Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, April 4th 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 Resistance 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.

The lit cross is visible again on ‘A’ Mountain, most likely due to the upcoming Christian holiday of Easter (the vernal equinox, and thus Ostara has already past.) It was visible around the same time last year as well. A decoration that counts probably about sixteen feet in height, made of a series of round-white lights fashioned in a cruciform. The holiday will occur this upcoming weekend on April 12th.

Also creating a different atmosphere on the Ave happened to be the Tempe Music Festival.

At around 9:30pm some of the Way of the Master evangelicals were congregating around Mill’s End café talking to Korky and Cindy; when suddenly they scattered upon some unknown signal. Totally disappearing from where they were previously crowded handing out pamphlets. A mere minute later, Gadfly and Kazz arrived from across the street. The evangelical group had Al, Suzanne, Richard, and a few others—most of whom did not reappear that night.

Omar set up in front of Urban Outfitters for most of the night and used the amplification system of the Resistance to talk to passersby; he also had one of his new signs that reads, “EVOLVE LOVE.” There, a few of the Resistance stopped to talk to random components of the WoTM evangelicals—like Richard, who got himself caught in a long discussion with Strawberry Joe, a street rat who’s been around Mill for a two years or so.

Evidence shows that Jonathan’s group were possibly out earlier in the afternoon and night at the Tempe Music Festival. However, they were not in that position later on in the evening nearing 11pm.

The cap on the entire night was the arrival, once again, of Jeremiah who took advantage of the groups moving between the Tempe Music Festival and Mill Ave proper. As soon as he appeared the Resistance moved to siege him as they usually do—primarily out of a desire to see him because he’s well known, partially out of sheer entertainment.

The encounter with Jeremiah went predictably. Between arguing points out of Christian mythology and doctrine from their holy book he vacillated between poorly supported and ignorant positions on scientific issues like the Theory of Evolution and Global Warming. Parroting unknown propaganda that wasn’t taken well by the Resistance. Rocco, Joe, Gadfly, and Kazz took their measure of him as he tried to talk to passing crowds on these various subjects—Joe coined a speech out of his refutations: “Jeremiah, why don’t I just record the proper responses to these things that you have to say so that they can just be played back when you say the same thing without having researched it…I wouldn’t even have to be here to prove you wrong.”

Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up” Part III (Conclusion)

He quotes Dave Gross from a February, 1991 article in the Mustang Daily:

And nobody can argue that it doesn’t work. The crowds he gathers are as angry, rude and ill-behaved as any mob that ever vilified any prophet. And so later in his speech, when he talks about how today’s students are obnoxious and have no morals…well, you can’t really argue. (p. 142.)

Yes you can. Anyone who’s taken a first year sociology class or any social statistics knows that they’re looking at a stacked deck when they regard the group that remains. We’re not seeing a truly random cross-section of student culture; we’re observing a carefully sieved and weighed slice promoted by the very behaviors previously described in the article—in fact Mr. Gross points it out for everyone by stating, “And nobody can argue that it doesn’t work.” That’s correct: It worked to gather an angry crowd of people, insulted by Jed; not a statistically significant population that properly reflects the entire student body to support that last assertion.

A multiple of chapters is dedicated to family life, one entirely to Cindy, his wife, and how women should submit themselves to men. “I often say on campus that no matter how much she denies or fights it, every woman has a God-given desire to marry and bear children for a man who will lovingly rule over her.” (p. 167.) That chapter continues into narratives describing the conception and birth of two of his daughters and their place in his campus-to-campus ministry at early ages.

When he reaches childhood education, Jed would like everyone to know that the establishment of public schools by the state is taken directly from communism—“It is not the proper function of the state to provide education. ‘Free education for all children in public schools,’ is the tenth point of The Communist Manifesto. When the state controls education, it controls our children and our future.” (p. 178.) He then fails to source his claim or demonstrate evidence; the connection to The Communist Manifesto is not evidence because it’s a perfect invocation of a fallacy by appeal to spite. He appeals to the emotions of the audience via connecting public education to communism but fails to draw any actual connection with the manifesto to our incarnation of public education; and he even fails to source exactly why anyone should care other than because people of his era don’t like communism. Furthermore, Just because there are public schools does not prevent people from putting children in private schools; and it certainly does not prevent them from supplementing education at home.

