Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mohler Sides with Santorum Against Kennedy

We’ve written a few times before about Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The last time was here: Albert Mohler Defends Genesis Again.

Although we disagree with Mohler’s rejection of science, we’ve always expressed our respect for the way he justifies his position solely on theological grounds, and never disgraces himself with the nonsense of creation science. In our last post we said:

We think he’s wrong to do so [reject science], but he keeps his views within his faith, and — unlike a certain Seattle think tank — his life’s mission isn’t to crush science and establish a theocracy.

Now we have to retract our remark that his mission isn’t about establishing theocracy. That’s because of a new column he wrote which appears at the CNN website: Santorum’s right, JFK wrong on separation of church and state. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Over the weekend, Santorum told ABC’s “This Week” that reading the text of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association made him physically sick: “I almost threw up.”

You can see a video of Santorum’s remark here, together with Kennedy’s speech. Let’s read on from the Mohler’s article:

Explaining what made him almost throw up, Santorum pointed to a statement Kennedy made early in the speech: “I believe in an America where separation of church and state is absolute.”

Santorum retorted, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

You can always spot a theocrat by hia position on the First Amendment. Mohler continues:

There can be no “absolute” separation of church and state. Such an absolute separation would, in theory, prevent any conflict or controversy between religious bodies and government. As just about any edition of a major newspaper makes clear, these conflicts occur over and over again.

It’s true that such conflicts continually recur, but that doesn’t argue against an absolute separation of church and state. Rather, it points out the problems inherent in mixing the two.

Now we will digress for a moment to remind you of one of our former posts, in which we gave James Madison’s position on this subject — which just might be more authoritative than Santorum’s or Mohler’s. Madison, as you know, was the author of the First Amendment. In a letter to Robert Walsh written in 1819, Madison said:

The Civil Govt, tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

And in 1822, in his Letter to Edward Livingston, he wrote:

Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Govt. & Religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst. And in a Govt. of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

Okay, you know Madison’s thinking on the subject, and you know what Kennedy and Santorum said. Here’s more from Mohler:

That argument [for absolute separation] worked for Kennedy in 1960 when he was running for president against anti-Catholic prejudice. It does not work when we have to engage in the hard process of establishing public policy.

That depends on the policy to be established, doesn’t it? Moving along:

The secular left is deeply committed to their idea that public arguments must be limited to secular reason, with religious beliefs and arguments ruled out of bounds.

[...]

Santorum is surely right when he spoke of these things as “absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Again, that depends on the candidate’s vision for the country. If he wants it to be theocratic, then yes, the First Amendment (properly understood) is “absolutely antithetical” to that vision. Another excerpt:

The very fact that, in 2012, a presidential candidate from one party can create instant headlines by arguing against a speech made by a presidential candidate of the other party, more than 50 years ago, should be enough to convince any fair-minded American that we still have much work to do as we try to reason with each other about these questions.

Indeed, there is much work to be done. That work should start with teaching the proper meaning of the Constitution. Anyway, now you know that Kennedy’s position on church and state — which is also Madison’s position — makes Santorum throw up. And Mohler agrees with Santorum. That’s too bad, really. We used to respect Mohler.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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ICR: Even More Proof of the Flood

One would think that a creationist organization like the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom — would be content to rely on the authority of the bible for things like Noah’s Flood, as there’s no reason for them to go elsewhere for information about anything. But they keep on trying to find other evidence.

The last time they offered non-scriptural evidence for the Flood was NASA Photo Proves Noah’s Flood. We’ve posted about several earlier attempts, for example: Japan’s Earthquake Proves Noah’s Flood, and also The Flood! The Flood! The Flood!, and also More Proof of Noah’s Flood!

But this time they’ve really done it. We are pleased to bring you Why Does Nearly Every Culture Have a Tradition of a Global Flood? It’s written by John D. Morris, Ph.D., and that name requires us to consult the ICR begats in order to know who he is.

ICR was founded by Henry Morris (1918-2006), about whom we wrote Henry Morris: the Ultimate Creationist. Together with John Whitcomb, he wrote The Genesis Flood, published in 1961. Morris is regarded as the father of the modern creation science movement. Not only that, but he founded a creationist dynasty.

