6.18.2011

Jesus-like People of Faith Rally to Oppose Anti-LGBT People of Faith in NC

Marriage = 1 obese man + 1 obese woman
On Friday, many kind, compassionate, and brave people of faith will gather in Charlotte, NC for a Faith Community Rally Against Homophobia & Transphobia. This is one of many events across the state to show the faith community's opposition to the anti-LGBT amendment currently being considered by North Carolina legislature.

After going blue in 2008, North Carolina has been experiencing a bit of a GOP backlash, with multiple culture war initiatives harking back to the days of Jesse Helms, an era that many had thought was over.

Last week, the NC Senate passed the poorly-named Women's Right to Know Act, which "requires women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion within which time they must view an ultrasound or listen to the heartbeat of the fetus and be given printed information about the risks that may be associated with the procedure." The bill should have been named the Woman's Loss of Rights Act.

The state senate also passed a Voter ID bill, requiring all voters to show a photo ID, and eliminating Sunday early voting and same-day registration. Guess which voter demographic is statistically more likely to not have a photo ID, and vote on Sundays after church? You're right.

The Senate has passed more bills recently that set the clock back on North Carolina, but getting back to the anti-LGBT legislation...

The bills, SB 106/HB 777, or the "We Hate Our LGBT North Carolinians Amendment," would amend the state constitution to include a new section that reads "Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."

Groups of religious folks who closely resemble their messiah in their attitudes and willingness to stand up for what's right will be protesting those folks who claim to be doing the Christian thing by yelling hateful, embarrassing things and denying the rights of human beings who are being who they are.

Many folks wrongly believe that this bill is only about the word "marriage." That is naive. NC Equality states:
"In addition to limiting marriage to opposite sex couples, as state statute already does, it would prohibit any other form of relationship recognition, such as civil union or domestic partnership. This kind of language has been used in other states to take away private benefits such as health insurance for LGBT couples, unmarried opposite-sex couples, and their children. This is a not a hypothetical issue but a very real one. These amendments have also been used to challenge other private contracts between couples. The amendment would not only write the current discriminatory marriage law into the constitution, it would actually take away rights and responsibilities that are currently available to some couples. Both versions [of the bill] effectively represent divisive, discriminatory and distracting legislation that would actively write discrimination into the state’s founding document by prohibiting some form of legal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples."

So, if you are in the Charlotte area, and you are one of the religious folks who actually love your neighbors, let yourself be heard.

From the Standing on the Side of Love press release:
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., several hundred people are planning to march on the sidewalks from the Charlotte Convention Center, where the Unitarian Universalist Association is holding its annual meeting, to gather for a 4:45 p.m. rally in Marshall Park that will feature local, national, and international clergy speaking out against proposed legislation that will marginalize and discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“Locally, some faith leaders are using religious arguments that demean the inherent worth and dignity of gays and lesbians in an effort to promote writing discrimination into our state constitution,” said Rev. Jay Leach, Sr. Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte. “This rally is an opportunity for us as religious leaders to demonstrate a climate of inclusion and acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families. Our faith calls us to stand on the side of love with LGBT people, and honor the challenges they face, no matter where they live.”

“Love is about embracing all people in our communities,” said Rev. Chris Ayers of Wedgewood Baptist Church. “As faith leaders, we have a moral responsibility to remind people that love knows no border, no gender, no race, and no religion.”


Rabbis Sentence Dog To Death By Stoning

Update (6/21/11): The Beth Din financial court has stated that the sentencing never occurred.

Via YNet:
A Jerusalem rabbinical court recently sentenced a wandering dog to death by stoning. The cruel sentence stemmed from the suspicion that the hound was the reincarnation of a famous secular lawyer, who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago.

Several weeks ago, according to the Behadrei Hadarim website, a large dog entered the Monetary Affairs Court near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. The dog scared the court's visitors and, to their surprise, refused to leave even after they attempted to drive him away.

