Missionary Marines in Fallujah

This is disgusting and illegal by military law, the invasion of Iraq is not supposed to be the new Crusades.

Now residents of the city are abuzz that some Americans whom they consider occupiers are also acting as Christian missionaries. Residents said some Marines at the western entrance to their city have been passing out the coins for two days in what they call a “humiliating” attempt to convert them to Christianity.

“Multi-National Force-Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature,” the spokesman, Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, said in a statement e-mailed to McClatchy. “Local commanders are investigating since the military prohibits proselytizing any religion, faith or practices.”

Hopefully they’ll severely punish those responsible for the atrocious action. Read the full story here:

McClatchy Washington Bureau – Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah

LOL Florida

Everyone have a good laugh out loud at Land O’ Lakes Florida because a substitute teacher at the Charles S. Rushe Middle School was fired for wizardry. This is pure insanity most likely inspired by religious fundamentalism (IMO, religious fundamentalism is a mental health problem).

Substitute Teacher Says Wizardry Accusation Cost Him Job

The trick requires a toothpick and transparent tape. A sleight-of-hand maneuver causes the toothpick to disappear then reappear. At least, so it seems. In reality, the toothpick hides behind the performer’s thumb, held in place by the tape.

“The whole thing lasted 45 seconds,” Piculas said.

He said the students liked the trick. He showed them how to do it so they could perform it at home.
One student in the Rushe Middle class apparently took the trick the wrong way, Piculas said. He said he was told the student became so traumatized that the student’s father complained.

Traumatized by a magic trick! This child and its parents are in need of urgent psychological treatment perhaps a long stay at a mental health facility for their extreme fantasy prone personalities. I’d guess they fall for the magic tricks some fundamentalist/evangelical preachers use to convince people of their faith healing and other scams to gain followers and make money.

LOL Florida citizens repeat after me, there is no real magic, they are just tricks for entertainment or scams to get your worship and/or money.

See also:
Magic trick costs teacher job
Wizardry In The Classroom
Back to Blogging: “Wizard” fired from teaching gig in Florida.
Why Harry Potter will never teach in Florida
Hexpelled: No Wizarding Allowed
I can’t believe in Florida anymore

Tip of the wizard hat to PZ Myers for pointing out the story and to Christopher Petroni at Allusions of Grandeur for pointing out that the abbreviation of Land O’ Lakes is LOL.

Updates to this article are here and here.

Expelled reactions

Randy Olson, creator of the excellent documentary film Flock of Dodos, has weighed in with a post and a lively debate in the comments, Meet Ben Stein, the New Spokesman for the Field of Evolution. I was particularly impressed with JuliaL’s comment in that thread.

Extremely effective as propaganda.

I went to see the movie this weekend because I can’t expect to have any credibility in discussing it with my church friends if I haven’t seen it.

I’m comfortable with the context of witty debate, and, viewed as part of that context, Myers and Dawkins were clever and surprisingly mild-mannered.

I’m also familiar with the context of conservative Christian conversations about religion, and in that context, Myers and Dawkins look cold, callous, arrogant, and hateful.

Myers takes something that the audience treasures as the most valuable element of their lives, the source of comfort in pain and tragedy, the source of the ethical and social systems they live by, and compares it to a trivial hobby (accompanied by ad by an old clip of an ugly, foolish-looking woman knitting). The very off-handedness of his comment reads as a powerful insult. The method by which one is dealing with the death of a child, the way in which one makes life-altering decisions, all a trivial hobby? That doesn’t come across so much as a put-down of religion as a dismissing of the pain, hopes, and lives of the people themselves.

As a Christian who is entirely comfortable with the scientific Theory of Evolution, I hope that very few of my fellow church members see this movie because I think its effect may be hard to counteract. I’m sorry to see today so much scienceblog discussion focused on money – for the fundamentalists, this is an investment in missions, not a source of income – and so much less focused on what a powerful tool this movie is for turning a religious person who has known and cared little about the evolution/ID struggle in public schools into a determined advocate for ID.

Sadly I think she’s correct about the reactions to the film by conservative/fundamentalist Christians, I recommend you read the whole comment

Michael Shermer received a letter demonstrating some of the harm Expelled is doing by spreading lies. Richard Dawkins wrote a wonderful reply, ‘Open Letter to a victim of Ben Stein’s lying propaganda’

A young Christian wrote an interesting post, Expelled, or Why I Won’t Be Seeing It.

Blake Stacey has put together a list of people actually harmed in the evolution/creationism wars in his post, Creation, Power and Violence.

