Dembski’s Delusion and Dishonesty Detector

Last night, I saw this video where a trio of Evilutionists romped through a memelist written by a teenager raised on Tumblr quizzes and mocking it.

Oops, no. It’s a 40 question questionnaire written by un-esteemed old crank, William Dembski, which purports to reveal your degree of devotion to the dogma of Darwin. It’s far more revealing of the ignorance of the twit who composed it than anything else. You don’t have to watch the video to deal with this childish test: take it here. It’s bad.

Each item consists of two statements, one being what a creationist imagines an evolutionary biologist believes, and one being what the creationist imagines is actually true. For instance,

1.
•Evolution in the sense that all present-day organisms arose from one or a few ancestors (common descent) is now a proven fact.#
•Evolution in that sense is still an unproven hypothesis.

The one with the # symbol is always the evilutionist position, in Dembski’s mind. In this case, he gets it right, except that I don’t like the word “proven”. It is a fact, though, supported by the molecular evidence.

Other statements get it thoroughly wrong.

2.
•The theory of natural selection (i.e., retention of chance variations) adequately explains common descent.#
•Even assuming full-blown evolution to be a fact, the theory of natural selection does not adequately explain it.

Nope, selection is not sufficient. What about mutation, drift, recombination, and most trivially, that cell division is a binary process? We are all children of our parents.

Others expose creationist misconceptions.

19.
•The concept of “junk DNA” was a major scientific blunder directly attributable to Darwinian thinking.
•Darwinian thinking advanced science by correctly characterizing non-coding DNA regions as “junk DNA.”#

No biologist ever thought non-coding was synonymous with junk. That’s the false idea promoted by creationists.

Others are just plain weird.

30.
•The motivations of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice cannot be understood at the deepest level without a knowledge of evolutionary theory.#
•Jane Austen had no need of evolutionary theory to understand human motivations at the deepest level relevant to literature.

Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, when Charles Darwin was 4 years old.

It’s just badly designed, too. Each question has the “incorrect” choice marked with that # symbol, so a creationist can march through, selecting the answer without the # and get a perfect creationist score; if you’re a biologist, you’re often going to be stumped because both options are wrong. Would you believe this “test” was designed for an educational website?

James Barham and I developed this questionnaire some years back for an educational website. To appease the search engines, the website eventually dropped it. Lightly dusted off, it is presented here. The questionnaire provides a useful mirror for understanding the influence of Darwinian ideas on our lives and culture.

It’s more of a mirror for letting creationists see what they want to see. Evolutionary biologists (not “Darwinists”) are invisible in it.

Continuing shake-up at AiG

Ken Ham is getting old. He’s been planning his successor, and I commented on the likely guys being brought to the top. The front runner, once upon a time, was his son-in-law, Bodie Hodge, who I called “a blithering goober”, and I couldn’t imagine him being put in charge of a multi-million dollar corporate entity, which is what Answers in Genesis is. We could probably map all the clawing to the top at AiG directly onto that TV show, Succession, except that I haven’t watched it.

Then Ken Ham announced who would get the keys to the Creation “Museum” and the Ark Park, and it wasn’t Bodie. He instead imported an outsider from Australia, Martyn Iles, a slick, polished blithering goober. I wondered at the time how that would go over with the whole gang at AiG, but they weren’t talking. I think Ken maintains an iron fist over his empire.

Now we have a hint to the power struggles within AiG. Bodie Hodge is out! He has set up his own little fiefdom, Biblical Authority Ministries.

Biblical Authority Ministries is solely an outreach of B. Hodge and is not associated with AiG in any way. Though obviously many articles and resources are linked to AiG’s website and materials. Mr. Hodge’s hope is that you will help support AiG and its outreaches by donations, resource sales, and visiting the attractions and also support Biblical Authority Ministries as well as both content for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For a moment, I felt a little pity. Bodie dedicated decades of his life to promoting AiG, and now he has been passed over by his own father-in-law. Yikes. But then I read this bit of his autobiography:

He is a reconstructionist and a known presuppositionalist. This shows in his response style. He grew up being taught dispensational pre-millennialism and historic pre-millennialism but after extensive study has become a post-millennialist (partial pret). He has a heart to answer questions and promote the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Oh. He’s a pretentious blithering goober who talks about himself in the third person and believes in many silly, stupid things. May his ministry crash and burn.

Where the sewage ends up

The inevitable descent of conservatives often seems to end up here:

The older I get the more absurd the concept of “dinosaurs roamed the earth until a great big meteor hit” becomes to me.

