Spotted on my Facebook feed

From a high school acquaintance:

“So I’m excited to announce to the Facebook world: I passed my first Histology exam!!! I never knew I could be this excited about a C. Thanks for all who supported me and prayed for me. God is so good.”

You know, maybe you would do better in your veterinary school classes if you spent more time studying than praying.

Seriously, if God really is the reason that some students were doing well, they should be expelled. A supreme deity isn’t enrolled in school, you are. If they’re altering your grades, that’s cheating.

The sad thing is I’ve heard so many stories about uber-Christian/creationist vet students from some of my friends in vet school. The young earth creationist who hounded me at Darwin on the Palouse and wouldn’t give up the microphone? Vet medicine grad student at Washington State University. Talk about someone who needs to be put in a remedial evolution class.

Come see me for Darwin Day!

I’ll be a part of Darwin on the Palouse, a Darwin Day celebration in Pullman, WA and Moscow, ID:

  • Daniel Dennett and PZ Myers will speak in the Cub Senior Ballroom at Washington State University in Pullman on February 9, starting at 7:00 PM.
  • Fred Edwords and Jennifer McCreight will speak in the Clearwater Room at the University of Idaho in Moscow on February 10, starting at 6:00 PM. I’ll be giving my talk about Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, which is always a blast.

I find it kind of odd that I’m in fact returning to Moscow, ID. I was there when they hosted the Evolution conference a couple of years ago.

Not gonna lie, I’m kind of giddy to be part of the same event as Daniel Dennett. Thanks to the organizers for including me. Sadly I’ll miss his and PZ‘s talk, since I fly in Friday afternoon. PZ has already guilted me into buying him a beer as penance.

And I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I have to point out a pet peeve. Whoever wrote the speaker bios writes that Dennett is an author and philosopher, that PZ is a biologist and has won many secular awards, that Edwords is an editor and director of secular organizations…and that I’m the blogger that did boobquake. I know that’s what I’m most famous for, but that’s all you come up with? You don’t think it’s relevant to mention that I’m the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Secular Student Alliance, that I’ve published in the Atheist Guide to Christmas, that…you know, I’m an evolutionary biologist working on my PhD? For Darwin Day?

Nope, boob joke. I will never escape it, will I?

Creationism bill passes Indiana Senate

Newflash! 28 out of 50 Indiana state Senators are still complete morons (emphasis mine):

On January 31, 2012, the Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 provided, “The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.” On January 30, 2012, however, it was amended in the Senate to provide instead, “The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.”

The Senate spent less than twenty minutes considering the bill, with its sponsor Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) defending it. Kruse acknowledged that the bill would be constitutionally problematic but, he told the education blogger at the Indianapolis Star (January 31, 2012), “This is a different Supreme Court,” adding, “This Supreme Court could rule differently.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana’s legal director Ken Falk was previously quoted in a story from the Associated Press (January 26, 2012) as saying that the bill is clearly unconstitutional and invites lawsuits: moreover, he added, “when lawmakers propose legislation they clearly know will end up in the courts, it wastes time and resources.”

[...] The bill now proceeds to the Indiana House of Representatives, where its sponsors are Jeff Thompson (R-District 28) and Eric Turner (R-District 32), who is also the house speaker pro tem. Thompson, interestingly, is also a cosponsor, along with Cindy Noe (R-District 87), of House Bill 1140, which would require teachers to discuss “commonly held competing views” on topics “that cannot be verified by scientific empirical evidence.” While evolution is not mentioned in the bill, Noe cohosted a controversial dinner at the Creation Evidence Expo in Indianapolis in 2009according to the Fort Wayne Reader (August 23, 2010). In any case, HB 1140 seems to have died in committee.

…You know, I got nothing. I dealt with this idiotic crap for the 22 years I lived in Indiana, and I’m running out of new material. Now it’s just time to get the popcorn and watch the stupidity play out.

The only reason I wish I still lived in Indiana is so I could be the one to petition for Pastafarianism.

