Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Evidence for Evolution: Endogenous Retroviruses


Endogenous retroviruses provide yet another example of molecular sequence evidence for universal common descent. Endogenous retroviruses are molecular remnants of a past parasitic viral infection. Occasionally, copies of a retrovirus genome are found in its host's genome, and these retroviral gene copies are called endogenous retroviral sequences. Retroviruses (like the AIDS virus or HTLV1, which causes a form of leukemia) make a DNA copy of their own viral genome and insert it into their host's genome. If this happens to a germ line cell (i.e. the sperm or egg cells) the retroviral DNA will be inherited by descendants of the host. Again, this process is rare and fairly random, so finding retrogenes in identical chromosomal positions of two different species indicates common ancestry.

Confirmation:

In humans, endogenous retroviruses occupy about 1% of the genome, in total constituting ~30,000 different retroviruses embedded in each person's genomic DNA (Sverdlov 2000). There are at least seven different known instances of common retrogene insertions between chimps and humans, and this number is sure to grow as both these organism's genomes are sequenced (Bonner et al. 1982; Dangel et al. 1995; Svensson et al. 1995; Kjellman et al. 1999; Lebedev et al. 2000; Sverdlov 2000). Figure 4.4.1 shows a phylogenetic tree of several primates, including humans, from a recent study which identified numerous shared endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of these primates (Lebedev et al. 2000). The arrows designate the relative insertion times of the viral DNA into the host genome. All branches after the insertion point (to the right) carry that retroviral DNA - a reflection of the fact that once a retrovirus has inserted into the germ-line DNA of a given organism, it will be inherited by all descendents of that organism.

The Felidae (i.e. cats) provide another example. The standard phylogenetic tree has small cats diverging later than large cats. The small cats (e.g. the jungle cat, European wildcat, African wildcat, blackfooted cat, and domestic cat) share a specific retroviral gene insertion. In contrast, all other carnivores which have been tested lack this retrogene (Futuyma 1998, pp. 293-294; Todaro et al. 1975).

Potential Falsification:

It would make no sense, macroevolutionarily, if certain other mammals (e.g. dogs, cows, platypi, etc.), had these same retrogenes in the exact same chromosomal locations. For instance, it would be incredibly unlikely for dogs to also carry the three HERV-K insertions that are unique to humans, as shown in the upper right of Figure 4.4.1, since none of the other primates have these retroviral sequences. -- 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: Part 4


So there you have it. One more excellent source of evidence for evolution. Well, either that or an Intelligent Designer who's trying to trick us into believing in evolution.

28 comments:

Foilwoman said...

Not to make you nervous or anything, but with all your ID and evolution explaining posts (one is a religious belief, one is a scientific theory), I've had to move you up to the top with Judge Jones of the Dover, PA case as one of the sexiest people alive (I was going to say "men alive", and then I realized I had assumed you're a guy, and you might be female, heck, this is the internet, you might be an 97-year old lifer in Angola), along with Martian Anthropologist and Judge Jones. Don't flee. Great post.

CyberKitten said...

Impressive...........

(looks impressed)

Laura said...

JA, you must be a tireless person. I get exhausted just reading the comment exchanges about evolution vs. ID... I don't know how you do it, but hats off to ya.

oracle25 said...

JA - Is this referring to pseudogenes?

Jewish Atheist said...

Foilwoman... err, thanks. :) (For the record I am a man, but committed.)

laura:

I definitely get tired. :) However, I find debate generally energizing. Sometimes too energizing, it can get awfully hard to go to sleep sometimes.

oracle25:

I think pseudogenes are different. According to genome.gov, a pseudogene is "A sequence of DNA that is very similar to a normal gene but that has been altered slightly so it is not expressed. Such genes were probably once functional but over time acquired one or more mutations that rendered them incapable of producing a protein product."

Endogenous retroviruses, on the other hand, aren't former genes gone inactive but *foreign* genes (i.e. virus genes) that have made it into the host's genome. I don't know whether they are usually active or not.

Foilwoman said...

JA: Don't worry, I think Judge Jones is committed too (more evidence that he is a smart man), and I declared him the Sexiest Man alive, because a man who can take on a dragon like the campaign to teach religion in the schools disguised as science (Intelligent Design) and write a lovely opinion like that one (http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/educate/ktzmllrdvr122005opn.pdf) and state that the emperor has no clothes ("breathtaking inanity" of the school board's decision) is a wise and brave man and a good writer too. Let's not fall all over Tom Cruise (blech) or even Eric Bana (yum). Judge John E. Jones, III. My idol. You're on the same list. So don't worry.

raisedwithholidaysbutnoreligion said...

Again, it's terrifyingly amusing that those who oppose freedom of thought (if you're opposed to school vouchers that would allow the teaching of basically anything so long as it includes the 3 R's, consider yourself among this group) accuse those who are in favor of it of some kind of religious tyranny. That is all backwards.

Foilwoman said...

RWHBNR: I'm not quite sure I follow your point in the preceding comment. Are you stating that opposing school vouchers is equal to opposing freedom of thought? If so, why do you think that? I of not, what did you mean?

BTW, I don't oppose vouchers per se. I do oppose government establishment of religion as (1) unconstitution, and (2) violating my constitutional right to freedom of religion (because if I'm a Shintoist, Zororastrian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Latter Day Saint, I shouldn't be forced to accept prosletyzing from the damned who believe in other (erroneous) religions in public or government supported school. Of course, to ensure their freedom, I don't get to prosletyze either, even though I know that anyone who doesn't accept my beliefs is eternally doomed and tortured by my benign and loving (but just a tad bloodthirsty) deity.

Random said...

Foilwoman,

What God do you follow? The one I follow certainly doesn't torture for eternity people who have done nothing worse than merely decline to believe in him.

