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Congressman Mark Souder says his highlight of the year was being on Ben Stein’s “Expelled.”

Posted by Andy D. on December 27, 2008

Sylvia Smith interviewed Congressman Mark Souder for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in which Souder states his “personal highlight of the year.”  The highlight is none other than being in Ben Stein’s anti-evolution propaganda movie, “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.”

You appeared on the big screen this year. What was that experience like?
The biggest single moment was (that) the movie “Expelled” came out on intelligent design. (The documentary about intelligent design – also called creationism – hosted by Ben Stein describes how some educational professionals have been blacklisted from universities and journals because they disagree with the theory of evolution.)

Rep. Souder just admitted that intelligent design is creationism.  The Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard concluded creation science is religion and not science! Intelligent design is the latest failed evolution of trying to get religion into the science classroom starting with outright religion, creation science, intelligent design; and now it is academic freedom.  Intelligent Design was shown to be religion in Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2004.  The Discovery Institute which is the Seattle based ID think-tank tries not to mention who this mysterious intelligent “agent” designer is to avoid entanglement with the First Amendment.  Ben Stein walks all over that premise that ID isn’t really religion in “Expelled.”

Rep. Souder doesn’t say anything about the movie’s deceitful logical fallacy in which the movie attempted to blame evolutionary science for the Holocaust. I watched the movie “Valkyrie” starring Tom Cruise last night in which the opening contained the written oath swearing under God one’s support of Hitler. The people committing those horrible killings were mostly religious.  There is a big difference between artificial selection which was around long before the theory of natural selection.  Note, I am not saying religion caused the Holocaust.  Religion was the original source of the division and the extension of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic zeitgeist; moreover, there was extreme hyperinflation, unemployment, WWI repercussions, shame due to false propaganda, extreme nationalism, rapid industrialization, anti-communism, secret police, and many more variables to make the times uncertain.  Religious and scientific institutions are used in these types of totalitarian movements and are manipulated.  In fact, the Anti-defamation League released a statement against Expelled’s premise.  Moreover, it is a non sequitur to say: if evolutionary theory caused the Holocaust (which it didn’t),  it disproves the authenticity of natural selection and common ancestry of all life.  Ben Stein and/or his producers blatantly quote-mined Darwin, not unlike the negative politics Joseph Goebbels used.

How did your role come about?
Ben Stein’s producer contacted our office about being in a movie off of the subcommittee report we had done on a researcher we believed had been persecuted and pushed around at the Smithsonian Institution because of his views on intelligent design.
He lost his office. He lost his keys. He lost his sponsorship. We were able, over a period of years, to get the e-mails behind this. This was a three-year fight.

First of all, Richard Sternberg was not a paid employee of the Smithsonian and he purposefully abused the scientific peer review process .  He waited until he was leaving the position of editor to release a pro-ID paper by the Discovery Institute’s own Stephen C. Meyer.  The paper was later unpublished and one may see why it wasn’t actual science here.
The lost keys and office are much to do about nothing, as it was part of a pre-planned event at the Smithsonian for bureaucratic reasons in which many people switched keys and offices including Sternberg.  For more on Souder, Sternberg, and the others involved go here and here.  Worst of all, most of this information is in the appendix of Souder’s own report!!!  Souder should know better and is most likely playing politics, as you will soon see.  See NCSE’s Expelled Exposed to see the complete story on all the manufactured “expelled-IDers.”

Was it the highlight of your year?
I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design. I believe that if there wasn’t a purpose in designing you – regardless of who you view the designer as being – then, from my perspective, you can’t be fallen from that design. If you can’t be fallen from that design, there’s no point to evangelism.

Do you see Rep. Souder squirm on “who” the designer is?  Here Souder admits his religious biases.  His personal beliefs should be private and not be involved in science or politics.  It is a simple as that.  Souder needs to represent people of all faiths and those of no faith in his district.  This is extremely disturbing.  If he had his way, he would help turn America into a theocracy.

As an evangelical Christian, I believe the premise of a fall being at the core of reforming lives. I believe the concept of grace and forgiveness comes from having fallen from something.

