Category Archives: Creationism

Science Under Attack II – blogospheric response

There are also more responses to the U of California lawsuit described by Sara Robinson the other day.
See what Amanda and PZ Myers have to say about it.
Edit: and Mike

“What God Created on the Fourth Day?” is not an SAT question, sorry!

Most of our anti-Creationist battles are over efforts to infuse Christian religion into K-12 education. One common battlefield is the courtroom where our side has (so far, until/unless the benches get filled with more clones of Priscilla Owen) won. But another place where we can stop them is the college admission office.
Sara Robinson of the Orcinus blog (which everybody should read daily) revisits, in more detail than I ever saw on any science blogs at the time this first started, the legal battle between the University of California and the Calvary Chapel Christian School over what constitutes permissible educational standards:

The battle started back in late 2005, when UC reviewed Calvary’s courses and decided that several of them — including “Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic and “Christianity’s Influence on America,” both history courses; “Christianity and Morality in American Literature,” an English course; and a biology class — did not meet their curriculum standards, and would not be counted toward the admission requirements when Calvary students apply to UC.

Sara goes on to say later on something that I expect our resident science philosophers, historians and ethicists to chime in on:

When it comes to the history and English courses, they’re absolutely right. We all look at language and history through the filters of culture. The subjects lend themselves to multiple interpretations, depending on your perspective. Understanding this, and being exposed to the full range of perspectives in these fields — including religious ones — is an essential part of secondary and undergraduate education.
But nobody, save the Christian schools, teaches science or math that way. There is no African-American or Latino or feminist or Jewish or Russian science (Hitler and Stalin notwithstanding). There’s just a method, and a group of techniques, and the skill-building and knowledge base required to use them well. Scientists do their best — with varying degrees of success — to uncover their cultural biases and move beyond them. The greatest ones regard bias as a dangerous source of error: it can blind you, and lead you to draw the wrong conclusions from the observed facts. For that reason, any textbook that starts off by telling you to believe a 2,000-year-old religious scripture over your own lying eyes is not teaching science. It’s putting students on the path to a Christian version of Lysenkoism.

But the whole essay was prompted by Sara’s initial sense of despair she felt before discovering this case:

I’ve been saying for a long while now that the power to end the Intelligent Design fiasco, firmly and finally and with but a single word, rests in the manicured hands of the chancellors of America’s top universities. The message is short and simple: “Teach what you like, it’s all fine with us. But if you put ID in your science courses, we will not accept those courses as adequate for admission to our campus.”
Making this kind of public statement would be one small step for a university chancellor; and one giant leap for American science education. Somebody, somewhere, needs to set a firm standard. If our universities — which bear responsibility for training our professional scientists, and maintain the labs and faculties responsible for much of our best research — won’t stand up and draw that line, then we really are well and truly lost.

Well said. Feel free to add comments either here or over on Orcinus .
Technorati Tag: teaching-carnival

‘Flock of Dodos’ screenings in Raleigh

*N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
/Downtown Raleigh/
**Thursday, January 18
“Flock of Dodos” screening with filmmaker, Randy Olson
7:00 p.m. Museum Auditorium
*Filmmaker and Evolutionary Ecologist , Dr. Randy Olson, presents his
new film */Flock of Dodos/*: /*The Evolution / Intelligent Design Circus.*/
“Flock of Dodos” is the first feature-length documentary to present both
sides of the Intelligent Design / Evolution clash and tries to make
sense of the issue by visiting Olson’s home state of Kansas. The film
digs below the surface of the debate by examining the language being
used by both sides of this “circus” and the actual people presenting
each side. By doing so, Olson poses a serious question to the
scientific community as to who really is the “flock of dodos.”
After the screening, Dr. Olson will give a presentation followed by a
Question and Answer session.
The Museum will host additional free screenings of “Flock of Dodos” at
the following times:
Saturday, February 3, 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 10, 3:00 p.m.
Monday, February 12, Time is TBA — “Darwin Day”
We are hoping to have a panel of speakers in conjunction with the Darwin
Day screening. If you may be interested in participating on a panel to
further discuss this topic, please let us know.
The Museum is located at the corner of Jones and Salisbury Streets.

