God hates flop

Creationists are a special kind of crazy. Their entire fucking belief system centers around gullible acceptance of fanciful stories, and their lack of self-awareness and intellectual reflection means that they view everything else in the world in terms of unquestioning acceptance of imaginary tales. They just aren’t capable of thinking any other way. If they were, they wouldn’t be creationists.  And since they write hoping to influence (i.e. corrupt) young children, their prose is geared towards generating simple-minded mnemonics and catchphrases rather than eloquence or mellifluousness. Hence the title of this recent article from creation.com:

The 3 Rs of Evolution: Rearrange, Remove, Ruin—in other words, no evolution!

The genetic changes observed in living things today could not have turned bacteria into basset hounds—ever

Alliteration nourishes the lazy brain.

Mr. Catchpoole is clearly hoping to add another catchphrase to the creationist repertoire. Maybe “Rearrange, Remove, Ruin” will join other creationist stalwarts like “From Goo through the Zoo to You” and “Were You There?” and “Design Implies a Designer” and other empty bromides that creationists endlessly regurgitate without ever actually thinking about. But probably not.

Anyways, let’s look at what Mr. Crotchpull has to say.

Evolution textbooks cite variation as being something upon which ‘evolution depends’.1 However, when one examines closely the claimed ‘demonstrable examples’ of ‘evolution’, they actually fall into three categories, which we can label here as the ‘3 Rs’.

Spoiler: He doesn’t actually look at any demonstrable examples (in scare quotes or otherwise). In fact, there is no discussion of any recent experimental evidence anywhere in the subsequent article. I’m sure you’re shocked to learn this.

‘R’#1: Rearrange existing genes

Careful examination of many purported instances of ‘evolution in action’ shows that such ‘variation’ actually already exists, conferred by genes that already exist.

In science, careful examination means looking at evidence gathered from experiments or collected from nature. In creationism, careful examination means ignoring distinctions and nuance and creating false dichotomies.

Of course evolution involves variation that is already there. It wouldn’t work the way it does if it didn’t prominently involve pre-existing variation. Natural selection does not create out of nothing. It modifies what already exists. This has been a core principle of the theory ever since fucking Darwin himself proposed it over 150 years ago.

Creationists want us to believe that there’s some kind of XOR relation between pre-existing variation and new variation. But there is nothing of the sort. Evolution involves both pre-existing variation and new variation. Both are essential to the theory.

Here’s a simplified example that shows this, and also how such genetic variety might be misconstrued as ‘evidence of evolution’. The two dogs in the top row of Figure 1 are a male and a female. They each have a gene that codes for short hair (inherited from its mother or father) and a gene that codes for long hair (inherited from the other parent). In combination, this gene pair for fur length results in medium length hair.2

Congratu-fucking-lations, you’ve achieved a less-than-rudimentary understanding of partial dominance. And need I even mention that he’s not referring to any actual dogs that were part of any actual experiment, but rather just to a cartoon drawing that accompanied the article? Keep that in mind.

A casual observer, looking only at the outward appearance, i.e. unaware of what is happening at the genetic level, might think: “There were no long-hair dogs in the parents’ generation. This long hair is a new characteristic—evolution is true!”

You’re operating under the assumption that the casual observer is even dumber than you are. People had noticed this phenomenon long before the theory of evolution came along, and Darwin was well aware of it.

But such a view is incorrect. The only thing this ‘evolution’ has done is to rearrange existing genes. There’s simply been a sorting out of pre-existing genetic information. There’s no new information here of the kind needed to have turned pond scum into poodles, Pekingese, pointers and papillons.

But such a view isn’t what evolutionary biologists are talking about. Your make-believe situation with the dogs is utterly fucking irrelevant. Experiments such as Richard Lenski’s long term E. coli experiments have demonstrated again and again organisms evolving new genetic traits which weren’t there before. Unlike your make-believe dogs, they did this with real organisms and used real genetic tests to see what genes were there already and what genes appeared in later generations. Why is it so hard for creationists to understand that reality trumps Magical Pretend Land?

I’ve got actual experimental evidence. You’ve got cartoon dogs. I win.

‘R’#2: Remove genetic information

What about natural selection, adaptation and speciation?

None of these represent the generation of any new microbes-to-mastiff genetic information either. In our ‘hairy dog’ example, if we were to send our new population of dogs, some with short hair, others with medium or long hair, to an icy, very cold location, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see natural selection at work, killing off any dog that didn’t have long hair (Figure 2, Line 1). When the survivors reproduce, the only fur-length genes passed on to the offspring are those that code for long hair (Figure 2, Line 2).

Thus we now have a population of dogs beautifully adapted to its environment. Biologists encountering our ice-bound population of dogs, observing them to be isolated3 from other populations of dogs, could argue that they be given a new species name.

So here we see natural selection, adaptation, and possibly even speciation—but no new genes have been added. In fact, there’s been a loss of genes (the genetic information for short-and medium-length hair has been removed from the population).

We don’t see anything here, because you’ve demonstrated nothing. You’ve taken a completely imaginary scenario and invented arbitrary rules for it. And here’s where you really fuck up…

Note that such examples of natural selection, adaptation and speciation are often portrayed as evidence for evolution, but the only thing this ‘evolution’ has done is to remove existing genes. If this population of exclusively long-hair dogs were now forcibly relocated to a steamy tropical island, the population could not ‘adapt’ to the hot climate unless someone re-introduced the short-hair gene to the population again, by ‘back-crossing’ a short-or medium-length hair dog from elsewhere.

You have your imaginary bullshit. I have actual evidence. The precise situation you describe has actually happened in real life, and guess what? The result was exactly the opposite of what you say.

In 1971, lizards were transported to the island Pod Mrcaru from the island Pod Kopiste in the Adriatic Sea. In 2008, the lizards on Pod Mrcaru were examined, and were found to have evolved a number of new traits, the most striking of which was a cecal valve in their stomachs. A whole new valve, in under 40 years! Genetic tests showed that they did not interbreed with any other lizards–they were wholly descended from the Pod Kopiste lizards, even though those lizards do not have a cecal valve (in fact, cecal valves are extremely rare in any species of lizard). This is exactly what the creationists insist cannot happen, and yet it does.

Once again, you have some cartoony shit that you pulled out of your ass. I have actual evidence taken from nature. I win.

This is exactly the sort of thing that our crop and livestock breeders are doing. They are scouring the world for the original genes created during Creation Week4 but which have subsequently been ‘bred out’ (lost) from our domestic varieties/breeds of plants and animals because of breeders artificially selecting certain characteristics, which means other features are de-selected (lost).

This just downright idiotic. Here’s an example. In the picture below, on the right is an ear of corn. On the left is corn’s wild genetic ancestor, which is called teosinte.

499px-Maize-teosinte

There is clearly more going on here than just a few genes being missing. The entire overall structure has been radically altered.

Strike three for your bullshit cartoons and imaginary scenarios.

So how about that third R?

However, there are forms of dog genes today which were not present at Creation but have arisen since. But those have not arisen by any creative process, but by mutations, which are copying mistakes (typos, we might say) as genes are passed from parents to offspring. You would expect such accidental changes to wreck the existing genes, and that’s what happens. For example, the dog pictured in Figure 3 has just such a mutated gene, resulting in ‘floppy ear syndrome’.5

“Wreck”? What the hell does that mean? That’s not a scientific term, and it is never defined in this article. Instead, the buttfuckingly stupid example of floppy ears on dogs is somehow supposed to explain how mutations “wreck” genes.

Dogs with this genetic mutation have weaker cartilage and cannot lift up their ears. So they just hang, floppy before dinner, and sloppy after it—unless their owners are diligent in cleaning them. Such regular attention to ear hygiene is necessary, as dogs with floppy ears are prone to serious ear infections, which can even lead to hearing loss.6 Not that their hearing was especially good anyway. As you might expect, dogs with erect ears are far superior to floppy-eared dogs at detecting prey by sound.7

So fucking what? The dogs that have floppy ears have no need to hunt prey by sound, so they aren’t harmed by this at all. This is like saying that a dolphin is “wrecked” because its limbs aren’t strong enough to walk around on land. When would it ever need to do that?

I can remember reflecting on this when I was an atheist/evolutionist, and wondering how such floppy-eared dogs could have ever evolved and survived in the wild.

You must have been the stupidest atheist in the universe.

I now know that they didn’t.

Yeah, no shit.

Instead this mutation in the genes has arisen since the original “very good” world (Genesis 1:31) was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17–19). The floppy-eared mutation in dogs is but one example of how a post-Fall world is very much “in bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–22).

How the fuck did you get from floppy ears to bondage?

And, no, that is not the explanation.  Floppy ears are an example of paedomorphosis, which can result from developmental processes like neoteny or progenesis. This involves alterations to regulatory genes which alter the time or pacing of sexual development and cause juvenile traits to be retained in the adult animal. It’s been the subject of experimental research ever since Dmitri Belyaev was able to recreate how dogs evolved from wolves, except this time using foxes. And he did this 50 years ago.

It’s not “wrecking” the genes. It’s making alterations which, if adaptive, will be preserved by natural selection. In the case of floppy ears, for domestic dogs “adaptive” means “humans like it”, and that’s what we see with dogs.

Why is this so important to consider, in the context of evolutionary claims that no Creator was necessary?

It’s not. Evolutionary biologists already understand floppy ears much better than you ever will, and unlike you, they have actual experimental evidence to back up their claims.

Evolutionary biologists, when pressed with the facts about natural selection, will concede that natural selection by itself can only remove existing genetic information. However, they argue that in tandem with mutations, natural selection would be a creative process.

But the floppy-ear mutation, for one, is a classic example of the widespread degradation of the genome—a downhill process. For microbes-to-man evolution to be true, evolutionists should be able to point to thousands of examples of information-gaining mutations, an uphill process, but they can’t.8 Mutations overwhelmingly ruin genetic information. Therefore evolutionists looking to mutations as being evolution’s ‘engine’ do so in vain.9 Thus they are left with no known mechanism capable of ever turning microbes into mutts—i.e. no way of ‘climbing’ up the supposed evolutionary ‘tree’.

This is why creationist fail. They fundamentally misunderstand the theory they’re arguing against, and end up making stupid arguments like this.

Evolution is not teleological. It has no direction. There is no path. “Good” and “bad” mutations are only good or bad relative to the environment the organism lives in. What’s good in one environment might be bad in another.

For this reason, there’s no such thing as “degradation” of the genome. What counts as a “good” genome depends on what kind of environment we’re talking about. In the wild, floppy ears might not be good. But living with humans, dogs with floppy ears have been successful and bred widely, and from a natural selection point of view that’s all that matters.

Note that while mutations degrade genetic information, sometimes an advantage arising from such degradation can outweigh the disadvantage vis-à-vis survival. While a floppy-eared mutant mutt might not last long in the wild, under human care—i.e. with regular ear cleaning—the equation changes. And what about the key moment when a buyer is looking for the ‘cutest’, friendliest pup in the pet shop window? Indeed, there is increasing evidence that the floppy-eared characteristic is strongly associated with tameness.10,11 Little wonder then, that floppy-eared dogs are so common today.12

Wait, so you acknowledge what I said earlier??? Then in what possible way could you mean “degrade”? Obviously you acknowledge that floppy ears actually benefit dogs in their human environment, so they’re not bad. So they haven’t been degraded or wrecked. Or is it that even in your tiny little creationist head you’ve never bothered to clarify just what the fuck those words are supposed to mean in this context?

Look, you’re conceding the point here. You’re acknowledging that in the right environment, a mutation might provide a survival benefit and, as a result, be preserved by natural selection. You basically just said that the evolutionists are right and natural selection preserves adaptive variations. In just one paragraph you completely undermined whatever garbled, nonsensical point you were trying to make about “degradation”. And yet you go on after this to spike the football and celebrate your victory over evolution, like a team that never looked at the scoreboard and doesn’t realize that they lost the game long ago, and in fact that last touchdown was in their own end zone. It’s just sad, really.

The Three R’s fail spectacularly. They’re supported by no actual experimental or observational evidence. Instead, they stand on only imaginary scenarios which either do not have any real life counterpart or are just childish recreations of rudimentary concepts. They don’t propose anything that evolutionary biologists hadn’t already considered (and often rejected). And in the end they undermine their own point. They boil down to a self-contradictory collection of nonsense founded on imaginary tales with arbitrary rules.

