Opinions

I said it again the other day, but then I had second thoughts. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” I said, but is that really true? Have you ever thought about the full range of opinions we’re implicitly endorsing by saying everyone is entitled to believe whatever they believe?

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OMG, Biblical Christianity is dying!

Now this is more like what I was expecting yesterday: overblown Christian hysteria in reaction to Election Day’s free reality check. Writing for forbes.com, Bill Flax weeps and wails over the imminent demise of Biblical Christianity in America.

And it’s all a terrible misunderstanding. Christians never wanted a culture war, you see. They just wanted to be left alone. If only those mean old liberals had just given them the chance to stay quiet and neutral on issues of society and morality.

In the election’s aftermath, the culture war looks like a rout. Few ever relished this fight; most preferred simply to be left alone. We aren’t community organizers. Sadly, neutrality was not realistic. No, being Switzerland was never an option. By not defending America’s heritage of limited government, free markets and biblical morality, we’re being overrun a la Belgium.

Yes, those poor disorganized believers who were barely able to raise billions of dollars and initiate successful drives to add anti-gay amendments to the constitutions of roughly two-thirds of the states in the Union—they aren’t community organizers. They’ve never defended limited government, free markets, or biblical morality. They’re all just weak and helpless victims here.

Come on, work with me on this one.

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Primitive Creationism

One thing I think Ken Ham and Kent Hovind do rather well is to remind us how primitive young-earth creationism really is. They know, even without looking at any evidence, that the primitive God of Genesis 1 and 2 hasn’t got a chance of coming up with anything as advanced as our modern, scientific understanding of biology. Being a primitive invention Himself, He is limited to using only the techniques available to the imagination of unscientific and illiterate people.

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Bearding the lion

A long time ago, I heard a story about how young men in ancient times would prove their courage and manhood by sneaking up to the den of a lion, giving the lion’s beard a good sharp tug, and then running away without harming the lion. If I remember correctly, the bravest of the young men would do this without even bringing any weapons for self defense. The whole point of the exercise was to prove how bravely you could face a superior foe, and (ideally) to show that you were fast enough and agile enough to escape unscathed from such an encounter.

I can’t help but think that similar bravado lies behind creationists who try to take on people like Aron Ra, even though they’re going to get eaten alive, metaphorically speaking.

Well, ok, maybe just a LITTLE warming

The problem with trying to deny a worsening problem is that it becomes increasingly difficult to deny. And then what do you do? At Exxon, they’re trying the “admit it, but downplay it” approach.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown. In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt…

Tillerson blamed a public that is “illiterate” in science and math, a “lazy” press, and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear” for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ok, so maybe anthropogenic global warming is real, but it’s nothing we can’t handle, right? And those climate scientists who are turning out to have been right all along? They were just doing it to manufacture fear. But at least the public is basically illiterate in science and math, so they’re easy to bamboozle.

Considering how things are turning out, though, you have to ask: bamboozled by whom?

3rd degree gullibility

There are three degrees of gullibility. First degree gullibility is when you believe something because you don’t know any better, like a very young child believing in Santa. Second degree gullibility is when you become aware of conflicts and inconsistencies in what you believe, but you do not admit that they are genuine conflicts and inconsistencies, like when a creationist suggests that the speed of light was higher in the past and therefore the existence of visible stars more than 6K to 10K light years away does not contradict Genesis. And third degree gullibility is when you admit that there are conflicts and inconsistencies in what you believe, and yet you sincerely argue that people ought to believe it anyway. I haven’t got a one-line example of that last one, but “bobby” at news24.com has a longer one. And he even got an Editor’s Choice award for it.

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Korean creationists get science out of textbooks.

It sounds odd to hear a story like this from Asia, but according to Nature.com, South Korea has a creationist problem as well, to the point that it’s negatively impacting science education over there.

A petition to remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.

I suppose one way to protect America from the negative consequences of sabotaging our own science education is to sabotage everyone else’s as well, but still.

NC bill to mandate short-sightedness

Remember when Fukushima happened, how clear it was in hindsight that disaster might have been prevented with a little more foresight and better planning for a worst-case scenario? That’s exactly the kind of foresight and planning that needs to be outlawed, according to a bill proposed by Republicans in North Carolina.

A state-appointed science panel has reported that a 1-meter rise in sea level is likely by 2100.

The calculation, prepared for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission, was intended to help the state plan for rising water that could threaten 2,000 square miles. Critics say it could thwart economic development on just as large a scale.

A coastal economic development group called NC-20 attacked the report, insisting the scientific research it cited is flawed. The science panel last month confirmed its findings, recommending that they be reassessed every five years. But NC-20, named for the 20 coastal counties, appears to be winning its campaign to undermine them.

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An honest creationist?

It’s nice to know there’s at least one honest creationist left. Or at least, partly honest. And he lives in Georgia.

Educators across the country are now developing what’s called the “next generation of science standards.”

A member of the Villa Rica Church of Christ told Channel 2’s Diana Davis evolution should not be a part of those standards…

[Church member Bob] Staples and his church are fighting for schools to include another view… Staples told Davis he believes in the literal meaning of the Bible: That god created heaven and Earth.  Although, he says, he does not expect public schools to teach the bible’s view of creationism.

None of this namby-pamby “teach the controversy” stuff. He wants evolution out and creationism in. He doesn’t expect to get what he wants, but he’s telling the plain and simple truth about his goals. Rather refreshing in a way.
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Worldview vs scientific literacy

A new study in Nature finds that, contrary to what you might expect, a person’s level of scientific literacy is not the best predictor for how likely they are to be concerned over the risk of climate change. Instead, the best predictor for a person’s concern over climate change is the hypothesis that

…people who subscribe to a hierarchical, individualistic world-view—one that ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions of individuals possessing such authority—tend to be sceptical of environmental risks. Such people intuitively perceive that widespread acceptance of such risks would license restrictions on commerce and industry, forms of behaviour that hierarchical individualists value. In contrast, people who hold an egalitarian, communitarian world-view—one favouring less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to individual needs—tend to be morally suspicious of commerce and industry, to which they attribute social inequity. They therefore find it congenial to believe those forms of behaviour are dangerous and worthy of restriction

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