Ben Stein Takes On Darwin(ists)

January 11, 2008

The foremost place of dialogue and free thought should be the scientific arena. I would expect any scientist worth his graduate degree to agree heartily with this statement. After all, we have seen what happens when this is not the case. Galileo, Copernicus, and many other revolutionaries of scientific discovery were the victims of thought-repression and censorship (the aforementioned cases were threatened by a controlling Church/State fellowship which grossly misinterpreted the meaning of certain Bible verses). Yet, even though their contemporaries shunned them, we now know that not only were they correct in their theories (most notably the heliocentric solar system), but also that they pioneered scientific thinking that unlocked much of what the modern world has greatly benefited from.

So it stands to reason that utmost care should be taken to preserve free academic thinking within science. Furthermore, the complete demise of the church-state government within developed countries essentially ensures that scientists can discuss and debate with utmost freedom from censorship or rebuke. Right?

Wrong.

Academic elitism, scientific censorship and thought repression are rampant throughout the modern scientific circles. Need proof? Walk in on an Ivy League school discussion on origins and say two words: “Intelligent design.”

At best, you will probably be met with sneers and questions regarding the Bible-thumping, homophobic parents who obviously are responsible for such an insult to the human intellect. At worst, well, we’ll just hope for the best.

Of course, it is one thing to note sneers and jeers at an idea. It is quite a different thing to talk of oppression and censorship. But you can talk it, and one man who will be more than happy to talk is Ben Stein.

Stein, the actor/political pundit, has produced a documentary which examines the academic repression given to proponets of Intelligent Design. Only a trailer has been made available, but Stein wastes no time giving his thoughts on the blog portion of the site:

Darwinism, the notion that the history of organisms was the story of the survival of the fittest and most hardy, and that organisms evolve because they are stronger and more dominant than others, is a perfect example of the age from which it came: the age of Imperialism. When Darwin wrote, it was received wisdom that the white, northern European man was destined to rule the world. This could have been rationalized as greed–i.e., Europeans simply taking the resources of nations and tribes less well organized than they were.

Them’s fightin words. But they’re not without content. Just ask Stephen Meyer, whose scholarly essay questioning the sufficiency of the Cambrian explosion to explain life was published and subsequently treated like heresy. The Biological Society of Washington found it appropriate to draft a corporate statement on such a thing. Note the careful wording of the statement; it smacks heavily of Medieval church proclamation:

The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution…which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.

Does this sound odd? A scientific body, banding together to condemn the publication of a scientific paper?

One thing that needs to be said at this point is that intelligent design (or Creationsim) is not exactly the pink elephant theory. Great scientists (Newton and Pasteur, just to name a couple) of old, and many Ph.D. holders across the world today hold to something more than traditional Darwinism. To deny an idea its day in court comes awfully close to elitism.

Stein’s documentary is proposing to deal with just that: Elitism. Intellectual arrogance has been around a long time, and the origin of life is not the only issue which sees it come to surface. But it is rampant across educational establishments in the United States.

I close by referencing an op-ed that I believe will prove my point. It was written about the Creation Museum, I place I have visited and I will gladly testify that it is “as advertised.” It offers a tour of natural history from a staunchly Biblical worldview, and never leads on to anything else. No one paying for a ticket is unaware of what they’re about to hear. So with that insert for free speech, let us look at James K. Willmot sounds oddly…religious:

If adults want to believe in a 6,000-year-old Earth, that dinosaurs and humans lived together in harmony (all dinosaurs were vegetarians, you see) and that Noah saved all of the Earth’s animal species by placing them on his ark, then they have the right to do so. What I object to is that thousands of children, particularly the growing number of Christian home-schooled children in this country, are visiting the museum in droves, much to the delight of the museum’s founder, Ken Hamm.

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These kids are learning that despite a fossil record that clearly shows a progression of simple life forms becoming more complex life forms over billions of years (the first bacteria are believed to have established themselves approximately 3.8 billion years ago), they are taught that the first man was made from clay and that the first woman was made from the man’s rib. Instead of learning that the process of natural selection, over 3,800 millions of years, has changed populations of organisms into the approximately 10 million species (conservative estimate) that inhabit the Earth today, they are taught the “poof” theory of creationism.

I like these two paragraphs because, interestingly enough, they are ALL Mr. Willmot has to say about the Museum. He casually tosses the name and a couple facts about, and then proceeds to immediately dismiss it’s claims without any serious editorial work. But even more than that, the pot then decides to start calling the kettle black:

We do not need citizens who are closed-minded, anti-knowledge fundamentalists who want to see the world move closer to the Biblical prophecies of an Armageddon. (AIG also believes in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation.) Unfortunately, the creation museum in Northern Kentucky has been very successful at encouraging their non-thinking, anti-reasoning philosophy, especially among young, dinosaur-loving children. Inaction in this matter may come back to haunt us in the future.

