Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Intelligence Report, Fall 2010, Issue Number: 139
By Alexander Zaitchik
Conspiracy theorizing has flourished as a virtual art form in all nations and across all political persuasions. But the American radical right has to be considered a strong contender for the title of modern conspiracy champion. A vast body of academic literature exists exploring this history, of which Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is the most famous. Hundreds of books and articles have chronicled the rise (and fall) of an unceasing march of disparate conspiracy-based movements that, at different points in American history, have trembled before and warned against imaginary threats posed by Catholics, Mormons, Jews, American Communists, Freemasons, bankers, and U.S. government officials and agencies.
Scholars continue to debate the psychological and sociological origins of conspiracy theories, but there is no arguing that these theories have seen a revival on the extreme right in recent years. Over the last two decades, a far-right conspiracy culture of self-proclaimed "Patriots" has emerged in which the United States government itself is viewed as a mortal threat to everything from constitutional democracy to the survival of the human race. This conspiracy revival — which has been accompanied by the explosive growth of Patriot groups over the last year and a half — kicked into overdrive with the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, who is seen by Patriots as a foreign-born Manchurian candidate sent by forces of the so-called "New World Order" to destroy American sovereignty and institute one-world socialist government.
Since Obama's election, the constituent theories within the overarching narrative of the New World Order have increasingly made inroads into the mainstream national discourse. Thanks to conservative cable news hosts like Glenn Beck (of Fox News) and Lou Dobbs (formerly of CNN), conspiratorial rants about FEMA concentration camps and the "North American Union" have been beamed directly into the living rooms of millions of Americans. Websites popular with Tea Party conservatives, meanwhile, have further stoked fears of a socialistic one-world government takeover by "un-American" forces. Joseph Farah's WorldNetDaily.com, for example, has grown its influence by peddling paranoia about the president's birth certificate and AmeriCorps' "domestic armies." Earlier this year, the John Birch Society, a group with a long history of hatching and promoting wild conspiracy theories (including the idea that President Eisenhower was a communist agent), co-sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual powwow of leading conservatives and Republican Party figures. Speakers at this year's conference included such mainstream names as Washington Post columnist George Will, former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner.
Here is a compilation of 10 of the most popular conspiracy theories currently circulating on the radical right and, increasingly, on points of the political spectrum much too close to the center for comfort.
In the world of Patriot antigovernment paranoia, New World Order forces attempt to manipulate and control the unwitting population from every conceivable source and direction — from the images on your television screen to the very water that comes out of your kitchen tap. In recent years, the New World Order has been meddling most nefariously from above, high among the clouds.
Few Internet-age antigovernment conspiracies have spread as quickly or as widely as the idea of "chemtrails": the belief that air and water vapor contrails that form in the wake of high-altitude aircraft are really clouds of toxic soup being deliberately sprayed by hundreds, if not thousands, of secret government planes executing the designs of the New World Order. What is the insidious purpose of the chemtrails program? It depends which paranoid Patriot you ask. The most popular theories include population control, weather manipulation, and outright human extermination. If, as some cultural historians suggest, the UFO sightings of the 1940s and 50s were the skyward projection of early atomic-age fears, chemtrails are the climate-change-age corollary, with cultural panic over pollution and strange weather mixing with deeper traditions of Patriot antigovernment animus.
Hundreds of websites currently peddle chemtrails theories, along with books, DVDs and all manner of survivalist gear. They maintain that toxic clouds in the sky are easily distinguished from normal contrails by their longer duration and expansive dissipation patterns. Most of the spraying is believed to take place at night over the population centers of the NATO countries, especially the United States.
Who, exactly, is responsible for the program? There are conflicting schools of thought here as well. But among Patriot groups it is generally agreed that some alignment of New World Order lords — sometimes referred to as the Illuminati — is busy spraying cities and towns with pathogens. In the grimmest of the scenarios, the spraying represents the first of a two-stage depopulation program. Stage one involves spreading pathogens to weaken humanity's collective immune system; once general T-cell weakness is attained, goes the theory, we can expect aerial dispersal of smallpox or anthrax to finish us off.
Fear over chemtrails long ago spread beyond the Patriot fringe. Twenty years ago, the buzz surrounding chemtrails had grown to the extent that the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration felt compelled to issue a joint "Aircraft Contrails Factsheet." The six-page illustrated report patiently explained the science of contrails, such as the role humidity plays in the variance between how long contrails linger and spread, sometimes forming cirrus cloud cover, and pointed out that they have zero impact on human health.
But as these things go, official efforts to confront the conspiracy only fueled its growth. It is today bigger than ever, commanding adherents across the globe.
02 Martial Law
If Patriot groups fear anything more than the water vapor in the sky, it is the imminent imposition of martial law. A longstanding and central plank of the Patriot catechism is the belief that one day — very soon! — federal forces, in league with the states, will suspend constitutional government and institute a police state.
During the first few years after the 9/11 attacks, this fear was also discussed on the left. But what was a temporary concern there has long been an absolute certainty on the far right. Today, hundreds of Patriot groups around the country are actively preparing for the declaration of martial law, some of them by mapping wilderness areas, learning how to set booby traps, studying and practicing guerrilla warfare tactics, and setting up short-wave radio communications systems. The question is not if, but when, the New World Order will come crashing down.
Patriot groups believe the legal groundwork for the inevitable imposition of martial law is being laid in Washington, within the pages of a steady stream of classified National Security documents and directives. At the local level, meanwhile, they suspect town and city governments are also in on the plan, as evidenced by their passing of emergency powers ordinances.
Once the legal mechanisms are in place, all that's needed is a "crisis trigger," for which Patriots are constantly on the lookout. Whether this trigger is real or manufactured matters less than the fact that it will succeed in frightening the population into submission and be used to justify suspension of the Constitution. This crisis trigger could take any form. Common scenarios suggested on Patriot discussion boards include economic collapse, followed by massive social unrest; a global (and likely government-created) pandemic; multiple acts of mega-terrorism (again, featuring government collusion); or possibly a fraudulent presidential election, resulting in rioting in major cities around the country.
Patriot groups often refer to the unelected junta that will rule the coming police state as a "metropolitan government." This language, like the martial law scenario, has a long pedigree. As Patriot/survivalist Don Harkin explains in the Idaho Observer, a conspiracy rag popular among militia groups: "Metropolitan government was exposed in the late 1950s by Jo Hindman. … [Today] this unconstitutional form of government is being implemented all over the country — particularly in the nation's more densely populated areas such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle."
Once the "metropolitan government" is instituted, most Patriots are certain they will immediately be rounded up and sent to internment camps — which takes us to our next conspiracy.
03 FEMA Concentration Camps
Following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Domestic Terrorism held hearings on the Patriot/militia subculture that bred and nurtured the bombers. Throughout the hearings, a running theme expressed by Patriots was a fear that "urban gangs," directed by Washington and possibly acting in concert with U.N. and foreign troops, would sweep in from the coasts, confiscate their guns, and round them up. This home-invasion force would hold down the streets during the imposition of martial law, then send the members of Patriot militias to internment camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which most Patriot groups consider to be "the executive arm of the coming police state."
This conspiracy has recently surged in popularity, especially after the Senate in March 2009 passed the Serve America Act, the meat of which was a multi-billion-dollar expansion of AmeriCorps, a federal program that employs many inner-city youths in community service jobs. For the Patriot fringe (and media enablers like Glenn Beck), the thought of billions of dollars going to employ inner-city youth evoked images of "domestic armies." Soon, the far-right media was full of warnings about "Obama's brown shirts" and "slavery."
The renewed chatter about "FEMA concentration camps" took many forms. Glenn Beck promised to "look into it." Films such as "Camp FEMA: American Lockdown," featuring conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, have been wildly popular on conspiracy-driven websites like martiallawsurvival.com, outselling all previous conspiracy-driven pseudo-documentaries. Aerial photographs, each supposedly showing secret government holding facilities, went viral on the Web.
Of course, the photos showed nothing of the sort. A careful review of some of the photographs carried out by Popular Mechanics editor James Meigs made clear that the visual "evidence" was bogus in every instance. For example, a photograph of an alleged secret prison was actually a North Korean work camp. Other photographs showed nothing more sinister than well-known National Guard training centers and Amtrak rail yards.
Just as the agencies responsible for air travel and air quality have tried to respond to the chemtrails conspiracy allegations, so, too, has FEMA gone on record reassuring Americans that it has no intention of abrogating the Constitution or rounding up citizens. An internal FEMA memo, however, made clear that agency brass understands the losing-battle nature of trying to quell the conspiracies. "Most people know us as the agency that responds to natural disasters," the memo read. "Others believe we have a somewhat sinister role. For the latter, it is not realistic to think that we can convince them otherwise and it is advisable not to enter into debate on the subject."
04 Foreign Troops on U.S. Soil
While "urban gangs" are considered a leading candidate to enforce a New World Order (NWO) lockdown, they are not the only threatening force clouding the Patriot mind. There is also a belief on the radical right that treasonous government officials are colluding with other governments to suppress Americans with the use of foreign troops. Patriots believe this foreign assistance will be necessary due to the patriotism of America's own troops. As explained on the Patriot website libertyforlife.com, many U.S. active military personnel and veterans would likely refuse orders to suppress the rights of their fellow citizens, and so "the US/NWO/UN government is importing foreign troops into the USA to do what US soldiers did to Iraq." Among the many Patriot groups dedicated to resisting this is the Oath Keepers, made up of veteran and active-duty U.S. military personnel.
Whose troops, exactly, would be deployed here? Those of whichever allies the U.S. is partnering with at any given moment. For example, Patriot sites were atwitter with news that, in July 2009, FEMA organized a terrorist-response exercise in conjunction with troops from 14 allied countries, including Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
After the 2009 exercise, the Web burst with YouTube clips attempting to alert people to the sinister presence of foreign troops. Like other popular conspiracies to see a revival in recent years, this one is hardly new. In 1997, one Patriot blogger warned that Red Chinese troops would be allowed to take over America. The fevered language of this Clinton-era theorist nicely captures the frantic energy that has always defined Patriot conspiracy culture, as well as the racial dimension never far from the surface of so many conspiracies:
"During the 1950's, the elitists planning for world government made plans to use occupation forces in every country that did not submit to their greedy, arrogant ambitions. Their plan called for using Chinese troops in America… . Now that American soldiers have been used in Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, a precedent has been set to bring the red Chinese troops here. The UN could justify such an action if the Black Muslims instigate a race war. I expect this scenario if the Democrats loose [sic] the White House and Congress in the 2000 elections. Comrade Clinton could not be slicker in making himself Commandant of Gulag America."
