Posts Tagged 'evolution'

A Biological Joke

I’ve gone all quiet on here again, but I must issue a ‘standing order’ to anyone coming across the blog in the future (or until I update next): let me know if any Creationists take the following seriously.

A new study into the transfer of genetic material laterally, or across taxonomic divisions, has shown that evolution does not proceed as Darwin thought, and that in fact the present theory of evolution is entirely false. Instead, it transpires that lateral genetic transfer makes new species much more like Empedocles‘ “random monster” theory over 2000 years ago had predicted.

Publishing in the Journal of Evolutionary Diversions, the major journal in the field, Professor Augustus P. Rillful and his colleagues of the paragenetics laboratory at the University of Münchhausen in Germany have shown experimentally that the ability of DNA to cross species boundaries at any distance makes the origin of species a solved problem, only it is solved in a way that Darwin never envisaged. This new theory, called Empedoclean Evolution, explains why novel traits can be found in many different taxonomic groups independently. Instead of being “discovered” by natural selection and then passed on to descendants, a solution can be “found” entirely by chance and shared throughout the living world, even between single celled organisms and plants or animals. (Source)

Okay, I’ll admit it: at first I actually thought this was serious, although I was wondering why the hell nobody was making a bigger deal about it. (At the very least, I’d expect news like this to cause every biologist on Earth to collectively swoon and faint – in that order.) It’s an April Fool’s day joke, of course, but posted a bit early.

Now, how long before some Creationist starts to triumphantly declare that ‘the Darwinists are changing their story again!!!!!’? I’d give it twelve hours, maximum.

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Creationist Nonsense – A Brief Roundup

I haven’t got much time for blogging right now, so here are two oppurtunities for you to go and laugh at Creationists:

Via that ‘Community Post’ thing on the WordPress dashboard, this exasperated plea for some sort of intelligence (or reading comprehension skills) among Creationists. The comments section has really exploded, too, so wade in if you feel like it.

Sickening at times, frustrating and maddening always. The claims of a Y.E.C. (Young Earth Creationist), who purports the earth is less than ten thousand years old, have nothing to base their claims upon other than a book deemed sacred by its creators. Instead, with little to substantiate any assertion they make, the YECs go on the offensive and attempt to attack evolutionary theory, a well supported scientific understanding in regards to the process of change in biological organisms over time and how this explains biodiversity on the planet.

A noble endeavour, but how many times has your average YEC been told this? They just aren’t listening.

Elsewhere, P.Z. Meyers is also pleading for some sort of return to common sense, but his rather magnificent smackdown is aimed solely at the Texas Board of Education, which seems to be enthusiastically running science education into the ground:

The Texas Board of Education is led by Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist and plagiarist who believes that the earth is only 6000 years old.

Just stop there and savor it. The man who wants to dictate what all of the children in one of the largest educational systems in the country should learn about science believes his pathetic and patently false superstition supersedes the evidence and the informed evaluation of virtually all the scientists in the world. There is no other way to put it than to point out that McLeroy is a blithering idiot who willingly puts his incompetence on display. His job is not at risk, and he’s even advancing his freakish agenda with some success.

[…]

But wait! The unbelievable insanity is not yet complete! The Texas school board is debating and will vote on a revised curriculum this week, a curriculum in which the uninformed, uneducated doubts of this arrogantly ignorant man will be enshrined in the lesson plans of every child in Texas. And the board is about evenly split!

I’m usually fairly polite when I talk to Creationists, but I feel this is the appropriate tone to take when they turn dangerous (that is, get some sort of actual power or influence).

Do you live in Texas? Are you opposed to raging lunacy? If so, get out there and do something!

Comedy Hour, Conservapedia Style

Today is apparently some sort of ‘Atheist pride’ day, so I shall quickly fulfill my contractual obligations:

I am extremely proud to be an atheist. Well, that’s not entirely true; I don’t see being an atheist as something that one should be ‘proud’ of. But I’m not ashamed of being an atheist, so I guess that’s something.

