Creationist stakes $10,000 on contest between Bible and evolution

Creator of Literal Genesis Trial believes people who argue in favor of evolution are at a scientific disadvantage

Californiacreationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Dr Joseph Mastropaolo, who says he has set up the contest, the Literal Genesis Trial, in the hope of improving the quality of arguments between creationists and evolutionists, has pledged to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account before the debate. His competitor would be expected to do the same. The winner would take the $20,000 balance.

The argument would not be made in a formal court, but under an alternative dispute resolution model known as a minitrial. Mastropaolo said he would present the argument in favor of a literal interpretation of the creation story once he had found a willing scientist to argue that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis is more scientific.

"They [evolutionists] are not stupid people, they are bright, but they are bright enough to know there is no scientific evidence they can give in a minitrial," Mastropaolo said.

A minitrial differs from a regular trial because it does not need to be held in a courthouse and does not require the presence of traditional court figures. Mastropaolo plans to have a bailiff and court reporter in attendance, along with the judge. Contest rules state that evidence must be scientific, which means it is “objective, valid, reliable and calibrated”.

Mastropaolo believes thatevolutioncannot be proved scientifically. “It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving, everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction,” he said.

Mastropaolo started making public arguments in favor ofcreationismabout 13 years ago, after reading an article about evolution in the newspaper. He has a PhD in kinesiology and taught biomechanics and physiology at a California university for more than 25 years. He is now a contributing writer at theCreation Science Hall of Fame, which is collaborating with him for the minitrial. The Creation Science Hall of Fame is a website, launched in February 2012, that honors those who have made contributions to creation science.

A majority of scientists disavow creationism, buta June 2012 Gallup pollshowed that 46% of Americans believed in a literal interpretation of the biblical version of creation. Legislation to allow students to be taught religious versions of the creation of life is currently beingconsidered in four states.

The Literal Genesis Trial contest would be held in a courthouse in Santa Ana, California and Mastropaolo has said he will create a list of potential superior court judges to decide the case. The participants would have to agree on a judge. Mastropaolo said that he hopes the trials can improve future debates between evolutionists and creationists by addressing the issue in a legal and scientific way.

"The evolutionists thereafter could read that transcript and make their case a bit stronger on the next one they contend against and we can do the same," Mastropaolo said. "We can read the transcript and not have have to go through the same process over and over and over again without any let up, without any resolution."


Oh wow. 

Let’s keep a tally of how many times he turns down real evidence on some goal-moving stupid technicality. 

But really. This guy should just be ignored. It’s obvious that he has literally no idea of what he’s talking about. For a real scientist to go and ‘debate’ this man, would put a veneer of respectability on him and his ‘evidence’. 

Which is, of course, what he wants.


“A wider, international perspective shows Americans to be far more ordinary in their blending of faith and politics. A brief look at Polish or Philippine politics reveals the Roman Catholic Church constantly muscling in on the political arena, and politicians of all stripes who are only too happy to kowtow to the Church’s assertion of moral authority. Before he became a would-be authoritarian, Viktor Orban in Hungary, for example, became an advocate of religious interests in politics. Ireland, Israel, and Malta are all polities that have been long dominated by religious monopolies accustomed to obtaining enormous concessions in education, the welfare state, and reproductive technologies.”

Mia Bruch & Anna Grzymala-Busse, The Guardian

Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists

Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkinsand Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.

The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move as “highly significant” and predicted that it would have implications for other faith groups looking to run schools.

Dawkins, who was one of the leading lights in the campaign, welcomed confirmation that creationists would not receive funding to run free schools if they sought to portray their views as science. “I welcome all moves to ensure that creationism is not taught as fact in schools,” he said. “Government rules on this are extremely welcome, but they need to be properly enforced.”

Free schools, which are state-funded and run by local people or organisations, do not need to follow the national curriculum. Scientific groups have expressed concerns that their spread will see a reduction in the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of “intelligent design”, as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.

One creationist organisation, Truth in Science, which encourages teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their science teaching, has sent free resources to all secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

A BHA campaign, called “Teach evolution, not creationism”, saw 30 leading scientists and educators call on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism. The group said if the government would not support the call, an explicit amendment to the wording of the funding agreement could have the same effect. Last week the Department for Education confirmed it had amended the agreement, although a spokesman denied it was the result of pressure from scientists. He said the revision made good on a pledge regarding the teaching of creationism given when the education secretary, Michael Gove, was in opposition. “We will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories,” the spokesman said, adding that “all free school proposals will be subject to due diligence checks by the department’s specialist team”.

