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creationism

Jerry Coyne’s talk at the AAI convention

When Craig and I attended the Atheist Alliance International convention in Burbank this year in October, one of the speakers on Saturday was Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True. He gave an entertaining and informative talk summarizing the evidence for evolution and was probably one of my favorite speakers at the convention.

I came across the YouTube link to his talk again today, watched it, and thought I’d share. It’s about 57 minutes long, which includes a question and answer session at the end.

Well worth the viewing time!

Ancient Sumerians found it annoying

The Onion generally has great satire and this piece about the Sumerians looking on in confusion as the Christian god creates the world is no exception. It’s simply brilliant!

It starts off with this:

Members of the earth’s earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

From there, it just gets better.

The conclusion:

According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God’s most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

“These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant,” one Sumerian philosopher wrote. “They must be the creation of a complete idiot.”

It’s amazing how well-written satire can so dramatically (and clearly) point out the silliness of the young Earth creationist mindset.

I’m sure the Sumerians would have agreed.

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PZ Myers re: The science of evolution

PZ Myers responded to another absurdist email that chastised him about promoting the theory of evolution. The emailer says "to have a degree or degrees in biology and to still believe in Darwinian theory, shows ignorance in the worst degree." PZ’s response was spot on and included this beautiful bit…

The science points ineluctably to evolution as a fact, as the mechanism for biological change over time. The only people who argue otherwise, and that includes those ‘sciences’ [sic] you claim have concluded that the theory is false, are ideologues who have had their brains addled by non-scientific presuppositions, and who have decided that their fallacious traditional myths must supersede observation and evidence.

Perfect.

Help Alabama students learn real science

On The Axis of Evo blog, Colin Purrington points out that Alabama puts a disclaimer sticker into the front of its science textbooks… since 1996. He’d like it to stop. I’d like it to stop. You should like it to stop.

Here’s what Colin is trying to do.

So I’d like your help in advertising this silliness so that the media might care, which it currently doesn’t: I want to collect high-quality photographs of students showing the disclaimer but who are also doing something like eye-rolling, gagging, or vomiting. Or just expressions of honest disbelief on his/her face while the student holds the book open to the offending disclaimer.  Anyone in Alabama who might be able to help me out? I’d normally nudge friends at Alabama Citizens for Science Education, but its web site (http://www.alscience.org/) seems expired. Perhaps they were besieged by an angry mob with pitchforks.  God help them.

Send me your photographs, science fans. Do it for the children.

If you can help out, or know someone who can, contact Colin via his website.

Here’s the sticker in question…

Alabama Science Book Dislcaimer Sticker

Evolutionary Shenanigans

Here’s another snippet about Palin’s newly-verified creationist beliefs from The Daily Beast.

In her new book…

…[Palin] finally comes out of the closet as a creationist—or as she puts it, “the C-word.” In doing so, however, she manages to obscure the extent of those creationist beliefs by citing her acceptance of “microevolution.”

Oh, microevolution! It’s the favorite “concession” by creationists, used so they can sound accepting of science and therefore feel more credulous when they dismiss Darwinian evolution.

Biologists use the phrase “microevolution” to refer to changes within a group of organisms over a relatively short period of time. The most-famous example is the peppered moth of England, which became darker over generations in response to pollution from a local factory that blackened the trees it relied on for camouflage, encouraging the survival of similarly colored moths. Because these changes are so easily observed, creationists tend to concede their existence. But only to a point: They do not acknowledge that over time, natural selection will lead to radically different new types of organisms, the process known as “macroevolution,” responsible for bigger leaps like birds evolving from dinosaurs.

What caught my eye about this article were two points. First, the author quotes Dr. David Menton, who, if you read my Creation Museum writeup, was the speaker for the Microscarium presentation at the museum. He’s a “scientist” (sarcasm quotes intentional) who, in his presentation, showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has almost zero understanding of evolution. Here’s the part with Menton.

The basis for this distinction is rooted in Christian doctrine, not science. According to Dr. David Menton, a staff scientist at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, microevolution is acceptable only if species vary within the same “kind,” a translation of a Hebrew phrase from the Old Testament describing the original sets of species that traveled on Noah’s ark.

“The point is you get a lot of different kinds of dogs but dogs remain dogs,” Menton said. “They don’t become cats.”

I find it interesting that he seems to admit his scientific claim isn’t based on science. The biblical “kind” argument is used constantly by creationists and figures prominently in the Creation Museum. There is no definition of “kind,” however, and it’s intentionally kept vague and nebulous so it can be used to support their arguments in whatever manner required.

Menton displays immense ignorance of evolution when he says that “dogs remain dogs… they don’t become cats.” Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that dogs become cats… or that chickens become horses… or that monkeys become people. What it does say is that minute changes build up gradually over a tremendous amount of time and eventually lead to speciation. Menton can’t accept this because, according to the bible, the universe is only about 6,000 years old, which doesn’t leave nearly enough time for evolution to occur.

