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PZ Myers

PZ Myers re: The science of evolution

PZ Myers responded to another absurdist email that chastised him about promoting the theory of evolution. The emailer says "to have a degree or degrees in biology and to still believe in Darwinian theory, shows ignorance in the worst degree." PZ’s response was spot on and included this beautiful bit…

The science points ineluctably to evolution as a fact, as the mechanism for biological change over time. The only people who argue otherwise, and that includes those ‘sciences’ [sic] you claim have concluded that the theory is false, are ideologues who have had their brains addled by non-scientific presuppositions, and who have decided that their fallacious traditional myths must supersede observation and evidence.


Leavin’ on a jet plane! AAI Convention!

Tomorrow morning (at a horrifically early hour), Craig and I are flying out to Burbank via Los Angeles for the 2009 Atheist Alliance International Convention. Among the speakers are Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Sean Faircloth, Eugenie Scott, and Lawrence Krauss.

I’m not sure if we’ll get a chance to do any updates during the convention, but we will if we can.

We’re looking forward to an awesome weekend and a fantastic convention with over 500 fellow atheists! …and we’ll definitely report back with all the great stuff we see and hear.

I’m psyched!

Secular Student Alliance at the Creation Museum Today

Many folks with the Secular Student Alliance group (283?) are visiting the Creation Museum today and are using Twitter to inform those of us who can’t make it today. If you’ve got a Twitter account, you can follow their tweets using the hashtag “#CreoZerg”. I’ll be following it today and am really looking forward to reading all the writeups tomorrow.

One person posted an Urban Dictionary link to the origin of the “Zerg” part of the hashtag.

Here’s the scoop [sic]:

Originates from Blizzard’s game Starcraft where zerg were one of 3 playable races, aliens like appearance, zerg were characterized by using large numbers of weak units to swarm the enemy, also another characteristic of zerg were that everything was organic, ie, zerg didn’t used machines or any artifacts, they would mutate their own buildings from special kind of larvae and advanced units were created by mutating basic ones. Units were cheap to make and it was possible to make extreme numbers in short period of time.

Nowadays term zerg is used in mmo games to describe force consisted of large group of lower level players (often with only basic equipment) who use numbers rather then strategy to defeat the enemy, therefore requiring no skill. This tactics is commonly known as “zerging.”

Too funny.

Creationism in School… the PZ Myers Way

Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers posted about how creationism should be taught in the classroom. I assumed that he didn’t mean it in the same way that creationists mean it, but his version was even better than I anticipated (Sorry, PZ. I won’t make that mistake again!). Here’s my favorite paragraph from his article.

A lesson plan that includes creationism should plainly show that experiment and observation have irrefutably demonstrated that it is now a splintered pile of cack-minded gobshite, wrecked by a century and a half of discovery, and that its supporters now are reduced to pathetically feeble rationalizations that rely almost entirely on people’s emotional dependence on the legitimacy of their religious beliefs. A science class isn’t the place to rip into airy-fairy religiosity — we have other venues for that — but it should uncompromisingly demolish every attempt to link natural, material events to pious metaphysics. If a student comes out of such a class believing that maybe there is still something to the Genesis explanation of the origins of life, then the instructor has not done her job. Her job was to explain with science how the world works, and if anyone wants to smuggle in the seven days and the magic fruit tree and the talking snake, it should be so the teacher can show the students that that is not how it works.

That’s just golden.

There are some great comments following his article as well. I usually try to read most of them, as they are frequently insightful and/or entertaining. Here’s a great one from Steve Jeffers.

As the British comedian Chris Addison says, teaching creationism in science classes is like teaching Narnia in geography. If you’re learning Spanish, you don’t learn a load of words that aren’t Spanish but sound like they might be.

I just finished reading 40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman (a great read, by the way), which is a book about the Dover, PA trial in 2005. At the end of the book, Chapman says that, after attending the trial, he supports teaching Intelligent Design in Biology class… for essentially the same reasons that PZ Myers does.

If science is taught well, it is taught critically. Any critical examination of  Creationism and Intelligent Design will point a scorchingly white hot spotlight on the complete vapidness of their claims. Perhaps that should be the new direction that biology teachers should take. It could end up being a waste of time, but it also might illuminate the path of critical thinking, the scientific method, and rationality for students. Teaching students how to weed out bad science or pseudo-science from real science would do wonders to improve the anti-intellectualism that has thrived in this country for years now.

I don’t know if using Creationism and Intelligent Design as fodder in Biology classes is the way to do that or not, but it’s an interesting idea.

I wonder what Bill Buckingham would think?

(Bill Buckingham was the school board member in Dover who spearheaded the ID curriculum proposal)