AIG Research Paper Winner

Karin Hutson accepts her award.

Creationist wackos and creators of the giant creationism museum in Kentucky, Answers in Genesis, recently announced the winners of their creationism essay contest.

Homeschooler (of course!) Karin Hutson of Missouri (there’s a freakin’ surprise!) won the contest. The prize was a $50,000 scholarship to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Zeno at Halfway There has a good overview article. He sums up the winning entries:

While it’s not fair to expect teenagers to write purely original essays, all of the winning papers suffer from the suffocating effects of their reliance on recycled creationist propaganda. Time and again the writers make demonstrably untrue statements (and they probably don’t know any better). In this, of course, they simply mirror their elders.

I thought I would examine the grand prize-winning essay. I debated whether to do this, because I didn’t want to be seen as beating up on a high schooler. I decided to go ahead because:

  1. It’s actually a fairly sober essay and therefore doesn’t lend itself to my usual snide comments (read: It won’t be funny. Jump to the next article if you want funny.)
  2. It’s worth seeing what the creationists are teaching their kids. What is the content and curriculum that they would like to impose on the public schools, if they ever get their way?
  3. How good is it, from a writing perspective? In other words, how good is their home-schooling?

To answer that last question, it’s fairly well written, from a purely technical perspective. Its main flaw is that it’s saturated with the logical fallacies that all creationists are prone to. So let’s examine Karin Hutson’s winning essay:

Evolution of Ethics: How the Biology Class Undermines Morality 101

Can Darwinian evolution adequately account for and uphold human morality? This paper concludes it cannot. Within a naturalistic worldview that denies absolute truth, morality has no standards. Ethics then disintegrates into fickle opinions and conflicting preferences. Hence, evolution supports amorality, not morality!

Morality has no absolute standards, because societies change over time; they evolve, in a manner of speaking. The hope is that over time, we become more enlightened about what is moral.

It is not evolution that supports amorality. If anything, it creates morality. Altruism, which is one of the underpinnings of morality, has been proven to exist in some animal species. Furthermore, a society without morals does not long survive.

Instead, I would argue, that it is the misguided notion of “absolute truth” that creates amorality. This causes the believers of that particular “absolute truth” (and the world is full of many contradictory “absolute truths”) to blindly and rabidly adhere to a doctrine that is woefully out of date and grossly immoral by most objective standards. If you doubt this, just read the Letter to Dr. Laura.

When Evolution is Taught

In this section, she just parrots back the standard creationist lie that evolution didn’t happen. This is where she fulfills the essay contest’s requirement that she use the fundie-written “science” textbook Evolution Exposed as a source. The other book she cites in this section is the Bible! Oh yeah! There’s a reputable source! It’s a good thing she got accepted to Liberty University. With scholarship like this, she wouldn’t be accepted by a real school.

Because of those conflicting presuppositions, creationists and evolutionists interpret their observations differently. Creationists examine fossils and point back thousands of years to the worldwide flood explained in the Bible, while evolutionists look at the same fossils and point back millions of years.

That’s the problem with presuppositions. Creationists blindly accept the Bible, so they are forced to jump through a series of massively-convoluted hoops just to reach their foregone conclusion. Scientists follow the straight line of the data to whatever conclusion that data leads.

If creation offers just as valid answers for life’s origin as Darwin,…

But it doesn’t. Where does she get such a crazy idea?

…which Evolution Exposed reveals,…

Oh. Well that’s her problem!

…why is it banned from public schools?

I’ll tell you why:

  1. Creationism has no evidence to support it.
  2. It’s religion.

[T]wenty-first century school officials unfairly regulate evolution to the classroom as science and creation to the church as religion.

I think the word she wants here is “relegate”, not “regulate”. Home schooling. Woohoo!

…Morality is Undermined

She opens this section by quoting Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis. Oh yeah! Suck up to the judge!

In this section she claims that evolution creates moral relativism, which then creates violence and vice. If one society says it is OK to crash airplanes into skyscrapers, then another society can’t tell them that it’s wrong.

She’s wrong here. There are certain behaviors that can be agreed upon as bad by members within a society. You do have disagreements between societies. Her 9/11 example demonstrates this. Radical Islam hasn’t evolved to the same level of moral sophistication as the West. They’re still living in the moral Dark Ages. You don’t say “That’s OK! Their morality works for them, so we’ll let them kill us!” (For a good article on moral relativism and how it isn’t necessarily the default position of non-theists, see this article at Biblioblography.)

Response of Evolutionists

[N]aturalists either unabashedly glory in their liberation from absolute morality, trusting innate human goodness, or they stoically accept the pointlessness of existence.

I guess when mommy home-schooled Hutson, she didn’t cover the either-or fallacy. I don’t completely fit into either camp, and I don’t know anyone who does.

The Nihilist Approach

Nihilism, futile existence, is living life according to evolutionary philosophy.
[…]
Evidently, most evolutionists are not nihilists. According to evolutionary tenets, however, all should be.

No. She’s making the leap from “The data do not suggest a creator” to “Therefore, we should all just kill ourselves.” That’s ridiculous.

While evolution doesn’t directly cause sin,…

How nice of her to admit that!

…its naturalism presents a good excuse because it denies that morality is universal, that sin is sin, that a Judge will requite!

Maybe it’s a good thing that fundies have their moral code already created for them. They’re obviously incapable of the complex thought required to develop one on their own.

Hence, studies show moral decline among those who accept evolution.

Actually, the “studies” she refers to is something published by the Institute for Creation Research. I’m sure its scholarship is on the same level as Hutson’s essay.

The Creation Answer

This section is all about how wonderful God is and that people who believe in him blindly follow whatever is in the Bible. Somehow this is portrayed as a good thing.

Concluding with the Beginning

In order to share Christ with secular America, one must first confront the blinding worldview of evolution. This indoctrination begins in the classroom.

And that really sticks in the craw of fundies. In the “good old days”, they used to read the Bible in public schools. The only indoctrination in the schools that fundies want is their indoctrination.

[S]ome time may pass before creation science is allowed back in the public school system….

Remember, creationism is religion, so just swap those words in that sentence, and you’ll see the real fundie agenda:

[S]ome time may pass before religion is allowed back in the public school system….

My Conclusion

So that’s the end of her essay. I see why she won, and I have to admit that it’s a masterful piece of writing. She artfully managed to cite a variety of creationist propaganda pieces, numerous Bible passages, and she also sucked up to the judge! Throughout the essay, she told the fundies exactly what they want to hear.

But what have we learned about Karin Hutson? We’ve learned that she managed to write a 3000-word essay about the ethics and morality of “evolutionists” without one whit of understanding of their ethics and morality.

53 Responses to “AIG Research Paper Winner”

  1. Zeno Says:

    It’s tough, isn’t it? As you said, it feels like you’re beating up on children when you take apart one of these sad creationist essays. Think of it as mental hygiene. Nice job of clearing up the confusion and highlighting the fallacies. Each essay was abundantly endowed with completely standard (and oft-refuted) anti-evolution arguments. The writers didn’t know any better because they live in echo chambers and have no idea what’s going on outside (except as filtered through their pastors and parents).

  2. The Watcher Says:

    Wow.

    If this is what passes for a paper at Liberty University, that’s one less college whose graduates will be competing with me for jobs.

  3. rich (richmanwisco) Says:

    @the watcher

    Not exactly, especially if you plan to be a lawyer in our federal Department of Justice. One of the great accomplishments of our esteemed administration has been to seed the highest levels of the department with, that’s right, Liberty University graduates. Chilling, ain’t it?

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    I believe you’re thinking of Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Check out this article from Crooks and Liars.

  5. John Strong Says:

    The entire thesis is useless from the start. Natural Selection never was intended to address morality or any other philosophical idea. It merely explains observable phenomena in the physical world. She might as well have argued that Blue Jays can’t teach us a thing about making chocolate.

  6. rich (richmanwisco) Says:

    You are correct Ron, thank you. Can’t keep these televangelists straight sometimes.

  7. Victor Bogado da Silva Lins Says:

    I would say that this is kind of obvious. I it is clear that a contest by those fundamentalist would reward nothing more then a well written fundamentalist essay. :-)

    But while I was reading your reply I must say that I didn’t agree with one passage, the part where you talk about evolution of societies and how the fundamentalist Islamic society is “in the middle age” stage while we, or maybe I should say you since I am not in the same society I am a Brazilian you see, are in a enlightened or evolved stage.

    I don’t agree because I don’t believe in social evolution, it don’t fit well. First evolution is about surviving and reproducing, while it is clear that societies do have to survive they don’t usually reproduce. And there is another part is that societies change much faster and more sometimes more radically then living beings.

    A good example of what I am talking about is the same Islamic society you cited your self. During our middle age, the Islamic world were an enlightened place. They had chemic, while Europe had alchemy, they had religious tolerance while we were burning witches (that is a stretch, the burning happened much latter in the game I know). Off course this could not endure for long, the savages in Europe soon sent hordes of barbarians to end all of that, this is what we call the crusades.

    So what happened? Europe came, and crushed the peace, several crusades and a few wars that were won by either sides and suddenly the enlightened Islamic world was talking about Jihads and destroying the infidels (sounds familiar?), their society changed radically, much of what they have done had to wait another change in another society to be accepted again, yes when the Europeans had their renaissance.

    Well all of that is to get on what have happened? What kind of evolution is involved here? How can we measure the fitness of a society, when both have indeed survived the times. So I think that evolution is not a good way to describe what happen with societies.

    A good answer to the point she made about the morality of hijacking airplanes and doing a 9/11 on a nation is to question the actions that the US is doing or has done in the last few years that killed much more innocent civilians than every terror attack al-qaeda has made in the western world or against their people. Those were ordered by a Christian president, based on lies, is that moral? Is that the higher moral that you are supporting?

    In the end all that discourse is always boils down to “just what I say, don’t do as I do”.

    By the way good article. :-)

  8. Helena Constantine Says:

    I agree her essay wasn’t very good, but then your refutation of it wasn’t that skillfull either. You rely far too much on name-calling and cliche.

    But what I am more intersted in is your reflexive attack on Home-schooling and on Missouri (I live in St. Louis). Firstly, I am a Roman catholic who axiomatically accepts evolution and other findings of science, and the scientific method. My husband is a pagan (none of your Wiccan nonsense, thank you, his model is Plotinus). We intend to home-school our childern. We are both college professors but have worked in public schools (not as certified teachers) before, and attended public schools.

    You cannot imagine how bad the public schools are. They are run by certified teachers, none of whom know anything about the subject matter they teach. By definition they are required to take fewer college hours in their subject area than a student taking a minor in it. Most of their time is spent taking education courses which are essentially a bunch of ps.-scientific nosnese that outgh to be investigated by the skeptical community. At universitites, Deans fight to get the education department out from under their authority. They are considered an embarassment. The cousnellors direct the students with the lowest test score to education.

    While we were writing our dissertations we spent a year working as teacher’s assistants at a public high school. With MA degrees, we were already allowed to teach at Univeristy, but for some reason we were meant to be inferior at teaching to the certified teachers we worked for. My Degree is in English. Whenever I mentioned an author to the chair of the English department, she stared at me with incomprehension. On the last day My husband witnessed a round table discussion by a group of English teachers in the lounge. They were reminiscing about their certification exams. They were asked to critique some works of literature drawn from a standard reading list they had been provided. None of them had read any but a few of the authors, either in class or in preperation. They had had all had to spout gibberish (by their own admisions–but they used a more colorful expression) on the exam. Every one confessed how absolutely surprised they were when they leanred they had passed.

    The teachers were universally so bad at teaching, so ignorant of their subject matter, the curriculum so dumbed down (nothing but worksheets), that I would consider it immoral to turn my childern over to their tender mercies.

    This is meant to point to you that stereotyping is always wrong–not because it is immoral, but because it is reductionist and leads to error. Yet your wonderful refutation, of which you are so proud, relies on very little except stereotype and cliche. I read your essay symapthetically, but it never engaged me because it seemed so lazy, so much pointless preaching to the choir, so to speak.

    In case you are in any doubt, I hold the docrines of fundamentalist Christianity in utter contempt, so you cannot dismiss me as a fellow traveler. Though I am sure you will find some other convenient way of dismsissing me rather than admit your own work was not well done. That is jsut how people are.

  9. duke Says:

    You have a problem with presuppositions, but science depends on its own presuppositions. It has been defined (rather recently actually) as a naturalistic enterprise, depending on event-event causation. Even if agent causation for something is the case, science is not allowed to follow that path.

    I’m not saying evolution is wrong and young-earthers are correct, but at least be intellectually honest. Admit that science can only find the answers which it is allowed to find by its definition.

  10. MaDeR Says:

    Duke, yes. Science is not allowed to find answers based on pure fantasy and wishful thinking.

  11. eric Says:

    Even if agent causation for something is the case, science is not allowed to follow that path.

    You’re going to have to define agent causation here because, as far as I understand the term, you’re saying that either humans can’t be agents or that archeology isn’t science.

  12. Kmuzu Says:

    Well Hell’s-bells and panther tracks … for 50k, I could write a plenty good ol creationist argument. See, it’s times like deez that bein’ an agnostic is best.

    1. The Earth is done growing in size that’s why those der continents are moving.
    2. The Earth makes its own oil its part of the natural Earth … um … poo.
    3. The sun is not a fusion reactor is really is a giant plasma ball (just like the ones you buy at da Piggly Wiggly). As a matter of fact, the whole universe is a plasma field that got durn turned on by God. Dare was no such thang as da Big Bang.
    4. It’s da Baby Jesus’ lovin heart dat provides all of dum energy for the whole cosmos. Just like when you plug in dat Laver Lamp.

    Okay, where’s my 50k?

    Kmuzu

  13. Ron Britton Says:

    Victor:

    You make a good point about societies not evolving. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to use that word or try to find another. I was thinking that maybe they did evolve, at least in the figurative sense, because they slowly discard practices, such as torture or capital punishment, that are not beneficial.

    As you point out, there are a lot of aspects that don’t fit that model.

    Both Europe and Islam were flourishing at one point in their respective histories, and both fell into their own respective Dark Ages. Ever since the 1980s and the mis-named “Reagan Revolution” (Reagan Regression is more accurate), the U.S. has been sliding back toward the dark. That corresponds to the rise of the Radical Right in this country.

    Even many of the non-fundies among us have been swept up in the regressive attitudes. The U.S. now has the largest prison population per capita of any developed nation. In California, for example, the increase in money spent on prisons has equalled the decrease in money spent on education in the same period. This collective mental retardation explains the embarrassing and self-destructive response to terrorism that we have taken.

    ——————

    Helena:

    I don’t see where I’m relying on name calling, stereotype, or cliche. Calling someone a fundie is an accurate description, if they fit the behavior pattern, and that behavior pattern is not a cliche if you actually observe them engaging in it.

    Nowhere in the article did I attack all home-schoolers or all Missourians. A very large segment, possibly the majority, of the home-schoolers are radical Christian fundamentalists. Why is it surprising that the winner of this contest would be a home-schooler? Not everyone in Missouri is a fundamentalist, but the entire Bible Belt has a much greater concentration of these people than anywhere else in the country. Why, again, is it surprising that the winner would come from a place that contains a high concentration of fundies?

    Your tales of the Missouri public school system are indeed quite scary. It’s worse than I thought. I’m sorry you state is in such condition.

  14. crazy cat lady Says:

    Helena, your reply was interesting, but hypocritical! In the same couple of sentences you denounce stereotyping, but then stereotype Wiccans by calling it ‘nonsense’. Nice job!

  15. Irishman Says:

    [T]wenty-first century school officials unfairly regulate evolution to the classroom as science and creation to the church as religion.

    I think the word she wants here is “relegate”, not “regulate”. Home schooling. Woohoo!

    You are in error. She clearly means “regulate”, as in court rulings that state “Creation Science is not Science and therefore should not be taught in public school science classes as science”, or the Dover verdict about ID. She feels these are unfair regulation of Creationism.

    duke said:

    You have a problem with presuppositions, but science depends on its own presuppositions. It has been defined (rather recently actually) as a naturalistic enterprise, depending on event-event causation. Even if agent causation for something is the case, science is not allowed to follow that path.

    Science studies mechanisms of causation. “God did it” is not a mechanism.

  16. Ron Britton Says:

    Irishman:

    That’s a fair point. Usually that sentence construction uses “relegate”. I can see how she might have meant “regulate”. I think she could have worded it better if indeed that is what she meant.

    I still think she meant “relegate”, but I’ll leave that open as a possible error on my part.

  17. Mark Stevens Says:

    As a Brit living in the States, the level of fundamentalism in this country never ceases to amaze me.

    When I was at school, back in the UK, creationism vs. evolution was never an issue. I was a non-Catholic/non-Christian attending a Catholic school. Most students were Catholic and/or Christian, but a large number were much like myself.

    Our school’s approach was pretty much this: evolution was taught in science class and remained in that context. Creationism was taught in religious education class and remained in that context. It made sense then and it still makes sense now. While there was obviously a leaning towards Catholicism/Christianity in the religious education classes, it was never heavy-handed and tended to focus more on moral development within a spiritual context. Religious and non-religious students alike were able to benefit.

    For people in the UK, religion tends to be a very personal thing that rarely intrudes into other areas of one’s life. Here in the States, many more people tend to wear their religious badge on their sleeve, which inevitably leads to a more vociferous religious population and a greater level of disagreement and conflict.

  18. Meghan Says:

    I completely agree with all of your main points (creationism is *not* science!) but I have to stick up at least a little bit for homeschooling. A fast growing percentage of families, including my own, homeschool for purely academic reasons so it’s rather unfair to lump all homeschoolers into the category of crazy, secluded, ill-educated fundies.

    Oh, thanks for spelling it homeschooler. The spelling (and weird pronunciation) of home (space) schooler is a huge pet peeve of mine :P

  19. Lurchgs Says:

    Victor, Ron –

    I think it IS fair to say that societies evolve. At least, healthy societies do. If they don’t evolve, they become self-destructive and highly detrimental to the composing population. Eventually, that society will undergo drastic change – (usually demonstrated by violent upheaval).

    Societies also reproduce – or did, up until the time we ran out of places to spread. North America is (Generally speaking) the offspring of England, with a dose of various other cultures thrown in to confuse the societal geneticists. South America, in the same way, is the offspring of Spain and Portugal. In the same manner, you can trace any given society back through time – at least as far as records exist.

    The phenomenon is not restricted to humans, though it’s most obvious with us, given that we have no instincts to force our behavior into specific patterns. (please, don’t confuse reflexes and learned behavior with instinctual)

    If your society DOESN’T Evolve, it becomes stagnant and resistant to change. In this event, other, evolving, societies will outstrip the stagnant one.

    Further, IIRC, The nations of Islam didn’t become agressively anti-Christian until the past 150 years or so, when the (surprise) rigorous fundamentalists gained control. Yes, there’s been antagonism for centuries, (and we can point the blame finger at both sides if we care to), but for the most part it’s been Gov’t vs Gov’t, not organized religion against religion. When the fundies took over, all that changed.

    In re home schooling, I agree with Helena (her religious views are her own – she has the right to be wrong). Your parenthetical comment “(of course!)” comes across as a direct attack on home schooling. That whole paragraph equates home schooling and Missouri with the lunatic fringe – the basis for your entire article. I don’t see it as relevant to this issue at all. The fact that it’s involved might be mentioned in passing, but equating home schooling with fundamentalism is as appropriate as equating Democrats with tree huggers.

    Certainly, home schooling allows the parents to indoctrinate their children in their own beliefs – but it’s self defeating in the long run. The gene pool of any fanatically restrictive belief system grows progressively smaller as the young leave the nest and discover the real world. Yes, the belief structure may stay around for many many years, but only as a vocal minority at best (rather like the fundies now, as a matter of fact). One need only look at the Amish or even Native Americans to see this exodus in progress.

    As an aside: Knowing full well the value of public education, I teach my children *in addition*. Strangely enough, though my wife is Catholic (contemplating a change to Wiccan – but she married me, so I know she’s nuts) and I am an athiest, there is absolutely no religious indoctrination. Neither for nor against. When they’re old enough, the kids can make up their own minds.

  20. Ron Britton Says:

    I was not attacking the overall concept of homeschooling, just the extremists within it, who represent a large fraction of its adherents. Sorry for not making that clear in the article.

  21. Gilles Says:

    Miss Hutson is probably the next Ann Coulter.

  22. Lyle Gaulding Says:

    When creationists get on the ‘evolution is bad for morals’ kick, they seem to be saying, “It doesn’t matter what’s true, teach what is safe (or convienient, or pleasing).

  23. rintrah Says:

    when i was four i believed in the easter bunny, then i was adopted. my new family had no notions of the bunny and i fought my new brother over it…and hurt him. times passed…i became wiser and made ammends.

    America is four

  24. Carriep Says:

    @ Helena Constantine:

    I appreciate your point regarding homeschooling. There are many different reasons for homeschooling, but the religious aspect gets overplayed. I know several people who were home schooled as children, who got an excellent education.

    However, I take issue with your characterization of public schools and the teachers in them. To be blunt: You are being as reflexively critical of public schools as the blogger is of homeschooling.

    I trained to be a teacher, but chose not to go into teaching, because I felt that I lacked the classroom management skills and indepenence to be a good teacher. My husband, on the other hand, did go into teaching and is in his 7th year teaching science.

    Yes, I’ve gone through the educational curriculum, and can attest to the somewhat low standards of that curriculum. I think you and I can agree that teacher training at the college level should be improved.

    Perhaps I’m missing the irony in your post, and you are intentionally using overgeneralizations regarding public school teachers to make a point. Although I have an English Language and Literature background, I’ve never been good at detecting written sarcasm.

    But if you really believe that public schools are “run by certified teachers,none of whom know anything about the subject matter they teach,” as you stated above, realize that my personal experience, and that of my husband and friends, directly contracdicts your observations.

    So which one of us is right?

    Perhaps it is true that every public school teacher you’ve come across has sucked. But that doesn’t mean they all do.

    Most public school teachers I’ve come across have been quite good. But that doesn’t mean that most of them are good. I can’t really extrapolate and say that they are mostly good just because of my personal experience.

    The point is, neither of us is really right. The truth is, there are some good public school teachers, and some bad, and the number depends on where you are, how much money a school gets, and how exactly one defines “good teacher” and “bad teacher.”

    Have fun homeschooling your kids, but I hope you can get the chip off your shoulder regarding public school teachers, even as I respect and defend your right to never attend a parent-teacher conference.

  25. Steve Carpenter Says:

    In response to Helena Constantine…

    Ms. Constantine says that, “[S]tereotyping is always wrong–not because it is immoral, but because it is reductionist and leads to error.”

    This is absolutely correct, and she proved it in a previous paragraph. She has not only stereotyped (generalized) public schoools, but also clearly misunderstood at least two fundamentals about public schools, and used outdated and in some cases patently false information.

    She begins by telling us that we, “…cannot imagine how bad the public schools are.” Perhaps not. Then again, maybe we can. This is a bromide I have heard often repeated by those who have had some sort of objectionable experience with public schools. Some schools are bad. In fact, there are probably a lot of them that are really, really bad. But, there are also some bad black people and some bad Asian people and bad Catholics, or whatever you want to fill in the blank. But, just as there are also wonderful, charitable, and caring black people, Asian people, and Catholics, so also are there wonderfully effective and caring public schools with high academic standards. Grouping everything together is stereotyping, you know.

    As a public school teacher myself for the past twenty-eight years, I will agree that schools are significantly different than they were when I began my career. I would even go so far as to say that, in general, there are areas in which public schools are less effective than they were thirty years ago. However, there are also things they do better than they used to do. I also realize that schools face different challenges than they did decades ago, and that the social milieu — while not the sole, determining factor — is a large part of those challenges. There is, in fact, no one single determining factor in the success, or lack thereof, of public schools, and that is where we probably fail most. No one seems to be willing to admit or deal with the fact that we have multiple issues to contend with and that fixing one thing will not fix everything.

    To illustrate: Public school administrators and instructors are faced with a bewildering array of local policies, state regulations, and federal laws that tend to bog down the educational process. As a case in point, I refer to a recently passed state law here in Tennessee that requires ninety minutes of physical activity per week above and beyond normal classroom activities in all schools. In a high school, that is equivalent to a full class period of instruction. The law was passed by the state legislature on the heels of a study that showed Tennessee children ranked near the top nationally in obesity rates. It is an inane law and clearly a move by legislators to cover their own asses, to be able to say to their constituencies that they have taken steps to address the issue. Yet, administrators and instructors must abide by it since we are, in effect, state employees. And that brings up the next issue in Ms. Constantine’s posting that I will address.

    She states that “[t]hey (public schools) are run by certified teachers….” (I will come to the second half of her sentence later). If only we did. As was pointed out in the above paragraph, schools are run by the government, which implies congressmen, senators, state legislators, and local school boards. These are, in fact, the people who establish the curriculum and set the policies that public schools must follow. The front-line teacher has no input into what mandated standardized tests will be administered to our students. We have no input into the construction of those tests (they are constructed by testing companies, by the way). And, we have no control over the evaluation models applied to those tests. We have little or no control over much of anything beyond the doors of our classrooms. Thus, lacking control, there is no truth to the statement that certified teachers “run” public schools. We don’t.

    In the second half of that sentence, Ms. Constantine impugns all public school teachers’ abilities by stating that, “none of [them] know anything about the subject matter they teach.” That’s a fairly bold statement and something of a challenge. In fact, I am willing to accept it as a challenge. In my career, I have taught composition, public speaking, journalism, American, British, and World literature. If Ms. Constantine can prove in a public debate that I know nothing about those subjects, I will concede her point…but only insofar as it applies to me. She will have to conduct the same debate with all public school teachers to prove the statement as true. Before meeting my challenge however, she might do well to notice that I have managed to compose a legible, coherent, and organized response to her posting. This probably proves that I understand at least the fundamentals of composition, thus rendering her statement false. But, since we need to be scientific about this, we could consider that someone else might have constructed this posting and that I am as ignorant as Ms. Constantine supposes I am. In that case, I could produce copies of my published work in both newspapers and magazines, thus proving that I do, in fact, understand not only composition but also journalism, another subject which I have taught. Therefore, her statement is a simple generalization with no credibility.

    Later in the same paragraph, Ms. Constantine states that, “[b]y definition they (public school teachers) are required to take fewer college hours in their subject area than a student taking a minor in it.” Again, to disprove a generalization all I have to do is prove one particular that contradicts it. In this case, I point again to my home state of Tennessee, which requires that a teacher have at least a minor in a subject they teach. Further, within three years that teacher must have attained at least a bachelor’s level degree in the field in which they instruct. There may be some states that accept teachers who have taken fewer hours than required for at least a minor in a subject area, but I find it hard to believe that Tennessee is leading the way in the field of education. At any rate, her statement is plainly incorrect if applied to all public schools.

    There is one part of this paragraph that actually used to be true for some teachers, but not all. Ms. Constantine states that “[m]ost of their time is spent taking education courses….” (Again, I will come to the remainder of her sentence later). Prior to 1991 in Tennessee, elementary school teachers did, in fact, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education with no concentration in a particular subject area. (Secondary teachers — middle school and high school — have always been required to hold a major in their teaching area). The reasoning went that there is little point in requiring a teacher who will teach mathematics, reading, science, health, spelling, and social studies in the course of one day to the same group of fourth graders to hold bachelor’s degrees in all of those areas. Thus, most of the course requirements in colleges of education were in what were termed “methods” courses. However, as I stated, that was changed in 1991 and remains in effect today. Therefore, again her statement is false.

    In the remainder of that sentence, Ms. Constantine states that education courses, “are essentially a bunch of ps.-scientific nosnese that outgh to be investigated by the skeptical community.” I’m not exactly sure what “ps.-scientific nosnese” is or why it “outgh” to be investigated, but I’m reasonably sure that better minds than either mine or hers have reviewed educational curricula at most major colleges and universities. She also seems to be particularly proud of her own degrees, and I’m sure that she is quite intelligent and well educated…after all she is a skeptic who reads here! However, it’s a shame that she has reflected poorly upon her instructors by failing to proofread her work for simple spelling and grammar mistakes. These things are common on the web and everywhere else it seems. Mostly, we ignore it, but even on the Internet, it matters. And, one who vaunts his or her own education as superior should take the extra time to prove it.

    The bottom line of my posting is simply this: I posted here in response to what was a flagrant violation of the fallacies of reasoning that we as skeptics should embrace. However, I posted only because I have knowledge of the subject. In areas and on subjects where I have no knowledge, I find it far wiser to keep both my mouth and my keyboard silent and try to learn.

  26. Rissa Says:

    I disagreed with many things you said about this essay but the one thing I wanted to point out was that she was referring to Christian morality. The morality standard that God has set for us. And that evolution is amoral according to that morality standard.

    “The hope is that over time, we become more enlightened about what is moral.” May I ask how we are to be enlightened and who is doing the enlightening? How do we become more enlightened over time? Do we just get smarter or something?

    “Furthermore, a society without morals does not long survive.” Exactly, that is why God gave us a moral guideline to follow. Oh and I just wanted to remind you that evolution is a theory not a fact. I don’t ever remember it becoming a scientific law. :)

  27. Ron Britton Says:

    Rissa:

    [T]he one thing I wanted to point out was that she was referring to Christian morality.

    That’s fine. She can use any moral code that she wants to. Europeans think capital punishment is immoral. Texans somehow seem to think that executing another prisoner every few days is moral. Take your pick. The problem occurs when she makes groundless claims that evolution produces amorality. Evolution is just the process by which life evolves. It is “amoral” in the strictest sense of the word: it has no morality one way or the other.

    Miss Hutson argues that this amorality is causing immorality. As I stated in the article, if you insist on putting it in moral terms, it is very easy to argue that evolution produces morality and “Christian morality” (as she might define it) produces immorality (as I define it; e.g., the immorality of Texas capital punishment).

    “The hope is that over time, we become more enlightened about what is moral.” May I ask how we are to be enlightened and who is doing the enlightening? How do we become more enlightened over time? Do we just get smarter or something?

    Yes. Look at France. They invented one of the bloodiest forms of execution (the guillotine), which they used with much gusto from 1792 all the way up to 1977! But by 1981, the French finally abolished capital punishment. They got smarter. I don’t know all of the sociological factors at play here. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if religion played a role. However, it doesn’t need to. God doesn’t play too much of a role in Europe, and all of the E.U. has banned capital punishment. Enlightenment is just something that happens to societies that are willing to look at themselves and ponder if their policies are beneficial.

    “Furthermore, a society without morals does not long survive.” Exactly, that is why God gave us a moral guideline to follow.

    Please provide hard data that God exists and that he provided a moral guideline. The more enlightened societies got tired of waiting for you and your people to do so. They have already developed their own secular guidelines by which to live. But thank you for playing.

    Oh and I just wanted to remind you that evolution is a theory not a fact.

    Oh, and I just wanted to remind you that evolution is both a theory and a fact. Please see this page. Thank you for your excellent question.

    I don’t ever remember it becoming a scientific law.

    That’s because you didn’t read the page I just referred you to. Here’s just one highlight:

    A theory never becomes a law. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There is nothing higher, or better, than a theory.

    Please go to that page. Enlightenment may one day be yours, too!

  28. jfatz Says:

    Rissa:

    Take a look, if you’d like, at a number of examples of scientific laws and let us know what they most resemble to you.

  29. Rissa Says:

    Yes. Look at France. They invented one of the bloodiest forms of execution (the guillotine), which they used with much gusto from 1792 all the way up to 1977! But by 1981, the French finally abolished capital punishment. They got smarter. I don’t know all of the sociological factors at play here. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if religion played a role. However, it doesn’t need to. God doesn’t play too much of a role in Europe, and all of the E.U. has banned capital punishment.

    Ah this is where you are so confused. Who said that capital punishment was against Christianity? Exodus 2:22 “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.” Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” So you see the government has the God-given right to dispense justice, including capital punishment. Yes I said God-given.

    Please provide hard data that God exists and that he provided a moral guideline. The more enlightened societies got tired of waiting for you and your people to do so. They have already developed their own secular guidelines by which to live. But thank you for playing.

    Let me ask you a question. If you see a painting, you assume there was a painter don’t you? Or if you see an airplane, there is a pilot right? It doesn’t matter that we don’t see the painter or the pilot. Elementary logic tells us they exist. If something looks as if it was designed – a building, a watch, an airplane, or a cosmos – we are safe to assume it was. But you may believe that there is no God, not because that is a logical conclusion but because it is your preference. So I believe that God does exist. And His moral guideline he provided for us is stated clearly in the Bible. Go and read the 10 commandments.

    As for the page you told me to read. I did. “In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It’s a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations” Ok then, give me some evidence that evolution is true. Or I can prove to you right now that it isn’t. Macro-evolution. Vertical change, from one species into another. There is no proof that any species any time in history, anywhere on the globe has ever changed into another species. The fossil record does not document a single transitional life form that would be needed to substantiate the theory that one species evolved into another. Darwin himself wondered about this: “Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.”

    “A single cell exhibits the same degree of complexity as a city with all of its systems of operation, communication and government. Within each tiny cell are power plants that generate energy; factories that produce foods essential for life; complex transportation systems that guide specific chemicals from one location to another; barricades that control the import and export of materials across the cell/ Every minute structure within a cell has a specific function; Without the full complement of all these systems, the cell cannot function. In fact, even the slightest malfunction within the cell can bring about the immediate termination of its existence. How unbelievable that such awesome complexity could have arisen by chance!” D. G. Lindsay

    “I could prove God statistically! Take the human body alone. The chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity!” George Gallup

  30. Bolo Says:

    You make a good point about societies not evolving. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to use that word or try to find another. I was thinking that maybe they did evolve, at least in the figurative sense, because they slowly discard practices, such as torture or capital punishment, that are not beneficial.
    —Ron Britton

    No, societies do evolve. Definitely. The problem here, I think, is that there is an implicit assumption that evolution = technological and ethical progress, as it has been defined by Western thought in the last few hundred years. This is simply not the case. For example, the adoption of torture in a society where it was strictly prohibited is definitely an example of that society’s evolution. It has responded to environmental pressures and adapted. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the adaption is good for any given individual within that society—especially if that person ends up being tortured.

    And mutations and adaptions can also be harmful to an organism—the fall of Rome (and all other large empires) could be looked at as a series of social and governmental adaptations that eventually led to an unsustainable situation within that empire’s environment. It could no longer live and gradually disintegrated, ushering in the Middle Ages, which had social arrangements that were drastically different than under Rome because of the lack of highly centralized authority—yet another adaptation.

    I could go on, but I hope you see my point. Evolution does not mean progress in the modern sense. It means change and adaptation, usually to conform to changes in the external environment. Going from a dark age to an enlightenment is an evolutionary process, as is going from an enlightenment to a dark age.

  31. crazy cat lady Says:

    Rissa, using poorly formed analogies from Ray Comfort’s bag ‘o tricks isn’t going to win you any points. Actually, it makes you look rather uneducated. That is fallacious logic as anyone who’s ever taken even the most rudimentary logic course could tell you. Honestly, the entire post is full of fallacies, but seriously, I’ve long since ceased to think I could educate anyone who so clearly resists it.

  32. Ron Britton Says:

    Rissa:

    Ah this is where you are so confused. Who said that capital punishment was against Christianity?

    This is where you are so confused. I never said capital punishment was against Christianity. I said it was immoral. As proof, I pointed to Europe, which has moved beyond Christianity in determining morality. Sorry, but your ancient religion has been left in the dust. Maybe it’s time to move it to the dustbin.

    So you see the government has the God-given right to dispense justice, including capital punishment. Yes I said God-given.

    Before you can say that rights come from God, you must first provide evidence that he exists. Rights come from humans. See my earlier article, Where Do Rights Come From?.

    “Please provide hard data that God exists…”

    Let me ask you a question. If you see a painting, you assume there was a painter don’t you?…

    You are changing the subject. I am not interested in your twisted logic. Please provide hard data that God exists.

    So I believe that God does exist.

    You can believe what you want, but if you expect me to believe as well, you’re going to have to provide some sort of proof.

    And [h]is moral guideline he provided for us is stated clearly in the Bible. Go and read the 10 commandments.

    Why? It’s an ancient set of laws from an extinct society. Why don’t you go read the Code of Hammurabi?

    Ok then, give me some evidence that evolution is true.

    This evidence is discussed in greater detail than I could ever go into over at the Talk Origins Archive. Please spend a lot of time over there.

    Or I can prove to you right now that it isn’t. Macro-evolution. Vertical change, from one species into another. There is no proof that any species any time in history, anywhere on the globe has ever changed into another species.

    Of course there is. Numerous transitional fossils have been discovered. Every time one shows up, you creationists deny its existence. Usually, you just say “That’s not a transitional fossil! It’s just a weird looking specimen of species X!” (Where X is one of the two species the fossil is transitional between.)

    Darwin himself wondered about this…

    Quote mine all you want. It’s a dry hole.

  33. Ron Britton Says:

    Bolo:

    Excellent comment! You’ve convinced me. The big problem, though, is applying a term from the natural sciences to the social sciences. They can’t always be brought over unmodified.

  34. Rissa Says:

    “This is where you are so confused. I never said capital punishment was against Christianity. I said it was immoral. As proof, I pointed to Europe, which has moved beyond Christianity in determining morality.”

    So you believe that capital punishment is immoral. And it seems you also believe that Christianity is immoral. So might I ask where it is you get your morals from. What morality standard do you follow. Do you decide for yourself what you think is moral? There has to be some sort of influence where your beliefs come from. Evolution? No you said yourself that it is just the what that life evolves that it has no morality one way or the other. So where is it that you get your morals from?

