When Be gets an analogy in his head, nothing is going to shake it loose

I patiently explained all that was wrong with Be Scofield’s characterization of atheists; now he has written back and said
I am wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m just going to focus on his first weird point, because the whole thing is disposable, but I feel like making a token effort anyway.

A good part of his argument was an analogy run amuck. He tried to argue that criticizing liberal religion for extremist religious actions must mean I don’t like liberal politics (that is, I must be an anarchist!) or I am a hypocrite. I explained yesterday that this wasn’t the case, I have no problem with the liberal part of “liberal religion”, so his comparison is way off. As I said then:

Liberal and Moderate Religion Justifies Religious Extremism. Scofield has completely missed the point. Liberal religion isn’t blamed for promoting illiberalism, it’s guilty of promoting religion. Nobody is arguing that the antithesis is responsible for the thesis, but that liberal religion and extremist religion hold something in common: the abdication of reason in favor of faith. They are both philosophies that undermine critical thinking. And without that safeguard of demanding reasonable evidence for propositions, they’re left vulnerable to bad ideas.

Now he has apparently failed to comprehend my explanation, because his new article, which sounds rather angry (I thought he was supposed to deplore that?), takes that very same rhetorical game and turns it up to 11, as if amplifying the flaws in his logic might somehow convince me to overlook them.

Liberal and extremist forms of government also share many of the same harmful common foundations: the use of propaganda, social control, loss of self identity for the country (nationalism), stifling of critical thinking, faith in leaders, manipulation…etc.

Wait, what? In order to force his analogy to work, he has to claim that the foundation of liberal government is propaganda, social control, nationalism, an absence of critical thinking, and faith in the leadership? I’d consider those the opposite of liberal government, and I think he’s confused a liberal democracy with fascism.

At this point, I think we’re done. Scofield has resorted to making absurd claims about the nature of liberal democracy the premise of his comparison, so there’s not really any point in arguing further with him. For the sake of completeness, though, so I don’t get accused of taking him out of context, here’s the remainder of his paragraph.

When these are taken to the extremes the results are horrific. For militant anarchists the answer is clear: ALL government is the problem because moderate government is an “open invitation to extremism.” They BOTH share the same problem – government and the things that go along with it. Unless Myers also believes the same is true for government then he is already able to make the meaningful distinctions that I’m asking him to make about religion. Whatever the reasons that Myers might give for seeing gradations and variations in government without denouncing it entirely, (despite the presence of shared harmful and irrational elements in both its liberal and extremist forms that can lead to very dangerous outcomes) I am asking him to make the same types of distinctions in regards to religion. If he can do it in relation to government he can do it in relation to religion. Otherwise he needs to explain why religion should be singled out to be denounced entirely when many of the same extremely irrational and problematic conditions (faith in the state/leaders and stifling of free/critical thinking) have existed in government. Why doesn’t tolerant and democratic government receive the same blame that liberal religion does when they both share harmful elements of their extremist counterparts? If a shared common foundation of things that stifle critical thinking is the reasoning for denouncing an entire category then it must apply to government.

See? If we just assume tyranny and oppression are the basis of the ideal liberal government, and that this is the identical relationship faith has to liberal religion, then Scofield gets to pretend that I ought to be making exactly the same criticisms of liberal government that I do of liberal religion.

Got it? I can now see exactly where Scofield is coming from, and it is a very warped place inhabited by someone who is not very bright.

I get email

This email is different than the usual rants and threats and claims about creationism disproving evolution — instead, my correspondent claims that the Catholic church knew about evolution all along. All I learned from the letter, though, is that he doesn’t have a clue about what evolution is.

