And check out my my lolcatty
Posted on March 3, 2011 at 10:51 am by Dr. Jim
Posted on February 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm by Dr. Jim
So to help the non-unevil Dr. Jim celebrate, it’s time to
VOTE FOR THE BEST JIM WEST LOLCAT
To see all the entries and the poll, go to:
I will keep the poll open until the weekend, and that should give me time to get down town to pickup the secret prize I was planning on getting.
Posted on February 28, 2011 at 8:35 am by Dr. Jim
Well, I got my paper abstract for the November meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature off yesterday. And two days before the deadline! I ROCK! Hopefully it will get the green light and I will finally get to see San Francisco! Anyway, here it is:
Judaean Mythology and Hebrew Myth
An excessive reductionism has long marked much scholarly discussion of myth and the Hebrew Bible. This reductionism is based on a strict delineation of myth as a formal genre and the dominance of ANE cosmogonic and cosmological mythology as exemplars of myth against which biblical materials are analyzed. Moreover, vestiges of the theological and ethnocentric denigration of mythology vis-a-vis history remain.
Specialized work on select books and passages in the Hebrew Bible have successfully avoided these pitfalls. The field as a whole, however, requires the consolidation of these advances and reframing the boundaries of ancient Judean mythology as distinct from the various mythologies of surrounding peoples (as all forms of mythology are culturally specific).
This paper argues that diverse subfields within Hebrew Bible studies could benefit from reforming around theories and insights into religious, political, ethnic, and national mythology from around the world and the various functions and contexts for such myths. These sub-disciplines include, but are not restricted to diachronic studies, the roles and status of historical narrative for social and religious identity, and the rhetorical dynamics and ritual functions of text such as numerous psalms that appeal to past divine actions.
Posted on February 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm by Dr. Jim
Posted on February 27, 2011 at 8:32 am by Dr. Jim
Posted on February 27, 2011 at 8:22 am by Dr. Jim
Posted on February 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm by Dr. Jim
Today (Feb 26) the Lethbridge Herald reported on the South Western Alberta Teachers Convention held Feb 24 and 25 at the University of Lethbridge. This is not the cause of the huge amounts of profanity, all caps and bolded text in what will follow. That the article, written by Caroline Zentner, only reported on one speaker’s contribution to the convention says something non-profanity worthy about either her reporting or the quality of the convention, or both. That the content of that contribution was about the compatibility of Catholicism and evolution is politely noteworthy: perhaps it a slow news day, or the Herald was deliberately pandering to the anti-intellectuals amongst its readership). No, what worth swearing about is that the Teachers Association tolerated such a talk at their convention in the first place. It is (irony intended) God-damn absurd. Moreover, the speaker’s ideas as reported in the article are totally FUCKED! What a load pure unadulterated bullshit. There, that felt good.
Here is the dissection.
Zentner writes about the presentation by Carl Fakeley, “an English and Religious Studies teacher at Notre Dame High School”, a Catholic school in Red Deer.
So, the convention organizers couldn’t even find a science teacher to talk about science? What a bunch of morons! Why is it that so many people think that being religious gives one credentials to talk about science? Or is it FAKEley’s English qualifications that let him talk about evolution? Hell, that’s more likely to do the trick than theology. Fuck, (oh crap, there I go again) I probably know more about science than he does.
Friday he gave a presentation at the annual teachers’ convention which outlined the discussion. The big bang theory and evolution and the biblical story of creation in Genesis are not mutually exclusive topics. Can a Catholic believe in evolution? Fakeley’s answer is yes.
“Creation tells us where matter came from and evolution tells us how it developed to become what it is today,” he said. “Evolution is a theory about how things perhaps evolved once the creation took place. Evolutionary theories can’t tell us the origin of matter, just how matter developed after it was created.”
Wrongo. Evolution does not say a thing about what happened to matter after “creation”. Evolution is about speciation, not physics, cosmology or anything like that. And it does not imply creation as Fakeley construes it. He can’t get his sciences in order and imposes his own religious world view to define the limits of said misunderstood science. Pathetic. And remember, this took place in a university. What would happen if one of Fakely’s unfortunate students got admitted to the U. of L., enrolled in an astrophysics class, and then wondered aloud about why the text book didn’t have any pictures of dinosaurs? Let’s get one thing straight:
“CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION” IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR “BIG BANG”!
Hell, I’m in the humanities and at least I know that much!
The article observes how students learn about evolution just when they are beginning their teenage rebellions against their parents. There is a quick solution: begin to teach evolution in the first grade when telling the kids about dinosaurs. And keep telling them, even if their parents’ heads explode. And get rid of that bullshit Bill 44 which lets parents pull their kids out of school classes on religious grounds. Parents who object to the content should be forced to attend and then fined if they interrupt the proceedings.
Students sometimes become automatic skeptics in religion class, saying science has proof but religion doesn’t. Fakeley asks students what belief is.
“Most of what we believe we believe on faith,” he said. “In that realm of what we say we know, there are very few things that we know firsthand.”
And besides, kids SHOULD become skeptics in school. That is what an education is for. Sure, there is a subjectivity to the production of knowledge, but the kind of knowledge attained through scientific means is of a fundamentally different order than that generated by religious belief. And there ISN’T any proof for the essential doctrines of religions but proof is the essence of what a scientific approach to reality is all about. Fakeley also BADLY oversimplifies the issue of science and religion.
There are two sides to the argument, with the one side starting from the premise that God doesn’t exist and the other (literal creation theory) starting from the premise that God does exist.
Unless he was misquoted here, I would like to remind him that besides agnosticism, there are countless different religious views that humans have invented, besides the myriad of invented Christian theologies. Fakely’s false dichotomy ignores all of these other religious explanations for the cause of the universe and the development of life and badly misrepresents the empiricism behind science as simply an alternative to his own religious beliefs. Good thing he doesn’t teach science. Or philosophy.
“The creationists will find all of the evidence that can point in their direction. The evolutionists find the evidence that points in their direction,” he said. “And so, in a sense, both are really practising bad science. Good science says, ‘Hey, let’s look at the data. What does the data tell us?’”
WHAT THE FUCK? What data is Fakeley even talking about, here? And how does Fakeley propose to analyze what “the data tells us” after he has called into question any epistemology? He simply assumes a “common sense” one. But why were biblical creation myths abandoned as reasonable positions if people didn’t start looking at data from observations of the natural world? What of the “evidence” found by creationists (young or old earth varieties). Where is it?
Too bad Fakeley claims to be a “religious studies” teacher. He seems to ignore most religions ever invented. About the only sensible thing he was quoted as saying is this:
The Bible was never intended to be used as a science textbook and a science text is not meant to be used as the Bible.
So why bother even giving the Bible ANY kind of credence when trying to understand how the universe works? He goes on:
“We can glean things from them but that isn’t their express purpose,” he said.
If the big bang and evolution theories are both true, that still doesn’t affect a Catholic’s faith.
“Neither theory comments one way or another about God’s existence,” Fakeley said. “Our faith is based on the life, the death and the resurrection of Christ.”
The Big Bang and Evolution (here he seems to recognize these two different fields of scientific research), actually DO imply a lot about the Christian god since neither theory actually need that deity (or any other) to work. And what of this Christ? How the hell can faith be based on the resurrection of some executed Jewish carpenter’s kid? The resurrection is part of the content of faith, not what makes faith reasonable or viable. Many fields of critical research can and do call much of the Bible’s Jesus into question. Did the guy even exist to die in the first place? And if so, what were the events of his life? How like or unlike the biblical accounts was he? Biblical scholarship has many unanswered questions about these issues but there sure seems to have been a lot of fallible human input into the creation of the myth of this Christ and the production of the world’s many bibles. And the biological sciences might have a lot to say about the reality of the resurrection!
The texts that tell us of such miracles have their own histories as do the ideological institutions that claim these texts were written or inspired by some god. The timeless truths of the Catholic Church have a sordid history of invention and reinvention that can be fully explained by human creativity in response to changing intellectual and political circumstances. Hell, that’s the way we explain the shifting (and often self-serving) histories of other religions.
Moreover, when creationists see a debate between Genesis 1 and science, they are turning a blind eye to inconsistencies in their own body of data by ignoring more of the Bible than they are willing to deal with. The Bible itself has MULTIPLE creation myths:
1) The Creation Week in Gen. 1:1-2:4, in which humanity was created last
2) The Garden of Eden story that follows immediately on the previous. Here humanity is created BEFORE the plants and animals. Any attempt to harmonize the two goes against the natural reading of the Hebrew.
3) God’s primeval battles with Chaos & the defeat of the Sea (e.g., Psalm 74, 89)
4) Creation through wisdom (Proverbs 8)
5) Creation through Christ (John 1).
Can these ALL be true in any reasonable sense of the word “true”? To make them all work requires such a process of book-cooking rationalization that, in a manner of speaking one is just inventing up a NEW revelation about creation, and, metaphorically speaking, a new Bible. If one is to give one or more of the myths up, which ones, and why? Human reason is behind the interpretation of the Bible as well as its production. None of it requires a god. Why should critical thinkers cut it any slack at all?
The Bible’s mythical worlds are as much products of fantasy and imagination as are those of the Greeks, Hindus, Norsemen andScientologists. If the Bible has some “hidden” truths behind its depiction of a flat earth with pillars hold up a 6000 year old heavens, then how can people know they have uncovered them successfully? Where does the allegories stop and the Bible start talking plainly? Is there a sure-fire formula for knowing this that does not rely on further claims of revelation or other esoteric knowledge? Allegorical and selective biblical interpretation to allow for science is simply an after-the-fact special pleading to preserve a special status for a human invention.
What place can science have for revelation? And if there is to be an allowance for revelation, why must it be CHRISTIAN revelation? More special pleading in protection of Christianity’s priviledged social position in western world. That is pretty much all there is to support of sectarian schools allowing “teachers” like Fakeley to spew his nonsense. Let the Church fund the Church. Education taxes should be spent on Sunday Schools.
Fakeley seems to rely on some version of Gould’s bullshit notion of “non-overlapping magisteria”, NOMA, in which science and religion talk about completely different things (science the empirical world; religion, the non-empirical) so there is no fundamental contradiction between them. It seems to be totally deficient in its understanding of religion which is very often deeply concerned with describing the empirical world. More than just ascribing a spiritual value, religion often describes empirical reality, and its to ignore such claims is simple book-cooking to arrive at a favourable conclusion. To say religion’s claims about the empirical world are inconsequential to the core of what religion is amounts to saying that literally MILLIONS if not BILLIONS of religious people have totally missed the point of their own tradition.
Moreover, even if we allow that ,as Fakeley claims, evolution and the big bang theories (or all the other sciences and critical disciplines, for that matter) do not affect faith then what we have is not a protected space for faith but a question of human psychology and the dissonance of holding mutually exclusive beliefs. NOr do we have a protected space for scientific thought. We can compartmentalize to some extent, but there is a lot overlap that should not be denied when it comes to science and the content of Christianity or other religions.
Dead people do not resurrect. Water cannot instantaneously be turned into water. The sun cannot stand still in the sky. Demons do not cause diseases, axes don’t float in water, snakes and donkeys don’t talk. Miracles that depend on God requires suspension of the natural laws. These things have no place in a rational world. Yet, this is the content of many Christian’s beliefs as descriptions of the history of the real, lived world. By holding them apart NOMA denies the religious reality of many people and, what is worse, supposes to know best about what religious people SHOULD believe.
NOMA is just Gould’s way of saying Gould doesn’t think too critically about religion. It is his adaptation of an ad hoc Christian apologetic position (indeed, he borrowed much of it from the Pope) that pays lip-service to critical thought while protecting itself from such criticism.
And religion itself is a valid topic for critical research. Rather than have ill-educated teachers pontificate about science in a fit of Christian apologetics, students should be taught to examine religion in the same way they are taught to pull apart other historically contingent ideologies. Its high time REAL Religious Studies courses were mandatory in schools, dammit.
Why MUST part of the universe be regarded as off limits to rational, scientific exploration? Science can carve out a space for religious myth only by sacrificing part of itself. Christians only know of “creation” through doctrines derived from reading the Bible, which itself can be demonstrated to be a product of its own cultural setting in the ancient Near East. This is hardly an excuse for explaining away its inconsistencies and non-scientific conceptions as is often done.
Public schools should not include any sectarian religious instruction. Students should learn about religions, but not their “truths” and doctrines as alternatives to science. Rather, religion should be taught as the product of human culture. It’s time to abolish sectarian schools and unqualified
tpreachers bullshitting students on the public purse.
Posted on February 26, 2011 at 9:24 am by Dr. Jim
Yup! I’ve got a load more Lolcat Jim West contest entries! I’ve put all of them on one page.
New to the list are Chuck Grantham and Laine Clayton! And some additional ones by folks who submitted earlier
Any new entries will also go on the same page at the top.
Thanks to everyone who has submitted already!
Here’s one I just made, but its not in the competition
Posted on February 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm by Dr. Jim
O.K., so my “dear” brother Allen seems not so much a fan of Jim West’s blog as he is a stout defender of family honor. Here is his latest entry to the
Tick-Off Dr. Jim With a Lolcat Roast Jim West with a Lolcat Contest.
Posted on February 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm by Dr. Jim
Call PZ Myers! Octopi brains prove God exists!
“Who would imagine that octopi, animals without backbones, could be so smart?”
So asks the Creation Science Association of Alberta on their website. Now, I don’t know why they think critters should think with with their vertebrae. But, perhaps like the octopi, GOD JUST MADE THEM THAT WAY?
Anyway, it has been ages since I had a little nasty fun at the expense of Canadian anti-science creationists and other similar sorts, so it’s about time to make up for lost time and get back to one of the most popular irregular features of this blog:
KNOW YOUR NUTS!
So, read on, and while you are doing so, enjoy “Octopus’s Garden” in honor of the cephalopodophile and arch-atheist PZ Myers by Lea Erbe, from IMax, Under the Sea!
No video on the video, so here she is:
Leah Erbe, at her reflective
And, guys, no thinking with your little
disco balls, um… bones, um… just listen to the damn music and read my post!
Now, one of the pleasant side effects the Know Yer Nuts feature is the undermining of good old Canadian smugness in thinking that the U. S. has all the creationist nutcases. NO WAY! We have our fair share too!
As noted, my victim this time is the Creation Science Association of Alberta, based in Edmonton. They claim their mission is:
To provide encouragement and resources to persons who desire good scientific information which conforms to the Bible.
Well, here we have it all, don’t we. Science must conform to the Bible. What is odd, however, is that there is very little on their site about the Bible, its multiple creation myths, contradictions and what not. This is one thing that REALLY pisses me off about creationists. They want the Bible to be “true” in all of its inconsistent and impossible claims about the universe but they almost NEVER are honest about their reading strategy and how they make all of the “inerrant” claims true all at the same time. Any scientific (or other academic) discipline so willfully blind to its own inconsistent premises would be subject to serious critique, and indeed, creationists like to think their criticisms of science are based on such perceived inconsistencies.
What there is, however, is this:
Creation scientists have a world view or model for their science which is based on the belief that an intelligent designer exists who created our universe and everything in it.
Holy white cliffs of Dover, Bat-cdesign proponentsist! Are they suggesting that Intelligent Design = Creationism?
Anyway, here is their summary of the proof from design for creationism:
Ah yes, critters are amazing, therefore God. How do we know what “designed” means? By looking at human-made items which we can identify by their contrast with natural occurring conglomerates of matter. So how does this imply design in nature? Jellyfish eyes and enviable non-human skills of animals are what evolution explains. That such features of other animals exist is no refutation. And here is the CSAA on fossils.
Thousands of dinosaur fossils have been found all over the world. Were they gradually deposited over millions of years, or did they die catastrophically?
The link goes to a page that reports on a huge fossil finds in Alberta and elsewhere in which groups of hapless beasts were died in floodwaters. In southern Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park massive beds of centrosaurus bones have been found. The park offers hiking tours of the site. Never been on it, but I would like to go.
Another site mentioned in the “Big Splash” page is a small pachyrinosaurus bed near Lethbridge and a larger one near Grande Prairie in northern Alberta. The latter animals came to grief in a flood. But was it the same flood in which the centrosauruses died? OF course, it was Noah’s flood, the ONLY flood that ever happened! Even the fact that both sites are late Cretaceous, doesn’t mean the floods were in exactly the same year!
