August 4, 2020

The State of Faith and Science at Internet Monk

The State of Faith and Science at Internet Monk

We are now more than halfway through the year 2020.  I want to take stock of the status of faith and science and my desire to blog about them to encourage Christians, particularly Evangelicals, to adhere to sound science.  When I started blogging about these issues in 2009 I wrote about a conversation I had with a former pastor and my desire to help fellow evangelicals deal with the so-called controversial issues of modern science, particularly age-of-the-earth, creation, and origins issues.  I told him:

“…these issues are not going to go away and we evangelicals cannot stick our heads in the sand of anti-intellectualism and pretend they don’t matter.  We, our children, and our grandchildren have to live in an increasingly technological society where science-based decisions involving the shape of our future must be made.  Are we going to relegate ourselves to the sidelines of irrelevancy?”

So I designed and put on a class that dealt with these issues and then blogged here at IM in the series located here . My hope then was that perhaps I could start a dialogue that would lead some evangelicals to a less antagonistic attitude toward science.  I really had modest expectations and thought I wasn’t hopelessly naïve.

Over at the BioLogos forum, Kevin Smith recently posted the following:

“I avoid discussions about evolution, the age of the earth, global warming and other science topics within my evangelical community. I do point them to certain books, articles or videos that presents my views. However, during this pandemic many of my evangelical friends are questioning the seriousness of Covid 19, often posting conspiracy theories on facebook. I usually ignore them and just post things that encourages safe practices during this time. I am very disappointed and sad in how many in the evangelical community are responding to this very serious situation. I’m not asking for advice or anything, I just need a place where I can share this because, like many of you know, talking about science with this community can be difficult and it often makes me feel alone.”

Well, that about sums it up for me too.  Many of my former church mates who took my class now post the most egregious nonsense about the pandemic on Facebook.  They apparently learned nothing about how to assess media articles about the pandemic, except if it fits with their latest conspiracy theory then it must be right.  Evidence to the contrary is “fake news”.

I take some comfort in that the explosive resurgence of the virus seems to have shaken some people, including political leaders, out of their complacency.  But others, like the Georgia governor, are seeming to double down.  Most mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics seem to accept the advice from Dr. Fauci and others and are in agreement with the main points of mask wearing and social distancing.  Even Jerry Falwell Jr. seems to have made a wise, science-based decision in re-opening Liberty University.

It was very disheartening to see the concerted attack against Dr. Fauci by Whitehouse aides, but that seems to have abated, and even Trump, moved by the polls that show the public disagreeing with his handling of the pandemic, seems to have tacked with the winds of public opinion, trying to save his reelection campaign.

The team at Covid Act Now—health professionals, epidemiologists, and other experts—have updated their COVID risk map to confirm the dire state of affairs: Not a single U.S. state is currently “on track to contain COVID.”

What would really make me feel better about my fellow Americans, as well as my fellow Evangelicals, is for the anti-maskers to start fading away into a very small minority, and their footprint on all types of media, social included, to correspondingly decrease.  I’m not very optimistic but I am trying to remain hopeful.  So much pain and suffering could have been avoided, please, God, let them learn their lesson however belatedly.  I’m going to keep on blogging in the hope I can chip away at the ignorance however small my impact might be.  Light a candle instead of cursing darkness and all that.

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    Hello Mike-The-Geologist

    thanks for this post

    I was thinking that the ‘turning away’ from the scientific evidence concerning covid-19 by evangelicals is more of their nod to trumpism than to reality. . . .

    trumpism offers ANOTHER ‘reality’ they are willing to ‘trade’ in order to achieve

    something I read from another post from a respectable evangelical person were these words: ” yes, he’s offensive and rude and shouldn’t say at least half the things that he does, but his politics is very on-point, which allows all the other stuff to so easily put up with.”

    ‘all the other stuff ‘

    Mike, I see this kind of ‘trade-off’ as a symptom of ‘cultism’, mindless following of an idol . . . . the minions ‘go along to get along’ in hopes of achieving some kind of ‘other’ America that we could not recognize for its nod to fantasy thinking, misogyny, and the strange experience of being ‘pinocheted’ in our own cities.

    From what I can get, a lot of my countrymen and women KNOW BETTER than to see what is actually happening and to ‘believe’ a leader who tells them ‘the virus is just going to disappear’;
    but we are in strange times with the confluence of a crazed administration and a pandemic where the ‘fantasy’ has led to 143,000 deaths in the last six months.

    just my opinion, but I think evangelical trade-offs for whatever it is that they think they can ‘get’ out of the support for that nut-job is not something the world will easily forgive when all the crazy is over (hopefully, it will be in November)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Perhaps it would be better the take them seriously, take them at their word: “””his politics is very on-point…other stuff to so easily put up with”””. They desire the world his politics envisions. That is not “cultism”; people support leaders whose Vision is one they share.

