Good job, Russia. Arresting the first openly trans* legislator in Europe for waving a “Gay is OK” flag is fantastic PR. I’m sure all the people in the world who love to persecute LGBTQ people are salivating over you right now. Those of us who are actually decent human beings, on the other hand, aren’t at all impressed.
Feb 19 2014
Feb 19 2014
Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-1: In Which I Advise You to Buy Shares in Columbia Valley Vineyards
What could be worse than ACE, amirite? After that fuckery, BJU’s Earth Science Fourth Edition will be a breath of fresh air. I mean, A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation wasn’t unmitigated horror, and Bob Jones University’s history books aren’t as frothing fundie as them, so this might not be utterly awful. One may even begin to believe this can be got through without undue damage to the liver.
Until we open to the first chapter.
Feb 18 2014
I think we like to think that what happens inside of fundamentalist subcultures doesn’t really matter to the wider world. But there are people trapped, suffering, inside, and they need folks to pay attention, raise a fuss, shine a light so that they can achieve some measure of justice, and so that other people never become victims at all.
Bob Jones University needs a lot of public condemnation right now. They started out trying to appear they were doing the right thing, and hired an independent group to investigate the way they handle sexual assault reports on their campus. But when it became clear they wouldn’t be able to keep on keeping on as they have been, and whitewash the problems, they fired GRACE. Our own Libby Anne, who will always be ours although Patheos stole her, reports on their nefarious assholery, and there’s a scorching open letter to BJU you really shouldn’t miss. As for BJU trying to play the “Other people fired GRACE, too!” card, keep in mind the other fundie fuckwads who fired GRACE like to have tween girls who’ve been repeatedly sexually assaulted by 60 year-old men confess to adultery. For being assaulted. Yep.
Feb 17 2014
Does the threat of hell still terrify you even though you know, consciously, it’s an imaginary place?
Imaginary situations can be terrifying and vivid. Even when you know they’re not real, they may continue to haunt you. Sometimes, it’s a fleeting fear; sometimes, it digs talons in and won’t let go.
I had a recurring nightmare as a child. For weeks, my 6 year-old self was plunged into the same terrifying situation every time I tried to sleep. My mom and I had gone shopping. It was a lovely, sunny day, and we were happy – until we pulled up to our house, and found it in flames.
Feb 16 2014
Feb 15 2014
It seems that despite many patient and helpful explanations over the years, some fanchildren in our community (and others) are still quite confused. They keep mistaking our social media spaces for courtrooms and discussions for trials. Since reading comprehension would appear to be absent from their Skeptical Toolkit, perhaps some illustrations may be of assistance.
Feb 14 2014
I’m continually surprised by plants in the Pacific Northwest. I shouldn’t be – I’ve been here for over half a decade now – but I’ll be out and about, not expecting much of anything to be doing anything of interest, and bam, in-my-face.
B and I had been scrambling over the beach at Richmond Beach, looking for a good bit of driftwood to use as a wizard’s staff, and we were climbing the endless stairs back up to the car when this bushes with enormous yellow, orange and red spiky berries appeared. I mean, yes, I’ve seen them before. We always park at the top and do the stairs for exercise. But this was the first time I’d seen them in October, and they were all dressed up.
Here were these clusters of flowers that looked like salal, but obviously not salal, and zomg wtf is up with those fruits?
Clusters, twins, singles, all over the place. And me being from a place where an apple growing on a tree seems rather exotic, seeing these bizarro fruits brings me up short. Luckily, they were growing near some exercise equipment, so B got to see if he could beat his brother in the pull-up department while I got busy with the camera.
I wonder what evolutionary pressure or urging prompted these things to grow little protrusions all over? And they’re pretty hard, too, not squidgy. I swear, they seem like you could tie them to the end of a stick and beat people to death. I wonder if they were the inspiration for the mace?
You could even look at them and think of the surface of the sun, with its flares and prominences and spots.
And, of course, the instant I saw them, I thought of you lot. I even remembered to take pictures that show the plant in more context.