But instead of engaging in intellectual self-gratification, let’s all celebrate atheism by dissecting a truly miserable example of an attempt at discrediting it. You may be lucky enough to have never visited Conservapedia – if so, keep your unsullied cursor as far away from that vile link as possible. (Should you be using some sort of newfangled touch-screen device, even greater caution is advised.) Those of you who have already been exposed to its toxic influence, however, may safely peruse its decaying ‘Atheism’ series with me.

Conservapedia likes to say that it’s  ‘honest’ and ‘trustworthy’, unlike that hippy-infested other encyclopedia. This is a filthy lie, and everyone involved probably knows it. The Conservapedia editors engage in just about every act of intellectual dishonesty in the book, all of which are present in their Atheism series. Taken as a whole, it resembles a sort of deadly cocktail of stupidity, ignorance and dishonesty the likes of which you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere on the internet. Here’s a brief rundown of its biggest failings.

Accentuating the negative. There are very few movements or ideas that are completely bad. Even the Nazi party, who most people would agree are pretty close to being the living embodiment of pure evil, did some good during their reign. Intellectual honesty demands that one admits this.

The Conservapedia editors apparently disagree, as their main atheism article is almost entirely negative. Nietzche and other ‘unsavoury’ atheists are brought up frequently, and atheists in generally are implied to hold a great many unpopular beliefs. (Beyond the obvious ones, I mean). This habit of accentuating the negative aspects of atheists reaches a ludicrous height with the heading ‘Tenuousness of Atheism in Prominent Atheists’, which cites exactly two examples as evidence: Charsles Darwin and Jean-Paul Sartre. Well, I’m convinced.

The God-damn quote mining. I don’t have to explain what ‘quote-mining’ is, do I? It’s one of the most irritating practices that Creationists engage in (among much else, of course), and you can find examples of it on the less reputable Creationist websites and blogs. Which is to say, 99% of them.

According to Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg “Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.”[108] Given that the evolutionary position is a often cited component of the ideology of atheism in the Western world, the gradual loss of public support of the evolutionary position is one of the many factors which are eroding the ideology of atheism. Oxford scholar Alister McGrath cites a number of additional factors in regards to the decline of atheism as an intellectual position.[109] [110]

Given the many factors which are eroding atheism as a intellectual position McGrath states:

…Atheism is in trouble. Its future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its natural habitat.[111]

This is not how you write an encyclopedia article, you twits.

Conservapedia is pretty much built on the practice of quote mining. Its articles are positively stuffed with quotes, usually taken as authoritative evidence for sweeping generalisations or even for factual statements. (The evolution article is, predictably, the absolute epitomy of this. Horrifyingly, it’s also their current ‘Article of the Year’.) The quotes they use are very obviously picked in order to fit with the general ‘atheism is bad’ theme of tha article, which brings us to the next problem…

It’s biased as hell. Despite Conservapedia’s stated mission, it’s one of the most blatantly biased sites on the internet. The atheism article is not an explanation of what atheism is, it’s an explanation of what atheism is plus endless poorly thought out reasons for believing that atheism is bad. The evolution travesty is the same, except that it doesn’t even include a coherent explanation of the theory.

Perusing Conservapedia’s sources and references reveals an unsurprising bias at work there as well – WorldNetDaily (yes, really), Christian apologetics websites and Creationist books are frequently used, while places where you’re likely to find opposing views seem to be largely ignored.

The writing is terrible. It’s really, really terrible. The first paragraph of the Atheism article is confusingly worded as if it’s the introduction to an essay rather than an encyclopedia article, and most of the headings are laughable. There’s no real order to anything, which is why we’re treated to such diverse and important topics as ‘Atheism and Deception‘ and ‘Anti-Atheism Blogs‘. The Wikipedia article, on the other hand, moves from definitions to common rationale to history, but I guess coherent structure is a hallmark of liberal-commie-homosexual-evolutionists.