This is just the latest in a long line of Candace Owens’ conspiracy theories. When they start babbling about creationism, I think the turkey is done.

My opinion of astronauts has declined precipitously

A new, partially reusable spacecraft, the Boeing Starliner, was launched earlier this week. That’s great. I’m not enthusiastic about manned space exploration, but I see it as a tool to help science learn new things, so go for it.

It’s Boeing, which isn’t such a great brand anymore, and it’s unsurprising that the capsule had leakage problems, but I expect those will be corrected. I have a bigger problem with the mission, though.

The commander, Barry Wilmore, is a fucking pig-ignorant creationist.

And it’s off! After several delays, Boeing’s Starliner capsule officially launched its first-ever manned flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and is on its way to the International Space Station. Among the crew on board is a friend of ours—Captain Barry “Butch” Wilmore, a Christian and a biblical creationist! And Captain Wilmore isn’t just on board—he is commanding this historic flight!

Wilmore used the time just before launch to promote Ken Ham’s creation crap.

And as they prepared to leave, Captain Wilmore was telling everyone about Answers in Genesis, the Ark Encounter, and the Creation Museum and how everyone needs to come and visit!

He’s going to use the ISS as a backdrop to plug Answers in Genesis merch.

Many months ago at his request, we sent him a variety of AiG, Ark Encounter, and Creation Museum apparel, which were then sent to the ISS and are waiting for him. He plans to put on the apparel and take some photos. Wow, AiG, the Ark, and the museum will be represented in outer space (I never would have dreamed of that 49 years ago when I gave my first creation talk)! Hopefully, we will have photos to share in the coming days.

This is inappropriate. A NASA astronaut is using a scientific platform to preach anti-science nonsense.

I will make a mental note, reminding myself that astronauts are nothing but glorified space truck drivers, and that clearly any idiot can fly one with enough training. That this dope has this prestigious job demeans the work and sacrifices of all the other astronauts.

Evolution destroyed in 5 minutes!

I can’t believe how embarrassed I am for Eric Hovind and John Harris. Eric is, of course, the son of Kent Hovind, which is humiliation enough, and John is the director of Living Waters Europe, so you’d think being shackled to that doofus Ray Comfort would make you reluctant to appear in public, but no, they now appear together in a video that has them capering ludicrously and giggling like maniacs because, oh boy, they’ve got those evolutionists now. They have a knock-’em-dead argument against evolution (it’s always against evolution, because they lack a defensible alternative) that will finally finish off evolution, and it’s so simple they can present it in 5 minutes. Except they don’t. This is a 40 minute video.

Discover “How to Destroy Evolution in 5 Minutes.” Using the lens of mathematics to critically examine the evolutionary timelines from chimp DNA to human DNA renders Evolution, once again, IMPOSSIBLE!

This compelling argument has left evolutionists speechless as they watch their evolutionary science foundation implode.

Join Eric Hovind and John Harris, Director of Living Waters Europe, for an insightful look at one of the most compelling arguments against evolution you will ever hear!

I’m sure they do leave many people speechless. I know I was stunned when I heard it, because it was so appallingly stupid and grossly overhyped. You can skip the first 30 minutes of the video, because it’s just John and Eric patting each other on the back, bragging about how sciencey they are, and rehashing bits of biology 101 (“this is what DNA looks like…”) that are completely irrelevant to their argument, and boasting about how they’ve left people completely convinced that they’ve destroyed science and are now going to church. It’s extremely obnoxious, especially when you get to their actual argument, which is abysmally unimpressive.

It’s Haldane’s Dilemma. It goes in cycles, where very few years some creationist rediscovers this idea, and goes raving looney claiming that they’ve disproven evolution, and then slowly goes quiet as evolutionary biologists look at them funny and then ignore them. It was first brought up by JBS Haldane in 1957. Haldane was a great scientist, not a creationist, and he brought it up as a potential problem in population genetics that needs to be resolved. It was the problem of substitutional load, that for a mutation to go to fixation involved a cost to the population, since replacement of one allele by another involved the virtual death of members of that population over time. So how could we possibly get enough mutations to transform a chimp-like animal into a person, since surely there are a vast number of genetic changes between the two? Haldane didn’t know how many, but must be lots, right?

Very smart people — much smarter than John & Eric, who know nothing about biology or evolution — wrestled with this problem, but the real question was not whether evolution could occur, but where was the error in Haldane’s assumptions or calculations. As molecular biology proceeded onward, undaunted by a theoretical problem, it was discovered that populations were hugely polymorphic, that is, contained a huge reservoir of widespread variation, that was incompatible with Haldane’s Dilemma. Either the premises for the math was wrong, or plants and animals existed in defiance of the natural laws of the universe.

