Obama on evolution

By Phil Plait | April 1, 2008 8:00 am

Thought from Kansas (you do read that, don’t you?) has a post up with a quotation from Obama about evolution, taken from the York Daily Record (emphasis mine):

Q: York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What’s your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?

A: “I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state.

But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.

While I disagree with Obama a bit (obviously, I wouldn’t put faith on equal footing with science), his attitude is pretty good, and for a politician running for President it’s phenomenal. Clinton was clear on this issue as well. And both are far, far better than the mealy-mouthed equivocating McCain made on this topic.

Remember when Democrats were seen as anti-science, and Republicans the defender of truth? Yeah, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it?

Comments (121)

  1. Aerimus

    If evolution were the only issue, then yeah, I’d stop seriously considering Republican candidates altogether. To bad that I can’t stand most of the other positions that Democratic candidates generally tend to take.

    Right now, at least, these battles are on the state level. If your for science-based science classes, the best defense right now is to ensure that your local and state school boards are sane. I’ll concede that a president has the ability to influence congress and appoint judges to the SCOTUS, so it is probably a fallacy for me not to think about this on the national level, but for now, there are other national level issues that have my ear.

    In any event, it sucks being a independent. Seems that any viable candidate has to be cut from the mold of one of the big parties to be taken seriously (and get funding), and that means that they each inherit all the good and negative qualities of their parties.

  2. mocular

    Yea, not a bad response. I suppose it’s the best one could hope for coming from a presidential candidate.

    It’s seems fairly clear to me that Obama’s religiosity is a matter of political expedience. While I find that dishonest, I also find it somewhat encouraging that he probably does not really believe.

    Only in a political context could I see dishonesty as a good thing.

    Now, if we could only stop the use of “believe” with evolution. One should accept, or reject, the evidence for scientific theories, not “believe” in them.

  3. Bad Albert

    A lot better than I expected but it still reeks of doubletalk.

    “And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

    But he thinks it’s fine for parents to provide their kids with religious instruction that doesn’t hold up to scientific inquiry.

  4. Thanks, Phil. This helps a great deal. I can rest assured that my vote will be intelligently designed!
    :lol: I kill me!

    Now if -I- was president I’d double NASA & NSF’s budgets each year! We wouldn’t have to decide which we want, science or manned exploration, we’d have both!
    But I ain’t. :(
    Rich

  5. Aerimus

    Believe is a fair term here. It only means that you accept something to be true. It you accept the facts of evolution, then you do believe it. Of course, it’s use has become very familiar with the sense of “belief by faith”, so I guess I can understand your annoyance. Maybe we should find a better word, and while we are at it, find a new word of theory in the scientific definition.

  6. Aerimus

    @Bad Albert:

    So do you think that a president or government should be able to stop a parent from teaching their child the religious principals that they have faith in?

    As for myself, I do plan to teach my religious beliefs to my child, and I hope that she does at least consider them her self. Of course, I also hope that she makes use of my library to educate herself and come to her own decisions regarding her faith (or lack thereof).

  7. Quiet_Desperation

    Could be he’s just trying to play to the faith vote. But then again I think even the most rabid Bible thumping politicos only do it for the votes. Admittedly just a hypothesis at this point, mind you.

    Richard B. Drummon: “This helps a great deal. I can rest assured that my vote will be intelligently designed!

    Cool! That will bring the number of intelligently cast votes this November up to about 9 or 10.

    Now if -I- was president I’d double NASA & NSF’s budgets each year!

    *Every* year? That’s a geometrical progression. Eventually you’d have to sell the Moon to aliens just to pay for it. And then the Sun. Well… that would solve the globally warmings.

    Aerimuson: “In any event, it sucks being a independent.

    I feel your pain, brother!

  8. Aerimus

    @Rich:

    So how would you plan to do so: Increase taxes or cut back on other programs, and if so which programs (the war would probably be an obvious choice for many). I guarantee that whichever you, or any one else for that matter, would decide, it would be the wrong answer. Such is politics.

    And as an aside, four post in what, 30 minutes, it’s obviously a slow work day…

  9. Ricardo Silvestre

    there is hope… for America!!

    no pun intended.

  10. Gary Ansorge

    Bad Albert: This is a FREE nation(ostensibly, anyway) and you can brain wash your kids any way you choose,,,however,,,competition in the real world pretty much requires at least a KNOWLEDGE of the hard core scientific basis of this techno society. Whether you BELIEVE in the validity of science is beside the point. Thus, children are constantly exposed to the real world(as they grow), at least in terms of trying to make a living.

    Still, nonsense thrives, mainly because many people are uncomfortable with our rapid rate of change and desire a stable belief system to cling too, something we adjure as scientists because we know the basic nature of reality IS change.
    Any species will seek its comfort zone, a place/time where things were predictable and intuitively sensible. Quantum mechanics requires us to grow beyond that and such growth is quite painful for many. The strength of our species is that SOME individuals can survive and prosper in a turbulent time and point the way for others. Be happy the luck of the draw allows you to be one of those.
    Compassion for the weak is a virtue, something we all could use more off.

    GAry 7
    PS: I am an Obama supporter, but if Hilary gets the nomination, she will get my vote. Too bad McCain feels he has no choice but to pander to the mis-informed.

  11. david D

    There are many reasons to look at a candidate and make a decision to pull that lever or not. Their stand on evolution/ID/creationism is just one, but as Aerimus notes, I’m not sure POTUS has that much influence on our local school boards.

    I can certainly applaud Obama’s stance here, but there is so much other stuff that is disturbing about him (to me at least).

    I wonder how funding for NASA and other science programs would fare in a more “socially progressive” administration such as Obama’s. Does he have any position on this?

    I also wonder whether he “believes” in some of the same scientific theories that his pastor “believes” in.

  12. TheBlackCat

    So how would you plan to do so: Increase taxes or cut back on other programs, and if so which programs (the war would probably be an obvious choice for many). I guarantee that whichever you, or any one else for that matter, would decide, it would be the wrong answer. Such is politics.

    Just cutting back a lot of the pork-barrel projects would save a lot of money. Eliminating the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the NIH, considering its abysmal track record, and giving the money to other NIH projects will give another $120 million a year. And even if you don’t want to cut funding to the military, programs like the Comanche, where they spent $8-9 billion before canceling it, are a waste. Allocating $58 billion to build a missile defense system that has not been shown to work under real-world conditions seem unwise to me as well.

  13. TheBlackCat

    I’m not sure POTUS has that much influence on our local school boards.

    You don’t think SCOTUS has much influence? The reason it is legal to teach evolution in public schools is because SCOTUS ruled that banning it was unconstitutional. The reason it is not legal to teach creationism in public schools is because SCOTUS, in a separate case, ruled it was unconstitutional to teach it. The reason it is not legal to teach creation science in public schools is because SCOTUS, in yet another case, ruled it was unconstitutional to teach that. And either Intelligent Design or “Teach the Controversy” is going to the supreme court sooner or later. The impact SCOTUS has on this issue is immeasurable.

  14. Daffy

    Aerimus,

    The Republicans controlled the entire government for years…could you tell me what they accomplished that makes you loyal to them?

    This is a serious question; I am not being rude or flip. They have all but bankrupted the nation, started a useless war, got caught accepting bribes from defense contractors, attempted to privatize Social Security, and oversaw the HUGE increase in energy prices.

    Seriously, they controlled everything and we now see the result. I am really, sincerely, curious: what makes you so loyal to them?

  15. david D

    TheBlackCat–

    Actually, I said POTUS, but I certainly understand the POTUS/SCOTUS connection. Interesting, though, that SCOTUS has a record of keeping the creationism/creation science drivel out of the classroom, despite the perceived “conservative” makeup of the Court.

  16. Remember when Democrats were seen as anti-science, and Republicans the defender of truth? Yeah, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it?

    No, actually, I don’t. Is this your idea of an April Fool’s gag?

  17. Aerimus

    Congrats TheBlackCat! You’ve now decreased the deficet from $260 odd billion down to about 195 billion! Now, do you keep that lower deficit, or do you spend the money to fund those programs.

    Sarcastic attack side, I have to give you credit for your post. There is A LOT of wasteful spending all over the place in our government, from social programs to military programs. For me, that is one reason why I don’t support increasing federal programs. The government’s view always seems to be “Let’s through more money at it” instead of finding more efficient ways to spend the money. I’m right there with you when it comes to cutting pork, but from what I’ve seen, in Washington, pork = power.

  18. MicroZealous

    Obamas’ statement is evidence of a positive, frank, and diplomatic approach to getting elected in the real world of voters in this country at this time. Remember that flat-earthers vote. This approach gives them a respectful acknowledgement (so as not to make them enemies), and signals me clearly that he supports a clear boundary between faith and reason. I suspect he leans more to reason.

    (Note to self: Send Obama another $25.)

  19. Aerimus

    @Daffy:

    Who said I liked republicans? My problem is that I just think that people are so gaga over Obama that they don’t have realistic expectations of what will happen when the man gets into power. And I just plain out don’t like Hillary.

