Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

THE ONION | Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held “theory of gravity” is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

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(Now, this one is satire for sure.)

Intelligent Design is a Philosophy Of Ignorance

This is Neil Degrasse Tyson at his best: scientist, historian, philosopher, teacher…

Here We Go Again: Creationists Get Influential Positions in Texas Science Textbook Review

It looks like the Lone Star State’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-science fanaticism is about to be reinforced. At least six creationists/”intelligent design” proponents succeeded in getting invited to review high school biology textbooks that publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide in November which textbooks to approve. Those textbooks could be in the state’s public school science classrooms for nearly a decade.

Among the six creationist reviewers are some of the nation’s leading opponents of teaching students that evolution is established, mainstream science and is overwhelmingly supported by well over a century of research. Creationists on the SBOE nominated those six plus five others also invited by the Texas Education Agency to serve on the biology review teams. We have been unable to determine what those other five reviewers think about evolution.

Although 28 individuals got invites to review the proposed new biology textbooks this year, only about a dozen have shown up in Austin this week for the critical final phase of that review. That relatively small overall number of reviewers could give creationists even stronger influence over textbook content. In fact, publishers are making changes to their textbooks based on objections they hear from the review panelists. And that’s happening essentially behind closed doors because the public isn’t able to monitor discussions among the review panelists themselves or between panelists and publishers. The public won’t know about publishers’ changes (or the names of all the review panelists who are in Austin this week) until probably September. Alarm bells are ringing…

Guess Who Wins?

EVOLUTION vs GOD
A FILM REVIEW BY INGRID HANSEN SMYTHE

“I believe it’s going to take down evolution. It exposes it as bogus science. That sounds like a bold claim, but it’s true.”1
—Ray Comfort

“There is no refutation of Darwinian evolution in existence. If a refutation ever were to come about it would come from a serious scientist—not an idiot.”2
—Richard Dawkins

Ray Comfort, the professional preacher and proselytizer best known for his unwitting invention of the banana fallacy, is on the attack once again with his latest film Evolution vs. God. According to one reviewer this is a powerful film that leaves evolutionists “clutching at straws,”3 and Ray Comfort himself has issued a warning, saying, “I would say not to watch it if you are someone who believes in evolution, but you are weak in the faith.”4 Creationists claim that ever since the film’s release evolutionists have been in “damage control”5 and most significant of all, there’s been “an eerie silence from Professor Dawkins.”6 One imagines the beleaguered Dr. Dawkins sweating and grimacing in his underground biology bunker, surrounded by troll-like Darwinians all frantically trying to get their stories straight. “All right, people, next on the agenda is the doctrine of speciation. Who has faith in that godless heresy? Can I see a show of hands, please?”

It is astonishing to think that, of all people, Ray Comfort (now commonly known as Banana Man) has discovered, through his own tireless research, that the geneticists, the biochemists, the zoologists, the biologists, the geologists, the paleontologists, the ecologists, the comparative anatomists and physiologists, the cosmologists—the whole lot of them—have been entirely mistaken all this time. And if Ray’s film does what it claims, it will mean a scientific revolution on a scale the like of which has never been seen in the history of humanity. Note too that, in this film, Ray doesn’t interview any “creation scientists” as they rather comically call themselves,7 but only experts in the relevant disciplines, finally letting the godless Darwinians speak for themselves. How amazing that the Everest-like mountain of hard evidence for evolution might be razed to the ground in one brief 38-minute film by a man with only a high school education and a reputation for being, as Dawkins says, an idiot.8 Truly this is the mother of all David-and-Goliath tales, and so it was with great expectations that I settled in with my peanut butter and banana crackers and watched Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith…

Read the Review

"Intelligent Design" Destroyed

This video explains why the concept of “design” in biology is useless, and how it only very narrowly describes objects commonly attributed to design, such as cars; that these machines were also the result of ages of separate innovations and adaptations. They did not come into the world in their present forms.

Conspiracy Road-trip : Creationism

Comedian Andrew Maxwell takes five British creationists to the west coast of America to try to convince them that evolution rather than creationism explains how we all got here. Stuck on a bus across 2,000 miles of dustbowl roads with these passionate believers, Maxwell tackles some firmly held beliefs - could the Earth be only 6,000 years old, and did humans and T-Rex really live side by side? Was the Grand Canyon carved out by receding flood waters? It’s a bumpy ride as he’s confronted with some lively debates along the way, but by the end could he possibly win over any of these believers with what he regards as hard scientific fact?

