creationism

“What exactly is Christian about being gay?”

The Creation Museum recently hosted a “Date Night” for FamilyLife’s conference in Cincinnati, OH. While usually I’d consider animatronic dinosaurs the true pinnacle of romance, the whole Biblical literalism thing sort of ruins the mood for me. But one journalist decided to check it out with friends, and posted about his experience on reddit:

I write for an alt-weekly, and in the interest of journalistic science went to northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum for their couples’ Date Night, which basically consisted of a talk by museum founder Ken Ham, a buffet dinner, a musical performance by a country music guitarist and truckloads of cognitive dissonance.

Our party consisted of myself, my girlfriend Shanna and our friend Brandon, who was to be accompanied by our friend Joe, who was himself running late. As a coterie of security guards checked the three of us in, they wanted to know where Brandon’s date what kind of car she would be driving so they could keep a look out for her.

“Uh,” I said, “his partner’s name is Joe.” (I don’t know why I said it that way, it just came out. Joe and Brandon are heterosexual)

Needless to say, the security guard reacted with shock.

“Joe?” he said. “This is a Christian environment, and we can’t allow them to attend. It will disrupt the evening for everyone.”

When pressed, the guard reiterated that you can’t be a Christian if you’re gay.

“Can you tell me what exactly is Christian about being gay?” the officer rhetorically asked. Nothing, obviously.

Now, this is an anonymous post on reddit, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. Hopefully the author will link to his official write up for his job when it’s published. EDIT: His article can be found here. But it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard this sort of sentiment coming from some Christians. You can’t be Christian if you’re gay, and your disgusting gayness is going to ruin the night for all these nice, godly people.

I don’t know if the guards were from the Creation Museum or Family Life. The Creation Museum’s website states “Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are not affiliated with FamilyLife.” Until we know, this isn’t exactly great PR for them when they’re trying to get tax payer money to fund their new theme park, Ark Encounter.

I’m sure the Creation Museum will release a statement right away saying that all homosexuals are welcome to their museum and apologize for the situation.

Yep, definitely not a ministry

Remember when Anderson Cooper interviewed Ken Ham, who repeatedly insisted that Ark Encounter was not a ministry, but a for profit organization that will bring jobs to the state of Kentucky?

Well, in a move that’s not surprising to anyone who knows anything about Ken Ham and the Creation Museum, if you actually want one of those jobs, you’re going to have to write a statement saying you support Answers in Genesis’s statement of faith. No, it’s not just being Christian. And no, it’s not just believing the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that evolution is false. In addition to those highly important job related traits, you also have to accept moral judgments, such as homosexuality and pre-marital sex being a perversion, and actively attend church.

Not sure how they’re going to enforce those last ones. Maybe part of the contract requires your bedroom be outfitted with one of those security cameras Ken Ham loves so much.

So…tell me again how it’s totally okay for Kentucky to help fund a project that discriminates against gays and non-Young Earth Creationists?

(Via Pharyngula)

That look of disgust looks about right

Bill Nye the Science Guy, personal hero of mine and Humanist of the Year, recently visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky. And by visited, I mean he drove up, look a picture of the side-show, and drove off. How do we know? Because Big Brother Ken Ham was watching.

While I understand the need for surveillance cameras at any big building with a lot of traffic, it’s a bit off putting that he’ll slap any images from it on the internet. Here’s Ham’s proof:Yep, that seems to be the appropriate reaction to the Creation Museum. I can hear the thoughts running through his mind just by his expression. “The stupid, it burns! It burns!”

Ken Ham vs. Barry Lynn of Anderson Cooper

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gVjeVtCotM&w=500&h=311]

tl;dr:
Ham: It’s for profit! You just hate Christians!
Lynn: You’re a ministry with the explicit goal to convert people to Christianity!
Ham: I’m going to ignore everything you say and keep saying “for profit”!
Lynn: lol, Flintstones and unicorns.

