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Considering a Candidate's Religion:

The St. Petersburg Times reports:

In an interview at his law office, [St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Bill Foster] talked about some of his beliefs and refused to talk about others.

"Dinosaurs are mentioned in Job, so I don't have any problem believing that dinosaurs roamed the earth," he said, referring to the book of Job, which mentions the "behemoth." He said he believes dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, though most scientists say there is a gap of at least 60 million years between dinosaurs and mankind....

Rather than Darwin's theory of evolution, Foster accepts the Bible's Genesis account in which God created the world and all living things in six days.

Foster, a member of Starkey Road Baptist Church in Seminole, dismissed the suggestion that each of those "days" could represent a period of thousands of years.

"In the Genesis account, it's timed by the sun and the moon," he responded.

Normally, candidates in the Tampa Bay area are not asked about dinosaurs or whether they believe the world is billions of years old or thousands, as some creationists maintain. (Ford said billions, Foster declined to answer.)

Foster's position: "How does my knowledge of scientific theory impact my ability to rationally govern the city of St. Petersburg? It's completely irrelevant." The position of "St. Petersburg architect Michael Dailey, who supports Kathleen Ford, Foster's opponent": "This city is trying to increase its employment base with respect to scientific organizations and trying to recruit scientific concerns to come here.... If our mayor has a belief system that basically rejects science, how can people take him seriously?"

Should we as voters consider such matters in deciding whether to vote for someone? If the position were appointed, but had roughly the same prominence, authority, and duties -- imagine, for instance, that a city council is entitled to appoint a mayor pending a new election when the elected mayor dies or resigns, and Mr. Foster is being considered for such an appointment -- would it be proper for politicians to consider this? Whether or not an individual voter's decision as to this is proper, should opinion leaders try to urge a social norm of considering or not considering such matters? (I'm not asking specifically about whether there's any constitutional or legal barrier to such consideration; you can of course feel free to comment on that, but my question is more about wise policy and a sort of democratic ethics, not about law.)

Note that I've deliberately pointed to a situation in which the person is being considered for an office that doesn't inherently involve much science or science policy. The question then is (chiefly) whether it's proper to consider a person's views about matters such as dinosaurs living on Earth at the same time as humans as (1) probative of the person's general reasonableness, and as (2) potentially embarrassing for the city before some important constituency.

JB:
Those beliefs of his show that he doesn't understand the scientific method or logical reasoning, and therefore would not make policies based on evidence (since he doesn't know how to evaluate evidence).

Of course, many evolution supporters are equally ignorant, but rejection of evolution is more direct evidence.
9.18.2009 1:00pm
Porkchop:
As a voter, I won't vote for a candidate that I think is a dumbass. For some, including me, this candidate's statements indicate he is a dumbass. I wouldn't vote for him. Others may disagree -- that's why we have elections.
9.18.2009 1:00pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
Not to be confused with another Bill Foster, D-IL-14, who is a physicist, and presumably believes the world is billions of years old.
9.18.2009 1:01pm
Sigivald (mail):
1) It isn't probative of general reasonableness.

2) Not significantly. No "scientific concern" is going to decide against St. Petersburg because the current mayor is a creationist, especially if his office and the city in general are actively trying to woo them.

After all, mayorships change, often every few years, and a company building a facility or moving its entire operations somewhere would be mad to worry about a personal belief of a welcoming mayor, given that he's not going to be mayor in a few years and then they have to worry about the next one (or, most likely, don't have to worry about mayors at all).

I don't know the St. Petersburg charter, and can't guess whether the have a New York style powerful mayor or a Portland style weak mayor, but I just can't imagine this mattering much.

(Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong atheist. And I think personal creationist belief is an amusing foible, no more. No worse than any number of ridiculous hippie beliefs people seem to merely chuckle at, despite them being equally anathema to science.)
9.18.2009 1:01pm
JakeCollins:
Do VC readers see the relevance of this article to the series on why Jewish people vote Democratic?
How could educated non-Christians ever vote for a party that supports these clowns?
9.18.2009 1:03pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I think it is a case-by-case basis. Of course voters can and should consider the whole package and this includes how a candidate approaches religion. However there really isn't enough information as to whether in this case I would hold his beliefs against him.

In short, I would suggest that the test ought to be "combined with other evidence" that these beliefs impact reasonableness, it is worth considering. By itself? No.... Everyone is entitled to have a few crackpot opinions.
9.18.2009 1:06pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Jake Collins - what year is this in the Jewish calendar?

Nick
9.18.2009 1:07pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
I have to agree with JB. General "reasonableness" has to include basic evidence-based reasoning.
9.18.2009 1:08pm
Off Kilter (mail):
Hmmm....

Should I be concerned that the person trying to tax and regulate me is scientifically aware or not...?

Should I be concerned that the person that might hire or fire the police chief that sends SWAT teams out to do no-knock raids on potentially innocent people and shoot their dogs in an effort to make sure a few grams of an illegal plant can be confiscated is or is not in agreement with me that the earth is over a billion years old...?

Such an important decision...
9.18.2009 1:09pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Like Porkchop, I'm reluctant to vote for fools. The other candidate could be even worse, though. Sometimes it's comforting to know that your vote has never decided an important election.
9.18.2009 1:09pm
yankee (mail):
Does the Mayor of St. Petersburg have any role in the governance of the school system, or is that under the total control of the Board of Education? I do not want a creationist anywhere remotely near education policy.

Otherwise, I would find it troubling, but not nearly as much as being a Birther or Truther. Believing crazy conspiracy theories about contemporary political events would be much worse than believing crazy things about the distant past.
9.18.2009 1:10pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Should I be concerned that the person that might hire or fire the police chief that sends SWAT teams out to do no-knock raids on potentially innocent people and shoot their dogs in an effort to make sure a few grams of an illegal plant can be confiscated is or is not in agreement with me that the earth is over a billion years old...?

Should you be conserned that the person that might include or veto funding for DNA testing on potentially wrongfully convicted people does not understand basic science?

Such an important decision.
9.18.2009 1:11pm
Tatil:
At the very least, I'd say the significance of a politician's understanding of science and ability to look at evidence with an open mind should be ranked higher than whether his marriage is just for show. How can a voter be sure that when he believes that some project is good for the city, but evidence to contrary is presented to him, he will be capable of changing his mind?
9.18.2009 1:13pm
Specast:
I don't know if it's the case here, but mayors often have substantial direct and indirect influence over education policy. Evolution is surely the most hotly contested single subject in public education; creationists are always trying to prevent or water down evolution from being taught. Especially to that extent, voters are well justified in considering -- positively or negatively -- Foster's creationist views.

I think religious beliefs are generally inappropriate to consider. But, because a candidate's creationist belief has the potential to impact educational policy, I think a wise voter should consider whether she wants such a person in a position of influence.
9.18.2009 1:13pm
Siskiyahoo:
It is not easy to discern the tenor of the question. Is professor Volokh suggesting that the religious basis for the candidate's belief matters? If he were to suggest that it does, I would respond with a question, "Why?"

Nonsense is nonsense. Ignorance, self inflicted or not, is still ignorance. Po'kchop got it right.
9.18.2009 1:14pm
Steve:
I think it's important to know whether an official is capable of thinking logically and evaluating evidence for and against a proposition.

But I don't think challenging them on whether they're able to think critically about deep-seated religious beliefs, particularly historical matters like the Creation story and whether Jesus was in fact resurrected, is a great way to test those questions. I guess the thought process (among people who don't themselves believe) is that if you're willing to believe in something loony like the resurrection of Christ, who knows what other loony things you might believe in. But I don't think it really works that way.

The human mind is a complex thing, and I believe it's entirely possible for someone to believe unquestioningly in the Book of Genesis yet remain appropriately skeptical and analytical with regard to real-life issues that actually matter. Similarly, just because you're an atheist or agnostic hardly means you won't be completely nuts on public policy matters. I think we should be inherently skeptical of religious tests for public office, and what little probative value these questions may have is outweighed by their prejudicial impact, to coin a phrase.
9.18.2009 1:15pm
Erin Arlinghaus:
I submit that many of the posters here are failing to make a distinction between "does not understand basic science" and "understands basic science, but chooses to reject some of it for reasons unrelated to science."

I would think this would be an important distinction when one is trying to judge general intelligence.
9.18.2009 1:16pm
Franklin Drackman:
Could be worse, he could believe that 2000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a Supreme Being, who walked on water, turned water into wine, fed a multitude with a loaf of bread and a Captain D's 3 piece dinner, and do you know what he supposedly did on the 3rd day??? And supposedly if you don't take this guy as your "Saviour" you're goin to the Bad place with the demons and brimstone.Talk about nut jobs...

Frank
9.18.2009 1:18pm
Mike S.:
It is proper for voters to choose their candidates based on whatever criteria they see fit. It is unconstitutional for the government to set requirements based on religion, but voters can vote as they like. Me, if I found a candidate who believed God would strike him dead if he did anything even slightly shady, I might vote for him whatever I think of his policies or ability to weigh evidence.
9.18.2009 1:18pm
carpundit (www):
5770
9.18.2009 1:19pm
piggej (mail):
Is it any more relevant than when a voter choses someone because of "good looks", or because "Joe said he was a good guy"? Voters have the potential of a multitude of variables that might influence a decision as to whether to vote, or not, and, then, who to vote for. The beliefs of this person are his; he chose to explain his belief about certain aspects related to religion. The voter is left with the decision as to which of any candidate's beliefs/positions/proposals/strategies/etc. that voter will take into account when deciding for whom to vote.
9.18.2009 1:21pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
What Mike S. said.
9.18.2009 1:21pm
RPT (mail):
If Texas adopts the proposed David Barton/Phyllis Schafly/Newt Gingrich textbook version of history as the de facto national standard, this will all be moot. FWIW I have met Barton and read his books.
9.18.2009 1:21pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
Does the mayor have any power over the school system?
9.18.2009 1:23pm
Specast:
A follow up: some have commented that Foster's creationist belief is fair game to consider because it demonstrates a lack of "evidence-based reasoning," etc. I hear ya, but I must point out that virtually all mainstream religions lack evidence based reasoning in substantial respects. What is the "evidence" that an omnipotent God even exists, much less that he commands humans to avoid eating pork, or cover their heads, or devote a particular day of the week to worship?

If your answer is "the bible" or "tradition," your reasoning isn't much better than Foster's.
9.18.2009 1:23pm
Not the Adam who registered:
It's not his religious beliefs, it's his rejection of science because of what he feels.

Would he also reject the constitution because of what Genesis says?

How would he deal with Swine Flu? I have no idea what nonsense might be in the bible about plague, but would he elevate that over what the CDC suggests?
9.18.2009 1:24pm
Not the Adam who registered:
It's not his religious beliefs, it's his rejection of science because of what he feels.

Would he also reject the constitution because of what Genesis says?

How would he deal with Swine Flu? I have no idea what nonsense might be in the bible about plague, but would he elevate that over what the CDC suggests?
9.18.2009 1:24pm
RPT (mail):
"FD:

Could be worse, he could believe that 2000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a Supreme Being, who walked on water, turned water into wine, fed a multitude with a loaf of bread and a Captain D's 3 piece dinner, and do you know what he supposedly did on the 3rd day??? And supposedly if you don't take this guy as your "Saviour" you're goin to the Bad place with the demons and brimstone.Talk about nut jobs..."

Of course, some of us who are neither creationists nor Republicans nor "values voters" also understand this narrative to be historically factual. You need to read some Dallas Willard.
9.18.2009 1:26pm
Tom952 (mail):
The question then is (chiefly) whether it's proper to consider a person's views about matters such as dinosaurs living on Earth at the same time as humans as (1) probative of the person's general reasonableness, and as (2) potentially embarrassing for the city before some important constituency.

Foster clearly states that he supports a position that is contrary to all available objective evidence. This illustrates that he cannot be relied upon to be reasonable and rational about all issues all the time. It is proper for voters seeking a rational candidate firmly founded in reality to consider the mental deficiency revealed by this candidate's statements.
9.18.2009 1:27pm
FWB (mail):
I've not seen more bigoted language in many years.

Tiocfaidh ar la!
9.18.2009 1:29pm
Erin Arlinghaus:

Foster clearly states that he supports a position that is contrary to all available objective evidence.



Isn't this pretty much true about every religion? And I say this as an *ahem* religionist myself.

You need a little more faith in people's ability to compartmentalize.
9.18.2009 1:31pm
Trassin (www):
Makes me glad that I just live within driving distance of the St. Petersburg beaches instead of actually living there.
9.18.2009 1:33pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Tiocfaidh ar la!

Second coming?
9.18.2009 1:35pm
Steve:
Foster clearly states that he supports a position that is contrary to all available objective evidence. This illustrates that he cannot be relied upon to be reasonable and rational about all issues all the time.

Good luck finding any politician to vote for if you hold them all up to the impossible standard of "being reasonable and rational about all issues all the time."
9.18.2009 1:36pm
gasman (mail):

2) Not significantly. No "scientific concern" is going to decide against St. Petersburg because the current mayor is a creationist, especially if his office and the city in general are actively trying to woo them.

True, but what if he interjects his beliefs in overt of subtle ways that reduces his effectiveness at courting science based firms. While they may dismiss him as a transient anomaly, he may function dismissively and hurts the local recruiting effort.
9.18.2009 1:36pm
Harry H (mail):
The Creationist-Evolutionist debate is one that I resist getting involved in, since I believe it to be arguing about apples and oranges. My first impression when I read the comments of one side or another is that neither understands the other. I am always amused when evolutionists accuse creationists of being biased toward their belief system without recognizing their own bias. A good scientist will always recognize the limitations of his own knowledge.
9.18.2009 1:37pm
sk (mail):
You need a little more faith in people's ability to compartmentalize.

