Creationism bill filed in Florida

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Florida state senator Stephen Wise has introduced SB 2396, amending a law that is mostly about teaching civics. He makes critical analysis of evolution item (a) and moves all the other items down one letter. The old (a) becomes (b) and so forth. Evolution is evidently the only topic requiring critical analysis. Coincidentally “critical analysis” is code for “teach creationism”. It didn’t work in Ohio once the trick was discovered, but hope springs eternal. By another coincidence Senator Wise recently wanted to teach ID, another code word for creationism.

Update below the fold

Page 1 of 5
CODING: Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions.
1 A bill to be entitled
2 An act relating to educational instruction; amending
3 s. 1003.42, F.S.; requiring that the instructional
4 staff of a public school teach a thorough presentation
5 and critical analysis of the scientific theory of
6 evolution and certain governmental, legal, and civic
7 related principles; providing an effective date.
8
9 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
10
11 Section 1. Subsection (2) of section 1003.42, Florida
12 Statutes, is amended to read:
13 1003.42 Required instruction.–
14 (2) Members of the instructional staff of the public
15 schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education
16 and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and
17 faithfully, using the books and materials required to that meet
18 the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy,
19 following the prescribed courses of study, and employing
20 approved methods of instruction, the following:
21 (a) A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the
22 scientific theory of evolution.

23 (b)(a) The history and content of the Declaration of
24 Independence, including national sovereignty, natural law, self
25 evident truth, equality of all persons, limited government,
26 popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights of life, liberty,
27 and property, and how they form the philosophical foundation of
28 our government.
29 (c)(b) The history, meaning, significance, and effect of
.…

Wise’s bill has already been covered by Florida Citizens for Science (read the press release as well) and by NCSE. For additional background see Wesley’s Open Letter last year.

Will the bill make it out of committee? If it does, then what? If it passes both houses and is signed into law, then of course creationists declare victory and start teaching their usual stuff. Meanwhile, “It’s not about creationism, no siree. Why, the word isn’t even mentioned.”

Update:

In view of some questions in the comments, here is more explanation of why the bill is automatically thought to be an invitation to teach creationism. Whenever certain keywords such as “critical analysis of evolution” are used, creationists have so interpreted those words repeatedly in the recent past. Read sex, lies and a math mistake for several cases. As the state of Ohio learned in detail, the phrase “critical analysis” is used to mean a large dose of creationist claims. These claims are known to be wrong, and they readily mislead the neophyte. They amount to propaganda against biology. As the Fordham science standards evaluators said of Ohio’s mistake in letting these words be slipped into their standards

But the benefit of doubt we gave the benchmark may have been a mistake. Creationism-inspired “critical analysis” of evolutionary biology - as has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature, and recently in a Pennsylvania Federal Court - is neither serious criticism nor serious analysis. The newest version of creationism, so-called Intelligent Design (ID) theory, is no exception. Like its predecessors, it is neither critical nor analytic, nor has it made any contribution to the literature of science. Any suggestion that our “B” grade for Ohio’s standards endorses sham critiques of evolution, as offered by creationists, is false.

If Senator Wise is innocent of the charge that he wants to introduce creationism into public school science classes, all he has to do is spell out the content he has in mind. As long as he insists “Pass a law to teach this slogan, we will worry about the details later” there is every reason to suspect him of deliberately opening the door to creationism. And even if that is not his intent, recent history makes it clear that creationists will so interpret his wording.

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The Panda’s Thumb is reporting that Florida state senator Stephen Wisehas amended an education bill, dealing mostly with the teaching of Civics, to add a provision to require “…a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the sc... Read More

(Un)Wise from Stand Up For REAL Science on March 1, 2009 11:46 AM

A critical analysis of this bill demonstrates that it is merely an attempt to undermine the teaching of evolution by encouraging sympathetic teachers to introduce religiously-motivated antievolution arguments in their classrooms. Read More

I can’t believe what I just heard - I am stunned. A neighboring county has just voted on Monday to cut 450 jobs, which include the jobs of 270 educators. Senator, the legislature needs to be focusing on the state budget when the session starts t... Read More

140 Comments

Then what? Then Florida gets its pants sued off, loses badly, and creationists start whining about activist judges joining with Darwinazis to suppress free scientific inquiry.

Can’t there just be a set of wind-up dolls that can do all this crap without actual people having to go through the routine and having to spend actual time and money on it?

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

So Pete, What is this? Is it a post election “We got creamed in November, but looky looky looky we got “issues?”