As for the constitutional point, doesn't the first amendment actually say "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or *prohibiting the free exercise thereof*;..." (my emphasis) and therefore isn't it just as unconstitutional to call for proselytising to be banned? If I was to be sarcastic, I would say that atheists tend to be a tad selective in their respect for the constitution.

raisedwithholidaysbutnoreligion said...

Foilwoman,

Yes. I am saying that opposing school vouchers is opposing freedom of thought. The selfish fight to keep jobs in the face of widespread school failure by teachers' unions is the number one reason for opposition to school vouchers. Number two is opposition to freedom of thought.

The relevant portion of the 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...

Here are the facts as they exist today. Children are required by state (I don't think it's federal) governments to attend school. And all citizens (or at least those who pay taxes) are required to fund those schools. It is doubtful that one could find a more universally agreed upon use of government funds. I personally agree with this.

But it presents a problem wherein the 1st Amendment is concerned. Many aspects of education inevitably touch on issues related to religion and/or morality. This is pretty much unavoidable. Many educators purposefully (and of course, inadvertently) inject their own philosophies into the school environment.

It is not a matter of whether a given religion or the lack thereof will be present, but rather a matter of who will decide. Those who oppose vouchers are in effect saying that the state will decide. This is clearly exactly contrary to the spirit and the letter of the 1st Amendment. It is government (albeit state government and not Congress) making an establishment of religion based upon who holds power at a given time. And it is further restricting the free exercise of religion for a minimun of about 6 1/2 hours per day, 180 days per year.

Of course, the rich can avoid this if they chose by sending their children to private schools. It is the poor who are deprived of their right to chose the teachings they embrace for their children.

There are two basic solutions to this problem.

1) Eliminate publicly funded education and the legal requirement that children attend school.

2) Provide a system whereby children continue to be guaranteed the right to an education featuring societal minimums -- reading, writing, and arithmetic while guaranteeing true freedom of (or from if a parent prefers) religion and all thought.

If somebody wants to open any of the following types of schools I support them: any form of Christianity, Athiesm, Wiccan, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or the Flat Earth Society.

I further support the right of parents to chose among these. This is true freedom, striking the proper balance between government-funded and required education and freedom of religion and thought.

Foilwoman said...

Random: I have never found a belief system (and true believers) that I could whole-heartedly agree in. I have been told by a number of true believers (of varying faiths) that I am either damned, lost, or simply not-chosen. Oops. My bad. I tend to find affinity with the Quakers. I can't speak to their credo or tenets, but the basic rules of their belief system seems to be: love each other, treat others well, and when you see a problem, don't tell others how to solve it, the fact that you see the problem (Slavery, for instance, and the anti-slavery movement is a great instance of Quakers seeing a problem and trying to eradicate it. Which they did in Britain, see "Bury the Chains").

There are many whose religious beliefs I truly respect although I don't agree with them (for instance, Andy, of "raisingdane.blogspot.com", or others in real life), but the majority of prosletyzing evangelists I encounter simply make me glad that if they are right, they and I will be in different places for eternity, which I would view as a blessing.

As for the constitution, you have freedom of exercise of religion, and the ban on the government (or its minions) establishing a religion. You are free to prosletyze. I am free to shut the door in your face (I wouldn't actually, I would say "No thank you", and offer you a lemonade unless you exuded a serial killer aura or something like that). In situations where people are not free to leave, schools, the military, prisons, any government actor (teacher, warden, social worker) who prosletyzes is not just exercising freedom of religion, he or she is also acting as a representative of the government and thus is violating the establishment clause.

We are all free to prosletyze our beliefs when we aren't representing the government. So those who want their children to learn about Genesis or any other creation belief instead of science had better be willing to do that outside of the public school context. Such as these convenient locations: home and church.

So I am not selective about the constitution. You and I both have free exercise of religion. I cannot go to a public school and teach my doubt-ridden view of the world (and I shouldn't) and you shouldn't be teaching your more certain and cheerful view. Those are actions for the private sphere (home) or the religious sphere (church) or the public sphere when one is not acting as a government agent or employee (such as a street corner or park -- to the extent the neighbors don't mind the noise).

It's a coherent view of two constitutional provisions that provide checks and balances: free exercise includes freedom from being forced to accept religious teaching in a forum that should be secular.

Of course, a public school could have a comparative religion class (as part of history or literature rather than science) where the beauty of the Bible, the Koran, the Mahabharata, heck, even the incredibly bogus book of Mormon (I'm sorry, I just find that one stupid and not well written at all, and the idea that a deity would write like a parochial, undereducated polygamist would had trouble with the whole "pants zipped" concept and invented a religion to excuse his behavior just bugs me. I'm really not capable of being very fair about Mormoms.), and various religious literature, art works (the Sistine Chapel! The Duomo in Florence! Beautiful Islamic calligraphy!) would be okay in my book. As long as it were comparative, taught as literature or art or history, not as the inerrant (or errant, what the hey) word of God.

See?

CyberKitten said...

Excellent post foilwoman.

Clear & to the point.

Foilwoman said...

RWHBNR (could you change your handle so I could come up with a cuter acronym? No? Sigh. It's not always about me, is it?):

You replied:

"Yes. I am saying that opposing school vouchers is opposing freedom of thought. The selfish fight to keep jobs in the face of widespread school failure by teachers' unions is the number one reason for opposition to school vouchers. Number two is opposition to freedom of thought."

The voucher debate, of course, goes on in right to work states where the teachers' unions are quite limited in their power. How does that affect your analysis? And exactly how does the first assertion (completely unproven: in your statement regarding the unspecified failure of the schools (to even address this or to have an opponent reply you need to tell us exactly what you think they've failed at, specifically. Could you define the failure?). For instance, I can say "religion has failed", and believe myself to be right (in some circumstances I do believe this, but very specific ones), but such a statement is undebateable until I say what I think religion has failed at (also, I'd need to define religion).