    I used to like republicans. But they’ve proven in the last 8 years that they can’t be trusted with a government, and I’m not talking about the war. I will say that at least the democrats are honest about the fact that they want to take our money and increase our government. As I said in the first post, “In any event, it sucks being a independent.”

  20. @ Quiet_Desperation:
    “Cool! That will bring the number of intelligently cast votes this November up to about 9 or 10.”
    I do hope you saw the LOL I added there. It’s a joke, son, it’s a joke! (cue the Foghorn Leghorn voice). We desperately need any intelligence on the candidates’ views that we can get. Otherwise we’re flying blind.

    @ Quiet_Desperation & @ Aerimus too:
    “*Every* year? That’s a geometrical progression. Eventually you’d have to sell the Moon to aliens just to pay for it. And then the Sun. Well… that would solve the globally warmings.”
    I’d only get away with it for 4 years, so it’d be manageable. Stop the hemorrhaging at the DOD and you’d probably be there. I don’t think that’d be wrong. There’s so much fat there to trim you wouldn’t have to raise taxes a bit.
    Though selling the Moon to aliens makes me think….. :lol:

    Then there’s the healthcare insanity that’s afoot. I could fund stem cell research with the cost overruns on any single DOD project, I’ll bet. Sure somebody would get POd when their pork barrel was cut, but as ya say, that’s politics!
    Rich

  21. Hoonser

    Haha April fools indeed

  22. DaveS

    I don’t think it’s okay to lump faith into the non-science pile and dismiss it outright.

    Faith is simply an unexamined assumption. Science has those, and individual scientists may have a lot of those. A fundamental struggle for science is discerning valid assumptions from invalid ones, and many great “discoveries” owe their genesis to a scientist somewhere seeking to understand results that differed from those the basic assumptions would have predicted.

    I’m reasonably sure you meant “religious faith”, of course. I think it’s important to consciously retain that distinction and to teach it as a part of science education. It does harm to the cause of skepticism to pretend that there is no faith in science, or to leave room to argue that skeptics oppose all instances of faith. That’s what happened when some people’s understanding of Darwin’s explanation for evolution became “just a theory”, and we’re still struggling to make the meaning clear.

  23. Todd W.

    @The BA

    “I wouldn’t put faith on equal footing with science”

    Though I am not of any faith, I do feel that having faith in something is an important part of being human. Don’t get me wrong; not everyone needs faith, but for those that do, it can help them get through this world. I think that Senator Obama is acknowledging the fact that faith, and the role it plays, is just as important an issue in our current society as science.

    @QD

    “Eventually you’d have to sell the Moon to aliens just to pay for it.”

    Whoah! Hold on there! Before we start thinking about this, we need to establish what the currency exchange rate is going to be, not to mention what currency we want to accept it in. And, are the aliens’ funds insured? I mean, if the galactic economy collapses, they have the moon and we have a whole big pile o’ worthless chits.

    On a different note, I hear a lot about “concerns” regarding Sen. Obama. Could those who have reservations about him post some of why they aren’t comfortable with him? Similarly for Sen. Clinton. Sen. McCain I’m not even going to ask about. He’s already dug a big ol’ grave for himself.

  24. Bruce G.

    I think Obama’s position on faith in the public sphere is made clear in his book here:

    “The story of Abraham and Issac offers a simple but powerful example. According to the Bible, Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his “only son, Isaac, whom you love,” as a burnt offering. Without argument, Abraham takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.
    Of course, we know the happy ending – God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute. Abraham has passed God’s test of devotion. He becomes a model of fidelity to God, and his great faith is rewarded through future generations. And yet it is fair to say that if any of us saw a twenty first century Abraham raising his knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would call the police; we would wrestle him down; even if we saw him lower the knife at the last minute, we would expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away and charge Abraham with child abuse. We would do so because God does not reveal Himself or His angels to all of us in a single moment. We do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, understanding that a part of what we know to be true – as individuals or communities of faith – will be true for us alone.”

  25. RL

    A couple of points:

    1. There should be no problem if Obama places the same importance on his faith as science. If you BELIEVE in it (and involves your soul) it should be as important as anything else. I’d be concerned if he didn’t.

    2. I haven’t seen any huge jump in science spending now that the Democrats control Congress. Its a shame that they didn’t tackle that in their first 100 days of doing…what ever it is that they did…

    3. Saying is one thing. Doing is another. Has he done anything in the Senate regarding science and spending?

  26. Michael Lonergan

    I am seeing some of the same biases towards people of faith, that they express towards those without faith. I agree that faith can not stand up to scientific scrutiny, but it was never meant to. It cannot be measured or examined by a scientific process. I think faith is important. Where faith goes wrong is when it excludes everything else, such as scientific evidence.

    I’ll duck now…. INCOMING!!!!

  27. Quiet_Desperation

    I do hope you saw the LOL I added there. It’s a joke, son, it’s a joke!

    So was mine. :-) I mean… 9 or 10?

  28. Jason

    I think many people in forums like this miss the connection most folks have with faith, belief and science. I’m a well-educated person with an IQ on the far right side of the bell curve. Although I have what I think is a good basic framework for the accepted science of why the universe behaves the way it does, I can’t in all honesty say I actually “know” it to be true. I believe it to be true, but MY proof is that other (scientists) I believe say it is so.

    I understand the Cliff Notes version of how a star is born, lives and dies, but I don’t know that the science behind it is accurate. I trust that astronomers like the BA have done the math and made the necessary observations to prove that it is so. Yes, the science is observable and repeatable, but I take it as some matter of faith (belief) that the repetitions and observations have been made and that their conclusions are accurate.

    As for Obama, while I hope he wasn’t sitting in the congregation saying, “Amen!” when his pastor was accusing the government of creating the AIDS virus as an attack on people of color, the fact that he was willing to listen to woo-woo talk and sit silently by scares me as much as McCain not denouncing creationism. While Obama’s quote on teaching evolution was a political breath of fresh air, I’m not ready to anoit him the savior of critical thought just yet.

  29. Derek

    Obama is very intelligent, and it seems quite obvious to me that his intelligence conflicts a lot with his faith.

    “It is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided…and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.” – Barack Obama

    He’s strongly in favor of civil unions with equal benefits, of course, in direct contrast to John McCain.

  30. we need to establish what the currency exchange rate is going to be, not to mention what currency we want to accept it in.

    Well, possibly Altarian Dollars, Flanian pobble beads, or Ningis as first choices. Maybe Cubits if it’s a good exchange rate, or Gold-pressed Latinum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_currency

    J/P=?

  31. Melusine

    Mocular said:
    It’s seems fairly clear to me that Obama’s religiosity is a matter of political expedience. While I find that dishonest, I also find it somewhat encouraging that he probably does not really believe.

    It’s disconcerting that people interested in science seem not to exhibit much evidence for a statement as above nor research. There have been many excerpts of his first book, which was written in 1995, in the press, where he discusses his faith and why he came to such faith. And regardless, he’s attended his church for 20 years. But he has spoken in front of a congregation telling them that religious faith should not overrule reason and pragmatism, such as with contraception vs. abstinence and such. That personal views regarding “gays, non-believers, secular” folks should not prohibit open and honest discussion regarding solving problems. He got much applause from this congregation, which happened to be mostly black folks.

    He clearly states on his website PDFs and in videotaped speeches that separation of church and state is a good thing, however he acknowledges that church’s who help the drug-addicted, communities, the poor, etc. is also a good thing.

    He appears to have emphasized science and math teaching many times, as well as early child development. So, if you think he was dishonest 13 years ago, so be it, but it doesn’t sound like you looked into the matter. His views on NASA are available too, but more importantly he has appeared to listen to others since no candidate (many being lawyers and all) have the necessary experience in other fields. Constitutional law he REALLY understands.

    As far as SCOTUS, yes, that’s important, but if Congress does their job (rather than roll over for Bush as they’ve done – including Hillary Clinton) then their votes and filibusters are key too. I think we have to make sure to appoint good people to Congress.

    At this stage in the campaigns, it is troublesome that people are not clear on where the candidates stand. The media hasn’t helped much focusing on so much useless information. No, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary because she’s done little for the nation as a Senator, she even supported a bill allowing pharmacists to refuse contraception based on their religious beliefs, and she’s so power hungry that she’s been as much as a part of the problem as many Republicans. No less, she has sided with a Republican over a fellow Democrat, Bill Clinton went on Rush Limbaugh…it just goes on and on. No integrity whatsoever.

    BA, I hope your guy in Colorado gets in, as well as Foster in Chicago on the re-election.

  32. Daffy

    Aerimus,

    I am an independent as well. You’re right…they all want our money. And the sad fact is, they are getting it through out of control inflation (notice that the feds don’t talk about that anymore?), mostly. I am no fan of either party…although I will say that at least Democrats as a group are far less blindly loyal to their party than Republicans.

