been used in different situations, beginning with referring to the unrolling of a scroll.
      Saying that the cosmos has developed is also ok, IMO, but I have not noticed it being used by cosmologists.

      • Harrison
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        The problem though is that creationists use that sort of language to attempt to inflate the Theory of Evolution into this big caricature that they can then attack as a worldview. It’s very important to point out that biological evolution is a distinct and narrow branch of study that is concerned with genes and organisms, not stars, cosmology, or even abiogenesis.

        This is the root of the creationist mischaracterization of evolution as “nothing created everything.” Because the actual purview of biological evolution, that organisms survive and reproduce preferentially, is so eminently reasonable to most people that the only way they can sow distrust in it is to inflate it into an over-arching worldview encompassing life, the universe, and everything, and then attack that.

  15. phein39
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I can’t say about reason, but I think it’s been pretty well established that God gave rock and roll to you, put it in the soul of everyone (Argent 3:1).

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      That may be a true creed for some, but others believe the doctrine that AC/DC, Metallica, and Guns ‘n Roses are the Gods of Rock. It must be true, I saw it on a poster.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      God also created Baseball – in fact that came before everything else. Remember that the book of Genesis opens with the line,

      In the Big Inning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        The Big Inning in the Biblical ball game immediately devolved into a succession of errors. Yet the team still has unaccountable fan support, even after leaving the field two millennia ago.

        The love fans retain for the Bible team, and their zealous faith in its fabled skills, accomplishments, and (despite the previously alluded to premature cessation of noticeably active participation in the game) the potential of the presumably semi-retired players who will in their good time return and give their all one last time for the End Inning, goes a long way toward explaining the blind delusion displayed in the reader’s comments above.

        • Bess Bibbentucker
          Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          “Say it ain’t so, Joseph.”

  16. E.A. Blair
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    James was right about one thing – in the mythology of the bible, serpents are not snakes. Furthermore, the transformation of the serpent who tempted Eve into a snake makes the creationists’ claim that all creatures were created in their present form null and void.

    Biblical serpents supposedly were intelligent beings who often played adversarial roles (sort of a combination of a Chinese dragon and a trickster), hence their frequent association with Satan, the adversary. In medieval art, they were depicted as having human form, sometimes male, sometimes female. John Huston’s 1966 movie depicted the serpent as a man and was rather explicit about the transformation.

    Of course everything else James said is pure blather. Ain’t mythology great?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Some creationists got quite excited when palaeontologists found various Cretaceous fossil snakes with hindlimbs. “Ha! That proves Genesis is true! You can’t possibly explain that, godless evilutionist!”
      Not kidding, unfortunately.

  17. Barry
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    “Taridactils”? I bet James also thinks Triassic dinosaurs have three butts.

  18. Jeffery
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    James appears to be in possession of some sort of “annotated” Babble that explains everything in depth- I sure would like to get a hold of that book!

    I feel SO sorry for anyone who has to read this ignorant drivel on a steady basis, and even sorrier for those who believe it: it’s good to know what we’re up against, but it makes my heart sink, too- what’s to come of this country, the world, when thinking like this is allowed to claim equal time with facts? Were there to be a global catastrophe, I can easily see the human race, in the space of a generation or two, sinking to a level that makes the “Mad Max” scenario look technologically sophisticated!

  19. gravityfly
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Aah…”reader’s comments’ is the highlight of my week! 🙂

    • gravityfly
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      “Readers’ comments”

  20. watson
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    One thing I’ve noticed, from reading comments like these and writings from the more sophisticated theological set, is that the language used is almost universally, well, silly. It is telling that people who argue without real facts try too hard to sound smart and knowledgeable, and accomplish the opposite. Even those who are bright and/or educated use language that is intentionally opaque. Compare this to your own writing, or that of others who share similar points of view, and the difference is striking. You speak plainly and make every effort not to mislead or confuse the reader.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Yes. And I appreciate the vivid metaphors as in: “And do note that the percentage of Christians in Britain is dropping faster than a priest’s trousers.” Which got me to wondering, don’t some priests wear dresses? Or is that only the Pope?

    • Posted April 30, 2014 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      “Even those who are bright and/or educated use language that is intentionally opaque.”

