Recently in Creationism Category

Paabo_2014_Neanderthal_Man_cover.jpgPeople have been sending me this, so I might as well blog it. In February 2014, Svante Pääbo, who led the Neanderthal genome project, published a popular book on the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, and reactions to it.

I haven’t yet read the book, although I’m sure it’s great, based on talks I have seen by Pääbo. However, there is one passage that PT readers may find particularly interesting:

Svante Pääbo (2014). Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes. Basic Books; First Edition (February 11, 2014), 288 pages http://www.amazon.com/Svante-P%C3%A[…]e/B00GJ9XR7O

p. 221:

There were many others who were interested in the Neanderthal genome – perhaps most surprisingly, some fundamentalist Christians in the United States. A few months after our paper appeared, I met Nicholas J. Matzke, a doctoral candidate at the Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics at UC Berkeley. Unbeknownst to me and the other authors, our paper had apparently caused quite a flurry of discussion in the creationist community. Nick explained to me that creationists come in two varieties. First, there are “young-earth creationists,” who believe that the earth, the heavens, and all life were created by direct acts of God sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. They tend to consider Neanderthals as “fully human,” sometimes saying they were another, now extinct “race” that was scattered after the fall of the Tower of Babel. As a consequence, young-earth creationists had no problem with our finding that Neanderthals and modern humans had mixed. Then there are “old-earth creationists,” who accept that the earth is old but reject evolution by natural, nondivine means. One major old-earth ministry is “Reasons to Believe,” headed by a Hugh Ross. He believes that modern humans were specially created around 50,000 years ago and that Neanderthals weren’t humans, but animals. Ross and other old-earth creationists didn’t like the finding that Neanderthals and modern humans had mixed. Nick sent me a transcript from a radio show in which he [meaning Hugh Ross] commented on our work, saying interbreeding was predictable “because the story of Genesis is early humanity getting into exceptionally wicked behavior practices,” and that God may have had to “forcibly scatter humanity over the face of the Earth” to stop this kind of interbreeding, which he compared to “animal bestiality.”

Clearly our paper was reaching a broader audience than we had ever imagined.

By David MacMillan

Following the joint interview with Dan Phelps and Terry Mortenson on WEKU-FM, David MacMillan wrote a letter to Dr. Mortenson. This article is based on that letter. Dr. Mortenson responded to Mr. MacMillan’s letter, but unfortunately requested that his response be kept confidential. Odd behavior, it seems to me, for someone who is itching for a debate; Dr. Mortenson is welcome to respond here any time he likes.

Panda’s Thumb recently posted a guest contribution by Dan Phelps, who was interviewed along with Answers in Genesis’s Terry Mortenson on WEKU-FM, Eastern Kentucky University’s NPR station. Dr. Mortenson, for his part, posted his own discussion of the interview on the Answers in Genesis website. As a former creationist and AIG guest author who has recently been writing about the creation-evolution controversy in light of Ken Ham’s recent debate with Bill Nye, I thought Dr. Mortenson’s comments provided a particularly good example of one of the biggest problems with the creationist movement.

By Dan Phelps ([Enable javascript to see this email address.])

This is a guest contribution by Dan Phelps, who participated in a sort of warm-up debate before the infamous Nye–Ham debate. Mr. Phelps’s contribution was inspired in part by a challenge for a formal debate by his interlocutor, Terry Mortenson, who, astonishingly, admitted that he has “no credibility in the scientific community and little even within Christian circles.” Mr. Phelps evidently looked further into Dr. Mortenson’s background and discovered at least some of the reasons that Dr. Mortenson lacks credibility, period.

Nye-Ham debate an hour away

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And you may watch it here on NBC or here on WCPO, Cincinnati.

Piers Morgan will interview the debaters on CNN at 9:45 EST, and MSNBC will interview Bill Nye during the 10:00 hour, EST. C-Span will rebroadcast the event Wednesday, February 19 at 8 p.m. EST, according to WCPO.

If you cannot wait till the end of the debate, you may leave comments below at any time. I suggest that we allow comments from (many of) our creationist trolls, as long as they are coherent. I will not allow comments that are merely insulting.

Bill-Nye-vs.-Ken-Ham-Debate_f_improf_645x254.pngEveryone seems to be talking about the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate which is occurring in a few hours. I’m not going to watch it, at least not immediately. I’m not 100% against debating creationists, but I do think science-defenders should try to not give the contest away before it even starts.

For a long time I’ve been developing a list in my head of what scientists and science educators should think about even before they even agree to appear in a debate. Bill Nye made all of these mistakes at once, and therefore, even if he and his bow-tie have the best day of their lives, he’s lost on a lot of fronts already. All Ken Ham has to do to win is not break down in tears and admit he’s based his life on a horrible mistake.

