Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the second of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

While I certainly respect and agree with your views about America, it is also clear that there is abundant evidence to support such views and to give one good cause to be secure about them. If you consider your beliefs about religion to be comparable to your beliefs about America, then there must be comparable amounts of supporting evidence. Is there?
(R) I'm glad we agree. I believe the bulk of the evidence does support this position, though certain people might not concur. Similarly, there is much evidence to indicate religion has an overall positive influence on humanity, even though it has also been used to justify horrendous abuses of human rights and dignity. The same might be said of capitalism.
(MB) How can religion be said to have had an overall positive effect on humanity? It has clouded our thinking, restricted our advancement, drawn uncrossable lines between populations, and been a major force behind more wars than has any other single cause. I can think of nothing that religion has contributed positively that would not have been possible in its absence.

(R) But that is not what is under discussion here. You said if I were secure in my beliefs, I would be immune to criticism. I responded by saying if someone slanders my beliefs, I will become upset and respond. This is true of both my religious beliefs and my love of country, and has nothing to do with how secure I am about them.
(MB) "Slander" and "Criticism" are two different animals that should provoke two different responses. Your reaction to slander is understandable since slander is not based on truth. Criticism, on the other hand, *is* based on truth. When strong criticism shakes one's core beliefs, the believer often reacts irrationally. This happens when the beliefs are more important than the truth. You can back up your beliefs about America, so you can respond properly. However, you can not back up your religious beliefs in the same way.

Wrong again. If I heap ridicule on anything, it is not the belief itself, but the notion that it is just as good as, or superior to, any other belief about the nature of the universe. Is that hard to understand?
(R) Actually, no, it's not hard to understand. It's also not true, because you ridicule religious beliefs in general, quite thoroughly, including the simple belief in God.
(MB) If you'll bother to reread all that I've written, you'll see that my arguments and criticisms are directed towards the specific abuses of religion and to the specific beliefs and practices of its adherents. The statements in my original essay which you broadly labeled as "biased" and "dishonest" all contain specific references.
    As to the "simple belief in God", if that's all there was to it, there wouldn't be much to say about it. However, no such belief comes separate from its attendant claims and consequences. If I show how they must lead to failed ideas, then there is serious doubt cast upon the overall belief itself.

(R) Yes, the idea that certain, specific religious beliefs are superior to descriptions of the universe based on scientific fact is open to ridicule.
(MB) As is the illogical notion that religion and science have equal evidence supporting their respective ideas about the nature of the universe.

(R) But the idea the universe was created by God, for a purpose, it is just as reasonable and logical as the belief it happened on its own by chance, and is not ridiculous in the least.
(MB) That couldn't be more incorrect. To support your belief, there must be some evidence to support the existence of God and some clear description of what the purpose might be for such a being to create the Universe. There is no evidence for his existence and no logical philosophical arguments to support any purpose behind the creation of the universe. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence to support the scientific view of the universe. These facts refute any argument that seeks to make the two sides "equal" or "equally reasonable" in any way.

And, if I did find such a person [who believes in the Great Green Arkleseizure], how would your argument change?
(R) It wouldn't change, because the GGAS is fictional, which is the point.
(MB) Then, you have just contradicted your original argument which said that nobody would believe it because it is fictional. My point is that people will believe what they choose without regard to whether or not the object of their belief is fictional.

How can you be sure that no such person exists?
(R) I would, however, question the mental health of any person who insisted this fictional device to be real. There may be such a person, though. Go ahead and try and find one, if you'd like.
(MB) If they knew it to be fictional, but believed it anyway, that might give us cause to question their mental health. But, what if they didn't know or didn't (or wouldn't) believe it when told that the object of their belief was fictional? Again, this defeats the simplistic notion that belief and fictional status are mutually-exclusive. This is important because there would be no other way to support a belief in the existence of God.

No, it's a contest between sense and nonsense.
(R) No, it's flat out a contest of God vs. no-God. However, let me say that scientific evidence can be used to support either sense or nonsense.
(MB) It's difficult to see how any real evidence can be used to support nonsense unless the evidence is severely distorted -- similar to how the Creationists support their brand of nonsense.
    In the case of God, he either exists or he does not. If he does, then belief in him makes sense. If he does not, then belief in him is nonsense. The weight (or lack) of evidence will decide the question.