In other words, they are typical of religion.

Cloning the Language

There’s a widely cited term in the skeptical community about a commonly observed phenomenon in the gullible dingleberry community. Crank Magnetism, as it’s called, is the tendency of those who accept one ludicrous pseudoscientific or otherwise demonstrably false belief to accept others as well. So a creationist like Phillip Johnson also turns out to be an HIV/AIDS denialist.  Or a global warming denialist might also be a stem cell denialist. Essentially fucktardation in one realm of thought correlates positively with other realms of thought also being fucktarded. Stupidity spreads through one’s brain like the virus you deny exists, and makes your thoughts on a whole range of topics utterly fucktarded.

This is certainly true of the Discovery Institute, the primary driver behind the ball-crunchingly fucktarded pseudo-theory of Intelligent Design. They also are fucktarded in several other scientific domains, including the one I’m looking at today: Human Cloning. It also provides a perfect example of another odious practice that the superstitious and bigoted like to do: Appropriating Language. Observe:

Some worry most about the eventual birth of a cloned baby—an event that is still a long way off. But therapeutic cloning already poses an acute threat to human dignity.

It’s starting to reach the point where I cringe whenever I hear the word “dignity”, because it is more and more being used to attack things that have nothing to do with dignity. The damn Catholic Church claims that IVF techniques are an affront to human dignity, for fuck’s sake. Generally, “dignity” is more and more starting to mean “some airy idea or arbitrary rule that we will treat as more important than actual physical human beings.”

As Charles Krauthammer, who served on George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics, warned in the New Republic in 2002, creating cloned embryos for research—now accomplished—is “dangerous” because it reduces the cloned embryo to “mere thingness,” justifying “the most ruthless exploitation.”

Quoting Krauthammer, eh? That’s fucking hilarious, seeing as he once called you guys’ pet theory “tarted-up creationism” and thinks you Intelligent Design nuts are scientific phonies. But let’s see what this Iraq War supporter has to say about “dignity”.

He went on to say:

It is the ultimate in desensitization . . . The problem, one could almost say, is not what cloning does to the embryo, but what it does to us . . . Creating a human embryo just so it can be used and then destroyed undermines the very foundation of the moral prudence that informs the entire enterprise of genetic research: the idea that, while a human embryo may not be a person, it is not nothing. Because if it is nothing, then everything is permitted. And if everything is permitted, then there are no fences, no safeguards, no bottom.

Hey, Charles. Hyperbole just called. He said he wants you to tone it down, since even he’s embarrassed by this. Also, notice how he’s picked up the terms “exploitation” and “desensitization” from other issues and stuck them onto an issue to which they simply don’t apply. Remember, this is a single cell that we are talking about. One human zygote–that’s what therapeutic cloning produces. That’s it. It has no feeling, no thoughts, no experiences, no nerves, no brain. There is nothing there to be harmed in any way. A single cell has no dignity. It can’t be exploited. It has no senses. It is not a person. But in the name of “exploitation” and “desensitization” and “human dignity” we need to outlaw experimenting on it at the cost of valuable medical knowledge which could save thousands of real human beings.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine a trolley track with a fork in it. You’re at the switch. You can decide which track to send an out of control trolley down by pulling the switch.  On one track, there is a man tied to it. On the other track, a rack of petri dishes containing one thousand human zygotes. If you don’t pull the switch, the trolley will hit the man and kill him. If you pull the switch, it will hit the petri dishes and destroy all 1,000 embryos. What do you do?

If you answer “Pull the switch”, then you don’t believe zygotes are really people, since you’d be willing to destroy 1,000 of them to save one life.

If you say, “Don’t pull the switch and let the man die,” then you’re a fucking asshole.

The only effective preventative is to enact a comprehensive legal ban on human SCNT, not just the uses to which a cloned embryo may be put. Contrary to what the science intelligentsia, the biotechnology industry, and the mainstream media might claim, banning human SCNT is a step that is widely supported internationally. Indeed, in 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nationsvoted overwhelmingly in support of a non-binding resolution calling upon member states “to prohibit all forms of human cloning.”

Is there anything that the UN HASN’T issued a non-binding resolution on? I mean, Jesus, just about anybody can suck the right diplomatic cock and get a non-binding resolution through in the UN. And you gotta love how the right wing fuckberries rail against the evils of the UN and kowtowing to the international community…right up until they agree with them on something.

The devil will be found in how the term “cloning” is defined. In particular, we should be on the lookout for phony bans that actually legalize the SCNT process using human DNA. For example, many proposals would only outlaw “reproductive cloning.” But as we have seen, such a “ban” would not outlaw cloning at all, merelyone potential use that could be made of embryo made through cloning.

Yeah, kinda sucks when people use that tactic of  making a law vaguely worded so that it doesn’t actually do what you claim it does. Now, about those “academic freedom” laws that the Discovery Institute keeps pushing in state after state….

Outlawing human cloning would provide salutatory benefits

No, it wouldn’t. All it would do is deprive us of life-saving research in order to protect single cells. There is no plus side to this.

First, it would deprive cloning researchers of the funds to further perfect human cloning techniques.

Hear that? That’s every sane person on earth asking, “How the fuck is that a salutatory benefit?”

Outlawing human cloning would also be a clarion call to our scientists demanding that they stay within proper moral parameters as they serve society through the pursuit of knowledge.

I send this message out to all god-humpers, all sanctimonious twats, all conservative evangelicals and every moral crusader in the country:

YOU DO NOT GET TO DEFINE THE “PROPER MORAL PARAMETERS” FOR THE REST OF US. FUCK OFF.

And it would protect women.

You have got to be shitting me.

Recall that human eggs are the essential ingredients in the cloning recipe. As I wrote here last month, the need for human eggs in cloning threatens a great “human egg rush.”

But retrieving human eggs can be very dangerous to women’s health and fecundity. Banning cloning can thus prevent the further objectification of the female biological function.

There’s more appropriation for you. “Objectification”. Except for the fact that this issue has nothing to do with objectification or feminist critiques thereof.

This shit really pisses me of.  This asshole is leaving out the part where women volunteer their eggs in order to further scientific knowledge. It’s not like scientists are running through the streets probing every woman they find in order to get at her precious, precious ova. Women–grown up, adult women–donate the eggs of their own free will.

And yet, this guy is trying to sound like a feminist while leaving out a woman’s ability to make her own choices about her own body. I’m gonna call this bullshit Patriarchal Pseudo-Feminism. Basically, it means infantilizing women, treating them like they are unable to determine their own lives and choices, just like patriarchy always does to women, but disguising it in the language of feminism. I see it a lot. I’ve seen it used to attack pornography, abortion, IVF, contraception and a host of other issues relating to women. It frustrates me even more than overt sexism or misogyny, since at least if someone is being blatantly sexist they aren’t trying to lie to me about what a piece of shit they are.

But this fucknugget is treating women like they’re helpless children who need the law to protect them from evil scientists, and trying to make it look like he’s pro-woman for this. Fuck that. I’m not standing for it. Women can make their own fucking choices about their own fucking eggs. And (assuming they’re properly informed) if they want to give them to a scientist for a cloning experiment, the rest of us should respect their decision and not make condescending, patriarchal comments about how we need to protect them from themselves. Fuck you, Discovery Institute.

And any time you hear someone demanding that we need to ban something in the name of feminism, but they conveniently leave out the notions of informed consent and a woman determining her own life, tell hem to fuck off with their patriarchal wolf in feminist clothing.

Finally, on a positive note, once human cloning becomes beyond the pale, we could begin to row in the direction of areas of biotechnology that are morally licit, freeing human and financial resources for the pursuit of the abundant avenues of moral andefficacious biotechnological research—such as adult stem cell research, genetically tailored chemotherapy, and other medical treatments.

Except for the fact that there are things you can do with cloning that can’t be done with those other types of research. You’d be preventing us from making certain discoveries, not encouraging discoveries in other areas.

We can achieve remarkable biotechnology breakthroughs in this century without surrendering our ethics.

“Our” ethics? I certainly don’t share ethics with you, shitwad.

Outlawing human cloning is the essential progressive act.

And we end with one more act of cloning the left’s language in order to attack it. “Progressive” my boney white ass.

America: Teabagged by God

Over at the WingNutDaily, legendary deep thinker Pat Boone has copiously spewed forth once again on gay marriage, and gifted us with yet another nuanced and erudite rumination on sexual politics in America.

LAW OF THE LAND

Still one nation under God, or not?

Exclusive: Pat Boone prays for ‘9 humans who will decide future of America’

When WingNutDaily calls an article “exclusive”, it can mean only one of three things:
  1. It’s not actually exclusive, and a dozen other websites are reporting it.
  2. It’s actually a thinly disguised advertizement for some charlatan “natural” cure or survivalist claptrap.
  3. It’s an op-ed so stupid, crazy, malevolent, incoherent and/or pointless that no one else would dream of publishing it.
This is definitely an instance of case #3.
Would you allow a doctor, no matter his credentials, to infuse you with pig blood?
Wait, I thought this was about gay marriage… Is pig blood code for dick?
My mother, herself a trained registered nurse, received a pig valve in her heart in her ’80s, and it apparently extended her life to almost 91.
So your mom’s gay? What the hell are you babbling about, Pat?
But pig blood? In her veins, mixing her human blood with that of a pig?
You’re fine with tissue, but incredulous about blood. Okay. Where is this going?
Never! And no doctor worthy of his certificate would ever suggest it.
Fine. I won’t infuse you with pig blood, or dick, or whatever it is you’re going on about.
Why? Because human beings are created different from other animal forms. While we can accept blood from other humans, we dare not corrupt or pollute our human blood with that of any other life form.
A few points:
  1. Ever heard of blood types? You can’t take just any human blood and put it in anybody else.
  2. You can’t put walrus blood in a yak, either. And I don’t see sharks being very receptive to a pig blood transfusion. The immune system would reject it. The fact that you can’t put just any blood in our veins doesn’t exactly make us special.
  3. What the fuck exactly is your point?

Our DNA forbids it, and it’s not negotiable. Messing with our created state is deadly.

Then why are the pig valves okay? Did the DNA just get sloppy?

What is America’s DNA?

An overplayed, Ur-Fascist and essentialist metaphor abused by self-righteous nationalists to disenfranchise those who supposedly aren’t American enough?

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

Catch that word, their “Creator”? Our founders knew – and publicly proclaimed – that our rights, and life itself, flowed directly from the power and benevolence of our Creator!

Actually, it’s just a bit of rhetorical flourish that you’re reading way too much into.

And that a democratic republic, unprecedented in human history, must be comprised of, and governed by, individuals who would diligently endorse and obey the rules laid out by that Creator for the continuance of that free society.

Again, a few points:

  1. America was not the first democracy or the first republic or the first mixture of the two. There are these things called Greece and Rome you might want to look into.
  2. If you actually read what the founders such as Jefferson and Madison wrote (rather than just regurgitating fake or out-of-context quotes you get from frauds like David Barton), you’d realize that they were keenly aware of the fact that the will of the “creator” differs depending on whom you ask.
  3. Again, is there a point to any of this?

There was no other way to perpetuate our new liberties, including equality for all citizens.

Yes, all the citizens get equally butt-fucked by the patriarchal Christian tyrant in power.

That way was based completely on the Bible, and on the precepts God had revealed unmistakably in His Book. Without the Bible, we would never have had our Constitution.

In fact, the Bible is so important to the Constitution that it is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and the drafters of the Constitution actively resisted attempts to put religious language in the document.

The signers of the Constitution knew that full well. Has anybody ever informed you that virtually all the 55 writers and signers of the United States Constitution of 1787 were members of Christian denominations?

Has anybody ever informed you that literally all of them were wealthy white males, and many of them owned slaves? If the fact that most were Christian means that Christians should dominate everything, then the fact that they were also wealthy white male slave owners should mean that we should role back rights for women, blacks and the poor, right?

Some revisionists today want you to believe otherwise. When I talked about this with Bill Maher, a cynical unbeliever, he sent me an Los Angeles Times article declaring that all the framers were deists or outright atheists, not Christians.

I responded, drawing his attention to the byline, attributing the distortion of facts to a member of an atheist organization who deliberately lied, ignoring the historically recorded truth.

It’s by an atheist, so it must be false!

