Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVc: Wherein the Climate Heats Up

Onward, Christianist weather! We’re warming up with some global warming talk today. While SPC was content to devote a mere text box to climate change, basically blowing raspberries at anyone who gives a shit about it and waving off dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions by proclaiming hey, plants love carbon dioxide!, BJU’s Earth Science 4th Edition isn’t satisfied with blurting a few facts and moving on. No, there’s a whole chapter on the subject. And, people, they are the totes reasonable ones. They’re right in the middle. Look: they sneer at both sides!

They begin with a very telling couplet of sentences:

You’ve probably heard a lot about climate change. And you’re probably wondering what you should think about it.

This right here encapsulates exactly the attitude shared across all three Christianist curricula: they aren’t here to teach kids how to think. They’re telling them what to think. There’s only one way – God’s way – and they all have the direct line to the Almighty. Never mind they’re all hearing different things when they call. They have the answer (theirs God’s), there’s only one correct way to think about things (theirs God’s), and by God, you will think exactly what they God tells you to think. (Nevermind that God appears to have told the three textbook writers different things. I’m sure it’s just one of those ineffable mystery thingies, or the other two are delusional, or something.)

Image shows a white and orange cat bopping a gray and white tabby on the nose. Caption says, "BJU cat sez, "No, this what bible meanz."

Image courtesy Nathan Vaughn
via Flicker (CC BY 2.0). Caption by moi.

So let’s find out “what you should think,” per BJU’s God.

The first thing is not to think like those Christians.

Some Christians reject the principles of environmentalism because they associate them with the extreme views of people who worship nature and violently protect animal rights. These believers go in the other direction, polluting and consuming Earth’s resources with no concern about conservation. They may think, “God is going to burn up this world some day soon anyway and create a new one. So there’s no need to worry about using the earth and its resources wisely, right? This view is anti-environmentalism.

Well, that sure told them. Are you listening, A Beka and ACE? Herngh??? You’re not thinking right!

Now, I hope you were running low on straw, because ES4’s having a fire sale:

There are also radical environmentalists who view people as nature’s biggest problem. Man’s works are evil. Nature is good. Population growth is bad. Technology consumes Earth’s precious resources and pollutes. “Mother Earth” must be protected at all costs because we came from the earth through evolution.

Ah, how sweet of them to call everyone who thinks we should, maybe, y’know, save the planet we live on from our own predation because hey, we live here “radical environmentalists.” It’s kinda like how all the folks who think hey, mebbe we should stop being so shitty to women are “radical feminists.”

And, like MRAs, they want us to know that we are so wrong, you guys. We’re defying God! Humans are the bestest, He said so! And those other Christians are wrong, too, because we’re stewards! God said so!!

Oh, and the “climate change debate” is “a crusade of extreme environmentalists.”

Oy.

Well, at least they believe saving animals from our own stupidity like oil spills, doing some recycling, and engaging in some energy conservation glorifies God. Baby steps.

Image shows a swimming dog with bulging eyes, getting ready to bite a bottle floating in the pond with him. Caption says, "How many times do I have to tell you that this goes in the recycling bin???"

All that’s the first page of the chapter. Laying it on with a trowel, they are. Fortunately, aside from a not-funny cartoon about a teenage girl using global warming as an excuse to buy a new wardrobe, they dial back to just-the-facts mode. They do a fine job explaining things that affect climate, like latitude, ocean currents, topography, and so forth. No God talk ensues until we turn the page and run smack into a text box about the Canopy Theory. Yes, that canopy. Oh, dear.

We’re told to “imagine the rain pounding on the Ark’s roof,” and where did all that water come from? (And why doesn’t ES4 mention it would’ve been boiling?) We’re treated to vapor canopies and proof texts. There’s an illustration of the vapor canopy that looks like an orange wrapped in a coffee cup sleeve. They fuss over how the Hebrew word raqiya should translate. They dither with Russell Humphrey’s idea that God made a bunch of stuff with two different gobs of water, and hey, even though “we don’t know as a certainty how God actually created the universe,” that totally fits the Bible, right? Only to become shocked – shocked, I tell you – that actually modeling this canopy thing shows either a) Earth was broiling hot like Venus or b) you could hardly get your ankles wet with the rain resulting from the canopy collapse. And the authors conclude that the canopy’s probably a dud, because the dude who came up with the original vapor canopy theory was one of those freaks who believe in an Earth that’s millions of years old. Harrumph.

