How can anyone back Ken Ham?

July 22, 2014

Back away from him, yes. Back him? His brain baffles me with its illogical pronouncements.

Creationist Ken Ham, who recently debated Bill Nye the Science Guy over the origins of the universe, is calling for an end to the search for extraterrestrial life because aliens probably don’t exist — and if they do, they’re going to Hell anyway.

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe,” Ham wrote on his blog on Sunday. “This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.”.

And

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

And

The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!

The rest of his screed is here but it’s not worth the clicks.

I don’t think there’s any desperate attempt to prove evolution, either. It happens. Ken Ham and his ilk are wasting their time, energy and money promoting their very silly alternative.

It’d be interesting to find out if life happened on other worlds, or is happening on other bodies in this solar system.

And it’s good that humans have the drive to discover. Speaking biblically, it turned out to be the wrong move for Adam and Eve because apparently God really wanted them to stay obedient and stupid. In the real world, that ambition to know is what moves us forward and keeps us fed, watered and housed. That drive to know is why we also have so many gods and religions — for some of the bigger questions, our ancestors had no way to find the answers so put gods in as placeholders. And people like Ken Ham want to keep them there rather than find any real solid answers. It’s a shame, really. The world, the universe, and our place in both is far more fascinating when taking the science into account than it is just blowing it off with “God did it!”

My mind is blown by the very idea that we’re all star stuff. I trust those who say it’s so. I’m just blown by what that means.. it’s so big and fantastic and wild. No god invented by man can beat that, in my mind.


Christians deemed “heretics” after claiming no historical Adam and Eve

August 10, 2011

Well, almost. This NPR article was a good find; some evangelicals are starting to realize that the truths being uncovered by geneticists and other areas of science are making it harder and harder to maintain the fiction that the whole of the earth got populated thanks to two people some celestial being molded together out of clay and a rib 6000 years ago.

conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, “You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.”

Others would likely try to say God miraculously made all those mutation rates possible in order to maintain the delusion of a functional biblical timeline, so it’s great to see logic and rationality taking charge here instead. Three cheers for science and minds open enough to accept its findings, even when they run counter to earlier, long-held beliefs. (That said, later down the page he appears to credit God for the evolutionary process as a whole so it’s clear he’s not willing to scrap the notion of a god’s interference completely. Can’t help some people…)

In fundamentalist circles these admissions are less than popular.

“From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith,” says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong.

“But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem,” Rana says.

One of those problems being cognitive dissonance. Hundreds of years of telling believers that the bible has everything right. Here come all these great minds devoting themselves to scientific inquiry and discovering so many examples where that’s clearly not the case. Yet, believers will turn away from all those the strange and frightening facts because their (outdated) beliefs are old and comfortable friends. They can’t possibly be wrong…

Of course they can.

A religion like Christianity is built on precepts that require believers to assume the world is other than it is in order to work. To trust those errors are not really errors at all.

To have faith. Faith in Genesis.
Faith in the Ark and the flood wiping out all but God’s chosen few.
Faith in a prophecy about a new king of the people. Faith in a story about angel visitations,
a guiding star in the sky and a baby born in a stable who,
wonder of wonders, will grow up to be that
King of heaven and earth and rise from the dead one day, too.

I’m impressed by how that part rhymes. You’d think I planned it…

“When Adam sinned, he sinned for us,” Mohler says. “And it’s that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior.

Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam’s original sin.

“Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul’s description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament,” Mohler says.

The fault lies in the need for humans to interpret everything. That must have been of evolutionary benefit at some point, because we’re so damned good at it. We’re really good at misinterpreting things, too. Something else we’re really good at is taking stuff for granted when we think someone else has interpreted everything correctly for us already. Why do people believe Paul was right? There’s nothing wrong with building lessons out of a story you’ve learned, and it’s easy to see why people want to believe he’s right, but that still doesn’t make him factually accurate. He just jumped to that conclusion and whole chunks of the world ultimately followed in his footsteps.

Creation myths exist across cultures. Some of them are very beautiful you’d just love for them to be true for that reason alone. Others sound so ridiculous you have to wonder what kind of dopes ever came up with them. Everyone wondered where things came from and how people came to be. The Judeo-Christian version is just one of hundreds, and easily determined to all be equally false once people finally get around to comparing them to what the reality of our history can really tell us.

Back in the article, some scholars liken this origin rift to the high stake action of the battle between Galileo and the Catholic church. Others are reluctant to make that comparison but admit evolution is a sore point and getting trickier to deny outright. Still, they continue to insist on doing so.

others say Christians can no longer afford to ignore the evidence from the human genome and fossils just to maintain a literal view of Genesis.

“This stuff is unavoidable,” says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. “Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have.”

