Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creationism nonsense infiltrating North Carolina’s school boards

Greetings all,

Here is yet another instance of creationists making ridiculous, ill informed demands in an attempt to indoctrinate children. Normally I would hesitate to post yet another creationist post (David made one earlier today) but this is an absolutely horrendous issue that seems to be gaining momentum. I got the main article from PZ Meyers’ blog Pharyngula .

This is yet another instance of creationists attempting to bludgeon down the doors of logic and force their bullshit doctrine into public policy. This plague of creationism infesting our school boards has to stop. I feel like they simply do not care whatsoever about the constitution (unless it benefits them) which by the way was written by deists who were vehemently opposed to religion being ANY part of public policy. They had witnessed the horror that religion can bring about when state sanctioned and vowed to create the antithesis of the English state.

Okay, no more historical rant now down to the meat and bones of this post. This time the cancer that is creationism has spread to Brunswick North Carolina and as usual the proponents reveal their ignorance of science and lack of logic. As usual a local resident by the name of Joe Fanti brought up this point;

"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

Evolution of the atheists? Well, thank you for the complement Joe. Evolution, given the evidence available, is the most plausible explanation for the way in which life forms change over time. The key word here is EVIDENCE. I happen to believe in evidence and am also an atheist and I like to be associated with the belief in rational things such as evolution so thank you. Oh and the laws say we can’t have bibles in school because that is a RELIGIOUS book and we have a separation of church and state. Atheism is not a religion it is not a dogma it is simply the choice to not believe in a god that is it. I love how creationists attempt to disregard our separation of church and state guaranteed by our constitution but then, when attacked they hide behind the first amendment.

This is not even close to as bad as the next quote;

Babson(The superintendent) said the board must look at the law to see what it says about teaching creationism, but that "if we can do it, I think we ought to do it."

YOU CAN’T! SCHOOLS ARE RAN BY THE STATE S-E-P-E-R-A-T-I-O-N OF CHURCH AND STATE. This is a serious issue that needs to be curbed. Similar things have happened in Kansas and Texas however the creationists have been thus far thwarted. However they are tenacious and we need to stay vigilant in order to combat this proposed utter violation of our civil liberties. This is bullshit.




Maria said...

creationists may say atheism is a religion, but what they mean by that is that it is an ideology. i do not have proof there is a God, but neither do you have proof there is no God. Therefore we are both BY FAITH believing in something for which we do not have evidence. (You can tell me you have evidence that there is no God, and I will then tell you I have evidence that there is. But neither of us have evidence that will convince the other person, and that's the kind of evidence that matters.)

Much like the ideology of atheism, evolution is also a theory, not a proven process. Teaching it in schools as truth and not theory is unjust - even by your standards. Notice that the people fighting for creationism in schools aren't usually fighting for the abolition of evolution, just for the addition of creationism.

For the record, I don't think we should teach creationism in schools, becuase I don't think religious theory belongs in a state-funded institution. But ask yourself this: are you working for the abolition of Christian rhetoric in schools, or the abolition of ideological rhetoric? If simply Christian rhetoric, grow a pair and admit it - though it will null your arguments. If all ideological rhetoric, then realize we will then have to teach nothing but math and (proven) science. Literature has ideological elements. So does language,and history and music, and art...etc.

As a last point, I just want to call attention to your wording in this blog. Isn't it supposed to be the Christians who are "judgmental"? Yet you're calling these people "horrendous," their ideas "bullshit" and constantly reminding us how "stupid" they are (ie. how they "bludgeon down the doors of logic"). Be careful. Double standards generally don't help arguments.

David Plumb said...

There is an apparent misunderstanding of both atheism AND evolution.

Not believing in a god is not an ideology; it is a provisional position - not an ideology. There is no proof there is NOT a god (it is logically impossible to prove a negative), but there is also no proof there IS a god (therefore the logical, objective stance is to not believe in a god).

So, BY FAITH Christians or any other sort of a person who believes in any god in fact believe in something which is unsupported by evidence. However, to not believe in something unsupported by evidence is simply a stance that is awaiting proper proof.

Evolution is a theory, but you are absolutely, completely, unequivocally wrong when you think it is not a proven process. It is a proven process, it is theory AND fact. Extremely simple case and point: Vaccines.

Also see: fruit fly and Ebola research.

Scientists have watched evolution happen right before their eyes in these scenarios, and the human race en masse has viewed it in the form of yearly updated flu vaccines and the problem with eradicating the HIV virus.

It is true, creationists are not attempting to abolish evolution and would like to add creationism to the curriculum (equally, in terms of time spent). However, they want it added within the context of a SCIENCE class - and creationism is absolutely not scientific. Although some may want to abolish evolution – this is not their immediate course of action.

The false analogy of language, literature, history, music, and art being comparable to evolution in terms of ideological degree is poor results of this mislead thinking. It is not so much that creationism is to be mentioned in a state funded school, but that it is to be included in science curriculum. I can't say this enough, it is NOT scientific - and is not a science. Certainly, talking about it in a literature, religion, or philosophy course would not raise these concerns (I would hope). To teach something that is not a science in a science class does not make any sense(logically), furthermore, to teach a religious ideology in a state funded school does not make any sense as well (lawfully and philosophically). If it is the concern of alternate ideas being provided, as many creationists claim, then why aren't they petitioning for all of the other creation stories as well (we’re already at 2 different stories in Genesis alone)? They are all on the same plane in terms of scientific proof (none), and in scientific terms un-differentiable.

Basically, atheism is NOT an ideology - it is a lack of belief in a god (not the belief there is not a god - which is a very significant difference), and evolution IS both a theory and a proven process (or a fact). So, the claim that atheists and theists are fundamentally the same regarding levels of conviction/belief is false. Also, the claim that evolution and creationism are fundamentally the same regarding levels of scientific proof is false.

However, problems with value judgments such as "horrendous" and "bullshit", I think, are valid. That is a difference of opinion - but at the same time I'm concerned the difference in opinion is rooted in all of the false thinking and information mentioned above. To throw in the concern of being judgmental, especially so defensively, is interesting because Christians are not accused of this in the post. Actually, I see no relationship whatsoever between being judgmental and the attempt to push a religious ideology into a public school system, or god-related beliefs. I do not see where this is coming from - perhaps an ad hominem attack to go out on, I don't know.