Who is encouraging non-thinking? The person censoring alternative ideas, or the man encouraging dialogue? The answer is not difficult, but for people like James K. Willmot, whom Ben Stein will most certainly have some words for, it apparently is unthinkable.

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14 Responses to “Ben Stein Takes On Darwin(ists)”

  1. scripto said

    “To deny an idea its day in court comes awfully close to elitism.”

    Please. ID had its day in court and those that didn’t hightail it back to seattle were roundly trounced. The problem with ID is that it is a political and cultural movement. If you look closely you will find not only a stunning lack of published papers but an even more curious lack of submissions to the appropriate journals. ID theorists can appeal to the public and politcos all they want but until they actually start to “do” science they will gain no traction in the scientific community. Do a pub med search and contrast Intelligent Design with any aspect involving evolutionary theory and you can see where the work is being done. The fact that ID is not taken seriously is more a result of lack of productivity rather than a priori dismissal of the idea.

    Meyer’s paper bypassed the normal review process and was snuck in by Sternberg as one of his last official acts as editor of the journal. The paper is a shoddy piece of work and outside the normal perview of the journal in which it was published. It was subsequently withdrawn because of this.

    Stein was a liar when he wrote for Nixon and he hasn’t changed. Who would have thought Jimmy Kimmel would end up being the smart one?

  2. bleport said

    I dealt with this same topic on my site (and Scripto was there to comment as well; good to see you old friend). Whereas commentors like the one above just appeared bitter, another commentor named ‘oneinsixbillion’ presented a slightly more reasonable case being that ID suggest (I am paraphrasing his thoughts) teaching the metaphysical reasons behind evolution and he felt that was not something that should pop up in a science class. This may be true in the high school setting, but less so in the college setting in my opinion.

    Really the question is should teachers be able to say “it just happened” or “an intellegence designed it” or should there be a forced middle ground of “it happened this way but outside of what we can observe we can’t explain the gaps, we simply do not know”. To say “it just happened” deals with the metaphysical.

    This is also a question as to whether or not science can be spoken of outside the realm of philosophy. Maybe it can; maybe it cannot. If it can, then people like Dawkins needs to stay put, Alister McGrath needs to speak on two seperate wave lengths, and so forth. I am just not sure that this is all that possible.

  3. james K willmot said

    The premise of Ben Stein’s film (and this blog-writer) is that creationism and ID theories should receive equal billing to evidence-based, peer-reviewed science. This is an insult to every Christian scientist (I work with many) who keep their religious faith separate from their academic scholarship. This film suggests there a conspiracy of exclusion by a secular intelligensia against authentic scientific scholarship. This is a lie. There is an exclusion of psuedo-science from science. If creationists and IDers want to present their ideas as philosophies, fine…all power to them. But they are not and should not be allowed into the realm of science unless they follow the rules of science. That being said, to suggest the creation museum is science-based is another lie. There is absolutely no evidence of human/dinosaur co-habitation, 6000 year old Earth, or that evolution is wrong. In fact, the museum supports evolution on a micro scale…just not transmutation of species or molecules to men. Yet they suggest evolution is evilution, that genetics cannot account for completely different species (it does) and that evolutionary belief caused the Holocaust (which Ben Stein also suggests). The museum also states that any evidence that contradicts scripture should be dismiss. How can an intelligent person support this outfit? And one last thing about Ben Stein’s movie…to suggest Nazism was a result of evolution theory is a real whopper. Did the European imperialist of the 19th century travel the globe with the Origin of the Species in their back pockets and demand the heathens believe in evolution of face death? Hitler formed his own church (positive christianity), established concordants with Cahtolic and Protestant hierachies, and used the hatred of Jews by centuries of christian-based indoctrination (Jews and their Lies by Martin Luther) to get a 90% Christian Germany to follow him into his evil madness. To suggest Darwinism was responsible for idea that some races considered themselves superior to others is pure ignorance. You claim my article draws a picture of the intolerance that the film Expelled is trying to draw attention to. Yes, I am intolerant to teaching children that psuedo-science is science. If home-schoolers were taking their kids to a magic museum that said their tricks were scientically valid, I would protest this as well. If Ken Ham’s sold his museum as “Prepare to Make Believe” instead of “Prepare to Believe”, again, I would nver had written my article. Show me some observable, repeatable, scientificall collected evidence of design and you’re faith theories will gladly be wlecome. Until then…don’t cry for special priviledges and then claim intolerance when you don’t get them.

  4. Steve Willmot said

    My brother’s article and statements seem to present a false dichotomy, as if science were capable of being purely descriptive, and other prescriptive statements should be relegated to personal opinions or some lesser area of study. Specifically, what does he think should be done about the creation museum? I seriously doubt that he is suggesting Mr. Ham should be burned at the stake or anything like that. But I do suspect he has a rather nannie-state view regarding home-schooling and the sovereignty of the family. Perhaps he can respond to that. The tone of his writing does not seem to indicate he believes that free speech will ultimately equalize, and the truth (whatever that is) will eventually triumph.

