Posts Tagged ‘creationism’

6 Fundamentalist Movies You Should Watch

July 3, 2011

Gates of Hell

I learned about this movie from Right Wing Watch, which is an organization that watches the right wing. And they watched the right wing pushing this movie, and it looks awesome.

Have you heard about how conservatives have been trying to sell African-Americans on the idea of being against legal abortion lately? They’re putting up these nutty billboards (some of which imply that blacks are a distinct species) and running goofy political ads on the radio. See, they’re not racist anymore! They’re really concerned about black babies and how letting black women have abortions is like genocide. And that breaks their hearts, They are very concerned about black people. That’s what they’re pushing. It reminds me of how neo-Nazis like David Duke will pretend to be so compassionate to the Palestinians, when in reality they’re clearly more motivated by hating Jews than anything else.

Anyway, since the billboards and radio ads can only do so much, they’ve decided to make a movie about their abortion/race war fantasies. In this movie, black people are finally convinced by the WorldNetDaily (Molotov Mitchell of WND is the executive producer of this movie) that abortion is really a racist genocidal conspiracy against black people. Nevermind that nobody’s forcing anyone to get an abortion these days, that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that if we don’t outlaw abortion, these scary BLACK guys are going to start shooting doctors and liberals and probably your mom, too. So you better do what they say already.

This movie also strives to solve a major public relations problem for the anti-abortion zealot community. I could be wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure that every single anti-abortion doctor-killer or attempted doctor-killer has been a honky. If you line up their mug shots in a row, it looks like what the Children of the Corn would be like if they were allowed to live past their 19th birthday. Gates of Hell seeks to racially diversify the hate-filled anti-abortion terrorist demographic. Since reality won’t do it for them, they’ll have to make a movie about how they wish black people acted when it comes to abortion, like how colleges Photoshop in Hispanic kids in wheelchairs on their homepages.

See, it’s not this guy who’s threatening those of us who want to keep abortion legal and safe:

Molotov Mitchell of WND has an impressive IMDB page

It’s THIS guy:

Gosh, I wonder why anyone ever though conservatives were racist?

The Life Zone

Bitches love Jesus... I'm gonna get those bitches some Jesus.

The Life Zone is a movie about women who were all having an abobo at the same time and were all kidnapped by some anti-choice terrorist good guys. So they lock al the women up in some underground dungeon and force them  to carry on with being preggo until the baby jumps out of her vagina or however that works.

Their captor is some shady old man who leers on as the younger nurse-lady makes sure their pregnancies are going in the exact opposite way the women wanted. They all talk about abortion and have fourth-grade level arguments about it. And at the end it turns out that they were all in Purgatory the whole time to make sure their unborn babies would be able to go up to Heaven. Yay for massive simultaneous deaths during routine medical procedures!

But one of the women tried to induce a miscarriage during her pregnancy because she still believed that abortion is pretty awesome, so she goes to Hell. And  so does the nurse-lady, because she also died recently from committing suicide. And oh yeah, the captor turns out to be Satan.

The director of this movie is a former Republican judge and politician from New Jersey who had to quit because he kept on promoting his movies from the bench. I heard rumors that he would oftentimes sentence people to watch his movies, much like how  the senile Judge Wapner now sentences us all to drink his root beer. Anyway, this guy has another movie you may want to check out called “O.B.A.M. Nude,” which is about how Barack Obama sold his soul to the devil while in college and in exchange was given some mysterious power to turn the world into a socialist paradise for Satan. So that’s where he’s coming from…

Left Behind I-III

I have only seen the first two movies in the Trilogy O’ Kirk (We hardcore fans call it TOK for short on internet forums), but then again I haven’t seen any of the movies I’ve mentioned so far. Hey, this is about movies you should see, not necessarily movies I should see.

So way back in the day, Jesus promised he would return at the side of God  to kick the asses of the non-believers. St. John or whichever crackhead wrote Revelation took that  premise from Jesus and ran with it, elaborating it into a D&D-ish apocalypse fantasy. In the mid-19th century, some pastors merged in some passages from 1 Thessalonians and rapture theology was born.

