Saturday, 19 January 2013

This blog has been created as part of a debate I have began at FreeThoughtBlogs, regarding my Creationist/ID views. I have had feedback to my initial posting of my views over at http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/14/thunderdome-14/comment-page-1/#comment-537817, but I'm reposting this here because I'd also like feedback from someone who featured quite prominently in my initial post, namely one Greta Christina - author of "Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off The Godless" for whom I paraphrased certain comments she made within the context of one of her chapters. I have reposted this post at her blog, http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/01/17/a-lifetime-of-indoctrination/#comment-100575 , only to be essentially told that the only way any such discussion was going to happen was if I hosted it on a blog of my own, so here I am.

So here in full, then, is the post I made. Her response, in addition to the feedback I've gotten from those at Pharyngula, will prove enormously helpful in formulating a rebuttal, if indeed I do so:

Hello, I’m a Christian ID and Creationism advocate, and I’d like to take issue with the scientific method and the derision of Christian beliefs and creationism/ID as established fact.

It is a myth that science and Christianity are at war, one owes its existence to the other. There is a great deal of accord between Christianity and science, and science is one of the greatest sources of evidence for the Christian worldview, in fact.

People tell me that science is great because it “eliminates biases” and when applied “properly”, it’s becomes true even if the testers are biased. I’d word this differently (because the scientific method absolutely does NOT always prove the theory)…instead, I would say that it provides reliable results that either confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis (the theory only comes into existence after a hypothesis is tested and confirmed).

Most early day scientists were Christian, and many of them still do believe in God/the soul/the metaphysical/basic creationist theories. In fact, many are brought to this belief by the things they find in science. Why do you think this is, everyone?

I then get people responding by saying “Oh, but those early day Christian scientists actually tried scientific experiments in order to prove that those things were existent and what their true natures were so that all the arguments about them could be settled once and for all!” But I would like someone to list those experiments that secular “science-minded” atheists claim did this. The fact is that this isn’t what happened at all. What happened is that natural philosophers explored nature as a way to learn more about God. They believed that nature was rational and discoverable because God made it and He made us with the ability to discover it. I don’t doubt there were a few people here or there who tried to prove a point. But early science was an exploration of nature, and it was motivated by a belief that nature was discoverable because God made it.

An atheist friend pointed me to a book by Greta Christina just released. I actually found it quite entertaining, and had empathy for a lot of her complaints. That said, her Chapter 8 (“Evidence against God” or something like that) was utter garbage, especially when she mentioned this (and I’m going by memory here, because I don’t own the book, I only borrowed it, but I took a note of this phrase because of how memorable it was):
contrary to the rigorously-gathered, carefully-tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research that has obeyed the Gold Standard of scientific evidence wherein methods have been used to filter out biases and cognitive errors as much as humanly possible” evidence that is gathered for evolution, creationism/ID/God claims only stands after careless, casual examination based on wishful thinking and confirmation bias

This is interesting. Because it’s exactly these forms of studies that have pointed to the incredible fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. And it’s not merely Christians who are claiming this. Most cosmologists, Christian or otherwise, scratch their heads over this extraordinary finding in nature. The same can be said for the evidence pointing to the beginning of the universe out of non-being and other areas.

Further, the mere existence of the Placebo Effect is evidence that naturalism (which you seem to profess) is wrong. The Placebo Effect could not exist in a purely naturalistic universe where all operates on cause/effect. Given that that placebo has no causative powers, there is no effect possible. And yet the one taking it believes there that powerful medicine is at work, so there is a change (and this has been seen in profound areas like Parkinsons Disease symptoms being reduced by simply believing in the sugar pill). This points to an unembodied consciousness with the ability to impact the physical body.

Add to this things like the peer-reviewed studies by Pim van Lommel (published in the medical journal Lancet) confirming the existence of Near Death Experiences (and by this, I mean extra-body experiences where people have verifiable experiences of people and places and conversations at geographic distance from where their body lies on an operating table…in some cases, these are people born blind who have never seen anything their whole life, but are able to accurately describe what they see while “dead”)…bottom line, atheists, science is on OUR side here!

