Archive for category Education

“True” Religons, Weasel Looks, Ironic Morals, and Continental Responses

Today in this multi-piece article, we’ll talk about AiG’s method of finding out which religions are true, Richard Dawkins’ computer program that disproves creationist probability arguments, and why Jack Chick’s constant plea to get saved could be working against Christianity’s moral high ground.  Plus, there’ll a response to a recent comment on the site.

Creationists seem to enjoy saying that Christianity is the only true religion, and most Chick tracts are about that specific topic.  But Answers in Genesis doesn’t talk about it very often, which is why this article published on their Kids Answers website proves their assumptions about religion.  It’s called, not modestly, How Do We Know Other Religions Aren’t True?  It answers a question sent in by a kid named James, from Ohio, and his question is, well, how do Christians know that other religions aren’t true?  According to AiG, only Christianity has a book that tells us about everything (i.e., origins of everything, sin, etc), nor does any other religion have a savior that is, according to them, alive.  But what comes next is just plain idiotic.  AiG goes on to say that if a religion A) doesn’t accept the Bible, B) doesn’t claim that Jesus is God, or C) doesn’t say that salvation is the way to Jesus, than it isn’t a true religion.  Wow.  I’m actually having some mixed emotions right now.  AiG is only saying that to rig the rules, so that only their religon can be counted as “true”.  In my opinion, it’s pretty dang stupid.

Okay, how many times have you heard from a creationist that there’s “no chance” of evolution happening, or that complex organic structures couldn’t have happened by chance.  It’s pretty easy to shoot down those arguments, but Richard Dawkins once wrote a computer program that selects strings of twenty-six characters that most resemble the Shakespeare line “Methinks it is like a weasel”.  And sure enough, after only 180 generations, we get that exact line.  This info comes from the awesome book Monkey Girl.  Some might say that the program requires an intelligent agency to work, but the point is this: you can get a line of Shakespeare in only 180 generations, which is barely anything in evolutionary time.  In other words, complex structures can come about quite easily.  Other computer programs have proved just that, shooting down creationist probability arguments in an instant.

You know, creationists (particurally Kent Hovind) constantly complain that evolution caused the Holocaust, and that it’s the roots of immorality.  It’s a typical and easy to refute argument, but why not go a step further, and show that for all their claims of morality, super-right-wing “cartoonist” Jack Chick is actually just betraying the Christian community.  Take a look at the last panel from one of Jack’s tracts, The Gunslinger.

Ironic Morals

Ignoring the eerily Ku Klux Klan-like image in the picture on the right, take a gander at the main message of the panel: going to heaven is not a matter of good or bad.  Here’s my question: if Hitler or Stalin got saved, would they go to heaven?  According to Jack, yes.  What this panel says is that a lifetime of genocide, murder, and other assorted crimes against humanity can all be solved just by getting saved.  In my opinion, that isn’t very moral.

To cap this article off, let’s look at this comment that I approved very recently:

“You cannot assume that the rate of continental drift was the same throughout the earth’s history. You are forgetting the global flood and how destructive that event would have been.”

This is by a guy named Joe, and it was from Dooding=Intelligent Illustrator 3, where I say that assuming continental drift was constant, it would be impossible for the earth to be 6000 years old.  Joe is technically right-I was making an assumption.  But really, you think that the global flood caused continental drift?  There are two problems with that:

  1. It would be impossible for a global flood to pry apart plates and move the continents in that amount of time!
  2. Underwater earthquakes cause by quickly moving continents=tsunamis, which wouldn’t be very good for Noah’s Ark.

That’s all for now!  By the way, I recently dug up the mother load of Chick tracts!  It’s like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and most of them haven’t even been dissected by the Jabberwock yet, so expect some more reviews soon!

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In Case You Missed It…

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter (my name is MandHF), you probably didn’t see my commentary on the Christian Rapture-themed movie Left Behind.  And if you are on Twitter, just look up #leftbehindriff.  Basically, I watched the movie while tweeting witty stuff about it.  Besides being a heck of a lot of fun to do, it also got my mom a mention by the original Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  So, there’s an upside to being blasphemous.