Evolutionary biologists quickly figured out the flaw. Most of that variation is neutral and can accumulate with little cost. Gosh, empirical reality overcomes the theory, especially the relatively primitive theory of the 1950s. Creationists did not get the memo, though, and every few years they bring up Haldane’s calculations as if they were an evolution-stopper, rather than an early step in figuring out the dynamics of population genetics.

You can skip the whole video, though. It’s only appeal is the spectacle of watching two bozos engaged in a 40-minute pratfall. Here’s their ultimate evolution-killing calculation, presented at about the 30 minute mark.

Note that they are bending over backwards to use numbers that will favor evolution, which is why so much of this calculation is nonsense. Humans and chimps differ by 1% of their genome (it’s more like 3%, but OK), which means there are about 30 million base pairs that differ (they neglect the fact that these are two independently evolving lineages so each needs 15 million changes…let’s forget that, since their numbers throughout are so silly.) That means that in 10 million years at the rate of 1 beneficial mutation (an absurd number) every 20 years, the population can accumulate at most 500,000 beneficial mutations. But we need 30 million! Oh noes!

Every lay person will be baffled by the numbers and will be confused. Every evolutionary biologist will look at it in shock and wonder why this idiot is roaming the streets unsupervised.

You won’t be taken aback. You’ll note that the assumption of 30 million (or 100 million, or whatever) beneficial mutations is false, since most of the differences are neutral or nearly so, so we can just throw away the whole estimate. You might also comment on the fact that their formula is very linear, assuming that evolution is a long march forward, steadily adding beneficial mutations progressively to produce us humans, rather than a process of constantly branching diversification. You’ll also acknowledge that sexual recombination allows genes to evolve in parallel and be reshuffled into novel arrangements. Their little demo disproves creationist evolution, which is an entirely different process than biological evolution.

There’s little point in engaging with anyone presenting this level of ignorance and misinformation. Just pat them on the head, give them a lollipop, and encourage them to stay in school.

The new martyrs: Christians being tortured with rainbows

It’s Pride Month! Or, as the gang at Answers in Genesis would rather call it, shame month. Ken Ham has written a complaint about all the terrible things Christians are now expected to do while under the yoke of The Gays — it’s reminiscent of the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt. I don’t know how The Christians will cope.

I should qualify that. I don’t think Ken Ham speaks for The Christians, that univocal mob he thinks he leads, but only for a subset that is terminally stupid and believes in the literalness of the Bible — which already marks them as gullible fools, since an oft-retranslated work of a multiplicity of authors can’t be “literal”. Also, like many of his recent editorials, he credits the assistance of AiG’s research team in writing it. In other words, he didn’t literally write it, but you’re supposed to believe he did.

So what Ham’s equally deluded PR flacks wrote about was the horror of acknowledging the existence of human beings who don’t believe in evangelical Christian nonsense.

Today marks the beginning of what has become known as pride month—a 30-day celebration of sexual sin and sinful identities by the media, many corporations, and even cities and towns. As those who believe God’s Word and understand that what these individuals are celebrating is nothing short of bondage and slavery to sin, June can be a discouraging month. But it can also be more than that—it can be a month that tests our commitment to the truth of God’s Word.

You thought my opening paragraph was hyperbole, didn’t you? I must have been exaggerating, suggesting that living during Pride Month was comparable to living in bondage and slavery. You should learn that these crackers are the most entitled martyrs in America, and they love telling you about their imaginary sufferings. The AiG research team worked hard to come up with “plausible scenarios” of what could happen to you this month.

Consider these very plausible scenarios that may happen to you this June:

Excuse me, very “plausible scenarios”. You can tell they were shackled by the constraints of reality in this exercise, and while they wanted to tell you about the imagined scenario where Ken was handcuffed to a bed and a large hairy man with a whip and a massive dildo was approaching him, they had to tone it down a bit. For once, their imaginations had to be limited by reality, so this is the worst they could come up with:

• The school you teach at requires educators to put their pronouns in their bios and call students by their preferred pronouns.

The school I teach at does not require that, but they did add an option in the personnel database to specify preferred pronouns. We do have an expectation that our students be treated with courtesy and respect, which may seem like an unnatural obligation to the AiG research team, but isn’t that demanding to those of us living in the real world. We’re also expected to learn our students names, you know, and that’s harder than learning the few available options for pronouns.

• The company you work for hosts a rainbow-adorned pride-themed family picnic.

