For Young-Earth Creationists–how to argue your position

Mike G. over at Spinoza’s Bicycle has some advice for YECs trying to argue that the Earth is a young creation: “What I Need.” Hint: it’s not a blanket assertion that conventional science is one vast conspiracy.

Classic Orac on “CAM Natural”

Orac of Respectful Insolence points out the flaws and follies of Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s touting of  “natural” medicine. I like to spell it out because when I see “CAM” I think Crassulacean Acid Metabolism.

Theistic apologies debunked

Hat tip to Prof. PZ Myers of Pharyngula. PZ wrote:

This is a wonderful video debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument. What I really like about it is that it takes the tortured rationales of theologians like William Lane Craig, who love to babble mangled pseudoscience in their arguments, and shows with direct quotes from the physicists referenced that the Christian and Muslim apologists are full of shit.

So the theists cherry-pick misunderstood factoids from science to steal the legitimacy of scientific research for their myths. Then if someone points out that the research has changed its answer, they whine about the lack of evidence? I think my irony meter just sproinged its guts all over the room.

But are their cherries Jesus-approved? (Hat tip to Greta Christina:

“They cherry-pick scripture to support their position; you cherry-pick scripture to support yours—how do you know that your cherries are the ones Jesus would approve of?”

and Hamstur:

Now there’s a starburst for every Christian author’s book: “My cherries are Jesus approved!”

Geocentric Earth lecture

The Sun, Moon, and stars orbit a central Earth

Geocentric Solar System*

It’s almost unbelievable to think that there are people so cut off from reality that they long for the good old Dark Ages of the Inquisition defending the geocentric earth, but they do exist. Do they expect their doctors to say, “Take two leeches and send me a messenger in the morning”?

New blogger Flora at Subspecies has a detailed accounts of a debate between a degree-mill ‘expert’ and a science student. See “In which the universe revolves around Robert Sungenis” (and the Bible is always right). (Part 2.) Sungenis appears to be quite the jerk as well as an all-around crank and conspiracy theorist. She has picked apart his arguments neatly and politely.

*image from WearScience

Teach the controversy!

a flowered teapot floating between the Earth and the Moon

Russell's Teapot

The devil, in overalls, with a shovel, burying fossils

Fossil Evidence

Go to this delightful website and buy a T-shirt, a coffee mug, or some other item to bring a little serious  humour into your life. (Images are from WearScience.)

What makes PZ angry

The face of a bearded, cheerful, middle-aged man with the Thames river and London in the background

PZ Myers

Science blogger and outspoken atheist PZ Myers is often accused of insulting religious people just for being religious. But that isn’t so. He has no problem with people who have a quiet religious belief and mind their own business, except insofar as they legitimize religious extremists. He is angry at people who do things like this:

