Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Malevolent Design

By now I'm sure you've heard of Intelligent Design, which focuses on alleged irreducible complexity, and perhaps even Incompetent Design, which focuses on the mysterious designer's shoddy handiwork, but have you heard of Malevolent Design? This takes ID and turns it on it's head. The Intelligent Design Creationists always love to focus on the benevolent to be found in nature such as a flagellum or an eye. But why stop there? Why, unless you are intentionally avoiding the negative in order to preserve an image of deity that loves everyone? Why not take things a bit further and look at the flip side of the equation? Seeing as I lack belief in all gods and goddesses and have no such agenda to preserve anything about their alleged personalities, I shall delve full into this fascinating mythological concept.

Malevolent Design (hereafter MD), simply put, is the secondary negative quality that one should see if one first sees intelligence. If there be a master designer then one should be able to gauge how he feels about his creations by the interaction between them. There various body parts should spell out he/she/them/it's intentions. Are we the darlings of a deity or merely part of an experiment led by a pantheon of gods on Lab Earth? Are we no more than white mice to be toyed with in order to test out new MDs and their effectiveness?

Mosquitoes have a special facial appendage known as a proboscis. This appendage has six parts, two pairs of cutters for opening up the skin of the victim and two fine tubes. One is for sucking up blood and the other is for dripping in anticoagulant, which keeps the blood from clotting. Why would a benevolent designer create such a little monster? And why, for their traveling companion would said designer create special pathogens to go along with it?

Mosquitoes carry many diseases. They include Malaria, West Nile virus, Dengue Fever, Encephalitis and Yellow Fever. All of these diseases kill indiscriminately, cutting swaths through the young and old, especially in third world countries. Death from these is neither quick nor pleasant. They kill regardless of religion, race or social status. The believer and Atheist can die just the same without medical treatment. Why would the mysterious designer create these tiny beings? To watch us die slow, torturous deaths? To see if he/she/them/it could overcome the immune system that he/she/them/it designed previously, kind of like a hacker breaking into his own program?

Carnivores have sharp teeth, perfect for cutting flesh, a strong digestive system perfect for digesting meat and various other body parts that aid them in acquiring their victims. A great white shark, for example, has rows upon rows of very sharp, serrated teeth that, when lost, turn to replace the old ones. They can smell minute traces of blood in the water from miles away. It would appear to show excellent signs of MD! Is it too far off to assume the designer wants his other creations, upon entering the water, to be eaten by this beast if given a chance?

There are countless other examples I could cite to show the prevalence of the neglected obvious but these few examples prove my point: if you believe you see intelligence, there is malevolence right along with it!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Much ado about nothing

I wish I could say I was surprised about the reaction that we've seen from the Imaginary Friend Addicts on the Islamic side. Since their religion is about 500 years younger that Christianity and much younger than Judaism we can expect them to act immature. And immature they have acted! How juvenile is it to get violent over a joke? And do they not realize that they're acting in exact accordance with what they found to be mocking? It's not true! It's not true! Islam is a religion of peace! Allah is loving and so is his prophet! Now take those cartoons down or we'll f*cking kill you!

Now what we see is a media blackout in certain circles because, once again, their terror tactics worked. I have to wonder, though, was is it the terror of being physically harmed or the potential financial losses that prompted this reaction? Being that money is the one true God, it was most likely the latter!

So, in accordance with the American ideal of freedom of speech and the press, I offer everyone the cartoons that have offended the god junkies:


Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Schizophrenia of Emily Rose

We watched the Exorcism of Emily Rose last night. The best character of the whole movie was the prosecuting attorney. Man, did he put forth some awesome arguments against all the defendant's mythological mumbo jumbo. He was supposed to be a "man of faith" but he sure did talk like he was an Atheist. He had to be the most logical Christian I had ever seen!

For example, the priest found her use of numerous different languages in her "scary" growl voice to be evidence of possession. The prosecuting attorney, however, did some research and found that she had studied all the languages she allegedly "couldn't possibly have known!" And as far as hearing two different vocalizations at once, well, he pointed out that all humans have two separate sets of vocal chords and that Buddhist monks learn how to use them both in their rituals.

We had our own questions, too. I pointed out to my wife that you always hear the allegedly possessed using Latin. Why could this possibly be? Hmmm, well, could it be that because the mass, for so long, was preached only in this dead language and therefore acquired the connotation of being "holy?" Would it click so well inside the mind of the believer if she started talking in, say, the African click language? And what of the drug, Gambutrol? One of the "experts" for the defendant was this woman who thought the drug kept her locked in the possession and ultimately led to her death. She had no experience with the drug, however, and really knew nothing about it. And, most telling of all, why was it even relevant to her death? The priest told her to stop taking it! And of the miraculous coincidence that she found a locket on the ground that matched her initials? Improbable, but not impossible. Somewhere some woman was missing her gold locket and wondering if she lost it or if someone stole it. It was just her misfortune that she happened to have the same initials as the woman who found it. Otherwise, perhaps she would have thought about trying to find the owner. We also thought about how funny it would have been had the owner been an Atheist and the initials been "EAC!" Wow, my name is Emily Amy Connoly! Huh, I was just trying to support my local Evil Atheist Conspiracy! lol...

It was so obvious that she had schizophrenia -- and the archaic priest told her to stop taking her medicine! Don't want any of that evil science polluting her, now do we? They might as well have burned her at the stake. Her post mortem pics weren't that far off.

What did she die of? The autopsy revealed malnutrition related disorders. All her organs just shut down. She was so sick in the head that she thought the demons wouldn't let her eat. So she didn't. She, in the end, wouldn't drink, either. It's no wonder she was hallucinating so wildly! You take schizophrenia, add the diagnosis of epilepsy, toss in lack of food and water (known to alter your mental state) and the end result is sadly predictable.

And, as is the trend these days, the attorney for the priest started out "Agnostic" (read: Atheist) and then, within days of exposure to the priests mythology she started getting all scared. Typical Christian scare tactics. If we can't win you with the rewards end of the deal, then we'll scare the shit out of you with the punishment. Rewards & Punishment: It's the Monotheistic Way!

