A Glimmer of Hope

Apparently, the trial in Dover, PA has sobered up members of a school board here in Ohio. Hopefully (and god willing (!)) this will ignite similar litigation that will finally put an end to teaching pseudoscience to impressionable young minds.

[Plain Dealer article]

Something I’ve never understood is, if creationists want biology classes to devote time to teaching intelligent design, then why don’t churches agree to devote some of their time to preaching evolutionary theory?

Evolving Straight Into the 15th Century!

The Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, a leading proponent of the “intelligent design” movement, and the star witness in the developing case against the school board of Dover, PA, would have us believe that the currently accepted definition of “science” is flawed and needs revision. No doubt, this is because the inconvenient definition of “science” categorically rules out so-called Intelligent Design as a viable scientific theory.

The United States National Academy of Sciences defines a scientific theory as:

…a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

Since Intelligent Design does not deal in facts, laws, and provides no hypotheses to test, even Behe agrees that it’s not a scientific theory under this definition.

Behe instead proposes to think outside the box of 21st century science, and relax the definition a bit, to the effect of:

Under my definition, scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.

The “logical inference” of Intelligent Design is essentially, “It looks complex, therefore it must be designed.” Unfortunately, neither Behe nor any of his ID colleagues have defined what is meant by “looks complex,” and all instances of “irreducible complexity” presented by ID proponents can be explained by modern evolutionary theory.

Under Behe’s definition, astrology would also be considered a science. Behe actually agreed with this when asked by the plaintiff’s attorney Eric Rothschild.

Proponents of Intelligent Design swear and cross their heart (pun intended) that their hypothesis bears no religious implications. With that in mind, I wonder what a high-school class on Intelligent Design would consist of:

TEACHER: Darwinian evolution does not explain the complexity and diversity of today’s species. An alternative is that an “Intelligent Designer” created everything we see today. Conveniently enough, the book of Genesis provides just such an explanation. Let’s begin our reading.

The day we accept miracles as scientific explanations is the day we revert to 15th century science. Hopefully the trial in Dover, PA will make a strong stand against such foolishness. The only miracle here is that Mr. Behe was ever allowed to teach a college Biology class.

Even the Christian Science Monitor makes the following refreshing and enlightened statement:

If this case encourages a deeper pondering of God, that’s welcome. One could even argue that intelligent design, as a widely accepted concept, should go much further, seeking to scientifically explore mankind’s spiritual nature rather than the origins of matter. But such exploration is a personal one, not appropriate for a public classroom. [emphasis added]

Upgrade Your Mouse Cursor, Free!

For a while now I’ve been unhappy with my mouse cursor; specifically, the cursor that appears when you’re hovering over a link on a web page, like this. So I went ahead and created my own. It looks almost the same as the original, but with one subtle difference. Want the cursor for yourself? Download it, copy it to your Windows\Cursors directory, and select it from the Mouse Properties in your Control Panel.

Sure-fire Ways to Annoy Me

1. When waiting for the elevator, come up and press the button when it’s already lit up. Don’t trust me or anyone else to press the button correctly.

2. Inside the elevator, make sure to press the “Close Door” button repeatedly on every floor at which the elevator stops.

3. At the crosswalk, press the button at least ten times. Obviously, the more you press the button, the faster you’ll get a green light.

Appeal to Imagination

[read the disclaimer before proceeding]

One religious argument that’s been getting on my nerves lately is the old Appeal to Imagination. It goes something like this: “Your mind is too scientific to understand this,” or “You have to extend you imagination,” or the ever-popular “Open your heart to Jesus.”

Many religious people attack atheists by saying that they have a “weak imagination,” and therefore cannot possibly comprehend all the wonders of God and the joy of blind faith. I’ll set aside the fact that this kind of statement is a crude ad hominem attack and can be considered quite offensive, and instead simply address the falsehood of the claim itself.

I have imagined heaven, and hell, and God, and worlds with angels, devils, witches, and all kinds of other things — when I was six years old. This was the same period in my life when I imagined Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Children in general have an extraordinarily active imagination.

But then I grew up, and my imagination collided with something known as reality. And my imagination did not become “limited” by reality, but instead was enhanced and matured by it.

This is why religious leaders insist that it is children, with their undeveloped imaginations, that must be quickly indoctrinated with religious beliefs, so that they will forever be afraid to question them in their own mind.

So, while religious fundamentalists are still in the childish stage of imagining fantasy worlds of angels, devils, and gods, atheists have the capacity to imagine a future when people are no longer bound by the mental shackles of religion, and are free to expand their minds (their imagination) farther than ever before.

It takes a tremendous amount of imagination to find ways to prove difficult theorems in mathematics, or to design experiments to test a scientific conjecture. It does not, however, take imagination to blindly believe what someone else has told you or forced upon you since childhood. In fact, it takes a profound lack of imagination (nevermind a lack of reason) to be utterly fooled by 3000-year-old mythology.