Dear Professor Myers,

I am very confused [Ah, if only he’d stopped there, the letter would have been perfect] as to why you think evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Since its earliest days, Catholics have maintained the mutability of species. For example:

1) Saint Jerome commented on Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (RSV.) In a letter to Oceanus, Saint Jerome wrote: “By the reading of the prophet the eunuch of Candace the queen of Ethiopia is made ready for the baptism of Christ. [Hang on now…so this eunuch somehow changes the skin color of the queen of Ethiopia to something acceptable to the Catholic church, and this is evidence of evolution? I don’t think so. Racist magic tricks aren’t valid evidence.] Acts 8:27-38 Though it is against nature the Ethiopian does change his skin and the leopard his spots. Jeremiah.” In a letter to Paulinus, he writes “[Jeremiah] speaks of a rod of an almond tree Jeremiah 1:11 and of a seething pot with its face toward the north, and of a leopard which has changed its spots.”[I don’t think Ryan understands evolution at all if he thinks this hodge-podge of biblical nonsense is evidence that they were keeping up with Darwin.]

2) Saint Francis de Sales, in his book Living Love, wrote: “I heard of a little land animal in the Indies that enjoys swimming with fish. By engaging in this activity, it becomes a fish. A land animal actually turns into a marine animal. When we enjoy God, we become conformed to God.” (Living Love, page 69)” [This ain’t evolution. An individual animal magically changing form has nothing to do with evolution. Where’s natural variation and populations changing over time?]

3) Athanasius Kircher, a 17th century Jesuit polymath, thought that environmental pressures caused species to change over time, according to Professor Will Parcell of Wichita State University (http://georegister.org/publications/2010_presentGSA_Kircher.pdf). He also thought that God created a changing world because it “shows forth the infinite power of God and the incertitude of human fate.. [A]ll things are fleeting and subject to the variable fates of fortune and destruction so that [we] might raise [our] minds, studies, soul and intellect, which no created things can satisfy, to sublime and eternal possession, and gaze at God alone, in whose hand are all the powers of the realms and the destines of universal nature.” (translation of Kircher by Goodwin) [This ain’t evolution, either. There were lots of people arguing for the transformation of species before Darwin; where it changed is that Darwin provided a mechanism, and it wasn’t god showing off his immortality by making things die.]

4) Blessed John Henry Newman, writing in 1868, said that “”the theory of Darwin, true or not, is not necessarily atheistic; on the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of divine providence and skill.” He also wrote against Paley’s argument, in his book Idea of University, published before Darwin’s publication, saying that it leads to pantheism and belittles God. [You can accept evolution for the most part while believing in some kind of god; you cannot accept the full implications of evolution while believing there is a master plan behind it.]

5) Blessed Pope John Paul II, in 1996, re-iterated that evolution is compatible with Catholicism. [As long as you accept the reality of Adam and Eve and a magical moment of ensoulment sometime back in the paleolithic.]

Please stop hating Christianity. [No. I find nothing of worth in Christianity, and smug ignoramuses quoting bible verses at me confirm my contempt. Thanks for doing your part.] I know it’s trite to say, but Jesus loves and wants you to be happy.[No, he doesn’t exist. And if he did, you have no claim to knowledge of his desires.] You will be in my prayers, [Keep on wasting your time. I’m sure it’s about as effective as this letter.]

Ryan

Poor Ryan is at the Catholic University of America. He has my profoundest sympathies for his continuing mental debilitation.

Do they even realize this is testable?

The things that go on during Christian revivals…here’s a crazy preacher claiming that conversion changes your DNA. Right.

How does this even work?

(via Joe. My. God.)


Could this be some kind of strange poe? If you look for “onkneesforjesus”, there is a blog that features this video, and the tagline for the blog is…

My life is all about getting on my knees and faithfully serving Jesus until He comes.

I find it very hard to believe that was written by someone oblivious to the meaning.

Scott Adams is being a self-indulgent, self-pitying dinkwad, again

Don’t be surprised, though. It’s only natural.

Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, “Here’s your square hole”?

Let us consider the many stupidities he offers us.

