Anti-Science Forces Try to Spin Loss

We wondered how the evolution-deniers would spin this disastrous end to their two-year campaign to insert bogus criticisms of evolution into Texas science instructional materials. Predictably, we didn’t have to wait long. They are absurdly claiming they somehow won.

The primary mouthpiece for the state’s anti-evolution lobby — the Texas-affiliate of Focus on the Family that calls itself Liberty Institute — tweeted this knee-slapper:

“Victory! SBOE unanimously votes to require changes to errors in science materials, related to evolution, before adoption.”

Since these folks don’t have a good grasp of what just happened, let’s review some facts here.

First, nine science supplements were just approved for use in Texas classrooms. All of those currently contain a complete, accurate treatment of evolution, free from any ideological propaganda questioning evolutionary science. The anti-evolution lobby threw in the towel on most of these, deciding to target only one — the submission from Holt McDougal — for criticism, relying on a list of bogus “errors” submitted by one creationist on the review panel. The others were approved without any changes that water down their coverage of evolution.

For the record, the Liberty Institute lobbyist yesterday testified that many of the science submissions contained multiple “errors” and failed to adequately cover the curriculum standards. From the Dallas Morning News:

Other testimony was offered by evolution critics, who contended that some of the high school biology materials did not comply with science curriculum standards adopted by the education board two years ago that called for high school students to study evidence challenging key principles of evolution.

“These materials need to match up with those standards [from 2009],” said Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute, citing the requirement that students examine “all sides” of evolution and other scientific theories.

Moreover, the same lobbyist also tweeted that there were 16 binders worth of “errors” in these submissions:

I guess those other submissions somehow magically corrected themselves overnight and those scores of “errors” Liberty Institute identified were fixed. Because otherwise, LI just declared complete “victory” after the adoption of products that are supposedly full of “errors.” And if they really achieved complete victory, perhaps Liberty Institute can show us where the newly adopted materials require students to “study evidence challenging key principles of evolution.”

As to the compromise struck on the Holt McDougal product, here’s the bottom line: that matter has been taken out of the hands of the State Board of Education and given to the Texas education commissioner and the professional staff of the Texas Education Agency. If the creationists on the board had held the votes necessary to insert anti-evolution propaganda into the materials, they would have done so. As soon as it became clear they did not have the eight votes necessary to accomplish this, they gave up. And the compromise of punting the issues with the Holt McDougal product to the commissioner afforded them a face-saving way to avoid a humiliating public vote.

In other words, the anti-evolution lobby failed in its primary objective and all of the materials approved by the board teach sound evolutionary science.

So what happens now? The education commissioner and TEA staff will work with Holt McDougal to make some revisions to a handful of brief passages in their submission. We’ll obviously have to remain vigilant to ensure any changes reflect mainstream science, but we see no reason why this process should result in the introduction of creationist propaganda into this submission. After all, the publisher has already refused to acquiesce to the demands of the creationist panel member, and unlike the anti-evolution politicians on the board, the commissioner and staff recognize the need for accurate, 21st-century science materials in Texas classrooms.

In short, creationist claims of “victory” today are absurd. This was a good day for public education in Texas.

61 thoughts on “Anti-Science Forces Try to Spin Loss

  1. More and more, it becomes accurate to call the creationists pathological. It’s just plain bizarre.

  2. Here are just a few comments from Charles:

    1) Congratulations to Kathy Miller, Dan Quinn, Jose, and the rest of the gang at Texas Freedom Network for leading this fight and winning it hands down.

    2) Congratulations to all of you TFN Insiders as well (Ben, Beverly, Coragyps, etc.), including the fine array of my fellow scientists who showed up here to post. I think everyone contributed to this victory. However, I have a proviso here for TFN and everyone else. The price of “freedom” and the preservation of “factual truth” really is eternal vigilance. When the extremist conservatives on the Kansas State Board of Education were booted out in a general election about 6 years ago, everyone recognized the need to keep hammering even after victory was attained. Enjoy the victory, but DO NOT put your hammers back in the tool box.

    3) I think we need to be charitable and magnanimous towards the defeated. They put up an enormous battle with some of the most amazing lies, deceit, and “dirty tricks” I have ever seen. It was amazing to me that so-called “true” Christians could cross the line into behaving that way. Nonetheless, congratulations on a hard fought campaign.

    4) With regard to you people who are Christian Neo-Fundamentalists and extreme right Evangelicals, I hope you have learned a lesson here. That lesson is simple. The United States of America is a free country, and you are free to hold and practice whatever religious beliefs you may have. You are free to express those beliefs by reasonable means to the same degree that every other religious group does. However, you are not free to grab power in government institutions and use it impose your beliefs on other people by law, regulations, and official standards. You cannot legislate another human being’s conscience because it is solely his or her own—between them and God alone. This is an old Baptist principle that goes all the way back to colonial preacher Roger Williams in the 1600s. It is referred to in the church by the technical terms “soul freedom” and “priesthood of the believer.” It also goes back to the Apostle Paul in Romans 14. You cannot force other people to believe and behave exactly as you do on reasonable matters of conscience. Even God the Father himself does not do that, so it is a mystery to me why you think that you can step across a spiritual line that even God has drawn for himself. Therefore, it should be no surprise to you that this defeat has come.

