Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, January 2nd 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, January 2nd 2009.

The Resistance arrived sometime around 7pm mostly in the form of Kyle and Kazz who set up their amplified apparatus near where the evangelical Way of the Master preachers had set up in the triangular dirt parcel between traffic lanes. It’s an interesting little region that seems to simply be set aside from development because it’s ensconced between roads.

The Anonymous vs. Scientology protesters also reappeared in front of the newly bought Scientology Corporation building. The Scientologists had set up their blue tent with the endless-loop video and the lonely chairs, although this time the small cluster of chairs had an announcer who chose the scenes to play from the video. Cale decided to go and take a free stress test. The results were pretty much similar to the previous time I followed various members of the Resistance/STFS during these. He also professed interest in getting a free guide from them, but didn’t get a chance. 

Shortly Todd and Rachel also appeared and started to lay into Valerie who had the mic at the time and was proselytizing to some Asian girls who had stopped. We also had Edwin, Lee, John, and others. And a new guy, who I’m going to call Shawn3, a balding late 30s to 40s man, with a somewhat playful attitude—this comes up later—who stood around and spoke with people with the preachers and at one point even took the microphone.

At one point Shawn3 decided to play a game with Todd and said, “Well, you seem to be a scholar.”

“Well, not really,” Todd said.

“You seem to be quoting the bible a lot,” said Shawn3, “and if you quote the Bible you must have read it.”

“No, I don’t.” Todd plucks at his shirt, shrugs, and says, “Actually, I don’t quote the Bible. Ever. I haven’t even once tonight. What are you talking about? I have read the Bible, yes. Years ago. But I don’t quote it.”

“Well, if you’ve read the Bible then tell me is the Book of Hezekiah in the New Testament or the Old Testament.”

Of course, there is no Book of Hezekiah. Apparently this is a common inside joke beginning to emerge within some segments of the Christian population about people who say that certain quotes exist in the Bible that don’t, so a nonexistent book has been invented to hold them. (I wonder if Ghostoftheday and others have heard this one, perhaps the Book of Hezekiah is actually in the Gibberish Bible and we don’t know it.)

After Todd couldn’t answer the question correctly, Shawn3 went on to ridicule him and call him a liar because he said he’d read the Bible, so on so forth. None of this was very compelling because Todd never claimed to be a Biblical scholar and certainly a single person cannot know everything in the Bible by rote memorization without a great deal of study. I am certain that people who read To Kill a Mockingbird do not know offhand the name of Scout’s cat.

Later on during the night I stood by and listened to some conversations between Kazz and John, and the subject seemed to be about the rampant sexism in the Bible. This was interesting because during that time also Todd and Rachel were still talking to Shawn3 and their subject paralleled almost exactly the other discussion.

“What does my being a woman have anything to do with this conversation?” said Rachel.

Then, about ten minutes later, the conversation dissolved into a sudden caper as Shawn3 ran away—chased closely by Rachel and Todd. He sprang away, running, “Don’t chase me.” Of course, Rachel chased him around the one tiny tree there was, and then pincered him between Todd and she; putting her hand on Shawn3’s shoulder as if to root him in place.

From what I can tell the conversation had degraded quite a bit because, like most people, both Rachel and Todd find general sexism to be irreconcilable with reasonable behavior. Fortunately, the chase scene was more playful and less hostile than it actually looked and while Shawn3 tried to end the night without too much bad feelings, Todd felt like he had been too disrespectful and rude to interact with further.

Rachel apologized for “manhandling” Shawn3, although it didn’t really look to me like she was—she is actually quite tiny compared to Shawn3, so I figure that she felt bad about putting her hand on his shoulder to stop him after he ran away.

In all, it seemed a pretty fun night for everyone.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 20th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 20th 2008.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (See Agents for Christ section.)

I actually got asked, “So, whose side are you on?” by some of the onlookers who had been drawn into the crosstalk between the Resistance and the evangelicals. With an amused wit, I replied that I’m on the people’s side, really, since I like people.

