Category Archives: Evolution

Creationist Wisdom #712: The Only Explanation

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Lincoln County News, a weekly newspaper in Newcastle, Maine (popu1ation 1,752). It’s titled The Only Viable Explanation, and the newspaper has no comments section.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher. It’s Rev. David O’Donnell of the Faith Baptist Church of Newcastle. We’ll give you a few excerpts from rev’s letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:

The scientific method is limited to that which can be tested, reproduced, or falsified. Anything which lies outside those parameters is not science, but is in the realm of faith.

Not bad. The rev doesn’t mention that science is based on verifiable evidence, but he probably understands that — at least your benevolent Curmudgeon will make that assumption — for the moment. Then he says:

The theory of intelligent design is ridiculed as “religious doctrine” and pseudo-science, while the justification for the ridicule is that creation is unprovable, therefore unreliable. Yet so is the theory of evolution unprovable and therefore unreliable. Therefore, evolution is a faith-based theory and not empirical scientific fact. Evolution is an unguided process of natural selection.

Oooops — we were wrong. The rev has no understanding of the role that evidence plays in science, nor does he know what a theory is. Let’s read on:

The theory of evolution is woefully inadequate to explain the observable universe today. The universe is a universe governed by laws. Where did those laws come from? The first law of thermodynamics, inertia, states that matter can only be changed but can be neither created nor destroyed. Where did the matter come from that was involved in the “Big Bang?”

Hey — the rev is right — the theory of evolution doesn’t explain those things! He continues:

Evolution is nothing more than a search for an explanation of the origin of life that does not include God. I believe the intelligent design model answers far more questions than the evolutionary model. Yes, I firmly believe that God created this world.

The rev may be on to something — the God of the gaps theory explains everything! Here’s more:

Here are some other questions that evolution cannot answer. How did life spring from non-life? How did every species develop male and female at the same time with all the reproductive organs and components necessary to bear offspring? How did our cellular information evolve, where each cell in our body communicates with the rest of the body, all 37.2 trillion of them? How can our body replicate DNA, exactly 3.7 billion pieces of information, 242 billion times a day? How did our thought process evolve? How did our memory evolve? By what evolutionary process can the eye be explained? The questions are endless.

If you want to dive into that mess of goo, dear reader, go right ahead. We’re not going to bother with any of it, but we won’t stand in your way. We assume that the rev’s theory can answer those questions, and that he will reveal it to us. Moving along:

The simple conclusion is that evolution is an inadequate faith-based theory, a theory that sates complex life evolved from simple life. The law of irreducible complexity dispels that notion.

The “law” of Irreducible complexity? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Another excerpt:

Admittedly, there is some indication of micro-evolution (adaptations of species). Where are the new life forms that evolution should, by the very nature of the theory, be producing? There are only extinctions taking place.

That was devastating! And now we come to the thrilling end, where the rev answers all the questions he raised:

I believe that intelligent design/creation is not only a credible explanation for life as we know it, I believe it is the only viable explanation for life.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What a wonderful letter! Thanks, rev.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Proxima Centauri Has Planet in Habitable Zone

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has made the long-awaited announcement. At their website they have this headline: Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

There’s already a news item that appears in Nature: Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true, and you can read without a subscription. We’ll stay with the ESO announcement. They say:

Just over four light-years from the Solar System lies a red dwarf star that has been named Proxima Centauri as it is the closest star to Earth apart from the Sun. This cool star in the constellation of Centaurus is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye and lies near to the much brighter pair of stars known as Alpha Centauri AB.


Guillem Anglada-Escudé explains the background to this unique search: “The first hints of a possible planet were spotted back in 2013, but the detection was not convincing. Since then we have worked hard to get further observations off the ground with help from ESO and others. The recent Pale Red Dot campaign has been about two years in the planning.”

The Pale Red Dot data, when combined with earlier observations made at ESO observatories and elsewhere, revealed the clear signal of a truly exciting result. At times Proxima Centauri is approaching Earth at about 5 kilometres per hour — normal human walking pace — and at times receding at the same speed. This regular pattern of changing radial velocities repeats with a period of 11.2 days. Careful analysis of the resulting tiny Doppler shifts showed that they indicated the presence of a planet with a mass at least 1.3 times that of the Earth, orbiting about 7 million kilometres from Proxima Centauri — only 5% of the Earth-Sun distance.

Guillem Anglada-Escudé comments on the excitement of the last few months: “I kept checking the consistency of the signal every single day during the 60 nights of the Pale Red Dot campaign. The first 10 were promising, the first 20 were consistent with expectations, and at 30 days the result was pretty much definitive, so we started drafting the paper!”

Let’s read on:

Although Proxima b orbits much closer to its star than Mercury does to the Sun in the Solar System, the star itself is far fainter than the Sun. As a result Proxima b lies well within the habitable zone around the star and has an estimated surface temperature that would allow the presence of liquid water. Despite the temperate orbit of Proxima b, the conditions on the surface may be strongly affected by the ultraviolet and X-ray flares from the star — far more intense than the Earth experiences from the Sun.

What about habitability? ESO continues:

Two separate papers discuss the habitability of Proxima b and its climate. They find that the existence of liquid water on the planet today cannot be ruled out and, in such case, it may be present over the surface of the planet only in the sunniest regions, either in an area in the hemisphere of the planet facing the star (synchronous rotation) or in a tropical belt (3:2 resonance rotation). Proxima b’s rotation, the strong radiation from its star and the formation history of the planet makes its climate quite different from that of the Earth, and it is unlikely that Proxima b has seasons.

