There are plenty of outspoken atheists in the United States—read the latest Carnival of the Godless #48 for a small sampling—but you can still find many mainstream journalists writing about them as if they were peculiar aliens living under a log with other unsavory and oddly constructed organisms. Today, it’s Newsweek that exclaims in surprise that there are godless people among us.

It’s not a very deep or thoughtful article, and what I found most noticeable about it is the obliviousness of the author. Here’s how it starts:

Americans answered the atrocities of September 11, overwhelmingly, with faith. Attacked in the name of God, they turned to God for comfort; in the week after the attacks, nearly 70 percent said they were praying more than usual. Confronted by a hatred that seemed inexplicable, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson proclaimed that God was mad at America because it harbored feminists, gays and civil libertarians.

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Shermer on Salon

Don’t let the first paragraph stop you—it’s awful. Once the reporter gets out of the way and lets Shermer get going, though, it’s a good interview.

Here’s the bad part of the opening:

Some of Shermer’s ivory towerish science pals, like Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould, told him not to bother with the I.D. boosters, that acknowledging them meant going along for their political ride, where the integrity of science was being run into the ground.

Gould and Dawkins have both said we shouldn’t debate creationists—we shouldn’t elevate them to the same status that science holds. But both certainly have ripped into ID; the argument isn’t that we shouldn’t criticize them forcefully, but that we shouldn’t give them the opportunity to pretend their dogmatic foolishness is the equal of science.

After that, though, the article is good godless fare.

They’re catching up to us!

I’d point at England and give a Nelson Muntz laugh if it weren’t so depressing. A survey of UK students on evolution is showing large numbers falling for the creationism/ID scam.

In a survey last month, more than 12% questioned preferred creationism — the idea God created us within the past 10,000 years — to any other explanation of how we got here. Another 19% favoured the theory of intelligent design — that some features of living things are due to a supernatural being such as God. This means more than 30% believe our origins have more to do with God than with Darwin — evolution theory rang true for only 56%.

Of course, you know whose fault this is: Richard Dawkins. Who else could possibly have filled English children’s heads with these kinds of ideas?

“As a Christian, I have believed in it for a long time and I have no reason to doubt it.”

“When I look at things in the world I think it is amazing that God has created it for us. If you have faith in God you can believe he has done it, whether there is evidence or not.”

As a practising Muslim, the holy Qur’an — that’s our proper evidence.”

Why, those are straight out of Dawkins’ books! I think. Maybe. Some books, anyway…the author was probably an atheist, so that’s close enough.

The ubiquitous Francis Collins

Collins has another published interview in Salon. It’s sad, actually—in every new interview, he says pretty much the same thing, but he digs himself in a little deeper. I ordered his book the other day, and now I’m beginning to regret it; it’s beginning to sound like trite Christian apologetics with no depth, no self-reflection, no insight…just compound anecdotes intended to rationalize a conclusion he has arrived at with no evidence. It’s distressingly anti-scientific.

For instance, we get an expansion of his hiking anecdote:

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Revealing slip of the keyboard

Catch ’em quick before they get deleted. In a post on Dembski’s blog that is discussing their Kansas ad campaign to falsely portray the IDist’s efforts as solely about teaching good science, there are a couple of interesting comments. Keep in mind that the Discovery Institute has declared that they aren’t trying to sneak intelligent design into the classroom, they just want an “honest” discussion of the weaknesses in evolutionary theory.

Here’s the first revealing comment, which plainly states that the goal of the Kansas science standards is to teach ID:

My hope is that ID will be taught properly in Kansas. Having been born and raised there I would love to claim to be from the first state to teach ID. There is a lot of movement among science high school teachers to never teach ID, even if it becomes a law because “we don’t know how to teach philosophy.”

It would be nice to see them learn. I worked in a school and grew tired of hearing them speak of how it’s wrong to point out the weaknesses in Darwin’s theory because, “even if it is weak, it’s still the best theory out there.” (Shades of Dawkins anyone?)

Comment by Joel Borofsky — July 30, 2006 @ 10:08 am

Bleh. How dishonest can you get? What informed teacher of biology would say of Darwin’s theory, “even if it is weak…”? It isn’t weak at all.

After being asked about this comment, take a look at his response, which digs an even deeper hole.

