Morons of the month

January 26, 2012 • 1:47 pm

There’s a tie, folks.  Two politicians have made unbelievably stupid assertions, and I can’t decide which is dumber. I’ll leave that to you.

Running neck and neck are:

Rick Santorum, Republican candidate for President, said this about education in a speech in Florida:

“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college,” said the former Pennsylvania senator. “The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination. If it was the other way around, the ACLU would be out there making sure that there wasn’t one penny of government dollars going to colleges and universities, right? . . . If they taught Judeo-Christian principles in those colleges and universities, they would be stripped of every dollar. If they teach radical secular ideology, they get all the government support that they can possibly give them. Because you know 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.”

Yeah, the ACLU has such awesome power over government spending on schools.

Santorum’s solution?  Stop supporting higher education:

“I’ll bet you there are people in this room who give money to colleges and universities who are undermining the very principles of our country every single day by indoctrinating kids with left-wing ideology. And you continue to give to these colleges and universities. Let me have a suggestion: Stop it.”

Can Republicans get any more stupid?

But giving the ex-Senator a run for his money is

Ralph Shortey, a state senator from Oklahoma, who thinks that food companies are putting aborted fetuses in food, and has introduced a bill in the state legislature to prohibit the use of fetuses or fetal cells in food. Of course nobody is doing this or intends to. Over at ERV, Abbie describes the insanity.

Shortey is a Republican, of course.

If God did bless America, he blessed it with a surfeit of idiots, many of whom march under the flag of the GOP.

h/t: Don B

199 thoughts on “Morons of the month

  1. Santorum wins the Stupidity-of-the-Day contest. But only because he is a bigger fish in the fetid Republican pond. The man well deserves his Google reputation.

  2. And these are best spokesmen the ‘Intelligent Designer’ has put on Earth. Surely the Almighty can do better!

  3. That Santorum quote there is just about as close as you’re ever going to get to a mainstream, “serious” candidate openly advocating feudalism.

      1. [Santorum and]”feudalism.”

        “Well, Gingrich wants all poor kids to be serfs…”.

        Causes me to reflect on the etymological, ideological and conceptual connections between and among the words and phrases “serfs,” “servants,”
        “service” jobs, (restaurant) “servers” and “service,” “service industry,” public “servant,” military “service,” military “service member” (a military “servant”?), customer “service,” (a customer’s “servant”?), the “house servant,” “indentured servant,” “indentured servitude” (“slavery”?),”Slav” and “Slave,” “human ‘resource'”, “human capital,” “social capital,” “Labor” [Northern) States versus “Capital” (Southern Slave) States (a peculiar locution used just prior to the U.S. Civil War so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of slave owners, as if only their sensibilities could possibly be offended), “slave cap” (part of the original design of the Statue of Freedom on top of the U.S. capitol dome, versus the Roman centurion helmet insisted upon by the Slave States – didn’t want to give U.S. slaves any ideas of being part of “The Indispensable Nation” – slaves were certainly an “Amuricun Exceptionalism”, ha!), the “working poor,” “earned” versus “unearned” income, the “investor” class (but one never hears “the ‘non-working’ class” or “the ‘unearned income’ class”) and, to end, “Corporations are people, my friend!” (Mitt Romney).

  4. Make sure to read the comments at Abbie’s place. There’s a link to an article about a bill in New Hampshire to require all laws reference the Magna Carta (version of 1215) . . .

    1. Oh “Because you know 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.”

      I don’t know how solid that number is, but becoming irreligious is very well correlated with higher education. Turns out that the stupidity of religion often fails to persist when people start thinking. Damned education!

      1. “One of the key issues is the growing anti-religious bigotry of our elites…”

        Newt Gingrich, victory speech, South Carolina, Jan. 21, 2012.

        Now you know.

    2. “We will entirely remove from their bailiwicks, the relations of Gerard of Athee (so that in future they shall have no bailiwick in England); namely, Engelard of Cigogne, Peter, Guy, and Andrew of Chanceaux, Guy of Cigogne, Geoffrey of Martigny with his brothers, Philip Mark with his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and the whole brood of the same.” Any law maker in New Hampshire who proposed this would certainly get my vote.

  5. > Can Republicans get any more stupid?

    I used to think “no”, but gave up. Every time I think I see a hard floor one of them smashes through it.

  6. ah, more liars for christ. Better strip gov’t money away from Notre Dame, etc just to make sure Santorum isn’t damned for lying again. Oh, why can’t we put these idiots on an island where they never ever have to benefit from higher education again?

  7. Rick Santorum is one of those people “who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.”

  8. Santorum wins because although both are deluded, Santorum is more dangerous. Besides, I totally support a law prohibiting fetuses in my Cheeseburgers no matter how batshit crazy Ralph Shortey is. I’d also like a law prohibiting the use of mind-control rays on US citizens, and an amendment to the constitution explicitly defining this nation as not the Illuminati’s bitch. is a goldmine of stupid. He attended the very type of university he scorns. He was also nicknamed “Rooster” for his cowlick and for being, well, okay I won’t use that language, but it ryhmes with “sock”.

    The Right-Wing agenda: We must stop people from learning things so they don’t realize that we’re idiots.

    1. “…and an amendment to the constitution explicitly defining this nation as not the Illuminati’s bitch.

      Hey! It hurts me to see anti-Illuminati bigotry on this web site.

    2. Pretty good conclusion, there.

      I might amend it just a bit: We must stop people from learning things because I’m too lazy and committed to my wishful thinking to do so. And I don’t want anybody telling me when I’m wrong.


    3. They are anti-education because once people have got one they realise that voting Republican is not in their interests, and they can’t be frightened into voting against their interests by threats such as ‘we’ll be swamped by Mexicans’ or ‘the communists are coming’ an old favourite even in here in Australia. In the end it’s all about money. If you can frighten people into voting for tax cuts for the very rich then the Republicans will do it, they don’t really care how and the ill-educated are much more easily duped.

  9. Presumably Ralph Shortey pretended that he wasn’t an idiot in order to get elected? Please tell me that the people who voted for him didn’t actually know that he was totally batshit insane. Please tell me that the next time that he comes up for re-election he will drop like a stone.

  10. OK, I’m merely a Brit and probably shouldn’t say too much, but it never fails to amaze me how the Land of Jefferson and Franklin can have given rise to such people.

    1. I’m a Yank. And so ashamed of my country’s politics. We have only one political party, the Democratic Party. The Republicans are a religious movement.

      1. Yes, but such attitudes affect not only politics. I don’t want to exaggerate but it seems to me that over the past 30 years or so there’s an appreciable percentage of your countrymen and women who are anti the Enlightenment, science, rationality and modernity.

        1. Alas, Americans once challenged the intellectual status quo, however, presently the bulk of Americans would prefer to inhabit a society similar ,if not identical, to medieval Europe.

        2. Not sure where the “Yes but” comes from. Religion is at the root of all of this. It trains the minds of the faithful to accept nonsense.