    5) Mainline Christianity is becoming activated against the excesses and follies of Christian Neo-Fundamentalism and extremist right Evangelicalism—and its followers. It is beginning to speak out boldly against them in diverse public forums nationwide. I see it everywhere on television news, movies, books, newspapers, magazines, Internet articles, Internet forums, and organizations such as TFN. It is a growing Christian chorus with a single voice that says, “These people are just plain nuts, and someone has got to stop them.” The heady old days when right wing religious extremists could pretend publicly that they represent “all of Christendom” are gone. Christian people and other people of balance, sensibility, and truth are confronting and exposing their lies and excesses in public, and people are beginning to listen to them. It is easy to shoot an unarmed man, but it is another matter entirely to confront someone with the means to shoot back. Their free ride is over. They have a real fight on their hands now.

    6) We may not know precisely how life on Earth was first brought into existence, but we do know through settled science that Darwin was largely correct about evolution and natural selection. Macroevolution, microevolution, and natural selection are biological facts, and they are here to stay because truth always wins out in the end—even factual truth. Speaking as a Christian, all truth is God’s truth. As the Bible says, “The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” That means that evolution and natural selection belong to God and are part of his creative processes in the biological realm. They belong to Jesus. Period.

    7) Finally, I do earnestly pray that Christian fundamentalists and people with no religious commitment will not view the existence of evolution as a reason to reject Jesus. The problem is not Jesus, evolution, or legitimate science. The problem is that a group of fallible and all too human preachers has chosen to believe all too humanly that the Bible is “inerrant,” simplistic, and literal in all of its text. The Bible does not claim these three things for itself. They are things that sinful and fallible human beings have imposed upon the Bible from the outside. It is not God that is in error. It is these fallible human beings that are in error about the Bible and how it should be read and understood. Therefore, if you feel the need to reject something, reject the errors of these men just as you would the error of a man who slashed the tires on your car. Forgive them for what they have done to the Bible and you. Hold tightly to the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and allow them to dispel the false teachings you have received and replace them with their true selves and their love. You will never be sorry. Open yourself up to the message of God’s love, a message that these fallible men have tried to destroy but never will. The Holy Spirit is a flame that never dies. Men may try to snuff it in one corner of life and feel momentarily confident that it is out for good— only to see it reappear a moment later in another corner.

  3. Is this just how the game is played, by every side?

    If TFN was on the losing side, would they try to spin it as a victory? Consider this:

    In this press release from March 2009, Kathy Miller says:

    Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

    As a social studies person, I like seeing how this system works. What the gang of 7 tried to do in 2009 is something that requires a long enough period of time to consummate that the public has a chance to vote between the initial policy decision and the subsequent implementation.

    And that has made the difference.

  4. Ben.

    It might actually be better to describe them as “creative.” It appears to me that they have turned the generation of lies and deceit into a fine but rather stupid looking science. After this big toe stub over at the Liberty Institute, the flame reappeared in the other corner of the room.

  5. Well, the great victory does not appear to have hit the Texas newspapers or national electronic media, or maybe they are just saving it for the Sunday edition. From my experience with Dover and Kansas (Texas more recently), the usual pattern is:

    1) Science wins!!!!!!!!

    2) The story hits the newspapers and electronic media.

    3) A blog such as TFN Insider receives an overwhelming flood of posts from state and national citizens of a certain religious ilk.

    4) All of their posts are some rhetorical variation on, “I’m so mad I cain’t see strait, and youins is all a goin’ to hayul!!!!”

    5) I have not seen much of that. Could TFN be lying to us about the victory? Right about now, the opposition should be “rawrer” than a stray dog with its epidermis flayed.

    6) Are they just too stunned to respond—or what?

    1. Charles,
      They have chosen a political strategy: “we couldn’t win, so let’s declare victory.” Their blog posts and Tweets (as well as the two “reviews” released by the anti-evolution Discovery Institute) over the past few weeks (and especially this past week) made it pretty clear what they wanted. But they didn’t get it. In fact, state board members like David Bradley and Ken Mercer were arguing AGAINST approving some of the materials (especially those from Holt) right up until they realized they didn’t have the votes to prevail. It was almost funny to watch. Republicans who are not part of the board’s far-right faction have told us the same thing: the votes to censor the science materials just weren’t there. And here’s the real point: the board’s creationists made a very big deal about how the standards the board adopted in 2009 would force publishers to challenge what Don McLeroy called the “pillars” of evolution: natural selection and common descent. The new science materials don’t do anything like that. Not having McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar on the board made a huge difference this year.

  6. Thanks for the explanation TFN. I was truly perplexed. Maybe it is best for this thing to die with a whimper because media inattention to it will assure that no wind will re-enter their sails—at least for now.

    I do have one other question though—just a general rhetorical inquiry for anyone to address:

    I wonder what Cynthia “I Saw the Handwriting on the Wall” Dunbar thinks about this outcome? Does she have regret that she did not stand for re-election? Does she think that she could have prevented this outcome if she had stayed in the saddle? Is she clothed in black in some cloister waiting for a lightning strike from on high to take her out because she fled when God intended for her to stand in the gap with a drawn sword?

    All good questions—I think.

