On 28 May, there will be a protest demonstration at Ken Ham’s folly, the creationist exhibition near Cincinnati. This is not about shutting down the foolish building, but using its own PR focus on itself, turning media attention to the fact that a lot of people consider it backward, insane, and kooky.
I like this guy’s attitude.
According to Edwin Kagin of the RfR, the rally is not challenging the right of AIG to present their world view. “They can teach that things fall up if they wish,” said Mr. Kagin. “We are simply trying to show that the views they are promoted are not accepted by those who do not share their fundamentalist religious views, and their effort to sneak those teachings into the public schools.”
Right — don’t sit quietly, don’t be polite, MAKE SOME NOISE.
Christian Burnham says
How is this not free publicity for AIG?
I’m sorry to be such a downer, but I just don’t understand how demonstrations like this achieve anything at all.
Demonstrations generally don’t convince me one way or the other. It doesn’t impress me at all that a few hundred like-minded people have gotten together to agree that something should be banned or someone deserves to go to hell or some constitutional article needs to be defended.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. I feel that it’s much more effective to write emails or go on blogs. Anybody who is even vaguely interested can find detailed point by point criticisms of AIG and the Flinstones museum in 0.04 seconds on Google.
Finally, imagine if the tables were turned. How many demonstrators would it take to convince us that evolution is nonsense? One thousand? One million? 6 billion? Of course, it doesn’t matter if infinity+1 demonstrators showed up all waving placards claiming that Darwin is the antichrist, it wouldn’t change our minds by one nano-huxley.
Christian Burnham says
Hey. I think I just made a funny…
Religion is the story of ‘The Clothes who had no Emperor’.
Put that on your banners!
One Eyed Jack says
Four hour drive for me. Is it really worth it? I’m not sure that giving this idiot museum any attention at all is a good thing.
Of course, it would be fun to hold up a poster saying “The Flinstones was a cartoon, not history.”
Set up a booth by the welcome sign and offer to take people’s pictures as a memento before the museum goes bankrupt.
If nothing else, the protest will show that America still has some rational folks left. I suppose events like this are one of the reasons that the atheist community would benefit from increased organization (i.e., from actually being a community). I worry that our fiercely independent tendencies may impose a ceiling on our success (see http://tinyurl.com/2ea4ge).
I would love to be at a protest like that, unfortunately I’m from the UK so I have to wish you all good luck in defeating this scary phenomenon before it spreads to Europe!
Any other Cincinnati-near Pharyngula readers planning on attending?
TheStrongAtheist, it doesn’t matter that you live in the UK, it’s still just a day’s drive from anywhere.
Blake Stacey, OM says
The grammar on that quotation is horrible — “the views they are promoted are not accepted”? That had to have been mangled by the newspaper.
It occurs to me that our lovable mass media may in this case work in our favor. They have the endearing characteristic of presenting all conflicts as oppositions between equal adversaries: evolution v. creationism, Wikipedia (thriving online community with international recognition and million-dollar donation drives) v. Conservapaedia (one computer in Andrew Schlafly’s bedroom). Often, this means that the loony nonsense gets “equal time” with centuries of scientific inquiry. However, in a situation like this, it may mean that the side of reason doesn’t have to spend $27 million to get as much press coverage as the AiG museum does.
I guess I miss the point here. If I protested every example of idiocy, or every one with political support behind it, I’d have no time to do anything useful. Why’s this any different?
I hereby state my plan to protest the opening of this museum by working carefully through another chapter of _Evolutionary Dynamics_ in my spare time–maybe the stuff on spatial games, where coding up some examples of my own would help. The answer to other people being idiots seems more likely to lie in making myself less idiotic, than in razzing them for being idiots.
Of course, it would be fun to hold up a poster saying “The Flinstones was a cartoon, not history.”
Thanks to Canadian politics, you can have a shorter bumpersticker.
“The Flintstones was not a documentary” – Warren Kinsella on CTV news, to PM hopeful (and fundie whackjob) Stockwell Day.