  • Accommodate and collaborate with genocidal invaders to protect their church (e.g., the Pope in World War II)
  • Act as an arbiter of morals while sinning egregiously and harmfully
  • Act as if God is a person with opinions that match theirs when trying to impose religious rules but fall back on an impersonal universe as God when called on it.
  • Advocate against someone else’s right to make their own decision in a situation they themselves will never be in
  • Allow honour killing— killing girls and women to restore a family’s “honour”
  • Argue against straw men and never feel obliged to discover the truth
  • Assume that God is talking to them and not to anyone who disagrees with them
  • Assume that they are blessed by God because of their good fortune in where they were born
  • Assume that women are sexual temptresses and so regard them in a predatory manner
  • Beat, arrest, or rape women who, accidentally or otherwise, show an ankle or some other body part
  • Beg the question and claim that their scripture is true because it’s the word of God and it says it’s true
  • Believe men’s testimony over women’s in court because God says so
  • Believe that wine and crackers are miraculously turned into the body and blood of a god and denigrating those who don’t believe
  • Bestow on themselves the title of “Father” while raping children
  • Bilk people out of their money
  • Blame and punish women who are raped for having sex
  • Blame the victims of random misfortune for bringing it on themselves
  • Blame their religious indignation on the people who offended them by not following the exact same rules and holding the exact same opinions
  • Bomb or kill for religion
  • Care more about reputation than truth
  • Cite one of the same twenty refuted creationist arguments that depend on mis-stating what evolutionary theory is or predicts, for the 1000th time.
  • Close their eyes to the actual consequences of their religiously based policies
  • Codify an attitude that women are unclean and children are the property of their parents
  • Collect money for charity but spend it on themselves or the church
  • Collect money for missionary work that is amounts to a free vacation for the missionary
  • Commit murder at the command of a religious authority or conspire to make others do so or protect the murderers
  • Conduct their own genocide among the peoples of other countries
  • Conduct literal witch hunts
  • Consider the suffering of a child abuser more than the suffering of his victims
  • Continue counting people who have left their religion, when arguing for their religion because of its popularity
  • Continue to house children together for church-based education although that allows deadly diseases to spread among them (Canadian residential schools)
  • Convert slaves to Christianity but deny them marriage and destroy their families
  • Convince people that they are so fundamentally sinful and flawed that they commit suicide
  • Convince people that they’re tainted by original sin to get money and obedience for “curing” them
  • Count favourable coincidences as miracles
  • Cover up for and protect rapists who raped children
  • Crush someone else’s culture to impose religion on them
  • Decide that God allows them to cheat someone of another religion
  • Declare that atheism is a religion when arguing that it’s a matter of opinion but that it’s not when applying the right of Freedom of Religion (the exact opposite of the truth)
  • Declare that their kind of religiously sanctioned family is the only real kind
  • Declare themselves to be insulted, traumatized and hated if someone dares to disagree with them
  • Define women as evil or inferior
  • Degrade someone of another religion and then despise them for being degraded
  • Demand that people who don’t believe as they do nevertheless obey all their religion’s rules anyway
  • Denigrate the qualifications of those they disagree with
  • Deny civil rights to other people
  • Deny medical care to children while praying for a miracle
  • Deny that their religion is largely an accident of where they were born and how they were brought up
  • Deny the role of human nature in the formation of religions
  • Deny women access to medical care for religious reasons, e.g. the doctor is male
  • Deny women the right to be morally autonomous human beings
  • Despise sex and sexuality so much that they mistreat prostitutes and unwed mothers (and babysitters cousins and neighbours and aunts!)
  • Discourage critical thinking and questioning because that might undermine their religion
  • Discriminate against people (students, colleagues, business owners, etc.) who do not profess the same religion
  • Disguise racism and xenophobia as secularism in banning other people’s religious symbols and customs
  • Distort the meaning of “miracle” so that any favourable event in a disaster is proof of God
  • Don’t bother with medical care for people in their so-called hospitals but get the best modern medicine for themselves (‘Mother’ Teresa)
  • Drive young men out of the community so there will be more young women for high-status men
  • Encourage the subjugation and oppression of women in private and public
  • Enshrine institutional antisemitism
  • Expel family members because of religious reasoning
  • Fail to notice that “love me or I will torture you forever” is a sick relationship
  • Fail to report crimes, breaking the law and denying morality, because it would tarnish the reputation of the church or lessen church authority
  • Fail to take responsibility for their own lust, but project it onto the objects of their lust
  • Feel free to tell people what those people worship, think, and feel based on their own prejudices
  • Feel free to tell unbelievers that they are monsters of immorality who only want the freedom to sin, yet not notice what that says about their own morals
  • Find it easier to believe that a wafer is God than that their God is a cruel tyrant
  • Force mandatory motherhood on women unwilling and unprepared to be parents
  • Force themselves and their opinions into people’s most intimate, private, and personal decisions
  • Force women to wear concealing, hot, uncomfortable clothing
  • Forget that Jesus was a Jew and that antisemitic passages were added to the Bible by early Christian groups squabbling amongst themselves
  • Forgive the criminal but not his victim
  • Frighten defenceless children with horror stories, to control them
  • Frighten people so much that they kill their families or commit suicide or both
  • Hypocritically command people not to do something that they do themselves
  • Ignore the fact that prayers are magic spells and miracles would be magic if they occurred
  • Incite hatred of others because of religion
  • Infiltrate governing bodies solely to insert a religious influence
  • Insist, against all evidence, that sexual orientation is a choice so they can blame people for it
  • Insult, cheat, mistreat, or kill people who believe in other religions.
  • Interfere with medical and family decisions because of religion
  • Invent divine revelations to justify taking what their want (hello, Joseph Smith Jr.!)
  • Justify beating children because it’s in the bible
  • Justify slavery but ignore the Biblical injunction to free slaves after seven years
  • Justify thrashing women because God said so
  • Justify wasting the Earth’s resources and ecosystems because God said they were Man’s playtoy
  • Keep a job as a religious authority when they don’t believe because they want the soft living and the money
