Monthly Archives: September 2009

Judge Jones Honored, Howling Heard in Seattle

THIS appears at the most excellent website of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE): Judge Jones honored by Geological Society of America. We are told:

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching “intelligent design” creationism in the public schools, will receive the Geological Society of America’s President’s Medal for 2009, according to a September 28, 2009, press release from the GSA.

Clicking over to the GSA’s press release, it says, with bold supplied by us:

She [GSA Past President Judith Totman Parrish] explains that “the theory of evolution is one of the foundations of geosciences. Through the study of fossils and living organisms and the changes they have undergone through time, scientists are revealing not only the history of life, but the history of the Earth itself. The theory of evolution was established by careful, diverse, and revealing tests carried out by scientists in a wide array of disciplines. Yet despite the strength of the evidence for evolution and its practical importance to society, it is unique among the great scientific theories in being under nearly constant attack.” Proponents of religious creationism and more recently, intelligent design theory, object to the teaching of evolutionary theory in schools because it contradicts literal interpretation of the biblical description of Earth’s history.

Judge Jones had been serving on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania for four years when, in 2005, he was assigned to the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case (informally known as the Dover trial). The Dover, PA school board was being sued over their decision to require that a disclaimer be read to 9th grade biology classes about the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. A group of parents argued that the disclaimer was an unconstitutional promotion of religion, in violation of the separation of church and state. In his 139-page decision, Judge Jones handed science a landmark victory.

This is so confusing. When we visit the website of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids), as we did recently to review their new Idiot’s Guide to Evolution, we are told by Casey Luskin:

[T]he district court ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover misrepresented the arguments given by pro‐ID expert witness biologists and wrongly denied the existence of peer‐reviewed scientific articles and research supporting ID. The judge who ruled in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case (Judge Jones) copied over 90% of his section on whether ID is science verbatim or nearly verbatim from an inaccurate brief written by plaintiffs’ lawyers working with the ACLU. Judge Jones’ ruling satisfied the textbook definition of judicial activism, and even leading anti‐ID legal scholars have argued his ruling is “dangerous” to religious, scientific, and academic freedom.

But when we return to the GSA press release about their award for Judge Jones, we are told:

GSA’s silver President’s Medal was established in 2007 to recognize individuals whose impact has profoundly enhanced the geosciences profession. “Our recipient’s work qualifies as such an enhancement,” said Parrish. “By following the law separating religion and public education he, by extension, defended the study of evolution as science and the teaching of evolution.”

GSA also says this:

Judge Jones will also participate in a 5-member panel discussion on Monday, 19 October, from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., as part of “Darwin Day” — a day-long 200th birthday celebration of Charles Darwin in conjunction with the meeting. The session, titled “Overcoming Resistance to the Reality of Evolutionary Change in Nature,” will take place at the Oregon Convention Center, and members of the media are invited.

There’s a list of the other members of that panel, and we don’t see the name of a single creationist — not one! So it’s entirely understandable that we hear howling and wailing in the halls of Discoveroid headquarters in Seattle. Casey must be foot-stomping mad. This is enough to send him back to the fainting couch. See: Hey Casey!

What are we to make of this deep difference of opinion about Judge Jones? Science organizations honor him and creationists despise him. We’ll let you decide, dear reader.

But let us be the first to remind you — there are less than 90 shopping days left until Kitzmas. You don’t know what that is? See: Merry Kitzmas!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Ray Comfort: New Standard of Stupid

THIS is the latest in what has become a totally unanticipated series of articles that began with this post: WorldNetDaily, Ray Comfort, and Brain Death. Since then we’ve been writing about what seems to be a domino effect of stupid. See: Kirk Cameron: World’s Dumbest Human? and Flat Earth, Uranus, & WorldNetDaily.

As they say, the saga continues. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Berkeley atheists fear new book, which appears at the website of WorldNetDaily (WND), the most deranged “news” organ we’ve yet encountered. The bold font was added by us:

Best-selling author Ray Comfort, host of “The Way of the Master” television show with actor Kirk Cameron, says he has a love-hate relationship with atheists. Many apparently hate him, but he loves them.

When someone like Ray Comfort says he loves you, check your wallet. You might also check to make sure your gun is loaded and nearby. That kind of “love” can lead to witch burnings. Let’s read on:

Comfort challenged an atheist group at the University of California at Berkeley to a debate this past summer, but the student group – which describes itself as a forum for open-minded discussion free from intolerance – declined after considering the offer for more than a week, the author says.

We have no particular sympathy for what Berkeley has symbolized for the past generation, but it’s not difficult to understand the students’ decision to decline the “opportunity” to debate with Comfort. It would be far more challenging to debate with a dish of slime mold. We continue:

Comfort, author of the newly released book “Nothing Created Everything,” believes the atheists are afraid he will say exactly what they believe – that nothing created everything.