Pastor Glen concludes, “The human eye is so complicated that it can function on as an integrated unit. Which means it’s scientifically impossible for the human eye to evolve piecemeal, as natural selection requires, because the eye is totally useless unless fully developed. (Remember, natural selection is supposed to cancel out useless organs and appendages!) Indeed, such sophisticated design is itself powerful evidence that there must be a designer. So the Bible looks better than evolution when It says man was made by God! (p. 266.)

Yes. He went there. I understand that this book was apparently written in 1995, but for someone with a college education, Jed certainly doesn’t do his research before parroting what other people say. Fortunately for us we do have a number of resources at our disposal to readily show us that most claims of irreducibly complex systems are simply thinly veiled arguments from ignorance.[1] That, in fact, there are extremely plausible pathways that the eye could have evolved visible in extant versions of eyes in a multitude of differing animals.[2] Brother Jed does like to toe the party line of “evolution is incorrect and a lie,” but when it comes down to actually presenting any case for it he doesn’t go the extra mile, let alone the first inch.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I’d say that most people won’t be interested in reading this book unless they’re looking for a biography of George Smock. It does that quite tidily, but skipping through the terribly formatted Bible quotes, and trying to navigate the irrelevant preachy segments is a little bit tedious. The table of contents certainly gives a reasonable road map for avoiding sections of the book that aren’t anything narrative and are only finger pointing.

The past narratives were probably the best part of the entire work; followed by the unintentional eye roll inducing humor of the parables like The Five Dormies. (p. 110-113.) Perhaps there’s some useful information about Brother Jed’s psychology in the other sections, but for anyone looking for substance will find themselves grasping at smoke.

Come to this book for the history, the narrative, and the pictures—and there’s many pictures. In the midst of the book, split between two sections, are select photographs from Jed’s preaching campaign trail. They create an interesting aperture into the past.

The life and times of Brother Jed.

Now close the book.

Part I | Part II | Part III


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreducible_complexity#Reducibility_of_.22irreducible.22_systems
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye

 

 

Should we let Creationism into science classes?

For many years now I have been a staunch opponent of teaching Creationism (AKA Intelligent Design) in science classes, but I’m beginning to question that stance, and I’d like to hear some other opinions on the subject.

So have I given in to the “teach the controversy” crowd? Quite the opposite! In the US today, with our majority Christian population and unconscionably high percentage of people who already don’t believe in evolution, it is almost inevitable that children will be exposed to Creationism in some way. Why let it be on the Creationists’ terms?

Instead I propose that we actually teach children about the Christian Creation Myth in schools, but tell the truth about it. Don’t tell them that there is a serious debate in science about whether life on Earth got to its present state by means of evolution or by creation in its current form. Instead tell them that we know evolution happens, that even many Christians including Pope John Paul II agree that it does, and then show them exactly how literal Biblical Creationism falls flat on its face as science.

This would be a great educational experience in critical thinking, and a fantastic demonstration of how ancient unscientific ideas are eventually overtaken by good science based on observable facts. We still see the layperson’s side of this battle going on today since Creationists are much more tenacious than doctors who thought that “bleeding” people would cure them, but people should know that this debate is limited to laypeople and a few fringe scientists who have a lot of faith but little or no training in relevant scientific disciplines.

Instead of ignoring Creationism in school and letting kids be confused by hearing a basic version of the truth about the history of life on Earth in science class and then hearing confusing Creationist lies at home, on the street and in church, often without any arguments presented against it, the common Creationist claims should be debunked and it should be shown for the outdated, disproven, cynical lies that they are. We know that the Creationists are presenting their case, weak though it may be, and bashing evolution and science in any way they can. Why not fight back?

As I have seen too often in children and adults who believe in the Biblical Creation Myth, this and other related religious beliefs can destroy their trust not only in evolution but in all of science, even in anything secular, and then all they are left with is their religion. If we let people become so disconnected from reality and society as a whole, we risk losing them as members of our society along with anyone they manage to convert. This is a real concern since many of these people are evangelical and believe it is their mission to convert people.