(R) For instance, if you were to say the theory of evolution proves there is no God, that would be nonsense.
(MB) Indeed, it would be, and the theory of evolution says no such thing. In fact, it says nothing about God one way or the other. It certainly suggests that Man was not specially created, but it doesn't completely cut God out of the picture.

The alarm arises from the very fact that such laws have to have been on the books prior to any challenges of them in the Supreme Court.
(R) O.K., here goes Government 101. Here in the U.S. we have what is called a representative democracy. (Pure democracy is obviously unworkable on the scale of American society.) This form of government is considered by many great thinkers as the best, indeed the only just, form of government. It is based on the concept of majority rule. Acceptance of this type of government leads to two important consequences.
    First of all, it is important to understand that the majority does rule. That is to say, once a minority has been defeated at the polls, it must bow to the will of the majority. If the minority refuses to submit, if every time they lose a vote they go off in a huff and refuse to participate further in the government, there is no democracy, only anarchy. As Abraham Lincoln put it in his first inaugural address, "If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which will in turn divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority." Refusal to acknowledge the right of the majority to rule means the end of democracy.
    However, it is quite possible for a majority to purposefully attempt to oppress a minority, as the treatment of blacks during the Jim Crow era in the U.S. so clearly demonstrates. Which brings us to the second important consequence of representative democracy: establishing means to prevent what is often referred to as "the tyranny of the majority."
    This is done in two ways under American democracy. The Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution establish certain rights of citizens which may not be abridged. And the concept of "judicial review" has evolved, under which the Supreme Court, the supreme arbitrator of our legal system, rules on legal challenges to any law.
    So, under our system of government, when a majority at any level, whether national, state, or local, passes a law, they are completely within their rights to do so. When any individual or group challenges such laws as discriminatory, they are also within their rights to do so. There no cause for alarm.

(MB) I will not dispute a single thing you have said here. Thanks for taking the time to tell me what I already know rather well. Unfortunately, none of this has anything at all to do with the point under discussion. To recap, that point was that even though Creationist/religious education laws which get on the books have always been struck down by the Supreme Court, the process still takes long enough that the laws are in force for years and affect lots of people adversely. Such laws are still being enacted (by local majorities, as you correctly state) even though they are clearly unconstitutional and will never survive the eventual lengthy legal process.
    For example, another in the continuing series of Creationist "equal time" attempts is (as of this writing) currently being debated in the state of Washington. This is the one also known as the "Alabama Insert" law which seeks to mandate the inclusion of disclaimer stickers in school science textbooks which teach evolution.

(R) On the other hand, there would be a great deal of cause for alarm if any individual, you for instance, could dictate which laws were acceptable or not simply because they personally didn't like them.
(MB) This has nothing to do with my personal likes or dislikes. It's a matter of the harm to education caused the manipulation of the system by Creationists and other religious activists.

Do you oppose the Supreme Court decisions or support the efforts to enact the laws in the first place?
(R) I am an ardent supporter of the absolute separation, a wall of separation, between church and state. I am against any hint of an established state church or religion. I am against the Ishtook Amendment, which hasn't a prayer of passing. (Hah! Get it?) I would vote against any ballot initiative of this type or any politician who voted for legislation of this nature. Does that answer your question?
(MB) Indeed, it does. I'm just a bit confused, however. Here you take what I would consider a very laudatory stance on religion-inspired lawmaking. However, you seem to be indifferent about the Creationists' attempts to force their ideas into schools by legislative fiat. What's the difference?

Don't you think that the success of such efforts is a cause for concern?
(R) What success? Looks to me as if they've been uniformly unsuccessful. The system is working. I won't be losing any sleep over it.
(MB) Once again, the success is in getting those obviously-unconstitutional Creationist-inspired laws on the books in the first place and the concern is about the length of time they stay in force and the number of students who will be affected by them until "the system" gets around to expunging them.

I wasn't aware that your wife was the definitive source of information on this topic.
(R) She's not, but please forgive me if I consider her to be a vastly superior source to you, by education, training, and experience. (BA, MA, administrative credential, 19 years experience in elementary education and child development in six different school systems.) She's probably forgotten more about education than you'll ever know.
(MB) Extensive knowledge of "education", per se, is not required to know the history of Creationist-inspired attempts to legislate school curricula -- which is the current topic. Your wife's resume as a educator is non-sequitur here.