All in all, the final conclusion in the reply may be set upon false conceptions and poor information, and as I've outlined above, the accusation of a double standard does not hold at all. If anything, maybe the public schools need to increase the amount of time spent on evolution since so many do not understand it. I certainly can say this applies to me, because I didn't understand evolution upon leaving high school (at least, not very well), yet I knew more about Beowulf than I ever wanted to know.

So, my final word is to encourage you to come back and comment after investigating the creationism (or intelligent design) in schools debate, the scientific research done on evolution (this would take 100 lifetimes, but the basics can be found and understood rather quickly), the philosophy of atheism, the philosophy of science (and the scientific method, and the definitions of theory, fact, proof, proven, etc), and the definition of ideology.

Certainly you wouldn't find it reasonable to teach alchemy in chemistry, or astrology in earth sciences or astronomy/physics, or the flat earth idea to children - when we clearly know the world is a sphere.

Maria said...

thanks for responding David, and for being someone who can actually have a conversation. you and i have talked about this before and i have always appreciated that about you.

i should have clarified what i meant by evolution being a theory - i meant that the idea that man came into existence by evolution is a theory. I do know that evolution has been proven on several levels - like you were saying, Ebola and many vaccines. However, it has not been proven that man evolved.

As for your comment though, remember that I said in my first that I do not believe creationism should be taught in schools, especially in science class. And I think that for the same reasons you do (and probably some others), especially the reason that it would be taught as science, which it clearly is not. (In fact, I think that almost does an injustice to the Christian belief anyway; trying to take the faith element out of it.) However, and perhaps this is a fault of mine, I tend to view this debate through the larger lens of a very clear problem that society at large has with Christianity in general. (Tonight on the news I saw a story about a town in Washington hanging a sign by a nativity scene saying "THERE IS NO GOD; RELIGION ONLY ENSLAVES MINDS" or something like that.) I'm not being defensive or paranoid or launching any sort of ad hominum attack (ohh there would be too many to attack! ahha just kidding) I am just making an obvservation. So anyway - as I was saying - I view this debate about creationism in schools as part of a larger movement of society to, in a sense, attack the Christian religion, and I find that incredibly interesting. That is why I brought up the idea of whether you are pushing to remove Christianity from schools or ideology from schools, because I tend to believe that if you look at your motives, there is more at work there than a simple "respect for science." (Otherwise, why are so many "atheists" and "leftists" so quick to defend the Muslim religion?) And when I made the argument that to remove ideology you'd have to remove all those other subjects, I am not talking about removing the discussion of different ideologies, I am talking about removing essentially the modus operandi of school and those discussions. You woudln't be able to discuss Beowulf because ideas, opinions and analyses are all based in ideologies. And here, I am using the word "ideology" as a "system of beliefs" - whether they be religious or not (mostly, MORAL). So yes, atheism is an ideology. In that sense. Even to have a simple conversation like we are having now we need to have some similarity of moral standards or else we'd have no grounds for conversation.

Also, your argument that Christians who fight for teaching creationism in school are inconsistent if they don't also fight for the teaching of other creation stories in school commits a logical fallacy. I think it's called the "red herring." Let's say I speak out against poverty. Just because I don't also speak out against political corruption or AIDS or abortion doesn't mean poverty is not a problem. Christians have no obligation to fight for other creation stories in schools because they're not fighting on the grounds that "We want all creation stories in schools." They're fighting on the grounds that "we want OUR story in schools." Obviously it's because they believe their story is the true one, otherwise why would they believe it. (I am not justifying their actions though. I think that's a bad argument on their part, and one reason I'm not in support of that movement.)

Food for thought.

Also - are you celebrating Christmas? I think that's another interesting discussion. It's a Christian holiday, man. Good thing we're willing to share. ;)

Sam Greene said...


Thank you for your comments. You are the only person outside of the group to read our blog I think. Also, I apologize for the late response, I haven't been checking in recently.

I read your post and agree with Davids response. However, I would like to address one thing you seem to be misunderstanding. My argument is simply saying that if they teach Christian creation in school then they MUST teach all other creation myths to be fair. This is in no means a red herring. In a red herring one inserts irrelevant facts to throw readers or listeners off the point of the argument. The above mentioned statement is not irrelevant thus this part of my argument is not a red herring. Is not understanding logical fallacies a logical fallacy?

I do not feel a need to be respectful when addressing this subject because more often than not this people are not respecting anyone's opinion. They harass people to get their way. They use the unconstitutional position our government has granted to religion in the last 60 years to attempt to bully their agenda into practice.

A further point is that you seem to miss what I am saying somehow. I am arguing against CHRISTIAN rhetoric in schools I suppose. But more than that, I am simply one religion getting favor over another in a secular organization. Our founding fathers realized the disastrous consequences wrought from corrupt people using religion to get their way (indoctrination)hence the wall between church and state. I don't seem to get what you are saying by PROVEN science. That is what is taught for the most part in schools.

And yes, I am celebrating Christmas because my parents do so. More than anything it is just a family day and has nothing to do about Christ for my family.

Thanks for the post its good to know someone is reading it.


Sam Greene said...

I would also like to add that I am not anti-religion. I really could care less what someone chooses to do in their own life. My problem is when people attempt to force religion into public policy. That was the reason for this post. You should come to some meetings.


Shawn said...

First I will preface. I'm a sophomore attending OU. I plan on stopping by one of your meetings this coming quarter.

I find it interesting that you promote logic throughout this piece. It seems you are a big fan of it, and I don't mean to sound fetching but as am I. Yet, it seems to me you fail to realize an error in "logic." This entire piece is a gigantic "Ad Hominem."

You institute an Us vs Them mentality. Your focus should not be on the perpetrators of the problem, but upon the problem. The fact that they are religious is irrelevant. Further, the fact that the theory has religious tones is irrelevant. If you want it out of science your objective should be to show how it's bad science (something I can agree with).

Yet, this entire thing is vitriolic. You sound arrogant and mean. You foster no worthwhile dialogue or even attempt at using logic to defend your point.

