Tag Archives: sex

Religious Freedom By Popular Vote

Polls from Fox News and CNN indicate that around 60% to 70% of Americans disapprove of an Islamic community center being built in New York, blocks from Ground Zero.  A followup Gallup poll, though, shows 65% of Americans have only heard a fair amount, a little, or nothing at all about the issue.

Either way, I find it disturbing. The majority of Americans either think their petty sense of emotional outrage is more valuable than an unambiguous right of religious freedom, or they are opinionated on an issue they are not completely familiar with. The media has gleefully fanned the flames without clarifying the facts.

Yes,” I hear the critics of the Islamic community center say, “we all have religious freedom.”

But,” they add, “you should be polite enough not to use it when it offends us.”

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Secular Time Travelers

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Culture Warfare

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

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Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Faith By Any Other Name Is Just As Empty

In a Newsweek opinion peice from September 27th, writer Lisa Miller, “argues against the atheists”. The column is called “Belief Watch”, and Miller’s apologetic scribblings do the vacuous nature of religious belief complete justice. She begins by arguing that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are unfamiliar with real believers.

First, if 90-odd percent of Americans say they believe in God, it’s unhelpful to dismiss them as silly. Second, when they check that “believe in God” box, a great many people are not talking about the God the atheists rail against—a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs, who lays down inexplicable laws about sex and diet, punishes violators with the stinking fires of hell and raises the fleshly bodies of the dead.

When over fifty percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, what are we atheists supposed to think? If we include all Christians worldwide, particularly the ones in poorer Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nations, the percentage is probably much higher. This doesn’t take into account the non-democratic Islamic nations, where Western ideas are spat upon, and where basic education is limited to males, and where people are threatened into believing in the all-powerful Allah. So, the actual number of believers in an angry, vengeful, and intervening god is probably much much higher than even Lisa Miller cares to imagine.

Apologetics is a form of faith; it’s faith in faith. Miller finishes her paper-thin argument by hauling in the invisible sacred cow.

Submitting faith to proof is absurd. Reason defines one kind of reality (what we know); faith defines another (what we don’t know). Reasonable believers can live with both at once.

Reasonable believers? Can reason and faith coexist? And how can faith define the unknown? Isn’t the unknown, by its very definition, indefinable? Here, Miller’s mental gymnastics are Olympic quality. And most believers would likely take great offense to her reducing their unshakable faith to an algebraic X. Personally, I prefer to think of all faith simply as a Y.

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Top 15 Visitor Complaints Received By The Kentucky Creation Museum

Creation Museum

Creation Museum

15. Intelligent Design video game didn’t count toward college credit as promised

14. Line for Richard Dawkins piñata too long

13. Kirk Cameron wouldn’t stop hugging me, even after my wife complained

12. Social-Darwinism lecture hit too close to home

11. Animatronic Einstein sounded identical to animatronic Fred Flintstone. Or was it the other way round?

10. Snack bar ran out of the Ken Ham & Cheese Sub. Had to order the Duane Gish Knish. It was stale.

9. Ray Comfort’s banana demonstration was inappropriate for children

8. Gift shop charged extra for framing creation science degree. Signed, Chuck Norris, PhD.

7. Price of admission didn’t include ride on “Skippy: The Friendly Dinosaur”

6. Sciency DNA exhibit made my brain hurt

5. Sciency Noah’s Ark exhibit made my brain hurt

4. Kent Hovind was seen standing between Adam & Eve statues

3. My child didn’t receive free “God Hates Evilutionists” t-shirt

2. Charles Darwin look-alike complained when I hit him

1. Jesus-shaped bathroom soap gave me a Jesus-shaped rash





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Edu-macating Canada… Hey!

Museum Of Horrors

Little Museum Of Canadian Horrors

According to a new poll, about 58% of Canadians accept evolution while 22% think the human race was “created in their present form within the last 10,000 years”. The rest are unsure. What’s surprising is that the frozen, bacon munchers to the north are only slightly more scientifically literate than Americans. (A previous poll indicated 53% of Americans accept evolution). That 5% difference adds up to America having a $27 million dollar creation museum while Canada has a shack. But don’t despair, both American and Canadian Creationists use the same hackneyed arguments to support their pseudo-scientific nonsense. All the money in the world can’t pollish a turd.       

P.S. A visitor to the Canadian shack is quoted as actually saying, “We drove 2,000 kilometers to come see this museum.” Even if the price of a gallon of gas were 10 cents it wouldn’t have been worth it.

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Filed under Trawling For Creationism

The Discovery Institute’s Hoopla Machine

Casey Luskin insists the Discovery Institute is a secular think tank. And he says it with a straight face.

What is it about the spreading of pseudo-science that makes reasonable people cringe and gag? One characteristic is surely the introduction of religious / political thinking into discussions of fact. The natural world simply is. If it upsets our human sensibilities, too freaking bad for us. When a bull shark bites a potential food item (a human leg, perhaps), it is being neither good nor evil; it’s simply hungry and inquisitive. It’s nothing personal. Thus, describing the natural world is best accomplished through observations of what is, not through contemplation of how things should be. Blaming Darwinism for the Holocaust, communism, capitalism, rock ‘n roll music, abortion, racism, moral relativism, and the general decay of Western society is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether or not evolution by natural selection is a valid explanation for observed evolutionary change on planet Earth. What is and what ought to be are two distinct questions.

But throw a rock at the Discovery Institute and you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist or a lawyer than an actual scientist. For example, Casey Luskin, an attorney with the DI, blogs to his fellow intelligent designers about the “it’s just a theory” argument.

Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution “just a theory, not a fact.” The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The “evolution is just a theory, not a fact” phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don’t follow the issue very closely.

But most creationists do use the argument, endlessly. They also use the “intelligent designer” and “irreducible complexity” arguments. The fact is that intelligent design creationists are a small minority. Polls indicate that most American creationists are of the Old Earth variety. And I think the Discovery Institute knows this full well. Isn’t it really all about talking points, ones the DI can easily disseminate, and ones the general public can easily digest and regurgitate, regardless of the scientific facts?

Casey Luskins also lists his scientific qualifications:

Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism.

Fine, be a skeptic, Luskin. But are you as skeptical about intelligent design? Have you taken a dozen courses covering intelligent design at the undergraduate and graduate level? No, because intelligent design isn’t a science, and it can be pretty well summed up in a single 15 minute lecture. ID is a vague conclusion, not an explanation. The only thing propping it up is a propaganda machine. And all the whining in the world about “morals”, “culture”, and “academic freedom” isn’t going to polish the ID turd. The Discovery Institute calls itself the “Center for Science and Culture”. But it really should choose one or the other, “science” or “culture”, not both. Let “ought” and “is” be distinct; life works so much better when our desires don’t cloud our judgment of reality.

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