So who’s going to do the recording?

Now that Ray Comfort has a column on World Net Daily, he has decided to dedicate himself to taking down notorious atheists…and his first target is that giant of the atheist movement, Billy Joel.

Wait. Billy Joel? Is he even an atheist? Yes, I guess he is.

Maybe he’ll be willing to sing these new lyrics for an old song. If he’s not, maybe some reader with musical talent will do it instead. It could be a hit! You know, like the rewritten Candle in the Wind.

Change of focus

I have just completed an informal survey of the community by scanning through the New York Times, the Washington Times, the LA Times, High Times, Fortean Times, and World Net Daily, and have come to the realization that this blog does not conform to the wider interests of the world around us. Most people in the world do not care much at all about science, as long as their TVs work, are completely ignorant of evolution, and find atheism completely repellent. Therefore, my interests are out of sync and not worth doing.

From now on, I’ll be changing what I write about to something more reflective of the status quo. My time will be better spent writing about stuff white people find awesome, cars, cosmetics, Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, cats and kittens, the attractiveness of slender women in bikinis, martinis, football, and jokes about women making sandwiches.

I understand that these are the topics of prime importance. I’ll also be yelling at everyone else on FtB that they’re wasting our time and being non-representative of people’s concerns by being all disagreeable and failing to conform and stuff.

Also, at last, all those women scribbling away here can find something more productive to do: making my sammiches.

Absolute certainty, absolute ignorance

Jerry Coyne seems to have just discovered World Net Daily — at least, he’s surprised that a conservative publication would go after evolution. Think again; WND is notoriously demented. It’s full of birthers and other crazies, and they insist that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and fully accept the argument from Ussher’s chronology.

So he finds an article by a creationist apologist, Carl Gallups, and now I’m surprised: he discovers an original argument for creationism. In addition to insisting that no transitional fossils have other been found, he has a “creative” explanation for molecular similarities between species: it’s so they can eat each other.

When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place. If it were not for the fact that our DNA is so akin to all other living things, we could not eat. If we could not eat, we would die.

Is the process of eating and cellular respiration the result of a mere fluke of evolution? Alternatively, could it be that a common Designer made certain that the process of eating and cellular respiration would function in such a precise and perfect manner? Which answer appears to be the most probable to you?

If the supposed cosmic and random happenstance of evolution was the real reason that all living things exist, why, when, and how did this happenstance mechanism decide that living things needed to eat anything in the first place? Would it not be odd that evolution should come up with the idea of food and energy creation through cellular respiration?

Cellular respiration is an astoundingly complex, energy-expending system. Yet in order for life to be sustained, living things must have other living things to ingest. What an odd thing for a mere cosmic coincidence to develop, by random generation. Is it not a strange convenience for evolution that all living things have such unimaginable DNA similarity that cellular respiration is possible?

It’s an impressive example of the difference between certainty and knowledge. Gallups is absolutely certain that he’s correct, but what he reveals in his writings is an absolute absence of knowledge about the subject he’s talking about.

Digestion does not require DNA template matching. DNA is a tiny fraction of the content of our food; we’re mostly after proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. When I eat a banana, I don’t rely on sequence matching at all: the masticated banana gets dumped into an acid bath with enzymes (my stomach) that breaks it down chemically, and then moves on to my small intestine where further enzymes demolish the structure of the polymers in the banana. For instance, nucleases dismantle the DNA strands, breaking them down into individual nucleotides, and those are then absorbed into my intestinal walls and used as an energy source and recycled into building my DNA and RNA.

I’m always dismayed at the way these bozos can rant on about metabolism and use fancy words like “cellular respiration”, declaring that they disprove evolution, yet they don’t understand one single thing, not even the most basic concepts, about the process. It’s rather dishonest.

More right-wing distortions of Breivik’s ideology

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show did a marvelous job of showing how right-wingers were desperately straining to get out from under the taint of Breivik’s clearly extremist nationalist/rightist/Christian/anti-Muslim ideology. They’re clearly in denial.