So there you see a branch with all the flowers and fruits and bits, and below, we have the whole bush with ah shtick.
The stick, which did not become a staff, alas, appears to be madrona. I’ll give you a hint: there are cousins in this photo. Oh, and the weird gray things poking up over the bush at left are the sails from a play ship for the kiddies. It’s one of those awesome sorts of parks where everybody’s got something to look forward to, including the botanists.
Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, for them as cares.
Feb 13 2014
ACE is famous for asinine questions. You may remember some of the greatest hits from Jonny’s blog. In this edition of AiACE (pronounced Ay-ace, with ay being that syllable you utter when something has pained you), we shall deep-dive the Science 1085 Activity PAC, and ascertain just how inane it is.
Feb 12 2014
The best thing about being an adult is that I get to read textbooks by choice*, something my younger self would find fairly horrifying. The other best thing is that I don’t have to read them sober.
When it comes to Christianist educational materials, it’s best to be slightly sloshed. Less painful that way. Novocaine for the brain. So, let us lift our trusty glasses of whatever aids our concentration, and find out What Science Is.
In our A Beka Book, Science of the Physical Creation (SPC), we learn that physical science is “the systematic study of God’s physical creation and how it works.” Ah. Not even a paragraph into the book, and it’s got God all over it.
The subsequent section on mathematics as the language of science isn’t bad, and I like the clear and simple explanation of how equations work. However, comma, we then come to “Limitations of Mathematics,” which goes all on about how “people are not bound by the laws of the universe to act a certain way,” which seems kinda inappropriate in a straight-up science textbook: free will belongs in philosophy class. SPC also wants to assure us mathematics can’t “prove or disprove the existence of God.” Glad we got that cleared up. We’re then treated to several paragraphs about how scientists can make mistakes (egads, stop the presses!), are “subject to the sin of pride,” and can totes use math and data “to deceive people or distort the truth.”
Certain information may be purposely or erroneously omitted from a presentation of data, or it may be presented in a way that appears to favor the viewpoint of the one presenting it.
And after pounding on this point for a bit, they finish with this flourish:
Sometimes an error occurs because of false assumptions made by a scientist who is attempting to solve a problem. In geology, for instance, there are a great number of scientists who assume that evolution is a fact and that it has actually occurred. This assumption often leads to erroneous conclusions about the earth’s crust and its history.
Whelp. That well is well and truly poisoned. And we’ve only just finished section 1.1. Oy.
In 1.2, “Science and Measurement,” we learn that “Measurements must be precise because God’s physical creation and the Laws He established to govern it are precise.” Nothing to do with not being sloppy because you’ll get wrong answers, right? And it’s right back in to banging the “scientists are fallible” drum from there. Methinks they wish us to think scientists are a bunch of silly bastards who are nefarious and almost always wrong.
Accuracy and precision are illustrated by several rifle targets wot have been shot at. I wish I was kidding.
The discussion of scientific notation seemed fairly standard, but things get mildly interesting again with Systems of Measurement, which goes on for half a page about cubits and short people cheating tall people in the measurement department. One gets the sense that A Beka writers don’t see the human glass as half-full. It’s more like they see a half-empty glass and are convinced some evil sinner’s been stealing their tea.
I’m a history nerd, so the discussion of the… dare I say, evolution, ah-ha-ha… of the foot-pound-second system was fascinating, and, as far as I can tell, accurate. And their discussion of the metric system’s origin and uses was surprisingly sensible – I guess I’d expected a dig at the atheists in the French revolution who came up with it, but it was free of that sort of sniping and completely helpful. I loved that section – right up until the final paragraph, where they just had to slip firearms into a discussion of the places where the metric system has become standard. Gun nuts, much?
When talking about measuring mass, they did an excellent job showing the difference between mass and weight. And when it came to measuring time, they said atomic clocks “are accurate to within one second every six million years” without flinching. We don’t, in fact, see anything that makes us blink until we get to temperature, and they just have to emphasize that Lord Kelvin was a Christian physicist, thanks ever-so-much. But that’s it. I’ll give ‘em this section. It’s actually quite good. Hat tipped.