This would be adorable if it wasn’t in a book claiming to be an actual science textbook.

Following, we have a long section about climate zones, which could use a little more detail on their map, plus someone who knows what a saguaro cactus is (“Towering Sonora cactuses?” *snortle*) Otherwise, it’s not bad, and is a nice introduction to the concept of climate zones.

But we get a hefty dose of OMFG with the “Serving God as a Climatologist” box. They wax nearly lyrical over Lonnie Thompson, who “may have spent more time than anyone else in the world above an elevation above an elevation of 18,000 feet.” He is, they say, “trying to preserve history in the ice.” Now, you may get the impression that Dr. Thompson is a creationist, considering how these creationists are salivating over him. He is not. In fact, he is a pretty important scientist on the climate change front, and so the staff writing ES4 have a shiny-sharp knife for his parka’d back:

Dominion Opportunities

A secular climatologist’s work is impressive and can be difficult, but he is missing something big. His data is valuable and is needed by the climate change debate, but his interpretation is affected by his worldview. What he interprets as annual changes in ice over thousands of years may actually be a record of individual storms over a much shorter period of time. Secular, old earth views of history reject the authority of God’s Word.

Waal, that’s a fine fuck-you to Lonnie, innit?

The current controversy over climate change highlights how this science and the politics it drives can touch our daily lives. We need more Christians in this field to build solid scientific models based on the true history of the earth – the one found in the Bible.

So. These little ratfuckers want to infiltrate scientific fields, shit all over the data scientists like Lonny T have sweated blood and risked their lives to obtain, and force everyone to follow their fairy tales, which basically means allowing the world to broil to death because we can’t see reality for what it is.

I don’t like ‘em and can’t trust ‘em. Nor should anyone who works with one of these voluntarily delusional fuckwads.

I shall let Dr. Thompson have a stern word:

Thompson dismisses skeptics who contend that the current warming trend is due to a natural cycle. “Name one who has ever really studied climate or collected data,” he says. “I bet you can’t.” Glaciers, he adds, “have no political agenda. They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Science is about what is, not what we believe or hope. And it shows that global warming is wiping out invaluable geological archives right before our eyes.”*

Image shows a man wearing a fur hat, sunglasses, an ice-goatee on his beard, and a black jacket with snow on it. He is looking into the camera with a no-nonsense attitude.

Lonnie G. Thompson during an Antarctic Expedition in 1974. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah. Something tells me he’d have zero sympathy for BJU’s “but that’s not what God says” shenanigans.

You’d think, after a post this long, that we’re done with this chapter. But no! There’s a whole ‘nother half devoted specifically to climate change. Buckle in, kids, and be sure to wear your best crash helmets. I have a feeling the next post is gonna get wild and wooly.

 

*I believe that, my darlings, is the rhetorical equipment of bringing a howitzer to a knife fight. Lonnie is awesome.

Finally! The Perfect Book for Geology-Loving Comic Book Fans!

Have you dreamt of a richly-illustrated, geology-themed superhero comic for kids? One that not only gets the science right, but encourages great study habits, turns ordinary encounters into fantastical geologic adventures, models kindness and heart-warming family dynamics, and encourages creativity, all without talking down to kids for an instant? My darlings, your dreams just came true:

Image shows the cover of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

When I first got my hands on an advance copy of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, I squeed. I did. Because I am a nerd, people. I love geology, and I thoroughly enjoy superhero comics, and I adore media that put someone other than a generic white male in the spotlight for a change. And this comic book is written by Kanani K. M. Lee, an actual geophysicist whose specialty is the interior of the earth – and writing rocking great geologic comics. Illustrator Adam Wallenta brings her characters to vivid life, with blazing, bold color illustrations.

