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April 09, 2012

Tennessee set to pass bill attacking evolution and global warming in education

Creationists Switch Tactics In Tennessee
Could intelligent design finally be dead? The term is conspicuously absent from the latest antievolution education bill, which passed the Tennessee legislature in March and awaits action by the governor. The bill’s language reveals a new tactic on the part of creationists. They seem to have retired intelligent design and replaced it with a concept as sneaky as stealth aircraft. “These bills sound very innocent,” said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education. That’s intentional, she said. The legislation has been crafted to be legally bulletproof. The Tennessee bill hijacks language from scientists and skeptics: Teachers are allowed to promote “critical thinking” in areas where there’s “debate and disputation.” That’s not unreasonable on the surface, since there are plenty of areas of dispute — the value of certain cancer screenings, the safest way to store nuclear waste, or what benefit feathers would have bestowed on dinosaurs. And critical thinking skills can be taught by examining bad science, such as cold fusion, or pseudoscience, such as homeopathy. But those aren’t the controversies the bill drafters care about. The bill singles out climate change and evolution. The summary says that schools cannot prohibit “any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming.” This is misleading. Some details of evolution are still not known, but there’s no scientific controversy over whether evolution or creationism better describes the world we live in. . . .

April 08, 2012

The "Trolley Problem," concisely presented as an 8-bit video game

Trolley Problem (In case you're unfamiliar, here's a solid intro...

Does it matter if Jesus never really existed?

There are a slew of new books looking at the absolute lack of historical evidence of Jesus being an actual dude. They point out that there are many parallel myths of dying and resurrection in the historical world--Osiris, Odin, Mithra, etc. And then there is an entire industry of books attacking *those* books. And on and on the wheel spins. The article below lays out some of the simpler arguments against the historical Jesus which all boil down to "where's the proof'? And the refutations in the article are exasperatingly lame and can be summed as "if there wasn't a real Jesus then who is the guy quoted in the bible? Nyah nyah nyah!" As if they've never heard of fiction, of parable, of public relations. But really, at this point, does it matter? Will anyone who is not already an atheist or agnostic or Unitarian or non-Christian care that there isn't evidence that Christ was ever a man? I mean, kudos to CNN for bringing this up. It's the sort of hot button thing that the news should be airing on holidays like this, but what does it accomplish is what I wonder. The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth – CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs
The evidence against Jesus’ existence Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points: -The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus. -No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed. -The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus. Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God. “There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.” Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century. But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus. “Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.” Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed. “Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.” . . .