Creation Museum seeks Kentucky tax support

It’s bad enough the Governor was speaking at a press conference with them today. But it’s terrifying now that we know why:

Operators of the popular Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky are seeking state tax incentives to build a creationism theme park at a nearby site — a project that Gov. Steve Beshear officially will announce today .

Mike Zovath, senior vice president of the non-profit group Answers in Genesis, one of the partners in developing the park, said Kentucky officials have told him the proposal for state tourism-development incentives “looks good.”

He said the park — to be called Ark Encounter — would include a massive wooden ark that would offer educational attractions. Additional details weren’t released Tuesday.

[…]The developers are seeking incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, which allows up to 25 percent of the cost of a project to be recovered. Under the law, the state each year returns to developers of approved projects the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, gift sales and lodging costs. Developers have 10 years to reach the 25 percent threshold.

Wow. How could funding the freaking Creation Museum not violate the separation of church and state? The only way this place could be considered “educational” is that it educates us on how incredibly wacky some people are. Or if they had a sign every three feet along the “museum” explaining why they’re mind-numbingly wrong. You know, signs showing actual science.

Of course, what do you expect coming out of Kentucky? Wait, what’s that…?

Zovath said Answers in Genesis and its partner, Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit company based in Springfield, Mo., have not finalized plans to build the park in Kentucky and are still considering locating it in Indiana.

OH GOD NOOOO! Not my home state! We’re embarrassing enough…

Seriously though, how could this fly? What’s the logic here?

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation, said his organization doesn’t believe there would be a problem in giving a tax break to an organization that is “not explicitly religious.””Whether you agree with them or not, they are making a claim that what they are doing is scientific and it’s not necessarily the state’s business to second guess that,” Cothran said.

…Are you fucking kidding me? As someone who’s been to the Museum, they very clearly say that they get all their knowledge from the Bible, and that it’s their goal to make facts mesh with the Bible. They hardly claim that it’s scientific. No, they devote the whole museum to demonizing science and the scientific method.

But even if they do claim to be scientific, it certainly is the state’s business to second guess that! Are we just going to let any religious group throw the word “science” around so they can get funding?

It’s bad enough that Kentucky was unlucky enough to be the home of the Creation Museum. Explicitly helping them will give us a legitimate reason to laugh at the state. Laugh, and then cry.

Someone please make this for us evolutionary biologists

This man is a genius:

Tired of arguing with climate change deniers in 140 character quips, [Nigel Leck] wrote a script to do it for him. Chatbot @AI_AGW scans Twitter every five minutes searching for hundreds of phrases that fit the usual denier argument paradigm. Then it serves them up some science.

Those responses are pulled from a database of hundreds of responses that the software matches up to the argument made by the original tweeter. Those who claim the entire solar system is warming are met with something like: “Sun’s output has barely changed since 1970 & is irrelevant to recent global warming” followed by a link to corresponding scientific research.

People on the other end of an argument don’t usually pick up on the fact that they are arguing with a program, like they may not with matters involving chatbots in general business use (such as on https://rasa.com/solutions/open-source-nlu-nlp/) and will continue the argument. And AI_AGW continues to fire back responses. Even when the tweeter keeps throwing the same argument at the chatbot, it will respond with a variety of different arguments and links.

Programmers, please get on this. It gets so old dealing with the same ignorant arguments over and over again. I would kill for an automated Index to Creationist Claims. Sure, we may only educate a small fraction of people making the claims – the ones who are open to science but simply haven’t learned about evolution. But the rest of the time, the hilarity of watching hardcore creationists argue with a bot would make all the effort worth it.

I'm published! …Wait a second

More evidence that you shouldn’t always trust Google Scholar to deliver the best research papers. I decided to look up my name to see if my paper on genetic bottlenecks was searchable even though it’s in a book. That’s the third link listed. The first and fourth aren’t me, just some other poor J McCreight who has had their Google image search ruined forever by boobquake. But to my surprise, the second link is also mine (click image for larger):
…It’s a pdf of a paper I wrote my senior year of high school for AP Composition titled “Creationists in Scientists’ Clothing: Scientific and Legal Reasons Why Science Classes Must Omit Intelligent Design.” It’s pretty damn good considering I was 18 when I wrote it, but I derive endless amusement at how serious it’s being treated. Apparently my English teacher is second author, and the journal is ImageShack.

