A request

I got a request from Alonzo Fyfe for any written material to counter Intelligent Design creationism that is geared for the younger set, 12-14 years old. I figure there are enough people reading this that some might have suggestions.

Along the same lines, I’ve long thought that a collection of little pamphlets written for people with short attention spans and no background would be useful tools for both promoting biology and atheism — anyone heard of such things? Or are we all long-winded, pretentious babblers?


  1. David Smith says

    I have been reading Alonzo’s blog for a while now also and I wanted to offer the small bit of help I can for his recent “cause” but couldn’t find a way on his site to contact him. I do graphic design and could offer page layout for flyers or pamphlets or whatever.
    More to this thread. I think if you put some things out there and let people choose what makes the most sense to them that would be a good way to work it.

  2. bernarda says

    I don’t know about the age group, but perhaps they can grasp “Mr. Deity”.


    Of course it is not an explanation of evolution, but it does pretty good in showing the absurdity of a deity.

  3. Bunjo says

    Big Picture on Evolution. Suitable for schools, downloadable from the web, and a very good introduction to evolution and related social/belief issues:


    Other topics in the series include:
    Thinking (September 2006)
    Sex and Gender (January 2006)
    Nanoscience (July 2005)
    Obesity (January 2005)
    Dying for change: Infectious diseases in the developing world (June 2004)
    Ageing (January 2004)

  4. says

    I think that a good all-purpose beginning to any science text for kids would be a quick rundown of the principles on which science is based — and a list of the pitfalls into which people are often trapped.

    Or else you could do a brief description of The Seven Classical Fallacies, using typical creationist arguments. Once kids learn about the SCF and Occam’s Razor, they usually can figure out the rest on their own.

    But Bernarda, I must disagree with you about the absurdity of a deity. If Joe Lieberman’s phone number turns up in the DC Madam’s records, not only is that proof of the existence of God, but also proof that She loves us and wants us to be happy.

  5. Bob says

    Hugely OT:

    Phoenix Woman, I know you from FDL! Almost never comment, but that is one great site.

  6. says

    Skeptic Magazine (http://www.skeptic.com/) in the previous and current editions had evolution in the their “Junior Skeptic” section. Nice simple explanation of evolution. The current edition had an FAQ section with all the usual ID/Creationist objections answered; very apt in a kiddy section as they are really childish objections.

    Why are there still monkey, human footprints with dinosaurs in Texas or wherever that was, what on earth is a species anyway etc, really good for kids.

  7. monkeymind says

    What about posable action figures of early hominids? I’m serious. Many kindergartners have extensive collections of dinosaur models, and can name many species. Why not hominids?

  8. Kseniya says

    Monkeymind, you’re really living up to your name! ;-)

    I like that idea. Hominid figures won’t have the coolness factor of the likes of stegosaurus and velociraptor, but might be just as interesting to those kids who insist on knowing allosaurus from t-rex and compsagnathus from deinonychus. Common knowledge of our ancestors is comparatively thin, and I offer myself as exhibit A: I could punk down a dozen dino names without blinking, but I’d have to strain my brain to come up a half-dozen hominid species. That ain’t right. Surely there’s a correlation between this and the widespread resistence to the notion that we came “from monkeys.”

  9. says

    Understanding Evolution website has some real good info, along with an Understanding Evolution for Teachers section. The teachers’ section has lesson plan info and such that might be easily transcribed into printed material. I don’t think ID is addressed directly, but there is a section about the Nature of Science that cover what is and isn’t science.

  10. mah9 says

    Anything good on science for pre-schoolers (biology / chemistry / physics)? Trying to explain why objects fall downwards to a 3 yr old is not easy. Or where dinosaurs came from. Or any other science based question that he may come up with. I’m not too interested in atheist literature for him, as I don’t actually think he has any concept of a “God”.

  11. Derrick Byford says

    … and of course what about Richard Dawkins 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures available on DVD at RichardDawkins.net (or as “Waking up in the Universe” on YouTube). Not written material but invaluable nonetheless.

  12. Wilson Fowlie says

    There are some possibilities at http://www.jhuger.com/, including the hilarious (you may even have heard of it) “Kissing Hank’s Ass” and various anti-religious points in the form of parables.

    While Huber* does include a page called the “evolve-o-matic” that provides a very (very!) basic demonstration of how natural selection works (with what I think are appropriate disclaimers about how it relates to real evolution), the site is more about refuting religion/faith than promoting science, so it only has a passing usefulness to the discussion here, but you never know.

    Also, Huber does use language that many would consider inappropriate for teenagers.

    *(Why is the site jhuger.com when his name is James Huber? I’ve no idea.)