Also visiting the Resistance tonight were Spyral and Gina. Spy is an actual accredited anthropologist (opposed to my amateur) who joined into a bit of the conversations that were scattered about with her own thoughts. I really should have stayed and recorded her presentation when she spoke with Diana and others because she’s well spoken and comes from a different philosophy of thought than I do.

Bill

A twinkling funhouse of mirror-speak—right down to the vision warping, bent type. He started out the conversation with the obvious starter of asking what I thought was going on. This particular starter has always confused me a little, especially because after I notice that’s what they’re doing it makes the approach feel actually disingenuous—as if the person who is talking to me didn’t care that I was standing there personally and just set off to strike up this script.

He tried very poorly to use a watered down version of Pascal’s Wager asking me how it would go for me if the Christian god happened to be true—asking if I’d agree if it would go badly for me. I have never found this compelling as I generally ask if they actually have asked that question for every god that they’ve discovered? I mean, how would he feel if the Morrigan is actually real, and she’s not happy that he hasn’t been out in the field of glory killing and maiming for her.

If someone wants to play Pascal’s Wager why don’t they wage it with every belief system they meet? Easy answer: because it would take them forever to wager every god ever imagined.

His mirror-speech was just a series of propagandist and conversational tricks. Eventually he did go on to talk to Brian while he stood near the Resistance’s speaker on the stand, but I missed out on most of that conversation.

Diana and Danielle

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

The Agents for Christ

“I believe he is going to reveal himself to you. I honestly have no hard feelings,” Diana to Kazz.

The really interesting thing about Diana is that the holy book she was carrying was only the New Testament. After debriefing Kazz on his encounter with her I am told that she didn’t have a strong cognition of a lot of Old Testament phraseology and so on. I’m not sure what schism of Christianity that they belonged to, but I always thought that the entire Bible held some sort of significance for most of them.

With Diana were a number of younger children, who like children, tended to parrot back sound bites. Even once there was a mention of people being “expelled” for speaking about Creationism, which Kazz took as a mention of Expelled, the badly drawn propaganda movie by Ben Stein. A movie which has been by in large revealed to be a fraud by a number of watchdog organizations and roundly laughed out of the academic circles for citing people who had lost their careers not for Creationism but for being cheats and frauds. (One man in particular was shunned by his peers after he himself resigned because he skipped the process of peer review by reviewing his own work and inserting it into a journal; deliberately bypassing the rules is indeed a good way to get “expelled.”)

Some interesting messages came up which paraphrase down to, “So my son couldn’t stand up in a science class and preach about Creationism?” And really, Kazz replied that there is very little anyone can preach in a science class—in a very straight-up way, no students get to disrupt a classroom by choosing to shout at everyone in the middle of any class. An adult who disrupts a college class certainly would get removed by security and expelled from school; we treat children differently than adults in that we attempt to educate them as to classroom etiquette. If a student stood up during a biology class and started talking only about gravitation, it would create the same sort of disruption as making noises about Creationism, or social studies, or political science, etc ad nauseam.

There is an academic forum for science already.

I have received a card from Diana that I will get scanned and put into this document so that people can see it.

Diana tells me that her brother-in-law is the one who runs their little group. They came out to see the Way of the Master evangelicals because there was some e-mails that had gone out about Mill Avenue. As I said above, they live out of an RV and have a semi-nomadic life. Moving from city to city to evangelize at cultural centers.

Mill Ave is a good place for them to show up, therefore; and that way they’ll get a chance to talk to people like Kazz, Omar, and others who are compassionate and interested in presenting the case for atheism to even the evangelicals and would really like them to know that in spite of propaganda, people like the Resistance and atheists do not wish theists harm.

Hopefully they shall come out to Mill Avenue more often.

Kazz and Jim

Our friend, Jim in his wheelchair, stopped to talk to Kazz about some things.

