Stupid Is as Stupid Does: Creationism in my Backyard

Map of Louisiana highlighting Livingston Parish

Image via Wikipedia

I think it’s been mentioned before on here, but I live in Louisiana.  I’ve been in New Orleans for just under a decade, though I’ve spent a good bit of my time very recently in Shreveport where most of my family lives.  For this reason it is of particular interest to me when nonsense pops up in the state, right on my own doorstep.

A few days ago it was announced that the school board of Livingston Parish was proclaiming their intent to get creationism into the science classes in public high schools.  To quote an article from the local paper, The Livingston Parish News:  “The School Board Thursday petitioned Livingston Parish Public Schools administrators to investigate options to study the teaching of creationism theory in high school science classes starting in the 2011-12 school year.”

For those of you unaware, the teaching of creationism is explicitly prohibited in public schools and for good reason.  It specifically violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  This isn’t something I’m just saying; that’s the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987 is the case in question, and, in relation to the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act," it held that “The Act is facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose,” that “The Act does not further its stated secular purpose of ‘protecting academic freedom," and “The Act impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.”

It’s difficult to get more clear than that.  And guess which state was responsible for above act that was struck down so decidedly by the highest court in the land…Louisiana.  Man, we just can’t learn even the simplest lessons here. I can’t help but marvel at the willingness of the people of this state, elected officials, people of power and supposed learning, to make themselves into full-on fools in the eyes of their neighbors and the country and world at large.

One has to wonder, then, what possible justification the school board could use in petitioning school administrators to figure out how to get creationism into the science class.  Let’s look at their own words.  Again from the LPN story linked above, “Board member Clint Mitchell said that teaching creationism is not really teaching religion.  ’Teachers should not have to be afraid to not teach those things that are not prudent in evolution’, Mitchell said.”

First, the Supreme Court clearly disagrees with Mitchell that “teaching creationism is not really teaching religion.”  Further, I can’t imagine how one can even attempt to make such a case when creationism, by definition, proposes that world is the world of a supernatural act of Creation by some Creator.  How can we get around that being religion?  Also, what does it even mean to say “’Teachers should not have to be afraid to not teach those things that are not prudent in evolution”?  What does prudence have to do with what is relevant to the teaching of evolution?  I can only guess that board member Mitchell has no idea what “prudence” is.  The idea that such a person is given the task of deciding what is appropriate to be taught should terrify everyone reading this, regardless of their position on the issue.

Fortunately (what an absurd situation it is when the following is considered “good fortune”), some of the other board members were much more forthright and honest.  Board member David Tate said, “We just sit up here and let them teach evolution and not take a stand about creationism. To me, how come we don’t look into this as people who are strong Christians and see what we can do to teach creationism in schools. We sit back and let the government tell us what to do. We don’t pray to the ACLU and all them people: we pray to God.”

There can be no misunderstanding as to Tate’s reasoning.  He is explicit that creationism should be taught because that’s what “strong Christians” should do because they “pray to God.”  One can only wonder what Tate’s response would be if it were some other religion’s creation story being put for as appropriate material for the science class.  I can’t help but think he would consider that an infringement upon his right to worship his own god as he sees fit.

Board president Keith Martin has perhaps the most interesting reason for bringing in creationism to the science classroom.  He said, “Kids are getting harder and harder to discipline. Without this kind of thought, it will get even harder.”  That’s right.  We need to teach creationism because kids are acting up in class.  Whether or not this is science or even true doesn’t matter.  What matters is getting kids in line.  And it’s got to be clear to everyone how teaching creationism will solve these disciplinary issues.  Right?  It’s because…well, because…just because, ok?!

Beyond the legal issue is the bigger issue of whether or not creationism is science.  It isn’t.  There’s no way around that.  There is no scientific evidence for anything like a supernatural creator, and that’s just the way things are.  Does that mean you can’t accept that as an article of faith?  Well, that’s a different issue.  What is at issue here is what is appropriate for the science classroom.  Since the class is about, you know, science, it would seem obvious that science is the appropriate subject matter.  Attempting to shoehorn religion in there is not just illegal, it’s stupid.

Come on, people.  Let’s not be so stupid about this.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

Enhanced by Zemanta

Junk Science, Hypocrites, and Rentboys

I want to say something about the story of George Rekers, the Southern Baptist Minister and co-founder of the Family Research Council who was recently caught in the company of a male escort.  Stories about religious leaders who preach a standard of sexual purity which they themselves fail to practice abound.   But even in the world of Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard, the hypocrisy of George Rekers is a special case.   His hypocrisy is not merely farcical and outrageous, it is also a lesson about the dangers of junk science.  This is because for the past 25 years Rekers has been a figurehead of the conversion therapy movement which holds not only that homosexuality is caused by environmental influences (rather than genetic) but also that it can be cured.

