The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘science leads you to killing people’

Darwin’s 200th – Happy Birthday Chuck!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2009

Well, this Thursday is the BIG day – it’s the 200th anniversary of that famed naturalist, Charles Darwin, and it also happens to be the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Seeing as how important the entire scientific concept of evolution is to our daily lives, and Darwin’s specific theory of evolution through natural selection in particular, I think it is only fitting that we pause to honor the man who helped to revolutionize biology & many other aspects of science. It should be noted that evolution is a concept that spans the sciences – in fact, it is so broad-reaching a concept that Scientific American magazine recently called evolution “the most powerful idea in science.”

darwin

In celebration of this event, there are events being organized all over the world. Here are some of the groups organizing these events, so feel free to browse and see if there’s something going on near you! In addition, I’ve included below a series of links specific to learning more about evolution and science in general…

Darwin Day
Evolution Weekend
National Center for Science Education
Understanding Evolution
Understanding Science
Evolution Series from PBS-NOVA

And if you are into taking on the pseudoscientific claims of creationists, then you might find these links of use…

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
TalkOrigins Archive
Answers In Genesis BUSTED!
Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks
Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Panda’s Thumb
Pharyngula
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Last, but not least, I wanted to provide you with a couple of special links. The first is a link to the TalkOrigins Archive and outlines the vast amount of evidence that clearly establishes the reality of evolution. Take some time to read that link (it’s a lot of material) and convince yourself that the evidence for evolution is rock solid.

The second is a hilarious video, basically a challenge to creationists from Answers In Genesis BUSTED!, that asks a lot of questions of creationists which they never seem to address…

In closing, take some time this weekend to celebrate Darwin’s birthday and his great achievements. Have a drink, throw a party, and tell your friends & family about the importance of the man and, more importantly, his contributions to science.

Happy Birthday, Chuck! Wheeeee! 😀

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Ben Stein – Not Expelled, Just Flunked

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 4, 2009

Note: Read up on my recent post, Creationism is Evolving Again, for the full context of this entry.

Well, today I have good news. It seems that would-be “defender of truth & freedom” Ben Stein has received a rather public smackdown. For those of you who may not recall, Ben Stein – in addition to making Clear Eyes eye-drops and the phrase “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” famous – was the poster child for the disastrously-received creationist propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

expelled ben stein

When promoting the film last year, in addition to spewing the usual creationist nonsense such as insisting that “Darwinism” was responsible for Nazism & the Holocaust and alluding to an “Darwinist” conspiracy to rid academia of “people who just want to ask questions”, Stein reached new lows during an interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). In this interview, Stein stated, unequivocally…

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

…Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

You can see the entire exchange in the TBN interview in the first part of this online video, Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 24)

Well, it seems that Stein was asked to give the 2009 commencement address at the University of Vermont (UVM). Apparently, when word got out that Stein was to deliver this speech at UVM, where he tried to promote Expelled last spring, there were plenty of people who got upset about it. Think about it: here was a man who had promoted a film which blatantly misrepresented both the scientific & academic communities in the promotion of a pseudoscientific & pseudohistorical agenda giving the commencement address at a major university? Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

Long story short, there was an organized campaign, by people inside and outside of the university, to express displeasure with the choice of an anti-science nut like Stein to deliver such a high-profile speech. Much of the negative feedback the university received is outlined at this transcript of an interview with UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel. Eventually, after such a public outcry, Stein voluntarily withdrew from giving the commencement speech, and he stated so publicly.

From the press-release outlining Stein’s withdrawal from the speech…

I am writing to inform you that Ben Stein, a renowned economist and public personality, has informed me of his decision to withdraw from our Commencement ceremonies in May.

… Mr. Stein has also expressed opinions on subjects unrelated to economics, most notably with respect to evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust. Those views are highly controversial, to say the least. Following the announcement of Mr. Stein as Commencement speaker, profound concerns have been expressed to me by persons both internal and external to the University about his selection. Once I apprised Mr. Stein of these communications, he immediately and most graciously declined our Commencement invitation.

Now, what’s really interesting about this whole affair is the creationist reaction to Stein’s voluntarily withdrawing from speaking at UVM. True to form, those consummate whiners at the mega-creationist “think” tank called the Discovery Institute have decided to spin this whole situation as another example of the supposed dogma promoted by Darwinists. They further maintain that because Stein voluntarily withdrew that it is evidence for a vast conspiracy to prevent open & honest criticism of evolutionary science. If these IDiots keep spinning in their tin-foil hats any faster, they’re going to achieve liftoff.

Of course, the irony behind the creationists claiming that they aren’t being allowed to freely criticize science & evolution specifically is that these same people shut down open debate and criticism of Expelled when they were trying to promote it! From attempting to blatantly manipulate the media at press events to employing dishonest interviewing tactics, the creationists behind this waste of a movie displayed an astonishing level of hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black – sheesh!