But the rapture never happened. This made fundamentalist Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins very sad and frustrated. They wondered: What if it really did happen? Hey, maybe it will happen, like, really soon! Wouldn’t that be awesome? LaHaye and Jenkins were getting all excited just thinking about it!

So they wrote a book about it. Then they wrote a few more books about it, and a few more. And then Kirk Cameron was all like, “Dudes! Let’s make some of these shitty books into unwatchable, straight-to-DVD movies!” And so it came to pass.

Cameron’s character starts off as a reporter for “GNN” who’s trying to find out where all those missing people have gone. Some people start asking him if he’s considered believing they all went to Heaven for the rapture. He hadn’t, but he takes that belief system out for a test drive, buys it, and it works out pretty well for him. He’s told that if he can bring 10 friends and family members in to start selling Amway products Christianity themselves, then he can definitely expect to achieve financial independence in 3 easy steps go to Heaven the next time Jesus sweeps his favorite people up into the sky.

Buck Williams also discovers that the UN Secretary General is the antichrist. GNN has a strict disclosure policy for when you are reporting on someone you believe to be the antichrist, but it’s OK in this case because he can hide his anti-antichrist bias fairly well.

The way you get to activate antichrist mode in the Left Behind universe is to advocate peaceful solutions to the territorial disputes in the Gaza Strip. That’s what the UN SecGen does, and that’s how Buck finds him out. You see, when someone tries to settle international disputes in a non-violent way, that’s a sure sign that they’re evil. The Left Behind crowd can easily tell how good someone is by how many wars they wage. If only it worked the same way with the State of New York Department of Justice and drunken disorderly charges.

In the end I guess Kirk Cameron sneaks into the UN, gains the antichrist’s trust, and just kinda hangs out while God comes back to kick his ass. Because it’s not like either of them can do anything to change what’s going to happen. Supposedly this God person predetermined all of it. That takes a lot of suspense out of this trilogy. We all know there’s no chance the good guy will tragically (?) die after a cameo appearance by Cthulu. It’s just going to be Jesus guiding Mike Seaver through a fundie’s fever dream.

But there’s still lots to learn from Left Behind, especially in how these people view nonbelievers. Basically, they think we’re all extremely stupid and shallow, that the only reason we don’t believe is because if we did we’d all have to confess our sins and submit before the Jesus and we’re all just too proud for that scene. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that maybe we don’t believe because none of the miraculous events in the books and the movies have actually happened. This is all meant to be fiction, right?

But maybe not. If you read the newspapers and do a little free association here and make a few leaps of faith there, it’s possible to link real current events to all this ancient mythology the Left Behind groupies seem to be so obsessed over. And that’s where this stuff starts to get creepy.

Expelled!

Expelled! is a creationist propaganda movie. It also gets pretty far into conspiracy theories and Holocaust revisionism, but mainly this is about creationism.

The filmmakers told their interview subjects that they were making a documentary about the intersection between science and religion. This is how they got people like PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak with them on camera. Obviously I don’t have any problem at all with this deceitful tactic since we at The BEAST do this kind of thing pretty regularly. The problem… well one of the problems with this movie is selective editing. This is very obvious when you watch the film because the cuts are so fast and awkward that it’s as if Michael J Fox did the editing the old-fashioned way with a razor after a few days off his meds.

According to Expelled!, evolution isn’t accepted by relevant experts because there’s a lot of evidence supporting it, but because there’s a massive worldwide conspiracy of scientists which controls with an iron fist all the peer review literature and all the important positions in relevant fields. So it’s the same premise used by pretty much every other goofy conspiracy theorist, with a twist: If you disagree with Stein and his friends at the Discovery Institute, you sir are a NAZI because this anti-God conspiracy goes all the way back to Nazi Germany.

Yes, as a matter of fact I do got mittens.