    I don’t worry about taxes nearly as much as I worry about the fact that my grocery bills have nearly doubled over the last year.

    However, I note with interest that Jay Bookman, in today’s editorial, finally talked about the fact the Reagan nearly doubled taxes on the middle class in 1983. Finally! I have been screaming that for years and years, to deaf Republican loyalists. Maybe the press will start doing their job again after playing dead for the last 25 years.

  33. Scythe

    We’ve still got a couple of fields spare where you can pitch a tent if you want to come to England until the elections are all over, (or until the LHC powers up… :-) )

    By ‘eck, your elections sure do seem to last a long time! We’ve got some local elections on May 1st you’ll be oh so interested to know, not big ones, just local ones. The only reason I know is that a card came through the door with my name on it and the date of the election! Strangely, and this is wierder than any science project, those standing for election are almost certainly made up entirely of Christians, in fact I know they are! I know some of them personally as I chaired our local hall committee where they also got involved, until recently. Why’s that then?

    It’s the strangest thing, and I didn’t realise this until I got involved in local affairs, but just about -everyone- in local government is Christian as well. Honest, I am NOT making this up!

    I’ve pondered this a great many times and the only thing I can come up with is that it is those who take the first step toward aspiring to something “spiritual” or bigger than themselves (or those who want to avoid flames and torture for eternity) are it seems, the most likely give their time to the community in that way. Isn’t that awful?… That it would take suspension of disbelief to occur before one did something for the community I mean? Why are skeptics so under represented? Are we a selfish lot or what?

    Anyway, to make a long story even more boring it was something of a shock to them when they finally found out that I’m actually a seriously serious atheist and skeptic, even MORE shocked when they found out I’m not married to my partner either, and perhaps EVEN MORE shocked that I dedicated so much time to our local community just because it “seemed like the right thing to do” and not because of some vindictive invisible deity (hey, we have particles with strangeness and parallel universes so don’t be so smug!).

    My mum (mom if you speak English V1.1) used to say to me if I got scared of the dark as a kid that “there’s nothing out there uglier than you!”. Absolutely fabulous advice, and what’s more I’ve found it to be true (and I’ve been on ghost hunts!). It turns out that it’s me that other people are frightened of in the dark!!!…. hwah hwah hwah nee hee hee heee… (Oh damn, I thought the therapy had worked this time)

    Back to the future, and elections… As Douglas Adams said, if you don’t vote for the right lizard it’ll be your fault if the wrong lizard gets in… or something like that. From this side of the pond, Obama certainly is an interesting option. Like LHC, I’m waiting to see what happens when he’s turned on… errrr… no I didn’t quite mean it like that…

  34. Ian

    “But he thinks it’s fine for parents to provide their kids with religious instruction that doesn’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

    So you think someone should regulate what parents can and cannot tell their children? Will there be some sort of ministry to make sure I tell my kids only scientifically sound things? So when I argue with my son about which has more fire power: a battlestar or a star destroyer will your special ministry friends pay me a visit to let me know I’m not discussing scientifically sound topics with my boy?

    Time to wake the frak up people: a huge chunk of Americans are deeply religious. Obama’s statement was quite risky for a politician to make.

    Sometime the pro science folks can be just as sanctimonious, smug and douche-baggy as the ID folks.

  35. Xenu

    “That doesn’t make faith any less important than science”

    Shameless irrational pandering.
    All this proves is that Obama can pander to the left and the right at the same time, which is more disgusting than exciting.

    “Fairy tales matter as much as discovering the truth, but I’m not going to do anything scary about that opinion so you guys can vote for me instead of a rationalist”

  36. Matt Garrett

    I believe in faith. I believe in science. And I also believe that the amount of religious bigotry displayed on this board is truly stunning.

  37. Are you saying Obama was not AS mealy mouthed as McCain? If anything, possibly more so. It is MacCain that says let’s push on to Mars and fund NASA. It is Obama that says take money from NASA and put it into education. That’s sure been effective so far, hasn’t it. No politician will survive unless they take both sides of this issue.

    I have spent the last 8 weeks doing a play with a cast of Baptists, and if I’ve learned anything, neither they nor the evolutionists (of which I am one) will brook any argument that they do not agree with before the argument even starts,

    “There is nothing that will hold us in eternal ignorance as much as the principle of contempt prior to investigation.” – Skinner – (Note: quote is an approximation, but the thought accurate.)

  38. I’m not so sure Sen. Clinton was “clear” on the issue at all. Contrast her statements from the NYT article you linked to with one from a few months before.

    From the article you linked to:

    Senator Clinton: “I believe in evolution, and I am shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying,”

    And from an earlier (scarier) interview: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/06/us/politics/07clinton-text.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

    Q: And your attitude toward the Bible about how literally people
    should take it…

    Senator Clinton: I think the whole Bible is real.

  39. Dave D

    @Melusine

    It is the experience of Obama’s faith and the church that he chose to attend for 20 years that has gotten him into so much trouble. I find closed-minded Baptists (for example) to be annoying and at times, disturbing, but I am absolutely turned off (and terrified) by racist idiots like Rev. Wright.

    I am glad that Obama has taken some sort of stand regarding the separation of church and state. Obama’s views on space exploration? He is in favor of delaying NASA’s Orion/Ares program to fund an education program. A lot of bloggers who are space-enthusiasts aren’t too happy with this. ” . . . it doesn’t sound like you looked into the matter.” :)

    And your objections to Hillary? Because she sided with a Republican? Because Bill went on Rush’s program? Is this more or less “uniting” than sitting in Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years?

  40. Terry

    Matt Garrett said “…I also believe that the amount of religious bigotry displayed on this board is truly stunning”

    Hear hear, Matt. Personally, i have no desire for a homogenours scoiety or culture. Besides, it is beside the point. The question is not whether religion is right or wrong, as an empricist and materialist, the thing to do is accept it because it is real and obviously fulfills some purpose for a large segment of society worldwide. Einstein didn’t like Bohr or Heisenberg’s conclusions, yet his acceptance (even temporarily for the sake of refuting it) led to EPR and its stunning conclusions. IOW: “like” ain’t got nothing to do with it. It is not a question of creating an atheistic society: it isn’t possible (probably not even desirable), give it up.

    The question should be what role do religious beliefs (should that say “any beliefs”?) play in public policy and governance? The question is *not* clear cut and is rife with nuance. And the answers are not as simple as some on this comment list would make it. In the US you have to balance the needs of close to 300 million people and businesses (every one hates big business, until they cash their paychecks) and organizations all of which need to be addressed.

    The probleem is that this isn’t even the n teh agenda. Put the blame where it belongs: not on the church’s or universities’ feet, but on a sadly inumerate and increasingly vapid press and media corps that still a) reports on party politics as though the definitions and afiliations were rigid and unchanging and punishing those that change their positions (that should be the end result of education, no? – the way that positions are analyzed, noone could EVER learn a lesson) and b) the parties actually and really lived up to their missions and reputations (the last two republican adminstrations have raised taxes in a way that would make FDR spin in his grave and the last democratic administration was pro-business).

    I did need to get that off my chest.

  41. Doug Little

    Matt

    I also believe that the amount of religious bigotry displayed on this board is truly stunning

    What, did we hurt your feelings there Matt, after all no one is more persecuted than the poor, poor Christians.

    Now, Getting back to what Obama said,

    I think that like a lot of other people here that it is refreshing to finally hear a political candidate say something pro-science. I’m still waiting for the Great Science Debate of 2008 so I can hear more.

    http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php

    About the teaching of religion to children well most of us got through it OK. I think that it is more important that kids have access to a good well rounded education where they can learn about all the faiths and then decide for themselves.

  42. zeb

    “But he thinks it’s fine for parents to provide their kids with religious instruction that doesn’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

    Well, it’s not the government’s place to regulate what people can and cannot teach their own children. It’s just not. It doesn’t matter if parents are teaching their children that leaping out of a plane will make you fly, it’s not the job of the government to tell you otherwise. It’s up to independent people blogging, writing, and otherwise trying to PERSUADE people that religion is incorrect.

    When you have the government pass laws to control behavior, you’ve basically bypassed logical argument and gotten Guys with Guns to coerce people into doing what you say (which is a logical fallacy, not to mention dictatorship).

  43. Christian X Burnham

    Can’t Obama complete one paragraph without mentioning that he’s a Christian?

    OK, besides that, it was a halfway decent statement. I’m glad that he thinks science is as important as belief in magical leprechauns the Bible.

  44. RL

    Matt Garrett is correct. The bigotry and the venom can be a bit much here. Quite disappointing. I expected better.

  45. LaCreption

    Elections after these:

    ‘Religion is more important than science, of course, but they are two different things. Science belongs to science class. Two hours a week maximum if I get elected. Our pupils must know what deluded theories still go around in the world. Every sane person in the world knows godditit, our invisible super genie created earth from nowhere and never, but we also know that He only answers your prayers if you are a really really good person. And even then he might decide not to answer your prayer.

