My landlord is a debate-loving creationist who just realized I'm an evolutionary biologist

Enjoy the schadenfreude, everyone.

My landlord just knocked on the door to discuss various landlord-y things, like how he’ll fix one of my broken chairs and how much Comcast sucks. He asked how grad school was going and what sorts of classes I’m taking, and I mentioned how Gene Regulation was really hard. He’s on a board that heads genetic research for a certain disease, so we were having a pretty in depth discussion about genetics. It was nice until…

Landlord: Well, I’m a creationist. Though most of my colleagues are evolutionists.
Me: …Well, I also have a degree in evolution. Genetics and evolution.
Landlord: *glint in eye*
Me: What have I done?!

He then spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me that junk DNA somehow proves evolution is wrong, how evolution can’t predict anything or be useful, how no study has shown evolution to be true. I tried to provide counter arguments as nicely as possibly, while trying not to get evicted from my apartment.

Landlord: Well, I shouldn’t keep you from your paper any longer. But I see I’m going to have a lot of work to do with you. *wink*
Me: I could say the same thing *wink back*
Landlord: Haha, bye!
Me:FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU

I should state that my landlord is super nice and helpful (and looks just like the old man from Up!). I just spend so much of my life debating creationists, I like to escape from it at home. As long as “Must debate evolution before rent is accepted” doesn’t become part of my lease, I’m happy.

I just hope he doesn’t Google my name.

Yet another example of why I left Indiana

A Geocentrism conference? Really?I saw this story floating around and wasn’t going to comment on it, but then I found out the conference is being held in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, Indiana. This is why I usually tell people I’m from Chicago instead (my home town is a Chicago suburb in Indiana, I swear!).

Phil Plait has an excellent summary of why Geocentrism is wrong over at Bad Astronomy, including this particularly insightful bit:

Look, I’m human: I say “The Sun rose in the east today”, and not “the rotation of the Earth relative to the rest of the Universe carried me around to a geometric vantage point where the horizon as seen from my location dropped below the Sun’s apparent position in space.” To us, sitting here on the surface of a planet, geocentrism is a perfectly valid frame of reference. Heck, astronomers use it all the time to point our telescopes. We map the sky using a projected latitude and longitude, and we talk about things rising and setting. That’s not only natural, but a very easy way to do those sorts of things. In that case, thinking geocentrically makes sense.

However, as soon as you want to send a space probe to another planet, geocentrism becomes cumbersome. In that case, it’s far easier to use the Sun as the center of the Universe and measure the rotating and revolving Earth as just another planet. The math works out better, and in fact it makes more common sense.

However, this frame of reference, called heliocentrism, still is not the best frame for everything. Astronomers who study other galaxies use a galactic coordinate system based on our Milky Way galaxy, and the Sun is just another star inside it. Call it galactocentrism, if you want, and it’s just as useful as geo- or heliocentrism in its limited way. And none of those systems work if I want to know turn-by-turn directions while driving; in that case I use a carcentric system (specifically a Volvocentric one).

You use coordinate systems depending on what you need.

So really, there is no one true center to anything. I suppose you could say the Universe is polycentric, or more realistically acentric. You picks your frame of reference and you takes your chances.

…That’s where Geocentrism trips up. Note the upper case G there; I use that to distinguish it from little-g geocentrism, which is just another frame of reference among many. Capital-G Geocentrism is the belief that geocentrism is the only frame, the real one.

I never thought about it that way! Thanks, Phil!

Just in case you haven’t rage punched your screen yet today

here you go. Transcript:

“When I decided to homeschool my six year old son, I told him we were going to do “Dinosaur Week”. Which turned into “Dinosaur Month”… at the least! We watched “Walking With Dinosaurs” and a lot of other documentaries. He’s a pretty smart kid, too, so even he ended up saying “Ok. Scientists say that God isn’t real. They say earth is a kajillion years old. They say that people and dinosaurs weren’t alive at the same time and that a lot of dinosaurs could have died from a big flood, but that The Flood didn’t happen. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!”. He gets really upset about people not believing in God – as in he doesn’t want them to go to hell and he can’t believe people can ignore God all around us. Every time we watch one of those dinosaur things, he gives a big, overly-dramatic sigh whenever they start talking about “millions of years” or evolution.

