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Evolution

How is ClimateGate like Creationism?

The “ClimateGate” email “scandal” about climate change reminds me very much about the manufactured controversy about evolution and Charles Darwin. How so?

In the case of evolution, deniers will frequently make accusations that Darwin was racist, or misogynistic, or anti-Semitic as “evidence” that evolution by natural selection is unreliable (or untrue). Whether those claims about Darwin are true or not is debatable, but even if they were all true, it has zero effect on the validity of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Scientific theories are based on facts, not the personalities of researchers.

With “ClimateGate,” deniers focus on a small number of cherry-picked, old emails from a few climate scientists, take them out of context, twist (or misunderstand) their meanings, point out some crankiness on the part of the scientists, and claim that they somehow debunk and discredit decades of climate research and mountains of evidence compiled and analyzed by hundreds (or thousands?) of other climate scientists.

It’s absurd thinking of the highest degree.

Human Evolution Bones at Five Below!

Saturday evening, I was at Five Below with my daughter, shopping for a Christmas gift for a gift exchange (we got a lava lamp, in case you’re wondering) and came upon this little gem.

Human Evolution Bones Excavation Kit

I was amazed. I’d never seen any kind of evolution “toy” before other than the great stuff from Charlie’s Playhouse, but here was something at Five Below, of all places! It’s one of those archaeology, “dig out the treasure” types of toys. I’ve gotten them before with pirate coins and “Egyptian statues” and some other goodies, but seeing something with the words “Human Evolution” on the front was a bit of a shock… a pleasant one, but a shock nonetheless!

Here’s what’s on the box and what’s in the kit.

Human Evolution Bones Excavation KitHuman Evolution Bones Excavation KitHuman Evolution Bones Excavation Kit

There’s supposed to be model glue in the kit as well, but it wasn’t in the one I photographed. I bought three of them (they were priced at $3.50) so I could give one as a gift and have a spare for myself.

Interestingly enough, there were plenty of them on the shelf. I’m not sure if that’s significant or not, since Five Below usually has a lot of everything. Maybe I’ll go back in a few days and see if they’re selling or not. I have trouble seeing this as a big seller, though it would probably sell better here than it would in the bible belt. If you’re in a highly religious area and have a Five Below in your area, check it out and let me know if your store has them.

In the meantime, my daughter is anxious to start digging.

One of these things is not like the others

On the Origin of Species book collectionOne of these things is not like the other…

I added Ray Comfort’s edition of Darwin’s book to my collection yesterday. The font of his edition is intolerably small… except for his vacuous introduction, which is in a normal, easy to read font size.

I’m pretty sure I have a copy that was from the second printing because the original printing left out a few chapters. Comfort claimed that this was originally done to save money, because including all the chapters would have made the book too expensive for a free giveaway (or as Craig said, “too accurate”). For the second printing, Comfort says they reduced the font size and included every chapter and every word. In his own words, “Not one word will be omitted.”

Checking the table of contents of Comfort’s edition against an edition that I own, I found chapter VII to be missing, but upon further investigation, found that, in my edition, chapter VII (“Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection”) is a later addition and was not included in the first edition of On the Origin of Species. I was somewhat surprised to find that Comfort’s edition is the first edition of Origin, not a later edition. Later editions had some capitulation to public (religious) pressure, such as the line at the end of the book (emphasis mine)…

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

The phrase “by the Creator” does not appear in the first edition, nor does it appear in Comfort’s version, so he must have chosen the first edition to bastardize with his introduction. I suspect, though this is pure speculation, that he chose the first edition because it has fewer words… thereby making his giveaway edition cheaper to produce.

So Comfort adds his silly introduction… partly plagiarization, partly invalid creationist propaganda, and partly nonsensical proselytizing… but he does choose the first edition to distribute.

…which is better for the rest of us.

Evolutionary Shenanigans

Here’s another snippet about Palin’s newly-verified creationist beliefs from The Daily Beast.

In her new book…

…[Palin] finally comes out of the closet as a creationist—or as she puts it, “the C-word.” In doing so, however, she manages to obscure the extent of those creationist beliefs by citing her acceptance of “microevolution.”

Oh, microevolution! It’s the favorite “concession” by creationists, used so they can sound accepting of science and therefore feel more credulous when they dismiss Darwinian evolution.