Indiana Senate committee approves creationist legislation

My dad emailed me this news report with the quote “Another reason to be glad you’re not living in Indiana.” From NWI Times (our local newspaper!):

An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.

Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life” and specifically mentions “creation science” as one such theory.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life’s origins, students should be taught all of them.

But John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University, said evolution is the only theory of life that relies on empirical evidence from scientific investigations.

“Creation science is not science,” Staver said. “It is unquestionably a statement of a specific religion.”

The Rev. Charles Allen, head of Grace Unlimited, an Indianapolis campus ministry, said students would be served better by teaching religion comparatively, rather than trying to “smuggle it in” to a science course.

The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee nevertheless voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

What? Indiana is being backwards and ignorant? I am shocked – shocked, I say!

Dear Indiana legislators,

What you are doing is unconstitutional. That is not an opinion of mine – the Supreme court decided this in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Your attempt to weasel Christianity into public science classrooms is going to fail. You can either choose to vote it down now, or you can waste years of time and money in a pointless legal battle. Not to mention your continued efforts to destroy science make intelligent young people like me dying to evacuate the state and never come back. You wonder why you have a brain drain? This is it.

Indiana voters – figure out your Senate district here and send your state Senator a reminder about why creationism has no place in a science classroom.

Kentucky’s priorities

Governor Steve Beshear (D) of Kentucky has just approved the state’s new budget for 2012-2013: millions of dollars cut from education, while the Creation Museum’s $43 million dollar Ark Park still stands. The $11 million going toward highway development for the amusement park was also untouched.

I can see Beshear’s airtight logic now. If we keep Kentuckians uneducated, they’re more likely to visit that intellectual black hole, thus increasing money spent on tourism! Budget problem solved!

And to think states like Kentucky wonder why they experience a “brain drain.”

Indiana DEFINITELY isn’t perfect

At least Seattle limits its scientific ignorance to a piece of bad journalism. Indiana has anti-evolution legislation bubbling up:

Senate Bill 89, prefiled in the Indiana Senate and referred to the Committee on Education and Career Development, would, if enacted, amend the Indiana Code to provide that “[t]he governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.” The sponsor of the bill is Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development. In 1999, while serving in the Indiana House of Representatives, Kruse pledged to introduce a law to remove evolution from the state’s science standards, according to the South Bend Tribune (August 27, 1999). Instead, however, he introduced bills with the same wording as Senate Bill 89, House Bill 1356 in 2000 and House Bill 1323 in 2001. Both died in committee.

It’s irritating enough that people want to legislate their religion into science classrooms. But this is obviously unconstitutional and has no chance of surviving a legal battle. Stop wasting the time and money of Hoosiers and focus on issues that actually matter.

…One day, one day I will receive positive news from my home state.

Seattle isn’t perfect

As much as I agree with the hilarious post about how “Seattle is objectively superior to the place you grew up,” I have to admit it’s not perfect. Like our main news station running a terrible piece on how Arizona sandstones prove Noah’s flood. Thanks for the uncritical support of young earth creationists, KOMO! I understand you’re busy and couldn’t get around to interviewing any legitimate researcher at the University of Washington. It’s hard picking up the phone or riding a bus for ten minutes.

Of course, Seattle is home to the Discovery Institute, so maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking when biased journalism like this springs up.

Accepting evidence is not dogmatic

Update: I have decided to restore this post with some minor edits. I will write more about my decision to do so in another post, since I think the topic of self censorship in terms of the social structure of academia is an interesting topic.

Hrmph.

I’m frustrated. As I talked about before, I’m working on my NSF Graduate Fellowship proposal. Part of this process is getting a ton of students and professors to critique your paper. I honestly shouldn’t be too annoyed, because overall the reviews of my proposal have been very good. But a critique that I got from many – but not the majority of – my reviewers happens to be a major pet peeve of mine.

I was too “dogmatic.”