The founder’s eldest son, Henry Morris III, is carrying on the family business as ICR’s Chief Executive Officer. His son, Henry IV (the grandson of ICR’s founder), is “Director of Donor Relations at the Institute for Creation Research.” He has a degree in Business from Liberty University. Another son of ICR’s founder, John D. Morris, is now president of ICR and is “best known for leading expeditions to Mt. Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark.” Our guess is that he wrote today’s article.

Okay, now we’re ready to begin. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

One of the strongest evidences for the global flood which annihilated all people on Earth except for Noah and his family, has been the ubiquitous presence of flood legends in the folklore of people groups from around the world. And the stories are all so similar. Local geography and cultural aspects may be present but they all seem to be telling the same story.

Really? The tale of Noah and his Ark are global — like the Flood itself? This is fascinating! ICR continues:

Over the years I have collected more than 200 of these stories, originally reported by various missionaries, anthropologists, and ethnologists. While the differences are not always trivial, the common essence of the stories is instructive as compiled below:

What follows is ICR’s list of commonalities in their collected flood stories:

• Is there a favored family? 88%
• Were they forewarned? 66%
• Is flood due to wickedness of man? 66%
• Is catastrophe only a flood? 95%
• Was flood global? 95%
• Is survival due to a boat? 70%
• Were animals also saved? 67%
• Did animals play any part? 73%
• Did survivors land on a mountain? 57%
• Was the geography local? 82%
• Were birds sent out? 35%
• Was the rainbow mentioned? 7%
• Did survivors offer a sacrifice? 13%
• Were specifically eight persons saved? 9%

Most of those details would be common to any flood account preserved by primitive cultures. Note that some of the last items, which are rather prominent in the tale of Noah (landing on a mountain, sending out birds, offering a sacrifice, and only a few survivors in the whole world), are absent from most other flood stories. They are, however, present in the Gilgamesh flood myth, upon which the Genesis tale is believed to be based. Let’s read on:

The most similar accounts are typically from middle eastern cultures, but surprisingly similar legends are found in South America and the Pacific Islands and elsewhere. None of these stories contains the beauty, clarity, and believable detail given in the Bible, but each is meaningful to their own culture.

Whoopie! But except for understandable similarities in the Middle East, due to the influence of the Gilgamesh tale, the wildly different flood stories elsewhere mean nothing — except that floods are a common occurrence. We continue:

Details may have been added, lost, or obscured in the telling and retelling, but the kernel of truth remains. When two separate cultures have the same “myth” in their body of folklore, their ancestors must have either experienced the same event, or they both descended from a common ancestral source which itself experienced the event.

Frankly, that is absurd. If all flood stories everywhere were telling of the same event — the most important event in human history — virtually all the details would be preserved, including Noah’s name. As we’ve said before:

[D]iscrepancies are not expected. Englishmen, for example, have scattered from their home island and now live all over the world. But except for known embellishments by later writers, there is no variation in the legend of King Arthur.

Here’s more from ICR:

The only credible way to understand the widespread, similar flood legends is to recognize that all people living today, even though separated geographically, linguistically, and culturally, have descended from the few real people who survived a real global flood, on a real boat which eventually landed on a real mountain. Their descendants now fill the globe, never to forget the real event.

But how does ICR account for various people who have no such legend? There are accounts of floods in Egypt, for example, but nothing even remotely comparable to Noah’s tale. Is it likely that such an event would be forgotten by a literate culture? Here’s the conclusion of ICR’s article:

But, of course, this is not the view of most modern scholars. They prefer to believe that something in our commonly evolved psyche forces each culture to invent the same imaginary flood legend with no basis in real history. Instead of scholarship, this is “willful ignorance” of the fact that “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:5,6).

So there you are, dear reader. We’ll leave it to you to decide for yourselves.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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The Creationism-Global Warming Denial Axis

We have previously discussed the curious coupling of creationists and global warming deniers. See Discovery Institute: Thrilled About ClimateGate, and also Discovery Institute: The Mask Falls Away (in which we introduced the “vindication of all kooks” doctrine), and also Global Warming, Creationism & Brain Death.

