• Blog Categories

  • del.icio.us links

Science Minister Equates Evolution and Religion

With a title like “Minister of State for Science and Technology”, it’s no wonder that Gary Goodyear thinks acceptance of evolution should be a matter of religious conviction. When asked about evolution, Gary had this to say:

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,”

Mr Goodyear eventually clarified his position, when he realized how many people this upset:

“We are evolving every year, every decade. That’s a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

Notice he never acknowledges macroevolution, only microevolution. Clever…a lot of people will miss that. If I were able to ask Mr. Goodyear one question, it would be this: “Is clinical acupuncture based on science or religion?”.

As a chiropractor who specialized in acupuncture, my guess is that he would say “Science”, even though the field is still heavily dependent on traditional Chinese metaphysics. While I’d be the first to accept that traditional methods of finding truth and value are important, I’d be the first challenge a statement that these sorts of things are scientific. By definition, they are not.

acupuncture

It’s not that controversial to label accupuncture a pseudoscience, though it has well demonstrated effects on pain. In its current formulation it’s pretty much based on Qi, (pronounced chee) “flows of energy” that are around and in all living things. While I’m not going to debate whether or not something like this exists (I think it does), these flows are not quantifiable, we haven’t observed them, and we can’t make any predictions based on them.

While acupuncture seems to work, we can’t claim to know HOW it works. Qi is undoubtedly philosophy, and as far as accupuncture relies on Qi it is simply eastern philosophy and pseudoscience.

But is EVOLUTION pseudoscience? There is consensus on this in the scientific community; and that is “No, evolution is NOT pseudoscience. And stop calling it ‘Darwinism’!'” They would know, and they can back it up. It’s science!

gn02_18

Like Gary, I was taught that belief in Darwinism was a matter of religious or philosophical conviction. And I accepted that at first, until I really started researching the matter. What I found stunned me; evolution was undoubtably scientific. It’s observable right now as well as forensically, it’s quantifiable (expressed algorithmically), and it makes predictions about the world that can be verified. And those predictions HAVE been verified, over and over again, to the point where it’s a contender for one of the “superb” scientific theories, right below general relativity and the standard model of quantum mechanics.

“Into the SUPERB category must go all those I have been discussing in the paragraphs preceding this one [that is, relativity – both varieties – and quantum mechanics]. To qualify as SUPERB, I do not deem it necessary that the theory should apply without refutation to the phenomena of the world, but I do require that the range and accuracy with which it applies should, in some appropriate sense, be _phenomenal_. The way that I am using the term `superb’, it is an extraordinary remarkable fact that there are any theories in this category at all! I am not aware of any basic theory in any other science which could properly enter this category. Perhaps the theory of natural selection, as proposed by Darwin and Wallace, comes closest, but it is still some way off.” Penrose in “Emperor’s New Mind” (Highly recommended!)

Even as general relatively and quantum mechanics do, evolution has problems. There are BIG, glaring holes in it, as there is in EVERY SINGLE scientific theory. But that’s not why Mr. Goodyear doubts macroevolution. Mr Goodyear has inadvertently made it plain he doubts evolution because of his religious beliefs. IE; he believes that Genesis is literally true, to one degree or another. He’s probably a creationist. And not the Roman Catholic kind; the Protestant kind.

gn03_01

I can find no reasonable response for this, as creationism is not subject to reason. But as Canada’s minister of science, Mr. Goodyear does not have the right to misrepresent science because of his personal religious views. Biology and genetics are INCREDIBLY important fields of study right now, and he does his country a great disservice to ignore the advances evolutionary theory has brought to these fields. If he must take this on faith, so be it; but his actions are important.

Furthermore, by making scientific claims based on religious values, he weakens his ability to make MORAL claims about science, which is where personal morality, ethics, and spirituality/religion are unquestionably important! To be more clear, one shouldn’t say they don’t believe in atomic fission because of their nonscientific convictions. That’s useless, it’s just burying your head in the sand. Instead, say that you don’t believe in atomic BOMBS because of moral, ethical and/or religious conviction!

Or DO believe in bombs, but you get my point, the decision what to do with technology and the meaning of life are more propoer fields for metaphysics and theology than the existence or nonexistence of specific scientific phenomenon.

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

To apply this to the theory of evolution. One should accept that natural selection is a fact, if the word “fact” is to mean anything. Besides, unless they are an evolutionary biologist, their opinion doesn’t mean squat anyway! We can certainly say religious conviction has NOTHING to do with the factual truth of scientific theories.

Instead, Goodyear could affirm science, while affirming God as the Primary Mover and the ultimate source of meaning. Instead he culd say, “Regardless of scientific facts, I believe God created us and loves us.” Or he could leave the religion part out completely, as he wanted to do in his first intervie!