Some interesting dynamics when the believers start to turn on each other as they are confronted with the evidence.

thenewenlightenmentage:

Is An Alien Message Embedded In Our Genetic Code?
The answer to whether or not we are alone in the universe could be right under our nose, or, more literally, inside every cell in our body.
Could our genes have an intelligently designed “manufacturer’s stamp” inside them, written eons ago elsewhere in our galaxy? Such a “designer label” would be an indelible stamp of a master extraterrestrial civilization that preceded us by many millions or billions of years. As their ultimate legacy, they recast the Milky Way in their own biological image.
Continue Reading

So once again, the answer to the origin of complex intelligence is even more complex intelligence.

thenewenlightenmentage:

Is An Alien Message Embedded In Our Genetic Code?

The answer to whether or not we are alone in the universe could be right under our nose, or, more literally, inside every cell in our body.

Could our genes have an intelligently designed “manufacturer’s stamp” inside them, written eons ago elsewhere in our galaxy? Such a “designer label” would be an indelible stamp of a master extraterrestrial civilization that preceded us by many millions or billions of years. As their ultimate legacy, they recast the Milky Way in their own biological image.

Continue Reading

So once again, the answer to the origin of complex intelligence is even more complex intelligence.

confrontingbabble-on:

The struggle for science only…in the science classroom…continues
“The latest in their continuing series of “academic freedom” bills is HB 1674, brought to you by Gus Blackwell, a GOP state representative who spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. But his bill is not about religion, how could you even think that? No, according to Blackwell, it’s all about scientific exploration.

“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

To translate from the GOP-ese, the bill allows students to make faith-based claims in their science homework and tests without being graded appropriately. It would forbid teachers from giving a student an “F” on such papers. In plain-speak, it dictates to science teachers what they can accept as legitimate learning in their classroom. The bill is being considered by the Oklahoma Common Education committee (oh, that is such an easy mark, isn’t it?) today.
This isn’t the first bill introduced in the Oklahoma legislature that seeks to water down scientific education in that state. And they sure are persistent about it: there have been eight different anti-evolution bills introduced in the Oklahoma legislature since 2004. Other states are joining in the fun, too. In Missouri, there’s a new bill that requires teachers and textbooks to include creationism in their curriculum. You may facepalm now, I’ll wait.
But it gets better (or worse for we reasonable folk)… there is a companion bill to HB 1674 in the state Senate: SB 758 would protect students, teachers and schools from being penalized for subscribing to alternate theories. I’m not sure what they mean by “penalized” here, maybe getting an “F” for maintaining despite overwhelming evidence that evolution is false?
Eric Meikle, a man with what must be one of the most frustrating jobs in the country, education project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), says that the biggest problem with these bills is that they are open-ended and easily misinterpreted. But since they are really only code for the anti-science crowd there isn’t much he can do other than maintain his stance that we can’t teach kids every dumbass (my word, not his) theory since time began.
The one bright spot in the bill is that students can still be tested on the things they don’t believe in. But only, says Blackwell, because they need to learn about them to find their weaknesses. And that much is fine, in my opinion. Science is about questioning and, in a truly open academic setting, all ideas should be examined, if only to debunk them. But for these religious nuts, the opposite is true. While they expect to be able to punish dissenters to their beliefs, they go bananas if theirs should be questioned in public schools and forums. But what does it say about those beliefs when adherents feel compelled to make laws protecting them? If something can’t stand up to scrutiny then it should be tossed onto the scrapheap of science. Students shouldn’t be wasting their time – and our tax money – on religious education. And, really, that’s all this bill is… a way to make room in the public schools for belittling science and coddling ignorance, all in the name of faith.”
Read in full http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/02/19/oklahoma-bill-would-allow-students-to-debunk-science/

confrontingbabble-on:

The struggle for science only…in the science classroom…continues

“The latest in their continuing series of “academic freedom” bills is HB 1674, brought to you by Gus Blackwell, a GOP state representative who spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. But his bill is not about religion, how could you even think that? No, according to Blackwell, it’s all about scientific exploration.

“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

To translate from the GOP-ese, the bill allows students to make faith-based claims in their science homework and tests without being graded appropriately. It would forbid teachers from giving a student an “F” on such papers. In plain-speak, it dictates to science teachers what they can accept as legitimate learning in their classroom. The bill is being considered by the Oklahoma Common Education committee (oh, that is such an easy mark, isn’t it?) today.

This isn’t the first bill introduced in the Oklahoma legislature that seeks to water down scientific education in that state. And they sure are persistent about it: there have been eight different anti-evolution bills introduced in the Oklahoma legislature since 2004. Other states are joining in the fun, too. In Missouri, there’s a new bill that requires teachers and textbooks to include creationism in their curriculum. You may facepalm now, I’ll wait.

