Monthly Archives: December 2008

Dogmatism of the “supernatural”

Because of the summer solstice/New Year holidays I am reposting some older articles. This one from last June.

Do scientists ever concern themselves over terms like ‘materialist,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘supernatural’? I don’t think so – at least those scientists working at the coal face. I have never heard any scientist posing the question - “is this phenomenon ‘natural’ or ’supernatural’?” before investigating something.

dogma-parade-webYet today science is attacked by some people for limiting itself to only ‘natural’ phenomena. Intelligent design (ID) proponents (and they aren’t the only ones) rail against the ‘materialism’ of science. They demand that science should be changed to include ‘supernatural’ explanations.

These are attempts to introduce dogma into science.

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The wedge undermines Christianity

phillip-johnsonBecause of the summer solstice/New Year holidays I am reposting some older articles. This one from last May.

Back in 1999 Phillip E. Johnson, the godfather of intelligent design (ID), declared a strategy of labeling evolutionary science, and therefore by implication all of science, as atheistic.

“The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs evolution to the existence of God vs the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally ‘introduced to Jesus.’”

200px-wedge_document_coverIn essence this is the same strategy as that outlined in the Wedge Strategy document.

ID spokespeople have constantly pushed this argument. Recently their efforts have become more extreme. For example, the message in ‘that silly movie’ Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that “Darwinism” led directly to Nazism and the holocaust. And these spokespeople have become more open in widening their attacks from “Darwinism” to all of science.

Ben Stein declared during a recent TV interview that “science leads to killing people.” David Berlinski in The Scientific Embrace of Atheism also attacks science in a manner John Derbyshire shows to be ridiculous (see Getting It Wrong about Atheism and Science). Denys O’Leary has written in similar nasty way with her references to “Darwinist” thugs (see Expelled: “Denormalizing” the Darwin thugs and Expelled: “Denormalizing” the Darwin thugs 2 – PZ Myers and friends).

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Psychological abuse

Because of the summer solstice holidays I am reposting some older articles. This one from last April.

We are very conscious of violent physical abuse of children because of the publicity around resulting deaths. However, neglect and psychological stress can be at least as important, or even more important, a problem as physical and sexual abuse. We also seem to be unaware of the long-term psychological results of child abuse.

Our ignorance of non-physical child abuse and its long-term psychological effects means we often don’t acknowledge the harm done to many children.

Child abuse survivors suffer from long-term post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive negative thoughts, low self-esteem, compulsive behaviour, anger, disturbed sleep, hyper-vigilance, shame, guilt, etc. are common.

Persistent psychological abuse of children can result from continual disparaging comments or continual exposure to physical and verbal violence between adult care-givers and parents. Psychological stress can also result from the controlling behaviour of care-givers.

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Another extinction?

dodo_birdAllen MacNeill at Evolution List makes an interesting observation in his post The “Intelligent Design” Movement on College and University Campuses is Dead. He’s had a look at the web sites for the Intelligent Design (ID) and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) University campus groups. These are simply student groups (although ID proponents sometimes imply they have scientific standing),  although they have been touted as evidence of academic ‘controversy’ over evolution,  MacNeill’s detailed analysis indicates that none of these groups are currently active.

These finding parallel my observation for some other, apparently more weighty, ID organisations. Even the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID) – a research group established by Bill Dembski – appears (from its web site) to have been  inactive since 2005. That’s when the last issue of their short-lived quarterly journal (Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design) appeared. Origins (featuring scholarly and popular resources concerning intelligent design and philosophical theism”) was last updated almost 2 years ago.

Many other ID sites are similar, or post articles only infrequently.

I guess extinction is the inevitable evolutionary fate for organisms that can’t deal with reality.

See also They must be ex-ideas at Pharyngula.

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IPCC “bureaucrats”?

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Growing certainty of global warming

Creationists commonly appear to also be anti-science when it comes to the human contribution to global warming (see Intelligent design/creationism and climate change). Locally Christian News New Zealand will often copy climate change denial material from their parent US creationist website Uncommon Descent. Now, the Christian Apologetics website Thinking Matters is getting into the act with Global Warming a New Religion. (Isn’t it strange how fundamentalists use the “religious” label to discredit belief systems they don’t like?)

This article doesn’t even bother misrepresenting the scientific data to attack the scientific understanding of the anthropogenic contribution to climate change. The author seems happy enough to attribute public concern on the issue to communism, humanism, belief in an ancient earth, and disbelief in any “world wide flood hypothesis.”

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Fine tuning of the universe?

I am going to return to this subject again later as it has been discussed lately and does raise some interesting issues. But meanwhile here is something on the topic from last March.

More and more I hear the apparent “fine-tuning” of the universe being given as an argument to “prove” existence of a god. This goes along the lines that there are a number of critical physical constants underlying the nature of our universe. If either of these had even slightly different values our universe would be very different. Stars and galaxies would not form. Carbon would not be manufactured in the stars and hence life would not occur.

Proponents of this “proof” argue that the chance of our universe having physical constants with these values is impossibly small. Therefore there must have been a divine intelligence to ensure our universe has physical constants with the measured values.

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“Cosmic religion”

A repeat of a previous post – from last March.

Did Einstein believe in God?

Certainly some theists support their own beliefs by claiming he did. However Einstein’s religious beliefs were certainly not conventional. His statements have been used by atheists and theists alike as support for their positions. We need to look more closely at Einstein’s writings to get a clearer idea of his beliefs.

Max Jammer’s book Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology is probably the best easily available source on the subject. According to Jammer, although Einstein had a “deep religiosity” as a child “at the age of twelve, just when he should have been preparing for the bar mitzvah, the Jewish confirmation, he suddenly became completely irreligious.” A position from which he never changed throughout the rest of his life.

I wonder how we can describe a child under the age of 12 as having strong beliefs – age 12 is probably that time when people start to develop serious beliefs.

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Dissent from science

I’m currently out of town so am repeating a few old posts – this one form last February.

Opponents of scientific evolutionary theory will often refer to the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list to justify that the theory is controversial and should be discarded, or at least equal time be given to creationist “theories” in school biology classes. There is no doubt that the list is being used to attack scientific theory but its worth looking at the statement professionals on the list have signed up to. It reads:

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Few of the signatories have signed the statement for scientific reasons – rather their motives have been religious (see Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?). However, scientists by their nature are skeptics and should always critically examine evidence. In principle few scientists would disagree with the statement. So why has the Scientific Dissent from Darwin list attracted so little scientific support (see Dissenters from Darwinism in context)?

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No God? No Worries -Yeah right

It seems that the highly successful fund-raising campaign for the atheist buses in London is sparking campaigns in other countries. The latest organised by Sydney Atheists has a typically Australian slogan -”No God? No Worries!”

via Critical Mass: Sydney Atheists Advertising Campaign.

And in New Zealand – have a look at Christians around New Zealand can take a joke.


See also:
“Probably” no God – probably acceptable
Being good for goodness’ sake

Ex-Muslims speak out

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain held their first conference recently. They have put videos up at their web site and, although the quality is not the best, they are well worth viewing.

Subjects covered include:

  • Apostasy laws and the Freedom to Renounce and Criticise Religion
  • Sharia Law and Citizenship Rights
  • Creationism, Religious Education and Faith Schools

These are all of immediate concern in the UK and the rest of Europe.

UK Humanists and other secularists also participated in the conference. I recognised AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins. The presentation by Dawkins on Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation is interesting.

Richard Dawkins on Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation

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