One of the judges suddenly recalled that about 20 years ago, a famous secular lawyer who insulted the court was cursed by the panel of judges, who wished that his spirit would move on to the body of a dog (considered an impure animal by Halacha). The lawyer passed away several years ago.
Luckily, secularism won out. The dog managed to escape, and The Let the Animals Live organization filed a complaint with the police against the Rabbi.

6.17.2011

The GOP Hopefuls: Islamophobia, Hypocrisy, and the Politics of Fear

During the New Hampshire Republican debate, we heard from two potential candidates who were not at all shy about their reluctance to hire Muslims.

Herman Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, stated that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in his administration. Cain said, "You have peaceful Muslims and you have militant Muslims – those that are trying to kill us. And so when I said I wouldn't be comfortable I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us."

Cain was backing off from his previous statements to Scott Keyes of Think Progress. Keyes asked, "Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?" Cain answered emphatically: "No, I will not. And here's why. There is this creeping attempt...to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government."

Newt Gingrich jumped in with the following statement: "Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period." He continued: "We did this in dealing with the Nazis. We did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, 'No.'"

The first thing that strikes me as silly about this debate is the ridiculous hypocrisy. Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are not comfortable with Muslims in the administration because, in part, they don't want Islamic beliefs creeping into US law, or informing policy decisions. Yet, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are perfectly fine with their own supernatural beliefs creeping into US law and informing policy decision.

You can't have your pizza and eat it too.

According to Cain and Gingrich, and other GOP hopefuls, it is perfectly acceptable that the President of the United States claim that God chose them to lead the country, that God is the only entity that can give or take rights, and that an immortal soul enters the egg at the moment of conception, but it is entirely not okay if a cabinet member believes in Allah.

Right out of the gate, their comments show a complete disregard for the Constitution's No Religious Test Clause, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Religious tests, in this case would include asking an appointee if they were a Muslim.

The comments also show a complete disregard for the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Of course, all of this does not address the elephant in the room. Gingrich and Cain (and many other Americans, for that matter) believe that Muslims are out to kill Americans. It is true that Muslims have been behind attacks on Americans (here, and abroad). We can all agree that Muslims have killed Americans. Muslims will likely kill Americans again (as will Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics). But our constitution does not permit us to discriminate against all Muslims simply because some of them have harmed us in the past.

If you apply this logic to any other set of circumstances, it seems absurd. For example, we know, based on sex crime statistics that most child molestations are committed by men. However, knowing this, we can't discriminate against men, denying them jobs where they might be in contact with young children. What we can do in this situation is to take all constitutional and legal precautions to prevent the hiring of someone who might potentially harm these children, or who harmed children in the past. We can perform background checks, check references, conduct numerous interviews, and screen them in any way that is lawful and non-discriminatory. We do what we can do, and then we just have to have faith -- something Cain and Gingrich should know about -- that we have taken the appropriate measures to minimize risk.

We also have to remind ourselves that the remarks of Cain, Gingrich, and other Islamophobes are inflammatory and not reflective of reality.  Let's look at some statistics:

According to a recent study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, more non-Muslim Americans were involved in terrorist plots last year than Muslim Americans. There were also more than 20 terrorist plots by non-Muslims in the United States in 2010. Twenty Muslim Americans committed, or were arrested for, terrorist crimes last year, which was down sharply from 2009 when the number was 47.

What we ought to be worrying about is non-terrorism-related murder, if we want to protect Americans.  "Since 9/11, there have been approximately 150,000 murders in the United States, more than 15,000 per year," said the study.

With Muslims making up around one percent of the US population, "it is clear that Muslims are engaging in terrorism at a greater rate than non-Muslims -- though at a low level compared with overall violence in the United States."

Foiled attacks or involvement in a terrorist plot by Muslim Americans stand out because they garner so much media attention, "creating the impression -- perhaps unintentionally -- that Muslim American terrorism is more prevalent than it really is," the study said.