Or is it, “I am such a stupid right-winger moron that I really believe this bullshit?”

MPW said:

Can’t there just be a set of wind-up dolls that can do all this crap without actual people having to go through the routine and having to spend actual time and money on it?

This being Florida, suddenly I had a vision of Disney World attraction involving robots engaged in an Exclusion Clause court case. I don’t think it would compete well with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, however.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

anonymous coward,

Critical Analysis of Evolution happens every day in science labs around the world.

What this bill is hoping to do is, capitalize on so-called “gaps” of information or physical evidence for the purpose of undermining the Theory of Evolution, thus leaving the door open for only other possible explanation, according to the fundies, God.

As they have no scientific proof that would support their beliefs, the next best thing to do, for them, is to cast doubt on the Theory of Evolution. It allows them get a foot in the door to further their indoctrination.

With the sun scarcely set on Gov Charlie Crist’s joining state and local officials for the grand opening of Scripps Florida state-of-the–art biomedical research facility. Along comes Sen. Steven Wise to create a dichotomy of epic proportions. With Crist trying to “develop Florida into a biotech hub and a global leader in medical research and development”, Sen. Wise seems just as determined to portray Florida as a haven for the scientifically challenged. Wise’s anti evolution bill which requires “Critical Analysis” of evolution, amounts to nothing more than a rhetorical shell game appropriated from anti evolution mantras in other states. After Sen. Rhonda Storms “Academic Freedom “bill died last year, Sen. Wise is merely picking up the Fundamental Religionist banner to rally support amongst those who desire is to force their personal theocratic ideologies into the school science system. Their underhanded ploy is not to mention religion, just teach enough of their favored arguments against evolution as science (which they are not) then students will make the correct choice in rejecting evolution and accept Wise’s particularly narrow religious view point. In fact Sen. Wise has made clear in public statements, his desire to disingenuously slip intelligent design / creationism into our schools. Are Florida politicians so naive to think that this bill, should it pass, will not be vigorously challenged and fail, just as so many others have, with great expense to the states involved. Does Gov Crist really expect bio tech companies (whose process are based upon evolutionary concepts) to support a state whose science education is in jeopardy of being seriously compromised? I hope, think, that this bill is not going to make it.

anonymous coward said:

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism?

Because that is the new phrase used by proponents of creationism in an attempt to pass legal muster. Prior to that it was “teach the controversy”, and before that, “intelligent design”. The arguments are identical, they just keep changing the costume.

On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

If one is ignorant of the background of the issue, and the history of creationist tactics, it might, which is exactly what the creationists are counting on.

The sad truth is that most of us fighting bills like this would LOVE for science classes to spend far more time doing scientific analysis of evolution. That isn’t what these bills promote.

anonymous coward said:

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism?

Because that is the new phrase used by proponents of creationism in an attempt to pass legal muster. Prior to that it was “teach the controversy”, and before that, “intelligent design”. The arguments are identical, they just keep changing the costume.

On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

If one is ignorant of the background of the issue, and the history of creationist tactics, yes it might, which is exactly what the creationists are counting on.

The sad truth is that most of us fighting bills like this would LOVE for science classes to spend far more time doing scientific analysis of evolution. That isn’t what these bills promote.

The irony, of course, is that there’s far more “controversy” and space for critique in the subsequent sections about government than there is about evolution.

After all, If I am a black child, the fact that the fact that the Constitution originally counts me as only three fifths of a human being and it would be OK for someone to keep me as personal property, is, I daresay, a controversy. One that just perhaps, might stick in my craw while we’re talking about how it’s so “evident” that “All men are created equal” (line 25).

And, unlike evolution, various forms of government, maybe 160 at last count, are currently known to exist. And, unlike natural laws, it is possible to pick and choose among them, ranking them for efficiency and efficacy on a myriad of criteria.

Here is a subject, where there actually are many legitimate shades of gray and matters of personal preference. I, for example, like living in America, because I am an entrepreneur and the ecosystem here works well for me. However, if I had a child with serious medical conditions, I would probably prefer the Canadian system for it’s similar structure but better access to healthcare.

But if I were a rich, corrupt general with a large personal army, Zimbabwe might legitimately be my idea of a perfect garden spot.

Alternately, if consistency and security were my prime desires I might prefer the way the Scandinavian countries do it. There are many Americans, retirees for example, who would do better under “Socialism lite” in Sweden, but, oddly, you don’t see agitation for discussing that.

