ICR Reacts to the Pope’s Statement

Since the news broke on Monday about the Pope’s statement that he’s okay with evolution and the Big Bang, we’ve been waiting for a creationist reaction. It’s now Friday and we’ve already written twice about it — see Pope Francis, Evolution, & the Big Bang, and then The Pope’s Views on Science — So What? It took longer than we thought, but we finally have a creationist response.

It comes from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom — and it’s written by Brian Thomas. We’ve written about him before — see The Mind of Brian Thomas. His article is Pro-Evolution Pope. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

During an October 28 meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences held in the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve,” according to The Telegraph. He also asserted that the Big Bang “doesn’t contradict the intervention of a divine Creator, but demands it.” If the Pope says it’s okay for Catholics to embrace the Big Bang and evolution, does that settle the controversy?

That meeting was on 27 October, not the 28th. But Brian is close enough, so we won’t quibble. He then says:

Those who simply take the Pope’s words as authoritative may find no reason to doubt his recent assertions, but attempts to square Pope Francis’ statements with science or the Bible will encounter some serious red flags.

Egad — serious red flags! Let’s read on:

If by “evolution” the Pope meant the transformation of hydrogen into humans over billions of years of natural processes, then He condones a schizophrenic form of creation because it needs no real Creator. Why invoke a Creator if none is needed?

Good question! Brian continues:

Plus, at least four scientific observations refute evolution, summarized in [an ICR publication].

Forgive us, dear reader, but we’re going to ignore that material. Here’s more from Brian:

And in what way does the Big Bang demand a Creator? Perhaps, like many Christian apologists, the Pope would argue that since the Big Bang requires a beginning, and since all beginnings require a beginner, that the Big Bang therefore requires a Big Beginner.

That’s roughly the Pope’s position, as we understand it. Moving along:

However, some versions of the Big Bang suggest that it was merely the most recent of an infinite cycle of universal expansions and contractions. In other words, some Big Bang cosmologies assert the universe has somehow always existed and thus did not even require a beginning. So arguing for God from the Big Bang fails since it cherry-picks versions of the Big Bang that assert a beginning.

The cyclical (or oscillating) universe was a widely accepted view until recently. It was assumed that if the mass of the universe were sufficient, the expansion that we now see would eventually be halted by gravity. Then there would be a contraction phase ending in the Big Crunch, followed by another Big Bang, then another contraction, ad infinitum. There are still cyclical models floating around, but the observed acceleration of the universe’s expansion has mostly put an end to the oscillating universe (at least for now), so the Pope isn’t cherry-picking. He’s speaking of what is currently the generally accepted theory. Here’s another excerpt from Brian’s essay:

Pope Francis also said at the meeting, “When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.” Is his God the same as the God of the Bible?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Brian’s god is a magician with a magic wand. On with the article:

Scoffers enjoy mocking the Genesis creation account by equating it with some kind of magic, but this overlooks the critical difference between magic and biblical creation.

Oh, wait — we’re about to be told why biblical creation isn’t magic. Pay close attention:

In magic, objects materialize from no source — from nothing and nobody — violating the laws of causality. But creation according to Genesis asserts that God — an actual and ultimate cause — created all things by His Word.

Oh. Okay. Now that we have that under control, we’ll skip a bit until we arrive at Brian’s disdainful conclusion:

While the Pope may side with the scoffers, science aligns with Scripture.

So there you are. According to the Institute for Creation Research, the Pope is all wrong. Now you know.

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Halloween in Twenty Fourteen

Jack-Chick-Halloween-2013

The usual creationist websites have disappointed us this year. In past years, we could count on them for some dire anti-Halloween posts, warning the faithful to beware of the evil influences that are unleashed today.

The pic which adorns this post is from last year’s Halloween post — see Jack Chick and Halloween — 2013. It came from a comic by Jack Chick — the world’s greatest theologian, philosopher, illustrator, communicator, and creationist. But he’s been slowing down recently, and this year he hasn’t given us anything.

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) also opposes Halloween, but they haven’t posted anything about it this year. However, all is not lost. We found something at the website of the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG), the online ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo).

AIG’s gift to us today was written by Bodie Hodge, who has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Southern Illinois University. He wisely gave up his engineering career to become a speaker, writer, and researcher for AIG.

Bodie’s article is Halloween History and the Bible. It’s very long, so we’ll extract only a few excerpts, adding some bold font for emphasis and removing the scripture references. Here we go:

In the United States (and other countries), Halloween has become one of the most popular unofficial holidays. On the up side, retail sales boost the economy around this holiday. On the down side, the holiday has become a time of increased crime in many places (especially arson and other acts of violence) on Halloween night as well as the night before. Even the author’s house was robbed one Halloween by forced entry. So, although the retail industry loves Halloween, many police officers and insurance companies dread it! Of course, there is also a tremendous amount of occult activity associated with this holiday.