I mean, come on Google Scholar, how unprofessional. You forgot to mention it was 3rd period! What will happen to my academic reputation if someone thinks I was in 2nd period?!

My landlord is a debate-loving creationist who just realized I'm an evolutionary biologist

Enjoy the schadenfreude, everyone.

My landlord just knocked on the door to discuss various landlord-y things, like how he’ll fix one of my broken chairs and how much Comcast sucks. What he did not bring up was anything about edmonds property management and how he manages to supervise a property like mine, even though I care more about that stuff than whatever he was saying. He asked how grad school was going and what sorts of classes I’m taking, and I mentioned how Gene Regulation was really hard. He’s on a board that heads genetic research for a certain disease, so we were having a pretty in depth discussion about genetics. It was nice until…

Landlord: Well, I’m a creationist. Though most of my colleagues are evolutionists.
Me: …Well, I also have a degree in evolution. Genetics and evolution.
Landlord: *glint in eye*
Me: What have I done?!

He then spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me that junk DNA somehow proves evolution is wrong, how evolution can’t predict anything or be useful, how no study has shown evolution to be true. I tried to provide counter arguments as nicely as possible, while trying not to get evicted from my apartment. In a dream world, I’d tell my landlord exactly what I thought about his argument, before packing up my stuff and moving to one of these los angeles apartments, embarking on a new life in California. But this is no dream world, and so I treaded carefully to make sure I didn’t put my foot in it.

Landlord: Well, I shouldn’t keep you from your paper any longer. But I see I’m going to have a lot of work to do with you. *wink*
Me: I could say the same thing *wink back*
Landlord: Haha, bye!
Me:FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU

I should state that my landlord is super nice and helpful (and looks just like the old man from Up!). I just spend so much of my life debating creationists, I like to escape from it at home. As long as “Must debate evolution before rent is accepted” doesn’t become part of my lease, I’m happy.

I just hope he doesn’t Google my name.

Yet another example of why I left Indiana

A Geocentrism conference? Really?I saw this story floating around and wasn’t going to comment on it, but then I found out the conference is being held in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, Indiana. This is why I usually tell people I’m from Chicago instead (my home town is a Chicago suburb in Indiana, I swear!).

Phil Plait has an excellent summary of why Geocentrism is wrong over at Bad Astronomy, including this particularly insightful bit:

Look, I’m human: I say “The Sun rose in the east today”, and not “the rotation of the Earth relative to the rest of the Universe carried me around to a geometric vantage point where the horizon as seen from my location dropped below the Sun’s apparent position in space.” To us, sitting here on the surface of a planet, geocentrism is a perfectly valid frame of reference. Heck, astronomers use it all the time to point our telescopes. We map the sky using a projected latitude and longitude, and we talk about things rising and setting. That’s not only natural, but a very easy way to do those sorts of things. In that case, thinking geocentrically makes sense.

However, as soon as you want to send a space probe to another planet, geocentrism becomes cumbersome. In that case, it’s far easier to use the Sun as the center of the Universe and measure the rotating and revolving Earth as just another planet. The math works out better, and in fact it makes more common sense.

However, this frame of reference, called heliocentrism, still is not the best frame for everything. Astronomers who study other galaxies use a galactic coordinate system based on our Milky Way galaxy, and the Sun is just another star inside it. Call it galactocentrism, if you want, and it’s just as useful as geo– or heliocentrism in its limited way. And none of those systems work if I want to know turn-by-turn directions while driving; in that case I use a carcentric system (specifically a Volvocentric one).

You use coordinate systems depending on what you need.