We have a winner.

Sk.
9.18.2009 1:37pm
Tom952 (mail):
"...pretty much true about every religion?"

A person can be religious at a spiritualist level and find purpose in life and perhaps hope for life after death without clinging to the doctrine that the bible is the infallible work of god the creator of the universe, and to hell with all dissenters. A person who clings to the doctrine that the bible is the inerrant work of god will need to repeatedly rationalize collisions between the doctrine and objective reality. Many non middle eastern religions have much larger views of the universe and are not stuck with the literal text of one of the several current versions of the printed bible.
9.18.2009 1:39pm
Esquire:
Picking up on a theme some have implicitly raised:

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence does not support creationism.

...or the resurrection.

...or the multiplying of loaves and fishes.

...or countless other supernatural premises that people choose to prioritize above our modern conception of the scientific method (both in Christianity as well as other faiths).

So, the only intellectually honest attack here is to go after ANY belief(s) that supernatural revelation can ever take precedence over science and reason alone. Have the courage to take it all on or accept that it's all intellectually legitimate.

Granted, many creationists do not make the most intellectually sound case for their cause, but that case does exist. The field of philosophy of science challenges our epistemological priorities and approaches all the time, and always has since the earliest classical philosophers.
9.18.2009 1:40pm
Putting Two and Two...:

Could be worse, he could believe that 2000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a Supreme Being, who walked on water, turned water into wine, fed a multitude with a loaf of bread and a Captain D's 3 piece dinner, and do you know what he supposedly did on the 3rd day??? And supposedly if you don't take this guy as your "Saviour" you're goin to the Bad place with the demons and brimstone.Talk about nut jobs...


None of which, unlike the literal understanding of creation, is demonstrably false.

And a pet peeve. We do not believe the earth is billions of years old. We know it is.
9.18.2009 1:40pm
Kazinski:
I'm less concerned about whether politicians believe in dinosaurs than whether they believe in the tooth fairy. Whole legislatures around the country have been taken over by adherents of tooth fairy cults that there its possible to increase spending without limit, regardless of tax rates, or how the economy is doing.
9.18.2009 1:41pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Steve:

We could be far more cynical than that.

Consider:
He is a politician therefore he is lying.
He is lying therefore he does not believe in the Bible.
He does not believe in the Bible therefore is an atheist.
....


We can actually turn this anyway we want.
9.18.2009 1:42pm
yankee (mail):
Those beliefs of his show that he doesn't understand the scientific method or logical reasoning, and therefore would not make policies based on evidence (since he doesn't know how to evaluate evidence).

As appealing as this reasoning sounds in the abstract, there is no evidence in its favor. People who believe silly or irrational things in one domain are eminently capable of being rational in others.

Is there any evidence that e.g. creationist engineers, mathematicians, or financiers are worse than their noncreationist counterparts? I have never heard of any.
9.18.2009 1:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Esquire

The field of philosophy of science challenges our epistemological priorities and approaches all the time, and always has since the earliest classical philosophers.


You should read "From Religion to Philosophy" by F.M. Cornford. It is a very interesting look and suggests that the religious sourcing of ideas in philosophy was not really broken until Aristotle. What Cornford conclusively shows is that until Aristitle, there was a very strong continuity of thought between religious/mythological approaches and philosophical/logical approaches and that the latter was invariably grounded in the former.

Fascinating work. Also provides more information on ancient Greek cosmology and concepts of fate than I had previously found.
9.18.2009 1:45pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Turning water into wine isn't "demonstrably false"? The same caliber of inferential reasoning accomplished in geology could easily get you there. We've managed transmutation, but only after heavy bombardment of neutrons, requiring much energy, that turned minute quantities of a single element, lead, into gold.
9.18.2009 1:49pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Putting two and two:

And a pet peeve. We do not believe the earth is billions of years old. We know it is. [emphasis in original]


Strictly speaking, no. We could discover tomorrow some new scientific find that would force us to adjust those estimates considerably.

If you want to be pedantic, "We do not merely take on faith the idea that the earth is billions of year old. We have evidence that it is." But evidence isn't the same thing as knowledge.
9.18.2009 1:49pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cato the Elder:

The scientific method is inapplicable to non-repeatable, isolated phenomenon. Unless one could hypothesize repeatable ways to turn water into wine, there would be no scientific basis for comparison.

Nothing in science precludes miracles. The only thing we can say is that we lack understood mechanisms. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
9.18.2009 1:51pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Plus of course there is always the old fall back of a young earth created old. Still some problems with Genesis there, but not as many as with people claiming dinosaurs and people lived together.
9.18.2009 2:02pm
_Drew_ (www):
einhverfr, that's splitting hairs to a rather silly degree. Words like "fact" and "knowledge" are used reasonably all the time in science, especially because scientists and even most laypeople understand that neither concept is implied absolute: it's "thought to be true to some reasonable degree of certainty based on all current evidence"

On the larger question: I do think "compartmentalization" is very relevant here. Yes, he believes something for what appear to be silly and unfounded reasons. But he's also upfront about why he believes these things, and how he's applying a special standard to these beliefs that he probably ISN'T going to apply to the basic workings of his actual job.

Of course, Michael Dailey has a point. If the city wants to be attractive to scientists, then a public face that rejects science might be the wrong image for the city: just as if a city that wanted to attract casinos had a mayor who publicly said that gambling was disgusting.
9.18.2009 2:03pm
Putting Two and Two...:
OK, einhverfr, you can believe the earth is more than 6000 years old. I'll continue to know that it is.

Far be it from me to be pedantic...
9.18.2009 2:04pm
werewolf:
While this would certainly not be the determining factor in one's vote, it would generally point to the notion that, as many people have said, he rejects science and logic. While it is true that all religions do that to a degree, I think that actually disagreeing with verified facts (as this fellow does) is a different beast than simply believing in unverified facts (which is what most religion is). That being said, this would likely only be a tipping point in an election for me in two circumstances:
1) The candidates are close enough together on the relevant issues that something as minor as this could actually matter
2) The position in question has relatively few partisan implications, and, instead, is based largely on competence
9.18.2009 2:04pm
Harry H (mail):
We do not believe the earth is billions of years old. We know it is.

Statements like this always make me laugh. Presuppositions are a funny business. In countless opportunities, both religionists and scientists have had to eat their words when their favorite presuppositions are proven wrong.

To give an example, a favorite presupposition of evolutionists is that process is constantly in effect. The assumption is that everything is constantly evolving. Yet from a philosophy of science viewpoint, would it not be more accurate to assume that de-evolution is just as likely as evolution?

Another assumption as seen from this statement that the earth is billions of years old is that evolution is relatively constant. Don't the Big Bang theory and string theories challenge that assumption?
9.18.2009 2:05pm
HoyaBlue:
"Foster's position: "How does my knowledge of scientific theory impact my ability to rationally govern the city of St. Petersburg? It's completely irrelevant.""

No it isn't; it demonstrates that you are incapable of consistently displaying intelligent thought.

It's equivalent to telling voters that the sky is green, 9/11 was a conspiracy, and 2+2=5.
9.18.2009 2:06pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
What if the candidate is known (and admits) to belonging to a particular church, denomination, or sect which is generally known to have a strong belief in creationism, but the candidate refuses to answer any questions about that, on the grounds that his personal religious beliefs are a private matter. Do those of you supporting the casting out of mayoral candidate Foster think that his membership in such a group, coupled with his refusal to answer specific questions on such topics, is sufficient grounds to vote against him?
9.18.2009 2:07pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
HoyaBlue

It's equivalent to telling voters that the sky is green, 9/11 was a conspiracy, and 2+2=5.


Except that under certain narrow circumstances 2 + 2 can equal 5.
9.18.2009 2:09pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(and under other narrow circumstances the sky can infact appear green)
9.18.2009 2:09pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
Professor Volokh:

Is your question regarding consideration of a political candidate's religious beliefs as a proxy for the candidate's reasonableness and credibility distinct from the one addressed by courtroom evidentiary codes? See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 610 ("Evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that by reason of their nature the witness' credibility is impaired or enhanced."). That is, if Bill Foster's religious views are probative as to whether he would make a good mayor, are they also probative as to whether he makes a good witness? Does the answer depend on the nature of his proposed testimony? Or do you think Rule 610 turns not so much on the the lack of probative value of such evidence but on its unduly prejudicial nature? If so, do you regard any of the comments in this thread as an indication that consideration of a candidate's religious beliefs may also tend to be more inflammatory than informative?
9.18.2009 2:09pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
And we know FOR A FACT that 9/11 was a conspiracy. If it wasn't a conspiracy, we wouldn't have gone to war with the conspirators.
9.18.2009 2:10pm
Off Kilter (mail):
"Nothing in science precludes miracles..."

Isn't that equivalent to "Nothing in science precludes events that IN PRINCIPLE cannot be explained by science"? If the purpose of science is to explain the Universe, and miracles are by definition events that are fundamentally inexplicable by the natural laws of the Universe, I'd say belief in the scientific method does preclude miracles.

(Note the distinction between "cannot yet explain" and "in principle inexplicable". Miracles are more than things that science cannot CURRENTLY explain...)

----

Ruuffles: Are you suggesting that creationists, per se, do not believe in DNA? I was unaware of this...
9.18.2009 2:10pm
rick.felt:
Could be worse, he could believe that 2000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a Supreme Being, who walked on water, turned water into wine, fed a multitude with a loaf of bread and a Captain D's 3 piece dinner, and do you know what he supposedly did on the 3rd day???

Could be worse, still! He could believe that there were abstract concepts such as "right," "wrong," and "justice," none of which science can prove to exist.
9.18.2009 2:10pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
It would also be nice if the creation folks would at least go back and redo their math enough to account for the annals of writing. When even the first writing gets pushed back earlier than your presumed age of the world there are bigger problems with your narrative.
9.18.2009 2:12pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
einhverfr:

As an idealized Platonic isolate, perhaps. But there had better be no theory behind that miracle. There had better be no proscription embedded in it. Turning water into wine is only important because it proves Jesus is divine, and presumably could perform such things again. With a theory of causality, miracles become testable, and science is eager to weigh in.

Of course, religion would never acquiesce. An un-predictive theory is a useless theory. Religion only confines itself to its separate magisterium because it's lost every single battle its ever waged with rational science. I don't enjoy brow beating religionists with that fact, but I don't entertain religion's apologetics either.
9.18.2009 2:12pm
LessinSF (mail):
Would you vote for the Village Idiot? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPwGV...layer_embedded
9.18.2009 2:12pm
drobviousso@gmail.com:
einhverfr, you get a gold star for your mastery of basic science. You may also go to the front of the lunch line and pick your table first.
9.18.2009 2:13pm
yankee (mail):
Strictly speaking, no. We could discover tomorrow some new scientific find that would force us to adjust those estimates considerably.

It's perfectly legitimate to say you "know" something even though you could, in principle, discover evidence that it's false. Knowledge does not require mathematical certainty.
To give an example, a favorite presupposition of evolutionists is that process is constantly in effect. The assumption is that everything is constantly evolving. Yet from a philosophy of science viewpoint, would it not be more accurate to assume that de-evolution is just as likely as evolution?

There is no scientific concept of "de-evolution."
9.18.2009 2:13pm
_Drew_ (www):
"werewolf: While this would certainly not be the determining factor in one's vote, it would generally point to the notion that, as many people have said, he rejects science and logic."

But again, I read him, and many other creationists as basically enumerating a specific, fairly well-defined area in which they will disagree with science: not announcing that, upon being confronted with evidence that the city's budget is in the red, that they will declare "YOUR HAIR IS A BIRD, YOUR ARGUMENT IS THUS INVALID" and proceed to sign into a law a huge tax cut on all Bigfoots living within the city limits.

Again: compartmentalization is not only possible, but a fairly well respected thing in our society when it comes to people having different religious beliefs. This guy isn't being elected the Mayor of Geology. He's in charge of making sure potholes get filled.

I sort of see this as part of the basic social contract agreement of the separation of church and state: public leaders are not ceded any power or authority to tell anyone what to believe, and in return we cut people of different faiths than us some slack in public life in areas that simply aren't going to affect how they do their jobs.
9.18.2009 2:14pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
In other words, every one of HoyaBlue's analogies falls apart.

2 + 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2 and assuming one significant digit real number as opposed to integer math.

The sky can appear green if under a hail-producing meso-scale convective system.

And given the fact that it is clear 9/11 was planned by a group of people who conspired to carry it out, it is safe to say that it is a conspiracy. Most Americans accept that it was a conspiracy planned, supported, and enacted by Al Qaeda.

None of these are comparable in any way to a belief in dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible.
9.18.2009 2:15pm
Tatil:
Sure, he could be more rational in other fields, but does he provide any assurances that this is the only field where he is going to reject science? There are many other issues that puts religious beliefs at odds with what may be a better course of action for the local government.
9.18.2009 2:16pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

2 + 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2 and assuming one significant digit real number as opposed to integer math.

Um, what?
9.18.2009 2:18pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Also, there is plenty of evidence for both periods of relative evolutionary stability as well as rapid change. Just because evolution is always at work doesn't mean that deltra-evolution can't change.

