Archive for category Evolution
People are always asking me what skepticism is. As this is a notoriously difficult question to answer accurately in a few words, I tend to mumble something incoherent and run away. The same goes for questions about what happens at Skeptics in The Pub events. Trying to dispel the notion that we simply get together for a few drinks and slag things off is difficult to do in casual conversation. Especially as Skeptics in The Pub does occasionally fit that description. I would rather never have to answer these sorts of questions at all. The problem is that at the same time, I do want to convey to people outside of our strange little world what it is exactly that we do, and why it interests me. Why do I go to skeptical events at all? What first grabbed me and pulled me into this world that so many of my friends and family think is some kind of science cult for the culturally depressed? Read the rest of this entry »
So there I was, roaming ‘teh interwebs’ one last time before entering an extended Christmas weekend and going off radar, when I came across a link tweeted by a fellow Skeptic. It referred to something called ‘Project Pterosaur’. Interesting, I thought. I wonder what that’s about? So in the interest of simple human curiosity I clicked on the link.
Oh, and what glories did I behold! This site is the most fantastically bonkers and bewildering woo-stew I have ever seen. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, vacate the Earth or simply join in the fun these people seem to be having.
The main site is something called objectiveministries.org, and it is an ‘educational resource’ for Creation Science. These kinds of sites are everywhere, the most well-known being answersingenesis.org. They’re all attempts to push very skewed versions of reality onto the public under the pretense that science is some kind of ungodly blight that hides the ‘truth’. This site is no exception. The link above takes you to a particular article on the site, detailing the aforementioned Project Pterosaur.
So, what is this project? I’ll let Dr Richard Paley, the leader of the project explain it in his own words:
“The goal of Project Pterosaur is to mount an expedition to locate and bring back to the United States living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs, which will be displayed in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI). Furthermore, the rookery facility will establish a breeding colony of pterosaurs in order to produce specimens that could then be put on display by other regional institutions or church groups.”
Yes, you read that right. Project Pterosaur is an expedition to kidnap living pterosaurs – a clade of creatures the fossil record implies hasn’t existed since the cretaceous period - and put them in a special zoo. Presumably with a big sign saying: “Nur nur! Silly Evolutionists!” Read the rest of this entry »
Some of you may know that this year is the anniversary both of 200 years since Charles Darwin’s birth and 150 years since the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of the Species. That book was in fact published 150 years ago TODAY, 24thNovember 1859. I’m afraid that this has turned into more of an essay than a blog post and for that I apologise. I hope you think it’s worth it! Given the occasion I think an essay on Darwin is forgivable… First, I want to make a few specific comments about a newspaper article on the abuse of evolutionary theory. I will then provide a brief summary of an article that answers many of the points raised in terms of science in general. I’ll move onto a specific discussion on evolution before providing the other side of the evolution-ethics debate (too-rarely promoted) in the final section.
The Trouble with “Darwinism”?
An article on the Times website recently highlighted the links between high school shootings and the theory of evolution. A point by point rebuttal of the article is not really necessary. The piece is well-written and (on the whole) accurately reported. However, it is also solely directed towards getting a controversial, narrow point of view across and is, therefore, extremely biased. While an article on the good and evil associated with the theory of evolution would provide a fascinating read, the tramping out of menacing photographs of youths pointing guns at cameras, students in tears in the aftermath of a shooting and a shrine set up to the dead alongside quotes from those same gun-toting students, ignorant American celebrities and those who have a vested interest in discrediting evolutionary theory only serves to obscure and sensationalise the debate. The author is simply piggy-backing on the emotional outcry that followed those earlier stories. The dubious links between scientific theories and hypotheses and their application to the real world were the story of the twentieth century and continues to dog us to this day. Read the rest of this entry »
MSS-member and recent émigré to Canada Chris Hassall gives us a rundown of how to cope with the Creationist crazy.
When dealing with woo the most profitable tactic is usually simply to expose their quackery by taking apart their arguments. Very few woo-ers have anything more than thin reasoning behind their beliefs; often just enough pseudoscientific babble to provide a veneer of respectability for what is clearly nonsense. However, Creationism is one area in which a substantial publishing industry has grown up around the defence of the topic such that the average Creationist can bury you in books in response to questions. Also, a relatively large number of people are interested in finding a way to harmonise theories of biological origins with theological concepts (principally the creation myths of the Abrahamic religions). Thus we have two potential strategies that have emerged from the fray: confrontationalism and accommodationism. It will soon become clear to which camp I belong… Read the rest of this entry »
MSS-member and recent émigré to Canada Chris Hassall gives us an introduction to Creationism in all it’s flavours and glory.
While there are many forms of woo that involve a warping of science, that which is closest to my heart is Creationism. While homeopathic practitioners, psychics, claim scientific support (or at least use scientific terms) when arguing their respective cases, no other variety of woo has produced so much spilled ink (as well as money for the authors) as that promulgated by “creation scientists”. I will briefly outline the two most prevalent forms of creation woo with some brief critiques and a quick guide to the leading figures in each of the movements. I’ll finish with a discussion of how we should be dealing with this particular form of woo. Read the rest of this entry »
So, it emerged last week that a zoo in North Somerset has been criticised for promoting a creationist agenda. The Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm – and the name alone should be setting off alarm bells and red flags in any skeptical listener – claims to represent the natural world as a product of both God and evolution, causing the British Humanist Association to appeal to local tourist boards to cease advertising the attraction.
The BHA have roundly criticised the zoo for undermining the teaching of science – which is a pretty tough charge for the zoo to deny, given that signs around the zoo state that animals hunt and kill food because “man rebelled against God”, and that the “three great people groups” in the world could be descended from the three sons of Bible ark builder Noah. The bit about three great people groups is especially nice – I can only assume this refers to an absurdly simplistic and offensive generalisation of the whole worldwide gamut of racial diversity. If we’re filling our kids’ heads with nonsense, it’s efficient to try and pack multiple nonsenses into the same punch, I guess. Read the rest of this entry »