The truth is that the Founders were much more diverse than either Maher or Boone realize. There probably were very few outright atheists, but they certainly weren’t uniformly orthodox Christians. Many were Deists or very liberal Unitarians. Many rejected the divinity of Christ and the reality of miracles. Many viewed the Bible as a collection of useful moral tales rather than actual truth. However, it is also true that many really were devout Christians who believe all the stupid dogshit that Christians believe.

The point is that no one can claim that The Founders were a monolithic group that is totally in line with exactly what anyone believes in 2013. No one gets to claim the Founders as their endless allies.

I also sent him a quote from John Jay, appointed by President George Washington as the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, who helped form the Constitution itself:

“Providence (God) has given to our people the choice of their rulers,
And it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our
Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

Why? Because it was Christians, guided by the Judeo-Christian Bible, who created the profound document guaranteeing liberty and equality to all, including atheists. They were – and are – the veins through which the blood of freedom flows!

First off, let’s look at some of the context for that quote, from Wikipedia:

Religion

Jay was a member of the Church of England, and later of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America after the American Revolution. Since 1785, Jay had been a warden of Trinity Church, New York. As Congress’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he supported the proposal after the Revolution that the Archbishop of Canterbury approve the ordination of bishops for the Episcopal Church in the United States.[27]He argued unsuccessfully in the provincial convention for a prohibition against Catholics holding office.[28]

Jay believed that the most effective way of ensuring world peace was through propagation of the Christian gospel. In a letter addressed to Pennsylvania House of Representatives member John Murray, dated October 12, 1816, Jay wrote, “Real Christians will abstain from violating the rights of others, and therefore will not provoke war. Almost all nations have peace or war at the will and pleasure of rulers whom they do not elect, and who are not always wise or virtuous. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”[29]

[Emphasis added]

We can learn a few things from this.

  1. The attitude which John Jay was expressing failed to prevail, since the Constitution explicitly prohibits having any religious test for office.
  2. John Jay had a rather naive view of history, seeing as Christian rulers have provoked war over and over and over throughout the entire existence of that noxious religion.
  3. John Jay seemed to have a view of “equality” similar to Boone’s, which boils down to “Christians are better than everyone else, so all non-Christians get to be equally pushed around and disenfranchised by Christians.”
  4. The mere fact that John Jay said something doesn’t make it law.

And the blood of freedom is the Word and will of God.

No. Whenever someone brings up the “word of god”, it is almost always something along the lines of “Believe this, without evidence, or else.” That is not freedom.

So what’s my point? I hope it’s obvious.

That’s some funny shit right there.

Just as your body, and mine, is created to run on one fuel – and only one – so our America was created to operate on only one set of principles. They are our very DNA. And those principles are found only in the Bible. Yes, the Bible.

Yes, the Bible. Where God orders his chosen people to commit genocide, slavery, rape, polygamy, torture, and a host of other things that are part of our principles.

And can we at least start circling around something vaguely resembling a point at some juncture in this article?

“Separation of church and state?” Take the “church,” the institution that promulgates Bible principles, out of the “state” – and you will not have the “state” called America. It will be something else (and some today seem to prefer it), but it will not – could not – be the America that became the greatest nation in history.

Except for the part that that’s exactly what it would be. It wasn’t the Bible that created our vast industrial system, our scientific excellence or our gradual march towards expanding civil rights to more and more Americans.

Our Supreme Court is faced right now with its greatest challenge, ever.

Because whatever topic I’m discussing at the moment is, in my goldfish-like mind, the most important thing that ever happened!

By June, concerning the very definition of marriage, nine human beings will decide whether we remain “one nation under God,” governed by the God who created us and them – or take on a new fuel, the treacherous, fickle, amoral “popular opinion,” a synthetic mixture of poll results, ignorance of unchangeable biblical principle and outright hedonistic rebellion.

Yeah, fuck democracy!

Don’t you right-wingers usually say that the Supreme Court is evil because it (sometimes) overrules the popular opinion? But now it’s evil because it might reach a decision that’s in line with popular opinion?

Why don’t you assholes just admit it? You hate the concept of an independent judiciary. You hate the concept of Americans reaching their own conclusions about other Americans rather than just accepting what your church tells them to think about others. You hate the fact that most people don’t give a flying fuck about your superstitions. You hate the fact that the things that are most important in your lives don’t mean shit to the rest of us. You hate the fact that you’re losing the so-called “culture war”. And you hate the fact that the very constitutional republic you pretend to idolize is your #1 enemy in all of this. You just hate the fact that the American people have a voice, and your voice is a tiny, screechy, obnoxious minority in it.

Already this court has ruled against equality, dictating that innocent babies still in their mothers’ wombs have fewer rights than their mothers. And in so doing, they’ve ruled against life itself – at least for the near 60 million babies aborted since their infamous decision in 1973.

Actual living, breathing, feeling, thinking women should be beholden to undeveloped fetuses that don’t even have higher brain functions yet. You know. “Equality”.

If you have any knowledge at all of our Founding Fathers’ intentions and guiding principles, can you seriously imagine their considering marriage, even for a second, as anything but the union of a man and a woman?

I can seriously imagine them thinking that it’s okay to own another human being. I can also seriously imagine them thinking that a marriage is only between a man and a woman of the same race. Because that’s exactly what they did. Why should I have to align every belief I have with theirs?

Were they stupid or naïve or ignorant about human inclinations?

No, but you are. They were a product of their time. You are a sad, pathetic twat trying desperately to pretend you don’t live in yours.

And as true now as then, our concepts of morality and virtue come directly from God, through His Bible. That’s undeniable.

It’s totally deniable. “Deniable” and “Morals come from the Bible” are so close they might as well be gay fuck-buddies. Every Christian on Earth, including Holy Pat himself, denies it every day. No one has ever actually derived their moral system from the Bible. They instead adopt the moral system of those around them, and then shoehorn Bible verses into it.

His love is universal, for all of us.

God loves you. And he created a place of eternal torment where you’re destined to go if you don’t believe in him. Because that’s how love works.

But His blessings are promised only to those who honor and obey His Word.

Because that’s how you treat people you love!

When a society decides to substitute its collective will for His, it changes its spiritual and moral DNA – like pumping pig’s blood into human veins.

Again, a few things:

  1. The collective will is this thing we call democracy. Get used to it.
  2. “His” will always seems to coincide with the prejudices of whatever old white male happens to be speaking. Can’t help but notice that “He” doesn’t actually pipe up very often.
  3. Putting the blood of another species in your body won’t change your DNA, you fucking dumbshit. Your analogy sucks.

People, we must pray, and pray very earnestly, for the nine human beings who will soon decide the future of America. Only if we remain “one nation under God” will we long survive.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Anyways, let’s take the obligatory look at what the commenters at WingNutDaily have to say on this topic.

nolejoea day ago

Decent NORMAL people don’t get sexually excited over people who are of their same sex. Mentally deranged perverts do.

BobCactusFlower William Wilson5 hours ago

You mean those NORMAL people, who, when constantly confronted by a deviant sexual behavior, find anal sex between perverts ABNORMALLY disgusting?

Nope. That’s as normal as (blechh) apple pie. It’s just that the perverts are still PERVERTS and rather than be legalized, they should be caged and retrained like the filthy animals that they are.

No need to thank me!

Equality! Biblical morality! Universal love!

proclaimingGodsTruth12 hours ago

I think judgment has already come to America; only now the judgments are increasing. The fabric of America’s Christian heritage is coming apart at the seams. We are on the verge of a huge financial collapse that will devastate this land.

It’s time to get right with God, it’s time to proclaim Him in the streets, in the churches, among family – everywhere! God means business – He doesn’t joke, kid around or play games.

We’ve got over 3,000 years of people saying this shit. The well’s gotta run dry at some point, right?

Nottolate buzz13195011 hours ago

When the framers of the Constitution spoke of freedom of religion, they were referring to Christianity only. How do we know? First, the majority of them were Christians (some deist mixed in). Second, other religions were not present in the land at the time. Third, what does that have to do with what I wrote? I spoke on the issue of gay marriage and not freedom of religion.

Can’t argue with that non-reasoning!

BobCactusFlower buzz1319505 hours ago

Brilliant assessment of American founding principles notwithstanding, this country remains OURS and when you try to take it from us, you’re going to find out just how much freedom of worship costs to create and keep.

You’re going to find out that it takes a lot more than a couple of filthy communists in the White House to make God’s people accept sexual perversion, murder, and open worship of satan and your other pals….lol

Freedom for all, as long as you recognize that this country is OURS and you can fuck off!

Larry Bohannon Michael Leone11 hours ago

I can tell that you are ignorant public school student. [sic] You don’t even know the difference between “you are” and your. [sic] Why should we even listen to foolish talk. [sic]

There’s this thing you should look out for when correcting the grammar of others…

Chris Farrell Michael Leone5 hours ago

Where did you gather that the Christians only argument against so-called “gay” marriage is that “Jesus doesn’t like it?”

Marriage, to a Christian, is a covenant in which one man and one woman enter into with God.

I couldn’t possibly have gathered it from exactly what you’re saying.

BobCactusFlower Michael Leone5 hours ago

lol…….get MARRIED to a pervert homosexual? (yeah, you call them gay, but I have YET to see one even marginally cheerful)

That’s probably because they’re stuck being around you.

02word6 hours ago

As one judge said, the gay rights/same sex marriage people haven’t even been around (I mean come out) for but a few years. It’s a made up excuse to push their beliefs into society.

Yeah, fuck them! Only an asshole would do that! Now let’s get back to that part where freedom of religion only applies to Christians and America’s laws all have to be based on the particular Biblical exegesis of a small number of self-righteous bigots.

A Turd By Any Other Name Would Smell As…

Sometimes you feel like responding to something on the internet is a big fat waste of time. This post is definitely one of those kinds of things. It’s major SIWOTI Syndrome. I’m dumb for doing this. But I can’t help myself. I actually interrupted watching Joss Whedon’s DVD commentary of The Avengers to write this shit. I suck. But I’ve got shit to say, and I’m dumb enough to say it. At least I’m drunk. That’s less an excuse than a mea culpa, but it’s all I got.

Anyways, so Jerry Coyne made a light hearted post about a silly t-shirt. It was really just filler posting for his blog. It didn’t really amount to much. I’ll admit that I often forget the periodic table of elements, so it took me a few seconds to get the joke. Again, I’m dumb and I suck. But whatever. The point is, it’s a nothing post taking a light jab at the ID movement.

Enter Lee Bowman, who posted the following in response:

Actually, there is a controversy over the summation of tentative causative factors within evolutionary theory, and in my considered view, there are multiple causative factors.

But is interventionary input by a directed source even a possibility? Of course, but it eclipses orbiting teapots.

I occasionally comment on Yahoo Answers, although a back and forth exchange doesn’t work well there.

My biggest concern was what I view as a misconception over what ID entails, evident by the answers preceding mine.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130124202750AANy5NV

Where to begin with this shit? He completely missed the point of Russell’s teapot; he’s ignorant of the fact that evolutionary theory already involves multiple causal factors; he’s using fancy-talk and $10 words to disguise the fact that he provides NO actual evidence; he confounds possibility with plausibility (the existence of unicorns is possible, but that doesn’t make unicorns scientific); he swipes at previous commenters without bothering to actually point out any flaws they made; and he is, in general, bloviating like a big gas bag and then giving us a link to his “concern”, which is just another comment on another thread at Yahoo where he bloviates some more:

First, I am a rationalist, or free thinker, which eclipses both liberal and conservative philosophies. And by that, I mean that I view the evidence in assessing the data, NOT an indoctrinated conclusion assessed by others, and in this case BOTH religion and materialist oriented science regarding evolutionary theory.

That said, I’ll now give you my interpretation of ID within biology. It is simply an adjunct hypothesis regarding causative factors in producing functional complexity, and sits with equal status along with natural causation. Both are valid hypotheses, and IMO, both were operatives in the evolutionary processes.

So in answer to the question, first, we need definitions.

Evolution = an overall set of processes which have culminated in living organisms.

Intelligent Design = not a separate theory from ToE, but a causative hypothesis entailing directed input at key points, by a single or multiple intelligences, and NOT based on scriptural accounts.

Natural Selection of genetic variation = a causative hypothesis entailing non-directed input to phenotypic advancements, which result in fecundity advantages based on sexual and environmental selective pressures.

Horizontal Gene Transfer and other natural processes are hypothesized to produce upward complexity and novelty as well. All of the above are hypothetical and equally viable at this time.