The National Center for Science Education has a website devoted to debunking Expelled!, if you’re interested in the details of why Ben Stein is wrong about everything. Maybe you should read that before watching the movie, just in case watching the movie first causes you to start reading about the science in Ben Stein’s voice.

Four Lions

These gentlemen represent an existential threat to our way of life.

I’m going to have to cheat a little with these last two movies which focus on Islam. The ones mentioned earlier were made by the true believers themselves, but here they are the subject. Did I cheat that way because I’m an uncouth American who needs the movies I watch to be westernized for me to appreciate? Probably!

Four Lions is actually about four humans who aren’t lions at all. But they are Muslim wannabe terrorists living in England and planning a suicide bombing for Allah. Hilarity ensues.

We have this disturbing way of looking at Muslim terrorists here in America. It’s the same way they probably see themselves: as a grave, existential threat to Western secular democracy on par with the fascists during World War II. And if you suggest that maybe they’re just a bunch of criminal but laughable idiots who sometimes succeed but usually fail hard, then you’re disrespecting their victims.

It’s a lot like how people still believe in conspiracy theories about John F Kennedy’s death in that when something terrible happens, we ascribe an amount of meaning proportional to the amount of misery it’s caused, even when that connection is not supported by the facts. We don’t like the idea of someone as esteemed as Kennedy being blown away by some down-and-out loser who’s been rejected even by the Soviet Union. It’s much more comforting to believe that he died for brave principles and that he was taken down by one or another shady cabal of evil people with lots of power. Everything seems less random and fragile that way, regardless of the facts.

And in the same way, we’d like for the ‘bad guys’ in the Post-9/11 World news narrative/Michael Bay movie to be not just genuinely bad guys. We want them to be absolutely demonic and with superhuman powers. We can’t have them in court because they might say something which will somehow transform normal, rational Americans into Islamic extremists who want to let Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walk around NYC and plan more terrorist attacks. Because people can do that kind of thing with mere words, apparently.

If you believe in that perception of al Qaeda and others like them, then Four Lions is completely heretical. And what’s funny is that it will outrage Muslim extremists themselves too, and for the same reasons. It just doesn’t take terrorism seriously enough! If you want to laugh at Islamic terrorism, do it in the wake of a drone’s airstrike. It’s for some reason blasphemous to laugh at them for being gullible, ineffectual morons with goofy beliefs and embarrassing, mundane, interpersonal relationship problems.

Oh yeah, they all die in the end.

The Infidel

In a way, The Infidel is a mirror-image opposite of Four Lions. While Four Lions focuses on the titular extremist characters who create humor by interacting with moderates, The Infidel’s main character Mahmud is a moderate Muslim who’s constantly befuddled by the extremist wackos he occasionally crosses paths with in his everyday life. His sister or cousin or someone is about to marry an extremist Muslim cleric he hates, and he’s gotta deal with that somehow. Even his own daughter randomly yells jihadist-y slogans about restoring the caliphate.

Then Mahmud finds out that he was adopted and that his parents were Jewish. So he’ll have to go through a crisis of identity where he learns how to say “Oy, vey” correctly and wear the tattered remains of a Yamaka he just burnt at a pro-Palestinian rally. And then there’s the matter of the radical cleric marrying into his (now Jewish, apparently) family. All this while poor ol’ Mahmud just wants to go on being a half-assed cultural Muslim who doesn’t go to the mosque or care much about politics, but loves to listen to cheesy 80s music and maybe has a drink every once in a while.

The reason you really should see this movie is because the next time some dickhead whines about how people are too afraid to mock Islam like they do Christianity, you can both watch this movie together and prove said dickhead wrong. The attacks on fundamentalist thinking in it are stronger than you’d get in a typical Christian-mocking movie or TV show, but it manages to raise serious concerns while keeping a sense of humor.

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This post is about Israel but has nothing to do with the Palestine issue

October 5, 2010

… which makes it a rarity as far as blogs in general go, I guess.

