Eric Hovind: Lies, damn lies and the almighty dollar

Matthew 19:24

Proof, as if it were needed this week, that the one thing more important to Christian fundamentalists than lying for Jesus is cash and plenty of it, comes in the form of confirmation that Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate’s plan to sell a DVD of the conversation they had with myself and Alex Botten is in fact going ahead.

“I realize [sic] that you despise Eric and I, but your understanding of the DVD sale is misinformed. Obviously we are not selling the exchanges as is, but are planning to sell commentary on the exchanges, with OUR copy of the exchanges included for free.

The full exchanges are offered for free on both our sites, so selling them alone would make absolutely no sense. If you think that you have cause for action against us selling DVDs of our commentary on the exchanges, and including the exchanges for free, then lawyer up.”

– Sye Ten Bruggencate

We did not agree for God Quest, inc. to edit the conversation we had with Sye and Eric. We did not agree for God Quest, inc. to use our comments for any commercial purpose of any kind. We were not asked if God Quest, inc. could use our comments in this way. We specifically said the whole point of our having the conversation was that it would not be used in this way.

In a second conversation, held between myself, Alex, Eric and Dustin Segers, we specifically told Eric that the single most offensive thing he does, in the name of his religion, is make money from wilfully misrepresenting the facts and what other people have said about those facts to his face.

We also told Eric and Sye, in a recent Fundamentally Flawed podcast, that the quickest and most honest way for them to put right any ill feelings which have been caused by their decision to go back on their promise not to financially gain from our involvement in their ministry, would be to donate the proceeds from sales of the DVD to UNICEF. So far they have declined, even though we also promised, if they did this, we would help them sell as many copies of it as possible, despite that we did not perform particularly well.

Anyone who buys this DVD is going to hear Alex and myself make some giant, huge, ridiculously obvious mistakes. We went into the recording fully prepared to admit that we did not know the intricacies of their argument. In the spirit of intellectual honesty, we asked them — and expected them — to be honest with us in return and simply explain what their beliefs actually are. What we discovered, over the following weeks, was a staggering degree of misinformation and blatant lies, pumped into the literature they produce, about “what atheists believe”.

Here is a sample of quotes from emails I have received following that conversation, from Christians who don’t lie for a living and are ashamed of those who do:

“They make us all sound nuts. I lost count of the times Eric dodged a question but made it sound like it was you guys who didn’t get it. He’s good, but not in a good way.”

“How did Sye manage to avoid Emmanuel Kant for this long? For someone who claims to be interested in logic his lack of knowledge in everything which happened in the last 150 years is embarrassing.”

“Please don’t have that annoying liar on the podcast ever again.”

I do not “despise” anyone. Least of all do I despise Eric Hovind or Sye Ten Bruggencate. I pity them. I pity their lack of humanity and honesty. I pity their need to turn everything that moves into money. I pity their small minded word games and holier than thou attitude to anyone who points out the phantasmagorically obvious flaws in their fear theology.

You would think, then, that I would welcome their decision to pump out more of this stuff. After all, how could it do any harm to let them prove with their own actions everything which we have ever said about them is right? On the face of it, that would be true. This would be further demonstrated by their complete unwillingness to give myself and Alex the right to reply. It’s telling that the conversation they chose to highlight is the one which came before we had a chance to go away and read up on some of the subjects they themselves advised us to research.

For example, if they had instead chosen to look at what was said in our second conversation, they would now be attempting to sell a DVD of a conversation which involved Eric insisting that there is “plenty of scientific data” to support Intelligent Design, but point blank refusing to name any of them.

If the intellectual honesty they frequently refer to had been exercised, in the production of this DVD, towards what myself and Alex actually said, about the fallaciousness of drawing a conclusion from ones own proposition, they would be peddling a debate in which we repeatedly answered their questions to the best of our ability, only to be told we hadn’t given them the right sort of answer.

Eric and Sye have a very simple proposal to consider. They can either go ahead and sell what they do not have the permission of its participants to sell; lining their own pockets with something they know full well presents an incomplete picture of the facts. Or they can give the proceeds of this DVD away to UNICEF and enjoy my 100% endorsement of it. I will give them a quote for the artwork. I will place a banner linking directly to the on-line store selling it at the top of this blog and leave it there for 6 months. I will encourage as many people as possible to buy it. All they have to do is sell it as pay-what-you-want and publish the receipts, so we know for certain that every last penny is going to a worthy cause.

UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation focusing on children and child rights, with a presence in more than 190 countries and territories. We work with local communities, partners and governments to ensure every child’s rights to survive and thrive are upheld. – http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/

Current estimates show [God Quest, inc.] has an annual revenue of $78,000 and employs a staff of approximately 2. – http://www.manta.com/c/mtmqspz/god-quest-inc

The Pope says condoms cause HIV AIDS. Catholic charity worker agrees, by ranting uncontrollably on live TV.

I saw this on Channel 4 News this evening and had to share it with you all.

After watching this I had to go for a walk, so I didn’t begin hurling heavy objects at the screen.

Taking Liberties

From the copy: “This polemical and irreverent film examines how our fundamental rights are being systematically undermined in the current climate of fear.”

On the day when David Davis resigned as shadow home secretary, on a point of principal, in the light of yesterdays vote in the commons on extending the time police can hold suspected terrorist for 42 days without charge, described by Tony Benn as the day Magna Carta was torn up, this occasionally humorous film looks at how, since September 11th 2001, the British and the American government have gradually taken away our hard won freedoms and legal rights in the name of the war for oil.. ..sorry, “on terror”.

Featuring interviews with soldier guards at Guantanamo Bay, former detainees, leaders and politicians, pressure groups and spokespersons from both sides of the debate surrounding the need to live in security and the right to live in true freedom from the tyranny of our own government.


Watch in fullscreen

Part 6 of Creationist Falsehoods

If ever there was a single series of YouTube clips to bookmark and send on to your religiously superstitious friends and family, it is this.

I don’t normally like to jump right in to the middle of a series like this, but although the preceding parts of this excellent series which I have watched are utterly concise and entertaining, part 6 is the section which has prompted me to post.

Pretty please with a cherry on top, watch the other parts as well – but revel in the glory of this section first to whet your appetite and don’t forget to pass it on.

Is Ben Stein dangerously brainwashed or just drawn that way?

In this comment, Kim linked to a story over on friendlyatheist which links to a video on a Christian broadcasting site showing an interview with Ben Stein, who’s film on so-called Intelligent Design is the latest attempt to legitimise “teach the controversy”, in the war against reason and truth in our classrooms.

I did intend to screen-rip the video so I could post it in a more accessible format to YouTube or Google video, but I got 5 minutes into the interview and had to walk away for a moment, so as not to inflict some serious damage on my computer.

These people are frightening. I’ve never seen such blatant lies dressed up as serious debate in my life. What on Earth are we going to do to help these strangers in our midst wake up?

Truth be told, I was considering walking away from posting any heavy duty blog entries for a while, because – well – summer is upon us here in the North of England and Satan only knows it’ll only last a couple of short weeks, so I had planned on spending as much of that time as possible with Lucy, mine hotty, rather than stuck in front of the computer.

But, the other day, I was up at my son’s school and while I was waiting in reception I noticed that the school magazine was riddled with references to doing things “the Christian way” and it sent a shiver down my spine.

Without going into the whole long and complicated reasons as to why I’d never realised his school had a leaning in this direction before, it did sit on my mind for a day or two and bring home the frightening fact that this isn’t just one of those wacky yank things we Europeans find strangely endearing about you guys across the pond; it’s happening everywhere and it is really super scary.

In the opening remarks of the Stein interview, he asserts that the scientific method rules out the possibility of understand how life on Earth originated from a supernatural perspective; the complexity of the cell and how the planets stay in their orbit. You can’t make this stuff up, but – seriously – the guy interviewing him, actually nodded in agreement. Someone really should buy these people some grade school science books that haven’t been written in the body of Christ (up his sacred arse hole presumably).

Of course, Stein knows full well that these are in fact exactly the very subjects which science is interested in. He knows that by simply making up his argument as he goes along (rather like Joseph Smith) he’ll raise enough hackles in the real world, so as to appear vindicated in concluding his film’s overarching theme, that no one is allowed to challenge Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection, without being branded dangerous and either fired from their job or shunned in some other way because of it.

We normal folk, who wouldn’t dream of clinging to a belief that has been proven false, should recoil in horror every time we encounter someone who forces themselves, or is being forced by others, to act opposite to the entirely human instinct to trust what we can prove truthful. The very ability to think logically and reasonably like this, requires a great deal of faith in oneself; that being on your own (metaphorically speaking) is no bad thing.

