Posts Tagged ‘creationist’
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 29, 2013
Okay, so this news has been all over the Internet in recent days: a California creationist is challenging anyone to disprove the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. More on this:
…The wager is $10,000, the arena is a minitrial (featuring a bailiff and a court reporter along with the judge), and the rules state that evidence must be “objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.”
“They [evolutionists] are not stupid people, they are bright, but they are bright enough to know there is no scientific evidence they can give in a minitrial,” Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo, who has a PhD in kinesiology and taught biomechanics and physiology at a California University for more than 25 years, told The Guardian. “It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving — everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction.”…
And here are the rules as outlined by Dr. Mastropaolo…
- The non-literal Genesis advocate puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge.
- The literal Genesis advocate and contributing writer for the Creation Science Hall of Fame, Joseph Mastropaolo, puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge.
- If the non-literal Genesis advocate proves that science contradicts the literal reading of Genesis, then the non-literal Genesis advocate is awarded the $20,000.
- If the literal Genesis advocate proves that science indicates the literal reading of Genesis, then the literal Genesis advocate is awarded the $20,000.
- Evidence must be scientific, that is, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.
- The preponderance of evidence prevails.
- At the end of the trial, the judge hands the prevailing party both checks.
- The judge is a superior court judge.
- The venue is a courthouse.
- Court costs will be paid by the prevailing party.
Please make note of that bolded point in particular, because it really begs the question as to what exactly Dr. Mastropaolo (and other Young-Earth Creationists) consider to be “scientific evidence”. And this is nothing new, as Mastropaolo has been here before, calling this challenge the Life Science Prize in the past. As this excerpt from an article by Dr. Michael Zimmerman (creator of the Clergy Letter Project) details, in his previous attempts to put on these show trials, Mastropaolo seems to play fast and loose with definitions:
… When I proposed that we agree on definitions of evolution and creationism as a starting point, things went awry pretty quickly. In response to my suggestion that we use the classic textbook definition for evolution (a change in allele frequencies in a population over time), Mastropaolo’s second argued that “change in allele frequency is about as meaningless a definition of evolution as can be offered.” Mastropaolo himself countered with the following: “evolution is the development of an organism from its chemicals to its primitive state to its present state.” My Ph.D. in evolutionary biology didn’t help me make any sense out of that definition. Mastropaolo went further and said that I “may not be competent to contend for the Life Science Prize.”
He very much liked the phrase “competent to contend for the Life Science Prize, also warning me that “Evolutionist hallucinators so out of touch with reality are psychotic by medical dictionary definition, and therefore not mentally competent to contend for the Life Science Prize.” … [emphasis added]
This displays a flaw common to creationist thinking: they define evolution to be something other than what scientists (or “evolutionists”, as they call them) define it to be! So by playing around with the definitions like this, the creationists can stack the deck in their favor through simple equivocation.
But it gets better. This whole thing seems to be copied from the famous JREF Million Dollar Challenge; a problem with how this is set up which is different from the JREF challenge: it is asking the challenger to prove a negative, whereas the JREF challenge is asking the challenger to demonstrate a particular claimed ability. This is a big difference, because by asking the challenger to prove a negative, it allows the creationists in this case to play fast and loose with definitions, standards of evidence, etc. – just as Mastropaolo has done in the past.
Last, but certainly not least, creationism has been put on trial as recently as 2005, and it lost quite badly. Does anyone remember a little thing called the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial?
Posted in creationism | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, challenge, Christ, Christianity, court, creationism, creationist, Dover, Dover v Kitzmiller, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, Genesis, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Life Science Prize, Mastropaolo, prize, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, trial, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2013
Tonight I stumbled across an excellent blog post from the Skeptical Raptor on the most recent spate of anti-science bills (i.e., anti-evolution, anti-climate science, etc) that have cropped up all over state legislatures in the United States so far in 2013. Rather than rehash what is an already well-researched and written post, I shall simply reblog it below:
It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either teaching creationism (or more subtle forms, like intelligent design), usually combined with climate change denialism, and, strangely, anti-human cloning (which is not exactly a serious line of research today). But the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.
Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, rather than natural, scientifically explained, means. Creationism implicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to the creator. In other words, creationism is a religious belief, and no matter what argument is made (and I could write 50,000 words on the topic), creationism is not science because it relies upon a supernatural being, which means it can never be falsified, one of the basic principles of the scientific method. The supporters of creationism attempt to claim that creationism is a scientific theory on the level of evolution, ignoring the fact that a scientific theory is ”a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Creationism is generally based on a fictional book.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically prohibits any government entity from establishing a religion (which courts have ruled to include teaching religion in schools). Decades worth of Supreme Court rulings have found that teaching creationism in schools is equivalent to teaching religion. As recently as 2005, in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a Federal Court continued the tradition of considering creationism as religion, and ruled against a school district, costing the Dover Area School District nearly $1 million in legal fees. That money probably could have been used to teach their students better science.
Despite these legal rulings, eight states have introduced antievolution or anti-science bills since the beginning of the year…
Click here to read the rest of Skeptical Raptor’s post
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, anti science, anti-evolution, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, denial, denialism, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, legislation, politics, pseudoscience, science, Skeptical Raptor, states, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013
In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling. If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism. However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren. Read on
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]
Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…
… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …
Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States. But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within. I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.
Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies. Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.
Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast. But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?
Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, atheism, atheist, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, homeschoolers, homeschooling, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, religion, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, The Atlantic, truth, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2012
As I’ve blogged before, creationists are quite adept at evolving their strategies for attempting to replace the science of evolution in public school science classes with their religious beliefs. One of the latest mutations are so-called “academic freedom” bills, but now there seems to be a new phrase and strategy emerging – “truth in education” – which we all need to be on the lookout for in our local legislatures and school boards. My skeptical colleague Steven Novella has an excellent takedown here…
by Steven Novella, Dec 10 2012
We have yet another propaganda slogan and strategy by creationists to sneak their religious beliefs into public science classrooms – “truth in education.” This one comes from state senator Dennis Kruse from Indiana. He had previously introduced a bill (in 2011) that would have required the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. The bill died a quick death, largely because the Supreme Court has already declared such laws unconstitutional (in the 1987 Edwards vs Aguillard case).
Kruse’s approach has since “evolved.” It seems that after his failed and naive attempt to introduce a creation science bill, he has been connected with the Discovery Institute and is now up to speed on the latest approach to anti-evolution strategies.
Creationist attempts to hamper science education when it comes to evolution go back to the beginning of evolutionary theory itself. By the turn of the 19th century evolution was an accepted scientific fact, and opposition to its teaching was forming among certain fundamentalist sects. The first big confrontation between the teaching of evolution and creationist ideology came in the form of the The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or the Scopes Monkey Trial. This resulted from the first creationist strategy to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools – they simply banned it. This strategy was killed when such laws were found unconstitutional in 1968 (Epperson v. Arkansas).
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a nice list of the ten major legal precedents that have smacked down creationist attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Each time the creationists simply have morphed their strategy, but the intent has never wavered. …
Read the rest of Steve’s Skeptiblog post here
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Dennis Kruse, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, Indiana, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2012
If you’ve followed the creationism issue at all, you know that Louisiana is a hotbed of this fringe pseudoscience. However, in a more than welcome move, the city of New Orleans sent a clear message that they would not tolerate such nonsense being taught in their public schools. Here’s more on the good news from the National Center for Science Education
The Orleans Parish School Board “OK’d policies that prohibit the teaching of creationism or so-called ‘intelligent design’ in its half-dozen direct-run schools, or the purchasing of textbooks that promulgate those perspectives,” according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (December 18, 2012). As specified in the documents for the board’s December 18, 2012, meeting, the new policies provide (PDF, pp. 100 and 101), in part, that no “science textbook [shall] be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories” and that “[no] teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.” [emphasis added]
Ouch. There you have it, in no uncertain terms: creationists and their pseudoscience need not apply for New Orleans public school science classes.