There is evidence that even the values of fundimental invariants of the universe change, so why wouldn't emergent phenomena like life?
9.18.2009 2:18pm
yankee (mail):
Nothing in science precludes miracles. The only thing we can say is that we lack understood mechanisms. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Absence of evidence where evidence should exist is indeed evidence of absence. If God is engaging in miracle-making, where is the evidence of the miracles?
9.18.2009 2:19pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Do VC readers see the relevance of this article to the series on why Jewish people vote Democratic?
How could educated non-Christians ever vote for a party that supports these clowns?

Is this a partisan or non-partisan election. So far as I can tell from a quick Google search, it is non-partisan, but I'm not positive-- I can't find any references either to whether parties participate or to Foster's party affiliation.

If a partisan election, is he running as a Republican?

If non-partisan, do you know that he is a Republican? Aren't there any young-earth creationists in the Democratic party?

Or are you just making assumptions about Foster?
9.18.2009 2:20pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cato the Elder:

The scientific method is inapplicable to non-repeatable, isolated phenomenon. Unless one could hypothesize repeatable ways to turn water into wine, there would be no scientific basis for comparison.


You don't have to hypothesize this. It's done all the time, and has been throughout recorded history. Of course, we're leaving out the parts about the grapes, fermentation, etc.

Could be worse, still! He could believe that there were abstract concepts such as "right," "wrong," and "justice," none of which science can prove to exist.

Zing!
9.18.2009 2:20pm
_Drew_ (www):
"Another assumption as seen from this statement that the earth is billions of years old is that evolution is relatively constant."

The first statement here is not an assumption: it is a conclusion. Based on multiple converging lines of evidence (which is probably the most reliable kind of evidential proof of all).

The second statement is just sort of confusing. What do you mean that people think "evolution" is "constant?" Evolution is a VERY general term for a set of processes and models and so forth which do all sorts of things. It's as if you declared that cloud formation was "constant." Well, yes, it's constantly going on at some point somewhere, but there is a heck of a lot of variation in the specifics.
9.18.2009 2:22pm
Putting Two and Two...:
It's a good thing I have evidence (!) that Mr. Foster opposes gay rights, because that relieves me of the need to delve into philosophical inanities in order to come to the conclusion that I believe I would not vote for him....
9.18.2009 2:22pm
drobviousso@gmail.com:
9.18.2009 2:23pm
yankee (mail):
Again: compartmentalization is not only possible, but a fairly well respected thing in our society when it comes to people having different religious beliefs. This guy isn't being elected the Mayor of Geology. He's in charge of making sure potholes get filled.

Sure, he wants to be mayor, but mayors often exercise direct and indirect influence over the school system. As the principal educational controversy of our time involves creationists trying to get their religion taught in the public schools, his belief in creationism is very relevant (unless the mayor of St. Petersburg truly has no power over the schools system). I would not want my children, or anyone else's, being taught nonsense.
9.18.2009 2:26pm
Harry H (mail):
yankee

That is precisely my point. If we talk about limitations from the philosophy of science perspective, we have to realize that there may be some concepts that science does not address. A good scientist recognizes those limitations. So, instead of saying I know the worls is billion of years old, he will say I understand the earth to be billions of years old. That way, when he comes up with further understanding that may change his current perspective, he is not embarrassed.

This is important in the current conversation, because a creationist will talk about what he believes to be the origin of the world, while an evolutionist is talking about the process of the formation of the world. Evolution never talks about origin because it can not posit how something is created from nothing. The evolutionist will either say, I do not know where the origin of all amtter came from, which is an honest response, or he will say, It just happened, which is not that far from what a creationist says.
9.18.2009 2:26pm
Phatty:
Frank hit the nail on the head. It is silly to criticize a person's fringe Christian beliefs, when the central tenet held by all Christians (that Jesus died from crucifixion and rose from the dead 3 days later) is about as unscientific as you can get.
9.18.2009 2:26pm
_Drew_ (www):
"Could be worse, still! He could believe that there were abstract concepts such as "right," "wrong," and "justice," none of which science can prove to exist. "

It's not clear that it's even meaningful to talk about "abstract concepts" "existing." I suppose it depends on what you mean by them. Science certainly can confirm that the _concepts_ exist: they are ideas and judgments that people indeed do hold, impose, write about, debate, and so on.

No, science can't prove that "Right" exists, but what would that even MEAN in the first place? Saying that an action is "wrong" isn't a statement about a thing, it's a statement about a judgment about that thing in light of some specified moral standard. Moral philosophy is indeed a conundrum, but I'm not sure we're even at the point where we know what we're trying to express, much less where we can make statements about how it is or isn't necessary to "prove they exist."
9.18.2009 2:28pm
egd:
Should we also worry about those darn Catholics being more likely to support papal influence in our government?

Or what about those dasterdly Jews who might support Israel's policies over our own national interests?

There's also those eeeeevil Muslims who could force all of our women to wear full body coverings and pray towards Mecca every day.

Is it appropriate for a voter to consider any of these issues, or are they evidence of bias? Does a person's religious belief automatically mean their unqualified for office?
9.18.2009 2:31pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cato:

Turning water into wine is only important because it proves Jesus is divine, and presumably could perform such things again.


Better find him and ask him to do it again! What if he says no? Oh well....

Sorry for being pedantic on this but two of my grandparents were university science professors, and I have spent a lot of time reading epistemological works by folks like Heisenberg.


Of course, religion would never acquiesce. An un-predictive theory is a useless theory. Religion only confines itself to its separate magisterium because it's lost every single battle its ever waged with rational science. I don't enjoy brow beating religionists with that fact, but I don't entertain religion's apologetics either.


BTW, I approach the separate magisterium issue in a very different way (as a Norse Pagan) from the way the Pope does. In my view, there are two distinct ways one can look at life: We can look at life as a set of cause and effect, or we can look at life as a set of meaningful, semantic patterns of events. The latter way seems to be the way our brains have evolved to look at things prior to the development of widespread literacy, while the former is largely a product of that literacy. Mythos is applicable to the latter, while Logos is applicable to the former. Science tells us that omens aren't meaningful in the former, while our experience tells us they are in the latter.

Thus IMO, mythological components of religion function outside the bounds of "logic" but serve an orthogonal function altogether. While science and logic provide insight into fairly discrete, testable strands in that deterministic web. On the other hand, there are many areas of life where logic and science are of limited use-- improving our personal relationships for example. This i because in some of these areas, intent is as important as method.

Therefore what religion provides that science can neither provide nor find meaningful is the concept of situational truth. A situation then becomes meaningful in the sense that it imitates the myths.

In this view, then cosmogony stories are hardly bunk. They may be a poor guide to how we try to assess literal truth (which wouldn't have been meaningful to non-literate cultures), but they are remarkably good guides to the creative process in ourselves and HOW we create things in our lives. In short they provide exemplary models, or archetypes, that we copy in our own lives in various ways.

Because I am comfortable with this model, I don't have to accept literal views of the gods. I can sit back relax, and enjoy the timeless wisdom in the stories!

As to miracles though, I suspect they can and do happen. However, I think they follow an architypal, situational truth model, not a cause and effect model.
9.18.2009 2:31pm
yankee (mail):
This is important in the current conversation, because a creationist will talk about what he believes to be the origin of the world, while an evolutionist is talking about the process of the formation of the world. Evolution never talks about origin because it can not posit how something is created from nothing. The evolutionist will either say, I do not know where the origin of all amtter came from, which is an honest response, or he will say, It just happened, which is not that far from what a creationist says.

I think you may need a refresher on what the theory of evolution says. If you want to know about the origin of the world (or the universe), you need to talk to physicists, not biologists.
9.18.2009 2:32pm
_Drew_ (www):
HarryH: "Evolution never talks about origin because it can not posit how something is created from nothing."

Can any religion? Heck, can any religion explain "how" ANY of the things it claims it explains are done?

We don't even know if "creating something from nothing" is even a meaningful concept, of whether it was necessary in the case of our universe, or what. Claiming that a) "it was" and that b) "this dude named Yahweh totally did it, but I can't even begin to tell you how" has never seemed to me to advance anyone's understanding of the nature of the universe one iota.
9.18.2009 2:34pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
So, how are the voters to determine whether Foster is a sincere believer in a weird religion, or a religiously indifferent wardheeler who has hitched his political star to the bubba vote?
9.18.2009 2:35pm
CJColucci:
All of us believe some stupid shit or other, often inconsistent with our otherwise reasonable beliefs. We compartmentalize. So, in the abstract, holding of some particular stupid belief is not disqualifying where it is not directly relevant to one's responsibilities. But it is relevant. It can be a marker for several different things, such as: (1) a general inability or unwillingness to think reasonably; (2) a deep emotional commitment to something that will prevent thinking reasonably on a particular topic; (3) a "marker" for a collection of other silly beliefs not logically entailed by the first silly belief, but generally found together. By contrast, believers in "irrational" mainstream religions are, for the most part, merely accepting certain conventions. They haven't exerted the necessary mental effort to compare those conventional beliefs with scientific evidence, or analyze them rationally, and then hold on to them in the face of evidence or reason. The evolution-denier, young earth creationist, or what-have-you generally has faced the contradictions and come out wrong. Therefore, someone is more justified in regarding the evolution denier or young earth creationist as generally irrational than he is in so regarding, say, an Episcopalian. The Episcopalian has avoided the test, the evolution denier or young earth creationist has failed it.
9.18.2009 2:36pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Harry H, you appear to have no grasp whatsoever of the scientific principles to which you're alluding. String theory as somehow contradicting evolutionary biology? Why don't you just jump straight to "Evolutionism goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics!"?
9.18.2009 2:38pm
egd:
...that was going to be an extra point about "their religious beliefs", should be "they're" in the last line. Man that's embarrassing.
9.18.2009 2:41pm
Harry H (mail):
Same thing. If you talk about origins, at some point you have to get to the point where matter is either eternal, which it is not, or it had to be produced from something. If you posit energy as the source of matter, which is a possibility, then you have to ask where the energy came from. The conclusion there would be that energy is eternal or that something produced that energy. In both cases, those conclusions would not be that different from what a creationist believes. My point is that believing in creation is not as stupid as some believe (even though I realize that there are some stupid creationists).

I have had my share of physics classes, although I am perfectly willing to allow that physics has probably moved a long way from where it was when I studied it. I am an engineer.
9.18.2009 2:41pm
matt c (mail):
i continue to suggest that people who unquestionably rely on science and experts should read ortega y gasset's revolt of the masses and also look at new studies demonstrating that the use of dna evidence is inherently falwed. our understanding of science is laugable in the face of our many human foibles.
9.18.2009 2:43pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
...hahahaha. I suppose there is something to that Salem's Law.
9.18.2009 2:44pm
Franklin Drackman:
Scientists don't always get things right, and I are one, sort of...a doctor anyway..what the hey, it pays better.
How many Chromosomes are in the normal Human cell nucleus (No Redneck jokes please)??? Everyone knows its 46(except for you legal beagles who took "Biology for Barristers") its in all the MCAT and Genetics texts...
Except the right answer was "48" until the 1950's when someone had the courage to tell Mendel the Emperor couldn't count.
Y'see when you actually do a "Karyotype" the meticulous staining of cells suspended in cell division with a chemical called "Colchicine", there's all sorts of other little specks that look almost like chromosomes, especially if you think you're supposed to find 48 of em...
Long way of sayin Scientists get stuff wrong all the time,and if they can't count to 46, much less have the courage to say someone else can't count to 46, they just might not be able to count to 5 billion either...

And I still don't believe He walked on water..

Frank
9.18.2009 2:46pm
drunkdriver:
Should we as voters consider such matters in deciding whether to vote for someone?

Sure, why not, if it matters to you. In many areas of the country this will either not matter, or actually be a net plus for the candidate.

For me, this guy's beliefs are pretty much a dealbreaker.
9.18.2009 2:51pm
fishbane (mail):
Just echoing some others, "It depends".

Lots of people believe in foolish things. Some people will vote over haircuts. Both of those are 'valid' reasons to vote for or against someone, insofar as you believe it is 'valid' to vote at all.

I personally would look to see how those beliefs might translate to doing the particular job, especially (since this is the instant example) if this person would have the power and the inclination to inject that stupidity into the school system, thus poisoning the well of education, such as it is. Bluntly, if he's capable of keeping his... quixotic beliefs to himself, fine.

Compare with: I know several 'pagans' who like to get naked in the woods to worship. I'd vote for some of them, even for education jobs, I know they silliness they enjoy wouldn't impact their work. I also happen to know someone really into astrology, and I would question them about science education, not because of the silly belief, but because I would worry about that person's attachment to it interfering with their judgement. (This is, of course, leaving aside the odds of an 'out' pagan getting elected to much of anything in this country due to other voters' approaches to voting.)

Again, I do think political candidates loudly proclaiming their status as creationists should rightly draw more scrutiny than other beliefs, simply because there is a core crowd of creationists who attempt to elevate their particular flavor of religion to state sponsorship. On *that* measure, I would think it wise to subject them to more scrutiny than a pagan, as I haven't heard of packs of pagans taking over state textbook committees and so on in explicit attempts to foist their nonsense off on everyone else.
9.18.2009 2:54pm
_Drew_ (www):
"Harry H: Same thing. If you talk about origins, at some point you have to get to the point where matter is either eternal, which it is not, or it had to be produced from something."

But biologists DON'T talk about "origins" of matter. They talk about the origins of life on earth, and they generally do so in an entirely non-metaphysical fashion.