          The Republican party made a conscious decision in the late 1960s to appeal to the religious and racist southern Democrats who felt abandoned by the Democratic Party’s support for civil rights. Ever since it has been dog whistle racism and evangelical religion in ever increasing dominance of the Republican Party. There are no moderates there anymore. Just bible-thumping homophobic racists. Ignorant, angry, paranoid Jesus lovers.

          I hate to say it, but there you have it. Newt. Mitt. Santorum. Cain. Bachmann. Ceiling Cat have mercy on us all.

          1. Most politicians are quite simply cynical opportunists, like the leaders of fundamentalist, evangelical “churches”. Wasn’t it the other “Rick” (dropped out of the race) who got together with a whole bunch of “evangelicals” in Texas to pray for rain to end the drought – which actually got worse…?We watch with interest from outside of your great nation and it is of concern to us what direction the leaders there take regarding securing your future wellbeing as it impacts on the whole world….

      2. “The Republicans are a religious movement.”

        At this point, I’d say it’s more accurate to call the party a bowel movement.

  11. I think Santorum wins.

    Saying that teaching reality and evidence based reasoning is indoctrination as opposed to teaching sectarian religion, is remarkably oblivious, ignorant, incurious, backward, idiotic.

    Where the fuck do you get these people Americans?
    I don’t think there are any such politicians in Europe on equivalent political position, not to mention Michele Bachman or Rick Perry.

    Whenever someone tells me I am generalizing in saying that USA had the dumbest population of all the industrialized nations, I just drop a few names of idiots who get consistently elected, and those are just the famous ones.

    1. As a Brit, I don’t entirely accept your thesis. Places such as Princeton, MIT & CalTech are still world leaders. The US has the brightest brains on the planet (eg. Witten) However, what is astonishing is the calibre of those who stand for election. Why can’t a nation of 300,000,000 do better. Is it because anyone with sense is not going to put him / herself up to ignorant scrutiny on irrelevant belief systems and holier than thou morality.

      1. Veroxitatis: have you ever considered the qualitative and quantitative world-wide brain-drain towards MIT, Princeton, Harvard, CalTech, etc.? Especially post-grad?
        Could it be that the level of excellence maintained in such elite establishments is not sufficiently fuelled by the nation’s educational structures further upstream?
        If so—just a conjecture—could such a deficit be in some way related to socioeconomic and associated cultural dysfunctionalities, as recently highlighted by Jerry Coyne?
        Further conjecture: is it conceivable that an aggregate of dysfunctional societies, ill-adapted to modernity and threatened by economic decline, provides a fertile breeding ground for Santorum & Co. types?

      2. Here’s the wholesome British attitude to being a politician.

        “I have always thought that to sit in the British Parliament should be the highest object of ambition to every educated Englishman. I do not by this mean to suggest that every educated Englishman should set before himself a seat in Parliament as a probable or even possible career, but that the man in Parliament has reached a higher position than the man out, – that to serve one’s country without pay is the grandest work that a man can do, – that of all studies the study of politics is the one in which a man may make himself most useful to his fellow creature, – and that, of all lives, public political life is capable of the highest efforts.”

        Oh wait, he was a Victorian.

      3. Is it because anyone with sense is not going to put him / herself up to ignorant scrutiny on irrelevant belief systems and holier than thou morality.

        Pretty much.

  12. Christ on a cracker!

    Shortey is obviously certifiable.

    Santorum’s is angering because it’s not plain crazy – he’s obviously playing to his ignorant political base. Dennis Prager has the same routine about the “godless leftiness” of colleges and universities, and how this means they’re useless, dangerous, and you shouldn’t go to one! And if you haven’t, don’t feel bad, you’re actually better off!

    Here in the real world, I have to ask: have either of them gotten out to many universities? I’d be hard-pressed to think of any that don’t have theology departments. And many have explicit associations with specific denominations, and require ALL students to take a core curriculum based on that particular flavor of crazy.

    1. I think Shortey wins this one. If you can imagine comparing arguments by putting them on the real line, stupider arguments to the left of zero and more cogent arguments to the right, Santorum is way out to the left of zero. Shortey, on the other hand, is on the imaginary y-axis.

      1. Santorum’s is wrong, no doubt. But crazier than an utterly whacked-out conspiracy theory that makes us all unwitting cannibals?

        The main point of my post, though, was that Santorum’s is the more distressing one because of its potential impact. We must not let the education-haters have their way!

              1. Well, not so much glossed over entirely as just didn’t put it in a mathematical context. I thought we were “imagining” a normal Cartesian coordinate system.

    2. Yes, but for the most part their history classes don’t teach that the United States is the greatest nation in the world, destined to bring freedom and democracy to the oppressed the world over. Their religious studies classes teach the real origins of Christianity and the Bible, and teach about other religions without mentioning that they are all false religions based on Satan’s deceptions. They don’t teach that homosexuality is a disorder that should be treated or least hidden.

      So they’re obviously a bunch of lefties trying to indoctrinate people.

  13. Adjacent to this post in my blog feed was one that linked me to this HuffPo interview with GOP Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield, whose list of idiotic pronouncements includes
    “My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…very rarely [transmitted].”

    1. Gross.

      Did he really dismiss bullying as a major factor in the suicides of gay teens, claiming instead that it was the gay teens’ own fault for having such unstable psyches?

  14. I’ve been following this blog for some time now and am a little disappointed in the high level of smearing. This tone of they’re “stupid” and were “smart” is precisely what this country needs less of from both sides. I am a theist and a rather conservative Republican most of the time. There’s plenty of this going around the table. I actually agree with Santorum here because I have spent a great deal of time in the university system. It wasn’t as bad when I was in school so its reasonable for him to sound a more dire tone now even though he attended such a university as I did.

    Besides, as has been offered here in the last few weeks, I don’t really have a choice to be a theist. My brain decides that and I have no real choice. If you are to be consistent with that materialist view, why are you so angry at people like me for having made an intellectual “choice” for which I have no choice.

    1. Sir,

      Just curious, for starters:

      How old is the Earth? What is the basis of your answer?

      Do you agree with St. Paul, that women should be silent in the church, and that wives should be submissive to their husbands?

    2. “My brain decides that and I have no choice”.
      So, you exercise less control over your thinking processes than you do over your anal sphincter? Enough said!!

    3. Please tell me this is a Poe.

      No one can have that indefensible an attitude towards reason, logic, and evidence.

    4. Do you have evidence to present that colleges are havens of anti-theist indoctrination? If so, let’s hear it. That you agree with Santorum because you spent time in the university system means nothing. Otherwise, I could counter that I, too, have spent time at public universities, both as student and as an adjunct lecturer, and saw no indoctrination. Well, except for the gang of Jesus-ites who sang gospel hymns in front of the fountain at the center of campus every morning. Which seems to mean, if we follow your mode of argument, that public universities are havens for roving hordes of Xtians looking to proselytize the unconverted.

      And if you don’t like the tone, I’ve a small fiddler sitting on my shoulder, playing a mournful tune for you.