Scientific American has many articles about Expelled, here are two to get you started. Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin and Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn’t Want You to Know.

Peter Manseau wrote a review for Science & Spirit magazine, Is I.D. Ready for Its Close-up?

Blue Collar Scientist has quotes and links for Some Expelled Reviews.

Skeptico comments on Ben Stein’s appearance on the Craig Ferguson show, What’s Ben Stein Smoking? Seriously, has Ben lost all his brain, expecting evolution to explain things in other unrelated fields of science, WTF!

Good stuff from the blogs I read and an admin note

First the administration note, do to blog spam driving me nuts I’ve decided to close the comments on old posts that attract blog spam. If you encounter an older post with closed comments that you would like to contribute to, send me an email using the address that is at the end of every page at my main site. Assuming your contribution is relevant I’ll manually add it to the comments of the post for you. If it’s irrelevant I’ll reply explaining why I am not posting the comment.

Now for the good reads from the blogs I read:

Blake has posted an excellent round-up of the real discrimination going on in the ridiculous ID/Creationism vs. Science non-debate. Science After Sunclipse » Creation, Power and Violence

I mentioned it in previous post but now the NCSE has fully launched their Expelled Exposed web site. Check it out for the excellent information on the topic.

Bob’s post this week is a must read for anyone involved in hiring IT consultants, The Truth About IT Consultants.

Via Mark from the Denialism blog I wound up at this three part series, Contrary imaginations. – By Daniel Engber – Slate Magazine.

And last but not least, Tim’s post Scientists 2, Teens 0, Journalists -2, points out the two silly reports this week trying to make it seem like kids are smarter than adult scientists. Please people, join the reality based community and keep your rational thought processes in place. Contrary to what TV wants you to believe, it is extremely rare for a child to make a useful contribution to the advancement of knowledge. In fact other than Emily Rosa I can’t think of a single case and her contribution was not a giant breakthrough on a complex topic just a bright child pointing out that some of adults are too easily falling for magic tricks and thinking they are real.

Expelled Exposed

A movie is opening on the 18th that in my opinion is a propaganda documentary of the worst sort. I think the movie’s intent is to mislead the public by misrepresenting science and scientists in the hopes of getting a particular set of religious teachings forced on students via public school science classes.

The National Center for Science Education has started a new web site, Expelled Exposed, to help people:

Learn more about the anti-evolution movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, featuring Ben Stein.

The NCSE is doing a great job of collecting links to news and reviews about the movie. Be sure to re-visit the site as they are updating it frequently when new information is available.

Martin Luther King Day

Today we honor one of the greatest men of the 20th century, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I feel the best way to celebrate this day is to read some of his writings and listen to some of his speeches. Visit The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute to read some papers or see my previous post with selected quotes from the King papers, MLK Jr., Science, Darwin & Intelligent Design. GrrlScientist has posted two excellent MLK videos in honor of this holiday.

Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted): The Reason for this Holiday

Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted): I Have A Dream

Embarrassing Engineers the next generation

This report in the Michigan Daily highlights one of the next generation of illogical and irrational engineers. The article starts out with this gem.

Engineering senior Israel Vicars didn’t think it was a coincidence when he walked by a drunken girl who had fallen over in a parking lot and desperately needed help.
Vicars attributes his ability to safely return the girl to her residence hall to the power of united prayer.

OK so did the praying levitate the girl and allow him to lightly push the girl back to her home. If that happened then there’s be a million dollar prize waiting for Israel Vicars if he can demonstrate the effect. Prayer sometimes has a good effect on the psychological state of some people whom practice it. However, no prayer has ever been shown to do anything in the physical world. Instead people like this guy use confirmation bias to claim that something wasn’t a coincidence or random chance it was their prayers that did it.

With sloppy thinking like this I shudder to think how this guy is going to handle real world engineering problems. I sincerely hope Israel Vicars doesn’t work on engineering projects that will waste my tax dollars or lead to safety problems due to his magical thinking.

Hat tip to: Pharyngula: Let’s all pick on the University of Michigan!

MLK Jr., Science, Darwin & Intelligent Design

Greg Laden had a post last week, Wikipedia: Bad for ID, DI, that referenced a bit from a post by Casey Luskin that interested me.

Dr. King is one of my personal heroes.