Therefore, here are my…

TEN (well, 7 & counting) COMMANDMENTS THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT, AND RESOLVE, BEFORE YOU EVEN AGREE TO DEBATE A CREATIONIST

Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, will participate in an “extended interview” with Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis. The participants will discuss the question, “Is teaching creationism harmful to children, society?” at 11:00 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, January 30, on WEKU of Richmond, Kentucky. It looks like you can get it streaming. I will refrain from noting that modern journalism thinks there are two sides to every question, even when there are not.

Does any reader know of any other, similar warm-ups or “extended interviews”?

That is the title of a Slate article by Zack Kopplin. But actually it is much worse (see also NCSE’s take here). Here are the first 3 paragraphs of Kopplin’s article.

By David MacMillan. The author has a B.S. in physics from the University of North Alabama and once wrote a very positive review of the Creation Museum.

It’s rare to see a prominent scientist or educator agree to a public debate with someone from the creation science movement. Giving equal time to both sides might be a foundational principle of American dialogue, but it paints the issue as more of a controversy than it actually is. That’s why it surprised a lot of people when Bill Nye, science educator and TV personality, agreed to debate the president of Cincinnati’s Creation Museum, Ken Ham.

Bill Nye to debate Ken Ham?!

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Let us hope not, but a reader just sent me the following from Mr. Ham’s Facebook page:

Well the big news for 2014 as we begin this new year is that in February, at the Creation Museum, I will be debating the well known Bill Nye The Science Guy! In the next day or so we will post more details including how you can buy tickets to this event. It’s quite rare these days for such a well known evolutionist to publicly debate a creationist–so we do expect a lot of media interest. For now, I just wanted to let you know about this–keep watch for details!

If it is true, I sincerely hope Mr. Nye will reconsider. There is nothing to debate, and a “debate” with Mr. Nye will only give Mr. Ham credibility that he does not deserve and increase not only his visibility but also his ability to attract investors. May I suggest that Mr. Nye take his cue from the noted Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, who told the magazine Limmud,

If Limmud’s organisers invited Lipstadt to participate in a panel discussion with [Holocaust denier David] Irving, she would refuse point blank. “I don’t debate Holocaust deniers. Putting him on a panel would mean someone lost their mind. He’s a liar – why give a liar a platform?”

I sometimes bowdlerize that to “I do not debate liars,” and it is a policy I recommend to anyone who is tempted to “debate” a creationist. Whether you win or lose, you will convince no one and will only add to the prominence of your opponent, who can now say, “See, I debated a prominent scientist; I must be taken seriously now.”

Please, Mr. Nye, do not “debate” with Ken Ham or any other charlatan. No good will come of it – no good can come of it.

Update, January 2, 9:30 MST: February 4, at the Creation “Museum,” $25.00. See here.

The bad news: Only 67 % of Democrats accept evolution. The worse news: Only 43 % of Republicans accept evolution. The very worst news: The Republicans are down 5 % from 4 years ago. This, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, as reported by CBS news in an article entitled “Republicans’ belief in evolution plummets, poll reveals.”

More precisely, Pew asked whether “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, or humans and other living things have evolved over time.” You may see the report, “Public’s views on human evolution,” here.

Pew reports a number of “key findings,” such as organizing the data as a function of religion; no surprises there. Approximately 1/3 of all adults agree “that humans and other living things have evolved over time and that evolution [was] due to natural processes,” whereas approximately 1/4 of all adults believe that “[a] supreme being guided evolution.” 4 % “don’t know,” so altogether 60 % of adults accept evolution. The breakdown by religion was equally unsurprising. Interestingly, however, across every demographic, slightly more people think that “[nonhuman] animals have evolved over time” than that “humans have evolved over time.”

Finally, I use “accept” evolution, rather than Pew’s and CBS’s “believe in,” because evolution – descent with modification – is a scientific fact and not a belief.

Ham-fisted animal husbandry

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Gwen Pearson, an entomologist formerly known as Bug Girl, has performed sort of a retrospective analysis of the Ark Park‘s facilities for caring for its animals. You might have thought that the Ham-merheaded proprietors of the Ark Park would have performed a prospective analysis but evidently you would have been mistaken. Cheer up! Here is Dr. Pearson’s advice to the Ham-itic designers:

Ark Park as Xanadu?

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A Slate article the other day compared the Ark Park to Coleridge’s Xanadu: “an extravagant vanity project born out of boundless narcissism and ambition.” An apt comparison, except of course that in the poem Kubla Khan actually builds his stately pleasure-dome – and he does not float junk bonds to do so.