So really, there is no one true center to anything. I suppose you could say the Universe is polycentric, or more realistically acentric. You picks your frame of reference and you takes your chances.

…That’s where Geocentrism trips up. Note the upper case G there; I use that to distinguish it from little-g geocentrism, which is just another frame of reference among many. Capital-G Geocentrism is the belief that geocentrism is the only frame, the real one.

I never thought about it that way! Thanks, Phil!

Just in case you haven't rage punched your screen yet today

here you go. Transcript:

“When I decided to homeschool my six year old son, I told him we were going to do “Dinosaur Week”. Which turned into “Dinosaur Month”… at the least! We watched “Walking With Dinosaurs” and a lot of other documentaries. He’s a pretty smart kid, too, so even he ended up saying “Ok. Scientists say that God isn’t real. They say earth is a kajillion years old. They say that people and dinosaurs weren’t alive at the same time and that a lot of dinosaurs could have died from a big flood, but that The Flood didn’t happen. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!”. He gets really upset about people not believing in God – as in he doesn’t want them to go to hell and he can’t believe people can ignore God all around us. Every time we watch one of those dinosaur things, he gives a big, overly-dramatic sigh whenever they start talking about “millions of years” or evolution.

One that really cracked him up was where they theorize about reptiles evolving into humanoid creatures. Good grief! And they teach most of this stuff as FACT in schools!!!! I can’t believe it. Neither can a six year old. So WHY is it so accepted?!!?

I teach him what makes SENSE. NOT what science textbooks say. I also teach my kids to question what they are taught – especially what they learn in school. It’s really not fun at all having a bunch of junior scientists in the house when 99% of science seems to be atheistic.”

*brain explodes*

Yes, because if something doesn’t make sense to a 6 year old, it’s obviously wrong. That’s also how we’ve disproved gravity and economic policy and algebra. Ironclad logic.

…I …I’m not even going to bother refuting everything Random Internet Creationist Parent has to say. It’s really not going to accomplish anything other than make me weep for humanity. Seriously, it kills me that little kids are being brainwashed like this. Is he one day going to wise up, and then have to deal with the crushing social stigma of leaving your family’s religion? Will he become trapped in this mindless acceptance of unthinking religious dogma and never have the skills to do anything more than flip burgers? Or even more terrifying, will he go on to be your child’s biology teacher?

Auuugghhabbbbllllhhh. Should have saved this post for night so I could relabel it as a scary ghost story.

And yes, it was painful for me to type those periods outside of the quotes.

This is post 20 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Creationist hijacking lessons in Queensland, Australia

On one hand, it’s nice knowing the US isn’t alone in its appalling understanding of evolution. On the under hand… WTF, Australia:

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

It’s bad enough children are being fed religious garbage that will only muddle their real scientific education. But when parents opt to have their children removed from this program (which they have the right to do), the children are often ostracized and discriminated against. Here’s just one unfortunate example:

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

“The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve,” he said.

“My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that ‘wouldn’t they all be inbred’?

“But the teacher replied that DNA wasn’t invented then.”

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year’s classes in the library.

Removed for being too bright and inquisitive. If that doesn’t show the true nature of creationism, I don’t know what does.

I do like photo and caption the article uses, though:“The only time man has walked with dinosaurs – in the Jurassic Park films.”

Journalism Win.

This is post 18 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The Evolution Litmus Test

A couple days ago when I was waiting for my Biomedical Ethics exam to begin, I started chatting with this girl sitting near me. She was in my recitation class, but I didn’t really know anything else about her. Somehow I mentioned I was a biology major, and she brought up the one biology class she took as an Animal Science major: it was my favorite Biology class at Purdue, Evolution of Behavior.

Now, even though one of my research advisors teaches that class, I promise I’m not being biased – every day I left that class absolutely amazed at how interesting and inventive nature was. I’ve always been more of a lab rat and genetics nerd, but this gave me real appreciation for natural history and behavior. We talked about insanely interesting topics like the evolution of echolocation, altruism, dominance regulated ovulation suppression, and electric fish communication. And as a perk, I thought the class was pretty easy; if you just understood basic evolutionary principles and paid attention at all (which was a given, since it was so cool), you’d do fine.