Again, Mark Souder’s religious beliefs are off limits due to the “no religious test” in Article 6 of the constitution.  However, I am waiting to see if a non-religious person can take his place some day.  It seems there is a religious test for office.  Grace and forgiveness are not only evangelical ideals. They are ideals for everyone including secularists.  We should all appreciate honesty and full scientific inquiry free from meddling of religiously motivated politicians.  The scientific marketplace of ideas has spoken on intelligent design.  Scientific knowledge has to go through testing, hypothesis, must be falsifiable, peer reviewed, and repeatable with more testing before it gets anywhere near science school text books.  Telling students there is scientific alternative to the evolutionary theory is an outright lie.

Now, how that occurred – whether you believe in the young earth theory, gradual evolution, or whatever – is disputed. Those become religious. But whether there was a fundamental designer who developed a complex DNA molecular structure is critical. Since I view that as the most important thing in the world, yes, being in a movie that advanced that cause was the personal highlight of the year.

Rep. Souder thinks that young earth creation or old earth creationism is up to religious belief.  I somewhat agree.  One is entitled to his or her beliefs; however, one is not entitled to their own scientific facts.  The facts are the earth is close to 4.6 billions years old with roughly 4 billion years of evolution and common descent.  There are many religions that have accepted evolution and made their peace with it and one does not have to be an atheist to appreciate it.  Scientists state openly they don’t know how life was originally started and we may never know.  However,  science is much stronger here then Souder or Stein could even try to understand.  See the evolution of RNA into DNA.  Abiogenesis , the study of how the first life began, is technically not part of The Theory of Evolution by natural selection.  Mountains of evidence have been pouring in for a 150 years from many scientific disciplines.  The theory has never been stronger and a scientific theory is not a hunch, but it is the highest form of scientific knowledge.

Why didn’t you call more attention to being in a movie?
I thought this might be the hottest issue in my (re-election) race and that I would be so attacked, and it would bring out the social conservative base in ways we’d never seen.
From the time 2008 started, we could tell this was going to be a difficult political year. We went through a huge immigration debate. Then you moved to the $4 gas debate. Then the economy’s collapsing.

Mark Souder was counting on a culture war backlash to muster up support. The Republican ticket had the political winds against them;  Souder, therefore, was manufacturing a controversy to be reelected.  This is Machiavellian ugliness that Karl Rove played, and I think Americans are sick of it.   It turns out there was a very effective response to Stein’s propaganda film by NCSE and it was so effective there was no social conservative base backlash.  Souder won without it.  Most likely, the reason was he ran a better campaign against someone with little experience; and more likely this is just a Republican stronghold.  FreeThought Fort Wayne is the only group in Fort Wayne that has said anything about Souder’s involvement in Expelled and we are nobody compared to Souder’s influence.  The movie wasn’t very big either and it received horrible reviews by everyone who is not Rush Limbaugh or has a religious political agenda.  Of course, Souder was at the Sarah Palin rally in Fort Wayne that was all about anti-intellectualism and Souder sure knows his base.  “Expelled” is circulating in church basements as I write.  I am getting very sick of religion in politics.  I am pretty sure that this Jesus fellow who everyone keeps talking about would feel the same.

It is disappointing that Souder didn’t stick with helping the Veteran’s Hospital as the interview started with as his highlight of the year.  I congratulate him and want the best for our veterans, too.  Souder’s priorities are out of whack for bringing up his contribution to the tired culture war as his highlight of 2008,  the year that Republican became a dirty word.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

At least we don’t live in Texas

Posted by Andy Welfle on October 21, 2008

Our “atheist prophet”, PZ Myers, posted a really great video about the Texas State School Board, and where many of the candidates stand on teaching evolution and creationism to children in schools. Needless to say, it’s not looking good. Republican Gail Lowe, running for re-election to the board, says she will never support the adoption of an environmental science book that attributes global warming to human activity.

This is a really succinct rundown of those on the school board and those running for seats. It just all sounds like a political nightmare.

I have to admit that I have a hard time listening to the man in the video. He’s kinda crazy looking, in a conspiracy-theory-the-government-is-putting-flouride-in-the-water-to-control-our-minds type of way. But he has a lot of great points, and this makes me glad I don’t live in Texas.

At least our local school board election isn’t fighting over whether or not we should be teaching evolution or creationism intelligent design.  We stick to actual isues like the Code Yellow vs. Code Blue remonstrance debates. is this a concern we might face in the future, though? I’d love to hear your ideas on the topic in the comments.

Posted in Politics, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Encounters with a Nutcase

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 16, 2008

My friend Dave is an outspoken atheist and lived in Indy. He out this hilarious email last night to a bunch of friends, and gave me permission to share it with you:

About 2am last night I heard two guys arguing vehemently outside one of the buildings of my apartment complex.