Sure, there are important unresolved, possibly not even well formed, questions about where it all came from. We don't even know enough about this issue to say definitively whether or not science can ever fully address it. But all of biological evolution can function as a body of inquiry and evidence quite well utterly regardless of the answers to those cosmological questions.

"If you posit energy as the source of matter, which is a possibility, then you have to ask where the energy came from. The conclusion there would be that energy is eternal or that something produced that energy. In both cases, those conclusions would not be that different from what a creationist believes."

That seems like a real stretch. First of all, those two possibilities are almost directly contradictory: so how could they BOTH be "not that different" from what creationists believe?

And saying that "something produced that energy" is basically akin to believing in a thinking all powerful being is like saying that "something is in my basement" is basically akin to saying "there is a unicorn in my basement that has very strong opinions about whether or not you should eat shellfish."
9.18.2009 2:54pm
Badness (mail):
I'd rather know whether he wears boxers or briefs: that crucial fact has every bit as much bearing on his capacity to govern as do his religious beliefs.
9.18.2009 2:55pm
Harry H (mail):
For those of you who seem confused by what I am saying, I am approaching this conversation from the perspective of the philosophy of science. That is to say, what are the basic concepts that form the foundation for scientific thought? I am speaking from this viewpoint not necessarily to disprove any particular viewpoint, but to encourage a bit more humility in what one thinks. I am not suggesting that string theory disproves evolutionary biology, but that it challenges how we understand different things. I see that as an example of the evolution of thought in science, that nothing is ever the same.

I think that most Christians understand the creation of the world by God as a matter of faith. Most would probably not profess to understand how God does it.
9.18.2009 2:55pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cato:

...hahahaha. I suppose there is something to that Salem's Law.


The whole history of witchcraft laws in the English-speaking world are interesting. Really, reading through Owen Davies' research makes me think of how Obama's promises regarding health care reform match the House bill......

Let's just say the political discourse, the text of the bills, and the enforcement patterns of anti-witchcraft laws never formed a coherent whole.

It was just politics as usual.
9.18.2009 2:58pm
Seamus (mail):

Should you be conserned that the person that might include or veto funding for DNA testing on potentially wrongfully convicted people does not understand basic science?



Do we have any examples of any creationist who has ever opposed DNA testing for potentially wrongfully convicted people because he doesn't believe in the science involved? I'd be a lot more worried about the politicians who oppose such testing because of the supposedly overriding importance of "finality." The latter type of politician actually exists. (I'll even bet some of them are completely on board with Darwinian theory.)
9.18.2009 3:03pm
yankee (mail):
Same thing. If you talk about origins, at some point you have to get to the point where matter is either eternal, which it is not, or it had to be produced from something. If you posit energy as the source of matter, which is a possibility, then you have to ask where the energy came from. The conclusion there would be that energy is eternal or that something produced that energy. In both cases, those conclusions would not be that different from what a creationist believes. My point is that believing in creation is not as stupid as some believe (even though I realize that there are some stupid creationists).

What does what, if anything, caused the Big Bang have to do with evolution? Hint: nothing.
9.18.2009 3:03pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
According to the St. Petersburg Municipal Charter [PDF doc], the mayor is electable for two, four-year terms.

He has no role over schools as there is a county-wide board, elected at-large.

Of note for purpose of discussion of electability, Foster is also noted for an anti-gay stance.

Were I a company, particularly a high tech company, considering a relocation, the mayor's approach toward science would be off-putting. If there were sufficient offsetting inducements, that wouldn't matter, perhaps. If there were equally good locations with a more progressively minded mayor, though, I'd choose elsewhere.
9.18.2009 3:08pm
one of many:
Based solely on the beliefs presented I have no problem with him. As for his being anti-science or not getting science he is no worse than most people I know who "get" science as to understanding science. Fool that he is he bases his beliefs on blind faith in a book which has been around for thousands of years instead of relying on the arguments from authority of modern scientists. I'm not saying that creationism is a good theory, but that it is no worse in my opinion than the blind faith in "science" that many hold. In an election it will factor against him since the blind worshipers of scientists are completely irrational on the subject and will reject him without considering his qualifications while those who don't consider his beliefs beyond the pale of rational thought will put equal weight to his and his opponents' qualifications. In an appointment situation it should have no impact unless the appointer is willing to question how well founded in rationality are the beliefs of all applicants.
9.18.2009 3:08pm
yankee (mail):
What does what, if anything, caused the Big Bang have to do with evolution? Hint: nothing.

On the same point, it has even less to do with creationism, which holds that God created life in more or less its present form over a period of 5 24-hour days (following a first 24-hour day in which it created life and darkness).
9.18.2009 3:09pm
RPT (mail):
Let's bring this down to earth for a moment. How many critical commenters voted for McCain-Palin last year?
9.18.2009 3:11pm
Seamus (mail):

If you want to be pedantic, "We do not merely take on faith the idea that the earth is billions of year old. We have evidence that it is."



You may have that evidence, but the vast majority of those who believe the earth to be billions of years old have never seen that evidence (indeed, have probably never even thought about it), and simply accept the age of the earth on authority. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. That's what most of us do about things outside our own narrow fields.)
9.18.2009 3:12pm
yankee (mail):
According to the St. Petersburg Municipal Charter [PDF doc], the mayor is electable for two, four-year terms.

He has no role over schools as there is a county-wide board, elected at-large.

And a good thing it is for the children of St. Petersburg, who will not be subjected to being taught religion in the guise of science.
9.18.2009 3:13pm
Malvolio:
You need a little more faith in people's ability to compartmentalize.
So we are voting for this guy in the hope that he's a hypocrite?

As an atheist, I constantly find myself suppressing the obvious questions whenever a person of faith demonstrates the reliable definition of "faith": "believing what you know ain't so".
9.18.2009 3:15pm
Harry H (mail):
Drew

This is why I said that creationists and evolutionists are talking about two different things.

I confess that I do get a little peeved when I see dogmatic statements from either side, so have a little patience with my particular biases.

Allow me to explain what I brought up with the matter and energy thing. Let us assume that we can go back in the history of the universe to say six billion years ago. What would we find then? Would it be a soup of matter forming different relationships with different substances? If we went back from there, what would we find? Can we get to some point where everything is beginning? If not then matter would have to be eternal, which raises the question of how is matter eternal? If matter is not eternal, it has to come into being in some way. In a young universe, about the only other explanantion for bringing matter into being would be energy. But if that is the case, you still run into the same problem. Is energy eternal, or is it produced? If energy is produced, where does it come from? A Christian obviously would say from God, while others might say I do not know. If it is eternal, then you would still have the same question of where does it come from.

I am certainly willing to accept that I might soon be getting out of my league.
9.18.2009 3:17pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Yankee:

And a good thing it is for the children of St. Petersburg, who will not be subjected to being taught religion in the guise of science.


Agreed. You can't even get from my religion to "intelligent design theory" if you tried since the first humanoids appear in my tradition's cosmogony as a result of entirely natural processes.

(Divine intervention on creating the human condition on the other hand is also included.)
9.18.2009 3:18pm
Vader:
I see a distinction between believing things which are untestable, at least at present, and believing things which can be tested and have failed the test.

Young-Earth Creationists and Marxists both believe things which have been tested and, in my opinion, have failed the test. The candidate promulgating such views is going to lose points with me. I must frankly admit that the Marxist will lose more, since his falsified beliefs bear more directly on fitness to manage a city budget and enforce the law while upholding citizen's rights.

Belief in a God or in miracles is a belief that is not testable, at least at present. Neither is faith that there is an intrinsic worth to humanity or an ultimate purpose to life. I would not myself care to be ruled by men who see no intrinsic worth in humanity nor any nobility in the world.

Vote for Mitt Romney? Yeah, probably, assuming he's got a good explanation for RomneyCare. For Bill Foster? Not so likely.
9.18.2009 3:19pm
Harry H (mail):
I assume that the Big Bang and evolutionary biology are both parts of an attempt to explain the world we live in. Obviously, the Big Bang cannot occur at the same time as evolutionary biology, but in some way the universe has to move from one to another.
9.18.2009 3:24pm
Harry H (mail):
Any person of faith that uses believing what you know ain't so as a definition of faith probably needs to give it some more consideration.
9.18.2009 3:27pm
Geobryan (mail):
Since I live in St. Petersburg, FL, I'll post a little background. The City of St. Petersburg does not control the schools in the city. Public schools in St. Petersburg run by the Pinellas County School District with county-wide school board. The biggest issues the Mayor of St. Petersburg has to deal with are Public Safety (Police &Fire) and economic development.

The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Bill Foster out of all of the possible candidates during the recent "non-partisan," Mayoral primary election. The St. Petersburg Times noted his personal religious beliefs that the editorial board didn't share. However, the paper said that he was also an effective local leader and that he would likely continue with many of Mayor Rick Baker's policies. The paper said that his strongest opponent Kathleen Ford has a divisive reputation locally and within the city council.

Bill Foster has some personal religious beliefs that I don't share and I don't look to him or other Creationists for scientific facts or opinion. He was not my first or second choice during the recent primary. However, I really dislike Ms. Ford calling his personal religious beliefs into question for the sole purpose of public ridicule and partisan politics when they are very largely irrelevant to the job. To me as a St. Petersburg voter, it shows a level of crassness and intolerance on her part that Mr. Foster has not shown.
9.18.2009 3:32pm
fishbane (mail):
Young-Earth Creationists and Marxists both believe things which have been tested and, in my opinion, have failed the test. The candidate promulgating such views is going to lose points with me. I must frankly admit that the Marxist will lose more, since his falsified beliefs bear more directly on fitness to manage a city budget and enforce the law while upholding citizen's rights.

Your call, of course, although in terms of the damage done to rights and budgets by U.S. American Marxists, I'm not sure they come off worse. While not directly creationist-related _content-wise_, but definitely so in terms of the people and institutions involved, I wonder if uses of state budget like this would give you pause:

The first draft for proposed standards in United States History Studies Since Reconstruction says students should be expected "to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority." [...] Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.


Of course, this bleeds into other voting-pattern concerns; our host here has put forth the belief before that bloc-voting for people with whom you disagree can be a good thing. But this sort of twisted hero-worship being written into state policy (and, practically speaking due to the influence of the Texas State Board of Education, nationally) seems a lot more brazen than numbskulls in Che shirts, who don't hero-worship with state funds.
9.18.2009 3:33pm
BGates:
numbskulls in Che shirts, who don't hero-worship with state funds

So you haven't heard the NEA story, then.
9.18.2009 3:39pm
Whadonna More:
In my view, the candidate's position on Job points to a bigger problem than his Creationist beliefs. There are lots of arguments for the non-falsifiability of Creationism, but he's clearly just parroting the interpretation of Job from some marginal source. That makes me wonder enough about the who could or would pull the strings if the candidate makes it into office to disqualify him.
9.18.2009 3:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Harry

Any person of faith that uses believing what you know ain't so as a definition of faith probably needs to give it some more consideration.


Tertullian's argument for Christ's miracles is that they were so preposterous that nobody would have made them up. Therefore they had to have existed.
9.18.2009 3:43pm
fishbane (mail):
(Way off-topic alert)

I assume that the Big Bang and evolutionary biology are both parts of an attempt to explain the world we live in. Obviously, the Big Bang cannot occur at the same time as evolutionary biology, but in some way the universe has to move from one to another.

Well, here's where words and ways of understanding collide.

You might also reasonably ask how a lump of rock becomes a part of your car, but as far as I know, there is no cohesive field of study that combines mineral detection, mining equipment operation, smelting, mechanical engineering design, casting, modern factory operations theory, marketing, union negotiation strategy, banking and finance, risk management, oil extraction methods, etc. etc. etc.

Much like the loan officer you might talk to for a car can't tell you much about how to identify dangerous fumes in a mineshaft (even if that officer is interested in the topic), physicists don't have much to say about much in biology.

I personally think it doubtful that biology and physics will ever unify - the trend in science is hyper-specialization, not From Singularity to Platypus, but stranger things have happened.
9.18.2009 3:44pm
Michael T. Drake (mail) (www):
Yes.
9.18.2009 3:45pm
Perseus (mail):
The human mind is a complex thing, and I believe it's entirely possible for someone to believe unquestioningly in the Book of Genesis yet remain appropriately skeptical and analytical with regard to real-life issues that actually matter.

Agreed. Very few people are rigorously consistent in deciding what to believe and reconciling their various (and frequently contradictory) beliefs.

It's perfectly legitimate to say you "know" something even though you could, in principle, discover evidence that it's false. Knowledge does not require mathematical certainty.


That's not a scientific claim, but an epistemological one, and modern philosophy, of which modern science is an offspring, does indeed attempt to make certainty a key characteristic of knowledge.

No, science can't prove that "Right" exists, but what would that even MEAN in the first place?

Science cannot even prove that the nature which it seeks to explain exists. It takes nature as given--as being in itself--and relies on pre-scientific insight for doing so.
9.18.2009 3:54pm
fishbane (mail):
So you haven't heard the NEA story, then.

I don't know which one you're referring to, but I probably have.

I was making an argument comparing amount of damage done, primarily economically. I don't know what the TSBE has spent attempting to ennoble Phyllis Schlafly along with all their other shenanigans, but I rather suspect dopy artists get quite a bit less.