05 'Door-to-Door' Gun Confiscations
One of the defining features of Patriot/militia subculture is an obsession with firearms. Patriot groups stockpile them, train using them, and, perhaps most of all, worry about losing them. Any attempt to restrain their gun rights is viewed as the thin-edge-wedge of a New World Order crackdown. Patriots believe it inevitable that NWO forces in black masks and jackboots — and possibly UN blue helmets — will one day be sent door to door to take away their weapons by force. This fear is also stoked by mainstream figures within the conservative movement. Wayne LaPierre, the president of the National Rifle Association, a major player in the Republican Party coalition, is the author of a book entitled, The Global War on Your Guns: Inside the UN Plan To Destroy the Bill of Rights. In 2006, Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter attached an amendment to a domestic-security spending bill that prohibited the confiscation of legally owned guns during an emergency. The measure passed by a vote of 84-16.
Within Patriot subculture, the gun-confiscation fear sometimes dovetails with other conspiracies of an anti-Semitic flavor. Proponents of gun control in these instances are seen as representing a New World Order cabal run by Jews. At the website Real Zionist News, for example, a New York State gun control law aimed at protecting police officers was described as "the first step toward confiscation." According to the site, "The real agenda is to disarm law-abiding GENTILES, whom Zionist Jews fear will soon discover Jewry's anti-American, freedom-hating mission."
06 9/11 as Government Plot
The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., were seen by both the far left and far right as fitting the bill for an intentional "crisis trigger." In the weeks and months after the attacks, a subculture of "9/11 Truthism" emerged in which the attacks were seen as anything but a simple case of well-trained Al Qaeda operatives flying planes into landmark buildings. Instead, "truthers" argued that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by controlled demolitions, that a missile brought down United Airlines 93, and that a missile — and not an airliner at all — struck the Pentagon. Who was responsible? The U.S. government, of course. On the far left, the reason seen for attacking the American people was to justify a perpetual state of war; on the far right, it provided an excuse for the government to, at long last, institute a police state.
On both extremes, a distinct current of anti-Semitism runs through 9/11 conspiracies. Especially in the right-wing variants associated with Patriot groups — and in a number of radical-right black separatist group as well — the central agents are often very pointedly described as either high officials of Jewish descent or outright Israeli agents. Another feature of anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracies is the popular claim that 4,000 Israelis and Jews did not show up for work at the World Trade Center on the morning of the attacks. The origins of that conspiracy theory appear to have come from a statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry that some "4,000 Israelis" were in the New York and Washington areas the day of the attacks. Here again, we see how a misread or misconstrued fact can be distorted through paranoia and multiplied by the power of the Internet, allowing totally unfounded rumors to travel the globe at warp speed.
For many Patriot groups dedicated to the fight against the New World Order — often referred to as "American Revolution II" — the American people have been denied the truth about the 2001 attacks by "the New World Order-controlled corporatist-Jewish media."
Of course, when this media does mention 9/11 truther claims, this, too, is seen as evidence of a conspiracy within a conspiracy. For example, when former White House official Van Jones was found to have signed a petition calling for an investigation into truther-related allegations, Patriots saw the subsequent media attention as a ruse. "Our patriot movements are totally being hijacked," said Jeffrey Grupp of the popular conspiracy website AntiMatterRadio.com, "not by infiltrators, but by a takeover of our patriot discussions."
That's typical of most conspiracies in the Patriot pantheon: When the mainstream media does not address the conspiracists' allegations, it is proof of their propaganda role. And when they do, it is a sign of an even more sophisticated and perfidious manipulation.
07 Population Control
For the conspiracy-minded, there is no such thing as an accidental tragedy or historical caprice. Each epidemic, mass industrial poisoning and medical advance (vaccinations, in particular) is just another highly suspicious example of the latest technologies being employed to further the agenda of hidden New World Order forces.
When the fluoridation of the U.S. water supply began in the middle of the last century, proto-Patriot groups screamed of a poisonous plot by communists in high places. A half century later, when the Food and Drug Administration approved aspartame as an ingredient in numerous food items, the descendents of the anti-fluoride conspiracists sounded yet another poison-ingredient alarm. But even aspartame paled in comparison to the threat supposedly posed by the avian flu virus, which many Patriots, from the late 1990s to the present, believe to be the result of research conducted at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Maryland's Fort Detrick.
In the Patriot mind, population control is often intimately linked to gun rights. After all, they say, it was gun control that led to large-scale slaughters in nations as diverse at Idi Amin's Uganda, Josef Stalin's Russia, Adolf Hitler's Germany and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's Turkey. American citizens, they believe, once deprived of their guns, will be next in line for a slaughter worthy of the history books.
What is the point of limiting — or even intentionally decimating — the U.S. population? One Patriot theory says the United Nations wants to create a "biosphere" out of most of the United States, and that eliminating the humans who put pressure on the environment will be a necessary first step.
Increasingly, devastating weather events are considered the result of government-engineered efforts to depopulate the country. In Patriot circles, Hurricane Katrina was not only seen as a pretext to begin confiscating guns, but is sometimes viewed as a man-made disaster orchestrated in secret government command centers where sophisticated high-altitude weapons control both the weather and the minds of men.
Chief among these weapons is one allegedly operating high above the earth, appropriately enough named after the instrument traditionally favored by mythological angels.
This is the "Death Star" of the Patriot conspiracy galaxy, around which so many other conspiracies orbit and often intersect.
According to the U.S. government, the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program is a joint scientific research project of the Air Force and Navy, based in Gakona, Alaska, whose stated purpose is "studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes."
Few true-blue Patriots believe that — and they aren't alone in their skepticism. Earlier this year, former Minnesota governor and tele-conspiracist Jesse Ventura visited the HAARP site for his TV show in an attempt to probe the official claims and find out "what's really going on." For those enthralled to a Patriot view of the world, the government's description of HAARP only scratches the surface. To the conspiracy-minded, HAARP is a government program tasked with creating secret directed-energy weapons, instruments for weather and mind control, and even potent new methods to cause earthquakes. Predictably, after January's devastating earthquake in Haiti, some Patriot sites noted that the neighboring Dominican Republic was undamaged, leading them to speculate that the U.S. government was responsible and had targeted Haiti alone — ignoring the more relevant explanation that the Republic's capital and major population center, Santo Domingo, was 160 miles from the quake's epicenter.
Discussions of HAARP often overlap with the chemtrails conspiracy. Many Patriot sites argue that NATO aircraft are spraying the toxic soup as part of a top-secret HAARP-related weather-modification program, or are refining a new-generation of high-frequency atmospheric weapons developed at the HAARP research center. Any number of wild-eyed (and self-published) introductions to the subject of HAARP are circulating on the web; one example is HAARP: The Ultimate Weapon of the Conspiracy, by Jerry E. Smith.
09 The Federal Reserve Conspiracy
It wasn't long after its creation under Woodrow Wilson that the Federal Reserve System became a central fixture in the world of right-wing conspiracy. It was seen, rightly, as introducing European-style central banking into the United States. It was also seen, this time wrongly, as the latest form of spreading Jewish and banker control over every aspect of American life. No one did more to promote anti-Fed hysteria in the early years than automobile magnate Henry Ford, who in the 1920s penned a multi-volume, anti-Semitic conspiracy opus called The International Jew, in which the Fed plays a starring role.
Ford's modern-day ideological descendants in the Patriot movement continue to view the Fed — without question, an opaque institution to most — through a lens colored by deep suspicion, paranoia, and hatred. For many, it remains the ultimate symbol of New Word Order power, in both Jewish and non-Jewish variants. Nor is anti-Fed paranoia limited to the Patriot fringe. Both the Idaho-based neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations and the black separatist Nation of Islam have claimed significance for the fact that the Federal Reserve System and the Anti-Defamation League both were founded in 1913.
In May 2009, a group of leading radical rightists convened on the South Georgia key known as Jekyll Island, where 100 years earlier bankers and government officials first hashed out plans for what became the Federal Reserve System. This meeting played a key role in launching the current resurgence of militias. Less than five months into the Obama Administration, the Jekyll Island conclave warned of "increasing national instability," worried about the coming New World Order, denounced secret schemes to merge Canada, Mexico and the United States, and furiously attacked the President Barack Obama's "socialized" policies.
Which leads, appropriately, to our final top conspiracy.
10 The North American Union
Since the passage of NAFTA in 1993, fears of economic dislocation and loss of sovereignty have animated both sides of the political spectrum. On the left, these fears are centered on the growth of transnational corporate power at the expense of U.S. labor and national policy. In some circles on the right, the trade bill is seen as the beginning of the so-called "North American Union" (NAU), the goal of a secret plan to merge the United States with Mexico and Canada and, in the process, eliminate sovereign government for each country. It is also a dominant conspiracy theory animating the hard-line anti-immigration movement, which overlaps heavily with Patriot territory.
As proof of the NAU plot, left- and right-wing conspiracy theorists typically point to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a series of working groups between the countries of North America to study regulatory cooperation in transportation, energy, aviation, the environment and more. To many adherents, participants at these meetings plot how best to send millions of Mexico's citizens to the United States, erect international courts designed to overrule and undermine American law, and pass continental hate crime laws that will send anti-gay Christian preachers to prison, and more.
In recent years, the paranoia about the SPP process has become so intense that a proposed highway project linking Canada, Mexico and the United States — the NAFTA-inspired Canamex Corridor concept which has managed only 85% completion after 15 years of planning — is seen as part of an evil design that will end with the Mexican government seizing control of Kansas City's Missouri River port. Other conspiracy theorists fear that a new currency, the "Amero," will displace American dollars — though no U.S. official of even marginal influence has ever proposed such a thing. (This last fear is odd coming from Patriot circles that otherwise have no love for Federal Reserve-issued greenbacks.)
As with so many conspiracies, the NAU plot is often inflamed by real news items that are seen as vastly more significant than they really are. This is especially true when the news items involve traditional New World Order bogeymen. In 2005, for example, when the Council on Foreign Relations released a document entitled "Building a North American Community" — calling for exploring the idea of further integration of Canada, the United States and Mexico — Patriot sites responded as if the report were a New World Order directive, spelling the imminent end of national sovereignty.
Alexander Zaitchik is a former Intelligence Report staff writer and free-lance journalist based in New York. His first book, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance, has just been published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.
The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world. Here is a list of 30 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect. 1. The Pioneer anomaly.
2. Anomalies in the locations of spacecraft that have flown by Earth ("flybys").
3. Increasingly precise measurements of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury show a shift greater than predicted by Relativity, well beyond the margin of error.
4. The discontinuity in momentum as velocity approaches "c" for infinitesimal mass, compared to the momentum of light.
5. The logical problem of a force which is applied at a right angle to the velocity of a relativistic mass - does this act on the rest mass or the relativistic mass?
6. The observed lack of curvature in overall space.
7. The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.
8. The action-at-a-distance of quantum entanglement.
9. The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.
10. The failure to discover gravitons, despite wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer money in searching.
11. The inability of the theory to lead to other insights, contrary to every verified theory of physics.
12. The change in mass over time of standard kilograms preserved under ideal conditions.
13. The uniformity in temperature throughout the universe.
14. "The snag is that in quantum mechanics, time retains its Newtonian aloofness, providing the stage against which matter dances but never being affected by its presence. These two [QM and Relativity] conceptions of time don't gel."
