Okay, so now that we’re all agreed we don’t play nice…

Via PZ and WikiLeaks, in case you hadn’t seen this bit of timeless comedy gold, you can now download Kent Hovind’s entire “doctoral dissertation” for “Patriot Bible University,” a farcical Christian outfit housed in a doublewide offering correspondence courses. If the above is an example of what “Patriot Bible University” considers an acceptable lead-in to a dissertation, then let’s just say the whole preposterous charade that is fundamentalist “education” is even more hilarious than you think.

While we’re on Hovind (and it’s worth noting that this remains one of our most trafficked posts ever), I’d like to add a rider to remarks that Kazim and several commenters made in the preceding post. I agree it’s most important to attack ideas and not the people expressing them — but only to a point. Yes, the ad hominem attack is a fallacy, and is most commonly used simply to score cheap shots (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that one), or when the arguer has run out of intellectual steam and can’t muster rebuttals to strong points made by his opponent.

But this is a very different thing from attacking people when they have demonstrated, by their statements or actions, that they are not merely wrong but bad and foolish people. Kent Hovind is a case in point. First off, I don’t see anything unacceptable about calling a person who is convinced to the core of his being that dinosaurs walked the earth alongside humans an “idiot.” This is not name calling, but merely descriptive, in the same way I have pointed out that Richard Dawkins’ referring to Ray Comfort, the World’s Stupidest Christian™, as an “ignorant fool” and my referring to him by his unofficial title of World’s Stupidest Christian™ are not insults but descriptors*. Listen to Ray talk and read his writings, and his stupidity is on raw display. It cannot be denied any more than you could deny getting wet while standing in a thunderstorm. There is simply no way to refer to him other than to call him what he is: a stupid, ignorant fool.

Hovind is a man who is not merely ignorant but arrogant and entitled. He is convinced he is above the law, and remains unrepentant even when a ten-year jail sentence served to show him he was wrong on that point. Moreover, he has had an impact on a number of sycophantic followers, whom he has taught to lie and prevaricate just as he does. Read the comments from Hovind’s defenders in that old post of ours, and you’ll see them spouting the usual run of tortured, self-serving falsehoods to claim Hovind’s conviction on rather blatant tax fraud was Christian persecution at the hands of a Satanic government. So, QED, Kent Hovind has significantly damaged not merely the intellectual but the moral development of hundreds if not thousands of people. He has caused demonstrable harm.

He is also, in his self absorption, utterly cold and heartless to those who really do care about him. Listen to the audio clip between Hovind and his wife Jo. Listen to her try to express her feelings to him, her concern over the rightness and wrongness of the situation they find themselves in, and then listen to him shut her down with icy finality. He’s right, he’s always right. Because he’s God’s wingman. He doesn’t need to change, he’s perfect. It’s she who needs to “advance.” You have to wonder if we witness, in that exchange, the entire dynamic of fundamentalist Christian marriage in microcosm. Is this really a world in which unfeeling, authoritarian men are simply deaf to any of their wives’ emotional and moral concerns? Sure seems that way.

So, yes, I will always concentrate on attacking arguments first. But I will not refrain from condemning people worthy of condemnation. So go laugh at Kent Hovind’s “dissertation,” and then laugh at Kent. Because he’s an ignorant, arrogant, entitled, cold-blooded, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, felonious piece of shit. Quote me.


*Speaking scientifically, I know I cannot prove that Ray is necessarily the world’s stupidest Christian. There may well be many who are much much stupider. But if so, then they — unlike Ray, who proudly flies his stupid flag in public at every opportunity he gets, many of which he instigates himself for the attention — have the sense to stay out of the spotlight about it. Which, in turn, would make them smarter than Ray by just that much. So perhaps it can be proved that Ray’s the stupidest after all.

Another reason not to blame Darwin

Atheist Experience viewer Ruud from the Netherlands just drew my attention to another excellent reason why it’s is ridiculous to blame evolutionary theory for Nazism extermination. Checking out the Index to Creationist Claims, I see that it’s already on there, but since it was new to me I thought I’d share it.

The University of Arizona’s site hosts a list of books that were banned in Germany in the 1930’s. Among them is… take a wild guess…

Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Haeckel).

And just for good measure, there’s also this:

c) All writings that ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy to the healthy sentiments of the Volk.

That ought to settle the issue. But of course, you know it won’t.