Now that ID is properly understood and defined, it sits within evolutionary theory in addition to natural causative factors, and cannot be ruled out summarily. It is thus a legitimate concept for discussion and further research, classrooms included.

More word salad, and even less actual substance. What I’m finding really annoying at this point is his penchant for inventing new terms without bothering to define them.  What, for example, is an “adjunct hypothesis”? I’ve been studying philosophy of science for almost 15 years and never come across such a term. I’ve seen the term “auxiliary hypothesis”, but an example of an auxiliary hypothesis is something like “The sample in this particular Petri dish is not contaminated”. Clearly not what Lee Bowman has in mind. But it doesn’t stop there. What’s a “Causative hypothesis”? What’s a “phenotypic advancement”? What’s a “fecundity advantage”? None of these terms occur in the scientific or philosophical literature, and exactly where they fit into it is never made clear by Mr. Bowman. We can speak of causal hypotheses in philosophy of science, but the question will revolve more around how properly to structure the experimental and control groups in designing an experiment which can prove more than mere correlation in a statistical study. And while you’ll hear a lot about phenotypes in a biology class, you won’t hear much about their “advancement” because that’s just nonsensical. Evolution doesn’t have a direction and no phenotype is more “advanced” than any other except in a highly relativized sense. And “fecundity advantage” just seems like Lee Bowman’s attempt to make the term “natural selection” sound smarter by using bigger words to say it. Blah. Not impressed.

Bowman’s definitions are utterly worthless and unoperationalizable. Defining evolution as “an overall set of processes which have culminated in living organisms” is like defining general relativity as “a set of physical interactions that, like, make galaxies and shit.” Worthless. General relativity is testable and well supported if you define it like an adult human being would, but if you insist on doing nothing but stringing words together that don’t actually mean anything, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. There IS, in fact, a very testable and very mathematically definable definition of general relativity, just like there are testable and definable formulations of the theory of evolution, but you have to do this horrible thing called STUDY SOME FUCKING SCIENCE to understand them. If you did this horrible thing called STUDY SOME FUCKING SCIENCE, you would understand why “a causative hypothesis entailing directed input at key points, by a single or multiple intelligences,” is meaningless gibberish. The ID proponents have, only on rare occasions, tried to define what these “key points” where intelligent intervention are. Every time, someone has pointed them to experimental findings which show that no such ID is required at this so-called “key point” (examples include bacterial flagella and the Krebs cycle). ID proponents respond by changing their definition of what’s a “key point”. It’s just an old-fashioned Moving the Goalposts fallacy, dressed up in fancy language. There’s no way to operationalize the idea of “key points” where ID is needed, because every time someone does operationalize it ID fails, and its proponents just move their “key point” to some other aspect of biology.

The theory of evolution (which includes natural selection, genetics, genetic drift, common descent, evo devo, etc.) is testable, and has been tested, and has passed those tests. Intelligent Design is not testable. A fortiori, no test has ever supported it. And Lee Bowman hasn’t changed any of this. He’s just dressed up creationism in fancy terms like “interventionary input by a directed source” and magically declared himself to be “a rationalist, or free thinker, which eclipses both liberal and conservative philosophies” (I don’t believe in god, but even I avoid calling myself rationalist and freethinker. It just sounds pretentious most of the time).  At first, I responded to him briefly (which was wise–what I am doing now is definitely not wise):

LeeBowman,

You seem to be under the impression that taking the exact same things a zillion people have said before and gussying them up in stilted, needlessly prolix language makes your comments sound more rational or more relevant.

It doesn’t. Whether you say, “God done it” or “interventionary input by a directed source”, it’s still discredited gibberish. I actually have more respect for the rednecks who yell “God done it!” and wave their Bibles around. At least they’re just simply stating what they believe. Your brand of pseudo-intellectual sophistry is much worse.

I should have just left it at that. I really should. Lee Bowman responded on Jan 27, and I should just ignore it, because he doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been said by a bajillion creationists before him. He doesn’t present any new experimental evidence. He doesn’t formulate any new hypothesis that hadn’t already been spewed out by creationists pretending not to be creationists. He in fact does not do anything new at all in any way. So I should just ignore him.

But god damn it. I’m drunk. I’m surly. Fuck this guy. Give me your counterarguments, you magnificent Lee Bowman bastard you…

Ah, but what may “seem” to be the case (in your case)

Let’s not overuse the word “case”. It’s especially ill-advised to include two very different senses of the word “case” in the same sentence at the same time, like you just did. You wouldn’t want to equivocate between what “seems” to be the “case” and what’s my “case”. This is especially true since the “quotes” you put around words kinda undermine whatever “case” you’re trying to make in that regard.  When you put the word “seem” in quotes, are you trying to allege that it doesn’t actually seem that way to me? That I’m misusing the word “seem”? If not, why put the quotes around the word? I put the word “case” in quotes because that’s what one does when one wants to discuss a word as a word. I’m still a bit confused as to why you put the word “seem” in quotes. You are not discussing the word “seem” itself, which makes me think that you put those quotes there without really thinking about what putting quotes around an English word means.

Oh, wait, I see. You’re just scare-quoting me when you put quotes around “seem”. Sorry. I was too distracted by your clumsy use of the word “case”. If you don’t want me to take you to task for how you use “case” in the future, then don’t needlessly put “seem” in quotes, and it won’t happen. But if you want to use bullshit scare-quotes on me, I’m happy to reciprocate. Also, my use of the word “seem” does not merit scare-quotes in your response, unless you disagree with me about what the word “seem” means. Scare-quotes are only warranted when you allege that the quoted author is using the word inappropriately. Since you never made any such “case”, you can take your scare quotes and “shove” them up your “ass”.

Ah, but what may “seem” to be the case (in your case) is a blatantly false assumption based upon several false presumptions.

And how much time have you put into examining your presumptions? Or, even worse, your assumptions based on presumptions?

One, that ID is a religious view, two, that anyone espousing it has an a priori religious position, and three, that couching that view in loquacious verbiage to sneak it in under the wire is merely a tactic.

First off, “loquacious” is a description of the person who spews the words, not a description of the words themselves. There’s no such thing as “loquacious verbiage”. If you must use big words, please use them properly. At least look them up in a dictionary or thesaurus first. That’s not too much to ask. Seriously. I’m not kidding about this. People using big words without bothering to learn what they mean is a big pet peeve of mine. Use the words the way they should be used. Don’t just make up your own imaginary meaning for words which have nothing to do with what they really mean. If you keep improperly using big words, I’m going to call you a Sparkling Yak Sesquipedalian. By my imaginary definition,  Sparkling means “Numb nuts”, “yak” means “internet faker”, and “sesquipedalian” means “sesquipedalian”. Look it up, bitch. (“Bitch” means you.)  If you don’t want me to make up imaginary meanings of words, then stop doing it yourself. Use “loquacious” according to its actual definition, or STFU.

Firstly, ID is an evidence based hypothesis.

That’s laughable. Every time an ID proponent has proposed a hypothesis that can be tested by evidence (such as bacterial flagella or blood clotting), tests have shown that Intelligent Design fails. How do they respond? By changing the standards of the test. ID is not evidence based by any standard.

There are not any experimental programs currently using any ID model. No ID proponent had produced any new experimental data. If you go to any biology laboratory anywhere in the world, you will find scientists using the theory of evolution to construct their experiments. And these experiments work. But you won’t find people using ID to construct experiments. That’s because “Invisible undefined magic man did it” is not a testable hypothesis. ID is promulgated by lots of people, but  ID is not promulgated because some scientific evidence supports it. None does. It’s promulgated because there are a large number of Americans who believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur to the gun range, and they feel all poopy inside about the fact that all of modern science contradicts what they believe, so they pay good money for people who pose as scientific rationalists to pretend to treat Jesus riding a dino to the gun range like it’s not a stupid, crazy idea.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s stupid and crazy.

While to some it may imply a monotheistic god, this is a faith based position that may proceed from design inferences, but does not predicate a design inference. ID is based primarily upon the improbability of natural causation where probability bounds are exceeded.

“Probability bounds”? What do you mean by that? Do you mean Markov conditions? Or is this some kind of Bayesian epistemology? Or is it just big words that mean nothing? Probabilities are defined in terms of a defined number of events picked out of some probability space. Both the probability space and the function that picks out an event need to be defined, but Bowman attempts neither. The work I’ve done involving probabilities, such as  Decision Theory, Markov Decision Processes, and Bayesian Networks, don’t involve any kind of “probability bounds” being “exceeded”. This is just Lee Bowman inventing terms without defining them again. Big surprise there.

Of course, he’s not really doing any new work or research. Actually, he’s just appealing to the old false dichotomy of creationism: “Either it’s designed, or it just happened randomly.” This is illogical, as the algorithmic process of natural selection is neither designed nor random, so once again Lee Bowman is just using fancy sounding language to express dumb, already disproven ideas. What Bowman calls “the improbability of natural causation” is just the old Watchmaker argument, which goes all the way back to William Paley in 1802. Natural selection is not random–it’s determined by the environment. So any theory that bases its explanatory power on whether it’s more explanatory than randomness is already a straw man.

Secondly, there is no basis for this assumption, simply because there have been examples cited where this was evident. Example: Judge Jones’ assumption that actions by the school board in the Dover PA district, along with a few other examples, proved that ID was religion based. The scientific basis for ID went completely over his head.

How law works and how science works are two different things. People with functioning brains get this. Lee Bowman is not one of these people.

Judge John Jones was charged with multiple tasks in the Dover trial. One was to evaluate the scientific merit of ID. Another was to adjudicate the claims about whether ID should be taught in schools. Another was to adjudicate the actions of the people on the Dover school board. Another was to decide whether their particular ID policy was consistent with judicial precedent on constitutional law. In other words, he needed to be a Judge. ‘Cause that’s what judges do. They interpret the law.

Lee Bowman has not actually read Judge Jones’ decision. But you can read it here. Merely reading words in a document will already put you way, way, way, way ahead of anything Bowman has to say. Judge Jones was not merely interpreting the science. He was interpreting the law, insofar as it relates to science. The pro-ID evidence presented to him consisted of some religious nuts who knew nothing about the very topics they expounded upon (i.e. the Dover school board), and scientists such as Michael Behe who openly admitted that ID requires that supernatural claims be allowed into science. Basically he had people saying “Jesus Jesus Jesus!” and people saying “We aren’t screaming ‘Jesus!’, but we don’t have any other reason to be here…” The reason for including ID in Dover was religious.

No scientific basis for ID was assessed, because none was presented. No experiments supporting ID were presented at the trial, because no such experiments have ever been performed. This is in stark contrast to evolution by natural selection, where numerous experiments were presented, none of which were challenged by the defendants. They just simply didn’t have anything to respond with.

And three, what I stated was what design inferences are based upon, i.e. the postulated addition of intervention to natural processes at key points, to facilitate subsequent altered phyla.

What the fuck are “altered phyla”? That’s not a scientific term, and you also have not made any attempt to define what the hell it means. It’s yet again another term you throw out there without bothering to define what the fuck it means.

And what are “key points”? How does one decide what “point” is a “key” point? What scientific standard is used to distinguish regular old points from “key” points? And what makes any phylum “subsequent”, regardless of whether it’s “altered” or not? “Altered” phyla is already nonsense, but calling some phylum “subsequent” on top of being “altered” and adding in that this phylum had some kind of completely undefined “key point” is just piling undefined nonsense on top of undefined nonsense. If you’re going to use terms that have no presence in the scientific or philosophical literature, at least do us the favor of providing a definition. And “a causative hypothesis entailing non-directed input to phenotypic advancements” is NOT a good definition, seeing as you never bothered to define what the fuck a “phenotypic advancement” is.

While not offered as hard fact due to its non-empirically replicable forensic nature

Forensic science is perfectly empirical and replicable. Nothing that you have said has even addressed that point at all. Basically, you’re saying, “I don’t have jack shit to support ID, but I can PRETEND that’s also true for natural selection!” Well, sorry, you’re wrong. Natural selection has tons of empirical evidence to support it. Galapagos finches are just the beginning. There’s also the massive mounds of evidence from comparative morphology, biogeography, genomics, domestic breeding, population genetics, deep homologies, ecology, and tons of other areas. You have not addressed any of these. The reason you haven’t addressed any of them is because you don’t know anything about them.

neither are totally natural causative processes, which have not been empirically confirmed as well.