“Raping, cheating, and being offensive” are “natural” to men. You know, I have never in my life felt even the slightest urge to rape anyone; I’d go so far as to say that I’d have to be forced to rape, would probably find myself physically incapable of the act, and would find violent assault to be incredibly unnatural. I’ve also never been tempted to cheat on my wife (that’s a little bit unnatural, but then she’s got magic powers). I confess, I can be offensive to people, but that’s just me — most people quail at the thought of offending others. So here we have some presumptions about men that are just plain false.

And what’s with this “natural” nonsense anyway? It’s meaningless. What he’s really doing is trying to justify bad behavior with the “well, everyone else is doing it” excuse. It’s a logical fallacy. It doesn’t work. It especially doesn’t work when everyone else isn’t doing it.

Then he whines about us poor pitiful men, whose “natural” instincts (to rape, apparently) are so restricted, while women just get to run riot and do whatever they feel like doing — “blame and shame” are almost never, ever applied to control women’s behavior.

Stop laughing so hard! I see you out there with my magic blog-o-vision, goggling unbelievingly at the very idea that women are unconstrained by societal conventions.

All Scott Adams has written is a plea to allow him to indulge his whims without condemnation, coupled with a presumably inadvertent admission that some of his whims are pretty damned repulsive. Sorry, guy, if you dream of harming fellow members of your culture, you’re going to be slapped down and told you don’t get to do that. Go live in a cave if you resent having to get along with others and respect their autonomy.

He also descends into comical self-pity. Here’s what he imagines the natural conclusion of his oppression by a society that won’t let him rape women will end.

Long term, I think science will come up with a drug that keeps men chemically castrated for as long as they are on it. It sounds bad, but I suspect that if a man loses his urge for sex, he also doesn’t miss it. Men and women would also need a second drug that increases oxytocin levels in couples who want to bond. Copulation will become extinct. Men who want to reproduce will stop taking the castration drug for a week, fill a few jars with sperm for artificial insemination, and go back on the castration pill.

We already have chemical castration drugs: cyproterone and medroxyprogesterone acetate, for instance. They aren’t big sellers for the pharmaceutical companies (well, the latter is used by women as a contraceptive, marketed as Depo-Provera, so that’s doing all right), but Viagra is a massive money-maker. There isn’t any political pressure to put cyproterone in our drinking water, either. His future is already here, and it doesn’t seem to have worked out exactly like he imagines.

It also seems that some of us men are living happy, rape-free lives with cheerful, unassaulted sexual partners, and are also engaging frequently in enthusiastic sex without feeling like society is forcing us to do something weird and unnatural, and also without feeling that our happiness can only come by causing our partners misery. Poor little Scotty. I get the impression that he doesn’t find his sex life all that satisfying.

You know, David Barton has a reputation for inventing quotes, but this is ridiculous

Let’s see…Darwin revealed the theory of evolution in 1859, and the United States declared their independence from Britain in 1776 — but our founding fathers were such magical geniuses that they foresaw the whole thing and debated the subject there in Philadelphia and resolved that evolution was a bunch of hooey. Right.

the founding fathers…already had the entire debate on creation/evolution…and you’ve got Thomas Paine, the least religious of the founding fathers, saying you got to teach creation science in the public school classroom, the scientific method demands it!

Hey, David Barton, could you find that quote where Thomas Jefferson explained mathematically how black holes form, and the the quote where Madison deduces the detailed chemical structure of DNA? I’m sure you’ve got it somewhere at your fingertips.

Maybe most importantly, you should dig up a citation from George Washington in which he testifies that David Barton is a credible historian.

Another IDiot projects

Man, what is it with Christians? Another one goes after me in an article titled Why P.Z. Meyer is Afraid, and a fellow just has to wonder how deeply they are capable of reading when they so grossly misspell my name all the time. “Myers”: it’s only five letters long, and it’s the most common spelling variant of that name in the US.

Anyway, it’s the usual litany: I’m uncivil and rude, I’m popular, I have a brute squad, I’m nasty, and I “attack the person rather than the argument”. That last one is particularly ironic because the entire post is nothing but an attack on me, and doesn’t even tackle my argument.

