Pre-Darwin Day Free Fire Zone

The twelfth of February is Darwin Day, which is only five days away.

Why are we mentioning this so early? Because there’s nothing going on we can blog about. All the news is about Trump, and of course, the fact that Betsy DeVos is the new Secretary of Education. Wanna rant about that stuff? Sure you do. Go ahead, let it out.

We now declare this to be an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. 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.

The comments are open, dear reader. Have at it!

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Pre-Darwin Day Free Fire Zone

  1. So heartwarming to know that ID sympathizer and complete incompetent Betsy DeVos has been appointed Secretary of Education.

    Meanwhile, The fox in the henhouse: Creationist leads Trump’s education task force is also of interest.

  2. This looks to be a very good article on the subject and timely considering the FFRF is currently involved in litigating the constitutionality of the law.

    It also looks like Adam had a lot of help putting it together!

    Who are those people?

    (excerpt from the opening page)

    The Parsonage Exemption
    Adam Chodorow*

    The parsonage exemption allows “ministers of the
    gospel” to exclude the value of housing benefits from
    income, whether received in-kind or as a cash allowance.
    Critics argue that the provision is unconstitutional, and the
    dispute is likely to make it to the Supreme Court. This
    Article fills an important gap in the debate over the
    parsonage exemption by offering a nuanced explanation of
    how it and other housing provisions function within the tax
    code. Placing the parsonage exemption in its proper tax
    context makes clear that (1) other tax-free housing
    provisions and exemptions for religious organizations
    cannot provide the parsonage exemption constitutional
    cover; (2) the parsonage exemption involves significantly
    more entanglement than would the generally applicable
    housing provision; (3) permitting ministers to receive taxfree
    housing violates the core tax principles of horizontal
    and vertical equity; and (4) other exemptions for religious
    organizations cannot justify the parsonage exemption.

    * Professor of Law and Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished
    Research Scholar at the Sandra Day O’Connor College
    of Law at Arizona State University.

    I would like to thank
    Ellen Aprill,
    Jon Forman,
    Troy Rule,
    Michael Helfand,
    Erin Scharff,
    Sam Brunson,
    James Weinstein,


    Robert Baty

    for their assistance and comments on earlier drafts.


    See if you can recognize my influence on pages 114, 148 & 152.

    I’m almost famous!


  3. Michael Fugate

    I note that a link in Paul Braterman’ s recent post on Klinghoffers misconceptions he notes a new book by an “investigative journalist” named Mike King.

    King claims to be an heir to Sherlock Holmes, but his epiphany on evolution was due to pondering the following “which came first the eyeball or the eye socket”. He claims it is impossible to have both without God.
    At least it is in the Christian books category, but not Christian humor.

  4. @Robert Baty
    Congrats on fame! It loks like a very useful paper. And oh for the return of Sandra Day O’Connor.

  5. Destroy Ussher’s Chronology & Torment a YEC

    Here’s an interesting puzzle for you:
    Ignore for the moment the likelihood of 900+ year lifespans. Forget about Methuselah dying at 963 years old. Focus on this instead.

    What’s the most-concise way to demonstrate that the ages of the antediluvian patriarchs in the Genesis genealogies (Adam through Noah) were NOT meant to be read LITERALLY—and, therefore, were not meant to be used in calculating a 6,000 year old earth?

    My answer:

    The final digit of the thirty ages/numbers of the pre-flood patriarchs in Genesis are NOT randomly distributed as we would normally expect of real people.

    Think about this:
    (1) If one considers only the ten ages listed for the birth of the first son, the final digit is only in the set of {0,2,5,7}.
    (2) If one only considers the ten “years remaining” spans from first son until death, the final digit is also restricted to the set of {0,2,5,7}.
    (3) If one only considers the ten ages at death, the final digit is restricted to the set of {0,2,5,7,9}.

    What are the chances of those three non-random distributions? I’ll skip the mathematics–which most YECs will find some excuse for denying or obfuscating–but I think almost everyone’s intuition tells them that the probability of such non-random distributions is extremely low!

    Notice that we didn’t have to touch the question of whether a human can possibly live over a 120 years or so.

    Extra credit:

    Why would the final digits fall into those restrictive sets? That’s another puzzle for another time but here’s some hints. Prior to 2000 BCE, the ancient Mesopotamians loved to use numbers symbolically. They also tended to use sexegismal numbers, a base-60 number system. Obviously, these hints remind us that when Young Earth Creationist read the Genesis genealogies “literally”, they are actually ignoring the plain and natural meaning of the numbers in their ancient Mesopotamian cultural context.

  6. As to the parsonage allowance/exemption paper, I’ve not read it beyond the abstract but I would assume that it discusses how the original “logic” behind it was to provide what the Congress at that time saw as “parity” with military housing allowances. Of course, church-owned parsonages had never been subject to taxation due to the Establishment Clause and the Congress was concerned that a minister employed by a church which didn’t not own a parsonage, but which did provide a housing allowance, would suffer from unequal treatment under the law–which, they reasoned, would amount to federal taxation of what otherwise would have been exempt income. Therefore, citing the military housing allowance and the fear that military housing and ministerial housing would have to be treated the same or else the federal government would be “discriminating against” ministers by means of an additional tax, Constitutional scholars at the time argued the present arrangement was the least onerous of the various permutations.