I am not going to rant about how infuriating it is that the same guy who was called as an expert witness to defend bans on gay adoption in Arkansas and Florida was recently perusing Rentboy.com in search of a 20 year-old with an eight-inch penis.  It may very well be the case that George Rekers thinks homosexual sex is wrong and that a homosexual lifestyle is harmful, and at the same time he can’t resist the urge to dial up a rent-boy on occasion.  It may also be the case that Rekers genuinely believes that homosexuality is caused by environmental factors such as family dynamics and early sexual experiences, which would mean some parents are responsible for raising their children to be homosexuals.  Of course, I think both of these positions are absurd*, but I can grant that Rekers might believe all of this stuff and still, at the same time, like to get his rocks off with young men.  If it it were only that Rekers were a weak Jimmy-Swaggart-type, preaching the virtues of one lifestyle while secretly indulging his dark side, I could be satisfied with a sigh of disgust and the vindication of knowing that his hypocrisy is now a public spectacle.

The problem is that Rekers is also a liar, and not just a liar about his own personal life.  Rekers is a liar because he is an officer and figurehead of NARTH, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality a group which purports to offer “effective psychological care” for “individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction.”  To be fair, the group does not promise full homosexual-to-heterosexual conversion to every person seeking treatment, but it does promise that there are “positive alternatives to homosexuality,” either in the form of abstinence or in conversion, and it publishes numerous quasi-scientific articles arguing that homosexuality is a choice influenced by experience, while minimizing or entirely ignoring the overwhelming body of contrary data published and peer-reviewed by the American Psychological Association and other mainstream medical science authorities.

It may be the case that George Rekers thinks homosexuality is wrong, it may be the case that George Rekers thinks homosexuality is caused by bad parenting, and it may be the case that George Rekers thinks that homosexuality can be “cured” either through conversion therapy or the abstinence support offered by NARTH and its partner agencies.  But I just don’t see how it can be all three.  That is, I don’t see how it can be the case that George Rekers believes it’s bad to be gay, and believes he knows how to “fix” being gay (he has, in fact, profited by telling other people how to “fix” being gay), and yet he still chooses to hire male escorts for sexual romps.  I am certain that a psychologist could map a convoluted web of competing and contradictory desires and beliefs to describe how Rekers probably justified all of this to himself, but the explanation from the outside couldn’t be more simple or more clear:  Conversion therapy to “fix” homosexuality just doesn’t work.  Rekers’ organization can’t “fix” gay in other people.  They couldn’t even “fix” it in him.

Groups like NARTH and the Family Research Council and a whole host of other religiously-bent, political lobbying machines insult our intelligence by offering up dogma and ideology and calling it “science.”  When confronted with research that does not fit their political conclusions, they ignore it or condemn it as a part of a liberal, secular conspiracy.   It is a sad fact of contemporary American life that these groups maintain disproportionate political power by mimicking the language of non-partisan scientific authorities, and pretending to have legitimate scholarly intentions.  In the wake of this scandal, these groups have already begun to distance themselves from Rekers, and we should not let them.  However they may want to portray Rekers’ indiscretion as an isolated incident, it is a case-study in why the conversion therapy/ex-gay movement has failed.  We shouldn’t let them forget it.

*To be clear, I do not think it is absurd to acknowledge that sexual orientation may be the result of both environmental and genetic factors.  In fact, I think the bulk of the data strongly suggests this.  But the mere fact that environmental factors play a role in sexual orientation does not imply that parenting is the most significant (or even a significant) factor in sexual orientation, nor that later-life therapy can significantly alter a person’s orientation.  And, I feel compelled to add, even if it were the case that homosexuality was a choice, this in no way implies that a homosexual lifestyle is immoral nor that homosexual sex is wrong.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

Like This!

Miracles

If I engage a believer in a conversation about faith, I will most likely get a story about miracles.   Belief in miracles is the cornerstone of faith for most people, and this has always struck me as somewhat peculiar.  If we take faith, by definition, to be belief that extends beyond the scope of justification, it is odd that virtually every person of faith holds miracles up to be a good reason, i.e., justification, for believing in God.  It is especially odd in light of the fact that belief in miracles would only count as good evidence for belief in God if that belief is itself justified by evidence.  In other words, the occurrence of miracles only counts as good evidence of the existence of God if there is good evidence that miracles have occurred.  I don’t think that there is any good evidence for the occurrence of miracles, but I don’t see the point in showing the error of specific claims of miracles with a magnifying glass and a flashlight.  Belief in miracles is never justified because of what a miracle is. The following is a brief explanation of this problem.

