Category Archives: Science And Society

Bad Week For Creationism

Via John Rennie (who seems to be blogging at Scientific American now) comes this sad story about “Dr. Dino” (aka Kent Hovind) and his dinosaur Bible park:

Escambia County authorities this week locked up a museum building at the theme park on North Palafox Street in Pensacola after Circuit Judge Michael Allen ruled the owners were in contempt of court.

Owners of the park, which shows how dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth just a few thousand years ago, did not obtain a building permit before constructing the building in 2002. They have argued in and out of court that it violates their “deeply held” religious beliefs, and that the church-run facility does not have to obtain permits.

Did I say sad? I meant hilarious. What a bunch of scam artists.

A Canary In The Coal Mine?

Well, actually a swan in the wild. It was found dead of avian flu, in Scotland.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said that if H5N1 was confirmed, ministers would have to make an immediate decision on whether all farm birds across the United Kingdom would be brought indoors.

A decision would also be made on whether restrictions would be imposed on the movement of goods from poultry to eggs.

Not good news for the UK, or the world.

They Have To Be Carefully Untaught

Here’s a study that says that children are natural scientists:

Apparently it takes a concerted effort on the part of many so-called science teachers in the public schools to slowly beat it out of them, over the course of several years.

But I wonder if anyone pondered the implications of this?

Schulz said she believes this is the first study that looks at how probabilistic evidence affects children’s reasoning about unobserved causes. The researchers found that children are conservative about unobserved causes (they don’t always think mysterious things are happening) but would rather accept unobserved causes than accept that things happen at random.

This probably explains the appeal of ID (partly because evolution isn’t properly explained). If one believes that evolution is “random” (which is how it’s too often explained), then there will be a natural tendency to look for the man behind the curtain.

But of course, it’s not. What’s random is the mutations themselves, not how they’re selected. One sees many fallacies related to this in critiques of evolution, in which people figure out the probability of a monkey typing a sonnet, by assuming that each monkey starts anew with each try, and showing that it’s astronomically improbable. With that assumption, of course, the creation of the sonnet is quite unlikely.

But if a monkey gets the first word right, and that’s the starting point for the next monkey, then the result will out, and in a surprisingly short time, because the process isn’t random. It’s directed by an evolutionary force (in this particular case, the desire to have something that looks like a sonnet).

In the natural case, of course, it’s driven by the fact that things that don’t look like sonnets (that is, that have traits that cause their phenotypes to die before reproducing) don’t go on to the next generation.

“Creationists’ Best Recruiting Sergeants”

Madeleine Bunting, on how the militant atheism of Dawkins and Dennett may be backfiring:

…while Dembski, Dawkins and Dennett are sipping the champagne for their very different reasons, there is a party pooper. Michael Ruse, a prominent Darwinian philosopher (and an agnostic) based in the US, with a string of books on the subject, is exasperated: “Dawkins and Dennett are really dangerous, both at a moral and a legal level.” The nub of Ruse’s argument is that Darwinism does not lead ineluctably to atheism, and to claim that it does (as Dawkins does) provides the intelligent-design lobby with a legal loophole: “If Darwinism equals atheism then it can’t be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool.”

There’s no room for complacency, urged Ruse over lunch in London last week. Last December’s court ruling against the teaching of intelligent design in some Pennsylvania schools may have been a blow, but now the strategy of the creationist/intelligent-design lobby is to “chisel away at school-board level” across the US. The National Centre for Science Education believes that as many as 20% of US schools are teaching creationism in some form. Evolution is losing the battle, says Ruse, and it’s the fault of Dawkins and Dennett with their aggressive atheism: they are the creationists’ best recruiting sergeants.

Yes. Too many people believe in God for this to be a successful debating tactic. People have to be made to understand that religion and science don’t have to be incompatible, and that we don’t have to abandon science (as the “science” of intelligent design does) when the going gets tough. As Galileo said, the one tells us how to get to heaven, the other describes of what the heavens are made. Of course, with modern science and rocketry, perhaps science will allow us to do both.

“Creationists’ Best Recruiting Sergeants”

Madeleine Bunting, on how the militant atheism of Dawkins and Dennett may be backfiring:

…while Dembski, Dawkins and Dennett are sipping the champagne for their very different reasons, there is a party pooper. Michael Ruse, a prominent Darwinian philosopher (and an agnostic) based in the US, with a string of books on the subject, is exasperated: “Dawkins and Dennett are really dangerous, both at a moral and a legal level.” The nub of Ruse’s argument is that Darwinism does not lead ineluctably to atheism, and to claim that it does (as Dawkins does) provides the intelligent-design lobby with a legal loophole: “If Darwinism equals atheism then it can’t be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool.”