The second point in the article that caught my eye was that Palin (and Menton) was refuted by an actual evolutionary scientist, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True.

University of Chicago ecology and evolution professor at Jerry Coyne calls the passage in Palin’s book a “typical creationist ploy” easily refuted by fossil evidence suggesting transitions between animals as fish and amphibians or land animals and whales.

“Her stand is basically a biblically oriented stand…that has no basis in fact,” Coyne told The Daily Beast in an e-mail. “It is a ridiculous ploy of the ‘duck kind,’ i.e. a canard.”

Score one for Jerry Coyne.

One reason McCain lost my vote in 2008

Here’s an excerpt from a review by Michiko Kakutani of Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue.

Elsewhere in this volume, she talks about creationism, saying she "didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea" or from "monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees." In everything that happens to her, from meeting Todd to her selection by Mr. McCain for the Republican ticket, she sees the hand of God: "My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over."

If a candidate is so scientifically illiterate (or so intellectually stunted by unjustified religious dogma) that she doesn’t accept the theory of evolution, she has no business holding any position of authority in this country.

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Ray Comfort Loves His own Book

ignorance-posterRay Comfort the “ambush” evangelist and author has written his penultimate tour de force, Nothing Created Everything. Speaking of nothing, let’s talk about Ray’s sales figures compared to Richard Dawkins’. Dawkins released his book, The Greatest Show On Earth, the same day as Comfort’s. Dawkins’ book has been on Amazon’s top 100 list for 66 days now. Comfort’s book? (Now is the part where you hum the Jeopardy Game Show’s, “I’m thinking” music) It hasn’t made it there yet *Craig crosses fingers*.

It’s hard to believe that a man like Ray Comfort hasn’t hit a homerun with his latest tome. Out of all FIVE reviews on Amazon’s site it has one VERY complimentary review! And, oh wait. Who wrote the review? Why look, it was the author himself! Yeah, Ray “Banana Man” Comfort, objetively *gulp* reviewed his very own book. Well done Ray! Just when I thought your ethics hit a new low with your Michael Jackson Million Dollar Commemorative Tract, you prove me wrong again!

(Craig screams like Captain Kirk in Wraith of Khan, ” COMFORT!!!!!! “) Here is a link to Comfort’s brilliant expose on his own masterpiece, http://www.amazon.com/review/R3TFXA8B1XARBQ/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3TFXA8B1XARBQ .  Please take note that “2 of 28 people found the review helpful”. I guess Ray’s wife and Kirk Cameron really appreciated his hard hitting review. I wonder what the book’s own website has to say about it in it’s reviews section? Let’s check: http://www.nothingcreatedeverything.com/category/reviews/ . Wow! What a shock there are…none. I guess there were too many positive reviews hitting the server and it crashed…uh huh, that’s it. It is worth noting that of the *giggle* five reviews on Amazon, Ray’s was the only positive one in support of his book.

To be fair the comments left by Comfort were less a review and more a promotion of his book. This still says nothing for the fact that there are only four legitimate reviews of this book. Four? FOUR? By the way none of the four were even positive.

The release of this book is only harder evidence for the non-existance of a God. For if there was a God, the skies would surely be filled with the rain made of his tears.

Facebook makes for interesting discussions

A friend of mine posted a Facebook update this morning proclaiming that she is a Christian and proud of it, asking others to proclaim the same and to pray for others who join in. Here’s the text of her post [sic… but emphasis mine].

[Her name] Is a Christian and proud to say it!! Let’s see how many people on fb aren’t afraid to show their love for God! Repost this as your status. Each time you see this on someones status say a quick prayer for that person!! Let’s get God back in this country like He should be!!! If you agree post this in your status. Like/unlike write a comment.

That’s all pretty innocuous and she meant it as an upbeat comment to start the day… but she did solicit comments, and after a few positive responses with prayers (“Father I lift up [her name] to you right now and I ask you to flood her with your presence today.”), another poster hit upon the phrase I highlighted above. He said [sic]…

[His name] while I’m pleased to know that your religious perspectives bring you joy and peace, I have reservations about the comment “Let’s get God back in the country like He should be”. I’m not sure who says “He should be”, but it certainly was not our wise and enlightened founding fathers, who were careful to institute concepts like the seperation of church and state and freedom of (and from) religion. Spirituality is a personal path, to be kept in one’s heart. Once you start declaring that God should play a role in an entire country, you infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system. A quick study of Saudi Arabia or Iraq shows what that can lead to.

Your post requested a comment, I’m sharing mine.