My hope is that we can stop the bitter polemic. If all your hopes and dreams are to stop religion and crush it with your might hand I think both your message and intellect will fail you. This is not as nor anywhere near riveting as say Lewis or Plantiga. Both theist that have a better grasp on logic then this piece portrays you do.

I think there is a valid discussion between theist and atheists. I doubt this adds much merit to that discussion.

Steve said...

I am also a sophomore attending OU, & I also plan on stopping by one of (if not a few) of your meetings. To start things off, I noticed that some factually incorrect pseudo-historical claims were made in this post, along with factual inaccuracies regarding United States law.

The Constitution was not "written by deists", at the least not if you mean that all- or even the majority- of the men who served in the drafting of that document were deists. Of course, a few (& some rather prominent ones) were. However, the majority of the founding fathers belonged to traditional Christian denominations. This does not mean that they did not frame a secular government. It is rather simplistic to think that a group of deists could or would not form a religious state (as deism is a form of theism) or that a group of Christians could or would not form a secular state. If you are going to criticize a group's presentation of history, you should endeavor to make sure that what you yourself present is not blatantly false. The following webpage has a list of the men who participated in the framing of the Constituion, along with a number of supporting sources. To view the sources provided for each individual (which seem fairly authoritative), follow the links under the "Religious Affiliation" field.

It would also seem that the individuals identified as the founding fathers were not "vehemently opposed" to religion being any part of public policy. The Northwest Ordinance, initially passed under the Articles of Confederation & re-asserted under the Constitution, reads thusly: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." This sentence does not establish that the government should preferentially favor a certain religion or religious institution (as some say it does), & it does not conflict with the Constitution (as some say it does), but it certainly shows that the attitude the founding fathers as a whole had toward the relationship between religion & government was not "vehement" in any sense of the word. They did not collectively need to be vehement to think that a secular government was the wisest route to go.

You might also wish to note that the fact that there is no United States law that states that "we can't have bibles in school". If you meant to write that the Bible cannot be taught as literal truth, as a "correct" religious work, then that would be accurate. It would also be accurate to say that the schools cannot endorse or enable the distribution of Bibles. However, I think it obvious that a horrible violation of a person's religious freedom would occur is there was a restriction made of where one could take a religious work of one's respective faith for one's personal use.

I agree with Shawn that the tone of this piece (& others on this blog) is unnecessarily acerbic. This poses a number of problem. First & most crippling is that one might find it easy to merely dismiss whatever reasoning you might present, as this does seem to reflect an immense amount of arrogance & hatred. Of course, such feelings of outrage (not the arrogance, however) might be understandable; however, to attempt to change public policies with the force of hate does not work. It should be enough to present how creationism invalidates the seperation of church & state. However, you go further: creationism is not just not science, it is a "bullshit doctrine" &- here the ad hominem fallacies occur- its proponents are "ignora[nt] of science" & "lack. . . logic", claims which are irrelevant to a discussion of their ideas, whether or not they be true, as well as being irrelevant as to whether creationism should have a place in curriculum. As to the arrogance, there is a clear implication here that creationists are somehow less intelligent than those who wish to combat them- a claim which is entirely nonsensical, as intelligence has nothing to do with what one thinks. These apparent personal attacks & this value-laden "otherization" tactic are unattractive to me. This approach is also inimical to what you would hope to achieve.

In a comment to this post, the author writes that "I do not feel a need to be respectful when addressing this subject because more often than not this people are not respecting anyone's opinion." Excusing one's disrespectfulness on account of another's is not a mature way to conduct one's self. If you choose to stoop down to another's level, so to speak, no matter how justified you think it is to do so you are still on their level- a level which you have hypocritically criticized. Also, this does not make logical the fallacies which resulted from such behavior.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Plumb said...

QUOTE: “here the ad hominem fallacies occur- its proponents are "ignora[nt] of science" & "lack. . . logic", claims which are irrelevant to a discussion of their ideas, whether or not they be true, as well as being irrelevant as to whether creationism should have a place in curriculum.”

This statement shows a clear misunderstanding of what an ad hominem is. An ad hominem would be to say 'creationists are wrong BECAUSE they are ignorant of science.'

However, it is true that they are wrong in wishing their ideas upon public school curricula.

As it was said somewhere - ignorance does not make one incorrect. What is being said in the article is simply a value judgment - polemic and angry perhaps - but it is not an ad hominem. Creationists are violating the law because of the central argument of this post - SEPARATION OF CHURCH OF STATE. That is the end of that. They are not scientists, nor do they offer any research to support their claims (this is because it would be impossible to do so given their current hypotheses) - and the comments such as "This is yet another instance of creationists attempting to bludgeon down the doors of logic and force their bullshit doctrine into public policy." are indeed value statements.

You may find these value statements irrelevant to the arguments – and you’re fairly correct. Sam’s opinions on creationists do not have anything to do with whether creationism should have a place in the curriculum. However, this is simply a blog on an old topic that is resurfacing, and throwing in his own commentary is simply a part of it. Simply, it is important to differentiate what is a part of the argument and what is a part of Sam’s opinion.

After over 25 years of the same arguments coming forth from creationists in an attempt to violate scientific education's standards, many people have opinions that reflect simply being fed up. To tell someone they ought to stifle their opinion, or they are wrong for refusing to be apologetic is not something I can do, nor do I think anyone should. It is simply the opinion of some of the commentators on here that the criticism of the creationists’ ideas is too harsh – and it needs to be understood that it is only that. The harshness or softness of the argument does not change the fact that the central argument is that the creationist ideas are unscientific and their goal is unconstitutional.

On a personal note – I do not care for apologetics. This is matter of opinion and taste, but I do understand the appeal, I’ll explain:

QUOTE: “My hope is that we can stop the bitter polemic. If all your hopes and dreams are to stop religion and crush it with your might hand I think both your message and intellect will fail you. This is not as nor anywhere near riveting as say Lewis or Plantiga. Both theist that have a better grasp on logic then this piece portrays you do.”