One that really cracked him up was where they theorize about reptiles evolving into humanoid creatures. Good grief! And they teach most of this stuff as FACT in schools!!!! I can’t believe it. Neither can a six year old. So WHY is it so accepted?!!?

I teach him what makes SENSE. NOT what science textbooks say. I also teach my kids to question what they are taught – especially what they learn in school. It’s really not fun at all having a bunch of junior scientists in the house when 99% of science seems to be atheistic.”

*brain explodes*

Yes, because if something doesn’t make sense to a 6 year old, it’s obviously wrong. That’s also how we’ve disproved gravity and economic policy and algebra. Ironclad logic.

…I …I’m not even going to bother refuting everything Random Internet Creationist Parent has to say. It’s really not going to accomplish anything other than make me weep for humanity. Seriously, it kills me that little kids are being brainwashed like this. Is he one day going to wise up, and then have to deal with the crushing social stigma of leaving your family’s religion? Will he become trapped in this mindless acceptance of unthinking religious dogma and never have the skills to do anything more than flip burgers? Or even more terrifying, will he go on to be your child’s biology teacher?

Auuugghhabbbbllllhhh. Should have saved this post for night so I could relabel it as a scary ghost story.

And yes, it was painful for me to type those periods outside of the quotes.

This is post 20 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Creationist hijacking lessons in Queensland, Australia

On one hand, it’s nice knowing the US isn’t alone in its appalling understanding of evolution. On the under hand… WTF, Australia:

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

It’s bad enough children are being fed religious garbage that will only muddle their real scientific education. But when parents opt to have their children removed from this program (which they have the right to do), the children are often ostracized and discriminated against. Here’s just one unfortunate example:

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

“The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve,” he said.

“My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that ‘wouldn’t they all be inbred’?

“But the teacher replied that DNA wasn’t invented then.”

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year’s classes in the library.

Removed for being too bright and inquisitive. If that doesn’t show the true nature of creationism, I don’t know what does.

I do like photo and caption the article uses, though:“The only time man has walked with dinosaurs – in the Jurassic Park films.”

Journalism Win.

This is post 18 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The Evolution Litmus Test

A couple days ago when I was waiting for my Biomedical Ethics exam to begin, I started chatting with this girl sitting near me. She was in my recitation class, but I didn’t really know anything else about her. Somehow I mentioned I was a biology major, and she brought up the one biology class she took as an Animal Science major: it was my favorite Biology class at Purdue, Evolution of Behavior.

Now, even though one of my research advisors teaches that class, I promise I’m not being biased – every day I left that class absolutely amazed at how interesting and inventive nature was. I’ve always been more of a lab rat and genetics nerd, but this gave me real appreciation for natural history and behavior. We talked about insanely interesting topics like the evolution of echolocation, altruism, dominance regulated ovulation suppression, and electric fish communication. And as a perk, I thought the class was pretty easy; if you just understood basic evolutionary principles and paid attention at all (which was a given, since it was so cool), you’d do fine.

So when this girl brought it up, of course I gushed about how much I loved that class. To which she replied,

“Oh, I don’t believe in evolution. I just took that class to see what the different opinion was like.”

The only thing that kept me from calling her out on the stupidity of her statements (EVOLUTION IS NOT FUCKING OPINION) was the fact that I didn’t want to totally upset myself right before I had to take a difficult exam. But of course, she had to go on,

“It was so hard! I didn’t understand anything he was saying all semester!”

I asked her if she took the required introductory evolution classes before taking this one, and she said no – her Animal Science advisor said the class was easy and she waived the requirements. This made me fume. Evolution of Behavior is a 500-level class meant for upperclassmen and graduate students. We spend about a day reviewing the principles of evolution because it’s assumed you’ve already learned them in the various required classes. So if you stick a creationist in that class with no knowledge of evolution, of course they’re going to be totally confused. And now they can proudly claim “well I took a class on evolution and so I know it’s wrong” just because they didn’t have the skill set to understand the class!

The thing that annoys me the most is that this person is graduating with a degree in Animal Sciences. If you are getting a degree in something biology-related, you should understand and accept evolution. Hell, I know Biology students (mostly molecular or pre-med people) who don’t accept evolution, so it’s not a matter of curriculum*. But to know that we’re giving degrees to people who fail to understand – no, outright deny a basic tenet of biology is shameful.