That’s exactly the problem. Comfort would chant his moronic mantra the whole time he was supposed to be speaking, and the event would a waste of everyone’s time because he has nothing else to say. Of course the students rejected Comfort’s offer. Berkeley may be a hotbed of crazy people, but they’re not crazy enough to bother with Comfort. Here’s more:

Comfort posed the debate challenge in July to a Berkeley campus group called Students for A Nonreligious Ethos, or SANE. He told the group that if they could find him a professor to give him 20 minutes on why God doesn’t exist, he would give him $200 for his trouble. Comfort then would give the group 20 minutes and then open the floor for questions.

Wow — two hundred dollars for 20 minutes! Comfort thinks he’s made an offer no one would refuse. Yet no Berkeley professor would agree to appear and speak for 20 minutes. How baffling! Comfort can’t figure it out.

But the question that immediately occurs to the rational mind is this: Why would anyone want to spend 20 minutes or even 20 seconds of his lifespan talking to Ray Comfort? As for the princely sum Comfort offered — the way the government is running things these days, two hundred bucks is little more than a tip for the boy who parks your car.

Moving along:

“I want to show the atheists who are in SANE that they were not thinking clearly when the turned down the debate,” Comfort said. “Berkeley is supposed to have the reputation of being a radical campus. But these guys are are acting like a bunch of cringing chickens, and I think I know why.” Comfort said the group realized he would say “an atheist is someone who believes that ‘nothing created everything’ and that is a scientific impossibility.”

Yes, everyone’s afraid to debate Comfort’s brilliantly original argument. They fear him! Actually they do — in the same way they’d also be afraid to show up on the same platform to debate about hygiene with an opponent who had leprosy, syphilis, swine flu, body lice, and toenail fungus.

The WND article babbles on about other “terrified” groups and individuals (e.g. Richard Dawkins) who won’t debate with Comfort, and it repeats much of what we’ve discussed in earlier posts about Comfort’s upcoming distribution of free copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species. They’re free because they’re defaced with Comfort’s own introduction that allegedly refutes Darwin’s theory.

One last excerpt:

Comfort asserts, in his new book, anyone “who tries to actually justify that nothing created everything has to be insane.”

“This is a scientific impossibility,” he writes, “There’s no way to say it kindly, but such thoughts show that the atheist doesn’t think, and prove the Bible right when it says that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.”

We don’t promote atheism at this blog, so our only message here is that with a prominent spokesman like Ray Comfort on the side of religion, the opposition doesn’t need to do a thing. They win by default. So if Comfort’s co-religionists have any concern for their side of this debate, they’d better snag Comfort with a big butterfly net and then keep him deep in the closet. The man’s an embarrassment, not only to his school of thought, but to our whole species.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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First Evolutionary Branching For Bilateral Animals

YOU want some science news from time to time? Okay, this is a press release from Brown University, which is still struggling to overcome the embarrassing fact that one of their graduates — a biology major — is Louisiana’s creationist governor Bobby Jindal.

Despite that unfortunate lapse, Brown is still a quality school, so we’ll give you some excerpts from Research Team Finds First Evolutionary Branching for Bilateral Animals, which appears on Brown’s public affairs website. The bold font was added by us:

When it comes to understanding a critical junction in animal evolution, some short, simple flatworms have been a real thorn in scientists’ sides. Specialists have jousted over the proper taxonomic placement of a group of worms called Acoelomorpha. This collection of worms, which comprises roughly 350 species, is part of a much larger group called bilateral animals, organisms that have symmetrical body forms, including humans, insects and worms. The question about acoelomorpha, was: Where do they fit in?

Well, where do Acoelomorpha fit in? Wikipedia’s entry hasn’t been updated to include the latest news from Brown. Their entry is brief, so we’ll copy what they say before it’s changed:

The Acoelomorpha are a disputed phylum of animals with planula-like features and formerly considered to belong to the phylum Platyhelminthes, but recently classified by Jaume Baguñà and Marta Riutort as a separate phylum, basal among the Bilateria.

The Acoela are very small flatworms that do not have a gut. Digestion is accomplished by means of a syncytium that forms a vacuole around ingested food. There are no epithelial cells lining the digestive vacuole. All other bilateral animals have a gut lined with epithelial cells. As a result, the acoels appear to be solid-bodied (a-coel, or no body cavity). Acoels are almost entirely marine, living between grains of sediment, swimming as plankton, or crawling on algae. Acoels have a statocyst, which presumably helps them orient to gravity.

Their soft bodies make them difficult to classify.

