Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 345

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Because this is a holiday week, this edition of Opinion in the Shorts is a bit earlier than normal.

I’m overdue for a new header – so welcome another image from the Hubble Telescope – the Horsehead Nebula within the Orion constellation about 1500 light years from Earth. You can see my past headers on the Past Headers tab or by clicking here.

The latest Star Wars film: A quick review – Good vs. evil, a group of eclectic characters from across the universe, numerous special effects battle scenes, and advanced weapon technology that isn’t efficient at hitting a target.

2,000th post is the next statistical milestone for my little corner of the world. I imagine it happening sometime in early 2018 (January or February). 300,000th visit should happen sometime late December or January – but I don’t foresee them happening together

The next post will be a Christmas post (posted either on the 23rd or 24th).

I drafted the beach walks while at the beach. Cincinnati is a long way from the beach, so I only have one more – which I may publish next week.

The Creation Museum (from Answers in Genesis) is located in the Cincinnati area. Although I have more than a passing interest in the interrelationship between religion and science, I’ve never had the urge to visit the museum – and probably never will. After all, it does not represent my view of religion or my view of science. Therefore, I appreciated this closing statement Ted Davis gives his recent post at Biologos. … in engaging culture with Christian truth is a holy duty, but it goes awry when Christians approach culture in an aggressive and combative manner, oversimplify complex issues, and delegitimize any approach that starts with an open question instead of an assumed answer.

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With all the talk about the new tax plan, I wonder what happened to President Trump’s idea of (I paraphrase) “a tax cut not for rich guys like me.”

The new tax bill eliminates the wrong mandate regarding health care insurance – the individual mandate, whereas I say it should eliminate the insurance mandate on businesses – but that would involve guts and creative problem solving.

Other than saying No, Democrats missed the opportunity of providing an alternative tax-cut proposal to the public.

Remember Simpson-Bowles; the 2012 bipartisan effort examining deficit reduction and reform? Five years have passed and Congress and both parties continue to ignore it while kicking the can down the road.

It’s been a long time since I thought about the brilliant George Carlin’s 7 words you can’t say on TV, but it immediately came to my mind when hearing the report about the Trump Administration directive to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Reports say that the CDC cannot use 7 words in the budget preparation documents: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. Although just another odd Trumpian effect, Chuck Todd’s closing segment on Meet the Press was perfect.

I smiled when I heard conservative columnist George Will say he believes the country would be better off with a divided Congress. I also enjoyed this recent column of his about washing machines.

Columnist Kathleen Parker recently offered timely reminder: … effectively convinced voters that what is true is false and what is false is true.

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion provides a guide for interpreting dreams.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Unidentified wooden pole leaning against wall in garage
God gets Celtic Cross tattoo on back
Unpatriotic man does not maintain erection during National Anthem
92% of area woman’s recipes involving pulverizing bag of Oreos
Overworked pajama bottoms pray owner gets job soon
Study finds chickens would have no qualms about caging, eating humans

Interesting Reads
Has the high school diploma lost meaning?
Public trust and science
A guide for pessimists for the days ahead
History of Star Wars
What if Greenland had no ice?
(Pictures) The most beautiful pictures of 2017
(Video) A relaxing two minutes of sights from the Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico

To lead you toward the holiday, here’s a 1963 clip of The Beatles. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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On a Senseless Situation

Daubert vTwo Rules
In Daubert v. Merrill Dow (1993), the US Supreme court established a standard on whether an expert’s testimony is based on valid science and methodology,

  • Whether the theory or technique in question can be or has been tested
  • Whether it has been subject to peer review and publication
  • It’s known or potential error rate
  • The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation
  • Whether it has attract widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

In Lemon v. Kuntzman (1971), the US Supreme Court established the following (known as the Lemon Test) about legislation regarding religion;

  • The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose
  • The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion
  • The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion

The Situation
Springboro, Ohio is about an hour north of downtown Cincinnati, thus actually a southern suburb of Dayton. The Springboro Board of Education recently decided to throw itself into the evolution-in-science-class debate.

The Complete Ignoral
The Springboro Board proclaims the findings of the Discovery Institute, a leading center of Intelligent Design (ID). In so doing, the Board either ignores or embraces what the Discovery Institute says of itself.

Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West. ….. Our Center for Science and Culture works to defend free inquiry. It also seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that the Discovery Institute (assumingly staffed by scientifically trained personnel) does not meet the criteria of science experts established in the Daubert Standard.

In so doing, the Springboro Board, as a governing organization, ignores the Lemon Test established by the high court.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the results of Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) where Dover (PA) Board of Education adopted a science curriculum placing Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in biology classes. In the court challenge, Judge Jones, a conservative Bush appointee and Christian, stated

Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. …. Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and merely secondary to the religious objective. … To briefly reiterate, we first note that since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion. …. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) where the US Supreme Court stated,

The law’s effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read. Plainly, the law is contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981) served as a challenge to the state’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act that mandated teaching creation science along evolution. In the ruling, District Judge Overton defined both science and creation science, as well as providing numerous reasons by is simply not science.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) were the US Supreme Court states that Creation Science embraces religious teaching. In addition, the purpose of the Louisiana law of requiring teaching both views (or none) was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores its potential high cost of legal fees, which exceeded over $1 million for the Dover Board.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the fact that science has boundaries confined to explain the natural world – and fudging data for conforming to a pre-conceived theology box is not science – but rather a component of religion.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that this religious stance is contrary to doctrine from Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant denominations, countless Christian scholars, and Jewish scholars – let alone against the belief system of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others within their community.

In so doing, the Springboro Board has received support from the Creation Museum run by Answers in Genesis – another organization that does not meet the Daubert standards, yet proclaims using science to state that humans and dinosaurs roamed together on our less-than-10,000-year-old Earth – let alone claiming a 5,000 years old T-Rex skeleton.

Suggestions
To the Springboro Board and its supporters, I say this: You can disagree with well-established case-law, but that does not make the law wrong. You can disagree with science, but that does not make science wrong.

To Springboro residents opposing the Board’s action, learn and become proactive – which includes following the Dover voter’s lead that voted the school board members out of office.

To the Springboro churches opposing the Board, good for you – but you are partially responsible for the Board’s action. After all, odds are you perpetuated the problem by ignoring the topic for many years.

On Building a New Ark

Answers in Genesis (AIG) is a Christian-based organization with a vision to serve as a catalyst to bring reformation by reclaiming the foundations of our faith which are found in the Bible, thus  proclaiming the absolute truth and authority of the Bible with boldness.

In May 2008, their $27 million Creation Museum opened in northern Kentucky across from Cincinnati to promote their understanding of creation and a young earth (less than 10,000 years old). A few months ago, AIG announced plans to build (near the museum) Ark Encounter, a $170+ million, 800-acre theme park based on the story of Noah.

In November, the Kentucky Department of Tourism tentatively approved $43 million dollars in tax incentives pending further analysis. Shortly thereafter, Governor Steve Broshear (D) announced his support for the incentives in the name of jobs for Kentuckians.

AIG does not hide its intent to intent to evangelize its message. In the spirit of getting money from wages and various consumer expenditures, the state of Kentucky is willing to put public money into an organization who promotes a defined religious dogma.

The Lexington Herald-Leader supported the state’s incentives by stating the following:

If a church or a religious organization sought the same incentives for the same purpose, there would be clear reason to object on constitutional grounds. Ark Encounters is a private company seeking to make a profit off of a biblical theme. (3 Dec 2010)

I do not live in Kentucky, so I won’t complain. Nor will I attend Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum simply because they are against my theology and my science. However, I can ask questions.

  • Would the citizens of Kentucky and its state government officials financially support other Christian groups to develop their ventures?
  • Would the citizens of Kentucky and its state government officials financially support a non-Christian religious organization wanting to build a tourist attraction?

Zoo-Creation Museum’s Tangled Web

Cincinnati strikes again! I’ve lived here since 1976 and the controversies in the city continue to amaze me.

For those who don’t know, the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum had a joint promotion for their holiday celebrations: the zoo’s Festival of Lights and the museum’s Bethlehem’s Blessing. Due to pressure from a variety of sources, the zoo pulled out of the venture.

First of all, in terms of the content they represent, these two organizations are polar opposites. One side of me praises the joint promotion about the holidays as to attract admissions. It was good to see two divisive organizations work together. On the other side of the coin, a big “What?” screamed in my head.

Instead of pontificating my point of view on this situation (and I do have one), I’m providing some links for interested parties. Of course reading the comments is a trip in itself.