No, you hear it about Evolution, a simple law of nature. Evolution can actually be demonstrated, it can actually be measured. There is no evidence for any alternative. And yet on this subject, we have to “teach the controversy”.

anonymous wrote:

“I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.”

That is exactly the trap they want people to fall for. They want to appear to be reasonable while illegally subverting science education. They just aren’t being honest about their motivations or intentions.

Real critical analysis is exactly the opposite of what these people want. If that were the goal then everyone already has this freedom. What they are really hoping is that some teachers will use this as an excuse for teaching creationism and as a defense when they get sued for doing so.

If the law passes it won’t change a thing. People will still try to preach creationism and they will still get sued for it regardless. It really is a pathetic attempt at lying for Jesus.

Ouch - my irony meter just exploded!

When I closed the browser window I was using to read about how ass-backwards Stephen Wise was about science education in Florida, This…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29430688/

Popped up in the news window underneath it.

Now I’m going to have to spend all afternoon picking irony meter shards out of the ceiling tiles. I’m just glad I wasn’t hurt.

stevaroni said:

After all, If I am a black child, the fact that the fact that the Constitution originally counts me as only three fifths of a human being and it would be OK for someone to keep me as personal property, is, I daresay, a controversy. One that just perhaps, might stick in my craw while we’re talking about how it’s so “evident” that “All men are created equal” (line 25).

Forgive a slight and nitpicky digression, but to add to the irony the slave states wanted slaves to be counted as full persons and had to retreat in the face of opposition by free states. The issue was of course proportional representation – the slave states wanted to increase their legislative clout by including slaves in their public populations, despite the fact that legally slaves had no real rights as citizens.

The free states said: “No way!” – and the 3/5ths measure was implemented as a compromise. Under those circumstances I would have not merely backed the measure myself but complained that 3/5ths was giving away too much to the slave states.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Under those circumstances I would have not merely backed the measure myself but complained that 3/5ths was giving away too much to the slave states.

See? Controversy!

The context in which these whackos are popping up is interesting and also useful. Their activities seem to increase around elections, especially when science gets voted back in. It tells us something about the behind-the-scenes discussions and angst going on among them. We see it here in our local letters to the editor also.

But it is also useful because the anti-evolution “alternatives” are now quite well catalogued as pseudo-science. That makes playing Whack-a-Whacko a little bit easier than it was when there was a lot more confusion about what they were pushing.

I’m all for keeping the laser beams focused on these characters permanently. In fact, I wouldn’t mind cranking up the energy output of the laser a few orders of magnitude.

Mike Elzinga said:

I’m all for keeping the laser beams focused on these characters permanently. In fact, I wouldn’t mind cranking up the energy output of the laser a few orders of magnitude.

“Set phasers to SLAUGHTER!”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

anonymous coward -

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

No, it does not.

In science a theory is a strong unifying principle that explains and predicts multiple observations.

The theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, quantum theory, and the comically named but historically critical germ theory of disease are examples.

First of all, it is not the role of high school science classes to debate or critique major scientific theories. Those who would test the limits of well-established theories need sufficient training. High school science should teach the foundations and rudiments of mainstream science, as it is understood by contemporary science.

If you think there is something wrong with the theory of relativity, get a PhD in physics, become familiar with all the evidence, and think it over.

It is the height of irresponsibility to “teach” naive students about science by “teaching” them that scientists have it all wrong.

In the second place, even if it were sane to do “critical analysis” of major, heavily supported theories in high school, why JUST the theory of evolution?

In the third place, every pro-science contributor here instantly recognizes this language as a coded way of saying “teach religion as science”, an activity which would violate the constitutional rights of all students and their families?

Are you really so naive, or are you a creationist troll?

Florida legislators need to be reminded of how certain scientific societies reacted to Lousiana’s Science Education [sic] Act–the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology moved their 2011 meeting from New Orleans to Salt Lake City because of Lousiana’s anti-evolution legislation. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has also called for a boycott of Louisiana (after their 2009 meeting there, which was already under contract) as well as any other state that enacts anti-science legislation. Maybe Florida wasn’t serious about attracting biotech firms to the state.

anonymous coward said:

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

All scientific theories should be treated critically, including evolution, in both practice and in the classroom. What creationists such as Wise are trying to do, however, is allow creationism-leaning teachers to present bogus criticisms of evolution to their students.

We know this is their plan from their efforts in Ohio a few years ago. In that case the “critical analysis” plan advanced far enough that sample lesson plans were devised to spell out exactly what a class period “critically analyzing” evolution would contain. The sample plans included all the familiar creationist nonsense, much of it lifted right from “Icons of Evolution.” The Ohio effort eventually failed.