Our hero is George, a sweet and brilliant African-American boy who lives with his grandma and has a secret identity. He’s an ordinary boy worried about getting to school on time and passing his earth science test. But when cracks in the sidewalk menace, he transforms into Geo, a geologically-savvy superhero. His skateboard becomes a rocket-board, and his backpack becomes Rocky, his faithful robot dog. The sidewalk cracks morph into tectonic plates; an open manhole erupts as a raging volcano (from which he saves a visually-impaired woman). He encounters earthquakes and tsunamis, ties the geological drama to the lessons on the earth’s structure and plate tectonics taught by his science teacher, and after heroic feats of recall, aces his test.

Detail from The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

It’s a richly-imagined world that vividly shows the way the plates move, and how those movements are driven by titanic forces deep within our home planet. Using diagrams, analogies, and dramatic illustrations how the varied geologic phenomena Geo experienced can all be tied to those plate motions. Dr. Lee manages to pack a textbook-worth of information in, but paces it in such a way that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. And the characters she’s created are a delight.

This may not be a suitable comic for very young children (unless they’re the kind of kids who started using complex technical terms at the age of five), but you can feel quite comfortable getting a copy for anyone from grade school to senior citizen. Anyone who loves comics, science, or both will enjoy this tale. And the second half of the book is an excellent prose tutorial on plate tectonics, paleomagnetic reversals, the earth’s structure, seismology, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, and finishes with a primer on what geologists actually do that will help everyone realize there’s more to it than just rocks. The final section gives links to geology activities suitable for trying at home. Neat!

I can’t tell you what a relief The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic is after spending over a month buried in creationist textbooks that not only mutilate geoscience, but have severely stunted imaginations. This is the comic I’ll be slipping to kids who are stuck learning sham science. It shows the real thing, and in a gorgeous way. It’s the book I’ll be giving to kids who want to know more about geoscience, and the people who think rocks are boring, and the folks who care about diversity in STEM, and anyone who needs a gentle nudge to see how rewarding diversity can be. I can see this as the lovingly-battered book people slip off a shelf to show as the comic that got them in to science, or helped them understand the news when things like the Napa quake happen.

And I’m so thrilled we’ll be seeing Geo again – I’m told more adventures are already in the works. I can’t wait!

Go introduce yourself to Geo here, and reserve your copy here.

Image shows Misha asleep on the keyboard and my paper copy of the above review. I was supposed to be transcribing it, but she was so darned comfy...

Misha’s idea of helping me get this review online for ye.

This review was originally published at Rosetta Stones. But you guys are the only ones getting the bonus kitty pic!

So Much Wrong: James Randi’s Rape Culture Remarks

Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.

But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.

Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.

How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?

And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.

Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.

Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?

“I haven’t seen him doing that.

And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.

“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.

People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.

Only, it is.

“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.

ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?

Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image on top is a My Little Pony looking upward in shock. Caption says, "WTF is that?" Bottom image shows her looking in a different direction, seeming angry. Caption says, "Srsly, WTF is that?"

I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.

Image shows an anime woman with pink hair screaming so hard she's spitting and her eyes look like they're exploding. Caption says, "What is this I don't even"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows a man in a very tacky wizard's outfit, holding out his hand. Caption says, "Stand back. Shit's about to get real."

Image shows a nuclear bomb explosion.

Operation Castle – Bravo shot explosion. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.

Image shows an orange kitten hugging a broom handle. Caption says, "Yah, itz a big job, but somebudyz gotta do it."

How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?

He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?

This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.

James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.

Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.

But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.

I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.

If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.

You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.

“Pew! Pew!” Adorable Woodland Critters Revealed

A rousing round of applause, please, for our own Onamission5, who identified our calling critters. Yep, them’s definitely Douglas Squirrels!

Image shows a small, gray-backed squirrel with a yellow-orange belly, clinging to a tree.

One of the Douglas Squirrels that was making so much racket.

And for once, I’m not squeeing all over an invasive species! These are Pacific Northwest natives. John Muir described them perfectly:

THE Douglas Squirrel is by far the most interesting and influential of the California sciuridæ, surpassing every other species in force of character, numbers, and extent of range, and in the amount of influence he brings to bear upon the health and distribution of the vast forests he inhabits.

