Archive for the ‘Expelled’ Category


Oklahoma OK? No, Oklahoma In-Sane!

8 December, 2009

A few months ago, down in the great state of Kentucky, a high school football coach got into a little bit of trouble (I say a little bit as the school district decided this was just okey-dokey) when he loaded up members of his football team and took them to a Baptist revival.  As I pointed out at the time, the argument that ‘it was voluntary’ doesn’t cut it.  Playing time for athletes depends upon the perception of the head coach.  Being on the team depends upon the perception of the head coach.  If a player is, for whatever reason, perceived as ‘not a team player’, the player will spend lots of time sitting on the bench.

Why do I bring this up?  A court case has been filed in another less-than-progressive state:  Oklahoma (from American Atheists). Read the rest of this entry ?


I Do Not ‘Believe’ In Evolution

26 April, 2008

A few days ago, Sabrina and I had a quick exchange in the comments under The Effects of Faith Based Education regarding, among other things, ‘belief’ in evolution.  It brought to mind a miserable conversation I had while at a forest fire out west.

I was providing camp security and, for about four hours each day, I kept an eye on traffic into and out of the fire camp.  One of the fun things about being out at the gate is you meet lots of interesting people.  One of the lousy things about being at the front gate is you meet lots of interesing people.  A self-proclaimed Southern Baptist decided to camp out with me for a while and he noticed that I was reading Bakker’s book, The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction.  He asked me, “Do you believe in evolution?”

“Yes,” I answered.  “Yes I do.”  He began talking about pigs teeth, the lack of transitional fossils, Genesis, and where did whales come from.

For a while I tried, I really tried, to answer his objections.  The pig’s tooth from Nebraska is an example of how science works:  a paleaontologist made a misidentification of a tooth (creating, for a short time, Niobrara Man) and then other paleaontologists corrected his mistake.  The lack of transitional fossils is due to the incompleteness of the geologic record.  My answers to his objections made about as much impact as a squirrel does when run over by a Sherman tank.  That is to say, none at all.

Looking back at that conversation with a couple of years of experience, I realize I made a mistake.  Now, keep in mind, the last two years have been rather event-filled for me when viewed from a philosophical point.  During those two years, I discovered atheist blogs.  I began posting on atheist blogs.  I came to the realization that I really am an atheist.  I also began to study my preconceptions regarding such ideas as belief and non-belief.

The mistake I made was that I said that I believed in evolution.  The problem is that belief, especially to a theist, is a loaded term.  To a theist, belief is a short-cut:  God said it, I believe it, ‘nough said.  Belief becomes a way of creating equality between all views whether such equality is warranted or not. 

An HIV/AIDs denialist who believes that ‘big science’ got it wrong, that HIV and AIDs are unrelated, can put his crackpot hypotheosis on the same plane with twenty years of research and life-saving therapies.

A young-earth creationist, through belief that his version of the Bible is word for word truth, elevates a myth to the same level as the 150 years of evidence which support the theory of evolution.

By claiming that supporters of evolution just ‘believe’ in evolution, then creationism (in whatever guise) is elevated in public debate to an equal position.  ‘Believing’ in evolution feeds into a frame created by the religious right.  I, for one, refuse to continue to feed into a frame which brings reason, science, and critical thinking down to the level of belief. 

The staying power of Darwin’s theory of evolution is truly remarkable.  His idea that random mutation, coupled with natural selection, creates new species has stood the test of time remarkably well.  Genetic theory has provided the rules of inheritence of characteristics.  The discovery of DNA has provided the process.  New fossils continuously fill in the blanks.  One hundred and fifty years of evidence, of questioning, new hypotheoses considered and rejected, is more than belief.  It is a theory.

Therefore, I now restate my answer to that question from a couple of years ago.  “Do you believe in evolution?”

“No.  I do not ‘believe’ in evolution.  Believing in evolution would imply that I was accepting a gospel handed down to me.  I do, however, accept evolution as the best available theory explaining the natural world I see before me.”


The Effects of Faith Based Education

23 April, 2008

My last two posts (Will Expelled Get Expelled and My Expelled Post (yeah, I need to work on my titles)) dealt with the movie Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed.  In MEP, I argued that  the movie is a perfect example of ‘received wisdom’ education:  questioning and independent research are not allowed.  The second, WEGE, was just a tad of schadenfruede:  not only did the movie suck, but so did viewership.  Last night (while trying to hack out a lung because of my allergies) I got to thinking about received wisdom education and decided that I had (arguably) misnamed the illness:  the illness is actually faith based education.

Faith based education seems much in vogue among certain politico-religious types.  The argument (and I confess to simplifying immensely)  generally goes along these lines:

  1. All of America’s ills are due to lack of religion in public and private lives.
  2. America would instantly return to the idyllic 1950s — a time when women stayed home and cared for the children, and every man (or at least every white man (because the others really don’t matter)) had a good job with benefits — were we all once again religious.
  3. Therefore, America must return to faith-based education to return the only real and true God to His rightful place of majesty in America.

Of course, by insisting that we return faith to America’s education system, the Republican and Christian right refers to prayer.  A teacher led prayer in which students are required to participate was, until the U.S. Supreme Court made the correct decision, a part of daily life for all American children.  Supposedly, the ‘outlawing’ of prayer in school has destroyed America (and before anyone brings it up, children are still allowed to pray in school, school districts cannot mandate organized prayer, nor can teachers lead the children in prayer in a public school (I always wondered what would have happened to a teacher in the 1950s who used a Muslim prayer?)).

