Two disparate Christian responses to high gas prices

One of these is the usual parade of batshit crazy, and the other is a comparatively rare case of a church doing what we’re meant to believe churches do all the time: something good for their community. Makes sense that the latter is located in Austin, where people have a tendency to be pretty cool, even some of the religious ones.

In San Francisco, of all places, a bunch of dimwits staged a “pray-in” at a local gas station, begging Sky-Daddy to bring gas prices down. Prayer, as we all know, is that comforting act believers engage in that allows them to feel they’re dealing with problems without actually having to do anything. I can understand everyone’s frustration at four-dollar gas. But good grief, you fundies were the ones who gave this disastrous administration two terms in which to wreak the havoc we’re all now in. Praying to fix a mistake that cataclysmic isn’t a whole lot more than slamming the barn doors after the horses are all out, eh? Anyway, old Rocky Twyman, devout as he may be, ought to take a pointer or two from the Neumann family: when it comes to working, prayer has a fairly poor track record.

What does work? People helping people, that’s what. I’m perfectly happy to compliment anyone, religious or not, if they do something that shows a healthy community spirit and a willingness to do some real, effective good. And in Cedar Park, just north of Austin, the nondenominational HighPointFellowship made a deal with a neighborhood Exxon that anyone who turned up between 10 and 1 on Sunday could buy their gas for just over a dollar less per gallon, with the church making up the difference. Hundreds of folks took advantage, and the church ended up forking over about five grand.

Yeah, sure, they did it to get some publicity (of course they handed out flyers for their church to people waiting to fill up). But if a group like ACA had the spare cash to do something like this, we’d probably hand out flyers too. The point is, two groups of Christians saw a community-wide problem, and chose opposite ways of handling it. The San Francisco church chose an exercise in goofy futility, while the Cedar Park folks understood something a lot of us have been saying all along: One pair of working hands achieves more than 10,000 pairs of praying hands. Nicely done, HighPoint.

42!

Okay, so I guess I now have the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything…if I could only remember what the question was. Oh well. Never mind. Instead, I’ll just post what I’ve decided to declare my birthday anthem this year, for your enjoyment. It would be nice if there were an official video for this song, but this fan-made effort is pretty decent for what it is. Have a good day. I will be.

No, it was just natural selection

The Church of the Burning Stupid is keeping up its anti-science missionary efforts, as we can see here. This was submitted to the ACA Yahoogroup by one of its members who presumably lives in the area (Greeley, CO). He got it among his daily junk snail mail. It would be awesome if some educated folks could turn up to this farce and bombard the presenter, some dingaling named H.S. Rester, with awesome questions so that all and sundry could watch him squirm when he either cannot answer or simply resorts to the usual asinine creotard canards to do so.

The rest of the pamphlet promises to expose such horrors as “Evolution and the Antichrist Agenda” (that’s Wednesday), and advises attendees, “Bring Your Bible and Your Mind, You Will Use Both.” The latter won’t be used much or very well, but at least the pamphlet does remind attendees to bring it in the first place, which is thoughtful, since most creationists just leave theirs laying around wherever.

Rester claims to be a “Christian with a strong scientific background” but the pamphlet only says he has a “BA from an inter-denominational Bible College/Seminary and is now completing his Masters of Divinity.” It says nothing about, oh, you know, any advanced degrees in biology, biochemistry, or any of the other pertinent life sciences. So I suppose his “education” can be more or less dismissed, at least in terms of allowing him any actual expertise in the monumentally supported and unequivocally successful bedrock scientific theory he seems to think he can debunk with an ancient storybook. In terms of being able to parrot mindless twaddle and infantile myths handed down from 2000 year old sheep farmers and primitive clerics, I will only too gladly defer to his expertise. Just as I’m sure there’s some twat here in town with encyclopedic knowledge of every X-Men comic ever published. Nothing against such a person, just don’t pretend you’re a freakin’ biologist, okay?

The latest brilliant observation from Ben Stein and Dan Marvin

You learn something every day if you pay attention to the courageous freedom fighters for creationism. For instance, did you know the reason people pursue higher education and become teachers and academicians? It’s because they’re frightened people. Really, it’s true! Okay…it’s not really true. But Ben Stein says it, and it flatters creationists’ sense of victimhood and anti-intellectual smugness, so that makes it better than true. Because it doesn’t matter if something’s really true or not. If the creationists want it to be true badly enough, then it will be, and wanting things is so much easier than actually doing the hard work to earn them. For one thing, if you actually do hard work, you might find out what you want to be true isn’t really true after all. And that would be bad. So don’t waste your life actually learning things. Just believe, and leave the hard work to those pitiful academics. After all, they’re frightened people.

Kip Thorne at UT

Regrettably, I may have to miss this depending on what my schedule for that day looks like. But I wanted to post the information for the science-minded among you. This ought to be another good talk. It’s in the same lecture hall where Ken Miller spoke.

Date: Friday, May 2, 2008
Time: 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Location: WEL 2.224
Parking Info: http://www.utexas.edu/parking/maps/index.html
San Jacinto or Speedway Garages are probably best.

From the FaceBook page for the event:

Famous Physicist Kip Thorne to Speak About Big-Bang and Black Holes.

The Warped Side of the Universe: From the Big Bang to Black Holes

There is a Warped Side to our Universe: objects and phenomena that are made from warped space and warped time. Examples include black holes and the big-bang singularity from which the Universe was born. The ideal tool for probing this mysterious Warped Side is radiation that itself is made from warped space-time: “gravitational waves”. Thorne will describe the warped side of our universe and the quest to probe it with gravitational waves.

According to Discover magazine (where the tagline is from): Kip Thorne revolutionized physics, fixed up Contact, and straddled the Cold War divide.

Thorne’s research has focused on gravitation physics and astrophysics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and gravitational waves. A longtime friend and colleague of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, he is the current Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech and one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. He is one of the three founders of the LIGO project.

Thorne was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, the American Philosophical Society in 1999, and (as a foreign member) the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1999.

With John A. Wheeler and Charles W. Misner, Thorne coauthored in 1973 the textbook Gravitation, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity. He is also a co-author of Gravitation Theory and Gravitational Collapse (1965) and Black Holes: The Membrane Paradigm (1986), and the sole author of the best-selling book Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (1994).

In 1975, cosmologist Stephen Hawking bet fellow cosmologist Kip Thorne a subscription to Penthouse magazine for Thorne against four years of Private Eye for him that Cygnus X-1 would turn out not to be a black hole. It was, so Hawking lost.

See, who says physicists never have any fun? Anyway, I’d wager this guy is probably a bit more knowledgeable about the whole Big Bang thing than whoever the complete fool was our foolish buddy Dan cutpasted from the other day. Once again, see an actual scientist who’s spent an actual career doing actual research explain why the blatherings of uneducated fundamentalists about “no evidence for this!” and “science requires blind faith too!” are deeply, pitifully stupid and wrong.

Oh noes! Big Science iz in ur Skool Bored, bashin ur Yung Erf Creashunists

Why oh why do they hate the Ceiling Cat so much? In what will doubtless be trumpeted as more suppression of “free speech” by Dr. Evil and the Nazi Darwinist Stormtroopers of “Big Science,” the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board took a big fat sanity pill and unanimously denied the request of the Institute for Creation Research to be granted certification to offer a master’s degree program in science education in Texas.

The reason is, of course, obvious. Young Earth Creationism is in about as complete a state of opposition to actual science as the movies of Pauly Shore are to actual comedy. There is just a contingent of ideologues among the Christian faithful who simply cannot comprehend that it is not the purpose of science to validate preconceived religious beliefs, however precious those beliefs are to those who hold them. And in their bleating over the supposed denial of any “free exchange of ideas” in an academic setting, they are, of course, failing to make another meaningful distinction: free speech and free inquiry are not synonyms for “you get to teach whatever you want, even if it’s false, if enough people believe it.” Each person is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs; what you are not entitled to are your own facts.

But at least the creationists can take some cold comfort in the fact they aren’t the only ones being oppressed by the dogmatic, iron fist of “Big Science”!

Expelled performed below original estimate

The weekend actuals are in, and the $3.1 million estimate for Expelled that was holding as of Sunday afternoon has been downgraded to $2.97 million, with the movie coming in 10th rather than 9th place.

Anticipating an average second weekend dropoff of 50%-65% (which is what you see with most movies), I don’t think this has been the shot fired across the bow of “Big Science” that Mark Mathis and Walt Ruloff were anticipating. But as Eugenie Scott has pointed out, the movie will have a long DVD lifespan, playing the church-basement circuit.

Summation: well, that was over with pretty quick, eh? So, let’s all get back to doing science again, shall we.


Addendum: IMDb is declaring the movie a flop in their weekend box office roundup, and I like the honest way they describe it.

…the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which argued on behalf of “intelligent design” — that is, the biblical view of creation — failed to bring out church groups in big numbers and settled for just $3.1 million to wind up in ninth place.

Good call, IMDb, for seeing through the pseudoscientific window dressing and recognizing that, yes, “intelligent design” is nothing more than old school Biblical creationism tricked out in jargon designed to wow the uninformed and illiterate. “Ooo, ‘complex specified information,’ sure sounds like summa that thar science type stuff ta me!”

(In other movie news, some dumbass working on the new Bond film ran the movie’s quarter-million-dollar Aston Martin off the road and into a lake. I think he’ll be a long time paying that off. Fail!)

Another Expelled victim: Could Ben Stein’s lies launch a wave of religious hate?

Over at Richard Dawkins’ site, Dawkins posts a crazed, histrionic letter from a Jewish man to Michael Shermer. This fellow evidently saw Expelled over the weekend, swallowed the movie’s foul calumnies about evolutionary theory being responsible for the Holocaust with complete credulity, and went berserk. Dawkins publishes his own calm and even-tempered response to the man (who wails that Shermer ought to be run out of the country, a point which Dawkins admonishes the man is shamefully just like the views the Nazis held towards the Jews), in which he makes the facts abundantly clear and assures the man he has been most callously and cold-heartedly lied to by evil, mendacious people with an agenda. It will be interesting to hear if the man replies, or tucks his tail between his legs and runs off.

This is something that has, perhaps, not been fully addressed in the runup to Expelled‘s mild opening weekend, but which perhaps should be addressed now: the possibility that certain individuals will take the movie’s lies to heart and a wave of flat-out religious hatred towards the sciences and academia may begin. We already know that religious extremists don’t need a whole lot of motivation to go completely unglued. Fundamentalists are, by definition, fearful and irrational. It hasn’t taken much to inspire the God-soaked to pick up a rifle and gun down an abortion provider, or to beat gay men to death, or to dress up in white robes and lynch black people, or crash jetliners into buildings. Those, of course, are the very worst examples. Right now we have scientists getting hate mail. Is there a chance we might see a Molotov cocktail or two lobbed through the window of a university classroom somewhere?

Hopefully that’s just slippery slope thinking. But then, as history teaches us, the more fanatical the belief in the divine, the more dangerous a person is apt to be. And remember, those Wehrmacht belt buckles didn’t have Darwin fish on them; they read, very clearly, “Gott Mit Uns.” I hope it doesn’t turn out that Ben Stein ends up having far more to answer for than just stolen animations and music. Shame on you, Ben. What you’ve done is deeply immoral and unforgivable.