Go where you will throughout the noble woods of the Sierra Nevada, among the giant pines and spruces of the lower zones, up through the towering Silver Firs to the storm-bent thickets of the summit peaks, you everywhere find this little squirrel the master-existence. Though only a few inches long, so intense is his fiery vigor and restlessness, he stirs every grove with wild life, and makes himself more important than even the huge bears that shuffle through the tangled underbrush beneath him. Every wind is fretted by his voice, almost every bole and branch feels the sting of his sharp feet. How much the growth of the trees is stimulated by this means it is not easy to learn, but his action in manipulating their seeds is more appreciable. Nature has made him master forester and committed most of her coniferous crops to his paws. Probably over fifty per cent. of all the cones ripened on the Sierra are cut off and handled by the Douglas alone, and of those of the Big Trees perhaps ninety per cent. pass through his hands: the greater portion is of course stored away for food to last during the winter and spring, but some of them are tucked separately into loosely covered holes, where some of the seeds germinate and become trees. But the Sierra is only one of the many provinces over which he holds sway, for his dominion extends over all the Redwood Belt of the Coast Mountains, and far northward throughout the majestic forests of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. I make haste to mention these facts, to show upon how substantial a foundation the importance I ascribe to him rests.

[snip]

From the nose to the root of the tail he measures about eight inches; and his tail, which he so effectively uses in interpreting his feelings, is about six inches in length. He wears dark bluish-gray over the back and half-way down the sides, bright buff on the belly, with a stripe of dark gray, nearly black, separating the upper and under colors; this dividing stripe, however, is not very sharply defined. He has long black whiskers, which gives him a rather fierce look when observed closely, strong claws, sharp as fish-hooks, and the brightest of bright eyes, full of telling speculation.

Yup. That’s our little fellas!

Here’s the video of one of our very own callers: brace yourselves for the adorableness as it tells all and sundry that this is its tree, thankeeverymuch, and no one is allowed to encroach.

And for more charming Douglas Squirrel action, plus a look at how the little ones battle:

Dawwww.

Pew! Pew! Another Clue

All right, so far, we’ve got two votes for squirrels with frickin’ laser beams on their heads in our cute woodland critters going “pew pew” thread. That describes them to a T. However! As generally accurate as those guesses are, they do not have the specificity I’m aiming for (see what I did there? Aiming? Hur hur). So it’s time for the patented blurry photo of a woodland critter for you to identify!

Image shows a small gray and orange squirrel staring at the camera from the tangle of branches around the trunk of a tree.

Unidentified Woodland Critter

I know you can identify this little guy, my darlings. Mostly because you’re brilliant, but also because I had an ident after thirty seconds on Google, and I am teh crap at this zoology stuff. I’m still throwing it out to you lot, because I know you enjoy this sort of thing. And then one of you will be named! In a post! As the Person Who Got the Ident!

I can think of many things more prestigious, but hey, I can’t give you those. I can give you this.

Another, far less blurry picture, and also a killer-cute video, to come once I’ve given you a chance to do your thing. Identify away, my darlings! And I like the laser beams idea – is there anyone here who can manufacture little helmets with lasers for me to strap to squirrel noggins? We’ll run a Kickstarter.

“Pew! Pew!” Squeak the Adorable Woodland Critters

A few weeks ago, B and I did some more exploring around Deception Pass State Park. It’s going to take us a while to properly explore – the thing spans two islands and has a myriad of trails.

This being a hot day, we decided we wanted beach. There was definitely beach. Also, some geology that hadn’t been in any of my guides.

Photo of the map at the trailhead, showing the Pass, beaches, and a small lake.

Portion of Deception Pass State Park map, showing West Beach.

Now, take a look at West Beach, and see if you can tell me what I spotted about it that made me go, “Yay, geology!!!” What do you expect to find there, based on the shape, features, and elevation of the terrain? I’ll give you the answer in our next installment. But I’ll hint that I knew I’d find the type of beach Washington isn’t exactly known for.

As we walked the trails at West Beach, we encountered a bit of forest beside Cranberry Lake. On the map, it’s basically the tip of the loop trail, where you see the dude going walkies. It’s a charming, somewhat eerie little coastal forest, and it resounded with strange cries.