Greta Christina also mentioned something about (again, just paraphrasing here) :
poor understandings/instincts of creationists/IDers/Goddists when it comes to probability, and the tendency of creationists/IDers/Goddists to see patterns and intentions where none exists, in addition to intrinsic cognitive biases and weird human brain wiring that creationists/IDers have
Here, we just have a garbled mess that’s a mixture of ad hominem (“you don’t understand probability”) and false claims (“your brains are wired wrong”). She’s likely talking about some books released about our brains being wired to believe in God, and perhaps the “God Helmet” experiments.

First, the “brain is wired” arguments have been disproven because no single area of the brain has been shown to be “the spot” for this sort of thing (I can go into more depth on this if you want to walk down that alley). And the “God Helmet” nonsense is just that…people aren’t Christians because they have an ecstatic experience. We are because we have weighed the evidence, we have reasoned logically, and we concluded that the best answer is that God exists.

It’s not shallow thinking. It’s not bad wiring. It’s rigorous deductive conclusions based on evidence of multiple sorts.

Us creationists and Christians also get accused of by many atheists (including you in your book) of:
They are completely dishonest, for one main reason: their claims have failed to stand up to serious testing
I don’t think the case is as open and shut as you guys claim. I tend not to spend a great deal of time advocating for ID, and ID is not part of why I believe in God. I’m okay with the idea that evolution may have played a significant role in our present complexity. I do not accept that it happened alone, and I draw that conclusion for two reasons:

1. Scientific studies pointing out that the age of our solar system is not old enough for unguided evolutionary processes alone to have been responsible for life’s present complexity

2. The absence of any explanation for how life sprang into being out of non-life

In summary, guys, it seems that you’re quite willing to mischaracterize Christians, post things that are unsubstantiated claims without any support or evidence, and proclaim victory. That doesn’t work here, I’m afraid. If you want to make the case that Christianity is at war with science, you’re welcome to do so. But I can show you a number of very prominent scientists who arrived at their faith based on the very science you claim is conclusively against Christianity.

In fact, I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that may help:

Paul Davies (British astrophysicist):
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming”.
- from “The Cosmic Blueprint”

Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy):
“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”
- from the article “Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest” in New York Times

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics):
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”
- from his book “The Physics of Immortality”

In fact, here is a brief interview of Dr. Francis Collins, who was once an atheist, set out to prove his atheism was true, and then decided that God does exist after all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGwf63SfzyU . And here is a much longer lecture he gave, in which he talks about the evidence for God and why he left his atheism for Christianity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32UGgy-P0yU

Collins is, as you may know, part of the human genome project and one of the most highly regarded scientists in the US today.

Bottom line, atheists, your confidence in this matter is quite overblown. You may assert all you’d like. But the facts do not support your certainty.

14 comments:

  1. Hello Anne

    I'm one of the people that replied to you at the Thunderdome.

    Rewording my comments to you here because I'm interested as to what your response might be.

    ---
    I don’t think the case is as open and shut as you guys claim. I tend not to spend a great deal of time advocating for ID, and ID is not part of why I believe in God. I’m okay with the idea that evolution may have played a significant role in our present complexity. I do not accept that it happened alone, and I draw that conclusion for two reasons:

    1. Scientific studies pointing out that the age of our solar system is not old enough for unguided evolutionary processes alone to have been responsible for life’s present complexity

    2. The absence of any explanation for how life sprang into being out of non-life
    ---

    Regarding 1.

    I'm under the impression that the earth and solar system are around 4.55 billion years old, give or take a few tens of millions of years.

    1a) Do you agree with 4.55 billion years?

    1b) If you disagree, what's your number and your source?

    1c) On what basis do you conclude whether or not a given number of years is long enough for unguided evolution to bring about the contemporary complexity of life?

    Regarding 2.

    Arguably, your #2 is simply a bad reason. Even if it were true that we had absolutely no idea how life on earth might have arisen naturally, that doesn't itself justify the position that something supernatural had to have been going on.