    5. With regards to the “no real choice but to be a theist”, your theism was inevitable given your genes and environmental influences, experiences until this point. This doesn’t mean that you must then remain a theist.

      Of course, Jerry would likely argue that if you abandon your theism, that too was inevitable given your genes and experiences… but change is certainly possible.

      Asking why someone who asserts there’s no free will behaves a certain way is incoherent. They’re angry because their genes and experiences made them react this way to this particular stimulus, obviously.

      1. Thank you for you response. I didn’t mean to imply that change isn’t possible. I understood that given different inputs, different results will occur. The simple fact that there are disagreements indicates that. I also can see the anger issue more clearly. Thank you. I guess my real observation is that the anger appears to justified. But it can’t be under a full materialist worldview. It’s just a reaction based on mental states for which there is no “personal” control. No true will involved.
        If I don’t change from theism to atheism, that too is determined and there is no fault to be laid down.
        When atheists hold that their atheism is far and away more rational, that is what I see as incoherent within that system. A value is being placed on a decision. But if “decisions” are determined how can one decision be “better” than any other. It’s just a brain state.

          1. “Why can’t brain states have value?”
            Value is something attributed from outside the article itself. For example, gold is just another metal. There is nothing terribly special about it. But because people particularly like its shiny appearance, its plasticity allowing it to be easily shaped into artistically pleasing shapes, it has become a highly valued metal. For brains states to have “value” that presupposes something outside itself that deems some brain states better than others. Other metals are shiny or moldable but not to the degree of gold so humans place a high value on it. In a materialistic system, what is outside of the brain state that allows a comparison of different brain states and declares this one more valuable than this another?
            Obviously, I can understand that a brain state that allows one to run when faced with immediate danger has selective value. But in this discussion, how could a materialist brain state be declared better than a theistic one? Especially when both are determined by physics?

            1. How has “materialist” become the antithesis of “atheist”? If we stick with the comparison between theist and atheistic brain states (leaving aside the question as to what such terms may mean)then surely we are entitled to consider the product of such states and ascertain whether added value has accrued. It seems to me that generally speaking, all human progress in understanding the world in which we live has been in spite of religious dogma and not on account of it.

            2. “For brains states to have “value” that presupposes something outside itself that deems some brain states better than others.”

              Now, do you adjudge depression to be an quintessential brain state? If so, I can’t assist you. If not, I will undertake to elucidate my perspective on this matter.

              We examine depression by correlating first-person accounts of subjective experience with third-person states of the brain. What is outside the brain state, here? We apprehend depression to be a miserable brain state and we venture to analyze it in order to rectify the disease and assuage the individual who is enduring depression. Initially, psychologists address the issue of depression and determine it too be deficient, so we attempt to remedy the problem. What is bizarre or extraordinary about this?

              Also, some people are “unable to grasp specific facts or believe certain true propositions. As with every other description of a mental capacity or incapacity, these are ultimately statements about the human brain.” Some brains are just superior to other brains. Why not brain states?

              “In a materialistic system, what is outside of the brain state that allows a comparison of different brain states and declares this one more valuable than this another?”

              The conclusion of causal states of the brain are actions, which frame outcomes. Outcomes are perceivable phenomena. Rockets, automobiles, boats, governments, policies, books are outcomes of particular actions and thoughts. Now, outcomes are integral in ascertaining the mindset of individuals and societies. So, do we really need to dispute that a democratic, inventive, and opulent society/individual is better than a abusive, repressive, and ailing society/individual? Appears incontestable that one is more desirable than the other.

              “But in this discussion, how could a materialist brain state be declared better than a theistic one?”

              I would have to be unerringly cognizant of what you believe, but the concept of god has been evinced by modern science to be extraneous. So, to believe in a god is some configuration of self-deception or bewildered thinking. I must concede that science in various stages is toilsome to unravel and is counterintuitive(quantum mechanics or black holes), but a connection to an unjustifiable belief makes contemplating scientifically additionally arduous. That would be why an atheistic brain state is more valuable than a theistic one.

              “Especially when both are determined by physics?”

              Determined, but not identical. Also, as Harris stated,”While the possibilities of human experience must be realized in the brains that evolution has built for us, our brains were not designed with a view of ultimate fulfillment.” (We seek to end world hunger, free societies, charities, protecting wildlife, etc.) As Pinker stated,”If that’s how the mind worked men would line up outside sperm banks.” We are governed by physical laws, but we are not “directly reduced to instinctual drives and evolutionary imperatives.” We are not robots. So, the actuality that physical laws dictate our thoughts and actions does not contradict that certain brain states are better than others, but reinforces that illation.

    6. Hopefully your following of this website will be the external influence needed to begin the cascade of material cause-and-effect leading to your eventual rational awakening.

    7. Considering the idiocy of the web site to which your name is linked, Jerry Coyne should interpret your “disappointment” as a badge of honor and be grateful for the quality of most of his commenters.

      1. I have now had the opportunity of reading postigs to the website to wich Bohlin’s name is linked.
        One thing never fails to amaze me about such sites. There are plenty such sites, fora & blogs in the UK. Lunatics exist everywhere. But only in the US will you find such nonsense peddled by those who are on the face of it, men of science: indeed, in Bohlin’s case, with higher degrees in a life science. Why on earth is this?

    8. Oh, Lord, when did I ever say that people’s actions or beliefs can’t be changed? I said they were DETERMINED by genes and environments, but environmental effects can of course change brains. The most obvious example is brain damage (ahem). But there are lots of other environmental influences that can change behavior: falling in love, being chastised or punished, or, yes, becoming convinced that there is no God. Once a theist does not mean always a theist (thank God!)

      1. This response is little confusing. The materialist worldview seems to insist that any “choice” is determined. This determination is dependent on one’s unique genetic history AND one’s unique experiential environment. Neither of these are in your “control.”THEREFORE, “your” conclusions are beyond your control. If that is indeed “true”, how do you hold anyone responsible for their conclusions. It is all just biology.

            1. What? It is all just biology and physics. Does that upset you? You , for an educated man, managed, remarkably, to say nothing in your response.

              In a criminal setting, a retaliatory inclination based upon the notion that each human is the autonomous architect of his thoughts and actions, “rests on a cognitive and emotional illusion-and perpetuates a moral one.”

              However, in an intellectual setting individuals must be deemed accountable for their actions because they influence the thoughts and actions of future generations. While you are not the free author of your actions your actions still create outcomes in this society, which affect the well-being of others. Outcomes are the results of behavior and causal states of the brain, which are influenced by genes, internal states of the body, and external occurrences. So, holding you responsible for your conclusions begets an outcome that is beneficial to society, as I see it, and in the process may positively impact the way you think and act. That is the reason for holding you responsible for your conclusions.

              While, at present, you may surmise one way. Tomorrow after exposure to some external occurrence or internal alteration you may adjust your judgement about what cereal you desire to eat. Now, this is no less your own thought and the decision to eat that cereal was the primary reason it happened, but it was the result of some occurrence, whether external or internal. Now, that is not too say choice isn’t important because it is. Choice starts the action that begets the outcomes. Human choice is necessary for the existence of our species. For instance, Newton and Pasteur acting on their thoughts forever changed the way we see the world and no doubt have saved human lives. So, while your thoughts are determined the choice to act upon them is no less valuable than you believe. Just because your thoughts are determined they are no less your own and no less indispensable.