Okay, but things seem to have cleared up a bit. Let’s read from Brown’s press release:

To scientists, acoelomorpha, has been enigmatic, a “rogue animal,” said Casey Dunn, an evolutionary biologist at Brown University. “It has been wandering throughout the animal tree of life.”

It’s odd that the creationists haven’t pointed to this “mystery” worm as yet another “weakness” of evolution, but the likely reason is that they don’t know anything about biology, so it never occurred to them to mention it. We continue:

The worm wanders no more. Through a laborious genetic sequencing analysis, Dunn and an international team of scientists have settled the long-standing debate and determined that acoelomorpha belongs as a sister clade to other bilateral animals.

That’s nice, but why should we care? Here’s why:

The finding is significant, Dunn said, because it shows the worm is a product of the deepest split within the bilateral animals, the first evolutionary divergence within the group. Because of that, scientists have gained a key insight into the most recent common ancestor to bilaterians, a species that remains unknown.

Still unknown? Aha, a gap! That must be the point where the magic Designer diddled around to make us bilateral. Yes — this is powerful evidence of Intelligent Design! Don’t laugh, the creationists will make that claim. Here’s more from the press release:

The worm is “as distant as an animal can be in bilateria and still be a bilaterian,” said Dunn, assistant professor of biology. “So, now we have two perspectives to (find out about) this common ancestor, the acoelomorphs and all the other bilateral animals.”

There’s more information in the press release, so if this interests you, click over and check it out. They also give a link to the published research. This is the abstract in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Assessing the root of bilaterian animals with scalable phylogenomic methods

In conclusion, before the creationists jump all over this, let your Curmudgeon be the first to say: “I ain’t no kin to no bilateral worm!”

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Buffoon Award Winner: Creationist Bobby Jindal

Buffoon Award

THE SIXTH WINNER of the Curmudgeon’s coveted Buffoon Award is — [drum roll, flourish of trumpets] — Bobby Jindal!

Yes, it’s time we honored Louisiana’s creationist governor Bobby Jindal, also known as Bobby Jindal, the Exorcist. We’ve written before about Bobby Jindal’s Presidential Ambitions. See also: Bobby Jindal: Ignorance is Strength.

Today’s award was triggered by an article in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, in which we read: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal needs to return to his roots. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s been to Iowa. He’s held fund-raisers all over the country. He’s completed the network interview circuit, including appearances on Meet the Press, 60 Minutes and — of course — Sean Hannity. He’s done everything else a young, ambitious Republican is supposed to do in order to build a national following, to establish himself as a rising GOP leader.

Yet if I were one of Jindal’s advisers, I think I’d be about ready to walk into the boss’ office and break the bad news: It’s not working.

It’s not working? That’s good news. Let’s read on:

There’s really no other way to interpret the results of last weekend’s presidential straw poll conducted at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., an event sponsored by the Family Research Council, which is headed by Louisiana native and longtime Jindal ally Tony Perkins.

Jindal finished behind not just established figures like ex-presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and one-time House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but also a couple of other entrants in the new face category, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Of that list of contenders, Romney is the only one we’re certain isn’t a creationist. See: Which 2012 Presidential Challengers Are Creationists? We continue with the Times-Picayune:

The people who participated in the vote are the same ones Jindal’s been courting on all those trips and in all those media appearances. They’re the ones whose attention he was hoping to get when he supported school vouchers and the teaching of intelligent design in Louisiana, when he spoke out against taxes, the federal stimulus bill and Democratic health care reform proposals on the national level.

All that pandering and it’s not working out? This is excellent. Here’s more:

His strategy is clearly to play to conservatives, but that’s the same thing a whole lot of other politicians are doing these days. He’s just saying what everyone else is saying, and not saying it as well.

As a sitting governor, he’s also opening himself up to charges of hypocrisy for, say, criticizing the stimulus but happily handing out giant checks that include the very federal spending he attacks.

Hypocrisy? A biology major who supports creationism is open to charges of hypocrisy? We’re shocked! Moving along:

If I were advising Jindal, I’d recommend that he return to his roots as a Republican who is willing to cross party lines and seek the sort of sensible policy solutions that can draw wide support.

Good luck with that. We strongly suspect that Jindal-the-creationist and “sensible policy solutions” just don’t go together. Meanwhile, we’re delighted that Bobby’s national ambitions appear to be going nowhere, but we can’t be certain that things will stay this way. However things work out, he’s definitely a buffoon.

Congratulations, Governor Jindal! Enjoy the award. You’ve earned it!

[History note: The first Buffoon Award winner was John West; the second was WorldNetDaily; the third was Mark Souder, Creationist Congressman; the fourth was The Intelligent Designer; and the fifth was Ronda Storms.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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