She just kept circling around whether or not it was possible. That was the totally wrong direction. Who cares if it's possible? It was possible that everyone in the courtroom was actually trapped in The Matrix. It was possible that she was really an alien from Saturn. It was also possible that she was having sex with the priest and that the good Father also beat and raped the girl, but none of that was mentioned. No, all that was mentioned in the realm of possibility was the existence of the supernatural. Sure, it's possible that any of the world's 10,000 distinct religion's afterlives and related characters are real (though they only focused on a very scant one), but the question that she should have been asking herself was whether or not it was probable.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Dover Smackdown


TAMMY KITZMILLER, et al. Plaintiffsv. DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.Defendants


On October 18, 2004, the Defendant Dover Area School Board of Directors passed by a 6-3 vote the following resolution:

Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught.

On November 19, 2004, the Defendant Dover Area School District announced by press release that, commencing in January 2005, teachers would be required to read the following statement to students in the ninth grade biology class at Dover High School:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.

A. Background and Procedural History

On December 14, 2004, Plaintiffs filed the instant suit challenging the constitutional validity of the October 18, 2004 resolution and November 19, 2004 press release (collectively, “the ID Policy”). It is contended that the ID Policy constitutes an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is made applicable to the states by theFourteenth Amendment, as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, nominal damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

This Court’s jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, the power to issue declaratory judgments is expressed in 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ cause of action arising under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper in this District under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because one or more Defendants reside in this District, all Defendants reside in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the events or omissions giving rise to the claims at issue occurred in this District.

For the reasons that follow, we hold that the ID Policy is unconstitutional pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

B. The Parties to the Action

We will now introduce the individual Plaintiffs and provide informationregarding their acquaintance with the biology curriculum controversy. Tammy
1 Defendants again argue that certain Plaintiffs lack standing and their claims shouldtherefore be dismissed. First, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs Eveland and Sneath lackstanding because their claims are not ripe, based upon the age of their children. Defendantsoriginally asserted this argument in submissions regarding their previously filed Motion toDismiss. In our March 10, 2005 Order disposing of such Motion, we discussed that issue indetail and held that Plaintiffs Eveland and Sneath should not be dismissed based upon ripenessgrounds. (Rec. Doc. 41 at 21-23). We have been presented with no reason to alter our priorruling in this regard.
Kitzmiller, resident of Dover, Pennsylvania is a parent of a child in the ninth grade and a child in the eleventh grade at Dover High School.2 She did not attend any Board meetings until November 2004 and first learned of the biology curriculum controversy from reading the local newspapers. Bryan and Christy Rehm, residents of Dover, Pennsylvania are parents of a child in the eighth grade, a child in the second grade, a child in kindergarden in the Dover Area School District, and a child of pre-school age. They intend for their children to attend Dover High School. Bryan Rehm learned of the biology curriculum controversy by virtue of being a member of the science faculty at Dover Area High School. Before and after his resignation, he regularly attended Board meetings. His wife, fellow Plaintiff Christy Rehm learned of the biology curriculum controversy by virtue of
Defendants also argue that the Callahan Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Smith lack standing basedupon mootness grounds as their children have already passed the ninth grade. In our March 10,2005 Order, we addressed this issue and found it premature to dismiss Plaintiff Smith and theCallahan Plaintiffs. We explained that we would entertain a renewed motion at a point at whichthe record is more fully developed. Id. at 23-25. In Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgmentthey raised the issue of standing by way of footnote and subsequently raised it in their post-trialsubmissions. We find the cases cited by Defendants to be factually distinguishable and concludethat Defendants frame the Establishment Clause claim far too narrowly. Although studentssubjected to the ID Policy in the classroom are affected most directly, courts have never defined
Establishment Clause violations in public schools so narrowly as to limit standing to only thosestudents immediately subjected to the offensive content. See Santa Fe Independent Sch. Dist. v.Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 313-14 (2000) (very adoption or passage of a policy that violates theEstablishment Clause represents a constitutional injury). We therefore find that all Plaintiffshave standing to bring their claims in this action.

2 We note that the ages of Plaintiffs’ children are expressed as of the time this lawsuitwas filed in December 2004.
discussions she had with her husband and also regularly attended Board meetings in 2004. Deborah F. Fenimore and Joel A. Leib, residents of Dover, Pennsylvania are the parents of a child in the twelfth grade at Dover High School and a child in the seventh grade in the Dover Area School District. They intend for their seventh grade child to attend Dover High School. Leib first learned of a change in the biology curriculum by reading local newspapers. Steven Stough, resident of Dover, Pennsylvania is a parent of a child in the eighth grade in the Dover Area School District and intends for his child to attend Dover High School. Stough did not attend any Board meetings until December 2004 and prior to that, he had learned of the biology curriculum change by reading the local newspapers. Beth A. Eveland, resident of York, Pennsylvania is a parent of a child in the first grade in the Dover Area School District and a child of pre-school age who intends for her children to attend Dover High School. Eveland attended her first Board meeting on June 14, 2004. Prior to that, she had learned of the issues relating to the purchase of the biology books from reading the York Daily Record newspaper. Cynthia Sneath, resident of Dover, Pennsylvania is a parent of a child in the first grade in the Dover Area School District and a child of pre-school age who intends for her children to attend Dover High School. Sneath attended her first Board meeting on October 18, 2004 and prior to that, she had learned of the biology curriculum controversy from reading the local newspapers. Julie Smith, resident of York, Pennsylvania is a parent of a child in the tenth grade at Dover High School. Smith did not attend a Board meeting in 2004; she learned of and followed thebiology curriculum controversy by reading the local newspapers. Aralene (hereinafter “Barrie”) Callahan and Frederick B. Callahan, residents of Dover, Pennsylvania are parents of a child in the tenth grade at Dover High School. Barrie Callahan learned of the biology curriculum controversy by virtue of her status of a former Board member and from attending Board meetings. Fred Callahan learned of the biology curriculum controversy based upon discussions with his wife Barrieand from attending Board meetings.

The Defendants include the Dover Area School District (hereinafter “DASD”) and Dover Area School District Board of Directors (hereinafter “the Board”) (collectively “Defendants”). Defendant DASD is a municipal corporation governed by a board of directors, which is the Board. The DASD is comprised of Dover Township, Washington Township, and Dover Borough, all of which are located in York County, Pennsylvania. There are approximately 3,700 students in the DASD, with approximately 1,000 attending Dover High School. (Joint Stip. of Fact ¶ 3).

The trial commenced September 26, 2005 and continued through November 4, 2005. This Memorandum Opinion constitutes the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law which are based upon the Court’s review of the evidence presented at trial, the testimony of the witnesses at trial, the parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with supporting briefs, other documents and evidence in the record, and applicable law.3 Further orders and judgments willbe in conformity with this opinion.

C. Federal Jurisprudential Legal Landscape

As we will review the federal jurisprudential legal landscape in detail below,we will accordingly render only an abbreviated summary of that terrain by way ofan introduction at this juncture. The religious movement known asFundamentalism began in nineteenth century America as a response to socialchanges, new religious thought and Darwinism. McLean v. Ark. Bd. of Educ., 5293
3 The Court has received numerous letters, amicus briefs, and other forms ofcorrespondence pertaining to this case. The only documents submitted by third parties the Courthas considered, however, are those that have become an official part of the record. Consistentwith the foregoing, the Court has taken under consideration the following: (1) Brief of AmiciCuriae Biologists and Other Scientists in Support of Defendants (doc. 245); (2) Revised Brief ofAmicus Curiae, the Discovery Institute (doc. 301); (3) Brief of Amicus Curiae the Foundationfor Thought and Ethics (doc. 309); and (4) Brief for Amicus Curiae Scipolicy Journal of Scienceand Health Policy (doc. 312).

The Court accordingly grants the outstanding Motions for Leave to File Amicus Briefs,namely the Motion for Leave to File a Revised Amicus Brief by The Discovery Institute (doc.301), the Motion for Leave to File Amicus Brief by The Foundation for Thought and Ethics(doc. 309), and the Petition for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief by Scipolicy Journal ofScience and Health Policy (doc. 312).
F. Supp. 1255, 1258 (E.D. Ark. 1982). Religiously motivated groups pushed state legislatures to adopt laws prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution, culminating in the Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925. McLean, 529 F.Supp. at 1259; see Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105 (1927) (criminal prosecution of public-school teacher for teaching about evolution).

In 1968, a radical change occurred in the legal landscape when in Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), the Supreme Court struck down Arkansas’s statutory prohibition against teaching evolution. Religious proponents of evolution thereafter championed “balanced treatment” statutes requiring public-school teachers who taught evolution to devote equal time to teaching the biblical view of creation; however, courts realized this tactic to be another attempt to establish the Biblical version of the creation of man. Daniel v. Waters, 515 F.2d 485 (6th Cir. 1975).

Fundamentalist opponents of evolution responded with a new tactic suggested by Daniel’s reasoning which was ultimately found to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, namely, to utilize scientific-sounding language to describe religious beliefs and then to require that schools teach the resulting “creation science” or “scientific creationism” as an alternative to evolution.

In Edwards v. Arkansas, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), five years after McLean, the Supreme Court held that a requirement that public schools teach “creation science” along with evolution violated the Establishment Clause. The import of Edwards is that the Supreme Court turned the proscription against teaching creation science in the public school system into a national prohibition.

D. Consideration of the Applicability of the Endorsement and LemonTests to Assess the Constitutionality of the ID Policy

Having briefly touched upon the salient legal framework, it is evident that as the cases and controversies have evolved over time, so too has the methodology that courts employ in evaluating Establishment Clause claims. We initially observe that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” U.S. Const. amend. I. The prohibition against the establishment of religion applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Modrovich v. Allegheny County, 385 F.3d 397, 400 (3d Cir. 2004); see also Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 49-50 (1985). The parties are in agreement that an applicable test in the case sub judice to ascertain whether the challenged ID Policy is unconstitutional under the FirstAmendment is that of Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), (hereinafter “the Lemon test”). See Edwards, 482 U.S. 578 (applying Lemon test to strike down Louisiana’s “Creationism Act”); see also Epperson, 393 U.S. 97 (considering the purpose and the primary effect of an Arkansas statute forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools). Defendants, however, object to using theendorsement test, first arguing that it applies only to religious-display cases and most recently asserting that it applies to limited Establishment Clause cases, including a policy or practice in question that involves: a facially religious display, an overtly religious group or organization using government facilities, the provision of public funding or government resources to overly religious groups engaged in religious activity, or the permission of an overtly religious practice.

After a searching review of Supreme Court and Third Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, it is apparent to this Court that both the endorsement test and the Lemon test should be employed in this case to analyze the constitutionality of the ID Policy under the Establishment Clause, for the reasons that follow.

Since a majority of the Supreme Court first implemented the endorsement test in County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989), the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit have consistently applied the test to all types of Establishment Clause cases, notably cases involving religion in public-school settings. In Santa Fe Independent Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000), the Supreme Court applied the endorsement test to school-sponsored prayer at high school football games. In Santa Fe, the Supreme Court clearly defined the endorsement test by noting that “[i]n cases involving state participation in a religious activity, one of the relevant questions is ‘whether an objective observer,acquainted with the text, legislative history, and implementation of the statute, would perceive it as a state endorsement of prayer in public schools.’” Id. at 308. The Supreme Court then provided a more concrete explanation of how the test functions in the public-school context, explaining that:

School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’

Id. at 309-10 (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 652-53 (2002), the Supreme Court applied the endorsement test to a school-voucher program. In Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 533 U.S. 98, 118-19 (2001), the Supreme Court applied the test to a school district’s policy regarding a religious student club meeting on school property. In Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 793 (2000), andAgostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203 (1997), the Supreme Court applied the test to programs providing governmental aid to parochial schools. In Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 841-42 (1995), the Supreme Court applied the endorsement test to a public university’s policy regarding funding a religious student newspaper.

Defendants maintain that this Court should not apply the endorsement test to the challenged ID Policy because the Supreme Court did not apply the test to the creationism statutes at issue in Epperson and Edwards. As Plaintiffs aptly state however, Epperson was decided in 1968, five years before Lemon, and accordingly nearly two decades before Justice O’Connor first began to articulate the endorsement test as a way to conceptualize Lemon. In addition, not only did Edwards likewise pre-date the test’s adoption in Allegheny, but contrary to Defendants’ assertion, the Supreme Court did invoke at least the endorsement concept in that case. See Edwards, 482 U.S. at 585 (“If the law was enacted for the purpose of endorsing religion, ‘no consideration of the second or third criteria [of Lemon] is necessary.’”) (quoting Wallace, 472 U.S. at 56). Moreover, it is notable that Edwards was a “purpose” case, so it would have been unnecessary for the Supreme Court to delve into a full-scale endorsement analysis even had the test existed at the time, as the test is most closely associated with Lemon’s “effect” prong, rather than its “purpose” prong.

A review of the above cited Supreme Court cases reveals that none of them involve a challenge to a religious display, yet in each such case, the Supreme Court reviewed the challenged governmental conduct to ascertain whether it constituted religious endorsement. Additionally, in each cited case, the Supreme Court reviewed a public school district’s, or public university’s, policy touching on religion. It is readily apparent to this Court that based upon Supreme Court precedent, the endorsement test must be utilized by us in our resolution of this case.

Applicable Third Circuit Court of Appeals precedent regarding application of the endorsement test to cases involving public school policies confirms our conclusion regarding its applicability to the instant dispute. In Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Stafford Township Sch. Dist., 386 F.3d 514 (3d Cir. 2004), the Third Circuit employed the endorsement test in considering whether a public schooldistrict would violate the Establishment Clause if it permitted religious groups to access students through a take-home-flyer system or a back-to-school night event. Also, in ACLU v. Black Horse Pike Reg’l Bd. of Educ., 84 F.3d 1471 (3d Cir. 1996), the Third Circuit applied the endorsement test in considering a challenge to a school board policy concerning whether prayer would be included in high school graduation ceremonies. In Black Horse Pike, the Third Circuit clearly stated thatits duty was to “determine whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the challenged practice conveys a message favoring or disfavoring religion.” Id. at 1486.

Our next task is to determine how to apply both the endorsement test and the Lemon test to the ID Policy. We are in agreement with Plaintiffs that the better practice is to treat the endorsement inquiry as a distinct test to be applied separately from, and prior to, the Lemon test. In recent Third Circuit cases, specifically, Freethought Society v. Chester County, 334 F.3d 247, 261 (3d Cir. 2003),Modrovich, 385 F.3d at 401-04, 406-13, and Child Evangelism, 386 F.3d at 530- 35, the court adopted the practice of applying both tests. The Third Circuit conducted the endorsement inquiry first and subsequently measured the challenged conduct against Lemon’s “purpose” and “effect” standards.

We will therefore initially analyze the constitutionality of the ID Policy under the endorsement test and will then proceed to the Lemon test as it applies to this case.

E. Application of the Endorsement Test to the ID Policy

The endorsement test recognizes that when government transgresses thelimits of neutrality and acts in ways that show religious favoritism or sponsorship,it violates the Establishment Clause. As Justice O’Connor first elaborated on this
4 We do note that because of the evolving caselaw regarding which tests to apply, the“belt and suspenders” approach of utilizing both tests makes good sense. That said, it regrettablytasks us to make this narrative far longer than we would have preferred.
issue, the endorsement test was a gloss on Lemon that encompassed both the purpose and effect prongs:

The central issue in this case is whether [the government] has endorsed [religion] by its [actions]. To answer that question, we must examine both what [the government] intended to communicate . . . and what message [its conduct] actually conveyed. The purpose and effect prongs of the Lemon test represent these two aspects of the meaning of the [government’s] action.

Lynch, 465 U.S. at 690 (O’Connor, J., concurring).

As the endorsement test developed through application, it is now primarily a lens through which to view “effect,” with purpose evidence being relevant to the inquiry derivatively. In Allegheny, the Supreme Court instructed that the word “endorsement is not self-defining” and further elaborated that it derives its meaning from other words that the Court has found useful over the years in interpreting the Establishment Clause. 492 U.S. at 593. The endorsement test emanates from the “prohibition against government endorsement of religion” and it “preclude[s] government from conveying or attempting to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.” Id. (citations omitted) (emphasis in original). The test consists of the reviewing court determining what message a challenged governmental policy or enactment conveys to a reasonable, objective observer who knows the policy’s language, origins, and legislative history, as well as the history of the community and the broader social and historical context in which the policy arose. McCreary County, Ky. v. ACLU, 125 S. Ct. 2722, 2736-37, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 5211 at *41 (2005) (objective observer “presumed to be familiar with the history of the government’s actions and competent to learn what history has to show”); Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 308 (objective observer familiar with “implementation of” governmental action); Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1306 (objective observer “familiar with the origins and context of the government-sponsored message at issue and the history of the community where the message is displayed”).

In elaborating upon this “reasonable observer,” the Third Circuit explained in Modrovich, 385 F.3d at 407, that “the reasonable observer is an informed citizen who is more knowledgeable than the average passerby.” Moreover, in addition to knowing the challenged conduct’s history, the observer is deemed able to “glean other relevant facts” from the face of the policy in light of its context. Id. at 407; accord Capitol Square Review & Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, 515 U.S. 753, 779-781 (1995) (O’Connor, J., concurring). Knowing the challenged policy’s legislative history, the community’s history, and the broader social and historical context in which the policy arose, the objective observer thus considers the publicly available evidence relevant to the purpose inquiry, but notably does not do so to ascertain, strictly speaking, what the governmental purpose actually was. See, e.g., Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1306-07. Instead, the observer looks to that evidence to ascertain whether the policy “in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval” of religion, irrespective of what the government might have intended by it. Lynch, 465 U.S. at 690 (O’Connor, J., concurring) (“The central issue in this case is whether [government] has endorsed Christianity by its [actions]. To answer that question, we must examine both what [the government] intended tocommunicate . . . and what message [its conduct] actually conveyed. The purpose and effect prongs of the Lemon test represent these two aspects of the meaning of the [government’s] action.”); Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Bd. of Educ., 975 F. Supp. 819 (E.D. La. 1997), aff’d, 185 F.3d 337 (5th Cir. 1999); Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1305-06.

We must now ascertain whether the ID Policy “in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval” of religion, with the reasonable, objective observer being the hypothetical construct to consider this issue. Lynch, 465 U.S. at 690 (O’Connor, J., concurring). As the endorsement test is designed to ascertain the objective meaning of the statement that the District’s conduct communicated in the community by focusing on how “the members of the listening audience” perceived the conduct, two inquiries must be made based upon the circumstances of this case. Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 308. First, we will consider “the message conveyed by the disclaimer to the students who are its intended audience,” from the perspective of an objective Dover Area High School student. At a minimum, the pertinent inquiry is whether an “objective observer” in the position of a student of the relevant age would “perceive official school support” for the religious activity inquestion. Verbena United Methodist Church v. Chilton County Bd. of Educ., 765 F. Supp. 704, 711 (M.D. Ala. 1991) (quoting Bd. of Educ. of Westside Comm. Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 249 (1990)). We find it incumbent upon the Court to additionally judge Defendants’ conduct from the standpoint of a reasonable, objective adult observer. This conclusion is based, in part, upon therevelation at trial that a newsletter explaining the ID Policy in detail was mailed by the Board to every household in the District, as well as the Board members’ discussion and defense of the curriculum change in public school board meetings and in the media.

1. An Objective Observer Would Know that ID and Teaching About “Gaps” and “Problems” in Evolutionary Theory are Creationist, Religious Strategies that Evolved from Earlier Forms of Creationism

The history of the intelligent design movement (hereinafter “IDM”) and the development of the strategy to weaken education of evolution by focusing students on alleged gaps in the theory of evolution is the historical and cultural background against which the Dover School Board acted in adopting the challenged ID Policy. As a reasonable observer, whether adult or child, would be aware of this social context in which the ID Policy arose, and such context will help to reveal themeaning of Defendants’ actions, it is necessary to trace the history of the IDM.

It is essential to our analysis that we now provide a more expansive account of the extensive and complicated federal jurisprudential legal landscape concerning opposition to teaching evolution, and its historical origins. As noted, such opposition grew out of a religious tradition, Christian Fundamentalism that began as part of evangelical Protestantism’s response to, among other things, Charles Darwin’s exposition of the theory of evolution as a scientific explanation for the diversity of species. McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1258; see also, e.g., Edwards, 482 U.S. at 590-92. Subsequently, as the United States Supreme Court explained in Epperson, in an “upsurge of fundamentalist religious fervor of the twenties,” 393 U.S. at 98 (citations omitted), state legislatures were pushed by religiously motivated groups to adopt laws prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution.McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1259; see Scopes, 289 S.W. 363 (1927). Between the 1920's and early 1960's, anti-evolutionary sentiment based upon a religious social movement resulted in formal legal sanctions to remove evolution from the classroom. McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1259 (discussing a subtle but pervasive influence that resulted from anti-evolutionary sentiment concerning teachingbiology in public schools).

As we previously noted, the legal landscape radically changed in 1968 when the Supreme Court struck down Arkansas’s statutory prohibition against teaching evolution in Epperson. 393 U.S. 97. Although the Arkansas statute at issue did not include direct references to the Book of Genesis or to the fundamentalist view that religion should be protected from science, the Supreme Court concluded that “the motivation of the [Arkansas] law was the same . . . : to suppress the teachingof a theory which, it was thought, ‘denied’ the divine creation of man.” Edwards, 482 U.S. at 590 (quoting Epperson, 393 U.S. at 109) (Arkansas sought to prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution as it is contrary to the belief of some regarding the Book of Genesis.).

Post-Epperson, evolution’s religious opponents implemented “balanced treatment” statutes requiring public school teachers who taught evolution to devote equal time to teaching the biblical view of creation; however, such statutes did not pass constitutional muster under the Establishment Clause. See, e.g., Daniel, 515 F.2d at 487, 489, 491. In Daniel, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that by assigning a “preferential position for the Biblical version of creation” over “any account of the development of man based on scientific research and reasoning,” the challenged statute officially promoted religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause. Id. at 489.

Next, and as stated, religious opponents of evolution began cloaking religious beliefs in scientific sounding language and then mandating that schools teach the resulting “creation science” or “scientific creationism” as an alternative to evolution. However, this tactic was likewise unsuccessful under the First Amendment. “Fundamentalist organizations were formed to promote the idea that the Book of Genesis was supported by scientific data. The terms ‘creation science’and ‘scientific creationism’ have been adopted by these Fundamentalists as descriptive of their study of creation and the origins of man.” McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1259. In 1982, the district court in McLean reviewed Arkansas’s balanced-treatment law and evaluated creation science in light of Scopes, Epperson, and the long history of Fundamentalism’s attack on the scientific theoryof evolution, as well as the statute’s legislative history and historical context. The court found that creation science organizations were fundamentalist religious entities that “consider[ed] the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry.” Id. at 1260. The court in McLean stated that creation science rested on a “contrived dualism” that recognized only two possible explanations for life, the scientific theory of evolution and biblical creationism,treated the two as mutually exclusive such that “one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution,” and accordingly viewed any critiques of evolution as evidence that necessarily supported biblical creationism. Id. at 1266. The court concluded that creation science “is simply not science” because it depends upon “supernaturalintervention,” which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable. Id. at 1267. Accordingly, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas deemed creation science as merely biblical creationism in a new guise and held that Arkansas’ balanced-treatment statute could have no valid secular purpose or effect, served only to advance religion, and violated the First Amendment. Id. at 1264, 1272-74.

Five years after McLean was decided, in 1987, the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s balanced-treatment law in Edwards for similar reasons. After a thorough analysis of the history of fundamentalist attacks against evolution, as well as the applicable legislative history including statements made by the statute’s sponsor, and taking the character of organizations advocating for creation science into consideration, the Supreme Court held that the state violated the EstablishmentClause by “restructur[ing] the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.” Edwards, 482 U.S. at 593.

Among other reasons, the Supreme Court in Edwards concluded that the challenged statute did not serve the legislature’s professed purposes of encouraging academic freedom and making the science curriculum more comprehensive by “teaching all of the evidence” regarding origins of life because: the state law already allowed schools to teach any scientific theory, which responded to thealleged purpose of academic freedom; and if the legislature really had intended to make science education more comprehensive, “it would have encouraged the teaching of all scientific theories about the origins of humankind” rather than permitting schools to forego teaching evolution, but mandating that schools that teach evolution must also teach creation science, an inherently religious view. Id. at 586, 588-89. The Supreme Court further held that the belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and that the Act at issue “advances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution in its entirety.” Id. at 591, 596. Therefore, as noted, the import of Edwards is that the Supreme Courtmade national the prohibition against teaching creation science in the public school system.

The concept of intelligent design (hereinafter “ID”), in its current form, came into existence after the Edwards case was decided in 1987. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child.