        1. Our response is “determined”, not “pre-determined”.

          The sum of all inputs combined with the instantaneous state of your mind determines the state of your mind in the next instant.

          Change the inputs and the next state (even if somehow we could keep the brain state the same) would be different!

          Our behaviour was not set at the moment of the big bang – noise (randomness), non-linearity, non-homogenity (i.e. chaotic systems) – preclude pre-destiny in anything other than a statistical fashion.

          Some random factor may have brought you to this website. Your neuronal wiring will determine what you take away from it.

          BTW: Our brains make choices, what is this “you” that makes choices if it isn’t the brain?

      2. Well, I didn’t mean to exasperate anyone and as I have responded elsewhere, I also didn’t mean to say that things can’t change. Different inputs will cause the brain to react differently. So be it. But you still insist that my brain state is somehow inferior to yours. Hence the “brain damage” reference. I don’t understand how you can place a value on people’s brain states. What determines better or worse? Certainly the “person” can’t be blamed. Their brain is simply responding with what it has and what it has experienced. Surely you must conclude under your naturalist umbrella that some peoples brains simply will never change to atheism and some will never change theism. So what? It can’t be helped so to speak.

        1. I don’t know what you mean by a brain state. You make it sound like something set in stone. Of course, some people may never change the opinions they reached in early adulthood, but that says nothing about the immutability of such opinions, merely they’re inability to deal with the issues. A good case in point is a phobia: whether of snakes, spiders, heights, flying and so on. Without therapeutic help such sufferers are highly unlikely to overcome their phobias and change their mindsets. However, it has been shown time and time again that such people can very often be helped.

        2. “I don’t understand how you can place a value on people’s brain states. What determines better or worse?”

          I suppose, in some cases, this can be black and white, but there is a considerable amount of gray area for numerous occasions. I possess no difficulty in asserting Muslims should incorporate gender equality and free expression and that their traditions are vile and antiquated. For example, it appears, to me, perspicuous that burning girls with acid for getting raped, genital excision, coerced marriage, and compulsory veiling are reprehensible and fallacious regardless of the environment they eventuate in. However, these practices are acceded to within the Muslim culture. Why? Islamic worldview and trepidation of the custodians of the Islamic worldview. I don’t think this is an embellishment. Also, I opine we can concur that the aforementioned examples are morally faulty. So, in certain instances, it will be commonsense about what is better or worse like burning girls with acid for being raped is worse; than not burning girls with acid for being raped. However, the universal question of better or worse brain states is much more convoluted and toilsome and would be more suitably resolved by advancements in neuroscience, which, at the moment, is in its primacy.

          “Certainly the “person” can’t be blamed. Their brain is simply responding with what it has and what it has experienced.”

          I attempt to ne’er inculpate anyone for their actions, but occasionally they must be held responsible for their actions. A repeat criminal offender should be incarcerated, even though he is not the self-determining originator of his thoughts, he is ,presumably, a threat to public welfare.

          “Surely you must conclude under your naturalist umbrella that some peoples brains simply will never change to atheism and some will never change theism. So what? It can’t be helped so to speak.”

          You are correct, but we retain no conception of whose minds have a tendency to be amended or have a tendency to not be amended by our choices. So, we are obliged to persist in assembling choices of vital consequence because they produce, hopefully, beneficial societal outcomes.

          1. I have now visited “Probe” and have truly had my eyes opened. I think it would be difficult to find any comparable organisation or website based in the UK. The interesting question is. why is this so?
            I would be interested to hear from other contributors.
            I think a major reason is that until relatively recently the majority of children in the UK did not stay on at school beyond 16 and few went on to tertiary education. Even now, we are still well short of the Labour Party aim of having at least 50% of students go on to college or university. It’s also my experience that children in the US are far more articulate from an earlier age than children in the UK and much more confident about expressing an opinion. The result is that to engage with those who may be becoming sceptical about Christian beliefs, it is essential to conduct debate in the same language and in the same ostensibly academic manner. Recipients of the message are unlikely to be as well versed in the subject matter as are the contributors, but they will have sufficient familiarity with the language and methodologies so as to read and superficially understand the content. It is far less likely that there would exist in the UK a ready audience who would have lived their formative years in a heavily Christianised environment and have gone on to tertiary education, particularly in a non vocational subject.
            This is a lengthy post, but one which could perhaps be summed up in the aphorism – “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. Dangerous not only to those who possess such knowledge but dangerous – even more so – to those who seek to influence through it.

            1. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

              So if drink at all – drink deep – from the Pirean spring.”

              – Alexander Pope

              (A relative once belittled my interest in reading by quoting the first half of this couplet; mouthed off about me having my “nose stuck in a book.” Wish that at the time I had known and riposted with the second half.)

            2. As Steven Weinberg stated, “You have to be very learned to be that wrong.” This applies to many apologists and accommodationists.

              1. Or as Pauli is alleged to have said – “This paper is so bad it is not even wrong”.

            3. It is hard for me say why this particular flavor of anti-intellectualism is prevalent in the US and not in the UK. I would speculate that it could be found anywhere in the developed world if a large segment of the elite decided to encourage it. By the 1960’s, the GOP had largely rid itself of the extreme right-wing “populists”, but they were overwhelmingly a minority party. Then came three changes: (1) the civil rights movement split the Democrats and the GOP absorbed all the southern bigots, (2) the labor movement faltered – encouraged by right-to-work legislation, (3) Reagan consolidated evangelical nutbaggery within the GOP (he thought he could use them (now the nutbags are often in control). The corporate GOP doesn’t give two shits for the Ray Bohlins of the world because they’ve figured out that it doesn’t matter what kind of social havoc and educational damage Ray Bohlin types do to the rest of the country – the law won’t ever really be applied to them.

              Wall Street gets what is wants, if funding and tolerating the Rick Santorums of the party to keep their electoral coalition together is the way to ensure that, that’s fine with them. On the other hand, if the Murdoch media empire decided that creationists and global warming deniers were no longer in their interest, the propaganda deluge would marginalize the nutbags to the cellar of American society.

              1. Far be it for me to argue political history with a US citizen, but I doubt that politics or legislation accounts for the rise of a vociferous and articulate lobby (and indeed, industry) for creationist and intelligent design ideas. I don’t see that the GOP became a “small party” by the 60’s. It came extremely close to beating Truman in ’48. won in ’52 & 56 and may possibly have won in ’60 if we believe the tales told of Joe Kennedy. After civil rights the Democrats suffered. As Johnson said on signing the legislation – “We have lost the South for a generation”.
                It seems to me that from the post-war period onwards affluence increased in the States as it did in no other country for a generation. The primitive views held by a minority – maybe c.30% – were given voice by the consequential spread of full secondary and tertiary education. Such views acquired an apparent legitimacy and persuasive power which hitherto they could not have done.

