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Louisiana Confounds the Science Thought Police - Neo-Darwinism is no longer a protected orthodoxy...
National Review Online ^ | July 08, 2008 | John G. West

Posted on 07/08/2008 11:48:40 AM PDT by neverdem









Louisiana Confounds the Science Thought Police
Neo-Darwinism is no longer a protected orthodoxy in the Bayou State's pedagogy.

By John G. West

To the chagrin of the science thought police, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law an act to protect teachers who want to encourage critical thinking about hot-button science issues such as global warming, human cloning, and yes, evolution and the origin of life.

Opponents allege that the Louisiana Science Education Act is “anti-science.” In reality, the opposition’s efforts to silence anyone who disagrees with them is the true affront to scientific inquiry.

Students need to know about the current scientific consensus on a given issue, but they also need to be able to evaluate critically the evidence on which that consensus rests. They need to learn about competing interpretations of the evidence offered by scientists, as well as anomalies that aren’t well explained by existing theories.

Yet in many schools today, instruction about controversial scientific issues is closer to propaganda than education. Teaching about global warming is about as nuanced as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Discussions about human sexuality recycle the junk science of biologist Alfred Kinsey and other ideologically driven researchers. And lessons about evolution present a caricature of modern evolutionary theory that papers over problems and fails to distinguish between fact and speculation. In these areas, the “scientific” view is increasingly offered to students as a neat package of dogmatic assertions that just happens to parallel the political and cultural agenda of the Left.

Real science, however, is a lot more messy — and interesting — than a set of ideological talking points. Most conservatives recognize this truth already when it comes to global warming. They know that whatever consensus exists among scientists about global warming, legitimate questions remain about its future impact on the environment, its various causes, and the best policies to combat it. They realize that efforts to suppress conflicting evidence and dissenting interpretations related to global warming actually compromise the cause of good science education rather than promote it.

The effort to suppress dissenting views on global warming is a part of a broader campaign to demonize any questioning of the “consensus” view on a whole range of controversial scientific issues — from embryonic stem-cell research to Darwinian evolution — and to brand such interest in healthy debate as a “war on science.”

In this environment of politically correct science, thoughtful teachers who want to acquaint their students with dissenting views and conflicting evidence can expect to run afoul of the science thought police.

The Louisiana Science Education Act offers such teachers a modest measure of protection. Under the law, school districts may permit teachers to “use supplementary textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” The act is not a license for teachers to do anything they want. Instruction must be “objective,” inappropriate materials may be vetoed by the state board of education, and the law explicitly prohibits teaching religion in the name of science, stating that its provisions “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine.”

The law was so carefully framed that even the head of the Louisiana ACLU has had to concede that it is constitutional as written.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the usual suspects from denouncing the bill as a nefarious plot to sneak religion into the classroom. The good news is that the disinformation campaign proved a massive failure in Louisiana. Only three members of the state legislature voted against the measure, which attracted nearly universal support from both political parties. Efforts to prevent local scientists from supporting the bill also failed. At a legislative hearing in May, three college professors (two biologists and one chemist) testified in favor of the bill, specifically challenging the claim that there are no legitimate scientific criticisms of Neo-Darwinism, the modern theory of evolution that accounts for biological complexity through an undirected process of natural selection acting on random mutations.

Fearful of being branded “anti-science,” some conservatives are skittish about such efforts to allow challenges to the consensus view of science. They insist that conservatives should not question currently accepted “facts” of science, only the supposedly misguided application of those facts by scientists to politics, morality, and religion. Such conservatives assume that we can safely cede to scientists the authority to determine the “facts,” so long as we retain the right to challenge their application of the facts to the rest of culture.

But there are significant problems with this view.



First, the idea that a firewall exists between scientific “facts” and their implications for society is not sustainable. Facts have implications. If it really is a “fact” that the evolution of life was an unplanned process of chance and necessity (as Neo-Darwinism asserts), then that fact has consequences for how we view life. It does not lead necessarily to Richard Dawkins’s militant atheism, but it certainly makes less plausible the idea of a God who intentionally directs the development of life toward a specific end. In a Darwinian worldview, even God himself cannot know how evolution will turn out — which is why theistic evolutionist Kenneth Miller argues that human beings are a mere “happenstance” of evolutionary history, and that if evolution played over again it might produce thinking mollusks rather than us.