Hillary Rettig says
>>Demonstrations generally don’t convince me one way or the other.
Demonstrations work. Leaflets work. Letters to the editor work. Petitions work. Boycotts/conscious consumerism works. Art works. Legislative work works. Public relations work.
It all works…meaning, if done right, it all serves to sway public opinion, the culture, and and eventually public policy.
In fact, it’s astonishing what a single focused person can accomplish using these techniques.
Everyone, before you doubt the effectiveness of these techniques, please read:
1) What’s the Matter with Kansas. A great book for understanding the Right in general, but it will also show you how a tiny group of really focused activists (in this case, on the wrong side) can hijack an entire political structure and even culture.
2) Bury the Chains, Adam Hochschild’s history of the abolitionist movement in Britain
You can look at the history of modern social movements (abolition, suffrage, civil rights, etc.) and see that it all works – and HOW it all works. More than that, these kinds of activities are the backbone (not to be “vertebrist” :-)) of a vibrant, living, effective democracy.
So kudos to the rfr, and those of you who are skeptical should be less so. btw, *fun* works really well and ridiculing the ridiculous works *really, really* well. And so I hope the protestors do have some cavemen-type street theater, and also hope someone uses the “The Flintstones was not a documentary” message in a sign. That’s outrageously good framing, and it is also the kind of meme that gets in the paper. If the museum gets more publicity but pegged to all of the publicity is “these guys are lunatics,” that’s a good outcome.
I also hope they get protesters who are religious but not crazy – that will help, too.
Hillary Rettig says
>Religion is the story of ‘The Clothes who had no Emperor’.
That is a good one Christian! I expect it will be widely plagiarized err adopted.
It’s free negative publicity. AiG is going to attempt to create its own positive publicity, and in that context, silence looks like assent.
I’m not a great believer in the “don’t give free publicity” conventional wisdom. There may be some instances in which it applies, but these are limited to parties who are engaging in some kind of behavior purely to get attention, and who really will become sullen and go away if they don’t get it. The AiG is not such a group. The risk of saying nothing far outweighs the risk of actually helping them.
Oh, another thing:
Newsflash, Mr. Burnham: you’re not the target audience.
Let’s see I watch relatively little TV, and TV commercials generally don’t convince me to buy a product. So, if anyone out there is involved in TV advertising, remember, you can save yourselves billions of dollars a year. It doesn’t work. I just don’t pay attention to them.
Christian Burnham says
Hilllary: I’ve read ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ It’s a good book. I’m not sure if I agree with you though. The Republicans didn’t manage a political take-over using demonstrations.
PaulC. Yes, I may be wrong.
BTW, have you tried Ubik (TM)? It’s goes great in coffee and tea. Adds that extra zing to life!
Hillary Rettig says
i haven’t read the book in a while, but remember Frank’s vivid descriptions of activists literally putting their bodies on the line – lieing down on the roads leading to abortion clinics – and how powerfully that affected politicians and the public (and other activists).
this reminds me of the moment at which I realized religion was becoming a bigger problem in this country. about seven years ago I lived near the beach, and our little town had its annual sand building contest. amidst all the castles and other constructions there was a “bas relief” in sand of the triumphant christ, or some nonsense like that. It was hugely intrusive in the middle of an event which one *assumed* to be secular but which, with the addition of that sculpture, no longer was. for that very reason, I’m sure it did a lot to empower the local religious zealots in their assault on the secular culture. (The same for all those obnoxious deists who used to go to Disneyworld in large packs flaunting their religiosity on garish tee shirts. You’d see them everywhere you turned…)
Demos are a form of visibility, and visibility is really important especially when fighting a against such an entrenched opponent. it’s important for atheists not just to be seen, but to make as strong and clear a statement as possible that the opposition is totally wrong.
IDists et al try to create the perception that they are part of a growing movement in the scientific community. Demonstrations could have some effect on that.