Biologists use the phrase “microevolution” to refer to changes within a group of organisms over a relatively short period of time. The most-famous example is the peppered moth of England, which became darker over generations in response to pollution from a local factory that blackened the trees it relied on for camouflage, encouraging the survival of similarly colored moths. Because these changes are so easily observed, creationists tend to concede their existence. But only to a point: They do not acknowledge that over time, natural selection will lead to radically different new types of organisms, the process known as “macroevolution,” responsible for bigger leaps like birds evolving from dinosaurs.

What caught my eye about this article were two points. First, the author quotes Dr. David Menton, who, if you read my Creation Museum writeup, was the speaker for the Microscarium presentation at the museum. He’s a “scientist” (sarcasm quotes intentional) who, in his presentation, showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has almost zero understanding of evolution. Here’s the part with Menton.

The basis for this distinction is rooted in Christian doctrine, not science. According to Dr. David Menton, a staff scientist at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, microevolution is acceptable only if species vary within the same “kind,” a translation of a Hebrew phrase from the Old Testament describing the original sets of species that traveled on Noah’s ark.

“The point is you get a lot of different kinds of dogs but dogs remain dogs,” Menton said. “They don’t become cats.”

I find it interesting that he seems to admit his scientific claim isn’t based on science. The biblical “kind” argument is used constantly by creationists and figures prominently in the Creation Museum. There is no definition of “kind,” however, and it’s intentionally kept vague and nebulous so it can be used to support their arguments in whatever manner required.

Menton displays immense ignorance of evolution when he says that “dogs remain dogs… they don’t become cats.” Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that dogs become cats… or that chickens become horses… or that monkeys become people. What it does say is that minute changes build up gradually over a tremendous amount of time and eventually lead to speciation. Menton can’t accept this because, according to the bible, the universe is only about 6,000 years old, which doesn’t leave nearly enough time for evolution to occur.

The second point in the article that caught my eye was that Palin (and Menton) was refuted by an actual evolutionary scientist, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True.

University of Chicago ecology and evolution professor at Jerry Coyne calls the passage in Palin’s book a “typical creationist ploy” easily refuted by fossil evidence suggesting transitions between animals as fish and amphibians or land animals and whales.

“Her stand is basically a biblically oriented stand…that has no basis in fact,” Coyne told The Daily Beast in an e-mail. “It is a ridiculous ploy of the ‘duck kind,’ i.e. a canard.”

Score one for Jerry Coyne.

Charlie’s Playhouse and Evolution Toys

A few months ago, I bought the Giant Timeline Poster from Charlie’s Playhouse. I wanted to get the Giant Timeline, but I knew I didn’t have room for it (though I know better now!) and figured I could hang the smaller version on the wall somewhere so my daughter and I could have fun reading it and checking out all the crazy creatures on it. It was a great plan, but it turns out that there are very few 12-foot empty spaces on the walls in my house, so we had to unroll it on the floor.

Fortunately, that didn’t matter much and my daughter and I had a blast taking the entire evolutionary journey using the timeline as a guide. It’s a great product and made explaining evolution simple, straightforward, and fun for my daughter (who is eight years old).

A couple months after that, I bought the Ancient Creature Cards to add to the fun. The cards are huge (5.5 x 8.5) and have the same creatures that are on the timeline, but with more information about each one. My daughter took them in the car and would go through them, ordering them by period or by appearance on long drives and cracking jokes about the weirder critters. She’d still play her Nintendo DS, of course, but it was great to see her so enthusiastic about the cards, too!

Today, we got out both products and stretched out the timeline on the floor and went through the cards one by one, reading about each creature and then finding its place on the timeline, matching the card with its time period. This was all at my daughter’s request, by the way, which says volumes about the products!

Here is the resulting layout (click to embiggen)…

Charlie's Playhouse Evolution Timeline and Ancient Creature Cards

If you’ve got kids, I highly recommend these products! They’re educational and fun, which is an unbeatable combination.

Kudos to the Charlie’s Playhouse folks!

Casey Luskin cries censorship

Darwin's Dilemma Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute is all up in arms about censorship because, he claims, the Smithsonian-affiliated California Science Center cancelled its screening of the “documentary” Darwin’s Dilemma when it found out that the film was promoting intelligent design. While I agree that censorship is generally not good, Luskin seems to (again) misunderstand that a science center doesn’t want to promote unscientific ideas and that intelligent design is an unscientific idea. That’s been firmly established time and time and time and time again, but Luskin and his compatriots at the Discovery Institute can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.