"The relevant portion of the 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

Yes, and the two clauses, prohibition of establishment of religion and prohibition of limiting free exercise of religion are another brilliant example of the checks and balances created by the Founders of the United States and the authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Sort of a Manichean struggle, if you will. Except it's not good and evil, struggling, it's two competing societal interests.

"Here are the facts as they exist today. Children are required by state (I don't think it's federal) governments to attend school. And all citizens (or at least those who pay taxes) are required to fund those schools. It is doubtful that one could find a more universally agreed upon use of government funds. I personally agree with this." Good. I was getting worried. Universal public education is one of the things that made the U.S. able to be the economic and military power it is: an educated population.

"But it presents a problem wherein the 1st Amendment is concerned. Many aspects of education inevitably touch on issues related to religion and/or morality. This is pretty much unavoidable. Many educators purposefully (and of course, inadvertently) inject their own philosophies into the school environment."

Sometimes inadvertently. Sometimes quite deliberately, as in the expensive and "breathtakingly inane" decision of the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board. Not inadvertant at all. And quite unconstitutional, as the new god of my idolatry (excuse me, I just right like that) Judge John E. Jones III so delightfully ruled.

"It is not a matter of whether a given religion or the lack thereof will be present, but rather a matter of who will decide."

No. There are certain values, irrespective of religion we can all, I hope, agree on, at least in a school context. The golden rule (let's all try it for a week, without any prosletyzing and see where it gets us. That's a "scientific" (hah) experiment I hope most religions would support). Stealing is bad. Murder is bad (notice I didn't say killing, because some religions oppose killing universally, and others view capital punishment, just wars, etc. as acceptable in certain circumstances). Cheating. Lying. Not doing your homework. Be polite. Be kind. Don't call other people names. Don't hit people. Can we agree on those rules or values without regard to religion? (I sure hope so.)

"Those who oppose vouchers are in effect saying that the state will decide."

Since public education is a state function, yes.

"This is clearly exactly contrary to the spirit and the letter of the 1st Amendment. It is government (albeit state government and not Congress) making an establishment of religion based upon who holds power at a given time."

Nope. See the values discussed above. I think schools can stick to those, and parents can make sure their children attend all the appropriate Bible, Torah, Baghavad Gita, Koran, or other religious text readings and lessons at the non-governmental institution of their choice. Their home. Their church. Their temple. As an agnostic who is a functional atheist, I don't think I should go to a school and tell people my heartfelt belief: If there is a god, he scares me, because, hey, at least as I was taught he tortured and killed his only child in a particularly sadistic way, in front of son's mother, and then said, "Hey, this is to show I love you." and that makes me think of some of the more creative monsters of our times, not a deity. That would be me interjecting my religious beliefs into the school. It would be wrong. (It would also be insane, because that's not appropriate for kids, even if I did truly believe that, and that's really just a passing thought in despair at another headline reminding how god-forsaken the world actually is).

"And it is further restricting the free exercise of religion for a minimun of about 6 1/2 hours per day, 180 days per year."

No. You, as a member of a capitalist society, can go pay for your child to get extra training outside of school, or pay private tuition and send your child to a religious school. (Be careful about that. I was sent to a religious school.)

"Of course, the rich can avoid this if they chose by sending their children to private schools."

Yes. We are a capitalist society. The rich get to chooose their doctors, their schools, and many other things to a much greater degree than the poor. One could either embrace socialism, and discard the capitalist nature of our society, or earn more money. Or get scholarships. I got a scholarship to go to a religious school. No, it's not fair. Not much is.

I actually wouldn't oppose vouchers if the tuition bills were divided into two parts: (1) secular (reading, writing, arithmetic, higher maths, science, history, etc.) and (2) religious. Since the religious portion would be smaller (one would hope -- as important as religion is to many people I would hope having a literate child who can add and subtract and more would be the first goal of a school, then possibly supplementing the moral learning the child should be getting from his or her parents). Part 2 could be parent funded, part 1, voucher funded. That wouldn't bother me. I just don't want the government paying to establish religion.

"It is the poor who are deprived of their right to chose the teachings they embrace for their children."

Now, I'll go off on a tangent here. Organized religion raises more money each year than any other type of charity. It's tax deductible too (I won't argue about that). Why don't some of these people use some of the money (and the money they spend lobbying) to provide scholarships for the deserving poor. I challenge every person who believes that lack of access to a religious school is keeping poor children back to put your money where your mouth is and start enabling those children to go to those schools right now. Fund a scholarship. Yup. And the rich believers, why that should be easy for them. It's just a question of priorities. I as a member of the tax-paying public should not be paying taxes to support your child's religious education. You should be doing it volutarily. Actually, (getting snotty here, sorry, I can't stop myself) it should be of greater value to you than the laptop you are typing on. Sell it. Give the money to fund a child's religious education. If you won't do it, and you believe, why should I be forced to (for ANY religion) as a non-believer?

"There are two basic solutions to this problem." Only two?

"1) Eliminate publicly funded education and the legal requirement that children attend school." This will only solve the problem of having an educated populace.

"2) Provide a system whereby children continue to be guaranteed the right to an education featuring societal minimums -- reading, writing, and arithmetic while guaranteeing true freedom of (or from if a parent prefers) religion and all thought." This would, of course, be much more expensive and would leave impoverished people even more out in the cold educationally speaking. And how would this system work? Nice to speak of, but once, in our mutilcultural nation you have the Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Quaker, Unitarian, Seventh Day Adventist, Buddhist, Hindu, Shia Muslim, Sunnie Muslim, Shinto, Native American, Wicca, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Santeria, Voodoo, and other schools, the whole idea of economies of scale will be pretty much shot. Inefficient.

So go fund the school of your choice. And pray to god for more money to do more with it.

"If somebody wants to open any of the following types of schools I support them: any form of Christianity, Atheism, Wiccan, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or the Flat Earth Society."

I support it to. Just not on the government dime. If you belief, belief with your own pocketbook, not mine.