Sometimes the word "miracle" is used loosely, e.g. "Every baby is a miracle," or "Getting an ‘A’ on my test was a miracle."  But when people appeal to miracles in a theological debate, they mean breaks in the laws of nature.   If science can predict and/or explain an event, we don’t take it to be miraculous.  Instead, believers hold up events that appear to be scientifically inexplicable as evidence for Divine (supernatural) intervention.   The reasoning goes like this:  This event can’t be explained by appeal to a natural cause, so, the better explanation is that it must have been caused by something supernatural (God). In order for this argument to be sound, the believer must demonstrate that the following presumptions are justified:

A) Every natural (physical world) event must be caused by some previous event.

B) Super-natural (non-physical) entities can cause physical events.

C) The best explanation for mysterious events (ones without an obvious natural cause) is that they have a supernatural cause.

If any of these assumptions fails, then the conclusion that a miracle is the best explanation for a mysterious event is not justified.  And, if belief in miracles is unjustified, then belief in God based upon the "evidence" of a miracle is also unjustified.   So, let’s look at at whether these assumptions can be defended.

Assumption A is close to being an axiom of science.  Though most scientists would agree that some quantum events don’t appear to be caused by anything, the assumption that physical events are caused by prior physical events is fairly uncontroversial on the level of everyday observable phenomenon.   If your car starts making a thumping noise and the mechanic says there is no cause, you find another mechanic, you don’t question causal necessity.  So, for the time being, let’s bracket Assumption A and take it for granted.

Assumption B sounds reasonable if you’ve never considered the meaning of the word "cause," but it falls apart under conceptual scrutiny.  The concept of a non-physical cause is problematic because our normal use of the term pertains exclusively to events in the physical world.  For example, the heat of the liquid caused the cold glass to shatter, or the finger on the trigger, caused the gun to fire.  These are physical causes.  It is difficult to imagine what a non-physical cause for a physical event could be.  Some might argue that beliefs are the non-physical cause of actions, but if beliefs were non-physical causes, then manipulation of the brain wouldn’t necessarily affect either beliefs or actions, as we know it does.  The fact that brain states, not the stated beliefs of the agent, are the best predictor of action demonstrates that there is a physical cause underlying the phenomena.   It also illuminates another problem with appealing to non-physical "causes," namely that they are explanatorily useless.

This brings us to Assumption C, which is really the foundation of the miracles argument.  People believe in miracles when they conclude that an act of God/magic is the best explanation for a mysterious event.  This begs the question, "How does positing the existence of supernatural causes explain anything?"  When we assume that physical events are caused by previous physical events that follow patterns of law-like regularity we are able to make lots of predictions that enable us to navigate the world.  So, Assumption A is practically useful.  The truth (or approximate truth) of A is also the best explanation for why we are able to make consistently successful predictions when we assume it.  In contrast, Assumption C is neither practically useful nor likely to be true.  We can’t predict anything new by positing that there are supernatural interventions into nature, and the best explanation for why supernatural explanations are consistently replaced by natural explanations (e.g., hearing voices is schizophrenia, not demonic possession) is that supernatural causes aren’t real.

We don’t have a good reason to believe in miracles because we don’t have a good reason to believe in supernatural causes.  In fact, the whole notion of a non-physical cause is conceptually confused.  Saying ‘God caused the event’ is just as explanatorily informative as saying ‘nothing caused the event’, and we have no more reason to believe in the former than in the latter.  It is, of course, possible that there are are supernatural interventions into nature, just as it is possible that some events are entirely uncaused by anything, but neither of these assumptions jibes with the majority of our experiences, and neither of these assumptions tells us anything useful about the world.

Positing the occurrence of miracles is never the best explanation for mysterious events.  We have lots of reason to believe that strange events can and will be be explained by natural science because so many previously mysterious events have been explained by science.  But even if we can’t explain the physical (natural) cause of an event, we have no good reason to believe it was supernaturally caused.  The possibility of a miracle doesn’t answer any questions, it just begs them.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

If You’re a Homeopath, Why Do You Sell Anything?

I want to do my part to spread the word about World Homeopathy Awareness Week, but it’s difficult to think of anything interesting.  (WHAW is a very real event put on by homeopaths for the purpose of telling everyone about homeopathy.  Check the link.)  I’ve written on here before about the terrible consequences of trusting your and your loved-ones’ health to this pseudoscience, so I have little to add in that respect.  Also, there isn’t much I can add to the arguments and analyses provided over at Science-Based Medicine.  The most I can do is offer a brief explanation of homeopathy, embed a couple of well-known videos put out by homeopaths that purport to explain the mechanism of homeopathy, and raise an issue that seems obvious and which has always bugged me, though I don’t pretend that it’s original.