But here’s another case. The Discovery Institute, under the name of that wretched ‘scholar’ John West, has gone through Breivik’s manifesto and somehow come to the conclusion that the reason he went on a killing spree was — I bet you can guess — Darwinism. How? Because Breivik was not the familiar anti-science fundamentalist Christian that we are so familiar with here in the US, he was moderate in his piety and wedded it to an acceptance of modern science and a vicious hatred of Muslims…and contra West, it wasn’t science that compelled him to kill, it was xenophobia and nationalism and apparently, an inhuman lack of empathy.

Nick Matzke does an excellent job of showing that a warped Christianity provided a more significant rationale for his actions than did ‘Darwinism’.

I’d add one more thing. West’s hobby horse is eugenics, and Breivik did endorse a nasty interpretation of eugenics in his tirade. However, you can’t use that to tar modern science with guilt for his crimes; we aren’t going to be saying, “Oh, Breivik was right in this one thing,” because only fringe characters within science endorse killing undesirables as he did; this guy was no friend of science. West cites one fellow, Lee Silver, who does promote the idea that emerging technologies in molecular genetics will allow people to voluntarily modify the DNA of their children; this has absolutely nothing to do with culling or ejecting whole ethnic groups as inferior, and I’m sure Silver would condemn that interpretation of his work.

I was amused to see that Breivik is a fan of Joseph Farah and World Net Daily. Now there’s a connection West was afraid to draw.

Deep Rifts among the wingnuts

Quite the little hissyfit is brewing on the far right. One one side is Joseph Farah, lunatic publisher of the online teabagging journal, World Net Daily, better known as Wing Nut Daily to rational people. Farah organizes something called the “Taking America Back National Conference”, in which the not-very-bright half of America gets together to piously discuss how they can complete the total trashing of the country.

On the other side is crazy flaming psycho goon Ann Coulter, who would have been a headliner at the WND conference — she’s exactly the kind of nut WND loves. Unfortunately, Coulter also accepted an offer to speak at another crazy place, Homocon,, organized and attended by far right gay Republicans who seem to love everything the Tea Party movement stands for, except that bit about hating gay people.

I guess Farah was upset that Coulter would talk to gay people rather than stoning them, so he rescinded his invitation to speak at the WND conference.

“Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about ‘taking America back’ when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very ‘unconservative’ agenda represented by GOProud,” said Farah. “The drift of the conservative movement to a brand of materialistic libertarianism is one of the main reasons we planned this conference from the beginning.”

Aww, poor Joe. Now he’s left with no one to talk at his conference…oh, wait. There’s no shortage of raving loonies on the right. He’s still got Michele Bachmann and Alan Keyes. But Coulter is furious with him.

“[T]his was an email exchange [between] friends and even though I didn’t expressly say ‘OFF THE RECORD’ and I believe everything I said, he’s a swine for using my private emails politely answering him,” Coulter wrote to the Daily Caller. “[W]hy would he do such a despicable thing? … for PUBLICITY.”

She continued: “I will say that [Farah] could give less than two sh–s about the conservative movement – as demonstrated by his promotion of the birther nonsense (long ago disproved by my newspaper, human events, also sweetness & light, american spectator and national review etc, etc etc). He’s the only allegedly serious conservative pushing the birther thing. for ONE reason: to get hits on his website.”

You know you’re in trouble when you’re in a dialogue and Ann Coulter is the sane one. And Farah isn’t helping the perception of his judgment.

Farah responded to Coulter’s remarks, saying, “Ann is angry. I hope she calms down and there can be some restoration, repentance and forgiveness. She said some mean things about me, but I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing in God’s economy.”

God’s economy? What does that mean? I’d love to know exactly how his god is carrying out his economic plans.

Does this mean god is an atheist, because he seems to be shipping our economy overseas to China?

Another HuffPo pontification on science as it is not understood

My readers hate me, and like to make me suffer. That’s the only way to explain why they would send me links to the ghastly Huffington Post. I swear, it’s becoming as insane as World Net Daily.

The latest screed is from some bozo named Dr Larry Dossey. The awfulness begins right away, as he quotes Jeremy Rifkin, the professional Luddite, on the scientific method.