Second, the idea that the current scientific consensus on any topic deserves slavish deference betrays stunning ignorance of the history of science. Time and again, scientists have shown themselves just as capable of being blinded by fanaticism, prejudice, and error as anyone else. Perhaps the most egregious example in American history was the eugenics movement, the ill-considered crusade to breed better human beings.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the nation’s leading biologists at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford, as well by members of America’s leading scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science were all devoted eugenicists. By the time the crusade had run its course, some 60,000 Americans had been sterilized against their will in an effort to keep us from sinning against Darwin’s law of natural selection, which Princeton biologist Edwin Conklin dubbed “the great law of evolution and progress.”

Today, science is typically portrayed as self-correcting, but it took decades for most evolutionary biologists to disassociate themselves from the junk science of eugenics. For years, the most consistent critics of eugenics were traditionalist Roman Catholics, who were denounced by scientists for letting their religion stand in the way of scientific progress. The implication was that religious people had no right to speak out on public issues involving science.

The same argument can be heard today, not only in Louisiana, but around the country. Whether the issue is sex education, embryonic stem-cell research, or evolution, groups claiming to speak for “science” assert that it violates the Constitution for religious citizens to speak out on science-related issues. Really?

America is a deeply religious country, and no doubt many citizens interested in certain hot-button science issues are motivated in part by their religious beliefs. So what? Many opponents of slavery were motivated by their religious beliefs, and many leaders of the civil-rights movement were members of the clergy. Regardless of their motivations, religious citizens have just as much a right to raise their voices in public debates as their secular compatriots, including in debates about science. To suggest otherwise plainly offends the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

It is also short-sighted. The history of the eugenics crusade shows that religiously motivated citizens can play a useful role in evaluating the public claims of the scientific community. It is worth pointing out that unlike such “progressive” states as California, Louisiana was spared a eugenics-inspired forced-sterilization statute largely because of the implacable opposition of its Roman Catholic clergy.

So long as religious citizens offer arguments in the public square based on evidence, logic, and appeals to the moral common ground, they have every right to demand that their ideas be judged on the merits, regardless of their religious views.

This is especially true when the concern over religious motives is so obviously hypocritical. In Louisiana, for example, the person leading the charge against the Science Education Act was Barbara Forrest, herself a militant atheist and a long-time board member of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. At the same time she was denouncing the supposed religious motivations of supporters of the bill, Forrest was seeking grassroots support to lobby against the bill on the official website of Oxford atheist Richard Dawkins.

Conservatives should not support such anti-religious bigotry. Neither should they lend credence to the idea that it is anti-science to encourage critical thinking. In truth, the effort to promote thoughtful discussion of competing scientific views is pro-science. As Charles Darwin himself acknowledged, “a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

— John G. West is the author of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

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TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: bobbyjindal; crevo; education; evolution; jindal; neodarwinism; rageagainstthejindal; science; scienceeducation; sciencethoughtpolice
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Since the topic is scientific heresy, how about the constant harping of low fat diets and our obesity epidemic?

Carbohydrate restriction improves the features of Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome may be defined by the response to carbohydrate restriction

1 posted on 07/08/2008 11:48:41 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
Perhaps the most egregious example in American history was the eugenics movement

Yes, we've seen the dangers of supposing life to be susceptible to Intelligent Design....

2 posted on 07/08/2008 11:56:19 AM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: neverdem

Anything that creates doubt about evolution is ok with me.


3 posted on 07/08/2008 12:07:54 PM PDT by TexasKate
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To: steve-b

That is a huge point -

exactly what harm comes from a belief in an eternal Creator to which you will be held to account?

What harm comes from believing that humans are beings created specifically in His image as eternal souls instead of an accident of genetic mutation, no different than animals?


4 posted on 07/08/2008 12:08:49 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: steve-b
I can't believe that anyone would allow debate on Global Warming. This is settled science. If fact Global Warming should not be taught in the science class, it should be taught in Social Studies so the factual impact of a warmer earth can be studied.

By the way, I'm being sarcastic.

