Category Archives: Evolution

Ohio’s 2014 Creationism Bill — It’s Dead

Creationist bill, road kill

We only posted once before about this year’s creationism bill in Ohio — that was Ohio Creationism: New Bill for 2014. Ohio is one of those unfortunate states where the legislature is in session all year long, which is why this news is popping up so late in the year.

The bill was House Bill 597, which was primarily aimed at killing the Common Core standards. It was sponsored by state representatives Andy Thompson, who runs Bird Watcher’s Digest, and Matt Huffman, a lawyer.

Thompson had said that one of the bill’s clauses would prevent teachers and schools from only presenting one side of a political and scientific debate — global warming, for example — without also presenting the other side. He also said the bill gives districts and teachers the freedom to teach religious interpretations of scientific issues as they deem best, which allows intelligent design and creationism to be taught alongside evolution, as well as varying views on the age of the earth and whether dinosaurs and people existed at the same time.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have a new article about this: Antiscience bill dies in Ohio. They report that the bill has died, and they refer to this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Bills to rein in testing and the Common Core are dead – could rise again in New Year.

The Plain Dealer article is about two bills, and it’s a bit chaotic because it describes the wild gyrations of the legislature during the final days of this year’s session. Limiting our excerpts mostly to Thompson’s creationism bill, it says, with bold font added by us:

Bills to block the Common Core standards in Ohio and to limit testing of students have both died in the state legislature. The business of both houses is winding down for the year this week, with neither bill able to go up for further debate or vote. But both are likely to return after the New Year — in some form.

If there’s a creationist in the legislature, he is certain to try the same thing, year after year. They never learn and they never quit. Here’s more:

“Repeal will be high on the agenda next year,” said State Rep. Andy Thompson, a Marietta Republican and sponsor of House Bill 597, which would have killed the Common Core for the state. “Count on it.”

We believe it. Skipping the stuff about the testing bill, we come to the creationism news:

This bill — one that had an unusual path toward having committee hearings this fall — brought even more political maneuvering in the House last week. The end result? The bill did not gather enough votes to pass and two attempts to attach it to other bills to force a full House vote failed. One of those efforts was thwarted by House members passing a “blocking amendment” to cut it off.

Those maneuvers are then described in detail, but we’ll ignore that. Well, here’s one interesting item:

As reported previously, HB 597 did not go through the House Education Committee because committee Chairman Gerald Stebelton supports the Common Core. Thompson’s bill to block the Common Core last year, HB 528, died in Stebelton’s committee without even a committee vote after one (very long) hearing.

Aha — Stebelton blocked Thompson’s creationist bill last year. But this year Thompson slimed around that problem by picking a more friendly committee. The news continues:

So Thompson’s new bill, 597, went through the House Rules and Reference Committee, which held hearings and passed it for House consideration. Early last week, Thompson and supporters pushed for a vote on the bill and to attach it to other bills, but House leadership wouldn’t allow it.

So in spite of the slime, Thompson’s new bill failed anyway. Well, there’s always next year. And get this:

Stebelton, who is leaving office because of term limits, said the bill did not have broad support. And he said House leaders did not want the bill attached to other legislation, which would endanger the other law.

Maybe Thompson can try the House Education Committee next year. There are several more paragraphs about all the slipping and sliding and sleazing that went on, but in the end, Thompson’s bill died. Here’s one more excerpt:

Asked for comment or clarification on what happened, Thompson declined to comment.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Why would anyone ask a creationist what happened in the past? Oh wait — in this case, Thompson was there. But he still doesn’t have a clue.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Who’s Afraid of an Asteroid Strike?

Imagine that you’re watching one of those low-grade disaster movies. The plot is typical — a gigantic asteroid is headed toward the Earth, and some heroic characters are about to take off in a rocket, change the asteroid’s course, and save the Earth.

You’ve seen it before? We all have. Now let’s give it an extra twist. A mob of religious fanatics, led by a raving, wild-eyed preacher, is gathering outside the launch site to prevent the ship from blasting off. Why? Because the preacher says the ship’s mission is blasphemy. He also says that God will protect us; and if he doesn’t, we should accept what comes as the inevitable penalty for our sins. He and his drooling followers are ready for Judgment Day.

Then, at the preacher’s command, the religious lunatics storm the gate and begin throwing rocks and swinging clubs at the outnumbered spaceport guards. Will the ship launch? Will the brave astronauts be able to save the Earth? Or will the howling crazies succeed in blocking humanity’s only hope of survival?