15. The theory predicts wormholes just as it predicts black holes, but wormholes violate causality and permit absurd time travel.
16. The theory predicts natural formation of highly ordered (and thus low entropy) black holes despite the increase in entropy required by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
17. Data from the PSR B1913+16 increasingly diverge from predictions of the General Theory of Relativity such that, despite a Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded for early work on this pulsar, no data at all have been released about it for over five years.
18. The lack of useful devices developed based on any insights provided by the theory; no lives have been saved or helped, and the theory has not led to other useful theories and may have interfered with scientific progress. This stands in stark contrast with every verified theory of science.
19. Relativity requires different values for the inertia of a moving object: in its direction of motion, and perpendicular to that direction. This contradicts the logical principle that the laws of physics are the same in all directions.
20. Relativity requires that anything traveling at the speed of light must have mass zero, so it must have momentum zero. But the laws of electrodynamics require that light have nonzero momentum.
21. Unlike most well-tested fundamental physical theories, the theory of relativity violates conditions of a conservative field. Path independence, for example, is lacking under the theory of relativity, as in the "twin paradox" whereby the age of each twin under the theory is dependent on the path he traveled.
22. The Ehrenfest Paradox: Consider a spinning hoop, where the tangential velocity is near the speed of light. In this case, the circumference (2pR) is length-contracted. However, since R is always perpendicular to the motion, it is not contracted. This leads to an apparent paradox: does the radius of the accelerating hoop equal R, or is it less than R?
23. The Twin Paradox: Consider twins who are separated with one traveling at a very high speed such that his "clock" (age) slows down, so that when he returns he has a younger age than the twin; this violates Relativity because both twins should expect the other to be younger, if motion is relative. Einstein himself admitted that this contradicts Relativity.
24. Based on Relativity, Einstein predicted in 1905 that clocks at the Earth's equator would be slower than clocks at the North Pole, due to different velocities; in fact, all clocks at sea level measure time at the same rate, and Relativists made new assumptions about the Earth's shape to justify this contradiction of the theory; they also make the implausible claim that relativistic effects from gravitation precisely offset the effects from differences in velocity.
25. Based on Relativity, Einstein claimed in 1909 that the aether does not exist, but in order to make subatomic physics work right, theorists had to introduce the aether-like concept of the Higgs field, which fills all of space and breaks symmetries.
26. Minkowski space is predicated on the idea of four-dimensional vectors of which one component is time. However, one of the properties of a vector space is that every vector have an inverse. Time cannot be a vector because it has no inverse.
27. It is impossible to perform an experiment to determine whether Einstein's theory of relativity is correct, or the older Lorentz aether theory is correct. Believing one over the other is a matter of faith.
28. In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God's first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.
29. Despite a century of wasting billions of dollars in work on the theory, "No one knows how to solve completely the equations of general relativity that describe gravity; they are simply beyond current understanding."
30. The barn and ladder paradox: Person A has a ladder too long to store in his barn. Person B takes the ladder and runs very fast into the barn. For A, who is at rest with respect to the ladder, the ladder will contract, and if the velocity is fast enough, it will fit in the barn. But to B, who is moving with the ladder, it is the barn that will contract, making the problem even worse. So, who is correct? Does the ladder fit in the barn? This problem was considered in the book Introduction to Electrodynamics by David Griffiths, and the author, who supports Relativity, claim that both are correct. The ladder both fit and doesn't fit in the barn. This is obviously against elementary rules of logic. References 1. See, e.g., historian Paul Johnson's book about the 20th century, and the article written by liberal law professor Laurence Tribe as allegedly assisted by Barack Obama. Virtually no one who is taught and believes Relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold.
3. In a complicated or contrived series of calculations that most physics majors cannot duplicate even after learning them, the theory of general relativity was conformed to match Mercury's then-observed precession of 5600.0 arc-seconds per century. Subsequently, however, more sophisticated technology has measured a different value of this precession (5599.7 arc-seconds per century, with a margin of error of only 0.01), and leading promoters of Relativity (such as Professor Clifford Will) have omitted this in listing tests confirming Relativity.
4. If space were curved, one would never expect the universe as a whole to be almost precisely flat. Yet it is.
5. Quantum entanglement has not yet communicated information faster than the speed of light, but has already exhibited action faster than the speed of light.
6. Mystery:Why Is the Kilogram Losing Weight?
7. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6092-speed-of-light-may-have-changed-recently.html ("A varying speed of light contradicts Einstein's theory of relativity, and would undermine much of traditional physics. But some physicists believe it would elegantly explain puzzling cosmological phenomena such as the nearly uniform temperature of the universe.")
9. http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v61/i13/p1446_1. The popular science press promotes black holes to a far greater extent than wormholes.
10. Contrived explanations have been suggested for this dilemma, such as Stephen Hawking proposing that the entropy of matter in a black hole is somehow stored in the surface area of its event horizon to be released back into its surroundings as the black hole decays by ... "Hawking radiation."
11. Contrary to the claims of Relativists, the GPS system has never been based on Relativity. The Time Service Department, U.S. Navy, observed that "the Global Positioning System (GPS) does not include the rigorous transformations between coordinate systems that Einstein's general theory of relativity would seem to require" in part because "the effects of relativity, where they are different from the effects predicted by classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, are too small to matter – less than one centimeter, for users on or near the earth."
12. In defense of the theory, it is noted that it mandates conservation of the matter-stress-energy tensor (the only way to get real conservation, since matter and energy are interchangeable.) This follows from the "contracted Bianchi identity".  Also, the curl of the "gravitational field vector" is exactly zero in the absence of moving sources, due to symmetries of Riemann's tensor. It follows, from Stokes' Theorem, that the gravitational field is conservative and has a potential function. Energy is conserved.
13. Einstein attempted to explain the paradox based on the acceleration that one twin uniquely undergoes, but the length of travel can simply be extended such that any effect from acceleration would be de minimis.
15. Statement in awarding the coveted Fields Medal
August 20, 2010
Paul Hunting.Author, leadership coach and horse whisperer
Posted: August 17, 2010 02:22 AM
No matter how much money it spends, science cannot find any true empirical evidence for even an infinitesimally small "fundamental particle of matter." Yet they refuse to accept the only truly logical conclusion: that there isn't one!
The irony is that the deeper they look and the more they smash matter apart looking for fools' gold, the closer they get to validating what the wise ones have known for thousands of years.
Since the 1950s, developments in the scientific metaphor known as string theory have been repeatedly mirroring the Biblical metaphor known as Genesis. The latest experiments of the Large Hadron Collider are now validating what the Bible has been telling us through metaphor since 8,000 B.E. (Before Einstein), namely that the fundamental particle of matter, from which we and everything else is formed, is best described as a "sound energy."
Once again science confirms the illusive Theory of Everything in a way that the warring factions don't wish to hear -- because it could finally reconcile science and scripture. If they had the humility to see it, the Large Hadron Collider could satisfy all points of view in the creationism debate and herald a new beginning to the equally illusive ideal of world peace.
Trouble is, they can't.
Neither faction seems willing to look behind the ancient symbols telling us of the black hole, the Big Bang, gravity, the space-time continuum, evolution, the four forces of nature, the purpose of God, the destiny of man...
Instead we have an insoluble dilemma: either we believe an explanation of the creation that defies our intelligence, reason, physical evidence and valid scientific process, or we reject the scripture. And if we reject scripture, we have another dilemma: do we also have to reject the very idea of God, or can we somehow rationalise or compartmentalise the cognitive dissonance?
This dilemma masks the real problem. Since the council of Nicea in 325 CE, our entire culture, whether we be religious, scientific or atheist, has been deeply programmed with one archaic interpretation of the Bible. The arbitrary decisions made way back then by a seemingly well-intentioned Constantine were subsequently forced upon us under threat of torture, death, genocide and excommunication -- hardly conducive to freedom of choice, thought, belief and action. Yet now we can enjoy these freedoms, the terror of heresy remains imprinted on our very DNA.
The arguments between science and religion and between different sects of Judaeo-Christianity itself are creating such clamour that few people bother to look more deeply within the scripture to divine the lost meaning.
It's not hard to understand why. The Bible is written in a very powerfully hypnotic, metaphoric language. It lures us into taking it literally, but when we do, we are blinded to the true Word of God that is the source of light behind the shadows.
The function of a metaphor (or poem, drama, literature, art, music, etc.) is to express something beyond words to bypass the logical, words-and-thought-oriented left-brain. Who hasn't struggled to communicate a profound personal experience, only to find that words fail?
As children we believed in Santa Claus. As adults we see him as a metaphor for the spirit of joy and giving. We let go of the fairy tale once it's served its purpose -- if we're wise enough.
If we have the wit to let go the old beliefs about the Bible and seek behind the shadows to the source of light itself, it becomes apparent that science and scripture are not mutually exclusive but entirely complementary. As humanity evolves, in perfectly appropriate ways, so does our awareness of the emerging truth of God's message. Both science and scripture are using the exact same vehicle to bridge the gap between the knowable and the unknowable -- metaphor and symbology. The allegory, poetry and dream-like symbology of scripture are exquisitely mirrored by, say, the mystical qualities of quantum physics and mathematical symbols like zero and infinity, which also have no real definition, and which also can beguile us to take them literally.
Where the Bible says all things came forth from a formless void, science says all matter came from a black hole. Where the Bible says the Word (waters, sound, name, voice) of God created all things, science says all matter is composed of vibrating strings of energy, like the sounds made by a violin. The latest news from the neo-light-speed hadron collisions seems to confirm string theory, the Gospel of John and also Genesis in that the energy patterns the collisions form translate into musical sounds!
Open yourself once more to the mystical message in the first so-called "day" of Genesis 1:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form; and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
After many years of deep study, contemplation, reflection and cross-referencing, here is what the symbols and metaphors are beginning to suggest to me. I'd love to know what they say to you:
In the beginning God created an image of Itself. It was the unmanifest essence of all life. God did not yet know what could be made manifest from Its creation. Its Spirit stirred the sound of God's voice and It uttered Its divine purpose -- 'Let me know who I really am': and the knowing began. And God saw Itself reflected in the positive energy; and divided the positive energy from the negative so Its spirit could flow. It gave the positive Its True Name and the negative It called Lucifer, the light bearer. And, as the dawn of knowing arose, it revealed the first pillar of light.
These new insights into the first "day" of Genesis awaken an ancient spiritual teaching that has been sleeping for many thousands of years. It's a portal to new understandings that transcend not only science but also religion.
Please sample a detailed analysis of these symbols in my eBook draft at www.myebook/original_heresy, or email me at email@example.com and let me know how these ideas grab you.
You can find out more about my work and ideas at www.horsejoy.com.
Aug 18 2010 by Gareth Evans, Western Mail
A ZOO popular with school trips from across Wales has become embroiled in a controversial row over what it is teaching children.
Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall, near Bristol, is regularly used by Welsh schools for trips and its website boasts numerous testimonials from them.