Unfortunately, this faith-based education is about more than prayer in school.  It is about creationism (currently disguised as “intellegent design”).  It is about abstinence-only sex education.  It is about text-books which claim that tax-cuts increase tax revenue.  It is about teachers telling students that America’s founding fathers created a Christian Nation. 

So what do creationism, abstinence-only sex education, tax-cuts and a Christian America have in common?  Every blinkin’ one of them is faith based.  Proponents have faith that it will work;  no evidence is necessary;  and no proof is required. 

The Christian America myth (along with the Conservative Founding Fathers myth) is pushed with wild abandon by the religious right and many of the historians educated by Christian colleges.  Despite copious evidence from the actual writings of Jefferson, Adams, Paine and Franklin showing the sincere wish for the world’s first truly secular state, dishonest ‘historians’ cherry-pick phrases (and combine partial phrases) to support their conclusions.  Their ‘scholarship’ rests upon making forming a conclusion, and then selecting the facts to fit.

The conservative tax-cut myth is one of the most pervasive in modern America.  George Herbert Walker Bush had that one right when he called it voodoo economics.  When Reagan forced through the tax cuts of the 1980s, he claimed that revenue would rise immediately.  It actually took around four years for federal revenue to recover.  When George W. Bush used many different reasons (we have a surplus and should give it back to the taxpayers, there’s a recession, we were attacked) to force through tax cuts in 2001.  Part of his claim was, again, that the tax cuts would increase revenue.  The reality?  It again took about four years for revenue to recover.  This nice little fairy tale of free money for all (well, for the rich (and big business)) is faith based.  There is no evidence that massive tax cuts stimulate the economy enough to recoup the reduction in revenue, the additional interest paid on the public debt, and reduced infrastructure investment.

Abstinence-only sex education has been proven by repeated studies to be ineffective.  The right (political and religious) insists that, given enough time and money, it will work.  They have faith that it works.  Faith overrides all proof.  Even the proof that STD and pregnancy rates RISE with abstinence-only sex education does not shake their faith.

The manufactured war over evolution is yet another example of a faith-based situation.  The ‘faithful’ arrived at a conclusion:  God did it (or guided it).  Then they set out to find evidence of God’s hand.  They haven’t.  Then, they decided that, instead of finding proof to support their conclusion, they would just point at the things science doesn’t know, and fill it with God.  And, along the way, they decided that anyone who was a creationist and was denied tenure was a martyr.

For the last seven years, we have had a faith-based government.  Bush had faith that there were weapons of mass destruction.  Bush had faith that Hussein was involved in 9/11.  Bush had faith that FEMA could be run by any idiot.  Bush had faith that  National Parks could do more with less.  Bush had faith that his judgement supersedes U.S. Law and the Constitution.

What America needs is less faith-based education, not more.  What America needs is less faith-based government, not more.  We need teachers, students, politicians and citizens to demand proof.  Proof of the effectiveness of government policies.  Proof of the effectiveness of educational policies.  Proof of the effectiveness of reality-based, not faith-based, policies.


Will Expelled Get Expelled?

21 April, 2008

Sometimes you read something that just makes you smile.  Over at Alexander the Atheist, he posted this:

1. Forbidden Kingdom ($20,870,000)
2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($17,348,000)
3. Prom Night ($9,100,000)
4. 88 Minutes ($6,800,000)
5. Nim’s Island ($5,650,000)
6. 21 ($5,500,000)
7. Street Kings ($4,000,000)
8. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! ($3,500,000)
9. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed ($3,153,000)
10 Leatherheads ($3,022,000)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Wow.  $3.1 million dollars.  Gives me dry eyes.

So.  All these theaters (a little over a thousand of them) showed this ‘lying for Jesus’ propaganda piece (which was (if ya’ll remember) supposed to singlehandedly and instantaneously overturn the evil cabal of evolutionists who have been keeping the people who know, know, mind you, that they have the right answer out of academia) made less than $3,000 per screen.  Theaters are (unless there is something I really don’t understand about economics) in it to make money (either for the owner or stockholders).  Figuring each screen had (as they did locally) at least three showings, that works out to less than a thousand a showing.  That barely (and I mean barely) covers the costs of the theater owner.

I suspect that, next weekend, two things will happen.  First, the number of theaters showing this  ‘documentary’ will drop precipitously.  Second,  the makers of Expelled will (and I’ll bet dollars to donuts on this one) start screaming about an evil cabal of evilutionist theater owners are unfairly changing the numbers (Stein will claim it actually made a ‘Buehler’ dollars on every screen) and banning the most significant movie since, since, since. . . . Oh.  Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Ishtar (hat tip to my brilliant young wife for that cultural reference (and it should please the Grumpy Lion (unless you want to defend Ishtar too?)))

Anyone out there willing to take the bet?  Will the makers of Expelled either claim the numbers are being changed or that the atheist theater owners (how many of those do you suppose there are?) are banning the movie?  Or maybe they will claim that all the people who paid for Forbidden Kingdom actually snuck in to see Expelled?  I’m not sure I would put anything past these jokers.

Or, does anyone else have a different hypotheosis regarding how the producers of Expelled will explain the fact that Horon Hears a Who beat them?

And, as before, I will not link to the Expelled web site, but I will link to the Exposed Expelled site.