    So in order to sustain yourself you’ll need a job and you’ll need to be prepared to accept an atheist oriented job, although I am considering legislation on atheists who want to run a company. In Invisible Wizard We Trust.’

  46. Doug Little

    RL

    Matt Garrett is correct. The bigotry and the venom can be a bit much here. Quite disappointing. I expected better.

    Why don’t you and Matt actually contribute to the conversation rather than than wining about being persecuted.

  47. KC

    I think it’s obvious why Obama frequently mentions he’s a Christian: There’s a persistent rumor that he’s a Muslim. Even though he’s a member of a Church of Christ, you can find that rumor persisting among secularists and the religious alike.

  48. Melusine

    Daved said: He is in favor of delaying NASA’s Orion/Ares program to fund an education program. A lot of bloggers who are space-enthusiasts aren’t too happy with this. ” . . . it doesn’t sound like you looked into the matter.” :)

    Dave, I posted about this here on this blog back in February about this, and it’s actually the Constellation program that was mentioned in his policy and only for a 5-year period. I’ve also posted about it on the Houston Chronicle site where others like yourself seem to make statements as the above without stating what he’s said (or worse, he’s “going to gut NASA, which is utterly ridiculous). Again, you can read the PDF files on his site. I am a space-enthusiast, which is why I post here. I also mentioned that there are physicists who are not concerned about manned space programs. As I said in my linked post, Congress has much to do with funding. So, uh, yeah, I looked into the matter.

    If we don’t emphasize science and math there will be only an elite who will man future space programs! That’s a problem if kids who may be smart and creative never make it to the ballgame.

    Daved said: And your objections to Hillary? Because she sided with a Republican? Because Bill went on Rush’s program? Is this more or less “uniting” than sitting in Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years?

    Heck no, I mentioned other things things too! Besides, as Senator she hasn’t done much of anything nationally, she rolled over with the others for the Iraq war, she never got anywhere with healthcare, she’s been dishonest and non-transparent, she and her husband will do anything to win, she’s divisive and didn’t sponsor any meaningful legislation as Senator, she has ties to a weird elite religious group, and again, she can’t even run a campaign well. How much more do you want? She can’t win, and she’d be no improvement.

    Considering you didn’t read Obama’s space views, I doubt you looked into the whole Rev. Wright business and what kind of views he has. One particular one I like is that he’s pro-choice and doesn’t feel it’s anybody’s business but the woman’s. Another one is he was CLEAR about not teaching prayer in school or any of that nonsense. All in interviews and videos.

    As far as McCain giving lip-service to Mars…Bush did too and see where he’s spent trillions of dollars. Means nothing.

    Ian said: Sometime the pro science folks can be just as sanctimonious, smug and douche-baggy as the ID folks.

    Agreed. As an atheist I find some comments are ridiculous. Most of the population in the US is religious, so to assume Obama is pandering when he’s the only person who has mentioned “unbelievers” (in a church, no less) is just wrong. We’re not going to get from point A to point B in one fell swoop! Anything beyond verbal compromise is unreasonable and impractical. Let’s keep the completely dishonest Intelligent Design Creationists out of science class, at the vary least, and encourage personal liberties. That won’t happen to McCain pandering to Dominionists like James Dobson, John Hagee, et al.

    Yep, a lot of comments have been disappointing. If people do science research like some of these non-science issues, then we are really in trouble. /-:

  49. Melusine

    >>>so to assume Obama is pandering when he’s the only person who has mentioned “unbelievers”

    Correction: “non-believers”…and other typos I see.

  50. A fantastic response on Obama’s part, and I’m glad he’s got the thumbs-up for evolution.

    Sly readers will note, however, that he doesn’t actually put faith and science on the same level, he merely states that he doesn’t necessarily insist faith is less important! Ahhh, those sneaky politicians.

  51. MH

    Actually, Phil, no, I DON’T remember that.

  52. LaCreption

    @Jason on 01 Apr 2008 at 11:00 am

    Not a reply particular to you.

    There is quite a difference in believing a scientific model is right to an extend and believing in an invisible wizard out of nowhere and never, who popped into nowhere and never, invented our universe because of a rocky planet which he said was flat, had it fundamentally go wrong within weeks, had people multiply, and who is pulling any string he likes, so that he can come back if enough multiplied, mutated people blindly accept that this bogus from the bronze age is true and accept every single observance that contradicts ‘his true word’ or interpretations as ‘make believe’ to test faith.

    That’s how many religions started, that’s the basis, that’s the fuel: make believe. Promising deliverance from what any supernatural self imposed wrath beyond understanding. Still works, although we can understand quite a lot nowadays. That is, if you spend some time studying science instead of theological nonsense.

    All smoothing crap invented later on in religions is adaption to reality and scientific understanding of reality. Nothing of it is genuine. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are based on a sadistic psychotic racist war mongering god mode wizards in super control, running a kind of The Sims for their own leisure in universes (spanning a few acres), where nobody and nothing is actually real. Psychotic representations of reality that come very close to those of a certain brand of mentally ill people. You know, people who can be very persuasive, very intelligent, people who can occupy and maintain very high positions in societies, people who think they’re somehow divine, but very very sick. There are plenty of examples in history.

    Comparing subjective faith in primitive delusions to objective everyday observations is a good one. If it’s not raining outside while the weatherman said there was a change I wouldn’t turn to a medicine man, giving him some credit too. Would you? There are many people believing in spirits, astrology, 20th dimensions (parallel worlds the smart people mean, it’s all the same dimensions, different altitude) and anything else that can’t be proven except if you have faith in it and -please- throw money and/or power at it. Why oh why.

    Religion is crap. Good things ‘from religion’ happen in every culture, in every believe system, everywhere, god or no god. It’s human nature to do both good and nasty things. It’s in our natural interest to have the balance pointing more to ‘good’ than ‘nasty’ because otherwise we wouldn’t be here. It’s that Darwin fellow again with his stupid assumption that suicide means death instead of deliverance.

    We do not need self contradicting bronze age myths that want to replace reason and reality in public. On the contrary. Religion is dangerous. It actually hurts people. Think about circumcisions, exclusions, fear mongering and diminishing of brain capacities. It deludes people. It makes some people do things that are unimaginable to mentally stable, healthy people. It’s a serious wait for this Santa who now is going to arrive very soon. As he does for ages. Religion is nothing but a drug to deal with reality. The harder the better. The pushers will tell you it’s not, while trying to make reality a little bit harder.

    I hope the US wakes up from this religious nonsense.

  53. Tetsubo

    I’m 43 and I have no memory of the Rep. being anything but the party of greed, avarice and crushing the middle class. Pro-business all the way. And anti-citizen just as hard.

  54. Quiet Desperation

    Pro-business all the way. And anti-citizen just as hard.

    You know those businesses are comprised of the citizens, right?

    Not even saying I disagree with you about the GOP, but it seems some folks see the world as a great divide. On one side are the “citizens” and on the other side are these abstract, ethereal entities called “businesses” that have nothing whatsoever to do with the citizens.

  55. Christian X Burnham

    Christian Bigotry!
    ———————-

    It’s great to have the Christians back to remind others of their bigotry whenever us secularists complain about the encroachment of faith into politics.

    BTW, where did all the Christians disappear to when the BA recently posted a critical article regarding a flagrantly racist essay by Pat Buchanan? The few Christians hanging around that thread all seemed to be upset that the BA had singled out a right-winger for criticism.

    Oh well. I suppose Christians don’t waste their time with such trifles as racism these days. It seems that complaining about persecution in a country run by other Christians is more important and fighting racism is an unimportant job best left to secularists.

  56. When I was much younger it was the Democrat Walter Mondale who was trying to shut down the space program as a waste of money. Proxmire was a Democrat as well and felt the same way. Many on the far left think exploring space is a waste when we could be spending that money helping others. They don’t understand that exploring space does help others, and that the amount we spend on space is trivial compared to vastly more wasteful exercises… even before we started spending 12 million dollars per minute in Iraq.

  57. Ad Hominid

    “Remember when Democrats were seen as anti-science, and Republicans the defender of truth?”

    My grandmother, who is 103 and a retired science teacher, can remember that but it’s questionable whether very many younger people can.

    Specifically, she remembers the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1926, which happened while she was in college. Democrats controlled the Tennessee legislature which had passed the anti-evolution law under which Scopes was prosecuted. Three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan became famously involved in the trial on the prosecution side.

  58. Nemo

    Senator Clinton: I think the whole Bible is real.

    That reminds me of an old joke I saw in a tagline back in my dial-up BBS days: “Do I believe in the Bible? Hell, man, I’ve SEEN one!”

    Of course the Bible is real. It just isn’t true.

