Christian news site finds Chemist who doesn’t believe in Evolution.

whystilldustFor all the talk Christians engage in about faith and how believing despite a lack of evidence is part of what it means to be a Christian, there’s quite a few of them out there that will jump at any chance to quote a scientist — any scientist — who might provide some argument in their favor.

So it is that the folks at Christian News Network came to publish the following article: Renowned Chemist Says Evolutionists Do Not Understand the Origin of Life. In it they describe Rice University professor Dr. James Tour as follows:

Dr. James Tour is a well-known professor at Rice University, specializing in chemistry, nanoengineering, and computer science. Over the last 30 years, Tour has authored over 500 research publications, and he was recognized as one of “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org. Tour has also received awards and recognitions from the American Chemical Society, Thomson Reuters, Honda, NASA, and others.

Clearly he’s a Big Deal, though I’m not sure why anyone thinks getting an award from TheBestSchools.org is worth bragging about as it appears to be Yet Another College Ranking website that’s popular mostly among religious institutions.

Still, that’s not the point! Awards! He’s gotten several awards for knowing that of which he speaks! Clearly then we must take him seriously when he says things like:

“I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist,” Tour said, “if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules.”

Well, that depends. Has Dr. Tour actually studied evolution? This is an important question because the article then goes on to say:

Despite his experiences and expertise, Tour admits that he does not understand how evolution could account for life’s existence.

Here we run into the first problem: Evolution doesn’t try to account for life’s existence — that would fall under abiogenesis and is a separate field of study — Evolution just describes the processes that take place after it showed up.

But let’s get back to that question I asked a moment ago. Has Dr. Tour spent any time studying the Theory of Evolution? The article seems to indicate that he hasn’t:

“I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you,” he says in the video. “Is it okay for me to say, ‘I don’t understand this’? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lot about making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.”

Right up front he’s admitting he doesn’t understand the theory. Though don’t lose faith in him just yet:

However, Tour says he is not the only one who does not understand how life could have arisen through natural, unguided processes.

“Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science—with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners,” Tour stated. “I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public—because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said—I say, ‘Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?’”

The answer he inevitably receives, Tour explained, is: “no.”

“Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go, ‘Uh-uh. Nope.’” Tour said. “And if they’re afraid to say ‘yes,’ they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.”

Oh my goodness! Someone who doesn’t understand Evolution knows other people who aren’t studying it that also don’t understand it! That surely must prove it’s a lie, right?

Well, no. Not really. It just means Dr. Tour and some of the other scientists he hangs out with don’t understand the theory. The fact that he seems set on it explaining the origin of life, which the theory doesn’t do, would probably go a long way to explaining his lack of understanding.

The article is based roughly on an hour and a half lecture Dr. Tour gave in late 2012 on the subject of Nanotech and Jesus Christ at Georgia Tech which you can watch on YouTube by clicking here.

I don’t dispute that Dr. Tour knows his organic chemistry and is clearly an expert on nanotech, but that doesn’t mean he’s an expert on Evolution or should be expected to know much about it. The Christian News Network article also goes on to quote from one of his blog posts in which he pretty much says his understanding of Evolution is, at best, as a layman. Here’s the big the article quotes:

Fair says there is an important distinction between microevolution and macroevolution—the former is clearly observable and repeatable, but the latter has never been witnessed.

“From what I can see, microevolution is a fact; we see it all around us regarding small changes within a species, and biologists demonstrate this procedure in their labs on a daily basis. Hence, there is no argument regarding microevolution,” he wrote in a blog post. “The core of the debate for me, therefore, is the extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution.”

There’s an important bit from the very start of the entry, however, that they decided to leave out:

Assuming that I have something significant to contribute to the evolution vs. creation debate, many ask me to speak and write concerning my thoughts on the topic. However, I do not have anything substantive to say about it. I am a layman on the subject. Although I have read about a half dozen books on the debate, maybe a dozen, and though I can speak authoritatively on complex chemical synthesis, I am not qualified to enter the public discussion on evolution vs. creation. So please don’t ask me to be the speaker or debater at your event, and think carefully about asking me for an interview because I will probably not give you the profound quotations that you seek. You are of course free to quote me from what is written here, but do me the kindness of placing my statements in a fair context.