The revised funding agreement has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for wider concessions from the government.

"It is clear that some faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach myth as though it were science," Dawkins said. "Evolution is fact, supported by evidence from a host of scientific disciplines, and we do a great disservice to our young people if we fail to teach it properly. "

A spokeswoman for the BHA said: “The government’s new wording is quite wide and in practice could prevent those who promote extreme religious or particular spiritual or pseudoscientific approaches from including them as part of the school curriculum as science or as evidence-based.”

The Guardian

Thanks to pintucks for the submission :) 


Muhammad cartoon row: student atheist society claims victory

A university atheist society which sparked a global debate over the publication of a cartoon depicting Jesus and Muhammad on a webpage has declared a victory for freedom of speech after its student union backed away from a demand that the cartoon be removed.

The University College London's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist societygarnered high-profile support from the secularist Richard Dawkins after it refused the student union’s request to remove an image of Jesus and Muhammad sharing a pint from a Facebook page advertising a social event.

A spokesman for University College London's student union said the request to remove the cartoon remained in place, but that decisions regarding advertising for events remained at the discretion of individual societies. “Society presidents take responsibility for their own publicity, and it is not vetted by UCLU prior to distribution,” the union said. “They are provided with equality training prior to running a society, to help them understand the balance between freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity.”

But the atheist society took the move as a climbdown and thanked the thousands of secularists who signed a petition in its support.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the society’s president, Robbie Yellon said: “University College London Union has recognised that mistakes were made and that the initial correspondence with our society was flawed. The union is to review its stance on such matters and has said that this will not happen again. They can no longer call on us to withdraw the image. We welcome these developments, which set an important precedent for other universities. We also feel it appropriate to recognise the swift response of the union, which certainly helped us reach this positive conclusion.”

A spokesman for the students union said that the atheist society had agreed to show more consideration about how it advertised social events, but because of the union’s procedure the society could still face disciplinary action.

"If people continue to complain then we are going to follow normal procedure," said James Skuse, the union’s democracy and communications officer.

He said disciplinary action, which could entail forced resignation of committee members, or disaffiliation from the union, was “one possibility out of many”.

The atheist society used the title page from a comic book, Jesus and Mo, by a pseudonymous British cartoonist called Mohammed Jones, on Facebook last week.

Following complaints from students it was advised by the union on Tuesday that it would be “prudent” to take the cartoon down. The society refused, launching an online petition to “defend freedom of expression at University College London” and criticising “attempts to censor” the society.

By Thursday morning the petition had nearly 3,000 signatures, including that of Richard Dawkins, who left a comment stating: “Jesus and Mo cartoons are wonderfully funny and true. They could offend only those actively seeking to be offended – which says it all.” It also received support from the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies and the New Humanist magazine. The society said it had been astounded by the “unending support”.

The student union said it had “a duty to foster and encourage freedom of expression among our members, ensure diversity of our membership is recognised and pursue equal opportunities for our members”.

The society had been asked to remove the advertisement “because UCLU aims to foster good relations between different groups of students and create a safe environment where all students can benefit from societies regardless of their religious or other beliefs”.

The union had a duty to ensure students were not harassed because of characteristics which may make them appear different to others, including race, gender, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.

The atheist society said it would resist any disciplinary action. “Unfortunately, the union has considered the possibility that posting the image might have constituted an act of bullying, prejudice, harassment or discrimination,” it said. “We firmly believe in the protection of our fellow students through university and union policy; however we cannot accept such a suggestion.”

The society’s president, Robbie Yellon, said he believed disciplinary action was unlikely and dismissed the idea that the society could be guilty of bullying or harassment. “As far as I, and the society, is concerned, that’s an absolutely shocking accusation. If it does happen we will face it and do everything in our power to fight it.”


Christopher Hitchens dies aged 62

Celebrated journalist, writer and unshakeable secularist has died from complications of oesophageal cancer

The writer, journalist and contrarian Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62 after crossing the border into the “land of malady” on being diagnosed with an oesophageal cancer in June 2010. Vanity Fair, for which he had written since 1992 and was made contributing editor, marked his death in a memorial article posted late on Thursday night.