Mostly it was a conversation about physics, studies, and probably a lot of things that Jim has brought from Answers in Genesis—a profoundly wrong propaganda website that spends a lot of time pretending at science but has never actually succeeded in getting a single article through peer review due to numerous failures in rhetoric, evidence, and process. I could bring up more about AiG (again) but why.

I wasn’t totally privy to the conversation but it is well know to me that Jim spends a lot of time trying to understand the world. It would probably help him some if he got away from AiG or at least looked at the lay descriptions from others in the community as to how AiG is misinforming people.

The most common type of misinformation that AiG delivers is a type of refutation that tends to go: “This is a wrench. It can be used to tighten bolts and it’s good at it; but here’s a screw, the wrench does a terrible job of tightening screws; therefore wrenches are bad tools.” A great deal of the AiG documents about dating methods run this pattern: they take a dating tool, pick a well-known and documented situation where that tool would never be used, and therefore isn’t used—like using a wrench to tighten a screw—and then suggest this means the dating tool is wholly inaccurate and useless.

I don’t see how this sort of abuse of lay people is really useful to anyone. It damages extremely good pursuits of scientists and the knowledge of the public about these tools. These disagreements promulgated by these lay sites about these tools don’t exist in the scientific community because they’ve already been hashed out. Scientists using these dating methods do not grab their wrench when the screwdriver would be required; or either when neither will work. And the reason why is obvious: they would be destroyed by their peers when they went to publish.

Lots of people are fooled by this. Why? Because they’re credulous lay people (who very much want to learn and grow and understand) who don’t live in academia and therefore cannot tell the difference between the wrench and screwdriver.

Vocab Malone and Vince

Vince got himself into a long winded discussion with Vocab Malone and a bunch of the people who hovered around him—also people who were good at the rapping that Vocab does. The discussion sounded pretty interesting, but I missed out on some of it because I don’t have a background in Christian history. I believe it revolved around some sort of theological discussion about the nature of the Christian god, YHVH. Specifically about how it changes through the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament.

I should be clear here that this conversation was mostly Vocab attempting to unwind and understand Vince’s concepts, listed below (also see comments) not so much a discussion as Vince elaborating–which is something he often does at extreme length–and Vocab querying. Here I’m trying to frame Vince’s explanations. Hopefully he might comment too at some point.

The premise stretched on about how YHVH is flesh and his holy (where holy means something like complete, mature, finished…) And that YHVH has improved over the journey of the Bible, matured from the entity at the beginning of the Bible to later on. It sounded almost like an interesting character study of the mythological character of YHVH. And Vince did mention part of the Flood myth that I recall where YHVH does promise never to destroy the world again with a flood.

The last part I mention because one of the Jewish scholars that I’ve spoken to about this promise is that it seems that the promise is only not to flood the world again. Not a promise not to murder everyone again with something else. Apparently the appealing inference from that passage seemed to be that YHVH promised not to destroy the world again, when in fact it may not have actually promised that.

Vocab eventually had to leave, but Vince stayed on speaking.

Later that night while the Resistance went on to do Cthulhu carols the group who remained behind from Vince’s discussion started to break out and stop people heading past and going to Borders (which had closed.) One of them attempted to rephrase the Good Person Test using the judge metaphor with a few stopped passersby as I watched and listened.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 13th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 13th 2008.

As promised I went around and tried to ask as many people as I could about Temple at the Center of Time. Insofar, nobody in the Way of the Master group know what it is. I am thinking that Kazz and others will just have to read it as per Ross’s suggestion to know what it is. I am going to expand my search for critiques to tell everyone what it’s about, but I find it doubtful that many know. It seems to be an extremely fringe philosophical treatise.

The Resistance arrived on Mill at about 7pm, but I didn’t get there to observe until around 8:50pm.

JustStopAndThink.com

This group set up in front of the entrance to the Mill Ave Drum Circle again tonight between the Valley Art Theater and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Informally known as “Jesus Water” in the vulgar argot of the street rats, they interact with the public by offering free water to the masses.

