Archive for the 'Antiscience nonsense' Category

Another barrel of rotten apples

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The Orlando Sentinel is publishing a three part series about Florida private schools raking in voucher money from the state despite some incredibly ugly problems at those schools. The first part ran today: Schools Without Rules: An Orlando Sentinel Investigation (Florida private schools rake in nearly $1 billion in state scholarships with little oversight.)

There’s plenty of problems highlighted in just this first article. I cringe while imagining what’s in the subsequent articles. But the main issue that attracts my attention is, of course, this:

Nor do private schools need to follow the state’s academic standards. One curriculum, called Accelerated Christian Education or ACE, is popular in some private schools and requires students to sit at partitioned desks and fill out worksheets on their own for most of the day, with little instruction from teachers or interaction with classmates.

Like many of the Christian schools that take state scholarships, [TDR Learning Academy in Orlando] uses one of a handful of popular curricula that, as one administrator explained, teach “traditional” math and reading but Bible-based history and science, including creationism.

At Harvest Baptist Academy in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood, parents choose the 20-year-old school for its academics, Bible-based lessons and no-nonsense discipline that includes spanking children, said Harry Amos, recently retired principal.

About 78 percent of Florida’s scholarship students are enrolled in religious schools. Most are Christian schools, though some Jewish and Muslim schools take part, too.

Way back in 2012 I got into an online debate with the Assistant Director for Policy & Public Affairs at Step Up for Students, the organization that administers Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. You can read our arguments at this old post: Rotten Apples. (Be sure to read the comments on that post.) For instance, I told him:

Teaching creationism as if it’s real science most certainly should not be supported by public tax dollars. My focus when I wrote my first response to your post and now this response is very narrow. Your argument is (correct me if I’m wrong) that if kids are getting great reading, writing and math education at a private school, then it’s OK to overlook bad science education. My counter-argument is that the science instructors in this narrow subset of creationism-promoting private schools are not just teaching science poorly but are actually teaching the very opposite of science! I also argue that if blatant creationism is being taught in biology classes in these particular schools then I guarantee that other unscientific concepts based on faith rather than science can be found in the geology, chemistry and physics classes. Not only do some of these schools teach creationism, they go a step further and actively teach that evolution is wrong. That way of teaching doesn’t just affect students’ thinking about the one subject of evolution; it gives students a grossly warped view of what science is and how it is done overall! You can have your own opinions, but in science you can’t have your own facts.

I also noted this creationism-in-private-schools issue in 2013: Creationist Voucher Schools.

A website called Say No to Creationist Vouchers lists schools that use questionable (and that’s a charitable word) curriculum and materials in the science classroom or blatantly teach anti-science. The site identifies and links to 163 voucher accepting public schools in Florida that use creationist materials or boldly state that they teach anti-science.

My point now is that this crazy scheme has been around for several years. I appreciate that the Orlando Sentinel is once again exposing it, but let’s be honest. Is anything going to change?

I had no idea we were so evil

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Take a look at this Viewpoint article in the Panama City News Herald.

The American Civil Liberties Union, environmentalists and other groups have controlled our schools for decades and they have determined what is taught. In some cases, they have allowed errors in science books concerning evolution.

In fact, the ACLU and the evolutionists have a goal to completely remove all Christian influence in all our institutions. They are now succeeding.

Almost all of our founders were dedicated Christians, despite what the evolutionists and the ACLU would like for you to believe.

The theory of evolution is a good example of what happens when people are taught what to think. As evolutionists control education, they determine what is taught. They do not allow anything that questions evolution or that comes from a Christian perspective. They teach that evolution is a settled science that has disproved the Bible, despite overwhelming evidence against evolution. Dissenters are reluctant to speak up for fear of personal attacks or job loss.

Uncritical thinking and a lack of facts have led to the belief that evolution is unquestionable. Science and the Constitution ban God from our institutions.

Ummmm, evolution as a whole is considered settled science. However, evolution doesn’t say a thing about any religion’s validity. Science does not ban religion from anywhere; it simply doesn’t have that authority, so to speak. Many religions are fine and dandy with evolution. Evolution can certainly be questioned. The person who can present the evidence that shifts the scientific community from evolution to some other viable scientific theory would have a sure lock on the next Nobel Prize. Evidence against evolution? Where is it? All the “evidence against evolution” presented so far are lies and distortions.