First, homeopathy is supposed to be a medical treatment.  It is based on the idea that “like treats like,” also called the “law of similars.”  This is the idea that, if you want to cure something, you need something that is similar to your ailment.  Something that causes an ailment in large doses will cure it in small doses.  For example, popular homeopathic sleep remedies contain highly diluted caffeine.  Caffeine causes sleeplessness, so it can cure it as well.

This brings us to the idea of dilution.  That’s how homeopathic remedies are supposed to get their power, by diluting it with water, and succussion, which is just shaking the diluted substance forcefully.  Not only is the substance diluted, but the more diluted it is, the stronger it is.  Most homeopathic remedies are diluted to such a degree that not a single molecule of the original substance remains.  Water is supposed to have a memory, so that’s not a problem for the homeopath, however.  Something of interest is that one popular homeopathic remedy for the flu, Oscillococcinum, is supposed to be diluted by 1 part per 10−400.   To give you an idea of just how diluted this is supposed to be, there are an estimated 1080 atoms in the whole observable universe.  Doing the math, that would require there be 10320 more universes to simply have one molecule in the final substance (pointed out by Robert Park in his Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science).  Now that’s diluted!

That, then, is the rundown of homeopathy.  You take something that is in some “like” your ailment, dilute it to the point that it no longer exists, and this cures you because the water in which you diluted it has some kind of “memory”  that allows it to retain the healing powers of that substance…but only when it’s not there.

If you’re shaking your head at this and wondering exactly how this is supposed to work, I can do no better than to post videos from homeopaths themselves.

I’m hoping those of you reading this know enough basic science to understand the complete absurdity of the claims in those videos, because they are just nutty.

So, here’s my question, then.  If water is able to remember all the substances that it dilutes long after no molecule of that substance remains, then, as the water we drink has had all that stuff in it at some point, we should be able to drink tap water and get all the healing effects one would find in any homeopathic remedy they purchased.  For example, if I were suffering from insomnia and wanted a sleep aid, I should be able to drink tap water as it certainly is merely the result of sophisticated filtering processes that remove substances that were in it, and lots of caffeine has been poured down drains, so that water should have the memory of the caffeine.  If homeopathy is correct, I should never suffer from sleeplessness at all.  That goes for all the other remedies as well.  All that stuff has been in the water that eventually gets to my tap at some point, and it has been diluted to such a point that no molecules of those substances exist.  That should make it perfect for everything.  I should be in perfect health as long as I drink water from the tap regularly.

What’s funny about that is that homeopaths should know this.  Hence, there is absolutely no need for them to sell anyone anything.  As such, even if they are not hucksters in the sense of trying to sell you a product that does not work, they certainly must be in that they are trying to sell you a product of which you already have an ample supply.

If homeopathy is correct, then we don’t need homeopaths at all.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

Why Global Warming Skepticism Is Not a Legitimate Scientific Position

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the Earth is getting warmer, and human activity is the best explanation for why. As the Earth continues to get warmer, we may see cataclysmic results as land near sea-level is covered with water, plant and animal life struggles to exist in a warmer environment, and climate refugees crowd moderate climes.  There is no guarantee that we can slow the process of global warming, but there is good reason to think that doing nothing will exacerbate the phenomenon, making it more likely that we will feel more catastrophic results sooner. With the outlook this grim, it is easy to understand why some people are tempted to deny global warming, or at least, anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  After all, if the Earth isn’t getting warmer, or if the Earth’s warming has nothing to do with us, then we don’t have to alter our way of life.  The impulse to live in denial about AGW is, if not defensible, at least understandable, but this does not mean that AGW-denial is a legitimate scientific position.

Last week, Frank Furedi, a British sociologist and columnist for the web-magazine Spiked, published an essay arguing that, because of the high moral stakes of global warming, the process of peer review in scientific journals has been compromised.  In other words, Furedi thinks that scientists are so worried about the cataclysmic consequences of ignoring global warming that they are no longer giving fair consideration to the arguments and research of legitimate climate-change skeptics.  Instead, Furedi, thinks that scientists and other academics use the process of peer review to shut out controversial or unpopular theories so that they will never have the authoritative status of journal-published research.