A beautiful day, sans creationist fools

Okay, so I read on Pharyngula this morning that Ray Comfort, the World’s Stupidest Christian™, rescheduled his giveaway of his bowdlerized Origin of Species on university campuses for today instead of tomorrow, evidently because he heard that people were preparing to counter it by printing up information from the NCSE’s enjoyable Don’t Diss Darwin site. So naturally, he had to do an end-run around that, since his pathetic, ignorant twaddle sinks like the Titanic when faced with the iceberg of scientific fact.

So I’m trying to make up my mind whether or not to go down to the UT-Austin campus and confront the dopes handing out books. But I’m not sure I really feel like it. For one reason, unless you’re a student, or you live down there or have business there, the campus isn’t very visitor-friendly. Traffic is a headache, and parking is a righteous pain in the ass at the best of times. And anyway, it would be amusing for a few minutes, I suppose, but then, like all dealings with creationist fools, it would simply get aggravating and tedious.

Finally, I step outside, and I see this.

And I think to myself, Wow, an absolutely perfect autumn day. Which is rare enough in Austin, I can tell you. Seriously, we’re talking deep blue, cloudless, endless skies, and the temperature like Goldilocks’ porridge. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

And then I think, now who would I rather spend a gorgeous day like this with? A gaggle of hopeless anti-science morons, or someone with more charisma and intelligence than all of them put together? Say, this guy:

It was not a difficult decision. Grab the leash, dial up a little Miles Davis on the iPod, and it’s off to the park we go, big boy!

Really, some days are just too beautiful to ruin.


So, I have no idea yet how the UT giveaway went, and what fireworks may or may not have erupted. I’ve put an email in to some folks with Atheist Longhorns I know, so maybe they’ll have a report for me later.

We get creationist email #2

This is a follow-up to this dialogue. Martin has politely asked me if I would increase my blogging activity over the next few weeks, so that we can make up for the lack of new shows. Since I enjoy writing posts that react to something else, I’ll probably carry on with this sort of thing as long as I can. Besides, it’s good to stay in practice.

This email will be abridged so you don’t have to see increasingly wide quote boxes.


From: thelambstruth

Hola :)

[Regarding Kazim’s statement that “neo-Darwinian evolution is the most widely accepted explanation for how the diversity of life came into existence”]

Majority is correct? That’s extremely flawed. I’m sure you perhaps meant something differently?

Nope. This is not an argument from popularity, although you might regard it as an argument from authority. In brief, I am not a scientist, but I understand the scientific method and recognize that it relies on results that are repeatable and can be independently verified. I also recognize that among the people who devote themselves to the serious study of biology, i.e. published biologists, only a vanishingly small number of them have any beef with the claim that biological evolution occurred.

Science is based on converging consensus based on common repeatable observations. If you’d like me to explain the scientific method in more depth then I will.

[Responding to Kazim’s statement that fossilization is a rare event]

However that was not my question. I was stating that in order for fossilization to occur, some pretty drastic things had to happen. So, what was this (these) process (processes) basically?

I’m sure you’re fully capable of doing your own research. But here, let me google that for you.

[Regarding Kazim’s remarks about the temporal proximity of pyramid building to the flood]

Well there is: ” The building of the first temple can be dated to 950 B.C. +/- some small delta, placing the Flood around 2250 B.C. Unfortunately, the Egyptians (among others) have written records dating well back before 2250 B.C. (the Great Pyramid, for example dates to the 26th century B.C., 300 years before the Biblical date for the Flood). No sign in Egyptian inscriptions of this global flood around 2250 B.C.” However the Flood occurred 4400.

Reference, please? Where are you getting these numbers? As I understand it, there are two perspectives. The young earth creationist view is based on numbers cooked up by Bishop Ussher, who concluded that the flood occurred in 2348 BC.

The position of the scientific community, on the other hand, is that there is no indication whatsoever that a global flood ever occurred.


[When called out for posting long lists of objections to science from web sites, without providing detail]

Haha, my bad. I admit, I was in a bit of a hurry, which caused me to get some points from book/site. I’ll elaborate in a future message.

Okay. I’ve got time to wait.


[Further pressing for a reaction to the web site ostensibly showing ancient pictures of dinosaurs]

Yes it is subjective, however if you want to deny how amazingly (try to think objectively) accurate the paintings/carvings/etc looked, then whatever. How can someone do so with such accuracy? Has there been any other examples such as these? If it would’ve been a drawing of some random monster, then yea, so what? This is significant because they didn’t know anything about the dinosaurs (supposedly), so how can they just so happen to draw such pictures?