One more positive thing about this development is that student activist Zack Kopplin, who has been fighting the creationists in Louisiana, appears to have had some influence in these developments:
… the only speaker on the textbook policy at the meeting was Zack Kopplin: “‘Creationism certainly is not science,’ he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they ‘won’t find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District.’”
Kopplin, the young activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (and who received NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award in 2011), told NCSE, “Between this and the New Orleans City Council’s rejection of the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act, the city of New Orleans has fully rejected creationism.” (The New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution in May 2011 endorsing the repeal effort.) Kopplin added, “It might also be enough to prompt the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology to lift their boycott of New Orleans,” which began in 2009, owing to what SICB’s president described (PDF) as “the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula.”
I would like to encourage supporters of science and reason to contact the Orleans Parish School Board and thank them for promoting good science education, and please pass this news along so that we can reinforce this good governance!
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, bill, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Discovery Institute, education, evolution, God, history, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Louisiana, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, New Orleans, Orleans Parish School Board, politics, pseudoscience, repeal, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, Thomas Robichaux, YEC, Young Earth Creationism, Zack Kopplin | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 8, 2012
But don’t take it from me, take it straight from his mouth…
First, allow me to state the obvious:
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… we see two things from this idiotic tirade from Rep. Broun:
1. He engages in the typical creationist fear-mongering about evolutionary science that it is inherently evil, etc (hence the “Pit of Hell” reference). I suppose we needn’t bother Rep. Broun with the annoying fact that many of his Christian brethren think evolution is just fine.
2. He, like far too many of his conservative colleagues in our government (I’m talking about YOU, Rep. Todd Akin), seem to have gone out of their way lately to declare war on any form of science they deem contrary to their ideology. This includes not only denying evolution and denying climate science, and apparently basic info on human reproduction, but also rejecting certain pesky historical facts along the way.
Folks, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people like this running my federal government. This is why I so strongly support efforts like Science Debate, and why I think you should, too. It is also why those of us who are defenders and advocates of science and skepticism should be involved in our political process.
Posted in creationism, politics, religion | Tagged: astronomy, atheism, atheist, belief, Bible, Big Bang, Christian, clergy, Clergy Letter Project, congress, Congressman, conservative, cosmology, creation, creationism, creationist, DI, Discovery Institute, embryology, evolution, faith, federal, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, Georgia, God, government, house, House Science Committee, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Paul Broun, Pit of Hell, religion, Rep. Paul Broun, Representative, science, United States, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 10, 2012
Well, I have to say this much for creationists: they certainly are persistent. Despite mountains of solid scientific evidence proving evolution (and thus disproving most views of creationism, such as the most common variant – young-earth creationism) and decades of court rulings against the promotion of religiously-oriented concepts such as “scientific creationism” and “intelligent design”, the creationists just keep on coming.
Case in point, here are some recent legal developments from Kentucky (no surprise there) and… New Hampshire? Okay, Kentucky I can understand, but seriously… NEW HAMPSHIRE?!! Wow, methinks some of my Yankee brothers and sisters up north are going to have a serious case of voters remorse.
Once you read the proposals out of Kentucky and New Hampshire, it is easy to see the same old tired (and flat wrong, both scientifically and legally) creationist arguments. From the Kentucky case:
The Herald-Leader reports that Superintendent Ricky D. Line of Hart County public schools believes a new state-wide test for Kentucky high school students treats evolution as fact, not theory, and that the test will require schools to teach accordingly. Line raised the issue with state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Kentucky Board of Education (KBOE) members. Line wants them to reconsider the “Blueprint” for Kentucky’s new end-of-course test in biology.