I would support any critical analysis policy provided it applied to all sciences taught in the public schools (rather than singling out evolution) and that only valid scientific criticisms be included, i.e., ones appearing in the scientific literature.

I don’t know the context,

Precisely.

so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed?

This would mandate the teachers present “critical analysis” of evolutionary science in the curriculum. Unfortunately, religious antievolutionists commonly confuse their ensemble of long-debunked arguments for genuine critical analysis, and have elsewhere utilized this exact phrasing as a means to inject the exact same arguments as were seen in “intelligent design” creationism, creation science, scientific creationism, and good old creationism. It would imply that the legislator, who not too long ago publicly announced his intention to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” creationism via law, is continuing to attempt to provide cover to teachers in public schools to cram as many of the standard religious antievolution arguments as possible into the curriculum.

How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism?

It doesn’t “automatically” do so, but that isn’t the point. The religious antievolution movement has evolved the outward face of its efforts via a stepwise sanitation of labels and rhetoric, such that now we are seeing things that cannot be given a facial challenge, and instead will, if passed, leave individual teachers or local administrators hanging on the line for instances where they improperly and unconstitutionally actually use the various religious antievolution arguments in their curricula. Note that the Discovery Institute still distributes materials specifically with the “critical analysis” labeling. The proposed legislation cowardly passes the buck for responsibility for infringement from the state down to individual teachers or administrators.

On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

Not knowing the context will lead to to making incorrect conclusions like the one just above. Opposing state legislation that makes infringement of the establishment clause of the constitution probable is both literally anti-dogmatic and also the responsible thing to do from a civics standpoint. It is an unqualified good to stand up for both the integrity of the constitution and science education.

Update:

I decided the opening post ought to have more explanation of why the bill is automatically regarded as creationist. The opening is now updated. It’s really simple though. Creationists are known to use certain words and phrases to mean teach creationism (under one of its aliases). Wise is a know creationist or sympathizer. If he is innocent he need only spell out his intended new science content.

Some comments that had been filtered are now shown.

anonymous coward said:

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

What the creationists have in mind is the equivalent of spamming or denial of service on the internet, but now brought into the biology classroom.

They want these tactics protected by the law, and they don’t want either creationist teachers or creationist students to be held accountable when they substitute creationist pseudo-science for the legitimate science curriculum.

The drill is to allow students to flood the classroom discussion with ID/Creationist pseudo-science pulled off the internet from Answers in Genesis, the Discovery Institute, and the Institute for Creations Research, or any other creationist source.

Not only do they intend to eat up all the time that would be used for teaching real science, especially evolution, they would use the law to legitimize routine harassment of teachers who teach evolution by flooding school administrators with complaints from the parents.

They already to this, of course, but they want a law that makes them untouchable.

Critical thinking to them means their favorite choreographed debate structure for class. And if a creationist student likes the pseudo-science, the law will be use to protect his opinion, and to hell with the science and the scientific evidence.

stevaroni said: However, if I had a child with serious medical conditions, I would probably prefer the Canadian system for it’s similar structure but better access to healthcare.

My wife’s cousin’s husband is a doctor in Montreal. He says you really don’t want to get sick in Canada. It’s great if you need stiches or some antibiotics, but if you need hip surgery, get in line. It’s about a 2 year wait.

Britian also has social medicine. My daughter’s college roommate is from Scotland. She needed emergency surgery just before Christmas. She was stunned at how clean and professional our healthcare was in comparison to theirs.

I prefer the alternate term someone came up with: “academic anarchy”. It fits the purpose of these bills much better. The promoters don’t have any legitimate controversy to present, they just want to loosen the standards enough that they can slip their own bogus pseudoscience into the curriculum. They’re preying on Americans’ ingrained sense of fairness to manipulate the system and give their position an air of legitimacy it really doesn’t have.

Memenic Bottleneck said: Britian also has social medicine. My daughter’s college roommate is from Scotland. She needed emergency surgery just before Christmas. She was stunned at how clean and professional our healthcare was in comparison to theirs.

That’s a bit unfair. Our (the UK’s - Britain is a geographical concept, not political - National Health Service is hugely expensive but paid in part for by contributions (National Insurance) made by all those in employment; the system in Scotland is under the control of the devolved Scottish government and I don’t know how it compares with the English, run directly by Westminster (England lacking its own government, unlike the three other nations of the UK). While the NHS has its problems (top heavy management being perhaps the biggest waste of resources), it is efficient and rumours of its lack of cleanliness are exaggerated by one particular tabloid “newspaper”.