I thought, wow this is great, if Casey Luskin uses the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model he’ll be leaving the Discovery Institute any day now. My Dad was an American Baptist minister, the same denomination as Dr. King. I was learning about American Baptist beliefs from my Dad in the 60’s so, I am very familiar with the general beliefs of this denomination at the end of Dr. Kings life. My experience and education in the religion was very pro-science including Darwin’s big ideas. All of the Ministers and the majority of church members that I knew were very pro-science.

However, one of the defining features of this denomination is that everyone must study and come to their own conclusions about everything. With this in mind I realized that it is possible that Dr. King was an anti-science creationist American Baptist minister. The best way for me to find out what Dr. King thought about science in general and Darwin’s ideas in particular was to study his writings. I started off with his autobiography and found a very typical statement for an American Baptist in the second chapter.

As stated above, my college training, especially the first two years, brought many doubts into my mind. It was then that the shackles of fundamentalism were removed from my body. More and more I could see a gap between what I had learned in Sunday school and what I was learning in college. My studies had made me skeptical, and I could not see how many of the facts of science could be squared with religion.

I know exactly how he feels, you study the bible with an open rational mind and it takes almost no time to realize that the bible contradicts nearly all scientific thought. Reading more of Dr. Kings writings I find confirmation that his thoughts are typical of the Ministers and church members I knew. Read the following pieces and see for yourself how Dr. King felt about the topic of religion and science. Note from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project:

Transcriptions are intended to reproduce the source document accurately, adhering to the exact wording and punctuation of the original. In general, errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar have been neither corrected nor indicated by [sic].

Light on the Old Testament from the Ancient Near East 1948 [Note: I removed an inlined footnote for easier reading, see the linked original for the footnote text]

With the rise of the science of archaeology many valuable facts have emerged from behind the fog of obscurity into the light of understanding. For years the door of the ancient near east remained locked, and the average mind was content with it being locked; it was content in accepting legendary truth for historical truth. But beginning with the year of 1890 the pendulum of interpretation began swinging in another direction. A group of competent scholars came on the scene who were both curious and discontent. They were not willing to accept those things which appeared to be mythological and legendary as historical truths. They dared, in the face of a world of fundamentalists, to apply the scientific method to a study of the old testament. IT was these men who subpoenaed the old testament to appear before the judgement seat of reason.

How to Use the Bible in Modern Theological Construction 1949

In this paper written for Christian Theology for Today, King directly confronts a question many of his earlier papers had skirted: how does one reconcile the Bible with science? King finds a solution by following the example of biblical critics such as Millar Burrows and Harry Emerson Fosdick. He defines their approach: “It sees the Bible not as a textbook written with divine hands, but as a portrayal of the experiences of men written in particular historical situations,” so “that God reveals himself progressively through human history, and that the final significance of the Scripture lies in the outcome of the process.” Davis gave the paper an A-…

The question as to the use of the Bible in modern culture stands as a perplexing enigma troubling multitudes of minds. As modern man walks through the pages of this sacred book he is constantly hindered by numerous obstacles standing in his path. He comes to see that the science of the Bible is quite contrary to the science that he has learned in school. He is unable to find the sun standing still in his modern astronomy. His knowledge of biology will not permit him to conceive of saints long deceased arising from their graves. His knowledge of modern medicine causes him to look with disdain on the belief that epilepsy, deafness, blindness and insanity result from the visitation of demons. Yet he finds each of these unscientific views in the Bible.

the Sources of Fundamentalism and Liberalism 1949

Also notice the continual rise of the scientific spirit in modern culture. Ever since the days of the Renaissance men have continually subpoenaed ideas and theories to appear before the judgment seat of the scientific method. As Bacon would say, “they are taught to weigh and consider.” Modern man is forever standing before the store-house {of nature} with his inevitable interrogative, what? As the new scientific method began to develope many of its decoveries were found to be contradictory to the old ways of thinking which had been basic for religious belief. Newtonian science reduced Providence to the reign of the natural law; Copernicus eliminated man fron the center of the universe and posited a heliocentric theory of the universe. In his theory of organic evolution Dawin placed supernatural man within the natural order.

How Modern Christians Should think of Man 1950

The modern Christian should never lose faith in rationality as one of the supreme resources of man. It is the mind of man that distinguishes him from his animal ancestry. Through memory man is able to interpret the present and forcast the future in the light of the past. Moreover, man is able to think abstractly. He can delve into the eternal aspects of reality. By emperical science he can grasp many facts and and aspects of the concrete world. It is the rational element in human nature which serves as a check on false thinking, and without it we would have no way to be protected against false revelation.

“Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil” 1951

Moreover if t there were no order in the world reason could not develop in man, for man’s reason develops in response to the reason, or order, that is in the universe. Again without this order science could not be possible, for science is simply the discovery of order and its setting forth in terms of what we call natural laws.

These writings seem crystal clear to me, Dr. King thought the same as I and most American Baptists of the day. Science works, it’s important and, it’s not a religion. It is the best way to safeguard against irrational thought leading people to harmful beliefs. The next piece of Dr. Kings writing that I’m quoting deals directly with Charles Darwin.

Examination Answers, History of Recent Philosophy 1952

Metz statement that Darwin was no Darwinian is essentially true in the sense that Darwin never set out to establish any metaphysical or philosophical conclusions. He wrote as a biologist and not as a metaphysician. The one exception of a deviation from his biological interest was his attempt to delve into ethical theory. But certainly Darwin never set forth many of the philosophical theories that later became attached to his system. A case in point is Herbert Spencer. After Darwin published his Origin of the Species Herbert Spencer welcomed it and proceeded to apply its underlying theories to the whole of society. We find Haelkel attempting to define everything in terms of the Darwinian theory of evolution along with the law of substance. Many other examples could be cited. But these are adequate enough to show that many philosophical tenents developed from Darwins system that he never realized. So Metz is essentially right: “Darwin was no Darwinian.

There are mainly four reasons why Darwins evolutionary hypothesis raised such a furor.
(1) It seem to contradict the traditional view of the immutability of species.
(2) It contradicted those who accepted a literal account of the Bible.
(3) It seemed to take teleology from the universe. A first cause was also cast aside.
(4) It seemed to lessen man’s status.
So we can see the Darwin’s theory raised a deal of furor because it upset certan habits of mind. Of course most of the above accusation did not necessarily follow from the Darwinian hypothesis.

Again no big surprise to me, it should be clear to anyone who has seriously studied this subject that it was others who went seriously off the deep end, not Darwin. Creationists and ID proponents just never seem to get it, they keep pushing out misrepresentations and falsehoods trying to make poor old Charlie (he’s my Darwin) look bad. It sure seems to me that if Dr. King was alive today he’d be participating in Evolution Sunday and signing The Clergy Letter Project like over 10,000 other U.S. clergy.

While there is no way to know for certain, I feel that Dr. King would have opposed the attempts to bring religion into the science classroom. If anyone can point me to writings of Dr. King that contradict what I could find please let me know. To end this post I’ll quote two more pro-science pieces by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The Role of the Church in Facing the Nation’s Chief Moral Dilemma,” Address Delivered on 25 April 1957 at the Conference on Christian Faith and Human Relations in Nashville

There can be no gain saying of the fact America has brought the world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. As one studies the majestic sweep of American history, he cannot help but be astounded and fascinated by the tremendous progress that has been made in so many areas. The scientific and technological advances made by this Nation still astound and stagger the imagination. Through our technological genius, we have been able to construct skyscrapers in buildings with their prodigious towers steeping heavenward. Through our advances in medical science, we have been able to cure many dread plagues and diseases, and thereby prolong our lives and make for greater security and physical well-being. Through the scientific ingenuity of the Wright brothers, the airplane was invented. With this instrument, we have been able to drawf distance and place time in chains. Yes, we have been able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through nuclear energy, we are delving into the mysteries of the creation of matter. Not only have we made great progress in the area of technology and science, but we have made unprecedented strides in the area of economic growth. We have been able to build the greatest system of production that the world has ever known. Our material wealth astounds the world, and has catapulted our Nation into the greatest political power on earth. All of this is a dazzling picture of U.S.A. 1957.

But there is another side of our national life which is not so bright. In the midst of all of our scientific and technological advances, we still suffer the plague of racial conflict. We have not learned the simple art of loving our neighbors, and respecting the dignity and worth of all human personality. Through our scientific genius, we have made of the world, a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual geniuses, we have failed to make of our own Nation a brotherhood.

MLK Papers Project Sermons: “A Knock at Midnight” Published in Strength to Love in 1963

When confronted by midnight in the social order we have in the past turned to science for help. And little wonder! On so many occasions science has saved us. When we were in the midnight of physical limitation and material inconvenience, science lifted us to the bright morning of physical and material comfort. When we were in the midnight of crippling ignorance and superstition, science brought us to the daybreak of the free and open mind. When we were in the midnight of dread plagues and diseases, science, through surgery, sanitation, and the wonder drugs, ushered in the bright day of physical health, thereby prolonging our lives and making for greater security and physical well-being.