Creationism spreading around the world…

Oy, vey! In Russia, a test of God vs. Darwin:

….She did not attend the first two court hearings and seems far less interested in the outcome than her father, Kirill Shraiber, who spoke to the court on her behalf, and Anton Vuima, a family friend who heads a public relations firm called Spiritual Heritage.
Vuima, whose firm goes by the slogan, “We Create Sensations,” believes that nothing short of society’s collapse is at stake when it comes to the teaching of evolution. He, like the lawsuit, contends that Darwinism, while not a political ideology, stems from Marxist-Leninist ideology; after all, both Darwin and Karl Marx, who is said to have offered to dedicate Das Kapital to the scientist, wrote of grand struggles for survival.
Before launching the current “information war” against Darwin – which includes the Web site and a special number that is accepting text-message “votes” for and against the scientist – Vuima set out to determine how society as a whole had become so morally bankrupt.
He decided, in short, that it was because of a lack of faith in God. And, by his logic, since Darwin’s theory as presented in schools essentially teaches that there is no God, Darwin himself is the enemy.
“If we want to have a high level of morality, not just in Russia but all over the world, we have to challenge Darwin’s theory,” Vuima said. “Darwin’s theory kills morality. It denies the copyright of God.”
The Russian Orthodox Church is standing behind her. The Rev. Artemy Skripkin, head of the youth department of the St. Petersburg patriarchate, attended court hearings in a show of support. The next, perhaps final, one is scheduled for February.
“We consider it inadmissible when one theory – the theory of Darwin – is presented as the only true theory,” Skripkin said. “Russia has always been presented as an atheist country. We are not all atheists.
“What this school is advocating is atheism, which is wrong.”
But Sergei Mamontov, one of the authors, says the book doesn’t advocate anything – except the teaching of science. Taking offense to Darwinism, in his view, is like taking offense to the theories of Einstein or Copernicus.
“In middle and high school, students learn scientific theory – and not religious theory – for one simple reason: Nobody is able to prove religious theories,” said Mamontov, a professor of biology at Russian State Medical University and a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. “You just have to believe in them.”

2006: what a year for Intelligent Design!

This is the way Discovery Insitute intelligently designed the year.
This is the way 2006 actually evolved

Pictures of Professor Steve Steve

Below the fold are the pictures of me, Prof. Steve Steve and Rev.Big Dumb Chimp taken immediately after the Ken Miller talk in Raleigh. If we look a little drunk or high, it is because we were just subjected to an overdose of theistic evolution and religious apologetics!

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If only people read the Bible the way they read their contracts…

If only people read the Bible the way they read their contracts...So, why do Creationists and other quacks try so hard to sound all ‘scienc-y’? (June 15, 2005)

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Beaten by Biologists, Creationists Turn Their Sights On Physics

So says Sahotra Sarkar in the latest American Prospect.
Hat-tip: Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Update on M&Ms

While all this was going on I was wondering where Jason Rosenhouse would stand on all of this. He is back from a break and has two posts on the issue here and here.
Update: Chris Rowan wrote an intriguing analysis and a huge thread on the topic is still ongoing on Panda’s Thumb

I Like M&Ms

I am still sleepy from all that tryptophan in turkey meat and the Evolution wine, so I don’t think I have the energy to write a big post now – I’ll leave much of my thoughts on the matter for a post-weekend post reviewing Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
But I have to chime in briefly by sending you to the relevant links and copying some of the comments I wrote on those comment threads. Brace yourself for a lot of reading as there are several posts and many comments on each of the posts. Sorry, the links are not neccessarly in order, but you’ll get the gist of the argument anyway.
Ed Brayton starts out here and responds to criticisms here.
Larry Moran fires the first salvo here and responds here.
Pat Hayes pitches in here and here.
John Lynch has three posts on the topic: here, here and here.
Buridan clears up some definitions here.
John Pieret takes his side here and here.
John Wilkins just in with this.
PZ Myers (and a gazillion commenters) responds to the whole brouhaha here.
[Update: Josh Rosenau and Mike Dunford have some thoughts on the issue as well.]
[Update 2: Ed Brayton, John Pieret and John Lynch have added further responses.]
[Update 3: Razib, John and Ed have more…and now Josh again! And a good one from Tyler again. And now also Daniel Rhoads. And also Paul Decelles.]
Whoa! What an internecine war! By now, you know that “M&M” stands for Myers&Moran and my title of this post tells you where I stand.
First, let me copy a little quote from my review of Ken Miller’s talk:

“A few years ago, I was of the mind that something like theistic evolution is a good idea to spread the message that evolution is not evil. I thought that people like Ken Miller are great messengers to soften up the people (step 1) and prepare them for eventual compIete abandonment of the Creator (step 2). And even those who never get to Step 2 are less dangerous than straight-out creationists.
I certainly have no problems with anyone personally believing whatever they want. But I am more and more moving to the opinion that this is not a good strategy. It is just providing the apologia for the believers who have a problem with being perceived as medieval, and allowing them to, then, provide apologia for their more extreme brethren. They – the moderates and the fundies – flock together when the going gets tough and it really counts – the political battles between 15th and 21st centuries.
The moderates are no friends of reason when it counts the most, outside of comfortable chats on panels on campuses. Evolution battle is not a battle of science, it is a battle of mindsets and worldviews: medieval vs. modern. Giving a helping hand to those who give their helping hand to the medieval bigots and authoritarians is not a good strategy. They need to be made uncomfortable – Dawkins-style – and forced to choose and come clear with which side they are on. Otherwise, they’ll play nice with us when it does not matter, and stick their fingers in their ears and sing “la-la-la” when real action is required.”

People who focus narrowly on preventing IDC form entering schools do not see the big picture, i.e., that Creationism Is Just One Symptom Of Conservative Pathology (go read that post now!). Thus, people like Dawkins, Myers (or me) are fighting against the bad politics of the church.
While Lennonnesque Imaginings of a world without religion are cute fantasies, we are a little bit more realistic. We know that religion is here to stay no matter what we do and we know that even organized religion can be and has been harnessed for change for good (as in Civil Rights movement). So, we want to fight against the political (added clarification: conservative) aggressiveness of churches in all spheres – creationism being just one of the prongs of their multi-prong strategy to roll back Enlightement.
While evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science are best suited to counteract creationism (and reproductive and developmental biologists to counteract abstinence-only education, opposition to abortion, stem-cell research and cloning, and psychologists and others should use their knowledge to counteract other prongs of their strategy), we need to all be aware that there is a big picture and that we need to work on it all together.
Part of the battle is to force the mealy-mouthed “moderates” to choose sides. ‘Mealy-mouthed’ moderates are, for instance, “liberal Christians” who believe in evolution and are generally on right side of issues but do not raise any voices against their fundie brethren and, when push comes to shove, side with them (as they are all Christians) against us. [added: this group also includes closet atheists/agnostics too afraid to speak up]
Different targets will respond to different tactics. Dawkins/Harris/Dennett tactic WILL work as one part of the strategy, targeting particular groups, and moreover changing the environment in which the debate is fought (a little bit of niche-construction). Ken Miller and those folks have their roles and can move over other types of people to choose sides.
The M&M approach is only going to push the true fundies away and they are already as far away as can be. The moderates – those who are culturally religious but on the right side on most scientific, moral and social issues – are unlikely to be pushed away by M&M rhetoric, and may even get a validation from it and get pushed in the opposite direction.
Dawkins, Harris and Dennett are changing the landscape of the discourse, forming an environment in which it is possible to talk about atheism and religion on a level field. Without them, we’d be forced to hide our atheism even more than before and allow the fundies to define us as amoral.
In other words, focusing only on preventing creationism from entering schools is missing the forest for the trees. We have managed to win a bunch of court cases, the latest one in Dover. But we have not won in the court of public opinion. And, if the entire religious plan succeeds, the courts of the future will be filled with clones of Priscilla Owen and all our victories against Creationism (and the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in school, ten commandments in courthouses…) will be reversed.
Thus, in order to win the war, we have to engage the enemy at all fronts, not just the one where we feel like it. Let’s look at some previous success stories.
Women did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat. African-Amercans did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat. Gays did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat.
What those three groups did, and are still doing, is changing the discourse by being darn loud! A hundred years ago, a woman was a man’s property – not any more, and it is deemed extremely vile to suggest so in this day and age. Fifty years ago, stating that Blacks and Whites should be separated because Blacks are stupid and dangerous was a mainstream position – try saying that today and see what happens to you! Ten years ago, saying you are gay invited getting beaten up. See what just a decade of loud agitation has done – some kind of movement towards the right direction (gay marriage of civil unions) in several US states, Canada, Spain, UK, South Africa, now even Israel!
The first, loud pioneers set the stage for the debate and move the goalposts. They often endanger themselves initially, but their example prompts many others to come out of the closet. There are always those who are too afraid to speak out, to rock the boat. They try to talk the enemy out of destroying them instead of exposing the enemy for the brute it is. Being moderate, playing nice, and appeasing the fundies hellbent on destroying you is not a working strategy. Building a large, loud, uncompromising and powerful movement is. Ridiculing the enemy in the public sphere and changing the discourse – what is mainstream and what is not – gradually wins our wars against the anti-Enlightement forces.
If you go to feminist, Black and LGTB blogs, you’ll see that it is easy for them to make fun of latest rantings by white, rich males, like Brooks, Tierney and Derbyshire. But they have particular ire against people of their own who either side with the enemy or allow to be manipulated by the enemy – the antifeminist women, the Blacks who push (as Republican officials, usually) the anti-Black agenda, the Mehlmans and other gays in the GOP who actively work on anti-gay legislation. Why is it suprising that such a thing would not happen in the, much newer and younger, atheist movement?
The silent reverence for religion is something quite American. You need to read this to understand where I come from. In Yugoslavia, in 1941 everyone was officially religious, in 1951 some people were religious but were too afraid to say so because they feared persecution, in 1961, some people were still religious (although getting older), they went to church on Sunday but did not tout their religiosity in fear of ridicule. By the time I was aware of my surroundings in the 1970s and 1980s, only very few people were religious, those were very old and mostly in the countryside and nobody my age believed in God:

“The resurgence of religion in the area in the 1990s is fascinating to me. I do not believe that most of those people are really religious i.e., believe in God. It is purely a political instrument, as well as a way to use easily recognizable signals to differentiate between ethnic groups that are otherwise indistinguishable. Thus Serbs started sporting Orthodox paraphernalia, Croats Catholic stuff, and Bosnians Islamic symbols.”