"I further support the right of parents to chose among these. This is true freedom, striking the proper balance between government-funded and required education and freedom of religion and thought."

Again, values can be taught in public school, but religion, no. Religion cannot and should not be government supported and funded. And atheism isn't a religion. It's not believing in a deity. It isn't a belief system. Someone who is an atheist could be an Existentialist or a Stoic or follower of any number of other systems for living one's life.

Jewish Atheist said...

raisedwithholidaysbutnoreligion,

"Many aspects of education inevitably touch on issues related to religion and/or morality."

It's okay to touch on them. It's not okay to prohibit the free exercise of or to "respect an establishment of." In other words, it's okay to teach evolution, it's not okay to teach that "evolution shows that there is no God" or "evolution shows that there must be a God." Biology is a science class. There is overwhelming consensus among scientists that evolution happens.

I have no problem with a public school teacher in social studies, for example, discussing the ID movement, as long as he/she doesn't support or reject the notion of God.

Foilwoman said...

JA: Yet again, you are the god of my idolatry. Sigh. Oh, I'm not supposed to bring my feeble attempts at humor into these serious debates about the meaning of life. But Monty Python did, I humbly cry. Yeah, but the were funny, you sigh.

Jewish Atheist said...

If Monty Python did it, it can't be wrong. :)

Foilwoman said...

That's very heartening. Thank you. Let's now look on the bright side of death.*

*Life of Brian.

raisedwithholidaysbutnoreligion said...

Foilwoman said...
In situations where people are not free to leave, schools, the military, prisons, any government actor (teacher, warden, social worker) who prosletyzes is not just exercising freedom of religion, he or she is also acting as a representative of the government and thus is violating the establishment clause.

Simple solution here then: Eliminate government-mandated schools. The same cannot be said for the military or prisons, where people have either voluntarily or by their actions given away a certain degree of freedom. I don't know about the prisoners, but any military man knows this. As to social workers, interaction with such persons hardly amounts to a significant amount of time, especially compared to school time.


So I am not selective about the constitution. You and I both have free exercise of religion. I cannot go to a public school and teach my doubt-ridden view of the world (and I shouldn't) and you shouldn't be teaching your more certain and cheerful view. Those are actions for the private sphere (home) or the religious sphere (church) or the public sphere when one is not acting as a government agent or employee (such as a street corner or park -- to the extent the neighbors don't mind the noise).

According to your system, God is off-limits for 6 1/2 hours per day. This is the effective equivalent of having God forced on your children for the same period. I say it should be the parent's -- and not the government's -- choice. What if a question rises in the mind of a child that concerns God. According to the current system, the teacher must decline to answer the question, especially if his answer favors God or worse Christ. Telling a child whose mind spontaneously wonders about something to ask his Mom later, or his pastor on Sunday is not really a very effective teaching method. It does, however, implicitly teach that there is something unacceptable about God. If parents chose, why not have someone (a teacher) available who can and will give an answer that is consistent with the answer a parent would give if he/she were present?

It's a coherent view of two constitutional provisions that provide checks and balances: free exercise includes freedom from being forced to accept religious teaching in a forum that should be secular.

Here I note that at the time the Constitution came forth, there was no requirement that children spend a significant portion of their youth in government-controlled environments. Since that is now the case, those environments must not be controlled by the government inasmuch as freedom of religion and thought are concerned or they are violating the 1st Amendment. Eliminating freedom of religion and though 6 1/2 hours a day is no solution.

Of course, a public school could have a comparative religion class (as part of history or literature rather than science) where the beauty of the Bible, the Koran, the Mahabharata, heck, even the incredibly bogus book of Mormon (I'm sorry, I just find that one stupid and not well written at all, and the idea that a deity would write like a parochial, undereducated polygamist would had trouble with the whole "pants zipped" concept and invented a religion to excuse his behavior just bugs me. I'm really not capable of being very fair about Mormoms.), and various religious literature, art works (the Sistine Chapel! The Duomo in Florence! Beautiful Islamic calligraphy!) would be okay in my book. As long as it were comparative, taught as literature or art or history, not as the inerrant (or errant, what the hey) word of God.

P.S. I'm Mormon. A convert as my handle suggests, raised by a Jewish father without any real faith and an equally faithless Christian (RLDS, now known as the Community of Christ -- not me, my Mom) mother who shared very little of religion beyond Christmas, Easter, Hannukah, and Passover with their children.

I would just note that your suggestion that Joseph Smith invented a religion because he couldn't "keep his pants zipped" defies credulity. If Joseph Smith "couldn't keep his pants zipped", you'd think he could find a quicker way to "unzip" them than spending 14 years "inventing" and establishing a religion.

P.P.S. I just learned how to use HTML tags without simply highlighting and clicking a pre-programmed button.

P.P.P.S. According to Mormon theology, you are not going to Hell or any such place. Although, we do believe that both Mormons and non-Mormons who chose not to accept Christ's sacrifice on their behalf will have to pay the price of their sins, after the due punishment has been paid, such Mormons and non-Mormons will live in a sphere that is equivalent or better than what is generally referred to as heaven. Those who learn and prove obedience to all righteous principles will be given all power. Much as you would give as much privilege and responsibility to your children as they show themselves capable of using safely and responsibly.

Final P.S. I agree my "handle" is way too long. I did not anticipate more than one comment on this site. I am open to suggestion.

Random said...

Foilwoman,

I have difficulty with what you are saying. You seemto be advocating the theory that there are two distinct classes of citizen - those who by virtue of their employment by the government only have highly restricted first amendment rights and the rest of the population who have unrestricted first amendment rights. What conceivable basis in law is there for this?

