Saturday, September 29, 2012



From Shape magazine:
When Ohio resident and baptized Sikh Balpreet Kaur found a photo of herself (taken without her knowledge) standing in line at the Ohio State University bookstore on Reddit, she wasn't fazed, not even when comments from the Reddit users started pouring in, mocking her facial hair, gender, outfit, and decision not to shave her facial hair.

As a baptized Sikh, Kaur is forbidden to alter her body, because it is considered a gift from God. When a friend told her about the Reddit thread, Kaur decided to address the issue herself and took to the thread. Here's what she had to say:

"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture," she wrote. "I'm not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positive] that this picture is getting, because it's who I am. The overarching principal is this body is a tool for service," she explained. "We have to maintain and take care of it while cherishing its original form."
As Joanna Piacenza at Religion Dispatches points out, it all started with the aptly-titled Reddit user "european_douchebag." He eventually apologized.

I have to admit that when I first saw the picture my cultural bias kicked in and I wondered how a woman could so flaunt the norm of expected femininity. But this struck me right between the eyes:
When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.
I have pictures of my late wife to remind me how she looked ... but in the end the chemotherapy took away her hair, against the feminine stereotype ... but her voice? Do I remember even now after just a couple of years?

But there were the people she affected ... children who will grow up with the memory and results of her virtues. That too will fade ... but not without leaving a mark.

Balpreet Kaur has already left a mark.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



Jessica Valenti, at the The Nation, shows Rush Limbaugh how to pwn someone without even thinking of using the word "whore."
Rush Limbaugh is worried about penises. Specifically, he's concerned that feminism (I'm sorry, 'feminazis') have contributed to decreasing penis size. Responding to an Italian study that reports penises are 10 percent smaller than they were fifty years ago, last week Limbaugh pointed to feminism, feminazis and "chickification" as the cause.

Ladies, the cat is out of the bag. Our cover of fighting for equal social, political and economic opportunities for women has been blown. The phallus has always been the centerpiece—and the target—of all feminist thought. The upside is that we can finally be open about our true agenda: A small dick on every man. ('Cause who likes a big one, amirite?!) ...

Back in the day when our sisters-in-arms—witches—were being persecuted, the Malleus Maleficarum (kind of a witch-hunter's guidebook) warned readers of the ways in which we could hide or steal penises. ...

In more modern times, without our witchy powers to take the penis by force, feminists have been forced to use more secretive methods. There's no reason to hide it anymore ... the is our current weapon of choice. You didn't actually think the feminist/vegetarian link was a coincidence, did you?! I mean, tofu is disgusting—of course we had an ulterior motive there. One brave man figured us out—"Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality"—but we have the government on our side. So no worries, sisters!

Unfortunately, there are too many men who—despite their penchant for tattooed hipster girls—won't submit to eating soybean products, so feminists have had to create an additional strategy: we are fucking the hard-ons right off of you. That's right. You may not know it, but men's penises actually wilt in the presence of a sexually independent woman. Laura Sessions Stepp gets it—nothing a turns a man off more than a lady who wants to sleep with him.
From personal happy experience, however, not all men are turned off by women who make it obvious that they want to do it with him.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Irony, Thy Name is Discovery (Institute)

Here is a nice bit from the DI's booklet, "A Parent's Guide to Intelligent Design."

Compare these statements:
There is credible scientific dissent from Darwinian evolution: over 800 Ph.D. scientists have signed a statement that they "are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life," and therefore "[c]areful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Although theistic evolution receives much attention from the newsmedia, it represents a fringe position among leading evolutionary biologists.
But then look at this recent analysis of the DI's list, "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism," comparing the DI's list with "Project Steve," where the signers, all named Steve or variants thereof such as Steven, Stephen, Stephanie, Stephan or Estephan (which constitute roughly 1% of the U.S. population), affirm that:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
David H. Bailey then winnowed both lists down to those with a Ph.D. degree and/or professional position in a core field closely related to evolution (Anatomy, Anthropology, Biochemistry, Biology, Biophysics, Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Genetics, Geology, Geophysics, Microbiology, Neurophysiology, Paleontology, Physiology or Zoology). It turns out that there are just two persons named Steve on the DI's list with qualifications in the core fields compared to 708 on Project Steve ... or, in other words, "Darwin Doubters" are approximately 0.3% of scientists more or less qualified to make a judgment on evolutionary theory. It takes a lot of chutzpah for the DI to talk about someone else's "fringe position."

