Never let the facts get in the way of damning Dawkins

Ed Brayton and Mike Gene have gone over the top in accusing Richard Dawkins of wanting to coerce the religious into giving up their beliefs; as is usual for Ed, he has no problem immediately comparing an atheist to R.J. Rushdooney and calling him a totalitarian, on the basis of a rather poorly written petition that Dawkins signed.

I must say, though, that this petition is certainly strange, and I don’t quite see how it could have gotten over a 1000 signatories. I sure don’t approve of it, although I can understand the motivation behind it.

In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians. At the age of 16, as with other laws, they would then be considered old enough and educated enough to form their own opinion and follow any particular religion (or none at all) through free thought.

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What has been accomplished?

Saddam Hussein has been killed.

He was a venal little monster, but I don’t see that we’ve gained anything by stooping to the level of a third-world thug, and the unseemly haste with which an irreversible act was committed makes it even more sordid and sleazy.

He said that celebrations broke out after Hussein was dead, and that there was “dancing around the body.”


The Grand Canyon is how old?

At this point, it’s safe to say the National Park Service is stonewalling. There is a book called The Grand Canyon: A Different View, written from a young earth creationist perspective, which the NPS has approved for sale in its bookstores. It is a truly appalling piece of crap; I wrote about in in July of 2004, and you can read excerpts from it online. One might argue that the appearance of the book is simply due to a lack of discrimination by the Park Service, which just shovels the gimcracks and gewgaws into their stores to make money, but apparently they try to exercise some due consideration in product placement.

Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.

The book is clearly in violation of the standards the Park Service sets for itself; this excellent letter from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility cites the explicit directive from the director of the agency that lays out the criteria.

Historical and Scientific Research. Superintendents, historians, scientists,
and interpretive staff are responsible for ensuring that park interpretive and
educational programs and media are accurate and reflect current
scholarship…Questions often arise round the presentation of geological,
biological, and evolutionary processes. The interpretive and educational treatment
used to explain the natural processes and history of the Earth must be based on
the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have
stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism.

This is a no-brainer. The book should not have been approved in the first place. It should be removed from their catalog immediately. The Park Service should approve and implement training for their staff (which should hardly be necessary; they shouldn’t hire idiots in the first place) to make sure that they are presenting accurate geological information to the public.

“No comment” is not good enough. This disgraceful controversy has been stewing long enough that the continued inaction of the Park Service administration constitutes an implied endorsement of anti-scientific nonsense.

Your hydrogen bond angle is 10° greater than ordinary water (114°)!

Quacks have no shame, but once reputable science and engineering magazines should have some vestiges of it. Popular Science magazine will take money from anyone for the ad revenue, as Cyde Weys demonstrates with a scan of an ad for energized water. It will cure cancer and diabetes, and kills bacteria. It’s crazy and stupid.

Your blood is 94% water and billions of people flush their diseases along with medication into the ground water 4-5 times/day and it ends up at a faucet somewhere. If you have well water and people in the area have cancer, you have a good chance of getting cancer! S.D. Woman: “All around me they have MS, but they all drink pure water from ordinary distillers, filters, ozonators, reverse osmosis and alkaline water machines. The water is pure, why do they have MS?” People in the area with MS flush their diseases into the ground water and you pump the water up to your faucet, proving that the products don’t work!

Wow. So much stupid packed into so few words. It’s an ad that relies on ignorance to generate fear and hysteria so people will buy their product: cancer (with some exceptions) and multiple sclerosis aren’t infectious diseases that you catch from your water. And how about this?

How about the AIDS dentist on CBS 60 Minutes? They all use pure water along with 4,000 dentists surveyed, and yet their purest water can’t even kill pathogenic bacteria! Ours does!

Those dentists! Those bastards! They’re all out to give you AIDS unless they use our magic water!

It has to be seen to be believed. It’s plain ol’ snake oil sold with a full page ad in Popular Science.

Now this is a promising development Never mind

Crap. Lippard misread the report: it was a 6 month form. There has been no net decline in revenues to that creationist junk organization, and I was wrong. There have been no promising developments in a decline in grassroots support for creationism.

I’ve always had a low regard for settling creationism by court cases, since they don’t do a thing to address popular support. Here is far better news, though, and unless there’s some remarkable explanation for it, it’s the most promising sign of real progress I’ve seen yet: revenues for Answers in Genesis dropped from $10 million in 2004 to $5 million in 2005. That’s still a big chunk of change, but this is at the same time that they’ve been getting massive amounts of free PR for their creation “science” museum project, and it suggests that maybe people are getting leery of throwing their money into a futile endeavor. At least, we can hope it signifies a massive erosion of public support.

If I see Ken Ham with a cardboard sign begging for handouts someday, I might toss him a nickel.

Here, everyone: homework!

Hey, everyone, you’re being asked for some help. A certain someone is going to be giving a talk to Hugh Ross’s group, Reasons to Believe, and he wants a list of common creations fallacies and good rebuttals. Remember, RtB is an old earth creationist group, so stuff about a 6000 year old earth is inappropriate.

Please consider taking the time to post a thread on your blog asking readers to submit their nominations for most common/most egregious fallacies or misunderstandings along with suggestions on how to combat them. You can mention me or not, as you think it would be appropriate/helpful. I am sure if you challenge your readership, their feedback would be tremendously helpful to me, and that could make a difference in the sort of impact my presentation has.

My number one gripe is probably general innumeracy. Anyone who treats the likelihood of the evolution of a protein as (1/20)# of amino acids doesn’t understand probabilities or the nature of the problem. It’s not short, but I’d point them at Ian Musgrave’s explication of probability and statistics.

Innocence lost!

I was just asked to confirm something. A reader, TheFallibleFiend, noticed that DaveScot at Uncommon Descent had claimed that he had heard the “Tree of Life Exploding” because an examination of an ultraconserved genetic element in humans had found that “the closest match was to DNA from the coelacanth”. The reader then checked the Nature article, and discovered that it didn’t seem to say anything of the kind. He tried to point this discrepancy out in a comment, but it never showed up (oooh, surprise!).

Our bewildered reader wonders if he could be misinterpreting the article—he’s not a biologist—but you know, the abstract seems to plainly contradict DaveScot. How could this be?

Alas, I have to destroy his touching faith in human nature. DaveScot completely failed to comprehend the article. He misrepresented its meaning in his description. He’s ruthless about expunging any criticism, so he almost certainly intentionally deleted any comments that might mention his incompetence. The string of commenters at UD who all thought this was wonderful evidence against evolution further exemplify the willful inanity of the Bill Dembski fan club. FallibleFiend, your understanding of the abstract and paper seems to be quite accurate; theirs is incredibly off-base.

You will be pleased to know that Carl Zimmer has discussed this same Nature article in PLoS Computational Biology, and he backs you up.

Everyone should know by now that if the Dembskiites say it, it is almost certainly wrong; they trade in ignorance and dishonesty, and now we can add disillusionment to their wares.