[T]he scientific method [is] an approach to learning that has been nearly deified in the centuries following the European Enlightenment. Children are introduced to the scientific method in middle school and informed that it is the only accurate process by which to gather knowledge and learn about the real world around us … The scientific observer is never a participant in the reality he or she observes, but only a voyeur. As for the world he or she observes, it is a cold, uncaring place, devoid of awe, compassion or sense of purpose. Even life itself is made lifeless to better dissect its component parts. We are left with a purely material world, which is quantifiable but without quality … The scientific method is at odds with virtually everything we know about our own nature and the nature of the world. It denies the relational aspect of reality, prohibits participation and makes no room for empathic imagination. Students in effect are asked to become aliens in the world.

There is absolutely nothing in that description that fits my conception of the scientific method. It’s utter nonsense written by someone who doesn’t understand science in the slightest, but is familiar with cartoon stereotypes of the scientist as heartless robot. Seriously, has this guy never heard of Richard Feynman? Neil deGrasse Tyson? Roy Chapman Andrews? Any of the biologists I know? We become part of the world by understanding that world as it actually is, unwarped by the superstitious illusions people like Dossey want to impose on it.

As usual, the complaint is an indignant claim that scientists will tell you that science is the only “accurate process by which to gather knowledge and learn about the real world”, which is true. Instead of saying what it is not, though, just once I’d like to see one of these clowns tell me plainly and clearly what his alternative is. Dossey does not.

It’s probably just as well. His latest book is on the “Power of Premonitions”, and he’s also written books on the power of prayer. He’s a credulous magic man, in other words.

Foot soldiers who lack vision

The NCSE is an excellent organization, and I’ve frequently urged people at my talks to join it. However, it’s also a limited organization, and this post by Richard Hoppe at the Panda’s Thumb exposes their flaws. It’s blind. It’s locked in to one strategy. It’s response to people who try to branch out in new directions is to discourage them, often in a rather patronizing way. This is not a good approach to take when we’ve been deadlocked for years and they offer no prospects for future victory.

I’ve been making the argument for some time that the NCSE is our defensive line, and they are great at that…we don’t want to lose them. In fact, they are so good that we haven’t lost a creationist court case since Scopes, in recent years thanks to the invaluable assistance of the staff at NCSE, and we’ve built up such a body of legal precedent that we can feel fairly secure that they creationists are going to consistently get their butts kicked in the courts (it also helps that the creationists are incompetent at both science and the law). With that success, however, comes complacency and overconfidence and a belief that their approach is is the One True Way…and now, a gradual drift into identifying more with the opposition than with a significant percentage of their own team and their own fans. They also seem determined to ignore reality — we live in a country that is split in the middle on the topic of evolution, and the creationists are not in decline. Victories in the courtroom are not the same as victories in the minds of the population.

Here’s our big problem: we have had no offense at all, and we’re never going to make any progress without one. Keeping the other team from scoring is important but doesn’t win us any games if we can never carry our arguments forward — we’re always being told to stop at the point where we are drawing the logical implications of science and evolution and told to back off…it might alienate the other team. Worse, our defense is then rushing to help the apologetics of the opposition. This is all done in the name of what they call political pragmatism. Always, they say, they have to mollify the religious people on school boards, in government, and the electorate if they want to get anything accomplished; they can’t possibly state outright that evolution refutes most religious views of creation, that science reveals a universe dominated by chance and necessity and natural processes, because, well, they’ll throw science out then.

How patronizing. How condescending. If true, this means that our so-called allies in this fight are actually not — they don’t ultimately want to support science as it actually is, but are instead fishing for scientists willing to use their authority to support the continued dominance of religious thought. And our defenders are happy to give it to them. Is it any wonder that we are making no progress in changing American culture? The ruling ideology would like nothing better than to perpetuate the stalemate, and the leadership of the opposing minority willingly cedes them all kinds of ground in order to maintain what little we’ve got, and never takes a step forward.

How are we succeeding if the only way we can promote our ideas is by hiding the implications of those ideas, and pretending that the antithesis of scientific thought is fully compatible with science? Collaborating with our opponents is not the same as making allies.