I’m sure there’s more, but trawling through the site’s seedier back-alleys is giving me a headache. It’s not all bad, though – I found a book called Refuting Evolution, which is available online for free! Having skimmed some of it, I can heartily recommend it. Not as anything even remotely resembling science education, mind you, but it does serve as an excellent compendium of Creationist stupidity.

If you’ve got any more hilariously awful sites that need to get more attention, let me know in the comments section.

Roundup

I’ll most likely be quiet over the weekend, so here’s a brief roundup of potentially interesting links.

Vagina – The Clown Car Movement. This one gets in solely for its title, but the content is pretty spot-on as well. Contraceptives are not evil, kids.

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What If God Disappeared? A humorous video about what the world would be like if God disappeared. (Hint: You wouldn’t notice much difference.)

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And to prove that I’m not completely biased, here’s one from Atheism is Dead: “Expelled Exposed” Exposed. It completely fails to address the primary problems with both ID (it’s a crock) and Expelled (it’s crap), but feel free to trawl through some of the many links. The rest of the blog is quite…well, it’s something, I’ll put it that way. (And what the hell is the banner image of?)

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Atheists frequently ask for evidence of God’s existence, and  this is a pretty typical example of the kind of vague handwaving that irritates us so much. The real comedy is in the comments section, though:

Almost twenty three years ago, I was a God and believer hater. I wanted nothing to do with God or His people. I even went out of my way in college to take courses that would help me deny God.

Then, through a seventeen year old girl, whom Father had placed in my life at the time, I began to experience His truth, forgiveness, grace, love and LIFE! Like your friend, Kliska, it was as if a light had gone on in my head and heart in an instance, and all of a sudden I could see and experience Father and all that He had for me. It was, in my reality, truly a miracle!

And they wonder why we don’t take them seriously….

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I forgot this the first time around: according to the latest Field Poll, a slight majority of Californians are still against Proposition 8 (emphasis on the ‘slight’, unfortunately – we’re talking 51% of those polled here, although only 42% said they were definitely for the ban). While it’s good that support for that particular piece of odious legislation hasn’t increased, it’s also a bit disheartening that more Californians haven’t come to their senses.

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Finally:

(Note: One or the other is also acceptable, but not two moms or two dads. For some reason.)

Note: One or the other is also acceptable, but not two moms or two dads. For some reason.

(Taken from the bafflingly named ‘Digital Network Army‘, who seem to really dislike gays. They don’t let you alter their images, which is why the guy doesn’t have crazy googly eyes photoshopped onto his face and why little addition isn’t pasted into the white space to the right. Killjoys.)

Anthropocentrism!

For some reason, monotheism seems to go hand-in-hand with the idea that all of Creation is here ‘for us’, including all of the stuff outside the observable universe that we’ll never, ever be able to interact with. (Alternatively, one can go with the idea that everything is in existence ‘for God’, but it very frequently amounts to the same thing.) This is, I’m convinced, why so many people have a problem with evolution – it’s just not dignified enough to think that we (wait for it) ‘came from monkeys’.

I wouldn’t have thought that this concept coult extend to something as trivial as the size of the human genome, but PZ Meyers reveals otherwise:

4) The Human Genome Project showed that only 1-2% of Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes. These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism. What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.

This is fast becoming one of the most popular assertions by creationists. Exactly how many genes would be sufficient to account for the complexity of a human being? Show your work. How many genes do we need to have to make you happy, and why should your sense of self-worth be a reason for us to have more?

Less than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome. I don’t quite get the point of complaining that it’s not enough, becaust obviously, it is enough, or we wouldn’t be here.

They always seem so dismayed that humans have that number — it’s never shock that mice or birds have that many, or that flies have about half as many. It’s apparently a very personal issue to them, sort of like how many millimeters long their penis is. Come on, creationists! Be proud of your 25,000 micrometers! (Source)

The article he’s quoting can be found here, and seems to be part of the Creationist ‘find a PhD’ game. I was under the impression that doctors actually have to know something about science, but Jeffrey Dach appears to have slept through the important lectures on that one.