      • Robert F says

        I think there is an element of cultism involved. I’ve met a QAnon supporter of Trump or two, and they have a messianic view of him that is definitely cultic. But I think in general his supporters are not cultists, but people who agree with his Vision, or more accurately, the Vision that has attached itself to him. On that basis they are willing to ignore many aspects of his behavior. That doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with that Vision, and find parts of it morally heinous, but that is not the same as viewing it as a form of cultism. It is political pragmatism in its uglier aspect.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > they are willing to ignore many aspects of his behavior

          Or, simpler, they do not have an substantive disagreements with his behavior.
          Perhaps the ignore-in-trade is the hand wave.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      When you look at who the Republicans were offering us in 2016, it was evident from the start that the message would have to be separated from the package. Immigration and trade (globalization) were two issues that Trump made his own from the very beginning, and I think it surprised even Ted Cruz, who was the most doctrinaire “real” Republican in that field how deeply those issues resonated with the Republican base.

      For example, Disney decides in 2014 that they’re going to replace their entire IT team in Central Florida with Indian contractors, then adds insult to injury by tying their severance pay to training their replacements, In Central Florida, a swing area of a swing state. I don’t remember very well what Sen Cruz ran on, but he didn’t major in immigration/free trade. Marco Rubio was tainted with the ‘Gang of Eight’ albatross of an immigration bill Schumer hung around his neck. All the rest were effectively open borders/unlimited parole.

      The category five hurricane of media scorn that Trump has been working against since his nomination doesn’t phase most of the people who voted for him in 2016. The kombucha-and-kale crown hates them just as much; suburban whites with a comfortable lifestyle who don’t feel particularly put out that black and brown people have a harder row to hoe than they do. It took the pandemic for me to consider voting against him.

      • The problem is that there just aren’t enough high-skill IT people in America to supply the need. It costs businesses money to bring in foreign IT workers, money that they could spend elsewhere – but there just aren’t Americans with the proper skills. My wife used to work for tech startups, and knows this problem well.

        I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – the problems that Trump’s base want “solved’ are totally unsolvable in the way they want them solved. Manufacturing isn’t coming back. Whites will not be s majority. Private health care cannot be made affordable without massive government regulation. Minorities are no longer willing to wait for whites to play nice. These are hard truths, but truths they are, and no amount of spin or government force will make things go back to the halcyon days of the 50s.

        • Eeyore,

          In addition, Trump’s idea to alienate the STEM professionals and the college-educated white collar workers to bring back low-end manufacturing jobs to support aging blue-color/union boomers who could not bother to learn a new skill set is really dumb. Especially since most of those aging boomers will be dead in about 10 years. The Law of Comparative Advantage wins every time.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          I take issue with all of your statements except the one about health care, and the one about the minorities not playing Get-Along. We’ll just have to leave it that

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      just my opinion, but I think evangelical trade-offs for whatever it is that they think they can ‘get’ out of the support for that nut-job…

      Roe v Wade Overturned!
      Prayer put back in schools!
      A CHRISTIAN Nation!

      … is not something the world will easily forgive when all the crazy is over (hopefully, it will be in November)

      What makes you think it will be in November?
      The groundwork is already being laid for How The Librul Deep State Rigged The Election.

      “President for Life… We really need to try that here.”
      — Donald J Trump

      And the Christians will chorus “AAAAAA-MENNNN!!! HIS KINGDOM SHALL HAVE NO END!!!!!”

      • Christiane says

        I have to hope, Headless

        I know about what you are saying and it keeps me up at night worrying. Too much already .. . .

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Morning drive-time yesterday claimed news that Trump is going to sign a whole bunch of Executive Orders in the next week. And that the guy who wrote the “Torture Memo” — excuse me, “Manual of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” — for the War on Terror is advising him in this. After reading this news, the hosts speculated whether this is connected to the Special Federal Agents antics in Portland, Chicago, etc.

          Rest assured if this is legit the Christians will chorus “AAAAAA-MENNN!!! AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON (Rev 2:27)!!!!!”

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Congratulations to New York for being on a containment track!

    • Robert F says

      Yes, New York and some other areas in the Northeast have taken the situation in hand, after in initially horrible beginning. But this game is not even out of the first innings, and consistency and vigilance will be required for as long as it lasts.