  7. Evolution science is a coverup of a religion. Never in the history of science are theories decided in court or by a house full of non scientists. Evolutionism deals with historical science and lacks historical reference. This madness must be stopped.

  8. “Our” side won in the sense that we saw the Board do what they should have done instead of bending even further over for the anti-science forces. Nevertheless, “they” won in a sense because they were able to get bits of doubt inserted into the standards and to allow districts to buy things not on the approved lists. Since creationist thinking is rampant in many places in the state, they will be able to continue putting ID/creationist ideas into the classroom, or at least to avoid teaching evolution with the rigor it deserves. “We” need to be willing to move into the local battles when these offenses manifest themselves. And, one other thing that should be considered is boosting the standards for gaining teaching certification.

  9. As Abe Lincoln once said, “Sommada, sommada. Somada allada. But allada allada? Uh huh.

    The bible is not inerrant in any way, shape or form. Human life began in Africa, not in the middle east as the bible suggests with their allegory of Adam and Eve. Funny-mentalists do not understand that the bible does not always mean what it says nor does it say what it means.

    For some unknown reason, they take parts of verses (PARTS!) as foundations for their various and sundry theologies. The Adam and Eve story was whipped up by the author to attempt to communicate that to a group of people who did not have access to our present day knowledge of how we got here. What I would really like to know is where the people who were living in other area come from? Xians do not question anything; they just take it on faith.

    Methinks it is time that we dropped the word “theory” when talking about the facts of evolution. Xians do not understand what the scientific word “theory” really means. We should just call it Evolution w/o the other word fronting it.

    As most you know, I have close to zero tolerance for deliberate ignorance. Before I forget, Charles, some of your comments should be engraved on gold; they’re beautiful!

    If someone really is ignorant, I cannot blame them for not knowing things. But when, say, a college educated individual sits on his/her rear end without THINKING and just accepting what they think the bible says I COULD AND DO SCREAM.

    Science and religion are not two different things; but the bible is NOT science and cannot replace scientific facts with out-and-out nonsense. If someone had said to someone else back in bible times that one day we will shoot rockets into the air and land on the moon, they’d have been stoned…with rocks, not drugs.

    I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in fifteen minutes…but the doctor’s office is only ten minutes away. Yesterday, BTW, the temperature in our back yard, IN THE SHADE, was 111 F/43.89 C. I want my mommie!

  10. Beverly, I am puzzled by your comment that science and religion are not different things. Science seems to change (sometimes too slowly) as more information is gathered; religion, not so much. To me this is a vast difference.

  11. For Scientists like me, it has NEVER been a battle between CREATIONISM and SCIENCE.

    For me, the battle is between GOOD SCIENCE and BAD SCIENCE. Darwinian Evolution is BAD SCIENCE because it is based on the POLITICS of CONSENSUS. GOOD SCIENCE is based on the SCIENTIFIC METHOD.

    Galileo was denounced based on a CONSENSUS back in the 17th Century. Soon after this FIASCO, the SCIENTIFIC METHOD was developed to remove POLITICS and RELIGION and EMOTION and GREED from Scientific Analysis.

  12. Charles: it’s a joke on the commenter’s name, and from the classic movie “Young Frankenstein”.

    Trying to create a distinction between “historical science” and “operational science” is one of the attitude bolstering arguments that Ken Ham’s Answers In Genesis tries to promulgate. Philosophically, I’d argue the flaw is that it involves creating an arbitrary artificial distinction in how the problem of induction may be resolved; and that may involves a confusion of experimental method with scientific method. The use of terms “operational science” versus “historical science” (also called “origins science”) is primarily a shibboleth marking creationists.

  13. If by consensus you mean that the evidence supports it, then OK. But anything postulating creation is bad science until there is evidence to support it. Darwin’s ideas have mostly been borne out — by evidence; we have, however, found evolution that does not depend on selection as he described.

  14. Joseph Allen,

    Galileo used evidence to defeat dogma. Guys like you try to use dogma to defeat evidence. By the way, comparing yourself to Galileo is a classic trait of denialists, which you obviously are.

  15. While not a perfect indicator and perhaps not entirely fair, the copious use of ALL CAPS is a hallmark of crackpots.

  16. der Brat, I meant to say that religion and science are not mutually exclusive of each other. Even the Pope has said that. Evolution has been proven; it is no longer a “theory.” The bible can be correct in some areas and totally off the wall in other areas. Most of the problems occur because of intended or unintended mistranslations. People who take the bible literally are responsible for millions of deaths. You may think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but frankly, I know more than most preachers; many of them are dangerous because they learn a word or two of Greek and they think that makes them experts. I have never admitted this here, but I have been a student of the Tenach and the books called the new testament for about 40 years. Although a stroke has caused me to lose most of my language skills, including English for a time, I still have a my exegetical skills.

    I will let one example speak for most misunderstandings. When the children of Israel were about to enter the land they had been promised, Gd told them not to do the things that the pagans in Egypt and in Canaan. One of those practices including heterosexual men and women performing homosexual acts. That was called IN ENGLISH an abomination. That has been used by religious bigots to belittle gay people and even murder them without feeling guilty. The nuts who go around doing what they think is Gd’s work are nothing short of the disgusting stuff that come from dogs that stick to the bottom of one’s shoes. I have as much respect for them as I would for that mess.

