Tag Archives: science education

Religion Survey Results

A survey asking about people’s knowledge of religion has some not-so-surprising results. Protestants and Catholics are less knowledgeable about their own religion’s doctrines than atheists, Jews, and Mormons.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. [Yahoo News]

In addition, Americans don’t grasp the secular laws that protect both government and religion, the separation of church and state.

The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote. [Yahoo News]

Questions concerning Charles Darwin and evolution were included in the survey.

Respondents were also asked, “And which of these court trials focused on whether evolution could be taught in public schools?” and offered the choice of the Scopes trial, the Salem witch trials, and Brown vs. Board of Education. Only 31% of respondents selected the correct answer of the Scopes trial, 36% selected Brown vs. Board of Education, 3% selected the Salem witch trials, and 30% said that they didn’t know. [Nation center For Science Education]

Nothing particularly surprising in the results. The Pew Research Center’s report is here (PDF).

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Spin The Wheel Of Religion, Where She Stops No One Knows

One example of the inconsistency of religion

Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.

At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.

As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.

Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.

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The Universe, Religion, and Radio Signals

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.

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Top 15 Creation Science Fair Projects

Top 15 Creation Science Fair Projects

15. Sexual Selection: Observations on the blond girl next door
14. My mom’s purse and the 2nd law of thermodynamics
13. The Grand Canyon: It’s smaller than it looks
12. Human vs. parrot IQ test – How Mr. Crackers cheated
11. Practicing Social-Darwinism for fun and profit
10. Bible College Cut & Paste Research Techniques
9. Viagra and the irreducible complexity in my pants
8. The geology of baking soda volcanoes
7. SPF 13: The Devil’s Number
6. Peer Review, Schmear Review: My friends suck
5. Praying For An “A+”, Without Really Trying
4. Abiogenesis in the Pillsbury Dough Boy
3. Spanking the monkey: Literally!
2. That evil Charles Darwin: An Unbiased Review
1. Noah’s Ark: Cargo Ship or Luv Boat?

When I wrote this silly list, I had no idea that the reality of creation science education is stranger than my fiction. I was shocked to discover an actual entry, from a 2001 creation science fair, “Women Are Designed For Homemaking”. It was an 8th grade boy’s project. I’d be interested to know if his mother or father had a hand in the work.

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Jesus On A Tiny Wing And A Worthless Prayer

Image-of-Jesus stories make the American media, especially this local news station (where there’s a poll), appear trite and superficial. And they make the American public appear credulous and superstitious. In this case, appearances aren’t deceiving. No wonder people don’t believe lions mutate into zebras overnight.  

Also, I find it particularly disturbing when people think all of nature is here for the benefit of the human race, which is what this story is bordering on.

But upon close scientific analysis of the insect photograph, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Jesus-on-a-moth image and this enigmatic creature bear a striking resemblance.    

Finally, I wonder, would CNN have aired a story on Jesus’ image being “found” in a pile of poop? Feces is part of the natural world, too, and part of “God’s Creation”. I’m going to start following dogs around with a camera and a minister; I want my 15 minutes of fame. And my local TV station has a hottie Asian reporter I’m dying to meet. Ohhhh riiiiight!

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Ben Stein – Creationist Of The Month

Ben Stein

I offically declare Ben Stein as May’s creationist of the month. He earns his position for his ignorance and sleazy behavior.

In Expelled: The Movie, Ben Stein attempts to draw a link between Charles Darwin and the Holocaust by misreading a quote from Darwin’s famous book The Descent Of Man. Scientific America Magazine explains with an article:

One of the many egregious moments in the new Ben Stein anti-evolution film “Expelled” is the truncation of a quote from Charles Darwin so that it makes him appear to give philosophical ammunition to the Nazis.

Here is Ben Stein quote-mining Darwin in the movie Expelled:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Now here’s is the rest of Charles Darwin’s words, the part Stein conveniently left out:

“The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

The Descent Of Man is a thick book, perhaps too thick for Ben Stein’s thick head. He might not have had the discipline to read it in full. Or maybe he didn’t edit the quote himself, he could have just read it that way from a script. Either way it looks bad, really bad. Ben Stein is either too lazy to pick up a book, or he’s a prositute-puppet, who says anything for money. Congratulations to Ben Stein for being creationist of the month, he’s earned it.

P.S. I recommend The Descent Of Man to anyone interested in evolution or the history of science. I read it last summer. It’s truly fascinating. The Penguin Classics Edition has a great introduction. Also, check out the complete works of Charles Darwin online.    

www.TheDarwinReport.com 

 

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The Great Darwinian Conspiracy

Dissect any creationist’s arguments and you’ll eventually uncover a belief in a worldwide Darwinian conspiracy. Scientists everywhere are hiding the truth of creation and teaching evolution as part of a vague shadowy plot to destroy religion and to corrupt the world’s youth with liberal ideas. Why should scientists do this? Is it for that sweet professorship level income? Is it to be in the presence of mobs of grateful undergraduate students? Or are all scientists radicals?

A better question is do scientists get along well enough to concoct a conspiracy? I’ve just finished reading The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in The Land Of Ants by Erich Hoyt. And featured in this book is entomologist Edward O. Wilson, who’s famous for creating the sub-field called sociobiology. One of the implications of sociobiology is that human behavior is partly genetic. Unfortunately, some people erroneously saw hints of social-Darwinism, racism, and sexism, in Wilson’s work. As a result, Wilson received nasty criticism and personal attacks not only from the public but from his colleagues at Harvard University. Two of his most vocal critics were fellow professors Stephen J. Gould and Richard C. Lewontin. Do you feel the love?

In the book, we also get a glimpse into Wilson’s feelings toward James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. The author writes:

Wilson found Watson the most unpleasant, scornful scientist he had ever met. Watson’s discovery [DNA structure] was so earth-shattering that he [Watson] became a “Caligula” who could do or say no wrong. In spite of Watson’s disdain, Wilson deeply admired the man’s accomplishment and even his sheer audacity. He credits Watson as his “brilliant enemy” or “adverse hero”.

This is just one example of conflict amongst scientists. The history of science is fraught with nasty disagreements. What good scientist wouldn’t disagree with a colleague in order to gain personal glory? If the evidence and data indicate a contrary opinion, then that’s the path one must take? Wilson found Watson “unpleasant”, but he still admired the man’s work. It’s the work that counts, not loyalty and ideology. Of course, scientists are human, and like everyone they have their biases. But most of the time they have no misgivings about following the data wherever it leads. This is why a worldwide conspiracy to hide the “truth of creation” simply wouldn’t work. And this is why evolutionary science couldn’t be suppressed in the 19th century.

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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