Salon sucks

Salon has just published their report on Ken Ham’s creation “museum”, by author Gordy Slack, who has just released a book on the Dover trial. I haven’t read the book, although it was on my list to pick up this summer. No more. This was an awful bit of dreck, and I don’t think I could stomach reading a whole book written this way.

It’s dead, credulous reporting. Slack simply blandly reports the contents of the “museum,” and doesn’t offer a single word of criticism, and doesn’t even try to evaluate the accuracy of the claims. The protesters outside the gates are briefly mentioned, but otherwise the article just calls the place “beautiful”, and the words of Ken Ham and Mark Looy and various gullible visitors are unquestioningly quoted to praise it all. Sure, dinosaurs and people lived together; all the predators lived on fruit and vegetables; all the geology on the planet was carved by a single great worldwide flood 4000 years ago. Read it, and you get the impression that having an edifice dedicated to the proposition that all of physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and biology are wrong is perfectly reasonable, and the weirdos are the geeks standing in the rain outside complaining.

I thought the New York Times article was bad…but Salon has sunk to new depths of insipidity. I’ve been a subscriber to Salon since they first started, but this settles it for me—I won’t be resubscribing. This article wasn’t even expressing the usual phony “balance”—it’s biased in favor of creationism all the way through.

For shame, Salon.

Undead pirates, undead Jesus…same difference

Arrrr, curse ye, jpf. How dare you reveal this abomination to me? What’s this crazy born-again doing reviewing a pirate movie as a justification for his dogma?

But back to Jack for a second — sorry, Captain Jack. I was thinking about one of the central themes of this movie which involves the principal characters, one that you’ve most likely picked up on it as well:

Resurrection from the dead

As it turns out, getting swallowed by a nasty beastie called the Kraken is a bad thing, so one of the key story lines in this film is a desperate need for Captain Jack to come back from the dead so the forces of evil can be defeated.

And also as it turns out, we all have a Kraken of sorts on our tail as well … and unfortunately being on shore doesn’t keep us safe. Our nasty beastie is called death, and one day it will find us. We need someone to rescue us when that happens — to resurrect us so we can live out our eternity that way God intended it — which is in heaven with Him.

Jesus Christ defeated the Kraken called death. Like Jack Sparrow, he willingly jumped into its jaws to save others. But here’s the most amazing part … Jesus didn’t stay there. He came back so that we too could come back from the dead as well!

Look, Pirates of the Caribbean is fiction. That characters in a cartoon-quality story pop back and forth from the living to the dead and back again does not say anything to support your quaint superstitions about Jesus. Quite the contrary, it says that resurrection is a familiar (and lazy!) trope in fantasy stories, and if there’s any conclusion to be drawn, it ought to be that, gee, this bible story sure does sound as silly and improbable as a tale about a pirate getting eaten by giant cephalopods and getting rescued from Davy Jones’ locker by people with a magic compass. In fact, it ought to tell you that the bible is inferior. No pirates. No cephalopods. No swashbuckling. No undead monkeys. No men with tentacles.

Go ahead. Compare the bible to a fairy tale. I’m one up on you—I can recognize a fairy tale when I see one.

I had no idea Christopher Hitchens was so very, very short

Minuscule, even. Flea-sized. How else am I to interpret Dinesh D’Souza’s challenge that he should pick on someone his own size, meaning D’Souza? I’ve heard D’Souza. He’s a babbling pipsqueak. But now he thinks he is a worthy opponent to confront Hitchens, because all the pastors that Hitchens knocks aside as if wielding the jawbone of an ass are such weak and timid little flowers.

Besides, Hitchens is tough and mean. Pastors are inhbited because of their position. They can’t respond in kind. So Hitchens can call them names but they can’t call him names because they have to show Christian forbearance.

Weird. Check out the Reverend Phelps sometime, or look back at the arrogance and slander of Falwell or Dobson or Robertson. I hate to defend Christians, but good grief…Martin Luther King? William Jennings Bryan? John Brown? Jonathan Edwards? I don’t think we should automatically assume we can simply blame wilting Christian forbearance for their failures before the rhetorical onslaught of Hitchens (or Dawkins or any of the other Furies of Atheism, for that matter), since we know at least some are capable of throwing thunderbolts from the pulpit. Rather, we should find fault with their pathetic arguments, and experience shows that D’Souza is capable of waving around a pathetic argument with all the self-confidence of a clown armed with a bladder on a stick.

Despite his pompous bragging about how he’d be a worthy opponent, I don’t think I’d be that interested in seeing Bambi meet Godzilla again.

A suggestion for some diligent reporter out there

We’re seeing a lot of news about Ken Ham’s creationist lie, this so-called “museum” he has built out in Kentucky. What we’re not seeing from our media is any scrutiny of the finances behind the construction, or behind the evangelical boiler room called “Answers in Genesis”. Has any editor or reporter considered the possibility that there might be something juicier behind the story than “Preacher pretends church is a museum”? Is anyone—dare I say it—investigating this organization?

Their finances are a matter of public record. Everyone talks about how the museum cost $27 million to build, but the fact that their board of directors is sucking down over a million in salaries, benefits, and expenses is ignored. This is a profitable racket they’re running; I don’t think they’ve taken vows of poverty.

Other tidbits would include the seedy and rather acrimonious schism between Ham’s group here in America and the parent sister organization in Australia. Ham really is a kind of underhanded scoundrel and control freak, in addition to being a dishonest creationist fraud.

Anyway, if you want a good angle, stop treating this as a matter of a religious organization making a brave effort against the forces of godless science. It’s not. It’s an exceptionally lucrative business organization profiting off the ignorance of large numbers of people making a major push to increase their influence and income.

The wheels of extortion grind exceedingly slowly

Orac has the latest news on the Tripoli Six, the health care workers who were falsely accused of spreading AIDS in a Libyan hospital and were sentenced to death. The good news is that they aren’t dead yet, the Libyan government is still wheedling for reparations, and they’re showing some signs of backing off from a hard line position. Nothing’s certain, but at least the negotiations are creaking along slowly in the right direction.

“Playing God”

The Newsweek cover story is on recent efforts to create life in the laboratory, and of course they call this “playing God”. Haven’t they got the message yet? “Playing God” is where you do absolutely nothing, take credit for other entities’ work, and don’t even exist — scientists don’t aspire to such a useless status. Besides, creating life is mundane chemistry, no supernatural powers required.

[Read more…]

Who the heck is Mark Mitchell, and how did he acquire that brain damage?

I can almost understand plagiarizing Glenn Greenwald, but what is beyond comprehension is building a blog that seems to be entirely a mass of unattributed, plagiarized content. He’s got sections in the sidebar for “Recent Posts” and “The Latest from Mark Mitchell”, and I thought for a moment that maybe the latter would be his original content, but no, those are plagiarized, too. It’s as if Chauncey Gardiner were to write a blog—a completely empty, uncreative mind is just shuffling scraps from the internet and calling it his work.

And there’s almost no quality control at all — he’s parroting me!

Why people believe in bad ideas

There is a must-read article at Edge by Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg—it’s an attempt to explain why people resist scientific knowledge that takes a psychological view of the phenomenon. The premise is that our brains have in-built simplifications and assumptions about how the world works that often conflict with how it really works—there is, for instance, an intuitive physics and a real physics that are not entirely in agreement, and that we bring our understanding into alignment with reality through education and experience. The naive assumptions of the young brain contribute to ideas like dualism and creationism. For example:

[Read more…]