Oh no. Family picnics are like a damnation party. Don’t do that. Or if you do, stomp about glowering at everyone in attendance and take one bite of the potato salad before spitting it out and cursing the company to hell. Or is it the bit about adorning the event with rainbows? Like the entrance to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter?

OK, yeah, that does look hellish.

My university does have a family picnic late in the summer. They don’t call it “pride-themed,” though, because they don’t need to — we’re accepting of all sexual orientations in all events.

• A family member you love, and who professes Christ, changes their social media profile picture to a rainbow filter to be a good “ally.”

<gasp> There are Christians who are supportive of their gay friends? Man, they’re going to be horrified when they learn they have Christian family members who are actually gay. And if taking the least and most negligible action of adding a filter to a social media profile cause the AiG research team to tremble in fear that they might have to compromise their love of Jesus, imagine if their beloved family member came out as queer, marched in a gay pride parade, voted for gay rights, and married someone of the same sex!

Life must be truly scary for these people if that is their nightmare scenario.

The list goes on of scenarios that may play out during the month of June that hit close to home and that force us as believers to make decisions as we apply our biblical worldview in very practical ways.

Wait. That’s it? The AiG research team wracked their brains to come up with some hypothetical traumatic consequences of Pride Month, and that’s the worst they could do, so they wind up with that pathetic “list goes on” conclusion? Sure, the list goes on, but most of what the homophobes would come up with would be such patent bullshit that they had to stop.

They then take a stab at answering how they would address those ‘problems,’ but they’re so chickenshit that they can’t even hint at what should be done, so they turn it into a series of questions.

Do we add the pronouns to the bio?

Sure, why not? If you have a clear preference, why not help others address you as you want to be addressed? I put my preferred pronouns in my syllabi and on social media, especially since “PZ” is gender ambiguous.

Do we use the preferred pronouns?

Of course! If someone tells you their name is “John,” it would be discourteous to call them “Fred.” Same thing, if they ask you to use “she/her”. Is this even a question? Does AiG expect their employees to be rude to visitors?

Do we attend the picnic?

If you like picnics, yes. Don’t be afraid of a little rainbow bunting. Personally, I’m more intimidated by the expectation that I’ll have to engage in conversation.

Do we confront our family members about their “allyship”?

Confront? Finally, the mask slips a little bit. There’s nothing to confront in that scenario, unless you’re a deeply bigoted asshole who wants to yell at a family member you supposedly love. You don’t have to do anything, other than maybe privately agree with them.

When a family member does the opposite, making homophobic statements, I either stop following them or, if it’s particularly egregious, blocking them. I don’t confront, unless maybe they show up at the rainbow picnic or start addressing me with the wrong pronouns. I’d love to know what the AiG research team or Ken Ham do when their loved ones show more tolerance than they do.

Where do we draw the line? The thought of losing one’s job or being sued in the courts is heart-wrenching for us, but like Daniel, there is a line that we as Christians do not cross.

To this brand of evangelical Christian, I guess being polite or attending a picnic with colorful decorations is tantamount to being martyred in a lion’s den.

I do wonder if the AiG research team intentionally gave Ken Ham a list of the most feeble conflicts they could imagine as a way to poke fun at the old man, or if they really are such a bunch of puckered sphincters that they actually believe those are mortal offenses.

Kent Hovind will hate this

Did you want to listen to a podcast that does a deep dive on Kent Hovind? This one is rather savage, so I enjoyed it. It covers his early career — getting a fake degree from a Bible college, his years spent teaching “high school biology” (which turns out to be entirely at unaccredited Christian schools) — and then gets into his tax fraud and infatuation with sovereign citizens.

And then it ends, just before the prison years. I guess we’ll have to wait for part two.

Tucker Carlson has always been ignorant & nuts

His madness was exposed on Joe Rogan’s show — and Carlson made Rogan look intelligent, which is quite a feat.

The 3-hour conversation, which racked up 5 million views on Rogan’s Youtube channel in just 3 days, left many online baffled after Carlson claimed, among other things, that scientists had given up on the idea of evolution.

“It’s visible,” Rogan replied. “Like, you can measure it in certain animals.”

In response, Carlson alleged that adaptation could be measured but that the theory of evolution as articulated by scientist Charles Darwin was not true.

I have a lot of dogs, I see adaptation in dogs through… litter to litter. But no, there’s no evidence at all, none, zero, that people evolved seamlessly from a single cell amoeba, Carlson said. No, there’s not. There’s no chain in the fossil record of that at all.

