Monthly Archives: July 2010

Australian Creationism: Crazy in Queensland

THEY have lots of creationism on the underside of the flat earth, especially in the Australian state of Queensland. Our last post on the situation down there was Australian Creationism: Queensland To Teach ID? in which we reported a story that said:

In Queensland schools, creationism will be offered for discussion in the subject of ancient history, under the topic of “controversies”.

Well, it’s happening. At the website NEWScom.au located in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, we read Creationists hijack lessons and teach schoolkids man and dinosaurs walked together. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

PRIMARY school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there is fossil evidence to prove it.

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.

Protective spell. That’s good! Let’s read on:

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation. About 80 per cent of children at state primary schools attend one half-hour instruction a week, open to any interested lay person to conduct. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.

That’s great! About 80% of the kids are getting this instruction. We continue:

In many cases, the RI lay people were not supervised by teachers.

[…]

Set Free Christian Church’s Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

They’re carbon-dating dinosaur fossils? Who knew Australia was so advanced? And water will mess such things up? Sure — in Australia. Here’s more:

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland. He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion.

Maybe the Buddhists will clean up this mess. Moving along:

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

What’s wrong with that? Another excerpt:

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.

What did his daughter do?

“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.”

Wow! They’ve got all the answers. Here’s the end of the article. It tells what happened to the girl:

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

She was lucky they didn’t burn her as a witch. Anyway, that’s the news from down under. Think of it as a precursor to the way things are going to be in Louisiana. And Texas. And then everywhere!

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #147: Insulted!

WE present to you, dear reader, a letter-to-the-editor titled Separate opinion from news, which appears in the Spokesman-Review, published in Spokane, Washington. We’ll copy most of today’s letter, but we’ll omit the writer’s name and city, and we’ll add some bold for emphasis. Here we go:

I write to address troubling patterns I see emerging at The Spokesman-Review.

Ah, a concerned citizen worried about “troubling patterns.” We’re intrigued. Let’s read on:

Lately, the S-R has allowed opinion pieces to creep onto the front page and other “hard news” sections

That’s also one of our gripes about journalism in general. But what, specifically, outraged this reader in Spokane? We continue:

The latest example is Shawn Vestal’s July 28 front page article, “Furor over fluoride hard to swallow,” where he states that, “Unfortunately,” those opposing fluoridation have kept fighting, and that they “are using the same tools that flat-earthers drag out to deny global warming or argue for intelligent design: information that looks suspiciously like science.”

What an outrage — lumping fluoride conspiracy believers with flat-earthers, global warming deniers, and — gasp! — creationists too. Here’s more:

If this is so, then Shawn should be able to make his case without resorting to the personal attacks that are rife through this piece.

Yes, but it’s so much more fun to do it Shawn’s way. Here’s his “offensive” article, by the way: Furor over fluoride hard to swallow. Hey, get this — Shawn reports that:

Spokane voters have rejected fluoride three times. Each vote – in 1969, 1984 and 2000 – inched closer to passage. In 2000, Proposition 1 failed by 2 percentage points.

Wow — the citizens of Spokane are channeling General Jack D. Ripper!

You don’t know who that is? See: Dr. Strangelove. Moving along in today’s letter:

Please, S-R, leave your opinions in the “Opinion” section, leave the ad-hominem attacks from your staff on your blogs, and stick to reporting “Just the facts, Ma’am” on the front page and other “hard news” sections, and let the readers form their own opinions from those facts without the snide comments and condescension.

As we read this, it’s obvious that the letter-writer belongs to one of the fringe groups mentioned in Shawn’s article, and he bitterly resents being lumped together with the others. But what’s his personal cause? Is he anti-fluoride but anti flat-earth — or maybe vice versa? Is he one of the few creationists who accepts the science of global warming?

We hope the mystery gets cleared up soon, because this next excerpt is the end of the letter:

Oh, and for the record, I am pro-fluoridation, but thanks for letting me know that being an “intelligent design” believer puts me on equal footing with “flat-earthers,” Spokesman-Review, and charging me for the privilege.

[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]

Well, there it is. The letter-writer is one of those very rare creationists who is not only okay with fluoride in the water, but who also resents being associated with flat-earthers. He may be the only one of those alive. We can’t fault the journalist for being unaware that such a person could exist.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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UK Creationism: The Noah’s Ark Zoo

WHEN it comes to creationism, our cousins in the UK are sometimes just as daft as we are in the US. Today, however, the Brits may have pulled out ahead in this contest. Judge for yourself, dear reader.