5 posted on 07/08/2008 12:09:42 PM PDT by 11th Commandment (Obama- new socialism for a new generation that never heard of Hitler, Stalin and Mao)
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To: neverdem

Just wait until the population explosion. You’ll be sorry, you doubter you.


6 posted on 07/08/2008 12:12:30 PM PDT by Jim Robinson
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To: 11th Commandment

And, don’t forget, the conclusions that must be reached due to the fact of Global Warming -

we must all reduce our lifestyle, destroy our economy, and relinquish our individual liberty

in order to “solve” the problem.

Just as “there is no need for a Creator, or a need to be accountable to that Creator, since we weren’t Created, we evolved.”


7 posted on 07/08/2008 12:12:55 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: Jim Robinson

I assume you’re being sarcastic -

but, even with illegals’ birthrates calculated in,

USA’s birthrate is 1.9, and the replacement rate is 2.1.


8 posted on 07/08/2008 12:14:11 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: neverdem

John G. West is an idiot.


9 posted on 07/08/2008 12:15:53 PM PDT by George - the Other ("Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent" - G. Orwell)
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To: MrB

Plenty, if it bolsters (for example) the belief that you’re supposed to kill infidels so that your final “account” will read “You Win 72 Virgins”.


10 posted on 07/08/2008 12:17:29 PM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: neverdem
Mind you, this also means that science teachers will be free to preach that evolution is disproof of God. Academic freedom, after all.

I'd make a small bet that, even in Louisiana, there are more science teachers willing to preach atheism than ID.

11 posted on 07/08/2008 12:18:59 PM PDT by onewhowatches
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To: steve-b
The only thing the Discovery Institute has come up with to try and disprove evolution are some rhetorical shenanigans. IOW, a big pile of steaming B.S.
12 posted on 07/08/2008 12:20:00 PM PDT by muleskinner
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To: MrB

Outside of Science, there’s no harm at all. But inside of science you’ll have to subjugate God to all the same standards and tests that any other theory has. Cause/Effect, replication, etc...


13 posted on 07/08/2008 12:21:23 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Coyoteman
Play for the deliberately ignorant.
14 posted on 07/08/2008 12:25:04 PM PDT by ASA Vet
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To: neverdem
There really is nothing like dogmatic empiricists, especially empiricists with little evidence to support their dogmas.

Anyway, congratulations to Louisiana! May the intellectual dam of Darwinism burst wide open.

15 posted on 07/08/2008 12:26:51 PM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: steve-b

And your argument might have some merit if you attempt to force a moral equivalency of Christianity and Islam.


16 posted on 07/08/2008 12:26:57 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: neverdem
Since the topic is scientific heresy, how about the constant harping of low fat diets and our obesity epidemic?

There is a correlation between low fat/high carb diets and the current diabetes epidemic. You'd think that such a correlation would be of interest to scientists. The public has been out ahead (at least a decade or two) of the medical community on this one.

17 posted on 07/08/2008 12:32:46 PM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: neverdem
Since the topic is scientific heresy, how about the constant harping of low fat diets and our obesity epidemic?

There is a correlation between low fat/high carb diets and the current diabetes epidemic. You'd think that such a correlation would be of interest to scientists. The public has been out ahead (at least a decade or two) of the medical community on this one.

18 posted on 07/08/2008 12:32:53 PM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: TexasKate
Anything that creates doubt about evolution is ok with me.

Then by all means let's add the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the discussion. It's a form of Intelligent Design.

19 posted on 07/08/2008 12:34:15 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: Philly Nomad

Strange, the absolute certainty that there is no Creator, in itself is a religious belief,

is not subject to the scientific rigor that you propose -

it’s simply stated as true through the “proof by arrogant condescension.”


20 posted on 07/08/2008 12:34:52 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: MrB
What harm comes from believing that humans are beings created specifically in His image as eternal souls instead of an accident of genetic mutation, no different than animals?

Nothing. But it's not science.

21 posted on 07/08/2008 12:35:19 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: muleskinner
The only thing the Discovery Institute has come up with to try and disprove evolution are some rhetorical shenanigans. IOW, a big pile of steaming B.S.

You make a very compelling argument. It's one that I hear frequently from Darwinists who, by their own estimation, have science on their side.

