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

Should We Be a Christian Nation?

Despite claims from the extremes on both sides, the United States was neither founded by a group of fundamentalist Christians with the intent of creating a theocracy, nor by a group devoid of religious beliefs with the intent of marginalizing the religious.

The founders held a wide range of beliefs. Some do in fact appear to have been the type of traditional Christians that today’s Evangelicals could be comfortable with, but many others subscribed to a very different version of Christianity or Deism, and some probably didn’t believe in a God at all.

Fortunately for us, these people were smart enough and far sighted enough to build a wall to protect churches from government interference, and to protect the government from turning from a Democracy into a Theocracy. Unfortunately not everyone today is thinking as clearly as they were, and this wall is being eroded.

Just as the US government is not supposed to be creating religious doctrine for churches, religions should not be dictating government policy.

If you are not religious, are you comfortable with your tax dollars being handed over to religious organizations to help them not only in community aid programs but also in the evangelistic campaigns that are usually tightly interwoven with those programs?

If you are religious, are you comfortable with the idea that the government is helping other religions and sects, or that if this wall of separation is broken down we could one day live in a country where your particular religion or sect is marginalized by government policy, or even outlawed?

Simply put, while certain religious organizations and politicians may find a short term benefit in the marriage of church and state, in the long term it is a danger to both.

Arizona Proposition 102

Whose rights should we take away?

If you were refused the right to do something that was important to you based on the personal or religious bias of people around you while they freely exercised their own rights to do the same thing, would you think it was right?

What if they decided that you were of such an inferior class that “your kind” should never be allowed to participate in these activities, and that stopping you was important enough to amend the Constitution to avoid the possibility of anyone letting you participate in the future?

Should such myopic social policies restricting minority rights be given the same weight as our right to free speech?

Just as in the cases of women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery, there is no reasonable justification for denying homosexual couples the right to marry — a right every heterosexual person in the United States has.

In the state of Arizona, it is already illegal for same sex couples to marry, but rather than being fair and trying to get that law overturned, many churches and other groups are trying to amend our Constitution to prevent these unions from taking place now or in the future.

Many people think that homosexual sex is “gross”, but this is no reason to deny homosexuals the same rights we all have. If we let bigotry win, our children and grandchildren will be ashamed of us, and rightly so.

Please join BetterThanFaith.com and the Secular Free Thought Society of ASU in voting no on Arizona Proposition 102, California Proposition 8 and any other similar propositions in other states!

Religion in Politics: Should We Care?

Article VI, section 3 of the Constitution states “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”, and so far we have been wise enough to leave that section in place. More than two centuries on, we still refrain from officially requiring candidates to profess any specific religion, or any religion at all. For better or worse though, we do have a religious test from the voters.

It is sad that today, the day that we will (if the polls are accurate) elect the first black President of The United States of America, people of specific religions are still shunned by the electorate in most areas, and most of those who admit to not believing in any religion remain political pariahs.

Is this the way it should be?

After the last Canadian election, their new Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, ended his victory speech with the words “God bless Canada.” This resulted in a huge outcry against this kind of insertion of religion into politics. In the US today it would seem very normal, but in Canada and other countries with a strong separation between church and state, a candidate’s religion is only relevant to the extent that it affects policy decisions.

Not only is it unfair to reject a candidate based solely on religious beliefs, it is also very dangerous to vote for a candidate based on professed religious beliefs.

It is difficult to even trust politicians’ stated views, much less to extrapolate their views from their purported religions and then take it on faith that they will act in accordance with your conclusions.

Instead, just as our politicians should be putting the best interests of their country and constituents ahead of their own religious beliefs in matters of public policy, voters should be willing to overlook the religious beliefs of a candidate and vote on the issues.

A Muslim, Mormon or Atheist who will faithfully serve the best interests of your community is more worthy of your support than someone who claims to share your religious beliefs but will gladly sell your community out to the highest bidder.

Although politicians overall don’t have a good reputation for honesty and reliability, there are good candidates out there of all sizes, shapes and beliefs. We must be willing to vote not for the slickest politicians or the ones who claims to be most like us, but for the ones who share our vision for the future of the country.

Please, vote on issues not image.