Vestigial Brains?

Strange. While following the trail back from the Bananaman song, I stumbled across a comment from over on Pharyngula in 2009 that I don’t think I have ever posted up on my own place (got busy writing Bananaman and forgot all about it):

If we load up the creationists and put them on the moon,
Then I bet a million dollars (if I had the cash) that soon,
Through the pressures of selection, and the metabolic cost,
Given twenty generations, that their brains have all been lost.
And like eyeless fish, or wingless birds, these brainless fools survive,
Thanks to natural selection, as the dumbest fucks alive.

Billy Joel Takes On Ray Comfort

Ed tells us of Ray Comfort’s new series, in which he takes on prominent atheists. My title is a nod to Ed’s “Ray Comfort takes on Billy Joel”. The following was written a few years ago at the old place (click through for context), but it seems appropriate now.

It’s an afternoon post on Pharyngula,
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s a pretty good chance that some troll will come dance
And remind us we’re living in sin

He’ll say “Darwin is worshipped by Atheists”
He’s not really sure what that means
But he knows that you’ll find that the world was designed,
That designers made all of our genes

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da
Tell us a lie, you’re Bananaman,
Tell us a lie, or two
Cos we’re all in the mood for a belly-laugh
And you’ve got us laughing at you!

PZ is the host and proprietor,
So you know that there’s pretty good odds
You’ll see shocking opinions, both his and his minions’
And probably cephalopods

He says look at that beautiful octopus
And this shot of a sensuous squid
Though he won’t claim a fetish for things that are wettish
You wouldn’t be shocked if he did

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da
Tell us a lie, you’re Bananaman,
Tell us a lie, or two
Cos we’re all in the mood for a belly-laugh
And you’ve got us laughing at you!

Now Ray is a young-earth creationist
Who never had time for a life
And he wonders if maybe, he might have a baby,
If he could evolve him a wife.

And the Minions are arguing politics
As the Mollies are howling for beer
It’s a strange sort of virtual community
But it doesn’t get better than here

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da
Tell us a lie, you’re Bananaman,
Tell us a lie, or two
Cos we’re all in the mood for a belly-laugh
And you’ve got us laughing at you!

It’s a pretty good post for Pharyngula
It’s got science, and politics too
Cos there isn’t much quite like an internet fight
If you’ve got nothing better to do.

And the internet reeks of stupidity
And the blogosphere’s chock-full of dumb,
And I stare at my screen, and ask “what do they mean?”,
And then drink till my feelings are numb.

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da
Tell us a lie, you’re Bananaman,
Tell us a lie, or two
Cos we’re all in the mood for a belly-laugh
And you’ve got us laughing at you!

Major Motion Picture Event

Over at Zingularity, reports of a new major motion picture event–a $150 million dollar retelling of the Noah’s Ark story. I do so hope they go with the “gritty realism” school of movies. If they do, I have the first draft–well, second, I guess, if the bible is the first draft–of their movie all set to go!

Bring popcorn, and meet me after the jump:
[Read more...]

38 Percent

Some say God used evolution
As His “how it’s done” solution,
As a way that they can reconcile the two opposing views
But that reconciliation
Lives in pure imagination
It’s a compromise that’s simply not available to choose
Middle ground, which they’re demanding
Shows a lack of understanding
Intervention means the process wasn’t natural at all
Darwin’s process of selection
Doesn’t need a god’s inspection
Saying “both” is just redundant; clearly, one of them must fall.

I saw a link to this story (about Rep. candidates’ creationist views). In it, the Gallup poll I showed my ignorance of yesterday is brought up:

In its most recent polling on the topic, Gallup found that 40 percent of Americans believe God created humans just as they are today. Another 38 percent said they believe God guided the evolution process. And 16 percent believe human evolution involved pure science

I have somehow lost the link I saw, but it implied that the 38% who believe in a god-guided evolution are as scientific as the 16% who believe in an unguided evolution, with the differences between them philosophical and not scientific. I’m not certain if that is possible in theory, but in practice it is dead wrong. In practice (and by “practice” here, I am simply looking at the comments to the Fox News story linked above), the people (in this admittedly biased sample of convenience) who claim that god guided evolution are just plain wrong about natural selection. It is not that they understand natural selection and thing god guides it, rather it is that they think god took a long time rather than a short time to create things supernaturally.