The perception from this side of the pond is that the USA’s system is expensive, with the best care available only to those who can afford it. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to be corrected!

stevaroni said:

Ouch - my irony meter just exploded!

When I closed the browser window I was using to read about how ass-backwards Stephen Wise was about science education in Florida, This…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29430688/

Popped up in the news window underneath it.

Does this mean that in a few billion years god will be named Steve? :)

Altair IV said:

I prefer the alternate term someone came up with: “academic anarchy”.

I like that. “We are introducing a bill to support critical analysis of traffic regulations. People need to have the freedom to determine which side of the street they prefer to drive on, and whether it is really necessary to obey stop signals or speed limits.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

mrg said: “We are introducing a bill to support critical analysis of traffic regulations. People need to have the freedom to determine which side of the street they prefer to drive on, and whether it is really necessary to obey stop signals or speed limits.”

I suggest that the best satirical example of “teach the controversy” is one which would attract the attention to what people are really concerned about in education:

“Critical analysis of football. The students will have the freedom to determine what the rules of the game are, whether the team with the most points wins, or whether democracy should rule and the fans should vote for the winning team.”

anonymous coward said:

I don’t know the context, so forgive me if this is a naive question but - what exactly would it imply if this law is passed? How does “critical analysis” automatically lead to teaching creationism? On the face of it, it does kind of look dogmatic to fight something like this.

I support critical analysis in the teaching of evolution. Also in the teaching of atomic theory, in the teaching of classical mechanics, in the teaching of the theory that the Earth is (approximately) spherical. I support critical analysis in the teaching of history, cultural geography, literature, and economics. (I don’t support critical analysis in the teaching of spelling, because English language spelling is based on authoritative dicta.)

The first tipoff that this bill does not promote the critical analysis it claims to promote, is that the bill wants critical analysis only of evolution. It doesn’t want critical analysis of atomicity. or of the reasons for American independence, or of patriarchal vs. matriarchal culture.

The second tipoff that this bill does not promote critical analysis is that it doesn’t specify what the critical analysis should be. There are lots of open questions in evolution: “What is the relative importance of allopatric, peripatric, parapatric, and sympatric speciation?” for example. Or one could look at questions that were open historically: “What does island biogeography say about the origin of species?” It would be a legitimate teaching strategy to investigate the history of this important question. The fact that the bill doesn’t specify what the critical analysis should be suggests that it’s just opening the door for a dogmatic, idiotic Jonathan Wells approach.

A critical analysis of this “critical analysis bill” shows that it’s a sham.

We are introducing a bill to allow for crititcal analysis of crying in baseball. Of course the rules have always allowed crying, that is not the issue. We want students to be able to decide if you should be given runs for crying and if so how many. We definately want to teach both sides of this countroversy and let the students decide for themselves.

Pete Dunkelberg said:

Update:

I decided the opening post ought to have more explanation of why the bill is automatically regarded as creationist. The opening is now updated. It’s really simple though. Creationists are known to use certain words and phrases to mean teach creationism (under one of its aliases). Wise is a know creationist or sympathizer. If he is innocent he need only spell out his intended new science content.

Some comments that had been filtered are now shown.

As you note in the original thread topic Wise had just claimed that he was going to put up a bill to teach the science of intelligent design. Since then the ID perps have apparently run the bait and switch on him and instead of dropping the issue he has taken the switch scam. We know Wise’s intent. we know what he eventually did. The courts can’t ignore that. Though the Dover decision doesn’t apply to Florida the decision will be taken into account in any court case. Judge Jones noted what the next creationist ploys were. Wise is obviously a sucker that is taking the next scam. This section will either be deleted or the bill will be dropped. Wise could perjure himself in court, but what good would it do?

The ID perps need a pristine rube that is willing to lie about their intent and who has no connections to the previous creationist scams. They have found plenty of people willing to lie about their religious intent, but they haven’t found one that they haven’t already fooled (“hasn’t joined” is likely more accurate) with one of their previous scams. I give them 5-10 years to find such people. How sad is that? It would have been less time if they hadn’t spent so many years running a blatant bait and switch scam on their own creationist supporters, and had cut their losses and dropped the ID scam when they decided that they needed to run the bait and switch. Wise will not be the last “victim” of the intelligent design bait and switch scam, and that kind of rube doesn’t make a believable switch scam supporter.