So let’s cut this off at the knees. We can give the Creationists part of what they want and put Creationism into the science curriculum, as Creationism and not the “Intelligent Design” pseudonym so no one is confused about what the real issue is. Then we can teach people about the current controversy between fundamentalists and rational people in the laity, and let them know that the controversy in the scientific community between Evolution and Creation is long over and that the Creationists lost decisively.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 17th 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 Resistance 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, January 17th 2009 (when it goes up.)

When the Resistance arrived there were a few preachers set up at the P.O including Al, the Way of the Master preachers, and Shawn3. With him Shawn3 had brought a large black sign with big print white letters proclaiming “Evolution is a lie.” He quickly ditched that location and went down to Urban Outfitters. Leaving Al and that crew behind at the PO. The Resistance largely ignored them for Shawn3’s crew.

Shawn3 at Urban Outfitters had a larger group with him made up of two new preachers, and three small children aged from possibly seven years old to ten, and also William the late gradeschooler was also there with a high end amateur DSLR camera. New people in Shawn3’s group I’m told were brothers of his. The first guy had short brown hair, a scruffy badly kempt beard, blue and yellow single-stripe shirt like a sports outfit. His mirror speech consisted of ignoring all comers, and pretty much only circled around to shouting, “Put your faith in Christ,” and nothing new or original. The other had long brown hair, a visible moustache with a much better cultivated chin and lip beard.

Signs visible:

STOP SINNING
And
TRUST JESUS

Also:

EVOLUTION IS A LIE
SalvationJunction.com

Urban Outfitters started the night with their doors wide open, taking in public visitors to and fro—but shortly after 9pm when Shawn3’s group started preaching, they closed them without a word. Shawn3 has become well known for abusively loud preaching on his megaphone at decibels that exceed anything respectful of the street itself and not only is his megaphone extremely loud, he shouts into it with the full brassado of his vocal ability.

At one point close to 9:20pm the Resistance lent their speaker to a Christian passerby who didn’t like what he was hearing, he quickly took to the amplification to tell one of Shawn3’s brothers that he was committing a sin of pride. Another Christian, Vince, also took up the speaker for more than half the night in attempts to talk to Shawn3‘s crowd who roundly ignored him, rebuffing him and everyone else with their repugnantly overloud preaching.

At around 9:45 Shawn3 and his insanely loud megaphone use went back to work again. Damaging people’s hearing and generally abusing the public trust with the decibels of his preaching and spent about four minutes shouting over seven times: “Read your Bible!” All in a row.

Over at the Post Office I met a young black man named Dre who is one of Vocab’s friends and apparently part of that crew—I don’t know if he raps also, I should have asked, it seems like most of them are good at it. He says that he came to Christianity about two and a half years ago and only very recently started coming out to Mill Ave. He wore thick rimmed spectacles and a cap, held a polite voice and vaguely South Western diction. A bit of obvious mirror speech, but unlike others he didn’t regard my questions as disruptions and actually held a discussion with me; amid he mostly just encouraged me to not let the Bible “be just another book in my repertoire.” But admitted that while he normally doesn’t like to appeal to emotion that sometimes he is concerned about other people going to Hell. Probably a good position for him to have because most other cultures who are not Christian see the use of the mention of Hell as a coercion by threat and find it extremely insulting and disrespectful.

Omar arrived on the Ave around 9:30pm or earlier before I returned to Urban Outfitters and potential cochlear damage from Shawn3’s abusively loud preaching. He had with him his new sign reading, “GODLESS 4 GOODNESS” stenciled in white on black.

At about 10pm, Shawn3 and his crew start to break apart, flip around their sign, and simply fold into themselves. During the entire time that they were set up Papa Soul didn’t play a single chord; he set up sometime between 8 and 9pm and stayed pretty much to himself until the preachers cut down and left.

Al remained at the PO with the other Way of the Master preachers and were pretty much ignored by the Resistance for the entire night.

All the way until midnight the Resistance kept shop in front of Urban Outfitters. There was no use of amplification except earlier by the preachers. After they left an actual worthwhile-for-existence sound level settled and a lot of small contestations were to be had. I spent some time speaking with John and a blonde woman with spectacles whose name now escapes me.

Kazz and Omar remained as the only components of the protest venue and both spoke with individual people. Kazz with Emilio and Omar with two individuals I did not recognize.

The night dwindled from there.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 3rd 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 Saturday, January 3rd 2009.