Your call, Mr. Goodyear, but don’t misrepresent science. There’s enough of that as it is.

gn07_18

Economy: A Smoking Heap of Rubble

reverse_pillow_fighter

I wish I understood the economy better, but this quote terrifies me:

“Respectfully, you guys are totally misunderstanding something crucial in the AIG bailout: Derivatives claims are not stayed in bankruptcy. (Yet another brilliant innovation from the 2005 bankruptcy reform legislation.)

If AIG were to go down, derivatives counterparties would be able to seize cash/collateral while other creditors and claimants would have to stand by and wait. Depending on how aggressive the insurance regulators in the hundreds of jurisdictions AIG operates have been, the subsidiaries might or might not have enough cash to stay afloat. If policyholders at AIG and other insurance companies started to cancel/cash in policies, there would definitely not be enough cash to pay them. Insurers would be forced to liquidate portfolios of equities and bonds into a collapsing market.

In other words, I don’t think the fear was so much about the counterparties as about the smoking heap of rubble they would leave in their wake.” (via)

Smoking heap of rubble.  Yipes.  

I personally blame market deregulation, which lead to a blatantly FRAUDULENT valuation of derivatives.   Hopefully we now understand that an untamed market is like an untamed government; a dangerous lack of checks and balances.

Hopefully we can support a SUSTAINABLE relationship with our economy, one that doesn’t rely on cancerous exponential growth.  Maybe then we can develop some of these emerging markets  instead of exploiting them, managing our natural resources instead of exhausting them.

Because that would just be good business, in the long term.  Let’s make it good short term business as well; the market will adapt.

Polygamy in the Bible

I’ve been watching this amazing HBO television show called “Big Love”.   The main theme is Mormonism, particularly those who still practice polygamy (technically polygyny).   Bill Paxton (Nehhh) plays a polygamist raised on a fundamentalist Mormon, who leaves to compound to live in Salt Lake City with his three wives.  They are well assimilated into the 1950s culture of SLC, yet they are still deeply committed to “the principle”.

 The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, claimed to simply be following the literal word of scripture.

These days I tend to go to the Jewish sources for insights into the Old Testament.  Their page on polygamy is very informative.  The Bible regulates polygamy, but never forbids it.  A man was free to marry multiple wives, as long as he could support them, did not divorce  them, favor children from the 2nd wife over those of the 1st, etc. etc.   This is actually similar to how the Bible treats slavery, as something to be regulated instead of outright banned.

Polygamy and slavery regulated, shellfish and intercourse during menstruation banned.  Check.

Fast forward to the New Testament, which is strangely silent on the matter.   Like the Old Testament, the NT naturally expects a marriage to be between a man and a women.  But even in Jesus’ time many devout Jews had multiple wives, and Jesus never speaks against it.  Divorce, yes…Jesus forbids divorce.  But not polygamy.  Which is odd, considering how often Jesus is recorded speaking against the rich and powerful, the men most likely to be polygamists (Herod the Great had ten wives, for example…)

Paul is also silent on the matter.  One gets the idea he thought marriage was a necessary evil, only useful if the urges of the flesh become too stronge.  Paul is a Roman, though; and the Romans and the Greeks weren’t big on polygamy.  So perhaps he simply expected Christian men to marry zero to one wives.  

So these Mormons do have a valid point; nowhere does polygamy violate the letter of the law.  It certainly doesn’t laud it the way modern day polygamists do, but it is never explicitely forbidden.  The good Christians in black face who murdered Joseph Smith certainly felt it violated the SPIRIT of the law, though one could question just how pure their own spirits were.

Mormons didn’t give up polygamy until it was made a requirement for Utah to join union as the 45th state.  But they had a very timely and convenient change of heart, and polygamy was banned.  A pragmatic and necessary decision, though humilating.  Today, Mormons stand firmly against states being able to decide whether a marriage is between one man and one women or not.   I can’t help but feel this is ironic, and wonder if it is lost on them.

When asked why they supported Proposition 8 in California, invariably they would cite the Holy Bible.  The very same Bible that allows polygamy.  Check.

I do love “Big Love”, it is a well done show about a fascinating religious subculture.  The script is typical high quality HBO ( Six Feet Under, Sopranos, Deadwood).  The cast is great, and Bill Paxton doesn’t screw it up too bad.  I’m sympathetic to the characters, but in the end their ideals are unworkable.  Mainly because women aren’t allowed multiple husbands, and that’s just sexist.  Without that to balance things out the numbers just don’t add up, there wouldn’t be enough women to go around.

Oprah pwned by Anonymous

OMG, Anonymous pwned Oprah!  These loosely confederated Internets boys and girl have brought us such wonderful things as rickrolling (via duckroll), LOLCats, and pedobear, and the world is slowly becoming aware of their existence.

