The entertainment world is on fire with the rumor of another creation movie from Kevin Miller, the maker of Expelled. The story is to be based on the life of evangelist creationist Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino, the tax dodger, the prison bitch.
In September 2009, Resurrection Pictures is partnering in the release of The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry—a heartwarming coming-of-age story about three 12-year-old boys who are shown how to apply Scripture to daily struggles—and is a 2009 Silver Sponsor of the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival. Creation, Resurrection Pictures’ first original film project— a humorous and tearful story of a high school biology teacher’s struggle to expose the lie of evolution, based on the life of creation evangelist Dr. Kent Hovind and written by Kevin Miller the writer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for production in 2010.
My reaction to this news can’t be expressed in mere words, so I offer you this video. Just pretend I’m the talk show host, and Kevin Miller and Kent Hovind are the guests. The fact that it’s in Dutch is irrelevant, for laughter is an international language.
I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of speciesby biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.
Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.
What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.
Sexual differences in freshwater Swordtail. Male has a long tail appendage to show off to the ladies.
I consider Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man two of the greatest books never read by creationists. Both are beautiful works celebrating the details of the natural world. But many creationists condemn them without even a glance. They read reviews, they often say, or they rely on the “experts” to judge the value of Darwin’s “theories”. The unwilling creationists don’t know what they’re missing.
Even within Darwin’s dry technical books -as apposed to his personal journals or autobiography- there is the occasional glimpse into his sense of humor. In The Descent of Man, for instance, one can read a hundred pages of qualitative data and then be surprised with a mild joke, an anecdote, or a quip about the French. Here Darwin talks about the quiet female Cicada:
Every one who has wandered in a tropical forest must have been astonished at the din made by the male Cicadæ. The females are mute; as the Grecian poet Xenarchus says, “Happy the Cicadas live, since they all have voiceless wives.”
See, wife jokes were funny in 19th century England and ancient Greece. And it goes to show that a century is not a long period of time at all. The year 1871, when The Descent Of Man was published, was yesterday. In the 18th century, Charles’ grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, once wrote about lending a college friend his class notes. The friend angrily returned them with a scribble across the cover, which accused him of atrocious spelling and being the son of a whore. Charles Darwin, you devil, you’re a human being after all. And you’re “descended from monkeys”.
Ben Stein is putting his smirk and whiny voice to ads for the DVD release of Expelled: The Movie, No Intelligence Allowed. Christmas is just around the corner and a rotten lump of pseudo-scientific coal makes such a great stocking stuffer for the kids. In the ads, Mr. Stein claims Expelled is the #1 documentary of 2008. I think not. Let’s check the stats. Expelled grossed about 7.7 million and opened in 1052 theaters, while Bill Mahr’s documentary Religulous grossed10.6 million and only opened in 502 theaters. If Mr. Stein is alluding to the reviews of Expelled making it #1, then he is wrong on that point, too. Most reviews were resoundingly negative. For example, The New York TImes said,
Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.
Finally, if you go to the Expelled website you can crash their ironic poll asking, “Do you think Darwin’s theories are outdated?” If Darwin is over-the-hill, then creationism is fossilized. I made a funny.
If you haven’t heard Paul Harvey or Paul Harvey Jr. on the radio, then I envy you your ignorant bliss, for they both sound like a drunken Jimmy Stewart from the movie Harvey. The father and son “newsmen” do a short, cornball show covering the gamut, from world politics to folksy stories of small town America. The Harvey’s “reporting” style is reminiscent of old-time radio; imagine a man wearing a fedora, with one hand clasped over an ear, speaking into a enormous, chrome plated microphone. During their syndicated broadcast they shift seamlessly from important news stories to sales pitches for delicious buttery spreads to tales of conservative family values. I think Dude Lebowski might say the Harvey’s are out of their element, by about five decades.
Well, Thursday morning I woke up to Paul Harvey Jr. talking complete gobbledygook about the latest astrophysics and why it reestablishes the earth as unique in the universe. Have a listen, at least to the first 3 minutes.
“Science texts for four centuries have insisted that the earth is nothing special in the universe“. No. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was just a technical detail about earth’s position in the solar system. It didn’t say anything about its status or importance in the universe. Although, based on a lack of distinguishing features, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that our solar system isn’t particularly special. After all, there are billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, as Carl Sagan might point out. But that’s not going to stop a theist from grasping at straws.
“Inexplicable phenomenon“, “Dark energy“, “Dark matter“, “Dark flow“, and “Confounded“. Leave it to a gullible fool like Harvey Jr. to invoke the god-of-the- gaps argument; if scientists don’t understand something then it must be supernatural. i.e. I don’t know how David Copperfield did an illusion, therefore it’s must be real magic.
“Those dark forces… the infinitely vast reality that exists beyond it [the universe]“. Harvey Jr. thinks dark energy and dark matter exist beyond the universe. I didn’t know science could see that far.
“Accepted without question“. Scientists interrogate each other into submission because science is a method of investigation, which cannot be done without asking questions. Religious faith is loyalty to an idea regardless of the evidence. Don’t theists typically balk at Q&A sessions?
“The earth alone exists in a cosmic bubble“. Give a layman a little physics and he’ll twist and turn it into an Easter pretzel. It’s Harvey Jr. who exists in a intellectual bubble.
My advice is not to get your science news from giant invisible white rabbits named Harvey or credulous radio personalities.
If you occasionally peruse the New Scientist in book stores or on newsstands, or just enjoy a dose of easy-to-digest science, check out the magazine’s YouTube channel. My favorite of their latest videos is about the deepest living fish ever found. These little buggers, called Snailfish, show all the characteristics of a deep sea existence. For one, their tail musculature is greatly reduced, and their oversized pectoral fins provide most of the locomotion. Living in the deep, these fish don’t have to deal with strong wave action or fast currents. And it’s not surprising that their shallower-water cousins have more powerful tails, and a lot more body pigmentation.
God, the creator, must be a real lazy bastard. He basically took the same fish and pawned it off as two separate creations. I feel cheated.
Fictional mad scientists are most often portrayed as highly driven and glory hungry; they are the unwitting villains, the victims of their own inquisitive natures. Author, Reto Schneider, has written The Mad Science Book, whichchronicles the history and present of questionable experiments carried out by real-life “mad” scientists. A list of nine of these experiments is on The New Scientist website. My favorite is Dogbot, the robot dog that was a social reject. Real dogs wanted nothing to do with him. Maybe his nose glowed red or he aspired to be a dentist. Whatever the reason, Dogbot was not allowed to participate in dog games.
What I like about mad experimentation is it’s raw unbridled curiosity. What does it matter if some experiments go wrong or if others are completely useless and outright wacky? What counts is that humans have a desire to understand the world. Thomas Edison was a mad inventor; he wasted ten years of his life on devising a new mining technique, which failed miserably. He also designed furniture and homes made out of that comfortable substance know as concrete. Not big sellers.
The lesson here is that in a complex world, curiosity saves the cat, it doesn’t kill it. But still there is an intellectual divide in society. There are those who care to know the world, and those who don’t care to have their world views tarnished by reality. I’m talking about creationists here. To them a mad scientist is someone to be feared.