That is the headline of a press release printed unedited in the Sacramento Bee. The movie, by Ray Comfort of banana fame, is an excruciating 35 minutes of quote-mined sound bites, mostly from undergraduate science majors, but also from PZ Myers and a handful of other scientists (Gail Kennedy, Craig Stanford, and Peter Nonacs).

Freshwater: Still waiting for the Ohio Supreme Court

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John Freshwater’s appeal of his termination as a middle school science teacher in the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, public schools is still hanging fire in the Ohio Supreme Court. Decisions normally are promulgated between three and six months following oral arguments, and it’s been four months since the February 27, 2013, arguments in this case. The Mount Vernon News had a story on it last week.

More below the fold.

Under the heading Creationism Follies, Heather L. Weaver, an ACLU staffer, recalls the infamous fourth-grade science quiz that we described here on May 1. Being an ACLU staffer, Weaver notes that “religious schools are well within their First Amendment rights to indoctrinate students in this manner.” Not being an ACLU staffer, I note that they may have a legal right to teach students any kind of garbage that they like, but they have no intellectual right to do so, and schools that teach creationism as if it were truly science should lose their accreditation. Indeed, recent court decisions have upheld the University of California’s right to require remedial courses for students who have been miseducated at religious high schools.

But what about the public schools? Weaver outlines what she calls “just a few examples of creationism advocates working their influence in the public schools during the 2012-2013 school year”:

Don't you hate it when you get up in the morning and the first thing you read on the internet is the news that your entire career has been a waste of time, your whole field of study has collapsed, and you're going to have to rethink your entire future? Happens to me all the time. But then, I read the creationist news, so I've become desensitized to the whole idea of intellectual catastrophes.

Today's fresh demolition of the whole of evolutionary theory comes via Christian News, which reports on a paper in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution which challenges the ape to human evolutionary theory. Wait, that's a journal I read regularly. What did I miss?

My old friend, the Alert Reader, sent me a cartoon that he claimed had appeared on Ken Ham’s Facebook page. Captioned “Famous sayings of Ken Ham,” the cartoon shows a caricature of Ham and three balloons, including this one:

It’s designed to do what it does do.

What it does do it does do well.

Doesn’t it?

Yes, it does.

I think it does.

Do you? I do.

Hope you do, too. Do you?

I found it hard to believe that the cartoon was not a parody and wondered why it is found on Ham’s own Facebook page. The Alert Reader responded with the following, also reportedly from Ham’s Facebook page:

Snopes.com yesterday verified that a “science” test (below the fold) given to 4th graders at a sectarian school is in fact real. Answers in Genesis, meanwhile, vilifies anyone who objects to such nonsense being taught as science, calling them “intolerant atheists” who “viciously attack [a] Christian school.”

Musings from the mind of a mouse

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Casey Luskin is such a great gift to the scientific community. The public spokesman for the Discovery Institute has a law degree and a Masters degree (in Science! Earth Science, that is) and thinks he is qualified to analyze papers in genetics and molecular biology, fields in which he hasn't the slightest smattering of background, and he keeps falling flat on his face. It's hilarious! The Discovery Institute is so hard up for competent talent, though, that they keep letting him make a spectacle of his ignorance.

I really, really hope Luskin lives a long time and keeps his job as a frontman for Intelligent Design creationism. He just makes me so happy.

His latest tirade is inspired by the New York Times, which ran an article on highlights from the coelacanth genome. Luskin doesn't think very deeply, so he keeps making these arguments that he thinks are terribly damaging to evolution because he doesn't comprehend the significance of what he's saying. For instance, he sneers at the fact that we keep finding conserved elements in the genome, because as we all know, there are lots of conserved elements.

AIG live chat on “When was the Ice Age in Biblical History?”

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This ought to be good. In a comment, diogeneslamp0 alerts us to a live chat on that topic scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) on the Facebook page of AIG’s Answers Magazine. Diogeneslamp0 notes

On the topic of how kangaroos got to Australia after Noah’s Flood: at 2pm tomorrow, April 16 Answers in Genesis will hold a live chat at Facebook about AIG’s marvelous Super-fast Ice-Age Timeline and Map (which has the Ice Age lasting from about ~2220 to ~2115 BC, and all recorded human civilization post-2100 BC). I predict that any pointed questions they receive will be deleted quickly and permanently, so if you want some entertainment you will have to monitor it live. You may want to copy and archive any choice questions they receive before they’re deleted.

I presume that AIG’s “2:00 pm” is Eastern Daylight Time (=1800 GMT). Diogeneslamp0 has some representative questions one might ask at the linked comment.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Creationism category.

Bible as Science is the previous category.

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