As I already said, I don’t think that they are amazingly close to dinosaurs. Although I will also note a couple of other points:

1. There is actually good reason to believe that people found dinosaur bones in ancient times…
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/dinofossils/First.shtml
http://www.amazon.com/First-Fossil-Hunters-Paleontology-Times/dp/0691058636

2. There is nothing inherent in evolution that says that the dinosaurs could not have survived past the presumed extinction event. It’s unlikely, but wouldn’t fundamentally change the scientific understanding of how evolution works.

We get creationist email

I’ve alerted the author that I will be posting this, and even obtained his consent, so… everybody wave hello!

From: thelambstruth
I’m a creationist fundie first off, and I was wondering how one could be an evolutionists.

Hello, creationist fundie, nice to meet you.

The reason someone would accept evolution is pretty straightforward: It’s because neo-Darwinian evolution is the most widely accepted explanation for how the diversity of life came into existence. If one wanted to change the mainstream science, the most direct way to do that would be to study the topic and write papers proposing a scientifically reasonable alternative; request that the papers be peer-reviewed and published in a mainstream scientific journal; and then hope that your work would be persuasive enough to change the prevailing understanding of biology. It’s a tall order, sure, but it’s the way that scientific inquiry generally proceeds these days, and it’s been very useful at developing a body of knowledge that has resulted in the technology you enjoy today, such as that computer that you are typing on.

I could go into many topics, however I feel the need to just touch up on a few, being the geologic strata, the fossils, and anything else pertaining to that.

Firstly, the geologic strata are completely vague and arbitrary, the transition imperceptibly. A scientist cannot just go out and dig to a certain depth and know right then which stata it was. As said, they cannot even tale when they’ve transitioned into another strata until they run into fossils (will cover later) or conduct ‘radiometric dating’. Also within this vague and arbitrary strata, it is extremely variable and the stratas are only accepted when they coincide with the presumed fossil age; which the fossils are dated by the rocks and the rocks are dated by the fossils for some nice circular reasoning. So, say, if the scientist ‘knows’ the age of the strata and finds a fossil within that very arbitrary and undistinguished strata, then the fossil is the same age, while if the fossils are presumed to be a certain age and they find one in another strata then they date the strata accordingly along side the fossils. What is this? If a fossil is in the wrong spot, then they attribute that fact not to the flaw of evolution, however something cataclysmic, that no one knows what, moved it there. I thought science was supposed to be based off evidence and fact, not wishful thinking that some great event might have caused something to happen.

Jeff Dee has already pointed out to you an invaluable resource in the Talk Origins Archive. However, I would like to draw your special attention to a subsection of that site known as the Index to Creationist Claims.

If you do a word search on that page for “strata” you will find numerous articles, including one which directly addresses your question. There is a brief response on this page. There is also a longer explanation of the science of dating fossils, on this page.

If you read these articles, what you discover is that there are actually a variety of separate methods for dating a fossil, all of which tend to produce similar answers, and therefore are used to independently verify the age of a fossil. The geologic eras were thus determined after various dating techniques were already common, and after observing that similar fossils tend to fall in similar orders within layers of rock. The reason it’s now additionally possible to date fossils by the layer in which they appear, is because the strata have been so well established by other dating methods.

How come there are so many fossils? They would not formed over natural causes because in order for an animal to become fossilized, it must occur very rapid and a quick death. Surely not ALL of these fossils died like that. If they did, why doesn’t that happen anymore? We do not have anything close to that happening today.

Of course not all dead organisms form fossils. Only a very small fraction of the animals that ever lived are fossilized. Multi-cellular life spans over a period of about 3-3.5 billion years, and as you rightly pointed out, the vast majority of those organisms do not leave fossils.

So what caused it? Well the Flood did of course!

Unfortunately for your hypothesis, the idea that there was a worldwide flood is not taken even a little bit seriously in mainstream science. There are a multitude of problems with the flood idea, which you can brush up on here.

In particular, I think my favorite example of such problems is the fact that other cultures, such as Egypt and Sumeria, had thriving cultures which lasted right through the supposed dates of the flood. For example, the Egyptians were building pyramids both before and immediately after the supposed flood dates. That would be a neat trick — I wonder if the new Pharaohs were Noah’s grandchildren? And how many of their cousins were enslaved to do the work?

