Saturday, February 11, 2017

Darwin Day at the University of Tennessee

Darwin Day week kicks off tomorrow at the University of Tennessee, with a science parade.  The Daily Beacon has more:
Throughout the week, Darwin Day festivities will continue on Pedestrian Walkway, where students can learn about upcoming events and meet Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in mascot form. Darwin Day organizers will also be advertising for the event’s Keynote Speaker Stacey Smith from the University of Colorado Boulder.

On Monday, Feb. 13, at noon, Darwin Day organizers will participate in a science parade that marches from the Hill to inform students about Darwin, Wallace and their work involving evolutionary biology.

Later that day at 7 p.m. in the Cox Auditorium, Smith will present her lecture “Beg, borrow and steal: the nefarious history of flower power” to discuss the adaptive evolution of plants over time.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, a teacher’s workshop will be held in room 105 of the Claxton Education Complex from 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

All of the events are volunteer-run and designed to educate the public on evolutionary biology and its importance in modern society and politics. The idea is to promote scientific thought in a non-confrontational way in order to combat anti-science movements.

“(The events are being put on) to recognize this very important historical figure who has done so much to the understanding of biology, and of course, it drives so much of natural selection, and likewise, drives what has happened and what is happening in the world today,” Chapman said.
Come if you can. This is an annual program to honor one of the founders of evolutionary theory and is always quite a bit of fun.

Ken Ham Once Again Demonstrates That He Has No Understanding of Science

Ken Ham says that evolution is religion.  In an interview with The Christian Post, Jeannie Law writes:
"You see, evolutionists have beliefs just like creationists have beliefs. For instance, this movie — 'Is Genesis History?' — the Ph.D. scientists that are in this movie, their role as scientists in a modern world is to show that observational science confirms the Bible's history about creation, and then the flood, the tower of babble," Ham stated. "So it's not science and creation, it's not science and religion, it's really a battle of two worldviews."

The 65-year-old describes it as a conflict of two starting points — God's word or man's word. He said the dispute lies in historical science, which is science about beliefs in the past. Some believe in what God says happened throughout history and others believe in what men say.

"So it's really a battle between two religions. Evolution, that's a religion. It's really the pagan religion of this age to explain life without God," he argued. "There's always been a battle of two religions since the beginning."
Is Genesis History? is a new film out from The Truth Project, an organization that has a record for botching truth when it comes to science.  Steven Martin wrote, in 2009, the following:
Focus on the Family is promoting their “Truth Project” to churches and small groups. A quick look at the lesson overview shows that, ironically, the Truth Project doesn’t seem to put much stock in truth when it comes to science (see lesson 5). For example, this lesson states that “Darwinian theory transforms science from the honest investigation of nature into a vehicle for propagating a godless philosophy”. Completely untrue.
If you phrase the study of evolution in this way, you don't have to address the scientific merits of the theory. Instead, this is a craven appeal of the emotions of Christians to get them to reject the perfectly valid scientific theory of evolution because it is not of God.

Onward.

Ken Ham's entire talking point for this perspective is his mistaken impression that we cannot reconstruct the past.  He is quoted as saying:
"When it comes to knowledge of our past, concerning our origins, that knowledge is very different because now you're talking about, 'How did the universe come into being [when] I wasn't there to see that happen?'" Ham explained.
This is completely facile and betrays a complete lack of understanding of how science works. Indeed, daily events require us to reconstruct events for which we were not present. This is no different than reconstructing a crime scene or conducting an archaeological excavation, in which we reconstruct past events. Would Ken Ham actually have us believe that we cannot know anything about our past because we weren't there? That is nothing short of idiotic and comes from someone who has no understanding of science.

Off-Topic: I have complained to the Christian Post about their website before.  When I went to the site today, a video ad that covered the right side of the screen auto-loaded and played, which I watched and then stopped.  While I was writing the post, the stupid video reloaded and played three more times.  This kind of thing is what is ruining the internet.  

Friday, February 03, 2017

Jerry Falwell Jr. To Be Head of Education Reform Task Force

Donald Trump has tapped Jerry Falwell Jr. to lead an education reform task force.  As the Independent Puts it:
Mr Falwell was quick to throw his support behind Mr Trump, and the New York tycoon travelled to his university in Virginia and spoke to students, somewhat mangling a bible reference.

At a campaign even in Davenport, during the Iowa caucuses, Mr Falwell said he had decided to back Mr Trump “because the country is at that point”.

At Mr Falwell’s Lynchburg campus, the science hall is reportedly stocked with the latest laboratory equipment, including a gene sequencer and a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. However, faculty members teach evolution alongside biblical creationism.
Interestingly, most of the headlines that I enountered, referred to the younger Falwell as “creationist” without actually quoting anything he has said that gives that away. It is certainly true that Liberty University (ironically where Ted Cruz began his presidential campaign) teaches creationism by default and the older Falwell was an ardent anti-evolutionist. Still, if I cannot point to something to give substance to my fears, I will hold off thinking this is necessarily a bad thing.

Much, much nonsense has gone on in the colleges and universities all over the country in the last few years. It is pretty clear that something needs to be done.