Category Archives: Science

2017’s Darwin Day Resolution in US Senate

A month ago we wrote 2017’s Darwin Day Resolution in Congress. That was about House Resolution 44 which was introduced into the US House of Representatives. All its 19 co-sponsors are Democrats.

Now our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have just posted: Darwin Day resolution in the Senate. Here are some excerpts:

Senate Resolution 59, introduced in the United States Senate on February 10, 2017, would, if passed, express the Senate’s support of designating February 12, 2017, as Darwin Day, and its recognition of “Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.”

We briefly looked at the text of the Senate resolution. It appears to be identical to the one in the House, which we gave you in our earlier post. NCSE continues:

Sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), S. Res. 59 is the third Darwin Day resolution ever to appear in the Senate.

Blumenthal’s resolution has only one co-sponsor so far, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, and he too is a Democrat.

Republicans control both chambers of Congress, so neither resolution is likely to pass. But even when that wasn’t so, such resolutions never passed anyway.

We’re hoping for at least one Republican to co-sponsor one of these resolutions, so this isn’t a total embarrassment, but that doesn’t seem likely. The situation is absurd, because not every Republican is a creationist, and not every Democrat is a solid supporter of science — see Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science?

Politicians in both parties, like the population as a whole, are mostly ignorant of science. They’re driven by ideology, and they support science only when it seems to justify the their party’s position on specific issues — like abortion, environmentalism, national defense, “social justice,” etc. Also, each party opposes the science that challenges its sacred ideology. The sad truth is that science in general has no political friends. All we have are temporarily convenient alliances — and depending on one’s science, we don’t have the same allies.

Unfortunately, many scientists are unaware of the motives of politicians, so they’ll support a party that seems to support their endeavors, while overlooking that party’s anti-scientific positions on other issues. The Darwin Day resolutions make the Republicans look like idiots. That’s their purpose. But tomorrow, when the issue is something like fracking or increasing the number of nuclear power plants, the positions of the parties will be reversed. So don’t be naïve, dear reader. Bear in mind that political parties are driven by ideology, not science.

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

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Darwin, Churchill, and Hitler

We’ve written several times about the bizarre claim of the Discovery Institute that Hitler’s insanity was inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. The first time was Hitler and Darwin, and most recently Discoveroids’ Hitler Obsession Continues.

We were quite pleased a few years ago when we discovered that the only World War II leader who actually read Darwin was Winston Churchill — see Hitler, Darwin, and … Winston Churchill? Nevertheless, the Discoveroids continue to promote their Hitler-Darwin fantasy.

But we didn’t realize the extent of Churchill’s understanding of Darwin and other science. A new article in Nature provides an amazing amount of new information. It’s titled Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found. You’re going to read it for yourself (no subscription is required), so only a few excerpts are necessary — with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Winston Churchill is best known as a wartime leader, one of the most influential politicians of the twentieth century, a clear-eyed historian and an eloquent orator. He was also passionate about science and technology. Aged 22, while stationed with the British Army in India in 1896, he read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and a primer on physics.

We knew about that, but we didn’t know how much more there was. The article says:

In the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote popular-science essays on topics such as evolution and cells in newspapers and magazines. In a 1931 article in The Strand Magazine entitled ‘Fifty Years Hence’, he described fusion power: “If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium, they would suffice to drive a thousand-horsepower engine for a whole year.”

Skipping over a lot of neat stuff, the writer tells us:

Despite all this, it was a great surprise last year, while I was on a visit to the US National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, when the director Timothy Riley thrust a typewritten essay by Churchill into my hands. In the 11-page article, ‘Are We Alone in the Universe?’, he muses presciently about the search for extraterrestrial life.

Aliens? That’s another subject creationists consider to be ridiculous. Nature continues:

Churchill’s reasoning mirrors many modern arguments in astrobiology. In essence, he builds on the framework of the ‘Copernican Principle’ — the idea that, given the vastness of the Universe, it is hard to believe that humans on Earth represent something unique.

[…]

Churchill then defines what is known today as the habitable zone — that narrow ‘Goldilocks’ region around a star that is neither too cold nor too hot, so that liquid water may exist on the surface of a rocky planet.