    My brother seems to catastrophize on what will happen if such misadventures in pseudo-science are allowed to spread? Clearly, society is not going to unravel because a few parents and their religious leaders teach their children that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Conversely, I can easily see a scenario where society does unravel if people are disallowed from raising their children as they see fit, even if that means that many will teach silliness.

    Ben Stein’s movie was, to me, quite interesting. I especially found the Cornell professor who correctly stated that Darwinism leads to atheism, which leads to relativism, which leads to determinism. He was very astute, but also disturbing. It was obvious to anyone with an open mind how this ideology has warped that poor man’s personality. This is the ideology in which my brother is steeped. Fortunately, my brother has been relatively unharmed; others have not been so fortunate.

    In regard to Stein’s connecting Nazi holocaust to evolutionary thought, simply stating that this is a stretch is not a logical argument. No less than Bertrand Russell also made the connection. Simply take the logical structure of evolution and transpose it onto political science, and you have facism. Remarking that Hitler did not carry around a copy of “The Origin of the Species” in his hip pocket is an invalid argument. This of course has nothing to do with evolution as a scientific theory, but it does discredit a kind of generalization from science to other areas of practical living.

    There is more to life than science. The problem is that where science cannot speak, often a lack of speech or meaningful inquiry lead to all other kinds of dogmatism. If you haven’t read it in a while, I strongly suggest that you read Orwell’s 1984. I am far less frightened of some hayseed from kentucky than Big Brother.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Willmot

  5. Steve Willmot said

    In case anyone ever picks up on this old thread, I should apologize in advance. Obviously, not everyone in Kentucky is a hayseed. Besides, I don’t think being a hayseed is really such a bad thing. I can think of a lot worse.

    Also, I neglected to mention the most important logical fallacy my brother is making. He’s making a straw man argument. He equates ID with creationism, then attacks the most extreme elements within the creationist movement.

    But my point is that one should not be so specialized, so limited to science, that one becomes philosophically naive. It’s the implications of what he is saying that concern me. And the debate that goes back and forth, without really examining the philosophical and political underpinnings–on both sides–that is the source of real danger.

    Steve Willmot

  6. jim willmot said

    Wow Bro…to respond to your questions/objections

    “Specifically, what does he think should be done about the creation museum?”
    As many of the ardent creationists have done with my argument, you suggest that my condemnation of the creation museum and the huge role it plays in the Christian home-school movement is an attack on the “sovereignty of the family” and home school education. Talk about straw man! Nothing could be further from the truth. I think home-schooling is a wonderful thing, when it is done right. Teaching children science, using the pseudo-science books that AIG publishes, isn’t right Steve, just like teaching kids the holocaust never happened or 1 plus 1 = 3 or stealing is ok isn’t right. I abolutely believe in free speech but not when that speech is sold to children and their scientifically-challenged parents as fact. As far as Ken Ham goes…I would like to see his ignorant, science-bashing ministry go away and his devotees hang onto a little more of their money. Burned at the stake…no thanks…thankfully that practice disappeared with the Enlightenment, as did most forms young earth creationism.

    You say “..society is not going to unravel because a few parents and their religious leaders teach their children that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Conversely, I can easily see a scenario where society does unravel if people are disallowed from raising their children as they see fit, even if that means that many will teach silliness.”

    I wish it were just a few children and their parents. The museum is smashing attendence projections. The ministry is on 850 radio stations. They have a staff of 400 and growing. Check with the National Center for Science Education to see if is just a few “hayseeds” in Kentucky that are swallowing this “silliness”. Creationists and IDers are trying to inject their religious beliefs into the science curriculum of public schools all over the country. Evolution is the foundation of modern biological science, astronomy is crucial to the understanding of modern physics and vice versa, geology is critical to our understanding of all the earth sciences. Are you in favor of giving these faith-based, Bronze Age theories equal billing with the theories derived from 400 years of scientific rigor? As far as allowing parents the freedom of teaching their children anything they want…the growing jihadist movement in the middle east is a perfect example of allowing an entire generation of children to be educated by extremist fundamentalist. And yes, Gaza is unraveling as is Kabul, Sadr City and many cities throughout the world where extreme religion flourishes. Thankfully, Christianity has advanced to the point where the “silliness” taught is usually benign. I say usually but there are still kids in compounds in Utah being raped as I write this, kids killing themselves due to homosexual feelings, kids dying because they are denied medical treatment by their fundamentalist parents. At best, the kids taught creationism will only need expensive science remediation classes if they want to pass their college science classes. At worst (and this isn’t that far-fetched to me) they will become adult Bible literalists that justify barbaric actions with the writings of the Old Testament. I particulary worry about a group of military Bible literalists (they exist) getting the codes to a nuclear weapon. Unlikely, yes…possible, yes and increasing in probability with every kid we teach that only through Christ and his teachings can you know God and you must be ready for his return…and according to Mr. Ham, he is returning soon.