Just to be clear. I was not proposing that people in certain situations (schools, etc.) should be permitted to proselytize (whether as to belief or unbelief) and claim they are doing so by authority of the government - I was saying that they should not be prevented by virtue of their employment from giving a personal opinion that is clearly labelled as such. Do you really think it would be a desirable state of affairs if a pupil were to ask a question that touched on religion and the teacher were forced to reply "due to a verdict of the Supreme Court, I am not permitted to answer that question" or somesuch formula? How on earth is this going to teach children to respect the constitution?

Incidentally it's not my constitution, I'm only speaking as an interested outsider. As it happens I live in a country with an established church, and anyone who thinks that as a result of that the United Kingdom is a benighted theocracy is living in Cloudcuckooland. In fact, and arguably as result of this, we are in most significant respects (it is not significant to my life that the Queen has to be in full communion with the Church of England or abdicate) a much more secular country than the USA. I often think that those people in the US who are attacking the barriers between church and state really should be a great deal more careful about what they wish for.

Foilwoman said...

RWHBNR (How about "Reborn in Faith" or something like that, which I could shorten to RBIF")

"Simple solution here then: Eliminate government-mandated schools."

I believe that publication education is a government mandate. I also believe that in the pre-college years, too little time is devoted to actual teaching of skills. Six and one half hours a day is not enough for reading, writing, arithmetic, history, science. If one simply sticks to the basics, on can fill all the time and never teach a class on "Is there a God?" or "Who's God is better?", which are better left out of school.

"The same cannot be said for the military or prisons, where people have either voluntarily or by their actions given away a certain degree of freedom. I don't know about the prisoners, but any military man knows this. As to social workers, interaction with such persons hardly amounts to a significant amount of time, especially compared to school time."

Prisoners and soldiers should not be subject to prosletyzing either, even if one is in prison for crime and the other is in the army as a volunteer.

"According to your system, God is off-limits for 6 1/2 hours per day. This is the effective equivalent of having God forced on your children for the same period."

Atheism is also off limits during that time. It's all off limits. God, Set, Isis, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Thor, whatever deity or lack of deity. Not on the table. On the table: all the basics of education, which need more time anyway. Every parent can then use the remainng 17.5 hours a day (probably 8 hours a day of waking time), to address all the divinities he or she wants their child to believe.

"I say it should be the parent's -- and not the government's -- choice."

It is, when the government isn't busy making sure your child can read, write, spell, add, subtract, mulitply, divide, use fractions, learn history, write an essay, and use logic.

"What if a question rises in the mind of a child that concerns God. According to the current system, the teacher must decline to answer the question, especially if his answer favors God or worse Christ."

Huh? First, what kind of question at what grade. Second, any adult with half a brain asked a question by a minor about religion should probably (out of good manners if nothing else) say: I think you should ask your parents. Or your priest. Or whoever. If the kid says "Is there a God?" the teacher could say: "There are many religions in the world. I am _____. I'm not sure what religion you're parents are. Why don't you ask them." If the child asks for more details about the teacher's religion, the teacher can say: "Let's ask your Mom and Dad if this is something they want you to know." See how easy. It's how I handle questions from kids whose parents religion is unknown to me.

"Telling a child whose mind spontaneously wonders about something to ask his Mom later, or his pastor on Sunday is not really a very effective teaching method. It does, however, implicitly teach that there is something unacceptable about God."

No, I think it says that it is something particular to that family or group. The teacher can even mention it in a note to the parents. Or the teacher could honestly answer what he or she believes, but say, "Your parents may believe differently." I don't think questions about God come up that often when learning differntial equations, how to make a noun possessive, or any of the other things that fill up a school day. Handle it the same way you do Santa. I believe he's fictional. My six-year old doesn't. Her teacher deflects. Good for her, I say. I don't want her to lie (neither to I), but it's nice for her to believe in Santa. Similarly, get the kid to tell you what his or her parents told her about god and then say, in a pleased tone: "Well, there you are." It really isn't that tough unless the teacher has no social skills whatsoever. Or if the parents are absolute weirdos.

Of course, kids can ask their classmates and get all kinds of great answers, some even accurate, just as they do when they ask their classmates where babies come from.

"If parents chose, why not have someone (a teacher) available who can and will give an answer that is consistent with the answer a parent would give if he/she were present?" Sure, if the parents want to hire that person.

[regarding freedom of exercise v. prohibition of establishment of religion]

"Here I note that at the time the Constitution came forth, there was no requirement that children spend a significant portion of their youth in government-controlled environments. Since that is now the case, those environments must not be controlled by the government inasmuch as freedom of religion and thought are concerned or they are violating the 1st Amendment. Eliminating freedom of religion and though 6 1/2 hours a day is no solution."

At that time, 1/3 of the population lived in enforced servitude all the time. Under a loving god, of course. Off-track, sorry. Public schools came in in the 19th Century, yes, we evolved. But education is generally (in most developed nations) treated as a governmental function and is so here.

Of course, a public school could have a comparative religion class (as part of history or literature rather than science) where the beauty of the Bible, the Koran, the Mahabharata, heck, even the incredibly bogus book of Mormon (I'm sorry, I just find that one stupid and not well written at all, and the idea that a deity would write like a parochial, undereducated polygamist would had trouble with the whole "pants zipped" concept and invented a religion to excuse his behavior just bugs me. I'm really not capable of being very fair about Mormoms.), and various religious literature, art works (the Sistine Chapel! The Duomo in Florence! Beautiful Islamic calligraphy!) would be okay in my book. As long as it were comparative, taught as literature or art or history, not as the inerrant (or errant, what the hey) word of God.

"P.S. I'm Mormon. A convert as my handle suggests, raised by a Jewish father without any real faith and an equally faithless Christian (RLDS, now known as the Community of Christ -- not me, my Mom) mother who shared very little of religion beyond Christmas, Easter, Hannukah, and Passover with their children."