“I understand him (God) to be a group fantasy without any existence except in the minds of humans.” Jaycubed

“Is it conceivably possible that your understanding could be faulty?”

Dave Luckett

-

Why certainly it is both conceivable & possible; but at present my understanding incorporates all the available evidence I have come across in better than a half century of experience & education. This includes a vast amount of study/experience of both contemporary & historical religious/cultural/political practices & beliefs as well as science & pseudo-science.

The difference for Believers is that it is neither conceivable nor possible to them that their understanding can be wrong.

If there was any genuine evidence for supernatural intervention into reality beyond the claims of Believers it seems highly unlikely that such actual evidence wouldn’t be apparent after thousands of years of human history.

So, my estimation of the probability of my understanding of the “nature of god” as a human construct & shared delusion is extremely high (all physical evidence supports that understanding) and the probability of any of the descriptions of the “nature of god” proposed by any current or historical religion are exceedingly low.

Particularly since it would be so trivial for a god to demonstrate evidence for his existence.

The only possible conclusions are:

(1) God is a group fantasy without any existence except in the minds of humans.

(2) God “hides” and is intentionally deceptive: a liar, manipulator & deceiver. Such a being would be unworthy of worship even if it did actually exist. The god of Abraham (as described in the 3 primary texts of his Religion; the Jewish Bible, the Christian Bible and the Muslim bible or Koran) is such a despicable murderous lunatic being, worthy only of contempt.

The odds are heavily in favor of conclusion #1.

tomh said:

An extraordinary claim, such as, “most likely God exists,” should have at least a modicum of evidence backing it up in order to be taken seriously. The Christian God has been around for 2000 years or so without a shred of evidence suggesting it’s true. Other gods have been around even longer with the same result.

Modern claims of miracles are often quite carefully investigated, for example by the Catholic Church during its canonisation process, with multiple eyewitnesses examined and cross-examined, medical records interrogated, and panels of experts assessing material, all with the instruction that any possible weakness be found and natural causes must be fully investigated with a view to their operation.

I am myself skeptical of this. Nevertheless, unless “evidence” is to be defined as “data obtained by repeated demonstration of a phenomenon under controlled and variable conditions”, this constitutes at least “a shred of evidence”. I understand that scientists, quite rightly, regard such evidence as unsatisfactory. So it is, by their standards. But that is not to say that it doesn’t exist.

One can rightly invoke the principle of parsimony and Occam’s Razor, a priori skepticism and the proper placement of the burden of proof. These are, however, methods of dealing with imperfect evidence, not evidence themselves. By its very nature, evidence for the intervention of God outside the natural order cannot be demonstrated and observed under controlled conditions. The immaterial, by definition, cannot be demonstrated by material evidence at all.

What it comes down to is that we do not know, and we should not reason beyond the data. When did it ever embarrass a scientist to say as much?

Goddam thing wouldn’t remove the blockquote tag at the end, no matter what I did. Sorry.

Dave Luckett Wrote:

One can rightly invoke the principle of parsimony and Occam’s Razor, a priori skepticism and the proper placement of the burden of proof. These are, however, methods of dealing with imperfect evidence, not evidence themselves. By its very nature, evidence for the intervention of God outside the natural order cannot be demonstrated and observed under controlled conditions. The immaterial, by definition, cannot be demonstrated by material evidence at all.

This seems fair enough. There are different ways to address the “gaps” in our knowledge, but it seems to me that they’re not all on equally sound footing. Occam’s Razor, a priori skepticism, etc., seem to me far more universally accessible than the legion of arbitrary artifices.

P.S. My apologies for being acerbic in my responses to your posts. It was kind of a long day.

Jaycubed said:

The only possible conclusions are:

(1) God is a group fantasy without any existence except in the minds of humans.

(2) God “hides” and is intentionally deceptive: a liar, manipulator & deceiver. Such a being would be unworthy of worship even if it did actually exist. The god of Abraham (as described in the 3 primary texts of his Religion; the Jewish Bible, the Christian Bible and the Muslim bible or Koran) is such a despicable murderous lunatic being, worthy only of contempt.

The odds are heavily in favor of conclusion #1.

With respect, these are not the only possible conclusions.

(1) is possible.

(2) implies (by not considering alternatives) that if God does not choose to make Himself manifest it is because He is being intentionally deceptive.

Is there no other possible reason? For example, could God be aware that the smallest intimation of His actual presence and power would so overwhelm human minds as to destroy free will? Could it be that He actually wants human beings to accept His grace and have faith in Him freely, exercising a real choice, rather than accepting perforce the fact of His manifest and undeniable presence?