The charge that contemporary scientists are complicit in what Furedi calls a "noble lie," willfully ignoring the research of climate skeptics in order to bolster the authority of the theory of AGW, is serious.  I would be tempted to congratulate Furedi on his courage and insight were it not for a glaring oversight in his argument.  Simply put, the best explanation for the scientific consensus about AGW, is that AGW is real.  Moreover, the realness of AGW is not just the best explanation for the consensus but also the best explanation for why, if there were such a conspiracy or "noble lie" in place, scientists would be complicit in promoting it.  But, of course, if AGW is real, then it’s hard to see how the scientific community is lying.  More moderately, Furedi could just be making the point that the scientific community, while not dishonest, has become myopic to new climate research, ignoring data that does not fit in with the consensus view because they view climate skepticism not simply as incorrect but as dangerous.   However, this charge, while less extreme, is no more reasonable.

For the sake of argument, let us grant that the publication of scientific research can have moral consequences.  It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the editors of research journals may be wary of publishing controversial research that may exert disproportionate influence on public opinion.  We all know about the disastrous consequences of the bogus vaccine research published in the British journal, Lancet, which charged that MMR vaccine causes autism, a dangerous myth that has survived despite the retraction of the article and the apology of its lead author.  But, unlike vaccine skepticism, AGW skepticism doesn’t just have the potential to be dangerous, it also has the potential to be extremely profitable*.

Reducing emissions is costly.  Telling people that they have to give up comforts or pay more for them is unpopular.  So, if there were legitimate scientific research that challenged AGW, surely industrialized nations that have a vested interest in their carbon-burning economies would want to fund and publish that research.  It is more than improbable that every major institution and individual in the scientific community, from the U.S. to Finland to China, is so worried about the possibility of being wrong that not one would take the risk of publishing promising data.  After all, scientists make their careers by publishing research that challenges the established consensus.  Moreover, because scientists and scientific institutions build their reputations by conducting novel research that challenges conventional understanding, it is absurd to suggest that all of these competing institutions are complicit in a global scientific conspiracy to ignore the very information that could set them apart and make them important.  If there were any even remotely plausible rival to AGW, LOTS of scientists would be studying it, and it is very likely that the scientific community would significantly exaggerate its importance.  Scientists like good news too, after all.

The best explanation for why peer-reviewed scientific research journals have not published legitimate theories to rival AGW is that there are no scientifically legitimate rival explanations.   Global-warming deniers may consider themselves skeptics, but that term implies no shrewd deliberation or depth of consideration when applied to them.  We don’t have a good reason to doubt AGW, and characterizing AGW skeptics as thoughtful rather than willfully ignorant is offensive.

*This is not to suggest that the Lancet vaccine research was unbiased by the potential for profit.  It is now known that the lead author of the paper was under the employ of a rival vaccine manufacturer when published falsified data suggesting that the MMR vaccine might cause autism.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

Sometimes People are so Crazy They Scare You

I’ve struggled for a couple of days to figure out what to say in this post. Sometimes you read things that are…well, they’re just batshit crazy.  I recently read something like that.  It’s batshit crazy.  There is simply no other way to describe it.  I would like to think that when Linda Kimball wrote “Evolutionism: the dying West’s science of magic and madness” that she was merely lying for Jesus.  As terrible as that may be, it’s at least a somewhat rational action that one can understand, even if one cannot approve.  But this article is so nuts, so madly over-the-top, that it’s near-impossible for me to believe that such is the case.  Rather, it looks like Kimball is, instead, completely insane.  That said, this is a longer post, and, in the end, I feel like I haven’t said very much.  I tried to make substantive points, but it gets hard when the points to which you’re replying are, again, just crazy.

The article in question appears on Alan Keyes’ site, Renew America, so I knew going in that the tone was going to be of the far right-wing and fundamentalist Christian.  Even so, that did not prepare me for what I read.  Kimball begins by opining about the rise of the “occult intelligentsia” that, apparently, came out from the Renaissance.  She says,

since the Renaissance, a powerfully influential occult community existing at the highest levels of society has been both the intelligentsia and the real powers behind what has been variously called the Progressive Underground, the Anti-Establishment, and the Counter Culture, the aim of which is twofold: first, the total destruction of the Old Order based on Christianity , and second, the creation of a utopian New World Order which is to rise out of the smoldering ashes of the Old Order.

So, already we have the assertion that sometime since the 14th to 16th century there has been some ruling elite who have been attempting to destroy the “Old Order,” that order, I guess, being the order from the Medieval period, since most people would consider the 1500’s pretty old at this point.  Is there any way to read that?  It would seem that the ruling elite, the “powerfully influential community existing at the highest levels of society,” for the past 500 years would be the ones behind the old way of doing things, but that 500 year-old order is explicitly not her complaint.  Rather, they’re the ones still hammering away at the Old Order, the one preceding the Renaissance.  Maybe that Old Order was feudalism?  Who knows.  It’s unclear on exactly what that Old Order is beyond it being Christian and Right.  At any rate, it just goes downhill from there.

