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Dawkins vs. Comfort? I hope not.

CrocoDuckIt seems that the logic-challenged evangelist, Ray Comfort, has challenged Richard Dawkins to a debate about the existence of God and why evolution is scientific. Comfort is also “sweetening the offer” by offering $10,000 (win, lose, or draw) to Dawkins, either to him or to the charity of his choosing.

From the article:

“Sadly, I have found that even evolution’s most staunch believers are afraid to debate, because they know that their case for atheism and evolution is less than extremely weak,” Comfort said. “I would be delighted (and honored) if Mr. Dawkins has the courage to debate me, but I’m not holding my breath.”

I have a few comments here.

First, Comfort is already known to be ignorant of the topic of Evolution. He’s also known to be an outright liar about it. I have no doubt that Dawkins could heap monumental amounts of scientific evidence for Evolution onto Comfort, but it would all be ignored completely… or dismissed with Comfort’s smug and infantile “But how do you know? It takes a lot of faith to believe all that.” I don’t see any point in Dawkins partaking in that sort of debate.

Second, Comfort is known to use the most absurd arguments for his points ad nauseum (every building has a builder, prove Darwin existed, are you a good person, there’s no evidence for evolution, females and males would have had to evolve separately, atheists don’t exist, etc), despite each point having been soundly debunked repeatedly from many different sources. There’s little doubt that he would do the same thing in a debate with Dawkins. Why waste the time?

Third, Comfort’s Creationist points are absurd, unprovable, and unscientific. If Comfort wants to advance his Creationist agenda, perhaps he should take Nicholas Gotelli’s advice and publish his ideas in some peer-reviewed scientific journals. As Professor Gotelli says, scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of God’s existence would be “Nobel Prize winning work” and would be eagerly published by many scientific journals. None of Comfort’s arguments, however, have any scientific basis, so he’s pretty much out of luck there. It doesn’t stop him from perpetrating his lies, however.

Forth and finally, I don’t think Comfort should get the press time. Having Dawkins agree to debate Comfort would be like a battle of the bands between The Rolling Stones and a local junior high school garage band… only that the garage band members would have to be making grandiose claims about how their musical genius and instrumental skills far surpass anything that the Stones have ever possessed… and the extra publicity would just fan their flames and subject their suburban neighbors to more horrid 3:00 am “practices” at screechingly high, sound-distorting volumes, waking babies and raising blood pressures.

I doubt Dawkins is “afraid to debate” Comfort. I rather suspect that Dawkins would think the idea absurd and realize that it would be a no-win situation since Comfort has no need (or compulsion, it seems) to rely on facts, evidence, or even truth.

I sincerely hope that Dawkins declines with an appropriately scathing response… publicly enough that those interested in the topics can read the response, but not publicly enough that Comfort would get any decent press out of it. Comfort will, no doubt, use a declination to support his claim that “evolution’s most staunch believers are afraid to debate,” but he’ll do it in his own little bubble of a venue, gaining no additional notoriety, and will be refuted by his readers only.

That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.

Hitting the Nail on the Head

Nicholas Gotelli, a professor of Biology at the University of Vermont, evidently received an invitation to debate someone from the Discovery Institute on evolutionary science and intelligent design. PZ Myers posted about it on Pharyngula, including the original invitation and the response from Professor Gotelli.

It’s one of the best responses I’ve seen to the shenanigans of the Discovery Institute and other Creationist nutjobs. Head on over and give it a read. You’ll see gems like this…

Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren’t members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

That’s just beautiful.

Improving the Muslim Image… One Beheading at a Time!

Mr. and Mrs. HassanI remember the good old days when insane, medieval Muslim violence was something that only happened, “over there.”  It doesn’t seem that long ago. Now radical Islam has quickly been making its barbaric global rounds.

A Muslim T.V. mogul named Muzzammil Hassan has allegedly beheaded his wife, Aasiya Hassan. You see, Aasiya Hassan had begun divorce proceedings and filed a protection from abuse order against Muzzammil Hassan due to previous instances of domestic violence.  Apparently, Muzzammil didn’t appreciate that  very much so he “allegedly” did what any self respecting husband would do given the circumstances and beheaded his soon-to-be-ex wife.

Ostensibly, this is the radical Islamic version of an “out of court” settlement.

I haven’t even mentioned the crazy part yet. Mr. and Mrs. Hassan were in the television business together. They started a television station in 2004 to change the way in which Muslims were being violently depicted in the media. What the @#$%! This story broke the same day as the plane crash in Buffalo, so it has received little, if any, attention (which should certainly help Muzzammil find an unbiased jury).