But, as free-thinker, consider this potential problem with Darwin's theory. If evolution is a constant process, and if every creature that has ever existed has evolved, then what would a reasonable person expect to typically see in the fossil record? A continuum of transitional forms, perhaps?

In fact, the fossil record typically shows stasis in species, that is, creatures typically enter and exit the fossil record unchanged.

Now, if you consider the theory of evolution to be true a priori, then this should pose no problem for you. But, call me crazy, I prefer to believe theories that fit the evidence.

22 posted on 07/08/2008 12:39:39 PM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: Non-Sequitur

I prefer the term “Spaghedeity.”

One thing is for sure....you cannot mix science and religious beliefs very much.


23 posted on 07/08/2008 12:41:35 PM PDT by ElectricStrawberry (27th Infantry Regiment...cut in half during the Clinton years.)
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To: Aquinasfan

“In fact, the fossil record typically shows stasis in species, that is, creatures typically enter and exit the fossil record unchanged.”

??


24 posted on 07/08/2008 12:44:18 PM PDT by L98Fiero (A fool who'll waste his life, God rest his guts.)
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To: Philly Nomad
Funny. We can't subject the moment of the Big Bang to any of those tests. In fact, physicists have become pretty resigned to the fact that there will be a moment of time forever closed to scientific inquiry due to the fact that the actual laws of physics hadn't come into being yet.

If there can be a "before" the known laws of physics, there can also be an "outside" of the known laws of physics. And if the universe has a Creator, one who actually created the whole of space and time and all the laws that science seeks to discover and understand, He must be in that "outside," since if He were "inside," He would not be the Creator, just as a statue cannot be its own sculptor.

How then do we "test" for Him? Perhaps by finding His fingerprints: the Anthropic Principle, evidence of design in life, communications with mankind that can be tested and authenticated, etc.

Oh, but I forgot: We're not allowed to even inquire in such directions. It's just not scientific--at least not according to the modern priests of atheism and humanism.

25 posted on 07/08/2008 12:44:23 PM PDT by Buggman (HebrewRoot.com - Baruch haBa b'Shem ADONAI!)
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To: ElectricStrawberry
I prefer the term “Spaghedeity.”

I see that you, too, have been touched by His noodly appendage.

If Louisiana is opening up the floodgates then we need to make sure that the spagnostics don't deny the CoFSM its rightful place in the classroom.

Let the congregation say "Ramen".

26 posted on 07/08/2008 12:46:13 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: Philly Nomad

According to “curiosity” (FR poster), only empirically falsafiable can be used to separate science from other disciplines.


27 posted on 07/08/2008 12:59:37 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Aquinasfan
the fossil record typically shows stasis in species

If humans are born and grow, then one would expect to find a continuum of transitional forms.

And yet, the record of thirty-year-olds in the 1950 census shows them to be thirty years old, exactly like the thirty-year-olds in the 2000 census.


TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!

28 posted on 07/08/2008 1:02:41 PM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: Buggman

The “modern priests of atheism and humanism” set up the parameters of discussion (science/materialism) to exclude the Creator,

then state that they’ve disproved the Creator.

That’s not science, that’s dogma.


29 posted on 07/08/2008 1:03:13 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: Buggman
How then do we "test" for Him?

You set forth a possible observation, the results of which are not yet known, and set forth the test "Result X would indicate the absence of such an entity".

Ball's in your court....

30 posted on 07/08/2008 1:04:37 PM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: MrB

Are you being stupid or dishonest?

I said nothing about the certainty, but that God would be subjected to the same rules as all other phenomena in science.

And science won’t let you move the goalposts.


31 posted on 07/08/2008 1:07:06 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Non-Sequitur
If Louisiana is opening up the floodgates then we need to make sure that the spagnostics don't deny the CoFSM its rightful place in the classroom.

Yeah. You go on and take that before a federal judge.

Don't forget to bring your jammies.

32 posted on 07/08/2008 1:08:51 PM PDT by papertyger (Life is like a turtle on a fence post...)
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To: Aquinasfan

But, as free-thinker, consider this potential problem with the theory of intelligent design. If life is intelligently designed, then what would a reasonable person expect to typically see in the fossil record? No particular pattern at all — features like exoskeletons, endoskeletons, feathers, wings, etc going in and out of fashion just like the clothing and automotive designs intelligently created by humans. For example, spines might appear in 600-million-year-old strata, vanish about 450 million years ago, make a brief nostalic reappearance 300 million years back, etc.