Then we wrote about an announcement from our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), telling us that NCSE Expands into Climate Change. Their decision caused us some uneasiness, as we feared they might become entangled in the political and economic aspects of climate science — where your Curmudgeon seems almost alone in preferring free market solutions — but our worries so far have been unjustified.

A new dimension to all of this has recently surfaced about which we haven’t yet posted. NCSE wrote Source of Heartland leak steps forward. Dr. Peter Gleick, a well-known climate scientist who had been about to join the NCSE board revealed that he was the source of some document leaks from Heartland Institute — a well-funded climate change opponent. NCSE reports that Gleick wrote:

My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

Among those leaked documents was one which is analogous to the Discovery Institute’s wedge strategy, but which Heartland insists is a forgery.

As a result of that mess, Gleick declined to join the NCSE board, a move that NCSE undoubtedly welcomed. He’s also been accused of being the author of the allegedly forged document. We have no opinion about that issue, but if he did it he might have gotten the idea from reading the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and noting how the Wedge Document was so devastating to the Discovery Institute’s credibility. We don’t know, and maybe we shall never know. In any event, Gleick seems to have made a mess of things and he certainly hasn’t helped his cause.

Regardless of how the Gleick-Heartland imbroglio plays out, the result has been to shine even more light on the nexus between evolution denial and climate change denial, and also to position Heartland Institute (at least journalistically) in a role strikingly similar to that of the Discovery Institute. This is probably a good thing.

All of which brings us to a new article at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Their new post is A Friendly Letter to the Heartland Institute and Other Advocates of Free Speech on Global Warming and it’s written by Casey Luskin — our favorite Discoveroid. As you can see from Casey’s title, he positions their joint science-denial activities as being manifestations of free speech. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

For years, the primary mission of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) had been to censor any scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution in schools — and sometimes in the academy too. We at Discovery Institute were curious and concerned recently to learn that the NCSE is expanding its struggle against free speech to the debate over global warming and climate change.

Observe the use of Discoveroid Newspeak — advocating sound science education and opposing pseudo-science is “censorship.” A typical beginning to a Discoveroid article. Casey continues:

I’m concerned that in the debate [on controversial scientific issues like global warming], we’ve seen the same kind of censorship and suppression of minority, dissenting scientific views that have become routine in the debate over Darwinian evolution.

Casey’s concerned. How sweet. Let’s read on:

In any case, since the Heartland Institute, Discovery Institute, and other scientific dissenters from the “consensus” are now being jointly misrepresented and attacked by the NCSE, I thought it might be helpful to encourage Heartland and others involved in the fight to protect academic freedom and scientific free speech with a friendly open letter. Now that the NCSE has taken its campaign of censorship to the global warming debate, let me give you some ideas of what you can look forward to.

Casey then gives a list of expected responses– described in Discoveroid terms — that Heartland can expect from the science community. You can read them all at the Discoveroid blog, but here are a few of them:

1. Expect to face a condescending tone with lots of sneers and name-calling. Also, be prepared to use NCSE rhetoric to your own advantage.

Among those who defend Big Science, smears and stereotypes are the rhetorical bread-and-butter. You already know what I’m talking about, the litany of stock libels: “anti-science,” “denier,” “ignorant,” “dishonest,” “science-abusers,” “fundamentalist,” “anti-intellectual,” “war on science.” We have become accustomed to attacks like these, and much worse, from evolution activists.

Yes, Casey has become accustomed to such attacks from “Big Science.” Why is that, we wonder? But from his experience, Casey gives his comrades at the Heartland Institute some advice, such as “try not to take it personally,” and “remember who your audience is.” Casey says they’re not trying to convince the scientists. Instead, the “audience is the vast majority of people in the open-minded, undecided middle — normal folks who are willing to listen to reason, and don’t like nasty rhetoric.”

In other words, it’s not about science, it’s public relations and propaganda. He also advises:

[W]hen your opponents start in with the name-calling, shine a spotlight on it. When you respond in a pleasant, calm, civil, and rational manner, your morally and intellectually credible position will resonate with listeners and readers.