And, no ... science classes in public elementary and high schools, which spend little enough time on evolutionary science as it is, should not waste time on the (religiously motivated) fringe positions of every crank who happens to hold a Ph.D.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Godly Is as Godly Does

It seems that only some high school football teams in Texas are favored by god.

As reported by the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Wall of Separation
The cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Kountze, Texas, (about 90 miles northeast of Houston) had been using banners with Bible verses to motivate the football team during games. ...

Examples of signs included: "But thanks be to God, which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" and "If God be for us who can be against us?" ...

KBTV noted that the Kountze Lions are undefeated so far this season. The cheerleaders seem to think that the signs inspired the players to victory.
For once, the school administrators did the right thing and banned the practice. However, a local judge has issued a temporary restraining order allowing the cheerleaders to continue for 14 days. It's a bit of an interesting legal question at the intersection of student initiated prayer versus official prayer but the cheerleaders are on the field as representatives of the school. If they wanted to hold up the banners in the stands as spectators, that might well be a different thing. But the school, it seems to me, can't allow them on the field as participants and also allow them to proselytize.

But two things struck me. First of all, aren't those kids from other Texas high schools also praying? Maybe its just that they're not as big and as fast as the present team from Kountze. And, if next year the Kountze team starts losing, will they blame it on the town's lack of faith or, worse, on God?

But there is always this:
"They weren't getting very fired up by 'Kill the Cougars,' so if we say 'you have power, God gives you the strength,' I mean, that makes me want to do good," Ashton Jennings, a Kountze cheerleader, told the TV station.
Somewhere there is a serious disconnect in these kids.


Who Could the Designer Be?

The Undiscovery Institute has put out a free* booklet, "A Parent's Guide to Intelligent Design."

It is the familiar bafflegab, condensed and packaged in glossy form for those too indifferent to even bother following the DI's blog. And the purpose of the booklet? Well ...

Kids are constantly bombarded with misinformation on this topic from schools, the media, and sometimes even trusted religious institutions. Pro-Darwin, materialistic thinking appears to be everywhere. Where can you turn?
Ah, yes ... the opposite of materialistic thinking. But you have to be careful! In a section entitled "How Can Parents Influence Evolution-Education in Local Schools?," they are warned to "channel your desire for change in a productive and helpful direction" and given a series of "Do's and Don'ts." One, in particular, is "Do explain that the case for objectivity in evolution-education comes from science—and isn't an argument based upon religion."**

But immediately following that section is one on "What is Theistic Evolution?" After a discussion of what theistic evolution is, comes this:

While some contemporary proponents of theistic evolution maintain that their views are consistent with traditional Christian theology, many others have made clear that embracing theistic evolution requires radical revisions in how one views God.
Wait a minute! This a booklet about the science of ID, right? Why are they discussing "traditional Christian theology" at all? The booklet then goes on to discuss three "significant challenges to traditional Christian theology" from theistic evolution:

First, many theistic evolution proponents assert that, because Darwinian evolution is by definition "undirected," God could not have actively guided the evolutionary process, contrary to traditional Christian teachings about God's sovereignty.
God's sovereignty is a scientific question?

Second, many theistic evolution proponents repudiate traditional Christian teaching about the original goodness of creation and its subsequent "Fall."
The "Fall"? As in Genesis 2?

Third, theistic evolutionists who seek to retain the idea that God guided the evolutionary process typically insist that God's guidance in biology is hidden from us. (As opposed to "the psalmist who claimed that the "heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19) [and] the Apostle Paul who argued in Romans 1:20 that "since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made ...")
The Bible is a science text?

But just remember to keep saying, over and over again: "ID is not religious ... ID is not religious ... ID is not religious ... " even (or especially) if you don't believe it for a second.


* In order to get it, you have to give the DI a name and email address that they will use to send "communications" from the Center for Science and Culture. They will also share the email address with an organization named "Positively Republican."

** In other words, 'For God's sake don't use the "C" word!'

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Saturday, September 15, 2012


Creative Definitions

Larry Moran and David Klinghoffer are having at it.

Larry started it (though it is hardly a new position for him) by prominently discussing creationism in connection with James Shaprio, a scientist that Larry strongly disagrees with. It wasn't like Larry wasn't justified, since Shapiro brought it up himself:

These articles with [Richard Sternberg] are important to me (and to this blog) for two reasons. The first is that shortly after we submitted them, Rick became a momentary celebrity of the Intelligent Design movement. Critics have taken my co-authorship with Rick as an excuse for "guilt-by-association" claims that I have some ID or Creationist agenda, an allegation with no basis in anything I have written.
Anyway, Shapiro's views and/or his connection with Sternberg are besides the point here. Klinghoffer showed up in the comments to Larry's post to say:

Larry, by your definition of "creationist," Ken Miller would be considered a creationist. Taking him at his own word, he believes in a creator. So as you use it, "creationist" tells nothing about whether a person is entirely convinced of the truth of Darwinian evolutionary theory, partly convinced, or entirely unconvinced. In the context of a debate about evolution, the term adds little or no relevant information. Yet you use it over and over.