The Grande Prairie site they talk about seems to be the Pipestone Creek bone bed. A museum is planned for there, the River of Death and Discovery Museum.
The museum site has this to say:
Pachyrhinosaurus travelled in herds and migrated seasonally, following plant food resources.One theory, because of fluvial influence, is that during one such migration this herd attemped to cross the flooded river leading to their demise. Carcasses were washed downriver and over time were devoured by carnivores; indicated by teeth and teeth markings found near and on the remains.
Hmmm. Well, if this is Noah’s flood, then where the hell did the carnivores come from? Would they not have died in the flood, too? Now, what if the carcasses were nibbled by the carnivourous dinosaurs that Noah had on the ark? Well, how the hell did they get from Mt. Ararat in Turkey where the freaking ark is said to have grounded itself to Grande Prairie in time to eat the rotting flesh? Odd that the CSAA site didn’t mention the carnivore evidence. I wonder why?
The solution to how T-Rex and raptors got from Turkey to Grande Prairie.
Like this happy family, they simply waited for a bus!
And another point: all of the dinosaur flood victim sites will need to be contemporaneous with each other for the Noah’s flood pseudo-theory to work. In fact, ALL alleged Noah’s flood sites will have to be contemporaneous. So why aren’t human or mammal remains mixed up with any dinosaur flood sites, or dinosaur bones mixed up in remains of human settlements. Could it be that their BIBLE Bible BASED “SCIENCE” IS WRONG?
CSAA publishes a quarterly online magazine call Dialogue, the latest edition being Nov. 2o1o and you can download it at your displeasure. Gripping stuff. The latest issue has an article on human and chimp DNA in which she alleges that geneticists have artificially organized their bits of data in ways that make chimpanzee DNA resemble its human counterparts and then draw indefensible conclusions about evolutionary links between the two species. She also appeals to the increasing awareness of the complexity of genetics and how much is not known.
It is apparent then that scientists are not in a position to compare human and chimpanzee genomes Even if the genomes were identical, it would give no clues about relationships because of the alternative splicing of genetic information and multiple reading frames from the same piece of stored code. Moreover the actual form and function of creatures appears to come from higher levels of control about which we know very little. Thus assumptions that similar genomes suggest a close evolutionary relationship, are plainly without any kind of logical basis. All that scientists have discovered is how little we understand.
But if this is the case, why do SO DAMN MANY scientists think their methods CAN reveal something about the interrelationships of species? So why don’t creationists write it all up in a scientifically accepted way and make the geneticists listen to reason? Sounds like the author has to have some kind of behind the scenes scientific conspiracy theory or mass delusion to make her objections work. The pieces ends thusly:
The study of various genomes obviously has been a story of secular disappointment. What is called for here is humble appreciation of what God has told us concerning how He created all things. Then we interpret the data from nature in terms of what God has revealed in His Word.
I return to my point above: why don’t creationists question the Bible’s clarity and consistency about the nature of nature as rigorously as they do the scientific findings? Why ISN’T THERE A CONSISTENT story of ” biblical creation? Where did the water after the flood go? Hell, where did it come from? Lots of things are left up to the tendency of “literalists” reluctance to take the Bible literally and seriously.
The article (above and many more on the CSAA site) was written by the outfit’s V. P., Margaret Helder, who is described thusly by the Answers in Genesis site:
Dr. Margaret Helder is a scientist, a writer, a mother of six, and Vice-President of the Creation Science Association of Alberta, Canada. She is also probably the most prominent woman in creation science.
Dr. Helder is also the author of three books and Associate Editor in charge of science and technology for Reformed Perspective, a magazine for Christian families. Her scientific achievements include describing and naming a species of aquatic fungus new to science,Chytridium deltanum Masters (Masters being her maiden name, and the name under which she published the description).