The study "puts into perspective the threat presented by domestic radicalization of Muslim Americans," said David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center.

"Americans should take note that these crimes are being perpetrated by a handful of people whose actions are denounced and rejected by virtually all the Muslims living in the United States," he said.

William Saleton, writing at Slate, describes Cain's Islamophobia as strikingly hypocritical, given his personal experiences with group exclusion:

Cain is familiar with this kind of group exclusion. It was done to him 60 years ago. He had to sit in the back of the bus and drink from "colored" water fountains. He graduated second in his high school class but was refused admission by the University of Georgia. It didn't matter how smart Cain was or how hard he worked. He was black, and the white society around him had decided that blacks were inferior. He was treated as a member of a group, not as an individual. In a word, he was prejudged.

Today, the Ku Klux Klan is still around, but its racism has become more sophisticated. It uses data. "The black male is the greatest perpetrator of both petty crimes and violent crimes in the black communities," says a Klan Web site. Even "Jesse Jackson said that when he's walking down the street at night and he hears footsteps behind him, he's relieved to turn around and see a white person instead of a black person." From this, the Klan concludes, "Minorities … as a people (though there are always exceptions to the rule) are incapable of maintaining or even comprehending the rule of law and order."

That's how prejudice works in the information age. You use statistical averages to generate stereotypes and ultimately to justify differential treatment of people by category.

This is what Cain is now doing to Muslims.

Newt Gingrich stated in the NH debate, "The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed – when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, 'You’re my enemy. I lied.'"

I believe Gingrich, on three occasions, swore to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do him part. So much for loyalty oaths.

Newt is out of his skull to believe that he is going to pull some Minority Report shit and preemptively filter out individuals who are going to do harm to the United States. If that were the case, we would have needed a way to prevent rich white men from being hired in presidential administrations. But that's discrimination, Newt, even if it might have saved thousands of American lives (we've lost almost 3 times as many Americans in these oil wars as we did on 9/11).

The Islamophobia of the GOP hopefuls recalls the same scare tactics they have used to rally voters for decades. This is our Red Scare. Like clockwork it crops up every election cycle, this fear of the unfamiliar.  If it's not Commies, it's the gays, or drugs, or illegal immigrants, or socialism, or the Black Panthers.  They use it because fear is visceral. Nothing gets people riled up like the fear that something is out to destroy their American way of life, especially if you can threaten their religion and their lives in one fell swoop. There is now a cottage industry in peddling the fear of Sharia Law, and Gingrich and Cain are in the thick of it.

The bottom line is, if we wish to preserve the freedom guaranteed by our constitution, there is some amount of risk that must be accepted. If we want to go down the road of discriminating against people based on their religious beliefs, then that's a slippery slope. Which beliefs are considered to be indicative of danger to America? And if we are to start equating religious beliefs with danger, I would argue that many Evangelical Christian beliefs are dangerous, and that we should not allow Evangelicals into positions in government administration.

Is it not dangerous enough that we had a President who made war decisions (which led to thousands of American deaths) based on Biblical prophecy?  Is it not dangerous that we have three potential Republican presidential candidates who have each claimed that God sent them messages encouraging them to run for president? Isn't it dangerous enough that Michele Bachmann believes that if the United States turns its back on Israel, "a curse" will be placed on the land, citing Genesis 12:3? Isn't it dangerous that Rick Santorum strongly believes that Intelligent Design should be taught in school, and that the "right to privacy...doesn’t exist in [his] opinion in the United States Constitution" when it comes to sexual behavior?

This bunch at the NH debate is in lockstep with the extreme Christian Right -- moreso than any group of candidates in history. Their concern about dangerous religious ideas infiltrating government is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

Wikipedia's Awesome List of Common Misconceptions

I'm fascinated with misconceptions. We all have them. We are gullible people, and if anything is true, it's the fact that if something is repeated enough times, it becomes "true" to us.