While the transition from unicellular to multicellular lifeforms is still a murky field of inquiry [No. Also irrelevant. The evidence of common descent is crystal clear], some experiments and findings have affirmed the theory. In 2010, a study published in Nature by the biochemist Douglas Thomas found that the theory that all life comes from a shared genetic heritage with single-celled microorganisms, called the theory of universal common ancestry (UCA), is “millions of times more probable than any theory of multiple independent ancestries.”

Carlson went on to state that he had his own theories, which boiled down to the belief that God created people, distinctly, and animals.

I think that’s like what every person on Earth thought until the mid-19 century, actually, Carlson said before breaking into a deranged laugh.

Yeah, that deranged laugh. Look it up. It’s pure madness. And what he said was just wrong, errors compiled from straight-up creationist lies. One of the clues is that reference to single cell amoeba — only creationists claim we think humans are descended from an amoeba, which is a rather highly derived protist (which is also a polyphyletic group, but one that doesn’t include any animal ancestors).

But Carlson’s fallacies don’t stop there. He’s lately been touting psychic prophets.

Tucker Carlson clearly thinks highly of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, telling Joe Rogan that he believes he is a psychic prophet who predicted 9/11. (Note: Alex Jones did not predict 9/11.)

He’s channeling something, Carlson said. I’ve asked him about it. ‘How did you do that?’ At length, during dinner on my barn recently. We’re talking about this. ‘How’d you do that?’ ‘I don’t know. It just came to me.’ And that’s real. That is real. The supernatural is real and I don’t know why it’s hard for for the modern mind, I guess because it’s a materialist mind to accept that.

That’s not a new phenomenon. It’s happened throughout history. There are people called prophets, and there are people who were prophets who weren’t called prophets, but there are people who have information or parts of information, bits of information, visions of information come to them and then they relay it, Carlson said.

The man’s brain is broken. It’s probably been broken since the start of his bow-tied career, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the loss of his privileged position at Fox News has sent him into an ugly tailspin.

Grendel was a T. rex?

You’ve got to appreciate a little theological infighting. I don’t usually bother to read Catholic Answers, but this example made me laugh.

First, though, the Catholic church isn’t equivalent to Ken Ham’s or Kent Hovind’s weird little cults. Catholicism is a bit more waffly about the science, so this article starts with a disclaimer: the Church doesn’t take a strong stance on evolution, so you can’t use the truth or falsity of evolution to defend the faith.

I want to make it clear that the Catholic church does not have a teaching about the theory of evolution or the extinction of the dinosaurs. You can be a faithful Catholic and deny or accept evolution. You can be a faithful Catholic and believe the sun revolves around the earth. The Church doesn’t teach on these scientific questions. Now Hall says he does not want to dogmatize young earth creationism and I appreciate him saying that. He just asks that people like me not use evolution to evangelize others.

OK, it’s a troubling position to take, but I get what they’re going for. If I want to promote stamp-collecting, philately doesn’t concern itself with 20th century steamships, so don’t use your ideas about the sinking of the Titanic to convince people to collect stamps. It’s irrelevant and unnecessary.

On the other hand, though, it does rather undermine the expectation that Catholicism is at all interested in truth when they avoid the science, but that’s a different debate. Some other time…

What I found interesting is that they talk about a different breed of young earth creationist argument that I hadn’t heard of before. Isn’t it delightful that they keep coming up with increasingly insane beliefs? I had heard the claim that the dragon in the myth of St George and the Dragon was an example of a dinosaur that had persisted into the Middle Ages, but this is a new one on me: Grendel in Beowulf was a dinosaur. Specifically, a T. rex. This guy at the Kolbe Center says Grendel perfectly matches the description of some sort of T. rex dinosaur.

However, Hugh Owen, the director or the Kolbe Center says these historical sources do describe dinosaurs in medieval England. He cites the creature Grendel in the 10th century English epic poem Beowulf as an example.

Okay. First, Grendel is a male not a female and Beowulf rips out his arm and kills him before killing Grendel’s mother with a sword. Second, it’s silly to say that this means Grendel was a T-rex with stubby arms and a human being really killed a T-rex in this way. The idea that Grendel was a T-rex attacking 7th century Danish people comes from Creationist Bill Cooper’s book After the Flood. The problem is that, contra Owen and Cooper, Grendel is not specifically described in Beowulf. Grendel is said to be a descendant of Cain and that he is to be larger than any other man and Grendel’s mother is said to be in the form of a woman. They were probably some kind of hominid or human life monster, they definitely weren’t a pair of T-rexes.

To quote myself, “It’s hard to be funny about creationism because it is such obvious bullshit that I feel like all you need to do is transcribe what they say literally and stand back and go “See? See?” while underlining and circling their own words.” That’s a perfect example.