Line contends that the test essentially would “require students to believe that humans … evolved from primates such as apes and … were not created by God.” “I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point … that we are teaching evolution … as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us,” he said. “My feeling is if the Commonwealth’s site-based councils, school board members, superintendents and parents were questioned … one would find this teaching contradictory to the majority’s belief systems.” …
Hmmm, so the superintendent’s argument is that people shouldn’t be taught anything which doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions? Interesting, seeing as how most preconceptions that people have regarding science are incorrect, the superintendent’s argument basically boils down to an argument for remaining ignorant. Nice. I have to wonder if we’ll hear the superintendent and his colleagues complain about how KY students are not properly prepared to compete in the modern world of 21st century science and technology? With an attitude like the one he’s displaying, he’d better get ready for a LOT of complaining regarding the latter…
Also note the implication in the article about how teachers could teach both (all) views, as if creationism is on par with evolution as a scientific theory. To that argument, I have one response…
Yup… a picture is worth a thousand words
Now on to the New Hampshire situation. Fortunately, the National Center for Science Education is on the case, and here’s their update:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: atheism, atheist, bacteria, Christian, Christianity, creationism, creationist, evolution, God, ID, intelligent design, Kentucky, legislation, New Hampshire, philosophy, public, religion, schools, science, shark, teach all views, teach both views, teach the controversy, theories, theory, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 27, 2011
I think one of the reasons why so many people get bamboozled by pseudoscientists of various stripes is because many of these pseudoscientists are credentialed… that is, they appear credentialed. Take, for instance, one of the most prolific charlatans in pseudoscientific circles in recent years: Kent Hovind, also known as “Dr. Dino”. Kent Hovind is a well-known creationist and Christian evangelist and is known as “Dr. Dino” because he has a doctorate (PhD); this is a widely advertised bit of information (that is, advertised by Hovind himself and his followers) and it seems, to the unprepared eye, to lend some kind of validity to Hovind’s claims. After all, with a PhD after his name, shouldn’t we give someone like Hovind some degree of credibility?
Well, not necessarily, especially in light of some rather embarrassing facts regarding Kent Hovind’s supposed “education”. First, Hovind’s doctorate is not in evolutionary biology (this is relevant because he is such a strong critic of evolution), nor is it in any branch of science or even in the philosophy of science; in fact, Hovind’s degree is in Christian Education (whatever that is). Furthermore, his PhD was obtained through correspondence from Patriot University in Colorado Springs, Colorado (now since renamed to Patriot Bible University in Del Norte, Colorado). What is especially interesting is the fact that Patriot Bible University is (and was) a well-known diploma mill, being a non-accredited institution which does not meet accepted academic standards to award degrees. So, in essence, this means that Kent Hovind’s doctorate is basically meaningless. But that won’t stop him, as well as other pseudoscientific charlatans, from obtaining questionable degrees and referring to themselves as “experts”.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a problem which is much larger than a few creationists using non-accredited institutions and diploma mills to give them a veneer of expertise. In fact, to get some idea of just how big of a problem this is, check out these links to more information on how widespread is the phenomenon of non-accreditation…
As a way of poking fun at this kind of academic dishonesty, there is a spoof website called Thunderwood College which will award you a degree in pretty much anything in mere minutes, yet they are completely open and honest about what they’re doing. Just take a look at their page explaining accreditation…
At Thunderwood College, we will neither lie to you by claiming that our institution is accredited, nor will we attempt to defraud you by claiming accreditation from an unrecognized accreditation body.
What Is Accreditation?
In the United States, the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain an official list of accreditation bodies whose accreditations are accepted by the academic community. Other countries generally have similar rules. There is also a long list of completely bogus organizations that offer accreditation to any “university” who wants it. Institutions claiming accreditation from one of these sources should be treated with great skepticism, and it should be understood that degrees issued by these institutions are not recognized by the academic community. Many online colleges who issue degrees based on your “life experience” can claim to be accredited, and so they are, but it’s not an accreditation that holds any water. Your cat could accredit those institutions just as well.