And what prompted this outburst? My post on Moshe Averick and his lack of understanding. Go ahead, read it; despite fuming over it, my IDiot critic doesn’t bother to include a link to it, possibly because it refutes his claims. The worst thing I say about Averick is that he’s a clueless creationist, right after explaining why he has missed the point. The post is about how complexity and design are independent properties, and how you can’t use complexity as a proxy for design, despite the fact that that is almost the entirety of the intelligent design case.

It was an attack on the argument, not the person. Sad, deluded Joel doesn’t even understand that. But then, his brain has been addled from “dealing with matters of deep theology (in particular the Trinity and Incarnation)”. Poor boy. [Yes, that’s an attack on the person. Study it, Joel, and learn what it actually is.]

The Barnum principle

Johan Huibers, the owner of a construction company in the Netherlands, is way ahead of Ken Ham. He has actually begun construction of a replica of Noah’s Ark, and his even floats—although he accomplishes that by cheating, building his ark as a wooden superstructure on top of an array of bolted-together steel barges.

The revealing factoid about this crank, though, is this:

Actually, this ark is not the first that Mr. Huibers has built. He first began dreaming of an ark in 1992, shortly after a heavy storm lashed the coastal region north of Amsterdam where he lives. His wife, Bianca, a police officer, opposed the idea.

“She said no, but by 2004 I had built a smaller ark, 225 feet long, to sail through the Dutch canals,” he said. It became a minor sensation. He charged adult visitors $7 to board it.

“More than 600,000 people came, in about three years,” he said. He said he made about $3.5 million, enough to clear a profit of $1.2 million.

Crazy pays, and there is a sucker born every minute.

We’ve settled what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price

The scientific animation company, XVIVO, has had their work ‘appropriated’ by creationists before, and I hate to say it, but there is a reason for it. Although their animations of cellular and molecular processes are spectacular and beautiful, they are also annoyingly purposeful: they show tubulin making a beeline across microns of distance to assemble a microtubule, for instance, while kinesins stride determinedly down the cytoskeleton. There isn’t the slightest hint of the stochastic nature of the biochemistry, and they are seriously misleading in that sense — which, no doubt, is why creationists love them so much.

Now XVIVO is really pushing the edge. They are a commercial company, and they have to do this work to make money, but they have accepted a commission from Deepak Chopra to create an animation showing how “healing visualization” can “enhance the immune system’s response to cancer”. It shows no such thing, of course. It seems to show macrophages devouring cancer cells, then blue lymphocytes all zooming in towards an antigen presenting cell and getting energized (they glow on the inside!), and then swooping off in a squadron to touch red cancer cells, which promptly wither and die.

Once again, we have the trademark purposeful, directed cells of all XVIVO productions, but this time I guess we’re supposed to imagine magical meditation auras controlling the biochemistry.

Bleh. Sell-outs.

Wrong, root and branch; wrong at every cell and molecule; wrong to the core

The world didn’t end last Saturday (obviously), but Harold Camping and his predictions are just a smokescreen, and everyone is missing the heart of the problem.

Camping has now spoken. He now claims that Jesus did arrive ‘spiritually’ on the 21st, and that in his generous mercy, God has decided to spare us the 153 days of the tribulation, but that the world will still be ending on 21 October. This is no surprise. This is exactly what these crackpot prophets do: they’re never right, but they are great at rationalizing.

His followers are busy readjusting. Here’s a radio interview with one bible-thumper; the guy who threw away his life savings on subway signs was left wandering in Times Square, confused and disappointed. None of them has changed their beliefs about the biblical apocalypse, they’re just fudging the dates.

The Family Radio website has been scrubbed clean of mentions of Judgment Day.

And what do I see from most people? A stern finger-wagging with biblical authority reaffirmed.

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I was sent that image by someone who clearly thought it was a joke, but I am not laughing. I’m angry, instead. I don’t fucking care what fucking Jesus fucking said. The problem is NOT that some kook in California plucked numbers out of the Bible and conjured up a numerological justification for a date: the idiocy runs much deeper than that.