    “Simply take the logical structure of evolution and transpose it onto political science, and you have facism.”

    Steve, are you saying that fascism didn’t exist before Darwin’s Great Idea? And does this mean that the chemistry used at the ovens, the metalurgy used to create Messerschmidts, and the physics used in U-boat construction was responsible for the Holocaust? Besides, Darwin wrote extensively that natural selection should not be used to justify racism. Ben Stein (a political hack and totally ignorant of what science is and what it isn’t) would be better off looking at the centuries of Jewish hatred inculcated by a 90% Christian German if he is truly interested in seaching for the origins of the Holocaust.

    “There is more to life than science. The problem is that where science cannot speak, often a lack of speech or meaningful inquiry lead to all other kinds of dogmatism. If you haven’t read it in a while, I strongly suggest that you read Orwell’s 1984. I am far less frightened of some hayseed from kentucky than Big Brother.”

    So by requesting that the “silliness” (your term) of creationism not be allowed to call itself science, I am being dogmatic? I suggest that I am being pragmatic and intelligent. And if you want to see a living demonstration of 1984, go see the zombies walking around the creation museum (I have been there twice.) Very little thinking going on and lots of repetition, worship of, and blind faith in ancient rituals. And as I said in my original article, people have every right to use their faith as a warm sweater. I welcome that. It is when they use it as a straight jacket to keep their children away from scientific knowledge so they can feed them horseshit (my word for silliness) that I feel I must speak out. And when did I (or any scientist) ever say that science is all there is to life? Art, philosophy and nature (and science) give me what I need. If you need more, great. I don’t.

    “He equates ID with creationism, then attacks the most extreme elements within the creationist movement.”

    Hard to define who the “extreme elements” of the creationist movement would be. Would that be the 6000 year old young Earth creationists vs. the 10,000 year old YECs? Dino-riding vs. Non-dino riding? 600 year old Noah vs. 900 year old Noah? My article concentrated on AIG since there are the ones in my backyard. IDers are no less guilty, however, of using the same tactics of selling their snake oil as science. Ask the people of Dover in your homestate of PA if IDers are happy to remain in philosophy class where they belong. To me, they both want to break the primary rule of science: evidence. Yes, they are different but in the most fundamental way, exactly the same.

  7. jim willmot said

    Darn, ran out of space for my last comment. you say, “And the debate that goes back and forth, without really examining the philosophical and political underpinnings–on both sides–that is the source of real danger.”

    Most of the atheists /secularist / scientists that I know have a far greater understanding of philosophy and politics, including theology, than 99% of the people of faith I know. I suggest to you that the people who base their world-view entirely on a 2000 year old superstitious text full of contradictions are the people that should concern you, and not those of use that prefer to think. And as your brother, I hope that you do a bit more thinking as well, as opposed to apologizing for the ignorant rogues and priests that fear knowledge.

  8. Steve Willmot said

    If asking a question and conjecturing an answer is a straw man argument regarding your views on what should be done about the Creation museum and specifically homeschooling, then I’m guilty. But I had to guess at what you were suggesting because your thinking was unclear and disorganized. It’s easy to go on a rant about something that drives you crazy. You may even find swarms of like-minded and opposing views, which lead to a feeding frenzy of posts that are really just of form of mental self-gratification, for both sides. But to come up with a real solution that considers both points of view requires creativity, empathy, and acuity. With humility, let me try.

    First, the whole debate really concerns two issues that get all jumbled together, biological science and religion/morality.

    Strictly speaking, Ben Stein’s movie tried to steer clear of the religious issue, especially in the beginning. Evolution is not axiomatic, but a theory, the operating paradigm of biological science for over a century. But what if it is time for a paradigm shift? Stein made the case that there are strong forces at work that would adamantly resist challenging the status quo.

    There is no such thing as pure, objective, empirical science. Before any experiment is conducted, scientists first make operational definitions. Evolution tends to rely on utilitarian definitions. For example, the eyeball is not something that was designed for sight, but rather something we merely use for sight or in the case of reptiles to guage temperature.

    A more ancient, Aristotilian, or ID way of looking at it is to say that the eyeball is, in its very essence, designed for sight. That it might be used in different ways or at times for different purposes (perhaps a flirtatious look) is merely ancilliary. Some who are symptathetic to ID have merely suggested that perhaps the old, Aristotilian paradigm might once again have some merit. From an ecological point of view, it may be worthwhile to consider what molecules are designed for if you are a nanotechnologist, what is the purpose of specific chromosomes if you are a genetic engineer, and so forth. We stand on the precipice. That all of this has religious baggage is in many ways unfortunate, but also unavoidable.

