Rewriting history: How creationism stays successful

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Tomorrow is the final day of the Indiegogo fundraising campaign for We Believe In Dinosaurs, the documentary film about Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and the effects that creationism is having on science and education in the United States. I’ve been proud to work with the filmmakers for the past few years, and I’m really excited about the project.

One thing I talk about in the film is why creationists seem to have enjoyed such a surprising amount of success in promoting their views. The primary answer, I think, is that the general public simply doesn’t grasp just how far young-earth creationism falls from reality. During his 2014 debate with Ken Ham, Bill Nye suggested several times that the acceptance of young-earth creationism will ultimately hinder science education and damage America’s scientific acumen. While that’s certainly true, I also argue the converse: a lack of science education and scientific awareness is what allows creationism to thrive essentially unchecked.

Darwin Day—Evolution Weekend coming up

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The Clergy Letter Project’s Evolution Weekend this year coincides with Darwin Day; Darwin’s birthday was February 12, 1809.

The anniversary of Darwin’s birth is Sunday, February 12. You may find a great many events, so far beginning February 6 in Tyler, Texas, and ending February 18 in Fargo, North Dakota, on the Darwin Day website. That is not counting several events in 2018 and one in 2019. You may add your own event here.

The Clergy Letter Project states, “260 Congregations from 43 States and the District of Columbia representing 7 Countries are scheduled to participate in Evolution Weekend 2017.” You may see a very long list organized by state and then foreign country on their website. Not all of the events will occur precisely during Evolution Weekend, so it will be wise to check.

As a member of a territorial species, I looked for Colorado, where I live, and found one celebration of Darwin Day in Salida, hosted by the Central Colorado Humanists. Five churches and one synagogue, mine not among them, are planning Evolution Weekend events in Colorado. Look around; you may find events near you.

Hemaris diffinis

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Photograph by Al Denelsbeck.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Pentatomidae
Hemaris diffinis – bumblebee moth at butterfly bush. Mr. Denelsbeck writes, "I spotted this one while on the phone, and it was cooperative enough to still be at the bush when I returned with the camera (still on the phone too – headsets are very handy). The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) seemed to be almost intoxicating, since I was able to work very close to the various pollinators visiting that day. Bumblebee moths (H. diffinis) and their close relatives hummingbird clearwings (H. thysbe) demonstrate very good examples of aposematic coloration, mimicking less tasty species to avoid predators. They're easy to spot at a distance, however, by knowing a few simple traits. Bumblebees always land on the flower they're feeding from, while Hemaris never do, and true hummingbirds move much faster and dart back and forth. It would seem, however, that predators haven't tumbled to this yet...."

Disagreement over Homo naledi offers fascinating peek into creationist peer review

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Guest post by David MacMillan. David MacMillan is a former creationist and AiG supporter who earned a degree in physics in 2012 and began writing publicly against creationism in 2014. He has written a previous series on creationist arguments for Panda’s Thumb and just completed filming We Believe In Dinosaurs, an upcoming documentary about creationism, science, and the Ark Encounter.

Scientists have recently discovered a new species in our family tree. The unearthing in 2015 of more than 1,550 bones buried in a South African cave, representing as many as fifteen individuals, was one of the most significant finds in the story of humankind’s descent. The new species, Homo naledi, has been described as a small bipedal hominin with a mixture of human and australopithecine traits. Perhaps most exciting was the location of the bones; their burial en masse in a remote, hard-to-access cave suggests that they were intentionally placed there, establishing the earliest signs of deliberate disposal of remains by early hominins.

As I expected at the time, creationists were quick to insist that H. naledi couldn’t possibly be evidence for human evolution. However, though they all predictably agreed that it wasn’t a transitional form, they were completely unable to agree on what it was. Some saw the apparently intentional burial in a cave (which would have required the use of fire for artificial light) as undeniable evidence of humanity, while others pointed to the small cranial size and numerous australopithecine traits as an argument against this. Dr. Joel Duff of Naturalis Historia wrote a series of posts as the various responses emerged, illustrating the utter inability of creationists to reach any sort of resolution.

The controversy gives us outsiders a glimpse into just what makes these groups tick. Creationist organizations are less focused on research and more focused on presenting a veneer of authority, as this earns the greatest amount of loyalty from their followers. So it was important for them to present an authoritative-sounding answer; after all, if there really are no “missing links”, then the true nature of a discovery like H. naledi should be readily apparent. The disagreement in their collective responses, however, only demonstrated what mainstream science already recognized: H. naledi really did have a mixture of modern and plesiomorphic traits.

Twittersaurus rex: Ken Ham takes the defensive

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Did the Flood kill the dinosaurs? To Ken Ham, it’s really stinking important.

Guest post by David MacMillan.

It’s no secret I’ve been working for the last few years with 137 Films on their upcoming documentary, We Believe In Dinosaurs. The film, which is expected to release early this year, explores the ins and outs of modern creationism, exemplified by Ken Ham’s 100-million-dollar Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. I’m featured in the film as a former creationist who not only helped raise money for the Creation Museum but also used to write for Answers In Genesis. My involvement apparently raised some degree of ire from Ken Ham, who was initially receptive to participation in the film but has now decided it is a “mockumentary” intended to make creationism appear ridiculous. (Note: I’m not sure Ham knows what a mockumentary actually is. Ken Ham and other creationists got to tell their side of the story, so if they look ridiculous, that’s on them.)

After the film’s directors and I conducted a live Reddit IAmA about the documentary, a Washington Post affiliate writer penned a brief article about the Ark and about creationism in general. In the article, the author mistakenly stated that Ken Ham believes dinosaurs went extinct during the Flood.