    That's an argument from ignorance. In your case it's god-of-the-gaps. It's bad logic and from what I've been told, also bad theology.

    That aside: It's simply not true that we don't have an explanation for how life might have arisen naturally.

    Granted, we're not sure yet if the explanations we've got are correct or complete. But we have in fact got some plausible pathways that very well could have played a significant role.

    As a conversant layperson, my personal favorite is Szostak's vesicle-first model. CDK007 has a summary video here that is very accessible and easy to follow. The research behind the video can be found at Szostak Labs' publications page.

    I have things to say about some of the other items in your post - but I've found that keeping things focused tends to make conversation easier. ^_^

    In summary:

    2a) Ignorance of natural causes for life is not itself an item that can/should be used in favor of ID. Argument-from-ignorance/god-of-the-gaps.

    2b) We so have explanations for how life may have arisen naturally. We're just not sure yet if they're correct or complete - and that's okay. It's still a relatively new field dealing in a very difficult area, after all.

    Looking forward to your response, Anne.

    -------------

    P.S. I wasn't able to use 'blockquote' tags, which is a pity. Blockquote tags are very good for this kind of discussion to make it very clear where quotes begin and end.

    Not sure if that's just blogspot or if there's a setting for this.

    If you're inclined, have a dig around and see if you can enable blockquote tags for the sake of making comments easier to read.

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  2. Since you cut-and-pasted your Thunderdome post over at Greta Christina's blog and now here, I guess I can cut-and-paste my Thunderdome reply to said post here…

    sez annejones:
    I’m okay with the idea that evolution may have played a significant role in our present complexity. I do not accept that it happened alone, and I draw that conclusion for two reasons:

    1. Scientific studies pointing out that the age of our solar system is not old enough for unguided evolutionary processes alone to have been responsible for life’s present complexity

    Which “studies” would those be? More details about the specifics of your claim would be very helpful, because at the moment, I’m not sure whether you’re stumping for YEC nonsense (which would, if true, preclude there being enough time for evolution to have occurred), or for Walter Remine’s nonsense (which is okay with what real science says about the age of the Solar System, but foolishly demands that evolution would necessarily take even longer than that amount of time), or perhaps for some other flavor of nonsense entirely. You might want to browse through the Index to Creationist Claims; if whatever nonsense you’re arguing for is on said Index, you would be well-advised to, at minimum, read up on the real-science rebuttal(s) to your nonsense, and demonstrate that real science has gotten it wrong in this context.

    Or, you know, not.

    2. The absence of any explanation for how life sprang into being out of non-life
    If you’re referring to the fact that abiogenesis is a topic for which we don’t have all the answers, then yeah, you’re right: We don’t have all the answers. [shrug] I don’t quite see how you get from “I don’t know” to “therefore, God”, but if that’s what makes you happy, go for it. Just don’t try to force your argument-from-ignorance into school curricula, okay?

    If you are, instead, arguing that we have absolutely no clue whatsoever about abiogenesis, well, that’s just wrong. We know that mindless, undirected chemistry is perfectly capable of generating amino acids without any need for a Designer’s intervention; we know that random concatenations of amino acids can and do have biologically-relevant chemical properties. Both of these facts being the case, it’s pretty clear that we have more than just a clue about abiogenesis, even if the clues we do have fall tragically short of the notarized-videotape-of-every-millisecond-of-the-process ‘standard’ of evidence you Creationists demand of real scientists while, at the same time, you also are perfectly happy to accept some-guy-said-so as conclusive, irrefutable ‘evidence’ for the Creationist nonsense you happen to accept.

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  3. And here's the first part of my reply to one of your subsequent Thunderdome posts ("first part" because the whole thing weighs in at roughly 3* longer than the 4Kcharacter limit your blog enforces on comments), cut-and-pasted for your convenience:

    sez annejones:

    Is that why Mr Myers saw fit to include me on the main page and poison the well by giving people negative perceptions about my post before they even read it? Because it was, as you say, “Same old, same old”?