Obviously I walked outside and became belligerent with them.

I ridiculed one for wearing a snow cap and asked them why they couldn’t have their big discussion inside. One said it was about God, and his girlfriend will get upset. So instead of getting angry I offered to join in. If I wasn’t going to be sleeping I might as well be arguing. Ten minutes later my neighbor comes outside and asks us to keep it down—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The guy with the snow cap left pretty quick after my opening shots, and I was left with a nut. It started out simple enough; he claimed the Big Bang Theory was too new to be believed, I said I don’t know or care at the moment whether it’s true, and asked for a positive reason to believe in his god. He gave me the ole’ deer-in-headlights, obviously expecting to get me tangled up as only two drunks who know nothing about science can get when trying to talk about science.

We moved on and he brought out the tired “but you can’t refute God” and I shot back “can you refute unicorns?” He paused for a second, understandably since I did just bring unicorns into the argument and I don’t think he’s taken a philosophy class or ever heard of William of Ockham.

Eventually we made it to evolution, and I did my best with what I know. Of course, it wasn’t too difficult; all I had to explain to him was that exhibiting two dead pieces of bark, which were laying conveniently at his side, and yelling to me that they couldn’t reproduce did not actually refute the theory of evolution.

He then claimed “they” found pyramids in Bosnia, made well before the Egyptian pyramids, and that that somehow disproved evolution as well. This was a couple of breaths after he laughed at carbon dating.

We treaded back a bit when I asked him why I should believe in his god over anyone else’s, and he said polytheism was silly—well, once I explained to him what it was and brought up Greek mythology—and he said it was stupid to believe in a god like Zeus and a 2,000 year-old myth. I recoiled and waited for him to correct himself. He said nothing and I waited another few beats (deer, headlights, go!) and said “wasn’t 2,000 years ago the birth of your savior?”

He changed it to 5,000 and moved on.

We visited materialism next and I told him desire for a higher being, no matter how much it made your life complete or kept your grandmother smiling and in the kitchen and she makes really good pie—it meant nothing in relation to what was or wasn’t the truth, and I brought up the 9/11 conspiracy almost by accident; a casual throw-up to an example of crazy people who disregard truth because they want a certain outcome…

FAIL. He was a 9/11 truther. I spent the next few minutes defending Bush (lemme tell you I loved that) and the government against conspiracy theory. I really don’t know the temperature at which steel bends or breaks, ergo I failed. But not so much as I finally got him off his do-it-yourself-home-course-in-structural-engineering for a bit to get him to admit that he cares more about what makes people happy—which Jesus does—than he cares about the truth.

I said: “So you’re accusing Americans of plotting and executing the worst terrorist attack our generation has seen more because it makes you happy rather than it’s the truth?”

Yeah, I admit that one wasn’t too fair. And anyway that’s when the belligerence came. He accused me of science and I accused him of being willfully ignorant, and as I was walking away, doing that thing where you’re trying to get the last, petty little remark off before your commence the angry storming, and he said this, which caused me pause:

“I hope you’re happy with your new body in seven years, because that’s what science says you’ll have!”

“Huh? What…What the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] are you talking about?” I said.

“Your new body. Seven years. I hope you’re happy with it!”
“Is it thin and sexy?”
He rolled his head and guffawed a little—like how dare I make fun of his final blow that should’ve surely set my reality to crumble—and he said:

“Yeah…I hope you’re happy because you’ll…science says you’ll have a new body so explain that!”

I walked away, finally. Just kidding, we exchanged obscenities for a few minutes before I did make it back to my stoop. I found a friend sitting and smoking a cigarette. The new-body-creationist did come over at one point to say “hey, man, we should talk when we’re sober. I really think we should have a conversation when we’re sober” and I said sure, fine, call me. He left and I recounted much of the story to my friend, who is a biology major and pre-med. I got to the 9/11 truth stuff and he stopped me:

“Yeah, that guy’s an idiot, but do you know the temperature at which steel melts? It just didn’t add up when…”

I sighed.

There was more conversation but apparently I’m the only person up at 2 AM in my apartment complex who doesn’t believe the government was behind 9/11. Fail lined the streets tonight, gentlemen, in places both expected and unexpected.

Posted in Humor, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Knowledge or Excuses?