But it gets better (or worse for we reasonable folk)… there is a companion bill to HB 1674 in the state Senate: SB 758 would protect students, teachers and schools from being penalized for subscribing to alternate theories. I’m not sure what they mean by “penalized” here, maybe getting an “F” for maintaining despite overwhelming evidence that evolution is false?

Eric Meikle, a man with what must be one of the most frustrating jobs in the country, education project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), says that the biggest problem with these bills is that they are open-ended and easily misinterpreted. But since they are really only code for the anti-science crowd there isn’t much he can do other than maintain his stance that we can’t teach kids every dumbass (my word, not his) theory since time began.

The one bright spot in the bill is that students can still be tested on the things they don’t believe in. But only, says Blackwell, because they need to learn about them to find their weaknesses. And that much is fine, in my opinion. Science is about questioning and, in a truly open academic setting, all ideas should be examined, if only to debunk them. But for these religious nuts, the opposite is true. While they expect to be able to punish dissenters to their beliefs, they go bananas if theirs should be questioned in public schools and forums. But what does it say about those beliefs when adherents feel compelled to make laws protecting them? If something can’t stand up to scrutiny then it should be tossed onto the scrapheap of science. Students shouldn’t be wasting their time – and our tax money – on religious education. And, really, that’s all this bill is… a way to make room in the public schools for belittling science and coddling ignorance, all in the name of faith.”

Read in full http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/02/19/oklahoma-bill-would-allow-students-to-debunk-science/

The Top 10 Creation Myths

(From LiveScience) A collection of the ‘top 10’ creation myths. I really don’t know how they determined the top ranking but it is a nice little quick introduction of ten different major creation myths.

The Top 10 Creation Myths

(From LiveScience) A collection of the ‘top 10’ creation myths. I really don’t know how they determined the top ranking but it is a nice little quick introduction of ten different major creation myths.

We all have hundreds of DNA flaws, UK geneticists say-BBC News -

wildcat2030:

Everyone has on average 400 flaws in their DNA, a UK study suggests. Most are “silent” mutations and do not affect health, although they can cause problems when passed to future generations. Others are linked to conditions such as cancer or heart disease, which appear in later life, say geneticists. The evidence comes from the 1,000 Genomes project, which is mapping normal human genetic differences, from tiny changes in DNA to major mutations. In the study, 1,000 seemingly healthy people from Europe, the Americas and East Asia had their entire genetic sequences decoded, to look at what makes people different from each other, and to help in the search for genetic links to diseases. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote All of our genomes contain flaws; some of us will carry deleterious variants but will not be at risk of acquiring the associated disease for one reason or another.” Dr Chris Tyler-Smith Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute The new research, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, compared the genomes of 179 participants, who were healthy at the time their DNA was sampled, with a database of human mutations developed at Cardiff University. It revealed that a normal healthy person has on average about 400 potentially damaging DNA variations, and two DNA changes known to be associated with disease.

Intelligent Design in Practice

doubtingmarcus:

I have a challenging question for you: What does Intelligent Design predict? Stumped? Perhaps it’s because, despite the protestations by ID proponents, that it is a trick question. There is a gap between what proponents say and how they behave in practice.

There’s no doubt that if you ask a proponent of ID what it predicts they will rattle off a list including specified complexity, irreducible complexity, no useless DNA, the rapid appearance of complexity in the fossil record, etc. However, this seems to me to be a smokescreen because ID proponents often don’t act as though they believe ID makes those specific predictions.

If you venture over to the Discovery Institute to peek at their definition this is apparent:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection

This sounds like something that is testable but the devil is in the lack of detail. If I were to tell you that the atomic theory were incorrect you surely would ask me in what specific manner. However, the major contention of ID in practice, as seen in this definition, is that some yet unspecified dimension of biology is incompatible with evolution by natural selection.* This could be said to be the reason why demonstrating a specific claim of ID to be wrong, like the alleged irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, doesn’t in practice cause proponents of ID to abandon the theory as a whole. The details that a specific example of irreducible complexity is wrong doesn’t matter because, to them, there must be some example of irreducible complexity somewhere. If we can find no irreducible complexity, there must be come other trait which proves design.

They are, in essence, looking at a city which grew organically out of the needs of its people, conceding it looks organic but saying that if we look close enough, we know not where yet, we will find that some portion of the city was planned in some way. Making such an argument fails a test of inference when comparing design to competing hypotheses but for those that attempt to criticize the latest specific arguments of ID proponents ID will always be a shifting target.

_____________________

*It’s also worth noting it could be seen as a straw-man to say evolution is undirected. In a very real sense it is “guided” by whatever currently available mutations exist which is what leads to the incompetent design we all know and loathe.