Jeffrey Tayler on Ben Carson; Frank Bruni on lies about gays and transgenders and Houston; Lee McIntyre on science denialism; how Einstein, proved right again and again over the past century, was resisted on political grounds

Salon: You know Ben Carson is crazy, right? Let’s discuss the craziest things he actually believes

Jeffrey Tayler summarizes Carson’s Seventh Adventist faith — a faith built upon a failed prediction of the end of the world, back in 1843, by a group that resembles the recent Harold Camping chieftan who foresaw the end of the world in 1994, and then again in May 2011, and then again in October 2011, none of which came true, just as all the similar predictions by religious cults over the centuries have never come true. But the Seventh Adventists are apparently still anticipating the end of the world any day now. Is this someone you would elect President of the United States?..?

Jeffrey Tayler has ways with words: (my bold)

Incontrovertibly, the “real aspects” of Christianity are a ludicrous creation myth that science long ago debunked, barbaric human sacrifice (the crucifixion), and a Lord so vain he drew up the Ten Commandments so that the first three were all about Himself. I won’t go on, except to say that God so misjudged His creation that He had to send His kid down to Earth to be tortured to death to save us, which speaks volumes about the “divine wisdom” with which all Christians credit Him.


Carson commits semantic fraud when he then tells the reporter that “people need to understand that everybody is a person of faith. It’s just a matter of what they decide to put their faith in.” He later in the interview muses that “everybody has their own personal faith. Even atheists and secular progressives have their faith. It’s just in something different.”

No, Dr. Carson (and all who use this crass subterfuge to try and sneak religion into the Halls of Respectability), unsubstantiated belief in the supernatural has nothing to do with rationalist convictions standing upon evidence, or falling if the evidence changes. It’s very much your decision to ignore the science that gave you your profession and throw your lot in with devotees of the supernatural. It’s very much not the same sort of decision to prefer evidence-based conclusions to wishful thinking. Rationalists would accept the existence of God were there any evidence for it. There is not. Rationalists are adults.


Today’s New York Times: Frank Bruni: Sex, Lies and Houston

And we’ll someday cringe about this, just as most Americans now cringe about the verbal garbage that was thrown at gay people, the lies that were told, the lies that were believed. I recently ran across some research that made reference to a 1970 survey in which 73.5 percent of Americans agreed that ‘homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children’ and 71.1 supported the statement that ‘homosexuals try to play sexually with children if they cannot get an adult partner.’”

The arc of history: things do change, culturally, though there will always be isolated hold-outs.


And this: The Price of Denialism, by Lee McIntyre, author of Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age.

A good first step would be to distinguish between skepticism and what has come to be known as denialism. In other words, we need to be able to tell when we believe or disbelieve in something based on high standards of evidence and when we are just engaging in a bit of motivated reasoning and letting our opinions take over. When we withhold belief because the evidence does not live up to the standards of science, we are skeptical. When we refuse to believe something, even in the face of what most others would take to be compelling evidence, we are engaging in denial. In most cases, we do this because at some level it upsets us to think that the theory is true.


In scientific reasoning, there is such a thing as warrant. Our beliefs must be justified. This means that we should believe what the evidence tells us, even while science insists that we must also try our best to show how any given theory might be wrong. Science will sometimes miss the mark, but its successful track record suggests that there is no superior competitor in discovering the facts about the empirical world. The fact that scientists sometimes make mistakes in their research or conclusions is no reason for us to prefer opinions over facts.


And this: How Politics Shaped General Relativity.

Einstein’s theory of general realitivy was resisted on political grounds…

Sadly, events quickly proved Einstein right. Just months after Eddington’s announcement, right-wing political opportunists in war-ravaged Germany began to organize raucous anti-Einstein rallies. Only an effete Jew, they argued, could remove “force” from modern physics; those of true Aryan spirit, they went on, shared an intuitive sense of “force” from generations of working the land. Soon after the Nazis seized power in 1933, they banned the teaching of Einstein’s work within the Reich. Einstein settled in Princeton, N.J.; the German relativity community was decimated.

To this day, they are deniers, about general relativity and of course evolution and anything that would challenge religous myths: see Conservapedia. Despite the evidence, as this article concludes, (my bold)

Twenty years later, theoretical physicists briefed United States Air Force generals on a subtle complication with a new military technology, the Global Positioning System. Effects from Earth’s gravity would be stronger on the ground than in orbit, the physicists explained, and hence clocks on the ground would tick more slowly than those aboard satellites. If the clocks disagreed on time, they would also disagree on space, and that could spell trouble for this technology. If left uncorrected, the tiny differences in clock rates would snowball into enormous errors in determining distances. With GPS, the warping of time that Einstein imagined assumed operational significance. (Later, GPS was opened to the commercial market, and now billions of people rely on general relativity to find their place in the world, every single day.)

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