Posted by Skeptigator on September 8, 2008

The Washington Post recently published the article Study Links Gene Variant in Men to Marital Discord. Recent research out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm shows that men with multiple copies of a particular gene variant, which regulates the hormone vasopressin, are more likely to have troubled marriages and/or dissatisfied partners than men with only one or no copies. In fact, they were roughly twice as likely, which is statistically significant. This latest research dovetails nicely with an earlier study which showed that when the hormone vasopressin was manipulated in animals that normally mated for life they became loners and vice versa.

This article reminded me of the recent podcast episodes (Part 1 and Part 2) from Point of Inquiry in which Michael Dowd is interviewed about the need to understand evolution and human biology. He speaks about research that found a significant correlation between extra-marital affairs and when men (and women) are promoted within a company or take a new higher profile position or are elected to office, local or national. The promotion or election appears to cause a surge in testosterone which in turn cranks up the libido. Michael Dowd retells the story of man who became a CEO and then subsequently carried on a series of affairs. Until the promotion he had been a devoted husband and the affairs eventually ruined his marriage and cost him his job. He thanked Michael Dowd because it finally brought this man some understanding as to why the apparently sudden need to run around on his wife.

The obvious caveat to all of this is just because we may have biological predispositions to a certain behavior doesn’t mean we are exempted morally from doing the right thing. “Sorry about that affair dear but you know how my DNA has an effect on me”, just doesn’t cut it.

Isn’t having the knowledge that something like a promotion at work could cause a surge of hormones of teenage proportions to go raging through your vains valuable? Could it help someone avoid a potentially disastrous decision? Have you ever avoided going out socially with someone because the Temptation Factor would be huge, especially where there will be alcohol? You can always abstain from drinking you unfortunately can’t turn off the horny hormones.

Speaking of hormones like a fire hydrant, this reminds me of the claims by abstinence-only advocates that if you teach teenagers about sexuality and safe sex you are implicitly condoning the activity. That somehow if you show a teenager how to put a condom on a banana you are giving them a license to have at it in the hallways. Doesn’t this information help give teenagers the tools they need to make good decisions? Or just permission?

Perhaps this is more stream of consciousness writing than anything that truly connects together. I guess if you are recently elected or promoted teenager you’ll be fornicating in the streets. Sorry sport, it’s your DNA.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Evolution as symbol of the clash between Faith and Science

Posted by Skeptigator on August 25, 2008

The New York Times ran an article, A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash, last Saturday. The article follows a teacher in the Florida education system and one of his Christian students. The teacher was instrumental in the adoption of the new Florida education standard that now requires all Florida public schools to teach evolution as the “organizing principle of life science”.

For the longest time I really couldn’t articulate even to myself why there is so much contention about evolution. If it were simply that evolution contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis then why isn’t modern geology also vehemently opposed. Sure there are critics from the same Creationist camp that doubt any dating of geological activity, sediments or rocks beyond 6,000 years old but by and large most people could care less about such an obscure academic debate. Or at least it doesn’t raise any hackles when someone says the Earth is 4 billion years old, give or take a couple hundred million years.

So what is it about Evolution that creates such controversy. Evolution as a scientific theory is less a theory(with reams of supporting evidence) and more a symbol of the clash between scientifc knowledge and religious knowledge. In a very discreet way evolution illustrates the amoral (notice I didn’t say, immoral) nature of science and inherent value judgments that religion make.

Science, which is simply a body of knowledge*, inherently makes no value judgments about the knowledge it acquires or contains. Science doesn’t discover the mathematical formulas that govern the motions of planets and determine that it is good. The rightness and wrongness of 2 + 2 = 4 is an irrelevance.

Scientific knowledge is what it is, subject to revision. And there we’ve discovered something about scientific knowledge that is it’s greatest objective strength. Science is constantly discovering new things and discarding or revising old knowledge. It’s this “nothing sacred” nature of science that makes it so powerful. Without that self-correcting mechanism mankind would still think it was the center of the universe.

At the same time we can make statements as to the nature of Nature but it must always be provisional (“as far as we know”). And here is where Science gets itself into trouble particularly with believers. The believer is privvy to a body of unchanging, absolute knowledge. There is no equivocation in, “God is great”, he simply is. The knowledge that man acquires, via the scientific method, is constantly changing whereas religious/God’s knowledge is timeless and absolute, you can bank on it.