    I, for one, would have had the same reaction to your post regardless of what PZ said. Because yes, your post was “same old, same old”. Just like so many other Creationists before you have done, you did make use of the Gish Gallop ‘tactic’; just like so many other Creationists before you have done, you didn’t bother to back up your assertions with anything in the general neighborhood of supportive evidence; just like so many other Creationists before you have done, you did bear false witness about a number of things.

    In short: This particular “well” already was “poisoned” when PZ found it, so how the hell could PZ have “poisoned” it?

    It may come as a shock to you, annejones, but this is not virgin territory. A whole lot of the regulars hereabouts have already had extensive internet interactions with Creationists and, well, they remember those interactions. They’ve noticed common motifs that occur in many of those past interactions, and when some shiny new godbot of a Creationist employs the same friggin’ motifs that have so many past Creationists have used in their previous interactions with Creationists, well, they’re gonna remember and recognize those motifs.

    In other words… [Samuel L. Jackson voice] “Pattern recognition, muthafucka. Do you speak it?” If you’re stumping for Creationism at a science-heavy blog, and you don’t want to be subjected to the internet equivalent of being drawn and quartered at great length with jalapeño relish, you really don’t want to exhibit exactly and precisely the same behavioral quirks that so goddamn many Creationists before you have exhibited. So as a public service announcement, here are some typical Creationist behavioral quirks which are likely to raise red flags (and the likelihood of said flag-raising increases when a comment displays two or more of said quirks):

    [catalog of typical Creationist behavioral quirks in next part of this multi-part comment)

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  4. Incomplete Catalog of Typical Creationist Tactics (part 1 of N), this being the 2nd part of a remarkably long cut-and-pasted reply:

    The celebrated Gish Gallop

    This one is named after Duane Gish, on the grounds that it’s one of his primary ‘go to’ tactics in debates against those heathen scientists. How it works is, the Gish Galloper spews a rapidfire series of lots of science-can’t-explain-X-therefore-Creationism, about lots of different topics, many of which are essentially unrelated to each other. The Gish Gallop works in a live debate setting, because in a live debate, each person only has a fixed amount of time to present their case. It simply isn’t possible for the opponent to address all of the Galloper’s assertions in the time provided by the debate format, so no matter what happens, a large chunk of the Galloper’s assertions do go unrefuted. The Galloper is depending on the audieence to notice the unrefuted assertions, and to conclude that the assertions went unrefuted because they were valid, as opposed to going unrefuted because the opponent just didn’t enough time to refute them.

    The Gish Gallop doesn’t work so good in an online setting, because there are no time constraints. People can and do refute every last one of the assertions which constitute a Gish Gallop. So when a Creationist posts a Gish Gallop of a comment—and yes, annejones, your inaugural comment here damn well is a Gish Gallop—it’s worse than useless for the purpose of persuading non-Creationists of the validity of Creationism. Because it’s a behavioral marker which is strongly associated with Creationism, and the subsequent scorched-earth fisking can only serve to confirm that Creationists are, at absolute best, full of shit—and if the Galloper in question is known to have trotted out the same set of assertions in previous Gish Gallops posted to other online forums, and recieved the same sort of scorched-earth fisking on those other forums, it will also serve to confirm that Creationists are goddamn liars. So you would be well-advised to avoid this tactic, annejones.

     

    “Dr. Bigbrain was a Believer!”

    The unspoken subtext here is, —and therefore you should be a Believer, too. Sorry, annejones, but that’s not how it works. No matter how knowledgeable Dr. Bigbrain may be about the Topic X they happen to be a recognized expert in, there will be at least one Topic Y about which they don’t have any more expertise than any random person on the street… and when Dr. Bigbrain talks about Topic Y, their expertise in Topic X does not make them any more likely to be right about Topic Y than is any random person on the street. A classic example is Isaac Newton, who is often pressganged into service by Creationists for just this reason. However, those Creationists who make noise about how Newton was a Creationist (and therefore you should be one, too! what, you think Isaac friggin’ Newton was wrong about Creationism?)… well, those Creationists never seem to mention that Isaac Newton was a flat-out heretic who denied the Trinity.