This writer has a few insecurities, I think.


Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

There is some controversy going on concerning an exhibit and talk going on at The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science. I’ll let Dr. Paul Cottle tell you all about it via his letter to the editor:

Brogan should give up UFO ‘pseudoscience’

Florida’s scientists and science educators recently completed a year’s work revising the standards for teaching and learning science in the state’s public schools. In the end, most of the energy spent by the standards writers, policymakers and citizens was focused on the threat of pseudoscience undermining scientific literacy in our state.

That’s why it is so discouraging that the Brogan Museum of Arts and Sciences has chosen to feature an exhibit (“The Roswell Exhibit”) and to host a speaker (well-known charlatan Stanton Friedman) that feature UFO pseudoscience.

The Brogan is going to alarming lengths to sell tickets to Friedman’s talks. Last week, the museum sent an e-mail to a number of FSU physics professors asking them to award extra credit to students in their classes for attending Friedman’s lectures and coughing up the $10 ticket price. The Brogan staff was presumably inspired to make this request by Friedman’s claim that he is a nuclear physicist.

The Brogan should make a new commitment to promoting genuine science. There are too many scientists and educators working hard to improve the scientific environment in Tallahassee to allow the Brogan to undermine it.


The museum executive director responded with his own letter to the editor:

Learning inspires, should not be shamed

Kudos to Florida scientists and science educators who recently spent a year revising the standards for teaching and learning science in the state’s public schools. Much energy was spent by standards writers addressing the controversy between creationism and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I think this is what Mr. Cottle was really referring to in his recent letter when he mentioned “pseudoscience undermining scientific literacy in our state.” Last I checked, Florida public education was not including beliefs about UFOs among testing standards. The state’s first science center opened more than 50 years ago with a conch shell, a goat and an iguana on a string. Then and now, museums use a variety of entertaining experiences to attract audiences to science, mathematics, technology and other ultimate educational goals. UFOs and dinosaurs attract people of all ages to, we hope, seek truth, learn more and perhaps be entertained while inspired.

Brogan staff did send an e-mail to Florida State University professors hoping that they would encourage students to visit the museum, experience the exhibit and the lectures. Shame on us. In addition to some members of the Physics Department, the e-mail was also sent to professors who teach about UFOs in literature, history, pop culture and astronomy.

Stanton T. Friedman received B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics from the University of Chicago in 1955 and 1956. He was employed for 14 years as a nuclear physicist for such companies as GE, GM, Westinghouse, TRW Systems, Aerojet General Nucleonics and McDonnell Douglas.

He has provided written testimony to congressional hearings and appeared twice at the UN. Friedman takes an unambiguous stand that some UFOs are alien spacecraft. Maybe, just maybe, he will inspire a child to learn more.

Executive director
The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science

Response to that Apple guy

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Sorry, I have been real busy lately and so haven’t had much chance for posting here. While I’m getting things back to normal, here’s a response from Chad Miller to the horrible little anti-evolution opinion piece I mentioned a little while ago.


Hi Doug. I’m sure I’m not going to convince you of much, but I can’t bear to see someone argue publicly by lack of personal credulity.

First, the title is awfully anthropocentric. “We”, humans, did. As did oak trees. And mold.

But, if you mean “we”, living stuff, then no — most of everything alive today (“most” measured by all of by-count and by-volume and by-weight) are still single-cell organisms. In fact, as an example, inside your body you have about ten times the number of single-cell “germ” organisms as you have human cells. Most are in your gut area. They are of course miniature Chihuaua-sized, relative to the plump house-sized human cells.

First of all, it’s amazing that we have taste buds and actually enjoy food so much. Second of all, it’s amazing that our bodies take that food and use it for energy. In addition to the pleasure, food literally keeps us alive.