Wow! Under the name Margaret J. Masters, she has a paper in the Canadian Journal of Botany 49 (1971). WOW! 1971. That is FORTY FREAKING YEARS AGO! One wonders what sort of proper research she has been up to since. She did write a creationist guide to the Royal Tyrrell Museum! In 1981, she was a witness in the ”McLean et al. vs. Arkansas” trial. The site, Antievolution.org has this to say about it:
In 1981, a remarkable court case in Arkansas pitted creationists against pastors, priests, teachers, and scientists. “McLean et al. vs. Arkansas” sought relief from Arkansas’ Act 590, which mandated that evolutionary biology instruction be balanced with “creation science”. Unlike the 1925 Scopes trial in Tennessee, the Arkansas court heard testimony from a large number of witnesses on both sides of the case. Judge Overton ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and Act 590 was deemed unconstitutional. Overton’s clearly written decision has been widely reprinted, and is available on the Web at several locations. (e.g. here).
Antievolution.org has all of Helder’s testimony online, along with all the other contributors to the trial too. The National Center for Science Education summarized her testimony this way:
Other defense witnesses testified during the following days. Margaret Helder, vice-president of the Creation Research Society and a botanist from Canada, argued that available research didn’t support the evolution of plants. But, under cross-examination by Gary Crawford, she admitted that nearly all biologists would disagree with her and that most of her evidence was negative evidence against evolution rather than data supporting creation. She revealed that she believed that there was no scientific evidence supportive of creation.
Ah, yes. Getting back to CSAA, she also goes after Tiktaalic, the lobe finned, sort of foot-finned slithery thing that was precursor all the four footed beasties that Noah had to catch. She says, of course, that the fossil indicates nothing about evolution.
November’s Dialogue has another article on thinking clearly, which strikes me as a bit ironic. It introduces the reader to Jason Lisle, apparently a “Creationist Astrophysicist” attached to Answers in Genesis (I’ve added some boldness in the type to highlight super-genius bits-I’m being ironic…)
Jason Lisle, Ph.D., graduated in astronomy from the University of Colorado. After years of experience in teaching and conducting research in solar astrophysics, he wrote Taking Back Astronomy: the Heavens Declare Creation (2006) which was aimed at junior high to adult readers. Now he has written The Ultimate Proof of Creation: resolving the origins debate (2009). … Dr. Lisle begins by declaring that the only rational basis for knowing anything is the understanding that God created everything including matter, all natural processes and abstract phenomena like morality, mathematics and the ability to learn. In this context he maintains that there are two categories of individuals: those who approach the world in a reasonable way (rational) since they look to God as the ultimate foundation of everything, and those who base everything on an unknown and unknowable impersonal source (which is an irrational approach or contrary to reason).
My aching freaking braincells! Believing in a “personal” source of everything but an impersonal one is not? Special pleading anyone? How can deism be “rational” if it depends on faith? And WHICH deity? Only two categories of people? Ever hear of a false dichotomy? What about people who ascribe everything to multiple deities? What about the possibility that some folk consider everything to stem from an impersonal but KNOWABLE source? But lets not forget Lisle is an expert on reasoning. Oh yeah, let’s read on!
The author’s purpose in showing the reader how to recognize false debating strategies is to provide each person with the ability to demonstrate the merits of the Christian worldview and how any other worldview is sadly lacking. In his opinion, issues of science impact this discussion only minimally so the individual does not need to be heavily trained in this discipline. It is also his position that one should generally discuss details of science only with people who share the same worldview — but there are others who would include a wider audience in their discussions.
JUMPIN’ JEHOSOPHAT’S UNDERPANTS, BATMAN! Where does one begin! Christianity is so demonstrably superior to other worldviews that one doesn’t even have to know a lot about science to reveal the weakness in a rationalistic worldview? And fundamentalists should only discuss science with other fundamentalists? Just how the hell does this amount to a well-reasoned apologetics? We might as well face it. There is nothing in that line of “thought” that merits any kind of response other that ad hominem. This is pure anti-intellectualist, ignorance-defending bullshit.
You do not need to know science.
Do not let people who know science tell you about science
Know that you are more rational than scientists
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about Nuts #6.
My previous Know Your Nuts “winners” have been
#4: Concerned Christians Canada in Calgary for having a hissy fit over an Indian style statue of an Elephant at the Calgary Zoo that undermined the Gospel by showing kids what Ganesh looks like.