In other news, I just challenged a classmate to a creation/evolution debate-and she accepted!  Now, sometime next week, I’m going to go head-to-head with her in science class.  My goal today is to finish off my PowerPoint presentation, called The Science of Evolution.  My opponent has no idea what she’s gotten herself into…

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Hot Whales, Inheriting Air, Lots of Dragons, Policy Problems, and More

Time again for another multi-piece article!  First, we’re going to discuss the counterarguments for a graveyard of Chilean whales.  Next, I’m going to review the excellent evolution-themed play Inherit the Wind.  We’re going to look at several dragons from around the world and compare them to dinosaurs, in order to see if they really could be evidences for creationism.  I’m going to show you laughable quotes from a book on school policies, examine the new and controversial Rick Perry commercial, and finish up with a quick chat about quicksand.

Okay, first up, we have a little something from Kids Answers, in a piece called Whales in the Desert.  Basically, it talks about a large group of whale fossils that have been found in Chile.  That may not sound so outrageous-South America is known for its gigantic creatures-but here’s the thing: the fossils were discovered in the Atacama Desert, which is the hottest known location on earth.  So, here’s the question AiG poses: how could seventy-five whales (along with a tusked dolphin that I think might also be a small whale called Odobenocetops) wind up smack dab in the middle of the hottest desert anywhere in the world?  The answer for them, of course, is the global flood described in the Bible.  According to them, that’s the only way you could take a large group of whales and dump ’em in the desert.  Is there any other explanation?  Well, yes, if you look at it logically.

First, there’s the matter of the fossils themselves.  AiG claims that fossils can form quickly, and demonstrate it in a small, science fair-like experiment with no organic material at all.  Riddle me this, Batman-how do you know fossils can form quickly if you don’t test it with organic material?  Here’s what could prove your claim: subject a small creature (a rat or squirrel would do) to a small-scale tsunami, and have it buried under a large pile of sediment.  Wait about forty days and forty nights, and then see just how fossilized your test subject is.

But, I’m getting off track, aren’t I?  We know for a fact that whales travel in small pods, and that gray whales travel in masses for one of the largest migrations on earth.  Isn’t it likely that prehistoric whales behaved similarly?  If so, that explains why they were all there in the first place.  But how did they get to the desert?  Well, we can reverse engineer a global model, based on current continental drift, how the world looked back when the whales were buried.  At about the time whales evolved, the Sahara desert was a salt marsh.  It’s highly likely that water levels near South America were higher back then.  If so, then they simply could have drowned.  Easy as that.

Ah, the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.  Without a doubt, it was the biggest evolutionary hullabaloo until Dover/Kitzmiller, and one of the most dramatic.  But the legacy stretches to the superb play Inherit The Wind, which is similar but still very different from the actual happenings.  Instead of the small town of Dover, we go to the fictional little village of Hillsboro, where instead of John T. Scopes, a man named Bertram Cates has been arrested (actually not part of the punishment for teaching evolution) for teaching, of course, Darwin’s theory of evolution, instead of biblical creation as mandated by the Butler Act.  Despite all of the historical inaccuracies, the play is really, really good.  I mean, you can picture a troubled small town, understand the massive issues at stake, and best of all, feel the heart-pounding emotion of the Drummond-Brady standoff, which is based on a real event.  In fact, I’m even considering turning the CC tagline (a Mark Twain quote) into one of the lines from that awesome argument.  There’s just no other way to say it: Inherit the Wind is a truly great American play.