The night opened out with a blaze of heavy, shrill sound as Shawn3 (whom everyone met at the Art Walk the previous night) took up on a megaphone of some mighty caliber. The decibel range of the amplification was in fact so intense that it felt louder than a rock concert. Conversations were drown out, and I have a feeling that it would have competed with the blues/jazz singer who plays down the street.

The Resistance still managed to converse somewhat even with the extreme decibels but either didn’t have the same power of amplification or chose not to increase theirs to match. At least one person pointed out that not only did Shawn3 have an extremely overloud megaphone but he was shouting into it.

Tonight he was wearing wire-rim spectacles, giving him a particularly aristocratic look.

The extreme volume did attract some attention. Aside from causing numerous passersby to wince or walk on quicker than before a small picket of mounted police arrived to pause and watch. The tree cavaliers arrived at about 9:20pm, pointing their horses perpendicular to the sidewalk. Shortly after their arrival, Shawn3 stepped down and quit his preaching and position.

Minutes of hush came down over the entire area which had moments before been readily described as the “loudest corner on Mill Ave.”

Kazz took up his speaker and apologized that his sign was no longer quite applicable. The whiteboard that the Resistance use to deliver written messages had the words:

Obnoxious liar
Free all night
<–

At this point Jim Coleman took the mike to talk about anti-Evolution premises, mainly the “Saltiness of the Ocean” and “Recession of the Moon” arguments.

Kazz tried to keep off of the mike for most of the night because he had a rather bad sore throat. However, in spite of this, he did try to speak when he could; but as a result of this a lot of other people were taking to the microphone as well. Todd, Mike, and Vince all took turns on the microphone at different times of the night.

In particular, Vince had some fun talking to both Kazz and Todd—and through parts of the night he talked to Al on the evangelical mike. It’s always fun listening to Vince talk; he’s a Big Fish style raconteur, which means that he’s bloody good at holding an audience and producing an entertaining story. His main failings, however, are the same as any big fish storyteller, he makes a lot of exotic and wild claims that either cannot be substantiated or lack compelling evidence. He is also well versed in various Christian doctrines and some of their holy texts so he tends to bring them out when speaking.

A couple interviews with the Resistance shows that they like talking to him because unlike others he’s actually polite and conversational.

As the night’s candle burned on a well-dressed Southern Gentleman who reminded me a lot of the Mark Twain look wandered over and serenaded everyone. His name, he told me, is Pard. A poet by trade, but not a bad singer/songwriter a cappella.

Todd and others also had a chance to talk to two women who appeared to have come along with Shawn3 (not fully substantiated, but it seemed to be the case.) They are another nomadic evangelical group who live out of an RV, come down from Syracuse, New York. The one in particular that Todd spoke too wore a blue and white outfit consisting of an extremely plain-and-simple skirt, blouse, and sweater affair, and they tried to talk about the belief-vs-model misunderstanding of science in the context of evolution.

By in large the discussion wound around through some difficulties of jargon, some gross misunderstandings of what rational thought is, what a model is vs. a belief, and other transference problems that are common with people who attempt to apply supernatural logic to observations of the natural world. At one point, as funny as it is, the young lady said that no scientist had said something in particular—so Todd called Ben, a friend who is an evolutionary biologist, and had him tell her.

Mostly this had to do with some jargon misunderstandings about the scientific use of the words “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Especially in the context of the Theory/Fact/Law of Evolution. Although there is a certain appeal in the scientific community about the use of the jargon “law” to refer to observed facts and phenomena, generally people will say “fact” instead of “law” nowadays. All phenomena are split up into the facts of their evidence, the theories that explain them, and in some cases the laws that appear to govern their operation (which are actually phenomenological facts, just described in a way that gives them structure, e.g. the Speed of Light, Thermodynamics, Motion, etc.)

This poses a problem to lay people because the lay meaning of “theory” really means “supposition” and sometimes it means the same thing as “hypothesis;” and “law” generally refers to government and civil law. As a result weird miscommunication and silly misunderstandings happen when people discuss these things and often the misunderstanding party simply goes away further confused or wrongly certain.

I am singularly amused that Ben got called.