Obviously, the very nature of Wikipedia, which relies on the general public to keep its entries accurate, would seem a likely place to find misconceptions. (And we saw just recently that people will change entries to reflect some people's misconceptions.)

But if there are any pleasant surprises that came with the Internet age, it was the realization that a public-produced, and -policed online encyclopedia will be surprisingly accurate, fair, and ridiculously up-to-date. (And if you want a particularly bizarre meta experience, read the Wikipedia entry for Wikipedia.)

One particular page on Wikipedia that I find fascinating, as someone interested in mythology, human gullibility, and misinformation, is their entry called List of Common Misconceptions.

The list is divided into sections: History, Science, Sports, etc., and even the most self-assured will find something that they did not know.

Some notable entries that fall within the subject matter often covered on these pages (the below examples are truncated -- see the Wikipedia entry for full explanations):
  • The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is commonly assumed to be an apple, and is widely depicted as such in Western art, although the Bible does not identify what type of fruit it is. 
  • The historical Buddha was not obese. 
  • The Buddha is not a god. 
  • The Immaculate Conception is not synonymous with the virgin birth of Jesus, nor is it a supposed belief in the virgin birth of Mary, his mother. 
  • Nowhere in the Bible does it say exactly three magi came to visit the baby Jesus, nor that they were kings, rode on camels, or that their names were Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. 
  • The word "jihad" does not always mean "holy war"; literally, the word in Arabic means "struggle". 
  • A fatwā is a non-binding legal opinion issued by an Islamic scholar under Islamic law [it does not mean 'death sentence'] 
  • Vaccines do not cause autism. 
  • The word theory in the theory of evolution does not imply mainstream scientific doubt regarding its validity. 
  • Humans did not evolve from chimpanzees or any other modern-day primates. 
  • Evolution is not a progression from inferior to superior organisms, and it also does not necessarily result in an increase in complexity. 
  • Evolution does not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

And some random entries that are entertaining:
  • In ancient Rome, Romans did not build rooms called vomitoria in which to purge themselves after a meal. 
  • There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. 
  • Contrary to the popular image of the Pilgrim Fathers, the early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts did not dress in black, wear buckles, or wear black steeple hats. 
  • Marie Antoinette did not actually use the phrase "let them eat cake." 
  • George Washington did not have wooden teeth. 
  • The signing of the Declaration of Independence did not occur on July 4, 1776. 
  • Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work. 
  • Swallowed chewing gum does not take seven years to digest. 
  • It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. This is false. 
  • Lemmings do not engage in mass suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. 
  • The notion that goldfish have a memory span of just a few seconds is false. 
  • Bats are not blind. 
  • It is a common myth that an earthworm becomes two worms when cut in half. 
  • Poinsettias are not highly toxic. 
  • Sharks can actually suffer from cancer. 
  • It is not harmful to baby birds to pick them up and return them to their nests. 
  • Bulls are not enraged by the color red, used in capes by professional matadors. 
  • Eating less than an hour before swimming does not increase the risk of experiencing muscle cramps or drowning. 
  • The Coriolis effect does not determine the direction that water rotates in a bathtub drain or a flushing toilet. 
  • A penny dropped from the Empire State Building will not kill a person or crack the sidewalk. 
  • George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. 
  • Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. 
  • Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. 
  • Henry Ford did not invent either the automobile or the assembly line.
Of course, some of these entries could be misconceptions.

6.16.2011

Flying Spaghetti Monster Spotted Over Argentina

A carb-heavy apparition has been spotted in the Argentina skies. Could this be the source of recent Oregon church vandalism?