      • Robert F,

        Agreed. Still I am happy to be in MA rather than FL, AZ, or TX right about now…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      New York and the states to the NE of it seem to have their act together.

      I’ve been following Gov Cuomo’s press briefings, and the guy talks a lot of sense.

  3. Your efforts are appreciated, Mike.

  4. “I avoid discussions about evolution, the age of the earth, global warming and other science topics within my evangelical community.”

    Perhaps we should not have done this. Did we really think that ideas like this could fester for decades and have no real life consequences?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Having been a not-creationist not-republican not-“pro-life” pro-science pro-urban civil-libertarian “Evangelical” I spent a whole lot of time not saying anything. And, still today, I do not believe it would have made any difference if I had.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        By and large the same. A few I have started speaking about. Others – very much not.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Klasie, I remember when you went through your history growing up in South Africa during the peak of Apartheid, you closed with a statement about “You don’t want to grow up in a fascist state. Not even if you are one of the fascist state’s privileged class.”

          Well, a lot of Christians KNOW they’re going to be the Privileged Class, and from other blogs (Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, etc) they’re no strangers to Thuggery for The Righteous Cause. (And what could be more Righteous than The Winning Side?) All they see is:

          “RULERS OF TOMORROW! MASTER RACE!”
          — Ralph Bakshi, Wizards

    • Mike the Geologist says

      No, Eeyore, we should not have done this. I’ve said it before; scientists who are Christians have a duty and responsibility to speak up a’ la’ Burke and “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. The go-along-to-get-along attitude just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Literally, lives are at stake.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “I avoid discussions about evolution, the age of the earth, global warming and other science topics within my evangelical community.”

      Because he doesn’t want to get turned into a pile of rocks.
      Evangelicals are hair-trigger touchy and vicious when triggered.
      What would God ever do without them to Defend Him?

  5. I’m not completely in the grip of paranoid delusion to think that foreign states are stoking the anti mask insanity. They may or may not have started it but it sure sounds like something an adversary would seek to plant in the head of the pathetically gullible. Then call it freedom and patriotism. I kinda hope that’s the case because the alternative, that some of us thought it up without any help, is a dismal commentary on the progress of apprehending real science.

    • Playing with fire (or infectious diseases) is a dangerous ploy. Diseases have historically been very inaccurate weapons, as like to rebound back on the sender as harm the recipient.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Agree. This is why even “bad” nations don’t get into Biological weapons/warfare. It is pragmatic; a weapon you can’t aim is not an effective weapon.

        • Adam,

          Correct. If you want to do WMDs, either nukes or chemical weapons are the way to go.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > some of us thought it up without any help

      Seat belts. “Gun Control”, the whole National ID conversation.

      We came up with the masks thing entirely on our own. It’s Defiance Culture, and it is pervasive.

      • They probably didn’t start it but getting on social media to keep the fun going would be a fairly pinpointed weapon. Keep us isolated ( no travel to the E.U. etc) , unstable and divided. Just throwing it out there.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          They say when Trump won in 2016, Putin responded “Washington is Ours”.

          And the unmarked Feds in Portland (now expanding to Albequerque & Chicago) do sound like something out of Putin’s playbook in Crimea.

  6. One of the main reasons people give when asked why they left the church is that it seems so completely out of touch with reality as presented to us by the findings of science (which in most cases consists of simply going and ;looking at the evidence).

    Just today the first photograph of actual planets orbiting another sun-like star were released and we have adults who still think the earth is only ten thousand years old and that our ancestors were planted here like cabbages in a garden!

    A report was released yesterday pointing to the fact that our global climate has deteriorated to the point where the outlook will be worse than anticipated even if we do wake up out of our stupor (four wasted years!) and respond immediately.

    We seem to have a surfeit of that quality which we can least afford – stupidity. Our ancestors will not thank us.

    • I was going to say “What ancestors?” but then realized I was simply sharing your unintentional choice of terms and had to laugh at myself.

      Those of us who have drifted away from organized religion have many reasons, I suppose, but I have to say that nothing says Keep Out quite as strongly to me as the massive anti science attitude so common in many churches. If I have told you of earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? Credibility is a general thing.

      That said, I really appreciate the candles Mike and others are lighting – keep it up, by all means.

      • Yes you would think I could tell an ancestor from a descendent. And a mysterious semi-colon slipped in there too.