Well, sorry for dissing your religion. It's how I feel, but isn't part of the debate. My apologies. But did you just call your mother faithless in a sentence? Let's go back to the honor thy father and mother part. Oh, that's not your book.
"I would just note that your suggestion that Joseph Smith invented a religion because he couldn't "keep his pants zipped" defies credulity. If Joseph Smith "couldn't keep his pants zipped", you'd think he could find a quicker way to "unzip" them than spending 14 years "inventing" and establishing a religion."

In my opinion, which you will disagree with and debate won't resolve, Joseph Smith, like many cult leaders was an oversexed megalomaniacal sociopath. I don't know how many wives he had at the end, and how young some of them were, but it wasn't a pretty picture. He's not someone whose word I can ever imagine taking seriously as something for other than diagnosing mental illness. Obviously, most people would disagree with me, but that's how I see it. The Angel Moroni, the "lost tablets" (convenient, I'd say), are pretty sad stories to believe in, but everyone is free to choose. That evidence of my real prejudice aside, most Mormon women I know are very devout good generous people. I don't know any Mormon men, except one, and he's not a fair example to cite.

"P.P.S. I just learned how to use HTML tags without simply highlighting and clicking a pre-programmed button." Fun, and good for you. I'll have to try that.

"P.P.P.S. According to Mormon theology, you are not going to Hell or any such place. Although, we do believe that both Mormons and non-Mormons who chose not to accept Christ's sacrifice on their behalf will have to pay the price of their sins, after the due punishment has been paid, such Mormons and non-Mormons will live in a sphere that is equivalent or better than what is generally referred to as heaven. Those who learn and prove obedience to all righteous principles will be given all power. Much as you would give as much privilege and responsibility to your children as they show themselves capable of using safely and responsibly."

Less unpleasant that the Evangelical Christian view, but still, I'll pass. Any god who can't leave the tablets their for all to see and read and gives them to a man of dubious moral probity (Smith, not any Mormon today), doesn't really reach the vertebrate requirement for people I listen to or debate with (like you).

The Mormon Church has tons of money. Shouldn't it be investing some of that in religious schools for all right now?

"Final P.S. I agree my "handle" is way too long. I did not anticipate more than one comment on this site. I am open to suggestion." See above. Or just PTL, Praise the Lord.

FaithfulThinker (formerly known as raisedwithholidaysbutnoreligion) said...

Foilwoman,

Our comments are getting to long to quote, so I will respond without them.

First, I don't know where you got the idea that I think soldiers and prisoners should be subjected to unwanted proselytizing?????????

Second. Telling the truth about my mom's beliefs, a comment she would basically agree with BTW, is not dishonoring her.

Third, We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (So, yes The Bible is "our book" as is The Book of Mormon.)

Fifth, if you think that a teacher is free to express his religious beliefs simply by adding the disclaimer "your parents may disagree", you've got another think coming.

Sixth, you have yet to explain why Joseph Smith spent 14 years preparing his nefarious plan to have multiple sex partners. I have heard many slanders about Joseph Smith, but never have I heard any accusation that he ever had pre-marital or extra-marital sex. So here is a man who by all accounts -- undisputed by his legion of enemies -- remained a virgin until he was 21 years of age, and remained faithful to one wife for the following 8 years. One can argue that polygamy is wrong. But to argue that Joseph Smith invented a religion so he could have multiple sex partners requires one to believe he had incredible patience in the sexual realm, hardly a characteristic of an "oversexed megalomaniacal sociopath".

Seventh, thanks for your suggestions on a handle. But since this is an intellectual board, and both those handles may suggest to athiests a blind and foolish following based on a lack of brainpower, I will pass. Yes, ultimately, my personal faith is built on a "personal testimony" which arose from a number of powerful spiritual experiences. But these experiences were preceeded in my case by several months of intense study and scrutiny including the purchase and study of no less than three anti-Mormon books. It has been my pleasure to discover that all the Mormon doctrine I have learned is consistent with logic, the world around me, and itself. There is some significant doubt about my eternal home, but that has to do with my own failings and not with the Lord and His Church.

Ninth, (I wish I hadn't numbered these)although it is true that not all people of all times and places have had access to his tablets, you do. May I recommend that you actually obtain and read a Book of Mormon; it may surprise you. They can be found from any LDS Missionary, in any LDS bookstore, in pretty much any general used bookstore, or if you want to pay $25 at your local Barnes and Noble.

Jewish Atheist said...

faithfulthinker,

According to your system, God is off-limits for 6 1/2 hours per day. This is the effective equivalent of having God forced on your children for the same period.

Don't you see that having God forced on your children is like having atheism forced on your children? Neither is acceptable in a public school. In public school, particularly in science class, we must stick to the facts and not wander off into EITHER theology or atheism.

We atheists aren't pushing for atheism to be taught; why do you keep pushing for theism to be taught?

Jewish Atheist said...

BTW faithfulthinker, you might have some fun at http://www.exmormon.org/

Foilwoman said...

Random:

“I have difficulty with what you are saying. You seemto be advocating the theory that there are two distinct classes of citizen - those who by virtue of their employment by the government only have highly restricted first amendment rights and the rest of the population who have unrestricted first amendment rights. What conceivable basis in law is there for this?”

You misunderstand me and the law of the United States. People acting as government representatives (i.e., policeman when in uniform) are acting as the United States. Thus a teacher acting as a teacher (rather than as a private citizen) is subject to certain restrictions. And yes, these restrictions apply to their words and behavior in an official capacity. For instance, if a policeman arrests you without cause and then beats you up, he has violated your constitutional rights, both for the seizure without warrant and for the assault on your person. If I beat you up as a private individual, I may be charged with assault (a crime) and you may sue me for battery (a tort), but your civil rights haven’t been violated because I am not a state actor. If I’m a teacher for a public school, I am a state actor only when performing my official duties. Accepting a job with an instrumentality of a state or local government (or the feds) does limit some rights. Some jobs more than others. For instance, soldiers do NOT have all the constitutional protections that civilians do, because soldiers are governed by military law.