Good old fashioned sharia violence is here to stay folks. Our open society has welcomed these sharia-law-abiding #$@holes with open arms. In their sporadic reporting, these “honor killings” seem rare and insignificant. The United Nations estimates that over 5,000 of these killings are committed every year. That number is not huge, as a percentage of world population, but just one arbitrary and religiously endorsed brutal slaying is one too many in this day and age.

I would be willing to wager that without the threat of eternal damnation, few of these fathers and husbands would consider such horrifically atrocious acts. These honor killings are just another glorious example of what ignorant mammals are capable of when religion is used as a justification.

So the next time you are speaking with a Christian fundamentalist and they ask, “How  could you lead a moral life without religion?”  you tell them,  “I don’t get my morality from a guy who sent his only begotten son on a suicide mission.”

This is encouraging.

Here’s a short video of President Obama speaking about science and once again putting it at the top of our agenda as a nation. It’s so nice to hear a president speak about the importance of science with what seems to be at least some modicum of understanding of the scientific process and what it means.

Here are a few bits from the video.

Today more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.

That was a great start, but what really got to me was this next quote.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources. It’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say even when it’s inconvenient… especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater undrestanding of the world around us.

Free and open inquiry? Evidence not twisted or obscured by politics or ideology? Listening to what scientists have to say? Searching for truth?… via science?! Why, Mr. President!… that’s almost blasphemous!

Seriously, though, I think it’s refreshing to hear. It’s a direct hit against the wave of anti-intellectualism that’s been threatening to poison this country for quite some time. It’s definitely a direct hit against the Bush policies of the past eight years. If only President Obama’s stated goals for science can be achieved, I think it’ll make a huge difference in the success of our nation.

I’d like to add one more, if I may. I’d like to see science promoted in our educational system without the chains of dogma attached to it. Let students learn about the scientific method and about scientific theories without the undertow of religion dragging them down. Teach them what science is and what science does… and what it doesn’t do.

But don’t corrupt it. Don’t water it down and cheapen it by introducing artificially manufactured doubt. Don’t try to pass off superstition and unsupported proclamations as science. Don’t try to skew the evidence or make up evidence where none exists. It only confuses the issue and is educationally unproductive… and counterproductive.

Science comes with its own healthy allotment of doubt and skepticism by its very nature. It’s part of the process. It’s how theories are formed. Let the evidence mitigate the doubt. Let the facts assuage the skepticism. Teach students how to develop their own critical thinking skills so they can determine the validity of existing scientific theories… and create new ones.

Here’s hoping.

Freedom of Speech… for Everyone

Freedom of Speech SquelchedI just read this piece by Ebomuse over at Daylight Atheism and was moved. Free speech needs to apply equally to everyone, regardless of religious, political, or ideological persuasion, and it seems that Islam, even more than Christianity, tries to curtail that freedom of expression when it comes to their religious views.

Ebonmuse cites Johann Hari’s courage to speak out against tyrannical Islamists in multiple articles. When a respected Indian newspaper dared to agree with and support Hari’s articles, the editor and publisher were arrested.

Says Ebonmuse:

Once again, religious lunatics and terrorists have hijacked the marketplace of ideas and twisted the universal right of free speech into a right, possessed exclusively by themselves, to never be offended. They demand legal protection from ever having to see or hear anything they disagree with, and because they’re always willing to resort to violence if their demands aren’t met, even supposedly liberal, democratic governments give in to them with depressing frequency. The de facto result is the censorship and suppression of freethinkers. Meanwhile, we who are outraged by their vicious and savage creeds seemingly have no right to call upon the government to imprison them.

And in the concluding paragraph:

If free speech is circumscribed by the “right” of religious groups to be protected from offense, then it is an empty and meaningless freedom.

Here. Here. Check out the article at Daylight Atheism for links to Hari’s pieces and Ebonmuse’s complete commentary. It’ll be worth your visit.

Rationality Now on The Atheist Blogroll

atheistblogroll001Rationality Now has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world.

Check out the other blogs on the list and pay them a visit. It’s probably the best way to learn more about what’s going on in the Atheist and Skeptic community and there’s some great information and commentary on these sites.