I found that a pretty fair response. Given our secular Constitution and the religiously diverse population in this country, I think the idea of putting “God back in this country” is, at the very least, a bad one. [His name] calls it out perfectly, saying that it would “infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system” and points to perfect examples.

The response came quickly from [her name] and said [sic]…

[Her name] Our God teaches peace. Their Gods teach violence. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

I thought the response was first, missing the point and second, misinformed. So I responded with a simple…

[Me] In [his name’s] defense, a theocracy is a theocracy, regardless whose concept of a deity is used.

I thought maybe that bit of simplicity might help [his name’s] point hit home. It didn’t. [Her name] posted another bit about the god of Islam vs. the god of Christianity, but deleted it shortly thereafter. Then another poster joined in… and inspired me to write this blog post. She said [sic]…

[Supporter] It’s been quite awhile since I studied this, so I could be incorrect, but the reason why there was “separation between church and state” was so there was not a dictatorship as in England. They did not want the government to dictate how things should be handled…they wanted each jurisdiction to have the right to dictate that, which is the main reason America was even founded. Now, it is important to not that it was “One nation, Under God”….so that negates the theory that they didn’t want God to be a part of things…..I still also believe that if you view Creationism as a religious theory, than Evolution should also be a religious theory, and then the answer in school would be teach neither, or teach both….just as some believe God shouldn’t be taught in school, others don’t subscribe to the “big bang THEORY” either……just some other thoughts to consider.

I pondered a response for a bit, but decided there was too much wrong with that to deal with in a Facebook status thread, so I bowed out by just saying “Too much for me to get into on a Facebook thread.” [His name] had one more go, however, with this [sic]…

[His name] Bear in mind, the God of Islam is the same God of Christianity and Judaism, and the Qu’aran speaks of peace (and violence) as much as the Bible does. Also remember that “one nation, under God” is a phrase that did not officially exist in the US until the 1950’s to seperate us from the “godless” communists. I generally keep my opinions to myself, but this post conveniently comes the day after an election wherein I am once again denied the equal rights (thanks, Maine) of the majority because of the loud and powerful religious right’s influence on government and voters. Anyway, being thought provoking can be upbeat and lifting. I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I’ll say no more.

Good for him. Not only did he call out one of the misconceptions in [Supporter’s] post (The “One nation, under God” part), but he called out the religious right’s negative influence on human rights in this country… with a perfect timely example.

[Supporter] is also misinformed about evolution and creationism (and the big bang theory, it seems), saying that if creationism is a religious theory, then evolution should be a “religious theory.” Those who know anything about evolution (or science) will automatically recognize that statement as absurd, but it’s one that is heard all too often. When people can’t discern the difference between biblical “magic” and scientific theory, it’s a pretty glaring sign that the educational system in our country needs some serious help.

It’s frustrating, to say the least, and I cringed when I read [Supporter’s] post. I pulled back from commenting harshly, though, because she’s been a friend for a long time and I value our friendship… and I think that particular Facebook thread was an inappropriate venue (it had been hijacked enough as it was).

Perhaps sending her a Richard Dawkins article would be a good starting point.

Preachy Comment Spam

I get email notifications when someone posts a comment on one of my posts and today, over the course of about an hour, I got 7 notifications that the same person was commenting. That’s great, I thought! Someone’s actually reading what I wrote and is taking the time to give their feedback!

As it turns out, “Truth seeker” is the commenter and it seems doubtful that he/she was actually reading my posts. All the comments were roughly the same, with bible quotes and preachy “God is great” declarations. Here’s an example.

God is sovereign creator of heaven and earth. He revealed Himself in His Word. He is in control and does His will. God is holy and man is sinful. In order to be in right relationship with God we must repent of our sins and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in our place. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus died for us so that we could be reconciled to God. God knows our thoughts and examines our hearts. He knows if you believe in Him or not. When we die, we will each stand before God in judgment. Those who have humbled themselves before God will inherit eternal life. Those who have rejected God or denied His existence will be damned for all eternity. Don’t believe the lie that God does not exist. He has revealed Himself in His creation, the world and universe, and in our hearts and minds. If you truly ask God to reveal Himself to you, He will. Scripture says if you draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to you. Jesus said, if you deny Him in this life, He will deny you before the Father. I encourage you to humble yourself before your Creator God before it’s too late. Answers to this life and all eternity are found in His Word. God bless.

All the comments are about the same length and vary only slightly in content, but share something in common (other than the religious proclamations). They all contribute nothing to the discussion in their respective articles.

I won’t post any more full comments because it would be redundant, but I just wanted to quote a few select lines [sic]. My comments are in blue, of course.