(Again, here a personal take, but I rather like the miniscule funding NEA artists get strictly for the amusement value of people getting the vapors over the almost invariably bad art that comes out of it. It provides me with a lot more amusement than any state subsidized sports, for instance, which - again - gets tons more money. But it really is all just shades of bread and circuses.)
9.18.2009 3:55pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
"In the Genesis account, it's timed by the sun and the moon,"

Um... in the Genisis account He doesn't get around to making the sun and moon until day 4 when "God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night"

This guy doesn't even understand his own mythology. Sheesh.
9.18.2009 4:19pm
DiversityHire (mail):
There is no scientific concept of "de-evolution."

Tell that to Dr. Mark Mothersbaugh. Oh, dad, we're all devo.
9.18.2009 4:20pm
CJColucci:
I know several 'pagans' who like to get naked in the woods to worship.

Fishbane, do you think you could arrange an introduction?
9.18.2009 4:28pm
Arkady:

In the Genesis account..



"Ah, well," said the old pagan, "all that happened a long time ago."
9.18.2009 4:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"He said he believes dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, though most scientists say there is a gap of at least 60 million years between dinosaurs and mankind...."

The movie 1,000,000 BC clearly shows Raquel Welch (with very good hair) living at the same time as the dinosaurs. In a memorable scene, Raquel gets picked up by a Pteranodon (I'm jealous), but of course a Pteranodon is a reptile not a dinosaur. But a Allosaurus does attack her tribe and that's a dinosaur. So perhaps Bill Foster is right after all. Movies don't lie like politicians do they?
9.18.2009 4:52pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

You may have that evidence, but the vast majority of those who believe the earth to be billions of years old have never seen that evidence (indeed, have probably never even thought about it), and simply accept the age of the earth on authority.
I've been to the Grand Canyon. Both rims. Does that count?
9.18.2009 5:02pm
byomtov (mail):
Movies don't lie like politicians do they?

No. They lie differently.
9.18.2009 5:09pm
Angus:
I've been to the Grand Canyon. Both rims. Does that count?
Nah, that was formed about 5,000 years ago when God stubbed his toe.
9.18.2009 5:16pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Should we as voters consider such matters in deciding whether to vote for someone?
You mean, is it relevant whether candidates for office are pig-ignerrent, gullible, and/or downright stoopid? I'd say yes. Critical reasoning is a generally useful skill. Blind adherence to silly (and discredited) notions is a gateway to totalitarianism.

Cheers,
9.18.2009 5:18pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Erin Arlinghaus:
I submit that many of the posters here are failing to make a distinction between "does not understand basic science" and "understands basic science, but chooses to reject some of it for reasons unrelated to science."
That's because there isn't much of a distinction here. The second set is a proper subset of the first. In science, you don't get to pick and choose. You agree to accept or reject based on the evidence (as best you can). Otherwise it is not science.

Cheers,
9.18.2009 5:24pm
zuch (mail) (www):
einhverfr:
Except that under certain narrow circumstances 2 + 2 can equal 5.
Yes. For sufficiently large values of 2. ;-)

Cheers,
9.18.2009 5:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Zuch:

Exactly. Which is why it isn't a good comparison to "Dinosaurs are mentioned in Job"
9.18.2009 5:39pm
c.gray (mail):

In science, you don't get to pick and choose. You agree to accept or reject based on the evidence (as best you can).



What if my choice is between:

A) a candidate with an extensive record in city government and a track record of not allowing his kooky religious beliefs to dictate his decisions as a government official; and

B) a candidate with a thinner record whose campaign theme is that Candidate A is a dangerous religious zealot who will wreck the city's economy by banishing science and encouraging gay bashing?

/shrug

I start to like the sound of "Vote Cthulu, why choose the lesser evil?"
9.18.2009 5:39pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
So if we had to choose between a creationist who is also a man of conscience and of administrative experience and ability; or a non-creationist who doesn't know anything about evolution b/c he doesn't care, and is in politics in order to feather his nest, and doesn't care what he has to do in order to do it; which would we choose?
9.18.2009 5:43pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Whoops, cross-posted with c.gray.
9.18.2009 5:44pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
The Grand Canyon only provides evidence for a few million years, no?
9.18.2009 6:07pm
tvk:
An important point to make explicit is that this question should run both ways. Should voters vote against a creationist because he is crazy? Similarly, should voters vote against an evolutionist because that person doesn't share their values and--given evolutionist beliefs are highly correlated with being less religiously devoted--lacks the appropriate degree of fear in God and thus morality? In a country with highly secular urban centers in the Northeast and highly religious rural areas in the South, I am sure both occur.
9.18.2009 6:13pm
yankee (mail):
given evolutionist beliefs are highly correlated with being less religiously devoted

Is there any evidence of this? Creationist beliefs are probably mostly correlated with being an evangelical Christian. Are evangelical Christians less likely to be Christmas-and-Easter Christians than other Christians? I'm not aware of any evidence for this thesis.
9.18.2009 6:17pm
Bob White (mail):
I tend to be extraordinarily results-oriented in voting for political candidates. My ideal candidate would never be nominated or pass a primary test in any general election, so between imperfect candidates, I vote for whichever one is more likely to enact my preferred policies, or at least less likely to enact my least preferred policies. Sometimes this may mean voting for someone I consider nuts and unfit for the office over someone intelligent who I believe to be very, very wrong. But, I live in a very Blue state and would've gone ahead and voted for Cthulhu had I cast a meaningless last fall.
9.18.2009 6:37pm
DennisN (mail):
Harry H:

I assume that the Big Bang and evolutionary biology are both parts of an attempt to explain the world we live in. Obviously, the Big Bang cannot occur at the same time as evolutionary biology, but in some way the universe has to move from one to another.


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1

I would bet dinner Young Earth Creationist would also believe in a young Universe. So yes, you get from the Big Bang to dinner with Adam and Eve in six days.
9.18.2009 6:46pm
joe h (mail):
Given the number of creationists in this country, it's hard to use that belief as disqualifying (but it is informative and worrisome). More worrisome is a candidate's approach to biblical literalism. How will that inform other aspects of policy?
9.18.2009 6:52pm
ChrisTS (mail):
I would bet dinner Young Earth Creationist would also believe in a young Universe. So yes, you get from the Big Bang to dinner with Adam and Eve in six days.

They were vegans, right?
9.18.2009 7:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Yankee:

Is there any evidence of this? Creationist beliefs are probably mostly correlated with being an evangelical Christian. Are evangelical Christians less likely to be Christmas-and-Easter Christians than other Christians? I'm not aware of any evidence for this thesis.


Agreed.

I am a Norse Pagan, subject to my bit about how I see the magisteria above.

I suppose I am formally polytheistic, philosophically pantheistic, and intellectually agnostic (or maybe I would call myself a autotheist in the sense of believing that the gods are part of the self), yet I spend an hour every day studying subjects related to my religion (history, anthropology, etc).

Religion does not equal belief, except in Christianity and Islam. Elsewhere it is a system of thought, not a system of belief.
9.18.2009 7:54pm
Guy:
egd,

Should we also worry about those darn Catholics being more likely to support papal influence in our government?

Or what about those dasterdly Jews who might support Israel's policies over our own national interests?

There's also those eeeeevil Muslims who could force all of our women to wear full body coverings and pray towards Mecca every day.

Is it appropriate for a voter to consider any of these issues, or are they evidence of bias? Does a person's religious belief automatically mean their unqualified for office?

Those concerns are not, in my opinion a priori unreasonable, they only become evidence of unfair bias in light of the fact that they cannot be reasonably expected to do those things in considering the character of the individuals and past behavior of those groups. In the case of creationists, past misconduct and current policy goals have rendered the entire class suspect. Voters can and should exercise their right to vote with less concern about discrimination than, say, a private employer or state actor.
9.18.2009 8:19pm
geokstr (mail):

Soronel Haetir:
The Grand Canyon only provides evidence for a few million years, no?

No.

"The geology of the Grand Canyon area exposes one of the most complete sequences of rock on the planet, representing a period of nearly 2 billion years of the Earth's history..."
Geology of the Grand Canyon area

While the actual channel itself was mainly cut over the last 18 million years, the rock layers subsequently exposed in the process go back halfway to the formation of Gaia.
9.18.2009 8:22pm
Guy:
To clarify, I generally think, when it comes to religious beleif, that the burden of proof is in showing it might be a problem, but the consideration only needs to withstand a rational basis review, so to speak. And, of course, if we're speaking about a legal/constitutional standard rather than a "wisdom" standard, the voter can choose whoever they damn well please, and need not justify their vote to anyone for any reason.
9.18.2009 8:24pm
Guy:
So many typos... I need some caffeine.
9.18.2009 8:25pm
geokstr (mail):
Well, I've been through every comment on this post and I would now like to congratulate all those commenters on the left (no, seriously, really.)

Not one (yet, anyway) has trotted out the Palin hoax, where she is supposedly a YEC (Young Earther) who believes men walked with the dinos 4,000 years ago.

That's some progress, I guess.

For anyone who has a couple years to spare, there is a massive and quite fascinating site that covers every possible aspect you can possibly imagine regarding the evolution/science vs creationism battle, from court cases to exhaustively debunking every dishonest quote mine and ridiculous claim from the creationists.
Talkorigins
9.18.2009 8:35pm
Guy:
No, geokstr, she's not a YEC, she's just disqualified as your run-of-the-mill sort of idiot. (Sorry, but that post was practically begging for a gratuitous personal attack on her, and I didn't want to disappoint.)
9.18.2009 8:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
We all know that when it ocmes to economic development, companies always pick places with low taxes and right-to-work laws, don't we?
9.18.2009 8:49pm
geokstr (mail):

zuch:
You mean, is it relevant whether candidates for office are pig-ignerrent, gullible, and/or downright stoopid?...Blind adherence to silly (and discredited) notions is a gateway to totalitarianism.

So that explains why communism always seems to lead to mass murder of a sizeable chunk of a recalcitrant citizenry, total repression of all liberties, mind control through indoctrination, and the rise of a new privileged nomenklatura that gets to live far above the newly-equalized grinding poverty of the lumpenproletariat. They blindly worshiped the God Karl.

Thanks for clearing that up for me; I did not know that.

You'll please pardon me, though, as a staunch atheist, if I vote for one of those "pig-ignerrent, gullible, and/or downright stoopid" YECs over one of those secular far leftists every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
9.18.2009 8:57pm
geokstr (mail):

Guy:
No, geokstr, she's not a YEC, she's just disqualified as your run-of-the-mill sort of idiot. (Sorry, but that post was practically begging for a gratuitous personal attack on her, and I didn't want to disappoint.)

I wouldn't want to hijack this thread but we could always go into the elusive "qualifications" of your guy.
9.18.2009 9:00pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Lumpenproletariat...I love saying that word. It feels so...bodied. Lumpenproletariat. Lumpenproletariat.
9.18.2009 9:25pm
Erin Arlinghaus:
zuch:


That's because there isn't much of a distinction here. The second set is a proper subset of the first. In science, you don't get to pick and choose. You agree to accept or reject based on the evidence (as best you can). Otherwise it is not science.


Well, duh. It's not "science" we're talking about; it's religion. Last time I checked the two weren't the same.
9.18.2009 9:29pm
Anon Y. Mous:
_Drew_:

"Could be worse, still! He could believe that there were abstract concepts such as "right," "wrong," and "justice," none of which science can prove to exist. "

It's not clear that it's even meaningful to talk about "abstract concepts" "existing." I suppose it depends on what you mean by them. Science certainly can confirm that the _concepts_ exist: they are ideas and judgments that people indeed do hold, impose, write about, debate, and so on.

No, science can't prove that "Right" exists, but what would that even MEAN in the first place? Saying that an action is "wrong" isn't a statement about a thing, it's a statement about a judgment about that thing in light of some specified moral standard. Moral philosophy is indeed a conundrum, but I'm not sure we're even at the point where we know what we're trying to express, much less where we can make statements about how it is or isn't necessary to "prove they exist."

Impeccable logic, if you start with the assumption that there is no God (or, Creator, if you prefer). However, if there is a God, "Right" might very well be something more than just an abstract concept, depending on the relative beliefs of one culture or another. It just might be an Absolute: eternally true.
9.18.2009 9:50pm
c.gray (mail):

However, if there is a God, "Right" might very well be something more than just an abstract concept, depending on the relative beliefs of one culture or another. It just might be an Absolute: eternally true.


Well, in that case it would have been helpful if G-d had designed us with a nervous system capable of consistently discerning the "Absolute: eternally true" instead of forcing us to occasionally guess.
9.18.2009 10:43pm
Stephen F. (mail) (www):
Could be worse, still! He could believe that there were abstract concepts such as "right," "wrong," and "justice," none of which science can prove to exist.

Just so long as he doesn't bring these non-scientific beliefs to his public position, I'd be fine with it.
9.18.2009 10:44pm
Franklin Drackman:
If "Entourage" could get this good in just 4 years, who's to say a Supreme Being couldn't create everything in 7 days...Oh yeah, SIX,
VICTORYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9.18.2009 10:46pm
Guy:
Anon Y. Mous,
If I may make a potential statement of heresy stemming from my fundamentalist agnosticism: I'm not at all convinced that the existence of God would render his moral opinions automatically more valid than my own... I fail to see how creating the universe results in moral authority, and the philosophical principle that something can only "exist" in any meaningful sense if it can have an effect on some consciousnesses seems equally valid regardless of the existence of a creator. I honestly don't see any reason to believe that holding that "goodness" can be determined absolutely by God is anything more than wordplay - you're just defining "Good" to mean "that which is desired by god". Essentially, if I knew with certainty that God did exist and he told me to spend my life murdering, raping, and doing other things repugnant to me, and he assured me (in such a way that I don't doubt his credibility) that nothing that I or any other human being would consider "good" would come of it, only suffering and torment, I think I'd have a pretty good case to reject God's morality and substitute my own. A result of this viewpoint is that "right" and "wrong" etc. (in the moral senses) cannot possibly "exist" by any meaningful definition of the word even if there is a creator.