If you would like to join The Atheist Blogroll, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Poor Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort in FlamesAnyone who’s seen Ray Comfort speak or has read anything he’s written knows pretty well that he’s a couple bananas short of a bunch. Aside from the mind-dizzying irrationality of his assertions, he moves firmly into the land of untruth when it comes to speaking about the Theory of Evolution. So far so, that according to Ray’s own preaching, he’s going to Hell.

You’ve heard his shtick. It’s the same one that Kirk Cameron uses. He’ll approach someone and ask him if he’s a good person. Then he’ll proceed to ask if the mark has ever lied, stolen, taken the Lord’s name in vain, or committed adultery (based on his biblical definition). Of course, then he’ll tell the mark that he’s a lying, blaspheming, adulterous thief and is going to Hell… unless… and then Ray gives the whole Jesus solution.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Ray doing some open-air preaching in what might be Huntington Beach (he preaches there a lot, evidently). After the regular bit mentioned above and some of his classic religion-based drivel, he starts talking about evolution and goes way off into the realm of grand liars.


A little bit of humor

I was talking to a friend a couple days ago about some new books I’d just received from Amazon. I got Only a Theory by Kenneth Miller and Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer. He doesn’t really follow all the “Intelligent Design” shenanigans, so when I told him that one of the books was a sort of thrashing of ID.

He said, “Man… isn’t that horse deader than SeaBiscuit?”

I replied that sadly, it was not.

He said, “Maybe it got resurrected. It died, lay in a cave for three days, and then came back out.”

Laughter ensued.

4.6 Billion Years in 60 Seconds

Claire L. Evans of Seed Magazine produced a short video which… well… let her explain it in her own words.

The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds is an experiment in scale: By condensing 4.6 billion years of history into a minute, the video is a self-contained timepiece. Like a specialized clock, it gives one a sense of perspective. Everything — from the formation of the Earth, to the Cambrian Explosion, to the evolution of mice and squirrels — is proportionate to everything else, displaying humankind as a blip, almost indiscernible in the layered course of history.

Very cool. Check it out.

Thanks to Pharyngula for the link!

I Am A Monkey’s Uncle… And So Are You!

Darwin in a Birthday Hat

Well it’s a big day! Happy birthday Charles Darwin!

Since this is a birthday, I decided to keep the mood of this article on the lighter side. As I see it there is nothing lighter than a good old fashioned Chick Tract publication.

If you’ve never heard of Chick Tracts, allow me to introduce you. Chick Tracts are extravagantly drawn (not so much), ardently researched (yeah…) pamphlets (horribly misleading propaganda) meant to help instruct children (mind screw future customers of God) about the bible and God’s (fictitious super being…but you knew that) laws.

Since it is Darwin’s birthday I have chosen “Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn” for discussion. So as not to violate copyright laws,  I’ve just provided the link where you can go and read this plucky tale of  the spunky little Christian girl and her fight to prove the evil, science-minded teacher wrong.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait right here.

…tap… tap… tap…

Okay, finished? Wouldn’t Darwin be proud?

The only “creation” taking place in this publication are it’s “facts.” It would be very easy to go panel by panel disputing content like “But it took millions of years to change from apes into humans.” Anyone who has read Darwin or listened to the likes of Richard Dawkins knows evolutionary biologists believe life did start simply and evolve, but evolution took place  along different paths for different, but similar, species.

Dawkins describes in his Waking Up in The Universe lecture series that life developed like a tree into many different branches but we are all  primordially related to one distinct ancestor. We did not literally come from monkeys. We developed similarly along a different path.

Is Dawkins right? Was our birthday boy right? We don’t know and that’s the point. The existing evidence says yes, but science doesn’t stick with the first idea and stop searching for more answers — like some belief systems (ahem).

When it comes to propaganda like Chick publications prints, I think the best way for me to make my point, is to let the stories speak for themselves.

If you enjoyed your read of “Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn,” might I also suggest “The Little Princess.” It’s the heartwarming tale of a sweet little girl named Heidi… who gets sick and quickly dies. This one is sure to be a crowd pleasing “pick me up” for the little ones at bedtime. Nothing sends a child gently off to the Land of Nod like the thought of an agonizing death for one of their peers. These twisted stories are aimed at children and that is sad. Ugh!

On February 12, 1809 a man was born who would help make superstitious stories and religious fear-mongering a thing of the past for some of our species. Thank “God” for Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. A theory, that with any luck, will make unfounded beliefs part of our history and not our future. So here’s to you, Charles Darwin. I give you two wonderfully evolved, opposable thumbs up. Happy birthday!