But of course, the good times can’t last. Brace yerselves: we’re on to the scientific method.
They’ve got the basic observation → hypothesis → experiment thing down, but don’t admit science isn’t quite that rigid. And they completely bork the difference between a theory and a law. Observe:
When a hypothesis passes the test of many experiments and has the support of other scientists, it is referred to as a theory.
Um. No. NCSE, help us out here: what’s a theory?
In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
So, yeah. SPC’s definition is so limited as to be useless. But it gets worse:
If a theory is verified by enough observations and experiments, it may become accepted as a scientific law.
Take it away, NCSE:
Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.
So kids being slow-poisoned by this textbook are going to emerge thinking hypothesis begets theory begets law, and that’s just remarkably wrong. But of course they have to muck up the definition of what a theory is, or their running about shrieking “Evolution is only a theory!” would fail and their kids might start calling chimpanzees “Cousin!”
SPC then proceeds to engage in a bit more well-poisoning by diverting into a discussion about how Johann Bode was totes wrong†, by way of getting kids to distrust successful science predictions.
And then they pile on a heaping helping o’ God:
One of the most basic of all scientific assumptions is that the universe is lawful, orderly, and operates according to physical laws. We cannot prove this assumption: however, everything we do in science is based upon it. As Christians, we have the utmost confidence in the validity of this scientific assumption because it agrees completely with what the Bible tells us about the universe and God, its Creator.
Whal o-kay then. Guess I’ll just sit in the corner here with my assumption that the universe is lawful etc. because it’s never proved to be otherwise, then.
You’ll love the concluding special section on “Mathematical Patterns in Creation.” After a long fap over “golden numbers,” “golden spirals,” and “the golden ratio,” SPC would like you to know scientists can’t explain that. “Nevertheless, their appearance in the world of nature reveals that God is a God of order and mathematical precision as well as a God of variety and beauty.” He totes created the universe this way on purpose, and here’s the Bible verse to prove it. Checkmate, atheists!
And just think: our BJU textbook promises to be even moar God-soaked. We shall tackle it next…
*Okay, maybe not the best thing. There’s being able to drive and buy stuff and have sex and not do what my parents tell me. But reading textbooks for fun and profit is right up there.
†He wasn’t actually completely wrong. His “law” did successfully predict Uranus, after all, and this Cornell source sez it works well for moons. Funny how scientists are almost never as wrong as the Christianists claim they are.
Feb 11 2014
I’ll admit, I thought Bill Nye was making a huge mistake when he agreed to debate Ken Ham. I thought this would be a fiasco when I found out he’d agreed to debate Ken at Ken’s own Creation Museum, with only Answers in Genesis putting out DVDs, and when it seemed like only creationists were getting in the doors. And I’m still not happy this stunt will pull in some dollars for that epic fail of an organization. But to go on the creationists’ own turf, and still hand Ken Ham his ass in a sling, that’s some serious good-for-science there.
No, Bill probably didn’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced. But we don’t aim this stuff at the people who have their minds set in stone (although even those minds may form a tiny stress fracture that will, with further weathering from gentle rains of science freezing and thawing in that tiny crack, break the whole thing open). When we take on creationists, whether it’s through a debate like this, or by fisking Christianist textbooks, or ripping their supposed science to shreds in blog posts, we’re aiming at the people on the fence – and some of them will get knocked right off that comfy perch. We’re handing information over to people who know creationism is wrong, but not why that’s important, or how to present the truth to others who don’t know it. And we’re doing it in an entertaining fashion that will get people who maybe aren’t passionate about science completely hooked. Watching scientists take on creationists was one of my gateway drugs, you know – I probably wouldn’t be a science blogger today if it hadn’t been for Barbara Forrest and PZ Myers and others showing me why it’s important to know this stuff, then showing me how amazing science actually is.