Says Luskin…

As soon as word of the screening went public the Darwinian thought police started complaining about a government-supported science center renting its facilities to a group showing a film that challenges Darwinian evolution.

Why the outrage? Isn’t there academic freedom to express scientific viewpoints that dissent from the evolutionary “consensus”?

Yes, Luskin. There is academic freedom to express scientific viewpoints that dissent from the evolutionary consensus. The key word is “scientific,” however. Intelligent design is not scientific, no matter how badly you want it to be.

Luskin (and the film) attempt to use the Cambrian explosion as evidence for intelligent design, claiming that it poses a problem for evolutionary theory. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but… it doesn’t. Luskin, in true form, sets up a false dichotomy by saying that there are “two ways that modern evolutionists approach the Cambrian explosion” and lists them as follows.

A. Some freely acknowledge that the Cambrian fossil evidence essentially shows the opposite of what was expected under neo-Darwinian evolution.

B. Others deal with the Cambrian explosion by sweeping its problems under the rug and trying to change the subject.

Strangely enough, neither option is correct… or accurate… or honest. The Cambrian explosion is not a dilemma and the reason it’s not is that it hasn’t been swept under the rug, but has been openly (and repeatedly) addressed and shown to fit easily and neatly within the bounds of evolutionary theory. Evidently word hasn’t filtered down to Luskin yet.

The other concept that hasn’t reached Luskin yet is that even if science hasn’t discovered the answer for something yet, it doesn’t mean that simply asserting an “intelligent designer” is a valid answer. It’s certainly not even remotely scientific.

Luskin goes on to complain about “Darwinian elites” (envy much?), censorship, harassment, and Carl Sagan. His claims are nonsensical, including the one about a 2004 “pro-ID peer reviewed scientific article by Stephen Meyer (seriously?) and one about Richard Sternberg experiencing “retaliation” for being pro-ID (seriously?).

What it boils down to is the fact that Luskin just can’t accept the fact that intelligent design is not science… hence it shouldn’t be presented as science at science-based institutions. It’s not censorship any more than refusing to promote astrology as an alternative to astronomy is censorship.

Luskin’s closing paragraphs are where he glaringly makes my point that he just doesn’t get it.

Darwin’s dilemma isn’t just about a lack of transitional fossils in ancient rocks. It’s about how the guards of evolutionary orthodoxy will treat contrary scientific viewpoints.

Will they silence minority views, or will they grant dissenting scientists freedom of speech and scientific inquiry to make their case?

Evolutionary scientists welcome contrary scientific viewpoints. They actually debate the fine points of evolution constantly and review new scientific ideas. Dissention is welcomed, but the key word (again… and still) is “scientific.” That’s where Luskin and his Discovery Institute peers get left in the dust. They’re not scientific. Intelligent design is not science. As much as they want to believe it, saying it over and over again does not make it true and the more they do it, the more they make a mockery of themselves.

…which is something, it seems, they do on a regular basis.

You tell her, Christopher!

Via Pharyngula comes this video clip from the movie Horror Express starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as rival archaeologists battling to stop a prehistoric ape-like creature with supernatural powers from going on a “mind-controlling killing spree.” (description on Netflix …sadly unavailable for rental)

I love it.

Intelligent Design’s 8 Biggest Fails

I was just shown a great slideshow on the Discover website showing Intelligent Design’s 8 Biggest Fails. It’s well worth taking a look.

Ray Comfort and Charles Darwin!

Free books! Oh wait... what's this? It seems that Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort have decided that they want to get in on the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by giving away free copies of the book to college students. While that seems both generous and out of character, it turns out that it is neither.

They’re printing a special version of the book with a fifty-page introduction written by Comfort which “reveals the dangerous fruit of evolution.” They aren’t really giving the book away. Comfort’s Living Waters ministry is providing the books for a very low cost to churches or individuals who want to help. Those folks get to give the books away. Now, to be fair, they’re selling the book for as low as 99 cents a copy (if you buy forty or more), so it’s close to a giveaway.

Their special version also has an incorrect title.

There are a couple problems that I see here. First, it’s telling that they want to “trick” people into getting their gospel message. I suspect they know that they wouldn’t be able to attract those godless students with fifty thousand free copies of a Ray Comfort book. They have to give away a very famous book on evolutionary theory… and then they tuck away their message in the beginning of the book, decrying the book’s contents (but failing miserably).