              2. Eisenhower:

                Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

                The GOP would never count Eisenhower in its ranks today, so I don’t count his victories as victories by the “GOP” as it exists today. The GOP remained competitive in the executive branch by becoming centrists – they were minority party in Congress for most of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s:

                As to your main point,

                “The primitive views held by a minority – maybe c.30% – were given voice by the consequential spread of full secondary and tertiary education. Such views acquired an apparent legitimacy and persuasive power which hitherto they could not have done.” – well, I don’t see that the argument coheres at all. Creationism was dead everywhere but the South by the 1960’s and remained so until the rise of the right-wing media in the 80’s – and I still think that is mainly because their stupidity is tolerated/encouraged by the GOP elite who need the evangelical vote to hold the GOP coalition together. As long as the evangelicals are kept busy worrying about abortion and evolution, the screwing of most of the populace by Wall Street oligarchs will remain something the media doasn’t talk about too much.

                I’m not saying Ray Bohlin is created by Wall Street, I’m saying that Ray Bohlin types are not subject to the ridicule they deserve becuase they are extremely useful. (BTW, I do not suffer from the misapprehension the the Democrats aren’t nearly as beholden to Wall Street as the GOP – it is clear that they are. After labor was marginalized, Wall Street was where the money was.)

              3. Tim, no reply button under your last post. Thanks for an insightful contribution. We British often forget that your Head of State is somewhat circumscribed in his range of options by the legislature. A situation which pertains in the UK only where the Govt. command only a small minority in Parliament, as was the case in 1979 (Labour – Callaghan) and 1990-1992 (Tory – Major) The House of Lords can, of course, put a brake on Govt. objectives or, at least, delay their implementation.
                It’s an interesting subject – the rise of fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism & anti-modernity and the increasing respectability of holding such views. I rather expect books will have been written on these matters. I should certainly like to follow up.

    9. If you’re no longer in school, how do you know that leftist indoctrination is worse now than it was? I’ve been in public universities for many years as a student, and I’ve had the occasional overt socialist professor, but it’s not like their 3 hours a week was some irresistible force.

      1. I have kept my eye on the university system through constant contact with those entering and leaving the system. Most of my understanding is anecdotal and not based on any statistical survey. Though it is quite well known that the percentage of university professors with no religious affiliation is several times higher than in the public at large. Your worldview influences how you teach whatever the worldview and whatever the subject.

        1. You don’t say. You’ve been noting the leftward shift of students’ political views by… what? Polling them before entering and after leaving college? As far as I know you’re correct about the ideological makeup of university faculty writ large. Now all you have to do is show that that contributes significantly to ideology shifts in students.

        2. “the percentage of university professors with no religious affiliation is several times higher than in the public at large”.
          Now, a simple question – Why would that be?

  15. I don’t care if they ban human fetal material in our foods, but they better not try to unconstitutionally ban human fetal materials in our (a)religious practices, or else I will become very, very insulted.

  16. “…If they teach radical secular ideology, they get all the government support that they can possibly give them….”

    Secular is the new ‘radical’. Who knew?

    1. No kidding, I checked the date on that to make sure it wasn’t posted April 1.

      Next up: People For the Ethical Treatment of Rocks.

  17. “The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination.”

    Of course indoctrination does not take place in any religious setting, including universities reflecting Sanctimonious Santorum’s religious predilections.

    I gather we should all give “Sanctorum” a quitclaim deed to our lives, and we should genuflect before and acquiesce to his whims about how we should live our lives?

  18. Well, Santorum on the basis that Shortey seems more typical of Oklahoma. But don’t count my vote since Santorum’s been on my horizon before most all of you had ever heard of him.

    He appeared on the scene as the US Representative for my district. He pandered to the stupidity of the Western Pennsylvania electorate on the basis that his opponent didn’t even live in PA. Duh! Doug Walgren, an eight-term, pro-research-funding Democrat, of course worked in DC and lived down there. Walgren’s campaign didn’t realize that enough people here were so dumb they couldn’t see thru that one by themselves, and so didn’t respond to that one until too late.

    But then Ricky gets to Washington and tries to maintain the charade of really living here by sticking the Penn Hills school district with something like a $100K bill to maintain a cable hookup to keep his kids connected to classes up here. Now he claims his kids were homeschooled. I suppose they were later, but the Penn Hills business went on for some time and was widely reported up here.

    Then, to the homeschooling. Once he detached his kids from Penn Hills, the local public schools apparently weren’t good enough. He lives in Arlington VA, which is even more affluent than the adjacent Fairfax County where I grew up. A congressman from CA lived down the street from us; both of his sons were in public school with me. There’s nothing wrong with the public schools in Fairfax or Arlington Counties, as jac and I can attest.

    The last time he won a Senate race, he gets up to give his victory speech and starts, “First, I want to thank God, and my family…” He paused, re-ran it in his head, gave a little nod and then repeated it. This guy is the kind of Catholic that some people were afraid Kennedy would be.

    But then the icing on the cake. As you may have heard recently, Mr. Antiabortion Crusader is married to a woman who for six yrs lived with an OB-GYN MD (40yrs her senior) who also did abortions. If Sanctimonium gains any traction in the primaries, expect to hear more pious dissimulation on that.

    Enough people in PA finally got tired of him 4yrs ago. And now he thinks he’s ready for the White House?

    1. Sounds much like I’ve heard post-industrial Pennsylvania described: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Alabama in between.

      1. Indeed, except that he’s essentially from Pittsburgh, which is deeply embarrassing. He played to the center, tho – the central PA you note. But enough of them even got tired of him last time he ran.

  19. “If they taught Judeo-Christian principles in those colleges and universities, they would be stripped of every dollar. If they teach radical secular ideology, they get all the government support that they can possibly give them.”

    Well I’ve learned something today. I went to university to study chemistry. I guess it must have been secular chemistry. Who knew?

    Now I’m wondering what the Judeo-Christian principles of chemistry are. Perhaps they’re based on the Book of Esters….

  20. I don’t know where Santorum got his 62% number, but the whole idea that attending college is the primary reason young people lose faith is based on data from the 60’s and 70’s. An essay by two sociologists focuses on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a massive survey project which first spoke with teenagers in the early 1990’s and continues to track respondents (now young adults) into their mid-20’s. It turns up some interesting facts.

    For instance, 64 percent of those currently enrolled in college have curbed their attendance habits. Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance. The importance of religion in one’s life shows much smaller declines, with 19% of college students saying that it is so, compared with over 25% of non-college young people. For young people who completely renounce their faith, it is 20% of non-college compared with only 13% of college students.

    So the big number that Santorum uses is most likely for church attendance, not a surprising finding for people that age, but whether attending college is the reason for the decline is certainly questionable.

  21. “Because you know 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.”

    Creationism may be a big pile of pseudoscientific horse manure, but I suppose it has its good points. It pins the theist down to making a clear claim about God that’s falsifiable.