Dr. Tour considered this important enough that he placed it at the very start of his blog entry. He goes on to say that he’s often cited as a proponent of Intelligent Design and he’d really wish people would stop doing that.

I have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion. So I prefer to be free of that ID label.

The rest of his blog post outlines a couple of the issues he has with macroevolution and why that makes him skeptical of it and, overall, it’s pretty reasonable. He does go on to claim that there is some persecution of scientists who express skepticism of macroevolution, but refuses to cite specific examples of such.

What’s interesting to me about the Christian News Network article is that it’s author, 

I’m not sure why Mr. Haley seems to think that finding a scientist who is a Christian and who has doubts about a scientific theory he doesn’t personally study should be newsworthy. There are lots of them out there. Hell, the field of Engineering is rife with creationists for some reason. The fact that these people are out there isn’t evidence that the theory is false. It just shows that people who haven’t studied it much may have trouble trying to understand it.

What’s the greatest threat to Christians today?

According to Christian apologist Josh McDowell it’s… THE INTERNET! Duhn duhn duhhnnnnn!

“What has changed everything?” asked the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.

“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell

[…] “Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].

via Apologist Josh McDowell: Internet the Greatest Threat to Christians – The Christian Post.

You know what? He’s right. Faith largely thrives on ignorance. If you don’t know what caused something to happen or how something came to be then it’s pretty easy to accept “Goddidit” as a viable answer. The more you know the smaller the gaps that are left for God to hide in. With knowledge there is little need for faith. Which is a good reason why the Church (as a general thing) has so often over the history of mankind worked so hard to suppress scientific advances in knowledge if it has even a remote chance of contradicting official religious teachings. Can’t have some uppity scientist with his facts and evidence saying that the holy literature has got it all wrong! That stuff comes straight from God, dammit!

McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.

Around 15 years ago, the apologist added, when Christian youth ministries were raising money for youth projects, the big phrase was, “If you don’t reach your child by their 18th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.” What is it now? “If you do not reach your child by their 12th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.”

Again, he’s right. Which is part of why there is so much focus on getting ’em when they’re young. You gotta start fillin’ those empty heads up with nonsense as soon as you can before they’re exposed to all those facts and theories and shit. Indoctrinate them early enough and teach them to disrupt their classes with stupid questions about the curriculum and chances are good you’ll have an True Believer™ for life! But if you let those poor little bastards onto the Internet where all those nasty skeptics and atheists are just laying in wait to pounce on them with science and facts before you’ve inculcated them they’ll stand little chance in ignoring reality. Worse, they might grow up to be Liberals!

Fortunately, Mr. McDowell says there are things you can do to combat this great menace of our time:

“First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.

Surprisingly enough, I again agree with him. In fact, I think his first point is very important. It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk and I think a lot of Christians fail to practice what they preach. If more of them followed the teachings of Christ found in the Bible then Christians probably wouldn’t have as bad of an image among everyone else. Christ had some decent ideas that started with the old standby of leading by example. Having a good relationship with your kids is good advice regardless of your belief system and it definitely helps when trying to install your values in them.

The last one is amusingly ironic to me, but I do agree with it. Granted, what he considers to be proper knowledge and what I consider it to be are probably vastly different things, but it’s still good advice. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of Christians who wouldn’t benefit from reading their Bible a little more closely. At least if they’re serious about actually doing what Christ said to do.

So, yeah, the Internet has made all sorts of knowledge — good and bad — available at the click of a mouse and it can and does lead to an undermining of faith. It’s also allowed us atheists and skeptics a much broader platform to present our views and arguments in direct competition with the theists. Without the Internet I’d never have the reach that I do when I decide it’s time to blow some hot air around and I’m only a modest blogger compared to many out there on the Net. It’s a good time to be a member of the loyal opposition. Not only is our message getting out to more than ever, but it’s being listened to.

SEB PSA: You have 12 days till the End of the World.

Pic of Family Radio Fools.

We're going to be very upset come May 22nd!

If you’ve been an SEB regular for awhile then you may recall back in January of last year when I wrote about Christian nutcase Harold Camping and his prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21st, 2011. For those of you without calendars, that’s a mere 12 days away. Still plenty of time to run up those credit card bills and tell off those family members who think you’re crazy for listening to a man who has already been wrong in predicting the end of the world once already. Your natural inclination is to think no one would take this nutter seriously, but plenty do making a point of listening to his sermons on FamilyRadio.com and handing out tracts to anyone who will accept them.