OK so there’s this lesson we here in America ought to take from Israel, and that is that we should fire government officials who are in charge of science education and yet oppose the whole idea of science education. We haven’t had much of this at the federal level lately, but under Bush this was part of this drearily predictable pattern of appointing people to head departments who had the goal of undermining said department.

For example Bush’s Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao never had a labor job. She was always on the side of management. The Department of Justice was staffed with Liberty “University” grads who wanted to replace the Constitution with the Ten Commandments. The EPA was stripped of whistleblower protection, which also kind of undermines the point of having an EPA.

But this isn’t about early 2000s America. It’s about Israel in 2010. So I’ll try to get to the point.

Gavriel Avital was Israel’s chief scientist in its Ministry of Education until recently. He was fired for denying evolution and global warming. In other words he was fired for incompetence.

YNet News claims in its headline that he was fired for questioning evolution, which makes it seem as if he were fired for having an open mind. This seems like an injustice since science really depends on scientists having an open mind and being open to having even our most strongly-held beliefs challenged. But then you skim down the article a bit and you get a more accurate representation of his views:

“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct,” he said.

There are two logical fallacies in as many sentences here. The first is a strawman, since nobody but ignorant creationists claim that evolution means that humans evolved from monkeys. What it means is that humans and other apes share a common ancestor. So since textbooks don’t “state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys,” it’s safe to presume that he wouldn’t want students to “peruse and grapple with other opinions.” But probably not, I’m guessing.

The other logical fallacy is an argument ad populum. From a scientific perspective (and certainly for someone in charge of science education), it doesn’t matter if there are “many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct.” What matters is the evidence. But creationists don’t like to talk about evidence, so they try to make their weird conspiracy theories seem plausible by focusing on aspects of the discussion other than the evidence.

This is something we ought to learn from. It’s OK to fire someone for incompetence, even when their incompetence results from their religious beliefs. That doesn’t interfere with their freedom to believe whatever they want – it only interferes with their ability to get paid for a job for which they are clearly unqualified.

Russian creationists

June 15, 2010

New Scientist has this article about something an Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church said about how evolution “should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.” They’re pointing out that this is a lot like the “Teach the controversy” approach creationists here in America advocate as part of their “wedge strategy” and how that contrasts with the history of the godless commies of the Soviet Union.

But here’s the thing: Russians being wrong about evolution is not a new phenomenon. It’s not even necessarily a religious or post-Cold War one, either.

Way back around the early 19th century, there was this French naturalist called Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. His view was that species evolved, but since they didn’t know shit about genes back then he was completely wrong about how that happened. Lamarck thought traits acquired throughout an individual’s lifetime could be passed on to future generations along with traits which were originally inherited when the individual’s parents reproduced. So a crude way of putting it is that if you have a rat born with large eyes whom for some reason had its tail cut off, according to Lamarck the rat’s progeny should have large eyes and short tails. Also giraffes apparently got their long necks by stretching for food in tall trees, and then passing that stretchiness on to their offspring, according to Lamarck. To be fair, Darwin didn’t know shit about genes either and he was wrong about how units of heredity worked too, but in less significant ways.

Anyway, by the early 20th century Mendel‘s theory of genetics merged with Darwin’s theory on the origin of species and that’s kind of the founding of modern biology. But – and this is where we get back to Russia – at the same time a “geneticist” called Trofim Lysenko starting reviving a hyper-politicized version of Lamackism in the Soviet Union. He managed to convince the political leadership that the accepted theory of genetics was wrong. And he did that not with scientific evidence, but by appealing to its consistency with the prevalent political philosophy of the country.

Funnily enough, if you read the Wedge Document, you’ll see that that’s exactly the approach creationists at the Discovery Institute are now using. Instead of basing theories on facts, they want to base theories on ideologies. For the Discovery Institute, their problem with Darwinian evolution is that it’s too materialistic. For Stalin and Lysenko, their problem with Darwinian evolution was that it wasn’t advocating the exact right kind of materialism. Both camps care(d) more about the implications of scientific theories than about whether or not they were true.