    So it was the people of Israel, NOT CHRISTIANS that were addressed. It was at a time when the nascent Jewish nation was entering their new land. It had zero to do with Christianity, and the word that was translated as “abomination” is the same word that was used about people who eat shell fish: Clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters and the like are all “abominations.” Once again, this has NOTHING to do with Christianity. But why do Christians murder homosexuals but not people who eat, say, lobster?

    Now we’ll move over to things that ARE addressed to Christians. Romans chapter one has an entire listing of things that are prohibited. Among those things that Paul said are worth of death are: greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    So why is the onus ONLY on homosexuals? Shouldn’t greedy people be put to death? How about that person who wants to say nasty things about them?

    Getting back to evolution, the BIBLE IS NOT A SCIENCE BOOK, IT IS A RELIGIOUS BOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE KEPT OUT OF ALL SCIENCE CLASSES. If people want their children to learn about their religious beliefs there is a place for that. First is the home, second is your church or synagogue or mosque or whatever you call your place of worship. If you do not want your children learning about the FACT OF EVOLUTION, SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND A SHADOW OF DOUBT then put your kids in a religious school. Remove them from places of learning–public school–and let them learn about the fairy tales you want them to know.

    Of course there is going to be a really big problem when your kids attempt to get into a college or university. The first time they show how ignorant they are, they’ll be laughed out of that place of higher education.

    Am I being bigoted? Nope. I am telling the truth whether you like it or not. I am not an atheist nor am I an agnostic, but I know the difference between allegories and parables and real incidences. The bible tells us what our Gd expects from us and laws he wants us to live by.

    I will state again that my religion says that anyone who lives by the seven Noahide laws have just as much a right to the world to come as anyone who is of my faith. No exceptions. You don’t have to believe in any person to have a place in the next world, just obey the SEVEN laws.


  17. I tend to go along with Mark Twain on the bible: It ain’t those parts of the bible that I can’t understand that bother me — it is the parts that I do understand.

    Furthermore, I do not recognize the bible as useful as a guide for anything. So, it really makes no difference what it says.

    My authority, the FSM, says it most succinctly: “Arrggh!”

  18. No. No. No. No. I understood the “Abi Normal” part. It was her two line (or thereabouts) comment that I did not understand.

  19. Joseph Allen:

    Take a look at one of my favorite websites below. Doesn’t this just make your blood boil. It is one thing for an atheist or an agnostic to attack creationism. After all, they are easy to write off as just minions in Satan’s vast horde. But Christians—Christians who deny Young Earth Creationism and support evolution!!! Just one of them is far more dangerous to the everlasting souls of ordinary men and women on the streets than millions—nay—-billions of atheists and agnostics combined because they put the name “Christ” with the word “evolution” and deceive many by implying that the two can somehow have a positive relationship with each other.

    Oh-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o–o-o-o-o-o!!!!!! My dear friends. How on Earth can we stop them. Look upon this blasphemy and weep:

  20. Charles: you need MORE ALL CAPS! — if you want the evilutionists to understand how WRONG THEY ARE!

  21. Well, Charles, I did try to explain the “historical science” part of Abi’s comment. I suppose I might note “evolutionism” as another shibboleth, frequently associated with trying to equate acceptance of the theory of evolution as just another belief no more epistemologically valid than “creationism”.

    “This madness must be stopped” seems a straightforward (if phatic) statement of extreme political opposition to the inclusion of evolution in school curricula.

    I’d guess that “Evolution science is a coverup of a religion” is trying to assert “all this evolution nonsense is just a conspiracy to undermine the authority of God and the Church by hiding the real evidence and explanations”, but I’m less sure on that.

    As for “Never in the history of science are theories decided in court or by a house full of non scientists”, I have minimal bleeping clue what Abi is trying to get at there. Possibly complaining about the various court rulings that have gone against religious elements in public education, possibly complaining about how most people find the science hard to understand, possibly complaining about how “scientific consensus” is a sociologically imprecise notion that isn’t always 100% accurate. I’m really not sure.

  22. Sometimes it is almost impossible to discern whether something is satire or sheer lunacy.

  23. abb3w,

    Aside from the other points you’re trying to make, I wanted to say I think “Evolutionism” is an effective word to describe the fact that many of the adherents of evolution hold precommitments that drive their science; and that it also describes the religious zeal that sometimes accompanies them.

    Precommitments (sometimes called presuppositions) are not necessarily bad. We can’t think without them (liken them to postulates in geometry – a necessary foundation to get the ball rolling). But to be blind to the fact that they exist can damage one’s perspective.

    And if you want to see religious zeal in action, witness the reaction anytime someone suggests there may be flaws in the theory of evolution. Sometimes the proponents of evolution respond more like fiery priests responding to heresy (anathema!) than level headed men of science.

  24. This is God speaking. If y’all don’t stop spouting all this evolutionist crap, I’m gonna send down a couple of choice light’n bolts on your harems.

  25. The people who understand and accept evolution as the explanation for most, if not all, diversity of life on Earth are subject to human foibles as are all other people. Their seeming knee-jerk reaction against those claiming flaws in evolution are quite likely due to the fact that the vast majority of people claiming such flaws are doing so as a way to justify not teaching evolution or teaching their religious doctrine along with it. A reasonable person understands that there are probably many flaws in our understanding of details of evolutionary theory as well as many gaps in our knowledge, but they do not use this as a way to introduce nonsense into the science curriculum.