Here’s some quick little proofs for it (I could go into many biblical accounts, however I know that you atheists folk aren’t to keen to accepting it):
1. World-wide distribution of flood distributions
2. Origin of civilization near Ararat-Babylon region in post-flood time.
3. Convergence of population growth statistics on date of flood
4. Dating of oldest living things at post-flood time
5. Worldwide occurrence of water-laid sediments and sedimentary rocks
6. Recent uplift of major mountain ranges
7. Marine fossils on crests of mountains
8. Evidence of former worldwide warm climate
9. Necessity of catastrophic burial and rapid lithification of fossil deposits
10. Recent origin of many datable geological processes
11. Worldwide distribution of all types of fossils
12. Uniform physical appearance of rocks from different “ages”
13. Frequent mixing of fossils from different “ages”
14. Near-random deposition of formational sequences
15. Equivalence of total organic material in present world and fossil world.
16. Wide distribution of recent volcanic rocks
17. Evidence of recent water bodies in present desert areas
18. Worldwide occurrence of raised shore lines and river terraces
19. Evidence of recent drastic rise in sea level
20. Universal occurrence of rivers in valleys too large for the present stream
21. Sudden extinction of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals
22. Rapid onset of glacial period
23. Existence of polystrate fossils.
24. Preservation of tracks and other ephemeral markings throughout the geologic column
25. Worldwide occurrence of sedimentary fossil “graveyards” in rocks of all “ages”
26. Absence of any physical evidence of chronological boundary between rocks of successive “ages”
27. Occurrence of all rock types (shale, limestone, granite, etc.) in all “ages”
28. Parallel of supposed evolutionary sequence through different “ages” with modern ecological zonation in the one present age
29. Lack of correlation of most radiometric “ages” with assumed paleontological “ages”
30. Absence of meteorites in geologic column
31. Absence of hail imprints in geologic column, despite abundance of fossil ripple-marks and raindrop imprints
32. Evidence of man’s existence during earliest of geologic “ages” (e.g., human footprints in Cambrian, Carboniferous, and Cretaceous formations)

It looks to me like you’re just grabbing long lists of items that you found on web sites, but can’t be bothered to back them up with any detail. Hence, I can’t be bothered to respond to each one individually. If you would care to read more of the Index to Creationist Claims, you will find a lot of responses to these canards there. If you would like to pick out one or two of your bullet points that you find particularly persuasive, then I would be happy to discuss them in detail after you expand on them.

Finally, what about the dinosaur drawings in places like Arizona and Rhodesia and many others? In those times, they didn’t have a concept of a dinosaur, they supposedly didn’t know anything about those. So, how did they know what they looked like? Some are phenomenal at their accuracy.
http://www.genesispark.com/genpark/ancient/ancient.htm

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks:
TheLambsTruth

Whether they’re phenomenal or not is a matter of opinion, I suppose — I’m not all that impressed myself. Short answer: people imagine all kinds of cool monsters. Longer answer: here and here.


Russell Glasser
The Atheist Experience

A brush with Jehovah’s Witnesses

I’m at home all week. I have a new job starting in San Antonio next Monday, but for now I’m just cooling my heels. I’ve been living in my sister’s house for a while, planning to move to an apartment in a couple of months.

Anyway, this is build up to explain why I was enjoying a nice nap today after an exciting round of healing Heroic Oculus on my level 80 priest, when the doorbell rang. I answered it and was confronted by a smiley woman in her forties or fifties, and a twenty-something middle eastern looking young woman.

They were looking for “Katherine,” and when I said there was no Katherine here the older lady said that perhaps they had the wrong house. I said “You might be talking about my sister, Keryn.” Then she asked if we were believers in God in this house, and I said “No, we’re pretty much all atheists.” She lit up and said “Well that’s great, we love talking to people of all religions and, uh… people of none. I am sure this is the house I was at before, she told me to come back later.” At that point I asked if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they confirmed it, and we were off.

Now, I know some people who would try to get rid of JWs as quickly as possible, but I love them. I’ve only had one other encounter with them, which I documented here. They are so full of confidence that their book holds all the answers, yet generally pretty ignorant of basic facts. So I decided to pass some time chatting.

I was introduced to the younger woman, who pretty much never spoke the whole time, as a converted Muslim. I had to explain the whole “Jewish atheist” upbringing thing, which the lady interpreted to mean “Oh, so you read the Bible but you never actually got to know the Lord.” I told her I didn’t see it as getting to know anyone, but rather as not being raised to believe that their god existed.

The woman eager to start reading from the Bible, so I patiently refrained from calling it a book of fairy tales, or a big book of multiple choice, and she proceeded to gush happily about how the Bible is full of stuff that she finds inspirational. She asked me permission to read me one, and I consented.