Remember, Bowman is claiming that my problem is that I think ID proponents are advocating for the existence of some kind of deity. Lee Bowman claims that’s a bogus “presumption” on my part. And yet he couches the argument in terms of “natural” versus “designed”. What’s the alternative to “natural”, Lee? If it’s not “supernatural”, then what is it?

At least at this juncture, neither are proven as absolutes.

True, in that science doesn’t deal in absolutes. Rather than absolute truths, the Evolution/Intelligent Design issues could be better summarized thus:

Amount of evidence:

Evolution: A Fucking Shit Ton (Pretty much the entire science of biology provides evidence for it)

Intelligent Design: Almost Nothing (and pretty much the entire science of biology contradicts it)

But none of this stops Lee Bowman from being very, very proud of himself.

Omigosh, I just noticed that my response to the evolution/ ID question posed by ABA was just awarded ‘Best Answer’ by him. Since there were (24) other answers 180 deg. to mine, I guess we must both be creotards

Hmmmm, let’s look at the original question….

Do you believe that both theories of evolution and intelligent design should be taught in school science?

If not tell me if either/or/none should be taught.

Please tell me if your liberal or conservative..
(Studies show liberals are typically more intolerant of other viewpoints so I’d like to test this theory)

Yup. Both creotards. Here, let me pose a similar question:

Do you think people who disagree with me about unicorns being real should have equal time in schools?

Tell me whether either/or/none unicorn science should be taught to other people’s children.

(Please indicate whether or not you’re a different political orientation from me, because I’ve heard people who have different politics from me think differently from me and the people who told me this called it science without actually providing experimental evidence, so I want to know whether you think differently from me so I can ignore your opinion from the get-go also my grammar sucks i hate the english language suck it education dumb people rule!!!!!111)

Oh my god, you got voted up on a Yahoo thread by a barely literate creationist. Maybe both of you are just narcissistic…

Or perhaps just rational thinkers …

No. You’ll be classified as rotifers based on morphology before either of you is ever mistaken for a rational thinker.

The Biblical Stupids of Stupidity

Jerry Coyne linked to a very amusing creationist piece that I can’t help but make fun of for a few minutes. The fun starts right away with the title:

What are the biblical cryptids of cryptozoology

Next week, we’ll examine other pressing, scientific questions such as “What are the biota of biology?” or “What are the chemicals of chemistry?” Oh, wait, I should also remove the question marks from those questions. That’s what all the cool creationists are doing. Who the hell wrote this shit anyways?

, Pittsburgh Creationism Examiner

Dale Stuckwish is a born-again Biblical Creationist in the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves to study the Word of God(Holy Bible). He loves also to study biology, astronomy, and zoology and how it relates to the bible. Dale resides in Pennsylvania and works in Pittsburgh as a security consultant.

Answer: A completely unqualified guy with bad grammar. In other words, he’s the ideal candidate for a proponent of creationism.

Cryptozoology which means “study of hidden animals” talks about cryptids (cryptozoology creatures) which was coined by John E. Wall of Manitoba, Canada in 1983.

What was coined by John E. Wall? Was it the term “cryptid”? Then you should say so, instead of just tacking that phrase to the end of a sentence without indicating what word it refers to. And saying that cryptozoology studies cryptids is utterly useless.  You might also want to mention the fact that it’s a fringe science that no real scientist gives a shit about. That’s kinda important, ya know.

Cryptids are creatures presumed extinct, hypothetical species or creatures known from anecdotal evidence or evidence insufficient to prove their existence.

But when has a complete lack of evidence ever deterred a creationist? Tally ho, I say! Charge forward with promulgating your beliefs, and don’t let the fact that they’re stupid and baseless give you any pause, my good sir.

Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, and Champ are just a few that are known as cryptids. But what are the biblical cryptids? These are creatures mentioned in the Bible such as behemoth, leviathan, fiery flying serpents, unicorns, satyrs, and dragons.

I would include god on that list of cryptids. He’s definitely hidden, and if the Old Testament is any indication he sure behaves like a vicious animal some times.

Behemoth is mentioned one time in the Bible, in the book of Job (Job 40:15-24). Job seen this creature when God revealed it to him.

He seen it! I swear, Cletus, he done seen it with his own three eyes! Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna go fuck my sister some more.

I’ve read Job. In the book, god forms a petty-minded bet with Satan, and then lets Satan run roughshod over Job’s life, murdering his children, destroying his fortune and afflicting him with severe illness. God chose this time to “reveal” a type of animal to him. And, in the story, Job doesn’t respond with, “Fuck a behemoth! How about not murdering my sons and daughters???” This can only mean the whole story is made up, since no human being would be interested in talking about cryptids while in that situation. But you knew that already.

Commentaries about behemoth say it probably was a hippopotamus or elephant. But there is one thing that gives this creature a different description than that of a hippopotamus or elephant, it is its tail (Job 40:17a). Behemoth had a tail that moved like a tail cedar tree in the wind. Hippos and elephants have only small tails.

Funny thing about that “tail”–scholar believe it is likely a euphemism for “penis”. Elephants and hippos have some mighty, mighty schlongs, lemme tell you. Last week, at the zoo, I saw this really hot pachyderm who gave me that “come hither” stare and… errr, wait. Just disregard that last bit.

Regardless, even if we accept the “tail” interpretation, that still doesn’t rule out elephants. Maybe he saw its trunk? Or maybe there’s another explanation: It’s all just made up. I don’t need to know what animals the Greeks saw when they talked about a minotaur and a cyclops. Not any more than I need to search for the real world Batman. It’s called make believe. Most of us over the age of 8 can distinguish it from reality.

A sauropod dinosaur such as Diplodocus would fit this description nicely.

Fucking Snuffalufagus would fit the description nicely, since it’s barely a description at all. It had a big tail? That’s what we have to go on here? This is why people don’t take this cryptozoology seriously. It’s all anecdotes and vague descriptions that could have a million different explanations. Anybody could just come up with an animal that might fit some vague description in a 2500 year old book. But that’s not how science works.

Just go to a natural history museum near you and check this dinosaur out. In Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has a Diplodocus on display.

And make sure to ignore all the facts and evidence that come with that display. Otherwise, you might wise up to the fact that this is all horseshit.

Leviathan is described in detail in the book of Job also (Job 41:1-34). This creature revealed to Job by God was a marine creature of enormous size and strength. It had strong jaws and great teeth. It was a fast swimming creature and had tough skin to protect it from being captured. Some sea creatures that fit this description are the ancient plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and pliosaurs.

Well, I don’t see how it could possibly be a killer whale, a shark or just plain make-believe, so the only explanation is a dinosaur that went extinct over 65 million years ago.

One marine reptile that fits leviathan to a tee is the Kronosaurus. Kronosaurus which means “lizard of Kronos”.

That last sentence isn’t even a full sentence. And the word technically means “Time Lizard”. I believe there’s a Doctor Who episode about that. But those errors pale in comparison to the simple fact that the description doesn’t fit anything “to a tee,” and one thing we can be sure of was that it was NOT a Kronosaurus. Kronosaurus went extinct almost 100 million years ago. Whatever Job saw (if he even saw anything at all), it wasn’t Kronosaurus.

It was among the largest pliosaurs with a total length of 43 feet. It had a skull over 10 feet long and teeth that measured 10 inches. He was truly a jaws of the seas. He would put any great white shark to shame.

Hey, it’s not a competition! And, besides, it’s the motion in the ocean, and all that.

Fiery flying serpents are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. The book of Isaiah (Isaiah 30:6) mentions the fiery flying serpent along with the lion and the viper. Herodotus, a Greek explorer described this creature also that fits a Rhamphorhynchus to a tee….

Unicorns are mentioned in the book of Job (Job 39:9-12) and other places in the Old Testament of the Bible. It is not described as a horse with one horn in the Bible. The Bible only talks about its great strength and how fearsome it was. Horses as we know it can be tamed but this creature could not be tamed. There is a dinosaur that fits the unicorn to a tee….

You and I need to have a serious talk about what “fits [it] to a tee” means. Lesson 1: It does not mean “vaguely similar so long as you ignore all the glaring differences.” And why the fuck does every unexplained animal in the Bible have to be a god damn dinosaur?

Satyrs are mentioned in the Bible (Isaiah 13:21). The translation from the Hebrew means “hairy one”.

Turns out they were just some bears hanging out at a Jerusalem gay bar. On a side note, back then twinks were called “Whatever race god told us to enslave this week.”

Greeks considered satyrs as gods of the woods and mountains.Many cultures describe hairy apelike creatures in their legends.We know and heard about the Yeti and Bigfoot legends.But could these creatures actually be satyrs that are mentioned in the Bible.

Could you please end your questions with a question mark. Thanks?

Dragons are mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for dragon is tanniym which means “marine or land monster, dragon”. But could the dragon be a dinosaur.

No, it couldn’t? Seriously, man, question marks. The button is on the bottom right hand side of your keyboard. Use it.

The Bible that was translated into English in 1611 did not have the word dinosaur in it because this word was not coined until 1841. Sir Richard Owens came up with this for the huge terrible reptile fossil skeletons being unearthed. Dinosaur means “terrible lizard”. Many dragon legends around the world talk of huge reptilian creatures. China even incorporated the dragon into its calendar along with 11 other animals.

There’s more to writing than just stringing together simple declarative and interrogative sentences each relaying a single, isolated fact. I keep having to remind myself that this wasn’t written by a nine-year-old, because this kind of simplistic writing is typical in, oh, let’s say 4th grade. Those of us whose brains actually matured learned how to construct complex sentence structures and form paragraphs in which sentences are thematically linked, and ideas flow one from another. But, then, what should I expect from an author who used “to a tee” three times in three consecutive paragraphs without even bothering to understand what it means?

In the book, “Biblical Cryptozoology: Revealed Cryptids of the Bible” (ISBN: 978-1-4415-2267-2) there is chapters on these creatures and others revealed in the Bible that could be considered biblical cryptids.

I hope that book at least had an editor.

For more information on cryptozoology go http://www.icm.com or visit the International Cryptozoology Museum at 11 Avon Street, Portland, Maine 04101.

Next time I’m in Portland, I’ll be sure to visit every place in town except that.

Normally in these types of riffs I would be excoriating he publisher (in this case, examiner.com). But Examiner is already so notoriously unreliable and unreadable that I go into anything I see on their site with zero expectations. I mean, this is after all the website where an astrologer said that scientists should have talked to the Moon and asked for its permission to land a probe there. Compared to that lady, our barely literate creationist dickfuzz is almost an intellectual luminary.

More Lies for Kids from AIG

Answers in Genesis just loves lying to children.  Here’s a fascinating article that purports to answer, for children, the question “What is science?” As someone who’s spent the last 12 years or so studying the history and philosophy of science, I can tell you this is no simple question.  In answer to a child’s query, I wouldn’t give them some complicated history of logical positivism or the demarcation problem or the difference between the syntactic and semantic accounts of scientific theories. But I would at least try to give them a description that accurately represents the current views of philosophers and historians and scientists, and that reflects both the potential and the limits of science while stressing the complexity of the overall process and the dangers of judging scientific findings one doesn’t understand.  Can I expect anything like that from AIG? No, of course not. Instead, we get this:

The kind of science that we normally think of as science (called “operational science”) is a wonderful tool that helps researchers discover new vaccines, find new kinds of fish in previously-uncharted waters, build more fuel-efficient cars, chart a course to other planets, and devise new treatments for old diseases.

Science makes you nifty toys and cures you when you have poopy-butt! That’s what the collected knowledge of hundreds of years of human endeavor to understand nature has earned us. New cars and space ships and diarrhea medicine.

“Operational science” is not a term in philosophy of science that I’m familiar with. The invention of new cars and medicines is what’s usually called “applied science” in philosophy of science. But it is sad but true that the shallow “gives us new technology to buy at the mall” view of science is all too common. People see the applications of science without any understanding of the theoretical principles that make that application possible.

With this kind of science, people can uncover fossils or study the composition of rocks.

Science finds things and tells you what they’re made of! Because that’s interesting and shit! But saying anything more than a shallow, simplistic “Here’s that fossil” or “Here’s that rock” is verboten blasphemy, because…

However, operational science has limitations. It can’t, for example, tell us where fish came from, when the rock formed in the first place, or how the bones of the creature came to be fossilized.