There’s nothing quite like little woodland critters going “Pew! Pew!” to put a huge ol’ grin on your face. Now, I’m going to give you a chance to identify them before I show you them. Well, show you one of them. I didn’t get the little critter’s buddy, but I did get some lovely video and still images of one of them, and you will squee yourself hoarse, they are so cute.

Image is described in post.

The forest within which our little critters dwell.

This is a very rich, albeit small, patch of woods. You can tell it’s quite wet, what with all the ferns, Old Man’s Beard, and spruce and such. I think I see a madrona, too. Put it like this: you basically can’t have much more than a square inch of land around here that hasn’t got twelve billion plant species on it, unless it’s a rock, in which case it’s only ten billion. Having come from a place where you could go ages without seeing anything very green, this is still sometimes a little overwhelming to me. And when you’ve got creatures in all those plants making adorable noises, well, I melt into a little puddle. Good thing for you lot I can still hold the camera in a melted state, innit?

Adventures in ACE VIII: Senseless About Sedimentary

Please tell me you’ve set up a padded room so you can read these posts in safety. I’d be inconsolable if you did yourself an injury because of these explorations in the whacky world of ACE.

I’m telling you right now: don’t keep reading until you’ve rage-proofed your room.

You know enough Flood “geology” bullshit by now to know that nothing good can come of creationist ignoramuses talking about sedimentary rocks. So let’s ease in by noting some good news: turns out you can be a dentist if you’re a brown person in ACE world, as long as you’ve got the proper equipment. No, not that equipment – I mean the biological stuff. Y’know, the ol’ meat-n-taters. You women are probably too busy squeezing out babies to drill teeth.

Image shows a two-panel comic. First panel shows a dentist's office with the chair and dental equipment. A South Asian or African American dentist is poking in a blond white boy's mouth, asking, "Well now, Happy, what kind of filling would you like in your tooth?" Second panel is a close-up of the boy and the dentist. Happy is saying, "Strawberry! Ha-ha." The dentist says, "Ha-ha!"

Cartoon from ACE PACE 1086.

And what a horrible dental joke has to do with sedimentary rock, I’ll never know. I suppose it’s what happens when you’ve rotted your brain with too much Bible.

Anyway. The spectacularly ignorant Mr. Wheeler will now proceed to explain about sedimentary rocks. He tells us that the ocean floor’s lots like the continents. It’s got “mountains, hills, valleys, and plains as features of [its] surfaces.” He then says that “the ocean floor is covered mainly with sedimentary rock.” Which is a little deceptive. Yeah, the floor’s covered in lots of places with sediments, but those sediments aren’t all lithified, and the floor itself, along with most of the mountains and islands, is overwhelmingly basalt.

He then claims that the sediments on the ocean floor are mostly the same stuff as on the continents, aside from when they were deposited. “Sediment on the ocean floor, such as that shown by our core sample, has been deposited mainly since the Flood, while sediment covering continents was deposited mostly during the Flood.”

So. Much. Wrong.

Firstly: sediments on the continents vs. those on the ocean floor are pretty distinct. You’re not going to find alluvial, aeolian, fluvial, lacustrine, deltaic, tidal, lagoonal, and beach sediments in the deep ocean. Turbedites, reefs, biogenic oozes, and similar aren’t forming on land.

Secondly: while it’s true that sediments on the current ocean floor are young in comparison to most of the sedimentary layers on the continents, they’re still upwards of two hundred million years old in places. Sedimentary rock has been deposited on Earth for billions of years. Land sediments did not all form in one Flood event. They couldn’t have: there are miles-thick layers that could only have formed under the sea, over huge spans of time. Subaerial deposits, evaporites, and paleosols couldn’t have been deposited by Flood water.

Some of the statements this PACE makes are just head-slappingly ludicrous. “Strata of Earth’s sediment can be found even on the tops of the tallest mountains – one more evidence that the Flood once covered the entire Earth.” No, Mr. Wheeler. That notion may not have sounded quite so ignorant in the 19th century*, but plate tectonics has dealt that idea a mortal injury.

But that mountain o’ fail is but a speck as compared to this “explanation” of the Grand Canyon:

The waters of the Flood cut through newly deposited layers of sediment and formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

FFS. How do I disprove thee? Let me count (a few of) the ways: 1. Meanders. 2. Vertical walls. 3. Single river channel. 4. No slumping. 5. Where are the ginormous canyons carved by the self-same Flood on other continents, hmm? Oh, and let’s not fail to mention: 6. Aeolian sand dunes. 7 Lizard tracks. 8. Karst.