  59. Melusine

    Ad Hominid said:
    My grandmother, who is 103 and a retired science teacher, can remember that but it’s questionable whether very many younger people can…
    Specifically, she remembers the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1926,

    Interesting, my grandmother who is 92, was recently telling me how around 1926 she, her two brothers and sister were quarantined in their house for a month because of Scarlet Fever, so they couldn’t go to school. Then it happened again. One of her brothers got it so bad he was basically a man-child (due to some effect on his brain) for the rest of his life. Antibiotics didn’t come into play until the 30s and 40s, though an antitoxin was developed earlier. Just thinking of concurrent events in the 1920s.

  60. shane

    Nemo:

    Of course the Bible is real. It just isn’t true.

    I’m sorry but criticising the Christian consensus by offering an alternative opinion has been redefined to mean bigotry. Please turn yourself in to your local religious authority and demand to be charged with blasphemy.

  61. Ad Hominid

    Melusine said,

    Interesting, my grandmother who is 92, was recently telling me how around 1926 she, her two brothers and sister were quarantined in their house for a month because of Scarlet Fever, so they couldn’t go to school. Then it happened again. One of her brothers got it so bad he was basically a man-child (due to some effect on his brain) for the rest of his life. Antibiotics didn’t come into play until the 30s and 40s, though an antitoxin was developed earlier. Just thinking of concurrent events in the 1920s.

    1926 was also the year of Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight from New York to Paris. In astronomy, it was a time of great excitement, the heyday of Edwin Hubble and Harlow Shapley. Commercial radio was turning into a mega-business, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket, and John Logie Baird successfully demonstrated his mechanically-scanned television system.

  62. Jason

    I should have clarified my earlier post just a bit……

    First, I’ll start by quoting an old George Carlin piece in which he said, “Now, think about just how dumb the average person is….and then realize the half the people are even dumber than that.”

    Secondly, I’ll quote the old basic philosophical postulate that says two things must happen in order for something to be the truth: One it must be true and Two, I must know it to be true.

    What I should have added to my first post was this: As a person with an above average education and IQ, one who is capable of comprehending if not deriving the science behind, say, stellar evolution, I still only “know” the science to be true by the Cliff Notes version of those who study it.

    Now, take someone with an American high school education and slightly below average intelligence. In other words, somebody incapable of understanding the science of stellar evolution. It doesn’t matter how repeatable or demonstratable the science may be, that person is incapable of “knowing” it to be true. As Arthur C. Clarke suggested, to such a person, the science is indistinguishable from magic.

    LaCreption’s well-written post suggests why “faith” in science is different than religious “faith.” My point isn’t that they are the same, it’s that, to the average American voter, they are indistinguishable.

  63. Bad Albert

    Aerimus said to me:
    “So do you think that a president or government should be able to stop a parent from teaching their child the religious principals that they have faith in?”

    I didn’t say that. I just hoped a 21st century leader of the most powerful nation on earth would have the balls to encourage parents not to.

    But since you brought it up, there has been some debate as to whether or not religious indoctrination could be a form of child abuse. If society decides that is the case, then it would be the government’s responsibility to take action.

  64. J Foudy

    “Can’t Obama complete one paragraph without mentioning that he’s a Christian?”

    Not until the whisper campaign that he’s Muslim ends…

  65. BaldApe

    Seems to me I have to give the point to Hillary on this one. I found Obama’s statement to be a little too easily re-interpreted.

    I mean I know what I would mean if I said “And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.” But I’m sure Michael Behe would say the same words and mean something quite different.

    Hillary was quite unequivocal in her acceptance of evolution, her support of evidence over ideology, and her support for sound science. I would have preferred to increase funding for space-based Earth observations _and_ go to the moon and Mars, but hey, I also want a disruptor mounted on top of my next car.

  66. quasidog
  67. MO Man

    When “…Republicans defended the truth.?” I go back to Truman so that must have been before then.
    Obama all the way!

  68. mocular

    Melusine said:

    It’s disconcerting that people interested in science seem not to exhibit much evidence for a statement as above nor research. There have been many excerpts of his first book, which was written in 1995, in the press, where he discusses his faith and why he came to such faith.

    And of course we all know that whatever a politician happens to write in a book is the absolute truth. Come on, don’t be such a believer. You need to learn to be a bit skeptical yourself.

    Obama, like all politicians, presents the ideas that he calculates will bring him votes. I’m sure that in his mind what he actually believes is secondary to what he thinks he needs to say (or write, or have his ghost-writer write) to achieve some political aim.

    He is a politician after all and politicians lie, cheat and steal until they get caught – at which point they resign to, “spend quality time with their families.” What makes you think that Obama would be any different?

  69. Doug Little

    It’s interesting to me that a manned mission to Mars has so much support. To me the money would be better spend on unmanned missions, I think that scientifically speaking the unmanned missions tend to bear a lot more fruit that those of manned missions. I would really like to see, in my life time, Missions to the moons that have liquid seas under their crusts. But the manned missions tend to generate more hype and public interest thus more funding.

  70. Aerimus

    @Christian X Burnham:
    “It’s great to have the Christians back to remind others of their bigotry whenever us secularists complain about the encroachment of faith into politics.

    BTW, where did all the Christians disappear to when the BA recently posted a critical article regarding a flagrantly racist essay by Pat Buchanan?”

    One of us Christians pointed out earlier that he personally did not post because he agreed with the BA and didn’t want to post just to say “Me too”. Sometimes, I agree, I generally only post when I have something useful to say or something I need to get off my chest (as in this case, where I feel that far too many people support Obama just because he’s a great speaker, because they “believe” in him, or in vague “change”, or because, as it typical in the US, they’ve simply fallen for the hype. So far, of all the Obama supporters that I’ve seen, on the net and in person, only Melusine who posted above have I given any real thought to. Melusine appears to have really looked into Obama and not just taken sound bites and rheotoric and ran with it.

    As for the Buchanan post, I didn’t comment because the post was made just before the weekend, and by the time I did read it, it was off the front page. In general, I stop commenting after a topic makes it off the first page.

    There are a few of us Christian and a few of us conservatives that hang around this board and post because we enjoy what BA has done with this site. Personally, I’ve been visiting this site long before there was a blog, and I remember being in college back in the late 90’s staying up way too late in exchanges with Moon Landing Hoax Believers long before the BAUT board formed. And in the last couple of years, I have had people indirectly insult me because of my faith. I’ve cheered the Dover decision with you guys, I’ve fought the anti-evolution stickers in the text books here in Cobb County. Yet time after time I keep getting rude insults. And I’m sure that many of the regulars who are like me feel the same way and have put forth equal, if not greater, efforts than I have. What the hell do we have to do to show you that aside from the trolls, most of us aren’t here to force our religion on you, we don’t like science taking a back seat to someone’s faith.

    @Bad Albert:
    “But since you brought it up, there has been some debate as to whether or not religious indoctrination could be a form of child abuse. If society decides that is the case, then it would be the government’s responsibility to take action.”

    [sarcasm]Ah, yes, I recall how abused I was as a child. The torment and torture, and pain and agony, the suffering. How much better my life could have been if my parents had only not brought me up in a religious upbringing. [/sarcasm]

    Give me a break.

    My apologies if I’m taking both statement a little too harshly. I’m just growing quite tired of having my intelligence insulted at least once every time that religion comes up on this board – and it comes up a lot.

  71. Richard Crist

    I grew up an atheist. I am now a Christian. I can see the points of view in both camps. Both have extremists and it is the extremists that get all the attention to the detriment of both sides. One of the names I had growing up in our small town was “that insanely smart kid”. I grew up somewhat puffed up only later to be humbled. I have seen the view from the top and from the bottom. Here’s all that matters….

    On both sides you see people giving their lives for the betterment of their fellow humans.

    I could not list all the persons in the “science” history books who have given everything they had to pursue the scientific truths that have yielded everything from penicillin to impossible-to-believe-if-you-don’t-know-how-it-works technology. They gave their very lives, physically, mentally, and their very time on earth to reach a goal, most of which help us all by making life more pleasant, longer, and sometimes possible at all.

    Likewise, I could not list all the persons in the “religion” history books who have given everything they had to pursue religious truths that have yielded everything from people who take in orphans to impossible-to-believe-if-you-don’t-know-why-they-do-it-for-others lifestyles. They gave their very lives, physically, mentally, and their very time on earth to reach a goal, most of which help us all by giving hope to the hopeless, helping the unlovable know they are loved, and sometimes giving people a reason to live when they would otherwise chose an alternative.

    There have been and are many religious persons who turn to science or embrace science as a profession in order to help themselves and/or their fellow humans. Likewise, there have been and are many religious persons who turn to religion or embrace religion as a profession (if you will) in order to help themselves and/or their fellow humans.

    Many a scientist has turned to religion for knowledge and power to continue their work toward their goal, or to help others. Likewise, many a religious person has turned to science for knowledge and power to solve physical problems besetting themselves and others.

    The person of science with a loved one on the deathbed may turn to a believing religious person for comfort against the unknown. The person of religion with a loved one on the deathbed may turn to a believing person of science for comfort against the unknown.

    It is the extremists on both sides that lose sight of the true goal, which is to help our fellow humans in any way needed. Any selfish person is not worthy of science or religion.