The offending part was the opening paragraphs of my personal statement. I’ll post it here for full disclosure:

            “College was a bit of a culture shock for me. I grew up in a nurturing environment that embraced science – Bill Nye the Science Guy was the program of choice, and competing in Science Olympiad was cool. But when I moved a tad farther south into the heartland of Indiana for my undergraduate education at Purdue University, I quickly realized this was not a universal truth. The attitude toward evolution was terrible amongst non-scientists on campus. One of the local churches was a major donor to the infamous Creation Museum in Kentucky, activists handed out anti-evolution tracts on the main quad, and anti-evolution letters in the campus newspaper were commonplace. I was shocked to learn that even many of my fellow biology majors did not accept evolution.

The fact that so many people didn’t share my fascination with evolutionary theory troubled me on a personal level. This wasn’t simply someone disagreeing with how I earned a paycheck: Learning about evolution was the key event that led me to adopt a skeptical, naturalistic worldview. I felt like people were rejecting the ideals that shape my humanist ethics. I wanted others to understand my feelings of awe as I contemplate the universe, or how lucky I feel to have evolved the necessary traits to contemplate the universe in the first place. I quickly learned that many of these people still valued science, but never had the opportunity to become educated about evolution.

That realization motivated my passion for science communication and mentoring. [...]“

Now, I’m not claiming that’s perfect. It’s a draft that can obviously still do with some tweaking. And I realize I have to walk on egg shells and be politically correct if I actually want to get funded. It doesn’t matter if I’m being honest or if I’m technically right if I happen to get three Christian biologists who read this as a belligerent attack against their belief. Which is apparently how it came off to my reviewers.

Fine. Whatever. I don’t read it that way, but I guess I can see how you can read it to be negative. I thought I was being as diplomatic as I could possibly be, but apparently it’s still not diplomatic enough – I’ll have to change some of the wording.

If we would have stopped at “This could potentially be interpreted negatively,” I would not have been writing this post. But it didn’t. Some of my reviewers, including a professor, insisted that I was “dogmatic,” and “wanted people to believe in evolution just because that’s what you happen to believe in.” That rejecting evolution isn’t a “terrible” attitude. That I shouldn’t be “shocked” that some biology majors don’t believe in evolution, because not everyone has to be like me. That wanting to help people learn about evolution means I thought they were stupid.

That I came off as, I quote, “Dawkins-esque.”

I think that was supposed to be negative remark, but I took it as a compliment.

I fumed the whole bus ride home, wishing I could have responded then and there – but a meeting for a review of your work is not the place for a philosophical debate. But these are things I hear over and over – not just from professors and classmates I like and respect who accept evolution but think I’m too “dogmatic” about promoting it. Because they’re so common, I feel that it’s important that I address those types of ideas here.

1. Wanting people to adopt an evidence-based view of the universe is not dogmatic. In fact, it’s the very opposite of dogma. I want people to be able to change their minds when confronted with new evidence. Admitting you were wrong is one of the most intellectually honest things you can do. The only “dogmatic” thing about living in reality is that some things are true, and some things are not. You don’t get to flap your arms and start flying through the air just because you wish that was the way the universe works.

2. I don’t want people to “believe in evolution because that’s what I believe in.” I want people to accept evolution because there’s an insurmountable mountain of evidence supporting it. This isn’t a subjective opinion that’s up for debate. I’m not forcing people to think that chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls is the best flavor (though it totally is). To deny evolution is either based on ignorance or willful delusion. I know, what mean words. That doesn’t make them less true. People have either not learned about evolution or not had it explained to them well, or they’re people who go and build Creation Museums and think people walked with dinosaurs because of their religious convictions. There may be less hope at getting the latter to accept evolution, but being a science educator is important to me, and I want to tackle the “ignorance” side of that equation.

In my future draft, I plan to explicitly say that I accept evolution because of that mountain of evidence. I thought that would be self-evident to biologist NSF reviewers, but might as well be safe…

3. Rejecting evolution is certainly a “terrible” attitude. Again, why should we pat people on the back for ignoring scientific facts?

