Digby revisits the evolutionary views of neo-cons

And it’s a right embarrassing spotlight to be caught under, I imagine. A couple of years ago, The New Republic polled various well-known conservatives about their position on evolutionary biology; Digby reviews their responses, and they’re a mess (I also summarized their views diagrammatically way back then). Most wouldn’t be caught dead admitting to believing the kind of nonsense Ken Ham favors, so they’re spluttering evasively and many are embracing with great relief the concept of Intelligent Design.

Digby is making the point that it reveals how uncomfortable the leaders of the conservative movement are with the actual beliefs of their base, but I think it shows something else, too. Intelligent Design has always been a bridge or enabler; it isn’t as tainted with snake-handlin’ bible-quotin’ old school fundamentalism as outright creationism, so the big shot conservative intellectuals are willing to harrumph over it and wax pontifical in its favor, without dirtying themselves with biblical populism; meanwhile, the creationist hoi-polloi can look up to it as an intellectually respectable, cleaned-up and pseudo-secular version of their myth. Very few people on either side actually believe it, but it won popularity as a middle ground where neo-con and religious right could meet.

The Fred and Wilma Flintstone Museum

Ken Ham’s fabulous fake museum is going to open soon, on May 28. There are grounds for concern here.

But Eugenie Scott, a former University of Kentucky anthropologist who is director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, said the information provided in the museum “is not even close to standard science.”

Scott visited the museum recently as part of a British Broadcasting Corp. radio program. Although she didn’t get a tour, she saw enough to know that the museum will be professionally done. And, she says, that’s worrisome.

“There are going to be students coming into the classroom and saying, ‘I just went to this fancy museum and everything you’re telling me is rubbish,'” Scott said.

The Discovery Institute, despite its ability to generate PR, has always been a third-rate stalking horse for the real Godzilla of creationism, Answers in Genesis. The Intelligent Design creationists are an arrogant, stupid minority; the real face of creationism in America is evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity, a mainstream belief, and its adherence to biblical literalism. It’s everywhere. It doesn’t need to send out press releases to promote itself; it’s thriving in churches in every town in the country every Sunday.

Scott is right to be worried. This one museum is going to have a bigger budget than the NCSE, and it’s a load of shit in a slick package. It’s going to impress some people — stupid, shallow people, but there’s no shortage of them in the US, and there especially seems to be a surplus in the media, which will happily eat this crap with a glossy veneer and regurgitate it for the public.

For example, look at this contrast:

Daniel Phelps of Lexington, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, says the museum will embarrass the state because of the “pseudoscientific-nutty things” it espouses, and because it portrays evolution as the path to ruin.

But the Rev. Bill Henard, senior pastor of Lexington’s Porter Memorial Baptist Church, said that Sunday school classes and other groups from his church are likely to visit.

“I think people will enjoy … being able to see a different side from what some scientific findings have shown,” he said.

It’s not at all difficult to find people who will cheerfully enjoy lies — just open the doors and look inside a church.

My students should not watch this

They need every scrap of brainpower they can get, and the two videos at this link will suck out your brain with the awesome power of their stupidity.

Most of you are probably already familiar with the banana video, which tries to conclude that God exists from the perfection of the video. What you will also find at that link is … the peanut butter video. Evolution is disproven because life (by which he apparently means animals, like ants) does not spontaneously arise in the jars of peanut butter on grocery store shelves.


Not only do we not think that there is a significant probability of abiogenesis to occur in a jar of peanut butter over its short shelf-life, not only are food producers more concerned about keeping existing life from growing in the nice culture medium of processed foodstuffs, but what does this guy expect to see if new life did spontaneously arise? Me, I’d expect there to be some subtle shift in the chemical composition of some tiny spot somewhere in the jar; nothing obvious. Kind of like the fact that there are bacteria living in the jar right now, and they just don’t jump up and say “boo!” when you open the lid.

You too can be a single frame of animation

Iain is looking for photos in a particular pose.

So maybe you didn’t like the Blasphemy Challenge; this is a much more restrained exercise in which the fellow is going to collect photos of people holding an apple if they accept the evidence for biological evolution, or holding a light bulb if they believe in that evidence-free creationism stuff, and they’ll be strung together into an animated video. It’s easy, and I figure I’ll do it this week (with an apple, of course).

Watch the video, he explains exactly how to compose the picture, and he has a lovely accent, too.

An inadequate reward for corruption at the expense of science

You may recall my earlier complaint about the corruption and waste and profligacy of the head of the Smithsonian, Lawrence Small. A non-scientist, he spent the last few years padding his own nest by drawing on the resources of the Smithsonian, and was basically a typical Republican appointee.

The good news: Small has resigned, hopefully in disgrace. The bad news: he wasn’t frog-marched out of his office and thrown in jail. Still, let’s hope that many more Friends of Republicans are thrown out on their asses soon.

Let’s not just pick on the Nigerians

The oppression begins at home, and we can’t just blame the men.

I work at a bookstore. I was cashiering today when a woman and her two kids (a boy and a girl, both somewhere between 13-15) came up to the register. The mom was buying 2 celeb gossip magazines, and the boy put down a book. The girl then walked up and set down the newest volume of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

The mom says “You can’t buy that.”

Girl: Why?
Mom: Because it’s too big.
Girl: [Brother] is buying a book that big. It’s not very expensive.
Mom: [Brother] is a boy. You’re a girl. And girls shouldn’t read big books like that. It’s too thick. Boys don’t like girls who read thick books. You want boys to like you, don’t you?

The girl went and put the book away.

We really need an admissions test for parenthood.

(via Byzantium’s Shores)

The Humboldts are rising!

The LA Times has a cool story about the growing population of Humboldt squid off the Southern California coast — tens of millions of the big beasts, and they aren’t shy.

The frenzy built and Kerstitch, as the lone diver shooting still photographs and with no bright movie lights to deter the predators, was set upon.

A squid grabbed his right swim fin and pulled downward. He kicked it away but another grabbed his head. The cactus-like tentacles found his neck, the only part of his body not covered with neoprene.

He bashed the squid with his dive light, far less bright than the movie lights, and it let go, but it swiped both the light and the gold chain he’d been wearing.

Another squid wrapped its tentacles around his face and chest. Kerstitch dug his fingers into its clammy body.

It slid down and around his waist and pulled him downward in pulsing bursts. Then it suddenly let go, but made off with his compression meter.

For whatever reason, the attack ceased and Kerstitch got to the surface dazed and oozing blood from neck wounds, thankful to be alive.

It sounds like the squid was just mugging him for some bling.

William Dembski: all class and perspicacity

Richard Dawkins has a huge list of well-wishers, but William Dembski is unhappy — he sent a birthday greeting, and rushed to complain on Uncommon Descent that it wasn’t posted. Alas, it was, and we can all see what an insincere and sarcastic and snide comment he sent. Richard Hughes gets a gold star for his comment:

If you can’t find your name in an alphabetical list, you might want to stop looking for evidence for god in bacterial flagellum.