The reactions to Hitchens’s illness from his intellectual opponents – which ranged from undisguised glee to offers of prayers – testified to his stature as one of the leading voices of secularism since the publication in 2007 of his anti-religious polemic God is Not Great. The reaction from the author himself, who after a lifetime of “burning the candle of both ends” described his illness as “something so predictable and banal that it bores even me”, testified to the sharpness of his wit and the clarity of his thinking under fire, as he dissected the discourse of “struggle” that surrounds cancer, paid tribute to the medical staff who looked after him and resolved to “resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice”.

Born in 1949, Hitchens was sent to boarding school at the age of eight, his mother deciding: “If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it.” This resolution pursued him to his time at Oxford, where he confessed to leading a “double life” as both an “ally of the working class” and as a guest at cocktail parties where he could meet “near-legendary members of the establishment’s firmament on nearly equal terms”.

After he graduated in 1970 with a third-class degree, the doors of Fleet Street opened wide for Hitchens, who followed his friend James Fenton into a job at the New Statesman. He began a lifelong friendship with Martin Amis and quickly gained a reputation as a pugnacious leftwing commentator, excoriating targets such as the Roman Catholic church, the Vietnam war and Henry Kissinger in dazzling essays, news reports and book reviews.

A resolution to spend time at least once a year in “a country less fortunate than [his] own” spurred him to witness the stirrings of revolution in Portugal and Poland, as well as counter-revolution in Argentina. His mother’s death in Athens, killing herself in a suicide pact with her lover, saw him reporting on the overthrow of the Greek junta in 1973.

Expeditions followed to Romania, Nicaragua, Malaysia and beyond. Hitchens travelled to post-war Iraq in 2006, Uganda in 2007 and Venezuela in 2008. A report for the New Statesman from Beirut brought rare praise from his father, a former navy officer who telephoned to say the piece was “very good”, and that he “thought it rather brave … to go there”. This validation was all the sweeter for a son who believed he’d always disappointed his father “by not being good at cricket or rugger”.

New York offered an escape from the contradictions of the British class system that Hitchens grabbed with both hands, when the offer of a job on the left-leaning weekly magazine the Nation came in 1981. Columns for and Vanity Fair followed, with Hitchens consummating his love affair with American life when he took US citizenship in 2007.

Meanwhile he maintained an intense rivalry with his younger brother Peter, who followed him into journalism but found his place on the opposite side of the political spectrum, working first for the Daily Express and then the Mail on Sunday. Both downplayed talk of a rift, but Peter confessed in 2009 that they were “not close”. “If we weren’t brothers we wouldn’t know each other,” he said.

One of the many issues that divided the brothers was the 2003 Iraq war, with Peter arguing that the war was “against Britain’s interests”, while Christopher supported a war that he suggested would stop Saddam Hussein using the country as “his own personal torture chamber”.

His advocacy for the Iraq war was only the latest of Hitchens’s positions that many on the left found uncomfortable, and led to a chill in his relations with Gore Vidal, who had once nominated him a “successor, an inheritor, a dauphin or delphino”. But Hitchens’s opposition to what he called “fascism with an Islamic face” began long before 9/11, with the fatwa on his friend Salman Rushdie, imposed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Hitchens accused of “using religion to mount a contract killing”, after the publication of The Satanic Verses.

Religion, or at least a fierce aversion to it, fuelled Hitchens’s ascent towards celebrity, particularly in his adopted homeland, after the publication of God is Not Great in 2007. In it he argued that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry”, notching up sales of more than 500,000 copies.

Hitchens gave short shrift to the “insulting” suggestion that cancer might persuade him to change his position where reason had not, arguing that to ditch principles “held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favour at the last minute” would be a “hucksterish choice”, and urging those who had taken it upon themselves to pray for him not to “trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries”.

Writing in his 2010 memoir, Hitch-22, Hitchens said that he hoped and believed his “advancing age has not quite shamed my youth”, disavowing the “‘simple’ ordinary propositions” of his younger days in favour of the maxim that “it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties”.

"One reason, then, that I would not relive my life," he continued, "is that one cannot be born knowing such things, but must find them out, even when they then seem bloody obvious, for oneself."