Dark Matter says
Posters, billboards, cut out figures of Trofim Lysenko,
pointing the way to the museum.
All over town.
Give Trof something witty to say.
Keep it up until Lysenko is tied to AiG in
peoples’ minds like a ball and chain.
I imagine there will be cool signs and some great costumes. I wish I could be there! We should all blogpost sympathy signs on the day.
Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says
It would be great if someone went dressed as Noah and have someone dressed up as his pet T-Rex.
Scott Hatfield, OM says
I not only endorse this approach, it’s my preferred way of doing business. There’s no point in playing patticake with creationists.
Rey Fox says
I think as many people should dress like Fred Flintstone as possible. Or Wilma, depending on gender. Then maybe pretend that the museum is actually a Flintstones convention.
Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says
Arnosium Upinarum says
“They can teach that things fall up if they wish,” said Mr. Kagin.
PZ: Good attitude, maybe, but this is a bad boner.
That’s the second time in as many days I’ve come across the use of this very same ‘obvious absurdity’ as an example of how silly creationism is. (The first time was in a recent rather hastily-conceived piece in SEED; it would not surprise if Mr. Kagin got the idea from that).
Unfortunately, any decent 8th-grade science teacher teaching Newtonian physics will (or should) teach that things in fact DO fall up all the time: every time anything is thrown, batted, kicked, whacked or otherwise rocketed into the sky by whatever impulse and continues to recede from the Earth’s surface on its own momentum – on a ballistic trajectory – IS FALLING UPWARD.
All these upwardly-tossed things are in “FREE-FALL”. Technically, in fact, they are in temporary orbit. Any ballistic path is simply a portion of an orbit which cannot be completed only because the surface of the Earth intervenes. Astronauts in orbit are ‘weightless’ (though not massless) because they are falling AROUND the Earth, not ‘down’ or ‘up’, which are conventions of fragile earth-dwelling organisms that need to pay attention to their speed with respect to the surface of the Earth. Every satellite that follows an elliptical orbit spends fully half its time FALLING UPWARD. Many spacecraft that have been launched on escape trajectories never to return are all permanently FALLING UPWARD.
The definition of falling simply requires that the object experiences no acceleration. The DIRECTION of falling is utterly irrelevant to the definition.
That was the insight that Newton demonstrated in his laws of motion under the influence of gravity. Einstein’s take on gravity (a more general elaboration) reconfirms it with a robust enunciation of the principle of equivalence: there is no way to distinguish an acceleration from a resistance (like the surface of the Earth) to gravitationally-induced curvature of space-time. We who dwell on the Earth’s surface are under constant acceleration of about 32 feet-per-second-per-second, and think it the normal state of affairs. But it’s free-fall which is the natural state. Acceleration, whether induced by a change in velocity or resistance to the mass-induced curvature of space-time, is an entirely arbitrary state.
Call it nit-picking, right? Yeah, yeah, nothing leaps upward spontaneously into the sky, right? (…errr, wait, forgot about all them zillions of water molecules evaporating every second from nothing more than the impetus supplied by non-material particles of light…oh, and quantum mechanics which predicts a NON-ZERO probability of anything leaping around, including “upward”…hmmm, guess there are in fact LOTS of examples of things falling up all of the time after all).
Sure, let’s make noises. But let’s be careful about the noises we make and THINK. We look pretty darned stupid ridiculing creationist nonsense when using and accepting such off-the-cuff ‘common-sense wisdom’ remarks without THINKING. Can’t we at least try to get our elementary physics right?
Oh, I sure would like to go to this!! Yet I’m having a really hard time justifying the expenditure of fuel required. Anyone interested in car-pooling from St.Louis? My car has a charred and melted Jesus fish on it!
Tony Sidaway says
Part of me is being a complacent Brit over this. Creationism was all but banished from our shores within Darwin’s own lifetime and shows little sign of a resurgence.
Another part of me is still shocked to see all the nonsense that is being presented and taken seriously in the United States.