While Science makes no moral judgments as to the rightness or wrongness of gravity, religious knowledge has an inherent moral value to it. There is no amoral body of religious knowledge. To clarify what I mean, the purpose of the stories of the Old Testament, for example, are meant to convey some moral instruction as to the nature of good and evil, God or some other moral purpose. The Old Testament tells us that we should put no gods before the one true god but (historical) Science wants a catalog with corresponding belief systems of those other gods. Science assigns no moral value to those other belief systems, it simply wants know about them.

So what does all of this have to do with evolution or the article mentioned above. When you take the provisional nature of scientific knowledge and it’s inherently amoral stance and put it up against a shystem of knowledge that assigns moral value to all of its knowledge, you will inevitably have conflict. Evolution illustrates this disconnect very clearly because at the very outset evolution makes statements as to the nature and origins of mankind that bring it directly in conflict with the moral value of mankind as put forth by Christianity.

To a believer because evolution describes the origin of human life and our relative place among the other animals on this planet it is therefore automatically making a statement of morality or assignment of value. This is a legitimate statement to the believer because their body of knowledge makes statements of morality and/or assignments of value based on the origin of mankind.

From the article mentioned, the science teacher made the following statement that I think sums things up nicely,

“Science explores nature by testing and gathering data,” he said. “It can’t tell you what’s right and wrong. It doesn’t address ethics. But it is not anti-religion. Science and religion just ask different questions.”

This discussion could devolve (pun intended) into the legitimacy of the “non-overlapping magisteria” argument, that “no such conflict should exist (e.g. between Science and Religon) because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority”. That is certainly a valid argument to have but not one that is relevant to the point I’m trying to make.

The question is does my idea/understanding about the character/nature of Science vs. Religious knowledge make sense or at least does it bring a little better understanding as to why the 2 types of knowledge do come into conflict (at least in my head).

* I use this sense of the word since it’s the most relevant however Science could just as easily be described as the process or method for discovering knowledge of the natural world. I’m making the distinction clear here so the “hyper-definitionists” (you know who you are) don’t spontaneously give birth to a cow because I didn’t spend 14 paragraphs defining the word Science.

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Posted in Science | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Ignorance is nonpartisan

Posted by neuralgourmet on June 28, 2008

Phil over at the Bad Astronomy Blog notes an interesting Gallup poll that asked participants whether they believed:

  1. that God created humans exactly as they are now sometime in the last ten centuries,
  2. or that humans developed over millions of years but with guidance from God,
  3. or that humans developed over millions of years and God had no part.

As you might expect, more Republicans said they believed in the first option than did Indepedents or Democrats. About 60% of Republicans answered that they believed in the first option, while only about 40% each of Independents and Democrats thought this way. To be sure, that’s a significant difference but I’m not cheered by the fact that only two out of every five of my party mates is a Creationist versus three out of every five Republicans.

It gets worse though. Another way of looking at the poll choices is:

  1. Creationism
  2. Intelligent Design
  3. Evolution

If we then add the Creationist and Intelligent Design responses together we get a very bleak picture. Some 92% (greater than nine out of ten) of Republicans and about 77% each (almost eight out of ten) of Democrats and Indpendents believe in either Creationism or Intelligent Design.

Have I depressed you yet? Well, there is something of a silver lining to this cloud, or at least there is if you choose to look at it this way. You see, Gallup has been asking this three-part question of Americans for a long time; since 1982 to be exact. Just as one expects to find more Republicans than Democrats who believe in Creationism, one might expect that after nearly thirty years of the country veering hard right that the numbers are actually much worse than they were in the early 1980s. That we’ve become more ignorant as a country.

That’s not the case though. The truth is these numbers have been fairly steady over the past twenty six years with no sharp fluctuations either way. As Phil says, you can’t blame Newt Gingrich and you can’t blame Bush. As a nation, we haven’t gotten any more ignorant, but then we haven’t gotten any more knowledgable either. Yeah, this silver lining isn’t a very shiny one.

What does it all mean? Phil speculates that party allegiance is very strong so people stick with their parties even when the stated goals and policies of those parties radically change over time. Similarly, religious views are also very strong and thus stay the same from year to year. That seems like a good enough explanation to me.

I think there’s something else to take away from this Gallup poll though. Religious belief is thoroughly entrenched in American society. It is weaved throughout our social fabric in a way that we can never hope to prize apart the threads of our cultural history that value rational thought and Enlightenment principles and those that value tradition and religious faith. While more strongly religious social conservatives might prefer the Republican Party of the past thirty or forty years, it hasn’t always been this way. Remember that at one time it was the Republicans that were the social progressives and the Democrats the social conservatives.