While it’s always fun to ridicule folks like Camping, it becomes a little less so when you realize just how much some folks have invested, sometimes literally, in his bullshit:

Haubert says the Bible contains coded “proofs” that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah’s flood to May 21, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.

“I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” he says. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.”

He’s tried to warn his friends and family. They think he’s crazy. And that saddens him.

“Oh, it’s very hard,” he says. “I worry about friends and family and loved ones. But I guess more recently, I’m just really looking forward to it.”

via Is The End Nigh? We’ll Know Soon Enough : NPR.

My friends and family will be suffering eternal torment and I couldn’t be more stoked!

Yeah, that’s a bit twisted, but this is just sad:

“Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans,” says 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez.

She thought she’d go to medical school, until she began tuning in to Family Radio. She and her husband, Joel, lived and worked in New York City. But a year ago, they decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter.

“My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary,” she says.

And so, her husband adds, “God just made it possible — he opened doors. He allowed us to quit our jobs, and we just moved, and here we are.”

Now they are in Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the Bible. Their daughter is 2 years old, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they’re spending the last of their savings. They don’t see a need for one more dollar.

“You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that,” he says. “What’s the point of having some money just sitting there?”

“We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left,” Adrienne adds.

Nothing, except for the fervent hope that all of them will be raptured.

Oh, but there will be some major disappointment come May 22nd. These people have thrown away their livelihoods and any aspirations for the future on a fantasy that isn’t going to happen. Harold Camping is 89-years-old so it doesn’t really matter to him if he’s wrong because he’s already lived his life. His legacy will be the hundreds, if not thousands, of people he managed to delude into believing his nonsense whose lives he will have severely damaged, if not outright ruined. He’s convinced them all to take the ultimate sucker’s bet and he’s gonna have some serious ‘splanin’ to do in less than a fortnight.

I often say that too much faith will make you crazy and it’s hard to find a better example of that than Camping and his fools. Still, they have every right to believe whatever stupid-ass thing they want to. Just feel bad they don’t have a Plan B just in case, and I know the chances are ridiculously slim, that Camping might be wrong a second time.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Nantucket exorcism edition.

Yet another child falls victim to a delusional parent:

NANTUCKET (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – Police say a Nantucket woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter told a priest and hospital officials that God told her to push a rose down the girl’s throat to ward off the devil.

Documents filed in Nantucket District Court said 26-year-old Dora Alicia Tejada Pleitez said she realized that the “rose” was her fist and the devil bit her through the child.

via Nantucket child killed in exorcism by mom according to court docs.

I can’t begin to imagine the horror of having your mother try to shove her first down your throat because she thinks you have demons in you. What a way to go.

Authorities, needless to say, are planning on a competency hearing for the mother.

Light bulbs for the True Believer.

Science can be a real pain in the ass for a True Believer™. All those “theories” based on “evidence” when all you really need in life is faith that God will provide. It can be pretty galling having to purchase products based on a “scientific” understanding of the world. That’s why we here at SEB Technologies have been combing the world for Faith Based products that we can sell to the True Believers™ who want an alternative to science-based products.

Thus we are proud to offer the world’s first Science-Free Light Bulbs!

Pic of Science Free Light Bulbs

Just screw 'em in and pray!

These bulbs are created using the latest non-scientific understanding of light. Not only are they 100% science-free, but they’ll also lower your utility bill as they do not use any electricity at all! These bulbs are 100% powered by pure faith! So long as you believe enough that they will work then they will! Note: Failure of these bulbs to illuminate is a sign of weakness of the spirit and a sure sign that you need to get right with God!

So if you’re sick of having to rely on “science” to keep you out of the dark then suffer no longer! Now you can have 100% science-free lighting in your home! These are truly the last light bulbs you will ever need to buy!

Boy dies from easily treatable condition while family prays for healing.

Here’s a story we’re seeing with more and more regularity. It’s from the Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy file and it involves a young man who’d be alive today if the people purported to care about him would have taken him to a doctor’s office. Instead the opted to pray for God to heal him. God, apparently, had better things to do:

GLADSTONE, Ore. – A 16-year-old boy who, along with his parents, believed in faith healing died as a result of an inflammation in his urinary system that is treatable, a deputy medical examiner said Wednesday.

