10 July 2010

Chrissy Uttering Nonsense Typically: My Open Letter to Chrissy Satterfield

Dear Chrissy,
P.Z. Myers recently hipped me to your column (through his blog, I don't know the man) which you quaintly call, "A Dose of Honesty." While your latest column may indeed represent you and your feelings honestly it fails on so many levels to appreciate the US constitution, and the basic rule of law. I'm not sure what you learned in your career at CSU but consistency, logic, the ability to craft a cogent argument certainly seems to have slipped through the cracks. Like so very many theocrats though, you dislike other's rights if they use them to argue against positions you hold dear. And like so many other fascists you endorse the childish thing, which is one form of bullying or another.

The North Carolina Atheist and Agnostics took the legally protected course. They excersized their right of free speech, purchased time on a billboard (no cheap endeavor, costing often thousands of dollars) and advanced an argument for the US they ant to see. You may disagree with the ommission of "Under God" but instead of seeing the broader message, which was also an argument for great unity among the citizenry, you approve of lawless infringement of free speech. Do you think as a Christian you are above the law? Do you think sneaking around, and hiding after such an act demonstrates bravery? This wasn't civil disobediance, this was simply criminal cowardice, but since these cowards agree with you I guess you think that makes it alright. You must because you say (without a hint of apology):

Just when I start believing there is no hope for our country I get a little reminder from my God that all is not lost. It was reported June 29 that a billboard sign sponsored by a North Carolina atheist organization had been vandalized. The ad reads, "One Nation Indivisible." It seems someone didn't think the sign was an accurate depiction of our Pledge of Allegiance, so the vandals inserted "Under God" with spray paint – and I couldn't be more relieved. It's nice to know that I am not alone in my beliefs and that some people are still willing to stand on the right side of truth.

The Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s also failed to say "Under God." But that is really neither here nor there. I'm shocked at your sense of relief though. I mean it appears that you think your only recourse to the arguments of atheists is vandalism, or some other infringement of free speech. That you can possibly think, as a believer, that you are alone is almost irrefutable proof of the break you have taken from reality. You are hardly alone as any demographic study will show. Christianity is hardly an oppressed minority in this country. It isn't even an oppressed majority. I understand your dissappointment that we don't live under a Christian Theocracy, but almost all US politicians profess membership in one Christian sect or another. At the very least they claim some faith position. I think there is only one open atheist representative at the federal level. The Obama administration is in fact defending the National Day of Prayer. It is sad that vandals and cowards seem to be the only ones able to bring you relief when so many other things should make you almost giddy with relief at the religiousity of the US. Nor are your vandal heroes standing on the right side of truth. That would require them to be honest from the start. Does standing up for the truth begin with infringing on someone else's rights? I think that is an important question you should ask yourself before you go lionizing criminals.

You have no idea how this country works it appears, though you might fit right in as enforcer for radical imams and mullahs. We can see your fundamental disdain for the US Constitution, and specifically your radical hatred of the 1st Ammendment in the following.

Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I'll let it slide. Atheists have been vandalizing my beliefs for years, so it's about time the shoe was on the other foot. When asked about the vandalism, William Warren, the spokesman for Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics, said, "It was done by one or two people off on their own who decided their only recourse was vandalism rather than having a conversation." Hmm. That's interesting, because the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics felt its only recourse was to deliberately insult those who understand the importance of "Under God." They probably figured that because the Bible teaches Christians to turn the other cheek, we'll just take their abuse forever. We will only take so much before we stand up against our oppressors. Besides, I can't count how many times an atheist and I have had a "conversation." They're not as calm and passive as Warren suggests.

It is hard to know where to begin. Criticism, and even ridicule of ideas isn't vandalism. It does no harm to you or your property however much it may affect the state of your rather excitable mind. If I say, through a billboard, or in passing conversation, that it might be better if we returned to a more secular and inclusive version of the Pledge, if we are to have one at all, whatever I have done, I haven't limited your ability to counter that statement with a billboard or other argument. The vandals you so love have directly impeded on the free speech of others, and cost them no small amount of money to boot. So the shoe as you put isn't even close to on the other foot. My disagreement with you about the ontogeny of the universe hasn't cost you any money, or property, nor limited your ability to express a contrary opinion. If your heroes really wanted to take a stand, they could have written arguments in the editorial pages of the papers, they could have gathered funds to put up their own billboard. This type of engagement, the "conversation" to which William Warren was referring, was it just too much trouble? And the call to respect the rights of others, was that just too onerous a burden? It must have been for your vandal heroes.