Another weird similarity between modern creationists and Stalin-era pseudoscientists is this weird tendency to try very hard to associate complex issues with a single person. So for creationists, evolutionary biology isn’t just that; it’s DARWINISM. And for Lysenko, genetics wasn’t just genetics, it was “Mendelism-Weissmanism-Morganism.” But then again, you get that with lots of issues which attract kooks – health care reform is “Obamacare,” global warming is really all about Al Gore, etc…

Anyway, even though it apparently helps to spread pseudoscience if you wear funny costumes and have religious beliefs, it’s not completely necessary. The right dichotomy here is between following evidence and following ideology. A lot of times religion has something to do with it, but that’s not the beginning and end of the problem with attacks on science.

Paley’s Watchmaker

March 27, 2010

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (…) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (…) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
–William Paley, Natural Theology (1802)

That’s how this teleological argument for the existence of God was most famously articulated. It’s also known as the argument from design. Like Pascal’s Wager, it’s one of those bits of theology that’s often repeated ad nauseum by laypersons, and usually ones who’ve never read the original citation above. And also like Pascal’s Wager, there are so many problems with it that it’s difficult to know where exactly to begin.

Paley wants to equate the natural world with the hypothetical watch left in the forest. He doesn’t draw the connection between the two. He just asserts that the two are similar in that they were both clearly designed. But whether or not they’re similar and therefore designed is exactly the question Paley’s trying to answer. So just claiming that they are is circular reasoning.

Furthermore, if the watch and the natural world were so similar then we wouldn’t even notice the watch in the first place. It wouldn’t stick out amongst the backdrop of the rest of the landscape which “might as well have been there forever.” If Paley’s assertion held water, we’d just be walking along and take no more notice of the watch than we do of a blade of grass or a bird because they would both have “every manifestation of design.”

But we do notice the watch. We can look at something which is obviously designed and know that it’s designed because we have at least some prior knowledge of watch design. Frankly, I know next to nothing about that subject, but I can at least look at a watch and recognize it as something we humans have made for a very long time. Even just going by the blog post so far we can know they’ve been manufactured for at least a few hundred years already.

You don’t even need Darwin and evolution to refute the watchmaker argument on these grounds. All that needs to be pointed out is something like this:

“A tree bestows order and organisation on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order; an animal in the same manner on its offspring; a bird on its nest; and instances of this kind are even more frequent in the world than those of order, which arise from reason and contrivance. To say, that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design, is begging the question; nor can that great point be ascertained otherwise than by proving, a priori, both that order is, from its nature, inseparably attached to thought; and that it can never of itself, or from original unknown principles, belong to matter.”
-David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1776)

So in crasser terms, there’s really no reason to even accept Paley’s assertion that every manifestation of design we rightfully notice in the watch also exists in the natural world. And even putting aside the self-refuting nature of his argument, the hypothetical watch he’s talking about didn’t really have a single watchmaker.

Sure, maybe a few centuries ago watches were designed and made one by one by a single individual in their workshop. But if the analogy to the Universe as a whole is to hold, that watchmaker would have had to have made their watch de novo. And this clearly could not be what happened.

Let’s take this a little more seriously and really think about this watchmaker who made the watch Paley discovered in the forest. At some point in his life, he decided to make watches for a living. Maybe his father taught him how, or maybe he took on an apprenticeship. But either way he learned from earlier watch designs and from others who had also made watches. A deity like the one Paley describes could not have any counterpoint to this passing on of skills unless it were watching other gods making other Universes and learning tricks of the Universe-making trade from them.

This watch which is made by a watchmaker is just one part of a long history of people who worked on devices meant to keep track of time. In earlier times, there was no second hand on a typical clock. Earlier than that, there was no minute hand. And even earlier still, no mechanics at all were used because all we had were sticks in the mud which then cast a shadow.