[…]

Churchill’s essay next assesses the probability that other stars host planets. He reasons that “the sun is merely one star in our galaxy, which contains several thousand millions of others”. … Churchill writes: “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.” Thus, he concludes, a large fraction of extrasolar planets “will be the right size to keep on their surface water and possibly an atmosphere of some sort” and some will be “at the proper distance from their parent sun to maintain a suitable temperature”.

[…]

The essay finishes eagerly: “with hundreds of thousands of nebulae [galaxies], each containing thousands of millions of suns, the odds are enormous that there must be immense numbers which possess planets whose circumstances would not render life impossible.”

Churchill wrote that in 1939, and revised it slightly in the 1950s. He was far more science-minded than we ever imagined. Today’s creationists wouldn’t like him at all.

Anyway, the Discoveroids will continue to promote their wild fiction that Hitler — a high school dropout — was inspired by Darwin. They’re as right about that as they are about everything else — i.e., they’re totally wrong.

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

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The Trillion Year Secret — Revealed!

[30-second sound clip] You are about to leave reality and travel into another dimension — a dimension that exists beyond the laws of nature, unknowable by evidence and reason — a wondrous land of Oogity Boogity! There’s a signpost up ahead: Next stop — The Drool Zone.

You’ve heard of Panspermia. Well, that’s nothing! Wait ’til you learn what we just found at the website of the Daily Express, a national tabloid newspaper in the United Kingdom. Their attention-grabbing headline is Humans originated from ‘cosmic genes’ that fell to Earth trillion years ago – SHOCK claim, and they have a comments feature.

Wowie — a trillion years ago! Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Our DNA holds a “dark secret” which threatens to debunk all evolutionary and creationist theories sending scientists back to the drawing board.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Then the Daily Express says:

All lifeforms on our planet came from distant stars by way of meteors, comets and showers of dust containing extra-terrestrial bacteria and viruses. Microscopic alien organisms have been controlling evolution and the development of life on Earth since the emergence of the first single-cellular organisms. The extraordinary claims from astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe threaten to blow previous theories around the origins of life out of the water.

Wikipedia has a write-up on Chandra Wickramasinghe. They say that he:

is a Sri Lankan-born British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist. His research interests include the interstellar medium, infrared astronomy, light scattering theory, applications of solid-state physics to astronomy, the early Solar System, comets, astrochemistry, the origin of life and astrobiology. A student and collaborator of Fred Hoyle, the pair worked jointly for over 40 years as influential proponents of panspermia. In 1974 they proposed the hypothesis that some dust in interstellar space was largely organic.

Ah, Fred Hoyle, known for junkyard tornado criticism of evolution. Okay, let’s return to the Daily Express, which quotes Wickramasinghe:

We are all aliens made up of cosmic genes from cosmic bacteria and viruses that drifted down to us in comet dust and meteorites through the depths of space. Recent studies have shown that a single drop of ocean water contains more than 10 million individual viruses.

An estimated 10 to the power of 31 viruses exist on Earth at any time; if these are strung end to end they would span distances that are measured in millions of light years. Such viruses appear to have controlled the evolution of life on the Earth from the first microbes brought here by comets to all life – plants, animals, humans. The acceptance of this once controversial theory as the correct world-view will usher in enormous scientific and societal changes.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Enormous changes! The Daily Express then tells us:

The origins of life have confounded scientists, philosophers and religious leaders for centuries with nobody ever coming close to finding the answer. Many people think man descended from great apes over millions of yeas of evolution while others believe we were crafted by the hand of God. Theories of Earth being “seeded” by extra-terrestrial beings are only now being discussed in the mainstream stirring deep controversy among religious and scientific groups.

We haven’t seen that it’s a raging controversy, but the tabloid claims otherwise:

The late Sir Fred believed extra-terrestrial DNA arrived on comets claiming the complexity of life is too great for it to have arisen with no external influence. He said: “If one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure of order must be the outcome of intelligent design.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The rest of the article is about evidence for panspermia, but not for intelligent design — or the “trillion” years promised in the tabloid’s headline. So it’s a bit of a let-down, although fun to read anyway. Go ahead, then let us know what you think.

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

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The Galileo Trial Wasn’t Anti-Science?

The Catholic Church is no longer actively opposed to science, as we’ve mentioned a few times before — see, e.g.: The Catholic Church and Science, and also The Catholic Church and Evolution. But that wasn’t always the case.

All of you are familiar with Galileo’s famous confrontation with the Inquisition, known as the Galileo affair. For almost 400 years, the trial of Galileo has been cited as a classic confrontation of science and religion, and the trial end with a confession of heresy — see Recantation of Galileo. June 22, 1633.

Galileo was compelled by the Inquisition not only to confess heresy, but also to renounce the solar system. His book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was banned and placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and he was kept under house arrest for the remaining seven years of his life. According to Wikipedia’s list of authors and works listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, more than a century after it was banned, a censored version of Galileo’s book was permitted in 1741, and almost another century passed until the entire book was finally removed from the Index in 1835.

We’ve written about the astronomical evidence Galileo produced in favor of the sun-centered solar system — see Creationism, Galileo and the Phases of Venus. We’ve also written about occasional attempts to re-write history, to show that Galileo was the bad guy in the drama — see Defending the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and also The Galileo Affair — Was the Inquisition Wrong?

Today we found yet another attempt to re-write history. It’s Rethinking the Galileo case, sub-titled “The famous trial does not show that church opposed science.” It appears in the Catholic Sentinel, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, which claims to be “the oldest Catholic newspaper on the West Coast.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Those with a predisposition to argue that the Catholic Church opposes science inevitably turn to the 1632-33 trial of the astronomer Galileo Galilei. … It turns out that even the Galileo affair, while not a proud moment for Catholicism, in no way shows an anti-science agenda. Scholars have revealed inconvenient truths for church critics.

Okay, we’re willing to consider what the author, Ed Langlois (managing editor of the Catholic Sentinel) has to say. Here it comes:

Few people know it, but Galileo was punished not for his science, but for propagating a theory with insufficient proof. A 1615 letter from Cardinal Robert Bellarmine makes it clear that he and others in church leadership were open to changing their views had Galileo backed up his ideas.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It sounds like they employed a particularly rigorous form of peer review in those days. But of course, Galileo did have evidence — it was twofold. First, the phases of Venus were compatible with a Sun-centered solar system, but not one that was Earth centered. While not proof of heliocentrism, it was certainly disproof of the geocentric model. Also, there were the moons of Jupiter, which Galileo was the first to observe. We described their importance in Creationism, Galileo and the Phases of Venus.

Then the Catholic Sentinel tells us:

Galileo was promoting heliocentrism, a theory that the Earth moves around the sun. The paradigm shift had been proposed in 1543 by Copernicus, a Polish priest. For decades, the church allowed the theory to be debated, but demanded scientific proof before it allowed the theories to be discussed as anything more than mathematical models.

“The church was never against the idea. It just said Galileo did not have proof,” says Benedictine Brother Louis de Montfort Nguyen, a monk-scientist who teaches a course at Mount Angel Seminary on faith and science. “So it was questioned. That is the way science works.”

Science was a rough business in those days. If you couldn’t prove your theory, they’d put you on the rack. The defense of the Inquisition continues:

It’s important to understand that science in the 17th century was not the same as it is now. Philosophy, theology and physical studies were linked then. The committee of cardinals that looked at the Galileo case didn’t overstep its bounds as modern critics might say. They were the experts. Not until decades after Galileo’s death, when Isaac Newton offered his math, did proof of heliocentrism emerge. The church eventually was able to accept heliocentrism because it had never declared that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Newton proved heliocentrism? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Although this article claims that the Galileo trial was all about science, from records of the trial we know of two specific scripture passages were used as evidence against Galileo:

Ecclesiastes 1, verse 5: The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Joshua 10:13: And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

The article in the Catholic Sentinel goes on for a great number of paragraphs, but we’ve excerpted enough. What we can’t understand is why they do things like this. Why can’t they proudly say what we know to be true — that they’ve grown wiser than they were 400 years ago? Articles like this are an embarrassment.

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

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