Preach the controversy

Chalk up another win for the “Preach the Controversy” gambit injecting creationism into public schools. The governor of Tennessee has decided not to sign the bill, and not to veto it either. This will allow the bill to become law without necessarily making the governor personally accountable for its contents—which are pretty bad.

In any case, the legislators want to do what they can to enable science teachers to teach the controversy. To that end, they’re basically attempting to block any educational authority—school board, principal, the state board of education—from punishing a teacher for covering the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

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Mesopotamian Park

This is just idle speculation, mind you, but I was wondering the other day about time and tradition. There’s two kinds of tradition, or at least two ends of the spectrum. At the one end you have what you might call the reasonable ideas, the principles and conclusions you arrive at by looking at how things are and thinking about them and then, above all, trying them out to see how well they really work, and adjusting them as necessary to make them work better. These ideas get their strength from their adaptability and increasing accuracy over time.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the principles and conclusions that arise, not out of a search for real-world answers and understanding, just Because I Said So—ideas that get passed from one generation to the next not because they describe how the world really is, but because I’m The Father, That’s Why. These ideas get their strength from authority and constancy.

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Anything you say can and will be used

Via Wired comes word of a top secret government project with very disturbing implications.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks… It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

Note that this is not just for intercepting information with the authorization of a search warrant. This project will intercept, store, and analyze “complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter’” in general. You and me, in other words. Total government surveillance of private citizens.

Killed by Congress? Yeah, right.

A top ten list

Happy Easter everybody—I hope you all have prepared your colored eggs for Astarte, the pagan fertility goddess, and have filled your house with other fertility symbols like rabbits and such. Remember, Astarte is the reason for the season (and even gave it her name, slightly misspelled).

Oh yeah, and some guy died too. I suppose we ought to remember him. So here, by way of holiday celebration, I present the Top Ten Ways the Bible Tells Us Jesus Did Not Literally Rise From The Dead.

10.
If Jesus had been literally and physically raised from the dead, the tomb would not be empty—there would have been a living Jesus in it.
9.
If Mary had seen an angel fly down from heaven, roll away the stone, and tell her that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Matt 28:1-5), she would not have run to the disciples weeping over the missing corpse (John 20:1-2).
8.
If Jesus had been physically raised in a physical body, he would not spontaneously appear and disappear and change his shape to fool the disciples (Luke 24:28-36) and would not have needed to “prove” that he was not a spirit (Luke 24:36-43) by showing him his hands and feet and by eating their food—which angels and the pre-incarnate Jehovah can also do, even though they are supposedly spirits (Gen. 18:1-11).
7.
If Jesus had been physically raised from the dead, still bearing the wounds from his beatings, his crown of thorns, his crucifixion, and the spear thrust in his side, people would have noticed him walking to the room where his disciples were hiding, and he would not have been able to enter the room while the door was shut and/or locked (John 20:19, 26).
6.
The Sanhedrin would not have put a guard on the tomb because they had no reason to expect Jesus to rise from the dead (Matt. 27:62-65, cf John 2:19-21 and John 20:9—even the disciples were surprised!).
5.
If the priests found out Jesus had risen from the dead, they would have worried about Jesus, not about the empty tomb (Matt. 28:11-15).
4.
If Jesus had risen from the dead, the priests would have plotted to kill him again (John 12:9-11) instead of plotting to tell lies about the tomb.
3.
If the priests were going to bribe the guards to tell a lie, they would not have picked an obvious falsehood like “The disciples stole the body while we slept.” (Matt. 28:11-15.) If they were asleep, how would they know? Duh!
2.
If Jesus had literally and physically been raised from the dead, Paul would not have insisted that the body that was raised was a spiritual body rather than the body that was buried, and would not have expanded on this claim by insisting that the “last Adam” (i.e. Jesus) “became a life-giving Spirit” (I Cor. 15: 42-48).

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Why God can’t heal amputees

One of Mighty Timbo’s lost posts addresses the question of why God does not heal amputees. As with the question of why God doesn’t show up, though, he phrases the issue in such a way as to miss the most important aspects of the question.