We initially note that John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had anintelligent designer. (Trial Tr. vol. 9, Haught Test., 7-8, Sept. 30, 2005). Dr. Haught testified that Aquinas was explicit that this intelligent designer “everyone understands to be God.” Id. The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts.” Dr. Haught testified that this argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. (9:7-8 (Haught); Trial Tr. vol. 23, Behe Test., 55-57, Oct. 19, 2005; Trial Tr. vol. 38, Minnich Test., 44, Nov. 4, 2005). The only apparent difference between the argument made byPaley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People(hereinafter “Pandas”) is a “master intellect,” strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world. (P-11 at 85). Moreover, it is notable that both Professors Behe and Minnich admitted their personal view is that the designer is God and Professor Minnich testified that he understands many leading advocates of ID to believe the designer to be God. (21:90 (Behe); 38:36-38 (Minnich)).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Proving a Negative

It has been said by believer and nonbeliever alike that you can't disprove gods and goddesses because of the Sacred Rule. This rule, championed to be undefeatable, states that "You can't prove a negative." It was said with such strength of belief that few dare to challenge it. I was one of those few. I realized, after reading a very enlightening article, that this statement is totally illogical because it contradicts itself! If you can't prove a negative then how can you prove that you can't prove one?!

And so, with this barrier obliterated, I set out to prove this elusive negative by first proving a positive...
Before I get started on the evidence for all deities' imaginary status, and hence against their existence, I must explain my position a bit further. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that such things are impossible. To say that would take infinite knowledge and this is something that I am severely lacking. What I am saying is that these beings can be safely relegated to a dark abyss of improbability so exponentially massive that it becomes incomprehensible. This is what I mean when I say that gods' and goddesses' nonexistence can be proved. The process by which they are sent is what I shall attempt to explain, in detail, at this time.

All gods and goddesses, the statistically small monotheistic deities included, carry with them the tell tale signs of human literary invention: anthropomorphism. This is the tendency of our species to attribute human traits to just about anything. You can see this very clearly in what exactly was deified by early man. They looked at the sun and saw a god. They looked at the moon and saw a goddess. Our entire planet became a "mother" while the sky became a "father." Volcanoes, the name being derived from the Roman god of fire, were explained by the workings of gods and goddesses. Storms, earthquakes, tidal waves, floods all became imbued with anthropomorphism and were given specific gods and goddesses to explain them. Anything and everything that was lacking an explanation received a deity. Much like in modern times, though the ancients had a much better excuse, it was the easy way out of finding the real answer. What is the origin of our species? Gods did it!

Anthropomorphism can also be seen in the gods' behavior. These beings, who are supposed to be so perfect, act identical to the ruling class in our human societies -- with many parallels easily seen to modern politicians! This can be seen in great capacity with the gods and goddesses of the Greeks and Romans. They loved, fought, warred, cheated and even drank to intoxication! The whole Olympian pantheon wreaked of human soap opera. And indeed it was.

These beings, while believed to be disproved by a great multitude of modern people, were real enough to the ancients to get any freethinking Athenian in deep trouble if he dared even question a sacrifice made unto one of these imaginary friends, much less their very existence. In 399 B.C.E, Socrates was condemned by a 500 man Athenian jury, in part, because they believed the accusation that he was guilty of "not worshipping the gods whom the state worships." Anaxagoras, his predecessor, was sentenced to death for simply teaching that the sun and moon were natural objects and not gods! He fled into exile. Protagoras was banished from Athens for being openly agnostic in his books. His books were burned, he died at sea.

The consequences for denying the big three monotheistic deities of modern times can be just as severe, mainly I would say because of the psychotic personalities of these fictional characters -- more evidence of anthropomorphism. These male deities act just like very immature, yet powerful, human kings who are constantly throwing temper tantrums if they don't get their way. They all say they are very jealous of other gods. That's a very human emotion. Kings, wanting to be the most powerful in their territory, and the world when they've taken control of all of their local land, have traditionally tried to take out other kings. It would make them especially jealous if the people in their kingdom favored another king over them. They get mad at the slightest irritation and kill thousands. They take what they want and act totally opposite of the rules the common people are supposed to follow because they feel they have the right to do such things simply because they have the authority to do so. They even use bribes that utilize their alleged vast wealth to gain followers and motivate people to go so far as killing. On the other side of the scale, the characters in these popular mythologies will also use threats of violence, all the while under the guise of being loving, to meet their ends. All of these character traits prove, to me, that our gods are actually an enlarged version of the terror our human kings have bestowed upon the populace.

The same goes for the goddesses. Human queens have been just as cruel as their male counterparts in leadership positions. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction comes to mind. I can only imagine the type of woman she was based on. A woman like that would make kings shudder with fear of her approach. Usually, though, the female deity embodies the positive aspects of the female gender. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, would have been based on either a seductress or someone who was very positive and kind, or maybe both. A queen such as her would treat her subjects well. There have been rulers such as these, though, sadly they probably were taken out by the stronger, more aggressive contenders.

The same trend can be seen in what's popular today. Is it the entirely peaceful religions that have prevailed? No. It has been the evil religions, with the frightening consequences for insubordination, that have succeeded in getting the most followers. They have done this by taking some peaceful elements and wrapping their religions in them to cloak what is really there. That way, you get both type of people. The violent, sadistic people can enjoy the darker side, which comprises the majority, while the peaceful can enjoy the loving side which is scattered throughout the religion. This is the model that has worked because this is the same model that has also worked with our human leaders. The strong survive. The weak perish.

It all makes perfect sense when seen through the lens of anthropomorphism. Humans, without any of our modern knowledge that science has given us, were totally ignorant and in awe of their surroundings. To compensate they used what they knew as a reference. They used themselves and their lives to try to make a cohesive explanation of their universe.

To further illustrate these beings anthropomorphic roots one need only take a look at what these beings were supposed to look like! The Japanese gods looked Japanese. The Indian gods looked Indian. The Mexican gods, Mexican. In our culture you still see this with the blond haired, blue eyed, pasty faced Jesus that is so radically incorrect for a person who was supposed to have been born in the Middle East! Could it be any more obvious?!

Now we come to my all time favorite collection of evidences against the existence of gods and goddesses. These are amazing and indispensable! I call any one of these an Argument from Polytheism. They just seem to fit so well into every argument I have with theists. They comprise many of which I would consider classic Atheist responses. For example, if a Christian was to accuse an Atheist, and they do this often, of hating their god what you can come back with is that they hate, basically, any other god or goddess. This serves as a trap because what you'll usually get back is that that god doesn't exist. Now you've exposed their Atheism and you can begin to show their hypocrisy. That's when the fun begins!

Anyway, here's the jist of the argument. If there exists a god, or gods and goddesses, then why is there so much disagreement in every area? Why can't they agree how many gods there are? Why do they have radically different versions of our universes' creation? Why are there so many different explanations dealing with the origin of the life on our planet and the appearance of our species? Why can't they agree on what the afterlife is or if it exists, at all? The following examples will illustrate just how much they disagree!