Kimball moves on to a discussion about how the occult intelligentsia is obsessed with magic, and ends up saying, “The return to the ancient science of magic produced two currents of animism: Eastern/occult pantheism and rationalist/materialist/secularism.”  Yes, she said that rationalism-slash-materialism-slash-secularism is a form of animism, a kind of magic.  I hope you’re scratching your head on this one and hoping for some clarification.  I was.  And here it is: 

Essentiality, animism is the belief that not only is all of nature animated — including both living and non-living things — but that the animating force or spirit conveys power and influence. Western occult-pantheism speaks of animating spirit or soul while materialism speaks of miracle-producing ‘knowing’ energies that in their modern forms, animate and inform what can be viewed as either discarnate entities or ‘force and/or voice ideas’ called memes, genes, dialectical matter, chance, causation, determinism, evolution, and neurons, for example.

Yep, genes, neurons, evolution (I know, I know, the category error here is painful), and even causation are all “miracle-producing ‘knowing’ energies,” whatever that means.  Though it shouldn’t be necessary, I guess I’ll point out that it is a radical mischaracterization of materialism to suggest that it is any form of magic, animism included.  In fact, as we normally think of it, it is antithetical to magic.  And saying that genes and neurons are considered as some kind of magical energy by those who use the terms positively is…nuts.  It gets it exactly backwards.  They are explicitly not magical.  They are natural.  That’s the point.  (As an aside, dialectical matter?  Really?!)

Kimball then proceeds to write some really bizarre stuff about Hegel and Marx, saying they were part of a tradition of Hermetic mysticism.  She writes, without the least bit of humor,

The foundations of Hermeticism are forbidden knowledge — revelations — revealed to Hermes during an out-of-body experience. The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurias Trismegistus relates Hermes mystical encounter with The Great Dragon. Calling itself Poimandres, the Mind of the Universe, the Dragon transformed itself into a glorious being of Light and proceeded to ‘illuminate’ Hermes with the forbidden knowledge that would eventually find its’ way into Hegel’s dialectic and from there into Marx’s dialectical materialism.

Regardless of what you think of Hegel or Marx, the suggestion that they in any way believed that their work was the result of a Great Dragon Laser Beam giving them forbidden knowledge is beyond silly.  It’s…well, you know.

It’s at this point that Kimball gets to her real issue:  “naturalistic evolutionism”!  She says,

Though taught under the guise of empirical science, naturalistic evolution is really a spiritual concept whose taproot stretches back to the dawn of history. It was then, reports ancient Jewish historian Josephus, that Nimrod (Amraphel in the Old Testament) used terror and force to turn the people away from God and toward the worship of irrational nature. Moving forward in time to the Greco-Roman world, evolution serves as the mechanism of soul-transference in metempsychosis and transmigration of souls. In the ancient East, the mystical Upanishads refine evolution and it becomes the mechanism of soul-movement in involutions, emergences, incarnations, and reincarnation. In that both rationalist/materialist/secularism and its’ counterpart Eastern/occult pantheism are modernized nature pseudo-religions, it comes as no surprise that evolution serves as their ‘creation mythos’.

I bet you didn’t learn any of that stuff in your biology classes.  Who knew that evolution was about “soul-transference,” “transmigration of souls,” or had anything  to do with souls at all?  I think I must have been absent the day they taught us to use evolution to terrorize people, turn them away from their gods, or force them to worship anything.  I’d love to know how talk of mutation and selection can bring about worship to some god-entity.  Except, of course, that’s just crazy.

From here Kimball falls into the usual creationist/fundamentalist drek of using definitions of evolution that no biologist holds, claiming that science relies on Christian principles, and informing us that “many scientists have already rejected [Darwinism] as useless.”  I’d like to note here that Kimball seems to criticize science throughout most of this piece, then wants it to be ok because it’s actually a Christian project, and finally attempt to appeal to the authority of scientists, most of whom, according to her earlier parts of the essay, are occultists.  Yea.  Even better, when she actually quotes “scientists,” she doesn’t.  It’s great.  Under the heading “What Some Scientists are Saying About Naturalistic-Evolution she quotes four men:  George Wald, David C.C. Watson, Robert Andrews Millikan, and T. Rosazak.  Of those, Watson was an English teach with a degree in Classics, and Rosazak was an historian.  Neither were scientists in any sense of the word.  The other two were scientists, but they don’t work so well for Kimball, either.