I believe that Joe stopped and talked to Rob-roy and the retelling of his experience went something along the lines of. “He was cordial, but that stiffened rather after he learned that I was an atheist.” Although, I don’t know how much of that was transference; I don’t doubt that the conversation was readily friendly. Rob-roy is a contributor to the StreetFishing blog on Blogspot.

They manage their evangelism by talking to people who squeeze between them to reach the drum circle and also those walking past on the street. Especially those they invite in to receive the free water. Also, the water bottles contain tracts on their labels. The street rats tend to take them and then shred the labels off, meaning that I’ve never gotten one of my own from them yet—also as I never really need water I don’t feel the need to countenance taking one and then not using it.

I don’t end up talking to them very often, but they definitely have a presence on Mill Ave.

Marcus and Tish

(I hope that I am spelling everyone’s names correctly here.)

Also standing with the JustStopAndThink people handing out water were two others whom I’m sure that the Resistance have met before as they created a YouTUBE video involving them.

Didn’t have much time to talk to them, they were mostly handing out tracts. Our conversation did get interrupted a few times by a brand new drum circle visitor who is having a little bit of trouble integrating herself into the community. Mostly I just chatted to get my observations down.

The Way of the Master Evangelicals

The Resistance arrived in front of Borders. Saw Suzanne, her daughter, Erin, Al, Edwin, and others; the group ended up dismantling far earlier than usual; but there were some highlights here and there with the sound system setup. They caroled for a little while in front of Borders and then the Resistance set up their speaker and played some Edward Current videos.

There was some commentary about music vs. music playing. Al had set his speaker to play some sort of music, but then Kazz started playing something else, but seemingly louder (from where I was standing.) Creating a bit of a dissonance. However, that whole thing resolved rather quickly.

Then a few moved away from Borders to the Post Office—Edwin and Brian—but the moment the Resistance decided to move to the Post Office they left, with the words, “Oh it’s you guys.” Pretty much they managed to speak for a while, found at least one really drunk guy, who they tried to get to do the Good Person Test but he was a bit … drunk.

The night wrapped itself up in front of Urban Outfitters with mostly Al speaking on the microphone. He managed to stick the entire night out until the Resistance packed up near 1am.

We also had the weird experience of receiving some Pop-it microexplosives from a newcomer. And I must admit, it was me who distributed them to people because they are an awesome little device and a lot of fun. I did not do it to disrupt Al and his preaching, but at the time that I handed them out he wasn’t really speaking to people except in small groups.

Hanna, who gave me the Pop-its, said to Kazz that she had her respect for humanity restored when she found people resistance the preachers and had visited the STFS table at ASU a few times. I, for one, enjoy the presence of fun wackiness for Mill Ave.

There was also some strange shouting and shrieking from the Resistance when someone yelled “The power of Christ compels you!” at Kazz and the response was … interesting. I hadn’t known that he could produce such a lifelike impression of those TV evangelist preachers who tend to shout, in a drawling voice, pretty much the same thing.

I guess that they are just easy to parody.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, December 12th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, December 12th 2008.

The STFS filtered through the book stacks at Borders on Mill Ave slurping up deals—the store, now a landmark of Mill for almost a decade, is set to be closed January 31st of 2009. Most of the books are at a 20% discount and gift shopping is in for the holiday season.

When they finally exited and spilled into the Ave, the Resistance proper fell into formation, grabbed their equipment and made their way to the Post Office.

Tonight was punctuated by the lack of any Mill Ave evangelicals.

“That’s a problem of thinking you’re made out of sugar,” Vince quipped. “You don’t want to go out in the rain.” Right before he offered to stand in for them, since Vince has long been Mill Ave’s oldest preacher, having earned himself the street name Preacher Man—instead he became the center raconteur for a multitude of discussions about various theologies as visitors came and went.

Niki, the journalist from the New Times, came out with some Dunkin’ Doughnuts and waited with everyone to get notes; but she seemed to have chosen a night lacking anything to write about.