Shall I go on? We could be here for days.

Mr. Wheeler goes on to babble about bent strata. It’s a bit unfortunate that their illustration of bent strata looks more like lithified sand dunes.

Image shows a sandstone cliff. It's supposed to be illustrating bent strata, but looks more like cross-bedded sand dunes.

Bent strata photo from ACE Science PACE 1086.

“This bending and twisting,” we’re told, “was caused by powerful forces inside our Earth.” Do you want to know what those “powerful forces” are? Ha ha, this is ACE, silly. They can’t explain stuff like that, because God did it, and God works in mysterious ways. That’s not actually stated, but one gets the impression this is why they’re so ignorant of this stuff.

They can’t tell us what they are, but they’re certain “those forces were more active during and immediately after the Flood. Most of the major changes in strata were made then.” Fuck the evidence plate tectonics may be as young as 300 million years or as old as 1.6 billion years, amirite? Not to mention the fact a hella large amount of deformation was going on, sans Flood, since the earth cooled enough for magma to begin forming a crust.

Next, Mr. Wheeler gives us a rather risible precís of how things went during the Flood, by way of explaining how sediments become rocks. He cites three sources for all that water: from under the crust, from the vapor canopy, and from the ocean rising. I wonder how the oceans rose – I mean, if they’re a separate source of water, what mechanism caused them to rise? But we can’t expect people ignorant enough to keep on about the vapor canopy, long after their very own YEC pals proved it impossible, to come up with a plausible explanation for rising oceans.

But the real howler is when they claim the Ice Age happened during the Flood. I don’t think any other creationists have been quite this spectacularly stupid:

As the water fell, the warming effect of the canopy was gone, causing Earth’s temperature to fall rapidly also. Giant sheets of ice formed over the poles, Canada, and northern Europe, preventing the depositing of sediments. Animals, such as the wooly mammoth, were trapped and quick-frozen in the ice with their meals still in their mouths and stomachs.

Oy. Once again, I marvel at the astonishing amount of wrong ACE writers manage to stuff into a paragraph. For one thing, creationists have known since 1979 that the canopy would have boiled Earth. They’ve never been able to get around that, aside from ignoring physics completely. And if they fiddle with it to try to bring the temps down, they still run head-on into physics facts: that much water falling that fast from that height woulda become super-heated steam, not freezing rains.

As for glaciers preventing the deposition of sediment… sorry, ACE people, but YEC Michael Oard begs to differ. Let’s see… 20 km of sedimentary rock was laid down in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin near Newfoundland, Canada… Walt Brown sez lotsa debris from all over the world dumped on northern Europe, and Antarctica is lousy with sedimentary rock. Oh, and just to rub some salt in creationist wounds, Tiktaalik, a lovely transitional fossil, was found in the Arctic Circle. In sedimentary rock. Boo-ya.

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

As for the flash-frozen mammoths: pure, unadulterated bullshit. I mean, seriously.

All right, that’s enough sedimentary silliness for now. We’ll finish this nonsense next week. Stay tuned: you’ll be amazed at what they’ve done with stalagmites.

 

*. Even Leonardo da Vinci knew the Flood story was complete bollocks as a scientific explanation – and this was back in the 16th century. So I am being very, very generous.

UFD: Hey, Hoomin – Whatcha Doin?

You remember my luck with birds, right? I mean, normally the little bastards just hide in the trees and chirp at me merrily, knowing I can’t get a look at them, much less a good photo. They sing all the more lustily as my frustration winds to a fever pitch. Then they wait for me to give up and put the camera away. Once I’ve done that, they come sailing out of their hidey-spots, and flaunt themselves a bit as I curse and grab for the camera. Once I have it out and on and look up again, the buggers have vanished once again, leaving a trail of titters in their wake.

I did have a hummingbird buzz me on the porch a few weeks ago, even hovering patiently for a bit until I looked up, then hovering a bit more so I could admire it, before buzzing off. I think that happened because I didn’t have a camera at the time.