6.15.2011

The Batshit Files: News Roundup | 6.15.11

 A whole buttload of crazy:
  • Citing the Bible, a government recreational facility in Kentucky forced two gay males with developmental and intellectual disabilities to leave the premises. (KYEquality)
  • Family Research Council: Gay-straight alliances make kids unhealthy (Right Wing Watch)
  • Rick Perry says he's a prophet and that's why Texans don't like him much. (Houston Press)
  • American Family Association's Bryan Fischer: Gay adoption is a "social disaster." (Right Wing Watch)
  • More than 70,000 so-called "moral police" officers have been deployed in Tehran to enforce a government approved dress code. (Al Jazeera)
  • Rush Limbaugh is launching his own line of tea, featuring Limbaugh as Paul Revere on the label. (Raw Story)
  • Texas Republican says it is ‘very insulting’ to use Spanish in his presence. (Raw Story)


Atheists Reach Out To Assist Vandalized Churches

Two churches in Bend, Oregon were vandalized Sunday night.  Spray-painted graffiti on the exteriors of Westside Church and Christian Life Center reads, "Praise the FSM."

For the uninitiated, FSM is an acronym for The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the 'deity' of a parody religion which originated as a protest against the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to permit the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public schools. The idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was to illustrate the flimsiness of the decision. According to Bobby Henderson, the creator of the FSM, since the intelligent design movement uses ambiguous references to a designer, any conceivable entity may fulfill that role, including a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Since the FSM was introduced, it has grown in popularity, and has become a well-known Internet meme. There are books, bumper stickers, and shirts. The image has been embraced by atheists, agnostics, science geeks, and anyone who might oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools. For, as Thomas Jefferson said, "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."

The graffiti was obviously done by someone who understands the meme, and therefore it would make sense to assume it was done by an atheist. Since most atheists claim to live moral lives, and since they are already one of the most maligned groups in America, it was nice to see that atheists are stepping up to condemn the vandalism and to offer to pay for having the graffiti removed.

Obviously, the individual who did this does not represent the larger atheist/humanist community, where some of the biggest concerns are decreasing the amount of suffering in the world and ensuring that all living things are treated with respect -- and doing so without the aid of religion. This individual clearly did not show these concerns.

Hemant Mehta, who runs the blog Friendly Atheist, has started a campaign to raise the money to have the graffiti removed. I think it is a great gesture, and exactly what I have hoped that atheists/agnostics/humanists would do more of -- reaching out and creating relationships, and dialogues, with religious communities. Despite the differences in beliefs, most of us want the same thing -- to reduce suffering in the world, and to be free to believe as we wish, without interference from those who believe differently.

Please visit Hemant's site for more, or make a donation from this page. All money beyond the amount needed will be donated to the Foundation Beyond Belief.



Backsliding Life Expectancies: New Findings, Same Old Maps

Newly released research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington shows that women are dying earlier than they were a generation ago.  The research also shows that the United States is falling behind many more healthier nations -- Japan and Canada, for instance, are enjoying significant gains in life expectancy every year.  The maps that accompany the research, however, may not be so surprising.

Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME Director and paper co-author, stated: “Despite the fact that the US spends more per capita than any other nation on health, eight out of every 10 counties are not keeping pace in terms of health outcomes. That’s a staggering statistic.”

The IHME's research suggests that the main culprits are obesity, tobacco use, and other preventable risk factors, with people in Appalachia, the Deep South, and Northern Texas living the shortest lives.
Nationwide, women fare more poorly than men. The researchers found that women in 1,373 counties – about 40% of US counties – fell more than five years behind the nations with the best life expectancies. Men in about half as many counties – 661 total – fell that far.

Black men and women have lower life expectancies than white men and women in all counties. Life expectancy for black women ranges from 69.6 to 82.6 years, and for black men, from 59.4 to 77.2 years. In both cases, no counties are ahead of the international frontier, and some are more than 50 years behind. The researchers were not able to analyze other race categories because of low population levels in many counties.

Below are snapshots illustrating the findings.




These maps may look strikingly familiar. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where America's health, education, class, sense of well-being, political ideologies, and religious beliefs begin and end, or exactly how they influence one another. But we can't underestimate the degree to which these things affect one another, or how intricately, and uniquely, they are woven into the realities of American life.