Kirk Cameron's Crocoduck The second problem is that the message itself is absurd. Comfort and Cameron have repeatedly proven that they have absolutely no knowledge of evolutionary theory. Not only do they have no knowledge, but they’ve demonstrated willful ignorance at every turn, using the same, tired objections that have long-since died an unspectacular death by debunking. Cameron’s famous crocoduck comes to mind. Whatever shred of credibility they may have once had (if ever) vanished long, long ago.

Here’s an excerpt from the website about what’s in the introduction.

This introduction gives the history of evolution, a timeline of Darwin’s life, Hitler’s undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin’s racism, his disdain for women, and his thoughts on the existence of God. It lists the theory’s many hoaxes, exposes the unscientific belief that nothing created everything, points to the incredible structure of DNA, and the absence of any species-to-species transitional forms.

Comfort always seems to bring up the “nothing created everything” argument when discussing evolution. He also repeats his “no transitional forms” argument. It almost sounds as if he doesn’t understand evolutionary theory. I’m never sure if he really is that actively and willfully ignorant or if he really does know that his points are absurd, but he’s got nowhere else to go.

You can read the full fifty-page introduction here (pdf). After a brief history lesson, Comfort starts right into his default “a building must have a builder” shtick. The DNA segment shows a complete lack of understanding of natural selection. It gets worse from there and becomes a cornucopia of monstrous ignorance.

Kirk Cameron also narrates a video (also embedded below) which explains the program. I transcribed it so you can read the text of the video if you can’t watch. It’s also full of nonsense.

Praying in school... still allowed! Cameron disqualifies himself right at the beginning when he states “Our kids can no longer pray in public.” Ummm… what? They most certainly can pray in public. They can even pray in public schools. But Cameron has to start off with a message portraying the horrifying state in which we find ourselves. Our kids can’t pray, they can’t open bibles in school, the Ten Commandments can’t be displayed in public places… all nonsense.

But then he gets to the really horrifying stuff. In a survey of fifty universities in the United States, sixty-one percent of professors in psychology and biology identified themselves as atheists or agnostics. The horror! I would have thought it would be higher. He doesn’t mention professors of physics, chemistry, sociology, math, or history, though. I found that a bit odd.

When explaining the book giveaway, he says that they just want to “present the opposing and correct view.” Seriously? the “correct” view? He continues with the mind-numbing “both sides of the argument” plea, again showing that his understanding of what does and does not constitute “science” is lacking… or non-existent.

The main point is that they want to give away these books to university students and they need your help.

There’s a Facebook group that was created to thwart Comfort and Cameron’s shenanigans. The idea is to get your hands on as many books as you can, remove the 50-page introduction, thus restoring the book to its original form, and then re-giving them away at the same university.

There’s no mention on the Living Waters site about which universities are included, so you’ll have to just pay your local one a visit on November 19th to check. They don’t sound like they’re really targeting fifty specific universities, though. They don’t seem that organized. Anyone can order the books and give them away wherever they want, it seems. You even get a free poster with your order.

…and fifty pages of nauseating woo and ignorance.

Here’s the video. Below is the transcript.

Transcript:

Are you concerned about what’s happening to our country? One by one, we’re being stripped of our God-given liberties. Our kids can no longer pray in public. They can no longer freely open a bible in school. The Ten Commandments are no longer allowed to be displayed in public places and the Gideons are not even allowed to give away bibles in schools.

Did you know that a recent study revealed that in the top fifty universities in our country, in the fields of psychology and biology, sixty-one percent of the professors described themselves as atheists or agnostics. That’s sixty-one percent. No wonder atheism has doubled in the last twenty years among nineteen to twenty-five year olds. An entire generation is being brainwashed by atheistic evolution without even hearing the alternative and it’s radically changing the culture of our nation.

There’s only one way to change the heart of a nation and that is to change the sinful heart of the individual and that’s through he power of the Gospel. Only God can take the sinful heart of a man or a woman and cause them to love that which is right and just and good.

Now listen to this. On November 21st, 2009, the world will celebrate the 150th year since the publication of Charles Darwin’s book Origin of Species. Now when my friend Ray Comfort heard about this and that the book was public domain, he actually wrote a fifty page introduction for the book which gives the history of evolution, a timeline of Darwin’s life, Adolf Hitler’s undeniable connection with the theory, Darwin’s racism, his disdain for women, and Darwin’s thoughts on the existence of God and put them in the book.

It also lists the theory’s many hoaxes. It exposes the unscientific belief that nothing created everything. It points to the incredible structure of DNA and the absence of any species-to-species transitional forms actually found in the fossil record. It then presents a balanced view of creationism with information from scientists who actually believe that God created the universe, such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, Faraday, Louis Pasture, and Johannes Kepler. And most importantly, this introduction presents a very clear gospel message.

On Thursday November 19th, just a few days before the 150th anniversary of the book, fifty thousand copies of this special publication will be freely given out at those top fifty universities. Now think of it. In one day, the Gospel and clear presentation of intelligent design will be placed into the hands of fifty thousand of our future doctors lawyers and politicians. And we’re working with Campus Crusade for Christ, Answers in Genesis, and the Alliance Defense Fund to get copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species into the hands of this generation. And all we want to do is present the opposing and correct view, rather than being censored, which is exactly the case at present. These students aren’t stupid. They should be given both sides of the argument and allowed to make up their own minds, right? We think that’s healthy.

This is a beautiful 304-page full color cover edition of Darwin’s famous Origin of Species book that will be given away free on the 150th anniversary of the book, so who isn’t going to take it and say “thank you very much?”

There’s nothing to fear. Ray Comfort and I are going to a local university to give away one thousand free copies ourselves on November 19th and we’re very excited to do this. Listen, for instance, to UC Berkeley’s policy right here in California. Their own website says, “Anyone is free to distribute non-commercial materials in any outdoor area of the campus.” Besides, what are they really going to do? Ban the Origin of Species? That’d be big news, especially when their own bookstore sells it for $29.99.

So get a hold of 100, or 500, or 1,000 copies for yourself or for your church and go to your university. We’ll give you a free poster and a clear and simple strategy. Go there as a team and get the gospel into the hands of this generation; the hands of future doctors, lawyers and politicians. Remember this is America. It’s still the land of the free, the home of the brave. And this is a life and death issue.

(Ray Comfort starts speaking)
We’ve had a number of requests from people asking if we could expand our giveaway from fifty to a hundred universities. If we want to be able to do that, we need to act quickly… have more books printed. Today we know of 130 yard sales that are being held across the country to raise money to try to make this happen. One millionaire has said he’ll match the biggest donation given to the project. Those that would like to help us reach that goal can get details on LivingWaters.com. Please be in prayer for us and thank you for listening.

Richard Dawkins has nearly infinite patience

Richard Dawkins Richard Dawkins has a DVD titled The Genius of Charles Darwin which includes interviews with various people about evolution. Today, in a post on Pharyngula, PZ Myers told folks from the Secular Student Alliance that, if they’re engaged in conversation during their visit tomorrow at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, they can probably expect the type of exchange in the following interview from the DVD.

It’s in seven parts and the seventh video drops partway through the dialogue (which evidently it does on the DVD, too), but seven parts is more than enough. I watched all seven, but really, after the first video, there wasn’t much point in continuing. It was somewhat like the old “watching the train wreck” scenario, though, that kept me going. The interviewee, Wendy Wright from the Concerned Women for America, really didn’t listen to the questions… or answer them… or acknowledge what Dawkins was saying… or make much sense. It almost seemed (!!!) as if she were a talking head who mechanically distributed creationist talking points… and who could really do nothing else.

Dawkins tried his best and was incredibly tolerant and polite, though you could tell he was frustrated during many of the exchanges because Wright wouldn’t acknowledge what he was saying. She repeated, ad nauseum, the claim that there is no evidence for evolution, and refused to acknowledge his examples of evidence… even to disagree with them! It was as if Dawkins wasn’t even speaking. She even made claims that DNA evidence which supports evolution really supported special creation. Dawkins was tossing out pieces of evidence but it was like throwing ping pong balls at a brick wall. There were so many times that she implied that the evidence was irrelevant to what she believed.

Watching the full video was painful, but educational. Wright is actually the president of the CWA, who’s website bills her as a “Policy Expert and Activist” and a “United Nations Lobbyist.” This is not a “fringe” representative of a fringe organization, but someone who engages the media on a regular basis, evidently. It’s painful to hear someone like Wright, who is so willfully ignorant of facts (and reality), try to influence public policy.

Watch the video if you can stomach it. I’d love to hear comments.