    If you want a good read, check out Greg Bear’s book “Darwin’s Radio”. While he tries to steer away from religion he does provide (as usual) an incrediby scientific portrayal of the next stage of human evolution. It is a deep and meaningful story that focuses on science while doing an excellent job of portraying historically religious topics (although that may not have exactly been his intent). The story shows the main character’s (a woman) journey trying to find and make known the truth against overwhelming odds. Why is she doing this? Two reasons: She believes in scientific truth and she cares about her fellow humans, especially the children to be. Throughout the book we see her fight against ignorance and fear from persons of both sides (mainly the scientific side since that is her life’s focus). In the end, however, we see her make a decision based on her belief. It is a decision of love, something not available for scientific scrutiny (and when it is that will be then end of everything I care about). I can’t wait to read the follow up book “Darwin’s Children”.

    If we are not careful with science we get stuff like in the movie “Gattaca”. If we are not are not careful with religion we get the Spanish Inquisition. Both are extremes by extremists.

    What do you think?

  72. Gary Ansorge

    There is an essential discontinuity between science and faith. The former deals with the HOW of the universe, the latter deals with the WHY.

    They should be recognized as separate philosophical systems.

    Aerimus: I don’t recall ever having derided anyone for their faith based beliefs. I just don’t want those systems intruding on the the one system we have developed that attempts to delineate how the universe works.

    Peace,

    GAry 7

  73. mocular writes:

    [[It’s seems fairly clear to me that Obama’s religiosity is a matter of political expedience. While I find that dishonest, I also find it somewhat encouraging that he probably does not really believe.]]

    It’s amazing how you can read the man’s mind at such a great distance.

  74. Derek writes:

    [[Obama is very intelligent, and it seems quite obvious to me that his intelligence conflicts a lot with his faith.]]

    What seems quite obvious to you is often not even visible to the rest of us.

  75. Matt Garrett writes:

    [[I believe in faith. I believe in science. And I also believe that the amount of religious bigotry displayed on this board is truly stunning.]]

    Thank you for saying that. I’ve been saying it for a while now, and have been repeatedly dressed down for it, told I should be ashamed of myself, etc., etc. A lot of bigots can see bigotry everywhere but in themselves.

  76. Doug Little writes:

    [[What, did we hurt your feelings there Matt, after all no one is more persecuted than the poor, poor Christians. ]]

    I.e., prejudice against Christians doesn’t exist, and any objection to such bigotry is a claim that Christians experience the most bigotry.

    Wait a minute, isn’t there a non sequitur in there?

  77. Doug Little continues:

    [[Why don’t you and Matt actually contribute to the conversation rather than than wining about being persecuted.]]

    You object to wine, Doug? What a puritan you are.

    Observing that the conversation includes a lot of gratuitous anti-theist and anti-Christian remarks IS contributing to the conversation. It’s directed at making the conversation achieve a higher intellectual and ethical level.

  78. Stark

    Barton Paul Levinson said:

    Observing that the conversation includes a lot of gratuitous anti-theist and anti-Christian remarks IS contributing to the conversation. It’s directed at making the conversation achieve a higher intellectual and ethical level.

    No, it’s being snarky. A constructive comment along the lines of : “I’ve noticed a strong anti-religious sentiment here that I think may distract from the overall message you are trying to convey. Perhaps we should all take a minute and try to examine where we are coming to non-rational judgements about things and then attempt to avoid letting those judgements color our opinions.” would be attempting to elevate the conversation. Simply saying : “The bigotry and the venom can be a bit much here. Quite disappointing. I expected better.” smacks of superiority complex and smarminess (is that a word?). It would also lead to me reply that I’d expect better than condescending remonstrations if you really want to engage in a dialog on the subject.

    That being said – my personal opinion is that religion is idiotic, insidious, dangerous. This does not however mean that I find people who believe in religion to be those things. Quite the contrary, most of the religious people I know are quite intelligent and nice – as are most people I know from any background. If you want to believe it, the go ahead. Just don’t expect me to go along with it when groups want their particular religion pushed by my tax dollars. Also don’t expect to me sit idly by while peopel try to claim that science is just another form of religion. It’s perfectly clear it isn’t – after all I have solid concrete evidence of science working… you are after all reading this on a tool that exists solely due to science.

  79. Jason

    “That being said – my personal opinion is that religion is idiotic, insidious, dangerous. This does not however mean that I find people who believe in religion to be those things. Quite the contrary, most of the religious people I know are quite intelligent and nice – as are most people I know from any background.”

    Gee honey, my personal opinion is that may be the single ugliest dress I’ve ever seen . . . . it looks good on you, though.

    I’m not a mathematician, but can anybody predict the odds of me sleeping on the couch if I said that to my wife?

  80. Stark

    I didn’t say it looks good. I said that’s an ugly dress and I wouldn’t be caught dead in it. If you choose to wear it though I won’t automatically think you are an idiot. I may, after learning more about you, still come to the conclusion that you are seriously deluded if you think it’s the prettiest dress ever made.

    Also, looking over the quote, I realized that I omitted a word. Funny how one tiny word can change things quite a bit. It should have read : “That being said – my personal opinion is that religion is idiotic, insidious, dangerous. This does not however mean that I find all people who believe in religion to be those things. Quite the contrary, most of the religious people I know are quite intelligent and nice – as are most people I know from any background.”

    Emphasis placed solely to highlight the previously omitted word.

  81. shane

    Jason, nice analogy but I don’t think it stands up. Religion is a belief system so what Stark said holds true for any belief system or politics for that matter. It’s not the same as attacking ethnicity or sexuality for example. Criticising the belief system doesn’t necessarily entail criticising the person. They choose to be offended.

    Of course criticising anything the wife wears is always dangerous. However it is a lose lose situation because she will eventually say “why didn’t you tell me that my a** looks big in this?” :-)

  82. Bad Albert

    @ Aerimus
    “[sarcasm]Ah, yes, I recall how abused I was as a child. The torment and torture, and pain and agony, the suffering. How much better my life could have been if my parents had only not brought me up in a religious upbringing. [/sarcasm]”

    You bet. I can see your scars.

  83. Gonzo

    Zeb said: “When you have the government pass laws to control behavior, you’ve basically bypassed logical argument and gotten Guys with Guns to coerce people into doing what you say (which is a logical fallacy, not to mention dictatorship).”

    While agree with the heart of the point you are making the fact of the matter is the country we live in is one completely different from the one you have seemingly imagined we live in (if you are American).

    From drug laws to alcohol regulation, from train alighting to seat belt laws, this country has myriad laws designed to control the way people behave. This is nothing new. Just had to point that out.

    I do think parents should be able to do what they want with their own children as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else or incumber their right to exist.

    Of course, if I had my way the terms “religious” and tolerance” would never be uttered together.

    Long live rational and critical thinking.

  84. “He is a politician after all and politicians lie, cheat and steal until they get caught – at which point they resign to, “spend quality time with their families.” What makes you think that Obama would be any different?”

    The level of thought and analysis on this thread is pretty infantile. It reads like the median age of posters is about 13 years old.

  85. Doug Little

    BPL,

    Observing that the conversation includes a lot of gratuitous anti-theist and anti-Christian remarks IS contributing to the conversation. It’s directed at making the conversation achieve a higher intellectual and ethical level.

    The roles of faith and science came up as an interesting talking point in Obama’s quote. I would think that people discussing faith and science and their roles in society was right on topic for this thread. Unfortunately BPL probably most on this board are going to look at religion very skeptically so you are going to have to probably just get used to it. If you want to feel good about your faith I suggest you go visit a christian blog where the people are more inclined to believe as you do.

    Matt could have made a statement about his balance of faith and science and what is more important to him, now that would have been contributing to the conversation. And one final thing, please tell me how is discussing faith at a lower ethical and intellectual level?

  86. Melusine

    # mocularon 02 Apr 2008 at 7:15 am

    Melusine said:

    It’s disconcerting that people interested in science seem not to exhibit much evidence for a statement as above nor research. There have been many excerpts of his first book, which was written in 1995, in the press, where he discusses his faith and why he came to such faith.

    And of course we all know that whatever a politician happens to write in a book is the absolute truth. Come on, don’t be such a believer. You need to learn to be a bit skeptical yourself.

    I’m not a “believer,” Mocular. I’ve looked into every viewpoint of Obama’s plus every negative things as well. I disagree with three of his votes on past legislation, but they are relatively minor and nobody is 100% perfect. Considering you haven’t done much research you might want to give up on this insistence that people aren’t skeptical enough. Either way, he wrote the book over 10 years ago and has attended his church for longer than that.

    Obama, like all politicians, presents the ideas that he calculates will bring him votes. I’m sure that in his mind what he actually believes is secondary to what he thinks he needs to say (or write, or have his ghost-writer write) to achieve some political aim.