More than one person approached me to ask if I knew Omar Call—a sometime visitor to Mill Ave who also involves himself in protesting the street preachers. One in particular wanted him to know that he had, “Inspired me to be more open about my atheism and I’m glad there are people out there like him.” And another—Keith, a Mick Jagger lookalike with a leather cap, and a black guitar—wanted to speak with him about his hallucinogenic revelations and walks with Jesus, to discuss the mysteries of religion with him as a believer and an atheist. By in large all the messages to Omar about the article have been positive.

Although, I say this wondering if people would actually approach someone on the street with a negative message and expect it to be delivered.

Video of the Week: Refuting Way of the Master Anti-Evolution Video


DonExodus2 series refuting the Way of the Master Evolution video
MORE AT ATHEISTNATION.NET

DonExodus2 is a evolutionary biology student and Christian who makes posts on YouTUBE about evolution and Creationist propaganda. Like others, he discovered gross inaccuracies, dishonesty, and outright lies in the Way of the Master videos by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron.

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.

Mill Avenue Resistance: Saturday, November 22st 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, November 22nd 2008.

The SFTS invited out some reporters from the New Times tonight to observe what they do and get some time to talk to everyone.

Tonight we saw a varied crew: Jim and his wheelchair, Edwin, Al, Suzanne and her daughter, even Vocab Malone (—btw, both of us missed each other because we don’t know what we look like, even though we stood within close proximity to each other several times!)

From what I observed the two who came out got photographs of many people. Spoke with Al, Jim, and others to get notes and quotes. I pretty much stayed out of their way. I tend to find my position on Mill Ave to be one as more an observer when it comes to the SFTS and the evangelists; I spend most of my intimate time with the Mill rats. It seemed to go well.

By and large very little happened. According to Kazz they moved from Borders at 8:30pm to the Post Office because Al had set up there. Shortly after they left (about 5 mins) Edwin set up amplification in front of Borders and started talking but that didn’t last long. Al also gave up the ghost pretty shortly and simply played some sort of tape of from his amplification that I couldn’t make out and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to ask him what it was about.

One of the best encounters of the night happened between Trevor (an evangelist I will go into shortly) and a Latina woman who started talking about the conception of Jesus. I may have misheard her initially but she seemed to start out by talking about the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a part of Catholic doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, was without sin thus that she should give birth to Jesus (i.e. a sinless vessel to bring their god into the world.) There is a Wikipedia article on this for those who don’t understand the terms in this paragraph.[1]

I probably did mishear her because Trevor immediately jumped on her for this because the Bible does not support this, from what I hear it is entirely Catholic doctrine and does not show up in the scriptures. An assumption based on passages readings, as it were. So, every time the conversation moved away from it, he brought it back up again, until she reneged on it (or basically said she hadn’t said that which could have been the case.)

Eventually Trevor came to talk to me and his disciplined mirror-speech was something profound.

In spite of the thickness of his mirrorspeech which was crystalline and sheer in quality, I was able to tease out some personality from him. According to him he’s been doing this about four years, ever since he went into Alcoholics Anonymous because of his lifestyle of party going and drinking and drug use—but he found the teachings of the AA to be “false teachings” because they suggested that people become gods unto themselves, or seek out some ambiguous higher power in order to drag themselves out of the hole their addition left them in.

“They hate Jesus there,” he said, “you start talking about Christ and they’ll throw you out.” I actually have never heard that, but I suppose that in a very important way the AA groups might need to keep themselves as even keel as possible and allowing highly controversial Christianity into their midst could destroy the fragile balance they have with helping people. I fear that he may have taken this as a form of persecution rather than the social protocol that it probably was.

However as much as I tried I could not determine the first time that he picked up a Bible or how he actually came to start doing what he does. He deflected or misunderstood every question of that vein, turning it into more mirrorspeech at every turn. I eventually gave up and just listened. It would have been nice to know how he came to decide upon Christianity, and his singular type of evangelism in particular.

His speech was steeped in strong metaphor as well. Saying that his heart had been stone and replaced with a heart of flesh—and that if I accepted what he did the same would happen. In trying to draw me into a discussion about religion he ran into my normal observations about mythology and made the lay-mistake of thinking that the connotation of “myth” is tied up with mythology. I tried a little bit to dance around talking about his mythology, though, as I don’t think that I could have educated him in the proper use of the term without him unthinkingly taking insult.

