Monday, January 27, 2014

Okay, So Maybe It is Not Like a Toblerone Bar...

Someone once wrote (can't find the source) that the dimensions of Noah's Ark would render it like a Toblerone Bar.  According to a new Fox News report, it may have actually been round.  From the story:
A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia -- modern-day Iraq -- reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle -- as well as the key instruction that animals should enter "two by two."

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.
That the story of Noah had antecedents is not new.  It is generally accepted that there are "competing" flood stories in the Near East that have some sort of relationship to each other.  This has fascinated researchers for years and was, recently, the subject of an interesting book by William Ryan and Walter Pittman titled Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History that attempted to locate the source of the stories in the Black Sea. Literalistic Christians are uncomfortable with the idea that the flood story in Genesis is not unique and that Noah and his family may not represent real people or if they do, that the flood was a much more localized event (one of several?).

There are several points of argument against the idea that the flood story represents real events.  The first is that there are so many similarities between the stories, from the promise to flood the world, to the rounding up of the animals, to the flood itself, the releasing of birds and the sacrifice, in which variously The Lord or the gods found the aroma of the sacrifice "pleasing." 

The second primary argument is that, given that the flood is supposed to have occurred around 2348 B.C., there is a remarkable amount of amnesia concerning this event.  Within a scant thousand years, there are thriving civilizations everywhere, and no one has ever heard of Noah or his sons.  Their names do not show up on any stelae or in any stories.  The Chinese don't have any stories that don't involve the flooding of the Yalu River and the Egyptians are busy building the pyramids, which may have started 250 years earlier than the flood date.  For Noah and his sons to have restarted the human race, it is more than a tad peculiar that nobody remembers them. 

Irving Finkel, the man who translated the table, agrees:
"I'm sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention," he said.

He believes the tale was likely passed on to the Jews during their exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. And he doesn't think the tablet provides evidence the ark described in the Bible existed. He said it's more likely that a devastating real flood made its way into folk memory, and has remained there ever since.

"I don't think the ark existed -- but a lot of people do," he said. "It doesn't really matter. The Biblical version is a thing of itself and it has a vitality forever.
This is true and the biblical story, like the Gilgamesh story, speak to the need to turn away from evil, that God punishes, that water is cleansing and that God will not forget or turn away from us forever.

Friday, January 17, 2014

When Acceptance of Evolution is Not Necessarily "Liberal"

Zack Kopplin has written a column for Slate in which he exposes some of the stealth creationism that is going on in some Texas public schools.  Along the way, however, he takes potshots at values that many conservatives, including myself, hold dear and that have no bearing on the creation/evolution debate.  It is a stark reminder that those of us that are conservative-leaning TE/CE are an unusual group.  He spends most of his time targeting a curriculum run by Responsive Ed, based in Lewisville, Texas. 

He writes:
Another Responsive Ed section claims that evolution cannot be tested, something biologists have been doing for decades. It misinforms students by claiming, “How can scientists do experiments on something that takes millions of years to accomplish? It’s impossible.”
The curriculum tells students that a “lack of transitional fossils” is a “problem for evolutionists who hold a view of uninterrupted evolution over long periods of time.”
“The assertion that there are no ‘transitional fossils’ is false,” Miller responded. “We have excellent examples of transitional forms documenting the evolution of amphibians, mammals, and birds, to name some major groups. We also have well-studied transitional forms documenting the evolution of whales, elephants, horses, and humans.”
Responsive Ed is not unique in this and that these organizations, such as Accelerated Christian Education, A Becka, Apologia and others continue to peddle these myths is nothing short of mendacious.  The data is out there and has been out there for decades.  To be shown that something is true and continue to say that is not is a lie.

In other sections, Kopplin addresses incorrect historical ideas that are, unfortunately taught as fact. The idea that "Darwinism" led to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich has been shown to be false.
But Kopplin conflates the scientific issues with social issues viewpoints, some with which he obviously disagrees: He writes:
About LGBTQ rights, Responsive Ed says, “Laws against the homosexual lifestyle had been repealed in many states, but some states continued to ban the behavior.” The homosexual lifestyle?

About President Franklin Roosevelt, it teaches, “The New Deal had not helped the economy. However, it ushered in a new era of dependency on the Federal government.”
and also
On the feminist movement, Founders Classical Academy students are taught that feminism “created an entirely new class of females who lacked male financial support and who had to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”
How is the notion of LBGTQ rights not an issue of "lifestyle?" That is exactly what is being promoted as normal: a lifestyle. If you want to argue for gay marriage, that is a lifestyle choice. If you want to argue that gays should raise children, that is a lifestyle choice.  Surely we are not reducing the rights of LGBTQ people to the sex act alone.

Did the New Deal policies prolong the depression?  Quite a few economists think so.  For example, James Powell of the Cato Institute argues that it not only did that, but that the policies ushered in vastly expanded government interference in private lives.  Two UCLA economists, Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, also argued that the policies were harmful.

With regard to the feminist movement, the position Kopplin is railing against is exactly what is being argued by Jessica Gavora, in the Washington Post.  She writes:
Julia is just the latest makeover. She is the Democrats’ answer to Romney’s family Christmas card. A nation of women on their own, after all, doesn’t relate very well to fecund portraits of smiling white moms and dads with kids and golden retrievers underfoot. With her spare, faceless affect, Julia is meant to evoke a more modern, independent sensibility — with the exception of her life of endless government dependency, that is.

Julia is Mary Tyler Moore on the government’s dime. You’re gonna make it after all, Julia! Just remember who’s responsible on Election Day.

The problem is, like so much of our political rhetoric, Julia is not a composite; she’s a myth. Some of the nation’s single moms may be successful Web designers, but many are poor — fully half have incomes of less than $30,000 a year, compared with just 15 percent of married women. It’s not Pell grants and SBA loans these women rely on but Medicaid and food stamps. And it’s not comfortable retirements in community gardens they contemplate but bleak old age.

Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.
Can one fault the curriculum for promoting one particular viewpoint on a set of social issues? Perhaps.   But to dismiss these viewpoints as being invalid or wrong is more a product of a liberal mindset than well-constructed complaint against bad teaching.  He is disdainful of one curriculum's attempt to teach abstinence.  Why is teaching abstinence, in an age of growing teen pregnancy, a bad idea? 

Another issue not addressed is that, when one goes to school, a set of values is being taught—even if it is that you can construct your own values in a vacuum—because it is not possible to teach without doing so. Why conservative values any less important than liberal ones?

Where Kopplin objects to substandard science teaching and incorrect history, he is completely justified in doing so. Where he disagrees with conservative teaching for which there are differing viewpoints, he is considerably less so.   These are not issues of creationism or evolution or even of science in general. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ken Ham Waxes on the Cost of Belief in Evolution. Dan Wilkinson of Unfundamentalist Christian Responds

Ken Ham had a personal note on the AiG page about the upcoming debate.  He writes, in part:
Because our ministry theme for 2013 and for 2014 is “Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids,” our staff thought that a debate on creation vs. evolution with a man who has influenced so many children to believe in evolution would be a good idea. Now, those of you who know me realize that I don’t relish public debates, so please pray for me. But this debate will help highlight the fact that so many young people are dismissing the Bible because of evolution, and even many young people who had grown up in the church decided to leave the church because they saw evolution as showing the Bible could not be trusted. This exodus of young people from the church is documented in my coauthored book Already Gone.
Dan Wilkinson, on his blog Unfundamentalist Christian, responds:
No, Mr. Ham, no one’s leaving the church because evolution shows that “the Bible could not be trusted.”

Mr. Ham, they’re leaving the church because of people like you: people who fervently create walls, erect barriers, establish rigid rules for what one must believe in order to be a Christian. They’re leaving the church because your version of Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with right practice, and everything to do with “right” belief. They’re leaving the church because by essentially demonizing everyone who doesn’t agree with you, you’ve made believing in Young Earth Creationism* more important than Jesus’ explicit explicit commandment to love God and neighbor.
Ken Ham did not like this much. He responded thus:
Apparently they call this sort of thing 'Progressive Christianity.' I guess that means 'evolving Christianity'--whatever the secular world believes about where they came from, you accept that as infallible and then change their assumed fallible Word of God to fit! So sad. In many ways these sort of people are more dangerous to Christianity than the atheists.

Note--the typical personal attack; no research cited (at least AiG had a professional group--America's Research Group--conduct real research into why kids are leaving the church and published it in the book 'Already Gone'); only one verse of Scripture referred to (Matthew 22); just this person's fallible opinions to justify holding man's word as infallible and God's Word as fallible.
Ham is correct about the lack of research. Wilkinson is working off of anecdotes and conversations. He could quote Glenn Morton, however, who left young earth creationism exactly for the reasons that Wilkinson writes about.  There are others out there, I am sure.  I personally know of one person who walked away from the faith after being home schooled using a young-earth curriculum.  When she got to college, her faith was rocked by the fact that there was quite a bit more evidence for evolution than she had been told.  Ham is also correct that there is invective and ad hominem in the post.  It would have been better if the writer had steered clear of such language. 

On the other hand, Ham, himself, has been guilty of the same kind of behavior, personally attacking Peter Enns to the point where Ham was dis-invited from a home schooling conference for his lack of Christian spirit.  He seems to be unrepentant about this.

Additionally, Ham is guilty of a "one way" approach to the scriptures, in which there is no value placed on either current or past interpretation.  Scripture is revealed directly to us and we do not question what it says or how it says it.  Consequently, passages that have provoked discussion and disagreement in the past are rendered flatly, with no color or depth.   He seems to be unwilling to admit that there may be different interpretations of scripture out there by very thoughtful, honest Christians.  Everyone who thinks differently from him is guilty of believing "progressive Christianity."

Most of the folks at BioLogos and the ASA are charitable to young-earth creationists, even if they don't agree with them.  There is no such reciprocity from Ham.  In describing the EC/TE mindset, he is venomous, calling us "more dangerous to Christianity than the atheists."  More dangerous to Christianity than Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and Sam Harris?  Really?  We seek to follow God, understand His ways and trust in Jesus as our savior, just as Ham does and yet, for him, that counts as nothing.  That is sad. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Study: Ardipithecus ramidus Derived In Human Direction

According to Bill Kimbel and colleagues, the skull of Ardipithecus ramidus shows tell-tale signs of being derived in the human direction away from great apes.  From Science Daily:
White's field-research team has been recovering fossil remains of Ardipithecus ramidus in the Middle Awash research area, Ethiopia since the 1990s. The most recent study of the Ardi skull, led by Suwa, was published in Science in 2009, whose work (with the Middle Awash team) first revealed humanlike aspects of its base. Kimbel co-leads the team that recovered the earliest known Australopithecus skulls from the Hadar site, home of the "Lucy" skeleton, in Ethiopia.

"Given the very tiny size of the Ardi skull, the similarity of its cranial base to a human's is astonishing," says Kimbel.

The cranial base is a valuable resource for studying phylogenetic, or natural evolutionary relationships, because its anatomical complexity and association with the brain, posture and chewing system have provided numerous opportunities for adaptive evolution over time. The human cranial base, accordingly, differs profoundly from that of apes and other primates.

In humans, the structures marking the articulation of the spine with the skull are more forwardly located than in apes, where the base is shorter from front to back and the openings on each side for passage of blood vessels and nerves are more widely separated.
Given that the post-cranial remains from Ardipithecus suggest facultative bipedalism, this is not so surprising. If you are going to walk upright at all, you need to be able to see where you are going. This information, in conjunction with the new appraisal of the Orrorin tugenensis remains strongly suggests that, while Orrorin was at or near the junction of the last common ancestor, Ardipithecus, at 1.6 million years later, is quite a bit beyond it. It also reinforces what a terrible model the modern apes are for early human morphology.