Agreed it’s great. Some large people-like organisms don’t taste the way we do. Consider cats — they can’t taste sweet or sour, but they can taste fat-like stuff. (We call this taste “umami”, and humans have it too. Thus our like for meats and cheeses and foods with MSG artificially added.) If cats were hominid and didn’t have the tools to hunt and could live off of apples (ha), then eventually the ones who mutated the equipment to discern the difference between rotten apples (which might kill you 1% of the time) and fresh apples (always good), would live longer and raise more kittens that share their genetic “defect” of taste.

Humans who can’t tell the difference between poison and sustinance are likely to die from eating the wrong thing. Those who can, are far more likely to pass on their genes to lots of copies of themselves.

And you’re trying to tell me that just sort of happened randomly, a really lucky accident? Think of the odds of that happening. A mouth develops on its own? A mouth that eats and tastes? And it just so happens that it eats things that energize the body? The odds are so staggering that it’s actually impossible. It is impossible that such a thing happened without a creator.

There are about a dozen discrete factors, here, and each of them gives benefit, and all of them can occur naturally.

Mutations happen all the time. The biggest misunderstanding creationists have is thinking that mutations are goal-driven. They’re not. Every new offspring has a chance of having some birth defect. Almost all of them are fatal, and the offspring dies in development in the womb and is miscarried. For the ones that survive birth, almost all of them are crippled in some way. Think of cleft palates, or albinoism, or deafness, or spina bifida, … I could go on for pages.

There are plenty of ways to be alive, but *vastly more* ways to be dead.

Almost everything that mutates is dead. In the one-in-several-million where a mutation makes the offspring better able to cope with the environment, be healthier, and have more children, then that is an evolutionary step. Some mutations don’t affect anything at all, and we just carry them around; a good example in homo sapiens is attached earlobes. Your genetics informed your children’s earlobes and whether they are attached to the neck, or the dangle from the ear.

There is no goal in mutation. Every so often, extremely rarely, something is useful, and offspring live better because of it.

Eating is very old. Eating is older than bones are. Eating predates multicellular organisms, depending on your definition of “eating”.

When I think about such things, all I can do is look up and marvel at our great God.

Now try this. Try slipping the Adam and Eve story in on your science teacher. They will likely laugh you right out of the building. But take a good, hard look at what they believe instead.

Let’s say by some miracle we did evolve from a single cell organism. If so, how did they reproduce? Oh, they just divided, you say. They just multiplied. Oh. Okay. Then let me ask you this. If that system worked so well, why did it switch over to requiring two people to procreate?

Why did it switch? Oh, that’s easy. It didn’t — you’re simply wrong about that.

Sexuality isn’t even exclusively multicellular. The oft-cited flagellate, supposedly irreducably complex, has a previous history of being used to inject other germs with its DNA. That counts as sex, I’d say.

Your continued use of “people” is endearingly and naïvely anthropocentric. Most of the critters in the world still reproduce asexually. It works just fine.

If you had an efficient system of procreating by simply multiplying yourself, why would it ever evolve into requiring two organisms? And how did it make that leap?

Your underlying question is: Why evolve sex? The answer is that it makes mutations happen much more often, and that makes those critters better able to thrive and adapt, and grow to the size that Mr Apple can see them with his eyes and incorrectly conclude that they’re the only thing around.

The snails in your backyard are probably hemaphroditic, where two will fertilize each other or one will win a fight an literally emasculate the other and live to spread its genes around even more.

The world is bigger and stranger than your old-asexual -vs- new-sexual taxonomy can handle. Sorry.

I’m telling you, asking these questions is like taking a machine gun to a football. It rips it full of holes and lets all the air out.

Oh, but throw in millions of years. That’s our answer to everything. Gee, that’s a really long time. I guess anything could happen if you give it a million years.

Or more. We have something like 3 thousand of those millions of years to use. And life isn’t linear. Most of these bits of progress, like the eye in reptiles, squids, fish — happened in parallel. There’s no need to squander any of those three thousand millions.

Now let’s go back to that Adam and Eve story. What an incredible and beautiful thing, this idea of a man and a woman. Without them both, there is no procreation.

Indeed, it’s a nice story. Except, who was the next generation? Let’s just ignore the implication of incest or spouses from civizilations who magically already exist over the horizon, eh?