But it has now been strongly criticised by the National Secular Society (NSS), which campaigns against religious influence in public and political life, and has criticised the zoo's "creationist" views.
The group accused the zoo, which has received national recognition for its education provision, of blurring fact and propaganda in the delivery of its views.
The zoo's website claims science has attempted to "remove any notion of God from our understanding of life".
It says: "This is unjustified and we look to put the case for the Creator across to those who wish to investigate.
"Is it right for Darwin's evolutionary theory to be portrayed as 'fact' in today's scientific media and the idea of God generally abandoned?
"After looking at the current explanations for origins and evolution, it is our view that the evidence available points to widespread evolution after an initial creation by God.
"While we don't profess to have all the answers, we think people should have the freedom to believe in God and know that it makes good sense in relation to the world around them – a freedom frequently restricted by mainstream science and broadcasting."
Online links to visitor information, conservation and education have a 12-page introduction to "evolution and creation".
Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, which supports the view that life was created by a divine force, is among a series of attractions to be awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom mark.
A popular choice for school trips, Rogerstone Primary in Newport and T Sign Primary in Caerphilly are among several visitors quoted on the zoo's website.
An unnamed teacher from Rogerstone Primary said: "The trip was informative, educational and fun. We were all impressed with the friendly staff, the excellent facilities and the welfare of the animals."
Tessa Kendall, senior campaigns officer for the NSS, asked: "Do teachers and parents realise that along with getting close up to animals, children are also being exposed to propaganda?
"Parents should be clearly told what kind of place this is before signing their children up. Not only is it a creationist zoo, it's a Christian one so children from other faiths or none are effectively being told their beliefs – or lack of them – are wrong.
"Noah's Ark may be suitable for a Sunday school trip but not for a school trip to teach children about science and nature, especially if teachers are not qualified or able to separate fact from propaganda and explain to children that creationism is a minority view based on faith, not facts."
But the not-for-profit organisation, run by trained priest Anthony Bush and his wife Christina, insists its religious beliefs were not "forced on or taught to" children as part of its educational programme.
Spokeswoman Sammi Luxa, said the zoo's website was often misunderstood.
"Noah's Ark Zoo Farm has frequently maintained and communicated the content of our education programme and the limits of religious content in our zoo," she said.
"There are some research pages on our website and some displays at the zoo which explore the different theories of how the world came about the different arguments of evolution and creation.
"This is a small section of the zoo for adults to read and view if they wish. This religious element to the zoo is simply not forced on or taught to children. Noah's Ark Zoo Farm hosts thousands of school trips and visitors from Wales every year who all have a great time visiting our attraction."
Noah's Ark was expelled from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums last December over its alleged relationship with a circus.
Claims by the Captive Animal Protection Society that there were serious animal welfare problems at the zoo were proved "grossly unfair" by North Somerset council in March.
Caerphilly and Newport councils had yet to comment as the Western Mail went to press last night.
By Susan Brady
Published: Wednesday, 18 August 2010
An increasing number of Americans have begun directing their attention toward alternative medicine for preventing and treating illnesses and solving their day-to-day health-related issues. Currently, a third of the population uses some kind of alternative medicine—despite skepticism and, in some cases, strong opposition by the modern medical establishment to the use of these unconventional techniques.
Herbal supplements are one of the alternatives that have gained popularity, with ginseng probably on of the most used and widely available. In fact, U.S. sales last year of ginseng products added up to $83 million, according to Nutrition Business Journal.
Ginseng's main and lateral root and root hairs contain active chemical components called ginsenosides or panaxosides that are thought to be responsible for the herb's medicinal properties. The root is dried and used to make extracts, teas, capsules or tablets, as well as creams and other preparations for use externally.
Treatment claims for ginseng are numerous. Many studies have shown that ginseng is able to reduce stress levels in both men and women. Scientists believe this is because of the strong effect ginseng has on the adrenal glands, which secrete hormones used to fight off stress. Ginseng has also shown promise in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, fighting off colds and flu, and morning sickness, among other ailments.
Recently ConsumerLab.com, a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition, conducted a random study on ginseng supplements. The new Product Review of Ginseng Supplements provides test results for fifteen supplements – eleven selected by ConsumerLab.com and four tested at the request of their manufacturers/distributors that passed the same testing through CL's Voluntary Certification Program. Results of the testing showed that five of the ginseng supplements did not provide their full amount of ingredient or were contaminated with lead and/or pesticides.
Specifically, Imperial Elixir® Korean White Ginseng, Bluebonnet Herbals American Ginseng Root Extract, Nature's Plus® Herbal Actives American Ginseng, NSI® American Ginseng 80%, and TruNature® Triple Energy Ginsengs with Eleuthero were found to be lacking or contaminated and not approved by ConsumerLab.
"Consumers need to be wary of the quality of ginseng supplements" said Tod Cooperman, MD, President of ConsumerLab.com. "People should also recognize that there is enormous variation in the amount of ginsenosides—key ginseng compounds -- in marketed supplements. We found most products to provide approximately 10 to 40 mg of ginsenosides per day, but some yielded much higher amounts, including one that delivered a whopping 304 mg. We are not aware of human studies with the higher amounts. The effects might certainly differ from one product to another."
The full report on ginseng and reviews of other popular types of supplements are available from www.consumerlab.com. Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.
We always hear lots of anecdotes about alternative medicine working wonders but there are good reasons why they can't be trusted.
Anecdotes described what a person thinks happened to them and also how they feel about it, so when the anecdote concerns some alternative medicine or therapy, we have to look at little deeper to see if it can be trusted.
Anecdotes can be wrong
Think about the different accounts that observers will give of a car accident or a crime. There will be as many different accounts as there are people and some of the accounts will agree in some details and differ in others, even though they all saw the same event. Why is this?
People will notice different things, be drawn to different details, and their memories will be different too. Some aspects of what they see will resonate with strong feelings they have, or will be associated with other events which have significance for them. Police investigators know only too well that what constitutes reliable evidence needs some sort of confirmation. "It was him!" always gets a follow-up question: "Are you 100% certain?"
In law, we automatically consider the idea of doubt because our impressions of what happened can be inaccurate. We can be fooled and even fool ourselves. And the same is true of anecdotes that we hear about alternative medicine and alternative therapy. It isn't that people are deliberately misleading either themselves or us, simply that they can be mistaken.
When we have bought something, we want to convince ourselves that the decision to buy it was right. We stress to ourselves the advantages we get and underestimate the negative side. Anything that supports the decision to buy it is given more weight than any perceived disadvantages. That's confirmation bias.
It works in arguments too. When we are trying to make a case, we stress the positives which support the case and underestimate the negatives.
It's a well-known phenomenon and affects all of us, including scientists. If scientists gave unreasonable weight to some evidence and avoided thinking about other evidence, then the results would be skewed and we'd get an inaccurate picture of how the world works. The results of science would become progressively less reliable.
So it is important to avoid confirmation bias. In science, we organise experiments that are designed to be completely independent of the views of the scientists involved.
These experiments produce independently verifiable evidence which others can duplicate. Science is the way we can avoid fooling ourselves.
Anecdotes make specific assumptions
If someone who has been to a homeopath or some other alternative practitioner and claims that a particular condition improved with the treatment, they are making some important associations.
They are suggesting that the treatment directly affected the condition they presented with, and also that the effect was to cure or alleviate the condition. In their experience, they didn't feel well before the treatment and felt well after the treatment. So, they conclude, the treatment worked.
But this argument is very poor because the improvement in their condition could have been the result of many other unrelated factors. It could have cleared up on its own, such as a common cold, muscle aches and strains, or mild digestive disorders. The majority of mild illnesses clear up on their own because our bodies repair themselves.
It could have been something else that happened to the patient which they didn't consider. Perhaps they also took some aspirin, or drank more water, or exercised a little more.
Anecdotes generally don't include all the other possibilities and instead make a direct association, prejudging the issue. Simple association doesn't imply cause. For example, increased sales of ice cream are associated with increased rates of drowning but no-one would argue that ice cream causes drowning.
Why we need controls
In order to eliminate all the other possible causes, we need to compare two groups which are identical except for the therapy we are testing. We can, for example, test herbal remedies by having one group of patients getting the remedy and another that doesn't.
But we make sure that they are treated exactly the same, no-one knowing which is the real herbal remedy and which is an identical-looking but fake remedy. Even the experimenters don't know which is which.
We do this so that the results are not affected by bias. It then doesn't matter whether patients believe in the remedy or not. What they describe is more likely to be unbiased, but even then, the patient's account is still subject to mistakes and confusions.
So we make objective measurements such as blood tests, clinical observations, etc.
Why are anecdotes used in alt-med marketing?
Of course, customer recommendations have always played a large part in increasing
But in the case of medical therapies, surely there are many more much stronger sources of evidence? If someone claims they have a way of curing cancer for example, a controlled clinical trial would establish the claim beyond reasonable doubt and there would be no need for using anecdotes.
If herbal preparations really could bring about the changes claimed, this could be established easily by clinical trials. So why isn't this data used? Is it that such clinical trials are too expensive and haven't been done?
In fact, there have been very many clinical trials testing alternative medicine ranging from homeopathy and Reiki, through to herbal remedies and healing touch, acupuncture and chiropractic. The evidence is published and readily available on PubMed. So why isn't it used by the marketers? Why do they rely instead on the flawed evidence of anecdotes?
The most obvious reason is that the published high-quality controlled clinical trials demonstrate that these alternative therapies don't work. If the evidence was presented, it would spoil the marketing message. The fact is that anecdotes are simply marketing statements, they do not constitute evidence.
This past June, Discovery Institute announced it was settling its public documents lawsuit against the California Science Center (CSC). The lawsuit had been filed last December after CSC refused to disclose public documents pertaining to its cancellation of a rental contract with American Freedom Alliance (AFA) to allow AFA to show a pro-intelligent design video at CSC's facilities. Per the terms of the settlement, CSC was to deliver to Discovery Institute many of the documents which we originally requested. Those documents have now been delivered, and combined with other previously known documents, they reveal striking evidence of CSC's viewpoint discrimination against intelligent design (ID) in AFA's case.
For starters, multiple individuals within CSC expressed animus towards ID:
I personally have a real problem with anything that elevates the concept of intelligent design to a level that makes it appear as though it should be considered equally alongside Darwinian theory as a possible alternative to natural selection. In other words, I see us getting royally played by the Center for Science and Culture resulting in long term damage to our credibility and judgment for a very long time.That's Ken Phillips, a curator at the California Science Center, claiming that allowing a showing of Darwin's Dilemma is somehow getting "royally played," because ID (for one evening at the CSC IMAX) could then be considered as a possible alternative to Darwinism. Phillips' words are significant: He has a problem with "anything" that makes ID appear to be considered equal with Darwinism. Of course he has the right to disagree with ID, but he doesn't even want anyone or "anything" to have the opportunity to hold or express a different view.