    He’s been more consistent than the other candidates by a long shot, so no-go there. He’s never used a ghost-writer, btw, for either of his books. The guy went to Occidental, Columbia and then Harvard Law School. He was chosen by his peers to be the leader of the Harvard Law Review…iow, he’s far from stupid. His views are so similar to my own that you’d be implying that I’m a politician too. If he chose to do the “right” things in order to advance his career, well, most politicians do that. Hillary Clinton is no exception. You pretty much make it seem that those who go into public service are all scoundrels – rare as it may seem, it’s not true.

    He is a politician after all and politicians lie, cheat and steal until they get caught – at which point they resign to, “spend quality time with their families.” What makes you think that Obama would be any different?

    Yes, politicians lie. Office politics consist of lies too. Marketers lie. Politicians have to bend and cater to receive funds and support – that’s what politics is about – being political. Maneuvering. Trying to work with both sides of the fence. They are susceptible to being bought. But some are way worse than others. Obama has a better chance of being different because, 1) he hasn’t the long ties that the other candidates have, 2) his views and worldviews have been consistent for some time, 3) he’s already shown that he can listen to people and would appoint some conservatives/Republicans in his cabinet (those that are good and smart), 4) he’s already revealed that he can run a good campaign and inspire people to register to vote in large numbers, no less not be in a financial crunch, 5) he left high-paying job opportunities to work in the community and teach Constitutional law, 6) he’s supported good candidates like Foster in Illinois, and so on, 7) and he didn’t say “I didn’t inhale.” A stupid, but ridiculous lie Bill Clinton pulled.

    There’s no guarantee what ANY politician will do, but vote we must. This whole media-sponsored idea that Obama is “all rehetoric” is fabricated. You can go a long way back in history to read every President’s rhetoric and you’ll find much of the same. Why do you think Reagan was called “the teflon president”?

    I know what the other candidates have voted on, done, or not done. It’s one thing if you disagree with policies, it’s another to make comments devoid of accuracy.

  87. Doug Little

    Melusine,

    I agree with your rundown of Obama, especially 1. I think that the less pandering to special interest groups the better, That’s one area that Hillary falls down on.

  88. “Unfortunately BPL probably most on this board are going to look at religion very skeptically so you are going to have to probably just get used to it. If you want to feel good about your faith I suggest you go visit a christian blog where the people are more inclined to believe as you do.”

    This is a dogmatic — and therefore — a scientifically illiterate statement.

    Sorry Phil Plait, but the comments section of your blog is becoming indistinguishable from a RedState.org blog.

    You might want to adopt the commenting policy of realclimate.org.

    This is some ugly juvenile hate puke you got here.

  89. CXB writes (in his usual charming style):

    [[I suppose Christians don’t waste their time with such trifles as racism these days. It seems that complaining about persecution in a country run by other Christians is more important and fighting racism is an unimportant job best left to secularists.]]

    As a member of the most integrated church in North America (Eastminster Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh PA, we’re on the net at http://www.eastminsterchurch.net), I take issue with that statement. Did you read the latest issue of Charisma, with the fire over Rev. Wright’s racist remarks, and the soul-searching by the editor over whether he holds racist opinions or not? Does anyone remember that M.L. King, Jr. was a baptist minister? Some Christians are doing quite a lot to fight racism, in a tradition that stretches from Paul writing to the Galatians to William Wilberforce organizing against slavery to the American Abolitionists agitation against slavery to Aimee Semple Macpherson speaking out against the Klan when it was at its height of popularity to CORE… Well, you get my point. I wonder if the Reverend Jesse Jackson is concerned about racism?

    Why do you assume Christians back Pat Buchanan? I certainly don’t, and I don’t personally know any Christian who does.

  90. Bad Albert writes:

    [[But since you brought it up, there has been some debate as to whether or not religious indoctrination could be a form of child abuse. If society decides that is the case, then it would be the government’s responsibility to take action.]]

    What action, Albert? Reeducation camps, a la North Viet Nam? Psychological conditioning? What particular brand of atheist fascism do you advocate?

  91. Todd W.

    @BPL

    I imagine that the likely action would be to take the kids out of the home and place them with other relatives or in a foster home. In other words, further burdening and otherwise overburdened system. An additional offshoot of this could be radicalization of those who are the subject of such actions, or those who support them.

    Religion is a matter of personal choice and belief. Although I don’t necessarily agree with teaching a single religious belief to a child, to the exclusion of all others, including atheism, our Constitution guarantees parents the right to express their religious views, including teaching those views to their children. In some instances, this works rather well. In others, not so much.

    It seems to me that the mere instruction of a child on a specific religious belief is cannot be construed as child abuse, though it may result in the child being unequipped to deal with information and events falling outside the realm of those beliefs. Rather, it is only where religious beliefs directly cause physical or severe psychological harm that I could see a claim of potential child abuse, as in the recent case of the Wisconsin girl, Madeline Kara Neumann, who died of diabetes complications because her parents chose to seek help in prayer, rather than in proven medical treatment. This situation may not rise to the legal definition of “child abuse,” but may be considered “child endangerment.” I’m not all that familiar with the specific legalese involved.

    At any rate, government has no place dictating what religious beliefs may or may not be taught or expressed. They only have cause to intercede where the actions of those involved endanger the health or well-being of others or their property.

  92. Todd —

    I can agree with that.

  93. Clair

    Richard Criston 02 Apr 2008 at 10:09 am:

    If we are not careful with science we get stuff like in the movie “Gattaca”. If we are not are not careful with religion we get the Spanish Inquisition. Both are extremes by extremists.

    I think you should read Feynman’s “The Value of Science”. Science doesn’t /make/ situations as Gattica portrays. You can find it all over the web, but I copied it to my own site. http://tch3.com/the-value-of-science

  94. Doug Little

    This is some ugly juvenile hate puke you got here.

    Nobody has attacked anyone here personally. So you are saying that being skeptical about the supernatural is equal to hate speech?

  95. Doug Little

    BPL,

    What action, Albert? Reeducation camps, a la North Viet Nam? Psychological conditioning? What particular brand of atheist fascism do you advocate?

    One could argue that religious indoctrination in one particular flavor by a parent is Psychological conditioning.

  96. BaldApe

    “why didn’t you tell me that my a** looks big in this?”

    No, honey, the dress doesn’t make your butt look big, your butt makes your butt look big.

    [wife goes to Yellow Pages, asks a question]

    “It’s a-t-t-o-r-n-e-y. Why do you ask?

  97. Bad Albert

    @ Barton Paul Levenson

    For the last goddamn time, I didn’t suggest the government should do anything about people who teach religion to their kids. Personally I think it is a form of child abuse but that’s just my opinion. Some children are, through no fault of their own, born into religious families but we all have to accept our lot in life. Fortunately, many overcome that disadvantage and go on to lead rational lives.

    I’d like to know what you expect when you visit a blog that educates us in the latest scientific discoveries and then profess belief in imaginary beings who watch over us. Perhaps you enjoy feeling persecuted. If so please don’t take out your anger on me. I’m just the messenger. It’s not my fault the rational world considers your religion ridiculous. That wound was self-inflicted.

  98. Robert Carnegie

    If you don’t believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state, how exactly are you proposing to run your Office of Interference in the Provision of Religious Instruction to Children? And too bad for Santa Claus, presumably. But the toy store lobby… hmm, will they hate you for cancelling Christmas? Maybe they’d prefer to do their selling all year round instead of one month.

    Senator Obama, I think, is using the word “frankly” to mean “the opposite of dishonestly”, and I like that very much.

    Incidentally, I was just offered 2 Timothy 3:16 as a bible statement that all of the bible is true, and you know what? It doesn’t say that. As pointed out, the bible is real… more or less. You have to choose a translation that you find credible and hope that the copied sources used are reasonably faithful to the author’s intention. So apparently there are differences on the actual number of the beast… So it’s not -solid- and real.

  99. When were Democrats anti-science? Are you talking about historically? I’m not really familiar with this. I’m interested to hear more.

    Anyway yes it’s nice to hear that our next president isn’t afraid of science. Obama is going to be a huge step up for this country when he takes over for that idiot Dubya. Lookin’ forward to it.

  100. RMD

    Regarding Obama, I think he is actually even better than you might think in regards to the religion issue. I actually suspect he is a closet atheist.

    Watch his religion speech (given in 2006, to a church nonetheless) and you’ll see what I mean.

    http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid353515028?bctid=416343938

    I think he is “playing christian” so he can get elected.

  101. Rob D

    Republicans, defenders of truth? Are you sure you aren’t remembering Parallel Earth, or something? Of course, I’m not old enough to remember the Republicans any farther back than Nixon, but you don’t look that old either.

  102. Bad Albert writes:

    [[I’d like to know what you expect when you visit a blog that educates us in the latest scientific discoveries and then profess belief in imaginary beings who watch over us.]]

    An absence of statements that people like me should be held in custody by the government. Or maybe just simple politeness.

    [[ Perhaps you enjoy feeling persecuted. If so please don’t take out your anger on me. I’m just the messenger.]]