I do not see anywhere in this article that wishes to ‘STOP RELIGION AND CRUSH IT.’ Again, the argument is to keep religion and state separate. The fact you find Lewis riveting is because you must, personally, prefer apologists to polemicists. I happen to prefer the other way around. Again, this is a matter of opinion. There also aren’t any ad hominems here. Even if you consider Sam’s opinions near personal attacks on creationists – this does not take away from the fact that the argument was not ‘creationists are wrong BECAUSE they are scientifically ignorant.’ The argument is that creationism IS scientifically void. Their arguments absolutely lack logic, and the past two posts simply lack an understanding of the ad hominem. Although the criticisms here could be interpreted (possibly falsly, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions) as reflecting anger and arrogance. However, like I said, I prefer the style of just coming out and saying it, rather than tip toeing around with apologetic fluff – and even having the guts to come out and say ‘I think you’re wrong, and here’s why.’ Other than that, I hope this discussion can continue – and to do so I’m going to ask a few questions derived from this post, to sort of boil down what I’m trying to get at:

1.) Although being polemic can be unattractive to some, what is the benefit (if any) of being apologetic?
2.) Is it not an internal violation of the fallacy of ad hominem by dismissing a polemic argument on those grounds alone?
3.) Given that I believe the answer to #2 is yes, then wouldn’t it simply be facetious and even taking away from the message, for one to tone it down for the sake of reducing a first glance dismissal?
4.) Finally, is it not easy to empathize with those who have fought for separation of church of state for a long time now and understand that being frustrated and angry is not unreasonable?

Sam Greene said...

@ Shawn

Good to have some more people posting. After re-reading my article I have to say I do agree that it would have been a bit more powerful to address why this is not a Science.

When you say I should not focus on the perpetrators I say that is absolute poppycock. There would be no issue without perpetrators. These are the people attempting to push their dogma into public policy hence, I focus on them. To simply address the problem without note of them is not only impossible but it would be extremely asinine. The perpetrators of the action are the only people who can be attacked. One cannot stop any issue without stopping the people putting or attempting to put it into practice.

I actually will be working on my argument style to make it more inviting and less polemic in order foster meaningful conversation but above all in order to not give our group a bad name.

A final note. I am not and never will be a religious apologetic. Those people are spineless. They help to exacerbate violations of the constitutions through apathy. The reason I come out swinging is because I simply think someone who claims to be an adherent to a certain religion should at least know the background.

Overall, thanks for the post. We can speak through e-mail if you want mine is I look forward to meeting you.


Sam Greene said...

@ Steve

I will be responding to you post tomorrow. You make some good points. At the same time there is some facts that you get wrong as I did in my post. I will talk about them tomorrow.


Steve said...

To David:

There are forms of ad hominem besides that which you described. As such, your incomplete (while claiming otherwise, as you exclude my argument from establishing an ad hominem because of this) definition betrays as much basic ignorance as you say I possess regarding the concept by providing what you contend is an example which does not constitute the fallacy. Also, you also seem to have misunderstood that section of my post (or I am misunderstanding a portion of yours). You seem to be thinking (at the least to my reading) that I am putting forth that the author of the blog post in question was committing an ad hominem fallacy because the insults were irrelevant. This is not the case. Instead, along with that these insults are ad hominems, the insults the blog author chose to use were entirely irrelevant to the discussion. But perhaps I was not clear enough in this paragraph, so let me rephrase my criticism: the author seems to put forth the idea that these ideas put forth by creationists are of no intellectual worth because they arise from people who are "ignor[ant] of science" & "lack. . . logic", which is an ad hominem. It might be that the the author is only utilizing a weak form of ad hominem- however, it would still be correct to characterize such as an ad hominem. This contention of mine is made stronger, I think, because there appears to be no other relevant reason for these insults to be used. Perhaps the author is not doing this, but on any account, he is acting in an unattractive (& possibly hurtful to his own ends) manner.

I am not asking for the blog author to be apologetic. I would disagree strongly with your decision to characterize my desires as such (you seem to be replying to me here as well as Shawn- I could be wrong, please let me know if I am). Instead, I outlined how I thought such behavior was not only unattractive, but is very possbly inimical to what the author would want to ultimately achieve (that is, thwarting the attempts of creationists to introduce creationism into public school studies). Attacking incorrect ideas by attacking (or along with attacking) those who put them forth does not work to win many converts. Also, to think that apologetics is the only recourse to polemic (&, as such, is our suggestion or preference, though I cannot see that either o us [& certainly not myself]), as you seem to think, is both simplistic & incorrect. Furthermore, I would disagree with how you characterize the blog author's post, as it seems to ignore a certain element. This post goes much further than a person saying, "I think you're wrong, and here's why"- the author then goes on to personally insult the proponents of the ideas he disagrees with.

I am not recommending apologetics (you seem to have introduced this), so I do not see a need to discuss its value. If one wishes to convey the idea that those who disagree with you are stupid or somesuch, obviously it would be taking away from your message to hold your tongue. Also, polemics often appeal to people who agree with what is being expressed. Being frustrated & angry is not unreasonable, & I said as much in my previous post. There is a rather large difference between being frustrated & angry & resorting to irrelevant (&, I would ultimately argue, ad hominem) insults.

Steve said...

Preliminary to Sam:

It is not, I think, necessary to personally attack people to stop them from instituting what they desire. The only judgment one needs to attach is that they are expressing ideas which are, to the best of your reasoning, wrong. I do not think it would compromise your intellectual integrity, either. The force of your argument should be enough- &, in fact, I think it is made stronger if nothing clutters it. I would seriously recommend eliminating such insults from your writings, whether or not such insults constitute ad hominem arguments. As I said in my original post, I can sympathize with feelings of anger, as I once felt them myself, & did react in a (verbally) violent manner when I would express my arguments. However, not much convincing was done. I think one should keep in mind that here the ultimate goal is to prevent what is obviously violations of the constitutional dictum of separation of church and state. If someone is a charlatan or somesuch, it is right to call them out on that, in such words. However, if what is on the table (or what is most important) is an idea, or the possible implementation of the idea, I think it best to focus exclusively on the merits of that idea. I do not think this can be characterized at all as apologetics. I am glad you have indicated you will give this some thought, as my intent is not to disagree with your main argument, but as to how you express it (while pointing out a few flaws that I think are therein). I look forward to your proper response.

Sam Greene said...