I can tell you that I'm getting pretty tired of seeing that same map over and over again.

Glenn Beck's Jerusalem Rally To Restore Something Or Other


Via Ynet:
Tens of thousands of excited Israelis and Americans, music performances, appearances by local and international celebrities, senior politicians and a live broadcast that will reach millions of viewers – this is just some of what is in store for Glenn Beck's upcoming rally "to restore courage," which is set to take place on August 24 in Jerusalem. 

The staunch Christian Fox News personality aims to show support for Israel by recreating last August's rally "to restore honor," which he held in Washington, DC.

This year, the Wailing Wall will replace Lincoln Memorial as the backdrop for the event, which will take place at Jerusalem's Old City and the Teddy Stadium simultaneously.

The multi-million dollar production is expected to be attended by a convoy of American dignitaries, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. US Senator Joe Lieberman, a independent, and Republicans Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann are to join Beck at the rally as well. 

And if that's not enough:
A pyrotechnic show and free snacks and drinks are anticipated as well.
What exactly is Glenn Beck doing in Jerusalem? And what exactly is he restoring?

Well, two things.

Anetha Butler writes at Religion Dispatches:
Beck’s obsessions with Jews, from his attacks on George Soros, to his statement that Reform Judaism was like radical Islam, have brought the religious huckster condemnation and scorn. Beck wants to prove himself a true "friend" of Israel with this rally, but his relentless fear- mongering--along with his disappearing audience--suggest a more selfish motive.

Although a Mormon, Beck’s beliefs appear here to be more aligned with conservative Christian beliefs regarding the end-times, and a particular reading of the Book of Revelation that lends itself to raptures, dispensations, and popular culture depictions like Left Behind and a Thief in the Night. Unlike Harold Camping, who just wants his calculations to be correct for once, Beck wants to write himself into the latter days history, by staging a Jerusalem rally in which he invokes not Lincoln and King, like he did on the National Mall, but Moses.

Beck's latest venture is sure to draw a variety of Christian Zionists, his own supporters, and assorted end-timers, who all may get more of a show than they bargained for. Beck's statement, "I've been asked to stand in Jerusalem" suggests that he may be conflating his role with that of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3: "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1, 260 days, clothed in sackcloth." If Sarah Palin joins him in Jerusalem, you know what's coming.


6.14.2011

The 5 Most F'd Up Quotes From The NH Republican Candidate Debate

1. Herman Cain: "I would not be comfortable [hiring a Muslim] because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us. And so, when I said I wouldn't be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one."  
Ever heard of the 'No Religious Test Clause', Herman?

2. Michele Bachmann: "...Inalienable rights [are] given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take. And the first of those rights is life...I stand for life from conception until natural death."  
Excuse me, but you just threw up religion all over my shoes.

3. Newt Gingrich [re: hiring Muslims]: "Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. We did this in dealing with the Nazis. We did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, 'No.'"
Please see Mr. Cain and get back to me tomorrow with a report on the "No Religious Test Clause."

4. Rick Santorum: “I’ve not only taken a position, but I’ve taken a bullet for the pro-life movement.”  
Tell that to George Tiller.

5. Newt Gingrich: "Well, I helped author the Defense of Marriage Act."  
Just hilarious.

6.13.2011

Creationism Creeps Into Mainstream Geology

I am fairly vocal about my lack of patience for Young Earth Creationism.  There is a quote attributed to former US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that does a good job of crystallizing my issues with these folks: "You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts."

Often when I voice my concern about Young Earth Creationists and their beliefs, there are two common responses: 1) Nobody really believes that, do they? 2) Why does it matter if they want to believe that stuff?

