Creationist logic!

How can we ever stand up to this!?

Zakim [sic], we’re going to try a little logic exercise here. I say the sky is blue.
You say the sky is green. Just because you never say the words ” the sky is NOT blue” doesn’t mean you’re not disagreeing with me. If you tell everyone you meet “The sky is green, no matter what anyone else says” then you are saying, by NEGATION, that the sky is not blue. When a teacher asserts that “the world was created when stuff blew up” they are teaching, by negation, that it was not designed. When they say that everything came about by accident, they are teaching, by negation, that there is not design!
Simply put, the sky cannot be both blue and green. So, if I teach my children the sky is blue, then I’m teaching them it is NOT green.

That came to us from Lena, our latest creationist commenter, who’s over in this comment thread. I guess it must be a brilliant analogy, because Lena assures us she’s not some dipshit trailer trash hick, but that she’s been “educated above the master’s level,” which I take to mean she has a master’s degree but hasn’t yet gone for her Ph.D., though it may not actually mean that at all. Indeed, she isn’t clear about what she means by “educated above the master’s level.” You’d think if she had a master’s degree, why wouldn’t she just say, “I got a master’s from [name of university].”

Anyway, I had a little trouble with her logic, such as it is. Somehow I was able to reconstruct the argument this way.

When a teacher teaches students that the first president of the United States was George Washington, they are teaching, by negation, that it was not Daffy Duck. Simply put, the first president could not have been both George Washington and Daffy Duck. If I’m teaching children it was George Washington, I am teaching them it was not Daffy Duck.

Apparently, when you teach childen anything, you are in fact teaching them the “negation” of whatever thing it is you aren’t teaching them. Or something. So, like, if you teach children that 2 + 2 = 4, you are, by “negation,” teaching them that 2 + 2 ≠ 5,622. And that’s bad, I think she’s saying. Or not.

Oh well, it’s a little hard to noodle out what stunning point Lena thought she was making there, especially if she was trying to draw some analogy to the whole “teach the controversy” argument. I mean, anyone can go outside and see the sky is blue, at least if the weather’s clear. We cannot go outside, however, and look at the sky and see the Christian God. Except in that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I’m informed that was a special effect. So I guess, above-master’s-level education or not, creationists seem to be chock full of stupid when it comes to arguing their beliefs.

Head on over there, and have fun.

Expelled: even lamer than we all thought

The Orlando Sentinel has the first mainstream media review I’ve seen of Ben Stein’s ID propaganda film Expelled, and it ain’t pretty. The film’s egregious dishonesty is evident from the outset, as it attempts to confuse the issue in the minds of an uninformed public and present the ID-vs.-evolution argument as an academic freedom issue, rather than a simple matter of which of those two things is science and which one isn’t.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed [is] a rabble-rouser of a doc that uses all manner of loaded images, loaded rhetoric, few if any facts and mockery of hand-picked “weirdo” scientists to attack the those who, Stein claims, are stifling the Religious Right’s efforts to inject intelligent design into science courses, science curricula and the national debate….

[Stein] uses anecdotes from a few Fox-over-publicized cases of people who claim to have lost tenure/their jobs/their position in the scientific world for daring to suggest the hand of a supernatural being in the creation of life. He hasn’t a scintilla of proof of, well, anything. Then he has the audacity to whine, “Where’s the data” when questioning cellular biologists and other real scientists who build their lives around doubt, and finding testable, legitimate answers to those doubts. Where’s YOUR data, Ben?

I imagine this writer’s experience with the levels of irony, meretriciousness and hypocrisy one confronts routinely when one deals with creationists is fairly limited. Otherwise it wouldn’t surprise him at all that the movie demands all kinds of data from scientists (which actually exists in heaps, but which the IDiots ignore), while not feeling any great urgency to back up its own claims.

One of the movie’s most repugnant lies is its repetition of the “Darwin = Hitler + Stalin” mantra. As anyone with three brain cells to rub together (which would be four more than Stein has) and has actually studied the history knows, both the Third Reich and Stalin were deeply opposed to Darwin, with Stalin supporting Lysenkoism.

But this is all par for the course for the intellectual wasteland that is creationism. They’re scared of evolution because they believe that if it’s true, then God can’t be true, and thus their lives are meaningless because they have no shot at the promised afterlife. But scientifically, creationism cannot be supported by any facts. So all that can be done is to discredit it by associating it with all that is evil and bad. For all the movie’s whining about “academic freedom,” the truth is that supporters of ID have never been about achieving a stronger scientific understanding of our world and have always been about protecting their religion, their “scientific” posturing towards that end merely the cheapest of dog-and-pony shows. And isn’t it funny how, for all their claims that they are the ones whose ideas are being “censored,” every prominent creationist blog on the web (like Uncommon Descent) actively censors pro-evolution arguments out of their comments or deletes entire posts if creationism cannot be made to look superior even through the most extreme rhetorical sleight of hand.