Ah, the old myth of dragons.  At least, we think they’re myths.  If the creationists are correct (and they rarely are when it comes to things like this), then maybe your fire-breathing favorites have some roots in the fossil record.  Let’s look at a couple of examples.  First, we have this dragon from the Ishtar Gate in Babylon:

Ishtar Dragon

Okay, at first glance, I can see where the idea that it was a dinosaur came from.  From a distance, you might call this thing a sauropod, and the neck/head are slightly similar, but look at the feet.  Even if you were ten meters away, you can automatically tell: those are talons.  No sauropods that we know of had feet like that.  Sauropods have elephant-like legs, not something that looks like it belongs on a chicken.  If that wasn’t enough, the body shape is too slim and rectangular to support what we know of as a sauropod body.  While I see the creationists’ point, the visual evidence is stacked against them this time around.  Next, we have a cave drawing of what some are calling a pterosaur, obtained from a pretty basic website called Discovery News, which I assume isn’t affiliated with the far better Discovery Channel:

Pterosaur Drawing

Does this bear any resemblance to known pterosaurs?  Actually, you can see a few traits that are common in large pterosaurs, such as the crest, but there’s one big problem here: the wings.  A) they’re barely distinguishable, and B) we know that their wings were shaped differently.  Instead of curlicued things that aren’t aerodynamic in the least, we see broad, sail-like appendages.  Plus, it’s entirely possible that this is a case of mistaken identity, with the Native Americans who drew this in fact seeing a bird, like a buzzard or vulture.  That also explains the long legs, which we don’t tend to see a lot in big pterosaurs.  Finally, we have a classic Chinese dragon.

Chinese Dragon

The creationists want us to believe that this was, in fact, a dinosaur.  Ahem.  *cough*  How unbelievably stupid is that?  First, we have the length of the body.  We see some dinosaurs that were really long, but none this lanky, and certainly none with splayed-out legs like we see here.  Then, there’s the fact that this thing appears to have fur and facial hair!  While lots of feathered dinosaurs have been found, none of them look anything like this.  The most likely idea is that the people were either seeing a monitor lizard, or it was just a figment of their imaginations.

Let’s finish off this four-step article with a few quick quote dissections from a book I have read, Opposing Viewpoints: School Policies.  This book tackles everything from dress codes to creationism in schools.  And why not have a look at one of the quotes supporting the latter!

“Even Darwin himself purportedly no longer believed in his own theory when he died.”

I’m really going to try to keep from laughing now.  The whole “Darwin rejects evolution” story is a huge myth.  The perpetrator of the fairy tale, a woman named Lady Hope, never actually visited Darwin on his deathbed, according to his children.  It’s just plain crazy.  Another section of the article is also written by a Christian, but this is about gay/straight alliance clubs.  The writer states that any self-respecting school wouldn’t allow a Marlboro/tattoo/drag racing club to exist, so why a GSA?  Well, Ms. Misrepresentation, there’s a fine line between a club that basically supports human rights and a club that is obviously inappropriate.  A gay/straight alliance club will not “indoctrinate” people into being homosexual.  It would just show them that gay and lesbian people are humans, too.  There’s nothing immoral about that.

Recently, Republican president wannabe Rick Perry aired a short commercial entitled “Strong”, in which he pretty much criticizes the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, saying that there’s something wrong with the country if gays can openly serve in the military, but children can’t openly celebrate Christmas.  I mean, REALLY?!  Children can obviously go to church and openly celebrate Christmas, or go caroling, or any other of a number of things that count as openly celebrating the holiday.  And yeah, gays can serve in the military, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  Then, he goes onto say that they can’t pray in schools.  And it all goes downhill from here.  Here’s the thing: kids can silently pray in schools, or pray during free hours like lunch or recess, but if he means to say that we should legalize school prayer, Rick is violating the freedom of religion.  If you want to have Christian prayers said openly in the classroom under the teacher’s guidance, you either have to include prayers from every other religion on earth, or you’re asking for another Engel vs. Vitale case.  You’d probably get sued anyway.