It's when people suggest, like you, that "right" could (even theoretically) be more than an abstract concept, and that that assertion seems to carry some sort of actual meaningful content to you. That I begin to wonder if there really might be something to religious faith that is completely beyond my comprehension or capacity to experience. I always reassure myself in these moments of existential dread by convincing myself that it's probably more likely that these people are simply a victim of fuzzy thinking. Then I worry if that's simply a defense mechanism to resolve cognitive dissonance.
9.18.2009 10:48pm
traveler496:
Among the relevant factors when considering candidates for a responsible position are the extent to which they are willing and able to
-question important assumptions
-distinguish the desirable from the true
-determine how much credence to place on beliefs based on reason and evidence rather than on (for example)superstition and mysticism.

If a candidate is clearly unable or unwilling to do these things in one or more nontrivial domains, it would seem prudent to start to look more closely at their ability and willingness to do so in domains relevant to their prospective position. The more responsible the position, arguably, the more closely one should look.

The extent to which a person's upbringing, or life experiences, or the general intellectual climate, may have influenced them positively or negatively in these regards is certainly relevant. And of course there are many other factors which would often outweigh the ones listed above.

That said, the kinds of dogmatism and irrationality listed above would rarely seem to count as plusses per se, unless the position was of one of the hopefully few (e.g. cult leader, minister, New Age bookstore owner) which by their nature actually demand them to some degree.
9.18.2009 10:53pm
Guy:
Oh god, it's finally happened, the conservatives warned me about it, I kept such an open head that my brain just fell out.
9.18.2009 10:57pm
Ken Arromdee:
I think it's important to know whether an official is capable of thinking logically and evaluating evidence for and against a proposition.

But I don't think challenging them on whether they're able to think critically about deep-seated religious beliefs, particularly historical matters like the Creation story and whether Jesus was in fact resurrected, is a great way to test those questions.


Sheesh.

The resurrection of Jesus isn't the sort of thing you'd expect to find much evidence either way for, but it's certainly not something you find evidence against in the sense that there are archeological studies proving that Jesus stayed in his tomb. Someone who believes in the resurrection of Jesus just has to believe in a one time miracle about something nobody has seen or has any evidence on. (Of course, they may have evidence that people stay in their tombs as a general rule, but that's different; they don't need to deny it, they just need to refuse to generalize it to Jesus.)

There is no resurrection equivalent to saying "dinosaurs and men lived together". We have fossils of dinosaurs and men; we don't have fossils of the resurrection.
9.18.2009 11:00pm
Borealis (mail):
Whether someone believes in Evolution and Quantum Theory, or believes in the Bible or the Koran, doesn't make a difference for 99.99999999% of the decisions of a politician.

Would you vote for someone who takes String Theory seriously? Right or wrong, the political implications are very, very scary.
9.18.2009 11:05pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Bigots are generally stupid, and anti-religious bigots are not different. I am particularly thinking of those who have posted to this thread claiming that there is no difference between Young Earth Creationism and belief in the Resurrection of Christ (or other Biblical miracles).

The difference is this: we have no evidence, either positive or negative, about the miracles of the Bible. There is nothing (except witness testimony) to show they happened or did not happen.

Science does not tell us those miracles did not happen, only that they could not have happened without supernatural intervention.

Science can disprove a miraculous claim if the evidence of the miracle is there to be examined. For instance, if a priest claims that his God miraculously turned a bucket of water into sulfuric acid, one can do a pH test to show that the bucket's contents are still water. If a faith healer claims that God has miraculously removed a cancerous tumor from a subject, an MRI scan can show that the tumor is still there.

But no one has access to the water allegedly transformed into wine by Jesus, nor to the body of Jesus, dead or alive.

A scientific fact is not disproved by a miraculous exception, any more than it is by any other kind of artificial exception. A man held underwater for half an hour will drown; that's not disproved by the existence of SCUBA gear, nor does it mean SCUBA gear is impossible.

Likewise, that no man can walk on water now does not mean that Jesus with miraculous power never did so.

On the other hand, there is mountains of tangible evidence (including literal mountains) showing that the Earth is billions of years old and that life has evolved across that period.

Young Earth Creationists deny this evidence. That's in direct conflict with science.

As to the merits of Foster as Mayor: remember when Louisiana voters had to choose between Ed Edwards and David Duke? "Vote for the crook - it's important." There are times when a very important quality of a candidate must be overlooked because of some greater priority. The voters of Athens chose Themistocles, notoriously corrupt, over Aristides "the Just". The naive Aristides thought the Delphic counsel to construct a "wooden wall" against the Persian invaders should be followed literally, while Themistocles wanted to build a fleet of war galleys - and he was right. Voting for the crook wasn't just important, it was vital.

The SP Times endorsed Foster over Ford on the basis of their comparative records in city government. Foster, in their judgment, is more honest, more able to work with others, and advocates better policies. I could go along with that. And I'm not even slightly religious.
9.18.2009 11:06pm
Guy:
Borealis,

Would you vote for someone who takes String Theory seriously? Right or wrong...

That's just it though, there's no such thing as a "scientific fact", to ask if a theory is "right or wrong" is to ignore the fundamental principles of science. The question is: Does string theory have enough explanatory and predictive power to be a useful tool for modeling observable phenomena?
9.18.2009 11:10pm
BABH:
Science does not tell us those miracles did not happen, only that they could not have happened without supernatural intervention.

No. Science tells us only that they are very unlikely to have happened without supernatural intervention.
9.18.2009 11:28pm
ChrisTS (mail):
To return return to the OP.

Yes, this man could be alienating to many companies and people who think that a vast amount of scientific evidence outweighs personal or subgroup dogma. If only for that reason, I would not vote for him to become the mayor of my town.

Given the not-so-distant unconscionable interference of Jeb Bush and his party in the Terry Schiavo case on religious grounds, if I lived in Florida I would be especially concerned.
9.18.2009 11:41pm
ArthurKirkland:
The discussion of whether voters should hold this candidate's literal acceptance of the Bible against him when voting appears to ignore a related question: What of citizens who vote for this candidate because he shares their faith?
9.19.2009 12:07am
HoyaBlue:
einhverfr, you are simply being contrary merely for the sake of being contrary. You clearly knew what I meant with each of those, especially the meaning of "conspiracy" in my post.

If you actually disagree with me in substance, say so. And stop being a pain in the you-know-what.
9.19.2009 12:07am
HoyaBlue:
Also, this 2+2=5 talk is rubbish. I know exactly what you mean, but to state this requires an absurd amount of willful misinterpretation of the English language.

I can't even imagine the size of the knot George Orwell must have put in your knickers with 1984.
9.19.2009 12:22am
BGates:
Given the not-so-distant unconscionable interference of Jeb Bush and his party in the Terry Schiavo case

That was the case where the court had to choose between the man who was married to the brain-dead woman - though he'd moved in with and had children by another woman since his wife's tragic accident - who wanted his wife to be removed from life support, and the woman's parents, who wanted her to not be removed from life support.
I had always heard opposition to legislative involvement in that case framed as a concern over Congressional hypocrites who suddenly chose to disregard a long-standing commitment to federalism, an argument made by people who had never before imagined the word "federalism" could be used by anyone outside the Klan, but still fair on its merits. What was unconscionable about the governor and state legislature getting involved in a matter of state law, besides the governor's last name?
9.19.2009 12:39am
BGates:
What of citizens who vote for this candidate because he shares their faith?

The problem is we don't know who those people are. Perhaps card check could be amended to apply to election to public office, and add an essay section to each ballot, "Why I voted for my candidate".

Of course, no point in having an essay if it's not used; why not have a panel of experts to review each essay for reasonability, and discard any ballot that isn't adequately justified?
9.19.2009 12:45am
Kevin P. (mail):
Ultimately, all religious belief, at some level, involves the suspension of belief in some scientific theory or the other. This is true of every religion in the world.

The end goal of this line of questioning is to call into question the ability of people of any religion or faith (about 90% of the American public) to perform government or scientific service because of their religious beliefs. This would leave only the atheists and iconoclasts.

Article VI, Section 3 says that "... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Let's respect it for all people and all religious beliefs.
9.19.2009 12:54am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Directly topical, so I repost it in full:

Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable
from Overcoming Bias by Eliezer Yudkowsky


The earliest account I know of a scientific experiment is, ironically, the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal.

The people of Israel are wavering between Jehovah and Baal, so Elijah announces that he will conduct an experiment to settle it - quite a novel concept in those days! The priests of Baal will place their bull on an altar, and Elijah will place Jehovah's bull on an altar, but neither will be allowed to start the fire; whichever God is real will call down fire on His sacrifice. The priests of Baal serve as control group for Elijah - the same wooden fuel, the same bull, and the same priests making invocations, but to a false god. Then Elijah pours water on his altar - ruining the experimental symmetry, but this was back in the early days - to signify deliberate acceptance of the burden of proof, like needing a 0.05 significance level. The fire comes down on Elijah's altar, which is the experimental observation. The watching people of Israel shout "The Lord is God!" - peer review.

And then the people haul the 450 priests of Baal down to the river Kishon and slit their throats. This is stern, but necessary. You must firmly discard the falsified hypothesis, and do so swiftly, before it can generate excuses to protect itself. If the priests of Baal are allowed to survive, they will start babbling about how religion is a separate magisterium which can be neither proven nor disproven.

Back in the old days, people actually believed their religions instead of just believing in them. The biblical archaeologists who went in search of Noah's Ark did not think they were wasting their time; they anticipated they might become famous. Only after failing to find confirming evidence - and finding disconfirming evidence in its place - did religionists execute what William Bartley called the retreat to commitment, "I believe because I believe."

Back in the old days, there was no concept of religion being a separate magisterium. The Old Testament is a stream-of-consciousness culture dump: history, law, moral parables, and yes, models of how the universe works. In not one single passage of the Old Testament will you find anyone talking about a transcendent wonder at the complexity of the universe. But you will find plenty of scientific claims, like the universe being created in six days (which is a metaphor for the Big Bang), or rabbits chewing their cud and grasshoppers having four legs. (Which is a metaphor for...)

Back in the old days, saying the local religion "could not be proven" would have gotten you burned at the stake. One of the core beliefs of Orthodox Judaism is that God appeared at Mount Sinai and said in a thundering voice, "Yeah, it's all true." From a Bayesian perspective that's some darned unambiguous evidence of a superhumanly powerful entity. (Albeit it doesn't prove that the entity is God per se, or that the entity is benevolent - it could be alien teenagers.) The vast majority of religions in human history - excepting only those invented extremely recently - tell stories of events that would constitute completely unmistakable evidence if they'd actually happened. The orthogonality of religion and factual questions is a recent and strictly Western concept. The people who wrote the original scriptures didn't even know the difference.

The Roman Empire inherited philosophy from the ancient Greeks; imposed law and order within its provinces; kept bureaucratic records; and enforced religious tolerance. The New Testament, created during the time of the Roman Empire, bears some traces of modernity as a result. You couldn't invent a story about God completely obliterating the city of Rome (a la Sodom and Gomorrah), because the Roman historians would call you on it, and you couldn't just stone them.

In contrast, the people who invented the Old Testament stories could make up pretty much anything they liked. Early Egyptologists were genuinely shocked to find no trace whatsoever of Jewish tribes having ever been in Egypt - they weren't expecting to find a record of the Ten Plagues, but they expected to find something. As it turned out, they did find something. They found out that, during the supposed time of the Exodus from Egypt, Egypt ruled Canaan. The tribes would have fled to find Pharaoh's armies already at the destination. That's one huge historical error, but if there are no libraries, nobody can call you on it.

The Roman Empire did have libraries. Thus, the New Testament doesn't claim big, showy, large-scale geopolitical miracles as the Old Testament routinely did. Instead the New Testament claims smaller miracles which nonetheless fit into the same framework of evidence. A boy falls down and froths at the mouth; the cause is an unclean spirit; an unclean spirit could reasonably be expected to flee from a true prophet, but not to flee from a charlatan; Jesus casts out the unclean spirit; therefore Jesus is a true prophet and not a charlatan. This is perfectly ordinary Bayesian reasoning, if you grant the basic premise that epilepsy is caused by demons (and that the end of an epileptic fit proves the demon fled).

Not only did religion used to make claims about factual and scientific matters, religion used to make claims about everything. Religion laid down a code of law - before legislative bodies; religion laid down history - before historians and archaeologists; religion laid down the sexual morals - before Women's Lib; religion described the forms of government - before constitutions; and religion answered scientific questions from biological taxonomy to the formation of stars. The Old Testament doesn't talk about a sense of wonder at the complexity of the universe - it was busy laying down the death penalty for women who wore men's clothing, which was solid and satisfying religious content of that era. The modern concept of religion as purely ethical derives from every other area having been taken over by better institutions. Ethics is what's left.

Or rather, people think ethics is what's left. Take a culture dump from 2,500 years ago. Over time, humanity will progress immensely, and pieces of the ancient culture dump will become ever more glaringly obsolete. Ethics has not been immune to human progress - for example, we now frown upon such Bible-approved practices as keeping slaves. Why do people think that ethics is still fair game?