  • Evolution has never been proven. In over 100 years of studying evolution, science has been unsuccessful and monitoring the evolution of anything. In all their efforts, they cannot turn a dog into a cat or a fly into a misquito. [I think truthseeker was channeling Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron there]
  • Many people waste their entire lives believing in lies. [Isn’t that an ironic statement?]
  • Faith is a lie is called foolishness. [I was amused by this typo]
  • Evolution is too unbelievable. The odds and likelihood of all necessary events to result in this perfectly balanced universe is ridiculous. [Evolution and the origins of the universe… more Comfort and Cameron]
  • Global warming claims are trickery used to divert funds to other people and nations. [Divert funds from where to where?]
  • All you have to do is believe what God tells you to believe. [So I should hear voices in my head and listen to them?]
  • I choose God and true biblical religion over any and everthing this world has to offer. I don’t have to worry about downloading my memory to a disk [so cool!!!] before I die because my Creator God has kept an account of my life.
  • I encourage you to read the Bible and pray that God will reveal Himself to you. [I did part one. Part two is contradictory]
  • God does not change, His does not waver. Therefore, truths 2,000 years ago are truths today. [So genocide, baby killing, blood sacrifices, and stonings for minor offenses are all still perfectly fine, then?]
  • Every human will one day die. [I can agree with that one]

If you want to read all the comments, here are the links to each one. I marked them all as spam (with “*spam*” at the top) so new visitors won’t confuse them with legitimate comments.

Cherry Picking, Scary Church Signs, Vague God, Creationism = Intelligent Design = Not Science, I am a believer and an atheist, Howse wants to reclaim the church

Casey Luskin cries censorship

Darwin's Dilemma Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute is all up in arms about censorship because, he claims, the Smithsonian-affiliated California Science Center cancelled its screening of the “documentary” Darwin’s Dilemma when it found out that the film was promoting intelligent design. While I agree that censorship is generally not good, Luskin seems to (again) misunderstand that a science center doesn’t want to promote unscientific ideas and that intelligent design is an unscientific idea. That’s been firmly established time and time and time and time again, but Luskin and his compatriots at the Discovery Institute can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.

Says Luskin…

As soon as word of the screening went public the Darwinian thought police started complaining about a government-supported science center renting its facilities to a group showing a film that challenges Darwinian evolution.

Why the outrage? Isn’t there academic freedom to express scientific viewpoints that dissent from the evolutionary “consensus”?

Yes, Luskin. There is academic freedom to express scientific viewpoints that dissent from the evolutionary consensus. The key word is “scientific,” however. Intelligent design is not scientific, no matter how badly you want it to be.

Luskin (and the film) attempt to use the Cambrian explosion as evidence for intelligent design, claiming that it poses a problem for evolutionary theory. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but… it doesn’t. Luskin, in true form, sets up a false dichotomy by saying that there are “two ways that modern evolutionists approach the Cambrian explosion” and lists them as follows.

A. Some freely acknowledge that the Cambrian fossil evidence essentially shows the opposite of what was expected under neo-Darwinian evolution.

B. Others deal with the Cambrian explosion by sweeping its problems under the rug and trying to change the subject.

Strangely enough, neither option is correct… or accurate… or honest. The Cambrian explosion is not a dilemma and the reason it’s not is that it hasn’t been swept under the rug, but has been openly (and repeatedly) addressed and shown to fit easily and neatly within the bounds of evolutionary theory. Evidently word hasn’t filtered down to Luskin yet.

The other concept that hasn’t reached Luskin yet is that even if science hasn’t discovered the answer for something yet, it doesn’t mean that simply asserting an “intelligent designer” is a valid answer. It’s certainly not even remotely scientific.

Luskin goes on to complain about “Darwinian elites” (envy much?), censorship, harassment, and Carl Sagan. His claims are nonsensical, including the one about a 2004 “pro-ID peer reviewed scientific article by Stephen Meyer (seriously?) and one about Richard Sternberg experiencing “retaliation” for being pro-ID (seriously?).

What it boils down to is the fact that Luskin just can’t accept the fact that intelligent design is not science… hence it shouldn’t be presented as science at science-based institutions. It’s not censorship any more than refusing to promote astrology as an alternative to astronomy is censorship.

Luskin’s closing paragraphs are where he glaringly makes my point that he just doesn’t get it.

Darwin’s dilemma isn’t just about a lack of transitional fossils in ancient rocks. It’s about how the guards of evolutionary orthodoxy will treat contrary scientific viewpoints.

Will they silence minority views, or will they grant dissenting scientists freedom of speech and scientific inquiry to make their case?

Evolutionary scientists welcome contrary scientific viewpoints. They actually debate the fine points of evolution constantly and review new scientific ideas. Dissention is welcomed, but the key word (again… and still) is “scientific.” That’s where Luskin and his Discovery Institute peers get left in the dust. They’re not scientific. Intelligent design is not science. As much as they want to believe it, saying it over and over again does not make it true and the more they do it, the more they make a mockery of themselves.

…which is something, it seems, they do on a regular basis.