    I’ll bet that over 62% of those who lost their ‘faith conviction’ when they left college were creationists when they came in. And I love it when the people who think that losing faith is a problem think that more creationism is the solution.

    1. They are the same personages who opine if atheists studied the bible it would compel them to be Christians. When, in reality, we are atheists because we have studied the bible.

  22. Santorum (and politicians like him) is a lot like a televangelist. Both make use of a steady source of naive, gullible, poorly educated, lazy thinking people within their circle of influence in order to maintain their position of power and their high standard of living.

  23. Santorum, as Bachmann, gives lawyers a bad name.

    How anyone can attain that much education and still be so ignorant and/or so intellectually dishonest is beyond me. Since an atheist probably couldn’t get elected as dog warden, one would hope that someone like Santorum couldn’t be elected as assistant dog warden but look what he was. And from Pa.!

    Go figure.

  24. For a long time it has been clear that one of the main goals of the GOP is a stupider electorate. Anti-intellectualism has been their number one theme. There is no other explanation for Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, George Bush, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and – of course, Rick Santorum. Santorum has finally shed any pretense that it is otherwise, that’s all.

  25. I’m surprised nobody has yet mentioned the superbly titled “Why colleges breed communists — the evolution hoax exposed.” by A.N.Field. I’ll admit I haven’t read it (yet), but it sounds like Santorum would find it great reading.

    The book is available online, and according to one summary I saw, it is “a full-scale assault on the Jewish-socialist conspiracy that purportedly used the teaching of evolution to undermine morality amongst youth”

  26. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but my Psych 101 course tells me that Santorum is mentally ill. He has a religious obsession and is fixated on sex with a deep-rooted fear of women.

    In Santorum’s recent pronouncement on women bearing rapist’s babies as “gifts from God” why not jail the rapist for 9 months then have him raise the child? Why not have a law that incarcerates men for impregnating women out of wedlock? Why does Santorum always place the guilt of sex on women?

    Well, he’s a sick puppy. Furthermore, he wants his sick puppy philosophy to be the law of the land.

    Fortunately, even Santorum is too much of a moron to be a candidate for president, but how sad is it for a sociopath’s “morals” to be paraded before the public as anything but totally abnormal?

    I fault the “liberal media” for not tearing this guy to shreds for the sociopath he is. Shame on them, liberal media.

    1. You are mistaken, there is no such thing as liberal media in USA, there are shows that can be counted on the fingers of one hand as sometimes being liberal, but that’s it.

      1. Doc Bill was mocking the standard Republican strategy of blaming the “liberal media” for all their problems.

        1. That is true. There is no “liberal media.” That’s a bug bear invented by the Rethuglicans to compensate for their failed policies, lack of ideas and general incoherence.

          Just like Santorum claiming that universities are “liberal indoctrination centers” is laughable. I went to a very conservative college, voted for Nixon and took a grand total of ONE political science course! Where’s the liberal, Ricky baby?

          Alas, perhaps my downfall was that I didn’t associate with sociopaths.

          1. Does anyone know SanCtorum’s views on the age of the Earth and the submission of wives to husbands as subscribed to by conservative religiosos?

  27. I blessed America with idiots so I could bless the rest of the world with entertainment. After all, you know that the idiots in America are just trying to do something just a little crazier than the other guys.

  28. I think that Oklahoma creep is on to something. The wording of his bill should be expanded to prevent people from eating the flesh of Jesus. It hasn’t even been FDA inspected, for Christ’s sake.

    As for Santorum, I could only wish that 62% of all believers lost their belief during college, because then the number of atheists would be much higher. No, the words Santorum uses are quite imprecise, they don’t have a “faith commitment,” whatever that is. Perhaps it means 62% aren’t as in love with Catholic Jesus as Santorum, and anything less is counted as a loss of “faith commitment.”

  29. Bending over backwards to be fair to Santorum, there certainly seems to be some “indoctrination” with pseudo-left nonsense in some Universities – the sort of thing that Sokal and Bricmont took the piss out of, and indeed the sort of thing happening at UCL and LSE now.

    This sort-of-true-in-some-vague-sense element means he gets away with saying it.

  30. You’ve really squandered your bountiful idiots.

    Idiots are super useful if you teach them a particular skill and deploy them instead of more important units whenever viable.

    Wandering around without any special ability or even a set patrol they won’t do any good at all. At least ground them as structure-filler.

    1. I’m all for them doing as so many of them claim that their religion says, sacrificing their lives for others in the name of their god. There’s a lot of land mines and cluster bomblets that need to be cleaned up.

  31. 2 requirements that we should have for our politicians:

    1. Must live on minimum wage through a demeaning job for one year before taking office

    2. Must have earned a Master’s degree or higher in political science and have taken classes in economics, earth science, etc.

    1. How about something a lot simpler/

      1) Must understand the processes of formal logic.
      2) Must understand the nature of evidence and the methods of properly determining its weight and value.
      3) Must be able to understand and evaluate a profit & loss a/c and balance sheet.

    1. I doubt it, the article is two years old and the fact that the Texas Board of Education is uneducated is well known and has been addressed by Dr. Coyne at this very website. That is, Dr. Coyne has likely read the article or knows the material well enough.

      Amoung others, see here for WEIT being mentioned at Texas school board hearings in 2009. And here for a more recent post, August 2011, regarding Texas christians getting a much needed thumping.

      There is a comment around here somewhere in which some accommodationist/(pretend)christian is upset about what they perceive to be a lazy approach by atheists, that couldn’t have been you could it, amelie?

        1. Doesn’t matter to me what flavor of christian you prefer, I think you are all fundamentally the same, after all ghosts is ghosts.

          Did you enjoyed the formatted links that where provided so that you would have extra time to pronounce laziness from your lofty christian tower without actually having to use any of your powerful and energetic energy?

  32. I kind of agree with Ray here. It’s one thing to tear obnoxious creationists to shreds, but why be so unwelcoming to those who appear (or at least pretend) to have an open mind?

    It’s the lazy approach to attack which I see atheists do way too often. At least try to educate people and I’m willing to bet that Boitin guy (or whatever his name is) would be willing to listen to polite reasoning.

    Can it hurt to have more people on the side of anti-creationist teachings?

    1. Wait… Mr. Boitin has a dumb idea but we’re not supposed to say so because it is unwelcoming?

      Just because someone isn’t a creationist doesn’t give their ideas any special protection from criticism.

      Your comment isn’t very welcoming to those of us who wish to freely discuss the subject of this blog posting! (oops… website posting)

      1. Dude! You just misconstructed every word I said! Let me put it another way: if someone seems kind and willing to concede certain points, why don’t you educate instead of mock?

        1. I can agree with that, but it could be problematic in its implementation. I guess it depends on the points they are willing to concede. I must confess that we, as atheists, shouldn’t neglect our inner-Hitchens in certain moments.

          1. I agree it depends in the situation. All of us I guess are better off when we’re willing to see another point of view. If I remember right,people were found to change their minds more often when they could find common ground first.