Because there are no other voices in your head, unless you’re a paranoid schizophrenic, engaging in that internal dialogue between what we want to say and what we feel, we can be sure that our thoughts are our own. But what about the terminally Christian? I wonder how their brains divide, from a numerate functioning point of view, between what they know to be true and what they’re telling themselves is true, despite the many contradictions which ordinary people see so clearly?

Unfortunately, an answer to that is probably very difficult to definitively find; since the vocabulary of religious indoctrination pre-programs theists to see their own will as the will of an exterior supervisor and not, in fact, from their own head. Dan Dennett, in his book ‘breaking the spell’ suggest that certain people are more likely to actually physically and emotionally need religion for some very good evolutionary reasons.

I’ve written before about the idea of Cro-Magnon man instinctively knowing not to go into the cave after dark; there are bears and wolves. And professor Dawkins’ book ‘The ancestors tale’ was hugely insightful in this area in comparing it to other possible explanations for how we developed the instinct to trust certain of our senses more than others, millions of years before we were even remotely capable of forming complex thoughts about our origins through verbally handed down creation myth and folklore.

But I’ve yet to find anything (which I’d appreciate links and comments for) on the study into the religious brain and how so many billions of devoutly mislead people, manage to live a relatively normal life, despite having no higher functioning mind of their own.

Perhaps they’re the Ben Stein’s of this world? Perfectly capable of chewing and walking at the same time; even managing to string sentences together with fairly complicated words in them, not just for their own lips to form, but for the lips of others as well. And yet utterly incapable at the same time, of having any real perspective on anything at all, even for a single second – which is all it would take if they gave themselves that second, to have a hand to forehead moment at the utter shite that comes out when they speak without thinking.

An appeal to all intelligent Christians

I’ve begun using Newsvine.com again, for some of my longer writing. Here’s my first article.

http://howgoodisthat.newsvine.com/_news/2008/04/25/1453507-an-appeal-to-all-intelligent-christians

Dear intelligent Christians of Newsvine.

As an atheist, I believe in one fewer God than you do. But this isn’t another of those ultimately pointless rant pieces about the difference between Zeus and Mithra; what you believe and what I believe. This is about something far more important than that.

This is an appeal to the doctors and software programmers, teachers and architects, bishops and policemen in the newsvine community and beyond, who are college educated, responsible, rationally minded people who just so happen to attend a Yahweh believing church on a regular basis.

On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve found myself talking with someone who is religious and I’ve caught myself in the curious position of feeling like I’m talking down to them; being patronising to someone who I had no intention of offending. If that’s how my words read, I can assure you that my thoughts did not sound that way when they were leaving my brain, causing the nerve endings in my finger tips to agitate and hit the corresponding keys on my keyboard.

Having said that, however good my intentions to simply talk with you as one adult to another, it’s an unfortunate fact that 50% of those reading this from within the United States, will be grossly offended by what I now have to say. Because there is no easy way to say, I’m sorry, but you’re fundamentally wrong to oppose the teaching of Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection in your schools.

I’m a Brit. But, given my passive aggressive mix of a moderately consolatory beginning, leaping immediately into a hardline insistence of fact, you’d probably already worked that out.

In my country, children are taught science in reverse order. Beginning with biology and ending with physics. Since I had a relatively good introduction to the sciences in my Catholic run school, the fact that my school has continued to do well in performance tables, many years after I left, is a good indicator that in the intervening years no group of militant parents have come along, hijacked the board and begun insisting that the teaching of the holy trinity myth in R.E. class, takes primacy over the teaching of chemistry and biology in the science class.

However, a movement which some of you reading this in certain States will be more familiar with than others, known as Intelligent Design, is intending to do just such a thing in your publicly funded schools, when it comes to the education of the next generation of voters, policemen, teachers and priests, who will be running your country when you’ve retired.

Intelligent Design says that because Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection does not require a supernatural explanation for how life on Earth originated, it is therefore false – because on page one, chapter one of the bible, it clearly states the opposite. Unfortunately for I.D. advocates, Charles Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection isn’t about the origins of life on Earth – it is about how life on Earth evolved once it had already appeared.

Advocates of I.D., nevertheless, rage on; building their argument based around the idea that being proven wrong time and time again, is merely proof that they are being discriminated against.

The cause celebré of the Intelligent Design movement, at the moment, is a filmmaker called Ben Stein and his ‘Expelled’ documentary, currently in theatres. Chief among the most offensive of the film’s many erroneous claims, are it’s staggeringly ignorant attempts to portray people who support Darwin’s fact of evolution through natural selection as being proponents of the Nazi pseudo-science, Eugenics.