    The scientific aspect of the evolution debate is miniscule compared to the moral versus libertine element that runs underneath nearly every rant. Simply put, evolution posits survival of the fittest and Christianity states the meek shall inherit the earth. As a former atheist, I used to believe the former. Until I realized I was wrong. Any thinking person who has ever held a job should realize that the smartest and most talented very rarely rise to the top. I used to resent this. Today I realize that intelligence, though important, is but one of many positive attributes and not really all that important compared to humility, service, and perseverence.

    I’m old enough to remember a time when American society was fundamentally a Judeo-Christian culture. For all its shortcomings, this culture to my recollection was basically honest and neighborly. I’ve watched that culture crumble before my eyes. Nearly each day, I see something that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.

    I’ve known plenty of atheists, and over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of Christians. I must confess, on average the atheists were probably a little smarter, but not in every case and this trend appears to be flipping. What I do find is that Christians tend to be gentler, more generous (without reminding or expecting anything in return), more principled (especially when facing difficult circumstances), more forgiving, and more willing to admit mistakes. Atheists I have found to be aggressive, arrogant, hedonistic, and self-serving. Though generally fairly moral, atheists are willing to suspend moral principles in favor of pragmatism or utilitarianism, especially in difficult circumstances. If having a child is impractical, they are willing to abort. Increasingly, if an elderly person ceases to have a productive and useful life, they are willing to euthanize or accept that choice.

    You try to relegate religion to the status of a warm sweater. That is insulting and arrogant. One’s understanding of God–or for that matter disbelief in God–is fundamental one’s world-view. To state that you can tolerate Christians who look upon their religion as a warm sweater is basically to state that you can tolerate Christians who are fundamentally utilitarians, really agnostics.

    One last thing. Fear. Creationists who fear modern science are clearly misguided or full of it. But evolutionists who fear open debate, who fear the religious right, who fear populism are clearly lacking faith. It’s this lack of faith (not capitalized, out of respect for your choice), that leads to elitism, excessive government regulation, and 1984-style political correctness. So have faith.

  9. jim willmot said

    I just hope I that some people will read these postings and realize that the dumbing down of our children with creationism and anti-evolution propaganda is at best stupid and at worst, corrupt and possibly dangerous.

    You say, “I had to guess at what you were suggesting because your thinking was unclear and disorganized.” If you had read my original article, you would have known that I gave the website of an organization of Christian scientists (that support evolution) and suggested that homeschool parents use this source of information for science teaching instead of AIG. I have a feeling that no matter how concise my arguments (my last post referred directly to your arguments FCS)you would still find them unclear and disorganized. This is a typical tactic of people who cannot defend their own position. You can do much better.

    “It’s easy to go on a rant about something that drives you crazy…to come up with a real solution that considers both points of view requires creativity, empathy, and acuity.” Why should one be sympathetic to a view that is stupid? Should we look at fatwahs with creativity, empathy and acuity or should we condemn them? Should we treat the hucksterism of the scientifically ignorant with understanding? I’m sorry but I think not. You have admitted that creationism is silliness. I have given you facts that is not just a small number of kids that are being taught this stuff but tens of thousands in Kentucky alone. Islam is also big on creationism. And if you think religious fundamentalism encourages creativity, empathy and acuity, you are lying to yourself.

    “Strictly speaking, Ben Stein’s movie tried to steer clear of the religious issue, especially in the beginning.” Pleeessse! Let’s not be disingenuous. The whole thesis of the movie was that intelligent design (a religious issue) is being kept out of science by an evil cabal of secular scientists. How many scientists do they point to to illustrate their point? Three. One quit doing astronomy research to write a book about ID (and wasn’t fired but didn’t get tenured because he quit doing research…and less than a third of profs get tenure), another woman in Va was teaching ID in university biology class at a secular college and it was not part of the curriculum, and the other guy slipped his own ID article into a Smithsonean publication that he edited, without peer review. He wasn’t fired either. ID is fine in philosophy class! But to start with the answer (God designed it) and then work backwards, is not the way science works. You know this Steve.

    “forces at work that would adamantly resist challenging the status quo.” Totally untrue…science is all about falsification…but with evidence. If IDers had any actual evidence for intelligent design, do you truly believe scientists would get away with suppressing this evidence? Your call for a “science paradigm shift” is the last thing we need. Such a shift would lead us back to magic, witchcraft, alchemy, etc.

    “There is no such thing as pure, objective, empirical science.” You are right. But the evidence we have (genetics, fossil record, molecular clocks, cell biology, etc.) overwhelming shows that the natural forces of the universe are quite capable of producing solar systems and life on our planet. This makes much more sense to me than a poof theory and it does to 99% of all scientists.