In any case, here in the Deep South, one can read in the newspaper a few times each year about school systems or teachers who have gotten into trouble for interjecting religious beliefs into science classes.
(R) So the undefined disciplinary problems of three-to-four teachers per year in an entire, sectional region of the United States is evidence of a conspiracy to exclude science from our schools, eh?
(MB) First, you argue that no such thing actually happens. Now, you change your tune and worry, once again, more about the scope than about the substance -- even though this requires considering an example to be the sum total of all cases. Oh, well...
    In any case, this example is only a part of a larger problem that has been ongoing since before the Scopes Monkey Trial. If you are really interested in finding out what going on, perhaps you should check out this compilation of news stories. Then, come back and try to tell us that there's no cause for any concern or interest.

(R) And you complain about the rules of evidence used by Creationists!
(MB) All the time! That's because it's true, you know. You're merely doing the same thing by brushing off the examples I present even after you first claim that they don't exist.

(R) You're making me think of Hillary and her vast, right-wing conspiracy to "get" the president.
(MB) Actually, she's right. But, again, they're only out to "get" him because he provides them so many opportunities. Hillary's whining only seeks to gain public sympathy. You'll notice that there is rarely any direct evidence or statements to show that he didn't do what he's been accused of doing.

(R) Furthermore, I thought we were talking about schools excluding science from the classroom.
(MB) Indeed, we were. What has changed?

(R) In your example, it looks more like religion which is being excluded.
(MB) What example would that be? Religion is already (supposedly) excluded from what are supposed to be secular classrooms. The Creationists know that they can never succeed if they identify their beliefs as "religion". That's why they go under the guise of Creation "science".

(R) However, I will say, if these teachers are attempting to force their religious beliefs on students, they ought to get in trouble.
(MB) I agree totally.

I never resort to such things [unsubstantiated innuendo].
(R) You continually resort to such tactics.
(MB) Oh, really? Perhaps you have an example you could share? Actually, if I "continually" do such things, you should have many examples.

The most famous case resulted in the 1987 Supreme Court decision known as Edwards v Aguillard which overturned the Louisiana Creationism Act. Similar laws in Tennessee and Arkansas have also gone down in the courts in the past decade. I'm sorry that your mother hasn't heard about them.
(R) Anyway, my mother tells me the constitutional issue in this case was the separation of church and state, not whether or not Creation Science was right or wrong.
(MB) Perhaps, you should read the actual case and decision. In order for the Court to render its decision, it had to rule whether Creationism was "science" or "religion". The decision concluded that it was not only religion, but that it was a particular brand of religion.
    Justice Brennan, delivering the opinion of the Court, wrote that "...the purpose of the Creationism Act was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint. Out of many possible science subjects taught in the public schools, the legislature chose to affect the teaching of one scientific theory that historically has been opposed by certain religious sects". Later, he writes, "Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment".
    Justice White concurs and writes, "As it comes to us, this is not a difficult case. Based on the historical setting and plain language of the Act both courts [of appeals] construed the statutory words "creation science" to refer to a religious belief...".
    Justice Scalia, writing the dissenting opinion, buys completely into the Creationists' claims that their ideas can be put forth "with no reference to religion" and totally accepts the term "creation science" as being a theory of science by its own definition.
    Justice O'Connor rips the dissent in her own opinion. She writes, " is astonishing that the dissent, to prove its assertion, relies on a section of the legislation that was eventually deleted by the legislature". She also points out (reinforcing Brennan's opinion) that "the main expert relied upon by the sponsor of the Act", Edward Boudreaux, "repeatedly defined creation science in terms of a theory that supports the existence of a supernatural creator". In addition, she lists numerous examples of statements and opinions made by the prime sponsors of the Act in which it is defined or defended in clear religious terms. These include "I view this whole battle as one between God and anti-God forces....[I]f evolution is permitted to will continue to be made to appear that a Supreme Being is unnecessary...".
    Like I said, actually reading the decision will make things clear.

(R) She's still pretty sharp for 77.
(MB) Fantastic! With all due respect to your mother, I'd still read the actual case.

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