To phrase it as I did in the title to this post, ignorance is nonpartisan. It’s also highly impervious to change. When ignorance is coupled to religious belief, ignorance tends to get carved in stone. Can we wear down that stone?

Yeah, I think so. And I think there’s evidence that, at least on the science front, this is happening even today. One need look no further than that institution most impervious to change — the Catholic Church. Fifty years ago Pope Pius II implied that evolution “isn’t inimical to Christianity” and in 1992, Pope John Paul II said both that evolution was compatible with faith and that the Church was wrong to condemn Galileo. Later on, in 2005 Vatican Cardinal Paul Poupard said that Catholics should listen to what modern science has to offer.

That’s the God of the Gaps at work. As science provides us with greater and greater understanding of our world and our selves, the concept of god shrinks until it can only fill in the gaps left unexplained by science. That might be small comfort to those of us who’ve watched in horror as fundamentalists and the Republican Party wedded themselves together over the course of the past thirty years culminating in the Presidency of George W. Bush, but religiosity waxes and wanes at various points in our history and I have no reason to suspect that the sort of fervent religiosity we’ve seen in the past couple of decades isn’t already on its way out.

Where does that leave us? Well, obviously with the need to continue to promote and defend secular government because if theocracy comes to this land then surely it’s game over. Beyond that though there’s no easy answers. It’s all education, organizing, fundraising, and community involvement. If that sounds remarkably like politics, well, it is. That’s the same formula success used by politicians for as long as the U.S. has been around. That and a healthy dose of propaganda, but we’re the ones trying to encourage critical thinking so maybe we should skip that. Although it never hurts to relate science on an emotional level. Carl Sagan was a master of that.

With all that being said though, I’m with Phil. We’ve got a long, long way to go.

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Evolution and Overview of Religion

Posted by JD on June 13, 2008

Today I’ve decided to start a series detailing exactly what I think of religion. It is a general overview of much of what I have been studying for the last 10 years. I want as much feedback as possible so that I can correct errors, elaborate on subjects, add ideas and finally commit all of it to my permanent notes.

First I intend to start off with my biggest concerns involving religion. This is the preface to it all. Please add any important concerns I have left out. It is still incomplete and a work in progress. I’m thinking about starting a thread in the forum to elaborate on these points in greater detail.

Main Arguments:

1. Overall, religion is the biggest impediment to the survival and progress of humankind. Religion is a continual and purposeful impediment to scientific progress and knowledge in general because ignorance and superstition are necessary to maintain belief.

2. Religion is still attractive because most people do not understand life has meaning and value without the need of any god. It is still comforting to imagine existing forever in complete happiness with your family and friends, to see wrongs righted (hell), and to feel a sense of righteousness in moral, ethical, philosophical and spiritual belief.

3. Religion encourages our baser instincts. Religion is directly and indirectly responsible for the majority of the wars in recorded history. Religion creates and spreads ignorance, superstition, unreasonable fears, greed, bigotry and hatred.

4. “Good” people would still be good with or without religion. Religion is ammunition for immoral people. Religion tends to bring out the worst in humanity.

5. When religion was at its peak, it was called the Dark Ages. Our religions have become refined as our knowledge of the natural world has increased. Instead of The Inquisition, religion has in recent centuries (and in current American politics and Islamic nations) found its ability to illegally enforce scripture through politics.

6. You are allowed to believe whatever religious absurdities you desire, but those absurdities should and will be ridiculed. No other sphere of knowledge and public discourse is free from scrutiny and debate. Religion receives a free pass because of our freedom of religion and freedom from religion. If one persists to believe the earth is flat in light of overwhelming evidence, he or she would be seen as a lunatic or incompetent and promptly be corrected and ridiculed for his or her grievous error. This is not so in religion. Perhaps someone who prays to Zeus or thinks he is Jesus will be ridiculed, but that is because his beliefs are obviously ridiculous and/or insane. I maintain there is little difference in believing in Jehovah or Allah or Zeus except there are many more believers in Jehovah or Allah than there are in Zeus.

7. It is quite possible for intelligent people to be rational in every aspect of their lives and still believe in religious absurdities.