It really is ID in disguise. The entire purpose behind all of this is to shift it into schools…at least that is the hope/fear among some science teachers in the area. The problem is, if you are not going to be dogmatic in Darwinism that means you inevitably have to point out a fault or at least an alternative to Darwinism. So far, the only plausible theory is ID.

If one is to challenge Darwin, then one must use ID. To challenge Darwin is to challenge natural selection/spontaneous first cause…which is what the Kansas board is attempting to do. When you do that, you have to invoke the idea of ID.

Comment by Joel Borofsky — July 30, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

You may be saying, “So what? Blogs aren’t accountable for the random ravings of their flibbertigibbet commenters.” (I certainly don’t feel that way about mine.) There’s one important additional piece of information you need, though.

Joel Borofsky is Dembski’s research assistant and co-moderator of the site.

(hat tip to Richard Hughes.)

I could use a sign like that…if we can change “dog” to “cat”


Isn’t that a sweet little old lady? I guess the sign offended a few people, though, and they turned her in to the police.

Insisting that the sign was simply a lark, Mrs Grove said yesterday that she had never received any complaints about it. But police ordered her to take it down and her details were taken. Once the officers left she hung the sign back up.

I like that last bit—what a simple no-nonsense response to bureaucratic BS.

She said: “it’s been there for more than 30 years and all the people who live nearby are used to it. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never had any complaints with any religion. The sign is just a lark that’s been there for a long time.

I don’t know. I’m looking at that obviously vicious little puppy and wondering how many Jehovah’s Witnesses he had eaten that day.

At least the British seem relatively civil about the whole thing. Symbols seem to inflame a whole ‘nother level of insanity in this country.

(hat tip: Richard Dawkins. Yeah, that Richard Dawkins.)

Francis Collins, doofus for the Lord

I just watched the Francis Collins/Charlie Rose interview (it starts at about 35 minutes on that clip), and although I struggled manfully to appreciate the fellow’s accomplishments and status in science, I failed. All I could see is that he was illogical, irrational, and downright goofy—all the symptoms of a severe affliction with a bad case of religion. That video ought to be a warning to scientists: even a prestigious scientist can suffer Christian mind-rot.

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Religious credulity and the recent spate of godly ‘science’

I usually like Cornelia Dean’s science reporting, but this recent collection of book reviews put me off from the opening paragraph. She begins with the tired old claim that “scientists have to be brave” to embrace religion. Malarkey. I’ve never heard a scientist bring up the subject of religion, pro or con, at a scientific conference or associated informal gathering. You can be as devout as you want to be with no risk to your professional career (you may even find yourself an icon for the compatibility of science and religion!), and as for your personal life, being religious in a country in which 90% of the residents self-identify as religious, and in which religiosity has become a defining character of our political leadership, is hard to characterize as boldly bucking a trend. The rest of the review is an exercise in credulity.

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More press for the godless

Ho hum, I’m quoted in Nature again this week (do I sound convincingly blasé?) It’s a short news article on Francis Collins’ new book, The Language of God, which I find dreadfully dreary and unconvincing, and I find his argument that “The moral law is a signpost to a God who cares about us as individuals. God used a mechanism of evolution to create human beings with whom he could have that kind of fellowship” to be ridiculously unscientific garbage.

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Creationist email to the fraternity

One more piece of creationist email for you: this one was addressed to me and all of my fraternity of Godless Atheists, which I think means you readers here. Never mind protesting that some of you are Christian—get used to it, to these guys you will never be truly Christian.

Anyway, it’s not a very entertaining letter. It was, as usual, amusingly formatted (Outlook Express is evil software), but I’ve stripped all that gunky Microsoft html out of it to simplify posting it. It’s your usual argument from poorly understood physics: the Big Bang is evidence of Jesus, really tiny numbers prove Jesus, mangled information theory proves Jesus. It does have one novel argument I haven’t seen before, that a kitchen spray bottle proves Jesus, but I don’t think it’s going to get much traction in the scientific community. I haven’t bothered to reply to it, but if anyone wants to shred the nonsense in the comments, maybe the authors will find it online.

Oh, and welcome to the Atheist Fraternity! Remember, we’re getting together with the Atheist Sorority on Friday night for a Toga Party!

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