With regard to religion, as a state actor, you shouldn’t violate the prohibition against the government establishing or endorsing religion. When not acting in your government employee role, you can teach Sunday school, preach on street corners, volunteer at the yeshiva or madrasa, and generally explain to all that you are saved, chosen, elect, whatever and why you believe that. Just not when you are arresting someone, teaching them math, or anything else as a government official. Schools, except private ones, are generally instrumentalities of a state or local government.

“Just to be clear. I was not proposing that people in certain situations (schools, etc.) should be permitted to proselytize (whether as to belief or unbelief) and claim they are doing so by authority of the government - I was saying that they should not be prevented by virtue of their employment from giving a personal opinion that is clearly labelled as such. Do you really think it would be a desirable state of affairs if a pupil were to ask a question that touched on religion and the teacher were forced to reply "due to a verdict of the Supreme Court, I am not permitted to answer that question" or somesuch formula? How on earth is this going to teach children to respect the constitution?”

I don’t have a problem with a teacher saying “I believe there is a god” or “I don’t believe there is a god,” but I sincerely believe that we’d be better off teaching all the things kids need to know such as reading, writing, arithmetic, math, science, history, spelling, grammar, etc. and save the religion for Sunday school or Shabbat services or whatever. Simply put, religion can be discussed – answer a question when asked – but it shouldn’t be taught in public school. That’s for the family and the church. And of course, that means any religion. So if your child asks the question of a Hindu, a Muslim, a Santeria priest, you won’t mind your kid getting their answer, right?

“Incidentally it's not my constitution, I'm only speaking as an interested outsider. As it happens I live in a country with an established church, and anyone who thinks that as a result of that the United Kingdom is a benighted theocracy is living in Cloudcuckooland. In fact, and arguably as result of this, we are in most significant respects (it is not significant to my life that the Queen has to be in full communion with the Church of England or abdicate) a much more secular country than the USA. I often think that those people in the US who are attacking the barriers between church and state really should be a great deal more careful about what they wish for. “

It is an irony. The U.S. with the de jure (although not really de facto) separation of church and state is one of the most religious, church attending countries on the planet. And all the European nations with national churches have very low church attendance. Maybe having the government over-endorse religion causes people to flee the church? Or maybe forbidding endorsement (as the U.S. does) creates that sense of persecution which rallies everyone? Go figure.

I just don’t see religion (“Mr. McGillicuddy, what’s transubstantiation?”) being a big topic for most students. And if Sunday school and family dinner aren’t enough, that’s what after school classes are all about, aren’t they?

FT:

“First, I don't know where you got the idea that I think soldiers and prisoners shnould be subjected to unwanted proselytizing?????????”

Since you distinguished schools from the military and prisons as voluntary, and your solution to unwanted religion creeping into the schools (since teaching math and grammar apparently require religious comments by all faiths? Not.) is to eliminate the school and apparently any action has some religious impact and thus the only way to avoid establishment of religion by the government in the education system is to eliminate the education system then either we should also eliminate the prison and military (as the same religious establishment concerns would apply) or the inidividuals in those institutions do not deserve the right to be free of governmental establishment of religion.

And are you seriously proposing balkanizing education into little religious fiefdoms where members of sects too small to organize a meaningful education system have to either subject their children to a bigger religion’s beliefs or remain illiterate? And exactly how much religious instruction is needed to teach kids the basics (reading, riding, arithmetic, handwriting, science, history, alegbra, geometry, trigonometry, etc.) and religious parents just can’t do this through family dinner, involvement in their childrens lives, and religious organization education?

“Second. Telling the truth about my mom's beliefs, a comment she would basically agree with BTW, is not dishonoring her.” How about phrasing it like this: “my mother didn’t believe in organized religion”? Because was she faithless to you and your father? Or just a non-believer. There probably are things she has faith in, just not the LDS.

“Third, We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (So, yes The Bible is "our book" as is The Book of Mormon.) “

Your prerogative.

Where’s Fourth? Did I lose it in copying? Oh well.

“Fifth, if you think that a teacher is free to express his religious beliefs simply by adding the disclaimer "your parents may disagree", you've got another think coming.” I think most teachers will refer the child to the child’s parents or church. And yes, a child can wait until after a funeral to say “I need to go to the bathroom” and can wait to get home from school to ask their mother if their classmate really was telling the truth and she’s going to go to hell because she’s Jewish (or whatever nonbeliever group is considered faithless by the kind religious child).

“Sixth, you have yet to explain why Joseph Smith spent 14 years preparing his nefarious plan to have multiple sex partners. I have heard many slanders about Joseph Smith, but never have I heard any accusation that he ever had pre-marital or extra-marital sex. So here is a man who by all accounts -- undisputed by his legion of enemies -- remained a virgin until he was 21 years of age, and remained faithful to one wife for the following 8 years. One can argue that polygamy is wrong. But to argue that Joseph Smith invented a religion so he could have multiple sex partners requires one to believe he had incredible patience in the sexual realm, hardly a characteristic of an "oversexed megalomaniacal sociopath". “

Well, he lived in 19th century rural America where having sex outside of marriage would be tough. But once he had the organization set up, he did have lots of extramarital sex. Every wife after wife #1 was pretty much extramarital, and while the exact number is debated, the number of 33 wives (including the incredibly long-suffering Emma Hale), is quoted by many. So after 8 years of marriage, he goes on a fornication roll, exactly when his religion and cult of personality are gaining powers. So yes, he had patience, but he also didn’t start being the complete creep he later became until he had power over people (women in particular) and the ability to abuse. A lot of people with bad behavior are patient. You do have to have a strategy and a plan to convince Victorian women that bigamy is respectable.