The quote she takes from Wald reads thus in Kimball’s essay:  "When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities: Creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago, but that leads us only to one other conclusion: that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds, therefore we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance."  Here I want to thank the hard work of the people at the Quote Mine Project over at the TalkOrigins Archive.  There’s an entry for this quote, and it turns out that it is actually fabricated.  That’s right; it’s made up.  The quote supposedly comes from the September, 1958 issue of Scientific American.  Here is the actual quote from that article.  It is quite lengthy, but quoting only part of it will fail to capture the point of the issue that Wald is addressing.  It follows,

Throughout our history we have entertained two kinds of views of the origin of life: one that life was created supernaturally, the other that it arose "spontaneously" from nonliving material. In the 17th to 19th centuries those opinions provided the ground of a great and bitter controversy. There came a curious point, toward the end of the 18th century, when each side of the controversy was represented by a Roman Catholic priest. The principle opponent of the theory of the spontaneous generation was then the Abbe Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian priest; and its principal champion was John Turberville Needham, an English Jesuit.

Since the only alternative to some form of spontaneous generation is a belief in supernatural creation, and since the latter view seems firmly implanted in the Judeo-Christian theology, I wondered for a time how a priest could support the theory of spontaneous generation. Needham tells one plainly. The opening paragraphs of the Book of Genesis can in fact be reconciled with either view. In its first account of Creation, it says not quite that God made living things, but He commanded the earth and waters to produce them. The language used is: "let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life…. Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind." In the second version of creation the language is different and suggests a direct creative act: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air…." In both accounts man himself–and woman–are made by God’s direct intervention. The myth itself therefore offers justification for either view. Needham took the position that the earth and waters, having once been ordered to bring forth life, remained ever after free to do so; and this is what we mean by spontaneous generation.

This great controversy ended in the mid-19th century with the experiments of Louis Pasteur, which seemed to dispose finally of the possibility of spontaneous generation. For almost a century afterward biologists proudly taught their students this history and the firm conclusion that spontaneous generation had been scientifically refuted and could not possibly occur. Does this mean that they accepted the alternative view, a supernatural creation of life? Not at all. They had no theory of the origin of life, and if pressed were likely to explain that questions involving such unique events as origins and endings have no place in science.

A few years ago, however, this question re-emerged in a new form. Conceding that spontaneous generation doe not occur on earth under present circumstances, it asks how, under circumstances that prevailed earlier upon this planet, spontaneous generation did occur and was the source of the earliest living organisms. Within the past 10 years this has gone from a remote and patchwork argument spun by a few venturesome persons–A. I. Oparin in Russia, J. B. S. Haldane in England–to a favored position, proclaimed with enthusiasm by many biologists.

Have I cited here a good instance of my thesis? I had said that in these great questions one finds two opposed views, each of which is periodically espoused by science. In my example I seem to have presented a supernatural and a naturalistic view, which were indeed opposed to each other, but only one of which was ever defended scientifically. In this case it would seem that science has vacillated, not between two theories, but between one theory and no theory.

That, however, is not the end of the matter. Our present concept of the origin of life leads to the position that, in a universe composed as ours is, life inevitably arises wherever conditions permit. We look upon life as part of the order of nature. It does not emerge immediately with the establishment of that order; long ages must pass before [page 100 | page 101] it appears. Yet given enough time, it is an inevitable consequence of that order. When speaking for myself, I do not tend to make sentences containing the word God; but what do those persons mean who make such sentences? They mean a great many different things; indeed I would be happy to know what they mean much better than I have yet been able to discover. I have asked as opportunity offered, and intend to go on asking. What I have learned is that many educated persons now tend to equate their concept of God with their concept of the order of nature. This is not a new idea; I think it is firmly grounded in the philosophy of Spinoza. When we as scientists say then that life originated inevitably as part of the order of our universe, we are using different words but do not necessary mean a different thing from what some others mean who say that God created life. It is not only in science that great ideas come to encompass their own negation. That is true in religion also; and man’s concept of God changes as he changes.

Lest you miss the most important point, let me highlight one sentence:  “Our present concept of the origin of life leads to the position that, in a universe composed as ours is, life inevitably arises wherever conditions permit.”  Contrast that with the sentiment of the fabricated passage that Kimball presents, and you’ll see that Wald’s point is precisely the opposite of what Kimball suggests.

That leaves us with the last of Kimball’s “scientists,” Millikan.  Millikan was a physicist, not a biologist, and the quote Kimball uses is from 1925.  The man has been dead for 57 years.  This is not exactly cutting edge stuff, here, and this is the only genuine quote from a genuine scientist.  Let the weight of that sink in for a moment.  Kimball brazenly asserts many scientists have rejected Darwinian evolution, and in support of this she provides a single scientist speaking 85 years ago.  Nuts.