I think by anyone's light, when it comes to Darwinian theory, Ken Miller's perspective has nothing in common with Ken Ham's. Your stamping them both with the same label only confuses and misleads. So why not just drop it? Communication entails making distinctions. Language is supposed to clarify not cloud.
Larry responded that Miller "is a creationist of the Theistic Evolution flavor;" that, in order to be "entirely convinced of the truth of evolution then you can't be a creationist;" and that if it's "necessary to distinguish between the various flavors of creationist then I do so."

Klinghoffer followed up with a post at Evolution News & Views, to which Larry has responded.

These are the interesting points as far as I am concerned:

~ Is Ken Miller a "creationist"? He believes in a God that created the world and has shaped it to his/her/it's wishes. Of course he is a creationist! I'm sure Miller would happily admit he is a creationist, just as Theodosius Dobzhansky did.

But as Larry correctly points out, there are many "flavors" of creationists and we can distinguish between the scientific acumen of a Ken Ham versus that of a Ken Miller ... in just the same maner as we can distinguish between Ham's up-front promotion of his religious views and the IDer's underhanded attempt to use taxpayer money to promote theirs.

The important thing to remember is that the only reason that the IDers care about the term "creationist" is that they know that, if ID (and its latest incarnation as "academic freedom" or "teach the controversy" or "strengths and weaknesses") is seen as creationism, it is excluded from American public school science classes, just as Miller's suggestion that quantum mechanics is a possible area of divine action is excluded.

~ Is Larry right to hold that, in order to be "entirely convinced of the truth of evolution then you can't be a creationist"? With a caveat, I think he is. If we take "evolution" to be the proposition that natural causation* is sufficient to explain the development of life on Earth, then any person who holds that God had to and did interfere with natural causation in order to bring about life as we know it is someone who is not entirely convinced that natural causation is sufficient to explain evolution. Whether you need to be entirely convinced in order to a good scientist ... or, for that matter, whether you can be a bad scientist despite being entirely convinced ... is a different question.

~ Is Larry correct in claiming that "[t]he fight is between rationalism and superstition"? Well, that is the fight Larry wants to wage, which is his right. Others may think the important battle as being between secularism and theocracy. The IDers see it as a rear guard action to keep their children from being seduced away from faith by the power and prestige of science.


* There's a boatload of caveats about what "natural causation" means but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Which Side of Your Mouth Should I Listen To?

Here’s what they say:


The Central Community School System understands that the purpose of science education is to inform students about the scientific evidence and to help them develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become scientifically minded citizens. The School System also understands that the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the District's expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

The School System shall endeavor to create an environment within the schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately to differences of opinion about controversial issues. The District shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teacher shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
Here’s what they intend:

The Central Community School Board [Central City, Louisiana] approved a policy Monday that supports its science teachers if they decide to wade into scientific controversies, including teaching students about alternatives to the theory of evolution.
The first is just a regurgitation of Louisiana's oxymoronic "Science Education Act." But what is the second bit? What alternatives? Intelligent Design? No, that can’t be it! The premiere advocate for ID, the Discoveryless Institute, is against that:

Although phrased conditionally, this bill would essentially mandate teaching intelligent design in at least some public high school science classrooms ... Discovery Institute opposes mandating intelligent design in public schools, and opposes legislation that even comes close to a mandate. Such laws if passed would focus unwanted and even career-killing attention on scholars working within the intelligent design paradigm.
Creationism? Well, we know Louisianans know better than that, right?

Government officials, who doubtless swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, couldn’t possibly be lying ... could they?

Thursday, September 06, 2012



Okay, this internet ad has been around for a while.

Is it just me or, if these people are using a testosterone supplement ... aren't they doing it wrong?

Monday, September 03, 2012


Self Knowledge

Quote of the day (from commenter "Louis" at Wilkins' blog):
Speaking as a chemist, chemistry is not the Queen of the Sciences. It does not hold such a lofty position. It's more like the Very Scientific But Unpopular Second Cousin of the Cool Sciences Who Gets Invited To Parties But Talked About In Disparaging Tones For Smelling Funny Despite Being Kind Of Useful.

But the important thing to note is I'm not bitter about that.