I have to say that I agree with you in some aspects. Filling an argument with nothing but obscenities does take away from the strength of the argument as I believe happened in my original post. I do sometimes become abrasive when arguing these sorts of things. I guess my biggest frustration is the ignorance a large portion of the population displays towards our constitution. I suppose you could all my response to Maria an ad-hominem.
I will concede that some of my statements were wrong. I have recently been researching the founding fathers and have come to realize that their views on religion were not as simple as I wrote above. They were not all deists. This is something that I have come to realize and should have retracted earlier. They were not vehemently opposed to religion s I stated either. What they were opposed to was corruption be it secular or religions. The majority of the founding fathers realized that religion can lead to infinite conflicts many resulting in mass killings. This was not because religion corrupted secular authorities or vice versa. They believed that a state sanctioned religion leads to injustice. To sum it up, the consensus was that religion, when sanctioned by a state allows for the justification of heinous crimes against humanity. However, they also realized that this was not solely because of religion but faults of man. As a result they attempted to build a wall between church and state. ( look to American Gospel: Religion and the Founding Fathers for more clarification on this.)
While the constitution was the work of many men James Madison had the most influence, especially pertaining to the first amendment. As stated above, Madison worked extremely hard to build a wall between church and state in his words “Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects. [James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774]” and again
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” [Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]
However, as you stated, many of the founding fathers did adhere to some form of Christianity. As a result, Madison (and Jefferson to a large extent) works hard to create of document which would allow government and religion to function separately.
The goal of Madison and the rest of the founding father were to create a society with complete religious freedom. By doing so they hoped to avoid one sect gaining prominence over another leading to more bloodshed. Madison voiced this thought to the Virginia convention stating;
...Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest. [James Madison, spoken at the Virginia convention on ratifying the Constitution, June 1778]
As we can see, my statement was incorrect. The founding fathers did not oppose religion. They wanted to create a society where anyone can worship their god without fear of persecution and I thank you for your correction.
When writing the Northwest Ordinance the founding fathers had this principle in mind. You are absolutely correct in your statements. The reference to religion does not favor one at the expense of another. So, once again, I stand corrected. I cannot, as a good historian, after doing the research I have recently done disagree with you. I thank you for your corrections.
My argument should have been more focused on the violation of this principle by creationists. Creationism is not a science, it is dogma. To enforce this on children in public schools violates what our founding fathers worked so hard to create. It is in conflict because it entails a school endorsing one religion over another which. I have to admit I am a bit ashamed. I thought I had done enough research on this post by my current studies and your posts have proved me wrong.
Thank you for your post. I hope to see you winter quarter.


Sam Greene said...

I cant get the formatting right on this blog. I keep typing it in word and then pasting it which seems to be the wrong way to go. I can e-mail you original post if you want just let me know.

David Plumb said...

Just to be as clear as I possibly can be, I am not suggesting that toning it down when criticizing someone has no merit, and I did not mean to categorize anyone as apologetic – I was meaning to say that writers such as Lewis are apologetic and it’s a different sort of taste. I went on to assume that you guys would prefer a softer argument, even an apologetic one, to a polemic one. The wild things that were said in the first few comments from you guys sounded so pissed I couldn’t believe it. One of the key points I wanted to convey in my reply was that it is a matter of personal opinion as to whether or not you like someone who is ranting or someone who is calmly laying out an argument.

I mostly meant this for Shawn, and I must say I was shocked at the implication that “My hope is that we can stop the bitter polemic. If all your hopes and dreams are to stop religion and crush it with your might hand I think both your message and intellect will fail you.”

With that, I want to apologize if I came off the wrong way in any of that, and I have a feeling I did.

Steve, I think in some parts we are saying the same thing about ad hominem arguments – however, I just want to be clear that I have not for a moment been incorrect in my understanding of them – and you may not have been but it’s hard to tell, as I’ll describe below (weak v. strong). However, when you wrote that I was incorrect, it made me think twice and I had to make sure that I hadn’t been wrong about it for all this time. As I was relieved to find, I had not been, and if you care to read my defense – I’ve written it below.

Steve, I understood your point very well, however you seemed to have misunderstood mine. I totally got this the first time: “my criticism: the author seems to put forth the idea that these ideas put forth by creationists are of no intellectual worth because they arise from people who are "ignor[ant] of science" & "lack. . . logic", which is an ad hominem. It might be that the the author is only utilizing a weak form of ad hominem- however, it would still be correct to characterize such as an ad hominem.”

However, my reply was not that this is not an ad hominem; I am arguing that this isn’t the argument. The argument, as I see it, is that we should dismiss the idea of inserting religious ideas into state funded schools because of the separation of church and state. I completely agree that the statement you made above is an example of ad hominem. I do not think I fully understand what is meant by ‘a weak form of ad hominem’. Ad hominem follows a very specific structure, so the only point of weak or strong I think could lie in determining just how untrue or insulting the objectionable attribute or appeal to a bias is.

The structure is very basic and does not have variance. I plan to outline the definition of ad hominem below.

Although it may be hard to tell from the article, I know Sam does not think Creationists are wrong for some personal flaw, nor have I ever heard him say this. I know him very well, so when I read this article I did not see the same things you guys, Steve and Shawn, saw. Even upon rereading it a few times, I still do not see any ad hominem’s at all, but if I did I would probably have been the first to tell him when he posted it – no one gets a free pass on that sort of thing, especially friends.

Back to the ad hominem, I think you are incorrect (about me being incorrect), and I will attempt to respectively show you why I think this.

First of all, in response to the comment: “your incomplete … definition betrays as much basic ignorance as you say I possess regarding the concept by providing what you contend is an example which does not constitute the fallacy.”

Well, let’s put that to the test

Here was my example: “creationists are wrong BECAUSE they are ignorant of science”

1. Creationists make claim X
2. Creationists are ignorant of science
3. Claim X is false (or wrong)

My example does, in fact, follow the structure of an ad hominem as can been seen below.

Now, to rule out incomplete definitions so we can all be on the same page with this…

Here is a comprehensive definition of ad hominem! (I apologize for any boringness)

At a glance:

Ad hominem refers to:

1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.