The Guardian

Such sad, sad news. I’m going to miss the ol’curmudgeon and his remarkable brain. 


“Christian Concern might be dismissed as a small, rightwing group, although the ideas it peddles — particularly the absurd notion that Christians as a whole are facing discrimination in Britain — have gained ground far beyond their natural constituency.”

Symon Hill, Guardian

'My daughter deserved to die for falling in love'

Two weeks ago, The Observer revealed how 17-year-old student Rand Abdel-Qader was beaten to death by her father after becoming infatuated with a British soldier in Basra. In this remarkable interview, Abdel-Qader Ali explains why he is unrepentant - and how police backed his actions. Afif Sarhan in Basra and Caroline Davies report

Submission from pintucks

Trigger warnings: honour killing, murder, misogyny, descriptions of the attack and murder, all around disgusting example of humanity.

(This report was originally published in 2008)


Richard Dawkins: 'Somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist' - video interview

In the latest in John Harris’s National Conversations series of interviews, Richard Dawkins is invited to defend his atheism. What about the comfort, community, and moral education offered by religion? 

There’s a video and a longer audio clip of the interview at the link.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to view this outside of the UK - but you can give it a go at least!


Atheist Ugandan works his magic on British humanists

James ‘Fat Boy’ Onen has been speaking in the UK of his fight against superstition and religion in Uganda

An atheist talkshow host and 12 “like-minded people” are attempting to tackle superstition, mysticism and witchcraft in Uganda. James “Fat Boy” Onen is an on-air presenter for Sanyu FM and a co-founder ofFreethought Kampala. Through Facebook campaigns, newspaper articles and regular monthly meetings, Onen believes Freethought Kampala is providing the only rational platform for tackling superstition in Uganda.

This month, Onen has been speaking at events around the UK after being invited by the British Humanist Association (BHA). Addressing small gatherings, he said everyday Ugandans were over-reliant on a “mixed bag” of belief in black magic and Pentecostal Christianity.

"On my talkshow, I offer two million Ugandan shillings to anyone that would prove to me that witchcraft works," he told an audience at the Camden Head pub in London this week. "After three months, one person came forward and took me to a witch doctor, of course he could not do anything." He continued: "But that was not sufficient to change people’s minds because they are of the view that evil spirits exist. This is because their pastors are telling them every day that Uganda is cursed and that Uganda suffers from a ‘generational curse’."

He told a story of how a Ugandan primary school was shut down because “demons had possessed the children and the management couldn’t keep the children under control”. Pastors were called but to no avail, explained Onen, who says the children demonstrated symptoms of mass hysteria. This story was not a one-off and was all too common, he said. Meanwhile, Aids victims die because their spiritual leaders advise them not to take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), he claimed. On top of this,Uganda lives under the shadow of the proposed anti-gay bill, which suggests the death penalty in some cases.

Onen “came out” as an atheist in 2008 after a spate of reports on child sacrifice. He said reading all the “bullshit” about superstition and witchcraft in the press made him co-found Freethought Kampala. “I decided that enough was enough. I and some like-minded individuals decided that we should get together to make a rational viewpoint part of the national conversation.”

Before Christianity grew exponentially in Africa, most adhered to African traditional religion, which forms the basis of witchcraft and superstition in Africa. Onen is less critical of the late 19th-century Christian missionaries to Uganda and explained how the protestant preacher Alexander Mackaywould throw magic charms into fire to prove they did not work. Onen believes it was the rise of Pentecostalism in the 1950s, however, which boosted Africans’ fear of spells and superstition. “Charismatic Christianity is making things worse by over-emphasising it, by advertising it, by lending credence to the validity of claims that witchcraft is efficacious, by fully absorbing that worldview into their worldview,” he argued.

When challenged that some Pentecostal churches, such as Watoto Church in Kampala, regularly taught against belief in witchcraft, Onen was dismissive. “I’m not sure how it helps to tell people to not practise witchcraft or to engage in black magic on grounds that it is an evil thing to do while reinforcing the view that it is actually efficacious.”

Commenting on the talks, Joanna Sadgrove, a specialist in African Christianity who has researched in Uganda for 15 years, said Onen did not capture the diversity of expression of religion in Africa. “There are religious leaders who capitalise on people who don’t have control over their lives. There are also Christians who are doing good works in Ugandan society and being part of a community of faith.”