There’s no room for complacency, urged Ruse over lunch in London last week. Last December’s court ruling against the teaching of intelligent design in some Pennsylvania schools may have been a blow, but now the strategy of the creationist/intelligent-design lobby is to “chisel away at school-board level” across the US. The National Centre for Science Education believes that as many as 20% of US schools are teaching creationism in some form. Evolution is losing the battle, says Ruse, and it’s the fault of Dawkins and Dennett with their aggressive atheism: they are the creationists’ best recruiting sergeants.

Yes. Too many people believe in God for this to be a successful debating tactic. People have to be made to understand that religion and science don’t have to be incompatible, and that we don’t have to abandon science (as the “science” of intelligent design does) when the going gets tough. As Galileo said, the one tells us how to get to heaven, the other describes of what the heavens are made. Of course, with modern science and rocketry, perhaps science will allow us to do both.

“Creationists’ Best Recruiting Sergeants”

Madeleine Bunting, on how the militant atheism of Dawkins and Dennett may be backfiring:

…while Dembski, Dawkins and Dennett are sipping the champagne for their very different reasons, there is a party pooper. Michael Ruse, a prominent Darwinian philosopher (and an agnostic) based in the US, with a string of books on the subject, is exasperated: “Dawkins and Dennett are really dangerous, both at a moral and a legal level.” The nub of Ruse’s argument is that Darwinism does not lead ineluctably to atheism, and to claim that it does (as Dawkins does) provides the intelligent-design lobby with a legal loophole: “If Darwinism equals atheism then it can’t be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool.”

There’s no room for complacency, urged Ruse over lunch in London last week. Last December’s court ruling against the teaching of intelligent design in some Pennsylvania schools may have been a blow, but now the strategy of the creationist/intelligent-design lobby is to “chisel away at school-board level” across the US. The National Centre for Science Education believes that as many as 20% of US schools are teaching creationism in some form. Evolution is losing the battle, says Ruse, and it’s the fault of Dawkins and Dennett with their aggressive atheism: they are the creationists’ best recruiting sergeants.

Yes. Too many people believe in God for this to be a successful debating tactic. People have to be made to understand that religion and science don’t have to be incompatible, and that we don’t have to abandon science (as the “science” of intelligent design does) when the going gets tough. As Galileo said, the one tells us how to get to heaven, the other describes of what the heavens are made. Of course, with modern science and rocketry, perhaps science will allow us to do both.

First It Was The Creationists

…and now it’s the geocentrists, who want to return to the days of Ptolemy:

Mention geocentrism and physicist Lawrence Krauss sighs. He is director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University and author of several books including “Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed.”

“What works? Science works. Geocentrism doesn’t. End of story,” Krauss said from Cleveland. “I’ve learned over time that it’s hard to convince people who believe otherwise, independent of evidence.”

To Sungenis, of Greencastle, Pa., evidence is the rub.

For several years the Web site of his Catholic Apologetics International (www.catholicintl.com) offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could disprove geocentrism and prove heliocentrism (a sun-centered solar system).

There were numerous attempts, Sungenis said, “some serious, some caustic,” but no one did it to his satisfaction. “Most admitted it can’t be proven.”

There’s also no proof that the Earth rotates, he said.

But what about Foucault’s famous pendulum? Its plane of oscillation revolves every 24 hours, showing the rotation of the planet. If the Earth didn’t rotate, it wouldn’t oscillate.

Nope, Sungenis said: There just may be some other force propelling it, such as the pull of stars.

These loons are like the “NASA faked the moon landings” type. They’re impervious to facts, evidence or logic. But everyone can look down on someone:

Sungenis wants to make sure “people don’t classify geocentrists with Flat Earthers. We don’t believe that at all.”

Oh, well, that’s all right then.

[Late afternoon update]

One of Jonah’s emailers had a (sort of, well not really) defense of geocentrism:

It is not my intent to defend geocentrism, but I do weary of the common rebuttal that “the earth goes around the sun.” Imagine, if you will, if the earth and sun were the only two bodies in the solar system. How would one make the case that the earth went around the sun and not vice versa? And is it not curious that no one argues that the moon goes around the sun, although technically, it does? The problem is not who revolves around whom, but what frame of reference yields the simplest description of motion. Copernicus did not overthrow geocentrism so much as he provided a different reference point that made it possible to describe planetary motions as ellipses rather than epicycles and other wierd paths.

Well, no, even that doesn’t help.

The problem with geocentrism isn’t that it merely claims that the sun goes around the earth. It’s true, as Jonah’s emailer writes, that both earth and sun revolve around each other (though the sun barely budges in its tiny orbit around their common center of gravity, which is contained entirely within itself, and superimposed with the motion resulting from its interactions with all of the other planets).

The geocentrists’ problem is that they believe that the sun going around the earth explains the daily cycle of light and dark. But the sun and earth revolve around each other once a year, not once a day. They are essentially denying the very fact of the earth’s rotation in inertial space. Note that their explanation also makes it much more complicated to explain seasons, since they’ve essentially denied the natural motion that causes things to go through an annual cycle (that is, the sun can’t go around the earth both once a day, and once a year).