33 posted on 07/08/2008 1:10:07 PM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: steve-b

One other prediction of intelligent design is the total absence of any vestigal features. One would certainly not expect to find traces of bits of anatomy found in ancestral species, just as one would not expect to find stamping patterns indicating some faint trace of 1950s tailfins in the metal structures of a modern automobile.


34 posted on 07/08/2008 1:14:10 PM PDT by steve-b (The "intelligent design" hoax is not merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. --John Derbyshire)
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To: Philly Nomad
God would be subjected to the same rules as all other phenomena in science

Anyone can see that THIS is THE idiotic statement of this entire thread.

35 posted on 07/08/2008 1:14:19 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: Buggman

No, but those tests and observations have led us to the Big Bang. And as theories develop and instruments get better, we’ll have even more evidence. And if the evidence and theory points to something else, that something else will take the place of the Big Bang.

But anyway, you are asking for mutually exclusive things, first you want to say that “God is outside observation” then you want to say “Traces of God is observable.”

You can’t have it both ways. If you want God to be a part of science, if He doesn’t exist following the rules of science, then you would have to admit God doesn’t exist.


36 posted on 07/08/2008 1:15:48 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Philly Nomad
Are you being stupid or dishonest?

And, I might add - proof of my premise of
"proof by arrogant condescension".

To date, the number of atheists that I've conversed with that aren't arrogant condescending asses: 0.

37 posted on 07/08/2008 1:15:58 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: papertyger

Intelligent design encompasses many different theories.


38 posted on 07/08/2008 1:16:47 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: MrB

Do you believe God can do everything?


39 posted on 07/08/2008 1:16:47 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Non-Sequitur

If the FSM helps you dismiss all of the reasoned objections raised against common descent, that is a tragedy.


40 posted on 07/08/2008 1:18:23 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: MrB

You need to get out more, I’m a Catholic, you know, God’s one true Church.


41 posted on 07/08/2008 1:18:59 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Philly Nomad

Here goes the “rock bigger than He can pick up?” line


42 posted on 07/08/2008 1:20:49 PM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Non-Sequitur
Intelligent design encompasses many different theories.

I'm sure any judge would be impressed with your reasoning....

43 posted on 07/08/2008 1:25:23 PM PDT by papertyger (Life is like a turtle on a fence post...)
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To: Dutchboy88
If the FSM helps you dismiss all of the reasoned objections raised against common descent, that is a tragedy.

You're assuming your the one who decides what is a reasoned objection against common descent and what is not. Just because you dismiss the FSM doesn't mean it isn't a valid ID theory for discussion in Louisiana schools.

44 posted on 07/08/2008 1:25:58 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: steve-b
Yes, we've seen the dangers of supposing life to be susceptible to Intelligent Design....

Selective breeding is a form of intelligent design ... and life is quite obviously susceptible to it. Talk to any dog breeder or your local agricultural researcher.

45 posted on 07/08/2008 1:28:04 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: papertyger
I'm sure any judge would be impressed with your reasoning....

The judge wasn't impressed with the ID arguement in the Dover case, was he? Might as well give Pastafarianism a shot.

46 posted on 07/08/2008 1:28:39 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: Non-Sequitur
Intelligent design doesn't encompass a single theory. Theory is backed by evidence. All the I.D. movement has is a philosophical hypothesis that is untestable by Scientific means.
47 posted on 07/08/2008 1:29:30 PM PDT by allmendream
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To: Aquinasfan
especially empiricists with little evidence

Without data there is no empiricism.

48 posted on 07/08/2008 1:30:23 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: allmendream

Which means that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid as any other ID hypothesis.


49 posted on 07/08/2008 1:33:41 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: Non-Sequitur
Might as well give Pastafarianism a shot.

By all means! You'll find no bigger supporter than me. I'll be right behind you!

50 posted on 07/08/2008 1:37:32 PM PDT by papertyger (Life is like a turtle on a fence post...)
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