Why not Thunderwood? It is no different from the thousands of other unaccredited “diploma mills” where people get their degrees in unsubstantiated quackery such as:
- Intelligent Design
- Healing Touch
- Magnetic Therapy
- Feng Shui
…and many, many more!
So the next time that you are confronted with a potential pseudoscientist who seems to be making some whacky claims, and especially if they are going out of their way to list how amazingly educated they are in whatever field they wish to impress upon you, take a few minutes to dig into their educational background. What you discover might be, if you’ll pardon the pun, quite educational
Posted in education, humor | Tagged: accreditation, accredited, BA, Bachelors, BS, college, creationism, creationist, credentials, degree, diploma, Doctor Dino, Doctoral, doctorate, Dr. Dino, education, higher learning, humor, ID, institution, Kent Hovind, MA, Masters, MS, non-accredited, Patriot Bible University, Patriot University, PhD, spoof, Thunderwood College, university | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 30, 2011
I just wanted to take a few minutes to share with you an excellent post over at the Skepticblog by Donald Prothero titled “A Visit to the Creationists’ ‘Mordor’”. In it, Donald speaks about the National Center for Science Education, an organization very near and dear to my heart as a skeptic and science teacher. The NCSE is the clearinghouse in the United States that tracks all things creationist, and it serves an absolutely vital purpose in countering attempts to force creationism into public schools under the guise of science. Take a few minutes to read Donald’s article, and consider joining the NCSE today…
… I decided to pay a visit to another cultural landmark: the headquarters of the National Center for Science Education. This is the chief non-profit organization in the U.S. that helps local school boards and scientists and teachers when creationism threatens their classrooms. If you read the creationists’ literature and the posts on the ID creationist Discovery Institute’s (DI) website, the NCSE is this monstrous organization which exerts mind-control over every scientist in the country, and forces them to robotically chant “I accept evolution.” According to the creationists, the NCSE is pure evil, suppressing the creationism message with its enormous staff and budget and power over all of U.S. science. In Ben Stein’s crappy little creationist propaganda film Expelled,Ben pays a visit to the gleaming headquarters of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which occupies a vast amount of floor space in a brand-new office building downtown, and has a huge staff. Over and over again the DI staffers complain about how they scientific establishment is against them, and how the NCSE has so much more power, money, and influence than they do.
So it’s surprising to actually visit the headquarters of the NCSE and get an abrupt reality check. This bête noire of creationism occupies a small, rundown, poorly ventilated commercial space in a rough part of Oakland, surrounded by fundamentalist churches. Their tiny staff is paid a pittance compared to most academic or business salaries, and they occupy cramped cubicles cluttered with piles of work. About the only way you could tell it was not any other kind of typical non-profit organization was the decoration: creationist and evolutionary posters and “timelines of creation”, casts of famous hominid fossils and prehistoric animal models, dolls and posters and bobble-heads of Charles Darwin, clever signs from many different school board protests, and over the staff calendar and status board, “You are not in Kansas any more.” …
And here are Donald’s thoughts on how a little bit of truth really can go a long way:
… Despite the polls showing that about 40% of Americans agree with the major tenets of creationism, and the fact that there are many creationist organizations which are larger and more powerful, the NCSE has two key weapons: the law and reality. Fundamentalist ministers may be able to bamboozle their flocks with lies about evolution, but in the marketplace of scientific ideas, there is no longer any doubt that evolution is the way the world actually works. Creationists may try to gussy up their ideas as “intelligent design” or hide behind the “teach the controversy” tactic, but the myths of illiterate Bronze Age shepherds are still a narrow religious dogma believed by only a minority of Americans. And that’s the ultimate line of defense: no matter what a local school board or state government does, if they leave ANY trail of their religious motivations for their acts (which is why the NCSE archive is crucial for detecting this), they run up against the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and ultimately the law is (at least in this case) on the side of scientific reality.