It should also be noted that the phrase, One Nation, Indivisible is in no way an insult to anyone. It was infact the original phrasing prior to the crazyness of the McCarthy era, and hearkened back to the seniment of the original, and vastly better national motto, E Pluribus Unum (go look it up). In the hands of the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics it also took the form of a short argument for unity inspite of our many sectarian and political differences. If you think that Under God is so important to the pledge, the fora available to your opponents is also available to you, a fact to which myriad Christian signage from coast to coast attests. You might also note that Christian signs vastly outnumber atheist/agnostic signs, which should give you pause when you talk about your oppression.

And that brings me to my next point. It is probably safe to say that Jesus' admonition to turn the other cheek never, never, ever factored into any atheist or agnostic's decision to put up a sign, write an editorial, offer a critique, or ridicule a religious idea. The only assumption that most of us make is that you will simply utilize the same tools of rhetoric, logic, evidence, and media that we will. What we don't expect are criminal tactics. I guess if you have your way, it may be necessary to alter said expectations.

The horrifying conclusion to your endorsement of violence (of which vandalism is a form) succeeds in actually making me sick to my stomach. You say what I would never, and could never say. I find most Christian billboard hilarious, silly, logically flawed, scientifically flawed, philosophically flawed, and sometimes gramatically flawed, but I would never support any such criminal act to limit the free expression of either the sponsoring group's speech or religion. Certainly I may oppose the ideas contained therein, but in the arena of ideas. But such discourse must make you uneasy because you clearly are having none of it.

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the man or woman responsible for this vandalism. I appreciate the action you took. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone. It took a lot of guts to do what you did – and the fact that you haven't stepped forward to take credit makes you a hero. It shows everyone that you are more devoted to the message than you are to the spotlight. I encourage you to keep your cover. Don't give the secular world a reason to call your name; instead, let them call for our God.

I also need to extend a thank-you to some people in Sacramento and Detroit. In February, 10 atheist billboards were defaced in the Golden State and a slew of atheist bus ads were vandalized in Detroit. My dose of honesty this week: I am not happy that vandalism seems to be the only way to get an atheist's attention. I'm happy that I can count on other Christians to stand up for themselves and for Christians everywhere. It gives me hope.

The fact that they haven't stepped forward means they lack integrity and courage. It is sad that you fail to see that rights have been infriged upon. There is no principled opposition on display here. This is simply hoping to not get caught. There is only one message here and it is simply this. Only I, Christian Vandal, have First Ammendment rights. Do you really think this kind of cowardly act will cause people who support secularism (as the majority of our founding fathers did) to call for your god?

That you think vandalism, read violence, is the only way to deal with what is clearly a minorty view point says a great deal about the very merits you think your argument has. You fail to realize, or maybe you do realize it, that your entire "Dose of Honesty" seems to say that it is okay to utilize criminal means to silence an unwelcome argument.

I suppose it is an old story though. The behavior of those who imagine themselves backed by god is often atrocious, barbaric and deeply inhumane.

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04 July 2010

Biologos: Useless, but well funded, nonsense.

Biologos, brainchild of the Christ smitten Frances Collins, seeks to demonstrate that science and faith are not only compatable but integral to each other. Their mission statement is a useful guide that illustrates the character of the organization. I will not be surprising anyone when I say that I think this mission statement reveals a deeply flawed research program to serve its odd goals. The goals being to preserve the conclusions of an ancient, parochial religion (and only a very specific religion at that, Christianity), as well as justify their very specific and minority faith based perspectives, all of which are simply untenable after nearly five hundred years of scientific advancements.

