Monday, November 28, 2005

Sign of the proverbial apocalypse

A recent poll suggests that the majority of Americans are fucking idiots.

-Sixty-four percent (64%) agree with the statement that "it is important that religious symbols like the Ten Commandments be displayed in public buildings such as court houses," while 32 percent disagree. Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 89 percent agree; 9 percent disagree.

-Fifty-six percent (56%) favor, and 39 percent oppose, the teaching of the biblical story of creation alongside evolution in public schools as "equally valid explanations for the origins of human life." Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 70 percent favor teaching creationism, with 28 percent opposed.

-Asked "which is a more likely explanation for the origins of human life on earth, Darwin or the Bible?," 57 percent respond "The Bible," while 31 percent respond "Darwin." Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 87 percent say "the Bible;" 7 percent say "Darwin."

-On prayer in public schools, 47 percent of Americans believe that "students should be free to express their religious beliefs throughout the school day, including group prayer," while 44 percent agree with the statement that "public schools should only allow a moment of silence for individual prayer." Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 69 percent believe that group prayer is appropriate, while 25 percent support individual prayer only.

How embarrassingsing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Science 101

Shana, one of my rare commenters on this here blog engaged me in a discussion regarding young-earth creationist "Dr." Kent Hovind in the the comments to post below this one. She provided this little tidbit in defense of "Dr." Hovind:

I agree with most of his points, but they are things that I learned long before I knew he even existed. I don't agree with everything he says, but he has a lot more solid, unchaning information than any other scientist I know. You say that science is absolute, yet the answers are constantly changing. Either something is right, or it isn't, and to keep chaning the answers in lieu of 'better information', shows that you have faith that it will eventually be 'right'.

After reading this, I thought that Shana could use a little introductory science lesson since she clearly doesn't understand what science is. Also, I never said that "science is absolute." But we'll get to that in a minute. I think this is an important issue to address right now. This whole evolution versus ID/creationism debate hinges on the fact that many many Americans are not scientifically literate. Shana is a prime example.

So what is Science?

Science is the investigation or study of nature through observation and reasoning, aimed at finding out the truth. It is important to note that science is the process I just described, not just the actual discoveries the process might yield. Most scientists employ the Scientific Method.

Scientific method uses observations and reasoning to propose tentative explanations for natural phenomena, termed hypotheses. Scientists make predictions from these hypotheses. An important aspect of a hypothesis is that it must be falsifiable, in other words, it must be conceivable to prove the hypothesis to be false. If a proposition is not falsifiable, then it is not a hypothesis, and instead an opinion or statement not based upon the scientific method. These hypothesies are tested by various experiments. These experiments should be reproducible.

Once a hypothesis is repeatedly verified through experiment, it is considered to be a theory and new predictions are based upon it. Any erroneous predictions, internal inconsistencies or unexplained phenomena, initiate the generation of correction to hypotheses, which are themselves tested, and so on. Any hypothesis which is cogent enough to make predictions can be tested in this way.

It is important to understand the terms "hypothesis," "theory," "law," model," and also "fact." It is important to understand that a theory is not something less than a fact. All of these terms refer to different and important things.

Shana points out that "Dr." Kent Hovind's information is solid and unchanging. She says this in the same breath in which she refers to him as a "scientist." Solid and unchanging information does not equate to good information. In fact, it usually equates to bad information. Hovind is not a scientist. He didn't begin with a hypothesis and test it. He began with a theory. He then worked backwards and tried to fit all of the observable evidence in the world into his theory. When people do this, they usually twist their evidence to fit their theory. What a true scientist does is twist his theory to fit the evidence. The beauty of science is that it is NOT solid and unchanging. If good science was solid and unchanging, you would still see leeches and rusty drills in the hospital; Man would not be able to fly; the Earth would be flat and at the center of the universe. And the world would suck ass.

Shana assumes that I have "faith" because I think that by changing theories to suit "better information" I will eventually find the "right answer." This is the danger of thinking in absolutes. In many cases, there is no "right answer." In others, such as the origin of life and the universe, there may be a right answer but no scientist emphatically believes that we will ever have a complete answer. Science seeks better answers. And I'm comfortable with that. Religion seeks, or rather religion believes it has, "right answers." The sad thing is that science has proven so many of these "right answers" to be wrong and religion still exists.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Where did Jesus get is Y Chromosome?

Sperm aren't always necessary. Some female lizards, fish and other creatures can procreate through parthenogenesis (Greek for virgin birth). Cloning allows something similar in mammals.
But there's a problem with arguing Jesus came about through cloning or parthenogenesis - he would have been born a girl. In the past few decades, science revealed that to be male you need a Y chromosome, and the only place you can get one is from a man. '

'There's a big split over the Y chromosome issue,'' says Boston University theology professor Wesley Wildman. One thing Catholics and Protestants seem to agree on is that Jesus was fully human and male, so he must have carried the usual male quotient of DNA. It's not the Y chromosome he needed per se but a gene called SRY normally carried on the Y.

Occasionally this male-making gene gets moved off the Y, giving rise to an infertile XY woman. In a few cases men are found to have two X chromosomes, but such XX males turn out to have this critical fragment of the Y stuck on one of the other 22 chromosomes. That fragment of the Y has to come from a father.

I always had a hunch that the whole religion was founded based on a lie told by a cheating wife (if Jesus was a real person at all) but when you put it like this it seems even more obvious.

Biology professor David Wilcox of Eastern University, a Christian college, said some aspects of reality may lie beyond the reach of science. ''Of course Jesus had DNA and a Y chromosome - and the source for half of that DNA [and the Y chromosome] would presumably be pure and simple miracle,'' he says.

Pure and simple miracle indeed. You can't argue with that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why does god hate amputees?

Marshall Brian wants to know.

If you are a Christian, and especially if you are a devout Christian, you have probably seen prayer work in your own life, and you have also seen it work in the lives of people you know at your church. In both good times and bad, you have prayed to God, and God has reached down to personally touch your life in a positive way.

You also know that there are thousands of examples of answered prayers that have been discussed in innumerable books and magazine articles. You can go to any Christian bookstore and you can find literally hundreds of books about the power of prayer. On the Internet you can find thousands of testimonials to God's grace and the many ways that God works in our lives today. Even large city newspapers and national news magazines run stories about the power of prayer. God must be actively interacting with our world and answering millions of prayers on planet Earth every day.

For a Christian, the reason why prayer works so well and so consistently and so powerfully is obvious. In the Bible, Jesus promises many times that he will answer our prayers.

Therefore, here is an interesting thought experiment for you to try as a Christian. For this experiment, we need to find a deserving person who has had both of his legs amputated. For example, find a sincere, devout, Christian veteran of the Iraqi war, or a devout Christian in your church who was involved in a tragic automobile accident.

Now create a prayer circle like the one created for Jeanna Giese. The job of this prayer circle is simple: pray to God to restore the amputated legs of this deserving Christian. I do not mean to pray for a team of renowned surgeons to somehow graft the legs of a cadaver onto the soldier, nor for a team of renowned scientists to craft mechanical legs for him. Pray that God spontaneously and miraculously restores the soldier's legs overnight, in the same way that God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey's mother.

If possible, get millions of human beings all over the planet to join the prayer circle and pray their most fervent prayers. Get millions of people praying in unison for a single miracle for this one deserving Christian amputee. Then stand back and watch.

Jesus clearly says that if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. He does not say it once -- he says it many times in many ways in the Bible.

What is going happen?

What indeed?