The Atheist has likely never been witness to a miraculous healing or work of God, and when evidence is provided to him of one will often seek a scientific explanation. If none can be found it will often be labeled as a “fluke”, rather than a miracle, they then look to the miraculous things God didn’t do to prove he doesn’t exist, which is where this question comes in.

Notice how he tries to make it sound like the atheist’s problem, as though there were something wrong with seeking scientific explanations. But the atheist’s approach isn’t really the problem here. The problem is one of consistency.

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1981 global warming predictions

In August of 1981, James Hansen and 6 other authors wrote a paper describing the projected impact of CO2 emissions on global temperatures. And now those predictions have once again come to light.

In the ongoing debate over climate change, it’s at times a good idea to check in with historial predictions made by climate modelers and see how well they have been able to predict global warming – which is exactly what a pair of researchers at the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) have done.

via The Register.

Check out the second graph in that article, where the actual warming trend is overlaid on top of the prediction by Hansen et al. It looks like they were actually a bit optimistic.

One correction, however: vocal denials by well-funded and profit-minded vested interests do not constitute any genuine “ongoing debate.” The science has been settled for a while. All the opposition has is propaganda at this point.

Intoxicating faith

One of the topics I keep coming back to (in my mind at least) is the question of religion itself. Why is it so appealing to so many people? Religionists would like to tell us that we have some kind of “God-shaped hole” in our heads, er hearts, but if that were the case you’d think that only God would really fill it. People, however, seem to have a powerful hunger for religion regardless of what the religion is, which would be odd if our “hole” were specifically shaped like any particular god or gods.

Two thoughts occurred to me the other day. One was alcoholism, and how it seems to affect people physically, creating an ongoing craving for a substance that only impairs their perceptions and judgment. The other thought was how computers break down: some failures are hardware, and some are software. I’m not sure why I had these two thoughts together, but it does suggest an interesting possibility: faith may be literally intoxicating, or at least it might bear the same relationship to physical intoxication as a software bug has to a flaky keyboard.

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Troll sues, gets 6-figure legal bill

Apparently blog comments and online forums aren’t the only place you can troll these days. If you want to make the leap to the big leagues, you can self-publish a book on Amazon, and then sue people for posting critical reviews. Only sometimes it backfires.

An author who tried to sue … is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case.

Chris McGrath, an online entrepreneur from Milton Keynes, tried to sue Vaughan Jones, 28, from Nuneaton, over a series of reviews and postings he made on the Amazon website about his self-published and little-known book “The Attempted Murder of God”.

Amazon, the prominent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and his eponymous foundation were also named as defendants because they either carried the review or discussion threads linked to it that Mr McGrath claimed were libellous.

via The Independent.

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A good Friday: miracle in Texas

Now here’s a miracle I can believe in.

Zachary Moore, DFWCoR’s spokesman, tells Unfair Park that the group reached out to the Angelika chain after being it’s-not-you-it’s-me’d by Movie Tavern. “Initially they said no, and then they said maybe if we changed the ad, and then they said yes to the original,” he writes. “It’s an Easter miracle!”

The ad will begin playing at the theater on Friday.

This would be the ads for the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, on the theme of happy atheist families and what makes them tick. After initially being refused by local theaters, it now looks like the ads are going to run after all.

via “It’s an Easter Miracle”: Dallas Atheists’ New Pre-Movie Ad Will Run at the Plano Angelika – Dallas News – Unfair Park.

God’s evil addiction

There’s an old joke about a woman who keeps hitting herself in the head with a hammer. When they asked, “Why are you doing that?” she replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop!”

Yesterday we looked at Mighty Timbo’s story about how God allegedly healed his wife years after a serious car accident left her disabled and in pain. It’s a great story because it points out a huge flaw in the Christian theology of healing. Think about it. God supposedly could have healed her any time he wanted. He could have healed her a year earlier than He did, or within a few weeks of the crash. Heck, He could have prevented the crash in the first place. Instead, He chose to allow her to be seriously injured and to go through several years of pain and disability, just so that He could take the credit where her suffering finally stopped.

At least in the old joke, the woman was wielding her own hammer, and could stop whenever she liked. But this business of God putting us though sin and suffering and evil just so that it will seem so good when He stops—yikes!

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