      Obscurantism, the only tool in the theologian workshop

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Re

    “While I’m sure I’ve missed a few secular creationists, the only one I know of is David Berlinski, and I’m not too sure about him!”

    On the one hand, Berlinski says he is an agnostic & secular Jew. On the other hand, he definitely argues that objective morality requires !*some*! kind of religious foundation in his 2008 book “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions”, so he certainly isn’t 5 or 6 on the Dawkins scale, more of a 3 (or 2)!! (If anyone needs a reference for that, it’s briefly laid out here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawkins_Scale).

    Berlinski agrees with Ben Stein that Darwinism at least played a role in Nazi thinking. I’ll cut Berlinski more slack than I will Stein since his parents were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, but they should study Houston Chamberlain more!!

    For what it’s worth, Berlinski’s also critical of string theory in astrophysics because of it’s untestability. His main area of expertise seems to be mathematics and its history and systems analysis.

    ===
    There may be multiple causes of creationism, but they seem to be also related to the origins of religion. Fundamentalist religion seems to be a main cause. There may be other supplementary causes as well.

    • colnago80
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      It should be noted that Berlinski’s PhD is in philosophy, not mathematics. He is, as folks like PZ Myers and Ed Brayton have opined, a pompous windbag. However, criticism of the strings hypothesis on the basis of untestability is not unwarranted. A number of physicists, including Lawrence Krauss have made the same argument.

  22. Shaun Hervey
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the comment by James. That craziness was pretty funny.

  23. Rob
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The one thing I notice over and over, is that when creationist don’t like where the evidence leads, they refer to it not as science, but as “naturalism”.

    I guess that hand-waving and relabeling can make all the evidence go away. Poof, it’s gone.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Yes. Naturalism and lets not forget the handy discard bin of ‘Materialism’. Just toss any fact you do not like into either box, and they are automatically regarded as having less value than things put on the pedestals of Faith and Spirituality.

  24. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    James is indeed hilarious. Even when I adopt my best hillbilly-hick voice and think of the silliest, most outlandish satirical creationist stuff I can, nothing sillier comes to mind than his comment. I’m awestruck!

  25. Jim Thomerson
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Creation myths, in a wide range of forms, are universal. I suppose all cultures have some concern with how things came to be. Western science provides an evidence based creation myth, illustrating the point that a myth can, in fact, possibly be true.

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Only by coincidence in some cases. The finding of the Big Bang has been hailed by theologians as being akin to the first act of Genesis. Many myths have stories about dragons, and yes, there were dinosaurs. Other myths have been supported by evidence, suggesting that some myths originate from historical events that get embellished over time. The biblical flood, for example, seems to descend from earlier myths in the region. Various historians have cited evidence for a local flood in the area, long ago.

      • Jeffery
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t think it at all unusual that most cultures have legends about “dragons”- after all, our ancestors noticed giant bones poking out of hillsides for hundreds of thousands of years; “dragons” is simply an attempt to explain them.

  26. Kelton Barnsley
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    “They were not allowed on the Ark because they were Satan’s workmanship, not God’s.”

    What? Pterodactyls were created by Satan? They were pretty cool already, but their death metal cred just went through the roof.

    “The argument is that there’s no reason to believe that blind, determined molecules in motion can qualitatively add up to a mind that can reason, intend, do syllogisms or love. Well, if you know the difference between correlation and causality.”

    No reason, except of course for the fact that blind, determined molecules in motion do in fact appear to add up to minds that can reason, intend, do syllogisms or love. Just because something is counterintuitive to us doesn’t mean we ignore the evidence that it’s true.

  27. Richard Bond
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Re ignorant Jon’s point (2): we know how hydrogen can be changed to iron in stars, but the process is nuclear rather than chemical.

  28. Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Maybe the list of comments should be tallied and sent over to David Bentley Hart. We’ll keep score between the people who write in saying that God is active, can suspend the laws of nature, etc. to the Ground of Being-ists. Then Hart can spend his time criticizing all the religious people who are doing it wrong.

  29. James Downard
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    The creationism debate sloshes over into many areas. Representing the FFRF side, I debated conservative law professor Patrick Garry on April 22 at Seattle University School of Law’s Federalist Society chapter over the Greece NY prayer case (as readers here will know, currently pending before the Supreme Court). The pro-prayer amicus briefs were almost entirely from creationist-friendly conservative Kulturkampf organizations, as I noted in my presentation, distinctly unlike those of the opposing side. For those interested in law case debates as contact sport, the video of it all is posted at the Federalist Society of Seattle:

    http://www.law.seattleu.edu/multimedia-library/student-organizations/federalist-society?destinationID=xERrv13GCEOS_Lr4zju34Q&contentID=4NJ7E9Sn_E6F9_r7DiPGBA&orderByDirection=asc&pageIndex=1&pageSize=10

    For some inexplicable reason 5 hrs of video is posted, but the Greece debate segment starts it off and involves only the first hour (my and Garry’s presentation and the Q&A).

    • Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      This has almost nothing to do with the post above, but smacks of self-promotion. Please do not do this again.

  30. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh, how fun! But what is it with creationists whose name starts with J these days?

    @James:

    James seems to me to have noticeable psychological problems. Well, statistically it is bound to happen.

    @Jim:

    The day that so-called “orthodox” scientists can actually prove the “Big Bang” occurred spontaneously within an infinite void,

    Done, except possibly for the “infinite” part. BICEP2 likely tested inflation by providing the “smoking gun” (verification outstanding, but expected in 1-2 years).

    It is well known that inflation, like evolution, deterministically (a slow transit along a decreasing inflationary potential energy) and spontaneously (quantum fluctuations modulate descent, seeing how inflation is a quantum field) tips a volume containing the observable universe over the edge to heat up to the Hot Big Bang. [See e.g. first rate cosmologist Susskind’s cosmology lectures on Stanford’s youtube channel.]

    Whether the previous cold inflation volume was infinite or finite is open, but it was definitely a “void” – its near 0 K temperature was because the exponential inflation expansion had diluted any previous content way, way, way much.

    is the day I’ll stop looking at Creationism as a viable alternative theory of how the Universe was formed.

    Never gonna happen. For one thing, both Susskind’s and BICEP2 went by without a blink from you.

    Admit it. You are unable to learn, you are unable to reason with: you are just trolling. Badly.

    @Jon:

    Do your research. Teaching creation Science is not religion. … 4.organic evolution (origin of life) … Only number 6 can be observed

    >

    Not only science has judged creation “Science” as religion, the courts have. And both these have done their research, science by definition by the way. =D

    To the real science now.

    “Organic” evolution (evolution of organics) is part of chemical evolution. In fact, carbon stars, which does the nucleosynthesis you say is impossible, combine hydrogen and the carbon they produce out of it (by fusion) to organic compounds already in their atmospheres under the impact of their radiation. This has been observed.

    Astrobiology studies the process from chemical evolution to biological evolution. A meta-evolution if you want, but simpler an evolution process, between almost-life and life.

    In fact, last year scientists claimed they have observed many homologies (phylogenetic markers) between submarine alkaline hydrothermal vents and their almost-life cells under the Hadean and basal life cells. Likely evolution confirmed then, but as for speciation it is hard to tell the modes and the differences. Only the emergence of life as a whole can be studied.

    That’s what it is called by NASA now by the way, “submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life”. It has undergone some observable tests:

    1. Alkaline hydrothermal vents and their chemical gardens were predicted in the 90’s and discovered in the 00’s! (Visions of Tiktaalik prediction and later discovery…)

    2. The initial predicted separate methanogene and acetogene metabolisms were phylogenetically united this year, and later the key compound methanethiol that was connected to the separate metabolisms but not to the united one was found not to be produced by the vents in the way naive thermodynamic calculations had predicted. [ http://www.whoi.edu/news-release/study-tests-theory-that-life-originated-at-deep-sea-vents ; methanethiol is produced, but by breakdown of existing organics, so has now been promoted to excellent biomarker in ice moon oceans!]

    3. The bioreactors of vents are great for getting membrane bound carbon fixation/energy capture out of CO2 and CH4 in the chemical garden cellular compartments, phosphate energy conversion production, and thermophoresis cycled nucleotide string replication for almost-alive and alive cells, but not so much for glycolysis.