  26. der Brat,

    Forgetting curriculum issues for the moment, I’m curious if you allow for the scientific mind to posit the possibility of a creator behind the existence of the universe, or if you label any such theorizing as nonsense. How free is scientific inquiry from your perspective? (I might get a clearer answer if I ask this instead: imagine a theoretical universe in which a creator actually exists, would your science still disallow discussion of it?)

  27. In my universe you could discuss any possibility. In my philosophy class you could postulate the effect of unicorns or pirates on global climate change. In my science class you would have to have at least some evidence in order to be taken seriously. Given the limited time and the lack of even a shred of evidence for a creator, why would it be worth discussing in a science class?

  28. Well, it may be tidy to think of philosophy and science as two unrelated fields, but I’m not convinced it works that way in real life. You have to answer some serious epistemological questions before you can even begin any genuine scientific endeavor (things such as the nature of evidence, nature of reality…).

    In reality, the very fact that you believe in the practice of science at all shows that at some foundational level you actually acknowledge the existence of a universe with the transcendentals necessary to practice it. You must assume things like the uniformity of nature, the legitimacy of induction (see Hume for further discussion of this one). This lines up much more closely to a universe with a transcendent creator than it does to a universe without one. You claim to find no shred of evidence for creator, but your practice of science indicates otherwise.

  29. I’ve encountered a fundamentalist whose “evidence” for a creator is as follows: God must exist because it’s impossible that he doesn’t. And he says that with a straight face.

  30. gracieallan: First, whatever happened to georgeburns? Second, I have very low regard for philosophy that does not account for what we think we know about how the world works, based on our scientific investigations. However, in the past philosophy has not done that, and some philosophers still fail to. To the extent that it rejects or fails to deal with scientific findings, it may be entertaining, but is ultimately of little value. There is no logical or factual/empirical reason to claim that the uniformity of nature implies any sort of transcendent creator. Merely postulating the existence of a creator seems to violate what we know about how nature works. A creator would have to change how matter interacts. I assume the creator you propose has some sort of intelligence; in what sort of brain or other matter would this reside? If not material, how does it engage the material world? I am not denying its existence categorically, but until there is evidence, acceptance of its existence is a matter of faith. Faith seems even more useless than most philosophy.

  31. While y’all are having this discussion, I thought it might be of interest to quote the specific verse in the Bible that tells Christian fundamentalists and far right Evangelicals to turn off their brains. A number of times here, folks have commented that it appears that these people do indeed turn off the brains that God gives them and cease to allow them to function in any meaningful or helpful way, which if true, begs the question of why God ever bothered to give people brains if he did not intend for them to use them. Interestingly, Jesus did not make this statement in the New Testament, although many people would wrongly credit it to him. This is from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament”

    “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

    I suspect that it does not really mean to turn of your brain because every Jewish person I have ever known is as mentally sharp as broken glass, has the IQ to go with it, and uses it comprehensively. If it really meant “turn off your brain,” then people like Steven Spielberg would have never appeared and there would be no Jewish intellectual tradition.

  32. Oy veh! I am thinking you have not met a large sample of the Jewish population. Granted some are very bright, but I’ve known plenty of dumb ones, too.

  33. der Brat,

    Actually george hasn’t been feeling all that well lately.

    I’m trying to determine how postulating the existence of a creator violates what we know about how nature works. Could you elaborate?

    You mention logic, facts and empirical evidence as your basis for truth claims. May I ask you on what basis you reached this conclusion? (I am not, mind you, suggesting that we dispense with any of the above. I simply want to know what your justification is for using them.)

    To save time, let me assume that you will say that it is logical to proceed that way; it is rational. I would agree, but I hope you recognize the circularity in this type of reasoning. I do not fault you for that – I would assert that all thought begins with some foundational assumptions that are necessarily circular. And it is in these foundational assumptions, or presuppositions, that we all place our faith. You too exercise faith.


    Have met the Christians you’re talking about. Fortunately, I’ve met many others who had a deep commitment to rigorous scholarship.

    Of course, there are applications to the verse you quote that are rational. For one quick example, you might consider the Old Testament Jews who’d just been told by Moses that God wanted them to take little trowels to bury their excrement outside the camp. May have seen like so much caprice to them. And yet we know today that in trusting the God who gave them this command, they avoided much of the contamination that regularly killed off their contemporaries.

  34. Gracieallen:

    Why does the Christian faith have to be rational? I have an acquaintance who is a professor at a Christian retreat for college students out in Oregon. He writes books on various Christian subjects, and he is also a professional historian. He has argued that one of the big mistakes Christian fundamentalism made in the late 19th century was to try to tie rationalism to the faith I do not remember the details of the argument, nor do I have a copy of his book here at the house. However, just generally, his argument was that rationalism was one of the principal ideas of the 18th century French Enlightenment. As a result, everybody and his grandmother jumped onto the rationalist bandwagon, and it was soon woven both tightly and inextricably into every aspect of Western culture to the point where no one would take anything you had to say seriously unless you could build an entirely logical and airtight argument for it. So these Christian fundamentalists in the late 1800s looked around and said, “Dang!!! This rationality and logic stuff is in everywhere!!! If we want to get peoples attention to the gospel, we had better start trying to figure out airtight and logical arguments as to why the Christian faith must be true—or all is lost.”