“If so, that’s simply the price we’ll have to pay,” says Southern Baptist seminary’s Albert Mohler. “The moment you say ‘We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,’ you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world.”

I don’t see why that would be true. People tend to respect anyone willing to admit he or she was wrong. If there’s a reluctance to take that step and admit the whole premise of the faith is flawed, and was always flawed, people will continue to be taken in by it all. That said, I just know that if every theologian threw up his hands tomorrow and admitted it was all a damn sham and the Pope himself took his fancy hat off to apologize for lying to the masses, there’d still be thousands of people flocking to churches to pray to god, “Say it ain’t so! Give me a sign!” Then they’d convince themselves that every piece of fluff and feather was a sure sign pointing to God’s way being the right way and they’d change nothing.

But this is a good start. People should be willing to challenge long held beliefs. People should be brave enough to set those beliefs aside if enough evidence can be collected to refute them.

Which reminds me. Christopher DiCarlo will be in Saskatoon to promote his book, How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass later this month. The focus of the book is to train one’s self to think critically about all sorts of things and if you’re in the area and that sounds like something you’d like to learn, too, all the details are here.


Jesus “supporting” literal 6 day creation doesn’t make it true

February 20, 2011

I marvel over the things Christians want to think about sometimes. Mind you, if they didn’t write about this kind of thing, what on earth would I have to write about? This opinion piece by Rhys Demman comes out of the Pincher Creek Echo.

There is a common misconception floating around with many Christians, that Jesus does not support a literal six day creation because he never actually talked about it.

Did he have bowel movements or belly button lint? Bible says nothing about those either. The Bible says little about how he spent his childhood. Did he magically skip a few years and go from age 12 to 33? The original writers weren’t trying to outline Christ’s autobiography so people would understand the history of the man. They just picked the parts of Christ’s life that could be used to drive a belief system.

What I found interesting are the attempts to track Jesus back in time via geneology. Both Luke and Matthew trace his lineage through Joseph who supposedly isn’t even his father anyway. It would have made more sense to go through Mary’s if they wanted accuracy via genes. But they didn’t. Maybe they wanted to prove he qualified as the answer to prophecies made years earlier. Debate goes around and around trying to figure out why it’s written like it is and it seems everyone has his own theory.

Moving on.

But if everything that Jesus said was recorded in the Bible, there would be about thirty volumes of more text, so it is impossible to say whether he really did talk about it. Despite this, when you go into the scriptures, you see that there is evidence that supports the fact that Jesus was a part of creation.

He quotes John 1:1-3 like this:

“In the beginning was the word (Jesus), and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that has been made.”

What’s his proof that “Jesus” is interchangeable with “word” here? John 5:46-47:

” If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Personally, I think this makes Jesus sound like he has delusions of grandeur, creating a prophecy about himself so he can show everyone how well he fits into it. And rather than think he’s a loon, they bought it and packaged it and sold it to everyone who wanted someone to believe in. Is it worth mentioning that there’s debate about how much of what Jesus is reported to have said actually got said by anyone, let alone him?

Moving on..

Moses’ account of the 10 commandments, is taken as completely literal by nearly every Christian, and even by some non Christians. If you believe that Moses’ account of what God says is accurate, then why do so many find it so difficult to believe in a literal six day creation?

The commandments are an example of a set of laws meant to benefit everyone in a society and the majority of those are still useful rules in secular society. Some in the list are more “morally wrong” than legally wrong these days.

I found a honking huge list of commandments Jesus supposedly wanted his followers to abide by so why do people constantly look at the Exodus or Deuteronomy list as though those were all that matter? Exodus lists more than ten, besides. Why are these ten the only ones that get posted, though? A funny quote from a site regarding all the rest of them:

The number of edicts is not even ten; it is not really clear where one ends and the next begins, but in Exodus 20 there are at least fourteen and arguably more. The last one is the rather precious “neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” (Apparently Hebrew priests, like Scotsmen, were not in the habit of wearing undergarments.)

Six day creation is hard to swallow because it requires faith that it’s true. There’s no evidence of it beyond what the book says, and says twice in different ways besides. Pick one or the other and you still can’t prove either, but reams of scientific documentation exist that can refute the claim. All Genesis is is a story of creation: two of them from two different time periods – likely the tenth century B.C and four hundred years later. And every culture has had its own stories of how the world came to be. Read a few of them and then ask yourself why the bible stories should ever be considered truer than those.

It seems as though everywhere I look, all I see are people trying to justify non-biblical claims about God using millions of years to create the world. Such claims are unfounded and inaccurate, because God’s account of creation is completely contrary to the account set forth by evolution.

