Posts Tagged “creationism”

Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior (Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress)The drums of the vast armies of Christofascism in the US are beating incessantly, and their forces are on the march. In skirmish after skirmish, they’re gaining victories around the country. The latest of these came in the Tennessee legislature, whose House approved a law that would teach religion in that state’s science classes. CBS News reports on this religionist debacle (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday’s 70-28 passage of HB 368 [cached] was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote “critical thinking” in science classes.

It will be a cold day in hell before any Religious Rightist like Dunn ever truly gives a flying fuck about “critical thinking.” His promotion of this bill shows he has no comprehension of what “critical thinking” is.

The truth of the matter is this: TN HB 368 is NOT — and never was — about “critical thinking” at all. Religiofascists don’t like or want “critical thinking.” They demand, instead, “rigid dogmatic thinking,” and unwavering thralldom to their unbending, irrational metaphysics.

Rep. Dunn’s claim to be concerned about “critical thinking” is a lie, and that places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

For anyone who’s not yet clear on this, “intelligent design” and its various relatives are all just variations on Creationism. It was none other than an evangelical Christian federal appellate judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself — who declared “intelligent design” a sham, a transparent cover for Creationism, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Prior to that, the US Supreme Court had ruled that Creationism was effectively a religion and is therefore forbidden in public schools, in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and subsequently that evolution by contrast is not a religion, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994).

It’s time for America’s religionists to grow up and get over the fact that science is not theirs to control. Evolution is science, at the moment, so that’s what should be taught in science classes. Period. End of discussion.

One final note for any other religiofascists out there who think they can force their religion on public school kids in the name of promoting “critical thinking”: To paraphrase V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s famous quip, I know Critical Thinking; Critical Thinking is a friend of mine. You don’t know what Critical Thinking is.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com.

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Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over AmericaIf a Florida state senator gets his way, the religious notion known as Creationism (and as “intelligent design”) may be forced into public-school science classrooms in that state. The Tampa Tribune reports on this transparent attempt at yet another end-run around federal court decisions forbidding this practice (WebCite cached article):

As lawmakers wrestle with financial and policy challenges that could affect the quality of education in the state, one influential legislator is also hoping to change the way evolution is taught in Florida public schools. …

Stephen Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has resurrected legislation he authored in 2009 that calls for a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Wise’s bill failed to pass in 2009. …

Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.

“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called “nonevolution.”

I assume Wise (whose name is most certainly not an aptonym!) is using the label “nonevolution” in order to get around the aforementioned court prohibitions on both “Creationism” and “intelligent design.” His bill is otherwise the same as countless other Discovery Institute-inspired bills that have been tossed around in legislatures around the country for the last 15 years or so.

The idea is to use public-school science classrooms in order to proselytize to children. Really, it’s just more of the same old Christofascism we’ve all come to expect from Republicans. Not a single one of them has had an original thought in over 10 years, and it doesn’t look as though any of them are going to have any, for a long time yet to come. Just a steady stream of mindless militant Christianism.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: About.Com / Austin Cline & National Archives.

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Glenn Beck's Christmas Road ShowNo surprise, here, folks. Glenn Beck is still as much of a raging ignoramus as he ever has been. He doesn’t believe in evolution (again, no surprise!) because it hasn’t been proven to him. Unfortunately his view of what constitutes “proof” of evolution, demonstrates his ignorance about it and his failure to comprehend what it really is. According to the Atlantic’s Wire blog, Beckie-boy recently babbled (WebCite cached article):

Fox News host Glenn Beck has denounced the theory of evolution, saying that he knows it is false because he has never seen “a half-monkey, half-person.” Beck coming out against evolution is hardly surprising, but his not-so-persuasive scientific analysis has drawn the usual round of mockery and revulsion. Scientists say that our closest living ancestors are not monkeys but apes, with which we share a common ancestor.

In addition to failing to understand what the science of evolution is and what it really says, Beckie-boy also falls headlong into the trap of a common fallacy:

[Beck said,] “How many people believe in evolution in this country? I’d like to see. I mean, I don’t know why it’s unreasonable to say this.”

For the record, Glenn, it is, in fact, very “unreasonable” — not to mention illogical and irrational — to use popular belief to bolster a claim. This is a fallacy that’s known by many names: appeal to the many, appeal to consensus, the bandwagon fallacy, appeal to the masses, the democratic fallacy, appeal to popularity, the fallacy of the many, or — more formally — argumentum ad populum.