While it's perfectly fine for CSC administrators to hold and express views that oppose ID, their animus extended further in that they wished to limit freedom of speech and equal access to government facilities for those who support ID. Thus, another high level CSC staff members made the following statements:
"A science center should not even be asked to partner w/ any group associated w/ debating Darwinism - it's not our place"
"their topic of Darwinism and the nature of their controversial approach is likely not a good fit to partner w/ a Science Center."
Another CSC staff member asked, "Why on earth were we going to show this film in the first place?!"
Phillips wasn't the only intolerant member of the LA science elite, nor was CSC the only intolerant institution. At other institutions, such as the University of Southern California and the LA Museum of Natural History, academics reacted with horror at the ghastly prospect of an hour long movie on intelligent design being screened at CSC's public theatre. John Long, a vice-president at the LA Museum of Natural History, had this to say:
I took this issue to Dr Jane Pisano (President and CEO of LACMNH) this afternoon and she was horrified that CSC are allowing this to happen. Her immediate reaction was to ring up the CEO there, Jeff Rudolph, and find out why they are doing this. (emphasis added)
So Pisano is "horrified" that CSC might be allowing free speech. Without thinking twice, she immediately transitions to stage two: arm-twisting. After all, if CSC is going to allow such horrifying activities to occur, it won't be without significant pressure from neighbor institutions, aimed at silencing the unacceptable film.
In another particularly egregious example of academic intolerance, Hilary Schor, a USC professor wrote,
I have to say, I'm less troubled by the freedom of speech issues than why my tax dollars which support the California "Science" Center are being spent on hosting religious propaganda?
This is a concise, uncommonly honest, and elegant statement of the intolerance seething inside of many ID-critics. It represents the exact kind of mindset inspiring pressure upon the CSC to cancel AFA's event.
Let's think about this for a minute. Are Darwin's defenders so paranoid that they are afraid of a single night's movie showing? The evidence would indicate that the answer is "yes." The evidence also shows that the showing was cancelled precisely because of that paranoia. This presents troubling implications for CSC because such viewpoint discrimination has repeatedly been held illegal and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, for academics like Schor, such concerns are less important than suppression of the ID dissenters.
And that's just the point. Members of the Darwinian intelligentsia aren't troubled by "freedom of speech issues," as long as it's their opponents who are being repressed.
Subsequent posts will reveal more evidence of exactly why CSC cancelled AFA's contract to show the pro-ID documentary Darwin's Dilemma.
Posted by Casey Luskin on August 18, 2010 9:48 AM | Permalink
The Mt. Blanco Fossil News magazine will premiere its first issue in September 2010. The September- October issue of the magazine will be accepting advertisements until August 27, 2010. If you are interested in advertising please contact us at (806) 675-7777, fax (806) 675-2421, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ad costs are: [Rate Card]
Email or send us a CD of your ad. We will accept ads for anything as long as it's not immoral, illegal, or fattening. Our audience will include creationists as well as evolutionists, homeschoolers, Amish, people around the world who are interested in fossils, museum gift shops, creation conferences, etc.
Each issue will have a feature article on some major fossil project at the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. There will be a column telling about many recent fossil discoveries and how to find out more about them. There will be a wide variety of writers, not just academics. For instance, you will learn of an astounding discovery by a young 16 year old, who writes as well as someone with a PhD. Bea Dunkell will be reporting on her amazing fossil bug collection. A homeschool mom and her kids, who found a whole herd of fossil zebra's, has done an excellent job of recording their dig and you'll read the whole story. Frequent stories of other dinosaur digs by other creationists will be there as well……..but, because we are also the Journal Of Omniology (the study of EVERYTHING) there is no telling what you may see an article on.
Call us at 800-367-7454 (800-FOSSIL4) or e-mail at: email@example.com
Posted on: August 17, 2010 2:02 PM, by PZ Myers
Via Sandwalk, here is Stephen Meyer explaining the central concepts of his theory: it's all about the origin of information.
It's a ridiculous argument. He constantly repeats this mantra of "digital information": I don't think he knows what he's talking about. He also likes to claim that he's using an accepted scientific argument, of using only known, extant processes and extrapolating to the past; which is fine, except that he pretends ignorance of the fact that we know of natural processes that increase the amount of information in the genome without intervention by any intelligent agent.
He has this silly syllogism that he trumpets in his book, Signature in the Cell:
1.Despite a thorough search, no material causes have been discovered that demonstrate the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
2.Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
3.Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for information in the cell.
Point #1 is false, except for the trivial loophole of "specified" information, a term he never defines. Point #2 is true. However, Point #3 fails because he hasn't shown that his first premise is true.
This is all the Discovery Institute has got: blindly repeating the same lies over and over again.
Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.
Creationism and evolutionism have both been rather touchy subjects to many people. They are the two major theories explaining how our earth came to be, and for the most part, each belief is held by a party that is radically different from the other. But we already knew that.
What we either don't know, or choose to ignore, is that there is in fact more than just "God poofing the world into being" to creationism, and more than just "Microbe to fish to cow" in evolutionism. This isn't even taking the multitudes of other scientific and religious beliefs in mind, mind you. Biblical Creationism, Intelligent Design, The Gap Theory, The Big Bang Theory. Those just listed are the tip of the iceberg.
And everybody says that their version is correct. People who are certain that their belief is right talk about it like it is a scientific fact. Yes, I just said belief. Because evolution is just one of the theories that has ample proof backing it up. To know that evolution is how we came to be is to put your faith in something that can't ever be confirmed. By all means, micro evolution can be proved just by looking around you. But the macro evolution that supposedly created us can not.
In all honesty, I am a Biblical Creationist myself. I think it would be really amazing to finally see my proof for Intelligent Design and Creationism up there next to evolution. Even though there are multitudes of origin theories, it makes sense to add the other popular theory to science class. But in all honesty, should these theories really be taught in public schools in science classes at all? Why are these subjects not reserved for a theology class? And more importantly, why do we have these subjects in elementary schools, where children take everything they take in as pure fact?
In a mock legislative session at the capital through 4-H, I took part in a debate on this subject with teenagers from all across Florida. Over 40 of us talked pro and con on a bill allowing creationism in schools for almost an hour. The bill was amended to read that neither could be taught in school save for in theology classes. It passed with only 2 nays. Maybe we should start looking at something entirely different.
August 16th, 2010 8:26 pm
A creation geologist added yet more evidence against the claim made three and a half months ago that Noah's Ark had been found on the eastern slope of the modern Mount Ararat in Turkey. Furthermore, the head of a US-based creation organization doubted that even a verifiable Noah's Ark find would convince anyone.
Andrew Snelling, a geologist long associated with Answers in Genesis (and who also developed the first finding suggesting that radiometric dates were non-coordinating and inconsistent), stated in this interview with Ken Ham, founder of AiG, that the mountain presently known as Mount Ararat is an extremely unlikely landing site for the Ark. His main reason is that Ararat is volcanic and likely formed during the Flood itself. It would therefore have been a very active volcano and a fatal landing zone.
Indications are that the lavas making up the Mt. Ararat volcano today are of considerable thickness, much higher and thicker than the Ark itself. This would mean that should the Ark have landed at the place currently known as Mt. Ararat, on Day 150 of the Flood (Gen. 7:24), it would eventually have been buried under thousands of feet of hot burning lavas.
In fact the lava flows would have buried the Ark in short order, killing everyone and everything on board.
The controversy surrounding the latest Ark finding claim continues to draw attention even now, three and a half months after the announcement of the "find." Thomas Payne of the Auburn (California) Journal quotes creation biologist Todd Wood as questioning the validity of the given radiometric age of the timbers (4800 years) and also saying that Noah's descendants probably dismantled the Ark, wherever it landed, to use its wood.
Ken Ham, for his part, suggested that even a verifiable finding of Noah's Ark would not convince anyone who would not otherwise embrace the Judeo-Christian faith from traditional evangelism. To support this claim, Ham cited the story--generally regarded as a true event, not a mere parable--of a rich man whose name is unrecorded, a very poor man named Lazarus (not the same man as Mary and Martha's brother in Bethany, whom Jesus Christ restored to life and health by way of demonstration of His Identity), the patriarch Abraham, and a conversation that took place literally in hell. Jesus told that story to His closest student-followers to make a point:
If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead. (Luke 16:27-31)
Nor, Ham suggested, even if a team of mountaineers actually find Noah's Ark, if ancient builders of the first post-Flood civilization did not cannibalize it long ago.
Victor Stenger, Physicist; Author of the forthcoming book 'The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: How the Universe is Not Designed for Us'
Posted: August 14, 2010 09:07 AM
Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA. This doesn't bother most believers because they have heard many times that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
However, just repeating a statement over and over again does not make it true. I can think of many cases where absence of evidence provides robust evidence of absence. The key question is whether evidence should exist but does not. Elephants have never been seen roaming Yellowstone National Park. If they were, they would not have escaped notice. No matter how secretive, the presence of such huge animals would have been marked by ample physical signs -- droppings, crushed vegetation, bones of dead elephants. So we can safely conclude from the absence of evidence that elephants are absent from the park.
For thirty years physicists have been searching for a particle called the Higgs boson that hypothetically plays a key role in the universe, so important that it has been referred to (perhaps facetiously) as the "God Particle." In the standard model of particles and forces put in place in the 1970s and consistent with every observation since, Higgs bosons pervade the universe and generate mass, the very stuff of matter. We have failed to observe them so far because we have lacked the necessary instruments. However, there are good theoretical reasons to believe that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, now accumulating its initial data, should provide evidence for the Higgs. If it does not -- a prospect most physicists regard as possible -- then the Higgs boson would be shown not to exist.
That is the situation with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. Until recent times, absence of evidence for his existence has not been sufficient to rule him out. However, we now have enough knowledge that we can identify many places where there should be evidence, but there is not. The absence of that evidence allows us to rule out the existence of this God beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now, I am not talking about all conceivable gods. Certainly the deist god who does not interfere in the world is difficult to rule out. However, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, whom I identify with an uppercase G, is believed to play such an active role in the universe that his actions should have been detected, thus confirming his existence. Let me present four examples.
I will begin with the origin of the visible universe. Our knowledge today allows us to push back in time to barely a trillionth of a second after the universe began. Extrapolating from there to the origin, we find that the universe began in a tiny (but not infinitesimal) region of space. Now, information only exists when it is embodied in some physical system, and we know that there is a limit to how compact information can be. This tiny region of space could not have contained more than a few bits of information -- far too little to specify the universe that evolved from it.
As the universe expanded, it could hold more information. This created an environment in which order could emerge -- as, over time, through an endless series of random events, it did. But the tiny amount of information contained in the very early universe was not enough to include any plans of some creator at that time. This allows for the possibility of a deist god who set things up, started things going randomly, and then left. It does not allow for some specific plan of creation to be embodied in the universe from the beginning. A God with such a plan can be ruled out beyond a reasonable doubt.
