RenewAmerica — Life’s Vital Questions

Buffoon Award

As you may remember from this post, the RenewAmerica website is the eighth winner of the Curmudgeon’s coveted Buffoon Award. What we found there today confirms the wisdom of that decision.

We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Politicizing the religious war, which was written by A.J. Castellitto. He’s described as having B.S. in Counseling and Human Services from the University of Scranton, and he’s a freelance writer. Our last post about his work was the one that caused us to give the award to RenewAmerica. The bold font was added by us:

There is a bitter struggle occurring that affects and intersects with all aspects of human existence. This is a battle for free thought. We are fighting for the opportunity of a fair hearing and a free and open exchange of ideas. These were essentially my thoughts following my recent re-viewing of Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” (mandatory viewing for the truly objective truth seeker).

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! For those who don’t know, Ben Stein is the dashing, heart-throbbing star of the creationist “documentary,” Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It was, and still is, a crude propaganda film about an allegedly widespread campaign of academic discrimination against brilliant professors who dare to question “Darwinism.” Its academic heroes are sometimes literally fired for incompetence, while in other cases they are denied tenure and let go at the end of their contracts. The film is pure creationist garbage, of course — see Expelled Exposed. Our last post about the film’s star was Ben Stein in Alleged Sexting Scandal. Okay, back to RenewAmerica:

The battle for public opinion continues to rage. At stake is the hearts and minds of men. The most essential and existential consideration at the heart of this struggle is the acknowledgement and acceptance of a Supreme Deity (the God of all creation in Whom lies all Truth and Understanding).

Yes, that’s what it’s all about. Let’s read on:

Ultimately, there will be a civil and spiritual clash on the horizon that must culminate with the rise and fall of earthly powers. A full consideration of the wars we wage is the gateway to uncovering the spiritual divide.

Castellitto has a masterly grasp of geopolitics. He continues:

The intelligent design and natural order of all things is on the line. A knowledge of good and evil lies in the rebellion of man. The course of a rebellion has been charted and will continue uncontested until the light of truth is given a complete and thorough hearing. We must ask ourselves: What are we afraid of? The truth shall set us free!

This man is a genius! Here’s more:

Either God is the author of natural order in whom lies a true and holy standard or we are merely going it alone.

Ooooooooooh — we don’t want to be alone! Now get ready, dear reader, because what’s coming next is the best part of Castellitto’s enlightening essay. It’s a list of profound questions, and after each he provides a link. But we haven’t explored those links. We’re afraid! But here are Castellitto’s “Vital Questions for Further Reflection”:

• Should the science of climate change (global warming) be deemed ‘settled’?

• Should the science of evolution be deemed ‘settled’?

• Are scientific studies related to vaccines affects on autism, the necessity of embryonic stem cell research, GMOs, etc. wholly comprehensive and objective?

• Are Godly principles AND government compatible or even necessary?

• Would we be better off if we replaced the traditional Judeo-Christian God with a strictly scientific one?

Well, dear reader, do you have the courage to explore those vital questions? If you click on Castellitto ‘s links, let us know what you find.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Klinghoffer Demolishes His Critics

The last two of our Ten Laws of Creationism are these:

9. The Principle of Life: Life can’t arise naturally, and yet it exists. Therefore life is the product of intelligent design (ID).

10. The Principle of Universal Design: The universe is made for life, which is highly improbable; therefore the universe is the product of ID.

Yes, that’s right. You’ve noticed that those laws conflict with one another. If life were impossible, then it would violate the laws of nature everywhere — except here, of course, due to the incomprehensible work of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who created our privileged planet. But if the universe were designed for life, then life should be universally abundant. Well, which is it?

Scientists don’t make either claim, preferring to say that life is a natural process, and it probably exists where the right conditions are present. But creationists insist that it’s gotta be one or the other of their two alternatives. In fact they use both claims, as the moment seems to require, quite oblivious to the fact that there is a problem in doing so.

Today, however, we noticed something unusual. The Discovery Institute is acknowledging that an issue exists here. The latest post at their creationist blog is Why Is the Universe Overwhelmingly “Inhospitable to Life”?

What makes their post even more memorable is that it was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

It’s interesting that materialists generally opt for one of two mutually exclusive lines of argument on this theme. Either they say life can’t be designed because it’s so common: life is surely abundant in the cosmos, being so easy to spark into existence. Or they say life can’t be designed because it’s so rare: the rest of the universe is overwhelmingly sterile.

Ah yes, “materialists.” That’s in contrast to supernaturalists, like the Discoveroids. But let’s ignore their terminology and think about the issue Klinghoffer raises. Are the two creationist claims “mutually exclusive”? For example, diamonds are rare. Does that mean they had to be designed? Or if they weren’t designed, does that mean they should be abundant? We don’t think either alternative of this alleged dilemma is a logical requirement, yet creationists routinely argue one or the other — whichever serves their needs at the moment. Okay, let’s read on:

To those who say the latter [life can’t be designed because it’s so rare], I would want to ask, since the universe isn’t consistent with how you … would do it if you were in charge — being overall too unfriendly to life — what threshold of friendliness would you require in order to consider the thesis of intelligent design as being at least plausible?