4. We don’t give chemistry degrees to people who believe in alchemy. We don’t give aerospace engineering degrees to people who think planes are held up by fairies. We don’t give geology degrees to people who think the Earth is made of chocolate pudding.  But we have no problem giving biology degrees to people who think an invisible supernatural being created life, despite it having as much evidence as Puddingology. I should feel shocked that people who reject the fundamental concepts of their field can still successfully earn a degree.

5. I don’t think that everyone who rejects evolution is stupid. I do, however, think they are wrong. Those things are not equivalent. And when ignorance – the lack of information – is the cause of their rejection, that can be fixed. And should be fixed – but apparently it’s dogmatic to think people should be educated.

Why do I even need to have this discussion? Why, if I had proposed educating people about gravity or plate tectonics, would there have been no debate? Why would any other drive to educate be seen as positive, rather than dogmatic? Why are we expected to roll over and simply accept that some people are going to ignore the fact of evolution?

Because religion is protected in our culture. Telling someone they’re wrong is “dogmatic” if it’s contradicting their religious beliefs even if, you know, they’re wrong. Mincing words and avoiding hurt feelings is more important than education and reality.

Religion does not deserve this special status. We don’t have to tiptoe around, pretending the universe bends to their wishes when all of the evidence says otherwise.

Of course, I have to wonder if this whole “dogmatic” thing came up because later in my personal statement I mention my involvement with some secular organizations. They were relevent – I talk about various pro-science events we’ve done, and the organizational and leadership skills I’ve gained from them. Or if it came up because these people aren’t reading my proposal in a vacuum – they all know I’m a strident, outspoken atheist in my free time. Even if I don’t say that in my proposal and I mince words as much as possible, that knowledge still colors their interpretation. Without the atheism side, would my drive to educate about evolution have been a problem? Did my classmates who mentioned teaching students about evolution in their applications get called dogmatic?

I hate that I even have to wonder about it.

My very own Creation Museum

Speaking of evolution denial in the Pacific Northwest, apparently someone thought I missed the creationist craziness from back home. They went and build me my very own creation museum, this time in Idaho! How…thoughtful.
What is the Northwest “Science” Museum?

What is the Vision?

The vision for this museum is to present a “Natural History” museum from a Biblical point of view. This museum would display similar exhibits to the well known natural history museums (i.e. Denver Museum of Nature and Science, American Museum of Natural History, Chicago Field Museum) but interpreted from a Biblical world view.

What is the purpose?

To lead people to a better understanding of God by viewing His creation. To show that creation science can explain the evidence we see in the world around us and that it is not just religion. The Museum is devoted to understanding and explaining origins, history and our present world as revealed by scientific discovery interpreted through the worldview of Biblical truth.


What is the Mission?


To share the everlasting gospel through God’s creation with people here in Treasure Valley, the entire Northwest, the entire United States, and regions beyond.

And of course, it has a fascination with dinosaurs:

Seriously, with all the dinosaur-loving creationists do, you’d think Jesus was martyred by velociraptor attack instead of a crucifix. Or was a velociraptor.


Honestly, it makes as much sense as what these “museums” are teaching.

(Via Friendly Atheist)

This is post 5 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I’ve lost my appetite for Dick’s

Now that I have your attention…Dick’s Drive-In is a burger chain in Seattle. There’s one right by my house, and I was pestered incessantly to try it when I first moved here. I’m not sure what the fuss is about, because it’s woefully mediocre. I have a feeling it’s typical drunk food (in which case it would probably taste much better) or the product of years of childhood nostalgia. When I say I don’t really like Dick’s, Seattlites get kind of offended.

After they’re done giggling.

But now I have another reason to dislike Dick’s, not just because of their crummy cheeseburgers or stale fries or tiny (though undeniably delicious) milkshakes. James Spady, the owner of Dick’s, is also on the Board of Directors of the Discovery Institute, the Intelligent Design pedaling, evolution hating, intellectually dishonest shame of Seattle. Lovely.

Oh well. I didn’t need much more motivation other than taste to avoid Dick’s. Seriously, if I want cheap delicious food, why would I even walk past Rancho Bravos to get to Dick’s? Now I have even more motivation to stick to Mexican.

This is post 4 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.