Intrinsically, there's nothing small about the ethical problem with slaughtering thousands of innocent first-born male children to convince an unelected Pharaoh to release slaves who logically could have been teleported out of the country. It should be more glaring than the comparatively trivial scientific error of saying that grasshoppers have four legs. And yet, if you say the Earth is flat, people will look at you like you're crazy. But if you say the Bible is your source of ethics, women will not slap you. Most people's concept of rationality is determined by what they think they can get away with; they think they can get away with endorsing Bible ethics; and so it only requires a manageable effort of self-deception for them to overlook the Bible's moral problems. Everyone has agreed not to notice the elephant in the living room, and this state of affairs can sustain itself for a time.

Maybe someday, humanity will advance further, and anyone who endorses the Bible as a source of ethics will be treated the same way as Trent Lott endorsing Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign. And then it will be said that religion's "true core" has always been genealogy or something.

The idea that religion is a separate magisterium which cannot be proven or disproven is a Big Lie - a lie which is repeated over and over again, so that people will say it without thinking; yet which is, on critical examination, simply false. It is a wild distortion of how religion happened historically, of how all scriptures present their beliefs, of what children are told to persuade them, and of what the majority of religious people on Earth still believe. You have to admire its sheer brazenness, on a par with Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. The prosecutor whips out the bloody axe, and the defendant, momentarily shocked, thinks quickly and says: "But you can't disprove my innocence by mere evidence - it's a separate magisterium!"

And if that doesn't work, grab a piece of paper and scribble yourself a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.
9.19.2009 1:01am
traveler496:
Rich Rostrom,
Just this morning I turned water into wine, and after that I died and was resurrected. You can't disprove it. I'm otherwise eminently qualified to be your governor. Do I have your vote?

Kevin P.:

Article VI, Section 3 says that "... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Let's respect it for all people and all religious beliefs.

Let's respect and value rationality, and disrespect those values and behaviors which are destructive of rationality.
9.19.2009 1:13am
Ken Arromdee:
Ultimately, all religious belief, at some level, involves the suspension of belief in some scientific theory or the other.

This isn't true in any meaningful sense. As I and Rich Rostrom pointed out, there's a difference between saying that something scientifically impossible, but without evidence against it, happened, and saying that something with evidence against it happened. The suspension of scientific belief that many religions demand is in the first category. Creationism is in the second (along with a few other beliefs like Mormon archeological theories).
9.19.2009 1:16am
ArthurKirkland:

What of citizens who vote for this candidate because he shares their faith?

The problem is we don't know who those people are.


Surely those people and their votes can be discussed as readily as the votes of others (which, I gather, is the point of this extended thread).

Is basing a vote on the point that the candidates shares the gullibility of the voter any less objectionable than a vote against the candidate for believing the Bible to be a literal record of history?
9.19.2009 1:20am
Ken Arromdee:
Just this morning I turned water into wine, and after that I died and was resurrected. You can't disprove it. I'm otherwise eminently qualified to be your governor. Do I have your vote?


If you really believe such things about yourself, you're deluded. But it's a different kind of delusion than a creationist's delusion. A creationist is deluded about the evidence. You are deluded about your experiences. A believer in the resurrection of Jesus may be considered deluded in the sense that he believes something incorrect, but it's not either of those two types of delusion.
9.19.2009 1:23am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
By the way, just because an incident is "one-off" doesn't mean it can't be investigated. ("Natural experiments" are usually one-off affairs that are used to investigate the evidence in favor or against a particular scientific theory.) If Jesus' miracles are rehashes of local legends or myths, and science gives us good reason to doubt that the related episode is impossible within our known framework of the universe, you can't just then use your free get-out-of-Jail card and label the episode "a miracle" to dis-invite scrutiny. Imagine theology after Lyell but before Darwin, Watson &Crick -- "Well, OK, so the Earth appears to be considerably older than 6000 years old. But how do you know that humans didn't originate in Ur, as opposed to your ridiculous theory promoting the eastern coast of Namibia? How'd you get that one anyway? What, did you go to Heaven and ask Adam himself?" Bet that imaginary theologian never figured on mitochondrial DNA or likelihood-based phylogenetics. I doubt very much that Religion wants to place a bet on how much we'll "know" in the future given its past track record.
9.19.2009 1:30am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
A miracle outside the purview of Science, that is.
9.19.2009 1:32am
PAT C (mail):
Porkchop, way up there at the beginning, said almost exactly what I was going to say.

I would only vote for a Bill Foster if the other candidate was even worse - someone like Rod Blagojevich, for example.
9.19.2009 1:34am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cato:

Go back far enough and "literal truth" is a meaningless concept. After all there is a reason we refer to it in terms of writing.

There have been a number of good studies done on the effect of writing and also of the printing press on consciousness and human thought. Works by Eric Havelock, Walter Ong, and others have shead a great deal of light on the way in which deep internalization of writing as a primary way of referring to knowledge shapes our concepts of truth, and even our very psychodynamics. Those oral modes of psychodynamics have not been and cannot be erased by a few thousand years of a new technology (writing suitable for preserving knowledge).

The problem with the NOMA argument that the Pope makes is that there is an idea that the soul is somehow both something that exists in an almost scientific manner (but epistemologically outside science for observation-related reasons). Unfortunately this renders religion and theology in the literal category in which it cannot eventually survive. Even Paul said "the letter kills but the spirit gives life." (Just pointing out where this leads to the death of Christianity even in the Bible.)

At the same time, NOMA makes sense on a different level. Science cannot answer what are perhaps the most worthwhile questions, such as how to live a good life, or whether a given change in values is good for society. This is because science is a tool and receives its necessary guidance from our cultural framework. The Pope's view of NOMA (shared by Prof. Gould) makes a lot of sense here.

My argument however, is rather different. I see religion as a deep part of ethical culture. To contemplate religion in literal, logical, or rational terms is to kill it. Instead it provides a series of exemplary models which are time-tested* and built up over the course of a long conservative tradition. These exemplary models are not models of how the universe LITERALLY works, but how the universe situationally works, that is how we experience it and how we participate in it.

* We can argue about ethics of past customs and modern standards for such. But what cannot be disputed is that these models have functioned well in the past. -- end footnote

In this view, religion is a cultural expression that exists close to the human experience of life, that is not objectively distanced, and that is fundamentally participatory. In short, the myths are meant to be lived. We live as did our gods. What they did gives meaning to our actions and places our re-enactments of this in the greater cosmological world.

There is a problem though with Nicene Christianity and Islam which is that these religions are defined by BELIEF in a literal sense. Interestingly only these two religions and their spinoffs have this trait as it is missing in Judaism. These two religions then (Christianity and Islam) are fundamentally irreconcilable with science because they seek quite explicitly to be framed in the same sort of thought.

This is not the way other religions approach things. While Christians tend to feel that they have to choose between Genesis and science, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews do not feel they have to make an equivalent choice. To such thinkers in other religions, science may tell us the universal truth, but the religious cosmogony shws a pattern that can be seen in it, if one meditates on it or searches for it long enough. The difference is to the Christian or the Muslim, the holy books describe life as it literally is. To other religion the holy books and mythic traditions describe life in patterns which give it meaning.

It is an easy mistake to treat all religions as in opposition to, rather than complimentary to, rational, scientific inquiry. Most religions in the world are in the latter category, but the two largest world religions are in the former category.*

* This doesn't mean that specific sects in other religions won't take a literalist view. However, they tend to be fewer and less influential, and they aren't backed by the core proposition that religion is what you believe.
9.19.2009 1:48am
Hedberg:
I am particularly thinking of those who have posted to this thread claiming that there is no difference between Young Earth Creationism and belief in the Resurrection of Christ (or other Biblical miracles).

I don't see much difference. Surely, if God is sufficiently powerful to raise himself from the dead he is sufficiently powerful to create the geological record in not much more than a week or two. If you can allow for a miracle to turn water into wine, you must allow for a miracle to plant the evidence for evolution, must you not?

And as for "witness testimony" as to the miracles of Jesus, what witness testimony? The four gospels (with Mark being the first) were written by anonymous authors years after the events discussed. In all probability, the stories were written by people who were not witnesses to the events, probably people who did not know any witnesses to the events. This is most well known with respect to the resurrection story in Mark (from which all the other resurrection stories derive) which is an interpolation not included by the original author[s] and the entire book of John which was written by multiple authors and possibly not finished in the form we know it until, perhaps, 125 a.d.

Somewhere in, I believe, Kentucky, some clown has a creationism museum which includes a display of a dinosaur wearing a saddle. This display in Kentucky is evidence that people and dinosaurs co-existed exactly as the Biblical accounts are evidence of miraculous events.

So, it is correct to say that science cannot prove the Bible's stories of miracles to be cruel hoaxes, just as science cannot prove the falsity of the flying spaghetti monster or the claims of young earth creationists that God created the earth 6,000 years ago pretty much in its current state.
9.19.2009 2:07am
yankee (mail):
And as for "witness testimony" as to the miracles of Jesus, what witness testimony? The four gospels (with Mark being the first) were written by anonymous authors years after the events discussed. In all probability, the stories were written by people who were not witnesses to the events, probably people who did not know any witnesses to the events.

Even if we assumed that the books were written by witnesses to some of the events described, there's a lot that could not have been. Was the author of Matthew able to watch Joseph's dreams through telepathy? Was he spying on King Herod's discussions with his advisors? Did he come along with Jesus when Satan was tempting him? Was he spying on Jesus when he prayed alone at Gethsemane?
9.19.2009 3:50am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Hedberg: bigots often react to what they think someone is saying instead of what the other party actually said.

The witness testimony (which is at best hearsay evidence) for the miracles of the New Testament cannot be independently verified. Belief or disbelief in this testimony is a personal choice.

Yes, God could "create the geological record in... a week or two". This is a well-known thesis, called omphalism.

It is compatible with science, because it claims that the evidence was created by God to be consistent with geology. But that is not what Young Earthers believe; they believe that the actual geological record shows a young earth, dinosaurs with cavemen, etc., which is scientifically false.
9.19.2009 6:42am
geokstr (mail):

Hedberg:
Surely, if God is sufficiently powerful to raise himself from the dead he is sufficiently powerful to create the geological record in not much more than a week or two. If you can allow for a miracle to turn water into wine, you must allow for a miracle to plant the evidence for evolution, must you not?

However, one can question the credibility of a "god" who plants an amazingly intricate and totally interrelated/integrated entire universe full of such false evidence, down to the last detail, that serves no useful purpose other than to trick his minions into concluding (with the brains he gave them) that the universe is 13 billion years old and that evolution did occur. And then he authors a supposedly "infallible" book (through his faithful servants) that specifically tells them that the universe is only 6,000 years old and that all that evidence he planted is worthless? Why not just make everything, well, like, look 6,000 years old or something?

Now there's a god I can believe in, for sure.

Really, you should visit the talkorigins site I linked to above to see the incredibly bizarre theories from YECS (and the more intricately woven ones of the Intelligent Design folks) of how the universe really works. The section on the "flood" is especially hilarious, even though it is written in all seriousness.
9.19.2009 8:17am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Hedburg:

And as for "witness testimony" as to the miracles of Jesus, what witness testimony? The four gospels (with Mark being the first) were written by anonymous authors years after the events discussed. In all probability, the stories were written by people who were not witnesses to the events, probably people who did not know any witnesses to the events.


Most likely most of these stories were transposed from various Hellenistic mystery cults.
9.19.2009 12:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
For those who are arguing that religion should be a direct factor, would you hold my adherence to Norse Paganism against me if I ran for office?

After all, I am very much in favor of traditional Viking family values.....
9.19.2009 12:17pm
Hedberg:
Hedberg: bigots often react to what they think someone is saying instead of what the other party actually said.

Yes, and sometimes those whom you would label as bigots react to what you actually write.

Science tells us a great deal about how the world works. It tells us how conception works, where wine comes from, what happens to dead bodies after three days. Then there are the stories in the Bible which appear to contradict what science tells us about the world. In the Bible we find "witness testimony" relating the creation story, the story of Jonah, the story of Moses, the story of Jesus. None of these stories can be verified, none of them can be proven false.

We've got Bible stories that tell of the resurrection of Jesus and we've got a display in Kentucky that shows a dinosaur with a saddle, which is to say that some fool believes that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time. If one can be squared with science by claiming that miracles are consistent with science, than so can the other. If God can raise himself from the dead, he can put dinosaurs and humans on the earth at the same time.

Let me state this clearly: the "witness testimony" in the Bible for the historical truth of the New Testament stories is exactly of a kind with the "witness testimony" of people who have seen the display of the dinosaur with the saddle. If science doesn't tell us that all of these claims are false, it doesn't tell us anything at all.

As for what "young earth creationists" believe, it would seem that at the core they believe in the literal truth of the Biblical creation story and that those events described in the Bible occurred some 6,000 years ago (plus or minus, I suppose). About how any individual believer reconciles the "witness testimony" in the Bible with scientific evidence of what we know about the universe, I have no idea.
9.19.2009 1:32pm
Careless:


However, one can question the credibility of a "god" who plants an amazingly intricate and totally interrelated/integrated entire universe full of such false evidence, down to the last detail, that serves no useful purpose other than to trick his minions into concluding (with the brains he gave them) that the universe is 13 billion years old and that evolution did occur. And then he authors a supposedly "infallible" book (through his faithful servants) that specifically tells them that the universe is only 6,000 years old and that all that evidence he planted is worthless? Why not just make everything, well, like, look 6,000 years old or something?