So when this girl brought it up, of course I gushed about how much I loved that class. To which she replied,

“Oh, I don’t believe in evolution. I just took that class to see what the different opinion was like.”

The only thing that kept me from calling her out on the stupidity of her statements (EVOLUTION IS NOT FUCKING OPINION) was the fact that I didn’t want to totally upset myself right before I had to take a difficult exam. But of course, she had to go on,

“It was so hard! I didn’t understand anything he was saying all semester!”

I asked her if she took the required introductory evolution classes before taking this one, and she said no – her Animal Science advisor said the class was easy and she waived the requirements. This made me fume. Evolution of Behavior is a 500-level class meant for upperclassmen and graduate students. We spend about a day reviewing the principles of evolution because it’s assumed you’ve already learned them in the various required classes. So if you stick a creationist in that class with no knowledge of evolution, of course they’re going to be totally confused. And now they can proudly claim “well I took a class on evolution and so I know it’s wrong” just because they didn’t have the skill set to understand the class!

The thing that annoys me the most is that this person is graduating with a degree in Animal Sciences. If you are getting a degree in something biology-related, you should understand and accept evolution. Hell, I know Biology students (mostly molecular or pre-med people) who don’t accept evolution, so it’s not a matter of curriculum*. But to know that we’re giving degrees to people who fail to understand – no, outright deny a basic tenet of biology is shameful.

Would chemistry give degrees to someone who thought the five elements were more accurate than the periodic table? Would physics give degrees to a someone who thought gravity was fairies holding us down to the ground? Would earth and atmospheric sciences give degrees to flat-Earthers? Would astronomy give degrees to people who think the moon is made of cheese?

Maybe with the way American education is set up, you can’t stop someone from graduating based on these things. Maybe they adamantly believe in fanciful superstition, but are smart enough to give the desired (aka correct) answers on exams. How do you hold back someone with crazy beliefs if they got As in all the classes?

And while I hate giving creationists undeserved credentials (“I got a degree in Biology, and I know evolution is false, trust me!”), I guess they can go have jobs where evolution doesn’t matter as much. Go pipette for hours at some company for all I care. But when these people are going on to become teachers or scientists, it’s scary. You need to be able to understand and accept evolution to 1) Teach it to others so we don’t keep perpetuating ignorance, and 2) Come up with plausible hypotheses, do good research, and interpret results correctly.

This is why I think we need an Evolution Litmus Test in these fields. Do not accept people into your school or Masters/PhD program unless they accept evolution. I don’t care how you do it – a written test, an essay question on the application, a simple check box to weed out the honest, asking pointed questions during interviews, sending grad student spies to mingle and get the truth out… But figure out what people deny basic science before you turn them into scientists. A friend shared with me a story about a fellow grad school interviewee at a very prestigious university who was a unabashedly proud young earth creationist around the other prospective students (but not current ones or professors) – do not let this ignorance infiltrate your program.

I know people are going to claim I’m just putting an “atheist requirement” on studying biology, but I am not. There are many many biologists who are religious but still accept evolution. I have friends here at Purdue who go to church weekly, are in religious clubs, and will still laugh at Intelligent Design for it’s anti-science lunacy. This is just a scientific standard. If you don’t believe in a fundamental of the field, you should not be able to claim some sort of expertise in it. It’s as bad as graduating in History with a focus on WWII and believing the Holocaust was a hoax. It proves you do not understand the topic, and it is embarrassing to the school.

But really, is it that outlandish to require people to understand the field you’re hiring them in?

*Note for non-Purdue people: AS is part of the College of Agriculture, and Biology (what I’m in) is part of the College of Science, so we have very different curriculum. Hence why she didn’t have to take those intro Biology courses that teach evolution (though those still fail to educate some bio majors).