The boy, identified by authorities as Neil Beagley, was suffering from an inflammation in a tube leading from his bladder – the urethra – that made him unable to urinate, according to Dr. Clifford Nelson, a deputy state medical examiner.

Beagley filled up with urine, and that eventually ruined his bladder and kidneys and resulted in heart failure, said Nelson, who called it “an absolutely horrible way to die.”

A simple procedure with a catheter is all it would’ve taken to save his life, but his folks and his fellow church members figured why go through all that trouble when God promises to heal you if you just ask? Best of all no one is likely to be charged in this unfortunate situation:

It was not clear what transpired between March and this week. Gladstone police said the boy got sick about a week ago and his condition worsened Sunday, causing members of his faith-healing church to gather for prayer rather than take him to a hospital. The boy died Tuesday afternoon surrounded by family members and a board member of the church called authorities.

Police said relatives and church members told them the teenager refused treatment for the illness, as he was entitled to do under Oregon law.

“All of the interviews from last night are that he did in fact refuse treatment,” said Sgt. Lynne Benton of Gladstone police. “Unless we can disprove that, charges probably won’t be filed in this case.

She said state law allows minors 14 and older to make such decisions.

Sounds like an early candidate for next year’s Darwin Awards. Shame someone so young would throw their lives away on a silly superstition, but that’s the risk you take when you choose to have too much faith in invisible sky faeries.

I’ve never seen faith move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.

Pastor convicted of mortgage fraud resorts to imprecatory prayers against witnesses.

Because that’s exactly what Jesus would do:

Jensen Beach pastor sentenced to 20 years for mortgage fraud—South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

STUART – A defiant Rodney McGill prayed for affliction upon his adversaries prior to his sentencing in Martin County Circuit Court, and turned his back on Judge Sherwood Bauer Jr. as he was handed a 20-year prison term for his part in fraudulently obtaining some $1 million in real estate loans.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, for every witness called against me, I pray cancer in their lives, lupus, brain tumor, pancreatic cancer,” McGill intoned at his counsel table prior to the start of the hearing Tuesday.

This man believes in an all-knowing and all-powerful entity that is responsible for creating everything in existence and who, by divine will alone, keeps everything humming along from the smallest elementary particle to the largest galaxies. He is not considered crazy for this belief. Given the awesome undertaking of said being—maintaining all of existence through thought alone—this man believes that his trials and tribulations are important enough to such an entity that praying to it will garner its attention. He is not considered crazy for this belief. Considering this man’s relative insignificance amongst the countless billions of things that constitutes the Universe that occupy the mind of said entity he still somehow manages to believe he is special enough that said entity would afflict other aspects of its creation with the most horrific maladies and diseases known for daring to speak against this man in a court of law.

He is, amazingly, not considered crazy for this belief.

Is it any wonder, given these amazing and ridiculous beliefs, that this man believes himself to be innocent of any crime? There is no doubt in this man’s mind that he is in the right. How could there be given all the things he “knows” about the nature of reality and who is running the show? The truly amazing part, however, is the simple fact that even if his imprecatory prayers go unanswered and his appeals all fail and he ends up serving out his full sentence in jail, his belief in this all-powerful, all-knowing entity that supposedly has reason to give a shit about his fate will probably not waver in the slightest.

Behold the power of true faith. It can make you crazy.

Two year old refuses to say “amen” after meals. Is starved to death as punishment.

Another child dies thanks to a mother so deluded she follows the instructions of her religious leader and lets the child starve to death for the crime of not saying the word “amen” at the end of a meal:

Police say the five suspects belonged to a small group of adults and children who operated for a time in East and West Baltimore. Police allege that the victim’s mother, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, the first to be charged with murder, and others neglected Javon and allowed the boy to starve to death because they thought he was a demon for not saying amen after he was fed, according to police charging documents.

[…] In court documents charging Ramkissoon, Parker, the homicide detective, recounts eyewitness accounts from a source within the religious group. The source said the group’s leader, Queen Antoinette, “had a problem with baby Javon, who would not comply with mealtime ritual by saying ‘Amen’ after meals,” Parker wrote. “The more the Queen pressed Javon, the more resistant he became.”