First, yes, many people actually believe that the earth is between 5,000 and 10,000 years old and that human beings were created in their present form (Adam and Eve are, naturally, according to these folks, the universal ancestors of all humans).  Most of the time, the people who doubt that these people exist live in places like New York or Boston or San Francisco.  I invite them to come visit North Carolina sometime.   According to a Gallup poll in December 2010, approximately 40% of Americans believe in Young Earth Creationism, rising to over 50% among Republicans (but falling quickly as the level of education increases -- hmmmm).

Secondly, we should be greatly concerned that this many Americans are this misguided (or willfully ignorant, as the case may be).  This means that 40% of Americans a) do not grasp basic biology and geology concepts, and/or b) willfully ignore the evidence, as well as the not-at-all-controversial scientific consensus regarding the age of the earth. And only 700 out of 480,000 US earth and life scientists give any credence whatsoever to creationism.

Earth Magazine has an eye-opening piece about some covert ways in which Young Earth Creationism is seeping into areas usually reserved for actual science.  Young Earth Creationists are organizing "educational" science field trips. They are infiltrating science conventions (such as the annual Geological Society of America meeting). They are presenting 'scientific' posters and papers.

Their methods are dishonest and sketchy.

Earth Magazine describes one particular field trip:

Together with about 50 attendees, I attended field trip 409 at the GSA meeting last October. The trip took us from Denver, where the meeting was held, to the area surrounding Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. The point, according to the field trip guide, was “to observe and discuss the processes of sedimentation and tectonics at superb exposures near the Garden of the Gods.”

Many attendees seemed unaware of the backgrounds of the five trip co-leaders: Steve Austin, Marcus Ross, Tim Clarey, John Whitmore and Bill Hoesch. Austin is probably the most well-known; he is chair of the geology department at the Institute for Creation Research, which describes itself as the “leader in scientific research from a biblical perspective, conducting innovative laboratory and field research in the major disciplines of science.” Austin has been very active in promoting a Noah’s Flood interpretation of the geology of the Grand Canyon.

Ross is a former Discovery Institute fellow, currently an assistant professor of geology at Liberty University in Virginia (the self-proclaimed largest Christian university in the world). The University of Rhode Island granted him a doctorate in geology in 2006 even though he professed that Earth was at most 10,000 years old. Clarey is a geology professor at Delta College, a community college in Michigan. Whitmore is a geology professor at Cedarville University, a liberal arts Christian college in Ohio. Hoesch is a staff research geologist with the Institute for Creation Research.

During the trip, the leaders did not advertise their creationist views, but rather presented their credentials in a way that minimized their creationist affiliations. Austin introduced himself as a geologic consultant. Hoesch said he worked “in a small museum in the San Diego area” (referring to his job as curator of the Creation and Earth History Museum in Santee, Calif., which was founded by the Institute for Creation Research and is now operated by the Light and Life Foundation). Likewise, Whitmore did not offer that Cedarville’s official doctrinal statement declares, “We believe in the literal six-day account of creation” and requires that all faculty “must be born-again Christians” who “agree with our doctrinal statement.”

Furthermore, the field trip leaders were careful not to make overt creationist references. If the 50 or so field trip participants did not know the subtext and weren’t familiar with the field trip leaders, it’s quite possible that they never realized that the leaders endorsed geologic interpretations completely at odds with the scientific community

These folks know the deck is stacked against them. They know that the oceans of data supporting an old earth, evolutionary view crushes the sparse data they claim disproves this view. They are engaging in a dishonest, and desperate culture war designed to stealthily push their religious reverse-engineering as actual science to people who are seeking scientific information. It is their hope that if they can repeat the lies enough times to enough people then they can hold the inevitable at bay -- that evolution, and a 4.5 billion year-old earth, are completely at odds with a literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe that without a young earth, without Adam & Eve, and without The Great Flood, the whole house of cards falls apart.

They are wrong about evolution, they are wrong about the age of the earth, and they are wrong about these things being incompatible with religion. There are many who have accepted the overwhelming evidence without losing their religion.