One can’t produce babies without the other. And it’s not some scientific duty. The whole man/woman thing is an amazing cocktail of excitement and thrills. Take a look at the internet. What websites dominate? Things having to do with men and women, everything from dating sites to sex sites to relationship advice, and on and on. I’m not saying it’s all good. I’m just saying it dominates the internet, showing how powerful the man/woman thing is.

Indeed. Sex is really important to passing on one’s genes. Everyone who is genetically predisposed to be ambivalent about sex, doesn’t have kids and pass on those genes that make you think sex is boring. Score one for evolution, in making us want to make copies of ourselves.

Some will say that “evolution” gave us that great desire for one another in order to propagate the species. Oh really? Which came first, the desire or the mechanical ability to procreate together? You know what? It better have happened all on the same day! Otherwise how would it have happened at all?

Oh, no. Procreation came first. By far. Mold doesn’t have desires. It still procreates.

I’m telling you, it makes no sense. It is impossible. It couldn’t have slowly evolved from one thing to another. It all had to happen at once, all of a sudden. The mechanics. The ability. The desire. The pleasure. The results.

I know many otherwise intelligent people scoff at the idea of Adam and Eve, but to me it makes perfect sense. All of the billions of wonderful details that had to be in place at the same time to make the whole man/woman thing work. Again, I just look up toward heaven and say, “God, You are awesome!”

If you think Adam and Eve story, both accounts which happen to contradict each other, makes perfect sense, then your idea of sense is seriously deranged.

Now let me ask you, have you ever studied about the earth’s “magnetosphere”? It’s a magnetic shield around the planet that protects the earth from the sun. Now I’m no sun expert. I just saw this on a DVD from the library. But it pointed out how powerful the sun is (remember, they say at the core it’s like 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.) It’s so powerful that it would hammer the earth – if it weren’t for that magnetic shield.

(Did they really use Fahrenheit instead of Celcius or Kelvin? Must have been dumbed down a bit, eh?)

Now, are you going to try to tell me that we have evolution to thank for that shield?

No. It would be stupid to say that.

And evolution to thank for the sun?


And, praise evolution, it all happened at once, because the sun sustains life on this planet, yet at the same time we must be shielded from the full affect of the sun.

Explain the “yet” in that sentence? You left a leg off your straw man.

It all had to happen at exactly the same time. What are the odds of it happening by chance? It’s impossible!

I find it amusing that you feint at odds and then say “impossible” instead of “improbable”.

In any case, congratulations — your “sun/magnetosphere” straw man is dead. May I suggest tilting at windmills as a hobby?

There is only one way that we could have the infinite complexity of life we enjoy on planet Earth, with all these things clicking along simultaneously. It could not possibly have happened by chance, and it could not have evolved from some simple organism. It had to be designed and created and kicked off at the same time.

So, yes, many people scoff at the story in Genesis and the whole idea of God creating the world and Adam and Eve. But all I can say is, compared to evolving from a primordial soup, the creation idea makes much better sense to me.

So of course your conclusions are wrong.

I hope this helps.


Mr. Apple, go back to school

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

I’m neck deep in college work this week. I’m dealing with molar volume of an ideal gas right now, but will quickly move on to oxidation and reduction. Surprisingly, this stuff hasn’t been too hard. (I might not be saying that, though, once I get my grades back!) But it is time-consuming. So, I haven’t had time to poke and prod a certain Mr. Apple in Wakulla. So, perhaps you folks would like to do so yourselves. There’s plenty in Mr. Apple’s piece to skewer. How about this:

Let’s say by some miracle we did evolve from a single cell organism.  If so, how did they reproduce?  Oh, they just divided, you say.  They just multiplied.  Oh.  Okay.  Then let me ask you this.  If that system worked so well, why did it switch over to requiring two people to procreate?  If you had an efficient system of procreating by simply multiplying yourself, why would it ever evolve into requiring two organisms?  And how did it make that leap?

I’m telling you, asking these questions is like taking a machine gun to a football.  It rips it full of holes and lets all the air out.

Oh, but throw in millions of years.  That’s our answer to everything.  Gee, that’s a really long time.  I guess anything could happen if you give it a million years.