And when real allies in the cause of science do show up and try to make a difference, we are misrepresented in order to discredit us. This doesn’t help, either.

I did a 3-Sunday series of talks on religion, evolution, and morality in a local Protestant church recently. Had I walked in there and opened with “OK, folks, in order to understand and accept evolution as I’ll present it today, you have to deconvert” I’d have lost my (overflow) audience in the first five minutes. That would have robbed me of the opportunity to introduce religious people to the power and breadth of the theory and to describe the misconceptions that the fundamentalist Christians have been feeding children and adults in my community.

I’ll have to remember that line. I’ve never started a talk that way myself, even though I have also spoken in churches. Funny thing is, in those situations (as well as in the classroom) I just focus on telling the story of the evidence. That is our strength, right? I don’t have to announce that the Book of Genesis is wrong and silly, but I also don’t have to go out of my way to tell them some pretty excuse to allow them to continue to believe in talking snakes. And if I’m asked, I tell them straightforwardly that literal religious accounts are falsified by the evidence.

I’ve also told them that one factor in my loss of faith was the promulgation of bad interpretations of the Bible that contradicted the evidence of science, and that they were going to drive more intelligent people out of their congregations if they insisted on adherence to falsified ideas. That often seems a more effective and pragmatic approach than pretending they can believe whatever they want and still remain true to science.

I am also amused by the asymmetry of these situations. Francis Collins and Ken Miller can build reputations as public speakers on pronouncements of their faith, yet somehow the atheists in their audiences don’t go running for the doors when they mention god. Are we to assume that Richard Hoppe’s audiences are all weak and stupid, and incapable of coping with anything less than an affirmation of their faith?

I have a little more confidence in them. I wouldn’t start with the ridiculous line he suggested (it’s false, for one thing), but I wouldn’t be at all reluctant to say that science contradicts many interpretations of the audience’s religion, and that if anyone needs to do any accommodation to reality, it’s not us, it’s them. I don’t think anyone would flee; I might get more argument in the Q&A, though, which would be a fine and enlightening thing. I also don’t think that honesty about our differences necessarily makes enemies. I also think that ultimately, it is far more — and here’s a word you’ll rarely hear from me in regards to the foes of science — respectful.

Speaking of respectful, there’s another tactic that the allies of the NCSE have often used against the outspoken atheists in their midst, and it is one guaranteed to piss me off. It is the condescending attitude that they alone are actually doing any work; that the real people are the True Americans of the heartland who don’t have the fancy-schmancy educations and get their hands dirty in the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day work.

I’m one of the foot soldiers in this battle, a sergeant operating in a conservative rural county far from the ethereal heights of the University of Chicago. I’ve been at it (off and on, mostly on for the last 6 years) for more than 20 years. I published my first article on the political nature of the evolution/religion conflict in 1987. I am engaged at the local and state levels, the former on a weekly basis (search this blog on “Freshwater” for local stuff and see here for just one example of State BOE stuff). My political experience goes back to 1968, when I was a big city Democratic party ward officer. I have a hell of a lot better view of what’s pragmatically necessary and what is effective at the level of the local school board and the local church than Coyne can even imagine. Coyne (and Myers and Moran and Dawkins) are not engaged at that level on anything approaching a regular basis. They lead their congregations from high pulpits. They sit above the choir preaching a message that is disconnected from — indeed, sometimes antithetical to — the reality on the ground. They’re the generals who argued against air power, courtmartialed Billy Mitchell, and then watched ships sink at Pearl Harbor. Coyne wants to argue philosophy in a political war. That’s not a tactic, it’s a politically lethal red herring.

Whew. I’m lucky that he didn’t rail against the ethereal heights of Morris, Minnesota, and chose instead to sneer at a great university in a mere working class midwestern city. I might have felt picked upon. I’m also glad he chose not to hurl his contempt using that frequently vilified term, the “elites”, or I might have mistaken the Panda’s Thumb for World Net Daily for a moment. Isn’t it such an American thing, to treat all but the lowest, most local level of action as a liability? To scowl at intellectual expertise as if it were a scarlet letter marking the bearer as worthy of ostracism?