“Seventh, thanks for your suggestions on a handle. But since this is an intellectual board, and both those handles may suggest to athiests a blind and foolish following based on a lack of brainpower, I will pass. Yes, ultimately, my personal faith is built on a "personal testimony" which arose from a number of powerful spiritual experiences. But these experiences were preceeded in my case by several months of intense study and scrutiny including the purchase and study of no less than three anti-Mormon books. It has been my pleasure to discover that all the Mormon doctrine I have learned is consistent with logic, the world around me, and itself. There is some significant doubt about my eternal home, but that has to do with my own failings and not with the Lord and His Church.”

Well, there are a lot more than three anti-Mormon books out there. I’ll give the LDS this: the Tabernacle Choir is a good thing. The writings, not so much.

“Ninth, (I wish I hadn't numbered these)although it is true that not all people of all times and places have had access to his tablets, you do. May I recommend that you actually obtain and read a Book of Mormon; it may surprise you. They can be found from any LDS Missionary, in any LDS bookstore, in pretty much any general used bookstore, or if you want to pay $25 at your local Barnes and Noble.”

I have a Book of Mormon (read it), as well as the Bible (my grandmother’s), Mary Baker Eddy’s Guide to Science and Health, the Koran, and many other religious works. While I have read the Book of Mormon, the only thing it convinced me of is that you can convince a lot of people a lot of things, even poorly executed fake religious documents that are badly written in a quasi-biblical style. While I don’t believe that the Bible or the Koran are the inerrant word of god (I’m not even sure about the god part), they are at least beautiful literature and poetry.

The Book of Mormon: not so much. Of course, it’s better than Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard, but that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it. So I’ll stop.

faithfulthinker said...

foilwoman,

You are certainly entitled to your opinions, although I think if you reread your most recent post, you will see that many of them are not very well thought out.

I dare anyone to write a book of the length and complexity of The Book of Mormon that is so consistent with itself, The Bible, the observable world, a consistent philosophy that is both sensible and matches universal questions about such fundamental questions as:

1) What is the purpose of life?
2) Why, if there is a God, does he allow so much suffering?
3) Many more. The two above represent the most open-minded (#1) and difficult to understand and accept (#2) questions most have about religion.


As for The Book of Mormon as a piece of literature, you have formed your own opinion. One that many millions who have read it disagree with. i gess us ain't two brite. Would you like a list of some brilliant people who believe(d) The Book of Mormon?

I have read plenty of anti-Mormon literature since my baptism. It basically comes in three types: truths that are difficult to understand because they conflict with previously taught theologies (These are generally given out of context), half-truths, and flat lies.

I have to admit thought that your claim that Joseph Smith spent 14 years preparing for sexual debauchery defies my categories. Oh, yeah, I forgot the fourth category. Twisted truths. Yes, Joseph Smith did have multiple wives, but despite your insistence the evidence just does not bear out your assertion that he was an "oversexed megalomaniacal sociopath". Honestly, weigh the evidence; it just doesn't add up.

I don't know why you have such disdain for the Mormon religion. If it has anything to do with your treatment by a member of my faith, I am very sorry to hear that. Alas, Mormons are subject to the same weaknesses and evils as the rest of humanity. I wish I had something more useful to say than, "I am sorry that (if) you suffered so bitterly, and embarassed that (if) it came at the hands of one who held himself out as a righteous member of my own faith."

Foilwoman said...

FT: Thanks for your reply -- we'll just have to agree to differ. I have known more Mormons that I have liked than disliked. Unfortunately, it is not my mistreatment by any Mormon that formed my prejudice (and it is a prejudice, I will admit that) against the church and its elders, but the action of the church and the elders to horrific abuse (and I do mean real physical injuries, broken bones, lots of blood, one face held to a gas flame) that I witnessed as a neighbor of one Mormon family and then as a victim advocate at a battered womens' shelter (inspired by that family -- I took what action I could). Seeing pompous (value judgment, but they were), bullying (ditto), middle-aged beefy men try to talk bruised and beaten young women (always much younger than the men who had thrown her down the flight of stairs while pregnant, smashed her face with a frying pan, twisted her arm til it broke) to not only drop charges against her assailant but reconcile with him to avoid a stain on the community (I'd say the community was already stained) really did make me say: hypocritical mysogynists all of them. Certainly, as a counselor I saw many other battered women with spouses of many other religions. But only one other religion (which I won't single out, as not relevant to our discussion of my biases here) really treated already victimized women so badly.

Unfair, and doubtless untrue. I just wish I didn't know what a face looked like after a husband held it to a gas burner, and didn't hear a "leader" of the LDS (hah!) community tell owner of said face that she would find more satisfaction in obedience and forgiveness (truly). Glad to be 5'11" and muscular, I obeyed her request and ejected the fat little fuck from the room.

So yeah. I bear a grudge, which has nothing to do with you. But do good and live right and don't beat up your wife, and I'll just be biased and out of your hair.

Sorry. It is prejudice and it is unfair. And there it is. So I don't read books about the LDS any more (Jon Krakauer's latest, I couldn't even read the reviews), good or bad. But my opinion on that one doesn't really matter.

Let's just stick to the religion/public education debate. Or not. I'm feeling a bit heartick now. To quote an ex-religious and very thoughtful blogger (see strangersfever.blogspot.com for some lovely writing if nothing else) "Whenever you think, 'Nobody could be that stupid or that cruel' you're probably wrong."

faithfulthinker said...

FW,

Thank you on behalf of humanity in general for your work on behalf of the weak and abused. No matter the beliefs of one who cares for those in need, such acts are Charity indeed.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Foilwoman said...

FT: My apologies for my ill-tempered and irrelevant rant. Obviously, this is not the way I want to be viewing any group of people, and I appreciate your even temper in responding. I wish I WERE that charitable. I don't have the right temperament for battered women's shelters and counseling (as evidenced by prior posts) and now focus on fundraising and direct action rather than guiding people and how they feel.

Anyway, my apologies. I don't believe in any of the other major faiths, either, and hope that you and all other religious and devout people find your faith meaningful and helpful in your life.