Next, consider the claim that the universe was designed. Many people give this as a reason to believe in God. They cannot see how the order of the universe can have come about naturally. However, observations in physics, cosmology, and biology have been scoured for evidence for design in the universe, evidence that should be there if there were a designer God. None has been found. This includes the frequently heard claim that the parameters of physics and cosmology exhibit a fine-tuning for the evolution of life. That subject will be covered in great detail in my next book: The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: How the Universe is not Designed for Us. My conclusion is that the claims of fine-tuning are based on inadequate knowledge of physics.
Intelligent design in biology has been thoroughly refuted in recent years, so I need not say much. Everywhere biologists look they find evidence of randomness and haphazard arrangements that would be called incompetent if they were designed. No matter where scientists cast their eyes, the universe they see looks just like it should look if there was no divine design.
Third, consider the supposed power of intercessory prayer. Well-executed experiments by reputable institutions such as Harvard, Duke, and the Mayo Clinic have failed to find that prayer improves the recovery of hospital patients. Apologists simply say God did not choose to respond to this test. But you can bet they would have changed their tune if the results had been positive. Trillions of prayers have been tendered over millennia. Of course, most sick people get better anyway, except once. If the God most people worship and pray to does exist, intercessory prayer would have a better batting average than what you would get from the normal operation of the natural world, including luck. It doesn't.
As the final example, the Abrahamic God is believed by his worshipers to talk to people and provide information they otherwise did not know. Nothing could be easier to test scientifically. All you have to do is find a few examples where a truth has been revealed that later was confirmed. This could be something simple, such as a prediction of some future event that turned out to be confirmed. This has never happened.
Of course, claims of revelation can be found in all three monotheisms, but none stand up to critical scrutiny. The so-called prophecies in scriptures were all made in the distant past and can't be tested since the events prophesied have already happened, or, as in the case of Jesus returning in a generation, long been falsified.
In all of these examples, evidence for God should have been found, but was not. This absence of evidence is evidence of absence. It refutes the common assertion that science has nothing to say about God. In fact, science can say, beyond any reasonable doubt, that God -- the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God -- does not exist.
Posted on: August 16, 2010 8:47 PM, by PZ Myers
This is a good way to do it: when the fortune-telling, pseudo-necromancer John Edward showed up in Vancouver to do his ridiculous cold-reading act, CFI met his deluded followers with information and honesty. It was a sad spectacle; many of the attendees were desperate, bereaved people, there for a little hope and getting fleeced instead (tickets were $200!)
It sounds like they did everything just right. The only reservation I have is…where were the media? This is the kind of event where contacting a few newspapers and television and radio stations beforehand, and publicizing the protest, is an essential force multiplier — and the news media love a controversy. They're planning another event when the odious James Van Praagh, another phony speaker to the dead, comes to town, and getting a newspaper op-ed or a minute on television can provoke in interesting ways.
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
August 16, 2010
There are more than 300 species of nocturnal velvet ants (actually wasps that resemble ants) in the Southwestern deserts of the United States. The easy explanation for the incredible diversification is that as the Rocky Mountains emerged millions of years ago, multiple, isolated deserts formed, leaving ample opportunity for speciation to occur. But the easy explanation may not be the right one.
James Pitts, an entomologist at Utah State University, has found evidence that about 37 percent of nocturnal velvet ant species emerged millions of years after the mountain range was formed. His report appears in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
"A high percentage actually evolved in the ice age," Dr. Pitts said, referring to the Pleistocene epoch, a period from 10,000 to two million years ago with many glaciations.
He and his colleagues combined molecular data collected from living velvet ants with data collected from ancient fossilized velvet ants. They then created a mathematical algorithm to assign dates of origin to every known species of the nocturnal velvet ant in the region.
Prior research in the region has focused on vertebrates, which take much longer to speciate than invertebrates like velvet ants. "They have shorter generation times," Dr. Pitts said. "We should expect that they would speciate faster than birds and mammals, and that's what we found." In total, there are more than 5,000 species of velvet ants worldwide. Dr. Pitts and his colleagues are now expanding their study of velvet ant speciation to Central and South America.
Woo: Thanks, Paulette Williams! Thanks for the Kangen water woo!
Category: Alternative medicine • Antivaccination lunacy • Autism • Humor • Medicine • Quackery
Posted on: August 12, 2010 4:00 PM, by Orac
It was nearly a month ago when I first marveled at how nonsense could be so well-organized. My marvel was expressed at the awesomeness that was the Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense (which, by the way, is now available in "sanitized" versions, as well as versions in other languages). It turns out that Crispan's effort has inspired one of my readers to try his hand at this whole organizating nonsense thing. This blog being what it is and all and his proclivities being what they are, he decided to create...drumroll, please...The Periodic Table of Vaccine Rejectionism, which he's given me permission to post right here:
A PDF version of the file can be found here.
How appropriate to post this on the very same day that Penn and Teller premiere their Bullshit! episode about the anti-vaccine movement. I like it, although I do think there are more trolls to be listed, some of whom infest the comment threads of this very blog! Perhaps John Best is quite simply too unstable to exist as an element. Ditto, perhaps, the Australian Vaccination Network, where the looniness is clearly too concentrated to exist or perhaps must combine with other elements. In any case, I'm half-tempted to start using the element symbol Hp whenever I blog about HuffPo's pseudoscience.
Finally, like the actual periodic table of the elements, ca 1900, I do believe this particular periodic table is currently incomplete. Help us complete it! Surely there must be at least 118 anti-vaccine loon elements around.
One other question: How long before the anti-vaccine propagandists at Age of Autism or other anti-vaccine loons try to create their own periodic table of vaccine defenders (I'm sure they'd come up with a different name), probably complete with Paul Offit, Stephen Barrett, Nancy Snyderman, big pharma, and possibly even me. Actually, if they don't include me on such a periodic table, I'll be very disappointed. Wait a minute. By saying that I've probably guaranteed that they won't. On the other hand, how do they know that's not part of my nefarious plan to make sure that they don't include me on their table? Answer: They don't!
Posted on: August 14, 2010 12:50 PM, by PZ Myers
I was sent a link to an excerpt from a brand new creationist book, and I expected yet another twisty bit of dishonest weirdness of the sort that the Discovery Institute has conditioned me to see. But then I saw the title, The Death of Evolution, and felt a twinge of deja vu — as Glenn Morton says, the imminent demise of evolution is the longest running lie in creationism. And then there was the blurb: "A growing number of respected scientists are defecting from the evolutionist camp purely on scientific grounds." Wow, that's gotta be like the second oldest lie by creationists. I haven't even opened the cover, and it's already boring me!
Open it, and you discover it begins with a series of quotes — again, an old game the creationists have been playing for years, trotting out a series of authorities, some of them quote-mined, some of them from creationist nobodies, some of them from the turn of the last century.
And then you get to the first chapter. It opens with the bombardier beetle! And then it declares that evolution is in violation of the second law of thermodynamics! Both claims are ridiculous. The bombardier beetle is an animal that farts caustic substances, all of which have evolutionary precursors, but creationists are fond of claiming it couldn't have evolved, because it would have exploded during the intermediate steps. The second law of thermodynamics gets trotted out because they don't understand it and claim that it means everything has to be getting worse and running downhill. I hadn't even gotten to page 10 and I could tell this was antiquated, useless crap.
These are arguments that were made by creationists in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. It's a book full of recycled stupid. It's a sign that creationism, not evolution, is dying when they have to resort to dredging up old dead arguments that were unconvincing targets of derision when Duane Gish was on the creationist talk circuit.
But then I look in the acknowledgments: the author, some right-wing kook named Jim Nelson Black, thanks West, Dembski, Meyer, Richards, and Bohlin of the Discovery Institute. Isn't that sweet? I think I know what they must be doing in their 'research' arm of the Biologic Institute: they are trying to reanimate the moldy corpse of George McCready Price in order to get some fresh ideas.
by CHARLES COLSON
Article Date: Aug 13, 2010
In recent years, there have been several important books about intelligent design that go to the debate about evolution and the origins of life. Bill Dembski's The Design Inference was first. Then along came Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe, showing the irreducible complexity of the cell, which casts grave doubts on Darwinian evolution as an explanation for life and higher life forms.
Now we've got Signature in the Cell by the Discovery Institute's Dr. Stephen Meyer.
I'm going to warn you up front: Signature in the Cell is not light reading. If you are not conversant in molecular biology, you might feel a bit overwhelmed at times.
But this is a profound, hugely important book for anybody interested in the scientific debate of our times—the origins of life. I feel it's so important that we have posted an excerpt of the book at our website, BreakPoint.org, along with links to materials that will help you understand the main points of Signature in the Cell.
So what lies at the heart of Dr. Meyer's Signature in the Cell is the concept of information. And, as scientists have learned, the very building block of life—molecular DNA—is a vast storehouse of information. Information in the form of a four-character chemical alphabet that, when precisely arranged, provides the "instructions" for forming proteins and the structures that living cells need to survive.
The key here is "precisely arranged." I take three random English letters, say "O," "G," and "D." The letters are building blocks for words, but they mean nothing unless arranged properly. If you arrange them one way, they spell "God." Arrange them another way, and you get "dog." In order to convey useful information, the letters have to be arranged precisely.
And that's what DNA does. It contains and transmits the extraordinarily complex, precisely sequenced chemical code of life—a code that atheist Richard Dawkins has likened to computer code. Indeed, Bill Gates has said that "DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software ever created."
Could such an "advanced" code, or "software for life," have happened by chance? Well, as Dr. Meyer shows, given the vast complexity of information required to create the 250 proteins necessary to sustain the simplest living cell, the probability that life originated in the primordial soup by chance is beyond astronomically slim—only 1 in 10 to the 41,000th power!
But here is your takeaway, and I'll let Dr. Meyer do the talking: "Our uniform experience affirms that specified information—whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, encoded in a radio signal, or produced in a simulation experiment—always arises from an intelligent source, from a mind and not a strictly material process."
"Indeed," Dr. Meyer concludes, "it follows that the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the specified, digitally encoded information in DNA is that it too had an intelligent source."
No wonder most evolutionists refuse to debate intelligent design.
Thanks to Dr. Meyer, the debate about the origins of life is entering a new phase. Maybe we could say, for the chance theory of creation, that is, the writing is on the wall.
This commentary first aired on September 24, 2009.
The following except from my article, "Zeal for Darwin's House Consumes Them: How Supporters of Evolution Encourage Violations of the Establishment Clause," published in Liberty University Law Review earlier this year, analyzes the decision in C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School District. In that case, a federal district court judge in Southern California found that a teacher, Corbett, violated the first amendment by attacking the religious viewpoint of creationism in a public high school classroom. To give a preview of my argument, this section of the article concludes:
Either a viewpoint is religious and thereby unconstitutional to advocate as correct or critique as false in public schools, or it is scientific and fair game for both advocacy and critique in public schools. In this present author's view, creationism should be considered a religious viewpoint that can be neither advocated as true nor critiqued as false in public schools, and intelligent design should be considered a scientific viewpoint that is fair game for both advocacy and critique in public schools. Whatever the solution is, there is presently a gross lack of legal symmetry, and an overabundance of jurisprudential hypocrisy, if a public school teacher cannot legally say that creationism or intelligent design are scientifically correct, but can call these views scientifically incorrect, or "nonsense."
If selective enforcement of the law is a hallmark of tyranny, then we should be exceedingly troubled by both the constitutional implications and hypocrisy of the evolution lobby - behavior that opposes advocating ID and creationism on the grounds they are religious viewpoints, but expressly endorses public schools inhibiting, opposing, and disapproving of those purported religious viewpoints.
The excerpt below from the article expands this argument:
The Kitzmiller plaintiffs, and the district court ruling they won that declared ID unconstitutional, relied heavily on the Lemon test, which requires that the "principal or primary effect" of a law "must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion."204 The Lemon test would seem to prohibit government inhibition of religion with the same measure of force with which it bans the advancement of religion, for "[t]he government neutrality required under the Establishment Clause is . . . violated as much by government disapproval of religion as it is by government approval of religion."205 Yet few cases have applied the inhibition of religion doctrine; as one federal appellate court lamented, "because it is far more typical for an Establishment Clause case to challenge instances in which the government has done something that favors religion or a particular religious group, we have little guidance concerning what constitutes a primary effect of inhibiting religion."206 Nonetheless, that same court observed that "[a]lthough Lemon is most frequently invoked in cases involving alleged governmental preferences to religion, the test also accommodates the analysis of a claim brought under a hostility to religion theory."207
The doctrine prohibiting government inhibition of religion can be traced through some significant U.S. Supreme Court cases. In the landmark case School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that "the State may not establish a 'religion of secularism' in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus 'preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.'"208 As noted, in Epperson the Court likewise held that "the State may not adopt programs or practices in its public schools or colleges which 'aid or oppose' any religion. This prohibition is absolute."209 Consistent with this principle, in Board of Education of the Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, the Court ruled state action is impermissible when it "would demonstrate not neutrality but hostility toward religion."210 Likewise, the endorsement test prohibits "disapproval" of religion.211
Assuming ad arguendo that ID's critics are correct in holding that ID is a religious viewpoint, then it should not only be unconstitutional for the government to "advance" ID, but also to "inhibit" ID. If ID is a religious viewpoint, the government may not violate the "absolute" prohibition against opposing it or showing hostility or disapproval towards it. Jay Wexler argues that public school teachers could send a message of disapproval towards religious views on origins if they suggest that "such beliefs are irrational or primitive compared with scientific views" or "make explicit first-person statements disapproving of religious viewpoints. . . ." 212supra, would certainly meet such a standard of disapproval.213 Yet ID's critics have expressed no apparent qualms about public schools showing such hostility towards ID. In fact, the Kitzmiller complaint explicitly lamented to the judge that under Dover's ID policy, "[s]tudents will not be told of any flaws or weaknesses in intelligent design, much less that the scientific community does not consider it valid science."214 Apparently, the Kitzmiller plaintiffs saw no negative constitutional ramifications of teaching public school students about the "flaws or weaknesses" in the alleged "specific religious viewpoint and beliefs encompassed by the assertion or argument of intelligent design."215 Would such instruction be constitutional?
One lower court has attempted to address this question with respect to the critique of creationism (which is different from ID) in a public school. In the spring of 2009, a federal district court in Southern California issued a ruling in C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School District where student-parent plaintiffs "Farnan" filed suit after a history teacher, "Corbett," made various statements during in-class instruction that Farnan found objectionable, including some instruction that allegedly disparaged creationism.216
In balancing the interests of the parties, Judge James E. Selna recognized the complexity of the question, which reflected a "tension between the constitutional rights of a student and the demands of higher education as reflected in the Advanced Placement European History course in which Farnan enrolled."217 The judge continued:
It also reflects a tension between Farnan's deeply-held religious beliefs and the need for government, particularly schools, to carry out their duties free of the strictures of any particular religious or philosophical belief system. The Constitution recognizes both sides of the equation.218
Regarding Corbett's free speech rights as a teacher, the court noted that "[t]o the extent that Farnan is arguing that Corbett may not put forth secular ideas because he would be creating a 'secular religion,' Farnan's argument fails."219 The court stated that its ruling therefore "reflects the constitutionally-permissible need for expansive discussion even if a given topic may be offensive to a particular religion or if a particular religion takes one side of a historical debate" but that "[t]he decision also reflects that there are boundaries" to the permissibility of such district-sponsored speech.220
As to Farnan's rights, the court observed that "the state may not affirmatively show hostility to religion"221 and stated that its task was therefore to "apply the Lemon test to determine whether Corbett made statements in class that were improperly hostile to or disapproving of religion in general, or of Christianity in particular."222 The court's analysis thus asked "whether, when looking at the context as a whole, a reasonable observer would perceive the primary effect of Corbett's statements as disapproving of religion in general or of Christianity in particular."223
Some of Corbett's controversial statements regarding creationism included:
(1) "I will not leave John Peloza alone to propagandize kids with this religious, superstitious nonsense."224
(2) "[T]here is as much evidence that God did it as there is that there is a gigantic spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it. Therefore, no creation, unless you invoke magic. Science doesn't invoke magic. If we can't explain something, we do not uphold that position. It's not, ooh, then magic. That's not the way we work. Contrast that with creationists. They never try to disprove creationism. They're all running around trying to prove it. That's deduction. It's not science. Scientifically, it's nonsense."225
The court held that statement (1) ran afoul of the Establishment Clause, but that statement (2) was constitutionally permissible. When Corbett stated "an unequivocal belief that creationism is 'superstitious nonsense',"226 the court found this "primarily sends a message of disapproval of religion or creationism"227 and "therefore constitutes improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause."228 The court found that Corbett could have criticized the other teacher who had taught creationism "without disparaging those views."229 At the very least, then, it seems unconstitutional to critique religious viewpoints when the statements entail disparagement that is unnecessary or superfluous to the academic critique itself.
While the holding in C.F. in some sense validates this Article's contention that there comes a point where critique of creationism is no longer constitutional, there is much room for criticism of the ruling. As noted, the court found that calling creationism "superstitious nonsense" is unconstitutional, but calling it "scientifically . . . nonsense" is permissible. Is this a distinction without a difference? The court found that statement (2) was permissible because in its context, Corbett was merely seeking "to distinguish generally accepted scientific reasoning from religious belief"230 and showing "that generally accepted scientific principles do not logically lead to the theory of creationism."231 In essence, the court held that statement (2) was permissible because Corbett was merely explaining why creationism is not scientific. Such instruction undoubtedly should be considered a legitimate endeavor for a public school teacher, for one can explain why a viewpoint is unscientific and religious without taking a position on the "ultimate veracity" of that view, or without critiquing that view as false.232
In this regard, Corbett's instruction in statement (2) might have been constitutional had it actually fit the court's description. But when allegedly trying to convey that creationism is unscientific and religious, Corbett equated belief in creationism with belief in "magic" or "a gigantic spaghetti monster living behind the moon," and then called creationism "scientifically . . . nonsense." Was all of this necessary? When a public school teacher compares a religious viewpoint to such outlandishly false and nonsensical fictions, whatever the purpose, the objective reasonable observer would undoubtedly perceive a primary effect that is disapproving. Corbett's statement (2) seems to entail superfluous disparagement that is unnecessary for the critique itself, and certainly seems to meet Wexler's standard of denigrating religious beliefs as "irrational or primitive compared with scientific views."233 At the very least, Corbett could have easily explained why creationism is unfalsifiable and thereby unscientific, "without disparaging those views."234 By placing creationism on par with obviously false and nonsensical viewpoints, Corbett was not only portraying it as unfalsifiable but also implying creationism is false, in effect employing the "unfalsifiable/false" fallacy which plagues so many other treatments of creationism in public school curricula described in Part III.A.1, supra.
But there is a deeper concern here beyond the C.F. court's apparent failure to properly analyze all of the facts under its interpretation of the law. As noted in Part II.H, courts have consistently held that advocating creationism in public schools is unconstitutional. In this regard, this present author agrees with courts that there are certain core tenets of creationism-- namely its adherence to supernatural or divine forces--which make it an unscientific and untestable religious viewpoint that cannot be constitutionally advocated in public schools. That having been said, there is a glaring asymmetry in the law when courts hold on the one hand that creationism cannot be advocated in public schools because it is not science, but on the other hand that it can be disparaged as "scientifically . . . nonsense," also because it is not science. To put it another way, those who desire legal symmetry will find the law sorely lacking if advocating creationism is prohibited on the grounds that it is religion, but nonetheless courts permit public schools to critique, attack, and oppose these views as false. When the government takes an affirmative position on the truth or falsity of a religious viewpoint, it is on dangerous constitutional ground. As the U.S. Supreme Court unequivocally held, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion. . . ."235 In other words, it is one thing to explain why a (purported) religious viewpoint is unfalsifiable (and thereby unscientific), but quite another to state or imply that the viewpoint is objectively and scientifically false. Yet as documented above in Part III.A.1, this latter offense is precisely what many textbooks do with regards to intelligent design or creationism.
Courts cannot treat these viewpoints like religion in order to strike down their advocacy, but then treat them like science (or ignore thinly veiled attempts like Corbett's to paint them as false) when they are being critiqued in order to sanction their disapproval. Either a viewpoint is religious and thereby unconstitutional to advocate as correct or critique as false in public schools, or it is scientific and fair game for both advocacy and critique in public schools. In this present author's view, creationism should be considered a religious viewpoint that can be neither advocated as true nor critiqued as false in public schools, and intelligent design should be considered a scientific viewpoint that is fair game for both advocacy and critique in public schools. Whatever the solution is, there is presently a gross lack of legal symmetry, and an overabundance of jurisprudential hypocrisy, if a public school teacher cannot legally say that creationism or intelligent design are scientifically correct, but can call these views scientifically incorrect, or "nonsense."
If selective enforcement of the law is a hallmark of tyranny, then we should be exceedingly troubled by both the constitutional implications and hypocrisy of the evolution lobby - behavior that opposes advocating ID and creationism on the grounds they are religious viewpoints, but expressly endorses public schools inhibiting, opposing, and disapproving of those purported religious viewpoints.
Full PDF available here.
[204.] Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612 (1971) (emphasis added). See also Smith v. Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs of Mobile County, 827 F.2d 684, 690, 692 (11th Cir. 1987) (equating "inhibiting religion" with exhibiting "an attitude antagonistic to theistic belief" or attempting to "discredit it").
[205.] Vernon v. City of Los Angeles, 27 F.3d 1385, 1396 (9th Cir. 1994).
[206.] Vasquez v. Los Angeles ("LA") County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1256 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Am. Family Ass'n., Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco, 277 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 886 (2002)).