Okay — freeze that. But keep it in mind as we take a look at the latest blog article from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.

Hambo’s latest is Will Asteroids Wipe Out Humanity? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us, and Hambo’s scripture references omitted:

More than 100 “scientists, physicists, artists, astronauts and business leaders from 30 countries” have signed a declaration that seeks to “solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future,” according to one of the signers of the declaration. The reason for this declaration is because, as one of the scientists backing the plan puts it, “The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time.”

Those who signed the declaration are concerned that a massive asteroid impact on Earth could be doomsday for mankind. So they are seeking for governments to work together because, as one of them says, “finding hazardous asteroids early through an accelerated search program is the key to preventing future destructive impacts.” The goal is for early detection of these asteroids so that there is enough advanced notice to use current technology to “deflect dangerous asteroids through kinetic impactors and gravity tractors,” according to a NASA astronaut.

This is pure nonsense to ol’ Hambo. He scoffs:

What fuels this fear that humanity is doomed to destruction by an asteroid, artificial intelligence, or some other catastrophe? Well, according to the starting point of those most concerned about humanity’s demise, life arrived here entirely naturalistically and Earth has existed for billions of years. There is nobody ordering, sustaining, or upholding the universe beyond the unfeeling laws of physics. There is even a popular dinosaur extinction proposal that claims the dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive asteroid impact. So if an asteroid destroyed much of life in the past, what is to stop it from doing it again?

But Hambo is a man without fear of such things. Let’s read on:

When you start with God’s Word instead of man’s word, you get an entirely different perspective on humanity’s future. According to the Bible, God is upholding the world by His powerful Word. We are not alone in this universe at the mercy of blind natural laws. Also, we do not need to fear a natural calamity wiping out mankind. Scripture tells us how humanity will end — when Jesus Christ returns to Earth in judgment.

So don’t worry about asteroids. Hambo continues:

Also, according to the biblical worldview, dinosaurs were not wiped out by an asteroid impact 65 million years ago. They were created on Day Six along with Adam and Eve. But many of them were buried in the global Flood of Noah’s day around 4,300 years ago. After the Flood, dinosaurs died out for the same reasons that many species go extinct each year … . They should remind us of God’s judgment on sin in the past and His coming judgment on sin in the future.

Not only are asteroids nothing to worry about, there isn’t anything to worry about. Hambo says:

[W]e do not need to fear man’s doomsday forecast about humanity’s future because we serve a God who sees the end from the beginning. This should give us peace and hope as we await His coming.

But what if Hambo’s wrong? No problem! There’s still nothing to worry about. Hambo has more good news:

And one last point to ponder. If there’s no God and life is just a result of naturalistic processes, then, as I said to Bill Nye during the debate, when people die they won’t even know they existed. So ultimately, if everyone died and all life were wiped out, why does it matter anyway? After all, from a naturalistic worldview life is ultimately meaningless and purposeless!

Okay, that’s enough. We now return you to that movie with the crazy people storming the launch pad. Hey — what made us think of that movie?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Scotland Refuses To Ban Creationism

We have news from Scotland where, as you know, the government has been considering a petition of the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) to ban teaching creationism in government school science classes. Specifically, they want Education Secretary Mike Russell to issue guidance to publicly-funded schools and colleges to prevent the teaching of creationism and related doctrines as viable alternatives to established science.

Today we have news of the result. The HeraldScotland of Cambuslang, just outside Glasgow, has this story: Schools creationism ban rejected by Scottish Government. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) criticised the response to its petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for new government guidance on the issue in publicly funded schools. The society believes schools should not be allowed to present the belief that the universe originates from acts of divine creation as a viable alternative to established science. The SSS petition was lodged after it emerged members of a US pro-creationist religious sect had been working as classroom assistants at a primary school in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.

We wrote about that situation in East Kilbride last year — see Creationism in Scotland — Update. Back to the news story:

Tim Simons, Head of Curriculum Unit at the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate, has written to the parliament’s petitions committee that there are no plans to introduce ban guidance called for by the SSS. Mr Simmons said: “I can (therefore) confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary.”

Yeah, unnecessary. One should be wary of any government agency that calls itself the Learning Directorate. He also said:

: “I can confirm that there are a number of policies and safeguards in place to ensure that children and young people receive a broad and balanced general education. Safeguards include; school managers having oversight of curriculum planning and resources; local authorities with robust complaints procedures, independent school inspections and the development of curriculum materials through a collegiate approach that provides for early identification of any inappropriate material.”