        You know I think we all internalize to some degree the idea of progress, or at least scientific advancement. But there have been dark ages before, and not just the one we get taught about in school. If we look at the ramifications of global climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, crop failures, etc, it’s hard to see anyone conducting business as usual. And yet the four pack a day smoker knows what’s going to happen, but it’s a beautiful world and today is pretty much like yesterday and so on it goes…

        Two of my best friends in the world just became grandparents for the first time and when I look at the pictures of that little baby I have all the feelings you would expect, joy, wonder, but I have to confess there is a little man inside me who is scared sh*tless. What will this world be like when she is my age? My people tend to be long livers so I might have 20 or 30 years left but that will see but the beginning of sorrows.

        Are we that selfish? Self-absorbed? Do we hate our children that much? Ignorance is one thing but to know and do nothing? Like T S Eliot wrote, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?”

        • Burro (Mule) says

          You are a Jew on the streets of Warsaw, and your daughter and son-in-law have just presented you with your first grandchild.

          Is it June, 1904, or June, 1939?

          I felt this in my gut when I went in to cast my vote in 1980. I knew I should have voted for Carter. He was saying all the right things, about fossil fuels, about sustainability, about limits. But Reagan was singing such sweet songs to Big Whitey with his big wallet and his fast car… I wussed out and threw my vote away on John Anderson, even though Reagan carried my state by 17%.

          On November 5 of that year, I knew the 60s were over, except for dark side of it; the libertine sex thing and the wanting everything for free. I knew in my heart that we weren’t ever going to moderate our consumption, we weren’t ever going to have a gas tax, we weren’t ever going to back down. We were going to hit the wall at full speed, drinking a forty, smoking a blunt, with our other arm around a 19-year-old gymnast.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            +1

            I believe the ideological shift from Carter to Reagan is vastly underrated as a turning point. Reagan was the pretty, polite, “respectable” version of where we are today.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Exactly. We can track a lot of ills to the actions of Ronnie. He started the ball rolling, and the time has come for the Piper to be paid.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      It is really old now, but someone needs to revisit the “Exit Interviews” concept. This was a great book.
      https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Interviews-Revealing-Stories-Leaving/dp/0802423183

      > global climate has deteriorated

      Minimum temperate rise now 2.6C!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Drill, Drill, Drill, Burn, Burn, Burn, Frack, Frack, Frack. “MAGA!”
        And the Christians rejoice.
        “ITS’ ALL GONNA BURN! REJOICE FOR YOUR SALVATION DRAWETH NIGH! RAPTURE! RAPTURE! RAPTURE!”

        • Of course Natural Gas puts less CO2 into the atmosphere as a function of KW than coal or oil. Also, NG power plants are easily able to be spun up and spun down as electrical demands vary.

          But then a nice Gen III+ or Gen IV fission reactor would work nicely too. A nice He-cooled Pebble Bed design or a fast-neutron version of the Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor. Both are Gen IV designs.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            All new powerplants in my area (SoCal) are modular gas-turbine generators running on natural gas.

            But then a nice Gen III+ or Gen IV fission reactor would work nicely too. A nice He-cooled Pebble Bed design or a fast-neutron version of the Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor. Both are Gen IV designs.

            But that’s NUCLEAR(TM)!!!!! ANGST!!!!! ANGST!!!!! ANGST!!!!!

            • Well until Fusion works as a power source, fission is it. The thing is if the US Navy can run a good 50 or 100 nuclear reactors just about flawlessly for decades with no issues, why on earth is a problem on land? Another thing is they have modular gas-turbines that you drop-in place and stack a bunch of them together for capacity. Why can’t that be done for nuclear power plants? That is what US Navy has for its vessels. The power plants on the Los Angeles SSNs is all the same, same with the power plants on the Ohio SSBNs, etc.

              <<>>

              • Naval nuclear power is basically bomb grade fission products under tight controls. While it might work to spread them around the US and maybe Canada, do you want to give them to Uganda, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Mexico, or even Hungary?

                Plus the only reason we’re not drowning in the waste products from these things is that there aren’t that many. The numbers are still small enough that we can pile up the old reactors and put a fence around them.

                PS: All steam based power generation requires a heat sink. Those cooling towers at nuke plants also exist at natural gas and coal plants. Nuke powered ships use the ocean. Which makes it hard for them to generate much power while at the dock or even in a harbor. The water around them would soon be boiling.

                • David L,

                  Thanks for the additional information. And that is the problem. Why are we generating electricity using basically a fancy tea kettle (steam) anyways? There are a number of methods that would be more efficient (MHD, using molten salt as the coolant, etc.)