In formal logic, the breakdown of this description is as such:

Person A makes claim X
There is something objectionable about Person A
Therefore claim X is false

My argument is that the fallacy lies in line 3 – not in one or two. Line one and two are simply statements, and line three is the conclusion. Line three does not logically follow, and this type of fallacy is the ad hominem and nothing else. Certainly personally attacks and insults can be a part of the structure of the argument (line 2), but when an insult is not within this very specific framework it is not an ad hominem. It cannot be one by itself – it needs the claim, the objectionable remark, and conclusion that because of line 2, Person A’s claim is false. (see:,,

I found a great summary of this misconception, which I attempted to put concisely in my first response but had failed to do so:

“For instance, ad hominem is one of the most frequently misidentified fallacies, probably because it is one of the best known ones. Many people seem to think that any personal criticism, attack, or insult counts as an ad hominem fallacy. Moreover, in some contexts the phrase "ad hominem" may refer to an ethical lapse, rather than a logical mistake, as it may be a violation of debate etiquette to engage in personalities. So, in addition to ignorance [of the meaning of ad hominem], there is also the possibility of equivocation on the meaning of "ad hominem".” ( (more discussion found here:,)

From Steve: “There are forms of ad hominem besides that which you described.”

From me: sort of

The structure is consistent, but the different forms are only derivations in the form of an attempt to categorize the ad hominem in terms of what sort of argument is used in line 2.

For example:

Ad hominem abusive – where line 2 is an insult, the pointing out of a true or false characture flaw, or a belittling statement.

Ad hominem circumstantial – where line 2 is an attempt to demonstrate the proponents of the claim X may be susceptible to a bias that lead them to their conclusion.

Ad hominem tu quoque - where line 2 is an attempt to demonstrate the proponents of claim X have, or currently, in some way behave/d in such a way that they themselves contradict the claim.

There is also what I earlier misidentified as an “internal violation of ad hominem” known as inverse ad hominem, an example of which being "That man was smartly-dressed and charming, so I'll accept his argument that I should vote for him" (example taken from Wikipedia).

So, now that it is a complete definition, and includes all derivations, you will see that the example I gave was indeed an ad hominem, and that personal attacks and insults do not fall into the category of ad hominem unless it is said that these attributes are the REASON why the argument is wrong – it needs that 'logical' hinge, that 'logical' connector for a fallacy to occur. Otherwise it is just a value statement that can be disagreed with for other reasons, however, it is simply not an ad hominem, and I feel it is important to make the distinction.

In conclusion (italics denoting being winded), my response to Steve’s statement: “There are forms of ad hominem besides that which you described. As such, your incomplete (while claiming otherwise, as you exclude my argument from establishing an ad hominem because of this) definition betrays as much basic ignorance as you say I possess regarding the concept by providing what you contend is an example which does not constitute the fallacy.” (emphasis added) is that Steve was incorrect in saying my example and understanding of ad hominem was incorrect, and either:

A.) Steve is equating some of the personal attacks which lie outside of Sam’s argument with the ad hominem fallacy via misunderstanding of the parameters of the fallacy itself, or

B.) Steve is arguing that the nature of Sam’s arguments convey an implied ad hominem argument to the reader.

Please let me know what you think. I also want to say that I meant to write all of this with a sincere and cordial tone, so if the internets clouded that (or my poor writing skills) in anyway, I ask that you believe me on this. I always opt for discussion over argument, and I always do my best to avoid getting sucked into arguing where a discussion could be created in its place.

Also, thanks Steve and Shawn for your interest and comments – even if either of you completely disagreed with me on the issue (or any other important issue) itself I’d be happy to see that you are interested enough to talk about it at length and find it to be important (as I find it to be important too).

Please, post as much as you wish, or email us @ – and I plan on blogging here again very soon – maybe we can talk about something else, and I hope to see you guys at the meetings next quarter.


Steve said...

To David:

Polemic, I think, is not very useful. It often does as much damage to its presenter as it does to those it is directed at. I recognize that it is a matter of personal opinion as to what one prefers, but the importance of how one expresses an idea goes beyond mere like & dslike. There are ways which are more effective for certain ends, & I think the use of polemic here is inappropriate for a couple of reasons (as I have said in previous posts). In this sort of discussion, what one prefers should not take precedence over what is most effective.

I recognize that the main argument "is that we should dismiss the idea of inserting religious ideas into state funded schools because of the separation of church and state." If our misunderstandng here focuses around that, then I think we've worked that out. The argument I was focusing on is an ancillary one to the post's main argument (roughly equivalent to what you identify as B, which I would qualify somewhat f we were to actually discuss it). Obviously this would not have bearing on the main argument of the post. I was not putting forth the idea that the entire post was an ad hominem attack.

As such, the argument you outlined in the rest of your post in defense of the main argument is not a formal fallacy. I qualified with the term "weak" to denote that, even though it is not the sole reason for a dismissal of the ideas, these personal attacks seem to be used as evidence for such. This is not, I think, a necessary illegitimate usage of the term, & I myself find it apt. If you would not like to call it such, that is fine- however, I would still say such a usage of personal attacks is incorrect & does much detriment to the argument.

Perhaps I (as I think you did too, but we seem to be working these out fairly effectively, which is refreshing) misunderstood your points re: certain issues. For that I apologize, & since you interpreted my initial post as being indicative of me being "pissed", I'm sure something about how it was written made it come off that way, & for that I also apologize.

Steve said...

To Sam:

If you think your posts aren't showing up here in their entirety for whatever reason, please feel free to email them to me at If it's easier for you to talk via that medium, I'm cool with that.

Sam Greene said...

@ Steve,

They are showing up its just that I cant get the damn formating right.

Steve said...

To Sam:

Your posts, I think, are leading towards a discussion of what the proper interpretation of the separation of church & state should be. This is certainly a related issue, but I'm not sure if it's close enough to discuss under this post. Were you trying to lead the discussion towards this (or would you want to)? If so, would it be fine to discuss it here, or would it be more proper over email? It's your society's blog, & I wouldn't want to clog it up too horribly with somewhat off-topic posts if that would bother you all.

David Plumb said...

I'm in favor of doing it here

Sam Greene said...

@ Steve

That is what I was attempting to do. I think we should absolutely do it here so everyone can take part. We want everyone to get involved so never hesitate to bring up a point.

