Category Archives: Evolution

Senate Passes Oklahoma’s 2017 Creationism Bill

Josh Brecheen

We’ve written before about the latest creationism bill in Oklahoma, most recently Oklahoma Creationism Bill for 2017 — Update, in which we learned that the thing passed by a 13-1 vote in the Senate Education Committee on February 27, 2017.

As you know, the bill is Senate Bill 393, sponsored by Josh Brecheen (that’s his official photo above this post) who promotes bills like this every year. This one is essentially the same bill he promoted last year and the year before, and the year before that. We posted its text in Oklahoma Creationism Bill for 2015.

The thing is loosely based on the anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act promoted by the Discovery Institute. We’ve critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws.

We’ve just been informed by Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education:

Senator Josh Brecheen’s SB 393. Vote: 34-10 passed despite a rather massive effort to convince the House Leadership not to place bill on floor. We now move to fight the bill on the House side.

We checked our link where one can follow the progress of Brecheen’s bill: Bill Information for SB 393. Sure enough, it says that it passed on 22 March by a vote of 34 to 10.

Interestingly, the Discovery Institute had a post yesterday urging passage of the bill: We Urge Oklahoma Residents to Weigh In and Support Senate Bill 393 , written by Sarah Chaffee (Savvy Sarah to us). It repeats the usual misinformation:

Contrary to misleading reports [Hee hee!], academic freedom bills such as SB 393 do not authorize teaching creationism (which is unconstitutional to teach in public schools). Nor do they sanction teaching intelligent design, as they apply only to theories already in the curriculum (and ID isn’t in a public school curriculum anywhere in the U.S.). And yes, scientific controversy exists over evolution — indeed at the very highest levels of science.

[…]

This legislation would protect teachers who want to engage their classes in scientific inquiry and critical thinking on theories in the curriculum. Examining the evidence for and against propositions is good pedagogy, and good science!

Will the bill pass the House? Will the Governor sign it? We’re talking about Oklahoma, so it’s impossible to predict. The legislature doesn’t adjourn until 26 May. Stay tuned to this blog!

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discoveroids: We’re Still Alone in the Universe

Everybody knows about the recent astronomical discovery which PhysOrg wrote about here: Temperate earth-sized worlds found in extraordinarily rich planetary system (Update).

The discovery has had a depressing effect on creationists, who still cling to the Genesis model of the universe, in which Earth is the only habitable world, and there is no life — certainly no intelligent life — anywhere else.

The Discovery Institute has been especially negative in their reactions — see Discoveroids: A Means Not-A. They insist that the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — made Earth as The Privileged Planet to be a home for us (whom he also created), and there’s nothing else of any importance out there, anywhere.

It’s not surprising that their outlook is consistent with that of the more traditional creationists, who cling to the concept of the universe described in the bible — a cozy arrangement, with the Earth created as the only world in existence, in the center of what seemed to be a rather limited universe, consisting of the Sun and the Moon, with the stars as lights set in a presumably solid firmament rotating around us, just below the glorious realm of Yahweh.

The more planets we discover orbiting other stars, the more depressed they get, but they’re temporarily comforted by the the fact that we can’t yet examine the atmospheres of those worlds, so we don’t yet know if there’s any life out there. They hope there isn’t, because if there is, then something’s wrong with their Earth-centered cosmos, and — gasp! — maybe those secular Darwinists are right.

The Discoveroids imagine that they’ve just received some good news, and it’s reported at their creationist blog by Klinghoffer. His headline is Remember Those Exciting “Earth-Like” Planets of the TRAPPIST-1 System? The Honeymoon Is Over . Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Do you recall the hubbub only one month ago about TRAPPIST-1, a dim red dwarf star some 40 light years from Earth? This star has seven planet [sic], three of which, roughly Earth-sized, were announced as being potentially habitable. This led to excited speculation about alien evolution: [list of headlines].