The Western pundits, steeped in their own culture, quite erroneously labeled the Balkan conflict a “religious war”. It was more a war between the fans of Red Star, Dinamo and Zeljeznicar soccer clubs. And while the decade of wars and economic sanctions, coupled with migrations of the best-educated abroad and the country-folks into cities, made public religiosity by Right-wing extremists OK, the country is still predominantly atheist and secular. See this if you don’t believe.
Here in the USA, we cannot institute a top-down government-sponsored ridicule of religion. The system works differently here. Big societal changes, including changes in how we think about issues, are brought about by large, loud movements. But if atheists form such a movement – and this looks like a great time for a backlash against the fundamentalist overreaching – the discourse will change. Nobody in the next generation will fall for the idiotic notion that atheists are immoral. And, just like the communist government in the old Yugoslavia realized, there is no need for any kind of legislation banning religion and religious activities – public ridicule does the job marvelously on itself.
In this post (another must-read) I wrote:

Thus, we need to see the battle over evolution not as a separate battle, but as a part of a bigger war between Enlightement and Anti-Enlightement. One cannot be won without the other. And while some battles in this war can be and should be fought at the level of national politics, the battle over education, including the battle over evolution, requires us to get at their kids. For that, we need to go local. Winning cases in court works only for the short term – they will come again and again and, with conservative activist judges being appointed left and right, they will start winning soon. Getting elected to school-boards, teaching in schools, teaching the teachers, pushing for non-test-based educational systems, pushing for tests of critical thinking (including evolutionary thinking) in schools as well as for home-schooled children, …those are the ways to fight them long term, thus the only way to win this battle. Winning this battle – the battle over childrearing and education – will be the key for winning the whole war long term. Without new recruits from the new generations of children, the forces of Anti-Enlightement will dwindle in numbers, lose power, and finally die out. As a liberal, I am an optimist, a believer in progress, and cannot see how, in the long term they can win and we can lose. But in the meantime we need to fight to prevent them from incurring too much damage while they still have the power. Explaining evolution over and over again is not the way to do it.

But the project I describe here can only be succesful if the social and political environment allows it. And to change the discourse, to start getting taken seriously, and to change what is mainstream and what is not we need more M&Ms. If reason prevails and fundamentalism looses, then nobody will ever overturn our legal victories against Creationists. If we keep winning anti-IDC cases but ignore the environment in which it all happens, we will soon start loosing in courts as well. It’s fine if Ken Millers of the world want to help out in IDC cases and to move some minds on their lecture circuits, but in the long run, they’ll have to decide are they on the side of reason or on the side of their religion which also includes the most politically active fundies.
Dawkins is correct:

I tell Dawkins what he already knows: He is making life harder for his friends. He barely shrugs. “Well, it’s a cogent point, and I have to face that. My answer is that the big war is not between evolution and creationism, but between naturalism and supernaturalism. The sensible” – and here he pauses to indicate that sensible should be in quotes – “the ‘sensible’ religious people are really on the side of the fundamentalists, because they believe in supernaturalism. That puts me on the other side.”

Darwin in Serbia

Darwin in SerbiaTwo years ago, there was quite a brouhaha in the media when Serbian minister for education decided to kick Darwin out of schools. The whole affair lasted only a few days – the public outrage was swift and loud and the minister was forced to resign immediately. I blogged about it profusely back then and below the fold are those old posts:

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Watch a horse explode!

This is a Pinto that has evolved by natural (and a little bit of artificial) selection:
This is a Pinto that was intelligently designed:
Casey Luskin does not understand the difference.
Although, apparently, even the designed Pinto is always evolving:

Reverend William Paley’s Circadian Clock

Reverend William Paley's Circadian ClockAn oldie but goodie (June 12, 2005) debunking one of the rare Creationist claims that encroaches onto my territory.

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Shermer on Evolution

Michael Shermer has an interview in the latest American Scientist on Creationism and his new book Why Darwin Matters.