But of course the way to deal with these chaps isn’t by individual or even group action, but by making sure the government knows that this kind of thing really doesn’t accord with America’s self-image as a forward-looking, twenty-first century kind of country that cares about science. And needless to say you have to make sure you don’t vote for any of the ignoramuses who believe that creationism, intelligent design, and what-have-you bear any relation to science.
Ann Homily says
Sad but true — although we’re talking about an extra-peculiar region that also boasts the Giant Half-Submerged Jesus Statue visible from the freeway. It’s all part of a certain political strategy, of course…
Well, like I said. The political careers of the ignoramuses depend on the ignoramasses, and guess who’s in office right now. We’ve got quite a bit of work ahead…
Stuart Weinstein says
“That’s the second time in as many days I’ve come across the use of this very same ‘obvious absurdity’ as an example of how silly creationism is. (The first time was in a recent rather hastily-conceived piece in SEED; it would not surprise if Mr. Kagin got the idea from that).
Unfortunately, any decent 8th-grade science teacher teaching Newtonian physics will (or should) teach that things in fact DO fall up all the time: every time anything is thrown, batted, kicked, whacked”
Things that are thrown, batted, kicked, whacked are not self powered.
Therefore the only force that is acting on them once they are batted, kicked, whacked etc., is the force of gravity which acts downwards. This is neglecting the effects of friction with the air of course, which acts to continuously slow down the projectile. Hence such projectiles are always falling downwards.
That such projectiles may intially move upwards is a result of the initial imparting of momentum. Once that impulse is through, gravity takes over the rest of the way.
“or otherwise rocketed into the sky by whatever impulse”
rocketed is completely different. A projectile with its own power source can provide force acting on the projectile in addition to gravity.
and continues to recede from the Earth’s surface on its own momentum – on a ballistic trajectory – IS FALLING UPWARD.
“All these upwardly-tossed things are in “FREE-FALL”. Technically, in fact, they are in temporary orbit.”
Free-fall does not mean “not acted on by a force”
Even objects in orbit are always “Falling down”. It is their angular momentum that keeps them in orbit.
“Any ballistic path is simply a portion of an orbit which cannot be completed only because the surface of the Earth intervenes. Astronauts in orbit are ‘weightless’ (though not massless) because they are falling AROUND the Earth, not ‘down’ or ‘up’, ”
Gravity always accelerates downwards towards the COM. Orbiting objects are falling period. They stay in orbit because of angular momentum. “falling around” is just gibberish. I know some web sites say that, but it is a terrible way of stating the situation. Wave a magic wand and cancel out the angular momentum, and orbiting objects will fall directly to Earth.
I’m sorry, but this falling upwards bit is terrible terminology and frankly, wrong.
Robster, FCD says
I’ll be there. Hmmmm. Maybe the local costume warehouse will be open. I’ll have to check it for flintstone costumes.
Arnosium Upinarum says
(who writes):”Things that are thrown, batted, kicked, whacked are not self powered.”
So what? What if they are? Did I ever say they weren’t or should be? This distinction is completely irrelevant, and doesn’t need mentioning.
“Therefore the only force that is acting on them once they are batted, kicked, whacked etc., is the force of gravity which acts downwards.”
I never said otherwise! But that pesky direction-term becomes rather ambiguous and arbitrary as soon as you take note of OTHER gravitational fields we are verily embedded within that are NOT the Earth’s, such as the Sun’s (which Earth orbits) or that of our galaxy (which our Solar System orbits), for example. (Add the moon and Jupiter and any of the other planets, whose grav fields all perturb the motion of the Earth, along with the nearby stars and dust clouds etc. which perturb the motion of the Sun, and so on, and you get a pretty big mess of the notion of what direction gravity acts and therefore the directionality of falling).