The Resistance did little except form into a group around the speaker, softly playing music. Only Omar and Jim had much impact on the passersby with their signs—”Ah, here’s the infamous sign,” Niki said, seeing the black board with neon lettering in Omar’s hand.

“YOUR GOD IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”

The other side reads “RIP GOD,” and it served him well to attract more than one person to ask questions and drop into long discussions.

It did not appear that pamphlets were being handed out or in play.

Later into the night, the rickshaw driver, Ross, stopped to talk to Kazz and Vince. He had suggested a book to several of the Resistance and wanted to know if they had read it. In my notes the book’s name reads:

Temple At The Center Of Time: Newton’s Bible Codex Finally Deciphered and the Year 2012 by David Flynn.

The book weighs in at about 300 pages; and the summary is no less heavy. He mentioned that it gave him the impetus to change from being an atheist to a Christian just through reading it. I’ve given the information to various members of the Resistance for him—but none have taken him up on the offer or reading it yet.

The summary follows.

A belief that the ancients held unusual scientific knowledge, of which only fragments remain today, was held by many great philosophers and scientists who participated in the “scientific revolution”. Though research by these men led to great discovery, many were convinced that they were merely scratching the surface of an immense but lost pristine knowledge (prisca sapientia) somehow reflected in the architecture and remains of ancient civilizations. In “Temple at the Center of Time Investigations of Sacred Dimension, Revealed in Prophecy, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant, from the works of Isaac Newton”, David Flynn uncovers what is sure to be heralded as one of the greatest discoveries of all time. Many books have investigated whether Newton believed that an original pure knowledge existed. Some conclude that he did in fact search for it, but that is the whole of their investigation. A few have written that Newton actually discovered something and try to fit his existing research into a prisca sapientia of their own design, claiming his beliefs fit modern realms of philosophy or eastern religions, but these speculations are not upheld by the body of his work. Although Newton had solved riddles of space, time, gravity, light and invented mathematics to predict the motion of objects, this was not the priscia sapienta. Since the time of Newton, no one has revealed the true form and nature of the original knowledge, or from whence it came until now. For the first time in history, Temple at the Center of Time uncovers what Newton was looking for and, in so doing, proves that pivotal events in history are unquestionably connected in time and space to Jerusalem. Newton didn’t know it. The key was right in front of him.

If anyone would like me to, I will query people who belong to the Christian religion of various mythological schisms and see if they know about the book. I guess also people who are familiar historically with Issac Newton might be worth asking. Kazz will probably not be reading this unless he can get the book on tape, so unless someone gets their hands on it we won’t have any insights into what Ross wants to elucidate.

While Ross spoke with Kazz and Vince, I split my attention between Joe and that conversation. Primarily because I wanted to hear what Ross wanted to say—but Joe certainly didn’t. The reasons for which bent from the usual witnessing speeches, mirror speech, and Biblical conversations that Joe would have felt the need to interrupt with his own knowledge. Out of the entire Resistance he has a great deal of Biblical scholarship and uses it like a truncheon against arguments involving translation and etymology.

In his backpack he has a New American Bible, an English-Hebrew copy of the Tanakh.

Brad did set up his electric guitar with the speakers and play a for about half-an-hour idly, but nothing else came of the use of the speakers.

The entire group eventually exited stage left at around 2a.m.

 

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 6th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 6th 2008.

Ah, Art Festival how we love thee. It brings out numerous people, allows us broad forums to have discussions, and a great deal of cultural dialogue.

The Way of the Master evangelicals

They didn’t last long. The set up had Al, Lee, John, Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Sean, and others—most of them left the scene at about 10pm. However, Lee did remain behind with his speaker enough that Richard could arrive and use it and Vocab could use it to rap.

The evangelicals did some caroling before they finally melted away into the night by in large, leaving behind a different sort of crew to help last until near midnight.