If this is not inherently impossible (and I confess that I cannot see why it would be), then there is a third possibility: God exists, and has good reason not to manifest Himself. Mind, it is only a possibility. I am not accepting it into belief. As to its odds, I’m afraid I lack adequate data to compute them. It is at this point that Pascal’s wager raises its disturbing head.

We can accept or reject whatever possibilities we will. Me, I don’t know. But can we can agree that we are both very chary of people who sound certain that they do know the truth of this matter?

Dave Luckett Wrote:

If this is not inherently impossible (and I confess that I cannot see why it would be), then there is a third possibility: God exists, and has good reason not to manifest Himself. Mind, it is only a possibility. I am not accepting it into belief. As to its odds, I’m afraid I lack adequate data to compute them. It is at this point that Pascal’s wager raises its disturbing head.

I’m not sure Pascal’s wager is of any consequence. Any deity, who chooses to hide and allow centuries of warring sectarians to kill each other over what they believe they know but cannot possibly know, probably doesn’t care one way or the other that we believe. Of what possible significance is a late-arriving species on an insignificant planet in the outskirts of one of millions of galaxies to the ego of such a deity anyway? Especially if the deity plants evidence that makes them figure out that they evolved.

I say we shouldn’t worry ourselves about it. We have more than enough to do as it is. And we still have to fight off sectarians attempting to enslave the rest of us.

Mike Elzinga said: I say we shouldn’t worry ourselves about it. We have more than enough to do as it is. And we still have to fight off sectarians attempting to enslave the rest of us.

I’m with you, Mike, especially the “shouldn’t worry” part. It’s pointless. I regret that I do worry about it anyway, but that’s just me.

And “the sectarians attempting to enslave the rest of us” part, too. That’s practical and realistic, unlike my worry that atheists can display exactly the same fervour and intolerance about things that, as you say, they can’t know. There aren’t enough atheists like that to matter. Let us turn back to the real problems.

Dave Luckett said: The immaterial, by definition, cannot be demonstrated by material evidence at all.

What it comes down to is that we do not know, and we should not reason beyond the data. When did it ever embarrass a scientist to say as much?

See, I slightly disagree with you guys. I think you can demonstrate the immaterial, if the person who thinks it exists can agree on a hypothesis about what impact it has on the world. You then measure that impact (or lack thereof). If the moon was completely undetectable via sight, instruments, etc… we could still infer its existence through tides. If believers agreed on how having a soul altered behavior, we could attempt to measure the altered behavior and see if it actually exists.

I totally agree with Dave’s last sentences, though I see it as a positive. When theologians or philosophers start talking about immaterial objects or Gods or what have you, the scientific answer to these queries is: we don’t care if the object you’re talking about exists in some metaphysical sense of the word. The data says it has no measurable impact on the world. Whatever it might be, it doesn’t do anything of practical interest to science. It won’t run your refrigerator, reduce your fever, predict where a cannonball will land or help us create a more accurate calendar - and these are the sorts of things science is concerned about.

eric said:

See, I slightly disagree with you guys. I think you can demonstrate the immaterial, if the person who thinks it exists can agree on a hypothesis about what impact it has on the world.

[Emphasis added]

That, however, is a mighty big and ambiguous if.

Many people have suggested that deities are manifested in the lives of humans (i.e., humans are god detectors).

Unfortunately the “god signal” is extremely ambiguous, running the extremes of people dedicating their lives to the service and welfare of others to sectarian dogmatists killing others in the name of their deity and interfering with the educations of the children of others.

It seems to me that, if any deity exists, he/she/it might be aware of the problems with god-detection in humans. Why then should any skeptical person be “held accountable” in some way by that deity?

As is say, we don’t need to worry ourselves about it. We have more important things to do.

Dave Luckett said:

Modern claims of miracles are often quite carefully investigated, for example by the Catholic Church during its canonisation process, …

So the Church appoints its own investigators to come up with evidence in order to proclaim miracles. How can anyone, except the faithful, possibly find this credible?

I understand that scientists, quite rightly, regard such evidence as unsatisfactory. So it is, by their standards. But that is not to say that it doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t require a scientist to look at this so-called evidence with suspicion. I’m just a farmer with a high school education but even I can recognize a simple scam when it’s so obvious. When the Church hires Randi to investigate these claims of “miracles,” then I’ll pay attention.