In which direction is “the force of gravity” acting now, aye? Which way are YOU falling, Stuart? Which way is “down”? You will get more than one answer, and those answers change constantly, depending on your chosen reference-frame and position in time as well as space. Surely you will not insist that all of these answers must be “down” (Even if you DO keep pointing forlornly at the Earth). Why insist on ‘down’ when falling? The answer is that falling doesn’t need a down at all. There is no “down” other than its role as an expedient habit of thought.
You mention, “This is neglecting the effects of friction with the air of course, which acts to continuously slow down the projectile.”
Of course. But we may neglect it precisely because the effect is either sufficiently negligible or irrelevant if, for example, you are throwing rocks off the surface of the Moon which has a gravitational field yet has no atmosphere to speak of. I didn’t bother mentioning it for just that reason: it’s not important.
“Hence such projectiles are always falling downwards.”
Wow, so “up” means “down”? You sound like a conservative republican. How peculiar of you to insist that a projectile that is on the UPWARD leg of its ballistic trajectory is during that time “falling down” while it is clearly GAINING altitude. You know, “UP”? Ditto for satellites on the apogee-bound halves of their elliptical orbits. You know, moving “UPWARD”?
Sorry, but the direction of the FORCE (gravitation) is NOT the same as the direction of the object’s motion at any given instant. In fact, an observer experiencing a state of falling is actually NOT feeling any gravitational “force” of acceleration at all! (See Einstein’s principle of equivalence). It refers to the direction of motion relative to some convenient reference (like the Earth, or nearby objects), like any other motion that DOESN’T involve falling, like driving or walking.
Falling is a state of non-acceleration, period. The direction is utterly irrelevant to the issue of “falling”: if you were sitting in a windowless room within a silent rocket accelerating directly toward the Earth at a rate measurable as 1 earth-gravity, you would not be able to distinguish that from just sitting on the Earth’s surface with the rocket off. Your idea of “falling down” would differ from mine by fully 180 degrees. Even as you fell out of your seat onto the floor of the rocket, you would insist that you were not ‘falling upward’, at the same time that you might bitterly deny my attempts to convince you on the radio (in the limited time remaining) that you were BOTH FALLING DOWN AND ACCELERATING in a direction I identified with your ceiling. You might think me mad. But I wouldn’t be wrong.
You go on: “That such projectiles may intially move upwards is a result of the initial imparting of momentum. Once that impulse is through, gravity takes over the rest of the way.
[then you add, quoting me]: “or otherwise rocketed into the sky by whatever impulse” ”
Haven’t I said exactly what you say I did not?(Except about the silly part where you evidently think gravity isn’t acting DURING the impulse as well – I would not make that mistake).
But then you say, “- rocketed is completely different.”
Nope. Sorry, that’s wrong. “Rocketed” is NOT different in any way. What makes you think its different? What’s different about it? Newton doesn’t say anywhere that it is in any way different. Where do you get that ‘self-powered’ thing from? Make that up out of thin air like the things superstitious anti-evolutionists dream up? Look up Newton’s Laws of Motion. THAT’S WHY I SAID “ROCKETED INTO THE SKY BY WHATEVER IMPULSE.” – in anticipation of the common misconception such as you bravely expose. You might as well say that a springing mousetrap leaping into the air is completely different (because it’s “self-powered” too and that ‘self-poweredness’ somehow makes it special compared with things that aren’t ‘self-powered’) and be just as wrong and just as irrelevant in saying so.
You follow this absurdity by: “A projectile with its own power source can provide force acting on the projectile in addition to gravity.”
So what? The “self-powered” aspect of your argument is completely specious: a NON-self-powered projectile can also be subject to forces besides gravity, such as the air resistance you yourself mentioned earlier, which will impose an accelerative force from an external source. SO WHAT???
The issue is FALLING, that is, THE ABSENSE OF ACCELERATION. That’s all of it. Direction of motion has nothing to do with it. Forces which obviously impose accelerations have nothing to do with it (otherwise it would no longer remain “falling”). “Power sources”, whether intrinsic or extrinsic to the object in question, have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
Whether energy of momentum is applied to an object from an external or internal source is utterly irrelevant: either the object will experience an accelerative impulse, and therefore NOT be in a state of ‘falling’, or there will be an absence of acceleration and be falling. Period.