So it’s basically useless. A science that just points out the existence of things or describes what they are made of is just glorified stamp collecting. And, by the way, you can’t do important medical sciences like epidemiology without talking about how things (in this case, diseases) originate. So your definition of “operational science” is internally inconsistent. You can’t do medical science with this childish “point at rock and break it open” approach to science.

Operational science deals with the world of today. It involves testing and repeating experiments.

Are these two sentences both supposed to be about the same topic? They’re presented as if they are, and yet they clearly are not. If I had a hypothesis that King Tut had some particular genetic abnormality, and obtained some of his tissues and sequenced his genome, that would certainly be testing, and the experiment would be repeatable. But it’s not about today; it’s about thousands of years ago. And if I were a meteorologist who predicted something about the particular weather patterns happening right now, that would certainly be about today, but it would not be repeatable, since no future day is going to be exactly like today. And if I were an astronomer, I could make a prediction that such-and-such planet will appear in the sky today, but it wouldn’t be an experiment, since I have no way of manipulating or controlling any planet’s path. In fact, there’s quite a bit of legitimate science that doesn’t fit this definition of “operational science”.

“Operational science” doesn’t sound like science at all. Rather, it sounds like a way to enjoy the fruits of science while disparaging the ones who produce them. Kinda like how wealthy Republicans treat the workforce.

Origins science deals with the past.

Again, “origins science” is not a common term in history and philosophy of science. Care to elaborate?

Origins or historical science is used to reconstruct events that have happened in the past, using principles such as causality (for every effect, there must be a cause) and analogy (if this is the way it happens today, then perhaps it happened like this in the past).

Well, “historical science” is a real term, but you defined it poorly. “Causality” is part of all science. Seriously, what aspect of any human endeavor anywhere doesn’t involve causality? ‘What causes what’ is basic to almost any intellectual pursuit. And, again, analogy can play a role in any form of science. If causes and metaphors are all it takes to be origins science, then pretty much everything is origins science, and the term is meaningless.

The important factors in historical science are principles such as vera causae (causes for which you have independent evidence to know that they exist) and consilience of inductions (when multiple independent lines of evidence lead to the same conclusion). The important word in each is “independent”. Scientific facts aren’t discovered in a vacuum. They must be evaluated in terms of what you already know (and don’t know), and that’s crucial for understanding historical sciences like forensic science, geology, archeology, and, yes, evolutionary biology.

But I’m sitting here giving a philosophical evaluation of a dichotomy created solely to keep the god-humpers from having to acknowledge that human knowledge has advanced beyond their silly little book of fairy tales. Observe:

Of course, the best method of reconstruction is to rely on the account of an accurate eyewitness.

Really? So a few thousand years ago, Europe and the middle east were crawling with Centaurs, Minotaurs, Griffins, Satyrs, Trolls, Genies, Frost Giants, Leprechauns, Hydras, Sirens, Nymphs, Faeries, and about seventy bajillion gods and goddesses? Because that’s what the eye witnesses of the time tell us.

Naturalists have no such eyewitness to rely on.

“Naturalists” here means “people who rely on rationale, evidence based explanations”.

However, the Bible provides a written record of an eyewitness to (who was also intimately involved in) history—the Creator God.

So you don’t have any such witness either. And that’s not how parenthetical statements work, by the way.

This eyewitness cannot lie, so His account is completely trustworthy.

The fuck he can’t lie. If he’s even real, then basically his entire creation is one big fat lie. He puts the most distant galaxies 13.7 billion light years away, meaning the universe must be at least 13.7 billion years old or else we couldn’t see them, but then tells us it’s only 6,000 years old? Either the Bible is lying or the universe is lying. But since Jeebus is apparently the perpetrator of both, it’s his fault either way.

We can use this written record as our foundation for understanding the world around us.

We could do the same with the Gilgamesh or the Koran. And it wouldn’t be any more or less stupid.

This will help us to understand why the world is the way it is today and to make sense of where we came from and why we’re here.

There’s some fundamentalist logic for you. Specifically preventing people from pursuing questions like “How did the world get the way it is” is the path to finding the answer.

As you go through the museum, be sure to look for statements which fall under operational science—e.g., “this fossil was found in Montana”—and statements which fall under origins science—e.g., “this fossil is 65 million years old.”

Translation: Focus on easy, childish shit and reject things that require more effort, thought and training.

The philosophy of science that creationists peddle to children is reflective of the kinds of attitudes we see in adults who gullibly buy into this shit. Science, for them, is just a way to point at something, take it apart, and find a way to market it. Any broader understanding of reality is spoon fed to you by someone who claims to have absolute truth that can’t be questioned. And yet, so few people actually bother to notice the obvious fact that science couldn’t possibly have accomplished all it has over the last 400 years if finding things and taking them apart were all it could do. Pretty much all of modern technology relies on theoretical findings about atoms, electricity, germs, genes and physical interactions that can’t be directly observed but still succumb to the scientific method when understood properly. There is no eye witness account of the curvature of space-time, and yet our GPS satellites which rely explicitly on this theory work quite well. There have been tons of murders which nobody witnessed, but the killer was caught anyways due to the power of forensic science.

The creationist numbskulls are asserting two rather contradictory theses: 1.) What isn’t obviously right in front of your face can’t be real truth (thus evolution isn’t true because no one saw all 4 billions years of it), and 2.) You have to take on faith that the ruler of the entire universe inspired this particular book and any science that contradicts it must be wrong. The obvious problem here is that none of us saw God witnessing any of these events. We have to rely on non-witness humans to tell us God saw these events. The importance of eye-witnesses shoots them in the foot–we don’t have eye witness accounts in the Bible. Rather, we have people claiming someone else (god) told them he was an eye witness. And these people don’t provide any evidence whatsoever that they actually communicated with this so-called “god” fellow.

So we have to choose between humans who meticulously gathered gobs and gobs of evidence of evolution, and humans who say a magical being told them the truth. The latter’s argument only sounds convincing when you leave out the part where it’s humans saying that God said such-and-such, without bothering to provide any proof that any actual god said any such thing.  Leave that part in, and obviously the mounds of fossils and DNA and biogeography and comparative morphology and embryology and geology and astrophysics and cladistics and vestigial organs and plate tectonics sounds a lot more convincing than “I’m a human, and I say god wrote this book. So believe it, damn it!”

Lies from the Pit of Stupidity

“U. S. Lawmaker Says Something Really Stupid” isn’t even a headline. It’s not news. It’s the way things are and always have been. It’s the festering tripe of America’s legislative sausage factory. Being stupid is a badge of honor for a disturbingly large proportion of the electorate, and it’s practically a rite of passage for an American congressman to get before an audience and proclaim to the world, “Yes, I am as dumb as you. Vote for me!” So there’s absolutely nothing shocking about the following…

A U.S. congressman is attracting attention and criticism for an online video that shows him blasting evolution and the Big Bang theory as “lies from the pit of hell” in a recent speech at a church event in his home state of Georgia.

It’s a church event in the deep South. What else do you expect? I would be much more shocked if, at any church event in the South, someone stood up and said, “You know, guys, maybe we don’t already have everything figured out, and it might be a good idea to actually listen to outsiders rather than declare everything unfamiliar to be a plot by Satan to turn our kids gay,” without getting lynched.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” U.S Rep. Paul Broun said in an address last month at a banquet organized by Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Wait. Embryology is a lie? So are we going back to the Stork Theory of human reproduction? And if embryology is all a big lie, can you now stop getting in the way of embryonic stem cell research, please?

You gotta love how fundamentalists think that everything that everyone else does is actually all about what fundamentalists believe. Why do scientists study evolution and cosmology? Could it be because nature is fascinating, and discovering its secrets provides intellectual challenges and the potential to develop new technologies and advance society? Nope. It’s to teach people that Jesus doesn’t love them. Because that’s what really matters. Scientists just sit around all day conspiring to tell ten year olds that there’s no Easter Bunny, too.

Broun, a medical doctor by training, serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Not even remotely surprising. Again, what would really astonish me would be if Congress actually put a real scientist on such a committee.

Speaking at Liberty Baptist Church’s Sportsman’s Banquet on September 27, he said that “a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth.”

Good. Present it at a scientific convention. Publish it in a peer reviewed journal. That shouldn’t be a problem unless you “found out” about it from your ass…

“I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old,” Broun said in the speech, which Liberty Baptist Church posted on its website via YouTube.  “I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

So there’s the source of his “scientific” data. The Bible. Not that far from his ass, if you ask me.

In his speech to the church group, Broun called the Bible the “the manufacturer’s handbook. … It teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in our society.”

“That’s the reason, as your congressman, I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that,” he said.

Oh really? So what does the Bible say about energy policy? What’s Jesus got to say about strict constructionism? How does the Bible say we should handle income inequality? Wait, I do actually have an answer to that last one:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed  to anyone as he had need. ACTS 4:32-35

So the Bible says we should be wealth-redistributing socialists. I’m sure you’ll get on that right away.

A spokeswoman for the congressman, Meredith Griffanti, said that Broun was not available for comment on Wednesday and that the video showed him “speaking off the record to a large church group about his personal beliefs regarding religious issues.”

Anyone with a beating heart and functioning brain should be quite unnerved by the prospect of living in a world where the age of the Earth is a religious issue. But we’ve seen this all before. Whenever a politician says something idiotic and clearly false, the spin is to play the “Heart” card. No, it’s not the lame fifth element from Captain Planet. It’s the tactic of cordoning off a little Fact Free Zone, called “the heart”, and claiming that the politician was standing in this zone when he/she said something demonstrably false.

Because if you really, really, really feel it deep down, it doesn’t matter if it’s gibbering lunacy or blatantly false. It’s in your heart! That makes it okay. Nothing could be bad or dangerous if it’s in your heart. Which is why you don’t need to worry about your cholesterol or that massive plaque build up in your arteries. Keep eating those chili dogs dipped in bacon fat, Rep. Broun. I’m sure you’ll be in Congress for a long time, and I wouldn’t want you to get hungry.

The congressman’s remarks about science have drawn attention online, with critics taking aim at his role on the science committee.

Bill Nye, the popular science personality, told the Huffington Post in an e-mail that “Since the economic future of the United States depends on our tradition of technological innovation, Representative Broun’s views are not in the national interest.”

“For example, the Earth is simply not 9,000 years old,” said Nye, a mechanical engineer and television personality best known for his program “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Broun “is, by any measure, unqualified to make decisions about science, space, and technology.”

People are afraid to say this, but it’s true. Broun’s views don’t just disqualify him from making decisions about science. In any sane world, they should disqualify him from making decisions about anything that matters in this country. He is, quite simply, not fit to lead.

But Bill Nye’s not gonna say that, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if he believed it just as much as I do. If he did say it, Broun would cry persecution and run to the supposedly liberal commie media to proclaim what a sad wittle duckwing he is that people would be so mean to him, and the rubes out there would gobble it up. And Nye would have to “apologize” for taking an apparently controversial stand on the issue of whether stupid, crazy people should lead our country. And then we could get back to debating more pressing issues, like how Jesus feels about buttsex. And then we can devote a disturbingly large amount of time and resources to discovering what the Easter Bunny’s favorite casserole is, or what Thor’s second favorite NFL team is. ‘Cause that’s what our country needs right now. I’m sure poverty and crumbling infrastructure will sort itself out.

Creationists Don’t Need No Einstein!

So, this creationist came up with the brilliant new “theory” of boiling everything down to the point that even the dumbest motherfuckers in the universe could understand it. The result? A “theory” that involves taking distances measured in one unit of measurement and measuring them in another unit of measurement. And creationists wonder why scientists think they’re just spouting empty pablum aimed at the lowest common denominator.

The Sad State of Science Journalism

One thing that really annoys me is very bad science journalism, and boy oh boy is there a lot of it out there. When I saw PZ Myers’ take down of Danny Vendramini’s positively ludicrous Neanderthal theory, I went to Google to find out more about this crackpot, and found a sterling example of bad science journalism at its worst. It’s an older article (2006), but still worth taking a look at since it has so many diagnostic features of Lazy Science Writing. There’s the cookie-cutter “This changes everything” narrative, the refusal to do any research other than a few interviews, the lionization of the “maverick”, the obnoxious and misleading attempt at “balance” through “he said/she said” reporting, etc etc. It’s all there.

The stupid starts up the moment the article begins. Here’s the title, byline and first paragraph:

Origin of a Big Idea

Crackpot or genius? Danny Vendramini may be labelled both. The anti-religious amateur biological theorist is challenging mainstream evolutionary thought. By Andrew Dodd.