She went on to say: “Witch doctors, child sacrifice and belief in demon possession have been around for years in Uganda, they are just more talked about at the moment because of an increasing western presence in Uganda. Journalists feed a western fascination with these stories and child sacrifice certainly makes the headlines.”

From The Guardian


Vatican recalls ambassador after Irish PM’s comments on sex abuse row

Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza, papal nuncio to Dublin, returns to Rome following Enda Kenny’s attack on Vatican role in cover-up

Relations between the Irish government and the Roman Catholic church reached a historic nadir on Monday when the Vatican recalled its ambassador to Dublin, claiming “excessive reactions” in the Republic to the clerical child sex abuse crisis.

The Vatican confirmed that papal nuncio, archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, was returning to Rome for discussions over a damning report published earlier this month that had accused the Catholic hierarchy of undermining the Irish church’s own policy of reporting child abuse to the authorities.

His recall followed an unprecedented and blistering attack by the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, on the Vatican’s role in the alleged cover-up of abuse in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne.

Vatican watchers claim that a recall is diplomatic speak for “showing displeasure” with some act of the host state and indicates a cooling in relations.

Since a historic denunciation of the Vatican in the Irish parliament last week, Kenny has become something of a hero-figure across the Republic. He received a standing ovation at a writers’ summer school in County Donegal on Sunday when he said he had been “astounded” over the number of messages of support he had been given.

The Taoiseach’s withering criticism of the Vatican is all the more historic given that his party, Fine Gael, has been traditionally the stoutest defender of the church’s power and privilege in the Republic.

Kenny is a Catholic whose political base is rooted in Ireland's conservative, rural west.

Seeking to play down the diplomatic row between Dublin and the Vatican City on Monday night, the vice-director of the Vatican press office, Father Ciro Benedettini, said that the recall “should be interpreted as an expression of the desire of the Holy See for serious and effective collaboration with the Irish government”.

But he added: “It denotes the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See’s desire to face it objectively and determinately. Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions.”

Breaking with decades of deference to the Catholic hierarchy both at home and in Rome, Kenny told the Dáil last week that “the rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, in power, standing and reputation”.

He stuck to his critical stance over the Vatican and the Cloyne report at the event on Sunday.

He said that it reflected the way Irish people felt about the Catholic Church’s role in the clerical abuse scandal.

The deputy editor of the Irish Catholic claimed on Monday night that most Catholics in the Republic would back Kenny rather than the Vatican in this controversy.

Michael Kelly said: “I would expect that the diplomats in the Vatican’s secretariat of state will have been extremely surprised by the tone of Enda Kenny’s speech in the Dáil, but also by the widespread and positive public reaction to the speech.”

He added: “Mr Kenny was, I believe, articulating the sense of exasperation that a lot of Irish people, not least Irish Catholics, have felt for too long about the church’s disastrous inability to come to terms with this crisis.”

Although Ireland’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, said the recall of the papal nuncio was a matter for the Vatican alone, one of his cabinet colleagues described the move as “appropriate”.

Joan Burton, the minister for social protection, said that it was very welcome if there was going to be “deep reflection in the Vatican” into the Cloyne and indeed other reports that found the church hierarchy both in Ireland and in Rome culpable of covering up abuse scandals.

The Vatican has always looked upon Ireland as being one of its most loyal nations that always toed the Holy See’s line on moral and social issues.

When Joseph Walshe was appointed Irish ambassador to the Vatican in 1946, the future Pope Paul VI told him that “you are the most Catholic country in the world”.

But although abortion on demand remains illegal and most citizens still describe themselves as Catholic, the Republic’s population is more secular minded than at any time in Irish history with divorce legal, contraception widely available and church attendance numbers falling.

Kenny’s once unthinkable assault on the Vatican’s role in Ireland was prompted by the Cloyne report’s conclusion that the Vatican stymied Irish church policy of informing the Garda Siochana about sex abuse allegations levelled at its priests.

Yvonne Murphy, the judge who headed the Cloyne investigation, hit out at the Vatican’s description of 1996 guidelines for reporting abuse allegations as “merely a study document”.

She said that this led to the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, feeling he could deviate from measures other bishops had established to protect children.

From The Guardian

I’m sure I feel so sorry for the Catholics right now.