Good advice! That’s why the Discoveroids are always “pleasant, calm, civil, and rational” while telling their audience that Darwin was Hitler’s intellectual godfather. Then Casey tells his Heartland comrades something else to watch out for:

2. Expect the NCSE to try to paint you as fringe extremist — but be prepared to show that they are the ones in the minority.

Right. Never mind all that science stuff — it’ll confuse the target audience. Just talk about public opinion polls. He says:

The reality is that for a supermajority of Americans, supporting free speech on these issues is just common sense. So take polls on what the public really thinks and be ready to throw those statistics back at the NCSE.

That’s how cutting-edge science is done! Casey’s advice goes on and on. We’ll leave it to you to read it all. Here’s how he ends his open letter to his comrades:

At the end of the day, our true adversary is censorship — and this is exactly what the NCSE stands for. Climate skeptics and Darwin doubters now have a common opponent, and we’re going to be linked and attacked in many of the same ways. Whatever you believe about evolution or global warming, may intellectual freedom prevail.

So there you are. It seems that the NCSE has their hands full. Well, they knew what they were getting into. Now we all know. The creationism + climate-science denial axis exists, and we can expect them to use similar tactics. Thanks, Casey, for showing us the blueprint.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Klinghoffer Flips “The Odds” Argument

Things are getting increasingly incoherent at the blog the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

We can’t count how often we’ve seen them — and other creationists — argue against evolution because “the odds against it are astronomical” and therefore Oogity Boogity (or their magic designer) is the only logical explanation. We have a whole series of posts specifically aimed at the creationists’ probability argument, starting here: The Inevitability of Evolution (Part I).

We recently wrote Discoveroids Embrace Fine Tuning Argument about a Discoveroid post by Casey who was gushing about the fine-tuning argument. He said, with our bold font:

[M]ultiverse proponents hope that inventing more universes will help them explain the insanely small probability of finding a universe whose physical laws are finely tuned for life.

That’s their evidence that the universe was designed — it’s all based on their estimates of probability. And we’ve written about their use of that argument before. For example, in Discovery Institute: No Evidence for Evolution, the Discoveroids argued:

More importantly, accounts that invoke such [evolutionary] mechanisms almost never attempt to assess the likelihood of mutations producing the genetic changes in question.

Today, the Discoveroids are ignoring all their earlier arguments and are suddenly flipping things completely around. Their blog features this new item: Richard Dawkins’s Roll of the Dice. It’s about a recent statement by Richard Dawkins — they even provide a video — to the effect that he’s an agnostic, rather than the type of atheist who asserts that gods literally don’t exist.

This gem is written by David Klinghoffer, whose creationist oeuvre we last described here, and upon whom the Discoveroids have bestowed the exalted title of “senior fellow” — i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist. According to Klinghoffer:

He [Dawkins] explained that he can’t know with certainty that God doesn’t exist but on a scale of 1 to 7, (with a nervous laugh) he rates himself a 6.9. Well, that would work out to 98.57 percent confidence.

Well! Dawkins is using an argument that, in effect, says that based on the absence of evidence, the odds against God’s existence are quite high. It’s exactly type of argument that creationists — including Discoveroids — use to claim that evolution can’t occur and the universe can’t exist. But Dawkins is invoking the argument appropriately, because while there’s no verifiable evidence of gods, there is abundant evidence for evolution.

How do the Discoveroids handle it when a “Darwinist” like Dawkins uses their own style of argument against them? After babbling about odds and rolling dice, Klinghoffer concludes his little article with this:

Dawkins said, “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low.” Yet even at 98.57 percent, the odds were not that bad. I would be somewhat reluctant to bet a hundred bucks on that basis. If I were Richard Dawkins it sure does seem like, rather than continue a campaign of mockery against religion, the better-advised course would be to continue on my course of enhanced modesty and just be quiet.

So there you are. If the Discoveroids don’t like what they imagine to be the odds against evolution, that somehow proves it didn’t happen. But if Dawkins doesn’t like the odds against God’s existence — then he’s making a stupid argument. Heads, tails, it doesn’t matter. The intelligent designer always wins!

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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