            1. Agreed. However, countless numbers of my comrades are not inclined to perceive it that way and I don’t think they are entirely wrong.

              1. @Persto, Re your more recent comment:

                Aye. It’s too late at night for me to match your eloquent statement. However, I agree. And if it works, it works. But from my experience, those few believers on the fence enough to actually change their minds respond better to civility. Those not, will never change anyway. Efficacy is the goal, obviously. Do we have data on that? For my part I’m not into psychology; only Viverrids. 😉

                Popular. Yes. On my blog I would call it hijacking; but so long as I don’t make it a habit I assume Dr. Coyne will forgive me.

              2. @amelie- Quite frankly, if someone’s so hung up on civility that they’d reject an idea simply because its proponents have a tendency to use less than perfectly polite language when dealing with an ignoramus who’s busy patting himself on the back for his own lack of intelligence, that person wasn’t too interested in making an informed decision to begin with.

                And when someone spends a great deal more time complaining about how the less that perfectly civil behavior of other people might turn off others to their message because nothing but perfectly civil behavior could ever reach anyone to the point that it doesn’t appear that said person is even reading what the object of their defense is actually saying, people may suspect that they’ve got a tone troll and/or apologist on their hands.

              3. You are making it a habit. Please limit yourself to fewer posts per day, particularly because you’re new around here and don’t appear to have the lie of the land. I don’t like back and forth squabbling on this website.

            2. What exactly does “willing to see another point of view” mean? Does it mean pretending that a bad idea is not a bad idea? Why do you assume that a person who disagrees with a bad idea hasn’t “seen” that point of view already and dismissed it for good reason?

              It seems to me that these appeals to politeness are little than request for people to stop disagreeing with a position you are fond of.

              1. A person I am fond of? Have I missed something?

                Upon first commenting on this blog the only person I recognized was David Quammen when he (swoon) corrected a Darwin statement I had made. Then Ant and Ben rushed over to tell me I’m an atheist. Otherwise, I don’t know anyone.

                So let me in on the little joke sometime, okay?

                You asked what I meant by willing to see another point of view. Good question! What I mean is that not every evolution-doubter is a stalwart Creationist. Maybe their textbook was like 90 percent of texts in America – censored.

                If you can understand that not everyone is lucky enough to have had the educatiion we did, you can assure them that they are smart enough to understand the material and evidence for evolution if they just give it a chance.

                We won’t get anywhere by preaching to the choir.

              2. amelie, you are tilting at straw men. This particular blog posting (oops, there I go again…) focuses on a critique of a suggestion by a person (who claims to be an atheist), by atheists (mostly). Dropping in to tell us that we have to be polite and ignore the fact that this is a dumb idea because a creationist might be offended is ridiculous.

              3. Amelie, I am going to attempt to explain why being impolite towards religionists is necessary on some occasions.

                I am sure you possess a mindset similar to Coleridge’s, as do I, when it is achievable, “Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” However, this is only applicable if the person possesses the capacity to reason and is prepared to approach the area under discussion with an open mind. If not, the atheist must, on occasion, be ‘dickish’, if only to halt the absurdity of the religionist’s, apologist’s, creationist’s, or accommodationist’s claims. (Think of it as channeling your inner-Hitchens.)

                Santayana asserted, “There are two stages in the criticism of myths…. The first treats them angrily as superstitions; the second treats them smilingly as poetry….The idea that religion contains a literal, not a symbolic, representation of truth and life is simply an impossible idea. Whoever entertains it has not come within the region of profitable philosophizing on that subject.” Exactly. For example, you cannot deny the sublime poetry of the King James Bible (one of my personal favorites- Job 14:1-13), but it is not a supernatural oracle book. However, the hurdle isn’t the Bible, but the incorrect utilization and understanding of the Bible by Christians. Consequently, if you are an atheist, you are forced to approach the writings of the Bible in modus operandi that wholly disproves the literalist interpretation and, for that matter, any interpretation that contradicts modern science and historical fact, in order to stop the deception based exploitation of the Bible. Thus, until the grip of Christianity is detached the ‘dickish’ atheistic approach to Christianity and its enablers will be imperative.

                Why should wholehearted, unrelenting abjuration of religious claims be de rigueur for atheists? Because religious individuals are disseminating the falsehoods of their beliefs–both fabricated science and religious viewpoints–to the uninformed public. Thereby structuring the specious system of beliefs of the nescient populace. Voltaire stated, “Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.” How true. These disseminators are members of institutions that are responsible for some of the most grievous acts of violence, repression, and oppression in the archive of humankind. I am reminded of Lucretius, “To such heights of evil are men driven by religion.” Does religion or its apologists and accommodationists deserve a complimentary pass? I think not. Atheists have a duty to be ‘dickish’ if it facilitates the discontinuance of the expansion and influence of ignominious religious worldviews.

                BTW, it seems you have become quite popular on this site today?

        2. Maybe I’m just a mean old man?

          Or maybe I don’t like the suggestion that tearing non-creationist bad ideas to shreds is off-limits?

          You accused “many atheists” (which ones? the ones on this page I presume) of doing it wrong… not being welcoming. It is a criticism that gnu atheists hear all the time…. if we were only we were more polite and respectful we would have more allies in the fight against creationists.

          The subject of this particular blog-post (oops… web post) is a suggestion that what atheists need is to copy religious trappings (for some reason which nobody seems able to articulate). Why is it unwelcoming to discuss this bad idea bluntly?

          1. Mean guy for sure! (kidding).

            I think the general tenor of targeting someone for mockery puts this in a bad light. Some blowhole like Santorum? Sure, go crazy. But Boitin, he seems like someone with whom you could have a civillized discussion. In fact his goal seems to be to promote conversation. To make fun of him for that, well, not a great thing from my perspective.

            I don’t agree at all about religious trappings. I do think communities are a good idea.

            People here should define their goals. You want to be right all the time? Sure – use any tone you want. But naive outsiders may be in the fence and driving them away means they’re likely to be charmed by some Republican buffoon.

            1. Sorry, but I don’t find the finger-wagging appeal to respectfulness to be a convincing response. I don’t see why bad ideas deserve respect; they are not respectable things.

              You are welcome to disrespect _my_ bad ideas as much as you like as long as you provide reasons for your disagreement. But failure to respond to the substance of an argument because you don’t like the “tone” (oh… those strident gnu atheists!!!) suggests the need for smelling salts more than the availability of a rational response.

          2. GB James (this is in response to your most recent comment) I don’t know why you enjoy misquoting people, however I never said anyone “had to” do anything. I put down my opinion. Which is what I assume the comment section is for.

            My suggestion was that if atheists want to compel change, they might consider the science of psychology, be more saavy and less like attack dogs. But hey, if you want to remain insular, have at it.

            By the way almost every atheist here has been very kind and polite to me. That gives me a better impression of those who choose to follow this philosophy.

              1. Hmm, no intelligent reply so this is your response? Sad. I’m still waiting to hear a name of the person for whom I’m being an apologist.

                And this time, try not to put words in my mouth, okay?