  • The entire myth of dispensationalism — that time is divided into distinct ages with discrete beginnings and ends, characterized by distinct bodies of knowledge granted us by divine will — is nonsense. These fairy tales of a rapture and tribulation and world destruction are entirely the invention of crank theologians elaborating on the ravings of the 19th century Irish priest, John Nelson Darby. It’s no more sourced or historical or rational than the goddamn Book of Mormon.

  • Christian eschatology is a vile and hateful message about their imaginary tyrant god who, once again, is scheduled to have a temper tantrum in which he kills almost everyone, snatches up their souls, and makes them suffer for eternity for being human. A few will be spared; their reward is an eternity of servility, but at least they get to know they’re better than everyone else. And that’s the real lesson here: it’s all about elitism and the most extreme threats imaginable to anyone who does not support these self-appointed masters of dogma. Again, there’s no reason to believe any of it, other than that people have absorbed the propaganda for the whole of their lifetime.

  • The Christian bible is supposed to be the ultimate source of authority, and to many of the more extreme, the only source of authority. It’s got ‘bible codes’ in it; it’s a rich vein of numerological bullshit to be mined; it’s vagued, confused, ambiguous, and contradictory, a refuse heap of tribal gobbledygook hallowed by nothing other than long ages of accumulation. Our minds try desperately to find pattern and meaning in what we observe around us, and the best source to trigger all kinds of lunatic pattern generating theories is a nearly totally incoherent mass of text with huge cultural signposts pointing at it and screaming that it is important.

    It’s like being told that a tangled, confusing clump of jungle, all bewildering with shadow and random shapes slashing across it, is the home of a fierce tiger that will kill you if you get close. Stare hard at it, and you can convince yourself that there is something dangerous lurking there, even if it contains no animal larger than a rabbit.

Sure, everyone is laughing at Harold Camping now, except his followers, who are undeterred. But you’re missing the real joke. Look at every Abrahamic religion, with their myths of prophets and favored peoples and fate. Look at the crazy conservative church in your town, that preaches homophobia and anti-science and supports Israel because of the Armageddon prophecy. Look at the liberal Christian church down the street from you that has the nice Vacation Bible School and puts on happy plays for the older kids, and also teaches that one day you will stand before a great god and be judged. Look at your family members who blithely believe in death as a mini-apocalypse, in which they will be magically translated into another realm, again to be judged.

It’s the very same rot, the poison of religion that twists minds away from reality and fastens them on hellish bogeymen. They’re demented fuckwits, every one, and the big lie rests right on the fundamental beliefs of supernaturalism and deities, not on the ephemera of one crank’s bizarre interpretations.

And to the next person who quotes Matthew 24:36 at me: you’re part of the problem, too.

When I’m looking for sophisticated, literate ideas about cosmology, I always turn to Kirk Cameron

Oh, wait, no — I meant Stephen Hawking. I understand that physics is actually a fairly rigorous discipline, almost as daunting as molecular biology, so I suspect that a childhood spent on a hackneyed sitcom and an adulthood spent peddling dumb-ass theology is probably not adequate preparation for grasping it. But at least Kirk Cameron tries.

Professor Hawking is heralded as ‘the genius of Britain,’ yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything and that life sprang from non-life.

Why should anyone believe Mr. Hawking’s writings if he cannot provide evidence for his unscientific belief that out of nothing, everything came?

[Hawking] says he knows there is no Heaven. John Lennon wasn’t sure. He said to pretend there’s no Heaven. That’s easy if you try. Then he said he hoped that someday we would join him. Such wishful thinking reveals John and Stephen’s religious beliefs, not good science.

So Cameron thinks Hawking’s work on theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity is nothing more than a bunch of collected song lyrics? I am amused that the younger half of the comedy duo known as Way of the Master has chosen to lecture Stephen Hawking on science.