Stein’s film does this by deliberately misquoting Charles Darwin’s writings, to make them seem as if he inspired Hitler, who’s attempts to prove that the human race would be better off without ‘Jewish blood’ in the gene pool, was in some way a justification to murder millions of doctors, teachers, policemen, lawyers, authors, scientists – all because they were non-Arian.

Ben Stein, himself Jewish, by deliberately altering select quotations from Darwin, in his film, in order to have Darwin appear to say something he equivocally did not, is offensive enough. But saying that this is proof that evolution is therefore evil and incompatible with the beliefs of those from any of the monotheistic faiths, is quite another.

The film is, in my opinion, nothing short of being one long hate-speech, aimed at anyone who has, in their own mind and for their own reasons, decided they are no-longer interested in bronze-age guess work about our place in the cosmos.

Stein and the pro-I.D. movement are effectively telling all religious American voters, that if you want to be on the side of God, you have to be against Charles Darwin and all of the science which has come from a greater understanding of natural selection, in the intervening 150 years since his work was first published.

Here is why Ben Stein is wrong and you should do all you can to tell as many people as you can he is wrong, next Sunday at your church of choice.

Place a tennis ball on an uneven surface and give it a gentle push. See how it wobbles along, before coming to a stop? Now pick up the ball and drop it from shoulder height. See how it bounces at first, maybe twice and then rolls away again, only this time further than before?

Why did that happen? Was it because you believed it would? Or was it because it was being acted upon by an invisible force, some people refer to as gravity? Well, there’s only one way to find out – and this may take several million years, so you might want to make a flask of coffee.

First, drop the ball from varying heights thirty or forty billion times and count how many times, instead of dropping to the floor, bouncing once or twice and then rolling away, the ball shoots off into the air, into the sky, though the clouds and into space.

Assuming the occurrences of this are low, how safe is it to assume that, more often than not, an object with mass, when in close proximity to an object of greater mass, will be attracted towards that greater mass, until the force of the smaller object’s energy is reduced so much, that it stops moving? Very safe? Moderately safe? Let’s agree it’s an almost infinitesimally large number ratio to one that this law of motion, as first observed, tested and proven by Isaac Newton, will ever be proven wrong.

You will note, we are not saying categorically this law will absolutely never ever be broken, just that it is so unlikely to be anything other than utterly reliable, that it may as well be referred to henceforth not as a theory, but as a fact.

So, what has the movement of objects in an electromagnetic force got to do with Charles Darwin’s ‘theory’ of evolution through natural selection?

Darwin observed, tested and proved that over millions of geological years on Earth, complex life could only have evolved from less complex organisms. At first, simple bacteria and later simple marine life – in the abundant oceans. He proved that all life on Earth, in fact, sprang forth from this primeval soup.

He didn’t do this by insisting that his belief that this was how life evolved was right, regardless of contradictory evidence. He proved that this was true precisely because of the evidence that he could not disprove. He searched all of his life for a possible mistake he may have made in his observations. As did his peers. As did thousands of successive generations of scientists from around the world for the past 150 years. None of them, not even once, unearthing a single shred of doubt that his work was anything other than the single greatest scientific achievement in the history of human kind.

Darwin was able, using his observations, to repeat the equivalent of the tennis ball dropping from a height experiment for hundreds of millions of years and make predictions about its outcome; that animals, which in his time he couldn’t have known anything about, nevertheless we have since discovered to exist, would show specific kinds of behaviour when living in certain temperate regions; the kinds of feeding environments they would most likely dwell within and what kind mating habits they would display; courting rituals, reciprocal altruism with other species. The list of predictions about the natural world which evolution makes, which have all been proven to be true, grows all the time and has never fallen short of explaining all of them.

Evolution dwarfs the achievement of space flight and many other areas of scientific endeavour – even Quantum electrodynamics is less understood than evolution – and if you doubt the findings of that field of science, what’s that thing with an Apple logo on it, sitting on the desk in front of you?

To deny Darwin’s legacy to our future selves, because a tiny minority of politically motivated religious elite want to say it represents something which it emphatically does not; about the only intelligent life forms in the whole of the universe, as far as we know, in a brighter more enlighten tomorrow, will be quite simply unfathomable to our grandchildren – but only if we do what it should be our sworn duty to do before it is too late; speak the truth, because the truth will set us free.