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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Defining superstition

One of the problems we frequently encounter when discussing religion (especially in the context of science) is that a lot of people have a hazy understanding of what superstition is. They think superstition means “silly things other people believe,” and if we describe any of their beliefs as superstition, they think we’re merely insulting their beliefs without making any substantive criticism. This in turn allows them to get away with a lot of superstitious thinking, at least in their own estimation.

For that reason, I’m always on the lookout for a nice concise, comprehensive definition of what superstition actually is, so that we can share it with people and say, “This is why I describe your belief as a superstition.” So far, the definition I like best is this one:

Superstition is when you arbitrarily associate some particular effect with some particular cause in the absence of any plausible or verifiable, non-magical connection between them.

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Seems like creationism, and specifically young-earth creationism, is poking its head up once again in the wake of Rubio’s uninformed comments regarding what we know about the age of the earth. As Ed Brayton reports, both Bryan Fischer and Joseph Farah have recently argued that no one knows how old the earth really is because none of us were there when it was first created. God is the only eyewitness, they claim, and therefore we should just take His Word for it.

Well, Bryan and Joe, I hate to disagree with you, but if you take Genesis literally, then God is not the only eyewitness. I’ll grant you there’s no human alive today who was around at the origin of the earth. But if you read Genesis 1, you’ll find that God created the heavens on the same day He created the earth. And we’re all eyewitnesses to the (non-)creation of the universe.

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AiG’s outreach to atheists

I actually got this off a friend, but it’s kind of fun. You know how Answers In Genesis likes to target most of their material at weak and wavering Christians (especially if they have too much cash on their hands)? Well, now they’re extending that same hand of duplicity fellowship to atheists as well, in the form of a post entitled “Dear Atheists,” by Bodie Hodge. And believe me, it’s everything you’d expect from a ministry like AiG.

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Good news from Kansas

Hutchnews.com reports more good election results:

Democrat Carolyn Campbell of Topeka won a second, four-year term on the State Board of Education in Tuesday’s election in the 4th District of northeast Kansas. She defeated Republican Jack Wu of Topeka.

Jack Wu moved from California to Kansas to attend the Westboro Baptist Church, and was running for the school board on an “I hate evolution” platform. Apparently Westboro’s famous “God hates America” stand doesn’t play too well in Kansas these days.

Ah, here we go

This is some news I’ve been expecting for a long time.

A former computer specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was not dismissed because he advocated his belief in intelligent design while at work, a Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled.

Judge Ernest Hiroshige said Thursday he is leaning in favor of JPL’s argument that David Coppedge instead was let go because he was combative and did not keep his skills sharp.

Hiroshige, who presided over the lawsuit’s trial in April, ordered a final ruling to that effect be drawn up and distributed within 30 days.

Coppedge, as you may recall, is the JPL sysadmin who hounded his co-workers with Discovery Institute DVD’s and then submitted a legal brief that sounded like the script for Dark Helmet playing with his dolls. The only surprising thing about this decision is that it took so long to reach it.

The point of viability

The day job is getting a bit intense right now so I only have time for a quick post. I’d like to address a comment made by NotAnAtheist on yesterday’s post. (The bold text is an excerpt from my post, to which NotAnAtheist is responding.)

The earliest point at which it makes sense to draw a legal line would be viability—the point where the child is formed enough to survive on its own outside the womb. At that point, if the woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy, then she can do so without killing the child, and nobody’s rights need be violated.

Well, that’s only true if the fetus is a “nobody” up until viability then afterwards its now suddenly a person, a “somebody” with rights to be violated. It can’t be both ways. If you say that before a certain point, you are certain that “nobody’s” rights are being violated and afterwards you declare abortion to be wrong, then you are drawing a line at viability.

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New study shows measurable bias against women in science

Inside Higher Ed. has an article about a new study that betrays the existence of a not-so-subtle bias against females in the sciences. The study involved sending hypothetical student resumes to scientists to evaluate as potential new hires. Qualifications were identical except that half the resumes listed a female name, and the other half listed a male name. The results were anything but equal.

For instance, the scientists were asked to rate the students’ competence on a 5-point scale. Male faculty rated the male student 4.01 and the female student 3.33. Female scientists rated the male student 4.10 and the female student 3.32. On salary, the gaps were also notable. The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student.

I wonder what Christina Hoff Sommers will say?

Five years ago today

Over at Evangelical Realism, I’m taking a break from Justin Martyr due to a time crunch at my day job. To fill in the hole, I’ve reposted one of my earlier encounters with presuppositional apologetics, which didn’t turn out at all the way the apologist had hoped. It’s the first two of a series of back-and-forth exchanges I had with that particular group, but after my second post, they dropped presuppositionalism and tried the “Darwinist conspiracy” tactic instead, so my first two posts ended up being a good, quick, self-contained rebuttal.

The cockroach babies

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the crew over at William Dembski’s abandoned blog Uncommon Descent, but this post by scordova caught my eye. He’s wrestling with the problem of malicious “designs” in nature, and gets right to the heart of the matter.

Can the Intelligent Designer of life create malicious designs? If the flagellum and other parts of bacteria are intelligently designed, it would raise the question whether microbially-based diseases and plagues are intelligently designed. It seems the best inference from the evidence is that even malicious designs are also intelligently designed.

Always the ID dilemma. Once you start confusing function with purpose, there’s no reasonable way to stop inferring design for everything, even the nasty stuff. And since ID, apart from superficial lip service to polytheism and panspermatism, is just window dressing for good old-fashioned fundamentalist creationism, the presumed design of the more “malicious” aspects of nature poses a theological problem of no small proportions.

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