Well, dear reader, what number would trigger your design detector? Klinghoffer offers you some helpful suggestions:

Granted that most of the universe seems redundant, irrelevant to life, should then the universe be smaller? By how much? Or the same size but just differently constructed? Must more than 50 percent of the cosmos be hospitable? 90 percent? 99 percent?

You don’t have an answer, do you? Klinghoffer has devastatingly demolished your objections to one alternative of his false dilemma. He continues:

What is your threshold and what is your rationale for it? In the absence of a serious answer to that question, the challenge isn’t serious.

Are you feeling stupid, dear reader? Here’s more:

I would also ask you [if you’ve] read Michael Denton’s book Nature’s Destiny or watched the new documentary featuring Denton’s work, Privileged Species, showing how physical reality — chemistry, physics — is finely tuned to the utmost degree in countless intricately interlocking respects to make human biology possible.

You haven’t read that creationist book, nor have you seen that creationist video, have you? Not only should you be feeling stupid, but now you should realize that you’re also ignorant.

Klinghoffer has more to say, but this is where we’ll leave him, triumphantly beating up on a strawman. He’s quite satisfied that he’s responded to his critics in a way that can’t be refuted. At Discoveroid headquarters, in a crowded suite of dingy offices above a gymnasium in a seedy section of downtown Seattle, Klinghoffer is being congratulated by his colleagues on a job well done. Your Curmudgeon is satisfied to let him enjoy his victory.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #541: Truth Doesn’t Change

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Daily Republic of Fairfield, California. It’s titled Truth does not change. The newspaper has a comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today’s letter is written by The Rev. Art Zacher, pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Fairfield.. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

How does one determine truth from error? The March 2015 cover story of National Geographic features “The War on Science.” This issue suggested that those who disagree with their current views of “science” are ignorant and uneducated.

The rev is talking about this: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?, which was the March cover story. It must have hurt the rev’s feelings, because then he says:

Does science really have all the answers? Perhaps true science does, but often false science is used as a trump card. The Bible warns in 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” Science is rarely settled. Often what is taught as true in one generation is discarded by the next.

You know where this is going. The rev likes his “science” to have all the answers, and he wants those answers to be be eternally true. Let’s read on:

Consider for a moment the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that occurred in Dayton, Tennessee, where the validity of evolution was debated. Interestingly enough, all the scientific evidence used in that trial to support evolution and was strongly promoted by scientists at that time has been discredited.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The validity of evolution was not debated at the Scopes Trial. It was such a biased affair that Clarence Darrow wasn’t allowed to present any evidence for evolution. Wikipedia says Darrow “brought in eight experts on evolution. But other than Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, the judge would not allow these experts to testify in person. Instead, they were allowed to submit written statements so that their evidence could be used at the appeal.”

Your Curmudgeon has a transcript of the trial. We read Metcalf’s testimony — during which the jury was excluded from the courtroom. Most of it was a review of his education and employment. He wasn’t allowed to present any evidence for evolution. He was barely allowed to define evolution, and he couldn’t discuss its acceptance among scientists, because that was objected to as hearsay. Nevertheless, the rev gives a long list of evidence he claims was presented at the trial, including: Neanderthal Man, Piltdown Man, Nebraska Man, Haeckel’s drawings, peppered moth color changes, and vestigial organs. Regarding that list, the rev claims that:

All these proofs were believed by many of the scientists of that day as irrefutable evidence of evolution. Of course, this doesn’t disprove evolution, but it certainly doesn’t help the claim of “settled science.” It does show that this so-called “science,” though believed by many, was based on misinterpreted data, outright fraud and wishful thinking.

It would take pages to respond to that, and it’s not worth the bother. Anyway, none of those things were used as evidence in the Scopes trial. The rev continues:

Truth is not determined by majority consensus. This principle holds whether it is in the discipline of science or of morals. The Bible claims to be the truth. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Thy word is truth.” If one rejects the Bible as the source of truth, all sorts of problems arise, such as this: Where does truth come from?

Jeepers, without his bible, the rev wouldn’t know anything. Your Curmudgeon is always a gentleman, so we won’t say that even with his bible, the rev — no, we won’t say it. Here’s more from the rev’s letter:

Without absolute truth, you drift toward absolute chaos.

Wow — if it’s not one absolute it’s another, and the rev is trying to save us from chaos. What a great guy! Moving along, the rev has some suggestions for determining the truth — and none of them is even remotely related to the scientific method:

When considering hot-button issues such as abortion, global warming, nontraditional “marriage” or evolution, my first suggestion is, follow the money. If someone has financial incentives to lie, their testimony is unreliable.