    That’s one of my most favorite Christian fundamentalist sayings: “ALL IS LOST” The most favorite expression of it I ever heard from an actual Christian fundamentalist was after I asked him the following question:

    “What would it mean if evolution turned out to be all true?” His response was, “Then all is lost.” It’s not in the words, but rather, how you say it. You have to let your tongue relax and fall to about the middle of your mouth. Then you force air out each side of your mouth (but not the middle) as you say it, and you sort of whiplash the tip of your tongue while saying it in a half-whispering voice—and you have to shake your head while you say it.

    But anyway, my acquaintance (who is a devout Christian in the evangelical tradition) expressed his opinion that tying the Christian faith to rationalism in the late 1800s was one of the dumbest things that anyone in the Christian faith had ever tried to do—and all of the ridiculous fruit that it has produced is one of the principal reasons that the Christian faith is demeaned and rejected in scientific and other scholarly circles. It has given the faith a complexion of goofiness and stupidity that repels people who might otherwise come.

    I prefer to think that the gospel is not logical or rational—nor should it be—and that is one of its great strengths.

  35. der Brat.

    I have to tell you in all honesty that I have indeed never met a stupid Jewish person, but you have to understand that I live down south where we do not have a lot of Jews. The Jews I have known are as follows:

    * Head of the Department of Microbiology at a major state university and his equally bright son

    * Full Bird Colonel in the U.S. Army (alumnus Vanderbilt University and Army War College)

    * One of the top 10 graduates in her high school class

    * This guy:

  36. “For one quick example, you might consider the Old Testament Jews who’d just been told by Moses that God wanted them to take little trowels to bury their excrement outside the camp. May have seen like so much caprice to them. And yet we know today that in trusting the God who gave them this command, they avoided much of the contamination that regularly killed off their contemporaries.”

    This would have only worked if the selected trowel locations were geologically downgradient from the camp.

  37. Hmm. If george is not doing well, that bodes ill for gracie! I choose logic and evidence because they have been the most reliable means of giving us answers that work. While science and many scientists have erred often in the past, over time many of the errors seem to get corrected and to give us more accurate descriptions. If we cannot show evidence for something, what is the basis for thinking it might be so? A creator implies something that manipulates, in some fashion, the material world that we have been studying intensely for the last couple of hundred years. If the putative creator is non-material (spiritual – whatever that means), then to have an effect on the matter of the universe would be a violation of the cause and effect interactions we have documented. Quantum effects show that something strange is going on at very small scales, but there is no evidence that would indicate a non-material realm causing the effects. If the supposed creator is material, then we should be able to measure something about it. So far this does not seem to have happened. So, until there is some logical explanation for how non-material creators can manipulate our universe, or until there is some evidence of a material creator, I am not accepting that it exists. Perhaps something like that does, but so far the case lacks support.

  38. Charles,

    I think you confuse “rational” with “rationalism.” It is one thing to say that Christianity is rational, quite another to say that it is rationalistic (which may or may not be true depending on your view of rationalism, which like most -isms, takes on various forms, some of which are consistent with Christianity, some not.) In the end, though, I would not believe in the Christian God if I did not find that to be perfectly rational.

    der Brat,

    On the contrary gracie is feeling just dandy! Hope you are too.

    You make an interesting argument about an immaterial creator being unable to interact with a material world in such a way that we could capture the moment under the microscope (so to speak). I follow your thinking, and if I believed the existence of God were proved that way, you might have more of a case.

    However, I don’t think the existence of God is proved in the same way that we establish the existence of say, the cheddar cheese in my refrigerator (where I can simply open the door and take a peek). I also anticipate you will acknowledge that not all things are proved in exactly the same way. (Think of the different ways you would go about demonstrating the existence of barometric pressure, grammar, numbers, individual identity, dreams, historical events, justice…) I hope you agree that not all questions of existence are established in exactly the same manner.

    Also, I think it’s reasonable to think that an immaterial God, acting outside the limits of time and space, can interact with the material world in such a way that we perceive only the material end of the results. For example, the judgment of God comes via a comet striking the earth (whose course was set in the beginnings of time), or something like that, for example. It looks purely natural, but has sovereign oversight.

    You rely heavily on science for your worldview, which I don’t fault. I would argue, however, that you have not given enough thought as to why science works the way it does. The fact that you do depend on science actually reveals some assumptions on your part that are inherently biblical (I hear you shuddering), but if you look more closely at the nature of your presuppositions, I think you would be unable to deny this.

    I’m tempted here to delve into the arguments for this case, but I suspect you are at the moment settled in your convictions and are quite capable of finding more information if you’re interested.

    Have enjoyed our exchange!

  39. I expect I may be as settled in my ways of thinking to about the same extent you are in yours. To claim I may not have thought much about these things seems a bit arrogant — I have had over 60 years to mull them over, and during that time the one thing that seems most reliable is the use of evidence to support the existence of things. And yes, there are different ways of looking at different sorts of things, but ultimately they all rely on some material aspect that we can observe and/or measure. You might ask yourself if you have given sufficient thought to why you are so attached to the notion of a god — a god that cannot be measured or made manifest in any material way.