                  • I hang out on some other blogs where people who know a lot more than me discuss things. Some have been involved in studies and early designs of such. They ALL HAVE PROBLEMS at scale.

                    Either in failure modes, operating comlexity, waste generation, etc… And this comes from advocates of nuclear power. They understand the issues and know that no amount of handwaivium will make the issues simple to fix.

                    Reducing the energy needs per person is the single best thing to do going forward. Do the math on how many nuke plants would be needed to eliminate coal then natural gas for electrical production world wide. When you recover from the faint lets talk again. Nuke power can have a place but it is not a cure all.

                    Telling all those people in India, Africa, and elsewhere that sorry, you can never have energy is not a plan. So they are going to keep burning anything they can until they don’t need to or they die. And we will keep giving $$$$ to the rulers sitting on top of oil.

            • Got into my engineering geek zone there.

              We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread….

    • –> “One of the main reasons people give when asked why they left the church is that it seems so completely out of touch with reality as presented to us by the findings of science (which in most cases consists of simply going and ;looking at the evidence).”

      And this is exactly why I’ve had to drift from the Republican party over the past 10-15 years. It’s made up of people so focused on party ideology and winning the culture war that they’ve left their brains at the door.

      • David Greene says

        I used to be a Republican years ago but the way I see it is that they left me, I’m not the one who drifted. As far as I’m concerned the Crazy Train left the station when Newt came out with his “Contract on America.” Since then I continued to attend my same church which was maybe quasi-evangelical. Some Trump supporters, some crazy conspiracists, and some who really did not support either – it wasn’t such a big deal then. Our pastor once said during a sermon that “these slick talkin’ politicians are just out to use you, promising much but delivering nothing of any spiritual value in return.”

        But our church, despite having many well attended community outreaches, could not get the young families to stay, and the younger pastors moved on to other gigs. The remaining pastoral staff was past retirement age so we closed our doors last year after 39 and a half years. Funny, we were averaging 500-700 every Sunday back in the late 80’3 and early 90’s but towards the end 100 would be a very good Sunday.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > 500-700 every Sunday back in the late 80’3 and early 90’s but towards the end 100
          > would be a very good Sunday

          Wow, that’s a steep decline.

          • David Greene says

            Yes, I don’t think we kept up with the changing church culture… probably a good thing.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s made up of people so focused on party ideology and winning the culture war that they’ve left their brains at the door.

        IN that respect, they’ve come to resemble the Communists of the last century.
        All Perfectly-Correct Ideology and Winning the Revolution.

      • Rick, the R’s are a zombi party…

    • “Stupidity is like hydrogen — it’s the basic building block of the universe.”

      — Frank Zappa (though Harlan Ellison also claims credit)

  7. For several years, I have been trying to grasp the ability of social media posts to convince people to believe conspiracies that are not true. It applies to all groups, but it seems to especially impact evangelicals more than any other groups. This tendency seems to be deeply embedded in how the neurons of our brains are wired.

    I think of it this way. In a more extended family/tribal kind of environment, we would have gathered around a fire at night and share stories of our day and the elders would have shared stories from long ago. We are wired to believe the stories shared of our day and from long ago. Story telling is ingrained into who we are as humans.

    Social media seems to have latched onto this, especially with evangelicals. When I confront a family member about a conspiracy, it is deeply personal with them, like I am questioning not only them but their identity around the camp fire.

    I know it is a bit of a ramble, I haven’t quite developed a vocabulary for what happens when I talk to family members about it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      It is very important to remember, in all this psychologizing, that a super majority of people do not believe in conspiracy theories. Belief is ~25%, that’s one in four, meaning 3 in 4 do **NOT**. The 1 in 4 tend to be loud, and the 3 in 4 tend to be silent, so it is easy to over believe in the belief in conspiracy theories.

      It is interesting, to me, how close that number is to the estimated number of adults – 19% – who have anxiety disorders.

      • Adam,

        To quote a line from the South Park episode, “Mystery of the Urinal Deuce”, the reason why people believe in conspiracies is that 1 in 4 Americans are retarded.

        • Michael Bell says

          There are certain words that are no longer acceptable for use in conversation. “Retarded” is one of them. I don’t want to hijack this post, so perhaps moderating is needed here.

          • Michael,

            I was quoting what the South Park episode said (Hence the beginning bit about “To quote a line…”) Second, South Park has no sacred cows nor is politically correct (as any cursory viewing of the show would confirm). I personally I do not use that term in conversation. Finally, I would point out that it seems you actually did attempt to hijack it.