Those were depressing times for creationists. But maybe the crisis is over. Klinghoffer says:

Well, not so fast. Much of the breathlessness about the system stemmed from a thoroughly imaginative artist’s rendering courtesy of NASA. … Today, the TRAPPIST-1 bubble looks to have popped, with 3D computer climate modeling showing major problems with the system.

Whoopie — except for Earth, the universe is a lifeless desert! Klinghoffer is thrilled! He tells us:

According to Eric T. Wolf of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the inner three planets would be barren, the outer three frozen. And the middle, planet e? In NASA’s rendering, it looks the most Earth-like. However, in a system like this centering on a dim red dwarf, planet e would need to have been stocked, to start, with seven times the volume of Earth’s oceans.

He refers to this article which discusses Wolf’s work: Trappist-1: Hopes for life dwindle. It says:

At least three of the planets looked like they were within the star’s “habitable zone” – the region in which water will remain liquid. On that level, at least, the trio seemed like very good candidates for hosting life.

Now, however, 3D climate modelling is dampening expectations, suggesting that at most only one of Trappist-1’s satellites could support life. The modelling has been completed by Eric Wolf from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In doing so, he made the assumption that the seven planets are – or had once been – ocean-covered, with atmospheres comprising nitrogen, carbon-dioxide and water vapour. Orbital and geophysical properties were derived or deduced from collected data. When Wolf ran the numbers, the results were rather depressing.

This is what Klinghoffer quotes from that article:

However, even one habitable planet may turn out to be a forlorn hope. Ultracool dwarf stars, Wolf says, may take as long as one billion years to settle into a stable system, during which orbiting planets are exposed to intense solar radiation, producing extreme greenhouse conditions. If this was the case with Trappist-1, then for the middle planet to retain abundant water today it would have to originally held seven times the ocean volume of Earth.

He was careful not to quote the very next paragraph, which says:

Wolf, however, is not the only scientist investigating the possibility of life in the Trappist-1 system. Also lodged on arxiv during March was a paper by Harvard astrophysicists Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb, in which they explore the idea that life may have arisen on a single planet orbiting the star, then spread to “multiple” others by a process known as panspermia.

[…]

Lingham and Loeb contend that because the seven planets in Trappist-1 are very close together – the distance between adjacent ones being far less than the distance between Earth and Mars – then microbial panspermia is likely to be robust.

After his quote-mining — or model-mining — Klinghoffer continues:

Materialists must have alien life, to assure themselves that Earth’s biology is nothing special, easily replicable by unguided evolutionary processes many other places in the cosmos. It seems unlikely the planets around TRAPPIST-1 support life, which means they cannot support evolutionary speculation, either.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Darwin is doomed again! Klinghoffer smugly ends his little essay with this:

Now it’s time to sit back and wait for the next half-baked “Earth-like” exoplanet to be wheeled out onstage by the popular science media. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.

So there you are. The cozy creationist universe seems secure — for the moment. But they’re worried. Very worried. As they should be.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Ken Ham Is a Victim of ‘Fake News’

You may recall a couple of months ago when we wrote Klinghoffer Says Evolution Is ‘Fake News’. Although we thought Klinghoffer’s little essay was singularly silly, it did have an impact.

He made a big impression on Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, who ceaselessly promotes himself as the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else. The title of Hambo’s latest is The Real Fake News. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “fake news.” Well, regarding all that talk, remember that the two greatest fake news items permeating the culture are molecules-to-man evolution and millions of years. The claim that the universe and life arose by natural processes is a fake news story!

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then he says:

Here’s a definition of fake news: the belief that watching TV or reading news reports gives a true account of what is happening in politics across the nation and the world. Where do you find authentic news? God’s Word!

Right. That’s where the real news is. After that he tells us:

The media is missing the real battle: “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” [scripture reference]. Do you ever see most of the media reporting on the real battle raging in this nation?

Actually, no, we never see that reported. Hambo continues:

There’s also been talk about the media being dishonest to push their own agenda. I agree that much of the media is dishonest — they’ve been publishing misinformation about Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter for years. When much of secular media interview us, I believe they’ve already written their anti-Christian, agenda-driven articles before the interview.