He thinks this way because he’s used to using bible stories to create reality instead of letting reality speak for itself. Reality like the earth being round(ish). Reality like the earth revolving around the sun. Reality like dinosaurs dying out long before hominids appeared. People who want treat the bible like it’s the only thing they’ll ever need to read and believe are at risk of deluding themselves and they are not the ones we as a progressive society should be putting our trust in. They are wrong and uninformed and willfully ignorant and holding us back. I think proof of that kind of thinking is in the next paragraph:

We need to stop using the excuse that certain biblical statements are not literal, when you read about Joshua and the Israelites marching around the wall of Jericho for seven days, you would never assume that they marched for seven million years!

He’s creating a magnificent reductio ad absurdum with his ludicrous example. We know humans then were lucky to make it to the age of 70, no matter how old the bible might say Adam (930, Gen. 5:5) and Methuselah were (969, Gen 5:27) when they kicked it. Nobody would question seven days marching around a wall; it’s perfectly rational to question seven days making a universe and all that’s in it.

Once we decide that we like a passage better when it is not taken literally, it’s easy to take other passages of scripture and twist them to mean what we want them to.

I agree that’s a problem, but not the way he’s seeing it. Thinking Genesis could be true is the problem. “Knowing” that God held off flooding the entire world so people could mourn Methuslah for a week (Genesis 7:4) is a problem. Thinking God actually did flood the entire world is a problem. Believing every animal on the planet was collected and on the ark (even though that would be beyond impossible for the stated size of the thing and the known size of the planet) is a problem. Teaching this shit to children as if these are facts as valid as theories of gravity, planetary motion and evolution is a problem.

We have very limited minds and understanding, and are not able to fully fathom a God that can create a universe with but a thought and a spoken word. Psalm 90:2 says “From everlasting to everlasting you are God,” and Jesus says in Luke 18:27, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” The fact that we don’t understand how God did it, doesn’t mean that we can take what we want of his Holy Scriptures and twist them to our own devices.

Hanging onto beliefs like this is what limits minds and understanding. There’s no decent reason to hang onto the idea that a god did anything for us. It’s interesting to wonder how the universe got its start but pointing to a god and thinking that’s enough of an answer is a very big and problematic limitation people put on themselves. I don’t know why they can be satisfied with that answer. It’s also worth noting that people who think like this might also be people who would deny their children medical care because they think God’s plan is more important than trying insulin injections. That prayer will lead to cures or answers when all you get is loss and unnecessary suffering.

People need more than a belief in the bible to get through life.


edit Feb 21/11 — edited a couple paragraphs to fix the wording of an idea.


Edit same day but later: found an interesting piece at Camels With Hammers worth quoting:

I think this either/or logic is crucial in many other fundamentalists’ minds. They cannot accept the liberal’s or the moderate’s willingness to judge some things the Bible says as false or immoral because to do so would admit that it was not a perfectly true and moral book and they need it to be perfectly true because if it can be false anywhere then it is most likely false in the most important parts. Only if it is a perfect expression of a perfect God’s will, can we have any hope that its most outlandish offer of hope, for life after death, could possibly be true and not just one of the first parts to be discredited as obviously false.


I expect there will be too much God at the Grammys

February 13, 2011

I wasn’t going to be watching anyway. In all honesty, I didn’t know they’d be on tonight until I came across a Wall Street Journal article about celebrity confidence and the god connection. Neil Strauss has been noticing the trend of thanking a god for successes in all kinds of award shows.

Until I began interviewing many of the winners of these awards two decades ago, I thought this was a sign of humility and gratitude (or at least an affectation of them). But the truth is more interesting than that.

Before they were famous, many of the biggest pop stars in the world believed that God wanted them to be famous, that this was his plan for them, just as it was his plan for the rest of us not to be famous. Conversely, many equally talented but slightly less famous musicians I’ve interviewed felt their success was accidental or undeserved—and soon after fell out of the limelight.

He’s written a book that covers this topic, among other things: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys Into Fame and Madness to be available in March. He’s discovered (probably unsurprisingly to readers) that an assumption about God specifically wanting someone to be famous is going to improve that person’s chances of being famous. I know God wants me to be a success, so I’m going to be a success. It’s all part of His plan… Recall what I wrote recently about Calvinism, predestination and God wanting people to be rich? Same kind of thing, apparently.

Let’s call it competitive theism, a self-styled spirituality that can be overlaid on any religion and has nothing to do with personal morality. This faith gap, I’ve noticed in the interviews I’ve done, is often what sets the merely famous apart from the ridiculously famous. It can make the difference between achieving what’s possible and accomplishing what seems impossible.

Though scientists, to the best of my knowledge, have yet to study the relationship of faith to superstardom, they have studied addicts, transplant patients and natural disaster victims, and they have found that actively seeking God’s intervention has improved people’s odds of survival.