The essence of the Biologos argument is simply to parade well creditialled people who hold positions for which they have no evidence in an effort to make the whole process seem intellecutally justifiable and respectable. For instance nearly everyone at Biologos believes in a literally ressurected Jesus. They seem to think that this position is perfectly compatible with science. It is not. There isn't a shred of historical evidence for it, and we can be generally quite confident in the fact that people as a general rule do not return from the dead. So what must a conscientious science minded person think? Can a scientific mind hold the resurrection story consistent with the known facts? Or must such a mind hold that the story is simply wrong, a statistically, physiologically unlikely event, and historically unsubstantiated one to boot? It seems that the facts, as currently known must make us incredibly skeptical of the position. At Biologos they have made the wedding of credulousness with intelligence an industry.

From the Biologos mission statement:
The BioLogos Foundation is a group of Christians, many of whom are professional scientists, biblical scholars, philosophers, theologians, pastors, and educators, who are concerned about the long history of disharmony between the findings of science and large sectors of the Christian faith. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation. Founded by Dr. Francis Collins, BioLogos addresses the escalating culture war between science and faith, promoting dialog and exploring the harmony between the two. We are committed to helping the church – and students, in particular – develop worldviews that embrace both of these complex belief structures, and that allow science and faith to co-exist peacefully.

BioLogos represents the harmony of science and faith. It addresses the central themes of science and religion and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life. To communicate this message to the general public and add to the ongoing dialog, The BioLogos Foundation created The BioLogos Forum at www.biologos.org.

Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the Forum is a reliable source of scholarly thought on contemporary issues in science and faith. It highlights the compatibility of modern science with traditional Christian beliefs. The BioLogos Forum features responses to a myriad of questions received by Collins, author of "The Language of God", Karl Giberson, author of "Saving Darwin", and Darrel Falk, author of "Coming to Peace With Science" since the publication of their books.

The bold face indicates every thing that is wrong with Biologos. The fundemental flaw is procedeing from the a priori conclusion, and then assuming the facts favor the conclusion. Oodles of ink is then spilled in the service of dubious, obscurantist, and always baseless, but very shifty, pontifications about what God means when he says X in his inspired word. They already believe the bible is the word of God, and everything they do after is an effort to bolster that position. If there is a more intellectually dishonest pursuit, I've not yet read or heard of it. The whole endeavor reminds me of Michael Shermers trenchent observation about smart people. That observation was the smart people are very good at coming up with reasons for continuing to believe things they were taught for dumb reasons.

Here is a sampling of the Biologos content.
"Are we more than just bodies?" Yes according to Biologos. No evidence for this conclusion is provided.

"The Danger of Preaching Genesis." Should it be suggested that Genesis is a metaphor, or is best viewed as a metaphor? No, at least not from the pulpit because it might be too much for the poor uneducated masses that would then ask questions about other bits of doctrine. ("one must avoid being dismissive or derisive of those who do hold to a literalist view of Genesis because for some, reconsidering the traditional creation narrative introduces questions to which they are unsure of how to respond. Many with this viewpoint feel that if Genesis can’t be understood in straightforward terms, then we cannot know how to read the story of the Resurrection—as a historical account, or simply as a metaphor? Questions like this have the potential to cause them to wonder if they must now question the whole truth of Scripture." It would be hard to beat that for condescension.)

"Miracles and Science Part 1 and Part 2."
Here Biologos blogger, Ard Louis endeavors to justify his belief in a literal interpretation of biblical miracles with science. What comes out is a very nearly miraculous demonstration of compartmentalization. Very nearly but not quite. It essentially seems to say that since science cannot know everything, it is quite okay to hold positions that have no evidence to support them, and that holding said positions is perfectly rational even though it may be unscientific.

"Adam and Eve, literal, or literary?" This article on the place of Adam and Eve and their place in the modern age, replete with links to several other essays on the same topic, is a stunning example of how those at Biologos are really unconcerned with reconciling faith and science, and more about giving each other the space to believe the preposterous. From this essay we get this gem,
Whether specially created or specially selected, humans constitute an interruption in the evolutionary process. Before people showed up, evolution’s potential pathways were invisible. But once humans appear, human volition entered with it. The human capacity to choose replaced randomness with intentionality. We have developed enough mastery over our environment (Genesis 1:28) that natural selection, in the strict Darwinian sense, no longer really applies to us.

To which one might respond (as indeed Christopher Hitchens sometimes does), "What can be advanced without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."

If you are unfamiliar with Biologos, clicking on the title of this entry will take you, with speed, to the tedium, confusion, and hubris that reigns in every almost every article.

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