Would chemistry give degrees to someone who thought the five elements were more accurate than the periodic table? Would physics give degrees to a someone who thought gravity was fairies holding us down to the ground? Would earth and atmospheric sciences give degrees to flat-Earthers? Would astronomy give degrees to people who think the moon is made of cheese?

Maybe with the way American education is set up, you can’t stop someone from graduating based on these things. Maybe they adamantly believe in fanciful superstition, but are smart enough to give the desired (aka correct) answers on exams. How do you hold back someone with crazy beliefs if they got As in all the classes?

And while I hate giving creationists undeserved credentials (“I got a degree in Biology, and I know evolution is false, trust me!”), I guess they can go have jobs where evolution doesn’t matter as much. Go pipette for hours at some company for all I care. But when these people are going on to become teachers or scientists, it’s scary. You need to be able to understand and accept evolution to 1) Teach it to others so we don’t keep perpetuating ignorance, and 2) Come up with plausible hypotheses, do good research, and interpret results correctly.

This is why I think we need an Evolution Litmus Test in these fields. Do not accept people into your school or Masters/PhD program unless they accept evolution. I don’t care how you do it – a written test, an essay question on the application, a simple check box to weed out the honest, asking pointed questions during interviews, sending grad student spies to mingle and get the truth out… But figure out what people deny basic science before you turn them into scientists. A friend shared with me a story about a fellow grad school interviewee at a very prestigious university who was a unabashedly proud young earth creationist around the other prospective students (but not current ones or professors) – do not let this ignorance infiltrate your program.

I know people are going to claim I’m just putting an “atheist requirement” on studying biology, but I am not. There are many many biologists who are religious but still accept evolution. I have friends here at Purdue who go to church weekly, are in religious clubs, and will still laugh at Intelligent Design for it’s anti-science lunacy. This is just a scientific standard. If you don’t believe in a fundamental of the field, you should not be able to claim some sort of expertise in it. It’s as bad as graduating in History with a focus on WWII and believing the Holocaust was a hoax. It proves you do not understand the topic, and it is embarrassing to the school.

But really, is it that outlandish to require people to understand the field you’re hiring them in?

*Note for non-Purdue people: AS is part of the College of Agriculture, and Biology (what I’m in) is part of the College of Science, so we have very different curriculum. Hence why she didn’t have to take those intro Biology courses that teach evolution (though those still fail to educate some bio majors).

I need your help!

At tomorrow’s biweekly club meeting we’re playing Creationist Bingo. It should be hilarious fun. Does anyone have suggestions for hilarious creationist youtube videos we can show of actual creationists parroting the same idiotic tripe over and over? Real creationists, not people spoofing them. I’m sure it’s not hard to find, but I’m busy with school right now. Go check out the Creationist Bingo card to get an idea of what we’re looking for (it shouldn’t be hard, though).

I'm just a stupid undergrad, apparently

I stopped by our Send an Atheist to Church event between my classes to see how it was going. A professor (I won’t say from which department, don’t want to identify him) was debating with club members working the table. He had initiated the discussion, and I wasn’t paying much attention until the topic turned to evolution.

It was a bit odd. He mostly accepted evolution, but believed that Intelligent Design was a better explanation for what guided the process. He argued that atheist philosophers and scientists outright rejected ID, and it never gets a chance to be debated or discussed.

(Not exact quotes, but fairly darn close)

Me: That’s because ID isn’t scientific.
Him: Yes it is.
Me: No it isn’t. Name one testable prediction for ID.
Him: Well there a many, but the complexity of structures like flagella.
Me: First of all, it has been explained numerous times by numerous people how the flagella could evolve in a stepwise natural fashion. Second of all, that’s not a way to support or falsify ID. It would falsify evolution, but that doesn’t mean God is the answer.
Him: Well all the great scientists were religious. Newton’s religion helped him figure out physics.
Me: …You can be religious and be a scientist. That doesn’t mean your religious beliefs are correct too.
Him: Well, how about Francis Collins? He was the head of the Human Genome Project and is the head of NIH.
Me: That’s just argument from authority. He’s brilliant at genetics, but that doesn’t mean he knows everything about evolution.
Him: Are you head of the NIH?
Me: No, but I study genetics and evolution.
Him: Do you have a PhD?
Me: I’m going to start working toward my PhD in the fall, maybe you’ll listen to me in five years.

Seriously, how demeaning. Yep, I’m just a dumb undergrad. Obviously I have no say on anything because I don’t have a PhD and I’m not the head of NIH, even though evolution is an easy enough concept for teenagers to understand.

