This Just In: Bearing False Witness No Longer a Sin

Apparently, anyway.

How American fundamentalist schools are using Nessie to disprove evolution

Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence that evolution couldn’t have happened. The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.

“If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That’s their logic. It’s a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters.”

Private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana, which follows the ACE curriculum, have already been cleared to receive the state voucher money transferred from public school funding, thanks to a bill pushed through by state Governor Bobby Jindal.

A Science-is-not-Religion Post. Praise Maxwell!

And another thing… : Science is not my god

Faith in science does tend to be a good deal more practical than faith in many other things. For example, I have faith that, should I jump off a bridge, gravity will ensure my speedy reunion with the ground. I have faith that if I combine hydrogen with oxygen, I will have water. Why? Because these things have been proven, demonstrably, to be true. Theories in science are rarely just flights of fancy – they are usually based on existing principles which have been proven to be correct. Additionally, a key difference between “science” and “blind faith” is that, while “blind faith” refuses to change, “science” redevelops its theories when new, more accurate evidence comes to light, even if that means contradicting something which was earlier thought to be true. For example, should there prove to be no higgs boson particle, scientists will not continue irrationally believing in it, but will instead accept that the hypothesis has been dis-proven, and move on.

ORLY, O'Reilly?

The Bill O’Reilly “God of the gaps” incredul-o-fest video spawned a number meme-o-grams, some of which I have seen on reddit. Now I see links to collections of them over at Bad Astronomy.

The comments in the BA post are interesting, too, especially the ones with the “why are you picking on him” flavor. It’s because he’s embracing willful ignorance and encouraging people to run away from critical thought. It was bad enough that he had repeated the “you can’t explain tides” canard until it blew up. But the kicker is defending his “facts don’t matter” attitude with his fallacy-laden argument. With that he’s inviting scorn and ridicule. It would be rude not to accept.

The War on the War on Christmas

Halfway There: Happy Humbug!

Therefore I was less than impressed when Prager lamented the death of “Merry Christmas” as a holiday greeting. He declared, with great assurance, that pressure from anti-religious pressure groups had brought nonsectarian greetings like “Happy Holidays” into prominence in preference to speaking of our (not his) dear savior’s birth. Instead of taking Prager’s word for it, I decided to do a little checking. What does Google’s Ngram viewer show?

I’m not sure how authoritative Google’s database is, but if their sampling is close to random, “Merry Christmas” isn’t suffering the fate that some would have you think it is.

“Happy Holidays” is inclusive.
“Merry Christmas” is exclusive.

Not surprising to me the general association of who uses what, and what group is upset about their sense of entitlement being challenged.

What's a Miracle, Anyway?

Roger Ebert: What do you mean by a miracle?

Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It is also true that an apparent miracle can be explained because our knowledge of its natural cause is inadequate. For the Church to declare anyone a saint, I presume, is possible because the Devil’s Advocate (that is, mankind) does not yet possess sufficient knowledge



It’s hard to think about what happened on that terrible day and then look around and see what’s happening today and not think that we are utterly frikkin’ nowhere. The controversy over the so-called Ground-Zero Mosque, the proposed burning of Korans. It’s depressing.

It’s depressing that so many people in the US don’t understand the Constitution, and treat it as optional. The first amendment protects speech we don’t like and religions we don’t follow. That’s how we know we are free to speak our mind and follow religions of our own choosing (or follow no religion at all) without the government contradicting us. You don’t get to ignore it just because something is unpopular — the point of having these rights enumerated is so that the majority can’t become a mob and bully the minority via government action. It’s reminiscent of Animal Farm (not that the ones who have read it would like the comparison with a satire of Soviet communism. Or read the book.) where the rules get changed — as if we woke up one morning and found that the first amendment suddenly read Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, unless any of these conflicts with the feelings of the majority

What’s worse is when they drape themselves in the flag and declare themselves as true Americans.

And then there’s the Koran burning. That’s been put on hold, maybe — it’s not clear to me what’s going on. Pastor Jones has the right to do this, of course, as a free speech issue. And I hope all of those who encourage his actions remember this the next time the issue of flag burning as free speech comes up. But it’s still an issue of religious tolerance; what I don’t understand is all the rhetoric and posturing that seems designed to bring us down to the level of the fanatics — the burning, the “no mosque so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” If they hate us for our freedom, I don’t think the solution is to get rid of our freedoms, or to become just as fanatical. Speaking of which, I read where one response to Pastor Jones’ plan was a protest in Pakistan during which the burned a flag, ’cause that’s the perfect way to calm things down. (Good to know we haven’t cornered the market on stupid just yet.)

I hope people recognize that by painting all Muslims as terrorists and equating Islam with Al Quaeda, we’re doing exactly what those Pakistani protesters were doing — blaming all Americans for the actions of a few fanatics. Why can’t we band together the way we did for a short time after 9/11? Show our enemies that we’re better than they are, because we support diversity and tolerance; that we have freedoms that they don’t and this makes us strong and not weak.