Everything’s under control in Scotland. No worries! Let’s read on:

The SSS said it is “deeply disappointed by the Scottish Government’s response to evidence presented to the Public Petitions Committee”. Spencer Fildes, Chair of the SSS responded to the submission: “The Scottish Government has responded with what they claim are workable ‘safeguards’ that are already in place, yet we have presented clear evidence to the contrary.”

One last excerpt:

Professor Paul Braterman, co-petitioner, said: “This language blurs the crucial distinction, built into the wording of our own petition, between learning about creationist worldviews, and being taught that such worldviews are tenable. The SSS fear this will bring Scottish education into disrepute.”

So there you are, lads and lassies. Will the resulting drool engulf Scotland? Egad — there’s nothing worse than drool-soaked haggis. We’ll have to wait for further developments.

We note, however, that this is a good lesson about centralized government control of education (or anything else). One can never be certain that the right people will be running things — but one can always be certain that the wrong people will be grasping for control. Decentralization is sloppy, but it has its virtues.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Dr Jeremy England: Life Is Inevitable

We can expect some strong creationist reaction to something we found in the Daily Mail, the UK’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper. The tabloid’s headline screams: Life on Earth wasn’t down to luck, its development was as inevitable as ‘rocks rolling down a hill’, claims physicist. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

It has often been said that one of the reasons we are yet to find life elsewhere in the universe is that it is rare; most think the development of life on Earth was a fluke. But one of the most prominent young physicists in the world has claimed otherwise, saying that he thinks life is as inevitable as inorganic matter. The bold new theory suggests that atoms, when subjected to energy, will always form some form of life – and it may mean we are part of a universe teeming with other organisms.

What? There was no need for an intelligent designer? This is an outrage! Then they say:

The theory has been presented by 31-year-old physicist Dr Jeremy England from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is regarded as one of the most promising up and coming scientists in biology; a few years ago he was named in the Forbes Rising Stars of Science list. And now in a series of talks he has been giving to various universities, he says the origin of life ‘should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill,’ …

Dr. England is a physicist, not a biologist, but that’s okay. No field of science is isolated from the others, and none can violate the laws of nature — which creationists insist is the case with the origin of life. Here’s the Wikipedia writeup on Jeremy England, which doesn’t say very much, and this is his page at MIT: Jeremy L. England. Let’s return to the Daily Mail:

He has recently published a paper further explaining the research along with two of his colleagues.

This is the paper to which they refer: Statistical Physics of Adaptation. It’s a preprint at arxiv.org, a 24-page pdf file which you can read without a subscription. We continue:

Dr England’s idea is based around entropy; namely, energy spreads out or dissipates over time. For example, a cup of coffee left in a room will eventually reach the same temperature as the room itself. … Based on this, Dr England suggests that when atoms are supplied with energy, in certain conditions they will always eventually give rise to life. ‘You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,’ he said.

Uh, we could use a bit more on that point. Here it comes:

The reason for this, and the underlying aspect of his theory, is that while all matter – from rocks to plants – absorbs and dissipates energy, life is much better at redistributing it. This means that, taking the coffee cup example but this time using molecules swimming in an ocean, the atoms will reorganise themselves into life because it is better at dissipating the energy in the water.

Maybe so. We seem to dissipate a lot more energy than rocks do. Moving along:

Dr England stressed that his theory is not meant to counter Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection, but rather compliment it. ‘The reason that an organism shows characteristic X rather than Y may not be because X is more fit than Y, but because physical constraints make it easier for X to evolve than for Y to evolve,’ he said.

Well, that could explain the appearance of a particular mutation, but its selection is a different issue. Anyway, here’s another excerpt:

Speaking to MailOnline, Dr Seth Shostak, Director of the Centre for Seti Research, said: ‘One of the outstanding problems in science these days is the origin of life. … He explained that if getting life started required very special conditions, then it would ‘imply that we don’t have much company in the cosmos.’ He continued: ‘If Dr England is correct – that biology is virtually a certain consequence of self-organising principles that would apply on any world – then we are most certainly not alone.’

There’s more in the article, and in the links we provided. We don’t yet know what to make of this new idea, but we’re certain that it will provoke a creationist frenzy. If England is correct, the intelligent designer is as useless as Apollo’s sun chariot. This should be fun.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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