Kevin Andrews suddenly learns that everyone else knows Catch The Fire are batshit #auspol

Minister for Putting Single Mums in Their Bloody Place Kevin Andrews, among other Team Australians, has recently learned that the people of Australia don’t particularly like that the “World Congress of Families” is run by well-known slavering extremist anti-choice homophobic bigots Catch The Fire Ministries and has decided not to open their adorable little Hatesturbate For Jesus for them after all.

Catch The Fire Ministries, whose head douche Danny Nalliah infamously linked Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires to that state’s abortion laws (and will now have to find other high-profile fundamentalist scenery-chewers to mix the green cordial [red is SINFUL!] and run the games of “pin Satan’s pitchfork on the eternally burning lesbortionist,”) have since thrown K-Drews under the bus for being a sad wuss. Because how dare any public official in a secular democracy respond to public outcry over lending explicit government support to a pack of fringe-dwelling cultists whose lunacy is only exceeded by their self-importance.

I suspect that, much like a pair of cling-wrap Y-fronts, this is a transparent arse-covering on the part of Kev and his fellow Tory wingnuts, Eric “I Am The Politican Every Sketch Show Bases Their Politicians On” Abetz and Cory “Looky, I Wrote A Book Just Like God Did” Bernardi, who would surely have gone along had the public not had something of a issue with members of our government explicitly validating the dark-ages lunacy of extremist evangelist hooligans.

Not Catch The Fire but close efuckingnough, amirite?


Noah’s Ark – retold for realism #noah

You may have heard that Rusty Crowe is starring in a new film about Noah’s Ark – you may also have heard that some Christians have a problem with its historical accuracy and have forced it to be edited.

Yes, really.

I won’t spend any time discussing the sheer hilarity of the idea that an obvious and clear myth – which is itself an obvious and clear reboot of at least one prior Babylonian flood story – could be at all “accurate” in any meaningful sense of the word.

However, I do believe a Noah film could be shot realistically. Make it from the point of view of one of Noah’s neighbours. It’d start off with Noah being a normal, decent chap but a little quiet. After a little while, he starts being a bit withdrawn, even reclusive; you don’t see his family much any more either. When you do see him he’s furtive and glances at you sideways; he’s always hurrying somewhere, always ushering his wife or family members back inside. People start talking – is he drinking? Does he hit his wife? Then the noises start. Sawing. Nailing. Is it a house extension? Eventually something takes shape. It’s big. A barn? You go over to ask Noah what he’s doing. He’s up a ladder and shouts something unintelligible; he seems angry. You leave it for the moment.

Months later, Noah’s construction is still growing – but it’s still just framework. Noone knows what it is but noone bothers to ask anymore. It appears he’s spending all his time and money on building whatever it is. It’s too big for a barn. A marketplace? A new temple? Maybe, but of wood? Surely stone or even mud bricks would be more appropriate. You ask the local elders and merchants and priests but none have any idea what’s going on. The whole family seem to be involved now; always up ladders, fetching tools, timber, following instructions barked by an increasingly preoccupied (and dishevelled) Noah.

The thing – now called “Noah’s Folly” by the people in town – is taking shape and there’s cladding on it now. It’s shaped like a boat but there’s no rudder, no masts, no oarlocks, barely even a porthole. It’s also far too big to be practical as a river boat – you’re not even convinced it’ll float, let alone be able to manouevre downstream where it becomes shallow. The smell of pitch now fills the air; Noah’s sealing it against the water. It’s a boat after all.

Eventually curiosity, and hatred of the smell of pitch, gets the better of you. Over you go to ask what Noah’s up to; this time you’ll not leave without an answer. Noah arcs up, enraged and perhaps a little terrified. He rages on and on about how all are doomed, including you; only Noah and his family are righteous and deserving; all will be judged by God and washed from the Earth. You glance at his wife; she just looks haunted and avoids your gaze. Noah’s children don’t even look up from their tasks. Something very curious – very wrong – is happening at Noah’s house.

After a while, things go quiet. Construction appears to have stopped. No more hammering, no more smell of pitch. You think maybe it’s over and Noah’s giant boat – which must surely bankrupt him if it hasn’t already – will sit there as testament to what you now assume is his madness (or perhaps his well-known love of wine) until it rots.

But then the noise starts again – it’s different this time. Livestock. Goats, geese, camels, sheep. Maybe this boat is a barn after all! It will be the rainy season soon – maybe he’s starting a new career as a breeder and wants to protect his investments. But it doesn’t end with livestock. Noah’s even bringing creatures in from the wilderness: wolves, ostriches, even a pair of lions. All restrained (barely) with ropes. Maybe it’s a menagerie like the ones you’ve heard princes and kings keep! They keep coming, brought in by his family. You marvel at how eight people could do all this; you notice how tired, hungry and defeated they all look – all except Noah, who seems consumed, obsessed – perhaps possessed. Noah ushers or just drags all the creatures into the boat. At night you can hear them complain – has he any water or food for them? You hope the ropes on the lions are strong, lest they roam the decks in search of prey. How do they even breathe with just a single window in the top cabin? How can they not suffocate on the stench of their own waste? This isn’t constructed like any barn or boat you’ve ever seen – even in this winter weather, it must be like an oven during the day and a dank, stinking cave by night.

Noah stops bringing the animals after a while. Then all he does is stand atop his boat and watch the sky all day, as if waiting for something. He becomes increasingly agitated. After a week, the rains come – just like they always do. The river floods, just like it always does. It’s a little bigger than last year (though smaller than some you can remember from your youth) and you thank God you built your house halfway up the hillside instead of moving further down on the valley floor, like Noah (you recall asking him why during the last planting season; he just smiled and continued pushing his barrow).

The river widens and deepens as the rains continue. Eventually the water laps at the sides of Noah’s boat. He hurries his family on board, carrying what seems to be a bare minimum of supplies. The water keeps coming (it’s definitely a big one this year!) and consumes Noah’s yards, enters his house. He seems unconcerned, just watching the sky. Some of his other neighbours wade through his submerged yard to confront him; they plead with him to get to higher ground. They’re very concerned about the safety of this boat or floating barn or whatever it is. Noah curses them and spits at them. They retreat back up the hill and watch the water rise.

Two days later; nobody’s seen anybody on the top deck but Noah and the water’s a few feet up the side of Noah’s boat; you’re wondering if the pitch will keep such a large thing watertight, let alone whether it’ll float. You’re not the only one; the hillsides are packed with people curious (perhaps morbidly so) about the fate of Noah’s boat. After a few more hours of steady rain, the boat shifts a little. You hear a gasp from the assembled spectators. More rain. More water. Just before dusk, the giant craft creaks, groans, protests and is finally shifted from its cradle of gopher logs. No sound from the crowd – everyone’s just staring, breaths held. Noah’s boat is now floating. Maybe it’s seaworthy after all! Maybe Noah’s some kind of strange, misunderstood genius (though that still wouldn’t explain the animals).

As the boat is taken downstream, you hear Noah bellowing something over the sound of the rushing water and falling rain – you can’t make it out but it sounds triumphant. Then you hear a sound that chills you to the bone. A creaking, groaning sound. It graduates to a cracking, splintering sound. The vessel is visibly twisting as it’s turned by the current – as if some unseen giant is wringing it out like a large wet cloth. Cladding bursts free from the side of the vessel. Water rushes in, animals fall out. You see a lion, an ostrich, a goat, all fall in to the river. Then a man – one of Noah’s sons? Frantically they paddle and kick but more cladding and beams fall on top of them. You and the crowd are now running down the hill to the riverbank. Perhaps you’ll be able to help save one of the crew. The stricken craft, now waterlogged, runs aground on a sandbar downstream, but it doesn’t stop dead. It starts to tip over, one side dug into the sand. The weight of its own timbers and waterlogged lower decks makes it collapse in on itself. Above the roar of snapping timbers you can hear the desperate screams of animals and people alike.

When you draw level with the sandbar you see among the cracked, twisted ribs of the boat some of the dead: sheep, an ox, some people floating face down. From your vantage point on the riverbank you see Noah on a small patch of sand. As he was on the top deck he was thrown clear by the impact. He’s on his side, still moving. The wreck of the boat is forming a dam, diverting the still-rising water around him. You and some neighbours start talking about a rescue plan – how can we get across the river to the sandbar? Will the wreck hold long enough for us to bring him back? Another grisly cracking sound answers your question as the rest of the hull begins to give way. You and your neighbours rush back up the hillside and turn just in time to see the hapless Noah engulfed by the merciless grey river and the shattered remnants of his creation. You and the other villagers sit in silence as the wreckage flows beyond the sandbar and out of sight down the river. Some of it remains where it fell, stuck in the sand or snagged on the riverbank. As the rain eases and the river subsides, the full extent of the carnage is revealed. Gopherwood beams, planks and logs and the carcasses of animals and people litter the riverbank from the sandbar onward. Noah’s body is never found.

After the funerals are held for Noah’s family, the dead animals disposed of and the remnants of Noah’s vessel cleared away (and reused – it was good timber!), people start retelling the tale of Noah and his “ark”, as people are now calling it. Each time you hear the story, whether in the marketplace, the tavern or via some passing travellers, it appears to grow in magnitude. Some giraffes here, two hippopotami there. By the time you hear a version where Noah’s floating menagerie is an astonishing three hundred cubits (!) long, contains a breeding pair of every animal on the Earth, endures forty whole days of rain and spends a year afloat without any creatures starving to death, you give up trying to correct people. Yes, you were actually there, knew Noah personally and saw the whole thing unfold, but noone wants to hear that. Nobody wants to hear the truth when it’s so much more fun to tell a good story. Next thing you know people will be saying he was called on by God!

Update 16 March 2014: Yo, Aronofsky – this is the film you should have made, brah! 😀

Ray Comfort is a fucking idiot

“Fucking” being the operative word in this case. That is, he reproduces, or can or will reproduce (oh god, I sincerely hope not) sexually. With another person.

However, he is under the following mistaken impression about Darwinian evolution (a mistaken impression about evolution? Ray? Say it aint so!):

Darwin theorized that mankind (both male and female) evolved alongside each other over millions of years, both reproducing after their own kind before the ability to physically have sex evolved. They did this through “asexuality” (“without sexual desire or activity or lacking any apparent sex or sex organs”). Each of them split in half (“Asexual organisms reproduce by fission (splitting in half).

Ray Comfort, you are a fucking, fucking, FUCKING idiot. At no point, ever in human history, or even pre-human history, have “we” (bipedal apes) reproduced via splitting in half. At no point, ever in Darwin’s history, did he “theorise” that humans ever could or ever did reproduce asexually. That is possibly the most unimaginably, mind-bogglingy brain-rapingly stupid thing you’ve ever written on your blog (which is really, really saying something).

OK then, I shall attempt to be charitable. If you’re not simply a fucking clueless idiot, then you’re one of the following: (a) laughably, pathetically ignorant, (b) in complete understanding of what you read but flat-out lying through your teeth about what evolutionary theory says, for some reason, (c) unable to read & comprehend words of your own language that are put in an easily decipherable order that clearly & unambiguously describes a concept or idea or (d) deliberately baiting atheists with what you know to be complete falsehoods in order to rile them up and expose to your loyal cadre of credulous Raytheists exactly how unpleasant atheists are, all of the time (not just when responding to such blatant falsehood). It could even be (e): you’re a cynical charlatan who takes great delight in simultaneously pissing off & misrepresenting atheists & scientists while taking the money of history’s easiest, softest, most stationary targets: hardcore evangelists who take the Bible literally.

If it’s simple ignorance or carelessness at the root of this ridiculous error, that could be excused – except that you frequently present yourself as some kind of authority or expert or, at the very least, a knowledgeable & educated layman in the areas of evolution and the development of life, all in order to lend credence and credibility to your supposed debunkings of it, which eliminates (a). Obviously you can read & write English and I’ve even seen you speak it on youtube while masturbating a banana, so (c) is out. Option (b) – you’re a bald-faced liar – is very likely, I think, as is (d) – you just like baiting atheists or just anybody who believes evolution is a well-supported theory backed by literally millions of pieces of evidence gathered over 150 years by humans (including so many transitional fossils that it would pretty much require a textbook to list and describe them all), but amassed over the past 3.7 billion years by the natural processes of our planet, with much still waiting to be discovered. Option (e) – that you’re a charlatan, ripping off credulous idiots in the full knowledge that what you’re peddling is bullshit – is very, very possible (because you wouldn’t be the first) but I don’t think it’s likely.

It’s hard to tell which of those it is. You appear earnest and stupid and ignorant enough to believe what you’re saying (which would require of even the most cynical of charlatans and gifted of actors a Herculean effort to either not burst out laughing at the idiocy of your statements and gullibility of your patsies or to simply not choke on the vomit that would arise in most rational people were they to attempt to portray your fantasies as truth) and you display a deep misunderstanding and dislike of people who aren’t religious, or who just understand what science is (which would explain why might enjoy baiting them with your fabrications and seemingly deliberate misunderstandings on a website called ‘atheist central’). Flat-out liar? Well, only if you know what you’re saying is bullshit – you don’t seem to know much at all that’s useful, which really just leaves my original position: that you’re a fucking idiot. Oh, and a charlatan – because you do take peoples’ money – the fact that you believe your own bullshit doesn’t change the fact that you are indeed a peddler of complete bullshit. And you’re an ignorant cretin – the evidence you seek is all around you, yet you refuse to read & understand it. So, I suppose you’re a mix of all of those … you’re a standard-issue creationist evolution-denier, ripping off the faithful and spreading ignorance, while simultaneously demonising anyone who disagrees with your narrow, literalist reading of the Bible, while at the same time completely misrepresenting the arguments and points of view of your opponents in order to argue against them (because I think we all know if you attacked the arguments of evolution as they actually are – and not how you see them – you’d fail dismally). So, you can add fucking liar to that list too.

A lot of the time, Australians are quite happy to claim New Zealanders as their own if they’re successful: Russell Crowe (though we’re happy to give him back after hearing his band) and Phar Lap the legendary racehorse are just two. In this case, I’m sure I speak for all of rational, unretarded Australia when I say “America, you can keep him.”

Found via Raytractors. Go there 🙂

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Expelled Redux!

Duped over at Dangerous Intersection.

They’ve started advertising the DVD version of that infernal, mendacious, highly offensive, wilfully ignorant and misleading waste of megabytes known as Expelled. Bay of Fundie has scratched the surface of their advertising and revealed some new information.Now, given that this is the DVD release of Expelled, it makes me wonder what kind of special features they’ll include. Of course noone can know for sure, but I have something of a wish list:

– a complete timeline of all the steps taken & communication entered into to secure the participation of such people as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, including a full explanation for the stark deviation from the premise of the original film: it was originally presented to Myers & Dawkins as a documentary named “Crossroads”, detailing the intersection of religion & science, which it clearly did not turn out to be, either by name or nature

– full, uncut, unedited interviews with the abovenamed

– a full explanation from the film’s producers of PZ Myer’s own expulsion from a screening of Expelled by security staff before he’d entered the theatre, despite the fact that he’d registered to attend under his own name and hadn’t attempted any kind of subterfuge, as was alleged early on by the producers (as well as an explanation of how Richard Dawkins, arguably more recognisable than PZ Myers, was allowed to enter unmolested)

– behind-the-scenes segments showing such things as exactly who comprised the audience in Ben Stein’s opening, paranoid address to college “students”and a clear explanation of Adolf Hitler’s alleged use Darwin’s theory of evolution to justify his horrific experiments

– a demonstration that the producers of this film – and Ben Stein himself – actually understand what the theory of evolution says and, importantly, what it doesn’t say: Stein is on record stating that evolution can’t explain certain astronomical phenomena & processes, apparently ignorant of the fact that evolution only applies to terrestrial biological diversity

– an explanation of how “micro-evolution” differs from “macro-evolution”, followed by an explanation of how a lit match can’t start a bushfire

– an actual clear-cut, definitive definition of the theory of Intelligent Design, the predictions made by this theory and why this theory requires equal time in science classes (see below)

– results of any actual research into & testing of ID’s predictions, including such information as the identity or even intent of the “designer” and the reason for the many, glaring inefficiencies, inconsistencies and illogicalities in biological “designs” from all branches of life. This should be presented by one or a combination of (but not limited to) the following high-profile design proponents: Michael Behe, William Dembski, Casey Luskin, Phillip Johnston & we mustn’t (nor will we ever) forget Ben Stein.

– a full explanation of the “controversy” that Stein & co wish to be taught to children, as it appears that the only controversy regarding the veracity of evolutionary theory is the one Stein & his partners in this endeavour have manufactured

– actual, scientific rebuttals of (or even credible challenges to) any aspect or aspects of the theory of evolution – without resorting to paranoid conspiracy theories or sweeping, unsupportable statements about “Big Science”

– an explanation of Stein’s infamous remark from an interview on a Christian TV programme: “Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.”

– an explanation of how Intelligent Design is not based on (or simply is) Biblical creationism & an explanation of the actions of the obviously religiously motivated members of the Dover, PA school board (and their supporters from the Discovery Institute, authors of the infamous and clearly religiously-based “Wedge Document”) which led to the famous trial of 2004

– a justification for singling out Darwinian evolution for special attention, while other fields such as Newtonian physics and Copernican astronomy each contradict Scripture in various ways but are (for the most part) left unmolested and uncontested by religionists

– one good reason why teaching children their parents’ religion shouldn’t just stay in Scripture classes, Sunday schools, churches and the family home and one good reason why it should be taught as fact alongside evidence-based science when, as is repeated often, religion & belief is a matter of faith, which by definition means “accepting a proposition without evidence”

Of course, it’s all wishful thinking on my part. But no more so than Stein & Co’s insistence that “Big Science” persecutes & expels religious professors for dissenting views, that “Darwinism” is a one-way street to concentration camps or, indeed, the insistence of many ID supporters that Big Religion played no part in attempting to usher Bible stories into science classes through the back door in violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States.

I eagerly await my hopes to be dashed.

I see I’m not the only one …

… who sees spooky parallels between Sarah Palin and Miss Teen South Carolina …

And once more with feeling:

Pironiro, Thunderf00t and Tina Fey: I love you all (but I only love Tina in that special creepy way).

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Giberson gets it sdrawkcab

Another day, another gross misunderstanding of science & atheism, which leads to several hundred words of pure “duh”.

Some … guy … named Karl Giberson has written a piece in Slate (may they be deprived of the blessed touch of the FSM’s noodly appendages forever more for allowing such trash in their usually decent mag) and it’s rife with the usual, tiresome “science is a religion” bullshit. Fortunately, saving me some precious time, PZ has smushed this tripe as only he can (but as we all should strive to do), and Jason Rosenhouse done the same over at Evolutionblog. However, I felt compelled, as ever, to have a crack of my own.

Some Giberson gems:

Science, it would appear, has the raw material for a new religion. Trust traditionally placed in God can be relocated to science, which is reliable and faithful, as well as ennobling. Life can be oriented in a reverential way around the celebration and protection of the great diversity wrought by the evolutionary epic, a diversity that has produced creatures capable of reflecting on this grand mystery.

Could we be sure, for example, that this new scientific religion would not give rise to the extremism and aberrant behavior that plague conventional religions? Would concern for the diversity of life, for example, inspire vegetarians to blow up slaughterhouses, and run the local butcher through his or her own meat grinder? Would reverence for the cosmos reinvigorate astrology? Would appreciation for natural selection bring eugenics back out of the closet? In other words, if science dismantles the traditional religious content that people use to satisfy their impulses — many of which are quite passionate — will we really be better off?

Facile, impotent, naive retardedness of the highest order. Is he actually being serious posing these ridiculous questions? Eugenics was quickly smacked down as a ridiculous idea based on old prejudices – and the more biologists learn about “race” and about human history, the clearer it becomes that the whole concept of race itself is no more than the difference between a beagle and a basset; a tabby and a tortoiseshell. His “appreciation for natural selection bring[ing] eugenics back out of the closet” remark is sailing dangerously close to that smug little fuckwit Ben Stein’s “Darwin = Nazis” movie Expelled and his comment on a TV interview that “science leads you to killing people.” Reverence for the cosmos would no more lead to astrology than my love for Pink Floyd leading to an attempt to deify David Gilmour & Roger Waters. Again, is he serious with this shit? Did he proofread it or just hit “send” to his editor? What would make us all better off is a concerted effort from credulous bible-thumpers like Giberson to actually understand what science is, what it isn’t, what it does and how it works. That should then put an end to the ridiculous recycled religious arguments we constantly have to tolerate.

There is also no compelling way to get ethical directives from science.

True! You know why, genius? Because, as I posted here, science is a TOOL (note that I’m resisting the obvious comparison between it and you). A method for investigation & explanation. It’s not a belief system, ethical guide, philosophy, political system or a religion any more than the operating manual for my DVD player is a fucking bible, and you know what else? Science doesn’t want to join your ancient, dark-age superstitious clubhouse. Scientific inquiry, in the guise of the Renaissance and the later Enlightenment, is what rescued the world from centuries of church-inspired intellectual vacuum & despotism (before Gutenberg, it was illegal in many parts of Europe for peasants to own bibles or learn to read!). No scientist worth the term is going to push science as anything other than what it is! Science is an eternal process of questioning what we see, of searching for explanations, of testing claims – not a list of easy, thoughtless answers and appeals to ignorance. I simply can’t believe the lack of understanding Giberson possesses. But then he explains it, and I believe it:

On a practical level — and I write as someone who works in the trenches at an evangelical college — I am worried that attempts to treat science as if it is a religion will only drive the big, abrasive wedge currently between science and religion even further into the chasm of misunderstanding. What we should hope, instead, is that science can become a more congenial guest in the house — church, temple, mosque — of religion and not be so determined to proselytize or even evict all of the current occupants. There is much in religion that need not trouble the scientist and much that the scientist can value. Scientists must learn to live with that.

There ya go. He’s a teacher at that old oxymoron, the fundamentalist educational institution. I think the fact that Giberson works at a fundie college (and admits it!) speaks volumes. Of COURSE he’s seeing science as a pretender to the throne of religion! Why? Because fundies can’t comprehend life without a supernaturally-derived behavioural manual and they project that all-consuming need for spiritual surveillance onto everyone that disagrees with them. “You have faith in science? Well, that’s your religion right there!” They can’t imagine a life without worshipping invisible deities, so they project that desperate personal requirement onto those of us in the pro-science world – “if you don’t worship God, you have to worship something.” They describe everything in religious terms as they’ve been marinating in them so long that a life without them – in any form – is utterly inconceivable. They see scientists like PZ Myers et al becoming increasingly more vocal in opposing dogma, wilful misinformation and lackwitted creationist garbage and they label it as atheist/scientific evangelism/fundamentalism/militancy. Well, no, it’s not. That annoying, in-your-face cold-selling is what you fundies do. That’s what scientists are reacting to – your ignorance, your evangelism, your increasing & increasingly sneaky attempts to enter education as valid alternatives to actual science. You fundies and your wilful misunderstandings of reality are the reason there are so many “militant atheists” out there opposing your crap, your half-arguments and your ignorance and you’re worried.

You know who put that “big, abrasive wedge” between science and religion there in the first place? Religious people – masquerading as those interested in academic freedom. The goddam Discovery Institute, who brought you the Dover massacre of 2005. Giberson then implies that science is the unwanted guest who should sit down and shut up. After that gross misrepresentation, Giberson then paints science as some sort of interloper, a snivelling goblin that’s flung open the doors of a temple and demanded equal treatment to the gods. He reprimands science for its ungentlemanly behaviour, for daring to presume to sit at the big table with the grownups. How arse-backwards can you possibly be? It is religion that has been forced, dishonestly, through the cracks of the education system in America; religion which has thrown open the classroom door and demanded equal time and “academic freedom”; religion which is burrowing its way into science curricula with the help of the Discovery Institute’s big, abrasive wedge. Pots & kettles, Giberson. It is the church which has raised the profile of science by constantly attacking it and its practitioners, either directly & publicly with hit-pieces like this garbage or indirectly by subterfuge, such as was seen at Dover.

I am incredibly impressed with the achievements of science. But I don’t think science is omniscient and I am not convinced that science will ever know everything. I am not convinced that science is even capable of knowing everything. That we can know as much as we do seems rather miraculous, in fact. Is it so dangerous to believe that there is a bit more to the world than meets the scientific eye, that behind the blackboard filled with equations there is a rational, creative and even caring mind breathing fire into those equations?

“Gee, gosh, some of my best friends are scientists but they don’t know ever’thang so don’t worship them.” You know what? Any scientist – or even any layperson who understands science – would agree with you there. Noone with half a brain thinks science will ever “know everything”. Clearly, that’s a job for your god. Every scientific discovery, every answer, even the revolutionary & world-changing, also lead to more questions. If Giberson understands anything about science, it’s that scientists themselves are the first to admit that not only do we not know everything that can be known, we may never know. However, that’s no reason to stop searching!

He asks if it’s really so dangerous to believe there’s something behind the equations of the universe. Well, of course it’s not dangerous. A waste of time perhaps … let me ask a question then: is it really so dangerous to admit that there’s absolutely no evidence for the claim that there is something behind the blackboard?

Why I am not a scientist

Well, simply, it’s because I don’t have the patience, attention to detail or academic skills – or even the desire – to study it in any formal way. Biology was one of my favourite subjects at school and my understanding of it was helped by my father, himself a senior biology teacher (at a different high school), both through his direct assistance and indirectly through his large collection of scientific books, most of them dealing with natural history in some way. However, for many reasons I was not a good student (let’s face facts, I sucked) and my marks in no way reflected my true understanding of the material.

But you don’t have to be a scientist in order to know that science works. The results are all around you, from the breathtaking photos and information given us by the Hubble telescope (and the insane mathematics & engineering that designed, built and launched the thing) to the technology I’m using to write and publish this post; the tram & train that will take me home tonight; the medical technology that’s more than once quite literally saved my life and the lives of some of my friends and family (more than likely yours too) to the mobile phone that’s next to me with Puzzle Bobble installed on it that’s ringing and being ignored. You don’t have to have faith that it works because it’s right there in front of you, working the way it’s designed to, proving itself time and time again, billions of times a day, every day of our lives.

Some people accuse others of worshipping science as a replacement for God; some, oxymoronically, call it a “secular religion” or an “atheist religion”. Science is not a religion, a belief system or even a philosophy. Science is a tool. It is a method of gaining understanding of something you’re looking at which you can’t as yet understand. You can then test & confirm your new knowledge and explain it to others, not only showing what you know, but – more importantly – how you know it. This exposes your methods to testing & critical evaluation by others: if your methods are flawed, it may be that your data may be equally flawed. This is science. Not blind faith or unfounded, ingrained, habitual belief but verifiable fact, testable truth, and real knowledge of our universe.

Science is a tool as much as a pen or a chisel is a tool. With a pen you can write Don Giovanni or Mein Kampf; with a chisel you can carve marble into David or stab someone in the head. With science you can inform the world as to the origin of species, the age of the universe, treat cancer or you can design an atomic bomb or nerve gas or napalm. Form & function do not & can not dictate the intent or morality of the user. So it goes with religion: it can be a force for good, inspiring people to great charity, love and self-sacrifice; it can also be the bane of man, inspiring oppression of sexual, political or artistic natures, sectarianism and associated violence & murder, blind faith in superstition and suspicion of scientific knowledge, distrust of any who ask difficult questions and double standards & hypocrisy when it comes to free speech and public discourse.

Some religious people even cry and protest when a new scientific discovery is made, rather than celebrate a new brick in the temple of combined human knowledge. Creationists, for example, demand transitional fossils to show speciation, however when they’re discovered (Tiktaalik being a great example) they insist that it’s not transitional enough or in some way doesn’t meet their stringent criteria (which in fact seem to change according to the nature of whatever discovery they’re protesting, curiously and coincidentally in such a way as to always, without fail, render the new discovery illegitimate in their eyes).

It used to be that creationists would limit their protestations to the earthly sciences too; particularly anything to do with the age of the earth and divergence of lifeforms, including but not limited to biology, geology, archaeology and palaeontology. In recent months though, I’ve noticed a lot of religious commenters on scientific blogs & websites attempting to disprove or debunk the physics of astronomy and cosmology itself by using scripture or, more often, simply cherry-picking whatever science seems to agree with their biblical worldview and ignoring the rest of the body of knowledge. A prime example is the comment thread at this old post from The Angry Astronomer, which got itself hijacked by an obvious creationist (named, as usual, “Anonymous”) whose ham-fisted, ignorant attempts to disprove Angry’s science using – hmmmm – well, science is really quite laughable. I hooked into Anon. myself quite a bit – can’t resist sometimes – and some of the smackdowns he received from Angry and other astronomers (including The Bad One himself, Phil Plait) are pure awesomnity. Anon’s stone-age ignorance of the topic is on display for all to see in high definition and this breathtaking ignorance of the topic he assumes he’s an expert in is only eclipsed by his steady, unceasing ignorance of his own damnable ignorance!

Creationists using science to debunk science. Will wonders never cease?

It’s just so damn troubling, counter-intuitive and arse-backwards. Science and the scientific method are self-regulating tools for discovery & explanation; for verifiable (and falsifiable) results; for reliable methodology and for logical, rational, reasonable and impartial knowledge of the processes and phenomena of the world and its surrounding universe. How is it possible that in the 21st century there are still biblical literalists shouting down every new discovery as lies or heresy? How can anyone take their claims of scientific conspiracies to kill religion or suppress religion-supporting facts seriously? How can these people keep a straight face as they attempt to use science (well, the bits of it they think gel with their interpretation of ancient fables, anyway – much as they sift through their bibles for grains of wisdom) to debunk science?

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