Newton’s Third Law (a ‘modernized’ version of the understanding as offered in Wikipedia): “Whenever A exerts a force on B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the same line.” It makes absolutely no difference whether the energy source that propels the projectile comes from outside (say, like the gunpowder propelling a bullet or a bat whacking a baseball) or comes from the projectile’s own insides (like a rocket or a stretched rubberband). According to this law, a rocket’s exhaust (“A”) exerts a force on the rocket (“B”) or vice versa. Like a baseball bat (“A”) exerts a force on the baseball (“B”) or vice versa.
What’s the difference? There isn’t any difference. It is important to remember that the rocket exerts exactly the same force on the rocket’s exhaust. The exhaust is accelerated very much more quickly than the rocket is, but that’s only because the rocket has a much higher mass than the hot rocket exhaust does. In order for that rocket to struggle upward, the exhaust must travel in the opposite direction very swiftly indeed. Individual particles within the exhaust have been accelerated by precisely the very same energy source as that which accelerates the rocket, which you insist is somehow “different” because it is ‘self-powered’.
You say, “Free-fall does not mean “not acted on by a force”.
I never suggested that it doesn’t or shouldn’t mean this. So what? Your objection isn’t even germane. (And “not even wrong”!). But if you were inside a windowless container experiencing weightlessness, I would defy you to be able to tell whether you were under the strongly-curved space-time represented by the nearby gravitational influence of Earth or floating in the much flatter space-time that obtains in an intergalactic void somewhere out there between galaxy clusters 6 billion light-years away and therefore beyond the Earth’s gravitational influence (because the Earth did not exist as a consolidated object 6 billion years ago).
In other words, if you were a blind person in free-fall, you could not tell whether you were in motion at all, let alone whether your motion was being influenced by a gravitational force or lack thereof, whatever direction that gravitational field happened to be centered on. Your stipulation that “free-fall does not mean ‘not acted on by a force'” is like reminding someone that “breathing does not mean ‘not holding your breath'”. You do very little to illuminate the nature of breathing by talking nonsense.
Then you say: “Gravity always accelerates downwards towards the COM [by which you presumably mean, “Center Of Mass”]. Orbiting objects are falling period. They stay in orbit because of angular momentum.
“falling around” is just gibberish. I know some web sites say that, but it is a terrible way of stating the situation. Wave a magic wand and cancel out the angular momentum, and orbiting objects will fall directly to Earth.”
Oh my. You may be disappointed in your magic wand when those objects that are on escape-velocity or hyperbolic ORBITAL TRAJECTORIES that are moving away refuse to “fall directly to Earth” when you wave it around. When i said that orbiting is “falling around” the Earth, I meant exactly that: I was merely illustrating how irrelevant directionality is to the essential definition of “falling”. Its NOT gibberish to say so BECAUSE directionality is NOT fundamentally relevant to a state of falling, which is a state of motion. Acceleration is relevant to a state of motion. And, no, its NOT “a terrible way of stating the position.” Its an excellent and accurate way of stating it.
You find the word “around” annoying and call it gibberish, replace it with the much more fancy term “angular momentum” (which is PRECISELY what i meant with “around”, believe it or not) then conclude that they are not doing any of that after all, that “Orbiting objects are falling period”. How redundant. How quickly you’ve forgotten that you began by defending “falling DOWN”, not “falling period”.
And however annoyed you may be that websites which demonstrate a decent knowledge of physics “have a terrible way of stating the situation”. Well, sure enough, lots of crackpots who think Newton and Einstein were wrong think so. I do not doubt that you might see it that way as well, considering that you so well demonstrate similar limitations.
How easy it is to flush out people who believe they posess a rudimentary understanding! Go get yourself a course in gravitation: both Newton and Einstein will teach you and should clear up much of the confusion.
Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says