  40. Gracie said: “I would not believe in the Christian God if I did not find that to be perfectly rational.”

    This may come as a shock to you Gracie, but many people believe in Jesus regardless of a rational argument and do not need a rational argument to do it. Jesus said, “Follow me.” He didn’t say, “Figure it all out and if it seems logical and sensible, you might wanna follow me.”

    I don’t intend to engage you in a debate because I have a policy of not debating with fence posts, plus I am not a very good debater. However, I do know from history here at TFN Insider that at least one shill from the Discovery Institute or some other such organization comes here to debrief themselves after Jesus kicks them in the pants with another evolution defeat. I have never quite understood the need for such a debriefing, but I suspect that this is why you are here. Are you getting what you came for?

  41. Charles,

    Sigh. You misunderstand again. I did not say that I came to faith by “figuring it all out.” I am simply asserting that we as Christians do not commit intellectual suicide to believe. The content of our faith is fundamentally rational.

    I find it curious that der Brat, who apparently is not a Christian has been so much more hospitable to me than you, my brother in Christ. You strike me as just a little bit mean. (…and overly suspicious – the Discovery Institute???)

    God bless you anyway.

  42. gracie,
    I agree that you, as a Christian, do not have to commit intellectual suicide to continue believing; however, in my view, you do have to show a bit of schizophrenia (metaphorically) in order to hold both a faith-based view and scientific one. For several years I have had the view that non-believers (such as I) need to stop thinking all believers are stupid. And, believers need to stop thinking of non-believers as evil — or in some cases as seriously deluded and unwilling to open our eyes to the truth. Virtually all of our decisions are based on some underlying emotional component — usually one that does not rise to our conscious level. In fact, it may be impossible to make rational decisions without this underlying emotional connection to give weighting to different options. For some the puzzle of existence seems to create a need for a certain type of security that the notion of a god provides. For some others this seems less important than not accepting things as true unless there is some evidence for them, and, in the absence of evidence, being OK with saying ‘I don’t know,’ and feeling OK that that is the best answer for the time being.

  43. gracieallen:

    You strike me as someone who took a number of philosophy classes in college, rather liked it, and now you have come over to TFN Insider to have some fun with the lesser human beings than yourself (from your high-pedestal perspective) who hang out here—or maybe you are just being obnoxious in a coy, smooth, and subtle sort of way. It comes across to me as being intellectually obnoxious—but hey—I can do it too.

    “I think you confuse “banana” with “bananaism.” It is one thing to say that Christianity is a banana, quite another to say that it is bananaistic (which may or may not be true depending on your view of bananaism, which like most -isms, takes on various forms (banana pudding, banana split, bananas Foster), some of which are consistent with Christianity, some not.) In the end, though, I would not believe in the Christian God if I did not find that to be perfectly banana.”

    You’re wasting my time honey.

  44. gracieallan,

    Charles isn’t mean. He, like a lot of people here (including me), is simply tired of science denialists, including you. Denialists waste a tremendous amount of time and money, and they encourage ignorance.

  45. Thanks Ben. Why didn’t I think of that?

    Well, anyway, you’ll be happy to know that the ACLU still has their saw teeth deep into the private parts of the local public school system in the town where I grew up. They are pressing ahead with their suit. You read about the first round of reforms that were voluntarily taken by my school system. Since that time, yet another round of more massive reforms has been announced. As I pointed out at the local newspaper blog, these massive reforms are indicative of just how massive and overwhelming the violations actually were. This is sort of like NCAA recruiting violations where the university makes a big public show out of spanking itself so the NCAA will not go berserk on punishment.

    The one thing they are holding onto most tightly of all is to continue having local high school graduations at Long Hollow Baptist Church, a massive local country club for the wealthy that is pretending to be a church. They are absolutely desperate to keep doing it. They claim there is no other local facility that can accommodate a high school graduation ceremony and that the church charges a reasonable rate to use their facility. That’s bull poop. I pointed out the fact that the outdoor high school football stadium where I graduated is still there and well maintained. I also pointed out the fact that the town where I live now uses our stadium and simply reschedules graduation to another day if it rains. In addition, the fee is dirt cheap because the school system owns the stadium. No one has gotten around that argument yet.

  46. The Enlightenment was not the first brush of Christianity with rationalism. The medieval scholastic philosophy was an attempt to ‘prove’ theology by means of the (basically) rationalist Aristotelian philosophy. Philosophy, prior to that considered pagan evil*, was to become the handmaiden of theology. St.Thomas Aquinas (whom I personally loath and hate) was not unopposed in this. The fundamentalists of that age feared and hated Aristotle escpecially because his approach was rational and inimical to the belief that the heart leads to God and the brain to Satan.

    *reading some Christian ‘thinkers’ of late antiquity, they seem to have a lot in common with the communist principle of Parteilichkeit (partisanship), i.e. evidence has to be judged not on merit but on who profits of it. I guess the pagan philosophers pulled out their remaining hair when confronted with that point of view on open display. Well, if the pagans could not be persuaded, having them murdered was the next best option (cf. Hypathia).