    Before you can say that rights come from God, you must first provide evidence that he exists. Rights come from humans…You are changing the subject. I am not interested in your twisted logic. Please provide hard data that God exists.

  35. Rissa Says:

    I tried to give you an example of what I believe it was not twisted logic. You just misunderstood. There is evidence of God, but you also must have faith. You may believe that rights come from humans, but that doesn’t make it a fact. Rights come from God our creator. We have governments to inforce those rights.

  36. Ron Britton Says:

    Rissa:

    So might I ask where it is you get your morals from.

    As I explained numerous times already, FROM SOCIETY! SOCIETIES DETERMINE FOR THEMSELVES WHAT IS MORAL! If you are incapable of comprehending English, please come back after you’ve taken some remedial courses.

    I tried to give you an example of what I believe it was not twisted logic.

    You obviously don’t understand what constitutes evidence. Maybe if you did, you could actually use logic yourself. A fossil is evidence. Looking at a painting and saying there must be a painter is not evidence.

    There is evidence of God, but you also must have faith.

    There is no evidence; at least you have not provided any. Faith may be fine for you. Go have yourself a faith-a-palooza for all I care. It just can’t convince me.

    Rights come from God our creator.

    Prove it.

    We have governments to inforce those rights.

    If that were the case, then modern secular societies would have that codified into their laws. They don’t.

  37. Eric Gunnerson Says:

    Just to comment a bit on homeschooling…

    The central thesis of homeschooling is that, on average, a motivated adult can be better at teaching a wide variety of subjects than somebody who is specially trained to teach those subjects.

    With rare exceptions, that would seem to be unlikely to be true. I’m a bit of a polymath – I know a lot about a ton of subjects – but I know very little about how to teach 8 year old boys (for example).

    To think that I could do a better job than the professionals seems to reek of hubris. Sure, there are bad schools out there – if that’s the case, you get what you can from the school and then work to supplement.

    That’s not even considering that teachers can be great role models, that children need to be exposed to instruction from different teachers, and the benefits of broad socialization.

  38. Tim Says:

    Helena wrote, “I am a Roman catholic who axiomatically accepts evolution and other findings of science, and the scientific method.” Unless you misused “axiomatically”, I’m afraid, you don’t get science at all. You should accept science because you’ve read up on it and found it a convincing explanation of biodiversity.

    Rissa wrote, “You may believe that rights come from humans, but that doesn’t make it a fact.” Play devil’s advocate with yourself a minute: Do your own beliefs survive such a criticism? If not, why not?

    Keep in mind that saying “God did it” is not a valid explanation, as it offers no way to tell which things are truly god, and which are not. In other words, it can’t prevent theological problems like a “god of the gaps”, where god is relegated to those areas where current knowledge is lacking. Lightning being a classical example of a no-supernatural-explanation-needed phenomenon.

    It is also not valid to invoke faith as a reason for something to be true or plausible, as faith is quite literally belief without reason, especially in the face of conflicting evidence. There is no way to tell when faith is misplaced or when it is not–the same problem as with “god did it”. Think of how much faith a suicide bomber or any jihadist has. Why is their claim to faith wrong and yours right? Surly there is more to it than an “I said so”.

  39. Maggie Says:

    Rissa said: “So you believe that capital punishment is immoral. And it seems you also believe that Christianity is immoral. So might I ask where it is you get your morals from.”

    I believe, in fact, that he just proved to you that morals do not necessarily come from a God or a book. He has morals that differ from yours. But they are morals that were not handed down by your God. The sad mistake you’re making is in ignoring that ‘morals’ are a set of behaviours agreed upon by groups of people as part of a culture. You insist that they be holy when there is absolutely no requirement that they be. Otherwise, areas of the world that do not practice or know your particular religion would be inherently chaotic and would, therefore, collapse. Yet such places continue to exist.

  40. Ericsan Says:

    Rissa’s inane ramblings remind me of something I heard from a friend who was brainwashed by his born again parents and sadly has yet to fully shake off the conditioning, after he came back from a trip to the Grand Canyon: “It was so overwhelming I felt the presence of god, how else could so much grandiose beauty have been created”.

    I’ve been there too, and all I saw was the overwhelming beauty of nature at work. It’s breathtaking, but it’s also painfully obvious that it’s the result of millions of years of erosion. Then again, once you’ve accepted that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that our ancesters were riding dinosaurs, it becomes obvious that there was not enough time for erosion to create the Grand Canyon, therefore, god must have done it. QED.

  41. rintrah Says:

    that we can think, ponder, formulate ideas and speculate upon the nature of existence, is but a grain of earthly sand within the immensity of this largely unknown universe. Life itself is the mysterious force whose design over aeons has us so intrigued. Personify it if you must have such a pillow to cushion the edges of your mortality, but humble youself, for just as through the touch of your finger you begin to know the earth so do our thoughts touch this universe and never know its edges.

  42. John B. Says:

    Irishman quotes Bay of Fundie: “I think the word she wants here is “relegate”, not “regulate”.

    Then replies:

    “You are in error. She clearly means “regulate”,

    Here, again, is the sentence: “[T]wenty-first century school officials unfairly regulate evolution to the classroom as science and creation to the church as religion.”

    All I can say is – either way she’s wrong. Either she meant “relegate”, in which case this sentence would have been coherent, or she meant what she said, and it was not. You can’t “regulate evolution to the classroom”. You can set regulations that evolution will be taught in the classroom. You can regulate the curriculum to include evolution. You can’t regulate evolution. You CAN relegate it.

    Unless you think she means to “regulate evolution to the classroom”, i.e. Natural Selection, from this day forward, can only take place in the classroom! I know I tried to contribute to evolution there! Failed that one.

  43. bonder Says:

    Rissa:

    Your argument from design for god à la Ray Comfort doesn’t really apply for life requiring a designer. A painting does not reproduce; it does not mutate; it is not subject to natural selection; the parts from which the painting is made (canvas, paint) do not have natural affinities for each other like the components of cells do; and I could go on. Life has all of these properties.

    Your quote alluding to irreducible complexity has also been debunked. Creationists like to cite that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex: that if it were missing any one of the fourteen or so proteins that make it up, then it would not be a functioning flagellum. This is true, no scientist will argue that; however, we can see that removing proteins will leave a functioning structure that can fulfill other duties.

    Your quote about the statistical probability of the human body having formed logically flawed. It is like dealing out a game of bridge and then noting how the cards are distributed and remarking “my, how improbable this outcome is!” Sure, there are many different ways that life could have evolved or have been created, so to pick one specific example and talk about the probability of that happening is missing the point.

    As for why we don’t have a continuous fossil record of all intermediate forms that have evolved there are two reasons for this. First, the chances of an organism becoming fossilized after death is small, that’s why you don’t find a bunch of fossils every time you dig somewhere. Second, some evolutionary changes occur so quickly that there are few, relatively speaking, organisms that would qualify as intermediates, so there is a high chance for none of them to become fossils.

    On to the topic of “macro-evolution,” this is really just another way of saying accumulated “micro-evolution.” There really is no difference; scientists don’t make a distinction. All that “macro-evolution” is is when the species has done enough small modifications, or “micro-evolution,” that it is no longer able or willing to reproduce with its ancestors, if there are examples similar to its ancestors still around. We have actually seen examples of speciation. For example, there is a fly that lives above ground and a segment of the population moved underground to the subways, and now the two populations can no longer interbreed.

    It has been my observation that people who don’t accept evolution don’t actually have a clear understanding of evolution. If you are wanting to get a better understanding of the specifics of the mechanisms of evolution, take a look at the youtube videos from this user: http://www.youtube.com/user/cdk007 I recommend the videos titled ‘Evolution IS a Blind Watchmaker’, ‘The Evolution of Irreducible Complexity’, ‘Why Creationists are WRONG about MacroEvolution’, and ‘The Evolution of the Flagellum’. The videos use computer simulation to explain certain aspects of evolution through randomly introduced mutations and natural selection.

