Aggregating Skeptical Thought

In God Indiana Trusts (even those who don’t)

The ACLU in Indiana is filing a suit against the State of Indiana on behalf of Mark Studler for offering an alternative standard or specialty license plate and yet does not charge extra for this plate. The new “standard” plates have the phrase “In God We Trust”. Read more here (FoxNews, The News-Sentinel, LA Times

There have been many reports that I have heard personally and have been written about in other places (internet infidels) of people only being offered the new license plate. If you have been a victim do not hesitate to email the Indiana ACLU at

Here are the pertinent points from the Mark Studler v. Indiana BMV lawsuit.

Indiana has a standard license plate and has historically only had one standard license. The “In God We Trust” (IGWT) plate is the first “‘no-fee’ specialty plate” to be offered by the State of Indiana.

The primary basis for their lawsuit lies in the fact that (Section 23 of the filed lawsuit)

“those who obtain an “In God We Trust” license plate are afforded the opportunity to make an affirmative statement through display of the plate without any additional cost while Mr. Studler must pay additional fees for his environmental license plate.”

Here’s one more salient point that must be made and unfortunately the ACLU lawsuit doesn’t cover this. According to The Tribune-Star, out of Terre Haute, the state is absorbing $3.69 to produce each of these plates out of the state’s Highway Fund. This is a cost that the state does not currently absorb for any other specialty plates. In fact, Indiana charges a $15 administrative fee to cover the cost of producing any specialty plate. Let me put it more simply, Indiana charges you for a specialty plate because of the additional cost associated yet does not charge the same fee for a clearly Christian-inspired plate. If it looks and smells like a government subsidy…

The Courier Press out of Evansville, Indiana interviewed the state representative that sponsored the bill, Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood),

“I’m a faith-based person, anyways, and there had been so much attack on religion throughout this country,” Burton said.

Burton said the plate shouldn’t raise any “separation of church and state” issues, because its sentiment is very general and does not promote any particular faith.

“We’re not specifying any religion,” said Burton, who attends the nondenominational Greenwood Christian Church.

Umm… I hope Woody is sitting down for this mind blowing statement but you are specifying religion in general (although which religion is very thinly veiled). There is a percentage of your state that not only does not believe in your God (or wish to express that sentiment in a clearly Christian manner) but there is a smaller percentage that do not accept the existence of any god (let’s be honest it’s a very small percentage in Indiana).

I understand that that phrase is on our currency (or sometimes not) and is even our national motto. But let’s be clear about where that motto came from. It is an enacted piece of legislation from 1956 just 2 years after “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It has a very clear Christian pedigree and only an apologist would attempt to claim “we’re not specifying any religion” this is both intellectually dishonest and insulting.


Filed under: Politics, Religion

Congressional Scorecard

I was poking around the Secular Coalition for America’s website and came across their congressional scorecard (here). They list out certain key votes and then give your representative a + for a correct vote and a – for an incorrect vote.  My house representative (Mark Souder – R) has a perfect – vote. No surprise there. He’s a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time renaming a local highway the “Ronald Reagan Expressway” and getting Reagan’s head on the dime or something.

Anyway check out your representatives and by the way you can sign up to receive action alerts on key bills and you can email your representative through their systems. Very easy and painless to do. You can signup here.

Filed under: Politics

I’m surrounded.

The majority of Republicans in the United States do not believe the theory of evolution is true and do not believe that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.

That is the money quote from a recent Gallup poll that surveyed Americans in response to a recent Republican presidential debate in which the candidates were asked if they do not believe that evolution was true. This is a very unfortunate thing especially when you live in Indiana. I’m surrounded by Republicans. The majority of Hoosiers are Republicans, the majority of whom do not believe that evolution is real and the majority of which believe that God literally created the Universe and everything in it in 6 days.

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Filed under: Evolution, Politics

Canada Turns the Corner

Canadian Conservatives Announce Global-Warming Initiative, that’s the headline. It’s a very aggressive goal out of Ottawa especially given their track record and that they are 30% above 1990 levels. The Liberal opposition also wants to ban the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2012. CFL bulbs are really amazing when it comes to energy-efficiency however people do need to be reminded that they need to be disposed of properly because of the mercury in them.

As a side note I am in the process of replacing all of our bulbs to CFLs and have found some bulbs are less than great. The only thing that I have come across is that some take too long to get bright and don’t get all that bright when they do. I’ve found that for just a little bit more money the GE 26-watt (100-watt equivalent) CFLs come on quick and get bright quickly, oh and they actually get bright. The 26-watt bulbs are a little less efficient but so much better than the off-brand Bright Effects or whatever they are called. I wonder if GE will pay me for the plug.

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Filed under: Environment, Politics

Christian love in Northern Ireland

I shouldn’t read these articles because they irritate me to no end. In fact, you shouldn’t read this article either, On Patrol in a Polarized City, and no it’s not about Baghdad. So I will summarize in Haiku format.

The feeling is shared
Protestants hate Catholics
Christian death results


Hate is mutual
Protestants and Catholics
What Would Jesus Do?

