Monthly Archives: July 2008

When Creationist T-Shirts Go Bad

Searching the web for creationism is sometimes like sifting through trash and finding the occasional humorous but, completely worthless, object. You feel darn conflicted. You’re dirty from the trash but the “prize” makes the whole ordeal somehow worthwhile. Behold, the rotten fruit of my labors.

Irony

Irony

It actually says “Science From Dumbies”. This ironic work of art is from a website called Evolving Minds, but they’re selling them on eBay, too. Their “mission” statement is:
We are a new ministry dedicated to the fight against the theory of Evolution. We think it is important to defend ourselves against the falsehood of Evolution and the lies that are associated with it… Our mission is to reach out to the lost, mainly those who believe in Evolution. We hope to change their thinking and challenge their faith in the theory of Evolution. Our goal is to fully equip anyone who has the drive to debate this topic. We are in this fight together and want to offer our resources to help destroy the work of the devil.
The back of this devil fighting t-shirt has a popular misquote from Charles Darwin’s Origin Of Species. It’s on the origin of the eye, and Talk Origins explains the details of their mistake. Also, the EvolvingMind’s links page contains both Kent Hovind (DrDino) and Ben Stein (Expelled: The Movie). I guess the Young Earth Creationists operating this ministry didn’t read the memo about Intelligent Design ostensibly being a secular theory, or see the news about Kent Hovind’s imprisonment on tax fraud. Wait… I’m still laughing hard at the shirt.

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Filed under Trawling For Creationism

The Discovery Institute’s Hoopla Machine

Casey Luskin insists the Discovery Institute is a secular think tank. And he says it with a straight face.

What is it about the spreading of pseudo-science that makes reasonable people cringe and gag? One characteristic is surely the introduction of religious / political thinking into discussions of fact. The natural world simply is. If it upsets our human sensibilities, too freaking bad for us. When a bull shark bites a potential food item (a human leg, perhaps), it is being neither good nor evil; it’s simply hungry and inquisitive. It’s nothing personal. Thus, describing the natural world is best accomplished through observations of what is, not through contemplation of how things should be. Blaming Darwinism for the Holocaust, communism, capitalism, rock ‘n roll music, abortion, racism, moral relativism, and the general decay of Western society is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether or not evolution by natural selection is a valid explanation for observed evolutionary change on planet Earth. What is and what ought to be are two distinct questions.

But throw a rock at the Discovery Institute and you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist or a lawyer than an actual scientist. For example, Casey Luskin, an attorney with the DI, blogs to his fellow intelligent designers about the “it’s just a theory” argument.

Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution “just a theory, not a fact.” The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The “evolution is just a theory, not a fact” phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don’t follow the issue very closely.

But most creationists do use the argument, endlessly. They also use the “intelligent designer” and “irreducible complexity” arguments. The fact is that intelligent design creationists are a small minority. Polls indicate that most American creationists are of the Old Earth variety. And I think the Discovery Institute knows this full well. Isn’t it really all about talking points, ones the DI can easily disseminate, and ones the general public can easily digest and regurgitate, regardless of the scientific facts?

Casey Luskins also lists his scientific qualifications:

Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism.

Fine, be a skeptic, Luskin. But are you as skeptical about intelligent design? Have you taken a dozen courses covering intelligent design at the undergraduate and graduate level? No, because intelligent design isn’t a science, and it can be pretty well summed up in a single 15 minute lecture. ID is a vague conclusion, not an explanation. The only thing propping it up is a propaganda machine. And all the whining in the world about “morals”, “culture”, and “academic freedom” isn’t going to polish the ID turd. The Discovery Institute calls itself the “Center for Science and Culture”. But it really should choose one or the other, “science” or “culture”, not both. Let “ought” and “is” be distinct; life works so much better when our desires don’t cloud our judgment of reality.

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Intelligent Design, Politics

Louisiana’s State Of Arrested Development

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill that would essentially allow the injection of religion into public schools, particularly the science classroom. If a teacher finds evolution objectionable he or she is free to water it down with a shot of creationism, whether it be the fire and brim stone variety of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) or the more modern argument of Intelligent Design (ID). Come to think of it, teachers could offer any number of alternative arguments. Who’s to stop them now? How about a little Scientology for the students? Space aliens populated the Earth…L. Ron Hubbard said so.

This bill is unfortunate for Louisiana since its students have a history of being ranked near the bottom in math and science skills. The New York Times reported on a 1991 Federal Math Survey: 

States in the South and notably poor states did worst, with Louisiana earning the lowest average and Washington, D.C., scoring even lower.

Governor Jindal reported in a speech from March 31, 2008:

Unfortunately, we still rank among the worst in the country when it comes to students’ reading and math scores… flexible funding of $20 million can be used by school districts to recruit teachers in subjects where we consistently lag behind, such as math and science.

So Governor Jindal isn’t doing Louisiana’s students any favors with this bill. Violating the separating of church and state is bad enough, but wasting valuable classroom time with pseudo-scientific garbage is shameful. Clearly, the politicians of Louisiana would rather use public education as a political chew toy than take it seriously. The only ones benefiting from this bill are ultra-religious rabid dogs.       

For a more in depth report of Bobby Jindal’s pathetic views go here. He actually said:

I don’t think students learn by us withholding information from them. Some want only to teach intelligent design, some only want to teach evolution. I think both views are wrong, as a parent.

Is creationism withheld from students? Isn’t it everywhere in society? Children are exposed to religious views at home, at church, and though the media. The only exposure most ever will get to real science is in the science classroom. And now that’s being eroded.

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Monkey See, Monkey Do Math

I think the general public has a somewhat comical view of animals and their mental abilities. From chickens playing tic-tac-toe at county fairs to “stupid pet tricks” on TV to humorous news clips of zoo animals entertaining the masses. It isn’t much of a résumé. Perhaps one of the mental barriers to seeing evolution in a clear light is regarding animals as buffoons; and being related to a buffoon is unacceptable to many people.

But if we actually give animal behavior more than a cursory glance, we find that many groups exhibit extraordinary abilities on par with humans, if not quanititatively then qualitatively. My favorite is the birds, specifically the corvid family. (Monkeys get all the attention, the diaper wearing media whores.) New Caledonian Crows have demonstrated their ability to use tools. Watch the video of a crow forming a wire tool, but look closely or you’ll miss the key moment.     

Wikipedia:

Bird Intelligence

Books:

Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays” by Candace Savage

 “Ravens In Winter” by Bernd Heinrich 

 

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