            • Rick Ro. says

              I think the point is to refrain from using quotes from sources that have no sacred cows and have no political correctness; that is, don’t quote people who have no qualms over offending anyone and everyone. For instance, would you quote a source that used the N-word, then claim you weren’t the one using the term? Probably not. It’s just best not to quote offensive terms no matter their origin.

            • Michael Bell says

              I was not trying to hijack it, just have the diversion removed.

        • I’ll allow it as a quote from South Park only. You’ve adequately explained yourself but I’m not going to always be this generous.

    • –> “For several years, I have been trying to grasp the ability of social media posts to convince people to believe conspiracies that are not true.”

      Wait… are you trying to tell me the Covid-19 virus and the proliferation of Chinese 5G cell towers are NOT related?!?!?! (Funny how quickly that one came and went — though I suppose there are still some out there who believe it.)

      –> “Social media seems to have latched onto this, especially with evangelicals.”

      Yes, but curiously I have a few non-Evangelical friends — one is an atheist, the other firmly agnostic — who spout the latest, greatest “did you know who’s behind THIS, and why it’s being DONE?!?!?”

      But I guess you’re right… upon reflection, the conspiracy posts on my FB feed are from evangelical friends.

      • Edit: “…the conspiracy posts on my FB feed are PRIMARILY from evangelical friends.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          For at least the past 40 years, Evangelicals have been very prone to Grand Unified Conspiracy Theories. During my time in-country, it was with End Time Prophecy tie-ins. Then in the Eighties, the Satanic Panic with SATANISTS, DEMONS, and WITCHES everywhere! Then the Culture War with the Vast Conspiracy Enemy (details varied by Conspriacy Crackhead, but usually some mixture of Libruls, Homosexuals, and Secular Humanists with SATAN masterminding it all. And now the Deep State and Gospel According to Q-Anon.

          Problem is, as The Conspiracy becomes ever more Vast and Evil, it justifies any means whatsoever to destroy it and its minions. Any Means Whatsoever.

          Because God vs Satan — WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON????? — ramps everything – EVERYTHING – up to Cosmic Importance.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy,

            I seem to remember reading somewhere that all this Qanon stuff is loosely based / developed from the all the Satanic Panics with the child sacrifices. It is just the latest iteration of that same story. I will to do some more digging.

            And for a throwback to that era: “Paging Mike Warnke…”

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              In my own sphere of experience (F&SF fandom and FRP gaming) the Satanic Panic drove a wedge of mutual hostility between Christians and Gamers that continues to this day. (Never mind Christians and Goths – a lot of DARK Fantasy FRP games were written to flip the finger at anti-gamer Christians.)

              Ah, yes.
              Mike Warnke.
              AKA a Total Fraud from day one.
              You know the real kicker? There are churches out there still inviting him to preach/perform (and paying his speaking fee) KNOWING he’s a Total Fraud. Because “Souls WIll Be Saved(TM)!”

              • Dan from Georgia says

                Didn’t know that Warnke was still on the circuit. But then again, nothing surprises me anymore.

                • Headless Unicorn Guy,

                  I remember that wedge too. Throw in the nuttiness of Jack Chick and his tracts talking about the evils of Tabletop RPGs, especially D & D) and you see why the wedge happened. You know me well enough that I am an old F & SF / Gamer geek like yourself. I mostly ran Cyberpunk and SF type RPGs with some Fantasy Hero (Champions system using fewer character points) system campaigns thrown in here and there.

                  To me, all of that was a form interactive storytelling and gaming fun with friends with no thought or consideration given and evillllllllll satanic stuff. Playing heroes and figures larger than life and escapism form the routine.

          • Headless Unicorm Guy,

            But if they REALLY want to know about the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory and what it is, they would need to join the Church of the SubGenius.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_SubGenius

            From the Wikipedia:

            “The Church of the SubGenius’s literature incorporates many aspects of conspiracy theories, teaching that there is a grand conspiracy at the root of all lesser ones.”

            Unlike most religious groups, the Church proudly admits it is for-profit (presumably mocking religious groups that seem to have ulterior financial motives)

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              But if they REALLY want to know about the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory and what it is, they would need to join the Church of the SubGenius.

              “PRAISE BOB!”

  8. Dana Ames says

    Always appreciate your work, Mike Geologist. You’re preaching to the choir here, but your writings and summaries are well done and easy for people not in the science field to understand, and that’s always helpful.

    This might be of interest:
    http://www.orth-transfiguration.org/

    The Director is a member of my parish and a very knowledgeable and positive person. His daughter is in law school with the goal of becoming an environmental lawyer.