I just wanted to mention Richard! I recall him from previous years and I’ve been somewhat concerned as to why he hasn’t been around ever since I arrived back on Mill. He is the dark skinned man with the tattoos, bald head, and short-thick beard and mustache that frame his mouth. He also has a strong voice and a ready clever intellect that he uses to respond to people asking questions.

He took the microphone and spoke with Kazz, Rachel, and Todd.

A point that I would like to make for Todd and others, that Omar brought up, is that it’s important not to be confrontational with people. At one point during the night Todd was starting to use a couple direct points against Richard or some other evangelical in a somewhat harsh manner. In some cases harshness may be required; but it’s probably not the best place to start.

After Omar asked people not to be confrontational, of course, Todd was kind enough to back off and let Omar take over the discussion.

Allie and Omar

For part of the night Omar got into a discussion with a woman named Allie. Obviously inebriated, Allie took directly to speaking about love for other people and one of the Christian gods, Jesus. She wore a blue blouse beneath a white vest fringed with fur and blue jeans. After she got the microphone the first thing that happened was a descent into complete rabble-rabble.

And I mean loud yelling all around. The noise level went through the roof and she started shouting—almost crying—and quickly the roar became almost unbearable. It didn’t take too long for things to calm down again and Omar and Allie got to speak to each other without too much white noise.

Some choice quotes came from their discussion.

“I love you,” says Allie.

“I love you too, just without Jesus,” Omar says. “My disbelief in Jesus does not change my love for you; just as your belief in Jesus doesn’t change your love for me. We do not need this belief for love.”

Allie and her husband apparently were visiting from Texas; this was their first foray to Phoenix and Tempe, and thus also Mill Avenue. So we all tried to welcome the pair to Mill Ave. Thus including Allie and her three margaritas.

Vince and Trevor

Just a little introduction to Vince, again. When I was originally out on Mill long ago his street name was (and still is) “Preacher Man.” Vince is well known for his Christian and Biblical views and he is very good at controlling mirrorspeech in other people and knows how to turn a person away from attempting to roll over him in conversations. He’s quite good at controlling conversations.

One of the problems with conversing with some of the Mill Ave evangelicals is tactics that take advantage of too demure or polite people who are not willing to confront being talked over or being dismissed out of hand. Vince doesn’t let this happen.

When Trevor got into a talk with Vince, however, it didn’t last long. As Vince had the speaker at the time and Trevor did not. Both of them Christian they had a strange conversation involving interpretations and thoughts on their various schisms. Trevor, we learn, is apparently Pentecostal; and Vince decided to bring up what the different types of Pentecostals are. To list the full taxonomy of all Christian schisms could take forever, I’ve discovered, which is why I don’t have time to identify the dogmatic and doctrinal difference between all of them.

Their conversation eventually ended when Trevor told Vince that he could give up the microphone. Which Vince didn’t so Trevor walked away.

Expelled

I think that I need to make a comment about this movie. For some reason, Ben Stein felt the need to insult Frankenstein in his ignorant screed against Evolutionary Biology in another gigantic misunderstanding and bad attempt to strawman the facts for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

What is Answers in Genesis and why is it actually a bad thing?

During the night, Sean was talking to a few passersby before the 10pm turned-into-pumpkin event. The two young men I didn’t get their names but they quickly wore thin talking to Sean because he couldn’t give them anything that corroborated any of his claims. So he offered them some pamphlets, which they accepted and at the end of it he told them to visit Answers in Genesis dot com.

AIG is a website promoting Creationism and it spends a bit of its time therefore attacking the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection mostly by way of bad science, outright falsehoods, and general rhetorical trickery.

I would like to direct everyone to http://talkorigins.org/ where many of the profoundly wrong information promoted by Answers in Genesis are refuted with factual, evidence based, and cited. Anyone who visits AIG will discover a number of claims, most of which are uncited and unsupported, the critters that run TalkOrigins have done a lot of research and time into citing and refuting a lot of the claims made my Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

AIG is just a bald faced front for Creationism and pedantic religiously motivated political propaganda.

