It’s all over except for the final whimper

The Hovind court case will be having final arguments today, but it’s pretty much over.

Defense lawyers for Kent and Jo Hovind rested their case on Wednesday without presenting evidence or calling witnesses. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. today. The Hovinds’ fate then will be in the hands of the 12-person jury.

I wouldn’t lay odds on the outcome of this trial—evangelical Christians will automatically get a pass by many jurors. He’s such a nice man, after all, and he’s just doing the work of the Lord. I’d bet, though, that he won’t get the full penalty.

If found guilty, Kent Hovind faces a maximum of 288 years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer.

His wife, Jo Hovind, faces up to 225 years. Her charges include aiding and abetting her husband with 44 counts of evading bank-reporting requirements.

On the other hand, the Hovind’s lawyer seemed to think that the best defense is no defense at all.

After Wednesday’s session, Richey said there was no need for a defense.

“I don’t believe the government met its burden,” Richey said. “The government has to prove that (Kent Hovind) knew he had a duty under the law to pay those taxes.”

Hmmm. The testimony shows that Hovind was a man obsessed with his purported privileges as a man of God to escape taxation, he gives talks on his version of tax law, he and his wife were careful to always withdraw sums just under what would require reporting by the bank, and we’re supposed to believe that he was simply a blank-eyed, dumb-as-a-stick dullard who didn’t know what taxes were? Maybe the defense should have been a presentation of his views on evolution. That would have supported their defense that Kent Hovind is an ignorant moron just fine.

South Park…ho hum.

I caught most of South Park tonight, and it certainly was topical: it wasn’t so much about evolution as it was RIchard Dawkins and The God Delusion. Unfortunately, as South Park seems to do whenever I see it, there wasn’t much thought behind it at all. Richard Dawkins is made to have sex with Mr Garrison, there’s something about intelligent sea otters, and a future world where everyone is an atheist and different factions are having a war. Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren’t exactly masters of subtlety, I’m afraid, and it was their usual frenetic mish-mash.

Oh, well. It’s a two-parter, so there’ll be more gay/transexual sex-as-some-kind-of-satire next week. I didn’t see much to trigger either outrage or interest this time, so I suspect I’ll miss it.

The Halloween Cafe Scientifique: an evening of Mad Scientists

On Halloween, I gave a short presentation as our first Cafe Scientifique of the year. The main intent was to introduce our schedule for the year and to give an amusing introduction to the media image of scientists by showing a few movie clips…and to say a few things about how we really ought to be seen.

I’ve put most of the clips on youtube, so you can see what I was talking about below the fold.

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This is a start

But only a start. A new poll finds an encouraging level of doubt among Americans.

Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not “absolutely certain” there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

Among the various religious groups, 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews said they are “absolutely certain” there is a God while 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as “Born Again” feel certain God exists.

When questioned on whether God is male or female, 36 percent of respondents said they think God is male, 37 percent said neither male nor female and 10 percent said “both male and female.”

Only one percent think of God as a female, according to the poll.

Asked whether God has a human form, 41 percent said they think of God as “a spirit or power than can take on human form but is not inherently human.”

As to whether God controls events on Earth, 29 percent believe that to be the case while 44 percent said God “observes but does not control what happens on Earth”.

Rising levels of uncertainty about such a silly entity is good news. Next we should start hammering on those 36% who think God is male, for instance, and get them to explain their belief. How do they know he’s male? Does he he have a penis? How big is it? What does he use it for? I suspect that most of the people who responded in the affirmative have no idea where their dogma originates—they just assume—and haven’t thought through the implications of their assertions at all.

It would also be good to wake up and mobilize all those doubters. Muriel Gray has some suggestions for unifying principles, although I’m not too keen on her term for this group (“Enlightenists”?):

Enlightenists believe in the awe-inspiring, wonder, beauty and complexity of the universe, and aspire to unpick its mysteries by reason, constant questioning, observation, experiment, and analysis of evidence. The bedrock of our morality is empathy, from which logically springs love, forgiveness, tolerance and a profound desire to make a just, egalitarian society and reduce suffering. The more knowledge a person has, the more they question and understand the real world, and the more they are required to analyse what is true then the greater the increase in empathy. Enlightenists care and wish to do good not because a vengeful God tells them to, but because intelligence suggests it is the only and the right thing to do.

She also wants state-funded Enlightenist schools to oppose those crappy superstition (i.e., religious) schools. I’m not enthused about that—anything that takes resources away from the public schools is not a good thing in my book—but the idea that we freethinkers ought to be lobbying more is a good one. Richard Dawkins made a similar point, that even in the US freethinkers outnumber Jews, but the political difference is that only one of us has an effective lobby.

Once we got our schools and started churning out multiracial youngsters free from any kind of manipulation, save that of being taught to question everything, we could start our political lobbying. Why should religious concerns be put above ours? Why shouldn’t we have the right to be appeased when we are offended by religion, the way the religious whine like toddlers when someone shakes a stick at their myths? Why shouldn’t we be consulted and treated with respect as a community? Why are the sincerely held beliefs I’ve outlined inferior to those of a Christian, Jew or a Muslim? You think I’m joking. I’m not. I pay my tax. I want representation too.

All we need are a few charismatic freethinkers bold enough to state their views and rally all the people disgusted with the Christianists. I think there’s a solid constituency there, but no one is exploiting it.

Will South Park teach the controversy?

South Park’s amusement factor has been up and down for me, but I may have to make an effort to catch this evening’s episode.

Cartman’s plan to propel himself into the future goes horribly wrong. South Park Elementary faces strong opposition to the topic of evolution being taught to the 4th graders, especially from Ms. Garrison who has to teach it. Eric Cartman can’t be bothered with what’s going on in class. He’s busy manipulating his own personal time-line to align with the precise release date of the newest, hottest game.

Jobs available! Honest scientists need not apply.

Wow—Liberty University is hiring. They’ve got 27 openings for new faculty right now, so if you’re in the market, they might be tempting. The first three on the list are…

Biology: Two positions. Rank open. Ph.D. and compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy required. 1) Human anatomy and physiology, 2) undergraduate genetics. Supervision of undergraduate research expected. Contact Dr. Paul Sattler.

Center for Creation Studies: Rank open. Ph.D. and experience in the origins controversy from a young earth creation perspective required. Faculty will teach the required course in creation as well as develop and/or teach in their area of science expertise. Ability to teach courses in astronomy, anatomy and physiology, or other biology courses preferred. Contact Dr. David DeWitt.

Hmmm. Makes the possibility much less attractive, doesn’t it? I suppose if you were desperate enough for a job that you’d be willing to rip out your integrity, throw it in a cesspit, and let a chain of smarmy evangelical cretins squat over it, you might be willing to sign on.