Yes, a lot of evil is on the loose today. That ol’ devil loves Halloween. Bodie says:

When did this holiday begin and why? Was it of pagan origins or is there something more behind Halloween history? How should Christians view this day in general? To understand these questions further, we need to go back to the roots of Halloween.

This is a splendid example of creation research, but we’ll skip a load of history about the Celts and the Romans and All Saints’ Day and All Hallow’s Eve and other goodies. Then we’re told

Though the origin of this date, specifically for the Israelites, can be traced to Moses, the day may well have been chosen by God going back to previous events, as famous Bible chronicler Archbishop Ussher pointed out (the approximate day Adam and Eve sinned, according to Ussher’s calculations, and God’s subsequent covering of their nakedness with animal skins).

Ah, that’s good to know! Let’s read on:

It seems no coincidence that cultures all around the world in both present and ancient times have had a holiday when the dead were remembered and animals were sacrificed. We can make a pretty strong argument that this holiday goes back to a time when all the peoples lived together — and then they took this holiday to various parts of the world.

Otherwise, it seems strange and difficult to explain how these cultures developed celebrations that are so similar. This would likely push the true origin of “Halloween” and these other “days of the dead” to the time before the dispersion at Babel, over 4,200 years ago, after which different early cultures began to vary in its practice.

Wow — Halloween goes back before the Tower of Babel! Isn’t this amazing? Skipping over an ark-load about Noah and the Flood, Bodie continues:

It should be obvious from a Christian perspective that many modern practices of Halloween and days of the dead have evil intent. There has been considerable paganism that has been associated with Halloween over the years. … So, a word of caution must be given to Evangelicals who promote some of the questionable modern practices of Halloween. If anything, an alternative in opposition to Halloween should be offered by Christians. Psalm 24:1 points out that everything belongs to the Lord. Therefore, there is no reason to let Satan have Halloween. It is not his day in the first place!

Yeah! Phooey on Satan! Here’s more:

Please encourage your pastors and elders to have some sort of church function to counter modern practices of Halloween. Of course, one of the only nice things that Halloween really has to offer could also be involved — sweet treats (in moderation of course)! If a Christian alternative is not possible in your location, then take advantage of this opportunity to share with people the message of the gospel … when you greet “trick or treaters.”

Right. When kids come to your door tonight, give them a Jack Chick comic or something (and blame AIG if your car gets egged). The rest of Bodie’s article is a bunch of bible stuff. Go ahead and read it. We may have skipped something important. If so, please let us know.

How will this humble blog celebrate Halloween? Let’s have an Intellectual Free-Fire Zone. As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it!

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The Pope’s Views on Science — So What?

This is a big topic, and we fear that we are woefully inadequate to deal with it — but we’ll attempt it anyway. Our question is: Why are Pope Francis’ remarks to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences about evolution and the Big Bang such big news?

Really, that’s our question. There are no biologists or astronomers who, upon hearing of the Pope’s statements, thought: “Ah, now I can go on with my work.” But the press is all aflutter. The implication is that the Pope has declared science to be valid. But we already knew that it was, so although it’s nice to hear that the Catholic Church will continue to be congenial to science, what’s the big deal? We think the press frenzy reflects only the thinking of journalists.

Most people don’t know what to think — about anything — so the Pope’s opinion is a big deal for them. They were born with the ability to think for themselves, but it was never developed. As a result, they adopt the conclusions of those they regard as their intellectual superiors — parents, teachers, politicians, preachers, and other pundits. They also accept the opinions of certain institutions they have been taught are worthy of respect: their church, their government — even the UN. A large number actually adopt the opinions of show business celebrities. Our point is that most people get their opinions from second-hand sources. It’s rare when someone is informed, reaches his own conclusions, and is entirely comfortable doing so.

The typical non-thinker lives in a fog of uncertainty about virtually everything, taking comfort in adopting the conclusions of others — which he will dogmatically defend with memorized phrases on every occasion. But that kind of certainty is an illusion. No one can learn about anything of importance by relying on the opinions of other people — and certainly not by relying on people like journalists or preachers. Those “authorities” may be opinionated, but what do they really know of the topics on which they expound?

If a big announcement is made by a noted science research lab, you could read their paper, review their data, and decide for yourself if their conclusions are justified. But if the Pope (or some other authority) makes an announcement about something, there’s nothing to review. It’s a done deal. And most people get their opinions from such sources.

Everyone understands that you can’t become an athlete by reading about it, or by hearing lectures. You need to actually do it. Yes, you need instructors, but only as a guide to your own active participation. It’s similar to the way a toddler is taught to walk. But what most people don’t understand is that, as with walking, so it is with thinking. You have to learn to actually do it. You can’t allow others to do your thinking for you, and then merely adopt their conclusions. That’s not thinking — it’s tribalism. You don’t really have an opinion, you’re only adopting one so you can blend in.

What’s required for people to learn how to do their own thinking? For the hard sciences (physics, astronomy, chemistry, etc.), and for subjects like engineering, math and logic, the topics themselves teach the student to follow the arguments and to arrive at the inevitable conclusions. The subject matter compels the student to do his own thinking. But what about other topics? That’s where second-hand opinions seem to abound.