Watches, in other words, are the result of a gradual process where efficient parts are selected for and clumsy, inaccurate, and wasteful parts are selected against. And if you go back far enough in time, you get a point of origin which is perfectly explained by natural phenomenon.

So even if you give Paley a pass on the self-refuting part of his argument, it still fails again when it points directly to an unguided evolutionary explanation of the natural world and all its complexities and directly away from supernatural design.

Opportunities to troll IRL

November 29, 2009

I have to work for both of these and can not attend either. But asking provocative questions at either or both would be fun and might even be a deterrant to kooks to GTFO of Buffalo and never come back. They will not be missed.

UFO freak at NCCC Wednesday evening

Creationist at UB Saturday afternoon

Go, seek them out, ask embarassing questions, and then dine on their flesh. Gnaw at their fingers and feed their bones to your dog.

Arguments atheists shouldn’t use

November 27, 2009

With all the “new atheist” brouhaha, there’s bound to be a few kids who are new to freethought making bad arguments, messing up our lawns, and otherwise making the rest of us cranky. When believers encounter nonbelievers like this, they might understandably take such bad arguments and lack of concern for lawn care to be characteristic of atheists, which would only then serve to reinforce their faith. So here are some quality control tips for the kiddies.

Bad argument: “Genesis has two different accounts of the creation of the universe. Since they’re different, both can’t be true. The existence of the two stories is a biblical contradiction, and a divinely inspired work cannot contradict itself. Therefore the Bible can’t have been divinely inspired.”

Why it’s dumb: It is implausible that the holy text of the ancient Jews would for centuries include two contradictory accounts for no reason, with no explanaion, and without anyone noticing. It’s right there in the first few pages. The contradictory passages must be there for some deeper reason other than serving as some kind of AP report of what God did when he created the Universe. Most believers will immediately respond that the second story is an interpretation of one of the days of the first.

What you should say: This point is really only helpful to bring up against people like Ken Ham and his friends at Answers in Genesis who insist that they don’t interpret the Bible, and that they simply read God’s Word as is. Self-professed biblical literalists, in other words. It’s all well and good to try to understand the Bible literally, but when confronted with the contradictory creation accounts they will invariably give a response very much like what I just said above. But the problem with that is that it’s not actually in the text. Nowhere in Genesis does it actually say that one account is an extrapolation of the other. The two stories are simply mentioned one after the other. A more sophisticated believer can interpret what they like, but a literalist would have to admit that they are using their own human reason in order to come to an understanding of the text, and not simply the text itself. And the human reason they would use to do such is a product of the Fall – a point made constantly in Ken Ham’s creationist “museum.”

Bad argument: “Religion is a disease.”

Why it’s dumb: This meme came from an essay by Richard Dawkins called Viruses of the Mind. It compares the way that viruses and memes infect hosts for their own benefit and not that of the host. But Dawkins goes to great lengths to make the point that viruses aren’t necessarily always bad things. Most of the time they are neutral. This and other caveats and intricacies are areas where Dawkins is great at explaining, and they’re lost when you just tell someone that their beliefs are a cancer which must be destroyed.

What you should say: Simply point out that the best predictor of one’s religious convictions happens to be their geographical location. This should give believers pause. Why doesn’t God transcend geographical boundaries? Why does religion, like language, appear to have evolved from the bottom-up by cultural means instead of given to us by a deity from the top-down?

Bad argument: Jesus condoned slavery, and even the beating of slaves in Luke 12:47

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

Jesus also made this strange and barbaric request in Luke 19:27

But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Why it’s dumb: Read it in context. These are parables.

What you should say: Sure, they’re parables meant to teach a lesson. It’s just that the lessons here are very immoral because they promote a Might Makes Right mentality commonly found within authoritarian systems such as Christianity. To be fair, Jesus wasn’t just swinging around a sword, screaming like a maniac while (if) he was saying what he said in Matthew 10:34

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

, but the point to make is that he didn’t have to actually have a sword to be immoral in this instance. That is all for now.