Then he claims to be in the same position as Trump:

The left-wing, secular media is doing to President Trump what they’ve done to us for years — spreading false accusations, lies, misinformation, censorship, and more.

It’s not quite the same. The media disagree with Trump on political and economic issues, but Hambo’s claim that he and Trump are both victims of fake news should stir up some commentary. One last excerpt:

Yes, there’s a civil war of ideas going on in America. It’s a culture war that’s actually a spiritual war.

[…]

America is suffering the consequence of generations not being taught how to think critically but being indoctrinated in the religion of naturalism. America is on the precipice of catastrophic change because generations were brainwashed by secularists in their anti-God religion.

Okay, that’s enough. And so we leave ol’ Hambo, standing on the deck of his replica of Noah’s Ark. He’s raging at the world, but especially at you, dear reader — because you’re foolish enough to believe the fake news of evolution.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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How the Creationist Game Is Played

Would you play poker with someone who insists on his own rules, one of which is: “It doesn’t matter what cards I’m holding. If you don’t have a royal flush, then I win.”

That’s the game we see being played at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog in a new post by David Klinghoffer. It’s titled: Astrophysicist Adam Frank: Materialism’s Fatal Flaw Is…Matter. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Whether explaining consciousness, evolution, or the origin of the cosmos, materialists make a common assumption: that they know what matter is. However, if the underlying stuff of physical reality is itself a mystery, on what kind of foundation do purely physical, natural theories have to build anything?

Before proceeding further into what we know about the nature of matter, let’s pause to consider what the Discoveroids know about their intelligent designer. As we said in Discovery Institute: Intelligent Design Redefined:

The “theory” of Intelligent design tells us that some unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

That’s what the Discoveroids have. You know what you have. Now that the cards have been dealt, let the game proceed. Klinghoffer says:

In an essay for Aeon, astrophysicist Adam Frank focuses on the mystery of consciousness, not evolution. But the objection would seem to be no less powerful there.

This is the essay he’s talking about: Minding matter — The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground. According to Wikipedia, the author, Adam Frank, is:

… a United States physicist, astronomer, and writer. His research focuses on computational astrophysics with an emphasis on star formation and late stages of stellar evolution. His popular writing has focused on issues of science in its cultural context, including issues of science and religion and the role of technology in the human experience of time.

Klinghoffer gives us some quotes from Frank’s essay — about the unresolved questions presented by quantum mechanics:

But behind quantum mechanics’ unequaled calculational precision lie profound, stubbornly persistent questions about what those quantum rules imply about the nature of reality — including our place in it.

Those questions are well-known in the physics community, but perhaps our habit of shutting up has been a little too successful. A century of agnosticism about the true nature of matter hasn’t found its way deeply enough into other fields, where materialism still appears to be the most sensible way of dealing with the world and, most of all, with the mind. Some neuroscientists think that they’re being precise and grounded by holding tightly to materialist credentials. Molecular biologists, geneticists, and many other types of researchers — as well as the nonscientist public — have been similarly drawn to materialism’s seeming finality. But this conviction is out of step with what we physicists know about the material world — or rather, what we don’t know.

After that fuzziness, which always seems to accompany quantum mechanics, Klinghoffer tells us:

In a nutshell, here’s the problem:

[Another quote from Frank:] What exactly is quantum mechanics telling us about the world? What does the wave function describe? What really happens when a measurement occurs? Above all, what is matter?

Klinghoffer is excited. He closes his post with this:

It seems that, when we’re confronted with theories of origins that dogmatically insist on an active role for matter and material forces alone, a reasonable question before going any further is: Define matter. What is it? If Darwinists can’t answer that one, then I’m not sure by what right they command our agreement to any of the rest of their theory.

Now we return to the poker game. You don’t have a royal flush, but the evidence for evolution means you’re sitting there with a full house. Your opponent, Klinghoffer, has a hand full of nothing to support his claims about a magical designer. Who wins?

Klinghoffer wins. Why? Because the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — always wins. Those are the rules the Discoveroids play by.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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