If god played a role, it was not natural selection. If it was natural selection, god’s role has shrunk to nothingness. Philosophically, it may be true that evolution does not require the absence of a god. It does not eliminate god, it simply renders god superfluous for this particular purpose. Practically, though, I suspect that taking the “god guided it” position may simply identify the people who believe in evolution but do not understand it.

Frankly, it is good that they believe in it. It would be far better, though, if they understood it.

The Politics Of Religious Identity

The majority of Christians have no beef with evolution;
They are perfectly accepting of the facts.
They may say, “it’s how God did it”; it’s an elegant solution,
And it’s how the sane majority reacts.

But it puzzles me immensely that so many are aligning
With the anti-science faction on their fringe
Who use Genesis as text to show the fact of God’s designing
Though their evidence and logic make one cringe

And despite their disagreement over how to read the Bible,
Over teaching it as science in our schools,
The majority stays silent. I suspect it might be tribal,
And “protect your own” is chief among the rules.

With beliefs in disagreement, but “we’re Christians” all the same
It’s the labels now determining the roles
So they vote against their interests, and it really is a shame
When it’s “onward, Christian soldiers” to the polls.

With the one nominally pro-science Republican candidate now polling at about 1%, behind a herd of creationists, I begin to doubt the surveys that say biblical literalism is a tenet of a very small fraction of Christians. Of course, in a Venn diagram, that small fraction nicely overlaps the most likely voters in the Republican base, so if unlikely voters are also unlikely to talk to pollsters (I love talking to them. I ask them questions.), the polls are likely to be extremely biased at this point.

I hope that is the case. If the polls are representative, then an awful lot of people are currently planning to vote against the things they themselves believe. Why? Perhaps because they label themselves “christians” before they label themselves pro-education, or rational, or independent, or whatever. As vastly different as two people might be, as vastly different as their belief systems might be, if they both identify first as “christian”, a creationist has a foot in the door. Throw in years of identity politics and punditry, and well-educated people will vote against their interests, and against the interest of the country.

Understanding Fail

Via the Digital International Atheists Group (@DIAGroup on twitter), a letter from Don Boys. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until PZ posts it in comic sans, but I’m going to use it here as a reason to post an old favorite.

First, the letter:

Tell us that you do or do not believe the unsupportable, even outrageous teaching that nothing created everything. I promise not to laugh out loud–maybe only a snicker or two. And don’t try to flimflam us common people with scientific jargon, but make your points in clear English.

Tell us how all the scientific laws evolved such as gravity, inertia, the First and Second Laws, laws of planetary motion, etc. How does a scientific law evolve? If they did not evolve, where did they come from?

Did the evolution of those laws precede or follow the Big Bang?

Can you provide any example of an explosion resulting in order?

Tell us how life first formed on this planet made up entirely of rock? All atheists want to sit down beside

Darwin’s warm little pond and watch the first forms of life, but I demand to know much more than that if I’m expected to consider the idea has any possibility.

Do you, or do you not, believe in spontaneous generation? No honest scientist will agree to that fable.

Where are the ancestors of insects?

Why are meteorites not found in ancient rocks? Could it be that the rocks are not ancient?

Tell us how men and women evolved at the same time in history at the same location? What if “early man” had been all male!

Which evolved first, the mouth, the stomach, the digestive system or the elimination system? What good is a mouth if there is no stomach or a digestive system and what good are the three without an elimination system?

Tell us why we are here and where we go when death finally comes for us? Why have people all over the Earth since the beginning of time been concerned with that concept?

What happens if you are wrong and I am right? After all, any real scholar will admit that possibility.

Since the God of the Bible is real and eternity is in everyone’s future, don’t you think it might be wise and safe to consider this issue more carefully? If it is only possible that there is a sovereign, all-powerful God out there, then that is the most staggering truth ever faced by any mortal, and that truth will affect every person on the face of the Earth.

Is atheism really worth the risk? Eternity is a long time to be wrong. If I am wrong about eternity then it costs me nothing, but if atheists are wrong, they have lost everything, including their souls.

If you think there is not a word there that hasn’t been tried before and found wanting, you’d be right. Ignorance, more ignorance, and yet more ignorance, with Pascal’s Wager as the cherry on top.

My favorite, though, is the bit about men and women evolving separately. It gives me such a warm feeling inside to know that there are people out there so intent on not understanding. Oh, and it gives me the chance to tell you the story of Lonely Percy.

Percy would wander for years at a time;
He was terribly sad and incredibly lonely—
Percy was looking for love, but too bad;
The world had, so far, evolved male creatures only.