    Newton got some stuff right, yes. But that doesn’t mean he was right about everything. The stuff Newton was right about doesn’t mean we have to automatically accept Newton’s Creationism, just as the stuff Fred Hoyle got right doesn’t mean we have to automatically accept Hoyle’s views on panspermia, just as the stuff Linus Pauling got right doesn’t mean we have to automatically accept Pauling’s ideas about Vitamin C, just as…

    Again: This is a tactic which is (a) flat-out bullshit, and (b) strongly associated with Creationists. So you would be well-advised to avoid this tactic yourself, annejones.

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  5. Incomplete Catalog of Typical Creationist Tactics (part 2 of N), this being the 3rd part of a remarkably long cut-and-pasted reply:

    Personal!! TESTIMONY!!!

    On the Believer side of the fence, personal testimony is very common. Which makes sense, because to a first approximation, personal testimony is all you Believers have got. But on the Science side of the fence, personal testimony is rare-to-nonexistent. This is because scientists don’t need the sort of affirmations that Believers get from personal testimony. Scientists don’t need that sort of affirmations, because scientists have something better: Objective data. As far as scientists are concerned, Believer-style personal testimony is, at absolute best, irrelevant and ignorable; at worst, it’s a red flag that, taken into consideration with any other red flags that may be in evidence, confirms that the Creationist who provided that personal testimony is full of shit.

     

    “[insert anti-evolution quote here]“, therefore Creationism

    You don’t seem to have made use of this particular tactic, annejones, but it is a fairly common one among Creationists-in-general. The main problem with ‘refutation by quote’ is that, when a putatively anti-evolution quote is traced back to its original context, said quote will, more than 90 times out of 100, prove to be either (a) a gross distortion of its author’s actual views, or else (b) a blatant fabrication. Either way, the putatively anti-evolution quote is a flat-out lie.

    Scientists don’t like it when people lie about their work. They like it even less when the people who lie about their work claim to be morally superior Seekers Of Truth. Don’t be a liar, annejones.

     

    Poor, poor pitiful me

    It is utterly, completely, I-could-have-a-heart-attack-and-die-from-unsurprise commonplace for Creationists to demonize evolution-accepting people as being responsible for Communism, for racism, for Naziism, for school shootings, for social ills of every variety, for natural disasters, and on and on and frigging on. It is utterly, completely, I-could-have-a-heart-attack-and-die-from-unsurprise commonplace for Creationists to assert that evolution-accepting people are tools of Satan. It is utterly, completely, I-could-have-a-heart-attack-and-die-from-unsurprise commonplace for Creationists to declare that evolution-accepting people are morally defective, or even not fully human. So when a Creationist whines about how badly they’re treated by evolution-accepting people, said whining isn’t going to impress anybody who is even vaguely aware of the quantity, and intensity, of abuse that Creationists have hurled on evolution-accepting people.

    And when the ‘bad treatment’ the Creationist whines about, consists of that Creationist’s behavior being described accurately… well, let’s just say that that sort of nonsense doesn’t exactly do much to persuade anyone that Creationism is valid.

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  6. Incomplete Catalog of Typical Creationist Tactics (part 3 and last), this being the 4th part of a remarkably long cut-and-pasted reply:

    I accept science! No, really, I do!

    Talk is cheap, annejones. John Doe might claim he’s a chess grandmaster, but if John consistently loses chess games to novice players, that consistent record of losses is good evidence that John is, in fact, not really a chess grandmaster at all. Actions speak louder than words, y’ know? John Doe might claim to be able to work out complicated math in his head, but if he can’t tell you the cube root of 2,197 without using a calculator, John’s inability to find an integer cube root without mechanical assistance is good evidence that John cannot, in fact, really work out complicated math in his head. And if John Doe claims to accept science while, at the same time, spewing forth a steady stream of pre-refuted Creationist bullshit, that steady stream of pre-refuted Creationist bullshit is good evidence that John does not, in fact, really accept science at all.