  13. says

    I’m leery of the idea of producing tracts, because they’re very heavily geared toward making arguments from authority. Good popularization of science is hard, and while some ideas are pretty straightforward–and little comics are a great way of communicating ideas to a lot of people–I worry that they’ll end up mangling the science and convincing people that, since the same methods of proselytizing are used, there’s a moral equivalence between the people making these tracts and Jack Chick. The Big Book of … series, I think, sometimes get it right; though they’re riddled with loopy points of view and inaccuracies, they tell interesting stories, and I don’t think getting the facts straight would take away from that.

    I still do think they’d be awesome if properly done. Leave out the wanky self-righteousness and tell an interesting story about biology–maybe the discovery that H. pylori caused peptic ulcers?–or some other aspect of science. Heck, people here could probably script one out. More of a “did you know?” attitude than a “these beliefs are correct!” one.

  14. tom says

    Prometheus press has some titles suitable for young adults, though I can’t find my catalog or recall any names.

  15. Coragyps says

    As soon as you bring out a line of australopithecine action figures kids will be letting them ride their apatosaurus action figures. It’ll be the AiG museum all over again…..

  16. monkeymind says

    #30: “As soon as you bring out a line of australopithecine action figures kids will be letting them ride their apatosaurus action figures.”

    Just like the do now with Barbie and GI Joe. It’s amusing when kids do it.

    BTW, have you seen any of these faux tracts and coloring books at the friendlyatheist site?
    Check out the one of Jesus and Darwin fighting.

  17. Kagehi says

    I was thinking yesterday. Since these clowns keep babbling about irreducible this and lethal mutation that, perhaps we need some analogies that show how bloody stupid it is. I thought, something like a car analogy. Put an inferior part in a car, run it with bad gas, failing spark plugs, etc. and it ***will*** still run, remove them, and it stops working at all. Same with all the mutation they insist can “never” be beneficial. Just because one gene changes in a coding sequence for something like Insulin doesn’t mean that the now altered result of the substance produced **will** be lethal, it just means it might not work as well. It might make someone slightly more susceptible to diabetes, much like putting bad oil in a car might mean higher risk of rust or other issues. However, if the change made them “better” at handling sugars, then if they lived some place where sugars where rare and hard to get, it might cause the *opposite* condition, thus being detrimental.

    In the case of that example, it might be useful to point out how many different “types” of insulin there are, how many ways it can be coded for, and how compatible it may be, even between species, and therefor not lethal to them. They are making mountains out of mole hills, by literally insisting that small “glitches” are impossible, only complete disasters ever happen. Pointing out that this is completely idiotic and why, would we an effective way to pull another carpet out from under their feet. I mean, after all, how many cars, using that analogy, blow up or stop working completely, because someone put bigger wires in it than needed, or immediately catch fire because the wiring is half a gauge smaller than recommended. Its this kind of small quirk we are talking about with 90% or more of all mutations, as near as I understand it.

  18. says

    I am going to add a vote for the UC Berkeley site. I keep it bookmarked, and when I am bored with blogs and talkorigins, I go to it to pass the time. It is a lot of fun in addition to being educational.

    Of course, I am not in the target audience for whom Fyfe has placed his request.

  19. GodlessHeathen says

    Hmm. The sad bit is evolution simply does not fit on a cartoon tract, where “GODDIDIT!” fits nicely.

  20. hoary puccoon says

    It seems to me that rather than an evolution book to counteract some creation book, you need materials where kids are encouraged to do science for themselves– Rey’s book on stars comes to mind, although it’s ancient.
    I can’t remember when I was taught about evolution, but I’m sure it was after I’d learned for myself in the family garden that peas were more like beans than like carrots; at the bird feeder that there were different kinds of sparrows, all more like each other than like blue jays, and so on. I know I never questioned evolution, because it fit with my own, personal knowledge.
    Show kids that science is about discovering things for themselves instead of memorizing meaningless phrases from some authority, and you’ll have a natural advantage over any religion.

  21. brook says

    12 to 14 is a tough age: some slide through puberty w/o a problem, others the “interference” from all those hormones makes focussing on anything tough. (Isolating them in middle schools where they don’t get a chance to be heroes to little kids or positive examples of grown up interactions only compounds the problem, but that’s another topic.) They can sniff out ulterior messages from a hundred miles away and can shut their minds down at will.

    Personally, I avoid preaching to that age group. If they’re readers give them Bill Bryson’s book, or Dr. Tatiana (nothing like learning about how bugs mate to open your eyes to multiple possibilties) or Terry Pratchett. If they aren’t watch Walking with Dinosaurs or Planet Earth with them.

    THey have great senses of humor and easily see the hypocrisy involved in much of organized religion and anti-science but they’re still kids, what can they hang on to when everything about them seems to be changing? Introduce them to the Flying Spaghetti monster.

    More important than anything is loving them. Spend time with them, listen to what’s important to them (even if it means listening to music that makes you want to puke, watching movies that kill your brain cells and try to play a computer game that they really like) play cards, whatever. Don’t give into the cultural nonsense that they don’t want to interact with adults. Be a grown-up and keep coming back even if they rebuff you the first hundred times.