Please feel free to leave your own haiku

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Filed under: Politics, Religion

Is there such a thing as “historical skepticism”?

I’m not sure if this post isn’t just a political rant thinly veiled behind something I’ve chosen to call “historical skepticism” but here goes.

I am one of the, unfortunately, handful of Hoosiers who have been adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq since day one. I’m not back peddling (cough, Evan Bayh and just about every Democratic senator and a handful Republicans) after the fact. I was never convinced that Saddam posed an “imminent threat” to the United States.  I didn’t believe Saddam had WMD (because the UN couldn’t find any, remember Hans Blix?). Yes, Saddam was a bad guy but we didn’t go in there because he was bad guy we went in because of WMD and the near apocalypse. If we went in because he was a bad guy then why haven’t we dealt with Cuba, Libya, North Korea and on and on. *breathe*

Having said all that, I don’t think we can set a date and pull out just because it’s a bad situation and a lot of troops are dying. We now have an obligation, I call it Bush’s obligation, and I’ve blogged on this on my personal blog (definitely a political rant). The gist of the post is this:

Anyway after all this I was thinking everyone’s strategy is to get out. So we leave the Iraqis holding the bag. We all take off, Bush may or may not save face, and all of the families and citizens of Iraq are screwed. …We are now committed to seeing this whole thing through. There are families that need us now more than ever.

I fully expect the Dems to want to keep trying to pull out but now the morally-upright-go-it-alone Republicans are trying to get out now because its politically expedient but unfortunately not the right thing to do.

As sick as it makes me feel we have an obligation to these people. We have Bush’s obligation.

So where am I going with this, I was reading this Salon article, Bush’s favority historian, about Sir Alistair Horne and his book “A Savage War of Peace” and how this is a George W. Bush “must read”. The book is about the 1954-1962 Algerian War in which the French were the colonial power dealing with a rather persistent insurgency.  You can draw a surprising number of parallels between the book’s account of the Algerian War and the war in Iraq and here’s where I am going with this.

Is there such a thing as “historical skepticism”? Can someone evaluate a possible future strategy/policy (such as invading Iraq) and then evaluate similar, well-documented examples in history to draw some inferences as to the possible outcomes? What kind of strategies/protocols could be developed that would allow us to evaluate historical “precedent” if you will and the use that as a predictor of certain course of action? In fact, I was reading the latest eSkeptic (from, you must subscribe) and Robert Ehrlich has an essay, Science will never explain everything: that is why it is so useful!, and this little quotemine from the essay got me thinking actually about doing this post to begin with. The study of history can explain things after the fact but “historical skepticism” could be used to help us predict possible outcomes the possible outcomes of our actions:

Imagine a system of belief that could explain everything. Much like the present practice of analysts able to trace every movement of the stock market to specific worldly events, the explanations can only be provided after the occurrence not before. They therefore have little value to anyone wishing to anticipate the outcome and effects of actions we may take. Science is powerful because it often provides explanations before observations are made.

I understand that any study of history and it’s application to current events will be sufficiently fuzzy (anthropology and social sciences in general are fuzzy compared to say mathematical sciences or astronomy which can be very concrete in their determinations)  since the way in which you characterize or interpret the causes of various historical events will necessarily change the way in which you evaluate the relevance of any historical event to current events. I’m thinking Engels & Marx and their decidedly unique perspective on history and how it guided them to particular world view is a good case in point. 

I’m sure there is a whole branch of historical study devoted to this, in fact, writing this reminded me of Michael Shermer’s book Science Friction (really a series of essays) in which a third of the book was dedicated to historical sciences.  I think Shermer’s book dealt more with revisionist history but there was one essay called “Exorcising Laplace’s Demon” that used chaos theory to show how hard it can be to figure out the causes of any particular event.

To conclude this post, while I don’t think this concept of “historical skepticism” was used in the runup to the war in Iraq it may have value now as way of understanding what our future couse of actions should be. If you read Sir Alistair Horne’s book, A Savage War of Peace, his account of the withdrawal of the French and the resulting bloodbath of the “Harkis” (those who were loyal/helped the French) by the Algerian insurgents could be a possible outcome of our withdrawal on an arbitrary date that would likely result in a massive sectarian bloodbath and I’m not really prepared to leave the Iraqi people to that fate.

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Filed under: Politics

If only they weren’t atheists

A Tom Tomorrow cartoon at explaining why the recent dustup surrounding the death of Pat Tillman is because is family is atheists.

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Filed under: Politics

Because Fantasy-based Reality is lame

Mike Dunford blogs about the Campaign for a Reality-based Reality.

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Filed under: Environment, Politics

Australian prime minister learning to live with it.

So the Australian states want to do something about limiting the damage from pollution and the Prime Minister wants to spend money on how to live with climate change. If only our president would even acknowledge that global warming exists.

Technorati Skeptic

Filed under: Environment, Politics

Those pesky X-shaped, double-lined crosses with 4 dots.

I’m all for removing religion from government but I think this one might be a bit far fetched, More Problems with Crosses.

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Filed under: Politics, Religion


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