I am going to need to think about this for a bit. If you have anything to get the conversation going please share it. If not I will post either tomorrow or the next day.

David Plumb said...

Are you guys in town during break by chance? I really think this conversation would be better if we could all meet to discuss it. Maybe it is just me but I feel like discussions over the internet lack something(not sure what). If you're not in town then we should definatley continue online. Maybe we can make a separate post on our forums? What do you guys think?

David Plumb said...

who left that last comment about being in town? it wasn't me


Shawn said...

My thoughts on why I viewed this as an ad hominem.

I read this piece and from the get-go I sensed a loathing, originating from the OP, towards creationists. Words like "ridiculous, ill informed, indoctrination, bludgeon down the doors of logic" etc etc

These words and the manner in which they were used denote a secondary message-cum-argument to the piece. That creationists intellect is not as apt as the secular humanists intellect. I would say it is me being biased, but Stephen seems to agree with me, and skimming the responses it seems that some of you also can see how the piece is vitriolic.

I think pieces like this on all sides need to be aware of their argument. That ID is first and foremost bad science because of reason X and that it fails to pass the separation of church and state clause in the Constitution. The bitter and churlish message is indeed inimical to your ends, I think.

Being a week atheists myself, I'm sympathetic toward your position. I do realize that atheists are probably one of the most oppressed social groups out-there (some polls have indicated homosexual males stand a better chance at winning the presidency than an atheist). Yet, being a part of the minority complex, and being an academic at heart I realize that rancor receives unkind words. Your position becomes dismissible as a "ranting and raving lune" people fail to look at content, because the content is hidden beneath a web of unneeded or wanted fluff.

I think if your argument was that ID is not an applicable scientific theory here is why that has much more fruitful then just claiming it and anything of its ilk to be wholly absurd or illogical.

I'm neither a fan of polemics or apologetics, I'm a fan of truth and results. Polemics blast away rationale and engagement that is really needed to reach a mutual consensus. Apologetics tends to undercut the need for cogent arguments or even actions, nether produce results. Dialogue is an amazing tool, and being on the minority side I want to make what's best of that.

I think we [atheists] have been as ignorant as we portray the other side. We fail to actually look at what they are giving to us as an argument and too easily dismiss the notion as being "creationist" when we are angered when the creationists do the same to our "science."

Science is indeed a valuable tool, yet so to is religion. Science tells us how to build the atomic bomb, but gives us no insight on if we should use it. I think for everyone involved in this discussion it's often best to understand both sides, and to actually find meaning and the incentive in your opponents ways of thought.

Hope this makes sense, I've been up all night

David Plumb said...

"I think we [atheists] have been as ignorant as we portray the other side. We fail to actually look at what they are giving to us as an argument and too easily dismiss the notion as being "creationist" when we are angered when the creationists do the same to our "science.""

-I could not possibly, respectfully, disagree with you more on this. I would even go as far as to say speak for yourself.

Many atheists, who are usually also skeptics, have looked at the creationists arguments very closely. Even within our own OU Skeptic Society we have done so – we even went to their museum.

Granted, it is possible that from this post and this post alone one could derive that assumption, but that is to ignore the massive 25 year debate that has been going on. Only on the fringe of the atheists do we find those that are outright dismissive of creationism without first examining the facts and arguments they present.

I would also say that it is also only on the fringe of the creationist movement that one finds those outright dismissing science. For example, the parents who tell their kids that when evolution comes up in class to act ridiculous and say things like ‘I didn’t come from a monkey!’

It would take too long, so I am not going to get into what the creationists arguments are verses the proper responses to them. This is something anyone can find very easily.

Also, this phrase: “Science is indeed a valuable tool, yet so to is religion. Science tells us how to build the atomic bomb, but gives us no insight on if we should use it. I think for everyone involved in this discussion it's often best to understand both sides, and to actually find meaning and the incentive in your opponents ways of thought.”

Suggests that religion is a valuable tool in determining right and wrong. I disagree with this, and would say that moral philosophers give far more insight than religion ever has when it comes to ethics.

And I don’t know what you mean by “incentive in your opponents ways of thought”. Do you mean ‘what makes them tick?’ Or, why they think what they think? Because this discussion is more about a group of people’s actions, not their psychology.



Steve said...

To David:

I think it is wrong to say that religion is not a valuable tool in determining right & wrong. There are many religions in the world, and it seems rather brash to say they all are worthless in this regard, especially as the ethical systems of many religions comprise moral philosophies. To say that a figures such as Christ or the Buddha were not moral philosophers or that the teachings ascribed to them are not moral philosophies seems to me a rather inaccurate statement. Of course, modern ethics is able to educate us to a greater extent, just as modern science can teach us more about the physical nature of the world than the science of the ancient Greeks.

Religious morality has often been kept vital by philosophical traditions whose contributions are still distinctly religious. More than just having some systems of thought, this literature has been used in order to positively benefit the world. For example, the ethics of a person such as Martin Luther King, Jr., are derived from principally from Christianity, & secondarily from philosophers whose sense of ethics were, again, principally derived from Christianity. Here, it seems religion has certainly given people not only insight into ethics, but helped to make manifest these insights. I would not say Dr. King's ethical insights were retarded in any manner by them being religiously based (instead, they seem to have been heightened), & would extend that judgment to a high number of other individuals. Other prominent figures who have utilized religion in such a positive way include Gandhi (though not particularly religious himself, his non-violent protest can be directly linked to the Biblical hermeutics of Leo Tolstoy, & other aspects of his thought are indebted to Indian mystcs) & Mother Theresa, just to keep us within this century.

Of course, there are also wrong ethical teachings in religions. Some of these (such as the Crusades & Inquisitions) seem to be in direct opposition to the words of Jesus Christ as they appear in the Bible, & as such are more indicative of problems with political institutions ("organized religion") who manipulate religion in order to gain & retain power than a problem with the religion as a system of thought. However, the same has been true of distinctly non-religious moral thought, such as when Nietzsche's writings were co-opted & distorted by the Nazis & related Germanic groups. The same is even true of descriptive science, when Darwinism was mutilated into social Darwinism & used to justify the sterilization of poor African-Americans & the mentally disturbed or deficient in America. Even such a scant thing (doctrinally speaking) as atheism has been expanded by despots such as Stalin or Mao Zedong & used to inspire/justify slaughter. However, just as the Christianity of the Catholic Church during the cited actions was not necessarily representative of the religion of Christianity, I do not think the crimes of these other examples can be necessarily or primarily attributed to their corresponding "starter" bases. Don't take this to mean that I think that religions have not led to evil, or that certain doctrines of religions do not endorse evil.