Ken Miller talk

Last night I went back to my old campus to attend the Dr. Robert Rabb Lecture by Ken Miller. The Stewart Theater was packed. I saw a lof of old friends, but, as it was crowded, only got to spend some time talking to a couple of them.
Oh, there were bloggers there, too, of course. I first met up with Reed and Professor Steve Steve. Steve Steve is omnipresent (today in Raleigh, NC, yesterday in Vancouver, before that in Australia), omniscient and omnipotent (knew how and then fixed the computer and projector for the speaker) and benevolent (endless patience getting his picture taken with everyone – will post once available). Mr R was also there with his wife, but had to leave during the break between the lecture and the panel discussion, so we met for only a few seconds.
Rev.BigDumbChimp is Dr.Rabb’s grandson. He drove up from South Carolina for the occasion. Reed and I were worried how we were going to find him in the crowd. I suggested we get up to the microphone and ask for Big Dumb Chimp and hope he’d raise his hand and yell “It’s me”. I do not recall now why we decided not to pursue this strategy. Anyway, he walked in with the rest of the Rabb family and we immediatelly recognized each other (having a picture on one’s blog is sometimes a good idea) and got to chat a little bit. Hopefully, he’ll come to the Science Blogging Conference in January so we can have more time to talk.
Ken Miller is a very polished and energetic speaker. I had to remind myself that I was an unusually well-informed person in the audience of academics there – I actually knew the details of the Dover trial and have read big chunks of Judge Jones’ decision, I have recognized the authors of all quotes before he revealed them (including the quote from the Pope), and I new all the examples of evolutionary findings he used (whale evolution, Tiktaalik, immune system evolution, bacterial flagellum evolution). But I read science blogs all the time, including the Panda’s Thumb. Scientists do not – they read scientific papers all the time and are not as well informed about the creationist shenannigans, so much was probably new to them last night. In any case, it was fun, and getting a little bit of internal information from the courtroom proceedings was great.
But then, in the last part of the talk, he started on his apologetics for theistic evolution, slamming Dawkins for being “pessimistic” and totally misunderstanding the Darwin quote (the last paragraph in the Origin):
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
This does not mean there is a God making the world wondrous, it means that there is no need for the God hypothesis to see the grandeour. Actually, the God hypothesis impoverishes one’s sense and prevents one from being able to see the full scope of the grandeur of the Universe.
The panel afterwards was worse, with six “liberal” clergy-members on it: Miller is Catholic, there was a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a guy leading the Campus Crusade for Christ, a Moslem and a Reform Rabbi (the only one I knew from before – Rabbi Lucy Dinner of Temple Beth Or, the only woman on the panel). There was no representative of atheism on the panel, so these six people were free to preach “love”, and the power of prayer, and the Non-overlapping Magisteria without being challenged. I was sitting there watching them and thinking – hey, of all the hundreds of smart people in the auditorium, they picked the six with emotional problems to tell us all how to think?! OK, they were not the worse – there was also a local Creationist (YEC) group there, too scared to ask questions in public so they tried their hand afterwards, with Ken Miller enjoying himself visibly while rebuffing all their claims.
A few years ago, I was of the mind that something like theistic evolution is a good idea to spread the message that evolution is not evil. I thought that people like Ken Miller are great messengers to soften up the people (step 1) and prepare them for eventual compIete abandonment of the Creator (step 2). And even those who never get to Step 2 are less dangerous than straight-out creationists.
I certainly have no problems with anyone personally believing whatever they want. But I am more and more moving to the opinion that this is not a good strategy. It is just providing the apologia for the believers who have a problem with being perceived as medieval, and allowing them to, then, provide apologia for their more extreme brethren. They – the moderates and the fundies – flock together when the going gets tough and it really counts – the political battles between 15th and 21st centuries.
The moderates are no friends of reason when it counts the most, outside of comfortable chats on panels on campuses. Evolution battle is not a battle of science, it is a battle of mindsets and worldviews: medieval vs. modern. Giving a helping hand to those who give their helping hand to the medieval bigots and authoritarians is not a good strategy. They need to be made uncomfortable – Dawkins-style – and forced to choose and come clear with which side they are on. Otherwise, they’ll play nice with us when it does not matter, and stick their fingers in their ears and sing “la-la-la” when real action is required.
Note: the links to bloggers are now links to their own commentaries on the talk.

Ken Miller in Raleigh

Rev. BigDumbChimp alerts me that Ken Miller will be in Raleigh on November 6th, giving a lecture at NCSU at 7pm. Tickets are free but you have to have one in order to attend. You can get your tickets here.

Chuck Norris Creationist

Hmmm, didn’t it occur to him for a moment that “survival of the fittest” may be true back when Bruce Lee beat him up?bruce%20lee%20beats%20up%20chuck%20norris.jpg

The “-ism” frame

In response to wonderful fisking by Ed of a really silly Creationist screed, Archy comments on the use of the terms “Darwinist” by Creationists, as a marketing tool to paint biologists as dogmatic, while at the same time avoding the term “creationist” in order to paint themselves as scientific:

Their use of the terms “Darwinism” and “Darwinist” aren’t the result sheer ignorance; it’s a carefully thought out propaganda strategy. An “-ism” implies an ideology or a dogma. It moves evolution out of science and into the land of politics or religion: though which is based on faith or blind adherence and not reason. Americans are trained to be suspicious of ideology and like to believe that their beliefs are practical and nonideological (whether they really are or not is another question). Just getting the word “Darwinism” before the audience gains them a few points in any argument. This is the same reason that some Creationists use the terms “evolutionism” and “evolutionist” to describe our side.