  44. Mac Says:

    Oh my God! (I’m being smarmy)… I Find it hard to believe that anyone believes that government has a “God given” right to do anything. Didn’t we abandon that type of thinking in the dark ages? But, even scarier to me: if what our government does is “God given”, what does that make Bush? A demi-god? oh please…

  45. Maronan Says:

    It’s too bad the “prize” is a scholarship to Bibleville Indoctrination School. If the prize were $50,000 real dollars, I’d be happy to send them shit-in-a-can in essay format. One of these years, I might submit such an essay anyway, just to fuck with them.

  46. Jean-Denis Muys Says:

    Just a tiny bit of French testimony regarding Rissa, moral, and the death punishment. I don’t claim to prove anything. This is just a small testimony. I will not support my testimony with sources or facts, simply because I’m lazy. But I could.

    I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, attended religion classes at school and I have a rather strong scientific education. Within this context, there never were any conflict between the two. The priests who taught me religion when I was a teenager back in the seventies always said that you could not read the bible literally, that the universe was not really created in seven days and so on.

    The French Roman Catholic Church is strongly against death punishment. So far as I understand them, so are the Reformist churches here. They (and we) believe that it is morally inacceptable. Quoting the bible to support it doesn’t work as we consider the bible as mostly allegorical. Otherwise, you would quote the bible supporting rape (easy to find), and would claim rape is moral.

    There is overwhelming evidence that evolution did (and does) occur. The Christian Churches here do agree. Evolution (or science in general) neither proves nor disproves God, they are simply orthogonal.

    This all sorry rage about creationism and evolution going on in the USA leaves us floored, and sad. This is simply totally unbelievable from here. It seems to me a lot of evolving needs to occur in your country, specifically among the likes of Rissa.

    Please do excuse the flaws in my English, I hope they leave my testimony understandable.

    Jean-Denis

  47. Ron Britton Says:

    Jean-Denis:

    Thanks for your comment. Your English is very good.

    Most mainline churches have no conflict with evolution, because they moved beyond Biblical literalism decades ago. For some bizarre reason, here in the U.S., membership in mainline churches is dropping and is more than compensated for by rising membership of the anti-intellectual, right-wing extremist churches that preach Biblical literalism and end-times theology.

    I don’t understand it. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a long time. I think part of it has to do with our Puritan roots. Many of the early settlers of this continent were booted out of Europe for being too extreme.

    I think another reason is the poor educational system here. You can get a good education here. You can also get an extremely poor education here. It’s partly the luck up where you live and partly how determined you are to get educated despite the obstacles.

    Since many of our people are poorly educated, they are more susceptible to the crazy teachings of the extremist churches. The churches get bigger and stronger and pressure the schools to dumb down the curriculum. It’s a positive-feedback loop.

    Those of us who fight to keep evolution in the schools are doing so because we know what will happen to our country if we don’t.

    The parents who demand that the schools teach creationism are actually making their children stupider. What parent wants that? Yet that’s exactly what they are doing. And in the process, they are making the entire nation stupider.

  48. MichaelS Says:

    I believe she meant:

    [T]wenty-first century school officials unfairly regulate the teaching ofevolution to the classroom as science and the teaching of creation to the church as religion.

    That’s how I read it, anyway. I’d never seen the word “relegate” used in the manner you suggest, so I had to look it up and it does have the meaning of “sort into categories”, but it seemed almost archaic. ‘Course, I was home-schooled too, so maybe that’s it. Still, leaving out the implied “the teaching of” is not grammatically incorrect; regardless of whether a governmental body can realistically restrict natural selection to a classroom, the grammar makes sense. Furthermore, I don’t think defining “evolution” as a curriculum is remotely a stretch; if I said “I’ve taken mathematics” would you bicker that I left out “at least one course in”? Also, regardless of which verb you use, either evolution is a course of instruction or it’s the actual process; the government can neither regulate nor relegate the process (well, I suppose sex-ed does exactly that but I digress).

    Leaving us with: can you regulate a course of instruction to someplace? I don’t think so—”relegate” makes more sense, though probably not in keeping with the original intent; if my understanding of her intent is correct I’d therefore say the sentence was poorly written.

    Having spent probably too much space on that pedantry, I’ll move on to: “If you see a painting, you assume there was a painter don’t you?”

    Well, no. If I see a painting, I look for specific evidence of a painter. Some paintings, such as Jesus/Mary/Elvis/Your Mom in a tree/oil stain/pastry/tasty sandwich are completely natural and do not have painters. Those paintings also tend to be of marginal quality, at best. Other paintings, such as the Mona Lisa, tend to be of much higher quality, suggesting an intelligent painter with intent.

    However, without having watched a real person paint such a painting–not once, but many times—I wouldn’t be able to assume anything, and might believe that only gods can make paintings that realistic. However, I’ve never seen a god make a painting either, so that’s just as invalid of an assumption. If I were honest I’d have to say “I don’t know who made it, but it’s pretty.”

    Likewise, I’ve not once seen a god make a person, so I don’t have any precedence to assume the gods did it, but I’ve seen many people created by natural causes. So when I see a person I assume they probably came from natural causes. On the subject of initial creation (not evolution, but the origin of life), it’s true that I’ve never seen even one life form arise spontaneously of natural causes, but it’s equally true that I’ve never seen a life form being created by a god. Furthermore, there’s a great deal of evidence that life *could* spontaneously arise of natural causes, so I will lean towards that thinking rather than assume some magical being poofed the original RNA or whatever into existence. As such, my honest statement is “I don’t know for sure, but life probably came from the chemical soup of ancient Earth”.

    Next up: “I could prove God statistically! Take the human body alone. The chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity!”

    The problem is that they did “just happen”. Doesn’t matter if some god did it, or more normal physics. You see, if there is a god who is capable of zapping such an elegant, complex thing into existance, he/she/it must be vastly more complex still. Christian doctrine states that their god just happened, which is statistically far less likely. Even if the gods evolved from some lesser form, it’s still something from nothing. So pick your poison, we do exist by mere “chance”.

  49. Sarah Says:

    Usually, don’t get into these blog battles, but this topic has always been a rather sore spot for me.

    To Rissa

    You claim you have proof of God’s existence (Of course, you never actually show this ‘evidence’ and instead beat around the bush by quoting and making cute analogies that really don’t prove any of your above statements)

    …So I have a question for you.

    What kind of evidence do you have to prove that this higher power is ‘male’?

    You constantly refer to God as ‘He’ so I wish to know where your evidence for that particular gender lies?

    Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to tell you that it’s not ok to believe in what you wish.

    Personally have been raised openly, granted the option of believeing whatever I wish to take faith in…however most of my family is Hebrew (More specifically, Orthodox) and do believe that there might be something out there…

    But just because I personally choose to believe in that things existence doesn’t give me the right to force my ideals on school curriculm, slap a fancy label on it, and call it ‘educational material’.

    You have the right to believe whatever you want, but putting it out in the public schools (or on the internet for that matter) and telling people that there is no other truth and that they should just accept it, that’s being closed-minded and altogether selfish.

    Believe what you want, but unless there is REAL evidence to back up your claims you cannot state your religious beliefs as fact.
    -Sarah

    PS: Ron makes a fair point in his argument against yours. Society is what governs our morals, not a higher power. EX: ‘God’ did not tell people to wear clothing. We decided as a race that covering our privates was the way to go.

    But the 10 commandments do have a say in what society does find as acceptable…unfortunately, they don’t entirely lay claim to it.