In other words, my luck with birds is generally rotten, and we only get to have this series because I’ve got a good zoom on this camera and can sometimes manage to ambush the little fuckers. But I rarely have an experience with a non-corvid or sparrow-type bird that I had at Mount Rainier in early August.

B and I had taken the Upper Palisides Lake trail down to Sunrise Lake, because vigorous exercise is just what the doctor ordered, and we do sometimes try to get the recommended dose. We’d admired the scenery, like so:

Image shows part of a pretty little mountain lake from water level, with tall fir trees and rugged mountain ranges framing and reflecting off it.

Sunrise Lake

and were just beginning to head back to the spur to the main trail when I heard a rustling near my head, and B remarked that I was being checked out by a curious bird.

I knew the little shit would fly off as soon as I made a move, because I had the camera out and on, but I turned cautiously anyway, and…

Image shows a fir tree with a very curious tan-chested bird with a dark bar across its eyes staring at us.

UFD I

There’s this curious bird which was not a corvid or a sparrow, and rather smaller than the former but larger than the latter, eyeballing us intently. It didn’t care a bit that we were humans and that it was wild. It didn’t seem to grok us as potential predators at all. And it apparently hadn’t gotten the avian memo detailing what to do in order to make Dana do frustrated noises.

I got a couple of shots in, quickly, as it jumped to a higher branch for a more panoramic look at us, and then it flew away.

Image is a gif showing the bird on a higher branch of the same tree, then the tree sans-bird.

UFD II

I had just enough time to begin the “Aw, shit. Oh well, at least I got a couple of pictures” inner monologue before it landed on the tree next to B for further ogling.

Image shows the same bird, now above us on an evergreen bough. It has a very short pointy beak.

UFD III

I was so afraid it would fly straight off that I didn’t give the camera time to do more than focus on it. I snapped before I could adjust the angle enough to deal with the weird late-afternoon lighting conditions that caused the sky to turn white in the camera’s opinion. But it’s a kinda neat effect.

I needn’t have been so hasty, because our birdie stayed up there for some time, happily inspecting us. And this final shot, taken before its curiosity was satisfied and it headed off to do its own thing, captured its attitude perfectly:

Image shows the same bird in the same evergreen bough, with its head tipped on its side.

UFD IV

Isn’t that the perfect, “Hey, hoomin – whatcha doin?” pose?

I’ve had crows and jays land nearby, check me out, decide whether or not I could be persuaded to provide food and/or entertainment. I’ve been stared at by sparrows, who are plenty used to people but are usually still skittish. And, as I said, there was that hummingbird, which for all the world appeared to be there simply to show off to the nearest available human just how awesome its hovering skills were. But this is the first time a bird in the wilderness that was not any of those things has expressed this much fearless interest. I swear, if I’d had something to feed it with, we’d have had a veritable Snow White Feeding the Birdies moment.

I hope you lot can tell me what species it is.

The Cataclysm: “Fully Down and Buried”

Geologists did a lot of talking to trees in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens’s eruption. They had a lot of questions, and the trees had a lot of answers*.

Few talked to the trees as extensively as Richard Waitt. He was investigating the blast deposits, and found the trees to be quite helpful. His work in the field led him to identify three primary layers: A1, the base, was pretty full of gravel. A2, the next level up, was a coarse sand, and the final, A3, a fine air-fall sand.** Throughout those layers were trees and bits thereof, and he queried them closely to figure out the progress of the lateral blast and how it had left its deposits.

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Near the volcano, at distances around 6-12 kilometers (3.7 – 6.2 miles) from the vent, he found downed trees either fully buried by the gravelly bottom layer, or protruding at an angle from it. Those trees retained some of their bark even on the sides that had taken the direct brunt of the blast before they fell, unlike the stumps and standing trees that had been stripped completely. Since there was no blast deposit beneath them, those fallen trees must have come to rest either just before or during those moments the gravel was rattling down. The fact it hadn’t scoured the bark away as it landed told him that layer A1 wasn’t A+ at abrading horizontal surfaces. Both layers A1 and A2 had trouble achieving more than a thin layer atop the logs, due to curvature, and the lateral nature of the blast.