DuaneSmith and Ron Chusid also look at it from a marketing perspective.
Earlier, I argued that the current marketing strategy of using these terms originated in a genuine inability to comprehend a non-dogmatic view of the world:

….But not a “Darwinist” or “evolutionist” – those two words are Creationists’ constructs. They arise from the basic misunderstanding of evolution. Being religious believers they cannot fathom that people can operate outside of the realm of belief, thus they assume that evolution is a belief, akin to and in competition with their belief.
Those two terms (“evolutionist” and “Darwinist”) have lately also been used on purpose, as code-words for their own audience. They understand that using these terms implies (and turns on a frame of mind in the listeners) that evolution is a religious belief. It is similar to the way I think of myself as a member of the Democratic Party, but Republicans prefer to use the Luntzism “Democrat Party”. It’s all about framing the debate.

And the word “democratic” is avoided by the Right because it reminds listeners that the Republican party is un-democratic and anti-democratic. They all went to the same propaganda schools.

Evolution Project And A Truly Fair And Balanced Fox

Evolution Project And A Truly Fair And Balanced FoxMeandering Musings on evolutionary psychology and many other things (from February 15, 2005)…

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Equal Rights For Idiots!

Except that getting elected for office is not a right and saying that a Creationist is not to be trusted with governing is not bigotry.
(Hat-tip: Lindsay)

Big Teeth and some other Big Organs…

When you are hungry for news about mammoths, you go and visit Archy, of course. But this time, he moves sideways to take a look at mastodons, hippos and Ken Hamm. And the tail, or whatever that is….

March Of The Penguins, again

Hungry Hyena has an interesting critique of the movie.

Wilkins is on a roll…

Why are creationists creationist? 4: How to oppose anti-science

Obligatory Readings of the Day – why, why, why?

Why are religious people religious, in two parts: Why do religious wingnuts think the way they do? Part I and Why do religious wingnuts think the way they do? Part II
Why are creationists creationists, in three parts: Why are creationists creationist?, Why are creationists creationist? 2 – conceptual spaces and Why are creationists creationist? 3: compartments and coherence.
Why conservatives take conservative jobs and suck if sucked into liberal professions, in two parts: It takes talent to make good schlock TV and Conservatives in the classroom FAQs at my fingertips

You know that I am excited about my kids’ great start of school this year. Today when I picked them up from school, Coturnix Jr. informed me that he needed a piece of posterboard and some glue for his debate class. Ah, he is going to be so good at that, the family he is growing in… It makes him a tough kid to raise but great fun to converse with. I bet he can get PZ to join Southern Baptists!
Anyway, that was a tangent. After depositing kids at home I went to the local drugstore to get his supplies. I go there all the time, but today there was a new cashier there, a guy of about 50, I reckon. He rang my stuff and while I was paying he asked:
C(ashier): Who’s that?
M(e): Who?
C: That on you t-shirt? (I was wearing my AMNH Darwin shirt) Darwin?
M: A-ha.
C: I heard that, before his death, he recanted…
M: No. That is a lie pushed by Creationists. And even if he did, it does not matter. It’s not about the man but the idea. He got it right and it does not matter if he changed his mind fifteen times, it will still remain true.
C: Weeeellll, that is one of those things that there is no proof for or proof against…
M: No. Science is not about proofs. Math is about proofs. Science is about evidence. And since there is a mountain of evidence for evolution and none whatsoever against it, we’d be smart to stick with the best explanation we have.
Then I stood there waiting for question No.3, the one about why there are still monkeys, but, not being DaveScot, he had reached the limit of his familiarity with the topic by then so there was nothing else to say but Good Bye.
I doubt I changed his mind, but I also doubt he ever heard the answers put that way, so perhaps I planted a worm in his head. What I found interesting is the way I behaved. A few years ago, in a similar situation, I’d be stumped at first, then I would start on a long angry tirade. But, after a couple of years of reading science blogs and hundreds of threads on Pharyngula, even though I rarely bash Creationists on my blog, I internalized, almost by osmosis, all the right answers to all the classical Creationist claims.
Thus, today I was able to respond quickly, with brief, easy-to-grasp statements, without ever losing my temper and the neighborly smile, yet with an air of confidence and authority on the topic. Even if I did not change his mind, the whole encounter made me feel better about myself.


Richard Hoppe further dissects Jonathan Wells’ ideas about Ohio State University mentioned in Chapter 16.

PIG at the altar

The fisking of Chapter 15 of Wells’ PIG is now up on Panda’s Thumb. It has something to do with church! Wonder, what has church to do with the “science” of Intelligent Design?!