The fallacy here lies in equating popular belief and perception, with veracity. They are, however, not the same, and this is demonstrable. Consider, for example, that at one time, the vast majority of humanity, if not all of humanity, believed the Earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter, inside of which the sun and everything else revolved around it. We have, however, discovered this is not the case: The Earth is not the center of the universe; instead, the Earth revolves primarily around the sun, however, the sun itself is part of a galaxy and revolves within it; that galaxy is part of a galactic cluster, which in turn is part of a supercluster; and the universe in which we live is vastly larger than just a few thousand miles.

In case anyone needs an even better understanding of the illogic and failure of argumentum ad populum, look here, here, and here, and here.

Put as simply as possible, veracity is not up for a popular vote, as Beck seems to think it is. The truth doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it, not even what millions or billions of people think of it. The truth is what it is. It’s there for us to discover … if we only will look for it.

But Beckie-boy doesn’t want us to look for the truth! He just wants us to settle for what “seems to be” and what satisfies the most people emotionally. Sorry, Glenn, but since humanity is collectively stupid, the last thing I’m going to do is use popular polling data to decide whether something is true or not.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog & Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: The Rocketeer.

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A caveman hanging out with a dinosaurSome Australian Pentescostalists have absconded with education in Queensland, and have begun a laughable effort to swindle school children there into believing absurdities, such as that humans and dinosaurs had once coexisted. News.Com.Au reports on their campaign of ignorance (WebCite cached article):

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there is fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

The Pentecostalists stooped to incredible absurdities in order to withstand any objections that might be thrown at them, such as in the following story:

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

“The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve,” he said.

“My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that ‘wouldn’t they all be inbred’?

“But the teacher replied that DNA wasn’t invented then.”

Really, these people have no shame … and no minds of their own, either.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.

Photo credit: dewalt.

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Don't Mess With Texas signI blogged a couple times already about the case of Christina Comer, erstwhile head of science education for the Texas Education Agency. She’d sinned unforgivably — in the agency’s eyes — by forwarding an email about a pro-evolution seminar. This apparently violated the TEA’s enfroced “neutrality” concerning anything which is “controversial.” The AP (via Google News) reports on her appeal’s progress (WebCite cached article):

The former director of the science program for Texas’ public schools asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive a lawsuit over her firing for forwarding an e-mail about a forum opposed to teaching creationism.

The agency that runs Texas public schools argued that Christina Castillo Comer’s e-mail broke its policy of neutrality toward any potentially controversial issue, including creationism. A lawyer for Comer says the agency has an unwritten, unconstitutional policy of treating creationism as science.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments Monday in Comer’s lawsuit against Robert Scott, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency.

The idea that all things controversial must be treated “neutrally” may sound good in theory, but in practice, it’s ludicrous. Lots of things are “controversial,” yet the facts about them are known, and there’s no question what the truth of them is; what controversy exists lies in the failure of everyone to accept or understand those facts.

If the TEA’s policy of being rigidly “neutral” toward all controversies is to be obeyed unflinchingly and applied strictly in all cases, this means that TEA personnel must be “neutral” about such matters as:

  • Whether or not the Holocaust happened (there is a “controversy” here which is in the form of irrational, delusional, and anti-Semitic Holocaust denials)

  • Whether it’s compression or friction that causes meteors to vaporize as they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere (it’s frequently said that friction is the agent here, but it’s not)

  • The solution to the so-called “Mony Hall problem” (the answer is known and mathematically demonstrable but people often don’t get it)

  • Whether or not the Priory of Sion exists (author Dan Brown and his readers insist it’s real and its existence is “fact,” but the truth is that it was a hoax)

  • Whether or not the attacks by Ottoman Turks against Armenians around the turn of the 20th century constitutes a “genocide” (it’s agreed these attacks took place, that they were systemic, and claimed the lives of over a million Armenians; but the Turkish government and a few wingnuts deny it)

I doubt there are any rational Texans who seriously consider the facts of these — and other issues — to be genuinely “controversial.” But does the fact that there are controversies surrounding them, mean TEA personnel must act as though these facts are not known?

Of course not.

This is why the TEA’s fierce demand of unthinking “neutrality” toward any and all “controversies” is foolish and laughable on its face. Some things are not “controversial” enough to merit being “neutral” toward them … and educators in Texas or anywhere else have no business acting as though they are.

Photo credit: kalebdf.

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Creationism - You can get away with believing anything as long as you say God wants you to.The basic premise of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, released a couple of years ago, is that mainstream scientific institutions have conspired wickedly against a minority of scientists and others, whose conscience tells them that the science behind evolution (which is both a theory and a fact) must be ignored in favor of “intelligent design” (aka creationism). The movie claims these vile institutions have mercilessly and relentlessly oppressed sincere but innocent people whose only crime is that they fervently believe that the theory of evolution led to fascism, Nazism, communism, Satanism, pedophilia, necrophilia, split ends, and pretty much everything they see as “bad.”