After all, they’re more than internet meme machines.  Earlier this week someone broke into Sarah Palin’s email box and posted some of the conent online.  And they busted this pervert, which is quite ironic considering what the prankster posted on Oprah’s message boards:

“It does not forgive, it does not forget, the group has over 9,000 penises, and they’re all r*ping children.”

Shudder.  Incredibly rude and horribly offensive, that’s Anonymous for you.  Who the heck is screening Oprah’s material?  She should have verified what she was repeating, someone with that much power should be especially careful!

We can easily determine this is an Anon posting through some amateur “higher criticism”:

  1. Anonymous’ infamous “Message to Scientology” video, which ended with this:

    Knowledge is free.
    We are Anonymous.
    We are Legion.
    We do not forgive.
    WE DO NOT FORGET.
    Expect us.

  2. The phrase “over 9,000” is an old intenet meme (something to do with DragonBall Z), and this caused at least one “news” organization to report that Anonymous have over 9,000 members in their “Internet Hate Machine” broadcast.
  3. The offensiveness of this statement is pure 4chan style; they always seek to shock even the most jaded.  These guys are direct decendents of those who created shock sites like goatse and tubgirl.

While of course I don’t condone this type of griefing, I can’t help but be amazed at their subversive abilities and their extensive impact on popular culture.  You might not even realize it, but I estimate that more popular internet memes have been spread by Anonymous than anyone else.

And to also be clear to all those news reporters out there: ANONYMOUS IS COMPLETELY DECENTRALIZED.  There is no “leader” of Anonymous.  There is no membership.  There is no formal ideology, and no website or spokesperson.  There is anon culture, but there is no centralized authority AT ALL.

Anyone who contacts you claiming to speak for Anonymous is LYING.  Anyone can claim to be anonymous, and the average Anon griefer can’t identify a single other member (or “hacker” as those woefully misguided “news” organizations keep insisting), except maybe a few friends.

If you truly wish to know about Anon you must “LURK MOAR, newfag!”

.

PS: NO, I am NOT a member of Anonymous, just someone who’s interested.  I don’t post anywhere they do, and I don’t participate in their Invasions in any way.  I like them, but I also find them completely offensive.  Fascinatingly offensive….

And as you can see, I use my real name instead of an alias, despite the very real chance of retaliation from those who I might offend (I’m Soorrry! :)   All I do is lurk sometimes, and write about it in my silly blog.  It’s like how I’m interested in Christian history and theology, so I write about it.  But I’m not a Christian, see?  Who knows, maybe I’ll write a book about Anon some day..

A Conservative for Obama

Here is an EXCELLENT article by Wick Allison, a former editor of the National Review.  Here’s why he says he’s now supporting Obama over McCain:

“Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.”

link.

Anon “Hacks” Sarah Palin, and it was easy!

The sorry state of online security is highlighted by this weeks announcement that Sarah Palin’s yahoo email was illegally accessed, and some of the content was pointed on 4chan.  Wired has the skinny:

“As detailed in the postings, the Palin hack didn’t require any real skill. Instead, the hacker simply reset Palin’s password using her birthdate, ZIP code and information about where she met her spouse — the security question on her Yahoo account, which was answered (Wasilla High) by a simple Google search.”

Groan.  So typical.  A third grade script kiddie with half a clue could do that!  All the “secret” information was widely available.  The interesting thing about this security model is, the more highly public the owner of the email is, the LESS secure it is.

BEWARE!

I’ve avoided talking about Sarah Palin for a number of reasons, the main reason being the high noise to signal ratio!  The social networking sites have been all over her, as there is little lost love on the internet for religious conservatives.  So yeah; LOTS of rumors flying around.

One thing is very clear, though; Palin is a died-in-the-wool Charismatic Evangelical, and McCain chose her SPECIFICALLY to get the religious conservative vote.  She talks the talk and walks the walk; there is little doubt that she is faking it.  She is a very “orthodox” example of this group, from her thoughts on abortion to her belief in Creationism.  She considers the Bible to be inerrant and infallible, and it is clear that her religious convictions WILL affect how she governs.

Now is certainly not the time to rehash thebattleground issues in the Culture Wars, but suffice to say that the addition of Palin as V.P. has turned things up a notch.  But the celebrity period is over, and Palin is rapidly loosing here burst of popularity as we speak.

I personally think McCain made a terrible mistake in choosing this women.  She is well respected by evangelicals, but they do NOT respect McCain, and so will be less likely to vote.   The reason it is a mistake is because she is a big turnoff to moderates who would have voted for McCain.  He will not gain enough evangelical votes to offset the moderate votes he will loose.

I hope.  Obama in ’08!

Dobson on Obama

The AP has an article out on what Dr. Dobson is saying about Obama. This might seem surprising, but Dr. Dobson is is VERY influential with the religious right voting bloc, and his endorsement would bring a lot of voters with it.