Via the highly recommended Eye on the ICR ... where Peter reads creationist bullhockey so you don't have to, at least until he uncovers a particularly bizarre intellectual train wreck that simply has to be seen to be believed ... comes this little gem by Rhonda Forlow, Ed.D. That it is authored by a Doctor of Education only increases the jaw-drop factor.

Young children approach life with refreshing innocence. They assume that spoken words are truth because they have no reason to question the trusted adult who spoke them. But as children grow older, they begin to question adults and situations—they want evidence of truth as they encounter unknown people and new circumstances in their world.

Adults are no different. They want proof that a new product does what it claims to do, or that a doctor received his credentials from an appropriate place, or that the latest technological gadget is truly going to make life easier. But with all our evidence-gathering, we too often overlook the importance of providing evidence to our children concerning faith issues. Shouldn't we diligently look for ways to teach our children, in ways they can understand, the evidences of their faith?

As a Christian, I don't question the evidence of creation—it's simple for me because it's outlined in God's Word. What is there to question?
Well, for starters, how do you know the Bible is the word of God? Weren't you just talking about "evidences"?

But it gets, believe it or not, worse, because, you see, the "evidences" for the Bible being the word of God come from (you guessed it!) the Bible:

But I know my children need to be taught those evidences, and it's not always as simple for them to grasp the meanings of some Bible verses.

When we talk to our children about the evidence of creation, the best place to start is the Bible. Then we look for ways to make it understandable for our unique children, taking into consideration their ages and developmental levels. As parents, we possess the privileged information about our particular children's learning needs and abilities—we know our own children best. And so, we can figure out how to clearly present the truths of Scripture and to make the evidence simple for our children.
"Simple" is a word I'd use for this ... but probably not in the sense Dr. Forlow does.


A Moon for the Misbegotten

The "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon (MessiahTM) has shuffled off this mortal coil.

I wonder if his body will disappear?

Sunday, September 02, 2012


Ways of "Knowing"

And so it continues ...

Larry has "responded" to John Wilkins in the way he usually does ... by erecting a straw man about "ways of knowing" ... while accusing John of his own fault.

John, perhaps more charitably than my instincts require, replies:

I am not, I repeat not, arguing for there being "different ways of knowledge" here, although that is an interesting topic in its own right. Larry's constant repetition of this claim is a red herring. I am not trying to produce knowledge, nor, to my best awareness, have I ever done so, except accidentally and then as a historian of ideas, not as a philosopher. Philosophy does not produce knowledge; that is the job of science. Philosophy examines ways knowledge is claimed to be produced, and the implications of what that knowledge might be for other views we hold. For example, we do not show that free will exists or not. If there is a neurobiological cause of all our actions, then that is the scientific result, and there's an end to it (until some other science is done that refutes or refines that claim). What the philosopher does with that is try to figure out what, of our prior views on free will, must be abandoned in the light of these results, and what can be retained or revised. It might turn out that, for example, freedom of the will is simply a legal concept, and so we do not need to base it upon causal indeterminacy (my view, by the way). That is not knowledge. That is an argument from knowledge.
To his credit, Larry seems to understand the distinction, if not the consequences:

[Philosophy] helps us understand rational thinking and it helps us weed out faulty arguments. That's why Chris DiCarlo, a philosopher, is giving many lectures in my course on critical thinking. Philosophers are experts on this topic. Thinking clearly is an absolute prerequisite for discovering knowledge. But it doesn't appear to be sufficient. ...

People who think scientifically do NOT think that their way of thinking DISPROVES religious beliefs—at least not in the sense that stands up to rigorous philosophical analysis. What they say is that there is no evidence of god(s). Since the scientific way of knowing requires evidence for beliefs it follows, as night follows day, that belief in god(s) is not compatible with the scientific way of thinking.
Wait a minute! "The scientific way of thinking"? What is the "way of knowing that relies on evidence" that informs us of what the "the scientific way of thinking" is? Unless, of course, what we are really talking about the way Larry Moran thinks ... something that might not be all that interesting to the world at large. Determining what the "scientific way of thinking" is, and necessarily must be, a historical and philosophical examination. As John says:

Larry thinks, and I quote, "As far as I can tell, philosophers just made [methodological naturalism] up without ever thinking seriously about the evidence of how scientific thinking actually works outside in the real world." Really? Methodological naturalism has been the ruling view of science since Thales of Miletus in the 6th century BCE. It is the view that we cannot investigate through natural means what does not follow rules. It is the idea that the sensible world, at any rate, is ruled by laws and regularities. It is the invention of "nature" as an idea.