This one is even more ridiculous:

Now let me ask you, have you ever studied about the earth’s “magnetosphere”?  It’s a magnetic shield around the planet that protects the earth from the sun.  Now I’m no sun expert.  I just saw this on a DVD from the library.  But it pointed out how powerful the sun is (remember, they say at the core it’s like 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.)  It’s so powerful that it would hammer the earth – if it weren’t for that magnetic shield.

Now, are you going to try to tell me that we have evolution to thank for that shield?  And evolution to thank for the sun?  And, praise evolution, it all happened at once, because the sun sustains life on this planet, yet at the same time we must be shielded from the full affect of the sun.  It all had to happen at exactly the same time.  What are the odds of it happening by chance?  It’s impossible!

Do you get the impression that this guy doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about? Yup, me too.

You’re welcome to rip him apart in the comments, or send me your response to Mr. Apple via e-mail. I’ll then put the best slice and dice up as a regular blog post. Have fun.

Please correct the record

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

A persistent letter writer to the TCPalm looks to be having his way with his creationist fantasies in the newspaper. Have a look (bold highlight mine):

Roger Hule recently wrote in answering mine and several other letters objecting to his support of evolution.

The letter was long on rhetoric and short on evidence. In neither letter he’s written has he presented any scientific evidence for evolution; he simply states it as an a priori fact.

The simple answer to this is that there is no scientific evidence for evolution.

Nothing exists in the fossil record, no laboratory experiment has been performed, and it has never been observed in nature.

To believe evolution, you must accept it by faith and, since there is no supporting evidence, blind faith.

In my previous letter, I quoted an evolutionist who said evolution was unproved and un-provable.

Mr. Hule never answered that statement, so I will try again with the statement of another evolutionist.

At three separate venues, Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the British Museum, asked his colleagues a simple question: Can you tell me any one thing you know to be true about evolution?

At two of the seminars, his question was met with silence. At the third, one person spoke up and said, “Yes, I do know one thing. It ought not to be taught in high school.”

Mr. Hule also mentions separation of church and state in both his letters.

This term is not in the Constitution, but rather in a letter to the Danbury Baptists by Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was reiterating what the Constitution already said: The federal government would not establish a national church that everyone must adhere to.

I wish people would stop using this straw man as an excuse to keep religion from influencing society.

Knowingly or unknowingly, our religious beliefs, whether atheistic or theistic, influence every decision we make.

Kevin Molter
Port St. Lucie

First, we need to know what specifically Molter is referring to when he claims that Colin Patterson threw out a question supposedly challenging evolution. A quick search on Google turns up Patterson’s being constantly misquoted, used and abused by creationists, so I have no doubt this is just more of the same. Here is one example from TalkOrigins. However, here is a writeup about the quote this letter writer is apparently talking about, but it comes from the Access Research Network, which works from an “intelligent design perspective” so I can’t vouch for its veracity. Anyone know any reliable, accurate information about this? And with the real information at hand, then write an informed rebuttal to this letter?

Flossing leads to cavities, right?

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

When confronted by someone who loudly criticizes evolution and yet obviously has no actual knowledge of the subject, I try to demonstrate for the person how foolish he or she is looking. I typically use an example of a patient loudly criticizing his dentist. He rattles on and on about how flossing is a silly waste of time. He tries to convince the dentist that the way the professional is going about treating a cavity or doing a root canal is clearly all wrong. He cites information he read in some book published twenty years ago; a book that wasn’t even mainstream in the dentistry profession back then. There is obviously a conspiracy afoot among the majority of today’s dentists, according to the patient, because they all are actively trying to suppress the patient’s revelations.

It’s a silly example, and I realize that I don’t know enough about dentistry to even really flesh out my example. But the point I am trying to make is that experts and respected professionals are, well, experts and professionals.

If you have a burning desire to talk teeth with your dentist, but you know you’re not going to become a dentist yourself, you might still manage to earn some basic respect and engage in a worthwhile conversation if you do some current reading on the subject. Dentistry undoubtedly has its own professional journals, respected leaders in the field, active research programs, commonly accepted basic knowledge, and standard practices. So, the guy with the tooth passion should be somewhat familiar with all of that. He probably wouldn’t be an expert, but would still be able to sound like more than just a kooky patient. The other patients might not know the difference, but the dentist certainly would.