Eventually I told him about my work on Mill Ave. How I spend a lot of time observing and getting to know people. “I love people, they are wonderful—amazing creatures who make up our social landscape.” He wanted to tell me that if I wanted to study people that the biggest thing was their wickedness. He went on about how people were selfish, and horrible, and awful and into themselves, and so on.

Trevor, if you read this I want you to know that in a very powerful sense that you are drowning yourself in soot colored glasses when you do this. I tried to tell you last night, but you don’t want to listen to me: you want to sell your religion to me. I’m not buying. I observe people and I don’t see evil and horror and choking weeds ravaging the world; because that’s not what’s going on. You are strapping on an outmoded morality that demands good of people by comparing them to an arbitrary “perfect.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good. We will never be able to set a proper morality, nor love and embrace our fellow creatures if we set upon them such rigidified, uncaring, and unsympathetic strangling mores. By painting other people with a brush tarred in the differences you think are flaws and ignoring their triumphs, their adoration, their love, and the wonder in them you have condemned yourself to an extremely dismal experience. This kind of escapism will end only in your self-destruction as you asphyxiate in your own self-imposed bubble.

The biggest problem with all of this is that clearly you are aware of the world around you; you can respect and interact with other people; if you really do recoil from everyone you meet and think them horrible and awful then you are condescending everyone you speak to.

When I study people I do get the good and the bad, by leaps and bounds different metrics for “good and bad” persist—and few of them reach the scary “everyone is wicked” meme that you have injected into your blood and it will poison you. Instead of being the mouthpiece of rigid vulgarity maybe one day you can decide to be the amazing person that surely you must actually be.

(I love the word “wicked” by the way; it’s such a beautiful word, linguistically thorny, and anthropologically powerful—this is probably why evangelists are so in love with it themselves.)

At the end of our conversation he cheerfully offered me his hand and we shook where he asked me my name. As per usual I gave him my Crystalian name, which is also my street name, and handle. “Amerist.” Which he instantly took as exotic and expressed incredulity that it was my “real name.” By which, I think, he means my family name, but he’s using an old-hat linguistic trick to disenfranchise any other name than family names. Then he requested my birth name, which I don’t even have anymore—then tried to guess it, and he did really badly because my birth name is actually even more exotic than my street name.

Eventually he went away flustered at not learning my name; and even tried to tie some weird metaphor to my explanation of what my name means (“her [stone] purifying tears”.) I tried to explain to him that my name essentially is a variation of a name that meant “she who bears [away] the sorrows of the world.” To which I said fit in with my healer tradition, taking away suffering, helping and mending people. And click on came his mirrorspeech again—as I fully expected—“There is only one healer! And that’s Jesus.”

(I wrote a lot more about Trevor in my Mill Avenue Nights blog.)

Why are evangelists so hung up on your “real name”?

Psychologically names are powerful things; they are how we interact socially with other creatures, they become the labels by which we represent ourselves, they are not just our identity within the group, but they are also the handles by which others attain and attract our attention. Saying a person’s name is attractive to their mind—say a name in a crowded room and that person will likely take notice, turn their head—so I’d like to introduce everyone to what is basically a dirty trick.

It’s called false intimacy.

Salesman and flimflam artists are well versed in the false intimacy trick. It is a staple of confidence men and anyone who is attempting to convince you of something—or sell you something like an evangelist is. What they will ask you for is your name, generally your first name if you give them your last name. I would love to see some staunch British aristocrat berate someone for being rude by not accepting “Mrs. Strahan” and requesting a first name. By using your first name they are psychologically trying to put themselves on the same level as your close and intimate friends.

Mythology about “true names” isn’t too far off the truth. Names may not have metaphysical or supernatural power—but they do have psychological power. We are social creatures and are more likely to accept what our friends tell us without much corroboration (they are our friends, after all) and our friends use particular protocols of speech that acquaintances and strangers do not know. One of these things is our familiar name.

In the conversation a person endeavoring to gain your confidence will say your first name over and over again in an attempt to cause your social brain to link what they’re saying to something you should be confident in. Of course, if they’re your friend they will use a familiar name, therefore they must be familiar if they’re using that name—and if they use it over and over again they keep and rapt your attention to what they’re saying.

Listen to a used car salesman work sometime.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using whatever name you want in any encounter with any person; and it is good for you to be aware of how you control the various compartments of your life with your own identity. In our society we have at least two names to start with that we use on a general basis. A great deal of people find their family name “Mrs. Strahan” or such to be stuffy and enjoy being called by their first names. It is just important to realize that when a person attempts to use your name against you to listen to your instincts.

If you are an evangelist and you have received training in this sort of psychological hack, take a moment to realize that applying this is the razor’s edge of dishonest behavior.


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

Mill Avenue Resistance: Friday, November 21st 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, November 21st 2008.

Tonight there were only two preachers for the SFTS to face off against: Jim and Valerie.

I’ve been talking to Valerie for years now, but I don’t know quite enough to get into any gross detail about her. And Jim I am not familiar with. Therefore this will mostly outline my observations of their interaction with the SFTS.

They brought with them a little trolley to truck some props out to Mill Ave including a small little amplified speaker that looks like an electric-torch-cum-tweeter. The microphone worked out pretty well for them, and the SFTS didn’t bring their amplification so they didn’t have any. It didn’t matter much because everyone could hear each other just fine.

The only crowd that gathered was the SFTS which did an excellent job of locking up the evangelists the entire time. Not a single passerby actually stopped to listen to them, and both the evangelists spent most of the previous night handing out pamphlets so they had none to hand out when the stage show came on. As a result only SFTS tracts were handed out.

Between the ordinary religious memes there was an unfortunate amount of scientific and basic knowledge ignorance being bratted from the soapbox. Which, I fear, is just Valerie repeating known-bad propaganda from Answers in Genesis. Including several that I believe they have modified to say: Do not use these arguments.

I hope anyone reading this understands that there is absolutely no need for a God vs. Science dichotomy. Evolution and religiosity are not diametrically opposed nor are they contradictory unless someone has tied up their supernatural in natural explanations, which is exceedingly foolish as our knowledge of the natural expands and tends to discount or dismiss the supernatural as flimflammery. If a thing is actually immeasurable, don’t start trying to give evidence of it in measurements or you’ll get laughed at.

It may be extremely important to stop people and tell them that framing discussions as Evolution vs. Christianity is not truthful. Science is totally agnostic towards the supernatural, and by agnostic I mean exactly that: nothing in science attempts to provide evidence for or against gods or spirits or anything else supernatural. If evidence were to arise for the supernatural: it would then be natural.

If anyone ever tries to say, “Ah you, you guys are believe in evolution not god.” It is important to follow that up with, “Those two things aren’t related.” Don’t ever get drawn into a discussion of Evolution vs. God/Religion. It is not a real discussion, at best it’s spinning wheels, at worst it’s simply psychic masturbation for both parties.

The coelacanth is an embarrassment to scientists because it was named a ‘living fossil;’ since this would tend to disprove evolution because here is something that should have been long gone. A fish, growing legs.” I believe she’s confused the coelacanth with another fish—this line of fish descended from some well known fossils has never been seen to be growing legs. Yes, they are “lobe finned fish” which are believed to be the descendants of fish that eventually grew legs, but the coelacanth is a descendant of the lobe finned ancestor that did not in fact go that direction—their lineage did stay pretty much totally fishlike. So, really, she’s got it backwards.[1]

Finally, the “living fossil” reference is no embarrassment to anyone. Coelacanth are in fact one of the oldest direct lineages from a known fossil that we’ve seen today—the only problem with her speech was that she suggested that the modern coelacanth is the same fish as the fossils, which it is not. In fact, modern coelacanth are a different species from the fossilized fish and show distinct and notable morphological differences from the fossils. We have today a distant, distant descendant and not the original “fossil.” This is actually predicted by evolution.

[In reference to the Big Bang,] Scientists have never seen explosions result in greater order. Nothing has ever exploded and produced more information.” More failed memes. Primarily because this one uses a weird description of the word “information.” And, really, nothing stops a disorderly explosion from resulting in order after it has occurred. Detonate something in a gravitational field, eventually many of the particles will form into a very orderly ring, or join up with the gravitational mass, creating a fairly orderly object.

Worse: information is what we make of it. Take a safe that I cannot penetrate. I blow it up and whatever flies out is more information about that safe than I had before. When I heard her say the information phrase I wanted to tell her that some Particle Physicists would like to talk to her about her misapprehension of exploding things.