Percy was restless, and anxiously watching,
He knew what he wanted; he wanted a wife.
(Although, since the female had not yet evolved,
He had never seen women in all of his life!)

For long generations, his forefathers sought
For some womanly tenderness, softness, and mercy,
But cold evolution denied them their wish;
Now the burden was borne by poor, motherless Percy.

From Grand-dad to Father, from Father to Son,
Generations would pass, without calling for sex.
I haven’t a clue how they managed to do it;
The method, it seems, is a little complex.

Percy has walked tens of thousands of miles
In search of a hopeful mutation or two.
You see, he has parts that he thinks may be useful,
Which haven’t, as yet, had a damned thing to do.

Far away, on the shores of a vast, distant ocean,
A small population is camped by the water,
Where all by themselves, they just sit there evolving,
Granny to Mother, and Mother to Daughter.

Someday, perhaps, as he wanders and wanders,
Percy could find, with a great deal of luck,
He may stumble upon this remote population,
And finally end up with someone to love.

Double Standards

I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

Charles Darwin drew a picture of an ever-branching tree
From the earliest of creatures all the way to you and me
Other limbs produced the fishes, beetles, lizards, monkeys, ants,
Paramecia, bacteria, creationists and plants;
He supported it with evidence of every kind he could
Which I’ve critically examined, as a thinking person should;
Now I know that he’s mistaken in the picture that he draws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If you analyze it critically, as science says we must
You’ll find laws of physics broken, so the theory is a bust:
The second thermo-something law is busted into pieces
By the fact that evolution means that entropy decreases!
And random changes couldn’t make the creatures that we find,
So the evidence is clear, that we cannot be un-designed!
With castles out of playing-cards and armies made of straws
There’s the reason I believe it: Just because.

Now, with Darwin and his evolution clearly in the tank
There is only one alternative, if I am to be frank;
That’s the theory found in Genesis, the Holy Word of God,
And with natural selection out, creation gets the nod.
But we can’t be disrespectful to our deeply held belief,
So our critical examination, this time, must be brief
There’s no clothing on this emperor, not even filmy gauze—
But the reason I believe it? Just because.

Sure, the logic may be iffy, and the evidence is slim—
Who created the creator? And then, who created him?
Why the Genesis creation? Why not something else instead?
Can we guarantee the story is exactly what God said?
Is it literal or metaphor, or maybe outright fiction?
What’s the proper course of action when we find a contradiction?
I’m ignoring any nagging doubt within me where it gnaws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If I’m right, I go to heaven, which I’d really like to do
But I’ll go to hell for sure if I suspect that it’s untrue
It’s a simple little wager, there’s no reason to think twice:
You get punished if you’re naughty, you get presents if you’re nice
From the guy who watches all of us, from there behind his beard
(And who cares if it’s millennia since last time he appeared?)
And so, even if it’s really just a grown-up’s Santa Claus
Well, the reason I believe it? Just because.

(nearly time to ease off the gas, and stop posting old stuff. There’s enough up here now that folks ought to get the idea. I’ve still got hundreds, but I won’t put you through that.)

I Got Yer “Edgy Re-Telling” Right Here

PZ tells us of the plan for a new, “edgy re-telling” of the Noachian flood. It’s as good an excuse as any to repost the edgy re-imagining of a day at the Creationist Theme Park.

Our day at the park
Having fun on the ark
Will begin as we stroll up the ramp
With the mammals and dino’s
And strange hellifino’s
And all of it, gaudy and camp

There are creatures in twos
Like the grandest of zoos
Some in cages for people to see
Some are plastic, of course,
Like the odd “Jesus horse”
You can ride on (just children!) for free

With the tour guide explaining
It soon will start raining—
It’s best that we get through the doors
And with thunder and lightning
More piped-in than frightening
The skies open up, and it pours

It isn’t surprising
The water starts rising
With rivers obscuring the ground
We’re on board! We’re the winners!
We laugh at the sinners
Outside, who are there to be drowned.

Some electrical junction
Is bound to malfunction;
The waters continue to rise—
Now it’s panic and screaming
(Please tell me we’re dreaming!)
On board, we can hear all the cries

Now the water is rushing,
The pipes are still gushing,
We realize, we’re really afloat!
Like the Genesis story
We share in the glory
And ride in the biblical boat

Though it’s ill-built and creaky,
Substantially leaky,
We ought to be fine for a while
And although we’re all stuck
We rejoice in our luck
And we look at each other and smile.

