The battle against creationism is never-ending, but I declare three victories this week. The first is symbolic but important, the others not so consequential but fun.
1. Creationism banned in New Orleans. From The Raw Story (thanks to several readers who alerted me to this), we learn that ”the New Orleans schools board has banned the teaching of creationism in that parish’s schools (a “parish” in Louisiana is the equivalent of a “county” in other U.S. states; it’s not a religious term). They also repudiated any books that, like those in Texas, have been altered to reflect a revisionist, right-wing history of the U.S. The pdf of the resolution is here, and here are the relevant statements:
No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas
revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or
intelligent design as science or scientific theories.
No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a
science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in
classes designated as science classes.
As the Raw Story reports,
None of the six schools run by the board actually teach creationism, according to The Times-Picayune, but outgoing Orleans Parish School Board President Thomas Robichaux felt strongly about the measure (PDF) anyway, which passed in two parts. . .
The school district is not alone in pushing back against growing religious and conservative influence on science and history curriculum. When education officials in Texas began altering textbooks to reflect right-wing and religious viewpoints, lawmakers in California acted quickly to pass a bill that bans the state’s revisionist standards in California schools.
Thus the victory is symbolic, but still important because the Louisiana governor and legislature are constantly pushing faith and creationism in the public schools, using both proposed legislation and voucher programs for religious schools (recently defeated). And New Orleans is the most important city (and parish) in Louisiana, and thus a bellwether.
2. The Discovery Institute caught with its pants down. According to Panda’s Thumb (“The Disco ‘Tute’s fake laboratory“), and a post at ars technica, the Discovery Institute has embarrassed itself by posting a video supposedly taken in the Biologic Institute, the part of the D.I. that engages in scientific “research” (LOL!), but the background of the video is actually faked.
In the video below, “senior research scientist” Ann Gauger decries population genetics because similarity of DNA sequences between species like chimps and humans doesn’t necessarily show common descent (they have no explanation, of course, for why noncoding sequences match the posited evolutionary tree perfectly).
But have a look at their “lab.” It isn’t their lab; it’s a stock photo taken—perhaps illegally—from a website full of copyrighted pictures. It’s been “green screened”!
Here’s the link to the stock “lab at night” photo from Shutterstock (I won’t reproduce it because it’s copyrighted).
More creationist lying!
3. More kerfuffle about young-earth creationist Paul Nelson. Finally, in a post at his site EvolutionBlog, “Coyne vs. Nelson,” Jason Rosenhouse revisits my pwning of young-earth creationist Paul Nelson when I checked up on his claims about the denigration of natural seleciton by prominent biologists.
More important, Jason watched a talk about evolution Nelson gave at Saddleback Church during “Apologetics Weekend”, and takes that talk apart. (I couldn’t bear to watch it.) A snippet of Jason’s critique:
Nelson argues that the commitment of science to methodological naturalism (MN) blinds scientists to what is put so plainly before them. It is a requirement of their profession that only naturalistic explanations are acceptable, you see. We are to believe, apparently, that this requirement is so blinding that they are unable to see things that are obvious to Nelson’s more clear-thinking audience.
This is the standard ID explanation for the popularity of evolution among scientists. It is, sadly, a ridiculous argument. As I explain in Chapter 20 of Among the Creationists, I have my problems with some of the rhetoric people on my side have used in defense of MN. But even if we accept Nelson’s characterization of it as a hard and fast rule, the fact remains that there is no requirement that scientists slavishly accept any old naturalistic explanation that comes along. It’s perfectly acceptable to say we don’t have a scientific explanation for the origin of species.
Moreover, being a scientist is not the entirety of anyone’s life. Scientists could agree that when practicing their profession they accept the constraints of certain conventions, and that invocations of supernatural intelligent designers are not part of their professional lives, while also believing that the evidence points strongly to an intelligent designer. But that is not what is happening. Scientists are not all mopey and dejected because their profession requires them to accept evolution when privately they think it’s a weak theory. Instead it is defended enthusiastically by virtually everyone in the relevant areas of science, while Nelson’s arguments are dismissed angrily not just as unscientific, but as totally worthless on the merits.
In Paul Nelson, who admits that the scientific evidence seems to point to an old earth but nevertheless rejects it, we have the pathetic stand of a man who holds fast to his fairy tales regardless of how strongly reality repudiates them. To be a young-earth creationist in this day and age is to be, frankly, an idiot.
UPDATE: Let me qualify that last statement. The “idiots” are not all young-earth creationists, for some have never been exposed to other viewpoints, or to the counterevidence for an old earth. Rather, the true idiots are those who know the evidence but refuse to accept it because they’re blinkered by faith. Nelson is one of those.