To be honest, I don’t even remember which part she picked. I just remember that at some point shortly after, we were talking about Adam and Eve, the first people, and she brought up how they defied God and ate the apple. So I asked whether they had the knowledge of good and evil at the time when he ordered them not to eat the fruit?

A little evasively, she said that they didn’t know good and evil, but they understood that it would be disobeying God. But I persisted, did they really? How did they know that it was wrong to disobey God if they didn’t know good and evil? What did they learn from the fruit of knowledge if they had that much understanding about not disobeying God?

She started to read what God said about how the day that Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they would die. So I said “But they didn’t die that day. So God was wrong.” And she said no, they certainly did die, in the sense that they became mortal. Then we talked about how the word “day” is sometimes a metaphor, and I brought up young earthism, so she said that she dismisses young earthism. “Yes,” I said, “but there is no indication in the Bible how long those ‘days’ of creation actually were. Science had to figure it out first, before you could take credit for her.” I also had to fill her in on background history of Bishop Ussher, since she didn’t know how widely accepted young earthism once was.

I asked how, with all the non-literal stuff in the Bible, she can tell the difference between what’s meant to be taken seriously and what’s not? The Bible has no key to interpreting itself — she pointed out that “in the beginning” from Genesis could be an indeterminate length of time and I pointed out that there is no way, without the insight of scientific examination, to actually determine that this is meant to stand for exactly 14.5 billion years.

But then she said that yes, the Bible has lots of original scientific knowledge, such as the order of creation matching up perfectly with what science says. “Oh reeeeally?” I asked, because this is one of my favorite claims to respond to. “Show me this ordering of creation please, that’s fascinating!” So she skipped back to Genesis and started running through the separation of light and darkness, and then plants, and then… “Where was the sun at this point?” I asked.

She had an answer for me: “Oh, this verse doesn’t mean that the sun was CREATED there. It just means that the sun was REVEALED at that point.” Then she started to explain to me about the vapor canopy hypothesis, where the firmament water that would eventually become the water of Noah’s flood, was blocking out the visibility of the sun.

“So,” I said, “you believe that when plants came into existence, there was no visible sun on earth.” “That’s right.” “And you believe this is in accordance with what modern science says? Seriously? How do you think plants get their energy? Ever heard of photosynthesis?” She put it to me that plants were getting energy straight from God.

So I said “I’m sorry, but you originally said that you think this information matches up with current scientific data. I know a lot of scientists, and I think it’s safe to say that only a very tiny minority would give any credibility whatever to your version of events, including the vapor canopy hypothesis.” She insisted that she had all kinds of literature she can bring back proving its scientific accuracy. I replied that I’m well aware that lots of creationists believe in that, but that doesn’t make it in agreement with scientific thinking.

“What I’d really like to see is some kind of mainstream, peer reviewed, scientific journal that seriously advances the ideas that you’re talking about.” She promised that she would do the research and come back with it later. Asked what time would be good for me, and we agreed on Saturday at 11. The whole conversation lasted about 15 minutes, I think.

Personally, I’m betting they won’t be back.

Kirk n’ Ray’s latest folly

By now I’m sure everyone knows about Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s plan to give away their own edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, complete with their own 50-page introduction packed with contemptible creotard lies, at 50 college campuses this November. UT-Austin is one of those campuses, and you can bet I’ll be there to get my copy! I heartily encourage Atheist Longhorns and literally everyone from the university’s Biology department to snap up copies as well, until they run out. And of course, make sure the uneducated drones giving away the book’s are appropriately humiliated and schooled. They evidently haven’t considered the likely consequences of showing up in an environment where people are, by and large, well educated, and trying to spread their ignorant twaddle. Let’s ensure they leave with a full understanding of those consequences.

Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog (Jim edits rogerebert.com, and both he and Ebert are outspoken science supporters) offers a very funny takedown of Kirk and Ray’s idiocy, and I think it’s a good thing that this whole exercise receives as much derision in advance of the actual event as possible. What an awesome thing it would be if those dispatched to give away these books encountered, at all 50 universities (and I’ve read reports there may be more than 100 universities by now), a horde of fearless and outspoken experts in science who calmly shoot down their foolishness and lies, like shooting clay pigeons out of the sky. This ought to be an event they live to regret.

Dembski has Glenn Beck Envy?