Now there's a god I can believe in, for sure.

That's a line I can see the god of Job crossing
9.19.2009 2:00pm
sureyoubet:
Democrats seem to believe that government can solve all problems by taxing more and throwing more money at them, that people won't act rationally in response to economic incentives, and that if they do, it's only because they are greedy and mean. The evidence that these beliefs are pure fantasy is much more recent, clear and verifiable compared to that against young earth creationism.... Lots of people with insane "religious" beliefs get elected all the time.
9.19.2009 2:14pm
HoyaBlue:
Rich Rostrom:
"The witness testimony (which is at best hearsay evidence) for the miracles of the New Testament cannot be independently verified. Belief or disbelief in this testimony is a personal choice."

This would be true if said witness testimony actually existed. It does not. Find me a first or even second hand account of any of Jesus' miracles, and then we can discuss this point.

einhverfr:
"For those who are arguing that religion should be a direct factor, would you hold my adherence to Norse Paganism against me if I ran for office?"

In a perfect world, yes. Unfortunately, I'm rather limited in my choices in this regard; just about everyone who runs for office and is actually a serious candidate is an adherent of some religion, usually Christianity. I have to choose from the options I'm given. So I must be content with merely criticizing the extra-crazy (i.e. believing in BOTH young earth and the resurrection is sillier than believing in just the resurrection).
9.19.2009 2:17pm
Cornet of Horse:
"Let me state this clearly: the "witness testimony" in the Bible for the historical truth of the New Testament stories is exactly of a kind with the "witness testimony" of people who have seen the display of the dinosaur with the saddle."

That's begging the question.
9.19.2009 2:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Hoyablue:

Unfortunately, I'm rather limited in my choices in this regard; just about everyone who runs for office and is actually a serious candidate is an adherent of some religion, usually Christianity.


So, you would prefer to only vote for atheists, right? Better yet you would be happy with a "secular humanists only in public office" Constitutional amendment, right?

My point though is that Christianity and Islam are unique in how they prioritize belief. You can be a Hindu or a Norse Pagan and think the gods are just nice metaphors we create in our search for truth. You can't do that with Christ and be a Christian. You can't do that with Allah be a Muslim.

In short MOST world religions allow a rather wide set of BELIEFS running from functional atheism to literalism. Christianity and Islam are alone in how narrow the allowable beliefs are.

The problem is that we think about religion as a set of beliefs rather than a system of thought. Those seem similar on the surface, but most religions outside of Christianity and Islam see the question of what one believes to be separable from what religion one follows.
9.19.2009 2:48pm
HoyaBlue:
"So, you would prefer to only vote for atheists, right? Better yet you would be happy with a "secular humanists only in public office" Constitutional amendment, right?"

No, mostly due to the law of unintended consequences. I think that such a restriction on freedom of religion would do more havoc than good, and I'm wary of the precedent it would set.

So basically, in my personal behavior, yes. In statute, no.
9.19.2009 3:14pm
HoyaBlue:
And that said, I don't consider religion to be a minimum bar. If I were to agree with someone on every political issue but they were a Southern Baptist, and the other person was an atheist with whom I fundamentally disagreed with on other major points, it would be a very easy decision in favor of the former.

Ability to display rational thinking processes with regard to religious belief is a factor to be considered, not an absolute requirement.
9.19.2009 3:17pm
one of many:
If I may make a potential statement of heresy stemming from my fundamentalist agnosticism:


Cannot be heretical with that disclaimer. Heresy can only exist when ascribing tenants to a religion, remember Galileo and how everyone pleaded with him to just change his work to merely state that his observations and physics showed that the Earth revolved around the sun. If he would have given up his principals and only said that he would have been fine (as everyone pleaded with him to do), but he stuck to his guns and said that Christian dogma supported the idea of the Earth revolving around the sun and thus he went before the Inquisition.
9.19.2009 3:46pm
Ken Arromdee:
Surely, if God is sufficiently powerful to raise himself from the dead he is sufficiently powerful to create the geological record in not much more than a week or two.

But this doesn't describe actual creationists. They don't say "the evidence looks like it points to evolution, but its appearance is a miracle and evolution didn't really happen." They claim that the evidence points to creation--not in a "God made it look like evolution" way, but in a very direct way: evolution believers are misinterpreting the fossils willfully, the dinosaurs were killed by the Flood and the evidence shows it, carbon dating is nonsense, etc.
9.19.2009 8:25pm
Eli Rabett (www):
An atheist couldn't get elected dog catcher in the US
9.19.2009 8:39pm
Dave N (mail):
Eli Rabbett,

At least one professed atheist is a member of Congress, Pete Stark.

He's also a jackass, but his religious views (or lack thereof) formed no part that assessment.
9.19.2009 10:31pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'd like to say he's clueless about science to a degree one should not expect from anyone with a high school education. Unfortunately, that describes a vast swathe of politicians from both parties (for various reasons) so if you excluded people on that basis there'd probably be lots of elections in which you'd have no one eligible for your vote.

I look at it in sort of the reverse way - any candidate with a Ph.D. in a "hard" science (e.g. physics, chemistry etc., not economics or the so-called social sciences) gets my vote unless there's some other problem with his candidacy to defeat that presumption. I do that to try to compensate for the fact that science and math geeks tend not to be attracted to politics, which leads to public policy decisions being dominated by humanities and law grads who think the theory of relativity has something to do with marrying your cousin.
9.19.2009 11:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Ken Arromdee:

But this doesn't describe actual creationists. They don't say "the evidence looks like it points to evolution, but its appearance is a miracle and evolution didn't really happen." They claim that the evidence points to creation--not in a "God made it look like evolution" way, but in a very direct way: evolution believers are misinterpreting the fossils willfully, the dinosaurs were killed by the Flood and the evidence shows it, carbon dating is nonsense, etc.


Ummm... I have met creationists who make that specific argument, that God planted the evidence, etc. to test our faith.
9.19.2009 11:29pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Could we just agree that the word most folks want, here, is TENET and not tenant?

I would feel so much better about this conversation if we could achieve consensus on that.
9.20.2009 12:18am
ChrisTS (mail):
einhverfr and Ken A:

One 'explanation' I have always found deeply strange runs along these lines:

"God placed those fossils and dinosaur prints and things to (a) trick the faithless into believing in evolution, or (b) keep humans from knowing what they should not know (as in Babel), or (c)just generally trick humans."

None of these variants ever struck me as presenting very attractive conceptions of a deity. The first seems like entrapment; the second suggests an insecure all-powerful being; the third is just ugly and irrational.

Nonetheless, I have heard all these more than once or twice over the years.
9.20.2009 12:24am
Leo Marvin (mail):
einhverfr and Chris, I have to reject that practical-joking, creationist God, if only because it sounds like he's having more fun than my God.
9.20.2009 12:38am
ChrisTS (mail):
Leo Marvin:

But, surely, a fun god could have fun without having it at the very mean expense of her/his/its most beloved creatures?

You know: it's one thing to trick a beloved cat into a paper bag and laugh at its silly efforts to fight its way out the wrong end; it would be quite another thing to do that to one's one-year old child.

Maybe this is just wishful thinking? :-)
9.20.2009 12:51am
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
Looks like a lot of you are treating politicians' answers that read as if they have a religious basis, if they're sincere -- very doubtful -- as proxies for tests of knowledge or intelligence. Ever hear of a useful idiot? What reason can you give me to think that it's better for me if the people who have power over me are more knowledgeable or smarter?

In today's world, at least in food and drug law, the more knowledgeable our masters are, the less freedom that leaves us. When our masters learn of and prove to their satisfaction bioaffecting properties of certain articles, for instance, they are duty bound to invoke certain restrictions on our handling of them. We would be better off if they knew less and took longer to learn what they know.

As to compartmentaliz'n, in psychiatry I was taught that religious beliefs were to be discounted in determining whether someone had crazy thoughts.

BTW, einhverfr, I'm interested to see that the understanding that the gods are part of us is more widespread in Norse paganism than I'd realized. It's central to The Church of Balder Rising, but I'd thought that was breaking new ground in Odinism; shows how little I knew about contemporary northern paganism.

The Church of Balder Rising is attempting the sort of Elija testing described above, to set the religion on knowledge rather than faith. One project is to see whether and to what degree particular rune chants can affect human healing at a distance. It'll take a long time to build up N to a statistically useful number for the vast number of combinations possible, but gotta start somewhere.
9.20.2009 2:02am
Cornet of Horse:
LM,

Your God is having plenty of fun. It's not for nothing the first sign of the big blessing is named Isaac (laughter).

As for the whole creationist obsession, it all smells to me like still getting back at the (old, fat, bald, likely not too successful) high school quarterback because he dissed you back in the day. Sure, we need debunkers to keep the foolishness in check, but a whole movement premised on fighting these clowns pales in comparison to the great liberal movements of the past.

We can do better. Who knows, that quarterback might join too.
9.20.2009 9:35am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Bob Goodman:

BTW, einhverfr, I'm interested to see that the understanding that the gods are part of us is more widespread in Norse paganism than I'd realized. It's central to The Church of Balder Rising, but I'd thought that was breaking new ground in Odinism; shows how little I knew about contemporary northern paganism.


See my book. I diverge a lot from various Norse Pagan groups. However my case is based on close readings of source material in original languages.

This comes from an idea that first occurred to me in 1998, that Yggdrassil was a human model (so the perennial arguments over "ash" or "yew" are somewhat missing the point). I discovered through studying Voluspa in Old Norse that there were reasons to see "I know an ash [O.N. Ask] called Yggdrassil" to be a continuation of the previous stanzas, which were about the creation of man and woman from "Ask" (Ash) and Embla (meaning obscure-- could mean "elm," "vine," or "ornament").

Based on various elements of Eddic poetics, I concluded that "ein ask" (an ash) is actually best translated as "a man." This is borne out in other references to the Tree in Vafthrudhnismal, Grimnismal, etc. Furthermore comparative studies show similar isomorphism of trees and humans in Greek and Indian mythology.

This isn't anything that most Norse Pagans pay any attention to-- most are content to simplified modern ideas based on translations of older documents. This is particularly true of Odinism per se. There are some other branches of Norse paganism though where there is more study and includes an autotheist element (the Odhianism of the Rune Gild is a good example).
9.20.2009 11:59am
ChrisTS (mail):
Bob Goodman:

What reason can you give me to think that it's better for me if the people who have power over me are more knowledgeable or smarter?

Because they will have power over you. If you think that smart folks who figure out the things you wish our leaders would not figure out will be unable to control dumb leaders, you have too much faith in stupidity.
9.20.2009 1:06pm
Cornet of Horse:
ChrisTS,

More leaders, Chris, disperse the power.
9.20.2009 1:23pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Cornet,

I was kidding. I don't dis anyone's God, among other things since one kind of fun I assume my God does have is masquerading as everyone else's.

More important, how are you?
9.20.2009 4:33pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Cornet:

More leaders, Chris, disperse the power.

But not more dumb ones, right?

I echo LM's query: how are you doing?
9.20.2009 5:53pm
Cornet of Horse:
ChrisTS and LM,

I managed not to die I think. Just a worse version of the normal flu, thankfully. We had a kid get it last week, then several students in my Alg II class were out, then, with my immunosuppressants from the transplant, I guess I was an easy mark.

Hope to get back to work by Tuesday, and thus back off of the VC. Good to be back, if only for a short time.

As for dumb leaders, how dare you use such a category! Aren't you down with the latest from Ed School?

I'm only 80% joking. I do think that Gardner's on to something, and that masters of abstraction like myself who test out well may not be the savviest judges of leadership potential. Hey, the more leaders, the more diversity, that's a good thing too, right?

What I like to see, however, is more competition. Keeps the blooding pumping to the brain.
9.20.2009 6:42pm
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
If you don't mind my plugging it, here's The Church of Balder Rising.
9.21.2009 1:23am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Bob Goodman:

Interesting. Seems like an odd new-agy cousin to The Rune-Gild.

At some point I will probably have to put all my research into Balder into a paper. Howeer I have several other papers in the process of being written so that will have to wait. The current two that are closest to completion are:

Myths, Archetypes, Magic, and Orality (based in writings of Mircea Eliad, Walter Ong, and others).

Aspects of Fate in Old Norse Literature (based on various sagas and Eddic works, and with comparisons to Greek, Irish, and Indian models).
9.21.2009 11:48am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(I don't mean "odd new-agy" in a bad way btw-- one of the glories of heathenism is that there is more room for diversity than there is among Christianity or Islam.)
9.21.2009 11:58am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(I was going to compare The Church of Balder Rising to the Order of the Trapezoid too, and after reading more, that seems close tot he mark as well. Not that this is bad-- I have a lot of respect for OT folks. But neither the CoBR nor the OT is exactly my horn of mead.)
9.21.2009 2:37pm
Seamus (mail):

I don't see much difference. Surely, if God is sufficiently powerful to raise himself from the dead he is sufficiently powerful to create the geological record in not much more than a week or two. If you can allow for a miracle to turn water into wine, you must allow for a miracle to plant the evidence for evolution, must you not?



Sure, I allow it as a possibility. I just don't see why I it would make any sense for God to do that. (Raising from the dead, yeah, I see why God might choose to do that.) In fact, the only reason anybody believes that God in fact did in fact create a deceptive geological record is that they think they are constrained by their scriptures to believe it.

(Personally, I believe Slartibartfast is the one who made the world with a deceptive geolgical record, and that he did it for the lulz.)
9.21.2009 5:18pm

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