    It doesn’t matter whose politics are more important for “the economy” if we don’t have clean air and water for all, not just the rich. Again, Europe is far ahead of us on this. Some people in our country haven’t learned a thing from situations in our own lifetimes of environmental degradation. My husband grew up in a suburb of LA and well remembers the smog alert days when all the school children had to stay indoors all day long. After environmental regulations were enforced, there was a noticeable difference in air quality, and environmental regulations benefit people who live in rural areas as well. It’s always better for “the economy” if people aren’t falling sick because of environmental problems.

    Dana

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My husband grew up in a suburb of LA and well remembers the smog alert days when all the school children had to stay indoors all day long.

      I grew up in a suburb of LA and remember it too.
      You literally could not see the other end of the schoolyard through the smog haze.
      If you inhaled through your mouth, you could actually taste the smog.
      And most days outside of rainy season were smog alert days.

      A few years back, I realized I had not heard the term “smog alert” in decades, though the mountains north of the city could still get obscured. (Growing up where I was, “North” meant “towards the mountains”.)

  9. Dan from Georgia says

    I find it sad how conspiracy buffs will reject the findings of the experts (or “experts” in their view…see how I used the scare quotes), but will buy into any meme or any Facebook or twitter rant from some stranger with an opinion.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      As long as that meme/Facebook/Tweet masturbates their sense of “I Are Right! I KNOW What’s REALLY Going On!”

      The Lure of the Inner Ring.
      The Special Secret Knowledge (“Occult Gnosis”) of the Elite Illuminati, those Who KNOW Things.

      • Don’t forget the Fiendish Fluoridators, Orbital Mind Control Lasers, The Servants of Cthulhu, and so on.

        HT: Steve Jackson Games.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And the “British Illuminati” cards that appeared in an old issue of Space Gamer, including Upper-Class Twits, Ministry of Silly Walks, and The Spanish Inquisition (which always achieves surprise for the obvious reason). FNORD!

  10. Anecdotal evidence: I live in a rural area which is heavily evangelically churched, mostly Independent and Southern Baptist (there are at least two of each within the limits of a town with less than 5,000 population). All of them teach young earth and 6 standard days creationism, science is wrong where they think it conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible, and that any regulations impacting their ability to hold “normal” services are a conspiracy to limit or eliminate their freedom of religion. There are no local orders for masking or social distancing. The only regulations that apply are state wide recommendations, and they are not mandatory. Some local businesses are enforcing their own standards but it is not consistent by any means.

    The Baptist church that I recently left resumed their services on May 10, after 8 weeks of online/drive-in church only. They held VBS in church the first week of June. Sunday School classes were resumed June 21. No masks, no social distancing, and lots of congregational singing. They have a fairly large percentage of older members and people with serious health issues. They did provide an online live stream – until this week when they abruptly stopped that with no notice. Even if I was still an active member, I would not be attending their services due to their complete disregard of basic precautions. I personally know that about 90% of the congregation are die hard Trump supporters.

    Yesterday I had to renew my drivers license. Being immune compromised, they allowed me to make an appointment for this. They are limiting inside seating to 10 people at one time, in addition to their staff. I was the tenth person and of the 14 people total in the room, only two of us were wearing masks. The staff is behind plexiglass dividers. This is a small room (about 20 by 25) so 6 foot spacing is not possible. A couple of the people waiting made some denigrating remarks about me being masked and helped before those who were waiting. I told the staff person who was issuing my license that I was quite frankly terrified to be there. She was very sympathetic and processed me quickly, which I appreciated greatly.

    Local Facebook feeds are full of misinformation, myths and downright lies about COVID. I had to quit reading them for my own mental well being. Recently we have started to see rapid increases in COVID infection rates locally. I fear that the worst is yet to come in my little community simply because a large majority of these people refuse to believe basic scientific principles.

    • Dan from Georgia says

      Exactly Ruth!

      Over on the right hand of this blog there is a link to the Babylon Bee. In my opinion, they used to be funny because they lampooned everything. Recently they have taken a severe right turn. Recently they posted a post about the id of the upcoming vaccine having the numbers 666. Of course I know it’s a fake article, but you wouldn’t believe the comments posted to their twitter feed. WAY too many Christians are buying into the conspiracies…paying more attention to, like you said, Facebook posts, than the experts. Of course, if you try to point out their error, you are then “one of them”.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Babylon Bee. … used to be funny … turn

        The Bee changed ownership.