Slaughtering the PIG continues….

Mark Perakh debunks Chapter 16 of Jonathan Well’s poor excuse of a book. The chapter is on alleged new “Lysenkoism” in today’s American science, which has nothing to do with historical Lysenkoism.

Call for action!

Previously unopposed, “…the most notorious creationist on the Ohio State Board of Education, Deborah Owens Fink, has a challenger in the Novemeber 7th election.” The election is non-partisan and the serious challenger is Tom Sawyer. You can get all of the details from Ed Brayton (as well as additional views by Chad, John and Kevin). Ed writes:

“Sawyer is the former mayor of Akron, a former state legislator and an 8 term US congressman from Ohio. Sawyer’s bonafides for a board of education seat are impressive. He is a former school teacher, and husband of a school teacher. He was the chairman of the House Education Committee during his time in the state legislature of Ohio, and was a member of the education committee in the US House of Representatives as well. So this is a guy who brings an enormous amount of experience to the job, which has Owens Fink scared.”

So, this is a good opportunity to replace the Queen of Darkness with a serious person, and thus ensure that kids in Ohio get served education instead of indoctrination.
What can you do to help?
Visit Tom Sawyer’s campaign website, where you can get informed, volunteer to help if you live in Ohio, or donate to the campaign if you live elsewhere. This is a fight worth fighting and let’s do everything we can to help Sawyer get elected.

The Secret is Lies

In the ongoing series of fiskings of Jonathan Wells’ PIG book over on Panda’s Thumb, Andrea Bottaro has posted his verbal destruction of Chapter 9.

Deep Wells of Dishonesty and Ignorance, Unveiling Slowly

I finally got to meet Reed Cartwright in person last night. Now that he is in Raleigh, and Panda’s Thumb resides in my old building on campus, I hope I’ll see him more often.
Speaking of Panda’s Thumb, it is currently, as in “this week”, demonstrating the power of the scienceblogging community, dissecting Jonathan Wells’ new pamphlet-in-book-form “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” literally chapter by chapter.
The introduction to the series was written by Reed. Burt Humburg tackles the first chapter. PZ Myers dissected the Chapter 3, first with a draft on his own blog, then in a final form on Panda’s Thumb. Jason Rosenhouse is working on Chapter 8. You can see the draft on his blog and the final article will be appearing on Panda’s Thumb in a couple of days. Tara is just getting warmed up for the utter destruction of her assigned chapter.

Happy that the Common Ancestor is Common

As we age, our sleep gets less well consolidated: we take more naps during the day and wake up more oftenduring the night. This happens to other mammals as their age. Now we know that it also happens in Drosophila:

“As humans age, so I’m told, they tend not to sleep as well. There are all sorts of reasons — aches and pains, worries about work and lifelong accumulations of sins that pretty much rule out the sweet sleep of innocence.
But what about fruit flies? Not as a cause of insomnia. What about the problems fruit flies have sleeping?
Yes, Drosophila melanogaster also suffer sleep disruption when they get older. And a report on the troubled sleep of drosophila is being published online this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is the kind of science that makes you wonder.
For instance, are the male flies getting up to go to the bathroom threetimes a night? Are the female flies complaining about hot flashes? Of course not. Fruit flies don’t have bathrooms.
Or you might wonder what troubles are keeping the flies up. They don’t have to worry about family values, illegal immigration or debt. They don’t have families or money.
And given the ubiquity of fruit and of scientific research, I’m guessing drosophila, bless their little genomes, must benefit from something close to full employment.”

But that is just the impetus for James Gorman to wonder why so many people deny evolution and why don’t other, like he does, enjoy the wonder of being related to every living organism on this planet:

“What I wonder is why people waste time worrying about whether we evolved from animals. But they do. A disconcerting number of North Americans doubt the fact of evolution. The U.S. seems almost evenly divided on the matter, says a recent report in Science.
Some of the worriers concentrate on apelike ancestors, showing a lack of vision.
There are stranger connections to agonize over, like drosophila and beyond. We share sleep problems with fruit flies. We have a huge amount of DNA in common with yeast.
Those are our distant cousins we consume in leavened bread, our fellow multi-celled organisms undergoing dreadful experiments in the drosophila lab. For instance, scientists have heated up the ambient temperature in fruit flies’ environment to see what happens. At 64 degrees Fahrenheit they live twice as long as at 84 degrees. Live hot, die young.
What does that mean for us?
We really do share a lot with drosophila. Fruit flies have sleep-wake cycles that become fragmented as they age, suffering a “loss of sleep consolidation, namely increased daytime sleep and increased night-time wakefulness in the elderly,” as Kyunghee Koh at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and three colleagues describe it.
Sound familiar?Some of the same genes related to circadian rhythms occur in humans and in flies. Mutations in some of these shared clock genes can cause sleep disorders in people.
We also share genes related to learning and alcohol sensitivity. But even these commonalities are not worth worrying about. The genes are just details. We have the same basic cell machinery — DNA, for example — with everything living.
The bacteria in my gut accounts for more genes than I have in my chromosomes. We not only have a lot in common with microbes, in a way that is only beginning to be understood, we are microbes.
This is fine with me. I’m delighted to be related to flies, yeast, frogs, chimps and blue-green algae.
I find the serenity of algae restful and the ambition of yeast admirable.
Frogs are great jumpers. Chimps have hands at the end of their feet, sort of.
And fruit flies, well, I never met a fruit fly that I was ashamed to share genes with, and I certainly can’t say that about human beings.”