Well, all I can say to Ben Stein is this: you weren’t expelled Ben, you just plain flunked. And to the all the creationist whiners out there, it’s time you grew up and joined us in the 21st century.

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Creationism is Evolving Again

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 23, 2009

Well folks, those wacky creationists are at it again. Once more, their tactics to push their religious beliefs as science have evolved in response to the changing environment. Let’s take a brief look at the recent history of the creationist movement in the United States…

then a miracle occurs

1987 – In Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “scientific creationism” (SC) was not science, but a religiously-motivated concept which had no place in public school science classes. This is because SC was based upon literal interpretations of the Bible as espoused by certain denominations of Christianity, so policies pushing SC in public school science classes were clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1987 to early 1990s – Shortly after this ruling, unable to thrive in the legal environment of the day, the creationist movement in the United States mutated to promote a new species of creationism, namely so-called “intelligent design” (ID). Interestingly, rather than formulate testable hypotheses, perform experiments, and publish the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals as a way of promoting their views, the creationists chose to simply re-label SC as ID (presumably because “intelligent design” sounded more scientific). The biggest push for ID came from an organization called the Discovery Institute, which clearly outlined its real goals (hint: it isn’t to teach science) in an internal memo – the now infamous Wedge Document (get an actual copy of the “Wedge” at this link). Among other things, the “Wedge” states…

Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

And the “Wedge” illustrates as its 20-year goals:

* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

[emphasis mine]

Hmmm – so the creationists specifically want to see their version of Christianity “permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life”? Yup, that sure sounds like science to me!

1990s to 2004 – ID is pushed hard by the Discovery Institute, and the creationists publish numerous popular books (not peer-reviewed articles in science journals) in an effort to advance their religious agenda.

2004-2005 – The creationists finally attempt to push ID in the public schools in Dover, PA. This move backfires on them badly, as evidenced by the smack-down they received in the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling by Judge John Jones in December of 2005. In part, Jones found that ID also violated the First Amendment by attempting to promote religion as science in public school classes. Here are some excerpts from the ruling (which can be found at this link in its entirety)…

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

“Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.”

And here’s the real money shot…

“After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

[emphasis mine]

So what happened next? Did the creationists at the Discovery Institute admit their views weren’t scientific? Did they respond by publishing rigorous, peer-reviewed research in science journals which supported ID? Nope!

2007-2008 – After a little time flailing in the wilderness, the creationists realize that the phrase “intelligent design” is synonymous with “scientific creationism”, so their tactics mutate once again. They decide to cease actively promoting ID (that is, their religious beliefs) in public science classes, and instead they push to “teach the weaknesses of evolution.” Of course, this is an obvious logical fallacy, because even if there were fatal “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory (there aren’t), it would do nothing to actually promote ID-creationism.

The creationist attack on science took another turn in 2008 with the release of the creationist propaganda “documentary” named, ironically, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Starring Ben Stein, the movie is a horrid compilation of standard creationist gobble-de-gook, revisionist history (“Darwin was responsible for the Holocaust”NOT!), and outright strawman arguments regarding those who accept evolutionary science (“accepting evolution makes you an atheist”NOT!).

Aside: To show just how nutty Ben Stein got when promoting Expelled, check out this story where Stein says, “Science leads you to killing people.”

At the same time Expelled came out, so-called “Academic Freedom” laws were being pushed in many states in mid-2008. The argument was that teachers should have the “freedom” to teach “alternate views” – such as crappy notions like ID-creationism. Such a law did pass in Louisiana, so now I assume that in addition to teaching ID-creationism in biology class, it’s now acceptable in Louisiana to teach geocentrism & astrology in earth science/astronomy classes, psychics & ESP in physics class, the debunked theory of phlogiston and the Four-Element version of chemistry, and so on! See here for more humorous examples of “academic freedom” gone wild.

2008 to present day – The creationists have further pushed their current agenda in the state of Texas. Because Texas is such a huge market for textbooks, the state has a disproportionate influence on nationwide textbook selection. Unfortunately, the governor of Texas (a staunch creationist) has tried to stack the State Board of Education with enough creationists to push their agenda in the textbook selection process. This battle in Texas is ongoing, with some interesting developments (some good, some bad) taking place just today. (If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, I strongly encourage you to look up the Texas Freedom Network or the Texas Citizens for Science, who are both fighting against this anti-scientific nonsense)

texas BoE

Last Word: Lest you think those wacky creationists are done, they’re not. In recent days, I’ve seen indications that our pals at the Discovery Institute are evolving their anti-science rhetoric yet again. What was once “scientific creationism” mutated into “intelligent design” – and it now seems that ID is mutating into “front-loaded evolution” (FLE). Be on the lookout for this latest bit of creationist-speak – it could pop up at a school board meeting near you.

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