    “runs underneath nearly every rant” This kills me. You have an opinion, but atheists have a rant. All atheists are militant, right?

    “I’m old enough to remember a time when American society was fundamentally a Judeo-Christian culture.” I (and very few atheists I know) have never said that some Judeo-Christian values have not been helpful. Most of them were taken from prior philosophies because they were worth keeping. The Good Samaritan was pre-Biblical. It does not mean that the rest of the mumbo-jumbo is true. And be careful what you wish for. If your kids were black or gay, you might not wish for the “old days.” Maybe the failure of religions to keep up with enlightened values and the poor role models that many people of faith have been for our children have played a role in the degradation of society. Lots of blame to go around.

    “Atheists I have found to be aggressive, arrogant, hedonistic, and self-serving…atheists are willing to suspend moral principles in favor of pragmatism or utilitarianism…having a child is impractical, they are willing to abort…they are willing to euthanize…” And all blacks are lazy and gays want to screw our kids. You need to get out more bro. Yes there are hedonistic, arrogant and self-serving atheists, but I would bet at no greater percentage than Christians…Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggard, pedophile priests come to mind. I’m not a fan of abortion, but eliminating a mass of cells early in a pregnancy due to rape or abject poverty is a right I think women should have. It also addresses the issue of the nanny state that you so despise. And i know of no atheists who want to euthanise…right to die is much differnet than euthanasia. Again, lose this arguement.

    “You try to relegate religion to the status of a warm sweater. That is insulting and arrogant.”
    Actually, a preacher told me this. Don’t get your panties in a wad. Your intolerance and arrogance to my opinion is showing. You can tell people they must believe in a sky-God to live a just life and that in order to have an after-life and avoid hell, but it is the atheists that are arrogant. Wow!

    “evolutionists who fear open debate, who fear the religious right, who fear populism are clearly lacking faith.” It is the faithful that have fear in their hearts. The invisible looks very much like the non-existant. Evolutionist have no fear other than that fundies will continue to try to force philosophy into science. Again Steve, quit defending these buffoons that want to suppress science so it fits their agenda. Keep your faith, but don’t let it cloud your judgement too severely.

  10. Steve Willmot said

    Jim, your style of rhetoric lacks tolerance and generosity. You remind me of Ann Coulter, with whom I often agree but always find too abrasive and too tenacious. Jim, you are no great thinker, nor are you a slouch. But at the very least you could be a gentleman.

    Back to my main point of information. What do you think should be done about the Creation Museum? Or rather, what can be done about it? If Mr. Ham chooses to build it and people choose to pay money to attend it, they have that right. There is nothing you can do about that. You can speak your mind, but they only become more entreched in their way of thinking. The only sane thing for you to do is dust off your hands and walk away.

    What do you think should be done about home-schoolers who choose to teach pseudo-science? More specifically, what do you do when they refuse to follow your suggestions? Do you lobby the state to make regulations regarding home-schooling and enforce compliance. What happens when they refuse to comply? Today in the US 12% of students are home schooled. That’s up from 5% fifteen years ago. I don’t know how much of that is due to evolution, but I’m sure it is a factor.

    My initial thought regarding this whole topic was, What does it really matter if a truck driver believes that dinosaurs died in the flood? The more I thought about it, I could really only come up with a handful of professions for which it made a difference. Civil Engineer? Arguably, yes; but not intrinsically. Dentist? Again, unless I simply presume as you do that believers are tautologically doltish, it doesn’t matter. Marine biologist? Okay. Anthropologist. Sure. Waitress? No. Accountant? No, I might argue the reverse.

    Before I proceed, point of clarification: I’m not necessarily calling for a paradigm shift right now. What I am saying that if it were time for a paradigm shift, the forces against this shift, especially if it resurrects some ontological language, will prevent the shift from occuring.

    What you fail to recognize is that I already understand most of what you are trying to say. And you understand almost nothing of what I’m trying to say. What’s the point of trying to understand the Creationists? Well, what’s the point of trin’ to understand them Injun’s, Pilgrim? First, they are human beings. Second, they have their reasons and not all of them are simply founded upon ignorance. Third, if you want them to understand you, you have to make an effort to understand them. Fourth, you cannot force them to assimilate.

    In a previous comment, I was trying to make a point about faith. Let’s say it this way: Try to imagine a person who has no faith whatsoever. I’m not talking necessarily about faith in a deity or religion. I mean, no faith that truth will eventually prevail. No faith that others care or like him. No faith that he will be able to handle even the slightest stress. No faith that he will be able to muster the energy to change or function. No faith that he will find the means to survive. No faith in truth, goodness, or beauty. Jim, this is not the type of lack of faith that you experience, but it is the sort of lack of faith that you unwittingly prescribe. Not everyone is capable of being unscathed by atheism. Most people self-destruct under a nihilistic world-view. To me, this is a horrible way to live. Personally, the best things that I have done have involved giant leaps of faith. You really have no idea. Conversely, the worst decisions I have made have been grossly limited by pragmatism and security. In many ways, the Creationists and Bible-literalists give Christianity a bad name. But I try not to allow that to detract from what is so much more simple and basic than most people realize.