I was pretty much done with him at that point. He may as well have said “little girl, go back to your corner and shut up.” What a disrespectful way to treat a student, especially when you are the one who has no idea what he’s talking about.

I would be sorry for anyone who was in this guy’s class. Disagree with him? Nope, you’re just dumb and immature. Come back when you have more letters after your name.

I’m just a stupid undergrad, apparently

I stopped by our Send an Atheist to Church event between my classes to see how it was going. A professor (I won’t say from which department, don’t want to identify him) was debating with club members working the table. He had initiated the discussion, and I wasn’t paying much attention until the topic turned to evolution.

It was a bit odd. He mostly accepted evolution, but believed that Intelligent Design was a better explanation for what guided the process. He argued that atheist philosophers and scientists outright rejected ID, and it never gets a chance to be debated or discussed.

(Not exact quotes, but fairly darn close)

Me: That’s because ID isn’t scientific.
Him: Yes it is.
Me: No it isn’t. Name one testable prediction for ID.
Him: Well there a many, but the complexity of structures like flagella.
Me: First of all, it has been explained numerous times by numerous people how the flagella could evolve in a stepwise natural fashion. Second of all, that’s not a way to support or falsify ID. It would falsify evolution, but that doesn’t mean God is the answer.
Him: Well all the great scientists were religious. Newton’s religion helped him figure out physics.
Me: …You can be religious and be a scientist. That doesn’t mean your religious beliefs are correct too.
Him: Well, how about Francis Collins? He was the head of the Human Genome Project and is the head of NIH.
Me: That’s just argument from authority. He’s brilliant at genetics, but that doesn’t mean he knows everything about evolution.
Him: Are you head of the NIH?
Me: No, but I study genetics and evolution.
Him: Do you have a PhD?
Me: I’m going to start working toward my PhD in the fall, maybe you’ll listen to me in five years.

Seriously, how demeaning. Yep, I’m just a dumb undergrad. Obviously I have no say on anything because I don’t have a PhD and I’m not the head of NIH, even though evolution is an easy enough concept for teenagers to understand.

I was pretty much done with him at that point. He may as well have said “little girl, go back to your corner and shut up.” What a disrespectful way to treat a student, especially when you are the one who has no idea what he’s talking about.

I would be sorry for anyone who was in this guy’s class. Disagree with him? Nope, you’re just dumb and immature. Come back when you have more letters after your name.

The creationist persecution complex continues

My friend Mike, who blogs over at Politics and Pucks, recently posted a little rant on the conservative and religious environment around Cincinnati, OH. Such a rant cannot be complete without mentioning the Creation Museum, which he did several times. Apparently the Creation Museum is a lot like Beetlejuice – say its name too many times, and one of their representatives will pop up crying “Persecution!” Mike, feel honored that you hurt their feelings enough to get a comment from Mark Looy, co-founder of the Creation Museum:

So the implication is that Bill Cunningham is also a bigot because he supported the Creation Museum after the Cincinnat Zoo — during the Christmas season — stopped its promotional package that offered families a discount to visit both attractions. The zoo yielded to the pressure of dozens of intolerant (often hateful) people who demanded that the zoo stop its ticket partnership with us. And somehow Mr. Cunningham is a bigot for exposing this intolerance and hate? Mark Looy, CCO, Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky

Dear Mark Looy and other Creationists who Just Don’t Get It,

I am tolerant of your outright lies and delusions in the sense that I will never threaten you or your families and I support your right to freedom of speech. Shame on anyone who has done so, atheist or not. However, tolerance does not equal respect or support, which you have to earn.

Your museum (which I had the misfortune of visiting) is a complete sham and an insult to human intelligence, reason, and curiosity. Having a place that supports learning and scientific inquiry even associate itself with you is totally inappropriate. The Cincinnati Zoo should not support the Creation Museum, a World War II museum should not support Holocaust deniers, and an Astronomical Observatory should not support flat Earthers. You are absolutely no different from these wacky fringe groups. Freedom of religion does not mean we have to think you’re awesome and suck up to you.

Until you realize this, I have every right to point and laugh at you, just as you have every right to put dinosaurs munching alongside Adam and Eve. Crying about how you’re a victim and those godless scientists are the real meanies is only going to continue making you the laughing stock of America.

Sincerely,

Godless Scientist Meanie