All of this, of course, is 100% pure, grade-A, unfiltered bullshit. However, that hasn’t prevented proponents of creationism from cloaking their desire to proselytize public school children behind the supposed veil of “academic freedom.” (That cloak is necessary, now, because their previous facade, “intelligent design,” was ruled by federal courts as a fraudulent cover for their religion, in 2005 in the Kitzmiller decision. So these people have had to jump from one fraud to another. Nice.)

At any rate, their weeping and wailing about “academic freedom” — and “freedom of conscience” and any number of other similar euphemisms — has not, apparently, been something they’ve been willing to extend, themselves. An example of this very phenomenon was reported recently by USA Today (WebCite cached article):

When it comes to incriminating videos these days, the one of Bruce K. Waltke might seem pretty tame. It shows the noted evangelical scholar of the Old Testament talking about scholarship, faith and evolution. What was incriminating? He not only endorsed evolution, but said that evangelical Christianity could face a crisis for not coming to accept science.

“If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult … some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness,” he says, according to several accounts by those who have seen the video. Those words set off a furor at the Reformed Theological Seminary, where Waltke was — until this week — a professor. (The seminary is evangelical, with ties to several denominations.)

The statements so upset officials of the seminary that Waltke had to ask the BioLogos Foundation, a group that promotes the idea that science and faith need not be incompatible, to remove it from its website (which the foundation did) and to post a clarification. The video was shot during a BioLogos workshop. But even those steps weren’t enough for the seminary, which announced that it had accepted his resignation.

The Reformed Theological Seminary is not making any excuses and is not conceding any wrongdoing:

Michael Milton, president of the seminary’s Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video. Milton said that Waltke would “undoubtedly” be considered one of the world’s great Christian scholars of the Old Testament and that he was “much beloved here,” with his departure causing “heartache.” But he said that there was no choice. …

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession. Nor do I have a freedom that would allow me to express my views in such a way to hurt or impugn someone who holds another view.”

In other words, Milton is asserting that it is fine for a religious educational institution to restrict academic freedom among its faculty. This stands in opposition to the Religious Right’s claim that “academic freedom” must be rigidly enforced in secular institutions.

Folks, if this isn’t hypocrisy … which was unambiguously and explicitly forbidden to all Christians by Jesus himself … I don’t know what is.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum.

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Dinosaurs and CavemenIt turns out that my home state of Connecticut’s regional school district 17 — made up of the towns of Killingworth and Haddam — has a creationist on its school board, named Chester Harris. The Hartford Courant recently profiled him (WebCite cached article):

Chester Harris, newly elected to the Region 17 school board, is a Republican with a standard conservative outlook: He distrusts government bureaucracy, believes in fiscal restraint and thinks kids today have too many advantages and too few responsibilities.

But it is his answer to fundamental questions about the origins of life that sets him apart.

Harris, 53, rejects evolution. To him, the idea that humans and apes share a common ancestor takes “a whole lot more faith than believing there was a creator who set all these things in motion and allows us to operate under free will.”

The idea that it takes “more faith” to believe in evolution than to believe in creationism, is — of course — pure bullshit, and always has been. Even though it’s a standard line that creationists always seem to like to use. (They do so because they are completely ignorant about the scientific method, about the details of evolution, and even about their own religion, because Christianity does not actually demand a complete rejection of evolution!)

The article mentions that he attempted to evangelize for his views with a few teachers and administrators:

About three weeks ago he met with several high school science teachers and school administrators in the district, which serves the woodsy, Connecticut Valley towns of Haddam and Killingworth.

Harris subscribes to the notion known as “teach the controversy,” which of course is also bullshit. There is no “controversy” about evolution. It is both a fact and a theory. There is nothing indefinite about it, and no credible scientific alternative to it exists. That said, if people like Harris really believe that science is “controversial,” I suggest that he test the “controversy” over whether a cinder block held above his foot, will fall and crush it, if someone lets go of it.

For that matter, fundies who believe everything is “controversial” should, therefore, be more than willing to “teach the controversy” that Jesus Christ actually lived … because the truth is, we don’t know that there was any such person, and even if there was, what exactly he did during his lifetime. If they were honest about their “everything is a controversy” position, they ought to be happy to do so. So … get to it, guys!

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums

Photo credit: Orin Zebest.

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