Finally—for anyone who doesn’t know this yet—the Big Bang was not an explosion.[2] People who refer to it as an explosion have listened to too much Kent Hovind or are repeating propaganda so ignorant of the cosmological theory that they are hopelessly lost in their own misunderstanding. The term “explosion” has a rather specific definition that does not fit the event of the Big Bang. In fact, the Big Bang is currently considered a cosmological fact—not as a cosmological origin, but as a current state: the observable Universe is expanding.

Since the Big Bang cosmological origin says: “In the beginning Space-Time rapidly expanded; and it’s still expanding today.”

A lot of these memes are directly from Answers In Genesis. Most of them flimsy or failed, steeped in gross ignorance that even a layperson could educate themselves about. The primary problem is that the AiG information is couched in philosophical wording and interesting metaphors that are attractive to people who do not really want to learn much about these things. They are fed them as if they contradict their religiosity, they want to be skeptical about them, but they end up instead swallowing poison and thinking they’ve learned something.

The worst part about it is that none of these theories and facts that they call out with special attention have anything to do with their religiosity. Science as whole is not concerned about the veracity of that which cannot be detected, that which does not manifest, or that which cannot have evidence.

A good deal of these failed memes include usages like:

Increase/decrease in information.” Gross misapprehension of what the word “information” means in scientific or even conversant contexts.

The origin of life and the origin of species.” A terrible misunderstanding of the fact of evolution and Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, both of which are agnostic as to the origin of life itself. Abiogensis is a totally different field of study than Evolutionary Biology. All evolution requires is living things, since they’re already here it’s good to go.

The origin of everything vs. the origin of species.” The most bizarre misunderstanding I have ever encountered: trying to tie cosmological facts and theories to the fact and theory of Evolution. The irregularity is so staggering that it’s hard to even respond to these types of conflations.

Really, the most unhealthy part of this propaganda is that a lot of the people who want to espouse nonexistent or totally debunked problems with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and the fact of evolution are specially pleading that evolution itself is wrong—while reaping the benefits of Evolutionary Biology every time that they take an antibiotic, or get a flu-short, or get their blood tested for a particular virus or protozoan.

Question for people

I also receive some tracts and things from the preachers when I go out to Mill. Normally I just collect these into yearly paleo-samples of the dialogues and manuscripts of their behavior—would anyone be interested if I dissected or gave observations on some of the tracts?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang

The Science of Spore: Evolution

Spore has been followed throughout its development by many people interested in science, evolution, natural selection and other topics. It did provide some hope for these people that it might turn out to be a realistic game accurately portraying evolution, but now that it’s been released, is the science of Spore accurate?

The more important question really is “Did the game’s creators intend the game to be scientifically accurate?”, and the answer to that seems to be no.

As stated in commercials for the game, it is not attempting to portray realistic evolution, but more of a guided evolution they call “Creatolutionism”. There is nothing wrong with this, although it may be a disappointment to some players, but it can become a problem if the point is not clearly made that this is not a realistic portrayal of the way evolution actually happens.

Creationists often make fun of scientists, claiming that they believe in things like animals just suddenly sprouting legs and lungs and walking onto land. This is the antithesis of evolution, not a fair description of it. Unfortunately in Spore, this does appear to be what happens. Once you have completed the “Cell Stage”, you simply sprout the necessary appendages and organs, drop the unnecessary ones and walk out of the water fully formed.

The reality is, no complex life form naturally undergoes such radical changes in one generation. Such dramatic and instantaneous changes are clearly the product of engineering, in this case by the player and the game’s designers.

If we believed that evolution happened in this manner we probably would have to turn to some kind of god or designer, so when creationists manage to spread the idea that the theory of evolution does claim such giant leaps in a single generation, they actually start looking like the reasonable ones to some people.

It is also possible in most places to manually produce generation after generation of slightly modified creatures, as would happen if they were actually evolving, but most players will be happy to skip to the end result they want rather than attempting to make it appear as if their creatures are evolving naturally.

There is nothing wrong with this, and it probably makes a more fun gaming experience for most users. We just have to make it clear to everyone who doesn’t correctly understand evolution that the redesigning of creatures in Spore is not even close to the same as evolution in the real world.