Danny Vendramini didn’t wake up one morning and say to himself: “Today, I’ll shatter half of the accepted beliefs about evolutionary biology.” It has been more gradual than that. In fact, his theory, that a second evolutionary process is at work alongside natural selection, has been percolating away for quite some time, emerging from the primordial soup of the subconscious and slowly taking form over several years.

Jesus Christ. Kissing ass much? You keep this up, Mr. Dodd, and people will start calling you Shit Lips McGee. There’s lionizing the “maverick”, and then there’s giving John McCain a colonoscopy with your face.

And right off the bat, the author shows his complete ignorance of evolutionary biology. We already know of other evolutionary processes that work alongside natural selection. There’s genetic mutation, genetic drift, evolutionary byproducts and horizontal gene transfer resulting in reticulate evolution just to give a few examples. No scientist today thinks that natural selection is the only process in evolution.

Additionally, this is just a matter of style, but one trend in modern journalism (not just science journalism) that annoys me more and more every day is the heavy reliance on easy, obvious puns and wordplay to “spice up” the article. The title of the piece in question, “The Origin of a Big Idea”, and the reference to the theory arising “gradually” “from the primordial soup” are just so lame and lazy that they cannot be passed over without criticism.

Why do people write this way? You immediately know if you see something about evolution and, oh I don’t know, golf, there’s going to be a joking about teeing up on the “missing links”. Or if someone has a new theory about cosmology, it’ll be described as making a “big bang” in the scientific community. Do journalism schools actually offer courses in Lame Wordplay 101?

Anyways, back to this guy’s “theory”.

Could his evolutionary process – known as “teemosis” – really explain the explosion of new species 543 million years ago? Does it really provide a plausible means for environmental information to be passed on to offspring? Does it truly describe the evolutionary purpose for the “junk DNA” that makes up 98.5 per cent of our genome?

Wait, wait, wait. “Teemosis”? You have got to be shitting me. And this process, all by itself, will explain the Cambrian explosion, inheritance of adaptation, and “junk” DNA all at once? If your theory’s really that powerful, you should give it a more mellifluous name. How about “enfuckulation”?

And, even if it all ends up as discredited hocus, there’s another equally fascinating question. What’s it like to generate a brand new theory that challenges many of the big assumptions about the origins of living organisms? How does an amateur without any formal training in biology pull off a feat like that without getting locked up, or, perhaps worse, completely ignored?

As a grad student in history and philosophy of science, how theories come to be is a very important facet of my studies. And I can assure you that the huge amount of stuff you need to know to have even an adequate (much less groundbreaking) understanding of science vastly  exceeds the abilities of almost any amateur. There’s a reason scientists have to go through 7 to 10 years of training with more experienced scientists before they start making a real impact.

As for that last question, I’m pretty sure he’ll be ignored. Call it a hunch. I don’t see “teemosis” finding its way into textbooks any time soon.

Well, according to the infectiously enthusiastic Vendramini, the solution is to read a lot – about 8000 academic papers to be precise-— on anything to do with the human genome, NeoDarwinism and even palaeontology. Initially, his mission was to decipher the gobbledegook but later, as his theory took shape, his task was to find anything that disproves the ideas underpinning his theory.

So he’s a dilettante. Nothing wrong with that. I was too before I decided to go to grad school. But one thing I’ve learned in grad school is that without guidance from more experienced people you make all kinds of errors in your studies that you don’t even know you’re making.

And it’s nice that he (at least claims to be) is looking for potential evidence that contradicts him. The problem is, as we shall see, he doesn’t understand the topic well enough to understand what kind of evidence might contradict him.

So far, he says, he hasn’t found anything.

Not surprising. But that doesn’t increase my confidence in his theory at all given the considerations above.

In fact, Vendramini’s website, thesecondevolution.com, lists supportive comments from a range of academics, including Noam Chomsky of MIT.

Okay, now this is just ludicrous. Who gives a shit if he got some out-of-context praise from Noam Chomsky, who’s a linguist and not an evolutionary biologist? Worst of all, since the journalist doesn’t bother to reproduce some examples of the supposed praise heaped upon him, this is just downright misleading.  Here are a few quotes from the sidebar on the main page of Vendramini’s website:

“I think TEEM theory is all very scientifically addressable, and can rely on standard genetic techniques.”
Professor David Featherstone,
Department of Biological Sciences.
University of Illinois at Chicago

“If you are right, nearly everything I know about genetics and development is wrong.”
Professor Robert Trivers

“I will certainly look forward to seeing the publication of your book, not least because of some recently developed interests of my own on the evolution (and inevitability) of sensory mechanisms.”
Professor Simon Conway Morris.
Cambridge University

“Your theory is very novel and interesting.”
Professor Kirk Winemiller, Texas A&M University

Notice anything? For one thing, most are addressed in the second person.  These are likely culled from email conversations he’s had while shilling his theory out to scientists. Another is that they all seem to be polite ways to avoid the topic. Along the lines of, “Yes, that’s nice dear, now run along and play.” Most of the endorsements on the page are of this nature. They don’t really amount to much and certainly don’t lend any credence to his theory. But our journalist Shit Lips McGee seems oblivious to this.

We’re sitting under the veranda of a cafe as he explains all this. He has made a day-trip to Melbourne from his home in Sydney and he knows he’s in for a long chat. Somehow, he has to outline the evolutionary process of both his idea and every multicellular species on earth. And, along the way, he’s going to have to distance himself from all those crackpot anti-evolutionists by stressing he’s not a Christian, has little time for creationists and reveres Darwin deeply.

For the 57-year-old sculptor, scriptwriter and all-round Renaissance man, this is an important chat. After six long years developing his ideas, the time has come for some mainstream exposure. So the chinotti are ordered as he takes a deep breath and starts at the beginning.

But because Vendramini’s theory questions some aspects of Darwin, he says he is often befriended by creationists. So the time has come to shatter that illusion. When I ask him about intelligent design – the stream of creationism that is sweeping the US and claims life is too complicated to be left to chance – he reacts impulsively, jerking his hand forwards and knocking over a pepper shaker. It’s as if his own fear-of-religion teem has reacted violently to this external threat.

“There is absolutely no need for an intelligent designer. It’s all a lot of crap,” he fires off before sitting back to reflect, “Yeah, that’ll stir ‘em up.”

I’m always somewhat amazed when someone shows that they are perfectly capable of recognizing bullshit, then they turn around and offer up their own bullshit that’s just as bad.

But anyways, this has been going on for a while and we still haven’t heard just what the fuck his “theory” is. Tell us, please, what this “teemosis” crap is.

We’re not talking about the Big Bang. Instead, Vendramini chooses the moment when he first started thinking that Darwin might have missed something and that perhaps there was an evolutionary process working in tandem with natural selection. He came to this conclusion after thinking about myths and the way so many cultures have sagas in which catastrophic floods are meted out as God’s retribution for bad behaviour. He became curious about the way different nations have the same epic stories about monsters, dragons, good and evil.

“It’s as if they’re hard-wired into our genes,” he says. So he looked for the scientific literature to explain this and, apart from some “esoteric stuff by mythologists”, he says he found a “nothingness”. Eventually, he came up with the hypothesis that it may have something to do with the inheritance of emotional memories.

Vendramini believes that environmental factors, if powerful enough, can trigger changes in non-coding or “junk” DNA, which in turn are passed on to offspring and govern their behaviour. He calls these “teems” or Trauma Encoded Emotional Memories and he believes they’re triggered by lifethreatening events such as attacks by predators or profound emotions such as sexual arousal.

When these emotions are encrypted into an animal’s noncoding DNA, they can be passed on so that subsequent generations begin life with that teem already archived in its emotional memory.

Okay, this is the part where Shit Lips McGee should have started asking some really obvious questions. Like, “How does getting scared rewrite your DNA?” or “How does the TEEM on the junk DNA affect the phenotype if the DNA doesn’t code for anything?” or “How does it get passed on at all?”

Think about it. Each of us is formed from two gametes — an egg and a sperm. These are produced in the gonads of our parents, and each has one half of their DNA. The DNA, then, comes from these cells in that part of the body. In order for “teemosis” to work, a dude’s testicles would have to have both a memory of emotions and a method for *somehow* writing that emotion into the DNA of the sperm. Let’s call this the Nutbag Memory Theory.

How the fuck is this supposed to work? There is no mechanism for it. He doesn’t even attempt to give one. There’s no organ in the body that rewrites the DNA in the gametes. The testes certainly can’t do it. And even if there were one, it’s supposedly being written into the non-coding DNA, so it won’t do anything. And beyond even that, there’s no way to write a very specific experience into DNA. DNA is a chemical that sets off a series of chemical reactions that lead to development. It doesn’t store episodic memories like the brain does. None of this makes any sense. But Shit Lips McGee just blithely passes it on like it’s big news in science and continues to finger Vendramini’s teem hole.

Also, I can’t help but notice that TEEMs sound quite a bit like L. Ron Hubbard’s bullshit theory of “body thetans”, which are also emotional traumas that build up in our system and can be passed on from one generation to the next. Maybe Vendramini just needs to go to his local Scientology center and get an e-meter reading. I’ll get John Travolta on the phone. Just, whatever you do, don’t give him a back rub.

But this works only in certain life forms. To experience a teem you’ll need not only non-coding DNA but also a central nervous system and sensory organs. Vendramini says these are important because it’s the central nervous system – not the brain — that is the real emotion-producing organ and because sensory organs are the means of collecting the data that generates the emotion.

Evidence, please? The central nervous system includes the brain and the spine. So if it’s not just the brain, then the spine plays a role too? Does that mean if someone severs their spine they won’t be able to generate emotions? If not, then what the fuck do you mean and what evidence do you have for it?

Vendramini then goes a step further, proposing that teemosis helps explain something Darwin could not, namely the rapid profusion of species, especially multicellular organisms, during the period palaeontologists describe as the Cambrian Explosion, about 543 million years ago. It was at the moment he made this link that Vendramini reckoned his theory started feeling good because, suddenly, organisms had some control over their destiny and weren’t completely dependent on random mutations for evolutionary success.

He believes Darwin explains incremental or microevolution whereas teem theory explains the complexity of creatures, biodiversity and behavioural evolution.

And he wonders why creationists like him so much. This is standard creationist claptrap, and it’s just as wrong when it’s being peddled for a materialistic theory as it is when it’s peddled for a supernatural theory.

And how the fuck does emotional trauma building up in DNA give animals “control over their destiny”?

There’s a maverick streak in Vendramini. He calls himself a theoretical biologist, but happily tells you his only qualification is this theory.

So all it takes to be a scientist is to make up your own bullshit theory. Gotcha.

He says he relishes his amateur status because it has allowed him to escape the shackles that bind professionals.

“Being an amateur is usually a disadvantage, but, for me, it was fortunate because I didn’t have the normal respect for the paradigms that scientists work within.”

He says established scientists won’t leap at his theory because “if they’ve been teaching a certain paradigm all their lives and then discover that Darwin needs updating, it would be a violation of their core beliefs”.

Ugh. Is there a single crank in the universe who doesn’t abuse Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy in order to justify having no expertise in his purported field?

Look, crackpots. Kuhn never argued that you can be a scientist without expertise. He never claimed that paradigms are so rigidly dogmatic that scientists are incapable of even considering other ideas. He certainly never claimed that just any ludicrous idea with no connection to the existing body of scientific knowledge could cause a paradigm shift.

But one thing that Kuhn did say was that paradigms rarely shift back. That is, once a paradigm has been abandoned, it usually stays that way. And Vendramini’s “theory” sounds a lot like one of those abandoned paradigms. Lamarckism, a theory of evolution by acquired characteristics, had quite a following among biologists before it was rendered pretty much impossible by genetics. “Teemosis” is also inheritance of acquired characteristics, and has the same problem: How the fuck does the DNA get “rewritten”? There isn’t an organ in the body that does that.

So I went in search of academics to make a comment on the theory. The first port of call – a leading biologist in one of our prominent universities – appeared to vindicate Vendramini’s pessimism.

Fuck you, Shit Lips.

After offering the scientist a potted overview of teemosis, he replied in a derisive tone. “It sounds to me like the second cousin to the flying saucer. I’d prefer not to run with it. There’s enough genuine stuff based on natural history and, if it’s coming off a website rather than proper scientific study, I’d prefer not to be quoted. It sounds like a great Doctor Who story,” he concluded.