Hinduism teaches that there are many gods and goddesses -- hundreds of millions, in fact! Fortunately for the worshipper, though, there are only several hundred popular deities. Some of these include Vishnu, the Protector, Brahma, the Creator, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning.

Their creation theory states that in the beginning there was nothing in the universe but Lord Vishnu laying on his serpent, named Shesha, resting. When this god awoke from sleeping, a lotus plant grew out of his navel and a flower blossomed from it. From this another god was born -- the god of creation, Brahma. This god, right after he was born apparently, started to create the universe inside a little golden egg called the Hiranyaagarbha, or the golden womb.

The afterlife, by Hindu belief, is something that varies depending on what your karma, or the total effect of your actions and conduct, looks like. If you have bad karma then you will be reborn, or reincarnated, over and over until you get it right. During this process, if you have to be reincarnated, the goal is to go up in castes, or social levels in society. When you finally do attain perfect karma, you will be in a place of happiness with the gods for eternity.
The Egyptians believed there were many gods and goddesses, as well.

Their creation theory starts out with only Nun existing, the primal ocean of chaos. Out of this ocean came Ra, the sun god, who gave birth to Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. Tefnut, in turn, gave birth to Geb, the earth god, and Nut, the sky goddess. The physical universe now existed. Men were created, oddly enough, out of Ra's tears.

Their afterlife was only to be reached after completing a treacherous journey which included monsters, poison-spitting snakes, fire and boiling lakes. Apparently, even though you were dead, you could be killed again, this time for good. If you survived all the dangers there that meant you had made it to the Hall of Two Truths. Here your heart was weighed on a scale against the Feather of Truth -- this feather containing everything bad you had done in your life. If your heart outweighed it, then Osiris, Anubis and Thoth, the gods judging the weighing, let you pass and onto Yaru you went. If the feather was heavier, then your heart was tossed into the waiting mouth of the Devourer, a beast that was part crocodile, part hippopotamus and part lion. At this point, just like the previous scenario, you were dead for good.

Norse mythology also states there are many gods and goddesses. Some of these include Odin, the king of the gods, Aegir, god of the ocean, and Hel, the goddess of the underworld.
Their creation theory begins with Ginnungagap, also called the "yawning void." It was a great limitless space of nothingness and it went on for infinity in all directions. At some point, it isn't specified, there came to exist a world. This world was a world of fire with everything, even the air, being engulfed in a constant, scorching blaze. It's name was Muspell and it's name meant 'Home of the Destroyers of the World." It was only the fire giants that later inhabited this region. There came to be another world shortly after this one. It was called Nifleheim and it was the exact opposite of Muspell. It was cold and covered in ice and snow. A dense fog could be seen everywhere and there were vast forests that stretched as far as the eye could see. In this land there was also a great fountain named Elivagar and out of this bubbled a poisonous scum that formed black ice glaciers. Eventually these two areas that inhabited the yawning void, after growing larger and larger, met for the first time. When fire met ice there was a great explosion and the fire from this explosion changed the scum into a giant named Ymir. There appeared a giant cow from which Ymir nursed. This cow also licked an icy continent and from this a god appeared. His name was Buri. To make a very long story short, Ymir had descendents and so did Buri. These descendents and Ymir had a giant fight and Ymir was killed. Odin, Vili and Ve, his killers, dragged his body to the middle of Ginnungagap. His blood formed all the bodies of water on earth. The rest of his corpse was used to make the mountains, hills, trees, and beaches and everything else on our planet -- except the clouds. They were made of his brains! For the sky they threw his skull cap up in the air and had four dwarves hold it up forever. Their names, Nordi, Sudri, Austri and Westri. The first humans were made from driftwood that Odin breathed into and were named Ask (Ash) and Embla (Elm).

The Norse afterlife was different for whatever the person happened to be in Viking society. It all depended on which god or goddess chose you. If you were a warrior and died a heroic death your soul would be carried by the Valkyries, beautiful flying maidens, to Odin's Valhalla and were served, by the same beautiful female beings, meat and mead, or medieval beer. Also, if they were to fight in this hall, and they did, their wounds would heal overnight, no matter how severe. If you were a sailor and died at sea then you would go to Aegir's hall which was at the bottom of the ocean. Or if you simply died of sickness or old age then your soul would be under the control of the Goddess Hel. You could be sent to Eljudnir, her hall, if you were good, or Nifleheim if you were bad.

Christians, the Trinitarian variety, believe in four gods but like to pretend they only believe in one. These gods include Yahweh, the all-powerful king of the gods, Jesus, prince of the gods, the Holy Spirit, the messenger god, and Satan, the god of the underworld. They get away with claiming to be monotheistic by saying that the first three are one and the last is not a deity, at all. Their assertion is, of course, not supported biblically and shows a lack of understanding of mythology.

Their creation theory takes place over the period of six days with Yahweh creating the universe out of nothing and then proceeding to populate the new world, Earth, with life. In one version man and woman are created at once. In another, the man, Adam, is first created and placed in the Garden of Eden. Then, after a short period, Yahweh takes one of Adam's ribs and makes an incestual bride with which they are to populate the entire Earth.

The Christian afterlife is typically divided into two eternal spheres: heaven and hell. Heaven is supposed to be a place of happiness in the clouds and is a place of reward for the believer that has met certain criteria and follow certain rules during their lifetime. Hell is supposed to be a place of anguish and torment that is located inside the Earth. The believer who did not meet the above criteria and broke the rules is to come here. Believers of all the previous faiths and indeed every other faith that ever existed, by their mythology, end up there, as well. This includes those who don't have a faith, Atheists.

Muslims believe in one god and call him Allah. This does not translate to the word "god," but is rather his personal name. Their god is differentiated from other gods by the curious fact that it is forbidden to assign him a human form. To do so is considered blasphemy. If they were to, though, he'd be just like all the other gods and look like the race that created him. Perhaps this is why Mohammad chose to make that a sin. He didn't want his deity's popularity being limited by appearance.

