March 24, 2008

Expelled, the Movie

Filed under: Church — Bob Gifford @ 8:54 am

Oh my. Via the War Room, it seems that Ben Stein has produced a movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that makes the claim that scientists arguing for intelligent design are being discriminated against. As the court ruling in the Dover, PA intelligent design trial concluded, intelligent design is not science, but here is yet another attempt to portray it as an unfairly maligned but perfectly valid scientific theory.

From the movie’s trailer, Ben Stein conflates Christianity and creationism, implying that one can’t be Christian without rejecting evolution. This is of course absurd. Taking the American religious census from the recent Pew Forum Survey on Religion, 78% of Americans are Christian. By my count1, at least 54% of these Christians belong to churches that accept and even celebrate2 the theory of evolution. So acceptance of evolution is the majority Christian position, at least based upon the teachings of various churches3.

Unfortunately, I think both sides in the intelligent design debate have an incentive to ignore we Christians that believe in evolution. The pro-ID side wants to present it as a choice between faith in God or faith in science, and to present themselves as victims of religious persecution. The New Atheists and Skeptics also like this stark choice, so they can claim that religion has been debunked by science. Both can only maintain this false choice by pretending that Christians believing in both the Bible and evolution don’t exist.

Speaking of the New Atheists, PZ Myers has a hilarious story about his attempt to attend a screening of the Expelled movie. It’s enough to make you believe that there is a God, and She is laughing Her head off!

1. I’m counting the Catholics and mainline Protestants. I’m not sure about some of the historically black and the Orthodox churches, so I haven’t included them.
2. For an example, see here.
3. I realize that public opinion polls of Americans show a majority of Americans don’t believe in evolution. Given the religious census, I can only conclude that many Christians disagree with the leaders of their churches.

March 19, 2008

A Thought for Holy Week

Filed under: Church — Bob Gifford @ 9:06 pm

From Garrison Keillor:

Skepticism is a stimulant, not to be repressed. It is an antidote to smugness and the great glow of satisfaction one gains from being right. You know the self-righteous — I’ve been one myself — the little extra topspin they put on the truth, their ostentatious modesty, the pleasure they take in being beautifully modulated and cool and correct when others are falling apart. Jesus was rougher on those people than He was on the adulterers and prostitutes.

So I will sit in the doubter’s chair for a while and see what is to be learned back there.

March 13, 2008

Mamet, Heracletus and Me

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 9:00 pm

Heracletus, a friend and arch-libertarian, emailed me (and the rest of his address book) with the following:

If you don’t know (and shame on you if you do not), David Mamet is a U.S. national treasure – a terrific playwright whose plays have been made into movies like “House Of Games”, “The Spanish Prisoner”, and “Things Change”.

There is some naughty language in this piece so if you don’t like cussin’, don’t read this. It is tremendous, though, and well worth your time:,374064,374064,1.html/full

Mamet’s conversion from “brain-dead liberal” to conservative has generated glee from conservatives, I gather. I don’t get what the fuss is about. Here is my reply to Heracletus (lightly edited):


[Actually, I addressed him by his real name, which as you might have guessed, is not Heracletus.]

Well, I read this, and I have to say that I don’t know what he’s talking about. He says:

As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

I’ve never believed the first two, as a rule, but do believe the third, as a rule. But exceptions always arise. Frequently. The dividing line between good and evil cuts through each and every human heart.

Now that he’s had an epiphany, he says:

I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

Well, yeah. Of course. I totally agree.

And I began to question my hatred for “the Corporations”—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

I’ve never hated “the Corporations”. I have an MBA, I’m a management consultant, I’ve worked for and consulted to corporations my whole life.

And I began to question my distrust of the “Bad, Bad Military” of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.

I don’t distrust the military, but I do doubt the ability of the military to solve non-military problems, and for avowedly militaristic civilian leaders with no combat experience to understand the difference. But I respect and admire the military just the same.

And yet I’m still liberal, or at least left-of-center. I don’t get Mamet’s “before” beliefs, and I don’t get what the big deal is about his “after” beliefs, and why they are incompatible with being left-of-center. The whole thing left me scratching my head.


OK State Representative Sally Kerns

Filed under: Church,Politics — Bob Gifford @ 10:51 am

These days I try not to pay too much attention to the religious right — it’s just so soul-crushing to hear their hatred spewed under the banner of Christianity. But every once in a while it’s good to check in and see what they’re up to. And this one is a doozy:

Excuse me, I have to go indoctrinate some two year-olds.

March 5, 2008

Identity Politics

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 9:14 am

I’m really trying to maintain my sympathetic view towards Hillary Clinton, but her campaign is making it difficult. It’s not just that she’s gone negative against Obama with her snarky comments about him being all rhetoric with no substance. If she had lost Texas, her negative attacks would have been the last dying gasp of a failed campaign. What bothers me is that she’s gone negative and won. It takes me back to the Republican swiftboating of Kerry and the swiftboating of Gore back before we even had the term “swiftboating”. The promise of Obama is to rise about the destructive partisan attack politics; how ironic that he is the victim of such attack politics from within his own party.

But what really bothers me is the identity politics aspect of this. From Jonathan Chait:

One question asked if the candidate’s gender was important. 17% said yes, and of them, Clinton won 57-43. So voters who wanted a female candidate outnumbered those who did not. Another question asked if the candidate’s race was important. 20% said yes, and of those, Clinton again won 57-43. So voters who did not want a black candidate outnumbered those who did. Race and gender both seemed to cut in Clinton’s favor — which may not be a shock, since whites and females outnumbered blacks and males.

In both questions, voters who did not care about race or gender split evenly. Clinton’s winning margin — assuming the exits hold up, and it is close enough that maybe it won’t — came from the pro-female, anti-black (or, I guess, anti-male, pro-white) vote.

Gloria Steinem has argued that black men are ahead of women in their progress against prejudice, therefore Clinton is more deserving of the “affirmative action” vote (my term). This is really discouraging on several counts. First, I’d like to believe that we’re all beyond identity politics, that since a woman or a black could be elected President, we can just focus on who should be elected President. Steinem’s argument that we should elect the candidate from the more disadvantaged demographic pulls us back into the race and gender wars. While affirmative action is still necessary in many contexts, I had hoped that this primary race would prove that, at least for Democratic voters, we are now color- and gender-blind.

But if Steinem is right that the electorate is not beyond identity politics, she’s wrong about who is the most disadvantaged. These exit poll results make it appear that when voters choose a candidate based on their race or gender, they’re voting against the black and not the woman. It looks as if racism lives on, even as sexism is disappearing.

Obama’s message is that we can rise above all this. I don’t know if he’s right.

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