  • Keep a woman a prisoner to protect her purity
  • Keep arguing without ever looking at relevant evidence
  • Kill girls who might disgrace the family or who disobey their fathers
  • Kill innocent people over the images of a religious figure
  • Kill someone because they are an atheist
  • Kill someone whom they think is a homosexual
  • Kill someone whom they think is a witch
  • Harm someone who is obeying the laws of the land, which differs from the believer’s interpretation of his religion
  • Kill someone for their magic parts
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill non-believers who criticize their religion
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill people who leave their religion
  • Let religion interfere with government for the good of all people
  • Let religion interfere with sanitary practices in medical care
  • Let women’s health suffer because of religion
  • Lie about scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Lie about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs or about what condoms do
  • Lie and misrepresent their purposes because of religious motivations (like the makers of Expelled)
  • Lie, slander, misquote, misrepresent scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Limit children’s education so that they will not learn that their religion is illogical and unrealistic or that there is a wider world beyond their home culture
  • Live rich while their parishioners are poor
  • Make a profit on suffering
  • Make people ashamed or guilty over normal activities such as masturbation or sex
  • Make predictions that cause people to ruin their lives, give away their money, and harm their families
  • Make procreation a religious duty to increase the number of their followers
  • Make religion the basis of xenophobia
  • Make religion the justification for genocide
  • Misrepresent the opinions of scientists by quote-mining, especially across different topics
  • Mis-state scientific facts to bolster their arguments (AKA the Behe Blunder)
  • Move abusers to remote areas because they will escape the notice of authorities (Canadian churches in Yukon Territory)
  • Move the goalposts in an argument because their God can’t be allowed to lose
  • Name children, politicians, or others as witches or evil beings to enhance or support their reputation or power
  • Pass blasphemy laws
  • Pass laws based on religion, to be imposed on everyone regardless of religion
  • Pass laws that kill women by denying them medical care
  • Persist in sinning without making restitution to their victims because God forgives them every time
  • Persist in using arguments that have been disproved for them before
  • Physically assault someone in church for walking back to his seat without swallowing his wafer
  • Pick and choose which Biblical verses to obey and despise others who choose different verses
  • Picket, harass, intimidate, threaten, or harm anyone who wants to have or provide a safe, legal abortion
  • Practise symbolic cannibalism but refuse to acknowledge it
  • Presume to dictate morals to the world when they are child rapists and protectors of abusers
  • Pretend that the basis for evolutionary theory is argument from authority
  • Promote a false dichotomy between creationism and evolutionary theory
  • Promulgate religious ideas that cause people to harm their children or their families or to break up families
  • Protect, hide, and move child rapists so that they can continue their crimes
  • Punish people that they said God would punish
  • Rape or abuse children, wards, orphans, nuns, patients, employees, members of the congregation, or anyone else
  • Refuse to take people off their membership list when they want to leave
  • Regard the number of wives they have as points for gaining status in Heaven
  • Reject people unless those people reject their basic nature
  • Remain ignorant of history
  • Rewrite history to make their religion look good
  • Riot because their God is offended
  • Sanctify the fetus and the fertilized egg to the point that women’s health is harmed
  • Sell useless cures (miracles, prayer mats, holy water) that cost money and delay reality-based treatment
  • Sentence people to death for crimes against religion or gods
  • Shun, reject, insult, or kill people who don’t believe in their religion
  • Stifle and deny women’s talents for leadership
  • Subvert justice to protect the reputation of the church
  • Take a religious tax exemption and then meddle in politics
  • Take every later addition to their scriptures inserted by someone with a point to prove as part of an original, inerrant text
  • Teach bad logic and rationalization to justify religion to children
  • Tell people that they are so flawed that they might as well kill themselves—especially when they also teach that suicide is a sin
  • Tell unbelievers that they will burn in hell rfor eternity and don’t notice that is a threat and an insult.
  • Terrify children with tales of damnation and divine punishment
  • Think it’s OK to kill people who don’t follow their religion’s rules (e.g. people who allow abortion or eat beef)
  • Think that men are more valuable than women because God said so.
  • Think that they are always right because God agrees with them
  • Threaten violence or death—justified by religion—to those who displease them
  • Train children to think that they have sinned when something goes wrong
  • Try to control other people’s, especially women’s, lives by religiously inspired laws or feelings of guilt
  • Try to exorcise people or drive out demons instead of getting medical or psychiatric help for them or just realizing that disagreeing with parental authority isn’t demonic
  • Try to discredit science because it contradicts their religion
  • Try to force pregnancy on unwilling woman as punishment for the sin of having sex
  • Try to sabotage education
  • Undermine the credibility of sexual assault victims when they know that the assaulter is guilty
  • Urge people to give more to their religion than they can properly afford
  • Use 30,000 women and girls as slave labour for the Church as punishment for having sex (Irish laundries)
  • Use brainwashing techniques such as sleep deprivation and hours of haranguing on their children
  • Use confidence tricks and spying to convince people that they have insights from God
  • Use “divine revelation” to con young women into marriage with an assigned partner
  • Use religion as the excuse for dwelling on other people’s sex lives
  • Use religion to justify homophobia
  • Use religion to justify polygamy
  • Use religion to justify prejudice, social exclusion, political disenfranchisement, etc.
  • Use religion to justify slavery, either as a Biblical institution or to save slaves’ imaginary souls
  • Use religion to justify wars
  • Use religion to limit other people’s choice of occupation (e.g. women, Jews)
  • Use religion to maintain the ancient tradition that fathers own their children and may kill them
  • Use religion to oppress women in a myriad of ways and renew that oppression with each generation
  • Use rhetorical fallacies in anti-evolution arguments
  • Use standard denialist tactics against science
  • Use their influence to block disease prevention measures because their religion makes them want to punish sexual activity (e.g. condoms in Africa, HPV vaccine everywhere)
  • Value women less than men because it’s in their holy scriptures
  • Waste other people’s time, energy, and tax dollars by promoting their religion’s point of view