When I explained that Vendramini had published his work in the British journal Medical Hypotheses, there was a haughty laugh down the phone. “Well the name says it all,” he scoffed. Would you like to have a look at the website,” I inquired?

“No, I’d rather not run with it.”

Medical Hypotheses will publish anything. Shit Lips didn’t even bother to check what kind of journal they are. They publish highly speculative work by scientists with almost no peer review, and publishing there does not in anyway entail anything about the quality of the work.

If Shit Lips had done any independent research, any at all, he would have known this. But instead he’s a typical science  journalist, getting his information entirely from interviews, taking everything said at face value, interviewing an “opposing view” for “balance”, then working it all into a narrative about a lone wolf scientist who changed everything. Cast the working scientists (you know, the ones who actually know what they’re doing) as cartoon mustache-twirling villains and the subject of the piece as the brave David going up against the scientific Goliath, and you’ve got a “story”. *Grrrr*

Dr Martin Burd of Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences was more accommodating and, after reading Vendramini’s paper and navigating his way round his website, he concluded that he was “very sceptical” about the theory for at least two reasons. The first is that plants have as much repetitive non-coding DNA in their genomes as animals, a fact not explained by Vendramini. He hints that Vendramini might be tempted to argue that repetitive non-coding DNA serves a different function in plants than the teem function in animals. But, according to Burd, this would amount to “special pleading” – something scientists frown upon.

Okay, this shit should have been brought up MUCH earlier in the article. These are really, really obvious questions for which Vendramini has no answers.

And it’s not just scientists that frown on special pleading. Any rational person should. It’s a logical fallacy for crying out loud. I’m not a scientist, but I sure as fuck frown on special pleading. And why is it in scare quotes? Is Shit Lips trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of special pleading as an objection to an argument?

He also accuses Vendramini of failing to explain the mechanics of it all adequately. He concludes it’s “not very convincing” because Vendramini doesn’t reveal how teems are actually written into non-coding DNA and how that affects emotions or creates instincts.

Yes! Yes yes yes! Why did it take this fucking long to bring this up?

Vendramini responds to this criticism with characteristic optimism. “Given that the history of science shows that radical new scientific ideas are initially almost universally disparaged, these comments seem quite moderate. I’m encouraged.”

I knew we’d see the Galileo Gambit at some point. And of course Shit Lips passes it along without even a hint of skepticism or any critical analysis. I mean, there’s already a stock response to this: “Yes, they laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown.” Shit Lips would barely have to exert himself at all to demonstrate at least a modicum of journalist integrity here. But no. Twas not to be.

So now the maverick Vendramini is seeking acceptance – or at least the courtesy of having his ideas tested to assess whether they have anything to offer. And, as he braces for the reviews, he has taken heart from Darwin himself: “Darwin loved to have his mistakes pointed out. I’d have an enormous sense of pride if my theory adds just a little to his noble edifice, but if I see evidence that it’s wrong, I just have to admit it.”

And that’s the final paragraph of the article. It should be obvious by now that I see Shit Lips as the villain in this. Vendramini is certainly a quack and a bozo, but he seems mostly harmless to me. At least he’s creative–his ideas might make for a good sci-fi series, if not for good science. I’d be willing to read a comic book about a superhero group called T.E.E.M who can control their own DNA with their emotions and give themselves superpowers. That might be cool. As long as Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb don’t get involved with it.

Shit Lips, on the other hand, is a shitty fucking journalist. This article is little more than a puff piece, and it’s structured to mislead the public on just about every topic it “reports” on. This is certainly due more to laziness and incompetence than to malice on Shit Lips’ part. But that’s no excuse.

This is the shoddy state of science journalism in today’s media. It might be better than it was 50 years ago, but it’s still horrible. And while a single crank can do little more on his own than annoy the scientists he continually emails his self-published book to, a lazy/incompetent journalist at a large publication can legitimize his bogus views to thousands or even millions of consumers who don’t know enough about science to differentiate between the real thing and the Asylum Films style knock-off. This is the equivalent of Roger Ebert reviewing Alien Origin but telling people it’s a review for Prometheus. (Ebert would never do that, but I wouldn’t put it past Armond White…)

But, hey, at least it’s “balanced” and “open-minded,” right?

Why Evolution Matters

Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones (a publication that, I admit, I rarely read) has said something rather dumb about evolution. Not that he’s a creationist (I’d be using the word “douchebucket” a lot more if he were). Rather, he’s concerned about how we, as people with functioning brains, should view the importance of the evolution/creation battle in America. According to Drum, it’s not all that important and has little relevance to the political issues that matter today.

He’s wrong. And he clearly knows very little about the anti-evolution movement in America and what their agenda really is. Simply put, if you support things like equality based on gender and sexual orientation, responsible economic policy (as opposed to slash-and-burn capitalism), religious freedom and secularism, and the all important task of trying to keep the American populace at least un-stupid, then the unending onslaught against facts and reality in America’s public schools should be on your radar.

Drum is responding to an article by Andrew Sullivan, who after lamenting the fact that polls consistently show that roughly 45% of Americans believe Jesus had a pet velociraptor, argues that this is perhaps not an issue of deeply held belief, but that instead creationism functions as a sort of “cultural signifier” demarcating “us” (good Christians) from “them” (Commie Muslim liberal fags). I think he’s probably at least partially right about this. My guess is that a sizable portion of American creationists don’t care about the theory of evolution in biology any more than they do about string theory in physics or dynamical systems theory in cognitive science. But they adhere to it because it has become a calling card that differentiates their tribe from the atheists and “socialists” (they typically don’t understand socialism any better than they do biology). Sullivan rightly asks how we could ever hope to have a productive dialogue when such a large chunk of he population decides even the most basic facts about reality based solely on tribal affiliation. (Although I also agree with Ed Brayton, who points out that Sullivan somewhat misses the mark by making this about “bring[ing] our country together.”)

Enter Drum. He thinks this is all a bunch of hooey:

Come on. This 46% number has barely budged over the past three decades, and I’m willing to bet it was at least as high back in the 50s and early 60s, that supposed golden age of comity and bipartisanship. It simply has nothing to do with whether we can all get along and nothing to do with whether we can construct a civil discourse.

If you’ve ever tried to argue with a creationist, you know what kind of “discourse” you’re in for. Civility will be the least of your problems. Intellectual honesty, logical reasoning, and the facts are going to suffer a lot more.

Honestly, I don’t much care for all the babble about “civility”.  If Drum wants to claim that the unchanging nature of American creationism shows that it is irrelevant, I would like to point out to him that American political discourse has never been civil. Read Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, written in 1832, for evidence of that. American political discourse has always been noisy, rude, loud and unruly. Really, nothing has changed in the day of teabaggers and fundamentalists except that they now have the internet amplifying their barking lunacy.

The fact is that belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything. That’s why 46% of the country can safely choose not to believe it: their lack of belief has precisely zero effect on their lives. Sure, it’s a handy way of saying that they’re God-fearing Christians — a “cultural signifier,” as Andrew puts it — but our lives are jam-packed with cultural signifiers. This is just one of thousands, one whose importance probably barely cracks America’s top 100 list.

I’m not so sure of this. The Gallup poll found that there is a strong negative correlation between education attainment and rejection of evolution:

December 2010 Views of Human Origins (Humans Evolved, With God Guiding; Humans Evolved Without God's Involvment; God Created Humans in Present Form) -- by Education

Now, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that the more pig ignorant you are, the more likely you are to believe that Jesus personally sculpted out the human rectal orifice. However, we should also consider the possibility that accepting bogus science might hinder one’s ability to think critically and achieve higher levels of education. Regardless, I don’t think one can just flippantly claim that belief in evolution has nothing to do with real life when it correlates so strongly with something so important.

And after making that highly dubious claim, Drum really goes off the rails with this:

And the reason it doesn’t is that even creationists don’t take their own views seriously. How do I know this? Well, creationists like to fight over whether we should teach evolution in high school, but they never go much beyond that. Nobody wants to remove it from university biology departments. Nobody wants to shut down actual medical research that depends on the workings of evolution. In short, almost nobody wants to fight evolution except at the purely symbolic level of high school curricula, the one place where it barely matters in the first place. The dirty truth is that a 10th grade knowledge of evolution adds only slightly to a 10th grade understanding of biology.

Okay, several points:

1.) There are people who would love to remove evolution from the universities, but they know it will never happen. Unlike local school boards and state legislatures, universities have a lot of smart people in them. You can sell your bullshit pseudoscience to a bunch of rubes at the local PTA meeting much more easily than you can at a university biology department (where people know stuff about, you know, science and all that).

2.) I think that the existence of a $20 million creation museum in Kentucky should disabuse us of the notion that creationist don’t take their beliefs seriously. Some don’t, but some most certainly do.

3.) Most importantly, the push to teach creationism in public high schools is not “purely symbolic”, and this is where it really matters. Also, this is where Drum shows his complete ignorance of what’s at stake in this battle.

Kevin Drum needs to read the Wedge Document and get a taste of what the creationists (currently playing dress up as “Intelligent Design Proponents”) are up to. He’s right that they don’t really take their beliefs in creationism very seriously (the document barely even talks about science). But there is something that they do take very seriously: Infiltrating the public school system and turning it into a tool for training up conservative religious freaks who will take over the country and institute biblical law over the rest of us.

Believe it or not, the people pushing creationism today are not stupid (their followers, on the other hand…).  They’re savvy. They know that once people reach adulthood, their outlook on life and their beliefs are basically set. If you want to turn people into mindless Godbots, you gotta start young. The younger the better, in fact.

Intelligent design creationism is not an end in itself to them. It’s a tool, a “wedge” as they call it, that (if they succeed) will be used to usher a whole slew of right wing nincompoopery into the school system, where it will be taught as fact. Would you like for your children (or anyone’s children for that matter) to be taught that our Founding Fathers were religious fundamentalists who founded a Christian nation, that gays can be cured, that relentless laissez-faire capitalism is the only economic policy endorsed by God, that AIDS is a punishment for gays, that America has been on the side of good in every war it fought, that atheists caused the Holocaust and slavery, that welfare only makes people lazy, that abortion causes breast cancer, that “secular humanism” is equivalent to Marxism, and a whole slew of other demonstrably false and ludicrous right wing fantasies that get spewed daily on talk radio and from pulpits? Well, that’s kinda what they’re going for.

The problem is that since creationism, in most people’s minds, serves merely as a cultural marker, they will vote in the person who promises “balance” in the biology classroom without realizing that they are voting in all this other stuff as well. Since so many people accept creationism, savvy (and cynical) politicians who want to radically alter our current system to favor white, wealthy Christians over everyone else can use it as a wedge issue.

So, yes, the creationism issue is very important, even if it’s merely a cultural signifier that most people don’t take very seriously. And this is why Drum completely misses the mark in his conclusion:

Now, I think evolution should remain in high school texts anyway. Why? Because it’s true. Biology is a science, and evolution is one of the pillars of modern science. For me, that’s a cultural signifier every bit as much as a literal reading of the Bible is for 46% of the country. But you know what? I could spend an entire day arguing politics and economics and culture with a conservative and never so much as mention evolution. It’s just not that important, and it doesn’t tell us much of anything about our widening political polarization. We should keep up the fight, but at the same time we shouldn’t pretend it has an epic significance that it doesn’t. I’m not optimistic about anyone or anything “bringing the country together,” but not because lots of people choose to deny evolution. Frankly, that’s one of the least of our problems.

I’m not optimistic about “bringing our country together” either, but that’s just fucking irrelevant. The importance of evolution isn’t in whether it can bring us all around the campfire where we can sing and roast marshmallows. It’s in the fact that its advocates have a much broader agenda, with creationism being the first step in infiltrating the schools. Simply put, if they succeed, we’re all kinda fucked, as future prosperity and progress depend pretty heavily on having a well-educated population.

I find it hard to believe that a liberal like Kevin Drum could be so dismissive about the importance of education. Does he really think that the ongoing attempts to put pseudoscience in public school curriculum is “one of the least of our problems”?  Does he really think that we can just ignore pedagogical concerns about what’s being taught in our schools and expect to be able to solve economic or social problems with an uneducated population?

My guess would be that he doesn’t think these things. He probably just didn’t think at all when he said it. And that’s kinda the problem with these types of issues.