    I was really disappointed that you don’t acknowledge what I said about watching society crumble before my eyes. Sure, there has been some “progress” for certain groups, but on the whole the trend is quite negative. It always surprises me when people cannot see this, and yet I find other Christians can see it clearly. I may not reach the same conclusions as many of them, but we are at least starting with the same observations.

    End of transmission.

  11. jim willmot said

    Your post says that I (and other atheists) are unclear, disorganized, intolerant, arrogant, hedonistic, aggressive, self-serving, etc. yet I am the one that is “no gentleman.” That’s rich. You throw accusations around like a mad bomber and cry intolerance when someone criticizes your position. This is one of the hallmarks of faith-based thinking. “I can tell you that you are wrong and I am right but you have no right to tell me that I am wrong and you are right.” Sad.

    “You are no great thinker?” Is this another one of those charitable “Christian” observations? At least I do “think” and don’t let somebody else do my thinking for me. And to compare me to Ann Coulter (we want Jews to acheive the same Christian perfection…Democrats are idiots…John Edwards is a fag) is worse than calling my thinking mundane. More evidence of your Christian charity.

    Creationists will just become more entrenched in their way of thinking if you criticize them? Well, thankfully, history is on my side in this one. The abolitionists (a large majority of whom were people of faith ) luckily did not take this approach or else slavery would not have ended when it did. Or women’s rights, or science, or any other number of issues that the superstitious have fought against.

    And does it really matter if a truck driver believes this? No, I agree with you on this and I have said (ad nauseum) that adults have a right to believe this stuff. I just object that the bright child who is taught this will never be more than a truck driver when they grow up having never been exposed to the joys of science or analytical thinking.

    Oh, I understand creationists well. I get their emails all the time. And while you want to apologize for their ignorance, I call them out on it. You understand but I don’t? Methinks you have it switched around.

    “Personally, the best things that I have done have involved giant leaps of faith.” Again, just because your belief is helpful doesn’t make it true. “You really have no idea.” Again, I am a clueless atheist and your 2000 year old myths give you all the answers.

    I was really disappointed that you don’t acknowledge what I said about watching society crumble before my eyes. Sure, there has been some “progress” for certain groups, but on the whole the trend is quite negative. It always surprises me when people cannot see this, and yet I find other Christians can see it clearly.

    But I did acknowledge it! We just have different ways of approaching the problem. Yours is to go back to the good old days when an ethnically cleansed US shared one faith. My point is that there is relativism in your plan and that reason and rationalism is the better approach forward. Again, i know of no atheist that thinks rising crime rates, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, etc. is a good thing. We just think that if people became more aware that what happens on this planet during our one brief lifetime is in our hands and not the hands of a sky-god, we would make more progress. Question? How many of the criminals that you work with are atheists? Studies show something like 3%. The only person that can forgive us of sin are the people we have sinned against. If more criminals knew this, some (not all) might not be as willing to commit crime.

    A man is not a gentleman if he does not stand up for what he believes. And graciousness goes both ways bro…

  12. Steve Willmot said

    I’ve been quite busy and haven’t had the time to post in a while.

    For some reason, I assumed my career was off limits. I was a bit surprised that you mentioned it. No big deal. You referred to a stat that merely 3% of inmates are atheists. That sparked some curiosity, so I ran some numbers. Ethically, I don’t have consent to do research or post my rough data, but I think it’s acceptable to give some generalities. Yes, a small handful of current inmates identified as atheists, but the overwhelming majority identified their religion as none. Though I supsected high numbers of no religious preference, I was surprised it was as high as it was. Wanting to see if there was a trend toward non-religion, I went back nine years. At that time, nearly two thirds reported none as their religion. So much for a trend, at least in my limited data going back a few years. Just looking at my unscientific survey of two groups (N=132, x2), I might hypothesize one trend–a movement from denominational identification to unspecified Christian. I strongly suspect that going back decades, especially to the 50’s, one would find a trend from identifying some religion to increasingly not identifying religion. Currently, the U.S. military reports 32% of soliers with “no religious preference.” I don’t know the past numbers, but this figure is a remarkably high percentage for the military. Another survey, and I apologize for not having the references, found that ten years ago, 10% of Americans reported no religion, versus today the percentage is 20%. The gist of all this is that there does appear to be a trend toward non-religion, not necessarily toward atheism.

    So, what does this mean? Here’s my impression. People have always done wrong, committed crimes, hurt others. Today, people do the same things, but increasingly lack any awareness that what they are doing is wrong. Religion, despite all the shortcomings of individual religious people and in spite of a lack of ability to enforce its edicts, was that force that at least made people aware of their behavior. Let me give some examples.