Of course, we know Dobson would never support Obama because of one issue…Abortion. The love child of Franky and Francis Schaeffer, abortion has become the number one political issue among evangelicals. Starving kids in Africa and dead babies in the rubble of Iraq don’t quite overcome this issue.

This is hard for me to understand; as someone who is pro-life in principle but votes pro-choice more often than not. This is because I feel that there are more important issues, frankly, ones that affect millions of children worldwide and in the US. The divisiveness and ideological purity of the anti-choice and pro-death movements have done this country a big disservice, in my opinion.

Anyway, instead I’ll ignore the elephant in the room, and focus on two comments Obama made about the Bible that Dobson took offense with.

The first is actually from the Hebrew Torah; the irony of which all parties appear to be oblivious of. Leviticus is a rather difficult book to read, but not for the reasons you might think. Leviticus contains the laws for the Priests, and the laws of Holiness (In a deeper irony still, Judaism doesn’t expect non-Jews to keep these types of laws).. These are very ornate, elaborate rules involving all aspects of life. Most Christians do not follow about 99% of Leviticus, as they think Jesus came to do away, err, I mean, “fulfill” Jewish Law.

One of the parts they do not follow is this:

Leviticus 19:19 “…Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with another sort; thou shalt not sow thy field with seed of two sorts; and a garment woven of two materials shall not come upon thee.”

Oops, I meant this one, more pertinent to Obama’s statement:

Leviticus 19:20 “And if a man lie with a woman for copulation, and she is a bondwoman betrothed to a husband, but not at all ransomed, nor hath freedom been given to her, there shall be a chastisement: they shall not be put to death, for she was not free.”

to answer your question, yes, this is about the proper chastisement for having sex with your BETROTHED slave (he needs to give a ram to the priests to sacrifice, btw. Duh!). There is no mention of the proper chastisement of a non-betrothed slave, which is actually a very important point of ancient tribal law related to women as property; one I can’t cover here.

Actually, Obama was probably talking about this doozy:

Leviticus 25:44 ” And as for thy bondman and thy handmaid whom thou shalt have — of the nations that are round about you, of them shall ye buy bondmen and handmaids.”

As a BLACK man in a WHITE culture that used to BUY and OWN BLACK “BONDSMAN”, I could see this passage troubling Obama. While Jewish slaves were set free after 7 years or so, non-Jewish slaves were slaves for life, and their children were slaves too, and their children, and their children. And the Bible only makes an exception for Jews. not cool.

Secondly, Obama talked about Jesus’ sermon on the mount; which actually IS Christian scripture, unlike the previous verses:

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed the meek, for *they* shall inherit the earth”

Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Until the heaven and the earth pass away, one iota or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all come to pass.”

Wait a minute, if Jesus said that heaven and earth would disappear before the laws of Moses would be changed, does this include the laws about owning only foreign slaves? One gets the idea that Jesus had other things in mind:

Jesus then says this: “But *I* say unto you, that every one that is lightly angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be subject to [be called before] the sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say, Fool, shall be subject to the penalty of the hell of fire.”

To be angry with your brother is enough to warrant death and eternal judgment. One can argue about this all night, but I actually think Jesus was using the tactic of making a law so terribly strict that it can never be practiced against anyone without causing injury to oneself. The author of John seems to think so:

“But when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up and said to them, Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Actually, Obama probably meant this:

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed the peace-makers, for *they* shall be called sons of God.”

I do not see how Dr. Dobson could be angry at using these scriptures in the context that they were supposed to be used in. Christianity was a very peaceful religion, at least up to the time it merged with Rome. Even today there are many anti-war Christian sects, like the Quakers. The message of peace and brotherly love is undeniably a part of Jesus’ message. More from the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:38-44

“Ye have heard that it has been said, Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But *I* say unto you, not to resist evil; but whoever shall strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other; and to him that would go to law with thee and take thy body coat, leave him thy cloak also. And whoever will compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. To him that asks of thee give, and from him that desires to borrow of thee turn not away. Ye have heard that it has been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But *I* say unto you, Love your enemies, [bless those who curse you,] do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who [insult you and] persecute you,”

Some would claim that it is ridiculous way for a nation to act; that Jesus only expected this within reason, or only for individuals, or only in heaven, not in the dramatic immediate way he presents it here. I remind these people that, if you believe the bible is infallible and perfect, that you are the ones denying the actual words of G-d through Moses and Jesus, not me or Obama. Dramatic hyperbole or not, Jesus meant to transform society. And Obama is right; this is not a goal our “defense” department is currently supporting at all.

I agree that we cannot always act like this, but I it is a good goal to have; one that makes us better even though we cannot attain it.