Even those thinnish deposits were somewhat protective. The bits of tree that stuck out from them fared rather worse than the buried bits: they lost their bark, and got a good scorching in the bargain. Scorching didn’t happen on parts already coated by A1, which shows A1 wasn’t such hot stuff. The scorching showed that “a flux of very hot gas” had blasted out from the volcano just after A1’s arrival. After all the baking and abrading happened during A1 and A2’s deposition, layer A3 dusted the results, showing it got there last.

Nothing in that sector survived. Rick was talking to dead trees. But when he moved on 10-12 kilometers (6.2 – 7.5 miles) north, he discovered something remarkable: life. The trees that had remained standing throughout the blast were perished, stripped naked of needles and badly scorched. But some had flexed, bent, and been buried by the blast deposits, much like they might be covered by an avalanche. When water began cutting gullies in the deposits a few days after the eruptions, the trees were freed of their tomb and whipped back upright, all green and lovely, if a bit put-upon. Even the delicate mosses on resident rocks survived, so long as they were decently covered, then quickly disinterred. These green, growing things supported the testimony of their dead relatives: that blast of searing-hot gas had certainly arrived only after the erosive front and layer A1. And that layer had provided the insulation necessary for some trees to survive.

Young fir tree that had been buried by the blast deposit of May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 8, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Young fir tree that had been buried by the blast deposit of May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 8, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Not that survival was simple, or even likely.

Further from the volcano, at around 15-25 km (9.3 – 15.5 miles), the blast had lost enough energy to stop carrying A1, but the erosive edge was still powerful enough to knock down some trees and turn others into snags. The fallen trees, buried beneath a nice layer of A2, held on to their bark. The snags weren’t so lucky: they lost the bark on sides facing the volcano, though only a meter or two above ground and up. The hot flux had arrived with layer A2 and got busy stripping and singing, but lagged the erosive edge. On the far end of the downed timber zone, the standing trees lost their needles and had their twig ends scoured by the blast, but their lower branches, coated by A2, retained dead, scorched needles. A2 couldn’t protect them from the hot gas it arrived with and was outlasted by, but did provide some defense.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

At the scorch zone, the layer of A2 became thin indeed. But the flow hadn’t lost its heat, hence the scorching. A coat of silty A3 plastered some of the seared branches, which were just as toasted as the bare ones. The hot flux, then, got there and left before A3 arrived.

    Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Those were the tales of trees covered by the deposits. Next, we’ll interview those trees that actually became deposits themselves.

 

*No illicit substances were involved. The trees didn’t actually talk. Everyone’s fine.

**Not beach sand – sand refers here to the size of the rock particles. This is sand-sized ash.

Previous: The Cataclysm: “The Path of Maximum Abrasion”

Next: The Cataclysm: “Stripped from the Proximal Forest”

References:

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

 

Previously published at Rosetta Stones.

An Apt Analogy for Varieties of Creationist

I don’t know if any of you read Paul Braterman’s blog, Eat Your Brains Out. No, it’s not a blog about zombies, although occasionally Jesus is mentioned. It’s actually a blog about science and creationism, and I’ve now read it in its entirety. Great stuff within.

And, sometimes, a very funny and apt bit. Paul took on the arguments of mathematician and theologian John Lennox, who rejects this god-of-the-gaps nonsense, yet apparently associates with Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute (part of the Discovery Institute; and Norman Nevin, a biblical literalist and Chairman of the Centre for Intelligent Design. Lennox took Lawrence Krauss to task for words about the Higgs boson being more important than God with a bit of a Ford analogy:

That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”,  he is God of the whole show.

And Paul took that analogy and ran with it to places where I’m sure Lennox would have preferred he not gone:

To pursue the Ford analogy further, Lennox believes that the car works because it is well designed, Axe believes that it works because there is a miracle-working mechanic inside the gearbox, and Nevin believes that it was sabotaged by the drivers’ grandparents.

Precisely. I don’t think anyone’s ever summed up the differences between old-school science-accepting theologian/scientists, intelligent design proponents, and Biblical literalists more succinctly. I laughed.

Image shows a blueprint for a Model T engine with God photoshopped in.

“The Engine of God” Original images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photoshopped poorly by moi.