You’d think it was lame enough that the [snort] “Isaac Newton [snicker…heehee] of Information Theory [hhahahaHAHAHAHA…ahem]” is so bereft of actual material to teach his hapless students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that he bases a full 20% of their grade on how active they are in trolling the comments of science blogs (seriously…click here and scroll down to “Spring 2009…AP410″). Now, can it be that, inspired by conservative histrionics and tantrums at recent “town hall” meetings on health care reform, he now wants them to disrupt science lectures? Say it ain’t so!

SMU is hosting several awesome events this weekend celebrating Darwin’s 200th anniversary, and Dembski has told his students he wants them going.

I don’t want you going there merely as spectators but will indicate in class how you might actively participate and engage the Darwin-lovers you’ll find there.

“Darwin-lovers.” Cute. Very, erm, scientific.

Now, Dembski doesn’t exactly say “cause a disruption and shout people down.” But, here’s the thing. It’s obvious, at this point, that poor old Dembski has basically given up. That bold and courageous five-year plan indicated in the Wedge Document to undermine “materialistic” science and replace it with New & Improved Jesus Science hasn’t gone so well. Yes, we have millions of uneducated and undereducated dimwits in the general public who reject evolution, but what Dembski wanted was academic respectability, and that has eluded him. Because neither he nor anyone in the late and unlamented ID camp ever produced any research, any science, any peer reviewed papers showing that the evidence for ID was more reasonable to accept than that for evolution.

So now he’s reduced to asking his students to do his work for him, by trolling blogs and “challenging Darwin-lovers” at seminars held by real universities. As this exercise will lead to very embarrassing encounters for these poor deluded kids when real experts and scientifically literate people school them hard, one could almost call it cruel. I can see some poor 20-year-old kid, deciding to “actively engage the Darwin-lovers,” raising his hand during the Q&A, confidently spouting some ignorant ID canard, and being met with gales of laughter and some steely cold facts. It’s almost unpleasant to contemplate, like visualizing a squirrel being squashed by a semi. (Okay, I lie. It’s actually funny to contemplate and not nearly that bad. But I’m striving for “positive atheism” here. Work with me.)

It’s over, Bill. Your grade: fail.

Hey, wasn’t the Institute for Creation “Research” suing Texas or something?

Yeah, they were, weren’t they? So what’s become of that? Well, it would appear that, like all lawsuits, it’s becoming the usual drawn-out exercise in paperwork-generating tedium. But the ICR did, amusingly, recently file a motion for summary judgment, before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board even managed to complete discovery for their defense. Basically the ICR’s argument is a variant on the tried-and-true “Waah we’re Christians and rules don’t apply to us!” whine creationists typically rely on. You can read the motion, the burden of which is that, because the ICR doesn’t take state money, the THECB has no jurisdiction over them. The THECB responds by saying, well, yes we do. Ah, it’s never a dull moment dealing with entitled creationists who feel they can “educate” without any oversight.

Wait, what am I saying? It’s nothing but dull moments! Criminy.


From the ICR motion:

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (“THECB”), to the extent that it claims any jurisdictional or regulatory authority over ICRGS’s academic liberties under the Texas Education Code (e.g., under its Chapter 61 or otherwise), does so improperly, because ICRGS is statutorily exempt from the Texas Education Code’s application, as the fairly simple text of said §1.001(a) clearly shows.

From the THECB’s response:

Plaintiff’s contention purposefully and improperly ignores the remainder of the Texas Education Code…. Chapter 61 of the Texas Education Code — the Higher Education Coordinating Act of 1965 — includes a subchapter which expressly authorizes the Higher Education Coordinating Board to regulate private postsecondary educational institutions.

Wow. Quote-mining the law now? How very creationist of them.

Jonathan Park and the Mind Pathetically Misled: a rant

This is the kind of bilge guys like Don McLeroy and Ken Mercer would like to see taught in science classes here in Texas, and no mistake. One loses count of the scientifically illiterate creationist poltroons who have claimed to have disproved Darwin over the years, only to faceplant into a briar patch of epic fail. But that hasn’t daunted the intrepid folks at San Antonio’s Vision Forum Ministries, who have created a 12-episode radio series called Jonathan Park and the Journey Never Taken, spreading, one presumes, the usual McDonald’s menu of tepid, reheated anti-science lies. Let’s see how they do in their “disproofs”…

“While Darwinism’s impact remains far-reaching, its clutch on the culture is beginning to slip,” concluded [Vision Forum Ministries president Doug] Phillips. “Programs like Jonathan Park illustrate the growing number of people who reject the notion that the world came to be through random chance and chaos, recognizing instead that the creation speaks forth of a Creator.”