Wikipedia describes the perceived differences between Hard science and soft science. The hard sciences produce solid, verifiable results, and routinely abandon discredited ideas. There’s no room for personal opinions that disagree with the data. But the soft sciences — often called the social sciences — are less rigorous. Nothing in the soft sciences ever really seems to be discredited. No matter how often certain political and economic ideas fail in practice, they never fade away. It’s all a matter of popular opinion.

So what’s to be done about the soft sciences? How do we teach people to think? All we can come up with is the Socratic method of instruction, which challenges a student to defend his answers. It’s an excellent technique, but it requires excellent teachers — an uncommon commodity.

But wait — the authoritarians (religious or otherwise) will complain: If there’s no authority, if everyone does his own thinking, the result will be chaos! Really? Is science chaotic? Mathematics? Engineering? No, they’re not. But in each of those activities, people are doing their own thinking. No authoritarian approval is required.

It seems to us that chaos reigns only in those areas where people don’t think for themselves, and defer to authority instead.

So how shall we end this essay? Our points are these: (1) We need to do a much better job than we’re doing of getting people to do their own thinking; and (2) while we appreciate the Pope’s remarks about science, we don’t think they’re worth all the fuss that’s being made over them.

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Discovery Institute: Atheism Is a Religion

One of the silliest clunkers promoted by creationists is that atheism is a religion. When making that claim, they usually equate atheism with science, and specifically evolution. Further, atheism (or science, or evolution) is a false religion — compared to theirs, of course, which is The Truth. The issue is discussed in the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims: Evolution is a religion because it encompasses views of values and ultimate meanings..

That duplicitous description of science is the message in a new post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: Sure, Atheism Is a Religion, to which Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos Seek Converts. It’s written by David Klinghoffer, their journalistic slasher and poo flinger.

Klinghoffer is still criticizing the TV series Cosmos, and he’s also promoting a book the Discoveroids are offering to present their side of things. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Tyson-style atheism counts as a religion. As I’m hardly the first to say, it has almost all the trimmings that religions commonly do: An account of origins (panspermia and Darwinian evolution), a philosophical commitment to a certain way of understanding of what the fundamental substrate of reality is (materialism), a conversionary agenda (the whole point of Cosmos, now launched into the public schools), warnings of an apocalyptic future for the unrepentant (see our chapters on Episodes 11 and 12 of Cosmos).

Wow! That was an ark-load. The principal concern the Discoveroids have is that episodes of Cosmos will be used in the public schools. That’s a fine idea, but they’re furious because creationist material — including theirs — isn’t allowed in government-run schools. That’s been firmly established for traditional (i.e., raw, primitive, bible-based) creationism, and it’s also been established for the Discoveroids’ thinly disguised “scientific” version — see Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

It’s a clean shutout. Science is in, and creationism is out. Well, except in a few places like Louisiana and Tennessee, which have enacted a version of the Discoveroids’ Academic Freedom bill. So now the Discoveroids are trying to say that genuine science is also a religion, and that shouldn’t be allowed in the schools either. Crazy, huh? Well, that’s the game Klinghoffer is playing here. Watch and learn:

A primary purpose behind the Cosmos series was to cast a rival faith, Christianity, in a bad light, as “anti-science.” One religion throwing dirt at another faith — you’ve never heard of such a thing before? Not least when it comes to science, atheists have increasingly assumed the role of censors and inquisitors — even as other religions in the West have learned to live tolerantly, even lovingly with fellow citizens who disagree with them.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Traditional religions have learned to be tolerant of each other. It’s only science that runs around slaughtering the unbelievers. Let’s read on:

Every religion tells a story that frames its worldview. So does atheism. Cosmos unspools that narrative over the course of its 13 episodes. What’s missing? A stand-in for God, a god, or gods? Not every religion has one. So again, what exactly qualifies atheism for an exemption here? That it’s proved by science?

Aaaargh!! Nobody claims that atheism is “proved by science.” It’s the other way around — the claims of creationists have been disproved by science — or at least shown to be: (a) unsupported by verifiable evidence; (b) untestable; (c) superseded by natural, comprehensible processes; and (d) irrelevant and unnecessary, because of Occam’s razor. Klinghoffer continues:

As Casey Luskin has shown in the past, courts have treated atheism as religion as well, and reasonably so [link to a Discoveroid post].

We briefly discussed Casey’s post in Slow Weekend Free Fire Zone, where we said:

To establish that atheism is a religion (and therefore the museum is somehow misbehaving), Casey cites several Supreme Court cases which — when properly read and understood — say no such thing.

After citing Casey’s brilliant legal thinking, Klinghoffer wraps it up with this:

Atheists who think their faith deserves the special treatment of being exempted from categorization among other faiths need to argue more persuasively for their insistence on that point.

So there you are. If the Discoveroids can’t get their junk taught in the public schools, then science has to be excluded too. Good luck with that one!

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