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Web www.birminghamfreepress.com

January/February, 2006

Intelligent Design as Bad Philosophy

All rational people seem to agree that Intelligent Design (ID) is bad science, if science at all. Evangelicals on the other hand claim that it’s another theory for the origin of life as valid as the theory of evolution. Among the myriad of problems with this assertion is the disingenuous use of the word “theory.” Either the proponents of ID genuinely don’t know the difference between a scientific theory and conjecture, in which case they’re just stupid, or they do know and they’re intentionally lying. In either case ID can in no way be considered on par with evolution in the science class. At best it can be described as an untested hypothesis.

To be accommodating some pundits have suggested that it would be OK to teach Intelligent Design in a philosophy class. But how would this work? Any survey class in the history of philosophy should include the classic arguments for the existence of god. ID is basically a rehashing of the “argument from design” and “the first cause argument,” both of which have been soundly refuted centuries ago. If the universe is so complex and intricate it demands a designer, this designer must also be so complex and intricate that it also demands a designer, etc. etc. Philosophers have been bandying this back and forth since time immemorial. Basically these arguments devolve into complex word games which are great exercises for the cranium but never resolve anything. Given time, no matter how clever your assertion is, someone’s bound to devise an even cleverer rebuttal. This is why philosophers work for the state at universities and only produce more philosophers who become additional wards of the state in one fashion or another.

The first cause argument has basically the same problem. But it’s also interesting to trace the history of the idea. Aristotle gets credit for the concept from his classic work Metaphysics. But what was his prime mover, his uncaused cause? It was Zeus. Do the proponents of ID, who are primarily Evangelical Christians, really want to have school kids fleshing out an ancient argument for the existence of the Greek gods?

A philosophy class based solely on the eight or so classic proofs for the existence of god wouldn't take more than a few hours at most. It seems only fair to also include the arguments against the existence of god. For instance it’s impossible for a god to be both all-good and all-powerful. And if a god was all-knowing he would have to know what’s it’s like to know nothing or to know he didn’t exist. Furthermore the class would have to include twentieth century concepts like logical positivism, which claims that all metaphysical assertions are nonsense.

The Intelligent Design movement is a thinly disguised attempt to teach religion in the public schools. It’s an incoherent idea unless you include a fully realized dogma in the form of an established creed. But which one? If these people were ever successful in their goal of getting god into the classrooms all they would accomplish the replacement of a culture war with a religious one.

Elephants in the Zoo

I have recently learned about plans to expand the Birmingham Zoo elephant exhibit to add more acres and five more male elephants.  In their natural wild habitat, elephants walk up to thirty miles (miles: not acres) each day.  I suppose someone thinks expanding the elephant exhibit will benefit Mona, the zoo's only living elephant who has been a Birmingham Zoo prisoner over fifty years.  Twenty acres populated by five young African bull elephants (requiring more space than females), and a menagerie of other African animals (requiring their own space) does not benefit Mona.  Mona would be benefited most by the freedom she would experience at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN.  Dr. William R. Foster, the zoo chief executive officer's, "keeping up with the Joneses" declaration that the expansion will put the Birmingham Zoo among the top five in the nation in terms of the size of its elephant exhibit, is repugnant and demonstrates his total lack of regard and sensitivity for the magnificent animals who have the misfortune of becoming part of zoo expansion.  Birmingham should be more concerned with being among the top five metropolitan communities SCHOLASTICALLY rather than as another site for observing animals in captivity which teaches nothing other than that society is cruel to animals it can exploit. 

Kathryn Dalenberg

Birmingham Artist Don Stewart
Threatened by VW over Drawing

Artist Don Stewart, known for his humorous and lavishly detailed drawings created from composite images has had to remove his bug drawing from his Website and stop distribution of his coffee table book which contained the same piece. Under the threat of litigation Volkswagen has claimed that Stewart's image violated its exclusive rights to the image of the car.

Anyone wanting to talk to Frank Witter, CEO of Volkswagen of America, about this can contact him here:

Frank Witter, CEO
Volkswagen of America, Inc.
3800 Hamlin Rd.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
248-754-5000

Illegal Art Takes to the Road

Tagged by controversy stemming from a Cease and Desist letter issued by attorneys for VW of America, two “illegal” drawings by Birmingham visual humorist Don Stewart are taking a road trip. Stewart’s composite renderings of classic Volkswagen® Beetles® will soon be included in the traveling Illegal Art Gallery, on display at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida from Feb 4 through, ironically, April Fool’s Day.
 
Images of the VW® Bug®, a Bug® made entirely of insects, and Pill Bug®, composed of pharmaceutical supplies, have recently been removed from the artist’s web site (www.dsart.com), in voluntary “and hopefully temporary” response to the demands of VWoA corporate representatives, according to the artist. He has also stopped selling all prints and products containing the questionable renderings.
 
“We decided to De-Bug® our site, until the misunderstanding can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction,” says Stewart, a former physician who makes his living creating thought-provoking, amusing composite renderings with a ballpoint pen.
 
VW has demanded that Stewart destroy all copies of his automotive art, including the Bug® image in his first published collection of work, The Visual Humor of Don Stewart. “They want us to rip out the pages with the insect picture,” he says, which will permanently deface nearly a thousand copies of the new hardbound book, which accounts for half of the initial printing. VWoA also wants royalties for any prints sold as far back as January of 2001.
 
How many pictures is that? “Around 75", says Stewart. “Not counting the 150 or so that we have given away to school kids over the years during classroom presentations.”
 
The images can still be seen on an unrelated site that features lesson plans for art teachers: http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/Don-puns.htm.  The site also offers suggestions for teachers and students interested in researching trademark and copyright protection.