    Crime is somewhat weakly correlated with poverty (despite Liberals assumptions), but strongly correlated with income disparity. Thus, a relatively poor and narrowly distributed state like West Virginia has a low crime rate and a relatively rich but widely variant state like Florida has a high crime rate. In today’s economy, with CEO salaries at obscene levels and line workers making relative to inflation far less than previously, it’s not surpising that crime rates are rising. In the past, the CEO and the line workers frequently found themselves on equal footing for one hour every Sunday. Did that one hour make a big difference? Probably not. But at least they were aware of the humanity of their workers, and it reminded them to pay a living wage and to work an honest day.

    There has always been unwed pregnancy, adultery, and irresponsible parents. What surpises me is that today it is becoming increasingly normalized. I cannot conceive of any of my friends in the late 70’s and early 80’s living at the home of their high-school girlfriend. Today, this is not only commonplace but these young people see nothing wrong with it. Their parents have a drawerful of condoms, or they take their daughters to get contraception. No questions asked. Then they are surpised when their daughters get pregnant. Something like two-thirds demand an abortion, or they raise the kids as their own. And no one stops to think that this approach to teen sexuality is associated with an epidemic of STDs, let alone emotional chaos. The secular indoctrination is nearly complete. Don’t believe me? See how a high school English teacher interprets “Romeo & Juliet.”

    There has always been alcohol and drug abuse. The difference here is most striking with marijuana. It’s stunning to see how many of today’s youth grew up smoking pot with their parents or grandparents. And they are incapable of seeing anything wrong with it. It seems to me that children often have an urge to rebell or do things more extreme than their parents. In my experience, the kids whose parents treated marijuana as normal have been rarely satisfied with just cannabinoids. At least in the past, a religious education informed the children that there is more to life than chemical masturbation.

    Perhaps, brother, you are immune to the extremes that I witness nearly every day. Maybe you are capable of reaching the conclusions found in the ten commandmants (sparing the first) on your own, through the sheer power of your above average, but not genius (by the way, about the same as mine) intellect. Or maybe you can reason these moral constructs fairly well, but fall far short in their exucution. The difference between rationality and rationalization is sublime.

    By the way, you really have no idea of what I meant by a leap of faith. I wasn’t so much arguing that these leaps of faith worked because of faith, but that I would not have made these choices had I not had faith. In spite of their alleged ignorance, the truck drivers and dentists and civil engineers who attend the Creation Museum understand what it means to take have faith.

    What strikes me is that you, brother, have never needed to have faith. You’ve always had someone to fall back on. I’m holding back here, but I will succumb to this one cheap shot. I find it highly offensive that you, who has been an ardent atheist for more than three decades, taught science in a Catholic school. I can grant you a lack of faith; that is your choice. But it seems to me that much of your behavior is calculated and lacking in authenticity. What could possibly motivate you to teach in a Catholic school? The only answer I can come up with is classism. You didn’t want your children, who attended gratis due to your employment, to hob nob with the middle class at the public schools.

    Being a Christian is, for me, the most difficult and demanding aspect of my life. I fall short all the time. My arguments here have been inadequate. Nonetheless, this is no excuse for me to give up and stop trying. What is sad to me is that you are much like many of the people attending the Creation Museum. They cling to a literal interpretation of the Bible and deny science in lieu of a vision of the world the provides safety, structure, and justification for how they live their lives. You cling to the science you learned almost forty years ago and deny religion in lieu of a model of the world that provides order in the midst of chaos and justifies your Machiavellian approach to life. I, on the other hand, am comfortable in knowing that there are many things in life that I will never know or understand. What I find most rewarding about being a Christian is not having clear-cut answers to all of life’s dilemmas, but coming face-to-face with the mystery of life, and embracing it.

  13. jim willmot said

    Steve,

    You are dead wrong on so many counts. St. Francis School was originally Episcopalian but has not been religiously affiliated for nearly 20 years. On the contrary, you constantly condemn the nanny-state but have drawn all your paychecks for the last 20 years from the federal government. I did send Ian to a Catholic high school…I have always admired the Catholic Church for their commitment to scholarship and because private schools can pick and choose what kids (rich, poor, middle class, doesn’t matter) go to their school…classism doesn’t enter into it…kids that behave and want to be in school does…..Ian best friend in high school (and I helped educate him) was from the projects in Louisville. And don’t insult my intelligence…I never have said you aren’t bright (you are) I just ask that you use it and not be such a faith-robot. You keep making this claim that atheists “can’t understand”. It is precisely that we do understand the human condition that we feel the age of reason must move forward and leave supernatural belief behind. The delusion that there is some power above right and wrong that can relieve the conscience will always be the death of morals.

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