Annnnd…FAIL! Let’s count the errors, shall we? First, Darwin’s theory is not a theory regarding how the “world came to be,” and second, nowhere does any model of evolution supported by science make the claim that it is a process of “random chance and chaos”. So, wow, right there in an introductory web post, Phillips reveals his utter ignorance of the science he claims his stupid little program disproves. One can only imagine how bad the actual shows are.

Such a sad, dark little life of ignorance fundamentalism requires you to lead. I recently read Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, and it has to be the ultimate in travel writing. Imagine if Darwin had had his own blog during the seminal travels of his life, and you’ll get an idea of what’s it’s like. And if it reveals one thing more clearly than anything else, it’s that Charles Darwin possessed a sense of wonder and sheer unbridled awe about the beauty and majesty of life and the world we live in immeasurably greater than any felt by the pitiful creationists at Vision Forum Ministries — or any other creationist institution dedicated to the desperate clinging to the skirts of Bronze Age mythology instead of the real wonders that science and knowledge reveal to us.

They’re gearing this crap towards children, in the hopes their natural wonder about the world and hunger for learning will be stifled before it has a chance to form. And all in the interests of maintaining ancient beliefs and the ministries that sell them. This is why we fight. Minds are at stake. Somewhere in the world is a student who will go on to cure AIDS, extend human life expectancy, and solve other ills that befall us, and that student will have to understand evolution. Creationists fear this, and want this destroyed at all costs. Religion doesn’t care what destruction it leaves in its wake, as long as it comes out on top in the end.


Addendum: It didn’t take long for Pat Roy, writer of the radio show in question, to turn up in the comments to defend his efforts. Game of Pat to show up and comment. I’m replying here as Blogger limits the character length of comments, and my rebuttal goes on at length.

Pat writes, after quoting some writing of Erasmus’ Darwin’s:

Notice how [Erasmus] mentions the formation of the earth from chaos. And we can show that Charles accepted most of his father’s [sic] ideas. Do these statements specifically address biological evolution? No. And that may be your point. However, I believe Mr. Phillip’s statements were referring to the theory of “evolution” as many do — from Big Bang to complex humans – which we see very clearly in Erasmus’ quote (and many others). So you are wrong on your post, many evolutionists do attempt to explain the formation of the world from chaos.

“Many” — at least among scientists and the scientifically literate — do not in fact conflate such cosmological theories as the Big Bang with biological evolution, and if your radio show says they do, it is lying. It is the case that scientists who accept evolution also tend to accept such theories as the Big Bang, but to say that they refer to every field of study regarding origins under the all-purpose umbrella of “evolution” is deceptive. It’s precisely the kind of little deception that creationists engage in as a matter of course; the idea being that many little deceptions add to a student’s mistrust of the reliability of science and the scientific method, until, crack, the proverbial camel’s back proverbially breaks.

Can you in fact name these “many evolutionists” who “attempt to explain the formation of the world from chaos”? (Apart from Chuck D.’s grandad, that is? Science has progressed on the question somewhat since his day, you understand.) Because, from the studying I’ve done, scientists explain the formation of the world as following from known laws of physics. That an accretion disc of dust and nebular materials condensed around a young hot star and formed our solar system using such tried-and-true methods as gravity, and electrostatic and centrifugal forces. Sure, prior to all this going on, the original solar nebula may have been a somewhat chaotic glob of matter. But we wouldn’t have gotten a solar system out of it had physics not taken a role. That’s not simple chaos, and no respectable scientist would describe it so.

So, I’m sorry, your response so far does not leave me with much confidence in your presenting accurate science to your young audience.

Next, Doug Phillips and a team from Vision Forum have just returned from an amazing trip to from the Galapagos. I read the men’s’ accounts on their own voyage to these islands. They too, were filled with the awe and diversity of the animals there. They were inspired by the wonder, beauty, and sense of wonder at the islands. As a matter of fact, the VF team marveled at the incredible design of each animal – appreciating the very ingenuity that went into each one — whereas Charles Darwin attributed the beauty to non-intelligent processes. To say Darwin could appreciate the beauty and purpose more than a creationist isn’t based on anything other than an emotional response!

Phillips and his team went to the Galapagos and returned with more awe of their God. Darwin found awe in nature, without needing any recourse to the supernatural. This is the distinction I meant. Darwin went to the Galapagos and found himself learning new things and formulating original ideas. Your boys went there pretending to be open-minded admirers of science, all the while simply looking to shore up beliefs they already held.