Mike Elzinga said:

As is say, we don’t need to worry ourselves about it. We have more important things to do.

That’s why I can’t force myself to get into religion-bashing. It would be a great deal of fuss for no specific end, when the list of things I need to do seems to forever get longer. I find the devout “mostly harmless” and, the occasional nutcase aside, generally willing to leave me in peace.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Mike Elzinga said: That, however, is a mighty big and ambiguous if.

Oh absolutely. Most of the time folks making religious claims tend to get very cagey when asked for testable details. But I was replying to the hypothetical situation where someone actively wants to test for their immaterial thing.

I’m really just bringing up the Randi method: you can test for any magical power or immaterial force someone wants to believe in, if you can agree on what counts as a legitimate test.

As is say, we don’t need to worry ourselves about it. We have more important things to do.

I think we do need to worry about it, at least a little. I share your opinion that pratical matters are more important to study (than, say, theological matters), but the point of creationism is to take resources currently allocated to science and move them to theology. You need to pay attention to what creos or saying or you may find you don’t have the funding to do the more important things.

Is there no other possible reason? For example, could God be aware that the smallest intimation of His actual presence and power would so overwhelm human minds as to destroy free will?

Historically, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Bible is filled with examples of God specifically, and dramatically, letting his “presence and power” be known.

Just off the top of my head, rather public examples of divine “on-the-record comments” include destroying the entire Earth with the great flood, casting down the Tower of Babel and walls of Jericho in front of thousands, turning Sodom and Gomorrah into glassy parking lots for all to see and smiting the entire Egyptian nation with 7 plagues.

I’m sure, that as Pharaoh sat there between plagues six and seven contemplating the bill for an whole kingdom’s worth of calamine lotion he might have mused that free might be awfully over-rated, and maybe he should just do what this crazy Moses guy with the big hair and the funny stick wanted.

No, the only places and periods most notably lacking in testable miracles are those that are (to borrow a phrase) inclined to critically examine them.

eric said:

I think we do need to worry about it, at least a little. I share your opinion that pratical matters are more important to study (than, say, theological matters), but the point of creationism is to take resources currently allocated to science and move them to theology. You need to pay attention to what creos or saying or you may find you don’t have the funding to do the more important things.

Yeah; I’ve been tracking these idiots since the 1970s. In order to expose them, it’s important to know their tactics and the misconceptions they use.

Basically, if they can’t get it right in the natural world, there is no reason to believe they have any better insights into a supernatural realm. Now that most of their shtick has been exposed and they are stuck with it, I think we can be more effective in both educating the public and exposing their tactics.

The fact they cause school boards and state boards of education to misdirect money, time, and resources away from legitimate educational concerns might be used against these scammers in the future.

I’m not sure how much thought has been given to this idea by, say, the ACLU for example. But it seems like a viable future defense, or even offense, against these idiots. They need to be hit in their pocket books instead of passing the costs of their disruptions onto the public.

Mike Elzinga said:

They need to be hit in their pocket books instead of passing the costs of their disruptions onto the public.

But they are the public. School boards and state boards of education, we’re talking about elected officials, representing the people, carrying out the people’s will. The only recourse is what happened in Dover, vote the rascals out, bite the bullet, and pay the bills they leave behind. Unless actual malfeasance can be proved, which seems a bit far-fetched, this is the system we’re stuck with.

I’m sorry, I see you were talking about the lobbyists, not the officials. My mistake. But I think that would be even tougher, just about anyone can lobby for any cause they want. It’s the officials who are responsible.

tomh said:

I’m sorry, I see you were talking about the lobbyists, not the officials. My mistake. But I think that would be even tougher, just about anyone can lobby for any cause they want. It’s the officials who are responsible.

I think it might be something along the lines of violating the public trust, or using public office for personal gain or exploitation.

I don’t know how the law actually works here. But cases like Blogojovitch in Illinois come to mind.

The idea that persons and organizations can take over government agencies and use them to promote the agendas of sectarian groups is certainly treading close to the line if not clearly crossing it. If that can be legally established, then lawsuits can attempt to recoup some of the losses incurred by their actions.

I would like to hear a lawyer’s opinion.

To update Emerson, “Foolish inconsistency is the hallmark of Believers’ minds”.

tomh, stevaroni, I composed replies to your posts. On reflection, however, I do not believe that further debate serves any purpose, and is opposed to the just interests of this blog. I regret that I continue not to know, despite the arguments that you have advanced.

it is noteworthy so why oppose it

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Dunkelberg published on February 28, 2009 11:16 PM.

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