Why am I going on and on about dentists? Coincidently, a dentist got some space in the Tampa Tribune on Saturday. To anyone with at least a little bit of honest biology background knowledge, this man sounds like the kooky dentist patient in my above example. He sneers at Darwinists and uses old, long-ago discredited creationist anti-evolution talking points. With all due respect to the man, I sincerely hope he knows more about dentistry than evolution. Putting aside his condescending tone, he trots out three main arguments:

1) Random mutation does not lead to new species. He goes on to claim: “There is no known example of the formation of a new species.” Sure, and flossing actually leads to cavities; didn’t you know?

The dentist needs some educational reading here, here, and here.

2) The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex. Sure, and let’s stick a leech in your mouth to ease that toothache, shall we?

Educational reading here.

3) It’s unknown how life first started.

Dr. Dean Kenyon is the dentist’s source for this point. What’s not mentioned in the column is that Dr. Kenyon is a prominent creationist. Educational reading here.

There are some informative comments from readers online.

I can answer your 3 questions:
1. New species are everywhere. In fact every species that exists today did not exist millions of years ago. If they did then the fossil record would be full animals that are alive today.
2. Complicated organ parts did not evolve independent of each other then all of a sudden work as one. Your rotary motor example, evolved over time. Each piece evolved together. 10,000 years ago it was a little different and 10,000 years from now it will have changed some more.
3. Try reading “The Spark of Life” which discussed the Primeval Soup theory. This is just one of many theories though.
Of course these are simple questions to answer for anyone that took high school biology.

1. Evolution is not something that happens overnight. It would take generations for even minor changes to become apparent. It would take tens of thousands of years for any significant changes and much longer for new species to form. But there is evidence of evolution happening all around us today. There are 8 different species of bears and many more sub species. There are over 20,000 species of spiders. These are just 2 examples but nearly every animal has many different varieties that have evolved differently. Recent (remember recent in evolution terms is tens of thousands of years) evolution is also easily seen in humans. Different skin color, facial features and body structure that came about when pockets of the human population where isolated for many generations. We also have an appendix that has no purpose and a tail bone (which is much more developed in some people).
2. Darwin died in the late 1800’s. There has been a lot of research done since then. I suggest that you don’t use a single book written over 150 years ago as your only source. But to address your comments, for the purpose of this conversation it really doesn’t matter where the original cell of life came from. Intelligent design totally discredits the claim that species have evolved into new species (although they do agree that minor changes have occurred). The facts are that the oldest fossils are of very simple organisms. As time passed the fossils became much more complex. NO fossils have been found for animals that exist today. That in itself would lead us to believe that either species evolved into new species or that new species have magically appeared over time. There is a lot more evidence that would lead us to believe that species evolved but I’ll leave it to you to do a little research.

Creationists tend to focus on Darwin for a few reasons:
1) He is credited with conceiving the theory that fatally undermined any support for a literal reading of Genesis, so for them this is payback.
2) It’s easier to rally your supporters against a single man instead of the complex, subtle, and correct explanations that evolution gives us.
3) Lots of creationists think that but for Darwin there would be no theory of evolution; they don’t want to talk about the maturing of the scientific fields whose facts support evolutionary explanations, or they know but don’t want to admit that some other scientist (such as Alfred Wallace) would have picked up the same available pieces and come to roughly the same conclusions.

It’s also sad that Mr. Weihe repeats the standard Creationist misquoting of Darwin. The entire passage is “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.”

And a nice sandblasting of the opinion piece can be found here.

A separate question I have concerns the newspaper’s policies on what they publish under the “Special to the Tribune” heading. I assume this is meant to be taken as an opinion piece. I certainly understand a person’s right to submit something that is opinion, regardless if others think the opinion is valid or not. But doesn’t the newspaper have some responsibility to check up on basic facts that are not just statements of opinion? What the dentist wrote is not just a string of garbled opinions, but statements of outright falsehoods that can be objectively verified as such. Anyone know what the standard practice is for newspapers concerning this?