Kimball next briefly slams the environmental movement as satanic before attempting to use an article from a 1980 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer to suggest that it is really non-Christians who believe nutty stuff.  If that is an attempt to insulate herself from the criticism from being nuts, it failed. 

In the end, I can’t do justice to this piece.  It’s too far out there.  It’s so crazy that I would not even mention it, except it comes from Renew America.  You might disagree with most the stuff they do and say, and I certainly do, but, hyperbole aside, they are not the blog of some emotionally and psychologically unstable individual who clearly needs medication.  They are, for lack of a better description, a “respectable” source.  That is why this essay is so mind-blowing.  It clearly is the work of an emotionally and psychologically unstable individual who clearly needs medication, and pronto.  Again, and this is also hyperbole aside, it’s crazy.  Yet, it was published on a serious site.  That’s terrifying.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

People are Crazy

AK-Vaccine-47_600

 

The above picture was posted by Mike Adams, the so-called “Health Ranger,” on his blog.  In it he writes, “This parody cartoon grew out of the idea that vaccines are ‘shots’ that are being increasingly forced upon children and teens.”  Yes, I see what you did there.  One can only wonder at the intelligence of his typical reader if such a “clever” play on words needs to be explained in the first sentence.  Of course, one can only wonder at Mike’s own intelligence as he writes, “Most modern vaccinations are, of course, a form of chemical violence against children” (emphasis in original).  That’s right, chemical violence!  Continuing, “But far too many of today’s vaccines are chemical concoctions that are entirely unnatural to the human body. To force them into the bodies of innocent children is an act of medical violence.”

Groan.

I never cease to be bothered by the use of words like “unnatural” in this context.  I have no idea what it means.  The vaccines are, of course, wholly natural.  They are wholly inside nature, harvested and compounded by wholly natural means, and all of this is done by wholly natural beings.  At no point is any part of this process or end result outside of nature.  Nowhere along the line is it “unnatural.”  No one is praying to some unholy denizens from the hoary netherrealms in an effort to cultivate, manufacture, or distribute vaccines.  I mean, that would be unnatural.  Someone might say that it is the manufacturing itself that makes it unnatural.  While that would be weird, and I might not like it, at least in that case I would get what these people mean.  But then I’m hit with “all natural” products that are absolutely processed and manufactured.  “Natural” supplements that come in pill forms are processed and manufactured in exactly the same way that the supposed unnatural products are.  And, obviously, they’re all chemicals, so it can’t be the fact that the products in question have a chemical nature that gives them the attribute of unnatural-ness.  In the end, the word just seems to be completely empty and used for the express purpose of generating fear.  That seems a pretty dishonest and rotten thing to do.

I guess I could pick on phrases like “chemical concoction” here too (wait, “chemical concoction”), but I’m hoping my readers are a little brighter than Adams’ and can pick up on the fact that the above criticism applies to this as well.

But wait, boys and girls, it gets even better.  Adams also writes,

The doctor in this parody cartoon was intentionally created to depict a "crazed" mad doctor because nothing turns an ordinary doctor into a mad man faster than an argument about vaccines. While he may seem to be a reasonable person on all other subjects, once you challenge him on the dangers of over-vaccination of children, all reason gets thrown out the window and he morphs into a raging lunatic of unscientific emotion.

That’s right.  It is not people such as Adams who resort to irrational arguments like absurd and disgusting ad hominems when discussing vaccines.  Nope, it’s those “mad doctors.”  When Adams depicts doctors who support vaccinations as gun-toting lunatics with maniacal grins shooting enormous syringes that look to be loaded with glowing re-animator fluid into a classroom of terrified children, he’s participating in a rational dialogue.  Of course.  And when he further writes, “The complete lack of scientific evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines makes no difference to [the doctor]. ‘Vaccines need no science,’ he’ll say, ‘Because everybody knows they work!’” he’s being completely honest and sincere.  Oh, wait…

Sometimes you just have to sit back and scratch your head over this stuff.  He’s explicitly attacking people I know.  He’s explicitly saying that individuals who are working hard to keep people I love safe are “mad men.”  Something needs to be said in response to this.  Is it appropriate to call Adams crazy?  It’s hard to say.  He’s either crazy or a vicious and terrible liar.  Regardless, he clearly cannot be trusted, and people need to speak out against such awful and unwarranted attacks.  The only thing more disturbing than this cartoon are the comments Adams’ readers write in response.  Have a look.  Laugh or cry.

Crazy.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend