Friday, October 31, 2014

The Pope Has Spoken (and He Sounds Like the Last Couple of Popes)

Pope Francis has, according to CNN, taken a stand against creationism. Heidi Schlumpf writes:
Liberal American Catholics greet almost anything uttered by Pope Francis with glee, but his latest pronouncement has them scratching their heads. Headlines proclaiming "Pope says evolution, Big Bang are real" could have been written in 1950.

That's when Pope Pius XII announced that Catholic doctrine and evolution could be compatible, an attitude endorsed--and even expanded upon--by Pope John Paul II, who said evolution is "more than a hypothesis" and "effectively proven fact." Pope Francis is just following in those footsteps.

"God is not a divine being or a magician, but the creator who brought everything to life," the Pope said Monday in an address to a gathering on "Evolving Concepts of Nature," hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of things that evolve."
As Schlumpf notes, Benedict appeared to waffle some on evolution initially before concluding that, yes, it was a good, sound theory.  Not so with Francis.  While this is, not necessarily new news, that Francis is getting the position out into the open is a good thing and a needed counter to organizations like AiG.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fred Clark on Croco-Ducks, Kirk Cameron, Creationism and Spinosaurus

Fred Clark, over at Patheos has an interesting post in which he notes the discovery of Spinosaurus, a dinosaur from Hell that was 50 feet long with six-foot spines, and has been called a "half duck, half crocodile."  This has produced a good deal of amusement on the part of a number of commentators who remember the idiotic statement on Fox News made by Kirk Cameron (under the tutelage of Banana Ray) that evolution could not possibly be true because he had never seen a Crocoduck.  Now we actually have one and the world is waiting for his response. We might be waiting a long time.  Clark has this to say:
What’s really amazing about this video isn’t Cameron’s unintentional Nostradamus-like evolution prediction skills, it’s what’s going to happen next.


Despite the damning evidence, we won’t see any creationist anywhere budge for their deeply entrenched position of denial.

You see, to any logical person not bound blindly to ideology it is clear that this is yet one more nail in the coffin of creationism. Probably, the most ironic nail of all.

But I’m betting we won’t hear a peep out of Cameron’s camp.


Because arrogance and denial are the foundation of fundamentalism.

You see, they had no problem arrogantly denouncing evolution in their ridiculous video because that’s what fundamentalism is built upon – the arrogance of ignorance.
The reason for this is something that I have danced around for some time but never come right out and accused the leaders of modern day creationism of: straight-up dishonesty. He continues:
Poor Kirk Cameron is a willing, but not an able, spokesman for “scientific creationism.” What he’s shooting for here is the young-Earth creationists’ claim that the fossil record is full of missing links — that transitional fossils have never been found.

The professional scientific creationists — the folks who are well-versed in this stuff and make their living promoting it — know that’s a lie. And because they know it to be a lie, they understand how the lie is meant to work, and thus they’re able to tell that lie much better than Cameron. He believes it, but he clearly has no idea what it is he believes. So he goes for the “croco-duck,” which demonstrates about the same level of understanding as the ever-popular, “Oh yeah? Then why are there still monkeys? Hah!” argument.
If you repeat a lie long enough, more people will believe it. But that does not make it any less of a lie.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Freshwater Out of Appeals

The Columbus Dispatch reports that former Mt. Vernon school teacher John Freshwater was, correctly, dismissed from his job:
A silent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday puts the weight of the nation’s highest court behind what Ohio’s high court already found: that former Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater was rightly fired in 2008 for refusing a direct order to remove religious materials from his science classroom.

This puts a merciful end to Freshwater’s slog through an administrative appeal that dragged out over two years and cost the district’s taxpayers nearly $1 million, followed by an unsuccessful appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court and on to the nation’s high court.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tyler Francke: The top 10 signs that you don’t understand evolution at all

I hate it when I discover a resource that I should have known about all along.  I just ran across Tyler Francke's blog God of Evolution.  He has written a post titled: The top 10 signs that you don’t understand evolution at all. His opening point is one that I made in the last post about Ken Ham and have reiterated numerous times on this blog:
1. You think “it hasn’t been observed” is a good argument against it.
Popularized most recently by Ray Comfort’s mind-bendingly bad, gospel-poisoning movie, “Evolution vs. God,” this claim generally betrays not only a misunderstanding of evolution, but science in general. If the idea (that “scientific evidence must be both observable and repeatable”) were carried to its logical conclusion, it would cripple not only the study of evolution, but every line of historical inquiry. We would, in fact, be prohibited from exploring most matters that cannot be brought inside or recreated within a laboratory, whether they be large (the composition and origin of stars, for example) or small (like the forensic recreation of a crime scene).
Making viable conclusions based on inferences from the available evidence is not at all unscientific, and it is this reasoning that has compelled us toward the theory of evolution. Interestingly, evolution is observable and repeatable in the sense that scientists can make and test predictions of the theory, and this is exactly what they have been doing for more than a century.
Throughout the rest of the post, he hits on every single one of the myths of evolution , many of which I have heard uttered by some of my friends (well, all except the Pokemon one). It is a litany of anti-evolution positions held by most of the general public with concise rebuttals.

And anybody who refers to Ray Comfort as “Banana Ray” gets my vote.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ken Ham and Cognitive Dissonance

Elizabeth Yale, writing for the Danforth Center of Religion and Politics, has an interesting article on Ken Ham and, generally, a short history (and indictment) of young earth creationism.  She writes:
Assenting to this vision of history requires a series of strategic denials. First and foremost for Ham and his organization is the denial that science, and scientists, can say anything at all about history. “Historical science” cannot be proved: no matter what geologists, biologists, and paleontologists might infer about the past by applying their knowledge of natural processes to the present conditions of the rocks, living organisms, and fossils, they were not physically present to witness the events their sciences explain. History is a thing written in a sacred book.
It is difficult to defend this position in any sort of logical fashion, because it not only applies to what happened thousands of years ago but, potentially to any past event. If Ken Ham goes walking in the forest one day and stumbles on a large section that is burned, based on his definition of science, there is no way to know what happened, even if he has an understanding of forest fires and how they work.This is patently absurd, yet, for all practical intents and purposes, this is how Ken Ham thinks. 

Read the whole thing.

Ark Encounter Hiring Update

Yahoo News is running a story that the state of Kentucky has contacted the organizers of the Ark Encounter in connexion with its CAD designer position.  Chief arkhead Mike Zovath has responded.  Steve Bittenbender writes:
The developer of a Noah's Ark-based theme park in Kentucky said on Wednesday he would fight for his religious rights after state officials warned he could lose millions in potential tax credits if he hires only people who believe in the biblical flood.

Ark Encounter, which is slated to open in 2016 in Williamston, Kentucky, is not hiring anyone yet, but its parent company Answers in Genesis asks employees to sign a faith statement including a belief in creationism and the flood.
It still isn't clear what the job ad actually says. The one I saw did not have a requirement of a statement of faith. This seems to be a case of the state preventing any possible future violations of the law. Absolutely none of this would be an issue, however, if Ham and co. had actually managed to get all of the funding privately. The fact that they are now issuing junk bonds to achieve the necessary funding is an indication that it will be a struggle to get it finished.

Hat tip to Panda's Thumb.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

PBS Antiques Roadshow on Scopes Trial

The Antiques Road Show on PBS has a short historical sketch on the Scopes trial, in Dayton, Tennessee.  I found that if you “Play All”, the images and text whiz past too quickly but maybe that is a browser setting.