If you are looking for resources specifically aimed at cultural criticism of Intelligent Design, TalkOrigins has a sister site http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/.

Remember: all of these criticisms come with numerous citations, factual examination, philosophy, and cultural dialogues. Be willing to actually examine things, you’ll probably find a lot of enlightenment looking at what humanity knows about the natural, manifest world. Creationism and Intelligent Design try hard to play in the manifest, naturalistic stage while trying to add the supernatural and unfalsifiable non-hypothesises as if they are meaningful in a respectful discussion.

Answers In Genesis doesn’t seek to have a dialogue, they seek to make uncited and uncitable assertions about how humanity understands the Universe. Take a class in college on propaganda and political rhetoric and the behavior of AIG becomes extremely clear—it’s just a front for political ideas and not at all for an empirical, evidence based examination of the Universe. It doesn’t present any hypothesis; it has no models; and it certainly doesn’t have any scientific theories with which to enlighten anyone.

http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/taxonomy_menu/2/7

Most people are actually pretty smart; they just don’t have enough time in their days to be up on everything that everyone should. There’s always these reports running around talking about how ignorant Americans are of many things. Acting like being able to recite all of the seven dwarves but they cannot name all the justices who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. We should be fair to them: the average American doesn’t have time to educate themselves about the fundamentals of the theory of evolution any more than they do about the theory of gravity.

It may be helpful to send people to see the criticism of websites like AIG whose behavior is easily highlighted by only a few key phrases and articles. While the people who run sites like AIG spread propaganda, sound bites, and political rhetoric—the only good way to counter this is by promoting critical examination of the facts, and there are so many when empirical analysis comes into play.

The Universe is empirical. It is manifest. Anyone who has ever stuck their hand into a fire or touched a hot burner knows how tests and certainty work.

Let’s not allow politically motivated religious propaganda and rhetoric stifle our continual advancement of the understanding of our own Universe.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, December 5th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, December 5th 2008.

Yes, the title above is a joke. When wrapping up the night on the microphone, Todd told the dwindling crowds about the STFS, the Mill Avenue Resistance, “Perhaps we’re the Roosevelt Resistance at the moment—I don’t know.”

The STFS hit First Friday in force and I followed in their wake because, well, I haven’t been to First Friday in so long and I guess I can give up on Mill Ave for a night… Sigh.

I noticed that there were at least twelve of the various evangelical preachers who visit Mill Avenue out tonight. Taking various turns on the loudspeaker (whom the Resistance moved quickly to set up against) were Valerie, Sean, and Linda.

I also saw two very young girls handing out tracts with the evangelical group. I received at least two tracts from them.

Discussions at length

The most conversant among the different speakers against happened to be Joe. Bringing with him his vast Biblical scholarship. And there were some fun discussions about misinterpreting the Greek in the Bible, the fact that there are multiple translations of the Bible; which ones people accept, which ones various groups don’t… I heard about an Oxford Annotated Bible that is very good for people who want to examine the literary criticism of the work as well.

These discussions realistically denuded the veil of provenance atop the usage of the Bible for anything. It should be apparent to anyone discussing this subject that if there are thousands of different schisms that use this book as their holy book and each one chooses a different translation that somehow the actual knowledge was never written clearly enough to be propagated in situ. Multiple rewrites, editing, rejection and acceptance of books by various councils and histories have rendered a vast and glorious mythology but no basis to argue truth from. The mere fact that wide swaths of it are interpreted different between different agencies of history and community says that often the book itself is irrelevant to the message. It’s a religious MacGuffin used only for its semiotic relevance.

Some of the more interesting conversations occurred out of the various translations of Greek words. And thus one of my favorite Greek words came up, logos [λόγος]; near and dear to my heart as a linguist and an author. I am extremely familiar with how languages shift, how translations themselves are always a psychological transference from the translator; even language itself shifts within a single culture over a century enough to change the meaning of any work and we can watch this happen.