David Plumb said...

"Of course, modern ethics is able to educate us to a greater extent, just as modern science can teach us more about the physical nature of the world than the science of the ancient Greeks."

My point exactly.

Religion may have been an initiator of thinking about morals for many societies and many people... but alchemy and astrology could also be considered the initiators of thinking about the natural world.

Now we have scientific methods and moral philosophers.

So, although religion may be sufficient in getting people to think about ethics, it is definitely not necessary.

There really aren't any moral solutions that come from religion that also can not be found logically and intuitively.

If anything, having a religious system that keeps people moral on the basis of supernatural reasons, to me, is a weaker foundation than one of careful thought and reason.

Also, religiously rooted moral philosophies seemed to have stemmed from a discontent in the incompleteness of the explanations of their intuitions. Although Jesus Christ offers 'the golden rule', Immanuel Kant offers the 'categorical imperative' - which is much more well thought out than the basic intuition Jesus Christ was appealing too - although it basically says the same thing.



Steve said...

I do not think that because it is unnecessary in the sense you put forth makes religion lack value in ethical considerations. Though MLK or other comparable persons might have drawn their inspiration from non-religious moral philosophy (& I certainly think they could have), they did not. Examples such as these make me lax to say that religious insights cannot be valuable in ethical matters as, in some instances, it has produced great good. I do not think the good that was done would be more or less valuable if it was the result of reason, intuition, or religion.

Shawn said...

In any manner of speaking much of the ethical solutions place forth by greater Philosophers have been and still are under a codified metaphysical judgements based upon the existence of a prime mover. I'm not willing to say it's necessary in the least, but no other idea has moved or continues to move the discourse of moral philosophy than that of God.

While you're correct, science provides us more insight to the natural world than alchemy, so too does moral philosophy provide us about morality than religion. Yet, when all is said and done. The man in the 60's comes back from his highschool, or even college science class and learns relatively little about Quantum Mechanics, or string-theory. But, that is okay. For this man sales cars and what is string-theory to him? Yet, moral guidance is something that on a daily basis makes the difference between something Good and as Aristotle would say, "With goal."

I'm expressing the same sentiments as Stephen here, the good that one does typically is not devalued by the path one takes. As long as one keeps the telos (goal) in mind then great things spring from that.

I'm sorry if my post before this seemed far reaching, but I've yet to meet random atheists, well educated or not, that can site scriptures (other than Stephen). I say this because I see the value that others place in scripture and faith, and while I realize that they may not offer a deep logical base other than a murky intuitionism, it's that same intuitionism I and others place in a lot of things.

This is not to say that religion couldn't learn from science. I really believe Popper when he placed sciences "truth" value in that of falsifiability. I think religion could use a dose of that too. For in religion there are some truly bad ideas.

David Plumb said...

I agree that falsifiability ought to be applied to religion.

However, I challenge you to do so and see what results.

You guys may end up agreeing with me that religion has no utility in offering explanations of god, morality, or nature.



Steve said...

Popper's views regarding falsifiability (& the nature of science in general) are not the consensus view either in philosophy or science, so I would disagree strongly that an application of his theory of falsifiability to religion would be of especial worth, & such wouldn't really convince me of much. Even if it were right, I don't think it would be of value. Falsifiability determines what science is to Popper's world-view, & to Popper science is entirely distinct from logic & metaphysical (such as ethical) thought. He does not to my knowledge say that because such things do not meet the requirement of falsifiability that they are of no use.

Steve said...

However, what I just had come to mind (& something that I think we can all agree upon) is that religions are often plainly wrong (such as in factual matters), or seem to be wrong (such as in ethical ones). As science has endeavored to construct criteria which allow us to delineate between science & non-science- & thus what is valuable as science-, I think there very well could be such tools for religion. I've not a clue what it would be except that it is certainly not falsifiability. This seems like an interesting issue.

David Plumb said...

I don't know who Popper is, but falsifiability is the heart of science - hands down.

And when it comes to applying it to religion, I think it should be applied to religion's claims about the world - because its true, things such as god and heaven and hell are unfalsifiable. However, claims about the origins of life, nature, and history are falsifiable, and thus is susceptible to genuine, scientific inquiry.

I plan on writing a bit more on the morality thing - and why I think religion comes close to useless in this area - but for now I'm going to go eat xmas cookies and play with my new toys.

Steve said...

Karl Popper is one of the most visible philosophers of science. Shawn mentioned Popper's falsifiability & I was responding to that. It is true that some form of falsifiability is important to science.

I certainly wouldn't argue that when religion makes falsifiable claims about the physical world that we should not investigate as to whether those claims are true.

Shawn said...

I want to be clear here. I don't specifically mean falsifiability in the exact sense Popper uses it. I mean the questioning of dogma and doctrine in hope to find better solutions to problems, both philosophical and ethical.

I would ponder if we can easily dismiss "Notions of heaven, hell and god" as unprovable (which is why I have a problem with the agnostic position) because many things perceived unprovable by scientists and other thinkers many years in past times have obviously been illuminated. The sheer fact that it seems so obtuse in the scheme of our thinking makes it an invalid candidate to dismiss it from "provability"

I would be interested to read anything you post on Religion being "useless" and I suggest you address the pragmatic use of religion as I have previously expoused.

I also would like to speak to the society about the notion of ID as a legitimate scientiic theory. Meaning that if a well informed person cold postulate a theory of ID in a way that addresses valid concerns would you still preface it as a "creationists bashing down doors of logic." I see hope that the discourse, however valid it is, can at least bypass polemics and turn into a dialogue.

Happy Belated Christmas,

Shawn said...


I want to apologize for my rampant typos and spelling errors, I suck at life.

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