Ray Comfort, still retarded

September 19, 2009

Bananaman Ray Comfort is distributing his own abridged version of copies of On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection to college campuses. I’m sure there are some interesting edits in chapter 6 (“Difficulties of Theory”) where Darwin tries to anticipate objections and deal with them. Guess which of those two will be included in Comfort’s version of Origin? He even wrote an introduction, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at the cover. His name is suspiciously absent, for some strange reason. But it’s 50 pages! And it’s online as a .pdf file, but I’m not going to bother looking it up and linking to it because fuck that guy.

Of course, he goes on about how evolution led to the Nazi Holocaust. That’s not just bad history and shameless opportunism, it’s actually Holocaust denial because Comfort is denying the actual truth of the history of the Holocaust. The standard creationist objection when they present an Argument ad Hitlerum is that Hitler accepted evolution, thought that it should be incorporated politically, and the next thing you know it’s Jews-In-The-Ovens time.

The first problem is that even if it were true, this doesn’t actually prove evolution wrong. It just means that people can misuse it via the naturalistic fallacy in order to reinforce their own political beliefs. In order to accept that though, you have to ignore the fact that we are unique among species (as far as we know) in that we can actually distinguish between What Is and What Ought To Be. Just because the natural world is a cruel and heartless place where selective pressures mold species in particular ways at particular times, it does not follow that we ought to institute such policies in our governments. If we did, we would also set up huge molten rock reservoirs and unexpectedly unleash them on populations at random, because hey, that’s what nature does, right?

The second problem, the major one, is that the premise isn’t even true. Hitler, like Ray Comfort, was an evolution denying creationist. Like everyone else, including all of his fellow creationists, Hitler knew that artificial selection (breeding) could create different breeds in a specific way, but he denied that this could be done in what Comfort and his fellow creationists would call “across kinds of animals.” “Kind” is a biblical term for some vague, undefined classification of organisms. Although I don’t think Hitler actually referred to “kinds” of animals, he clearly understood the concept.

“The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger.”
Mein Kampf, vol. i, ch. xi

“For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties.”
Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x

“From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today.”
Tischgesprache im Fuhrerhauptquartier

Talk like that could appear on the walls of Ken Ham’s creationist “museum” and nobody would even blink. Besides, which position makes it easier to believe that you’re qualified to best know who lives and who dies – that there’s a purpose to life which is given to us by a deity that holds certain peoples in esteem and others in contempt, or that we’re the product of an imperfect and unguided process taking place over billions of years?

The suggestion I’ve been hearing lately has been to get kids in colleges to request this book from their university, remove the pseudoscientific proselytizing in the 50 page intro and give it to other students, or the local library. But that’s going to make it a little lopsided, so maybe pick up a copy of Michael Shermer’s book on Alfred Russell Wallace and stick it in there to balance it.  With all the hoopla over this being the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin, Wallace could use some props, too.

The Greatest Show on Earth

September 8, 2009

Richard Dawkins will have a new book released here in the US in two weeks called The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. He says that it’s meant to address problems in places like Turkey and the United States where science education is undermined by religious fanatics, but I’m not sure how much this book will resolve that problem. Jerry Coyne wrote a book very much like this earlier this year, and before that so did Michael Shermer, Kenneth Miller, Neil Shubin, Carl Sagan,  and I’m sure many others. And if anything, the anti-science fringe has gotten even more fanatical in the meantime. Not that the proper response should be to just shut up about it, but it’s probably worthwhile to put into context the real impact of these kinds of books and not pretend that one of them is going to suddenly change everything and make unreasonable people reasonable.

The Guardian has a review since it’s already been released in the UK. Idiot man-child William Dembski’s blog “Uncommon Descent” has a “review of a review.” One great thing about this book (besides reading it when it comes out) is that you just know that Dembski’s friends at the Discovery Institute are just frothing at the mouth over it.

Creationism is serious business

Creationism is serious business.

Anyway, here is a video promo of Dawkins’ new book: