Apologists Ambiguous

Lots of you have been alerting me to this op-ed in the NY Times, but I have to confess that I read it, and Richard A. Schweder makes no sense at all in his “Atheists Agonistes” article. His conclusion seems to be that we should stop “waging intellectual battles over the existence of god(s)”, but everything preceding that point doesn’t seem to make any kind of sensible case for much of anything. Here’s the heart, I think; he’s wondering why we’re seeing this resurgence of godlessness as a literary genre:

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Jesus’ General is poking fun at Mitt Romney’s weird religious doctrines (he’s a Mormon). This isn’t right. I demand that he give equal time to pointing out the silliness of Hillary Clinton’s (Methodist), John Kerry’s (Catholic), Russ Feingold’s (Jewish), and John McCain’s (whatever will get him the nomination) religion. There’s goofiness galore in all of those, too, and it’s unfair to leave them out.

It must be that good British beer

They’re befuddled over there in the UK—I know that when I visited, I seemed to down a couple of pints of that potent stuff every day, so I’m assuming the natives must also be living in a constant state of alcohol saturation. Right? It’s the only explanation I can think of for the latest burst of creationist foolishness in the UK. They’ve got the former head of some school out there coming out in favor of the shoddy pseudoscience that this creationist group, Truth in Science, has been peddling.

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What’s up, NSTA?

This is a troubling development, and perhaps some members of the National Science Teachers Association in the readership here know something about it. They seem to be in the pocket of the oil industry.

In tomorrow’s Washington Post, global warming activist Laurie David writes about her effort to donate 50,000 free DVD copies of An Inconvenient Truth (which she co-produced) to the National Science Teachers Association. The Association refused to accept the DVDs:

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs. …

[T]here was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.”

As it turns out, those supporters already include “special interests,” including Exxon-Mobil, Shell Oil, and the American Petroleum Institute, which have given millions in funding to the NSTA.

This is not merely an attempt to avoid entanglement in a “controversial” (not that global warming is actually controversial among scientists), since the article mentions that the NSTA has distributed PR for the oil companies. I like the NSTA and I read their newsletter…but this sounds like they’ve been bought and paid for by Exxon-Mobil, and it casts an unfortunate shadow on their reputation. Can we please have a science advocacy group we can trust?

I like the way Sara Robinson’s mind works.

Memo to the Christian Coalition: The NSTA is for sale. For a mere million bucks a year, I’ll bet you could get them on board with Intelligent Design, too.

Memo to parents: It might be time to find out if your kids’ science teachers are members of this group, and have a word with them about it. If you — or the teachers — want to complain directly to the NSTA, the complaint form is here. They need to hear from everyone who still thinks that scientific truth shouldn’t be auctioned off to the highest donor.

Hate is the essential spice

I’ve just started reading Wilson’s The Creation(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and I’m enjoying it—my wife read it first and recommends it, too—and I wish it would help. I’m a bit cynical, though, especially since I just mentioned the sad affair of Joel Hunter (certain evangelical Christians refuse to consider any issues beyond the gay and the fetus), and now I caught (via the Friendly Atheist) an episode of This American Life on Carlton Pearson, an evangelical preacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had a thriving church with tens of thousands of members, when he had an insight: there was no hell. No eternal torment for damned souls. Jesus came to earth to save everyone, not just the few, not just the true believers. He called this the “gospel of inclusion”. You can guess what happened.

The church collapsed. People stopped attending with no hellfire to goad them on.

It’s acutely depressing, if you want to listen.

So far, Wilson is only telling us about the wonders and importance of biodiversity, without one word about being cast into the abyss if you step on an ant, or if you dare to engage in any sexual practices the Cosmic Superbeing dislikes. I wonder if it will resonate with his intended audience.

Uh-oh. They’re catching on

The first sentence of a conservative blog post:

The November 15 edition of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central offered more proof of comedian Stephen Colbert’s ineffective charade at pretending to be a conservative.

It’s been on the air for 13 months, and now with shock and dismay they suddenly realize it is not actually a conservative television show? I think I see now how they can argue that we’re winning the war in Iraq.

They’re stupid.

(via the PowerLiberal)

Handing out a little rope

This fellow, Daniel J. Lewis, from Answers in Genesis has come along and requested a space to defend creationism.

Then if the blog administrator allows it, I’m available to publicly discuss creation vs. evolution if we can do so on level, intelligent grounds without childish attacks. You can start with your belief system (naturalism), and I can start with mine (the Bible).

Perhaps the blog administrator will create a specific area where we can do this. (Preferably a place to which I can subscribe via RSS or email.)

I’m open to debate, are you?

I’m not too keen on accommodating creationist kooks with demands like that, especially when he could have just said what he wanted on that thread, but OK…I’ll give him a chance. Let’s see some intelligent discussion of creationism. It could be amusing.

So, everyone, keep quiet on this thread for a while. Give Daniel J. Lewis a chance to make his statement first.

You can see my house from here!

Amanda has an interesting article on cities trying to maintain and attract their educated class—and it includes a nice map of the frequency of college graduates by US counties. I just had to point out that it’s easy to spot Stevens County, where I live—it’s the orange square in a sea of paleness.


It’s too bad the huge counties out west make the western part of the country look misleadingly coarse-grained, but still, you can spot the places that attract the highly educated. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite as easy as plopping a university down somewhere to turn it into a magnet for bohemians.


What’s really important to the Christian Coalition?

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., said he quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization’s agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

“These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about,” Hunter said.

Well, I suspect Jesus would have been fanatical about a lot of old rabbinical minutia that we’d find distinctly creepy nowadays, but never mind that—Christianity is clearly the institution to be in if you’re a fussy, petty prude who is most interested in policing what people do in their bedrooms, so Hunter was obviously out of touch with his flock.