        • David Greene says

          I wondered what the heck had happened 🙁

          • Dan from Georgia says

            I do recall now hearing about their ownership change. I love satire when there are no sacred cows. Seems like the Bee is now a mouthpiece for trumpism

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Of course, if you try to point out their error, you are then “one of them”.

        Anyone who denies the existence of The Conspiracy is part of The Conspiracy.
        Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF of The Conspiracy.
        Any evidence against The Conspiracy is PROOF of The Conspiracy.

        “THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS! WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN!”

        “And because they won’t be taken in, they can never be taken out.”
        — Aslan of Narnia

        • Dan from Georgia says

          You’re pretty much on the money there HUG.

          If all these conspiracies are true (JFK, 9/11, Covid-19, Bigfoot, etc) are all true, then “they” (see what I did there?) are doing a poor job at hiding it.

          I’ve noted this on Michael Newnham’s blog (referencing an article I came across on my news feed) that those who run to conspiracy theories are usually people who are uncomfortable with uncertainty in life and cannot accept any form of it.

      • Dan,

        That is why I stick to their old-stuff (pre 2020). Doing some further digging both the CEO Seth Dillon and Kyle Mann (Editor in Chief) are decidedly pro-Trump. I want to taste their tears unfathomable sadness when Trump loses in November…

        • Dan from Georgia says

          I hear ya CM. Funny how those who throw around the acronym TDS (Trump Delusion Syndrome), and remark how his detractors heads will explode, will have the tables turned and will freak out themselves if Biden or whoever else wins.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Trump Derangement Syndrome comes in both Positive and Negative polarities.
            And Christians have gone with the Positive Polarity.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You’re living in the middle of a Darwin Award in progress.

  11. Robert F says

    “I’m not asking for advice or anything, I just need a place where I can share this because, like many of you know, talking about science with this community can be difficult and it often makes me feel alone.”

    I feel this way when, in response to my expressed fears about coronavirus, or anything else for that matter, fellow Christians say, “Don’t worry. God will protect you.” Those words are as likely to come from a mainline Protestant as an evangelical or fundamentalist, but whomever utters them, they make me feel completely alone. If part of the support Christian community is meant to give is a felt sense of togetherness, those words effectively eviscerate that possibility. I know that I can have no felt sense of community in regard to the fears I struggle with from that fellow Christian, nor a good many others.

    • You may be the only person in your local circle who has their head on straight – but you are not alone. “I have reserved for Myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal…”

    • Christiane says

      trumpism and the covid-19 virus are redefining ‘Christianity’

      it’s not gonna end well

    • “God protects us from nothing yet sustains us in all things.”

      James Finley

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    As you’ve probably guessed from my comments, this is one of the subjects that gets my adrenalin flowing to the point of channeling Chris Hitchens in full Hitch-slap mode.

    The reason being is that I was a Cold War Kid Genius (IQ 160 estimated) and Compulsive Creative, with all the downside that comes with it. HUGE mental database with no search engine, arrested emotional/social development, and the borderline Aspie trait of taking everything at literal face value, compounded by emotional abuse and rejection.

    And my introduction to and immersion in splinter-church Evangelicalism did NOT help. Instead, it left the knowledge that God Hated My Guts for having a three-digit IQ, for having a love for learning, for being compulsively Creative — for not being the Over-Saved Uber-Christian Scripture MP3 playback like all the others.. GOD HATED ME FOR BEING ME. (And was going to destroy everything and cast everyone into Eternal Hell — except for His Speshul Pets whom He would Rapture away to safety — Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now…)

    Once you get that in your head, you can never get it completely out.

    Even for years after escaping, I could only create by pushing anything to do with God out of my mind. Only then could I create and/or enjoy.

    And this pandemic has brought that inhibitor back, adding to the stress. Why do anything when It’s All Gonna Burn anyway and instead You Should PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy,

      Just remember that Christianity (and the church) for that matter is not the Evangelical Wilderness you see in post WWII America until know. If you look at the history of the church and the various figures throughout the ages, you will discover the depth of intellect, scholarship, and the like.

      Let me give you one example: Isaac Watts

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Watts

      He also wrote a treatise on logic that was used as the standard textbook for almost 200 years in places like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale.

      https://www.amazon.com/Logic-Right-Reason-Inquiry-After/dp/1573580554

      But most Christians, if they heard of him at all, only know him as the guy that wrote Joy to the World. They have no idea that he was also a theologian and a logician.

      This why most of the Christian authors I read and pay any heed to are ones that have been dead 100 years or more (the more recently dead Stott and Packer being a couple of exceptions). All these old dead guys had a love of learning.