  50. Tara Says:

    To Sarah

    We give the pronoun “He” to God because he is our Father, Jesus himself prayed to the Father and through Jesus we have access to the Father; hence, he also is given the masculine pronoun. Also, throughout the Bible the writers place the pronouns that refer to God in the masculine tense.

    No, society does not govern our morals. Society has been influenced by a higher power in deciphering what is right and what is wrong; therefore we are alternatively being governed by a much greater being. Please see that you are not searching deep enough.

    Take a look at Genesis 3:21 “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” So you see, God ordained that the human should be clothed.

    There are many evidences that God exists. First of all, look at the world around you, really look-the more you study science the more you will become convinced that there MUST be intelligent design. If you can’t see this as enough evidence, then I’m afraid you won’t hear what I have to say next.

    One thing that bewilders the human mind is the ability to foretell the future. God has that ability. I would strongly suggest studying Bible prophecy. This subject is not something many like to hear about because the fact is, IT IS PROOF that God exists. One prophecy, among the many, that I find very astounding is that of the nation of Israel returning to the land. Did you know that there has never been an ancient civilization that diminished and then returned again? Even more amazing is that they are returning to there original language, all of which was foretold by the Creator. That is just one of the many prophecies that God has revealed to man. Other countries that have done exactly as God said they would in the last fifty years are Iran, Ethiopia, Libya, Lebanon, and many others. If you are afraid of being proven wrong, I wouldn’t suggest learning about these prophecies.

    Sadly, there is a prophecy that I see being accomplished as I read each of these articles. It was told in Second Timothy 3:1-4. If you dare to read this passage, and then if you would read the ideas that the people of this country have fallen into (by the quotes above), you will (if you aren’t caught in the trap yourself) have to break your stubborn heart and bow down to the Lord who created you.

    Yes, I am a Christian, and you can yell as many names at me as you want, but I stand for truth and I stand for Creation.

  51. Ron Britton Says:

    Tara:

    We give the pronoun “He” to God because he is our Father, Jesus himself prayed to the Father and through Jesus we have access to the Father; hence, he also is given the masculine pronoun. Also, throughout the Bible the writers place the pronouns that refer to God in the masculine tense.

    Actually, they don’t. The original Hebrew texts are ambiguous about God’s gender. Using “he” to refer to God is an invention of the English translators.

    No, society does not govern our morals. Society has been influenced by a higher power in deciphering what is right and what is wrong; therefore we are alternatively being governed by a much greater being.

    You need to support this claim. If you look at the development of societies throughout history, you will see that they pulled their moral codes from a variety of sources. There is no fountain stuck in the ground somewhere that spews forth moral wisdom from which every society on Earth has formed its laws.

    Take a look at Genesis 3:21 “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” So you see, God ordained that the human should be clothed.

    All that proves is that an ancient book of dubious provenance makes that claim. It doesn’t prove the claim.

    There are many evidences that God exists.

    This ought to be good.

    First of all, look at the world around you, really look-the more you study science the more you will become convinced that there MUST be intelligent design.

    The more people study science, the more they become convinced that there isn’t intelligent design.

    If you can’t see this as enough evidence, then I’m afraid you won’t hear what I have to say next.

    You just said “there are many evidences”, but you didn’t provide even one! The “look around” argument is just a touchy-feely excuse for a lack of critical thinking skills.

    I would strongly suggest studying Bible prophecy.

    I would strongly suggest not studying Bible prophecy.

    This subject is not something many like to hear about because the fact is, IT IS PROOF that God exists.

    No. It is merely proof that somebody can go into the Bible after the fact and data mine for sentences that they like and twist and conform the “evidence” into whatever shape they want.

    Most people who believe in Bible prophecy do not believe in the prophecies of Nostradamus, but they are effectively identical. In both cases, supporters take ambiguous statements and pair them with ambiguous historical events and say it’s a match.

    If you disbelieve Nostradamus, you must disbelieve Bible prophecy for the exact same reason!

    Yes, I am a Christian, and you can yell as many names at me as you want, but I stand for truth and I stand for Creation.

    The only “name” that applies to Christians is “deluded”.

  52. Tara Says:

    To Mr. Britton,
    I do apologize for not making myself clear about the pronouns of God. What I meant was that the English writers refer to God by using the masculine pronouns.
    I found this article about the Hebrew use of pronouns that I think might interest you and the others reading this:

    In the Hebrew Bible (and in translations to languages with a she/he dichotomy) God is referred to as “he”. God might be a ‘He’ in the Bible but non-Hebrew-literate individuals do not always know that in Hebrew language, grammatical gender is NOT an indicator of actual gender. Hebrew nouns have grammatical gender. Each object is masculine or feminine. There are no gender-neutral pronouns in Hebrew, i.e. there is no equivalent of the English “it”. Everything is a “he” or a “she”.

    The spirit of God Ruach Elohim (Genesis 1:2) is a feminine noun. So is the Shekhinah — the Presence of God. Does that mean the Spirit of God and the Presence of God are female?

    Take for example the word “animal” — hayyah in Hebrew. Hayyah is a feminine noun. Therefore, by the rules of Hebrew grammar, whenever people speak of a hayyah, they have to refer to it as “she”. This does not indicate that the animal in question is actually female.

    Since the titles for God in the Hebrew Bible (Elohim, El, Adonai) are masculine nouns, God is called “he”. A book sefer is a masculine noun too. So a book is also called “he”. God is no more male than a book is male.

    In Chinese, a language with gender-neutral pronouns, a special genderless pronoun is used in reference to Divinity (roughly equivalent to IT). When translating the Bible into Chinese, using “he” to reference God was out of the question because the Chinese character for “he” contained the character “human”. (Chinese characters are picture-words which may consist of other Chinese characters.) To bring God to the level of man was blasphemous.

    Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

    Too often, humans have projected their own image of oppressive manhood onto God. People in power (usually men) assume that God must think, act and feel the way they do, and less powerful minorities often respond by rejecting God when what they really have issue with is not God but the majority-sanctioned ideas of God. Insisting that God’s personality and preferences mirrors that of humans (or at least the men of more privileged classes), is at best, making the mistake that Luther believed Erasmus was making at the time he told Erasmus, “Your God is too human”, or worse, committing idolatry by casting God in man’s image.

    As far as Nastradamus is concerned; he was proven to be a hoax long ago. Actually, he took some prophecies from the Bible and claimed they were from him.

  53. Sarah Says:

    Tara,

    But say I didn’t WANT to believe the words written in a book thousands of years ago? THEN how would you go about proving that there is a God and that it is ‘He’? That is the question I was trying to get at: you have no proof outside of a book that was written by MEN!

    And why would I become more convinced of the existence of this higher power when I am surrounded by thoroughly explained theories? (To restate Ron’s reply) You claim that there is proof, but you are not saying anything really. Looking at the world around me isn’t solid evidence; it’s called Inductive reasoning, which isn’t precise.

    If you actually give me a completely solid theory that explains this, then I would humbly admit my mistake; until then, I will not buy into your frail arguments.

    Prophets, eh? I’ve never been much of a believer in those, but I do not doubt that there is possiblity for the strange and intriguing…as for God’s predictions: how do you know that they are from an actual God? People wrote the bible, not God and how do you know that these men long since dead were not simply altering ‘God’s Message?’ You don’t know that and there is no way you can possibly prove it unless you were there yourself. You can believe it, I have no qualms with that…but facts are not based on Faith alone.

    I am not yelling at you or calling you anything. I am not attacking you personally or your beliefs, just your lack of evidence and the way all religion forces itself into the minds of people who do not want it.

    To repeat my earlier message: our scientists don’t go to your churches and preach about evolution so can you please keep your priests and creationism out of our classrooms?

    PS Ron: You are indeed quite a skilled debater. Your Nostradamus example is very clever.