In London’s Daily Mail, the UK’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper, we read The zoo that believes in Noah’s Ark: Creationist attraction is approved for school trips. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A zoo that promotes creationism and believes that the story of Noah’s Ark is supported by science has become an approved school trip destination.

The move has provoked a war of words between the Christians who run Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm and those who believe it will expose children to ‘dogma’.

What do they mean by “an approved school trip destination”? Let’s read on:

Visitors to the attraction are invited to question the traditional view of evolution and consider instead ‘the case for a Creator’ – with information boards challenging established science such as fossil records, carbon dating and the speed of light.

Is that place a zoo or a lunatic asylum? We continue:

Critics say the decision to award it a Government kitemark is ‘entirely inappropriate’.

What’s a kitemark? Why don’t these people speak English? Here’s more:

But bosses at the family-run zoo, in Wraxall, near Bristol, insist that workshops for children merely cover the national science curriculum and do not include discussion of religion. They admit that youngsters visiting the centre are free to go to an area where posters and charts advance its religious beliefs.

It sounds like a wonderful place — for creationists. But we’re wondering about the government’s involvement. And that “kitemark” business. Moving along:

James Gray, education officer at the British Humanist Association, condemned the award of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom ‘quality badge’ – a scheme devised by the last government.

Aaaargh!! What’s a “quality badge”? We’re not getting anything from the Daily Mail, so we went to Wikipedia. They came through. In Kitemark we’re told:

The Kitemark is a UK product and service quality certification mark which is owned and operated by The British Standards Institution (BSI Group). … To obtain Kitemark certification, products and services are assessed by BSI Product Services to ensure that they meet the requirements of the relevant British, European, trade association or international specification or standard. … The Kitemark is not a legal requirement, but is often used as a point of differentiation in competitive markets and is widely trusted.

So it’s sort of like the Underwriters Laboratories certification, but with wider applicability. That’s what was given the Noah’s Ark Zoo? As for the other mystery, here’s the website of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. It’s a government agency and they gave a “quality badge” to the Zoo — whatever that is.

Ah, they have a quality badge link, which informs us:

The Learning Outside the Classroom [LOtC] Quality Badge is a nationally recognised benchmark that brings together all existing safety and quality badges into one easily identifiable mark of quality. … The Quality Badge is awarded to organisations which have pledged to engage in an ongoing process to sustain good-quality learning outside the classroom and have demonstrated that they meet six quality indicators.

We’ll skip their “quality indicators” because if the Noah’s Ark Zoo got a quality badge, the quality indicators don’t mean anything.

So we’re all clear now about what happened — the Noah’s Ark Zoo got one of those official education quality badges, and they were awarded a kitemark too. How grand!

Let’s read on a bit more. They’re still quoting James Gray from the British Humanist Association:

‘Teachers and parents look to the council for assurance that children will experience high quality educational visits that meet the relevant government guidelines. Awarding this zoo a quality badge risks exposing hundreds of children to anti-scientific dogma.

That’s rather straightforward. However, there’s another side to this dispute:

But a spokesman for the zoo, run by trained priest Anthony Bush and his wife Christina, said: ‘Our religious element-is simply not forced on or taught to children in workshops at Noah’s Ark and thus we believe the BHA are misguided in their criticism.’

This is how the article ends:

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom said it checks venues thoroughly and that children should experience a range of viewpoints that challenge their minds.

In your Curmudgeon’s always humble opinion, this entire situation is flat-out crazy.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Paul LePage’s Creationist Train Wreck in Maine

A few days ago we posted Paul LePage of Maine: Liar, Lunatic, or Drunk? That was about Paul LePage, the Republican candidate for Governor of his state. While he was campaigning on the “freedom train,” reporters asked him about his previous statements that he wanted creationism taught in the schools.

His responses created the “train wreck” of our title. After having earlier said he favored teaching creationism in public schools, he denied that he ever said it, then he claimed he didn’t even know what creationism was, and finally he said that believes we’re descended from monkeys. He’s certainly covering all the bases.