The “design” evident in the animals of the Galapagos, and the whole world, results from an understood process: that of evolution by natural selection, sometimes called descent with modification. That this process is not “intelligent,” not teleological, does not invalidate it. Indeed, there are many problems that begin to crop up in our understanding of biology, and of all the sciences, the minute one tries to shoehorn a magical, all-powerful God into the equation. One is now obliged to explain how and why this God has created things the way he did. One is obliged to reconcile very clear instances of bad “design” — in human beings, for instance, our spines curve in such a way as to risk very bad back problems late in life, our knees bend the wrong way for maximal locomotion, and a woman’s birth canal is not large enough to admit a baby’s head without severe agony and possibly life-threatening consequences for the mother — on the part of this supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful creator. Tellingly, the only way creationists and religionists can reconcile these problems is through recourse to myths that, by their very nature, cannot be examined or confirmed: women’s birth pains are explained as a consequnce of Eve’s “fall,” for instance.

To put it
politely, this isn’t science. Nor is wandering around the Galapagos going, “Wow, look at that tortoise, isn’t God a great designer!”

As far as stifling children… I can say that I have had email after email from children (for many years) that have gotten excited about science and discovering the world around them as a direct result of the production. As a matter of fact, we end each episode with the tag-line, “This is our Father’s world. God created it. We can explore it. Now live the adventure.” Does that sound like we’re “stifling” children, or encouraging them to explore?

It sounds like you’re stifling them without understanding how you’re doing it. Real science, real learning, is done by withholding conclusions about your findings until you’ve seen where the evidence leads. Based on your comments here, it sounds like your entire presentation in these shows follows the creationist playbook: Present kids with nature; offer the false choice between “unintelligent, chaotic processes” and “intelligent design”; cast the choice in terms of a “Duh!” moment (after all, who could believe that all this amazing design in nature could possibly be the result of random chance?!!?1!); and voila — teh God!

Do you truly, accurately present the evidence for evolution in your series? Do you allow pro-evolution scientists who also happen to be Christians — Kenneth Miller, Francisco Alaya, among others — to make guest appearances on the show to explain what the evidence actually tells us? I don’t for an instant believe you do. And that’s not an emotional response. It’s rooted in a long history of dealing with creationists and their dishonesty. What actual, scientifically falsifiable evidence do you present to support the claims “This is our Father’s world. God created it” (in the way science education provides falsifiable evidence for evolution, I mean)? Or are you just telling kids this? If the latter, then, once more with feeling: That isn’t science, Pat, it’s simply religion looking for intellectual cred by donning a lab coat.

I don’t doubt you’ve gotten praiseworthy emails from kids, Pat. But that doesn’t confirm the content of what you teach is true, only that kids with no prior knowledge of science and no way to verify or disconfirm what you taught them enjoyed the experience. I will admit, in fairness, that you may inadvertently have done some of these kids some good. Some of them may well have gone on to study science as they got further along in their educations. And then they’d have discovered that the actual evidence doesn’t quite support what you taught them. Then, some of them may thank you again &#151 if for a very different reason.

Here is the biggest problem with your statement: most of the founding fathers of science were creationists. So to say that creation stifles scientific discovery is just untrue — as proven by history.

Well of course, Pat! Science is about discovery, and developing new theories to supplant old ones when the evidence calls for it. Are you really trying to offer me “Scientists long before Darwin believed in creation” as if it were an argument that validated creation? I mean, you could just as easily say that, because most early doctors were Galenists who believed in the four “humors,” this in no way stifles medical discovery.

Of course early scientists were creationists, because, until Darwin, no one had established a theory of evolution with a solid body of evidence behind it. Early scientists can hardly be expected to have held an idea that did not yet exist, let alone have a strong, evidence-backed theory behind it.

When medicine began to be informed by such things as the germ theory of disease, archaic notions like the humors were discarded as no longer useful or factual. If any doctors today still held to Galenism and the humors, they wouldn’t be good doctors. By the same token, evolution has been confirmed by such a vast body of evidence, and continues to be confirmed by new discoveries all the time. To hang onto an old idea that denies evolution, despite the evidence, is not good science. Creationists who reject evolution in this day and age are like doctors who are still Galenists, holding onto an outmoded idea and bizarrely defending it by pointing out that this is how people long ago thought!

So, thanks for the friendly response. But I’m afraid I’ve found nothing in it to think your program is going to be any less rubbish than all the other creationist efforts I’ve encountered. And if you think my critique was a little on the harsh side, I’d advise you to strap on the Kevlar once actual biologists hear what you’re filling impressionable little minds with.