But it’s a never-ending struggle in this country. Creationists may not do any real science, or never learn any new arguments, or never concede that their old arguments were long ago debunked, but they are dedicated and well-funded and never give up. So the job of the NCSE never seems to end, and these hardworking underpaid staffers will never see an empty “hot board map” showing no towns with current infections. Back in 1982, I was one of the original members of the Committees of Correspondence, Stanley Weinberg’s first effort to combat creationism in the Midwest, which evolved into the current NCSE. I’ve debated Gish and Meyer and Sternberg and a bunch of guys from ICR and DI, and written a book debunking their ideas about evolution and fossils. So I do what I can, but I don’t have the patience or time to do the job that the NCSE does. For that, I’m very grateful that they are there, fighting the good fight in the trenches, and manning the barricades that few scientists or teachers have time to deal with. We members of the skeptical and scientific community should all honor them for doing an essential job in trying to preserve the scientific integrity of our educational system, and fighting back against the untiring never-ending hordes of the forces of darkness, all while showing the patience of Job. And if you’re not already a member of NCSE, you should join, because they are doing this important job for all of us!
Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: blog, creationism, creationist, Donald Prothero, education, evolution, fundamentalist, fundamentalsim, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, public, religion, schools, science, skeptic, Skepticblog, teaching | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 21, 2011
It was with much interest that I read the following NPR story on the question of Christian evangelicals acceptance (or not) of evolutionary science. I wanted to just highlight a few key parts of the story and give my thoughts on this interesting development…
Let’s go back to the beginning — all the way to Adam and Eve, and to the question: Did they exist, and did all of humanity descend from that single pair?
According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam’s rib.
Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It’s a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.
But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.” …
What I find so interesting about this situation is that these evangelical scholars are going against the grain of the traditional belief in a literal Adam and Eve. One has to wonder how the broader evangelical community will react: will they seriously reconsider these traditional beliefs, will they dismiss the scholars because their creationist interpretation of Genesis trumps all, or will they seek to label these scholars as “heretical” and seek to purge them? I think the likely scenario is a combination of all three, but it seems that some prominent Christian evangelical institutions are seeking the second and third possibilities. On the one hand, some institutions are choosing to ignore scientific reality:
“From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith,” says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong.
“But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem,” Rana says.
Soooo, when hard scientific evidence from nature contradicts you interpretation of Genesis, you ignore what nature says? Yeah, that’s dumb. No wonder people who don’t already buy into this particular theology tend to think it’s downright silly.
What’s worse, other Christian evangelical institutions are going even further and actively working to “expel” scholars who don’t toe the literal line on Genesis:
Several other well known theologians at Christian universities have been forced out; some see a parallel to a previous time when science conflicted with religious doctrine.
“The evolution controversy today is, I think, a Galileo moment,” says Karl Giberson, who authored several books trying to reconcile Christianity and evolution, including The Language of Science and Faith, with Francis Collins.
Giberson — who taught physics at Eastern Nazarene College until his views became too uncomfortable in Christian academia — says Protestants who question Adam and Eve are akin to Galileo in the 1600s, who defied Catholic Church doctrine by stating that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Galileo was condemned by the church, and it took more than three centuries for the Vatican to express regret at its error.
The great irony here is that so many of these same Christian evangelical organizations made such a big deal a few years back when the failed film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” came out. “Expelled” argued that secular academia was forcing out scholars who dared to question evolutionary science; now, in fact, we see the hypocrisy behind these arguments. For years, we’ve heard these folks bitch and moan at length about some supposed conspiracy to discriminate against them, yet they are the ones purging “heretics” from their ranks because these scholars follow science as opposed to a blind allegiance to certain theological interpretations of the Bible.
Last, but not least, is a word of warning from the article. Christians, take note:
“When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face,” Giberson says. “The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it.”
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