The political media in Maine have been speaking about little else, so we thought we’d give you some excerpts from a few such stories, with bold added by us:

In the Bangor Daily News we read LePage defends comments in ‘creationism’ spat. The article is about a Portland radio program on which LePage was interviewed by WGAN co-host Ken Altshulery. They say:

On Thursday, LePage said he believes Manning [Arden Manning, Maine Democratic Party’s campaign director] and the Democrats labeled him as a creationist because of his background and religious beliefs. During primary debates, LePage indicated he would support the teaching of creationism in schools.

[…]

Replied LePage: “I have looked at my life, I have looked at my career. There is nowhere in my career where the term creationist comes in. The only part of my life … that anyone can ever consider me a creationist is because I am a French Catholic and I believe in God.”

After another go-around, Altshuler eventually asked LePage whether he was interpreting Manning’s labeling him as a creationist as saying, “you are not qualified to be governor because you are a Franco-American Catholic.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” LePage said.

This is serious stuff up in Maine, where — unknown to the rest of us — the mix of creationism and being a Catholic of French descent is explosive. How did this mess get started? The reporter informs us:

Manning has acknowledged mentioning LePage’s views on creationism, but points out that he did it only once in a fundraising e-mail in which he also referred to the GOP nominee as “an unabashed agent of the Christian Right.”

But neither Manning nor the Maine Democratic Party had mentioned LePage’s Catholicism or his French-Canadian heritage in any public statements. Party officials also point out that numerous elected Democrats in Maine, including U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, are Franco-American.

Ah, then Manning is off the hook. After all, some of his best friends are Franco-American. Let’s read on:

While the Maine Democratic Party has gone after LePage for his statements, the Democratic nominee for governor, Senate President Libby Mitchell, has stayed quiet since releasing a statement earlier this week.

Mitchell did not mention the creationism fracas and was not asked about it during a meeting with an Old Town Rotary Club on Thursday evening.

Why should she bother? She’s got party operatives like Manning to handle those nasty chores, and the press are keeping the issue alive. Meanwhile, LePage keeps digging himself in deeper.

Turning to the Portland Press Herald we find Communique to a candidate: Mr. LePage, people are listening, written by their columnist, Bill Nemitz. He says:

[N]ow that your recent whistle-stop tour of the midcoast region has turned into a full-blown train wreck, you’ve announced that henceforth you’d prefer your questions from the press in writing. So, here goes:

Question 1: When are you going to stop making stuff up? During your train ride, you told reporters in no uncertain terms that Arden Manning, manager of the Maine Democrats’ Victory 2010 campaign, has been blogging about how you’re unfit to be governor because you’re a Roman Catholic and because you’re of French-Canadian heritage.

[…]

And when asked at least four times Thursday morning by WGAN’s Ken Altshuler whether you can back up your claim, the best you could come up with was that Manning has called you a “creationist,” which is (to you, at least) a direct reference to your French Catholic background … (Excuse me for a second. I need to wait until my head stops spinning.)

The column continues:

Question 2: When are you going to stop giving diametrically opposed answers to the same question?

Again, the creationism thing. Back in May, at an MPBN forum for GOP primary candidates, you were asked, “Do you believe in creationism and do you think it should be taught in Maine public schools?” You replied, “I would say the more education you have, the more knowledge you have, the better person you are. And I believe yes … and yes.”

Now stop me if I’m making too big a leap here, but I take that to be a “yes” (actually, a “double-yes”).

We thought that stuff was said on the “freedom train” that we wrote about in our earlier post, but maybe it was earlier. Anyway, LePage certainly seems to have said it, so let’s see what this columnist does with that material:

Fast forward to last weekend. Reminded by those pesky reporters that you said you supported teaching creationism in public schools, you replied, “I never said such a thing. That’s what he (Arden Manning) said.”

Finally, during your Thursday appearance on WGAN, you said, “Creationism should be taught in schools under philosophy. Evolution should be taught in schools under science.”

So, as they say on the TV game show, is that your final answer? And might we infer that you now support adding “philosophy” to the already crowded Maine school curriculum?

The column discusses other issues, mostly about Maine politics, so that’s where we’ll leave things.

We are yet again confirmed in our opinion that creationism is a major indicator of whether a political candidate is qualified for the big time. LePage is one more example of the Curmudgeon’s Iron Law of Politics: Creationists can’t be trusted with important responsibilities.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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