While Valerie spoke to the crowds, Lux, wearing a gothic styled plague doctor outfit came by and took up the mike. She posited to use a truncated version of the Epicurean paradox—to which most replies are woefully inadequate or require a revision of commonly understood positions by Christianity about the nature of their gods. After getting a titter from gathered moral philosophers, she melted back into the night; her black parasol bobbing through the crowds to vanish finally in the distance. (You can read more about her on my First Friday Nights post.)

Joe got himself some kudos from Valerie tonight because he is polite, well spoken, and extremely scholarly. So I’m glad to see that there is at least a great deal of glowing respect between the parts of this divide. I would like that to remain for the most part.

The Prayer Station

The evangelicals set up a strange booth out of PVC pipe and a table with a large, crimson banner, white lettered: PRAYER STATION. At least one group of passersby actually came to pray with them.

Kevin wanted to know about the station and the hand-outs of glowing noodles; but didn’t want to speak to them with accompaniment, so I offered to go. By in large the evangelicals are not hard or harsh people, they’re people. Which is part of the reason why I’m out here writing about the interactions.

There was little to be learned, though, because the person manning it happened to be eating at the time. However, Kevin did score some glowing noodles which John was kind enough to locate and offer… The STFS mostly swung them at each other

Trevor and Brian on addiction

Later that night I discovered Brian, and his spiked-up purple hair, in a discussion with Trevor. The conversation had gone the way of the witnessing from hedonism—or as I’d think it is, “I was addicted to everything, sleeping with anything that moved, but I’m better now.” Basically the “I got bettah,” of the evangelical bag of witnessing. Suggesting that whatever religion they are selling is therefore a panacea for any given lifestyle that they had become unaccustomed or disenfranchised from.

This rankled on Brian because he too had once spent a lot of time taking drugs and watched some of his friends die from it. Trevor gesticulated and shifted his weight a lot every time he fell into mirror-speech, reciting off entire reams of pleated experiences with drugs and trying work his religion into it. Brian—who admitted to being a little drunk at the time—replied with hollow baritone incredulity basing his argument on the addiction for addiction premise.

The trade-off premise posits that religion is just another addiction that was used to replace the previous one. It does not in fact elevate the person out of whatever hole they were digging themselves into; but instead replaces the risky lifestyle with a slightly varied risky lifestyle. I don’t know that I can fully advocate this sort of a position entirely. While religiosity is apparently addictive in pattern—since the deeply seated forms of it represent a fundamental break from reality—it indeed is often visibly less risky than irresponsible drug culture. It is indeed a totally different type of irresponsibility when used as a bludgeon on good reason and sanity about reality. It is apparent that Trevor is either poorly socialized or he is deliberately provocative and both of these are tied to his religiosity.

I am probably not quite framing Brian’s argument properly here. I would like him to come and give us a clearer example of how he argues these topics.

The Agnostic Position and Mount Rushmore

A newcomer to the fray, Travis, was having a poorly-gone discussion with Sean. Unfortunately, it literally went nowhere for either of them, primarily because Sean wasn’t listening and constantly misrepresented Travis’s position with gross misunderstandings. For example, when Travis brought up that he was Agnostic, Sean attempted to counter with, “The position of the agnostic is that they cannot prove anything; they look at something like Mount Rushmore and state that they cannot say how it got there. Man or God.”

The agnostic position doesn’t apply to Mount Rushmore. No sane agnostic need say that they cannot say how Mount Rushmore got there because of their agnosticism; it only applies to the supernatural. The supernatural is not manifest; Mount Rushmore is manifest. We can go to it. Test it. Examine it. Look at the documents of its creation—if we really want to verify them we can look at the stones themselves and find evidence of tool usage, wear, and repair. All of these things are evidence that will corroborate documentation and other provenance about Mount Rushmore.

Sean has been misinformed by someone about the agnostic position and is promoting a baldly stupid argument against it.