More Moore

Roy Moore's book So Help Me God could be a fascinating work of imaginative fiction, but unfortunately it's a disturbing autobiography. The first half is about Roy's boyhood in the Appalachian foothills, advancement to West Point, tour in Vietnam and various macho adventures as a young man. Roy tended to migrate toward activities that involved wearing costumes and tights and bunking with strapping young men. It doesn't take too much reading between the lines to understand how he became so obsessed with homosexuality.

The second half of the Roy Moore story features his well known court battles and tries to justify his Evangelical philosophy. Someone familiar with the neanderthal apologetics of D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson will find Moore's bizarre rationale refreshing. Instead of just lying or demonstrating his ignorance of history and religion, Roy takes a selective set of half truths and combines them into an illogical puzzle that only the most closed minded bigot could possibly stand behind. Unless you are willing to believe that Roy Moore and his hillbilly buddies are the shining, golden center of the universe, for which all the rest of humanity are just bit players you'll not find his arguments very convincing.

Possibly the most draw-dropping, laugh out loud declaration in the entire book is Moore's claim that the separation of church and state finds its origin in the Old Testament. Since he doesn't expound upon the idea, it took some research to find an interview where he explained what he means by this. As it turns out one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Judah) was set up to be Kings and another (Levi) were to be priests. With a little imagination and a lot selective reasoning Roy concludes that this is where we get the establishment clause. Forget any view of reality that doesn't involve Jesus creating the universe 6000 years ago followed by a linier series of events leading directly to a small group of anti-intellectuals figuring out all the mysteries of the universe in the southeastern United States in the early 1980s.

Even the few Evangelicals that can read and have read the Bible don't agree on what the tribes of Israel were. (Here's a page where someone tries to get it straight and concludes, "God is free to re-adjust and re-account the twelve tribes of Israel as He sees fit.")

Unable to even toy with the idea that there are differing views on the nature of the supernatural world, Roy believes any use of the word "God" is a reference to his Fundamentalist version of the deity. His brand of Evangelicalism is a twentieth-century American phenomenon. When the founding fathers mentioned "God," and "Nature's God," they weren't referring to Roy Moore's "Judeo-Christian God of the Bible," because he hadn't been invented yet.

Those powdered wig patriots held a wide variety of religious views and had the genius to set up a system where we could worship any, as many, or no god(s) at all. But they just started the ball rolling. The world has changed a lot in 230 years, and our society has evolved. It probably never occurred to Thomas Jefferson or John Adams that women would ever be able to vote or that abortion would ever be outlawed.

So Help Me God is a great insight into the workings of the Evangelical brain. It's important to realize that these guys are starting with a conclusion and then accepting or dismissing evidence which either agrees or contradicts it. This way something that appears perfectly clear on the surface may be something else entirely when the big picture is factored in. Take for example the first amendment and first commandment. At face value they are in polar opposition with each other, but in the mind of an Evangelical like Roy Moore they say the same thing...they just have to.

Roy carefully selects legal precedents to either be evidence that America is a Christian theocracy or, if he disagrees with it, to be examples of judicial tyranny. For instance he love to site a dicta by Supreme Court Justice David Brewer in the 1892 case of Holy Trinity Church vs. United States, which states that "this is a christian nation." This one line is taken out of context from a trial involving fair labor issues. Justice Brewer also wrote a book in 1905 entitled The United States: A Christian Nation in which he clarified his position: "But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary."

Another Supreme Court case that Moore embraces is U.S. v. Macintosh in 1931. Here he fishes out the line in the opinion "We are a Christian people, according to one another the equal right of religious freedom." Macintosh involved a Canadian Christian who wanted to become a U.S. citizen, but didn't want to go to war if he didn't think the cause was morally just. The court explained that nobody gave a rat's ass if he thought a war was just or not. Congress declares war and the populous deals with it. The court's opinion was explaining that not only were they all Christians, but most American's were Christians too, just like Macintosh. He couldn't declare himself the sole arbiter for whether or not Jesus wants America to take up arms.

The amazing disconnect between Moore's interpretation of Macintosh and the reality is insightful. A sane person would see striking similarities between the 1931 decision and Roy's own legal problems. In both cases we find guys who believe they have the keys to unlock the inner workings of Christ's brain. Neither can seem to grasp the fact that other people have equally valid religious beliefs. By definition all supernatural systems are beyond measure, and thus subjective.

Since Roy Moore's entire worldview is imaginary he can handle any logical conflicts by just tossing on another layer of fiction. This is largely based in the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God which "attempts to prove God's existence by arguing that logic, morals, and science presuppose the Christian world view." Of course one can look at history and discover that logic, morals, and science predate the Christian world view. The obvious circular nature of the transcendental argument doesn't dismay Evangelicals because they just assume their worldview is correct and need very little linguistic window dressing to hide that fact from themselves.

Roy Moore sees the entire judicial system, which disagrees with his understanding of the law, as corrupt and possibly in the hands of Satan. All sincere Christians who oppose his particular interpretation of scripture are either misguided or also in the hands of Satan.

But Roy Moore will be just fine. Even after the inevitable and humiliating defeat in his attempt to become Alabama's governor he'll still be a hero to a certain segment of the uncritical bumpkin population. He'll continue to stump from pulpit to pulpit and surround himself with beautiful, doe-eyed, young boys who will worship him as he worships the voices in his head.

KGB's Secret UFO Files Made Public

Frustrated Pilot Dumps Drunk Man on Remote Island

A drunken air passenger was cast away on an island more than 1,000 miles from home after abusing cabin staff.

Woman Marries Dolphin