    As I understand the legal theory at the time, it was also assumed that the religious organization and the minister were two different parties, an employer and an employee for some legal purposes, and therefore, the argument that “other exemptions for religious organizations cannot justify the parsonage exemption.” was rejected.

    If I recall, the legal conundrum over these complications were sorted out by Congress in 1954 (??) and by some Federal Tax Court during the Johnson administration. I’ve not kept up to know how any of this reasoning has changed more recently. I used to be opposed to the ministerial housing allowance but once I understood the legal conundrum, thanks to a law review article, I could see how the 1954 “compromise” came to be.

    Also if I recall, Rick Warren, the famous California mega-church pastor, had a major court case over some aspect of the minister’s housing allowance but I can’t remember the details. Because Warren has for many years refused a salary from his church, I recall him saying that he pursued the court case not for his own benefit but for the benefit of all clergy. Yet, if he didn’t take an income from the church, I wouldn’t think he would have had legal standing to pursue the case concerning the housing allowance.

  7. I would recommend that those interested download the article, which seems easy enough to do (i.e., so easy even I could do it), and at least browse through it for such as might attract their attention.

    The issues mentioned above are dealt with therein, but they don’t appear quite as represented in the above comments.

    Rick Warren was caught up in the issue because, at the time, he was receiving about $80,000 a year from his church and excluding it all as housing. That also is dealt with in the article.


  8. …but his epiphany on evolution was due to pondering the following “which came first the eyeball or the eye socket”.

    I’m definitely adding that one to my collection. Poe’s Law will never be repealed.

  9. Professor Tertius says: “What are the chances of those three non-random distributions? I’ll skip the mathematics – which most YECs will find some excuse for denying or obfuscating – but I think almost everyone’s intuition tells them that the probability of such non-random distributions is extremely low!”

    My handy-dandy super-duper Design Filter™ informs me that such an improbable sequence must be the result of intelligent design, just like Mt. Rushmore. Therefore the bible is a product of divine dictation, as the ancient sages always said, and its words are The Truth™.

  10. Michael Fugate

    Not to mention ENV will be announcing their “censor” of the year. Maybe it will be Mitch McConnell?

  11. American’s United has some relevant comments on our friend Ham.
    More Baloney from Ken Ham

  12. This is an especially interesting and relevant article on the intersection of attitudes toward science and political reasoning.

  13. Speaking of Science and Politics, a psychologist explains why just four questions were remarkably predictive of who tended to vote for Trump. Whatever one’s politics may be, this article is fascinating:

    Childrearing Beliefs Were Best Predictor of Trump Support

  14. A question for DavidK (or anybody else) who wrote:

    American’s United has some relevant comments on our friend Ham.
    More Baloney from Ken Ham

    I was reading that article and came upon this:

    This is a remarkably sweet deal, made sweeter by the fact that if the Ark sinks, the taxpayers and the investors (and not AiG) will be left holding the bag.

    As I understand TIF bonds, it certainly makes sense that the investors in the bonds can “be left holding the bag.” But how can the taxpayers be left holding the bag on a TIF bond? That doesn’t make sense to me. With a TIF bond, the entire financial loss in terms of a defaulted bond goes entirely onto the back of the investors, the bond holders. And because any future municipal bonds of that city would be unrelated to these AIG bonds, I don’t see how an AIG default/failure would impact the taxpayers in terms of a negative bond rating. Am I missing something?

    I’m definitely opposed to taxpayers being involved IN ANY WAY with a silly Ken Ham project, but when Ham’s critics get our facts wrong, it gives him a propaganda advantage that he doesn’t deserve. That is why I would like to know in the aforementioned claim is true. Perhaps there is an aspect of TIF bonds that I don’t understand. (In fact, it is likely.)

  15. You are correct, Professor Tertius. The city isn’t on the hook for the bonds issued in its name.

  16. May I suggest to celebrate Darwin Day in the USA by joining the National Center for Science Education. Or one of the state groups mentioned in the Blogroll over here to the right >>>>. NCSE is free for grad students.

  17. Professor Tertius: I think a case can be made. The extra property tax and income tax basically comes out as an extra tax made by people who work not just in the ark encounter but in the immediate vicinity (taxpayers not investors). If the ark were to fail any money paid in the initial years would essentially be forfeit. Keep in mind a 30 year window of Ark success is very unlikely, though I suspect something else will use the facility if and when it goes belly up. (I’ve always thought it would make a good museum of gullibility and skepticism, but after seeing it built find the building is rather ugly for that application.)

  18. Troy says: ” I suspect something else will use the facility [Hambo’s ark] if and when it goes belly up.”

    It would make a fine holding area for suspicious immigrants while their backgrounds are being checked. Hambo tells us that the structure has enough room for two of every “kind” on Earth, so the people who are temporarily housed there will be very comfortable.

  19. I have drawn a blank for Censor of the Year. The Tooters haven’t done anything in a year. Makes it sort of difficult to find a Censor.

    What’s the world coming to if they can’t find a Censor?

  20. What’s the world coming to if they can’t find a Censor?

    Maybe they’ve finally attained some censor sensibility?

  21. SC-Obviously one of the coyotes (canids?) on board Noah’s ark was the Wile E. “kind”, that came with a fresh delivery of acme brand portable holes providing extra-dimensional space for all the animals one could imagine.