This is another failure of the NCSE. Rather than taking advantage of those voices like Dawkins and Coyne, they neglect them as dangerous and corrupting to their One True Message of the compatibility of science and religion. It’s a shame, too. I have nothing against Richard Hoppe and would agree that his work on the ground is invaluable, but he will not get the audiences and the media attention or spark the discussion and thinking of those “high pulpit” luminaries — and I doubt that he even gets the crowds of the lesser glimmering of a PZ Myers.

A while back, I got the same attitude from Ken Miller in a podcast we did together. At one point he accused me of doing nothing to help science education, and bragged that he was busy criss-crossing Kansas doing talks while I was sitting at my little blog (and also teaching college biology courses, although he didn’t mention that). It was remarkably condescending, and it also ignored the facts: people like Hoppe and Miller and the staff at NCSE have also been busily promoting the idea that atheists like me or Dawkins or Coyne are anathema in the public discourse, since we don’t preach the message of compatibility. I was not giving lectures in Kansas because I was not asked. It was not because I somehow think I am above the fray, or do not value public education as much as Ken Miller; I would enthusiastically take on the foot-soldier role if voices of my kind were not squeezed out of the forum by our own allies. This is why some of us are beginning to express our resentment of the approach taken by the NCSE and its friends: they have chosen as their preferred face of science spokespeople who are not representative of the majority of scientists, and who are definitely not at all representative of the significant fraction of even more militant atheists among us.

Another part of our message is also being ignored and misrepresented, all, apparently, as part of a campaign to make sure atheist voices are kept out of the much-valued “foot soldier” role. As Jerry Coyne has repeatedly said, our grievance is not that the NCSE is an insufficiently atheistic organization. We are most definitely not arguing that pro-evolution, pro-science promoters must be atheists — we are not urging a reversal of the current situation with a boycott of religious speakers, and we do not want NCSE’s help promoting atheism (we are doing a phenomenal job of that already, I can say smugly). We are asking that this pretense that religion and science are compatible, and that the only way to get political support is for the majority of scientists to sit back and shut up about their rational views while the scientists who endorse superstition are propped up as our façade, has got to end. If the national science organizations want to be pragmatic, then stop speaking only favorably of religion. Stop bringing religion up altogether, and stick to the science. Or let godless voices join the chorus.

Richard Hoppe’s complaint did make me laugh aloud at one point, with his analogy to the atheists being the generals who tried to stop air power. He got it backwards. He’s representing a view that wants to keep doing the same thing over and over again, fighting the last court case endlessly, disdaining those radicals who want to shake things up with innovative approaches. I’m sorry, Richard, but the atheists are your air force. We’re going forward with a bold new offense against the regressive forces that have kept this country locked in a stalemate — we are going to change the culture with an aggressive promotion of rational ideas and our ongoing opposition to religious superstition. We like your slow old boats and your foot soldiers, and think they have an effective, even essential, role to play, too — but we’re going to fly with your support or without it.

Get used to it. Of course, we’d be even more effective if we coordinated, rather than that you constantly refused to take advantage of our potential.

Elephantine errors from Ray Comfort

So Ray Comfort is now complaining on the revered pages of the respected publication, World Net Daily about me. The article is full of dishonest misquotes, but let’s zip right to Ray’s scientific misunderstandings. They are deep and painful. He has this bizarre idée fixe that the necessity of every species having males and females somehow greatly reduces the probability that new species could arise. It’s total nonsense, and I dismissed it briefly when I commented on it before.

“I know Ray is rather stupid, but who knew he could be that stupid. This has been explained to him multiple times: evolution does explain this stuff trivially. Populations evolve, not individuals, and male and female elephants evolved from populations of pre-elephants that contained males and females. Species do not arise from single new mutant males that then have to find a corresponding mutant female – they arise by the diffusion of variation through a whole population, male and female.”

Ray has read that, and failed to grasp the central concept. Take a look at the workings of Ray Comfort’s mind as he attempts to wrestle with a simple idea: the hamster wheel is wobbling, but the poor beast lies dead with legs up in its cage, and nothing is turning over.