More Info on the Ken Ham/Bill Nye Debate

The Columbus Dispatch has a short piece on what to do if you didn't get tickets for the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate.  The write, in part:
The museum says it’s still possible to watch the debate by reserving a live video stream for $4.99. The stream is free with pre-orders of debate DVDs and/or digital downloads ranging from $12.99 to $24.99.
For information, visit
I will probably watch the stream and get a copy of the debate, as well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ken Ham on the Upcoming Debate

Answers in Genesis has written up a pre-debate post on their website.  "Layman" writes:
The agreed-upon topic for the 7 PM debate is “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
Ken Ham Debates Bill Nye

“A debate with Mr. Nye, nationally known for his children’s TV program and for promoting evolution, will be one of our major events in 2014 to highlight how children and teens are being influenced by evolutionary thinking," declared Ham. “This year, our AiG theme is ‘Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids.’ Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation/evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters.”

Ham added, “I hope to show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.”
I will be curious to see what "observational" science he brings out. One of the principle problems with the arguments against an old earth is that they cannot be used to show that the earth is six thousand years old. When you read the creationist literature, each of the methods is used only to show that the earth cannot be 4.5 billion years old. There is usually no lower limit mentioned. To my knowledge, there is no observational data that can be used to show that the earth is between six and ten thousand years old or that the earth was under water between 2400 and 2500 B.C.  If Nye takes this attack,  it will not go well for Ham.  

Thursday, January 09, 2014

HufPo: What We Learned About Human Origins In 2013 Will Blow Your Mind

The Huffington Post has a story on the advances in human origins for the last year.  In the realm of modern human origins:
Recent analyses of fossil DNA have revealed that modern humans occasionally had sex and produced offspring not only with Neanderthals but also with Denisovans, a relatively newfound lineage whose genetic signature apparently extended from Siberia to the Pacific islands of Oceania.
This year, hints began emerging that another mystery human lineage was part of this genetic mix as well. Now, the first high-quality genome sequence from a Neanderthal has confirmed those suspicions.

These findings come from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, where the first evidence of Denisovans was discovered in 2008. To learn more about the Denisovans, scientists examined DNA from a toe bone unearthed there in 2010.

The researchers found that the fossil belonged to a Neanderthal woman. Her DNA helped refine the human family tree, as it revealed that about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern people outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin, whereas about 0.2 percent of DNA of mainland Asians and Native Americans is Denisovan in origin. [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]
As Dennis Venema points out, modern humans appear to come from a population of around 150,000, which likely arose in North Africa.  I would still suggest two possibilities that might explain the hybridization.  One, that from around this time to 50 thousand years ago, humans existed as a generally polytypic species and that interbreeding, until the demise of the Neandertals and the Denisovans was, perhaps, widespread.  In the 50 thousand years since then, these genes have stochastically dropped out of the population.

The other possible model that would explain the variation between Neandertals, Denisovans and early moderns might be a syngameon, in which there are three definable species that, at their peripheries, hybridize.  At some point, then, the modern humans simply swamped the other two genomes. This would be the model of modern-day dogs and wolves which can mate but ordinarily do not. 

Another finding?  That early Homo may have been one highly-variable species, rather than a bush of species:
The level of variation seen in Homo fossils is typically used to define separate species. However, analysis of 1.8-million-year-old skulls excavated from the Republic of Georgia revealed the level of variation seen among those skulls was about the same as that seen among ancient African Homo fossils. As such, researchers suggest the earliest Homo fossils may not be multiple human species, but rather variants of a single lineage that emerged from Africa.
This will rattle those that hold to more cladistically-driven models of human origins like Ian Tattersall who supports a model more like the phylogenetic species concept, in which  single trait difference might confer species-level taxonomy.  This takes care of this issue of why there are two very different morphs on the landscape in East Africa at this time, represented by ER 1813 and ER 1470.  The dimorphism is quite large, but, as we discovered, is not beyond what would be expected in any species of large-bodied hominoid but larger than what would be found in any living population of humans in the last several hundred thousand years. 

A good run-down.  Read the whole thing. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ark Encounter Sinking, Ham Blames "Spiritual Battle"

As has been reported here and elsewhere, the Ark-n-Park is in danger of not being built because of lack of funding. Recently, The city of Williamstown released some junk bonds to be bought that would provide funding for the amusement park.   Now it seems that the bonds are not selling. Morgan Lee of the Christian Post has an update on the problem:
In a recent fundraising letter, Answers in Genesis (AiG) President Ken Ham claimed that the organization's theme park's current financial woes were "an indication of the immense spiritual battle we are in."

To open the Kentucky attraction, which would include a full-scale, 510-foot-long model of Noah's Ark, AiG must sell $29 million in unrated municipal bonds by Feb. 6 to avoid triggering the redemption of the $26.5 million of bonds that have already been sold.
  As for the reason this might be, Ham suggests it isn't just the money:
Without specifically mentioning any names or reports, Ham also suggested AiG's bond selling process had been sabotaged by atheists and that inaccurate media coverage had in turn led to some of its financial obstacles.

"From atheists attempting to register for the bond offering and disrupting it, to secular bloggers and reporters writing very misleading and inaccurate articles about the bonds, to brokerage firms saying 'yes,' but after reading these incorrect reports saying 'no' in allowing the Ark bonds into their client accounts—the obstacles were numerous and disruptive," wrote Ham. "Frankly, it has been an extremely stressful and frustrating time for all of us."
Ham does not say who these people are.  Nor does he say what the misleading information that is being published is but it is possible he is referring to the Slate article.   The answer may be a bit more mundane than that.  As Mark Chappatta of Bloomberg wrote:
Industrial-development bonds are considered the riskiest municipal debt because they account for the largest proportion of defaults in the $3.7 trillion municipal market. Williamstown issued the bonds without a rating, making the prospect of repayment even less clear.
Mark Stern of Slate elaborates:
As Answers in Genesis readily admits, the bonds “are not expected to have any substantial secondary market” and are “not an obligation of AiG.” Somewhat alarmingly, the bonds are unrated, an indication that they’re extremely risky—and almost impossible to resell. High risk, higher yield: These, in essence, are creationist junk bonds.
Would you buy them? I wouldn't, even if I thought the cause was a worthy one (which I don't).  The funding issues may also be simply be that God is fed up with the Disney-ization of fundamental evangelical Christianity.  Maybe it isn't a war against principalities.  Maybe the park just shouldn't be built.  Maybe God looked at the "Ten Plagues of Egypt Fun Ride" and thought "enough is enough."   Maybe.  

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

New Proposed Virginia Bill is Redundant

Climate Progress, a branch of Think Progress has a story on a new "strengths and weaknesses" bill that is being proposed for the public school system in Virginia.  Two things are interesting about the story: how the bill actually reads and how Climate Progress thinks it reads.  First, the bill, itself actually does not mention either evolution or climate change anywhere.  Part A reads:
A. The Board and each local school board, division superintendent, and school board employee shall create an environment in public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes.
That is as close as it gets to actually mentioning the hated sciences. Climate Progress, on the other hand, in its opening paragraph on the bill, writes:
A new bill, up for consideration this year in the Virginia General Assembly, would give Virginia’s public school teachers permission to teach about the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “scientific theories” like evolution and global climate change. The bill is part of a national trend of legislative proposals, led by creationist organizations like the Discovery Institute and climate-change deniers such as the Heartland Institute.
The bill is being promoted by state representative Dickie Bell and a cursory reading of this story would make one think that Bell is going directly after evolution and climate change.  Further, the Climate Progress story goes on:
Bell told the Hampton Roads Daily Press that the bill was intended to protect teachers who might otherwise be disciplined for how they responded to questions from students about topics like evolution. He noted that since the state does not require teaching of alternatives to the theory of evolution, “introducing them into instructional discussion would not seem appropriate.”
If you go to the story in the Daily Press: it reads thus:
One of the handful of former teachers in the General Assembly, Del. Richard "Dickie" Bell, R-Staunton, has been thinking of an awkward spot teachers can find themselves in. Specifically, science teachers when a student asks about alternatives to scientific theories.

For instance, evolution.

Bell says his bill is intended to protect teachers from disciplinary action if people don't like the way they respond to questions about scientific theories.
Did Bell actually say "evolution," or is that the tacit assumption?  His statements about evolution are, in fact, very vague.  It only comes up when he is asked whether or not alternatives to evolution ought to be taught, to which he replies in the negative.  Since the bill, itself, is so scrupulously nondescript in its language,  one cannot help but wonder if he is working off the failed attempts at similar legislation that actually single out the hated sciences.

It seems reasonable to assume that Bell had climate change and, perhaps, evolution in mind when he drafted this legislation.  It is poor legislation and redundant in the sense that what is being proposed should already be a part of the curriculum. Additionally, the "strengths and weaknesses" wording has now become stigmatized as being anti-science in general and specifically anti-evolutionary where its instigation has been attempted.  Whether or not evolution and climate change are mentioned, based on this example of the Climate Progress story, that is clearly what people see.  Fueling this assumption is that, as the Climate Progress story notes, Bell has had the support of Ken Cuccinelli, who has been notable in denying the role of humans in climate change.  Cuccinelli has notably been absent in the evolution debate, however.

Consequently, before we castigate Bell for his anti-evolutionary views, perhaps we ought to make sure that he has them.  He might, but I don't think we can conclusively determine that from this set of stories. 

I have tended to separate the debate on evolution from the debate on climate change because I know a good deal more about the former than the latter and because, rightly or wrongly, I tend to encounter a disturbing number of atmospheric scientists and meteorologists who question the conclusions emanating from the studies being currently conducted and their extrapolations.  I know of no biologists who question evolutionary theory. 

Additionally, evolution, as a scientific discipline, is over 150 years old (older if you count the pre-Darwinian formulations), while climate science is in its infancy.  Therefore, I get uncomfortable when the two are lumped together and argued as a package.

The best thing for this bill is to have it die in committee, like many others of its kind.

Oh Well...

The Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate tickets are already sold out.  How popular is this?  800 tickets sold out in twenty minutes.  According to the site, there are tickets available for a simulcast from the museum. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Bill Nye to Debate Ken Ham

Bill Nye the Science Guy is slated to debate Ken Ham, head of the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis.  This debate is set to happen at the main hall of the Creation Museum at 7:00 p.m. on February 4.  Tickets are $25 and will be available from Answers in Genesis beginning tomorrow (The event link is at the bottom of the page).  I may try to get up there for this.  On the other hand, I bet the local churches will bus people in by the hundreds just to make sure that Bill Nye is given a hard time so tickets may sell out fast.  Here is the story on ABC News:
The event is likely to attract plenty of attention in scientific and faith circles, as Nye is a high-profile advocate of science education and Ham is a respected leader among Christians who believe the Bible's origin story is a factual account of the Earth's beginnings.

Ham had been hoping to attract the star of TV's "Bill Nye The Science Guy" to the northern Kentucky museum after Nye said in an online video last year that teaching creationism was bad for children. The video was viewed nearly 6 million times on YouTube.

"Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation-evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters," Ham said in a release Thursday.
Ham, it seems, has gotten his wish. The problem is, because of format issues and the fact that the audiences for these debates tend to not be up-to-speed on the science, they rarely go well for your average scientist. Bill Nye is not your average scientist, however and has a folksy, down home way of explaining things.  Hopefully, that spirit will prevail.  Look for Ham to be patronizing and evasive.   Here is the Youtube video that got it started.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Atlantic Also Wonders Why Support Among Republicans is Dropping

David A. Graham, of The Atlantic, also wonders why support is dropping among Republicans for Evolutionary theory.  He writes:
One possibility is that respondents who identified as Republican and believed in evolution in 2009 are no longer identifying as Republicans. Fewer scientists, for example, are reportedly identifying with the GOP, and the overall trend is for fewer Americans to call themselves Republicans. But both Gallup and separate polling from Pew found approximately the same party ID in 2009 and 2013.

Another is that the rise of "intelligent design" education has helped to swing younger Americans against evolution. Yet the age breakdown remains similar in 2009 and 2013, with respondents ages 18 to 29 most likely to believe in evolution.

What does that leave? Maybe the gap represents an emotional response by Republicans to being out of power. Among others, Chris Mooney has argued that beliefs on politically contentious topics are often more rooted in opposition to perceived attacks than anything else—an instance of "motivated reasoning." Given that Democrats have controlled the White House and Senate since 2009, this could be backlash to the political climate, though it will be hard to tell until Republicans control Washington again.
Given that people do not tend to change their religious perspectives based on who is in office, I do not think this is it, either.  Something is being missed here. I think it is possible that the rise in Republicans who reject evolution is being influenced, at least in part, by the uptick in the number of self-described conservatives being home schooled.  From an Education News story in March:
More than 2 million children around the U.S. are homeschooled, a number that is 75% higher than it was in 1999. And the number is expected not just to grow, but to grow exponentially over the next decade — especially since the advent of free virtual public schools and quality curriculum all around the country.
While the story is quick to point out that the parents of these children are increasingly choosing this route not just because of religious reasons, conservative Christians are still vastly the bulk of those being home schooling.  I have found very few home school curricula that do not exude antipathy toward evolution.  This  has been the case for some time. Arguing against this perspective is the fact that a higher percentage of younger people accept evolution.  However, we don't know about the educational breakdown, apart from "did you graduate from college or not?"  How many of those evangelical protestants that reject evolution were home schooled?  It would be nice to know.  In any event, however, it can only be one factor of many due to the relatively small number of children involved.  The reasons behind the drop in support are likely multifaceted.

BTW: there is one very unusual response collected by the poll that I missed the first time around.  Among self-described mainline protestants that accept evolutionary theory, 36% think that evolution was guided by God and 36% think that God was not involved.  If you are a self-described mainline protestant in the second batch, how does that work exactly?  You believe in God but you don't think He has acted in the evolution of biodiversity on the planet?  What does He do?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Pew Poll: Views on Evolution Driven By Religion More Than Education?

Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes for the Salt Lake Tribune and suggests that, buried in the Pew poll on evolution, religious affiliation is a much greater predictor of evolution acceptance than education.  She writes:
While education matters, the new analysis suggests that religion appears to have more influence than level of education on evolution. The 21-point difference between college graduates and high school graduates who believe in evolution, for example, is less stark than the 49-point difference between mainline Protestants and evangelicals.

Evangelicals are four times as likely to reject human evolution as mainline Protestants, with 64 percent of evangelicals saying that "humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." Half of black Protestants say humans have not evolved, compared to 15 percent of white mainline Protestants who share the same opinion.

Those with more years of formal education are more likely than those with less education to say that humans and animals have evolved over time. Seventy-two percent of college graduates say humans have evolved over time, compared with 51 percent of high school graduates who say the same thing.
The problem with this analysis, of course, is that there is no one-to-one correlation. How many of the mainline protestants are college graduates?  How many of the evangelicals?  Unless you can isolate those patterns, you cannot say for sure if this is an accurate analysis.