    There have been ideas though, but not very detailed. However, it was just observed that heated iron rich Hadean type ocean water around vents will spontaneously arrive at a glycolysis cycle. [ http://astrobiology.com/2014/04/reconstructed-ancient-ocean-reveals-secrets-about-the-origin-of-life.html ]

    Sure, there are details. There are always details, what is news about that? It isn’t as if hadn’t found out about these processes, akin to how quantum mechanics was unknown at the classical mechanics stage. Darwin predicted that this had happened out of biology, eventually cosmology predicted that the universe starts out with hydrogen and helium (and dark matter) and later arrives at life, and now we know these sciences got it entirely correct.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Oops. It’s a glycolysis pathway rather than a full-fledged cycle. (And perhaps not too surprising, seeing how we apparently do some sporadic non-enzymatic glycolysis in our bodies too.)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 1, 2014 at 3:49 am | Permalink

      1. Alkaline hydrothermal vents and their chemical gardens were predicted in the 90′s and discovered in the 00′s! (Visions of Tiktaalik prediction and later discovery…)

      Actually, some of the people presently working on it started into that path by studying the bulk and microstructure of Palaeozoic pyrite deposits at a number of major mines in Ireland in the 1970s. Trying to understand the processes that led to the formation of the microstructure led to the realisation that microbes were often involved in their deposition … which got them involved in the OOL debates.
      The general chemistry of alkaline vents was an active area of research long before the OOL people got involved. It’s kind-of important for working out the geometry of the ore bodies, and optimising their exploitation (or deciding which of several prospects to perform a full evaluation of – it ain’t cheap).

  31. Hypatias Daughter
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Jon is regurgitating pure Hovind. Hovind’s “Age of the Earth” talk pushes the seven kinds of “evolution” that Jon lists. As Harrison points out above this is part of the new CreoIDers goal to to discredit almost all theoretical sciences. (Applied sciences are o.k because they produce cell phones and by-pass surgery. Wouldn’t want to give those up, even for God.)
    Hovind also made a comment that evolutionists can’t know if Lucy is our ancestor because – hold onto your seats for this one – we can’t know if SHE had any offspring.
    Yep, Hovind thinks if we find any specimens of an ancestral species that paleontologists are saying we are DIRECT descendants from that SPECIFIC specimen. I think this is what Jon means by “And don’t say fossils are proff because you can never prove any fossils had children like themselves”.
    I recommend watching Hovind’s talk on YouTube (but, please, tie your arms to the chair to prevent face palming injuries). You’ll soon realize that a lot of internet CreoIders are just re-shoveling his shit.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Maybe they can all end up in jail for tax evasion, too.

  32. Dave
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    “The serpent in the tree talking to Eve was not a snake. It didn’t crawl on it’s belly until after it was cursed in the tree. Satan tried to get them to fly by immalgamations with birds, but was unsuccessful. Note that all the members of the reptile family do still lay eggs. As they did before the curse. And Taridactils (sp) did not fly across the Pacific and dip for fish along the way. And then were not able to fly on to the our continent supposedly because….” etc, etc, etc.

    Wow! I find it quite bizarre that people who claim to regard the Bible as the inerrant, literal word of God, in which every jot and tittle holds cosmic significance, seem to have no absolutely no inhibitions about embellishing it with all sorts of stuff that the Almighty somehow forgot to mention. It’s a pity really – just think how much more entertaining the bible would be if it was all written this way!

  33. Eddie
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I recently heard what has to be among the most ignorant statements on this issue. My family does go to church and occasionally they convince me to tag along. The last time I went, the sermon was “Science Friction: creation vs evolution.” (I should have left then!)

    The preacher said “how can dead fish end up in mud at the bottom of a lake to fossilize? I’ve had aquariums and have been fishing all my life, and I’ve never seen a dead fish do anything but float.”

    He ended by saying “an evolutionist [??] can’t be a christian and shouldn’t waste their time coming on Sunday morning.”

    He’s right about wasting time. I won’t be back. Good thing is my teenaged daughter feels the same way.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Maybe his next sermon should be: Christianity vs archaeology and entropy. How can stuff get buried and be dug up later? I’ve seen dust in my house and it never amounts to layers of mud that buries my house.

      • Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the “Ground” of Being rose up and the Earth ate the fish.

        • Eddie
          Posted April 30, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          LOL, good one.


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