Wonderfully put. I just had to go over what is appropriate and save all those words here and not let them dissappear into the Black Hole of newspaper archives. Thank you, Mr Gorman.

Evolution and Design class

Allen McNeill’s Cornell course on Evolution and Design is now over and the student papers have been posted online.
Dan comments on some of them.

Will God win in Kansas today?

The eyes of the nation today are (or should be) on Kansas elections, as many Creationists on the school board are facing tough reality-based challengers. If you are in Kansas – go and vote. If you want to know how it all goes, check what Josh and Pat report during the day.
Update: Science won!

Why Creationists Need To Be Creationists

 Why Creationists Need To Be Creationists This is a long post from January 23, 2005, trying to tie in Creationism and conservatism through psychology:

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Great Men and Science Education

Great Men and Science Education. This is a post intwo parts – the second being a reaction to the responses that the first one engendered. They may be a little rambling, especially the first one, but I still think that there is quite a lot there to comment on.

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It’s hard teaching evolution in public schools in some places

Evolution’s Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom:

OCCASIONALLY, an educational battle will dominate national headlines. More commonly, the battling goes on locally, behind closed doors, handled so discreetly that even a teacher working a few classrooms away might not know. This was the case for Pat New, 62, a respected, veteran middle school science teacher, who, a year ago, quietly stood up for her right to teach evolution in this rural northern Georgia community, and prevailed.
She would not discuss the conflict while still teaching, because Ms. New wouldn’t let anything disrupt her classroom. But she has decided to retire, a year earlier than planned. “This evolution thing was a lot of stress,” she said. And a few weeks ago, on the very last day of her 29-year career, at 3:15, when Lumpkin County Middle School had emptied for the summer, and she had taken down her longest poster from Room D11A — the 15-billion-year timeline ranging from the Big Bang to the evolution of man — she recounted one teacher’s discreet battle.

She appears to be an excellent teacher, covering every unit in biology within an evolutionary context. She prevailed only because Georgia science standards explicitely endorse teaching of evolution. Her supervisors were not supportive, though, until she threatened to sue, at which point they suddenly turned 180 degrees and were all sugar and spice. She only did it when she decided to retire anyway, though.
Now imagine if the state did not have those standards, which almost happened…. Read the rest

There need not be anything wrong with Kansas…

…if we all pitch in an help the challengers to get elected to the Kansas School Board – those people who are trying to replace the Creationists and get science education in the state back on track. How can you help? Josh Rosenau of Thoughts From Kansas has all the information put together so you can get the information and, if you can, help.

Creationism Is Just One Symptom Of Conservative Pathology

Creationism Is Just One Symptom Of Conservative Pathology
This is one a couple of posts about Creationism, written originally on May 1st, 2005.

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Comissar in the Seventh House

There is a whole slew of responses to this silly post by Comissar/
It is a typical effort to make “balance” between Left and Right in order to make the Right appear more palatable, …or palatable at all. The typical He-said-She-said approach that tries to equalize the enormously dangerous policies of the Right (see my previous post below) with follies of some powerless, silly people on the fringes that nominally belong to the Left (and vote Nader when it really matters!).
But, since when was Astrology part of the Democratic Party platform, even at state level, like Creationism and Global Warming Denial are in the GOP? Which party did Nancy Reagan belong to? And who the hell is Jerome Armstrong and why should I care? Is he just another Ward Churchill, a nobody that the vicious Right can beat up on blogs every day?
So, read the responses (and excellent comments) by:
PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, DarkSyde, Brent Rassmussen and Alon Levy.
It is funny that Comissar lists people who are so different from each other politically, some closer to Comissar himself than to the DNC. It is also funny that Comissar lists people who have, originally, when it was still fun before more dangerous and pressing things happened to the world in November 2000, written against astrology and other pseudoscience. It is also funny that he lists people who have invented the Skeptic’s Circle and Carnival of the Godless where such stuff is debunked (and the founder of Tangled Bank in which such stuff was debunked before the founding of the Skeptic’s Circle).
And I have chimed in on this topic before in Lefty and Righty excesses of pseudo-science.