Friday, May 25, 2007

Over his head

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the point of the debate flying right over your head. House of Eratosthenes seems very puzzled by outspoken atheists. He wishes that "our video-game atheists would abstain from believing in God — quietly — just as I abstain from buying lottery tickets."

He laments, however,
This is not how our atheists talk about God, I notice.

Simply put, they don’t treat it as a personal decision. They treat it as a community policy decision. I mean, the loudest ones treat it that way. Consider the case of Intelligent Design from two summers ago, when President Bush went on record to say both sides should be taught in school. Both sides, meaning…evolution, and the hated Intelligent Design.

This touched off a firestorm.

Why? I dunno.
Let me explain. No, that'll take too long, let me sum up.

What is taught in taxpayer-funded public schools is a community policy decision. In general, what we teach our children in a democratic society is a community policy decision. We also have a little thing called the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Judge Jones held in Kitzmiller v. Dover that Intelligent Design transparently violated the First Amendment:
The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. ...

ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. ...

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
(Keep in mind that this is a ruling by a Christian, Republican judge.)

The poster says that, "Jerry Coyne’s essay from that tumultuous time, The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name... inflict[s] incendiary broadside attacks upon... logic. Coyne supposedly argues from "pure paranoia" that some unspecified "insidious forces should be silenced forever because their intent remains the same."

The only substantiation the poster offers is this:
One thing though. “If [incremental evolution] could be done - and it can - then the argument for irreducible complexity vanishes…” This is a mishandling of logic... [and transgresses the principle that the] mere fact that plausible argument can be made does not mean that its conclusion is valid [sic].[1]
The poster clearly, despite his protestations that he has "learned some fascinating stuff," does not in any way understand the fundamental argument for irreducible complexity: Some structures cannot in principle be reduced to incremental evolution. The fact that a plausible argument does exist soundly rebuts the implicit claim that such an argument cannot exist.

I suppose I must admit that it is the intention of rationalists to "silence" lies, superstition and bullshit. But we intend to do so the hard way: By rational argument and evidence. The breathtaking stupidity and hypocrisy of this essay is precisely why we atheists cannot and will not shut up.

[1] This principle is poorly stated. A plausible argument is, by definition, sound. This principle is more accurately stated as "The validity of an argument does not by itself establish its soundness or truth."

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