Thursday, June 21, 2007

Believers and Unbelievers

The Barna Group has released the results of a new survey which examines differences and similarities between people who claim a religious faith commitment, primarily Christianity, and those who embrace atheism/agnosticism:

[The] new survey shows there is indeed a significant gap between Christians and those Americans who are in the "no-faith" camp. For instance, most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam. At the same time, two-thirds of Christians (63%) who have an active faith perceive that the nation is becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity. ("Active faith" was defined as simply having gone to church, read the Bible and prayed during the week preceding the survey.)

The "reality-based" folk, as they are pleased to call themselves, see no difference between those who balk at killing babies and legalizing non-traditional forms of marriage and those who strap bombs to their babies' carriages so that they can blow to bits other people's babies. The reality-based crowd, or at least a majority of them, sees no difference between those who prefer that gays not demand that their relationships be endorsed by the larger society and those who hang gays for being gay. One marvels at the strange reality the majority of atheist/agnostics are living in.

One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by atheists and agnostics in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%). They are also more likely to be registered to vote as an independent or with a non-mainstream political party.

In other words, atheists/agnostics tend to be more oriented toward themselves than toward others. No surprise here. The default position in human ethics is egoism. Atheism affords no non-subjective basis for caring about the welfare of others. People have to have a transcendent incentive to teach their young to respect and care about those they don't know, and they have to be able to give their young a reason when their young ask them why they should do it. Unfortunately, if there is no God there is no reason.

One of the outcomes of this profile - and one of the least favorable points of comparison for atheist and agnostic adults - is the paltry amount of money they donate to charitable causes. The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500). Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults.

Like I was saying....


The Materialists' Tar Baby

The editors at Nature are a bit confused. They want to take Senator Sam Brownback to task for an editorial he wrote in the New York Times defending his position on evolution, but they wind up producing an argument whose conclusion is that either Brownback is right or Intelligent Design is scientific. I doubt that they want to advance either of these claims, but that seems to be the logic of their position as Michael Egnor explains:

In a remarkable editorial, the editors of Nature recently responded to Senator Sam Brownback's essay What I Think about Evolution in the New York Times. Senator Brownback wrote:

"The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it...."

Referring to materialistic evolutionary theories for the emergence of the human mind, Senator Brownback notes:

"...Aspects of these theories that undermine [the] truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."

Natures' editors took Brownback to task for 'crossing lines':

"...there are lines that should not be crossed, and in a recent defence of his beliefs and disbeliefs in the matter of evolution, US Senator Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas) crosses at least one."

They asserted, with confidence in their science:

"Humans evolved, body and mind, from earlier primates. The ways in which humans think reflect this heritage ... the idea that human minds are the product of evolution is not atheistic theology. It is unassailable fact."

The editors assert that the emergence of the human mind without intelligent design is an 'unassailable fact'. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this claim, aside from the problems with their interpretation of the scientific evidence itself, is the admission by the editors that the question of intelligent design in biology can be adjudicated by the scientific method.

If the evidence for or against intelligent design can be evaluated scientifically - as the editors at Nature firmly assert that it can - then intelligent design is a real scientific inference, albeit, according to the Nature editors, a mistaken one. And if they are asserting that intelligent design is mistaken from a non-scientific standpoint, then the editors are advancing an atheistic theology, as Brownback pointed out.

The mainstay of the materialists' argument against intelligent design has been that it isn't science. Yet, as the Nature editors inadvertently demonstrate so clearly, the materialists' argument against intelligent design is self-refuting; they argue that intelligent design isn't science, and that it's scientifically wrong. Yet if intelligent design is scientifically wrong - if it is an 'unassailable fact' that the human mind is the product of evolution, not intelligent design - then the design inference can be investigated (and, they claim, refuted) using the scientific method. Then intelligent design is science.

Either the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a scientific analysis of the design inference, or the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a non-scientific analysis of the design inference, which would be, as Senator Brownback observed, atheistic theology posing as science.

Either intelligent design is science, or Senator Brownback got it right.

Intelligent Design is the materialists' tar baby. The harder they flail about trying to discredit ID and its advocates the more they entangle themselves in their own confused rhetoric. It's pretty funny to watch.


Fire Up Ol' Sparky

Here's why we need capital punishment, but I'd settle for mandatory emasculation:

British police, aided by U.S. authorities, have smashed a global Internet pedophile ring that broadcast live-streamed videos of children being abused, investigating more than 700 suspects worldwide and rescuing 31 children in a 10-month probe, officials said Monday.

The ring was traced to an Internet chat room called "Kids the Light of Our Lives" that featured images of children being subjected to horrific sexual abuse, including the streaming live videos.

Read the rest of the article at the link. The electric chair used to be called "ol' Sparky." For people like these a ride in ol' Sparky would be an act of consummate mercy given the punishment they actually deserve.