[207.] Id. at 1255 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
[208.] Sch. Dist. of Abington Twp. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
[209.] Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 106 (1968) (emphasis added) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
[210.] Bd. of Educ. of Westside Cmty. Schs. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 248 (1990). See also Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677, 683-84 (2005) (stating that the First Amendment "requires that we neither abdicate our responsibility to maintain a division between church and state nor evince a hostility to religion by disabling the government from in some ways recognizing our religious heritage"); Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 845-46 (1995) (warning against state actions that "would risk fostering a pervasive bias or hostility to religion, which could undermine the very neutrality the Establishment Clause requires").
[211.] Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 690 (1984) (O'Connor, J., concurring). See also Mergens, 496 U.S. at 249 ("the Act's purpose was not to 'endorse or disapprove of religion'") (quoting Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 56 (1985)).
[212.] Jay D. Wexler, Darwin, Design, and Disestablishment: Teaching the Evolution Controversy in Public Schools, 56 VAND. L. REV. 751, 792 (Apr. 2003). Other scholars have suggested that if ID is religion, then banning the teaching of ID, much less critiquing it, could be unconstitutional. See, e.g. , Arnold H. Loewy, The Wisdom and Constitutionality of Teaching Intelligent Design in Public Schools, 5 FIRST AMEND. L. REV. 82, 83 (Fall 2006) ("[t]o allow all ideas about the origin of man that do not presuppose an intelligent designer, but forbid all theories that explore the possibilities of such a designer, expresses hostility, not neutrality, towards religion"); Johnny Rex Buckles, The Constitutionality of the Monkey Wrench: Exploring the Case for Intelligent Design, 59 OKLA. L. REV. 527, 589 (2007) ("A school board's secular public justification for a decision to forbid the teaching of intelligent design may well constitute a thinly veiled attempt to suppress religiously grounded beliefs about human origins.").
[213.] See supra Part III.A.
[214.] Complaint at 19-20, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005) (No. 4:CV 04-2688).
[215.] Id. at 19.
[216.] C.F. v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 615 F. Supp. 2d 1137 (C.D. Cal. 2009).
[217.] Id. at 1155.
[219.] Id. at 1141 n.2.
[220.] Id. at 1156.
[221.] Id. at 1141 n.2.
[222.] Id. at 1141.
[223.] Id. at 1148.
[224.] Id. at 1146.
[225.] Id. at 1152.
[226.] Id. at 1146.
[229.] Id. at 1149.
[230.] Id. at 1152.
[232.] See Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707, 745-46 (M.D. Pa. 2005) ("To conclude and reiterate, we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation. However, we commend to the attention of those who are inclined to superficially consider ID to be a true 'scientific' alternative to evolution without a true understanding of the concept the foregoing detailed analysis. . . . ID is an interesting theological argument, but . . . it is not science.").
[233.] Wexler, supra note 212, at 792; see also sources cited supra note 212.
[234.] C.F. , 615 F. Supp. 2d at 1149.
[235.]W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943); see also United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 86-87 (1944):
The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect. . . . Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men. It embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths. Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others. Yet the fact that they may be beyond the ken of mortals does not mean that they can be made suspect before the law. . . . The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain. The First Amendment does not select any one group or any one type of religion for preferred treatment. It puts them all in that position.
Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Posted by Casey Luskin on August 13, 2010 8:46 AM | Permalink
Published: Friday, August 13, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 13, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.
How discouraging to read in the Sun (8/13, "Should creationism be taught in schools?"), that of the 12 candidates running for a seat on the school board, only three answered that question with a simple "no": Rick Nesbit, Gunnar Paulson and Carol Oyenarte.
Two candidates thought it should be taught in a world religion class (and I've got to wonder about a school board candidate who thinks we have world religion classes in a system struggling to fund arts and music). Five of the 12 unequivocally took the position that creationism should be taught: Bonnie Burgess, April Griffin, Felicia Moss, Wayne Gabb and Jodi Wood.
The theory of evolution is subject to the scientific method of gathering measurable evidence and testing it. Creationism an article of faith and taking the position that it should be taught alongside evolution doesn't give our students any better a science education than teaching creation stories of the Hindu or Buddhist faiths.
Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not incompatible with Christian faith. As part of the Clergy Letter Project, over 12,000 Christian Clergy have taken just that position.
Let's elect school board members who will help provide our kids the education that will allow them to find work in an ever more competitive global market.
Ken Duffield III,
Conspiracy theorist Lauri Lebo, writing at Religion Dispatches, seeks to defend once more her cloudy thesis that by criticizing a move in Louisiana to teach creationism in public schools, Bruce Chapman revealed Discovery Institute's secret plot to support teaching creationism in public schools. Even as conspiracy theories go, this one lacks plausibility.
I wrote here earlier that Ms. Lebo, a journalist with a specialty in these issues, is presumably aware of the "enormous differences" between creationism on one hand and intelligent design (or even mere Darwin doubting) on the other. She assures us she does know the difference but there's still no evidence of that in her latest column. Instead she thinks she has found a smoking gun, linking Discovery Institute with creationism, in our definition of intelligent design. According to the definition, the theory holds "that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."
Writes Lauri Lebo:
No matter how many times they deny it, intelligent design relies on the supernatural. They can hide it in the passive voice all they want, but when you talk about an "intelligent cause" you are talking about a creator. And that makes it (wait for it) creationism.
Actually, nothing in that definition, or in the scientific evidence, indicates the intelligent cause must be supernatural in the sense we normally give to that word. And even if the definition did speak of a "supernatural intelligent cause," ID would not be relying on the supernatural but arguing for it.
But as a thought experiment, imagine that ID really did identify the "intelligent cause" as a deity, a creator. Would that make it "creationism"?
No, not unless you are in the habit of buying lame arguments based on tenuous verbal comparisons. Words have meanings. "Creationism" is a useful word to designate the claim of scientific evidence for a literal reading of Genesis, from the creation story to Noah's flood. ID not only does not provide proof for a literalist Biblical theology. It goes head-on against such a theology on major points.
So even if ID spoke of a deity, what would support Ms. Lebo's application to intelligent design of the scare word "creationism"? Nothing, if you understand that we use different words to denote different things precisely to avoid confusion of the kind Ms. Lebo has fallen into. Dear Lauri Lebo, the fact that some people have used the same word in different contexts does not prove that everything so designated is the same.
Ms. Lebo thinks she has another smoking gun in the obvious sociological reality that arguments for ID are more popular among religious believers than among atheists. She alludes breezily to "DI's Christian motivations" and quotes Judge John E. Jones of Dover fame: "The writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity." The references to "Christian" and "Christianity" are more scare words. That ID's proponents include non-Christians (me, for example) doesn't penetrate Ms. Lebo's awareness.
She pounces on William Dembski's comment about intelligent design as a restatement of "the Logos theology of John's Gospel...in the idiom of information theory," while ignoring Dembski's consistent statements about why intelligent design is not creationism. I would go Dr. Dembski one better by saying ID is a restatement of the first word in the Hebrew Bible, Bereishit, which some ancient rabbinic sources translate not as "In the beginning" but "With wisdom" -- that is, with information did God create the heavens and the earth.
But so what? If many people care about the Darwin debate more than about other disputes in science because it has implications for religion, that doesn't make intelligent design an expression of "religion" or "Christianity," much less of "creationism," any more than the fact that Darwinism stirs enthusiasm among many atheists makes Darwinism a species of "atheism." It isn't that, is it, Ms. Lebo?
Posted by David Klinghoffer on August 13, 2010 2:53 PM | Permalink
by Christyl Rivers
Eventually all of society, except a few extremists, will accept the truth of Evolution.
To say that it will end the controversy would be incorrect, however, because there are millions of people who even now believe quite impossible things.
It could be said by over six billion people that some really kind guy in the mental ward is NOT Jesus Christ, but if that guy believes firmly that he is, we cannot end the "controversy." We cannot "prove" that he is not, because we cannot prove a negative.
Creationism and Evolution are not in the same category at all. One is based on science the other based on faith. By definition, Science, is based on reproducible, and predictable results. It cannot rely on faith, or desired evidence, and be Science. God, scripture tells us, created the earth and all life in seven days.
From Trilobites, to the recently discovered Ardi, a hominid whose fossilized bones are four million years old, all of most science confirms that evolution happened and is happening, right now. It happens to Society too; even in your church or temple!
There is far too much fossil evidence, and cosmological evidence, that shows the Universe is billions, upon billions of years old. Only a very, very powerful God could create such a universe, and being that powerful, it is possible He did all of this for very mysterious reasons. Upon the questions of faith, never to be discussed in Science classes, we might consider why we want creationism. What is not possible is that God of scriptures created all of us so recently, unless he disguised the truth quite cleverly. To do this he would have to be a very immoral and deceitful god, and why then would He be worthy or our worship?
It cannot be said that Evolution is an outdated theory either, as it too evolves as we learn more about DNA, and genetics. It is rather an updated theory, refined on an almost daily basis. Even Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus, had a theory on the development of species, which one could say has "evolved." In those days people routinely bred livestock for certain appealing traits, and the selection of plants and crops was also known and widely used. What Charles Darwin and Alfred R. Wallace discovered was that humans and all species evolved.
Should we teach "Science" or Intelligent Design" in schools? Yes, I do believe we should, especially the latter description which shows Nature has its own Intelligence. We should emphasize science above all else, and demand that creationism present the same degree of scientific proof that all other sciences require. Intelligent Design, is a very good description of how Gaia, Earth, our living planet designs and continues to live. Just as we are combined of atoms, cells, and inter-connected components, so quite literally is our planet.
Published: Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 10:02 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 10:02 a.m.
In The Sun article published Aug. 13, regarding teaching creationism in public schools, the idea's proponents seem to be unaware of what such teaching would involve. I will overlook the separation and church provisions of our Constitution, which is the most significant reason for keeping creationism out of public schools and deal with some of the reasons the idea' backers mention for teaching it.
They say evolution is only a theory. That is true, but just about every major idea in science is a theory. What makes an idea a scientific theory is that it is presented in a way that it can be falsified. Experiments are the can be conducted to see if the theory can be supported. This has been done for evolution, and this is why almost all scientists accept it. Are creationists willing to put their ideas, including that of a creator through empirical testing?
The creationists then say if not in science, perhaps it could be taught in some other subject such as religion,history or philosophy. If taught in history can they live with the findings of many historians and archaeologists that there is virtually no evidence for many religious beliefs. For instance in the well reviewed work by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. "The Bible Unearthed," they show there is no evidence that Abraham or Moses ever existed as they are portrayed in the Old Testament. Are the creationists willing to have the findings of contemporary history, archaeology which deal with their most cherished ideas taught in the schools?
Finally if taught in philosophy, are they willing to have all the contradictions that appear in their major texts pointed out? Are they willing to see that their beliefs are no more valid than those of Hinduism, Islam and other religions? Philosophy does involve critical thinking?
My guess is that the answer to all the above questions are no. Perhaps the creationists by now may realize that religion which is based on faith, be best taught in religious institutions, and that the separation of church and state was meant not only to keep religion out of the government's domain, but to also protect religion. Bringing ideas based upon faith into public debate could seriously endanger those beliefs.