The true horror only comes in his ‘references’ section, though: he links to the Discovery Institute and Conservapaedia, twin intellectual cess pits of the internet. Ouch. If I was running the Salon.com servers, I’d be looking into industrial strength hard drive bleach right about now.

An Excellent Example of Creationist Stupidity

I’ll take a quick potshot at Creationism today, since it’s easier and less time-consuming to write about than what I usually cover. Via Tangled Up In Blue Guy, an excellent example of someone speaking authoritatively about something they have no clue about:

To shock the Darwinists out of their denial of the overwhelming evidence in Greek art for the reality of Genesis events, the author urges Creationists to refer to evolutionists as what they imagine they are—”Slime-Snake-Monkey-People.” Mr. Johnson, who holds a general science degree from West Point, also suggests that since Slime-Snake-Monkey-People insist they evolved over millions of years through a countless series of random mutations, Christians should also refer to them as “mutants.”

If  you’ve ever spent much time on any Creationist websites or blogs, this will be depressingly familiar. How many glaring errors are they in this single paragraph? Let’s count them together!

1. To shock the Darwinists out of their denial of the overwhelming evidence in Greek art for the reality of Genesis events…

If any enterprising Creationists are reading this, feel free to go and find me a verified, accepted  example of a scientific impossibility being proven by examining ancient artwork. I’ll sit here and wait.

2. the author urges Creationists to refer to evolutionists as what they imagine they are—”Slime-Snake-Monkey-People.”

The phrase I’ve highlighted is stupid for obvious reasons, but it also contains a string of scientific inaccuracies. Evolution is not a linear progression from ‘slime’ to ‘snake’ (?) to ‘monkey’ (??) to ‘people’ – this isn’t even correct as a cartoonish abstraction of what the theory of evolution describes. Of course, it’s difficult to reduce masses of phylogenetic trees to a sarcastic string of words, so I guess ‘Mr. Johnson’ decided (as Creationists always do) that reality is something that can be discounted.

Another problem is, of course, that even if evolution was a linear progression from ‘ancient animals’ to ‘human’, snakes and monkeys wouldn’t be anywhere on the list. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it repeated that modern animals did not evolve from other modern animals, but whoever taught Johnson his general science apparently didn’t get the memo.

3. also suggests that since Slime-Snake-Monkey-People insist they evolved over millions of years through a countless series of random mutations, Christians should also refer to them as “mutants.”

I’m guessing this is supposed to be insulting, but I’m having trouble figuring out why. Under this (erroneous) definition, every single living organism on the planet is indeed a ‘mutant’. In internet-speak, the author of this erudite piece has ‘failed hard’.

Groan

Remember those ‘disclaimer’ stickers some Creationists wanted on high-school biology textbooks? Well, they’re back! Courtesy of PZ Meyers, this is apparently what Mississippi’s elected officials want on all textbooks that mention the theory of evolution:

The word ‘theory’ has many meanings, including: systematically organized knowledge; abstract reasoning; a speculative idea or plan; or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.

This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered a theory.

Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things. There are many topics with unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: the sudden appearance of the major groups of animals in the fossil record (known as the Cambrian Explosion); the lack of new major groups of other living things appearing in the fossil record; the lack of transitional forms of major groups of plants and animals in the fossil record; and the complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body possessed by all living things.

Study hard and keep an open mind.

I particularly like this one – if it’s approved, it will be the only disclaimer sticker I’ve come across (on any product) that sounds like exactly like  a cut-and-paste job from Answers in Genesis. Honestly, though, I’d expect any half-decent student to be able to see through bullshit like ‘No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered a theory’. If this is a shocking revelation to anyone, they’re probably not intelligent enough to understand the textbook anyway.

Oh, and as Meyers points out, the main thrust of the sticker’s ‘argument’ is basically an invitation to revise textbooks so that they contain more information about the technical details of evolution. That sounds like a fantastic idea to me!