8. God was created in man’s image. The degree of kindness and hatred in the holy books of each god is a reflection of the civilization that created that god. Each religion has competing sects of that civilization that disagrees philosophically, geopolitically and socially.

9. The vast majority of people raised in a religion from childhood have extremely difficult times divorcing themselves from religion. Religion inculcates/brainwashes the mind during early childhood development. It is similar to learning how to read or learn a new language when you are an adult. It can still be done, but is much easier when learned as a child because the brain has not become rigid in development.

Religion retards social development because of the many taboos and/or sins that are prohibited. No one wants to show their children porn, drugs, violence, etc., but not allowing the kids to learn about negative issues in a truthful environment is severely handicapping their social and intellectual development.

Religion typically destroys creativity, imagination and curiosity. When all of the “answers” are laid out for you in a divinely inspired holy book there is no need to look elsewhere. It becomes necessary to deny any contradictory information if it does not chime with your religious perception of reality.

10. Ignorance/denial and fanaticism are deadly bedfellows. The most disturbing thing to me about religion is how it can transform simple-minded fools into zealots who are 100% committed to whatever religion they’ve chosen and think they are correct with absolute certainty because they are too dumb or unwilling or unable to learn about life, death and reality from other sources than just their church and congregation. If you have never seen insanity, stare into the glassy-eyed, quirky-smiled, blank expression of a believer who has swallowed their church’s dogma hook, line and sinker. They think they know they are right, you are wrong, and there is no room for compromise. They see the world in absolutes. I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m good, you’re evil. I am truth, you are deceit. These people are too far gone for hope of salvation through critical thinking. We can only hope to educate children who have not yet become entrenched in their respective religions. This is already difficult to do with a sub-standard, watered-down, underfunded public education that is under constant bombardment by the religious to Christianize what we teach and how we teach it.

Think outside the church

This should be enough for discussion for now. The next part in this series will give an overview of the origins of religion.

Posted in Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Enlightenment Show releases 3 new episodes

Posted by Skeptigator on May 19, 2008

As many of you know some of our members, headed up by andyscathouse, produce a show for the local public access channels. To further promote their efforts we have been uploading these videos to our site and embedding them, along with show notes, on The Enlightenment Show’s page.

I have just finished uploading and embedding the next 3 videos.

I have also configured our “channel” on’s website and their video player is much better than what WordPress allows us to do,

The next 3 episodes feature special guest Reba Boyd Wooden and are as follows,

  • Episode 5, Ben Stein fails science class, part 1.
  • Episode 6, Ben Stein fails science class, part 2.
  • Episode 7, All about the Center for Inquiry – Indiana.

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Local, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ben Stein and The Descent of Man = quote mining

Posted by Andy D. on April 28, 2008

I am preparing some slides for The Enlightenment Show which we are shooting next Sunday. Mark and I saw the movie on Sat. There were about ten folks in the theater, (noon showing). I will talk on the whole movie later but first everyone should see this. (Steve Mirskey and John Rennie at Scientific American first pointed this out) I think it is easier to see in the two pics below.

In the first slide, I am showing Ben Stein’s voiceover as he was walking to Holocaust sites. Ben states the quote and then reveals the vile author as CHARLES DARWIN before going into the horror areas. (He doesn’t reveal the source as The Descent of Man perhaps in hope that we won’t look it up?) The quote is surprisingly missing a lot of information. In a way, I think Ben is practicing in his own form of Holocaust denial. He won’t look at the racism for what it was and instead he turns on science. Ben is an economist and he went to Yale so surely his scholarship would be excellent? Either he is a complete fraud or he is incompetent by blindly relying on his ideological producers and not checking their sources. The very next sentence and paragraph says the exact opposite of what they are trying to imply! Darwin thought it would be overwhelmingly evil to unprotect the weak and it would be against our most noblest nature! Stein and fellows are fraudulent and are praticising propanda not that unlike the Nazis… Shame on you Stein. (This is available on Search for asylums) Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I added the formatting to show what Ben cut.

BTW: None of this says anything about science or gives any credibility to intelligent design. It does show what a great thinker Charles Darwin was….

This is from Jacob Bronowski – The Ascent of Man. Science is admitting we don’t know everything and is anti-dogmatic by being grounded in evidence. I saw this on PZ Meyer’s Blog.

Posted in Religion, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Arguing Against Arguments Against Evolution

Posted by dystressed on April 19, 2008

PZ Myers has found another creationist who is spreading misinformation.

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