The only reliable truth comes from the unemployed. Wait — the rev is employed, and his livelihood depends on his claim that he’s got the truth. So can we trust him? This is confusing, but that was only the rev’s first suggestion. He has three more:

Second, if a position is strong, there is no reason to lie or mislead by tampering with the data. Third, those who intentionally lie or mislead cannot be trusted – period.

If we follow those two suggestions, then no creationist can be trusted. Here’s number four:

Fourth and most important, if a theory contradicts the Bible, you can be sure it is wrong.

That’s a good one! This is the rev’s final paragraph:

Nothing from archeology, history or ancient documents has ever been able to sustain questions concerning the validity and the integrity of the Bible. The Bible can weather the storm. Truth does not change. It stands forever.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The rev’s statement is confined to archeology, history, and ancient documents. Even that limited claim is dubious, but somehow he left out biology, geology, physics, and astronomy. Oh, wait — they contradict the bible, so they’re worthless. Great letter, rev!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Kansas NGSS Case — Creationists’ Brief Is Filed

You remember the lawsuit we first wrote about in Kansas Creationism: It’s Back Again. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

Contrary to all expectations, Kansas recently adopted the evolution-friendly Next Generation Science Standards (the “NGSS”). Then a lawsuit was filed in the US District Court’s Topeka office, attempting to block Kansas from implementing the science education standards on the grounds that … well, evolution is atheism, you know. Here’s a link to the plaintiffs’ complaint — it’s a 51-page pdf file: COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al. The lead plaintiff’s initials stand for their Orwellian name, “Citizens for Objective Public Education.”

If you’re looking for a good time, take a look at “Exhibit A,” starting on page 37 of the complaint. It’s a letter that COPE (one of the plaintiffs) wrote back in June 2012, listing their objections to what were then the proposed science standards. It’s an amazing catalog of creationist arguments — one of the best collections we’ve ever seen.

Among the lawyers for the creationist plaintiffs is John Calvert, who made a name for himself during the Kansas evolution hearings back in 2005. Wikipedia lists him among the participants and says that he “has worked closely with the Discovery Institute in finding constitutionally allowable ways to bring intelligent design and failing there, Teach the Controversy, into public schools.”

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are tracking the case and have an archive of the pleadings here: COPE v. Kansas State BOE. You can find links to a lot of information at the Justia website: COPE et al v. Kansas State Board of Education et al, but you can’t access the court’s docket, which lists what’s been filed, and you can’t read the pleadings without a PACER subscription.

The state filed a motion to dismiss based on, among other things, sovereign immunity, the plaintiffs have no standing, the science standards (the NGSS) are secular, not religious, the NGSS standards don’t violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, and they don’t restrict the plaintiffs’ right of free speech. Then — wonder of wonders! — that motion was granted and the case was dismissed. NCSE has archived a copy of the judge’s order, which you can read here: Order on Motion to Dismiss. It’s a 37-page pdf file.

Our last post about the case was back in December when the creationists filed an appeal: Kansas NGSS Case — It’s Back!. Things have been quiet since then, but we just found a bit of news in the Topeka Capital-Journal of Topeka, Kansas, the state capital. Their headline is Parents’ group Citizens for Objective Public Education files appeal in fight against Kansas public schools curriculum. The newspaper has a comments feature.

That’s a misleading headline, because the notice of appeal was filed months ago. What just happened is that the creationist plaintiffs have filed their brief. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us:

Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) is asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the organization’s lawsuit that seeks to stop the 2013 plan. The group contends the plan violates the religious rights of students, parents and taxpayers and is unconstitutional.

[…]

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that the plaintiffs didn’t have “standing.” Standing is a legally protectible stake or interest in a dispute that entitles a plaintiff to bring the dispute to court.

We already know that. What’s the news? Let’s read on:

A new 64-page COPE filing at the Denver-based court contends that a judge in Kansas City, Kan., erred in December by throwing out the organization’s lawsuit.

That’s the news — all of it. NCSE has a copy of the brief in their archive — Brief of Appellants. It’s a 119-page pdf file. If you like reading that stuff, go right ahead. We don’t plan to spend any time on it, and we sympathize with the lawyers who will have to reply to the thing. This is what the newspaper says about it:

The standards [the NGSS] endorse and seek to establish “a non-theistic religious Worldview in the guise of science education,” COPE claims in arguments filed at the appeals court. The organization argues that in dismissing the lawsuit Crabtree “incorrectly characterized” parents and children who are plaintiffs as “bystanders” whose injuries from the standards are abstract, rather than concrete and particular.

So there you are. Thus ends today’s episode of the creationist soap opera in Kansas. [*Emotional violin music swells in the background*] Will the good, god-fearing folks of Kansas triumph against the satanic evolutionists? Will the atheist state force its godless theory of evolution on the innocent children? Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of Kansas, the Flat Earth State — Rapture or Retribution?

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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