Here’s one more excerpt:

Guillem Anglada-Escudé concludes: “Many exoplanets have been found and many more will be found, but searching for the closest potential Earth-analogue and succeeding has been the experience of a lifetime for all of us. Many people’s stories and efforts have converged on this discovery. The result is also a tribute to all of them. The search for life on Proxima b comes next…”

So there it is. Close enough for exploration, although that will take quite a bit of time. Now we await the response from the creationists.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #711: Pepper Is Back!

Today’s letter-to-the-editor brings us back to The Citizen of Fayetteville, Georgia. A recent letter they published inspired us to write #700: Evolution’s Problems.

Their headline this time is Jumping up and down about Darwinian Theory, and the newspaper has a comments section.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his — or maybe her — full name. As with the previous letter, the writer’s first name is Pepper, and we still don’t know if that’s male or female. Excerpts from the letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Pepper first mentions a criticism published in response to his (or her) original letter:

In response to the eight arguments I presented against Darwinian Theory, Jim Bock suggested I read a book. When time permits I will read the book he suggests, though with zero expectation it will have the remotest impact on any one of those eight arguments.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here’s the letter from Jim Bock: Standing up for the theory of evolution. He refers to Pepper as “Mr.” so we’ll follow that example. Okay, back to Pepper’s new letter:

Eugenie Scott (director of the National Center for Science Education) said, ”There are NO weaknesses in the theory of Evolution.” Richard Dawkins has written that anyone who doesn’t believe in Darwin is “ignorant, stupid or insane.”

Yes, and they’re not wrong. But Pepper disagrees. Let’s read on:

When Richard Sternberg printed a single, peer-reviewed article questioning Darwinism, it resulted in extensive, furious and personal retaliation from the science power brokers.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s a reference to the Sternberg peer review controversy. As we observed before, Pepper’s “thinking” seems to be mostly inspired by “information” found at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog. He continues:

Your high school students’ textbook does not discuss Darwin as a theory with pros and cons; it is presented as a scientific fact that explains every feature of life and for which there are no issues or challenges. When Kansas, among others, wanted to officially recognize there were questions about Darwinian Theory, the outrage from the science power brokers was off the charts. The recommendation was for colleges to not accept kids who had graduated from any Kansas high school.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s a reference to The Kansas Crazy Days. Pepper is still upset that lunacy didn’t prevail. Here’s more:

As one Chinese scientist noted, “In China we can’t question the government, in the U.S. you can’t question Darwinism.” This is demonstrated in the heavy price that is paid by anyone who does so.

It won’t surprise you to learn that the Discoveroids are the source of that quote too. It’s from Stephen Meyer in this 2006 article: Talk of the Times: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution. Moving along:

The evidence against Darwin is intellectually honest, it’s powerful and it’s growing with every gene that gets sequenced. I will be very surprised if 10 years from now the science community is not talking about Darwin in the past tense.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That reminds us of one of the earliest posts in our humble blog, about more than 160 years of predictions of The Imminent Demise of Evolution. Pepper is a gold mind of creationist oldie-goldies. One final excerpt:

I honestly don’t even mind Darwinian Theory being presented in the science classroom; there are many evangelicals who accept it without issue. It’s just when the theory is presented as a dogmatic assertion and the pseudo-scientific worldview forcibly suppresses any opposition that it proves itself unworthy of our students. Go ahead and teach about it, just tell the truth about it.

All Pepper wants is The Truth. Great letter!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Is There Science Education in Idaho?

We haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in Idaho lately, but the crazies seem to be running amok. That state is in the process of trying to upgrade the science standards for their schools, and it’s not going very well.

In the Idaho State Journal of Pocatello, Idaho we read Legislators complain state science standards contain too much science. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Whew! Idaho students can breathe a huge sigh of relief as the state science standards revision, which was rejected by Idaho lawmakers back in February, will continue to be mulled over for at least another year. The K-12 state science standards upgrade was intended to replace the current standards that are so old they define fire as “a gift from Prometheus.”

We assume that’s a journalistic exaggeration, but we’re not sure. After some discussion of how bad the current science standards are, we’re told:

This is how the revision process has gone so far: Fifteen Idaho science teachers met in March and May 2015 to review and revise the science standards. Written comments on the standards were accepted through Oct. 28. Next, the State Board of Education approved the revised standards. After all this, the state legislature rejected the updated standards. Why?

They must have had good reasons. Let’s read on:

At neither the senate nor the house education committee meetings was the actual content of the standards addressed in detail. However, prior to the meeting there was a draft motion describing such topics in the standards as global warming, the age of the earth, the origin of the solar system, the Big Bang and evolution as “questionable science.”


In addition, a number of previous public comments received by the legislators have focused on the revised standards’ omission of creationism, which a lot of folks apparently do not regard as “questionable science.”

[*Curmudgeon’s eyes roll*] Here’s more:

Then there was Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls. According to Idaho Education News, Clow, following the vote rejecting the standards, said he was disturbed by the language, such as the revised standard that states that human activities have “significantly” altered the biosphere. He said that word was “troublesome to some people,” Idaho Education News reported.

The legislature’s website shows that he’s on the Education committee. Wikipedia has a write-up on Lance Clow. It’s very brief, but they say that he “earned his BA in economics from California Lutheran University, Graduate Work in accounting and finance from California State University, Northridge, and in business administration from Idaho State University.” He seems qualified to advise on the education of bookkeepers, but not much else.

The journalist seems rather upset. You can see that in our last excerpt:

Maybe collecting more public input is a good idea. That way we can have less “questionable science” in the science standards. Instead, Idaho students could pursue the study of elves, pixies and gnomes. How about a middle school field trip to track Bigfoot?

Or maybe a visit to Hambo’s ark. Idaho looks like fertile territory for the Discoveroids. It shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade that state’s legislature to pass one of their Academic Freedom bills.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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