[Read more…]

What is wrong with journalists?

We’ve got a couple of appalling examples of awful journalism to scowl at today. The first is this credulous piece by Gordy Slack in The Scientist. I’ve been unhappy with Slack before — he sometimes seems to want to let creationist absurdity slide — and I got yelled at by some readers for my uncharitable interpretation of his review of the Creation “Museum”. Well, I think I’ve been vindicated now.

This article tries to give credit to the Intelligent Design creationists for some discoveries or interpretations. It’s wrong from top to bottom. Here’s his list, with my brief rebuttal; Jeffrey Shallit has a more thorough dissection.

  • ID gets credit for saying there are big, open questions in science. Scientists say this. It is not news. Go ahead, ask us, and we’ll give you long lists of exciting research questions. They won’t be invented or falsified controversies, as the DI is fond of puking up.

  • The cell is more complex than Darwin imagined. Scientists say this. The complexity of the cell was not figured out by creationists of any kind — it is the outcome of hard work by cell biologists and molecular biologists. It’s also not true that Darwin had a poor understanding of cellular complexity: as I’ve said before, the mid- to late 19th century was the period when the light microscope reached its optical limits, and there was all kinds of amazing work being done into developing new staining techniques and identifying new organelles. When do you think Camillo Golgi lived?

  • IDists are correct to say love is not an illusion. Scientists say this. Frankly, this is the most dumb-ass argument in a whole slop-bucket of dumbassery; that cherished, complex phenomena like love have a material basis does not in any way imply that they are not “real”.

  • IDists are right to say that some proponents of evolution are blind followers. Scientists say this. We don’t sit around thinking, “How can I get people to obey me?” The concern about improving public understanding of science is about getting people to be skeptical and ask intelligent questions. And just how can Slack give credit for noticing dogmatism among evolution supporters when ID is all about rationalizing dogmatic beliefs in a creator?

There is nothing in this mess that Gordy Slack credits to creationists that is actually something that they have done first. And then in conclusion he asks an utterly inane rhetorical question: “Should IDers be allowed to pursue their still very eccentric and outlying theory?” Has it ever even been suggested that creationists not be allowed to do research? More often, we’re snarling at ’em to go get some reasonable evidence. Slack’s article was just plain bad, strawmen aplenty and the gullible acceptance of ID propagandists’ appropriation of basic ideas.

Here’s another example of godawful stupid journalism, this time from the New York Times. Academics in Philadelphia have done a wonderful thing: they have organized a Year of Evolution to celebrate the Darwin year; I praised this before, and it really is an excellent, positive way to celebrate and inform about science. (I should also mention that I’ve been invited to come speak in November. This is not necessarily why it is such a good event.) This is a fantastic opportunity for people in that region to learn about the amazing progress science has made in the last century and a half.

How does the NY Times article start? “In the long-running culture war between evolution and creationism, Philadelphia is firing the latest shot.”

What?

I’m wondering…when St Patrick’s Cathedral opens its doors on Sunday morning, will there be journalists there covering the latest assault in the war on reason? Would they even think to phrase it that way? When scientists gather, though, and try to present their work to the community … that’s fighting a war.

Now, since the NY Times is the greatest paper in America, and they have to excel in everything, when they screw up they don’t just make a little boo-boo and then correct their course and try to move back towards something reasonable — that would produce a mediocre article. No, they have to compound the error. They have to make it monumental. Who would be the worst person to consult to add ‘diversity’ to the article, to put it into the standard boring frame with two sides and nothing in between? Can you guess?

Of course you can. Ken “Wackaloon” Ham.

Please. This is insane. I can understand getting multiple sources for a story; I can see how if a doctor has just told you some important medical news, you might want to get a second opinion. But if that second opinion was delivered by an inebriated, unwashed schizophrenic the doctor obligingly dragged out of a dumpster for you, you might be unimpressed with the quality of his search for diverse, informed perspectives. This, however, is pretty much standard operating procedure at the Times.

Jerry Coyne asked an editor publicly about this policy.

