The believer’s despair

Our friend AJ has tried a few times to respond to my post, though without much success, and has now begun resorting to just posting links to blog posts (authored by himself) that repeat the things he wants to hear. Since they’re largely tangential if not completely irrelevant, I’ve had to warn him that the comments aren’t for spam, link farms or other types of free publicity for Christian propaganda. But the first link he posted was rather inadvertently poignant, and I thought it might be worth a look just to see how much despair there is in conservative Christian denialism these days.

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Accurate labelling

With all this intelligent design and duplicitous “teach the controversy” stuff floating around, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good old-fashioned, unadulterated creationist screed. I recently came across a prime specimen, however, and I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look, for old time’s sake. The author, one A J Castellitto, is a freelance writer who has a BS in Counselling and Human Services, and whose research has been published in such well-respected science journals as The Christian Post, Intellectual Conservative and Reformed Perspective Magazine. His current paper made it through peer review and was accepted for publication by renewamerica.com.

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None of this namby-pamby “Intelligent Design” stuff here

Jack Wellman, at the Christian Crier blog, wants creationism taught in the public schools. And to his credit, he doesn’t try and hide behind a facade of pseudo-scientific “intelligent design” either. He wants creationism, plain and simple.

Should creationism be taught alongside evolution? Is it fair to give students only one theory to believe? Is it legal to do so in the public schools?

The obvious answers to the above are no, yes, and no, in that order. Schools exist to teach kids about reality, of which there is only one, and given limited time and resources it’s entirely fair and reasonable to give kids the scientific understanding that best explains the real world. The science classroom is not a public forum devoted to providing different religions free marketing for competing ideologies.

But Mr. Wellman would contest that observation, and offers us what he calls “Five Crucial Reasons to Teach Creationism in Public Schools.”

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Public schools “terrified” of creationism

Writing for the “Communities” section of the Washington Times, one Frank Kacer asks, Why are public schools terrified of examining evolution & creation?

If evolution is true, there’s a simple way for public schools to destroy any student’s belief in creation. Simply test each theory objectively in science classes using the scientific method. Instead, irrational lawsuits, court orders and fears of anything hinting of Christianity have become the weapons of choice to prevent use of objective science.

So, what are public schools really afraid of?

One wonders exactly who Mr Kacer believes the public schools are suing. If he stopped for a moment and remembered that the public schools are the ones being sued for First Amendment violations, he’d know that it’s only the creationists in public schools who are afraid right now. And if they’re not, then the school district is going to get taken to court and ordered to obey the law.

But despite his garbled grasp of the relevant facts, I think he has the germ of a good idea. Creationism has benefited a great deal from its special, protected status as a religious account of origins. I think we should teach the controversy and let public schools teach kids exactly why Genesis is a myth. If Mr Kacer and other creationists really want a head-to-head confrontation over the scientific study of origins, let’s take them up on it. [Read more…]

Faith-based global warming insurance

One of the consequences of global warming is an increase in the number and severity of major storms such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards. Forgive me for indulging in a bit of rational thought, but since religious conservatives are among the most vocal deniers of climate change, wouldn’t it be nice if we could tax churches to raise funds for federal disaster relief to pay for repairs in the aftermath of such “acts of God”? Base the tax rate on the total damage done by storms, and grant an exemption to any church willing to sign a waiver stating that their god has no control over the weather and thus should not be held accountable for the resulting damages. If believers want lower taxes, they either get their god to do a better job managing the weather, or they sign the waiver.

Yeah, dumb idea. But still…

Why revelation fails

One of the dogmas underlying Murk’s belief system is the idea that divine revelation is required in order for us to have any knowledge of the truth, as he himself has recently shared.

I have written that to know anything a person must either know everything or someone who does who is good and shares. I cannot make this any simpler.
You cannot have any knowledge unless you are God or trust what He has revealed.

This is a false statement, since I can and do know that I exist, and I cannot be mistaken in this knowledge—if I did not exist there would be no one to make the mistake. Every one of us possesses the ability to know at least some material truth, without any need for divine revelation. But more than this, there are at least three good reasons to conclude that divine revelation is not, in fact, a reliable means of knowing the truth about the real world.

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Ultimate authority

Whatever it may sell itself as to believers, presuppositionalism in practice usually boils down to a loose collection of contrived and superficial “gotcha” dialogs in which the entire skeptical worldview ends up “exposed” as self-contradictory and invalid. The catch is that creating this illusion requires that the unbeliever stick to some rigid and narrow constraints on what they’re supposed to say. It’s a schtick that works best with 1-dimensional bad guys, who oppose the hero only to make the hero look good.

Real skeptics don’t talk or think like cartoons, however, so when the presuppositionalist tries to interact with a real live skeptic, they end up floundering around trying to force the conversation back into the canned script. Sometimes they meet unbelievers who haven’t thought much about the topic, and are easily steered, but if the skeptic knows anything at all about philosophy, epistemology, and phenomenology, the result can be a series of exchanges so disjointed they border on the surreal. For example, here’s Murk trying to respond to my observation that religious beliefs are necessarily subjective perceptions rather than verifiable objective fact.

“you’d be walking by proof, not walking by faith.” not true- boils down to ultimate authority – we all have one – what is yours again?

His response seems only tangentially related, if not completely disconnected, from the observation he’s trying to respond to. But that’s because he’s trying to get back to a script in which rationalism is really the vain assumptions of a conceited heart. I didn’t say anything that would support such a conclusion, but that’s beside the point. He’s here to have the scripted conversation from his apologetics texts, no matter how the real-world conversation may be proceeding. [Read more…]

An observation

The Tea Party’s shutdown strategy is so short-sighted and odious that they themselves no longer wish to admit it was their idea. Yet even as they try to dodge responsibility for this policy, they refuse to abandon it, or to trifle with more democratic institutions like honest negotiations and compromise. Having lit a fuse, and regretted it, they cannot bring themselves to blow it out, because blowing is against their religion. The best they can accomplish is to suck, and to suck loudly.

The needs of the narrative

One of the problems with trying to live in a worldview instead of in the real world is that the needs of the narrative become preeminent over everything else. I ran across a good example of this on Christian talk radio (where else?) when the hosts reported a story about someone vandalizing a local cancer center by spray-painting “Christian-oriented” slogans on it, including “Jesus saves” and just “Jesus.” The hosts were offended, if not downright outraged, by the fact that secular reports implied that a Christian was likely to have done this. The nerve! How dare they suggest that a Christian would do such a thing? Whoever did this was NOT a Christian, in fact they were probably an atheist who was just trying to embarrass Christians. And so on and so on.

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