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Religion in the Classroom and the Slippery Slope

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 14, 2010 15:33 in evolution , religion , anti-science , misc science , public science , creationists

Reading an article like the New York Times' recent one on textbooks and religion in the US has the magical ability to just make me so angry. The article itself is mostly neutral, but it brings up Don McLeroy, a dentist in Texas who has remarkable influence over science and history taught to children for the large majority of states. A history-denying activist moron er, "Young Earth Creationist" of the activist stripe, he has said

"Everything that had a beginning we can say had a cause," he tells his class of fourth-graders at Grace Bible Church. "And now science definitely says that the universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had to have a cause. And that cause is God."

Citation: Statesman.com

OK, normally, this would just be infuriating as he'd be a nutter on a school board that approves books for a state. But, seeing as Texas is the second largest textbook market in the US, and California is broke, it means this man essentially shapes the education of the rest of the country. To quote the Times,

And James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M's college of education and a longtime player in the state's textbook process, told me flatly, "Texas governs 46 or 47 states."

As (admittedly) excessively vitriolic PZ Myers and other "strong" "New Atheists" can be, this is the sort of thing that makes me feel their position has merit. Evolution is not under controversy in any way in the scientific or educational community. Filth like McLeroy or David Barton are liars. The "Discovery Institute" are religious shills operating under an agenda to drive science out of the public arena and move to a religious educational system via the "Wedge Document".

Stories like this should inspire activism in freethinkers. Stories like this make it hard to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement in deference to the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (which, incidentally, I find highly problematic besides; a highly flawed concept with arguments similar to those Dawkins makes) — because if you give an inch, fools like Don McLeroy will try to take a mile.

Wrongheaded Creationists 4: Hitler was an "Evolutionist" (Not)

Posted by tigerhawkvok on November 25, 2009 14:24 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

This comes up so often, it needs a token response. Creationists (mostly) assert that Hitler was an atheist who used evolution to promote extermination of Jews. This is blatantly and verifiably incorrect.

First, so what? Even if he understood evolution and accepted it (he didn't), the fact he liked to drink beer doesn't make all beer-drinkers in favor of eugenics, anti-semetic, and dictatorial.

As to the point itself, here's a rebuttal, courtesy of Hitler himself, yanked from a comment over at Pharyngula:

In Mein Kampf, Hitler asserted the fixity of species, that god made man, that man existed "from the beginning" and did not descend from apes, that man was made in the image of god and was expelled from the garden of Eden, and that Jesus was his inspiration.
His words:

The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. i, ch. xi

For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x

From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today. - Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Tabletalk

Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol ii, ch. i

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them. - Adolf Hitler, speech, April 12 1922, published in My New Order

Hitler was a creo.

Yes, Hitler was a strong Christian and unabashed creationist. This does not equate creationists to Hitler, however. They're pretty foolhardy and willingly blinded all on their own accord, with no ties to Hitler's filth necessary.

Wrongheaded Creationists 3: Gaps, gaps, gaps

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 13, 2009 23:56 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

First, due diligence, as this entry in the series is brought to you by Bill O'Reilly:

Oh, Bill. Dare I count the ways you are flawed in your arguments?

  • A gap in scientific data should be explained as either "insufficient evidence" or a scientific conjecture. To quote Dawkins, "It's a most of extraordinary piece of warped logic to say because science can't fill in a particular gap you're going throw in your lot with Christianity." If it should be filled-in with myths, why not the Cthulhu mythos, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Greek Pantheon, Egyptian Pantheon, Norse Pantheon, or druidic theism instead of Christian mythos?
  • You fail Godwin's Law.
  • You realize you spoke more than your interviewee, right?
  • You realize Jesus probably looked more like a middle eastern guy, right?
  • Your theology fails the self-sacrificing pacifist test when you look at religious wars on the behalf of Christianity, and the opulence of the Vatican.
  • Saying there are more X than Y therefore what X believes is true is a fallacy.

I think when I return to SD I might create a powerpoint slideshow to showcase these "alternate viewpoints", and include a few (ie, soup, clay-assisted, RNA-world) scientific hypotheses thrown in for fun. Take it from universe creation to first autoreplicable form.

To drive the point home: gaps in scientific understanding, no matter your level of scientific understanding, should never be replaced with psuedoscience or mythology in its place

Here's a nice YouTube clip that's not quite related, but discusses the spread of misinformation by the Discovery Institute

Wrongheaded Creationists 2: Castrating Darwin?

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 23, 2009 12:40 in evolution , religion , anti-science , creationists

From your local department of wingnuttery, you get to see the latest attempts of hardline theo-nuts to distort science and push their blindingly incorrect view of evolution on the populace. What do you do when a text is completely and freely available?

Well, you do the only thing you can do. You publish your own version, edited to roughly half-length by a ministry and with a 50-page prelude explaining how evolution is wrong and it's never been proven.

Hang on, didn't I already address this? Well, don't take my word for it, see for yourself:

The Facebook group and the richarddawkins.net page suggest amassing then donating, but the recent info that about half of the content has been killed off, I propose that yes, you amass all those wrteched copies — then go and purchase a cheap first edition and donate it to a library or school.

Utter, shameless propaganda by distributing altered copies of a text. If their argument was convincing, you'd imagine they could leave the text intact!

Wrongheaded Creationists 1: Transitional fossils

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 03, 2009 22:53 in evolution , anti-science , creationists

Having blighted the internet and US politics with consistently bad arguments, I decided when I'm so inspired (which is frequently, given how often they make it into the media) I'll post a short blog entry, tackling misconceptions or outright lies by creationists. So, catalyzed by this:

[We will take PZ Myers] down with fine-tuning arguments and universally accepted facts of science like the absence of any transitional fossils in the fossil record. Pwnd.
Source: All-American Gun Show

Allow me to make this abundantly clear.

Pendanticism aside, there is an abundance of transitional fossils in the fossil record demonstrating branching behavior within major lineages, derivation of traits unique to lineages, and of the origination of multiple, major lineages. Denying this is a demonstration of an unwillingness to perform a Google search, deliberate ignorance, or baldfaced lies.

If you just want to read what I written, you can look at:

Crocoduck, as shown by Kent Hovind and Kirk Cameron. Via Freethoughtpedia. NOT a transitional form, despite both animals being archosaurs (crocodiles are crurotarsans rather than mesotarsans, and are no where near the ornithodiran node).

If you want to read some basic Wikipedia articles, you can look at:

A real transitional fossil. Via Wikipedia

If you want something a bit more solid, you can look at the 59983 results at Nature for the search term "Evolution", or the 31953 results from Science. Too hard? Look at the very specific 2008 paper in Nature on the evolution and development of snake fangs (doi:10.1038/nature07178). Finally, and critically, every thing that has ever lived upon this planet is a transitional form to the next generation. There is no, and never has been, a crocoduck. Such things confuse common ancestry with descent, which are markedly different.

Enough by way of transitional fossils and genomic tracking for you? Pwnd indeed.