Asimov on pseudoscience

Isaac Asimov in 1983:

[Someone asked] quite aggressively, “Where do you stand on astrology?”
She could scarcely have read much of my writing without knowing the answer to the question, and so I gathered she wanted a fight. I didn’t, and so I contented myself with a minimal statement of my position and said, “I’m not impressed with it.”
She must have expected that, for she said at once, “Have you ever studied astrology?”
She felt safe in asking that, I suppose, for she undoubtedly knew that a hard-working science writer such as myself is constantly breaking his neck trying to keep up with legitimate science, and that I could scarcely devote much time to a painstaking investigation of each of the many fringe follies that infest the public.
I was tempted to say I had, of course, for I knew enough astronomy to know that astrological assumptions are ridiculous, and I have read enough of the writings of scientists who have studied astrology to know that no credence need be given to any part of it.
If, however, I said I was a student of astrology, she would have asked if I had read some nonsensical book by jackass number one, and some idiotic tome by jackass number two, and she would have nailed me as not only someone who hadn’t studied astrology, but who had lied about it.
So I said, with an amiable smile, “No.”
She said, promptly, “If you studied it, you might find that you would be impressed with it.”
Still responding minimally, I said, “I don’t think so.”
That was what she wanted. triumphantly, she said, “That means you are a narrow-minded bigot, afraid to shake your own prejudices by investigation.”
I should have shrugged, smiled, and walked away, but I found myself driven to a retort. I said, “Being human, miss, I suppose I do have a bit of bigotry about me, so I carefully expend it on astrology in order that I won’t be tempted to use it on anything with a shred of intellectual decency about it.” —And she stamped off angrily.
The problem, you see, was not that I had failed to investigate astrology; it was that she had failed to investigate astronomy adequately, so that she didn’t have a know how empty of content astrology was.
It is precisely because Americans to know no science, even though they may be well educated otherwise, that they so easily fall prey to nonsense.
They thus become part of the armies of the night, the purveyors of nitwittery, the retailers of intellectual junk food, the feeders on mental cardboard, for their ignorance keeps them from distinguishing nectar from sewage.

Dealing with pseudoscience

I’ve heard the phrase “Get in the #*@!% sack” bandied around, but I didn’t know where it came from. This might be the origin, or perhaps the sack originated in fairy tales such as Molly Whuppie or this Indian folk tale, but Dan Dara O’Brien certainly popularized it when he addressed homeopathy and media balance.

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