I’m actually looking forward to this movie’s release now, limited as it will be, because I think it will be the greatest gift to real scientists the IDiot crowd has ever offered. The tidal wave of articles, editorials, interviews and discussions that will follow in its wake, correcting and attacking all of its easily refuted falsehoods with just-as-easily verified facts will lay bare just what shoddy scholarship and sleazy emotional button mashing the IDiots have to resort to instead of, you know, actual scientific research to develop a workable theory of intelligent design. ID was essentially killed in Dover, but this “documentary” is like the movement’s lurching zombie corpse, shuffling along unaware that it’s dead. It’s a last-ditch act of desperation, and we can only hope that the reaction it’s sure to receive will prove the final bullet to the head needed to put ID down for good.

Coming up on the TV show: Growing up atheist

I’ve been drawing a blank on new show topics this week. It doesn’t help that we’re apparently going to be broadcasting opposite the Superbowl this Sunday, and so it’s likely we won’t get many callers to carry the show. This doesn’t matter to people who listen via podcast, but it does make it difficult to plan how to fill the time.

I did a show on atheist parenting once. I got some email after that which said “How about a show about YOUR experiences as a lifelong atheist?” Everybody knows Matt’s story by now, about how he was studying to be a minister before deconverting. By contrast, my story is probably a lot less exciting because mainly it involves just having a normal childhood, apart from the fact that my parents happened to be atheists. Seriously, I never felt particularly persecuted, I had lots of Christian friends who didn’t bother me very much, and my parents loved me. No big falling out. It’s kind of boring, really.

There are a few things I guess I can draw on. I had some interesting encounters with Christian kids while I was growing up in Alabama. My atheist, scientist parents taught me somewhat different lessons about life and morality than the standard “Do this because God said so” lessons. And also, the fact that I’m a Jewish atheist and I had a bar mitzvah is kind of interesting.

Hope this topic isn’t too egotistical — just remember that it wasn’t my idea. And if there are some Austinites out there who care as much about football as I do (i.e., you don’t) then please plan to help fill out our phone lines if we appear to be struggling.

The MySpace kerfuffle

The atheist blogosphere erupted with indignation earlier this week, and quite justifiably, when it was revealed that the massive social networking site MySpace had summarily deleted the 35,000-member-strong Atheist and Agnostic Group without so much as a by-your-leave, even though the group had violated none of the site’s terms of service. This is seen as rampant religious bigotry and it probably is, although two groups I belong to, “Atheists” (4,828 members) and “SkepticSpace” (989 members) are still alive.

So I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it does seem as if the big group was targeted by angry Christians who complained loudly enough to force the deletion. If so, it just makes the fact that Christians still whine about being the ones censored and persecuted and “expelled” all the more egregiously self-serving and dishonest.

A lot of atheists are deleting their profiles, which I can’t imagine will hurt MySpace in the tiniest. After a lot of thought on the matter I’ve decided to keep mine up, but add the complete text of the Secular Students press release along with a comment voicing my own condemnation of MySpace’s apparent religious bigotry in a nice large font. Two days later they haven’t deleted me, which leads me to think there was some personal targeting going on and there isn’t (so far) some wholesale campaign to rid MySpace of the godless.

Lots of people slag MySpace, and I can see why, but I’ve actually found it quite useful. Mainly I’m using it to promote the documentary I’m working on (and working on and working on), and have so far “networked,” as it were, with lots of folks in indie film. I’ve also discovered a buttload of good bands I’d never have heard of otherwise. When my friend Hollye ran her cat shelter, she raised about $300 in Paypal donations through her MySpace page. So yeah, for all that it’s cheesy — no matter how big MySpace gets, it will probably never live down the rep it’s gotten in the media as “that teen site” where all the pedo stalkers hang out — I have no reason to think it sucks. Like anything else, it’s all in how you use it. (And to everyone who’s likely to raid the comments with glowing endorsements of Facebook, I must say I find that site completely boring and useless. I have a profile there but have almost never had a reason to log onto it.)

I’d suggest that if you’ve still got a MySpace page, then deck it out with proud proclamations of your atheism and your disapproval of the Atheist and Agnostic group’s unwarranted deletion. As MySpace is a privately owned (by Rupert Murdoch, surprise surprise) enterprise, I don’t see that anyone involved with the deleted group could have recourse to legal action or anything, but IANAL on that score. Just use your freedom of speech and use it loudly. We’re here, we’re godless, get used to it. If they delete you, well, it’s not like you’ve lost an investment or anything. And it will just prove that the site is run by reactionary, stupid religious bigots after all.