  47. Ben,

    Actually, I love science. Took a lot of it in college (no philosophy classes though). Quite honestly, I don’t see any conflict between the beliefs I’ve shared and science.

    But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at a list of scientists in various fields who feel the same way ( Even with the depth of knowledge required for a Ph.D., these scientists apparently don’t see any conflict either. I think you’re wrong to assume that only the ignorant could possibly disagree with you.


    Thanks. That was interesting.

    der Brat,

    I agree with so much of what you say, and appreciate your courtesy in how you word it. I nodded my head all the way through most of your last post (up to the last two sentences – I don’t think I’ve turned to God to meet my need for security – and, as I’ve said before, I think you start at the point of faith, too – faith that anything you’ll ever need to know, you will discover in the material world).

    Again, I have enjoyed the discussion, but I’m off to other things …seems that I’m wasting certain people’s time around here. 😉


  48. gracie,

    It is almost impossible for us (Homo sapiens) to see how our emotions affect our reason; for this reason I reject your claim not to be so guided. I also reject the notion that I approach anything from a basis of faith, inasmuch as faith implies no evidence, and I reject accepting anything without evidence — even the notion that we can find answers to all questions through science. For all I know there will always be some questions that we cannot answer. I am content to say, “I don’t know,” until there is some evidence.

  49. “I’m off to other things …seems that I’m wasting certain people’s time around here”

    This is what is known as a flounce, but at least it wasn’t the stereotypical “you atheists will all burn in hell!” flounce.

    gracie, I’m sure you appreciate science sometimes, except for those times when it clashes with your literal interpretation of the bible. That’s what makes you a denialist. You’re not ignorant because you disagree with me (nor would I ever say that), you’re ignorant because you deny the fact of evolution.

  50. I knew she was wasting my time, and she proved it by even bringing up that stall full of fruitcakes over at “Answers in Genesis.”

    The thing that bothers me most is that she is wasting her own time as well while she persists in fighting against the truth—and by so doing—Jesus himself. Some people are just not open to a Biblical understanding of spiritual truths that exist beyond the black walls that they build around themselves—or perhaps better put—the walls they allow some redneck preacher to build around them.

  51. I’m sure I can find some PhDs who think the earth is flat, or that the earth is at the center of our universe, or that the Holocaust never happened, or that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, or that global warming is a scam, or that vaccines don’t work, or…..

  52. Beverly said “Evolution has been proven; it is no longer a “theory.””. I’m sorry, but that is not really correct. Science is not in the business of “proving” things. Science posits reasonable explanations for the evidence. Science can always adjust its views based on what’s observed. A theory is a logically consistent framework that has been tested and shown to fit the evidence as currently known. There is always the possibility that new evidence will come along that invalidates or changes the theory. I agree that evolution is essentially fact as currently described but it’s still theory in scientific parlance. Proven implies that we have reached an end, that no further evidence is forthcoming and that further inquiry is not necessary, that we have reached first principles. Proving things falls more into the realm of mathematics, that statements being logically consistent. Sorry to nitpick but we have to try be precise so that when we use the word “theory”, it means what we intend it to mean.

  53. reboho: Sure, science does not deal with proof; however, at some point we establish things as “fact” that have no reasonable chance of being incorrect. The sphere-like nature of the Earth replaced the flat Earth as a fact that seems pretty incontrovertible. Evolution as something that has happened (and continues to) is approximately as much of a fact. However, there are quite a few details about it that have not reached the same level of certainty. These pertain to the various evolutionary pathways taken during the past as well as the precise mechanisms in specific instances. Rather than quibble over words like “proof” and “fact” it is much more productive to continue trying to elucidate the hypothetical aspects of evolution – both in terms of the past and what the future may hold.

  54. As der Brat already touched upon, I think the main reason scientists don’t consider god as a scientific route of inquiry is because religion doesn’t make many falsifyable claims about god (and on those occasions when they do, evidence to prove them wrong is often easy to find).
    And if you were going to try the scientific route to try and prove god, which religion or which of the many interpretations and concepts of god are you going to investigate?

    In the end, religious scientists seem to practice a kind of “god of the gaps” philosophy. The more you know and learn about the universe, the more you realise that the literal biblical daddy-god up on his cloud in heaven throwing lightning bolts is utter childish nonsense. But the fluffier, less firmly defined ideas of god sometimes posited start to lose their place in reality too as our understanding of reality increases. So you end up pushing god further back into the recesses of knowledge until he gets pushed completely outside of our observable universe altogether; at which point the existence of god becomes moot, because he has litterally and figuratively become immaterial to science.

    In other words, scientists try to explain how the universe works, and eliminating the religious people’s go to response of “god-did-it” when finding answers becomes tough is the best thing there is. The most honest and useful response is “I don’t know”.

  55. gracieallan,

    I think the idea that you can’t have science without god is like saying you can’t have airplanes without roads.
    Sure, airplanes need a kind of road to take off, but the very essence of airplanes is that they DON’T use roads, not to mention plenty of airborne vehicles take off and land vertically and so have nothing whatsoever to do with roads at all, or even land for that matter.

    I.e. whenever someone is talking about planes, “roads” and “roadiness” and other road-related ideas and concepts are usually the very thing they’re NOT discussing, and in any event completely beside the point. In other words, roads have no place within the subjects of planes.