The child stopped getting food and water, and he became thin with dark circles under his eyes, according to the document. Javon stopped breathing and was placed in a back room of a house in the 3200 block of Auchentoroly Terrace. At one point everyone was instructed to pray around the boy’s body, the document said.

“The Queen told everyone that ‘God was going to raise Javon from the dead,’” according to Parker’s statement of charges. “That resurrection never took place.”

The kid was two years old. He died in December of 2006. The members of “1 Mind Ministries” have been carting him around in a suitcase from place to place until May of this year when police got a tip and recovered the body. It was still wearing a diaper.

It’s hard to imagine how someone can be so caught up in their beliefs that they watch their own child slowly starve to death. And then, after the child’s suffering has finally ended, to believe that a bunch of people praying will bring him back to life? And when that didn’t work she still didn’t recognize that she had been had and seek out the authorities? Too much faith will make you stupid.

Hat tip to Unscrewing the Inscrutable.

Thousands of idiots believe this Preacher can heal them and raise the dead.

Continuing on the topic of delusional True Believers™ brings us to this news item about a Canadian faith healer by the name of Todd Bentley who’s apparently enjoying quite a bit of popularity in Florida. He claims God has given him the power to heal the sick and raise the dead and the overly credulous are showing up in the thousands:

When Bentley performs healings, often wearing jeans and a T-shirt, aides bring the sick up both sides of an elaborate stage. The preacher’s assistants tell the audience each person’s condition and how far they came to be cured: from Europe, the West Coast, up to the Northeast and beyond.

Like a psychic, he will proclaim someone in the crowd has a particular kind of tumor, growth or affliction.

“Someone’s getting a new spinal cord tonight!” Bentley yelled in one service.

Apparently God will hand out a new spine, but so far there’s no reports of miraculous amputee limb regenerations. Which, honestly, would be very convincing indeed if it were to happen.

Instead what we get is a sideshow with a man who apparently can do anything to his followers and get away with it:

Critics circulate a YouTube video from Lakeland of him kneeing a supposed terminal stomach cancer patient in the abdomen, saying God told him to. In another clip, Bentley explains how he kicked an elderly lady in the face, choked a man, banged a crippled woman’s legs on a platform, “leg-dropped” a pastor and hit a man so hard it dislodged a tooth.

The criticism has grown so acute that Bentley addressed it directly on stage earlier this month. He said he has used those extreme methods only about 20 times in 10 years of preaching, and those cases were taken out of context. Each person was healed, not hurt, Bentley insisted.

“People just can’t understand why God would tell me something like, ‘Kick that woman in the face,’ who was not injured and hundreds were healed,” Bentley said. “Or the incident where I did hit a guy so hard one time that he did hit the ground and his tooth popped out.

“But what people don’t know is that he was a dentist. There’s a whole miracle that took place in his body. He was healed of cancer and he became a (ministry donor) after the incident of knocking his tooth out, because he knew it was God. And he said, ‘I never felt a thing.”’

You know you’re deep in the crazy when you get your tooth knocked out and think it somehow healed you of cancer. Maybe if it was tooth cancer and was confined to that one tooth I suppose, but otherwise you probably need your head examined. Though if getting your tooth knocked out didn’t knock some sense into you then psychiatry probably won’t do much for you either.

Bentley makes a lot of big claims and says he has victims believers whose cures have been medically verified. Needless to say such proof is hard to actually track down:

The claims of healing range from disappeared tumors to a man who says he can now see out of a glass eye. In more than 20 cases, Bentley says, his revival has even literally resurrected the dead. Such claims have been made by revivalists in the past, but they are not common and some Pentecostals reject them.

Expecting critics, Bentley’s ministry distributed a list of 15 people it said were cured, and vetted by his ministry, with all but three of their stories “medically verified.”

Yet two phone numbers given out by the ministry were wrong, six people did not return telephone messages and only two of the remainder, when reached by The Associated Press, said they had medical records as proof of their miracle cure. However, one woman would not make her physician available to confirm the findings, and the other’s doctor did not return calls despite the patient’s authorization.

Wow, 15 people with 12 supposed verifications out of how many thousands of fools that show up to his revivals? Even if he was actually healing people that’s not much of a success rate.

Not that that’ll stop the True Believers™ from flocking to his tent and throwing money at him in hopes of curing what ails them. Just a shame they don’t realize their real problem lies between their ears.