Creationist Wisdom #529: Proof of God

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Duluth News Tribune of Duluth, Minnesota. It’s titled The proof of God is evident all around us. It doesn’t look like the newspaper has a comments feature.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. We found a professor with his name at the University of Minnesota Duluth, but it’s a common name and the professor probably isn’t our man. We’ll use only the writer’s first name, which is Tom. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

It is amazing how many News Tribune readers write in denying the existence of God. This includes the Feb. 14 letter, “Existence of God can’t be proven.” They say there is no proof. The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God.

The bible says the heavens are proof? Actually, when carefully studied with modern instruments, the heavens declare the Big Bang. But Tom has an ark-load of other evidence to offer. For example:

Well, just look at the sun rise over Lake Superior some morning or watch it set in the evening. Or how about the northern lights? Or when there is a sky full of stars? Or what about the beauty of our North Shore? That sounds like nature declaring something!

See? We told you Tom had evidence. Let’s read on:

How can anyone deny his existence? How about the birth of a beautiful baby?

Yeah — how about that? Tom continues:

Fools say there is no God. They say there is no proof. Time and time again science proves the accuracy of the Bible.

Can’t argue about that! Not with Tom, anyway. Here’s more:

If there is no God, then why do people get upset over nothing? Isn’t it illogical and foolish to get so worked up over something or someone that isn’t there or doesn’t exist?

Your Curmudgeon isn’t upset about God. It’s ghastly reasoning that bothers us. Moving along:

The Bible says God has set eternity in the hearts of men and women. This is why people get upset. Deep down, they know God is there. Their pride and arrogance get in the way.

Admit it, dear reader. Put aside your pride and arrogance. Deep down, you know Tom is right. And now we come to the end:

The Bible says there will be scoffers and mockers before Jesus comes back. Jesus is the only way to the father. Receive him now before it is too late. By all these doubting letters I read, it sounds like he is on his way.

Okay, dear reader. You’ve been warned. Now it’s up to you.

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

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A Study of Moving the Goalposts

The Scientific American website has a social science article which is somewhat relevant to the topics we discuss here. It’s Why People ‘Fly from Facts’, by Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen. It has this sub-title: “Research shows the appeal of untestable beliefs, and how it leads to a polarized society.”

It’s not specifically about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, but it seems to shed some light on a tactic with which we’re all familiar — moving the goalposts, which Wikipedia describes as:

a metaphor, derived from association football or other games, that means to change the criterion (goal) of a process or competition while still in progress, in such a way that the new goal offers one side an intentional advantage or disadvantage. … Moving the goalposts, similar to “shifting sands” and also known as raising the bar, is an informal fallacy in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded. That is, after an attempt has been made to score a goal, the goalposts are moved to exclude the attempt. The problem with changing the rules of the game is that the meaning of the end result is changed, too.

The Scientific American article never uses the phrase “moving the goalposts,” but that’s what the authors seem to be talking about. They begin with an example:

“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no link between vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it’s still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

That’s rather tame. We’ve seen much better in the creationism controversy. This is typical:

Creationist: There are no transitional fossils, so Darwin was wrong.

Sane person: Here’s a whole list of transitional fossils.

Creationist: Oh yeah? Well Hitler was a Darwinist, and you’re going to hell!

Anyway, that’s the kind of argument we’re talking about. Here’s what the authors have to say, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Our new research, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined a slippery way by which people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs. Of course, sometimes people just dispute the validity of specific facts. But we find that people sometimes go one step further and, as in the opening example, they reframe an issue in untestable ways. This makes potential important facts and science ultimately irrelevant to the issue.

We can’t locate their published paper, but we can get along without it. Then the authors give an example from their research:

We presented 174 American participants who supported or opposed same-sex marriage with (supposed) scientific facts that supported or disputed their position. When the facts opposed their views, our participants — on both sides of the issue — were more likely to state that same-sex marriage isn’t actually about facts, it’s more a question of moral opinion. But, when the facts were on their side, they more often stated that their opinions were fact-based and much less about morals. In other words, we observed something beyond the denial of particular facts: We observed a denial of the relevance of facts.

We’re all familiar with that phenomenon. When dealing with creationists, we usually refer to it as reality denial. They give another example and then say:

These experiments show that when people’s beliefs are threatened, they often take flight to a land where facts do not matter. In scientific terms, their beliefs become less “falsifiable” because they can no longer be tested scientifically for verification or refutation.

Yup — that’s how it goes with creationists. Then, as so often happens with social science, the topic swerves into politics:

For instance, sometimes people dispute government policies based on the argument that they don’t work. Yet, if facts suggest that the policies do work, the same person might stay resolvedly against the argument based on principle. We can see this on both sides of the political spectrum, whether it’s conservatives and Obamacare or liberals and the Iraqi surge of 2007.

Here, your Curmudgeon goes his own way. Principle really matters in political issues. A specific government policy might be effective — for example, dictatorships can be terribly effective in enforcing their policies — but that doesn’t mean opposition based on principle is fallacious. Anyway, let’s read on:

One would hope that objective facts could allow people to reach consensus more easily, but American politics are more polarized than ever. Could this polarization be a consequence of feeling free of facts?

Again, we have to point out that political polarization may not be about facts — on either side. It is about facts — or it should be — when it comes to things like teaching creationism in science class. But political conflicts are all too often about the ideology of one party or another, sometimes both. The article continues:

[W]e can experimentally assess a fundamental question: When people are made to see their important beliefs as relatively less rather than more testable, does it increase polarization and commitment to desired beliefs? Two experiments we conducted suggest so.

We’ll skip their example, but here’s what they say about it:

Together these findings show, at least in some cases, when testable facts are less a part of the discussion, people dig deeper into the beliefs they wish to have — such as viewing a politician in a certain way or believing God is constantly there to provide support. These results bear similarities to the many studies that find when facts are fuzzier people tend to exaggerate desired beliefs.

One final excerpt:

So after examining the power of untestable beliefs, what have we learned about dealing with human psychology? We’ve learned that bias is a disease and to fight it we need a healthy treatment of facts and education. We find that when facts are injected into the conversation, the symptoms of bias become less severe. But, unfortunately, we’ve also learned that facts can only do so much. To avoid coming to undesirable conclusions, people can fly from the facts and use other tools in their deep belief protecting toolbox.

Well, dear reader, what did we learn from this excursion into social science? We’re not sure we learned anything new, but perhaps we missed something. What do you think?

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

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Hovind Trial: Flood of Drool Hits Pensacola

The fun starts today, as we recently told you in Kent Hovind Trial: Jury Selection Monday. That earlier post has all the background information, so we’ll jump right into the Pensacola News Journal of Pensacola, Florida. That town had been the home of Hovind’s creationist “ministry” and his Dinosaur Adventure Land (now confiscated by the feds to pay back taxes).

Their headline is Demonstrators show support for Hovind. The newspaper has a comments feature, but you need to click an icon below the headline to see it. Here are some excerpts from the article, with bold font added by us:

A crowd of demonstrators has gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Pensacola to support a polarizing local evangelist.

A crowd of demonstrators — isn’t this exciting? How big a crowd? We’re told:

Kent Hovind, founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry and the theme park Dinosaur Adventure Land, is scheduled to be tried on charges of contempt and mail fraud over the next two weeks. This morning, a group of about a dozen supporters crowded around the intersection of Garden and Palafox streets with signs and words of support.

A dozen! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! How much drool can a dozen creationists generate? Probably a lot. Let’s read on:

“We pray for justice that Kent be liberated at the shame of the government,” said Alan Hoyle, who came to Pensacola from North Carolina last week for the trial. “They’ve persecuted a non-violent person who has done no wrong.”

Get that? Hovind isn’t merely being prosecuted — he’s being persecuted! The news story continues:

The demonstrators – who came from as far away from as far as Texas, Ohio and Colorado – stood on street corners and the courthouse steps holding an array of “Free Kent” signs.


Many of Hovind’s supporters have maintained that he is being targeted by the government because of his religious beliefs.

Ah yes, it’s not about taxes (Hovind lost that on appeal), or Hovind’s interference with the feds’ sale of his confiscated property (likewise challenged in court, unsuccessfully). It’s all about religion. Here’s more:

Ernie Land, a former member of Hovind’s board of trustees, said the government has shown religious bias in case, delayed the trial repeatedly to aid prosecutors despite protest from Hovind, and pursued mail fraud charges against Hovind at great cost to the American public despite the Hovind’s actions ultimately did not impact the government’s ability to sell his land.

Yes, all of Hovind’s gyrations to block the sale of property that was lawfully seized weren’t successful, so why are they bothering the man? It’s like an attempted rape — if the attempt wasn’t successful, why prosecute the guy? It’s gotta be because of Hovind’s religion.

Here’s the end of the article:

“They’re supposed to give him a fair trial, and I’m having a problem seeing that,” Land said.

Yeah — where’s the fair trial? Well, it’s true that the prosecutors have to prove their case. It’s also true that Hovind will be represented by a lawyer, and it’s going to be a jury trial. But it’s all because he’s a creationist, and it’s so unfair!

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

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Creationist Wisdom #528: Clayton Fiscus Fan

Clayton Fiscus

Clayton Fiscus

Yes, you recognized the handsome visage of Clayton Fiscus, the Montana legislator who’s been sponsoring creationist legislation. We wrote about his attempt this year in Montana Creationism: New Bill for 2015, and its well-deserved demise in Montana’s 2015 Creationism Bill — Dead.

Why do we bring it up again? It’s because of a letter we found in the Great Falls Tribune of Great Falls, Montana, titled Intelligent design, evolution can share a classroom. There’s a comments feature, but you need to click on an icon below the newspaper’s headline to find it.

The newspaper says the letter-writer “is a freshman at Cascade High School and a member of the Tribune’s Teen Panel.” From her picture, she seems like a sweet child, so of course we won’t use her name. This is the second letter we’ve seen in what appears to be a series. The first was Teaching intelligent design not a smart choice, written by a sophomore at Great Falls High.

Excerpts from the pro-creationism letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

How does one draw a line in the sand between religion and science? Clayton Fiscus, a new Republican member of the Montana House of Representatives, claimed that there doesn’t have to be one. He has put forth a bill that would force public schools to teach intelligent design, or the belief that a supreme being created the universe, along with the traditional evolutionary theory.

No doubt about it, Fiscus is a great man. Then she says:

No one was present at the conception of the universe, no matter what kind of birth it was. Therefore, we cannot discredit any theories about the beginning of the universe.

Hey, that’s great. The Steady State theory is back in business! So is the theory that the universe was hatched from an egg of the Cosmic Duck. Let’s read on:

As a Christian, it is very important to me to be able to learn about how the Bible fits in with scientific theory. I was fortunate enough to attend Foothills, a school that taught me more about this and encouraged me to carry out my own research. Through this endeavor, I was able to discover that one doesn’t have to leave science in the dust to be a believer.

That’s not the name of her high school, so we don’t know what it was. But it sounds like a great institution. She continues:

In fact, when you examine Genesis and compare it to some of the scientific theories in place, especially the Big Bang Theory, it fits very well. The Bible says that God created the world from nothing, and the Big Bang theory says that all matter was created from a single point.

Yes, they’re very similar. Here’s more:

However, the Big Bang theory has some gaps. There is no explanation for where the matter that condensed into a single point came from initially, and the gravity involved defies the laws of physics. The idea of an intelligent God who created our universe fills in these gaps very well.

O m’god! She doesn’t reject an “explanation” because it’s just a God of the gaps story — that’s why she accepts it! Moving along:

While some may argue that Sunday school is the appropriate place to learn about intelligent design and creationism, they’re not taking into account the people who either do not have access to or don’t feel as if they can attend Sunday school. For example, atheist or intolerant parents may never give their children the chance to learn about God, or the children in question may never have considered religion before.

Teaching intelligent design in schools may help these children to understand that there is more than one theory about the beginning of the universe, and the Big Bang theory is just that — a theory — as intelligent design is.

Your Curmudgeon is too tactful to say anything about that. We’ll also ignore her discussion of the meaning of separation of church and state. After all, she’s still a child. Here’s our final excerpt, from her last paragraph:

It’s vital that we encourage different theories about creation, as well as different ways of looking at the world.

We can’t imagine why the Great Falls Tribune is publishing a letter like this. The girl may grow up to find it a continuing source of embarrassment. On the other hand, she might regard it as her finest moment. One never knows.

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

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