    Take-home lesson: If you’re a Creationist, don’t claim to be pro-science. Instead, just be pro-science.
     
    Plus, wasn’t one of the key things I said that I was willing to change my mind if I find I am genuinely wrong? Say what you will about my argument, but doesn’t that elevate me above the Christians/Creationists/IDists who profess 100% certainty about their beliefs?
    No, it doesn’t elevate you about the Creationists who assert 100% certainty. Why? Because talk is cheap. Yes, you said you were willing to change your mind if you were genuinely wrong. But at the same time, out of the other side of your mouth, you also asserted a whole lot of pre-refuted bullshit. This indicates one of two things, depending on whether or not you knew that your bullshit was bullshit when you asserted it: Either (a) you didn’t realize it was bullshit, which would indicate that you wouldn’t even know when you were wrong, or else (b) you did know it was bullshit, so your trumpeting said bullshit as supportive of Creationism would indicate that you are knowingly propagating falsehoods, which would make you you’re Yet Another Goddamn Liar For Christ.

    Whether you’re a goddamn liar-for-Christ yourself, or you’re merely repeating the lies that were given you by liars-for-Christ, is a call I cannot make. But I sure as hell can say that regardless of which fork of that particular dichotomy is true, your claim that you “[are] was willing to change [your] mind if [you] find [you are] genuinely wrong” is crap.

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  7. I am happy to debate anyone on this subject, as long as they are truly open-minded, just as I will be - promise. But please don´t waste my time if you do all this as a dare (happened before) or in pretense.

    What happened so far:

    1) Anne Jones posts an exhaustive comment at PZ´s Thunderdome, with all sorts of unrelated arguments and "arguments"
    2) Dozens of people tear that post apart
    3) AJ copies and pastes her post to Greta Christina´s blog
    4) GC points out that this is the wrong place and suggests AJ opens her own blog
    5) AJ opens her own blog, c&ping her Thunderdome post
    6) 2 Thunderdome commenters c&p their Thunderdome response
    7) Then: Nothing. AJ stays silent for 1 week about responses to her original post

    Why? Maybe you´re working on a comprehensive response. And maybe that shows that you should break everything down into pieces instead of writing lengthy "everything I always wanted to say"-posts. If the subject is really important to you (as it is for me), maybe it would help to discuss the arguments one or two at a time. If something gets forgotten, we will remind you. But please get started, or else I have to question your sincerity.

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    Replies
    1. If annejones is, indeed, composing an all-encompassing everything-i-ever-wanted-to-say response… I would find that blackly comedic, seeing as how she's got her blog set up to reject comments whose length exceeds 4,096 characters, which could be construed as directly analogous to the time restrictions which make a Gish Gallop a viable tactic (for a certain value of 'viable') in live debate. To be sure, that 4Kchar limit might be a default setting for her blog, a setting she just hasn't touched as yet. Nevertheless, I do find it amusing. But then, I take my humor black…

      Delete
    2. In fairness Cubist, I think that the character limit might be a blogspot thing, not an Anne Jones thing. I've had character limit problems when posting comments to other blogspot blogs before.

      I don't blog any more. But I have far fonder memories regarding wordpress than blogspot.

      Delete
  8. Hmmm. Closing in on two full months since annejones' inaugural blog-post now.
    No second plog-post from anne-jones.
    No replies to any of the comments said inaugural blog-post recieved.
    Total "radio silence" for a period of closing in on two months now.
    Hmmm.
    So much for the 'debate' annejones made noise about wanted to engage in…

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  9. More than four full months since annejones did anything with this blog.
    Nice demonstration of intent.
    Again: So much for the 'debate' annejones made noise about wanting to engage in…

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  10. Yay! Annejones returned to Pharyngula. To try and shed light on the "Gay Agenda". Turns out the "Gay Agenda" is that gays want equal rights and an end to the stigmatization they suffer from people like Annejones. Okay.

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  11. Anne Jones: I've written a response to your post on my own blog. (Part I is up, Part II is a work in progress.)

    ReplyDelete