I noticed that when the Times reported on the recent discovery of the transitional fossil between fish and amphibians (the “fishapod”), they asked a creationist for comment. As an evolutionary biologist, I was dismayed by this. Creationism is simply a discredited enterprise, and asking a creationist to comment on a new fossil is like asking a faith healer to comment on a medical advance, or an astrologer to comment on a new discovery about human behavior. I respect the newspaper’s desire to be objective and give opposing viewpoints, but don’t see the need to do that when the “opposing viewpoint” is simply a form of quackery.

Here’s her reply. It starts out well enough.

How to cover the politicization of science, intelligent design and other manifestations of what Mr. Fishkin and other readers call the war on science is a question that comes up again and again in the science department. We’re well aware that giving equal time to opposing views of an issue makes no sense when one side has no solid evidence to stand on. The old FCC idea of a fairness doctrine simply shouldn’t apply to science journalism.

Right. Philadelphia is planning a major event around the discoveries and evidence and ideas of evolutionary biology, and that certainly is newsworthy. Ken Ham has no solid evidence to stand on, so it makes no sense to call him up and asks for his opinion…but they did. As she said, this makes no sense.

So why do they bring in anti-intellectual reprobates and promote their ignorance to a kind of equivalence to scientific ideas?

Yet viewpoints that may strike scientifically literate people as absurd, dangerous or even evil have a way of making news that insists on being dealt with. In recent years creationism’s hip cousin, intelligent design, has grown to be a divisive issue at every level of society, from school boards to the White House. So it seems to me that a serious paper is obliged to investigate the phenomenon, beginning with the question ‘What is going on here?’

Wait — so now she’s claiming that bringing aboard an irrational wackaloon is the mark of a “serious paper”? Wow. I guess that makes World Net Daily one of the pinnacles of serious journalism. The NY Times must be trying to catch up with them.

If the newspaper was writing an article on the serious sociological and political issues of creationism, evolution, and education, then sure — bring in many sides, explore them, and weigh them, and try to come to a conclusion. Unfortunately, there are two observations that invalidate the editor’s defense.

One is that even in those instances where the topic warrants the inclusion of these multiple perspectives, journalists tend to just let them lie there, limp and unresolved. We have scientists and we have creationists, they disagree with one another, we can’t resolve this issue, we can’t suggest that maybe one side is the province of insanity and ignorance, we’re just reporters for the NY freaking Times. There is no investigation, only the bland, blinkered recitation of each side’s position.

The other problem is that in both the cases of the Philadelphia Darwin celebration and the discovery of Tiktaalik, the creationist side had nothing of substance to contribute, other than sullen, unfounded disagreement. Denial is not an argument. The newspaper does a disservice to work that has heft to it, that has a solid foundation of serious evidence behind it, when they take any event on the side of reason and reflexively pair it with some cretin who has nothing but a dogmatic denial of science and reason as his credentials.

It seems to me that that is not what a serious paper would do.

Get out there and party like it’s MMMMMMX!

Oh, no … we’ve almost missed it! Now we have to make a mad scrabble for birthday hats and noisemakers and cake and ice cream. It’s the big 6010th birthday for planet earth, according to Ed Darrell and Phil Plait and these guys in Austin. Hmmm. Maybe we should at least make a quick trip to the Dairy Queen.

Oh, wait. I don’t believe that crap. Neither do any of the people I linked to above. But some of the wacky people at World Net Daily do.

But the author of the book frequently described as the greatest history book ever written, said the world was created Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. – making it exactly 6,010 today.

In the 1650s, an Anglican bishop named James Ussher published his “Annals of the World,” subtitled, “The Origin of Time, and Continued to the Beginning of the Emperor Vespasian’s Reign and the Total Destruction and Abolition of the Temple and Commonwealth of the Jews.” First published in Latin, it consisted of more than 1,600 pages.

The book, now published in English for the first time, is a favorite of homeschoolers and those who take ancient history seriously. It’s the history of the world from the Garden of Eden to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

<snicker> “homeschoolers and those who take ancient history seriously”. How can WND not be a parody site, I sometimes wonder.