    I tend to get angry when people like you want to confine people like me. If folks like you and Dawkins and Dennett get your way, folks like me will be hiding from the police because of our beliefs. That’s what “persecuted” means.

    [[ It’s not my fault the rational world considers your religion ridiculous.]]

    The rational world doesn’t do anything of the sort. You and your fellow militant atheists, who conflate atheism with rationalism and even with empiricism, are the ones who make that mistake.

    [[That wound was self-inflicted.]]

    Right. The straightener will say, “Hey, guy, we’re not doing this to punish you. We’re helping you. You’ve got a disease, through no fault of your own, and we’re going to cure you.”

  103. Irishman

    Gary Ansorge said:
    > There is an essential discontinuity between science and faith. The former deals with the HOW of the universe, the latter deals with the WHY.

    Seems to me that Religion spends an awful lot of time on the HOW in order to justify their WHY. YMMV.

  104. James

    Democrats were ”anti-science” when they didn’t explicitly support new space missions, and when they were portrayed as the natural allies of Greens and animal rights activists (from the other end of the political spectrum they all blend into one seamless whole). Anthropogenic climate change was a lunatic fringe issue for a long time, and lots of people conflate ”science” and ”industry”, so opposing the devastation of nature becomes ”anti-progress” and therefore anti-science.

    Many of the people who do not believe in climate change, not deniers but people working from the information available to them, still think that it is a green/communist/hippy/democrat plot to raise taxes. Sadly, these people are not stupid. They have just been convincingly lied to.

    On the subject of religious bigotry, I agree that there are some posters in the comments that show a startling intolerence to people of faith. I like to discribe myself as a ‘militant agnostic’ in that I find zelots of all stripes repugnant, including some of the militant athiests that post here.

    To quote Jason(above):
    -Although I have what I think is a good basic framework for the accepted science of why the universe behaves the way it does, I can’t in all honesty say I actually “know” it to be true. I believe it to be true, but MY proof is that other (scientists) I believe say it is so.-

    I, like most people I suspect, believe in Science (capital S) the same way I believe in computer programing and medicine: I know it works, and the people that perform it have confident, jargon laden explanations as to why it works. That does not lead directly to making definative statments about the existence or otherwise of a supreme being. This is why Athiests sound silly when they say ”Science proves there is no God!” because educated Theists know that science says no such thing, and ignorant Theists conclude that science must be the work of the devil.

    Now, having alienated the athiests, I will enrage what few theists have hung on in there.

    People should not be allowed to teach children their religious views.

    Why?

    Because ”religious views” covers a multitude of sins, including but not limited to: All negros are inferior to white men, and the bible says that they should be our servants (It doesen’t, by the way); Homosexuality will be punished by god; Insest is ok if the object is procreation; that the Ayran race is superior and should conquer the world; that bad things happen to people because they deserve it; that disabled people were bad in a previous life and are thus being punished in this one.

    Please do not post to say I have radicaly misunderstood a mainstream religion; I haven’t, the people who held these beliefs did.

    Religious views can also cover indoctrinating a child from birth to be an assasin for god/allah/jesus/the-greater-good/whatever.

    BTW, because I may not have yet annoyed the BA himself:
    I think you should separate the bad site from the bad blog so that the people who object to the political rants (which I love) can send people to the site for hoax debunking with a clear concience.

  105. James

    D*mn, I forgot to include ”condom use is sinful” and ”blood tranfusion is sinful” to my list of evil things to teach children.

  106. James writes:

    People should not be allowed to teach children their religious views.

    Why?

    Because ”religious views” covers a multitude of sins, including but not limited to: All negros are inferior to white men, and the bible says that they should be our servants (It doesen’t, by the way); Homosexuality will be punished by god; Insest is ok if the object is procreation; that the Ayran race is superior and should conquer the world; that bad things happen to people because they deserve it; that disabled people were bad in a previous life and are thus being punished in this one.

    Again, how will you enforce this rule? Re-education camps? How about neighborhood and apartment building political officers to check up on each family? In the age of cell phones, it should become a lot easier to report ideological crimes.

  107. James

    Yes, because those tactics have met with such great sucess in the past (rolls eyeballs)

    lets assume I’m world dictator, that I’ve finished dismantling the world’s armed forces, fixed the intercontinental economic imbalances, solved the fuel crisis, cured AIDS, and kick started a REAL space program.

    Lets further assume that it’s not disolved into a genocidal bloodbath.

    I get round to education:

    children are taught maths, critical thinking and the scientific method from as early as posible; three languages (not including their native one) at the conversational level; reading, in the same languages AND their native one.

    basics covered, we go on to: evolution; evolution of man; cultural evolution – mythology of the greeks and romans, the ancient chinese, the african tribes, aboriginal ausrailians, native americans, semetic peoples and their inheritors (christianity and islam); world history – prehistory, then the greeks, the romans, the chinese, then post imperial europe and imperial china; then modern history – colonialism, the industrial revolution, the great war, socialism/communism, the second world war and finally the cold war.

    If a kid then wants to specialise in history they can, but the above is the minimum someone needs to understand recent history.

    Teacher will be the highest paid, and most respected of all positions

  108. James, not getting it, writes:

    Yes, because those tactics have met with such great sucess in the past (rolls eyeballs)

    My point. Your desire to enforce ideological conformity on the world would require imposing an oppressive dictatorship. After 70 and 50 years of totalitarian suppression of religion in the USSR and PRC respectively, neither seems to have been successful.

    I just worry that people like you will someday gain power in this country. You can’t wipe out religion, but you can hurt a lot of people before you’re finally overthrown.

  109. James

    Your comments about oppresive dictatorships would be a more successful riposte if I had not just pointed that out myself.

    Societies themself impose ideological conformity, mainly through religions. 99% of people would agree that murder, incest, rape etc are wrong, and society imposes that judgment on the 1% that don’t agree.

    You seem to be implying that the current form of society is the only one possible, and that changing it in any way would require rounding the entire adult population and subjecting them to torture.

    Since this has been scientificly proven not to work, and most people KNOW that it does not work, why do you keep dwelling on it?

  110. James

    Barton Paul Levensonon writes:
    I just worry that people like you will someday gain power in this country. You can’t wipe out religion, but you can hurt a lot of people before you’re finally overthrown.

    You shouldn’t, 95% of the population of the world believes in some form of spirituality, myself included. Religious, pattern seeking thinking is fundamental to the way humans think.

    Religion will still exist no matter what draconian methods are used to try and suppress it, so it is the act of a fool to try.

    I’m just saying that it is ethicaly questionable to teach innocents things that run counter to reality.

  111. Servant of Yeshua

    I am trying to understand why there is such competition between Science and God(title) Name(Yahweh). Most people are oblivious of the truth because they have no desire to know the truth. Truth is not hid from those who desire it with all of their heart. Most humans only desire to substantiate their ideology. To find Truth you must abandon all preconceived notions, traditions, prejudices and desire to be right. You must want Truth at all costs. Even if it shatters all your preconceived notions, ideologies, prejudices and desire to be right. Most that comment on this subject, I am willing to bet, really have no idea what science encompases. the definition of science is “to know”, to cut, to separate, and to discern. When anyone applies these principles to the things of Yahweh, They will find the Bible to be true. It amazes that the creation believes that it is more intelligent and knowledgable than the Creater(Yahweh). If you just study the human body and the organization of the cells. You know there’s a God. Who sets boundaries with the word of His mouth. You commentors must not know we as humans are Spirit, Soul and Body. When your spirit is enlightened then and only then are you able to see clearly. No person can deceive you. The problem is once you refuse Truth, you are self deceived, therefore you are bait for any deceivers. If you will fall on your face and cry out to Jesus(Yeshua) to show you the Truth, He will do just that. I Challenge all of you Truth seekers to try this and I guarantee things will began to open up to you. I am not talking about what somebody told me. I know Jesus(Yeshua) to be true through personal experience.

  112. OK?

    I like John McCain’s answer much better and if you are going to say Obama is better because of his stance then also add McCain’s here as well:

    John McCain on teaching evolution

    From his 2005 book “Character is Destiny”:

    “Darwin helped explain nature’s laws. He did not speculate, in his published theories at least, on the origin of life. He did not exclude God, for Whom the immensity of time is but a moment, from our presence. The only undeniable challenge the theory of evolution poses to Christian beliefs is its obvious contradiction of the idea that God created the world as it is in less than a week. But our faith is certainly not so weak that it can be shaken to learn that a biblical metaphor is not literal history. Nature doesn’t threaten our faith. On the contrary, when we contemplate its beauty and mysteries we cannot quiet in our heart an insistent impulse of belief that for all its variations and inevitable change, before its creation, in a time before time, God let it be so, and, thus, its many splendors and purposes abide in His purpose.”

    CNN: “I believe in evolution,” Sen. John McCain said. “But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.”

  113. IF THIS IS WHAT THE PRESIDENT-ELECT BELIEVES THEN HE IS NOT A REAL CHRISTIAN

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