Rick keeps on going, saying that he’ll end Obama’s war on religion.  That’s actually not true.  President Obama never attacked religion in general, or even negatively criticized any particular religion (to the best of my knowledge).  All he said was “America is not a Christian nation.”  Even though the U.S. was partially founded due to religious discrimination in England, immigration up till today formed what some call the great melting pot.  Which is, to say, we are not just fundamentalist Christians.  We’re Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, and dozens of others.  Rick says that faith is what made America great, and that’s what will make her great again.  Well, our freedom of religion is a really good thing, but what about our freedom of expression, or press, or speech, or assembly?  Rick, being as right-wing as right-wing can get, is merely equating gay rights with being anti-Christian.  That’s not true.  I support gay rights, but I’m only anti-young earth creationism.

And, just to finish this article off, let’s say a few words about quicksand.  AiG has an article on their Answers Magazine site about the famous Velociraptor vs Protoceratops fossils, and attempts to debunk the various evolutionary explanations for their fossilization, eventually just sticking to their unscientific assumptions of the Flood.  One of the explanations, quicksand, was supposedly debunked by the fact that the animals would have tried to get away.  That may be true, but if prehistoric quicksand was anything like modern quicksand (there’s no difference between the two, but I’m just saying), the struggles of the fighters might have sunk them almost immediately.  On a related note, the two other “debunked” explanations, a sandstorm and a collapsing sand dune, were put down by the fact that they couldn’t carry the moisture needed to mineralize the bones.  Well, here’s my response: where do you think this photo comes from?  (Besides Wikipedia)

Perfect Fossils

That’s right-it came from the Italian city of Pompeii, where around 70 A.D., a volcanic eruption perfectly preserved the forms of the city’s citizens.  Just like the Mongolian dinosaur fighters, these fossils are beautifully preserved.  So here’s my question: did Mt. Vesuvius carry the moisture needed to fossilize these skeletons?  On that note, we’re done with the article.  See you around!

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Our Fair Curriculum

Teach creationism.  Teach intelligent design.  Teach the alternatives.  Teach the controversy.  These are some of the common claims that lead to massive lawsuits and headline stories.  Creationists (as well as proponents of intelligent design, misguided parents, etc, etc) sometimes claim that to teach a “fair and balanced curriculum”, you have to teach alternatives to evolution in science class.  Or to explain the massive controversy in the scientific community about the validity of evolution.  But there are reasons that those decisions get overturned in court, and here are some of them:

First of all, more often than not, the alternatives people want taught are creationism or intelligent design.  And those aren’t IN THE LEAST science.  Sure, evolution is not, to say, perfectly flawless.  Every scientific theory has stuff going against it, and that’s okay.  But what’s NOT okay is when a theory that is supposedly scientific cannot keep an argument!  Talkorigins alone has a massive index of creationist and intelligent design claims, all of which have scientific responses.  Evolution may have mountains of evidence stated against it, but very few of those evidences can be considered valid.  Now, if you wanted to do a comparative religion class of which multiple mythologies and their impact on the modern world were a part, that’s fine.  In fact, I support that.  But when you try to pass off creationism as science, and try to teach it in schools, that’s just wrong.

Now, on the subject of “teach the controversy”, there are two different meanings: state that there is immense debate in the scientific community about evolution’s validity, or teach the immense controversy about evolution vs creationism, intelligent design, etc.  I love the concept of teaching the latter, but the former is wrong because the scientific community overwhelmingly accepts evolution.  Societies like Creation Science Evangelism, the Institute for Creation Research, and the infamous ID think tank, the Discovery Institute, are not widely accepted members of the scientific community, despite repeated attempts to convince the public that creationism and intelligent design are scientific.  While there are debates on HOW evolution happened, like the evolution of certain creatures, there are practically no arguments against them evolving.

Science, and how science should be taught, is a tricky subject.  Obviously, evolution should be a part of every school curriculum, but there will occasionally be the inevitable fight to get religion in, too.  And that only leads to trouble and costly lawsuits.  Nobody wants to get into trouble with the law, so do what’s right: accept the science in a science class, and leave religion at home.

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