Soon the still-rising tides
Means the screaming subsides
From the folks who did not get on board
And we know that God willed
That these people be killed
So we all praise the works of Our Lord

As the day turns to night
With no rescue in sight
Our exhaustion will drive us to sleep
Though the children are wary
Cos darkness is scary
And the lions are eating the sheep

So we all sleep in shifts
As our giant bed drifts
And there’s still not a star in the sky
Soon the sun will arrive
And we’re mostly alive
And if not, then God wants us to die.

At the whim of the weather
We huddle together
As carnivores roam through the decks
And we learned within hours
The stench overpowers—
Of feces, of death, and of sex

When the rain finally ceases
We pick up the pieces
And head to the top deck, for sun,
Where the clean-smelling breezes
Sweep by (thank you Jesus!)
And we kneel down and pray, every one!

As we float, we survey
The remains of the day
From our vantage above, on the ark
Where our neighbors and friends
Met their untimely ends
With the visitors there at the park

And we bow heads, and praise
God’s mysterious ways—
Our friends’ bodies have now begun bloating
And as plump as you please
They rise up through the seas
All disfigured and blue, they are floating

All the husbands and wives,
Little children whose lives
Were destroyed by their callous Creator
While we’re safe on the ark
Cos we chose to embark
A bit sooner, and not a bit later

There was water to drink
But it’s starting to stink
And starvation’s its own form of hell
But the hunger and thirst
Isn’t even the worst—
More than that, is the horrible smell

The miasma which flows
Though you cover your nose
Overwhelms you, and just never ends
And the worst of it all
This olfactory pall
Is the smell of our neighbors and friends

We float day after day
As around us, decay
And disease take a toll on our minds;
And our bodies grow weak
As around us, unspeak-
able horrors are all that one finds

In the decks down below
Where we never dare go
There is carnage like never before;
Most the mammals are gone
But the beetles live on
As they feast on the filth and the gore

There are maggots and flies
Which is no great surprise
In the dung and the foul, rancid meat
But up top, it is grim
Cos the pickings are slim
And there’s nothing for humans to eat

If we haven’t quite died
When the waters subside
We’ll praise God, and we won’t think to sue
Sure, it’s horribly cruel
But we learned, at home school
That what’s right is what Yahweh would do

Creationists? What Creationists?

The NSF found a solution
To a culture that shuns evolution:
We think it is best
That the national test
Make a critical, small substitution—

Since creationists find it offensive
We are more than a bit apprehensive—
So we think, if you please,
It is best to appease
(Besides, lawsuits get rather expensive!)

Sure, it may be the coward’s way out
But religion, it carries some clout—
Just one thing we will hide,
Because national pride
Is what testing is really about!

So our scores will be where they belong
And it looks like our science is strong.
And besides, we’re not fools—
The creationist schools
Are aware that their teaching is wrong!

Though uncomfortable truths make us squirm,
We do not need a test to confirm
Half the country will choose
To most willingly lose
On exams at the end of the term!

It’s their faith that we put to the test
When we ask them which answer is best
If they really do well
Then they’re going to Hell—
If they flunk, then they’re heavenly blessed!

We could gather their scores, with a blush,
And confirm that their thinking is mush,
Or do this: with a shrug,
Sweep it under the rug:
Don’t address it, but keep it hush-hush.

Cuttlecap tip to PZ

Ruloff Shows He Really Does Understand Hitler

An in-depth interview in the Vancouver Sun shows just what an unapologetic liar and propagandist the producer of Expelled is. His research on the methods of the Nazis brings to mind a Greek saying a friend of mine once told me: “I’m listening to your words, but I’m watching your feet”. Walt Ruloff’s words, as represented by the steaming pile “Expelled”, show a misunderstanding of Hitler and his machinations. Ruloff’s feet, on the other hand, show he has learned the dance well. He claims to be a Christian, but I have serious doubts that he believes in punishment for bearing false witness.

“The Darwinists have built a ‘Berlin Wall’
Dividing evolution from creation
They then insist their godless view is all
That can be taught in schools across the nation;”

“The First Amendment builds that wall, but that
Would never get the viewers into seats—
The truth? The simple truth would be too flat;
We need a lie that everyone repeats.”

“And who to mouth our lies? We need a man
Who’d sell his soul when others would decline;
A Black who’d advertise the Ku Klux Klan,
Or Jew who’d—hey, I know—How ‘bout Ben Stein!”

Seems Ruloff learned his propoganda well
This Christian man… who’s surely bound for hell.

Cuttlecap tip: Pharyngula