              2. I clearly misquoted you. Mea culpa. I should not have use the word “tone” in quotes when “general tenor” were the actual words. And no, you didn’t say “had to”. That’s shorthand for the repeated argument that us mean old atheists are just not helping the cause and that we SHOULD stop with all the mockery; some friendly creationists might be offended.

                At this point you have convinced me that dispute the fact that you write a very nice earth-friendly blog of your own (I did look it up), here on this blog (er… website) you are not interested in discussing anything but your own delicate sense of etiquette. I will do my best to just ignore you now. It will not be easy but I will try.

              3. Did I just get somewhat of a compliment from you? Thanks! 😉

                I realized I was probably approaching this wrong, GB. Since this is an evidence-based blog, I don’t know why I did not mention that I did read 2 articles which demonstrate that some type of initial agreeableness can seriously change attitudes.

                (would have to dig them out from the other computer, will do so if we decide to converse further)

                I suppose evidence-based arguments also promote civility. My bad.

    2. Amelie, have you, or do you know anyone who has, convinced a creationist of the error of his / her ways? ID believers may be a different story. It’s probably impossible to shake their fundamental position but at least you can point out that the so called flaws which they identify in evolution theory are a result of misinformation or misunderstanding. Basically, and hardly surprisingly, ID proponents are less “religious” about their beliefs, except, of course, for those who are covert creationists, but adapt their stance to suit their audience.

      1. Oh, absolutely. My religious neighbor’s 13 year old daughter. You talk online, you never know what their age or level of education is. Maybe no one has ever challenged their beliefs.

        It also depends on how you define Creationist. I spoke to one Christian who came to understand that he may believe in God but there was simply no evidence in science, and he agreed it should be kept separate from classroom teachings. That’s a start.

        I also think some Creatiinists are like oil executives; they have a financial stake in the matter and they will stop at nothing. Those are the ones who need a smackdown

        1. Sentences like “Those are the ones who need a smackdown” suggest to me that you are confusing PEOPLE with IDEAS. Ideas don’t have feelings and we should not feel sorry when bad ones get smacked.

      2. Is it reasonable to say that the issue boils down to name-calling?

        The initial post was entitled, “Morons of the month.” (A bit of alliteration there.)

        This issue comes up periodically on this site.

        Is it accommodationist to refrain from name-calling?

        Is the use of “morons” name-calling, or (what was initially and formerly) a psychiatric clinical term? (If I correctly recall, other such “clinical” terms included “idiot,” “imbecile.”)

        Or is it “just a comment”?

        Nowadays I don’t think most people would take it as “just a comment,” and certainly not a “compliment” (unless they’re likely masochistic, or overly “accommodationist” in order to “keep the peace.”)

        I’ve had people direct unsolicited, judgemental, bloviating opinions my way, and then when I take offense they in turn take offense, saying, “It was just a comment.”

        Is “ignoramus” a perjorative? Most people would say yes. Strictly, it’s “in” – “not” + “gnosis” – “knowing.” What’s bad is WILLFUL not knowing.

        Re: two types of people: those who know that they don’t know [necessitating a concommitant attitude of humility, as Hitchens occasionally emphasized], and those who don’t know that they don’t know. (I’ve had occasion to witness and marvel at a redneck ignoramus bloviating about the ignorance of others.)

        Perhaps there’s a third – those who know that they don’t know, and don’t care, and perhaps also a fourth: those who don’t know that they don’t know, and don’t care.)

        Well, enough of my own bloviation.

          1. Yes. Namee calling and targeting, perhaps. To make a person the subject of a post mocking them, well, it’s a bit immature at some point unless it is a truly evil figure like Limbaugh or unless(cough-Moshe) they targeted the blog author first.

  33. @Microraptor,

    Oh yes, making someone the butt of the joke in 2 blog posts with dozens of comments ridiculing him is surely only a bit “less than polite”.

    We’re you raised in a box?

      1. My comment was of a more *general* nature so just to be clear, I was talking in my last comment specifically about the Botton post. On that point I assume we’re clear.

        He called Botton an embarassment to atheism, called his idea a boondoggle, so on and so forth. Which point did I misunderstand, Microraptor?

        1. When you appeared to be leaping to the defense of Ray Bohlin’s anti-intellectualism without actually having the slightest idea what you were defending. I may have misconstrued it, but that’s certainly what it looked like you were doing.

          1. Finally! Someone explains it to me. I think I made myself very clear that I was not defending *at all* an ignorant view of science. What I AM saying is that since we’re all evidence-based here, wouldn’t we want to understand the science of persuasion if we have a half-decent human being who’s willing to listen?

            Either the criticism is self-serving snark or it’s productive. It can’t be both.

            1. Given how often people seem to have mistaken you for defending an ignorant view of science, I’d say that you haven’t made it very clear. And your tendency is to jump in to complaining about snark (while being just as snarky yourself) while completely ignoring every other part of the discussion.

              Hence: tone trolling.

              1. The level of immaturity from certain folks like yourself on this blog is pretty hillarious. You freak out if anyone disagrees with you and you’re incapable of having a mature discussion with just the facts. I brought up psychology studies and immediately you changed the subject and called me a troll. Don’t want to discuss evidence? Look in the mirror.

              2. I didn’t change any subjects, I was pointing out what your behavior has consistently been like and therefore why people would have a certain perception of you.

                And as for calling my behavior immature for saying you’re acting like a troll? After the number of insults and personal attacks you’ve slung around? Get over yourself.

              3. Wow. Never before have I seen a call for civility to be met with such vitrol. You are obviously very childish and refuse to prevent evidence much like the Creationists who troll here.

                Sad. Not worth arguing any more. See ya.

    1. Dr. Coyne, don’t worry, I don’t think I’ll visit here much anymore. Nothing against you. I apologize if I over commented.

      I had to look up that term, tone trolling! Read my Greenwashing posts. I’m about as nasty as a blogger can get and have lost a few readers over it. I would not be such a hypocrite as to say “we should all be nice” after the posts I wrote.

      I was simply going along with the consistent theme of this blog, evidence. While behavioral psychology can be a fairly weak science, it still is one.

      Many Creationists will not change their minds, but I’ve heard that a good number (30 percent or so) are on the fence. You’re either targeting people for your own satisfaction, or you’re trying to educate people about science. It can’t be both because the two don’t work together.

      And that can be demonstrated via studies. People do change their minds. And I was just pointing out that there’s a method for potentiating that effect. End of story.

      Like it or not, people consider atheism to be more of a philosophy than a word in the dictionary. If sexism and nastiness are attached to the name, the cause isn’t going to get very far.

      Thanks for listening. See ya!

      1. Amelie, I sympathise. I think you are being very hard done by for stating honestly held attitudes concerning civility. I do however have a different perspective from you on the question of efficacy of attempts to convince creationists and supporters of ID whether by polite argument or invective. You have given one example relating to a 13 year old and made a generalisation about 30% of believers being “fence sitters” without referring to any supporting evidence. In short, you have not produced any evidence tp demonstrate that politeness is a more effective tool than impoliteness.

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