Yes, but in much the same way as people can put faith in a placebo and improve. Even when they know it’s a placebo. Thinking God’s got some major plan for you winds up being a major confidence booster that will change the way you behave, and improve your chances. But confidence, no matter how you get it, will improve your chances. Confidence comes from hard work and training and ability. Perseverance. Dedication to becoming good at something. You can know you deserve it because you worked to achieve it. Confidence often leads to success and it doesn’t require a god’s intervention to make the difference. People just think it does. Confidence also helps people deal with the criticisms that go hand in hand with (sometimes undeserved) success, as well. And thinking God is on their side even if nobody else is winds up being the way many stars deal with gossip, controversies and general bad press. Things that would cripple a less confident performer will barely ruffle their feathers.

He ends the piece with this:

stars who are presumptuous enough to see themselves as God’s chosen ones are likely to dominate the pop charts, award shows and sports championships. Talent counts for a lot, but so too does the motivating power of divine conviction.

I’d say he’s right. No matter what we might want to succeed at, the idea that something outside ourselves will take an interest and help make that happen is probably one of the biggest reasons human beings continue to flourish. It could be argued that’s the reason we’ve succeeded as a species — not because a god actually exists, but because we, as a species, continue to believe one does. God-belief is a product of our evolution and, like it or not, we’re probably stuck with it because it works. If it didn’t, why would we have developed the idea in the first place?


To quote the man of the day…

February 12, 2011

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

“An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.”

“A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others. “

“We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.”

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882)

(via)


Divide between faith and science “illusion” claims Christian astronomer

February 11, 2011

Martin Gaskell sued the University of Kentucky recently. He’s of the opinion that religious discrimination happened, that he lost out on a good job as director of the student planetarium there because

of his professed faith and statements he made that were taken to be critical of evolution. The controversy fueled the long-running debate between scientists and Christians who believe the Bible refutes some scientific discoveries.

Gaskell said the two sides can find agreement. He has, as a devout Christian who uses the tools of science to study the universe.

“That’s one of the things that people like myself really want to counter, is this idea of some sort of incompatibility between religion and science,” Gaskell said.

While he asserts he bought his ticket for the evolution train ages ago, he insists there’s something wrong with the track itself, or possibly the fuel that powers it. The documents that might have cost him this job included phrases like “significant scientific problems” and “unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations.”

Gaskell said scientists shouldn’t be discouraged or rejected for holding non-mainstream views.

It’s not like he’s an alternative science oddball. Christianity is pretty mainstream.

“The question some people ask me is ‘If I were a biologist and if I did have major doubts about the theory of evolution, would that disqualify me from being a biologist?’ ” he said. “And I’d firmly say ‘No “…’ “

Other scientists tend to disagree with him. I think doubts might hobble some research but wouldn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t do the work.

Dissecting a frog in grade 7 was enough biology to last me a lifetime so I didn’t go that route when it came to picking classes later but the bits I’ve read about experiments people have done with plants and fruit flies and things.. knowing what I know (which is not much) about how breeders select pairings for ideal traits (be it horses or dogs or birds), it seems fairly likely that what hasn’t been tweaked deliberately by humankind used to be tweaked (and is still tweaked) by environments and nature and habitat and personal preference on the part of the animals themselves. Bees pick what flowers they want to hover over, after all, and cows get picky over what bull they’ll let mount. All you have to do is watch and you can see that.

You do have to wonder why biologists would have been consulted about an astronomy job, though.

In one e-mail from court records, a biology professor said he thought that Gaskell’s “public premise is to provide as much intertwining between science and religion as possible, and this will most certainly lead to misconceptions about scientific evidence.”

Scott, who taught at Kentucky in the 1970s, said the university’s scientists were likely “really, really sensitive” about the school’s image as the newly opened Creation Museum was attracting national attention to Kentucky by asserting that the earth was 6,000 years old.

A member of the search committee worried that “creationists in the state would be eager to latch on to” Gaskell’s hiring.

Gaskell would like to see even more Christians get hired in science fields eventually. He’d like to see them take more interest in the research and the pursuit of answers to the unsolved questions.

It’s a pity he seems to forget many of them have already decided that God is always the answer to those supposedly unsolved questions and probably won’t encourage their kids to think differently lest they stop being Christians altogether. So long as people keep insisting people can’t be both scientifically minded and Christian, Christians are probably going to pass on science careers. The science fields are probably missing out on some very intelligent people this way, but if these are mostly people who’d let their faith drive over letting the result of research speak for itself, then you can hardly blame current scientists for being willing to limp along without their aid. Then again, maybe at some point pride will have to take the back seat and let progress take the wheel for a while…

Things to think about on the eve of Darwin Day.


Quotable “comic”

February 5, 2011

At least, I thought so:

Surviving the World Lesson 392

(See more here)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124 other followers