Their creation theory is virtually identical to Judeo/Christian set forth in the Old Testament with the only differences appearing in the wording. Allah makes the world in six days but didn't get tired. Apparently Mohammad realized that an omnipotent god wouldn't get weary, ever! The first humans, Adam and Eve were made out of clay. And the similarities go on and on. This is, of course, because Islam evolved out of these two religions several hundred years after the invention of Christianity and so absorbed much from these two dominant forces.
Can all these contradictory creation accounts be reconciled with each other? Can their gods and goddesses? Furthermore, how can one determine what would be the right combination or correct religion out of the thousands? After sampling but a few of the world's huge pantheon the absurdity of such a task becomes painfully obvious. The only logical conclusion is that they are all false as they are all man-made.

Our ancestors, in different cultures, in different times, under different influences came to totally different conclusions about how to explain the world around them and how it came to be. Using their imaginations, they dreamt up these fanciful anthropomorphized beings to fill the void of knowledge they were so desperate to fill.

It has only been in modern times that science has answered enough of the questions of existence to satisfy our hunger and all but vanquish the gods of the gaps. I have confidence, though, that the constant march of scientific progress will eventually eradicate any gaps that remain and finish the job that started so long ago when the struggle first began.

Next on the list is the "soul," or more correctly, the soul hypothesis. If this hypothesis of human consciousness and animation can be disproved then the afterlife disappears and we, as species, can be shown to be totally natural organisms who operate as organic machines. Without this "soul," there is neither a need for saving from a negative scenario, nor the striving for a positive, and the entire religious scheme falls apart! By showing the soul hypothesis is utter nonsense we can effectively remove the vital link between people and their imaginary creations: gods and goddesses.

Let's begin by defining what exactly is meant by this "soul." What is it? Dictionary.com defines "soul" as being "the animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity."
Now let's look at the word "brain." The same site defines this term as "the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system that is enclosed within the cranium, continuous with the spinal cord, and composed of gray matter and white matter. It is the primary center for the regulation and control of bodily activities, receiving and interpreting sensory impulses, and transmitting information to the muscles and body organs. It is also the seat of consciousness, thought, memory, and emotion."

Now, can anyone see the similarities between the two terms? They both are supposed to be involved in thoughts, actions, emotions, and though the above definition doesn't say so specifically, the source of consciousness, as well. Primitives, not knowing anything about the brain, assigned all these responsibilities to this "soul" because they knew no better. Scientists, armed with CAT scans, MRIs, extensive experience with brain surgery, findings from psychology and psychiatry, have been able to piece together the truth about what the brain does. Where does this leave the soul?

Our new understanding of the functions of the brain put the soul squarely where it belongs: within the context of mythology. It has been relegated to the same realm as ghosts, goblins, fairies, leprechauns and other fictional creations from the mind of man.
This same understanding has also totally annihilated the so-called Near Death Experience! They can be shown to just be a product of our brains as they can be reproduced in the lab. These experiences have been demonstrated to be creations of the mind in three ground breaking experiments. In one, Dr. Karl Jansen was able to reproduce all the features of this experience with an intravenous administration of 50 - 100 mg of ketamine. The second was an experiment done by neurologist Olaf Blanke of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland. Blanke found that electrically stimulating one brain region — the right angular gyrus — repeatedly triggers out-of-body experiences. The third was conducted by neuroscientist Michael Persinger, in his laboratory at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. He found he could induce all these perceptions in subjects by subjecting their temporal lobes to patterns of magnetic fields.
NDEs also tend to be religion-specific. They follow the expectations of the subject and are bound by their culture. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies (Osis, 1975, Pasricha, 1986, Schorer, 1985-86, Kellehear, 1993). This means that whatever mythology they have been programmed to believe and the culture they've grown up in will manifest itself in what they see. If they have been taught to be believe in karma and a large pantheon of gods and goddesses, well, this is precisely what they experience. If they have been taught about devils, angels, and fluffy white clouds, however, then this is theirs. It's all dependent on the beliefs and experiences of the subject.

Albert Einstein, arguably one of the most intelligent men ever to live, was quoted, in his obituary in the New York Times, as having had said "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms." He, as a scientist, could see plainly that this "soul" was nonsense.

What about the people who say that the brain is where the soul resides? What if it is the "ghost in the machine?" What if this "soul" acts like a little person in a control room throwing switches and pressing buttons? What if, indeed. Where is the evidence for such a proposition? Why would it be needed? The brain, with all it's various interlocking components, functions fine without the need for any supernatural intervention.

Our consciousness is a product of a living brain. Does a heart need a "soul" in order to beat? Does a liver need a "soul" in order to detoxify the blood? Does a stomach need a "soul" in order to digest food? Do white blood cells need a "soul" in order scavenge our body for pathogens? If none of these organs needs assistance, then why should the brain be any different?

The "ghost in the machine" can also be shown to be illogical as it would suffer from an infinite regress. If the brain requires an internal, but separate, "operator" because our consciousness allegedly cannot be explained by the brain itself, then this operator must be subject to the same rule. What drives it? How can it be conscious? The operator must have an operator to operate it! That operator, in turn, would also need an operator and so on and so forth. It would never end.

Besides not being needed to explain any of the phenomena of consciousness, this "soul" is likewise not needed to explain how we are alive. To see just how obvious this is, one need only look at our reproductive system. Living sperm is created inside the testicles. Living eggs are created within the ovaries. A sperm joins with an egg and a living embryo is produced shortly thereafter. Now, where exactly would this "soul" be needed? Where in this process would an infusion of life be required? Not anywhere that I can see. You add life to life and you get life. Could it be any simpler?

Now that we can see that this "soul" isn't needed to explain anything, let's move onto the aspects of it's mythology that are completely nonsensical by asking a few pointed questions. Why, if this "soul" can supposedly do everything a brain can do in the alleged afterlife (whichever one), then why is a brain needed in the first place? Following this same logic, why, when a person acquires a brain injury doesn't this "soul" take over? Why does Alzheimer's matter? How can anyone be mentally retarded? Are humans the only one with this "soul?" Why or why not? If they aren't, does this mean that, along with all the multicellular animals on the planet, single-celled organisms have it, too? Why or why not? If this is granted, then it would have to mean that our own cells, such as skin, intestinal, liver, muscular, would also have to have this "animating principal." If not, then why? If everything has this soul, does this mean that each has it's own afterlife? Is there a Heaven and Hell for bacteria? Are winged sperm greeted in paradise by 72 eggs? Do flies get judged for their actions?

All these questions are vitally important because they expose just how flawed and unintelligent the whole theory is. Believers, when confronted with such an interrogation, should be forced to think about why they believe in something so ridiculous. Hopefully, it will lead to an unraveling of the entire mythological system and this person will be freed.