To reject methodological naturalism is to in effect reject science as a possibility. It is not the claim that there is nothing else, nor is it the claim that science must be restricted to the physical world (at various times scientists have thought the paranormal, the spiritual, and even the theological were amenable to scientific investigation). If Larry thinks that he can scientifically investigate something that has no empirical evidence, I invite him to demonstrate that. In the meantime, any claim that is, as I have often called it, "empirically inoculated" is beyond the scope of science to investigate.

That doesn't mean that we must accept it as a reasonable claim to hold though. There is a difference between saying "science does not disprove x" and saying "science proves x". That we cannot show there is no divine hand in evolution is no reason to think there is. Even the most enthusiastic of theistic evolutionists would concede that. So why is Larry concerned about methodological naturalism? Is it because he wants all knowledge claims to be restricted to scientific claims, and therefore needs to argue that no claim is beyond the scope of scientific investigation? And is that not scientism?
John's point is well demonstrated by Larry's and Coyne's constant refrain that there is no scientific evidence of the efficacy of "intercessory prayer." But that's the point of philosophers like Ruse, Sober, Pigliucci and John. The only way that intercessory prayer would produce scientific evidence of its efficacy is if "God" was like a "natural law" ... one prayer, one healing. Statistical studies only tell us that God is not a natural law we can rely on to do what we expect he/she/it always does. But what theist claims that God is a "natural law"?

Constantly trotting out "evidence" contradicting something that is not claimed is exactly the kind of philosophical misunderstanding that at least some scientists need to be reminded of.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


When Philosophy Sucks

Larry Moran has joined Jerry Coyne in being a philosophical know-nothing.

Of course, both Larry and Coyne have appealed to philosophers when they have supported their own philosophical beliefs!

Philosophy is only "worthless" when it doesn't agree with their own "worldviews." In short, everybody's philosophy ... except theirs ... sucks!

Hey, who does that remind me of? ... Some ism that begins with "C" …

I was going to tackle this but, fortunately, a real philosopher, John Wilkins, has saved me the trouble.

John's money quote:

[A]rrogance seems to be inherent in the broad dismissal of a profession simply because it doesn’t do what the accuser’s profession does. Yes, Larry, that really is scientism. It is treating science as if it were a belief system that supersedes and excludes, by some sort of divine right, all other human activities.


Bully For Them

Rob Boston at Americans United for Separation of Church and State's blog, Wall of Separation has a post, "Equal Rights For Bullies," about how the Righteous Right is trying to keep the nationwide concern about teenage bullying from limiting their little darlings' "right" to harass other children who are, or are perceived to be, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or the like.

For instance, in Michigan, the state Senate passed a measure to deal with bullying in public schools, but it included an exemption for anyone who acts out of "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." The good news is that, after a national uproar, the legislation passed without an official exemption for religious bullies.

Now Focus on the Family (FOF) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have come out with something called the "Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick," which will supposedly help public school officials formulate policies that respect the "rights" of Christian students.

By all means, go over and read Mr. Boston's critique. But I think he missed something. The last provision of the FOF/ADF "yardstick" is:

A bad law expressly provides that it applies to private schools, or fails to include a provision limiting it to public schools. Applying anti-bullying laws that mandate instruction on bullying to private schools is problematic, as they would infringe on the schools' rights to set their own curriculum, and on parents' rights to have their children educated according to a non-public-school program.
Now, of course, society has the right to set the minimum standards of education that parents must provide their children ... just as it can set the minimum standards for the medical care parents must provide or the minimum food, clothing and shelter that parents must provide. And we call the failure to provide those minimums "child abuse."

The Religious Right is free to teach their children that:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13*
What they are not free to teach their children is that it is perfectly fine, in a free society based on laws respecting the rights of all, that it is okay to bully, harass and harm others simply because you think God finds who they are or what they do is "icky."

And, yes, we, as a society, can insist that children ... whether they are in public schools or not ... must be taught that, despite what their religion may say, they are not free to abuse others ... just as we can insist that they know that it is not acceptable to stone to death a man who lies with mankind.

Otherwise, what is even the point of calling it a "society"?


* Interestingly, if your read Leviticus 20 in its entirety and apply standard Christian exegesis, it is clear that, in the Old Testament at least, lesbianism was not condemned. When you think about it, it is not even surprising. In a society where ... what was the phrase that idiot from National Review used? ... ah, yes ... "high status males," like Abraham, David and Solomon, kept harems (so much for "one man, one woman") the focus was keeping other males away from the wives. Who cared if the girls were diddling each other?

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